Retroladytyping …

Sign of friendship

Celtic symbol for friendship.jpg

I have a friend.

That friend is an unlikely friend.  He is quite different from my other friends.  Most of them are round about my age; some are related to me; some are ones I met through my children; some through shared interests and some have, sadly, fallen by the wayside as our lives diverged.  This friend won’t, I hope.  This friend is different in that he is a younger generation, unconventional, creative and complex in a way that I and none of my other friends are.  Despite that, or possibly because of that, we are friends.

We were just distant colleagues until one day he happened to overhear a conversation I was having with another colleague about our musical tastes.  He commented that I had “exemplary taste in music.”  I don’t know about that, but we do certainly share similar tastes.  That initial contact was very quick as duty called.  We were then ‘forced’ (willingly) to work together on a regular basis.  I won’t say what his job is, but he does it superbly and inspirationally well, mostly.  Mostly, until I correct him, that is.  That’s the kind of relationship we have.  I admire him tremendously but from that initial co-incidence of an overheard conversation, we have now arrived at a point where (I hope) we don’t need to tread carefully with each other – do we?  I hope he reads this and will feel free to correct me, if necessary.  I think we have enough mutual respect to do that.  I certainly do.  He once told me that I ‘enhance’ what he does professionally.  He probably doesn’t remember saying that, but I treasure that comment.  It is a wonderful compliment to me, but also indicative of his character that he said it.  To be that generous with what to him was probably just an idle  comment is unusual, precious and memorable.

Throughout our working together, we found we shared more and more of each other’s thoughts, ideas and concerns.  That is such a wonderful way to spend a great deal of one’s working life.  We grew used to knowing what the other person was going to say before they said it … finishing each other’s sentences became the norm.  I cared for him; I know he cared for me.  Nothing untoward, just shared understanding.  Then I left that job.

That worried me.  I left at a time when he was away from the job for a while too, so we didn’t get to say goodbye in the real world.  I moved onto other things, but to my delight I found that while he was away he had taken on a similar role to what I do now, volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society.    I hadn’t even known he was interested in that.  He didn’t know I was going to do it, but he had been one step ahead of me and already started.  Of course he had.  I don’t know why I was surprised.  Our paths have crossed a couple of times through that role which has been lovely, but we have also kept in touch through the magical world of virtual media – texts and the much maligned Facebook.

Recently I asked him to do me a favour.  He has a skill which I don’t possess.  He writes poetry, eloquent poetry,  emotive and descriptive poetry which captures the essence of his subject and speaks to the reader in a unique way which is incredibly difficult to convey in any other way.  I wanted him to write a poem to commemorate a special occasion in my life.  I knew it was a big ask.  I would need to share personal ‘stuff’ with him; he would be sharing the creative side of himself with me.  Would that test our friendship in a way that purely practical favours don’t?  Taking a deep breath and with several rewrites, I sent him a message …

He instantly replied.  Yes, he would do it and would be honoured.  Honoured!  That was reassuring and not a little surprising.  I don’t know why it was surprising.  I should have known.  Of course I should.  That’s the type of person he is.

A few days later, the poem arrived.  I loved it, but there was one phrase which niggled.  He had asked me to comment and to comment honestly.  I wasn’t sure.  To criticise a person’s creative spirit is a potential minefield and what do I know about poetry after all?  Not much, but I do know what I like.  So … having sent an ‘I love it, but will comment further when I’ve read it properly’ holding message, I let it settle in my brain.  That phrase still niggled though.  I still held off further comment, then a text came.  “Have you had a chance to re-read yet?”  No hiding place.  I needed to reply.  So … I told him about my niggle, hoping he wouldn’t mind and, of course, I was hiding behind the distance of a text.

Not only didn’t he mind, but within an hour a new improved version arrived in my in-box.  It is now perfect.  He has summed up the meaning of that special occasion, without sentimentality, without cliché, without anything other than beautiful words, cleverly assembled into exactly what I wanted – a message for  a special person.

It is wonderful to be the other half of an unlikely, cross-generational friendship and knowing (hoping) that friendship will continue, favours can be asked, confidences can be shared and understanding will be at the core of that friendship.

Thank you to my poet friend.  xx






To run or not to run, that is the question … and does it matter?

Running or walking

Last Sunday, I took part in a sponsored event for the Alzheimer’s Society,  Blue-Forget-Me-Not-Flower-Wallpapers-1 which, as some of you will know, is a cause very dear to my heart.  The Cheltenham Challenge has several options, catering for all abilities – walking or running anything from 5k to an Ultra-Marathon.  I, with my friend Liz, opted to do 10K.  We did it last year and raised over £300.  On that occasion we both walked more or less the whole way, as we don’t see each other too often and had a lot of chatting to do!  I know, I know … that’s not the point, but still …maybe we should be sponsored per word.

This time, however, with PBs to beat, we decided to run as much as we possibly could, without having to call on the first-aiders.  The route follows Cheltenham Racecourse, then out onto cross-country (very muddy) tracks and fields, over stiles, through fields and over streams via slippery single track bridges,  as well as more accessible, hard-surfaced country lanes.  It became apparent very soon  that Liz’s fitness levels were way in excess of mine.  Before we had even ventured off  the racecourse, I was struggling … oh dear.

