Heartbeat At My Feet

I think it’s fair to say that since the old fella passed I’ve lost my way a little stumbling around like a lost soul but I think he’d approve of me becoming self-employed which is my first step in moving on. Bereavement without a doubt, leaves a gaping hole in your life and I vowed that because of the poor experience which we had with Dad’s care that I would make something positive come out of a bad situation; so meet Miss Wigglebum.

I thought long and hard about becoming a fosterer before completing the application form for a small rescue and when they announced they were coming for a house inspection it somehow made it all real. Truthfully I was expecting to foster an older dog whose owner had passed away so when I had a call unexpectedly one Saturday morning concerning an emergency rescue I didn’t have time to think too much about it. I had no idea that my new houseguest was a ten week old springer pup who when handed to me was yellow from being sat in her own urine. Having not had a baby in the house for some time I don’t think I was quite prepared for the puppy devastation whirlwind. We’ve baby-gated for England (in fact if I ever write my memoirs they’ll be called “Babygate”) and because we are Miss Wigglebum’s third home house-training is a bit of a marathon. I often wondered why with three cats and little experience in the puppy raising field the rescue chose me to be her fosterer but maybe they had few options as they tell me it’s getting harder to recruit fosterers.

As a rescue she is not without her problems; underweight with severe guarding aggression are just a couple of them but our puppy trainer reckons it’s because she left mum too early and then lived in a shed on her own so she’s told me to take one day at a time. On the days when this cute puppy transforms into the “Bride of Chuckie” I’m left wondering what the hell I’ve done but I’m determined not to give up on her and I know that I have enrolled the best help I can. I met Jenny her trainer as one of the judges at the fun dog show at a local rescue and she took pity on me and awarded Cujo a rosette for “waggiest tail”. She must have noticed my look of sleep deprivation and despair so we got chatting and I discovered that she was running a local puppy class. Jenny as a breeder of springer spaniels calmly reassured me that there is no perfect dog and added there is nothing she hasn’t seen before so fate had once again stepped in and provided us both with a saviour.

We have met some amazing people as part of her journey and accidentally meeting up with a group of dog walkers at 7am every morning has given her the socialization she was lacking. Dogs of all ages and breeds are teaching her manners and their patient owners understand this; in fact, she has a better social life than me!

Now Ruby, as we have renamed her is fourteen weeks old and it feels like she has been here forever; the training is one step forward and frequently two steps back but I am determined not to give up on her as I will be the one who failed her if I don’t do all I can to ensure that she is a happy, healthy and well-behaved family pet.

As the old fella often remarked when I would whine about some insignificant minor inconvenience, “life doesn’t always give you what you want, it gives you what you need” and somehow I think he would approve.

Miss Wigglebum

Kindness Matters

During my time in Turkey I was fortunate to meet many charming people many of whom inspired me and many that I shall never forget; two of those were George & his lovely wife Laura, retired expats who lived in one of the apartments in our block. We used to chat at the pool and exchange book recommendations and as I was fairly new to Turkey they helped me out with advice such as which dolmuş (bus) takes you to Maveshir market and various restaurant recommendations; all very important for a green expat. One day whilst I was sat poolside sunning myself, he beckoned me over and asked me if I liked cats; does the Wizard of Oz like munchkins? I was beyond enchanted when I discovered that the balcony of their apartment was alive with mother cats and kittens. One of the things that I had found the hardest to bear when living in Turkey was the poor animal welfare & cruelty so stumbling across this safe haven for mother cats and kittens filled my day with sunshine.

Like many retirees George & Laura, were living on a budget and as pet food is generally very expensive in Turkey, they fed their house guests a diet of pasta, fish and whatever meat was going cheap in the butchers that week along with donations from friends and neighbours. Street animals have a very hard life in Turkey and it’s common for them to be poisoned, beaten & kicked or have stones thrown at them by children. In our neighbourhood pregnant mother cats soon discovered that George & Laura’s balcony was a protected sanctuary for them to safely deliver their kittens free from predators, harsh weather and cruelty.

So I was delighted when Laura told me that she has begun inviting neighbouring Turkish children over to meet the young cats and kittens in the hope of re-educating the next generation which in turn might improve the lives of street animals. Their obvious delight in discovering the simple pleasures in helping to feed & play with these small mites was a joy to watch. Whilst I know that no one will ever be able to save all of the street animals in George & Laura’s small corner of the world they had without doubt begun to make a huge difference for the precious little lives in their care.

