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?

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

Last Week I Met an Author.

Last week I met the author Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE. She has written 35 novels, sold over 30 million copies and is apparently worth in excess of 300 million dollars. That’s a lot of books and an awful lot of money.

When I think of us all tap, tapping away on our iPads and laptops with our spellcheckers and predictive text working overtime, I wonder if when she began in the 1970’s she wrote on a manual typewriter with a dictionary and thesaurus to hand.

She was charming and very beautiful. I was star struck and developed a rather strange lisping stutter. I did however manage to ask her how disciplined she was about her writing. Ridiculous question of course, but surprising that I managed to utter any words given the sudden vocal constraints. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I told you she starts at five o’clock every morning and with only a short break at lunch, continues writing all day. Ahh! So yes, really rather disciplined.

So with this in mind, I have adjusted my daily schedule to, if not exactly rising at five, certainly by nine o’clock I am wrestling once again with my final editing. I’ve begun researching appropriate agents and pondering over query letters and all the while, thinking about beautiful Barbara and how hard she works, day in, day out despite being over 80. Quite an inspiration. I just wish I hadn’t have offered to find her a cab … of course she had her driver waiting for her downstairs … what a durr I am.

Katie xx

Is there anyone who really inspires you to write or work?

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

”Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

(The last book by Dr Seuss)

To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.

It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.

We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….

I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.

So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …

Katie xx

56. A Massage For Depression?

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I’ve been reading through my posts lately and had rather forgotten about this one – I hope you don’t mind me reposting!

Research says that a part of the treatment of depression and anxiety is to indulge in massage. Fabulous! However, I’m a middle class, middle aged woman and I don’t just take my clothes off for anyone. I’m rather British and frankly going to a therapist for the first time was bad enough – stiff upper lip and all that. Talking about one’s feelings? Are you clinically insane? I went to a Victorian boarding school on the southernmost cliffs of England where crying oneself to sleep was the norm, but one never talked about it.

So to be completely starkers, be kneaded and pummelled like a lump of dough was definitely going to take some pluck and courage.

The Technical Paragraph … skip this para if you have a low boredom threshold (I do if it’s any consolation).

The Mayo Clinic claim that a 60 minute massage can lower cortisol (the hormone that’s produced when stressed) by an average of 30 per cent, (although the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found the therapy lowered levels by 53 per cent … bit of a difference but it’s all going down and that’s what matters in my book). And when cortisol lowers, serotonin and dopamine increase. The combination of all this thereby boosting the body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness. Win, win, win! Definitely worth ripping my clothes off for.

Ok … enough of the dull bit … carry on now.

So off I trundle to visit ‘Michelle’. Michelle is stunning. Michelle has a sing-song voice calming voice and in the warm, whale music of her scented room, I lie on a bed with only a couple of tiny towels covering the important bits. Now, to be clear, prevention.com say that the word massage comes from the Arabic word mass’h which means “press gently“. I since have looked into this further, and there are definitely some discrepancies over this. But as far as I am concerned … “gently” sounds good.

Are you joking? Face down with my head poking through a hole in the bed, I am oiled, squeezed, stretched, pummelled and beaten within an inch of my life. And I feel fan-bloody-tastic! I feel slightly drunk and my legs certainly can’t hold me up. No wonder the Chinese have been doing this for the last 2,500 years …. who needs alcohol when you have Michelle in your life?

I’m beyond relaxed, lying legs akimbo, tiny towels long since disappeared and I suspect that at some point my damp cheek indicates that I might have dribbled, so given the option of sliding my oily body and matted hair (yes, the head got a going over too) into my clothes again, I slurrily asked if she could perform any other beauty miracles on me. “A leg and bikini wax mightn’t go amiss” she said in her sing-song voice just a tad too quickly. But hey, I’m agreeing to anything and with whale music drifting through me she paints me with warm soothing wax until …. ARGHHHH! Holy God …. “Just a bit nippy!” she laughs as every morsel of hair is ripped from my below my waist. The tiny towel which had once covered my modesty is now gripped between my clenched teeth whilst I, unable to utter a word, make Neanderthal moaning noises as she chatters away happily about her camping holiday last summer.

An hour later I return home, with a gait akin to John Wayne, resembling an oil slick from the waist up and a bald, plucked chicken from the waist down. All benefits of my massage long since gone. And when I delicately crawl my fragile body into bed and cuddle up next to the Colonel as his arms wrap around me, he suddenly pauses, then lifts the duvet, peers down and reappears with a grin. “Don’t even think about it!” I mutter with veritable force from between clenched teeth. He looks like a berated puppy but I am practising deep breathing so I think he thinks I’m asleep, and even he wouldn’t risk the wrath of a hostile, woman in recovery from a major ordeal.

