At The Edge Of The Bed – with Mary blog 5

Alison and Me 1994

Love in the time of Covid – day 12

At the edge of the bed – with Mary blog 5

Welcome all. We are now dressed and at the end of the bed and doing face yoga. Visage isn’t coping that well, but lungs are stronger. Yes. Feeling better.

Ok. I thought that today I would write about love and friendship. And this might be a good introduction for anyone who didn’t know my friend Alison.

The reason I started this blog wasn’t to bleat on about my self, although I must say it has been rather nice talking to myself none stop. Smile face emoji. No. The reason I set up this blog was to drive traffic to a fundraising page so that I can raise money to start a charity to help people who are sad and lonely after losing a loved one.

But don’t go to the site yet, not just yet. Stay with me a while here,  and let me explain. I can explain.

Alison Greer (1972-2018) inspired me to become a civil celebrant.

I work with people who have recently lost a family member, friend, aunts, grandparents and anyone, really. I spend my days visiting quiet houses to talk to the bereft to create a personal funeral that reflects the departed. I also go to grave sides and crematoriums to conduct the funeral services. I do a lot of praying, even if some of my families have no faith, I need to pray. A lot. I have my faith and that is mine. You have yours. Or you may not. Either way, I help people on a practical, spiritual, human and public level.

            My friend Alison lived in London. Considering I live in North Yorkshire and she was in Fulham we saw a lot of each other thanks to me working for a time in marketing. I would free lance here, there and Hampshire. I would stop off for a night at her flat and we would reminisce. Go to the pub. Put a bet on the Grand National, that sort of thing.  And it was during this time in 2016 that she told me that her illness had returned. She was battling secondary breast cancer and it had spread. She was frightened. I was frightened. And I said the normal thing one does say to a friend when she tells you she is probably going to die. ‘You won’t die. I won’t have it. I simply won’t have it. Now where’s the gin? Lets make some plans for next year and keep focused.’

Her treatment started, to buy her more time really, and she became very unwell. I helped her in any way I could. And then a year later when things started to look worse, Alison spoke to me again. We were in her flat. She said, Mary Love (that was what she called me) Will you speak at my funeral?  I put down my warm glass of Baileys Irish Cream and instead of laughing it off and dismissing this awful thing called end of life, I looked at her and said, yes. Yes, I will. I will do anything for you. And if that means me talking at your funeral and telling everyone how funny you are, then I shall. She was relieved. And then Alison my funny friend, didn’t seem as worried. She relaxed. Shall we go and do the pub quiz at the Pear Tree? I asked her. Ok, she said, but I will need to hold on to you, my legs don’t feel like my own.

We wandered to the pub 30 meters from her front door and sat and enjoyed our time together, we flirted with anyone who chose to talk to us, we attempted the pub quiz, we cheated at the pub quiz, and we laughed. She was very good at laughing at things, Alison.

It as a warm balmy evening in Nottingham 1994 when my friend Sarah and I rocked up to the Nottingham rowing club to join the throngs of hot and toned men and women who all sat in long narrow boats to sweat and heave oars together to race across the Trent water. Usually with ultra thin ankles and extremely broad shoulders.  We were arty students at Nottingham Trent University (that’s a former polytechnic to you academic riff raff out there). Sarah and I had joined the student rowing club and enjoyed sitting behind each other three times a week in a narrow boat to heave and sweat and pull on long pieces of fiberglass to move the boat as quickly as possible along the Trent. It doesn’t sound like fun but it is, trust me. I am telling the truth. Rowing is fun. And it’s not just the exercise and the narrow waste you benefit from, the toned thighs and rock hard calf muscles that you don’t even notice because you are only 23, no. It’s the parties after the rowing races, when the fun happens. They are of great benefit. Huge worth, massive. And we still benefit from those times even today. I just have to meet up with my old rowing crew for few minutes and it is like it was last Saturday on the water, all over again. We are all still bonded through oars.

So there we were, two students in the summer break, working in a factory, just so that after work, we could go for a row! I know, it doesn’t make much sense but that’s how much we loved rowing on the Trent.

Sarah and I walked up the river bank, and as we passed the gate to one boat house we saw the most gorgeous, very tall, very athletic looking girl with the whitest of teeth.

Hi, she sang to us. Do you want to come rowing? Alison’s voice was so melodic, everything she said sounded like a lullaby, some how. How did she know we wanted to go rowing? We looked at her, Yes we do! We were actually making our way to the more established rowing club that sat next door, you know the one with the reputation for being a bit more … top draw shall we say? We told her. Oh no! Alison smiles, you will have so much more fun here. We really know how to party. Do you want to make up a four with me and the blonde? Yes, yes we do! And in we went, got changed. Just next to the cricket ground. I’m Alison by the way, she sang to us, as we negotiated the boat off the boat rack. Magic. And then off we went, rowing on the river Trent.

Sarah, Alison, me and a girl we now refer to as Sandra D. (can’t remember her name) made up a coxless four (as in we had to steer the boat ourselves) Sandra D had joined the rowing club because her ovaries had directed her there, to find a mate. She took the gamble that she might find a male rower who was both fit and intelligent. Anyway, it worked. After one regatta she was attached. Ovaries were thrilled. Then she was wed – parent’s were thrilled – and now I imagine her with fluffy blonde children, living by a river, reminiscing with hunky greying husband how they too, once upon a time, rowed.

Where was I? Oh yes. Every evening after soldering mechanical components for vending machines in a factory, Sarah and I would make for the river and we would row, the four of us. We did a few regattas, too. We didn’t win, but that was not the point. The point was taking part and getting drunk afterwards at the after party. Sandra D didn’t party, she liked to mate.

Alison was strong, healthy, hilarious and generous hearted. She was my only friend in Nottingham who was a professional. She would lend me money when I was skint and when I worked in Boots – to abate my impecunity – she would walk past me at the make up counter unable to recognise my face covered in full make up.

We made friends and stayed friends. Sarah Alison Me.

Alison lived in Nottingham in a shared flat with a friend whose name was Tracy.  A year later, quite quickly, Tracy became ill and died of stomach cancer, I thinks she was only 24. Alison came to me. She was distraught and her relationship with one of the rowing club members (toss pot with a capital F, may I add) had fallen apart thanks to his penchant for even younger women. She told me, Mary Love, I’m going to London. I’m going to get a job and live the London life. Who knows how long my life will go on for? Look what happened to poor Tracy. Poor Tracy.

