Perth, the Australian one.

We arrived in the dark of night in Western Australia. The level of excitement at finally getting here was momentous, not dampened in the slightest by the fact that it was at night and we might not actually see anything of the skyline or surrounding landscape. The dimly lit arrival area was host to a plethora of tour operators or drivers waiting a little bit patiently and looking a big bit bored for the passenger arrivals to finally make it out through immigration. Our particular tour Tigress introduced herself and welcomed us to Australia. I let that welcome sink in for a few minutes, that we were actually here was truly amazing and I couldn’t help smiling with complete happiness at the reality of this moment. We were directed to a waiting bus and the remaining 17 people who would be joining us. In Singapore we had yet to introduce ourselves widely so while some faces were familiar we wouldn’t really know anyone until much further on in this tour. In any event those who had also undertaken the tour of New Zealand were joining us in Perth and soon 19 would be 28.

I made a couple of mistakes about Perth, or misplaced assumptions perhaps would be a better way of describing it. I believed Perth was on the southern coast, this particular assumption (despite having a higher Geography I might add) was based on the writing of Perth on the Australian Map, going from left to right its position was something of a confusion. I thought this positioning of the name placed the location on the south coast, when in actual fact it was on the west. Secondly I thought it would be a bit of a backwater and once the glimmers of sunrise flickered through the curtains, I realised instantly how wrong I had been. It is a beautiful city, bordered by the river, spotlessly clean and uplifting in every aspect of its being.

The Rough Guide to Australia puts the population of Perth around 1.5 million people. Built along the banks of the Swan river, famous for its black swans and dolphins, early Western Australian settlers were free, that is they were not criminals but those who wanted to relocate. The reality of spending 6 weeks on a boat saw many of these intrepid travellers ditch their hopes of making it to eastern Australia and disembarked and settled as soon as the boat docked. The large expanse of the Swan River is perfect for boats, canoeing, fishing and a range of water sports, all of which was regularly going on. The City, built on a grid system, is easy enough to navigate so a trek around takes no time really. The newly developed Elizabeth Quay is a popular place for visitors, with play areas for the children and assorted seating, sculptures and cafes and bars for the adults. I loved the design, the views and the welcome of the whole area.

We were shown the City by bus to help orientate ourselves, then we were driven the short distance to Fremantle. Now this was a hidden gem. Quite hip, a university town, with loads of buildings with balconies that reminded me of New Orleans. Beneath were little shops, secondhand bookstores and coffee shops. Each one alluring and inviting to everyone except the Lion. Along the front we could take our pick from the coffee shops in Cappuccino Strip and watch the flood of tourists swarming the streets and browsing the wares on offer. From Freo, as the locals call it, we boarded the Captain Cook, and headed west back to Perth via the Swan river. No sooner had we moved from the wharf when two dolphins emerged from the water and tipped their fins high in the water. I screeched with delight, much to the shock of those seated around me, at seeing these mammals in the wild in the proximity of the boat, but we were unable to snap them as the boat chugged its way hurriedly back toward Perth.

Before Fremantle we stopped momentarily for a paddle in the Indian Ocean at Cottesloe. This small but beautiful sandy beach was littered with families and seniors enjoying the warm weather in the high 30’s. The sea ebbing and flowing on the warm golden sands and me dipping my toes in and feeling like I was five years old again. It was idyllic and so far Australia was living up to my expectations.

On our final day in Perth we wandered around the City streets, locating London Court, with a Tudor facia, this lane was gaily swathed in colourful bunting and little shops and coffee houses bringing a little feel of England with a lot of Australia on offer. It was a lovely place to spend an hour or so idling before striding around the grids of Perth looking at buildings and people before heading back to our hotel. The Tigress had us up early for the next trip to Adelaide so the cases were packed up, the pictures edited and organised, family updated and we were off on our travels again.

Slinging back to Singapore

Singapore is the first stop on this epic tour. By epic I mean we are away for five weeks and by any stretch of the imagination, with the Lion loving travelling(NOT) , this is no mean feat. I have family here so in advance of our arrival had made contact in the hope we might meet up. Despite an 18 hour journey he agreed to meet us on arrival in an Irish pub to watch the Scottish Football later that night! Such a Singapore thing to do. Least said about that, in travellers terms, the better other than the pub was a haven of football fans, suitably attired, singing anthems and behaving like we were actually in paradise. This requires considerable tolerance as my family support our arch rivals but nevertheless showed impartial tolerance, above and beyond what he was feeling, as we trounced this team and claimed the three points.

