Gardening!

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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?

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CBT … Stopping the Negative Thoughts.

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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?

Happy Days

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The other day I thought I was a bit down … a bit depressed. A few things have been going on lately that I thought had triggered Betty the depressive demon out of the garage to pay me a visit.

Wrong.

I was so filled with self pity that I had a little wallow in the gloopy soup of misery. What however I failed to recognise, is that it’s ok to sometimes just be a bit blue. That’s life. That’s normal. What however is not normal is how I dealt with it. I wasn’t quite hiding in the understairs cupboard with a vat of wine and a twin packet of ginger nuts, but it was looking rather appealing.

So, with a gentle nudge from the Colonel, my long suffering husband, I took to cleaning his pride and joy, the car. It was due to be sold so this was the moment.

Now, to explain, this is a car that should I leave hair bands, hand creams, spare water, emergency biscuits in, they are removed by my husband with a grimace whilst holding his breath. This is the car that should I accidentally put a grubby finger on the windscreen, causes a reaction in said husband that is somewhat akin to what I assume would be being tasered. It renders him speechless and incapacitated for a few moments, and finally as the shock wears off he disappears with considerable haste into the boot to find cloths and cleaning products. Strangely he doesn’t find my stifled guffaws of laughter and snorting giggles of apology help the situation.

So a few days ago, I took my blue mood out to the car and cleaned.

I spent seven hours cleaning that car. Yes.

I washed, polished, waxed, buffed and buffed again. I cleaned under the bonnet, inside the door frames, inside the petrol cap. I hoovered and sucked and sprayed. I used every single bottle from the vast array in his car cleaning box and then went and bought more. I replaced dust caps that I had lost when puffing up the tyres, I tried (and failed) to clean up the teensy scrapes along the alloys (ok, darn big chunks were missing). All in all, that car hadn’t looked that good since we bought it (bar the alloys).

A day in the autumn sun being busy, active, chatting to random strangers who passed by the house, and not only was a left with a sparkling car, but my mood was completely and utterly rectified. I felt marvellous.

The Colonel returned from a hard day of doing whatever it is that he actually does, and it was a ‘taser moment’ all over again. He was speechless and just stood staring. I grinned and squealed rather a lot, hopping up and down with crossed legs in excitement at his wonderful reaction.

After showing him every inch of the car, he emptied the garage and insisted that it stay inside protected until any potential buyers came to view it. Suffice to say, we have sold it to the first person at asking price but sadly my dear husband has now delegated any car cleaning duties in the future to yours truly. Not every cloud has a silver lining.

Katie x

Do you have a car and who cleans it?? Do you love or loathe the job? Or is it some kind of therapy?

The Final Countdown …

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Only a few more days now until I cycle off into the sunset with husband dearest and two adoring sons waving their handkerchiefs with damp eyes, gazing desolately at my lonely departing figure …

Or perhaps not?

“Pub?” I hear them ask each other, grinning widely.

“Let’s go!” and they march off smartish towards the nearest ale-house without a single look back at yours truly.

I somehow suspect that the latter scenario is infinitely more probable than the former.

Bastards! Ahh but they can now ditch the salad, eat chips, finish all the expensive ice creams and with no one to keep them on the straight and narrow, when I return, will I find an empty larder and only a small green morsel of mouldy cheese staring back at me from the fridge? Will I find that they have all developed rickets and scurvy? .. And will there be three inches of dust on every half-empty pizza box and penicillin-growing mug-covered table? Will I find dirty laundry spilling over onto the floor and not in their colour-coordinated baskets? Quelle horreur! Interesting how I am more concerned about the laundry than the scurvy, but I digress… How will they cope without me?!

Sadly, I flatter myself. My husband as most of you know is a military man. He requires order, precision and tidiness. I believe that his ideal picture of a perfect home is the one in “The Sound of Music” where Captain von Trapp blows a whistle daily and the children rush into line for inspection. I have mentioned this to him in jest, but instead of poo-pooing my theory, quite worryingly he nods and agrees, muttering to himself as he disappears into the quiet of the study. He does however then put his head around the door to remind me that he is of higher rank than a captain. Quite …

So no, rather irritatingly, I suspect that the house will be sparkling, the larder will have been reorganised, my herb and spices cupboard (a very irksome place for him, that he is usually barred from) will have been cleaned and all those tiny pots and jars which are usually out of date will have been mostly disposed of and the remaining ones placed, yes placed not shoved, with their caps on properly in perfect alignment and in alphabetical order. There will be none of my little hair bands, lipsalves or hand creams left on any surfaces (or in the car, dammit) and my bedside table, usually covered with books, clocks, photographs, more hand creams, eye creams, frankly any creams to help keep old age at bay, will have had a major overhaul, aka it will have been tidied within an inch of its unfortunate and usually cluttered life.

