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The 2 most amazing things my 82-yr old Mum said, despite her dementia

I recently heard this analogy about memory: imagine your brain is a bookcase, filled with books of wisdom and learning from the lowest shelves upwards… but as you age- or get dementia- the topmost books fall off, one by one, or sometimes two by two, until the shelves slowly empty down to the ground… Yet Mum still said great things during our three weeks together, and I’m grateful I wrote them down; there will be more to come. Scenario 1: We’re in her living room, surrounded by plump bookcases- she used to be the Head Librarian of our town. Suddenly she picks up a hardcover book, opens it to a few pages from the front and reads aloud this Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I remembered one of my recent posts- “Nostalgia looks like a hedge, sounds like a seagull, & tastes like crumpets” -about the release of painful memories actually being a blessing for us both. …

When telling a lie is the best option, to clamber ancient rocks in Wales

“Come and stay in the holiday cottage with us; take a break from your Mum,” says my Aunty over the phone. I don’t need to be invited twice. Any excuse to hop on a train cross country- my favourite way to travel. My Aunt and her partner live in North Wales, but a family gathering is happening in South Wales, and it’s the perfect time to catch up with my cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, as they celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They’re staying near where Mum and her 3 siblings grew up, around Gowerton. I’ve never been there before: I’ll get to see the house they grew up in, the school they went to, and most importantly, the bays and beaches over which they gazed as they matured, following their dreams. But I’ll have to ignore the stab of guilt at not taking Mum with me. I know full well that she actually needs the stability of her routines in a familiar place, rather than the stress of travel and an unknown …

Nostalgia looks like a hedge, sounds like a seagull, & tastes like crumpets

Mum and our cousin met me unexpectedly at the train station, so there were hugs all round, then straight home for a cuppa. I can tell she’s very happy to see me of course, but Mum also asks several times where we’re going, as though she hasn’t just heard the answer a minute ago. Which is the world she lives in now. Dementia often takes away short-term memory first, and that was one of the initial symptoms we began to notice a few years ago. ‘Shall we have a treat with our tea? How about a crumpet?’ Nostalgia coats my taste buds like raspberry jam and warm runny butter. I’m drawn backwards through the years, remembering blustery walks on the beach with various dogs, coming home to food treats like hot crumpets. Crackers with sharp vintage cheddar. Fruit & nut chocolate. Crispy fish and chips every Friday. Rhubarb and apple crumble with clotted cream… these are a few of my favourite things. But if I want them, I’ll have to buy them and/or make them. …

Musings on Mum

I’m on the train down to the quaint English seaside town where I grew up, watching the countryside flash by. Neatly hedged fields, thick-walled farmhouses, and glimpses of bigger human settlements marked by the identical carparks and superstores. I’m trying to work out how I feel. It’s a mixture of jetlagged tiredness, slight anxiety, a little excitement, and my hopeful practice of being an open, blank slate. It suddenly occurred to me that Mum hasn’t seen me with blonde hair. Well, not since the ill-fated ‘Highlights Experiment of 1985’ anyway; maybe I should pop my blue cap on? This is a new experience: wondering how Mum is going to greet me. For as long as I can remember of course, she has hugged me hello with a squeal of excitement, and teary eyes, especially once I moved to Australia in 1987, and there were long gaps between my flights home. At my financially poorest, and most rebellious, I admit I didn’t see her for 8 years; I would HATE it if ‘18’ did that to …

‘Where have you been G?’: stilts, bands, and birthdays basically

Hi! It’s been ages 10 days since I last wrote a post, I’m sorry. Life just got busy, y’know. What with ’18’s big birthday, and 3 gigs on 3 weekends with my fabulous boss/dearest friend, I’ve just not had time to be near my computer. Which is actually very nice, to be honest. Except I miss y’all! But I had to pack my stilts for 2 different festivals on 2 consecutive weekends, including my favourite music festival of the year, at which I saw no less than 15 bands. We then flew to Adelaide for a Winter Festival down by the river, at which I drifted silently like a Cloud, AND met up with fellow WordPress blogger Eve over at Unleashing the Couger – photo credit & fancy filter to Eve. To top off the distractions, yesterday was MY birthday- a proud and delightful 52. FIFTY TWO. HOW THA HELL did that happen? I can’t believe it; when my Mum was this age, I emigrated to Australia by myself, as a feisty, stubborn, yet-also-anxious 20-yr old, …

