Wednesday, 24 December 2014

the land doesn't change

I am curled up in front of the fire this morning, fighting off a migraine and trying to sort out the music library on my laptop so I can play some carols through the stereo. In the meantime we have seasonal DVD on. Silent Night is playing at the moment, which always brings me to the brink of tears - my maternal grandmother died in the early hours of Boxing Day in 1990 and one of my final memories of her is of the hospital choir gathered around her bed on Christmas Eve.

I find it very hard to look forward with hope at Christmas and New Year. However, when it comes down to it, that is all you can do. You can't just stop.

In the second half of this year, two amazing women that I first 'met' through blogging nearly ten years ago have lost their partners. Watching them continue with their lives one day at a time in the face of their different griefs has been an inspiration to me, even through the window of social media.

Other friends have coped with other things - large difficulties and small sadnesses, day to day and month to month. We all just keep moving forward, a step at a time - sometimes the step is as big as a week, sometimes it's a day. Sometimes it can just be moving along in five minute slices of time and breathing in and out.

I'm not sure what I want to say here, really. I think I'm just putting a marker out there to acknowledge that a lot of the people that I see as part of our family of choice, or our friendship and support network have also not had the easiest of years. And that together, we have made it through. Of course there has been happiness and joy in large measure as well and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to share that with the same people.

Looking out my window, I see the fields stretching in to the distance to the Blackdowns and the winter sunlight casting it's long shadow from behind the hedgerows. There are already catkins on the hazel. The hens are coming back in to lay. The wheel is turning and we have made it to the top. The days will lengthen now and although we still have January and February to get through, from here it is downhill to the spring.

Underneath us all, under all our happiness and all our griefs, the bones of the land remain the same. Slow and steady, warming and cooling in a perpetual routine with the fading and returning of the sun. Those hedges out there have had the winter sun through them like this for a millennia. People in this village have looked across the Vale and seen them same outline of the hills beyond for longer than that, probably. We endure, as does the land beneath us.

You lot out there, who have been there for us this past twelve months in whichever way, you are loved, very much.

Friday, 5 December 2014

statement of festive intent

Right then.

Let us take a moment of silent acknowledgement to pay tribute to the fact that I have actually put aside this morning to clean the house.

Thank you. Now we can move on to my displacement activity (or what I am doing whilst I wait for the dryer to finish, I guess?)

Because of Circumstances, we are going to have a financially curtailed Christmas. I'm cross about it but I am also determined to give the children the best bloody Christmas ever, thank you very much, despite everything; because it's not about cash and presents and material stuff, it's about family, peace, hope, joy and love. I've never bought in to the 'mountains of gifts' things; I am angry because that option has been taken away from us should we have wanted to splash out a bit.

However, although we have no liquid cash, we have a tank half full of heating oil, a log-store full of logs and a freezer full of food. I have ten cockerels ready to slaughter so I don't need to worry about buying a turkey or a goose. We have decorations in the attic, including an artificial tree I bought last year in the sales when I saw my arse about getting pine-needles out of the sofa. We are going to the hospice for New Year anyway, and will get looked after there.

So here is my plan.

1. Get the decorations down from the attic tomorrow and start putting them up. Not doing the tree until next weekend, but I like having the lights up.
2. Christmas music on the stereo from now on.
3. On Sunday, SWAN are having a Christmas get-together in Bristol. It's free and I think we can budget for the diesel. B is all set to take the kids even if I'm not up to going.
4. Next weekend we are baking Elizabethan Gingerbread shapes to hang on the tree. We did this two years ago and although they were so hard they were practically inedible, they smell *fantastic*. I also have plans to make paper chains with the kids out of coloured paper we have stashed in the Make-and-do Box.
5. School Nativity is mid-week next week. N is on percussion. Be scared, school, be very, very scared.
6. We are going carol-singing at the steam-train station with school tomorrow afternoon. I have plans for Possets-and-biscuits when we get home.
7. Before all this hit, we had arranged to go and see Santa the evening before Christmas Eve at Hestercombe Gardens. Still going to do that. The garden are lit up. I am going to take a thermos of cocoa and biscuits to have there post-Santa.
8. We are going to Ma's for Christmas Dinner itself I think.
9. I am watching a couple of wooden marble runs on eBay for N. We are all about the marbles.
10. I plan to make truffles and little gifts like lavender pillows for friends and Ma and Sister Natalie.
11. I have an elaborate and too-pornographic-to-blog-about planned present for B ;).
12. L wants me to knit him some mittens. I have the wool for it, I just need to make the time.
13. The kids like doing wet-felting. Expect lop-sided felted superheroes, everyone who knows us.
14. We have various films - Nativity, It's a Wonderful Life etc.. And B has found Box Of Delights on youTube, which the children are entranced with.

