My skinny blister


Early this week Kath was transferred out of ICU onto a ward and now … finally … home. Nothing reminds me how important my sister is to me than when she is ill. Thankfully she is doing better and I am beyond grateful for that. Thankful and relieved. 

Kath is a light … someone who makes life more … life like. Funny and kind, energetic and outgoing, sometimes bossy, irritable, and impatient, but with a zest for life that makes it an absolute joy to share time with her. I love her, both as my sister and as my best friend. 

Things started out innocuously enough … feeling unwell and spending days in bed deteriorating but insistent that all she needed was more water and more sleep. It’s scary how quickly things can escalate from what appeared at first to be gastric flu to ending up with failing kidneys and a scarily long stay in ICU.

Endurance athletes are apparently more prone to this sort of thing. Marathon training has taught Kath to push her body to and beyond normal limits and thus she’s less likely to feel alarmed, even when her body is screaming at her that all is not well. Coupled with her natural resilience and optimism that all will be well in the end and you have the makings of a situation where all the warning signals are ignored for way too long. 

Home but exhausted just getting from bed to chair, chair to loo, loo to bed etc. Days must feel very long when you’ve little strength or energy to do anything more than rest, eat, drink … and rest some more. But with each day little by little, her strength will return, nurtured and encouraged by her loving family and friends.

Kath and I don’t look alike at all, but apparently we have similar smiles and laughs. Here we are on holiday a couple of years ago. Long hikes in the pouring rain are great fun in the right company. I’m looking forward to spending loads of time with Kath as she regains her strength. After all, that’s what skinny blisters do.



Every once in a blue moon we get so lucky I can barely believe it. You can see it in my face can’t you, I’m beyond thrilled. And with good reason. We are at Wimbledon! Centre Court no less. Unbelievable. Fan-flipping-tastic it was. Monday of the second week means we saw Round 4 matches involving some big BIG names, Djokovic, Gauff, Kerber, and Federer. Tickets gifted by my wonderful brother-in-law, who was under no illusion as to what this meant to us. It was an amazing day.

I love sport. Cricket, tennis and rugby are my absolute favourites but I’ll happily stand pitch side in the pouring rain watching nieces/nephews competing at pretty much anything, or accompany family/friends to sporting events of their choosing. Sport might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there is something compelling and in some ways humbling about watching people dig deep and push themselves to perform at the very limits of their capabilities. No matter what their level of achievement it’s the effort itself … the commitment and drive to do better. It’s never “just a game” or “just a race” when people are prepared to expend so much of themselves in pursuit of doing their very best.

I remember when Ollie was a little boy. Poor chap inherited the same sporting prowess (or lack thereof) that afflicts me … often picked last for team games and so on. Well school sports day came round and that is classic Auntie duty material, so I toddle along to shout encouragement as per usual. Lo and behold Ollie came fourth. Well the celebrations in our family were loud and proud as he scampered across the line his little arms aloft in triumph, huge grin on his face as he turned to make sure we’d seen his finest sporting moment to date. That was the day Ollie reminded me that you don’t have to come first to feel like an absolute winner.

And sport has been useful to me. As an engineer I spend my days surrounded by men … some of whom have found it hard to accept that women can be engineers too. I started out in 1979 in a class of 70 odd apprentices where there was one women … me. It’s hard to hide when you’re so obviously different. Being able to talk about sport gave me an in. A neutral subject upon which to find common ground.

Everyone has had a difficult time over the last 18 months or so. It’s hard to predict how things are going to pan out, and that uncertainty is in itself difficult. I guess that’s why this trip out to see some tennis felt like such a big deal. It was a big deal and an incredible experience. But more than that, it felt like life might someday return to something like it was. Please god.



I love this time of year. Maybe it’s because I’m a morning person and it gets light so early as we approach midsummers day. I live not far from Stonehenge which is in a beautiful part of the UK. The gently rolling countryside combines naturally with the deep sense of history which is so apparent … not just in the stones, but the barrows (ancient burial mounds) that dot the landscape around here. You come across them all over this area and they just look like hills that have always been here. They remind me that people have walked this land for thousands of years.

It’s fantastic walking country and lockdown has given me the incentive to explore the walking routes a little further out from my usual stomping grounds. Walking and spending time outdoors is the new panacea for all ailments. As someone who lives with depression I’m all too aware that these “one size fits all” cures are not cures at all. Even so walking does help and the more I do it the more it helps. It’s not easy to motivate myself usually but with the nicer weather even that becomes less of an issue.

This last weekend we celebrated a family birthday. Oliver is 18! Blimey how does that happen? I mean I do know how it happens but it seems hardly any time since he was setting off to school as a youngster, and now he’s finished with school and taking a gap year before going off to university. Astonishing how time does that elastic thing … stretching and contracting in our perception whilst being consistent and linear in reality.

I love this young man as I loved the boy he once was. In my minds eye he remains much like that little chap with a twinkle in his eye and that wonderful shy smile … both things he still has.


It’s been over a decade now since I stopping drinking. That’s an amazing thing to me. I still remember the desperation that marked my descent into the kind of drinking that isn’t just “a bit of a problem”. I am so glad not to be in that state now. Glad, grateful and lucky. I’ve been to too many funerals not to realise how lucky I am that my life has moved on. 

