Thursday, May 31, 2012
I'm sure Thomas is proud of our daughter today but I have to admit it was completely accidental!
I guess this would have made my dad smile too...
It got me to thinking about why I don't feel as at ease with the flag as say Danes do with their flag, and similar. Then I realized it could be a Scottish thing - and I don't mean an Independence versus Unionist thing, I mean unlike my English counterparts, I grew up in Glasgow in the 70s. The Union Jack and the Irish flag represented the two sides of the sectarian issue. It doesn't make me feel all warm and patriotic, it feels vaguely sinister and to be avoided.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Over the last few weeks they have had chicken eggs hatching in an incubator. The kids have all been fixated by the eggs opening and thrilled as expectant parents when Fluffy, Sporty, Minnie, Spiderman, Chook and Sunshine "cracked out" as Anna put it!
Today I needed eggs. I was in ASDA. As I handed the box of 15 over at the check-out, Anna rubbed her hands together with excitement. Oooooh pets! What are we going to call them, mummy?!
Last night mum turned up with dad's golf clubs. Marcel had been taught golf by dad so was getting his clubs.
It isn't really realistic to buy takeaway food when you are self-employed (=no financial visibility) and you have five kids to feed. We bulk buy and Thomas, a brilliant cook, rustles up Indian and Chinese better than you get from the local takeaway anyway. When we were in Paris recently, we decided to let the kids have a treat and bought them kebabs for probably the first time in five years. They really enjoyed the experience. Amaia was particularly impressed, eating her own then the leftovers of both Léon and Anna. We realized after that, that although Thomas is great at the fancier end of the cooking scale, we had no recipes for the sorts of things kids love as a special treat, but in our house never get - kebabs, fish and chip shop fish, pakora, burgers, etc. Then he came across this little gem.
Monday, May 28, 2012
I know she's filthy in this photo - from a day at the beach, playing with sand and stones, eating ice cream but I love they way it captures her odd eyes. In photos they often just look dark, but they aren't at all - they mix yellows, and cappuccino tones with olive, light blue and more. I love my baby's eyes.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
I love the logic of small kids. Our Nissan Micra had a spider's web on the wing mirror today when I turned up at school to pick Léon up (don't worry Linda, I'll dust it ;-))
Léon took one look at it and concluded 'It probably built it there because it likes to look at itself in the mirror!'
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
In the last two years, and more importantly in the last ten days, I have watched this childhood ebb away. He started this journey as a child but holding dad's hand for two years as he slowly died, holding it still after death, hugging and kissing him farewell a few hours after death and then seeing the young man in the suit carry his beloved Pumpa's coffin all in the space of a week is hard to put into words. I think he would have been proud of what his grandson wrote for him.
So for what it is worth, here is a short account of dad's illness by Marcel:
Cancer. Everyone is aware of its existence, its causes, its process, its effect on life, but no-one, no-one ever thinks it will hit home. I used to be everyone, the oblivious majority, but now I'm well and truly aware of just how hard this demon lurking in the shadows can hit home.
Three years ago today, grandpa, born April 5, 1943, aged 66 at the time, had his retirement set out, golf, golf, and more golf (and of course, the weekly family visit.) He had everything enjoyable - hobbies, friends, family, holidays, monthly golfing tournaments, everything. These were soon to become the rock upon which he would rely for support.
One fateful day, life was rolling on as usual, birds chirping in the trees, sun blazing, refreshing summer breeze, lunch in the garden with the family, my favourite. I had just begun being indoctrinated, as now seems to be our tradition, into the family sport, golf. Due to the beauty of the morning I was of course out with Grandpa in the garden practising my golf swing, the casual chat that comes with golf continued as usual, this day could not have started out more ordinary. The day rolled on and the family left but what I had noticed was that mum hadn't quite been herself throughout the day, this worried me. I began to look for her in the house but before I could find her she found me. There I was, stopped, in the midst of a content childhood day, the perfect day, with the cold words I'll never forget "Marcel, sit down, you need to hear something about grandpa", her face screaming with sadness. I sat for what felt like hours, days, this couldn't be true. The man swinging the golf club with such power and glowing with health could not have, as diagnosed then, three months to live. It began to become real, I was broken. It was as if a small part of me had been ripped out and could never be put back. This image of grandpa swinging his golf club in the afternoon sunlight would be the image I would focus on whenever I was in a bad place throughout this experience. It became the embedded image of my grandpa and has remained unchanged to this day. I had now begun my long walk down the path of going from the oblivious majority to the enlightened few.
