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LOVE & LIFE

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By the fourth round of failed IVF it didn’t hurt so much any more.

There was a pattern.

A new normal existed.

I was numb.

Numb.

Just like when I first rode my bike.

The same scab would be knocked off again and again where I fell.

The same grey grit entered the same bloody wound.

And in time, that didn’t hurt so much any more either.

There was a pattern.

A new normal existed.

I was numb.

Childlessness.

Childlessness had changed from being a place we were passing through.

To a place that seemed increasingly likely to be a final destination.

I told myself stories of what childlessness would be like.

I tried to make the stories feel OK.

And, actually, they did.

To me.

I would have been OK.

But Lisa wouldn’t.

And that hurt more.

The Bottom.

As we entered this fourth round, I felt that we were at the bottom.

There was nowhere lower to go.

We were getting nowhere except poorer and sadder.

I think it’s harder when you’re older.

Medically – and mentally.

Because time is against you.

But then – something happened.

Desks.

There are a lot of desks in the IVF process.

You and your partner sit one side.

And various doctors and nurses sit the other.

Sometimes they ask you things.

Sometimes they tell you things.

But it’s almost always across a desk.

One day, across one desk, one doctor smirked childishly and said this:

You have eleven.

She told us we had eleven embryos that were heathy enough to implant.

Eleven.

This was, honestly, at this juncture in the process – round four – a miracle.

Previously we’d had two.

Then three (but one was weak).

Then two again.

And they’d not worked.

Yet this time.

Somehow.

Some way.

We had eleven.

Decisions.

We were told to go home.

To leave this spinning room.

To take in the news.

To stay calm.

To think about and talk about how many we wanted to implant.

One.

Two.

Three.

No more than that of course because that would be too many.

My head was spinning too.

My face ached from grinning.

We skipped out of the office.

Ran down the corridor and ran down the hours until the following day when we had to return with our decision.

We were so lucky!

One.

Two.

Three.

We had eleven to choose from.

We were king.

And we were queen.

At least, for a day we were.

The eleven. 

We’d decided.

Two.

Just two.

Google said two was best.

So we chose two.

We smiled at each other in the waiting room.

As we were called in.

I didn’t look at the doctor this time.

As she sat across the desk.

I just looked at Lisa as we strode into the office and sat in our chairs.

The exact same chairs we’d sat in the day before.

One of us was going to tell the doctor a number.

Two.

Then, I did look at the doctor.

The same doctor as the day before.

But she didn’t have the same expression as the day before.

Lisa was to my left.

And I knew it.

I held Lisa’s hand as the doctor said it.

The thing I already knew.

I’m so, so sorry. They’re gone.

I didn’t look at Lisa.

But saw her head nod down.

And stay down.

The doctor spoke for ten minutes or so.

But all I really remembered were her two words.

They’re gone.

And a high pitched whistling that had, quite suddenly, appeared in my ears as she spoke.

I sat silently.

Eyes closed.

Until we left that particular office, and that particular desk, behind.

Izobel.

My daughter Izobel is 3 years old this month.

The eleven were round four.

Izobel was round five.

Choices. 

This story is not about IVF.

Or Izobel.

It’s about choices.

And how lucky we are to have choices.

Without exception, the worst choices that I have ever made in my life are, ‘no choice’.

Because of the paralysis.

Because of the fear from what just happened and fear of what might happen next.

Not choosing – is a bad choice.

So I just wanted to say that, no matter how dark things get, if you have the ability to choose.

Choose.

Choose consciously whether to stop or whether to go on.

Choose this.

Or choose that.

But choose.

Because if you have choice then you really are amongst the luckiest people in the whole world.

Choose consciously.

Choose boldly.

Remembering only what the destination looks like and feels like.

Round Five.

We chose round five.

From what felt like quite a dark place for us.

We chose to put our hands back into the fire.

And from it – we pulled Izobel.

Here she is now: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-eleven/.

Alcohol is such a clever drug.

It saunters along.

Whistling.

Eyebrows raised.

Acting all innocent.

Avoiding the sanctions that its friends the ‘proper drugs’ are subjected to.

Woven into our psyche and our society.

Sticking out a hand to stroke our brow and make us feel better as we end each day.

And, at other times, sticking out a leg to stab our shins and send us tripping into depression, abuse, self abuse, adultery, theft, assault and worse.

Alcohol is such a clever drug.

Shadows.

Alcohol hides in the dark corners of my life.

Every day.

Waiting.

In the shadows.

On any given night it waits for me in several different guises.

It seduces me between television programmes.

It sits chilled and manly in the fridge.

