Reunions to remember…

I am a sentimental kind of gal. Today, I have a few things to talk to you about in relation to reunions and anniversaries. I think it is important that we mentally mark these kinds of dates in our mind… and/or physically celebrate them. It is life and special things happen and we decide what to celebrate.

This weekend, I had a Uni Reunion. It had been 6 years since we had left Uni and 3 years since our last reunion! We always say we won’t leave it as long next time. But you know how it is – life gets in the way and before you know it, time has zoomed by and the 5 minutes since you were last swigging beer at the pub, turns into 3 long years!

It was great to see the gang. But these 3 years seemed to have been a vital 3 years of change, in the road that is life. I had the fridge stocked with wine and beer for the midday arrival of the gang and was greeted with responses to drink orders of, ‘Oooh can I have a cuppa tea?’ or ‘An orange juice would be nice.’ The wildest member of the gang, who spent 3 years drowning in alcohol at Uni, now doesn’t drink much,  has a fiancée and a baby on the way!  Funny how things change. But it was nice in a way that we all got on so well sober (this may be the first time we had tried this!) and we are still friends in our modern lives.

My Uni friends come from all over: one from France; one from Doncaster (now living in Leeds); one from London (now lives in Northampton); one from Milton Keynes; one from Reading  – so you can imagine the lovely recipe of accents that emerge when we are together!  Naturally, when English students get together (well most of us are – one did Construction and one did Media), we played Scrabble! Again, wild times! 😉 I, embarrassingly, came 4th – and with 2 non-English specialists and one with English as her second language, I think that is pretty appalling! Haha!

The night led to cheap and cheerful drinks and food; karaoke; dancing and more drinking! So just like the Uni days! It was great and music always helps to remember things I think. One song and you are transported back to that crazy, student night 7 years ago.

So yes, we all had a great time and even had a pub breakfast to cure the morning after feeling – the change was this time, that I actually had to do jobs and chores after, rather than lie in my lazy student bed, putting off that Shakespeare essay until tomorrow!

It is also, almost, the end of term, and I have seen many speeches today of people leaving and retiring. They were all reflecting on the last year, last ten years or last 30 years. It is emotional to move on to the next step, I think. Which is important, we revisit  when we can. This can be literally by returning to the place; meeting the people we were with; or just, simply talking about the memories we have from that place.

Lastly, a year ago today, I started writing this blog! A whole year! I started off writing a post a day, which was easy because I was off work. Now I like to write weekly where possible and I am still enjoying writing about the randomness of my life and life in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank anybody who has read this blog; whether one post; lots of posts; part of a post. In addition to people who have liked a post, commented, followed or recommended it to anyone. These things are great for a writer to see – but I also know there are a lot of secret readers out there, who take a gander and then go. It all counts and it is very exciting that I am writing words – stringing them together and someone is reading what spills out of my head!  So thank you. I will keep writing! And hopefully, you will keep reading 😉

Celebrate today – it may be a year since you quit smoking. A month since you went on a great evening out. A year since you saw a family member. Ten years since you left a job. Twenty years since you left school. Get in touch with people, relive a memory, get the photo albums out (we also did this at the weekend!) and enjoy a reunion – even if it is just you and a memory! 🙂

XSXS

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Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.

This was the Daily Prompt for blogging today. Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you. Mmmm…. I couldn’t resist as the thing  I was thinking about earlier, I was considering writing about anyway.

I once had an internet relationship. It seems like a lifetime ago really and it was when I was in my late teens and quite naïve. My main relationships with the internet now are this blog, my love for eBay and amazon, and my hatred for when the internet crashes.

But no, I actually met someone online and then went on to meet them offline, after talking for a year. The whole thing seems so surreal now and like I’m talking about someone else. I started talking to this lad through MSN chat. You remember that? I used to think long and hard about my username and font colour – depending on my mood (my friends and I spent many an evening having ‘groupy’ chats, which sounds so wrong now but was so cool that we could all chat at once!) Anyway, I’m not sure how this lad ended up adding me but we started chatting. Just friendly banter, after the initial A/S/L question (Age sex location for those who didn’t use the internet in the early 2ooos!)

