Today we are moored up at Tixall, just past the wide, but still in the middle of nowhere. It is heaven here. There is a rookery in a large tree behind us and about 2 to 300 rooks are coming and going in one large flock, it is stunning to watch. To the side of us the other side of the canal are reeds where the reed warblers flit to and from. Swallows skim the surface of the water, and buzzards sit on the wires across the field in the distance to to left of us. the noise of the birds is tremendous even though the rest of the world is silent to us.
The silence is deafening and beautiful at the same time. This is boating at its most precious.
Of course we have had a bbq (with our COBB BBQ) cooking a whole chicken. It sat on the back like a statement and cooked away whilst we relaxed in the setting sun.
Both cats now in from wandering we shut up the back and have settled down for the evening.
Boating is the most relaxing activity anyone can do. Once you are out in the cut miles from anywhere, there is no phone signal, no internet ,no noisy neighbours, no traffic…just birds and quiet bliss.
I was both excited and apprehensive as I stood on the station at Lichfield waiting for the train to London. I have loved visiting cities on my own, catching trains, trams, underground, but for the first time I felt a little bit scared of getting confused with my new lack of sense of direction. This was no problem though because my daughter would meet me at Euston Station and take me to Greenwich where she lives.
Two tubes and a bus ride later, and we were in the house where she rents a room. Taking our cameras we went to Greenwich Park and as the sun heated up she took me through little shaded paths to where the squirrels scamper openly. As she sat on the path and got out a packet of monkey nuts, out they came and ventured up to take them from her hand, one after another. Occasionally one would screech or grunt at her and she laugh. It is so lovely to spend times like this with my daughter.
As she sat I saw a unique side to her, this is someone who I had told could do anything she wanted, and this was it in its basic form. Whilst people walked by, she simply sat and ignored them and fed the squirrels and coal tits that sat on her hand. She was engrossed with the moment and the wildlife around her. This was what she wanted me to experience with her.
We walked around the park, through the trees following paths that her boyfriend had shown her. We climbed the hill to the top where the Greenwich Observatory is, and I took her photo standing on the Prime Meridian Line. The climb was hard and my back and legs were very painful. The view from the top across the London skyline is indeed beautiful.
We walked around Greenwich as she showed me her favourite shops and places, she is so at home there. As we walked we chatted about anything and everything as we have always done.
Out for dinner at…Jamie Olivers Italian in Greenwich, which we were both looking forward to and had a lovely meal, in a very relaxed atmosphere. Back home and to bed as I ached in every joint I have!
The early hours of Friday morning I was woken up around 5 am by the freight trains trundling along the line at the end of the garden, followed by Claire’s housemates taking showers next door at six, along with a chorus of birds; gulls, jays and parakeets squawking outside. She says you get used to hearing the constant noise of the traffic also, but I am not sure I would.
Claire persuaded me to stay another night so that we could have another day together, so we set off to the British Museum. How anyone can remain overweight in London is amazing because there is so much walking even though you hop onto buses and tubes. I decided not to take my camera so that I could enjoy the exhibits. The museum was packed, and each glass exhibit was hidden behind groups of mainly Asian tourists taking photos before moving on quickly to the next one. We started out with the Ancient Egypt part but there were so many rooms and things to see, by the time I was in too much pain to continue we still hadn’t finished it. She took me to the Dome to look round; it was packed with people eating in the restaurants before seeing Michael Buble who was playing there later that evening.
Again we had had a lovely day together, chatting as she showed me the sights of London near where she lives. I am so pleased I caught the train to see her, and will be visiting her more often, but understand my difficulties with directions.
A couple of times I was aware of my lack of attention, especially when I was looking in my bag on an underground escalator and she said “Mum you need to get off now”! I had no idea where we were on the underground or where we were going, but Claire did so I just followed her.
She took me back to Euston Station on Saturday morning to get the train back home, as I would not have found it easy to find my way there and back I came to the peace and quiet of our boat home.
Having recently lent my camera to my friend whilst we were on holiday, I have learnt a little more about camera’s and photography through my dear friend of 30 years who is recovering from breast cancer and is an inspiration with her cheerful outlook to life. I lent her my Panasonic Lumix G5K, set it on iA (automatic) for her showed her how to focus in on a subject and away she went. David Bailey eat your heart out! Not only did she take good photographs, her photographs were well thought out. Her home life is not pleasant, so it was such a delight to see her come alive with enthusiasm. She said she did not know she loved photography until she was given the opportunity. As I talked to her about camera the bits I found I knew and realised that I am slowly learning more and more even it is taking a long time.
Every time I turned round Sheila was bending over or on her knees photographing some flower on the side of a road.
Having realised that she can no longer work at her three cleaning jobs anymore she has been looking for some purpose for herself. This is a woman who gives all of herself to others, feeling that she herself should take second place…it breaks my heart when I think of how miserable her life is at home.
