For the fact that I’m here. Living. Breathing. Experiencing. Loving. Working.
Last week, someone I knew eighteen years ago, died. It hit me surprisingly hard. He was a good man and a very dear friend to me. More like a surrogate father really.
We drifted apart and, now he’s gone, there will never be the chance to connect again. He leaves a loving and devoted wife, a son, two daughters and many grandchildren.
Christmas this year will be a sore time indeed and I shall be praying for them with my love on that day.
Today, I am thankful for my family.
My sweet adult children who have grown into the most wonderful adults. My beautiful granddaughter whom I adore so much, words simply can not express. I’m am blessed indeed.
Today, I am thankful for where I live.
I am blessed to have miles of countryside around my home. Just one house separates my us from the fields, which we walk the dogs through regularly.
On Saturday, I was returning from dropping my daughter at work just as the sun was rising. The sky was clear and the fog was rising above the fields. It was a beautiful sight so instead of going straight indoors when I got home, I felt compelled to go and stand in the fields and breathe in the fresh, crisp autumnal morning air. It was incredibly life affirming.
Goa. The little state in West India, famed for the long stretches of beaches, sweeping palms, full moon raves and the oldy woldy Portuguese charm.
For me, personally, though, itmeans so much more than that. I’ve been visiting Goa for 20 years and I love, love, love the place!
Here’s what makes me go crazy nuts with excitement every time I have a visit planned.
Family and Friends
Fifteen years ago, I rode my scooter down a gorgeous little leafy lane in search of rented accomodation. I was directed towards a beautiful house where I was met with a typically Goan warm welcome from the family who lives there.
All these years later and I’ve never stayed anywhere else! We have all watched each other’s children grow into teens and adults and seen marriages and new children born into the family.
The members of this beautiful family are amongst my closest friends in the world.
When Im there, I get so well cared for by my lovely Goan Mum. At home in the UK I am a carer and as a lone parent, everything is on my shoulders. As soon as I walk in those garden gates, I go from being full time carer to the ‘cared for’.
I love to play with the kids and I adore them all, including the neighbours children. We hang out together and do arts and crafts and play games. They’re all such beautiful kids.
I tend to put on a ton of weight when I’m staying as Mum feeds me enormous amounts everyday. Sometimes I just want to sit and chat in the kitchen but then the next thing I know I have a plate of food in front of me which, by the way, is magic. No matter how much I eat, that plate just refills!
I love hanging out with my ‘sisters’, chatting about stuff and putting the world to rights.
I live in a room in the treetops overlooking a field. Each morning, I look at my window and wait for the light to come. As soon as it does, I open my balcony door and am met with a sight which fills my heart with happiness and contentment; trees. Palm trees, teak trees, bamboo, banana trees and more. I step outside and look over at the field and listen to the sounds of my little neighbourhood waking up and feel blissful in my heart. What a way to rise in the morning! To be surrounded by tree energy almost as soon as Ive opened my eyes!
I love the sense of community in the little neighbourhood where I stay. People are very friendly and I’ve known a lot of them for many years and am good friends with one particular woman. We have such a laugh together. She’s a sweetie.
When I’m riding my scooter I love to watch people standing by the side of the road and just chatting. People always give a smile or a wave and more often than not, someone is shouting my name from a doorway, or as they too pass by on their scooters.
I know more people here than I do in my own village in England. More people take the time to stop and chat with me in one day here than in one week, or even one month at home!
Extended Families and Strong Family Ties
In India and Goa, when a marriage takes place, the woman leaves her own family home and goes to live with the husbands family. Im not going to pretend that this situation is always rosy. It’s not. Women all over India are suffering abuse at the hands of their husbands and his family. A mother is always going to support her son over the wife and this leaves her with little or no support.
However, this obviously isn’t always the case and millions of families live very happily together. My lovely Goan family included.
