British vs American

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I am about as British as they come. I am currently reading Kate Fox’s book, ‘Watching the English’ and as far as I can see, am the epitome of all things good, bad and plainly odd about the English. A few examples:

. I share the same rather dry, self deprecating and ironical humour of my fellow Brits.

. I cringe at the ‘too gushing’, ‘overfamiliar’ or ‘over enthusiastic’ preferring the British understatement. (Eg when suffering bronchial pneumonia, to describe it as ‘a bit of a bother’)

. I too endure the awkwardness of replying “how do you do?” when asked the same question even though it actually isn’t a question to be answered but simply to be repeated.

. And, after twenty painful minutes of goodbyes in various forms with promises to meet up soon with someone whom we know our husband loathes, we sigh a momentous sigh of relief and swear that we’ll never do it again … but we always do, after all, wouldn’t it be rude not to?

And I haven’t even reached the chapter on queuing which I am sure is imminent.

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These are in truth, slightly strange foibles and yet having had them soaked into us by way of osmosis since birth, they are our “normal”. Nevertheless I am sure that to non-Brits they are also rather peculiar, even slightly irritating and without doubt, confusing.

And as someone who is soon to be moving to the States, I do wonder if my fellow Americans from across the pond have any interesting quirks that I should be aware of I should loathe to make a faux pas or twenty on the first day. To date I have found everyone remarkably jolly and inclusive, but perhaps they were just being polite to this strange English woman …

In order to err on the side of caution, I have therefore made some preliminary enquiries and so far have established the following:

Apparently we Brits work shorter hours, have more holiday and get up later in the mornings. However, supposedly we get more exercise and eat less pizza but drink far more tea.

Also, I understand that pants are not referring to ones underwear, but instead, to trousers.

A purse is a handbag, not a … purse.

And if you are pissed, you’re not sublimely cream-crackered or a teensy bit tipsy, you’re actually rather cross.

So with all this information to hand, I’ve told my husband to prepare himself for a long working day, to put the bowler hat into storage, and should I ever get pissed, to remind me to not try to hide my purse in my pants … it clearly wouldn’t work.

Just to clarify however …

a) I don’t get ‘pissed’ in case anyone is wanting to throw that at me (!) and

b) I don’t recall ever having tried to hide my purse down my knickers … my bra yes, but that was when I was travelling through some very dodgy areas on a particularly bad holiday many years ago … I did have to put a sock in the other side as I was a tad unbalanced and lumpy, but crikey, despite being rather broke, I found it was quite an impressively exciting sight.

Anyway, should anyone have any suggestions or tips, you could not find a more grateful recipient.

Katie x

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Mental Strength …

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I am a simple creature. I am not on the same intellectual planet as many of you; and yet my little world is my ‘normal’.

My world is a complex combination of beautiful yet rugged landscapes, alternating between The Great Plains of Steely Determination, The Dark Forests of Fluffy Blondness, and The Deep Seas of Optimism and Hope.

My brain is forever randomly spinning off from one region to another, with speed and agility from years of practice. And as a planet attacked with repetitively exploding asteroids, with constant storms, volcanoes and earthquakes of my incessant thoughts and ruminations, life here is rarely calm and sedate. Indeed, it is exhausting.

Occasionally however the power of my mind can override the bedlam and I take a brief trip into your peaceful world. But it takes gargantuan mental strength to gently drape a veil of calmness over me, muffling the noise and slowing the racing chaos.

And what have I tried? Breathing techniques, yoga, music, exercise, meditation and drugs (prescription only I hasten to add), whale music, dolphin music, you name it, I’ve tried it.

And the outcome? Yes, they do work, but only if one ingredient, one teensy factor, is added.

And that is the deep down, passionate, unadulterated and unfiltered WANT to make it work.

I have to fight the storms in my mind, battle the asteroids and have my own personal war in my head to allow peace to take hold and calm the crazy nervous energy. It is a battle of wills, my wills.

Mental strength … is it the most powerful tool that we have?

Katie x

FREEDOM!

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Sitting yesterday outside my coffee shop, I heard a man coming towards me. In actual fact until he came into sight, his gender was questionable due to the extremely high notes that he was singing. Indeed, the word ‘singing’ should be used rather loosely as well …

He was tall, wearing dark sports clothes and carrying a backpack with a couple of racquet handles poking out of the top. Finally, atop his head and covering his ears he wore an oversized pair of headphones. Headphones that clearly were muffling the sounds of the outside world whilst immersing him into his own wonderful bubble of music. And how he sang!

Great, sudden high-pitched screeches with wild arm movements sent fellow pedestrians ducking and fleeing in fright. Long and musically debatable notes were (loosely) held until he began to run out of breath; whereupon he appeared to grapple with deciding whether to continue on the warbling note, or to allow some much required air into his oxygen-depleted body.

