FREEDOM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie x

Do you feel free?

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

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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

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

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

Katie xx

NO! NO! NO!

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

Issue 1

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

Issue 2

I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, I hope you get the gist.

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

I can’t say No!

So the question is twofold:

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

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

All answers, suggestions welcomed ….

Katie xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie xx

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

Wants Versus Needs

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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!

Katie xx

Do you find that like me you try to persuade yourself that you need something whereas actually you only want it?

What do you want?

28. Baking … The Best Therapy?

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When I arrived in Scotland, I started to cook. Not just the run-of-the-mill hearty stews which I now discover are a necessity as the weather is dire, but something more ‘fiddly’ to prove to the Colonel that I have many undiscovered talents simply waiting in the wings to be unleashed …

The other reason for this new activity, is because yet another radiator has decided to pack up, meaning that there’s only one way to keep warm, and that’s to keep active whilst I wait for the teeth-sucking plumber called Trevor.

Trevor is not a happy man.  Trevor has to be plied with two cups of coffee before he can start work.  Trevor is hard work. Trevor also likes to discuss at length how his ex-wife ran off with a tree surgeon called Marc (that’s Marc with a ‘c’ he likes to tell me). If I ever want a drink more, it’s when Trevor arrives. “Think kind thoughts” I repeat to myself.

So whilst I wait for Trevor, I begin to bake.

I started with ‘Miniature Victoria Sponges’ (sound a bit like fairy cakes so not that testing surely?).

Admittedly I forgot the baking power and had to sprinkle a random amount into each individual cake after 7 minutes in the oven hence the somewhat erratic size and shape, but a bit of sawing off of a soggy bottom here and a burnt top, there resulted in a not too bad end result …

Secondly, chocolate ice cream – I thought I was being bit too adventurous with this one, but actually it was nothing short of a doddle (and delicious, if you can cope with the knowledge that a cardiac arrest or at the very least diabetes is only round the corner …)

And strangely, I enjoyed making them. It was calming, soothing even and faintly therapeutic because you have to give it your full attention, no minds wandering into dark places when there’s ice cream at stake. You read the recipe (… properly), you follow the recipe and ker-ching! something sweet and delectable to nibble follows – what’s not to like?

However, on putting the ice cream in the freezer and seeing that we had run out of ice for the Colonel’s gin and tonic, new wife here and wanting to please, I called Trevor to let him know I’d leave the keys for him and drove to find bags of ice.

I collected said ice, registered with the local GP (Nb they don’t hand out pills unless you’ve had the afore-mentioned cardiac arrest – tough bunch up here – begging does not work I also note), but, they do spend over and above the usual allotted time to discuss their family (photos included) and expect the same detail from you – it might be considered rude not to, and one doesn’t want to offend and one does want the drugs … suffice to say, by the time I arrived back at the car, my ice was not ice, but a wobbly, leaking bag of iced water on the heated leather (gulp) seat of the very new car.

I love a heated seat … A warm bottom when you haven’t felt your ears or feet for 3 days is something akin to a ‘heavenly moment’ – when ones nether regions truly believe that they have moved to the equator. So, the new car, the Colonel’s pride and joy and my mini equator, now somewhat soggy.

Visions of angry new husband …. visions of leather no longer stretched beautifully across seat, just a bobbly, wrinkled affair and a shockingly big bill … honeymoon period firmly terminated with no G & T to placate. Stress and anxiety roaring through me now.

Much mopping, swearing and praying … promises to always be kind to everyone for the rest of my life, including the children and even Trevor, if only the leather didn’t shrink, expand or turn into something resembling a prune.

I think God might have been listening, as an hour later the Colonel returned home none the wiser, his pride and joy beautiful, intact and still with taut leather, but his strangely exhausted wife curled up on the floor beside the fire, a socking great G & T at the ready with no ice, but an unusually smiling Trevor eating some rather oddly-shaped Victoria sponges in a very cold kitchen.

I shall try some more therapeutic baking next week when I’ve recovered.

Kx

26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

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I’ve never much liked the word hobby. It’s always tended to conjure up images of groups of 80 year olds sitting in a draughty church hall doing crochet, undoubtedly wearing large polyester floral skirts with elasticated waists and discussing the merits of their husbands vegetable patch ……

I’ve had single girlfriends who have secretly joined Salsa evening classes, until a few weeks later they can’t talk about it enough. Worse still, they have tried to coerce me into joining them. Err, no thanks! Raving about the liberating joys of learning something new and meeting different people. Why on earth would I want to do that?

Why would I want to risk making a complete fool of myself, standing on the edge of a roomful of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, whilst nobody picked me to have as their partner. Oh nooo! Besides, I had friends. Why would I need any more? My own little random group of friends, strangely however from the same middle class background with the same dress sense, likes, dislikes and thoughts as me. Was this a coincidence or had I subconsciously chosen friends because as they were like me, therefore they were deemed safe and I could therefore trust them?

However, that was in the old days, the bad days. Those were in the negative days. To be honest I was not only just a teensy bit narrow-minded but also somewhat uneducated. I knew nothing! Not that I know an awful lot now, but perhaps I am slightly more open to ideas. And of course, this was before I discovered my ‘thing’ (autocorrect just put in ‘thong’ rather than ‘thing’ which has made me smile, childish I know … I’m sure I discovered thongs a long time ago!). I don’t have a hobby, I have a ‘thing’.

And tennis is my thing.

It’s my focus … for several hours a week, I think completely and utterly on one thing. I do something completely alien to me which is to concentrate! I’m pretty sure Roger Federer isn’t serving for the match whilst stressing over what to buy his wife for her birthday or whether Trevor the plumber is going to turn up that day. During those hours I have no negative or anxious thoughts, and that is becoming so regular that it’s becoming a habit. A good habit. Betty the Demon Depressive doesn’t get a word in. She is silent. I am not feeding the beast, so she is wilting. Simples.

It’s my sport …. it’s exercise which means endorphins, dopamine, serotonin start leaping into action, boosting my mood. They are real and they work. The exercise has helped my skin; it makes me drink more water which helps every organ in my body. I can wallop a ball with such force that all my frustrations fragment and disappear. Despite being a skinny bird, age is cruel thing and where bingo wings, muffin tops and love handles once were, muscles are appearing. This makes me more confident and the Colonel’s glasses steam up more … both of which are positives in my book. (The latter perhaps needing to be kept under control from time to time).

And finally, it’s a part of my routine and structure …. It’s one of my daily tasks. It gives me a sense of purpose and control with my life, mind and body. I need routine and structure more than most people. Without it, there’s always the fear that I really might end up doing nothing all day and hiding away in my little home, wrapping my bingo wings around me with nothing to talk about.

And finally, it’s my social interaction with the world. I have new friends. Friends who are different from me. Friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I have no one to hide behind, no children, husband or alcohol. I have learned from them that being yourself is good. We talk nonsense mostly, laughing about nothingness. We laugh, we tease, we tell each other our woes and our joys. We put the world to rights. They don’t judge me and I don’t judge them. They are quite simply, fabulous.

So, if anyone out there is even just starting to think about having a new ‘thing’, then my advice (without being preachy … what right have I?) then don’t overthink it, just do it!

Don your very best floral, elasticated skirt, head down to the church hall and start doing it …. Crochet, tennis, salsa, Ethiopian basket weaving – whatever floats your boat. But you’ll end up with considerably more than just a new hobby. You’ll have a whole new part to your life. A very, very good part.

Kx