Tag Archives: communication

How we said Goodbye


I dreamt of Mum last night. It wasn’t a good dream. I was at her funeral but it all went horribly wrong. The undertakers were casual and silly, there were mourners there who had come to say bad things, I got left behind when everyone went to the burial. People were giving out flowers and children were singing but it was all muddled up.

So I didn’t sleep that well and today I am tired. First day back at work today, although I only have to go in for the afternoon thankfully. Perhaps it will do me good to get back into a more normal routine. I have spent a lot of this last week since the funeral just sleeping, reading with occasional walks. I reckon that my body just said rest and recuperate so that’s what I’ve done. I know that grief makes you tired. I think the whole family has felt the same. As its holiday season for students no=one has been up early round here, but I think I have been the most adolescent in my sleeping-in! My healthy eating plan has also fallen by the wayside I have to say. Old habits etc, That’s another reason to be grateful for the containment and order of a return to ordinary life. Having routines helps.

I have found it hard to write about her this week. She is in my thoughts all the time. I don’t think I’m in denial but its hard to believe she has gone. I think if I go to visit Rowan Court there she will be sitting in her chair asleep, glasses round her neck, blue crocs on her feet, and it will be as usual a nice surprise that I’ve turned up again. But last week we cleared out her room, so I know she doesn’t live there anymore.

Her real funeral, not my nightmare one was beautiful. We said goodbye in all the ways we wanted to with hymns and readings and poems. I wrote the words I wanted to be said and the Missus read them out. The boys each wrote their own words to remember their nana. Son 1 read his own words and son 3’s. Son 2 wrote and read a wonderful poem, it blew us all away. I will share it another day. Son 4 wrote of how they would all do Nana proud and the missus read those too. She was laid to rest in a beautiful wicker coffin. Green leaves were wound round the sides and the top was decorated with flowers in blues and pinks and white. The strong blue of cornflowers, not pastels for Mum. Old friends and family joined us of course and we cried and laughed and enjoyed the memories and the company. We had a photo of her from a holiday a few years ago at CenterParcs. She looks so happy in the sunshine. We put it up over the fireplace at the hotel whilst we had tea and now it is on top of the radiator in our kitchen by the table until we decide where to put it up properly. I can see her now smiling at me as I write.

What is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon, and someone says, “she is gone”.

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her…

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone says “she is gone”, there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, “there she comes!”…

and that is dying. 

Bishop Brent

Mum, a Panda and Puppets


The panda is a symbol of the WWF ( World Wildlife Federation.    

The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family and among the world’s most threatened animals.

Location: Southwest China – to the east of the Tibetan plateau

Habitat: Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

image WWF

Wild population: Less than 1,600 mature in the wild

Mum and Dad took on a whole new project when they retired in the 70’s. It combined Mums love of education, creativity and children with dads passion for engineering, DIY and travel. They became travelling puppeteers and called themselves the Puppet People. Their mission was to share ideas about saving the planet and conservation with young people all over the world. Over the years they made many friends and travelled to far off places from Russia to Assisi, the school next door to the Highlands of Scotland.

I have to say it sort of drove me mad at the time! Luckily by this point I had left home and was living my own life nevertheless turning up to shows periodically became a strange sort of family torture much like the slide shows of earlier childhood!

In clearing Mums house we have sorted boxes and boxes of puppet related ‘stuff’. Some, including many puppets,has gone to the museum in Glasgow run by one of their closest friends John Blundall ( the maker of Parker from Thunderbirds!) Take a look at this here I have a pile of puppetry books put aside for a friend who is just starting out with his own puppetry / performance career and some the boys have kept as memories.

This week Mum has been up and down, sometimes clear sometimes not. We were chatting about my bracelet that she and Mrs T got me for my birthday. It is a Lovelinks one where you can attach charms and glass beads and I love it. I wanted to get something from Mum as a sort of special Mum reminder. Daft I know. Its not like I really need that but it had sort of got into my head and I loved the idea. So we talked about the different beads and I mentioned one I liked was the panda and baby one. I said it reminded me of the WWf and she got it straight away, “O that’s about who we were” she said. I like another one too with “mum” on one side and “I love you” on the other it goes both ways. Anyway my panda arrived yesterday and is on my bracelet. it will always mean something special that we both knew what it was about.



A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


This is the message of a campaign from the ‘Who Cares Trust’ which works to support and promote the rights of children in care in the UK. The campaign is called ‘Don’t Write Us Off’ and works with young care leavers encouraging them to volunteer in a project which is based on the values of the Olympics 2012.

