Women blazing a trail

me and phil in shadow_29.4.17 on marsden moorToday, I was out walking with my hubby in the hills near where we live.  For those that know Northern England, this was the Pennine hills.  We parked at Greenfield, walked along the canal to Diggle, then over the tops to Marsden, from where we got a train back to Greenfield – 6.6 miles in all.

Much to my delight, as we began to rise out of Diggle we came across some runners.  They were running back towards Diggle, and we learned that this was what is known as the cake race:  http://www.fellrunner.org.uk/races.php?id=4914. It works out as just shy of 10 miles, which is quite a run over the hills.  According to the Manchester Evening News (http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/oldham-saddleworth-runners-cook-up-7111366), some of the runners also bake cakes, which are judged while they are running, and which entitles them to run for free.

I don’t run these days, not that I was ever a fell runner.  I used to run for the train when I worked for the University of Leeds, because I always left the office too late and so it became a necessity.  It was when still working in Leeds that I started noticing the pain in my right hip as I charged along towards the station.  At first, it felt as if my right buttock was going into spasm.  It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was all part and parcel of the start of arthritis.

These days, I walk with two poles, which makes me very trendy.  Almost Nordic, you might say.  It is recommended for arthritic hips, as it helps to take some of the strain off the joint – though I have to say, that when mucking about and taking all my weight on my poles last august, I managed to injure my shoulder, just before going off to New Zealand to support my daughter who was having twins and needed help with her two-year-old.  D’oh!

walking on marsden moor 29.4.17Anyway, back to today. I have to admit that most of the runners were men, and in a certain age group – but I was delighted to see a few women among them.  I made a point of congratulating each one as she passed.  I do hope I did not sound patronising in my feeble attempts at solidarity.

And then, my heroine appeared.  I have no idea what she is called, but she gave me permission to take her pic and use it in my blog.  OK, she was fairly near the back, but what an inspiration!

older runner marsden moor 29.4.17

As it happens, I was recently listening to BBC radio 4 (we are so blessed to have intelligent radio in the UK!), and I learned something staggering about women and long distance running, so I followed it up with my own research.  According to one seemingly reliable source (http://www.marathonguide.com/history/olympicmarathons/chapter25.cfm) it was not until the 1980s that women’s long distance races were included in the olympics – a fact I find staggering!  Prior to that, the longest women’s race was the 1500 metres, and that was only introduced in 1972!  Women were deemed too fragile and weak to run very far.  Sadly, it seems that women are still rare in the longer and more arduous races, despite the fact that we now thankfully know they are not too weak to run.

Whether or not we choose to enter long distance running races, exercise is so important as you get older, and never more so than when you have some of the conditions we associate with ageing as a woman, like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.  I didn’t want to hold up this wonderful woman by interviewing her, and so I don’t know her motivation for running.

What I do know, is that number 51 is blazing a trail, whether she realises it or not.  All I can do is walk in her shadow, and feel pleased with my average of 2.5 miles an hour, over a total of 6.6 miles.

About time

 

I am not sure what has been happening lately, but time and I seem to have fallen out.

The first thing that happened, was that when my hubby and I went to the cinema recently to watch a live streamed RSC Julius Caesar (wonderful, by the way!), I was sure that the advertising I had read said that it started promptly at 7 and ran for two hours straight, finishing at 9.  So, we parked in a car park which allowed for three hours for free.  On the way in, we clocked that it had read our number plate and helpfully told us we must be out of there by 9.35.  Bags of time.

However, when act 3 started at 8.50, we started to wonder if I had got it wrong.  We had a quick chat about it, as there was an interval between acts 2 and 3 (surprise!), and we decided we would just have to hope.  When we got out of the cinema, it was well gone 10 pm.  My hubby read the rules that were clearly up in the car park.  A fine of £70 for outstaying one’s welcome.  Oh dear.

The next time we were due to go out, which was last night, we both felt the need for an afternoon snooze as neither of us had had a wonderfully long sleep the night before, and we were due to be out late.  We had agreed we would leave at 5.30 pm, to go to some new music at the Royal Northern College of Music (once again, absolutely wonderful!  And free!). I reassured hubby that I had set the alarm (which sits on my side of the bed) for 5 pm, and we both drifted off into a contented sleep (me after him, because I am such a fidget bottom).

At 5.20 pm, I opened my eyes.  I had set the alarm for 5 am, not pm.  Oh dear again.

