One of my earliest memories involves being read stories by my mother. Raised in North America, she had the kind of sing-songy reading voice that is perfect for children’s literature. We had a load of old Dr Seuss and Disney fairy tales sent over from my granny in the US that I loved listening to. After a while we no longer needed the text, we both knew the stories off by heart.
I adored books, I devoured at least one a week as a child. I exhausted the local library, begging staff to order unobtainable titles from other sites and generally avoiding having to actually fork out any pocket money on a trip to Waterstones. I wasn’t fussy about what I read either: teen fiction was quickly followed by crime and horror novels, I then became fascinated with biographies and later travel guides, plotting journeys across the globe from my tiny bedroom in Edinburgh.Read More »
In June 2011 I took part in Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 5km event with my mum. As we wandered round the beautiful course we talked about entering the event in 2012 and perhaps upping the distance to 10km. I had a more ambitious target, I wanted to run a half marathon. Not just any half marathon, I wanted to take part in the Great North Run. For years I had watched the event on TV and been inspired by the runners and their stories. I turned 30 at the beginning of 2012 and it seemed like an excellent goal to kick off a new decade. Despite not being a runner my mum was sure I would be able to complete the course and told me she would be there cheering me on.
I entered the GNR ballot in 2012 and was unsuccessful. I wasn’t too disappointed, I had entered the Race for Life again and with a group of work colleagues trained to run the whole 5km course. Mum had decided that running might be a bit too ambitious for her so was going to be there as a cheerleader.
On 5th June 2012 life changed forever. A simple diagnostic test revealed my mum had an oesophageal tumour. On 15th June we were told the diagnosis was terminal and any treatment would be palliative. Despite the dire prognosis my mum came to cheer me on at the Race for Life just 48 hours later. On an exceptionally emotional and rainy day my team of six completed the race in good time and raised over £1000 for Cancer Research.Read More »
You might not know what the word means (it’s not about women refusing to shave under their arms) and this morning you may have joked that “every day is International Women’s Day” but whether you like it or not you are a feminist.
The foundation of feminism is equality of the sexes. You raised my brother and I as equals. You brought me up to believe I was capable of anything I put my mind to. You were more disappointed than Mum when I left school at 16 because you felt I was throwing my life away. Now you brag to your friends about how hard I work when you think I can’t hear you.
You taught me how to cook and secretly enjoyed putting on an apron to make rice crispy cakes after a hard day at work. Despite getting up at 4am every day you always sat with me after school, helped with my homework and answered endless questions with minimal teeth gritting. Although I am still waiting on a satisfactory answer to “why is the sky blue?”
When I studied the Second World War at school you watched the entire series of The World at War with me (all 22 and a half hours). You cried watching the tapes; it was the first time I had ever really seen you upset. Now I see you cry all the time – at the end of Erin Brockovich, watching Call the Midwife, Toy Story 3, The Green Mile… Of course you swore me to secrecy on the tears because it’s not the manly thing to do (sorry).
When I left home at 17 you didn’t attempt to stop me. You made it clear that I had to make my own mistakes and learn from them. At the age of 20 I stood on your doorstep with a couple of bin bags of my belongings, fleeing an abusive partner. At the time you had no idea that opening the door to me and allowing me to stay actually saved my life.
You are by no means perfect but you gave me the tools to survive in a world where women are still seen as the weaker sex. When I suffered from depression you did your very best to understand what I was going through. Since Mum died 18 months ago you have had to fill both parental roles. I don’t ever say this but you’re doing a good job.
Thanks for the stubborn streak and encouraging me not to back down in a fight.
I lost my Mum to cancer in September 2013. I wish someone had warned me about the range of emotions and reactions I would go through in the subsequent days, months and years so I knew that what I was experiencing was perfectly normal. Information on grieving can be conflicting and confusing so I decided to detail my own experience.Read More »