So Alison left Nottingham. She did what she intended to do. She had a stellar career and lived the London life. There was lots of work and lots of partying and she was happy. She was busy. Living the dream as one may say.

Sarah and I continued to row together along with Hege and then after graduation we all dissipated away from the Trent to go and start some sort of adult life. One that involved getting a long term job with real wages. How dull.

Over time we kept our bond that had been made over oars and beer, wine and song. She was there for me and for anyone else who needed help, support love, or company. Even before she passed away I would make the joke, now darling, before we start, do I owe you any money? No Mary Love, she would say, we are all square, we have been since 2001. Do you need money, now? She would laugh.

Her illness was bad. She had some very dark times that we won’t dwell on because Alison didn’t want anyone ever to think of her as unhappy and that was her parting wish.

She told me when i visited her, Mary Love. I want people to know I am happy.  I want people to remember me as happy. When I …. go. Will you talk at my funeral? She asked me again. Yes I will. I will talk at your funeral. Yes. I will do that for you. So long as you know that I have lots of stories. I might want to draw on them.

What stories she laughed. Mary Love, what do you remember? She was suspicious, she had every right to be.

Well let’s see, I said. Can I tell everyone about the time we woke up in that blokes bed – what was his name? -fully clothed. We still had the tequila shot glasses in your handbag.

Yes, you can!

Ok Great, that was a funny night wasn’t it. And can I tell everyone about the snog a bloke challenge we did on your Birthday dressed up as school girls at the Hampton Court Palace?

OH YES, that was a great night she said. You can tell that story, for sure.

And what about the time we did a runner from the Slug and Lettuce in Nottingham and had to go back because you had left your glasses on the table, which were worth three times the price of the bill. Can I tell that story?

NO!! What ever you do, do NOT tell anyone about that!

But it was so funny! I insisted. Running away then running back even faster than we had left.

Oh ok then. What the Hell!  Tell them all, she said. Tell them everything.

And then we laughed … and cried … and laughed… and then she said, I want you,  Mary Love, I want you to tell everyone I am happy. I am happy! Honestly I am.

Really I asked her? You are happy?

I am not happy of course, that this is happening to me, she shrugged her hands down past her body referring to the disease, the diagnosis, the trauma, the sentence that is the end. She smiled at me. But I don’t want people to think that I wasn’t happy.

Ok. I will make sure everyone leaves the funeral knowing that you were happy.

And that was our darling Alison in a nutshell. She was happy. And that is how she wanted us to think of her.

One story I certainly did share the day of her funeral, the one that got the big thumbs up was this one:

It was a hot summers day in the Lakes,

There were seven of us, Natalie, Alison, Sarah, Hege, Niki, Karen and me. We were camping and climbing mountains.  All of us were wearing shorts apart from Alison who wore a short khaki skirt and lace thong. I know she had a thong on because I walked behind her when she was climbing the steep bits. It was very pretty.

We realized after four hours of hiking that those of us with big boobs would always fall about ten minutes behind those friends with little boobs. This was not a controlled test by the way. Simply a breast infused observation. It kept us amused, anyway.

After hot and tiring expedition we went to the pub. We were thirsty. Maybe a little too thirsty. And on the way back to the campsite it was clear we were intoxicated. We made a lot of noise, mostly laughing but we will have upset lots of other campers who were trying to sleep behind their nylon and zips.

As we could not and would not cooperate with the site manager who tried to get us into some sort of quiet order, we were told the next day we would have to leave.

Well, we didn’t want to stay there any more, anyway! We told aggressive site manager. Grrrrr

After being expelled from the site we left in a blaze of glory – which was really just honking our car horns and being extremely un pc. Finger gestures, the lot. Our three cars climbed a road called the Hard Knot Pass

It is a road of dreams. I recommend it to everyone.

Picture the scene. A scorching English summer day. A bevy of beauties, all in a convoy, some with bigger boobs than others. Alison was with me and my mini had a sunroof. As we cleared the top of the mountain and sailed down the other side the landscape stretched out before us. Hills and hills and the distant silver shimmer of the Irish sea. It was inspiring. And it was this view that must have inspired Alison to de robe.

I want to go topless, she said. I want to flash out of your sunroof, what do you recon? Do you think anyone will see me?

For miles there was not a car in sight, just some more girls in cars behind us.

GO ON I said, no one can see but the grass. 

The roof was back and up she stood.

Top off, hands in the air, waving them like she just didn’t care.

Shouting WEEEEEEE at the top of her voice.


Mary Love, she said, You do it too. Come on! WEEEEEEEEE!

I looked up still driving and winding down the valley, watching her bosoms bouncing as she waved her arms to the sky calling out weeeeeeee. Come up here! She shouted it is am AAAAmazing! WEEEEE.

I can’t come up there Alison, I can’t. I’m driving the car, in case you hadn’t noticed. Music on, top off, tits out to the sunshine. Yes indeed, Weeeeeeeee. Great day.

As the years rolled on Alison would overcome breast cancer in her 30s. She would work and travel and continue to have fun, cancer or no cancer. She climbed Kilimanjaro and ran the Himalayan Marathon, the New York Marathon, the Venice Marathon. She worked hard, too. Her glamorous career that had taken off in London led her to become a lecturer in accountancy. It is true – she could read a spreadsheet and flash her bare chest!  

As soon as she had any holiday time, she would book a flight and off she would go. She would travel for adventure and opportunity, to connect with fellow humans with whom she shared the planet. And she made friends everywhere she went. And she arranged them around her like petals sit around a daisy.

Alison’s illness, brought to an end, her beautiful life and she faced it with fortitude and grit. Even towards the end she carried on making friends, some only for a few months, during her art classes at her local hospice. The Trinity Hospice in London.

Her last journey  – the treacherous and lonely path that is terminal diagnosis, had no sunroof or mountains to call out to. The cheering of friends was replaced with birdsong beyond her window and the gentle noise of the hospice door opening as her mum came in to tell me, she needed rest, it was time for me to go.

She was going on a journey that no one else could join her on. I hugged her gently and sang her a song then kissed her hand. I told her I loved her. I will always love her. I said goodbye.

Alison passed away three days later on the 19th of April 2018. She was 46. Her last hours were peaceful. She was surrounded by those who loved her, like petals on a daisy.

That was my friend Alison. Who inspired the Alison Bereavement Society. She was happy.

