A confession of sorts.

Do you ever look at your young child and think, ‘Oh dear God what have I reared?’. Maybe they have a crazy temper, or are so bossy even you can’t ignore it? Or maybe they are a thief? Yes, what if you discover your dear little one is light fingered.

Well today on my blog, in the hope that Tuesday is ‘not many reading day’, I will confess, that I Tric, was a thief in the past. I know I bet you can’t believe it, but I confess that when I was about eight years old I ‘stole’ an airfix model battleship!brother and sister

I am perhaps being a bit too hard on myself. What I mean to say is that I acquired the toy by deception, but I did pay for it, almost.

It was a Friday night and my younger, much better behaved, brother and I were shopping with our parents. For some reason we were being treated and allowed to go to the toy shop with four pounds each to spend. That was quite a lot of money at the time.

It was a large toy shop to a child, but in reality had only two aisles. We wandered up and down for ages, virtually buying everything. Eventually for me it came down to two airfix models. There was one small plane for £2.99 or a fine size of a boat for £4.99. My brother strolled over and I showed him the beautiful boat. He looked at the price and matter of factly (for a seven year old) said it was too dear. He had already chosen his toy, perfectly priced. Squatting down I picked up the small airplane and carefully removed the price, and to my brothers horror, I placed it directly over the price tag on the large beautiful battle ship that I had decided was mine. ‘Now’, I declared, ‘I can buy it’. My poor little brother nearly had a heart attack there and then. Hissing at me, he told me I couldn’t do that, ‘It’s stealing’. ‘No it’s not, I replied, I’m paying for it’. battleship
As he continued to protest I gave him the look. The big sister, I just might kill you if you say anything, look. He stopped speaking, but as we approached the til his little face began to redden. ‘What if they call the police?’, he said. Loosing patience I said ‘I will just say I’m sorry I thought that was the price’.

The two of us got to the til and queued up to pay. Little brother was a mess by now, sweating and almost crying. I was making sure I kept the pressure on with my,’don’t say a word’ looks so that he was more afraid of me than the shopkeeper. I remember reaching up and handing over the two toys and waiting while she calculated the price. There was a brief heart stopping moment when she looked a second time at my beautiful battle ship, but then she rang it up on the til, took our money and bagged up our toys.

Mission accomplished.

I strolled, smiling triumphantly, out the door of the shop while my little brother ran out, I suspect in desperate need of the bathroom. I felt no pang of conscience when I showed my toy to my parents. Not a shred of guilt.

Remembering this story now, as an adult and a mother, I wonder what sort of a wild child was I? What was it made me care so little and my brother so much? As I look back tonight I am struck by the fact, that as I remember the robbery, I do so with all the feelings I had as a child.

And I still remember the joy of ‘buying’ my battleship.

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More than a memory.

I knew Daniels anniversary would be sad. I knew these weeks would be difficult. I have thought about it, and I was prepared. We would be there to support his family and to be of comfort. We would get through.

That was before I called to my friends house and she put a white envelope into my hand. I smiled and thanked her. I knew what it contained. I had seen the drafts a few weeks ago. I was prepared I thought for how I would feel when I received Dans memorial card, but as I put it in the car I wasn’t so sure.

Driving home I glanced across at that white envelope and felt just a little bit sick. I touched it, but decided to leave it where it was, on the passenger seat. As I drove I couldn’t help but see it out of the corner of my eye. My ignoring it only made me think about it more.

Arriving home to my empty house I carried the envelope into the kitchen, where I placed it on the table. I boiled the kettle and returned to look at it, picked it up and turned it over, only to put it back down, this time on the dresser, next to Daniels photo. Maybe a cup of tea would make it easier?

As I sat down with my cuppa I opened it, slowly. Out spilled the contents. A letter from my friend, two small wallet photos, an acknowledgement card and a bookmark.
I knew what to expect. I had seen them a few weeks ago, and shed tears as my friend and I shook our heads at the crazy situation we were sharing. Proofing a memorial card for her handsome, sports mad, cheeky, lovely boy. As I held that bookmark in reality, that train of grief crashed right through me.

On it was eleven photographs of Daniel through the years, a small boy of two, a young smiling boy of four, dressed up for halloween, an older boy celebrating in mud on the football field and a young boy freshly dressed in his secondary school uniform, just weeks before becoming sick. The picture of health and happiness throughout. Seeing him smiling so happily, made it seem even more unbelievable that he was gone.

