To Our Lady, Notre Dame. Paris.

 

“the essence of Paris is lost if seen through the double glazing of a hotel room or from the top of a tour bus. You must be on foot, with chilled hands thrust into your pockets, scarf wrapped round your throat, and thoughts of a hot café crème in your imagination. It made the difference between simply being present and being there.”
John Baxter,
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris

I have been in love with Paris, ever since she fell in love with me.

We love each other still. It is a passion ill described to aptly motivate the wordsmith to capture the heart of it all.  What was before a dream, visions and points of exquisite reference, become a sanctuary, a finding of self and many, many walks through her streets by day, by night, but always by way of the heart.

In the last decade in particular, I have to Paris more times than I can remember, but remember each visit as if it were the first, the only and the necessity of it.  And like my mother, Notre Dame was always there, a fixed mark, a point of direction, a comfort at first sighting.

When she burned last night, I felt my heart melting.

We were not exactly friends, the Lady and I.  The more I became accustomed to Paris, the more I felt at home, the less I wanted to intrude – for so many thousands did. The last time I entered, I left vexed, annoyed at the multitudes who paid not homage, but interest and photographed and instagrammed as they edged at a pace of a glacier, one tourist after the other, mystified at the enormity of her cavern, oblivious to the sense of her religiousness.  It was not the place for me to light candles for my family, or sit and be calm, and pray.  It was a spectacle and I found many other beautiful churches to be still in, in Paris.  Yet she was always there.

She is always there.  And the burning, the terror of losing hope and today, finding all is not lost, is the spirit reborn.  I think she sort of had enough of the circus, in a way.  Sort of looked around, touched the gargoyles and fundaments and said, I need cleansing of all this parading and useless reverence. I need to burn to be born again, to remind all that I am a holy place. I am the stuff of Victor Hugo, legends and fortitude.  That will not change, but may become a place of peace again.

So when I went to Paris, when I go to Paris, it is to walk by her side.  In Spring, to see the cherry trees, so often captured, and I thank Georgianna Lane and her book ‘Paris in Bloom’ that I love more when walking past the Notre Dame in Spring.  The pictures capture the essence of Notre Dame at her prettiest season. I walk past the side of the church, to where the children play, and onward to the Ile Saint-Louis, behind the Notre Dame, to my favourite restaurant to view her magnificence from what I believe, is her best view. Quiet view. Reverent view.  The view of a church still holy and the architecture of her 13th Century workmanship, best admired. And she is still there.  Like the spirit of my mother, like the spirit of Hemingway’s Paris, like the romance and loveliness of a city that looks to her for validation of beauty.

 

When Notre Dame caught flame last night, the world wept.  And for a moment, came together in that weeping. United in grief and disbelief.  History was falling into the flames, and losing history that speaks of all of life before, is so very sad.  We need the stories to help us understand, to give us a place in the universe, to allow us to take notes for ourselves and give a sense of purpose.  There are many instances when history is being wiped out, change comes too fast, but we can only learn to move forward when we look back, and in that falling spire, we lost the lives of those who built her. But we will find them again.

I love her most in the winter. When the skies are grey and austere but the season of reflection and comfort, with a scarf around my neck, walking the city and knowing she is there.  When Christmas lights come early in the darkness and the city moves around her.  I love her most then when she is pale and comforting.

And I pray for Our Lady.  For our Notre Dame.  To bring once more the magnificent of workmanship, or dedication to religion and the love of the world.  To be a beacon of light in the city of lights and light up for generations who need to see her, hear her stories and again, be the fixed point for those, like me, who find her, always in Paris.

St. Clements Café … an incredible chapter of growth.

This is going to be emotional. Then my life is one emotional journey, seldom lead by head, but always, let’s face it, by heart. In this chapter, for the past two years, my heart, broken and bleeding was brought to healing and joy in a small café in Parson’s Green.

Two years ago I lost just about everything I knew, and held dear.  The wings were broken, the raven deafening and the prospect of one step in front of the other, slow. Believing that I could exist was overwhelming. I had my children, dear God thank you for them, and in that wave of blackness and loss, I found a little café to hide in. So pretty, so everything I loved in the decor and atmosphere, and a small, insignificant sign in the window – help wanted.  Was it that I was beyond caring, but asked the manager if the job was still going.

