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Saturday, September 30, 2006

School Reunion

Received an email ages ago to let me know there was a school reunion organised for those that turned 40 in the past school year.

Forty! 40! Four -oh.

Twice the age of when I thought I knew it all.
Half my working life already used up.
The right time for a mid-life crisis.

So. Being in a mental mess again by an order of magnitude compared with those far off days of pointless teenage angst, what could be more intriguing/scary/depressing (delete as applicable...) than a peek into the lives of those that shared those five high school years. But who'd be there?

I arranged to meet an old school friend, Gareth, for some dutch courage before heading on. Warm night, took the hotrod into town, and sat watching the local teenagers screaming on the travelling fairground rides, posing and pouting, heading out into the gloom to swap bodily fluids.


Timothy Taylor. Excellent beer by the way.

Began to panic. Heart beating like a f**ked clock. Making decisions. No sign of Gareth, so - reckon I'll chicken out and go home. Yeah, that's it. Just as I'm getting up though he arrives, a quick catch up, and we hop in the hotrod and drive off to the reunion.

Worst fears?
No-one there.
Or only people who detested you (unlikely for Gareth - everyone loved Gareth!).
Or no-one there that knew you.

Yup - that's the one. Because our town schools were amalgamated, we were the only ones there from our old school. No matter, a few people recognised us, and a few more of our old school friends eventually came drifting in.

And the heart rate dropped. Y'know, we eventually worked it out. We'd all picked well - these were friends from years ago, and as we chatted until long into the night, there was no competition. No house/job/car scoring, these were real friends that chatted about life, not lifestyle. Guess those people stayed away and we didn't miss them.

School reunion? Think I came out affected, but unscathed. These are the people that I could turn to for help working out the questions in my head. Lovely then, and lovely now, despite the intervening years and ravages of real life. To Tracey, Wendy, Hayley, Sally, and Gareth - thanks. Really. With hindsight you're supposed to realise these were the best years of your life. Well they weren't - fish out of water, square peg, whatever, I didn't fit - but these friends made me realise they weren't as bad as I remembered.

I even think I could cope now with a 1X class reunion.
Hmmm. Maybe not....

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Choppers and hotrods on the Angel Hill

Sun came up on Sunday. Strange - here we are at the end of September, and its warm enough to hop in the old flivver in shirtsleeves and head out to one more event. And the Met Office were promising a "two drops of rain, dark clouds, with a dash of sunshine" logo.

I think it means heavy showers. They were wrong.

Squeezed the kids into the car once more (I really have to get on with something soon - we're not going to fit three-up in a two-seater for much longer...) and popped over to Bury St. Edmunds where the Crazy Horse custom bike shop had closed off the Angel Hill carpark as part of their anniversary celebrations. Well organised, our filthy T was ushered into a parking spot around the edge. I promised Alice we were only going to be there for 45 minutes. I was wrong.

But then I had lied...
It was a real laid back day. Bumped into some hot rodding buddies setting there cars up in the centre of the display. They completely failed to look like a scary hotrod gang. My kids were not fooled. Threw our pointless raincoats in the boot of a friends '49 Ford coupe, and had a potter about. Someone had done their homework. Here was a great mix of beautifully engineered machines all "randomly arranged" with the old buildings as a wonderful backdrop.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Y'know - I love Bury. Very bohemian. Load of laid back biker types taking breakfast and coffee, basking in the sunshine outside street cafes.
Left in the mid-afternoon; started to get real busy and y'know - I've not been real good in crowds recently. Don't know why but I've definitely noticed.
Enjoyed the day out really. But I admit it's difficult. It's not a guilt thing - it's just coming home full of a day of fun and not having that one person there to overflow and enthuse to. Not that Kate would have been bothered, but that never mattered before. Guess I'm growing up.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Grief, the kids, and Norm Grabowski

First, the grief. Last winter I had an idea to "finish" the family hot rod for this summer. With the 40's Ford sedan project shelved indefinitely, the '51 Chevy sold, the plan to build a banger powered '27 T tourer from stuff around the yard was hatched. But these plans soon stalled as Kate's illness took hold.
Had I known how soon she'd be leaving us, I'd have spent even less time in the garage. Possibly.

So now the most important thing in life is the kids. Maybe I didn't fully realise that before, maybe I did.They've been a great help - never under estimate the clear cut strength in the mind of a nine year old girl. Who's mother raised her well. Robert, I'm not so sure. Approaching teens, I have no idea what's crossing his mind.
But when I asked what they'd like to do during the school summer holiday, they asked to go to the Supernationals at Biggleswade. Out with dad, to a car event?!

Which is how we came to have breakfast with Norm Grabowski.
Pretty surreal actually.
Made a bit of a hash on the catering front - Kate was always so well organised. I took bowls, spoons, milk. Forgot the kids breakfast cereal. By 7.30 on the Saturday morning they're getting real hungry, so in desperation we went off to see if there was a shop over at the college or something.
Walking up to the restaurant entrance, out comes Chuck Vranas who says, "hi, oh, and Norm's in there - go say hello".
And there he is, sitting there all alone in this big empty room full of tables. so the kids grab some Cocopops and we sit down with him, talk absolute rubbish for a while, and when Alice has finished, a quick goodbye and she drags us back to the campsite. A few people are up, so I tell them about our "breakfast date" and before anyone says anything, Norm comes strolling across to our enclave and starts checking out my car. Hope he's had his tetanus shots. Chuck Vranas returns, oh and by the way, "could he do a quick photoshoot?"
And that was our first morning of the Supernats.

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I've always found life a bit weird really - Kate used to keep it on an even keel for me. I kinda think she's raised the kids to keep it that way.

And so it begins...

been two months now since the death of my nearest and dearest, Kathryn. She'd be the first to say she didn't "battle" with cancer. She lived with it. After seven wonderful years in remission, it came back to get her in the end.

Summer was a hell of a roller coaster.

Autumn is upon me and the kids, and we'd normally be looking forward to it; birthdays (mine and Kate's), harvest suppers, bonfire night, -all sorts of fun as the dark nights roll in.

Winter's drawing nearer, and I miss my ol' buddy on the other end of the logs, whilst I cut the firewood.

It's hereon in that it gets scary. Going to work in the dark. Coming home in the dark. Long, long, black nights of cooking, cleaning, washing, helping with homework, and stumbling along the narrow path between sanity and loneliness.

Scared. But not sad. Kate found me thirteen wonderful years ago, living amongst my scrapyard toys with just a welder, grinder and the radio to keep me company. She brought some order to this chaos - gave me a purpose, a lover, a life, but unfortunately not, lifelong friend. And two wonderful kids.

Because of them, I still have that purpose she gave me. And so it begins...