Katie xx

55. Dirty Weekend!

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Ooooh! Advice to anyone …. when your husband is just a teensy bit tipsy, starts telling you how much he loves you and suggests a romantic weekend away, say yes and start packing.

Which is how I now come to be in the most glorious hotel overlooking the snow-covered Cairngorms with a bed that could fit an entire family plus a couple of dogs, and a bathroom to die for. I’m writing this, The Colonel is watching the rugby … can things get any better?

But what about the anxiety? Did I stress about leaving the house, hiding the silver in the fridge, the potato basket and the wellington boots (until the Colonel thought we should bring them with us, so I had to empty them again … I managed to ignore his raised eyebrows and twitching mouth this time). Did I stress about the fridge freezer setting fire, or have to go and check three times that the front and back doors were closed, locked and double bolted? Did I worry that I’d forget to pack something of vital importance and then have to drive back, collect it and go through all the door closing, locking and double bolting three times more?

Well, I certainly thought about these things, but I know a good opportunity when I see one and the best thing was that I had no time to stress. I didn’t have days and days for the thoughts to fester and grow in my mind in a downward spiral until I’d be dreading the event. Because to be honest, that’s what usually happens. Actually, it’s what always happens. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened when we last went away … too much time to think about it all, and whoosh! My mind went on a fictional nightmare of an adventure of its own.

To make matters even better, we went via Edinburgh with its stunning castle, cobbled streets and abundance of cashmere and tweed shops. I’m afraid the shallow side of me took over, the shops won, the tourists were pushed aside and I am now the proud owner of a discounted cashmere cardigan and a half price stunning, yes darn stunning, tweed, fitted, just above the knee coat! Sod anxiety …. bring on the shopping.

I tend to be a very nervous passenger in the car … the hangover from a nasty accident in the late ’80’s. I have a tendency to shriek rather a lot and put my hands over my eyes. Apparently it’s rather off putting to the driver.

The drive north from Edinburgh however was glorious. The vast and bleak open hills and spaces, barren and devoid of the softening effect of any trees. It looks so inhospitable, almost frightening. They’re exposed and raw without a single nook or cranny in which to hide from the biting winds and harsh weather. It’s no wonder that nothing but the toughest of plants grow here, and any that do grow, grow low, low to protect themselves.

The roads are narrow and twisting and from the great heights we then drop down into the forests. Within the endless dense forests, the ground is a mass of thick leaf litter and pine needles and there are rocky streams meandering through. From time to time we pass tiny villages and hamlets with houses all built of the same solid thick stone with slate roofs and chimneys spiralling smoke. Mossy stone walls follow the roads with occasional stone pillars and lodges indicating the entrance to yet another vast estate. I try to look down the driveways, but they’re miles long and hidden from sight from nosy southerners like myself.

The people who live here are miles and miles from anywhere. It’s remote and they’re tough. I wonder whether they suffer from anxiety or whether they have more important things to worry about, like if the sheep are lambing and stuck in snowdrifts, or whether the generator will work properly when the electricity fails again. Perhaps they worry about how much food they have stored in their larders, but somehow I suspect that their log stores are full, the larders are bursting and the fires permanently lit.

Perhaps I need to get things just a teensy bit into perspective and stop worrying as to whether an axe-wielding thief is going to break into the house, rifle through the potatoes, find the silver and set fire to the house, and instead spend more time in this beautiful place and get filling my larder and log store and frankly write a book. Bet I wouldn’t have quite so much to stress about then, and if it all gets too much, I can put on my lovely new tweed coat and stroke my discounted cashmere cardigan. Bliss!

Katie xx

54. Leaving Scotland

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So, in just over a fortnight we’re moving from Scotland to London. Bearing in mind how very little I expected from our two year jaunt to Scotland, I am surprised by how emotional I feel. Because you see, I’ve made friends. Lots of lovely friends who seem to just like me for who I am, quirks and all.

My lovely tennis friends, who laugh when I squeal, shriek and roar with laughter at my own inadequacies. Who tease me mercilessly when I shiver on court and complain of the freezing Scottish weather as they go swimming in the outdoor pool whilst it’s raining, again. Those friends who teach me little Scottish words, usually relating to hangovers and bad language, and who translate for me when I look blankly at them, once again not understanding their accents.

We sit and have coffee together, we share stories, we laugh and chatter for hours. We put the world to rights, yet nobody dominates, we take it in turns. There’s a thirty year age gap between us and it doesn’t matter a hoot. Yes, I shall miss my friends.

