Saturday, 10 April 2010

10 April 1954 was a good day

Carey, my mum's younger sister, was born that day and today would have been her 56th birthday.

She was the youngest of 3 girls, a pretty, quiet child and a keen ice-skater and tennis player.

She was 15 when I was born, though I really only remember her from when she finished her teacher training and went off to her first couple of teaching jobs in Manchester and Brixton. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! She married an eccentric Liverpudlian guitarist and they produced my lovely cousin Joe.

She soon landed herself a plum job as the Head of Drama at the very prestigious girls' boarding school, Cobham Hall, where she taught very happily for years. She was the shyest drama teacher ever though, hated speaking in public and blushed at even the mildest rude joke.

She later divorced and married a local man. They lived happily in her beautiful, very old house in Kent.

She was successful, happy, gorgeous and very content with life. She fell in love with Greece, especially Crete and spent many a summer week sunning herself and enjoying the relaxed lifestyle. She was looking at houses in France with a view to retiring there.

In mid-2002 she developed a severe, debilitating headache and nausea, lasting several days. A migraine was initially blamed but soon other possibilities had to be investigated. And then came the news - multiple brain tumours, secondary to lymph cancer. It was less of a diagnosis than a prognosis - one which initially was shockingly short - maybe 5 weeks with no effective treatment possible. Private healthcare disagreed and various bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy ensued, over the next 21 months. 

She returned to Crete a year after her diagnosis for a long holiday, during which most members of the family joined her for a week or so each. It was weird but great, and a trip which would remain etched in our memories. She saw her baby boy take his driving test, and go off to university, events which she had been determined to stick around for.

Those of you who have watched cancer ravage a person will know what followed. Those who haven't, consider yourselves very lucky and I hope you never do. Over those months, I saw more of her than I had in the previous 30-odd years. We shopped, watched films, sang, talked, laughed and cried. 

On the 1st of February, 2004, at 1.26am, 11 weeks short of her 50th birthday, with almost all her family members in the house with her, she finally succumbed, dying, as she had lived, peacefully.

I know she would have been involved, intrigued and proud of everything her family has done since.

And I miss her every single day.

Happy birthday, Auntie Carey. xxxx

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Has spring sprung?

Yesterday afternoon in the park, the swallows (or are they swifts? I never know) were zooming around merrily, 2 magpies had rather rampant sex near me, there's now a butterfly flitting around outside the window and it's 26 degrees on my balcony.

It's been warm and sunny since our impromptu picnic in the Retiro on Sunday and it's showing no sign of letting up.

I'm inclined to officially announce that it's spring, hide my jacket at the back of my wardrobe and start wandering around in slightly more summery clothing.

However, as Richard M is forever reminding us - "Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo" - "Until the 40th of May, don't give up your tunic" (how quaint). Or for the English idiom: "Ne'er cast a clout til May be out". So apparently I shouldn't take the risk until either June 1st or June 10th, depending on which idiom you want to believe.

Still, since I own neither a tunic nor a piece of clothing that resembles only a "fragment of cloth" (clout), maybe I'll just say "F*ck it", hide my coat and keep my fingers crossed. If it rains in the next few days, you'll know who to blame.