charity, Uncategorized

Hope in Soap on a Rope ……

Some clever dick once wrote that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. I would never have believed this until the other day Husband when started speaking Martian. I couldn’t understand a word that came out of his mouth. I must have looked at him oddly because his Martian grew dialect and began to twist and and grow spikes. I still couldn’t understand him which made me frustrated, and before I knew it, I began to speak Venutian. Husband took to his cave. He has been there for a while now. He sometimes comes out to check we are all waiting outside, keeping vigil. He comes out to swing his club – his golf has improved I hear, or to cast a fly that lingers on the end of his rod tied on with an almost invisible yet extremely strong line of nylon. Last night he caught a fish.

I do believe that marriage is a road that sometimes runs out of tarmac. It happened to my sisters’ marriages. One day they were trundling along the marriage path way – bumpy in parts, exciting in others – enduring both fair and inclement weather and then, stop. No more road left for them to travel down. So they bid their spouse goodbye and ventured to new life pastures to graze on the leaves of liberation until, one day (for one of them) a new path appeared.

An unhappy marriage or one that ends is a nasty Earthen condition. So I busy myself finding material to make some harmonious and robust marriage road for the both of us. This isn’t the first time this has happened, so I go to my stock pile of hope and what-the-hell, to see what I can do. I don’t want things to end or even grow badly. I don’t want things to end at all. And I wonder maybe, it is best just to not want things to be nice and happy and harmonious? To stop wanting all things altogether might be one way of coping and accepting that things are, just the way they are. Maybe I should not want him to come out of his cave and leave him to his granite hollow.

This thought reminds me of a lady I once worked with, Gill. She didn’t want anything. I know this because one day, in work when I was dreaming up lessons and she was sharpening pencils, she told me that when she was younger her Quaker parents wouldn’t let her have anything. She had one toy and that was enough, She had one bike and that was enough. Her cousin had a horse that she could trot on so and that was enough. She had wanted other things to complete her childhood, like a tea set, a party dress or a stick, but no. Her parents refused everything and her ‘wanting and desiring’ for the silly little things drove her almost to distraction. She soothed herself by having the brilliant idea of just choosing not to want anything, ever again. And that is how she lived – until the day when there was a social gathering on the horizon. She had told me, she didn’t own a dress. I looked at her, “You don’t own a dress?” No, she said, she did not own and dress and she was very happy about that too. “What about a skirt?” I ask her. “You could wear a skirt for the social gathering in the calender that indicates making oneself look pretty and happy to be a part of the celebration.” And then she told me. “I don’t own a skirt!” I looked at her. “You don’t own a skirt? Not one?” And she replied in her best North Yorkshire chant of “noooooo”, this also insinuated that I should stop asking her questions. When she had finally exhaled her long and lingering negative affirmation, I pushed on and asked her in all seriousness, “Gill, if you don’t have a skirt, what do you wear when you do skipping?” She put down her clutch of pencils and pressed them hard into the table as she looked at me. “I don’t own a skirt, I don’t own a dress, and I don’t to do skipping!” she piped. And then put her face to her pencils, pushed her specs up her nose and hummed. I offered to take Gill shopping and then she, offended that I thought that she didn’t know how to shop, declared that she would shop for a skirt and that this would make us both happy. The following week, Gill skipped into the staff room swinging a bag on the end of her right index finger. Her hair had been washed and she was wearing a smile. She had bought a skirt, herself. A very expensive skirt. She went to the ladies and tried it on to show me, she lifted up her navy fleece jumper to expose the waste band and low and behold, the woman had a small waste and looking down her milky legs, I notice the most sculpted ankles. Gill! I declare – you have the most amazing legs! Are you sure you don’t do skipping? She did not. I will put money on the fact that Gill still has this one skirt, has never wanted to own another and still has not experienced the joy of one skip followed by another.

Reflecting on Gill, brings me to consider Kate Winslet. The famous Kate never stops wanting and never stops getting. Do you know, she has three wedding day albums and three children and three rooms filled with awards, that’s not to mention her time pieces. Where does she find the time for all these things, all these films, all these children and husbands, long dresses, wrist watches and awards? Does she spend her currency of time or waste it? Does she use her time to accumulate more experiences and things that stretch her existence in some way? And what about Kate’s stock pile of ‘hope and what-the-hell’ needed to build marriage road tarmac? Did she ever have a pile to begin with? Three marriages in, I’m not sure she did. I can’t decide.

