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?
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.
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 …
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 …
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.)
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.
Ladies: Are you comfortable without makeup?
Gents: If you’ve read this far, your thoughts please.
You are in a well. A deep, dark well with murky, warm water up to your thighs. If you look up, you can see a tiny chink of light, but it’s a long, long way away.
You are not alone down there in the well. There are many others. It is not frightening because it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. It almost feels quite comfortable, perhaps even safe.
Around the inner sides of the well are ladders, ropes and the occasional handle of all shapes and sizes. Some are short, some long, some a little broken and some sturdy. But not one of them reaches the whole way up to the light at the very top.
And on every ladder and rope, there are people trying to climb up. There are young people, old people, black, white, rich and poor, all heaving themselves up, slipping down, knocking others off as they fall. It’s utter carnage. So it’s easier here at the bottom in the warm water, because anyway who really knows what dangers lurk up at the top? Life at the top can be a perilous place.
Each ladder, rope and handle represents a lifeline.
First you have to haul your heavy wet body out of the soft, warm water. It is now cold and uncomfortable and your body is heavy with all the water, but you try. You reach for the first lifeline.
The first ladder is marked ‘doctor‘. It is a solid, strong and quite easy to climb up but as you progress, the rungs become narrower. So you need to move one of your feet onto another ladder.
This one is labelled ‘exercise‘ and is a little creaky, but seems to be helping you up a little further. As someone falls beside you, you reach out to the rope with the name ‘social interaction‘ on it. You start to feel enthused and energised and begin to look for other ladders.
There are some little handles on the wall with the name ‘meditation’ on them. You grab them. And all the while you can hear a wonderful voice giving ‘group counselling‘ to encourage and teach you how to reach higher for the ladders.
Yoga, Pilates, medication, therapy, exercise, medication, reading, writing, fresh air, light, gardening, baking, cleaning, cycling, good food … There are dozens of them …
Yes, there are ladders all around, and they are there to be used. All of them. Because one alone will rarely work. Each of us is different and some ladders work better for some whilst different ropes work better for others.
But despite our individual differences and needs, there are two factors that unite us. And they are:
It’s up to us to WANT to climb out of the hole, and it’s up to us to DO the climbing.
Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety and was there a trigger?
A fellow blogger and friend Chelsea, wrote yesterday about friends and being judgemental. (How to win friends … ) Excellent post and something that I suspect a lot of us can resonate with. I know I did.
Historically I struggled to make friends. I was a loner and I didn’t feel as though I could fit in anywhere. But, at that time I was very unhappy. I was hurt and angry with the world and subconsciously I believe people were picking up on this, which made me more isolated and consequently more unhappy. I was on a little miserable hamster wheel of self-indulgent misery!
And alongside this (as if it wasn’t bad enough), I was extremely judgemental. I was like the bulldog looking over the garden fence and seeing the pretty little cat in it’s pretty little garden with it’s oh so green grass. And I hated that cat and all it’s friends with a venomous loathing and frankly wanted to eat the little blighters for lunch.
Yes, I was indeed a bulldog.
At social events I would stress beforehand, arrive in a jitter, and become the infamous wallflower, desperate for someone to talk to me. I’d leave early and then berate myself for being so unutterably wet. But I simply didn’t think that I had anything worthy to talk about and at that time small talk was an anathema to me. What had happened to the carefree young woman of years ago?
However, a strange thing has happened. I have now got a busy little life and what with one thing and another, my days pass in a blurry fizz of happiness and often exhausting, but well received brain-overload. And having of late been forced into a flurry of social occasions with people from different situations, backgrounds, parts of the world and dare I say it, social and class status (I’m in England, it exists) my entire mindset has changed. People are fascinating, and they all have a story to tell!
Most of the time, people do ask about us, and we ask about them. It’s a rather symbiotic relationship, however fleeting, but I guess that’s just small talk for you.
And sometimes, we’ll meet someone completely fabulous who becomes a true friend. There’s that saying, that if you throw enough muck at the wall, eventually some of it will stick. Like online dating, if you meet enough people, probability states that eventually, you’ll meet someone that you gel with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really referring to people as muck, but you get the point I hope. Neither am I promoting multiple dating, bed-hopping or anything quite so insalubrious … again, I hope you get the point.
So perhaps now I’m not quite the bolshy bulldog that I once was. And, because there’s no need, I don’t bother looking over the garden fence (unless the neighbours are having a bbq).
I’m more of a little, green happy, hoppy frog bouncing around in my own little garden pond. Yes indeed … I think I’ve found my inner frog who loves everyone. Well, mostly … I am human after all.
Are you a grumpy bulldog or a happy, hoppy frog?
Do you like socialising? Or do you find it difficult?
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?
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!
(Without blatantly reminding me how boring I am 😁), what will YOU being doing on New Year’s Eve?
I am as ever, reading about three books on the go. I cannot claim that this is even in part due to a wondrous ability to multitask. No, this is simply because there are so many fabulous books out there and I want to read them all, now. I am nothing if not needy, demanding and impetuous.
As some of you know, moderation has never been my thing. Indeed, a tendency to get marginally overexcited when encountering something new has a partial influence on my inability to have a modicum of patience. Therefore finishing one thing before commencing something new is a tad alien to me. (This probably accounts for the chaos in my life!)
My point here is this. I have recently started a book by Sarah Knight entitled “Get Your Sh*t Together”. Interesting title (she says with a pompous sniff) and one which certainly made me wonder how on earth it could have ended up on the shelves of such a middle class shop as Oliver Bonas. However ….. I now see why she has the honour of being a ‘bestselling author’ of more than one book.
