Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

As we celebrated the old fella’s birthday this weekend I can vividly recall the morning, one year ago when my Dad woke up complaining that he’d pulled a muscle in his arm but it was obvious to us all that something was seriously wrong. After a visit to the local doctor’s surgery he was despatched to the bus stop to make the thirty mile roundtrip to the hospital on a very stormy day lashed by gale force winds and torrential rain. When I returned from work I found my Dad soaked right through explaining that he’d had to ask the bus driver to retrieve his bus pass from his pocket as he was unable to and that was the first time of many that I was to cry tears of frustration that year. It’s hard not to when your old Dad who has always been so strong and self-sufficient struggles to even feed himself. Other times you laugh at your own incompetence such as when I accidentally locked him in the house with a lunch of bananas and sausage rolls completely forgetting that he would be unable to open them. I am forever trying to find ways to shave minutes off my day often falling into bed exhausted and I discovered pretty quickly that I’m not superwoman or a juggler so some things have had to change. Inevitably, it’s the things you enjoy doing the most that get sacrificed when you are under pressure.

It’s been a real journey of discovery and I have learned the hard way who my real friends are. Whilst many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in weddings, new houses and new families my life starts at five am when I’m awake for work and the rest revolves around hospital appointments, shopping, cleaning and repeating the whole process again the next day. You no longer have shared interests because you have very different priorities. They struggle to identify with your commitments as a carer and you constantly explain why you can’t just jet off with them on a much-needed holiday. Concerned friends soon stop asking when they realise you can’t fix a stroke with a couple of aspirins. Your hopes and dreams are parked and the life you imagined yourself having fades into the distance; this situation quickly becomes the new normal. Do I ever get resentful? Well of course, I’m only human after all and sometimes it’s hard surrendering your independence for dreary routine. There are no quick fixes here, no magic wands to restore mobility and recovery has been painstakingly slow but this is a marathon not a sprint.

There is help out there for those that are prepared to fight the system or are fortunate enough to have someone who is able to do that for them; for those that don’t no doubt they fall under the radar of our social services and struggle on alone unaided. In addition, gadgets enabling an easier life for those afflicted are ridiculously overpriced again taking advantage of the most vulnerable.

For those finding themselves in a similar situation if I could I’d gently take your hand and assure you that you’re not alone and that there is life after a debilitating family illness. Is it going to be harder than you imagined? Most probably! Will you have some really bleak days? Without a doubt you’ll feel incredibly overwhelmed, bone-tired and isolated but your sense of always finding the funny will get you all through. Will it get better? Definitely. It’ll be a big learning curve for everyone with both uplifting positive and desolate negative moments. You’ll lose friends but you’ll meet better ones worth keeping. For every hard-hearted dismissive jobsworth you encounter you will stumble across people who are like bottled sunshine. The old fella has made tremendous progress but we’ve learned to celebrate the little simple triumphs like seeing him pick up a knife. So why then don’t I just quit my job, buy a ticket and run away to Turkey? Because quite simply, he’s my Dad.

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

Not the best picture but this little one-footed fella dodges all the bigger birds every day to sneak a crumb when I’m feeding the rest and he reminds me that you can overcome anything.

For those facing the same struggles as our family if you haven’t already please try contacting the Stroke Association who are just amazing and helped us when no one else would.

Posted in Carers, Devon, family, friends, illness, parents, recovery, recuperation, rehabilitation, stroke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

In All Things Of Nature There Is Something Of The Marvellous

As most of you know I have always been an early morning commuter frequently travelling before sunrise but those hideous Monday morning blues have always been made a little more bearable with a lone Heron flying home above me so low in fact, that I can hear the soft beating of wings just like an angel passing by.

Hedgehog Des Res Dyson Abbey Style

Hedgehog Des Res Dyson Abbey Style

In those quiet times as night makes way for the morning an urban fox also used to troop pass me pausing only to sniff the air before hurrying on about her business and squirrels would expertly trapeze in the trees overhead. There’s nothing more magical when in the light of dawn mother nature reveals her secrets just for you alone. Sadly my early morning companions are all gone now as a new housing estate has sprung up almost overnight on the fields that they used to occupy leaving them with a rapidly shrinking environment and nowhere else to go. No doubt, when the new householders take up residence many will complain about the nuisance foxes who rummage through their refuse on what would have been fox territory long before it had ever been theirs. Whenever I’ve been fortunate to have an unexpected encounter with a wild creature I feel that I’ve been blessed with a tiny miracle and it saddens me that our children’s children may never experience the joy of seeing many of our indigenous wildlife within their natural habitat during their lifetimes.