The dilemma was whether to continue to struggle, to hold Liz up, who was itching to run on or, as I felt at that point, just  give up and cry.  Liz felt that she should stick with me, despite me saying she should go at her own pace.  I didn’t want to hold her up and for her to feel she needed to stay with me.  It was absolutely fine with me for her to run on, and I would have felt guilty if I’d held her up.  Eventually we agreed that she would run on, but would increase her sponsorship of me, while I went at my own, somewhat slower pace.  That was fine with me and, I’m sure, was fine with the Alzheimer’s Society.

So,  we continued … I didn’t see her again till the end.  I walked, quickly, but I did walk most of it.  My  self-imposed challenge was to run the downhill and harder surface sections, which I more or less did, finishing about 10 minutes behind Liz, and fuelled by handfuls of jelly beans.  I don’t eat them at any other time, but they’re rocket fuel when facing yet another muddy track and seeing the 10K direction arrow pointing away from the Finish line clearly visible, so near yet so far away.  Having said that, it was lovely to be in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside with time to look around and appreciate the views.  There were also some beautiful houses en route, which gave me definite location envy.  I  began to contemplate whether it was feasible to sell our house and maybe buy a small shed, with a view,   in that area.  Yes, it is slightly out of our price range.  It’s seriously posh round there.

The Challenge, as I said, consisted of several options and so various levels of athletic ability:  from me and others like me, to elite runners who were taking on the Ultra-Marathon.  At one stage I overheard a couple discussing whether to run the whole 36 miles – that must have been the Ultra-Marathoners – 36 miles!!!!!  That’s insane.

Despite those various challenges and abilities, the atmosphere was one of ‘we’re all here for the same purpose – to do what we can to the best of our ability.’  That was very clear throughout the whole event, from the warm-up, where elite runners mingled and chatted with the Sunday strugglers (i.e. the likes of me)  to the finish line and the collection of medals and finishers t-shirts.

There were times when I thought I’d never get that t-shirt; I often felt like crying, my legs hurt, my back hurt, I had a blister on one toe, I’d been bitten by some small, annoying insect, my trainers were wet and muddy and I was sneezing from running through fields of grass. In addition, my specs kept slipping down my nose because of the sweat (not perspiration or lady-glow – I was definitely sweating.)  I was a sorry state:  red-faced and disappointed with my efforts.

While I was struggling,   small incidents boosted me immensely – the small boy about 1km from the finish, who high-fived everyone as they ran past, from tall, long-legged elite runners to doddery old ladies like me; also the family who stood outside their house with a home-made banner, shouting encouragement – again to everyone, irrespective of their ability.  Thank you to the small boy and that family.

However, I was most motivated and encouraged   by a group of runners who clearly were very fit and fast, as well as young and long-legged and seemingly ready to do the whole distance again,  who shouted “well done” and “keep going” as they whizzed past.  They didn’t need to do that; they could have just overtaken without a word, while being justifiably  annoyed by someone like me being in their way, but they didn’t.  That meant so much.  Thank you speedy runners.  You gave me the incentive to keep going, to run the last few hundred metres and to jump into the air, arms aloft as I crossed the finishing line (and grabbed another handful of jellybeans).

Thank you also to the man, unknown to either Liz or I, who, while we were having our lunch, saw  our medals and donated £10 to the Alzheimer’s Society.  What a lovely gesture.  Thank you, whoever you are.  We raised almost £200, through sponsorship from friends, colleagues and family,  which made all the effort, blisters, pain and nearly tears,  worthwhile.

Thank you all of you, including  our sponsors and to Liz for increasing her sponsorship, so I could have a walk/run in the beautiful countryside without feeling pressured to push myself further and faster than I felt was possible, or sensible.

Incidentally, Liz and I both gained new PBs for the 10K.  (The times are a secret between us and the electronic chips on our race numbers), but we each made our minds up that next year we’ll probably stick to the 5K … or maybe not … the t-shirts and shorts are now washed, the trainers are clean, so maybe, just maybe, if we start training now, we could tackle the Ultra-Marathon … hmmm …  Meanwhile, we’ve both just signed up for a 7k Memory Walk for the Alzheimer’s Society in Bath, in September.






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Touching reality


I have a friend who I first met around 6 years ago.  I was greeted by her when I went into work each morning and we had a quick chat.  That was all … then.  Our paths diverged;  we went our own ways, not planning on encountering each other again – probably.  I can’t even remember saying goodbye.

Since then we’ve each had some tough times and some lovely times, but without the other’s knowledge, until the day when we happened upon each other’s names on Facebook.  (Yes, I know, I know, but bear with me.)  I’ve reconnected with several other former acquaintances through FB, as have many people.  However, after the initial flurry of interest and catching up on each other’s lives, we’ve lost touch, maybe deliberately, maybe just because life got in the way.

However,  that was not the case with this Facebook friend.   After the initial catching up on the intervening six years, we discovered we share interests which we didn’t know about before; we talk each other’s language – no need for explanations:  we both know what we mean; we share information, comments, confidences and links.  It’s amazing how many times she shares a link with me, or vice versa, at precisely the same time as the other. Perhaps co-incidence, perhaps  great minds (Hah!) thinking alike and the timing is a virtual accident.

The point of this is that, while we may or not arrange to meet again in the ‘real’ world, we have discovered a real friendship in the virtual world of the internet.  We don’t need to meet.  We’ve shared much more since those few moments at the beginning of each working day than we ever did then.

Is it a friendship?  Some people, especially people of my generation, would say it’s not.  I think it is.  I know she will read this.  I hope she agrees.

I ought to mention that she is a writer.  She reviews books and writes a blog.  This is the link to her site:

It is well worth a look and particularly pleasing to know that six years ago, she dreamed of being a writer; now she is.


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