Thursday, 30 April 2009
I don't recall the first night Sam asked me out but I obviously said yes. I drove to his house after work and gave him a goodnight kiss. It must have been about 10.30pm, which in those days was early evening to me; now I am usually tucked up in bed with my fleece pajama's on and my teddy bear hiding under my arm. However, the romance had started and I was on cloud nine. He had a nice car too, and back then that mattered! The eighties were very much a status decade, the years of Dallas and Dynasty, giant shoulder pads and big hairdo's, not forgetting pedal pushers, yuppies and filo-faxes. Oh, they were the days. His family were lovely, still are. I grew fond of his parents right from the start, decent people with big hearts. They welcomed me into their family with open arms and I never felt uncomfortable whilst in their house. It wasn't long after Sam and I got together that his family moved house, a posh, tree-lined street in a beautiful and respectable area. I felt proud to be a part of his life. We went to pubs and nightclubs, a far cry from my life today, and he remembers me vividly in a yellow cotton dress, quite revealing if I remember. Fortunately, he has no photographs! I felt safe with Sam. He always wanted to hold my hand, lead me, ask my opinion first rather than making the decisions himself. He appreciated me and always seemed determined to please me. There was many a night I would be at his house when he would follow me home, just to make sure I got back okay. I guess you could call it love.
One of our favourite haunts was a local wooded area, a tranquil little road which led to a derelict old manor house. We were guaranteed privacy and as I remember, that was where we did most of our courting. We talked in those woods, about anything and everything. He tells me that the area has since been bulldozed and turned into a golf course. Not much privacy now, just far too many balls. I remember his fascination with a set of semi-detached properties being built on a main road; his idea was to buy one and for us to live in it. The houses are still there but the road is like a speedway now. This I wasn't sure of and I then began to realise just how serious this lovely man was about our relationship. Yet I was only 18. I wasn't ready to settle down with someone. I wanted to live, explore, not the world particularly, that was too ambitious for me, but to get to know myself better than I did. It was in the high days of my squash playing. I wanted to go places, literally, with the team I was currently playing for. Then one day we went to a park, my memory fails to recall where it was but I remember him mentioning we could get engaged.
From then on I knew things had moved too fast. In the short space of time that I had known Sam, we had fallen in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But there was a difference. He wanted to do it right there and then. I wanted to do it in about five years. I was young and confused. A part of me wanted to make the relationship work yet a big part of me knew that I wasn't ready. The timing was all wrong. For one, I knew if I went home and told my parents that I had got engaged, my dad would probably have had a ducky fit! I just wasn't mature enough to have a committed relationship. And so I broke it off. He may not believe me, but I was as upset as he was. He was the safe option. I wanted danger and excitement. What I do remember is getting home that night and crying. Crying for the life I wanted, and knowing that I wasn't ready to live it.
Sam couldn't let go. There were many times I would be on my way back from the squash club and I would suddenly find myself being flashed at in my rear view mirror, a car desperately wanting to attract my attention. I knew it was him. I wanted it to be him. Most nights I continued home. Some nights I would pull over and we would talk, just for a short time. There were even some nights when I would be disappointed because he hadn't followed me. But when he failed to follow me for a couple of weeks I knew that he had given up on us. And I had to move on. Twenty two years later, I am more happy than I have ever been. Perhaps if Sam and I had stayed together we would have been happy too. But my life would have been so different; no lambs, no fields, no farm; and most importantly, no Farmer and no Amy. Who knows what lies around the corner for us? We go through life, struggling with the bad times, sailing through the good, and we get to our destination realising that life had its reasons. The path of our existence carries on; we just have to hope we have stayed on it.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
So I contacted him. I was pretty confident it was him by his photograph but I didn't want to seem forward. And when he emailed me to confirm it was indeed him I felt rather pleased with myself. I have never been reunited, albeit in cyberspace, with anyone before. I felt that 22 years was a long time to have been out of touch, and both our lives have moved on considerably. We caught up a little, he reminded me of a little yellow number I used to wear when I was 18 and slim and I reminded him about the car he owned of which he thought was a Rolls Royce. Unfortunately, it wasn't. But it was a nice car all the same. I remember his family appearing stunned when he let me drive it. We only dated for about 4 months. But after 22 years, four marriages between us, one child (mine) and various addresses, I am looking forward to my new friendship with an old friend. I feel all grown up now. Yet I still felt 18 when I realised it was him. Maybe if he agrees, I will tell you all about those four months which obviously had a large impact on my life.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
I like nibbling Amy's wellies. They don't taste as good as milk but when I'm hungry, anything will do.