I remember, but I no longer “re-live” it in my minds eye ... the intensity, the constant sense of foreboding. I feel like I’m remembering someone else’s life. Someone who if I met her now I’d probably know or guess that she needed help, but I’m not sure I’d know exactly what kind of help would be best. So I’d just tell her what helped me. Learning to be more honest. Learning to ask for help, not being too proud to engage with the help on offer. Taking it a day at a time, step by baby step. That’s what helped me.

Life’s pretty odd though these days, and has been for while. Covid has divided our already fractured world. The Haves and the Have Nots are more at odds now than ever. We Haves must do more ... much much more. Why is that so hard to understand? Healing our world requires a whole earth approach. In other words it needs all of us Haves to make changes ... some big, some not so big. Voting for example ... not a big thing but so important. 

I was shocked yesterday when voting in our local elections. Hardly another soul was waiting to cast their ballot. It seems like we’ve forgotten how to hold government to account and that it’s a privilege to live in a democracy. Government can only hear the people if the people stand up and say something in sufficient numbers to make the Decision Makers listen.  

I keep hearing that we’re all in this together. Not just with Covid but generally too. How can that be true when the worst effects of pretty much all eventualities are felt more harshly by some than others? Why then do we stay silent whilst the Have Nots suffer the effects of our unwillingness to change, our ignorance... or worse still, our greed? Our entire world is impoverished by this silence.

Enough of that for now. On to happier topics.

My family is growing. I now have 3 great-nephews and, come the autumn, either another great nephew or perhaps a great-niece. Currently I have 9 nephews and 9 nieces. This is more than before because I count spouses and partners. If you marry or partner up with my niece or nephew you also become my niece or nephew. Only seems right ... and this way I can look forward to welcoming more nieces and nephews in the years to come. Using words like in-law, half, step, second, third, once removed ... these words confuse me and make me feel a bit sad. It creates a separateness that I don’t like very much. Family, I understand family. A welcoming inclusive safe group of people who are there for one another no matter what and stay connected to one another, always.

Welcoming new additions to our family reminds me that life is passing, and it reminds me to pay attention. I try to remember but sometimes it’s difficult. Ted is my eldest great-nephew. He’s brilliant at reminding me to stay in the present moment. He will be 5 in a few weeks time and already he knows so many important things ... like how to dance in the street no matter where we are or who might be looking.

You can tell that Ted knows a thing or two about dancing can’t you? I’d love to say it runs in the family but my two left feet would indicate otherwise. Maybe more lessons will help ... you never know. 5 year olds are optimistic in a way that I’d almost forgotten. Ted thinks I show promise. He is a kind soul.

Tommy, my second great-nephew now has a little brother. Covid has stopped me travelling but I get photos and FaceTime chats which aren’t the same as seeing in real life but pretty darn good all the same.

Here’s Tommy,

His mummy and daddy have been teaching him all about a Father God that lives in heaven ... where great-grandpa lives too. Tommy has mastered the art of praying, he chats and laughs and goofs about and even tells the odd joke ... and then he remembers the set format of words that some other people have learned to use in prayer ... well sometimes he remembers anyway. I bet the god of his understanding loves to hear what is in his heart.

Mickey is Tommy’s little brother.

Mickey is the calmest small person I have ever known. He is the chalk to Tommy’s cheese. He is the snuggle bunny that his brother never was. He loves blue, he loves cake, and he is one year old ... born just as Covid was making itself felt all around the world. Mickey knows nothing of all that, his concerns are simpler and much closer to home, but not unimportant. I hope some day soon to see Mickey, Tommy and the rest of my “over the pond” family in person. I think we’ll have a wonderful time ... I mean, I like blue, and cake, and I think I’ve got the knack of praying even if I’m not always sure who I’m praying to. No doubt Tommy’d have a few things to say about that.

I hope life is treating you well, and if not then I hope things improve for you soon xx Jos

It’s funny, I think about blogging ... and then I forget again ... or put it off for another day. And yet I never forget just how helpful blogging has been to me. A safe space to express things I didn’t even know were within me.

What are the best things in my life today? My family remains the centre of everything to me. I’m now a Grauntie ... I know it’s a made up word but doesn’t it just convey perfectly the wonderfulness of being an aunt to to the child of a child I was an aunt to ... isn’t time funny that way? I’m an aunt and a grauntie and very happy to be so.

Here above is Ted who is 3 and a half. Ted holds my heart. We play and walk and chat and he reminds me of the child his mummy once was. He is strong and determined, he sings raucously and with more gusto than the rest of us combined. He knows he is loved and that means everything.

And here is Tommy

Did you ever see eyes as full of wonder? There is no fear in this boy, he laughs and has started making words as well as sounds. He dances and waves at the same time which is quite a feat. Next year he will become a big brother and my Grauntie-ness will expand once again. Good job hearts are endlessly expandable.

In October I celebrated 9 years of continuous sobriety. I remember the woman I was in my drinking days. I own my own shit but recognise that recovery is a process of change and progress. I am the person I am ... not perfect by any means, but not all bad either. Life is good.

This is my gentle man and I on race day a while ago. See what I mean? Life is good. I hope in the run up to this festive season, life is good for you too. xx

Three Things.

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to find my way back here. I was reminded today about my blog and I thought "oh yeah, why haven't I been writing there?"

Partly it's because I don't feel like I have a good handle on things which makes me feel ashamed .... and like hiding away from everything and everyone. Strangely this is the same way I felt when I was drinking. Maybe this is what it means to be a dry drunk? I don't know.

Depression continues to be an ongoing problem although the meds do help somewhat. Ah yes, this is why I haven't been blogging. I'd rather not touch base with my inner landscape when it feels so bleak.

