When Two Worlds Meet, Two Bloggers Greet

In 2013 I was searching the Internet after googling ‘Canky Middleton’. Canky was the name of a legendary figure connected to my hometown of Middleton, allegedly a bodysnatcher of the 19th Century. I was trying to discover if there were any kernels of truth in the story, or if it was rather just a notorious urban legend.

My search led me to a post written by Pam, the author of a blog called Mushy Cloud, who lives in a town not too far from my own. We had a conversation on there about the infamous Canky. Afterwards, I began to explore WordPress, and so was sown the seeds of writing my own blog. This was how City Jackdaw came into being. I followed her blog, she reciprocated by following mine.

Fast forward four years to last Thursday afternoon.

I was attending the funeral of a dear family friend. The length of time that the woman who had passed had been connected to my family can best be illustrated by the fact that, not only did she knit clothes for my children when they were born, she also knitted clothes for me when I was born. Her family and mine had been tied together for decades. 

Anyway, at the service, the vicar who was taking the funeral service called upon a ‘Pam’ to lead the people gathered in prayer. I watched her walking to the front of the church, thinking: I’m sure that’s the Pam who hosts Mushy Cloud.

I knew from some of her posts that she was exploring her vocation within the Church Of England, and this was the town in which she lived. When the service was over and the mourners were filing out, I approached her as she sat at the back of the church. No doubt she thought that I was one of the many people saying goodbye as they walked past to the church doors.

“Are you the Pam of Mushy Cloud?”

She looked up at me. “I am. Who are you?”

“I’m Andy, of City Jackdaw.”

She started in surprise, then immediately thrust out her hand to shake mine, both of us declaring how good it was to meet after all of our WordPress-fielded conversations.

She said “It’s like two worlds are coming together.” 

She wrote in her most recent post that it was a lovely moment in the coming together of her online life and her ‘real’ life. I think we could also look at it as the world of Mushy Cloud and the world of City Jackdaw that came together, two separate planets connected in friendship and confederacy through the nebulous and all encompassing universe of WordPress.

Trust you, my wife said on reading this, to turn it into something all sci-fi! 

But all of our individual blogs are like individual worlds, existing in the blogosphere, each with its own inhabitants and laws, welcoming travellers from near and afar.

Thursday was a nice reminder that we do all exist in the real world, and sometimes indeed our paths do cross.

Keep an eye out for me as you go about your business. I’m the one in the green coat, probably with kids in tow.
Here is Pam’s post, where she mentions our unexpected meeting, go and set down on Mushy World:

https://sterlingsop.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/catching-up-4/

*As I’ve commented on Pam’s post, a further twist that underlines the connections theme is that it turns out that my wife and Pam have met in the past in a professional capacity. City Jackdaw was the ghost that moved unsensed between them.

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If Walls Could Talk, Concrete Confess

The post that was Freshly Pressed two years ago, gaining me close to a thousand new followers: family, connections, generations and ghosts.

City Jackdaw

If walls could talk.

If concrete could confess.

If soul could seep through cement.

If only one of those monochrome apparitions could reach out and take me by the hand, leading me into a world of smoke and ale and revelation.

image

The woman stood by the door on the right of the picture is my great grandmother. The two little girls are my grandfather’s older sisters. The guy on the far left, in the bowler hat, is my great grandfather. The other two younger men could be family, I don’t know. Will probably never know. Posing with a football and a trophy of an unknown triumph, they remain silent, anonymous ghosts. Enigmas of imagination.

The building itself, its very brick and mortar, contains more than can be revealed in a two dimensional image. It contains that which is valued in meaning.

Ancestors of mine dwelt in that place between 1901…

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Introducing High Tide, Low Tide

It is my pleasure to share with you guys a very worthy book, written by two of my Nordland Publishing stablemates Martin Baker and Fran Houston.

bio-photo-martin-baker bio-photo-fran-houston

Their book is called High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder

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Although living on different sides of the pond, their story illustrates how, in this modern age of technology, distance need not be a barrier in forging supportive, positive friendships. But it is much more than that, so I will leave Martin to introduce you to their book in his own words. Links follow below.

High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder

By Martin Baker

“We live three thousand miles apart and I would not be alive without you. Wherever I go, there you are. However I am, you accept or gently challenge. Whatever I do, you cheer me on. You are the best friend I could ever have.” (Fran Houston)

You never forget the moment your friend tells you they would not be alive without your support. More than 450 million people worldwide have mental health problems. With one in five adults experiencing mental illness in any year, and ten million adults affected by bipolar disorder in America alone, that could include you or someone you care about.

