I love Freecycle. It’s a great way to pass on stuff you don’t need any more or aquire stuff you do. A quick email to the liast and a flood of responses usually means its pretty quick too. Last night I put on several items and most of them have gone today. An Asian gentleman took a swivel office chair. He wasnt keen on the monopod for a video camera, just didnt get why it didnt have 3 legs. His English wasn’t too good and he was sure something had fallen off it. I wanted to say “It’s free, just take it and leave”. He left it. A woman whose face I recognised came and took away a homemade blanket box. We worked out she had worked at the supermarket I use for 12 years, no wonder I knew her face – she was just out of context. Next a squaddie home from Afghanistan and now setting up his first home with two mates. He took a pile of 1970’s cook books as he is learning to cook and make food from scratch, it was fun talking about which books would be good for hime and he took a dinner party menus one for his more pretentious flatmate. A lovely woman with ME and Fybromyailgia took away an over-bed table and a digibox with no remote. We had a great chat about f=dogs as she met Geordie. She has two Rotweilers, a boy of 7 who has always been ‘her baby’ and an eighteen month old girl who has turned the old boy into a complete love smitten older man and protector. She told me how, on her bad days, the dogs come upstairs and keep her company and give her cuddles and it helps her get through. Tonight a set of bedroom furniture that there is just no room for went. I specified they would need a van and 2 strong people. This was 1930’s solid wooden furniture. They came in a small Pugeoet van, a little woman with a supervisors manner and her Dad who liked a chat but couldnt lift due to his arthiritis. Is it me? Luckily sons 1 and 2 have been my muscle all day and they ended up being the muscle to dismantle, carry downstaors and put in the van all the furniture. It took two trips.
As I said, I love Freecycle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but the concept is awesome in a materialist world and you get some great stories!
Labyrinth at Norwich Cathedral. The path goes round and as you walk it you cam pray or meditate or just be centred in the moment. It is a place of peace and tranquility, a cool refreshment on a baking hot summers day.
Next the towpath alongside the Pontyscyllte Aqueduct in North Wales. It carries the Llangollen canal over the valley of the River Dee. Years ago I was on a narrowboat for a week when we went over the canal, a couple of years ago we walked over along the path. Both were scary and awesome in equal measure.
Below is a path through some gardens near where we live. Roses climb over the trellis. The formality of the gardens and the tidy paths contrast with great sweeps of grasses and generous planting that changes season by season. It is a favourite path for a Sunday walk.
The Cochiti Pueblo are located in north central New Mexico near the city of Albuquerque. One of the more famous Cochiti artists is Helen Cordero. She was born in 1915 in New Mexico. In the late 1950s, she and her cousin, an accomplished potter, began making pottery as an alternative to leather and beadwork. Cordero was never satisfied with her bowls and pitchers, but then her cousin suggested that she try figures instead. In Cordero’s words, it was “like a flower blooming.” Countless tiny birds and animals and eventually, people came to life. Helen Cordero, of Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, created her first storyteller figure when she was 49 years old. She modeled it after her grandfather who told stories about their Native American culture. One of the traditional figurine forms was a seated female figure holding a child, known as the Singing Mother. When Cordero tried her hand at this form, she “kept seeing my grandfather [Santiago Quintana]. That one, he was a really good storyteller, and there was always lots of us grandchildren around him.” When she shaped the first portrait of her paternal grandfather, she used the traditional design but made the figure male and placed more than a realistic number of children on him. She called him Storyteller. Between five and thirty figures cling to her sculptures. Following the tradition begun by Helen Cordero, many other artists in Cochiti Pueblo began to create storyteller figures and developed their own styles. Seferina Ortiz created drummers and animals. Other artists created cowboy or acrobatic figures. The Cochiti Pueblo Indians did not record their stories as we do but passed them orally to their children and grandchildren. Many of the storyteller figures are created with their mouth open and eyes closed as the Native Americans will sing or chant their stories aloud. Native Americans tell stories about creation, how certain plants and animals came to be and stories of legends, history, ceremonies or rituals. Many stories and dances or rituals are ways to honor the earth and nature’s way. Other stories tell about family, love, friendship, hunting, and so on. Some songs are performed to aid the deceased in his journey to the next world. There are reputed to be over 500 songs just for this purpose. Helen Cordero was the first Native American to create storytellers and has sold many of her sculptures. Helen Cordero’s storytellers have been exhibited in museums in Canada and the United States and have won many awards including the Governor’s award in 1982.
