While writing my last blog post, I find the writing is not singing to me. Do you ever have that feeling when you are writing something that there is something bigger, better and more dazzling that grabs your attention even more? Something your keyboard or pen is crying out for you to attend to? Well, this is how it is for me. Mindfulness is something to be written about, enjoyed and shared but there is something way more exciting buzzing around my brain.
On the way home from our mindfulness session, sitting on the bus, cold and weary, I check my phone and see an email from my daughter. As some of you may know, she lives in Bangkok with her partner and has been there since the end of July 2013. The email is entitled ‘Surprise!’ and tells me she and her partner are now engaged. I am immediately happy and when the woman sitting next to me on the bus gets up, I am able to get Mr Mason to sit next to me and share the news. Big smiles all round. Later on, I start blogging about the mindfulness course but my heart isn’t in it. I want to sing and shout about my girl and some of the fabulous memories I have of her.
How can I begin to describe her? Born in 1984 and blessed with the most beautiful brown eyes, from the beginning Miss Mason is clearly going to be a clever and witty child. Sleep during the day? No! Aged only a few weeks she decides sleeping is for wimps and wants Mummy to entertain her. It’s quite hard to entertain a baby who has been on the planet for such a little time. We spend all our time together, however, and as soon as she can speak, she decides she will never stop. One of her first words is ‘Bird!’ which she repeats so often I feel I could strangle her. The first couple of hundred times are cute but after that, it just gets wearing. At nursery school she decides she is not a child but an adult and stands with the nursery staff, talking about ‘the children’. Climbing stairs she has a mantra which is repeated for each step – ‘still a bit early’ she says, impersonating a very old lady. She loves to ride on my back as I crawl around the sitting room and is the snuggliest and cuddliest child you can imagine, always ready with a crooked smile when you bring the camera out.
I have vivid memories of her riding her first bike, complete with stabilisers, down the hall on her 4th birthday. She does it Lady Godiva-style as it’s ferociously hot and she is happy to be photographed. This will come out at the wedding, I am sure. She makes me a book for Mother’s Day at school and it lists the things I like, complete with illustrations. ‘My mum likes going to old houses and castles’ complete with a drawing of a castle. You get the idea. After this I can only remember what was on the last page of the book which was obviously where my dislikes were to be listed. It was the truthful but somewhat humiliating ‘My mum doesn’t like it when my dad spends too long in the toilet’. Sigh. I know teachers are used to hearing such truths but it’s a trifle embarrassing at parents’ evening to sit in front of the teacher and front that one out. And no, there was no trip to the fun fair in the teacher’s car, no matter how many times Miss Mason says there was.
High school brings new challenges, including leaving early in the morning to arrive on time. A lovely lady, both deaf and dumb, who lived nearby used to see Miss Mason on her way to school. One weekend, we are going past and she comes up to us to communicate she is worried to see Miss Mason on her own early in the morning and that something bad may happen to her. She does this by putting her hands around her own neck in a pantomime of strangulation. We understand what she says but Master Mason, on being asked if he understands says “Yes, She says if she sees her again she will kill her” in a bored voice. If Master Mason ever gets married there will be a whole blog about his shenanigans.
Clarinet playing at school comes easily after long and repeated playing of the recorder at school. I still cannot listen to the Radetzky March without thinking of Miss Mason. Clarinet playing ceases after Miss Mason leaves the clarinet at a bus stop. She takes martial arts classes and graduates with a black belt and a fracture to her arm. Ouch. Apparently there is an audible noise as it breaks. Some horrid girls try to mug her one evening and she leaves the worst of them on the pavement having taken her legs out from under her. The mean girl cries and Miss Mason is left unharmed. Her teenage years are stormy as she is possessed of a strong will which outstrips her young years. She is a kind girl, a strong and loyal friend and has tremendous compassion accompanied by a good grasp of business and a ‘no shit’ attitude. Managing a bar in the City, (after she has left school, obviously) she works all the hours there are to improve the business. After a rowdy Friday session, one patron decides to leave without paying the bill which has run into several hundred pounds. Miss Mason tracks him down to his place of work and encourages him over the telephone to come in and pay it off in instalments. Faced with an iron-willed ‘you don’t want to see me when I’m angry’ Miss Mason, his belligerence disappears. Wisely. Other joys are the weekend Nigerian evenings put on by an events organiser who always fails to provide sufficient security. Miss Mason has to step up and provide some herself – all 5′ 4″ of her. It’s scary work but she does it and never has to use the black belt skills.
Since spending her 16th birthday in the Taman Negara park in Malaysia, Miss Mason has the travel bug good and proper. She takes 9 months out and travels from Beijing down through China, travelling through Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore before going to Australia. Her travels sound brilliant and she later goes to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and, I believe, the United States but the times and duration are jumbled in my chemo-addled brain. The main thing is she loves travelling and seeing new places. Before going to Beijing she learns enough Mandarin to phone and book hotel rooms. A friend checking her booking says the only thing the hotel doesn’t know is what time she is going to arrive. The bar management is getting to be a pain. She is not supported well by the company directors so she decides to leave and go to Thailand to train as a scuba instructor. Did I mention Miss Mason is brave? She trains and is then asked to teach at the school she trained at. She does this for a while and then moves to a different island, teaching and not drowning her pupils, even though some do not swim and will not even try. Her hair is bleached blonde and she looks fabulous and fit.
After 18 months, she comes back to England and, never one to turn down a challenge, takes on the ailing pizza business owned by her partner’s parents in the North East. Again, she works very long hours alongside her partner and, six months into this project, I am diagnosed with cancer. Telling her was very difficult. On a rare weekend away, she comes to the house with her partner on the way to a party and I have to burst her bubble by telling her about my diagnosis. A week later, we are getting ready to go to the hospital for my formal diagnosis and the doorbell rings. Miss Mason is standing there having flown down from Newcastle to come to the hospital with us. My heart still swells with love as I remember that moment and her overwhelming love and kindness. During my treatment she frequently comes to visit, to cheer me up, accompany me on many trips to hospital and just be with me. A few months into my treatment, she returns home after a visit to find her partner’s mother has been taken seriously ill. Eventual diagnosis reveals she has an extremely rare illness called Bickerstaff’s encephalitis. She is in a coma for weeks and comes perilously close to death. Miss Mason now has 2 sick parents to deal with but puts in the hours at work, dealing with cheeky suppliers, a man claiming to be Alan Shearer‘s brother, uppity staff and a pair of young lads who run into the pizza shop shouting “Dick! Dick! Dick!” and exposing themselves. When ousted, they press their penises up against the glass of the shop in an attempt to do something but what, we are not sure.
Happily, Mrs Safaie, she of the Bickerstaff’s encephalitis, recovers as do I. Time for a move to Thailand, then, thinks Miss Mason and off she goes with her partner, deciding to undertake an intensive Thai language course while she is there. We are full circle. Her partner decides he will put a ring on it, as the popular Beyonce song said, which leads to the email read on the bus in Fulham.
I cannot give her any greater testimonial than she is full of love and is so deserving of love. This I think she has found and I am so very happy for her. Miss Mason – I love you lots.