RIP Maisie

Last week our Snr Cat Maisie was taken very ill, and we had to have her put down. She was sixteen and a half, and had been with us for fifteen years (the majority of our married life). She was a friendly, homebody who like nothing better than to sit on my lap.
I’m not going to apologise for missing her. Hard is hard, and there’s no point playing the ‘my hard is harder than your hard’ game. 

Coming Out

I’ve decided to ‘come out’ not in a sexual sense, but about depression. I read a very well written piece (as her’s always are) this morning, and it really spoke to me. I ‘shared’ it on Facebook without thinking, then when I did think, I had the thought: “Oh no, that was public, there are all sorts of people who’ll see it, and put two and two together, i.e. that I have the same condition…that I’ll be judged in a negative light etc. etc. Then I thought “…damn it’ – why should I care.
So…here am I ‘loud and proud’. Now we come to terminology…I don’t like to say that I suffer from depression. That’s the language of a victim, and whilst it’s taken me a long time to realise it, I’m a very strong person. Maybe stick to facts, I have had a number of serious depressive episodes dating from my early 20s. When I say serious, I mean SERIOUS…but I’ve been fortunate:
  • I have a loving, supportive partner, family and friends.
  • I’ve had excellent medical care (well, there was that South African doctor who wanted to give me ECT, but that’s another story [which believe it or not is quite a funny one]).
  • Thanks to a very generous pay off, I can afford to work part-time.
Like anyone who has had a chronic, life threatening health issue, I have to be careful:
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat properly
  • Not get too stressed
  • Not get too tired
  • Not to drink too much alcohol
All good advice for everyone…but when I let things slip the consequences can be…serious. So I have another injunction:
  • Not to think it’ll go away
It’s hard though. I can become consumed by work, a friend’s emotional crisis, not sleep too well or even be knocked flying by a virus, and find myself struggling again.

HOWEVER…none of this makes me a weak person…it’s not that I’m in some way lesser. In fact, to have survived what I’ve survived, means that I’m strong, very strong. I’m done with being secret. It’s just how it is.

You work for monks…?

That’s the usual reaction I receive when I explain that I work at Blackfriars in Oxford. It can take a while to explain. Thought I’d prepare an FAQ.

Who do you work for?
I work at Blackfriars, Oxford, part of The English Province of the Order of Preachers (which also covers Scotland, Grenada and Barbados).

Who?
Dominican friars (the word friar is derived from the Latin word frater, which simply means brother), a religious order in the Roman Catholic church. In the UK they’re also known as Blackfriars, as they wear a black cloak over their white habit.

Monks then
No, monks are tied to a particular monastery, and although Dominicans live in communities, they can be called to serve anywhere they’re needed. That’s why I’ve had three managers in three years, not because I’m difficult to work with (honest).

So what’s Blackfriars, Oxford?

Blackfriars is three institutions:

  •  The Hall, a PPH, a Permanent Private Hall, an Oxford college (sorta, I told you it’s complicated) with males and female students, a mix of all religions, and none, studying a variety of subjects.
  • The Studium, a Roman Catholic study centre, training male members of religious orders to be ordained, with a few female members of religious orders and lay students studying philosophy and theology.
  • The Priory, the convent or friary where the brothers live. Services in the community chapel are open to the public, so although the brothers don’t run a parish, there is a large congregation associated with the Priory.
What do you do?

I’m the Assistant Bursar, and Academic Administrator, so I have a wide brief which covers finance, student housing, admissions, visas, and a variety of other things.
Isn’t it a bit weird working there? They can’t like women or they wouldn’t have chosen to be monks?
  1. It’s a unique environment certainly, and I love it. 
  2. They’re not monks (see above), not that it really matters that much.
  3. I’ve yet to meet a friar that doesn’t like women. Maybe it’s because they don’t have to live with them…:-). 
  4. I love working at Blackfriars.
Any more for any more?

This year I have been mostly…

Adam and I sponsor a child in Sri Lanka via the charity Plan UK. You are in encourage to write to the child, and they, or in our case, his Mother, writes back.  However, given the expense of translating your letter and transporting to ‘your’ child, it’s best to send a letter every six months or so.

Last week I realised that I had written for over a year. The Plan website allows you to send a letter online, so I logged on and set to. I then went blank. How to sum up the last year. It would be hard enough when writing to a friend. I wrote about our kitchen extension; our holiday in SanDiego; and uploaded a photograph of Adam (above).

In the end, it’s the contact that’s important, but I feel a bit dissatisfied. 

What next?

I’m really not sure what to do with this blog. When I first started, it was a way of sharing photos with friends, and maybe try and have a little ‘art’ project. Of late, I’ve lost my photography mojo, and those snaps I do take, I share on Facebook.

In an ideal world, my mojo would come back. It all seemed to go wrong when I kept taking bad photos with my digital SLR. Something which was fun, has become something to be scared about.

Kindling…

My husband gave me a Kindle for my 40th birthday. As I anticipated it’s made not having anything to read when I’m travelling, a thing of the past. It’s changed my reading habits in two ways that I hadn’t anticipated i) I’m reading lots of ‘classics’ (because they’re often free to download) and ii) I’m reading a daily paper again.

When I was a student I was a complete news junkie, I’d read at least two or three broadsheets a day. Over the years that dwindled down to the occasional Sunday paper, and latterly not even that. I did read various papers online, but the screen format didn’t work for me somehow. I’d graze a bit, but never read the whole paper.
For the last year I’ve been reading ‘The Independent’ on my journey into work, and find myself interested in politics once more. Moreover starting to think about how I can become involved. Not in party politics, but in social justice. How can I help my community?

Wonderful Wales

OK…I admit it.

I’ve been very rude about Wales in the past…
…but it really is lovely.
I can’t wait to go back.

Thoughts…

“To try to explain this event is not the way; this is not the time for trying to explain something of this order.” Understanding might emerge; but the way to understanding in this case is to hold the pain with those who have suffered so much. The function of compassion is the holding of the pain. It is that faculty or dimension within ourselves that is able to hold pain without judgement, even without being able to explain anything at all”.

Thoughts of a Buddhist monk called Munindo, who is based in Northumberland.

My lovely Dad

The best bit about the trip was spending time with my Pa…

…who really is having the time of his life.