Do I mind this? Of course not! He will feel extremely satisfied as he explains to me the benefits of keeping order and how tarragon should be to the left of thyme, and how folding my clothes at the end of the day and placing them on the chair is infinitely preferable to ripping them off, randomly throwing them ‘nilly-willy’ in the vague direction of the chair and bouncing into bed chattering to him happily and trying to convince him that some rose-scented cream would benefit the lines on his forehead. He will mutter something about them being stress-related from living with me, but within a few minutes I shall be fast asleep, curled up close to him and he will have some long-awaited peace and quiet. No wonder he enjoys going to work so much, and quite probably why he is maybe just a teensy bit looking forward to my imminent departure. Can’t understand it myself.

Katie xx

How do you cope when your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend goes away?

Do you throw yourself into a cleaning frenzy, party for 48 hours non-stop or go into a complete decline?

Anxiety and Fear of Strangers…

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I’ve been saving this up for you. Just in case you thought you were a tad unhinged, I think I’ve now overtaken you and reached the top of the class in that department.  (Nb Photo with lassie above is not me … even I wouldn’t clean the car in heels …)

A glorious day in Scotland, and it was not raining, in fact the weather was positively tropical. Everyone still wears their coats though, after all, it’s common knowledge for the Glaswegians that if it’s not raining, it’s about to and if you’ve not got your coat, you’d be well advised to nick someone’s else’s.

By now I think you will have understood that ‘The Car’ is my husbands true love (along with Jaffa Cakes, women with long legs and beating me at Scrabble). With time on my hands, I figured that an outing to the car jet wash was the order of the day.

I must confess that being somewhat mean with money (the old fear of dying broke with 5 children from 5 fathers in a studio flat in the darkest depths of some God-forsaken city surrounded by beer cans and cigarette butts regularly rears its ugly head) …. moving onwards and away from that particular thought … this forces me to not be frivolous with the old notes and to generally get out the bucket and sponge and wash the car myself. However, a moment of madness and a simple trip to the car jet wash ensued. Or so I thought….

My money is in the machine. I’m not wasting a penny. The timer is going. I sense urgency to get the darn car clean; I have only eight minutes to complete my task and the clock’s ticking … they don’t call it a pressure washer for nothing. What started out as a blast of water that ricocheted off the car onto my face, was quickly replaced by bubbles. A lot of bubbles, with force.

The hose is stuck under a tyre; I’m flicking it away, it’s caught on the stumpy aerial on top of the car, I’m flicking it away again … every flick comes with a drenching of white bubbly car detergent all over yours truly. Eyes stinging and streaming, I look as though I’ve entered a wet t-shirt competition for the over 60’s – it’s really not a good look. Perhaps wearing a coat would have been a good idea.

Suddenly the hose is snatched from my hands by a huge Scottish man who barks at me in a language I can only assume is native to the farthest part of The Outer Hebrides …. I comprehend nothing. I snatch it back …. However, I am now not alone in being covered in bubbles.

His eyes are narrowing and yet he once again lurches towards me to grab said hose with more of the guttural, phlegm-inducing sounds which I can only assume are more words …. ahhh but I’m quick off the mark here! I can see Angelina Jolie in myself as I swiftly dodge his swipe and point my brush at his face, bubbles exploding over his huge chest and now bubble-splattered hairy face.. God he’s enormous. “Go away!” I squeak. He responded with words that my brain couldn’t register, except for two, “help” and “mad”. He shakes his head in bewilderment at me, bubbles flying from his beard.

Dear God, he was trying to help me. Another squeak, “Oh … Bugger!” Back-tracking required with speed.

“Um, gosh, thanks awfully. But um, I rather enjoy this …. see?” When in fear, the frightfully British accent lurches forward overtaking all normal speech. The thought of a burly Scot vigorously rubbing the paint off my husbands pride and joy was too terrifying to contemplate, so I now spend the next two and a half minutes pretending to simply adore washing cars as I rub and squirt and spray with gusto and all the time gibbering and thanking him profusely for his offer. He looks baffled, bewildered and somewhat wet.

