Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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Storms Within and Without: Stage 4 of My Personal Journey

Apt that in the English Lake District, home of the Romantic Poets, the skies are heavy,  Kendal’s  streets are grey, and our sombre mood, when we turn the key in my dad’s small bungalow a couple of hours later.

There is much to do, and I don’t know how much time I have before the hospital in Tenerife rings to say the tests are back, and they will begin radiotherapy.

There are people to ring, contracts to cancel, authorities to inform, lawyers to pay, newspapers to stop, banks to deal with, mail to redirect, and all the dozens of small, heartbreaking tasks a family death entails.

In the bottom of his wardrobe my father kept one of those steel home filing systems which were popular before computers. He frequently reminded me that when he went I would find all the documents I needed there. There aren’t that many. My father was a man of simplicity, and over recent years becoming even more so, giving a lot of his possessions to the charity shops which line Kendal’s main street. His intention was to lighten the load we now face.

On the top is a letter he had written in 2009. By then he was 86. I don’t think he thought that he would live as long as he did. The letter lists just about everything we need to deal with, including telephone numbers, right down to cancelling the service contract for his vacuum  cleaner.

In the next days I ring some of those numbers, only to find that the person has died in the meantime.

It’s his instructions for his funeral which puzzle me. No church, no priests. The emphasis is his. I fall asleep wondering how that is to be done.

The next day at the hospital we collect the death certificate. The cause of death is identified as cancer of the esophagus, undetected and not diagnosed until it took his life.

At the undertakers I convey his instructions; cremation, and what will happen with his ashes. We come to his instructions about his funeral, which will be in the small chapel at the crematorium, a place familiar to me. I explain his wishes, there are seconds of dead air, and then I hear myself saying that I will conduct the service myself.

If daddy had died before Dot I would not have heard that voice,  it wouldn’t have occurred to me that I could do something like that. Dot’s parting gift. It’s a year and a half since I gave the eulogy and at her funeral. I know I can do this, and something inside of me knows this is how he would want it. My father’s imprint on this earth, so far as I know, was very light. There are still mysteries about his life. He was the most private person I have ever known, and this simple ceremony is what he wanted. The date is set for a week ahead.

We muddle through that week. It’s busy. At times it’s fraught or tense, or simply depressing. I am fortunate that I have something my sons cannot have, the strong sense of my mother’s presence. It’s almost forty years since she died, and three days before my father died would have been their 70th wedding anniversary. My sons never knew their grandmother, and in his own way, daddy tried to do double duty to make up for that.

So many things in this bungalow are memories of my mother that I feel as if I am losing her all over again.

The day comes. It is appropriately stormy and gloomy. It’s a small family gathering, very intimate. I am grateful for the support, for people travelling a long way in horrible weather to pay their last respects.

It’s done. I found a flight, although there is still no word from the hospital, so I cannot follow my father’s wishes about his ashes until a later date. I have chosen May 20th, the anniversary of my mother’s death to do it.

All that remains is for the furniture to be collected. After it’s gone, Austin and I clean up as best we can, and go to spend our last night in a local hotel. The rain has been unceasing and a bitter wind howls along the river outside. I wake up in the morning to find the waters worryingly close to my window, and the staff talk about evacuating. We load up Austin’s car with the mementos of their granddad which Austin and Guy wanted to keep, and he sets off for London. I call a cab and head to the station.

Even by Lake District standards, the short trip to Oxenholme Station is scary. We were, literally, soaked to the skin whilst loading the car, and the taxi driver, a regular, who I know to be very experienced, has doubts that we will make it. Roads are flooding everywhere.

Eventually, I catch a train, not the one booked, which is delayed by the weather. Austin is stopped by police on a flooded road, pleads to be allowed through, and makes it.

Storm Desmond has arrived, and I feel like a rat leaving a sinking ship. It all seems apt.

Storm Desmond battered the British Isles (mainly Ireland, northern England and Scotland from 3rd to 8th December 2015, causing devastating flooding in Cumbria. I glimpsed just a little of the beginning of it from the train window that day.

 

 

 

 

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When That Other Shoe Drops: My Personal Journey Volume 3

I rarely panic, well, not when I’m on dry land anyway. I have been known to flail about a bit in the ocean.

“Don’t forget to take your phone, Daddy,” I blurt out, as he informs me that the ambulance is outside. (See previous 2 posts to see what brought us to this point)

My default reaction is exactly the same as it was when I received the phone call from the hospital in August. Sit down and figure out what to do. My sons to inform, flights to book. Be grateful that the radiotherapy hasn’t begun. Trixy to kennels. It’s weekend and low season so getting a flight won’t be a problem, but I need to book return, because there is a hospital appointment Wednesday to get the results of that test. I am grateful there is enough in my account to pay for this, there are times when there isn’t.

