“…you were born in a merry hour…”


“No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born…”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.  I think it’s a very accessible way of seeing Shakespeare, which I started seeing live on my 12th birthday.  Yes, it’s a bit far fetched that Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are brothers and Keanu’s not really worked on his acting, but Michael Keaton is a joy as Dogberry and it has a great pairing of Beatrice and Benedick in Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.  The characters just spark off each other from the beginning of the play/film, trading insults and quips, with equal levels of intelligence. They deceive themselves in thinking that they don’t care anything for each other, but after being tricked by their friends they have an open and honest declaration of their feelings and have one of the strongest relationships in Shakespeare’s plays.  (Sorry to anyone who has actually studied literature, I just really like Shakespeare and that’s my understanding of it, feel free to correct me in the comments….)

Growing up I saw these films and plays, I read books and imagined that one day I would meet someone  like Jo Marsh meets Professor Bhaer, Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley, you get the picture.  Basically someone who gets me, can put up with my nonsense and give back as good as they get from me.  Someone who I feel completely comfortable with and can just be myself.

Now I know someone like that, in fact my Mum even said he was my Mr Knightley, and I’ve loved him for years.  With all that’s been going on I thought it was about time to tell him, because he might feel the same, or he might not, either way I would know and could either give it a go with him (not sure how that would work in separate continents) or let it go and find someone equally marvellous but who wanted to be with me.  So I told him, I wrote a letter.

I was very stressed waiting for a reply – never post something important over a weekend, it just drags out nervousness – but when I got one, well, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for but it was good to hear.  Not sure why I was worried really, I knew that he would be really good about it and reply in a way that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  So, yes, it doesn’t seem like my life is going to be working out as it does for literary heroines, but there you go, it rarely does.  I’ll just have to keep reading things with a pinch of salt and remember that reality isn’t always so neatly plotted – happy ever afters don’t just drop by, you’ve got to make some choices to help you find your own, but if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.  So I tried and it didn’t quite work, but I’m glad that I did.  I’m now back in touch with a really good friend and don’t have to be trying to hide how I feel (apparently I wasn’t so successful in that anyway because he already knew.  Balls)  I know he’ll always be there if I need him and life is much better with him in it, whether we are a couple or not.

So that’s that then, and in 5 days I go back to Africa.  These past five weeks have been a huge mixture of emotions, but I’ve got normal life to get back to…

(For those of you wondering, I know I would be, I let him read this before publishing it, it seemed only fair.  His only comment to add was: “You should mention that I was wowed by your paella.  I certainly was.” So there you have it.)

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The sun’s coming over the hill.


“Oh how the nights are long
But life is longer still
Oh how the nights are long
But the sun’s coming over the hill.

I can’t say there’s many things I wouldn’t change
There are better days gone than those that remain
But I can find joy in the sound of the rain
You have to find joy where you can.”

Karine Polwart

So three funerals in 3 days, Gaggy, Dad’s cremation then his memorial.  What do we do now?  I came back for five weeks with the intention of spending time with Dad, he died 3 days after I got back, so then time was focused on talking to undertakers (the most unintentionally hilarious one), booking churches, ordering flowers, picking music.  My brother made an urn.  And it all happened yesterday, so what do we fill our days with now?

My friends have booked me a train ticket to Newcastle for tomorrow, then I’m going to Birmingham on Monday to see some cousins and Grandad after his heart attack after that who knows?

I’ve seen some people that I’ve not seen for years and it’s made me think about things.  I’ve made some predictions about my life that people think I’ll probably change my mind about but I know now that it’s likely the way things would pan out.  But that’s ok, I’m letting people know how I feel about them.  Which means that I can make some decisions about who I want to be and what I want to do.  Sometimes we hold onto the past without realising, but at somepoint you have to draw a line and make a change.  So I have two and a half weeks before I go back to work out what that change will be.

Travelling in time


I’ve come to my grandmother’s house to clean up before my aunt gets here tomorrow; I pressed play on my ipod – there’s 7144 tracks ont here at the moment (I really should get some more) and the first that came up was this song by Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts .  Jamie is the little brother of Kathryn Roberts that I linked to earlier in this blog, talented family.