I call Cousin John to discuss. Cousin John is the cousin of my late mother. Which makes me his second something or other. It’s a good thing to be, I have decided. He is the one of the few men who knows every word and verse to “In My Liverpool Home” and can sing sea shanties with the voice of an opera singer. He is diversity in socks. We talk on the phone. He tells me he has escaped his beloved Irene who is in the kitchen talking to her sister. He is on a bike ride and has just stopped at the meadow by the river Trent to lie in the grass and drink a secret can of Guinness. The sun is shining. Oh delicious, I tell him, cold Guinness in tall meadow grass. I like his choices. We discuss stressful situations. John deals with his stress by putting it in a drawer and forgetting about it. Like a wasp or an angry boss. If you ignore it, eventually it will go away. He tells me stories of his mother and my grandmother. They would visit each other every day and talk and talk and talk until – as a boy – he questioned them. Surely you can’t have anything else left to talk about because you are always together talking – what is there left to discuss? The sisters had lived through the second world war and the Battle of Britain when Hitler sent his planes over to Liverpool and bombed their chippy. They had everything to talk about and still would never be finished. I recalled the story of when Nana Lilian was having a date with the Norman she would marry when a bomb dropped in Bootle which sent John’s mum to the ground. She wasn’t far from where it fell and had been on her way home from work. When she got home she found Lil and Norm sat on the sofa, both with soot on their noses and their heads and shoulders from when the house had shook with the blast. They were still carrying on with their date. still on the sofa, still nibbling on sandwiches. Bomb or no bomb they carried on. This experience didn’t rock them. Not long after this they got married. I am glad they did. They were wonderful grandparents.

In Lockdown it helps to talk to wise family and see friendly faces. I see Mark and Ceri’s faces across the garden a couple of weeks ago. They seem calm if liberated by the whole lockdown experience. They have been given their daughter back from the clutches of school. She is free to prance with petals and puppies and skip into imaginary bubbles of fragrant playtime that can come and go with the clouds or when she decides and not be dictated to by the ticking clock of any establishment. She can rely on her own innocent whim. We discuss words, loved ones and blow outs. These friends are like flowers that stand socially distant on the grass and then leave with the evening breeze, taking their baby home with them. We are warmed by the glow of funny memories and the comfort that comes with sharing a page.

We have all been locked down now for weeks. Husband has actually been locked down since the 27th February which makes his cave dwelling understandable. He works from home, washes from home, digs his cave from home. No wonder he is speaking Martian. He is afraid of the Covid Curse – he saw how it floored me – and so I decide to help him. I start to by making soap that has messages in it like “Fuck off Covid 19” and “2 meters” and “stop the world I want to get off”. I hope that these soaps will cheer him up – contribute to the pile of ‘hope and what-the-hell’ to get him back on happy tracks and draw him out of his cave. Then I make some to cheer myself up, too. The lemon soap with a conker in is called, William the Conkerer. They all go to the isolation station. And then I attempt to make soap that has the message of hope that is attached to a rope. A tricky business, putting a message of hope in some soap attached to some rope, but I get there in the end. This inspires me to make some more Man Hands Moisturiser which is a hard moisture bar that Husband likes, but for this, I need more Bees Wax.

