All We Have

As a firm believer that ‘today is all we have’, I try to squeeze the most out of every hour and tend not to dwell too much on the past but when my lovely Ace Gang came to stay recently we had the kind of weekend that memories are made of.

The five of us met at antenatal classes when the only thing we had in common was carrying a bump. Barriers quickly dropped as we exchanged horror stories about labour and new babies and we have continued to share, scare and care ever since. Some of my happiest and most hilarious memories are of our annual night out but out of this came a serious tradition of setting ourselves goals for the coming year. 2008 has already seen Ann climb Ben Nevis and Ju save enough to buy herself a much long-for cello so we don’t hang about!

With geographical distance between us our annual night out has been replaced by a get-together at Hotel H. This year’s visit coincided with the most glorious spell of sunshine here on the west Wales coast. We walked on the golden sands at Poppit and paddled in crystal clear water, occasionally stopping to waylay handsome men on the pretext of asking them to take a group photo. We visited the farm park – ‘No children?’. No, no children, thank you – just five middle aged women larking about in the sunshine. We spent a day by a pool with lunch and a glass of wine for £10 which, given the weather, was like being in Greece for the day, and we laughed and talked late into the night.

Occasionally we’ll sit and try to analyse our extraordinary friendship; it shouldn’t work – we’re five completely different characters. Maybe it’s something to do with the odd number? We don’t pair up but simply slot in and feel comfortable with each other. Perhaps it’s because, being expectant mums when we met, we began from a point of always being ready to share our feelings with each other? I don’t know but whatever it is I’m grateful for it and feel very lucky to have these dear friends in my life. After recent trauma and continuing heartache having my Ace Gang to stay was the best tonic I could have.

Tom’s been at OU summer school. Given the cost of fuel at the moment we worked out it was cheaper for him to get an off-peak rail ticket than to drive to Durham but as I set off in heavy rain just before 1am to meet him at Carmarthen I did wonder if it was such a bargain. Whilst I battled over high, lonely roads in a cloudburst or urged the car through flooded hollows, Tom was one of the few sober passengers on a train full of boisterous drunks with no staff in sight. Anyway, all the unpleasantness was immediately forgotten when we saw each other. One of the good things about being apart for a few days is that you can appreciate what you have all over again when you are reunited.

My thoughts at the moment are now with my Auntie Joanie who is currently in a busy general hospital ward waiting for a place in a smaller hospital or hospice. My cousins, I know, are doing everything they can to get her the dedicated care and attention she deserves. It’s tough for everyone when the word ‘hospice’ is mentioned but I know what a difference it made to the quality of my dad’s life; his final days were good days because the staff made everything as easy as they possibly could for all of us. All I can do wish the same for my beloved auntie.

Image is 'Sea II' from Tom Tomos' series of sea prints


Bollinger Byrd said…
I wish that too for your Auntie. I cannot praise hospices enough aftger the final care my mum got in one.

I have one friend courtesy of my first pregnancy who i'm very close to, even though she lives the other end of the counrty

And my beloved best friend in Philly comes courtesy of the second son and the NCT.

And I don't know why either!
mountainear said…
Sometimes it's good to take those memories out of the box, dust them down and 'for one night only' revisit the past. By doing so with such a group of good friends then you are perhaps investing in more good memories. I do agree though - enjoy today to its limits.
Frances said…
Chris, you have written yet another fine blog, full of thoughts.

Please let Tom know that this was another fine print. I have never done monoprints, but have friends who do fantastic things with that technique.

Flowerpot said…
The Ace Gang sound wonderful and just what you need, Chris. I'm so sorry to hear about your auntie and hope she gets the care she needs. We've just heard this pm that a close friend has lymphoma, so it's not been a good one here either. Take care.
Pipany said…
I almost couldn't read past the mention of sunshine Chris - what sunshine!!!!! Nothing but rain here for a fortnight and now I'm adding tears to it!