Lots of love




Almost out of bed with Mary – blog 4

A blog to help raise money for a good cause

Almost out of bed – with Mary.

By Mary – day 8

Well, yesterday was almost a normal day. Normal as in I woke up and watched a lot of short funny videos sent to my phone. Lungs felt ….gosh, not very heavy. Cough has subsided. So I got out of bed. Felt good. Got dressed. Felt restrictive. It’s been rather nice not strapping myself into a bra every day. But this only really makes for trouble though as husband keeps asking to see my boobs.

I went down stairs and then did a few things here and there which did not involve showing my boobs and then at about 6 o’clock I thought about food and noticed half a glass of wine on the table.

Oh that looks nice, I think. One sip won’t hurt.

I took a large sip. The red juicy flavor of an Italian vineyard was deep and warm. I thought of how good it was going to taste with the home made lasagna heating in the oven. Husband relaxed to see me feeling better. He smiled. He must have thought that after some wine, I might show him some flesh.

We started a conversation face to face. A novel thing to do, these days. I am still over two meters away. I started telling him about my sister Rebecca and her coronavirus that she took to Berlin from London and had to quarantine for 14 days in a shut down hotel when, I felt a deep sinking feeling in my torso. My liver probably needed more oxygen to break down the Italian wine and so down I sat and internally, very quickly, down I sank.

It was horrible.

I can only describe it as a weight that you have on the end of a fishing line. When you release it to the depths it falls and falls and falls until it hits the sea bed. Free and plummeting it abandons itself to the physics of water until it can travel no more. That’s what it felt like, in my chest, a deep heavy sinking sensation that made me draw deeper on the air to keep my buoyant.  I went to bed.

And here I shall stay. There is no point in going downstairs if I can’t do what I usually do downstairs which is, around evening time, have a glass of wine with some food and a conversation with Husband.

I woke up today thinking of the weight, which has since lifted. I just have a lot of aches and pains around my back. A lot.  And the cough is easing. But the sinking weight reminded me something. It reminded me of going to Norway for Hege’s (pronounced Hedge’s) wedding and fishing on the Fjords with my dad. I caught a fish that was eating a fish that was eating a fish. And so today, whilst I sit in my bed, with just the pillows and the last of the midget gems, I thought I would share this story with you now.

Almost out of Bed with Mary part 4

The Story of When I Caught a Fish eating a Fish Eating a Fish eating a hook– no lie!

Norway is a wonder of a place. It is nothing like England or Scotland or Wales. There is something so impressively honest about the place. Even the prices of the wine doesn’t put me off going.

We were off to Hege’s wedding. She was finally going to marry Peter, thank the heavens. After 20 years of toing and froing they found their medium of love and this event was going to be such a wonder to witness, it could not be missed.

Sister Elizabeth came along with her young son and her husband Fred, flew over from Italy to join us. He was armed with Marlboro lights and a thirst for wild salmon. We hired a very large car, more of a minibus, I recall.

Once we had strapped in children and assumed the pecking order that is a family coach, we set off on tarmac. The sun was high in the sky and the clouds had all gone away.

I asked my dad, Where we were going?

We had five days until the nuptials and had to get from the South of Oslo to Lillehammer some four hours drive to the North.

Let’s just follow our noses, he said. There you go, Mary, there’s the map.

I looked at the map. I observed where we had started from and where we needed to finish. I saw some nice sounding places. That sounds pretty I said, Christiansand, then passed the map to Oliver who closed it and passed it to Fred, who passed it to Liz who used it as a napkin on her knee. She peeled an orange. 

We were following our noses that were pleased with the sweet citric air of the car as it married with the warm grey smell of Norwegian tarmac. Singing along to the radio, into the unknown, we drove, all trusting our noses, together. One father with two son in laws, two daughters and two grandchildren. No one was happier than we were, that day. No one that I knew of.

Driving along the Norwegian coast feels like a perpetual rhythm of ins and outs. Our noses took us to one destination that we liked the look of; Sandjeford. We left the car to look at the accommodation, which our eyes didn’t like. So on we went. Back in the family Mercedes bus, we drove on. So now what are we going to do, I asked Dad. We just keep following our noses and see where we get to. You need to trust your nose, he said, tapping his.

And so we did. A few hours later we found ourselves in a place called…. something …Sand. It was beautiful.

At a family friendly camping spot with cabins, facing a glistening fjord we met a nice Norwegian who owned the place, he had a small boat which he was keen for us to use.

Our accommodation was a pretty cabin made of yellow pine that smelt of sweet grass and candle light. The ornate door opened to comfort, white sheepskins and warmth. It is the closest I have ever come to sleeping and showering in a cuckoo clock.  And there was enough room for all of us. We all congratulated Dad’s nose and all our noses for bringing us to this place and that night I snuggled up next to my baby and fell asleep to the distant sound of an imaginary ticking.

The men would go out fishing during the day and my sister and I would wait with our babes for the catch. Knives and breadboards at the ready. When they left we would push our small prams around the fjord and explore the surrounds. Lots of pine cones, pine needles and sand made up the ground and cabins that were skirted with red plants in tidy pots. Very tidy the Norwegians, you know. They look after their stuff.

If you walked far enough around the fjord you came to a large wooden building that was a clinic. What type of clinic, I don’t know but every morning and evening lots of people from the clinic would come out and bathe in the dark water. Stout women in rubber caps. Maybe they are all depressed, said Liz and they are overcoming some sort of trauma. Maybe, I agreed. Or maybe they have all just lost someone they love and need some space to be calm. Maybe, said Liz.

That evening when baby was asleep I took the fishing rod to the jetty where the boat was tied up. I had waited all day for my fishing moment and being a girl in my father’s company meant that I was not a fishing priority. I was a woman breast feeding a child. Why would I want to fish. Who would mind the baby?

The summer sun lit the sky and even though it was almost eleven at night, the light was an amber dawn.

I cast the weight and hook into the water away from the boats on ropes that clunked nearby. I looked out to the distant lights holding the rod. Just me and the slopping noise under the jetty. Peace.

