Last week it was my mum's birthday and in celebration she had a week away, hiring two cottages in North Yorkshire for the family to congregate at. We all went - My brother M with his wife N and two boys O and D, my brother C and his new wife S (they were married only four weeks ago in Cambridgeshire - a very lovely time), my step-dad J, and myself. Everyone else went from Saturday to Saturday, but I knew that although it'd be lovely it'd also be tiring and it'd be daft to overdo things, so I only went from Wednesday to Saturday. I did indeed have a very lovely time, and it was great to be with everyone again, even though we had all recently been together at C and S's wedding. Weddings are busy and there's often little opportunity to spend quality time with those you'd like to, and although C and S's wedding was small it was typically busy. I only met S for the first time the day before the wedding as I'd been away in Somerset when she and C had been up to meet and stay with my dad and step-mum back in September, so it was lovely to get to know S a bit better at Mum's birthday week away.
The cottages we stayed at were lovely. They were on a working farm not far from Thirsk, but with the feeling of being pretty much in the middle of nowhere. From the front of the cottages we had a great view of the Kilburn White Horse over the farm's sheep fields that were abound with joyful spring lambs. There were two lambs in a small pen in a barn just off one of the fields. One of them had been rejected by its mother; the mother of the other had died, so both were being hand-reared and the farmer had told us it was fine for us to take my nephews to see them, which resulted in 18 month old D acquiring the word lamb into his vocabulary, and very sweetly waving and saying, 'Bye bye lamb' when we left them. The whole place was very child-friendly with a huge field for kids to run around in, and also with a big climbing frame with slide, a set of swings, and an enormous trampoline. O and D particularly liked the trampoline, even distracting O from the slide, which he's usually a real fiend for. The cottages/farm also have an indoor swimming pool and sauna, which the boys loved, going for a swim every afternoon. I would have liked to join them and the others in the pool, but I didn't think it'd be terribly sensible while the POTS is so unstable and I'm still passing out so much; and the sauna would have been an even worse idea as the heat could affect my BP. I tried to make the most of the times when the others were at the pool though by doing some study on the Thursday afternoon (I had an assignment due), and having a very needed sleep on the Friday afternoon. Friday was my mum's actual birthday and we all went out to The Hare Inn - a 13th Century pub in nearby Scawton - for a meal. I had to take my own food, of course, but the pub were fine with that, and when it came to puddings we even found that there was one they did that was Becky-friendly - Lemon Possit. It was delicious, and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy eating out somewhere other than Peppy's (even though Peppy's are great and ever so good to me), although it did cause some anxiety for the rest of the afternoon in case I had a delayed reaction to it, but there was nothing in it that was likely to kill me, and all was well :o) After the meal Mum, J, C, S and I all went to Rievaulx Abbey. It's a place that W and I had tried to go to earlier in the year, but it was out of English Heritage season, so we'd ended up going to a nearby National Trust place instead. It was nice to get to have a look around Rievaulx Abbey at last, and it really is quite spectacular. I was, however, utterly exhausted afterwards and was grateful of the chance to have a fairly lengthy afternoon sleep back at the cottages while the others went swimming.
I think it was the Thursday afternoon when I was doing a bit of study when C came in for a chat. I don't get to see C very often, because he lives in Cambridgeshire and is very busy with work without much holiday. C's had a lot to contend with over the years, and has led the most bizarre life of anyone I've known. He's overcome a huge amount though, and has miraculously got his life back on track when it could so very easily have gone so very, very wrong. He's the person who I admire most in all the world, and it was great to have the opportunity to talk with him. He came into the cottage clearly knowing that I was alone and he wanted to talk a bit about our first step-mum K, who was a very odd lady and a very destructive force in our family. She died in March 1996 from skin cancer, and despite her complexities and the negativity that we all (my brothers and I) felt towards her, I was upset when she died and this is what C wanted to talk about. For all that he and S are now married, they've only actually been together for about a year, and C thinks that S is having difficulty in understanding why he is having trouble expressing the very complex relationship/situation/person that was K. He's not alone though - it is/was very complicated. K clearly had some mental health issues that weren't dealt with or even properly recognised by those immediately around her (or herself), and I've already mentioned that she was a destructive force ... but her extreme immaturity led to some fun times too, and that, for me, is where the confusion has been. How do you marry together the person who instigates holiday activities that feed the child's soul with the person who has inane jealousy of your mother for 'getting' your father first, confuses you with your mother and consequently frequently treats you atrociously, and who tears the family apart with hate and a degree of insanity? Very confusing for anyone, but especially when you're a child ... and for all that I was almost 22 when K died the confusion was unresolved, and maybe some of it always will be, although it matters less these days ... it has less immediate effect or reason to cause difficulty. C was younger though, and with other complicating factors for him I think it was even more difficult for him to comprehend, so it's not very surprising that he's having trouble expressing it to S. I've been pleased that he felt able to talk to me a little about it, and I've said that if it'd be helpful then I'm more than happy to talk through some of it with S there too. I'm not sure if he'll take me up on the offer, but it's there. I've found myself thinking about it all quite a lot since our chat though, and have talked about it myself with Mum too, who of course has a different perspective on the whole situation, so it's interesting discussing some of it with her too.
Families are weird things, aren't they? Kind of closed entities, yet so vulnerable to change too ... which can have both positive and negative consequences...