The Snow Approaches …

Manhattan is looking beautiful. Bright, sharp and clear, the skies are almost a periwinkle blue. The River Hudson mimics this and whilst great swathes of water are being flattened by the wind, there are no sea horses to be seen.

As children when we looked out to sea, if we saw breaking waves, the adults would suck through their teeth saying, “See those sea horses? Not a day to be sailing!” We could determine how rough it was simply by looking for the white manes of those fictional horses. That and listening to the shipping forecast. I still remember my father listening to it, the slow, soothing, monotonous tone of the broadcaster …

Aberdeen. West 4 or 5. Becoming variable. Rising more slowly. Showers. Good.

On and on for hours, surely a solution for insomniacs?

Outside it is bitterly cold with a sharp wind that needles its way through the minute gaps that separate one piece of clothing from another and between the tiny fibres of fabric. Walking on the sunny side of the street is more than just preferable, it’s necessary. And yet tomorrow there is worse to come. A snow storm is due.

I love a good storm. I love snuggling down, lighting the fire and finally having the perfect excuse to read and write all day. Sadly however, the apartment doesn’t have a fireplace and besides, the Colonel has different plans … our fortnightly trip to Costco. An hour’s endurance involving the subway, a bus and a metal trolley with wheels that come to an abrupt halt at every lump, bump and dent in the sidewalk. That’s a lot of sudden halts and a lot of broken eggs.

Hmmmm. One person’s pleasure is another’s pain. I think I shall continue to watch the forecast … but I do hope it’s good and snowy tomorrow.

Oh yes, I do love a good storm!

Katie x

Meghan and Harry …. What a Drama!

Dare I say that it’s rather reassuring to know that all families have issues?

It doesn’t seem to matter whether we originate from the highest or lowest echelons of society, where there’s a family involved, there’s bound to be the odd skeleton jangling and lurking in the cupboard with a propensity to reveal itself at the most inopportune moment. Prince Andrew’s skeletons rather fell out with a loud clatter at the public’s feet; and now the truth is out as to what Harry and Meghan really want, which is, well, not exactly what the Queen originally had in mind.

The newspapers can’t get enough of it, Twitter has become crazed with activity and I suspect there are some fairly solemn faces around the family kitchen table. Except they probably don’t have their meetings there …

What do we do when there’s a drama unfolding at home? I guess we all do things differently, from talking, shouting, slamming the occasional door, being reasonable and unreasonable. But at least we get to do it without the world watching us.

I suspect there are a couple of nervous Corgis hiding under a sofa somewhere hoping for life to go back to normal quickly. I also suspect that Her Majesty is probably the finest example of how to remain calm amidst a crisis. Hats off to her I say!

I wonder what the outcome will be ….

Katie x

Depression and Loneliness

Admitting to friends we’re feeling a bit blue, or downright and unutterably depressed is difficult. Verging on impossible.

Confessing that one is lonely is also something that rarely we readily admit to.

Why? Perhaps it’s human nature to want to fit in, to have a connection and be able to communicate with others, to be liked, to be normal (whatever normal is). We don’t want to be whispered about or appear to be a social outcast. We want others to respect us, value our opinions, perhaps even look up to us. And yet that’s rather difficult when we find ourselves as a snivelling wreck clutching a box of Kleenex tissues in the office stationary cupboard.

More and more often I am meeting people here in New York, who are finally admitting that when they first arrived in this city they were lonely and/or depressed. But they didn’t admit it at the time – oh no! Probably in part because they didn’t know anyone well enough to. Even so, it can be lonely even when we’re never actually alone … indeed, even some marriages are lonely.

My funny old life here is very social and yet I still can be lonely. What I yearn for, which of course takes time, is a close friend, a friend who is a real ‘mucker’ as we say in England. Someone whom we can pop round to see at a moment’s notice and doesn’t mind that we have a snivel, a moan, a self pitying wail as we beat ourselves up and then eat them out of tea and biscuits. They listen without rolling their eyes, hand us tissues, give us a big hug and then force us to snap out of our self-flagellation whilst telling us to get a life.

“It takes time and effort,” they say and before we can utter another squeak, have enrolled us in their weekly Ethiopian basket weaving course … We leave hours later, feeling infinitely better yet wondering exactly how we can extricate ourselves from said basket weaving course. Although, it was either going to be that, or Tango lessons at the local church.