Thinking of renting it out as a summer let!

Thinking of renting it out as a summer let!

Frogs, slow worms, shrews, moles, badgers, weasels were all an integral part of my country upbringing and I realise now that I was indeed fortunate to be raised in a rural community with nature on our doorstep. In fact, much of it was taken for granted and it was always assumed that there would be plenty of horse-chestnut trees during conker season but these too have now been felled to make way for yet more houses wiping out even more wildlife habitat. So how can you help? The hedgehog population has fallen by 37% in the past ten years which in real terms is a faster rate of decline than tigers in the wild. Want to know how you can make your garden hedgehog friendly? Then pop over to Hedgehog Street, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website for some really useful tips on how to help these delightful creatures. Remember, remember the 5th November and please check all bonfires for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting them.

When the last tree has been cut

When the last river has been poisoned

When the last fish has been caught

Then we will find out that we can’t eat money

IMG_0735

Posted in animals, Devon, hedgehog, hedgehogs, nature, rural, village, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Rescue; It’s Not Just a Verb It’s A Promise!

Milo & I wanted to wish you all a very happy & safe weekend from everyone here at Dyson Abbey and also to remind you how rewarding fostering can be. Writing posts about wildlife and our precious four-legged friends is always such a labour of love for me but the photography not so much hence I’ll be saving the shameless photobombing selfies of our feline family for another day. I have a renewed respect for the patience of all of our photography blogging friends and it’s completely true what they say about working with children & animals (well bored felines anyway).

With most shelters overflowing with unwanted and neglected animals what can be more worthwhile than saving a life like Milo? If you’re on Twitter why not help by an RT which might just find an animal on the euthanasia list a home. And to remind you just how fulfilling either adopting or fostering a rescue animal can be, I’ve posted this touching verse which never fails to reduce me to tears. Hankies at the ready!

There I sat alone and afraid,

You got a call and came to my aid

You bundled me up in blankets and love

and when I needed it most you gave me a hug

 

I learned that world was not all that scary and cold.

That sometimes there is someone to have and to hold

You taught me what love is, you helped me to mend.

You loved me and healed me and became my first friend

 

And just when I thought you’d done all you do,

There came along not just one lesson but two

First you said “sweetheart you’re ready to go,

I’ve done all I can and you’ve learned all I know”

 

Then you bundled me up with a blanket and kiss,

Along came a new family they even have kids!

They took me to their home forever to stay.

At first I thought you’d sent me away,

Then that second lesson became perfectly clear,

No matter how far you will always be near

 

And so Foster Mom, you know I’ve moved on,

I have a new home with toys and a lawn

But I’ll never forget what I learned that first day,

Is that you really never give fosters away.

 

You gave me these thoughts to remember you by,

We may never meet again but now I know why.

You’ll remember I lived with you for a time,

I may not be yours but you’ll always be mine

 

Barb Lieberman

 

Public Service Announcement From Milo

Public Service Announcement From Milo

Posted in animal cruelty, animal rescues, animal shelters, animal welfare, animals, cats, dogs, foster, fostering | Tagged , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

The Great Escape (Part Two)

The following day Barbs and I discussed strategy over a hearty breakfast at the local organic café as my mother insists on giving us porridge, muesli, prunes to keep us “regular” but superheroes can’t march on granola alone and neither would it help hone my cat-like reflexes ahead of our stealth invasion.

As soon as we had finished our Big Girls’ Breakfast we returned home to gather “intel” for the covert mission ahead. Two discarded Toy Story walkie talkies were retrieved from the loft where the kids had left them a fair few years’ ago. The fact that they were now in my possession suggested that they were some toys you never outgrew and some adults who never grew up.

With the batteries replaced they were as good as new and the range so clear that I could probably have safely guided a Boeing 747 in to land.

