Do it now

This was the scene yesterday. I was by the sea and swam in warm gentle waves. I read some of Wolf Hall and sat with bare arms and legs enjoying what might be my last swim this year. It was glorious.

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And today about the same time this is what I am looking at. Tommy’s first wet walk.

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Everything changes. The leaves that are green turn to brown.  Enjoy it all as much you can. It’s over far too quickly.

And while I am on this theme.

Off now to watch Strictly with my daughter, stir ( and eat) some risotto and help put the boys to bed.

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Not long now

Two months, TWO MONTHS (!) since I last blogged. And here is an update on my forlorn hope plants.

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Haven’t they done well? Marvellous what a transplant, some intermittent watering and lots of neglect will do.

I’ve had a lot of ideas for blogs, mostly they come when I am out running or walking ie not at a computer. I am not sure how interesting my musings at home are but I know, don’t I? – that writing about trips away are popular with readers.

And we have another one planned.

Last year Helen and I did Our Long Walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella. On the way we met a number of people who had begun the walk further back along The Way. Some had begun at Vezelay, some at Le Puy en Velay and one from Haarlem – rather alarmingly she had left her family on 1st March and was making her way to Santiago – this was late May. They added a lot to our experience and all said that the walk through France was worth doing. And that the food was better.

So this year Helen and I are attempting to walk from Le Puy which I think is in Auvergne to SJPP in the Basque country. It’s another 500 miles and through some beautiful country side in SW France. We said last year we would do this but now, now we have to make good on our promise. We have the kit, we have the tickets, we have the guidebooks.IMG_3937

There’s nothing like the sainted Brierley this year. We enjoyed his guidebook at many levels. His relief maps and tips were useful and his opinions and honest spirituality were a good starting point. He was the ‘Learn from Me’ parent and we were rebellious adolescents: we enjoyed disagreeing with him and I personally defaced his publication with smart remarks. “Oh really Mr Brierley, 18 km with no shelter and no water is sublime on the meseta. Really? You should get out more.”  (I heard a marvellous quote this morning on radio 4, that a mother’s place is in the wrong. So true.) But like a parent he earned our grudging respect, so much so that I have bought three of the same guidebook for different purposes. One I lost because I left the hostel before dawn and didn’t check my kit properly. One for snipping up, scrap booking and defacing. And one to read and show.

This year’s guides are sterile in comparison. Heavy on the maps and a tad clinical and, alarmingly, Miam Miam Dodo ( Yum Yum Bye Byes) is in French. Both of us have some French and are hoping the total immersion experience will bring all that vocabulary flooding back. But none of this gets any easier as we age. I will celebrate my 55th birthday on this walk and find reaching for the correct English word like feeling into the back of dark cupboard feeling pretty certain there’s a useful pair of shoes in there, but being unable to lay my hands on them instantly. So heaven only knows what it will be like in French.

I made a list of all the words we learned in Spanish last year and it runs to around 150, maybe more. So as I went with five: “Dos cervesas por favor – Gracias” – I am hoping the ratio of improvement will be similar, as actually deep down, very deep in a wardrobe of my brain which may back onto Narnia, I know a lot of vocabulary and indeed some grammar. I’ll let you know.

It’s a strange feeling this year. Last time I was nervous and many things were complete unknowns. This time we have more idea. We have honed our kit list and acquired those important merino base layers. And our thermals bought in the hellhole which is Carrion Regardless are coming with us. And Helen has done lot of snoring research and bought some industrial ear plugs.

I don’t feel so nervous.  The walking will be fun, mostly and that’s the bit I really like. The stages are graded by difficulty green, orange and red. There are three red days.

The food should be better  – could it be worse? And the accommodation will be French. Say no more. I’ll let you know.

 

Who’s to say…?

In the corner of my bedroom there’s a vase containing two of last year’s alliums.

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Everyday I look at them and sometimes I see them. You know what I mean.

A good friend asked me a few years ago, Verity how do you hear God speak to you? And I was a little flummoxed as I wanted her to remain my friend but I didn’t really think of God in those terms much anymore.

I don’t go to church. I don’t read the bible as I did. I don’t ask much of him as I used to. I don’t pester him with requests and temper my tiresome prayers with praise. But I feel closer to him than ever. And I believe in his goodness and faithfulness.

So I gave her this reply. I find God through metaphor. I also find God in nature and solitude. In stillness and presence. In poetry, and it doesn’t have to be lofty. In everyday things.

Here are some more alliums: this year’s.

