Next please ….

My friend Martin never normally makes voice calls.

It’s normally connecting by e mail or perhaps a short text.

So when he called me on his mobile phone on Sunday afternoon I was rather surprised to see his name appear on my phone screen.

“How are you?” I said cheerfully.

“Not brilliant. Are you free at the minute?”

The bottom line was that he had fallen over on his patio in his garden and had hit his right leg on the stone step.

As it had swollen almost immediately he phoned his local doctor who advised him to get himself up to his local hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department as soon as possible.

I immediately drove over to his house to give him a lift and to give him some company for his A&E visit.

A&E reception was bursting at the seams, full of people, with every seat taken.

We queued up to register and, amidst the high level of background chatter, Martin managed to get his details across to the receptionist behind the glass screen.

We luckily found two seats free in the same row but a few spaces apart.

Some kind patients in between offered to swap seats so we could chat easily.

And we did.

For about 2 hours, in fact, before an impressive male nurse with a clipboard called out his name.

We rushed up to meet him and his look told us that he was surprised to see us.

He was surprised because he has called out the name Margaret and not Martin.

Full marks for his observation.

No marks for our hearing.

We were sent back to our seats, now taken.

Eventually we went in to see the specialist.

She was warm, amusing but professional.

She tested his leg and his ability to move his ankle and knee.

All seemed ok so she asked if we had any questions.

“I have two questions” said Martin

“Will I be able to swim with this leg?”

“If you could swim before with this leg, you should be able to swim with it now” she said with a smile.

And the second question?

“Will I be able to take part in the pantomime we are showing at my local theatre next week?”

“Especially so if it’s Treasure Island and you are playing Long John Silver” she said with a wicked smile.

We both came out into the main A&E reception laughing and joking.

Other potential patients waiting nervously for their calls must have wondered what we had both been prescribed ….

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 ….

6 months a blogger …

At school I used to dread the annual reports on my progress.

The teachers told it how it was.

No holds barred.

“If he put as much energy into his school work as he does into his chatting to his mates he might do well”

My father would smile.

My mother would frown.

So I approach this half year report into my new experience of being a blogger with an objective and reflective stance.

I’ve realised that I just love writing.

I also enjoy reading what others have written.

I get a kick out of following other bloggers and commenting when I feel the urge.

And that’s often.

Quite simply it’s been both educational and amazing.

My e mail in box is full of notifications of new posts … and I don’t mind at all.

I love it, in fact.

I feel I’m building up a connection with lots of new people, continuously.

It’s been a really supportive and friendly community.

Yes, I know I am still chatting to mates – to quote my teachers.

But I think I’m doing quite well and enjoying the experience immensely.

Thank you blogging community – all of you! 😎

Waiting Room Blues …

This is not a song or musical genre.

It’s just that I’ve been in a couple of hospital waiting rooms supporting some friends lately and it’s been interesting.

I expected to see queues of people and overworked reception staff.

I was therefore not surprised as we lined up, almost out of the door, to check in.

I marvelled at the calm receptionists who were handling patients arriving late, in the wrong place, demanding attention.

Being difficult, looking stressed.

Phones were ringing everywhere (many from patients in the queue), hospital staff were barging through with trollies, with papers and clipboards.

People were trying to register their car number plates into the new parking permit system and banging the touch screen because it was not responding.

Nurses were coming out calling patient names over the general hubbub and patients were straining to work out if the name was theirs.

On one occasion the nurse called for a Mr White and two gentlemen stood up at the same time and tried to work out what Mr White she really wanted.

It’s easy being a support when you are not in the firing line (not literally) – you can practise your yoga breathing and reflect.

You can offer some observational humour.

Words of support too of course.

I’m not sure if I would feel so reflective as a patient though ….. on my side of the fence it’s so damn easy.

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….

Driving me up the wall… Part 1

I blame my Gym Buddy, L.

She is prone to suggesting challenges that would normally be off our “sensible” radar.

I always accept her challenges.

I don’t know why.

Ok, we have completed bike rides and walks to supplement our regime of Yoga, Spinning and Pilates.

They are familiar activities and a walk in the park, literally.

But this time she suggested we tried out the local Colchester Climb Project near to where we both live in Essex.

It is a dedicated bouldering centre.

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing where there are no ropes, instead there is a foot of matting surrounding the climbing area to make falling more comfortable.

What an inspiring explanation.

