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Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Words in my window: two for the price of one!

A Better Hospital for Berwick, unity and dissonance, Halloween, Cancer and Cards Against Humanity all feature in September and October

I feel as if I may crash and burn. I aimed to have different words in my window each week for a year. I have managed that. Just. But I also thought I’d blog about them – not so much to search for meaning but to reflect on the meanings they conjured for myself and others. I have managed that each month. Just. Until now. So it’s two for the price of one.

Look, September and October have been fiercely busy. Perhaps the most important and mind-consuming thing has been the campaign: ‘A Better Hospital for Berwick’. This fight (and, actually, it is a fight) to ensure that our community’s hospital and essential facilities are not quietly shrunk away is stomach-clenchingly real. The idea that a whole population might be left vulnerable and isolated because of laziness and a focus on financial savings rather than on the realities of life lived and the inescapable fact of being over 60 slow, undualled miles from the nearest acute health facilities, is totally compelling. For me, it has been a wake-up call about the NHS. The NHS is not what it was. Like our hospital in Berwick, it’s been disappeared while we weren’t watching – actually, while we were watching thinking someone was fighting our corner and had our best interests at heart. We were wrong. You can read more about the Berwick hospital campaign and my views on the NHS here.

Inevitably my passion for this campaign infected my words in September: STAND/AND/BE was followed NO/MATTER/WHAT.

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The Husband suggests that the final week of October also sits with September’s passionate scream for compassion and an NHS that remains national and inclusive:

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Next up was LIFT/UP/YOVR (I ran out of Us). In some ways, I was thinking spiritually as one FB friend suggested when he cited some liturgy:

“Lift up your hearts”

“We lift them to the Lord”

But also voices. I was thinking hearts and voices. Lifting hearts and voices together is so much more powerful. Finding ways to unite rather than to dissociate is so much more productive. This is when positive things happen. When what is lost is saved. When what is denied is restored.

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And so to voices of a different kind. Whilst some saw pragmatic references such as THIS/IS/YOUR ‘last day of the working week’, my brother saw ‘birthday’. And, yes, it was the now 17-year-old’s birthday in that week and she had said: ‘it had better be about me’. What mother could refuse? Happy birthday to you!20180930_094320

CHOOSE/WORDS/WITH ‘enough letters to fit the light box’ said one friend. Correct. However, these last words of September generated the most (I think) polarised responses. From ‘passion’ to ‘an etymologist’, from ‘caution’ to ‘the letters you have available’, from ‘your window messages are perfect for a game of cards against humanity’ to ‘kindness’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘care’.

Talking of letters available, HELLO/MEllOW/FRUIT was called out for its hint of catty sounds (due to a lack of Ls) rather than its Autumnal references.

Did I say it’s been busy? As many readers will know, back in October 2015, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It’s been a pretty weird three years. At times I felt my life was on hold or that I was waiting for it to be over. Sometimes I expected to wake up knowing who I was when the whole cancer thing stopped. But it hasn’t stopped. It doesn’t stop. It’s always with you. Your shadow. Your possible nemesis. Your companion. It’s not necessarily heavy and life-draining. Sometimes it’s just there. Sometimes it makes you lethargic. And sometimes it manifests itself in an urge to grab life by the balls.

So, I’m currently doing a course at Edinburgh University which is fascinating but demanding. It’s called Between Counselling & Research – a title too long to feature in my window but certainly enigmatic enough. Trust me, it makes my brain hurt. I’ve also started a new job as a part-time Community Fundraiser in Berwick for HospiceCare North Northumberland –  find out more about that here.

So, maybe TURN/BACK/THE was more about tides than clocks for me. For someone else it was: ‘Once upon a time I wouldn’t change anything but now.’ For one person it was: ‘Oh yes please! Turn it back to pre-June 2016’ (a pre-BREXIT ref). My Cards Against Humanity pal found plenty in his pack: ‘Unfathomable stupidity’, ‘Insatiable bloodlust’ and ‘Wearing an octopus for a hat’. Whilst ‘sheets’ and ‘curtain’ are both practical ideas, ‘EHT’ wins the prize.

Turn back the

Oh, and who decided that there was a Halloween week? Ridiculous.

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