Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Growing Pains

I've been suffering them this summer. Much to Boy's annoyance. 

I've been calling him a teenager, getting his birth date wrong (I know, right. And I was there. All 27 hours of the whole process). 

My Boy is all growed up.

Last Monday, he graduated from the University of Lincoln having successfully secured his BA (hons) in Advertising and Marketing. He's now on the depressing hamster wheel that is the job hunt.

You have to understand, I'm not coping well. 

You'll remember I didn't cope well when he turned 13 and officially became a teenager. I'm not coping well now either.

The thing is, it's a bit of a given that a parent will love their children (or at least it should be), but I like him. I genuinely like him as a person in his own right. I respect his values and I love his sense of humour. He's kind and generous, he's supportive and ambitious. And yes, we drive each other nuts occasionally. 

He's gone from this:

to this:

Could I be any more proud of him? I don't think I could, I'm at bursting point as it is. As he's all growed up, I suppose I'd better refer to him by his grown up name: Rowan.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

An Open Letter to All those to Whom I Offered Unsolicited Advice:

I am truly sorry. It was done with the best of intentions, I saw your pain and wanted to make it better. I wanted you to stop being in pain. I thought the way to help was to give you the benefit of my experience and wisdom. I see now how mistaken I have been in taking that approach. Actually, what you needed was a hug, a cup of tea and a genuinely listening ear. I am sorry that I failed you and will try harder from now on.

Lots of love


This letter is overdue. It comes out of a cup of tea a couple of Thursdays ago with Stephen W, an NLP coach as we spent the afternoon putting the world to rights and talking about the changing world of Personal Development. One of the things we discussed was what people need when they sit down and go "OMG life sucks."

Do they need interventions? Better coping strategies? A blank cheque? No. Actually, what they need is a friend. Some one to sit with them and listen without judgement or advice. People by in large, don't need fixing, they aren't broken. Life happens and people make the best decisions they can given their experiences up to that point and in the circumstances. 

By in large, I'm not broken. I don't need fixing. Life happened and I made the best decisions I could given my experiences up to this point and in these circumstances. I only know how to be Roses in this world. I don't know how to be you. I'm sorry if I tried to impose my experience on you in your time of need. 

It happened to me a couple of days ago. 

It was delivered with the best of intentions. The unsolicited advice. 

I was told I would only really be happy once I accepted the situation with Dave. Once I came to terms with the cancer and the inevitable outcome. Death I was told, comes for us all. We are all going to die.

As I said, the best of intentions.

Here's the thing. Since December, I've been living with the fear, sorrow, disappointment and grief. I don't have the cancer, it's not me fighting for my life. It isn't about me, and yet, it is. It is about how well I keep it together. How well I sort through my To Do List to do the crucial things first, the essential things next and to be able to shelve the important things so I can rest, until they become crucial or essential. It is about how well I can hold my courage, and then to be kind to myself, when fear overcomes and makes me want to run away to the other side of the world or into a book or ranting on Facebook, so I don't have to deal with my feelings. 

He talked about "acceptance". I think I'm going to have to sit him down and investigate his definition of acceptance. I know what's coming. I've been there before. I have been with three of my parents as they faded and died. Here's the thing, I don't like it. And I don't have to like it. Perhaps it's just a misunderstanding of the concept of acceptance on my part. Over the next few days, I'm going to explore it further. Acceptance is bandied around a lot, a bit like "closure". 

The thing is: I'm doing the best I can. If I think something will help, I do it. The fact of the matter is: this is a truly shitty situation and the only thing that will get me through this is by living in the moment and being open to what comes. I can't do any more. I physically and emotionally cannot. 

All his well-meaning advice did was make me feel more inadequate than I did before he opened his mouth, and resentful of his observations of my fragility and vulnerability. 

It made me aware of the times I have done that to my friends. I don't want to make that mistake again. I'm sorry. I truly am.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Almost there....

This is the last week of Dave's treatment. On Friday he will have finished the complete course of radiotherapy. Phew. He did it! 

At the start of his radiotherapy, he moved back to his as it was easier for him to do the daily appointments from his home just outside of Norwich, than from here in the wilds. I confess I found that change a bit traumatic and the weeks after were a bit hard. In truth, Dave has coped with his diagnosis and treatment far better than I. My physical and mental health have pretty much been in free-fall as I've struggled to deal with things. As a friend said over coffee and cake this morning, there isn't a guide book for our experience over the last eight-nine months. We've been dealing with things the best we can.  Some days are better than others. 

