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?

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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?

31. Road Rage …

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When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”

… Mark Twain …

Don’t mess with me, Betty and hormones to boot …

A while ago, I think I might have committed a crime, something akin to a teensy bit of Road Rage. But hear me out before judging me too harshly ….

A day, like many others. I’m in the car, the Pride and Joy. A van has been roaring up behind me for the past ten minutes, revving its engine and leaving millimetres between its front bumper and my rear one, attempting to overtake me and then at the last minute changing its mind. Each and every time missing me by a hair.

It’s a pretty ropey looking thing, rusty, with one windscreen wiper that is stuck at a 45 degree angle, and if I’m not mistaken, one of the two wing mirrors is rather hanging off.

I’m feeling intimidated, agitated and perhaps even hormonal too. Not a good combination. However, to make matters worse, its best friend anger is creeping up to join the party too. Why do people behave this way? And why do the rest of us have to pay for MOT’s and servicing to be legal on the road, and yet others clearly get away without doing so? The injustice is making me madder. The fact that well serviced vehicles are there to keep us safer, is clearly immaterial to me at this point, as frankly all logic by this stage has failed me.

Three men, younger than me, are laughing in their van oblivious to the potential consequences of an impending accident. Do they really think that I won’t slam on the brakes if Bambi, Flopsy, Mopsy or Cotton Tail or any number of bunnies or deer make a dash into the middle of the road and yes, I will try to avoid them. A flattened rabbit is not something I’d want to peel off my radiator grille before breakfast.

Suddenly Betty The Demon takes over – she is in full force. Before you can say “lapin en croute” I am out of my car and marching towards the van – not exactly far to go, it was almost on my back seat. If it’s in any way going to improve my case, it was at this point, just before I reached the van that I had just an inkling of ‘This might not be such a good idea’. However, Betty was propelling me forward, so without further ado I fling open the van door, whilst three mouths gape open and six eyes lock onto me.

“Gentlemen, and I am using the term extremely loosely, let me tell you something.” My finger has strangely started waggling at them, “If I wanted someone up my arse, I would ask my husband to oblige. Wrong woman, wrong day. Comprendez?”

And with that, I slammed the van door shut with such force that the glass in the wing mirror, plus a large section of plastic, held together with duck tape, fell and shattered onto the tarmac below. We all looked from each other, to the pile of debris on the ground. F**k ……

With three pairs of now bewildered eyes following my every move, I bent down, picked up the detritus as best I could, and opening the door once again, thrust it into the hands of the driver before getting into my car and driving away at speed. Sod the bunnies ….

I think the road rage incident defined how I was clearly a tad unhinged to say the least. Frankly I could have ended up in a worse predicament than any bunny and at this point it was perhaps my light bulb moment and my rock bottom swirled into one. A shaky drive home (whilst keeping a constant lookout to be absolutely certain that I wasn’t being followed by a large rusty white van) ensued and on arriving home had a stern talk to myself aka Betty.

Enough. That is enough now. Once the adrenaline had faded, the realisation slapped me across the face that something and everything had to change, and change now, before I ended up in a ditch dead or being sectioned, tied to a table with a thousand volts being charged through me by the men in white coats. Yes, sometimes it takes a radical moment in one’s life, to make a radical change to one’s life.

Onwards and upwards.

Kx

30. The Pot Plant

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I’m a gardener. That’s what I do. Gardening is how I have earned enough money to keep the children in food, clothes, cinema tickets, Jack Wills and/or Hollister hoodies (usually and), followed later on by the inevitable laptop (“Durr Mother … I need it for school.” “Does this mean your grades will improve?” I ask in response, and am promptly granted a withering look) and of course, mobile phones (“Double Durr Mother… In case we’re abducted by some axe-wielding madman” … Hmmm, best not answer that one). Most eloquent, my children.

Gardening is what I love to do. Transforming bland areas into a places of beauty with a few seeds, cuttings and a whole lot of hard graft. Total therapy …. mindfulness to the nth degree and even better when it’s not accompanied by horizontal rain and gale force winds. There’s nothing worse than cold water seeping in through your collar, working it’s way down your back and finally reaching your knickers. I really do dislike a cold, soggy bottom, but then I am a soft southerner.

However, indoor plants are quite simply not my thing. I may have RHS qualifications and experience coming out of every orifice, but indoor plants … no. Indoor plants require attention … they are needy, demanding. Only room for one individual with those traits in this house (no prizes for guessing who).

I underwater them, I over-compensate and then overwater them. Over, under, over, under. I forget about them on their windowsills. I forget about them in sitting room, the kitchen and they hate my inconsistencies. They become flaccid and droop, yellow from chlorosis, turn up their toes and die, invariably then finding their way, with a helping hand from yours truly, to the compost bins….. Never having flowered, produced seeds and and therefore never even having been allowed an attempt at reproducing. Imagine going to the grave, never having had sex …. A life badly lived.

Now, I mentioned a few weeks ago that a friend of mine had very kindly given me a box containing an Amaryllis, complete with plastic pot and appropriate compost, and yet my heart sank. Oh God, the pressure to keep it alive! To make matters worse, she is a neighbour who often pops in for coffee, a chatter, a natter and a general putting of the world to rights. Would I have to hide the evidence of one flaccid Amaryllis and it’s impending doom? Should I not allow her into the sitting room perhaps? She was bound to ask … And I am supposed to be The Gardener. She who knows all. Clearly not the case after all.

So, I made a decision. I would treat this plant as I am now treating myself. I would nurture it. I would nurture it with love, consistency, routine and structure (and a teensy bit of Baby Bio if things got bad). I would water it as per the instructions and not deviate. I would feed it also, as per the instructions. I would take my orders and do exactly as I was told. For those of you who are beginning to get to know me, you’ll know that this is not my forte, however, this is the new me and I’m really, really trying.

If it died, then the penalty would be to go and purchase a brand spanking, shiny new one, complete with flowers and pot and costing about the same as two packets of cigarettes or two bottles of wine. And finally, I would have to confess all to my friend. Ha! The deal has been struck and hands have been metaphorically shaken. I have a job to do.

Weeks have now passed. And as I sit here in the warmth of the sitting room with the January sunlight streaming though the windows, I glance over to the table where a tiny miracle of nature has taken place. An Amaryllis standing proudly with rich and succulent green leaves is just, just starting to flower. The swollen buds are no longer tightly closed, but instead are unfurling, opening gently and slowly, revealing the luminous purity of the beautiful white petals within.

A sense of peace and pride is washing over me as I realise that everything needs nurturing, but more importantly, nurturing with consistency. We need it, our relationships need it, our children and even, a silly old plant.

Kxx