Lucy’s Midnight Garden

Dear Readers

I’ve been quite poorly for the last couple of weeks but I’ve struggled out of my sickbed to write you all a quick note – basically just in case those of you who don’t know me personally thought I might be dead!

Look, it’s going to happen at some point, but I simply can’t go until I’ve written all 100 letters – still a dozen to go!

With a couple of additions I shall quote Sir Winston Churchill [did I ever tell you I’m distantly related to him? When I say “distantly”, we’re talking completely untraceable – something like seventh cousin, three times removed, by marriage only!] Anyway:

I’m not sure but … “This is not the end (I hope). It is not even the beginning of the end (maybe). But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

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CHURCHILL: Actually I can see a family resemblance … dagnammit!

The discomfort I’m now in is causing me problems sleeping. It’s very tiresome (and tiring!) but as always I’m trying to find something positive in all the negatives. You know what they say – “When life gives you lemons …” [Nah, screw that – I hate lemons!] but you know what I mean.

And the most positive thing about being awake in the middle of the night, or silly o’clock in the morning, is the magical unseen world of my garden. The magnificent magnolia may be losing its blooms now but the changing season means that so much of the garden is coming back to life. The flowers are springing up everywhere and during the daytime it’s already regaining its summery beauty – and becoming the perfect place for grandchildren and paper aeroplanes!

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Fab action shot – well done James 🙂

But at night it really comes to life. Did you ever read the children’s book “Tom’s Midnight Garden”?  I’ve not actually heard my clock striking thirteen, but the magic is just as real.  A few nights ago I saw no fewer than four hedgehogs snuffling around (it’s costing me a fortune in mealworms!), the foxes yap and the pair of tawny owls romance each other with a “twit” (her) and a “twoo” (him). Unless it’s raining, then of course it’s too wet to woo …

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Wait … did she just …?  I am so fed up with that joke, missus! 

And as the sun begins to rise the joyous Dawn Chorus is deafening – and delightful. Thank goodness I’ve made it to another new day – it truly makes me glad to be alive! 🙂

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Sunrise – try to imagine this picture with a soundtrack of a thousand birds all singing their hearts out ❤

I’m still not very well, so it might be a little while before I write my next letter, but don’t panic! I’m definitely going to get them all written before I go. And that’s a promise ❤

Love from Lucy x

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With this ring …

Dear Husbands and Wives

I had a lovely time on Saturday when Ross and Kelly renewed their wedding vows. And now I’m busy preparing Rainbow’s End for The KEAL Club (and husbands) who will be coming this weekend to celebrate Alice and Stephen’s Silver Anniversary. My head is full of all things wedding-y! 🙂

It gives me a chance to look back at my own married life, not with sadness that it ended all too soon, but with happiness as I see the joy that married life has brought to me, my friends and my family.

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Kelly and Ross enjoying the “first dance” they never got to have on their original wedding day

It’s tempting to say that Alice and Stephen have been “lucky” to have had 25 years together, but in truth I’m not sure luck has much to do with wedded bliss. It might be lucky that we found ourselves in the right place at the right time to meet our partner in the first place, but staying together “for better or worse” takes dedication and hard work.

I’ve heard marriage being compared to a house, needing a good foundation on which to build, with bricks held together with mortar etc. I’m sure this is true, but houses don’t just build themselves. It takes the hard graft of skilled tradesmen.

I don’t profess to be very good at it. My first marriage ended up a derelict shell of a building, the foundations too weak to stand the storms of time. I got married for all the wrong reasons. I stayed as long as I did for all the wrong reasons. My marriage to Frank was not so much a building as a roller coaster ride! Full of ups and downs, and certainly all the fun of the fair! But my love for my soulmate never wavered. Maybe that was the foundation – though I suspect it was more likely sheer bloody-mindedness on both our parts!

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Our wedding day

During Ross and Kelly’s renewal, rather than repeating their original vows, they each made new promises, to each other and also to each of their children, which I found endearing. It was a perfect ceremony … except for one teensy little moment when I confess my infantile humour got the better of me, and I had to avoid eye contact with Kelly lest we both ended up laughing out loud. The lady officiating was discussing the symbolism of the wedding ring.

