pesky pets


It’s not been a good day.

The grumpy old chap who had such a large part of all our hearts died  today. All of a sudden. He wasn’t in form- he had no oomph- and we were going to phone the vet for an appointment, when he just keeled over.

Spurs Fan demonstrated heretofore hidden agressive driving techniques, but it was too late. Jake didn’t make it to the vet. He was gone by the time we got there; he was undoubtedly gone before his head hit the floor, but we didn’t want to believe that.

We came home empty handed.

As with all things, it could have been worse. He could have been home alone. I could have been the only person here. Our friends who looked after him on Monday night and Tuesday morning could have found him. Instead, because it’s half term, we were all at home. We were able to satisfy the urge to do something, however pointless. We were able to pet him and hold him and talk to him.

He’s never been in great health, but when he was checked out last week, all he needed was an antibiotic, which cleared up his tum issues. We expected him to keep on pottering about for a good while yet.

My days at home will be longer and lonely.

I just made a toasted cheese sandwich and had no gentle nudge on my leg. No shake, stretch, or pitter patter when the fridge door was opened. When I leave the house in a little while I’ll not say “Bye, Jake. You’re in charge.”  I’ll not need to check on him first thing, or wonder where the poo is, or forget to let him in. He won’t knock over the footballer gnome (doesn’t everybody have one?) or stand in exactly the wrong place in the teeny kitchen. He won’t choose the bits of newspaper for the fire, or complain about the  television. He won’t or sniff every leaf, or grumble at each passing dog.

He came to us when he was about 8, a lifetime behind him. He needed a quiet house, with somebody about most of the time. He didn’t like fuss or noise or contact he didn’t initiate.

He was our wee old man, who got the blame for all the random smells.

He was one of us.

The wee pet.


the girl with the bow

Breslin 1930

We can see so many of ourselves in the picture, we of the next generation, and the ones after us. From the pictured parents, there are 108 of us. There is no fault in not knowing everyone. But Mary did. The girl with the bow knew everyone.

She left us this week, aged 92. Most of her 12 siblings went before her. I kept being taken aback that there are only 5 of the ‘grown ups’ left.

Mary was the eldest auntie, a big part of all of our lives. She was always there, full of smiles and gentle wit, love and laughter, hard work and hard won wisdom. She was our backbone- central, strengthening and supportive.

Her brothers and sisters, and later, nephews and nieces got most of her time and energy. Somehow she managed work, family, volunteering and fun. She helped set up the parish youth club, she played a mean hand of whist, she recited poetry. In her last days she told a visiting priest Chesterton’s Donkey, to the delight of all. She spent much time in her mother’s home parish of Gweedore. We all spend time there when we can.

We have to adjust now to a world without Mary. We all worry about the youngest auntie, who has lived in the family home with Mary until the extra care of a nursing home was needed. Mary has been her constant, and, in recent years, her main focus. She will have the most adjusting. But there are lots of us. We’ll be there. It’s what we do.

It’s what Mary and the other grown ups showed us how to do.




school days, but not as we know them

It’s a long time since I left school, but I’m no stranger to lectures and seminars, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and lifelong learning groups. I’m curious and sociable; although not a joiner of many things, I’m finding it hard to resist the allure of  courses I can do at home without having to get washed first.



This morning, the School for Health and Care Radicals started. Over 1800 people have signed up, and there are many ways to participate. Some were involved in a web seminar, I followed by phone conference, slides and chatted on Twitter. The live broadcast will be available on line later, there will be a twitter chat, there are learning materials to download for each module if we choose. It’s on Facebook and Pinterest and there’s a facilitated phone conversation coming up. Participants are encouraged to form and join learning groups, and we can opt in for a Randomised Coffee Trial. This is a model of truly ‘open’ learning- free, worldwide, students opting in to whatever modules, challenge or support they choose.

The energy in the space this morning was extraordinary. While preaching the importance of connections, #SHCR was facilitating those connections, in what could probably be called ‘real time’.

One of the key discussions was about the difference between being a rebel and a troublemaker. A continuum perhaps, but which is more likely to achieve their aims? We all know the draining affect some people have- how do we deal with that?


We also considered working in the ziggy zaggy world between the dominant approach and emergent thinking, and the need to build self efficacy.


so she did


You’ll know that I loved the ‘institutionalised serendipity’ of the Randomised Coffee Trial, but that wasn’t my favourite thing. Really, you wonder… what could beat that?

It could only be the comment that the best way to stay as rebel is to out-love everybody else. Excellent! That chimes so well with relentlessly pleasant that it must work.


I’m going to be even more annoying.



goose bumps and all the aches


A family wedding can be a precious thing. An opportunity to gather together with people we’ve known our whole lives, with whom we’ve shared history, hugs, giggles and woes. A chance, at our age, for a happy family event. Tears, without a funeral. We were all ready for it.


My cousin** was beautiful as always, and early. The groom was welcoming and smiley. Both were wonderfully relaxed- certain that they were in the right place, at the right time, with all their people around them.

My uncle made it up the aisle with his youngest daughter, and rested, hugging the couple, sharing all our joy. The priest teased and chatted, and we were all comfortable with our place in this community, as welcomed visitors to this parish. You will know that I was wiping my eyes before things got fully underway.

The mummies, sisters, brothers, friends, all had a role to play. And there was the music.

One of the Incredible Singing Cousins married a professional musician. Not a bit wonder there were goose bumps, what with the harmonies and the fiddling. Clapping at the end of each piece of music would have been inappropriate, but warranted. The bride sang along with every word.

I rested at the hotel, but there could never have been enough rest to prepare me for what was to come. All the chatting, the seeking out people to hug, the catching up with lives and adult children. How did that child get to be nearly 30?

ready to party
ready to party

All the dancing. Despite ending up in a heap on the floor early on – like a tortoise, with no idea of how to get up, Thank You kind unknown man- I danced all night. Of course this was not wise. Of course, I’m paying for it. Of course I can hardly move yet, two days later. But I would not have missed it. I leapt about nearly to the point of collapse, and the next morning the girls had to gather bits from breakfast and bring them back to the room for me. I had been immobile for hours, and it would be a while yet before I discovered the energy to sit up.

We had a great day. Everybody had a great day. We were all glad to be included, to celebrate together, to share the special love of family.

Right now, who’s next?


**photo of the bride stolen from incredible dancing cousin’s FB page