Monday 4th February
Happy 13th birthday to my beautiful son, Max. Max is my youngest child and in the photograph he is holding onto his dad. During the course of my life I have come across a few people that have changed the direction I found myself on. Max is probably top of that list and I will be eternally grateful for his intervention. Granted, he knew nothing of his intervention as he was just over a year old. Max was my fourth child and the day we got him christened changed my life. I bonded with Max the second he was born and I had a lovely maternity leave with him. At the time Pete had already given up work to look after the now four children and I was working in the university. I struggled to go back to work after Max was born. When the alarm went off in the mornings I would hear him shuffling around in his cot next to my bed. Then he would sit up and stare at me. My eyes might have been closed but I knew he was staring. Once I opened my eyes I was rewarded with the most fantastic of smiles and he did that each and every morning. We would have a few precious minutes together and then I would be in the zone and time to get organised for work. After handing him over to his dad off I went to work at about 6.30am and I would not be back until after 7pm when he was ready for bed. I missed so much and, on the day of the christening, it just stared me in the face and that was that. After a discussion with Pete I phoned work on the Monday morning and resigned, We sold our house and moved to Arran and that was that.
The bond between Max and I has always been special. He only ever remembers me looking after him because I have worked from home ever since moving here. He is the only one of our children never to have attended regular school and he even rejected playgroup. I don't think he got the whole playgroup thing when he had 10 acres to explore up the hill! That little church hall just couldn't compete. Being the youngest has served Max quite well. He has two older brothers and a sister and when he was very young he managed to get them all dancing to his tune. Clearly, those days are long gone but in the past few years he has become the conscience of the family. You will struggle to meet a more polite person than Max and he obviously gets that from his dad!
Max is a gentle soul who cares for everyone and everything and I always feel we can learn so much from him. He is blessed to have two fantastic godparents, Callum and Elaine, who he adores. If we were talking about any one of my other chidren I could probably predict what they are going to do with their lives, but not Max. He is obsessed with computer games and he thinks that is where his future lies but I am not so sure. I think this would a sterile working environment and I think he shines around people. Max can shine very brightly indeed. For now, at 13, he is just finding out who he is but that journey is pretty special and I have learned so much from him. All I can say with complete certainty is that his arrival into my life changed it forever and that was quite an achievement for a tiny baby.
The island is currently gripped by a shocking storm which is due to get much worse tonight. I am hoping to post this blog before we lose power. The boys and I have had a lovely time at the Auchrannie Spa Resort. We islanders are incredibly lucky to have such a resource and it is a firm favourite with our family. Max, George and I had a fabulous hour in the pool while Harry had some time in their gym. So yes, the clothes finally came off. This is an absolutely shocking confession. Not the clothes coming off but the fact that it has taken me this long into 2013 to get in the pool. January sees most people resolving to get fit and join a gym etc. I am already a member of a gym and I used to swim twice a week as well. So as the world is getting fit in January I have done nothing, not even my yoga which I do at home. This is a truly miserable situation and one where I can offer no excuse. As it turned out the changing rooms were lovely and warm and once I got in the pool I wondered why I had been away so long. Harry would not intervene to remind us all that the body doesn't store fitness and he would be so right. I always swim 20 lengths and usually quite happily. Not today. Today was a bit different as I hit a wall at about 6 and thought I was going to die. Thankfully as all walls are there to be climbed I pushed on and made it to my 20. I can hear you all shouting 'I could do more than that'. Good for you! I have a little swimming story that might help to explain why 20 is, indeed, an excellent total.
I learnt to swim as a child and went to lessons at our local pool. The teacher was beyond horrid and shouted at me the entire lesson. But eventually I could swim. You will understand my reluctance to move into the intermediate class. I was quite happy to swim about in the 'baby' pool until one day I heard that horrid man tell a new pupil that 'the girl over there is an example of how not to swim'. Yes, that would be me. So, a bit like my driving skills, I mastered the basics and that was good enough for me. At the age of 19 I hit a bit of a problem. I studied dance at university but I had to combine it with something and everyone chose PE/sport. Fine because I loved sport except that there was a rather large swimming component to the course. I chose English. I then got held back after class just before the end of my first year so that my dance lecturer could query that choice. She strongly suggested I speak to Head of PE who just happened to be her husband. She had even been kind enough to make an appointment for me. Sitting in his office I had my reasons all ready. I was quite good at English and it would be useful in my teaching career. He heard none of those reasons. He marched in declared that I was the silly girl who was afraid of sport and signed me up. I managed to get out that I was a very poor swimmer to which he replied 'Don't worry about that I'll throw you in the deep end on your first session, that will sort you out.' His kind of humour.
The next academic year began and Mondays were PE days and long days they were too. On the first Monday everything was going really well because we had basketball and gymnastics, both of which I could do well. After a few lectures we then rocked up at the pool. I felt sick especially as all the girls in the the changing room were swapping notes about how many swimming awards they had. I shuffled to the back of the group as we all went poolside. I never actually made it to the side of the pool. He was there lurking and in a split second I was lifted and thrown into the deep end. Bloody hell!
I clearly survived to tell the tale but sadly the complete humiliation didn't end there. Over the coming weeks he led the laughter at my attempts at diving and shouted at me to hurry up when I was trying hard not to be lapped by every member of the group. Eventually he got bored with me and I was relegated to the shallow end to just do my own thing. I swam up and down the widths but I did a little more than that. I watched the good swimmers. I am a great believer that we can learn anything if we put our minds to it. I watched, I copied and I improved. Better than that he had no idea I was improving. The day of the assessment came and beyond executing the perfect dive which was still beyond me, we had to swim 20 lengths. He told me to get in the pool and get underway because I was obviously going to take much longer than everyone else. So in I got and I started to swim. I knew I could do 20 lengths but the question was how quickly. He chatted to the proper swimmers for a short while and still I swam. They then got in and began their assessment. Not one of those buggers swam past me and I finished before everyone much to the complete surprise of them all. I said very little as there was nothing to say. The following week I was in a gymnastic practical with another lecturer when 'he' walked in. Paying no attention to anyone he marched straight towards me and my feet took root once more. He said nothing and I wouldn't dream of speaking. He then handed me a silver cup engraved with the words 'world's best swimmer' on it and then he walked out. The entire group collapsed in laughter but I just stood there and knew, in that second, I would never lose that cup. I would hold onto it forever.
And now, at the age of 48, I do 20 lengths and smile everytime I finish. Clearly, not today though because I was too busy gasping for oxygen. You might all be ablt to swim much further than me but I am not sure I care. His name was Fred.
By way of celebration in even reaching 20 today Max proceeded with his lessons in handsstands under the water. Pure joy! I waited until two rather distinguised gentlemen left the pool and then on went the mask. I was right to wait until they left because there were no perfectly straight legs in the air. What I offered the world was a 48 year old bottom quickly follwed by a rather pink face focused on spitting out the contents of the pool that I had just swallowed. A few more attempts later there were some legs but I am not confident of the shape they made. Following my own personal mantra on learning though, it can only be a matter of time. No one has told Max that his mother is far too old to be learning this particular skill so I will keep the faith and master yet another essential skill in life.
The rest of the day is now over to Max again with presents, grandparents and mexican wraps. The last time we did this though my mother was airlifted off in a helicopter suffering from a heart attack. She need not worry tonight as the winds are way too strong for the helicopter to land. Until tomorrow. xx
Picture is of my special Max last summer on a mountain bike ride in the forest. Love that boy!