I marvel at the way the children are surrounded by adult relatives; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother and grandfather. This is so good for them and it teaches them to get along with people of all ages. There is always someone around to attend to their needs so they never have to feel neglected and from this comes a sense of security. I think this must be where their strong sense of identity stems from, thus preventing them from ‘going off the rails’ in their teen angst years. All parents become stressed at times, that’s a given, but when you know you have someone else there to share the load with, life becomes a little easier. And I should know, having raised all my kids myself for the past 20 plus years!
The strong bonds between the family members is so apparent and I admire the way the kids have such respect for their elders.
Living together = sharing together, helping one another and respecting one another. And let’s face it, no one is going to get lonely in their old age!
Ahhh, the Arabian Sea! Be it wild with monsoonwinds or as calm as a lake in the dry season, sitting on the beach and staring out to the ocean is one of my favourite ‘go to’ places for quiet time.
During monsoon, the sea can be ferocious and when I hear the roar of it from my room in the treetops, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
In dry season, sometimes the sea can be so calm that, save the slow, lazy slopping of the shoreline tide, it appears not to even be moving at all.
Whatever the weather, when I’m leaving the beach, I always have a quick glance backwards and silently say, ‘goodbye sea, Il see you soon’.
Flora and Scooters
One of my favourite pastimes is driving my scooter slowly down little back lanes lined with electric green leaves of all shapes and sizes. I just kinda meander lazily as the sun beats down on me, occasionally stopping to let some cows or water buffaloes traipse past me as they cross the road from one field to another. Or to pet a stray dog and maybe throw it some biscuits from my bag.
I drive past stunning displays of brightlycoloured flowers, all contrasted beautifully against the green of the leaves. So dazzling and striking in the sunlight!
Sometimes, I just stop. I want to sit quietly on my scooter and just breath in my surroundings. I marvel at the sheer size of some of the leaves. So tropical! The bright green paddy fields, the roaming pigs on their way to nowhere in particular, the distant barking of a dog or the quick beep of a passing scooter. But it’s the sound of the coconut trees leaves in the breeze which flirt with my heart the most. As the long, thin leaflets brush together, it makes the sound of gentle rain. This is the sound I take home with me, nestled in my heart like a cosy memory, a sound which nourishes me through the long days and lonely evenings until I can return again to my beloved Goa.
Hospitality and Friendliness
There’s no welcome like an Indian welcome!
No matter what caste or religion a person is, or whether they live in an mansion or a hut, I’ve never met anybody as friendly and welcoming as an Indian. I rarely make eye contact with someone without receiving a smile. People are just friendly. It’s that simple. Friendly, chatty, approachable and helpful. In fact, from my own personal experience, people go out of their way to assist me. Here are just a two examples of so, so many.
If I’m having problems starting my scooter, there will always be someone who notices and comes over to lend a helping hand. Let’s check the petrol levels. Is it a faulty starter motor? Let’s try and kick start it instead. I have honestly had this happen multiple times and each time the kind soul who is assisting me has not given up and gone on with their day until Im ready to drive away.
There was one occasion when I dropped my scooter key down a hole in the ground outside two shops in the local parade. It was a really tiny hole as well. Not much larger than the key! It landed on a platform far down below!
The pair of shop owners and their staff came to my aid. It was a real team effort! Someone disappeared and came back with some wire, someone else bent it into a hook shape, another person held the phone torch and finally some other guy, oh so very carefully, hooked the key right up out of the hole again! It took many attempts, however, but not one person gave up on the task. What a beautiful group of guys! I showed my heartfelt gratitude to them by buying goodies from both their shops.
Homes Past and Present
Following four centuries of Portuguese rule, in 1961, at the order of the Indian army, the Portuguese finally departed and Goa was awarded its freedom. However, remnants of a time-gone-by remain in the way of beautiful old world heritage houses.( the following photos of the old houses are taken from the web).
