The old man and the lawnmower

There was an old man who had a strange pet.
It was a lawnmower which he named Fred.
Its tail was a cable, its colour red.
He took it with him everywhere he went,
He walked him to the local duck pond,
Where the ducks took fright at such an odd sight.
When Fred was poorly, took it to the vet,
Who was not pleased to see the mower
On her consultation table that day.
She was more used to rabbits, dogs and cats.
She said the old man should see his GP,
But perhaps leave the lawnmower at home.
The old man replied “No!” And that was that.

The old man loved Fred, who loved him too.
They lived happily in a ground floor flat.

I rescued a hedgehog

My daughter Bethany and I were nearly home after a walk. We saw a little something by the side of the road. It was a hedgehog. I have never seen a live hedgehog in the wild before. It was cute, but bigger than I imagined. It was bleeding a little and obviously not doing well because it was out in the middle of the day. I wasn’t sure how badly it was injured, and thought that it might die soon. But I couldn’t just leave it there to die, alone on the side of a road. I checked with Bethany if it would be ok to take him home, with the understanding that he might not live long. She agreed.

I picked him up carefully and found that his spikes don’t hurt at all. He was very calm. I got some blood on my shirt, but it’s old so I didn’t mind.

We made a little cardboard house for him in the garden, with a door so that he could get out. The kids found slugs and earthworms for him to eat, but he just slept for the first few hours. Suddenly he woke up, gobbled down the treats and started to dig up and root around in a patch of earth.

It was wonderful to see a wild animal close up. He has a long nose that he uses to look for worms, and a little tail. His body shape is similar to a guinea-pig, just with spikes and slightly longer legs. He has big ears like a cavy too.

He had stopped bleeding but I noticed that the right side of his face was a little squashed. He couldn’t see out of his right eye, but it hadn’t been cut.

 

I’m not sure how he was injured: a car would have finished him off and a lawn mower probably would have made a much bigger cut. Perhaps a small dog or cat got hold of him? Or a bike rode into him? That would fit the injuries a bit better.

We named him Spike.

He slept some more and then woke up just before sunset. He seemed ok and was touring the garden, but I still wasn’t sure if he would last the night. There is a small gap under our side gate that is big enough for him to squeeze under, so he did have the option of leaving our garden in the night if he wanted to.

I heard him at about 3 in the morning, looking for food noisily. The next morning, we looked for him but he wasn’t to be found. I said that he must have gone back home during the night and was probably fine. Bethany was sad, and I was too. He wasn’t a pet, but we liked him.

A couple of hours later, Bethany shouted excitedly “There’s Spike!”

He was patrolling the garden busily. It looked like he was on a mission. He seemed full of beans, and Connor saw him catch a slug in the bushes and then eat it. But he walked into our feet a couple of times, which isn’t right for a wild animal. I wondered how well he could see out of his good eye. And shouldn’t we humans smell strong to him? I wondered if the accident had caused some head trauma.

We didn’t want to let him go back to the wild if he wasn’t well, even though he seemed fine. I found a phone number for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which I had not heard of before. 

https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/about-our-hedgehog-street-campaign/who-are-the-hedgehog-champion

The BHPS has resources that help you to help hedgehogs. You can make a hole at the bottom of your fence to allow them to travel more easily and safely (away from roads); instructions on how to build a hedgehog house and a photo gallery where you can upload your hedgehog photos, amongst other things.

Anyway, the Hedgehog Preservation Society referred me to the RSPCA. The RSPCA took Spike’s details: his injuries and how I found him: not his allergies, date of birth and surname. I don’t know that. They asked if we would be able to take him to a local vet. I agreed and they gave me a reference number to pass onto the vet. That would have his recent medical history, so we wouldn’t have to explain everything to the vet.

They said to put him into a box that he couldn’t escape from and take him to the vet when we could.

I phoned the vet to confirm that we would be dropping him off soon.

At the vet, we put his box outside and let them know that he had arrived. We didn’t even have to go inside the building, which is good as we are still shielding. The lady on reception picked him up and took him inside.

Goodbye Spike. It was lovely to meet you. Get well soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spike

 

Sunset in June

The birds have gone to bed

And the sun has just set.

The rain fell earlier,

Puddles a reminder.

Sky is the palest blue,

The faintest streak of pink

A goodbye from the day,

And all is so quiet, 

Besides a chirp or three

From a nearby pine tree.

While the stars still hide

And a lonely moth flies.

Midsummer nearly here.

I look up and feel you near.