I won’t miss the weather and the darkness. In winter the sun barely peeks over the trees on the horizon, but to the north I can see beyond the city to the Campsie Fells, which are beautiful hills, covered in snow. Sometimes the evening light catches them and they glow a warm peachy golden. But the rain and the cold. I won’t miss either.

The people here talk, a lot. A trip to the post office takes twenty minutes because everyone likes to chatter and natter. They are friendly and open. Yesterday the supermarket lady and I spent a good ten minutes discussing her allergy to nuts and bowel issues. I’m glad the Colonel wasn’t there, he’s not really very keen on discussing intimate subjects, particularly with a complete stranger. In London if you smile at a stranger you’re likely to be shunned, in Scotland, embraced. Yes, I shall miss the people.

And I shall miss the beautiful park, just around the corner. With its lake, river, waterfalls, woods and endless paths. Where you will find every marvellous breed of dog and every person who loves just to be out in the rain or occasional shine. People stop, chat, talk about their dogs or simply stand and watch the elegant swans and cygnets who grace the lake. It’s my happy place and yes, I shall miss it too.

The ironic thing is that it is only three years on Tuesday since my mother died, and whilst I think of her every day, I do wonder …. you see, she was here as a child through to her early twenties. I wonder if she has been to some of the places that I visit and I wish I could tell her now about my life here and more importantly listen to hers. I don’t just miss my mother, I long for her, I absolutely long for her.

Katie x

44. Sometimes I Just Don’t Like Myself.

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There are some things about myself that I genuinely don’t like. Actually I wouldn’t blame anyone else for not liking these traits much either. Does that mean that I’m not a likeable person? I don’t know. In a similar vein, if someone does one bad thing to another, does that make them a bad person? Likewise, I don’t know the answer to that.

But back to the point – The hated trait is my ‘over awareness’. Particularly of other people. I’ve already spoken I think of my over sensitivity so maybe this is much of the same thing.

The fact of the matter is that there is another family here who is irritating me beyond belief. My children don’t seem to have noticed them, and even if the Colonel has, which I doubt, I suspect it’s simply because the mother of said family is (even in my moment of negativity) quite a good looking woman. Foxy is probably how he’d describe her.

The irritating thing is that whilst they’re most probably perfectly lovely, they are just so loud, oblivious, and unaware of everyone else around them. Oh it’s all coming out now isn’t it? My faults and foibles, and there you all were thinking what a nice English lady she appeared to be … well, clearly not and I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry, because you see, I don’t like these horrible traits of mine either. But how on earth do I stop them? How do I ignore people?

Why am I so judgemental? Why does it matter if they have loud conversations across an otherwise silent, yet full room, whilst their iPads and phones fight each other for volume, have their feet up on the tables and chairs and wear their pyjamas in the main sitting room? Why does it matter if the squabbles between themselves are audible for all and sundry to hear? Why does it matter if they wander around in bare feet as though they are at home and then pick at their toes in front of me? Why does it matter that the mother has a continual habit of snorting and coughing up enough phlegm to warrant the opening of a handkerchief factory, but then swallows it with a resounding, “Ahhh!” for all to hear?

Why the heck should any of this matter to me? Why am I such a irritable old fun-sponge? Am I really already a classically grumpy old woman? Yes, I believe I am. I am the female equivalent of Victor Meldrew, the fictional character in the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave. Yes, I am indeed Victor’s twin sister and therefore as old (he must be approaching 80 …).

Why can I not just switch off and be immune to it and more importantly, why am I like this?

And therein lies the problem … As a child I was taught that children should be seen and not heard, we should be considerate to everyone, never ‘make a scene’ or unnecessarily draw attention to oneself. We must be kind and polite to all and help little old ladies across the road, even if they don’t want to cross. Manners maketh Man and all that.

(Oh God, she’s just snorted again … and, yup, again, followed by another “Ahhh”. I now want to bludgeon her. Noooo, I must think calm, happy thoughts. Think of fluffy bunnies and arghhhhh! She’s done it again! For God’s sake.)

Frankly (and apologies in advance for the language now), but frankly bollocks to it all. Maybe that’s why I’m such a people pleaser, maybe that’s why I was such a doormat to my first husband. I was living a 1950’s perfect little housewife dream who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

(Yet more snorting … would it be rude to offer her a handkerchief? But she’s having a FaceTime call with her sister now and the children are all joining in, so I daresay it would be impolite of me to interrupt.)