What if ?……. Don’t go there. Deal with that if it happens.

It’s appropriately wet and grey when we touch down in Manchester.

Guy has come up from London, and meets me at the station in Lancaster. It’s a long weekend. Beyond his age, there is a mystery as to what exactly ails my dad. We wait all weekend, hoping for a diagnosis. Rachael comes up from London. She’s the one who makes my dad smile. The 3 of us get soaked to the skin, walking to the nearest pub for food and a break from the sterility of the hospital. I explain to the nurse in charge that I have to get back to the Canary Islands on Tuesday, and why, and that my dad doesn’t know about my cancer. I hate that they might think I am leaving him when he is so ill and so old.

When I leave on Tuesday there is still no diagnosis. Austin is on his way. My return trip turns out to be a waste of money because the test results are delayed. On my way back from the hospital, I do something I haven’t done for years. I call into a church and light a candle.  I don’t practice any religion, but I do believe in prayer.

I am researching flights when Austin calls. His granddad is weakening, and I should get back asap. Frustrated with internet searches I go to the airport to ask. It’s the middle of the night, but they confirm there are no direct flights to Manchester for a couple of days. I book to London and a train to get me back to Lancaster.

An hour out of London, I get a message from Austin to say he will meet me in Preston, where I should be changing trains. This doesn’t make sense.

Here he is on the platform. He carries my bag to the car, slams the boot, and turns to tell me what I already know. There is no way that he would have left his granddad in the circumstances. In the rain, in the car park we hold each other. I don’t know who is comforting who.

Emigration comes at a price, and that is the guilt you feel for those you leave behind.

daddyThese were the last two photos I took of my dad. I was on my way back from Florida in May of 2015 and we went out for lunch in Kendal. My dad was slow to smile, but he actually looks very happy here.

 


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Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.


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Capture the Color Competition Entry

I’d read about TravelSupermarket’s Capture the Color travel photo competition, but I really felt to shy to send in anything, with some really prestigious travel photographers and bloggers entering,   I didn’t want to make a fool of myself! But, then, Elaine from RunawayBrit nominated me, and I thought, “Well, why not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and it sounded like fun.

The idea is that there are five categories, each one being a color – red, blue, white, yellow and green, and each category has its own judge, and each category winner will receive an iPad3, and the overall winner will receive £2,000 to be spent on travel……not bad, eh?

Entries are due by the end of this month, and I was tempted to wait & see if I can do better, but then I’d probably just procrastinate until it was too late (who? me? oh, yeah!), so I’ve just spent a very pleasant few hours travelling a bit down memory lane via my photos. It’s been a jolly nice trip, so I should thank TravelSupermarket and RunawayBrit for that too. I have to write a little about each photo so you can come down memory lane with me.

Er …. I think that’s it, so here are my photos:

Red

In photos you usually see of surfers, the sea is incredibly blue, but Canary Island locals  go out early, before the tourists get out of bed. Before the day has warmed up, the sea can appear quite grey. My son, Guy, had just returned to the island after years of living in the US, and we walked down to the beach as dawn was breaking. It was a treat for me, not only because Guy was back home after his US adventures,  but also because back when my sons were in their teens the last thing they wanted was mom hanging around when they were surfing! Hence I didn’t actually have any photos of them on the water. There was little surf this day, as it turned out, but this was my favorite picture, taken with my little point & shoot too. Guy’s board was the only point of color at this time of day.

Blue

My friend, Cristina, was showing us around her family’s home in the hills just above Icod de los Vinos (one of my favorite parts of Tenerife), the house is set in the forest, surrounded by aromatic pine and rich chestnut trees. It was cool and tranquil, and so very different from the south of the island. We wandered around the land surrounding the house and came across this beautifully decrepit old door, just by the orchard. I’m a sucker for peeling paintwork, especially if it’s blue. The hydrangea were past their best too. It was October, but blue is kind of an everlasting color……

White

Coincidentally, my “white” pictures comes from that same stroll with my friends when we saw the blue door. I really didn’t think this wee butterfly would stay still long enough, but I got a two or three shots before he moved on. It wasn’t until after I saw in on screen that it struck me how very white he was. Although the Canary Island is often called “The Land of Eternal Spring”  seasons do exist here, especially in these woodlands of the north, where tourists rarely roam. It was late October, the chestnut trees were heavy with their spiky fruit, and there was the scent of woodsmoke in the air as neighboring houses lit fires and barbeques, and this fellow seemed almost like a ghost of the failing summer.

Green

It’s a common misconception among visitors to Tenerife, those who stray no further than their sun-lounger on a beach on the south coast, that the island has no greenery. They couldn’t be further from the truth, the peaks and slopes of the north (and the south higher up) are home to mainly pine forests, and the north east tip of the island is lush variegated forest. However, when I thought about green I thought about cacti, oddly, perhaps.  Cacti grow just about everywhere n the Canary Islands, so much so that we take them for granted, but often they are the only hint of color in a harsh landscape. I have loads of pictures of cacti, but this task made me realize that most are pre-digital and I need to get out there & take some more. However, here is one of my favorites.