The yellow balloon


Faith had a yellow balloon. It was her favourite balloon because it was yellow. Everywhere she went, she carried her yellow balloon.

She took it to the shops with Mummy. When she went to Granny and Grandpa, along came her yellow balloon. When she went for a walk with Penny the dog, she carried her yellow balloon. Faith could not remember when she got it, and it felt like she had always had her yellow balloon.

One day, Faith and Daddy took Penny for a walk to the park. Faith brought her yellow balloon of course.
It got windier and windier and even windier. Penny ran off after a squirrel, and Daddy chased her. Faith was swept up by a gust of wind, still holding tight to her yellow balloon.


The wind lifted her up, up, up. She floated over Daddy. She swooped over the houses in town.

She soared over the sea. Faith and her yellow balloon flew all the way to the moon! It was beautiful up in space, and the Earth looked tiny.

“Wow! This is the greatest adventure ever, isn’t it, yellow balloon?”

After a while she got scared and wanted to go back home.

The yellow balloon carried her back down to the park safely. When she landed, Daddy was still there with Penny, looking for her.


“Where were you, Faith?” Asked Daddy. “I was looking for you everywhere!”
Daddy was upset because he thought that Faith had got lost.


“I was ok Daddy. My yellow balloon flew me all the way to the moon.” 


Daddy looked at her and laughed.
“Ok darling, but please don’t run away again. I was very worried that you were lost or hurt.”


“Sorry Daddy.” Faith replied.


She took Daddy’s hand and they walked back home. Penny walked beside them, and the yellow balloon was in her other hand.
Suddenly another gust of wind swept the string out of Faith’s hand, and before she knew what was happening, the yellow balloon went flying off. She tried to chase after it, but she couldn’t fly. It flew over the road, over the houses and far away.


“No! Come back!” Faith shouted. 


But the yellow balloon did not come back.
Faith cried and cried. She had never been so sad in her life. 


“I want my yellow balloon back!” She cried, all the way home.


“I want my yellow balloon back now!” She sobbed in the back garden while Penny looked at her sadly.


“Why doesn’t my yellow balloon come back?” She asked Mummy at dinner time.


‘I’m so sorry, darling. The balloon has gone away now. We can’t ever get it back again.”


“That’s not fair!” Shouted Faith.


Faith went to bed very sad that night. She missed her yellow balloon. Things did not feel right without it. She was still the same Faith, but just a bit sadder. 
That night, she could not sleep. It was very late. She looked out of her bedroom window. The moon  was big and bright. Then, Faith saw her yellow balloon! It was on the moon. She could just make it out, a tiny yellow dot ever so far away. She had excellent eyesight.


“So that’s where you went.” She whispered into the night sky. 
“I miss you yellow balloon.” 


Faith climbed back into to bed. She knew that her yellow balloon would never come back now. But, she just knew that it was safe, up on the moon. 
She yawned and fell asleep. In her dream, her visited the moon and her yellow balloon, and that made her feel happy. 


The next morning, Faith woke up and looked around her room for her yellow balloon. Then she remembered that it was gone forever. She felt sad all over again.


“I feel sad Mummy, I miss yellow balloon.” She told her mum at breakfast.


“I know Faith   I’m sorry. I know what, why don’t I buy you another yellow balloon? Will that help?” Asked Mummy.


“No thanks, I want my yellow balloon, not another one.” Sighed Faith as she ate her toast.


Daddy drank his cup of tea and thought.Penny looked at Faith’s toast and wished that she could have some.


“Why don’t you draw a picture of you holding your yellow balloon?” He asked. “I know that you love drawing.”


Faith chewed her toast and had a drink of orange juice. 
“Ok Daddy, I will.”


After breakfast, Faith went and sat in the garden with her crayons and some paper. Penny came too, and lay down next to her feet.
She drew a picture of her and yellow balloon standing on the moon, because that is where they had their greatest adventure. Penny had a nap and dreamed of squirrels.
When she had finished her drawing, Faith showed Mummy and Daddy. 


“Oh, that’s beautiful darling, well done.” Smiled Daddy.


“What an artist!” Agreed Mummy. “Would you like to put it up in your room?”
“Yes please.” Replied Faith.


So Mummy put the drawing of Faith and her yellow balloon up in her room. Whenever she felt sad, Faith would look at it and remember her greatest adventure with her beautiful yellow balloon.

Dedicated to my niece Lara, who loves yellow balloons.

And my baby son Samuel, who is my little yellow balloon in Heaven. ❤

When Samuel died

We knew that Samuel would not live for long. We found out at my ‘normal’ 20 week scan, which happened to be 3 days after Christmas 2018.