It's a funny thing ... on the outside my life looks pretty good. Plenty of people would love to have the things I have. I hear a lot about the need to practise gratitude and I think it's something I really really need to do.

Three things I am grateful for today;
A chat on the phone with my brother
A lot of lovely comments about a picture I posted on FB
Finding the joke above funny because my "little" sister was taller than me from the moment she stood up.

Proof ... sort of.

William is my youngest nephew. He is 9 years and one day old today. On Saturday he was 8 years and 364 days old. Numbers are important to William. I see his point.

Besides being his birthday-eve Saturday was also St Nikolaus day. In Germany children put their shoes out by the door and during the night ‘der Nikolaus’ comes by and puts a small gift or some sweets inside for the children to find the next day. William and Oliver do not put their shoes out preferring instead to wait by the window to watch out for the big man himself. William in particular loves this visit although when it comes to meeting St Nikolaus he is understandably nervous. A large stranger in a strange get-up will have that effect on the brave-but-cautious amongst us.

Being 8 and 364 days old and still being a firm believer in both Santa Claus and St Nikolaus, has opened William up to not a little teasing from his young friends … some of whom have fallen prey to disbelief after somewhat brutal disclosures from older children. William remains adamant however and I applaud his stance. He asked me the other day if I had ever seen the “real” Santa Claus. I told him that when I was a very little girl I remember going to see Santa at a shop near my house. I told him I wasn’t sure if he was the real one or not. It’s important not to lie I guess, but equally important not to be needlessly truthful.

As with many children William is a scientist at heart. When a hypothesis is thrown into doubt what is the appropriate course of action? Well of course evidence must be attained and evaluated … and therein lies the rub. What sort of evidence will do the trick if the annual piles of presents prove insufficient in themselves?

A photo.

And there you have it. Yes it’s blurry and yes it’s indistinct. Even so. It’s proof.

P.S. I was very nervous being St Nik this year. What if I was found out? I would be witness to emotional trauma at the very least. I need not have worried. Markus (William’s Dad) being privie to The Plan took action … he turned down the resolution on his camera. Good man … where would we be without co-conspirators?

Ho ho ho.

At the beach

We're on holiday this week in deepest Devonshire .... although it's just called Devon theses days. I like the "Austenesque-ness" of adding the shire though.

Anyhow the "we" in this case is, Trev and I, my sister Kath and her mob, and my middle brother Brendan and his mob. All seemingly normal eh? Families are rarely if ever normal though. In the last 37 years I've spent less than five days in Brendan's company ... and that's a generous assessment of the time we've spent together.

T'is odd. He seems both familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. And I feel the tug of those ancient deeply held resentments which would be all too easy to dwell upon. But that would detract from what is a HUGE opportunity to start a healing process both long overdue and much longed for ... at least on my part.

Like many children whose backgrounds are scarred by abuse we are ... or at least have been ... a fractured family. Long decades of not a word and now? It seems we have to choose. Shall we ask why? Why did you take yourself away and lock us out? Why did you compound the hurt already done?

Except I already know why. To stop more hurt it can seem like a good option to shut ourselves away from all that's gone on in the past, create a new persona and live that life instead. I get it. Compassion is not a soft option that's for sure.

I get to know my nephew Liam though as well so instead of two small(ish) boys I now get to play with three. I'm off to the beach to try to fly a kite.

Here's hoping for fair winds.  xx Jos

Making Friends

You'd think it would be easy enough
I meet people all the time
I chat
They chat back
And then either I or they
Go away.
I wonder sometimes if I should hibernate
As is my instinct
I know it's supposed to be wrong
Are we not social creatures.
Why is it so hard to make friends?

I lack courage
Time and again I come to this sober conclusion
Which I question
And then acquiesce
How to refute the truth of it.
I am sad to find myself so alone
A situation of my own making
The unmaking of which
Quells even the prospect of bravery
Shall I instead spin my cocoon
In the hope of metamorphosis?

Frustration battles procrastination
A solid feeling fear based lethargy
That threatens to consume
Not solely my present state
But my state-to-be
And I
I battle alongside with the wanting
And not wanting all at the same time
Somehow though I still believe
It should not be this difficult
Where then the fault?

The case for perseverance
Needs to be made
If only for the sake of balance
And to offset the bleakest
Of all prospects
That of continuing in the same vein
With the same result
Or non-results.
Tell me then
How is it that you go about
Making friends?

Remembering Renee

There is something very powerful about someone telling you that you are more than fine just the way you are ... that you are loveable and loved. It takes a pretty special person to make you believe something as unbelievable as that. Every year I'm surprised that it's another year since you gained your wings Renee. I hope you've been enjoying life beyond life ... and I hope you've met my Mum and given her a big huge hug. I reckon even in heaven hugs are good medicine. I miss you dear heart. All my love xx Jos

The black dog

When people talk about depression they aren't all talking about depression. Some are talking about the blues which is something entirely different. I don't talk about my depression much. In fact for years I didn't even know how to label what ailed me.

About 2 years ago I went to the docs and talked about what was going on in my head. I'm glad I did even though I was really scared. The meds don't make it all better but they do help. The thing is that when I start to deteriorate mental health wise I don't always realise until I am really quite unwell. It's hard to ask for help. I don't know why it's so hard ... it just is.

I know it's stupid to wish things away. It's what children do isn't it? I do wish though. I wish my mind was in better shape.

