Sixty Seconds’ Worth Of Distance Run

The sun disappeared taking last year with it, and I quietly prayed that this year would be better. Eyes straight, time to press on and write.  This is THE year, right?

Lyme Regis, Dorset, December 2017
(c) Sherri Matthews

The Summerhouse is five years old this month.  Five years of blogging, except I am not exactly prolific these days.  Five years since I scrawled out the first words of the first draft of my memoir and five years later, I am still writing.  But it’s too easy to think I’ve failed because I haven’t finished it. I forget what I have accomplished when the climb back up from each derailment is more protracted than the last.

A change of scene helps, so I’m told.

Perhaps a cottage in the English countryside…

Selworthy in Exmoor, West Somerset (c) Sherri Matthews

Or a spot by the Aegean sea where the cicadas strum to the rising heat and a lazy lunch awaits…

Crete (c) Sherri Matthews

Both would be nice, but I already have my change of scene in a room for an office in our new pad. It’s in need of some decorating and organising, but it’s my space.  It is a work in progress. Like my memoir.  Like me.

So the new year rolled in and I set to work, and then a friendship from long ago rolled in, though I knew she had never left. Threaded throughout my memoir, she was there at the start, stood firm at the end and is with me still.

We reminisced of the times we sat up all night drinking Bacardi and Coke reciting Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ until we knew it by heart, word for word, pondering its mighty value against our flighty aspirations…

‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;…

…If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!’

We planned a road trip across America by Greyhound bus when we were eighteen, before the ‘gap year’ was invented.  My friend reminded me of all the poems I had written and read out to her and of the reams of letters I sent her from America.  My Lord, she must have been bored stiff!

I got my trip across America, but it wasn’t what I planned and it wasn’t with my friend.

And there lies the story.

So now to complete my memoir and cling to blogging for all it’s worth, and what better way to begin than with a return to Irene Waters’ Times Past prompt which for January is:

High School Graduation

Writing as a tail-end Baby Boomer growing up in rural Suffolk, England, my high school graduation experience was non-existent.  There was no such thing for school leavers: only university students graduated with tasselled hats, long gowns and degrees.  My last day of school in the early summer of 1976 consisted of getting signed out by each of my teachers, a hurried handshake and a mumbled ‘good luck’.   My friends and I then faced two nerve-wracking months for our ‘O’ Level exam results.  That was it.

But if my high school graduation was non-existent, Eldest Son’s was filled with pomp and ceremony and endless speeches beneath the baking Californian sun.

American High School Graduation
(c) Sherri Matthews

My son was three when we left England for America, and he spent his entire grade school education there.  I was glad for the celebrations that made up such a large part of his and his siblings’ American school experience. Mine felt more like boot camp in comparison.

Although I was grateful for my maths teacher who turned up on Friday for double last period dressed in tweed and armed with a projector and slides of his safaris in Africa.  Anything was better than maths.

My son wasn’t too enamoured with all the fuss around graduating with a high school diploma, but on the day, he had a great time with his friends.

High School Graduation. Eldest Son second from left.
(c) Sherri Matthews

A graduation party supervised by parents and teachers followed.  ‘Safe and Sober’ was the theme.   I had to laugh.  Safe, hopefully, but sober?  At eighteen? Being a Brit, I didn’t know anybody at eighteen who stayed sober at a party.  But never mind the American legal drinking age, after what happened at the little party I held for him at home, I’m sure it was the beer keg at his friend’s party afterwards that he most looked forward to.

Our lumbering black Lab, a totally loveable Scooby Doo of a dog, managed somehow to break a water pipe at the side of the house while gallivanting around the garden.  Water gushed out of the ground, flooding our patio and turned our grass into a mud pit.  EH (ex husband) spent the rest of the evening trying to fix it and had to turn off the water.  Meaning we had a house full of guests with no running water or working toilet.

That night, after everyone had left or gone to bed,  I found a bottle half full of champagne in the kitchen and I sat on the sofa and polished it off. I pondered what family life would be like once my son left home for college in a few months.  And I wondered where the last eighteen years had gone.

