Friday, 28 December 2012

Post Christmas decompression...

...was the order of the day.  It was brilliant to get out on my bicycle this morning.  And even better to meet Charlotte for three laps of the waterlogged Richmond Park.  We pedalled steadily, and I enjoyed every moment of it.  Even when the wind picked up after mid morning tea break, and catching the spray off her rear wheel.  I can't think of posterior I'd rather follow.  I always learn lots when we ride together.  I have lots to learn.  Following her up the inclines, and along the flats, I aspire towards her seemingly natural balance of pressure and cadence.  Right, left, right, left. 
It was positively thrilling to don some slightly ill fitting thermal bib tights, and get out in the (very) fresh air.  Pure delight having felt confined to the spin studio for what has been too long.  Coughs and colds banned me from there too before Christmas.  Now, whilst on holiday, I have been making the most of every opportunity to get back up to speed, firstly in the pool, and today, in the saddle. 
The park (which currently might more aptly be described as a lake) was relatively empty.  Most folk have presumably returned to work (or perhaps hit the sales), and the usual pack of Dynamos were replaced by a horse drawn carriage which made several circuits during our session.  We were joined by Jo, and greeted by the odd deer.  It was jolly pleasant. 
I have yet to download Cyclemeter or similar, and currently lack a cycle-computer on my roadbike.  Today it really didn't matter.  Charlotte is recovering.  I am learning.  We make a great pair.  We did some good riding this morning, and weren't there striving for prizes.  She's collected many of those along the way.  I have yet to race.  But it is something of an ambition.  Having committed to swimming at least 300k in 2013 (not including the open water events I'm hoping to make regular features of my calendar next year), I have some cycling goals to figure out...


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The real gift

And it was a very happy Christmas.  We found a most welcoming retreat in whose cocoon it felt as though we were far, far away from the hustle and bustle, the madness, mayhem and hype.  Christmas spirit was in abundance, and we enjoyed a peaceful and joyful affair.
Many pints were consumed.  Dihydrogen oxide tastes particularly good when it's seven times filtered.  Adding a slice of lime makes my preferred tipple.  The batteries have been recharged, and our energies replenished simply by the change in environment and routine. 
Presents were unwrapped.  Smiles and laughter aplenty.  But the real gift, was the ability to be present, soaking up the here and now (or the there and then, as I write retrospectively).  Today, I adore giving.  I am able to give without expectation or condition.  Only in the absence of any agenda is it possible for me to be in the only state in which true generosity is possible - when I am operating out of self. 
I had been asked to give a chair at one of my home groups this evening.  It is always a pleasure and a privilege to be of service.  But particularly so this week.  Week 52 has, for the last decade, been something of a landmark in more respects than simply the traditional.  Growing up, celebrating my birthday less than a week after Christmas was something of a challenge.  These days, I mark not only the anniversary of my birth.  I celebrate nothing short of a re-invention. 
The meeting format includes a reading.  'Speaker's choice' this evening started on page 62 of the Basic Text...  It seemed to speak to the precious experience I have just enjoyed.  Unlike the many lotions and potions that were available for purchase at the end of our wonderfully rejuvenating stay, this cannot be bottled but, like all good things, must be lived to be fully learnt, and passed on to be kept. 


Friday, 21 December 2012

Altered images and changing reflections

Another delicious bowl of soup.  Ginger and chilli made it a winter triumph.  Weekday suppers in Herne Hill are always good, and whilst the food is undeniably alluring, the company's unbeatable.  I could hardly believe my ears when Charlotte casually mentioned the run she had done earlier.  I almost choked when she told me how far she'd run and how quickly she'd done it.
This year has been bonkers.  Everything suddenly turned upside down.  And now it's returning to something of a new normal.  Charlotte is getting fitter and faster.  She could always run farther and faster than I can even imagine moving through space.  I'm back in the pool and am looking forward to spending a fair amount of time in underwater over the holidays.  I will be back on my bike in January.  Charlotte and I have plotted to clock up a few miles in the spring. 
So, Christmas is round the corner.  Cards have been written and presents have been wrapped.  The year is fading fast.  And what a year it has been.  Beginning in Hong Kong, it seems to have stretched for ever.  But, at the same time, it's flown.  Was it really 5 months ago that Charlotte was in chemo, preparing for surgery?  
I've had my hair cut shorter than it's been for over ten years, and hers is growing back as thick as ever, with a little extra wave.  Looking backwards, looking forwards.  I'm standing still and enjoying the moment. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Back in the blue with no time for the blues

I'm not gonna lie.  It was tough.  It always is after a long break.  My PoolMate confirmed what I felt - I have missed my regular swims due to nasty sore throats and general under-the-weather-edness.  I wasn't alone.  I shared a lane for part of my session with a guy who had been similarly plagued with winter sickness.  We were both 'taking it easy'.  Apparently.  Thing is, enthusiasm got the better of me.  I managed just a little over 2.5k but it took far longer than it usually would.  Although it was only shortly after 4 in the afternoon, with it being dark, the pool didn't feel like the right environment at that time of day.  In the winter months, I am a morning and early afternoon swimmer.  It was great to be back in the water.  I know no better mood enhancer. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Table. Apple. Penny.