If like me, those dark, dank and dreary days of winter are already taking their toll on you, buy this book. Buy this book and then read this book. (Unless you have an understandable aversion to bad language. To say it is peppered with it throughout, would be an understatement).
It is simple enough for even the intellectually stifled like myself. Frankly if it wasn’t for having another two books to read, this could be done and dusted, cover to cover in less than 48 hours. And …. it’s worth it.
It is inspiring even for those who have their life well and truly in their own minds, on track. For the rest of us mere mortals who are floundering slightly with ‘to do’ lists that never are truly done, and daydreams that never seem to materialise into something tangible, it is absolutely worth a few very happy hours of sinking into your favourite armchair whilst the dark rain falls outside. It truly is, for any fellow procrastinators out there, a kick up the backside and an alternative way of getting one’s sh*t together, without an irritating little man with a megaphone shouting, “Get up and get a life!” Frankly I’d want to hit him with a shovel, but occasionally it’s what I need.
How do you combat the winter blues?
What books get you excited? (Nothing smutty please!)
The past few days have seen a slowdown in the writing of my book. A tiredness and lethargy combined with family commitments are poor excuses; and yet when one’s brain is foggy and the body is longing for a sleep that never seems to remedy the situation, it is hard to see the wood for the trees and make progress.
As it turns out, my folate levels are at rock bottom but in many respects, I’m rather glad that it’s not simply my own laziness that has been the culprit relating to this fatigue. So it is with almost a sense of relief that I have been told to be kind to myself, something that I have never in truth been an advocate of. But needs must, and when the wise doctor speaks, I must take heed of his advice.
So strangely, I feel reassured and as a consequence am further determined to write, albeit in bed! I’m not entirely sure that this recumbent form of filling the day is what my medical guru was intending, but as I sit surrounded by soft pillows, light-as-a-thousand-feathers duck-down duvet and the soft light glowing from the bedside lamp, I must confess to feeling rather marvellous, if incredibly guilty. I am if nothing, one to take advice to the extremes.
Sadly however, this being London, there is a car intermittently blasting it’s alarm, a thud, thud base of music resounding through the walls from the traffic jam outside the house, and God forbid, the thought that my wonderful mother-in-law will be making her daily FaceTime call shortly is more than enough to end this sedentary self-care. Life quite frankly just go on, and the shame of being in bed at half past nine in the morning is shocking even to my befuddled, exhausted little mind.
So up I shall get and face the day whilst munching on some dark, leafy vegetables, and find my folate supplements. I shall seek peace and solace in my writing and make progress once again. As for the car alarm, I shall continue to huff, puff and mutter about moving to Outer Mongolia for a bit of peace and quiet. Alternatively, I could just hide for a little longer deep under the duvet, so that the sounds of life in a city are softened and a little muffled. But by God, it’s hot under there and as I emerge red faced and sweaty, I can hear my mother-in-law trying to FaceTime me …. Yes, enough self care, it’s time to crack on.
How do you combat tiredness? Is your bedroom noisy or are you in Outer Mongolia?
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?
Indeed, it wasn’t for me for the first 45 years of my life until that wretched thing called love got in the way. You know how when you’re truly smitten with someone you’ll do anything just to be with them? Hang gliding, parachute jumping, ironing their pants? Well, camping was in that category for me.
After a month of camping on my own around France (yes, I shall be bringing out that ol’ chestnut for many months to come), I became a bit of a good camper. I can get my tent up and down in a nanosecond without breaking a fingernail, can make fabulous meals on what is effectively a Bunsen Burner but with only a fraction of the gas (particularly after I broke it) and finally, can manage to ensure that standards prevail at all times in terms of cleanliness (the entire range from Clinique was hidden in the base of one pannier – a necessity but somewhat heavy). So yes, I can now proudly say that I am indeed a jolly good camper.
However, yesterday I went one step further and the Colonel and I visited the Caravan and Motor Home Show at the NEC in Birmingham. (For those not living in England, in terms of size, the NEC is like a dozen aircraft hangars all stuck together i.e. VAST).
Now I know, for a middle class lassie like me, this is not really the done thing. It’s certainly a far cry from the twinset and pearl brigade. And I will confess that it is full of sock and sandal wearers with practicality rather than aesthetics at the forefront of their minds. It is akin to being stuck in a giant IKEA with groups of anorak-wearers. And yet here I am, rebelling slightly by wearing a sassy little skirt and my fabulous Gant boots but loving every minute of it.
I have discussed and bonded with complete strangers over storage capacity within caravans, have talked and listened at length about tents, floor mats and cooking implements, and have lain down sniggering beside the Colonel on many a double bed in the Motor Homes, to see if indeed we can both fit in. (For those interested, the answer is yes, but any ‘whoo hoo’ would be fairly limited without serious injury i.e. falling out or knocking oneself out.)
So a wonderful day was had by all, with packed sandwiches in the Colonel’s very practical military backpack at lunchtime and despite having a couple of collisions with two motorised wheelchairs, I came away with perhaps not an upgrade to our current tent, but certainly with even more enthusiasm for spending more time in the great outdoors.
I will never go down the route of socks with sandals, but perhaps I shall find a backpack of my own. Perhaps something in a fantastically zingy colour and fabric other than the dreary black or camo in canvas, and fill it with a more practical, smaller and therefore lighter travel version of the Clinique range. Fabulous! I have found my inner troglodyte, but one with class!
Are you an outside or an inside sort of person? Indeed, have you gone camping?
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.
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.
Do you have a car and who cleans it?? Do you love or loathe the job? Or is it some kind of therapy?
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?
I am finally ready. Tomorrow I leave for the beginning of The Journey.
