Where The Swings Used To Be

I jotted this down as a note a few weeks ago on my phone. My husband and I had gone up to Gloucestershire to visit my parents for a few days, and on the first evening we took our dog out for a short walk before bed.

If you have read my previous post, you’ll know that my teenage years were a little difficult with school and the bullying that I encountered there. This feels like a good time to share this writing… not only as a follow on from that, but also because I’ve realised that going back to a place can stir up so many different memories, emotions and even behaviours. However, I have also realised that a ‘safe space’ doesn’t always have to be co-ordinates on a map, it can also be a person.

I am very lucky, that my safe person is my husband. I realised when I spent time in Gloucestershire a couple of days ago without him, that I felt very different to how I feel when I am at home in Somerset. He helps to ground me, here in the present. He reminds me – often without words – that I am safe, I am loved and that I am not a scared fourteen year old girl any more.

I still have a lot of healing to do – but I have been with him now for sixteen years. Sixteen years of visiting my parents and not once did I attempt to bring him to this place described below – it was too painful. However, as an adult, with him by my side, with the healing that I have started to do I felt brave enough. However, as you’ll read, it did also stir up a lot of emotion.

This is unedited.

I was going to take him there, to show him the spot where a smaller version of me would sit, and wait

I never knew what for, but I knew where I didn’t want to be, where I couldn’t be, who I couldn’t face, again

Two swings and a slide, bark upon the ground. It was like a little secret area but it wasn’t a secret at all.

My mum once told the woman from the school that I could be anywhere, that I knew those alleyways like the back of my hand… I didn’t know them tonight as a woman. I lost my way, doubled back.

It was gone, all of it. I looked at the house that now stood in its place, it was established.

Nearly 20 years on and I am not established.

Bricks and mortar don’t erase a place. They don’t erase the sadness that a place can hold.

I wonder if when they tuck their children up in bed, they know that a girl once sat in this place because she didn’t know where else to go.

That she was so lost, just 5 minutes from home.

That in 20 years she would hold her husbands hand as she looked for that place, the place that is so vivid in her mind and find that it was long gone.

Just another house, in another cul de sac.

But one full of memories.

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The Problem With Looking for a Saviour

So, today’s post is a little different…

This is the first writing of mine that I have shared on Elephant Journal 🐘 But it is something that I have wanted to do for years! I’d really appreciate it if you could click through and have a read, I’d really love this one to do well 🧡


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The Four Month Wedding

Whilst I am all for honesty and openness around mental health and recovery, I feel that yesterday’s post was a rather heavy one. Today, it is Friday, it is also my best friend’s birthday – so pop on over to her page and give her a little read if you have a moment ❤

So, a bit of a lighter post for today. I have noticed a few mentions on Twitter this week regarding weddings, and anxiety. It’s billed as the most magical day of your life and, boy, does that ramp the pressure up! The thought of planning a wedding for someone with anxiety is pretty stressful to say the least – you have to make phonecalls, you have to arrange things, you have to make decisions and it all leads to one day – a day when you will be stood up in front of people and having to speak! They will all be looking at you!

I got married in October 2017 to a man I had been with for 14 years and engaged to for 9 of those! We had gone through phases in those nine years of discussing the whole wedding thing; we had been to view venues, we had been to a couple of wedding fayres, we had made lists of guests and ideas – there were some interesting ideas mixed in – namely having me walk down the aisle to the Terminator theme tune and also a ‘cheese rave’. We had been to other peoples weddings and told ourselves to just get on with it and have our own, all the friends we knew that were in couples were either having babies or getting married! Our relationship was going from strength to strength, but the whole wedding thing kind of loomed over us a little.

We visited some beautiful places in the UK, whilst also debating whether to just elope – Gretna Green, Lapland, Poland… we talked about just doing it and not telling anyone until after the fact, but deep down we both knew that if we were going to do it we wanted to do it surrounded by people we loved.

I studied with the Open University and in June 2017 I had my end of year exam. For months, I studied, wrote, revised… then the exam day came and went and suddenly, I had all of this spare time. I decided that now was the time to sort this whole wedding thing out once and for all! I had heard snippets of conversations that the registry office in our local town had moved and it was really beautiful, so I started looking into that. I had my husband write a list of who he wanted at our wedding, the bare minimum, and I did the same. We were going to do this…

I had always wanted an autumnal wedding. The colours that time of year are beautiful and both my husband and I are huge nature lovers. I think that there is also a sense of building excitement at that time of year – you have Halloween, bonfire night and then Christmas isn’t far away; to me it has always felt rather magical, what better time to get married?

October was four months away.  16 weeks.

It was that or wait yet another sixteen months – and, hey, I’m a Sagittarius, I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it now. I rationalised it with the fact that with a timescale like that, we wouldn’t have time to overthink and panic, we would just have to get on with it and get it done – how romantic, eh?

When I called the registry office to book, I was so nervous. How does one book the biggest day of their lives? Is it just as simple as calling someone and asking what availability they have for weddings in October?? Um… yes, it really is. The woman I spoke to was lovely and within moments, it was done, at 1pm on Saturday October the 14th, I would marry the man I loved.

