That’s Life

Highs and lows. Peaks and troughs. Swings and roundabouts. Life’s a rollercoaster sometimes: high on happiness one moment, plunged frighteningly the next.

The last month has been a rollercoaster ride, so that laughter has dissolved to tears and moods plummeted with the same speed they’ve risen. Smiles have vanished like sunshine with gathering autumnal cloud. And reappeared with the same warm suddenness.

The highs were huge and swiftly soaring: we laughed as we barrelled 82 kilometers down a river that flowed with water the colour of gin through the throat of an East European canyon where bears lurked (we were told) and where, to my astonishment (though given apparent susceptibility to serpentine same I ought not have been surprised) I almost put my hand upon a snake: that, Dimitri told me solemnly, would have put paid to white water rafting and landed me in hospital.  A last family holiday we told ourselves: before the big kids dig their heels in and say, ‘uh uh, not this year thanks’.


Wine-soaked giggles (because the next day you take cognisance of precisely just how many glasses jostled for table space when you register that dull headache and the photographs) over dinner to celebrate my son’s 19 birthday. He takes his ID to the pub as his broad boyish grin is youthfully deceptive. I wish I had one: a smile that made people query my 40 odd years because they think I look younger than I am (alas the crinkling tread of crow’s feet give the game away ‘at least’, say my girls, ‘you can tell you’ve had alot to laugh about, looking into the sunshine’. Quite I say. And crinkle again).


A heart-stopping pride when the same boy was offered a civil engineering apprenticeship. We tease him: can we come to you for a loan we ask, and he beams broadly, that face-splitting smile. He’s employed. Has a job; proudly signed a contract, put his name to a company pension plan. Does it seem possible that I have a child on a payroll? I want to cry. But in a good way. 

And the lows. When they put their shoulder to the task they shoved fiercely and forcefully.

It was hard, very hard, to hug Hat goodbye as she began boarding school a week ago. A lump was lodged squarely in the back of my throat refusing to budge for the smile that I had cemented to my mouth. Until after we’d bidden her farewell, hastily on a chapel lawn, and then it dissolved behind dark glasses. If she didn’t cry was it OK that I did?  So long as she didn’t see me, I told myself.

The House Mistress said, and it surprised me given our children’s electronically mailed, digitally expressed missives, that a letter in the post would always be more precious than one delivered on a screen (“they can pop it under their pillows to re-read after lights out” she explained). Royal Mail hasn’t seen such business in a long time: I have written to my daughter every day since Sunday. Sometimes I just say, ‘I hope you are having fun. I love you, Mama’.

And the news that my dear, dear labrador Kanga died suddenly yesterday. That was a searing low that prompted a whole new deluge of tears. Her absence will gouge even deeper the gap that Hat’s going away to Proper School has dug.



But that’s life isn’t it: peaks and troughs, highs and lows, swings and roundabouts? Love and loss and laughter and letting go and saying hello?

That’s life.

21 Responses to “That’s Life”

  1. Addy Says:

    So sorry to hear about Kanga, just when you are without Hat too. All I can say is keep busy – it helps the time pass quicker. (((hugs)))

  2. Rob Says:

    Good to see you back blogging. Sorry about the dog. Delighted about your son, fair play to him – an excellent career choice! And as for Hattie, she’ll be fine and soon be making lots of new friends for life.

  3. Iota Says:

    Yes, it is – in answer to your last question. I don’t have any further words of wisdom.

  4. TheMadHouse Says:

    SO, so sorry about Kanga, we lost Mrs Smudge and Mini started school and my heart is breaking, so I can not imagine your pain.

  5. Neil Says:

    I feel for you about Hat. Our youngest – now 28 – still talks about how the loneliness bird laid its stones in his heart whenever he flew back to school. We felt the same way. But perversely, it reinforces the love and no matter how much you hate the separation of school, believe me, you will both be stronger and even more tightly bound together for it. And your love will support her in becoming a brilliant woman.

  6. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    So sorry about Kanga, that must be really devastating.
    I am sure Hat will really appreciate your letters. I still remember the thrill of seeing an airmail letter from my Mum in my pigeonhole in the mornings. I still have some of them, the old blue aerogrammes that you folded up. Emails probably won’t be kept in the same way.

  7. R. Sherman Says:

    The House Mistress said, . . . that a letter in the post would always be more precious than one delivered on a screen (“they can pop it under their pillows to re-read after lights out” she explained).

    I got the same advice from a counselor at my daughter’s university in Kirksville, Missouri not even a month ago.

    It’s nice to read the update, though I’m sorry about the “lows.” I know what it is to lose a longtime (canine) friend. My sympathies.

  8. doglover Says:

    Don’t know anything about children growing up, but I do know the agony of losing a pet dog. I’ve had to say goodbye to four Labs over a period of years and the present one is rapidly slowing down – at about eleven years. So my good wishes to you. [Don’t make the mistake I once made of getting one that was identical to the one that had just died. I never quite forgave her for not being the first one!]

  9. nuttycow Says:

    The Housemistress is right about written letters – I still have all the ones that my mother wrote to me when I was at boarding school.

    Very sorry to hear about Kanga – it’s always devestating when you lose a friend like that… suddenly or otherwise.

  10. Paradise Says:

    That’s a lot of highs & lows all squished into a small space of time. Which makes it worse really. no time to process before the next one. Wd make you breathless & exhausted I wd think.

  11. Mud Says:

    Letters are so precious and some how less transient than emails. I know she’ll love them, even if it is even harder than it used to be for a teenager to put pen to paper.

    As for loosing Kanga – just dreadful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you she was ‘just a dog’…..


  12. Carol Says:

    Thinking of you. So sorry about Kanga. Do hope the girls both settling in to school – especially Hat.

  13. Shirl Says:

    This is my first entry, but been following your blog for ages, Anthea. Lots of emotions on reading “That’s Life” – so much for you to deal with in such a short time. Well done to Ben & hope Hat is settling down in her new school. Thoughts with you as you return home to the outpost-please keep writing. Lol x

  14. theoryaday Says:

    So sad to hear about your dog… missing far away children is just an awful thing. The school mistress is right, real pen and ink letters are better for the loved ones. I did miss your blog.

  15. daisyfae Says:

    so very sorry to read of the loss of Kanga. through my entire life, there has almost always been a canine life partner at my side… and the agony of that last goodbye never gets easier.

    you are certainly alive, ms. memsahib. the ups and downs are what make a roller coaster a roller coaster. without them? it’s a commuter train…

  16. TCB Says:

    Hi Anthea – seen the new e-mag travel news?
    We want you back writing for us and yes we pay
    Please do get in touch. Tony CB

  17. ann Says:

    I love your blogs, so pleased you are back again. Come on over I have a little something for you to collect.

  18. A Modern Mother Says:

    Haven’t been here for a while so came by to say hi. Sorry about Kanga.

  19. Cheryl Says:

    Highs & lows. I’m so glad you had such wonderful highs with lovely memories. I can only imagine how difficult it is to send your sweet Hat to boarding school (I have no children), but I do know the sorrow of losing a beloved canine companion. Your Kanga looks just like my Buckaroo that left us a year ago. Gertie Girl is my dogger love who sticks by me like glue. Life goes on… xxoo Lizzy

  20. nmaha Says:

    This post was beautifully written. Congratulations on your son getting his first job 🙂

  21. Craig Twitt Says:

    A beautiful post and a beautiful blog. Glad I stumbled upon it.

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