Barbs’ late mother used to knit balaclavas which would have been ideal for the job in hand but sadly as she was no longer with us I had to make do with one of my Dad’s old gardening hats but as I picked up the scissors to insert eye holes my mother snapped “Deborah, don’t be using my good scissors for those” As opposed to the naughty ones!

We spent the next couple of hours assembling our outfits for the covert mission ahead and agreed on our radio pseudonyms; Barbs would be “Roller Chick” and I would be “Lawn Mower Girl” for use over the airwaves. We giggled as we finalised the details of our cunning plan and envisioned victoriously retrieving all our lost booty. We waited until midnight or the witching hour, which as you know is when Barbs and I do our best work.

It was a clear crisp night with a full moon and having disconnected our security light we snaked over to the privet hedge. I tried to persuade Barbs as the littlest and most lithe to venture across the great divide but she wisely declined which meant that I was going to have to be the one to defend the family honour.

“Now be careful with that garden shed; it was put together on a wing and a prayer like all his other DIY projects. One slight tap and the roof’ll fall off” hissed Barbs.

As I struggled to heave my ample bottom over the hedge I couldn’t help but think it would have been a damn sight easier if we’d got the local WICCA coven (one of the members makes jam with the old dear at the Women’s Institute) to create some potion or other for us; one that involved a good deal of discomfort, of course.

Sitting astride the hedge with the blackberry brambles ripping me to shreds, Barbs handed me the walkie-talkie and as I slid down into enemy territory, I nodded “See you on the other side” as they do in the movies.

Having landed safely on Turbo’s decking, I crawled across to the shed. Crouching I gingerly reached up for the handle and carefully opened the door.

“Lawn Mower Girl calling Roller Chick, come in Roller Chick” I hissed into the walkie-talkie “I’m going in”.

I sneaked into the shed to retrieve as many familiar items as I could and handed them across the hedge to Barbs who was stood on tiptoe on the other side. After locating my Dad’s last spade, I whispered into the handset “mission accomplished Roller Chick, I’m coming home”. However, my excitement was short-lived as suddenly there was a creak followed by a large groan and the shed collapsed leaving me holding just the door handle.

Immediately the light in the upstairs window came on and I hightailed it back to the safety of the hedge. Across the airwaves, Barbs dulcet tones screamed “abort, abort”.

Well aren’t you a little late to the party, my little vertically challenged friend I thought as I scampered over the top of the hedge. I was literally one minute away from being undetected when the bedroom window swung open and a torch was shone in my direction.

“Who’s there? Dallas, is that you?”

Cringing with embarrassment I recovered quickly informing him that we were doing a little blackberry picking as a surprise for the old fella’s breakfast. He asked if I’d seen any intruders and with a sharp intake of breath I shook my head unconvincingly.

Hedgehogs” I exclaimed “loads of them around this time of year looking for somewhere to hibernate”

Without missing a beat that’s when my partner in crime piped up “they’d have to be ninja hedgehogs on steroids to bring a shed down”. After throwing me under the bus, she giggled softly “told you to be careful, didn’t I.”

Turbo scratched his head and said “Can’t understand it but the instructions were in Japanese so I just winged it when I was putting it up. I’ll get your Dad to give me a hand with it in the morning.”

Relieved that we’d dodged a bullet, I  realised I was in dire need of  some fortification so we had a shot of my Dad’s dandelion wine but after Barb’s flagrant display of disloyalty I decided to save the good stuff until she’d departed for home.

No Hedgehogs were harmed during the writing of this post

No Hedgehogs were harmed during the writing of this post

Posted in Devon, family, friends, garden, gardener, gardening, hedgehog, hedgehogs, humour, nature, neighbours, Plymouth, stories, story, wildlife, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

The Great Escape (Part One)

Most of our neighbours have lived alongside us for several years in relative harmony where we’ve seen their children raised and move away from home to make their own way in the world. We’ve shared in their family celebrations and tragedies as they have in ours. So it is always sad to wave goodbye to family you’ve grown with but always nice to welcome new friends both young and old into the area. That is until Turbo moved in!