Whilst there were several places I might have been that morning, I wouldn't have been anywhere else.  The practitioner from the Memory Service arrived promptly.  I liked her instantly. 
Mum was nervous.  I think I was a little, too.  It's been a difficult year.
"It's Friday, it's the fourteenth of December and I'm at home..."
No problems there.  CAMCOG, or the Cambridge Cognitive Examination is a thorough assessment tool used to assess the extent of extent of dementia, and to assess the level of cognitive impairment.  The standardised  measure assesses orientation, language, memory, praxis, attention, abstract thinking, perception and calculation. 
"Table.  Apple.  Penny."
Three everyday items that were introduced at one point, and then referred to again later on.  Again, Mum was able to recall each.   
I am reminded that the only three certainties in life are old age, sickness and death.  Not perhaps the most uplifting of realities, but something to focus on in the midst of all the chaos.  Life is short, and Mum's chronic and debilitating condition that has made such an aggressive progression in recent months, serves as a ready reminder if ever I need one - life is precious and health is not to be taken for granted. 
The clinician guided us through a long list of assessment tools, and the combination of her confident expertise and warmth conveyed both that she was good at her job but, as importantly, that we were in good hands.  Mum spends a great proportion of her time attending appointments with different professionals.  One of the difficulties is the coordination of her care.  Falling under several consultants at different hospitals presents challenges, for all concerned.  My single bugbear is the incongruence: we all know that whilst good, it's far from perfect.  So why pretend?  Would it not be better to acknowledge the gaps, so that we can 'mind' them and get on with it, as best we can.  When the loopholes and pitfalls remain unspoken, trips and falls are more likely.  Together with the consequent and injurious disappointment.  Relationships grow from trust, and when your life is quite literally in the hands of a.n.other, you want and need consistency of care.  Dignity depends upon it. 


Friday, 7 December 2012


Getting it in was not much in question.  I had confidently shared this only a fortnight ago and in so doing, had (re)set my intention.  Sometimes hearing myself tell someone else how a particular achievement is possible, and what it might take it to get it done, concretises the faith necessary in order to do precisely that:  get it done.
It was more about how and when than if.  Procrastination is something I'm well practised at.  I know it's landscape and texture well.  I can taste it.  There is something comfortable about the discomfort inherent in this as a modus operandi.  Thankfully, it has been contained to matters academic.  Beyond the books, I don't tend to flirt with deadlines.  My prolonged career as a student (albeit latterly a part time one) has become the forum in which I have pushed my affinity to be within earshot of a deadline before so much as typing the title.  It has been, I realise, the sole realm in which I am answerable only to myself.  It affects nothing, and no one, else whether I make a deadline. 
Not directly, at least.  I have breathed more than a few sighs of relief.  Breathing in, knowing I'm breathing in and breathing out, knowing I'm breathing out.  I can breathe.  Miracle of miracles.  I can draw breath.  I need not feel anything other than liberated.  I have nothing outstanding.  No deadlines looming.  Nothing need clog up the horizon which is, for the moment at least, relatively cloudless.
Next time (should there need or happen to be one), I will do it rather differently.  I am no longer under any illusions as to the nature of the challenge that studentship alongside 'real' work entails.  In the meantime, may the celebrations continue.  I hope to receive confirmation in due course that my recent (and somewhat arduous) scholarship met the required standards.    

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Survival Value

It's that time of year.  This morning, on the briefest of perambulations, it suddenly dawned on me that winter is well and truly here.  I felt it (on my nose) and smelt it (in my nose).  I have bought a new pair of boots and everything! 
And so, as I prepare for the conclusion of the year that has been, there suddenly feels to be an increase in pace.  I know my diary more intimately than I might ordinarily (3 weeks' in advance).  I have a finite number of appointments available between now and the 2013.  It's a strange, yet oddly familiar space to be occupying.  I have been somewhere similar before and feel pleasantly comfortable here.
I have not yet sent any cards.  I'll get round to it shortly.  I have bought the stamps in readiness.  It's one of the few seasonal traditions I observe annually.  I have plenty to report, but do not intend to compose a missive.  Everyone that needs to know anything noteworthy, probably already does.  It feels as though my friends have remained close this year.  Or maybe I to them. 
Friendships feel so precious just now.  In the midst of what is for me, always something of a reflective period, each and every one of my close friends feature very prominently looking back over the last year.  Time spent with them has such enormous value, that defies quantification.  And then there are those times inbetween during which I feel connected to a sense that they are there, and that they care.  That's simply invaluable. 
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, or art.  It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." 
C. S. Lewis
Relationships fascinate me.  They challenge and reward me on so many levels.  On every level, perhaps.  Today I am so very grateful for those special people in my life I feel honoured to call my friends.  Old and new, they each occupy a space in my life and, just as importantly, in  my heart.