Enjoying freedom.

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Today is the second day of being “boot free”! (I slipped and had to wear a surgical boot for two weeks). I’m reveling in simple things I took for granted for example:
1) Being able to ride my bike again – mobility!
2)Taking a shower minus the delicate, chair assisted, operation of getting into the bath tub without putting weight on my injured ankle.
3) Going up and down my banister-less stairs easily (crawling and bumping on my bum is so undignified lol!)
4) Starting to get back to normal walking speed instead of snail pace.
5) Not having to plan my life to the tiny detail. If I left something upstairs for example it was a big deal to go get it.
6) Not having to strap on “the boot” if I need to go bathroom in the night (takes a while by which time you are well awake.)

Some things I’m still working on – running, going downstairs normally (still doing a sideways shuffle for safety), and being able to fit both feet into my tennies again. Thankfully it healed amazingly fast with very little pain.
The biggest thing I was most thankful for, (and which I constantly reminded myself of) is that it was only very temporary. I bow to those heroes and heroines that bare with such things (or worse) on a permanent basis and manage to keep a cheery smile. I’ve many times helped those with crutches, leg supports even wheelchairs onto the boats so they could go sailing, but now I have even more understanding of just how frightening it must be trying to get down into that boat.I applaud their courage!

“The sky belongs to everyone – the best things in life are free”

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The words of this old, old, song came in my head today and I paused to reflect share a few of my favourite “freebies”. (Maybe you’d like to share some too.)

1)Top of the list has to be love. This one is absolute (in spite of the adverts.) You can buy sex, you might even be able to “buy” a beautiful wife or hunky candy boy, but money can’t make someone really love you (in fact real love, in its many forms tends to be more common among the poor.)

2)Next must come life. This is less absolute, as a lack of money for food, protection, medical help etc. can mean someone loses it, but the gift of life its self comes free to rich and poor.

3)Water. Now I know some enterprising multinationals are trying very hard to get control of this (something to look out for folks! Don’t let them do it – boycott bottled water.) But water has this wonderful tendency to drift right through their fingers, evaporating into the heavens and, replenishing its self, return as free rain. I love water!

4)Happiness. Again don’t be fooled by mass media and all those fake smiling face book or magazine pages. Things cannot make you happy, nor can money, so don’t spend your life chasing the illusionary carrot. I’ve lived long, and social observation is a hobby of mine (I like to learn about people). Whereas happiness can be found in rich homes now and then (generally you find someone with a big heart at the root of it) I’ve found it’s far more often a guest of the poor. (I heard Mexico rated as the happiest country in the world – Mexico??? They have it hard there. Happiness is pretty hard to do a survey on but the conclusion they came to is worth pondering.)

5)Then yes, there’s the sky. Every inch of land most places has its registered owner (especial here in the tiny UK lol!) but the sky is free. Anyone can look up anytime and enjoy it. Of course man has messed it up in some places with pollutions, but just get outside the purple haze and you can feast for free on clouds, light and pure colours.

So that’s my top five, would you like to add a few of yours?

Microscope or telescope?

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Some look through a microscope and see the slightest flaw,
The dirty shoes, the gross tattoo, a failing they abhor.
I far prefer another lens, through which to cast my gaze,
That sees the prime potential I hope one day will raise,
And flourish with a breath of hope and make our voices sing.
That taking on strong forces vile will triumph in the ring.

It’s easy to see the flaws in things, in people. Demolition requires little skill compared to building (though often the more popular pursuit). It takes, vision, effort, and perseverance to build. So let’s be sure as we set out each day to bring with us a telescope.

Life is like swimming.

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One of the keys to swimming is to learn to float, then, instead of using your energy to keep your head above water you can channel it into getting somewhere.
I’ve always felt it strange that after someone drowns their body floats to the surface (face down not being the optimum position for survival, but none the less it floats.) I picked up on my mum’s fear of water as a child and this realisation helped me in my determination to learn to swim – I realised we are made to float not sink.
Life is much the same. Sometimes our frantic fight to stay afloat can be the very thing hindering us. Even worse, sometimes in our panic that we are drowning we can pull under those beloved “lifeguards” who are trying to rescue us.