It was great to talk to someone online, whom I didn’t know. We chatted about everything and anything. He was funny and loved to chat like me! I hadn’t really found a man who seemed to love ‘chatting’ up to now and it was exhilarating!

It became a bit of a routine to chat every night, but a good one. It was like having a relationship but just in the early evening. At this point in time, I had started University so this fitted in perfectly. Lectures in the day, online ‘boyfriend’ in the evening and then either going out or sleeping at night. It became quite intense to be honest, like a drug. I had not met this person but I felt very attached and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction. Before, you say, it wasn’t an old, creepy man – because he used to put a webcam on so I could see him. No, I am not talking about anything untoward here – it was all perfectly and innocent and he only showed me himself on webcam as a way to prove who he was, I guess. I’m not telling you this to admit something sordid and sexual. I am telling you because I think it is interesting how human nature can form relationships without physically meeting.

We spoke on the net for a year, eventually exchanging mobile numbers. We used to text and chat on the phone then too. It was very thrilling to receive the said texts and phone calls. A stranger but someone whom I felt I knew well.

We had both broken up with partners, which was I think was why we became close. We decided to meet in the flesh. Scary though. No screen of separation. No coming up with witty online and text replies; it would all be real-life and real instant chatting.

He was local so I went to meet him in a shopping centre. I was safe and took my sister and her friends with me. We had a nice day. It was ‘nice’ and not really a lot more to be honest. We got on and I was attracted to him, yes. But it was far more exciting when it was all online and after that nothing more came of it. He got a new partner and I got with my current boyfriend. No more chats and that was it.

I don’t regret it at all. It was a fascinating experience – like a whirl wind, cyber love. That of course, I now realise was no form of love whatsoever. But simply internet banter and someone at the end of a screen to read, listen and type comforting and confidence building comments back. Something we both needed at that particular point in our lives. And something that I will never forget.

 

I invite you to do the same and tell us something that not many people know about you………….. 😉

N.B I am not advising or promoting teenagers to go and meet people they have met on the internet. I was 19 and had a good head on my shoulders. I spoke to this guy for over a year and, as I said, I managed to get proof of who he really was. If you are going to take the step to meet someone like this, then do what I did and meet them in a public place and take people with you.

XSXS

Sorry, who are you?

I have a relative recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I won’t go into too much detail as I have some family members who don’t like family business going on the world-wide web. But, it is a horrible condition and I’d actually written some poems about it a while ago. Remember on Coronation Street a while ago when Eileen’s bloke Paul had a wife with Alzheimer’s? I became quite interested then and wrote a poem from, in this case, the woman’s point of view and then the carer’s/male’s point of view.

Last weekend, when I visited my relative, he didn’t know who I was. 😦 You can prepare yourself for this all you like, but you are never fully prepared for that look they give you. No recognition. No love. Just blankness. He also thought I was another relative dressed up as someone else in order to fool him. I was caught between laughing and crying. It is difficult because you don’t know how much you should try and jog their memory. He was getting frustrated you see, as he knew he should know who I was.

It made me think of my poems again. See what you think:

Sorry, who are you?

(From a wife with dementia to her husband)

‘Sorry, who are you?

I like that picture.

Yes I’d like some orange

 Juice.’

‘Sorry, who are you?

I like you a lot but

why have you given

me orange juice?’

‘Sorry, who are you?

I hate that picture!

Let me tell you a story. It’s

really funny.

‘Sorry, who are you?

I don’t feel like telling a

story, I just want to go home!

Sorry, who are you?

Where is my orange juice?

I’m parched, I want it now!

It’s meant to be a rambling poem in terms of the form, structure and content. A lot of repetition and forgetfulness  – as these are the kind of things you here in the old folks’ home. Here’s the husband’s response:

I remember who you used to be

(A reply, to the woman with dementia, from her husband)

I remember who you used to be,
so happy and content and carefree.
Taking care of others then,
And we always watched the news at ten.

Your long hair flowing, you took such pride,
No imperfections, then, that you had to hide.

Now I take care of you
Since it took over, I have to.
I don’t resent it but it’s not easy,
‘cos I remember how you used to be.