As always, I take the moment to be grateful to the loving support around me. Boy and his lovely have been absolute towers of strength. Z and LT have provided gin and wide shoulders at moments notice. The Lovely and Great Ursus have been ever present, ready to provide tea and cinematic fun. Julia, the fabulous poet kept a weathered eye on me and whose cheery messages lifted my flagging spirits so many times. Not to mention the denizens of Facebook who kept me chuckling with cheeky memes and general shenanigans. Not to mention my other friends who come running at the first sight of a window to meet up, who've understood the weeks of silence. 

The Mindfulness Course is fun. Of course I'm the unruly pupil, with my mind like a barrel-full of monkeys. Much of it, I've come across in different forms before, but the condensed version has been incredibly useful. The different meditations and exercises have been very difficult as my monkeys refuse to stay quiet for too long. Had it been easy, there wouldn't have been much point in doing the training. I had to miss last Saturday's session due to the cold that Dave so generously gave to me. I spent last six days feeling like Monty Python's foot squashed me. Bleugh. 

I've been continuing to Art and am beginning to feel more confident. It's funny, but I pick up the brushes and the pencils without much thought. With the writing and poetry, it's always taken a bit of a push and procrastination before I've sat down. I'm not doing as much as I would like, but that's down to the other responsibilities I have right now. I nearly gassed myself by using turpentine in my studio, this lead to a thumping headache and the purchase of more-lung-friendly solvents and a brush-wash tin. 

I'm continuing my abstract work, but I've also been working on my drawing skills. I don't particularly like still life paintings, but I recognise that it's a useful learning opportunity. I set up some sunflowers and got lost in them. Much to our surprise I produced a drawing that I'm really quite pleased with, I gave it to Dave. 

We had a fabulous weekend in London. There was amazing vegan food, outrageous cocktails, The National Gallery and a boat trip down the Thames. Van Gogh's Sunflowers took my breath away. I could have stared at the painting for hours. Unfortunately, the tourists were an absolute nuisance. And I also include the domestic visitors under that label. There were crowds of people around Sunflowers, all taking pictures of themselves or their friends with the painting. They'd then move off without pausing. It made my blood boil. 

It's not a pretty painting by any means, but Van Gogh captured the sunflowerness of the flowers with each stroke of his brush. The yellow of the background is almost gold against the yellow of the petals. It's just gorgeous. Don't assume that the paintings you see  in books are like their physical selves. Paintings have a presence photography doesn't capture. There's a rawness to Van Gogh's work that I knew because of his history, but it was only standing before his paintings (there are four in the National) that I really felt it. 

Anyway, it's time for me to put it out there. This is what I've been working on....

Interconnectedness detail

Interconnectedness II


So there you are. My arting. I need to do it and it pleases me. I suppose that's all that matters really. Hopefully, the words will come creeping back in the next few weeks. I miss them.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Missing the Words

I can't think of another period in my life since I began my creative writing journey in 2003 where I've lost the Words so thoroughly. It's not that I haven't been creative in this time, in fact, I can honestly say it's been one of the most wonderfully artistic times, but there just haven't been the Words.

Dave begins his radiation therapy on Monday. His fabulous oncologist wants him to do a five week course, five days in the week to knock the tumour back well and good. There is a great deal of concern about how well his bowels will cope with the radiation as there is the chance that they may become paralysed. This would mean a period of hospitalisation and the end of the treatment at this time. 

It's meant Dave's return to his abode outside of Norwich as it will be easier for him to get to his daily treatments from there. I've had a re-shuffle of my bedroom and have incorporated my studio space in it. I also went through my bookshelves and removed two-thirds of my books, keeping only those I am likely to read or are attached to. I now have a plastic crate full and about eight bags of books waiting to go to charity shops. Letting them go was quite hard. Most of my reading these days is genre-based and I tend to download the books onto my kindle out of preference. I find it easier to read on kindle when I can adjust the text size according to how tired my eyes get. And it's not like any of the books are valuable to anyone else. Hauling them around the countryside is an exercise in ego that I no longer have time for. I've known too many people with massive libraries full of worthy books, who were complete tits. I've got nothing left to prove to anyone.

The chickens are fine if a bit of a pain. Canasta decided to go broody again, but with the temperatures being what they were, I was disinclined to let her stay in the greenhouse. I hauled her squawking butt out of there every night and if it got too hot, put the laying bag outside under the damson tree. She got fed up and stopped, but unfortunately all of the hens then stopped laying in the bag. At first I thought they'd stopped laying because they were moulting, they're a scruffy looking bunch these days, but no; they're laying away. I kept them in for a few days and actually, they are laying. Today, I let them out and I'll see what they do. If they keep laying away, we shall have to think again about the arrangements. I can't be having chicks on top of everything else right now (or ever, given Jenga's genetic closeness to the girls). 