“Teaching children to be kinder to animals today, is our only hope for a kinder world tomorrow”

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For Next Year I Think I’ll Just Be Happy

Without doubt this has been one of the worst years of my life having lost my much-loved Dad following a devastating year of unbearable terminal illness. It’s hard to believe that his accident was twelve long months’ ago and he went overnight from driving the old folk to the supermarket to not being able to tie his own shoelaces. There have been so many enlightening lessons and although I always thought I was a strong person I clearly didn’t know what strong was until now.  I’ve met some people on this journey that have been like bottled sunshine on a very rainy day and some not so much. Whilst I cannot wait to embrace the New Year and hopefully a new start ultimately I will begin it a little sadder, wiser but a damn sight more fierce than the person I was twelve months ago.

What I’ve learned this year:

Karma does exist so even in your intensely frustrating moments you just have to sit back and let the universe deal with it

Fight for what you believe is right even if it takes every ounce of strength you have and then some

Learn to say no

People can be insensitive, selfish and will disappoint you so just appreciate and be grateful for the kind ones that warm your heart in your darkest of moments.

Don’t hoard beautiful things waiting for that special occasion to use or wear them; that special day is every day in which you are fortunate to walk this earth

Take some time to sit awhile with the elderly and infirmed and let them share their stories; you might just learn something!

Don’t leave words in your heart unspoken waiting for the right time; seize the moment and be bold for there will never be a perfect moment

Did a random act of kindness from a stranger on one of your bleakest days make all the difference? Then pay it forward; the world needs more of that.

Never underestimate the power of touch; hold a hand it may provide comfort to some lost soul facing their own struggles

Celebrate successes, special occasions and life, all with reckless abandon & joy for these will be the golden days you will remember for the rest of your life

Laugh as much as you can and whenever possible

Don’t be too proud to accept help

It’s good to talk so find a friend (two or four-legged) who understands the difficult road you’re walking

When it gets too much let it out and have a good cry, big fat shoulder-heaving noisy tears; you’ll scare the neighbours but you’ll feel lighter in spirit

Don’t side-line the things that make your heart sing because all of us need a tuppence-worth of happiness to add a little light to our troubled hearts

Sometimes you think you may never smile again and maybe you’ve forgotten how to but rest assured somewhere down the road the clouds will fade and the sun will shine for you again

Don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not; there is no shame in admitting you need someone to help share your burden every now and then.

No one debilitating disease is worse than any other to each victim of Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone, Parkinson’s, Heart Disease, Strokes, they are all equally devastating and crush millions of families the world over. So for those still fighting their own battles have courage & faith, my friends; you got this!

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Love Is A Net That Catches Hearts Like Fish

Without doubt the old fella has left an enormous hole in our hearts but his legacy was living every moment in the joy of simple things and sharing laughter with those he loved. Often when I left my laptop open I used to find him surreptitiously reading your comments & chuckling in response to a story I had written about him as he was bemused that you all found the allotment exploits of an eccentric old pensioner amusing. He enjoyed your pictures of places he would never get to visit and was fascinated that we could connect with people living on the other side of the world. I will miss him more than I thought possible and the way he greeted me everyday with the words “hello sunshine”.  I also know in my heart that he would want you all to remember him with a smile as he did with you.

As some of you know Chloe Hellcat, the smallest of our cat family was rescued from the water by a kindly fisherman, which is how she came live with us and by which time as a waterside feral she had become an adept fisherman herself.

Sadly this is a trait we haven’t been able to remedy and unfortunately last summer she discovered an accommodating ornamental pond in the village spending a week trawling the pond to bring home wriggling Koi Carp larger than herself. Chloe always loses interest in her quarry after dumping it on the lawn so it was no surprise one Saturday morning when I found not one but two large golden carp flopping around on the grass. After the immediate shock wore off it was action stations as I frantically ran around the garden, filling a bucket and gingerly putting the slippery little suckers into it. Just as I had successfully installed both fish into the pail the little minx returned with yet another which I wasted no time in reuniting with its fishy friends.

As there is no ornamental pond within my garden the most obvious solution was to accommodate them temporarily in the old fella’s pride and joy until we could discover who they really belonged to. So after an anxious telephone call, Operation “Rescuing Nemo” was launched when my Dad called the local village hair salon to ask them to tell my mother to stop at my house on the way home after her regular shampoo & set.

