Monday, 7 March 2016

Mother's Day

Nowadays fifty three really isn't any age at all. It wouldn't be unusual for there to be at least thirty years ahead of me and yet I remember women of the same age when I was a child seeming old. Often with stout ankles, large tummies and bosom and grey permed hair. Sturdy women. So what's changed? Well, plenty! The beauty industry, media industry and health-care services all have a part to play and I am pleased about some of it (although not the media images that we have to compete with in our heads each day!). I have also come to understand that perhaps many, many women (and some men too) were suffering with undiagnosed or untreated thyroid issues. My conjecture is based not on scientific or factual evidence but on my own sturdy experience and is therefore, highly subjective and of course, just my own sturdy opinion.

I was going to write about this today and explain in depth about why and how rotten I feel most of the time, about how chronic illness has not only effected me but my family, partner and friendships, but now I've changed my mind and will write about other things instead. After all, why would I inflict my low or pain-filled days upon you? You may be having a really good day and just read it with interest (or disinterest), but you may feel low and quite frankly, there's enough feeling low without my ha'penny worth adding to it.  Now before I upset anyone, I am not saying that we shouldn't share our stories and I really do understand why folks share their situations online and often admire them for being so forthright and honest in their writings and how some folk can share their stories without getting into 'woe is me' mode. Sometimes by sharing our stories, a huge amount of good is achieved, people's attitudes are changed and massive amounts of money can be raised for charities that support other's with illnesses. I may well share my story one day, but not today. I do keep an online diary of how I am and how I am feeling, but it's kept within a closed community of people who are dealing with the same health issues and where we can offer support to each other.

I'm conscious that sometimes when I write my blog, it can appear that my life is all roses and no thorns, all sunny (even when it rains) and almost too good to be true. It's not, I have the same frustrations, worries and difficulties as everyone else, I just choose not to focus on them too much when writing my blog. Over the last three years Mr J and I have been faced with some of those big life moments that are highly stressful and we have grown together and stronger not because of them, but because of the way in which we have chosen to deal with them. Along the way we have both sat with our mothers as they were dying and had to deal with being executors, clearing parents' homes of 30+ years of belongings and memories and sold their homes, when all the while we were still grieving. Between us we've coped with moving in together, being made redundant, having very stress-filled jobs, moving house again and being rather poorly. Through all of these changes we have shared the constant security of each other's love, respect and support. And we have humour!

I suspect it was humour that led us to spend Mother's Day up to our knees in pee and poo. Well, not quite, but almost. Yesterday, as we walked around the yard trying to work out what we felt up to tackling, we decided that we really ought to finish clearing the reed bed filtration system of all the dead reeds and debris. We have mains water to the house, but have a private sewage system so it's our responsibility and in our interest to keep it maintained properly.
So we put on the super heavy duty rubber gloves, face masks and our welly boots and climbed over the ever-so-slightly too high fence (which could do damage if not approached with care) to snap off dead reed stalks and scoop out all the little pieces of reed that had fallen onto the reed bed making it difficult for the 'water' to drain through it.

 If you are not familiar with reed bed sewage systems, here's how they work (as far as I understand it). When you empty the bath, the sink or flush the loo, everything goes into an underground tank where the solid matter sinks and is broken down by bacteria into a (hopefully) harmless state and the liquid matter flows through pipes to the reed bed system. Here is slowly filters through sand, gravel and soil and the reeds growing in the reed bed do their magic and by the time the water seeps out of the base of the bed it is odourless and clean. I think it then drains off into pond for a final filtration and then soaks into the land and back into nature's water cycle.
It's a very clever system but it does require annual maintenance. It doesn't take long, in fact it took much longer to pluck up the mental energy to do it than the actual activity of clearing it. But that's the way with so many tasks it seems.

In the pond in the reed bed system (which I think acts as a final settling pool for the water before it drains into the land) I found a fabulous iris which is ready to be divided and replanted. That's a task for another day, but I was pleased to see how strong and healthy it looks and I am tempted to use some of the divided pieces in the herbaceous border. I will certainly save some for when we eventually create a wildlife pond in the garden.

After lunch we headed off to my sister's home to collect some compost. My sister has a horse and consequently has a huge compost heap of well rotted horse manure, bedding and leaves. She has said that she'd be delighted if we wanted to take as much as we can of it. No problem there, because even if I can't use it all in the garden immediately, we can store it for use over the next year or so, or to boost our own compost heaps. When we arrived and had exchanged hugs, she showed us the best place to start digging. We just stood for a moment or two and stared at the mountain of compost in front of us. It's about four or five feet high and around 30 feet long and, beneath the most recently added material, the heap is rich, dark, fragrance fee compost.

Actually, to be faced with such a large heap of free goodness for the garden was a bit overwhelming. I thought that the heap that I have mucked out of our stable was significant, but I stand corrected. The difference between what I already have at home and the heap at my sister's house is about 4 years worth of rotting down.

So Mr J dug out several bags worth of compost and he hauled them to the car in a wheelbarrow to take home with us. I tried to be helpful and fill one bag while he was taking another to the car, but it was heavy work and I wasn't strong enough to lift very much, so Mr J ended up doing the majority of it and I 'supervised'. So far we have hardly made a dent in the heap, but we can keep going back for more as often as we like.

Once home and after a well deserved pause, we emptied the bags of compost onto the garden. Six bags of compost don't go very far in a plot the size of ours, but I am so excited to be making a start on the vegetable beds. Even though I am fairly good at imagining how something might look, it is still very exciting when a plan starts to become a reality.

We were tired last night and after supper (yesterday's leftover roast chicken and our favourite vegetables roasted with rosemary and garlic) we had little energy to do much more than watch a bit of television, have a bath and collapse into bed. I like days like this, being out in the fresh air (fresh being a relative term yesterday), doing things that make a visible difference and have a positive long term effect and then rewarding our hard work with good food and sleep. It seems to me that really I have very little to complain about.

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