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They are of course stunning and upright
and glorious. They are also crowded round with self sown nigella which I don’t have the heart to pull out. It would
show the alliums to better advantage but those beauties stand tall and proud anyhow.

And that’s how it is when we’re young. Whether we knew it or not, we were pretty darn gorgeous. I look at young people today and find their youth so beautiful and precious.

(And soon it’s over and you find yourself a dried out husk in the corner of the bedroom. No just joking.)

But who’s to say one is more beautiful than another? They are simply at different stages of being. And the naked elegance of the flower which has dropped its blooms has its own glory. It’s vulnerable but still strong. It has a kind of dignity.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3 v11.

Everything.

June 4th

A year ago yesterday Helen and I walked into Santiago de Compestella having spent nearly six weeks walking across Northern Spain. It feels like yesterday and also a distant memory. It was a huge and varied experience, up there with childbirth for the full monty. We arrived sweaty and elated and a little disbelieving that we’d made it. We hugged each other and lots of other people. Had our picture taken by another pilgrim and then sat in a corner of the sunlit square, taking time to arrive as our guru, John Brierley advised. I had a silent weep, of joy I think now, relief maybe, though we never really considered giving up.

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We checked into the swankiest hotel on the square and made full use of their sparkling facilities.

In some way it compensated for the dire places we had stayed along the way, however there was still a piper playing strangely unconnected notes outside our window from before dawn till well after lights out.

The fluffy white towels were just as we imagined them. And imagining them had helped us when the towels had been grubby and thin.

But the varied experience was all part of it.

The blisters, the snorers, the borers, the unimaginative menu, the hail and snow. The quiet pleasure of leaving an anonymous village before dawn and feeling the sun on our backs as it came up, casting our shadows long before us as we walked westwards.

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The daily ritual of café con leche.

And not knowing what we might find around the next corner, unexpected kindness and beauty.

One of the joys for Helen and me was the lack of planning. Normally hyper-organised we let a lot things just fall into place and felt the freer for it. For that time it was right.

 

 

 

Three years ago yesterday my daughter got married and the wedding and reception came together in a fluid and joyful way as a result of months of thought and careful planning. It wasn’t without hitch or incident, the bat, the fight, the gas going out, but on the whole it was great.

And since then, so much has happened. I have two grandsons. Both of whom were surprises and both bring life and smiles and energy to my world. Who’d be without them for not being planned?

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My dad had a stroke not long after the wedding and is with some courage, rebuilding his world. My son fell in love and then out of love with a beautiful girl and her daughter who are now lost to us. Today I heard of the death of a young woman I never met but who had so much to live for. Her loss makes me weep, even at some remove.

So what am I saying? Sometimes we plan and we need to. It is fitting. Sometimes plans are unnecessary and we can enjoy spontaneity and the flow of life in all its fullness. Sometimes things happen and they knock you sideways and off your feet, on to your back and kick you in the guts. You don’t know what’s around the next corner. So live today. Say yes.

Live while you are alive.

Buy those flowers. Smile at him.  Invite them over.

Look up.

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I thought I’d deleted this picture below, but it snuck in.

 

 

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Coming back to myself

Another long break from writing and no excuses. Ok just one. I’ve been busy. Not busy like when you’re in full time work or have three children under four busy, (or both of those, heaven help them). Busy as in we have recently bought a place by the sea and I have been equipping it. This is a task I know many women would just LOVE, but those who know me will know that I am a truly hopeless shopper and take little pleasure in prolonged browsing.

Many times I have been to Ikea/Asda/insert name of large shapeless store and filled my trolley with stuff I think I want, only to find that I don’t as the checkout looms and the thought of the queues and packing and unpacking just overwhelms me and I abandon my cart.

Also I don’t like too much choice. (As an a aside, I am glad I met Mr T when I did! Life partner sorted at 22. Phew). But this is about shopping. I once did all my Christmas food shop from a small Co op in Rochester much to my neighbour’s amusement. I couldn’t face Tesco and the mad scramble.

Internet shopping was invented for me. I can order five dresses – which I did pre wedding –  and send all of them back, postage paid. I can click and collect – O frabjous day calloo callay! But when you are buying a sofa, or dining table, something you’ll have to live with for QUITE SOME TIME, it really does mean trawling round the shops and spending a deal of time and money. Even then you have to make the leap of imagination in placing said smart furniture into a previously only glimpsed room. It’s so darn risky and quite a trial for the queen of indecision.

