Island Blog – A Wasp and a Think

There’s a wasp. With intentions. She flies into my garage-cum-woodstore at this time every year. I know exactly what she is up to. She is planning to build a nest but I am not having that. However, I am no killer of anything, even if I am sorely tempted to thwack her with my niblick. Envisioning, as I am, the shrieking of grandlings at barbecues or picnics, the panicked swatting and the wasp in the wine thingy, I do some research and what I find is a lookalike hornets nest, made of nothing hornety but giving out a clear message to this small and dangerous zeppelin that this spot is already taken by folks who would actively discourage, with stinging precision, any such property development near their own. A pack of four is already ordered. If it works, my forays into the garage will no longer need to be at night and I will be free to walk through my garage-cum-woodstore and on up to the back garden without having to don my wet suit for protection, because no wasp, hornet, nor bee will happily sit back to observe a human, dog, deer, cow or horse moving close by their home without having to have a few words. I know this well because once, and only once, I walked a little too close to the front door of a bee hive.

It thinks me about perception. The aforementioned insects see their world through their own eyes, as we do our own. Then (break it down) a bee, a hornet, a wasp also see their own world through their own eyes, each perception different to the other. Just imagine, then, all the people who also see life according to their own experiences, colour, culture, age, creed and opinions. Unless we all allow this, we will not find unity, nor peace, for we are obliged to live close together unlike the animal kingdom who will not. Each of us seeks safety, love, acceptance and friendship amongst a zillion other things but we don’t all necessarily see X as X. It might be Y to this person, A to another, 9 to a third and 257 to a fourth. Stepping back from this chaotic melee, I can see Banksy got it right. He sees this clearly and probably wonders why on earth we are still expecting others to think the way we do, to live the same way, work to the same principles, when this will absolutely never happen. No. We must learn to observe only and then to respect without judgement. Some people eat with their fingers. So what! Others stick their knees under dining tables that need constant repair in order to hold up all that cutlery. Again, so what! If we simply observe, learn, acknowledge and respect, then now we are talking. And we probably are – talking – instead of muttering opinions just out of or just in earshot, our backs facing that which we don’t understand and are not prepared to allow, not on this street, in this school, at this event, inside our own home.

The thing about radical change is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t come through a new law. It comes through one ordinary person deciding to change his or her own heart around this issue, then another, then another until a whole street is so busy acknowledging, allowing and respecting and living in harmony with a zillion differences, judging none, that people come from further afield to see what is making this street so much happier than their own. The ultimate power, the game-changing power lies exclusively with us, the ordinary people. History will bear me out for it has aye been thus. When resolute people join together they can topple anything and anyone but we have forgotten this. Settling comfortably into the confines of the nanny state, our voices have grown hoarse at best, silent at worst. We have grown weak. But none of us really want war, not against another country, another creed, another culture, another vulnerable human being. Our world is changing. The peoples are moving whether they want to or not and we must learn to live well with that or nothing changes.

We might want to think about it a bit.

Island Blog – A Wonder and a Mystery

During these past two days of almost warm sunshine, no rain and blue skies, I have loved walking among the trees and along the shore. Gulls wheel above the tidal dance and it seems to me that every tree I pass beneath is bursting to push out leaves. However, the night frosts are sharp and I get their caution. Primrose leaves are now showing along the banks in sheltered spots, sheltered that is from the still cold wind and the daffodils open with big buttery smiles as the sun brings his warmth to their soft petals. I dare to believe that Spring is almost here and I am glad of it, not just because February tried to drown us all but also because of the long covid cloak that has darkened our days, months and years recently. Like others I have spoken to, the covid time is a blur. When I am asked how long ago Himself left the planet, I have to think hard. It’s as if time didn’t count herself. She just laid herself out before and behind us, not interested enough to make any particular mark.

However, during these timeless and dark days, the colours that shone bright and sparkly came from us, from human endeavour and resourcefulness. Instead of everyone playing sheep, individual enterprises and personal challenges rose up like flowers in the winter and were no less surprising. I heard about it on the radio and would find myself leaning in to really hear what this or that person was doing, stretching their minds and bodies in order to bring encouragement and inspiration to others. It has been tough, all of it, the dark, the fear, the lack of information, the doubts and the dithering but we have got through it, and well. Most of us. Of course there are very sad tales to tell, I know that and I am sad for the sad ones who endured bereavement and pain. But what excites me is the rise of human endeavour, not just by a few, but by millions. This is who we are and how we can live if we stop wishing the nanny state away whilst buying into it ourselves.