For those of you who (thankfully for you and your sanity) haven’t endured my endless witterings, I must clarify that this is not an antarctic exploration, nor am I walking unaided through the Gobi Desert, climbing K2 or sailing solo around the world. No. I am, with the aid of maps and hopefully rather a lot of signposts, bicycling my way along the Atlantic Cycle Route from the port of Roscoff to a campsite known as Moliets-et-Maa which is roughly between Bordeaux and the border with Spain.
I suppose the only difference is that I am doing this trip with my old friend Betty. Betty is my little demon, my demon of anxiety and depression who hasn’t been around for a while, but I sense she’s waiting for me, smirking slightly and lying in wait, ready to pounce at any slight moments of stress.
But, in essence I have the real company of Claude (my bicycle), a rather natty little tent which Claude is not invited into, and my husband’s army sleeping bag. I’ve also managed to squeeze in most of the Clinique sun protection range just to ensure that I don’t arrive at my destination looking like a small shrivelled walnut. Claude has his own repair and maintenance kit but the packaging on mine is prettier. I have a tiny cooker thing that looks a bit like a Bunsen Burner and singes the hair on my arms every time I light it, a few other cooking and eating implements, and a stack of maps. First aid kits etc of course and … well, it’s all packed now and I simply can’t remember but am hoping to goodness that I’ve got my passport in there somewhere.
The anxiety levels are pretty much through the roof this morning. The usual symptoms which I’m sure some of you can resonate with … stomach doing a gymnastics performance, palms disgustingly damp, shaking hands and mind and thoughts darting from one corner of my brain, ricocheting off it’s boundary and firing off into another direction. You can understand therefore why I’m rather looking forward to just going in order to end this purgatory. Perhaps purgatory is too strong a word, but it’s been a while since I’ve had it, and had forgotten how awful it is.
But, let’s be very clear here as I’m certainly not looking for any sympathy, I am the one who decided to do this and it certainly hasn’t been forced upon me! In fact most people are appalled. I think they worry about my safety being a woman on her own and all that. But frankly, if it’s as regards the likelihood of being hit by a truck, well, frankly that could happen to a man too, and if it’s about some dodgy bloke trying it on … well woe betide him! They clearly don’t know the volatility and sheer force of a middle-aged, highly strung, hormonal woman when she feels threatened. (See my post Road Rage for further clarification on how I sense I am marginally unhinged).
So no, whilst I am anxiously waiting for the hours to pass, and feeling excited but terrified in roughly equal measures, I’ll say au revoir for now and will post again when I’m on the other side of The Channel. Hopefully, by then I shall have half a dozen croissants in my basket, a large grin on my face and my sense of direction intact (surely, as long as I cycle on the right and keep the sea on my right then I’m doing it right and going roughly south …). As for roundabouts, I haven’t yet mastered them in England, so ….. I guess I’ll just have to keep you posted. Adieu.
Strangely, despite thinking that this is what authors required, I didn’t have to have total silence, a large vat of proper coffee, all in a beautiful summerhouse at the bottom of a perfectly manicured garden complete with Mac computer, mini fridge and the requisite six packets of ginger nuts available to nibble on, or rather, devour. No.
In actual fact, I was on a rather hot and steamy underground train, tapping away on my phone with a gentleman’s less than savoury armpit six inches from my face and a small child with a scooter cracking it into my shins every two minutes.
I think that I’ve had a rather childish dream of writing romantic novels (please note the use the word ‘novels’ rather than ‘books’; I am nothing if not ambitious, also rather deluded), yes, romantic novels in a perfect little setting where the sun always shines and a proud husband occasionally taps tentatively on the door with offerings of pots of tea or lunch on a tray for his hard working and tremendously successful wife, The Novelist. Oooh yes, I’m warming to my theme! Visions of sitting holding court on Graham Norton’s sofa are springing to mind; lunches with Stephen Fry to discuss plot lines and evenings with previous Nobel Prize winners in literature ….. ooooh yes! (Or do you have to be dead to be a winner?? Might have to rethink that one…)
But just momentarily back to reality as The Colonel (aka Husband Dearest) marches up the stairs wearing nothing but a pair of pants and one sock, peers around the bedroom door to see me tapping away in bed, glasses perched on the end of my nose and muttering like a faintly mad thing.
“Do we actually have any clean socks in this house, or shall I wear a pair of the boys Star Wars ones for meeting the General this morning?” A rather withering look from him, a muffled yelp from yours truly from beneath the soft feathery down of the duvet and I bound out of bed in search of clean socks and an ironed shirt and revert guiltily back to wifely duties.
I clearly have ideas substantially above my station, those of grandeur and success. I am also, as most of you know, slightly unhinged. But, if you can’t dream then how does one progress?
So I shall continue to dream about summerhouses, expensive computers and a housekeeper perhaps to ensure that clean and ironed laundry is continually available to every member of the family, and possibly guests as well.
But one thing I don’t need to dream about is writing. I don’t need to dream about the pleasure that writing actually gives me. And if finally, a long way down the road I manage to finish such a thing as a book, then yes, my dreams will have come true. And perhaps meeting Graham Norton and Stephen Fry will have to just wait for another day.
What do you dream of? Do you dream of writing a book … ? What’s stopping you? Xx
I could at this point refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which essentially summarises all that I should ramble on about, however I am no intellect and frankly I still don’t understand quite what he means about ‘self-actualisation’… so in my Katie and rather simple way, this is how I translate it.
To need means it is necessary, in order to live safely and healthily, to want however, is about making life even more comfortable and pleasant. Done. Tick. End of post? Not quite …
Last night I had a trial run in my little one-man tent in the garden, (so less than twenty yards from the kettle, a warm, dry bed and a hot bath – therefore not exactly a life or death scenario). But a good exercise in realising that a flimsy nighty and a water bottle with a leaky lid and a propensity for falling over needed some further consideration.