So how can we learn to float?
I’d suggest,recognise it’s our natural condition to float. Sometimes huge “waves” come at us and we find ourselves submerged. Try not to panic, like the cork we have a tendency to bob back up to the surface after a minute or two. It may not be pleasant but the more we struggle the worse it tends to get. I look back to my childhood in the 50s surrounded by all those post war London folks, if anyone was an example of the “cork” those people were!
The second thing is to understand that the water/life can support you. Though sometimes it can get a bit rough, it is not “the enemy!”
Having faith in something other than yourself can be a great help. It’s easy to lay back in the arms of someone you love and trust. The poem “Footsteps in the Sand” is a good illustration. Looking over the footprints of his life a man berates Christ that at the hardest times he was left alone. Christ answers softly, “You were not alone, those footprints are mine. I was carrying you.” Guess that explains my personal “floating technique”. Do you have one too?

My convalescence project.

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(A new book – rough draft of the first chapter – feed back welcome!)

THE CHILD. (An apocalyptic tale.)

Light spring rain drummed its rhythm on the forest leaves. It was oddly silent, both felt it. The camp lay ahead swallowed in the camouflage of its protective gully. Their eyes met.
“I…” her voice was stifled by a sturdy hand as he pushed her against the trunk, long finger on taunt lips – warning! Eyes wide with fear she watched as he shrank beneath the ferns. She stood pressed hard against the concealing bark as if drawing strength from the forest giant. Had they come!
With urgent motions he beckoned her to follow. Rustling through unfurling stems they crawled their way back. She was shaking, hands trembling as they sought perchance, her enlarging belly catching on the stems. Sinking into the shadows they gained their feet.
“Can you run?” he hissed, eyes flaring.
“The others,” she whispered.
“Too late! Can you run!”
“Yes.” Grasping hands they careened through the trees, whispering branches concealing their passage. On and on they ran till she began to stumble. With laboured breath they paused against the gnarled side of an oak.
“The children,” she gasped.
“I could only save ours,” he ran a hand protectively over the curve of her belly. “The woods are full of men, hundreds of them. They won’t stand a chance.” Tears coursed down her face. “We need to move,” he urged, “after they’re finished they’ll come looking.”
As if in confirmation the sound of guns rent the stillness, screams echoed through the silent groves. He wiped a soiled sleeve across his eyes.
“We have to go…”
She nodded. Stumbling on over roots and shrubs, pursued by screams and gunfire echoes they melted into the ancient refuge of man. Tall sentinels guarded their way; ferns muffled their footsteps as gentle rain washed away all traces of their path.
*
“Did they have dogs?”
“Didn’t see any… Hope not. The stream at least should delay them even if they pick up our scent.”
“Sleep now. I’ll keep watch.”
Bathed in tears she surrendered to exhaustion. He looked out over the forest. He’d chosen high ground. He’d see them coming. The bush and scrub concealed them well enough. The forest was their home, their refuge, and had been for the past two years. The forest where he’d met her, where they’d managed to survive all this time, hidden away from prying eyes. Till, now… now it was all over, his friends, companions, closer than brothers, even their families, all dead… He brushed the tears away, but they kept coming, here in the darkness of the forest with none to see but the trees. Why could they not let them be, what harm had they been to anyone, simple folk most of them, farmers, travellers, working with their hands, living off the land. There was nowhere to go, no place was safe, only in the forests, in the wilderness of the mountains could they hide, for how long he didn’t know. There was no real escape only the constant game of cat and mouse he’d been playing for the last five years, the five years since he’d left it all behind to flee into the wilderness. It had just been internment camps back then, people disappearing silently, one day there, the next gone, never to return. Now they had no need of subterfuge, they killed openly, the last voices of protest silenced in those last Easter raids. He’d not been near civilisation since; some did, bartering for food, for the necessities of life, but he’d not. He’d grown hard, his frame lean, but strong, nourished on roots and herbs, fish, and meat from the traps. The wilderness had sustained him. He was thankful now for his grandfather’s obsession with the “outdoor life”. He’d groaned at the time, but some of those things had saved his life. Gramp’s rifle lay still looped across his back, loaded, the few remaining bullets carried in his backpack. There’d be no more, the camp munitions such as they’d been, (a couple more hunting rifles and two or three boxes of amo.) were gone now. He pulled out the wrapper – four, plus the three in the rifle. What good would that be if they found them? How would he get meat for the winter if he used them? Head bent in his hands, his lips murmured restlessly… “God, don’t let them find us, don’t let them find us!” Empty words…
He had to pull himself together, be strong for her and the child. There had to be an end to this… pictures flashed before his eyes, blood mottled skin, life draining, how could it end any other way?
Morning broke clear and sunny, birdsong celebrating the dawn, in denial of atrocities beneath the unfurling fern stems – nature reclaiming her own. He’d fallen asleep she noticed, his back to the tree, rifle across his lap. She watched as dappled sunlight traced patterns on his skin catching the chestnut fire in his hair. How she loved him. She remembered the first she saw him when they brought her to the camp bedraggled and malnourished, a haggard shadow of her former self. She’d wanted him even then, the smile, the bright eyes, the life in him…
He stirred. There was no food she realised, nothing… only what he carried in his pack. She’d teased him for taking it along, but now she saw the wisdom. He was never parted from the pack, now she knew why…
His eyes opened, a smile glimpsed, then faded. “We’ll need food and water,” he muttered glancing round. Young nettles swarmed in abundance, but they couldn’t risk a fire…
“We’ll head towards the river,” he announced, water was the most urgent need and fish could be eaten raw if you had to…
*
The ground became marshy as they trudged along, fallen saplings, resigned to fate, crisscrossed their path. Easy foraging here, frogs, fish and all manner of plants, fresh water and timber, hopefully far enough away from the assault force for safety…
*
Days turned to weeks, new blooms decked the river bank and raised their heads where sunlight traced the forest floor, the vast swathes of bluebells had relinquished their office to myriad hued cousins. Summer was on its way bringing plenty in its wake. He was a good provider yet it had been hard, enough to survive, but not enough to fill the belly.
He’d that morning set off to the old camp in hopes of gleaning all they’d need for her delivery and for the child. It should be safe enough now, he’d said, the soldiers would not stay that long, they had other things to do, other “nests of traitors” to destroy. He’d left the pack with her taking only his rifle and pocket knife. He said he didn’t want to be loaded down, but he couldn’t fool her…
Crawling face down among the forest’s carpet he edged towards the gully. All seemed quiet, the right kind of quiet. Birds flew hither and yon in their perpetual search to placate their growing young, insects hummed. The forest had resumed its quiet cacophony of sound, proclaiming the departure of the hunters. Relieved but still cautious he edged forward. The smell became intense. They could have at least buried the bodies… they were unrecognizable now, gnawed by forest inhabitants, decaying back from whence they came, nature reclaimed its own. He tried not to look.
He was surprised they’d not torched the huts, they usually did. Perhaps they were in a hurry. No matter. Their old lean to still stood only a few beams fallen. He ran his hands over the bullet holes that riddled the frame. If they’d not gone foraging, if he’d not taken her along…
Pull yourself together man, get what you need and get out of here. Rummaging through the debris he found what he was looking for, the big pot, the blankets. They’d need washing again now… Thread, he must have thread, to tie the cord. Thank God he knew the basics; there were no doctors in the forest. Glancing around he grabbed their tumbled winter coats, stuffing them into one of the blankets and tying it. That was all he could carry. It would have to do for now, he’d get more later, he told himself, but in his heart he knew he’d never venture back.
His hands full, view obscured, he never noticed the wire his foot nudged as he strode out of the hut.

