Life’s rich tapestry

It’s the last day of July and it’s raining: good old British summer, guaranteed to keep us all guessing… Still, the Olympic Games are managing to keep going and I bet the European team that wore wellies and carried umbrellas round the stadium last Friday – the Czech’s I think – are glad they came well-prepared for London’s notorious weather! Yes, Olympic fever is definitely here, we’re now on Day 4, and even though Team GB haven’t bagged any gold medals yet there’s an atmosphere of excitement, a big screen in the marketplace, lots of merchandise in shops and on bodies and wall-to-wall TV with enthusiastic presenters. After all, this is the summer we have all been waiting for, the Big Party for the nations at which we are the honoured hosts!

But I don’t want to write about what our family call ‘the Limpet Games’ – remember the Monty Python phrase, ‘quick as a limpet’? It all fits!  Even though there are lots of things that could be said about that amazing and wonderful opening ceremony that started with Hobbiton, cricket and a beautiful tenor voice singing Jerusalem – soon swallowed by the orc-like industrial age coming up out of the ground, smiled upon by Kenneth Brannagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel(!) – and finished 3 hours later with the older athletes passing the torch to the younger generation, releasing 7 of them to light that extraordinary cauldron: it is probably better if we forget Macca’s ‘Hey Jude’ finale, though we were surely expected to feature a Beatle in proceedings… And in between, the hilarious appearance of Mr Bean, Simon Rattle and Chariots of Fire, 007 bringing the Queen(!) in a helicopter and Beckham driving the Olympic torch in a powerboat up the Thames; we saw Peter Pan linking Great Ormond Street’s patients, doctors and nurses dancing with children’s literaturethe dazzling digital light-show of memories and modern life, ‘Abide with Me’ and a moving memorial to 7/7, the beautiful childrens’ choirs from the nations, deaf children signing the national anthem and Stephen Lawrence’s mother, along with other heroic, ordinary-looking women, carrying the Olympic flag with the General Secretary of the UN. No trace of Empire, instead humour mixed with humility, rural and urban, cultural diversity, memories and the digital age: thank you, brilliant Mr Boyle.

On a more personal Olympic note, I could tell you about the strange sensation of going to our local gym on Loughborough campus and seeing Olympians there – or our colourful experience at City of Coventry Stadium on Sunday afternoon – which was very cleverly planned to provide (nearly) all the thrill of going to the Games without having to travel to London.  We watched Mexico play Gabon and Republic of Korea versus Switzerland in the men’s football competition – young men from 4 continents meeting in the heart of our small islands – and as we were watching some excellent soccer, played ‘spot the sombrero’, joined in the most appropriate of Mexican waves, tried to persuade a Mexican girl to buy a beef pie and smiled at the noisy, chanting Koreans around us as they beat their drums, waved their flags – and won their match 🙂

I also don’t want to write about Martin having his bottom tattooed on 13th of this month – though it’s a good story and if you don’t know about it you can give £20 to the Our Space (childrens’ cancer unit at Leicester hospitals) charity and be part of my brave and crazy husband’s efforts too… Not many Professors have tattoos, especially on their bums – especially then allowing it to be filmed and photographed and showing it to his patients in clinic for an extra donation! He became a minor celebrity for a week and was even interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester for an hour talking about his life, career, work, hobbies – and Sam and the suffering in which we have so wonderfully discovered Jesus shares. I am married to an inspiring man!

Equally, I could tell another good story of falling unconscious flat on my face in a restaurant in Brittany last month, being carried out to a French ambulance by 4 handsome young men and spending several hours in Les Urgences in Lorient hospital while they checked I hadn’t had a heart attack and eventually stitched up the gash in my chin. It was terribly disconcerting being an alien in such a vulnerable environment and Martin was so shocked at me fainting away and the blood all over the floor – he thought I was dying! It was only the herald of a nasty colic which put me in bed unable to eat for 2 days, but it could have been worse if we weren’t booked into a beautiful hotel for the night – a very peaceful place to be ill! Mais non, ‘Je suis tombé’ will have to wait for another day.

We all have stories to tell – high points we can embellish, dramas to turn into humorous anecdotes – and it often seems to me this that this family has more than it’s fair share of ‘life to the full!’ I do love that, but the last couple of weeks have been a bit too stressful and busy.  Having the new bathroom fitted – my birthday present! – has perhaps been the last straw – the one that broke the camel’s back; the chaos in the heart of my home has made keeping the wheels of life turning far more difficult than I realised, with workmen in the house all the time and everything in different places it’s been a full-time job simply to stay peaceful and on top of the laundry! At the same time Sam’s shower is leaking onto the fuse box below, so he cannot use it; while we have no shower at all he has to share our remaining bath – and I have to use his washing machine. It’s a good thing we have 2 houses between us! But… guess what: I don’t really want to write about Sam today either. How is Sam? He is Sam! He’s OK: Sam is Sam is Sam – no physical symptoms, lots of angst.

I don’t think I can use this washing machine!

It’s in having to cope with the builder’s mess – the de-construction that precedes reconstruction – I have seen a parallel that reflects a deeper truth – something that helps me get to the root of why I have felt quite so stressed in these weeks since returning from France. This is actually what I wanted to write about and dissect! But the front of the tapestry – the finished picture – is much easier to decipher than the loose threads at the back and just as I wrote before (in the poem Front of House) about putting on a stage show for public view but there being a lot of mess backstage that is less palatable, I do still get in knots trying to make sense of the more subconscious emotions and hidden reactions – especially when I feel exhausted and over-stretched.

So I am not going to write about deconstruction either… but just accept that is what is happening – not just to my old bathroom, but to me. There is no going back – the past is gone; I have much to look forward to, but it is not here yet. This is the ‘bit in the middle’, where vision keeps you going but you don’t yet see it made real… You just have to keep going a day at a time and occasionally look up and down the road and take stock. Last day of July – mark: I’m deconstructed and a new shape is being made while I’m waiting for what is to come – forgetting what is past and straining forward? More like crawling forward with my broken camel’s back, but yeah – bring it on.

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About Sally Ann

True-story teller - words and pictures
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