 I must have stood there for only a few minutes when I felt something bump the rod. Then there was a tug. I tugged back. Then another tug. I began to reel the line in. It didn’t feel that heavy but there was a lot of wriggling and bumping going on. Which got wrigglier and bumpier and heavier the more I reeled. Soon I was stood over the catch which I had landed onto the jetty. I looked down. What kind of fish was it? It was long and pink coloured. But there was no hook in its mouth. There was though, a smaller fish which looked like it was being regurgitated, or eaten. One of the two. And this little fish whose tale was in the pink fishes mouth was also eating something. It was eating a much smaller fish and it was this fish that had eaten my hook.

Wow, I thought. That is amazing. I couldn’t save the tiddler that had munched on my hook but the others were tossed back to the water, back to their game of survival that would continue under the banging boats on ropes.

Now, if smart phones were a thing in 2006, I would have photographed my catch, but they were not. Or at least, I didn’t own one. My phone only allowed you to text, make calls or play a game called snake.

I was pleased though, I had actually caught a fish eating a fish eating a fish eating my hook. And me being a woman! A lactating woman at that!

When I got back to the cuckoo clock I told my family.

You would never guess what just happened to me. I caught a fish eating a fish eating a fish eating the hook on the end of the fishing line! Everyone looked at me. Baby smiled. She wanted milk.

No you didn’t said Oliver. Yes I did. No you didn’t, Mary, said Dad. Yes I did. I just did then, on the jetty, by the boats tied up with ropes. I did, honest. Why don’t you believe me? I did! Just now!

 I thought their disbelief, mean. They thought my story hilarious and so we went round and round. I did, honestly. Just then, trust me. No you didn’t, stuff like that doesn’t happen. Yes it does I say, it just happened to me, just before. On the jetty.

And on it went until they all finished down their last swallow of Italian red wine and faded off to bed. Liz believed me. That’s great that Mar’, she said. Hey, next time you go make sure you take me. I want to see what it’s like to catch a fish eating a fish eating a fish eating the hook. Ooh, smelly. Baby needs changing. And she handed me baby Honor and went to sleep herself. I looked at baby Honor. You believe me don’t you. She blinked and looked down at my chest. And pulled at my jumper.

The next day Dad took Liz and me for our own fishing experience, he might have thought I was having fishing delusions with my story of multiple fish on one hook. Maybe. Or perhaps he thought I had a gift for catching a reality food chain?

 We sped off in the small boat, him at the tiller steering away from the jetty, the husbands,  the cuckoo clock, the children. We were having some father and daughter time. We fished and talked and laughed, considering that mum had only died in October we seemed happy. It was June, after all and there was a new baby amongst us. Being on the boat with my dad, was a special experience. He was a great fisherman and with his girls of course, all he did was re-tie hooks to lines, attach our lures and weights and tell us again and again how best to fish. After a while we would bring the lines back in the boat and go somewhere else. All the time our vessel was heading nearer the small harbour across the fjord.

Before long we had lost all the tackle to the rocks below which meant no more fishing. We had to go shopping. Yay!

 There is nothing nicer that tootling across some water, then tying up your boat so that you may go shopping. He was great to take shopping, my dad. He understood the need for good sunglasses, a new rain coat, and some more fishing tackle. He got it. Maybe this was his little plan all along, get the girls fishing then take the girls shopping. Probably.

Later that week we made it up to a different cabin on the shores of Lake Mjøsa. The sky was still blue, the sun was still burning the ground. We relished the pretty red wooden houses and road signs that made us aware of the moose. We passed tall pines, mile after mile after mile. The mountains were green the river we sped next to was blue and white, some river bed rocks were parched dry. Hot to the touch, I imagined.

The morning of Peter’s and Hege’s wedding, the men decided to go a-fishin’. This time it was on a river, a contributory to the Mjøsa.

One hour, two hours, three. Still no return.

The wedding was at 1? Can’t remember. They had left early. Rods in hands and flies in boxes.

I tried not to worry. Liz and I busied ourselves with the business that is being beautiful. How was I going to breast feed and wear this strapless dress? Liz looked at me. You need a shawl, she said. I didn’t have one. This would present some public awkwardness later on but this story is not about breast feeding. No.

Where was I?

Yes. Liz and I were dressed and ready and the children were also ready and washed and clean and fed and ready to go the wedding on the hottest day in Norwegian history. The gulf stream is real. I have felt it.

But. Where were the men? We looked up the campsite past the cabins, walked up river in party shoes staring in to the distance  past  the trees. We couldn’t see much. Time was ticking. We had taken four days to get up to Lillehammer. We couldn’t possibly be late.

With minutes to spare, back they came, one by one. They had set off as a trio and came back not knowing where the other one was. First Dad, he wanted a shower, then Oliver, he was too late for a shower and then Federico, who nearly didn’t make it, at all.

We get to the church. The Norwegians are dressed in their beautiful national dress, all hot, all clothed in wool, all proud and flushed.

As we sit in the church which was made purely from wood and painted to look like marble. Oliver looks at me.

I return his gaze. Sorry we were late, he said. Mary, the fish, you’ve never seen anything like it. I hand him baby who plays with his nose.

As he tried to tell me about the river, the fields the trees, the flies, how he got lost, how he found his way back again, just in time, in walks Hege. Dressed like a bride should be and beautiful.

The vicar starts the service, Oliver is still telling me about his fishing. He stops talking for a few minutes. Then he starts again, he wants me to know the size of the fish he caught. How amazing the feeling was, what he did with it. He whispers in my left ear, telling me how he landed it. How much it fought his line, how he nearly fell in trying to land it. It was amazing, he says. The most thrilling catch, the biggest fish…..just brilliant…

I don’t believe you, I say.

What? He says. I’m telling you. I caught a fish. Why don’t you believe me?

I listened to the wedding vows recited in the chunky Norwegian dialect and considered the time it had taken the person who painted the pillar next to us to turn a wooden tree trunk into an Italian marble pillar. He insisted, I caught a fish.

I don’t believe you.

Why not he asked.

I don’t know I said, maybe for the same reason that you didn’t believe me when I told you that I had caught a fish eating a fish eating a fish eating a hook.  I looked at him, he laughed. Yeah but it’s not the same thing is it.

I looked away.

And suddenly Hege agreed to her wedding vows with a very loud YAH! We all jumped and laughed. She was certain that’s for sure.

No doubt in her mind, what so ever. What so ever.

The end

NB: I hope you have enjoyed this blog, I hope you are all well and I hope that if anything amazing ever happens, like overcoming coronavirus or catching four fish on one hook or telling someone you love them or being told by some one that they love you, I hope that you are believed and trusted, to be telling the truth. And so are they. Without a shadow of a doubt.