Anyhow we’re getting there. We have dilemmas over beds and mattresses not arriving together. And the wrong bed, too small 4’6″ not 5′. (I was agitating for a truly huge bed but Mr T said no. He likes to know there’s someone beside him evidently. Sweet.) But for the most part the stuff is on its way.

But yesterday he went down to receive a bed and some chairs, and I decided to walk down and join him later. I got a series of very happy texts from him about the sun and the sea and the furniture so it was a good decision.

I walked from my house on the hill to Sandgate about 8 miles and despite crossing the M20 and the Highspeed rail link, a lovelier walk would be hard to imagine. The sun was shining and the birds were busy doing their Disney thing and I felt strong and full of energy.IMG_3491

There were a few hazards – the footpath crosses a golf course. My brother in law’s brother had his teeth knocked out and his jaw smashed by a stray golfball so I walked that part pretty quickily and in addition I was wearing the purple pilgrim jacket of protection so I survived that unscathed. Then the walk took me across a field which is often full of cows, and I know from Adam Henson on Countryfile that you should not enter a field of cows without a stick – he doesn’t – even if their interest is completely benign, they can turn and trample. And then I would be a purple pancake in a cow field. So I picked one up – hefty isn’t it? I wasn’t going to stand any nonsense, calves or no calves.

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So on I strode feeling like Julia Bradbury or Janet Street Porter, planning this blog and smiling to myself about walking with my ‘staff’, as if I were royalty. However there were other dangers, which I found out about after I had crossed the MOD field!

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Nevertheless this is what I discovered: that as I walked I felt freer and more myself and less pressured by issues which feel so huge – this or that sofa, family concerns, whether our neighbours are going to be pleasant, whether they will respect the rules – important to me as you know – telescope backwards and become less and less significant and all this stuff,  which seems so pressing just isn’t. My mind loosened up and again the walk and my body and my self merged and I felt that liberating sense of flow which is so precious and so hard to describe or share.

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There’s a line in Lord of the Rings when, after his eleventy first birthday party, Bilbo sets off on his travels again. He says to Gandalf: “Don’t worry about me. I am as happy now as I’ve ever been, and that is saying a great deal. But the time has come and I am being swept off my feet at last. “

He then begins to sing ‘The road goes ever on and on’  – which I do too on occasion but mostly I say ” I am as happy now as I’ve ever been”. And it’s mostly when I am walking because it frees me in a way I can’t explain but try to.

Ok not knowing

Mr thompsononthehill was not impressed with my last post. He said it read more like a diary entry and that there were things I could have written about, but hadn’t.  He was right. I wrote about something safe and the words stayed flat on the page.

I began writing about ‘the dark side’ a frivolous term I used to use for supernatural phenomena which disturbed me. As a charismatic evangelical Christian I had a firm, if not rigid set of beliefs and while I purported to walk in freedom ( It was for freedom that Christ has set us free) I lived in a lot of fear. Now fear comes in through many doors and not just through religious dogma, and I was anxious throughout my formative years. But until I was forty – ish I could never have countenanced a close friendship with someone who enjoyed anything like yoga, Tai Chi, or homeopathy – even herbalism and osteopathy were a bit dodgy.  Ouija and seances were ‘straight from the pit’ and forbidden in the bible, but anything remotely New Age was OUT.  Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of supernatural manifestations, psychologically speaking why was I so afraid of people reaching out and asking questions about why we are here and the power that sustains us?  By keeping my world straitjacketed in theology it felt safer. It was under my control. But it was small.

The breakthrough began about ten years ago when I heard Guy Chevreau – the calm and friendly face of Toronto City Airport Church, itself then a hotbed of spiritual phenomena – speak at a conference. He began speaking of books by Frank Peretti on demonic kingdoms which were all the rage in the early 90s. These books were terrifying. Powers of good and evil fought for domination over towns and cities. Heavenly angels ultimately won but not without a hard fight and human casualties. Many of the human protagonists were deceived by New Age practices and even children were drawn in by attachment to toys with special powers. Scary stuff. No doubt these books were intended to inspire faith and courage in their readers and to motivate them to prayer for the nation, but the memories I have of them are very dark and writhing with menace. Intercession became important to me: and I steered clear of American cartoon merchandise. It was all lumped together as evil. There was some gradation, obviously aromatherapy was less harmful than Ouija but I would have made a negative and fearfilled judgement about it all.

But Guy, bless him, in his understated Canadian way said, “You know, the earth is the Lord’s and everything – and everyone – in it.” And there was the beginning of my freedom.