I wished I could have had them all over again, hoping I had made the most of every distance run, my days with my son.   I had a good cry and then looked to the years ahead, and I resolved not to waste a single minute of all that was to come, unforgiving or otherwise.









About Sherri Matthews

Sherri is a writer with work published in print magazines, anthologies and online. As a young British mum of three, she emigrated to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England's West Country, a full-time carer within her family. Her current WIP after completing her memoir is a psychological thriller.
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75 Responses to Sixty Seconds’ Worth Of Distance Run

  1. Mary Metcalf says:

    Love this piece Sher !! ‘IF’- we loved it didn’t we ? 😉
    Hope to speak to you sometime, let me know the best time to ring 💝
    Lots of love, Mare Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s so nice to see you back Sherri! There’s heartbreak in that story – and I too hope that this will be a good year for you! With love.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mary Smith says:

    Lovely post, Sheri. I recognised your son in his graduation photo immediately! Love the image of you being phiosophical over a half bottle of chamgane 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. restlessjo says:

    It’s not hard to waste a few minutes along the way, Sherri (I know! I’m in the Algarve 🙂 ) The best of intentions are often derailed, but I don’t have the feeling that you’ve wasted much. The living of a life and having your health, love and friendships are pretty darn important. And I’m sure you’ve succeeded there, so don’t beat yourself up. You’re a lovely person to have around. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Charli Mills says:

    You have such a gift for crafting stories from the past to make comparisons and meanings from the differences. It’s always a treat to read you at the Summerhouse!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. you are back. Welcome to you. Now you are on ‘the other side.’

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dgkaye says:

    Loved your little sample of your memoir to come Sher. Please stop beating yourself up about your own self-imposed deadlines. Life has been happening big time for you these past 2 years alone that I know of. ❤ We all work to the beat of our own drum. You'll get there when you get there. And in the meantime, it was fab seeing you back at your blog today.
    January didn't start off with any great blast for me either. But we are 2 peas in a pod my friend.
    Sending you lots of love and hugs! ❤ ❤ xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Lovely to see you back Sherri and super honoured that you have chosen to join in Times Past for your first post of the year and of your return. It is lovely to again read your prose that takes us to the time and puts us in a position to feel the emotions that you experienced first hand. Your post too prompted a memory for me that I had totally forgotten. Our geography teacher Mrs Coates hosted a farewell party at her house for her geography students. I think it was the first adult party I had ever attended (although I don’t think we considered ourselves adults). I can remember my mother warning me about people spiking my drink. I don’t think she realised that no-one would have been interested in spiking my drink to start with. I’ll add you into my post. Thanks for taking part and look forward to news of your new working space (how it compares to the summerhouse), your memoir and when you have the time more posts. Lots of love Irene

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to see you too dear Irene, and to know you are still doing your Times Past challenges which I have always enjoyed very much. The honour is all mine 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the read, thank you so much 🙂 Love that it triggered another hight school memory for you, what a great story! How nice of your geography teacher to host a farewell party. Your mum was ahead of her time warning you about spiked drinks!!! I felt the same as you, not thinking anyone would be remotely interested in doing such a thing lol. And you’ve reminded me my geography teacher too! He was a Welsh ex-rugby player who took no nonsense from anyone. I had a friend who caught the same bus into town as me, living in a village as we did, and oneday, got caught coming to school with alcohol on his breath. Mr Jones marched him out of class into the headmaster’s office, literally lifting him off the ground by his hair. That night, poor G mournefully grabbed handfuls of hair falling off his head thanks to Mr Jones. So I think it’s safe to say, there would be no farewell party for us at Mr Jones’s house 😉 I am very much looking foward to taking part in future challenges and posts and getting things moving here at the summerhouse again Irene, just hope I can find that balance while finishing the memoir. I hope all is going well with you on that front as you write away and I’m so grateful for all your support and encouragement and likewise from me to you. It’s great to be back…now I just need to stay here! Lots of love right back to you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Love that your trigger led to a trigger from me to you. I’m glad he wasn’t my geography teacher but in 5th form we had a male that we swooned at – we all did really well in geography that year as we were so keen to get his attention.
        Look forward to seeing you again soon but take it easy. I am about to have a two week total break from the internet – off to New Guinea. I’ll be rearing to get back to it on my return. Lots of love.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Haha…yes, we could talk and walk all day couldn’t we? No wonder you did so well in geography! Surprisingly, I did too, despite hating it in middle school. Despite his treatment of my friend, he was a good teacher which makes the difference. Or maybe I was just terrified of him lol! Have a wonderful time my friend, it will do you the power of good to disconnect and totally relax and unwind. Will miss you Irene, but will await your raring to go return right here with a huge welcome ‘so glad you’re back’ hug. Enjoy every moment and take lots of batteries for your camera and can’t wait to hear all about it!!!! Lots of love sherri ❤ ❤ ❤


