Dragging dragging myself out of a warm bed today was not easy knowing it was still dark, still wet and of course cold outside. January in London. Feel like a mole during these British winter months, a mole living in a dark tunnel.The hours of daylight just way too short. So easy to let that sap all energy.
With some reluctance I headed to the tube, squeezed into a packed compartment on my way to work, all the time thinking of Australia, my old life there, the sunshine, my friends. Feeling more than a little sorry for myself I got off one tube and waited on the next platform ready for another tube. My eye was caught by this poster – can’t remember now quite what it was advertising, something about ships and adventure. It doesn’t matter. The words “Achieve something remarkable” were what held my attention. They woke me up. The opportunity for me to do something remarkable lay ahead. A choice open to me. So I took a photo on my phone to remind me whenever I need that.
And here it is.
Rain and dark and cold and remarkable is still possible.
Today I nearly ended up in Penzance. An undignified scramble out of the train following the announcement that the train I had just comfortably settled into, Sunday newspaper and ipad out to while away the hours to follow, was for the opposite direction. Sheepishly back on the platform I greeted another couple, who’d obviously done the same, as if they were long lost friends. We shared our relief at disaster averted and then waited silently, still somewhat embarrassed for the next train, our train, to arrive.
Once sat on the right train and musing over my mishap, I thought about a website a friend of mine is involved in : nearlyology.com. A collection of people’s tales, real and I am sure sometimes imagined, of things that nearly did or nearly didn’t happen to them. Some wonderful tales on there. Check it out.
As for me I nearly ended up in Penzance today and so nearly missed watching one of the most impressive films seen in ages – Twelve Years a Slave. So beautifully shot and such a brutal story. The story of a man who nearly had a very different life.
Some incredibly beautiful images in the film – the colours, the lighting – extraordinary.
Extraordinary images. Cartier Bresson was a photographer known for “the decisive moment”. Photos taken, often street photographs, of a moment in time. The one before or the one after would have been so different.
I’m far from Cartier Bresson, far indeed, but the idea of the decisive moment has always interested me. To finish here is a quick shot I nearly didn’t take as was facing the other way and then for some reason turned round..
Priceless. Shanghai. And I nearly missed it.
Every time I pass this sign in Plymouth bus station on the way to pick up something from town for my dad, I smile. I smile at the tentative yet extravagantly bold claim. The chances of finding the best pork pie in the world at £1.10 in Plymouth bus station, even “probably the best”, have to be slim to none. Yet there it stands boldly month after month, defiantly almost. I admire the boldness and also the almost disclaimer of “probably”. That “probably” will come in handy should anyone try to challenge the “best in the world” part, perhaps having experienced his or her best ever In a bus station, service station or even corner shop elsewhere.
As for me, a non meat eater, I will never know. And I like to keep it that way. The possibility that perhaps it is indeed the best in the world, tucked away in an English bus station, astonishing and delighting hungry bus travellers.
Walking away from the bus station, musing on that sign, I was behind an elderly couple for a while, tightly holding each other’s hands as they maybe have done for the last fifty years. But maybe not. Something much newer perhaps. My friend Barbara’s dad has just died. At 96. At 92 he tentatively told her about his new girlfriend looking for her blessing. A new romance at 92. Now that’s a possibility for all to be open to! He had four happy years with her and died with her at his side. We would all wish that for those we love.
So I want always to be open to be opportunities and surprises, whether it’s the best pie in the world or a romance In my nineties.
The car parked, up the hill I went in the rain, again. The code number entered, sign in and then off in search of my mother. Nearly a year now since dementia and failing health brought her to this nursing home, better than most, but still not home. A quick look round the living room at the men and women snoozing in chairs. No mum there dwarfed by the overstuffed armchair. So tiny and frail she is these days – I always feel I could scoop her in my arms and hardly strain to do it.
Not there I check with one of the busy staff walking by who points me towards the dining room. There sits my mum at a table, completely still, eyes closed holding one of the cold cut pieces of toast in her hand. She looks like a spell has been cast upon her, a character in a children’s story, turned to stone. Completely still, caught mid motion. I touch her arm gently and she wakes, smiles in recognition and says hello. The relief of being recognised. I smile back and quietly prompt her back to her breakfast. She eats slowly. I talk. She understands and responds sometimes. Often not.
Later back in the room with the overstuffed chairs and sofas, the heat and the snoozers, I hold her hand as she snoozes too. My mum.
Looking back on 2013 with a mixture of feelings – pleasure and sadness, pride and disappointment, connectedness and aloneness.
The year Mandela died. Memories of watching him dance in Glasgow mixed with memories of a marriage now over. The life Mandela lived was like no other. A reminder of what’s possible.
Ahead lies the opportunity to surprise myself and others, to love and be loved, to share, to learn, to explore, to stay healthy, to give, to meditate, to contribute, to make a difference. All possible if I choose it to be.
Here’s to 2014.