Thursday, 26 February 2009

Life is so unexpected

Why would you name your house "Hailstone?"

There is a tendency, in most of us, to romanticize our home and all that it represents. Even if our "nest" is a grotty hovel, it is still a shelter. Perhaps this partly explains why the English have a penchant for naming their little plot and pile of bricks. Even if you don't own a Manderley or a Brideshead, you might lay claim to a Lark Rise or a Pear Tree Cottage. Pity the postman and the pizza delivery boy, but one of the charming idiosyncracies of English life is the tendency to give one's home a name. Although many names are simply descriptive or functional -- ie, The Cottage or The Old Bakery -- others are whimsical, fanciful and downright strange. Because I have a habit of traipsing up and down my road, I often contemplate the nature of house names. What, for instance, could Hen Cloud possibly mean? What romantic (or bloodthirsty) person decided that Hunter's Moon was a fitting name for a bungalow?

The name which most perplexes me, though, is "Hailstone." What were these people thinking? Did their house survive a battering of ice pellets? Does it still carry the scars? Do they take an odd sort of pride in enduring misfortune?

Or is this negative name a sort of talisman, meant to ward off bad luck? If you always expect the worst, does it keep bad luck from trailing you?

Even though we all know that life is unexpected, and that we never know what is going to be around that next bend, why does an assertion of this fact always surprise me so?

A couple of days ago, one of my friends sat in my kitchen crying. Life in general had gotten on top of her; but specifically, she was just completely fed up with the house construction project that had frazzled her nerves. If you believe that your house is one part sanctuary and one part cozy nest -- and I do -- then the mess, noise and lack of privacy associated with the home improvement process will often make it difficult to appreciate the end-goal. (Ironically, it was especially easy to "feel her pain" as we could hardly hear each other for the assault of the electric buzz saw and drill. All week long, my old windows have been wrenched from their frames.)However, by yesterday afternoon, my friend was feeling a bit more positive. The downstairs bathroom and some other pesky problem areas were finally finished, and a happy conclusion to home renovation was in her sights. Last night, as they enjoyed their new woodburning stove, she and her husband thought that the smoky smell was a little too smoky. Sadly, it turned out that their bedroom was on fire.

Getting an unexpected phone call late at night, when you have already gone to bed, rarely proves pleasurable. Like a telegram, there is something about the late-night phone call that just makes the heart beat faster. Please come get us, said my friend.

What followed was a long and surreal night involving fire trucks, the Red Cross, an emergency room visit, too much whisky, broken glass and broken sleep. I couldn't have imagined it; it was one of those experiences that you assume will never happen to you or anyone you know.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my adventure in blogging, and I had planned a very different sort of post. But blogging, like life, is fluid -- and subject to all sorts of changes. In real life, unexpected things are negative perhaps more often than not. We have had a variety of hailstones -- some too private to mention -- in our life this week. Even so, it is a mental relief to share some of what goes on in my mind and life in this space.

Unlike real life, blogging brings the unexpected into my life on an almost daily basis -- and I can honestly say that it has always been a pleasure.


Sarah Laurence said...

How horrible! But how good that you were able to help a friend. Life and blogs happen. It can take a near tragedy to appreciate normal life.

Beth said...

What a homecoming for you! And such a loss/horror for your friend. Still, you manage to keep your perspective – noting that not everything unexpected is negative. (Lesson learned here as well.)
Congratulations on your one year anniversary - your presence in the blog world has become an unexpected pleasure in my world.

JaneyV said...

If life were predictable it would lack adventure, so unexpected is good when all things are considered. Of course a fire is too far along the continuum of "unexpected" to ever be considered a good thing but even still it's always possible to find the positive. And it's when the unexpected feels crushing that the ability to look beyond to what can be siphoned from the experience to enhance your life, is essential. I'm sure some people are born optimistic but for most of us it's a skill we need to learn. But I promise , it's well worth it. I hope that this crisis passes for your friend soon. They all do, you know - pass.

Dealing with negative occurrences when you're exhausted is torture. I'm ratty as hell when I'm tired - every stimulus feels like persecution. It's best for everyone if I can find a corner to build my nest and slumber. I do hope that the quiet of the weekend bring respite from the crappy week you've had.

I've been thinking about "Hailstone" and there's no doubt that if we take it's meaning directly from its meteorological twin, it sounds like an awful name. But what if - over the sands of time the spelling was corrupted? What if it was originally Halestone?
Hale - meaning heathy, strong, hearty; Stone referring to the building itself. It suddenly feels like a fitting name for one's own castle.

