Given the circumstances.

Yet again its hard to believe another Christmas is upon us, over the years I have come to accept the fact that as I get older, then so the years appear to go faster. This year has been no exception, the year has fled by, which in some ways is good and in other ways not so good.

Each Christmas time and New Year I take time out to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. This year is no exception. It has certainly been a very mixed one for me, one of personal achievements, some enjoyment, new challenges and one of sadness and sorrow.

Just one year ago this week I was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the fact that although my dad had a major health scare, twice in the space of a little over a week, he was still alive and able to enjoy his Christmas with us all. What none of us realized at that time was the fact it would be his last one. looking back at 12 months ago it was all very scary.

As 2016 unfolded and I started to make plans for the year ahead, I knew it was going to be an uncertain year, more so on the job situation than anything. Not knowing if the lady whose job I was covering was going to come back or not. Only one thing was certain I knew I had another 8 solid months of commitment to my job, one that I loved doing. How many people today can honestly say they love their job I wonder. I  had made some incredible new friendships with the team I had been working with, and we still stay in touch and meet up for a meal and a chat every few weeks.

I was looking forward to a holiday, and actually ended up having two different breaks… a week up in Scotland in August as well as a much-needed long weekend break down in South Devon in early July visiting Paignton, Plymouth & Dartmouth. Then in September I started my all new important permanent job….only to find 5 weeks down the line that I am going to be made redundant in the coming April/May. Having to have more surgery, to sort out the first lot that didn’t work

In the February I was diagnosed with diabetes, which has meant some big life changes over the past few months, but the one really good thing that has come out of this is that it has encouraged me to take a lot more regular walking exercise. As  I love to go out and explore nature, and do some photography, it has encouraged me to visit new places and get much more exercise.

Earlier in the year I drew up a ‘bucket list’ I have had the opportunity of going out and doing different new things, for instance for the first time I have been able to go to Charlecote Hall & Park to see fallow deer and shoot them close up (with a camera that is!) In October I finally got to go to see London Zoo, in July the Monkey Forest nr Stoke On Trent, in October, Warwick Castle where I got to see close up an amazing birds of prey display. Early November I achieved a long time ambition of mine to take an Alpaca for a walk, also in November I got to go to the West Midlands Safari Park and a little over two weeks ago I saw the most amazing colourful display of lanterns at Longleat House and Safari Park. In August I managed to finally make the trip to Liverpool to meet up with a very dear friend.

Overall it has been a very mixed and eventful year, and despite the turmoil in my life it has been a year that I have manged to cope with and stay pretty well on top of and come through the other end of it. I’m not going to kid myself or anyone else for that matter, but the combination of the right medication, positive thinking, photography, keeping busy with the new job and an incredible group of family and close friends is what has kept me going.

This season however doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Like many others they too have lost family and friends throughout the year, and it has felt very strange that as we approach Christmas day I have had to come to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be with us this time or ever again to celebrate Christmas.

Because of my Dads failing eyesight the last couple of years, it meant my sister-in-law and myself would sit and write Dads cards for him. This year however I have found it an almost impossible task for me to sit down and write my own cards to family and friends. this past couple of weeks or so it has hit me more harder than ever and I have found myself having a little cry every time I think about how much I miss him, and how much I will miss him not being around at Christmas for the first time ever in my life.

My Dad was always very much a man of tradition when it came to Christmas, and this is something I have always embraced, he always used to look forward to his Christmas lunch, he had to have the turkey leg on his plate with the usual mix of sprouts, carrots and roast potatoes and always lemon & thyme stuffing, a pint of bitter and then Christmas pudding and custard to finish (in the old days every year my mom used to make her own for all the family, from scratch and my dad brother and I used to have a hand in the preparation and mixing of the puds) At 3.00 pm we were always ready to sit down to watch the Queens speech and then later on a cup of tea and mince pie.

Every year since I can remember, Dad  always bought himself, my sister-in-law and me a Poinsettia plant for Christmas. Usually after a couple of months they would shrivel up and die, that’s just the way it is with this type of plant.  Dad always had the knack on how to keep his going for several months. When he passed a way earlier this year, his Poinsettia from last Christmas was still sitting on his kitchen windowsill. I decide to take it home with me, not really expecting it to last very long. Dad had given me a tip earlier in the year as to how to best water it, every few days put some warm water, never cold water, at the bottom of the plant pot and sit the plant in it. The plant is thriving, and it is a year old this week, although it doesn’t have the usual big red leaves, it is full of healthy green ones, I’m sure Dad has been helping me to keep an eye on it these past few months.

