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Sunday, 30 June 2013

On the Myth of Quiet Times in Bognor Regis, and Finishing Dr Kate Ganger's Portrait for AGD

The most important thing Eileen and I wanted to do this week, has not been done.  Let us recap.

On arrival last week, Eileen suggested that we sit together and write down all the things that we have achieved in the last year.  "It is good to remember all that we have done," she said, "it puts things in perspective".

"Well, that's a must," I said, "we'll certainly do that".  And so, this is the shortened version of the week past, that ended up with us not doing it.

Eileen arrived here in Bognor Regis last week, for a rest.  She works very, very hard and is also completing a degree in photography.  She had spent until 4 in the morning the day she arrived, writing a report that needed to be done.  "Welcome!" I said as I picked her up from Bognor Station, "there is a man living in the sitting room, Older Son has staged an aggressive occupation in his rooms where you were going to sleep, and the fridge is empty. You are now on the floor of the telly room and get some sleep because our itinerary begins at dawn."  A week later, we have not found a chink in the back to back schedule of meetings, visits, afternoon teas, long journeys to do things and moving the house around, to sit down and get this longed for perspective.

In the spirit of doing the thing that we have not done, remembering the things that we have done, I shall highlight just a few of the jolly things completed this week.  And it has been a jolly week!  It is true that as far as rests go, it was not a great success, but if getting things done and having afternoon teas and seeing bus loads of people here and feeding them all is as good as having a rest, well, we had a jolly good one.

Eileen and the first of our Afternoon Teas (on  different days)
The first of our Afternoon Teas was in the glorious Bailiffscourt Hotel in Climping.  I was reserved in taking the photograph here!  I took it before we began.  The next afternoon tea a few days later, at Amberly Castle in Amberly, was gone before I remembered to take a photo.  Oh these cream teas, they are served as you can see, on three layers, with sandwiches, dainties, cakes, scones and cream.  I am a stout girl.  I am a trooper.  I can handle this, but if I were to take my mother here, she would not be able to cope.  What do you do if you are not a big eater and want a fancy cream tea?  Make your own at home, I suppose.

We came to this fancy and abundant cream tea via Bridport.  Some important news follows now, so pay attention and get out your diaries.

The Unitarian Church, Bridport.  I like to pretend I live here.
In November of this year, the A Graceful Death exhibition will be coming to Bridport, to the Unitarian Church.  The exhibition will be a three day event with talks on Soul Midwifery, with workshops, and a piano concert by Lizzie Hornby who has composed a new piano piece called A Graceful Death.  Lizzie played Eileen and I this piece last week, when we went to have a meeting at the church with her, and I loved it.  Lizzie, musician extraordinaire, is so clever.  She has composed the music that accompanies the exhibition, and is a truly valued member of the team.  The new dedicated piano piece is based on a heartbeat, on the heartbeat stopping and starting again, and moving in and out of life.  Lizzie will be giving a concert for the opening event on Friday 1 November, so go and put it in your diaries now.  In fact, go and book your train tickets, check the car is free that weekend, and tell your families and loved ones that you are going to Bridport for an end of life knees up, and that someone else must feed the cat for those days.

We shall have a talk by the celebrated Felicity Warner on Soul Midwifery, we shall have an interview with both a palliative care nurse in the community and a cancer patient from a hospice, on both aspects of their experiences, followed by an audience discussion.  There will be talks on what A Graceful Death is, and the people behind the paintings.  I am hoping that Mike, who has been painted recently with Motor Neuron Disease, will come and be a star, and also that Dr Kate Granger who has also just been painted, will come too and be another star.  More about Kate in a minute.  And, of course, we shall have afternoon tea set up in the glorious bright warm huge exhibition space, on the Saturday afternoon.  Did I mention there will be a shop?  There will be a shop!  There will be stalls with wonderful, relevant and special items for sale.  It seems that you should bring the family too.  Get the neighbours in to feed the cat that weekend.  Actually, bring the neighbours and the cat, it's a shame for them to miss out.  (I do have Snowy the Cat in the exhibition;  Snowy died and his owner, the poet and academic Rosie Miles, was very sad and so Snowy joined A Graceful Death).

As this week hurtled on, ploughing through Eileen's rest time as she tried to find small pockets of silence in which to gather her frazzled thoughts, I finished the next portrait for the A Graceful Death exhibition.  Dr Kate Granger is a young doctor living in Wakefield.  Newly married, qualified and passionate about her career in medicine, Kate was diagnosed with a cancer that is terminal and swift. Instead of lying down and dying, Kate decided to continue to work and has used her knowledge, her insights and her incredible energy to help educate and change end of life practice in hospitals.  Kate has been, and is, terribly ill, and has endured much difficult treatment, but has still managed to raise vast amounts (I mean thirty thousand kind of amounts) for Yorkshire Cancer Centre.  Kate is so young, only 31, and has managed to do so much practical and long lasting good for those in her hospital, and in the medical profession itself.  It is sobering to look at the painting of the young and healthy looking woman in the painting below, and to know that she is dying and could die at any time.

Dr Kate Granger, just joined the A Graceful Death exhibition.

I am so thrilled to have Kate in the exhibition.  She said of herself in this painting that she liked the combination of her looking happy and contented but introvert and ever so slightly frail.  Behind Kate is the top of her wedding photo, her husband being one of the most important things in her life.  The wall paper is significant; she and her husband had bought it and had never got round to hanging it.  When Kate first came out of hospital from some very exhaustive treatment, her husband had put it up for her return.  Eileen and I have filmed an excellent chat with Kate, which will go onto our AGD Channel on You Tube as soon as Eileen can get a bit of down time away from me.  Bless.

(The above photo was taken by Eileen. Part of her quiet and restful week here, is to photograph all my work as I do it, from a tripod she has to set up, in a makeshift studio space she has created. The result is a stunning photograph from a dedicated professional and perfectionist.  I hope Eileen had a sit down afterwards.)

Giant Boy found a new toy this week.  Fancy Girl and her best friend came for the day to Bognor, to rest and catch up and eat, with the best friend's 18 month old and 14 week old daughters  This was a very good idea, because Eileen needs to rest, and we thought that two very small babies and lots of cooking would really help her.  Someone handed the 14 week old to Giant Boy.  "Here," they said, " have this," and passed a tiny gurgling bundle to him.  Giant Boy sat down and had a good look at this hot, squirmy, dribbling little creature, and fell in love.


"What is it?" said Giant Boy.  
And now.  Today Eileen is going home.  "I see you are rested," I said to her.  "You will be delighted that I have a picnic planned in Lewes with more friends, let's get dressed and let's go.  Hurray."  We are going to visit an old friend from our past, in his cottage in Lewes.  From there, after much mirth and eating, I will put Eileen on a train home, where her own flat will never have seemed more appealing.

I think that on our two hour journey to Lewes, Eileen and I will use the time to list all our achievements over the past year. To get that much needed perspective. "Wake up Eileen!"  I will say, "write notes!  These are my achievements, listen up, here is what I have done."  And Eileen will do so, because she is such a kind and caring friend.  When it is her time to list her achievements, top of the list will be "Going home.  I managed to go home."

It has been a busy week.  It has been a lovely week, and Eileen has enjoyed it as much as I have.  The perspective that I have gained just in the last few days is that I have good friends.  I have a very good life, I am delightfully happy, and that I must admit that though I can offer much fun and games, I cannot really, though I may think I can, offer quiet times to anyone.