At long last, the timer rings and the furious noise and force of water diminishes, and I am left standing in relative silence opposite a mammoth soggy Scot with bubbles in his beard and a now flaccid hose which rather halfheartedly gives a final and rather pathetic little spurt of water before dribbling onto the ground. “Sorry.” I mutter and hand it to him, whilst ineffectively wiping at his bubble-soaked jacket. I wisely leave the beard alone as I make out another two words, “Focking nootter …”

“Yes, you’re quite right … awfully sorry.” It’s the Noel Coward accent again, but I’m in the car pronto and making a hasty exit.

Sometimes you know, even if people look scary, they’re as kind and soft as … well, they’re just not. Think I’ll stick to the bucket and sponge in future – infinitely safer.

Katie x

Do you ever judge people wrongly? Do you ever act like a complete fruitcake?

I Will NOT Succumb to Depression …

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After a fairly good and happy run along the straight and narrow path of being free of depression and anxiety, I hit a blip. Well, the blip hit me actually, in a shovel-on-the-head sort of way.

Perhaps I should have anticipated it, perhaps I became too confident that “I WAS CURED!” and I foolishly took my eye off the ball. The truth of the matter is, that for me, and for whatever reason, this is a long term war and not just a short battle, and never, never can I become complacent about my mental health.

Ahhh but how carefree I have been, how I have been feeling like a “normal” human being. But I’ve not gone to a new yoga class which I know I should do. I’ve been becoming a little ‘antsy and paranoid’ lately and didn’t get to the bottom of it. I even had a couple of glasses of the old vino – well that was a blindingly obvious schoolboy error. God, the shame of admitting it … do as I say, not as I do. Please can you forgive me? Because I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have and I’ve paid for it ..

So it’s been back to basics for the last 48 hours.

In my mind it’s been similar to when the boys were very young and all was going really well. So, I relaxed the rules. I gave them a bit of leeway, a bit of rope (to metaphorically hang myself with later on) and they were allowed to eat choco pops cereal for their breakfast, watch television before doing their homework and not tidy their rooms, and before I knew it … BOOM! I had a couple of tantrumming monsters on my hands, addicted to Scooby Doo and Lego, toy soldiers and the dreaded train tracks not just spilling out of every door, but in fact linking one room to another. I must confess to actually rather liking Scooby Doo but that’s besides the point.

So, I then had to go absolutely back to basics with them, causing upset and trauma to my first world life and remove the chocolate cereal, bad behaviour and Scooby for a few days so that normal service was resumed. And of course, it worked. They, like me are simple creatures, needing routine, structure and boundaries.

And so that is what I have been doing. Treating myself like a child who needs direction. Betty is sulking in the shed, albeit quietly now, and my mood has lifted and I no longer want to hide under the bed with a packet of ginger nuts and a secret cigarette. I have been cycling like a demon, had a bit of beauty therapy yesterday afternoon (actually I now look a bit blotchy which is unfortunate, but it was heaven at the time) and spent an hour in a cycle shop chatting to a very nice young man about tyres. I’m seeing my old Glasgow tennis friends tomorrow and will no doubt be teased again mercilessly about my ‘posh’ accent and how thick I am that I still can’t understand anything they say, but I look forward to it enormously. Exercise, fresh air, no booze, sleep and getting out of the house and talking … and also loving my wonderful friends here – you know who you are.

It’s working, but may this be a lesson to me. I must never become complacent about mental health.

And, if all else fails, a bit of Scooby Doo probably won’t hurt.

Katie xx

Any thoughts? Have you ever had a blip and had to work through it? And how did you do that?

De-Cluttering …

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I just remembered this and thought for anyone wanting a fresh start, it might help. It certainly helps with depression and anxiety! That’s for sure … just one drawer at a time …

Part 1 – Recognising The Problem

Very early on in my relationship I remember cooking lunch for The Colonel (my then boyfriend, now husband) and it was, as per usual, chaos ….

I recall him quietly observing the scene in front of him, looking at the wonky, dusty pictures with those little black thunder bugs that somehow find their way behind the glass, the piles of ironing that I had tried to hide behind the sofa, the pretty, distressed cream and rusty paperwork tray spilling its guts onto the work surfaces, the sink overflowing with every pot and pan and then, at me. What I had thought of as scatty and endearing was in fact to him, frighteningly chaotic.

“I think we have a problem” he said quietly …. Not exactly “I think we have a problem Houston” in a Tom Hanks sort of way, but in my little world, it was quite frankly as momentous as that. This could be ‘the deal-breaker’.

Now, some may say that he should have accepted me for who (or is it whom?) I was – The problem was, that I didn’t really like the person that I had become. I in fact wanted to change, but I simply didn’t know how or indeed where to start.

“Oh!” I said.