Then she said “Ross, touch Kelly’s ring.” OK, maybe it’s just me. And Kelly. 🙂 But once I’d stifled my puerile giggles I listened to the message. The ring has no beginning and no end. It symbolises eternity and eternal love. I know this to be true. And I know this is the reason I will never, ever let my wedding ring leave my finger.

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But thinking about that reminded me of an amazing, yet true, story:

When Frank was a petrol tanker driver he delivered fuel to garages all over the country every day. He wore thick protective gloves when making the deliveries. His wedding ring had never been very tight. You can guess what happened.

One day he realised that at some point his ring had fallen off while he was removing his gloves. He had no idea at which of the many garages that had happened.

I offered to buy him another one but of course he said nothing would be the same as his true wedding ring. We both sadly accepted that he would never wear a ring again.

Weeks passed.

One day he was in the company’s transport office speaking to the manager who was sitting behind his desk. The man had never done anything similar before, but on that particular day he asked Frank to come round the desk to where he was sitting so he could show him something on the computer monitor.

As Frank stood there he glanced down. The top drawer of the desk happened to be open. Sitting there, quietly minding its own business, was his wedding ring! Another tanker driver had happened to spot it (lying upright on its edge against the kerb!) in the delivery bay of the garage he’d been at the day before. The ring must have been sitting there by the kerb all those weeks.

If the other tanker driver hadn’t looked down the day before, if the manager hadn’t asked Frank to look at the monitor, if the drawer hadn’t been open, if Frank hadn’t glanced into the drawer …

A series of very fortunate events which led to Frank’s wedding ring being restored to its rightful owner!

Frank never wore the ring again. He was just too scared it might slip off again and that he wouldn’t be so lucky next time. He kept it safely in a little box.

Since he died I’ve worn his ring on a chain around my neck. It’s part of him that I can keep close to my heart forever. And my way of making sure it never goes missing again!

I’m so grateful that I married the man of my dreams. I promised to love him “for better or worse, till death do us part”, but even death didn’t stop me loving him – eternity is forever! 🙂

bookring

So, my married friends, cherish your spouse, your wedding ring, and the eternity of true love. ❤

Lucy x

The most wonderful couple

Dear Ross and Kelly

Tomorrow you will be renewing your wedding vows, so now seems the perfect time to celebrate you as the most wonderful couple 🙂

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Ross and Kelly

You came into my life for the worst possible reasons – but I’m ever so glad that you did! When I was first diagnosed with cancer I needed to find someone to take care of Sarah immediately. I had just one day to organise everything before I started my harsh regime of chemotherapy. No time to wait, faff about, weigh up my options. But if I had been given my pick of a million couples and a lifetime to consider my choice, I couldn’t have found two people more amazing to look after something so very precious to me.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really got a lot of time for Social Services. I’d never had the need to avail myself of their services in the past, though my admittedly uninformed opinion of them as, at best, inconsistent in their ability has not improved with experience. But I will happily state for the record that their actions were outstanding and brilliant during the 24 hours between my first phone call to them, and them putting you in touch with me.

From the minute we met I knew you would love and care for my daughter as if she were your own. You have opened your home and your hearts to Sarah. In fact, your whole family has become as one with our family. We have unofficially adopted you all! What started as an emergency temporary foster agreement has evolved into you both deciding to have Sarah stay with you under the Shared Lives scheme. You have, in effect, offered Sarah a forever home.

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A beautiful family 🙂
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With the wonderful Nanna Shelley, who loves Sarah like her own grandchildren ❤

And with that kind act you have also given me complete peace of mind. It’s hard enough to accept that we have to leave our loved ones, without the additional worry of whether they will be cared for or abandoned to their fate. I know that long after I’ve gone you will be constantly working with Sarah’s brothers and my other family members to ensure that everyone will always have her best interests at heart.