My mother is no fan of any creature of the wriggling variety and I think it’s fair to say was pretty much horrified when I asked her to sit in the passenger seat of my cramped Renault Clio and grip a bucket of fish between her knees; no easy feat in a Jaeger skirt suit I assure you. However, as the journey to Dyson Abbey was only a two-minute journey she reluctantly agreed but I knew that Dad’s ears would be ringing once she got home.

As is always the case during the busiest time of the year, when holidaymakers flock to Devon to sample, amongst other things, our ‘andsome cream teas, frequent road works magically appear overnight. So it was no surprise on this Saturday morning that the short journey from my house to the old folks involved a longer detour through winding leafy country lanes. Whilst we whizzed past luscious green countryside, I was anxiously negotiating the meandering roads as my mother screamed at me to slow down each time water splashed her legs and I think she would have had apoplexy should any fish have escaped the bucket.

Additionally as it was so hot I had opened the windows so whilst squeezing right into the bramble covered hedgerows to avoid oncoming traffic my mother’s new “do” was completely windswept and speckled with leaves & the odd feather giving her the appearance of a manic “Miss Havisham”. I couldn’t help but feel she was going to be less than happy when we eventually got to our destination.

As luck would have it when I pulled up there was nowhere to park so we had to leave it on the main road which meant that the old dear was not going to be able to edge out of the car unnoticed. As I opened the passenger door for her, Dad was waiting on the other side of the low garden wall and the sight of a dishevelled Mum regally sat in the front seat with this bucket gripped between her knees reduced him to hysterics which I knew would cost him dear later.

When he recovered himself enough I passed the bucket to him so that he could liberate the fish into their new home. I have it on good authority that the old dear gave my Dad fish every evening for dinner that week, however, as I understand the old fella declined preferring instead the old faithful banana sandwich as he reckoned he wouldn’t be able to look his new lodgers in the eye if he devoured their cousins.

The old fella always wanted something positive to come out of something negative and in the spirit of all the rescues that we have carried out together as a family, if you’re on Facebook take five minutes to check out Jodie’s Cyprus Dogs Rehoming and if you can please share, as I think he’d kinda like that.

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To Lose Someone You Love Is To Alter Your Life Forever

This is a post that I never wanted to write and hoped that I wouldn’t have to for many a long year but sadly our time ran out last week and my dear old Dad passed away. As he has been the inspiration for so many of my stories it only seemed right that I pay tribute to my childhood hero the best way I know how.

So how do you say goodbye to someone who has been the constant light guiding your ship into harbour and the gentle wind that helps steer you across the sea onwards to new horizons; the honest truth is I don’t know that I can. My kind-hearted old Dad has always been the one that has been there for us like a solid anchor in a rough ocean.  He never yearned for a bigger house, a faster car or a fortune; in fact, he truly believed his fortune lay within the family he raised, the home he built and in the flowers he grew. Although he was a retired electrical engineer it was simple pleasures that brought joy to his day like tinkering in his shed or digging out the weeds. His loving legacy is evident in his garden, his granddaughters and the laughter that echoes around the walls of our family home.

You see the thing is I don’t think I would ever have been ready to have said goodbye so I am left bereft and lost; a broken heart can do that to you every time. So thank you for your kind messages and my heartfelt thoughts go out to all those out there who are also struggling with their own loss.

So in the coming grief-stricken months there’ll be memories, more precious than rubies, packed away in lavender-scented tissue paper like a favourite old sweater which will be brought out to console us on our loneliest days.

I could be mistaken but last night when I looked up I’m sure there was an extra star burning brightly in the midnight sky shining over us just as the old fella did every day of his life looking out for those he loved.

“The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good”

Goodnight sunshine x

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The Old Fella

 

You Think You Have Time

My darling daddy has just returned from his final hospital stay; there will be no more. My childhood hero who has fought the hardest bravest battle during the past six months and has been sent home for the last time with an end of life package.

His delight at leaving the hospital is all too evident and all we want is for him to happy, pain free and comfortable. So for the next few days or weeks we’re going to make them the bestest ever, filled with happy memories, no words left unspoken and absolutely no regrets for a joyous life lived.