Today, I was seeing one of my clients for counselling / psychotherapy.  As I was ending the session I noticed that she glanced meaningfully at the clock.  And then I realised.  I had given her an hour, whereas our sessions are usually 50 minutes.  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

So, what is it about me and time right now?  I have been wracking my brains, but I cannot understand it.  If I was going to be all psychodynamic about it, I would wonder whether I am trying to ignore time, because I am concerned about its passage.  I suppose that is possible, but I doubt it somehow.

I did a quick search for ‘why do I lose track of time’ on one of the major search engines, and it came up with some pretty alarming stuff.  Apparently, I am losing track of my life.  Or, I could have dissociative amnesia.  But then, that seems to be associated with Dissociative Identity Disorder and the kind of amnesia some of my clients have demonstrated, about abuse experienced as children.  No, that is not me.  Ah, but wait a minute.  I could be depressed.  Maybe that’s it.  I know that you can be depressed without knowing it.  I was, once.  Just felt rubbish, like a very bad hangover.  But I feel fine.  So, no, I am not depressed.

Of course, my greatest fear is that this heralds the onset of the dreaded dementia.  So, like a dog with a bone I decided to search ‘losing track of time and dementia’.  I immediately found a publication put out by the Mental Health Foundation called Losing track of time, but it turned out to be about the ageing prison population.

I eventually gave up.  The losing track of time associated with dementia is all about thinking that things that happened a long time ago were far more recent.  I am not there, yet.  So I guess it is back to the drawing board.  I will just have to concentrate more, when setting the alarm or checking when things finish, or watching the clock for the end of a very interesting therapy session with a lovely client.

But then again, maybe I just need to forgive myself.  After all, I am getting older.  Sometimes, the things I could do perfectly easily even a year ago, seem more of a challenge these days.  A serene self-acceptance is called for.  I must work on that!

At least I can still go walking in them thar hills.  Which reminds me.  I must get out for a walk tomorrow.  That will make me feel a whole lot better, I feel sure.  I must remember to take my watch.  But no.  The battery is going in that.  Oh, well.  Time is just a human construct, anyway.

Dem bones

 

It was 2007.  I was on my way to teach Dance Movement Therapy in Warsaw, and I needed to park my car in some budget airport car parking.  I decided, before following the nice man to where I was meant to park it, to go to the loo inside their portacabin.  When I emerged, I saw that others were also waiting to be directed, and I was holding them up.  In my haste, I tripped on the way down the steps. I heard a snap, and felt intense pain.  I knew that I had broken my foot, but all I could think of was that I would be letting everyone down if I did not go to Warsaw.  Knowing my husband would question my decision to go if I rang him, I simply asked the kind men in the portacabin if they could organise a tubigrip for me.  One of them parked my car for me, and we agreed my son would come for it during the week.  It was not until I had gone through security that I rang my contact in Warsaw, told him I had hurt my foot, and asked him if he could arrange to take me to hospital at the other end.  Only then did I ring my husband.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had broken my fifth metatarsal – a classic footballer’s injury, as it turns out.  Being a clumsy oaf (you would never know I am a dancer!), I had had several fractures before, but I knew enough about osteoporosis to know I should ask for a DEXA scan when I returned.  I did.  It never came.  I asked again.  The results were delayed.  Finally, some time in 2008, I discovered I had osteopenia (which is basically like osteoporosis, but not so bad, ie the bones have started to lose density and so might be more inclined to break).  And so, two years later, I asked for a repeat scan, and then I learned I now had osteoporosis in my spine.  Progress of the disease had been quite rapid.  I was 58 years old.

I reacted by feeling frightened, and very sorry for myself.  My mother had osteoporosis, but her first fracture was at age 67 (she was not diagnosed until years later).  Here I was, having fractured at 56 years old, and diagnosed with osteoporosis at the age of 58.  My mother, who by now was in her 90s and bent double and contorted after repeated spinal compression fractures, had been given the most common drug for osteoporosis some years previously, then simply left to take it for the rest of her life.  There were no repeat scans, and no medication reviews.  When, after her death in 2011, I looked into the drug that I knew I would be offered if I asked for it (the one she had been on), I realised that the daily vomiting after breakfast that she had experienced for years was almost certainly due to this drug.  There was no way I was going to go on the same treatment, despite being terrified of ending up contorted and in constant pain, like her.  The drug had not prevented her spinal fractures, and in fact recent research suggests it might actually increase the risk of fractures if taken for too long!  I felt caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

It took me some time to get my head round how to help myself, but eventually I found support on Facebook and through the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS, https://nos.org.uk/). According to NOS, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.  I am not alone, though I felt it until I found these sources of support.