 

 

 

 

The year ahead will be another very challenging one for me, come the spring I will have to start the process all over again of looking for another new job. So much uncertainty ahead. Hopefully the chance to go and explore new places and do lots more photography. Health and finances permitting, I am already planning my holiday for next Sept. One of my main ambitions for over 20 years is that I have wanted to go on cruise to see the Norwegian Fjords. I have heard of so many people say what a beautiful and unique experience it was for them, and this is something I feel will be absolutely spectacular to photograph.

At the moment in my thoughts it’s all about trying to remain positive for the year ahead, and getting though my first Christmas without my Dad……and as the poem says, For I know that in my heart you’re here.

 

To all my family, friends and readers I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year ahead.

All Hope lost….literally!

Isn’t it  strange that at the single blink of an eye how life can be so cruel?

Just a mere 5 weeks ago, in my last blog entry, I wrote about my new hope for the future with the company I had just started working for. Finally, at long last, the permanent job and the security that goes with it. It gave me the chance to be able to fully settle down into my new role and give total commitment to it and think about the next few years ahead and feel a little more comfortable about it all before its time for me to retire.

On 12th September I started working for Hope Cement/Construction in a new and very challenging role. I was finally able to start looking to the future with real optimism and start to make some ‘concrete’ plans for my  future. At long last the opportunity I have waited for since 2012 when I finished at D&A. A permanent job, no more temp contracts or worrying about what would happen when my next contract came to an end, where would I need to look now for that new job, how much more disappointment and uncertainty would  I would have to endure, how long would that next job last. An endless list of questions, which I had finally hoped had come to an end.

It occurs to me how strange it is that so many people enjoy the challenge of moving from temp contract on to the next temp job contract and not feel insecure, then there are people like myself (and may be my age has something to do with this) who don’t like that uncertainty, but who need more stability in there lives to be able to function properly and generally get on with their lives.

Over the last 4 years a great deal of my future plans and my life in general has been put on hold, all pending job and financial security, even my pension fund has been on hold, not being in a stable enough position financially to pay into that has been a huge worry.

On 1st August this year Hope Cement was bought out by the Breedon Group who are a major aggregates company in the UK. For those of you, who like me at first didn’t really understand the aggregates and concrete business. A short quick lesson… this means Breedon own quarries around the country, they extract these natural resources from the ground and process them to produce primary aggregates, mainly for the construction business. These aggregates are items such as  gravel or crushed rock and sand (but, I hasten to add, not your bog standard seaside sand) There are other companies who make the cement powder (Portland Cement) which is the binding material.

In short when you add together specific quantities of cement powder and the aggregates and the correct amount of water you produce a concrete mixture. All depending on what combinations of each product you use, plus any additives, then define what type of concrete is produced and for what type of job. When these mixtures are produced, a deep intense chemical reaction happens. However let me assure you that making concrete is not that simple, there is a great deal more to it than people realize.

With Breedon owning and running their own quarries, and Hope batching and delivering concrete mixes to major construction sites around the UK this has now produced a perfect marriage.

Like any major company changes, there is always going to be fallout.  In the short time I have been at Hope’s I have firmly become one of the members of the Birmingham plant and office team, as well as dealing with our Hope Doncaster Head Office colleagues on a daily basis. So the shock news from the announcements made across the company at the same time on Monday morning just gone, blew every one of us out of the water. In short, the new company restructuring means the Hope HQ in Doncaster will be closing with loss of all jobs there, our Birmingham shipping office, which is where I work, along with my two other colleagues in the office, will also be closing,  as will a few other small shipping offices across the UK and these jobs will all be centralised at the main Breedon offices. Unfortunately, this means because of the locations of these centralised offices many of us will not be able to travel there and take up jobs within the new company structure.  Fortunately, however the ‘batching plants’ will remain unaffected and fully operational. We have been advised that whilst the ‘transition’ of the business takes place, with regards to the offices and admin work from the smaller shipping offices into the centralised office, we will in about 6 to 9 to months for all those concerned (around 40+ people) be made redundant.

A bit of De Javu going on here I think!

This looks like history repeating itself, as was the case of Boots Opticians taking over the great Dollond & Aitchinson Opticians. Company restructuring, moving sections of the business elsewhere, job losses etc. It’s very hard to trust in the motives of companies who take over other companies….unfortunately this is what happens all to often now and how the average Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs is affected with their livelihoods. But in all fairness having said that, Breedon is a top company in its field and they want to expand their business, and their growth in the future, so in order to make money and gain that future success they have to find ways to improve their existing business and make saving in the present. However this means in short this is the start of the loss of all of Hope cement/construction.

My decision now has to be based on whether I stay and wait out the next few months, get more experience in this industry and get more shipping/logistics experience and at the same time guarantee myself a monthly salary and pension for that length time, and a small financial incentive at the end of it,  or whether I start searching for that all new important job that will define my future. At present I am having my doubts about whether a permanent position can be found, or whether I will be hopping in and out of short-term contracts, it is all so unsettling.

