Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Mingling with Marie's Mental Mates at the Party for Panicky People - second succesful Saturday session

Sorry.  The long title is just me having a bit of fun with alliteration.  Just a little bit of self indulgence...

On Saturday evening, Marie hosted her second party for anxiety sufferers and their partners.  The first party (you can read about it here) was last December.  Our fourteen guests came from all over the South of England - five of them travelled more than three hours to get here!  Three stayed the weekend with us.

Most of our guests had never visited the Exmoor area before, and they were very impressed with the scenery and relaxed ambiance of the area.  The idyllic weather helped, of course.

What a great party it was!  It was a great bunch of people relaxing in the knowledge that if they felt a bit panicky, no one would look on them as nutters or weirdos.  Some guests arrived in time for dinner, while others came just afterwards and the gentle revelling continued until about 1.30 am. No one got too drunk, noisy, belligerent or annoying.  The five children also present got on together incredibly well and were no trouble.

Our weekend guests, whom Marie had met through a chatroom, were really nice folks and I expect that we'll see a lot more of them.

I have come to the conclusion - albeit in an unscientific manner - that panicky people are a nicer bunch of people than the "normal" types!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On Safari?

Marie and I visited Longleat Safari Park during our honeymoon, 4 years ago. She has often mentioned revisiting it in the intervening years. However, organising a trip with an agoraphobia sufferer while accommodating your family requires some organising – especially when the weather is also a consideration. However, on Sunday all things were favourable and Marie, our two children Joseph and Orla, my grandson Reece, my adult daughter Colleen and I made the journey to Longleat. (What would I do without a car that seats up to 7 persons?)

One of the monkeys at Lonleat has contracted Simean Herpes B virus. How this happened is a mystery since it is a closed community; but the monkey park – arguably the most popular part of the safari park, particularly with children – was closed.

Despite missing the monkeys, we had an enjoyable drive through the park. We were lucky to have a lioness stroll right in front of our car. Normally all you can see are the prides lazing some distance away. Then 2 wolves observed us for a while from very close quarters – right beside our car!  Again, an unusual occurrence. We picnicked beside the wallabies and the warthogs. It wasn't the warmest of days, but bright sunshine and just the faintest of breezes made the weather acceptable for an al fresco lunch.

Afterwards, Colleen took the children to see all the other attractions in the Longleat estate except Longleat House itself, which, best example of Elizabethan architecture or not, would have been boring for the children. Meanwhile, Marie and I drove around the nearby picturesque villages and rested in a sunny forest glade until it was time to collect the tired and happy little ones.

For Marie, it was an extremely enjoyable day – a change from her normal diet of going from room to room at home! Every one else had a great time too...except that I would have preferred to have joined the children going around the other attractions... However, I was extremely grateful to Colleen. Without her, the children's day would have not been nearly so enjoyable – indeed, it is doubtful that we would have made the trip at all.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Riverdance show

Last night I went to see Riverdance at the Bristol Hippodrome.

This famous show has been touring the world since 1995 and this year it is presenting its farewell tour.  I thought that I had better see it while I could.  I went with daughters Colleen and Collette and much to my surprise Joseph wanted to see the show too (I had showed him clips on You Tube).

But the person I most wanted to take to the show was unable to go.  That person wasn't, on this occasion, my dear wife Marie (although I would have liked to have taken her too, but her agoraphobia won't let her venture into any theatre just now).  No, on this occasion I wished that my dad could have gone with me.  My father was an amazing person and parent, and I'll It was a show that he had always planned on seeing, but unfortunately he died without realising that ambition.  Because of this, my enjoyment of the show was tinged with sadness.  My daughters felt a little like this too, because they were both very fond of their grandfather.

It was a great show, and like the rest of us, Joseph really enjoyed it.  Being only 8 years old, I was quite impressed by the interest that he showed in the show.

Here's a recent clip of the show in passable quality.  It lasts nearly 9 minutes and starts off with a little flamenco style dancing, followed by the two principle dancers.  The whole troupe assembles for the last 3 or so minutes.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter 2010

We all had a good Easter weekend.

Late on Thursday evening you would have found Marie, the children, Blaze and me on the 2-hour drive to Weymouth and Marie's parents.  I always do longer drives at the children's bedtime: they go to sleep and don't get bored; Marie and I have a peaceful journey.