This is my mummy. She's very friendly and has the same number as me sprayed on her wool. It's number 153. The Farmer sprays numbers on mummies and lambs to identify us and make sure we don't get separated. Sometimes Amy carries us back to our mummies if we get lost.
This is me and Amy. I love her so much, especially when she has a bottle of milk. She plays with me although mummy would rather I didn't mix with the humans. I don't really know why because they are so sweet.
This is me posing for the camera again. I'm very photogenic, don't you think.
I like playing tag with my friends in the garden. When we have had our milk, our mummies let us play out for a little bit before bedtime.
This is our mummies taking us to bed. We were all very tired after having lots of fun. It's great being a pet lamb and having the garden all to ourselves.
These are some of my other friends who live in the shed. They don't have a mummy anymore. When they are a bit bigger, they will be moved into another shed which will have its own garden.
I hope you have enjoyed my photographs. Now I have to go; mummy says I could do with a baaaarth.
Friday, 24 April 2009
The best car in the world, in the Jigsaw's eyes!
Not sure what this wild flower is called, if anyone can help do tell.
On a walk down our farm road the other day I was stopped in my tracks when I came across this.
One of my pet hates is litter. I see no point in dropping litter on the floor when most of us have pockets, bags or perhaps a bin within walking distance. I find it disgusting, disrepectful and incredibly infuriating. When someone has had the cheek to drop litter on my land, my eyes tend to change from the hazel colour they currently are, to a bright, flaming red, and I begin to grow little horns on the top of my head.
Occasionally we get people in the holiday cottages who obviously don't ask questions about where their accommodation is situated. Perhaps it is not obvious to them that the farm in which they will be staying for a week, maybe two, does actually come with a farm-house, a family and animals. Some of the families who come to stay on the farm, a SHEEP FARM nonetheless, often have children who are afraid of dogs, the parents often not liking the four legged creatures themselves. Yes, we have experienced this recently. A very respectable family (I should add) who have a lovely brood of kids probably frightened of their own shadow. Desperately wanting to see the lambs, and feed them (ARRRGGHHH) but want absolutely nothing to do with my gorgeous collies, two beautiful dogs who wouldn't harm a fly (unless the fly was a burglar of course). So we have to keep the dogs away from them. And we have to put Sparky on a lead as she is rather friendly and likes to introduce herself. And what do the kids do? "I don't like it," until daddy picks them up and shoos away the naughty doggies. It? IT? I know who I would be shooing away. Tip to the dog haters: take your kids to Spain next year.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
The years have been kind to us. Living with my late father-in-law did make life difficult and looking back I wonder how sometimes I did not pack up and leave. Apart from my love for the Farmer, not to mention my love for the farm, this is Amy's home and so long as the Farmer and I can manage the farm, it always will be. There have been times when shutting myself away has seemed a good option, but reality has always prevented me from that space, a life where I have no choice but to look after a child with autism. As you know, Amy is my life; she would still have been my life had she not been diagnosed with autism. I feel I have managed on my own for the past four years, albeit with support from various sources, but there are certain areas of Amy's life which are now proving difficult for me to manage alone. The Farmer is a "man's man", as incredible as he is, he leaves the child care to me, perhaps a generation thing. And as my own family live 200 miles away I cannot call on them to babysit whenever I fancy some respite. To be honest, I wouldn't ask them if I lived down the road. I take my responsibilities seriously and without making a rod for my own back, I have built up such a strong bond with Amy that we almost understand each other. Of course, no parent will ever fully understand their child, we are all individual and deserve a right to live our own lives, but I think I know Amy pretty well.