Through my research, I discovered that diet and exercise can do a lot to help.  In fact, I already knew some of this, because I am interested in both.  Having studied nutrition as part of my BSc hons in physiology and biochemistry in the 1970s, I had told Mum’s GP years previously that she needed to prescribe vitamin D with the calcium (calcium alone has since been shown to predispose to heart attacks).  And, my work and research as a dance movement therapist had led me to read up about weight-bearing exercise and bone density. And so, gradually, I began to weave some self-help strategies into my daily life, reassuring myself that if my T score got as bad as -3 I would reluctantly go on the medication.  What happened, was that although by 2013 my spinal score was dangerously close to that value, by 2015 (with a few more tweaks to my self-care) it has begun to reverse ever so slightly, to the extent that it was no worse than the 2011 values.  I felt very pleased with myself, no longer as scared and out of control.

But then, my GP dropped a bombshell.  I was to be allowed no more DEXA scans, and was urged simply to go on the medication, since I had been shown to have osteoporosis and this was the recommended treatment.  I ignored him.  And so, still tweaking my diet and supplements, and with more yoga than ever in my week, I cross my fingers.  But how long, I wonder, before I get one of those spinal fractures?

And then, there is the other bony problem.  Mum had lots of osteoarthritis, which along with the multiple fractures and the stroke, disabled her and meant she was in constant pain.

Last year, at the beginning of 2016, I went on a post-retirement trip with my gorgeous husband.  We went to India (where I had a conference, taught a Dance Movement Therapy workshop, and then we travelled around southern India), then to Melbourne, to stay with my oldest friend who I have known since I was four and a half, then to New Zealand. New Zealand was the jewel in the grand tour, since we were going to see my daughter, her partner, and their toddler.  Our youngest son was also in NZ, having a kind of gap year.  After NZ, we visited my niece and her family, in Perth, before returning home to the UK.

We had an amazing time, and were away for just over two months.  During that time, we did some serious walking, particularly in NZ.  This included climbing a mountain (Ben Lomond), and walking part of the Abel Tasman Trail, not to mention more than one trek up my beloved Queenstown Hill.  The first picture shows me relaxing inside the Basket of Dreams, which is an art work positioned on top of QT hill. The second shows a view from the top of Ben Lomond.   Finally, part of the Abel Tasman Trail, which is probably one of the top two walks I have done in my life.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

While I was away for those two months, I noticed that the occasional pain I got in my right hip had become a daily occurrence, and I resolved to speak with my GP on my return.  For some months prior to my retirement, I had also noticed a pain in my right buttock when rushing for the train at the end of the day, and wondered why I was getting what I assumed were spasms in the muscle.  I hadn’t thought much of it, and certainly had not related it to the pain I got in my groin.  That association came much later.

I did indeed eventually speak with my GP, and by now the pain had worsened a bit.  He sent me for an x-ray, which I had a couple of weeks before going on yet another walking holiday, this time to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

DSC_0103

This one rates in my top two walks ever, along with Abel Tasman, but my enjoyment was marred by the pain in my hip, which by now was bordering on agony.  We aimed for about eight miles a day – nothing too long for someone as fit as me, but with a lot of ups and downs.  I took painkillers each day with my lunch, but they didn’t really touch me.  One day, somewhere near my 64th birthday in June of 2016, the walk turned into an eleven miler, and I was in tears before the end of it.  It was that day that I rang the surgery, to discover that the diagnosis was osteoarthritis.  Another of my mother’s conditions, which caused her almost unbearable pain.

Once again, I was consumed by images of my aged mother, and again I realised my diagnosis had come much earlier than hers.  If she was in the agonising pain she was in before she died, on morphine derivatives for years, then what was my destiny?

I got a referral to the local musculo-skeletal service, which led to an MRI scan, which confirmed the diagnosis, and eventually I saw an orthopaedic surgeon.  It took until very recently, in March 2017, for him to inject my hip with steroids (partly due to my own deliberate procrastination).  Content that this had given me some degree of temporary relief, he discharged me this week.