There's always a positive - if you look.

Feel better dear Bee.

JaneyV said...

Oh and congratulations on your anniversary. My next post is my 100th at Whittering On.

Anne said...

How scary, and I'm glad that everyone's okay. Just what your friend needs at the conclusion of one set of nerve-frying construction projects: more construction to repair her house.

I'm fascinated by the names that people give their homes. I often think they reflect more on those who bestow the names than on the houses themselves.

Happy bloggiversary! I look forward to another year of Bee Drunken blogging.

marja-leena said...

What a week of 'hailstones' for you! Hope all will be calmer for the next while. As I know a family of Hailstones here, maybe that home is named after a family name. (Which now makes me wonder about the meaning of such a name - maybe more positive like a hail, hello?)

Congratulations on your first blogiversary, Bee!

Gifted Typist said...

One of my address in the UK was

Rosebank, Tweentown, Cheddar, Somerset

good enough to eat.

And another address of mine

Aria, The Hayes, Cheddar, Somerset.

Gotta love it.

willow said...

You are so good to be there for your friend. And congratulations on your blogoversary!

"Hailstone" does conjure doom, doesn't it? "Life at Hailstone Manor" just sounds so depressing! Although Willow Manor has had it's own Hailstone moments.

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

First of all, good that you were there for her. Before I got to the fire in the bedroom paragraph, I was thinking how blessed she is to be able to afford home renovating! I need to do that, but no $ at this point in time. But on top of that, I work in a job that demands that I hear the heartaches of many, many people ~ and I can't even count the desperate calls I've had from people losing their homes to foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc. It's really awful.

When we lived in Australia, we joined in the culture and named our home. It was "The Verandah". I must ask my dad where he and my mother came up with that, but I always loved the peaceful feeling that name gave me.

My next blog will be #100. I am not prepared for that at all, so perhaps I shall remain silent ... or not.

Delwyn said...

Bee: If you have been blogging for a year then I must have a lot of good stories of yours to catch up on.

I immediately thought of the other 'hale' meaning robust, particularly in old age but Hale is also Hawaiian for home.

Bitty said...

Bee, for now just ((((Bee)))).

More later. Must read and run, as usual.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

We had a fire across the street yesterday evening. Sad sad. I hope your friend's home isn't too badly damaged. Glad they are safe.

Happy Blog Birthday! Hard to believe it's been one year already.

Vodka Mom said...

I'm just here for a drink. waitress?????

Lucy said...

I can't believe you've only been blogging a year! You seem to have always been around. Happy blogday!

We lived in a bungalow in a road called Hunters Moon; I sort of assumed it was because the road was a close, and therefore curved like a moon, but perhaps that was fanciful. I've never heard of a house called 'Hailstone' though.

Hope your friend's place is sorted soon, how traumatic

Fantastic Forrest said...

I'm really sorry for your friends' loss, but thankful they didn't suffer as JaPRA's neighbor apparently did...

Happy anniversary! I'm grateful for the day you began blogging, even if I haven't been there from the start. You enrich my life.

I hate to be prosaic about Hailstone, but isn't it possible it's the family name? I was curious and did a tiny bit of googling. Couldn't easily find a history of the house, but did note that the Hailstone family dates back a ways in those parts. :) I adore the funky names of places in the UK, but this one has me suspicious. I found David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History on line - it's fun to look at the pictures and think of my friend Bee there. XO

Nimble said...

Hurrah for house names. I always think it's fun when people name their cars too. (I'm not good at it, when I try they never stick.) Hailstone made me think of Bleak House so you may be on to something with the idea of warding off or reverse meaning.

I have been thinking about the comforting solid ideals we believe in: family, home, parents, education, civil society. And how illusory they can all be. Gone in a moment. We live in flux, no one is fixed in any state. Some people's lives are a smooth arc but so many others are jagged peaks and valleys.

herhimnbryn said...

You ARE the friend that can be telephoned at any time.

Re Hen Cloud? It is a place in the Peak district ( I beleive). Below is a link to an amazing photographer, who allows his work to be used as free ecards. The link is to his selection of Hen Cloud..................

I hope your friends are coping.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on 1 year.

Sorry to hear about your night.