The main problem however was my roll mat which I had bought for my son many moons ago when he was doing a camping expedition on Dartmoor. (Think, bleak, wet and windy). I could pretend that it was so many years ago that therefore material technology was not advanced and back then all mats were three millimetres thick (or thin …). The truth of the matter however is that a) I was utterly clueless as I’d never been camping myself, and b) I was far too mean to buy a decent thick one. He never complained however, and it was returned a little flatter still and somewhat muddier.
Nevertheless, yours truly, still being rather mean, thought that this would be perfectly sufficient for myself and therefore used it last night. I didn’t need a new one despite perhaps wanting one.
Now, our lawn here in London is perfectly level, the grass perhaps a little crunchy from the heatwave but sadly though, through this pretty, pale blue, three millimetre thick length of foam otherwise called a roll mat, I felt every blade of grass, tiny stone and uneven morsel of soil. I felt like the Princess and the Pea if any of you remember reading it … although less of the princess and more of the middle-class, middle-aged woman with clearly rather bony hips.
Eventually of course I managed to get to sleep … inevitably it happens in time and to be honest, there was absolutely not a cats in hells chance I was going to creep into the house and quietly slip into my soft, warm bed with husband dearest … or even onto the sofa and then disappear back outside before anyone awoke (obviously this had been considered).
So no, I endured it, even folded the roll mat it in half so as to make it six millimetres thick, for the top of my body at least, no mean feat doing this when tightly encased in a sleeping bag like a moth pupa and the ceiling of the tent does not enable one to sit upright … yes, a hot, sweaty moth pupa in a flimsy nighty. Nice. The result … foam mattress is now deformed with a small tear along one edge and the flimsy nighty strap has snapped off.
Now of course I could make do and mend, because I don’t need to replace either, but let’s face it, this camping lark is supposed to be enjoyable therefore I want to go and buy myself at least a couple of creature comforts.
I awoke as dawn was just breaking and the birds which normally are muffled by the constant drone of the traffic and aeroplanes were busy and chattering, the air was cool and I was in a complete state of happiness. Fancy waking up with a smile on one’s face! Extraordinary behaviour!
Creeping in to make tea for myself and The Colonel, there was a crashing down the stairs and he appeared in the doorway wearing nothing but a huge grin on his face. “You’re back! Hurray! Come to bed!” he demanded. (Simple sentences for such an early start and he does sometimes forget that I am not a solider to be ordered about, but instead his lovely wife.) I grinned back, and then muttered about the dodgy roll mat. “Oh!” he said, “I’ve got one on order for you. All sorted.” Ahhh my lovely, gorgeous, caring husband.
“Think you might need to rethink the nighty though.” he smiled widely. And with that, he turned and bounded back up the stairs with me trailing behind with two cups of tea, grassy feet, a muddy bottom and a nighty being held up by one thin strap of silk.
Happy? Oh yes!
Do you find that like me you try to persuade yourself that you need something whereas actually you only want it?
I’m used to bringing up little boys. I love the black and white simplicity of how they view the world. I like the straightforward feed, water, love, exercise, boundaries and sleep way of bringing them up. Forget one of those necessities however and World War 3 is on the doorstep, but generally, I stuck to those guidelines with consistent regularity and they appeared to thrive.
It’s a noisy existence however bringing up boys. No such thing as a quiet bath on your own. Honestly whoever writes these ridiculous articles about candles and bubble baths and a good book …. For God’s sakes! I tried that many a time. In fact the boys even once made a bath for me, how sweet they were. It was only when I was lying there admiring my perfect children and wondering how they they had managed to get quite so many bubbles not just in the bath, but exploding out onto the floor and beyond onto the landing outside that they happily told me that they had used Fairy Liquid. Nice.
And as for candles in the bathroom … Pah! Boys appear to have a fascination with fire. Do you know how difficult it is to put out a burning loo roll which your youngest has been playing with whilst yours truly lies in the bath oblivious. Oh yes, you just throw it in the bath with me. Of course.
And in fact more often than not, I’d have ended up with two little boys joining me plus the contents of the Lego basket and their grubby little knees as we’d squeeze in together. But we laughed, oh how we laughed.
Girls however I’m not used to. Less black and white, more grey, mauve and yellow and every shade in between.
I took them (and the Colonel, poor bloke) shopping yesterday to spend some holiday money. I managed to escape briefly as I found a wonderful little shop with mainly men’s socks, ties, and sarongs etc in. The elderly couple who were in charge of it whilst their son was busy in the stock room, were chatting very easily and I mentioned that I’d momentarily escaped.
“Stepchildren?” she asked.
“Girls?” she asked. She sucked through her teeth and then simply said, “They’ll hate you!”
We then both gaffawed loudly together with interestingly her husband nodding rather enthusiastically as well. She explained that in order to be liked by a) the stepchildren and b) the ex-wife, you have to be a minimum of 4 stone overweight, have very deep pockets and the ability to spend 2 hours looking around one shop for a specific type of hair clip that is to go with a certain outfit otherwise the world is going to end.
Well, if I continue eating my ginger nuts at the rate of … well let’s just say the Colonel had to wrestle them off me last night … then I shall indeed manage to enhance the old muffin tops which my delightful boys pointed out a few weeks ago. I don’t have very deep pockets, but am good at improvising and as for looking for hair clips? No, I’d have to compromise there and keep it to within one hour.