Yellow

I racked my brains over yellow, because I couldn’t remember nor find a photograph which I thought of as “yellow.” Then I remembered going up to Granadilla de Abona at the beginning of May to see the traditional floral crosses made for the Day of the Holy Cross (El Día de la Cruz), and how there was a lonely sunflower in one of the small crosses by someone’s door. The Day of the Holy Cross celebrates the finding of the original cross by Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine, and any town, village, island or city in the Latino world with the word cruz in its name celebrates the day. The main festivities in Tenerife are in capital city, Santa Cruz, but since the name of the entire province is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, communities all over the province display these beautiful floral tributes. Outside the churches they are huge and abundant, but private houses like this one often display them too.

Nominations

Now to nominate five other travel bloggers to participate in the competition if they want. The problem is now that this has been around for a few weeks, and I really don’t know who has or has not already been nominated, but here we go:

Katrina from Tourabsurd.com  ……. who should have no problem with the “green” part since she just arrived in Ireland! And I have to wonder (if she has time to do this!) if some of her colors might involve food – since there have been some mouth-watering photos on her blog in recent months!

Marianne from EastofMalaga who has some gorgeous photos of Andalucia on her blog which express a deep love of her adopted home.

Jack from BuzzTrips  because I LOVE his photos and because he must have some stunners for the “blue” category having been in Morocco not too long ago!

Barbara from HoleintheDonut  Barbara’s photos are breathtaking, recently returned from Nepal, they just pulse with local color, both real and metaphorical.

Mariana from TravelThirst   …..whose photos totally succeed in her desire to stimulate our senses! Beautiful, virtual travel :=)

It might well be that some, or all, of you guys have already been nominated, and apologies if so, or if this nomination catches you in a moment when you are too busy or traveling too fast to do it!

 


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To Mess or Not to Mess? That is the Question…..Photographically Speaking.

I may have indigestion later…….. I just ate my hat…….. Ok, it was an imaginary hat, but there is imaginary indigestion, no? An imaginary hat as in the statement, “I think photos should be natural and not tampered with, and I’ll eat my hat if I ever do that!” You get it, no? In other words, I was a photography purist and I am converted.

I blame the Guanches. It was on a thundery-looking afternoon I went with RunawayBrit to see the pretty, little town of Candelaria. We’d been enveloped by chilling mists most of the day in the Teide National Park and descending the northern coast of the island,  I’d abandoned plans, and turned south, but when we reached Candelaria, the clouds had risen so that they hovered, thick and menacing above, but least we could see stuff! So we changed plans again, and stopped there.  My photos of those imposing statues of Guanche kings were disappointing when I came to look at them on the screen, though…..which is when I began to mess with them, and this was the result.

And in the time it takes to click a couple of times, there I was – hooked! In my defense I state that I always said that what I wanted my photos to do was convey a message, and the truth is that the camera doesn’t see what the eye sees, let alone what the heart sees. And for me Pelicar towering into the stormy sky was threatening the Spanish invaders, and preparing to fight to the death, and enhancing the photo conveyed that message. Or am I trying to justify my conversion?

I went out to capture the sunrise a couple of weeks later. Now, I know – I’m lucky to live somewhere where scenes like the one below are, well, quite common, really, which means that by my standards the photos weren’t that special, yet when I “messed” with one of them and put it on Facebook I got more comments than usual. Vindication? Well, no, because now I was feeling the guilt. Were my photos more  “some tart with too much make-up” than “a natural beauty?” I wasn’t at all comfortable with the messing.

Still feeling the guilt, visiting Icod de los Vinos on a very dull day (dull as in overcast skies that is….which is not to say overcast in the UK sense, but that the sky was an utter white-out, and the sun hidden), I snapped the dragon tree because it was in full flower, a noteworthy event, I couldn’t wait for the possibility of a blue sky. More disappointing photos, but would they look ok if I messed with them? What do you think?

Hmmm. Maybe? I began choosing random photos from my files.

Am I a total convert? Well, probably, so much so that I’m making a whole, new page just for photographs, ones, that is, that a more than just snapshots to illustrate text.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally happy with any of the above photos, and I know I’m still experimenting. Wishing I’d had the extra money for the third part of that photographic course I did a couple of years back, which dealt with this sort of thing – perhaps I would have had a different perspective a while back. I only use Picasa right now, there just isn’t money for anything I actually have to pay for, and I appreciate that with a more sophisticated program I would get better results, and I assume that if I was using something more advanced I would, yes, be a convert…….so excuse me while I go look for the imaginary Rennies.