And smart and sophisticated on the sideboard.

As a wine.

Or a whiskey.

When it is a whiskey, it comes with sound, too.

It comes with ice that clinks in glasses.

And whiskey voices in my head.

Deep, Scottish whiskey voices.

Talking about golden liquid.

And crackling fires.

And Christmases.

Alcohol is such a clever drug.

Money. 

When I have money.

And am doing well.

I buy alcohol.

To celebrate.

And when I have no money.

And am feeling down.

I buy alcohol then, too.

Because it makes me feel better.

I don’t buy alcohol because I need to you understand.

I buy it because I want to.

I could stop drinking alcohol anytime.

Straight away and for good.

But as I say.

I just don’t want to.

I like alcohol.

Alcohol – somehow – has become an absolutely essential part of my life, that I don’t want to remove or reduce at all, yet still – I am not an alcoholic.

Alcohol.

It is such a clever drug.

You know that phrase.

I nearly died of embarrassment.

Well, one time.

When I was (I think) 17.

I nearly did.

Girls. 

When I was at school.

The best girls were the ones that stood around the chip shop at lunchtime.

Smoking.

Wearing short skirts.

Swearing.

And, I think, spitting.

They were fucking brilliant.

They were the best girls because they were the worst girls.

Date. 

Somehow.

Some way.

By some miracle.

I persuaded one of these ladies to go out with me when I was 17.

I was not one of the cool kids.

But she and I somehow found ourselves in a taxi, on our way to Derby City Centre from Allestree (about 2 miles outside) where I lived.

She was brilliant.

She had boobs.

And brown skin.

And a bob.

Cider.

I drank cider back then.

Because it was the only thing I could face as a whole pint.

And on that night – and I do remember this really clearly – I had 3 pints.

It was sweet cider.

Taxi.

In the taxi on the way back, I sat in the front.

She sat in the back.

For the two mile journey from Derby City Centre back to Allestree.

As the taxi swung around the corners, the smell of apples in my nose became more vivid.

And the cider within me began to rise.

And rise.

Until, quite suddenly actually, it projectile vomited against the windscreen.

And the dashboard.

Scream.

She screamed.

He growled.

I said ‘sorry’ to my right.

Then ‘sorry’ over my left shoulder.

Then I slowly opened the door.

And stepped out of the taxi.

Smell.

I remember how the taxi smelled.

And how I smelled.

And that my chest was wet.

As the taxi rolled slowly away.

£25.

This taxi experience was bad.

Really bad.

But not quite as bad as the knock on my door the following day.

She was stood there with her mum at her side.

And I was stood just behind my mum.

Who had answered the door.

Peering over her shoulder.

As this girl stared me in the eyes stony-faced.

Silently.

And her mum asked my mum for £25.

Because that was the amount she had to give to her daughter, so she could give it to the taxi driver the night before.

Embarrassment.

And that.

Was the moment I nearly died.

Of embarrassment.

I’m 50.

So I have been ‘friends’ with other human beings for (about) 48 years.

In my first couple of years I don’t think I understood much about friendship.

But in the 48 years after that – yes – I have experience of having friends.

Friends.

The thing that has taken me by surprise recently though.

Is that some of my closest friends these days, I have only known for a really short space of time.

And that, in certain chapters of my life, would have been quite an odd notion.

At school I knew my friends for, say, 5 to 10 years.

At university it was at least 3 years.

In my 20’s and 30’s my closest friendships were with people that I had known for maybe as many as 20 years.

And in my 40’s then, of course, a small circle of friends had been my friend for 30 years or more.

40’s

But in my late 40’s, I have met some great people that have become really good friends really quickly.

I have made myself open to this.

Open to change.

Open to revealing a lot more about me to new people.

Much more than I would have done when I was younger.

And I am really, really interested in new people too.

Learning from them.

Being with them.

Helping them if I can.

And, even though I am quite poor at asking for help actually, seeing if they can help me.

Friends. 

I like how the subject of friendship has evolved through my life.

As I get older – there is room in my life, my head and my heart for new people.

It’s a really nice feeling.

And something I mean to carry on with.

Building new friendships takes a little time and effort.

But it’s always worth it.

My dog Colin thinks I’m great.

He thinks I can do anything.

He has faith in me.

Faith.

The photograph that goes with this short story shows this (https://www.50odd.co.uk/faith/).

You see, Colin is confident that I can pick up this MASSIVE stick and throw it for him.

Over and over.

For hours.

He has such faith that he just followed me around with it.

Willing me to take it from him.

And launch it so that he could gallop after it.

Tongue lolling.