Lovely bit about your pregnancy pals though xx
Sally's Chateau said…
I remember the anti natal class with fondness but we're now all spread far and wide and lost touch. Sounds like a good tonic though. Cannot praise hospices highly enough either, a gentle and caring surrounding with dedicated staff and a wonderful charity, look after yourself too. xx
ChrisH said…
Oo-er! I have had a complaint from The Ace Gang who say they know nothing of the five 'middle aged' women who turned up at the farm park. They wish it to be know that the Ace Gang are Girls - and young ones at that!!
KittyB said…
That Ace Gang sound like a young bunch of glamourous things. Not middle aged gels at all!
If you'd come to Durham too (1/2 hour away from me) I would have bought you a glass of wine overlooking the river - we've even had sun Oop North!
Thinking of your Auntie - S's gran is in a similar state right now, surviving against the odds, so fingers crossed all round. x
Faith said…
Thats a very haunting image.

You're lucky to have five friends all together. I mean I have friends but the most I meet up with are three together! Those three met up with when we all had little babies through the NCT.
Exmoorjane said…
But of course the Ace Gang are girls - mere strips of things.... Glad you've got them, whatever age they might be in reality...
Having a frantic catchup so now off to find out what else you've been up to. jxxxx
I looked at that picture ...and that title ...straight away I thought you had been out in that dratted boat again and had another go at a watery grave....a couple of verses 'For those in Peril on the sea' ripped past my lips ...only to find it was all on dry land ...and enjoyable too. Fooled me there Chris!
Hope that your aunt finds a peaceful hospice place soon.
Preseli Mags said…
I'm glad to hear you had such a great time with the glamorous Ace Gang girls. I had high hopes for making lots of friends at both of my ante-natal groups, but they all were so much younger than me. Serves me right for waiting to be an ancient old crone before having babies, I suppose!

My thoughts are with you and your auntie. What a tough time. xxMags
Cait O'Connor said…
Your friendship of five sounds very special.
Hospices are indeed special places too, the ones I have visited have had a wonderful atmosphere.
elizabethm said…
Sounds your meet up was just what you needed. MIL died in a hospice about ten years ago now. It was a lovely place, warm, lively somehow, full of good feeling. I have supported them ever since.
Hope your cares lessen.
kissa said…
Trusted long lasting friendship is so very special. I have 5 special friends that I meet up with every year.We worked together in the early '90's which I now realise is quite a while ago. The only thing we had in common was work not bumps but the friendship magic is cemented there all the same.
Love your blog.
Debs said…
Love the picture, so beautiful.

Sending big love to your Auntie Joan and to you too. Our hospice over here is a wonderful place too.

Your day with your Ace Gang sounds wonderful, how lovely that you all meet up every year.
Hi Chris,

Oh this takes me back to moons ago of ante-natal classes, and Ace Gang sounds fab, not midde aged just bright young things.

My best wishes to your Aunty Joan, I have worked in a few Hospices, and they are wonderful with very caring staff.

Expatmum said…
The Ace Gang sounds, well ace. I have a group of ex-work friends and we meet up around the globe every may. We spend the whole time laughing and giggling, and I'm the youngest!!!
Annie Bright said…
Hi Chris,
I found my way to your blog via Novel Racers (I'm not a member yet - but on the waiting list).
And I thought I would say Hi. I noticed you are thinking of doing the A215 - I did the course last year and loved it. I learnt so much!
It's good to have a group of friends that are something special - glad you had a great time. Annie.
Fennie said…
Lovely blog again, Chris. Glad to see you are out of the water: indeed with the power to hold it off, for, like Pipany, it has been raining solidly here ever since April, or so it seems. The sea is redundant, sea-levels are falling, all the water is on land, except for Pembrokeshire. Ha! What have they got that we haven't - apart, that is for the Ace Girls? Now if you were to hire yourselves out as sunmakers (as opposed to rainmakers) you could be on to something. Best wishes, purple thoughts, to your Auntie
Crystal Jigsaw said…
It is so good to meet up with friends. Spending such quality time in good company can make all the difference.

CJ xx
LittleBrownDog said…
I'm just catching up, Chris, so please forgive the late comment. I'm always inspired, reading your posts, with what a rich and interesting life you have - so many people that are dear to you, so much love and warmth and so many shared experiences. Would love to know what Tom is studying up at Durham (a long way to go from West Wales). My thoughts are with you and your much-loved Auntie, who I hope is as comfortable as she possibly can be. Today is all we have - so true.


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