I don’t take bees wax from the hive in the garden because we are the worse bee keepers in Yorkshire – Husband and me – and every time we open the hive we have an argument. And yes, it is actually possible to have an argument over 40,000 angry bees, believe it or not who try and sting you for pissing them off – opening up their colony, dousing them in smoke and then stopping to bicker while they choke and panic. Thankfully these moments which also involve a few bee stings, are always short lived. So instead, we drive to see the Bee Man who sells me the expensive golden sweet fragrant wax, which he fetches from his own hives… no doubt in a calm experienced manner……… most likely without his wife. When we get to his house and out of the car I wear my mask. The Bee man laughs and leaves the wax on the wall for me to take. I hand over the money and ask him, “What are you laughing at, I didn’t laugh at your car registration plate I just noticed now on your van that reads B E E?” “You, you in your mask”, he says, “That’s what I am laughing at”. This is fair enough, it doesn’t suit me. And then he does that Yorkshireman thing. He delivers his opinion, like a rehearsed sermon with immovable faith. “Listen” he starts. I can’t not listen, this is a Yorkshireman with over fifty hives and an strong point of view. I adjust my mask and open my ears and nod for him to commence, which he does. “This Covid thing” he starts, “there are only a handful of cases ‘ere in North Yorkshire, in a population of over three HUNDRED – thousand and those that ‘ad it brought it up from London which is so disappointing….. (a pause here) But everyone has gone over the top, wi’ masks and gloves and all. It’s just madness. Over the top madness!” And he has finished. Quite a short sermon I feel. And to the point. Succinct, even. I nod. And blink. I want to tell him about the funerals I have been officiating, the brick in my chest that is finally dispersing after 9 weeks, our old friend Hugh who is in hospital for the second time with breathing problems, the fear my friend Louise had for her mum who had to battle the virus alone at home, aged 79, not to mention the pain and fear left with people I know as well as thousands of others I don’t, after losing loved ones too soon, knowing that they died alone. But I don’t. I don’t say a word. My mask helps. He can’t see my expression of WTF!!!! and so insteasd to the Bee Man I do say, “Thank you very much for the wax Mr Bee Man and goodbye to you!’ He is a Yorkshire man with an opinion. You have to leave them to it. Like a scouser with a joke, or a taxi driver with a life story, one mustn’t interrupt. I get back in the car.

Husband and I drive home past a kebab shop. We buy a dirty stinky greasy kebab and sit on the hill not far from the house in his car and talk about our children. He asks me, are you going to write about this moment in your next blog? How we sat and had a laugh and a beer together in the car and ate a dirty kebab, on a date. “I might do, I say. But what is so interesting about this?” But he is right, any thing nice is worth talking about. We eat kebab and talk about how we hope that one day soon, we might be feeling relaxed about things, we might be carefree and happy once again with family and friends filtering through the house. We hope this Virus will one day be gone for good. We hope that his mum will not get too depressed being in complete isolation in Wales. We hope my brother Steven doesn’t become ill while he is being shielded in Lancashire. We hope Hugh comes out of Southport hospital soon and is able to breathe easily, we hope Susan is coping with the death of her mother and the feelings of grief and despair. We hope that my chest X-ray will show nothing nasty. We hope I raise enough money to start Alison’s bereavement charity. We hope sister Becky will get through her divorce unscathed and once again travel on a happy track of love. We hope one day we will have forgotten to speak Martian and Venutian as it does us no good and as we look out over the hill to the dry quarry that sits in the lush landscape in front of us we hope that one day, all this will be something we remember with wise nods and knowing frowns. And as we know, hope is the last thing to die, we continue to hope and later we are reminded of the power of this little word as it sits in a soap suspended on a rope. The Beatles said that Love is All You Need, but I think that love is nothing without a little bit of hope, hope that the love keeps growing and that it doesn’t all come to an end, like a road that stops.

I am making lovely gift sets of bath bombs and soaps that can be bought for £14:99 and posted anywhere in the UK. Sets have the limited edition of Hope in the Soap on a Rope (because it is too good for the isolation station and I have only made six) so if you would like a bath or shower gift box donate at least £14.99 to my fund raiser and message me details of where you would like it to be posted to and any message you would like to include (Post in the UK) and I will send it for you. I have 47 days to go and still a lot to raise! And you see! Soap has its benefits! Let’s all hope I get there!

Thank you dears for reading my ramblings. I am still trying ever so hard to raise money so that I can start the Alison Bereavement Society Charity to support those who are bereft. If you feel generous right now, click on the linkety link and give us your money. Or tell your friends and they can give us theirs.

Now off you pop to be alert and socially distant and happy. Love your spouse, call your parents, send some flowers, stroke the faces of your children, tell those you love that you really do love them, say sorry for your wrong doings, forgive those who have hurt you and enjoy your time on planet Earth. And remember, hope is the last thing to die.