Any day now the larch buds will appear like tiny purple grapes. The horse chestnut, often the first to bloom, will show that gloriously uplifting snatch of green way up high on myriad branches. Then as if given permission, the other trees will follow. Delicate lurpak coloured primrose flowers will thrill passers by, including me. Then the garden will erupt and careen into real Spring allowing no time for me to catch up with the weeds and I will sit on the old bench, remember Himself who used to sit beside me and smile because whatever comes and whoever goes, Life will live on and there’s a wonder and a mystery in knowing that.

Island Blog – Sid, Mary and Just One Tree

I am reading my favourite sort of book, a novel about human life with the natural world as a backdrop. I don’t mean the story of Sid and Mary who have a big garden and chickens, although they could indeed be the humans, providing one of them has a spiritual connection with nature in ways yet to be learned, understood and accepted. This story spans great swathes of time, from 1700 to 2000 and they connect through nature. The trees he (maybe Sid) planted as a young man, he now visits as an ancient wood, alive with stories, bursting into memories each time the trees throw out leaves of laughter for the sun to nourish. Many many suns, many springs, autumns and winters; many land battles never won by the land. Trees felled for no good reason, for Sid and Mary, perhaps, for their big garden, for their chicken run. Inside such a story, I am Alice. I move effortlessly from 1700 to 2000 along with those who make the storyline into a long rope, a connector. The writer makes it easy for me and I get it, so clever a scribe is she. To many this story would invoke a scoff. I don’t do fantasy, he or she might say and it is beyond my ken and my level of patience to attempt an explanation, the one that is so clear to me. It is no fantasy, merely an indication of our undoing. We have forgotten how to listen to the trees, lost the ears for stone stories, turned away from the rhythm of the sea, the cries of the winds, the percussive tap of the rains. But, for those who still want to believe that nature is not ‘out there’ but deep inside every soul, let me tell you this connection is only parked in some dark tunnel, and not lost at all. Nobody knows quite how to reconnect but all anyone has to do is to refuse the worldly chortlemongers and to whisper, I believe. Show me, talk to me, let me know you again.

I am no guru, no wind whisperer, nothing ‘weird’ at all, but simply a child of spirit who cannot and will not accept that nature is just there for us to manipulate and manage, to control and defy, to desecrate and deny. Nature is not about big gardens, nor chicken runs. Nature is a magnificent mother and we all know to our cost that to defy a mother is always dangerous in the long run. It thinks me. Although we humanoids are required to live in our worldly world, we can lose ourselves in the plastic. We can be too busy to study the extraordinariness of a beech tree growing out of a rock. I watched one this afternoon and for some time. I saw how the tiny beech shoot must have pushed into the light and been momentarily blinded, puzzled too, as it came out sideways. The sky should be above me, the ground beneath. That’s what I know, and yet I am slid out like a sardine from a tin and nothing makes sense. Hmmm. Ah, well, I know this too; my branches, once I manage to grow some, will need the light and so somehow I need to turn a corner, employing full belly strength in order to lift upwards. Might take some time, like years, but I am here now and there is no stopping me, even if I don’t make it. (Good attitude, beech).

When I study the belly of this twisted but upright fighter for light, I see the girth. It’s fat and strong but stopped short, telling me that beech baby made a decision once the turn upwards showed more struggle ahead. There are big pines on the bluff above her, already snatching light, ditto another massive beech; Mum, perhaps. So she wisely gave up on trunk height in favour of a three way split, for maximum photosynthesis and at the earliest possible moment. I stepped back a pace or two and smiled and bowed in respect. Survivor! I said out loud because you can say pretty much anything out loud around here and only the trees, stones and birds will hear you. I went on….thank you for calling out to me today. I walk past you every single day, in all weathers and for decades and only now have I heard your voice. Respect.

