Taking a rest on one of the iron sculptures on the Spa Trail near the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds, Aren't we lucky?
I'm pretty sure most of you, at some time or another, will have felt the cold, clawing fingers of loneliness throughout your lives. Does that equate to mental health? I suppose it does affect one's thoughts, one's energy. Actually, it affects your confidence. It does mine.
I felt very lonely this past Christmas. I felt quite depressed over New Year.
I'm sure I'm OK now but how do you know? Having always been a stalwart kind of soul I get on with it and don't question too deeply. Just guessing here, but I'll bet a fair few of you are made of the same firm fabric.
So, what did I do? Attempt to dismiss these negative emotions, shove 'em in a draw, keep schtum and carry on. I went walking with Lil on a rainy Boxing Day. First thing we see is a lovely couple, arms wrapped round each other. Me and her like JoNoMates. I mean, some would say - well - if the cap fits.
The couple smiled at me - with sympathy? Probably. Just a tad of superiority? Well, you can't blame 'em. I felt like an old woman and I felt my childless status. How much do parent (s) fall back on the fact that at least they have a family.
In the middle of South Ormsby Estate, Lincolnshire. Lilley's favourite. We nearly got blown off our feet this day but we soldier on. Things we do eh?
I do wish childlessness didn't have such a negative aura, vibe. Saving the planet (no kids) is all very well but it's rather intangible isn't it?
And I don't know what to say, what to offer. Joining is not my schtick. Tried it, done it, wonderful people, too many grannies, always women.
Here's the thing. If we have 'NoMates' I, personally, take no responsibility for such a status. None. I know I'm a good'un. I know I'm a desirable mate and worth having. If others have chosen, for whatever reason (and therein lies a tale) to freeze me out I can take no responsibility for your actions. You know who you are. Said it, said it again…
So sorry, I just needed to declare that. I'll be alright in a minute - breathe deep and - back in the room. If you're wondering what the hell is going on please - I'm not worth the bother. Sometimes you just have to let it rip and hope no one has noticed. As I say…carry on Sergeant Wilson…(Dad's Army for any young'uns amongst dazed readers. What am I like? Can't stick to the script).
We were certainly NoJoMates in the middle of nowhere hereabouts. Somewhere near a village called Hagworthingham, Lincolnshire Wolds, if you're asking. We had to climb a muddy slope for this shot. Just saying..
Now then, I do wonder how actual childlessness, being childless at whatever age but particularly when ageing, affects one's mental health.
I think we may have touched on this subject in the past, but I'm going to add some thing to the score.
I was on a podcast last week (link at bottom of this blog piece) with the absolutely wonderful podcaster owner and producer of Vent, Freddie Cocker, talking about how ageing and being childless affects or has affected my mental health. Throughout my life and now. I found myself bleating on and on when I was convinced I'd have nothing to say. That's Freddie for you. The podcast is out now and link is on here, amongst other outlets including justmeandlilley Facebook page. (Do join us on justmeandlilley Facebook page won't you? I mean, I need all the help I can get 🤗 ).
What came out of it? What concerns, nay, angers me. The 'forgotten' word. We are overt now and out of the shadows with our childlessness (you know I stick with the 'less' word as I can't keep swapping and changing). Not just we women but men also. Yet still people 'never thought about that'. I now find it insulting to be bombarded with the family and I wonder how other minority groups would feel, indeed have felt, being ignored, being sidelined. Being expected to suck it up.
We soldier on. Ignore. Doesn't matter.
It does. Matter.
Soldiering on here, for sure. Absolutely back of beyond in some woods near Woodhall Spa Trail. It's called 'off piste' and we sure were that day.
I decided it's because our childlessness can be such an enormous emotional wave of feeling. Depending on the situation and the way the day is going. I've spoken of seeing babies and getting overwhelmed with tears and frankly, if I'm out walking the fields with her, tantrums.
How do we move forward with this whole subject? I ask because we're still on the shadowline, politically, medically and, most important, socially.
I don't believe we want a fanfare. Do you feel the word is 'normalising'? So that the word, the subject of childlessness becomes established, familiar. Part of conversation. Part of the social structure. The narrative.
How about part of the tick list on an official form be it medical or local authority?
Ageing and childless can be isolating. So - as the talk-up is of communities - they need and should know about those within said structure who are living without any support at all.
Visiting a dear friend, Audrey, aged 94. Audrey lives alone but had had a bad fall and was recovering in a nearby Care Home. A wonderful woman who shames us all with her independent spirit and determination. Lilley and I will be visiting again very soon xxx
I've spent a good part of my morning compiling an email to send to our local area NHS Partnership and to our local District Council Office. Just the usual stuff about ageing without children. But attempting a professional lick of paint, as it were. Anyway, I've done it, now. Let you know what, if anything, happens.
I've had a reply - already. Can't talk about it yet but I'm well chuffed and grateful to said authority for swiftly reaching out. 'I say, matron…' (I'm doing Kenneth Wiliams in the old film Carry on Matron. You're going to have to keep up at the back).
Now then, going back to Freddie and Vent podcast - I was/am very flattered that good looking young men like he and his PR friend Sam, who I'm also conferring with about promotion, are remotely interested in an old bird like myself. But what a boost talking to younger people gives to an older gal. How do we bottle it? How do we access it?
