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14 December 2019 The Sign - A West Country Christmas Story
A West Country Christmas Story
A member of my U3A Book group gave us all a copy of ‘The Sign’, A West Country Christmas Story. It is a simple but beautifully presented A5 booklet recording a story which was taken down verbatim from an Exeter story teller prior to his death.
The warmth and accent of the local Somerset people is captured beautifully, but even more than that is the embodiment of how they make something their own. This is a trait I have identified in many different aspects of life, from the Pub quizzes to their attitude to life in general.
An example from the pub quizzes which frustrated me at first was that the correct answer (according to encyclopaedias, Google and the rest of the world) will not be accepted but folklore or local tradition will be given precedence. There is a huge resistance to change in these matters. So the choice one is faced with is to either accept the local view or be prepared to lose the quiz.
It was upon reading ‘The Sign’ that this observation crystallised into focus for me.
The illustrations and presentation of this story is so charming that I have scanned it onto these pages in the hope that it will bring pleasure and a smile to others too.
To view the booklet visit Illustrations and click on the items numbered 2-11 in turn.
14 December 2019My Mobile Phone Community
My Mobile Phone Community
I knew that changing my phone was going to be a challenge and I kept postponing the decision. My old iPhone was too small, I was trying to do too much with it and my eye sight was suffering from using it too much. So courageously I took the plunge and made a complete change. I could not afford the new larger iPhone which would have met my needs but have cost soooo much more than I could afford or justify so I have chosen a simpler phone. Did I say simpler? It is just different, and I have had to learn a whole new system. I’m getting there now but it has been time consuming and painful.
Along with many other things I had been putting off was tidying up my contacts on my phone. Having moved home to Somerset over 2 years ago my phone was full of contacts from my previous lives over 760 to be precise; My private life, my private practice, work contacts and names I had recorded as useful for my own business development.
Working through all the contacts was like walking through the last 7-8 years of my life, all the changes, the cast of characters in every scene of my life. Now here I was using the ‘delete’ button to effect my decision about whether or not these people would ever cross my path again.
To be honest, some of them I didn’t know or couldn’t recall if I ever did! Many dated back to my work at Milton Keynes Council where it had been important to develop contacts to assist in my job of supporting parents. Why had I kept them on my phone so long? I was made redundant from the council in March 2011 but continued to work on a freelance basis delivering courses. Many of those contacts were from that time, many were also made redundant, Childrens’ Centres closed and all the knowledge and skills of so many dispersed into new careers and unrelated fields of work. I’m not going back to that now, usefully mindful I hit the delete button and let go.
Next came my work for Connection, a Homelessness Charity which had bid and won the Prevention Matters Project for Buckinghamshire County Council. Deleting the phone numbers of the Bucks IT people gave me particular joy. Lovely people but they could not get my laptop to work and they would not change it. Again it reminded me of a time of frustration and impotence in a role which ticked a box to say that the local authority were doing something for isolated and lonely elderly people at the same time as de-commissioning all the free services available and re-commissioning new services which did not meet anyones needs. Had I been free to make the right choice for me I would have left but my husband became ill and struggled to work. Finally it became clear that he had to give up work. I had to stay and work through a very unpleasant time as we could not afford for me to stop work and my retirement date was affected by government changes.
Time for a new life strategy. We moved home to Somerset following a major investigation of where was most suitable for us and particularly Mick’s needs.
It was particularly freeing to move all those contact details into the Delete box.
My group of friends and neighbours in Stewkley where we lived were a great support. Many of my friends were younger than me and there was a lot of laughter. They continued to support me after I left, letting me stay when I returned to do work in the area. Those phone numbers are definitely still on my phone but time and distance is refocussing and our experiences are no longer shared. No more meeting at the pub, attending community events, Barbecues, April fools jokes, shared allotments. Lots of happy memories.
Then there were the friends that we just lost touch with. They had moved on as have we and those close relationships that were the centre of our world for a season went on their own journey and there was a parting of the ways.
A friend of ours died in August. He was Micks best friend and our Best Man when we married and he and his wife who became my best friend lived with us when they first married until they got their own home. We had children at the same time and our boys grew up together. Things didn’t work out for them and they divorced, she died of cancer on my 50th birthday and he found the challenge of a career and family too hard to cope with. He became an alcoholic, lost his home and family and died alone in his flat in Cambridge. No one knows when he died as the police had to break in as he had not ben contactable for some days and found his body.
It was hard to delete his details from my phone. There was so much of our own lives tied up in his story. However, I have been able to add to my phone the contact details of his two sons whose young lives were so entwined with our own. Many changes in their family and family circumstances had meant we lost touch with the whole family but were able to re connect at the funeral and look to the future.
Mick tells me that he still has a voicemail from this friend on his phone. He cannot bring himself to delete it.
It has been over a year since my sister died but I had held onto her profile on my phone. It told a story of all the hospital stays she had, different ward telephone numbers, maps to different hospitals and her neighbours. There were 5 different contact profiles for her, her social care, her home, her friends, her carers, her children, ……
Time to let go again.
In Feng Shui terms clearing out space in our lives either physically or metaphorically creates the space for new things to come in, people, events, opportunities etc.
So along with the deletions and the loss of the old phone, I have a new phone and new additions, a new grandchild, new friends, new opportunities. A whole new story to live and record.