Happiness Around a Table

As many of you know, I’m a British lass temporarily living in the US. Previously unaccustomed to American traditions, last year we were Thanksgiving virgins. Kindly invited to celebrate the event with some new American friends and their family, I can say with hand on heart, it was up there with one of the best days I’ve had.

It was like Christmas but without the focus being on presents. In essence it involved a lot of food, noise, chatter, happy people and a plethora of overexcited dogs and children. There were no strange gifts of apricots steeped in brandy from a distant relation destined to remain for years beyond their sell-by-date at the back of the kitchen cupboard, (the apricots, sadly not the relation ); no more tie-dyed bandanas from a well-meaning great aunt Flossie; and no more pairs of amusingly decorated socks from the halfwitted uncle with a penchant for filthy jokes in front of the aforementioned Great Aunt Flossie and the children. Just everyone bringing a little something to contribute to the meal itself and a great deal of happiness.

Being at times unable to shake off some of my rather stuffy British traits, I do however find the group hand-holding and public verbalising in front of a large group of mainly total strangers what I am grateful for to be utter purgatory. Being unable to speak in public, (and by that I mean in front of more than a group of two people), as last year my moment for the firing squad of eyes to be directed upon me approached, my mind went blank, my unfortunate neighbour had to endure my increasingly sweaty palms and starry dizziness began to take hold. This of course is a classic case of brain becoming overwhelmed, body and aforementioned brain entering total paralysis, followed by a tendency to fall rather dramatically to the floor, thereby requiring smelling salts or a slap around the face to bring me around—the former obviously being preferable to the latter. However, with a hefty glug of wine and a determination of not wanting to let the British side down, I managed to stutter a little drivel about friends and family and excellent food. My darling husband long since being aware of my propensity to drop indelicately to the floor, gave me an encouraging smile.

He however was seated at the far end of the table, next to our hostess, the warmest and most kindly of women and at an age of well over eighty years. With total sincerity and a broad grin he looked her directly in the eye and confessed to being grateful and honoured to having been being seated next to the best-looking chick at the table. They have been firm friends ever since.

So with Thanksgiving once again just around the corner, there’s understandably a lot of talk at the moment of what we’re grateful for and I’d just like to say to everyone (without you having to hold my sweaty palms) that I’m grateful for all of you. For listening to my drivel, reading my nonsense and encouraging me and each other for our lovely little blogging world.

Katie x

An Army Wife … What Makes a Marriage Work?

That’s me. A military wife, and probably the most unlikely one.

Compared to the disciplined and structured life that soldiers and officers exist in, I am chaotic, untidy and quite possibly verging on unhinged. Quite how the marriage works, you may well ask, and I can only assume that the more we analyse, the theory of opposites attracting is becoming less theoretical and more factual.

We tease each other relentlessly. And the fact of the matter is, if I was married to someone as slovenly as myself, it would surely only be a matter of time before I started clearing up supper the following morning and leaving my endless reams of paper from the book scattered on every surface, and the screwed up balls of discarded nonsense strewn over the floor for days. God forbid, I might not even get dressed in the mornings …. although I do have wonderful daydreams of floating around the apartment in a silk kimono, scarlet lips sipping on a coupe glass of champagne as I listen to Vivaldi, whilst writing frenzied chapters of the book …

The Colonel (aka my husband) tells me he would loathe be married to a female version of himself. Oddly, I get that. But imagine how tidy their cupboards would be. From time to time he sorts out the kitchen and I swear that when I came back from my cycling jaunt the herbs and spices were lined up in alphabetical order. Although, in his defence, tidying is therapeutic.

So perhaps we all need a little bit of opposites attracting alongside compatibility, love and understanding of each other. And perhaps also we need our friends of the same sex to offload the drivel to. I’ve recently finished the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin who says just that. Sometimes women need women and men need men.

So, as the Colonel finishes organising and holding a socially distanced Remembrance Service at the UN, my eyes well up with pride and admiration. I certainly don’t have his qualities of planning but I guess we all bring something to the table … in this instance, it’s a huge chocolate cake, specially for him with maybe a bit of ice cream on the side.

Katie x

Just How Perfect Are You?

A few weeks ago, society appeared to be divided into two camps. There were those who took the Coronavirus seriously, did as they were told, stayed in and didn’t excessively stock up on lavatory paper. This group consisted of ’the majority of people’.

Then, there was a second group, consisting of a combination of young adults who took to having house, street and beach parties (when the weather was fair) combined with a handful of the more elderly and dare I say it, faintly belligerent generation. (This latter group of septuagenarians and octogenarians claiming that if the war hadn’t got them, then neither would this piddly germ and frankly if they wanted to take their daily fifteen mile drive to collect The Telegraph, then they jolly well would). Within this group of ‘those who would not obey’, both parties blamed each other, not only for the spread of the virus but also the lack of the aforementioned lavatory paper.

However, times have calmed and we’re (generally speaking) all now doing what we’re told and life is tootling merrily along. Parents have lifted all time restrictions whatsoever on their children’s iPads and phones as they realise the hypocrisy as their own weekly ‘screen time’ update is into the double figures per day. People are finding enormous pleasure in the occasional arrival of an online delivery, far too much comfort in the contents of the fridge and most notably, starting to sweat at the rapidly declining contents of the ‘drinks cupboard’.

However whilst as a nation we have now joined together whether that be by clapping and cheering for the NHS, or simply the unity felt by ‘all being in this together’, there appears to be another two groups unfolding and emerging. They are as follows:

1) The ‘Mary Poppins’ variety

This group keenly suggests ways we occupy our newly found time by learning a new skill such as learning Swahili on Duolingo whilst baking gluten-free, fat-free canapés to go with alcohol-free drinks at six o’clock (and not a minute earlier). They are encouraging us to mimic their exercise regimes that would put Joe Wicks to shame and embracing our inner decluttered selves. The photos of their beautifully made-up faces in their perfectly neutral-toned harmonious homes are are seen by some of us mere mortals as ’inspiring’, but by others as ‘sanctimonious little f*****s.’ Whichever way they are viewed however, they remain calm in their down-dog yoga stance, whilst sipping herbal tea and micro-scheduling their day.

On the other hand there is a second group, commonly known as

2) Everyone Else …

This is a large collection of the population who will now happily pay a total stranger any amount of money to take their children and their sodding homeschooling off their hands; those whose wine o’clock which used to begin as soon as the taps were turned on at kids bath-time, now starts at lunchtime; those who regretted from day one having invited granny to stay and those who never again want to hear the patronising nasal tones of their husband’s boss giving his daily virtual meetings whilst having to tiptoe around the house with a screaming toddler, an hormonal teenager with attitude and a dog with diarrhoea who has just eaten the left leg of the sofa. Was someone having a laugh when they allowed hormonal teenagers into the same house as a mother mid peri-menopause? And as for the husband, well as soon as the sodding lawyer answers his sodding phone, the Decree Nisi will be thrust down somebody’s sodding throat …

But all is not lost. For one day, this too shall pass and we’ll emerge from our homes, irrespective of whichever group we had momentarily belonged to. And, as we step out, blinking in the sunlight of our newly found freedom, we can be assured of unity once again, unity in our extraordinary memories of a strange, strange time.

Kx

Shhh! He’s in a Meeting … (Again)

It’s surprising how noisy a kettle is whilst boiling.

As the Colonel logs onto yet another meeting, I snarl and curse at myself for not having made my coffee before he started.

I’ve tried various methods of quietening it, such as covering it with a towel, but that was met with much waving of arms and pointing. Apparently it was a fire hazard. I’ve tried filling it only half full, but nope, even noisier. So I wait until the meetings are over, the phone calls end and then I make a dash to the stove and make a large pot of coffee … bliss.

I tiptoe around our open-plan apartment wondering if it would be rude to suggest his meetings move to the closet. I ponder over buying an electric kettle which I can attach to a power socket in the corridor outside and I momentarily ponder whether I have an addiction to coffee and obviously dismiss this immediately.

But let’s brush, swoosh and whoosh away the negatives … for positivity shall reign, and my positive news is … that I have mastered the art of the Chocolate Soufflé. I have conquered my fear of the sinking soufflé.

I shall admit this is not world-breaking news, indeed most of you can probably already make this light as a feather, airy and moist ramekin of deliciousness. It is heaven in a bowl with a dollop of ice cream. So much so that yes, I use that awful cringe-worthy word moist which in my squirming mind sits alongside soiled and gusset. But I digress, it is such a piece of heaven that I would be willing to forfeit my coffee for this utter delight.

So whilst we enter into another groundhog week of the same again, I search again for something new to dilute the monotony. We’re safe so there’s no complaining, but I must confess to a sense of pleasure in an achievement so small. Perhaps I shall try the Japanese soufflé pancakes or start learning Swahili on Duolingo. Either way, if the Colonel could perhaps make his way to the closet with his laptop and phone, I could make that darn cup of coffee …

Kx

Ps. Do you have a positive that obliterated any negatives from the weekend?

This is Manhattan …

There are no yellow cabs now in Manhattan.

The streets are empty with only a few scurrying individuals collecting their groceries, faces all but hidden behind masks. Except the eyes. Darting, accusatory and nervous.

There are no tourists wearing their backpacks, looking lost and filling the horse drawn carriages for an expensive saunter around Central Park. The enterprising men and occasionally women who dance, juggle, sing and leap over each other to make a few bucks from anyone who’ll watch are all gone. … Except one solitary man, who sits just a few yards from Times Square. He has no shoes but wears long, dark shorts and a faded cap, and in his hands he holds an old battered pair of drumsticks. In front of him are a variety of pots, tins and the occasional glass jar. Every single day he is there. He sits and beats out some sounds with a strangely beautiful rhythm. But today he lacks his energy; he is wilting. He has no audience and the street is empty.

In Central Park, parents sharply order their children to walk in single file behind them and curtly step off the path to let others pass. Scarves are quickly lifted to cover strained-looking faces.

There is a solitary helicopter hovering above the edge of the park. There are very few police on the streets, but there is order. Silent queues stretch around the block from the grocery store.

With empty avenues and streets, the true numbers of the homeless are glaringly apparent. Lying on the subway gratings where the warm air blows, in filthy doorways and on the sun-warmed benches around Columbus Circle … anywhere offering some shelter. But without a tourist in sight and few people passing, their opportunities for donations of money, food or cigarettes are limited.

For a few hours each morning in Central Park, dogs are allowed off their leads. They bounce and bound, oblivious to the troubles of the world, simply enjoying their daily freedom, chasing the pigeons and squirrels. It is their same routine every single day without a single care or worry to curtail their fun. Bliss.

Kx

Ps What’s it like with you? Is it the same or different? Where are you?

Yoga Pants, Avocados and Other Trends …

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s, ‘Avocado and Prawns with a Rose Marie Sauce’ was considered the height of sophistication. Sadly this delicious trend went into hibernation for a couple of decades but I confess to utter delight when it made something of a comeback.

It seems that now Avocado Toast (sadly without a prawn in sight) is the alternative trend, particularly if eaten at a trendy table on the sidewalk at an expensive Manhattan brasserie whilst wearing Lululemon yoga pants.

Wearing yoga pants (or yoga bottoms to my Brit friends) is also quite the ’thing’ at the moment. Another trend. These are not however to be confused with cotton leggings often seen with a v.p.l., saggy, baggy knees, and tucked into ten year old UGG boots – this is a very different look.

Wearing these tightly fitting pieces of Lycra understandably gives the impression that one is either on the way to, or has just left a class; thus meaning that they’re a busy person with a busy schedule, who takes exercise seriously. They’re worn by the sort of woman with good legs and a pert bottom who has a weekly mani/pedi and blowout. They are not the sort who would ever be late to collect their children from school and only ever shaves their legs in the summer. ie Normal human beings. No, these yoga pants people are in control of their lives.

I now aspire to be a Yoga Pant Person.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this current trend has not gone unnoticed by the Colonel, indeed most men, and, in what I can only consider to be a moment of madness or unrealistic optimism, he recently bought me a pair.

Whether he was suggesting I needed more activity in my life to tone my derrière I don’t know, but the effort of squeezing myself into something more akin to a wetsuit was enough aerobic activity to bring me out in a sweat. I am now the proud, if faintly hesitant owner of a pair of dark green yoga pants.

I can only assume that this is what a pair of Bridget Jones’s big knickers or Spanx do. In short, they suck in and elevate.

My bottom has been lifted and is now self-isolating away from the backs of my upper thighs which is quite a novelty … they’ve been too close for a number of years. The seams and stitching seem to take the focus away from lumps and bumps and yet, despite being tightly squeezed in (to the extent that I may require additional help to extricate myself), I can move and bend very easily. These pants have in the space of 3 minutes, taken five years off my legs and bottom. No wonder people are wearing them.

I am now trying to remember those old yoga moves whilst the Colonel looks on in amusement. I can’t say I’d ever go outside in public in them, when life returns to normal, but then again, my mind has been broadened with these new trends and if there was a prawn cocktail involved who knows?

Kx

Pure Purgatory …!

Many (many) moons ago in the freezing cold winters at school, we were told that if we sat on the hot radiators, we would get piles. We were also told we would get them if we sat around doing nothing.

As far as I know, none of us ever did succumb to this supposed fate worse than death, but I don’t think we knew what they were anyway. I wonder we didn’t smell a rat, but Google was not around in those days to either dispel or confirm these rumours and the library didn’t have any radiators at all, so it was unlikely we would have ventured in there.

But old habits die hard. I still loathe being cold and can’t sit still for very long, particularly when the football is on or during long films with subtitles. This has been noted by the Colonel who gives a little twitch of his nose and an audible sigh when I get fidgety and he yelps when in bed I put my cold feet between his thighs … please note, it’s absolutely the best place to warm them, but you might be met with resistance.

Our apartment thankfully is warm however. It has also been cleaned within an inch of its life which as I’ve said before is like therapy for me … it also keeps me active. But there’s only so much cleaning one can do. So, I’ve started doing a little yoga on the sitting room floor which reminded me of a post I did a long time ago …

*********

Today I enrolled in my first yoga session. Dear God. I’ve just become one of the yummy mummies, but by walking into the mirror-clad room, not so yummy I notice. Quite what happens after two children and hitting forty I really don’t know but frankly everything seems to have dropped further south than The Cape of Good Hope since I last put on my gym kit. Soon I’m going to be needing some sort of a bra-like contraption to lift my buttocks off my calves …. particularly in comparison to our yoga teacher.

To age this woman is nigh on impossible. She’s all long bouncy hair and hoopy earrings and wears what appears to be a leatherette thong over her leotard.

I feel a little over-dressed and overwhelmed. I’m also rather glad that I’ve not brought the the Colonel with me for moral support. He’d be both sniggering and drooling simultaneously. I also hope we don’t have to listen to whale music and trickling water. Oh. Yes, we clearly we do.

Her body flexes and bends in ways that bodies frankly shouldn’t and yet watching her catlike grace and elegance as she fluidly moves from one position to another is quite mesmerising. Everyone is concentrating and silence reigns apart from the the whale music and trickling water which now has some African drums added to it. The water is making me need the loo and the more I think about it the more I need it.

“Focus your mind” she says soothingly, elongating the word mind as her buttocks point to the ceiling.

