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Category Archives: Memory

Paddle in the sea.

DSCF0934As the mid-way point of yet another Bank holiday has passed and the rush to the coast to enjoy the good weather, judging by the lack of traffic on the roads here, I have allowed a small smile to cross my lips at my choice to go a walking barefoot earlier in the week.

The weather forecast was for a sunny day, but to honest I have not been to the sea since last time I wrote, so being able to go, I would have gone regardless. There is a peace wandering down a near empty beach, the sound of the waves being the main auditory input.

Once, there was a feeling , nay, a longing, that the sea gave me, a draw unto itself if you will. I felt I understood what it was that made the first people venture forth unto the unknown toward a new destiny, the very sound of the waves calming the spirit whilst enthralling it . I revisit the coast now to try and rekindle the feeling. Walking with the hot sand enveloping my toes, a thought came to mind.

Do the people, who may have never even seen the beach, fleeing their country due to war get that same feeling?

I was a toddler when first introduced to the sea, so the memory of seeing this great expanse of water for the first time is lost. Did the sense of wonderment gradually build up, or has it always been there? Does the sea have a subconscious connection with the human brain? The sea has claimed many a life, by being what it is, no emotional drive or impulse, so we should fear it as we fear all things that can cause harm. But as a species we are drawn to it, why? It goes beyond gathering resources and materials, there is an affinity with it.

I pondered this a I wandered, my body taking its own path, no real destination for either, when suddenly I was bought back to the now with a wave splashing up my thigh. I had inadvertently been paddling in the sea, not much excitement in that statement I grant you, but I, over half a lifetime ago, stopped paddling, because the sea was too cold. And here I was knee deep in the sea and not minding the temperature one bit nor caring how long I had been in it.

The inadvertent paddle left me with a sense of familiarity and memories locked away from my childhood Holidays came trickling back, times of hours spent in rock pools catching shrimp or gathering molluscs. The feeling that the sea used to give me may have faded, replaced by a small spark of hope; hope that nature will ultimately be my guide to where I need to be, or at least the path I need to be on.

A thought also goes out to all that embark on the journey across the sea, may your journey be a safe one.

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Time with Dad

DSCF0960I don’t have many happy childhood memories of my Dad, at least ones that don’t involve work. Many a memory is linked to the allotment, repairing cars, coupon rounds and even working together for too many years. Try as I may, I cannot recall ‘playing’ memories, just Dad and me.

He taught me how to fish at Talybont – that memory is gone.

He taught me how to use my first woodworking set, a set I can still recall today — also gone is building things with him.

My first go-cart was built by him — but not played on with him.

Bike riding — gone.

Sledging — gone.

Some memories have remained from holidays, teaching how-to and catching shrimps, cooking them along with other collected shellfish, but after a while it was more of sending me to get them. Getting nearly stuck in a cave trying to free some crystals is a good memory. But I don’t have the same type of memories at home.

This has led to some strange looks in therapy, so It must not be the norm. Often leading my thinking toward  ‘I missed out on something.’

Now he is old and hard work, some of the time; no, most of the time if truth be told. Heads are butted often, especially over the computer; it has now become the laptop so he can’t break it as easy. My stubborn streak is defiantly from him. And still I work on the bloody allotment.

And this is where we have just come back from. Dad has been for a number of years, ill, but he managed to keep his hobbies going. The allotment and beekeeping, sadly last year he had to give up the beekeeping as he has become allergic to bee venom, so the allotment is the only thing left, and that is now under threat. I have made some, not too radical, changes to his plot; three raised beds so he can sit and garden and one bed raised not as high as a trial. This has upset the bloke running the site, it’s not 1950s enough.

Trepidation of the change is to be expected and I have talked him trough the whole process, but he has been told no to helping himself to wood on the site, twice, and he has taken offence and is trying to start a smear campaign against Dad. But stuff him ,back to me and Dad.

Today was the third time Dad has been able to get up to the plot this year due to time spent in hospital, and the first time he has been able to plant. The long hard slog of  removing the rotten old beds and placing the raised ones on there new home, then filling each with a trailer of  horse manure and compost, eight trailers worth, is over and now there has been a reward for me. Dad managed to plant without getting on his knees and without pain, And he looked happy doing it. We came back laughing and smiling.

I may not want my son to have the same type of memories as I have of my Dad about me, and I defiantly tell him I love him,  but at the end of the day, we know we both love each other no matter the faults. It’s just done a different way is all.

