Somewhere to Retreat…

Hi there, apologies it’s been so long, between one thing & another I’ve struggled to find find the motivation to blog recently, mostly energy & concentration levels low due to ME, plus RA hitting my hips – you know the drill. But…. I wanted to post something about my most favourite place to be (apart from my sofa), & a tweet certainly wasn’t going to cover it. I suddenly realised I had something I wanted to say, so back to my blog at last!

Where to start? The short version is that my lovely friend Ian (pictured below), the owner of my local bar – The Retreat– celebrated 30 years in business this weekend, which is frankly amazing in today’s economy, & mostly down to the fact that they’ve consistently provided us with excellent food & drink, amazing staff & service & so much fun. Exactly what you want from your local, which coincidentally is 250 years old this year! 😊

I turned eighteen in 1988 which was the year The Retreat opened, and yes, I’ve been using it fairly regularly ever since! I’m still slightly stunned thirty years have actually gone by & I’m not completely sure where they went! I’m still only 27, right? 😁

Anyways… Why I am writing this here? Because particularly since I became chronically ill this place has been a literal as well as metaphorical lifeline for me, and it’s a massively important part of my support network, I’d go stir crazy without it.

It’s somewhere I try & visit two or three times a week depending on how I’m feeling. It’s somewhere that as a lone female & a disabled person I feel completely safe. Better than that, I feel loved. I get table service & have my own personal cappuccino mug 😍

Most of my friend network is based from here, The Retreat has always attracted a wonderfully eclectic crowd of people as regulars & long may this continue. Ian also employs some truly fabulous staff & I love them all dearly, they’re family.

Whether I drop in early lunchtime or later afternoon there is never not someone I can chat to. Sometimes after two or three days in bed you just need human contact, and this place is it for me, it always lifts me.

Because of meds it’s very rare I have alcohol these days, I haven’t drunk “properly” for over three years, but I’m still made totally welcome for my coffees or soft drinks. My wonderful GP is well aware I use the place & often checks in with me on appointments that I’m still getting out at least a couple of times a week – we both know how important that is for my mental health, it’s way too easy to become isolated when disabled.

Any good pub or bar is always a community hub, & The Retreat certainly fills that role beautifully, whether you need help with the crossword or to find a plumber this is definitely the place to be.

So, I absolutely wanted to be present as much as possible this weekend, and I managed both Saturday & Sunday afternoons. Evenings are unfortunately a bit beyond me. But I’ve spent time with some of my favourite people in my favourite place, & that’s what was important to me.

Have I come home and crashed? Horribly. Everything hurts, I’ve barely moved since I got home this afternoon & I’ll probably trade at least a few days for these two afternoons in a row. And you know what? It’s worth every bloody spoon I’ve used, pain included.

Because sometimes life has to be about more than illness & pacing & doctors & tests & meds. Friendships & love are so important, I treasure them & the joy they bring me.

I’ve said before this is my equivalent of the TV bar Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”. So I guess what I really want to say is not only Congratulations Ian, or “I bloody love this bar”, but mostly Thank you, for being my respite, my social life, my Retreat.

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Love Is All

A very beautiful & treasured friend of mine has lost her husband suddenly & so unexpectedly. I am stunned, and I am so sorry for her and her family’s heartbreaking loss.

I just wanted to take a moment to say please hold your loved ones close. Then hold them closer.

Make the words I love you the most common ones you use, and mean it. It is not a cliché to say not a single one of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Make your loved ones your only priority. Forget the extra shift at work, it’s so damned unimportant. Forget who put the trash out last, who cares? Hold hands, dance together, sing together, scream together, spend time with each other.

Talk about inconsequential things whilst looking at the night sky, talk about the important stuff whilst looking into their eyes. Smile in the rain, laugh in the face of storms. Time is the most precious gift we ever give to others, and it’s so fleeting.

Make your moments count, fill them with laughter, make memories. Remember this means all of those you love, not only partners and children and parents, but the family we choose for ourselves, our friends.

Don’t put off that lunch date, or keep forgetting to make that call while time slips through your hands like water. Love with all of your heart as fiercely and as loudly as you can, because when it comes down to what’s real it’s all that matters.

Love is everything. Namaste 💙

Unbreakable Bonds

As some of you will know the reason I’ve not posted for a while is that my Mum had been poorly, and she has recently passed.  She unfortunately suffered from dementia in the last couple of years of her life, and as anyone who has been through this knows you feel you’ve lost the person you love before they’ve gone. 
I found this so hard, but tonight I have sat quietly, lit candles and drifted through memories of her long and happy life, both those I share and those I will never know. I feel she has been here with me, helping me to remember the person I love, and it has given me so much peace. So I ask you to indulge me….

I remember seeing this picture of Mum when I was a child, and wondering that she was ever this young, glamorous girl.

image

We so often don’t think of our parents as people, having lives and loves and stories that started long before us.

I’m fortunate that Mum shared some of her story, such as starting work in the London Stock Exchange when she left school, and working there for over 25 years, becoming a Gilt Edged Securities Clerk, managing three girls under her and literally processing millions of pounds.

Or her travels to Kenya as a single woman in the 1950’s, visiting her dashing older brother, a pilot first in the RAF then privately after the war. I will never forget her very matter of factly telling me how she had hidden in the back of a car for hours from hostile attack during the Mau-mau uprising, very much my Mum, always understated!

There are some lovely b/w shots somewhere of her holidaying in Jersey before she met Dad, and I would love to have known this beautiful, bright career woman.

The Mum I knew had such warmth, kindness, generosity and love. She had stopped working, but she never stopped moving. Cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, embroidery, card making… A truly creative and talented lady.

Just from my recall in Randwick where we grew up she volunteered at school doing reading and crafts, helped run and was treasurer of the playgroup, became Brown Owl for the Brownies, and was an active member and fundraiser for the Mothers Union and the Women’s Institute  – all while raising two slightly lively(!) girls.

In later years she moved to Great Bedwyn, became President of the WI for a time and was a massive support to The Bedwyns Link Scheme, an active village voluntary scheme providing cross community support locally to all who needed it for over 15 years.  Wiltshire Life presented her with a well deserved Carer of the Year award for this tireless work.

The sheer number of cards we have received, sharing memories of her and mourning her loss have been an amazing testament to the hearts she touched along the way. Nearly all of them mentioned her smile, which to the last could light up a room. 

Mum I will miss you more than words can say.  You truly were an inspiration. I learned from watching you how to be fair, how important it was to be caring and generous with others. 

Through my adult life you have been a gentle constant presence, never judging, just loving and welcoming as always. I’ve probably taken that for granted sometimes, but you have been like a light in the window that has always been there to welcome me home and make me feel loved.

I want you to know how much I love you.  It’s that simple, and that huge and that magical.  That bond is something that time and the universe can never break.

Always, your loving daughter, Denise.