The final photo at the bottom of the bookmark was one of him smiling just before leaving for his bone marrow transplant. This was a different photo. Many would look at it and see Daniel, the boy who was sick. However that is not what I see. Yes looking back at me I see a boy wearing a baseball cap on a bald head. A boy with a round face due to massive doses of steroids. A boy on chemo. But this boy I remembered well.

For it was this boy who smiled at me last year when I called with small presents, cosy socks, a hat, a slushie, a soft blanket. It was this boy I saw do his best to get through every day. It was this boy I saw fight longer and harder than he was ever expected to. This ‘sick’ Daniel, smiling out at me, was the strongest boy I ever met. As I stared at the bookmark and all the Daniels looking out at me, it was this boy I hurt the most for. It was this boy I couldn’t believe was gone.

There is something about photographs which can transport us back so perfectly in our minds. We can see, hear, and remember occasions vividly by looking at a captured moment in time.

Thankfully even though Daniel lived only a short life, he lived a very full one. He did so much of what he loved doing, and being Dan he somehow managed to ensure he was photographed doing most of it.

Daniel may be gone, but his smiling face and cheeky grin remind all who knew him of a million moments gone by. Moments that will not be forgotten. Moments that will ensure young Daniel continues to live in the hearts and minds of all who knew him well into the future.

Daniel more than just a memory.

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No time.

This week my kids are talking in excited tones
about secret santa, Christmas present wish lists,
and even Christmas dinner.

No time to cry.

There’s the morning rush for school,
homework and housework to be done,time
and even a parent teacher meeting to attend.

No time to cry.

Meeting with friends,
chatting with family,
maybe even Christmas shopping.

No time to cry.

But on my mind is,
the smiling face of a young boy,
before he lost his hair.

And I want to cry.

Voices of past phone calls,
sharing news no one wants to hear,
Break my heart once more.

And I want to cry.

Pictures on the wall,
an empty room and bed,
a vibrant boy, missing,

And I want to cry

Life goes on,
day after day,
Every moment accounted for.

Leaving very little time to cry.

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Today is the tomorrow I dreaded.

Well today was the day. The last day with our old pal before he moves to England to live with his family. I thought I’d better post tonight just in case you were all day wondering how I got on.  Did I manage to enjoy our last day? Did I need a box of tissues? Did my old pal hold it together? Did I make a holy show of myself? Am I lying in a heap?leaving home.

Well let me tell you my friend, we were fantastic. As I walked into his house I lingered in his small hall, breathing it in and committing it to memory. My old pal was in the kitchen and as I went in I got my usual cheery ‘Hallo Tric’.  My other friend arrived with scones and home made soup for our pal, and as we sat down I knew we were all going to be okay. It didn’t feel lonely or sad, just comfortable as always. We asked him was he all set to go, and you will not believe me when I tell you what he said. He said he had got the dates all wrong and that he has in fact another week left! I told you you wouldn’t believe it. After our joint loud exclamations, we laughed heartily in relief. As you can imagine from then on the morning went wonderfully.

So next Thursday really will be the final visit. However even though I have no doubt it will be lonely I do not think I will fret over it. For in truth it will be a morning we thought we would never see again. As I walk into my pals house next week it will be with a happy heart, knowing I got exactly what I wished for, one more day of stories, craic and companionship, with a very special Irish gentleman.

Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday and all is fine!

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leaving home.

Final days.

Do you ever look forward to something and when it happens you realise the anticipation was almost as good as the event? The waiting, and imagining. The time spent watching the calendar and mentally ticking off the days.

Equally there are days looming in our future which we dread. I wonder when they come will it work the same way? Will they be as awful as we thought they might be, or was the anticipation of them worse than the actual day?

In my near future I have a couple of difficult days looming. One of them happens tomorrow. It will be the last official time I will be visiting my old pal, who my friend and I have been visiting once a week. He is leaving Ireland on Monday. Emigrating at 83 to live with family. There are just days left.

I have spent the week not thinking about it, or trying to not think about it. I have tried not thinking about insmall__6861722073 the house, or at the pool. In the car or in bed. I have tried to make sure I do not imagine walking in and hearing his cheery ‘Hallo Tric’. I have tried not imagining making our final coffee and tea, hearing him joke with my other friend about me, and listening to him tell us another few stories. Our final helping. I have tried not imagining watching him bravely do his best to disguise the fact that his heart is breaking before our eyes, as he speaks of leaving his home, his country and his friends. And most of all I have tried not to imagine our final hug and the final time I hear, ‘love ye’. As you can guess I am failing miserably at trying not to imagine all my friend and I will face tomorrow.

