Sunday, September 11, 2011


What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with?

I can, of course, only be talking about one day, one event. one date.

At 2 pm, I was booked for a conference call with a supplier in Midtown. 9 am their time. Just before 2, I got my team together and we filed into the meeting room, dialed the number and waited. No-one came on the line. I was about to give them a hard time for failing to live up to expectations. At ten past, we gave up and I went back to the desk and I started to call them. No answer. I wrote a short, salty email.

A few moments later someone came onto the floor from the dealing room where there were television screens scattered around the room. The horrible news started to filter through.

I phoned home. My son had just sat his A levels and was at home at the start of his gap year. He put the television on and watched all afternoon.

Three colleagues were 3 blocks away on their way to a 9 am meeting when the first plane hit. No-one knew where they were or if they were safe. Their families were ringing the office desperate for news.

At 3, a friend called. She had flown back in from New York overnight and had gone to bed for a few hours sleep. Turning on the television, she couldn't make sense of it all. The day before she and her fiance had been in the Windows on the World restaurant planning their wedding. He worked next door to the World Trade Center.

We had just seen the South Tower collapse.

A colleague came in from the dealing room. Tearfully, he told us how they had closed the lines to Cantor Fitzgerald, in the North Tower. How could you bear to listen to what was happening?

Mobile phone and landlines were haphzard in London. My daughter was planning to go to London that evening to visit a school friend. Eventually, I got a message through to her not to travel.

At 4pm, our local chief exec closed our office for the day. The Underground was closed so I walked to Waterloo. Hardly anyone was talking. Some people were holding hands. All the way home on the train, people were pale and quiet.

My three colleagues were safe. They had carried on towards their meeting after the first plane hit. With the second impact, they headed back up through Manhattan on foot. My friend's fiance was safe. He was travelling to Seattle later that day so was on his way to the airport.

My colleague who had listened to the Cantor Fitzgerald staff who knew they were about to die was never the same, closing in on himself.

At home that night, I just wanted to hug my son and daughter. And I have had the privilege of ten more years of loving them, unlike thoese poor people who died that day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Going postal

Sorry - I'm rubbish.

I have this wonky back. Had it for years. Four years ago it was diagnosed and some treatment sorted me out for a while. Last autumn, it started to be very painful again and by the turn of the year every step was painful. Every night it woke me up and every day I was tired. Too tired to be bothered with much in the way of pleasure, like writing a blog. Sleep, eat, walk Spot and work. Crap, eh?

A couple of months ago, a lady took herself to Dignitas because she could not face the remaining years of pain from arthritis. On the radio, the presenter said "Only arthritis". I would love to be able to clip him round the ear with one of my wonky hands.

Anyway, I've had some more treatment which is a bit of a curate's egg just at the moment. Some days I am full of buzz and energy and others are not so good.

But this isn't about me. Sir Terry Pratchett has made a documentary about assisted dying and it will be shown on television next week. Go and look it up on the BBC website. He doesn't have wonky hands and a wonky back. Makes me ashamed to bleat.

But, I am so proud to have met him and shaken his hand and thanked him. What for?

Well, if you remember, at the end of last year, Junior Mad became Dr Junior Mad. The little boy who was labelled as "nice in his own way". Code for thick. Without the ability to read, his life would be so diminished. And he didn't get that from his first school.

When Junior Mad got to about 10, he COULD read, just DIDN'T. He saw no pleasure in the experience. One day, totally out of the blue, he picked up "Guards, guards". We overheard this wonderful chuckling. He was hooked. He is never without a book to keep him company.

About 11 years ago, I queued for about 2 hours at a book signing. Sir Terry's latest book for my son's Christmas present. I managed to tell him how grateful I was for the door that he had opened to the world of the imagination. He was charming and gracious and told me how pleased he was.

What a smashing man. And the world will be a lesser place without him.

And thanks for asking. Just old, miserable and grumpy. But still glad to be alive.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It wasn't me!

Well, I've got the Red Coat but it wasn't me. Honest.

Though I'd like to think that I'd be up for handbagging the yobs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Red Coat

I'm a touch high maintenance mixed with an inclination to be careful with the pennies. So I tend to wind up with beautiful expensive coats that have to last.

My current heavy winter coat for work has been around a few years. Alright, I confess. Nine years. It's classic, black and simple. Looks good wherever you go in it. But it is nine years old and the lining (yes the lining) is beginning to wear out.