We knew that he would never talk, never take his first steps, never start nursery or school.

The cardiologist told us that the average life expectancy for a baby with his congenital heart defect was 2 days. I hoped for a few more, so that he could meet as much family and friends as possible. Of course, any baby can die during labour, so there was that awareness too.

We and other Christians prayed for a miracle,  but myself and Mike both felt that he was never destined for a long life. We would have gladly taken it, of course. Why didn’t God heal our Samuel? Only He knows. I do know that Samuel’s life is just as valuable as someone who has lived to 100, or climbed Mount Everest or became a millionaire. Every single person is loved by God, and that is not dependent on their looks, education or achievements. I do know that thousands of innocent babies and children die around the world every day, from disease, war, poverty, illness, accident, unknown causes and parental choice. So he is definitely not the only child currently chilling in Heaven. I miscarried before Bethany was born, so he has an older brother or sister with him.

When I was about 6 weeks pregnant, and then again at 17 weeks (after completely normal 9 and 12 week ultrasounds that didn’t show any problems); I did hear clearly a male voice in my head saying “There is something seriously wrong with your baby.” I hadn’t been thinking or worrying about my pregnancy at the time either. So I had some warning.

Thankfully we were in a lovely hospice for most of Samuel’s life, called Charlton Farm.

https://www.chsw.org.uk

We had as peaceful and enjoyable a time with him as we could. And it wasn’t just that Samuel’s every need was met. We were looked after as a family too. They were a real blessing, and we will be forever grateful to them.

I remember the last full day of his life, Saturday 11 May 2019. It was the weekend, so Connor and Bethany were with us again, after a few days at school (staying with Mike’s parents.) Being a Saturday, more family were able to visit, which was great. My sister in law, Mary, came to visit us in the morning. My sister, Laura, who had visited from Scotland ‘for just a few days’, more than 2 weeks before, was living at Charlton Farm with us, mostly to look after me as I had had a c-section and was fairly immobile. She was an absolute angel to us all, and I can’t thank her enough for being there for us. My brother Vince, and his fiance Anna visited us that afternoon. So Samuel was blessed to have all of his aunties around him on his last well day.

We went for a walk up to see the horses on the farm at the top of the steep hill with Mary and Thalia (Samuel’s nurse for the day), that morning. It was a warm sunny day. The kids played on the very posh private school nearby’s outdoor play equipment. We noticed that Samuel was struggling to poo, which is a sigh that we had been warned about. It was because his heart was failing, and the digestive system is the first thing that struggles to work due to reduced oxygen. He could still breathe fine on his own and wasn’t in any pain.

That afternoon, Vince and Anna arrived. We had a lovely time sitting in the garden while Samuel slept in his pushchair or was held by everyone in turn, and Bethany played in the nearby sandpit. Everything felt so relaxed and happy. I thought at the time that this was going to be a happy memory to cherish. You don’t always know what you will remember, but I just knew this time. Samuel was ok, if sleepy and not hungry. The exact opposite of his brother at that age!

We knew that his time was probably coming to an end, but didn’t know how long it would take. And there is always hope that you will be given a few more hours and days.

That evening as Mike and I watched a film, strangely I can’t remember what it was, we could see that Samuel was starting to physically deteriorate. He was still comfortable and didn’t need any interventions, but one of the hospice’s regular doctors made the effort to came to check on him anyway at about 11pm, long after she had gone home for the day. A trick of his was to creak at you almost like he was trying to communicate. He was also a surprisingly alert baby who stared at people as though working you out. He got more creaky and more pale. We felt calm, but there was sadness as we knew that we would have to face his death soon.

We told the two nurses on night duty to wake us up if there was any concern about his health. I was downstairs in his room, as the trip to the bedrooms upstairs was too tiring and I wanted to be near to Samuel at night. My sister was in the next bedroom. At about 2am, nurse Sophie woke me up to say that they had tried a little medicine, but he was quite poorly. I had a cuddle, and after a while he picked up a bit. About an hour later, they asked if they should wake Mike and the kids, as Samuel was struggling. I agreed, and soon Mike, Connor, Bethany and Laura came into the room. He was very pale and we told the kids that he was going to die soon. The nurses had given him some medication to make him more comfortable. We had some cuddles, and all said goodbye to him. He was in my arms as I sat in bed when he died. It was all so calm and quiet. I think that he had the best death that anyone could hope for.