I love that we have a WhatsApp group so we can always see how much fun Sarah’s having, and all the wonderful things she gets up to every day! I hope you know how much I appreciate that you bring her to see me as often as possible. You are sympathetic to how much I miss her, and you never make me feel that I’m not truly still her real Mummy.

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The WhatsApp group means the whole family can see Sarah every day 🙂

But as Mother’s Day approaches I intend to make sure Sarah also honours you, Kelly, as the next best thing, and of course the same for you, Ross, when Father’s day comes round! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “Siblings Day” (though knowing the Americans there probably is one!) but if there was, Owen, Ethan and Freya would certainly deserve Sarah’s love and thanks too. Even though they are still quite young, they have all shown how loving and welcoming they have been to Sarah. They seem genuinely pleased to spend time with her, and greet her with warm hugs whenever she returns to your home.

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Owen, Ethan and Freya have welcomed their new big sister 🙂

If I wrote a thousand letters I couldn’t really say everything I want to say, so I will finish by wishing you both the happiest of celebrations tomorrow – I can’t wait to see Sarah twirling in her bridesmaid dress!

With love and gratitude

Lucy xxx ❤

A-Mayyy-Ziiing!

Dear Derek

Happy Birthday!

I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal one of your own expressions to describe you.

You are A-Mayyyy-Ziiiing!

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A-Mayyy-Ziiing!

Since you came into Sean’s life you have brightened all of ours! 🙂 Your Irish eyes are always smiling (sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring) and laughs or funny remarks are never far away. I won’t embarrass you here for all the world to see, but I would like to remind you of the first time we met. I can still remember you pointing towards my knees and asking “So, what are those, then?” You know what I’m talking about! Classic Derek humour 😛

Frank and I were so happy that Sean found such a fabulous husband. It warms my heart to see the love you share. I recall my mum once saying that as parents we always feel that no husband or wife will ever be really good enough for our son or daughter. Before any of my boys got married I suppose I thought it must be true, but maybe I’m the luckiest mum in the world, because I couldn’t have asked for better partners for any of them.

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Derek and Sean

You look after Sean so well and have become a true member of the family. You’ve even given me two lovely granddogs! Actually, we need to talk about that for a minute. I was stalking your Facebook page, ready to steal photos of you for this letter, and I couldn’t help notice there are rather a lot of pictures of Baxter and Bailey … 695 to be exact! And only 347 of Sean. Does he mind coming third place in your affections?! (And yes – I did count. And no – I don’t get out much!)

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Happy Family: Sean, Bailey, Derek, Baxter

I love how enthusiastic you are about … well, everything, really! With your passion for Spiderman, DC comics (or is it Marvel? Don’t kill me!) and all things similar, a stranger might be forgiven for thinking that you are immature or frivolous. You are neither. You are hard-working and dedicated to anything you turn your hand to. I was so proud when you started Man-Maid. We always knew you were a clean freak, but not everyone would have the determination to make a useful habit into a thriving business. I only wish you lived near enough to visit me more often – my kitchen always looks better when you’ve been here!

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St. Paddy’s Day just wouldn’t be the same without Spidey!

Actually, talking about Spiderman has reminded me that your love for the character is equal to your fear of spiders! I remember how you’d squeal like a big girl’s blouse whenever you saw one of my tarantulas, but you did at least finally find the courage to hold one of the snakes … once! What a wuss 😛

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Look at the delight and confidence right there … ish!

No, I take that back – anyone brave enough to join the Murray clan has my utmost admiration. I’m not sure I’d dare to take me on as a mother-in-law! Thank you for putting up with me. 🙂

Hope your day is full of love ❤ and laughter 🙂 and looking forward to seeing you soon.

Love from Lucy xxx

International What Day?

Dear Women (oh … sigh! I suppose men can read this too … if they must!)

Apparently today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day.

I’m confused.

Why exactly do we need a special day? And how have I missed this *ahem important event for the last 53 years? After all, it’s been happening since 1910!

womanpower

According to their website, this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. I must admit I struggled to wade through all the “empowering women” hoo-hah, but I think I got the gist of it. As one might have guessed, the event seems to be hankering for justice, balance and gender equality. But, like I said, I’m confused.