While there are practices I would still not take part in, (seances and Ouija being way up there), I now feel no need to have an opinion on for example hypnosis or healing. Our world is complex and throbbing with life, as humans we are fearfully and wonderfully made and who am I to judge how God might reveal himself? Recently I heard on Radio 4 Start the Week that that which we call ‘space’ is not empty, indeed that too is buzzing with energy.

Since those days my circle of friends has widened and includes all sorts of women who enjoy a spiritual life quite different from the one I grew up in. By not being so quick to judge and allowing myseIf to be curious I have learned a lot and experienced more widely the goodness of God.

Which brings me to the events on Saturday. I had invited two friends to lunch, both called Clare. Not convenient when you’re telling an anecdote.  One is very into crystals and Tai Chi, the other more conventional: I taught with her for many years. She suffers terrific migraines and has been having acupuncture. I had welcomed them,  taken their coats and was stirring the soup. My back was turned but I could hear their conversation, which went along the lines of:

Sit down and I’ll see what I can feel.

Ok, are you going to touch me?

No. I don’t touch you.

Ok.

I turned round and and there she was, Crystal Clare doing Reiki healing in my kitchen.

We (the non healers) became very quiet, respectful.  She, doing the healing, holding her hands over the other Clare’s head said, “You can talk you know.” Very matter of fact and pop went the pseudo-religious atmosphere and we began talking dogs and carpet. The healing sanctuary became my kitchen again. With soup and cake on the side.

I don’t know what happened, releasing blockages of energy and suchlike but Migraine Clare felt better. They then did some pendulum swinging with a necklace of mine. It doesn’t have to be a chain, it can be a needle on a string, I am told. Crystal Clare knows which way it swings for her for a yes, side to side, and which way for a no, back and forth. She began asking about food allergies. Wheat? Dairy?

I was intrigued.

Who are you asking? I asked.

She gave me a look. I helped her out.

The Universe? The higher power?        Oh my word. (Inside voice).

Who was she asking? It looked like she was getting replies from someone/thing/where, namely Migraine Clare should limit her wheat intake.

I don’t know and I am ok not knowing. It didn’t feel evil or even uncomfortable, I was happy they were expressing their friendship and support for each other. You might call it sisterly love. (By their fruits you shall know them?) God is bigger than I can possibly imagine and can show himself in any way he chooses. S/He is certainly not bound by any theology I may adhere to. By not reacting from fear or suspicion, not needing to be in control, by being curious and trusting the spirit/Spirit inside me, I know more, feel more, enjoy more of the goodness of God in the land of the living. That calls for an Hallelujah, doesn’t it?

Max, and being uncritical

This is Max who is staying with us for a week. Let’s get acquainted. Max is not the handsomest dog in the world: he looks like something created from the game of Misfits. His skin is black, his hair is white.  His legs are too short for his sturdy body and his ears are just plain silly.

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Furthermore Max is not intelligent. He can’t read Billy-Old-Dog’s signals of “ I am not interested. Just p*** off you young whipper-snapper!” He startles at many things. He nudges his bowl with his nose and jumps back as if bitten.

On our walks we pass a fallen tree, and as we approach his pace gets slower and he stops and looks intently at it as if he can discern something I can’t. Admittedly it’s a large one, but let’s face it, it doesn’t move. (We once had a dog who used to stare over my shoulder when I was watching tv which was unnerving, especially if it was Dr Who, or Morse).

The same feeling arises in me when Max goes all still and alert in the woods. As a child I read constantly in Readers Digests about dogs’ instinct for danger and their selfless and heroic acts, well, all I can say is I wouldn’t rely on Max to save me from marauders or bears, neither of which have I come across in West Wood. Fortunately.

(I have met some rather overdone partying campers who couldn’t find their way back the car park and I regularly meet a guy who resembles the chief zombie from I am Legend. He looks frightening but is a gentle soul who walks from before dawn well into the day to deal with some unspecified pain he endures. Bless him).

Max prefers another dog’s food. He ignores his own bowl and lurks meaningfully beside Bill and waits till he pauses and rushes in to devour what’s left. He is like the annoying kid who hangs about, plays no real part in the game, even sabotages it from time to time, just makes up the numbers.

But, and you knew it was coming, didn’t you, there is not an ounce of harm in Max. He doesn’t whine or meither. He is unfailingly cheerful and accepts Niamh (a committed dog botherer) putting him on a lead, walking him up and down the garden and tying him up to a rail, untying him, attaching him to another rail, teaching enforced agility over shaky boxes and sticks, instructions delivered with the sternest of voices. She has no time for dog whispering. Dog barking more like.