Celebrity-led campaigns such as Bring Change 2 Mind and Time to Change have raised public awareness, but there is little guidance on how to be a good friend when your friend is mentally ill. Memoirs shed light on what it is like to live with mental illness but are of limited practical relevance. Workbooks describe symptoms and treatments but tend to be generic, lack detailed examples, and are usually aimed at the person living with the illness. “Friends and families” titles are almost exclusively written for partners. Crucially, given that friends often live far from one another, there is nothing that describes how to support someone at a distance.

Fran and I are best friends living on opposite sides of the Atlantic: me in the north-east of England, Fran on the east coast of America. Fran has bipolar disorder, also chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and fibromyalgia. Despite living three thousand miles apart, I am Fran’s primary caregiver and life-line. Since 2011, I have supported her through mania, depression, chronic pain and debilitating fatigue, with her suicidal thinking our almost constant companion.

In High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder, we share what we’ve learned about growing a close, mutually supportive friendship between a “well one” and an “ill one.” Writing from the caring friend’s point of view, we offer original approaches and practical tips illustrated with our own genuine conversations and examples.  Uniquely, we show how technology and the internet mean no one is too far away to be cared for, or to care. As Fran says in the epilogue:

Friends like Marty who are willing to be with me in the darkness are the ones who give me light. Yes there are medications. Yes there is therapy. Yes there is personal responsibility. But caring friendship is the best medicine of all. Then life begins to have purpose.

With a foreword by Rachel Kelly, best-selling author, mental health campaigner, and Ambassador for SANE and Rethink Mental Illness, our book focuses on being there. Discover how to build a relationship strong and flexible enough to handle mania, depression, and suicidal thinking. Explore what illness means. Learn strategies for wellness and how best to support your friend and take care of yourself, whether you live on the same street or oceans apart.

Links

Published by Nordland Publishing, High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and at selected booksellers.

About the Authors

A highly successful electrical engineer until illness struck, Fran Houston has lived with bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia for over twenty years. Her first book, For the Love of Peaks: Island Portraits and Stories, was published in 2010. Fran lives in Portland, Maine. Three thousand miles away in the north-east of England, Martin Baker works in the Information Technology Services industry. He is an ASIST trained Mental Health First Aider; a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Stigma Fighters, Mind and BipolarUK; and Fran’s primary support and life-line. His Collected Poems: 1977–1984 was published in 2008.

 

The World, Both Small And Wintry

I have said it more than once: what a small world this is. Aside from all redundant technology, sometimes the particulars of conversation highlight this.

I was speaking recently with a friend, a priest of this parish, and mentioned the northern poet Adam Johnson, who died in 1993 in his late twenties. It turns out that this friend knew him back in the eighties, and as ever I marvelled at the coincidence of connections. The conversation led me to seek out the poet’s work, and I share with you now one of his poems that is a favourite of mine, winter lover that I am.

December 1989

The nascent winter turns

Each root into a nail,

And in the West there burns

A sun morbid and pale.



Now, from the city bars

We drift, into a cool

Gymnasium of stars -

The drunkard and the fool:



Into the night we go,

Finding our separate ways -

The darkness fraught with snow,

The leaves falling like days.

             
     - Adam Johnson

Adieu to my Viking sister…

I read this post in shock last night. Poppy, whose blog I follow, posted about the death (and alleged murder) of another, lovely blogger that I followed (and she followed me). It was strange how the death of someone so far away affected me. The words we write, the words you write, matter. Technology allows us to make connections with people we would otherwise never meet. It can bring both joy and sorrow. R.I.P Caroline. Thanks for all of your encouraging words and sentiment.

A Viking Saga: Choose love and live your truth.

We never know…

This world is beautiful, messy and bloody with no way of avoiding what is coming. We have so little time to take it by the horns and live it with dignity, courage and humour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Caroline Van Ewijk, my friend, my viking sister and an example of just how well life can be lived.

My viking sister, Caroline Van Ewijk was one of those who did, before her life was cruelly taken in the Dutch port of Hoorn, two days ago.

Carro, you welcomed me into your life in that freezing cold Amsterdam winter, where I had no refuge on my old boat with her limited heating. With Swedish hospitality ‘Happy Six’ became almost a second home and you taught me about the Baltic and connected me with your uncle Micke at Borka up in the north of Sweden.  How many bitterly cold winter evenings did you ply me with hot tea…

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