The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 21 January 2008

My Mom

My Mom.

13 September 1946 – 18 January 2008

So that’s now both my mom and my dad bravely battled and been taken by cancer in the space of four years.

The other two remaining members of my immediate family, who were both also diagnosed with the disease in 2007 seem to be winning their battles. Fingers crossed, touching wood and doing all other similar superstitious things that bring luck (because surely but surely we’re due some luck now?) they will both be fine.

Believe it or not, I’m now going to make the outdoors link that this blog demands. You see, without my mother, this blog would not be here – and I don’t mean that in the simple ‘without my mother I wouldn’t be here’ way.

My mother was not an outdoorsy sort of person by nature. She was quite happy camping, but given the choice between camping somewhere hot next to a beach or camping somewhere by hills and walking in them, her underlying preference would always have been for the beach.

Fortunately (for me, that is; my sister is less enthusiastic on the subject) my parents reached a happy compromise. The summer holiday would be camping somewhere in the vicinity of a beach and where the weather would likely be warm. The early and late holidays of the year would be spent walking.

And so it was that before I could even walk I was being taken up mountains and gaining a love for the great outdoors.

Whilst it remained that walking may not have been my mother’s first choice of activity, I do believe that she did enjoy it – although a hint of a precipice scared her silly. The words ‘Will you get away from that edge Gayle!’ still ring in my head if I get close to a cliff edge and I do recall her telling me that she had a great debate with my father at the foot of Swirrel Edge telling him that it was far too dangerous for me and my sister (later admitting that she just didn’t fancy it herself); she conceded the debate when she saw some other children coming down it, chiding herself that if children could do it, she could do it.

In recent years, mother often commented that Husband and I must be mad to go out in the weather conditions that we often encounter. After our December trip to the Lakes, when telling her that the temperature was -4 degrees for a good chunk of our short stay, she shook her head and asked where we got this streak of madness from, as she felt that it couldn’t possibly have been from her.

Then I reminded her of the camping holiday in the New Forest when I was about nine or ten. I distinctly remember that for more than one night we all slept wearing big jumpers over our night-clothes and with wool balaclavas on our heads and then woke in the morning to find the gas was too cold to use and the water had frozen. She conceded at that point that maybe she may have had some small influence!

Yesterday I very quickly sought out a couple of her old photo albums and flicked through for some appropriate photos. I didn’t find the one that I had in mind, but here are a couple of old pics of my mother in action.

May 1982 on top of Helvellyn. You’ll note that Mother is wearing the highly appropriate apparel of shorts and a bikini top (although she does have walking boots on). I’m the one sitting on the trig point (aged seven).

January 1988 on the Roman Steps in the Rhinogau. Ma’s the one in the orange caggie; I don’t think that I should admit to being the one wearing red socks over my trousers!; Sister is in her usual place on such walks, bringing up the rear and looking none too happy about the whole outing. I know not why me and ma were looking so intently down at the ice between the slabs!


  1. Really sorry to hear about this, Gayle. It's never easy, however, it happens, though. My thoughts are with both you and your sister.

  2. Hi Gayle

    Please accept my sincere good wishes in this difficult time. I lost my Dad to cancer - it was a terrible time for me and our family. It is great that you have such wonderful memories of your Mum and Dad's passion for life and their family.

    Carry that memory with you on your walk - it can help in difficult times. They will both be there with you.

    Alan & Lynnie.

  3. I am sorry to read about your loss, Gayle. I am happy to read about the difference that she made in your life. I'm sure that her memory will continue to help you in the future.

    As to the photo - it looks like you were deciding who'd be the one to jump on the surface of the ice to hear it crack.

  4. Deepest condolences, Gayle. There is nothing anyone can say to ease the pain, but you clearly have wonderful memories, which I think are just about the greatest gift any parent can leave her children.