So my lovely friend Tara has this amazing blog where all sorts of magic happens. Once a week, Tara (or someone else) suggests a theme and people from all over the world and all walks of life enter photos (old or new) that they’ve taken that fit the theme.
This week’s theme is Friendship.
You all know I’m not a photographer. But I am a friend. I just couldn’t let this one go without entering. Here, then, is my take on Tara’s Gallery theme:
It’s a rubbish picture, but I’ve only got this one to remind me of a whole fantastic, hilarious night, so it’s very precious.
This photo was taken on New Year’s Eve (actually, New Year’s Day – 01/01/2008) with our lovely neighbours – and good friends – from next door in lovely ol’ County Cavan, Ireland. From left to right, that’s Little C with Bert (and his laser eyes), above him is my #1 son, then C’s daughter Lou, then C, #2, C’s hubby D, and then my Hubster at the end.
C was a beautiful girl – when she was well, she had long dark curly hair and was a stunning creature. By this stage, you can see she was really quite ill and didn’t want to have her photo taken at all. She had made the effort to walk all the way down her drive and all the way back up ours (we used to hop over the fence, but she was too ill by that stage, her very aggressive HER2 breast cancer having spread to her bones and her brain) and was exhausted. But we had a fab evening – we popped party poppers, drank champagne, talked rubbish, danced… and it’s a memory I’ll treasure. C died in May 2008. I don’t have many photos of her but this is my favourite – happy memories of a precious evening. When C died, my friend Jay summed it up so well when she said Iit doesn’t matter how long we know someone. If they creep into your heart they are yours forever.’
She’s right here in my heart. All the time.
PS: And check out Moon’s Gallery entry – it’s all about yours truly!
Righty ho, so. Moving on, then, after the Dog-gate debacle (insurers were very sympathetic: ‘your dog ate your woodwork madam? (suppressed chuckle) oh dear, we can’t have that, can we?’) I have loads and buckets and tons of holiday reminiscing to get through. Fasten your seatbelts, then.
First up, then, on Friday night we went out with the Disreputable One to a very nice Chinese restaurant, where we seriously stuffed our faces and made inappropriate jokes about Hubby wearing a mankini to the blessing (hope you’re not reading this bit, Rev’d Craig!). Great time was had by all and the food was fabulosi.
Sunday saw us off to the beautiful pad of my older brother, Uncle I, the Lycheeni Legend, and his lovely wife L, along with my nephew, budding chef Jackson who often tries out my recipes for me (‘I made a pavlova!’):
…and my niece, the beautiful Madame Turtle (‘I made it sparkly!’):
Along with their ancient and adorable German Shorthaired Pointer, Lottie:
and their mad collection of animals, including several bonkers chickens and these, their second generation of tortoises:
Ah, good times. On Monday we went Wedding Blessing Shopping (oh yes, suits…dress..the works – and we bumped into my lovely Auntie [Moon's Mum] and cousin in a shopping centre – how spooky is that?) and I finally got my longed-for evening out with my lovely girlfriends Tums and Bex – we had a fantastic meal (antipasti, a gorgeous Halloumi and spinach salad with a lovely pear chutney, and a panna cotta with rhubarb….slurrrp) and a bottle of wine and caught up on all the goss (I miss you guys already – see you in September! xxx).
Tuesday saw us off to London for a spectacular ’flight’ on the London Eye:
… and a fantastic ‘Ultimate James Bond London Adventure trip on the Thames, which saw us hurtling up and down the Thames at breakneck speed. It rained at one point and the sensation was akin to being sandblasted, but still, it was amazing and the kids LOVED it. Brace yourself, this video’s a bit noisy:
On the way back we slowed down and did a bit of history stuff – our hosts were friendly and funny (‘if anyone feels sick, just put your hand up in the air. Don’t feel ashamed - you’re letting yourself down and ruining the trip for everyone else – but put your hand up anyway’).
The lovely chaps at London RIB Voyages gave me three 20% off vouchers too, so if anyone is planning a trip to London and wants them, drop me an email and I’ll send them to you.
