…if it’s the last thing I ever do. Yes a familiar line from an old song which I think if I can remember was by a group called ‘The Animals’ with a front man called Eric Burden. It was recorded in the mid-sixties. Now I am showing my age which for those who wish to know is 72. As I write this it is Wednesday morning on the fourth of July. Now there’s a familiar date. Greetings to all my American friends, which by that I mean all of you living there. Okay I am two weeks late but the date doesn’t matter. By the way I greet all people the same no matter from where they hail. I am stuck at home though stuck isn’t probably the right word to use, perhaps left at home might be more apt. E has gone to stay with her mom for a few hours whilst her brother, who lives with his mom, has somewhere he needs to go. I am not really sure why he still lives at home with his mom for he is I think 60 years old. Life has dealt him a few bad cards over the years and I guess things just fell into place and kept him living there. E doesn’t speak much about him and I haven’t even seen him for well over twenty years. That’s what happens when families don’t stick together and support each other. There are reasons of course, many are too self-centred and have bigoted feelings. I don’t know why people are like that, after all we are all in the same boat. All you need is love. Now where have I heard that one before? I am not sure many folk know what real love is. If you’ve an ear I can tell you but I don’t wish to preach, not in this post anyway. I see folk going about their daily business and often wonder what it is they think about, what their focus on life is. One day they will, we all will, leave this place and everything in it and in fact it will be the last thing we ever do won’t it? Once more it is a beautifully sunny day, probably going to be too hot again for me if I’m honest. I am maybe thinking I should get out of this place, that is my house and go for a walk somewhere but do you know, I am not sure I will feel better for it. It is late in the morning as I finish this post. I haven’t eaten breakfast because I wasn’t hungry when I got up but I am feeling a little hungry now. After I have eaten I will be ‘reviewing the situation’, (yes, from Oliver Twist, the musical). Have a really nice day my readers.
Tiredness, weariness, fatigue, boredom, routine, lethargy, disinterest are among the things which affect me at some point and if it isn’t the one it’s the other. If something holds my interest I am happy enough but I find now that there is less I find interesting with each passing day. If I’ve a project to do I am happy but only if things go well and to plan. Even so, I get bored with projects too believe it or not and I have days where I simply cannot be bothered or I’ve had enough for a while. I get days where I just cannot make the effort to do anything. Monday (21) was such a day. I knew before I got out of bed that I didn’t want to be doing anything though there were things to be doing if I chose. I was tired and weary the moment I awoke and I wanted to go back to sleep but couldn’t. Once I wake up I find it extremely difficult to go back to sleep and after a short time I have to climb out from beneath the sheets. I was looking forward to a blank canvas with nothing to do or rather no intentions of doing anything. I enjoyed breakfast and watching tv whilst eating it. I switched on the computer to check my mail and switched it off again. I went into the garden to water the plants again which I find relaxing because I don’t need to do much but stand and direct the hose!
I went indoors to make a cup of coffee and returned outside to sit drinking it in the bright warm morning sunshine. My thoughts were all over the place and I couldn’t sit there long. I decided to get my guitar and sit on the bench in the front garden playing it for a while and then it was lunch time, early because I’d eaten an early breakfast but it was by then twelve-thirty. After lunch I sat on the sofa and had a cat nap. E had gone to rest on the patio and I went for a walk down to the beach. I sat on top of the dunes looking out to sea and along the beach. Very few people were there during what was after all a working day for most so those I saw were either elderly and obviously retired or women taking their dogs for a walk. As I sat my thoughts turned to the days when I often used to run through the dunes or sat there just contemplating life. I was doing just that on Monday afternoon too, contemplating life. I remembered times when I would call my friend or she would call me on my mobile phone as I sat on the dunes enjoying an afternoon free from work. She never calls me now though I have tried contacting her. She moved to the south coast a few years ago. After an hour or so I walked back home asking myself what is the point of it all? I often thing about the futility of life, that is the things we get involved with during our lives and ponder why it is we do them. We acquire wealth, a house, a family, a job, we take holidays and at the time enjoy it all. I reflect on King Solomon‘s struggle with the same issues and what conclusions he drew from it all. ‘Meaningless, everything is meaningless’ he said and all we can do is to fear (revere) God and enjoy our work and our lives as best we can. So what’s up with me I ask myself?