Some days

Some days are worth remembering.
Three years sober today.
Three years of making at least one decent decision each and every day.
Yeah, not too shabby Jos.

Doesn't time fly ...

Memories of faith

I think perhaps our view of death changes as we become more intimately acquainted with it. We are so flawed ... each and every one of us. To ask a human to reflect fully the nature of The Divine is surely to ask the impossible. That does not in itself change the nature of The Divine ... should such an entity exist.

I remember what faith felt like. I remember believing with (what I believed was) all of my heart. I was quite happy in my naivety as only teenagers can be. Faith seemed to me to be a simple choice. I chose to believe and in so doing I took a leap of faith. Thus I started the process of building a construct in my mind hinged upon certain inviolable truths.

The problem was twofold. The truths were not inviolable, and the builder wasn't either. The construct was too flimsy. It could not and did not withstand the batterings of Real Life. As the construct destructed a ground zero was created where once there had been the semblance of faith.

I am flawed. The people around me are flawed. Should I believe what they say? Should they believe me? The way we compensate for this "flawed-ness" is beyond me. There are too many things one can choose to believe in ... a menu of faiths too long and too complex exists to confuse and confound ... and yet there exists this yearning to believe.

I was watching a movie recently. The teacher in this movie was holding a cup of tea. He poured the tea onto the table and some of it dripped onto the floor. It was still tea. It had not changed it's nature by escaping the confines of the cup. He used this as an analogy for the life force that exists within us. It does not change when we die, it merely escapes the confines of our body.

Analogies always break down eventually under the pressure of ever closer scrutiny. Their purpose is not to withstand such scrutiny but to open our minds to new ways of thinking.

Some days I feel almost as if mum is watching over me. I imagine that I can hear her voice in my mind and I think I know what she is going to say before I hear the words. Very much as I did when she was alive. It still seems inconceivable to me that all of her is just gone. That there isn't something left over in some form beyond our collective memories of her.

I wish that what I used to believe could be made more believable so that I could once again take shelter in faith. Real life batters the heart that's for sure.

The chemistry of tea is interesting.  Check this out;  The Chemistry of Tea

A Pavlova

The reproduction isn't great but then this photo is over 70 years old! This is my mother as a young girl. I like this picture. It's the one we used for the final page on her funeral order of service. Can you see that stubborn chin and mouth configuration? Maybe it's just that I see what I see.

It's just over 8 weeks since I held my mothers hand and looked into her eyes as she died. Dying is not how they depict it in the movies. Maybe it is though and Mum just decided to die differently from all those others ... it wouldn't surprise me that!

What has surprised me is how I am feeling about things. I still cry first thing in the morning, last thing at night and at odd times during the day. I still feel wobbly and unsure of myself on an emotional level just generally. In other words I feel like I am not coping as well as I should be.

I don't know how to make it better ... maybe because I can't make it better. Grieving is hard that's for sure.

Yesterday we celebrated Oliver's 10th birthday. This is his Big Sister Kate with the rather magnificent pavlova she made for the occasion. Oliver has good taste when it comes to cake / pudding / whatever you want to call it. As long as you can put candles on it, it's all good.  My Little Sister Kath is her mum and is standing beside Kate ... Kath is also Oliver and William's mum and the best sister in the whole wide world. The pavlova was totally scrumptious. Macerated strawberries inside which you can't see but created a cloud inside of pink loveliness.

Despite the sadness there is also joy and life carrying on. John was with us for the day which I'm very happy about. He doesn't like pavlova ... can you imagine that? At least he loves us! We love him too. William is being especially nice to his Grandad. Small children understand more about grief than we sometimes give them credit for. Amazing how a hand hold can be more comforting than any words could hope to convey.

Oh and one other photo just because this one makes me smile. Kaths three children all together.  William (eyes closed aged 7), Oliver aged 10, Kate aged perfect.

I forgot ...

Yesterday I was looking through the TV listings when I saw that the French Open tennis tournament was about to start. I very nearly picked up the phone to ring Mum. It's not like I used to ring Mum every day or anything but there were certain things that would always trigger one or other of us to call.

Top flight tennis was one of those things ... or a good movie coming to the local arts cinema, an interesting play opening at the theatre, the latest Welsh National Opera tour dates, advice on interpreting unusual recipes, some technical issue which Mum would always ask me to deal with (me being an engineer n'all), invitations to meet for lunch / coffee / a visit,  invitations to call in on my way home from work for no better reason than we hadn't seen one another for a few days ... actually now I come to think of it there were quite a few things that would trigger a phone call.

Grieving is strange. It's like repeatedly forgetting and then remembering over and over again. The pain in those moments feels new, intense and raw. But the pain and the intensity are not constant. Sometimes I wonder if this is normal. It's like a lot of the time I'm OK ... perhaps because there's still some part of my brain that harbours this illusion that Mum is still here ... that I'll hear from her any day now. Like she's away on holiday or something. And then something will happen, like yesterday when I so nearly picked up the phone ... and I'll remember all over again.

The way the tears come these days is different from how I expected. I mean I've cried a fair amount over the years, but these tears ... it's like when I cried as a child. It's frightening, intense, painful, overwhelming, out of control ... and it feels endless. Bottomless.  Like there's no safety net beneath me any more when I never even realised that I thought of Mum in those terms at all. It's not like she ever actually acted like a safety net ... certainly not since I started work at 16 anyway. I thought I was an adult back then ... ha! How little I knew ... how little I still know for that matter. Funny ... it seems that on an emotional level I am to some degree still very much a child.