This Chapter Ends

canstockphoto8630797Today was a sad day, after what was a monumental effort to even leave the house, I arrived at art therapy and received the news that due to lack of funds the Teacher/Therapist was being made redundant in two weeks time, voluntary, well that’s if you call not enough hours to live on if you don’t, voluntary. It is the right thing for Zoe to do and we all support her decision. Such is the common occurrence of redundancy nowadays it is almost viewed as a job change, unplanned. But this one has been viewed differently by the service users, much to the credit of Zoe herself.

My own story started two and a half years ago at a suggestion by my then mental health coordinator, a gateway as it were to get me involved with a community. I originally chose the art group with the idea it would be quiet and private, never suspecting the group would end up being such a big part of my recovery and wellbeing.

The welcome was warm but the room was something to be desired, Brighter Futures who runs the groups have bought two former pubs and converted them, the art group had drawn the short straw  at the Observatory and had been allocated the cellar. Steep wonky stairs made there way down to the musty smelling room, the light source coming from the florescent tubes running the length of the centre. Art was stacked up along one table at the edge of the room with finished pieces adorning the walls in places. The standard was high, I feared my own attempts would fall far short of what appeared to be expected.

To my surprise there was no expectation placed upon myself or my work except for my own, and the group was anything but quiet, Headphones became an essential piece of kit. Josie is the voice of the group, generally the first to greet any visitors  and explain what goes on in the absence of Zoe, with Josie, Dibs, quiet for the most part but missed when not present. For six months I went every Tuesday,  speaking when spoken too, never having the courage to initiate a conversation, observing and learning who had similar interests until the day I was ready to begin a conversation. Jo, I suspect, nearly keeled over with shock when I spoke to her. The conversation was short and sweet, but a start. Now I can rattle away like one of the girls, even if Ange lowers the tone.

The Tuesdays changed  to Thursdays and to location number Two (the American), this room was a conservatory, bigger, brighter and no musty smell. The group of people pretty much stayed the same with the addition of Anika, Richard , Page and Tina.

I haven’t been back to the cellar since and quite frankly if I go back to the ‘Obs’ I will stay upstairs in the cafe. Many more faces have come and gone, and come again, each with their own set of problems. You see we can leave the issues being faced at the door, It’s OK to laugh, there is no judgment. Nowhere else can you talk about pink rabbits crossing the road carrying elephants without the fear of being locked up, this of course is an exaggeration, maybe; but the principle’s the same. Weird shit is normal in this art group!

There are staff on hand to help with what they can, even if that is just a chat with a cup of tea, but Zoe has managed to create such a safe place, sharing personal problems within the group IS part of the therapy. This is coming from someone who has a host of coping strategies when in public and has an increased distrust, maybe even paranoia, of peers, real or perceived. She is also there to lend a hand if struggling with the art, Non artists (in their mind) can have a picture drawn for them onto the canvas by Zoe for them to paint. It’s surprising how many Non artists can paint.

Zoe also managed to get funding for small courses, taught by herself, to encourage all who wanted. Tasters in Lino cutting, metalwork, clay and drawing to name a few. The courses where meant to be fun, informative, boundary pushing. The figure drawing course was that far outside my comfort zone it was described by myself on the ‘thought bubbles’ as “My eyes feel like they want to bleed,” emotionally I was shattered, Physically I hurt like hell. It has yet to explained how a mental problem can cause physical pain in a way I understand. I could not have felt anymore exposed if I was hung and skinned, but I trusted Zoe, so carried on, pain and all.

Zoe has had probably the biggest and the best therapeutic benefit to my mental health out of all the therapists I have seen. Genuinely caring for the members of her groups, wanting to help were she can in improving our lives. This may sound idealistic, and in some ways it maybe, but too many times the mental health service has left one feeling like the goal is to get one to accept what is broke is broke, and here are some tablets to do that. A bit like breaking a leg, being told to accept its broke and here are some pain killers to numb the senses. Some of us, after not being listened to, but medicated more for not knowing the correct terminology to explain what is happening, remain silent. Zoe gets us to talk again.

There is a good chance the group will be run by another member of staff who may be a good Therapist, or a good Artist, heck they may even be good at both, but they won’t be Zoe. Some are going to stay away in protest, showing,  in their minds, their support for Zoe. For me the art group is my social life , my anchor, letting Zoe’s work fade because some bureaucrat who has no idea the positive impact the therapy has on a range of problems would be failing her legacy. I am extremely anxious about starting afresh with someone new and if I thought that staying away would help Zoe keep her hours I would,  but realistically it will make no difference to a decision past. The only thing positive I can savage from this is… now there is a chance of Zoe the therapist becoming Zoe the friend.

 

I once heard that at the end of life we have two questions, Did I matter? Did I make a difference? Zoe does, Zoe will continue to, its what Zoe does.