As you know I am raising money to help start a charity to help those bereaved and sad. If you would like to contribute towards this then please do

Until next time. xx


Blog 3 – In Bed with Mary… still

In bed with Mary – Again

Welcome everyone. Gather around my bed and please ignore a, the mess, b, my scraggy hair and c, my cough. I am feeling a tad better, I must say. Fingers crossed.

So today I thought I would tell you the story of when I drowned a man.

Day 2, The Story of When I Drowned a Man.

I once drowned a man. It wasn’t that long ago. And it was surprisingly easy. He was old anyway and had no hair. He had been rejected by his family and no one had any room for him in their heart, house or life. So he came to me. And I drowned him. I held him down with a wooden skewer and it took about 4 minutes before he stopped bobbing back to the top of the warm soap solution. After drowning the old bald man made by Lego, in the clear soap solution I drowned some toy soldiers with guns in their hands ready to pull the trigger. All toys, unwanted had been donated to me by my lovely friend Louise. Her son had grown out of Lego and into Fortnite in what feels like a week, and so I got the chance to take the unwanted men and drown them in my soap solution to make some interesting soap for children. I told you that there was a dark art to all things soapy which is ironic, don’t you think?

I took my arrested men in solid soap along with other bathroom delights to the Sheriff Hutton village hall market where I sold them to little people and their mums. And children.

Children love bath bombs although making them, is, as I have mentioned a tricky kind of magic and can get one most stressed out. Trust me, I know.

If these children who picked up the Easter Bunny bath bombs knew the way I had been swearing at them whilst making them just the day before, watching as they had crumbled or fell over or just sank in front of me; if they could have heard the language that that little bunny had been privy to, I don’t think they would have wanted to buy one. A bunny bath bomb which I probably told to “stay together you little fucker” isn’t half as attractive as one that was made with encouragement – good little bunny, please don’t break. It is sometimes better to never know what you don’t need to know. If, you know what I mean.

And there are things I don’t want to know, but people who come to my market stall still like to tell me. Facts like, “I don’t have a bath.” I get told this a lot whilst selling soap. “Thank you for sharing that with me” I don’t say. I just nod and say that I do, and that showering is just as good with soap.

The best comment I had, was when a lady in her 70s skipped up to me, picked up every product I had on show to smell it. She took long theatrical nasal inhalations with closed eyes, replaced the bath bomb and then chose another and sniffed again, long and strong so the essential oils lingered in her nasal passage pleasuring her senses. I stood grimacing and silently threatening what ever she held to her nostrils “don’t you dare break apart on me now, you little bath bomb you!” and when she had finished pleasing her senses with my stock, she looked at me, flicked her silver hair and declared with great flair and thespian zeal, “I take one bath every week, and all I do is squeeze a bit of fairy washing up liquid in to the water, and that does for me!”

My eyebrows both jump up my forehead in surprise.

I imagined her running like a maiden from the kitchen sink to the bathroom dressed in a cheese cloth nighty, gleefully clutching the fairy washing up bottle to her chest as she skipped to her bath room in her bare feet. She was so pleased with herself. But I wasn’t sure. She had my essential oil fragrance up her nose, the oil that was Arabian, the oil that was Organic, the Rose Oil that cost £18 just for one teaspoon! And she wasn’t about to part with a penny. I was speechless. But not for long.

 “So, you bathe with your dishes, then?”

She stepped back – a huge step that only the actress Julia Stevenson can get away with, and her coral lips drew into a wry smile. Her eyes narrowed and twinkled. Her thin tanned skin corrugated her forehead.  Then she extended her arm and held up her right finger to me and waved it left to right saying “A ha, Ha Ahh HA.”

She didn’t like my joke.

Well, I didn’t like hers.

She offered me three more disappointing wags of her leathery finger and then off she skipped to the mixed olives and stuffed vine-leaves man on the end. Who had bad breath.

I looked down at my Bath bombs and gentle caressed them whilst rearranging them back into optimum position and quietly thanked them for not embarrassing us both by breaking apart under her nose. I gave them a quick sorry, too. I needed more faith in my soapy products. They had never really let me down before….

On my way home with my £63 pounds in my pocket (hey, get me, rich and famous) I called in to to see one of my ladies. I call her one of my ladies like a hairdresser would refer to a regular client. But she is one of mine. She is lovely.

I did the funeral service for her husband two weeks previous and I want to make sure she is ok.

Let’s call her Doreen, for data collection and cyber security GDPR purposes.  I give her a hug. She hugs me tightly, she is happy to see me and it seems, a bit relieved.

Doreen is now alone in her home since her beloved passed away. She has family around her and so she tells me she has to ‘be strong’ for them. And they in turn will think that they ‘have to be strong’ for their mum. When really, they are all suffering together yet, alone. Her daughters have lost their father, and she no longer has her husband, his face, his warmth, his sounds, his essence, his love, it has physically gone along with his life. His love was everything to everyone.

I give her some soap for the grandchildren and she laughs at how someone can drown bits of lego in a soap bar. They must be batty, she says.

We sit together in the living room. Doreen says she thought she was doing alright until he came home. She nods towards the tall blue urn on the sideboard. It’s a very pretty urn, I say. I like the moon and stars on it. She agrees, because her beloved always loved to look at the moon. He also loved to hear the local owl tooting, until he became hard of hearing and would get upset that everyone else could hear the owl and he couldn’t.

We talk about when he died and how he died and we talk about how comforted she is that he came home. Her beloved came home to die. Just like he had wanted to.

We talk about Boris Johnson whom she likes and we discuss what she’s having for her dinner, and how she has noticed that there is more food in the fridge these days. There isn’t much need to go shopping.

I think of my dad. After my mum died he would tell me, that things stay where they are in the house. No one is moving anything around, he would say. It drove him mad. Just accepting that the person who lived by your side for most of your life is now absent is a curious change to have to endure. Unfathomable.

I share this story with Doreen. She agrees.

She finds things really strange. He isn’t in the bedroom any more and he isn’t sat outside by the window. He isn’t feeding the birds and he isn’t in his chair.


I told her that after my mum died my dad didn’t like being in the house on his own. Not long after her funeral he went away. A lot. He travelled to get away from the home she had left him in where nothing moved or got put away.