This partisan activity left us completely available for the next two days to see and experience Singapore. First impressions were that it was a magnificent, shiny and bustling city. They proudly claim they are the most westernised city in Asia and the guide appeared considerably smug about this fact. It was spotlessly clean in every aspect. One of our fellow travellers commented that it was too clean, the Lion was dumfoonert (incredulous) by this statement, how, in his opinion, can anywhere be too clean? This traveller had yet to experience the Lion and all his idiosyncrasies and so limited insight as to what makes a good holiday, in the Lion’s view, would solely be based on his assessment of the cleanliness or otherwise of Singapore.

It is really difficult with globalisation to articulate what makes one place so really different from another. MacDonald’s are in every city, town and village wherever you travel. Most of the retail kings and queens can be found in most modern cities across the world. And everywhere has an Irish bar, at least one anyway. Singapore was no different. It’s unique selling point has to be something about the culture, which on the surface appears western but with subtle but tangible overtones of Chinese, Tamil and Malay who were early settlers here. We visited Chinatown and Little India to experience first hand the 4th and 5th generation Chinese and Tamil people’s culture. Religious places of worship to Chinese gods and Tamil deity were colourful and aromatic as the incense and jos sticks permeated the air inviting you inside to experience calm and peaceful prayer.

Chinese dragons and tigers adorn the doorways on the way out of the temple the tiger symbolising the elderly and it’s cub, the young person and how the two must work together to achieve balance through youth and experience. Much to be acclaimed about this symbolism. Entering on the right and leaving by the left was important, with the key difference here that we could keep our shoes on for the visit. In Little India the moneylenders sat riverside to offer new business funding to the early settlers, clad in little more than a loin cloth the money lenders would purview their investments and hurriedly pull out if they considered the business unviable. Nothing new there then if you have experience with the banking system we have nowadays.

The Singapore river is beautifully lined with walkways offering a warm evening stroll either side with a variety of eating places and watering holes along the way. It is mostly tourists in this area and the prices reflected it at $12 Singapore dollars for a pint and $10 for wine. There are a variety of fusion restaurants as you might expect with a city built around Asian influences so we had Italian. Now that is a frustration to me since the Lion, another of these idiosyncrasies, rejects spicy food as it might upset his tummy, so Osso Bocco it was for the first night.

A must do visit is to Marina Bay gardens at night, the light show dances and entrances the eyes, you feel like you are in Avatar. The beauty of the show enveloped us we then travelled 36 floors up to the Viewing platform surrounding a huge surfboard atop this magnificent hotel which hosts a bar, food and swimming pool. Only residents might experience the latter but the $23 dollar entrance price is deducted from your food and drink bill so it makes for a reasonable trip if you don’t mind the height. At night you get a real sense of the dazzling splendour of Singapore; glistening with lights the tall buildings peppering the horizon it allows you to experience this beautiful city from a completely different perspective. On our way up in the lift we met a couple of people from Dundee, of course it is a cosmopolitan city. They were experienced travellers now living in Gibraltar and they had been to the city before, filling us with recommendations we were unlikely to ever manage given the short nature of our trip.

After an expensive but much appreciated and must do Singapore Sling we descended into reality and headed off in the general direction of Rafffles where we wanted to experience first hand the most traditional element of the Singapore visit. We had stopped there on our travels around the city with the guide but wanted an unhinged experience, more out of duty than want if we are honest. We set off confused by the darkness, down one street, along a tree lined avenue, in the underpass, back onto the river and soon realised we were lost. By 11pm we gave up our quest to be hip the bar was most likely to be closed (things close about 1030pm there) and found our way back to the river hand in hand, back to our hotel. Ah well lets leave that for another night, yeah…………….

For she’s yer mammy’s mammy

The problem with getting to 60 is that your try to find relatable women to work out how you might behave in this new decade. One woman who’s been the basis for my transformation into a ‘Granny’ is intrinsic to my own experiences of Granny’s in my past. I became a Granny at 50, my mother was 45 when I made her a Grandma so we have experienced, in our family at least, being a Granny at a relatively young age ( speaking contemporarily). But the only actual tangible experience of being a 60 something Granny, the provider of the framework for my future role, is the only one I had, my mum’s mum.

