Making Memories

Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.

~ Mattie Stepanek (b.July 17, 1990 – d.June 22, 2004)

Did you notice the dates in the quote above? They are such wise words for one so very young.

Do you ever wonder how your memories would replay in a movie of your life? I do. As I age (gracefully?) and particularly at this time of year my mind goes into overdrive, my life is divided into two sections – before my father’s death and after his death. It is this massive marker of when my life changed. There are times when I think everything in my life was good before that date and everything since has been awful.

But the evidence doesn’t hold up that statement, I had a serious road accident when I was 15 which was pretty bad and definitely happened in the pre 2004 section. I met & later fell in love with a wonderful man in 2006 and that is clearly in the post 2004 section. I just think that at times we are very selective with our memories.

For instance, I really struggle to recall good times in my marriage, yet I know they are there somewhere they have just been buried under all the rubbish and hurt of the last 10 years.

One of the most therapeutic things I have done over the last few years was to compile a book for my daughter’s 18th birthday. Collaborating on the book with our family and her friends, mentors and teachers made me see that despite many challenges I had made quite a good job of bringing her up. My attitude to myself as a parent changed a little from then on and I have more confidence in myself now (as a mother) and I think as a family unit we all benefit from that now.

Making memoriesThis whole blog has been about my thoughts, memories and keepsakes, hoping not to inspire others but to inspire myself to hope, build from the past and in turn, bridge to the future.

18th October 2004 (father’s death), 18th October 2006 (met my previous partner), 18th October 2015 (mind your own business) all have special significance to me and for very different reasons; do you think it strange that one particular date can have such significance? Who knows!

So here’s a bit of news for you…

I have met someone who I hope I am going to move forward with and build bridges to the future. The future could be as short as tomorrow or as long as forever but nobody can possibly tell. I know for sure that making memories is so incredibly important and that with every moment that passes we have far less time in front of us than behind us. So with that in mind we (yes WE) made a conscious effort, put our heads together and have drawn up a plan for memory building.

Would you like to see it?

To build memories we should…*

…Climb a tall hill

…Sleep under the stars

…Skinny dip in the sea

…Bake a cake

…Ride a tandem

…Fly a kite

…Choose each other’s clothes for an evening out

…Plant a tree

…Build a snowman

…Have a picnic in a field &/or in a wood

…Make a sandcastle

…Paint each other

…Row a boat on the Thames

…Visit one castle/stately home every month for a year
#1 Corfe Castle 12th December 2015

#2 Hurst Castle 17th January 2016

#3 Bishop’s Waltham Palace 14th February 2016

#4 Old Sarum 6th March 2016

#5 Kingston Lacy & Badbury Rings 30th April 2016

#6 Maiden Castle & The Nine Stones 29th May 2016

#7 Wolvesey Castle 25th June 2016

#8 Porchester Castle 3rd July 2016

#9 Stourhead 23rd August 2016

#10 Southsea Castle 24th September 2016

#11 Old Wardour Castle 22nd October 2016

#12 Mottisfont Abbey 26th November 2016

…Make a bucket list

…Kiss in a haystack

…Collect Sea Glass whenever we can

…Share a shower

…Plan & go on a holiday

…Go for a ride in a horse and carriage

…Visit Scotland

…See the Northern Lights

…Kiss passionately on a beach at sunrise &/or sunset

…Visit Lake Como

…Volunteer

Share a hot tub 9th July 2016

Share an ice cream 7th November 2015

Visit Stonehenge 23rd January 2016

Go to a Rugby match 29th April 2017

Have a go at stone balancing – I tried & succeeded on 23rd January, the challenge is ON! 12th August 2017 record so far is 18!

…Complete a jigsaw together (1000+ pieces)

…Design a dream home

Create a playlist that we both love 20th July 2017, our wedding playlist.

Kiss under mistletoe 24th, 25th & 26th December 2015

…Create a memory book/blog/photo album

…Write a love letter to each other

…Go star gazing

…Go to the ballet

…Have a snowball fight

Take a selfie 31st October 2015, this has developed into Selfie on a Bridge (wherever in the world we are).