The truth is, though, that by the time I had got to see him, I had managed to develop a state of relative ease, once again using a range of self-help approaches. I continued with some modifications with my yoga and dance (including a contemporary dance performance with a community dance group to which I belong), and started doing acquasise classes.  I reluctantly reduced the length of my walks to five miles (I recently did seven, and was pretty chuffed with myself until the pain kicked in when I tried to sleep at night).  In terms of diet, I decided to follow the Mediterranean diet, cut out red meat first, then stopped drinking alcohol on January 1st, and finally I recently became pescatarian.  I have never again had the kind of pain I experienced last summer, though I am not complacent.  I have a degenerative condition. One day, I might find my mobility is severely impaired, but I am ready with my argument; if you don’t give me a hip replacement, I will find I cannot exercise as much as I normally do.  Would the NHS prefer to give me a hip, or for me to develop one of the many diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle?  Of course, that is if we still have an NHS by then …

This has been a long blog, and not a particularly happy one.  Am I angry that I have these conditions?  Well, no, actually.  Despite being at times terrified of what the future might hold, I am not one to ask the ‘why me’ question.  The fact is, that we all get various conditions as we get older.  If we did not slow down, who would our grandchildren have, to walk at their pace?  We would still be rushing past all the flowers and trees and wonders of this world in which we live.  And I would probably not have given up alcohol.  Which is another story.

Drop dead gorgeous

Now that I am 64, nearly 65, I think I am pretty good looking.  I regularly congratulate myself (privately of course, because I do not wish to come over as arrogant) on the accident of genes that means my face, despite having been assaulted by a few too many UV rays in its time, has fewer lines than one might expect, for a woman of my age.

EPSON MFP image

The picture above was taken in a photoshoot I bought for my daughter and me, when she was visiting in September 2014.  I was 62.  I didn’t realise at the time, that I was showing quite so much of my cleavage.  However, when I saw the photo I confess I quite liked it.  I still do.

So why am I telling you all of this, and risking the accusation that I might just be a little conceited, or still worse deluded?  Well, it is this.  As a young woman I, like so many of the young women I see in my practice as a psychotherapist and dance movement psychotherapist, did not like the way I looked.  How about that for irony?  When I was truly gorgeous, I did not know it.  I spent hours looking in the mirror, not to congratulate myself but to literally pick at bits of my head face, whether to pluck brows, assault spots, apply blemish concealer, or swear at my hair.  It was too fine, too straight, too … well, you get the picture!  And, of course, I did not stop at my face.  My thighs were too fat, you could see rolls of fat on my back (I became an expert contortionist, in order to appraise this), my belly was never as flat as it should be – you know, with the hip bones poking up above it as you lay down.  And, as for my lady bits – Eeuuuwwwwww!  How could anyone ever think they were appealing?  It was all so embarrassing!

solo bridesmaid photo at jackie's wedding (2)

They say that youth is wasted on the young.  Well no, it isn’t, but if I could meet my seventeen-year-old self (above) and make her listen, I would tell her how gorgeous she really was.  Not because I think I was any better than any of my friends, but because I was convinced at the time that they were all pretty, and I was not.

I feel so much for those many young women who are suffering right now just as I did, for decades.  When I look at the photo of myself in my sixties, alongside the one of me at 17, I see such a difference.  At seventeen, I was tight in my body, constricted with the embarrassment of being photographed, whereas in my sixties my whole body seems to be saying ‘I am comfortable in my skin, now, thank you very much.’

One of the turning points for me came in my forties.  I had my youngest son at 42, and when he was about five, idly playing with the flappy skin on the underside of my upper arm, he thoughtfully remarked:  ‘I wish I had skin like yours, Mummy.  Yours is nice and loose.  I think my skin is too tight for me.’  He sounded genuinely concerned about his own fate, bless him, but I am not sure how good a job I did to console him, because I was too gobsmacked at the realisation that we can see beauty in anything we choose to!  He was not socialised, yet, to think that women have to look a certain way, or to think that age is something to be feared and resisted, like King Canute with the tides.  He loved his mama, and to him she was the most beautiful person in the whole wide world.  That illusion didn’t last, of course, but in that moment he spoke a kind of truth.  My young son challenged my own illusions about beauty, and about age.