Jemima Henderson Mark was born in 1900, so when I was born she was 60. You can see why I’m drawing these comparisons as I approach the Golden Girls era. Obviously I don’t remember her when I was born, but my earliest memories do start when she was probably around 65years of age. I called her Grandma; I don’t know why that particular name was chosen but that is what she was to me and my sisters. I was not the first grandchild, so perhaps the first two had determined what we would call her. I know that my son named all his grandparents by different names while his words were still forming and the 14 or so grandkids that came after him followed suit. I myself have chosen Gran. I feel this reflects the sophistication of what I am trying to achieve as the older person in my grandchildren’s lives and tones down the ageist commentary that is commonly associated with status and responsibilities. My mother is GG (GreatGran) typically reflecting her personality, but more of that later.

At 60 my Grandma was deaf and wore a hearing aid. None of your minute concealed microscopic ear pieces, oh no this was a full on draw attention to your disability apparatus that, despite being stealthily coloured beige to blend with the skin ( if you were even beige in the first place) and therefore conceal it, was of monstrous proportions. This less than discrete apparatus, (Tena the brand of discrete was yet to be discovered- remember this was the 60’s) was operated through a clip on box designed to be worn on your dress like a brooch, however it measured about 6 inches by 2, and was the size of a small radio. It often dangled down in the creases of her bosom, which was ample and could swallow it up threatening to disappear forever. This box then connected to an ear piece, exactly the same as that used by the NHS today (things haven’t moved on much), by a slim but obvious lengthy wire. I know quite a lot about this hearing aid because it whistled constantly like R2D2 and you could not avoid looking at it as she fumbled with the volume to turn you up and it down. You couldn’t play hide and seek because you would hear it whistling giving away the hidey hole she had managed to squeeze herself into. It was constantly a source of inconvenience for her.

I experienced great sympathy for my Grandma, she seemed so vulnerable, probably due to the hearing aid, and she was so embarrassed about her disability, particularly if it whistled. When she went to Church she wouldn’t wear it because it threatened to squeal and she’d get embarrassed about that. Instead she’d go without the hearing aid and of course not hear a word that was preached, sung or whispered. I also knew she wore bloomers, but not the ‘Gone with the Wind Southern Belle’, style with ribbons and frills. In fact these were pre-Tena brushed cotton and elastic and beige that covered the leg from the hip to the knee. As a youngster I wondered if this was linked to the fact that my grandad had died in 1961 so she lived alone, and perhaps bloomers had sadly replaced the satin knickers that might have been worn if he was still alive. Or perhaps it was because there was no central heating and she just wanted to be warm. What ever the reason these memories were the realities, the very foundation for fearing my impending age.

On the other hand I often went to spend the night with her. I loved that. The big feather quilt puffed in pink satin squares floated on top of the bed, which was a big double. There was a stone water bottle that was filled with boiling water and laid into the bed about half an hour before you were due to bed down. On the fireplace you were guarded through the long chilly night by 2 magnificent Wally Dugs proudly asymmetrical at the fireplace ends, spooking the life out of me in the dark. The sleepover bed was a joy because I had a bedroom all to myself and didn’t need to share the bed with either of my sisters. A sleepover at Grandmas always meant smarties and dumpling with tanners in greaseproof paper and tomato soup for tea. I’d snuggle up along side her on her small two seater sofa and watch TV. In the 60’s that was a small square about 10ins x 10ins screen contained in a walnut cupboard. We watched the Titanic on that set and I broke my heart when it started to sink, going to the back of the TV to try and salvage a lifeboat or two. I remember she was worried that I’d get bad dreams from that experience so she sat beside me on the big comfy bed till I fell asleep.

My Grandma was a member of the Eastern Star, a female version of the masons. She had an orange sash, with brocade and embroidery, laced with golden tassels that swung in time with the music as she marched. I saw her walking with it on once, she wore it with pride and I thought how grand she looked in her smart coat and sash. In Lanarkshire you were generally one thing or the other, Protestant or Catholic. The pathway of my birth took me down the blue route. But she was not a bigot, her heart as big as a lion’s she embraced everyone whatever side they were on. When I was 7 while walking past Carfin Grotto on the way to her house, she took me in to show me Mary and all the other statues and grotto there. I loved that place and begged her to take me on a picnic there the next time I visited, its a memory that stuck with me when as an adult I made the decision to become Catholic. I know she’d have approved.