My two big strong sons leave in a couple of days. I will miss them both and for a long time. I will miss their strength, the way I feel small and safe inside their arms, the way they love me, the way they laugh at my daftness, my fears, my doubts and the way they show me I am stronger than I ever believed and someone they look up to. Well, no not that any more. Either I am shrinking which is probably true, or they grow taller as they fight their intelligent way through the shrieking, demanding, worldly world. But you know what I mean with the looking up to thingy.

We are here for such a short time and for the time we are here, we have a duty to not just our families but to our world, all of it. We can rant and do nothing, fret and wring our hands about the state of it, saying it’s too much. What can I do when there is so much corruption and destruction? I cannot save the rain forests, nor the whales, nor the starving, nor the abuse. And this is true. One person cannot. However one person can speak to someone homeless on the street. One person can recycle, stop buying plastic, pick up rubbish. And, as my African son says, one person can plant one tree.

Island Blog – Avoiding Collisions

The big window is speckled with raindrops, held in stasis and they glisten. I look through the children’s doodles, the glistening raindrops, my eyes moving into the garden and the brave early flowers. Grassland flows down towards the sea-loch and up the other side, up and up until I find the clouds, a tangle of them, I think at first, and many shades of grey. Watching most closely I can see the layers. Up front, the cobwebby dark fast moving clouds, see-through and spitting rain. Behind them the fat blowsy white ones, lazy, taking their time too respond to a rising wind. They are weighty with knowing and in no rush, not see-through at all, like old professors who know they have a job for life. Further back, the clouds that don’t seem to move at all, flat like naan breads, backlit by a little flash of sun, and beyond them just whispy white sky, acres of it. Acres. How many layers are there? How far back, up, across do they stretch? For ever? I see these levels as closely bunched, micro managing their individual trajectories, but I am wrong. There is only accord. Room for all of us, they seem to say, effortlessly avoiding collisions.

The birds are more than ready for me this morning, one of cloud and cold rain. Many goldfinch, greenfinch, redpoll, siskin, sparrow, blackbird, robin, hawfinch, thrush, starling and rock dove. They line the fence, balance on shrubs, flit and flutter like music notes blown off the stave. Time to reel them in before the wind speed confounds and the rain turns weighty. I fill each feeder as the braver musical notes play around my feet, my head. Two goldfinch watch me from the inside of an ornamental maple, red now, red as good claret. The second I leave, they are down like a swarm of bees. As walkers pass by they rise back into the air, flitting between the feeders, between the shrubs, between each other, to land down again the moment the coast is clear, and all the time they chatter. Some feed young on the fence, some feed themselves, and in all this flitting and lifting, fighting and feeding, rising and landing, there is perfect precision. We know what we are doing, they seem to say, naturally avoiding collisions.

This land is walked on, now, by many more feet. The ferries are booked, the accommodation scrubbed and ready. In the air around us, anticipation, anxiety, excitement and fear layer up, cloudlike . We are grounded and can only go on, steady, determined not to hide away any longer. Peeping through fearful curtains, opening doors that squeak from lack of use, scrubbing doorsteps, we emerge tentatively into a world that barely recognises itself. Who am I now? Who are you, now? Do we still know our way around each other, feel the same way about this, about that, about all the important things that ran strong within us but whose names I have forgotten? My sense of import has changed, my value rating. Has yours, and, if so, will we know each other, have anything to say in this changed world? We know we must brave up and out for we are not moles or worms to need the dark because we have no seeing eyes. We need the light, crave the light, the sky the birds the clouds the sun the tidal moon shift and the story-carrying winds that blow from one side of this planet to the other and back again. We need each other, even if the otherness has become a hesitation when we meet once again. Like all other members of our natural world, we can adapt. We are not going back to normal, an eye-rolling ghastly grammar-makes-no-sense contradiction of a sentence if ever I heard one, because that ‘normal’ is light years behind us now. There is only forward and we are all unsure of our footing. Let those of us who refuse to bring the past along with us hold fast to not having the faintest clue about what happens next, what the ground is like, what clouds will come, what shape the future. Burn the old book that speaks of separation, segregation, prejudice and domination. That book needs to go. It has been outdated for many many years. We might write a new book together. Meantime let us step out, step in, step through and around, consciously avoiding collisions.