(I’ve just had the scariest, hairiest man come to the door with a parcel for me. This man was half bear and wore dark glasses and bad hat. He also stood too close with his little electronic ‘sign here’ thing. And did Max growl or bark at him? Did he heck? And did my senile Billydog who can’t even cock his leg to pee anymore? Yes he did. Pause for applause).

Back to Max’s array of small virtues. We have just been for a run. He is ever alert to the possibility of going out, nipping past me into the porch at every opportunity. He leaps into the back of the Land Rover despite his shortness of leg. It never looks as though the move comes easily for him, as if he might fall  back at the last moment with a frenzy of scrabbling. Sits nicely on the old carpet in the back, not panting in my ear. When we arrive he leaps out and waits for me. He has no idea he could just run off and lark about in the woods on his own, making doggy friends and sending up pheasants. We set off at a plod and run through the woods for about half an hour: it wasn’t fast or athletic. He’s got short legs and I am 54. But he scampered about and pee’ed every chance he could. He watched and followed me and thoroughly enjoyed the exercise, up and down tracks and trails and he didn’t run off (although other dogs tempted him), nor did he judge my running which was like stodgy potato. When we found our way back to the car, he jumped in and lay down, even though he could have kept going for another hour or so.

When you run in a group, or with just one other person, there is often an element of competition. Unspoken mostly but it’s there. Even when I run with John and I have no chance EVER of catching him or keeping up with him (unless he has flu or something), I am aware of making comparisons between his ability and mine. Pointless I know but I am being honest here. But when you run with a dog, he’s just pleased to be there. A dog doesn’t make you reflect on your style or pace or personal best. You just do it. Together.

George Eliot wrote:

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.

Yes please, more of that. Maybe without the dog?

(He’s now snoring gently in his basket.)

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September 11th

P1020171It is my birthday, on what must be one of the most famous, or infamous, dates of the year. I’ve always liked my birthdate: I like odd numbers. Coincidentally all our houses have had odd numbers, both children have odd dates for birthdays as does John. It feels like a nice chunky number and for me September is a beautiful month, half summer, half autumn and intensely poignant with the dying of the light.  I loved school and didn’t really mind going back, but when my children were small I found their return to uniform and closed in shoes all too metaphorical. I missed their summer freedom and (guilty pause) when we took them away during term time, the words “It’s only school” were heard to pass my lips. I don’t regret it. School is important but family and making memories is more so.

I know several other people with the same birthday. A rather gorgeous leggy teenager called Lucy G and a poet called Sarah Salway. I know DH Lawrence was born on September 11th 1885. Apparently Johnny Vegas and someone called Moby also share my birthday. I looked them up. President Allende of Chile was deposed and shot himself forty years ago today plunging Chile into years of dictatorship and oppression. I heard that on Radio 4 last week. Mary Oliver my favourite poet was born on September 10th. She got that wrong.

However most people will associate September 11th with the attack on the Twin Towers. Our media saturated world means that story will run and run. No one could deny the pain of those who lost family and friends and it’s important to remember those lives and their loss. However when I began thinking about this post I was thinking of all the babies who were actually born that day and how so many more wonderful events occurred than could ever be reported. Can that equation be made? Not on paper but it’s my blog and my head and my birthday and I am making it.

I came across a website http://www.birthdayspirit.org/ to help those of us blessed with this birthdate celebrate in a new way. Apparently some people feel unable to mark their birthday on The Day. Others got married on 11/9/2001 and now feel eclipsed – wrong word – but that they got off on a wrong footing. Bless them.

Some of it is all too American for me, baking cakes for firefighters, having an extra candle on your cake for those lost, but one of the themes that struck home to me was a call, not only to remember the many dead, but the determined heroism of those who saved so many more lives that day.

“Tomorrow is the 12th Anniversary of the largest and most successful rescue effort in history. It is estimated that anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000 people were successfully rescued and removed from the World Trade Center Towers prior to their catastrophic collapse. The collapse of the twin towers killed 2,977 innocent people, including 343 firefighters, 23 Police Officers, 37 Port Authority, who went in the buildings to rescue more people and to put out the fires. Please take a moment to remember each of those 2,977 innocent lives that were lost, especially the firefighters, Police Officers, Paramedics and Port Authority . But also take a moment to rejoice the 10,00 to 14,000 lives that were saved by fire and police officers that responded to the attacks 12 years ago.”    Yes, I will.