…Have afternoon tea

…Visit a European city that neither of us have visited before

Grow vegetables to eat August 2017, an amazing tomato plant with bigger plans for the future

…Spend the whole day in bed

…Do a fire walk

…Learn a circus trick

…Play Twister

Go for a bike ride 24th January 2016

Play a board game 28th November 2015

…Watch each other’s favourite film

…See a musical

…Kiss in the pouring rain

…Pick Strawberries

…Visit a temple

…Redesign the garden

Revisit the bench in the garden at Mottisfont 31st October 2015

…Make Elderflower Cordial (this looks like a good recipe)

Write our Wedding vows 20th July 2017

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A bridge to the future ~ Sept 2015

*All this has been compiled and shared with the kind permission of Mr Bojangles and some of it you will recognise from my own Bucket List.

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A Tale of Two Views

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ~ Charles Dickens

Autumn again…its approach signals a great deal of personal reflection for me and it seems this year is no different. My birthday is in this season, I am Libran, the only inanimate sign in the zodiac. As Librans we are supposed to be able to stand back and look at matters impartially! Yeah right! Did you know that some astrologers regard Librans as the most desirable of types?Well, we are *special* because Libra represents the zenith of the year, the high point of the seasons, a harvest of all the hard work put in earlier in the year. I don’t suppose it’s any co-incidence that the Autumn Equinox also represents balance between day & night.

It’s pretty clear to me that I have always strived for balance in my life and that my most challenging times have been when balance is absent. I definitely do not have balance in my life at the moment and yet uncharacteristically I seem to be coping quite well. Other people’s problems and worries seem far greater than mine, putting my troubles and woes into perspective.

So why do I not have balance?

Consider these two views:

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Last weekend I was staying in a beautiful hotel, eating delicious food, blessed with warm, unseasonal weather, in the stunning Wiltshire countryside (should I mention the company I was keeping?). This weekend a trip to the local amenity tip (sorry, recycling centre) with piles of garden waste from the previous day! That is quite a disparity!

For the moment these two parts of my life are distinctly separate but what needs to happen is integration and I don’t have a bloody clue how to go about this!

 Is it the best of times?

It’s certainly not the worst of times.

Am I wise?

Or am I foolish?

Situation Overload

Sometimes I think my life is so boring and other times I crave something more normal, with less drama and some tranquility. I have been quiet for a few weeks because the drama took hold of us. I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you the events of the past few weeks. My friend called it “situation overload”.

When someone asked me “how are you?” or “how’s things?” I could barely string a sentence together. I couldn’t even respond with the standard stiff upper lip of “fine thanks”.  At one point I literally went and hid when someone asked me.

My son had Situation Overload.

My daughter had Situation Overload

Me? I had Situation Overload AND Situation Overload by Default.

My advice to my children- you have to go through shit in your lives. You have to learn that it’s okay to feel negative emotions of anger, fear, sadness, frustration, doubt and guilt to name but a few. You have to learn that these feelings do generally pass IF you allow yourself time to feel these emotions and know that with strength and tenacity you will get through it.

I’m not telling them to pull themselves together; I’m definitely not telling them to Man Up (a phrase that I actually abhor). I have told them that they are awesome, they have conducted themselves with dignity, they have cried and smiled, and their relationship has developed another layer of closeness.

In amongst all of the drama here are some of the simple things that reduced Situation Overload to a mere Situation:

  • Watching Pitch Perfect 2 with the daughter- whilst eating vanilla popcorn.
  • Ice Cream- it’s always a feature.
  • Friends who touched base, but knew that I needed time- I am so grateful.
  • The Bali Squad and the huge hug I received- what a lovely evening we had making plans together and eating Chinese food.
  • Watching Untouchable for the third time- this is my all time favourite film.
  • Laughing so hard when I just overheard my 14yr old ordering pizza with his friend “do you want a stripper combo?”

And finally… getting the opportunity to write some thoughts down. Breathe.