It was such a lovely sunny day that greeted me as I awoke from my slumber. I didn’t really want to exchange the warmth beneath the duvet but I knew I had to get up some time. It was nine o’clock and I forced myself into action. I didn’t dress for the day but put on my sports clothes for I was going to spend a little time on the treadmill. Before I went downstairs however I stripped off the bed linen and replaced it with fresh sheets. I collected some clothes which needed washing too and I took the two large bundles with me as I left the bedroom. Going directly into the laundry room in the cellar I put the first load into the washing machine and returned upstairs to put on my running shoes and socks. I returned downstairs with my water bottle and started my exercise. I had to open the cellar door leading into the garden to allow some much-needed ventilation as the room still smelled of paint and sealant! I left the door open whilst exercising. Although it was sunny outside it was also bitterly cold. For the next few days and for a couple of previous days we were to experience a cold snap with winds blowing from the east. We were getting our weather delivered fresh from Siberia for a change. All I can say about that is I am glad I live on the west coast and not the east! It would be bad enough here but far worse on the other side of the country. My main concern was for the plants in the garden, the semi-tropical ones such as the Phoenix Canariensis and the Fan Palms. They are supposed to be able to withstand temperatures down to -8 C but I sure wouldn’t like to put them to the test. With expected temperatures down to -2 C on this side of the country it would probably be alright. The plants are somewhat sheltered by native varieties in any case. Those temperatures incidentally are the ones through the night, daytime temperatures are expected to be a few degrees higher. Hopefully after a few days the winds would be coming from the west. I finished my exercise and as I normally do if it isn’t raining, I cool off outdoors in the garden. That is when I saw some more bluebells which needed digging out so I did the job whilst I was out there in my shorts and skimpy top! Gosh it was cold out of the sunshine but soon enough I was inside again and hanging up the first bundle of washing. I then placed the second bundle into the machine before finally going upstairs for something to eat…..at belated breakfast! I did venture out again later but this time I was well-wrapped up!
Today, Monday (8), I managed to do a little exercising on the treadmill after many days of abstinence due to muscular pain in my legs. All mentioned previously. Anyway after breakfast I took the plunge and tentatively stepped on the machine. A slow walk to begin then gradually increasing the speed to see how it went. A mile and a half later and I stopped. I was so happy to begin my exercising once again not only for the benefits but for the enjoyment too. After a lifetime of always being on the go having to rest from it is difficult for me even for short periods. I could have simply taken a walk outdoors but had I found it a problem I might have been too distant from home to make it back comfortably. Why take the risk?
Today I managed to take a few photographs of E who is notorious for not wanting her picture taken. I have never understood why that is for she takes a lovely picture. She wanted to submit an up-to-date picture of herself to the issuing authority for her vehicle parking permit. It enables her to park her vehicle, anywhere that is legal to do so, for free because of her health condition. The story was that she couldn’t transfer the picture she took of herself on her tablet and transfer it to her computer. I was sure she was mistaken but I offered to do it using mine and in the process of course I could save them to my own files. I actually have few pictures of her and it is the same for her. We neither of us have taken many pictures over the years, even of places we’ve visited. What really is the point? The best memories are those in our heads, we don’t need pictures to stir them up. You will notice that my gallery holds very few pictures.
Today I saw the progress of the sun against the garden walls and watched the squirrels prancing about on the still frozen lawn where the sun couldn’t reach. I can feel the approach of Spring in my mind but the picture through the window tells a different story just at the moment. It is cold but not extremely cold but it is bright and sunny, just as it is in my heart. I hope yours is too.
A day for one of my scheduled walks but this day it was more to do with collecting more stones for the garden than the walk itself. Where I collect the stones is around two and a half miles from home so I have to carry them that far on my return. Naturally I collect them on the return journey rather than on the outward one! Although there was some light rain at times there wasn’t much of it. The wind was the major downside to the weather and down on the shore where it is totally open the wind was strong making it feel much colder than the six or seven degrees it was. Soon I was back home in the warmth and not needing to go anywhere for the rest of the day. I did spend some time in the garden though, not a lot but just enough to keep an eye on things and noting down anything that might want doing later. It appears there are a lot of dog owners where I live and I saw most of them down at the beach or in the streets I walked! Probably up to 90% of the people I saw had a dog in tow, some of them with two. Personally I love dogs but they do need a lot of attention and care and think of all those vet bills! We used to keep dogs at home years ago but I doubt we would ever have another and cats? Not very likely. E likes cats as I do though I prefer other people’s cats. We have enough wild animals visiting the garden each day to feel the need to have a pet. Saturday was the last day of the year for exercising too as on Sunday, New Year’s eve, I would be resting. The start of my new year would see me exercising on the gym equipment. No hang-overs, no waking up in the middle of the day not remembering what happened the night before……..just another day.