You may, or may not remember that this time last year I did a five day artist's skills and methods course and then started a year long drawing and painting course. The five day course led to me falling in irrevocably love with oil paints. I tolerated the drawing and painting course, but had to drop out in January with Dave's diagnosis. I think it must have been April when I thought "fuck it" and picked up my drawing pens and then oil paints. I had to learn as I went along and it was mostly an exercise in frustration. 

Dave lost patience with me and strong-armed me into signing up for a day's course in Oil Painting for Beginners. He also suggested that if I like the tutor, I should ask if they are available for private tuition. He then hit me with the line he used to use on the PhD students in his care: why spend an afternoon in the library, when you can spend six months in the lab? Umm...yeah...okay. 

I really liked the tutor and he seemed to get where I was coming from. We arranged for him to come over and have a look at everything I'd been working on. After he left, I felt quite nauseous. My little shapes, my little obsession spoke to him. He gave me lots of technical advice and his questions made me take myself, my creativity and my art seriously. I'm into the abstract. Shapes and colour in their purest form. Partly because I don't have the skill to do representational art, partly because I'm not terribly interested in representational art. Much of the art scene around here is still life and landscapes. I am booked to do another day's course, this time it's oil outside. I want to know how to draw and paint, if only for when I move on from these shapes. 

Yesterday, I started my four-week mindfulness course. I've never had formal meditation training and I figured this is the perfect time to address this. My mind is like a barrel full of monkeys which is mostly fine during the day, not so great when trying to get to sleep. The past few weeks sleep has been a precious experience. Given sleep deprivation makes me cranky and more vulnerable to daily stresses, anything I can do to help myself right now, has got to be a good thing. Also, because I'm doing this as a course and there are exercises and homework, I have to do it. There are no excuses. Last night, I drifted off to sleep without any difficulty. 

So that's pretty much it darlings. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm pretty sure the Words will be back, so if you could be patient with me, I'd be grateful. I don't take your friendship and support for granted. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

July, who'd have thought eh?

Hello lovelies. How's it going?

It's been a busy time what with one thing and another. Writing hasn't been terribly high on my To Do List that seems to have a reproduction system akin to a rabbit. 

The last scan Dave had at the end of Cycle 4 showed no difference in the main tumour's size. Given the side effects have been getting worse and the damage to his right kidney after a consultation with his oncologist, Dave decided to call a halt to the chemo and go for the radiation treatment. We are waiting for his appointments to come through. After that course, there will be another scan and hopefully, a long period of inactivity on the tumour's part. 

Dave however, will be very busy. He's really looking forward to going back to work at Strangers Roastery. Although, he's been popping in and doing tastings and the odd bits of work, he's missed it. 

I've managed to get a few days in the garden with Dave's lovely sister and we are beginning to tease the shape of things to come out of the mass of nettles and ground elder. She has promised to come visit in the autumn for a mega planting session, but in the meantime, I've got a lot of work to do. 

My application to do the MA has been turned down. It's a "no", but not a permanent no. It was felt that I had too much to deal with emotionally and the training would be distracting and too demanding at this time. As disappointed as I am, I realised that they are absolutely right. I need my energies focused in my life right now. I have other things to do and the training won't be going anywhere.

The chickens are nuts as always. While I was away for my training, the little tinkers treated Boy and Dave like substitute teachers. They played up so much, I was embarrassed. Jenga in particular was a right dick about coming home at night. He thought he'd continue his disobedience on my return. It earned him a few days in the hen house while the hens played. I think he realised the shortness of my fuse when I ran him down twice. I picked him up and carried him home in the end. Since that time, he's behaved reasonably well. 

Boy has his results and now has a BA in Marketing and Advertising. He's spending the summer having fun, working in various music festivals and intends to do his serious job hunting based with me, come the autumn. The job market for graduates sucks so incredibly much right now; it seems like an uphill struggle to get a foot in the door. He's got a good work ethic, oodles of determination and mad skillz, so I'm not worried about his future. 

And then of course, there has been farce and catastrophe of Brexit. I've spent enough time rating about it on other social media and if I'm sufficiently moved, perhaps I'll throw my tuppence worth on here next week. 

