Island Blog – Needs, Things and Each Other

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I need, what I think I need and what I don’t actually need at all. What I need is one thing and what I think I need quite another. What I need is what we all need, love, community, friendship, social encounters, a roof over our heads, food for our bellies, heat to warm us on cold days and nights. We need a bed to sleep in, a pan to cook with, a plate to eat off. And so on.

The second need is the one ‘I think’ I need and thoughts, as we all know, can be fickle friends. As I dash to re-purchase this thing online, or jot that one down on a shopping list, I pause to question myself. Could I manage without this thing? Do I really need to Subscribe and Save on mascara for instance or Evening Primrose oil or Dog chews? Could I find, perhaps, an alternative once the one I have turns solid or runs out or better, learn to live without it at all? The answers are all in the affirmative (although stepping out without mascara is a scary thought) so I make myself wait a while in order to stop my knee jerking. The absolute necessity of most ‘things’ fade into mist eventually. It is astonishing how very much I can easily do without and, I notice, these apparent needs that caused me momentary panic not so long ago, are always just things. After all I never need to write down, Call this child of mine, remember a birthday, send a card or letter or email of encouragement. I never forget the not things in my life. But in the realm of things lie all the troubles. Things need us too much, and not the other way around. They matter disproportionately, our material needs, the number of ‘Likes’ we get on Facebook, for example or the followers on Instagram and so on.

But it is people who matter, not things, never things. Rich or poor, surrounded by ‘things’ or without them we have a choice when it comes to sharing ourselves, our light, our conversation and our interest in each other. All the not things worth everything cost absolutely nothing, not a penny, not a sou. So next time you are assailed by a sudden need for a thing, even to the point of complete panic, breathe out that breath, blow it away and with it all the nonsense thought-chatter because inside that huge brain of yours lie a million neural pathways, each one leading somewhere you may never have travelled before. And, given enough quiet breathing in and out, enough space created between the apparent need and that sweet but infuriating voice of inner intelligence, you may well discover, as have I, that whatever promised to make life perfect is a liar.

The issue of what I actually don’t need at all lies entirely inside my own head. Now that I have learned to stop and to question the knee jerk, the have-to-have thing, I am laughed at how faithfully I have responded to date. I was a sheep, in truth, following the flock even if each one ahead of me fell off the cliff. How ridiculous! But once aware, always aware and I am busy awareing, particularly so since the hacking when access to any purchase slammed a door in my face, when this hacker infiltrated my social media, broke down the very walls within which I had felt completely safe. It is freeing. I can feel myself rising from sheep into intelligent woman and it’s not a new feeling. Each time I have noticed my fall into mindlessness, in whatever area of my life, the thoughtless following behind the others, it has laughed me. Good lord, what the heck am I doing, or, more likely, not doing? I think we can all be mindless at certain times in our lives when we find our ship foundering on the rocks of trouble, when the walls fall down and we stand naked in the wind and rain. In desperation we try to grab hold of all we held so dear, all that, we thought, kept our walls firmly around us. And although we might blame the ‘hacker’ initially, we can be honest with ourselves. We needed this rock-founder in order to think as an intelligent being, to reconsider the way we are living our life. But we are normal, we are human and all of us want our life to continue just as it did before. However, Life never goes back, only forwards and if we can accept this, embrace Change in her attending discomfiture, then we are the ones who are truly alive. We are adventurers, we are brave, we are mindful beings in a mindless world.

So let the stop stop you. Let time go by and ask yourself, as I asked my own self, What is really lacking here? Is it the thing I feel I cannot live without or am I just lonely, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, sad? When a person has the courage to ask those questions, the patience to wait for an answer and the trust to address the real issue, a way will show itself. Not the old way but a strange new way on a road heretofore untravelled, at least by us. On this road, this path there is laughter. On this path everyone makes mistakes, founders and falls down but all around are those to lift, to encourage, to make you laugh, to hold you up until you once more find your footing because all around you are others who know, have learned themselves, that what we all really need is each other.

Island Blog – I wish as you wish

It doesn’t matter how much he or she irritated the bejabers out of you at times. It doesn’t matter how many times you may have wished them away for longer so you could drown the goldfish, sleep wide in the bed, eat what you wanted or go out spontaneously and without curfew. Once they are gone, we are all lost. With my logic head as Speaker, I get it. Of course we are lost. We have been with this person of irritation/love for decades. We know them, or we think we do and they knew us as they think they did. There was a compliance, a working together, a stand-back or fight thingy. A thingy that became our normal.