So, after a rather unsuccessful shopping trip yesterday, I engaged them in painting. I found an old tin of watercolour paints, some paper and pencils and together we set to. We sat in the shade in the garden, sipping on orange squash and nibbling (a few) ginger nuts whilst they dipped brushes in colour and enjoyed a few hours of complete tranquility. Honestly, it was bliss. I did a pencil drawing of a robin and was completely immersed.
I know that it is often suggested to those who suffer from anxiety to try drawing or painting and now I get it. It’s like complete therapy. I wasn’t even irritated that I had forfeited watching Nadal at Wimbledon! The girls and I were happy. There’s a lot to be said for this simple activity.
So next time you’re trying to have a peaceful little tiddle on the loo without a plastic machine gun peeking round the door of the bathroom and you’re being riddled with open fire of spongy bullets and your nerves are in shreds, panic not! You can get out the paint pots. Of course with boys, you might end up with more paint around the house than you’d bargained for, but it will make wonderful and unforgettable memories. Heaven, complete and utter heaven.
When you’re feeling anxious what do you do? Have you tried this painting lark??
Ps Pls forgive any typos, am typing in haste as Westfield Shopping Centre is beckoning … only a couple of hair clips to search for …
When I was young, I used to think gardening was for old people. I also used to think that cricket was dull (No I daren’t mention football). Well, cricket for me is still quite dull, but being undoubtedly in the minority I concede that I just might be wrong. And as for gardening being for old people, well I’m so far off course with that opinion that I’m heading to the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen again. So please don’t shoot me down just yet. The ignorance of my youth was pretty blissful, but as you know, I am now a new woman and learning every day.
I used to watch my mother pottering around her gardens dead-heading here, staking there, looking as pretty as a picture and so very, very content. At peace with the world. I try to emulate her, starting off with Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, a large floppy hat, flippy floppy skirt and a rather twee trug, until I’ve done my usual and got a little overexcited and started tree pruning or digging in manure with over enthusiastic gusto and before too long the skirt is hitched up into my knickers, I’m pink in the face and all sense of glamour and grace have disappeared into the compost heap most probably along with the hat. Quite how my mother managed it I shall never know.
But a couple of things I do know are this …
Studying for those RHS (Royal Horticultural Society for non-gardeners) exams was the probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Perhaps because it was something that I was actually interested in, rather than studying algebra, trigonometry and …. binary (what exactly is the purpose of binary?) at school. Maths and I never got along and indeed still have a fairly tenuous relationship. Learning about something however that lives all around us and keeps us alive is so relevant, so important that even the narcissist in the old me cannot help but be in awe of mother nature.
And finally, gardening is the best cure for anxiety and depression todate that I have come across. It would be inconceivable to find me upended in a herbaceous border crying into the perennial geraniums, I’d be too busy gazing into their cheery little faces of pinks and purples. And how can I possibly be anxious when my entire focus is to pull out weeds and deadhead the roses … it takes complete concentration and as we all now know, I simply cannot multitask.
Also, and as an aside, being in the sunlight … did you know that normal sitting room lighting gives you 100 lux, whereas being outside on a sunny day gives you between 20,000 and 200,000 lux! And we wonder why we feel better after a day outside. Plus there’s the exercise … think endorphins and dopamine, and finally that wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Of a job well done.
So even though we have a postage stamp of a garden in our military quarter, there’s still room for some flowers and pots and whilst I don’t think that Wandsworth Borough Council would appreciate my attempts at tree pruning, I see no reason to do a bit of digging, planting and pruning, if not to look glamorous with our Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, but at least to perhaps find a little peace within the world and most importantly, within ourselves.
Do you have a garden, balcony or a windowsill with pots? What do you grow?
Well blow me down with a feather! … 500 followers!
I confess that the overwhelming feeling here is one of gratitude mixed with a large dollop of disbelief. Disbelief that frankly anyone would feel compelled to not only read my nonsensical drivel, (sometimes even making positive comments) but actually press a button to ensure that said drivel continues to filter onto their screens. Extraordinary behaviour from each and every one on you, but it has to be said, that I am absolutely and unutterably delighted. Thank you.
I still feel like a bit of a newbie here although I started in January; I’ve yet to work out how to take a photograph and post it, I only worked out how to “re-blog” last week and as for putting my posts into some sort of order … well that’s just beyond me. I’m not a clever lassie, but I write and I love it. And I read your posts, and I love them.
So thank you, thank you WordPress for opening up my world to these wonderful people, these wonderful …. friends.
I know you want to hit me with a shovel, but ummm ….. exercise DOES work. Yup, sorry about that, but unfortunately, it does.
I remember going to the doctor’s surgery many moons ago (Do read The Doctor if you want evidence of my previous mental state) and being apoplectic with rage at his suggestions and yet, months later when the medication had eventually taken the edge off the depression and anxiety and I was able to think just a little clearer, I started the only form of exercise I knew, tennis.
Odd isn’t it how the doctors, therapists, magazines and papers are all telling us to use exercise to beat depression and anxiety and yet still, we are enraged and hate them all for their irritating and pathetic suggestions. “I have a disease, going for a swim won’t change that!” and “How can I go for a run when I can’t even get out of bed?” we shrill. “Don’t you understand how I feel, how can I possibly go for a cycle ride when I feel like this?” we shout.
And yet, and yet, they do keep banging on about the wretched benefits of it, even the celebrities we idolise seem to be talking about it. Bastards the lot of them. They just don’t understand. Don’t they know how darn exhausted we are?
However, when you have those endorphins and dopamine coursing through the body (don’t even question trying to fight those chemicals), the brain is occupied (no possibility of thinking about death, dying and misery, whilst focusing on a small yellow ball flying at eighty miles an hour towards you), the laughter, chatter and screams of hilarity filling the court (and often neighbouring courts) make any downward spirals of negativity stop firmly in their tracks with an almighty screech of rubber on tarmac and a handbrake U-turn. And as for the light, sun and fresh air … well I personally couldn’t find any of those whilst hiding under my bed with only the drooling dog and a family pack of multi-flavoured crisps for company.
