Month: July 2014

Wayne Williamson 27/365

Wayne comes in at number 27. He wants to be 27 but doesn’t say why and I forget to ask. We have been friends since he was the one on the far left in the hand knitted blue V-neck and I was seated four along the second row.

Wayne in the blue in front of Mrs Rothwell, me in the smock, seated fourth from the left.

Our friendship is 41 years old and his voice hasn’t changed in sound, just in pitch. When he answers the phone he reminds me that we weren’t very close friends at Snarestone C of E primary school (thanks) and I tell him that he used to get on my nerves (you’re welcome).

I think he means that it is quite startling that, with the help of the instrument of Facebook, we are closer now than we have ever been. In 2012, after Wayne and I had spent a year on messenger, he organised a reunion of old mates. It was on the evening after my Dad’s memorial service and was like the cherry on the big medical cake- me chatting to old friends about what my dad had cured them of and remembering when, without anaesthetic, he had freed Wayne’s willy from his zip.

We both have crystal clear memories and catching up on them has been a scream. I can ask him to name the type of car that Geoff Eaton (father of our close mutual friend, Toni) was driving in 1973 and he would remember the registration. I could ask him what type of transportation  Norina’s Italian mum wore dangling from her ears and he would say ‘Silver ships’, wouldn’t you Wayne? And what did she use as a pet name for us all? My baby.

I tell him that I was always in awe of the naughty kids. When I stayed at Toni’s we took over the streets of the village of Snarestone, played ‘Knock-a-door-run’, rode our bikes round in circles in the road, and drank bottles of pop secretly stolen from the village hall. We did impressions of Terry Ashmore buying cigarettes, ’10 number 6 and a packet of matches’ and got chased by the same drunk man outside The Globe repeatedly. We did some other things that are just unspeakable, but it’s not as if any of us got killed is it? Yes it is.

I’m glad when the topic of our friends who have died comes up early in our conversation. In a school where there are only nine in a year group, losing two before they are adults is life changing for everyone. Wayne was in the year above and was close friends with Norina through village life and would have been protective over Roger because of their shared impish streaks. They were all such live wires. In the picture, Norina is three to the right of me and Roger is two down from her.

Both of us remember Roger’s death as if it was yesterday. I remember the stripy socks I was wearing and the cream phone in Scotland that I took the call from Toni on. He remembers the look on the face of the neighbour who came to say that Roger had been knocked off his bike by a motorbike and had died.

Five years later, in 1984 I was in bed fretting about exam results on the 24th of August and my parent’s home help came in to tell me what she had heard on the radio and Norina had died after falling off the back of a motorbike.

Wayne and I discuss their funerals. Children weren’t at Roger’s. My mum went and gave me a minute by minute run down of it all. I remember the hymns and all the details as if I was there.

Norina’s funeral was packed. It was held in the tiny church that we attended as a school and again, nothing is forgotten. I tell Wayne that losing those two has sent my life off in directions that I would never have dreamed of because, at a very impressionable age, I learnt that life can be over in a second. And if it can end that quickly, what are we waiting for?

Wayne was clearly in a hurry to make the best of his life. He has three children and ten grandchildren (you heard). He is his own boss, he follows his passions of football and formula one and he wrestles daily with the vivid memories that make him who he is.

At Norina’s funeral the vicar stood up and, in his dramatic Welsh voice, said ‘Every single one of you will be sitting here now asking why. Why would God take away a young life such as this? Why would a caring God take back one whom we all loved so much?’

We listened as if our lives depended on the answer.

‘And the answer is…

we don’t know.’