On holiday she bravely left off her hat unless the wind was cold! “Nobody knows me here” she said “so they won’t laugh at me“. “They laugh at you because you have had cancer?” I asked her, and she gave me a look that understood what I was saying.
When we got home, I set about printing out her photos for her. She does not have a computer and is not technological in any way. At present she says she would never learn how to use one…we will see 😉 Whilst we were away I ordered paper and inks ready and set about printing the 600 plus photos she had taken!! When we viewing on my laptop she would say “I want that blurred one, because I took it as we were driving in the car“. It has taken several days and I finally finished having got through two and a half packs of inks.
We will take them to her next week, (sadly we live too far apart to just ‘pop round’ with them) and I can’t wait to give them to her.
We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast run by Rosemary at LLanfyllin, Powys. We have been a few times now and even got married from there. Walking into the cottage is like coming home, with Rosemary welcoming us as friends.
To begin with we stayed in the cottage (on the end) which we love, then at the end of the week we had to move to the bed and breakfast side, but we love being in there also. The place is like being in someones home full of pictures, china and clocks. There are so many clocks in the cottage with each one stopped with a different time so that time stands still at different times.
I love Wales as it makes me feel peaceful with so much space to breathe in.
I find myself looking at all the cottages for sale and imagining if I could live there. The more I look I realise that I would like some isolation without close neighbours. A garden to grow vegetables in, with a view that stretches out before me and somewhere to sit and watch birds with my little book to identify them. Mr Hs said that you would become complacent about the view after a while, but I disagree. I think you would always be in awe at the scene in your sight.
We did the usual National Trust sites and visited Powis Castle, taking hundreds of photographs, Chirk Castle, and Erddig.
Having been to LLanberis several times we decided to visit the Electric Mountain tour and went down underground, which was fascinating and not at all what I thought it would be. When we boarded the bus we were given hard hats, and drove down into a mountain to an underground hydro electric plant. The size of the space inside was unbelievable. Wearing our hard hats looked down from a platform at the machinery below, the noise of the water rushing through pipes with a roar. During peaks in electricity use, such as TV advert breaks when everyone puts their kettle on to boil water for tea, water from a lake on top of the mountain is released through the massive pipes to generate electricity. Within 12 seconds electricity is added to the national grid to cope with the surge in use. The waters destination is the lake at the bottom of the lake and at night when the demand is less, the generators are reversed and pump the water back up to the top lake. Hydro Electric is so beautiful in its concept, its tiny footprint on ecology – fish have their own tunnels to travel along, its impact on global warming is minimal. There are two hydro electric power stations in Scotland, and I wonder why there are not more in our mountainous areas? If you get a chance visit one of these marvels of engineering. (http://www.wales-underground.org.uk/electric/)
The holiday takes away the reality of forgetting. There is nothing to remember, there is a reason to get lost, or be confused in somewhere new. It is a place to just be someone who is on holiday. At one point someone in a shop made a joke about dementia and forgetting something, I laughed and said nothing.
I am now recharged, and have come back to appointments to meet the new memory clinic, and consultant. Get that out of the way and off we go to escape out onto the canal systems in our boat.
This afternoon I sat at the bench on the grass at the end of the pontoons. I had a book and a cup of coffee. I had not been there long before another boater turned up with his dog Lewis and his ball. Lewis does not have an off button. You throw the ball and Lewis brings it back, then demands to be thrown again. He does not give up..It is tiring watching him. He came and sat at the table, then T joined us, followed by S his wife. We all sat chatting. Mr Hs had gone into my work to collect some paperwork which I could not deal with.
Meanwhile we sat and chatted, we saw a lorry wending its way round the marina, and deduced it was delivering the bench seat for Jean who died earlier this month. The bench was put on the hillock by the bridge overlooking most of the marina. We all walked to see the bench which had the inscription from her husband that binds her to the waterways, canals and to Bromley Marina. We sit, talk, stand and she is there with us. The community of boaters is strong and we respect her memory.
Later when Mr Hs returned from picking up some paperwork from my work, we all sat and chatted. I struggle to keep up with the humour because my emotional side has been damaged. There is part of me that feels very isolated, very alone in a group of people. It is like I am no longer a member of the human race, I am now outside of it. I feel sadness that I no longer feel part of a friendly group, and they have no idea. If I said anything to them I don’t think they would know how to deal with it, such is the problem with society.