Until next time

Mary xxx

Uncategorized

Blog 9 Funerals and Soap

Hello dears, how are we all? It has been a strange kind of week. I have heard from my sister Elizabeth in Italy who can’t sleep since lockdown has eased and face masks are in place. I don’t think she is drinking enough wine, I tell her. Drink more. This might help. And sister Rebecca has decided that instead of buying a poodle she wants to be a cowgirl. A cowgirl I ask her, I am intrigued? How do you do that? “You go for a week to Texas herding cattle with real cowboys, do you fancy it?” I think I do, although not sure how happy husband would feel if I take off for a week of horses and cowboy boots when not long ago I came back from New York New York. (More about this later) But who wants to travel anywhere soon, anyway? I think of Rebecca skilfully swinging a lasso above a rhinestone studded powder blue stetson mounted on a white stallion – its tail swishing as she clings on with her slim denim thighs. I try to think of myself on a horse behind her but I don’t have the same vision. My hair is in my face and my stetson has fallen off, my horse is stumpy and has poop at its rump, and probably some foam at the bitt. She is lean and sparkling and I am untidy and wobbly and bumping up and down. I question how much I might get out of herding cattle in Texas, apart from saddle sore. Rebecca probably wants to fall in love, again, I think. With a cowboy. Not a bad idea. Send me a link, I say. I will ask Oliver.

And the AHHH – or rather the ‘R’ which Boris has come up with is not worth the power point it is printed on as according to a skilled mathematician I heard on the radio, ‘R’ doesn’t really exist. Ahhh, that is such a shame! And to think that the Rolling letter that can be delivered with such exprrressive spit is unrrrreliable when deciding who is greatly threatened by Covid-19 next? It’s not funny. But it is still in place. I watch with trrrrepidation.

Rrrrr.

I talk to my beloved godson Henry. He is my personal young doctor practicing in the Midlands – he calls to find out how I am doing. We talk about breathlessness, coughing fits and time. He thinks I should go for an X-ray but when I tell him that the doctor just keeps telling me on the phone to give it time though she can’t say how much time as we don’t know enough about the virus and its aftermath. Henry declares the doctor is naughty. I can think of another word to describe the doctor but don’t share it with him, as I take my godmotherly duties seriously. We waltz around the conversation again about coughing, bricks in my chest and time and come to the same conclusion about X-rays and naughty doctors for not sending me for a scan. On our last turn with the same words and this time laughter I realise, I may never find the answer to the question, am I ever going to feel ‘normal’ again? You will Mary, but it can take ages, he reassures me. We decide the breathlessness can also be attributed to anxiety at not knowing when I will feel normal again. It appears I am in a vicious cycle. The next day, I can breathe freely. Covid recovery is lengthy, annoying and worrying and it makes you really sad. I am now an expert in tears.

As well as being busy with anxiety and coughing I have began to covet my neighbours pizza oven even though the good book says that I shalt not! It’s the stuff of dreams. Rustic and built with reclaimed sleepers and some horse poo, a bit of field and found bricks. I love it. I socially distance my way up to see Stuart and his beloved wife Rachel who live atop a hill surrounded by musical notes and butterflies. Stuart was the one who built the oven – a beautiful clay dome on legs and we discuss the challenges of slicing into ancient railway sleepers. We admire the space where once the timber was attached to a rail track and I think of people travelling freely, in a distant steam filled decade, well dressed and deserved of the finer things in life – like potted shrimps and the freedom to travel in carriages above railway lines. I admire Stuart’s legs – he screwed them together himself. Not that long ago I tasted the goodness that came out of this pizza oven and to have one in our own garden makes perfect mozzarella sense. Delicious hot pizza. Ahh.

I brake the good news to Oliver who is elated to find that he can now, once again, go to the river to fish. I am going to build a pizza oven, do you want to help me? Not today my darling honey bunny he says, I am going fishing. When are you going I ask? Five o’clock, he says tightening his rod with the face of a 12 year old looking at a new BMX. That’s wonderful I say, please can you bring me some clay from the river bed. He looks at me. Que? For the pizza oven, I remind him. I need to mix clay with sand and poo and stuff, you find it in the river. Blank look again. It’s for the pizza oven, I say. The one I have been coveting, remember? Sure he remembers, and on his way out he forgets to take the bucket for the clay. Rrrrrr!