These gorgeous homes range in size from very modest to enormous mansions, from unkempt with faded and cracking paintwork and overgrown gardens to highly decorated with huge well maintained grounds.
Either way- I love them! In fact, I used to rent one from my Goan mum years ago, many moons before the room in the trees was built.
Apparently there are no other buildings the same in the world. Not even Portugal!
So this post is about my personal loves of Goa and driving past these old heritage houses is definitely one of my favourite things to see. I need to take more photos….
The other houses which, at times, literally stop me in my tracks, are the majestic new builds. Huge and colourful, these houses come in many different designs, shapes, sizes and colours. Some are literally stunning beyond words. It’s very interesting to watch the building of them over time. It’s almost as if you can order this balcony, that doorway and different shape structures which eventually fit together like a jigsaw to make one huge house specifically according to your own personal design! If I had the money……..
They need no words…..
So, yeah, I could probably go on and on about what I love about Goa! Needless to say, I urge you to visit if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
Last August, 2017, Rune and I had a lovely day trip to London.
I had been meaning to visit The Shard for quite some time but I only ever had interest from Rune. India wasn’t keen so Rune and I decided to make a day of it. We visited many places but here I shall just show photos of our Shard visit.
We were super excited! The sun was shining so we were guaranteed a great view. I had heard about the two virtual reality experiences at the top of The Shard but had no idea what to expect. Both Rune and I were very keen to have a go on them both.
We made our way up in the lift to the 69th floor and then walked up another small flight of steps to the dizzying heights of the 72nd floor! We emerged from the stairs into the main area which was large and sunfilled. The whole area was surrounded by huge windows for a full 360-degree view. It was amazing! I must admit, getting to close to the window made me feel a little dizzy at first but I soon became used to it. I absolutely love London and have been on the London Eye many times, but this view was a whole different experience. It was mesmerizing!
Following much photo taking, we decided to ride the VR experiences. First, Rune took his turn on the ‘slide’. The cost of this ride was £10 and definitely worth every penny. It was so funny to watch Rune as he became very vocal, as though it was real and when I took my turn I could understand why. It does really make you want to shout out loud. It seemed so real ( which I guess is, of course, the whole idea of VR)! The slide takes you whizzing and looping around the top of The Shard at great speed. It was fantastic and so much fun!
The second VR experience was definitely not my cup of tea. You have to walk out from the top of the Shard along a crane! When you first place the goggles on, the view is identical to the regular view experience of the 72nd floor, except with no other people. Suddenly, the windows and floor all come away and you are left standing on top of a crane with nothing else around, just a sheer drop! Even though my mind knew it wasn’t real and that in reality, I was simply standing on solid ground with a guide holding on to my arm, my brain just couldn’t accept that. I was petrified and asked for the goggles to be taken off. Rune, however, was much braver than me and walked along the crane and back again. Well done to him!
Overall, our trip to the top of The Shard was a great experience and I can highly recommend a visit. Maybe next time I shall go for a night time view of the lights of London. Here’s a link if you fancy a trip yourself.
Usually, of a weekend, my granddaughter, Demi-Mae, comes to stay. My daughter, Hope, usually stays at home and has a bit of a break. She’s a lone parent and a young parent too. She’ll turn 20 years old this year.
I appreciate how important it is to have ‘me time’, especially as a lone parent. Been there, done it! There was never anyone to help look after my children with me and, throw the disabilities into the mix, I was exhausted a lot of the time. So I really want to be there for Hope. Besides, I LOVE LOVE LOVE having Demi to stay. She’s an absolute delight and Rune, India and I shower her with affection and attention.
Watch Demi-Mae learning her colours through the ‘art’ of painting here…
Anyway…….last weekend, Hope suggested she come to stay too! It’s been a while since I had Hope, India, Rune and Demi all at home together.