This grief doesn't feel simple though which again I didn't expect. It feels fraudulent in a way. I ask myself "am I crying for the loss of the mother I had, or the mother I wish I'd had?" I feel guilty that my grief is partly one and partly the other. I guess I assumed that grieving would be less complex than it is. Something more akin to simple but deep deep sadness.

I guess not.


Mum.   06 Dec 1936 -  13 Apr 2013

Isn't she beautiful. This was taken on my wedding day in September 2008. I love Mum's smile. There was such strength in this woman, I can't even to begin to tell you.

Mum died yesterday morning in the hospice. I was there with her and she knew it. I held her hand as she passed and talked of my love for her, I talked also of the love her most beloved John had for her as well as all my siblings by name. 

I told her what a brilliant mum she's been ... despite the complexities of our relationship I truly believe that Mum did what she thought was best most of the time. She fought through some very difficult battles in her life. Some of those battles have had a lasting impact on me and my siblings. Family relationships aren't always easy. I did and do love my mother nonetheless and I am glad I got the chance to say so.

I talked too of some of the things she'd taught me. Mum was always a woman of great certainty and confidence in her own understanding of right and wrong. She taught me the importance of self sufficiency and self reliance. Perhaps too well. Some years ago I started to lose some perspective on that front but I am finding my way back towards a better balance these days.

Even if I sometimes found her manner distant and somewhat lacking in warmth I've come to understand in these last years just how important it was for her to stay true to herself. I came to understand too that love does not necessarily use words of a sentimental nature. Although Mum never said to me that she loved me I knew that she did. 

One of the reasons I love this picture is because on the morning of my wedding day Mum told me she was proud of me. I think that was the nearest she ever came to telling me of her love. In the last couple of years Mum even started resting a hand on my shoulder rather than simply brush kissing my cheek.  I don't think she'd have been particularly comfortable about me talking to her of my love for her. I hope she didn't mind too much that I did when the time came. I needed her to know.

Then I spoke of the things I would tell my nieces and nephews about her to help them remember her. I mentioned her strength and Independence. How she taught me the importance of acting on principles and not merely talking about them. I said some other things too. The nurse told me she was taking her last breaths and left me with her after closing her eyes. I continued talking for some time ... you never quite know when someone is truly gone. I'm glad I was there and that I had the chance to say so many things.

And I will talk to my nephews and neices about her life. I will show them some of her paintings. She loved to paint, loved to read Proust and other great writers of fiction. She loved going to her book club despite being quite vitriolic about some of the choices of reading matter chosen by other members. She loved robust intellectual debate on an incredibly wide range of subjects ... only conceding rarely and not always with good grace. She knew so much about so many things and was a very cultured person.

She also loved cooking and listening to all sorts of classical music, especially opera ... a love we shared more and more over recent times. She played the piano at concert level as well as the oboe, and played an awesome baroque recorder. Completely fluent in french after spending a year or more in Paris as a late teenager she was often taken for a Parisian by the locals when she lived for a time in rural southern France during the 80's and early 90's. John told me that she used to help their neighbours with their tax forms because they couldn't always understand the words on the forms.

An expert seamstress, knitter and embroiderer, mum loved to do craft and art at home ... something of a necessity in our early years when money was tight. I remember wearing clothes she'd made for us all. She was politically aware and an activist in both the anti-nuclear movement as well as Amnesty International. She studied history as an adult and gained first her Bachelors and then her Masters degree when I was about 6 or 7 I can't quite remember exactly.  I remember going to see her graduation ceremonies and the funny flat hat and gown she had to wear. Somewhere we have a photo of her wearing them and holding a scroll. She looks as proud as proud can be ... and quite right too. She was a teacher, (French, English, RE and Maths) a health-food store owner, a believer in thrift, good simple nutrition, clear thinking, robust rule making and plain speaking. She was an environmentalist and practised recycling long before it was widely popular. I remember as a child wondering why we saved so much stuff to re-use.

One thing Mum loved was her garden. She grew flowers, shrubs, vegetables, herbs and berries for as long as I can remember. Regardless of how small a garden she had she always managed to grow something and took great pleasure from doing so. She loved creating order and her garden reflected this. I remember how she found it hard to leave her garden to take even quite short holidays away from home during the summer months ... worrying that Kath or I might unwittingly do something wrong in taking care of everything in her absense. I don't think anything ever actually died under our care but that thought never quite left her. My sister over-waters whereas I tend to under-water so in fact mum had the perfect duo of caretakers in a way!

In the time I knew her Mum was a mother, sister, aunt, niece, grandmother, daughter, wife, cousin, and friend. Her influence ran broad and deep.  I've never met anyone more certain of her own mind.

I love you Mum. I am proud to be your daughter. I will miss you more than words are capable of conveying. Love always,  Jocelyn.

Time Passes

It seems my time is less and less my own these days. I know it won't be like this always though. I shudder at the thought because the time is coming when the reason I'll have more time is because Mum is no longer with us.

It's been a strange time ... a healing time too altough that seems utterly ludicrous given the ravages cancer is visiting upon my mothers body. Her mind remains very much her own though, a blessing of huge value to us all.

In the lead up to Easter Mum was taken into the hospice. Family members were informed and in response to the clarion call my brothers hot-footed it with their families to England from their far flung homes in Canada and the US.