At the moment time is of the essence. There is a lot of ‘seasonal work’ to be had, which in short is more insecurity, and I do want to learn so much more about this particular job and the industry, I made a commitment to the company when I was offered the job and I feel obliged to honour that commitment and be true to myself as well as them for as long as possible.

At the same time I am feeling anxious about letting any possible opportunities pass me by on the job front in the next 6 months,  but having said that another 6 months job skills is another feather in my cap and will look good on my CV.

In addition to all of this Christmas is almost upon us, and this year will be so sad and different for myself and my family, as it will be the first one without my dad, and this added worry about the job doesn’t help matters.  And whilst I have appreciated so many good and positive comments from my close friends and friends on fb about my employability, this past week as well as in the past, it still worries me that getting potential employers to notice you is still the biggest challenge these days. The hardest part is not finding the job itself,or even doing the job. Realistically the hardest part these days is getting yourself noticed enough to have an interview set up and being able to present yourself and your abilities at that interview, and as so much of this is done through job agencies these days it actually makes it even harder.

A  couple of years ago I was told I should change my CV and ‘tart it up’ by adding some stuff to it to impress  any perspective new employer. This is something I firmly do not believe in, may be my decision to not do that is my own downfall, but I have always been honest about my capabilities and don’t want to mislead any employer into believing I can do something which in actual fact I haven’t done.

For now I think the right choice is to stay where I am, get the next few months out-of-the-way and come the Spring it will be a new beginning for me as well. I do love Spring, it is my favourite time of the year, a fresh new approach, and hopefully a new opportunity. What can I say? This job was obviously not the right one for me.

Why are choices like this so hard to make?

 

 Choices

We all have a choice
to live a lie
or be ourselves
to laugh and cry
or to follow someone else

to look up and smile
or bow down and frown
to walk the whole mile
or take off our crown

We have a choice
to shout out loud
or chant a whisper
to fly through the clouds
or to be blown like paper

to conquer our fear
or hide in the shadow
to the wise words hear
or be thrown out the window

We all have a choice
to climb our highest mountain
or fall into our deepest hole
to drink from life’s fountain
or live life like a troubled soul.

 Allen Steble

Thanks for stopping by.

Now even more hope!!

As my regular readers will be aware, I used the word ‘hope’ in my blog a great deal. With depression there always has to be hope which is through being positive, this has always been one of my best survival strategies. If you do hold on to hope then this does in some way helps fight those dark times in your life.

A month ago my last job/work contract finished, and my hope then was to take a couple of weeks break, feel completely relaxed, recharge ‘my worn down batteries’, and then feel ready to  take on the job searching, with the intention in mind of finally finding that right job which would become a permanent position. Having updated, redesigned and tweaked the finer points in my CV it meant I was finally ready to hit the job hunting scene.

A peaceful week up in the Scottish Highlands, relaxing, taking in the fresh air, ticking a couple more boxes off on my bucket list and of course plenty of photography up there to enjoy.  Then a further week in and around the Midlands, Stratford Upon Avon, Worcester and also a steam train journey from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth and in general taking advantage of our local bus & train services, getting out in the good weather, and doing more photography. Then back to reality for the last couple of weeks in finding that new career and all the rigmorale and stress that goes with dealing with DWP/Job Seekers and so on.

There has been no doubt about it, this has got to have been one of the worse years in my life so far on a personal level, my fathers death, being diagnosed with diabetes, the failure of the surgery and having to go through it again and finally my last job coming to an end.  The one really good thing that came out of it was how much I enjoyed this last job and the new friends I made. The job gave me back a great deal of  lost confidence in myself and my abilities, and for that I am more grateful than my  friends from there will ever know.

Anyway, hitting the job hunting and following an application to an agency at the end of August with my CV and cover letter I was then contacted with instructions to connect to a specific link and apply directly with the companies own recruitment. This took me to a company called of all names  HOPE Construction Materials, which had just been joined with another big company called the Breedon Group now making it the largest independent cement/ concrete company in the UK.

I made my application, and the following day received a phone call from their HR dept, advising me they were ‘impressed’ with my CV/application and could they set up a 1st stage conference call interview with 2 of their managers at the Doncaster regional office and myself for the following morning. No problem I said, and so the following morning at 9.30 am the phone range and so began the first stage interview lasting a good 40 mins. This was a first for me having a telephone based job interview. At the end of it I was told again they were very impressed with what they had just heard as well as my CV and one of the managers would like to hold a 2nd stage interview with me in person at the Birmingham shipping office and work site where the job was based. And so the interview was set up for the morning of Tues 6/9. Overall it went very well, and when I left there I was very ‘hopeful’ that I had got the job.