  9. Pingback: High School Graduation: Times Past | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  10. Mabel Kwong says:

    Sounds like you’ve been busy with the move, Sherri. Congrats on five years of blogging. Wow, five years. That is quite a milestones and to think all this time, you are still writing too 🙂 Lovely to hear the new place is being set up and you are settling in. Good luck with the memoir and it sounds like you have many stories coming back to you – and that you are feeling them as they are coming along.

    Ah, graduation. Your son’s graduation does look quite prestigious. I still remember mine, and you are right in that these days there is a lot of pomp and fuss about graduations. You can hire your own photographer, dress up nicely for it, have a nice dinner afterwards… Mine was low-key, just the way I like it. Went to the ceremony, collected my certificate and then home it was 😀 Wishing you well for the year ahead, and all the best with writing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Mabel, how lovely to hear from you, thank you so much for your lovely message and good wishes, as always. Time to write indeed and I hope your writing is going well too and things are not too crazy hot over there 🙂 I am barely returning to a small measure of blogging and look forward to visiting you very shortly and catching up with your news. Not only was a high school graduation an unknown to me, I also had never heard of a ‘Prom’. And the expense…ridiculous!! I like the sound of your graduation very much! By the time my son graduated from university, it was a very quiet affair indeed. He collected his degree, we had a glass of champagne in the reception lounge and then went out to dinner as a family. Perfect 🙂 Take care my friend, I hope life is treating you well and see you very soon… 🙂


  11. So glad to find you here once again and to read of times past which you describe so poignantly. Each chapter in your life is rich and to think there is more to come! I really loved how you describe this New Year as we go forward. Someone just said to me, maybe this year, maybe this year things will come together, maybe this year we will see some of our long held desires fulfilled, maybe this year! The photos were perfect for this writing and I enjoyed going down memory lane with you my dear friend. Here’s to 2018! xoxoxoxo Well I remember the burst water pipe! Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful to read your message dearest Diane! And yes, I did think of you as I wrote about the burst water pipe, knowing you would remember it all too well. Yikes indeed! It’s a good job neither of us knew what was yet to come in the years ahead! Yet, what great and many blessings and love and joy and laughter to see us through those bad times. Maybe this year…yes, we live in hope and prayer for those maybe’s, at last. I love sharing a walk down memory lane with you my dear friend. Too many memories to count. And here’s to many more in the making, 2018 and onward! With much love and a heart full of hope… ❤ ❤ ❤