For some time now I have become increasingly irritated by our neighbour’s bad habit of borrowing items from us and never returning them. As a single long-distance lorry driver and aptly named (as he manoeuvres even slower than one speed Hobo) he moved into the house next door about three years ago and has regularly “borrowed” everything and anything from tools, tin groceries, portable heaters, garden and power tools none of which are ever returned. He assembled a shed about a year ago and asked us to lend him the necessary equipment which none of us have ever seen again. My Dad’s garden spades, forks and rakes, which had been lovingly cleaned and oiled over the years, have all been thoughtlessly abandoned in the rain once borrowed and when we request their return he tells us he is unable to locate them. One morning at 5.30am he rang the doorbell to borrow clingfilm and whilst I was already awake for work, the rest of the household were less than impressed.

Another source of constant irritation since wearing out the batteries on the doorbell is that he now bellows across the fence should he wish to catch our attention which is frankly going to drive the old dear to drink. I truly believe that if he heard we had nits the kleptomaniac next door would want to borrow them.

The final straw for me was when I was doing a spot of weeding during Barb’s visit. I was enthusiastically attacking the nettles whilst the lazy trollop was lounging in a deck chair supervising my endeavours. Turbo looked over the fence and asked whether he could “borrow” my gardening gauntlets after I finished as he had an urgent gardening project. Over the next two days I watched the lack of activity in the garden next-door and fumed when I realised that I again been duped. I decided there and then that I was going to carry out a midnight raid (think Expendables style but with less dynamite) ably assisted by my right-hand (wo)man and take back what was ours!

I'm going in!

I’m going in!

Posted in Devon, family, friends, garden, gardener, gardening, hedgehog, humour, neighbours, parents, Plymouth, stories, Travel, true story | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Fergus McInnes

crazytraintotinkytown:

One of our blogging friends Lorna from Lorna’s Tearoom Delights needs our help. Her brother went missing from in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday 9 September 2014. Imagine if it was your brother, son or dad who had disappeared and you had no clue as to his whereabouts, hoping that every phone call or email would bring news. I can’t imagine the distress that Lorna and her family are going through so can I ask if you are unable to reblog that you share on your Facebook or RT on Twitter. Let’s help to get Fergus home to his family.

His family & friends have created a Missing Fergus McInnes blog to keep everyone updated with any progress

Originally posted on Lorna's Tearoom Delights:

By brother, Fergus McInnes, went missing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday 9 September 2014.

Fergus Facebook profile photograph hillwalking

Fergus walking in the hills, one of his many hobbies.

He was due to attend a work conference in the Swiss town of Martigny the following day, and to meet his colleagues that evening for a meal.

He boarded the 09:35 EasyJet flight at Edinburgh airport and was seen on CCTV in Geneva airport around 13:00, where he bought a train ticket that we believe was a return to Martigny.

Nothing has been seen of him since.

He did not arrive at the meeting point that evening to go for a meal, he did not check into his hotel room and he did not appear at the conference. He also failed to catch his return flight to Edinburgh on 11 September.

His mobile phone has not been switched on since he switched it off for the flight…

View original 256 more words

Posted in Travel | 12 Comments

Animals Never Dump People

This gallery contains 8 photos.

My heart broke a little this week when an acquaintance of ours from a family of supposed dog lovers informed me that his sister had decided to rehome her nine-year old beagle which she’d had from when he was a … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , | 65 Comments

There Is A Voice That Doesn’t Use Words. Listen

Frequently random strangers confide in me the most personal and sometimes shocking or distressing details of their lives in often the most unusual circumstances. Regularly someone will strike up a conversation with me at a bus stop or as a fellow passenger on a train and before long they are disclosing some of their most intimate secrets. Which makes me wonder if confession really is good for the soul and are complete strangers less judgemental than their own nearest and dearest? What courage it must take to confide in an outsider and what prevents them from having the same earnest conversation with their own kin?

Whilst I like to think I’m a good listener the truth of the matter is for my own loved ones I’m probably not as good as I should be. I was born a nurturer with a warrior’s spirit for injustice and as such I just want to help them by putting things right and easing their hurt. I have that Sagittarian outspokenness which seldom means I say the right thing at the right time but in an emergency situation as a “doer” I can be counted on to provide more practical help.