Just before 6 pm that evening my phone rang and within a couple of minutes I was accepting the job I was being offered and asked to start Mon 12/9.

Finally, Hope in more than one way!!

The job will be very challenging and there is a huge amount of technical information to take on board to understand the role of the job as a customer services agent/administrator. Three days into a month of in-depth training about the in’s and out’s of cement, aggregates and concrete mixes, I have to say I am really enjoying it. The small team I will be working with are great and have really made me feel welcome, as have the other colleagues around our various Birmingham/ West Midlands sites whilst on site visits all day yesterday with the Area Production Manager.

If you think concrete is such a simple and straight forward product, think again. In the first couple of days alone, I have had my eyes opened to it all. There are so many different standards of concrete to do so many different jobs, different types of mixes and so on. Learning about all the processes, grading, combinations really is quite fascinating, as is the history.

Did you know for instance the Romans were reported to have produced the first real form of concrete – the Colosseum was built between 72 A.D and 80 A.D under the Emperor Vespasian, in the heart of Ancient Rome. It was made from stone and concrete, this magnificent monument was built with the man power of tens of thousands of slaves. Fortunately these days machines can do the work. But it is true to say this was a true turning point in history, which has gone from that simple basic mixture into what is supplied all around the world today. Every single day we all somehow have contact with the grey stuff in our lives, and yet take it for granted because it simply is there such as the buildings we all live or work in, the ground beneath us we walk on in schools, hospitals, shops and supermarkets, farms, roads, kerbs and pathways…….the list is endless.

It’s true to say I have now been given a lot more ‘Hope’ than before…..and hopefully this is all a very good omen for me!!

 

Hope

Hope abides; therefore I abide.
Countless frustrations have not cowed me.
I am still alive, vibrant with life.
The black cloud will disappear,
The morning sun will appear once again
In all its supernal glory.

By: Sri Chinmoy

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A new road ahead.

It has been a very long strange and mixed 12 months. Some really rough and tough times these past few months on a health level and with the passing of my father in April,  but also some great times on the work side, and also the chance to develop my love of nature and photography and visit more places in order to do this.

Having said that I am now at yet another crossroads in my life, and yet I am seeking a new challenge and am looking to take the next step forward. In two weeks time on August 5th my current contract comes to an end, and yet again I will be looking for a new job, to some to find a new job it’s as easy as tossing a coin in the air, but for those of us who suffer depression and anxiety, it can be a very daunting prospect.

In many ways I have been very fortunate with this current position, I have far exceeded my own expectations and discovered new things about myself in my ability to tackle and solve problems and overcome a lot of obstacles. I have been able to maintain a  high level of professionalism, Iv’e been able to do so much in-depth work, and not just doing one or two stages of a job and then passing it on to the next person to do their part, but I have been able to follow many stages of an entire process through from start to finish. In addition to this I have been able to implement several new job procedures and carry them through to prove they can and do work, and Iv’e learnt a great deal about the rail industry, and I have also been extremely fortunate to work with some incredible and wonderful people and make some wonderful friendships in the process. Overall I have exceeded my own expectations, and I believe in all honestly exceeded my employers expectations of me, and I have to say that does feel good, and it also makes one feel proud to have made such an achievement.

One thing is for certain, I do feel a little more confident about my future job than I have done for many years, that is of course providing I get the right opportunity by a company willing to take a chance and give me the opportunity to prove myself. For the first time in many years I actually feel confident in my own abilities.

I have had a great year discovering the local nature reserve, through all the changing seasons, made friends with a Robin who I called Buddy. He has in recent weeks  flown the nest with his little babies, and despite knowing I will most likely never see him again, unless we both happen to make return visits to the reserve and his particular favourite tree. I do feel very privileged that I was able to make friends, share a trust and have a special bond with a wild bird and be able hand feed him.

That aside, I have also this year had to cope with the diagnosis of  Diabetes,  problems with my kidneys and cholesterol level, another lot of surgery and then in April the sudden and unexpected death of my Father.  An extreme combination of  similar problems that 15 years ago brought to my knees, and  my first dealings with  depression, but now despite how hard it is to cope with all this…some how I have managed to cope and  I have come to realise that it is due to a combination of the right daily medication, some really incredible family and friends, the pursuance of my love of nature and photography, and a job I love doing, but more importantly positive thinking and the confidence in ones own abilities, and to try not give up so easily.

