Tribute (Robert Addison, July 1981 – July 2017)

A tribute to Robert ‘Bobby’ Addison, as read out at his service today.

It would be… incongruous to stand here and tell you all what an angelic life Bobby led. He was almost as well known by the local police as he was by us here today.

But, despite his misdemeanours and mistakes, it is no exaggeration to say that my brother had a huge impact on so many people’s lives, not least my own.

From my first days at school Bobby had my back. He, with our eldest brother Ian (RIP), dealt with a particularly annoying bully in ways that only an older brother can. He also took the piss in ways only an older brother can: with a delightful range of nicknames for me, all with a story… none of which I’m prepared to repeat to you now – I’ve enjoyed the reprieve since he left home.

When he wasn’t taking the mick, Bobby liked to get up to mischief. I remember one Christmas – I would have been around 7 years old – he showed me the present stash he’d discovered hidden behind a hole in the lining of mum & dad’s divan bed. I also remember the sweets and crisps he nicked from the shop where he and Ian did a paper round, but we probably shouldn’t talk about that.

Bobby bought me my first ever Terry Pratchett novel, inspiring a love for an author which endures both Pratchett’s death and Bobby’s – a love I’m sharing with my two children, thus influencing their little lives.

Bobby was unfailingly irresponsible with his life at times, ignoring danger and risk to tackle pursuits like climbing onto the rooves of high buildings, riding motorbikes at ridiculous speeds with barely any protection and, in one instance, using a rope swing over a drop at The Wrekin which seemed as deep as the Grand Canyon to me at the time.

I mention these things not to glorify his pastimes, but because he encouraged me to do the same; to take risks, to try things, to be BRAVE. He was one of very few people in my life who didn’t stop me doing things because I’m a girl. He thought that if he could do it, I could too.

While his encouragement didn’t inspire me to chuck myself around on motorbikes or throw myself over drops the size of the Grand Canyon, it did inspire me to explore other “boy” things like video games and computing. It gave me the confidence in my abilities to forge a career in a male dominated industry – a career which has shaped my life, allowing me to run a successful business despite the doubters and “but you’re a girl” naysayers.

Finally, Bobby taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: he taught me forgiveness. He taught me that a person’s worth is not the sum of their mistakes, and that despite everything life throws at you, there is always good in everyone.

Terry Pratchett once wrote “no one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away”. I like to think that the ripples Bobby caused will outlive us all.

End of an Era, Goodbye Fudge

Things have been a bit shit in the jemjabella zoo/household recently.

Firstly, we had to make the decision to re-home Pixel, the aggressive stray whom I’d hoped to integrate and ‘tame’. Ultimately she was not getting on with Fudge, and as low level dislike turned to full on fur-flying fighting and her cowering under the sofa more often than not, we had no choice.

Then, a couple of weeks ago one of our guinea pigs — Tango — died unexpectedly.

(The one on the right)

Shortly after, within days of each other, Pixel (on the day she was supposed to leave!) and Fudge both disappeared. Hoping it was spring fever and they were out catching mice and birds we posted on facebook, got in touch with local vets, scoured the streets, put up posters etc… but I remained hopeful that they would turn up on the doorstep one morning looking fat, fed and happy with themselves.

Unfortunately it was not to be, and on the way back from Shrewsbury 10k road race yesterday I had a few missed calls from a guy living at the end of the road. His sister had found a cat dead in her garden one street over the back from ours. I knew it was Fudge before I even saw the body. It felt like a massive kick in the gut.

Pixel is nowhere to be seen, but given the length of her disappearance and the spate of dead cats appearing locally recently I suspect she has gone the same way.

After losing Hex almost exactly a year ago I was determined that the last of my original “babies” would have to live until at least 20. Fudge wasn’t allowed to die. Apparently, though, it doesn’t matter how hard you want something to be true, it’s not a guarantee.

I don’t regret letting him outside. It brought him well and truly out of his shell and he had been happier in the past few years than I ever saw him prior. It might have been a shorter life than he should have had, but I’d rather it short and happy than prolonged and constantly wanting something more.

And so here we are… 3 cats. It doesn’t seem anywhere near enough.

In which my cat makes me go to the gym

I did something yesterday that I’ve been working up to since August last year. I called a local free weights gym to see if they could give me advice, check my form, and generally just introduce me to the gym environment so that I can progress with my lifting (which has unfortunately plateaued again).

My oldest cat Hex — my first ‘baby’, long before I knew I decided I wanted actual babies — passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, leaving me feeling bereft. I’ve been up and down a lot lately struggling with work and life throwing lemons at me, but this was the final nail in the coffin that pushed me to rock bottom. I did nothing but cry and watch Harry Potter (my favourite ‘self pity’ TV) for about 3 days, before finally giving myself a massive kick up the butt.

This has to be a catalyst for change. I can’t go on full of woe, achieving nothing. I realised (not for the first time) that I have to start making the changes I promised myself last year when I went back to working for myself. I KNOW I need to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t include staring at a screen all day. If I don’t, I’m only letting myself down.

And so… like I said, I rang the gym. And the guy invited me down for an intro session, which I went to this morning. We went over my standard lifts: the squats, deadlifts and overhead press which I do at home. Then he introduced me to lat pulldowns, and other back/shoulder exercises to help me reach my goal of doing a pull-up. I was thrilled to discover that my squat was immediately stronger when not having to overhead press the bar first! I was complimented on my depth, too. ;)

It wasn’t a sausage-fest den of huge dudes groaning over their dumbbell curls, although apparently it’s generally quiet first thing. And, even better, I didn’t feel hugely out of place or self-concious like I thought I would.

It’s not that working out at home isn’t doing the job any more; I still use youtube for perfecting lift form, NerdFitness and the Stronglifts 5×5 for workout inspiration, Maxinutrition has some great advice on how to build muscle (their pro-fat approach is right up my street, I eat everything spread with butter or mayonnaise). Working out in my undies with my barbell (don’t do that at the gym) still kicks my ass, helps me maintain my weight and makes me feel like a badass superhero, but I’m limited by my lack of equipment and — especially recently — lack of space.

I don’t know if adding the gym to my already busy timetable is The Answer, but it sure as hell is a positive step forwards.

Death

I’m trying to crack on with some work but one of my servers is 503ing, which – as you can probably imagine – is not particularly conducive to “cracking on”, so as an interim measure I’ve just read Alison’s latest post Trying to be as strong as I want my children to be, which surfaced some thoughts that have been bubbling away lately…

Isabel has recently started asking questions about death, and showing an interest in the subject. We actually had a brush with the topic several months ago but a brief explanation seemed to satisfy any need for knowledge at the time. I had hoped this would be it for the foreseeable future but apparently not; like Alison’s son, she too said this week she doesn’t want to die. (Responding to that with “everybody dies eventually” was, in hindsight, probably not the smartest thing to say, but we live and we learn.)

I do not fear death and I’m not worried about Isabel learning about death and dying. It has to happen eventually, and given the state of Big Pig’s health it might be sooner rather than later, although I cling to the hope that she doesn’t experience it directly for as long as possible.

I am worried about how I ever broach the subject of people who choose the path that leads to death. I’m worried about how I tell Izzy there’s a special guy who’ll she’ll never get to meet because of a decision he made 14 years ago. How do you tell a little girl that someone who should be a huge part of their life, decided that they would rather die than deal with the consequences of their choices in life?

I can’t help but feel like I’m hiding a lie by not telling Izzy that she had an uncle she’ll never get to meet, but I’m not sure I am ready to tell her yet either. Mostly because I know she’ll ask “why”, and I still don’t have the answer to that question.