As well as chasing sleepers online I have been busy with making soap and bath bombs for my charity. We can’t get away from the fact that although this virus restricts movement, hinders hugs, instills fear and rattles teacher unions, it is still killing people. A lot of people. And this is the sombre reality. Many more people are still very ill and may not make it.

This week I took a service for a friend whose lovely mum went to hospital for a hip replacement and was swept away by the disgusting covid. Her recovery was ripped away along with her life. What keeps ringing in my ears during this pandemic apart from the words ‘daily death toll’ is ‘underlying health conditions‘. And it makes me mad. No one is ever ready to die, and especially no one is ever ready to lose a mother, no matter what the underlying health conditions might be. There were still days to be lived, lessons to be taught and learned, words to be spoken and hands to be held, no matter how thin the skin or how many underlying health conditions someone might live with. Lives are still worth living and saving.

Claire had a beautiful coffin laden with spring colours and flowers and we said goodbye to her under the sunlight accompanied by birdsong. I knew Claire, and she was funny and feisty and underlying health conditions or not, she was taken too soon and without warning. She has left a silence in what was once her home and a void in the lives of her husband and family. So very sad.

As we came away from the natural burial sight the funeral director Adam showed me his leg. He pulled up his trouser, it was black and blue after he had been butted by his billy goat. That might learn him. He then showed me the far section of the burial ground which was lush with trees that mark each resting places. I would like to be buried somewhere like this, I said. ‘Ahh yes’, he said ‘and we will know which plot is yours won’t we Mary, it will be the one with the little stall at the end of it selling soaps and bath bombs.’ “Haaaaarrr, you are so funny, Adam”, I say. He agreed with me.

On the drive home I think of the new fragrances which have been delivered – lime, basil and mandarin, ahhhh, and parma violet. Grapefruit and honeysuckle, ahhhhh! And once home, I get to down to some proper work. Mixing oils and luscious ingredients and forming shapes, moulding, bagging, tying, pricing and driving down to the isolation soap station at the bottom of the road to lay them in their places for sales. A ten pound note waits for me. Ahhhhh wow! I am building up a customer base. I consider selling them online.

That night I get a call from my twin friends. Sarah and Paula. They are in lockdown in Dubai and we have missed each other since our trip to New York New York in January. We are on zoom together and reminisce about the city that never sleeps that is still being crippled by the covid curse. We talk about the workers in the diners, the tour busses and the theatre who will all now be out of work. The hotel we partied in will now be deserted. The roads will be quiet, the vodka bottle that filled our glasses will be sat covered with dust in a shuttered bar on 5th Avenue. The waiters that served us in Central Park will be out of pocket, the streets empty, the people silenced, the viral fear hovering above everyone. How we took for granted the freedom to walk amongst the locals and hum Paul Simon songs as we trod the pavements that hosted tall and beautiful buildings. As we drink our Zoom spritzers we laugh about Paula suffering from alcohol indulgence and my midnight wanderings in search of rooftop discos so that I could dance, but I could never find. We ‘ahh’ at the perfect burger we ate that time, and the stillness of the Twin Towers Memorial park where there were little pockets of snow in the flower beds. We talk about how one day, we will see each other again after the covid curse is lifted and begin to make plans to once again walk some city streets, probably Liverpool in October. Paula sings Coco Cabana through the phone screen to my daughter and we giggle like children. We are all still children, I decide.

After making one last batch of grapefruit and orange zest bath bombs yesterday I speak with another lady whose husband has passed away. She tells me through her tears, there was no one like him, he was such a gentleman. He was taken too soon and I couldn’t be with him at the end. All his life he made me happy. and I couldn’t be with him at the end. I feel so awful she says, he was the most wonderful man. I believe her. After the service next week I hope to introduce her to the idea of getting together with others going through the same pain. I shall tell her about the Alison Bereavement Society and hope that this might shine a little bit of light at the end of her dark tunnel of sadness.