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Roscón: The Last Taste of Christmas

The other reason I think I resent the prolonging of Christmas is roscón. Oh, not because I don’t like roscón, but because I do.

Just when you’ve had five days of eating healthy, getting rid of the bloated feeling from Christmas and New Year feasting, there is roscón. “Kings’ Day” isn’t known for feasting in general, although it’s the day the kiddies get their presents, the family feast is over Christmas, but roscón is a traditional sweet bread, made especially for the beginning of Epiphany.

On the night of the 5th Austin and I heroically resisted temptation, I am proud to report, despite the delicious aromas coming from the bakeries still open in both La Laguna and Güimar.  It was made easier for me by the report on local t.v. I’d watched that morning.

“What are the main ingredients?” the reporter had asked the baker.

“Sugar,” was his first reply.

“Butter and salt,” he went on. “Some flour, and dried fruits.” You get the picture?

When he said dried fruits he meant crystallized dried fruits, and he didn’t mention that there are fillings of cream or confectioner’s custard according to your taste. I saw one advertised this year with truffle filling, so I am guessing that meant chocolate truffle filling, unless anyone can advise me otherwise?

In other words, in my words – heaven on a plate, or death on a plate, depending on your point of view or your mood! Sufficient people must be avoiding the worst of the recession because the baker interviewed said they were making 20,000 this year, and didn’t expect any to be left over.

If your viewpoint is heaven, here’s what you do: on the night of the 5th the bakeries stay open very late, you go and choose your roscón, which is huge, by the way, and comes in a colorful box, and then you proudly parade through the streets carrying the box on high to avoid being crushed by all the folk around who are also shopping, waiting to see the kings or just having a bevy.

When you get home and open up the box inside you will find a “golden” crown as well as a ginormous sweetbread.  Don’t throw away the crown even if you don’t have kids around, because when you cut into the bread/cake and are munching away, someone is going to crack a tooth on a piece of “coal” and someone else on a saintly figurine.  The person who gets the “coal” – usually a small, boiled sweet these days – pays for the cake, and the person who gets the king/saint gets to wear the crown for the day – presumably they are also entitled to lord it over everyone to go with that!  It’s not unlike the silver threepenny bits we used to find in our Christmas puds in England as kids.  Although how this stuff gets past the EU rules and there aren’t reports of multiple deaths by choking every year I don’t know!

Joking apart, roscón is yummy (for me best without filling), it’s just the slide back into gluttony I don’t like!


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One Degree Under

I have what most moms dismiss as a head cold, what Spanish people describe as a ‘flu, and that which brings most men to their knees. Before you think I am dissing both men and the Spanish, let me explain – I don’t do colds, ok!  Break my wrist, slip my disc, make me go 24 hours without sleep, or put me in the middle of a motorway pileup, and I’m tough as old boots.  Give me a common cold and I crumble.

Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not looking for sympathy here.  I just want to curl up and watch soppy movies or re-runs of “The Gilmore Girls” or “Friends”.  Unless Joe Fox is going to turn up with some friendly daisies (if you don’t get that reference, how well do you know me?!), I’m best left alone to wallow.

All day I’ve been oscillating between a profound craving for Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream (and there are two shops within a five-minute walk selling it) and an equally profound lethargy, and laziness  So, how deep is my affection for Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream, not on the same scale as my lethargy it turns out. You might as well expect me to hop on the next space shuttle as step over my threshold.  It’s almost ten at night and I didn’t go yet.  One of the shops is closed now, and the other will be closing soon.

Why is it that nasopharyngitis, acute viral rhinopharyngitis, or acute coryza (no wonder it’s so bad with all those fancy names!) turns me into a whingeing, self-absorbed sad case, when neither a recent tooth infection so bad I thought it was a brain haemorrhage, nor an excruciating, old whiplash injury, which necessitated an MRI the other week, has had even a passing mention in my blog?  Apparently, most adults suffer between 2 and 4 of these infections per year, (and a child can suffer between 6 and 12! I get my info from Wikipedia – I don’t vouch for it!) …… not this adult.  My average is one roughly every two years, which is perhaps why I take it so hard.  I like to think that I’m immune.  Indeed, I’ve worked in offices where all around me fell……and brought their nasty germs to work to spread it around a bit……..and not even had a sniffle, which is why mind and body are now screaming, “Whyyyyyyy?”

Remembering the “good old 9 to 5 days” makes it seem even more unfair.  I don’t recall being in the company of anyone with a cold within the last 10 days, probably just someone sneezing in the supermarket or a café then.  Why won’t they learn to stay home at the first sign and keep their nasties to themselves?  Which, you see, is the excuse for my lethargy.  I really shouldn’t go and spread this around, so I’m just going to crawl back under the covers.  Now where did I put “You Got Mail”?