Your eyes showed a knowing smile,
Your clothes sang an elegant style,
Your chatter and laughter filled the room,
From that day we were bride and groom.

Now, you glance the room, as if it’s not home,
But it was you who made it, made it our own.
I still love you as ever before
Even when you forget who we are,

I can get by each day you see,
because I remember how you used to be.

They still need a bit of work but I think they capture the thoughts and feelings overall. At the old folks’ homes I visit, you really do see some funny habits. There is one woman, who used to be a head teacher. She, now, patrols the corridors of the home all day, closing windows, moving things, checking on people, telling them they are smart etc. It is like she has regressed to that job role now. Once a head teacher, always a head teacher. Sad as it is, she seems happy. It was funny when I last went, because she put her head around the corner and gestured me to come to her with a pointed finger – just like a teacher would to a naughty pupil. I was tempted to go, but she soon forgot and walked off!

There is another woman, who is lovely. She sits there all day and it amazes me because she has her hair done nicely, wears her jewellery and smart clothes. One day, she said to me, ‘excuse me, can I say something? Aren’t you pretty?’ That was nice to hear and I thought ‘ooh I like coming here!’ Another day, she started the same, ‘Can I say something?’  I thought to myself, ‘ooh the compliment’s coming again.’ But she said,’ your husband is really handsome.’ Haha, it was his turn that day, ‘my husband.’ I had to check she didn’t mean my dad! But, luckily, she did mean my partner!

I recommend going to an old folks’ home if you can. It is great to go and talk to someone, even if just for half an hour. It brightens up their day. My boyfriend’s mum visits one of her relatives regularly and now takes her puppy border collie. He has a profound effect and made the old people interactive – and one woman spoke to the dog, who hadn’t spoke in years!

So people with dementia can still have a good quality of life, they need understanding and visits and patience. And a relative in disguise occasionally it seems! 😉

Praise Song for Your Mother

Since it is Mother’s Day weekend, we all need to think of our mothers, mums, mother-in-laws and other mother figures – past and present. What they do for us all year, how they help us, how they make us laugh, support us and most of all that they enrich our lives.

There is a praise song poem by Grace Nicholls called Praise Song for My Mother which celebrates all the reasons, very personal reasons – why her mother was special to her. ‘Was’ because her  mother has passed but she still lives on in this poem all day everyday. The use of ‘mantling’, ‘fathoming’ and ‘streaming’ shows that the love goes on and on after death. A beautiful poem really:

Praise Song for My Mother

You were
water to me
deep and bold and fathoming

You were
moon’s eyes to me
pull and grained and mantling

You were
sunrise to me
rise and warm and streaming

You were
the fish’s red gill to me
the flame tree’s spread to me
the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell
replenishing replenishing

Go to your wide futures, you said.

Grace Nicholls

I love this poem and it inspired me to write my own version for my mother. I tried it with the past tense – and like Nicholls’s I think it is more powerful like that. But I just can’t tempt fate as I am lucky enough to still have my Mum here with us today  – so for this purpose it is in the present tense. My Mum is still all these things today, as always. See what you think:

Praise Song for My Mother

You are
music to me
clear and soft and singing

You are
perfume to me
fresh and sweet and clinging

You are
tea to me
warm and strong and comforting

You are
the wendy house to me
the joy of scrabble to me
the fish in sauce/baked beans
satisfying satisfying

Always drive carefully, you say.

Samantha Gray

I think I will print a copy of this poem off for my Mum – or even the blog as a whole, since she is a techno-phone and there is no way she will see this 😉 My boyfriend’s Mum (who I suppose can be called ‘mother-in-law’ but I always joke there is nothing ‘in-law’ about it as of yet lol), will read this though, I hope, and know that she is very appreciated by my boyfriend and I 🙂

Appreciate mothers everywhere…they gave us life. So we can not only thank them, but share our lives with them and just generally celebrate life with them this weekend.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL!

A Day of Birth

….no I am not talking about Obama since it isn’t a birth of a new president, he has done the job for 4 years and I hope he continues to do it well! On from that, I want to talk about birthdays in general. Mine is on Friday (the big 27 but hush hush 😉 ) I thought I would write this now since I have plans on Friday… off out for a meal and drinks with lots of friends yippee!