It's odd to be spending time as a full family again. Whilst most of us are close to my eldest brother my middle brother has cut himself off entirely from me for the last 20 something years, been out of touch with Mum for at least 15 years and remained in only the barest of contact with my sister during the last 10 years or so. Thus the dynamics are strange and somewhat uncomfortable but that's to be expected. What's encouraging though is that we are able to engage with one another as adults ... no re-hashing those ancient pointless animosities nor wilfully opening old wounds ... just kindness and tolerance. We are all so very different from one another and yet finally that seems to no longer be such a cause of conflict. For all of our sakes I am glad.

I am spending long hours with Mum, sometimes with other family members but more often just the two of us. I time my visits for later on in the day ... a time when she would otherwise be alone waiting for someone to come with food, bath or meds before bed. It can be a lonely time for someone unable to move from bed to chair let alone make her way to the communal areas where company might be sought. We spend time chatting, but more and more we end up sitting quietly. We are healing our bond in words and in silence.

I love my mother. I wish this were easier for her. I hope the end comes in a peaceful way.

A big number

18263. That’s a biggish number.

50 x 365 + 13 = 18263.

There are 365 days in a year. But every 4 years we add an extra day to make the adjustment required to bring earth seasonal time into line with astronomical time …which is based on the earths revolutions around the sun.

We call it leap year because whilst normally we can track the day a certain date will fall on simply by adding a day onto the day that date fell on the year before, in a leap year dates after February 29th fall two days ahead, thus “leaping” a day.

Anyway you look at it there are a lot of days in half a century, and I have now lived that many days. Today I am 50.

Ageing is strange and wonderful. I have grey hair, I have wrinkles, saggy baggy wobbly bits and bobs … all that good stuff. My wrinkles are where they should be and there they will stay … more likely they will deepen and that’s OK with me. My laughter lines are becoming deeper and hopefully will in time overtake the frown lines that furrow my forehead.

I laugh more these days. I have reason to. I always did have reason to but I forgot and then forgetting became something I did a lot. Now I try to remember instead and laughter comes from a good place as a result.

Mum and John came over for lunch on Sunday. It’s the first time mum has left the house in weeks. She managed to walk from the car to the house and stayed awake for nearly 3 hours which is a long time these days. We mostly chatted about knitting. Under her expert tutelage my jumper is coming along albeit slowly. I knit at what might be described as at a deliberate pace at best.

John’s brother died a couple of weeks ago and a week before that one of mums best friends died. It has become something of a regular thing now that one or other hears of a friend or a friend of a friend who has died. John is the last of his generation within his family, so is mum.

Time is strange isn’t it? This time last year my sister and I were busily planning an all day outing for Mothers Day when the news fell that the cancer was back. It’s like being sucker punched hearing news like this. There’s nothing to say that’s right because there are no words powerful enough to stop the feeling that nothing will be the same thereafter. So Mum started chemo and we were all dreadfully worried and scared for her. A year later she is frail and there is no denying the marked deterioration in her physical state. Mentally though she remains remarkably alert insofar as her perpetual fatigue allows.

Mum and I talk much more about the past now that the future feels so uncertain and to some degree an irrelevance. I enjoy hearing about her life. It feels odd and somewhat remiss of me that I am only now getting to know her in such a different way. She is an amazing woman and I don’t know how I didn’t fully realise this before. I guess I was so busy thinking of her as my mother that I forgot to look at the rest of who she is. I dread her becoming so frail that she is no longer herself. I hope that she will pass peacefully when the time comes.

In the meantime there is cake to eat and daffodils to enjoy … stories to tell and photos to look at … music to listen to and cross-words to puzzle over. And there are chats by the fire. Laughter is yet another way of saying “I love being here with you”. Sometimes we just feel right don’t we?

Secrets and sickness

You wouldn't think that something as innocuous as secrets could make you sick ... or keep you sick. It seems totally counter-intuitive somehow as oftentimes we tell ourselves that secrets harm no-one and particularly those told in a bid to keep loved ones from being hurt or harmed.

So secrets told in a bid to protect from hurt or harm are if not OK then at least somewhat justifable, but what about others? What about those told for reasons to do with deeper darker motives? We are none of us perfect are we?

Maybe it's the magnitude that makes the difference ... or the motivation. T'is a tricky subject matter.

Does the keeping of secrets make one less well? What about collusion in the keeping of secrets ... that done by the avoidance of asking questions ... or the careful scripting of conversations to skirt around "difficult topics". Vagueness ... I have become adept at vagueness.

Today I listened to someone talk about their secrets and how those secrets had kept them trapped in a cycle of lies and deception. It made me think about how my own secrets weigh me down at times. And then I started wondering which came first ... the lies or the secrets ... for most assuredly those two go hand in hand ... cemented as they are in fear.

My heart is heavy with the witnessing of my mothers slow lingering deterioration. I think perhaps I am rumminating on the negatives as a result. So many secrets and lies from those early years have come back to the surface ... with my mothers' passing will they too pass I wonder?

And then mum and I were chatting the other day and it became clear to me that some of the things I thought were secrets were not in fact secrets at all ... that somehow I had missed the moment of revelation or misunderstood altogether .... which of course is how it is because I have always misunderstood pretty much everything from a very early age. I am quite angry about that.

I wish I knew what one is supposed to do with feelings of anger. I wish I knew a safe way to deal with it without causing hurt to anyone, including myself.

Big sister thoughts

When Kath cries something deep inside me moves. She is my little sister even though we are the age we are now. It's a hard wired fact that it is my job to look after her. The years have not eroded that wiring despite rationality. On an emotional level I am her older sister and it's my job to make it OK.