‘For sure’ he said.  ‘Who would it be for?’

‘Me.’ I replied.  I could see the look of panic on his face, but the die was cast, the sign was sure and, could I say reluctantly, he decided to take a chance on me.  Let’s face it, a woman in her fifties, late fifties, wanting to work in a café was not something he had expected.  I was hired.  To be honest, the first few sessions meant me crawling home with legs unable to move, back and spirit broken, but I what else did I have?  Pretending to be something I had forgotten what that was. I needed work, I needed a distraction and more importantly, a reason to get up in the morning.

I have seen the looks with me in the apron.  Strangers, friends and children of friends popping in, going, shame, she has been reduced … I have seen it all. But in the seasons something else  happened – the forming of family. The joy of the walk from Putney Bridge in the morning to get there, set up and be delighted by the doing of it.  Freshly baked croissants and coffee smells lifting the very spirit of me.  I have been part of a community and they have become my community.  Babes growing, puppies growing, stories unfolding … the learning of the perfect cup, meeting celebrities (and of course Hugh, you have always been the one and I got meet you too), it was the everyday of everyone who came in, stayed, talked and left an impression. To the point where me going away, to South Africa,  meant those coming to say goodbye. Not a job, a place of happiness and even when it got so busy, we worked as a team, delivered perfection and I could go home knowing I had met and mingled with the best.

But it was more than that.

I had found my place. I belonged to a group of people I learned from, every, single day.  Young, gorgeous people, from all backgrounds, Sweden, Poland, England, Brazil … my kindred spirits. I learned from them. Energetic, ambitious, paying their own way, home far away, family far away, but never giving up.  We were in it together: kitchen porters, sous chefs, waitrons, owner – it was not about me, but about us and their love was tangible, support real, love unconditional.

And I am thinking, what have I done to say goodbye to it today?

I cannot stay.  My home in London has been sold.  I have no address here anymore. Taking a break to re-formulate, to re-address and hopefully return. We had so much time to laugh, the Christmas parties, the sharing of break-ups and new loves, of disappointment and new babies being born.  What I am trying to say is that working at this beautiful place, not only offered me sanctuary, but a home. I know your coffee orders, can do the milk art.  I can bake the cakes, fill the orders and remember the long recipe of what you want, with a little of this and a little of that.  I close with you in the winter, revel with you in Spring,  in the love of summer and chat about the Autumn delight:  do the flowers and admire your photographs of weddings, holidays and go – goodbye to those who have left, those who need to move on, and finally, it is me.

Olivia, I am forever grateful. You gave me more than you realise.  Kasia, Kat, Suzi, Michael, Beth, Lucy, Lounis, Anthony, Amanda and all those I worked with, my story is yours.  You are the making of me in this chapter  To Janelle, Fleeta, Toni, Nova, Sam, Kyril, Lucy and all of you, you know who who you are, you are the best thing that happened to me.  I am stronger and braver because of you.  And I shall return.

A small café saved my life. I will take your stories with me and be the better for it. Strong now, with or without the apron, and me again.  You did that, in the thrill of my favourite flower truck pulling up, the oat milk cuppaccino, the smashed avocado and the oceans of love.

We are not at goodbye. We are at we will support each other forever.

And I shall return. For I have found a family of exceptional people. How lucky am I?

Blessed. My apron on the back of the door … will pick it up again sometime. That is how great you have been St. Clements in Parson’s Green.

 

 

 

 

Anxiety and The Garage. When letting go could just include sanity. Maybe a little …

This is Sarah Gardiner.  A Victorian delight sent to an asylum for suffering from anxiety, I believe.

Poor thing, bless her, I wonder if she too at some point, faced the anxiety of moving house? For me, again, the anxiety levels are up there with naked swimmer from ‘Jaws’ at the moment, but she remains calm, as Sarah seemed to be, in the face of adversity, moving, and dealing with, amongst other things, the Garage.  An Ogre for sure.