It takes courage to admit all is not well.

If we stay silent, nobody knows that we need help. Irritatingly, I’ve discovered to my detriment that telepathy doesn’t work.

What I have discovered is that honesty is as ever the best way forward. Choosing the person carefully and then opening up is half the battle.

What I love about the Americans is how they want to help. If you’re looking for work, they immediately put you in contact with others. If you’re lonely, they invite you into their homes. Their generosity is unbelievable.

I shall be sure to look out for others new to the city and offer them the same kindness I have received.

And, next week I start my french course. French, because according to my husband we have no need for any more shabby chic baskets in delicate shades of taupe and misty sky blue in our apartment, Ethiopian or otherwise.

Wish me luck!

Katie x

Food Shopping – Oh The Joy!

We live in an apartment. It’s an apartment in Manhattan with one of those downstairs reception hall places with people in uniforms who sit behind a big modern desk with lots of telephones and say, “Have a nice day” each and every time you pass them. That’s a lot of “Have a nice days”. They also give me a spare key every time I forget mine and call me to ask if I need the fire department when I set off the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Its a bit posh for me, but they’re lovely and we understand each other.

Yesterday I made the unfortunate decision to go to Costco to do some food shopping. Now, just to be clear, I obviously have aspirations to be a Waitrose or Wholefoods kind of ‘gal but I believe that I must have some Scottish ancestry which makes me … shall we say, ‘careful with money’. Therefore Costco is my weekly shop.

I had forgotten that at weekends however the trains often have delays because this is when maintenance work is done. I had also forgotten that if it looks like it’s merely drizzling from the apartment windows, it is actually gale force one zillion with horizontal rain once you step outside.

Being Autumn, I had worn my ‘Glasgow’ coat which the Colonel bought me on a posting to Scotland a couple of years ago. My lovely coat with its fleecy lining reaches mid-thigh, and has a hood with soft fluffy bits that frame one’s face. It is supposed to be completely waterproof. I now know that it is not.

I sat in a puddle on the train squeezing ineffectively the drenched sleeves whilst listening to my Audible book “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody and muttered in French every few seconds the response to his questions. I can now say, “I am afraid of flying, so am planning to take the Eurostar”. I know for a fact this sentence will never be useful to me, but perhaps the next chapter will be more relevant.

By the time I had walked from the subway station and arrived at Costco I was wet from my forehead to my knickers and from my knickers to my squelching sodden shoes. My neatly written shopping list had turned to papier-mâché in my pocket and the quirky turquoise ink that I like to use had transferred, not only onto my right hand, but clearly I had been touching or wiping my face rather a lot too. In fact, the only part of me which was dry was the back of my head, and as for the soft fluffy hood delicately framing my face? I looked like I was draped in a collection of small drowned rats’ tails.

Having squelched and shuffled my way round Costco, it took an hour and a half to get from the checkout queue back to my apartment. And, as I walked into the reception hallway, three wide pairs of eyes looked at me from behind the desk.

“Don’t say it!” I said through gritted teeth. “It’s not a good day.”

They looked sympathetically up and down at me, tutting and shaking their heads. Then they nodded, looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Ma’am, have a better day!” and roared with laughter. Bollocks to the lot of them.

As for the “Next Steps in French” by Paul somebody, by the time I had gotten home and onto the next chapter, I could say, “I was about to book a taxi when you called me”.

As I’m too tight to get a taxi, I don’t see that this is ever going to be relevant either … although perhaps it would have saved me the delayed trains, the soaking knickers and the turquoise face … as for my Glasgow coat … I don’t believe the fluffy bits will ever look the same.

Katie x

Ps. Before you ask what the relevance of the picture is, there isn’t any, it just made me feel wonderful simply looking at it!

Are You A Howler?

I saw a picture of Kate Middleton in the news yesterday. She was crying. Well, in truth it was more of a dainty weep (and about what, I know not, but that is not the point …. what a lot of what-nots. Forgive me – I digress).

She had a delicate trickle from one eye which required nothing more than a gentle dab with a lacy handkerchief. I wanted to stroke her hand and sing soothing words, but given that she is on the other side of the world and I am a complete stranger to her, I suspect I would probably be arrested even if I could travel across continents in seconds and climb into her bullet/mad-woman-proofed Range Rover.