The niggling feeling I have had recently made me somewhat apprehensive about my knowledge as a parent of a child with autism. As each day breaks, Amy teaches me something else about this incredible condition and I have come to realise that, even though I say I understand her, know her, bond with her, there will be issues arising in the future for which I will need support. Fortunately, we have a wonderful doctor. She listens; she hears you when you speak; she waits for you to finish; she makes suggestions, not assumptions; she is kind; softly spoken, and above all, a friend. She has referred Amy's case to a specialist. After all these years she agreed with me that it is necessary Amy should be under a consultant. Of course we will have to wait a while to be seen, our National Health Service is quite famous for it's waiting lists, but I have managed this long on my own so a few more months won't hurt. Our children deserve the best care; there are no exceptions. Ever.
Monday, 20 April 2009
It was one of those priceless moments of embarrassment the other day, when Amy posed the question as to why she uses more toilet paper than me, when my bottom is clearly much bigger. We were in the supermarket, comparing Andrex. I have been trying to stop her using half a roll each time she goes to the loo, all of which I end up rescuing from the U-bend when she realises the toilet has blocked. If I had a pound for all the times I have had to put my hand down a toilet I would be a self-made millionaire. All her life, she has been fascinated with toilet rolls. Personally, I can't see the fascination but there must be something worth a mention, for my daughter doesn't get excited for nothing. We used to buy charity toilet rolls but the last batch were somewhat rough on the rear end. I know we were doing our bit for the environment an' all, but if God allowed me one luxury in life, I would hope it could stretch to soft, strong and very long.
I do remember blogging about it a while ago but just to refresh your memory, we had a wonderful little box parked up in one of our fields a few years ago, commonly known as a Portaloo. Due to a collection of work men erecting a mobile phone mast, it was necessary for them to have somewhere to go rather than the surrounding bushes. An extremely useful idea if ever there was one, and a very convenient way to sit and read the paper, probably intending to have a famous skive. But for Amy it was a complete novelty. We spent many an hour trudging up to the field just so she could use said Portaloo. The smell when one opened the door was enough to fertilize the fields alone and the sight which met desperately averting eyes was indescribable. But, there she was, quite happy at this strange little box positioned on our farm. The last time we ventured to the alternative downstairs loo, I noticed someone had written on the side above the toilet; "Welcome to the T.U.R.D.I.S". It wasn't long after that I became fascinated with Doctor Who.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Of course it's not all doom and gloom. All my life I have wanted this life style and now I have it. So money or no money, my dream came true. Each day that dawns reminds me of all those dreams, all the time I spent staring into space, thinking about what if's. Having conversations with Anna has brought back my twenties, she herself only 22. What a fast life I led, and what a loner I became. I had few friends apart from other couples my first husband and I used to spend time with, and I spent two years living on my own after my divorce. But life wasn't tough, I had a good job, a nice car, plenty money in the bank. Yet now I have more riches in my life than I could ever have wished for. It goes without saying that one of those dreams was to have my dad drive up to the farm, get out of his car and give me one of those incredibly squeezilicious hugs he used to dish out. But as I lie in my warm bed, fields full of healthy lambs, potential profit skipping about the rugged land, I smile; a big Cheshire cat grin just like the wonderful man that made my dream come true.
And so what is Love? It is only these past nine years that I have truly come to understand the definition of this powerful word. When I will die for someone, reach out to the moon for someone, even pick up a spider for someone. All my life I have experienced love more incredible than life itself, from my parents, siblings, my husband, and of course Amy. But when my head touches that pillow, when my body has become so relaxed that it cannot move a muscle, when my eyes close and my mind sees a blank space, I can tell you I have found love all over again. And those little baby baa-lambs can skip, hop and jump to planet Mars if they wish, so long as they do it quietly.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
The dogs sleep in the boot room but we do let them roam into the kitchen when we're in the house. For the past five days I have walked round both rooms with a cloth. I have threatened to buy a packet of sanitary towels or at least some extra large knickers. And as I mop, the Farmer tells me where. One of these days....
