Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My two pink bundles

Chatter, chatter, chatter...

Like a typewriter clacking on sheet after sheet of paper

my mind writes its own script for a play I want no part in

I pick up a pen, press it between my thumb and middle fingers, watch as it slots into place in my hand and black ink flows like blood from my blue and silver pen...

I looked at you when I opened my eyes and gave my first cry. I don't remember seeing you,  but you were there, two pink bundles of skin, bones and the teeniest nails. You helped me to eat, clutch my mommy's fingers, gave me something to chew on when my first teeth broke through. 

Now as I glance down I see years of hard work etched into the creases from hand washing and caring. You helped me through exam after exam scribbling on paper for hour after hour. You are always there for me...

So in 2008 when I wake up after my second brain operation to see my left fingers curled up like a claw. My arm coiled like a spring up to my chest. I lift you with my right hand and gently place you on a pillow on my bed. I ease each finger out and lie them flat. I whisper I will take care of you now. 

Like a baby I teach each finger how to hold a spoon so that I can feed myself cereal while steadying the bowl with my working right hand.  We progress to holding a flannel and reach up with the help of a nurse, to wipe my swollen face. I grin as we lift the items off my bedside table one by one, laugh when the nurse asks why so my left hand can put them all back again I tell her. I work you hard, we work together to get you moving again. Gripping a zimmer frame was our biggest challenge when I was re-learning to walk. But together we did it. Together my hands and I can overcome anything.



So today as words do a merry go round in my mind I once again turn to you, my precious hands. With all your wrinkles, dry skin and nails I am trying not to nibble; you help me to write out my thoughts. And my mind slows as unhelpful words float by on a cloud...



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rolling waves

I can’t believe we are here I say to Mr H with a grin. A whole week, we won’t need to use the car.



We stroll hand in hand along the narrow, cottage filled lane to the sea front. I stop as Mr H clicks his camera to capture my ever widening smile. 






I breathe in slowly as I fill my lungs with the salty air. My shoulders drop as the ozone fills my nose. I stare and listen to the swooshing tide as it spreads onto the beach before being pulled back into the sea, washing away some of my anxiety. The sky may be grey but my heart is full of sunshine.



I hope that this break will settle my head. Stop the electrical storms which have kept me at home, too scared to go out on my own.

This change in behaviour started a few weeks ago…

In Tesco I shout out Whooooh as a huge wave crashes through my head knocking me sideways. I stumble and grab a tin filled shelf.

Can I help a lady asks, so I send her into the next aisle to find my Peri Peri sauce hunting husband. I breathe a sigh of relief when he rounds the corner. I slide myself down onto the floor. Tesco staff come to help. First aider arrives. They bring a wheelchair and take me out while Mr H pays.

A one off. I hope.

Then last Saturday it happens again…

I am alone, walking past Boots in the mall and Whoooh breaks through my lips. I lurch to the side. A man standing there sees, looks, then walks away. I try to walk again but the waves stop me and I slide myself once more to the floor. My legs cannot hold me up. I need to sit I whisper to no one.

I call out to two ladies can you help me please?

Epilepsy.

They stay with me and I book a Taxi home, quicker than ringing Mr H. When I can stand, these lovely hen party planners walk with me and wait until it arrives.

Two days later I step out of the front door, wrapped up to guard me from the autumnal breeze.  I pass cottages, the club house, but by the bungalows a wave crashes inside my head. I wobble against someone’s dry stone wall. I lower myself down at the bottom of their drive. Almost in the lane. But not quite. Please stop someone I whisper to myself as cars pass by…

Eight years ago, when I was alone in my hospital room, unable to walk after my surgery I promised myself this…


A whole week in a cottage by the sea.

I am living my dream of an epilepsy calming, ozone smelling, seagull crying, bird watching, fossil hunting, chip eating week.


I am not afraid of storms for
I am learning to sail my ship
Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In a hole

Sue and I grin as we arrive at Mesmerize Me in Birmingham

This is it she says, Excited?