My point is this: Yes, her weeping brought out the mother in my soul and I wanted to comfort her, but most importantly, it was all so darn feminine and pretty.

I think I could learn something from her.

When I cry, I am a howler. I dribble unattractively, I snort, snuffle and cough. I wail loudly with much flailing of arms. Salty hoses open with full force from my pink puffy eyes and even pinker nose. I look like a small pig with serious issues and an allergy.

I am under no illusions that it is not a pretty look. People will cross roads to avoid me. The Colonel has a tendency to look baffled, bewildered and faintly scared. With good reason I suppose. Thankfully, it tends to be fairly short lived, the end result being a blotchy face with mascara smeared like a panda around my eyes and black streaks down my cheeks; the occasional sniff, an apologetic grin and it’s all over. The relief on the Colonel’s face is rather endearing.

Thankfully this is a rare event. Indeed I’d say it’s only happened twice this year. But boy does it feel good! A hearty old blub and the world is a better place. A release of pent-up frustration and whoosh it’s all over. I could start on making comparisons to orgasms, but I think that might open a can of worms and I like to keep my posts tasteful and decorous … mostly.

Suffice to say, I am curious …

When did you last cry?

Are you a howler or a weeper?

Did you feel better afterwards?

Katie xx

Ps If there are any men reading this, I’d really, really like to know.

Road Trip!

Where do you go when teased with the lure of the white sands and balmy climes of the Bahamas, Cuba or the British Virgin Islands being only a mere hop, skip and a jump of a plane journey away?

Well, you pack up a tent and go on a road trip instead. Err, of course.

America is big. Vast. However, in a week we covered well over 1000 miles and popped into 7 different states. I say popped because at times it was somewhat unintentional what with the Colonel’s driving and perhaps more relevantly, my map reading. We popped in, and with a little oops, popped out again.

In truth, his driving is irritatingly good; I am simply a poor passenger with a habit of yelping and clutching white-knuckled onto the door handle if I think we’re either going too fast or are going to crash. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. So, this being a regular occurrence led at times to a fairly high stress journey (more so when driving in Manhattan where my fears were completely validated looking at the number of dents in the cars. Did you know, they actually have bumpers over their bumpers for protection here?)

However, and back to the road trip … We wiggled our way along the smaller roads, avoiding the pot holes, cracks, lumps and bumps which in the U.K. we appear to have considerably less of and I consequently shall never complain of again. We googled some road signs, delighted to find that sometimes one can actually turn right on a red light. It does leave a rather large margin for error which is perhaps not entirely sensible, but I didn’t make the rules. And rules they like. Oooh they are strict. But it keeps things in order, mostly; and we like order.

And then we drooled.

Fresh, bright white clapboard houses stood proudly, their slatted shutters painted varying shades of greens and blues framing the huge Georgian-style windows; colonial pillars supported the grey roofs covering verandas which themselves were filled with pots of flowers and plants and tables and chairs, offering a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. Wide wooden steps led down to the gardens and with no hedges or fences indicating where one plot started and another ended, they seemingly merged into one another allowing for clear uninterrupted views.

The gardens themselves were simple but perfectly neat. Manicured lawns with flowerbeds planted up close to the houses. Hydrangeas with their huge pom pom flower heads, hibiscus, hostas without a slug to be seen, box balls in abundance and lots and lots of trees. Nothing too taxing for the gardeners, but everything colourful and wonderfully healthy. With a hot climate and plenty of rain, everything flourishes there and yet surprisingly very few grow their own vegetables and fruit. Not an apple espalier or raised bed in sight.

There were no overgrown jungles of front gardens there. No black, brown and blue overstuffed bins spilling out their contents onto the weeds on the driveways. It was perfection and it was beautiful. I suspect I would struggle to keep up with the Jones’.

Towns with names like Great Barrington and Lennox offered shops for the wealthy where a cushion would cost well over a hundred pounds, but always the service was impeccable as if that should take the sting out of the tail. We looked, we touched, but rarely bought.

The campsites were clean and quiet and only once were plagued by mosquitoes, but the local pharmacy offered more anti-mozzie sprays and more importantly, soothing anaesthetic creams than you could shake a stick at (at a cost of course).

