New Life, New Hope?

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At the time of writing, it’s Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar when Our Lord rose from the dead. A feast day of hope and renewal.  A time when we remember that he died for our sins and his resurrection the sign and the hope that, we too, will live on after death in the Kingdom of Our Father. This weekend particularly, this is very much on my mind as the death toll from Coronavirus is set to exceed 10,000 souls. Almost a thousand people a day succumb to this horrid disease.

In November 1974, a few days after Bonfire night, I was hit by a car when crossing the road on my way home from my grandparents, whom I visited and had tea with every day after school, and who I can safely say I loved more than anyone else in this world, then and now. I don’t remember getting hit, but I do remember seeing a car quite a distance away under the old “Skew Brig’ in my home village of Laurieston in Falkirk. I thought it was safe to cross, but there was a car in the dip of the hill going at speed which I didn’t see, and he obviously on this dark dreary , rainy November night didn’t see me either, and he was going too fast.  I’m told his name was William Guthrie. He was drunk. Witnesses who saw the accident say I was hit and hurled up into the air, and as I came down my dufflecoat caught on the car, and I was dragged a few feet and landed near the local chip shop. It’s silly but that made me laugh when I was told afterwards. They said to my parents that I was conscious and talking- but I do not remember any of that at all.

What I do remember quite vividly, despite this being 44 years ago, was that I woke up in the ambulance. Suffice to say, not inside my body. I became ‘conscious’ and was observing, calmly and quietly the scene before me. If you imagine the ambulance driving forward, my physical body was lying on a stretcher or some kind of bed, to the rear of the ambulance, my feet facing the front as it took me to Falkirk Royal Infirmary . I was asleep, with my head resting to the left, and long hair, lying to the side. I’d blood on my face, and was tucked in with a red blanket and black belts keeping me strapped in. I saw I was being watched over by a man, probably in his fifties, wearing a navy blue ribbed sweater with a belt around his waist, and black trousers. He was facing me with his back to the front of the ambulance, his right arm outstretched holding onto a rail of some sort, above his head, as one would find on a tube train. He was simply watching over me as I slept. Me, on the other hand, that is the consciousness that is me, or I, whatever, was also watching- but I was in the top left hand corner of the ceiling, and looking down on the whole thing. I was 10 years old, however, the me that was the observer, was much older. If I close my eyes and think, what I am now, I am me, still, and I was as I am now, then, the same consciousness. There was no panic, no fear, just a calm observance and I had no more concern for my physical body than I would have if I’d been  observing a stranger at a bus top.

I got a bit bored with what I was seeing, and I observed the two windows on the back doors of the ambulance, and I ‘zoomed’ down so that I was at eye level so I could ‘see’ what was outside. I saw a car following us, and in it was my dad, in the passenger seat. I recognised the car, as it belonged to a priest that my dad used to borrow it from once in a while . His auntie was the priests housekeeper. It was a green Fiat. I wondered who it was that was driving Father McCanns car. He was a stout man in a black suit and looked a bit dour. My dad on the other hand, was at the time slim, with ‘Brycreemed’ slicked back hair, and he was wearing his favourite shirt which was a metallic blue, mad of shiny material. He just looked out of the side car window and he didn’t seem to see me.

If you imagine a ten year old having been in a road accident, and suddenly seeing their parent, you may imagine tears and the need for reassurance. However, whilst I recognised my dad, I couldn’t have cared less. I was not ten years old in that consciousness, but so much older. There was no sound I remember. It was like looking at CCTV without audio. I’d no emotions either surrounding my dad, or me in the ambulance.

Bang! Suddenly I was awake, being wheeled furiously through grey double doors, with people on either side, like you see in films, all I could see too were ceiling lights passing before my eyes. I was so angry as I’d gotten a fright, and was not happy at being bashed on a bed, and woken up, and moved from calmness to chaos and noise.  I progressed in to a large room with lights. I just wanted to go to sleep and for all these hands to leave me alone. They examined me from top to bottom and I was then sent for X-rays. I must’ve fallen asleep again.

I awoke later, and found myself in a single bed, side ward, with the door to my right. An old nurse who looked like she was in her sixties in her uniform and cap was knitting quietly. She was there all night. I didn’t for a second even consider where I was, or ask. I just wanted to go to sleep. The nurse kept waking me up, and taking my blood pressure. Every so often after I’d fallen asleep she’d take it again and wake me up and I was getting angry. Ive never forgotten that lady, as she never said a word to me, Just went back to her knitting, but she must have done this all night I thought. Ive no idea how long. I fell asleep again.