At about 4am, we had said our goodbyes and the nurses made us all a hot chocolate while we sat in the nurses’ station where Samuel had spent many nights in a nurse’s or my arms. There are sofas and a big window. We watched the sun come up.

Samuel had a happy life and a peaceful death. He was hardly ever in a cot or pushchair as everyone fought over cuddling him. He made such a big impact on our and many other people’s lives in his 11 days on Earth.

We are sad, and sometimes angry; and it is incredibly unfair. We will never stop grieving our son. But what happy memories we have with him. He has helped me to think about life differently: about what is really important.

Alan and the fairy

Alan lived alone in a nice chalet-style cottage.
Alan was bored and lonely. He had been in isolation for 4 months and 17 days. He was working from home and had done all of the Joe Wicks PE sessions every day (if you asked him, Alan would say that Joe was a little too enthusiastic); and he had re-read every book in his home library. All series of Friends had been watched. What he needed now was an adventure.
“Sigh.” He sighed, “I am so bored.”
Unexpectedly, a fairy appeared in his living room, where he was listening to 80s tunes.
“Hello,” she announced, “I am Felicity the fairy.”

“Hello, pleased to meet you,” replied Alan, who never forgot his manners.
“Where did you come from?”
“Just round the corner,” answered Felicity, “I live in the flats.”
“OK.” Said Alan, wondering if he had spent too long in isolation or consumed too many chocolate brownies.

Alan excited with Fairy at home

“I heard that you were bored?” Asked the fairy.
“Yes,” answered Alan, “I am.”
“Ok, I have a special task for you, and at the end you will get what you really need.” She answered mysteriously. Or it may have been sarcastically, Alan couldn’t really tell the difference.
“Is it for Costa Coffee to open up again?” wondered Alan.
“Um, no.” She replied.
“Pity. Well, what is my task then?” He was starting to miss his own company.
“You have to help someone in need,“ she replied.”
“Oh… I would love to help someone, but how can I do that if I can’t leave the house?” Asked Alan.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already thought of that. I’m going to turn back time to take us to 6 months ago when things were still normal. Just for one day, so that you may complete the tasks and hopefully receive the thing that you need.” Felicity smiled.
“Right, but what if it takes me a longer than one day to achieve my goal?” Wondered Alan
“Then you will not receive your award, I’m afraid. Everything will return to normal, back to the present day and lockdown, in 24 hours. So you must complete your task before 1pm tomorrow.”
“It would be a real shame to miss out on that thing that I need,” sighed Alan. “Perhaps I could just have it anyway, for trying my best?”
“Sadly that is not an option,” she replied, “Sorry, I am not the one who makes the rules.”
“Who…”
“So, if you’re ready, the first task is to help someone. Just walk outside your house and see if there’s anyone who needs assistance.” Felicity announced rather strictly.
“Sure, why not? I haven’t spoken to a real human beings in months. But what do I do when I find the person?” He asked.
But Felicity fairy had already disappeared, so she couldn’t answer Alan’s query, annoyingly.
“Well, at least I can go outside for a bit now.” He said to himself as he opened the door of his chalet- style cottage and took a little wonder around his neighborhood in the frosty air.
It was exactly as Felicity had said, the weather and plants were wintry, just as though it really was February again. People were busy, cars were driving around on unnecessary tasks, the shops were open and fully stocked with milk and loo rolls. It felt like another world.
Alan saw some ducks swimming on the nearby lake.
“Hello,” said Alan to the ducks, “Do you need my help by any chance?”“Quack.” Said the most harassed-looking duck.
“Ok. Now I’m talking to birds.” Sighed Alan.
He swiftly left the ducks behind and continued his walk. Would he find anyone who needed help today? He wondered. Did he really care?
Soon he came across a penguin standing next to a car, who was in tears. The penguin was in tears, not the car.

“What’s wrong? Do you need any help by any chance?” He asked the penguin.
“It’s my new car. I can’t get it to work.” Replied the penguin.
“I can have a look if you like?” Offered our hero.
“Great, thank you,” answered penguin, “I think it might be the catalytic converter.”
Alan had watched some automotive related YouTube videos when he was younger, so he felt quietly confident.
“I see your problem mate.” He said after a minute, “It’s just this little bit of plastic needs to be put on the right way.”
Alan quickly fixed the problem. The car started up first time.
“Thank you so much!” Smiled the young penguin, screeching down the road enthusiastically.
Alan waved him goodbye. It felt wonderful to help somebody.