The beaches were litter-free and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for? So whilst the glamour and glitz of the Bahamas will no doubt beckon again another time, this time we have saved our pennies and enjoyed the beauty of another little world for a short while.

And, as I type and watch my sunburn begin to peel and scratch madly at the line of bites from some little blighter of a bug which starts at my ankle and heads towards my bottom, I do wonder if there are mozzies in the Caribbean …

Katie x

50. What Have You Done For Your Mental Health Today?

 

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So presumably if you’re reading this you have some form of depression or anxiety … If you don’t and you really have nothing better to do on a Saturday morning, then you may well have other issues! Hopefully however, you’re here to seek out others in a similar situation and their thoughts and ideas and it’s not simply the old adage of misery loves company and you want to wallow in the ghastliness of it all and indulge in some self flagellation. (If it’s any consolation, yup, I’ve been there.)

Let’s be clear here, just because I have had my fair share of depression and anxiety, does not mean that I don’t laugh. The fact that I often laugh at myself perhaps describes a slightly self-deprecating personality, or else I’m just trying to get in there first before anyone else has a chance to laugh at me, as I point out my flaws, foibles and find some humour in them and they hopefully then will laugh with me. Anyway, I know I have them in bucketloads, ten tonne truck loads bigger than the road gritters up here in Bonnie Scotland, the only difference being that I’m not spreading and sharing my faults today … Today is about positivity!

So my question today is as per the title, What have you done for your mental health today?

If you’re at the lower end of the spectrum, I would assume that you are up and about, (unless you’re in the States, in which case you should be fast asleep and snoring happily into your duvets).

If you’re right up at the top end, falling over the edge and hanging on by a mere finger nail, I suspect that you can’t see the wood for the trees and are fumbling and stumbling around in the fog, utterly exhausted and unable to frankly do anything. Yes, sadly lots of us have been there and have the t-shirt and full set of hospital gowns to prove it.

However, somewhat annoyingly (because it’s the absolutely last thing we want to do), we all know that to get moving and fight the lethargy will and does make it better. Believe you me, when you’re at rock bottom and someone suggests you go for a nice jolly walk around the garden, I know, you want to hit them with a shovel, but irritatingly, it does actually help. Sorry, but it’s true.

So, the very basics ….. You wake up ….

  1. Turn on the lights, open the curtains, open the windows unless you too are facing ‘The Beast from the East’ (the UK’s current storm). Turn on the radio or the tv. (If you can’t bear the news, find something else … doesn’t matter if it’s the shipping forecast. Let the light, sounds and world into your world. Don’t hide away. We’re safe in our home, but we also need to engage with the universe.
  2. Start a routine of getting up, washing, make up, clothes, making the bed, tidying the room all to be done before you start on stuff downstairs. Keeping things ordered and tidy helps clear the anxiety. ‘A tidy home, a tidy mind’ is not as daft as we might think. It’s therapeutic. Make your room a positive, relaxed environment. And yes, we do feel better if we put on clean clothes and a bit of slap (makeup) on the face …. if we slob around in a tracksuit, it’s all too easy to curl up on the sofa and not move all day. Even if the only person I’m going to see is the postman, I certainly don’t want to frighten him. It’s self discipline.
  3. Food! Eat the good stuff …. Im certainly not going to talk about kale smoothies and do a Gwyneth Paltrow on you, but eat something, even if all you can face is a yoghurt with crunchy bits in it. You cannot run on empty.
  4. Make a list for the day – essential things that need to be done (telephone calls, emails, cleaning a cupboard) plus a few things at the end that you want to do, but that can only be done when the needs are completed. (Long soak in the bath, good book on the sofa etc)
  5. One thing that we MUST include every single day is some form of fresh air and exercise. Even if it’s just washing the car, gardening, or cleaning out all the bins – it doesn’t matter. Just something, outside so we raise the heart rate and get out into the world. Get the endorphins and dopamine working for you.

For me, the most important part of the day is the very start. It sets and determines the tone for the rest of the day. By making and keeping a simple routine, it sets us up for a good solid day ahead. It becomes as easy as breathing. Slowly we can add to it, increase it and we can have our rewards (the fun things) at the tail-end of the day. First we do the things we need to do, then we do the things we want to do.

Start simple, but do start, it’s the only way to move forward.

Katie x