I decided to do some mindfulness training and learn to meditate properly, that will keep me out of mischief for a bit. There's also the arting that continues in dribs and drabs. I wrote a poem the other day and there's still my novel to get stuck into. One thing is for certain, Life is all about Change. Some within this woman's control, most not at all so. At the moment, I'm going with the flow.  

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

It's June? Really? How?

Darlings, I'm sorry. I've neglected you dreadfully. It's just been a bit of a tough time and social media seems filled with enough doom and gloom without me adding to it.

This cycle of chemotherapy has knocked Dave sideways and as a result, me as well.

We are doing fine, all things considering. Dave is fricking amazing the way he continues to cope with the chemo and the side effects, as well as me worrying and fussing. The last two cycles are in sight. Yes, there will be the radiation therapy...but we are counting down the sessions now.

The weather this Spring has been diabolical. Truly vile. To the point where quite frankly, I was considering putting my heating back on. And then suddenly, on Saturday...after 10 days of cold, damp and grey...there was sunshine!

Dave's sister and niece came up over the weekend and brought with them loads of warmth and enthusiasm. Just what the doctor ordered. They got me in the garden; got me digging and thinking and planning. When they left Sunday lunchtime, I continued. 

It turns out all my hard work last Autumn with the chickens digging out the roots of the perennial weeds wasn't wasted. Although I haven't eradicated the ground elder and nettles and they've sprung up again with great enthusiasm, they haven't got quite the hold that they've previously enjoyed. 

Z gave me some lovely plants for my birthday. I'd been scratching my head wondering where even to begin. Dave's sister pointed me in the right direction, got them all in and looking fabulous and I've carried on ever since. Following her good advice, I've broken down the gardening into mini-projects and I've been focusing on one area at a time. 

My scatter gun approach wasn't really making a visible dent in things (even though it was) and now after roughly four days work, I can really see the difference. There was a pond, and while it could have been again (or a bog garden) I decided to keep the structure and create an homage instead. We'll pop in little alpines in rocky crevices and it should be quite fun.

Scrabble and Polly are in their second broody week. I'm getting a bit bored of them hanging out in the greenhouse now. It's put Canasta right off laying there and I'm having to chase around after her to make sure I find her laying places. She's also quite lonely wandering around by herself. Jenga...well...he's swanning around making loads of noise as usual. No change there.

Have some pix darlings.

 Look at my magnificent cock! Isn't Jenga gorgeous?
 My birthday plants from Z (except the oriental poppy that gatecrashed the party) 
 The Pond Homage
 From another angle
Teeny Tiny Very Smelly Roses

Saturday, May 07, 2016

From Chickens to Gardening, via Bullocks

It's been a bit weird and crazy and nuts round here for a variety of reasons that will ensue further on. To bring you up to date as quickly as possible, I've decided to bullet things. 

Polly wondering when Canasta would stop being such a dick
  • Well, it's been a bit fun around here. Canasta decided to go broody and determinedly sat in the greenhouse outside my kitchen door.
  • Broody hens are grumpy-as-fuck hens. 
  • Polly thought it looked like fun and tried it out for a few days. But then she realised it was not very much fun at all and went back to normal.
  • Jenga played fast and loose with two of Z's pullets to the point that they were escaping from her coop to go play with him.
  • He became a very wilful cock and began refusing to come home at night. 
  • I caught one of the hens trying to be broody and immediately popped her and Jenga in my coop.
  • They were as happy as anything until Scrabble and Polly realised what was going on.
  • I returned the little hen suitably chastened and kept Jenga in for a week or so.
  • He has behaved since.
  • Canasta eventually got bored sitting on a clay egg and is now back to normal.
  • My little flock is happy again.
Canasta wondering why she can't be left alone

