5 things I have learned from having a broken wrist.

  1. It doesn’t hurt as much as you think. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve always believed I have a pretty high pain threshold, seems to be true. Six hours of labour and no pain relief, one broken wrist and it was a bit sore, but actually not much more than that.
  2. The NHS is truly rubbish. ‘Is my wrist broken?‘ I ask. ‘No,‘ they say. ‘Does it need an X-Ray,‘ I ask. ‘No,‘ they say. Until five weeks later, ‘oh look, it’s broken…’ I was brought up on a solid diet of wonderment at the NHS – my mother used it frequently, faithfully and to the full. I have not. In part this is because I honestly believe my mother’s devotion to all things medical resulted in her untimely death at the age of 56. She was over-medicated whilst at the same time under diagnosed, despite her regular pilgrimages to our local hospital and eventually, the thing that killed her had never once been spotted. As a result I have a pathological aversion to medics and hospitals.
  3. I am right handed and I broke my left wrist. Turns out I use my left hand a whole lot. Who knew?
  4. You can ask total strangers for help – by and large people are genuinely pleased to offer a helping hand. Particularly with opening water bottles, on trains.
  5. Everyone has a broken bone story. Everyone. Even if it didn’t happen to them. And now I have my own.

Love and peace, Sweet

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Beyond the Frame

I was at a major sporting event earlier this year.  Very glamorous, sunny, exciting, vibrant.  I ate it all up with my eyes and my mind.  Absorbed it, drank it in, catalogued and filed it away to pick over in the days, months, years to come.  As I was doing so, I noticed that nearly all of the people around me were using their phones, their cameras, their iPads to take photos, video, etc.  No doubt the man next to me had Instagrammed (is that a verb?!) and posted instantly to Facebook on his mobile given that he barely looked at the track for the first few laps.  His entire flist knew exactly where he was, exactly what he had just seen.  And it all got me to wondering.

Do we have better memories today, than we did in the past?  Or is our instantly recorded and then published life, making big events forgettable rather than memorable?  I read about wedding blogging recently, where couples live blog their big day.  What?!  Seriously?  Why would you do that?  Surely those people that want to share your special day will be there with you, forging their own memories, reinforcing yours in the years to come.  I can still recall my wedding day in detail 25 years later.  The bits that matter, the joy that persists.  And honestly, who but me and my husband is really, truly interested in that detail?  More to the point, those memories, those emotions are private, not to be displayed to an uncaring, unforgiving FaceBook/Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube world.

As the daughter of a film archivist, I grew up with the moving image very much a part of my day to day life.  Images, sounds, colour, the recording and preservation of the past respected and treasured.  The image is a powerful thing.  It can help us retrieve memories of our own, it can help us understand the past, it can help us explore the present down to minute detail, and even let us see into the future, with images beamed from light years away in space.  But at some times in our lives, our eyes are the only things capable of recording what’s important to us, what we will treasure in the future, what we will recall as we age.  The pixels available to me within my camera can capture a framed view of the Monaco Grand Prix, with edges and a specific depth of field.  My eyes and my brain can experience something my camera never can – the smell of the fuel, the heat of the sun, the pure brilliance of the sky, the vivid colours and sensations of an ‘event’.  No camera can record the emotion I felt at being in Monaco on race day.  It was a long held dream finally realised, and there’s no camera on earth that can capture how it really felt.

I worry that we are viewing a biased world for the most part with our photographing and capturing obsession.  We are sold the idea that we can photograph and keep everything, that we can share the whole of our lives, and encourage others to share in our experiences, but I fear that we are losing the bigger picture of life.  I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t do it, but I do think we need to look out of the frame a little more.  We can put down our smart phones, switch off our iPads and engage with life, real life, in all its glory, colour and vibrancy.  And maybe, beyond the edges of our ‘frames’ we will see a little something extra, something special, that everyone else might be missing.

RIP to a very lovely lady…

One of our choir members died last night.  She was a lovely lady.  Funny, charming, caring and thoughtful.  A good voice, a great heart and a penchant for a good old natter in the pub after rehearsals.  We shall miss her terribly.  Her husband too is a member, and the whole choir feels for him, mourns with him and I know, will love and support him through difficult times.