The next time I woke up I was in a different side ward with a huge dressing on my abdomen. When you are ten years old they don’t tell you ANYTHING!  I wasn’t aware of anyone explaining what was going on, except there was a gradual realisation that I’d been hit by a car, and that I’d had to have my spleen removed as I had been bleeding internally. There were no MRIs or CT scans in those days so I guess taking my BP was the only way they’d have known. I received visits by aunties and uncles with gifts of chocolate and comic books. My favourite was the “Shiver and Shake’ and this comic is now forever ingrained in the memory of my road accident and my recovery. I still have the Christmas Annual for 1974! Two other memories are forever ingrained also. The nurses having to put in a catheter whilst I wasn’t allowed out of bed, and eventually when they took my stitches out, and what seemed to be a rather large paper bag out of my wound, which was a drain. It itched like hell and I was told not to touch it, but I couldn’t resist just trying to relieve the itching with my fingers under the dressing. The stitches were like hard spiders legs across the scar. I stayed in hospital another week then was sent home. I knew I’d lost this thing called a spleen, but Id no real idea what this meant.

Eventually I learned that I can live without the spleen but I have reduced immunity and prone to bacterial infections. Until this last week Ive never had to take the now obligatory low dose broad spectrum antibiotics that is now recommended for splenectomy patients. I’m taking them now as a precaution as if I got covid-19 I’d have a ‘very bad outcome”.

After my accident I didn’t really think about my ‘out of body’ experience until my brother and I were watching a documentary on the subject a couple of years later. As I watched, I said to my youngest brother that the same thing happened to me. Of course, he went and told my dad, who was next door in the kitchen making tea, that I was telling lies. My dad came through and questioned me about what I was watching and I told him what had happened the night of my road accident. He then asked me further questions, and I asked him who the man was that was driving him in Father McCanns car behind the ambulance. He looked a bit strange and then explained that, a friend of my mums, Mrs Kennedy, had run up to the house and asked if all my mums children were at home. Mum of course said that I was still at my grandparents. She said to mum that she thought, I had been hit by a car and was being taken to hospital. Immediately my dad ran out of the house without his jacket down to the street, where I had been put in the ambulance –  but they wouldn’t let him see me. He explained who he was, and one of the policemen who’d been summoned to the accident also, had offered to drive my dad in Father McCanns car to the hospital. They then followed the ambulance . It was because of my description of PC Spence driving, what my dad was wearing, and that they were indeed directly behind the ambulance that made my dad believe me.

When my ‘consciousness’ or whatever it was, soul, spirit, popped out of my physical body, I was not in the least afraid. It was simply a calm, peaceful observation, with no ‘pang’ or regret at being out of ‘myself.’ My body I understand is not ‘myself’. I do firmly believe that there is life after death, and that our soul, or essence of our true selves moves on and becomes part of the ‘whole’ , God, or “All that is”.

So, that’s why I’m not afraid of dying, although I am anxious in this current awful Pandemic because I don’t necessarily want to end my living. I want to play golf into my eighties, and paint and read and take long walks with my dog. I know if I die, that which is ‘myself’ wont give two hoots. I will move on and continue to exist. However, I forget the ‘before’, as we all do, when we are born. And then I dare say, we are allowed to ‘remember’ in the hereafter.

I only ever talk about my Out of Body when I’ve had too many glasses of wine, but I recall it as if it were yesterday, and friends are accepting that at least they believe, that I believe, that it happened. I explain it to them in the way of what would happen if one of them had a car accident. What is the first thing that they would do if they pranged or were pranged by another car? They’d get out of the drivers seat and go have a look at the damage. Is their car repairable or is it a write off? I believe this is what happened to me. I’d obviously by the time I was in the ambulance been bleeding internally for some time. I’d have died if I’d not been taken to hospital and treated in time. “Myself’ that which is me, that makes me unique, that is, my soul, simply popped out to have a look at the damage, and thankfully decided that I wasn’t a goner yet. I could go on about this experience all day. The main thing is, is that we continue. We go on.

William Guthrie, the driver of the car who knocked me down on that dark November night, was suffering according to reports by the police, The reason he had been drinking was because his wife had left him, and his business, a small garage of which he was the sole employee, was bankrupt. He’d come to the hospital to see me but was refused by the police. I’m sure he would have been charged with drunk driving. It was the last straw.

I was told a few days later that he committed suicide.

I didn’t think about William Guthrie until in my forties,  when I recalled the night to a new friend I’d met who was very spiritual. She asked me if I’d ever prayed for him. To my shame, I never had. I was only 10 when it happened, and life went on.

Years later, I was somehow led to books on Angels and it was suggested that all of us should ask our Guardian Angel their name, and, “William’ was the name that inexplicably came to me. I’ve only just recently made the connection. I believe William went to a better place, where he ‘healed’ and is now either an angel looking after me as ‘karma’ or he’s In Heaven where he is being looked after.