The hardest part is the putting on of those trainers. (Read this post next … Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain) After that, it’s a breeze …. one becomes swept up with that extraordinary and distant friend, happiness, and before you can say “Goddamn gym bunnies” your cheeks are rosy, you’re laughing, chatting and organising the next session with newly found friends. If this all sounds a bit too cheesy, the only words of wisdom this old bird can hand out are from that age-old adage, “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it”. Because, annoyingly, using exercise to combat depression and anxiety and the lethargy that comes as part and parcel of those evil twin sisters, actually does work. It beats it. Game, set and Goddamn match.
WHAT EXERCISE ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TODAY? WELL??
Alongside illness and losing one’s job, apparently moving house is up there in the top most anxiety-inducing activities, not forgetting of course divorce, death and going to prison. ‘Activities!’ What a dreadful description … Honestly that makes them sound like a day trip to the beach with a dripping ice cream, striped deck chair and a fishing net. Anyway, apart from the ‘going to prison’ thing which I am hoping to avoid, I’ve gone through all of the above and survived.
I have discovered, that in actual fact moving is not the equivalent of being dropped in the fiery pit of hell. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that it is possible to actually rather enjoy it. It’s rare to be moving house to somewhere that you don’t want to move to … So on the whole, one is moving to a better place, whether upsizing, downsizing or simply to be closer to the equator … hmmm France would be glorious, love Scotland as I do, the weather is truly shite.
So with optimism in abundance for a positive move, a month ago I planned, packed and labelled boxes with vigour and a happy heart. Yes, I was leaving my friends, but if they’d have me, I could always go and visit.
Where was the stress and anxiety when the day arrived? Decidedly absent.
Why? Because of a simple yet forceful positive change of attitude and meticulous military-style preparation.
There’s always something that goes slightly awry … in my case it was the key to a large old linen press so really not the end of the world. It turned up, eventually. As long as the keys to the new house and the kettle is to hand, nothing else really matters.
In the old days, I’d have had sleepless weeks beforehand worrying, stressing myself into a sweat-induced nightmare. And about what? Change and a fear of no control and the unknown.
So now, let’s embrace the new, use planning and preparation to keep charge of as much as we can, and then just go with the flow. More than that we can’t do, after all, this is life that we’re dealing with. It’s short and really should be very, very sweet.
How do you cope with anxiety and stressful situations?
The strange thing about cycling is that it’s impossible to feel any form of depression whilst your thighs are burning, your lungs are screaming, cars and of course other proper cyclists are zipping past, as you force 20lbs of metal and rubber up a hill. Your mind is rather, occupied, shall we say.
Equally, tootling gently around the sunny London somewhat quieter streets and the pretty parks with the breeze in your face and the warmth on your back, seeing the world close up, a feeling of complete unadulterated happiness, of living in the moment totally encapsulates you.
My first trip out was to the sorting office to pick up a couple of parcels. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. According to google maps, a mere 6 minute cycle ride.
I returned home 38 minutes later, and no, there had not been a queue at the sorting office.
I saw two gorgeous old Renault 4’s (along with the Citroen 2CV my favourite ‘pottering along a French country lane’ cars) a beautiful steel grey and white whippet which I knew would have delighted the Colonel, I met a very grumpy old woman whom I had thought I was helping across the road (clearly not) and I discovered that it’s quite hilly in southwest London. I found that I’m good at indicating left, but not right (a rather wobbly affair ensued) and the problem with having a bicycle is that there are no hazard lights, so when all else fails or you’re going to do something highly illegal, you can’t just push the button and everyone knows to avoid you. Simply stopping in the middle of the road on a bike could have serious consequences for the shiny new bike and the considerably older and not so shiny me. I did it once on a mini roundabout (it was going awfully well, but then I had to do the indicating right thing, wobbled rather a lot, so stopped in the centre of the mound of the roundabout). Probably best not to repeat that one. Of course the one advantage that I have, is that when I go on my big adventure in France in August, the mini roundabouts there you go anti-clockwise so I’ll be indicating left, so no wobbling! Hurray … a doddle! (It is anti-clockwise in France isn’t it? Hang on, which way will I be indicating? …. ) And frankly, drive too close to this cyclist at your peril … and possibly mine.
I love looking at the houses, the gardens, the people, the dogs, seeing, really seeing everything. Noticing the detail. The glorious feeling of freedom.
Do you remember the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid film and the beautifully shot, idyllic scene on the bicycle with Paul Newman as Butch, and Katharine Ross as Etta, with the music of Raindrops are Falling on my Head? Well, when I’m cycling that’s how I feel. I am Etta! (Albeit not there in the looks department and I don’t have Paul Newman sitting behind me but you get idea). It’s a time of complete happiness and of being at peace with the world.
So I shall venture out again today and find my inner Etta, that simple purity of enjoying a moment in time, for loving something for what it is, happiness and peace …. unless of course there’s a roundabout to navigate.
What gives you that feeling? Anything else worth trying? All suggestions very welcome (apart from anything smutty or involving a vat of chocolate, or a combination of the two). X
London is bathed in the comforting warmth of the spring sun and whilst the pavements are a multitude of light and dark stretched and tangled streaks from the dappled shade of the budding trees, the air is still. My son and I are walking towards another coffee shop to find somewhere to tap away the rambling nonsense which fills the fluffy void between my ears; I am feeling a wonderful sense of being able to breathe and relax and enjoy just this very moment in time.
