Looking back in wonder …

We all know the years fly by.

Back in the 80’s I was wondering what the year 2000 might be like.

We are now 20 years past that.

I have been keeping a personal blog (DayOne) since May 2014.

I never believed I would keep it going.

I have.

Every day without fail.

Maybe because it is on my phone.

And I’m always on my phone.

It allows me a search facility to pin down certain events, places, people that are vague, until it brings up the detailed journal page.

It is my retrievable, detailed memory.

Stored in the cloud as backup to my brain.

It offers a peek at what I’d written 1 year back, 2 years back etc on the same day as I may be writing today.

“Can it really be 2 years ago?” I sigh ….

Memories captured, neatly and clearly (well to the best of my ability).

It is, essentially, a book of my recent life.

Well since May 2014.

And when I read it, at random, complete with photos I have attached to the relevant journal entry, I marvel at what I have experienced.

I smile often and sometimes cry just a little.

But I remain grateful that I am blessed with being able to keep on writing my book …

And still looking back in wonder at an incredible journey ….

30 Minute Flashback …

I’ve always loved photographs.

We used to keep them in large albums with thick, heavy, covers which were difficult to open.

They were often filed away in a cupboard and brought out by chance when we noticed them whilst looking for something else.

Nowadays we have, perhaps, courtesy of digital cameras and phones, too many photos.

Too many to review, often now resident on our laptop computers or personal phones.

Never to be seen again or shared once taken.

My wife, bless her, decided some years back to scan all of our old photos from those albums into digital form for posterity.

It was a massive project.

We recently decided to build, over the weekend, a 30 minute slide show of a selection of these photos (plus some latest phone ones) so we could share with family and friends as Xmas approaches.

We had to decide on selecting 150 photos covering our life.

It was a tough call.

Little did we know how we would react to being transported back to memories, people, events and places that just became suddenly vivid and real again.

30 minutes plus chat time of course.

It became 3 times that estimate when we did a trial run.

A flashback of our lives.

A journey now stored in the digital cloud.

For us and others to review and reflect.

I’m still shaking.

It ought to be on prescription…

Filling Time? No ….

It was time for my 6 monthly dental check up.

I used to have a morbid fear of dentists until my 6 year old son asked me, way back (he’s 38 now) why his teeth were checked but mine weren’t.

Then my son called me a wimp.

Not sure who taught him that word.

But it worked.

I got straight on the phone and booked that appointment but that’s another story.

Watch this space for that post.

I’ve been going for my 6 monthly dental check ups ever since and I’m calm.

I speak to my dentist about golf, about yoga, about anything.

He’s a really smooth guy.

Charismatic, great sense of humour, you know what I mean.

My wife loves him.

I’m sure she eats sweets so she has more visits.

He shakes my hand when I enter his consulting room.

He smiles.

He is genuinely interested in how I am doing.

The examination is comprehensive but quick.

“You’ve taken my advice about using that electric toothbrush” he smiles.

I try to smile back with a mouth full of dental mirror and half of his hand.

After the consultation I gave him some advice about his nagging backache (I asked him how he was doing, of course!) and told him to try yoga.

In 6 months time I’ll check whether he has acted on my advice too 😎

I’d never thought, all those years back, that I’d look forward to an update with a dentist.

He’s that good…

Driving me up the wall … Part 2

L and I arrived far too early for our climbing induction at the Colchester Climb Project.

We built in loads of contingency to our travelling plans because the roads at that time in the evening were normally full of slow commuter traffic.

We sat in the car outside the Climbing Centre.

We can’t go in yet. Too early.

We chat.

We don’t watch the clock.

We chat.

We realise we really have to go in.

We are greeted by a jolly chap wearing a bobble hat (and other clothes!) who asked us our shoe sizes so we could be issued with climbing shoes.

“They should be tight” he said.

Mine were excruciatingly painful so I asked for a size up.

Then Alex appeared (aka Aly) who was to be our instructor this evening.

A slim, bubbly lady with a great sense of humour. Also wearing a bobble hat.

It is chilly in this warehouse of climbing walls.

We were joined by Jeremy, a fellow inductee (is there such a word?) a charming Finance guy from the City, we learned, who looked remarkably fit.

Aly (who was simply an awesome trainer too by the way) has us doing warm up exercises before she leads us to the first wall.

She explained about the safety issues in some detail, what to watch for, how the walls were structured.

I did not want to go first so avoided eye contact with Aly.

Jeremy stepped forward and off he went up the wall.

Impressive.

I was next.

L looked on, hoping I would survive.

I surprised myself by following Aly’s guidance and reached the top and got down in one piece.

L did the same and when she got down we just hugged for a bit.

More relief than a need to keep warm.

A shared emotional experience.

We tackled other walls with gusto.

All encouraging each other.

No competitive egos here.