me and w roger

Ellen Begely 26/365

ebEllen sits down and asks ‘So what is this all about Annabel Tellis?’
I feed her the line that I have just told Bettina 25/365. Ellen tells me that she did something similar in 2011. She blogged on Facebook for a hundred and one days. She chose to write about 101 different recreational activities that would add to her fitness as she prepared to go to The States.
She asks me to remind her of the name of my blog.
‘Now that the phones have stopped ringing.’
‘Poignant’ she replies and begins looking for it on her phone.
‘Oh, just google Annabel Tellis 365’
‘Not so poignant.’
Ellen reaches into her bag, gets out and puts up her purple good luck cocktail umbrella. It sits on her phone. She tells me that her friends know she doesn’t communicate through Facebook anymore.
‘But we arranged this meet-up through Facebook.’
‘Oh not messenger, I’m always on that’ and now I’m the confused.
Our conversation runs off in different directions over vegetable juice. Most of it is, I’m sorry, off limits. She tells me ‘You don’t lose, you learn’ that life is all about ‘tests of strength.’
I tell her about my beaver. It’s a fur coat that was left to me and I decided to get it out of its bag this morning after I’d seen one on eBay for 1,800 dollars. She tells me to wear it. It is from the 1950s and is almost too real and shiny to be seen dead in.
Ellen is planning to move to L.A. but because of messenger we will not be out of touch for as long as one of us is still alive. She loves the vibrancy of California. Having come from a coal mining area in the U.K., I think our town, Apollo Bay is vibrant. She says she worries about it because progress is slow.
I met Ellen when she set up a pop up-up coffee shop in town with her friend Tamara. They made the most painstakingly beautiful coffee for four months and then they popped it down again. I miss them both. Ellen’s friends think she should have her own show as a chat show host, like the other famous Ellen. I agree. She is funny and not afraid to ask awkward questions.
Somehow we jump to me giving birth to my first baby in London, right opposite the Houses of Parliament. I had a billion dollar view from my room at St Thomas’s hospital but frugal care. On Day Three of my labour (note capital letters), Martin was at the ‘making bad jokes’ stage. I had been put on a ward with pregnant women who were well enough to be watching telly, and I was providing the ear splitting sound effects of what they would go through in a few weeks.
Suddenly my friend arrived.
She had been looking after our dogs and waiting for the phone to ring. Sixty hours of wondering passed and she jumped on the train and came in to find out for herself. She found me, writhing around in agony, leaping off the bed every three minutes, screaming with every contraction and she immediately said ‘I’m going to phone your dad.’
He was a hundred miles away. He drove down with my mum and as soon as they arrived a couple of the doctors recognised him, and everyone began leaping around to help. They discovered I had a kidney infection (so that was why I was screaming) and the baby arrived thanks to a very handsome doctor who had studied under Dad in Leicester. One week later my dad had a stroke.
‘Why didn’t you phone him?’ Ellen asked.
‘When you had been in labour for sixty hours and your dad is a doctor, why didn’t you phone him?’
And we sat there in complete silence for some time, because I don’t know why.

Bettina Terry 25/365

As Bettina breezes out of the café, two hours after we began, I tell her that I don’t know where to start with this.
‘In the middle’ she replies and pays for the coffees.
I’ll cut to the chase. That’s a good metaphor to use in a blog about Ms Terry, she’s the fastest and fittest person I know. When I don’t have problems with my chest (stop it!) we go to the same circuit class and I watch her give the guys a run for their money. (Some people in town think that I’m married to her husband whose surname is Tallis and I like that.)
Bettina is exasperated. She stopped me outside school and asked if I could give her a little coaching session about Facebook as I seem to know what I’m doing. So I, a Facebook-sceptic am giving her, a Facebookphobic a lesson on Facebook, within a blog about Facebook.
Bettina feels, quite strongly and with hilarious exaggerated facial expressions, that she is running down her very interesting path of life, communicating with people in exactly the same way that she did 15 years ago, and over the hedge she can see immense activity in another paddock, the one they call ‘the online world’. She waves over the hedge and no one wave back, why? She even has solid proof that no one is waving because when she joined up five years ago, she put a faux birthday date on her page and no one says ‘Happy (non) birthday’ to her.
Her profile picture shows a little tent perched on a cold hillside. Is she in it? I’m writing this blog a day later and I text her to ask. Her timeline shows lovely pictures of Bettina and friends that her friends have uploaded but she herself hasn’t posted anything since 2008! She says she is a troglodyte, I think she means Luddite.
She hates Facebook, she hates the competitiveness, she hates the glossy brochure of one’s life being laid out in everyone’s houses. She hates the emails. The emails? She shows me her emails. As far as the eye can see there are messages from Facebook Facebook Facebook to tell her every single subtle nuance that has taken place on everyone else’s pages in the whole world of newsfeeds! She feels like Facebook has taken over her life and yet she never looks at it. I tell her that in two clicks that will all stop.
Bettina wants to learn about netiquette. It’s a hard one to teach, you learn it along the way, sometimes the hard way. I tell her that I garnered everything I know about Facebook in a half hour lesson from my 19 year old godson. He told me to avoid the newsfeed button because it’s a complete waste of time. I half took on his advice and limit myself to looking at the top three posts in the morning. Last night my friend’s brother’s house blew away in a tornado and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that bit of news.
Bettina wants me to tell her about the significance of the ‘like’ button and I say “Well you can completely dislike something and ‘like’ it. ‘Like’ means ‘I see what you’re saying’ or ‘I hate that as much as you do’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ and also it means ‘I like that.’ I suppose the word ‘acknowledge’ was too complex for the planet.”
She often punctuates our conversation with the question ‘Why are you doing this blog?’ I keep finding it hard to put in a nutshell, and we get distracted. In the end I say that I want to address why the phones have stopped ringing and what effect that is having on us all. For the first time in our animated conversation she takes on a distant look. We talk about the deaths of our fathers. Her father worked from home and put a new phone line in Bettina’s bedroom when she hit the teens to keep his phone from ringing. Like me, the phone is wrapped up with her dad.
I confess that sometimes the police would ring our doorbell to say that my dad, the doctor, couldn’t be contacted and he’s needed in an emergency. He’d pick up the receiver in the kitchen to hear me on the other phone discussing the comparative merits of John Taylor and Simon Le Bon with Julie. Then he would race out of the house to the accident/heart attack/birth giving me plenty of time to plan distracting conversation topics for dinner time.
We talk about growing up with very active and now departed fathers. Bettina had a brother but always felt she needed to show her Dad how strong, clever, fast she was. I tell her that as the last of three girls I fell into the lad of the family role, racing bikes and short hair. I felt I needed to acknowledge the Alexander that I was until I popped out. I tell her that my Dad never ever said that he wished I’d been Alex afterall, healthy babies were everything to him. His patients, on the other hand, used to say they wished I’d been a boy to my face, they still do!
My grandfather, as the only boy in his family, having had one boy, my dad, must have felt a bit short changed. Even though we were very close, he did turn to me in the nursing home and say ‘Isn’t it a shame your dad didn’t have any children!’
I tell Bettina to have a laugh with Facebook and don’t try to understand it. She says that she wishes people would stop shortening words like ‘See you’ to C U. That reminds me of a text that Pookah Choo 14/365 sent me in the days when we were both learning to use our mobile phones, years ago. We had been to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the musical, and she had texted me to say ‘Lovely 2 (I’ll write it in longhand) See You N Truly Scrumptiousnesses.’ That had stopped me in my tracks.
I look at my phone. Bettina still hasn’t texted back about being inside the tent on the rocky hillside.