Percy's car is broken
“That’s the task successfully completed.” Said Alan to himself. “I wonder if the fairy will appear with my reward?” He looked over his shoulder, in case she was following him down the road. No. No sign of a fairy.
Now slightly concerned about his stress levels, Alan walked slowly back to his house and made himself a cup of tea.
“Oh well.” Sighed Alan. “That’s that then.”
Suddenly Felicity the fairy appeared in his kitchen.
“Hi again,” she said, “Well done for completing your first task.”
“Thank you,” replied Alan, “it felt good to help somebody else. Now what is my reward? What is it that I need? And it had better not be deodorant.”
“Oh, I’m afraid there’s another task to complete before you receive any rewards.” She answered.
“Oh man, you didn’t say anything about another task… go on, what’s my second task then?”
“You have to put someone else before yourself. You must be kind even when it hurts.” Felicity said.
“Right. What does that mean? Let them stand in the queue at the post office or something? I mean, you should be more clear on these tasks, someone could…”
But he was talking to himself again. The fairy had gone.
“Oh man.”
He finished his cup of tea, and then helped himself to the last bourbon biscuit in the tin. He must go to the shops soon.
“So, I need to put someone before myself. I must be kind. I wonder if those ducks need some peas… no probably not.”
Alan thought about putting on some MC Hammer again, but reconsidered.
Our unlikely hero decided to walk around the neighbourhood again, as this method was successful last time. He didn’t see any more ducks, but he did see a sad-looking giant cactus in a park. It looked like it needed some kindness. He approached the potted plant with some trepidation.

 

“Um, hello, my name is Alan,” he said to the cactus, “Uh, are you… that is can you talk?”
The cactus looked at him with an impatient air.
“Yes, I can talk, what do I look like, an aloe?” She answered rather spikily.
“Great, I mean, you don’t look an aloe, no.” Stumbled Alan. “My name is Alan, nice to meet you.”
“Well, you don’t look like an aloe either,” the cactus replied. “And my name is Cassandra.”
“Oh, you’re a lady!” Smiled Alan.
“How rude! Of course I’m a lady!” She huffed. “Why have people got to be so rude? Just because I have spikes, doesn’t mean that I haven’t got a heart!”
“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that… I mean, I’m not great at talking to ladies at the best of times, and I am having a rather strange day. Um, well, you are quite far away up there. Would you mind awfully if I climbed up your pot?” Alan asked, blushing.
“Well, sure, that’s fine.” Cassandra replied, in a more friendly manner.

Alan talks to Cassandra dog nearby
Alan climbed to get closer to Cassandra.
“Sorry that we got off on the wrong foot, er, root… I haven’t met many cacti.” Alan explained.
“Sure, I get it. We aren’t known for being sociable.” She replied with a smile.
“Is that your dog?” Asked Alan.
A small friendly dog had turned up, looking for attention.
“No, I don’t have any pets.” She replied. “Sometimes she just visits me. I don’t know who she belongs to.”
Alan patted the dog’s head.
“Woof!” Barked the small friendly dog.
Cassandra and Alan chatted for some time. Soon it felt like they were old friends. The sun was starting to set, and Alan was freezing cold.
“Well, it’s getting late, and those spaghetti hoops won’t cook themselves,” he chuckled.
“Mmm, sounds delicious. Nice to meet you anyway, Alan, people aren’t usually very nice to me, it may surprise you to find out.” Said Cassandra.
“No, surely not?” Alan suddenly had a thought. “I noticed that your skin is rather spiky. I wonder, has anyone ever hugged you?”
“Hugged me?” Cassandra laughed. “No one has ever hugged me. Cacti don’t do hugs, you know, and people don’t tend to want to get near to my kind either.”
“Well, this is crazy but would you like me to give you a quick hug? Please, say no if you don’t want one, I would completely understand.” Alan blushed.
“Wow, nobody has ever… yes please, I would love a hug!” Cassandra grinned. “But be very careful, I am sharp!”
Alan hugs Cassandra with stars