So, my next step forward is to take a much-needed short holiday up in Strathpeffer  in Scotland the week after my job comes to an end, give myself chance to recharge my worn out batteries, take in the wonderful Scottish air, scenery and hospitality, take plenty of photographs and discover the wildlife up there, and also hopefully treat myself to a glass or two of some very fine single malt whisky from that region.  But, I do realise that I also need time to think about what sort of job I would like to do next, and how to balance my work life with managing my diabetes and also prepare myself  mentally for upcoming job interviews. So who knows what new opportunities await around the next corner.

 

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Many thanks for stopping by

 

Full circle.

As I have mentioned on several occasions before, I love the spring. In spite of everything that has been going on in my personal life these last few weeks, I have tried to continue to live my life as normal as possible. Despite my recent diagnosis of diabetes, and also the surgery a couple of weeks ago,  I have tried to maintain a healthy walking/exercise regime. Although I haven’t been able to get out at the weekends with my camera, I have managed to maintain my daily routine as best as possible to and from my current job by visiting the nature reserve at the back of where I work and taking a few photos.

At the end of June last year I took up a 12 month temp work contract, at a place that is situated close by  the nature reserve. When I first stepped foot into the reserve I have to admit that at first I thought it didn’t look like much and I thought I was going to be disappointed. But I have to say the place has continued to amaze me week in and week out, throughout last summer, autumn, winter and now the spring and as we are now heading towards summer I have now almost come full circle.

I have watched it grow and develop on a daily basis. At the end of last summer I felt very annoyed when the council gardeners went in and mowed down all the waist deep grass in the meadows, I was no longer able to watch the wrens diving in and out looking for insects, or watch the variety of butterflies chasing each other over the tall grass. I have watched as many of the trees have been cut down and disappearing throughout the autumn months along the pathways and down by the river walk.  The pathway I followed at the side of the river became muddy and icy during the winter months, and the trees bare of all but a few leaves hanging on to their branches. All along the pathway the flowers and plants gave the appearance they had withered and died. I have seen so many different species of birds, some I have heard but not seen. I have continued to hand feed my little robin Buddy……and I have met his little lady. Each time I have gone into the reserve to feed him, he has as usual come to my hand taken some food then briefly flown off with the food before coming back and taking some more from me, he has continued to repeat this on a daily basis. By watching him carefully it has become obvious he has a nest where he is feeding youngsters, and I am hoping very soon he will be showing them off to me. At other times his little lady friend (who I have called Freckles) comes close by to me, but still unable to take food from my hand, so he comes to my hand and flies to her with the food, opening her mouth wide he pops the food in to her. He will do all of this several times before he finally will take some food for himself. To have made a little friend like this because of my love of nature and the trust we share between us has been an absolute joy. People walking the path have stopped to talk to me, hardly believing what they have just witnessed, the sight of a wild bird flying onto my hand and contentedly sitting their eating his food and singing to me. Then of course there are the regulars who stop and chat with me, whilst taking a short cut through the reserve, or taking their dogs for a walk, knowing why I am there each morning before and of an evening after work.

As I have walked through the reserve these past couple of weeks, Yet again I have been amazed at the new life that has sprung up, it has been growing back into its former beauty of last summer when I first started going there. Already the grass in the meadow has grown several inches high.  I have seen butterflies around on the bright warm sunny days we have so far had this month, an abundance of young birds especially great tits, blue tits and blackbirds. The sides of the pathways along the river.  in the space of just a few weeks overgrown with wild garlic, their thick carpet of wide green leaves and stark white flowers.

This place has been a huge part of my life this past 10/11 months, but unfortunately because my job contract is soon due to be come to an end, it looks like I may well have to leave all this behind, but hope that I will have the opportunity in the future to re visit the reserve  when I get the chance.  I am so going to miss my Buddy and his friendship, I only hope I get to see Buddy and Freckles babies before I have to go. In one way its sad to have come the full circle, but in another it has been wonderful to see the circle of life at my favourite nature reserve.

I know that the chances  of ever finding a job like this again that I have enjoyed so immensely and found so  challenging are so remote, and I have so enjoyed working with such a great small, but very friendly team of people and I know also the future chance of  being this close to a place of such natural beauty will all be extremely remote. For the first time in several years I also have regained some lost confidence in myself and my abilities…..just how long that will last I don’t yet know. At my age I know only too well how difficult it will be to get another job, and once again feel secure. I can only wish and hope that the lady whose job I have been covering would have made the decision  not to return to work, but instead to take the opportunity of making the very most of seeing her beautiful twin boys grow up, and like nature has her own way of nurturing, that she too could nurture her boys and see them day after day continue to grow, develop and change. I have heard so many friends in the past say, I wish I hadn’t had to go back to work so soon, I wanted to see my babies grow up a bit more, they are at the age when so many interesting and wonderful changes take place and I missed so many of them changes, I wasn’t there when my baby said mommy or daddy for the first time.

Just like nature there are so many beautiful things to see and hear at certain times.