Travelling in Time:

I wandered off today, back to the house we lived in then, the sound of voices play, the children are young 5, 8 and 10.

The rooms seem darker to me, but everyone else says they can see fine, shapes are all I can see, your voice calls me back to present day time.

It seemed to fit with what I’m doing.  I’m picking up some cds I loaned to Dad, pinching back the DVD The West that I gave him, and getting rid of the mess I made staying here last week.  It doesn’t seem fair for my aunt to come here to come to say goodbye to her brother and mother with some of my washing up still here.

It’s a different house now.  It has been in our family for 80 years or so – I think my great-grandmother lived here, my great-uncle, great-aunt, my grandmother moved here after her husband died 38 years ago, my dad moved in 9 years ago after he and mum split up.  The house will be sold now, maybe it will stay with another family for as long, but more likely someone will buy it and  build something in the garden, sell it for much more.  I don’t want to stay here now, it was fine when I was staying to visit dad, my cat was here, but now the cat has gone to live with my oldest brother and his family, so nothing living is here now.  It still has its familiar books and pictures, models that dad made, plates, pencils that went towards Gaggy’s collection.

I know that this seems morbid or melancholic, but I don’t think it is really.  People are what makes something or somewhere make you feel like you belong.  I’ve been very lucky, I’ve lived with 18 people in the last 9 years and I’ve felt at home nearly everywhere I’ve been.  I’ve had a good week – I’ve been singing with my old choir, I’ve sat in on some lessons at my old school to see the sorts of things I should be doing when I get back to Tanzania, I’ve bumped into people I’ve not seen for years.  Although I can’t picture myself ever living permanently in Northamptonshire or even in England for quite a while, it’s good to know I can fit back in relatively easily.  And I know I’ll fit back in Tanzania when I go back there.

It’s been interesting watching people since I’ve been back because I’m the only one on my own – in some respects that gives me a fair bit of freedom because I can decide what I want to do without having to co-ordinate plans with someone else, or think about what they want to do.  It’s good to be a bit selfish sometimes.  But it’s also good to see people being able to support each other, being happy, doing silly little things together, I do miss that a bit but for now, it’s just me on my own and it’s time for that.  I’ve completely lost my train of thought now and should probably get back to cleaning things up…

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put it well, Ella Fitzgerald sings it best

(Although, I don’t think you have to have a man around to make your house a home, but that’s not the point of the song.)

Old woman, old woman, old woman said I


Today was the day my Grandmother died.  Very nearly 100 it wasn’t really worth her hanging on for much longer, especially after her husband died 38 years ago.

She had 4 children, one of whom died yesterday, 15 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

I saw her today, she looked very old and small but not in pain or sad.  She loved all her children very much but had a special connection with my dad so it seems quite fitting that she died almost exactly 24 hours after he did.

Some short memories:

  • A small old woman dressed in green knitting on the sofa with Countdown and Deal or no Deal on.
  • Blue plates with lettuce, tomato, boiled potatoes, coleslaw, chicken and salad cream. Knives and forks with bone handles.
  • Leaving for university 9 years ago and her saying that the one thing she would like before she died would be for me to be baptised (sorry, didn’t happen, not likely to, don’t think she minded)
  • Sitting in the corner of her sitting room counting hundreds of pencils from her collection.
  • Bromley’s soap and lavender.
  • One of the only people I know who can bend the top segment of her fingers independently from the rest of her fingers.
  • Telling me that she had a special trap door in the middle of the floor that she kept children in.
  • Randomly announcing another vaguely famous person that we are related to.
  • Her smile when I brought back a picture from Trinity College, Dublin, of the memorial plaque to her father who died in the flu epidemic of 1918.
  • Turning to my brother during Star Wars when Yoda has his first light sabre fight and both saying ‘That’s Gaggy.’
  • A scrunched up face when I suggested that she was at least 10 years older than she was whenever I saw her.
  • Feeding her chocolate buttons, showing her pictures of her garden and her telling me and Dad that she loved us 5 weeks ago, the last time I saw her alive.
  • Sitting tapping her fingers together saying ‘People can be so kind.’