Doreen’s late husband didn’t much like to travel, she tells me. He went to the coast a few times but he just loved being at home. I could agree with her. Home is the best of places. I listen to her stories of a man she still adores and we talk about other things, she wants a project to be getting on with and is considering painting the shed in the garden.

I leave Doreen with the soap and she gave me a box of chocolates to say thank you for the funeral service I did for her beloved.

I tell Doreen, I’m thinking I get a group together, of others like you who can talk together. There are so many ladies, and men who are grieving and I meet a lot of them, and you are all in the same boat; the problem is, you don’t know each other. She put her arm around my waste and leant into me, Oh I wish you would, she said. That would be lovely Mary, thank you . Although I think we will have to wait until this coronavirus thingy has gone away before we can get people together, again.

Really? I ask, do you think it’s going to get that bad?

I tell her I will call her with news of a grief get together, so to speak and to call me if she fancies a chat. I have been thinking of doing something like this for ages, no time like the present. I make a mental list to call all my ladies and men and ask them their thoughts on a grief get together. I try and come up with a plan.

I take the short drive home I remember my dad. He was a ‘man’s man’ as people would say. He called a digger a digger. His ashes had been put in a light blue box with white birds flying in a blue sky. It had sat on the windowsill in his house for a couple of years before we got together to scatter them at his favourite fishing spot in Wales.

When mum died I had tried to help him, look after him – which was a difficult thing to do, he was super un-needy.

I invited him to come with me and Oliver to my friends wedding in Norway. Mum had been dead for six months. When I told him there would be fly fishing too ,he was hooked.

Norway that year had a heat wave. On the hottest day in Norwegian record, my friend Hege married her own beloved, Peter. Following the church service we went on a steam boat ride on the lake Mjøsa near Lillehammer. My dad, in a new place, with new faces was so happy. He asked the captain of the steam boat if he could take the wheel and he obliged. I can still see him, drink in one had, super sized steam boat wheel in the other, laughing his tanned face to the hot sun. He had forgotten, I suppose, that she wasn’t there.

Around three years before his own death, Dad went to Western Australia to visit my mum’s brother. This was the last place they had both visited the year before she died, and she had loved running along a beach there. It was called Scarborough Beach.

When he returned home just before Christmas, on his own, he was in a really dark place. He was angry. He lost his temper once or twice, probably more. I didn’t understand. He didn’t want to be around us at Christmas. He didn’t want a tree with lights on, he didn’t want to leave his room. He came down stairs on Boxing day with a hole in his sock and I sent him back upstairs to get dressed properly. Really I should have left him to his sadness, in his warm socks, hole or no hole.

Later he would tell me, through sobs and tears and snot that he had gone to the beach to look for her, he had gone to Scarborough beach Perth Australia to look for my mum. He thought he would find her running on the sand with the sunlight in her bouncy hair. But he didn’t. She wasn’t there. He cried. I couldn’t find her. She isn’t coming home, he said.

I kissed his tanned forehead and hugged him. No dad. I’m sorry. She isn’t coming home. There was nothing else I could say.

And so what is my point in all this? What am I trying to say? From my bed.

Well, here it is. Observe how lots of people want to share with others lots of personal information. Their menopause, the fact that they do or don’t have a bath, a faith, a toyboy. The lady who shared with me her bath bubble preference didn’t know me from Eve. But she told me some thing intimate. But would she tell me over a soap stall that she had just lost her husband? Would she want to share that information? Probably not. You see, grief and death puts us all in a very vulnerable situation, it can make us feel ashamed, afraid, unnerved. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. We should be able to discuss sad things as well as bubble bath. And that is my point. It just takes one person to get the conversation going and it starts with; how are you feeling, today?

But that’s enough about me, lets think of the others who need help and love and support…… …

Click on this link if you would like to support me in my aim to start a charity to support bereaved people. Thank you xxx

Until next time, be happy xxx


In Bed With Mary – 1

I am sat in bed with coronavirus symptoms.

My husband Oliver and daughter Honor keep telling me I haven’t got anything wrong with me. I tell them to leave me alone in my room isolated because I certainly don’t want them to catch what I haven’t got.

I am ok. Fever has gone. But I wait for more.

I have a cough and a sore chest and can’t do much, just changing the bed sheet is now a no-no, after yesterday’s, breathless, drama.

I have time to think though.

I can’t stand watching any more news or drastic stories of death and Covid 19.

There is death everywhere and now when we are faced with the death of Italy’s and Spain’s thousands it’s as though death has started to creep through the channel tunnel. There is gloom in the air. It is as though fear has made the crossing on a P&O Ferry and we all are, shocked. What is this thing, fear and death? How very dare it come to our beloved island and worry us all. Does it have a visa?

But those of us who are familiar with sorrow and grief and knowing what it is to experience a loss, don’t feel the fear so much for ourselves. Only for our families, who may be young, or old.

I work as a civil celebrant these days. I have always wanted to marry people in my own romantic vision of my better self, and I almost performed a marriage ceremony last year. But these days its all funerals and soap. See below how I make my living and fill my soul.

  1. I am a civil celebrant working with bereaved families to deliver loving and memorable funeral services with or without prayers or hymns. I am the person at the front of the crematorium talking to everyone while everyone cries back at me. I support the families through their grief. It’s not easy. It does not pay well. But it is emotionally and spiritually rewarding.
  2. I make soaps and bath bombs in my spare time to cheer me up. I sell them at village markets and do a mail order service. I make all sorts. The dark art that is making these dissolvable and foaming entities, is both hit and miss.  It does not pay well. But it is emotionally and hygienically rewarding.

I was going to tell a story about my brother but instead today, I will tell you a story about number 1. Being a civil celebrant.

Number one. Being a civil celebrant.

It is a strange thing to become, a civil celebrant. I don’t think I have met anyone who says at the age of six when asked, what do you want to be when you grow up? “I want to bury people and see everyone cry”. No.

When I was asked what I wanted to be when I was 6, I said I wanted to be a comedienne (It was a Saturday night after all and I think we had all just finished watching Les Dennis at his piano). No you don’t, said my mum. You want to be a doctor, or marry a doctor, or be a secretary. No, I don’t. I thought. It was about this time I learned not to tell my mum again that I wanted to be a comedian. It spoiled her dreams.

I loved my mum.

After she passed away in 2006 I waited three years before I tried out being a comedian. I went on stage in Manchester Comedy Club in my smart blue woollen dress, black tights and ankle boots. I was going to stand for five whole minutes and make people laugh before the gong went. I was going to effectively, ‘Beat the Gong.’