The world isn’t perfect, parts of my past are black and painful, the future is of course unknown and yet …. and yet … at this moment I feel happy. I am loathe to point out the stain on my character for all and sundry to see, however, I must confess that it’s odd to feel happy when my default setting is the polar opposite.
“Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth”
(As stated in the government Ministry Paper 28 relating to the Jamaican flag.)
The gold recalls the shining sun, black reflects hardships, and green represents the land. It was slightly altered in 1996, but for me, the simplicity of this statement sums up my state of mind … yes, there are hardships and troubles to endure, but the world is good right now and the future I hope is as rosy as it can be.
And what of you? Is your mind akin to the Jamaican flag or am I just barking mad?
My late mother’s beautiful clock was broken on our previous move, and despite a lengthy stay in the clock hospital, it never recovered. However, as I sit around the boxes stacked up high, I can hear a gentle ticking. And every half hour the beautiful ting, ting, tinging chime of mother’s clock can be heard from the depths of one of those boxes. The fact that it has got the hour completely wrong is immaterial and merely receives a raised eyebrow from the Colonel following a glance at his watch, and a smile from me.
Just the familiar sound of ticking is comforting. I have missed it, and the gentle, regular sound takes me back to my mother’s house and the peace and serenity that prevailed there. The safety and reassurance. The complete quiet, except the ticking of the clock.
So this is mindfulness! …. At last I understand it.
In a troubled world where nothing is certain and the future is a fictional imagining based on what we’ve worked for, what we hope for and a smattering of luck, sometimes the constancy and familiarity of a person or even a silly old clock ticking along in the background is not only soothing, but part of the multifaceted foundations essential for a balanced life.
So, in just over a fortnight we’re moving from Scotland to London. Bearing in mind how very little I expected from our two year jaunt to Scotland, I am surprised by how emotional I feel. Because you see, I’ve made friends. Lots of lovely friends who seem to just like me for who I am, quirks and all.
My lovely tennis friends, who laugh when I squeal, shriek and roar with laughter at my own inadequacies. Who tease me mercilessly when I shiver on court and complain of the freezing Scottish weather as they go swimming in the outdoor pool whilst it’s raining, again. Those friends who teach me little Scottish words, usually relating to hangovers and bad language, and who translate for me when I look blankly at them, once again not understanding their accents.
We sit and have coffee together, we share stories, we laugh and chatter for hours. We put the world to rights, yet nobody dominates, we take it in turns. There’s a thirty year age gap between us and it doesn’t matter a hoot. Yes, I shall miss my friends.
I won’t miss the weather and the darkness. In winter the sun barely peeks over the trees on the horizon, but to the north I can see beyond the city to the Campsie Fells, which are beautiful hills, covered in snow. Sometimes the evening light catches them and they glow a warm peachy golden. But the rain and the cold. I won’t miss either.
The people here talk, a lot. A trip to the post office takes twenty minutes because everyone likes to chatter and natter. They are friendly and open. Yesterday the supermarket lady and I spent a good ten minutes discussing her allergy to nuts and bowel issues. I’m glad the Colonel wasn’t there, he’s not really very keen on discussing intimate subjects, particularly with a complete stranger. In London if you smile at a stranger you’re likely to be shunned, in Scotland, embraced. Yes, I shall miss the people.
And I shall miss the beautiful park, just around the corner. With its lake, river, waterfalls, woods and endless paths. Where you will find every marvellous breed of dog and every person who loves just to be out in the rain or occasional shine. People stop, chat, talk about their dogs or simply stand and watch the elegant swans and cygnets who grace the lake. It’s my happy place and yes, I shall miss it too.
The ironic thing is that it is only three years on Tuesday since my mother died, and whilst I think of her every day, I do wonder …. you see, she was here as a child through to her early twenties. I wonder if she has been to some of the places that I visit and I wish I could tell her now about my life here and more importantly listen to hers. I don’t just miss my mother, I long for her, I absolutely long for her.
So now Robbie is making the headlines about ‘the disease in his head that wants to kill him.’ Well if that doesn’t help break the stigma, I’m not sure what will. There will be those of course, who say that he frazzled his brain himself with all the drugs and frankly with all that money he can afford the top treatments which perhaps are not accessible to the rest of us and therefore sympathy might not be high on their list of priorities. Personally however, I rather like him, not in a groupie sort of way, but in an ‘I’m going to attack life and give it my all’ sort of way.
And that is, when I’m feeling drab and a tad shoddy, what I lack. That ‘va va voom’. That gusto and effervescence that I know is lurking beneath the surface, but is being smothered by a heavy dark and murky fog.
But today is a beautiful day, snow is blanketing Scotland and I’m housebound. So, let’s turn on some Robbie, dance around the kitchen and find some va va voom!
Morrisons …. probably on a par with Aldi, but sells the same as Waitrose at a fraction of the price with even a smattering of the more upmarket scallops and quinoa if you happen to a) like them and b) know how to pronounce them …. Personally, I don’t, to either.
Shopping Trip and lesson no. 1: Sometimes, being a southerner whilst living temporarily in Scotland, it’s better to keep quiet.
Some friendly chatter at the till whilst waiting in the queue, led to my over-excited confession that I had recently got married….
“Och!” says Till Lady 1 in more of a guttural phlegm-inducing noise, than actual word, “Do you hear that Sheila?” she shouts to Till Lady Number 2 across a couple of aisles. Clearly Sheila has hearing issues as my new marital status is now belted out a couple of times, involving not just 2 till ladies, but customers too. Lots of smiles, nods and general looks of approval in my direction. I beam delightedly.