A little background c’est nécessaire mon amies, in the way of an explanation.  When the flat was bought, number 16, I assumed (never assume) that our garage was also, number 16.  A slim, yet easily accessible delight – but no, we were sent marching to number 18.  A garage … to be debated, but sort of in the corner that would take a tricycle about twenty attempts to enter. No problem, no-one in London uses a garage for the purpose of a car, it is the ‘other room.’ The storage, toss in all unloved, debris cemetery and hallows of memories. No light, no window and no chance of seeing the back wall.

Things go to die in the garage. They breathe with difficulty in the damp (we have a rivulet of constant water running through the centre of the roof) and all so, rather than call it a garage, per say, it should be called a swamp. But no matter, plastic covering, plastic tubs and plastic everything prevails.  Best attempts awarded.

Best avoided lest we seek the soggy suitcase, you know the one where the name tag ink has run and it could end up in Calcutta – yeah, that one.  But time, dear time, comes close.  After ten years the garage needs clearing and dear Lord, I need a drink, some Valium and a pretty white mask over the mouth. The swamp, like those old graves in Parisian cemeteries, needs clearing for the next bodies.

Part of the process is finding stuff you had quite forgotten. Not like money, but twenty thousand pieces of paper dating back five years: bank statements, accounts, reports etc. Some need careful shredding and for lack of shredder, about two hours of finger tearing whilst sitting on very hard tar where the stones drive themselves into your butt. Then there is the Persian, once admired and stored, now home to moths and eggs – off you go, she says choking ever so slightly. The dresser once loved and too big, now a pregnant, swollen mass with drawers thicker than Brexit. Ugh, not even attempting to find out what’s inside, bugger and to hell with it. There is a bicycle pump and helmet, but no bicycle (long stolen) musty Christmas tree and a mouldy mattress.  And pots, hundreds of little blue pots.

The blue pot are those I buy my favourite yogurt in. Ceramic jars I could not throw away and thought one day I would find a use for them, like people who buy a lovely Chateau and find use for dormant stuff – perhaps pencil jars, flower pots, beauty products oh, the list was endless and the patience is now worn so the pots will have to go to the dump along with everything else.

I find parts of my mother’s 60 year old Kenwood. A shovel, for what reason I know not, miles of electrical cords and a DVD player, lying in a watery grave. Chairs and a table turned white with mould, and books in a box.  Books that peel pages, wet and melancholy pages.

I can let go of all this.  I need to let go of all this, but here is the rub – I have to get rid of all this. Physically. In London. To the dump.

Herein lies the anxiety.  The leetle car will make for days of my life, going back and forth. The lifting and trying to move said items will impact on my heart, my lungs and my future.  Hiring someone to do it will cost me the same price as a holiday in Mauritius. What is a girl to do?

And I think of Sarah, facing adversity with a calm resignation.  I hope I shall not be committed, but rather temper the fear and get to the doing of things.  Time … oh she is harsh. The children can sense the asking, like they used to wait to have their vaccinations, dreading and filled with doom.

How simple it would be to shut the door and leave it for someone else to clean up. Not like that.  So to scraping the soggy bottoms of cardboard from cold cement floors, heaving and heaving in the doing of it.  Making sure that the new owners have a clean garage, but secretly sniggering when they find out which one it is.

My new garage will be light filled, spacious and house a car from now on. And I shall remember the experience whilst mixing a batter for cupcakes with the other half of the Kenwood, when I find it, and ponder – did this cleaning of this garage curse my anxiety to the level of Sarah? Will I max the Amex and hire burly men to do the job instead? That cave of stuff needs addressing and I have little time, so to mustering the strength, face the ire and damp and dive in.

Remember, it is dark, even at nine in the morning.  Medusa awaits.

Images. The daily mail

 

What does Spring mean to you?

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.”
— Audra Foveo

I can never really describe Spring. I will never do her justice.  But in my few attempts, I change, I become the hopeful, optimistic soul who stops and stares at blossoms when they appear.  Full knowing that whilst I have endured winter, some good, some soulless and questioning, Spring has been pushing through the darkest soil to present the gift.