My worry about Coronavirus therefore is not about dying , but whether I will fight hard enough to stay here.

 

The Worst Year Ever

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The world is in the grip of a terrible Pandemic. A novel Coronavirus- called COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China as early as November 2019 and rapidly spread. The virus – following the path of what we would still call the old trade routes- emerged in Italy in January thereabouts, much the same as the Black Death emerged from the same path in 1647. How history seems to repeat itself. Italy, Spain, and most of Europe have been in Lockdown for months now but still the deaths continue. The lockdowns – a means of social distancing is all that we can do to slow the spread. There is no vaccine, nor cure, no drugs , nothing that can stop this. Covid-19 positive cases are in the millions across the globe and deaths are in the thousands.

In February, to most Brits, this virus was still something that was happening “abroad’. In March the first deaths were establshed in the UK as a result of COVID-19. The disease targets the lungs, and ends in “ cursed bilateral pneumonia‘ as one Italian doctor initially wrote. Science says that 80% of people who contract the virus will have mild symptoms. A continuous dry cough, high fever. The elderly, and those with ‘underlying health conditions” such as diabetes, kidney disease, respiratory disease have ‘bad outcomes’, and these make up the majority of deaths. However, it doesn’t always bode well for the young as some with no underlying health conditions have already succumbed to it. It is quite frightening and we live in a state of anxiety.

The UK was finally put in lockdown by the Government on March 23rd. We are asked to : “Stay at home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives”. Despite this, some individuals aren’t staying home, and still gathering in parks, and meeting friends . The current trend is that the death toll from COVID-19 doubles every few days. There is a level of stupid in this country that is unrivalled by any other country in the world. Fines are being issued by police, who of course should be focussing on more important things. I could go on about the Coronavirus,, but there is plenty written eslewhere. In fact it dominates every media outlet on the planet, No one is unaffected.

The main point of this post is that I am one of the vulnerable or ‘at risk’ due to the previously mentioned underlying conditions. Lack of spleen and type 2 diabetes. Am I frightened? Yes, but not as much as I probably should be.

 

Happy Holiday!

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Today, Saturday is the first day of my two weeks off in August. I took two weeks in June to visit my family in Scotland, so I’ve already had a little break. The last few weeks at work in between though means I’m keen to empty my head of work stuff and see this next few weeks as “recharging my battery” time.

What to do? Well, I cant afford to go anywhere so I shall be going to ‘Hameldaeme”. Scots for home will do me. That means my back garden. Not terribly exciting by comparison with my facebook chums who post photos of places exotic, photos of their food eaten by sunsets in Cornwall or Greece, but a peaceful haven nevertheless and it costs nothing.

To me though, being a “home bird”, my back garden is my refuge. I love to sit and just watch nature go by, my little dog at my feet asleep, his head resting on his much loved tennis ball, just thinking about when I next throw it, and not much else.

I’ve managed at last to get the birds to come to my garden, after being bereft of any birds since I moved here four years ago. Initially it was entirely gravelled over, an old lady lived here before and it was too much for her. Gradually over the last few years, I’ve discovered a vegetable plot covered with tarpaulin and gravel, now a bed for beetroot, garlic, chard, onions, and soon to have cabbages and sprouts. The side beds are now a mix of annuals and perennials and I’ve planted roses too, entertained by sweet peas that come up every year, festooned with colour and is much more of a cottage garden. Since I put in a wildlife pond, having taken up at least 16 large square slabs, I now have more butterflies and bees than I can count.

Still, very few birds arrived. I thought perhaps it was the presence of my old cat, Smudge, but his hunting days are over now that he is 17yrs and 11months, according to his vet records. He used to bring me gifts of field mice and frogs when I lived in “Midsomermarplesland” . Luton you’d think by comparison would be the opposite . Living with houses overlooking me as opposed to beautified countryside, where my neighbours were sheep and cows.I always say though, if you have a garden, all life will come to you.

So, I read up a bit on birds and how to get them to my garden, and the thing that did it, was my cutting down a very large “Photinia” tree, called “red robin”. The branches were so big I was just lazy and dumped them by the side of my garage, next to a compost heap. The pile is about six foot high and six foot wide. I thought that eventually it would rot down. This is adjacent to my garden pond and the ‘wildlife’ area I created where I sowed plants for butterflies and bees. It’s an untidy mess, but wildlife doesn’t care about aesthetics .

I purchased “proper “ seed, such as “Robin Crumble’, fat, seeds and mealy worms, as welll as a garden feeder mix to appeal to the ground feeder birds. Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago, when I saw the pile of photinia branches and leaves moving! At least 20 or so small birds were roosting there, checking the place to see if they were safe to descend and land nearby to get the food. It was rather like watching a waterfall of brown water flowing down against a red backdrop of rock.