Island Blog – No Matter the Sky

The sky, umber grey, day long, a greasy cloud cover like soapy water on old chip fat. Not cold, though, not as it has been which tells me that Siberia has recalled the wind and I am thankful. It is high flipping time the grass stopped feeling sorry for itself and got on with providing the food these sheepish mothers need for their babes. Daily I check the seedlings I put out too early, reminding me that my exuberance, once again, blinded me to the truth. Why did I, why do I, year in year out, think that early April sunshine indicates a first night in mind, when it is always just an endless process of dress rehearsals? Well, I just do. A long winter, covid restrictions, loss and loneliness together with a natural human craving for other human contact, all drives my sensible mind out of the park. I think we all know what I mean.

It thinks me deeper. I know I have always been what you might call a party girl, although the girl is not a girl anymore on the outside of me. I can recall so many times when skies within or without were a relentless umber grey and I took it upon myself to be the colour. Now, for the artist in you, you will know how one single dot of red or vibrant blue in a canvas of umber grey lifts the whole thing into something quite wonderful. You don’t need much. In fact much will just make mud or confusion, but that little dot, that tiny eye-drawing spot of colour lifts the watcher into a world that the umber grey alone could never do. Before it just looked like a wall of nothing much with nothing to draw the eye, nothing to ignite, excite, delight. But with this tiny suggestion of the Other, our imaginations can take off like rockets into space. Banksy gets this, bigtime. His images of ‘almost nothing’ lift and elevate not just his work but anyone who looks in. There is a something, a wotwot, a subtle shift of perspective and an invitation to dance.

Anyway that was me, is me. I don’t bring this dot of colour because I have studied dots of colour on the umber greyness of most people’s lives. I don’t do it because I want to be seen as the dot of colour. That could not be further from the truth. I do because I can’t not do it. It is, I believe, a gift. If I see someone down or sad or lost or afraid, my heart actually hurts. I want to do something to make them smile, anything, everything. Of course, in our extremely broken world with all its dangers and threats, I cannot act as I might want to. I am not a fool and I have the same fears as everyone does. So I think on this. If I believe I have a gift to lift some other human being, no matter if they smell awful or I don’t like them or if they appear to be ‘bad’ people, then what do I do with this gift that will not let go of me, given the aforementioned? I can hide away, run away, like most of us do, avoiding the people who upset us, make us feel vulnerable, threaten us, or I can dig deep to find a way where this gift of mine can be of use to another human’s suffering. I am never going to be a media heroine. I would so loathe that. But this drive is strong and my job, as I see it, is to accept it and to wait for direction. That is not easy. The desire to fix the world is lively as a dancer in me but I am just me, small and here on an island and growing older.

That’s ok, says my inner guru. Nae worries, lass. Just keep digging, keep researching, keep peaceful and trust. It may seem like a big ask but I find I am pretty okay with it. In this more peaceful time of my life, with himself at rest and me alone now, I have plenty of time to let my thoughts emerge to fly like butterflies from a cocoon, wings wet, vulnerable on a branch, inviting sunshine and light for the first lift into sky, umber grey or blue. No matter the sky colour.

Island Blog – Perception and a Blackbird

I sit in the darkling. Clouds are gathering like a people to church, some big and full of themselves, others following shred-like but I have no doubt they will puff themselves up in followance this night for there is rain forecast.

I watch the wintering geese fly in, fly in chatter and in synergy with the leader and with the nightfall. For me they fly right to left. I see the home-lights across the sea-loch, all warm and welcoming, a pipe of smoke from their chimneys. They are warm. They are cooking, chatting, cajoling and considering each other over there, a big swim away. And, they see the geese fly from left to right.

It thinks me beyond geese and tidal flow. It thinks me of how we see things, any things, all things. If geese can fly from right to left for some and left to right for others then what complexity lies in other of our seeings? Ah, it must be manifold. I can see this and you can see this, but you see that, not this. My perception of any one thing may well not be yours. I would like to be able to allow yours and mine and to consider neither one as an absolute, even as I am certain of my right to left of things.

