Cutting Hair in a Pandemic …

I only go to the hairdresser when two factors are simultaneously in alignment. To be fair, it’s a rare occurrence. They are as follows:

1) The bank account is in the black, and

2) My dear husband remarks that my hair is looking a little ‘tired’. This is dangerous territory for any man, however this one’s no fool and would only ever pass comment when a) the hair situation is on the brink of becoming dire, b) there is a door between us and c) I am not hormonal.

However, in the knowledge that there have been no options/hairdressers open to us, he has wisely kept his counsel of late. However even I am aware that the benchmark of ‘dire’ had been passed even before we went into lockdown.

So, I tentatively asked him if he’d like to cut my hair. Nothing difficult, just a good inch or two into a neat bob.

Within almost undignified speed, I was whisked into the bathroom and plonked unceremoniously on a kitchen stool by my husband who alongside a look of utter jubilation, had adopted a rather dubious French accent.

“Just don’t bother ask me about my summer vacation plans” I twittered nervously as I watched him don the sharpest pair of kitchen scissors. Oh dear God, those two glinting blades, so close to my ears of which I was suddenly rather sentimental, and more importantly, my jugular. I did hope he was planning on wearing his glasses.

Standing behind me, he took my head between his hands and as I glanced at him in the mirror, his face took on a look of total concentration, and then, he silently got to work.

An hour later and a perfectly sleek blonde bob hung neatly just below my still intact ears. As to who was more delighted, I’m not entirely sure. But one thing is for certain, should he ever need a new career I think he’d make the most fabulous dog groomer, sheep shearer or possibly even a hairdresser …

K x

Ps.. As a matter of interest, if you could have a totally different career, how would it differ from what you currently do? Or are you perfectly happy 😊

Scrabble … Really?

I’ll admit it. I love scrabble. Don’t be too harsh on me.

I’m fully aware it’s seen as an old people’s game, a dull person’s game, a tediously lengthy game for the quiet type with a bad haircut and an annoying habit of absently pulling at their nasal hair. Whilst I currently do indeed have a bad haircut, I do not however put my fingers up my nose, well, certainly not in public.

The Colonel and I take our games seriously. We have taken competitiveness to another level. We have a large black book for our scoring and an extensive list of words that are and are not allowed. No slang, abbreviations, Latin and absolutely nothing from the Urban Dictionary. Quite how “gonad” was allowed in I’ve yet to work out, but I digress …

The last game was won by The Colonel by a mere three points. This result was met with ecstatic fist punching and jubilant hysteria from himself and much screeching, cursing and howling from Yours Truly. This daily release of emotion is a wonderful antidote to any pent-up frustrations of being held in confinement.

Strange we may well be as we find ridiculous pleasure in bringing out the longed-for seven letter word, or in utilising the ‘J’ on a triple letter score, but one thing is certain … it sure does pass the time in a very happy way!

Kx

P.s. How are you passing your free time? And dare I ask, do you play Scrabble?!

Just How Perfect Are You?

A few weeks ago, society appeared to be divided into two camps. There were those who took the Coronavirus seriously, did as they were told, stayed in and didn’t excessively stock up on lavatory paper. This group consisted of ’the majority of people’.

Then, there was a second group, consisting of a combination of young adults who took to having house, street and beach parties (when the weather was fair) combined with a handful of the more elderly and dare I say it, faintly belligerent generation. (This latter group of septuagenarians and octogenarians claiming that if the war hadn’t got them, then neither would this piddly germ and frankly if they wanted to take their daily fifteen mile drive to collect The Telegraph, then they jolly well would). Within this group of ‘those who would not obey’, both parties blamed each other, not only for the spread of the virus but also the lack of the aforementioned lavatory paper.

However, times have calmed and we’re (generally speaking) all now doing what we’re told and life is tootling merrily along. Parents have lifted all time restrictions whatsoever on their children’s iPads and phones as they realise the hypocrisy as their own weekly ‘screen time’ update is into the double figures per day. People are finding enormous pleasure in the occasional arrival of an online delivery, far too much comfort in the contents of the fridge and most notably, starting to sweat at the rapidly declining contents of the ‘drinks cupboard’.

