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.
How do you see yourself? What do you see in the mirror?
Work 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.
What gives you inspiration to write? Do you need to get out of the house?
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 …
Where do you write? Do you have a perfect hideaway?
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.
Shopping …. do you love it or loathe it? What’s your favourite shop and why?
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?
How clever are you?! Can you use breathing or singing to fob off anxiety, stress and pain? Or do you have another trick?
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 …
Do you have a passion? Do you bore easily or are you disciplined and finish tasks?
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.
Do you have 80,000 followers? If so, umm sorry about this post. Love you really, and umm not at all jealous.