Didn’t we do all that a century ago? I’m sure Mrs. Pankhurst and her sister suffragettes would be disappointed to think that their actions were in vain. I was under the impression that, at least in British law, women have been given equal rights.

womenvotes

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m fully aware that even in these enlightened times there can still be vast discrepancies in pay, opportunity etc., especially in the business world. I know women are often still penalised or discriminated against for being child-bearers. But does anyone truly believe that International Women’s Day (or any other campaign) is going to change that? After all, there are also strict laws and constant campaigns against Drink-Driving but the terrible statistics show that it still happens.

I just get the feeling that events like this are not only unlikely to bring change, but also just send out a message of feminist hatred to those who are least likely to care – almost giving them a reason to justify their low opinion of women, goading them to nurture their discrimination even more.

And you want to know the strangest thing about all this? November 19th is … International Men’s Day! The event campaigns for justice, balance and gender equality. Hmmm, where have I seen those words before?

womanbalance

Let’s face it folks. We’re just a bunch of miserable people, dissatisfied with our lot. Men and women are not equal. We aren’t even similar. And there even seems to be some validity to the suggestion that we come from different planets! Men refer to “women’s logic” in a disparaging tone, yet men are the least logical people I’ve ever met! Women spend millions on magazines which are filled with pages telling them “how to look good for their partner” followed by articles about how they should be themselves and refuse to change to please others!

We are all daft! And most importantly, we are all different. One thing is certain – we will never be equal. And personally it’s something I’m very glad about!

So I hereby declare that from now on every day will be International People’s Day. The main campaign will be celebrating our uniquity. Henceforth I will be fighting for justice, balance and gender equality (for everybody!). Who’s with me?! #I’mUnbalanced 😛

Love from Lucy

This is me!

Dear Me

Yes, that’s right – I’m writing to myself. (I know, Lucy!)

Sometimes it looks like you have all the answers. You seem to be full of laughter, confidence and fun. But whilst I know you’re full of something – it ain’t any of those, love! 😛

But I’m here today to tell you that the worry, fear, loneliness and all the other negative thoughts which you hide so well behind the smiles can just jolly well … erm, clear off!

This morning a lady on your Inflammatory Breast Cancer Facebook group posted a picture of herself having lost her hair. As you read her post you began to sing along to the song she was quoting from The Greatest Showman:

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies
This is me!

And it made you feel good, didn’t it? All your insecurities fell away and you wanted to keep singing that song. So your hair’s dreadful, you’ve gained more weight than a hippo on steroids, you really haven’t got a lot going for you. But hey, you were never exactly an oil painting, sweetheart!

And then your thoughts naturally moved onto another song in the film. OK, it’s called The Other Side, and I know it was one of the titles you suggested when you were playing the “Songs not suitable for funerals” game, but we’ll skip over that! It was the lyrics that got you:

‘Cause you can do like you do
Or you can do like me

So you did like you. You didn’t just feel good and leave it there. You wanted to share the joy!

You took a selfie, having just got out of the shower, and posted it all over Facebook and Twitter!

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#IBCthisisme

I must admit I was a bit surprised, Lucy. Normally you hate anyone seeing how awful you look now. But I suppose it was the desire to show support for the other lady and raise awareness for this dreadful, sneaky cancer which doesn’t show itself till it’s too late. A hashtag and a plea for others to follow suit and share the post and your work was done for the morning!

All that was left was to wait and hope that others will take the hashtag to heart and help this thing go viral. After all, you’ve never met anyone who’s even heard of IBC before, have you?!

Oh, there was one more thing to do, of course! Write a blog letter to yourself.

Well, why not? You deserve a little pat on the back occasionally, dear. 🙂

Take care of yourself!

Love from Me x ❤

#IBCthisisme

Tree of Life

Dear Magnolia

The other day little George was excited. “Look, Granny,” he pointed, “The tree’s about to perform!”