Rambling role models

When I think about getting older, the first image that comes to mind is that of my mother.  She and I share some pretty important genes.  I look like her, both facially and in terms of body shape.  And, I inherited her tendency towards certain age-related conditions.

 

1-yellow-sunflower-mark-mah

 

I don’t like listing my ailments, for fear of being accused of being an old woman – oh, wait a minute, I am!  But then, we all know that when we are accused of being an old woman, we are hearing the voices of both gender and age oppression.  Two for the price of one.  The accusation sub-text runs something like this:  Old women moan on (so we should not listen to them); young women do not (they are gorgeous, healthy and never whinge); and of course, men never do (they are gods).

Of course, I don’t buy into that.  But do I?  Actually, I do, because I have internalised my own oppression.  Basically, you don’t need to beat me with a stick.  I’ll do it myself, thank you very much!  I am trying to challenge this sort of rubbish, hence my very tongue-in-cheek blog title.  Because, you see, that is the other thing old women do.  They ramble on.  I ramble.  I am sure my darling hubby would say I do indeed ramble on, but not because I am old.  More, because I am Bonnie.

But there is a very serious side to this.  Many of us will one day get dementia.  Rambling (as in walking, which I also do), or indeed any form of exercise, has been proven to protect against the onset of dementia, at least for some.  There will be others who are unable to escape it, no matter what they do.  Let me say at the outset, it is not my intention here to make fun of people who have dementia.  Not only have I worked with such people, and done research in the area, I have known some absolutely wonderful people who have been struck down by one of the many diseases that can cause the condition we call dementia.  Some have even been role models.

So, when I think about getting older, one of the role models that comes to mind is my old supervisor for my Dance Movement Psychotherapy practice.  She worked in a related field, and was kind of famous – revered, even.  One day, I confessed that I wished I was more like her in terms of her assuredness and the esteem in which she was held by her peers.  Her response:  ‘Bonnie, you just have to get older.’  And I did.  And she did.  She died a couple of years ago, some years after her diagnosis of dementia, which she almost certainly had (undiagnosed at that point) when she completed her PhD.  What a woman!

Another person I think of, when I consider role models for getting older, is a man I will call Fred (not his real name).  Fred used to volunteer for me, in a therapeutic theatre group, when he was merely in his seventies.  I remember one day, we went into Manchester with our project members (all of whom had serious and enduring mental illnesses, and most of whom were in their thirties), to see Les Miserables. It took some time to get everyone off the train, and start heading on foot to the theatre, but when I had assembled them all, I saw Fred walking at a pace, the gap between us and him widening all the time.  I had to call after him, and ask him to slow down!  Some years later, I spotted him on another train on my way into Manchester.  He was standing up on the crowded train, looking as dapper as ever.  I felt cross with the assembled masses that no-one other than me offered their seat.  He declined, of course.  He was, by now, in his nineties.

So, when I think of growing older, which role model do I choose?  My mother, bereaved and with an ever-growing sadness at the loss of her physical prowess?  My ex-supervisor, esteemed by her peers, who had a good life and a loving husband, yet was later struck down by dementia?  Or my ex-volunteer, refusing to sit down in his nineties?  I guess the choice is mine.  I may not be able to choose what happens to my body or my mind, but I can choose to stand on my own two feet for as long as I can, walking towards the very best in life.  I can choose to ramble.

Another bank holiday monday

Another bank holiday Monday

By bonnie meekums

It was a typical bank holiday Monday; damp, drizzly and overcast.  But the four of us were determined to make it to the coast. Ginger, whose hair was black, had just passed his test and offered to let me ride pillion. Sensing that he was hoping his magnanimous gesture would make be grateful, I resolved not to hold his waist, no matter how scared I felt.  Sandy, who really was ginger, was still learning, and so Rachel had to cadge a lift from her Dad, persuading him that he really should call in on his uncle tony in Broadstairs.  We all arranged to meet at a pub by the harbour in Whitstable, for 12 noon.

The journey down was torture.  The A2 was busy, which gave Ginger the opportunity to show off his moves, swerving in and out of the traffic while my arms ached from holding on behind me.  When we eventually arrived I dismounted, shivering with cold and fear, and made for the bar.  I eagerly gulped a pint of beer, and even the obligatory oysters slid down a treat.