The English countryside transforms. Birdsong comes a little earlier, at first light, with happy tunes. Leaves unfurl in verdant lime. It is as if I can see them from curling to show. Nature lays her bounty before me and I am enthralled, my soul transformed, the year begins again.

When the time comes, I love nothing more than a walk from Richmond Station to Ham House. All that has been dormant, comes alive in so many ways.  The Thames lifts her veil of mist to glitter in the sunlight, brooding waters, lovely in winter, is now filled with coots, swans and geese who chatter and fly rather than lament in low sounds at the water’s edge.

Ham House has planted nearly 500. 000 bulbs this year. The early crocuses are shown and gone, the tulips rise majestically and the meadow flowers will bloom in June. In the Wilderness, the fritillaries pop up everywhere, hooded blooms with their polka dot dresses.

Happy girls. Happy me.  I feel the awakening of myself at Spring. God knows I love Christmas in London, and then struggle with the aftermath of winter in January and February, but March, I find the reason in the season and am all about lambs gambolling and fields of poetry. When I do my tours at Ham, I am over the top sort of about Spring!  You have to imagine, I tell my guests, what beauty lay beneath and what the next few months will bring. You have to imagine the pushing up of bulbs, the heralding of branches and fruits that will yield in the Kitchen garden. Soup becomes salad. And the blossoms are everywhere.  Cherries, peaches, apricots and plums. White mischief and pink possibilities.

My mother was Dutch, and for me Spring is our connecting time.  I see her there.  It is not easy to grow tulips in South Africa, some bloom, some stay dormant, but here in England, and of course when I go to Keukenhof in Holland, there are rivers of tulips at this time.  They are delicate ladies, need little water in vases but they are the stuff of the Golden Age, the Masters of the 17th Century and I see my mother in every one of them.  And I miss her at this time, but am happy that I can still enjoy what she enjoyed so very much. It is my Dutch heritage that is the tulip Spring.

Many years ago, and I mean many, many years ago, I discovered Petersham nurseries.  Long before it became the stuff of popularity and Instagramming.  Before parking became a problem and all were in ‘on the secret.’ Even before I lived here. It is now part of my weekly walk. I buy my David Austen roses here. My vases here and my spot for coffee in one of the conservatories. Bought my mushroom brush here. My first huge, and I mean huge container that we had to transport in the tiniest car and still holds pride of place on my balcony – which will go to pride of place on my children’s balcony.  How we did it, I don’t know, squashed in a little car, mermaid, and plonked on the balcony, first with a crab apple tree and now with ‘Litchfield Angel.’ She is about to bloom, a multitude of cinnamon sweetness.

And then there are the magnolias.  This one is in the Petersham Cemetery, where the Dysarts are buried.  They are important to me, they are the family from Ham House.  Some may think it a little macabre but I find it all the more significant in the spring. There is history here, important history and for me, seeing the new blossoms in a way, is paying tribute to the new and the old.

We learn. We stay connected.  I am a better person for learning about Elizabeth and her family and I can take that with me through the years for we must honour those who loved Spring before us. I find myself here, in a quiet time of her, her family and all those lying here, some going to war and never to return in life, some who lived here and never travelled, who teach me everyday about strength in adversity and still made it good.  They are important. Spring for me, teaches me that every year when it happens, we are grateful to be part of it. New beginnings but also remembrance. Gosh I love being here!

So I walk, past Ham, past Petersham, past the meadow and along the river to Richmond. And I am still walking – for it is a new year, with so many possibilities and so much hope. That is what Spring, or as the French call it Printemps, and you know how much I love the French. it is a revival of sorts, a Renaissance of life, a chance to start over – or make it better.  And I am lost in Spring – I am the one on the way to the tube taking pictures of flowers and beguiled by the birdsong – I have survived another winter and the year, oh, this year, is going to be amazing.

Spring must mean another chance. It must mean a beginning of self. For me, Spring is the epitome of growth, despite the challenges and if a bulb can push through the winter soil, to flourish and bloom, so can I.