Before I committed I suggested we visited the Centre to check out the facilities, the people running it and the climbing walls.

And secretly hoping it would scare us both off.

Our review resulted in us seeing a 10 year old girl behaving like Spider-Man (strictly Spider Woman) climbing up and down the walls without a care in the world at great speed.

We both sat drinking tea on the leather settees around the climbing area looking at other participants scaling the walls, with our hearts in our mouths.

Neither of us would admit to each other that it looked like a challenge too far.

We therefore signed up for the 60 minute Introductory Session a few weeks later and the dreaded day approached fast.

It’s probably best to tell you what happened in part 2 ….

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 …

The trip into town …

I’d booked the exhibition tickets a month back.

I meet my friend Brian regularly to keep in touch and a “trip into town” normally takes us back to our days in business when we both worked together in the City of London.

We rarely talk about business.

We talk about our lives after business.

We talk about family, current events, we stray into politics, we share funny stories, we talk about writing (he’s a great writer).

It doesn’t really matter what exhibition/event we book.

It’s just another great opportunity to meet.

However he does his homework and reads up, in advance, on the exhibition background, history, future events.

It keeps me on my toes – I’d better read up too.

Time flies over the day as we chat and chat.

Topics at random.

Highs and lows.

Laughter and the occasional difficult moment where unexpected emotion might kick in.

And takes us both by surprise.

Another great exchange.

Another delightful, supportive, trip into town ….

Head in the clouds – Part 1

I am not normally lost for words.

The opposite in fact – I’m often told to listen more, talk less.

I’m working on it.

We were meeting for one of our lovely chatty breakfasts at the local flying club, Stapleford Aerodrome.

Andrew, my friend, had recommended this place some time back and this must have been our 4th or 5th visit.

That’s a lot of breakfasts.

It was the day after my birthday so it seemed a nice opportunity to catch up.

The breakfast was delicious and, unusually, the weather was bright and sunny after a few days of wind and rain.

After the breakfast we chatted, and chatted – we always do.

“I’ve just got to hand this envelope into the flying club’s reception – do you want to join me or stay here?” asked Andrew.

“I’ll come with you for a breath of fresh air” I said.

At reception the lady behind the desk asked me if I was “ the birthday boy”

I thought that Andrew had tipped them off and they were going to wish me (or, worst case, sing me) a happy birthday.

“Your flying lesson is in 45 mins” said the reception lady with a big smile.

I was lost for words for a moment.

“Excuse me, there must be some mistake” I said.

“No, your friend Andrew (now quickly disappearing out of reception) has treated you to a 30 minute flying lesson today”

It was a very emotional moment.

A mixture of “he’s set me up” and “omg what an amazing surprise”

I was quite overcome by the gesture.

I’m still getting over it.

I need to take you through the flight in a separate blog post – that’s why this one is Part 1 …

A blogger lost for words?

Yes, I really was.

You shall not pass …

My secretary, Val, had phoned in sick.

The temp agency we used in these situations responded immediately and Lisa, the temp, arrived at my office within 30 minutes.

I had a busy day ahead catching up on writing a key business report for my Chief Executive so I asked her to protect me from all visitors and phone calls until lunchtime.

The hours flew by.

The report was completed.

I eventually came up for air and opened my office door and walked out to see Lisa.

“Thank you Lisa for protecting me this morning – did I have any visitors?”

“Only one, a tall guy with dark and grey hair, in his fifties I guess”

“I blocked his path towards your door and he look very surprised, slightly stressed”

“Did he have a strong Scottish accent?” I asked anxiously.

“Yes that was him and he’s left you a note…”

The note read …

When you can possibly spare the time please call into my office.

“Was he anybody important?” asked Lisa

“He’s the Chief Executive Officer, so I’d better rush up to see him!”

The CEO’s secretary, Sarah, escorted me into his office and sat me down.

He slowly looked up from his papers.

A serious expression on his face.

“Who was that secretary who stopped me from getting in to see you?”

“She totally blocked the doorway and wouldn’t let me pass!”

“I’m sorry, that was an agency temp secretary, Lisa, who was covering for Val who is away sick today.”

He looked up, smiled, and said “Don’t say sorry, she was amazing!

I’d like you to give Sarah, my secretary, her agency phone number so she can protect me when she is away on leave next month”

I left his office with my heart rate very slowly getting back to normal …and thanked Lisa again for doing a great job!