Thursday, 26 February 2015

My Story

So this is what I want my story to be.

Alison grew up in the suburbs of London with an older sister and a younger brother and a hard working mother and father.  They had a carefree upbringing with the simpler things in life - bicycles, footballs, cricket balls and were brought up to be respectful and thoughtful and instilled with a great grounding of Quaker principles.  All did well at school and Judith went on to study teaching, Alison to study biology and Kevin got a place on a prestigious trainee management scheme in the retail trade.

Years went by, living in London, learning and experiencing life with the lifelong ever present curiosity and sense of awe, until in 1995 Alison met Dave through her ever escalating voluntary activities.  As he lived in Warrington and she in London, their courtship saw them travelling the country to meet up at weekends, until she finally landed a great job in Manchester and moved up there.

In 2000 the loving couple bought a house together and lived in cohabiting bliss, marrying in 2003.  Sadly, eighteen months later Dave started having headaches, and following a brain tumour diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy he died at the end of 2005, a year where they still found time to laugh together.  As you'd expect, after Dave's death, Alison was very sad, and struggled to adapt to the unwanted life of a widow.  She tried hard to make her life full and fun and interesting, and above all, different to how it had been to avoid the reminders.  She started rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, and learned to enjoy many days in the outdoors, wild camping and staying in bothies.

In 2012 she gave up her long term job, bought a camper van and travelled into Europe with her bicycles and a sense of adventure.  She bought a ticket to New Zealand and back packed there for 6 weeks, but she missed the sense of being useful which work brought and returned to the UK and a number of delightful short term contracts.  She also continued a relationship which had started just before she left her job, and things went well.  In 2014, a new job under her belt, Alison sold the house her and Dave had so many happy hours in, and looked for somewhere new, ending up in a wonderful stone built house on the edge of the Peak District.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

My script

I've been thinking a bit about my story.  About what my story is.  About what I'd like it to be.  Putting together the major events and incidents of my life to date, my story is what it is, it is what I was given, and an element of it is (begrudgingly) what I chose.

My story to date seems to go something like this.  Alison was the middle child of three, born in Hertfordshire on the edge of London to Brian and Diane.  When the children were aged 4, 6 and 9 Dad got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  We did not live happily ever after.  In fact, we lived on free school meals, third hand clothing and library books.  These are facts, not a pity story.  To this day I enjoy cafe school style stooge and shop in second hand shops because there's something just so cool about having clothes which someone else has at some point chosen.  And well, what's not to like about a library book you don't need to find storage for.  The world just gets wider.  We were poor but we weren't happy, mostly because Dad insisted it was not that way.  We tried our best, and mum tried to shelter us intermittently until we realised the best shelter was simply not to be at home.

Uneventful time at a London University qualifying with an uneventful middle of the road degree in Zoology and Plant Biology - a degree I'd really enjoyed.  I liked soil science, I liked brain and behaviour, I liked ecology and evolution and anything to do with succession species and the way species interact in some of the world's most amazingly harsh environments floats my boat even now.  But I was a drifter and I drifted, using the graduating in a recession thing as an excuse.

Time moved on and before you know it I'd picked up a professional qualification in HR and completed a course in Brick Laying and acquired a City & Guilds in catering.  As you do.  Then I met my husband to be and fell in love at first sight.  And I got a job in Manchester and moved there to be nearer to my Warrington based lover.  We bought our first house together, a two bed end terrace on the outskirts of Eccles, and after 7 years together we decided to get married.  We did that and we were set for the happy ever after.  Then he got sick, then he died, then there was just me and I kind of collapsed.

A few years on and I'd become a mountain biker and a climber and a walker and a runner and to an extent I guess you'd say a mountaineer.  Then I had a break down.  Then I got better with drugs and counselling.  Then I met a pretty cool kind of a man.  Next I quit my job of 14 years, bought a camper van and went exploring, took in a  few weeks of New Zealand and returned home desperate to be someone who worked for a living which gave life more meaning than existing.  And I got a new job and I moved house to the Peak District.

I don't want any of this to be my story any more.  I need a new story and I'm going to spend some time thinking about what I want it to be.  Then make it happen.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Eight years old

Eight year old self

So, would my eight year old self be proud of me?  I don't know. She was a bit dreamy and vague, that eight year old.  A lot of activity went on inside her head, but she didn't really share a lot of it, or perhaps she wasn't able to make herself heard so communications, ideas and opinions were lost on others.  Her mother couldn't tell what things were important to her and what weren't.  Her somewhat distracted mother, I suspect.

She lived in a bit of an imaginary world.  In that world, the garden was an adventure.  Things in it weren't what they seemed.  Mud could be turned into almost every substance possible.  Trees became extraordinary buildings, toys became walking talking characters, and catkins held many many possibilities.  These things were enough.  Adults didn't really play much of a role, and I don't think my 8 year old self had a particular adult she'd have looked up at and said wow.  I think it would have taken quite a bit to impress her.

