Friday letter(s): Older

As you all know, my 30th birthday was on Tuesday, which means I’ve now been older than my step mum for a whole three days. Well, technically I’ve been older than her for a while – she died just over a month after her 29th birthday – but that’s something about the number changing that makes it seem more official. So I’m dedicating this week’s Friday letter to my step mum. I apologise now for any abundance of emotion, and also for the length.

Broken heart
Photo credit: johnkoetsier

Dear Shirley,

It’s weird to think that I’ve now reached an age that you never did. For all these years, I’ve thought of you as the adult and me as the child. And now I’m 30! I wonder what you would think of me now? I was 12 the last time I saw you. You didn’t see me though… you were in hospital and although you’d woken up that morning, by the time we came to see you in the afternoon, you were sleeping again. It was the 23rd of December, and the next day my mum was picking us up to take us home. The plan was to come to the hospital before making the drive back down South, and my last words to you were something like “See you tomorrow”.  I never saw you again. At 1 a.m., you stopped breathing and quietly slipped away. Christmas Eve – your favourite time of year. I still can’t remember if I told you I loved you before leaving the hospital that day, but I hope you knew.

We didn’t always get along. Of course we didn’t! I was an argumentative child and you could be incredibly stubborn. But I never once resented your marrying my dad. You made it perfectly clear from the start that you weren’t there to take my mam’s place – to this day, I remember you saying “You’ve already got a mum. I’m always here if you need me, but your mum is mum. I’m Shirley.” So instead, my sister and I would make you mother’s day cards labelled “To the world’s best step mum”, and in my eyes you really were. You were always interested in what we were doing at school, you listened to me recite my times tables for hours (although I’m sure it must have bored you senseless!), and whenever we came to stay, you were perfectly happy to bake and do crafts with us – no matter how much glitter we got on the dining room carpet! It’s true, you were not our mum, but there was a time when you were more of a mum to us than our real mother was. I  wondered why somebody so great did have kids of their own, but you always told us my sister and I were enough… and I’m sure that was true. But It wasn’t until later that I discovered breast cancer ran in your family and now I believe part of the reason was that you didn’t want to leave your children without a mother. Losing you broke mine and my sister’s hearts as well, but like you always said, we at least still had a mum.

After I moved to my dad’s at 13 (just over a year after you passed away), I would have loved to speak to you on many occasions. I love my mam, but 360 miles is a long way, and back then phone calls were expensive. I love my dad, too, but as a teenage girl, there were some things I just didn’t want to discuss with him. Since then, there have been many occasions that I wished you could have been around for. My 18th and 21st birthday parties, the day I graduated and, more recently, when I became a godmother. I always wondered what you would think if you could see me in whatever situation I was in … finally becoming a legal adult, getting a degree, moving abroad, being chosen as a godmother. Not being religious, I have trouble believing in a “heaven”, but if you can somehow see me now, I hope I make you proud.

You’ve been gone for more than half my life now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember you. I still think of you often. You may not be here, but I still love you with all my heart, and always will.
Love from your now-older-than-you step-daughter

Beverley

Paris – Third time UNlucky

My plan for today was to write a post extolling the virtues of Paris. I wanted to tell you how I finally tracked down the Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens (the first time I was in Paris, I had read about it but couldn’t find it, leading Jan to think I was imagining things. The second time I discovered the place it was meant to be, complete with a sign telling me it was currently on display somewhere else. This time it was there, but without its torch). Instead, I am going to tell you about how my purse disappeared somewhere between paying to get into the Catacombs and going out for a meal to discover my brother’s 21st birthday.

I have no idea how it happened. I spent most of my time holding the zip of my handbag firly closed with one hand while being alert for suspicious looking people at the same time. The only time I wasn’t holding my handbag closed was when I needed both hands to take a photograph, and then I checked that there was nobody near me first. ANd ye somehow, somewhere, my purse disappeared. To make things even more mysterious, my purse was tucked down at the side of my bag. So a pickpocket would have had to pull up the velcro flap, unzip the handbag, entirely ignore the bag containing Jan’s medication and my camera, which were lying on top (at least if it was taken while the camera was in the bag. If I was taking a photo the camera was obviously in my hand) and then rummage around until they got their hands on my purse. I have no idea how anyone could have done that without me feeling it. The alternative is that I dropped the purse at the catacombs, thought I had put it in my bag and walked away down the stairs leaving it behind. But if that was the case, both my sister and her boyfriend (who were behind me) must have missed it and the purse must have been taken from the floor before any member of staff noticed it and picked it up – Jan called the catacombs the next morning (he speaks French) and they didn’t have it. Neither did the bar where we went for a drink pre-meal or the restauarnt where we ate said meal. It is gone. Disappeared off the face of the Earth. So today I worked from home so I would have the chance to go to my bank ebfore it closed (at 4pm, would you believe!) and order a new card. You have to go in personto show them your ID and sign a form. They also let me take money out using my passport. Actually, it was kind of cool. The woman asked me how much I wanted, programmed the amount onto a card then I had to go to a cash machine. The card was eaten and the amount I wanted came out. Much better than standing in a queue for one of the two counters that was open! My new card could take up to 10 days to arrive, but I can get more money out using my passport any time, as long as the bank is open.

Slightly more annoying is the loss of my card for the train. I was hoping to get a temporary paper one while I waited for the replacement to arrive. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Instead, every time I get on the train, I have to go to the ticket inspector, tell him my BahnCard is lost and get a receipt. I then have 14 days to take the receipts, along with my replacement card, to a counter at the train station where I will have to pay €7 per journey. The replacement card could take anywhere between 5 and 10 days to arrive. And I also pay a €30 fee for the replacement itself. I don’t even want to try to add that up right now – it’s too depressing. But even without doing the actual maths I know it’s going to be a lot.