 It was the first time I had been on a stage since I played a Nazi general in the Huyton College 1988 School production of The Sound of Music. I had been 15 and had to wear a glued on Nazi moustache, which has haunted me ever since.

Anway, there I was on this large stage in front of a professional microphone.

And there in the distance sat my sister and her family smiling with hope and joy and next to them, my blonde friend, Natalie. Surrounding them were hoards of young men and couples holding onto bottles of beer like joysticks betwixt their denim thighs.

I took a deep breath, i probably touched my fringe, then began to tell my jokes. I thought I was fab. I was not.

Why was no one laughing? Especially when I told my joke about me being the daughter of a publican and having to see a psychiatrist because I was disturbed; “I see drunk people”  – I said this in a whisper. Then I said it again, in even more of a whisper, a whisper with volume and rasping “I see drunk people

Still nothing.

Had they not seen the film the Sixth Sense? Or were they all deaf? I paused. They couldn’t ALL be deaf?

And then the hackling started.

Nothing can ever prepare you for these two things in life. 1.  losing a mother  and 2. being hackled by the punters in the Manchester Comedy Club.

“Beef curtains” some shouted.

“DO YOU FANCY A SHAG?” came another bellow. I looked through the lights at the little fellow with the narrow nose, just to make sure I was making the right decision. I spoke clearly into the microphone, “Nope!” And this reply, to my utter surprise got everyone laughing. I looked at everyone bewildered. And then, I didn’t have anything else to say.

I had no more jokes, no more will to be there and my black tights in my ankle boots started to shake along with my legs as the adrenalin hit me. What was I doing?

I began to doubt my decision to ever be a comedian.  My six year old decision, clearly hadn’t been thought through.

The compere was sat at the far corner of the stage on a drumming stool, with his long hair splayed on his broad round shoulders. He spoke into his own professional microphone which was a lot lower than mine. “Shall we get her off?” he sneered. He was sat next to a large brass gong, he was holding the gong stick with a padded end. I was threatened with the crowd’s rejection – hundreds all at once about to damn me to the doom of the gong and my big idea of ever wanting to make people laugh.

And then, all of a sudden my blonde haired friend Natalie jumped up on to the stage, grabbed my professional microphone and started telling everyone off in her buttery Lancashire accent. “Right you lot, stop being such bastards right! This is my friend Mary and she just wants a chance. RIGHT? Stop being so ‘orrible and give her a chance ALRIGHT?” The crowd cheered. She continued and walked the stage and pointed her manicured fingers at them with real passion.

I looked at my boots smiling. Yes Nat, you tell them. Then the long haired seated gong master in the corner spoke. “Do you wanna’ ‘av a go, love? You’ll be better than ‘er”

“NO!” said Natalie. “ I do not want a go! She’s come all this way, she is dead funny, and she is so lovely, and you lot don’t know how lucky you are, if you just gave her a chance.” The crowd went quiet. Clearly they don’t like pleaders. I chewed my lip.

The hairy fat gong man uttered some expletives which I will not repeat and did his thing. “BONG”. The dull shrill shook through the air, the bong of wrong doomed us as being unacceptable comedic material and part of me agreed with it.

We were rejected for being crap comedians. Both of us, and Natalie wasn’t even meant to be part of the act. Together we never beat the gong.  We looked at eachother, her with the microphone, me in my blue dress. We walked off the stage. And then suddenly, there were cheers and applause and more shouts for beef curtains. Part of me thinks they were a bit sad to see us go. I on the other hand, was not.

Natalie and I finished our third bottle of wine outside the comedy club in the cold Manchester air laughing and then me crying and then we went back to her house where I vomited.

She was a great friend, Natalie. One of the best.

A few years later, Natalie would die. She left behind her a seven year old daughter and a mother. She left a lover, an estranged husband, a sister, father, brother and friends. She lost and left work colleagues, her job, her life, her child. Natalie lost her life. And everything that went with it.

At her funeral in the Rochdale Crematorium, the vicar stood at the lectern and told us not to think about Natalie’s battle with cancer as being a fight that was won or lost. I can’t remember the exact message, but something stuck with me that day. Watching the vicar talk as he tried to make sense of it all, dressed in black and white with grey hair and sad eyes.  A few years previously this same vicar had performed Natalie’s marriage. Then he had baptised her daughter. And now he would press the button for the curtain to be closed around her coffin as he committed her beautiful body for cremation.

As well as the memory of Natalie’s daughter crying to Somewhere Over the Rainbow before releasing a balloon to the sky for her mummy, in heaven, I can remember lots of tears on my face and big black cars.

We went to a pub for the wake. Her dad walked amongst everyone and made sure that we all had an order of service to take home. Then he drank with his second wife. Under the bay window he would sit and fiddle with the beer mat under his glass of red wine as I told him how sorry I was. He looked embarrassed. I went outside. On the other side of the dry stone wall in the bear garden where I sat with Oliver there were sheep grazing. They were shedding their white wool as they nibbled on the short grass. I cried. He told me not to. I tried not to. I looked over and saw the roof of Natalie’s house in the distance. I had visited her there just weeks before. I knew her eyesight was almost gone when I visited, but she said she liked my dress. I told her I would buy her one just like it. We drank limoncello. I had brought with me from Italy for her. She had hers from a sip cup which I held to her mouth. I used a mug which was sat on the bedside table. She touched my face and told me slowly, thanks mate, I love you. I love you too, I told her. I kissed her warm swollen cheek.

She had two brain tumours, was disabled down the right side and could still express love. She was still the same Natalie that berated the bear baiters at the Manchester comedy club a few years before. She was still my beautiful blonde friend from Lancashire albeit changed and distorted by the cruelty that is illness. She still could feel love.

I see Natalie most days. Her photo smiles at me from behind the mugs in the kitchen cupboard where I keep her Funeral booklet. Her dad was right to make sure that I got one, and everyone else there too.

I would go on to be present at more funerals of friends and parents. Alison’s funeral in 2017 was when I got my chance to practice standing in front of a microphone, again. I think it was this experience that made me think about become a civil celebrant and it was another friend Karen, who just blatantly told me, Mary, that’s what you should do.