This is a wonderful site that teaches you how to make one for yourself New Mexico Storyteller sculptures
Some years ago whilst in Albuquerque I bought three small storytellers. I gave one to Mum and Dad and it was always on their fireplace. Now I have the three on my desk at work. They remind me every day of how important stories are. The life story we create, the ones we tell our children, grandchildren and friends. The way in which we experience the world is made up of the stories we believe about ourselves and other people.
today I was looking at my little storytellers all over again. I had been talking to someone about Mum and her death. I realised it was like giving birth. The story we tell needs telling, sometimes over and over until somehow we make sense of it and understand it. We tell the story in our families and in our heads. If we are lucky we have people who will share the story with us or just let us tell it how we see it without trying to alter it or make it better or make it theirs. When I read again about the storytellers I heard about the songs that are sung to help the dead person go on their journey and I thought of how I sang to her “The Skye Boat Song” when I sat with her when she had gone. And the songs we sing whether hymns or not that mean something. These rituals are so important.
I look at the storytellers I have and see how they are all the grandparents, the people who pass on the traditions. Is that me now?
I don’t think I have ever been this tired. I just want to sleep. I am having fantasies of just lying down where I am and drifting off. At work I imagine going into one of the therapy rooms, curling up on the sofa and dozing. My body feels like I am wading through a thick gloopy fog that weighs down on my limbs. I slept well last night. Or so I thought. I was in bed by 9.30pm and didnt wake up until I really had to get up this morning at 7.40am. All I wanted to do was get back under the covers and sleep.
I talked myself into showering, getting dressed and breakfasted and going to work. Even with make up on today people keep noticing Im tired. i think the yawning is giving it away. I went for a walk at lunchtime, some fresh air, a trip to the post office. Ate my lunch. Still I just want to sleep. All I can think of is getting home and going to bed.
I think it is grief. I didnt know it could make you so tired. Maybe it is the bodies way of protecting us. Sleep is such a healing thing. And losing someone you love is a shock, however it happens. I know at first it was shock that i felt. like a hit to the brain a flood of chemicals that numbed me out and carried me along on a tide where I was functioning somewhere in a sort of out of body way. Sometimes I have to get angry before i can cry. i think that is happening now. And yesterday I had another shock. A while ago I wrote a blog about exploitation and old age, with particular reference to a situation we had found ourselves in. Yesterday remnants of that situation resurfaced. I had to speak to the lawyer. It will be resolved but it was a shock. People can be truly wicked. I havent experienced that quite so directly before, but now I know it. When i got home I got angry and then I cried. It feels so abusive, so intrusive to have to deal with this now. So the tiredness makes sense i suppose. In the middle of grieving it is hard to know what you are dealing with. Emotions are raw and energy is low.
I hope other people learn from this. If ypou have aging relatives or people you love who are vulnerable, take care. Sometimes that ‘friend’ who has suddenly appeared and seems to be spending a lot of time being helpful is actually ‘grooming ‘ them for abuse and exploitation. They cause rifts between families, prey on the fears and worries of the old, scared or lonely and are psychopathic in their lack of emapthy and calculated self-seeking. I have had nothing but love and support and tenderness from almost everyone and neither did mum. But one bad apple can create a lot of poison if you let it.
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.
Is there something about churches that makes me want to look up? The decoration of each tiny part reflecting the worship of hundreds of hands and hearts. A special sort of stillness, the sense of decades of prayerful meditation. I like the simple in everyday spirituality. The branches of a tree reaching into a winter’s sky , the touch of a hand, the beauty of the earth. Sometimes the words of the Psalm, “Mine eyes look up to the hills, from whence cometh my help” resonate. I don’t know that I fully understand their meaning but sometimes words convey a hidden depth that comforts without it being necessary to take them apart.
Today I am looking up and seeing grey skies, but inside it is warm with the scent of homemade rhubarb crumble baking in the oven. The sound of music coming from upstairs. Papers on the kitchen table I have sorted for tomorrow. A mug of tea. Blessings in the ordinary.