Four hours later, she lets me know she’s in there.



Anna Morton 24/365

I think this post will prove to be quite popular as sexually transmitted diseases are almost the last taboo. Has that got your attention?
I am not ringing Anna, I am going one step further and meeting her for coffee. She made my door bell ring last December after my jewelry box had been stolen. I opened the door to the tall and statuesque silhouette on the doorstep. She was clutching a small black velvet bag full of necklaces.
We order great big bowls of coffee and I take notes as she speaks. She finds this entertaining as she is usually the one taking notes as her patients speak. She is a doctor at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. And no, I won’t be sharing any history, not with you anyway. I talk to her about G.U.M. and she laughs. In England, Genito Urinary Medicine would be the sign to follow at the hospital, is it called G.U.M to make it appeal to youths?
She tells me about her one full day a week of colposcopies (you know, taking samples from the cervix) and she really enjoys all aspects of her work. Sex workers come to see her and they say ‘Your job’s disgusting,’ which she finds funny.
I thought this was going to be a really long page in my blog and I have been working up to it. It has been the school holidays, the world cup, I have had a chest virus and shinnanigans in my life and all the while that I haven’t been blogging I have thought I must give Anna’s page my best shot with all those notes I took.
I have just turned over the first page on my notebook and there is only one word on the second. It is Gardasil. Anna spoke about the incredible effect Gardasil has had on lowering the rates of the HPV virus. They are down 95%. An Australian developed the vaccine and Anna took part in the first trials. She calls it an amazing cure.

We talk about her lovely old fashioned and clever parents whom I knew and who died within six months of each other in 2012. Her Dad had trained in mountaineering with Edmund Hillary and was also the Professor of Maths at Monash University. I tell her that I feel a bit embarrassed because I had always thought that Monash was an acronym for something like ‘Melbourne Organisation for National Academia Southern Hemisphere’. And it wasn’t until we went to the Somme battlefields that I found out Monash is credited with turning round the First World War.

We cover lots of topics that would never be aired on Facebook and perhaps would only ever be told face to face.

She tells me that she had a cycling accident which could have killed her, in her twenties, and still has some double vision when she is tired.

But we seem to keep going back to sexually transmitted diseases and in the end I almost envy her her job!

I tell her about the time when, as an 18 year old I had gone into the chemist and bought cheap purple-ish hair dye. I spent the afternoon in the bathroom then sauntered down the stairs all mauve to show those gathered in the kitchen. A friend of the family loved the gentle purple hue that shone from my black mop of hair and she asked me the name of the colour.
‘Chlamydia’ I said and almost felt the heat of shocked facial expressions.
It was ‘Clematis.’

The beautiful, inside and out, Dr Morton.

Anna Morton