 

 

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life












Felt by my heart.

The past month has been really tough. In the space of a little over one week my father had gone from sitting with us at his bungalow merrily chatting away to each other about steam trains, birds & animals, his national service days and family and one of his favourite TV shows. We had even been making plans with my brother and sister-in-law to take him to Weston Super Mare for a day trip in June, and then in September to The Severn Valley to see the Flying Scotsman whilst it was on tour and stationed on display there, something we were all very much looking forward to. We were having our usual conversations that we have on a Sunday morning gathering, or on the phone of an evening, and then suddenly a week later my dad was gone.

Although it has been in my eyes more noticeable about how much frailer my dad had become over the last 6 months I had never thought we would lose him. It just seems that you feel that your parents have always been there for you in the past and I suppose you feel a sense that they will always be there for you for ever.  I can remember when I was a child I always though mom & dad will ALWAYS be here for me, they would never leave. As I got older and began to see the truth and the ‘negative’ side of life and existence I then realised my dream of them being alive and with me  for ever and a day was just so unreal. Life can be so cruel.

Part of my depression which started just a little over 15 years ago was caused by a really bad year prior to my moms death on 29th April 2001. I had been very unwell physically after having to deal with 2 lots of serious surgery, and then depressed for several months before hand, without really realising it, but as they say the straw that broke the camels back was when I had to face my moms death, and then a few weeks later I had to face major life saving and life changing surgery, and for the first time ever my mom was not there for me anymore, at least not in the real physical sense. Fortunately, my dad was there for me and has been there for me ever since.

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Shortly after my mom passed away, I can remember thinking to myself I never want to go through all that again, I hoped and prayed I never would have to. The decision to stop all medication, agree to a DNR and no further intervention was something  my dad, myself, my brother and sister-in-law had to mutually agree to. All moms organs were failing, and to agree to resuscitate her was pointless. We had to agree the same reasoning  for the same nightmare with my dad. I know deep down the horror of all of this will never go away, and having to make that decision again brought back so many bad memories. Despite of all this, over the past couple of weeks it has been good to talk to family, friends and work colleagues about the good times, the good memories and some of the wonderful times we have shared over the years with both my parents.

After Dads funeral service, as we all came out of the church into the area where all the flowers were laid, people came up to us, family members as well as friends of the family, dads club friends, old friends and  neighbours  from many years ago when my brother and I were still kids,  My sister in-laws, sister and her husband  came up to me, we hugged as normal and then Mick said it all in one simple sentence which truly summed up my dad, he said  ”your dad was a really good man, a really great bloke, a proper gentleman”. And I knew how true this was. The same thing has been said by my family members as well as dads bungalow club friends and his neighbours.

Dad has never been a drinker, only on social occasions or the occasional can of stout or bitter at home. He gave up smoking in 1981/82. He never gambled, just the usual couple of quid on the Grand National each year. Over the last 12 or so years he enjoyed his games of bingo, which for him was more a case of having a bit of a social life with his friends and was a way of maintaining his level of independence. When mom passed away, despite the rest of the family being there for him it had left a huge emptiness in his life.  Being part of the ‘bungalow club’ helped him in some ways to rebuild his life without mom.  It  gave him the chance to take some holidays to Weston Super Mare and Weymouth, as well as odd days out for coach trips or meals out with friends from the club. It was his social life outside the family, but first and foremost he was a family man and with that he was a true gentleman.

I have so many wonderful memories of the times spent with my dad. His passion for coarse fishing was passed on to me and my brother. I can still remember the first time I went fishing with dad and the first fish I caught. I don’t know who was more excited,,,,dad or me. Another great passion was his gardening which I have continued to learn from him over the years, and still love doing when I get the chance (although I have to admit the last 16 months have been difficult to maintain it as I have been unable to do the work physically due to recovering from 3 lots of surgery in that time) I only have a small garden area in the yard behind my flat, but have learnt how to get the best from it thanks to my dads knowledge and expertise. There is a certain satisfaction in growing your own runner beans, tomatoes, rhubarb as well as growing several Fuschias from my own cuttings and nurturing 3 or 4 roses.

My knowledge and love of birds, animals, butterflies, fishing, gardening and the countryside have all been down to my dad. Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s dad rented 2 allotments from the local council. Each weekend and in the school holidays my brother and I used to go there with him a lot. The allotments were adjacent to one of our local parks called Jubilee Park, and each time we went down there we always used to have a game of football or cricket in the field before starting to work on the allotment…just the three of us. Then we would cross over the little brook, and see who could get across without getting their feet wet…..being the smallest and youngest I always lost, but as I got a little older, I also got a little wiser and started  taking  my pair of wellies with me 🙂

I can still see dad now in my mind, at the height of each summer season when it was time to reap the benefits of his hard all year round work, pushing his wheelbarrow from home to the park…empty, and then filling it up with sacks of home-grown potatoes, onions, runner beans, carrots, broad beans, garden peas and beetroot.  Bunches of Sweet Williams and Chrysanthemums for mom as well as containers full of homegrown blackberries and raspberries ready for the pies and jam making.  But there was nothing better than eating a few fresh peas, broad beans or berries straight from the garden. At the bottom of the allotment he dug out a small pond and each year we used to watch the frog spawn waiting for them to become tadpoles, then frogs.