When our normal is thrust into outer space, just like that, no matter the months or years of caring nor even if the separation is sudden, we are actively lost. I say ‘actively’, because it is just that. When the whole thing about living together stops dead, we just don’t know who we are anymore. Active still wants to be active. We find things to do and over-do. We still have the momentum we always had but what is lost now is purpose. Why am I still doing this, this getting dressed/ stepping out thing when I come home to nobody, not to the smile, the questioning, even the sharp remarks about how long it takes to go to the local shop?

Most of us are productive, action folk, oftentimes because that is what life needs us to be. Just think about it. I mean, who on earth sees the massive role they are suddenly required to ontake when they fall in love? Well, not one of us, that’s who; suddenly wife; suddenly husband; suddenly parents; suddenly carer. And then it stops. Dead. We were running with it all, weren’t we, and fast, just yesterday and then we meet the buffers. I don’t know if you have experienced meeting the buffers on the inside of a train with a driver who wasn’t ready. Well I have and it sent sandwiches and old ladies off piste and flying wide. Not pretty, neither of them. It is way worse in life. Way worse. Did I miss something? Was I being selfish, looking the other way?

When a partner dies, we may be relieved. I was and I am not afraid to speak it out. Although I was the primary and the (godlovethistitle) unpaid carer, not everyone goes through it and I am glad of it. Nonetheless this place is my experience and thus I cannot imagine sudden death, the shock of it rippling for ever, the inner questioning, the self doubt and the regret for all the words unsaid, the loving gifts not given. Let me tell you, those of you aforementioned, that the I feel the same sans your experience. I wish I had said this and not said that. I wish I had asked more questions, been kinder. I wish as you wish.

And the ripples go on. Think not, no matter how he or she irritated, that the ‘lost’ will dissipate soon. It won’t. And do you know why? Well, I’ll tell you. It is because you care. Even in storm conditions for years, even when you just wanted out, even for a month or a year, the human heart has a deep sense of allegiance. It is nothing to do with logic. It is who we are. So if you know loss as a wife, a husband, a father, a mother, a partner, a sibling or a friend, rest easy my lovelies. Let the ripples flow on because they will even if you build a dam. It takes time to be okay with the loss of someone and then, eventually, to find yourself, a shrimp in a desert, yet still strong enough to find the sea.

Island Blog – Turmish

My word. I love to make new words. I remember writing an article for BBC Wildlife magazine years ago. Lordy, the editor was a tough nut and a half. She picked and poked and corrected until I was back before the headmistress who expelled me mid A levels. My embers were stoked and, eventually, I burst into fire, my tether at its end. The loch, I wrote, describing a far north body of water in which, apparently, a minke whale was ‘trapped’, poppled with balls of ice. It, the whale, was no more trapped than I inside my polar suit whilst fighting to remain vaguely upright in a slanty gale on a freezing, sleet-blasted hillside, and in February. I had personally watched the whale slide easy as an eel through the narrows as the tide began to ebb, returning for a feast of trapped fish at the next flood. Not once, but four times. Nobody was listening. The fish farmer freaked out about his cages being damaged. I wanted to shake him, tell him we had observed and studied these whales for decades and any one of them would have considered any such bumping or damaging as plain foolish. Big brains, remember and way bigger than the ones we lug about inside our own small and limited confines. There was talk of ‘herding’ a single whale (hallo?) out with a flotilla of boats. There was talk of explosives. We sighed a lot during that week, I can tell you. But when you are up against fear and small community thinking, you are blowing against the wind, expecting it to say, Oh Sorry, I’ll just go the other way, shall I?

Back to ‘poppling’. There’s no such word, she said, the headmistress/editor said. By now I was busy hoping she got absolutely nothing off her Christmas list, ready to fire, to yell, to tell her many rampageous things, but instead I went quiet, deadly quiet, like the eye of a storm. Leave it in. I said, surprised at how commanding I sounded. She said nothing for a beat, then conceded, reluctantly with a lot of tuts and mouth blowing. Today, I find that very word in the dictionary, so ha, ha, ha.