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Courage, Bravery, Daring, Bold

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What is the difference between “courage” and “bravery“? Are “bravery” and “daring” the same thing? Then of course, there is also boldness.

On Tuesday last week, my daughter (ENFJ) really unsettled me with her courage, bravery, daring and boldness. This is not a new thing where she is concerned but this time it was very different. I watched her perform a piece of work for a fellow student’s dissertation choreography; in dance and dialogue she recounted the memories of the day, no, not the day, but the moment that my ex-husband told my children that he was leaving.

The intricate detail that she recalled shocked me. She could remember precisely where she was sat, how she was sitting, what she was wearing, where I was in the room, where he was stood, and the exact placement of inanimate items in the room. She told this to a theatre full of people. I wasn’t the only one crying. Daring? Brave? Bold? Courageous? I think all of these and I am incredibly proud.

I think that both of my children have faced their changed world bravely, showing their courage in some very difficult situations. They have both dared to be different in their own way and boldly faced things head on.

 “What’s the most daring thing you have ever done?”

This was a question posed to me by a potential date at the end of last week. Had I been looking at one of those Bear GryllsAction Man, no-time-for-a-real-woman-in-my-life-I’m-too-busy-sliding-down-mountains type profiles I might have read the question slightly differently than I did. Of all of the questions that I have been asked during this strange experience of internet dating, this is the one that I found the hardest to answer and also the one that, being INFJ, I have thought about most.

For the curious* person reading, this was my reply, or more accurately, they way that I dodged the question:

Tough question because this very much depends on your definition of daring! I think there are many things that I have done that are brave and I think this is a good conversation piece to really get to know someone. Occasionally, I need a metaphorical shove to be brave. That said, jumping out of aircraft or off high things on a piece of elastic? Ain’t never going to happen!!

So on reflection, no, I don’t think I am daring at all- but I am trying to find out if there’s a part of me that is and maybe it’s been hidden away. Courageous? No, I don’t think so. I am possibly bold at times. But brave, yes, I do think I have been brave and I have battle scars (real and metaphorical) to prove it.

But most of all, I’d like to know how you define these words, whether you think they apply to you and how would YOU answer the dreaded question…

 “What’s the most daring/bravest/bold/courageous thing you have done?”

*just plain nosey

Joining the Dots

or 10 Things I Have Learned

1. I am more youthful in mind than I thought I was- it seems that so many people my age have grandchildren and I haven’t even finished bringing up my own children yet! What I am looking forward to now is finding opportunities to do more things for me.

2. I have regrets about my formal education- I wish I had taken it further. A road accident at 15, time in ICU, and lack support from teachers whist I was in recovery led to a heavy going final year of school. I achieved good results and left school on a Friday and started work the next Monday. I thought that was good at the time.

3. I still want to obtain some qualifications in counselling- This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time but other more important responsibilities have taken priority. I like teenagers (yes, I know, odd huh?) and would ideally like to find a role supporting them in some way. I’ve taken the first steps, just a short introductory course, but it’s a start.

4. Travel- I would like to do much more travelling. I do seem to feel pangs of jealousy when my daughter can just pack and go. I love hearing her stories and especially when she starts a sentence ‘You would have loved…’. So having travelled to New York last year our adventures continue to Bali later this year. I even catch myself thinking “Where next?”.

5. I have a strong lioness instinct- now this only surfaces when my children are threatened, hurting, in danger or ill. But it’s there and she roars from time to time. Don’t test this.

6. You can’t hold on to someone if they want to leave- and neither should you. There have been many drawbacks to becoming divorced, but there have been many pleasures too. I am grateful that my last and only partner since my divorce really showed me what it meant to be loved and I am very grateful for the close bond that I now have with my children.

7. I am introverted (INFJ)– being introverted is nothing to do with being shy and nothing to do with being anti-social. It does mean that I need time alone to recharge. Socially, for me, small groups of close friends are better. Small talk doesn’t interest me and I can become bored easily. I much prefer to discuss opinions, thoughts and feelings.