As dad got older, then so his health began to give him problems. Late in the 1980’s due to severe arthritis in his ankles and feet he had to give up first one and then the other allotment. But by then my brother and I were both growing up and those days of kicking a ball around down the park with dad had gone. Dad was now content to grow what he wanted to in the garden and greenhouse at home.

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s I became a Special Constable, and despite mom and dad being very proud of me for becoming one, I was always their little girl and I know how difficult it was for them to see me go out on a late night/early morning shift knowing I was on duty at the pubs & clubs emptying times, where even back then there was always an element of danger involved, and always the fear of being assaulted or hurt on duty. Ever the worrying, caring parents.

It’s always important to hold on to all those good memories, and they have helped me get through these past couple of weeks. I have been happy to share my memories with family and friends. I am so going to miss our little chats, and showing dad my photo’s of my latest find in the nature reserve, his stories of the days in national service, his childhood in Knowle, his grandma who bought him up, but I am so glad he has told me so many stories from his past. My father touched my heart like not other person could, and for that I am truly grateful.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt by the heart. Helen Keller

 

Things always seem better when spring is coming!

 

February has not been the month I had hoped it to be!

 

So far this month apart from work, I have found myself having numerous doctors and hospital appointments, and with more screening and tests pending in the coming couple of months.

A couple of weeks ago I found out that after 16 weeks of very patient waiting, that surgery I had to have in October of last year, has not worked, and the surgeon has to do the operation all over again. What is worse is I have been told that this time it may not work either, and the probability is I may have to have the same surgery a third and possibly a fourth time over the next year or two, and if it still doesn’t work then the ‘contraption’ that I call it (which is a Seton cord being used to heal a fistula) may have to stay in place permanently. (All I can say is I now understand what a piece of cheese on a wire cutter feels like!!)  And all of this is preventative action to stop another abscess from forming.

For over 4 years now I have been having regular blood tests and monitoring to keep track of  a condition known as being a ‘pre diabetic’. In real terms this means one who is pre diabetic has a much higher risk of developing the disease diabetes at some point in their lives.  With changes in my diet and lifestyle over these last four years it means that I have been able to stave off the disease and keep it at arm’s length for as long as possible. One of  my hobbies, photography,  has helped me to benefit from this  because  it encourages me to do a lot of walking in parks and nature reserves with my camera, and in general it is good to get out in the fresh air, this is of course more difficult over the winter months because of the weather conditions and the lack of light especially in the early evening, but it has not prevented me from carrying on with it when I have been able to. A brisk 20 minute walk through the nature reserve or park of a morning and then again of an evening after work, is a great way to keep fit without over exerting yourself. Just one problem it can be a little muddy at this time of the year, and I have noticed some funny looks off other passengers of an evening when I get on the bus with muddy shoes. However, to get to see some of the birds that I enjoy watching it does mean having to go a little deeper into the woods, where all the soft mud is! If it’s good enough for the birds and wildlife, then it’s good enough for me.

Over these last 4 years I have watched a lot more closely what I eat and have tried very hard to eat a higher intake of such food as fruit and veg, more chicken and fish instead of red meat, more wholemeal and granary bread instead of white and so on. However due to other issues such as a severe acid reflux problem it actually complicates things more, this effectively means I am restricted to what fruits I can eat due to acid content, despite daily prescribed medication for this condition sometimes it doesn’t always work. It is a little awkward when you have to explain this to people, as some people tend to get the impression that one simply does not want to eat fruit and veg, or don’t like it and this is a way of not having to eat healthy. If only that was so simple and true. One thing I do have to openly admit, and am now feeling a bit guilty about, but lets face it we have all done it and that is to skip meals. For what ever reason, too busy at work, too busy a lifestyle, no time to prepare and cook food, too late in the evening and so it goes on. But I have now been told this is something I can no longer afford to do and take chances with. (note to self…must try much harder)

Over the past couple of months I have noticed I have been feeling a lot more tired and lethargic than usual, more headaches, more thirst, more trips to the loo, but I suppose like any one my age you do tend to put it down to just that…..one’s age! And in addition to that there was all the stress and upset with my father’s health just prior to Christmas which has spilled over into the new year. Thankfully he is a lot better now. But in addition to all that there were other symptoms that surfaced, and in all fairness I have to hold up my hand and say I ignored some of these symptoms, and realistically I suppose I was in denial, because I did not want to believe there was another health problem that I would have to deal with. Unfortunately following my last blood test, it appears that I have to face the fact that I am now a diabetic. Not the best start to the year I have to say. I am now having to learn about the condition and  understand how I have to live with it, and how it is going to affect my life now and in the future.