Bowel cancer. Liver cancer. Lung cancer. Three cancers that standing alone are life threatening but with a full three at once, the way the doctors saw it, he had no chance. Grandpa had gone overnight from a relaxed, care-free lifestyle to a horrible 40 pills a day routine, his diet had to be monitored and he was forever in and out of hospital, the discovery of his cancer being his first visit to a hospital in his life nonetheless. On top of all this came the dreaded chemotherapy, basically a poison designed to take you as close to death as possible in order to kill all the cancerous cells in the body. It certainly brought a great deal of misery to us all. The golf stopped due to a simple lack of strength, rarely did he manage a full game. This was painful for me to watch, a man I looked up to, a second father to me was being deprived of his lifelong hobby and there was nothing I could do. Looking back now, being able to sum up and understand my grandpa's day to day actions after being diagnosed and how he dealt and is still dealing with this really only brings one thought to my head, unwavering courage. Watching my grandpa fight this demon is the most courageous act I have ever seen by a man. Some say that once someone is diagnosed with cancer they begin to hate the world, life and everyone around them for the simple reason, "Why me? Why not them?" but not my grandpa, he blamed no one. I found strength in his strength and in turn I believe he found strength in mine. The open-mindedness and the constant hope shown by my grandpa is why my grandpa is and always will be my hero.
Days turned into weeks, months turned into years and time went by, slowly at first but things soon settled down, life had to continue so it did. Grandpa was back on the golf course on the beautiful fairways of Scotland and now much more often accompanied by me. Two years down the line he's on his 3rd batch of chemotherapy and has far outlived any of the doctors' expectations. Grandpa is still his cheery, golf-obsessed self and remains to this day one of my greatest role models in life. Sure, grandpa has his ups and downs from time to time but here we are, living to the fullest what ever time we have left with him, however long that may be.
Watch this space!
Monday, May 21, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
So dad's last wishes were 'I want none of that religious shite!' Whether you agree with this or not is immaterial. These were the last wishes of a dying man and should be respected as such, whether you think you know better or not. So important they were to him, he made them a prominent feature of his will too. As his daughter, son and wife respecting these wishes was paramount to us. We arranged a totally non-religious funeral, spending hours with the Humanist celebrant writing the sermon with her. We had done exactly what he requested. That gave us some comfort in our darkest hour. We felt we had honoured him in that way.
Those who attended the funeral were told in the sermon that these wishes had been dear and of the utmost importance to him... so how dare a certain nameless acquaintance of my father's take it upon himself to contravene this, upsetting my mother and us in the process. After listening intently to all this on Friday, he handed my mother what she assumed to be a condolence card. Fortunately she didn't open it till she got home. It piously and condescendingly turned out to be a stamped letter from the man and his local priest, telling my mother he had taken it upon himself to have the priest in question say a private mass for my father in order to save his eternal soul from damnation! I am utterly appalled. Had he died, I would have respected his religious beliefs, so how dare he not respect those of my family. If he feels it necessary to pray to his God, that should remain between him and his priest. It should not be thrust into my mother's hand in some self-righteous, superior manner.
As I have said before - atheism is the only religion not granted the respect it deserves. It is time that changed. I am passionately atheist and fail to see why that is not respected.
Friday, May 18, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
On Saturday, I returned home not even 24 hours into this new and frightening existence and found a dear friend had left a lovely bouquet of orange roses on my doorstep. I held them and smelled them and then with a sadness I noticed the sticker proclaiming 'Guaranteed to last 7 days'. With a huge lump in my throat I silently questioned - 'Am I only meant to think of him for seven days, surely a lifetime is worth more than seven days?'. A lifetime is worth a lifetime and much more...The flowers were beautiful but bitter-sweet.
I didn't think another thing about it till today, when I was hoovering out my car. A Yodel van came down the street and asked for directions to number 27. I told him that was me and he took out a box that was about the same size as Léon! Interflora was written on the side. The bitter-sweet thought popped fleetingly into my mind again and I set it to one side and finished my hoovering, working up the strength to re-confront the thoughts and feelings I had been trying to avoid with my little hoovering distraction...
First I opened the card and saw the names Karen (Grant) and Siobhan (Macdonald)... two of the best friends I have in the world - my breast friends - we shared having our first babies, we shared our divorces and the rebuilding of our lives. You don't get closer than that...