  • Well, bullocks actually.
  • While Z was away, a very nice man brought seven of them to over-summer on the Ups & Downs field.
  • Which was fine, except bullocks aren't cows (yes, I know. I'll explain. Give me a minute).
  • The cows last year were quite content to mooch around the field, eat grass and sunbathe.
  • Not so these young lads.
  • Within days they sabotaged their drinking tank and started playing with plastic pots stacked on the other side of the fence of the kitchen garden.
  • They liked to play "It" with the cats and chickens. The chickens and cats didn't find it as much fun.
  • The little buggers tried to eat the roof of the chicken coop with a mum and her youngsters. The tin with the chicken food was always covered with bullock spit every time I went to feed them.
  • When Z got back she moved the coop, sorted out the water trough and generally got the youngsters to behave (because she brooks no shit from no one, no matter how much bigger they are)
  • A couple of weeks ago, she came through slightly apologetic saying one of the bullocks escaped and was currently standing on the drive.
  • It took three of us to get the damned thing back.
  • It escaped again within 10 minutes of being put back.
  • While we waited for the dairy farmer to send a man to fix the fence, as I sat there watching it, it tried three times to get out. Little bugger.
  • Herding chickens was good practice for herding cattle. The only difference was the bullock was bigger and had more legs. Seriously. No difference. Attitude problems. 
  • Pamela (who is totally lovely and awesome) sent Dave a pressie, all the way from Winnipeg, Canada. A blankie in his favourite colours.
  • He loves it to bits and for days wouldn't even let Rummy share.
  • The chemo is beginning to bite and Dave is getting more easily fatigued these days.
  • Thankfully, we are nearly at mid-point. 
  • When Z was away with LT (Lovely Tim, her SO if you don't visit her blog), I looked after the menagerie, including Eloise the cat.
  • I've given up shutting the doors between our respective abodes.
  • Eloise likes to come and visit. She says she comes around because there's never any food at hers. We know that's major fibs, but she's now got her own bowl here.
  • She will come round and will greet Rummy with a nose sniff, closely followed by a thump and then there's Ball of Cats rolling around the floor.
  • Rummy gives as good as he gets.
  • They chase each other around the garden like mad things.
  • Rummy will often go visit Z and LT in the evenings.
  • It's very sociable around here.
  • After Canasta stopped being broody, Scrabble decided she didn't want to lay in the greenhouse anymore.
  • I knew she was laying away, but hadn't got it together enough to follow her.
  • Dave found she was laying in some nettles (always the bloody nettles) on the other side of my fence.
  • That was fine. I took the eggs away and put one of the clay eggs there, so she'd keep laying in the same place.
  • Unfortunately, I forgot to tell Z's gardener not to mow over that spot.
  • When Scrabble discovered she couldn't lay in secret there anymore she was very put out.
  • She spent the afternoon looking for places to lay.
  • Dave and I were having a cup of tea at the dinning table when we glanced up and there she stood in the living room, on my carpet. She'd come in through the front door.
  • As gently as possible I shooed her out (I didn't want her to crap on the floor in protest).
  • A little while later on, I come up to Dave who is still sitting at the table. "There's a chicken on the kitchen counter," he says. I look and see my chicken mug on the kitchen counter. "OMG the chemo has rotted your brain," says I in my usual caring fashion (call me Florence). "No, not the chicken mug" he says slightly annoyed. "Chicken on the counter!" There's a little burble, I go to investigate and sure enough, there's Scrabble.
  • Z pointed out I could have got a large pan out for her. It would have been efficient. 
  • This is why I love Z so much.
  • I'm painting again. It's brilliant (no, not my painting - that sucks) being able to be creative again.
  • I am now okay with the fact that it will take many years for me to suck less at my art. 
  • Dave bought me a proper painter's smock to go over my clothes. He doesn't want me to use his jumpers any more. Fair enough.
  • I realised that the sketching easel I was using wasn't robust enough. Dave brought me a studio easel as a birthday present (because he is awesome).
  • The great thing about working with oil paints is I can put down my palette (okay, plastic plate) and brush and walk off when I've had enough. It also means I can pick them up again just as easily. 
  • Dave came through and saw me painting in my onesie, covered by the smock. He thought it was really funny (I don't see it myself. He has a strange sense of humour). 
The Meaning of Life
  • I am pursuing my training in Core Process Psychotherapy.
  • I went down to Devon for the first in two weekends of foundation training.
  • It was bloody brilliant.
  • So much so, I've applied to do the MA.
  • I will need to complete the foundation training and attend an interview.
  • Please keep everything crossed that the Powers that Be look upon my application favourably.
  • It will be a few weeks before I know (I have to have the interview before they offer me a place).
  • It will be a huge commitment in time and money, but one that will be worth it.
  • It seems this is the week of British summer. 
  • I've already carted three barrow-fuls of nettles and other weeds out of my garden and it doesn't look any different. 
  • At least my work of last autumn was worth it. The nettles are coming out a lot easier this time round. 
  • It also helps that my beloved bought for me a pair of leather gauntlets that the nettles can't sting though to get my hands and wrists. 
  • Unfortunately, I still got stung on my legs as I moved a bundle of the damned weeds around my body. Bastards. 

Apart from my still ranting about the state of hospital parking, we are still here, breathing in and out regularly and happily. Much love darlings.