My Grandma’s brother, James, affectionately known as Shemi, came calling one night I was staying over. I knew when he arrived he’d been drinking, it was probably the half bottle of rum hanging out of his pocket that gave it away. Grandma loved her big brother and welcomed him into the sitting room where she provided a glass for each of them to share the rum. Before long, something I had never seen before was brought out from the depths of the hall cupboard. It was a fiddle and Shemi put on a green velvet coat covered with badges and ribbons and they started to Irish jig. It was a side I had never experienced of my Grandma and what a delight it was to see her so happy and playing her fiddle with such fun in her eyes. Just as well that hearing aid was lying in the bedroom, there were a few notes not quite what they needed to be with all that rum!

She died when I was 10 years old, I was devastated. I never knew pain like that before that moment. The loss was more than I could bear. Not the whistling hearing aid, or the bloomers, her grey wiry hair, her spectacles, the stone hot water bottle or the big comfy bed. The enduring thing I learnt from her was love; relationships and family were all you really need to help you develop your behaviour in this next phase of your life and as the song goes there is no way I’d shove that Granny off the bus. I hope my grandkids spare me that delight now I have my bus pass!

2020 vision in January.

Let’s face it January is not a great month; most folk are skint, blue Monday is slap bang in the middle of it confirming, if not in scientific terms, what we all know from experience – it’s depressing. And now, the only thing left that offered any escape from these doldrums, the only thing making the long dark winter nights bearable after two weeks of hard partying and twinkly lights, the glass of wine has finally been banished from January by the fun police.

Hoovering up any leftover joy from December, you cannot escape their piousness; whether they have you in the grip of the inevitable but now highly respected January diet, the fun police, have sucked what little joy left in the month by introducing Dry January ! What does all this dictatorship, now assimilated into every day living as the cultural expectation and social norms of the proletariat, actually mean for those of us trying to have a birthday this month? Never mind that it is a whopper of a birthday!

Having a birthday in January has never been the most fabulous timing of the year. Before we were forced, en masse, to alter our lifestyles this month because we were “christmas obese” or “liver conscious”, it was always a hard up month anyway. For some of us this usually impacts on presents. Most of my family ( I mean the Lion) had no money in January having maxed out the credit cards for Christmas. This inevitably leads to them giving you left over at best or at worst unwanted christmas presents. Embarrassing of course if it was you who bought it for them in the first place! I mean I’m not the kind of person who looks for presents anyway, nor am I concerned at the use of the last of the christmas wrapping to cover it. I am after all as environmentally conscientious as the next person and would never advocate buying birthday paper when there’s plenty good christmas wrapping left over.

However socks are a bit of a give away, and chocolate liqueurs are just too obvious. Of course there are always the sales, where you can buy the most expensive gifts at knock down prices, (yes still waiting for that one). But honestly I could live with all of that, I really could, except that now any celebration is likely to be tainted as everyone is on a diet or abstaining from alcohol.🥺 So I’m likely to be the only one dancing on the table at the end of the night with an increasing large part of the buffet stuck to my stilettos.

January birthdays can suck. But this one more than all the others. When I got my driving licence in 1978, I was 18 and I scoffed, with all the mindless wisdom of a teenager, at the date of expiry in February 2020. It was meaningless. I laughed effusively at the very idea I might be sixty one day. I mean you do when you’re 18, don’t you? You just cannot imagine that anything will change from that moment, you’re invincible and for ever young. And yet somehow, despite the fact I was born in the worst month for birthdays (unofficially of course) I’ve managed to negotiate, quite successfully, 42 January birthdays since that driving test only to find myself looking at that date on the driving licence renewal letter and wondering what the hell just happened.

So here I am making dry January as sopping wet as I can, maintaining the twinkling lights by partying and ensuring the buffet laden stilettos dance on the table as often and as hard as possible. 60, is the new 40 I heard someone kindly say when I allowed myself to display disgust at my impending old age. But it is not really. I’m 60, eligible for a bus pass, retired, a grandmother, going grey, blind and turning the music down it doesn’t get much worse age wise than that. Yet strangely enough life has prepared me for this moment. I’m realising that it doesn’t really matter about presents, not a jot about the wrapping paper, its the friends hard up or otherwise, the family dieting or abstaining, that make it special. I’m planning on making 2020 a blast, after all I’ve been practising for it long enough. Follow me to see what happens as the big birthday grips me by the throat…….. and I fight back. 🥂

