Monday, 15 May 2017

Anticipating freedom

This is officially a fantastic time of life.  I have a huge sense of liberation.  This is awesome.  The menopause rocks.  Truly.

I know it's an individual response and for other people the hormonal changes are an entry into an alien body, but for me it's freedom.

From the age of 15 up until 45 the monthly cycle was unspeakably unpleasant.  For the first ten years of it, as a young girl initially and then a young woman I had debilitating pain 24 hours every four weeks.  We're talking the kind of stomach cramps which make you immobile, accompanied by a delightful mix of simultaneous puking and diarrhoea.  You become a master of use of the toilet.  Any attempt to take pain killers after the cramps had started was rewarded by further puking and zero pain relief.  I was not organised enough at 15 to recognise when things were getting going and take pain killers.  Besides which, as a school girl, figuring that out during the school day was hellish.  And when I say every four weeks, well, give or take 4 days either way.  It was not predictable.  Add to that the hormone related skin break outs of zits and the greasy hair phenomena, the smell of the menstrual flow and the horror of old fashioned sanitary products.  It was a pretty miserable experience, this burgeoning womanhood.

Then early twenties, as the pains became at least manageable with experience, the mood swings made themselves known.  The change in mood for 3 or 4 or 5 days (again completely unpredictable) prior to the start of the period were not just miserable for those around me, they were miserable for me.  All the feelings and thoughts during those few days were real, they felt real, I'd try to be logical and ask myself is this the hormones talking and every time I would convince myself that no, what I was feeling was real.  A few days later I'd come out of the clouds and find uncertainty as to whether it had been "real" or not.

So menopause begins, periods are behind me, mood swings are gone.  I'm free.  And none of it relates to reproduction or to contraception, but freedom from pain, from moods, freedom not to have to put in place slightly odd plans to deal with spending days hiking or cycling.  Freedom.  It feels good.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Quietly resolute

It's the time of year when we resolve to have resolve.  Oh yes, New Year's Resolutions.  I figure all of mine in living memory have related to health and fitness.  I don't know why there is a compulsion to take stock at this time of year.  Having said that, I started taking stock in November.

I am quietly resolute to:

  • have at least a 2 - 3 consecutive days spell of no alcohol each week
  • Do 250 hours of exercise this year
  • Improve on my active on 135 days of 2016 for 2017
  • Get my 5km running time down
  • Get my half marathon running time down
  • Being fit = being happier.  Job done.

Monday, 26 December 2016

English A level

A 2007 essay I wrote, with the challenge being to adopt the style of another writer. I went Hemingway.

I bring you "Terminal Diagnosis"

The couple closed the door to the consultant’s office behind them as they stepped out into the corridor.  She settled her bag on her shoulder, and adjusted the coat she was carrying over her arm.  They paused briefly, standing outside the office.  She looked up at him.
“We should eat,” she said.
He stood, looking down at her.
“It’s lunch time, we could eat here, in the hospital Plaza,” she said.
The man nodded.

They began to walk down the wide, utilitarian corridor together, holding hands.  At the end of the corridor, she gave a perfunctory glance at the overhead signs, and together they turned right, no words exchanged.  They stopped at the metal doors of a lift, and she pressed the call button.  The lift arrived and doors opened onto the empty place.  They stepped in, hands disengaged as they turned to face the doors.  She pressed the 0 button and they descended to the ground floor.

As they left the lift, they held hands once again to walk along the wide corridor, passing other patients and nurses walking in pairs.

The hospital canteen was not busy when they arrived; there were four empty tables, and three people at the self service counter.  She took a tray and joined the queue.  He followed behind, one hand in his jeans pocket.  Sandwiches were displayed in a glass counter, which she leaned towards, lifted the lid, reached in and picked up a packet.

“What is there?” he said.
She scanned the labels.
“Well, you’d probably have ham salad or cheese and pickle,” she said, “do you want the cheese?”
“Aye, that’ll do,” he said.

She put the second packet onto the tray and moved along the counter.
“Can I ‘elp yer?” said the woman behind the counter.
“Could I have a tea and a coffee please?  The coffee black,”
The serving woman poured the tea and coffee into mugs and placed them on the counter. 
“Thank you.” she said
The young woman put the mugs onto the tray, and carried them over to the till.
“That’ll be six pounds forty please,” said the cashier.
The man took his wallet out of his pocket
“I’ll get this,” he said.
He handed the cashier a note and she passed him his change

The woman walked with the tray to an empty table, put down the tray and stood waiting for the man to join her.
“This’ll do.” She said.
She hung her bag and coat over the back of the chair and sat down, the man sat down opposite.