Tail wagging.

Colin.

I just wanted to mention that – it’s nice to have ‘Colins’ around you.

People that think you can do anything.

It’s good for you!

They cheer you on.

And make you do that bit more.

And probably achieve that bit more, too.

Because you push yourself.

Because you don’t want to let them down.

Positivity… It’s powerful!

(I did actually have a go at throwing the stick.

It didn’t go far.

But Colin was happy.

And I was happy.

Happy that I’d given it a go.

Happy that, actually, it was impossible to fail.

Because we had fun trying).

Some people think they don’t go to enough events.

Some people think they don’t go to the right events.

I think that we don’t go to enough of the right events.

Events.

I have worked out what makes a great event.

They are events built around The Generosity Economy.

If you’ve not heard of The Generosity Economy it is not surprising.

Because I made it up.

(At least I thought I made it up. Until I searched for ‘The Generosity Economy’ on Google and found it all over the bloody place. But as there are several similar but different definitions of what the Generosity Economy actually is. I am going to make a definition up of my own. Here goes…)

The Generosity Economy is an environment where all people try to help each other out as much as possible. And give value to other people wherever and whenever they can.

As opposed to the economic model where people try to help themselves as much as possible. And get something of value from other people wherever and whenever they can.

Events.

The two events I’ve been to where The Generosity Economy is most prevalent are:

  1. The Do Lectures
  2. Newcastle Startup Week

Both are annual events.

They’re of different sizes.

And in different locations.

Yet both have a similar ‘buzz’ around generosity.

Conversations. 

Many of the conversations at these places start with (something around) what I can do for you.

And not what can you do for me.

The few that try to sell – stand out.

And not in a good way.

Today is an Event.

Anyhow, if you like, you can treat today as an event like The Do Lectures or Newcastle Startup Week.

We don’t need David Hieatt or Paul Lancaster to prompt us to be generous (even though they do, and I am glad that they do).

You can just do it.

If you want.

Today.

Start Now.

So, who will you help?

What will you give today – for free?

For nothing in return.

I hope it’s something.

PS.

Oh, and there’s a PS.

If you do become a part of this Generosity Economy.

At least two things happen.

  1. It’s viral. You will encourage others to be generous to others too. Good breeds good.
  2. You feel great. When you help someone. Expecting nothing back. You just do.

So I hope you give it a go.

How long does real friendship last?

For best friends?

For my friend Pete and his best friend, the answer is – a really long time.

Steely Dan.

My friend Pete’s best friend really liked Steely Dan.

So much so that, earlier this year, Pete took his best friend to a Steely Dan concert.

And that’s where the trouble started.

Not because Pete tried to get his best friend into the concert without a ticket.

(Under the circumstances, that was fine).

The trouble was – security thought Pete’s best friend was drugs.

Pete’s Best Friend

When Pete’s best friend died a couple of years ago, it left a void.

From what I hear, Pete and his best friend were really close.

Both of them lovers of music and – according to Pete – his best friend was that friend who would laugh at things no one but Pete and he would.

And Pete misses him.

That’s why he took his best friend’s ashes to that Steely Dan concert earlier this year.

To sprinkle him.

Not to snort him.

Or smoke him.

(As security thought).

Friendship.

It seems to me that Pete and his best friend have it just right.

Still buggering about and getting into trouble.

Even though one of them is no longer with us.

Well, not in the way that he was.

For Ever.

Security insisted that Pete didn’t leave his best friend at the concert.

As Pete had planned.

Security saw it as, somehow, wrong.

Pete and his best friend had different ideas though.

And so it is that Pete’s best friend.

Because of his best friend.

Rests silently in a field.

With Steely Dan.

For ever.

Here’s a tune (https://www.50odd.co.uk/friendship/)

 

Here’s a Facebook post.

I popped it out there a couple of days ago.

Having founded and now running Always Wear Red is a weird journey.

The downs are hard.

The zigging and the zagging.

The learning is constant.

The bruising – when things don’t go to plan – can be brutal.

Wanting to be absolute best… designing bravely… wanting to make a real difference… wanting to build relationships with the best makers in the world takes a lot of time and money.

Creating a brand that I love.

And that I want others to love too.

It drains me.

But then.

If you stick at it.

And ask the hard questions.

And do the hard things – well.

The good comes.

And it lifts you.

It lifts you high.

Here is a word-for-word message I just received.

After I’d asked to meet up with this person.

A person whose work I adore.

I wanted to chat about Always Wear Red.

Her message to me just now:

“Yes darling… once I get off “the road”. I’ll make time for myself and go exploring. Loving your designs, BTW. Cheers”

Well, I don’t know that this will mean something to all of you.