The four of us had been friends for about three years, which as 16 ½ felt like an age.  We had met at a church youth club which, in 1965, was considered hip.  The rector gave his young curates free rein to be creative.  Before long, we had painted the crypt black, the vast church had had part of its high roof converted into offices and a coffee bar, and services included guitar music and drama performances on a regular basis.  The curates, Geoff and Mike, encouraged us to think deeply about the issues of the day, discussing abortion and mixed marriage in grave tones while sipping instant coffee made with boiled milk.

I remember feeling a sense of bonhomie as the beer slid into my stomach, and the grey day seemed to brighten a little.  Sandy broke into my reverie:  ‘Holy shit!’ Rachel immediately chided him for blaspheming.  ‘What?’ I asked, wondering what could have moved a regular communicant like Sandy to swear so spectacularly.  We all followed his eyes.  There, across the crowded bar, we could clearly see Geoff and Mike, oblivious to our presence in the same room.  They were sitting side by side, both men looking downwards. What made this unusual for the day, was not the pints on the table in front of two vicars – we had shared many a pint in the Mitre after church –  but the fact that Geoff had his hand resting delicately on Mike’s thigh.

‘I think I’m gonna throw up’, said Ginger, his cheeks flushing.  The hairs on the back of my neck bristled, but no words would come out of my mouth.  All I knew was that we had intruded, unwittingly, on a moment that was not meant to be shared with others.  Sandy beat his pint onto the table and declared ‘I’m leaving’.  ‘No you’re not’, corrected Rachel.  ‘I think we should go over and say hello’.  ‘What, you mean pretend we haven’t just seen the two curates from our church being pooftas in a bar in Whitstable, thinking cos they are bloody miles away from Woolwich they won’t get found out?’  Ginger spluttered, his voice cracking.  For an instant, I saw the same look in his face I had seen in Mike and Geoff’s, which bewildered me even more.  I wished I could say something to ease the tension but once again Sandy broke into my silence: ‘I agree with Rachel’. ‘You poor, hen pecked sod’, said Ginger, spitting beer through clenched teeth.  I began to wonder whether I could cadge a lift back with Rachel’s Dad.  ‘So what are you saying, Sandy?’  I asked, to detract from Ginger’s venom.  ‘I think we should go over there.  Say hi.’  ‘I can’t believe I am hearing this’, Ginger said, shaking his head.  The last thing I wanted was to side with Ginger, so I pasted a smile on my face, looked straight at Sandy then at Rachel, and said ‘let’s go over, then.’  We left Ginger fuming into his beer.

The two men were by now in earnest conversation and Mike was the first to look up as we approached.  He forced a smile onto his face.  ‘Hi, where’s Ginger?’  ‘Oh, he’s over there,’ I replied, vaguely.  ‘Fancy seeing you lot here’, offered Mike, a tinge of sadness in his voice but without embarrassment.  I ventured a question, trying to sound casual: ‘We thought it would be nice to hit the coast, though the weather is miserable. Why are you two hiding away here, then?’  I pulled up a stool, as Mike looked imploringly at Geoff.  ‘It’s OK’, Geoff said tenderly, ‘I’ll tell them.’   And then, looking at us with an air of authority: ‘But first, tell that hot-headed Ginger to join us, will you?’  I looked at Rachel, who nodded and swiftly made her way across the sticky floor towards her boyfriend.  I could see a brief exchange of words, then Ginger kicked back his stool, picked up his drink and followed her like an obedient puppy to join the family.

When we had all assembled, Geoff breathed deeply, twice, then in a measured tone he told us:  ‘I didn’t expect to see you four today, but I am glad now that I have.  I came here with Geoff because there is something I needed to tell him.’  Ginger muttered something inaudible, Rachel pressed her foot up against his, and Sandy coughed.  ‘I’m afraid I won’t be with you much longer.’  ‘Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,’ blurted Ginger.  Geoff looked down, and for a moment I wondered if he would say any more.  But then he looked hp, searching for Mike’s eyes.  Mike nodded his support, and Geoff turned back to us.  ‘I’m dying,’ he said simply.  I felt a thud in my chest, my vision went red, and the ground became remote.  I gripped the table, and looked at Rachel, whose eyes held the terror I felt. Then I looked at Sandy, holding his head in his hands.  But it was Ginger who lunged and fell at Geoff’s feet, sobbing like a baby, his head on Geoff’s knee.  Geoff gently stroked Ginger’s thick black mane.  ‘It’s alright son, I know.  I did that too, when I found out.’

ENDS

March 2011