You’ve heard of the thirty nine steps, as in the famous novel and the film by Alfred Hitchcock, well I’m talking about the sixty five steps, albeit not in a hitchcocky kind of way. These muddy and often perilous steps are located in Sunnyhurst woods where we go dog walking and they are very very steep.

Yesterday was my sixty fifth birthday so naturally I felt duty bound to surmount the blessed things with the aid of my trusty walking pole and Lady Doodles of course watching me concernedly all the way up. I decided on each step to count my many blessings and also to make a wish.

It went something like this – first and foremost for my son to find happiness (and a job!!). I gave thanks for my sister and my friends and family and not forgetting Lady Doodles of course who was giving me an encouraging lick every time I lingered on a step to catch my breath and nearly knocking me back down with her boisterous concern.

I gave thanks for my HIV meds, wished for a cure for HIV and that I’d win enough money on the lottery to pay off all my debts. Then I ran out of wishes and I was only quarter of the way up. Well that was a surprise! I must be reasonably content with my lot I thought if I don’t have anything more to wish for.

I kept repeating them all again for good measure until I reached the top, uprooting the odd piece of Himalayan balsam on the way – pesky bloody stuff. It’s taking over our beautiful English countryside and Sunnyhurst woods is riddled with it to the point where the poor bluebells this spring were almost completely obliterated. Some of it is way over six foot tall and they’re the most satisfying ones to uproot. It’s called Balsam bashing.

I’ve been on a personal vendetta to get rid of at least as many as possible so they can’t come back next year, but it is an impossible task. In fact it reminds me of the HIV virus, slowly taking over, running amok and killing off everything in its path. Maybe that’s why I enjoy uprooting it so much and tossing it somewhere it can’t re-sprout, then crunching on its juicy fat stalks. Freeing the ferns! Bashing the balsam! It’s very therapeutic. Better than bubble wrap. You should try it sometime, but it’s a bit late now as autumn is upon us and everything is dying off – although thankfully not me as I have survived yet another year Himalayan balsam and HIV aside.

Luckily we have our meds to keep our ‘Himalayan balsam’ under control, at least here in the UK. Some other countries however are not as fortunate. Bugger it! I should have wished that all countries could have access to HIV medication. Oh no, I will have to go back and climb the sixty five steps all over again!!


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