I digress. Today was super wet, wet like a complete soak just going out to feed the birds. I did not walk the dog who is still puzzling up at me as if I have finally lost the plot. Instead, I lit candles, the fire, and watched a movie. Now this is a rare thing for me, to watch tv during an afternoon. In fact, it is rare for me to settle comfortably in the evening to watch a movie. Watching tv is a sharing thing. My African son said that to me this very day as he watched the same movie and he is right. Perhaps this is why I, to date, have not been able to settle by the fire to enjoy a damn good story, beautifully presented, to get lost in someone else’s world just for an hour or two. When the movie is over and I flick the room into silence, there is nobody there to talk to about the experience. What do you think? What did you feel about this bit, or that; him or her; that happening, that twist? Since the bodach is gone, even though, latterly, he was engaged with some soap series whilst I watched a movie, there was no silence when the light of the moving pictures were turned off. There was some sort of conversation, even at the very end when barely a sentence came from his mouth. I had plenty to say, of course and now I say nothing and to nobody. It is a strange time indeed. A time of turmish.

Island Blog – Fallout

I refuse to fall out of love. Just saying. We need to be in love, always and forever because it thrills us into life and fire and fun and music and hope. There are a million drudge days, ordinary greys than never lift into geese, tired times, hopeless fear, no tomorrow in sight. We all know these. But I am a thrust light in the dark and even for me. I will rise. So will you. It’s not an ‘if you want’ thing. It just comes unbidden.

There are times I hate that thrust light. Times I want to hide shadow like and hope nobody sees me. Then I wake one morning and that damn light is beckoning me towards hot tea and a morning I have never seen before. Life moves us on in a kindly and patient way. It might piss me off but it still moves me.

I refuse to fall out out of love. With life.

Island Blog – Blow Back

As I write of the years, the caring years for me, the demise years for my husband, immediately a contradiction in perspective, I find my belly shouting in response, as if this old belly is hearing things anew. Did I feel the same reaction whilst caring? Perhaps, but I was too busy being whom I needed to be at any given moment, so, possibly, I flipped any belly talk away.

But now that he is gone, he is dead, he is buried up there on that wild hill where gulls wheel, eagles cant the wind and where sheep shit all over the grass, I see through a different lens. I spider-web connect with memories and moments. I can’t follow the strands, not now. They are the ones, blackened and dust-heavy I will point my Henry Hoover nozzle at just to know they’re all gone. But they are not gone, for they web again, catching me like a fly, and, I concede. And, in that concession, I find peace. It is as it is. What was, was.

Standing firmly in the present, with a strong connection to the past and to a ditherswither faltering reach out to the future, I welcome what comes at me. Sort of. I will resist but that’s my thing. Resist. Then I think. Then hmmmm, that Maybe. I love change until Change comes to me. I love Strength until it is required of me. I love an Upset to my timeline, my plan for the day until it swacks me in my ordinary.

In these days beyond him, I clear cobwebs, sell furniture I wanted to see gone for decades, old dark stuff, old dark memories that nobody ever visited, and that was weird to me. I visit them. I turn the leaves of ancient books, beautiful writings, precious memories in photo albums I can never explain to my, to our, children.

I’m blowing back, in case someone will want to catch my breath,

Island Blog – Add the New and Let us Heal

Well, today was interesting. I went through my check list of new habits, ticking off this one and that. During that process, there were times of momental anxiety, as ever. Self doubt, quandary, up the stairs and down again. The usual. Moments when I doubt myself and never, ps and btw in the moment. I know my moments and they are mine and they are themselves and we work together nae bother. It is the times when I doubt something much bigger and all because a thought comes in. I now recognise these confounding thoughts as those rooted in the past, in childhood, in my marriage, in my gawky and faulty motherhood walk. Oh, Hallo, I say, I see you, I recognise you, I would like you to move back for now so I can see the moment. The moment shows clouds, bird-fly, trees moving in response to the wind, skies responding to whatever shit is going on up there way way way above my understanding.

I walked, although, confessing, I did not walk mindfully today. I walked blind. I was caught up in my thoughts, a gazillion of them and not many of them, if any, helpful nor relevant to the now me. This is the human condition. We are always at the mercy of our thoughts until we learn cognitive management and that is not control, much as we might long for it. No. It is the practice of noticing our thoughts, of stepping back from them and of assessing whether or not they are helpful in the now now. Our new now now. It does take practice. Hoping to be able to cope with a welter of thoughts at anytime is wanting to live in Disney. And, for you Scots, it disnae. I know Ive been at this for years but I am no model student. I can be overwhelmed easy. Like this day.