Sadly it is not OK. Mum's scan this week shows bad bad news. Her abdominal area is filling with fluid. This is part of the "end game" when it comes to liver cancer. Her bone density is falling so we have to be extra careful about preventing knocks and falls. The chemo has been stopped now as it is no longer doing anything of value.

Thing is all this is happening and somehow or other I keep finding myself shut off emotionally from the enormity of it. But coming home to my sister in tears acts as a catalyst ... an unblocking of the damn within and suddenly all I can do is FEEL and blimey I wish it weren't so. And yet ... I am glad too because to be present is all about thoughts and feelings in the NOW.

Today is another day and one of the things I am thankful for is that I didn't cry or wail when Mum and I discussed her will yesterday. Still to have the discussions about her funeral and no doubt that too will be hard going but these things I learnt from Renee ... this process belongs to the person going through it ... my job is to show up and be there ... to show love and understanding but also to be ... well just me I guess. Dropping the pretence that all is well is actually quite a relief in some ways.

Time ticks on

A couple of weekends ago Mum and I went to watch a live link up to the Metroplitan in New York. We went to see a performance of The Tempest by Thomas Ad├Ęs. It's an amazing thing to see opera being performed live from half-way across the world. It's not as good as being there, but it's the next best thing.

During the interval we perused the up-coming performance schedule ... decided to book tickets for Les Troyens (Berlioz) in January. Then I spotted the fact that they are showing Handel's Giulio Cesare towards the end of April. "Shall I get us tickets" I said. "Oh I don't think so, do you?" said Mum.

Sometimes I allow myself to forget that time is ticking on, and that for Mum time has a different kind of meaning these days. Her health is crumbling in that seemingly unstoppable way that is the way with cancer. Her liver function is on the slide as the cancer progresses. She sleeps up to 18 hours some days and is tired all the time. Oh and soooo sick and weak, poor thing.

I remember Renee saying F.U.C.K.  cancer and I can only echo those words. I hate seeing what it does, and I hate the fact that in some ways the treatment is worse than nothing being done. Several times recently Mum has talked of ceasing treatment altogether and I can see her point. I respect her right to choose but I can't help but to selfishly wish that she will choose to stay with us for as long as possible.

I wonder how I will cope as time marches on. I try not to dwell on what is to come but not altogether successfully. In the meantime I try to focus on the present. We are talking more and chatting less. Even though I cried in front of her the other day (still a HUGE no-no in our relationship), we are mending what can be mended. This is not a race against time. I refuse to see it that way. No, not as a way of denying what is going on, but I don't want to act with fear as my main source of motivation. This is just me and mum finding new ways to express our love for one another.

The end of October rolled around recently and so I celebrated my second year of sobriety. Sometimes I feel like I am not me any more. And then I remember what being me was like when I was trapped in my drinking days. Even the toughest days now are better than those dark times. I am still plagued by deep deep feelings of shame and remorse about the past and I think that is how it should be. Not because I enjoy feeling that way but because my moral compass is just functioning as it should.  I cannot change what is done but I am working on making my amends. I am so grateful to be here NOW.

Note to self

Small steps are not necessarily baby steps

they are in some ways a measure of wisdom

an acknowledgement that needs need balance

and patience is not the same as doing nothing

Ah but waiting is just so hard don't you find?

it grates and creates such inner tension

why Why WHY ... oh why can't I just ...?

Patience is thus my deliberate act

an allowing for time and space

a letting in of the light of understanding

underpinned by my reluctant acceptance

that fate will unfurl it's flags of meaning

if I care to learn this new form of semaphore

a task in itself to be going on with I suppose.

Update from Jos-Land

As always time has gotten away from me. Suddenly it feels autumnal and we have had our first frost of the season already. I am well. It's funny how when the chips are down and I don't have time for introspection I feel mentally quite well, even whilst feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.

Mum's chemo has been suspended as her liver function is not good enough just now to continue. So whilst she actually feels better through not having the chemo, the outlook is less positive. We are enjoying some family time as my oldest brother is visiting from Canada along with his eldest daughter who is here for an exchange year as part of her graduate programme. It is good to spend time together although the tinge of sadness is an ever present back-drop.

We will be harvesting 4 frames worth of honey after all which is quite exciting news. As a novice bee-keeper I have never harvested honey but we have already done the hardest bit which is separating the bees from their cache! It is an absorbing and interesting hobby. I am so thankful to have Johns many decades of experience to call upon. He looks very jaunty at the moment having just celebrated his 82nd birthday. I bought him a rather dashing bow-tie which he has taken to wearing with some alacrity. Mum is not so impressed but we are secretly very pleased with ourselves nonetheless. T'is important to keep some small measure of positivity going despite going through difficult times.

Trev is going back into hospital this coming week for further tests. All in all though I think he is doing OK although naturally enough we are both feeling the strain of waiting for tests and test results in roughly equal measure. Nothing moves as quickly as we'd like in these circumstances.

I am learning a beautiful song on my battered old guitar at the moment. Dar Williams - If I Wrote You it's called.

Have a listen. The guitar in this is just lovely isn't it?

Four legged friends

There was a time when I knew diddly-squat. As I recall though I felt super smart ... pretty much as far back as I remember I've felt reasonably smart ... well if you discount knowing diddly-squat that is. This is a picture of me as a girl. I look kind of happy don't I? My trousers are patched and too short ... as is my shirt by the looks of things. Funny ... I didn't think we were badly off when I was little. And obviously there was a time when I was NOT scared of dogs. I look kind of relaxed here.