I happen to love the idea of naming one's house. Like the names of children, i do not always care for the choices.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

It always amazes me when, in times of disaster like the Southern California fires, people standing in the ruins of their homes all say the same thing, "It's just things. At least we're alive." You're right, we never know what's around the bend. Only that, as with everything, it too will pass.

Lisa said...

Congratulations on your blogging milestone. Not millstone, not hailstone. Phew! We hope, right?

What a piling on of ordeals your friend is having to cope with. I'm sure she is glad to have you in her life to provide comfort and support.

I hope that you are well, Bee.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Happy Bloggiversary, Bee - I am in the midst of house chaos too, and it shall last for weeks - Just losing your privacy and having so many strangers trooping through is a trial, never mind actually having to deal with an ensuing fire.

A friend of mine completed all her house renovations last year - An old property - She went to work, got the two small boys to nursery, left the dishwasher switched on, and came home to a burned wreck of a house - Not easy, and it won't help your friend to know she's not alone in her experience, but with your help she will get there again, in the end, and all will be as it once was, or even better, just as it was for my friend!

Bee said...

Dear friends -- thanks for the outpouring of empathy, the sharing of experience and the suggestions about names. I hadn't even considered that Hailstone might be a family name . . . and didn't know that Hen Cloud might be a place in the Peak District! I am blessed with generous and interesting commenters.

I saw these poetic lines today and they struck me:

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

Sorry that my mood has been so dark lately.

Braja said...

Happy anniversary, Bee :)

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful post. And ain't it the truth? That you never know what's going to happen next?

wow. Best of luck and good energy to your friend as she moves through this experience. I had a friend whose house burned down. It took her (and her son) many years to get over the trauma involved. I hope healing comes faster for your friend.

The rune that looks like an H means hailstone. It refers to the fire and ice of creation, and though harsh, it is quite creatively potent, or works well at times when a new cycle is seriously needed. Maybe the people who live in Hailstone have a Norse background or aesthetic?

You asked about photography and me? I've had cameras and have taken pictures all my life. My grandmother had one of those box cameras with a pinhole. I remember it well, including the way it smelled. I've had many cameras since that one. Thank you so much for asking and please use anything you find in the essay that is of interest.

Tessa said...

Strange, isn't it, the weft and warp of life? The ins and outs, the ups and downs...

Your poor friend, but how lucky she is to have you. As are we - your blog is just so beautifully presented, written and polished. And having only recently 'discovered' you, I have a year's worth of the most pleasurable and illuminating reading to catch up on. Congratulations on your first blogoversary!

dancing doc design said...

You are so right about blogging being a healthy and yet unexpected pleasure ! I know I am particularly grateful for the privileged entry into people's lives via their blogs- it is the closest thing to the collaborative relationships I had with my pediatric patients and their parents! Alas, I am sorry to hear about your friend and her loss, but, glad to know she has a friend such as you to pick her and hubby up! I hope things resolve for them. Meanwhile if you have a second stop by my site, I left something there for you! Salut du midi,

and look forward to catching up on the posts while I was away! Happy Blog anniversary!

Bee said...

Braja - Thanks! In some ways, I can hardly believe that it has only been a year. It feels like such a vital part of my life now.

Reya - I found your information about the H rune fascinating. It links in so well with the various threads of my musings that I would like to say that I had planned it that way. Is there some theory that explains intuiting a thing without consciously knowing it?

Thanks for the permission to link to your vision essay. I was already thinking along those lines, in terms of a picture I took, and then reading your essay clarified what I was trying to figure out.

Tessa - Thank you for your very kind comment. Who was it that said, "I write to figure out what I think?"

Dancing Doc - YES! The collaboration is the really surprising thing . . . and you just never know what direction it might take you in. I still get a thrill from unexpectedly meeting all of these new people.

julochka said...

congratulations on your first year of blogging!!

how horrible to have a fire right as the end to the renovations was in sight. i'm not sure what i would have done had that happened to us...

but maybe now they can name their place burned manor?

Bee said...

Julochka - How about semi-burned semi-detached? (I think that I prefer the possibilities of Hailstone, actually.) Poor things; the work on a house is never done. Which makes me think of Sisyphus . . .

Peggy said...

Bee, congrats on your one-year anniversary in Blogdom! Although this post may not have been what you were planning, it was such an important message about the abrupt and unpredictable changes in life.

I loved the Hailstone pic, by the way. Indeed, what an odd name for a house! I wonder what they were thinking and if there is a story behind the name.