8. I don’t like cheese- I have never liked cheese, someone asked me recently “why don’t you like cheese?”. This falls into the small talk category above. I don’t know why! Does it even matter why? The smell of it makes me heave and I am old enough now to know my own mind about my likes and dislikes. I don’t need to keep trying things (or trying to do things) that I know I don’t like.

9. Things won’t change unless I make change- no matter how overwhelming the challenge is there is always something that I can do to effect change. I often feel so much more empowered if I can just make one small step towards how I would like things to be. Our outside world is a result of our collective consciousness and  it can feel overwhelming at times in a world full of evil and vile acts, but if you want things to change you have to start small. Really small.

10. You can’t always join the dots- sometimes it looks like there are dead ends. Start again on a different route. Or more accurately “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ~Steve Jobs

Join the dots

Looking Into the Eyes of Strangers

CharacterSo despite telling myself emphatically that I would not return to the world of internet dating, I have done so.

It has taken a build-up of weeks and a gentle push from a friend for me to do this. The first step was writing my profile. I find expressing myself on paper relatively easy WHEN I have the right inspiration but in this case I was certainly lacking. I kept my blurb short & sweet with a view to expanding it if or when I become more comfortable with the idea.

In the meantime, if they want to know more, they will have to ask!

In the interest of keeping a sense of humour about all of this I shall share with you a few snippets of a conversation that ultimately led to me hitting the send button on this ‘adventure’.

On taking the plunge: They are your rules to make.

On casual shagging: It’s a bit like eating crisps; you really fancy them, they’re good while they last, then ultimately they are unsatisfying and best forgotten. (I haven’t got the time or the inclination for that.)

On grammar and poor choice of words in some profiles: Dominant? Or dominate? I’ve just choked on my tea (either way it means ‘deploy barge pole’).

On appropriate response to inappropriate suggestions: Send a message to him immediately- You disgust me you repellent arsehole, no wonder you are single.

So we all know that I like a man who smells nice and since the internet hasn’t yet identified a way to determine this, these are some of my first thoughts:

  • It feels like catalogue shopping.
  • I can’t get past a profile that doesn’t use at least some basic punctuation.
  • Why post a photograph in which you are not smiling or at least hinting at a smile, Mona Lisa style?
  • Why post a photograph in front of a fast car? ‘That don’t impress me much’ – Shania Twain
  • Why post a photograph in SPEEDOS?

And finally for the moment, I totally dismiss anyone who hasn’t taken the time to hit ‘rotate’ on their photograph.

I don’t understand the need to have identical hobbies, likes & dislikes. People are interesting, I like interesting people. They don’t have to like the same food as me, or have the same taste in music. I don’t want a clone of me. I want someone to complement me (compliments are nice too). In my experience the best guarantee of any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, is a basic moral similarity and values that are harmonious. <This may have to go in my profile.

No. Wait. Before you go. One more thing… I have been categorised by my income, job and ambition and other personal statistics and that is fine except for the fact I am so much more than that. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wish me luck!

The Only Thing That Matters…

IMG_20141218_181910…are the people in your life.

Unlike some people, I prefer to reflect in Autumn and I find New Year celebrations a challenge. What changes can possibly happen over just one night? Well nine years ago tonight my then husband told our children that he was leaving. I choose not to write too much about him because no good would ever come of it and this is my place for healing.

I am introverted. I have again chosen to be at home on 31st December; I am happy with that choice. According to famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung- an introvert is most obvious and vulnerable when he or she is in an overstimulating environment. As an introvert, parties are hell for me. I don’t like drunk people- I had a hideous experience with a drunk at a work Christmas party. I am not shy, I am just happiest with a close circle of people around me. I like to socialise, but with beloved friends and family and above all I like to laugh and love, passionately and unconditionally.

I hit rock bottom in March of this year, there was no major trigger point, I just fell apart and sobbed and sobbed whilst in the middle of a pile of ironing (maybe that WAS the trigger). My grief and loneliness had overwhelmed me, I was bogged down by work, the house, bills and the thought that life would never get any better, I no longer had any joy in life and it had to change. My daughter found me and the look on her face when she said ‘Mumma, please get help’ was enough to galvanize me into action. She tells me that I often go into automatic pilot and find solutions when challenges are thrown at me and this was no different.