We hope she will be receptive this time. She's a fine collie and is in perfect condition right now. However, we have her best interests at heart (as well as our wallets) and we promise that we won't dare force the issue if it isn't meant to be. We have been told by an expert breeder of working collies, that Sparky is one of the nicest looking bitches he's ever seen. He has also told us how trainable she is. So I had an idea, and it didn't hurt before you ask. I will teach Sparky how to use a mop. And the cooker. And while I'm at it, I'll show her where the kettle is too. I'll keep you posted on what happens. Who knows, this weekend I might have some positive news rather than just a tale of two dogs that sniff each other's butts.
Monday, 13 April 2009
I have often mentioned my dad in my posts; my love for him pours through the thoughts I have as I feel him near me, his beautiful smile forever etched on my mind. All my life I wanted to make him proud of me. I wanted him to see me as someone other than just his daughter; perhaps a woman of achievement; a person who had found success. Yet throughout the 31 years of physical touch, he only ever saw me as me; CJ, the dreamer, thinker, the middle one. It is during the past few years that I have come to realise these thoughts may just have been assumptions. I have got to know my dad, I have been fortunate enough to learn about how incredible he was, how amazing his life appeared to many. He was a person of few words, a man who did not need to say much in order to get his message across. I don't remember him ever telling me he was proud of me yet I know, after almost 8 years of his passing, that he was. He has shown this to me on many occasions since and I feel one of those occasions was the other night when my surroundings became all too familiar.
It can often be frustrating, however comforting, to know that this house holds many secrets I may never discover. But I knew there was something else within my space recently when the leather recliner creaked a recognisable sound as though someone had sat down and was making themselves comfortable in the lounge with me. The chair once belonged to my parents and is still known as "dad's chair". My eyes naturally averted from the television to the chair, an empty space drowning in atmosphere. My attention was drawn elsewhere when the television cabinet echoed, a sound I have heard before but this time so much more distinct. Another noise from the back of my head followed by a tickling sensation as though someone was running their fingers through my hair; a loud knock against the piano, an unmistakable knock against the window which at two floors up, is impossible for anyone to touch from outside without ladders. And the final straw was another noise I have heard many times sounding like someone standing at the lounge door, hovering in the hallway, perhaps waiting for an invitation.
To me, it was obvious. To others, there could have been a scientific explanation. All I could do was smile. I cannot say for sure that it was my dad. But I can say that whoever presented in the house that night was indeed someone who follows my work. There are numerous souls who I know it could be, yet my instinct kept pulling me back to the man I would give anything to hold just one more time. My dad continues to inspire me as I write my novel. There are so many experiences I want to tell as I think about the way I can fictionalise these events, and how loved ones continue to be a part of my ambition. He was proud, of all his children. I know that in my heart. So strong was the energy in that room that the battery on my mobile phone completely drained. Having only recharged it that day I was somewhat surprised to hear the warning bleep and find the little battery symbol flashing in the top corner. There are certain areas of the house where a bulb lasts only weeks, the light fitting at the bottom of the stairs is one of them, just near the lounge door.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
This was the beautiful sky the other night. I couldn't resist standing outside in the stillness, capturing the natural formation of our ever changing planet. I looked towards the sunset, then to the moon for a close up. The different shades of pinks and blues fascinate me. As fading light filters in from the sun, picking up pastels and stunning layers of vastness above our world. I imagine our loved ones watching through the light, admiring the splendour they once tread upon. Amy said, "goodbye sun, hello moon," the words she sang in my ear as the planet walked on by many came into view and we were once more graced with the presence of night.
Talking about night, I was graced with another presence recently of which I am sure was a sign of someone's pride towards me. I shall tell you in another post though; it warrants its own.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
The Farmer did however get a treat on Tuesday afternoon, a steamy one at that. A friend rang to inform us that Union of South Africa was due at our local station within the hour, knowing how enthralled we are at steam trains. For the Farmer, they bring back fond childhood memories; for me, it was an opportunity to take some photographs with my Tamron lens. Being a mere under forty-year-old, I don't have any recollections of the steam trains but I have to agree that they are a rare and beautiful sight. Amy and I trundled down the field towards the railway line where we met the Farmer and Anna on the quad bike, both the Farmer and I armed with cameras. My hands somewhat frozen, my hair blowing to smithereens and Amy wondering what the water tasted like in the troughs. Lambs frolicked about the fields and inquisitive ewes stared at our little group, a tad unsure of our intentions.