I’m trying to think about what I’m going to cook for supper rather than the loo.

“Find your inner wisdom” she purrs. Inner bloody wisdom – it’s all I can do to clench my buttocks to prevent an involuntary escape of air from my bottom.

She’s moving around the room, adjusting everyones legs and arms. She’s coming to me …. oh right … not so gentle and calm now is she, as she pulls my arm higher towards the ceiling and my hip further out – my balance is going … I clutch at her leg. Her hoopy earrings have now attached themselves to my hair and it takes a few seconds to restore order with my muttering apologies snappishly hushed. Finally, having been red-faced for the remainder of the class, I leave the purgatory sharpish, desperate to escape, never to return.

But then again, I do feel rather nicely stretched out and there’s a class later in the week with someone called George. Perhaps I might give his class a go instead.

***********

Keep busy and happy!

Kx

Working From Home … Together?

So here we are, husband and wife, working from home in our apartment in New York. Well, when I say working, the Colonel is working and I am doing everything else whilst he peers at me over the screen of his laptop, giving suggestions as to how I should fill the dishwasher. Need I say that if this continues, there may be an imminent need for the funeral directors and it won’t be due to Coronavirus…

We can’t complain as we have a little bit of space here so it’s not too claustrophobic an apartment and the view is lovely, looking onto the Hudson with New Jersey beyond and of course the strangely quiet streets below. Not too exciting if plane spotting is your thing, or you like watching the cruise ships coming in, but lovely nonetheless and cabin-fever hasn’t set in yet.

Being cooped up here for too long without much exercise and a penchant for making the perfect chocolate pudding may mean that when we return to freedom I shall need an American version of Weight Watchers; but for now, I shall not worry. I’m eating better as the Colonel is around so I can’t skip lunch, (although he has now discovered how many cups of coffee I really drink), and am taking care of my mental health by cleaning like a demon … (yes, it works – doesn’t matter if it’s a room or just a drawer) … Not that I’ve got the urge to hide under the bed with a twin pack of biscuits, the cat and a bottle of wine, but years ago I had my moments like the best of us … And of course it’s very useful having one’s husband at home to explain slowly and deliberately that yes, my phone will behave badly if I have 124 tabs open at any given time.

So the apartment is beyond clean; it’s been hoovered, mopped, dusted and disinfected and while the smell of Lemon Lysol is lingering heavily in the air, I’m not entirely sure whether I like citrus very much after all. Perhaps buying it wholesale at Costco was not such a good idea; we have six month’s worth at least, but I’m assuming we won’t be here that long … will we?

Katie x

Last Week I Met an Author.

Last week I met the author Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE. She has written 35 novels, sold over 30 million copies and is apparently worth in excess of 300 million dollars. That’s a lot of books and an awful lot of money.

When I think of us all tap, tapping away on our iPads and laptops with our spellcheckers and predictive text working overtime, I wonder if when she began in the 1970’s she wrote on a manual typewriter with a dictionary and thesaurus to hand.

She was charming and very beautiful. I was star struck and developed a rather strange lisping stutter. I did however manage to ask her how disciplined she was about her writing. Ridiculous question of course, but surprising that I managed to utter any words given the sudden vocal constraints. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I told you she starts at five o’clock every morning and with only a short break at lunch, continues writing all day. Ahh! So yes, really rather disciplined.

So with this in mind, I have adjusted my daily schedule to, if not exactly rising at five, certainly by nine o’clock I am wrestling once again with my final editing. I’ve begun researching appropriate agents and pondering over query letters and all the while, thinking about beautiful Barbara and how hard she works, day in, day out despite being over 80. Quite an inspiration. I just wish I hadn’t have offered to find her a cab … of course she had her driver waiting for her downstairs … what a durr I am.

Katie xx

Is there anyone who really inspires you to write or work?

Rugby and Baking Bread …

When I was in England, I owned a bread maker. Cumbersome, bulky and noisy, it did however produce, with very little input from Yours Truly, a magnificent loaf.

Imagine for a moment if you will, the smooth, mellow smell of freshly baked bread drifting from room to room; Can you hear the blade of the knife cracking through the crust? Can you see the sharp crumbs exploding outwards before the knife finally reaches the air-filled soft pillow of bread lying within? And the silky butter glistening, sliding and melting into the billowing warmth until finally one’s salivating mouth can savour and devour the taste, the texture, the pure heaven of a simple slice of bread and butter?

From this, I trust you have deduced that I love bread.

With delights and joy such as this, is hardly surprising 12 million loaves are sold every day and that entire books have been written about baking a loaf of bread. And yet, since living here in New York, I have tasted only one good loaf and it cost just shy of 7 dollars. “7 dollars?!” I hear you screech … yes. It used to make me screech too, now I just whimper and close my eyes as I painfully hand over a ten dollar bill. Don’t even bother work out how much that it in pounds. It’s simply, a lot. There is cheaper bread, but it is grim, partly due to the excessive sugar content. So, because I am essentially tight, I bought an american bread maker, flour and yeast, and for the next consecutive ten days I made a loaf of bread. Surely in the long run, this would be more cost effective? Apparently not. Ten days, ten disasters.

Dropping a loaf of bread with the consistency and weight of a London brick makes quite a noise as it travels at speed down 49 floors in a refuse chute. The crashes, rattles and hollow echoes boom way their way down to the basement. Another disappointment. Another bread-making disaster.

The Colonel raises an eyebrow at the latest effort, a twitch of a smile faintly teasing at his lips. “No toast for breakfast then?” He tentatively asks, looking at the gnarled solid body of inedible, semi-cooked flour in my hands. I harrumph and turn to go to the refuse chute at the end of the corridor once more.

“I could use this thing to sodding knock you out,” I mutter, clutching my loaf.

“And half of Manhattan,” he snorts with laughter.

On his return from a trip to London, he brings me presents. Amongst the other more romantic trinkets, there is a kilogram bag of strong bread flour and some yeast. He is nothing if not eternally hopeful and practical. The flour is Canadian, the yeast British. I try again.

Loaf number eleven I could smell as I woke. I don’t do jumping out of bed for fear of dislocating something, but this morning was the exception. A little jump and consequently having to limp to the kitchen, I peered through the viewing window of the bread maker. Dear God it worked! Hallelujah!

It is not perfection, but with a little help from Britain and Canada, I have made my first half decent loaf of bread. The Colonel and my son are still asleep having been up all hours watching some rugby which apparently was quite important. They have since gone back to their respective beds looking dour.

I wonder if the prospect of bacon sarnies for breakfast will raise the mood. One minor issue if I’m having to import flour and yeast, I suspect my loaf of bread is probably going to cost significantly more than 7 dollars …. hmmm. Might need to have a re-think.

Katie x

Food Shopping – Oh The Joy!

We live in an apartment. It’s an apartment in Manhattan with one of those downstairs reception hall places with people in uniforms who sit behind a big modern desk with lots of telephones and say, “Have a nice day” each and every time you pass them. That’s a lot of “Have a nice days”. They also give me a spare key every time I forget mine and call me to ask if I need the fire department when I set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Its a bit posh for me, but they’re lovely and we understand each other.

Yesterday I made the unfortunate decision to go to Costco to do some food shopping. Now, just to be clear, I obviously have aspirations to be a Waitrose or Wholefoods kind of ‘gal but I believe that I must have some Scottish ancestry which makes me … shall we say, ‘careful with money’. Therefore Costco is my weekly shop.

I had forgotten that at weekends however the trains often have delays because this is when maintenance work is done. I had also forgotten that if it looks like it’s merely drizzling from the apartment windows, it is actually gale force one zillion with horizontal rain once you step outside.

Being Autumn, I had worn my ‘Glasgow’ coat which the Colonel bought me on a posting to Scotland a couple of years ago. My lovely coat with its fleecy lining reaches mid-thigh, and has a hood with soft fluffy bits that frame one’s face. It is supposed to be completely waterproof. I now know that it is not.

I sat in a puddle on the train squeezing ineffectively the drenched sleeves whilst listening to my Audible book “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody and muttered in French every few seconds the response to his questions. I can now say, “I am afraid of flying, so am planning to take the Eurostar”. I know for a fact this sentence will never be useful to me, but perhaps the next chapter will be more relevant.

By the time I had walked from the subway station and arrived at Costco I was wet from my forehead to my knickers and from my knickers to my squelching sodden shoes. My neatly written shopping list had turned to papier-mâché in my pocket and the quirky turquoise ink that I like to use had transferred, not only onto my right hand, but clearly I had been touching or wiping my face rather a lot too. In fact, the only part of me which was dry was the back of my head, and as for the soft fluffy hood delicately framing my face? I looked like I was draped in a collection of small drowned rats’ tails.

Having squelched and shuffled my way round Costco, it took an hour and a half to get from the checkout queue back to my apartment. And, as I walked into the reception hallway, three wide pairs of eyes looked at me from behind the desk.

“Don’t say it!” I said through gritted teeth. “It’s not a good day.”

They looked sympathetically up and down at me, tutting and shaking their heads. Then they nodded, looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Ma’am, have a better day!” and roared with laughter. Bollocks to the lot of them.

As for the “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody, by the time I had gotten home and onto the next chapter, I could say, “I was about to book a taxi when you called me”.

As I’m too tight to get a taxi, I don’t see that this is ever going to be relevant either … although perhaps it would have saved me the delayed trains, the soaking knickers and the turquoise face … as for my Glasgow coat … I don’t believe the fluffy bits will ever look the same.

Katie x

Ps. Before you ask what the relevance of the picture is, there isn’t any, it just made me feel wonderful simply looking at it!

Mental Health and Selfies …

I don’t follow the Kardashians, or their voluptuous bottoms.

I think I might quite like a derrière like theirs, but I wouldn’t want surgery, and if I had to do those squat exercises … Well, nope. I’d squat down once and my knackered old knees wouldn’t allow me to stand back up again. Indeed, I think I’m beyond a pert bottom. Besides, if my arse was that curvaceous, without a cut-out hole in my mattress, I wouldn’t be able to sleep on my back at night.

But enough of the Kardashian’s, let me ask you about selfies: the pouting, the posing, the need for attention and adoration culminating in the form of a love-heart-shaped ‘like’ … Is this slightly odd behaviour? In the old days it would have been called vanity, now it’s just, well, normal. What do you think?

Of course, looks fade. One day we will all be old; what was once plump and taut will soften and droop; our paper-thin skin will crease and wrinkle and ’tis a brave soul who will want to flaunt it then. So perhaps the young should embrace their beauty and youth and put it on display to all and sundry because all too soon those days are over. Perhaps.

But shouldn’t we instead of following those simply with outward beauty, start positively celebrating those who have worked hard and achieved big? Those who have struggled and conquered? Those who have their beauty within?

Or perhaps we should stop looking over the garden fence altogether at the apparently greener grass, and start watering our own instead. Or maybe, I should just start trying those squats …

Food for thought? …

Katie x

Joining a Book Club

It has finally happened. I have conceded. I have joined the ladies-who-lunch brigade and have been accepted into what is, by all accounts, a rather smart book club on 5th Avenue.

What was I thinking? I have yielded to my vanity!

This is not an opportunity for a bit of Joanna Trollope and a girly natter over chocolate biscuits squeezed into someone’s cosy flat. No. This book club is for grown ups. Smart women with multiple degrees, serious careers and a penchant for reading Virginia Woolf. Shall I be caught out on day one as an imposter and fraud who loves the merry romp of a Jilly Cooper rather than anything marginally, even fractionally heavier? Quite possibly.

Well, I shall just have to stop ruminating and clutching madly at my hair with tremulous hands and go to the bookshop. I have to purchase not just one, but two books which need to be read within 3 weeks. I’ve made my bed and now I shall lie in it, with the books no doubt.

Just a teensy thought, I wonder what one wears to a book club meeting on Fifth Avenue? Hmm … my book shopping might need to include some clothes shopping …

Think I’m going to nail this!

Katie x

Any experiences of book clubs?? Help me please!

Finishing The Book …

Writing.

Editing.

Rewriting.

And repeat …

If we were to travel back thirty years, I would have been daily banging my fingers on the typewriter keys making a click, clickety click as the type bars struck the inky ribbon and left their imprint of blackened letters onto a white sheet of paper. And when the words in my mind refused to flow, I could rip the sheet of paper out with a forceful and resounding whoosh of the roller, scrunch it up between my hands with fury and hurl it into the waste paper basket across the room.

In today’s modern computer-abundant world, just holding down the delete key doesn’t give that same painfully exquisite release of frustration. It’s a shame really. Of course I could simply throw the iPad at the window or indeed the nearest person, but somehow the repercussions of that would most likely not be proportional to my momentary frustration.

So, I continue to write, edit, rewrite and drive myself mad with trying to create something that is, in my mind, not perfection, but the very best I can do. After all, isn’t that what we should do … our very best?

Katie x

Any tips or suggesstions for getting through over the last hurdle?

Road Trip!

Where do you go when teased with the lure of the white sands and balmy climes of the Bahamas, Cuba or the British Virgin Islands being only a mere hop, skip and a jump of a plane journey away?

Well, you pack up a tent and go on a road trip instead. Err, of course.

America is big. Vast. However, in a week we covered well over 1000 miles and popped into 7 different states. I say popped because at times it was somewhat unintentional what with the Colonel’s driving and perhaps more relevantly, my map reading. We popped in, and with a little oops, popped out again.

In truth, his driving is irritatingly good; I am simply a poor passenger with a habit of yelping and clutching white-knuckled onto the door handle if I think we’re either going too fast or are going to crash. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. So, this being a regular occurrence led at times to a fairly high stress journey (more so when driving in Manhattan where my fears were completely validated looking at the number of dents in the cars. Did you know, they actually have bumpers over their bumpers for protection here?)

However, and back to the road trip … We wiggled our way along the smaller roads, avoiding the pot holes, cracks, lumps and bumps which in the U.K. we appear to have considerably less of and I consequently shall never complain of again. We googled some road signs, delighted to find that sometimes one can actually turn right on a red light. It does leave a rather large margin for error which is perhaps not entirely sensible, but I didn’t make the rules. And rules they like. Oooh they are strict. But it keeps things in order, mostly; and we like order.

And then we drooled.

Fresh, bright white clapboard houses stood proudly, their slatted shutters painted varying shades of greens and blues framing the huge Georgian-style windows; colonial pillars supported the grey roofs covering verandas which themselves were filled with pots of flowers and plants and tables and chairs, offering a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. Wide wooden steps led down to the gardens and with no hedges or fences indicating where one plot started and another ended, they seemingly merged into one another allowing for clear uninterrupted views.

The gardens themselves were simple but perfectly neat. Manicured lawns with flowerbeds planted up close to the houses. Hydrangeas with their huge pom pom flower heads, hibiscus, hostas without a slug to be seen, box balls in abundance and lots and lots of trees. Nothing too taxing for the gardeners, but everything colourful and wonderfully healthy. With a hot climate and plenty of rain, everything flourishes there and yet surprisingly very few grow their own vegetables and fruit. Not an apple espalier or raised bed in sight.

There were no overgrown jungles of front gardens there. No black, brown and blue overstuffed bins spilling out their contents onto the weeds on the driveways. It was perfection and it was beautiful. I suspect I would struggle to keep up with the Jones’.