After 40 minutes Aly offered us the option of a cup of tea or a further 10 minutes climbing.

It was a no contest.

Tea always wins for L and myself as we watched Jeremy scale a few more walls.

We will be back.

We do hope we see Jeremy again too.

Next time with a family audience perhaps to confirm that we really did do it….

Once you open the door …

I have had a week of the most amazing long conversations with friends.

I was politely advised this morning by my wife that I needed to stick to a day of silence for everybody’s long term sanity.

And to protect my voice.

On Fridays I often accompany my 93 year old Aunt Lil (I’ve posted about her before) to the local shops in town to get her weekly shopping.

After our shopping I was back at Lil’s flat for a cup of tea and the mandatory mince pie.

However I keep wanting to chat.

Asking questions and reflecting.

And following up.

Trying to be sensitive and not intruding.

This time Lil strayed into the subject of sewing machines (I am currently trying to get her sewing machine repaired and she was pleased that I’d finally, after a long time, booked it in for her).

However, little did I know what would unfold.

We had the history of her work career (she was a machinist).

Different employers, different locations.

How she had to walk to work, often in the dark, early in the morning, across desolate fields in East London, to the sewing factory, and, one day, injuring herself by walking into a concrete lamppost.

Hospitalisation was deemed necessary for a few days plus, apparently, some poor eye wound stitching by the nurse (resulting in odd shaped eyebrows – I’d never noticed) …it continued and continued.

We had stories about her evacuation locations during the war.

I really struggled at times between tears of laughter and sadness.

I was very moved by it all.

She then continued to unravel the detail, the stories, the matter of fact accounts.

Once you open the door you have to just hang on.

Different companies, different jobs, low wages, her “boy mad” mate who asked her along to support her at meet ups outside the local dance hall.

I think I’ve probably found out what really affects me the most.

It’s just the talking, the listening, the enquiring.

The exchanging of stories.

The time just passes.

Effortlessly and enjoyably.

And so unpredictably.

And no, it’s impossible for me to be quiet.

I’m just genuinely interested.

Perhaps I always have been but was afraid to ask the obvious question.

Just sharing thoughts, issues, different perspectives.

Just supporting by listening and trying to understand people a bit better.

When I was 18 I had no idea at all that it would be like this many years later 😎

It really is something quite special …

Head in the clouds – Part 2

The electronic pager flashes and vibrates around my breakfast table.

I just about stop it falling on to the floor.

It meant it was time for my flying lesson and the pilot and plane were now ready.

My heart rate climbed a notch.

Well perhaps more than just a notch.

Mark was my instructor for the 30 min flight and I was wondering if he knew what he was letting himself in for.

Where do you live Steve?

“I live in Chelmsford” I responded.

“Ok we will have time to fly there and back, so I’ll take off and land the plane and you can look after the flying once we are up”

He must be kidding.

He wasn’t.

Mark was flicking switches, checking gauges, pulling out choke levers, moving the pedals, pressing radio buttons, multi tasking like he was in a competition.

And that was before we took off.

The plane was dual control of course and Mark, once we had taken off, let me just mirror his control of the plane early on to show me it was all quite subtle.

I’ve never been accused of that.

“Can I take a few photos?” I asked

“Only when I take back control of the plane” he said with a smile.

I got us to Chelmsford and spotted a few landmarks that I recognised – then I banked the plane to the right, deliberately, then levelled out and headed back.

I was navigating of sorts, lining up icons on the display in front of me with something that looked like a plane.

He kept changing where the icons were …. almost testing my calmness and concentration.

When we approached the runway at Stapleford Aerodrome it felt like he’d shutdown the engine completely and we were floating.

Heart rate up a notch again.

No admit it , up quite a few notches.

Mark’s landing was superb.

The flight was a sheer delight and I understand why you can get addicted to this.

I have two friends, Keith and Martin, who are pilots and I appreciated for the first time why they enjoyed it so much.

Thank you Mark, who made it look so easy (and I know it ain’t) and to Andrew for such a thoughtful and surprising birthday gift ….

I am just so lucky….

Stand back and be amazed …

It must be my age.

I’m finding everything to enjoy.

Nature, people, events and opportunities.

Perhaps I am seeking things out now whereas before I just went rushing with the flow.

This blogging universe, is a great example.

I only got into it 4 months back, but it has been a revelation.

I’m left mostly speechless by my fellow bloggers’ writing, thoughts, issues.

A whole new set of connections I didn’t know existed. Across the Globe.

It’s as if my senses have been fine tuning over time to receive and appreciate even more data.

And the data is not filtered or ignored.

A couple knocked on my front door yesterday asking me if I thought the World was in a declining state of doom and gloom.

If suffering everywhere meant we needed to appeal to a higher power for resolution.