I feel I ought to stop and have a think about any changes I am noticing. Well, I think my Fibromyalgia pain has got a lot worse. We went to the Crick Boat Show and walked round for three hours, just pottering nothing strenuous. We chose to look around one of the narrowboats built by Wharf House Boats who build bespoke boats that are simply beautiful. As I climbed into the cratch (front of boat) and sat on the side to have the paper shoes on the muscles in my thighs screamed in pain, getting out was worse. The distance I can walk comfortably has noticeably changed since last year. I keep saying that it is because we have not had enough exercise to keep supple, but the truth is we do walk as much as we can. If we do stay in, I am up and cooking every day, which counts for up to an hour with activity. My consultant did say that she thinks there is a link with problems such as Fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Today my throat is sore, my glands hurt and I can feel a heaviness when I breathe; hayfever. I have only experienced this over the past couple of years, although this year feels worse. My voice is so husky I could do a good rendition of ‘I was born under a wandering star’ sung by Lee Marvin one of the deepest voices ever! My neck is painful, but I know it will go once all of the oil seed rape and tree pollen has dissipated.
We sat out with our friends and their dogs on the bench overlooking the marina last night and someone made a joke about a refill of beer/lemonade, but I thought they were being serious and offered some of my lemonade. When they commented they meant beer, I felt a bit embarrassed inside. I am aware when I mistake some comment or joke for a serious comment, and that upsets me, it is as if my conscious self can only watch as the automatic self, make mistakes.
I have also noticed that my vision is not as clear, I cannot explain what the difference is but it is different. Sometimes reading is hard, and I struggle to follow a story because the physical act of reading the words is more difficult. Reading involves scanning the words either side which are in the peripheral vision linking each one to the last and ahead. Maybe the processing of the semantics of the words is becoming slower than the visual match, which would confuse my ability to read fluently. I have always been a fast reader; scanning the sentences rather than read each individual word slowly and maybe this is something that I will have to learn to do now. I love reading but have to start and finish a book without a break so I understand and remember the characters and plot in the story. So once I start a book I literally can’t put it down. When I write I am speaking the words in my head and not on paper, but can often miss words out when I am typing even though I have spoken them in my head.
I am also letting go of worrying about things I cannot control. I cannot control how my family deal with life and me. I used to worry about my daughter, wanting to protect her from all of the harshness of life, now I leave her to sort things out without me. She has always come to me when there are problems; I can still point her in the right direction, but will no longer be actively involved because I recognise that I cannot. I simply don’t have the mental resources anymore. I have always lived my life with guilt (a legacy of my mother), did I do enough; was I a good mother/bad mother; what if I don’t help her sort things out? However, I have got the psychology degree and know that I am the ‘good enough’ mother which is all we can hope to be, we give children the rules and the tools, and it’s up to them to learn how to use them alone.
We decided to go to Cannock Chase for the day, and headed for the Wildlife Trust’s Visitor Centre. Being Sunday it was packed with families, mainly playing in the playground on the swings and such. So having chatted to the woman inside we aimed for Penkridge Bank by car. It was clear that this walk was also favoured by bike riders. The sun warmed the April air a treat, and we set off with our camera’s looking for adders curled up asleep amongst the bracken. So, as we set off our eyes are scanning the undergrowth aside the path, but all I can see is discarded rubbish. We continue the walk weaving through the trees, grasses and heather, I am looking for something of interest to photograph. I like to take pictures of things that I think would take an interesting picture, sometimes arty, sometimes a different view of something historic. The longer we walk the more despondent I felt. The amount of rubbish increased the further we walked.
I am stunned at the way people fail to see what damage they do the area with their bad habits. As we walk the pattern of litter becomes apparent. Probably the biggest offenders to littering are young men off-road cycling. Discarded plastic bottles of power drinks, empty Snickers wrappers (for quick energy intake) are littered along the path that they follow. Summer has not yet covered up the rubbish, so it felt somewhat desolate, this public area of beauty. When the get back after the miles riding this rough terrain, they strap their bikes onto the back of their sports cars, or load them into transit vans and leave without a second thought to what they have left behind. Why should they, their goggled eyes are only facing the track in front and not the rubbish they discard, they are not there for the peace and natural beauty, they are only there to beat their personal best that their toned muscles can endure.
These are my days of enjoying myself, of forgetting my health problems, and of being stress free, experiencing a lovely, quiet life whilst I am able. Having to see how little others care what they do upsets me.
Amongst the litter I saw plastic sheeting, 33 Captain Morgan bottles with the labels removed, Burger King coffee cup, burnt tyre, shattered glass, burnt wire, polystyrene burger box, carrier bags, curry bag, beer bottles, and sweet and crisp bags. What is wrong with people?
Men on bicycles ride non-stop, they have a route and know how many miles it is that they ride, they drink water; power drinks and throw the bottles, when they need some energy there is nothing better than a chocolate bar such as Snickers with peanuts and chocolate.
A small selection of discarded rubbish
This is less than half of what I captured on my camera.
We shall not be returning to this part of Cannock Chase but the area that is less frequented by bikers and walkers.
When my daughter was small, all of my pockets and bag were always full of rubbish ready to place in a bin when we saw one, or taken home. She would not dream of dropping litter spoiling the countryside or towns and remains the same today as an adult.
The question remains, who brought these people up to think it is okay to drop litter wherever they feel like it?