Alan leaned in and gave her the most gentle hug. It hurt a little, but it felt amazing to be a friend to someone who wasn’t used to kindness.
“Thanks.” Cassandra whispered.
“Oh, you’re welcome.” Alan replied. “Right, I’m cold, so am going to head home. See you soon?”
“That would be nice,” she smiled.
Alan walked briskly back home, shivering in the chilly air.
Alan had just finished off his spaghetti hoops for dinner, when Felicity appeared in his living room.
“It’s you again.”
“Indeed.” She agreed.
“Are you going to give me my prize now?”
“Well, no, not yet… you see, there is just one more bonus task that I’d like you…” The fairy began.
“Oi! First there was only going to be one task before I got my reward of the thing that I need. Then you added another. And now you expect me to do a bonus task on top of that? No way! Please leave, I am fed up with your incessant tasks.” Alan cried.
“Oh…ok.” Stuttered Felicity. “If you insist, then I will go.”
She disappeared.
Alan made himself a cappuccino with frothy milk, looked in the biscuit tin, saw that it was empty, and sat heavily down on his armchair.
“Hmph,” he mumbled, “Who does she think she is? Expecting me to do all sorts of tasks, for some silly reward. Well, I won’t be pushed around anymore. I don’t want to help others, or be kind to spiky plants anymore. Hmph.” Alan sipped his coffee grumpily. He felt out of sorts. He didn’t want to watch TV, listen to Human League, or even read. He went to bed early that night.
When Alan awoke late the following morning, he wondered if the previous day’s adventures had all been a dream. Or perhaps he was going mad. He realised that there was an easy way to find out: when he switched on the news, if everything was about coronavirus, he would know that it was all back to normal. If not, he was no doubt still stuck 6 months in the past, before the lockdown.
Alan got out of bed, made himself a coffee and some toast, and switched on the news channel.
“Storm Jorge will soon hit coastal parts of the UK, with winds of up to 70mph expected.” Read the presenter.
“Ah, so I must still be stuck in the past.” He said to himself.
Alan remembered that Felicity had said everything would return to normal at 1pm today. So, he had a couple of hours in which to complete the task, if he wanted that elusive reward… no, what was he thinking? The silly fairy was probably making the whole thing up. Why should he waste his time being kind to others, when he was perfectly happy by himself?
He switched the news off. What was he going to do today? It was a Sunday, so he wouldn’t be at work anyway. He could go shopping at least, or maybe a trip to Costa. He finished his coffee and breakfast.
“I wonder what the reward would be, if Felicity was telling the truth?” He said to his teddy bear.
He had a shower and got dressed. He listened to some Wham. He watered his plants. His tidied his sock drawer.
“Maybe I should find out what the last task is, before deciding?” He asked his teddy.
Teddy just sat on the bed, looking at him and not offering any opinions.
“Oh, go on then” he sighed, “I’ll do the silly task. Probably be completely wasting my time, but…”
“Good morning.” Smiled Felicity.
“Oi, what are you doing here?” Alan asked. “Have you got my house bugged or something”
“No, I am magical, remember?” She replied. “Now, would you like to know what your final task is?”
“Well, ok. But this had better be the last task. And the reward, ‘what I need’ had better be amazing!” He answered grumpily.
“It is, and it is.”
“Go on.”
“Today, Alan, I would like you to be brave.” The fairy replied.
“Be brave? But I am a complete wuss! I hope that it’s nothing to do with roller coasters? I swore that I would never get on one again after that awful incident when I was in college… I never lived that one down. And that poor man…” Alan began.
“Oh no, nothing like that.” She said. “This is about facing your fear of drains.” She explained.
“Drains?” Alan gulped. “But… they… they’re worse than rollercoasters!” Alan gulped.
“Yes, I have heard of your phobia. There was a childhood incident I believe?” Enquired the fairy kindly.
“There was.” Alan nodded. “I would rather not talk about it.”
“I understand.”
Felicity explained that she had recently heard on the fairy network that a resident had had an accident in the park, and needed some help. It involved a drain.
“Does it have to be me who helps this unlucky resident?” Asked Alan.
“It doesn’t have to be you,” said Felicity, “but decide soon. The poor man is getting cold.”
“Ok then. Seeing as it’s going to be my Last Ever task, ah…how close exactly do I need to get to this drain?” Alan shuddered.
“He’s in the park.” Replied Felicity before disappearing.
Alan really did not like drains. He headed off to the park to see what he could do to help.
He found the poor man quickly. He had fallen into a drain and did not seem pleased about it.

Jeffrey stuck in drain

“Help, I have fallen into this drain!” The man shouted, unnecessarily.
“Yes, I can see that. I don’t like drains though.” Replied Alan sadly.
“Neither do I at the moment.” He answered. “Why don’t you grab that stick over there?”
“Good idea.”
Alan got the stick and held it out to the man. He grabbed hold of it, and our hero pulled him out of the dreaded drain.
“Thanks.” Said the man.
“You are welcome.” Smiled Alan.