The Farmer took Amy closer to the line whilst Anna and I stood away so that I could get the best shot with my long lens. The train came into view, steam drifting behind it, the driver and passengers waved to us on their journey to Edinburgh. I don't know what the sheep thought but I imagine the Farmer was secretly reminiscing; his fascination being born again as for just a few minutes, he became the boy of a memorable past. He turns 60 this year. I often remind him how lucky he is to have lived in these beautiful surroundings for all those years but I think he just takes it for granted. A comfortable feeling if ever there was one.
The sky was a stunning shade of pink the other night and again, I ran outside like a tourist ready to snap. The weathervane is an old one, fixed to the hen house roof when the Farmer was a little boy.
Monday, 6 April 2009
I got rather up close and personal to a tulip. A friend gave us some seeds last year and we planted them in pots in the greenhouse. They have grown quite beautiful. The second picture obviously shows a ewe with her lambs, one of the many we now have skipping about the farm.
My mum was married to my dad for 38 years before he passed and in all that time she never took off her wedding ring. Whether it was superstition or just her way of staying loyal to the man who stole her heart, it had a deep impact on me. When my first marriage broke up in 1997, the first thing I did was remove my wedding ring. I felt that it meant nothing anymore, it was no longer a symbol of the vows we had made before God. I still have that ring, tucked away in a box.
My wedding to the Farmer was conducted in a civil ceremony. The vows were still made, the love was and still is undying and, even though my dad did not give me away, it was one of the most beautiful days of my life. The Farmer placed a gold band on my finger and I vowed never to remove it. It was a symbol of our commitment and loyalty to each other.
However, I have developed an irritable skin condition which has got underneath my gold ring and caused my skin to crack open, become itchy and really quite painful. I had to remove my wedding band. For the first time in almost six years I have no ring on my wedding finger. I knew I might have to take it off at some stage because I could feel the rawness of the skin and rubbing cream on it seemed to just irritate it more. Regrettably I took off the ring, telling myself constantly that it's only a gold band and even though is a symbol of my marriage, it does not mean that my marriage is over. I love the Farmer with all my heart; apart from my dad and my brother, he is the only man I have ever truly respected. I cannot envisage my life without him and I am sure Amy can't either. I have decided to have the ring made a little bigger as it is obvious that it was too tight, and once the skin condition has cleared up I will ask the Farmer to place it back on my finger. I know many women don't wear their wedding ring but I always have; so what I want you to tell me is that it really doesn't matter, that it's just a piece of jewellery and my heart will always belong to my Farmer.
Saturday, 4 April 2009
My arms reached for the lamb; a stillness in the air as I wiped away fluid from its mouth to help it breathe. Miraculously, the lamb shook, a pitiful movement that could have caused me to smile had I not been already overwhelmed by sorrow. I rubbed the baby's tummy, cradling him on my knee, watching his eyes open from the sleep he so wanted to have. His body was waking. He moved his head and tiny ears fluttered from side to side. The ewe rose to her feet, determined to take back what was rightly hers. I set the lamb down by her head, witnessing another beautiful moment between mother and child. The lamb survived. He now stands robustly, in readiness to suckle.
You may recall two lambs which Amy named Smartie and Malteser. Smartie still sits near his mother, watching for the human with a baby's bottle. Malteser, however, no longer depends on our help. He didn't make it. Life was too much of a struggle for him to continue his wait. It is a difficult experience when we feel we have not done enough for a small creature, depending on our nurture; but in some cases, the circle of life is beyond our control. We have to stand back, and move on.