I had to challenge the introvert in me, expose my thoughts and feelings, reach out. Guess what? I succeeded!

New York made me feel brave.

I have met (and not met) some wonderful people and a special friend that I hope I will have for life.

I realised that I have experienced great love and although I miss him, nothing can erase memories.

I have been educated in Doric, the dialogue of North East Scotland. It’s not lost on me that my partner was Scottish and I have somehow been drawn into a part of the world that he wanted to share with me.WP_000367

I struggle to thrive in any kind of chaos and I had some work done on the house, this proved to be great therapy in so many ways!

I have enjoyed watching my children grow and develop into practicing adults. It has been a real pleasure for me to see their closeness grow now that they don’t have to live together! I can see that I have been a good role model and mother (oh yeah, middle finger to the ex mother-in-law who said I would fail and lose my kids).

If I had to give a name to 2014 it would be The Year the Laughter Returned.

Pebbles

Pebbles“I know not how I may seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with” Plato

I gave a compliment to a friend a little while ago and added the following codicil ‘You can deflect it if you like but it’s my opinion and you will have to respect it’.

In turn she bounced it back with ‘One day I will describe you as I see you- just so you know’ and then followed that with my own words ‘You can deflect it if you like but it’s my opinion and you will have to respect it (someone very wise and dear to me told me that)’.

It’s true; we find it impossible to see ourselves as others do!

Are you aware of the Johari window? Give people the opportunity to anonymously tell you how they view you, yeah that’s scary! I am still mentally processing the results of this task, but it has strengthened me.

So ******, to me you are:

Complex –

In a way that there is no standard definition. To me you are interesting, layered, intriguing, fascinating, beautifully complex.

Loving –

I was going to say powerful because to me being loving is the most powerful thing you can be. I chose loving instead because powerful has some negative connotations these days. Being loving changes lives, not by force, rules and regulations, laws and instructions but by consistency, example and faith in others. Like a river slowly smoothing pebbles, gently and irreversibly.

Warm –

Like hot chocolate on a cold day. I would say like fruit tea, but I know you would see through that as the tease that is most certainly is. What’s the point of tea if it contains no actual tea, right? Warm and comforting, but no marshmallows or cream because you’re not sickly at all.

Wise –

Wise enough to know that you are fragile. Wise enough to be strong for others. Wise enough to be humble in knowledge. Wise enough to hang on in there.

Silly –

I had to include this one, because you make me laugh so much over such silly things. I tried and tried to write about the laughter over the ‘getting laid’* incident because I wanted to capture my feelings at having been able to laugh at the silliest of things. I wanted to hold on to how good it felt to laugh randomly and inappropriately, to lose all decorum just because the thought of our conversation popped back into my head.

Brave –

Because despite all that life has thrown at you, you are still here and I am so grateful for that and to know you now.

I haven’t known her for very long but I have been changed by knowing her. We have had long and late conversations some silly, some serious, some deep and some not so! As a whole she has made me think, particularly about the way that my ex-husband treats me.

When I met her, I felt that I already knew her and this has made me question and probe my own beliefs and foundations. Through conversation, and something that I wrote about here, it transpired that we nearly met a few years ago, well nearly ten years to be more precise.

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Words by KnotTheMeYouSee (@tanglesofme). Photo taken on the last day spent with Jon trying to see who was the most effective King Canute.

This led me to wonder are we always destined to meet the people we meet. What do you think?

If I had met her then, would the connection have been as strong? I doubt it. If I had met my partner at a different time would our love story have a different ending?

*Getting laid has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with a new floor.

Changed For Good

Wicked

Yesterday was such a strange day. Late the night before I had finished and published my previous blog post Not A Dear John Letter, it was a deeply personal piece and I was in two minds whether to publish it or not, but I did albeit under cover of darkness when I thought nobody would be looking. I shed some tears, quite a few actually.

