Witterings 2008

Where do you start when you don’t have any decent quotes? No “I’ll kill you if…” or other bits left out due to the sensitivities of the reader! There’s been a distinct lack of verbal abuse in my direction this year. The closest I’ve got to it is “if it still hurts, take some more drugs”!

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Until I eventually yielded to it and got a confirmed medical diagnosis.

You can tell I’m getting old because all I can talk about is the bits of my body that are no longer functioning!!! But at least I’ve still got all my bits, even if this is going to be the last Christmas with them. Say a requiem for them!

Thinking about requiems, I’ve gone back to singing. After a two year break I’ve gone back to the Highgate Choral Society. It’s even bigger now. Around 200 of us at full stretch. We needed them all for our fall concert – Vaughan Williams’ ‘A Sea Symphony’. I think it turned out pretty well and we had a young soprano who could have blown the roof off. Brilliant.

The Christmas season started last week with a concert in St James’ Piccadilly, adding some men’s notes to our conductor’s ‘New London Children’s Choir’ for the Royal Academy’s Christmas Concert. Our’s is this Saturday up here in Highgate, hotly pursued by a couple of big bashes at the Royal Albert Hall on the following night and the next Friday night doing two Handel Messiahs (tickets still available).

Vivienne and I did the ISU Adult competition in Southern Germany again this year after a break last year. There was quite a sizeable British contingent at this ‘prestigious’ event in the beautiful Bavarian winter sports town of Obertsdorf under the shadow of the the Alps. Coach Emma had done a lot of work into creating a wonderful Original Dance for us and we planned to present our Nina Simone Free Dance for the last time. We had our sights set high and had opted to skate in the top group, knowing that we were up against people we would like to emulate. So it was a big disappointment when we fell on our ‘special’ lift which usually got special applause. One of the judges even remarked that we did it perfectly during the warm up. Anyway, all in all, we came last! Someone has to hold everyone else up, n’est-ce pas? But was a privilege to be skating with folk that we we admire and appreciate. Unfortunately pain was a bit of a theme for me for those few days and I failed to ‘skate upto’ Viv’s standard.

I won’t say what Vivienne and Emma got up to after midnight on the last night AFTER the closing banquet. Anyway, Emma was still poorly several days later.

On a serious front, it’s been a terrible year. Too many people have died. Mum fell and broke her pelvis toward the end of May and despite some wonderful care from hospital and nursing home staff, she passed away early on 11 July with Caroline, Liz and myself by her bedside. Just two week’s short of her 94th birthday. Dear Mum. I’m so glad we were all together. The last few weeks were so painful for her since no surgery or plaster castes could be offered to hold it all together. Just pain-killers and grit.

We’re so grateful we had her for so long. We had a lovely funeral a couple of week’s later. Nephews Simon and Robin did readings and summaries of her life history. I sang one of my favourite songs ‘Something Which is Known’ from 1 John 1. It wasn’t one that she knew or had heard me sing before but it was from one of the scriptures that read to her while she was in hospital. Visiting her there were some special moments. She always wanted to say the Lord’s Prayer. I read bits from the creation story in Genesis, early verses from John’s Gospel and bits about the New Heaven and New Earth in Revelation. She would listen so intently and so quietly as I read. And then we prayed together.

I remember shortly after she fell, telling her about a young friend Esther (20) who was seriously ill with cancer, and we prayed for her. She clutched her hands together so tightly her knuckles went white as she prayed. Isn’t it amazing how some folk who are right on the edge themselves still have the enormous capacity to recognise and care for others, to regognise the pain and struggle that others are suffering? Awesome.

As I write I feel tears welling up. Dear Esther, a member of our little Mennonite Church along with her family, died just a few hours after Mum passed away. I was talking with Janelle on the way back from church this afternoon about how strange it is to accept that someone is no longer there. I keep looking around at the end of the service to see if Esther was picking up the songbooks. I still have a photo of some other friends which was Esther’s which she left at the Centre about a year ago. It’s in my office and I look at it every day and think of Esther. I still go and have breakfast once a week at a Turkish café that I once took Esther to. Janelle had her own stories of thinking of her every day.

Her funeral was awesome. There must have been around 150 people there. Lots of people spoke from different parts of her life. School friends, family, church members. We sang some of her favourite songs. Toward the end of the service we all lined up to weave flowers into her wickerwork coffin. She would have loved it. It was sooooo beautiful. I’ve never wept so much in the whole of my life. She’s buried along with her father who also succumbed to the same genetic condition. (Lesley and Adam: we think about you every day as you mourn your daughter and sister).

In the following few weeks I heard of the deaths of 3 other significant people. Ivy (my Godfather’s wife – she sent us such a beautiful card a few days after Mum died), Miriam from Indiana who’s wedding anniversary was on the same day as my birthday (we had some joint times together celebrating when she visited us here in London), and Alisdair who died at only 40.

So sad. So sad. But not morbid. Just real. It leaves me feeling grateful. For so many things. Especially for Mum, remembering so many things. Caroline, Liz and I had a lovely day interring her ashes next to Dad’s, and visiting the places in our hometown of Bedford where we grew up. We even had the nerve to pop into the house where our grandparents lived which is now a doctor’s surgery. The practice manager was so welcoming and lovely. She gave us a guided tour of the house and how they had re-modelled it, and listened to our stories of where we used to play when we visited as little kids.

Well this is not quite how I thought this would turn out! Actually I never know. I just start rambling and the witterings just come out!!!

I wish you all lots of love. I have lots to look forward to, including a new hip! So I’m grateful, especially that I might be able to skate again! And I’m grateful for YOU !

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

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