However whilst as a nation we have now joined together whether that be by clapping and cheering for the NHS, or simply the unity felt by ‘all being in this together’, there appears to be another two groups unfolding and emerging. They are as follows:

1) The ‘Mary Poppins’ variety

This group keenly suggests ways we occupy our newly found time by learning a new skill such as learning Swahili on Duolingo whilst baking gluten-free, fat-free canapés to go with alcohol-free drinks at six o’clock (and not a minute earlier). They are encouraging us to mimic their exercise regimes that would put Joe Wicks to shame and embracing our inner decluttered selves. The photos of their beautifully made-up faces in their perfectly neutral-toned harmonious homes are are seen by some of us mere mortals as ’inspiring’, but by others as ‘sanctimonious little f*****s.’ Whichever way they are viewed however, they remain calm in their down-dog yoga stance, whilst sipping herbal tea and micro-scheduling their day.

On the other hand there is a second group, commonly known as

2) Everyone Else …

This is a large collection of the population who will now happily pay a total stranger any amount of money to take their children and their sodding homeschooling off their hands; those whose wine o’clock which used to begin as soon as the taps were turned on at kids bath-time, now starts at lunchtime; those who regretted from day one having invited granny to stay and those who never again want to hear the patronising nasal tones of their husband’s boss giving his daily virtual meetings whilst having to tiptoe around the house with a screaming toddler, an hormonal teenager with attitude and a dog with diarrhoea who has just eaten the left leg of the sofa. Was someone having a laugh when they allowed hormonal teenagers into the same house as a mother mid peri-menopause? And as for the husband, well as soon as the sodding lawyer answers his sodding phone, the Decree Nisi will be thrust down somebody’s sodding throat …

But all is not lost. For one day, this too shall pass and we’ll emerge from our homes, irrespective of whichever group we had momentarily belonged to. And, as we step out, blinking in the sunlight of our newly found freedom, we can be assured of unity once again, unity in our extraordinary memories of a strange, strange time.

Kx

Shhh! He’s in a Meeting … (Again)

It’s surprising how noisy a kettle is whilst boiling.

As the Colonel logs onto yet another meeting, I snarl and curse at myself for not having made my coffee before he started.

I’ve tried various methods of quietening it, such as covering it with a towel, but that was met with much waving of arms and pointing. Apparently it was a fire hazard. I’ve tried filling it only half full, but nope, even noisier. So I wait until the meetings are over, the phone calls end and then I make a dash to the stove and make a large pot of coffee … bliss.

I tiptoe around our open-plan apartment wondering if it would be rude to suggest his meetings move to the closet. I ponder over buying an electric kettle which I can attach to a power socket in the corridor outside and I momentarily ponder whether I have an addiction to coffee and obviously dismiss this immediately.

But let’s brush, swoosh and whoosh away the negatives … for positivity shall reign, and my positive news is … that I have mastered the art of the Chocolate Soufflé. I have conquered my fear of the sinking soufflé.

I shall admit this is not world-breaking news, indeed most of you can probably already make this light as a feather, airy and moist ramekin of deliciousness. It is heaven in a bowl with a dollop of ice cream. So much so that yes, I use that awful cringe-worthy word moist which in my squirming mind sits alongside soiled and gusset. But I digress, it is such a piece of heaven that I would be willing to forfeit my coffee for this utter delight.

So whilst we enter into another groundhog week of the same again, I search again for something new to dilute the monotony. We’re safe so there’s no complaining, but I must confess to a sense of pleasure in an achievement so small. Perhaps I shall try the Japanese soufflé pancakes or start learning Swahili on Duolingo. Either way, if the Colonel could perhaps make his way to the closet with his laptop and phone, I could make that darn cup of coffee …

Kx

Ps. Do you have a positive that obliterated any negatives from the weekend?

This is Manhattan …

There are no yellow cabs now in Manhattan.

The streets are empty with only a few scurrying individuals collecting their groceries, faces all but hidden behind masks. Except the eyes. Darting, accusatory and nervous.

There are no tourists wearing their backpacks, looking lost and filling the horse drawn carriages for an expensive saunter around Central Park. The enterprising men and occasionally women who dance, juggle, sing and leap over each other to make a few bucks from anyone who’ll watch are all gone. … Except one solitary man, who sits just a few yards from Times Square. He has no shoes but wears long, dark shorts and a faded cap, and in his hands he holds an old battered pair of drumsticks. In front of him are a variety of pots, tins and the occasional glass jar. Every single day he is there. He sits and beats out some sounds with a strangely beautiful rhythm. But today he lacks his energy; he is wilting. He has no audience and the street is empty.