I  have been treated to a make over day with my friend, Sue's sister Jacquie bought it for her for Christmas  and told her: go with Dawn you will have a great time

Our pale, make up free faces stand out against the black sofa we are asked to sit on as we sip a cup of coffee.  Phase one Selfie Sue says as we grin into her camera...

We glance at the forms we need to fill in.

Mmmm which feature do you want enhanced in the photos I mutter as I glance at Sue, dimples for me, eyes maybe, for you she suggests

Which feature do you most want to disguise...wrinkles we giggle 

But I bow my head and instead scribble I don't want to look disabled. 

Upstairs our faces are transformed from pasty pale to palettes of colour. Our eyes and cheeks are defined as the beauticians apply more make up than I have ever worn!  We use theatrical make up they tell us, you will need it in the bright studio. They tease our hair into bouffant styles. Very Mary Quant I say to Sue when her rollers come out!

Back on the sofa we take phase two photos...


When it is our turn we wheel our suitcases into the studio. Lets look at your outfits first Laura the bubbly photographer suggests with her camera hanging around her neck...

She asks me what my limitations are...

Try me with everythingI don't want my stick to get a peep at your camera lens I mutter as I abandon it in the corner of the room.

She suggests we sit on the floor and clicks away as we pose, first on our front, after waiting for my left leg and foot to register what I want it to do. We laugh as I try to hang onto the position long enough for a good shot...



You look fantastic she smiles as we kneel...


Do you think you can get into this hole next Laura asks me with a grin.

I'll give anything a go...

I hoist my bum into position. 

Now slide down, let the curve do the work she tells me as Sue watches, her grin getting wider with each shuffle..

Oh my goodness thats amazing they both say as the camera clicks...


Not a disability in sight...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Time to ask the right questiions

When I was young the last thing on my mind was to sit down with my parents, aunties, Grandparents and ask them to tell me about their lives.  In my late teens I often stayed with my Nan on my time off from nursing and we giggled our way through the days. Grandad and I had our love of books, birdwatching and nature to keep us talking for hours over a cup of tea in a china tea cup.

We would walk to the shops or library together like the best of pals. Me on the inside of the pavement as he protected me from the road, his brown shopping bag swinging on his arm. But I never once asked him or Nan about the Adult School. 

It was their homes I took myself to when I lay in my hospital bed in 2008, distressed in the darkness, unable to move. I walked my memory through each room recalling the chairs - chairs I now sit on at home, the glass clown by the fire at Nans, the bird paintings at Grandads - paintings which now hang on my walls. I rarely got upstairs as I was always asleep before I reached the bottom rung of the stairs.

Last year it was my late Grandad who silently took me by the hand and led me into the Adult School research I am currently doing. He wanted the story to be told. He wanted me to tell the story.

The interviews I am undertaking with many silver  haired ladies and gents make my heart sing out as I see their smiles, their joy in sharing happy memories with someone who is interested in what they have to say. But in my quest for stories, all too frequently I hear:

I wish I had asked my Mum...

I wish we had sat down and talked....


If only I had taken an interest...


So when I sit shoulder to shoulder with my Mum in The Archives and Heritage Dept of the Birmingham Library; we discover letters to and from my Grandad, minutes of meetings written by my great Grandad; notes about my aunt and uncle. 

I smile when Mum excitedly gasps your Dads name is here I didn't know he was on St Oswalds Camp committee. We find letters, brochures and photos some featuring people I have never known, others were uncles and aunts, Grandads and Grandmas who I never thought to ask...



My brain tumour gave me the gift of Time

Time to ask the right questions of octogenarians who want to tell their stories...

The Midland Adult School Youth Committee 1944 - including my Uncle in the backrow
Photograph courtesy of The Midland Adult School Uncatalogued Archives held in Birmingham Library Archives and Heritage. Photographer unknown

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Feel the buzz

On November 17th 2008 I pulled on my Ronhill tracksters, slid my feet into my blue and white running shoes and jogged away from the house.  My last run...

When my brain tumour stole my running and walking legs Mr H refused to go back out running.

I can't he would say, it is not the same without you






But eventually I manage to push him out of the door with a smile. I know running is good for him and I happily stand cheering when Mr H achieves his goals of a 10K and half marathon






I walk my slow hobbly walk around the village and learn to swim...