As long as it didn’t rain on Saturday (23) I intended to spend some more time in the garden again. It would be the last day in the year for doing any work for me but alas it didn’t happen. I had gotten up early and went for a long walk down the coastal road to Ainsdale. I chose that route as it was still dark at the time I went, 7.30. I wanted to take the route through the sand dunes but that could have proved very difficult in the dark. However, by the time I decided to return home it was light so I walked back through the dunes. When on the beach the sky was clear toward the south but northward it was dark and heavy. To the south I could see the mountains of North Wales, easily seen when the skies are clear. The oil rig westward out to sea was still fully lit against the dark sky. This time the tide had receded before I arrived but it had left an enormous amount of seaweed behind! I walked northward again along the beach to the point in the dunes where I would turn into them and off the beach. I was back home before 10.00 and had breakfast whilst E was busy doing something associated with her crafting hobby. As I mentioned I wanted to do a little gardening but events got in the way during the rest of the morning. After lunch I just didn’t feel like doing anything. It has been quite a busy twelve months with all the projects that I have been involved with both inside and outside the house. It helped not having to do electrical work for others, at least for the last nine months anyway. My time became my own and I could concentrate on my little domestic projects, and there were many! Just the way I like it, better for my health and well-being to have things to do to wile away the time. When I look back on the year I am amazed just how much was done, all of them written about in my posts, and there was still plenty of time to relax too. Saturday afternoon being one of them. There was always Sunday for a potter around the garden!
By the time I had gotten downstairs on Tuesday morning E was disappearing out of the front door. She had told me of her appointment with the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) regarding her business with the DSS (Department of Social Security) but I had forgotten. I grabbed a banana and put on my outdoor clothes to go for a walk. It wasn’t a particularly warm day, in fact it was quite cold in the wind though not as bad is it was a few days earlier. Not knowing which path to take I plodded on toward the seafront and made a snap decision once I was there. I turned left and took the paths through the dunes where I would be sheltered from the wind. I reached the spot where I could turn to my right and continue over the dunes to the beach. Once there I was exposed to the cold wind but it was pleasant and refreshing despite that. For the first time in a while I was on the beach when the tide was actually coming in. It was almost at high tide, almost reaching the dunes themselves and I was thrilled about that. One of my favourite things in life is to be on the beach at high tide and I am fortunate to be living on the coast to enjoy it. On the downside, living where I am isn’t the best place for I have to walk quite a way through the dunes to reach the beach else walk across a muddy path nearer to home to reach it directly. Anyway either way is alright and I am still happy. I was going to walk further along the beach to the small town where we used to live, Freshfield which is the north part of Formby but had I done so it would have doubled my walking distance. I wasn’t ready for a fourteen mile walk so I phoned E to see if she could collect me if I decided to walk it. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to so I simply returned home on foot from Ainsdale where I had ended up. Walking to Ainsdale and back is around a seven-mile walk. When I arrived home E had only just returned too but she had another appointment to keep immediately after lunch. This time she had to visit the hospital for therapy on her shoulder. So she went out again and I remained at home. Sometimes it’s like that at home, we pass like ships in the night hardly seeing each other.
Throughout our lives we may find ourselves caught up in situations outside our control. Though we may struggle to see a way out or a solution to problems we are facing we often cling on to a hope that things will change for the better. We hang on for as long as we are able or until the situation is resolved. We may not be happy with the result but we’ve done our best. How often have we heard others lending their support in encouragement by saying hang on in there? The length of time we are able to resist giving in and throwing in the towel depends on our inner strength, our faith and our determination. Sometimes we are thrown off-course by things out of our control and simply have to accept it. Earlier in the year I noticed our apple trees did not produce the fruit we had expected, in fact one tree had no fruit whilst the other had produced only four apples…
A later photograph of the same tree…..
And later still this picture taken on 25 November…….
