Hello and a very warm welcome to my newly relaunched blog. I'm Paul a 40 year old family man from the UK. In this complex, information overload 21st century world, too often we lose sight of what's really important. Here I want to celebrate life, share inspirational stories, throw the spotlight on charities and causes close to my heart. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you all.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
With all the disruption to travel, worries about rising fuel costs etc. it's understandably hard to see a brighter side right now.
~~~~A winter's playground~~~~
What always helps me is to try and see things with that original same sense of wonder we all had as children. I remember that surge of excitement as we sat in the classrooms watching the first flakes of snow fluttering down outside.
Building projects a plenty. Not just your standard snow man, but the biggest one my little hands could roll; not just a garden den, but a proper igloo; not just an icy slide, but the ultimate downhill skid track. But there was one tradition towering above all of them -the noble art of sledging.
~~~~A very special gift~~~~
Nowadays there are all kinds of variations on a toboggan you can buy - moulded plastic, carbon fibre, aluminium. If I'm honest back in the day, we were so excited we would make do with anything we could lay our hands on. Simply by stuffing big plastic or 'placcy' bags full of snow, jumping aboard and clinging on for dear life, there was always plenty of high octane fun to be had.
Sadly long before I had any memories of him, my older brother tragically passed away aged just 6 years old as a result of a malignant brain tumour. When he was four or five, (I was only 1 year old) my Dad bought him a traditional wooden sledge back from Germany and he loved it.
In the winter of 1979, after some fairly mild winters the heavy snow returned. Dad was determined to make the time to be there for my first chance to try proper downhill sledging. So off we went to the top of the run (which by now was like a bob sleigh track), he hopped on the back and off we went.
As he was hefty 17 stone or more, you can imagine we fair flew down the hill, and his enthusiastic cheering and yelling got a bit too much for me at the end. As we finally skidded to a halt, perilously close to a barbed wire fence, I momentarily burst into tears. Seconds later, I came to my senses and shouted - Again, Again! "This time you can do it on your own son" he beamed with pride.
~~~~One last wish~~~~
A few years after the untimely death of my Mum, my Dad remarried, adopted a daughter and became a father again in 1999. Tragically he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in the summer of 2002 and given only a few months to live. A couple of weeks before the Christmas holidays. Dad asked my very practically gifted brother-in-law if he might be able to build a proper wooden sledge as a Christmas gift for his new little ones.
His chemo-therapy had weakened him, and he was rushed into hospital with pneumonia just a week before Christmas. In all his discomfort and pain, when my sister told him that the sledge was finished he managed a broad smile and whispered his thanks. He lost his fight later that day.
The most poignant part of all came the very day after his funeral. Nothing much had been forecast, but almost as if he'd had a word with the angels we woke up the next morning to a deep blanket of fresh snow. My little brother, seeing snow for the very first time was absolutely overwhelmed with delight. Those pictures stand proud on the family mantelpiece, and whenever I look at them I can't help but smile.
~~~~A new generation~~~~
My own son was born some 3 years later, so sadly he never got to meet his Grandpa. My wife's mother has just moved into her new house in the village, and digging through the old stuff in the attic, she managed to find her old wooden sledge.
So yesterday, when we picked him up from Nursery, we took it along to surprise him. No we're not going back in the car today, we've brought a sledge. His eyes lit up like a flashbulb to all those magical moments.
Just imagine the thrill for father and son, as he sat proudly on board and I towed him along the icy pavements for the very first time.
Whatever the forecast, we all need to find a way to see beyond the immediate stresses and strains of a hard winter's season. Right now, I'm working from home, and on a cold, clear sunny morning, I get to take my little sunshine to school in style. I'm savouring every moment, and I truly believe, there really is snow time like the present!