I've been looking at those wonderful red coats. Hobbs had a nice one and the Austin Reed was even more me. And the sales have been on ...

As I drove back from the supermarket last week, I had the following conversation with myself:

"That red is smashing, isn't it?"

"Yes, but how practical is red?"

"Who cares? And it goes with the, ahem, blonde, hair."

"How much wear will you get out of it?"

"Who cares. It's gorgeous"

"But you need a black winter coat ... you know for black coat events"

"Maybe no-one will die in the winter"

"Who said funerals?"

"You just did ... it's still gorgeous"

"Well, you know ... it wouldn't look too good at a f..f..funeral"

"You've got the black Hobbs trench and the Max Mara three-quarters in black. That'll do for your black coat events "

"That would sort out my practical needs, wouldn't it?"

"FGS. It's gorgeous. And the sales are still on. But if you don't get a move on they'll only have one tiddly one and a circus tent left".

So here it is ...

Oh. By the way. At my funeral, you'll all have to wear your brightest and sassiest clothes. Not planning on going yet, you understand. But just remember.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Ann

Ann was an old lady by the time I was born. She continued to be an old lady for the next 13 years. Widowed at forty-five, she spent the next ten years in poverty until her youngest child was grown up. This took its toll and she rapidly became the white haired old lady of my childhood.

This was taken in 1936, when she was fifty-five. When I first looked at the back of the photograph, I thought it said 1956. You would easily believe she was seventy-five, wouldn't you?

I remember her wedding ring – a typically thick Edwardian band that never left her hand. One day, my mother’s wedding ring slipped from her finger and disappeared inside the sofa. Ann was so angry with her. “Your wedding ring should never leave your hand. Don’t you understand, you silly young woman?”

My mother made all my clothes and I would be required to stand on the table while the hem was pinned. One day, when I was whining quietly, Ann told her to take me down from the table. It wasn’t perfect. My mother was a perfectionist. “No king will get off his horse to look at it”. Hard times had taught Ann that good enough was good enough sometimes.

When she was confused and “going home”, I would sometimes sit with her while my mother and aunts rushed around shopping and cleaning. As a twelve year old, I didn’t really know what to say to this old lady. We would sit quietly, either side of the range. I would mainly have my head in a book just on the look out from the corner of my eye for hat-coat-hatpins and out-of-the-door. She would gaze into the distance, probably somewhere before 1927. But sometimes, she would say. “Let’s have some coffee” and we would make a little pot to share. My mother firmly held to the belief that coffee stunted the growth of the young. I remember Ann laughing at her, “So what’s your excuse, then?” My mother was (just) 5’. No inches. Ann was a stately 5’5". I'm 5' 4". So who was right?

Ann died on July 15th 1965. The funeral was about a week later. I was sent to school and returned to the house after it was all over. All that was left was the scent of lilies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Hugh

Back last year, I started to tell the story of my grandparents, sarting with Hugh and I need to finish off my recollections of them.

Hugh died thirty-five years before I was born. I glimpse the boy and man through the photographs. Earnest and good looking leaving Merionethsire to make his way in the south. The proud newly-wed. Hands on hips grinning broadly from over his work bench. The father with young children. That photograph is taken about three years before he died. Was he already aware of his own mortality?

Most of his story is pieced together from family memories. Eluned, his third child, was my mother. She adored her strong, clever father and treasured memories of days with him. But, of course, her memories stopped when she was twelve. Did he have a temper? The family have what we call the “Evans temper”. Was he a perfectionist? That seems to be in the family too.

There are no more photographs of him. They are all in last year's blogs. But this was the little stool that he made for my mother. Touching the wood that he carved is the nearest I get to him.

I look at his photographs and see a keen resemblance with my son. So my Hugh is a shadow, a chimera that I did not know. I would love to have an hour in his company to know what he was really like. But the Hugh that I have to settle for is from other people’s memories. And maybe that’s all we really are, once we’re gone.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New New

Did you have a good Christmas and New Year holiday?

Mine was wonderful; family and friends filled the house. Highlights included trekking across the fields to collect the turkey, the Boxing Day walk where the temperature got UP to -9C and watching the kite overhead against the crisp blue winter sky.

Best wishes for 2011 to you all out there in the blogosphere.