Towns with names like Great Barrington and Lennox offered shops for the wealthy where a cushion would cost well over a hundred pounds, but always the service was impeccable as if that should take the sting out of the tail. We looked, we touched, but rarely bought.

The campsites were clean and quiet and only once were plagued by mosquitoes, but the local pharmacy offered more anti-mozzie sprays and more importantly, soothing anaesthetic creams than you could shake a stick at (at a cost of course).

The beaches were litter-free and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for? So whilst the glamour and glitz of the Bahamas will no doubt beckon again another time, this time we have saved our pennies and enjoyed the beauty of another little world for a short while.

And, as I type and watch my sunburn begin to peel and scratch madly at the line of bites from some little blighter of a bug which starts at my ankle and heads towards my bottom, I do wonder if there are mozzies in the Caribbean …

Katie x

Food Glorious Food!

As I typed the title of this post, the song from ‘Oliver’ burst from my lips making the Colonel leap up from his slumber in bewilderment. It was, after all only six o’clock in the morning.

“Sorry darling. Got a bit carried away.”

He made a harrumphing, grumbling noise to make his displeasure known and then settled back under the bedcovers.

Back to the original point … Food.

Food in Manhattan is monumentally expensive. For my lovely British friends let me tell you that a can of baked beans is $3.49 which in today’s exchange rate equates to £2.87 … two pounds and eighty seven pence for a can of sodding baked beans. We no longer eat baked beans.

Meanwhile, a loaf of bread last week was priced at the equivalent of two of those cans of baked beans! We don’t eat bread now either.

However, whilst I scrabble around in my purse for the last few pennies, there is a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say, a Costco. Indeed, it is at the end of the tunnel because the nearest one means taking two subways, or to get the biggest and best Costco, a subway, a boat and a walk. Take your pick.

Costco means buying in bulk. Costco means buying in bulk but extremely cheaply.

Now, each and every cupboard in our apartment is filled to the gunnels with vast vats of gloopy washing liquid, a bin bag full of pineapples, enough loo rolls to keep every Andrex puppy in England happy for months, and more tin foil than you can wrap a dozen turkeys in. I shan’t bore you with more detail, but you get the picture.

The Colonel however, is happy. Always one to enjoy a good deal, he smiles at our over-filled cupboards, content and dare I say, a little smug in the knowledge that should Manhattan ever have a power cut again and we are stranded, we shall at least be able to get a grip on the washing … oh, except last time all the water cut out too.

Nevertheless, the sun in streaming in through the windows and although I won’t be having toast for breakfast, we do still have four rather large pineapples in the bathroom cupboard that need eating up …

Katie xx

The Joy of the Theatre!

Yesterday morning I stood in a queue with dozens of others, waiting to see if I could get any ‘rush’ tickets for that evening’s performance of King Kong.

I did, we went, I cried, it was wonderful.

Many years ago I went to see West Side Story at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I went ten times, partly because it was utterly magical and partly because I rather fancied the leading man. As it turned out, said leading man sadly preferred men to women, however on a positive note, I did learn all the words to every song. Happy days.

I’m a bit stuffy these days and rather preferred it when in the past we used to dress up to go to the theatre. Yes, I know, times change and bah-blasted-humbug I need to move with them. But still, despite a change in attire and the request for mobile phones to be switched off, nothing has remotely altered the pure magic of the theatre. The red plush velvet seats, the high ceilings, the glittery chandeliers, the excited chatter before the lights dim and the curtain rises … heaven! The applause, the standing ovations, the squeals of terror, the laughter … bliss!

In truth I also enjoy the cinema, but am too easily distracted by crisp packets being incessantly rustled, people getting up and down to go to the loo, the smell of tacos and hot dogs being eaten, the crunching, the slurping, the rustling, and finally having to wade my way through the spilt popcorn and half empty drinks littering the floors. Somehow it’s not quite the same, but, I grant you, a fraction of the price.

So I shall save my pennies and be prepared to stand once again on the steaming hot street corners of New York. Not to earn money for those of the more smutty mind, but in the hope of securing more cheap tickets to the theatre. Yes, a two hour slice of utter heaven without a crisp packet, carton of popcorn or slurpy drink to be seen or heard. Bliss.

Katie xx

P.s. Any recommendations for shows gratefully received, and apologies to any noisy popcorn eaters.

Is Being Happy a Choice?

Some would say categorically not. They have a disease, it’s a part of their makeup (genetic or otherwise) and they have no control over it.

Others might argue that yes, how we feel is our choice. We have a mind of our own and we can control it (using various methods).

It is also often debated whether depressive thoughts are addictive, in the same way that substances like alcohol, or behaviours like gambling are addictive. And when we are not using these substances or behaviours we feel out of control largely because in a (self-destructive) way the familiarity gives us an element of comfort. In a similar vein, it is often noted that women (and men for that matter) in unhealthy relationships are mimicking those they had with their parents in childhood. It might not be healthy, but it is familiar.

So, if using by these theories, we fight the urge to believe that we have no control over our minds and we fight the urge to fall back into the dark, warm but comfortable well of depression, ( Read my post on Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) can we overcome it?

My view, for what it’s worth, is yes. But it’s no walk in the park.

It’s curious how whilst I was cycling through France last summer, I had never been so happy or so at peace. Perhaps it was something to do with … the daily exercise (ok it was a brutal 60 – 90 kms a day); being in the sunshine (yup, it hit 41 degrees); a challenge each and every moment (wait til the book comes out, then you’ll understand); social interaction (albeit mostly in a different language apart from on meeting one couple who when I exclaimed how delighted I was that they were English, they replied, “Nah! We’re from Birmingham.” Right; No alcohol, but gallons of water and my weight in croissants; No toxic people to be around and no social media …. And so on and so forth.

Yes, all those things that we’re supposed to do daily to help ourselves (granted, perhaps not in quite such an extreme form), nevertheless, whilst I’m not suggesting that anyone heads off for a 1200 km cycle ride, it’s funny how happy one can be with just a bicycle a tent and the winding road ahead.

So what do you think? Depending of course on the severity of the anxiety or depression, do you believe we actually have a choice to be happy?

Katie xx

Men and Shopping …

Should those words even be permitted in the same sentence together? Some might think not.

Yesterday I took my (almost) 21 year old son to three shops. He coped admirably in Sephora (a beauty emporium to any understandably baffled male or otherwise readers). In a nutshell, when asked at the entrance if we needed assistance, I whipped out my phone, showed a screenshot of what I wanted and boom! We were in and out in less than four minutes. Now that’s a good shopping experience according to him.

Second shop – J Crew for women … even I was bored; uninspiring and rather ordinary clothes with disproportionate price tags. There was also a sale consisting of a couple of rails of crumpled, make-up stained unwanted items, many of which were on the floor being trampled on. I love a bargain like the best of us, but .. So with my son ambling behind me and despite trying to make the occasional positive remark, we lasted rather less than four minutes.

Final shop – J Crew for men … ‘Jacob’ came to our assistance with a friendly manner and a rather natty scarf tied around his neck. Good looking shirts, shorts, trousers all laid out neatly, no fuss, no noise, no mess and and yes, even a sale. And with Jacob folding and refolding everything within his sight, there was order. What more could we ask for? In less than ten minutes we left with a fab pair of shoes, big smiles all round and a joyous Jacob.

How does this happen?

It has been known to take me weeks to find the perfect pair of shoes. And yet, perhaps therein lies the problem. Am I seeking a form of perfection that most probably doesn’t exist?

Should the thrill of a bargain override this need for perfection? Does order and presentation really matter that much?

Dare I suggest that we, the fairer sex, can spend days trawling the shops, searching endlessly with a picture in our minds of a particular article of clothing? Will we ever find it? Or do we actually enjoy the trawling process?

And finally, if we believe that perfectly beautiful clothes will make us equally perfectly beautiful, do men have that same perfectionist gene? Or do they have more realistic expectations?

Shopping is, I find, a frustrating but occasionally necessary pastime. I have no answers except that I clearly need a Jacob to iron out the creases in my life and clothes, and perhaps occasionally I can borrow his rather natty little scarf. It’s really rather perfectly lovely.

Katie

If you have any, please give me some solutions … I have too many unanswered questions here!

”Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

(The last book by Dr Seuss)

To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.

It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.

We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….

I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.

So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …

Katie xx

I Make No Excuses

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I made the mistake yesterday whilst on the underground, of asking the Colonel what he was thinking about.

He looked instantly baffled and faintly like a bunny in the headlights. Once again I think that history was paying him a visit and he thought it was a trick question. It wasn’t. I was simply curious as to how and why someone could remain completely silent for the amount of time it took to get from Baker Street to Notting Hill Gate.

‘Really,’ I grinned, nodding encouragingly, ‘What were you really thinking about for soooo long? I don’t mind if it was about the lady with the big boobies over there,’ I whispered.

‘I hadn’t noticed’ he said sanctimoniously but with a twitch of a grin. I laughed.

‘In actual fact’, he said, (he never uses normal words like ‘actually’) ‘In actual fact, I was wondering about the advert up there’ and he pointed towards one of the advertisements set in a neat row above the tube maps in our carriage. It was a drab and dreary looking picture. He carried on solemnly, ‘It’s for a new business card which apparently is being voted rather highly by Which magazine’.

I paused, it now being my turn to feel baffled. ‘Seriously?’ I asked. ‘That’s what you were thinking about?’ He nodded.

‘Crikey,’ I sighed. ‘No wonder you get so much more done in a day than I do. Shall I tell you what I was thinking?’ I carried on without waiting for an answer. ‘By the way, you do realise you didn’t say a word for at least four stops, and we had to change platforms?’ I confess this might have come out in a faintly accusatory tone.

He was starting to look a little bewildered; indeed, as though looking at the lady with the big boobies might have been a better option.

‘I too was looking at the adverts,’ I said importantly. ‘That one,’ I said and pointed to an advertisement containing a picture of a simple white bowl which was filled, indeed heaped rather artistically with peas.

‘However, I don’t know what mine is actually advertising because that isn’t important to me. But,’ I held up my finger to point out the crucial part was to follow, ‘But, I was wondering if I was to take one of the peas from the bottom of the pile, whether they would all have fallen out. And then,’ I started giggling oblivious to his bemused expression, ‘And then,’ I carried on, ‘I started thinking how funny it would be if all the peas fell out of the advert and onto the lady with the big boobies, down her cleavage even, and then into our carriage, until there were peas everywhere! Imagine it!’

By now I was laughing uproariously. My hands were clasped together in delight and I fear I was receiving a few quizzical looks from nearby strangers.

The Colonel peered closely at me whilst scrunching up his nose. He pushed up his glasses with one solitary finger and frowned. ‘Help me God,’ he muttered and started shaking his head. He then opened up the newspaper.

I sighed, my bubble momentarily burst. But seconds later, I rummaged in my handbag for two pencils and then opened up my own copy of The Standard. I silently handed one pencil to him and we glanced at each other, slowly both beginning to smirk and then, in an undignified scramble raced to find the crossword at the back of the newspaper to see who could finish it first.

Katie x

Do you think it matters if you’re like chalk and cheese?

How do you differ?

I Am A Blithering Idiot …

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I love to write. I need to write. So why have I allowed a diddy little move across the pond to take precedence over writing this week?

All I need is just a couple of hours each day to sit and tap, tappety tap. A bit of editing, a little rewriting. Simple. And yet tiny doubts have been creeping to the forefront of my mind. Doubts are clever little blighters. They ensnare and suffocate any lingering fragments of confidence. Will the book ever be good enough? And then the inevitable happens; procrastination claws its way in and takes a firm hold.

There is always another box to be packed (despite an army of packers due next week), or the need to ponder for far too long over whether I need my wellington boots in New York City; or whether I should take some sachets of bread sauce mix for when I can’t be bothered to make it from scratch. Important decisions you see. Oh, I have no doubt of my ability to procrastinate! I have honed my skills over decades; frankly I could have a Masters with distinction in procrastination.

I believe a little discipline is required in Mrs Colonel’s house. A sharp rapping of the knuckles and the occasional poke with a pointy stick.

I am not a lounge lizard who wanders around the sitting room mid-afternoon still wearing pyjamas. I do not shuffle around the kitchen in Donald Duck slippers and a matching onesie as I peer bleary-eyed into the fridge at noon. I go to bed early and get up early. I love mornings and am annoyingly bouncy from the moment I see the light creeping through the gaps in the curtains. I must be hell to live with.

But my point is this … we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we all choose to use it differently. And I have been lazy for the past week and have not set aside a couple of hours a day to write. I have not (and never will) be seen wandering around in the Donald Duck slippers and matching onesie, but without the structure of writing daily, I may as well have been. Just wait a moment whilst I bludgeon myself to death …

To be fair, I have been overhauling my relative’s garden for the last several days, but that’s besides the point …

Poignant Pause …

Excellent! Knuckles have been duly rapped and a pointy stick has metaphorically poked me. I have given myself a little talking to and told you, my wonderful WordPress friends of my failings. I am now a new woman and ready to do some more editing and re-writes … Quick cup of tea first though, it’s still early …

Katie xx

Is anybody out there a procrastinator?

It Must Be Hard To Be A Man …

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I am officially old. Frankly, the fact that jet lag took me a week to recover from is a pretty clear indication that, yes, I am old. I obviously also suffer from first world problems so forgive me if you can.

When I was a young and carefree twenty something, we would party all night and still manage to go to work the next day. We simply giggled our way through the day on happy memories of the night before, cans of coke and black coffee. Now, if I manage to stay awake until ten o’clock, I’m doing well. ‘Tis a sad state of affairs.

Yesterday on the train, I was not just an old woman, but a grumpy old woman.

“Why do they say twice at every single station, ‘Mind the gap’?” I snapped at my husband.

“I mean really,” I continued, warming to my theme, “How many people have actually fallen down the gap between the train and the platform. I’ve never seen even one!”

He peered at me over his glasses, looking a little baffled and worried as to whether or not this was one of those test questions, like “How much do you love me?” (Just for your information, this is a test question and in order to avoid divorce, the answer should be … “I love you more than the best pint of beer in the best pub with the best supermodel talking about the best Formula One cars.” This would be a perfect answer.)

“See!” I said, “Nobody has ever fallen down the gap!”

“Perhaps they haven’t fallen because they constantly remind us not to.” He replied carefully.

“Pah!” I snorted. “I’d like to test your theory. Are you honestly saying that if they didn’t say “Please Mind the Gap” in that mind-numbingly dull voice, then we’d see a plethora of people wedged side by side hanging between the train and the platform all wailing to be rescued with their arms waving?”

By now I was not only belligerent, but completely beyond all reason, so husband dearest twitched his nose and took it upon himself to find the newspaper rather interesting. In his mind, this too was clearly a test … discovering when it is best to keep quiet rather than to instigate World War III. Some times it really must be hard being a man.

Katie xx

Ps Any thoughts?

Boom!

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A week in New York has slightly blown my mind.  

Since arriving back home, I’ve spend the last 12 hours alternating between walking like a zombie and lying on the sofa mopping my fevered brow.  Actually there is nothing fevered about my brow in the least but I was hoping to portray an image of a broken woman.  A broken woman with jet lag who would be the grateful recipient of peeled grapes being fed to her by her doting husband.  I’ll admit this scenario is unlikely, however I can categorically say that I am pooped, knackered and done in.