You’ll forgive me if I’m away a while I’m sure but I want to leave you with these thoughts; buy the damn expensive shoes, leave the housework for a time, walk in the rain, laugh more, be kind, tell them you love them and on a summer’s evening “I hope you dance“.

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Just ‘Cos You’re Breathing Doesn’t Mean You’re Alive

I’m tired and fed up; fed up with being brave, fed up with pretending everything is going to be okay and honestly a little resentful at putting my life on hold again. The truth is that despite being in denial for some weeks, my lovely Dad will never be the same again and whilst he’s made a wonderful physical recovery he struggles most days to remember what day of the week it is and what he had for breakfast. Heart-breaking though it is, I have to admit that overnight we have lost my beloved Dad.

This is the post I have dreaded writing the most because by doing so I have to finally admit that my Dad will probably not be coming home and writing those words fills my heart with an unfathomable sadness. I know that my Dad’s no more special than any other dad but to me he’s been the anchor that has steadied our ship and his kindness has enveloped us in an embrace that warmed our hearts just like an old favourite sweater on a winter’s day, reassuring us that there was goodness in the world on even the darkest days.

The surgeon made him aware of the risks when he had his hip operation and we were told that they had a medical dilemma which meant that they couldn’t treat both the stroke & shattered hip simultaneously but he had been adamant that he wanted to pursue the operation. I remember someone telling me that the sooner you treat a stroke the more of the person you save and in my Dad’s case it was to be very little. When the old fella made the decision he was completely coherent, had been driving the “old folk” to the supermarket the day before for the weekly shop, read a broadsheet every day and was able to discuss current affairs almost as well as a foreign correspondent; now he struggles to operate a basic television remote.

The fact of the matter is no amount of sleep, medication or a different environment will alter that now. Our lives have changed dramatically, I go to work and visit him on the way home every day but when he thanks me for coming I realise he doesn’t remember that we had the same conversation the day before and the day before that. There will be no evening telephone calls to discuss our day & bid him goodnight because quite simply he is unable to concentrate on anything for very long. He still kisses my hand when I leave that’s on one of the rare occasions when he hasn’t fallen asleep mid conversation.

We’re not the only family who have been left devastated by the effects of a stroke and no doubt we won’t be the last but at this time and moment I am suffocated by black despair. There’s no quick fix this time around, no magic potion waiting to wake him from this deep slumber and regrettably we are just starting out on this journey of unchartered territory. Some days fragments of my old Dad appear and then just as quickly disappear again. There will be lots of dragons to slay along the road not the least being the callous and faceless bureaucrats with their senseless & often ridiculous form filling.

As he has always told me we never know what’s around the corner, I think I’m all out of wishes and I have frequently wondered during the past few weeks if my Dad really understood the decision he made exchanging physical well-being for mental coherence. I can’t help but feel that sometimes he made a deal with the devil and came up short-changed.

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The hardest thing is watching somebody you love forget they love you

Dearest Dad

I know you’re scared and if I’m honest I am too and more than a little devastated. As you have always said to me life is seldom fair and you are so right. Your stroke had been a bitter blow for the family but we have been so proud of the way you have dealt with your rehabilitation and will always be grateful to the medical team who have supported you throughout.

It was a truly priceless moment when you were able to sit behind the wheel of the car again for the first time in eighteen months beaming ear to ear with joy from regaining your independence which regrettably would be short-lived. I have been right here alongside you throughout the highs and lows and cheering you on from the side lines. It’s been a big learning curve for all of us and I think I’m a better and more patient person as a result. You have borne this struggle with grace and humility which is something many would have wrestled with. You have fought valiantly against all odds and overcome every challenge so it seems a cruel disappointment to ask you to do that again particularly as there will ultimately be no reprieve or happy ending this time around.

We’ve both known for some time that things just haven’t been right. A bigger and more fearful spectre has crept into our lives whilst we were busy focusing on your rehabilitation one which we both chose to ignore partly through fear and partly ignorance. We all quickly dismissed your forgetfulness as tiredness or a side effect of your medication. Forced smiles and pretence isn’t something that you or I can do very well for any length of time and inevitably we have had to face up to the consequences.

I’ve always thought that you need to roll with the cards you’ve been dealt but I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel a little dismayed at having my new-found freedom brought about by your recovery, snatched away quite so soon. As much as we would like to even we can’t beat this malevolent condition.