I am learning to understand that  this disease is going to have a huge impact on my life…for the rest of my life in fact.  The disease can be controlled, but there is no cure. But with continued perseverance on my dietary needs and help from the doctors and diabetic nursing team I hope to keep it under control and try to ‘live as normal life as possible’ and prevent or at least minimize the problems that can occur with this disease.  My GP was explaining to me the other day that a simple cut for most people will heal in no time at all, but for a diabetic if it is not dealt with properly it can lead to other problems, that in turn can be life threatening. Another thing she pointed out is how more prone to sight problems diabetics are. As a result of this I have to have an annual eye scan. I know that I can’t allow  all of this to get me down mentally, if I do then I know the depression will have won, and the last few years of dealing with that illness will have all been for nothing. The one important factor I have learnt recently is that I have to be the one to control the progression of the disease, it is up to me to do everything possible, especially dietary wise to keep it under control. The strange thing is I don’t smoke, I very rarely drink alcohol, except when I socialize with family or friends and even then it is minimal, so an occasional Guinness or Cider, and more rarely an occasional drop of very respectable and fine Malt Whisky. And in recent years I have watched what I eat. I don’t drive or rely on a car and so I end up doing a lot of walking as regular exercise (knee pain due to arthritis allowing me to)  So the question is…..Why me? Why has my body stopped producing sufficient insulin?

Once February is out-of-the-way I do have something to look forward to next month, and Spring is just round the corner, so before my next bout of surgery in April, its time to enjoy March. Again it is about trying to live a normal a life as is possible, and to do the things I want to do.  One of the places  for  a few years I have been wanting to visit is Bristol Zoo & Gardens. Last year for my 50th birthday my family bought me a special ticket for an Animal Experience Day….the chance to meet and greet animals behind the scenes (something of course not every visitor can do) Having finally managed to get some time off work I have booked the Experience day with the Zoo for the 18th March and am very much looking forward to spending a little bit of time behind the scenes with their Lemurs, and the chance to visit a Zoo I have never been to before, or for that matter I have never been to Bristol, so that will be a new and interesting experience for me, getting lost between the coach station and the Zoo 😉

The following week, as a bird and nature lover, I also have the opportunity to visit the Wetlands Centre in London. Hopefully a relaxing coach trip, and a just as relaxing walk around the centre to see and photograph all the different bird species and some additional wildlife.

All of this has been planned for a while, and I am determined to not let my diabetes overshadow these two experiences. I have always believed in Spring being a new beginning. I love this particular time of the year, there is always something to look forward to. Over the last couple of weeks I have been noticing the snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses all starting to bloom. In many ways this is a reassuring sight, in the knowledge that better weather is on the way and therefore the chance to get out and about more often, enjoy the walks and fresh air…and any excuse to go out with my camera. 🙂

 

February will give way

First came the cold,
	a temperature drop so fast and low
	the body could not adapt.

Then came the snow followed by ice and rain
	flooding the yard, creating new ponds,
	as ice still lay in a thick sheet on the surface.

Gradually, the wind and rain passed
	and the sky revealed a glint of blue
	but the clouds  rolled in gray and dark.

It inched out the brief staggered light of the sun
	and once again,
	the world lay chilled and frozen in its wake.

Yet still, somehow in the clearing away
	the wind blown leaf debris
	revealed life pushing forward.

In the confines of the once bloom filled garden
	were tattered iris fronds bent low
	with light green shoots waiting to come forth.

In the protected leaf cover rose
	pointed glimmers of dark green
	barely two inches tinged with white, crocus.

Leaning toward the sunlight, brief as it was
	clinging to the short warmth provided
	with promise of more to come.

Taller still, off to the side, green clumps
	with yellow bases stretching four inches up 
	penetrating frozen, solid ground.

Through the ominous darkness of smoky clouds
	appears an opening edged in puffy white
	and blue sky beaming with the sun.

February will give way,
	allowing winter to take a bow and leave
	as spring anticipates with new life.

Now at last, the cold will pass
	and sunrise and sunset will breathe
	with the promise of hope and life
of a new generation.
	and God’s everlasting love.

                              Poem by D M Babbit

Bring on the Spring!

Many thanks for stopping by, and  have a great weekend everybody.