Friday, 24 April 2015

In at the Deep End

An anniversary of sorts. A year since I had unexpected surgery which resulted in many side-effects, and which has put my life into a different pattern for the last year. The pattern has been generally unpleasant, not to say miserable.
So for some reason I decided that I must mark this anniversary by trying to push myself into doing something I really did not want to do. And then I would feel better. Ha!

Pot-holing would be my absolute first choice of things I don't want to do. I am not prepared to go that far, or that deep. I am not prepared, ever, to go down a pothole, to squeeze through a dark rocky tunnel, to possibly be trapped by rising water.
Travelling in a hot-air balloon is number two, or at least travelling in that dangling basket with no sensible way of getting out of it apart from thumping down and probably tipping over. Being dependent on wind and flame doesn't seem the best idea to me.
Swimming is number three.
So I went for the swimming option.

I am bad at swimming. I flounder about and forget to breathe. I don't like the chlorined water, but swimming in open water is a whole separate category of nightmare. Thank goodness I have not passed a vestige of this dislike to my sons, one of whom swims in any river, sea, lake or large puddle he can find, the other who holds all sorts of open-water diving qualifications.
Not only is there a dislike of swimming, but there's a reticence about appearing in a swim suit. I would quite like a Victorian bathing machine to tow me down to the water so that I can then submerge myself very, very discreetly.

Several weeks earlier, when it seemed like a good idea, I booked a swimming course here. But nearer the time it no longer felt like a good idea, and I had extremely cold feet, not just about facing several acute dislikes head-on, but also driving at least twice as far as I have driven in the last year. If I hadn't paid in advance I would probably have cancelled.
But I went shopping and realised that there are swim suits with what is called 'tummy control'. I really need whole body control after surgery, but having some area under control is a positive step.

I drove to North Wales on Easter Sunday, accompanied and over-taken by large numbers of motorcyclists on huge, glossy expensive machines. I envied them, encased in leather, sitting there being dashing. They were just having a great day out, going to see some waterfalls or the sea. None of this nonsense about proving themselves, testing themselves.

I arrived. I booked in. I unpacked and I looked out of my window at the monkey puzzle tree outside and thought how much I would prefer to be climbing it, rather than dunking myself in a swimming pool.
Then we started, five of us in a very warm pool. Well, it had to be warm because we were in it for up to four hours at a time. And we could do more, if we wanted.
I was much the oldest, but I could do what the youngsters did. Steve is a wonderful teacher. He explained a lot about bouyancy and natural floating levels and made us swim with balletic grace. Well, he tried. No thrashing about allowed. Be kind to the water, let it help you, it wants to help you. Don't disturb the water, don't create even a ripple. Just relax. Enjoy it.

I came home again. I felt proud of myself for having faced things I find difficult. I would do it again and try to improve, to be graceful, to breathe sometimes, to relax and enjoy it.
I think I feel better.
It's good to go on learning at 75.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Letter to a Granddaughter: How to Get Through Nap-Time Without a Nap.

Dear Not-So-Small Granddaughter,
At nearly two and a half you are at that pivotal point of needing but not wanting a rest after lunch. When you reach my age you will be both wanting and needing the same nap.
So you go into a quiet room for at least some quiet time. When you are in my house you sleep (or not sleep) in your uncle's old bedroom which is a treasure trove of unfamiliar objects as well as your own growing collections. You like to check that he's gone off in an aeroplane before you explore thoroughly, and he usually has so the coast is clear.

Your parents go off up the hills for a walk, and you and I negotiate the ground rules for napping. I tell you that talking is good, singing is good, shouting and yelling are not good. You agree.
"Whistling?" you ask, hopefully. Yes, whistling is very good. Lying in a warm bed and practising whistling might even lull you to sleep.
We go upstairs and select three or four soft toys to have a nap with you. We discuss the toys that are at home and reach an agreement that they are not here and we're not driving sixty miles to get them. We discuss drinks and use of the potty and agree that neither is essential at this moment. I tuck you up and give you a kiss and say "Night night", even though it's not. You smile happily and snuggle under the duvet.
I feel successful as I go downstairs.
Then I plug in the intercom.

There is a lot of background noise. The duvet is churning. "Peter Rabbit, hold Annie hand," you say. (I am Annie, you can't say Granny)."Wee now, on the potty...... Now read a book......... Sing a song........ Sing a Peter Rabbit like that.....sing now. Sing in my bed. Sing, sing, sing........... Read a book in my bed........another one........... another one. Now singing......wah, wah wah, singing in my bed....... I'm playing..... No! Sit down now by the table. Yes, round and round the table....... Lie down now. No! Sing Happy Birthday.......... There Rabbit, yes, hopping........ Hop. Hop. Hop!"

Feet patter overhead. It must be the rabbit, hopping.
There is the sound of drawers opening and closing.
"Oh, H's (uncle's) paper......... Oh, H's book..........More book............ More paper........ Oh, look! Look! Boys and girls." You have found some old class photographs in one of the drawers.

The wardrobe door opens.
"Oh, big shoes. Big coat. H's shoes........... Oh, look!"
A contemplative pause.
Should I go up and check?

Then, "In my bed now. Oh, oh, I can't get back over there. Sssshhh........... Back now. Where's my duck? I want my duck....... (singing) Little duck went swimming one day, quack, quack, quack.....little duck came back.......... Ringy roses all fall down..........Annie, ANNIE, pick me up..........Oh.....come back, Daddy, Mummy, Annie.
Hello, me come back in that door..........oh."

Then there is attempted whistling and a lot more singing. The bedside cupboard drawers open and close rhythically. Toys are talked to, told to put their coats on, lie down and have a cuddle, eat the food that is in their it all up.

When I guess the time is right I go upstairs. You are sitting happily surrounded by the finds from the drawers and cupboards. A collection of jigsaws, a book with magnetic pictures I had earmarked for next Christmas, photos of your Daddy and Uncle in their primary school days.
You look rested and refreshed, ready for the next adventure.
"Hello, Annie," you say. "Look at this!"

I'm looking.
And listening.
With love from Granny.