Nashville Skyline and Hatch Prints. Chapter 11 Book of the Lion

If I wanted to write a country song, for sure I’d have oodles of material for it. Being in the home of Country Music did not inspire me however, for we were too hung up on being safe and feeling well. The trip out with our transatlantic relations, albeit through marriage, however did much to raise the spirits. We learned that our American Superhero worked in the superhero styled AT&T building which has featured in all of the batman films. It stands erect against the Nashville skyline with its two masts and sculptured architecture creating the appearance of the Batman mask. In the dark it glows, effusing a neon aura between its masts drawing you into a mysterious pathway of superhero actions. You half expect the riddler to suddenly beam across the sky and the bat-mobile to hurtle toward him from the landing strip. It is a fascinating building, if only for the hours of endless imaginings on what might occur if you stare at it long enough.

Downtown Nashville was murky and threadbare, reminiscent of days gone by when vinyl ruled and Johnny Cash or Hank Williams wandered drunkenly between the numerous bars and hostelries on the street. There are a few shops selling cowboy boots or hats but not much else for shopping divas. To be honest this is a city where Music dominates the landscape and if its shopping you’re looking for I’d recommend you go somewhere else. However Hatch Prints, over 100years in business, who make the legendary screen printed posters that heralded the appearance of our jakey friends at either the Grande Ole Opry or Legends in the 1950’s and 60’s, remained largely unchanged by time or artists and offered a music lovers paradise.

Cats roam freely within the store, but I had little awareness of this on my first visit. It was dark on the inside, with an inky aroma floating in the air, much of which had settled on the large pane glass windows making it difficult to look in or see out. It was a massive store, barren of interior furnishings aside from several large screen printing machines, bottles of ink and little wooden pigeon holes. These held a host of posters in a variety of sizes and shapes, rolled up and luring you enticingly to unravel the contents. Easy pigeon hole listed the contents alphabetically to ease finding something that might appeal to the music loving buyer.

Some of the most popular prints adorned the brick faced walls but these did not guarantee your purchase and a rotation system meant that when it’s gone it’s not likely to make a reappearance until some uncertain and undisclosed date in the future. Some of the material was completed with a single colour, while others merged a combination of two screen print paints creating a vibrant contrast between the pictures and words. After a leisurely period of unadulterated browsing, I noticed the cats and had to make a swift exit, leaving the Lion to show me a range of purchasing possibilities through the ink-laden windows. I settled on a Patsy Cline, my heroine and Hank Williams, a favourite of the Lion, was chosen in the absence of availability of Johnny Cash.

We spent a memorable evening in the Wild Horse Saloon with the Miss Teenage America entrants, all of whom could line dance in organised and practised fashion. Country Music in the UK was still stuck in the 1950’s it had not yet appealed to a younger generation and most had never heard of the Dixie Chicks, Kelsey Ballerina or Carry Underwood. They don’t know what they were missing and certainly would have been shocked at the level of engagement by young people with this dreaded genre of music if we had tried to introduced it! The Wild Horse Saloon lived up to its reputation, loud music, modern country and even a rendition of Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane by the resident band to the delight of the pageant girls. It was a colourful spectacular with all of the pageant girls more glorious and beautiful than the last, their skinny frames enveloped by broad ribbons proudly announcing the state they were representing. We know a pageant girl, or I should say a few of them now, and wonder if any of them represented their state in their teenage years and we bumped into them, literally.

Eating in Nashville, and probably in the rest of the USA, was a functional rather than culinary delight in 2003. Most of the eateries were chain, fast food establishments selling hamburgers, fries and salad. Over the years this has changed significantly but back when we first visited the food and choices were limited and mostly awful. So it was a great delight to have the opportunity to dine with the superhero and his family in a restaurant they highly favoured, just a little out of town. Our American Superhero provided us with the transport once more, and we were joined by his family travelling in a separate vehicle, at one of their favourite restaurants. Their children were a mixture of cute and handsome. Their two all American boys, with short neat haircuts, matching casual open necked shirts and chinos were polite and mannerly. They were obviously accustomed to eating out, but not meeting many strange people from Scotland, despite their Gran, Grandpa and Aunty living there. Their baby sister, now a divinely beautiful young woman, was just as beautiful and cute back then. She was dressed in a simple but expensive white cotton dress that showed just a hint of matching drawers. I judged this choice had been easily impacted by the fact her mother had been dressing boys for the past 7 years.

