Amongst friends: music, camping, laughter and faux fur

There’s been little writing since my last blog and I make no excuses for it. Here’s why.

Lossiemouth: Picture endless sea and disappearing horizons and the flirtatious laugh of your best friend. Imagine stepping out of your campervan into a weekend community of shared smiles and cuppas, charity shops, fish suppers and home-made ginger bread – the lingering taste of salt on your lips, your fingers sugar-sticky. Feel the warmth of a faux fur coat given with a rib-squeezing hug; guitars and harmonies, fiddles, borrowed hot showers, the dance of rain and the barbequed smell of summer.

Ullapool: Picture a midge-riddled road-side stopover – reservoir sunset and the neck-tingling early morning sighting of a sea eagle, the moment where time paused in the shadow of a 7ft wingspan. Imagine parking on the edge of the sea; morning dog walkers, wagging tails and reflections of moored boats settling in the wake of the inbound ferry. Taste the home-grown berries for sale by the roadside, money deposited in a ‘trust box’, the coolness of ice-cream against your tongue.

Perth: Picture birthday cards from loved ones, bacon rolls in the garden, lavender and a contented cat lolling in the sunshine. Imagine your lover on stage, your friends cheering, a small girl blindly steering her pushchair back and forth, guitars and hats and motorbikes, coleslaw and over-cooked sausages. See the lightening split the sky, momentarily dividing the old bricked flats from the newly glassed shop, causing the old man on the bench to run for cover.

Dumfries & Galloway: Picture ancient burial chambers, guarded by standing stones – stoic sentries casting long shadows in the early evening sun, a starless night in the Dark Skies National Park! Imagine discussing your Longer Piece of Writing with a published and respected author while trying to contain the pleasure her words of praise and encouragement bring. Smell the freshly baked scones, bronzed crusts splitting with ease, a slick of melted butter coating your plate; the musty smell of yellowed paper in the second hand book shop, the incense burning amongst the Buddhas, kaftans and turquoise of the neighbouring nook-like store.

Glasgow: Picture two people arriving at the gates of Kelvingrove Park, tired and dishevelled and ten minutes too late to hear the daily bandstand music in celebration of the Commonwealth Games. Imagine the splash of colour and laughter of children in the play park, the queues and barriers blocking access to the museum, aching feet and anoraks. Hear the sigh of the water in the fountain as a penny breaks its surface, the bustle of the leaves and creak of the bark, branch bending under the couple’s combined weight.

Edinburgh: Picture the smile that splits the face of old and much-missed friends after a time too long – the heart-felt, arms thrown hugs that remind you of darkened pubs and cheap beer, dancing, air guitar and hungover happiness. Imagine street-side cafes and Fringe shows and fliers and the sensory overload of a capital city high on creative energy. Gossip and fizz. Talk of hearts and hair and handbags; laughter and a sense of belonging.

And now? Back to the writing.

New Year, New Heart, New Life

New Year’s Day 2014: I wake to a view of the Clyde and a heart-beat so loud I feel sure the whole ward can hear it. Mr D appears at my bedside with smiles, kisses and the presents we couldn’t open on Christmas Day. I’m scarred, bruised and swollen, but I’m still here! My body aches from surgery; my face aches from smiling. The hospital room is the colour of jaded sunshine and I’ve come to identify the approach of doctors and nurses by the rhythm and timbre of their footsteps. Happy New Year!

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Blink. Here I am in the second quarter. I can now walk upstairs and still breathe – it makes me giggle with delight every time. Every time. Mr D accompanies me on an (almost) daily constitutional, often to the old bridge where we’ve watched spring slink in on high-tides and sun-wrapped daffodils. My lips, toenails and cheeks have blossomed pink and a host of friends and family have enveloped me in love to help me heal. I’ve bullied my wasted leg muscles, and each time I’ve cried in pain or frustration at my lack of progress, Mr D has rubbed my calves and talked-down my fears – he hasn’t just cheered from the side-lines, he’s walked beside me every step of the way.

thI1GYEBMYIt’s not all been about recovery; other things have happened. I’ve had two short stories published, learnt my first few chords on my new guitar (I can now belt out a halting rendition of Me and Bobby McGee, muddle my way through Baby Can I Hold You, and mess up You Better Move On) and together we’ve bought Happy, a campervan (I know, but it is and we are), to take us on our journey into the summer and beyond. Our first real outing was a weekend at the Aye Write festival in Glasgow, rubbing shoulders with the authors in the green room, thanks to Mr D’s PhD. We went to talks and discussions that soaked us in inspiration; motivating, exciting, provoking.

I’m lucky, so lucky, in so many ways. I’m lucky to be here – thanks to the extraordinary gift of a stranger and their family; I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who could lift even the most leaden spirits; lucky to be able to spend time with like-minded, lively, challenging friends and family; lucky to live in Scotland, a country where healthcare is still free and available to everyone; lucky to be cared for by some of the best medical professionals in the world; lucky to have found the person who makes me smile inside and out.

At the end of last year, I walked headlong into darkness. I was terrified. But I stumbled, scathed, out the other side. It wasn’t, isn’t, hasn’t been, easy but it’s been worth every moment of fear and pain. There was no epiphany, just an awakening of all the hopes and dreams that I’d slammed the door on during the last few years of my illness. This blog is my way of saying thank you, to everyone, for everything. It’s a reminder that in order to fully recompense the kindness of someone I will never meet, I intend to make every, single, moment, count. Who knows where it will go but I can’t wait to find out.