Methodically, she took the food and drinks off the tray, placing the coffee on the table in front of him, the tea near to her, and a sandwich in front of each of them.  Looking down at the table, she began to open her packet.  He too looked down and started to open his sandwich.  After taking a bite, she looked across at him, whilst reaching for her mug.  He looked back at her.

“Well, that’s that then,” he said.

She looked down and picked up her sandwich.  He continued to look at her, chewing.  She looked up at him, biting into her sandwich.  They continued to eat in silence.

“What do we do now?” she said.
“Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?”
“I think they’ll understand,” she said, “I’m not sure I want to go in now.”
“You shouldn’t miss any more time.”

She sipped her tea, he looked at the table.  An older couple walked by.  As they walked past, they briefly looked down at the younger couple sitting at the table, eyes resting momentarily on the angry red question mark shaped scar running down the man’s head.

“How are we going to tell your mum?” she asked
“I don’t want her to know,” he said.
“but,” she said “oh.

“Are we going to have cake?”
“I’m not really hungry,” he said
“Me neither.”

She pushed back her chair, stood up, put on her coat and picked up her bag.  He too stood up, they held hands and walked across the cafĂ© to the exit.  She took the car park ticket from her pocket, put it in the machine and paid the standard fee in exact coins. 

“Are you going to put your bob-hat on?”
“It’s cold out”.

He covered his head with a woolly hat, his appearance made ordinary as the still raw incision marks on his bare scalp were hidden from view.  She smiled up at him. 

They stepped outside through the automatic glass doors, and then walked across the car park together, holding hands.  As they stopped at their car, she took the keys from her pocket and they released hands.  She unlocked the passenger door and turned to her husband.  She put her arms around his waist, and leaned in towards him.  He put his arms around her shoulders and they hugged, bodies held close.  She leaned her head back angling her face upwards towards his and they kissed on the lips.

She withdrew, moving backwards a short step, and their arms returned to their sides.  As she walked around the car to the driver’s door, he opened the passenger door and got in.  She got in the car, shut the door, and put the key in the ignition.

“Let’s go home” she said.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Happy New Year

I've made a declaration of New Year.

2016 has not been a great year.

This year I ended up seeking help from a local clinic for a series of hormone related tosh.  Massive anxiety attacks, downward spiralling mood in an uncanny inverse relationship to upward spiralling weight.  Just as I'd made my first appointment to get some professional help to sort my shit out, I found myself in the back of an ambulance being taken into hospital.

I didn't enjoy the hospital experience.  I discovered that morphine and I are not going to have a flourishing relationship.  Ever.  Smallest possible dose sends my blood pressure gurgling down a plughole.  It was a quite weird up and down thing going on as the ambulance men and docs attempted pain management.  After scans and much prodding, the small intestine blockage I seemed to have acquired actually went away of its own accord at 2am leaving me in an NHS nightie with the clothes I'd cycled from work in and my phone and a charger and a nil by mouth notice.

I took a week off to get my head together and bang, work crisis of the year No 1 hit the inbox.  All hands on deck to get the information gathered to clear the name of a rider who had done nothing wrong.  It was emotionally intense, a talented guy who deserved better.

Then we bounced along, tried to go on holiday which didn't entirely go according to plan, coming home a week early only to have the camper van written off on our own street.  Four months before the insurance was 100% settled and the van is still in the bodyshop.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, other holidays failed to come off as work ricocheted from the nicely termed pseudo crisis efforts of the gutter press.

So now, I have declared today New Year's Day.  22nd November is the new New Year.  Because I don't have to wait until 1st January to make things better.  My New Year's resolution to take me through the next 45 days is to try to do something active every day, 20 mins run being the minimum standard.  So, Happy 2017, believe it or not, it's already here!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Little Britain

And now Little America.  A land for the small minded bigots you might suggest.

The good old guardian gave a nice couple of lines on the American Dream.

"The first black American president will now be succeeded by a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. This, according to Trump and his supporters, male and female, is what the American dream actually looks like."
Made me think.  There's been a lot of similarities in the Brexit vote and the Trump presidency win aftermath.  Young people voted differently to old people, and young people didn't get their way, despite it being their future which is being messed with.  Forgive me for noting that in the US this is only a decision for four years not like UK where Brexit, like a dog, is for life not just for Christmas.  
There are already those who don't understand the despair of the people who wanted a different outcome.  Saying things like, we're all in this together, you've just got to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. We've got work to do.  Kind of meaningless for those of us with a 9 to 5 office job and no ability to affect anything bigger, not even, it seems through voting and democracy.  In the UK Europeans are afraid of what their future holds. In America the muslims, the homosexuals and the coloured are afraid of what their future holds. And with good cause, I'm thinking.