After all that excitement, and looking somewhat like Animal from the Muppets (note to self, schedule speedboat at the end of the day), we headed to Covent Garden where we obviously had to go and have lunch at the legendary Porters:
… then pop into Patisserie Valerie for a little dessert. Hmmm, decisions, decisions…:
Caught up with my lovely friend Jules on Wednesday (there just isn’t enough time to catch up with everyone) and Hubby and I managed to go out for a curry too (first one in TWO years – it was awesome) and before we could blink, Thursday saw us waving a tearful goodbye to my Ma (who must have thought a whirlwind had whipped through her house and left a trail of destruction in its wake) and whizzing back up to Holyhead and the doggy decimation that was English Towers. Still, nice to be home…
So it’s been a bit of a mad week really, what with all the planning for The Big Trip on Monday (did I mention I’m going to Florida?).
The good news:
The bad news:
The sad news: although I’ll be posting, no doubt, while I’m away, I just thought I’d mention that it’s a whole year since my lovely friend C died. D and the kids are doing well but it’ll be a sad time and I’m sorry I won’t be here to share it with them. Still, she’ll be in my thoughts, as she is every day. D has ordered the gravestone (you have to leave it a year) and she’ll have the lilac stones that she wanted and the picture from her graduation on her headstone (which we tried to talk her out of ['what if they make you look ugly?!], but she was insistent – funnily enough it’s actually quite common here in Ireland to have a picture on the grave – apparently it’s sent away to Italy or somewhere to be etched into the stone) in time for her first anniversary.
Have a great weekend!! xx
Shopping today, then. And it struck me that so many of the things that really make my day certainly aren’t of the Gucci handbag/Jimmy Choo variety. Here’s today’s list:
Just little things, but I’m as happy as a pig in poo. Oh, and filling up the marshmallow pot for those hot chocky moments:
And you can keep your Jimmy Choos – I’m far too discombobulated to walk in heels anyhoo. How about you, then? Any simple pleasures?
So I’ ve written this post and deleted this post and re-written this post quite a few times. Every time I thought I’d got my feelings across, I re-read it and decided that I sounded judgmental, or harsh, or just… whatever. I can’t get it right. You know me, I’m not a celebrity-basher and my motives for writing this aren’t to criticise, more to share my discomfort at this awful situation.
Unless you live in a box with duct tape wrapped around your face, you can’t fail to have noticed the story of former Big Brother (reality TV) contestant, Jade Goody. She is dying of cervical cancer and is being followed by TV cameras, possibly, it’s claimed, continuing right to her final moments. Last week she married her boyfriend (lovely chap, security tagged as he’s waiting sentencing for assault), again in front of the cameras, and sold the rights exclusively to OK Magazine. You can’t blame the girl – as she herself admits, she’s lived her adult life in front of the cameras and will continue to make as much money as possible for her two small sons while she still can. And if a by-product of all this is that people will learn by her mistakes (she ignored an abnormal smear test as she was too scared to go to hospital), then all well and good.
But will I be buying a copy of OK Magazine (they trebled their print run for this particular copy)? No, but not for any other reason than that I never normally would, and I’m not going to start now. I never watched Big Brother or anything else she was in, so should I start now because she is dying? Of course not. But have I watched TV coverage of her? Read the articles in the newspapers? Yes, I have. And that’s the crux. What’s wrong with us all that we’re all glued to this awful car-crash scenario? I mean, it was the very first item on Sky News yesterday, for goodness sake. Given more prominence than Gaza, Afghanistan, the current financial crisis… Why, as one fellow blogger wrote recently, are we all fighting the urge to look the other way whilst simultaneously feeling the need to grab a bucket of popcorn and watch as it all unfolds?
The papers make me so cross though. There’s the News of the World, once gleefully describing her as a ‘bully’ and a ‘racist’, and reporting how, during a row in the Big Brother house, Indian star Shilpa Shetty was called a ‘paki’ and a ‘c*nt’ , now fawning all over ‘brave, tragic Jade’. It’s all so very, very wrong. As Hubby says, ‘it sells papers – what do you expect?’.
It’s ten months since my friend C died of cancer. Cancer is an awful, insidious illness. The treatment is exhausting, painful and soul-destroying. To watch someone we cared about slowly decline, suffer terribly and eventually die was truly one of the worst experiences any of us had ever had to deal with. Worse, to stand by and watch C’s two children witness their mother’s slow, painful death was truly, truly awful: the saddest, most terrible, heart-rending thing. Should something like this be lived out in the public eye? I’m just not so sure.