His walking pace slowed, his arms raised high as he momentarily paused creating a brief silence as his audience of coffee drinkers and pedestrians alike also held their breaths in anticipation … He then took a deep and long inward gasping of breath and then burst forth with renewed vigour, passion and more animalistic wailing noises and his walking pace quickened once again. His head moved vigorously from side to side and a wide, broad smile beamed across his face.

As he passed us and went on his merry way, we all smiled at each other, brought together for a moment in time, enjoying the happiness of one individual, so deep in his own happy world and so oblivious to ours, that we almost felt a little envious. How carefree! How wonderful!

And it made me wonder, when was the last time that I felt that free and uninhibited? Indeed, when did you last feel and breezy? For me, it was cycling in France. Perhaps time has made me nostalgic, but of late I find myself pondering wistfully of my month away with only myself and Claude my bicycle to consider. The freedom was so utterly welcome, it was bewitching. I had indeed liberated, and seeing the man yesterday, made me yearn for it once again.

Perhaps the man had returned from a tennis or squash session and was high on endorphins; in which case I think I should dig out my own racquet and balls. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he was simply high on life. In which case I shall consider another trip, another adventure to bring back that glorious, glorious feeling of total and blissful freedom.

Katie x

Do you feel free?

Do you yearn to be liberated from your anxieties, marriage, commitments or depression?

New Year’s Eve! Arghhhh!

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New Year’s Eve. It’s coming, and I’m sorry but I loathe it. I loathe it about as much as someone eating a giant packet of crisps in the cinema during the quiet, romantic bits; I loathe it as much as doing my tax return or going to the fridge to heat up the beautiful quiche that I’ve spent hours making, only to discover that someone has eaten it ‘for a snack’! A snack, I ask you. Good God!

In my twenties, I loved New Year’s Eve. Wonderfully huge parties, everyone excited and happy and always the hope of meeting a heavenly hunk from Hampshire … oooh the thrill of young love!

In my thirties, I was married; there was the patter of tiny feet (quite a lot of feet actually) and my husband, married friends and I would have raucous and rather badly behaved dinner parties as if trying to recapture one’s twenties whilst the children slept upstairs. However in truth, we all secretly longed to join their blissful slumber. But we forced jollity, drank too much, ate too much and woke up the following morning feeling ghastly with a mass of squeaky, cranky children.

I am now in my forties. I have since divorced, remarried, and my children are going to their own parties. I feel as thought I should be going out and celebrating. I feel as though I ought to be standing outside in the freezing cold of London in winter waiting for the fireworks. And yet, call me dull, dreary and drab, but I just don’t feel the need to conform any more; to please anyone or to look for a handsome hunk from Hampshire (in truth, men from the Home Counties are a little predictable and conservative for me).

So forgive me if I don’t post pictures of myself waving a sparkler and popping champagne at midnight on the 31st, but this Cinderella needs her beauty sleep (and clearly plenty of it!). May I however, wish everyone, for when the golden hour arrives, a very, very Happy New Year. Let’s start afresh, leave the past behind and have our best year yet!

Katie x

(Without blatantly reminding me how boring I am 😁), what will YOU being doing on New Year’s Eve?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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For anyone out there who is like me, awake, excited and wanting to wake everyone up in the house, plus all the neighbours, … Happy Christmas!

And for those in different time zones, Happy Almost Christmas and Happy Boxing Day!

Have a wonderful day, and may it be full of love.

Katie xx

I’m Trying To Be A Better Person

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Sometimes I encounter and consequently ‘suffer’ from first world problems. These can be anything from a late train, an unexplained rattling in the car when it reaches 80 miles an hour, or running out of truffle oil; (no of course I don’t really keep truffle oil, I’m just exaggerating to make a point), and then yes, I have a little whinge.

My husband, known as The Colonel, simply looks at me over his glasses and raises an eyebrow. This usually renders me suitably chastised and I usually give a snort, tell him to ‘sod off’ in my typically eloquent manner and reduce my whinge to a “mutter-with-attitude”.

A fellow blogger (A Fractured Faith) wrote recently about the homeless and it rather spurred me on to do something useful and to press the pause button on this shoddy behaviour. So I hunted around the cupboard upstairs and emerged with:

. An old sleeping bag

. A military windproof, waterproof, everything-proof coat

. The softest, warmest blanket that I gave to my late mother and have been struggling to throw out

. Some toiletries in rather natty little airline bags (apologies for the revolting word …. Toiletries, Soiled, Moist and Toilet make me squirm. It’s the ‘oi’ thing. However, also Gusset and Lubrication. Enough said.)