(It is a deliberate ploy that no names are used – I have a reason lol!)

Some tests are more important than others.

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My grandson just surprised us all by getting top marks in his SATs (an 11 year old UK placement test). He has a good mind but has trouble retaining concentration. None of us were expecting he’d do more than scrape by. But it is not of this I wish to speak.
He unexpectedly scored high in another kind of test yesterday. I asked if after school he’d help me get to my allotment and haul the water for me (it’s quite wild and hard to negotiate wearing a surgical boot). We are in the middle of a heat wave and though my allotment friends would water my plot in the circumstances I was not sure how many knew of my accident.
I didn’t know how he’d react. My daughter has a “high flying” job with apple money but little time so tends to pay her kids to do everything. I decided to put him to the test and offer nothing. To my surprise reimbursement was never mentioned, instead he acted the perfect gentlemen lending his arm for the dodgy bits and using his new forming muscle to haul the two big watering cans six times down to the river and back (a 50 yards of windy paths). This whole was exacted without a complaint (that water’s heavy) and total concern encouraging me to rest on the chair during his trips back and forth. Both sweating as we headed for ice-creams (it was over 30 deg. remember) I told him I hadn’t been sure he’d decide to help me. He looked shyly over and said, “of course I’d help you – you’re hurt. You won’t take advantage of that will you?” I assured him I wouldn’t think of it, but I was very happy he’d helped and now the plants wouldn’t die.
He’d passed another kind of test, to my mind an even more important one. I could see, not only was he able to apply his mind when needed, but more importantly he was growing into a caring and compassionate man.
Sometimes in this modern world we can put so much emphasis on IQ and natural abilities, but this kind of test any child can pass and it is, I think, even more important for our planet than SAT scores.