Monday 22 July 2013


Darling Eva and Elyssa,
The day you were born, I sat inside a little room beside a rose garden, reading Virginia Woolf, and this passage struck me particularly...
'Here then was I, sitting on the banks of a river a week or two ago in fine October weather, lost in thought... such a wash and tumult  of ideas that it was impossible to sit still. I found myself walking with extreme rapidity across a grass plot. Instantly a man's figure rose to intercept me... His face expressed horror and indignation. Instinct rather than reason came to my help; he was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me.'
Woolf decides to cross the quadrangle and visit one of the famous Oxbridge libraries, when...
'there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction.'

How things have changed and changed and though some things remain the same, you have arrived at the time of Malala Yousafzai taking on the Taliban single handedly at 15, and although America may not yet have a woman President, plenty of other countries do from Liberia and South Korea to Kosovo, Costa Rica, Argentina and Malawi.  While I was writing this, I noticed a butterfly trapped behind the glass door... she flew out the instant she heard the sound of wind and freedom that come with an open door...
For a while, I have moved onto a quiet farm to create more space for your two grannies, grandpa, other aunty and all the other friends and relations who will flock to visit you in abundance. You are both loved.
You are both celebrated. Although, would you mind if we celebrated your cousin Isabella's one month birthday today too? She is very far away but hopefully you will meet her soon.
The first meal I made on the farm for your parents, who that very night were detained by your imminent arrival, so your grandparents enjoyed instead, and together we waited for news.
And now you are both here!
Love forever and ever, your Aunty Shai-Shai xxxx

Monday 8 July 2013


who would have thought you would be a grandfather twice over? That your glorious, mischievous son would be a father twice over? I feel sure Rafael knows how lucky he is to have baby Isabella or Sissybella as he likes to call her... someone to play with and tease and employ in mild acts of destruction, someone to point the finger at knowing she will never hold a grudge, no matter what.
And who would have thought you would have the other beloved son, the First Born as you like to call him, waiting to add to your cricket team?
Once, it was just the five of us, with no plans other than to enjoy each other, invent new games, and look forward to sharing hours of reading in silence... Once, we even fit in the same cot, all three of us...
Darling Popsy, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Infinity to infinity, and all the days beyond... here's to the ever unfolding of the beautiful family you keep helping to create and recreate...

Monday 1 July 2013


I don't normally do book reviews because I've always trusted that books find us and even a passionate book recommendation cannot save it from poor timing. So this isn't a review, just an About A Book I Liked. It's called The Yellow World and it is a very neat, concise memoir by a man who once was a boy who had cancer. I know. I'm really selling this to you :)

I felt quite jealous reading it because in the book, Albert Espinosa recounts how the cancer kids (the Eggheads) were part of a tight, intimate clique. They shared their lives, experiences, journeys, losses and banded together against and with the different shades of the disease. I've never had anything like this. Mine has been a desperately lonely road in the hospital, especially when I was a teenager and even in my twenties. My friendships have always been with the staff, especially house cleaning and nurses.

On Thursday, during my infusion, I met a young man who could easily have been Albert Espinosa in disguise. He was freshly graduated and didn't mind letting everyone know he was now part of The First Class With Honours brigade. 'Me too, me too!' I wanted to boast. He was very cool in a Cool Patienty sort of way - showing off the expensive diabetes contraption attached to his flesh. We discussed the possibility of subcutaneous infusions which might be in my near future (the prospect of self injecting does not appeal), and he had some good advice about it. He talked a mile a dozen, but what I envied was his life in his usual hospital, on his usual ward. 'Everyone knows each other. We've all been coming there for years. We have the same three nurses. It's brilliant!' And then he dropped the real gem - they're allowed to manage their Own Drips! That's unheard of. I've never been allowed to manage my own medication on the infusion bay. How green I felt, how green with envy... I doubt we will see each other again. As the record stands, I don't think I've ever met the same patient twice and I've been at this gig for almost seventeen years now. I did meet a lady, once, for a second time - she recognised me because the last time we'd met, I'd inflicted a leaf on her with a poem inscribed on it...

So I was scrabbling around trying to find a nice yellow image to go with my yellow post when I came across this bench... derived from the concept of Random Acts of Kindness, the purpose of the yellow bench is to invite strangers to share a moment, a chat. The business concept, of yellow benches everywhere, struggled to survive red tape and city councils, but one day a woman volunteered to carry the mission forward and put a Yellow Bench in Dublin. Isn't my love of Ireland justified again and again? (I can imagine some of my Irish friends thinking less than salubrious thoughts about the TYPE of person that might want to 'chat', but then again, you never know... you might meet someone extraordinary...)

Images of The Yellow Bench taken from All About Ideas