Being on holiday in a city is very different to spending a week flat-hunting and trying to understand how ‘the city that never sleeps’ actually works. One is swept into a false sense of security by the fact that the language is, by and large, the same.  Do not be fooled! Trying to understand the rights, wrongs and the pitfalls of a chaotic, manic city where everything is different is not easy.

Attitudes are different, tone is different and requests often come across as orders. Networking is key and the phrase ‘The Land of Opportunity” holds strong. Tipping compared to Blighty is a very different system and costs. Ultimately, living in New York compared to London is expensive. Very.

We’ve been introduced to some good people and thankfully have several friends already living there which no doubt will ease the transition. But at the end of the day, the transition has to be made by us.

As a note to self, I have to remember not to say ‘golly’ or ‘gosh’ too often and whilst saying ‘poppycock’ amused me, it raised a few eyebrows. It’s just such a glorious word …

Am I excited? Hugely! This is such an adventure … This is The Land of Opportunity where anything can happen! Who knows, maybe I’ll come back in a few years time with bright white teeth and the most enormous pair of knockers. How thrilling! I jokingly mentioned this to The Colonel and he went a little pale – Oh poppycock, golly and gosh! If he doesn’t know when I’m joking, then I’m doomed in America …

Katie xx

As ever, all tips and advice will be gratefully received 🤓🤓

Welcome to America!

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I’ve been to New York before, twice as it happens; but I’ve never come with more than just a few spare pairs of knickers, a clean shirt and my makeup bag. No. This week I’m here to find a home. My findings so far:

The weather changes rather a lot. I seem to have been alternating between shivering and sweating profusely. (Don’t ever believe your mother if she delicately reminds you of the little rhyme, “Horses sweat, men perspire but ladies merely glow.” It’s either bollocks or I’m a horse.).

The local supermarket alternates between Aldi and Waitrose but with an American accent. It is also called a grocery store. The staff are either incredibly helpful or utterly terrifying in equal measures.

Every tiny and limited amount of space is crammed full with beautifully presented produce and more choice than you can shake a stick at. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly need to eat dandelion leaves or miniature kale but they make it look so delicious that I’ll be sure to give it a go in due course, once I’ve worked out where the Granny Smiths are …

The Colonel sent me out to go and get some provisions (that’s another word he appears to have adopted). It took me over an hour and I came back with two very shiny apples, a pack of Polish ham and some goji berries. I don’t know what goji berries are, but apparently they promise eternal youth. This solitary outing cost me our budget for two days and consequently I haven’t been allowed out on my own since.

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

On our first day in New York, I learnt how to cross the road. That is to say, I learnt how to cross the road without either being arrested or run over.

In London, when you want to cross to the other side, you choose a relatively quiet moment in the traffic, randomly step off the pavement and with a few smiles and apologetic hand waves arrive safely on the other side. Not here. No.

Firstly, you only cross on the zebra crossings. I like this rule. I like things to be black and white. If only in the U.K. they would adopt this stance on drink driving. How about just saying absolutely no alcohol rather than a rather questionable amount which differs between body type, sex and how much you’ve eaten. So basically if I’m an overweight man who’s just eaten a pizza with extra dough balls, I’m safer in the car after a glass of wine. I’m getting off the point as per usual, but you get my drift.

Back to the roads .. Secondly, there are no buttons to press when you want to cross the road (saves on children’s arguments as to whose turn it is) and there are no beeps telling you when it’s safe to start walking. You have no control and have to pay attention. There is however a lit-up picture of a big red hand instructing you not to move under any circumstances, and when its time to cross, a picture of a white man who appears to be running. I’m not sure that running is necessarily required, but I’m not going to argue with this instruction, so run I do.

The problem occurs when people start moving across on the red hand when no traffic is in sight. This confuses the rules in my head. I therefore spend rather a lot of time looking baffled and starting to cross (at a run of course) and then changing my mind. This in turn, confuses everyone around me. I felt yesterday like a piece of toast being pushed down into the toaster when the power wasn’t on … I just kept on popping back up again. Unfortunately the other pieces of toast behind me bumped into me and that upset everyone. Being shouted at in an American accent is quite disconcerting, “What the fuck lady? You can not do that.” As established earlier, I’m clearly not a lady and my response to them merely confirmed this further.

I’m sure I’ll master this soon.

Katie xx

Errr, any advice? Help me ..

She’s Dead …

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Betty is dead.

Betty was my black dog, my little cackling demon, the ogre clutching on to my back. Haven’t we all had a little of her from time to time?

The majority of us have suffered from moments of depression, anxiety or a combination of both. I had my fair share, yet whether mine was worse or not than anyone else’s, who am I to say? I had moments of feeling blue, but then don’t we all? Perhaps that’s all it ever was, just a little bit of blue.

Like all the evil bullies of this world, in the end Betty found me to be a rather repellent host and has consequently moved on.

The sun is shining, the world is a happy, if complicated place and I can see Betty and the bullies for what they truly are. Having used every resource available to me, (see my post Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) I can confirm that this slightly unhinged woman has indeed killed Betty and moved on.

“Ha! Don’t you get so cocky!” I hear someone say with a smirk. Perhaps they’re right; but in truth I don’t want to be around that person. I only surround myself with positive people who like me want to live in peace, love and optimism. Yes, I have to be careful and keep an eye on myself, but that’s what we all do anyway.

Life is for living. But most importantly, life is for living in the light and not the darkness.

Katie x

The Great British Madness!

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The British Post Office is a fairly depressingly dire place. But we need it. I think.

The queue at my local Post Office always reaches the door, and yet of the six tills, only two are only ever manned. There is usually someone else wandering around in the background but they never appear to be doing very much apart from talking to the teller whom you have just waited twenty minutes for. Hence, irritation starts to rise with ferocity as you feel you have deserved and want to claim the tellers undivided attention for just a few minutes. You have stood beside the birthday card stands, the array of stationery and the plastic toys for sale for too long. And yet, if you stand for long enough, you start believing that you actually need some paperclips with coloured unicorns attached to them.

Then, uproar. A man comes in, bypasses the entire queue and heads straight to a momentarily empty till. The wretched teller is ignorant of his blatant lack of adherence to the British queuing system. The line of waiting men, women, grumpy children, angry old women and a random dog begin by hissing amongst each other. The young lady beside in front of me sucks through her teeth and says quietly, “Excuse me?” in disbelief at this. I however am clearly feeling hormonal.

“Excuse me! Are you not aware of this queue?” What should have been uttered as a polite question comes out as an overly loud bellow of indignation.

All eyes on me.

Man looks horrified and scuttles amid apologies to the end of the queue.

I am mortified.

“Oh God,” I whisper to my lady friend, “Now I feel like such a cow.”

“Nah!” She says. “We’re all with you.” And as I look around, I am being given nods and smiles of approval, apart from the rather sheepish man.

Unity. Yes, there is strength in unity!

Although, having come from Scotland, had this happened in Glasgow where everyone calls a spade a spade, this would never have started. Well, it might have, but there would have been a full-blown punch-up, the police would have arrived, someone, probably me would have been tasered, ending with all and sundry having a good glass of whiskey and a three hour discussion.

Oh I do love a bit of human interaction. So good for the soul.

Katie x

What makes you really cross?

Why Is This So Hard?

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It goes without saying that we all have a book in us; after all, we’ve all experienced something worth writing about or indeed have the imagination to create a story. And so, like many others, I started writing. I wrote with enthusiasm, passion and joy. And when I finally typed the words The End, I had a little cry (more of a dribbling howl in truth).

And then the editing process began.

I now spend more of my time googling grammar, such as when to use a semicolon or a comma than I do on Facebook, cooking and checking my emails combined. This is not normal. Surely I should already know all of this? But now I’m questioning everything. The structure, the grammar, even the actual purpose of the book. I am beginning to doubt myself.

Perhaps that is why there is indeed a book in all of us, but very, very few actually end up on the bookshelves. It’s quite a challenge. It also makes me admire those who have worked endlessly and tirelessly to produce a book. You have succeeded! Bravo!

Now, back to those wretched semicolons (and is that hyphenated or not?) … Give me strength …

Katie x

What do you struggle with most when writing your blog or book?

Shopping … Heaven or Hell?

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I am practically naked.

Less than five minutes ago I was a respectable and fully dressed woman picking out an assortment of pretty summer dresses to try on. But those dresses are now on the only hook in the changing cubicle and my own clothes have just slid off the plastic stool and are in a heap on the floor.

My husband is enthusiastically thrusting more dresses through the increasingly large gap between curtain and wall, so my semi-naked body is exposed to all and sundry. The shop lady who stands by the door is saying, “Only six items at a time!” in a whiny nasal voice. She is clearly irritated by my husband who bounces in and out clutching more clothes and God forbid he’s now bringing in underwear and getting increasingly overexcited. This is a place for women only and he is happily oblivious to her rules. She tries harder, “No men inside sir, this is a respectable establishment.”

My necklace has become entangled in dress number four and I’m trying, in a muck sweat to free myself.

Another woman comes in with an armful of clothes and her husband, seeing a fellow male in the ladies-only section trots in smartly behind her, ignoring shop lady who is now turning purple. The other woman helps me disentangle myself from my necklace and we bond over dresses and underwear, chatting as though we have known each other for years.

The two men excitedly together run in and out of the changing rooms for smaller sizes, bigger sizes, different colours, all the while, discussing the rugby. They have a role and are apparently loving it, particularly when they find something in the sale section. The other woman and I chatter and giggle as our husbands enthuse about how wonderful we both look. We giggle all the more. A bit of flattery and we’re handing out the credit cards without a care in the world.

Shop lady tries and fails to give our husbands different coloured plastic tickets with the number of items that she thinks we have as yet another floaty, whispy dress flits past her on a clothes hanger. She is now not only purple, but spluttering.

Finally, with our bags of newly purchased items, we happily thank shop lady profusely for her help. She purses her lips and gives a little derogatory sniff in our direction as she turns to her next customer. “Only six items madam! Them is the rules in this establishment.”

Katie.

Do you love or loathe to shop?

The Cruel Wife

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Imagine the scenario:

Wife kissing handsome husband goodbye at the door as he leaves to go to work.

Wife sees handsome husband wearing the tie that she had tried to wash, instead of, God forbid, paying money and sending it to the dry cleaners.

Silk ties do not like being washed.

Silk ties return to the tie rack neither cleaner nor the same shape, or indeed size.

Wife thought she had discreetly (secretly) thrown away said ruined tie.

The moral dilemma? Should I have let him go to work with dodgy tie, or admit to the consequences of my money-pinching ways?”

I think I might have made the wrong choice …

“Why in Gods name did you wash it?” he spluttered, eyebrows rising dramatically.

“Umm, I thought it was polyester?” I blatantly lied. His eyebrows lifting even further confirmed he didn’t believe me. “I don’t have polyester ties!” he spat through somewhat gritted teeth.

“Well, it was dirty. You had dribbled on it.” I said. The best form of defence is attack. Wrong course of action however.

A stomping back upstairs, roughly removing both coat and suit jacket ensued amid much huffing and puffing. I followed cautiously.

The new and clean tie appeared to be rather problematic in putting on. This caused further and considerably noisier huffing and puffing. “It takes a very precise and careful hand to tie a tie properly,” he informed me.

“Oh,” says I, duly informed. “And, um for how long have you been practising this um ‘art-form’?” I question innocently.

“Since I was eight,” he mutters.

I collapsed in a heap of guffawing laughter, and a small twitch of his lip and a wiggle of his nose confirmed I was forgiven. “I’ll give you a lesson in tying a tie if you like!” I giggled hysterically. “Pah! I’ll give you blasted lessons!” he laughed feigning indignation.

“I’ll bin this one then,” I giggled, holding up the mis-shaped offending tie.

“Pah! It’s got years of life left in it!” he laughed, trying to snatch it from me.

“Not with a socking great rip in it, it hasn’t!” I shouted, running down the stairs with it.

“You wouldn’t!” he laughed and chased me to the front door where for the second time this umorning, I kissed him gently and held him close. “I love you” he whispered, “So very much.”

Katie xx

So. Should I have,

a) Let him go to work in a grim tie

b) Admitted the error of my ways, but been slightly more apologetic

c) Told him it was his own fault for having silk non-washable ties and polyester would suffice

d) Tied the tie for him whilst changing a plug, reading a map and reciting the periodic table.

Or, something else …?

The Truth

 

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Sometimes the truth hits me like a slap round the face with a cold, wet fish.  Deeply unpleasant with a lingering odour, but eye opening once the scales have been pulled from my eyes, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The more I write, the greater is the realisation that I need to read more, more, and even more. Education is key and that is the truth.

Writing a memoir of course also requires experiencing life so that there’s actually something to write about. It wouldn’t exactly be a bestseller if I wrote about the fluff that accumulates in my navel even if I had a social media following of tens of thousands (unless of course they too were navel gazers).

Not being a highbrow or educationally sophisticated reader, I like a light-hearted book. Bill Bryson is my latest and has me giggling happily on the train, in the bath and sometimes in the coffee shop where I’m supposed to be writing. Thankfully books are not expensive because the truth is, I need a few. I’ve pondered with a Kindle, but I worry about it falling in the bath. I don’t know the difference between an e-book and an audio book, but if they are the ones where Stephen Fry’s dulcet tones come out of a pair of headphones, I don’t think that would be awfully safe on my bicycle. So I think I shall stick to the good old fashioned paperback and remember when it falls into that bath, to fan out the pages before putting it on the radiator, otherwise one has less of a book and more of a brick and that’s not terribly easy to read.

Katie x

What do you read and where do you read?

That Aristotle Bloke Might Have Had a Point …

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It is rather ironic that I write endlessly about moderation. But in truth, I am fascinated by it.

Now, according to that fellow Aristotle, the Golden Middle Way is the desirable middle ground between two extremes; one being that of excess and the other, of deficiency.

As an example, he uses courage as a virtue, being in this case the Golden Middle Way. But if that courage is taken to excess, it would manifest as recklessness and, in deficiency, as cowardice!

Ooooh I love these Ancient Greek philosophers with their faintly dodgy beards … they were a clever bunch of cookies.

So what is it that makes some people so able to maintain the ‘Golden Middle Way’ in their lives, and yet others follow the path of extremes? Is it simply self control, or are we born that way?

Why is it that I absolutely have to eat an entire packet of ginger biscuits in one sitting, whereas my lovely friends would only have one or two? Perhaps I’m overthinking this and I’m simply more hungry.

Katie xx

Ps. Exactly what is it that you have a lack of self control over? (Ahem! Nothing smutty if you please)

Pps.  Sorry about the picture, I couldn’t find one of Aristotle, so this will have to suffice.

 

Final Chapter …!

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Forgive me for sharing, but I’ve been faintly hysterical. To clarify, I am most certainly not looking for sympathy. That was very kindly given, free of charge by the staff in the coffee shop. I think it’s the only thing I’ve had free of charge there, the place costs me a small fortune.