I don't remember much from my childhood. The bits I do remember are not of happy times. I think I spent a fair amount of the time "absent" ... there physically but elsewhere in my head. I look at photos of me back then and I don't connect at all. She looks so much more sure of herself than I ever remember feeling.

This week I have been dog sitting. Yes me!!!!!! My sister was desperate and I am a softie and no mistake. So I have been looking after Sasha and it has been a total delight.  I think I might be becoming a doggie lover after all.

Life here is OK. Mums hair is falling out which has made her sad ... and scared. Even so she is readying herself for the inevitable and has bought a rather splendid looking wig. Her pic line is giving her some jip and she has feeling unwell much of this last week.  On the up-side she is starting to re-gain a little weight despite her appetite continuing to be poor. We are trying new and interesting foods ... and lots of deserts ... this is no time to be shy with the ice-cream!!!

Hmmm bit of a hodge podge post. I have less and less time it seems and perhaps that is a good thing but I miss blogging that's for sure. xx Jos


Can cancer that has spread not only into her liver but also into the cavity behind her breastbone ever be considered good news? Well it seems so ... when what she has been dreading more than anything is that the cancer had spread into the bones themselves.

I love my mother. For all the complexities and difficulties in our relationship, still ... I love her. And I love the fact that she tried to cheer me up in the face of the news this week. I've always admired her strength. I know that there will come a time when the need to show strength when feeling anything but strong will come. And I know that I want to be there to offer whatever strength I can muster.

Gratitude is a strange word to use today. I will have to follow my mothers' example in this regard. You know, I don't talk much about AA on here or anywhere else really. Which is kind of odd given how instrumental it continues to be in my journey towards wellness. One thing I've learnt from listening and sharing with others dealing with lifes curve balls is that there are times when "keeping it in the day" can really help.

5 things I am grateful for today;

That the cancer is not in my mums bones.
20 months sobriety.
That the sun will rise tomorrow.
That mum and I are very likely to see the sunrise of another day.
That there is life beyond diagnosis.

This time of year

I am not the worlds best photographer that's for sure but even I can spot that there is something rather special about roses. Not only do they remind me of a rather special blogger friend, but they fill the whole area at the front of our home with a heady fragrance at this time of year. It's almost overwhelming and is just so so lovely.

I know nothing about flowers. I know they are beautiful though. And I know that looking at them reminds me of important things. Pausing to appreciate the delicacy of a flower petal ... watching as the days pass ... seeing the inexorable transformation from almost bare twigs, to leaved plant through buds all the way through to full blooms. How amazing nature is. Truly it is just breathtaking.

Take a look at these beauties ...

My mothers health has taken a turn for the worse. She goes back into hospital on Thursday for tests on a mass that showed up on her scan last week. A few months ago she started feeling increasingly unwell but this last month or so the affects have started to become all too obvious ... very marked weight loss, low energy, loss of interest in things, lack of appetite, general listlessness, more than usual confusion etc etc. Hence tests and more tests. Mum tells me that she believes the cancer has spread into her liver (the area in which the mass has appeared). She may be right but we shall wait and see.

Some days it is particularly important that we take time to pause ... to look in wonder at the beauty all around us in the world.

A Bit Of A Blow

Well we have come home from our camping trip unexpectedly early due to some inclement weather that played havoc with us ... and with our tent ...

... quite a "difficult" night was had with winds gusting up to force 9 but we came through relatively unscathed for which I am very thankful indeed. Trev was a total superstar and despite being soaked to the skin remained cheerful whilst we salvaged almost everything from the tent in the morning. We had had about an hours sleep all told. Normally this would precipitate loads of sniping and griping as we'd try to hold one another responsible for each of us feeling below par, I think we were both a bit subdued by the experience of sitting out gale force winds under a flimsy bit of cloth tied down with some rope and held up by a few fibre-glass poles.

Anyway it wasn't all gloom and doom by any means! There were some fantastic days on the beach with my two best surfer boy buddies ....

Oliver looking every inch of his newly 9 years of age ....

... and William looking so pleased with himself that just looking at him makes me feel warm inside. He is such a surfer boy you wouldn't believe the waves he wanted to try for!

Unfortunately my surfing days are behind me since my ear problems have affected my balance but not to worry as body boarding is a "no skill required" sport ... blimey I mustn't tell William that as he thinks himself highly skilled and who am I to argue with the flawless logic of a 6 year old?

All in all a jolly good time. I am glad to be home in one piece that's for sure.

Busy bee ... or rather bees

I realise that I am hardly ever here any more. It seems utterly ungrateful given how instrumental blogging has been in helping me to discover a sense of self I hardly knew existed before. Life is such a journey ... as they say.

We have recently received our new colony of bees at home. I can hardly wait to show you ... and don't you dare laugh at how silly I look in my bee suit! Pretty much everyone looks a bit silly in a bee suit though I guess.

OK, so now we've got over the laughing at Jos bit lets move on to the actual stars of the show ... the bees!

So there we are ... our bees look amazing don't they? They are so busy at this time of year, it's like Piccadilly Circus inside the hive, and with all the comings and goings it can be a bit scary just approaching the hive to take a peek to make sure all is well. It's so exciting being a beekeeper, and John my stepdad is like a man with a new lease of life since we re-established our beekeeping activities.

I hope all is well with you in your world. 19 months sober today and I believe I am making some progress after all. Warmest hugs xx Jos