I am out there in my garden, which happens to be at the front of a lovely old stone house with views fantastic. Anyway, I am out there with seedlings and they are shouting at me to be planted, like we are so tired of this tiny pot, our roots are wound up like Freddie Mercury and Hallo? So I go out there with gravel for the planters and peat and topsoil and other witchy growing helpers and then in they come, the visitors, the lively, lovely dog-tastic, kitted up visitors with bins and backpacks and enthusiasm and a merry smile, their mouths oped for greeting and my peace is shattered. My nearly deaf dog catapults into hysterical terrier barking which has to be in discordant A minor on a badly tuned piano, and because she is fast, I can’t catch her, and because she is nearly deaf she can’t hear my voice and the whole lovely visitor thing turns into a frightful afternoon. Just like that.

They move on with their lovely dogs that don’t bark and I hide within in my turmoil. I know what this is. This is my challenge to get back out there, to get real, to find life again, the new life that I know will come from over a year of being in jail. For all of us. I shower. Change frocks. Look forward to seeing my beloved son tomorrow when his boat comes in to Tobermory. I get over myself. Do you?

This is an opportunity to hang on to the old. Or, it’s an opportunity to be curious about every single thing. This is a new world people. Do we want to be an active and loving part of it, or are we going to stay where we were, constrained by old ways and (seriously?) thinking that was ever helpful to a broken world that yearns to heal?

Island Blog – This Day

This day I would like to wander through a wood. Looking up at the map of the sky, fragmented by the leaves of the canopy, and then down at the dappled light on the autumn ground, I see my boots, one step at a time. And I love them all over again, for they are my favourites despite the chunk ripped out of one of them by an excited puppy with razor teeth and fast legs for running away. I can see him now with my boot clamped in his jaws, looking back to see if the puffing shouter was keeping up. She wasn’t.

In the wood I look for fairy homes, little round holes in the tree moss and I whisper a hallo. It’s always best not to irate the fairies I find, so a polite acknowledgement of their whereabouts is quite enough. I hear the sound of a wind combing the pines, singing with them, perfect harmony. Beyond the wood the tide rushes in, funnelled through nip-tuck lines of granite and basalt, ancient and immovable. Butter yellow lichen coats the faces of these rocks, as if the sun just landed there for a while, for me to see. Bubble, burble, swish and tumble, the mussels cling on tight. There are hundreds of them and, at low tide, I can slither across the slipper rocks to garner a feast. Wild thyme still blooms, scabious too and the flash of blood shows me where the rowans grow, their shout for attention, their hallo to the sky.

After my wander, I know where I’m going. There is a delightful tapas bar down a skinny side street, tucked in between a second hand shop and someone’s front door. The patron is big and very Spanish and his welcoming warmth greets me as I push through the door. Tables line the wall and tapas dishes, the counter. Bright smiles, a proffered glass of dry white with olives and crusty bread SeƱora? Si, gracias. I wait for friends to join me, for I am a bit early. As I sit my eyes roam the walls. There is a big painting of the bull run through Pamplona streets, the festival colours bright and full of sunshine. A portrait of the patron’s wife, now deceased, fills a side wall. She is very beautiful and there’s a sass in her eyes. Her hair is tumble free and dark around elegant shoulders. He has spoken of her with me, probably with everyone, for she was his one true love.

After a long and merry lunch, I wander through the streets, watching little gardens pass by. Voices lift in the air around me, ordinary people talking ordinary things. Where did we park? What’s for dinner? Where’s Wally? And yet not one of them is ordinary for we are, each one of us, unique, with our own life to live and our own frustrations, our own dreams. Who will live that dream? Only the brave.

I find my way home. Opening the door I smell the familiar smells and I breathe them in. This is where I live, where I am entirely myself. I may be alone now but I know who I am. Softly I relinquish the ties that bind, hanging them over a chair like a well loved cardigan. I put on some music, Sibelius. The swan of Tuanela was his favourite. Sinking into a chair I watch the day fade into dusk and I am filled with memories and gratitude as the beautiful and evocative melodies flow through the room, through me.

It is good, this day. And all is well.

Island Blog – Friend, Ships and Wide Open

If I was to ask you – how many true friends do you have – might you have pause for thought? Let me help you out with a definition or two…..