And so it is


Today was the day my father died.

When I went to see him on Monday he wasn’t very recognisable as my dad – he hadn’t been completely recognisable as the man I grew up with since he shaved off his beard 9 years ago – but the person lying in the hospital bed riddled with illness didn’t even seem like the person my dad had become.  But that person was still my Dad, so I held his hand, talked to him, stroked his hair, tried to give him a bit of water and sat with him.

The hospice has a room where you can paint, so I made a picture of an acacia tree and a mountain with wax and water colours.  I talked to my brothers and sister, distracted my nephew, played with my niece.   Yesterday was my niece’s birthday, so I told Dad that he could go whenever he felt like it, he didn’t have to hold off for the sake of us, but maybe not on her birthday.  So he waited a few more hours.

Some short memories:

  • Sitting on a swing in Westbury park with Dad pushing me from the front, I used to kick off his belly to get higher.
  • Sitting in a dark, damp caravan probably in Wales or Cornwall or Devon, lit by a crappy little bulb with hot chocolate made by Mum and Dad reading ‘The Dark is Rising’ – I still have to put holly over my windows when Winter is coming in to ward off the powers of the Dark.
  • Sitting in pubs with the Morris team with Dad tapping on an empty pint glass with his ring turned into his palm to make a better sound.
  • Sitting playing in his dusty workshop in Drayman’s walk waiting for Mum to pick me up.
  • Sitting (I’ve just realised that they all involve at least one of us sitting, but then he was quite sedantry) in the Space Cruiser at night, watching stars and stroms out of the moon roof – driving in the dark is always the best driving.
  • Sitting in the Grandmother’s house with the cat trying to climb up his legs and then just settling to curl up by his feet.

Waiting for the music to begin


18.32 30/9/12

I’m sat on the floor of Gate 11, Nairobi Airport.  I did try to find a seat, but they are all occupied by weary travellers, bags and people who for some reason keep replying ‘Si’ to me when I ask if the seat is taken.  The sun is setting behind the clouds over the airstrip painting the sky with oranges, golds, yellows and pale blue, a stark contrast to the greying clouds which looked so white as we flew through them.  I have about 4 and a half hours until my flight to London, which will bring me back at 5.55am.  As we were descending into Nairobi the Captain announced that the ground temperature was 27 degrees, but I felt a crisp chill in the air as I climbed the steps to the departure lounge.  I’ve managed to leave my hoodie in the downstairs flat so I have no idea how I will brace against the crisp Autumnal weather that October in London will bring.

The last few days have been strange, trying not to think about what I am returning to, but focusing on what needed to be done before I left.  Friday was quite entertaining with my classes – I’m hired as a year 3 teacher but have also been teaching singing to years 7 and 8 in a crafty swap with the PE teacher who has to cover music.  On Friday after covering Emili Sande’s ‘Next to Me’ and Maroon 5’s ‘Payphone’, I told the year 8s that they would have their regular teacher for the next few weeks because I have to visit my sick father, almost all of them told me to say ‘get well soon’ from them.  My year 3s seem quite excited to have the Head of Primary taking them and a few of them made me ‘We will miss you cards’ during their Golden Time.

On Friday evening some of the female staff took me to Diners – a restaurant towards the centre of the town next to our now regular Thursday take away place Sizzlers.  (This week for our chicken and chips with a film we watched ‘Never Been Kissed’.  I’m a little concerned how similar to the Drew Barrymore character I feel, especially now I’m writing about things, but no sign of Michael Vartan yet, which is a shame.)  We had a lovely meal mixing Chinese and Indian foods, before some of us headed off to Hotel Talapia next to Lake Victoria for a drink.  I think the bar staff were quite relieved that I ordered whiskey this time instead of a mojito as it takes them ages to make them, but they are a work of art.