  12. Sherri, you are often in my thoughts. What a great post, broken water pipe and all. I can relate to the way you felt about your son leaving home and can just see you polishing off the rest of that bottle of champagne. 🙂 Beautiful photos as always. Hope this year is a wonderful one for you. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • As you are in mine dear Sylvia, and always so lovely to see you. Ha, yes, such moments we don’t forget do we? 😉 Glad you enjoyed the pics, thank you, and for your lovely wishes as always. I wish for you the very same for the year ahead 🙂 ❤ xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Dearest Sherri, I love your post from beginning to end, and you’ve fully made up for your absence. You made me laugh, calling yourself a work in progress, but there is great wisdom in your comment, too. I think we are all “works in progress” for our entire lives. This world sure is one huge learning ground. I hope you’re almost sorted with your wonderful new pad, and will soon be able to get back to that memoir and finish beating it into shape to your satisfaction. Spring is on the way. Hope to see you before long, my dear friend. Love and hugs, Sarah xxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aww…thank you so much dearest Sarah, really glad you enjoyed it 🙂 We certainly never stop learning do we? It’s good to know! I’m heading to the memoir after this, time to get back to work after a hit and miss week last week. Knowing you’re doing the same with your WIP is a comfort 🙂 Yes, not long now and I’m enjoying finding all the bulbs sprouting into view beneath the debris in our new garden. Nice to know there’s life there! Will definitely make plans to see you soon dear friend. Much love and hugs right back to you and wishing you a good and productive week ahead 🙂 ❤ xxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s always fun the first year after you’ve moved house and inherited a garden, just seeing all those bulbs sprouting and plants blooming, some of them total surprises! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

        • The surprises are fun…but not today, I’m staying inside, it’s bitterly cold and I’m sure where you are too…brrrrrrr!!!! But at least we’re having those lovely frosts we missed so much last year! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxx

          Liked by 1 person

          • At this moment, the outside temperature is minus 4 centigrade. We haven’t had many frosts but I’m sure there will be one tonight. I much prefer it bright and cold, to grey, rainy and windy. How terribly British we’re being, discussing the weather! 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

            Liked by 1 person

            • Brrrr….and how cold it’s been this week, although a little warmer than it was. Yes, I agree, much nicer that all that wet grey. Haha…we are obsessed as a nation aren’t we? Lovely chatting always with you dearest Sarah. We’ll chat properly very soon. Been a bit full on lately, and of course with writing too, we both know how time consuming that can be. Have a lovely weekend my friend and see you soon! 🙂 Love & hugs xxxxxxxxxxxxx

              Liked by 1 person

  14. I thought I saw a glimmer from you in that field of posts I am behind reading! I’m so happy to see a friendly face here. I had no trouble picking out your son immediately before I saw the caption. He looks a lot like you. Is he still here in the states or back in England with you? I remember my children’s graduation and they were vastly different from each other. Mine could have been more celebratory but I was there in body only. I was married the very next morning. An odd life and much that didn’t go as I’d hoped but I suppose as it needed to go. Soon you will tell us all about your new place and your new life. Much has changed for you and you have done more than many with that much on their plate. Looking forward to seeing more of you soon. Giant Hugs,

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you found me Marlene! It’s crazy out there in the sea of bloggers. You and Mary above both said you could pick out my son immediately, love that! After going all the way through Kindergarten to his first year of college in California, he moved back to the UK to finish his degree and stayed, much to this momma’s huge delight and relief! He’s still here, 15 years later, as are all three of my chicks, so I am incredibly grateful. That was the hardest thing when we got ready to move back, taking the risk that I would have to bear the consequences of his decision to stay behind, if he so chose. The day he said he would come back and experience life as an adult in the UK and ‘see how he liked it’ was one of the happiest of my life 🙂 Yes, the same with differences with my children’s too. And yours, oh my! No wonder you were there in body only, that’s a huge step getting married the day after your graduation! Marlene, I can’t wait to read your meomoir. You have some story to tell. Making sense of all that didn’t go as we hoped or planned is what drives many a memoir I think. It tells the story, but it also reminds us of what it took to come through it to find our life anyway, against the odds. It has been quite a profound time, these past two years especially have kicked me back a bit, but hoping and praying that things settle now. Time to write, and hopefully blog too for us both! See you very soon Marlene. Giant hugs squeezing back 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s very good to see you Sherri – congratulations on those 5 year writing anniversaries and I hope this is THE year for you too 🙂 I loved the contrast in graduations in your memories – like you, I didn’t have a high school graduation and I don’t really even remember what happened on the last day of term, my best memory of leaving school was going to see Iggy Pop in concert the day I left!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Andrea, and it’s great to see you too! I had in mind to visit you today 😉 Who needs a graduation when you got to see Iggy Pop instead? Now that’s what I call a wonderful way to celebrate leaving school! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  16. purpleslob says:

    Sherri- so glad to see you! you didn’t have any grad ceremonies?? Wow!! That’s criminal, isn’t it??
    Lol Certainly cheaper for the parents!
    Oh that dog! Makes a good story now, tho, right??
    Your son is very handsome!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Touching memories, Sherri. It’s always a little tough when the chicks leave the nest. And graduation should be a time of celebration! It sounds like your son had fun. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. prior.. says:

    enjoyed the post and such a powerful ending – I was right there, savoring with you on the couch with the leftover champagne, oh that was so well written….

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Luanne says:

    Well, that was a memorable graduation party! Yikes! I love the champagne polishing. My son gave me an orange-flavored champagne (California) he says is yummy, but nobody to drink it with really. Maybe I should just go for it 😉 hahaha.Your post makes me a little melancholy about all those years and events behind us that will come no more!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Always share so many things in common with you, Sherri. Your kids growing up in a land that was foreign to you and yet where you made memories and your memoir, a work-in-progress. I really hope that you will finish it and find a way to get it out in the world. In any case, it is good to read you again and to witness your energy and will to go on with your life, with its load of great moments and more challenging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love talking about the similarities in our shared experiences Evelyne. I always think of you when I write about my life in California as it was then. Thank you greatly for your always wonderful encouragement of my writing. We press on and find our way through all those challenges, one day at a time 🙂


  21. Was Rome built in a day, Sherri? Honestly, there’s no need to beat yourself up about taking time to write your memoirs. ‘Slow and easy’ is a phase I’ve enjoyed using, but we won’t go into that just now. 😳 I have to congratulate you on five years of blogging. Well done. It still counts even if you haven’t published as many posts as you would have liked to. For me, this makes your posts like pieces of nougat found in a bar of Toblerone. They are my favourite part of the whole bar. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Never a truer word spoken Hugh. And it gets harder when you think you’ve built a good, strong wall, only to discover it’s in the wrong place. Moving it triggers a whole new rebuild 😉 I will stop beating myself up, promise 🙂 And thanks for the congrats. What a lovely thing to say…aww Hugh, I love the nougat in Toblerone and never thought of my infrequent posts as pieces of them…what a delightful analogy. Thank you so much, you’ve made my day 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Love your reminisces about graduations, but I really fell for the first half of this post which covers so many of the same struggles. I too have been thinking since January, “Surely this is the year?” and wishing for a change of scenery because I’ve convinced myself I would work much better if I were somewhere else and wondering why I can’t seem to finish my travel book. Hang in there, knowing you have company in the struggle. Day by day and word by word (as Anne Lamott reminds us) we’ll get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww…thanks for the company, it certainly helps ease the struggle 🙂 These things can’t be rushed no matter what we try, and life certainly does have a way of catching us off guard doesn’t it? Not conducive to writing a book, that’s for sure! But yes, indeed, n’er a better quote to hold onto. We will get there for sure! Lovely to be in touch again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Denise says:

    Love reading about your life, memoir or no, especially with your beautiful illustrative photos. Good to see you posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. A lovely post…beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Mahesh Nair says:

    Glad to be back here, Sherri. Happy new year to you and your family 🙂
    I love the cottage. Want to own it 😉
    Perhaps there’s a reason for everything. Your memoir will come out, hopefully this year. And I want to believe that people will love it. Delays happen for a reason. Wishful thinking.
    Have a wonderful year, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wonderful to see you again my friend, and a very happy new year to you too….although I can’t believe it will be March next week! Oh that cottage is a delight isn’t it? Me too!! So very kind of Mahesh, thank you greatly for your lovely message. Wishful thinking has its place 😉 I look forward to catching up with you very soon, promise! Here’s hoping for a great year for us both! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Jane Lurie says:

    Hi Sherry, I am glad I stopped by. Loved reading your reminisces and the way your writing led me through a swirl of emotions. Terrific post.

    Liked by 1 person

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