It was a rather strange expression, but as I followed his gaze I could see what he meant. The buds which you have been nurturing so carefully over the winter months are just beginning to open.

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And I don’t care what anyone else says, when you are in full blossom it is a very theatrical show indeed! Last spring your branches were full to bursting with glorious, waxy flowers, and you continued to produce occasional blooms right through till October.

treeblossom

You have been in the garden here at Rainbow’s End for a very long time. Dare I say it, you are probably even older than me 🙂

When the heroes (that others refer to as gardeners) transformed your nasty outside area into the fairytale cottage garden of my dreams, there was very little for them to work with. They cleared virtually everything, but we all knew that you were there to stay. When your leaves appear you create a wonderful green tunnel, framing the little arch to produce a stunning entrance into a secret world.

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Your bark harbours the bugs that have attracted the dear little treecreepers and nuthatches that I have never had the good fortune to see before I lived here. Your branches give many other birds a secure vantage point to make sure the Evil Queen (Bluebell) is not about looking for a mid-morning snack, before they visit the bird feeder, and offer nesting sites others. I have counted more than 30 different species in the garden – yes, I’m a nerdy-birdie person and I don’t care! 😛

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Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)

The only other tree which, like you, remains from before I arrived, is a marvellous apple tree which brightens the back corner of the garden. Its fruit are delicious (fab for eating and utterly scrummy for good old homemade apple crumble!) and its blossom is truly amazing.

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Even the big, long dead tree trunks that had to be removed are still part of the enchantment here. Some have been re-purposed as climbing fun for grandchildren, some are minibeast mansions and a couple have become cute little dwellings, just in case I should be lucky enough to have some faery folk come to stay.

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I have always loved trees. As a child we had a magnificent lime tree (a linden, not the citrus fruit!) at the bottom of our garden. Its spreading boughs covered virtually half the width of the garden and playing underneath it was like being inside a mysterious green cave. I can still smell the musty, sticky sappiness of it!

Dad tied a rope with a sturdy plank on it which we used as a swing.

Family legend has it that my grandfather, as a young man, carried that tree home over his shoulder when it was just a sapling. I don’t know how quickly they grow, so I can’t be sure if this is even possible. And of course my memory of it being so vast that two people couldn’t hold hands around its trunk may be exaggerated in my poor old mind!

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Little Kethrine and Emily on the swing – circa 1964

Some years ago I did a very low-budget makeover on our tired lounge as a surprise for Frank while he was away for the week. Money dictated that everything just got a quick whitewash and I used rainbow-coloured accessories (found around the house!) to cheer it up. You will have gathered by now that I like rainbows! The plain white wall was made less boring with a large old canvas which I covered and decorated with a family tree – photos printed from the computer and the tree itself cut from black material. [I’m not saying where I found that particular cloth, but Frank’s suit bag never looked quite the same afterwards!]

The wording on the picture is Family – Like branches on a tree we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.

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The canvas – made before Connie and Frankie became part of our family tree

For my 50th birthday James gave me a beautiful, very different kind of family tree. He had inked the tree freehand, and stuck on coins with the correct date for each member of the family. I had great pleasure adding coins for Connie and Frankie when they came along later. 🙂

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On the back of the summer house there is a large metalwork Tree of Life. My neighbour tells me that it’s the first thing she sees when she opens her curtains every morning. “It always cheers me up,” she said. “I think of it as ‘my’ tree, really!”

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I know what she means. Sarah found another Tree of Life when we were at Center Parcs. She said it was ‘her’ tree too! And she’s right, really. The Tree of Life does belong to all of us, and we belong to it. We are all part of the great Tree of Life.

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The Family Tree of Life at Center Parcs

Perhaps it seems odd for someone in my position to think so highly of “Life”. But despite the fact that mine may be cut somewhat shorter than expected, whatever else I could say about it, it has been a wonderful life!

And darling Magnolia, throughout the year, through bare branches, buds, leaves and blooms, you remind me each time I see you standing there, tall and strong and magnificent, how we all change and grow in some way every day, and just how precious Life really is.

Thank you 🙂

Love from Lucy x