My lovely coffee shop has endured months of me sitting in my usual spot, tapping away at the iPad whilst buying a few desperately expensive lattes and a chocolate brownie or two. We chat and laugh and they ask about my writing, and are the most kind and friendly bunch of people. Suffice to say, should I ever get this wretched book published, I’ll have to sell quite a substantial amount just to break-even, in order to compensate for the amount of coffees I’ve bought.

Each day they hear me come through the rickety door as the little bell above gives a jingle and a jangle. They call out with a cheerful, “Morning! Your regular decaf latte, in a mug not a cup and saucer? We’ll bring it right over!” and I smile coyly, blatantly ignoring the snarls and filthy looks of the other customers in the queue in front of me as I take my place in the corner with the cushions and the squishy seat. As the morning progresses, I change my order a little and try not to be quite so predictable. Sometimes I ask for extra cream or try an Americano in anticipation of moving across the pond, but I don’t really think that’s going to help me.

But today was different. Today I began the final chapter of the book, which is now less of a book and more of a friend. I friend I have created and although at times I have loathed it when I have come to a tricky section, I also love it with a passion that makes me want to weep. And sadly today, that is exactly what happened.

I was writing about the final few kilometres of my trip on a squeaky bicycle called Claude, when suddenly it dawned on me that it was nearly over. Through writing, I had been re-living this ‘journey’ of mine, and now, for the last time it truly was coming to an end. To the horror of everyone, this realisation suddenly found me wailing, howling and dribbling into my flat white with extra cream. Bless them, the girls came straight over, the men more slowly and somewhat nervously. (They wisely understood that women-of-a-certain-age in a state are to be treated with caution …)

As I wiped my mascara’d cheeks with a unlimited pile of Farrow and Ball coloured napkins, I explained how I would miss coming to their lovely coffee shop and writing and as I snivelled and dribbled, I thanked them profusely for all their kindness.

“Err won’t you still have a bit of editing or something to do?” one of the girls tentatively asked.

“Oh! Oh yes!” I exclaimed, brightening somewhat. “In fact, lots of editing and umm re-editing and things like that,” I carried on. “Err, yes of course … you know, spell-checking and things!” I trailed off at this point, quite unsure what on earth I was talking about. But this seemed to appease us all and the world seemed like an infinitely better place, with all-round smiles and lots of slaps on the back and reassuring, ” Well, you’ll be here for weeks then!”

“Thank goodness for that!

The men disappeared with sighs of relief that all was now well, and the girls gave me my first ever free coffee as a get better soon gesture and offered more Farrow and Ball napkins to wipe away the eye makeup which was apparently now on-my-chin-makeup. And we sat and chatted happily together about the benefits of waterproof mascara vs falsies. I thought falsies were fake bosoms, but they’re all a lot younger and infinitely wiser so I’ll heed their advice. So, when it really is all finished, spell-checked and edited, I’ll simply go to America as planned, have an Americano and get myself some falsies. Sounds like a fabulous plan – odd how the Colonel looks ever so over-excited …

Katie xx

Any tips, advice, suggestions for finishing a book? (Including editing and finding an agent or publisher or …. anything). Thank you x

A Diva … Moi?

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My wretched book!

No, of course it’s not really wretched, I’m simply being a drama queen because I am frustrated. Supremely frustrated.

I’m frustrated because with no published books under my belt, how on earth can I really justify the time I need to write?

I feel as though because I’m not (yet) an author, it’s rather self-indulgent, pompous and pretentious to announce that “I need to be alone!” and mop my fevered brow. Whether it was Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich who said it, I don’t recall, and frankly it doesn’t matter, my point is that I do need to be alone but I feel a bit of a drama queen saying it. Admittedly I don’t need to do the mopping of brow with a delicate white handkerchief, but in case Renee Zelwegger isn’t available for the film version of the book, I’m happy to practise my craft and step into the role …

So, I keep sloping off from the packing up of the house (we’re moving), the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and general ‘life’. (Nb This is also said in a woe-is-me type of voice, despite the rather odd fact that I rather enjoy it) So, in order to give myself a little bit of writing time, I am shirking my responsibilities by hiding behind the door of the kitchen, tap, tapping away. Did I mention that I was moving house?

Once I have got book number one done and dusted and it’s flying off the shelves in every bookstore from London to New York (optimism and a total lack of reality are currently my default setting), then I feel that I am justified in disappearing off for several hours to write. I can then type madly, hitting the iPad with such ferocity simply to get out the words, sentences and paragraphs that are endlessly trying to burst out of my head and are longing to get onto paper before they are forgotten and lost in the dusty crevices of the grey matter.

Oooooh I’m exhausted! Forgive my rant, my frustrations and my inner melodramatic diva who has momentarily escaped the confines of my middle class British background. I shall resolve this. A little self control is required. A little earlier rising in the morning, allocating specific writing time and then using that time correctly instead of drinking tea and looking at Facebook. Oh yes, I can do this! Discipline is all it takes!

In the meantime, I think I need a little lie-down in a darkened room with some whale music, except the sounds of running water .. well, I needn’t go into that …

Perhaps I’ll just hide behind the kitchen door again; there’s a socket for charging my iPad, a very friendly spider whom in hushed tones I like to chat to about the benefits of waxing vs shaving (oh yes, that hairy arachnid needs to know!) … and at least the ginger biscuits are close to hand …

Katie x

How and where do you write and do you feel guilt?

If Music be the Food of Love …

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Disappearing into the bowels of the earth, otherwise known as the underground system of London, the sound of a violin rose up to meet me. A young man was playing the tune from A Fiddler on the Roof, “If I were a Rich Man”.

Oh, if only I could have joined him with some fabulous Russia dancing!

oh how I wanted to don my dancing shoes and join this marvellous man with his enthusiastic fiddling on his fiddle!

Oh how I wanted to leap beside him with gay abandon!

(Nb. Slight yawn, but for those wanting to be politically or otherwise correct, please note that I am using gay in the old fashioned sense … I have no desire to make comparisons of dancing abilities between people of varying sexual orientations – I’m exhausted, should have used a different word in the first place).

As he played faster and faster I was swept up in the excitement of the moment and the exhilarating music, so promptly tipped the meagre contents of my purse into his violin case. He grinned widely at me and added a slight dip of his chin to acknowledge my paltry collection of two and five pence pieces. He also got two safety pins and a book of Royal Mail stamps, but I managed to retrieve those.

With my heart singing, I continued on my journey with his music becoming fainter, but with my walk infinitely lighter and bouncier. I write this despite the unhappy truth that even if I wanted to risk the disapproving looks of fellow travellers who would assume that I was most probably a complete loon, I strongly suspect that once crouched down in my Russian dancing stance ready to fling my legs from under me, I would never have been able to stand up again without the help of some small hydraulic apparatus.

So, if you’re needing a little boost today, turn on the radio, do a little jig, sing, or even join a fiddler and try a Russian dance.

Katie x

Does jolly music make you want to dance with gay abandon?

Darling, You’re Beautiful!

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Towards the end of my cycling trip last summer, I came to the conclusion that both Claude (the bicycle) and I needed a little attention. So I hosed Claude down with water, gave him some oil for his squeaky bits, and found a lovely lady in a beauty salon for myself. I did however go in the hope that any cleansing and moisturising treatments for me, would be marginally more gentle.

She took one look at me and started tutting with a slow shake of her beautifully coiffed head. This was perhaps not the best of starts, but always one for believing that the truth can hurt, I ignored this and persevered.

An hour and a half later and I reappeared a new woman. She had been given a fairly tough job, but managed in a short period of time to perform nothing short of a miracle.

During this time however, we spoke in a mixture of my bad French and her decidedly better English about beauty. I asked her how it was that French woman always seemed to be so well put together and just naturally beautiful.

Her response was as follows:

She said the English were like sparkling man-made Christmas trees; adorned with flashing coloured lights, baubles, tinsel and weighed down and covered from top to bottom in some form of the latest trend in decoration.

The French on the other hand, were simply healthy trees with just a few plain candles to enhance their natural and pure beauty and nothing more.

This was of course her own opinion, but one thing did resonate. That being, there is beauty in simplicity. Life doesn’t have to be covered in sparkling lights to make it perfect. perhaps there is truth in the proverb, “All that glitters is not gold”.

Katie

Who do you think is the most beautiful woman in the world?

And The Sun Shineth!

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London is bathed in glorious sunshine. Both young and old are in the parks and the streets with tentative smiles revelling in the apparent beginnings of spring. The chairs are being put outside the cafes once again and the daffodils are nodding their heads. The winter wardrobes are being packed away and the flippy floppy skirts are out in force.

Some have dared to bare some pasty skin to the air; pale legs which haven’t seen the light of day for six months are now on display. Woollen hats and scarves have been tossed aside and replaced by sunglasses perched atop pink noses. It may be sunny, but by Jove it’s still chilly! We have emerged from our hibernation full of cautious optimism for the start of a new season.

Girls sit outside bars drinking white wine spritzers rather than huddling next to the fire with a warmed heavy red. Boys drink … well, boys drink beer. (Yes, my tongue is firmly wedged in my cheek.)

I used to be a winter person, but now summer is my happy place. So with anticipation (and a little hope) of further warm sunshine and the frightening prospect for both myself and the general public of having to peel off the layers, I am having words with my pasty white body and am mentally preparing it for a day when a teensy trip to the beauticians is imminent.

“A leg wax?” my scrawny limbs scream in response!

“It’ll be gentle,” I say soothingly.

“Lying bitch!” they retort.

Indeed I am, but standards must prevail and I certainly don’t want my husband mistaking me for an orangutan again.

In the meantime, I shall clutch my hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and make another chicken pie to stock up the freezer. One can never be too sure when the weather will change, and frankly I cannot be having another argument with my legs again … they’re rebelling, on strike and refusing to move from the fireplace. Shame.

Katie xx

Are you a summer or a winter person?

How do you prepare for summer?

Is Big Brother Watching You?

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I am stuck between two stations in a dark tunnel and cannot therefore leave the train.

My fellow passengers initially started expressing their irritation by merely sucking (deliberately audibly) the breath between their teeth. Then, the sighs of annoyance became louder as if to alert everyone within earshot of their displeasure. Now conversations are being started between complete strangers and it must be said, that this is most unusual behaviour for the Brits. Each person however is relating why their own potential tardiness is of greater importance than the next person’s. We all want mutual sympathy, hand-stroking and a way of expressing our frustration … which is not being helped by the dreary voice on the loudspeaker telling us he knows even less than we do. Marvellous.

The lady opposite me who brought her entire makeup bag and had given herself a makeover is now repeating the exercise. Lipstick first – most peculiar. Now she’s plucking her eyebrows which frankly are sparse enough … I hope this won’t encourage any others to trim their nasal hair or cut their toenails.

Sadly the little boy who previously occupied my seat got off at the last station with both his parents. He entertained us all by telling us, complete strangers, with a deadpan and utterly sincere face about his holiday to the swimming pool yesterday and how he’d like to go again; but this time just with daddy because Daddy is more fun. This resulted in snorts of laughter around the carriage. Daddy smirked. Mummy didn’t look best pleased.

The man beside me has rather obviously cut himself shaving three times presumably due to a blunt razor blade. He has little pieces of loo paper attached to his chin, but one is rather dangling down, hanging on by a single whisker which he clearly missed .. I’d love to pull it off. Perhaps the lady with the tweezers could oblige.

I love people watching. Others watch me but I care not. A little observation is no bad thing, too much is deemed creepy and anything beyond that is obviously stalking! So I think I’d better get out my book and amuse myself that way …

If only I could just tweak that teensy bit of dangling loo paper off his chin though …

Katie

Are you a keen people watcher? What do you think people see when they look at you? (Don’t worry, I know that others see a batty, scatty, ditzy thing with a dodgy haircut when they look at me … if that makes you feel any better.)

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

I’ve Failed! (ish …)

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Ok, minor confession. I made the teensy weensy mistake of setting myself a deadline which I may have inadvertently shared with some of you. The deadline for having the first draft of the book ready was Valentines Day. Yes, I am fully aware that that was yesterday.

And, well, in truth, to be frank, and without putting too much emphasis on my inability to write when I’M SO FLIPPIN’ KNACKERED THAT I CANNOT EVEN SEE STRAIGHT, LET ALONE WRITE, I have to admit that it is therefore, consequently and any other conjunctive adverbs that you can squeeze in, not quite there yet.

I’m sorry if that came across as a little bunny-boiler-ish and overly hormonal. In the simple language which I love and understand the best, I’m just a little ‘pooped’.

Normal service however will be resumed immediately and indeed, I’m only a week away at most. So please forgive me. I’ve had a busy week where life has somewhat overtaken me, rammed, scratched and battered me, but I’m back on the straight, narrow and hardworking path of yet another wannabe author once again.

Right! Socks have been metaphorically pulled up, cap straightened and shoulders pulled back. I am ready to finish the last few chapters. I’m on the home run and raring to go. Just a quick cup of tea and I did spy some ginger nut biscuits hiding in the cupboard …

K x

Have you ever missed a deadline? And the consequences were ….?

Vanity?

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I am a sucker for beauty products. I have, shall we say, a fair few in my cupboard under the basin. Thankfully the Colonel and I do not share this cupboard. Indeed, if we did, he would be allocated two and a half square inches, or if you’re metric, ten square centimetres … or something along those lines. I know not; I am old school, or perhaps just old, hence needing the beauty products.

I see these sumptuous creams in their heavenly packaging with promises to erase lines, cellulite and imperfections and I drool. And from time to buy, when I’m feeling flush, I open my dusty purse and buy them.

And, as the Colonel waits for me to come to bed, I am still applying cleansers, toners, creams and serums as he scowls and harrumphs and the usual, “What are you doing in there?” can be heard through closed doors, occasionally, though not always, with volume.

I must be the only woman in the world to have cycled for twenty six days non-stop from the north to the south of France with the entire Clinique range in her panniers.

Why? Vanity, delusion and a smattering of hope.

And do they make any difference? I know not, but if I didn’t use them, I might look considerably worse and that’s too great a risk to take for a muppet like me.

Yesterday, I allowed myself an afternoon off from writing (and reading your blogs, sorry) and mooched around the beauty counters of Peter Jones in Sloane Square (the posh bit of London). No, of course I don’t live there before you even start to ponder. I’m from Wandsworth and not the smart part.

Peter Jones for the non-UK residents is middle class shopping for the yummy mummies, the rich, the poor-who-want-to-be-rich and now even for those who own a dog and can’t bear to leave ‘Fifi’ at home. This has allowed many a handbag pooch to enter and generally speaking they behave far better than the majority of the children.

It’s a safe haven where the older staff have worked there for donkeys years and the younger ones are doing a ‘season’ whilst on their gap year having finished at private school. Not quite the same as a ‘ski season’, but with equally well-off customers but obviously with less snow.

You can buy everything and anything there, and to be fair, it’s not all expensive. They take into account every type of bank account, healthy or ‘minimalist’ shall we say. (Although if you bank privately, you’ll feel more at home – handing over your Coutts card will give you no better attention from the staff however, but you’ll feel part of ‘the club’).

Sadly, I did my mooching yesterday whilst having a rather empty bank account moment. Of course this is a guaranteed disaster, for as soon as I have no money, everything looks so appealing. When on the other hand I’m feeling flush (a rarity I hasten to add) I can never find anything. C’est la vie.