By the time you read this we will have started the process of tests again and yes there will be changes some good and some less welcome. There will, no doubt, be a few less than sunshine days when we will all rage with frustration but amongst them will be precious moments too. So let’s make these the best days of all filled with our favourites things; picnics, blackberry picking, kite flying and sitting on the porch watching the sky ablaze with lightning during a summer storm. Neither of us can change the future but we can make every cherished moment count.

So for now old fella, whilst this is just another setback along the road it’s a journey you won’t have to walk alone. We will always be able to smell the flowers and there’ll always be more dances but as with everything else in life we need to take this one step at a time just as we’ve always done.

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Your Heart Is Just A Beatbox For The Song Of Your Life

A chance encounter on Twitter reminded me of one of my Turkish road trip stories when we made one of our many sixteen hour journeys from Tinky Town back to Ahmed’s family in Kahramanmaraş

You may remember Ahmed’s reluctance to spend money and subsequently on one overnight trip when our hunger pangs got the better of us we decided to stop for something to eat. Ahmed speedily passed all the brand new roadside inns and pulled up in a tiny remote village alongside a ramshackle building with a corrugated iron roof.

I was less than impressed with Ahmed’s choice of venue but not altogether surprised nevertheless at this point as I was so famished and tired that I grudgingly climbed out of the car, slamming the door behind me to register my displeasure.

On walking through the door the biggest surprise of all was hearing the golden tones of Wynonna Judd coming from a ropey old sound system in the corner of this tatty café where the only customers were two elderly Turks drinking çay, sat amongst the mismatched plastic tables & chairs. Well I thought if it’s good enough for Wynonna it’s good enough for me and if the worse should happen and I should perish from food poisoning then at the very least the last thing I would hear would be a decent tune.

The elderly Turk behind the counter sporting a white apron informed me “very, very good girl” pointing to a very old but treasured picture, taking pride of place on the wall “you know her”?

I assured him not personally but I was the very proud owner of the Judds’ greatest hits CD which I had played to death especially “Grandpa“. How could one not be a fan of Wynonna; she has the voice of an angel, is a fellow animal lover and as a bit of a wordsmith myself who appreciates a great lyric, sings some kick ass songs.

My mood lightened and I relaxed whilst Ahmed placed the order which was swiftly delivered to the table by the elderly waiter. A few minutes later calling to his colleague he turned the volume up for “Mama he’s crazy” and accompanied by the other two customers performed a traditional Turkish dance to the melody. I’ve never laughed quite so much but I’d like to think I was laughing along with them as they hopped up & down waving their white napkins in the air and singing the word “crazee” with abandon.

It occurred to me as they danced that Wynonna had probably never dreamed that when she recorded this track it would be playing in a dusty old café on the other side of the world but I felt sure somehow she’d approve of people united in laughter and music, regardless of race, culture or religion, on one crazy hot summer’s night in Turkey.

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The Cup That Cheers

I can’t remember a time when there has been a drama in my life and a cup of tea hasn’t been on hand to console me. In fact, tea is one of my mother’s cure-alls along with mothballs and TCP antiseptic. There’s something soothing about it and for some reason it always tastes better in a bone china cup and saucer even though being a cack-handed Carrie I’m always holding my breath & struggling not to drop or smash my mother’s finest Royal Doulton. There’s something very reassuring about a cup of tea; a bit like a hot bath on the inside or wearing your oldest and most favourite sweater.

Let’s be honest it was buckets of tea that got me through the Serial Shagger saga and subsequent indignities. I’m not denying that there weren’t a shedload of cocktails thrown in for overall fortification but ultimately it was my good friends Earl & Lady Grey that were on hand to provide comfort during the humiliating ordeal of being jilted.

When I was in Turkey, tea or çay was more than just a drink it was a social invitation to sit, share the company of another soul, engage in conversation and watch the world go by. It was considered impolite not to accept the hand of friendship being extended to you and declining the invitation may have been considered an insult by some. The Turkish pride themselves on their hospitality and with very good reason; seldom will you leave a Turkish home without having partaken in a meal of some sort. They enjoy sharing their food with guests, their home produce and laughter. Rarely have I ever left Turkish hosts where I wasn’t just taking away a sated appetite but a lesson in graciousness together with some new friends.

Come & share a pot of tea, my home is warm, my friendship’s free

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