It’s hard to explain the bonds that are forged through singing and performing together.  As a group we learn together, laugh together, experience the terror of live performance together, support and nurture each other.  Above all we sing, and singing is a glue that binds people like no other.  Last year, when a close family member died, talking was the last thing I wanted to do.  But singing got me through – I couldn’t talk, so I sang as often and as loudly as I could.  I sang with my choir pals, and whenever there was a gap, when I literally couldn’t make a sound, someone else filled that space for me.  Because that’s what we do.  We sing together.

So we shall fill the gap left by our lovely Mo and sing our hearts out whenever we get the chance, and if we raise a few bob in the process for the Hospice that took care of her, so much the better.  Rest in Peace, lovely lady.

Sweet

Books, mostly…

My father keeps giving me things.  Books mostly, and in truth books are what our whole lives have revolved around.  Books and movies.

Dad’s 91 and in poor health; next stop nursing home.  Stop after that… well, the big cinema in the sky, I guess.  Or whatever it is that you personally believe in.  He’s frail and tired and he wants things passed on, wants to do the one thing in his life that he’s always done, preserve the past.  When all you have is the past, it’s the only thing left to hold onto I guess.  So he keeps giving me things.  Books, mostly.

I came home with a stack of them the other day, and these I feel, are the ones that signal his acknowledgement that the end of things is approaching.  They are books written by a close personal friend, a friend to my parents and a friend to our family.  A friend who has seen plenty of triumph and disaster himself, both professionally and personally.  A man who values my father’s friendship highly.  And therein lies the rub.  He’s my father’s friend – the messages he’s handwritten in the front of the books he’s written, the little acknowledgements to my father, my mother and to their shared friendship and interests, belong to my father, not to me.  But I feel duty bound to hold onto them.  Preserve the past…

Where does the drive to preserve like this come from?  I have ornaments belonging to my mother who died 26 years ago.  I hated them as a child, and I hate them now.  They sit in a drawer in my house taking up space – never seeing the light of day.  But they’re still there.   They are of no value, not even sentimental.  I can remember them, remember my mother, without them being on show.  So why do I keep them in a drawer?

I know that before long, I’ll have to clear dad’s house.  One way or another, whether it’s to fund his nursing home care, or once he dies, the house he’s lived in for 25 years will have to be emptied and sold.  How do you reduce a life to a few boxes, a few plastic bags?  It’s something we all ultimately come to – when the end comes, what do you do with everything?  In the words of the great Monty Python, ‘you come into life with nothing, you leave with nothing, so what have you lost?  Nothing!’  But the truth is that we all have stuff.  Houses full of stuff, and someone else has to make a decision about that stuff once we’re no longer around.

What do I do with every letter dad ever got about his employment?  What do I do with his gas bills, phone bills, bank statements, army papers and other detritus dating back to the year dot?  There are folders in his filing drawer that still have my mother’s handwriting on them.  ‘Dad Pension’, one says.  I guess reducing a whole life to nothing, wiping it out, is perhaps the hardest job of all.  It feels like a betrayal of all that an individual was.

I suppose the reason dad keeps giving me things, is because he trusts me.  To preserve the past for him.  To preserve his past.  The process of letting go is traumatic, and will be traumatic, but it can be extremely beneficial.  I’m a great believer in a good old clear out.  I’ve always thought it makes space for other things to come in.  Dad is a preserver of the past whereas I’ve always wanted to look to the future – to the shiny things up ahead.  I don’t think it’ll help me much in the short term when the house clearing has to be done, but long term, I feel strongly that whilst the past needs to be remembered and treasured, respected and learned from, it should not be preserved at any cost.

There is no point in keeping shelf after shelf of books, when I can treasure memories of shared conversations; there is no point in making room for boxes of papers and ornaments, when a handwritten card or photo can evoke past holidays, or Christmases; there is no point in preserving the physical, when what we all crave is the emotional.  It’s the absent hug we miss, not the piles of books; it’s the pet name our parents called us that will be lost forever, not the best china; it’s the kind words of wisdom and support that disappear – who gives a stuff about the ornaments?  I remember dad giving me things that had belonged to my mother after she died.  ‘It was your mum’s, so you should have it.’  I didn’t want them.  I still don’t – what I wanted, was my mum.  And it’s the same now.

Dad keeps giving me things.  Books mostly – I don’t really want them…