Alan rescues Jeffrey from drain

Alan swiftly stepped away from the drain. Suddenly he needed a coffee.
“Right, I am going home to have a coffee.” He announced.
“Coffee? Great. I am desperate for a drink. I was stuck down that drain for 3 hours!” The man replied.
“Oh… I thought that you lived nearby?” Asked Alan.
“It’s a fair walk. Your house is probably closer. I really need the toilet, too.” The man said.
“Ok… um, well I can give you a coffee too, I guess.” Muttered Alan.
“Great. You lead the way.”

Soon after they got back to Alan’s house, Felicity appeared.
“Eek! There’s a fairy in your kitchen!” Spluttered the man.
“Hello Felicity.” Said Alan.
“Hi Alan. Hi Jeremy.” She replied.
“How does she know my name?” Cried Jeremy.
“She’s a fairy, they know things.” Answered Alan, sipping his coffee.
“Pleased to meet you.” Smiled Felicity.
“So, I completed all of your, frankly ridiculous, tasks.” Said Alan. “Where is my reward please?”
“Your reward, as I am sure you remember, is something that you need.” Said Felicity.
“Yes, what do I need? Is it a holiday? An endless supply of bourbon biscuits? A yacht?” Prompted Alan.
“Alan, did you introduce yourself to Jeremy after you removed him from the drain?” Asked Felicity.
“No, I was too busy thinking about coffee.”
“Right. Alan, this is Jeremy. Jeremy, meet Alan.”
“Hello.” Said Alan.
“Pleased to meet you. Properly.” Answered Jeremy.
“Great, how nice. So, where is my reward? Outside?” Alan peered into his garden, hoping to spot the prize.
“The thing that you really need is not an item, it’s a person.” Smiled the fairy.
“It’s what?!” Alan spluttered in disbelief.
“Alan, more than anything in the world, you need a friend. Jeremy is your reward.” Said Felicity.
“My reward is a man?” Alan stared at Jeremy, feeling confused.
“Your reward is priceless. A friend.” She smiled.
“Um, well, I like your coffee…” Said Jeremy. “Is it Italian?”
“Oh yes, single origin from Italy,” replied Alan enthusiastically, “I get it online from a boutique coffee supplier. Most people haven’t heard of it, it’s called IactuallyloveItaliancoffee.com “
“Oh! I’ve heard of them! They’re amazing. Have you ever tried their Napoli rich dark roast?” He asked.
Felicity’s work was done. She disappeared. The clock struck 1.
“I’m just going to switch the news on for a bit.” Alan told Jeffrey.
“And in international news, Donald Trump has blamed the Red Cross for the current covid 19 crisis in the US. He says that they knew about the virus even a month before China did, and chose to keep it under wraps, in order to damage his chances of re-election at the end of the year…” The Newsreader stated.
“I guess that we are back to normal time then.” Said Alan.
“Huh?” Replied Jeffrey. “How did I get to your house? I don’t remember leaving my place.”
“Never mind.” Smiled Alan. “Do you like football?”
“Sure.”
“Should we go to a game when the lockdown has finished?” He asked his new friend.
“Yes, that sounds good. I should probably go now… I shouldn’t be at your house … so, yeah, see you soon. I’ll text.” Said Jeffrey, looking a little confused.
“Ok, bye.” Replied Alan.
Alan looked in his biscuit tin after Jeffrey had left. It was still empty. Oh well. Time to listen to some more 80’s tunes.

When lockdown had finally ended, Alan and Jeffrey went to a football match.

They also visited Bournemouth one day in the summer, where the small friendly dog mysteriously appeared. Sometimes they would walk to visit Cassandra, who always enjoyed a chat.

 

There was no sign of Felicity, which was probably just as well. She was quite annoying.

My 5th cancerversary

The 5th cancerversary is a big milestone for survivors. And 5 is a big number, definitely. Sadly it doesn’t mean that it will never come back. Cancer can hide in your cells, even spread to many parts of your body, even decades after treatment for the primary cancer has finished. But, of course I am grateful to be well now, and happy to have been around for those extra years with my family.

This year, the whole world decided to join in with the chemo feelings of social isolation; loneliness; possible loss of income or job; fear of being really sick and dying; lack of control; and general inconvenience. Doesn’t feel great does it?

Strangely, this isolation caused by covid 19 has helped me to feel less isolated. Because we are all in this situation together, my family has not been singled out for a change. That feels much more manageable. We’ve got it a lot easier in fact, than many people do. We are not NHS or key workers. All we have to do is stay home. Thankfully, so far none of my friends or family has caught the virus.

