Looking forward with an occasional backwards glance

My way of living with multiple sclerosis, and a wheelchair, is to hold firmly to my mantra. And that is always to look forward and concentrate on the things I can do and get as much enjoyment out of that as is humanly possible.

But, just once in a while it can do some good to look back, not to mourn the present but to celebrate the major landmarks in your life. So here goes!

1953       Unbelievably, I have a childhood memory while just a few months old. My mum left me in my pram while she went into a shop. How times have changed.

1957       Aged 4, started in my first school. It was while at this school, aged about 8, I decided on a career in journalism.

1964       Aged 11, started in high school.

1968       Broke my ankle in two places in a cycling accident. In plaster for six weeks.

1969       Took examinations, got most but not all needed to be a reporter.

1970       Got my last necessary qualification and started work as a journalist.

19.82. aged 29. Had MS but didn't know it

1982. aged 29. Had MS but didn’t know it.

1975       Met the young woman who would become my first wife. My football (soccer) team reached the prestigious FA Cup Final but lost.

1977       Married for the first time.

1985       Noticed a problem with my left leg, had various tests but no problem identified

1992       Moved from London to North Wales

1994       Joined the staff of a local newspaper group, becoming both sub-editor and Rural Affairs Editor.

1999       Named as ‘Wales Farming Journalist of the Year’ at the Royal Welsh Show.

2002       Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but was able to continue working.

2006       November the day after my 54th birthday, my mobility had progressed to the state that I had to give up going out to work.

2007       Despite my disability, I managed to visit Canada and visited the Niagara Falls, and my first (and only) baseball game.

2008       Unhappy in my first marriage, I turned to playing an online game.

2009       While playing the game, I met and fell in love with the woman who would become my second wife.

2010       I met Lisa face to face for the first time. If there had been any doubt, it had now gone. We were hopelessly in love.

2011       What a year.  Lisa and I were both divorced from our partners and we then married on a beach in Florida. Two weeks later I had to fly back to the UK alone as Lisa had to wait for her visa.

2012       Lisa got her visa on her birthday, Valentine’s Day and just five weeks later she arrived at Manchester Airport. A big kiss and “Welcome home” and we sped off.

2013       Our first two cruises together, first to the Norwegian Fjords and Arctic Circle and then around the western Mediterranean.

2014       Cruise bug well and truly caught, we went around Hawaii and stopped off in New York City on the way home.

2015       We booked a transatlantic crossing as soon as we got home. A couple of weeks later we decided that we wanted to leave the grey British skies behind us. So, I suggested that we move to Spain. In the end, we left our rented flat in October, sailed aross the atlkantic for eight days, holidayed in the United States for 9 days, flew back to the UK for two nights in hotels and then flew to Spain. And in between all that I started my own blog.

2016       The blog really took off this year and towards the end of May I was asked to write blogs for multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com, and I agreed.

Not a bad life really, despite having MS.

 

Schoolboy French proves useful – in Spain

school

Cray Valley Technical High School where I was a pupil from 1964 to 1970.

It was back at the end of April and beginning of May that my wife Lisa and I flew to southern Spain to look at properties that we might choose to buy and make our home.

In fact, it was only the second that we saw that, as soon as we went inside, we both agreed ‘this is for us’. I have often heard people say that while house hunting they knew instantly when a property was right for them. I had always dismissed such stories as nonsense – until it happened to the pair of us.

Having found our dream home so quickly, and much faster than we thought was possible, we suddenly found ourselves with much more time on our hands than we expected. Time that was not to be wasted but enjoyed. Nine days of glorious sunshine. Beautiful.

There was one little difficulty, the language. Lisa learned some Spanish at school but, not having used it since, has forgotten most of it. And my knowledge didn’t exist. I have no memory of Spanish being offered as a subject in my school. I spent five years learning French to no real level of success.

But one evening what I could recall of my schoolboy French proved invaluable.

We were sitting in a lovely restaurant with the Mediterranean Sea just a few yards away – and I do mean a few, no more than 15 yards I’d say. On arrival we had been greeted by a young man and shown to our table. I could already say ‘hello’, ‘two’ and ‘thank you’ in Spanish but that was about the extent of my vocabulary at the time.

Well, once we looked through the menu and made our choices, the same young man returned to take our order. Mine was easy, I just pointed to the dish on the menu. Lisa, however, wanted to know how the vegetables, provided as part of her meal, were cooked. She hoped they would be fried.

I tried to ask but the young waiter spoke as little English as I then spoke Spanish. In other words, the communication between us was not very good. Actually, that is an understatement, our level of mutual understanding was non-existent.

At that point, either as a brilliant idea or out of pure desperation and I think it was the latter, he said “Parlez vous Français?” Really, I should have said ‘Non’ but I didn’t and my lessons of 1964 to 1969 came back in bits and pieces.

I replied, in faltering French, that I could speak and understand a little – but slowly. He understood, we had established a level of communication. I managed to ask in as much French as I could muster, the question that Lisa needed to be answered. I recall using the words ‘legumes’ and ‘frite’ but the rest is a blur. The first bit of good news was that he understood and the second was, having checked with the chef, he returned to say that they were indeed fried.

So, being reassured on that point, Lisa ordered the dish she had chosen and we both proceeded to thoroughly enjoy a great meal.

As that was the only way the waiter and I could understand each other, the French language needed to be used several times before the meal was over and, as we made our way back to the car, I thought of the effort my French teacher had put in, 50 or so years ago.

Thanks, Mr Reader, I may have failed the Spoken French part of the GCE (year 10) examination but your work was not wasted after all.