Thursday, 19 August 2010

Close shaves and near misses

Growing up can be tough. When I think back to my childhood it’s as though there was a big river running through it. The Styx maybe? There was Before Dad Died and After Dad Died - and I was a different child on each river bank.

This has been a tough holiday for James in many ways. Lyme Disease and our sojourn in hospital made him realise that we can’t always take good health for granted and that many children are in real life-threatening situations; that serious pain is not a grazed knee.

Then we had the Riphay Scuffle where we saw our lives flash before our eyes as a car hurtled past, snagging a line of fencing and a heavy stake came flying within a few feet of us. We were okay but someone further down the hill had to be air-lifted to hospital.  Tragically that evening two young lads died on their way home from the Scuffle as they lost control of their car. James hates driving past the spot where they came off the road and I had to explain that sometimes awful things do happen but that we can’t let them control our lives. So we do occasionally drive that way and pass the huge swathe of tributes – and say a silent prayer for the boys and their families.

A few days back, Adrian and a friend of ours took James to the cricket in Taunton. On the way back they got a flat tyre and had to pull over to change it. A car slowed down and the next thing a truck ploughed straight into it. By a miracle nobody was seriously hurt (though we heard later that the lad in the first car has whiplash) but James was horribly shaken.

‘It all happened in slow motion,’ he said as he sobbed into my shoulder. ‘I thought they were dead.’

He has, I think, crossed his own river. Coming close to death and danger changes you. He seems more contemplative, more grown up maybe. It’s strange too that this summer is the one that straddles the divide between junior and senior school. In a few weeks time, he will be at ‘big’ school, boarding for the odd night here and there, doing his own thing. He can’t wait. He’s desperate to move up, to move on. I’m thrilled but also can’t help but feel a little pensive.

So, it hasn’t been a carefree summer so far. But, in the scheme of things, we’re so lucky. We’ve come close but the cup has passed by. I do often wonder how on earth parents handle really serious illness, accidents or, perish the thought, the death of a child? I’ve recently been reading Simon’s Choice by Charlotte Castle, an author I met on Authonomy. The book looks at exactly that question – what happens when you are told that your child’s illness is terminal. I’m going to be posting an interview I did with Charlotte quite soon – so do watch out for that.

Sorry, this is a rather maudlin post. To end on a brighter note, we are so looking forward to our holiday in Northumberland. I think we could all do with a little light relief.

btw, I have recently given an interview myself - to the website Authors on Show.  It's about my career in journalism and writing - and my hopes for my teen fiction.  You can read it here


Chris Stovell said...

Thank goodness you are unscathed afer Riphay Scuffle. Your poor son has had a lot to deal with this summer. I think you're right about that time between schools - liminal space - and your son's been through some trials before the next phase. Sorry, sounding very heavy, but it's a reflection of the mood of your post, however it sounds, like the scuffle as if you're out the other side. Phew!

Tattieweasle said...

I have written so many things and found thatm wanting in this ccase. Just that each great start in life has to end with one closing. Huge steps. Huge Hugs .

rachel said...

Poor you, poor James - it's always too soon for a boy to have that inevitable shattering moment when he realises that he and his peers are not immortal after all, and that life can strike sudden and terrible blows.

This wasn't a maudlin post at all, but a serious and thoughtful one, with deep matters to ponder. You wonder how parents deal with serious illness or death of a child - I wrote last June about the impact of my brother's death on his family ( and know that for us, survival was possible, but little else.

I am glad for you that you all came through, if not exactly unscathed, then undamaged. Wishing James a safe passage into adolescence and a new school; he sounds like he's resilient and ready for the challenge.

Exmoorjane said...

Chris: liminal, that was the word that was just out of reach as I was writing that....exactly so!

Tattie: ah bless you. Hugs to you too. xxx

Rachel: ah heck, you've been there then. Shall check out your account - when I'm feeling a little more resilient! I was amazed with myself that I managed to read Simon's Choice - didn't think I would be able to... xxx

Linda said...

I remember so clearly, when I was the same age as James, watching my own father fade away. He died when I was one week into my first term aged 12. My mother had died 7 years previously, and what gets to me now is thinking about how he must have felt, leaving one young child in the care of two older siblings.
We actually managed quite well, and are still close, nigh on fifty years on, but these experiences do change us. Any difficulty I or anyone else I know is going through is measured in my mind against that terrible time. Some people have said that they think I am hard. It's not that. It's learning, the hard way, that "worse things happen at sea (and at home)".
I think James will end up appreciating everyone much more once the shock has faded.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

James will negotiate these rapids no doubt with you and his dad at his side to help him. Sometimes looking at death sideways helps you to look at things head on or, at his age, to plunge into your own life again with renewed energy. What a summer.
I hope he has a great time, and you too.

Rob-bear said...

To say that you've had an "interesting" summer is something of a understatement. That you've survived, more or less undamaged, is great news.

James will no doubt do a good bit more reflecting on all this. Maybe not now. Sufficient to say that these experiences will be (I trust) useful to him, as he tries to sort out his life. Helping him ask, and answer, important questions.

Frances said...

Hello Jane. Close shaves indeed. Surely James will return to school a much older lad, well on his way to being a young man.

He's so lucky to have his wise parents. I am sure that the Soul Puppy will always be a large part in James' personal history of the summer of 2010.

Best wishes to all around your place. xo

Bluestocking Mum said...

Oh my dear friend. And young James. What a lot you have had to deal with this summer.

And I understand so well, probably more than most(remember Idle Jack and his epilepsy.)

James will deal with this and return in September a young man. And it is hard to see now my lovely, but he will be better for it. It will show him that life is there for the living. With you and A's love and support you will make sure he does just that.

Now have a wonderful, carefree time in Northumberland, all of you.

Big hugs (and give my love to Fred if you see her!)


Fennie said...

Well I'm so glad that you are all OK, at least physically. In my experience all children develop differently, some fast, some slow. Younger daughter had a serious accident when she was 16. Was in a coma for a couple of days. Doctors suspected brain damage. But she went on to get a first, so something must still have been working. She was never quite so carefree afterwards, though; there always was a harder edge. She said she had to learn to deal with people again. Perhaps that was her river. Good luck to James in his senior school: I'm sure he'll love it and go on to great things.

Anonymous said...


Joanne said...

Hello Jane

James has really had his share of problems recently.

Clearly he will be anxious about his experiences but do watch if they develop more exagerated than you would expect, that is a classic symptom of an active infection of lyme Disease. Behavioural problems or anxiety, OCD or ADHD type symptoms, these are particularly noticeable early signs in children. Sorry don't want to worry you but any symptom James develops over the next few months should be ?? for Lyme.

Please read the links I sent you earlier and be vigilant. As things stand with NHS doctors, rarely are cases being adequately treated and many people in the UK are going on to developing chronic illness which NHS does not recognise.

Hugs Joanne

English Mum said...

Poor James. But he has you there to explain, and comfort and support him. I know exactly what you mean about how they change before going up to secondary school - and James has had a bit more than usual going on this summer. Wish him luck for me - my boys went to a day/boarding school in Ireland and LOVED boarding for the odd night xx

Being Me said...

Hi. What a summer of awakening for James. I can fully appreciate you pensiveness with him wishing to edge on. Gosh, I don't know what I'll do when that time comes! (we haven't even had to make the leap from kindy to school yet here)

My daughter (4yo) has already had to face her own mortality. If we wanted her to know the sister who came and left before her, we had to explain death as well. It has been hugely confronting (for us and for her) and the questions change, they come and go. The contemplation on a 4 year-old's face is probably not dissimilar to that of a 10 year-old. But how I wish it were different.