I have had anxiety for years but in 2017 I was doing pretty well, things were under control and manageable – my husband, who has never been formally diagnosed with anxiety but exhibits all of the symptoms at times – was the one needing the reassurance. We came to a deal: I would plan the wedding, and he would sort the honeymoon (and the groom stuff). I do like to reassure myself that it wasn’t the prospect of marrying me that made him anxious – but I could understand where it all came from. He would be the centre of attention for a whole day (as an introvert, this is very daunting), he would have to make a speech, he would have to make decisions, his parents – who had divorced 16 years earlier – would have to be in the same room together, for the first time. It was undoubtedly overwhelming and there were times when we almost called the whole thing off, but I am so pleased that we didn’t – and truthfully, so is he.

For four months, my best friend (my other one) and I planned my wedding. She was absolutely amazing ❤ We went and checked out the venue, we went to different hotels and pubs to sort out the meal afterwards, I was a very lucky girl and had 3 hen do’s! (One with work colleagues, one with family, and one with my closest friends where we went to Pride in Southampton) My husband spent his stag do walking in a very wet Devon with two of our closest friends and his brother – I think this was the highlight of the four months for him 🙂

Everything just seemed to come together – I fell in love with the first dress I tried on and although I did try on others, the first one was the one I felt the most drawn to. My husband found his suit, the right size and colours on ebay for £15, worn once. The animal sanctuary where we had rehomed our dog from the year before were so helpful in agreeing to take him for the weekend (Akita’s mixed with a houseful of excited people – no). My sister’s boyfriend, a photographer, offered us wedding photos as our gift. Even English Heritage, custodians of the beautiful castle ruins we wanted our photographs to be taken in were so generous and helpful.

My brother arranged to borrow his boss’s car and be my chauffeur, a family friend offered to do my flowers. My parents visited Somerset countless times and we planned and talked and came up with magical ideas. The country inn we had chosen for our wedding breakfast could not have been more perfect, local artists used the bar area as a showcase for their work and the food was to die for. The only thing, the most unexpected thing, that I struggled with – was music.

Now, I love music. Lyrics are a big thing for me from all sorts of artists and all sorts of music genres. I’ve written about Nina Perrson before, how her lyrics resonate so strongly. The same goes for Shirley Manson, Phoebe Bridgers, Damien Rice, Laura Marling, even Lana del Rey, amongst many, many others…

I had many ideas of what I wanted to walk down the aisle to before we made any real plans. One of the choices was The Minstrel Boy, an instrumental by The Corrs. It’s so beautiful, however, my husband thinks it sounds ‘like music you would hear in a morgue’ – so, that one was out.

Next was a beautiful instrumental by Nordlys. We agreed on this one! It’s a beautiful piece of music… I played it to my mum and she remarked that it reminded her of the theme to a Swedish crime thriller where everyone got their heads chopped off – so, that one was out.

Then I found a gorgeous piece of music, it was called ‘Fairytale’, it was sweepingly, soaringly and breathtakingly perfect… it was also from the movie Shrek – it was out.

I found the same with the Jurassic Park theme (which is actually really pretty and a favourite film for both of us), but for weeks friends tagged me in various dinosaur memes on Facebook. Again, that one was out…

I was starting to struggle a little. It needed to be short, but not too short, it needed to have a certain type of arrangement near the start so that my bridesmaids could walk in before me, and it needed to be something that we both liked.

There is a TV show that we both adore. It has apparently finished for good now – although I hold out hope they will bring it back – it’s called The Detectorists, and yep it’s about metal detecting! But it is so beautiful, so simple. It’s written by and stars Mackenzie Crook from The Office (uk) and it’s just about two guys, chatting shit and metal detecting whilst living pretty normal, mundane lives. Each season has been set during summertime in the English countryside and each season you wonder if they ever will find that treasure, which is usually right under their noses. But then as each episode passes you realise that it’s not about getting rich and finding stacks of buried gold or historical arrowheads, it’s about having a good time with your best mate.

The theme tune is beautiful. It’s a song written especially for the series by singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn, and, it has those all-important lyrics that I am always so fond of.

One night, fraught with stress over this aisle walking song, listening to pieces of music that had no real meaning to us, I put on this song for a bit of a break… my husband was sat in the lounge and he just went…

“Well, why not this?”

And why not this?

Will you search through the lonely earth for me?

Climb through the briar and bramble

I will be your treasure

I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind

I knew the call of all the song birds

They sang all the wrong words

I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you

Johnny Flynn – Detectorists

Its nature, its countryside, it fitted with our woodland theme and it fitted with us, we both love it and we both love where it came from and how we came to hear it.

And he was waiting for me, at the end of the aisle. His back straight, his heart pounding. In all honesty, I didn’t even hear the song, because he was right there in his beautiful suit and he had the look in his eyes that he gets when I do something great, and he was all I could see – everything, all the years of stressing over how we were going to do this, all the visits to places where neither of us felt comfortable, all the discussions and anxieties and planning over the last few months – it all came down to that one moment, and in that moment none of it mattered.

That evening, my sister’s boyfriend, the photographer who had been stood in front of us getting some wonderful pictures and who had a different view from anyone else told us how he had a lump in his throat as he watched my thumb stroke the inside of my newly wedded husbands hand, a subconscious and re-assuring gesture as if to say ‘It’s all ok, it’s me and it’s you and it’s all going to be ok…’

Eighteen months later, that song still makes it onto nearly every playlist I make – and whenever I hear it now, I see him standing there; I remember the moment he turned around and watched me walk down the aisle towards him and I know, this is what love is.