So stuff the cash. I can scrape together enough for a few books and sweets and stocking fillers. Sister Natalie reliably buys the children lovely, lovely presents and they aren't going to go without. We found a stash of games in a charity shop last month so we can play chess and monopoly and scrabble til it's coming out of our ears. I also have a box of wine left from my friend's visit in the autumn when she did a Lidl-run on her way over from France. I have mulling spices.

If you know us in real life and are passing, drop in. Open house. Tea and biscuits on demand. Friends old and new welcome - provided you don't mind being sent away if we are up to our collective arses in muck and bullets.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

dark & light

The last week has been frantic; lots to do and people to catch up with, but we have at least managed to approach it all a bit more calmly after having a break.

In summary, a lot of quite stressful things:
  • I have gallstones and need my gallbladder out - I had a scan. This explains why I feel sick all the time and have been getting abdominal pain.
  • B's parents have served us with court papers regarding contact with the children because our best attempts to sort it all out via mediation didn't work out. Merry-fucking-Christmas - Legal Aid doesn't exist any longer and we're going to have a severely curtailed few months to pay for a solicitor. I will not be writing any more about this for obvious reasons, but it's all still going on in the background. 
  • Social Services have finally been in touch. They have replaced the Social Worker who was so confrontational with another one and they want to come and have another assessment meeting. We have said that that is fine so long as our advocate can attend. Children's Services in Somerset are in a right mess generally and I think some of the hassle we have been having has been part of the fall-out from that.
  • N had casts put on her feet and lower legs yesterday. This is positive in that it will correct her leg/foot position and therefore help her mobility. On the down side, though, she has to be recast every Monday between now and the New Year and, despite being a very fetching shade of hot pink, they are really, really uncomfortable to sleep in. She screamed literally ALL night and we are all absolutely ragged this morning. Hopefully she will get used to them quite soon. 

At more length, some positive things:

Our first sleep-in with N's carer on Friday night went extremely well. It was a 'waking night' because N was so restless and so she went at 8am rather than taking N our for the morning. I woke once and so did B, to administer Calpol and check on her; but the rest of the time my subconscious seemed to be happy to let E get on with it and trust that she'd wake me if needed. I am so, so grateful to our friends who have made this possible for us by starting and or joining the Hundred Club on our behalf. It means that E will be coming in once a fortnight and we will at least have that much guaranteed sleep. I am still furious that Social Services are not sorting this out; but I guess that this is 'Big Society' in action - government lets you down, your community picks you up. We are lucky to have friends like this and I can't really express what it means to us to know we have that support - and that belief in us. I have taken the conscious decision not to ask who is involved because a part of me feels awkward accepting charity from friends. But I am still very grateful. I hope that makes sense - I know it's not entirely logical.

Also charity - the Well Child people phoned yesterday. They are going to come in January and revamp the area around the patio in to some raised beds so that N can do some gardening. She can no longer get down on the ground to garden in the 'ordinary' beds and she does enjoy it. There is also a suggestion that we could put a tiny bantam house for some teeny tiny bantams up on a level that means she could collect the eggs etc.. I have some Barbu d'Anvers bantams that would be a perfect size to fit. They are coming to do a site visit in the first week of January. I need to speak to our landlord; really hoping they are going to be as good about it as they usually are about this stuff.

We have had a brilliant weekend. Sunday was a beautiful day and we went up to Fyne Court on the Quantocks and had a leaf-collecting competition. The boys won with fourteen versus our thirteen, but no-one was particularly upset - it was more about chasing each other along the wheelchair path and seeing if there was anything in the pond worth dipping for. It was one of those 'golden days' that stay in your memory for ages.

We are taking a less proactive approach to dealing with our three-dozen-ish professionals. We are going to try to have one day a week as 'appointments day' and herd them all in to that*. That will mean that we have more time to spend on basic, day-to-day stuff.

For today, that is all. 

Apologies if you are one of our professionals reading this - I am picturing you as perfectly charming Maine Coon cats that can be tempted with small titbits rather than ornery sheep that need your heels nipping, honest!