When I received the unexpected shielding letter from my hospital last week, I was not as relaxed about it. I have had a few random health problems over the last few years, including an awful cough and breathing problems caused by a chest infection that didn’t heal for 6 months. But I suppose that it’s the chemo that got me on the list.

So, once again, the shadow of cancer hangs over me, meaning that I am again seen as a vulnerable person. I have been put into the ‘poorly person’ box  again, and I don’t like it at all. I think that the biggest problem is one of identity. I am Alex. I am not a cancer victim. I am not my illness. I needed to remind myself that the letter doesn’t change this. They are, in fact, looking out for me. That’s a good thing, that the NHS cares about little old me.

The other issue is one of control. I have been in uncontrollable  situations many times, so have learned this lesson before. But I guess it’s a lesson that needs to be learned again. Strangely, there is so much strength from admitting weakness, by realising that there are very few situations where you are actually fully in control. Nobody is always strong.

That’s the advantage of having faith in a God so much stronger and wiser than me. I don’t need to pretend to myself and others that I am god of my own life. Because I’m not. I didn’t choose when or how I was born, and I won’t choose when or how I die. I have found a peace in that.

For now, I am enjoying my lovely house; garden full of new life; and family who I get to spend more time with.

I will never be grateful that I had cancer, but I am here, I got through it. And if that isn’t a good reason to eat chocolate cake, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

The beach ball

The rainbow striped beach ball,

Suddenly free from the

Dusty garage, is kicked

Playfully by the breeze.
Round the garden he rolls.
Tumbling over the lawn,
Kissing the daffodils,
Bumping over decking.
Smiling at the sun.
But he misses the child.
He remembers how they
Played, last year at the beach.
The child and he.
“Where is the child?” He asks.
“Inside, watching TV.”
Replies his friend the breeze.
“Ok  I will wait for her here.”
“You don’t need her.” Says breeze.
“But I like her.” He smiles.
The breeze sends him soaring
Into a tree. He falls
Out, bouncing merrily.
“I am ready for the child.
Whenever she needs me.”
Ball and breeze for poem drawing

Week two of Covid 19 lockdown

So how was this past week for you? Can you even remember?

I planned to write one Covid journal entry per week, but, as everything feels like too much work at the moment, and I barely know what month it is, they will probably get more infrequent.

 

This week, my (paid) work stepped up, so I was surprisingly busy. I didn’t mind at all, in fact it felt affirming to be needed. I did spend less time focused on homeschooling; but as my kids’ teachers are so good with sending regular work through, that didn’t really matter.

 

Connor and Bethany still have great attitudes to self-directed learning, but as the isolation weeks drag on, we are all struggling to get up and ready in the morning. Not that it matters.

 

Highlights include the kids spending hours digging and getting a patch of soil ready for planting (they have planted radishes, and I hope to get some dwarf French beans and spinach to grow too); letting the guinea-pigs have a run and as much fresh grass as they can eat; and painting pebbles rainbow colours, to say thank you to NHS and key workers. Mike shaved all of his hair off, to stop having to cut it so often. It’s already growing back.

 

In the news, the PM Boris Johnson is still in hospital with the virus; Matt Hancock threatens us with a ban on any outdoor exercise (please, no!); and the Queen delivers a kind and wise speech, thereby uniting the nation while confusing us all as to why it’s so warm and there aren’t any mince pies.

 

Bethany often sees an old dog on our daily walks: we have done for months (on warm/ dry days), but seeing a regular friendly face outside the home feels special during this current unprecedented national event. The poor old girl always wags her tail and loves our attention (the dog, not Bethany), but most of the time she is too tired to stand and greet us.

 

It is my 5th cancerversary next week, on the 15th. Usually it is a big date in my calendar  but so much has happened in our lives since then, that it doesn’t feel that huge now. Still, it’s important for me to mark the date. My world tilted on its axis when got the diagnosis, and it has never gone back to the way things were beforehand. It’s fabulous that I am here to mark the occasion, but of course there are no guarantees that I will be here for the 10th anniversary.

 

Many people will find that after this virus has finally gone: they won’t be the same as they were. Something has changed forever for all of us now. Many will feel more resilient, many weaker, some broken. Some will want to forget and move swiftly on, others will never forget.

 

I think that the best thing we can do is to be kind: to ourselves and others. If you have an elderly or vulnerable friend or family member, please call or write to them regularly so that they don’t feel forgotten. It’s such a simple thing to do.

 

It’s the Easter holidays now, so there is no whiff of a routine. We will do an Easter egg hunt though. Some things are too important to forget about.

PS: why are people still buying so much flour?

 

Bet with friendly dog