I’ll leave the last word(s) to the Disreputable One’s favourite satirist ’organ’, Private Eye:
So I spoke to me Me Ma yesterday. I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you that she’s had a bit of a rough time recently. She’s just retired, too, and that’s a big life change when you’ve worked at the same place donkey’s years; your colleagues become your friends, and suddenly not seeing them every day is a pretty big deal. ‘Still’, she said, ‘when I get a bit down, I remind myself to count my blessings: I have my health and strength, and there are plenty of people worse off than me’.
Too right, said I. We had a chat with the fellas about Christmas: you don’t want to terrify the little sods, but we tried to explain how the credit crunch affected everyone, even Santa, and that maybe Christmas would be a little smaller this year. Still, they’re going to have a house filled with fun and laughter for Christmas, stuffed with Uncles, Auntie L, their cousins and their Grandma, which will definitely make up for it. I told me Ma about Lou and Little C. They came to dinner on Sunday evening as D was out with Hubby. When I offered her sprouts, Lou said ‘erm, can I just have one?’ (I’m sure she hates them, but didn’t want to be rude). After dinner, the boys went off to play Xbox or PS3 or whatever, and Lou and I sat and watched MTV and talked about phones (she wants a pink one for Christmas) and shopping and stuff. She told me that they’d got all their Christmas decorations out, and I was struck by how hard it must be for them: unpacking everything that their Mum had packed away last year. Mr and Mrs Lovely are fantastic and do so much for D and the kids, but blimey it can’t be easy. Don’t get me wrong: they’re kids and they’re not perfect, but they’re always upbeat and they’re absolutely no trouble to look after. Their Mum would be so proud of them.
So like my Ma, I’m counting my blessings today. My kitchen is warm and fuggy with the delicious smell of the Christmas cake that is cooking in the oven, I’m filling the freezer in anticipation of my family arriving and I’ve just made a fire, which will be crackling away nicely by the time #1 gets home (#2 is in bed with a cold – don’t worry, he’s happily watching Monty Python’s Holy Grail on his PSP).
And next time I hear someone moaning, I shall wish that like the Ghost of Christmas Present, I could transport them to the window of the house next door, where two little ones are preparing for their first Christmas without their Mum.
Earlier, Bert and I wandered up to the churchyard to spend a while at C’s grave. I noticed that the flowers I took up there had been cleared away by someone thoughtful (Mrs Lovely, probably) – there’s nothing worse than dead flowers by a grave – and felt guilty that I hadn’t brought fresh ones. There’s no headstone yet, D says it’s too early, but various people have left terracotta pots full of flowers and it looks very pretty.
Every time I go, I remember snatches of conversations; brief moments in time that now seem so long ago: snorty belly laughs as well as tears and frustrations. Was it really last October when we went to the pumpkin festival together? Last November when we did trick or treating, jamming our overdressed and overexcited children into the back of the jeep so we could visit the neighbours?
Time flies. We’re already making plans for Christmas – my family are all flying over and we’re tremendously excited, but it’ll be bittersweet. Last year, we spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eve with C, D and the kids. D does a good job, and I have to stop myself from flapping over the children: do they have the right stuff for school? Do they need new swimmers for their imminent holiday? He’s very patient and I think (hope) realises that I’m only trying to help – he has The Lovelies, who help in so many ways, and his parents. The children have lots of support, but every so often it will hit me that things will never be the same: like a well-intentioned note on Lou’s hospital appointment that said ‘remember your Mammy can stay overnight with you’.
Her number’s still in my phone. I kept her texts: frustrated ones from hospital: ‘goin stir crazy in here’, supportive ones: ‘yr the next Delia Smith!’, and downright silly ones too. Life goes on. We all carry on, but she’s not forgotten. ’Remember when Mum gave all the cows names?’ Little C said last week. Yes, I do. Like it was yesterday.
I’ve got this cloud. It’s a big, dark one. It hovers above my head, blocking out any feeble rays of Irish sun that might possibly shine in my direction. And it just won’t go away. It’s there in the middle of the night, when I’m wide awake listening to everyone else in the house sleep peacefully, and it’s still there in the morning, when I finally drag myself out of bed.
Honestly, it’s just not like me. I’m the eternal optimist, the ‘glass half full’ girl. Hubby re-mowed my heart into the lawn, has given me extra cuddles and watches me, I’ve noticed, out of the corner of his eye. My children, well, of course they still make me smile, but recently, well…
I lost a good friend. She doesn’t see what I see: her children growing up a little more every day, new flowers replacing the old under her special tree. These things take time, I guess. Other stuff’s happened. People disappoint me a lot, I think. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I build them up into something they’re really not, then I’m disappointed when they let me down.
