Monthly Archives: June 2018

An Ode to Friendship

This is a blog I don’t think that I ever expected write. Perhaps it’s just the fact that I’m now at an age when I can no longer ignore the fact that I really am getting older or, perhaps, it’s that I’ve worked hard at sorting my life out. Likely, it’s a combination of the two, with the emphasis on the latter.  Whatever, I now live a more stable life than I’ve ever done and not before time, you might say. And I would be hard pushed to disagree with you.

You see, the reality is that I spent much of my childhood and most of my adult life living a series of emotional highs and lows. From the outside, it may have seemed stable but that it certainly wasn’t. That didn’t stop me living that life although it was largely one determined by my own lack of self belief. Well, those feelings haven’t quite gone away, however, they no longer determine my actions as they did. Something that is evidenced in a number of areas, foremost of which is that I’ve now been happily married for nearly 25 years, although you’d need to check with Gaynor to see if she feels the same way! I live in an area and a flat that I really enjoy and doings things that I long dreamt of doing but never thought that I would, notably writing. Lastly, I’m much less of that loner that I was and have started really taking friendships on board. This last, letting people in, a bit of a revelation to me.

So this is a bit of a “thank you” to those friends, most of whom probably saw behind the mask anyway. Here, indeed, is to friendship, if a little awkwardly.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

As you get older, you get invited to more funerals than you did when you were younger and so it has been for Gaynor and me recently and, perhaps that’s why I was feeling a little nostalgic last week. Coincidentally, it was “Open Gardens” weekend in London and we decided that these would make up this weekend’s walk; something Gaynor blogs about and posts on her Face book page.

So, when the chance came to look around the “Floating Gardens” on the barges just by Tower Bridge, we needed no second bidding. Apart from the fact that they were a must, that area was where my great grandfather and his family first settled when they emigrated from Ireland. Indeed, my cousin, Mike, and I used to play on the beach at Tower Bridge when we were kids and both went to St Olave’s School nearby.

So, having looked around the barges (another of those “little pieces on Wonderland”, that I write about) we decided to walk to George Row where, said, great grandfather lived when he and his family first arrived in London in the 1860’s. To do this, of course, we had to walk past the old school. Well, it’s now a hotel and one of the staff kindly gave me a brief guided tour of the, much unchanged, building. This included the hall and the Head’s Room where I got the cane on the first day for talking during lunch and a lecture about how I wouldn’t make a living out of talking! Actually, the room was then on the first floor and not the ground floor where it is now.

So, on to George Row which was part of Jacob’s Island, one of the worst slums in London during the 1840’s and adjacent to, what is now, the Charles Dickens’ Estate; this being the setting for parts of “Oliver Twist” and where Bill Sykes died. Little of the original street remains but, fortunately, I have a pencil sketch of the part that that shows the “Old Margate Town” pub, and  the house, two doors away, that the Daligan family occupied 150 years ago.

Who says “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be?”

A Time for Reflection

One of the problems with life is that, just as once there was a beginning for each of us, there will also, naturally, be an end. Moreover, as you get older, you can’t help but notice that family, friends and others who’ve been part of your life for as long as you can remember, die. As a result, you start to go to more funerals; as I’ve done over the past few years. And, before you think that I’m getting maudlin, I’d like to say that I’m not. I am, however, becoming more reflective. Perhaps it’s a consequence of listening to more eulogies. More likely, though, it’s simply as a result of getting older! Now, for someone of whom a friend once commented, “To Mike, age is just a number”, that’s quite an acknowledgement. So, how are things different for me now?

Well, for a start, I have a personal life that’s nearer what I’d hoped that it might be than I ever expected. A second family, to add to my first one (plus their own children) that I feel very close to and who, I think, get on well together. A wife, who I regard as my best friend and whose company I thoroughly enjoy. This made easy by that fact that we share similar values and interests.

I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve spent much of my working life doing what I’ve enjoyed doing. So much so that, for the past 38 years, I’ve not really considered it as work. So, you could argue that I have a good life/work balance. I also feel that I’ve made some contribution, albeit on a very small scale, to leaving a mark in the world. Finally, I still feel the need to keep going and do more, although I’m starting to realise that I might not always feel that way.

The downside is that, my sessions at the gym and my running, while still regular and fairly strenuous, leave me more tired than previously. I am also much more conscious of my health generally, reflected in visits to the GP if I’m concerned about anything. Fortunately, these visits, so far, show that I’m in extremely good nick.

So, are there any lessons to be learned? Well, yes, I think there are. The chief of which is not let life get in the way of being who you want to be and doing what you want to do. And before you say that that’s easier said than done, yes, it is. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to change. However, do you really want an old age that’s full of regrets for the life you might have had? No, I thought not.