In Central Park, parents sharply order their children to walk in single file behind them and curtly step off the path to let others pass. Scarves are quickly lifted to cover strained-looking faces.

There is a solitary helicopter hovering above the edge of the park. There are very few police on the streets, but there is order. Silent queues stretch around the block from the grocery store.

With empty avenues and streets, the true numbers of the homeless are glaringly apparent. Lying on the subway gratings where the warm air blows, in filthy doorways and on the sun-warmed benches around Columbus Circle … anywhere offering some shelter. But without a tourist in sight and few people passing, their opportunities for donations of money, food or cigarettes are limited.

For a few hours each morning in Central Park, dogs are allowed off their leads. They bounce and bound, oblivious to the troubles of the world, simply enjoying their daily freedom, chasing the pigeons and squirrels. It is their same routine every single day without a single care or worry to curtail their fun. Bliss.

Kx

Ps What’s it like with you? Is it the same or different? Where are you?

Yoga Pants, Avocados and Other Trends …

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s, ‘Avocado and Prawns with a Rose Marie Sauce’ was considered the height of sophistication. Sadly this delicious trend went into hibernation for a couple of decades but I confess to utter delight when it made something of a comeback.

It seems that now Avocado Toast (sadly without a prawn in sight) is the alternative trend, particularly if eaten at a trendy table on the sidewalk at an expensive Manhattan brasserie whilst wearing Lululemon yoga pants.

Wearing yoga pants (or yoga bottoms to my Brit friends) is also quite the ’thing’ at the moment. Another trend. These are not however to be confused with cotton leggings often seen with a v.p.l., saggy, baggy knees, and tucked into ten year old UGG boots – this is a very different look.

Wearing these tightly fitting pieces of Lycra understandably gives the impression that one is either on the way to, or has just left a class; thus meaning that they’re a busy person with a busy schedule, who takes exercise seriously. They’re worn by the sort of woman with good legs and a pert bottom who has a weekly mani/pedi and blowout. They are not the sort who would ever be late to collect their children from school and only ever shaves their legs in the summer. ie Normal human beings. No, these yoga pants people are in control of their lives.

I now aspire to be a Yoga Pant Person.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this current trend has not gone unnoticed by the Colonel, indeed most men, and, in what I can only consider to be a moment of madness or unrealistic optimism, he recently bought me a pair.

Whether he was suggesting I needed more activity in my life to tone my derrière I don’t know, but the effort of squeezing myself into something more akin to a wetsuit was enough aerobic activity to bring me out in a sweat. I am now the proud, if faintly hesitant owner of a pair of dark green yoga pants.

I can only assume that this is what a pair of Bridget Jones’s big knickers or Spanx do. In short, they suck in and elevate.

My bottom has been lifted and is now self-isolating away from the backs of my upper thighs which is quite a novelty … they’ve been too close for a number of years. The seams and stitching seem to take the focus away from lumps and bumps and yet, despite being tightly squeezed in (to the extent that I may require additional help to extricate myself), I can move and bend very easily. These pants have in the space of 3 minutes, taken five years off my legs and bottom. No wonder people are wearing them.

I am now trying to remember those old yoga moves whilst the Colonel looks on in amusement. I can’t say I’d ever go outside in public in them, when life returns to normal, but then again, my mind has been broadened with these new trends and if there was a prawn cocktail involved who knows?

Kx

Pure Purgatory …!

Many (many) moons ago in the freezing cold winters at school, we were told that if we sat on the hot radiators, we would get piles. We were also told we would get them if we sat around doing nothing.

As far as I know, none of us ever did succumb to this supposed fate worse than death, but I don’t think we knew what they were anyway. I wonder we didn’t smell a rat, but Google was not around in those days to either dispel or confirm these rumours and the library didn’t have any radiators at all, so it was unlikely we would have ventured in there.

But old habits die hard. I still loathe being cold and can’t sit still for very long, particularly when the football is on or during long films with subtitles. This has been noted by the Colonel who gives a little twitch of his nose and an audible sigh when I get fidgety and he yelps when in bed I put my cold feet between his thighs … please note, it’s absolutely the best place to warm them, but you might be met with resistance.