But even that is not the worst part. No, the most devasting part is that my purse contained a photo of my step mam – one of three I actually own, and the only one I had in Germany with me. It wasn’t a particularly special photo – just one of those taken in a photo booth, showing her and a friend. But it was hers. She had 2 copies and her friend had the other 2. About 2 years after she had died, we found her 2 copies in her old vanity case, and my dad let my sister and I keep them. And now, my copy is gone. My sister thinks she has lost hers too, but she’s going to have a look for it and see if she an scan it in for me. But even if she does find it, the scanned copy won’t be the same. It won’t be the actual photo that belonged to Shirley. And so I shall mourn its loss, just for a little while.

On a desert island in December

Well, I’m still ill, although my voice had come back slightly this morning. I still can’t stop coughing though. *sigh*
But this post isn’t meant to be another moany pity-me one. Instead I’m finally going to get round to doing that meme I’ve been going on about for days.

So, I was tagged by Katyboo and the meme is based on Desert island Discs.
For those that don’t know Desert Island Discs is a BBC radio programme in which guests have to imagine they are castaways on a desert island and choose 8 pieces of music to take with them. Then they can choose one book, anything but the Bible or Shakespeare, both of which are already on the island (strange island this). And finally, they can choose one luxury item, nothing to help them escape from the island though.

So, here goes. First my eight pieces of music.
This is quite difficult actually. I have favourite pieces of music for every mood, and what I feel like listening to sometimes changes within hours never mind days, but I shall do my best.

1. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler – This is my all time favourite song, although it also makes me a little sad. You see, it was also one of my step mam’s favourite songs. I like to listen to it on days when I find myself wishing she was still around (she died when I was 12 those who are wondering). So clearly it would have to come to the desert island with me for her sake. Also it’s on the soundtrack to the film Beaches, which makes it pretty appropriate for a desert island don’t ya think?

2. Bad Day by Daniel Powter – For those days when I’m feeling all hormonal and miserable. Who doesn’t like screaming “cos you’ve had a bad day” at the top of their lungs on days like that?

3. Carnival of Rust by Poets of the Fall – It took me aaages to decide on this one. I knew I had to have something b y Poets, them being my new favourite band and everything, but it was so unbelievable difficult to decide which one. I’ve gone for this one because it’s kind of loud and rocky, perfect for jumping around a desert island too, and plus my boyfriend can play it on guitar so it would be something to remind me of him.

4. World by Five for Fighting – It was a toss up between this one and Devil in the Wishing Well. This one won out, but only just. I would put it on full blast, close my eyes and imagine myself a new world, just like the song says. The perfect way to forget about being stuck on a desert island.

5. Miserable by Lit – Another one for horrible days when everything seems to be going wrong. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this song. I was 18 and I’d just had a fight with my boyfriend of the time. A guitarist friend of mine offered to play a song for me, so I told him to “play something miserable”, which he did. This was that miserable song. I’ve loved it ever since.

6. Ha Ha You’re Dead by Green Day – Not Green day’s best song and not even my favourite, but perfect for a desert island. Another great one for turning up to full volume and screaming out while jumping around like a loony.

7. Tribute by Tenacious D – This song is hilarious! It never fails to cheer me up. Also, it reminds me of my group of friends from uni. The DJ would play it for us every week and at some point it became our anthem. It’s nice to have something to remind of those times now we’re all spread across the world.

8. Keep on Loving You by REO Speedwagon – My first ever favourite song! Obviously I had no idea what it was about back then. I would just sing along to the chorus and imagine how it would be to have someone telling me he was going to love me forever. There are other REO Speedwagon songs that I like, but for my desert island it would obviously have to be this one that came along for the sake of my six year old self.

Phew. That was hard! I just hope I’ve got all the links right. Now for the book…
Well, obviously it would have to be something long otherwise I’d be finished with it way too soon and end up having to read and re-read the bible until rescue came. The obvious one would probably be War and Peace. I’m a quick reader and every time I finish yet another book my boyfriend threatens to buy me that one for Christmas! I think that one would be too obvious a choice though so I’ve decided to go with Gone With the Wind. I’ve heard so much about it but never actually got round to reading it (or watching the film) and I feel like I should. A desert island would be the perfect opportunity. And it 960 pages for this edition it should take me a few weeks to get through it…

And finally, my luxury item.
Now I know people are probably going to laugh at this but I think I would want my cuddly Eeyore.
This Eeyore was a birthday present from my mum this year. (Yes I got a stuffed toy for my 25th birthday. And your point would be?). He’s some kind of bedtime Eeyore, which means he’s dressed in a blue dressing gown and night cap thing and, depending on which way you look at him, either looks unbelievably exhausted or as if he’s just woken up. One day, not long after Eeyore arrived in Germany, Jan decided he felt sorry for him sitting on the table looking like he hadn’t slept in days, so before we left for work he tucked Eeyore up under my quilt. By the time I arrived home I’d forgotten he was there. I’d had a bad day and all I wanted was to get into my room and relax. Upon opening the door I saw Eeyore snuggled up waiting for me and my heart just melted. He looked so cute lying there, and of course knowing my boyfriend had put him there made it even cuter. So if I was going to be trapped on a desert island I would definitely have to tajk Eeyore with me so I could leave him tucked up in my bed waiting to greet me when I returned from a hard day of gathering cocunts and stuff. I’m sure he’d be a great comfort when I got sunstroke as well, which I most definitely would. If I can get sunstroke in Karlsruhe I’ve got no chance on a desert island!

OK, that’s it. Now I think I’m supposed to tag people. Unfortunately just about everyone I would have tagged has already done it though, so I pick sleepyjane and anyone else who wants to have a go…