A true friend is always wide open. They may not be able, at the very moment of your ‘massive drama’, to speak with you on the phone, or rush over to your place. Perhaps her granny has just fallen into the wheelie bin whilst searching for her missing dentures; perhaps the kids have buried the dog in the sandpit and all she can see is a wiggling mound; or, maybe, she has just burnt the strangled eggs, is late for work, can’t find the kids, the granny or the dog and her partner has gone off with both sets of house keys. But, rest assured, this true friend will be thinking of you all the way through her own massive drama and will make contact the very first moment he or she can. Then when he/she hears of your pain, she will not compare it to hers. She might not even mention it. She will listen, respond without fixing, suggest nothing unless you ask for such, just leaning into your flow of pain, putting her hand in yours and saying – Let’s sail together on this.

This probably narrows the list down somewhat. On reflection, you might think, I wouldn’t go to this person, or that with my massive drama because it will pass and if I tell him/her I will need to follow up once the missing members of my family are re-located, returned to the upright and able, once again, to breathe. Or, perhaps this person might think you weak, or fix you with some cutthroat bright solution which will confirm she knows you’re weak. How long has she thought that about you? It gets worse, this line of thinking. It heads one way only, into the pit of all that you feared, have always feared. And now it’s the truth. You are a lame duck, a pathetic wimp of a woman and nobody likes you anyway. You can see the neon flashing sign above your head. It reads, Loser. So don’t add this one to your dwindling list. Nobody is that desperate.

This true friend might not be the first person who comes to mind. After all, not one of us is immune to self-protection. Most of us keep our true selves very private, considering what we will reveal and how we will reveal it on a moment to moment basis. There are things I have told no-one, not never, and I am sure you are not so different. But when you look at your list, pondering each name and reflecting on past history, shared moments both good and uncomfortable, you will eventually get that list down to about 2, if you are very lucky. And this, my friends, is absolutely normal. We may have hundreds of acquaintances, but the true friend, the one who just sails along with you, keeping a respectful distance when required, one who watches you fly the crests of monster waves as a purple storm approaches, or who keeps her eyes on you as you head towards jag-toothed rocks in some crazy game of Chicken, and who prays for your safe return, well, she’s the truth.

In a perfect world, this would describe a mother or a father, or both. Parents who do not load their own expectations of supreme success onto the soft-boned backs of their young, who do not reward according to achievements; who welcome you home late, under-age drunk, in suggestive clothing or with a biker boyfriend twice your age and with no space left for another tattoo; A loving mum and dad who, when you fail your exams for the third time, or when you tell them you cannot spend another day in this college, university or relationship, no matter how much of a messy split, will welcome you into loving arms and who will stand beside your decisions for all time.

I hope I have been that mum. I suspect we all do, we mums. To be a true friend and a parent is not simple, however. We want for our kids what we didn’t have for ourselves. We know, as they don’t, how tough the world is on colour, creed, race, sexuality, relational splits, career women, traditions, freedom of speech, independency. The labels live on. In fact, they are thriving. Nobody escapes the criticism, the labels, the judgement. But a true friend, one who sails beside you, who sees who you really are will make all the difference in the world. Even if this friend lives miles away she knows you without needing to own you; you don’t have to start from the beginning with her, not ever. She knows that you will fill in gaps if you want to and not if you don’t. She may well challenge you, you can be sure of that. But inside that challenge there is only heart, only love. You can tell her to truck off, as she can tell you to do the same, but she is authentic. You are authentic. Your true friendship is authentic.

Ok, so now we might be down to one. Still lucky.

Island Blog – Extra the Ordinary

Although I live my life according to the rules, most of the time, my heart and soul are pure Paris. As a girl, as a young woman, I could feel the inconvenient wild in me, this fire blaze that burned no matter how politely I crossed my ankles or demurred to the authority of a man. The confusion of living with the two opposing women inside came with a great deal of trouble, most of it unseen by anyone but me. The trouble was my lack of enough experiential wisdom to accept both the Paris and the Quiet Suburbs and to love them both. How can I, how can anyone, hold two contradictories in one head at the same time? Well, practice, and a lot of self-love. En route to this acceptance brought tantrums, a smouldering silence, spots, ridiculous clothes, lost friendships, poor decisions, all of which came with legacy, one only I was forced to live with and through. Those in ‘authority’ over me called me names; deluded, hysterical, rebellious, ornery, bloody difficult #needsprofessionalhelp, possessed, reckless and so on. I was, in short, impossible and would never fit in. Until one day I overheard my French teacher, whom I adored, saying to my mother #headinhands that I had a lot of the Paris in me. I suspect that was the beginning of my quest, one that has led me over the bumps, into walls, off chasmic edges and on and on to many wonderful places and times.