Family time is so important, especially when family members have moved out of the home. It’s a chance for siblings to get together which is really lovely, ( if they’re the type who get along with each other- and thankfully my children do). 🙂
I love to watch them all sitting on the sofa together, chatting. Or cooking together, or whatever. On Sunday, I was painting in my art room and Hope and India were laughing so hard at something on TV. It was great! Hope and India’s banter with each other is hilarious. Such different personalities and they adore each other. That makes me happy.
I’ve made the suggestion to everyone that we go for a pub lunch so this weekend so that Rune can have a game of pool. He does really, really well! I didn’t even know he could hit the balls until later last year when we happened to stop for lunch and he saw the pool table and became interested. His dexterity was all over the place, bless his heart, but, seriously, the boy tried and it was beautiful to see. Watch him go for it here.
Hope, my 19-year old daughter came to stay from Thursday to today ( Sunday) and I’ve just dropped her off to where she currently lives with her partner and baby girl.
Relations between Hope and I have been pretty strained over the past three and half years and I’ve cried more tears of that girly than over almost anyone ever. So, I’m hoping things are starting to get slowly back on track. We’ll see. Baby steps and all that.
Hope was raised with her two disabled siblings, India and Rune and to say that her life wasn’t easy would be a gross understatement. At times it was damn near diabolical and my heart has broken for her a million times.
As a lone parent for 17 years now, trying to juggle the needs of all my children has been very hard but this was made even more so by the fact that India and Rune ( and Rune still) presented with extremely challenging behaviour for many years due to their condition of Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) and If I was to write about all that Hope has been through at the hands of SMS, this blog post would go on for hours. Hope has quite literally seen it all.
She has witnessed an almost infinite amount of meltdowns, both inside the house and at every other place we ever visited and when I say meltdown, I mean full on, up to three hours non-stop. And let me tell ya’ folks, there ain’t no meltdown like an SMS meltdown. If it wasn’t Rune, it was India and vice versa and sometimes both at the same time!
So let me explain an SMS full blown meltdown.
Screaming, throwing every object that’s not stuck down, including heavy objects such as furniture and TV’s ( and if the TV isn’t being thrown, you can bet that another object is being thrown AT the TV), full on frenzy of ripping paper, clothes, punching, biting, kicking, scratching at their own faces, pulling hair, head banging, a complete inability to listen to reason and….and….so much more besides.
During these times, Hope at aged four and upwards and ongoing, remained calm and at times was the spectator and at other times was the target. Oh yes, Hope has definitely been a target. I think what breaks my heart the most is the fact that I wasn’t able to go to her, to comfort her. All my mothering instincts wanted to take her in my arms when she was struck at and give her kisses, cuddles and attention. Just to tell her everything was going to be okay. But what I did instead was scream at her in an attempt to be heard above the noise and destruction that I would ‘be with her in a minute’, which of course I never was. So, Hope would simply retreat quietly to a place of safety and wait for the meltdowns to pass. And then she would witness me with my head in my hands in total despair, crying my eyes out. In short, Hope’s needs have largely been placed on the back burner for the whole of her life.
Life was so chaotic in our household and the unpredictability of the twins behaviour, coupled with the fact that Rune rarely slept a wink at night, meant that Hope could never invite friends for sleepovers. Heck, she could barely even invite friends to come into the house in the daytime! Rune couldn’t cope with visitors to the house and he couldn’t cope with going out a lot of the time, either.
I was determined to make it work out for Hope on her 12th birthday and so, for the first time since her 6th birthday, she had friends over for a get-together. It was going well and we pretty much all stuck to the garden as it was a sunny May afternoon. Rune was in his room upstairs. Then disaster struck. One of the mums came to collect her daughter and a couple of friends and she arrived at the front door just as `rune decided to make an appearance for the first time that afternoon. Said mum bent down to say hello to Rune and got punched square in the face for her efforts. She reeled back and started to cry. Hope and I were mortified! Rune went back upstairs and the mum grabbed the children in a hurry and left. That evening I phoned her to apologise again and she told me that her husband said that his daughter was no longer allowed around our house. I sank into a sort of hopeless depression after that incident. Just another one to add to the list. My poor Hopey Bear.