She liked adults who talked, who smiled, laughed, and who listened enough to understand what of themselves to give back to an imaginative but quiet eight year old.  She was impressed with the loud adventuresses, in that sense that they were a breed apart, something quite out of the ordinary.  I don't think she wanted to be one though, she just liked that they existed and that they were women who did stuff, who made stuff happen.

I think my eight year old self would have been happy to stay that way, stay eight.  She'd have been impressed at me moving to London all on my own, and she'd have been sad about my husband dying.  She had an empathy for life's tragedies.  She'd  have listened avidly to tales of New Zealand travels too, and she'd have enjoyed the camper van with everything in miniature.  This is the child that tried to create homes in the back garden bushes and flower beds.  She'd have wanted me to be with my prince charming.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


So, nearly there, at the end of another year.  I feel like I limped through the whole of the second half of the year.  I'm avoiding truly reviewing in my mind what were the successes, what goals I achieved because I'm afraid the conclusion does not look good.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Killer Hamsters

If the zombies don't get you, the hamsters will.  Or at least, that's the message I'm taking from my recent dream.  All dreams these days seem to involve me chasing or being chased.  Mostly I seem to be fruitlessly trying to capture or chase away something which just ain't happening.

The hamster would not be caught.  Or in fact, it occasionally let me catch it but then it wriggled and slipped away out of my clutches leaving me desperate and hopeless.  Time and time again I nearly caught it or had hold of it briefly before it zoomed away into a new hidey hole. It was just me and the hamster shut up together in a room, and morning only came in the final moments when I tracked the wriggling scuffling beast down in my bed.  Lunged for it, and then woke up.

I'm not entirely happy about the killer hamsters.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Killer Zombies

I had a horrid dream.  One of those where you wake up whimpering and anyone fortunate enough to be sharing the bed with you gets woken up before you eventually wake up shaking.

It was a zombie dream.  I'm quite proud of that.  Proper classy.  The zombies were looking for territory, and I was having to defend my space from them.  I'm not sure what would have happened, in honesty, if they'd won but somehow it was important in the dream, where of course you don't get choices in such matters, to defend it, with my life if necessary. I was somewhere underground, with dark, dank tunnels, convoluted spaces, sometimes claustrophobic and sometimes with wider spaces.  There was a chasm too.

The zombies weren't communicative, and fortunately they weren't particularly strong, what with being dead bodies with a loss of muscle tone.  They were, however, persistent and they kept on coming, in ones, twos and threes, but never ending procession of bodies to fight off.  I had no weapons, there was no furniture, no convenient rocks, swords or the stuff you find in movies.  All I could do was to get them off balance and push them into the chasm.  There were so many of them.  They kept on coming.  Then the chasm started to fill up, and zombies I had previously pushed down it started to climb back up again.  They wouldn't go away and they kept on mounting up.

They were all genders, dressed in grey and brown ragged clothing, with dreadlocked hair greasy and dishevelled.  And relentless in their arrival.

It was pointed out to me that this is how I seem to be seeing life right now, many minor issues, all resolvable, all defeatable but in such a volume that they seem unmanageable.  As soon as I slay one zombie others pop up or the slain one seems to return and I start to drown.

I'm now seeing every new thing that pops up and needs dealing with as a new zombie.  Equally, every thing I do manage to do is a zombie slain.  Maybe one day I'll redress the balance of new zombies and dead zombies.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Going home

It's not easy, this going home business.  For 14 years I had a regular journey, Clayton Manchester to Eccles and I knew it. I knew many variants, I had favourites, I had routes suitable for different weather conditions, for different times of day, for different whims and fancies.  Now I don't.

I have many many options, and I'm trying to avoid driving to work so I don't learn the cycling routes by repeating a driving commute to work.  The train just doesn't offer the same ability to explore where roads go.  So I'm trying really hard to become happy with my cycle routes, despite the fact I seem to have started trying to learn them and explore while it's a bit wintery and the nights and mornings are dark.

I've ridden in behind a friend twice. I didn't enjoy the A6, although admittedly I couldn't get lost on that route either.  I've meandered home following the bike computer's "Surprise Me" route, and it was rather wonderful and glorious, but it did take two hours.

Today though, I have boldly dared to use cyclestreets, a website thingy specialising in cycling journeys.  You put in your start and end post code and it gives you three routes, the quickest, a balanced and the quietest.  I have to say it works.  It actually works.  It doesn't take you to stupid places unless you chose the quietest route in which case you only have yourself to blame.  The quickest route this morning was free from trauma.  Completely free.

The quietest route, though, this evening involved quite a bit of unlit off road, and even with lights, good lights, if you don't know quite where you are, or where you're going it's a bit unnerving.  I did, however, attract a Welsh guy also commuting who escorted me effectively along rutted muddy winding woodland single track, and all was indeed rather good.