I can only hope that my imaginings are more real and painful than tomorrow will be. However I’m not too sure.

Deep breath. Nearly there. I am determined. I will enjoy our morning. I will not make it any harder for him than it is. I will try not to cry.

Wish me luck! And for those of you who know me well personally, or through my writing you will understand me when I say.. ‘Feck, this is pox’.

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birds arguing

We’re having a heated debate…in the bedroom.

Yer man and myself have been together for over twenty years, yet recently things have gone a little cold.

Now don’t get all dramatic,it’s not what you think. I’m not talking marriage break up here. You see towards the end of last winter my electric blanket blew up. I swore I would replace it but the only time I would remember was just as I was getting into bed. Thankfully the Summer came, so naturally I forgot all about it. Until a couple of weeks ago, when Summer left us ever so suddenly.

Since then our nightly routine has gone thus….

He is tucked up, on my side of the bed (as over the years he has rarely found his way to his own side). Moments before getting into bed I remember with a jolt,

wrapped up warm
‘Feck! I forgot to buy an electric blanket’.

‘Ah will you stop about a blanket, sure I’m here’, he says as I get into bed.

‘Ye, well great and all as you are I’d prefer a blanket’.

‘That’s terrible. A blanket! If you ask me they should be banned’.

‘Are you for real? There’s nothing wrong with an electric blanket’.

‘For Gods sake what would you want a blanket for when you’ve got me’.

‘No offense, you do a good job on my side of the bed but you are no electric blanket’.

Two minutes pass by…

‘Hmmph An electric blanket! Come on you’ve got to admit it, you’re warming up’.

‘Of course I’m warming up, but I’d be roasting by now if I had a blanket’.

‘Well who would want to be roasting? Sure that’s unnatural’.

‘I’d love to be roasting. And tomorrow I’m going to remember and I’m going to get an electric blanket’.

‘Well I wont be lying on it’.

‘Really? You think not? That’s what you said last time and I’d have needed a JCB to move you off it’.

‘That’s not true. Anyway I’m not a wuss. No man needs an electric blanket’.

‘Well there’s the problem. I’m not a man I’m a woman, and tomorrow I’m
getting an electric blanket. I can’t wait,’

And so we drift off… until one night later,

‘Feck! I forgot to get an electric blanket.

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lessons in life

What sort of swimmer would your child be?

What sort of child have you? A trier, a winner, a worker?

I coach almost every day, and each session I coach reminds me of life.
There is the early part when things are easy, the swimmers are chatting, and the session is manageable. Everyone is in good form and there is a buzz around the pool. Then a difficult set begins. It may last ten minutes or twenty five minutes. The atmosphere changes, and it is at this point we see the personalities before us emerge.

There are the swimmers who take off with no mind as to how hard the set will be or how long it will last. They have one speed and it is full blast. However they quickly become exhausted. Tired, they are overtaken by the others in the lane and can become fed up and discouraged. As coaches we can see this unfold. If we intervene early we can encourage them to keep going, to hang in there and usually they begin to recover. Self belief returns and their competitive spirit kicks back in. By the time the set is finished they are happy enough with what they achieved.all children are different

Then there are the less confident swimmers. They are the ones who take their place near the back of the lane, even though you know very well they are good enough to lead. They work quietly, with very little need for us coaches to address them. However if we looked closely we would see, that these swimmers are holding back. Unwilling to challenge the swimmer in front of them, even though they are catching them. This swimmer is one who, when put in a different lane and encouraged to lead, takes off. This swimmer was the quiet worker, with little confidence, who needs someone to show them, ‘Yes you can do this, you are better than you think’.

Our next swimmer is the one who has no lack of self belief. Regardless of ability they take the top of the lane. They lead out and even if caught and passed out by others behind them will, given half a chance take the lead again and again. These swimmers must be looked after. Their self belief must be fostered, but equally their understanding of their limits needs managing. For them competition can often mean disappointment, as their expectations are out of kilter with their ability. However they generally bounce back, and in time learn to aim for more achievable but still relatively high goals.

Next on our list is the swimmer who has huge ability. They are clearly the most talented. As the session becomes more difficult they are often the one who backs off. Just when the set becomes unbearable they stop to fix goggles or to go to the loo. Sometimes they just ease off and let others pass them. Then when it comes to the final part of the set, when the end is in sight, they take off. They overtake all the tired swimmers in their path and finish first. They are happy they are still the best, not as tired as the rest but still the best.