‘But I don’t need a ceremony Mum’: giving the perfect 18th birthday present

Remember how I worked out what to give him in a flash of early morning inspiration, and then he guessed it HERE? Well of course I went ahead anyway, despite my disappointment delight at his intuition. It took 2 weeks to organise, during which time his actual birthday came and went, but I could rest in the quiet glory of knowing I’d nailed the present. Family and friends got together on 2 separate occasions to wish him well, and I could see he was very pleased at all the love and attention he so rightly received, bless him. As we entered the 2nd week, a little nagging began- ‘How long till my ring is here Mum?’ – ‘I can’t wait for my ring, I wish it would hurry up’ etc (spread out over 5 or 6 texts sent at random hours). Finally I cycled down to the jewellers to collect it, and even she was excited at how well it had turned out, and what an excellent idea it was. But would it fit? She urged …

On driving 6 hours West just to discover who’s the boss

I love my part time job, travelling to festivals to perform and entertain. The work is erratic though, so every gig is a financial bonus, rather than my bread-and-butter income. I enjoy the adventure of being on the road, staying in weird and wonderful rooms, or sometimes a billet with a friendly local. Last weekend, my employer/very dear friend ‘W’ and I drove almost 6 hours west of the most easterly point of Australia, over the mountainous dividing range to Bingara, ‘The Gem on the Gwydir’. We were performing at their iconic ‘Orange Festival’, based around the annual harvesting of the orange fruit planted to commemorate the dead local soldiers from WW1 and 2. ‘W’ and I hadn’t seen each other properly for a while, so we talked non-stop almost the whole way there. The road got very winding up through the ranges, with sharp corners slowing us down to 45 or 35kms at times. If I hadn’t been driving, I’d have thrown up for sure. We checked in to our [shared] room at the …

Damn you, solo beach walker

I’m pretty lucky here in Australia: I live less than 10 minutes from a beautiful long beach, and walk and/or jog down it at least twice a week. This morning was no different, although the stormy sky was threatening rain, so there were a lot less people than usual. I power walked along– away from the break wall with its dots of fishing folk and pram pushers avoiding the sand- watching for the spouting of migrating whales, listening to great music, and enjoying feeling stronger and energetic again after surviving my week on refugee rations. I passed a few dog walkers, who have to turn back after 500 metres, to protect nesting birds.; I challenged myself to run as fast as I could for 30 seconds, and felt the push and stretch of my muscles. I smiled at the rolling waves, the odd seagull, the wind whipping my hair under my woollen hat and hoodie. It felt good to be alive, and I didn’t want to stop walking. Then I saw a lone figure further …

So how much did we raise for refugee food, education & medical care?

I was part of a team called Hungry for Peace, aiming to live on the official rations for a week here in Australia. We set our original fundraising target at $2,500, and were hoping to have 5 of us raising $500 each… Hmmm. Turned into 2 of us aiming at $1,250 each. That’s OK, I can rise to that. My fellow campaigner is a very experienced fundraiser, having done the Oxfam Trail campaign twice, and regularly participating in various community drives, while I would say I’m usually just an enthusiastic-friend-being-supportive-of her-ongoing-great-ideas-like that-damn-hike-in-Tasmania-remember? This time, I had to put my money where my mouth was. Or rather, other people’s money where my mouth wanted to be. And DRUM ROLL…………… our team has raised $3,829.00 so far! Fundraising closes June 30, so don’t hold back now if you forgot 😉   WOOHOOOOOOOO! Such a fab feeling. It costs approx $64 to feed a refugee for 3 months on these rations, so that’s 54 displaced human beings no longer being hungry; totally worth my pitiful ‘rice brain’ whinges. On …