Manchester, England on a wet Monday August Bank Holiday. We dropped son 4 at the airport for a trip to meet his dad and other family in France for a weeks holiday. After a brunch there ( gasp at prices) we waved him off through the departures gate. Looking cool, his main possessions a phone charger and iPod on his first solo flight. I was 40 when I made my first solo flight. Kids nowadays eh? Cue, grumpy old woman music.
The missus and I set off solo together for the bright lights of the city centre. Its Manchester Pride weekend. We had skipped the drama and show of the Parade on Saturday. Clubbing and partying is not our thing either. but its fun to be there and to celebrate everyone’s right to love and be loved. We had a great lunch in Velvet on Canal Street. We waved at the narrowboats ( bit of a theme that this weekend!). We wandered round the stalls, put umbrellas up and down and said ‘Hi” to some of the people on the charity stalls, mental health, Quakers, Metropolitan City Church, Lesbian Community Group to name a few. And then we went and rocked out with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus singing their hearts out in the rain. A great, big, bad sound it made me smile. Proms in the Park was good, it would have been a LOT better on a sunny summer day. I had fantasies of sitting on the grass, the sun on my face music to sing along to. By this time the missus was cold. Well I did ask her if she was taking a jacket, but oh no. Who’s the smarty pants now then? If it had stayed sunny an evening of Toyah Wilcox, 4 Poofs and a Piano and the Original Bucks Fizz beckoned. I think you probably have to be from the UK to understand any of these or even have heard of them at all!
On the way home we passed a pub that I had spotted on the way in. It sits like a little beacon of old town in the middle of sky-scraper buildings. Coming from Stoke-on-Trent the home of The Potteries I can’t pass a Minton tile without oohing and aaahhhing in admiration. This little gem has been beautifully preserved. It’s also For Sale. Brief moment of landlady bubble comes out of my head. Nah. But someone please keep this little treasure alive.
Of course I had to Google it when I got home. This place seems to have stood still in time. One of Manchester’s oldest and certainly most distinctive pubs, here is a little review I found which sort of sums it up
Look at it!
Not only is it distanced architecturally from its surroundings, but it also happens to sit quite proudly on its own little concrete island. Aw, bless it. And look at it! Appears to be made out of ceramic, with a lovely green little roof garden awash with foliage.
I bet it’s haunted. I just hope it’s haunted. Truly they are missing a trick in not offering candelit all-nighters round Hallowe’en time. I cannot think of anything better.
As it stands, though, it stands proud. It feels like the city – and the world – has grown up around it; ol’ Peveril standing resilient, defiant. You can imagine the place emerging from the fog after hours of hostile travelling on foot or horseback – a glowing, warming, welcoming beacon for the weariest of souls.
Well, it still glows. When the sun shines, Peveril reflects it right back. Now it offers respite from the pace of the modern world. It feels like the heart of Manchester and, at times – when you’re surrounded by friends and cold drinks – it feels as though it beats for you.
It has been a quiet time. Needing to sleep. Wanting to cry. Laughing at memories and finding ourselves about to say, we could do this or that with Mum. I haven’t felt like writing much. Or talking. It’s been good having family and friends who are undemanding. We have eaten easy comfort food this week. Scrambled egg on toast, pasta bake, sausages with roast veg and sweet potatoes.
This afternoon we went for a walk with a good friend. Easy and relaxed. Understanding about yawning. We walked round the lake then had tea and cake in the cafe and watched the water, shoppy in the wind. And the sun went in and out. After the skies were blue again so we walked along the canal. it goes through the centre of our ribbon of towns. Industrial heritage of pottery industry melts into hedgerows of sloes and the old/new industry of canal narrowboats for holidays or a life of slow meandering. It was good to be outside, to see the world from a different place. We saw the ice cream van at the end and thought of her, of course.
Mum adored Joyce Grenfell and this was her favourite. When I was a young Mum with four boys she used to say I sounded just like her. This reminds me of her sense of fun, her being a teacher and of being a Nana.
This poem also by Grenfell says it well for both of us:
If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well. Joyce Grenfell