Today I didn’t think I could do any better than share some of their words and photos and encourage everyone to take a look at their website  here

“I took this picture to represent some of the meetings with social workers. We meet for coffee but in that meeting we have to also get lots done. We often talk about money and I bring receipts for things I have had to buy. It’s a different relationship to a parent.” (Rachel)

You can interpret this photo in different ways. Situations, like people, can be interpreted in different ways. To one person this might look like I’m just reading a cook book in a kitchen when actually I’m reading a very frustrating bill from the housing department of the council, despite the fact I’m only 18 and living with a foster family.” (Rachel)

“Life in care is not always private. My own problems the school know about it. It’s kind of good sometimes because the teachers can help me. Really my own room is my only private place.” (Julian)

“I took this picture near leaving care centre in Lewisham where there was going to be an event for children in care. I wanted to show the positive about being in care. In my language green means ‘good thing’ and I thought about life in care being like grass, growing faster in some places than others.” (Ellia)
I have worked with young people all my adult life. Kids in care and kids who just need a bit of a hand. I love it. And the strength and resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, nor the humour and willingness to share a story. So I love these images and the words that go with them. I hope you do too

Life in a Day



We saw this film today. Thousand of people from all over the world sent in video clips of their lives on one day, July 24th 2010. This film is the edited collection. People were asked a few questions which they could answer on the video, like “Who do you love?”,  and “What do you fear”.

It made me think about how we notice and mark the passage of time. Diaries and anniversaries, birthdays and celebrations. Each passing year is noted. I remember a similar collection in the 1980’s when 2 photographic books were produced, one in Britain and the other in the Irish Republic for a cancer charity. People sent in photos of their day. From birth to death in one day with all the events in between.

And I thought about blogging. On just this site, every day people write something about their day or the thoughts that are in their head. We share photos, memories and emotions, tears and laughter. Imagine a book of One day in the Life of a Blog.Most days I read through at least some of the ‘Post a Day’ blogs here. The variety fascinated me, the minutiae of everyday life.

Famous diarists and ordinary folk keeping a record of their life. Collections of correspondence from the days of letters. A collection of love letters between Mum and dad kept in a box and tied up with ribbon. Children’s drawings packed away in the bottom of a drawer. A memory box for each of my children, their baby wristbands, 1st birthday cards, swimming certificates and school photos things I put together in case I died before they grew up, in that paranoid worst case scenario mummy thinking. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a record of a day a year? I loved a series called ‘7 up’ produced by ITV of children born in 1964. Filmed every seven years well into adulthood, the series recorded not just the children’s lives but changing cultures, politics and expectations. A sociological study with the poignancy of an innocence that grew up alongside the camera. See this :  7 Up



Writing for life


Dear Blog,

I have no idea what makes people like what I write some days and not so much others. I suppose, like everything, there are multiple reasons but it certainly makes me curious. I find my best writing is usually those days when I have an idea and it ends up being quite ‘stream of consciousness’ stuff. Maybe that vibe comes through. Having “site stats” from WordPress means that I can see how many people visited my blog each day and today was my best day so far. And that was before i posted.

Of course being in the UK means that we are on a different timescale to a lot of bloggers/potential readers out there so sometimes that means people catch up on me the next day.

The things I like writing about most are: the journey with my mum through old age and towards what will come, the process and feelings around getting fit and losing weight and the recovery from depression and illness and the sort of daily ‘in my head’ meanderings that reflect on life and living it. Writing about mum is therapeutic for me, allows me to share some of the joy, sorrow and laughter in this part of our lifetime contract with each other. I hope to write about her always with respect. But the events and experiences we are living may shine a little light somewhere for someone else going through or thinking about dementia and care and these changes. That matters.

I don’t write too much about the other most important people in my life, my 4 nearly all grown up kids and my missus. I reckon everyone deserves their privacy and apart from the occasional reference or moment of pride that I just have to shout about I don’t think any of then would thank me for blogging about them. Or putting their photos up. The dog is a different matter, I reckon he’s fair game. And everyone likes a dog story, right?

I started this daily blogging in March, so I am now nearly 4 months in. From being a little girl I have loved words. I loved to read and remember writing stories as soon as I could write. Through primary and high schools I wrote. Teenage poetry, wordy and angst-ridden Im sure. I always imagined I would go on and study English and then maybe have a career in writing or journalism. And then I got sidetracked into Sociology. I loved it. It transformed me and filled me with another sort of passion. And I don’t regret for a moment where it has taken me. But along the way, apart from brief periods of conscious creativity the writing got lost along the way. And I forgot. Writing became about reports and essays. Emails and Facebook. Until now. This year is about recovery. I have a journal that I started last October. I wrote on the inside cover “The Journey Back”. I meant back to health, back to sugar-free living, back to life. And writing has become a part of that. Making a daily committment to be here, to just show up and get those words on paper. To share what I think and who I am. And I love it.

The thinking, the processing, the way the words race and tumble over each other to come out on the screen.Googling, researching and taking photos to fit. The weekly photo challenge adds another dimension of fun and spark of creativity with the visual image. I rediscover why I love playing with colour and seeing the world through a lens can be illuminating.

Showing up every day isn’t easy but I can’t bear to miss a day. I have a dream to write every day for a year. I am honing my muscles here. I want to do more. I want to write. I want to write a book, see those words on paper. Whew! I am sticking my neck out and stating my claim on the Universe. I am going to put in the work. Watch this space.