I miss my family, my friends. I’d like a hug from my Mum, to laugh at one of my Disreputable Dad’s silly jokes (I think I’d still laugh, even with my black cloud). I’d like to walk along the shore, watch the sun go down, pick up shells. I’d like to sit and demolish a bottle of wine and tell Bea all about it, to sit in the sun with Becca and Clare, catch up on gossip, talk about shoes, whatever.
I’ve been thinking of taking a bit of time. They say it’s a great healer.
So I often get emails asking after Little C and Lou. D battles cheerfully on, holding down a full time job as well as combining Mum/Dad duties at home. It’s now, unbelievably, nearly two months since their Mum died and with the added childcare pressures of the summer holidays, it’s a wonder he doesn’t spontaneously combust.
Happily, Little C and Lou are cheerful, muck-in with everybody kind of chaps, so it’s no hardship to have an extra couple of smalls about during the hols. There are obviously stumbling blocks (I for one feel very weird if I ever have to tell them off), but D also has a lot of support from his wonderful family, so nobody ever feels overwhelmed. One problem I do have is with food. Little C, like #2, is not a big eater, and finding something that everyone will eat can sometimes be a struggle. I’d never be one to force kiddies to eat stuff they don’t like, but I’m not going to let them eat Nutella sandwiches, either. Happily, with her usual forward planning and attention to detail, C left behind a folder of recipes; everything from how to make mashed potato to how to roast a joint is explained perfectly and, sitting in D’s kitchen the other day flicking through them, I noticed this little beauty. And do you know what? It was hoovered up by everyone – even the veg-phobic Little C.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 litres stock
1 celery stalk
Handful frozen peas
Couple of handfuls red lentils
So heat your olive oil in a large heavy based pan, and chuck in your chopped onion and celery, sprinkle with salt, then fry gently until translucent. Then add your stock (either defrosted chicken stock, or made with cubes – whatever), and finally chuck in all your chopped vegetables and the lentils. Bring to the boil and let it bubble away for a good half hour or more until all the veggies are soft.
Whizz in the blender until completely smooth and serve with plenty of warm cheese bread.
Good ol’ C, eh?
So lovely C obviously had a word with the big fella upstairs and arranged the most beautiful weekend of sunshine for all her friends and family. She was buried underneath the shade of a tree in what is surely the most beautiful place in the whole churchyard and today the boys and I took the armfuls of wild flowers that they’d gathered on their walk with Jen (I’ve stopped calling you J, it’s too confusing – why does everyone have the same initial? Don’t they realise it’s confusing for anonymous bloggers?!) and left them, along with all the other flowers, for C.
Jen had come to stay to give much-needed ‘sit down… kneel down… don’t do that…’ support at the church services, and I’ve been lucky enough to have C’s best friend J staying with me this weekend along with her daughter, C’s much-loved God-daughter, L. They’d been buddies since childhood and although I’d heard all about her from C, it was fantastic to finally meet. Jen and I spent many a wonderful hour hearing all sorts of things from C’s past – exploits from their teenage years and all about her wedding day. I’ve cherished every minute. After all the sadness, it was lovely to sit in the sun with a glass of wine, just chatting, remembering and smiling, with someone who I know C absolutely adored. Later, we got involved in some mad game with all the children and as we all laughed, hared about, threw water at each other and generally let off a bit of steam, I knew that C would be delighted to see her kids rushing around having fun in the sun after so many tears and such sadness.
I was reminded about the lovely thing that Sleepy did on her blog about what makes her happy. I had left a little comment, which was something along the lines of: hugs from my 3 favourite men, bitey kisses from Bert when he’s pleased to see me, sunshine, the little ‘incoming!’ Worms (it’s a PS2 game) voice on my phone that signals a text has come in, a phone call from J, shopping, cosmetics (ohh yeah), shoes!, logging on to the blog to find a big pile of comments, walking down the boat road on a sunny day to the lough, baking cakes, stirring a big pot of curry…
And now I can add: that glow that you get right inside to know that you were friends with a really special person, and the added bonus of knowing that, inadvertently, she’s introduced you to somebody new and just as special.
And seeing as I’ve deserted you for a couple of days, it’s over to you…what makes you happy?