Despite all of this, Hope really does love her siblings very much. She just needed some time away to do her own thing, go her own way and now, at age 19, she is the very proud mummy of a 21-month-old, adorable little girl who has all the strength of her beautiful mummy, a shock of blonde, curly hair and her mum’s blue eyes. She is adored!
I love my Hopey with all my heart and soul. I’m so, so proud of her for so many reasons, not least for her strength of character, for the way she copes so well with a demanding toddler, for her soft heart. Sometimes I think to myself, ‘if I could only turn the clocks back’, but no, that’s wrong. We are all on our own individual life journeys. Our experiences are there for a reason! Hope and I have learned so much from the past 17 years and I can’t imagine not having experienced that. My twins have taught me so much along the way and I’m eternally grateful to all of my beautiful babies for coming into my life and helping me to become the person I am today. Couldn’t have done it without you, kids.
So, what has the past month of January been like for me?
Firstly, I’ve realised that my belief that my role as a carer would be pretty much obsolete once Rune had moved out, was quite ridiculous! Yes, I have a little more actual time alone and India is at school Monday to Friday but my role hasn’t stopped at all. I’ve still needed to attend countless meetings and of course, India is home from Friday afternoon to Monday morning and school holidays. And being a teen with SMS, albeit very high functioning, she still has her issues which often times require careful handling.
The first few days after Rune left were a bit of a whirlwind. I just felt like I wanted to do everything that I couldn’t do with Rune at home. And I wanted to do it NOW! I saw grown ups and had time to myself and that lasted two days. By the third day I really started to miss Rune and by the second week, I was ready to collect him, bring him home again and apologise for making the poor boy leave home and to tell him it had all been a terrible mistake.
That second week was very hard. Listening to Rune sobbing uncontrollably on the phone for over half an hour each evening that he misses me and India and he just wants to come again…..wowzers. Not good. But we both got through it, we visited him on the Sundays and the weekday phone calls became easier.
I resisted the urge to go out in the evenings for a cuppa somewhere or attend a meetup group as I was so focused on my upcoming trip to India with Jayne and needed to save every penny! Oh actually, I did go out one Thursday evening to attend a shamanic journeying evening with someone lovely I know. It was his first time at holding the circle and I really wanted to support him.
Other than that, I’ve been trying my hand at pastel portrait painting, clearing up the garden, decorating the bathroom upstairs, upcycling furniture, planning my India trip, painting mannequins and generally keeping myself very busy! I plan to write a post with pictures very soon so look out for it.
India and I had a lovely walk one Saturday afternoon to the Ashdown Forest. It was sunny and cold and we walked for a good hour, or so.
On that first Monday evening, I attended a small meeting in a pub to exchange ideas and tips for running a small home business. I loved it and kept having to bring myself into the present moment as I found myself drifting off into the land of disbelief that I was actually out of the house, after dark and talking to real life grown ups without anybody I gave birth to in the vicinity.
On Tuesday I decided to visit hairdressers. I wasn’t going for a major new style, just a trim and neaten up. My usual go to hair cutting sessions have been from home. By me. And I’m no hairdresser! A wonderful YouTube video tutorial showed me how to give myself layers. Basically, throw your head forward, make a ponytail on top of your head and cut the bottom of the ponytail. It worked okay I suppose. Not amazing but it did the job and when one is a full-time carer and chief bum wiper, you take what you can get. So, to be sitting in a chair of an actual real life hairdressers with someone who knew what they were doing fixing my hair, I felt like I’d won the hairdressing lottery.