I heard Lee Evans the stand up comedian talk about his acting career and his achievements. He said despite playing to 20,000 + people at Wembley Arena, he is a very shy person who struggles to believe his luck. He writes and paints and lives his life to the full. He said ” At least I don’t kill people – I make them laugh.” He adds to the joy of the world. It’s all a question of balance and where we give our attention.

Now, where’s my cake?

No need to conquer the mountain

Scotland was lovely, despite the weather, and although I walked solidly for four hours on our only bright day – half a day really – I put on 3lbs in three days! How does that happen? I know: it was the booze and the chocolate. I took in a lot of chocolate. And a lot of chips. The menus in the village where we stayed were a tad dull. Cod and chips. Scampi and chips. Washed down with McEwan’s, not me, him. I sipped delicately on a small bottle of Sol.  Then had a Drambuie at the end of the meal. It was cold and wet.

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John found a new whisky he liked. Pronounced Boonahaben.

The walking was fine. Steep in places, but so beautiful and I did want to bag a Munro. But I am scared when it comes to mist and cloud, especially when you’re near the top and the path has disappeared into a  peaty mess. The peak plays a game of Now you see me:

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Now you don’t.

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But that pretty cloud is hovering low over the mountain and can descend at any point, throwing a poor lowlander like me into real or imagined peril. Neither of us can reliably map read.  A course in orienteering beckons.

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Anyhow we got within 100m of the top and again the weather changed and again I decided to come down. I was disappointed but I felt some consolation when I saw younger and fitter looking couples turn back. I wanted to complete the walk, but hey, it was still a challenge and lovely in the seeing and the doing. I have no need to conquer the mountain.

Home now and basking in tropical temperatures. A swim at 7.30 this morning was glorious. We swam out to that buoy, then drank coffee from a flask. Modest pleasures. An ongoing theme.

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Managing expectations

I had coffee with two old friends the other day, one of whom I hadn’t seen in seven years. She is headteacher of a successful, indeed outstanding, school in Kent and despite this she looked great. She had just returned from three weeks in Spain with her partner – another teacher- staying a week in paradors (I know what they are now) and two weeks in a villa. They had done a lot of walking, (not as much as me ;)), and felt replenished. It had taken the best part of five weeks holiday to reset to zero so to speak, such was their commitment to the job.

Much heated debate could now incur about teachers and their timetables and their whingeing and ‘proper jobs’ etc but the bottom line is they do it and we don’t and we don’t want to, otherwise we would. It’s a pretty thankless task facing thirty kids, their parents, the demands of an ever-changing National Curriculum and so on. But that’s not my point. My point is, and I’ll be brief, this couples’ children, slightly younger than mine but still adults, are nothing like their parents. Furthermore they are nothing like the parents expected them to be. The parents are ambitious and fit and dedicated. Their kids are content to mosey along in dead end jobs so long as they have enough to pay the rent and buy beer. One is very overweight and the other represented his college at poker. He never lost but that’s not the point. In our day (yawn) poker playing was not a legitimate leisure activity and had I not known the family personally I would have formed a negative impression of the children.

This is all about me and my prejudices. My expectations. The last time I saw these kids they were fresh faced and in short trousers. Not quite, but they still did what their parents told them – lots of healthy outdoor pursuits and homework handed in on time. I expected them to carry on in the same vein and be mini versions of their uber successful parents. They aren’t.

If we are lucky enough to have children we (many of us, OK, I did) place an enormous burden of expectation on them. The only time we want them to be normal is as the emerge form the womb. From then on we are watching to see that they reach their milestones and achieve the required level in literacy, pass their GCSEs, driving test etc etc And their personal lives are subject to scrutiny as well. We want them to be happy and many of us know they should be happy in their own way but we have an idea how to make that happen – our way, the way we did things.

I read that expectations are ‘resentments under cultivation’. John, the wise old bunny, calls them ‘disappointment waiting to happen’.

My mum is a fine friend to many people and walks the extra mile for them. She is thoughtful and considerate and can’t understand when some other people don’t behave in like fashion. They don’t and it is hurtful. How do you deal with that? By being true to your self and not expecting quid pro quo? It’s tough. But wise. I find it takes constant monitoring of my expectations to allow people and events to unfold and take their own shape. Letting go of my shoulds-template for how things ‘should’ be. Then I am free and so are they.

Another swimming photo. That little dot of flesh is John, yes he’s crazy for sea swimming too now. For some reason I can’t make the picture bigger!