“So, where was the wedding?” shouts Sheila of the dodgy ears. All eyes on me … I shuffle uncomfortably …. “Um, well, down south in fact”. Bit of a mistake. I hear sucking of breath through teeth, and a general sense of disapprovement on a somewhat large scale.
“Och!” the guttural sound again with added sniff to enhance the disapproval. I thought it was only my mother who did that. “Shame” says till lady no. 1. “Of course,” she pauses, “you could have had my brother … Now, he’s a fine figure of a man!” she says proudly her bosom jutting out.
All eyes on till lady no. 1 who is turning somewhat frosty and a tad purple …
“He might be focking fat, but he’s happy and that counts for plenty” she retorts.
All eyes now on Sheila – this is something akin to a Wimbledon final, myself and customers turning from one to the other, but hey, the attention is off me so I’m delighted.
“He’s happy?” squawks Sheila, “He’s a focking drunk, that why!”
Oh dear God. Till lady no. 1 pauses, clearly digesting this information. There is a moment where we, the customers are waiting with baited breath for her reaction. She slowly begins to nod, “Aye, you know you might be right, BUT,” she says wiggling her finger indicating for me to move closer. I do so extremely hesitantly; she has an unusual dental arrangement and frankly scares me. She continues, “He might be a wee bit of a drunk, BUT” she belts out with a scream of laughter, “…. he’s got focking good sheep!”
An explosion of cackles, laughter, nodding and ‘ayes’ from all around …
I grab my Lurpac and organic ham and escape – sharpish.
Perhaps this is how men should be rated … On their ability to keep good sheep or did I miss something??! Think I might try Waitrose next week …
I once had a garden in Oxfordshire, England. Sincere apologies if I’m sounding like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa … ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills’. Somehow it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and I certainly don’t see Robert Redford kicking around here ….
However, in my garden, I discovered that digging up potatoes is like finding buried treasure, rather exciting. Picking beans (before the dog has sniffed them out) is total satisfaction, and the monotony of shelling peas is absolute therapy (mindfulness I think it’s now called).
Now, it strikes me that these are some of the normal everyday tasks that our grandparents used to do … did they suffer from anxiety and depression? Did they have the same levels of diabetes and obesity that our generation suffers? Did they hand their child in the supermarket a packet of crisps and their phone to play on, in order to stop the tantrum? I don’t think so somehow …
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they had it easy in any way, shape or form particularly with the advances in medicine as an example, but surely there’s some form of halfway house to be had?
They did the washing without the help of a washing machine, they cooked without blenders and microwaves, they cleaned without hoovers and spray polish, they wrote, read and enjoyed handwritten letters. Everything took time, and effort and patience was the norm and absolutely necessary.
No online food deliveries or factory-made meals with ingredients defined by letters and numbers and more often than not, ending in ‘phosphate’. What exactly is disodium diphosphate anyway? Some sort of raising agent … what’s wrong with an egg from a happy chicken. I’m on a roll now, warming to my theme .. does anyone actually know what partially inverted refiners syrup is? Apparently it’s in my ginger nuts. And no, I don’t really want to know, I’m just having a rant on my soapbox.
Perhaps I’m simply feeling a little nostalgic for an era of which I only know snippets of, from what has been passed down through the generations. Perhaps I crave some simplicity in my life to help me. Perhaps I crave some digging up of potatoes, weeding the beds, working up a sweat and doing these things that we now call mindfulness, but in those days was just called life. Perhaps I simply crave my garden … not at the foot of the Ngong Hills, just my little simple garden in England.
As time passes, I’m beginning to understand myself better. Seems faintly tragic that it’s taken 48 years, however the more I understand, the easier life becomes. I’ve learnt what to add into my life and what to avoid like the plague. Bit like a cake recipe really … add another egg for more lift and va va voom and less syrup and treacle to make it lethargically stodgy and sink like a stone. Yes, I am indeed, a cake (hopefully chocolate).
I’m discovering the things I like, loathe, need and most definitely don’t need in my life. I’ve also realised that there are some things that I’m hugely sensitive to … but what I’m understanding is that I’m not alone! Thank the Lord … I just thought I was a bit odd. To specify …
I loathe loud or sudden noises (sudden and loud and I’ve been known to turn feral) …. Many years ago my children thought it would be highly amusing to jump out at me from hiding in the airing cupboard, resulting in ‘yours truly’ screaming with true gusto, roaring that they were out of The Will and promptly bursting into tears. They’ve never done it again. Poor little buggers …. I had to apologise more than they did. The Colonel also knows that on entering a room he is far better gently singing Ave Maria in soothing tones than announcing his arrival with any form of unanticipated volume.
I love bonfires. I could stare into a fire for hours, feeling the heat. For me it’s as soothing as listening to water, but without the consequence of desperately needing a tiddle. (In case that’s just an English thing, it means a wee!). I find it wonderfully calming.
In terms of needs, I need to just sometimes remember that I do have to have downtime, me time, time out, whatever you want to call it, but I need to be able to just to take a breath, and check up on myself. To ask myself, “What have I done for my mental health today?” I need a little bit of care and occasionally to treat myself like Dresden China.
And as for what I definitely don’t need in my life …. I don’t need bad people. Narcissists, liars and unkind people (who tend to be desperately insecure I’ve found). I did a bit of ‘culling’ of friends on Facebook last year … terribly therapeutic once I’d stopped feeling guilty.
I’m sure that this is fairly simplistic, but in truth, that’s me. Simple. So in summary, I believe that I shall add more fires to my life, have the occasional massage (can I put that down as ‘me time’ or am I pushing this a bit?), wear ear muffs on bonfire night and ditch anyone who isn’t genuinely lovely, gorgeous and reckons that adding a few of these ‘eggs to ones cake’ is not weird, but absolutely necessary.