Until next time darlings, thank you for reading, thank you for donating and thank you for caring. I have now raised £5845 which is pretty amazing! Just £1155 to go! I am sure we can get there. Please share this blog and keep alert, keep your face masks on whatever you do don’t stand or sit next to anyone who is coughing, like I did!!!!!

Lots of love,

Mary

xxx

Uncategorized

BLOG 6 – Brother Steven

Steven Caddick

A blog to help raise money for the Alison Bereavement Society

Well Sunday 5th April was a good day. I made it from the edge of the bed to the garden chair. Sat for a while covered in blankets and was driven out buy Husband in the car to look at the daffodils at the side of the road. I now know how it feels to be ninety nine a hundred. I also now know why the elderly don’t like to drive fast. Going fast in a car takes energy, just to hold yourself still as the car speeds around corners. This, believe it or not, makes you tired. I am not thankful for this knowledge.

How are you ? I hear you ask. Well let me tell you. One minute you feel normal and have a conversation with your sister who sends you videos of wild boar roaming the streets of Padova and the next minute you are in bed nursing an aching chest.

Also, I had made a promise to myself not to watch the news but curiosity got the better of me last night and I watched some. What a harrowing time for the world and its human occupants. I am so sorry for everyone.

The good news is that my fundraiser has now made £600! How good is that! Which means that when I get back on my feet I can keep fundraising and putting the money to good use. But don’t click on the link just yet, stay with me a while. I have a story.

            Not watching the news is a wonderful way of putting on ‘blinkers’ to help protect the mental health of the household. Everyone has imaginary blinkers, they shield you from seeing things that make you feel afraid. It’s up to you whether you put them on or not.

            Lots of horses wear blinkers, for good reason. Which reminds me of when a horse broke our house due to not wearing his blinkers. This happened a long time ago.

When I think back to my childhood, it is divided with a marker. The time before my brother Steven was hit by a car on the way to school, which left him physically and mentally disabled, and the time that came after my brother Steven was hit by car, on the way to school, which left him physically and mentally disabled. So life has always been divided with; before Steven’s accident and after Steven’s accident. BSA and ASA, if you like acronyms. I never use acronyms. 

            I can’t remember exactly when the horse broke our house, the precise date, but I was young and it was certainly after Steven’s accident. We lived in a red brick farm house surrounded by fields and stables, barns, and outbuildings and a huge riding school that had a heavy door that almost took sister Rebecca’s thumb off. It was the perfect place to bring up six children. Five girls and one boy, Steven.

He was a wonderful, kind brother. Steven. He was gentle and always up for a game of rolling down the hill or playing chase around the sofa. And when he got a scalextric set for Christmas, he let me share. He had big blue eyes and thick dark hair, olive skin and a wide smile.

It’s not easy to write about what happened to Steven that morning when his life was changed forever. I know there are some people who may be reading this and have by now closed the tab because they can’t face remembering what happened to his beautiful twelve year old body as it got thrown up into the air on the A59 and then found it’s way back to the road again. Head first. Whilst on his way to catch the school bus. He had been hit by an off duty police officer. He was on his way home in his own car.

I had been eating a hard boiled egg at the breakfast table and squashing the yolk into the toasted soldier with the back of my spoon when my sister Marianne ran through the kitchen door, looking up and crying to my dad. It’s Steven, she said. He is on the road.

My father, ran out of the house and vaulted over the stone wall putting his hands to the left and swinging his feet the right. I watched him through the kitchen window. He ran up the small lane that connected our home to the A59 dual carriage way in just his socks. I carried on eating my egg that stuck in my throat.

After the tears and crying with confusion in the kitchen I wandered off to find my sister Deborah with Marianne in our parents’ bedroom.

Did Steven have blood coming out of his ears Deborah asked Marianne? Did you see blood in his ears? Marianne cried. I think so, yes. I don’t know, I can’t be sure. I listened to them and played with a hairbrush that was sat on top of the white fireplace. Well, that means that he will probably be brain damaged, said Deborah. And when he was lying on the road were his eyes opened or closed? Did he blink? Asked Deborah. His eyes were closed said Marianne. Closed. Well that means he isn’t dead then, said Deb. How do you know that I asked her? I just do, she said, I saw it on the TV, if there is blood coming out of the ears it’s serious. But don’t you worry Mary, ok. Go and play. Go and play.