Still hanging on through thick and thin. At the time I wrote this post and took the picture I wanted to pluck them from the tree before they fell of their own accord or were blown off in a high wind but E insisted I leave them until December just to see if they would remain hanging on. Life is like that. Sometimes we just don’t know if we should remain hanging on or give in to the pressure to let go. As a Christian I am encouraged to hang on in faith in order to overcome those things which can threaten to bring me down or to simply wait for answered prayer. We should all be encouraged to hang on in there just like the four little apples on my tree.
The more I look at my life the more I am convinced things happened as they were meant to. Apart from the fact I believe my life to have already been ‘planned’ in the eyes of God I really do believe I made the right choices leading up to the present. We often don’t think about the consequences of the decisions we make during our lives and how they will affect us in later life. It is true however that we make decisions based upon our preferences and our desires hoping that the outcome will benefit us to that end. We work hard with an aim in mind, a new car, a house, a holiday and everything else we wish to have. E and I live in a large house which according to the number of rooms qualifies it as potentially having seven bedrooms. On the first floor there are four bedrooms but on the floor above there are a further three rooms which although at the moment are not being used as bedrooms could nevertheless be so. Two of them are presently filled with our sons furniture and the third was converted to a craft workshop for E who uses it daily. The ground floor has three lounges though the largest is also filled at this time with our eldest son’s furniture. Furthermore there are rooms in the cellar (basement) which are all in use. I mention these things not to impress but only to show that E and myself have basically inherited the place that was first used to accommodate many of our family members. They all moved on leaving us alone with the house. It wasn’t gifted to us, no, we have legitimately owned it from the start though we only purchased it to accommodate more than just ourselves. We could have purchased a much smaller property instead. At the time and throughout the following years the house became more and more our home. We have spent time and money to make it the way it is for our own enjoyment and despite many folk suggesting that we could sell it and downsize we have resisted. In some ways living here isn’t beneficial, it costs a lot more for the privilege but because it is our home we are not concerned about the cost.
I suppose dear reader you’ll be wondering what all this is leading to and what it has to do with the title of the post? In April I formally retired from my electrical business, initially as a trial to see if I wanted to make it permanent. You see, for all my working life I have never had a moment where I had nothing to do. My time was always filled with work of one sort or another and it was exactly how I liked it to be. I like work whether it is for gain or for personal pleasure, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have something to do in my life as and when I feel I want it but not all of the time, I do like recreational activities too, I am not a ‘workaholic’. I was talking with E a few days ago about living in such a large house and because of that could always find something to do. I told her I was glad we never sold the place to move into an apartment for instance or at least a smaller property because if we had I should probably be dead by now! I explained that being an active person as I am I would find life after retirement a struggle if there was nothing to do. The large house and gardens give me no opportunity to be bored! Thinking back to the years when we decided to purchase the house I don’t think I ever thought about how the maintenance of it and the development of it would be of such a benefit in my old age!
The day is a special one for me as it marks the anniversary of E’s birth. Though I may not observe such days generally speaking, I never forget what they mean in my life. I took the opportunity to take E out to lunch though not specifically to mark the day I thought she would appreciate it anyway. I treat her to lunch quite often during the year so lunches have no special significance other than to enjoy each other’s company in some convivial place other than home. It is nice to go out for lunches now and again. I asked her how it felt to be now the age she is (I’m not revealing that) and she replied just the same as it was yesterday! How true a statement was that! Marking an annual date as something special is rather ridiculous when you think about it. What is the point? It is just another day. We could mark each day equally as such, a special day and this we should be doing anyway. We none of us know how many days we have on this planet so we should be enjoying every one of them in whichever way we feel is right. In January next year, the 27 th to be precise, I will have known E for 45 years. I loved her the first time I saw her and that hasn’t changed even though many other things have since. It is all about love.
Life is all about love for without love we have nothing. It isn’t an option, it is a command we should obey. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ (John 13:34)? Without love there is friction, discontent, discord and a host of other things which bring us down. Love lifts us up, makes us feel good not only about life in general but in ourselves. With love in our hearts we are at peace with ourselves and with the world. I wish I could take everyone out to lunch but that is obviously impossible. I can however demonstrate love in everything I do and this is what we all should do. Every day then becomes special to us and hopefully to those we meet too. Yes I remember October 11, 14, November 21 and a host of other ‘special’ days in my life but in reality every day is special.