What I found was the conversation around having children or not is of deep interest to many youngers. They like to talk to we elders. (Unless I'm flattering myself - again). And many youngers are deciding to probably go without. Children, that is. I'm always careful with my response to younger folk on the subject of, because one cannot instruct someone to go procreate but please young people - if you can - I do ask you to give more consideration to your natal choices.
Dear readers, I turn to you. Do any of you find it strange? Properly strange. When we were young (many, many decades ago in my case) having a family was assumed and, my word, wanted. No doubts, no discussion. I agree it's way better that progress now offers open discussion and no judgement so either-way baby or not decision is now the norm.
I worry you may regret it, that's all. It may be too late, in spite of what media/fancy London elite/whoever tell you. Do think about it - should any of you be reading this fanciful rubbish - won't you?
Yes, she is my baby. So? There she sits on a snowy, outdoor table in the middle of Willingham Woods, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. Bye, it were cold that day. (I'm doing 'northern'). Rather mystical in the woods.
Allow me to now digress a tad. Or, at least, attempt a swerve-like manoeuvre.
Here comes a funny, little tale and I'll let you decide how much of an arrow is pointed towards my poor, childless heart.
Some of you may have already read this on JMAL Facebook Page but can you bear with for a moment?
Yesterday me and her were out on our hike (I say 'hike' - ambitious) and as I parked up in the little parking area a tortoiseshell cat ran over to us. For the uninitiated that is the marbled brown, yellow, orange rainbow cat-colour. Nearly always a female cat. I bent down to stroke. Adore cats. Out came mouth-hole the Lil from my car and the cat, always the wisest of creatures, sheltered under the vehicle. So, off we went for a good hour's stride. Wonderful walk and I digress again. Because also on my Facebook page I'd posted about other walkers nodding a 'hello' or an acknowledgment upon passing. It's common courtesy and the unspoken 'law' of walking. I reckon yesterday's strollers must have read my piece because everyone fancied stopping for a natter. Eeh, it were grand…
Eventually we arrived back at the car park. The cat was still sitting as though waiting for someone. I shovelled Lilley onto the back seat and went to see what this little creature was about. She clung to my legs as if to say 'please don't leave me'. I attempted to pick her up and go walk to the nearest cottage for guidance as to her ownerhship. But she wriggled out of my grasp. Not before I'd clocked her fat, rounded tummy. I reckoned (and having bred Persian cats I do have some expertise) this little girl was pregnant.
She wouldn't leave me alone. Had she been dumped? She looked very well cared for.
I was so torn. Realistically I couldn't put her in the car with mad Minnie in the back. I decided to drive the short distance home, drop Lil and go back for pusscat with the basket. Probably leave a note stuck to a gatepost to phone the local police if lost a cat. And I'd inform said authority. Sorted.
But she was no longer around. I spent ten minutes or more in the dusk looking for her. Glad if she'd got a home and had returned but empty inside because I kind of wanted this little creature. Suddenly her and her (possible) babies had become my babies. D'you see? Talk about child substitute. Apart from the fact I was so worried about her, I really craved her warm, baby-body in my arms.
As if one, fat, little hairy creature isn't enough. Cats are special, though. I called her Tortie (orignal as always).
Folk on Facebook were very kind and reassured me. It did help.
We went back to our walk the next day. She wasn't there. You can guess I was half hoping she would be. I even took the cat basket, just in case. However, I did bump into a long lost friend on today's walk which was delightul and edifying.
But no little cat. She probably came from the farmhouse on the hill. As long as she's alright is all that matters.
We got back in the car to head for home. Do you know I felt a loss? Isn't it weird? I adore Lilley more than anything in the world. But Tortie's delicate, rounded baby tummy, albeit a tad catty, gave me the flutters. Happy flutters.
It sounds weird to me so it must sound weird to you. But I do seem to be going through some sort of rennaisanse of baby loss and longing. Because I'm old, obviously, and facing my final years. Who knew a tiny, pregnant cat could resurrect baby loss?
Yes, before anyone says it, I know I could rock up at the nearest cat rescue. But I/we do not need a cat or any other creature (and I do include 'a man'. Not that one's ever offered. I should be so lucky).
I'm simply relaying the quicksilver feeling of baby loss. Even at my great years. Especially at my years.
It doesn't leave you. Just warning you - it doesn't ever go.
Sitting on the bench outside Tetford Church, Lincolnshire Wolds. She'd been in the mud, bounced on icy puddles and fell in so was sodden and cold. A peaceful place to reflect.
Taking a rest on the iron sculpture on part of the Spa Trail. Looking out over the Lincolnshre Wolds. Aren't we lucky?
It was a very cold day so little dog needing warming. She'd fallen in puddles and allsorts. Outside Tetford Church taking our rest on the bench.
Finally, a proper windy walk over the hills and faraway. Not far from home at Mareham on the Hill. Stunning scenery . Very Lincolnshire.
PODCAST - FREDDIE COCKER PLUS FRIENDS (me!)
***Freddie Cocker's podcast. Me talking about justmeandlilley and all sorts of childlessness, particularly in relation to mental health