The restaurant was busy, although only 6pm families were comfortably seated, surrounding our party seated conspicuously at a central table, ignorant to the fact we had not met before but bound together in this meal by rather unconventional circumstances. The waiters poured us water and handed around the menus. I was salivating as I opened it and pursued the contents containing what was only the upmarket range of fast food hamburgers, fries and salad………..

From Lion to Hyena. Chapter 6 Book of the lion

Grey’s Anatomy is not a show I have ever seen before, despite my previous albeit fleeting  reference to it. All the same here we were in a hospital in America, living the medical dream. The Lion was still sedated no longer in pain and unaware of the drama unfolding.  The hospital room we were allocated was small,  a range of wires attached to the lion were tied near his shoulder  to monitor his vitals. There was a large wing-backed chair that doubled as my bed, for despite being offered to stay in the Sheraton Suites, I couldn’t leave the Lion alone, without support in a strange country. Our cases, come wardrobes, sat side by side at the end of his bed, a stark reminder of how devastating this episode had been,  leaving just enough room for the nurses to edge past and take his blood pressure.

He lay motionless on the bed, breathing of course, but still and for a time, peaceful. They brought him in a tray laden with food three times a day, but his current comatose state prohibited any enjoyment. When no one was looking I devoured it, starving I was not the recipient of any meals during our stay. Although this was in 2003, the mobile phone was not widely used or owned equipment by me or the Lion. I had travelled to America with no phone, only cash and the iPad had not yet been invented.  I was keen to speak to someone at home to let them know what we were facing. During one of the monitoring visits I asked the nurse how I might be able to use the phone in the room and learned I had to purchase a credit from the store and use that to make international calls. Never take the convenience of the mobile for granted, its a godsend in these situations.

Realising that I wasn’t exactly overflowing with visitors, the nurse also contacted the hospital chaplain to attend and comfort me. He was a welcome intervention but really there was nothing anyone could do while the Lion was incapacitated. I had been thinking however, and wondered if perhaps  we could rent a house here in Atlanta for the two weeks,  that might allow the Lion time to recuperate and prevent any flight re-arrangements. BA had been so good they’d think I was at it surely, if I called back and said the same passenger needed to go home now two days after we had arrived.

I made calls to the kids, who, although young, were supportive and helpful. I spoke with my sister-in-law who’s brother, rather conveniently,  lives in Nashville. Perhaps there was something they might be able to do she suggested and made some contact. Meanwhile  I tried to see whether RCI, which we had points for, could provide us something in Nashville.  (Anyone with RCI will have fallen off their seats laughing by now since they never have anything anywhere, still worth a shot). Nothing seemed to be working in our favour, and an alternative to the trip we should have been on just wasn’t forthcoming.

In the darkness of the room at night, I tried to find a comfortable place to rest. The night nurses were at their station nearby and I overheard them talking about the Scottish Man who was in with back pain, ‘he’s so handsome’ one declared. I glanced across to the bed and had to agree he was handsome and peaceful but he was my Lion. In that moment I was overwhelmed, we had so looked forward to this trip and now this you could not have predicted this was how it might end.  At 0400hrs that morning, the staff nurse came into the room suggesting they were going to wake him up and, pending a confident circuit of the ward,  might discharge him. I did feel slightly elated, but our experience of this kind of episode usually meant there was a slow progress toward improvement and I was nervous that he might not manage it. Nevertheless at the stated witching hour, she woke him up and by 6am, he was sitting up eating his breakfast.

Nothing for me to eat that day, then. He was feeling much better, seemingly relaxed and reasonably pain free, given the drugs they had given him but it was evident that he was struggling to stand up straight. Much of his gait was tentative, protecting his back,  twisting and contorting the muscles to conceal his discomfort as he tried to manage the circuit, determined to be released. They appeared pleased and confirmed we could re-join our tour two days after they had departed. It was the easiest solution to be honest,  and so the wheels (pardon the pun) were set in motion for us to join the tour as it was about to depart Chattanooga. I collected his prescription and retuned to the ward where it was clear the Lion had shrivelled in size and was nothing more than a hyena in stature now. He looked to have lost weight, his pallor was grey and clammy, all the hallmarks of a junkie. So it was that we opted to re-join the tour by taking the greyhound bus. It was something I had wanted to try and the $350 taxi journey did not appeal to me so we headed off to the bus station, me trying to manage hand luggage, two wardrobes/cases and my Lion, little did we know what would take place next……………………………………..