As we converse, you and I, on matters from how to fix this or clean that, on the rights and wrongs of raising children, on the clarity of our shared memories, we move along different paths. What astonished you about something that happened meant nothing much to me and vice versa. We find it at best bothersome and our minds work like dingbats to convince the other of import and impact. But I still see nothing to upset me. Now why is that? Well, if we agree that my experience, my baggage, my history all come to bear on any given subject, as do yours, then we must also agree on a division of paths. We can both see the situation, yes. We can both recall to a degree what happened back then, yes, but where I see right to left, you see left to right and that is simply that.

How long a life do we need in order to come to such an acceptance? I am fed up of learning things like this. I wonder why it is we don’t finally arrive in that lovely place of complete understanding. I thought I completely understood years ago and yet here I am with my feathers ruffled and my heart beating too fast and my good manners thoroughly challenged as I watch your mouth insist on left to right. Although I write this with no actual cause, it is something I have observed recently between others and it intrigues me. To move freely and happily along an individual path of life, it is necessary to merely observe each other without dishing out labels, however silently. We can all learn from each other at every meeting if we decide not to judge. Every living soul has history, baggage and opinions, either learned or personally constructed, based on their experience of what worked and still works for them.

On returning earlier from slathering honey on young fruit trees, ring-barked by hungry rabbits, of which we have the lion’s share and adding a wrap of hessian to simulate new bark that will allow water to be drawn up the damaged trunks once again, I find a male blackbird flipping and floundering on the track. I gather him to me and feel the delicate softness of his feathers as I calm his wings. Is one broken, I wondered? His leg? Was he hit by a car or attacked by a predator and dropped? No, not that. The predators here are accurate as mathematics and there is no evidence of talon damage. I put him in a box in the garage to calm down. An hour later I return to give him water or seed or to find him dead. He wants none of it and is bouncing up in attempt to fly beyond the mesh that holds him down. I push in my hand and gently bring him out. Shall we see if you can fly? I ask him. He turns his head and looks at me through ebony eyes, then turns back to the great wide open. I lower him to the ground and to my delight he lifts and flies, a bit wonky-chops at first and then up up and away over the fence and into the sky. I watch him until he is a black dot in the blue.

Fly! Fly! I call out but he doesn’t look back. His path is his path as mine is my own. We come together and then we part and as we do, we are changed, just as we are changed after a human encounter. As I held that bird, I noticed his soft feathers, the majesty of nature in that trembling body, the perfection of design.

We can see each other that way too, if we so choose.

Island Blog – Voices

I’ve been quiet for a week, which is odd for me. I can barely be quiet for ten minutes, but that has exponentially changed since Covid and then Death. In the days when I took everything for granted, like someone there, a recipient for my bolt of chatter or question or demand, I let fly my words, barely taking time to assemble them into the sort of order my Dad would have admired. Then came Dementia demise. Then came Covid and the silence of it all. Not just here, inside this home, between jabbering me and talkless he; not just because carers no longer came with their bright cheerfulness and their kind competence and their chat of pets and kids and road surfaces and the weight of their work, but because the world stopped. That’s a big silence and such a sudden quiet where there was always a noise we might have berated, and which, over a period of time, lands as a loss in a human soul. We might have scrabbled for any noise, anything, just noise, just life, just chatter, any something that says Yes Life Still Lives.

My reason for being quiet is that I have had a week of abusive phone calls and texts and all from the same mobile number. Initially, I answered the phone, for why would I not? The first was sexually explicit, the second (on answerphone) was threatening, the third, the same. That was last weekend. These came to my landline which seemed odd. I called the police and they were gentle and supportive and encouraging and, considering they are dealing with front line ghastly, and in the winter rain and sleet and in the darkest hours, so very remarkable.

The calls continued for a week. But the police were working at it, heaven bless them. They located the guy and his mobile, which doesn’t make him sound all that intelligent and they will knock on his door. I was helped another way. My son took it upon himself to speak to the abuser and kept calling and calling until he got through to admonish him and to let him him know he is known . I also called a friend who came out of hours to fix a bolt to my back door. What I feel is loved and supported. Life can be tough at times, at many times, but there is going to be somebody who racks up for you, as they did for me. Son. Police. Friend. Lucky, fortunate me.