I’ve  since established that they are a mix of wrens, juvenile red robins, and blackbirds. The odd wood pigeon also visits, and amazingly rather than belt the little ones out of the way, just mingles amongst them, so they all get their fair share. It’s costing me a fair bit to buy the seed mixes, but the sheer delight I feel when I see them more than compensates. Even Doogle the dog, sits and observes rather than chase them away. It’s amazing how animals know when to leave other animals alone.

I now have a camera trained on the feed site and I’ve managed to film them bathing and splashing in the shallow end of the pond, in the water bath I made with a small plant saucer, and drinking water from an old shallow feeding bowl.  They also feed under the conifers, next to my veg bed and seem to be more daring now.

They say that if you bring birds into your garden they will take care of the pests. Well, that’s true it seems. Next to the pond there is a fence. I noticed a few weeks ago that a multitude of snails had made the gap between two panels of wood their home. In my new outlook of leaving nature to itself, this morning I looked and could only see empty shells. So, did the birdies feast on a snail banquet or did the snails just move house?  Who knows.

At least my beetroot, chard, and cabbages might be safe this year. Unless the birds dig up the seedlings.

Oh my.

My Red Balloon

I wrote this lullaby for my neice Rachel Conroy when she was a year old. She is now 19, with a 1 year old daughter of her own. I thought it was about time that I wrote this down.


My Red Balloon

I’d like to fly in a red balloon, and it will take me to the moon.

Where I will build a little house, and I will have a cat and a mouse

When I go to the moon, in my red balloon.

I’d like to sail on a silver star, and it will take me very far,

Where I will climb the highest trees, and I will swim in deep blue seas,

When I sail to places far, on my silver star.

I’d like to float in my rowing boat, and it will keep me dry and afloat,

Where I will grow a mermaids tail, and I will swim with a giant whale

When I go afloat, in my rowing boat.

I’d like to dream in a submarine, and I will keep it tidy and clean,

And I will be all cosy inside and I wont need to bother with the tide,

When I go to dream, in my submarine.

Instead I will sleep in my little bed and dream of the stars and the moon instead,

And I will dream of mermaids tails, of big tall trees and giant whales,

When I lay my sleepy head in my little bed.

PODCASTS GALORE!

Whilst podcasts aren’t new, they seem to be on the rise although statistics of the moment show that only 11% of people listen to them still.  I think the first were launched alongside Apple’s Ipod, which at the time seemed to be the only proper way to access them other than having to navigate various technological hoops.  I discovered podcasts when I was given as a gift my first ipod, on leaving a particular job. Best present I ever had and I still have it.

Now working in education, I have been researching mobile journalism, and alongside seems to come the resurgence of podcasting, and my colleague Terry Lee, RadioLaBs Station Manager has fired up my enthusiasm with his podcast “Fantastic Noise” A podcast all about making radio. Great stuff. Podcasts are relatively easy to do (if you know what you are doing of course), but I have a lot to learn.

This morning, I was reflecting on how much I would like to do a podcast at the same time as thinking about writing a new short kids story, “Mrs Meticulous” .  (My brain works in a weird way) I then remembered my previous stories and rhymes that I wrote for my family. Why not , rather than try to have these published do a Podcast instead? Indeed, why not? It will give me a positive project to embark on in this record breaking hot summer  during  recess at University rather than twiddle my thumbs. Without the students, it’s like a ship without a sea! I can’t stand having little to do.

As they say, “Watch this space” .

From little acorns?

 

“The Fidgety Flipszgoogler”

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I’m finding loads of rhymes ‘wot I wrote’ about twenty years ago. Here’s one for today.

The Fidgety Flipzgoogler

kooky_crazy_tropical_exotic_bird_cartoon_photosculpture-ra4a4cf9fe6604f9b8d86bd36ab65b593_x7sa6_8byvr_512Have you ever heard of the Fidgety Flipzgoogler?

He’s a truly remarkable bird,

That cannot keep still for more than a second,

And don’t you think that’s absurd?

The Fidgety Flipzgoogler lives in a nest

made of wool in a very high tree.

But, no one has seen the Fidgety Flipzgoogler

Because he won’t keep still you see.

He darts and runs from pillar to post,

And speeds like a race car away.

If ever you see the Fidgety Flipzgoogler

It will be a very special day.

It’s true, I once saw the Fidgety Flipzgoogler

As I came home one day from school.

He was standing alone on one leg eating crisps

By the side of a sunlit pool.

I said as I stared, “It’s the Fidgety Flipzgoogler!”

He was an amazing sight,

But he was far too quick for me

And flew off at the speed of light.

No one believes that I saw the Flipzgoogler,

They said it was a lot of blether.

But I have a secret and nobody knows,

 I have a golden Flipzgoogler feather!