On my way back to the car, I went passed a tiny Italian restaurant. During the seven years I’ve lived in this gorgeous little town I’ve walked past that restaurant many, many times and each time declared to myself that I was going to go in there for a meal one day. I think I should point out here that my never having eaten there was nothing to do with me being a carer. The children and I have enjoyed many meals out at various places, our favourite being Wagamama. Anyway, I walked in and chose a little table on my own and enjoyed a vegetarian meal with a glass of coke. Italian music was playing and there were beautiful paintings on the walls. This was a little slice of heaven and I dreamed of how I was going to travel to Italy one day. I’ve been thinking about apainting holiday…….
In the evening I realised that I was free to step out of the house if I so chose to. So I did! I went to the cinema and saw Passengers, which was brilliant. For so many years films have come and gone and every time I miss them. My cinema experiences have been all about taking Rune to see his U certificates. We used to sit in the back row together and then a couple of years ago he suddenly announced that he would prefer to sit in the very front row. I made it through a couple of films like that but couldn’t do anymore. We were too close to the screen and whilst he may have been enjoying the sensory overload, I wasn’t. I felt like my ears would implode and I would damage my retinas. No one ever sits in the front row, right? Every time Rune did, which was every time he visited the cinema, which is a lot, he is the only one on the front row. He likes it like that! More room for his teddies and crisps!
So, in order for Rune to be supervised, he would sit at the front and I would sit right at the back of the theatre but this just made me look like I was an adult visiting the cinema alone to watch a kids movie. So that’s when the shift happened of I never having to suffer a U certificate movie again. I say suffer but that’s not really fair. Mostly, kids movies are really fab and some are downright hilarious, but you have to understand. I’ve been watching them for 16 years now and I was longing to see a grown up film!
Anyway, I would buy our tickets ( I went in free as a carer), then settle Rune in on the front row with his snacks, drinks and whatever plushies he’d chosen to accompany him that day, and I ( and India too sometimes) would go upstairs to the cafe and have a hot drink and a chat.
After a while of this, I got really brave and started taking India to Hollywood Bowl which was just in the building just next door to the cinema, all within the same complex. We would only play on the arcade machines for a while and I would check back in on Rune but it was enough. India and I were actually enjoying quality time together. On the days I took Rune to the cinema when India was at school, I would sit in the cafe alone, reading a book or surfing the net. It was blissful but still, a bit lonely.
I’d really feel for India though. There were films that she wanted to see but not alone and I couldn’t go with her as I had no one to look after Rune. So they would pass her by, just as my films did with me. One day I decided to take a leap and take India to see a film whilst Rune was watching his. We chose the timings to coincide with one another but it wasn’t exact and that really worried me. Our film started about 20 minutes later than Runes and went on for longer and it turned out that he would have to wait for us for 35 minutes after his film had finished. I gave him strict instructions to go to the cafe upstairs and sit and wait with his PS Vita and to NOT MOVE FROM HIS SEAT UNTIL WE GOT THERE.
India and I enjoyed our film despite the fact that I was regularly checking the time. Panic set in the moment I knew Rune’s film had finished. I was stuck, though! I desperately wanted to go and check on him but I couldn’t leave India. Well, I could leave her, but I mean I didn’t want to. It was the first film we’d seen together in years and to walk out in the last half hour and just leave her to it, would’ve been desperately unfair.
On the other hand, though, I was having a slight heart attack worrying about whether Rune had gone to the cafe as per instruction and it was then that I decided I was just never going to do this again. It was too much of a risk.
But situations like these are typical for a single parent/carer. Caught between your kids all the time, having to watch your more able children fend for themselves, their needs placed on the back burner. It’s all heartbreaking but unfortunately, unavoidable.
Our film finished and boy, as soon as those credits started rolling, I was flying down those steps like my arse was on fire, throwing a quick instruction to India over my shoulder to meet me in the cafe. I hared up the staircase to Starbucks and there he was! My Runey Bear, sitting at a table, perfectly fine and playing on his PS Vita. I hugged that boy.