In the middle of the lane we find the quiet swimmer. They listen and do all they are asked. Regardless of the task you set them they will do it. They are often overlooked, but come competition day they regularly surprise you, and especially their fellow swimmers. When you congratulate them they give a small smile, but inside you know they are dancing. They are understated but quietly confident.

Finally there is the trier. They may not be the most talented, or the most beautiful of lessons in lifeswimmers, but they try and they try. For them every set is difficult and they generally get less rest than the others. They keep going and never ask for, nor take an extra break. They are in the pool because they love swimming. They will never be medal winners or get a place on a relay, but that doesn’t stop them. They are part of lifes workers, the doers who just get on. They develope a steely determination, and a huge work ethic. They may not be winners in the pool, but watching them train you just know, they will be winners in life.

Each morning when we finish I look at all these swimmers in the pool and I smile to myself. During the session some had to be pushed, some needed coaxing, and all needed praise. However I know as they go home to school they have already achieved so much, before their fellow schoolmates are even up. They have learned lessons about themselves which cannot be learned in school. Hopefully lessons that will stand to them all their lives.

When we coach these young swimmers I believe we teach them so much more than how to swim faster, and in return they teach us that they are so much more than just swimmers in a pool.

Tonight I salute all our young swimmers. Each one so different. Each one just perfect.

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This week, my friend, I wish ‘To Mother You’.

It is nearly the dreaded week. The anniversary week. The week we try to ‘act’ normal. The week we smile, chat and live our busy lives, all the while distracted.  For we who knew young Daniel, will spend most of this week living in the past. Thinking of this week last year, this day last year, this time last year. The week before November 29th. The week we lost young Dan.

It has been a difficult year, yet Daniels mom would possibly tell you that this year was easier than the year he was sick, because even though she missed him every day, she knew he wasn’t hurting any more. He was painfree.hands of hope

Daniels mom and I have been friends for over twenty years. In all that time we have shared so much. I thought I knew her well. However since that awful day when we got the news of his leukemia I have often stood back, lost for words at her strength and courage. She tells me she now has a new goal in life, ‘to successfully steer three children through grief’. Not a goal that many of us will hopefully ever have to aspire to. A goal which puts my goals as a mother in perspective.

This week, as has happened since the very day Daniel was diagnosed, his mom will stand tall, take a deep breath and get on with living. Yes she will grieve, and she will mourn his huge loss. Her heart will break as it does every day, and she may even admit at least once this week that ‘This is just shit, Tric’, but all the while she will soldier on, supporting her family and giving and getting strength from Daniels Dad, who is equally as strong as her.

My brother, (whose birthday is today, happy birthday xxx) sent me a link to this song last night. As I listened to it I will admit I cried, but it says so perfectly what I wish to do for my friend this week.

This week my dear friend…I wish to mother you, and I know I am not alone. xx

This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

my fathers tools

The only gift my father ever gave my children.

What is the greatest handmade gift you have ever received? This was yesterdays daily prompt, and one I could not let go. For my favourite gift I have ever received in my life to date, was hand made for me at the age of seven, and it is a gift I treasure to this day.

I was the fourth of five children. We were not well off but we wanted for nothing. During the year we didn’t get regular presents for no reason, but on our birthdays and at Christmas our parents really pushed the boat out. On a Christmas Eve, unlike our friends who would hang up their stockings to be filled, we would hang a makeshift clothes line across the roof of our kitchen. Then each one of us would go get a pair of our trousers and peg them up on it. As if that wasn’t enough we would then put a chair underneath for any overflow! So now you get it, toys were plentiful at Christmas, it was only years later, when I asked my mother how she managed to buy all those presents, that she told me she began to save the second week in January.my fathers tools

The Christmas I was seven was different. No doubt my parents spoiled us that Christmas as usual, but I have no memory of any of Santas wonderful gifts. Instead I remember the present they gave me, the gift I had waited eagerly for. The gift I had stood outside the garage imagining. The gift I heard my dad banging and sawing at inside the garage. The gift hidden under a blanket, which I had imagined in my mind. My very own handmade dolls house, made by my Dad, and decorated by my Mom. The first time I set eyes on it I thought, ‘Wow’. Forty years later I still look at it and think ‘Wow’.

It was way beyond anything I could have dreamed of. Standing almost three feet tall and over three feet long, to a small for her age, seven year old, it was enormous. The front was closed in with three curtained windows on the top floor and two on the bottom. It was painted in stipple white paint which made it appear as if it was plastered, just like our own house. The roof was exactly the same as the roof every child draws when drawing a house.