Isn’t it strange how we celebrate birthdays? I mean it was the day we were born. A day of birth. We didn’t really do anything; our mothers did! We can’t even remember it unless we have a super power heightened memory like I talked about in my post: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/remember-that/. Our mum’s should get a celebration like ‘I gave birth day’ – yes I know there is mother’s day but we could re-jig and have a day for others elsewhere like a ‘child’s’ day. But I guess the appeal of birthdays is that it is your own, your day. Unless you happen to have a mate with the same birthday or, like my partner, you are a twin and have to share your birthday (they also had a friend with the same birthday when they were growing up – how unfair is that? A three way shared birthday!) It is your day, though, to feel special and to celebrate another year alive…. which I also find a little odd because it is almost like people are saying ‘well done for surviving another year!’ or ‘well done for coming one year closer to death!’ Haha. It also gets me for special birthdays especially, people congratulate you – like a card saying ‘congratulations on your 40th’. I mean congrats for what? They haven’t done anything, just managed to avoid getting run over by a bus, have a terminal disease or get a fatal case of food poisoning for 40 years. Well well done you! It’s not like they have got a new job or graduated from university – just simply survived and stubbornly stayed on the earth for 4 decades!

Anyway, you’re going to get the feeling that I don’t like birthdays and that is so not true. I just find the whole concept a bit odd that’s all. I do, though, get quite excited about birthdays. I love when friends and family have birthdays and I’ve bought them that special surprise present that they will love or even better if we are going out to celebrate. I get very excited when my birthday is looming. I am not that materialistic and it is not the presents (well it is a bit, I am human after all and we all like to receive things!) but normally I have such great plans (that tend to extend for two weekends) and it is a time when I get to see all of my closest friends and family. This week is a very busy birthday week for my family actually – me, my uncle and granddad are all in the space of five days! Quite nice really.

This year, me and my boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend are having a joint birthday do – makes sense because our birthdays are four days apart and we have all the same friends. So it should be good! Then the weekend after, I am going out with my other group of close girly mates for a meal and it is also my Aunty’s 50th birthday party (she has survived half a century, get out the champagne!) so there is a reason that I call November ‘birthday season’.

My favourite birthday was my 25th. I know I should probably say by 7th when I had a huge party or my 18th because it was a ‘special’ one but my 25th was just so great for so many reasons. I had to go to work but I was asked to go on a school trip with some special needs kids. It was hard work but a great day (except from when I left the camera in a mosque and didn’t realise until I was the other side of town and had to race back for it – putting on my head scarf as I went! That is part of it now – a funny memory.) So yes, the working day was different, a break from routine (good for me but not the SEN kids!). I was a bit gutted though because the kids back at school had been doing solids, liquids and gasses in science and I had suggested to the teacher the best way they would understand was by using chocolate (well of course!) as it is a solid and melts to a liquid. I convinced the teacher to do this and he said he would for my birthday – then I ended up going on the trip! When I returned though, he had saved me some melted chocolate! I had badges, cards and presents off colleagues and got home to flowers waiting in the doorway. I also called to see my family and then my boyfriend took me for a meal later that evening. I had also been for a meal with friends the weekend before and my boyfriend’s family came to visit the evening after. So I saw everyone I wanted to and just felt very loved and special. Other birthdays have been great too and I am lucky that none of them have been bad (fingers crossed Fri will be good too!) but that one just sticks in my mind as everything going right (apart from the camera incident!)

So here is to birthdays, raise a glass. When you are apparently celebrating becoming a year older, but it is in fact a day older than the day before! But why miss a chance to celebrate being ‘you’ and made to feel special?

Oh and remember, birthdays are nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake!

XSXS

 

To my 14-year-old self….

Image result for paper pen

Today I was inspired by the Daily Post: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/ and I chose to write a letter to my 14 year old self… see below:

To my 14-year-old self,

I know you now prefer to be called Sam and not ‘Samantha’ because the full name seems too formal – this doesn’t change and you will be called Sam well into your adult life. Maybe ‘Samantha’ when you are naughty! It was funny when your five-year-old self got very annoyed at people shortening your name ‘My name is Samantha, not Sam!’ We all learn don’t we?