Friday morning's weather was torrential rain at first, but it brightened up and by mid morning it was okay to go for a walk.  Blaze and I went to the beach and then followed the Portland Bay coast line for 1½ miles or so to Weymouth harbour.
I was able to see close up the surprising amount of coastal erosion occurring in this relatively sheltered coast.  Also surprising is the fact that Spring is nowhere to be seen yet.
The walk lasted about 2½ hours and was the first "me" time I've had in over 3 weeks!

Back at Marie's parents' house an elaborate Easter egg hunt was under way, with Marie's 2 sisters' children joining in.  This was followed by a veritable family feast.  There was a great atmosphere, unlike Marie's last visit here, and a great time was had by all.

At bedtime we went on the road again, driving back home - I had to work next day and my grandson Lucas was coming to stay for the day and night.

As usual, having Lucas stay with us was very enjoyable.  He constantly gurgles and smiles now.  Orla's behaviour towards him is unusally tender for a girl of her age and was a joy to behold.

Easter Sunday's socialising started early when Collette turned up with her husband and Colm.  I hadn't told Colm that he would be visiting us that day, so he was pleasantly surprised and thanked me every few minutes!  Colleen arrived mid morning, Easter eggs were distributed (my adult daughters still like to receive eggs at Easter) and soon we were sharing lunch.  Carla and her family visited in the afternoon and we all shared dinner  (leg of pork which I had been slow cooking for 6 hours...mmmm, delicious!).  The adults over indulged in food and desserts and the children over indulged in chocolate - i.e. everyone had a great time!

My ex-wife eventually called at Collette's house today to see her 1st grandchild.  Lucas is 11 weeks old now, so she hasn't exactly been in a rush to see him.  Ah well - it has been her loss.  Colleen reluctantly called to see her mother too; and Colm called to get some money for a football shirt!  Although the visit was somewhat awkward, being a rarity, it also sort of completed a very family oriented Easter.

Marie is sleeping a little less now, but in other areas not much has changed.  (Of course, any improvement, no matter how slight, is very welcome!)  However the holiday season has helped me to recharge my batteries and I don't feel so exhausted.  In fact, life is pretty good at the moment.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

All for nothing

When Sue met Sam, he was working in the building trade.  She was a civil servant, working in the financial department.  Their romance was opposed by both of their families.  Sue's family felt that Sam, as a building worker, was beneath her socially: Sam's family thought that Sue was too "stuck up" for him - this opinion based on the fact that she was well educated.  Nevertheless, the relationship bloomed and they married within a year.

Their first home was a dilapidated, tiny house, but Sue had ambition and Sam was happy to follow her lead.  They renovated the house and saved hard for several years.  Sam became a supervisor in the building firm for which he worked.

A small, local kitchen installation company became available for purchase, and Sue saw it as an opportunity for the couple to improve their standing.  Sam knew little about kitchen fitting, but he was prepared to learn, and happy to put in long hours.  His supervisory experience was very useful and his cheerful, affable disposition made him a natural salesman without the need to use guile.  Sue continued to work in the civil service and looked after the company's books in the evenings.  The business grew steadily.

Sam and Sue decided to postpone starting a family until they became financially secure.  Twenty years later, Sue had given up her civil service career to work full-time in their business and it was going well.  They had moved into a modest detached home (close to my home) and it was time to start their family.  A baby boy duly appeared.

The little boy didn't interfere very much with their business.  Sam and Sue lived quite frugally and invested their excess cash in property.  Local property wasn't terribly lucrative,  so they moved their money to property in the rapidly growing USA market.

Sam worked around 10 hours a day, 6 days a week.  His only recreation was his weekly snooker night.  Sue only worked about 40 hours, but she also looked after the family home and most of their son's needs.  There wasn't much of a social life - they were focussed on saving for their retirement and for their son's future.

The last few years haven't been so good.  The USA property market more or less collapsed and their son rejected their lifestyle and moved to a squat in London.  They rarely see him.  Sue and Sam, approaching their chosen retirement date, seemed to have lost some of their ambition.

A few months ago, Sam had a heart attack.  He seemed to recover, but another heart attack, last week, proved fatal.  Sue claims that her life is over too.  All those years of struggle and self denial - it was for nothing, Sue told me.  Just a waste of 40 years.

I feel really sorry for Sue, but I hope that she will find it possible to create a new and different life for herself.  After all, she might have another 30 years or so to live.

Sam and Sue's story has made me even more determined to take as much pleasure as possible from every day.  Plan a little for the future, but not too much.  Try to avoid regrets in later years.   

And teach my children and grandchildren to do the same.