Maybe I’m actually just jealous … maybe I secretly want to drag and slide my feet with every step across the floor, let my children wipe their noses on their sleeves, and pick at their toes in public. Maybe I secretly long for that laissez faire attitude to life.

So maybe I’m not only over aware, over sensitive, intolerant, judgemental, a rotten skier, but I’m also jealous. Flipping marvellous.

The solution … apart from whining to you all (again, I am sorry … although you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway), I think the best course of action is either to put on my headphones to block out the sound or alternatively to ditch the headphones, turn up the volume, snort, pick my toes, then my nose and take the philosophy that if you can’t beat them, join them. Think I might be a rebel and do the latter. 😧

Katie x

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

24. Always Wear Your Knickers …

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How not to go about getting a dress altered …

It’s pouring with rain. This is Glasgow. Of course it’s pouring with rain. The dress I need to be altered however, is safe and protected within a bag, complete with coat hanger, and stuffed under my coat. As a consequence I look more pregnant than when I was pregnant, with the coat hanger however lending a slightly more lumpy look to my phantom pregnancy.

I arrive at the menders in a muck sweat and feeling somewhat wretched having got lost yet again, but am shuffled nonetheless by a Polish Scot whom I don’t really understand at all, into a tiny changing room in order to apparently take off all my clothes and get into said dress. I take this literally and simply hope there are not going to be any Marilyn Monroe moments with air swooshing up under my dress …. but this is neither a film, nor America I remind myself.

Well she seemed to know what she was doing and within five minutes and having been pinned within an inch of my life, it’s time to return behind the curtain to take off the dress.

Problem…. I am stuck…. Completely stuck. Oh dear God!

Humiliation doesn’t really cover it.

With one arm pinned to my side, the other in the air and an eye peering out of the arm hole, I squeak to the seamstresses from behind the modesty of the curtain for help to be freed … This is then thrust aside and a large unit of a woman squeezes into the tiny space beside me. Now we are both stuck.

My head is thrust into her cleavage and she bellows with great authority, as if I am deaf as well as stupid, “Hold on, now SHIMMY LASSIE, SHIMMY!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love a clear instruction, so ooooh how I shimmied! As however, so did she, with my face still between her breasts, pummelling me, whilst pins pricked, stabbed and scraped.

Moments later I reappeared from swathes of fabric and the depths of a large pair of breasts, somewhat dizzy, red-faced, thankfully free, however completely starkers with a total stranger … Turns out, she didn’t work in the menders at all.

Today, I have no signs of depression or anxiety whatsoever! Life in Glasgow continues. 😳😳

Kx

22. Happiness!

 

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In exactly three weeks time, the Colonel, my two boys and I are taking a holiday. Whoop! Whoop!

We are going to a small village in the Alps which is predominantly full of Italians who make skiing look as effortlessly natural as if they had been born in a pair of skis. They have a tanned, healthy glow about them which makes their smiles look even brighter and whiter. Their tiny children race past me on the slopes with the confidence of youth and the knowledge that if they take a tumble, they will simply bounce. Besides, they’re so small, they haven’t got far to fall and anyway papa will appear within moments with an elegant swish of snow, to scoop them up, utter some words of encouragement and send them on their way again …. to rejoin his bronzed wife in her enormous sunglasses, sipping coffee, behind a light cloud of smoke with a cigarette held between two long tapered fingers. I feel as though I am in a film with Sophia Loren … except there’s a bit of twist as Bridget Jones (aka me) has just been added to the cast list.

How do they even make smoking look good? Not quite the same here seeing the masses huddled together outside Tesco’s in the pouring rain whilst you’re trying to get your jammed trolley out of the row. “Kevin!! Go and help that lady with the trolley! No, don’t kick it you pillock!” No, not quite the same at all.

I am a cautious skier who started much too late in life. I do not share the Italians’ attributes. I have less of the tanned healthy look about me and am blessed with more of a pale, insipid look, something akin to skinny-legged hermit crab who has been hibernating for a year or two.

I scuttle from one side of the piste to the other, stop, look nervously around and scuttle back the other side. When things get tricky, I do what I do when driving, I stop. But there are no hazard lights on this vehicle, so this particular habit has been known to cause a pile-up. I am fairly prickly with anyone under the age of six who skis past me and doesn’t give me at least ten metres of wide berth, and when things get very tricky, I sit down. I have been known to cry on occasion, also whilst sitting down.

However, to say I am excited about our upcoming holiday is an understatement.