So I left the house, crossed the drive and went to talk to Paula in the tack room. She was so cool, Paula. She managed the livery stables. I told her whilst looking at the bright ribbons of the rosettes hanging against the dust on the white stable wall, my brother has been run over by a car.

I hope he is OK, she said. He will be fine I’m sure, she said. Do you know if he is ok, she asked?

I think he has a broken leg and blood in his ear, I reply. There is a box of Mars bars on the corner of the windowsill, left over from the last horse show. I want one.

Paula looked at me. She was only about 20. She drove a motorbike, wore a leather jacket with tassels, smoked thin rolled cigarettes and smelt of petunia oil. She stank. Do you want to help me mix the sugar beet and feed the horses? I looked at her narrow face, her silk straight dark hair and the minute silver stud in her nostril. I admired the cigarette smoke as it streamed thick and curling from her thin nose. Yes, ok, I said, and off we went to feed the horses.

The morning following Steven’s accident, the phone didn’t stop ringing. Was he alright, people asked? They had heard it on the news, they said. Was he dead, they asked? I heard my mum talk into the phone and she told them that he had died, and that he had been brought back. Resuscitated. This had happened to him twice. She kept saying, he’s a fighter. He’s a little fighter. He is so, so strong. And as soon as she replaced the receiver the phone would trill again. Ring ring ring ring…….

I would sit on the stairs picking at the wool carpet, out of sight and listen to my mother’s soft voice. We just have to keep praying, she said. We just have to keep praying that he will be pull through. He’s a fighter. She sounded so calm. She wasn’t racing around howling and throwing her arms in the air, as you might imagine one would on finding out their only son, not yet a teenager, has been hit by a car that has left him with a broken skull and shattered bones and been resuscitated, twice. No. She was calm.

And that was the day that put the marker in my childhood. All that was wonderful was now behind us.

Just like that, a whole world changed. Everything went from good to bad. Nothing was ever the same again. Not that I can really remember that much up until that point other than, riding bareback over stubble fields, skiing down a hill and laughing at my frozen gloves and watching my dad dig and build a swimming pool and engraving my name in the setting cement between two stone flags, on his instruction. Put your name and the date, Mary, he said. And I did. Mary Caddick I etched with a twig into the setting concrete, 1976. And Steven wrote his name, too. We all did, I think. That was the year of a fantastic heatwave and family and friends were getting tired of lying around in the field, so Dad built us all a pool to keep cool.

My brother Steven was in a coma for months and moved from Ormskirk to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t allowed to go and see him or take him sweets. I wanted to see he was ok, now that he had come back from being dead, twice. But I wasn’t allowed. I missed him. When my nana Warburton went to see him in Ormskirk hospital, I was excited that she would come back with some happy news. But she just stood in the corner of the kitchen crying into her thin handkerchief. What’s up Nana I asked her? She looked at her sister, my Aunty Dot. Oh Dot, she said, his head was like a balloon.

A balloon, I think. That’s strange. I thought of my brother in a hospital bed and in place of his head and beautiful face, was a red balloon attached to his body. With a ribbon. That didn’t make much sense. I left them to their tears and embraces. And tried to figure it out. But I couldn’t.

A balloon?

When I finally got to visit my brother it was many months later – I don’t know how many -and he was in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I walked down a blue corridor and was so excited, I was going to see Steven. I saw two women walking towards us, both holding on to each other crying. It looked a very sad thing to see, two women crying together. Maybe they have got cancer, I thought. That must be what has made them both very sad at the very same time. I knew that cancer was something to be sad about, but that was all.

When I got to see Steven he was in a ward and he was awake. I never saw him in his coma. I never saw my dad put headphones to his ears and play him cassettes of harp music and another recorded tape of Liverpool football players who had all recorded messages of support and encouragement for Steven, to wake him up. Which had worked its magic. I got to see my brother only when he was up and awake and ready to face the world.