Although I did have a week of fear, No. Terror. But this was my imagination working overtime. The chatter, in other words. Had the old dude been here, he would have laughed me out of it. I know this. So, brave up, look out, do NOT give in to fear (no caps), but just keep moving, one wee faltering step at a time. We will chatter again. We will meet and ps, btw, the snowdrops and daffydowndillies are pushing like rockets through the earth and headed for the sun.

Shall we join them?

Island Blog – Day One, Lucky Us

And so it begins. With this day. The only one we can ever be sure of, those of us who awaken into the morning of it. How shall we spend it, I wonder? For those of us of a merry disposition, the options are endless, for no matter our current limitations, we will see each moment unfold as an opportunity to smile. Even if the wood won’t split or the poached eggs slip off the spatula to land with a hot splat on the floor, spreading into a lake of liquid gold quite disproportionate to that of their polite containment in the poaching pan, even then a smile can be lifted to the face of one whose disposition is a merry one. But what of those who cannot find such merriment, at these times or, indeed, at any time? It must mean that life always feels cumbersome at best, vindictive at worst. I am sad for such people because I know that not one of us is born for such a life. Babies do bawl, yes, once the air hits their lungs but who is surprised at that? From that moment they are ready for anything, trusting and malleable and ready to learn whatever they are taught.

In my family, the teaching was not that the world owed us our lives, indeed not. If we wanted something we learned to work towards it and not to whine pleas through wobbling lips. We were taught to ‘get on with it’ should life throw us a curve ball and I am glad of it. This tuition, that sometimes felt cold and dismissive, gave us the chance to look to and then to develop our own aptitudes. When things went horribly wrong, and once the initial shock and panic had calmed a little, we found, and still find, ourselves looking this way and that for a way through, one that would, will, make everything better, if not best, once again. Damage is done and I would not argue with that, but to have a source of what is currently known as a Can Do attitude, is a much sought after blessing. I know this when I encounter souls who have no idea what to do next, and I am often surprised at the way they sink back in acceptance and defeat. I can make no sense of it, until I think it through, reminding myself of the look on their stricken faces, the paralysis in their bodies, the whimper of fear in their voices. They are not unable to find a way through, but simply were never taught how to dig the tunnel or scale the wall. Here is my chance to lend a hand. Here is my chance to offer support and encouragement to someone who did not benefit from the lessons I have learned from childhood. I have no idea of the constraints of their own, nor the joys nor the pains of it and I probably never will, but I can bring to them my merry disposition, my smile of encouragement, my shoulder to lean on.

Now that we are all, like it or not, landed in a new year, we can consider the gifts that we alone can bring to bear on a broken, yet beautiful, world. We can lift our eyes from our own piddling little life and offer ourselves to another in friendship, respect and recognition. No matter what colour, creed or disposition; no matter funds in the bank or a begging bowl; no matter that we live in a home with a view or inside a cardboard box in a shop doorway. What matters is this. We have made a massive balls up of collective living for long enough. We, whoever we are and wherever we lay our hats, are a collective. We may not be able to change the world, may not even believe that whatever efforts we make along that line are going to make one jot of difference, but we would be wrong in that thinking. Think pebble and ripples.

This year will be what we make it. A merry disposition is learnable, at any age. Life is not out to get us and nor does the world owe us a living. We are that Living.

Lucky us.

Island Blog – A Diamond Day

This day we gather for our son’s wedding to his lady love. Well, some of us gather in person, whilst others zoom in, virtually, to bear witness to promises made and happiness shared. This day will be remembered for many years to come. Impressions will stick, spoken words and tributes will be held inside the human heart; moments will be re-lived over and over again. Even as I write, cars full of excited guests and family members traversing the land are googling directions, tweaking outfits and wondering how they look. There will be laughter inside these cars, anticipation and the odd snap of tension as a tail back tails back. The time they all aim for is 1pm on board MV Emma Jane at Dunstaffnage Marina. The sun has appeared, the sea loch is calm, the air soft and kindly. I did my famous Be-Off-Rain dance yesterday and, despite a few clouds, it looks like I haven’t lost my touch.