Our apartment thankfully is warm however. It has also been cleaned within an inch of its life which as I’ve said before is like therapy for me … it also keeps me active. But there’s only so much cleaning one can do. So, I’ve started doing a little yoga on the sitting room floor which reminded me of a post I did a long time ago …

*********

Today I enrolled in my first yoga session. Dear God. I’ve just become one of the yummy mummies, but by walking into the mirror-clad room, not so yummy I notice. Quite what happens after two children and hitting forty I really don’t know but frankly everything seems to have dropped further south than The Cape of Good Hope since I last put on my gym kit. Soon I’m going to be needing some sort of a bra-like contraption to lift my buttocks off my calves …. particularly in comparison to our yoga teacher.

To age this woman is nigh on impossible. She’s all long bouncy hair and hoopy earrings and wears what appears to be a leatherette thong over her leotard.

I feel a little over-dressed and overwhelmed. I’m also rather glad that I’ve not brought the the Colonel with me for moral support. He’d be both sniggering and drooling simultaneously. I also hope we don’t have to listen to whale music and trickling water. Oh. Yes, we clearly we do.

Her body flexes and bends in ways that bodies frankly shouldn’t and yet watching her catlike grace and elegance as she fluidly moves from one position to another is quite mesmerising. Everyone is concentrating and silence reigns apart from the the whale music and trickling water which now has some African drums added to it. The water is making me need the loo and the more I think about it the more I need it.

“Focus your mind” she says soothingly, elongating the word mind as her buttocks point to the ceiling.

I’m trying to think about what I’m going to cook for supper rather than the loo.

“Find your inner wisdom” she purrs. Inner bloody wisdom – it’s all I can do to clench my buttocks to prevent an involuntary escape of air from my bottom.

She’s moving around the room, adjusting everyones legs and arms. She’s coming to me …. oh right … not so gentle and calm now is she, as she pulls my arm higher towards the ceiling and my hip further out – my balance is going … I clutch at her leg. Her hoopy earrings have now attached themselves to my hair and it takes a few seconds to restore order with my muttering apologies snappishly hushed. Finally, having been red-faced for the remainder of the class, I leave the purgatory sharpish, desperate to escape, never to return.

But then again, I do feel rather nicely stretched out and there’s a class later in the week with someone called George. Perhaps I might give his class a go instead.

***********

Keep busy and happy!

Kx

Working From Home … Together?

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?

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

38. The World’s Strongest Man.

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What have I done for my mental health today?

We know, because we’ve had it rammed down our throats by well-meaning friends, family and professionals what we should be doing every day.

We know we should be exercising, getting outside, eating properly, keeping busy, taking our meds, seeing our therapist, doing yoga and meditation. We know that we should not be drinking too much, not procrastinating, not overthinking, not hiding in our beds waiting to feel better, waiting for the exhaustion, panic and anxiety to fade. Frankly I’m panicking just thinking about it all.

But these are just words, words that are so easy to say and yet with these endless lists of things that we should and shouldn’t be doing it’s no surprise that it all becomes overwhelming, anxiety sets in followed hot on the heels of procrastination and what then happens? Zip, nothing, nada. Back to square one on the Snakes and Ladders board again. See post Snakes and Ladders.

Frankly …… Arghhhhh!

Now apparently, the current worlds strongest man is a British fellow called Eddie Hall. He is the only man able to deadlift 500kg under strongman rules. I have no clue what the rules are, and frankly I don’t give a stuff, because that’s half a bloomin’ ton … That’s lifting up a horse or a cow with two hands.

An incredible feat! This surely shows how strong the body can be, but also how mind-blowingly more powerful the mind actually is. His body was screaming at him, but his mind overruled it. (Until he had a nosebleed and passed out, but that’s beside the point!)My point to this is that when a wee Eddie popped into this world, I daresay his mother had no idea that in 30 years time her son would be picking up the equivalent of an Angus Cow for pleasure. But more importantly, he wouldn’t have been able to have done this the moment he appeared. His physical and mental ability has taken years to grow and perfect. He started out small. He learned what his limits were, he worked, he strived, he increased his limits both mentally and physically.

And that’s absolutely no different to us!

We start with baby steps. Steps so small they’re akin to a little hamster. Yes, I’m warming to my theme …. Hamster steps, a little scuttle here, a little scuttle there. A stop, a twitch the nose (not strictly necessary), a little regroup to evaluate where we’re at, a look around, and then off to do another little scuttle.