So I went from one counter to another and foolishly let each and every beauty sales person try their hand and products on my unfortunate face. They rejoiced after having given me a full makeover at the transformation in my skin, spoke of how my eyes were ‘popping’ (WTF) and were craving for me to hand over my purse. I simply looked in the mirror and muttered about how lovely it was and that I should now see how it looked in the outside light, and hurried onto the next counter, begging them to repair the damage. And then the process began all over again.

Eventually I left Peter Jones, empty-handed, but with a face so covered in serums, moisturisers and foundations, that I resembled an oompah loompa who had fallen into an oil slick.

I welcomed the Colonel home who peered at me, frowned and looked faintly fearful as I kissed him hello, but was wise enough to say nothing, probably quite difficult anyway as our lips stuck together with my peachy lip gloss entitled, ‘Glamour Puss’.

That night however, whilst scrubbing my face clean of all the muck, which was quite some feat, there were no questioning words of why I was taking so long. Instead, as I did my usual leap into bed, putting my freezing feet between his legs to try to warm them up (NB The higher up your husbands/partners legs you can get your cold toes the better, but you may meet with resistance as apparently it’s painful in many ways). So with a yelp of apparent agony from the Colonel, he then turned to face me, breathed a sigh of relief, stroked my cheek and whispered, “Hello beautiful.”

Gosh! I think in future I shall stick to au naturel.

Katie xx

Ladies: Are you comfortable without makeup?

Gents: If you’ve read this far, your thoughts please.

Family, Social Media and Selfies … Love ‘em or Hate ‘em

standing man on seashore taking selfie
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It seems to me however that every family has their own dusty cupboard full of skeletons. And, within said cupboard, there is usually a black sheep, a matriarch and a faintly sanctimonious do-gooder otherwise known as Joan of Arc. There are sometimes other variations, but usually at least one lurking somewhere in the twisted branches of the family tree.

I am not deluded enough to believe that my family doesn’t have it’s own armoire full of rattling bones, but suffice to say I love it just the way it is. (Indeed, I am probably the “troublesome” one).

But what I loathe more than anything else, more than tax returns and eighteen year old yoga students telling me to find my inner wisdom, are those on social media who try to portray a life of perfection pertaining to themselves and their family. THEY LIE!

I watched a young girl on the tube the other day taking selfie after pouting selfie, photoshopping and then posting them on Snapchat or Instagram or … “whatever”.

Yes, I’m a miserable old goat, but if any of her 500 apparent “friends” were indeed to actually meet her in the flesh for the first time, they might struggle to recognise her. The fleshy-lipped, bosom-heaving beauty with cheekbones as sharp as a knife in her picture, bore no resemblance whatsoever to the girl sitting next to me. The confidence with which she posed, pouted and flicked her hair whilst completely oblivious to the other passengers, made me question as to whether this confidence was borne from the prospect of the inevitable “likes” that she was no doubt imminently due to receive; or from the pleasure that she was getting from making a perfect version of herself. As I said, I am a grumpy old goat.

Sadly I suspect that if I did the same on WordPress, I’d probably have you all in stitches of laughter at me as I tried to stretch out the wrinkles, hold in the muffin tops and hide the bingo wings. As for the bosoms, well, perhaps the answer is simply to do a handstand. I’d have bouffant hair if nothing else, except perhaps a cardiac arrest. The thought of that level of exertion is requiring a little lie down and some ginger nuts which won’t help the muffin tops, alas, I care not.

But, back to those skeletons. I wonder if those who pose for the happy family pictures in the luxurious locations that the majority of us can’t even pronounce, truly believe their own publicity. Is it a form of propaganda? Is it advertising oneself, and if so, for whom?

And when I see beautiful photographs of beaming happy families on a gin palace in the south of France, are they really trying to pretend that their decree nisi hadn’t recently been signed, or that the youngest child hadn’t just been expelled from a rather top-end public school for selling drugs? Why must we attempt to portray perfection?

To be clear, I am not perfect. I am annoyingly bouncy, irritatingly highly strung, scream with gusto if frightened, have dyed my hair which has resulted in a distinctly purple and yellow striped tinge, have lines, wobbly bits and am a grumpy old goat. I am not saying that I love my flaws, but I do the best I can with what I have been given and accept the rest. (Just call me Joan, Joan of Arc). Surely life’s too short to be worrying about what the rest of the world thinks? Isn’t it? As for the hair … there’s some work to be done me-thinks …

Katie

Are you perfect? Flawed? Or perfectly flawed?

Gardening!

close up cold environment flora
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I am not in the same league as some of the gardeners here on WordPress. Frankly, I am in awe of their horticultural prowess.

I do however have a few meagre RHS qualifications and occasionally some Latin names find their way from the dusty crevices of the grey matter. Alas, give me houseplants and I’ll kill them. I will kill them by either forgetting about them or overloving them.

I suspect historically that happened to a few relationships as well. (Obviously I didn’t actually kill the boyfriends, although I’d have liked to have thrown a few plates, vases and saucepans at some; but that might have made me seem a little unhinged, and I’m obviously not that.)

Yesterday however, and back to the gardening, I took the train from London and came (sans mon husband) to visit my parents-in-law. The reason: Obviously to enjoy some time with them, but also to help with their garden.

And garden I did!

Yes, it was chilly. Yes, my nose was a little sniffy and my ears turned attractively scarlet in the freezing cold, but it was glorious! And I thought I was a fair-weather gardener…

Fresh air and exercise has culminated in a tidy garden which has cleared out the cerebral cobwebs and frankly I crave for more. The sense of achievement has left me feeling unattractively smug and faintly pleased with myself. So if anyone wants to put me in my place or their garden needs sorting, you know where I am … well, sort of. Although, there’s limited internet here so if you’re horribly rude I won’t be able to retort quickly back or indeed give you my address. Bother! 😉

Katie x

Do you have green fingers?

Exactly How Many Of Us Are Writing a Book?

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It appears to me that there are a plethora of budding authors here on WordPress.

Indeed, some already have beautifully bound books sitting on the shelves. Oh, how we long to be in your shoes! How we dream of being that far along the published line, with our designated writing rooms and a spouse who when visitors appear at the door, whisper that you are not to be disturbed as the genius, the ‘artiste’, is ‘at work’.

Said genius might perhaps be wafting around in a silk negligee and matching robe with a cigarette holder firmly clamped between glossy scarlet lips as she drops ash on the carpet whilst dictating to her loyal and dependable secretary. Of course if the author is of the male variety, one presumes that there would be less of the silk negligee and more of the smoking jacket and cigar, but I’m frightfully broad minded these days, and frankly, anything goes.

Some however have finished writing and are desperately and nervously waiting for the telephone to ring. Waiting in excruciating anticipation for their editors, agents or publishers to gush in delight, gasping with excitement at the marvellously original manuscript that you have sent. Cover to cover they have devoured your novel whilst rubbing their hands in glee at the potential film rights whilst already looking at potential Oscar winners to take the leading role. Oh! Oh! Oh!

And then, there are those of us (and I include myself in this grouping) who are daily, weekly or whenever-we-can-ly tap, tap, tapping away at our computers and iPads.

We live in a never-ending rollercoaster of hopeful optimism and desperate pessimism. We continue with life, with children, families, jobs and dreary mundane problems sucking out the very life within us; whilst in the deepest and dustiest crevices of our grey matter we secretly harbour and nurture a tiny and often fleeting glimmer of hope. A candle light so faint it can barely be seen. And so we continue to write, to throw our vulnerable selves, our mind and souls onto the pages for all to see, just in case, just in case …. we can succeed.

So carry on my friends! And if ever you wish to be seen in a flimsy and quite possibly highly flammable silk negligee whilst holding a cigarette, don’t forget that smoking is terribly bad for you, but frankly I may well come and join you. My tongue is, as ever, firmly lodged in my cheek, however, with all sincerity may I say, let us keep writing, keep working for as well as loving to write, we also love to read each others work. And one day, one day, that little glimmer of hope just might turn into a roaring flame.

Katie xx

Are you writing with a purpose in mind, for pleasure or a combination of the two? I won’t ask if you have a penchant for negligee, but … do tell …

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

You Are My Habit …

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So, according to WordPress, and not my memory, which even I will admit is unreliable (and that is being generous), I have blogged, posted, written and rambled for an entire year; and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.

I have wittered fairly endlessly, mostly about absolute drivel, and yet, you my friends have tolerated me, humoured me and made me feel welcome in this, our rather special writing club.

I have read your posts, at times in complete reverence at the magical ways in which you have used our glorious language; but surprisingly instead of feeling that green-eyed monster crawl up my inner thigh and reach towards an embittered heart, I have embraced your work, loved it, praised it and attempted to improve my own as a consequence.

Pease forgive my failings and be confident that I, more than anyone, am the most aware of them, and be calmed in the knowledge that I am working hard to be the best person that I can be.

So thank you my friends … You’re completely and utterly fabulous!

Katie xx

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!

woman holding firecracker
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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?

Anxiety, Excitement and Looking For My Knickers.

closeup photography of green cactus plant on pail
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Anxiety … It starts with butterflies, then the clammy hands, tingling feet, dizziness and nausea, until finally in order to prevent passing out I have to either lie down or somehow get my head lower than my heart. Usually this involves bending over so far that it looks as though I am interested in looking at my knickers.

These deeply unpleasant sensations also occur if I am too hot, dehydrated and/or haven’t eaten enough.

Embarrassingly this happened on my second date with The Colonel. I had been a teensy bit overexcited, had forgotten to eat all day and was wearing a rather natty little dress of the faintly Grecian variety with lots of lengths of fabric wrapped round me. Alas, I think I had bound myself up slightly too tightly, and promptly had a little fainting episode. Not awfully sexy having your not-quite-boyfriend shove your head between your thighs, but I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t give me a fireman’s lift and douse me in cold water.

I digress … my point here is this. Apart from the dehydration and lack of food causes for these symptoms, I have found that more often than not, my brain is confusing anxiety, with excitement.

Now this anxiety is really just a way of my body and brain recognising that there is a potential danger. It is simply preparing for fight or flight. As we know, in times gone by, the Sabre-toothed tiger approaching the entrance to the cave required some serious action. A delicate fainting, reaching for the smelling salts or practicing my breathing techniques would probably have resulted in ‘Kitty’s lunchtime’.

However, it’s perhaps a little unnecessary to have these rather extreme reactions when I am standing on a chair to change a lightbulb, or kneeling on the kitchen unit trying to reach the top cupboard. It can be a fairly long winded task to change a lightbulb if every few minutes as the adrenaline starts racing through my body, I have to be upended and forced to look at my knickers again.

So I have taken to changing my thought process.

Each time I feel those dizzying, clammy, nauseous feelings of anxiety I say (out loud) …

“Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” several times and then repeat, and again …

Now slightly simple, unhinged and odd I may well be, but slap me down with a feather, it jolly well does the trick. And dare I say it, on a par with, if not better than, my previous deep breathing exercises.

It appears that by forcibly telling myself that I am excited rather than fearful repeatedly whilst doing the stressful and loathsome task, I can overcome the need for a little lie down or reach for the sick bucket.

So I shall persevere with this and fingers crossed it could be the way forward … I suppose the only worry is if I try to incorporate both past and previous remedies. I suspect that by saying, “Oooh! I am so excited! What fun I am having!” whilst my head is up my skirt and I am heavy breathing, I may well be sectioned or frankly, arrested.

Katie x

How does your anxiety manifest itself? And what do you do?

 

Do You Feel Sorry For Yourself?

close up of hand feeding on tree trunk
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Well I do.

I’ve got a stinking, sneezing, coughing cold and my husband has sent me to bed whilst muttering about ‘pestilence in the house’.

The room he complains is smelling of Olbas Oil, to which I respond, “It’s either that or I’ll not be able to breathe.” He appears to be contemplating the two options. He also keeps picking up tissues with thumb and forefinger and carrying them with an extended arm and a grimace to the bin whilst holding his breath. And when I sneeze, he asks if it’s strictly necessary.

Sympathy is not his forte. If I had the energy, I’d hit him with a shovel.

Of course the benefit to being in bed is that I can tap, tappety, tap away to you without any guilt for once, and dare I say it, I’m already feeling remarkably better. It’s either that or the fact that I’ve poured half the bottle of Olbas oil onto the bed so I can breathe and perhaps the paracetamol might be kicking in.

So I pathetically mop my fevered brow and wish that I looked like Meg Ryan with a cold in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (a chick-flick gentlemen, so you’re forgiven if you haven’t seen it) instead of a pink-nosed snuffling, truffling little piglet. And downstairs the Colonel has the hoover going and I’m sure I can smell disinfectant, but it’s gone awfully cold. Dear God he’s opened all the windows. Oh well, the house will be clean, but let’s face it, Mother Teresa he is not … bless him!

I wonder if he’ll come to bed in a face mask … or perhaps the smell of the Olbas oil that I accidentally spilt on his side of the bed will send him shuffling off to the spare room … hmmm …

Katie x

Any cold remedies you’d like to share?

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?

Shall We Hibernate Together?

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Contrary to my usual nonsensical chit chat and ditzy writings, the other day I had a brief ‘discussion’ with a fellow blogger about the hibernating habits of bees! This jump-started the rather dusty grey matter into a flurry of activity and led me to do a bit of a research, aka googling Wikipedia (that infamous source of (mostly, ish) correct information.)

It transpires that there are masses of animals that hibernate and frankly I think I/we have missed a trick here.

Whenever the nights draw in, the weather turns colder, or there’s a shortage of food, the breathing of some animals becomes more shallow, their pulses slow and a heavenly slumber ensues. Ahhh! Just the thought of it sends me into a marshmallowy soft blanket of snoring and truffling bliss.

So according to bears, hamsters and skunks (and if we were to follow in their footsteps), if the kitchen, larder and secret garage store of ginger nut biscuits is looking a tad low, this would mean that it is time for a wee snooze.

Or if it all gets a little chilly and the nights are drawing in and we were to follow in the footsteps of prairie dogs, ground squirrels and deer mice, then yup, time to pull on a duvet onesie and take a lovely two month siesta.

It certainly seems to be what my body and mind are craving. A deep, long and uninterrupted sleep.

However, (and somewhat sadly) I’m not entirely sure that this would work for me, or indeed us.

The problem is that life is short. Much too short. And unlike bears, hamsters, skunks and bats, we humans have more than just cotton wool between our ears and therefore we have the wisdom to comprehend that life is for living.

And even though a heavenly slumber to help us pass through the cold dark days might be appealing, it would be a tragic way to waste our very short time on this heavenly planet.

For myself, that feeling of wasted time, combined with a personal loathing of the onesie and the fact that I am currently in Amsterdam with a very excited stepdaughter leaves me no time for wishing my life away in sleep. Instead, there are places to go, people to meet and a life to live.

So when my inner hamster, bear or bat is longing for a wee hibernation, I shall fight it and instead remember the wise words of Dr Seuss …

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!

Katie xx

Do you love your bed?

Are you tired, exhausted and just want to sleep?

How do you fight the lethargy that winter brings and how?

Wasting Time …

woman reading a book beside the window
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Sometimes I astonish myself. It is quite extraordinary how I can so masterfully waste time. If there were degrees being handed out here, I’d have a First, with a distinction, several stars and a cherry on top for good measure.