I am bouncing around, laying clothes out on the bed, counting out pairs of socks …. adding a few for good measure, and what should I wear to go to breakfast? Certainly not my skiing gear – that might look a bit keen, besides I wouldn’t be able to move, would over-heat and can guarantee to spill something on my lovely pink ski trousers … oh the decisions! But such lovely ones.

The Colonel gathers his kit and essentials in roughly five minutes, in part because they were pre-packed in advance, and secondly because he takes the exact numbers of changes of clothes, whereas I can’t decide, so end up taking everything, and a spare just in case. … I see him give a slight shudder when he sees how my side of the bed is getting piled up high … certainly more than a 23kg baggage allowance high, so I remind him haughtily that I am ‘planning for every eventuality’. I also wonder just how high a man’s eyebrows can go up? But sensibly he keeps his thoughts to himself.

So why with my obvious limitations on the piste and otherwise am I so excited?

Why when this is more expensive than three of our camping holidays put together, am I feeling so happy?

Why, when there are times that it can be scary and at other times nothing less than terrifying, do I feel so alive?

Because, I can feel it now. I can see it now. The air is crisp, cold and clear; you breathe in to the very bottom of your lungs and it feels so very, very pure. The beauty of the mountains is nature at its very pinnacle, in all its glory, standing proudly. The sounds of laughter, the crunching of snow underfoot…. the swishing of skis …. After the dirt, grime and sludgy colours, to the purity, the whiteness …. how clean, fresh and sharp the colours are. I’m in my own piece of heaven.

It simply makes me happy. Each year I work on improving and each year I remain the same … but it doesn’t matter. It’s family time in a healthy, stunning environment with masses of exercise, food and drink. I couldn’t ask for more.

I love the feeling of happy exhaustion after a long day of exercise, the looks on the boys’ faces, rosy and laughing. Joking about who is the fastest, more laughter as we all know the truth that the Colonel is far and beyond the best in every respect. He has been known to ski past me, on one ski and no poles whilst bellowing, “A little more angulation my darling!” If I wasn’t panting so much from the exertion I’d tell him exactly where to put his angulation.

So you see, that is why I am excited. Because despite everything, I know that I will be happy there.

Better still, we will all be happy there.

I’ll never look like Sophia Loren, but maybe, just maybe I can work on my skinny-legged hermit crab to look a just a teensy more elegant (or even have a spray tan? Just a thought …).

Kx

☀️☀️☀️

15. Snow Glorious Snow!

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Glasgow this morning is covered in a thick blanket of fluffy, white snow. I feel transported back to my childhood and have an overwhelming urge to bounce out of bed and wake up The Colonel to show him the fox’s footprints in the garden.

Instead, as the bedroom, sitting room and kitchen radiators are not working and Carillion Amey who look after the house can’t get out until a week tomorrow to fix them, I stay in bed, warm and cosy but with a jolly cold nose peeking out from over the bedclothes.

So, I turn on the iPad, in the process getting a pretty cold arm too and look at the news, the weather and the latest on American politics. I see that Donald Trump is in excellent health and could possibly live to be 200, and the rest of the news is all pretty bleak with pictures of jackknifed lorries and people stuck in their cars overnight. The weather doesn’t look to be improving all day either.

A few weeks ago, I would be fascinated by disasters. I’d read every story on an avalanche, mudslide or earthquake. I’d read about children kept hostage for years by mad men and women. Frankly anything bad or evil. The good stuff, the happy stories seemed to bypass me. Although in my defence, there often seems to be in the news more horror stories written, than stories of joy.

It would take over my day, my week, my entire thought process. I’d feel hopeless, helpless sympathy for the poor souls who had lost parents, sisters, brothers, children and their homes. Whilst I suppose it shows an element of sympathetic humanity, which is good, my obsession was fairly extreme and therefore not so good. Particularly when you bear in mind that almost every single day, there is a disaster somewhere in the world.

Today for the first time, yes, I read the news. I pondered over it. I felt for the struggles of others and yet, I didn’t dwell on it. I have my own little struggles to deal with, however meagre they may seem to others. I have my routine which is getting stronger every day and helping me enormously.

But I feel guilt. Guilty that I’m not thinking every moment about others. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t know. Isn’t there something in the bible about taking the branch out of your own eye before taking the splinter out of someone else’s? I don’t really remember from my scripture lessons, but either way, I’m not sure that is easing my guilt either.

So I ponder on this as I lie in bed having put away my iPad and snuggle back to the warmth of The Colonel. My freezing arm wraps around him and my nose happily thaws itself on his warm, soft back.

Oh dear, it appears to have woken him up. Shame! Is it still too early to show him the fox’s footprints in the snow?

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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