At this age of ripeness and with a completely marvellous and exciting past, I smile at my journey. Even now I can meet good women of my age who, on recognising the rebel in me, say that they were never wild; that they never felt anything like an incendiary bomb. I always question that. Did you ever fall head over heels in love, I ask, when your whole world is thrown up into the air like a beach ball, and do you remember hoping it would never come down again? I usually get them on that one. Okay they didn’t lock matron in the phone cupboard and go back to bed, nor set fire to the school shed (didn’t burn), nor did they get back home at 10pm, check in with parents and then climb out of the window to rejoin the party. But I did, and that wildness is still here, still within, now honoured and loved, appreciated and respected. Paris is part of me.

I have never been to Paris and may never go there. I call her Paris because of what I have read, since my French teacher said what she said, and I have learned about that city of bohemian rebellion and energy. I will have added my own imagination, naturally, and together we have got me all the way up to this morning in a lively and unpredictable way. Living as I now do inside my own structure of discipline is just where I want to be. I have no desire to travel in order to find myself. Myself is right here with me and we are an excellent team. Rebelling against my own rules of engagement would be foolish. Rebelling against other people’s rules of engagement was exhilarating, terrifying and often self destructive, but I could not have avoided one minute of it. It is in my DNA and that is irrefutable.

My message in all this is to encourage you all to remember who you really are, not to fanny about with who someone else decides you are. This would be like trying to fit politely and tidily into an empty Weetabix box. So don’t. And, if any of this touches you in any way, there is work to be done. We can die with our song unsung or we can take a risk, open our mouths and sing it out, at any age or stage of our lives.

We can make an ordinary life extraordinary just by living half in, half out of the box, our own box.

Island Blog – The Circus, Night Fairies and Life

I have baked a honey cake and drizzled it, put a wash on, changed a bed, dressed, applied slap, made a cauliflower cheese for supper, wished a grand-daughter happy unicorn birthday, swept the kitchen floor, prepared a salad, ate breakfast, fed the birds and the dog, danced to Ronan Keating’s new single and it is now 7 am. There is something manic about me, I am beginning to believe. Residue automatic morning-ness from when the tourist business was up and running, endless children, many of whom I didn’t know, also up and running, and food food food required by hundreds kept me cartwheeling from first light. Half the time there was little point washing up as meal demands bunched together like giggling girls on an outing. I whisked, beat, baked, stewed, roasted and steamed mountains of produce. It thinks me I am unable to step out of those running shoes, even now, when days are slow and gentle, mostly, with the exception of the odd crappy day wherein I cannot run for the life of me. My legs are leaden and my mind is a roundabout on speed. However, I am happy to report that such days are rare, not least because I can’t be bothered with any sort of sickness, mental or physical, disallowing either much space in the room. Be off with you, I say, but don’t go bothering anyone else because you are just not welcome. Try outer space.

Mornings bounce me like Tigger. I wake with the birds and absolutely cannot turn over for more sleep. Despite my passionate love for my recycled plastic bottle filled duvet and my feathery down pillows, I have too much energy fizzing through my veins to lie a minute longer. I have to be quiet, though. Himself won’t rise till about 8 and my kitchen is a floorboard below his bedroom. I don’t think they lagged things much in the 1870’s. I tiptoe through my tasks, interested, excited, curious and particularly curious when I discover that the washing pile is gone. Who has gone-d it? There is only me who washes in this house. I discover it a little later through a downstairs window, bobbing like bunting on the line. I have no recollection of hanging it there. Perhaps I didn’t. Perhaps the Night Fairies did it for me. How sweet they are. I remember them from my young harassed mother-days. They always surprised me with their kindnesses but there were times when I would rather they told me what they’d done because I might then have avoided wasting precious time in search of something I knew I had left just there the night before. Just there stares back at me emptily. I began to suspect collusion with the Night Fairies. Once, when I was certain of a pile of bed sheets awaiting a spin in the belly of my washing machine, I found them half way up the stairs, draped into an Aladdin’s cave and with two guilty looking collies curled up inside, each one enjoying a bowl of muesli.

Perhaps when life has been a circus for long enough, the circus becomes the life and each performer becomes the circus. I think I have. And I don’t mind one bit. I think the circus training has kept me bouncing through all sorts of horrible, kept me mostly up and taught me that nothing in life is going to get me down for long. I just wish I could share this with everyone else. Life is such a precious gift, and always too short. Living it right up to its end is the only path to happiness.

After all, stumble stones can always be turned into building blocks.