I see myself as an (occasionally) rational person; I understand that time is one commodity that we in theory have control over, and yet as it slips away hour by hour, day by day, I manage to waste it on utter nonsense.

As I said to a fellow blogger this morning, what historically used to be ‘reading time’ to keep the grey matter alive and kicking, and as a very enjoyable pastime, I now can waste hours, hours on my iPad googling holidays that I obviously can’t afford, ways to make my eyelashes look longer and houses for sale in the deepest depths of France. And I use the word ‘waste’ because despite all this lengthy research, I still have no romantic little city-break booked, no house in Provence with a sparkling swimming pool, and my eyelashes are still as stubby as they were last week.

Reading my latest book, ( Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight) I have now had to resort to reading it in the bath. Even though my iPad I am sure would work perfectly well in the bathroom, I still have visions of it falling in amongst the bubbles and yours truly being electrocuted …. found days later with Rigor Mortis deforming my body and face whilst donning a particularly attractive perm. Not quite the death I had envisaged. As an aside, if one dies in an odd position, this ‘Rigor Mortis’ sets in, how do they fit you into a coffin? Would they have to force and squeeze you tightly into a recumbent, legs together position and then nail the lid on quickly in case suddenly you popped out like a Jack-in-the-box? Just a thought …

Anyway, I digress … now that I have used up my previous ‘reading time’, I am now using up my ‘bath’ time. Perhaps when I have realised that in fact I cannot be electrocuted by a battery operated machine, I will stop reading in the bath and the dreaded iPad will venture into the bathroom and I will start googling more nonsense from there. Heavens! My life is being taken over by a 6 x 9 inch piece of metal with a rather attractive purple cover.

So, Sarah Knight of the aforementioned book, explains very clearly and assisted by some fairly fruity language, that my problem is time management. We all have the designated 24 hours in a day, it’s just that some of us choose to use it better than others.

So, my resolution for the fast approaching New Year is to manage my time considerably better. Firstly I shall don a watch (that I secretly think my lovely husband is giving me for Christmas because I am apparently always late which is hard for these military types to cope with. As it’s a Christmas present I obviously can’t start this resolution immediately – procrastinator – surely not?). I shall then make to-do lists, must-do lists, get-your-bottom-off-the-sofa-lists. I shall have spreadsheets and bar charts and attempt to become a wonderfully efficient version of the scatty, forgetful, googling me. After all, isn’t that what resolutions are all about, a moment of pre-Christmas excited enthusiasm in changing one’s somewhat shoddy ways for the better? Any suggestions more than welcome.

Katie xx

Are you a time-waster like me? 😬

Are you organised and efficient? HOW do you do it …. ?

What do you google? (As per previous posts, nothing smutty or vulgar please!)

CBT … Stopping the Negative Thoughts.

person looking searching clean
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Good habits, bad habits, they’re a part of us.

I spend my life trying to halt the bad habits in their tracks with a large stop sign and a smattering of self control. I usually fail, dismally.

The limited good habits that I have and I am scrabbling around trying to think of what indeed they actually are, I am unbearably smug about. Ah yes, I don’t like dark chocolate at all and therefore I don’t eat it. Filthy stuff. So when offered some, I say with a sweet self-congratulatory and faintly superior smile, “Oh no, thank you, but I’ll pass this time!” as though I have some exorbitant levels of self control and treat my body like the proverbial temple. I don’t. I am effectively lying. I just don’t like dark chocolate. Oh God, I’m a fraud.

However, back to the point; stopping the negative thoughts. Do you have a habit of thinking about something vaguely depressing or negative (usually about the past) that within minutes can be blown out of all proportion? And one’s musings seem to slide downwards into the dark murky waters of depression? Well, in the wonderful world of CBT there is a name for this:

RUMINATION.

Now, when these negative thoughts start to take over, there are 3 points to ask:

1). Have I made any progress towards solving the problem?

2). Do I have a better understanding about this problem now that I’ve been thinking about it? And finally,

3). Am I feeling better or less depressed than before I started thinking about this?

If the answer is a clear NO, then yup, you’re ruminating.

Thinking about something and trying to find a solution is completely different and not to be confused with rumination. Trying to find a solution is positive. Rumination is not. Rumination is a habit, of the bad, disgusting dark chocolate variety.

How to stop it

The CBT experts will give you a load of chit chat about bringing yourself back to the present as rumination is so often about the past, I however need less of the chit and none of the chat. I need answers and solutions in what to do. So cutting through it all, the answer is this:

As soon as you have asked yourself those 3 questions above, recognised that yes, you are ruminating, immediately GET UP AND DO AN ACTIVITY. Um, yes it’s actually that simple but as with so many things, distraction is a powerful tool.

A pleasurable activity is of course the easiest way. Baby steps and all that. But in simple terms, find something, anything that ensures that your brain is totally and utterly focussed.

Despite some claiming to be able to multitask, it is impossible to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. Perhaps that is why rubbing your tummy and patting your head is so difficult, but maybe that’s just me. Whether this activity is turning on the television and cleaning out a cupboard, blogging, cooking, whatever floats your boat … it simply doesn’t matter. It’s just a case of stopping ‘feeding the beast’ and bringing an end to this self destructive habit called rumination.

Every time it happens again, repeat the process. Yes, your cupboards will be incredibly clean and you will have devoured the entire Game of Thrones series, but you will be learning how to stop the habit. And eventually, ‘the beast’ will wither and die. The habit will go and less effort will be required. You may become a serial cleaner with a penchant for trashy tv but hey … does it matter?

To me, this makes a lot of sense, and yes, I’m doing it. And yes, it works.

To summarise for those who haven’t read the above:

. Recognise it and act on it.

Give it a go … you have absolutely nothing to lose, but a happy and peaceful life to gain.

Katie xx

Do you ruminate? Do you let it lead you into the depths of despair or do you try and break the cycle?

NO! NO! NO!

red stop signage under clear blue sky
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Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.

Issue 1

I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.

Issue 2

I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.

And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.

I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.

So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.

And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.

As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:

Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)

Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),

Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)

Again, I hope you get the gist.

There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”

I can’t say No!

So the question is twofold:

1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and

2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.

All answers, suggestions welcomed ….

Katie xx

Today I Shall Be Fabulous!

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When I was ensconced in the wonderful world of online dating, a friend of mine suggested I google a chap called Matthew Hussey. He’s a dating guru, young and full of vitality and dare I say it, happiness. I found myself slightly addicted to his YouTube videos so when I’d watched them all, I bought his audio book and played it again and again and yes, again.

He speaks sense. He understands the psychology of both men and women, of how we interact and sometimes how we fail to interact and also understand each other. He explains how what we say and what we do can be misinterpreted, and how our very basic caveman instincts are still absolutely paramount in terms of our current behaviour.

But one thing that he talks of, is practising talking and engaging with people. People in the queue at the coffee shop, people in the supermarket, people anywhere. Just a simple smile and a happy brief chat can not only make your day, but also someone else’s.

Now of course living in London, it is deemed as a little odd to smile at a stranger, and frankly unhinged should one make conversation … and yet, why should the most natural thing in the world be given a few raised eyebrows?

The other day on the tube, my fellow passengers and I became united as a small dog raced past us on the platform and on reaching the end, threw itself onto the tracks and bolted off towards the tunnel. What ensued, along with all trains on the Central Line coming to an almighty halt, was that we bonded. We chatted, laughed, made suggestions as to how to entice said dog back and enjoyed even more hilarity as the Platform Manager in her fluorescent jacket took to shouting abuse at our canine friend. What became of the dog, I know not, as it clearly was unimpressed by being roared at, and subsequently turned its back on her, cocked its leg on the tunnel wall and promptly trotted off into the darkness.

My purpose of this post is this; whether we are dating or not, Matthew Hussey has a point. Some of us are good at ‘small talk’, some not so. But as with everything that we want to improve or even excel at, we should take heed of his advice, and practise.

Engaging with people and the world whether that be sharing a smile or a little chat with a person is good for the soul and the spirit. Not just yours, but theirs also. Sometimes, your kind words can lift someone’s day from being somewhat shabby, to positively fabulous. Go on! Be fabulous today!

Katie xx

Are you good at small talk? Or do your inhibitions prevent you?

Breaking the Ice …

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Yesterday I joined a wonderful class and being the first introductory meeting there were ‘housekeeping’ rules to discuss; where the loos and fire exits were, if a fire alarm was to go off to treat it as genuine as no practices were scheduled, no bad language allowed etc etc.

Two minutes in, the fire alarm goes off, the lady sitting next to me jumps up and exclaims, “Oh Fuck! It’s a fire!” clutches at her knickers, declares an ‘oops’ moment in her excitement and runs, semi crossed-legged out of the room. I’d say it was a pretty good icebreaker.

Katie xx

Ps. To reassure you, it was the toaster in the next door room that set it off! How we laughed! What made you laugh today or yesterday? X

My Happy Place

two brown ceramic teacups with latte
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I have finally found my home away from home. It is simply a little coffee shop between the river and the park. It has wooden floorboards, huge windows and soft armchairs filled with cushions. There are beautiful pastries and fresh fruits in wicker baskets, smells of roasting coffee beans and hot chocolate and has now most firmly become a part of my daily routine.

I sit, drink copious amounts of coffee and write.

I used to find that writing on the underground worked a treat until I realised that going round and round on the Circle Line in order to type up the next chapter was probably a little odd to say the least; and somehow writing at home just seemed to be difficult. It was too quiet and the overspilling ironing basket would give me the evil eye, and the cupboard with the ginger nut biscuits would call to me a little too often to guarantee a lifetime free of the dreaded cellulite. So the coffee shop it is. They do have a rather delicious chocolate brownie which just happens to come with ice cream but I digress.

Like so many of us, it took a little while before being able to feel entirely comfortable and entitled to while away the hours in someone else’s space; but within a week I found myself feeling as though I was simply ‘a home away from home’. The staff became chattier to me by the day and even better, knew how I liked my coffee. And now? I feel like one of those people (usually men dare I say it) who go into their local pub and are asked, “A pint of your usual sir?” Oh yes, I feel as though they have accepted me into their fold and I’m loving it.

So, as I tap, tappety, tap away with the world moving around me and gentle music playing in the background, I have now reached the momentous point of being one third of the way through the book. There is still a long way to go, particularly in light of the fact that I have a notebook completely full of barely legible notes to make something of, but it’s a good start. I’m out of the starting gates, have done a few furlongs and am galloping midfield with a mass of others.

There are many on the same course, and whilst some are ahead, some behind and some have fallen at the first hurdle, I am doing my very best to keep on the straight and narrow. I’m only a little way through with the inevitable Becher’s Brook or another huge challenge or six to contend with, but with a good wind behind me and my bank account allowing for the continuation of daily coffee and chocolate brownies with ice cream, with a little luck I shall finish before the clocks go forward in the spring. I may of course be something the size of a whale with a coffee addiction by that point, but I will, with a little luck have a book. Battle on McDuff to myself and all of us!

Katie xx

Where is your most favourite place in the world? Do you have somewhere away from home that you love to visit?

Mirror Mirror On The Wall …

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When I look into a mirror, it is usually with trepidation. I never quite know what I shall see. The majority of the time I can see only the flaws, and yet just occasionally when the light is low and soft and I am at peace with the world, then what I see makes me content.

Beauty is a funny old business. What one person finds attractive, another finds repellent. But what do I see in the mirror?

I see a vibrant woman full of life with hopes and dreams. I see gentle creases from a life lived with laughter and joy. I see a strong, proud body that has carried children and hands, arms and legs that have worked tirelessly and with vigour throughout.

And yet sometimes I still see the little girl crying, needing, wanting her mother. I see the lost look in her pale eyes as she craves the security of love. I see a tired face lined from the incessant ravages of life and the vacant stare at the fear of facing the future.

With minimal effort we can show the world one face, and yet hiding behind the shield may be something remarkably different. Or perhaps we simply change like the tides, depending on what life or perhaps God throws at us.

Yes, beauty is a funny old business.

Katie xx

How do you see yourself? What do you see in the mirror?

What Makes You Write?

pexels-photo-268424.jpegWork on the book has been a little slow of late. Ok, so if the truth be told, I’ve been procrastinating rather a lot. It’s incredible how I can find little excuses and reasons to not write. And suddenly a week has passed. Then two. And before I knew it, the habit and routine of writing has flittered away. We all know that it’s very hard to start a good habit and mightily easy to let it slip. Don’t we all favour the easiest route in life?

So yesterday I made myself a promise. I would take my bicycle and iPad on an outing and set myself up in a coffee shop and actually get to grips with the book.

So as I sit here, bouncing around on excess caffeine, I have made enormous progress. There’s a huge amount of work to be done, but it’s a good start and clearly this works better than trying to find a place in the house where I can sit and write without being disturbed by the jobs that I see needing to be done and the telephone ringing. Clearly I could never be self employed as I don’t appear to have the discipline.

Thankfully I am surrounded by at least six others on their various computers and iPads also tap, tap, tapping away so there is no sense of guilt that I am occupying one of the most comfortable seats by the window and letting two cups of what I had thought was decaffeinated coffee but is clearly not, last two hours. I think I’m nearly done here for the day as if I have any more to drink I’ll be bouncing off the ceiling, but clearly for me this is the way forward. The fact that they play lovely music, have rather delicious chocolate brownies and I get to do a bit of people-watching makes it all the more fun. I think I can get rather used to this.

Katie x

What gives you inspiration to write? Do you need to get out of the house?

How (And Where) on Earth Do I Write a Book?

photography of book page
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There are a lot bloggers here who are writing, or have been pondering for years on writing a book. Well, I fall into the latter category, have a mass of material and am now just starting to try to put it all together.

The problem (and oh and there are so many), is that all I want to do is to have a month to myself in a small room with no distractions. The likelihood of this? Nil. So I have to improvise.

Yesterday however, I did something completely out of character and perhaps more in line with an activity for the over 70’s; I took the Colonel to visit Ham House and gardens. But before you offer my unfortunate husband any sympathy whatsoever, he has a trip to Rome this week and therefore is in no position to make a fuss or complain, not that I am remotely jealous (she says with a derogatory sniff and twitch of her nose as she beats the green-eyed monster to the ground with a large shovel).

I had cycled past Ham House a couple of months ago and put it on the old bucket list. And well worth it too. Built in the 1600’s it made us stop and gaze and wonder and take a trip back into the life and times of the Fire of London and the Plague, when maps were dubious in their accuracy, baths were a rarity and men and women of a certain class and wealth had their own designated areas in the house.

A couple of particular rooms that both the male and female apartments had within the house were tiny ‘closets’ (not as in dressing room or to be confused with a bathroom), but a tiny room with a fireplace and an area for some sort of a daybed and a desk where he or she could escape to, rest, or write. Can you imagine?! What a joy!

