• Charli

Wellness Matters 29.04.2022

Being Well

It’s been an incredible 3 weeks since I last wrote here, and I’ve missed it, while also enjoying the break. When a friend asked if I would continue with blogs during my self imposed hiatus, I replied that it took me nearly 3 hours to write, edit, and rewrite my blog, which is time I need for personal writing.

I developed the capacity to completely switch off when I was experiencing high levels of anxiety in my previous role as depute head teacher. When I left work every day, my journey would take me up over a hill and as I reached the crest of this hill, and caught a glimpse of the River Forth as I neared home, I would exhale a long sigh and mentally cast myself off from the woes and stresses of the day.

So it has been with social media, reducing my presence on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, has allowed me to be more creative with personal writing.

Yes, I am coaching. Yes I am consulting. Yes I am mentoring, and YES, more than anything else, I am writing daily. My work routine is satisfying and productive - especially when the sun shines and I work outside.

But yesterday I was overwhelmed with exhaustion, and after 2 negative LFTs, I realised that familial grief had consumed me. My family suffered much in the way of tragedy: my paternal grandparents both lost siblings in tragic circumstances, and as I continue to add flesh to the bones of the chronology compiled by my late aunt, I would like to share some of what is emerging.

Please be aware that the following scene is described from my imagination, although the main facts are true: my grandfather lost his 2 brothers in a drowning accident when they were young.

If you are affected by this in any way and require mental health crisis support services:

NHS 24: telephone 111

Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87

Samaritans: 116 123 or email

Taken from Feast and Famine (working title) by C.P.Prime

On a summer afternoon in May, after an unusually hot period of weather, the two middle boys, Walter and Gilbert, set off for somewhere shady to cool down. The boys had struggled to settle at school, having moved three times in their short lives, and had naturally become more reliant on each other for company. They wandered aimlessly along quiet fields, dried out by the fierce early summer sun, until they stumbled on the claypits. Egging each other one, knowing they weren’t supposed to go there, but with a hot sun glinting off the disused and now flooded pit, the temptation to lie in the cool water was too strong. Sliding on the brittle clay, they inched their way closer to the makeshift pond. As they got closer they could hear voices from the local school children and ran to join them.

Mostly boys, and a few girls, older and stronger than they, were splashing and cavorting in the wide pool, so the two younger boys, feeling slightly timid, edged their way to where the reeds grew thicker, further down the pit. They happily guddled in the wet clay, splashing each other and revelling in their adventure. Wouldn’t Dora and Reg be so jealous when they found out where they had been?

Walter and Gilbert’s confidence increased, and feeling carefree, began to wade further from the dark grey shore line. However, as they moved deeper into the reed bed, it became apparent that getting back was going to be a lot harder. The claggy clay clung to their feet and ankles, while the reed stems created an impenetrable barrier between them and the safety of the hardened and cracked grey clay. Gilbert panicked, trying to move towards the baked ground, his left foot became entangled in the gnarled roots of a foreboding bullrush clump. He fell and started crying. Walter’s heart was thumping and he felt a wave of nausea roll through his body when he realised how far from the shoreline they had wandered. He shouted, but his small voice could not be heard above the shouts and cries from the other children, barely 30 metres away. Inching his way gingerly to where Gilbert was now howling, initially admonishing him for getting stuck, he quickly realised that whatever happened now, he would be held responsible as the oldest boy, and so softened his approach with Gilbert.

‘It’s alright, mate. Just try to relax and we’ll have that old foot of yours out in no time.’ He kept up a jovial front, periodically shouting for help, but when the sun began to dip behind the grey clay mounds and the chatter of satisfied children faded as they made their way back home for tea, anticipating a return for a second day of water games and high jinks, Walter knew they were in trouble. He almost welcomed the sight of his father, eyebrows tightly knitted, panting and scowling, lifting them both to safety in his big strong arms, before sending them to bed without supper, and very possibly sore bottoms from a well aimed smack. Anything was better than the cool air descending, the claggy, sticky mud and abject fear which threatened to engulf him.

Less than a mile away, as the small village of Holmer resounded with scolding mothers amid the clatter of teatime pots and pans, Edwin and Kate began to realise that Walter and Gilbert had failed to return home. Periodically they would turn to look at the kitchen clock, then lock eyes, reassuring the other that the boys would be home in any given minute.

They all enjoyed Saturday evenings together, Sunday being a day of rest with plenty of opportunities to be outside, and the family had planned a picnic for the hot weather. But Reg was jealous, feeling bored and alone since his mother and Dora had started preparing the evening meal, and he became aware of a tension rising between his parents, expecting the clatter of pans to intensify as they vied for attention. Suddenly, the door slammed as his father bolted from the foreboding atmosphere.

When Ivan Jones saw Edwin Smith marching past his kitchen window, looking frantic and calling his son’s names he abandoned his tea, ignoring his mother’s call to return to the table, and ran after Edwin because he knew something was very amiss. He had to speak up.

“Mr Smith. Mr Smith go to claypits. We saw them at claypits.”

Edwin looked up, deep furrows on his brow,

“Where? Who was with them? They’ve been told not to go up there.”

“I’m sorry, sir. They were near the reed bed, furthest away, they didn’t want to join …” but Ivan’s voice faded away not only with shame and fear, but because Edwin’s pace had quickened and he was already out of earshot.

With his heart heavier than the sacks of coal he brought in off the street, Edwin started running towards the claypits. Daylight was fading fast now and when a friendly neighbour appeared with torches, Edwin ran harder than ever.

Holmer was a close community, so word soon spread quickly that the Smith boys had not arrived home for tea.

Sadly by the time my great grandfather, Edwin, reached the claypits Walter and Gilbert had drowned. By painting word pictures, I feel more connected to my family, and I remember my great aunt Dora with fondness because she was always kind and indulgent with my sisters and I.

- - - - - - - - -

With my Compassionate Neighbour Coordinator hat on I would like to draw attention to various events that will be taking place during May 2nd - May 6th for National Demystifying Death Week.

North Berwick Coastal Ward is a Compassionate Community offering support through befriending, walking, coffees and so much more. Do you live in a compassionate community? Find out how you can get involved here:

Collectively, we want to generate local support for those who are isolated, those who are suffering bereavement and loss, and those who are at the end of life.

More information about Demystifying Death Week can be found here:

Have a great weekend.

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