“Wait!” I said.

“I have a plan!” I said, by now rather excitedly. He was looking a little nervous, and annoyingly, somewhat unconvinced.

“You, my darling, gorgeous man are at one end of the organised spectrum, not saying that you’re, you know, anal or anything, God forbid! No, just seriously beyond tidy! And truth be told, that’s where I would like to be ….. not anal, obviously, and let’s face it that’s never going to happen in a month of Sunday’s.” I snorted with laughter at this and then remembered that this was no laughing matter, this was a serious, grown-up conversation, so carried in a more restrained fashion, perhaps even verging on an ‘eating humble pie’ sort of way “And I appear to be at the other end of that, um, particular spectrum.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Ok. Fair enough, I’ve completely fallen off the end of the scale into the big, black pit at the bottom,” I grudgingly admitted but then continued on with renewed gusto, “however, if you could shift just a teensy half a fraction up the spectrum towards me, would you help me get this all in order and start again? I NEED to do it. I WANT to do it. By the way however, nothing, I repeat nothing is to be colour-coded or chronologically ordered.”

I think I could see his lips twitch, but could have imagined it. “Where shall we start?” he asks.

Part 2 – The Process

We started with books. I had literally hundreds of wonderfully trashy romantic paperbacks, some fabulous history books, gardening books galore and the occasional self-help book (which I tried, and failed to hide). Most I’d read and some I hadn’t. They were all fairly battered, the majority being secondhand and of course covered in the habitual layer of dust. A bookshelf, emptied onto the floor, cleaned within an inch of its life and whilst it was empty, hoovered behind and underneath – that hadn’t happened since I’d moved in. Clearly the spiders had been very happy. Then, one at a time a good book would be dusted and put back on the shelf. A rubbish book, a book I’d never read and frankly never would, would go into a cardboard box and finally a pile of ‘I’m not sure books’ would sit beside me for a final decision at the end.

The start was difficult. The colonel was fantastically understanding and patient although from time to time had to pull out the odd Jackie Collins from under my jumper where I’d attempted to hide them. The first box was filled and then more and more as we worked through the house, through all the bookcases that I had inherited in the last forty-odd years. That’s a lot of books. That’s a lot of boxes.

The car was full and a trip to the charity shop ensued, double parked as we carried them in to the wide-eyed surprise of the volunteers there; perhaps they thought we’d robbed a library. Driving away, exhausted, very teary – an end of an era. A change. Scary. Getting back home ….. Dear God – freedom. Total freedom. Half empty shelves. Space. This is bliss. Exhilaration. I want more – I want more of this feeling. Laughter and pure joy. And so it began.

Some things were more difficult than others. It meant making decisions which was not my forte. But I can, in all honesty, say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I’m pining for or that I miss and wish I didn’t got rid of. Also, it’s incredible how quickly you forget what was actually there in the first place.

Slowly but surely I cleared up my little cottage. Some days it was just a case of clearing out one drawer. A kitchen drawer or cupboard. Just emptying it, cleaning and chucking out the tin opener that my mother gave me when I was a student but had gone a bit rusty, or the three chipped wine glasses that had gone cloudy, never matched and frankly I could buy a new set of four from Ikea for the cost of a cheap bottle of plonk if I really needed more. It was cathartic. It was therapy on a major scale. It felt so darn good.

I found my wedding list from my previous marriage, all the letters from the guests, everything to do with a marriage that was no more. Why was I hanging onto the past? I didn’t want my house any longer to be a shrine to the past. I wanted to move forward. Those were the more difficult days and once the colonel had seen I was on a roll, he left me to it, so I could spend as long as I wanted dealing with the past, putting it behind me, moving forward.

It was liberating. As the cupboards emptied, the nic-nacs on the tables and every visible surface became clearer too as I realised that it actually wasn’t necessary to cover every windowsill and table with ‘stuff’. More space and less stuff meant easier cleaning. Easier cleaning meant less time doing it, so more free time. More free time meant more time to organise and sort and clean … and, live. The more I did, the easier it became and the more I enjoyed it. It was like the endorphins that one gets from exercise. I was happy, very happy, very organised and had started afresh. I had finally moved away from the past and it was good, seriously good.

I’ll still use every pan in the kitchen when I’m cooking and sometimes the Colonel will ask why I have to have three lipsalves, a handful of hair bands and a tube of Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream in every room in yet another pretty little pot, and I’ll call him anal and he’ll call me an untidy, scruffy bugger and we move on, giggling and chatting as together we cook, and clean up ….

☀️☀️Kx ☀️☀️