Now understandably these rich souls had to deal with all sorts of other problems that we generally don’t have (such as giving birth to 11 children obviously not all at the same time without the wonders of mind-altering and pain-blocking drugs, infancy death, no clean water and therefore drinking beer instead – were they all drunk? etc etc) I do however rather envy them having their very own ‘closet’. One could escape for hours at a time and write in relative peace and quiet. I could escape for hours at a time and write in relative peace and quiet! Of course, there isn’t really much room here in our military house to create such a room and I suspect our housing officer might raise an eyebrow or two if I started knocking down the occasional wall but you get my gist. A place of my own, with a log burner, armchair, lots of Jane Churchill fabric, a secret stash of ginger nuts and a large no entry sign on the door (in a pretty eau de nil distressed piece of shaped wood). Perfect.

But sadly, unless I compromise, take refuge in either the clothes cupboard or the understairs cupboard and switch the log burner for a hot water bottle, I fear I shall have to continue with my writing in the comparative norm like everyone else of the kitchen, with my iPad attached to the wall by the cable that isn’t quite long enough to reach the little table and chair as I forgot once again to charge it overnight.

So yes, I stand and type, grasping an hour here, an hour there trying to create a book so wonderful that eventually someone, anyone, ideally a desperate agent will give me a flicker of hope and perhaps, just perhaps one day on amazon at 0.001 pence you might be able to find a book written by me, about a woman and her lowly bicycle Claude … who knows?

And, in the meantime, I think I might just move the Colonel’s uniforms from the cupboard and try and make a little more space … I can almost fit in there if I bend my legs to the left and push the handbags and shoes to the right … oh! So that’s where I hid my jewellery when I was away … golly now I can tell the Colonel it’s back from the menders …

Katie xx

Where do you write? Do you have a perfect hideaway?

Fortnum & Mason

fortnum and mason bottle on blue box
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After a few days of being a little poorly (hence the lack of WordPress interaction of late – my apologies) I finally had to go out with my youngest son yesterday in order to buy him his first suit due to an impending interview.

A rather lovely shop in Jermyn Street not far from Piccadilly saw not just one, but two men and a woman all with tape measures hanging around their necks, tweak, adjust and transform my gangly boy into a rather dashing young man in the space of an hour. Job done, and left to pay the bill and also with a little time on my hands took a minor detour and went into the 300 year old beautiful store of Fortnum & Mason.

From the moment you are welcomed by the man on the door, you enter a world of delectable beauty. Everything and everyone is beautiful in Fortnums. From the handmade chocolates dipped in coloured sugars, dusty cocoa and wrapped in the finest tissue paper, to the exquisitely decorated biscuits sold in hand-painted and shaped tins that are so pretty as to be kept eternally, to the soft music swirling around the high ceilings with the familiar pale turquoise-teal colour that represents Fortnums in every corner of every floor. The wines, the cheeses and the hampers filled with gorgeous delights that one might possibly want or need for a picnic … everything is available and everything is beautiful in Fortnums. I run my fingers over the magnificent displays, loving the feel of the embossed, silky packaging and relish the feeling of being somewhere so very, very special where the detail in every single item is exquisite. I wander and touch, wander and touch … smiling at the sheer gorgeousness of it all.

But of course, it all comes at a price. Mostly a rather extortionate price. And there’s all sorts of people here too. I watch a woman rudely instruct a gentleman scuttling behind her to carry three baskets as she points with her phone and gives a flick of her hand to the items that she wants. Another small group of women, scoop numerous packets of gold and silver sweets shaped like small pebbles in delicate boxes from the shelves, dropping them roughly into their numerous baskets, without any care of the contents or packaging. Perhaps when money is no object and beautiful things are easily replaced, care is not such a priority.

And as for me, well, on our way back from France we had brought back some cheeses, so having explained this, was offered to taste some damson jelly. A change from the usual quince, I was in heaven as I chose and bought some. It was about all I could afford after buying the suit, but it did mean that I could relish not only the deep aubergine coloured, richly flavoured jelly wrapped in the waxy paper, but also one of their lovely pale turquoise bags which I shall keep ad infinitum. I’m not a big ‘shopper’ at all, but if you’re going to do it, it’s rather fun to do it occasionally in style, even if it’s just for a three inch square of damson jelly and a rather pretty plastic bag.

Katie xx

Shopping …. do you love it or loathe it? What’s your favourite shop and why?

Is It All In The Mind? …

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Let’s not beat around the bush here, my brain is a simple thing.

It is not made up of intense masses of grey matter jostling to be the first to find the answer to a question, to read and understand the contents of a (proper, grownup) newspaper, to remember anything politically intelligent, to finish (or even start) a cryptic crossword puzzle … No. It is not.

My brain is more about fluffy clouds of marshmallow trying to remember my children’s names and their dates of birth which is considerably tricky when under pressure (ie when someone asks me), where exactly I parked the car and even more worryingly why I have just walked upstairs for the second time – (what precisely was I planning on doing up there?)

No, I am not the brightest spark in the box and yet I have discovered this sad fact appears to have the most marvellous consequences, side effects if you like. I shall expand.

I have found that if I am having to do something that I don’t like (ie most things that don’t involve cups of tea, ginger nut biscuits, reading, writing and games of tennis) and therefore don’t want to do, I can trick my simple little brain into making the required task completely bearable.

So, to use an example here on holiday in France … Each and every day, in order to reach the empty part of the beach that the family like the most, we need to cross a river called the Huchet. This for me is on a par with putting pins in my eyes, eating my toenails and sucking on a random stranger’s too. It is not only freezing cold, but it is a murky shade of greeny brown where there is no likelihood of seeing ones toes and in terms of how deep it is, well apparently that has something to do with the moon, suffice to say, it varies from above knee level to (I’m about to cut my) throat deep. Unpleasant? Very, very deeply and with no pun intended.

However … If I distract myself sufficiently, it is bearable and I can wade across without too much of the drama queen in me squealing, complaining and writhing my body in the agony of it all. And how do I distract myself? I sing. I sing, just as I sang when cycling up those wretched mountains that the French call hills, not so long ago. I sing anything that I can remember the words to and anything that I cannot. Nursery rhymes work well, hymns and yes, happy birthday to me have all been uttered from my pursed lips as I step on tiptoe through the grisly, cold dark water.

If it’s truly bad, then I use another of my senses … touch. I flick my thumb nails onto my index fingers and dig in, hard.

If it’s worse than truly bad, ie up to the neckline, then I also start to use deep breathing.

So I’m puffing, singing and finger flicking and well knock me down with a dead fish floating past, we’ve reached the other side!

Now forgive me for being just a tad simple, but aren’t these tactics exactly what we use when we’re having a moment of anxiety or a panic attack? Are we not told to breathe in slowly and deeply? When we’re angry and seeing red and about to explode, did our parents and teachers not tell us to count slowly to ten until it passes? When we’re in labour (sorry gentlemen) are we not required to huff and puff our way through it? What I’m trying to say is, are these not all simply distraction techniques until the moment of unrest or pain has disappeared? Is our mind truly stronger than our body?

“It’s all in the mind,” my father used to say about seasickness. And yes, strangely, if I was kept busy out on deck, I never had any moments of queeziness, but perhaps hardly surprising when you’re clinging for dear life onto a mast whilst at a 45 degree angle to the angry sea and death is looking you in the eye.

Is it truly all in the mind and we can use distraction to obliterate any unpleasantness? Is this how mad people can walk across hot coals?

Clearly, with my simple little brain it works. If for you it does not, then you can pride yourself in the knowledge that you are a clever sausage. I’m rather jealous, but then again, perhaps you just need more intellectually stimulating distractions. Perhaps you could do the cryptic crosswords instead? Just a thought … Oh, and could you explain to me how to do them?

Katie xx

How clever are you?! Can you use breathing or singing to fob off anxiety, stress and pain? Or do you have another trick?

Passion!

cabbage white butterfly perching on purple flower in selective focus photography
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Time management is not my forte. In truth there is no management. I flit from one thought or task to another with extraordinary ease. I start something, bore easily, become distracted and like the proverbial butterfly, flutter away to something else. The end result? An over-filled brain of constant thoughts and ideas, and an awful lot of half-finished jobs.

An ex-boyfriend of mine (the same one who gave me the self-help book with post-it notes in the appropriate pages) told me that I was not a ‘Completer Finisher’. Apparently there is even a term for people like me! I finished with him pretty smartish so not quite sure he was entirely correct.

However, to contradict myself, from time to time I find something that I genuinely enjoy and lo and behold I become addicted. (If you know me well, alcohol may well spring to the forefront of your mind, but I was thinking of something more positive like, cycling perhaps.). I become obsessive about it and am completely driven and focused. This is all well and good if it’s a positive activity, not so much if it’s something like drinking alcohol, over-eating, under-eating, biting ones nails (having typed this, I now realise that I can lay claim to all of those). Once again, this rather reconfirms my out of kilter ability to moderate. Fair enough, my total lack of moderation.

My mother used to say, “A little of what you fancy does you good.” And yes she was right, but then again she wasn’t having to peel the wine bottle from my arms as I lay on the floor wailing. I do think however she wondered, and often despaired no doubt, as to why I hopped from one ghastly secretarial job to another. The answer, they bored me rigid.

People however have never bored me. I love talking (one on one, rather than in large groups … it’s a social anxiety thing). And most of all I love it when I meet someone whom I ‘click’ with. The problem is that I get terribly over-excited, want to scoop them up, take them home with me and force them to tell me their entire life history. Slightly strange I grant you and hardly surprising that I struggled socially in my youth. But I need interaction to other human beings, because otherwise I bore myself. And that is why I must go and get a job as soon as I’m back from my bicycling adventure. It’s when I try to engage the postman in some chatter and I can see his eyes glaze over as he backs nervously down the path, then I know that I have to get out more. I suspect he thinks I’m a complete fruitcake, but living in London I suspect, or rather hope, that I am not alone.

Online dating was enormous fun! Again lots of people to chatter to, but of course they were always utterly confused when after a lovely evening together and I had listened with enthusiasm to their various tales, I said, “Thanks awfully and super lovely to meet you, but we’re simply not a match! Toodle Pip!” And with a breezy smile I’d be gone, and they’d be left scratching their heads looking utterly baffled. You see, as a friend, they’re fabulous, but as a future husband, hopeless. By the time pudding had come along my mind was starting to wander, by coffee I was losing the will to live, so in order to find a lifetime partner (awful word, apologies) I was going to have to meet someone slightly extraordinary who kept me hooked, interested and completely on my toes. Thankfully for the male population of the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, after four long years of searching, I found The Colonel and we are both as nightmarish as each other, so really it’s a match made in heaven.

So you see this butterfly behaviour when I lose interest, and obsessional behaviour when I find my passion, is really rather an extension of my lack of moderation. I do wish that I was normal, but there is a positive here ….

Whilst a lot of things will find me filled with ennui at the tedium of it all – paperwork, political debates, Post Office queues and quinoa (I don’t do ‘bland’ and that’s at the top of my list, along with semolina), I do have passions and they include … you. I adore my WordPress friends, my non-Wordpress friends, blogging, writing, reading, cycling, tennis, quirky people and crumpets with masses of butter and a tiny dot of marmite. You are all my passion, not just for the here and now, but if you can possibly tolerate me and I don’t bore you senseless, then I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. Sorry about that …

Katie xx

Do you have a passion? Do you bore easily or are you disciplined and finish tasks?

Anxiety and Followers …

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I try to be a good person. I try to think positive, happy thoughts and yet when I see some whipper-snapper of a teenager celebrating a little too keenly with the world of bloggers their 80,000 followers I don’t know whether I want to hit them, or myself, with a large shovel … repetitively.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted for them (truly, not said from between clenched teeth) and frankly if I had that many followers I’d probably be thanking my vast audience, my family, my agent, publisher and the lady who sells ice creams down the road with great gusto, but …. but … but … Ok, let’s face it, I’m jealous. My name is Katie and I am a jealous human being. Not an attractive trait I am fully aware, but honest? Yes. (Note to self: Just because you’re honest, it doesn’t make it less unattractive Katie.)

So why do we want followers, how do we actually get them and does it really matter anyway?

As with all social media there is something rather lovely, however ultimately addictive, about other people gushingly adoring us. It makes us feel good. Human nature.

And who are the real biggies of the social media out there? Quite easy really … Now forgive me but I’m not a great lover of the Kardashian’s, the TOWIE bunch, the Made in Chelsea lot or any of the wannabes who are plastered over every magazine. I don’t want or need to see their latest plastic surgery or their most recent tattoo on their perfectly liposucked buttock. And I certainly don’t want to see or hear about their sexual adventures with every other member of the group or their undignified divorce. There’s sharing, and there’s sharing. How about a little decorum, decency and leaving just a tiny bit to the imagination. It’s a lot more attractive. So moving away from that rant as I’m going slightly off piste and just sounding old and stuffy.

It might be that we are trying to get a book published and we therefore need a good following as it will make us more attractive to publishers. Understandable. If we are trying to get a business off the ground, understandable. A new career, understandable. Although if only half of those 80,000 followers commented, quite how one is supposed to read, let alone comment-on-the-comments, I have no idea. I have just shy of 600 followers and it takes me a while to respond even vaguely intelligently (of course including emojis as an intelligent reply), to the comments that I get. So how do they do it?

Perhaps the ‘blogger biggies’ have been doing this for years. Perhaps they started tap tap tapping away on their phones when they were still in nappies and I was, well I was probably too busy changing nappies to notice. They were ahead of the times. I was busy being a mother, wife, un-wife (yes it’s a new word), single parent, single working parent, unhinged single working parent, to even notice that the world had moved on.

In fairness, I have been blogging now for precisely six months. Six rather short months so yes, I will not-so-happily but freely admit that I need a little patience. It may well be a virtue, but I am fairly patiently-challenged without a doubt. So indeed, I need to work on that one.

I obviously need to read more from other bloggers, but I love the ones that I follow, they take a bit of time to read and comment on and once again, it’s a time thing. There’s only so much time in one day. But if the biggie bloggers can manage it, then maybe I need to work on that too.

Maybe I need to rethink my content. Maybe it’s … *hushed whisper* … shite! Oh God! I’m writing shite! Yup, that may well be. However, I’m a simple creature and I don’t think much therefore is going to change in that department.

But in truth, I do love writing my shite and golly it makes me feel good when my lovely, scrumptious followers who I now feel are my friends, comment back and we chatter about random nonsense. Oh yes, you make me happy. So if I had 80,000 would I honestly be able to chatter and natter with that many people. No, of course not!

So should I start posting extremely airbrushed photos of myself. Should I pout, preen and squeeze my elbows together in my best push-up bra whilst wearing my one and only pair of Jimmy Choos? Should I just borrow a couple of baby Chihuahuas and stick them down my front instead. Probably get a lot more likes that way.

But perhaps I have the answer.

I should pause, relax and enjoy the journey of my writing. It’s not a competition, some were in the starting blocks before I even began looking for my trainers. I genuinely like my regular followers, the ones that I know do actually read what I’ve written. There are a few whom I almost love. I love that they have become part of my life. And so yes, thank you, you lovely people. I shall try to be patient, try to write better, try to read more and comment more without letting everything else in my life slip by the wayside; after all, the Colonel does still need feeding and clean underpants daily. But most importantly, I shall breathe, calm myself and continue to enjoy this wonderful, liberating world of blogging.

Katie xx

Do you have 80,000 followers? If so, umm sorry about this post. Love you really, and umm not at all jealous.

Any suggestions? Thoughts? Rants?