It’s taken me a very long time to learn this but people seldom want my rational kind of help they just want the sympathy of a compassionate and understanding soul for their troubled hearts. So the very next time someone divulges a secret, I’m going to switch my phone off, put the kettle on, sit on my hands and do the hardest thing in the world; shut up and really listen.

Burgh Island, Devon

Burgh Island, Devon

Posted in counselling, family, friends, friendship, listen, words | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

If You Carry Your Childhood With You, You Never Become Older

I met my bestie, Barbs when she was an Executive Housekeeping Manager (or HFH = Housekeeper From Hell as I used to call her) and we both worked in the same chain-owned hotel. We smiled at each other at a morning meeting and somehow we just clicked probably more to do with the fact that she has no filter and will always be the one to tell you how it really is. I never got to meet her lovely mum with her sparkling Lancashire wit, but Barbs frequently used to quote her and some of my favourite gems are “if you can’t fight, wear a big hat”, “go on smile; give your face a joyride” or “have you had a wash or are you just drying a dirty colour”. Barbs decision to pursue a career within the Hotel industry was also enthusiastically endorsed by her mum when she said “you’ve not got much up top but by heavens, you’re a good scrubber”. With that glowing testimonial, Barbs was always going to be destined for a life amongst grubby bed linens and dirty bathrooms.

For her big birthday Barbs decided she was going to mark the occasion by resuming roller skating which was something she had enjoyed as a teenager. So whilst she was visiting us the other week, and taking a rest from being my editor-in-chief, she asked if I would order some online for her. I was strangely drawn to the leopard print ones with the neon purple wheels, Barbs not so much so we opted for the plain white ones. After the order was completed, she rang her father to inform him that they were being delivered to his address just in case he opened the package thinking there were for him and fancied a trial run along Blackpool promenade; which is incidentally where my Dad used to roller skate as a young boy.

Several days later when Barbs returned home, she rang me all excited to say that they had been delivered and revealed she’d been wearing them around the house since she’d opened the box. It was only much later that I had discovered she was so smitten; she’d slept in them which couldn’t have been good for either her black satin sheets or water-bed.

Have a safe & happy weekend my friends and I’ll leave you with a picture of the lovely Barbs in her new skating outfit; frankly I think it could do with a few more sequins.

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Posted in children, friends, humour, roller skating, skating | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter

Like many of you I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  Whilst, I think that it has certain advantages for keeping in touch with family & friends located in faraway places and as a writer it does have obvious benefits but for many it’s a bit of a dual-edged sword. Too often I have come across inappropriate posts and videos which in my opinion have no place on a social networking site. It is alleged that this week Facebook have failed to remove a video of a helpless & vulnerable kitten being deliberately doused in fuel and set alight; what purpose does that video serve? I also fail to see why you would want to give the sociopaths that committed this heinous and cowardly act their fifteen minutes of fame. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself why certain Facebookers would feel the need to “like” this type of post. Whilst Facebook insist that they had reviewed the clip, which they insisted had met its guidelines, by simply doing nothing are they green lighting other evil-minded individuals?

Surely there has to be a more stringent policy where pictures of extreme cruelty are removed in a timely fashion and by timely, I mean immediately. Derogatory pictures and borderline slanderous statements that will obviously cause emotional distress to others also have no place. I have personally fallen foul of an anonymous user, who superimposed my head from my profile picture, along with several other girls onto the bodies of girls in stills from adult films accompanied by crass taglines and my complaint wasn’t upheld, subsequently, Facebook refused to remove them. Imagine the distress that this caused me and my family and likewise for all the other girls. It is inconceivable that some malicious individual could randomly target your profile picture in this way because they are not regulated. It begs the question that if any of us had been celebrities would Facebook fearing legal reprisals have taken a different stance or were we simply not important enough to merit their protection from internet trolls.

You don’t have to be a public relations expert to determine what is right and wrong most of us learn that as children but one wonders sometimes whether integrity is an out-dated principle for many multi-million organisations.  So if you’re listening Facebook you need to man up and grow a set along with some morals; your users will love you for it!

The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

Posted in animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, bullying, cats, Facebook, internet trolls, social networking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments