Sunday, 21 June 2015

I Remove A Thorn

On Monday, I climbed up a cliff.  Or rather, a very steep bank rising up from Newgale Sands in Pembrokeshire.  My longest-serving friend and I had just started what has become our annual Camping-in-Wales holiday, and having caught an early bus from St David's, and ambled along the beach under cloud, we were taking a short cut back to the Coast Path and our walk back to Caerfai campsite.

As it turned out, it wasn't really a short cut: just a more direct - as the crow flies - route.

Sticking to the path is often a good idea, but sometimes it's great to go off-piste.  On this occasion, it involved scrambling at times over loose shale, at times amongst pads of gorse and bracken.  In order to maintain balance, I often had to grab onto the gorse and bracken. There was a moment when  I didn't think I could go safely either down or up, and that was when Helen offered me her hand, and helped me further up. We made it to the top, and I came away with a thorn in the middle finger of my right hand.

In the New Testament, St Paul refers to a mysterious affliction as his 'thorn in the flesh'.  When I was growing up, my parents used to speculate about what this metaphor represented.  My mother claimed it was Paul's mother-in-law.  My father, some sort of unspeakable recurring temptation.

I've been conscious of this splinter at various moments all week when my finger has been under some sort of pressure.  On Tuesday, I put on my reading glasses and tried to get it out using tweezers, but my skin had already started to heal, and I couldn't reach it.  This evening I had more success using a sterilised sewing needle.

The walk from Newgale was glorious.  At midday, the sun came out and it didn't go away - just moved across our shoulders, leaving its mark in interesting tan lines.

There's nothing like being on holiday on a Monday. There's nothing like unexpected sunshine in Wales. The occasional discomfort I felt from the thorn for the rest of the week was a reminder of adventure; of fresh air, freedom, trust and good fortune.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

I Accept A Compliment

Walking out of the sports centre after badminton club yesterday evening, my younger son and I were chatting about our games.  Normally, we play a few games as a doubles partnership, but last night we only had one game together.  In the first game of the evening we had trounced the opposition in a few minutes, so we had the rest of the hour to discuss.

"I played pretty well today," I said.

"You're the best woman player," he said, "no question."

"Well ... I dunno."  I felt self-conscious about his compliment - hoped none of the other players had overheard.  I'm not sure he's right, and I'm nothing if not pedantic.

"There's no doubt," he went on.  "In fact, you're an honorary man."

I felt myself suddenly in deep water.  We have a history of banter about gender politics, and I knew he knew that he had, as it were, pushed me off the edge of the pool and was standing smiling looking at me as I came up for air. 

There is only one sensible choice to make on finding oneself in deep water. 

"Thank you," I said, and relaxed, enjoying the feeling of floating on his admiration.