I know all you can think about at the minute is getting a boyfriend and hanging out with friends.  You realise into your twenties that there is always something that you will be striving for and working towards. That is life. By the age of 27, the good news is that, you have most things sorted – a relationship, a great circle (or many circles!) of friends, a family you see frequently, and have good relationships with (well most of them!) and a job you are happy with. You also own a house with your boyfriend. But you will be striving to get your writing career off the ground, writing books, stories, poems, blogs etc. You were never ambitious at school and just wanted to get the grades you needed for the next step. Never really knew what you wanted to do! You manage this and go onto sixth form – where funnily enough you will end up working at that school when you are 23! Your lack of driven ambition doesn’t really change either…. as long as you are happy doing what you are doing you just swim along nicely – not a bad way to live your life I suppose. This is probably why you haven’t done more to get your writing out there yet. You realise too, though, that work/life balance is something that is very important to you and something you will always ensures happens.

My advice to you as the 14 year old me is to not worry so much. You seem to be going through a teenage depression phase at the minute. This won’t last too long and you will soon realise that you can be happy and confident and get hold of this life thing! Do not be concerned with what people think of you – you will never be short of friends. The ones who do think badly of you don’t matter anyway. You will probably buy CDs because your mates have; fancy singers because other people do and you will probably go drinking on a Friday night with the ‘cool’ people because you want to fit in. You need to do this. You will then realise years later that you are one of the ‘cool’ people after all. You are liked by a lot of people and making the effort to stay in touch with people from your past will pay off. The Granville ten year school reunion will be amazing and you will never feel so happy and confident. You will realise how far you have come and how happy with your life you are. Oh and don’t worry about the whole boyfriend thing yet – you won’t get one until you are 17 anyway! So just enjoy flirting with boys and chatting to your friends about them!

You have always been a home gal and that won’t change really either. You love nothing more than a day or night in at your own house. Buying things for it and attempting to decorate! But your love of home could be a problem earlier on: the university years. You will spend most of your first year yearning for home and not enjoying the experience! So from my experience try not to. Try not to go home every weekend – you will probably settle in easier and save money too. Make the most of it because otherwise you will find you are finally enjoying the lifestyle and then you have to come home for four months anyway! Oh and in your summer job, don’t fall asleep on the job and get fired! Just a tip…

Keep working hard at school – put your heart and soul into English. This is the subject you will focus on, be the best at, and will end up making a career out of. Also try and start writing some poetry now because you will make life for the 26-year-old me much easier! On another note though, try hard with Maths and Science still. I know, I know, you only want a C and you hate the subjects. But they are still important and you will realise this when you are trying to add up bills etc and help kids at school in these subjects!

You won’t realise what line of work you want to do until you are 23. This is okay and you will have fun working in different environments and with different people. If a job comes up at a certain pet shop, though, don’t take it! Or, I guess, we can’t control the path of life so you probably will take it. But try and stand up for yourself more and quit on the night of the staff meeting where you are publically demoted and humiliated. (Don’t wait a month after this like I did). This may help you get over it more quickly because as you near 27 you are only just starting to get over the horrible experience now!

You will pass your driving test when you are 23. This is a painful experience for all concerned. Two years worth of lessons, four instructors and five tests later you will pass!! My advice would be to chill out a bit and go out practising more…. oh and start your lessons a little earlier! We never have been very practically and logically minded have we? But as I say, you do it eventually! Don’t give up!

I wish you had kept a diary when you were 14. You do from the age of 16 to 21 and they are fascinating reads now! I remember how you feel at 14 though. As I said earlier, this isn’t your happiest time and you are just coming into yourself. Remember when you were 11 and that boy fancied you? You thought to yourself, ‘oh I am too young… why can’t this have happened when I was 14?’ you thought you would be so much more grown-up at 14. I bet now you are thinking how mature you will feel at 27… Well I don’t! I still feel too selfish and immature to have children myself…. so we will see when the 35 year old self writes to you! My scary age is 30 at the minute. And I bet for you it is 18! Adult age…. but I promise you, you will still feel like a kid for many more years yet. Your 20s are great because you get to the grown-up thing whilst acting like a kid too. That’s why I am dreading my 30s; you can’t get away with as much!