And we grow. And our scuttling becomes more confident. We start to walk. We start to walk with our head held high. We stride. And we grow braver, bigger and stronger and able to do more and more, just like Eddie Hall. We practise, we work, sometimes we fail, but we just get back up and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but someone somewhere had to start laying the initial few stones.

So remember when you’re taking those first little baby steps, that once upon a time our mate Eddie Hall, the World’s Strongest Man, was once just like us, a teeny little nose-twitching frightened hamster.

Kx

27. Normal is Good

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On social media, everyone is seemingly very, very happy. All of them (apparently) enjoying a blissful existence of beautiful, laughing children on sun drenched beaches with parents exclaiming how they are having a ‘Proud Mummy moment’ (urghh!) as their daughter number one, two or three (or perhaps all) have been accepted to Oxford University, meanwhile their gorgeous hubby has just swept them away on an eye-wateringly expensive safari trip as pictures of distant lions are thrust into our inbox. Similarly in the press, flawless models and celebrities pose outside the popular London nightlife haunts, with glowing perfect skin, no cellulite (God forbid), spots or a muffin-top to be seen. Everything looks so darn perfect and so darn predictable.

However, we also know, that this a totally air-brushed version of what the truth is. And yet, when it’s constantly thrust down our throats, we do start to believe it.

It’s human nature and it goes without saying that it makes us look at our lives slightly negatively. Jealously creeps in, slipping and sliding its way into our minds until the green-eyed monster makes us just a teensy bit dissatisfied and disappointed with our own lives. Our ordinary trips to the supermarket, our jobs, our daily mind-numbingly dull and endless chores of housework and whinging children frankly all seem just a little bit … meh!

Is it however to be expected and the norm to be wandering around in a state of euphoria? Of course not.  I don’t see the average person going around the supermarket or at work with a constant grin on their faces. In London they would be avoided like the plague. Up here in Glasgow they would probably be sectioned.

How many times do we say, “Everyone else is happy, why can’t I be happy? Why can’t my life be like that? I would be happy if my life was like that? Depression and anxiety suck!”

And yet, these people, these apparent friends of ours are simply wanting us to believe that their life is a constant holiday in the Caribbean.

However ….. What is the truth? The truth is that the husband has been having an affair, they both have a drink problem and child number three has just been expelled for selling weed. The safari holiday was a last ditch attempt to save the marriage, escape the mistress (who has now turned into a bunny-boiler) and in actual fact, those were the only two lions that they saw after seven hours confined in a 4-by-4 with three bellyaching kids, no WiFi and two of the three missed it anyway.

So now we know the truth. Now we can choose to either accept what is being thrust daily in our faces and believe it, or take it all with a little pinch of salt, give a smile, move away and instead, start concentrating on our own lives.

So now, instead of wishing for a perpetual smile and asking myself every day if I am happy, I shall ask myself, “Am I ok?”.  If the answer is yes, then that is good.  That is normal, and normal is good.

I will ride out the inevitable storms in the knowledge, that they will end.

I will relish and delight in those fleeting moments of total joy and happiness.

And for the rest, for the average day-to-day life of simply living, I will enjoy the feeling of peace and of normality. Because normal, is good.

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

14. Joining a Gym!

Lordy-be! I’ve joined a gym …. more specifically, a tennis club with a gym attached.

Having played a bit of tennis at school (only the B team I hasten to add), I figured that this was one sport that I would

  • a) enjoy and therefore be more likely to stick at – good idea,
  • b) be a bit social and introduce me to some new people – very good idea,
  • c) might get me a teensy bit fit in time for the summer bikini season – excellent idea, and finally
  • d) I might, with time, practice and a huge amount of effort, be able to take just one game off The Colonel (aka my husband). Flippin’ brilliant idea – pass me the forms, where do I sign?

I’ve known for ages that exercise is the absolute key to recovery. I’ve read enough blurb on the subject of anxiety and depression to know that this is the way forward. So, with great excitement I told The Colonel of my plan. He looked at me from over his glasses and raised an eyebrow. I swear I saw his mouth twitch. I think I know that look …. I bet he thinks I won’t do it, or stick to it for longer than, ooooh let’s say a week.