But over the last year I feel as though I have reached a walking red light. While everyone around me is running... I watch running groups pass the window,  listen to friends and family talking about their couch to 5K training, chat on the phone with friends doing the Race for Life. For Me!

But my running legs are screaming to get moving, they want a challenge, I want to exercise with people.. I want to feel the buzz

I can't walk 5K let alone run I tell the Race for Life organisers as I ask them to consider doing something for people such as me with disabilities due to the cancer...

We will look into it they tell me. But then it all goes quiet...

My friend Chris suggests I try aquafit at our local Gym so I find a group  leader with a sensitive approach to the fact that I have to do my wobbly, slow version of most of her exercises. I find myself grinning and humming the words as I lift my leg to the music while hanging onto the side of the pool.

In my search for more alternatives I discover a circuit training class for people with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons disease. I am welcomed into the arms of this laughter filled hard working group. Vicky the leader is as bubbly as the best champagne and ensures each exercise is tailored to each members ability.. 

We are going to work you hard she tells me with a grin. 

It feels like I am back in the neurology physiotherapy gym I say when she insists I try to lift my left leg rather than swing it to the side...I am back on the balancing board, stepping slowly up and down off a step, using a resistance band to work my arms and legs so hard they shake...

Its back to exercise basics and I am feeling the buzz....


Life is not always about trying to fix something that's broken
Sometimes it is about starting over and creating something better
thatonerule.com


Thursday, May 12, 2016

A rare find

Oh my goodness I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I say as I look around to see if anyone is watching...

I stroke the orange and cream cover. Gently touch the front, run my fingers across the title and name. I check the date, yes 1814 I mutter to myself, Thomas Pole...

Last week a black cloud had settled over my happiness. Each morning when I woke, happiness sat in my shoes ready to be stamped on with each step I took. Too many seizures. Too many falls.

On Sunday over our cereal bowls Mr H announces you need a day out, a change of scenery, I am taking you to Hay on Wye. On our way we spot a red kite soaring above. I watch its forked tail wavering with the wind and my happiness floats out of my shoes. When we leave the car we mutter uselessly only two books each...

In the cinema book shop, always our first stop, I search for books linked to the research I am now undertaking on the Midland Adult School. I run my finger across the index board on the wall; education and religion this way. I cling to the handrail down four rickety wooden steps and pass two rows of wooden, magically musty book shelves; I find education first. 

As I smile at shelf after shelf of colourful books my breathing slows and my shoulders sink. I dangle my walking stick from my arm as I move along the rows and rows of books. I stop with a doubled heart beat when I spot the words Adult Education! I lift the first book from the shelf .... It belonged to someone called Colin Woods, all the books I slide from their home bear his hand written name. I wonder what he was studying as I start my purchase pile on the floor...


Mr H with his arms full of books, comes to find me. Anything? he asks

I nod grinning at the pile on the floor; look at the orange and cream one; I cant believe it. It's a copy of Thomas Poles' original paper on the first Adult Schools which he established in Bristol!

On the drive home the sun shouts its golden glory as it lights up the green Welsh mountains. I grin at the thought of getting my nine well thumbed books safely home to read. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Toy soldiers...

i am frightened of kerbs I tell my friend Helen when we meet for lunch...

Yesterday I walked back from the bus stop in a step, leg-lift, head down kind of way to avoid a trip on the rippled pavements...

I come to a corner without a dropped kerb, (a lowered section to allow mobility scooters, pushchairs and people like me to cross). I stand and stare at it. Whisper to myself you can do this...

I hesitate and gaze at the kerb edge intently. Just step off I say to myself...

I shuffle my feet to the edge. The road seems so far away; like I am about to jump off a cliff and crash into the dark wild sea.

I stand for a few minutes then turn around and walk back the way I came. Take a running jump at it my inner voice tells me...

I walk towards the kerb 'at speed' as I try not to think about the challenge that looms ahead.. 

But at the kerb my heart drops down to my stomach and I come to a lurching stop. I look up and down the road to check that no one is watching this foot shuffling, hesitant kerb stepper.