Anyway, it is great that I can speak to you like this. When you are in your early twenties, you will discover a book and film called The Time Traveller’s Wife and it is great. The man in that gets to time travel and talk to his younger or older self. The thing is he can never change the course of history. And I guess I can’t either. You won’t pass your driving test until you are 23, you will take that pet shop job just as you will get fired from the summer job in a factory. You will be homesick at the start of uni. It is all meant to happen but the good news is, it happened, you survived it and learnt from it. And you are happy and secure in the present day.

Love your (almost) 27-year-old self.

P.s – you will still love Spice Girl’s songs when you are 27!

Hope you enjoyed that and I guess you know me better after reading that! It is like writing to another person, I really enjoyed doing it. I recommend you try it too!

XSXS

Not Always Worth it…

Well tonight guys, I am off for a meal with ex-work mates. No, not at my previous school but at Woolworths. I can’t remember if I have mentioned to you that I used to work for them…. right til the end when they went bust. Ever since we have all met up a few times a year for a cavery meal and a few drinks. There may have been a gap when we first left, since we had to wait until everyone had new jobs and could afford it! The meals are actually a family affair for me, as funnily enough, my Mum and sister both worked there when it shut down. My Mum had worked there years and was the one to get me a job after Uni and sister was a Christmas temp (very temp!).

this was the actual branch I worked at… just after we closed. It is now a PoundStretcher!

Working there was interesting. Yes, interesting, that is the best choice of word. At the time, I loved it but when I look back now, I didn’t really know what it meant to have a job you loved. It was awful hours, twelve-hour shifts, evenings, weekends. A lot of physical labour too and you got a lot of crap off the customers. Don’t get me wrong there was some lovely customers too… but they aren’t the ones that you moan about over dinner and a glass of wine that evening or the ones you remember years later. I do, however, remember a certain woman from when we were working through our last days. Stock was shrinking along with out patience and dignity. Customers were vultures and just wanted a bargain.. at any cost. (Never mind the 30,000 people losing jobs!) There was one lady though who donated £20 for us. To buy some buffet food to cheer us up, as it was Christmas and we were losing our jobs. Such a lovely thought and I will never forget that.

I will also never forget the time I found a pooey nappy on my department. I used to run the clothing department. We were only a small store so kid’s clothes was all we did. It was enough. A Mum clearly had to change a kid’s nappy one day and slid the nappy under one of my shelfs. Not at item I would want to sell! disgusting! And it is the likes of this that you get when you work with the public! I had to get a plastic bag and fish it out. Yul. I was definitely not on enough money for that! Occasionally too, I mopped up wee (but I told myself it was apple juice as I did it!) and one morning when I opened up (I used to run the store on Sundays) and some of the ceiling had caved in and bits of mushy ceiling were all on the floor. Dear me. We had to open a little later that day.

There are hundreds more stories from my short 1 and a half years there. I’ll share some more with you another time. Just one more though because this is really funny. I actually though of this the other day because, at school, we were on about people and pupils in particular who tend to have intelligence OR common sense but not both. As I said, I used to be in charge on Sundays, meaning I used to be in charge of quite a lot of teenagers, who needed a job whilst at sixth form or college. One boy started as a christmas temp and I was told he was extremely clever and got straight As… iI didn’t think he would have any trouble working a till. Turns out we didn’t even get to that hurdle easily. I told him at the beginning of the shift to put a bag in his bin for rubbish. You would know what I mean right? I even gave him the roll of rubbish bags as I said this. He then put the whole roll of bags in the bin! I said ‘no, just one bag in the bin’ meaning to line it. He ripped off one bag and put that in the bin. I think I walked off at this point! No common sense… or any kind of sense at all!

I’m sure, we will relive some of these stories tonight….. hope you enjoyed the insight into life at Woolworths and realise it wasn’t always so ‘worth’ it!

XSXS

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