“Pah!” says I, “Just you wait til the summer when I’m as fit as a flea, looking like a very young and very beautiful Claudia Schiffer and am running you round the court with my newly-found tennis skills!”

“Excellent.” He says. “I look forward to it.” Another twitch of the lips and he returned to his breakfast. Fine!

So with this sense of a challenge in mind, I took a deep breath, parted with huge sums of money, was given a locker key in exchange (how generous) and jumped headfirst into the world of gym bunnies.

After a physical assessment with the Scottish version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I have to admit I couldn’t understand a word of what he said (very strong on the Scottish accent front … and how many times does one say “What?” before they have you down as either completely brain-dead or worse still, taking the piss), anyway, I digress, I was then set free to join in the tennis club session.

This involved three indoor courts of mixed doubles which after one set everyone would switch around so as to change partners. Oh help me God!

I felt like the new girl at school. Hideous … anxiety hitting me like a ton of bricks. Want to run …. want to escape. Starting to sweat. Panic attack on its way ….

A smiling face bounds over, welcomes me and introduces himself as The Coach. “Thank God, you’re here!” He whispers, “It means I don’t have to play …. I slightly overdid it last night!” He roars with laughter. At least I think that’s what he said …. Another strong accent. Panic is subsiding – and before I know quite what has happened, he has sent me off to join three others.

And so I played.

My hands shook, my legs shook. I missed most balls and the rest seemed to end up either in the net, or in the net of the neighbouring court. I apologised profusely each and every time. And the reaction from the players ….. Laughter, hilarity and huge congratulations when I did something good. Quite extraordinary! What a completely unexpected delight.

Afterwards it was coffee all round. No getting out of that one and slinking away …. yet more laughter and chatter. A few questions, but nothing too taxing. It appeared that they didn’t want anything from me, they were just welcoming and happy to have another player.

I left on a high …. a complete high. I didn’t care what hormones or chemicals were flying around my body. Endorphins, dopamine – don’t care. I wasn’t trying to analyse anything at all – all I knew is that this was flippin’ marvellous and I felt fan-bloody-tastic!

I bounced around the house for the rest of the day, booking myself into every tennis session available and reported back to The Colonel.

“I played!” I grinned. “Very, very badly, but I played …. and they were lovely. Everyone was lovely to me!”

“Of course they were.” He said. “They were always going to be lovely to you, because you are lovely.” A gentle smile from The Colonel and I throw my arms around him with a teensy tear threatening to roll down my cheek. He understands. He understands everything.

Kx

1. The Beginning

I think I should be clear from the outset, that despite the rather odd title “How I Killed Betty”, this is no crime story.  This is not a thriller, something akin to an Agatha Christie novel set in 1930’s England with beautiful women and dashing young men drinking champagne for breakfast whilst a festering body lies behind the rhododendron bushes ….. My apologies if you’re looking for a ‘who dunnit’ with Miss Scarlet in the library with the candlestick. I am not Miss Marple or indeed Poirot because ‘Betty’ is not in fact a person.

Betty is a part of a person; indeed, a part of me. She is the devil that sits on my shoulder, the voice in my head, the co-joined twin that you can never be rid of. She is the person who controls me, my thoughts, my entire mind and as a consequence of this, my actions.

Several months ago Betty slowly began a painfully long and slow death. A death which was something akin to a horror movie where the baddie again and again rears up with the knife ready to inflict more damage despite 46 bullet wounds pouring blood from their victims torso with various limbs hanging off. Yes, a long, slow and definitely painful death.

Betty is Churchill’s ‘black dog’ and hundreds of thousands of men and women’s depression and anxiety from all over the world which hinders their every day enjoyment of living, or indeed, the ability of just being able to live.

Betty was my personal demon who had to be killed and shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of The East in The Wizard of Oz who is flattened by the house and all that is left is a pair of red, glittery Jimmy Choo style shoes.  Frankly it was either that, or I would have ended up in a small fermented cocoon-like sub-existence under my bed with my laptop googling ‘how best to kill yourself with minimum pain’. Needs must.

In this blog, I’m including parts of my diary from the early days and tips and suggestions and, well quite frankly every single thing that helped me become transported from the utter depths of despair and self-loathing onto the wonderful road of sunshine, warmth and sheer happiness.  Yippedy doo dah! Enjoy!

☀️ Kx ☀️

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