Well, I can't complain about my social life!
Take just this week. Tuesday, three days ago: down in Brighton for an evening meal with the Clare Project crowd. Wednesday, two days ago: over to the village pub for a quick drink with Jo, that turned into a three-hour session with the usual suspects (of both sexes). Thursday, yesterday: a day out in Chichester with Jo, Jackie and Sheila - lunch and a lot of shopping. Today: pilates, then three hours of après-pilates with yesterday's gang, plus Joan, at Valerie's. Tomorrow evening: a meal with Amanda, Jane and Emma. It's not a 'normal' week. Several of the persons just named are off on holiday shortly with their husbands, and so we are getting together while we can.
As you might guess, I like it all very much, although seeing friends day after day like this isn't sustainable. You need time out for the routine household stuff - washing, ironing, blogging. I don't know how the people who get involved in the deeper life of the village, the ones who 'volunteer', manage to find a moment to themselves. Perhaps that's the whole point: to be so 'essential' and so 'busy' that one can let most things slide. So that filling up the empty hours is not a problem, because there are no empty hours. For some it must be a form of escapism, a mode of existence in which such things as marital problems are dodged, or crowded out entirely.
I'm afraid I'm not one of life's natural volunteers. I'm not a joiner or a doer or a helper. I'm not exactly a hard-core good-time girl, either; but having a pleasant time in pleasant company is certainly a priority. I do see however that no amount of good times add up to true happiness.
One element in a life of 'true happiness' must be the ability to do what you like in a physical sense. If your mobility is impaired in any way, then everything you do is compromised. And that's how it is for me at the moment. I've finished my concentrated course of ibuprofen, and my toe is no longer 'silent' - it's inclined to let me know that it's there. It's normally just slightly uncomfortable. But once or twice yesterday, after three hours of walking around Chichester, I felt a sharp pain that made me tread gingerly and resort to a limp again. That's what I'm talking about. I can't quite walk about in a carefree way. If I forget for an instant that I need to mind how I tread, I may get a protest from that toe. So I can't be completely happy.
And I'm keeping a walking stick in Fiona's boot. Just in case I need some support.
I've got a nice collection of walking sticks in my porch. Not all of them mine. There used to be more of them, but I discarded the ones that weren't the right length. The ones that remain will surely do for the rest of my life. Here they are:
Ignore the little witch's broom. There are three conventional crook-handled sticks, one with a dog's-head handle, and two rougher sticks - one of them heavy with a thick knob of wood as a handle to get a fist around; and the other much lighter, actually an offcut from the hazel hedge that separated my rear garden from a farmer's field in the home I had until 2005. You can see the hedge in these shots from 2004 and 2005. It was fast-growing, and had to be firmly cut back every year:
The lighter stick is all I have left of my old home.
The stick with the dog's head handle belonged to Dad. It gradually became his constant companion. Here are Mum and Dad at Hickstead in 2006, and the stick is in evidence:
At home, Dad didn't use any kind of prop. Here are my parents in 2007, in what is now my back garden, Dad clearly managing without a stick:
Hard to think that within just two years neither would be alive!
Here they are later in 2007, at Ouse Cottage, the investment property M--- and I bought together. Dad was leaning a bit on that stick, while Mum was laughing her head off about something. I wonder what it was? My parents often laughed.
Even in 2008, they were pretty merry. I took this on what is now my back patio, sprucer in their day of course:
And here is Dad with his beloved stick on the cruise in April 2009. One month later, he was gone.
It's a stick I cherish, as you might expect.
And now I feel I need a stick handy! I chose one of the crook-handled ones, this slender chestnut one, propped up for the shot, with those iron horseshoes behind:
It's not just to give me a prop if my toe plays up while away from home. I've been carrying a stick on solo country walks for years. Partly as a bramble-basher; partly as a 'third leg' on slippery paths, so that I don't fall over into the Sussex mud; but also partly as a potential weapon against animals and dodgy-looking men.
A lady I used to know called Sally once showed me how to use a stick for self-defence. She had combat training and could certainly disable any attacker with her bare hands, and throw them about too. All quite beyond my powers, but I did see how a stick suitably held could deter any nonsense, or, if necessary, clobber and jab pretty effectively. And in the meantime, it was something to lean on too.
I thought of Sally the other day. She moved away from Sussex to Dorset. A former journalist, she had become a technical translator in four languages. Her other chief interest was cats. She kept about thirty. They were all rescued from terrible owners, and she nurtured them back into happiness. As worthwhile an occupation as any.