I took a knife and cut into the box. There stood a tree marked - Plant this in remembrance of your dad always. I fell to pieces, crying like a baby. I went up to Thomas who asked what was up and all I could manage to say was 'I got a tree!' He looked quite bemused but just held me till I calmed down.
It was beautiful, already in bloom and big and strong with roots. I wasn't going to last seven days or even seven years - it can outlast me! I didn't know I needed a tree until I got my tree, but I really, really needed a tree. My tree of remembrance. It is hard to imagine already how much the tree means to me. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to move house again, not without taking my Dougie-tree.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
He was saying how some things are more important than others - he'd like the kids to be aware, for example, of what Danes expect to receive when they order a hot dog. You get all sorts of relishes on a Danish hot dog and they'd consider it half-cooked if it was presented naked in a bun like the ones you get here at Ikea, for example.
Given he's a republican (not in the American sense I hasten to add!) I teased him that not a single ones of our kids could pick the Danish Queen out of a line-up of septuagenarians. But would they know how to, if they were mono-cultural Danes living in Denmark? Of course, we concluded... they'd have picked it up from media and other external sources... But in retrospect, I think we were maybe wrong. Just an hour later this came on the news. I asked Léon who the man was and he replied 'a weather man?' I guess culture sometimes depends on who you live with more than where you live!
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
250 g flour
125 g butter
65 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
3–4 eggs, separated
200 g icing sugar
some rhubarb (enough to cover the base of the mould twice)
I asked at the local station - Noisy-Champs, a name Léon loved to pronounce in English, - whether they had family cards, or books of tickets or the likes and they advised zone cards were best for stays of more than five days. I asked them to explain their zone cards - everyone 4 or over needed a zone card at approx 30 Euros and we'd be able to use them on all trains, métros, buses etc. Given that meant me and four of my five kids, I gulped. The woman behind the counter asked their ages. I said me, 14, 12, 6, 4 and 2. She gulped back and then told me that she didn't know of a single bus driver who wouldn't wave Anna and Léon on if three of us were already showing a valid zone card on entry to the bus, and as for trains and métros - I could simply lift them over the turnstiles. I was sceptical. Surely I will get fined if I am caught, I asked. The woman on the counter told me I could easily lie that Anna was 3 so that only left Léon and if the driver didn't believe he was 3 too(!) I could pay for the odd ticket for him in buses and again, she guaranteed I wouldn't meet an inspector on the métro or RER! I figured given how insistent she was on me lying and cheating, she'd be appalled if I was to buy Anna and Léon a zone card so I decided to try it for a day and see what happened. A week later I had been on at least 2 buses, 2 RER and 4 métro a day and she was completely correct. Bus drivers even helped me on with my buggy while waving Léón and Anna past. It really was a breath of fresh air compared to the job's worth mentality I would have encountered here, had I been trying to ferry my family around Glasgow, ticket-free!
Monday, May 07, 2012
Saturday, May 05, 2012
- So the hospital where dad is being treated can contact her in an emergency
- As an alarm which she sets to remind her to take her own daily medication since her stroke last summer.
I reverted to Buchanan two years before my divorce came through. It was a hassle - I had so many different pieces of ID, places to contact, - banks, passports, driving licenses, mortgage agreements, car loans - you name it... I had to pay to change it by deed poll because my divorce wasn't through. But I had to lose his surname to be me. It wasn't that I didn't like the name - you know me by now - a complete Francophile, I'd move there in a flash. More than that - I loved the exotic. It suited my character and interests. It was also good for my career - I didn't need to explain, as I do now, why I am best placed to be your translator, interpreter or why my spoken French is a tad better than you'd expect from someone who graduated twenty years ago! I loved (and still love) my French family unconditionally, so it wasn't them I was distancing myself from either. But the name represented the marriage, my link to the man I no longer loved and whether I had remarried or not, it was no longer me and it felt wrong to be Mrs or Madame Gautier any more. I could understand staying the same name as my kids, but again, it was wrong in my mind. I had to lose the name that represented a period in my life that was over.
I think I am fascinated by it because I can't understand it. I could not have stayed Gautier without losing myself. It would have been a bit too Shirley Valentine for my psyche, I think that's why I wonder about those who manage it quite happily. I guess there are several types of divorcée.