Love Julia

Keeping Mum together


Mum is 86 and since July last year has been living in residential care. She has dementia and her memory is poor but her sense of fun, love for cake and enjoyment in family and any trip anywhere remain.She is nearby so we can visit often and we can take the dog Mr G. for cuddles for both of them.

We have learnt some strategies for making life pleasant for all of us after some traumas and tribulations along the way. Here are just a few:

Never argue – you don’t have to be right and arguing just makes her anxious. Oh boy, this took me a while but once I’d got it life changed forever

Therapeutic lying  or ‘get over yourself’. If it makes her happy to believe that she is at work, lives somewhere else, is going on holiday tomorrow agree with her. it’s the feeling behind the words that matters. She may be trying to tell us something. A ‘holiday’ might mean lets take a trip to the garden centre for tea and yes, you got it, cake

Tell lots of stories- I make them up as I go along. Tales of a film we’ve seen, book I’ve read, what ‘the boys’ are up to, and always about Mr G

Don’t ask questions- expecting her to remember what she did yesterday is just daft and upsets her. The only questions permissible are in the present tense, are you warm enough, would you like tea or coffee? Or some days we can chat happily about her childhood or earlier days, it varies.

Be prepared to distract, change the subject or offer tea and cakes at any opportunity ( self-explanatory!)

Taking Mr G always works – dogs do the work for you. He loves a cuddle, is always affectionate, never argues, asks difficult questions and will sleep in the sun. Perfect.

Visits from ‘the boys’ her grandsons light up her day, and they have become experts at the list above and amaze me with their maturity and perception.

Oh and one of the best books I’ve read on the subject is ‘Contented Dementia’ by Oliver James.

Contented Dementia

Saying NO gracefully


Yesterday I found myself repeating a pattern. I was making the phone call and writing the email and running about over something that wasn’t my job and grumbling under my breath. I was chuntering about it on the way home and feeling angry with myself for being such a sucker. And I thought, Whoa. What a waste of energy! How is beating myself up helping this situation? Does it make me feel better?

I don’t want to be negative, grumpy or a victim here. I don’t want to allow the rest of my lovely day to be spoilt by my reaction to one silly event ( and one class A manipulator!).

So I started rehearsing:

Thank you so much for thinking of me but I’m up to my eyes right now

Normally Id love to help but I’m just on my way out of the door


Do you find it hard to phone people yourself? Is that something we can get you some help for?

Here let me show you how to write emails, with a little practice yu too will learn to love it

Oh I don’t feel well ( fall to floor in dead faint)

Why would you think I would do that?

I’m sorry isn’t that part of your job?

Gosh you must be overworked, can I support you in talking to our manager about this?


Please feel free to add your own suggestions, I would love to hear them and even more to learn to use them!

Dear Red Post-Box …


Dear Red Post-Box

I see you every time I leave my house. You sit round the corner waiting for letters and thin parcels. Sometimes at Christmas time you get so full that when I put my pile of cards in I have to pat them down on top of all the others. You are as much a part of my daily life as a cup of tea and walking the dog.

When I go to other countries I miss your bright red shiny presence and have to find my way through a different culture of yellow or blue. Its just not the same.

And then by a process of magic the letters I put in you reach people from round the corner in my small town to distant cousins in Canada and the USA, friends, and strangers. Now that most of my friends and relatives are on email, Facebook or twitter, most of the time we communicate electronically. Photos get sent instantly. I can see the latest wedding, christening or new baby , puppy or kitten in minutes. And I love that.

But every day when I come home, I look for the post. Still I retain that sense of excitement. The possibility of a handwritten card or letter lingers. Of course most days its junk mail from holiday companies, catalogues for clothes I’m trying not to buy, reminders the insurance is due or the parking fine is outstanding.

So this year I am going to try to write a letter, send a card to those I love more than once a year.

Thank you dear Red Post-Box for the reminder.

love Julia

Crossed wires


Crossed Wires

The conversation went something like this:

Me: B are you going to dads tonight

B: not sure yet

Me: When will you know

B: dunno

Me: Where are you going now?

B: I’m giving J (big bro) a lift

Me: And then you’re coming back here?

B: Uh then I’m going to Ps ( girlfriend). unless you want me here?

Me: Well it’d be nice to have you here for tea ( in about 10 mins)

Me: Have you let Dad know what you’re doing

B: yeah I’ve spoken to him, he’s not expecting us cos its Mothers Day

Me: OK, so have you let J ( little bro) know as he’s waiting to go to dads?

B: No ( goes upstairs to do this)

Me: So what actually was the plan?

B: I’m going back to P’s for tea

End of conversation. B goes out with J ( big bro)

Me, eldest son and girlfriend, youngest son, partner all sit down to tea. All half way through steak and vegetable pie, garlic potatoes, carrots, spring greens and gravy when dah dah, B comes in.

B: ( unplugging earphones) hey

Me: Oh have you come back for your tea ( looking at empty pot)

B: yeah, that’s what I said.

We all offer to take half off our plates. B says he’ll get himself something later.

Well we all got that one in a muddle didn’t we?!! Cue tinned laughter in this soap opera of family life.