But it meant a lot to me.

The message was from Alison Moyet.

It’s just a nice feeling.

That the things I love today, are allowing me to revisit the things I loved when I was younger.

The message for you?

If things get tricky… keep going.

There are lovely things just around the corner.

I don’t know which corner of course.

And neither do you.

But they are there.

‘Night.

Alison Moyet.

Here’s Alison singing ‘Only You’ in 2016.

At The Burberry Show.

If you’ve not seen Alison Moyet for a few years.

You’re in for a surprise.

I am sitting in silence. 

Apart from the click and the clack of my keyboard.

Hiss.

When I pause from typing, I can hear a dull hiss.

Deep in my ears.

But nothing else.

Music. 

My mind drifts to what music I should put on.

On my phone.

But instead of popping to YouTube, I do something I so rarely do.

Something quite different.

Something that makes me feel a little insecure, actually.

I turn my phone off.

(I paused when I got to the screen that prompted me to ‘slide right’, actually.

Just for a second.

But then.

Slid I did.

And the phone went cold).

Isolated. 

I feel.

Well.

Isolated.

Frank the dog snoozes to my right.

Boats bob on the River Tyne to my left.

And this, the 295th daily 50odd story, is written.

Silence. 

Silence breeds silence.

And that’s a good thing.

Silence in the mind makes room.

For new things.

New things. 

In the silence, my consciousness drifted.

Looking for new things to fill the space.

But I didn’t find any new things at all.

Not one.

I found something far, far better.

I found old things.

Old Things.

My senses were heightened.

All of them.

And, somehow, I tuned in to old things.

Things that have almost always been there.

In the background.

I heard Mickey Chips (our cat) meow just then.

As he chattered at a bird.

Goading him from a boat’s mast.

Out of range.

Then, I looked down into my coffee cup as I sipped.

Noting the coffee’s beautiful, even deep brown hue.

It was such a lovely colour that I inhaled deeply.

Smelling it.

Coffee is such a lovely smell.

And I also noticed that when Frank looked up at me.

He looks, well, a little lonely (see photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/old-things/).

So I cuddled him.

Frank.

I was reminded that Frank is always there for me.

And that I am not always there for Frank.

Sometimes because it is impossible.

And sometimes because I am doing something pointless.

Looking at utter, utter shit.

On my phone.

Off.

Life is better with your phone off.

Really.

Not because you discover new things.

But because you remember the old things.

Some people.

They’re grabbers.

LinkedIn.

I quite like LinkedIn these days.

Now I have worked out what it is.

It’s actually a really great way of connecting to a new tribe.

People you can help.

By sharing your ups and your downs and useful little things that may just make their lives better.

Downside. 

On the downside, LinkedIn is for the moaners.

And the chest-beaters.

It’s OK.

We can sidestep them.

But it is also home to The Grabbers.

The Grabbers.

Grabbers on LinkedIn appear quite nice at first.

They do come in with a ‘can you help me’ quite quickly, I find.

But that’s OK.

I like to help.

They are not so hot at coming forward to help you, mind.

When you ask for a wee bit of support.

But that’s OK too I guess.

We all get busy.

But over time, the grabbers say:

Ooh. Can I have one?

And:

Hey. That thing I saw you talking about the other day. Can you dig it out for me again. The one about brand. And pop it through to me.

And I tend to find that they don’t actually say:

Thank you.

Instead, they say:

Cheers!

Because, I suppose, it is quicker.

For them.

Linkedin and Car Drivers.

The problem with LinkedIn is the same problem I observe with some car drivers.

Car drivers, for some reason, seem to think that when people are in their way, they can shout things like:

You bastard!

Or:

What the fucking fuck?!

Blurted from the most aggressive and nasty face they can muster.

If they were in the street of course.

They’d not do this.

Because the car-shouters tend to be quite cowardly when face-to-face I find.

And if they chose the same approach as the adopted from the safety of their cars.

They’d have their nose bloodied.

And quite right too.

It’s similar with LinkedIn.

If I were face-to-face with any reasonable businesswoman or man I’d expect (something like):

Hello. How are you?

Great!

Me too.

So what’s happening?

Actually…

You know what.

I was thinking about you just the other day.

I saw this great new book.

I’ll write it down for you.

Here.

I have a pen…

And I’d not expect:

Hey.

I hear you have a discount code.

Can I have one.

Cheers.

Bye.

It may be just me.

But that’s OK.

They are real.

The Grabbers.

And I wish that they weren’t.

Grabbers…

I just don’t like them.