Friday, 3 April 2009
My torch shone through the fog which had quickly descended upon the farm; my pace hurried as I felt a little vulnerable in my short journey to the floodlit house. Yet when I am sitting amongst mother's to be, watching their eyes, seemingly peaceful, it is like sitting amongst nature; at one with a world we did not create, yet are responsible for maintaining. I feel at peace with them; they make me feel safe, as though they will protect me from unwelcome thoughts. And I feel grateful to them for being there. Giving them my assistance in their hour of need is the least I can do. The Farmer has been at one with nature all his life; I for only 8 years. Yet I feel I have known this life for ever. And I hope for ever, I will.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
I was doubtful however, that she understood her own exclamation recently, when she called the Farmer a turd. I was, for want of a better word, gobsmacked. My initial reaction was anger, not really at the fact that she had called her dad a name, but the name of which she had used. She was ordered to apologise of which she did, before I gave her the lecture about using language and especially in our house. My threats to tell her teacher were very much understood and the tears welled up in those big malteser eyes. Obviously a word she had heard elsewhere, her desire to practice it at home didn't quite go according to plan. The following morning she referred to her outburst as "that T word". On this occasion, no more questions were needed.
Even though Amy has a secure home and a loving family, she still thrives on being assured of our adoration. Mine in particular. She will never forget being told off, seeing an angry face or feeling the brunt of my frustration. I have often been reminded of occasions where I have had cause to inflict discipline, be it taking away privileges or ordering her to her bedroom. She still asks me why I would not forgive her for something I can't even remember happening nearly a year ago. Yet she remembers the event like it was yesterday. To me, this just proves that a child's mind is incredibly vulnerable. Of course they will remember the good, but they will never forget the bad; no matter how long ago or how trivial, they will always recall an angry moment from the one person they need that constant reassurance from. Perhaps that is why I tell Amy I love her, several times a day; or maybe I tell her because I do. She knows she is my whole life, yet she does not understand what that actually means. She knows I am always here for her, yet she still needs to see that with her own eyes. She needs me like the lambs need their mothers to survive. But I doubt she will ever really know that I need her more.
I am finding that as we begin to move onto the next phase of Amy's life, I will need support and advice from a different angle. The difficulties are mine as I have to learn each day to accept a wider vocabulary spoken in an innocent way. I have known my child for over nine years yet I feel I have much to discover about her life. It is easy to blame her autism for all the things I do not like, swearing, aggression and meltdowns. But I will not blame autism for an existence that has brought me more joy than I could ever have wished for; she is autistic, she is Amy. Autism is a part of her life that has naturally become a part of mine and I would never wish to have it any other way. There is no cure. There will never be a cure. But there will always be security and reassurance and most definitely, there will always be love.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
That done, I made my decaffeinated cappuccino (I know I could do with caffeine but I don't drink it because it gives me headaches!) and went back to bed just for a short while. My head must have still been in the clouds for I drifted off to sleep for half an hour only to wake to a shopping list poking me in the eye and telling me to get a move on. Feeling refreshed I left the house soon after, double checking half way down the driveway that I had my handbag, let alone the shopping list.
First stop, town; pharmacy and a chat with a lovely friend I haven't seen for months. He invited me for coffee (which I don't drink) but I declined and gave him a hug instead. He's one of those people that you could talk to all day. And I really wish I'd have had time to stop for a beverage. Have you ever been in a Pound shop btw? Or a dollar shop perhaps? If not, go in one. We have one in town and I've never been in before. I spent £15 on a bag full of goodies, including a plastic measuring jug for the lamb's milk. Do you see how knackered I am? I'm telling you about my shopping now. Boy, I need a life!
However, I must tell you how I came to lose my shopping list in the supermarket. Having chosen fruit and veg, I moved onto the deli counter where one can choose ones own accompaniments. In my case Waldorf salad and coleslaw. Collecting cheese on two wheels as I skirted round the next aisle, I realised I no longer had my shopping list in my hand. We've talked about this before; I live by lists, especially my shopping list. I blame my mum. So there I was, exploring every pocket on my person, rooting around the floor, under the aisle, even in someone else's trolley. Until the bell which very rarely sounds, emitted around my head and I found my limbs carrying me back to the deli counter. Fortunately, no one was around and I was able to fish the shopping list out of the Waldorf salad without any one seeing.
Today is not looking good either. I have a hair appointment at 9.15am which means my rest on the bed when Amy's gone to school is out of the question. My brain is so mashed I forgot to cancel it. Saying that, a bit of pampering never did anyone any harm....