Let's make America / Britain great again, eh?
You know what would make for greatness for me?  The feeling of community - people who look out for other people, who help people, who notice when things need a bit of support and realise when they have the capacity to provide that help.  People caring about each other, extended family style.  Greatness isn't about striving for your own personal gain, it's about surviving and importantly making sure that others survive too.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Forty Eight

It turns out I like being 48.  Forty six as an age was of slight concern.  It was a matter of waiting to see if I made it to forty seven.  After all, husband dying two days before his forty seventh birthday was weighing heavily on my mind.  The weirdness of reaching an age where death is a real thing that happens to normal people.  I didn't think 47 was particularly amazing, no real euphoria about making it that far, just life as usual.  But 48.  Wow.  I like 48.  I am bloody near to 50 years old.  I mean, I can smell it.  I can feel its approach and almost taste it.

But I'm 48 and I never knew it would feel this good.  My body still does stuff, everything I ask of it.  I can mountain bike without damaging myself, do four hours of heavy digging and lifting in the garden the next day and still get up and ride 45 miles the following day.  My body is still working, that's pretty cool, eh?  In fact, no really noticeable slowing up from a decade ago.  Not only will it do all that stuff, but it can run further than it ever could at any point in my 30s.  Pretty neat, I'm thinking.

So I enter the late 40s with a hell yeah kind of approach.  A feeling of freedom and recklessness because I'm not broken yet.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Mrs Williams

Dear Mrs Williams,

I know you think this is not important, in fact, a bit of a joke, but I want to let you know what you did to me. I want you to understand that your thoughtless actions had an impact on someone else's life, that you did something bad.

I know you thought you simply rammed an anonymous white van, and that it was just a thing.  Well, it wasn't.  It was Shaz.

Let me explain, properly, the background, from the start.

My husband, my soulmate, my wonderful, kind, strong, beloved husband was taken from me in 2005, quite suddenly and unexpectedly through a malignant grade 4 brain tumour.  When he died I was lost, broken, destroyed, adrift, no longer really me anymore.  And they gave me a life insurance payout.  How ridiculous does that seem, what is money in relation to the loss of not just his life but my planned life with him.  How can money even relate to such a thing, and what's it for?  I left it sat, untouched for years, it just didn't seem relevant to me.  In 2012, seven years on, I found myself starting to be in a better place, a glimpse of the possibilities of happiness, my head coming out from the clouds a little and my feet beginning to find their place as well as this unwanted new life began to start forming some tendrils of spring again.

So, knowing that Dave would have smiled at my actions I commissioned the sourcing and converting of a VW Transporter into a camper van.  It was custom built for me.  Little details and big details.  Customised.  For me.  The seats are a cheery blue and white leather look, and I love them. I love all the little bits and pieces of my camper van.  And I travelled in that van, to Scotland first off, then all over Europe we went in an extended trip while I took time out of real life and work and all that jazz.  I lived in her, like a tortoise traveling in her shell, that's how I was, moved for a bit then curled up safe and warm in the cocoon which the van became.  She was Shazza, my camper van.

I returned to real life eventually, travelling can't last forever if funds don't.  But the van played a huge part in my life from then.  Everytime I needed peace and quiet, she was the obvious refuge, heading off for a week or for a weekend, alone or with friends.  When I needed time to study and write essays for my Open University degree, I'd go away in Shaz, mix up walking or riding my bike by day then quietly, comfortably and in peace, I'd have a seat in Shaz and open up the books.

She represents so many things for me.  She's my dead husband's legacy.  She's my play thing.  She's my happy place.  She's part of how I go away with friends.  She's my only vehicle, my only way of carrying stuff which can't be walked or biked or trained or bussed.  She's Shaz, she's the way I find inner calm and a gateway to fun and adventure.

You took her away.  You admit that you have had a lot of crashes but you didn't stop to consider that maybe you're not fit to drive.  You said you had blacked out, couldn't remember.  You weren't fit to drive.  But you did drive.  You drove into Shaz, you took her away.  You.  You did that. Nobody else did that.  You drove down the middle of the bloody road, you didn't try to stay on your side, you didn't brake, you didn't steer, you didn't look.   Were you on the phone, reading a text perhaps?  You rammed her, and you wrote her off.  You seem to be proud of your bad driving record.  How many other people have you unthinkingly said "oh it was just a piece of metal" to.  You are not a thoughtful person.  We will not be friends.  You did this.