grayscale photography of hyena
Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Getting away from it all. Chapter 4 book of the family

It’s been a while, and I am making a poor excuse, but Christmas is always so busy. Haven’t you been busy?? And now here we are mid January and not a jot has been written, it’s frankly a disgrace! Just when I might have reached the dizzy heights of 3k views I go and get lost in a virtual outer space, flitting between family dramas and falling out of favour with my followers for failing to report on them. I have committed the most incredible sin; I have omitted to provide insight, social commentary and details of the ongoing, albeit somewhat dreary, dramas that drift in and out of my life.

January is always such an awful month; moneyless, dark, wintery, dark, everyone on a diet and off the drink, oh and dark. Of course we are now 26 weeks into my injury and I am making considerable progress so I suddenly want to do things, be places, see people, have fun and party. Problem is no-one else does. A bargain weekend was available and no-one wanted to go. I was cheesed off. I was hoping that would help ease my humongous gas bill, since it’s been on full blast all the while I have been house bound, but nope no-one wanted to go out or away. So there was only one thing for it, let’s go away ourselves for the weekend to………………our own house!

Turns out this was actually a fab idea and I seriously urge you to try it. We do have a lovely home, it is our pride and joy. It was built in 1750 and was previously 5 farm cottages knocked into one. We have put our heart and soul into this house, on every level we have invested love, care and attention to very corner, every room. So often when we go away I will catch myself remarking that we have just as good at home. Hence the mad idea of spicing up our January by pretending we were visitors in our own home.

Off I went on the Friday morning for a meeting with the feeling that today was going to be different. It was the excitement and anticipation combined that you get when you have a planned weekend away, albeit this was not away, but it was creating the feeling of being away, if you follow my drift. The lion was tasked with changing the bed and cleaning the house ready for the arrival of the guests, us. He even mentioned later he tipped them for a job well done. We laughed at that.

We were not allowed access until three so when I returned from work at 1pm, we went off shopping to buy what we needed for the weekend and of course that included shopping at a different supermarket and trying different brands. Then, as it was still a tad early to get the keys, we went to the cinema to watch Stan and Ollie. It was now nearly four so we made our way to our home for the weekend, pretending we had never been there, making hilarious comments like ” wonder what it is like inside” the pretence just added reality to the event.

When we opened the door, although it was with a sense of deja vu, we nevertheless continued with the drama, gasping at the size of the kitchen and delighted there was a wood burning stove, cleaned and set ready for ignition. We couldn’t wait to check out our bedroom for the weekend and later, after our first night we were so happy the bed was just as comfy as our own. Every action was designed to value what we had here, to look at it through a different lens. We took it all in, surveying what had become routine and making it mean so much more. I even posted pictures on FB # weekend away LOL.

On Saturday morning I set the table for breakfast using every piece of Denby I owned, including the toast holder that I bought three years ago but had never used. It gave me a simple but satisfying pleasure, I cannot explain, but the thrill of feeling that it was all new. I was making the most of what we had been taking so much for granted. The lion went off to play golf ( he had been taxiing me about all week to hospital appointments) while I stayed in our “holiday home” and made a goulash with yoghurt dumplings and even baked bread. I felt so invigorated.

We went to church to try out the local religious arrangements, then came back, lit the fire had a glass of wine before we enjoyed a romantic winter supper surrounded by candles and music. I cannot tell you how satisfying this weekend away in our own abode was. We made the most of what we had, and I’ve rarely been more satisfied.

Over the past 26 weeks I’ve come to realise how precious my health is. It made me want to live my life again as soon as I could. A simple slip took so much away from me, standing up, walking, dancing, cycling, catching up with friends, shopping, eating, visiting family, it had all been affected by my inability to move.

We also look after our parents and over the same period a lot was happening for them both and we lost some of our closest family members. All of that provided us with a mirror on our own mortality. I don’t know when I might get any clearer an insight to my future than I have these last few months, but I do know that what I have decided to do is make the most of it, however big or small that most is.

Marvel in the minutest things, love, laugh, dance, smile and be thankful for everything you have because you have no idea how long it will last or how important it has become.