I started writing my blog after a complete and utter failure to hold myself together. I started crying whilst ironing (yes, I know, who wouldn’t?) and was unable to stop. As far as I remember there was no trigger, no anniversary, no jolt of memories, just an overwhelming sadness. Years of ‘being strong’ had obviously caught up with me, but the worst thing about this incident was being held by my daughter and her saying ‘please get some help Mumma, I don’t know what to do’.

I didn’t want help, I wanted him back and no amount of therapy was going to make that happen so I sought help from me. I decided that I had to let myself grieve but also look towards a future that didn’t include him but to do this in a positive way if at all possible.

This morning a friend shared the lyrics to For Good from Wicked with me. The words are so appropriate, not least because it’s a musical that me & my children love (son is off to see it for the third time on Thursday), but because I have been changed for the better by loving him but also changed for good by all of you.


I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you’ll have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

Not A Dear John Letter

A box of memories
A box of memories

Dear Jon

Where do I even start? This is the letter that has been trapped inside of me for months. The thoughts rattle around in my head and bounce back & forth on a daily basis.

I want you to know that I love you, I love you with all of my heart and that will never change. I no longer know where you are or what you are doing or if I will ever hear from you again. I have tried my best with the resources available to me to find out what has happened to you but each time I have met with a brick wall. You either do not want to be found or something dreadful has happened (we are unable to confirm or deny blah blah blah). I now have to accept this.

If you are safe and well, I wish you love, security and happiness. I want you to find your place in the world and to find a peaceful retreat. I want you to sleep gently and soundly like you once did in my bed, in my arms enveloped in love. I used to love watching you sleep.

I want you to know how grateful I am for the time we had together. I do not know who said these words, but I wish it had been me –

“And even if we never talk again please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”.

I mostly need to thank you for the way your loved changed me. You made me feel beautiful and adored, cherished and wanted.

I have some specific memories and a small box of cherished items. I’ve opened it today, the box that’s been close to me all the years that I have known and loved you.

~A gold gift card from your first Christmas gift to me. It just says “love Jon xxxxx” we’d only know each other a couple of months, a few weeks really, but five kisses showed a lot of promise!

~A card from La Fenice, the local Italian Restaurant where we first went out as a four, you, me and my two children. It wasn’t easy, but it was a milestone.

~A tiny orange post-it note with my name on. Remember the silly game you thought up for Christmas with my family? It descended into total chaos, but we loved it. They also all loved you.

~A piece of lavender from Spa Fields in Islington. We dropped Emma at dance school and walked for miles looking for a peaceful space, not an easy task in London on a scorching hot day! To this day, the smell of lavender reminds me of the conversation, the very public kiss (the place where the bandidos live) and the feeling of total absorption in one another.

~A tiny photo of the corner table in The Chesil Rectory in Winchester, the oldest building in the city. You embarrassed the waitress remember?

Waitress: Have you decided?

You: Yes I have. I have decided that I love her.

It wasn’t the first time you had told me, but it is the one that sticks in my mind.

WP_000062 (2)~My ring, given to me for “love and commitment” it is beautiful, I’d like to put it back on but I dare not. It would undo these last few months that have got me to this point.

~Two small shells from Barton on Sea. I wanted shells; you sifted through heaps of stones to find me two shells with no cracks or chips. WP_000060You wanted to be near the sea that day, but somewhere quiet. A big ask in August bank holiday weekend on the south coast of England. I took you to where my Dad used to live, I hadn’t been back since his death and I thought it would be hard for me. It wasn’t, it was like introducing the two most important men in my life to each other. It gave me peace and tranquility although I doubt I could go back again. This was the last day that we spent together.

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~Lastly, a shiny 1p coin. The first thing you gave me, or rather lent to me. I hate owing money and you lent it to me the first time you had to go away. It was to reassure me that you were coming back. Every time you returned you asked if I still had it. I still have it now and I guess it’s mine by default; you can collect it any time.

These are just small things and big memories and wherever my life leads from this point on I will take a part of you with me.

All my love,

Jane xxxxx