I said

“I can see that viewpoint but I don’t share that perspective personally”

“I think life is just great with a few tough challenges of course”

“Peace, Poverty, Climate Change, Working Together all need to be priorities”

“ but nothing is perfect”

“But there are people to meet, places to go, support to give, advice to take on board, nature to see, things to do”

“I think this is an amazing time to be alive”

My doorstep callers were very sympathetic to this very unexpected burst of optimism.

I suspect other neighbours they had visited didn’t necessarily share my view.

The couple nodded when I encouraged them to look around, take it all in, and be amazed.

It felt a little like role reversal but I think I cheered them up.

And I hope I don’t get excluded from their future visits …..😎

Blog Extraordinary …

My Australian friends, Mark and Louise, are coming to the end of their amazing adventure holiday which covered parts of the USA and South America.

Mark’s private daily blog, shared with a few select friends, started steadily in the early days.

Just a few lines.

Just a few photos.

I’ve used one of his photos on this blog.

Then something happened.

I think Mark discovered he really loved writing.

He also realised he was really good at it.

He included more and more amazing photos to support his expanding blog posts.

Every blog post delved into more detail, expressing more and more of their personal emotions and experiences.

It became essential reading.

He supplemented it every now and again with video calls to me when words sometimes could not cover how he felt.

He also called me when my own public blog prompted him to check I was ok.

I was, but that was nice.

Wow, who thought this adventure would be more than just places?

It would be a lasting record of their experience shared with a lucky few.

I’m realising blogs, even private ones, are more than just nice diversions.

More than just views and perspectives expressed.

They have a power and presence that can stay in the cloud for ever for others to enjoy and learn.

Well done Mark and Louise, you have made your own personal history ….

And shared the journey, the places, the feelings, the experience in a very powerful way…. thank you.

I can do scatty …

My friend Terry asked me, a few weeks back, to help him clear out his garage and today was the day.

His wife Sue offered to keep me topped up with cups of tea.

No contest, I’m there.

Haven’t seen Sue for a while so it was nice to catch up with her and her new, 8 month old, mixed brown and white dog called Cookie.

As I entered their house Cookie barked and growled.

I kept calm and sat on the settee but she still barked and growled at me.

I’ve had dogs in my life before so I just chose to ignore her.

No eye contact, no sudden movements.

“She doesn’t like people that much” said Sue, making me feel a little better.

I still kept ignoring her as she bristled and barked and growled.

I’ll just blend in, I thought, and see where it leads.

I got up from the settee and intended to make my way , via their garden, to the garage to help Terry.

Cookie gave me a look, I gave her the cold shoulder.

I thought I really ought to talk to her.

I told her she was a beautiful dog and then she looked at me as if I was completely mad.

I slowly stepped a little closer to her and she made a fleeting attempt to smell my shoes.

She detected the smell of my own cats that I have at home.

She then followed me outside into the garden.

I looked at her and told her she was a very scatty dog.

Her head moved to one side, trying to understand.

I then thought …. I am scatty too.

I’m going to chase her.

She ran off at great speed and then headed back to me, in a blur, just narrowly missing me on the return trip each time.

I chased and she chased.

I was laughing.

Her tail was wagging.

She thought I was mad.

After 10 mins we gave up chasing.

And then I resumed helping Terry in the garage.

After half an hour Terry and I were called in by Sue for a cup of tea.

I decided to sit on the settee and make myself comfortable and I could see Cookie looking at me from just around the kitchen door.

I ignored her.

She then slowly made her way to the settee, jumped alongside me, laid down and put her head on my lap.

We stayed together for 10 minutes in perfect harmony while I was chatting to Terry and Sue.

After that, Cookie followed me about everywhere and invited me to chase her at every opportunity.

The garage clearing phase one was successful but the highlight of the day for me was playing with Cookie and being able to connect with her by being scatty.

I’m looking forward to going over to see Terry and Sue and Cookie in a couple of weeks to complete the garage project.

It will be interesting to see whether being scatty is still the right approach to take with this amazing dog.

I can easily do scatty ….

A Blogger’s Delight …

I’ve only been in this blog space for just over 3 months and I’m still shell-shocked and delighted at what turns up.

I’ve appreciated the follows, the likes, the comments on my own posts of course – as you would when you write stuff that other people appreciate.

Some blogs I follow just seem to stand out as “must reads” as they hit my inbox.

But there’s one in particular.

Yep, there’s one.

I rush to read it, drop whatever else I am doing, and reflect and smile and feel sad and feel angry because what she says invariably strikes a chord.

V of Millenniallifecrisis (http://millenniallifecrisis.org) writes like she knows what I’m thinking.

Even before I’m thinking it.

It’s a bit spooky.

It’s nice.

This lady needs a break.

She needs a hug,

She needs a few more on her side.

She needs a load more on her side.

Nobody told me this might happen in this blog universe.

I’m just very lucky I guess.

Check her blog posts out.

She’s a bit special.

Like me, you’ll be glad you did …