Then I walk back again...

As I head towards the kerb for the third time I try not to think about it, la la la. Just step down it's easy I tell myself as the kerb silently taunts me...

But once again my feet come to a halt . 

I look right and left. No one watching. 

Then I lower my stick into the road. Lean on it with my frightened right hand and arm. Take a deep breath then launch my left leg into the air. It lands in the road. I pull my right one after it. I am down. Shaking but down. 

One last furtive glance around and with tears in my eyes I walk the short distance home.

On Friday, at my first one to one Pilates session for 18 months, I tell Sue that I am frightened of kerbs. I need help with my balance again I say as fresh tears drip off my nose...

Ok let's start at the beginning she says. Do you remember the toy soldier?...


Obstacles don't have to stop you.
If you run into a wall (or kerb) don't turn around and give up,
Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

Michael Jordan

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Call the fire brigade

I can’t do it I squeal as I look up into Mr H’s frowning face, my hiccupped laugh threatening to turn into a wail of despair.

I'm stuck. Not going anywhere. Get me a pillow

There must be a way he says as I sit there shivering…

We’ve tried everything I mutter. I am getting tired. Give me a minute and I’ll try again.

Try turning round Mr H suggests…

I would then I could pull myself up onto my knees but I don’t have the room to turn in here.  I tap the metal white sides which hold me prisoner.

Why did I suggest this I weakly grumble as I grab hold of the taps and try once again to heave my, now almost dry body up…

But I only manage a few inches before my feet once again slide away from me despite Mr H attempting to hold them still with his glue like grip…

I don’t know what else to suggest he says as he paces back and forwards wringing his hands…

Call the fire brigade I say trying hard not to laugh knowing a spurt of mirth will quickly turn into tears. Can you imagine it we giggle; 

dring dring, fire brigade please
I am a naked lady stuck in the bath. I can’t stand to get out. My legs and arms are floppily fatigued...

What about putting your trainers on?

It’s worth a go I say as, like a fire hose, I spray clean water around my naked body. Trying to remove any soapy residue to stop my feet from slithering and slipping like I am trying to stand on an ice skating rink despite the bath mat…

I huff and puff as I dry my feet and ram my blue and white trainers on.

Deep breath, another snigger, then heave ho. My arms shake.My right leg quivers as my left leg goes uselessly rigid. Mr H puts all his weight onto my feet to stop them running anywhere.

I am back on my bath seat. Forty minutes after I emptied the bath water, I am out. Exhausted.

Bad idea I mutter to myself.

Never again.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Grey day but the sun is shining

At choir we sing...

...its a greeeey day, grey day and the sun is shining, greeeey day but the suns gonna shine on everyone 

and my spirits ease themselves out of the murky mist they have been in for the last few days...

But as we walk out of choir, my eyes fill with tears when Julie says 

well it's the weekend. The one we dread...

Oh my goodness you get it and I didn't say a word, I exclaim as we pass an understanding hand over each others shoulders

The wave of grief, loss and what might have been, has been building inside my gut for a while. When I stop at the card shop to buy a Mothers day card for my Mum; with love from your daughter, with love from your Son glare back at me. Taunt me. 

I hate myself for dreading it.  I still have a Mum but I walked around yesterday with tears dripping off my nose and sniffed my way home on the bus I tell her

But its' pinkness permeates everything, flower shops are packed with flowers. In Tesco banners and bouquets announce the day. I want to scream what if I am not a Mum what about me. What if. What if. What if...

Plans are being made, lunches booked, I book one too for my Mum knowing that no one will ever need to book one for me...

Our conversation runs freely once the tap of emotion has been turned on. Maybe we should go abroad for a week we giggle, somewhere where Mothers day is not celebrated

I feel lighter now we are talking about it I say to Julie. We keep up the cover to make it easy for others but inside we are a turmoil of thoughts, sadness, longing  Julie adds through tears

...on our way back from taking my Mum out on Sunday I breathe a sigh of relief as I say to Mr H well thank goodness its Monday tomorrow. A new week...


A flower bloomed, already wilting, beginning its life with an early ending
R.J. Gonzales