Having lugged these items down to both the train station and High Street twice in the search for someone ‘in need’, and returning on my bicycle still fully laden, I was in danger of losing my inner Samaritan. But, third time lucky and I found a lovely chap with a dog who despite having everything that he needed, directed me to a gentleman who apparently did.

By now it was late afternoon, the sun had dipped beneath the trees and it was cold. Terribly cold. It was just starting to drizzle and the wind was picking up when I saw him. A narrow, hunched dark shape with the sleeves of his thin jacket pulled over his hands. He was shaking; not just his arms, but his entire body. He looked up at me and I smiled. Slowly and gently we began to chat. A thin, cold scrawny man with nothing to his name. No address, money, belongings or education.

His past was something of a horror story and the fact that he was still alive was either a miracle or testament to his courage.

I came away feeling humbled, ashamed and also angry at ‘the system’. He was so grateful for the pathetic bits and bobs that I gave him and so willing to talk to me, a silly middle aged, middle class woman with an expensive haircut and a propensity to buy expensive Christmas baubles. In the end, I felt grateful to this gentleman.

I am trying to help him further but suffice to say, it’s a minefield out there with a system with no money and too many people needing help. I shall continue but the longer I take, the colder the weather is getting.

I came home feeling not sanctimonious, pious or as though I had morphed into Mother Theresa, but just plain humbled.

Since then I have been making a conscious effort to (attempt to) restrain my irritations at unimportant first world issues and be grateful for what I have. Although having just re-read that I realise that I now sound like a prize knob so I’ll perhaps retract it, but it does make one think…

And finally, when I told my son about this and the horrors of being homeless (trying to educate my 20 year old son is I realise locking the stable door well and truly after the horse has bolted) he calmly informed me that the sleeping bag I had just given away was not my old one, but in fact belonged to him. Bugger. Thankfully he has a far nicer nature than me and just patted my shoulder. I think he muttered something about the onset of dementia but by then I was back in the cupboard again trying to work out if the military jacket I’d just handed out was not my other sons old CCF one, but in fact belonged to the Colonel … God I’m an arse.

Katie xx

Are there many homeless people in your neighbourhood?

How does your council/state/ country help them?

Lethargy, Depression and the Slippery Slope

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I’ve had to have a wee chat with myself of late. In truth it was more of a stern waggling of the finger involving some rude words and the occasional metaphorical kick in the shins.

And why? Because I was sensing a slight return of the lethargy, the tiredness and the excuses. The desire to light a fire, put on a pair of unattractive fluffy socks, matching pyjamas and woolly hat and vegetate makeup free was fast becoming just a little too appealing. Now fear not, I have come to recognise this. It is my very own slippery slope; my uncontrollable freewheeling downhill on Claude the bicycle when the brakes have failed and the only option, unless I am prepared to hit rock bottom, is to take an almighty leap to get off in the full knowledge that it’s going to hurt.

The problem with my ‘slippery slope’ is that the end point is even more unattractive than me in a pair of fluffy pyjamas. You see, I’m just not that kind of gal. I’m a “where’s my nothingness of a silk nightie … can’t find it … never mind, better do a Marilyn Monroe and wear nothing but Chanel No 5.” You get the gist … I fear that if I didn’t jump off said slippery slope, within a fortnight I’d have eaten my body weight in ginger nut biscuits, would be drinking like a fish and be found, the size of a small whale reading Barbara Cartland, wedged under the bed. As it happens I have always had great admiration for Barbara; frankly anyone who managed to write that many books is a hero in my mind – I can’t even do one (yet).

Now don’t get me wrong, I can give you a thousand reasons why I should be kind to myself and give in to the lethargy. Well, one or two …. my folate levels are apparently low, and ummm, well it’s winter isn’t it?

So in truth, without a plethora of excuses, I’ve had a ‘wee chat’ with myself, have bounced out of bed, slapped on some face (makeup, to the men out there), have embraced the cold air with gusto and have come to my coffee shop. Much too long a sentence once again and for that I’m sorry, but you see I’m just a bit excited. I took that metaphoric almighty leap off the freewheeling bicycle and not only was it easier this time, but the landing didn’t hurt. Yes, it’s only a meagre trip out of the house, but what I’ve found is that if I start the day with the right attitude, everything follows suit with my jobs done and the house and husband sorted. I then go to bed that night happy, fulfilled and tired enough that whether I’m in my birthday suit, a beautiful little nothingness of a silk number (marriage number two therefore efforts and standards must prevail you understand) or wearing a flannel onesie with a picture of Bart Simpson on it, I’ll sleep like a baby and the slippery slope will be a thing of the past. Or at least until the next day …

Katie xx

Of COURSE I’m not going to ask what you wear in bed … as if … but instead, what do you do to combat lethargy?