Saturday was spent chasing up my plane ticket and organising my classroom – a job long over due.  I’ve sorted out the groupings for English and Maths, written out Monday’s timetable, arranged the planning, written some incentives to help my small people behave whilst I’m away and filled a draw with things that need to be organized when I get back.  There’s always a drawer like that somewhere and sometimes it takes me years to sort it.  Or failing that, I tip it all in the bin.

I tried watching a film with people downstairs – ‘Anchorman’ – but the DVD player was playing up, so I returned to my room to finish of ‘The Hatfields and The McCoys’, if you’ve not seen it, it’s worth a look, I think Kevin Costner won an Emmy for it recently.   People climbed the stairs to check how I was sporadically, but for the most part I kept to myself.

This morning I finally packed the suitcase with a few clothes, I’ve not got a black dress because Dad would like the funeral to be colourful on the whole. I watched more TV.  It’s a great distractor.  Three friends drove me to the airport; we sat having a drink waiting for the departure queue to reduce a bit and talked a fair bit of nonsense. I do know what is going to happen in the next week or so, I just don’t think it will fully hit me until I see my dad in a hospital bed.  Until then nonsense and distractions are a good thing.

When I got to Nairobi I realised that Mwanza Airport hadn’t checked my bag all the way through to Heathrow – apparently this is because BA isn’t one of their partner airlines or something.  I went to the transfer desk, they said fetch the bag and come back in 2 hours.  I went to fetch the bag and you have to go through immigration, which means a Visa and money I can’t really afford.  One of the airport workers fetched it for me, which cost me $5, then he said head to the transfer desk to hand the bag back in, but no luck again.  So I’m waiting. The floor is cold and I’m starting to get a numb bum, but no one is moving from their seats.  So I’m waiting.  Peering into the Duty Free and souvenir shops shows prices for tat I can’t afford.  So I’m waiting. Waiting for a seat, waiting for a plane, waiting for a lift from my uncle in the morning, waiting to spend the last few days of my dad’s life with him.

‘A storm is coming but I don’t mind, people are dying, I close my blinds.

All that I know is I’m breathing, now.

I want to change the world instead, I sleep I want to believe in more than you and me

But all that I know is I’m breathing, all I can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing now

All that I know is I’m breathing, all I can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing, all we can do is keep breathing.’

Ingrid Michaelson

20.51

After standing at the check in desk for an hour and a quarter waiting for someone to come and check us in, I have a boarding pass and a luggage label.  I was getting quite frustrated and concerned that I would miss my flight, until, after 45 minutes, someone asked which airline I, and those around me, was waiting for.  A handsome man answered that he needed Swiss Air and ‘this charming young lady needs BA’.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been described as charming before, but I’m going with it.

Obviously after that I had to talk to him a bit, if only to pass the time until the BA rep turned up (there’s only so many times you can hear  “They are just coming in a few minutes” before you start to go slightly mental.)  I discovered that he is flying to Zurich (I’ll see you in Zurich Green Wing fans) and then onto Bangkok where he has lived for 6 years.  Originally from Shrewsbury he now has more of an international accent and works for a large hotel company.  His job involves scouting around different parts of the world for new opportunities – either mergers and take overs or new builds – promoting the experiences in that area.  He’s just had a not so great time in Zanzibar and I know have a rough idea of where to avoid when I go for my 29th birthday in February.  He has itchy feet and is thinking about moving but has a good life, with lots of freebies, which he is reluctant to give up at this stage.   A pleasant way to spend 40 or so minutes, I have no idea what his name was and since Swiss Air had not arrived to check him in and I had my ticket sorted, I had no reason to hang around the desk talking further.  Perhaps serendipity will mean that he chances upon this blog, so if he does… Hello!  I was at the airport with you, send me a message.

Unlikely, but it is a small world, as was shown by the next person I sat next to, an Englishman presumably in his 60s.  Over the course of a 10 minute conversation with him I discovered that his father was in the same hospice as mine is, he went to school down the road from where my father grew up, his son studied at Newcastle University too and I might well know his son as he works where I used to and is in a band with people I know.