But that’s enough about me…… please click on this link and see that I am trying to raise money to help people …… https://gogetfunding.com/alison-bereavement-society/

Until the next time…. be happy xx


In bed with Mary….still

Corona is not good. This morning I woke up feeling well and went to talk to my friend Rachael who was leaving goodies on the car bonnet – paracetamol for me and baking kits for the children – and we talked. Through the window. It was open just a little bit and she was over four meters away but I just know that she will go home and worry that she was too close. God bless her, and all of those friends that give me stuff. I have never been more delighted to receive green soup and brightly wrapped toilet rolls, in all of my life. Friends are the gifts that keep giving. Gifts. I’m so lucky to have them.

I usually talk to Oliver through an ajar door, but this morning I went to see him, he is in our daughter’s room. He looks, not that great. I tried to make him breakfast but then, no. Can’t do it, my lungs won’t let me, so I huff up the stairs and have an adrenalin surge of fear.

I tell Oliver on the facetime app, I am scared. We are all scared, he says. I tell him, I need comfort. We all need comfort, he says. Then I try and make a joke about me taking his temperature and I am too tired to laugh so I click the off switch and then I send him a message. [would you like to read my notes from York College on counselling skills, and how to listen to people with empathy, I think they may help you, help me LOL]. He answers, in his loving way [no].

So today’s story is going to be about counselling skills, who needs them and how to use them.

Part 3. Counselling skills, who needs them and how to use them.

Everyone needs counselling skills, if you want to actually understand what someone is saying. Just because we speak the same language does not mean we understand each other. No. Counselling skills help you feel empathy and help you clarify the message that is being conveyed. Basically put, counselling skills help you listen and talk with people who want to share things with you. It helps you, to help them. It encourages those who talk to you, to express themselves. It encourages them to, talk. In confidence. With honesty.

So, for example. When I say to Oliver, I feel scared. If he had attended the Counselling Course Level 3 with me every Wednesday at York College from 6-9pm, he would know that the best way to reply would be thus: “I understand you feel scared, You are in a difficult situation being on your own in your room with nothing but midget gems and your bright loo roll and mega pack paracetomol to comfort you through your coronavirus, in what way do you feel scared, can you explain how you feel, in more detail, is it brought on by the physical sensation in your lungs, my love?”

But he doesn’t come to York College with me on a Wednesday night from 6-9pm so I have to comfort myself. I call him again, tell him, I love him. He says, he loves me back. I feel better. And my breathing has improved by now, too. I am back in bed.

It is interesting though going to college in York on a Wednesday from 6-9. We have lot’s of gritty discussions and we are taught to question things that really make you sit up in your chair. For example, we were asked the question, how would you feel counselling a murderer? Not every day you think about doing things like that, is it? It also makes you realise what your triggers are, how you respond to people and this all starts from when you were younger. And me too. Your parents have a lot to answer for. And, so do mine. But they are no longer alive so they are exempt. That is why, just the other day when my eldest daughter asked if she could dye her hair blue I said, sure thing, Babycakes. I don’t want her to have issues around me not allowing her to express herself. And now, she wanders the house with hair that is definitely, not blue. From now on, I shall call her, Midori. Whether I had said yes or no, to the hair dye, is by the by. Parent’s can, not, win. End of.

So, the counselling course Level 3 was the idea of an old school friend of mine, Michelle. I used to phone her up from the crematorium car park with clammy palms. Michelle, I don’t think I am not properly qualified, not really, to do funerals. I am not a priest, I don’t wear a dog collar. And she would say great things like, “I appreciate you are feeling a bit worried now and that will be because you are about to go and stand in front of 170 mourners, you aren’t a fan of long boxes or black limousines and this can’t help, can it?. And Mary, lets face it, you have only been doing this job for three months. This is what you might call, learning on the Job. You do it with your heart, and that’s the main thing. I am thinking of you and praying for you, you will be fine, but it’s understandable that you have clammy palms”

Don’t you just love Michelle? She says all the right things. So far. And then she went on to tell me that she is doing a counselling course, Level 4 (clearly) and that it might help to take a course to help me deal with everyone’s grief, as well understanding my own grief. And then she went on to say that her class, in her local college, had just been on a residential weekend. Each class member had to stand up and tell the story of their life to the rest of the class, with a chosen piece of music. It was a difficult exercise, she said, but we all got through it. Everyone has a really sad story to tell, she said. Just like me and you. They just don’t share it.

When she said this, the big black car with the coffin pulled up and I thought, yes. Everyone has a sad story to tell. Some have more stories than others. And the family that I saw walk towards me with their heavy shoulders and tears, well, this was a day that would be written into their own sad story. I wiped dry my damp palms and got out of the car to do the job I was there to do. To perform a formal and heartfelt farewell. With prayers and hymns.

Later that week, Wednesday evening to be precise, I attended my counselling course level 3 at York College. This week we went through those wonderful things called boundaries and where you would draw the line. We discussed hugging. Would it be allowed? Lots of students said no, they wouldn’t give a hug, it wouldn’t feel like that professional thing to do. I say that I would. I am alone in my opinion.

Then the teacher asked us; But what if it was an elderly gentleman whose wife had just died and he was sobbing his heart out? Most of the class then agreed that this man would be hugged, if the need arose, although not too tightly, he might also be a bit frail and crumbly.

That week I got to practice some active listening skills used by professional counsellors. I went to the dive thru MacDonalds on Monks Cross for a coffee. Which of course, turns into a a chicken select and an apple pie as soon as the window goes down and I speak to the little pillar. I drive to pay the attendant and she asks me if I am having a nice day? I am polite and ask her the same question. I want to know.

She tells me that no she is not having a good day. I seize my opportunity and ask her why. I practice my active listening skills whilst negotiating contactless payment with the chunky pay wand she pushes towards my face.

She tells me – My boyfriend has been taking my phone off me and hiding it for days on end. That’s terrible I say, you must feel awful. It’s Ok she says, I hide his phone too, so I get him back. I have paid, I am still actively listening and then I say, ‘Good for you!’

Note: I am still learning, I am yet to pass level 3. And 4 and 5!

Everyone needs to be listened to don’t they, the young and old, the sick, the healthy, the worried, the frantic, the happy, the sad….

And so now I go, to Facetime husband once again, as I think it is he, who may be need of some comforting from me. These are strange times indeed. I couldn’t agree with you, more.

Be happy everyone, until the next time… xxx

And if you have some spare change please clickety click on my funding page to help set up a charity that helps those lonely and isolated through grief and loss.