But when I looked at him he didn’t quite look back at me. I said hello and gave him a hug but he just dribbled. My mum was trying to feed him scrambled eggs. Hello Steven. Hello, it’s me Mary. I wanted him to look at me and smile but he didn’t. He sniffed as he tried to swallow some of his breakfast. I began to cry. This isn’t like him. He was changed. He was different. He had a huge white cast on his left leg and his arm was contracted to the side of his body in a spasm. He had suffered damage to his brain with the impact of his accident and his big blue eyes were sunken with dark shadows under them. My Aunty was there and she comforted me. I know it’s hard, she said, but he will get better. He has to learn to walk again. She took me outside. And talk? I asked her. He didn’t say, hello. Yes, she said, he has to learn to do everything, all over again. This was alarming and, this was the reality of the rest of his life. Damaged. Disabled. Altered. Hurt.

A few years later, when a horse broke our house, I wasn’t alarmed. The horse’s owner, a lady with comically thick face make up, who wore large tinted glasses which made her eyes look like they were swimming away from you, was the reason behind the catastrophe.  She had tacked her horse up to a trap in the stable yard, and was training it to get used to bearing the weight.

The thundering sound of the hooves that came galloping towards the house away from the yard as it tried to bolt from the contraption behind him, didn’t frighten me. It made me wonder what was going on but I wasn’t afraid. She followed the horse waving and screaming with her arms in the air.

And when the house shook with the impact of the carriage as it flung into the corner of the house where the washing machine was kept, and we heard snapping wood and neighing and bricks falling. That didn’t alarm me, either. No.

What frightened me was that the woman, who was a skilled horse person, who had been talking for months about introducing her beautiful bay horse to a trap, it was she, the owner of the four legged beast who almost brought down the side of the house, she, had forgotten to put the blinkers on him. That’s what had frightened me.

Blinkers first, then the rest of the tack and then the contraption to be pulled. Everyone knows that.

But she had forgotten to put them on.

That is what scared me the most. That one person can be so responsible for the destruction and pain and suffering of one animal, one side of the house. One young boy on his way to school. It just takes one person. One decision. One slip of the mind and all things can be altered. All things can change.

The blinkers that would have hidden the fact that the horse was physically attached to something would have prevented the horse bolting. The horse – I remember being told he was OK – I never saw again. But that was my mum telling me, that the horse was ok. The adult me today, can guess that the horse probably was not, ok. The blinkers would have saved the horse, too. For sure.

So, what is the point in all this? Well here it is.

We all have a lot of scary stuff behind us and sometimes it helps to apply our own emotional blinkers. You aren’t denying the bad things are there by using blinkers, you are merely channeling your focus and not paying attention to sadness in the past or fear in the present. It is ok to limit information that may frighten you and make you want to run, like a bay horse, into the side of a large red brick farmhouse. It’s the same when choosing not to watch the constant Coronavirus news bulletins. And don’t confuse blinkers with putting your head in the sand, it’s not the same thing. Blinkers can help. Burying your head is just daft.

I speak to my brother Steven most nights, he calls me from the Brain Rehabilitation Unit in Haydock, where he lives. His voice is soft like a pillow and as gentle as sable. It is low, slow and considered when he says, Hello Mary how are youuuu?

We talk about whether he has had a nice day? What he did. I went to Physio today, he purrs. Oh nice I say, I would love to go to physio. Would you, why? Because I have got an aching back from this bloody Coronavirus, Ste. I hope you haven’t got it. You haven’t really got it have you, Mary? No brother. I don’t have it. I just have an aching back and then we both say, Ahhhh and chuckle.

We talk about the weather, our sisters, what we had for dinner. Lots of things. I tell him I love him and speak to him tomorrow. He doesn’t have a cough and he is well. All is good in the world. And he is happy.

Don’t watch the news, I say, before I hang up. Ok, I won’t. Why not?

Because it’s just full of very scary stuff. Promise me you won’t watch the news. Put you blinkers on.

Blinkers? What are you talking about now Mary, and he laughs. Just take care I say and don’t watch the news. Ok, I won’t. He says. And then he calls my name, Hey, Mary!

Yes Steven.

 I’m going to go now ok, goodbye darling. Goodbye darling, I say. I love you, he says.

And I love you Steven Caddick.

Until next time readers. Blinkers on and, walk on.

Mary

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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.

WEEEEEEEEEE

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

Mary

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