We cannot be there in person so we are two who will zoom. I want to hear the words, those vows, readings and speeches in real time. I want to see the well-tweaked outfits, the smiles, hear voices and laughter, see children in their wedding kit, the groom and the bride in immaculate finery, their joy complete for they have fought hard to bring this day into their life. Postponed in its original shape since March (thank you Covid) this new wedding design is smaller but none the less valuable, like a small diamond instead of a big fat garnet. The diamond twinkles more, however small; distinctive and distilled into perfection. You must look at closely at it in order to appreciate the way each tiny face catches sunlight and reflects it back like a gift.

This young pair have found each other when neither were looking. They have weathered storms within and without and held on tight. I am proud of their courage and resilience and in awe of their beauty and strength. This day brings to both of them a dream, a completion, a new beginning. Despite the changes they have had to make in order to bring us all together as witnesses, they are making it happen. They never wanted a big fat wedding anyway. What they value most is family, a few friends and their children.

To James and Emma – on this, their diamond day.

Island Blog – Shift, Fly and a Dog’s Questions

This afternoon I walked into Tapselteerie, as I do every single afternoon, small terrier bounding afoot. She is always full of ridickerluss bounce as if we have never walked this way before; as if she and I are about to discover a gruffalo nest or a ferocean of fairies. I pointed out the conkers to her, the star moss, the positive pebbles I hid that someone has moved on, but she just looked at me like I was a weirdo. Her plan is to locate the biggest and longest stick she can find and then lift. She waits for me to forward, then runs full tilt, whacking the backs of my legs with half a hazel tree, thinking it hilarious and most satisfying. I don’t mind. She thinks I don’t know what’s coming, but my advantage is my human brain. I have worked out the math of this particular pole, considered the level of scratchy branch activity, the then width of the track, the level of recent rainfall and its ability to soak my calves. It’s a daily game and only infrequently I am required to say enough is enough. This day was one of those times. The pole would have held up an elephant’s weary head, no bother.

Up in the woods I heard childlaughter, my favourite sort. Poised on a rock and looking like a dream, a little girl squeaks with delight as her father completes the construction of a swing. I can see she will begin on the rock, but the fall away of the hill and the subsequent leap into the sky takes her 20 foot off the ground. She is tiny, wiry, slim and excited and I want to hide. I see a thousand disasters, but she sees none of them and nor does her father. He has swung many times higher in his time, almost to the moon and back, and, for all I know, touching moon base. He is, after all, my son and all of my children are risk takers and always were. I have no idea where they got that from. After successful launch, momentary panic as she looks down to see the blue planet below her tiny butt, followed by a happy landing back on the rock, the game is on, the shift from land to outer space completed.

Back home there is a shift. A sudden shift. In the journey that is dementia, this is oft how it works. Plateau, shift, level out, plateau and shift again. Everyone involved needs to catch up, learn, accept, take action. This is where we are now. Just 2 weeks ago the plateau felt like it was staying flat, for some long time, with only little skips and twirls that showed a gradual demise. But now on this road, the pilgrim has met landfall and it seems there is no way around it for him. He doesn’t want to eat, cannot move anywhere or anyway without help. We, his family, are coming to terms with that but I won’t say it is a natural nor an easy thing to come to terms with nor accept. How could it be? This is Dad. This is the strong provider of 50 years and then some, the one who knew the answers to everything and, if he didn’t, never let on. I remember a violently horrific North Sea crossing when I was so terrified I thought I would faint clean away (but didn’t), with a force 10 gale battering our boat, full sails up because it had come in so fast there was no time to reduce, nor crew (me being terrified) to strap on, walk the slippery deck in lashing rain, and then find the strength to work the winch. But, and but again, he never left the helm, navigated us home to within a few maritime feet of home harbour, using his skills and whatever stars he glimpsed. 17 hours of rocking and no soft cradle in sight, but he got us home and intact. This is the Dad who took risks, flew high and taught all of us to trust in him and to shut up and fly.

This shift is tough. I want to reach out to anyone and everyone who is going through this end game or who has gone through it. My utmost respect and admiration to you all.

Even the dog knows something’s up. She keeps looking at me, a million questions in her eyes.