However it was when you turned the house around, that the real wonder was revealed. It was a large two storey house with a central wooden stairway with a turn in it half way up. Upstairs was a very large bedroom on the left, then a small landing area, and a medium size bathroom. The floors were carpeted and the walls wall papered.dolls house

Downstairs was a large sitting room, and a kitchen. However this was no ordinary kitchen. The dividing wall could be removed and put further along allowing me to play using a galley kitchen or else move the wall and have a large family kitchen. There was also a small room under the stairs, whose use varied. Sometimes a playroom, sometimes a TV room. The downstairs had a laminated wooden floor, and the walls were once again wallpapered. It was the most perfect dolls house anyone could have ever dreamed of owning.

I cannot begin to tell you the hundreds of hours I enjoyed kneeling in front of my dolls house. So many adventures happened there and who knows, maybe my love of storytelling was fostered by the many different lives I created for my dolls who lived there.

The years passed and inevitably I grew out of playing house, but my dolls house remained in my life. In time I gave birth to my daughter. I now had a new future home for my dolls house, and I couldn’t wait to share it with her. Even though it nearly killed me I waited until she was almost three before introducing them. I am not sure which of us was more excited that day, setting up the furniture and playing with the dolls. When I was a child, I had only ever found two dolls and a tiny dog to share the house, as most other dolls were too large. Toys had changed in the intervening years and for my daughter there were a great many different types of small dolls available, so from the start she had a bigger family living there than I ever did.

It is over twenty years since the first day my daughter played with my dolls house. It has been used by my own four children, (my son included), the two little girls I minded, my friends children, my godchildren and the many visitors who have been in our house. I have no doubt that when Dad was busy making it for me he could never have dreamed of the many different little ladies that would have knelt at his house, rearranging furniture, using tiny hands to move dolls from room to room whilst chatting freely, unaware and uncaring who heard them, so lost they were in their far away world.

Since the first day it arrived in this house, my children have sensed how special my dolls house is. It has always been a huge regret in my life that my Dad never got to meet my children, but by building me this dolls house he has been a very real part of their childhood. It is the toy I have without doubt, loved most in my life, and the only gift my Dad ever gave my children.

My dolls house, made with love and definitely the greatest gift that was ever hand made for me.

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leaving home.

Thursdays, will never be the same again.

Sometimes  there are just too many goodbyes in life.

Today, as we do every Thursday, my friend and I went calling on our pal, an elderly gentleman in his 80s, who I have written about before here. We had, as we do every Thursday, a wonderful morning of chat, and stories, shared over a cup of tea. But today I could hear the clock for our friendship ticking so loudly, it was at times, almost hard to hear the banter between us. For today he told us his moving date is brought forward, to Monday 24th of November. Just over ten days away, and not the three weeks we had thought.

As he is still here it is hard to imagine that he will actually leave. It all seems so unreal. Visiting him is what we do on a Thursday. Listening to his stories is what we do. Sharing our own stories is what we do. What will we do without him?

Sitting there on a Thursday, my friend and I are like two children as we listen enthralled to his stories. We shout ‘Oh no’, when disaster strikes, we burst out laughing when something unexpected happens, and we wipe a small tear when he paints a picture so vividly of a sad  event. He is never stuck for inspiration and the two hours sail by each week.missing grandad

I sat there today and I must admit to being a bit absent at times. As my pal regaled us with another tale I did my best to photograph him, and to store that photo in my minds eye. His white hair, his brown eyes, his tall stature making the large armchair appear a normal size. I also tried to video him for posterity. I tried to capture his lilting voice. The way he says, ‘Ioreland is a wunderrrrful cuntrry’. The way his eyes twinkle and take twenty years from his face when he is saying something mischievous. The way he throws back his head to laugh out loud. The unconscious way he puts his hand, with fingers permanently bent, to his hair to push it back off his forehead. The way he shouts at us in disagreement. The way he stops himself from crying when he talks about leaving.

Next week will be our last official day with him. We have offered to help him pack up the few small things he may wish to keep for himself, and as we offered I wondered how I would get through the day. Thankfully my friend is not such a cry baby as I am, and together I know we can do it.

For next week even though we will be saying goodbye I am acutely aware that it will be our last morning together. I am determined to get another couple of stories out of him. To laugh heartily and to share one final memorable morning together. There will be enough time for tears when he is gone.

Next Thursday will be a very special day. I look forward to it, and dread it with equal measure.

Wish us luck!

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