'The Hobbit' is a cherished book for me. I have several copies of it; a hardback in a slipcase, like this, and an annotated copy like this, as well as a paperback copy, plus a small pocket hardback that I have temporarily misplaced, as well as access to Isaac's rather magnificent hardback slipcased collection of The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, which he received a few years ago at Christmas. Obviously that is several more copies than strictly required for the purpose of reading a story, no matter how enjoyable, but I do take great pleasure in reading the same words in different editions, to see where a favourite phrase or paragraph sits on the page in a particular hardback or paperback.
Whilst my journeys this summer have not involved gold-hungry dwarves, fire breathing dragons, or flights on the back of giant eagles, they have in their own way been as unexpected as Bilbo's, and have the added piquancy of not being fictional.
unexpected journey: by train
In the Spring, I bought a ticket to see James Taylor at BST in Hyde Park, on July 15th. As a bonus, Bonnie Rait was playing with James, and it was also Paul Simon's last UK gig as part of his final tour. The day at the festival was to be wrapped within four or five days of solo pottering around London, a long cherished ambition of mine. The hotel was booked, plans involving the Persephone Bookshop, Liberty of London, Fortnum and Mason and the Foundling Museum were made, as well as booking tickets to the ABBA exhibition at the Southbank Centre, and I began to feel very excited.
Then some unexpected, hefty domestic expenses in early June left us reeling, and my London plan came crashing down in pieces. The money earmarked for my trip had to be diverted elsewhere. Swallowing my disappointment, I cancelled the hotel, and packed away the new dresses and sandals I had bought for my London wanderings, as well as my day dreams of drifting round London at my own pace, with no-one to please but myself, for a few days.
However, the day before I had originally been due to leave, Derek unexpectedly suggested that I go anyway, but with some modifications to my original trip. I still had my BST ticket (non refundable, non transferable), and if I went for three days, not five, stayed here, not here, and generally took it easy with expenses, then it was do-able. I found myself, therefore, in the style of Bilbo running out of his Hobbit Hole without a pocket handkerchief, sitting on a train to London, not quite sure what I had thrown in my bag, checking I was not still wearing my apron, did not have toast crumbs round my mouth, double checking I had brought my BST ticket and wondering if I had left anything remotely resembling dinners, or clean clothes, for the family for the next few days.
And yes, I had an absolutely wonderful time.
unexpected journey: with camera
Last year, Jacob fell in love with Andrea, and he fell hard. This is entirely understandable, as she is the sweetest, funniest, kindest, most adorable girl you could ever imagine. He decided, sensibly, to ask her to marry him, and laid his plans for a very simple, sincere, and beautiful proposal. He asked me, unexpectedly, the day before the momentous event, if I would be there to take photographs. I was honoured, and extremely excited, and instantly said yes.
Hence, on the morning of the proposal, when Jacob and Andrea were driving to a pretty Inn outside Edinburgh for what Andrea thought was to be an overnight stay, I was driving there too, ahead of them. I parked behind a wall, and searched for a vantage point, from where I could discreetly take up position in the hotel gardens after they had gone inside to book in. I found myself lurking in some overgrown bushes opposite the Inn; camera in hand, hoping with some sincerity that nobody would approach and ask me just exactly what I was doing.
That day I learned how hard it is to take photographs when tears of happiness are running unchecked down your face. Jacob proposed, with a ring he designed and commissioned, as unique as the lovely girl I now proudly regard as my daughter. And of course, she did say yes.
unexpected journey: to health
If you are a long time reader of my blog (and if you are, thank you), you may remember that Isaac has had a tough time with his health over the past few years. I am extremely happy to report that we have finally had a diagnosis, and since then, life has improved for my boy.
What has been rather unexpected is the fulsome blossoming of his personality in the face of better health. He has energy, enthusiasm, and stamina. His natural wit and humour has come to the fore, and his calm wisdom and counsel are overtly clear. There are very few people whose advice I would seek, but Isaac is one of them. He is wise beyond his years, and has a clear, logical, yet kind way of looking at the world that is truly beautiful.
unexpected journey: in the wee small hours
Nobody wants to receive a message at 11pm on a Sunday evening saying 'Jacob has had a fall, we are in A+E', however that was my experience some three weeks ago.
Taut with tension, I threw a few essentials in a bag and set off for Aberdeen, arriving in the wee small hours of the morning, to find Jacob, lovingly and capably supported by Andrea, on a trolley in A+E. He had no sensation, movement or control from the waist down. He had slipped that afternoon, coming down the steps from his house, 'sober and undistracted' as he put it in his scholarly way, and was clearly in a bad way. An MRI revealed herniated discs in his lumbar spine, which were impinging on his spinal cord. This is a red flag situation, requiring emergency surgical intervention, if the patient is not to be left permanently disabled. With a nursing background, I had an inkling of how serious the situation was, but fortunately, at that time, Jacob was unaware of the severity of the situation.
His consultant ('Call me Tosh') was outstandingly capable, and he and Jacob had an immediate rapport, which made the following hours marginally more bearable. Jacob was taken away to theatre, with Andrea by his side in to the anaesthetic room (it will take me a long time to forget watching his trolley being wheeled away down the ward; my darling boy waving, saying, 'Don't worry mum, I'll be fine').
Many hours later, around 1am, he came back to the ward. Surgery was successful.
I will skip forward the gruelling days in hospital, as they are too painful to dwell on, however Jacob was amazing, and despite terrible pain, and life altering surgery, he faced his fears and challenges with courage and dignity, and walked out, 10 days later on two crutches, flanked by Andrea on one side, and me on the other. Pale, a bit clammy, but resolute; on his feet, and on his way.
The nursing and medical staff were almost without exception, cheerful, kind, and accommodating, but it was a hard time.
I was away from home for two and a half weeks, a truly unexpected journey. Andrea never left Jacob's side; her devotion was complete; what a test of their love, and how well they came through it.
an unexpected journey: with needle and thread
If you are a long time reader of this blog (and, again, thank you if you are), you will know that I took up quilting about three years ago, writing about my first attempt at making a quilt here. Since then, I have made many quilts, some of which I have written about on the blog, but many which have been made without fanfare or photograph. Some are in use at home, some have been given away as gifts, all have been a joy to make, and my love affair with quilting is pretty strongly established.
In my last post, I mentioned that creatively I was 'almost' fulfilled. Amongst other things, I wished to become properly proficient at quilt making; learn more techniques, and possibly gain some sort of qualification. Browsing through options, I unexpectedly found what seems the perfect online City and Guilds course in Patchwork and Quilting, and after much discussion with Derek, and a bit of piggy-bank emptying, I enrolled on 3rd September on the C&G course 'Level Three Patchwork and Quilting', which is provided by the School of Stitched Textiles.
I am excited, and nervous, but also determined and committed. I also hope to share my progress here on the blog.
an unexpected journey: back to blogging
My final unexpected journey, as summer wheels steadily towards autumn, is back here to the blog. I hope, and intend, to be writing again more regularly again. Thank you for still being here.