 

Do we look more closely to the blossoms as we grown older?  Do we value Spring more closely? I do – and for me, it means I am still about to bloom again.

What does Spring mean to you?

Moving is my middle name. And it is good.

Remember a time ago I was flat hunting?  Rather like the hunted being all, ‘oh I am going to sort this out’, ‘do it or die in the process’ and ‘martyr magnificent’!  My flat was sold.  My home was sold and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  A whisper in the ‘please don’t sell my home’ and a retort of ‘it is done.’

May I never have to deal with an estates agent ever again.  Apologies to those of you who have a modicum of decency but ugh, the rest of you are spawn of the devil.   ‘I am happy here’ I pleaded. Life changed, I got used to living alone and all was falling into place, but let it be said, even if it is in your name, and you don’t pay the mortgage, it is never yours.  But that was a few months ago, in the dark of December and I am awful in December, post Christmas, despite me telling all, don’t believe me in the dark December winter – I am not myself and surrounded by black dogs, the sale went through.

All the bravado failed miserably.  In no position to find a new flat, pay a deposit and rent and let’s face it, some of the options were like … seriously, you want me to live there? Fagan would have cringed at the prospect.

Reality moves in like a pig finding the truffle.  It is done.  Going to be eaten. At a price. Me.

But I have been blessed.  Years ago we bought the flat in London, and a little place in the wine lands in the Cape in South Africa.  Was going to be the ‘let’s live here and there’. In the vortex of divorce, the there became a rental and living was London. With the update bulletin of flat being sold in London I thought, be flipping otherwise and sell them all – I am going to be whatever and do it on my own.

And then the wedding. All flew out and we stayed in our little house.  And something else happened. My children fell into their past (all housed there) and were happy.  Nights on the veranda with laughter and plans and living a normal life and saying ‘this is home for us when we are not in London.  This is our place.  And I got to thinking …

What is stopping me from living in both?  I have been in London for ten years –  amazingly, lovely ten years.  I have a place in the country of my birth where I can breathe, fall into the culture I know, looking at the mountains in the evening and feeling  the salt air drifting through in the mornings? Where my children want a place of history, birth and memories? In other words, home from home.

So home from home is going to be home.

Blessed to have both.  I am to be the swallow. And I am flying.

At the end of April I am going to the Cape of loveliness.  I can, no I shall be the one, now in this stage of my life, the flitting bird. Summers here and summers there. How divine! If one thing this new life has taught me is that I am able to let go of all materialism  … and it is a privilege.  I am to be the woman of discovery and bliss. Living with a suitcase is possible, and in some ways, so liberating.

Life is strange. Life is wonderful and I am all for the taking of it. So I am moving, not down the ladder of giving up and settling, but onto the I am British and I am South African.  Do not have to choose anymore … my children are strong and thriving and my address will be in London when I find a great little place. Our home is in South Africa and England.

And I blame no-one. I understand. The decision to sell my home was meant in good faith. It happened and I love still.  Flying will be the future.  Hope the loyalty points add up.

What an amazing Wedding it was. The most beautiful wedding ever, and I am not being biased. Of course not!  It was. Closure in some ways, opening of possibilities in so many other ways – but the gist of this writing is this … not afraid of change, of what lies ahead, of anything anymore.

To the new chapter.  Friends, true friends who not question your address. Your soul friends are there no matter where you go.

Shall miss my balcony, my ‘office’ of wine and wallowing of what happened to my life.  It was an important time for me (my children will not miss the hideous gown I wrapped my sorrows in) – she was lovely at the time.

Paris is there. London still. The Wine lands await.  And if you look for me … I shall be sipping wine in the wine lands, in Green Park, in Ville Franche sur Mer and Lake Como.

And telling you all … life is magnificent, Tres jolie mon amies.

My new address, is where I want to be.

Image: A modern  military Mother.

 

 

Hello lovelies…it’s been awhile. Great to be back.

Thank you for your patience.  It has been a while. Times every strong woman needs to take a break, reflect, ponder, and pause.  Just writing for the sake of writing is good … and times not so good when the heart is not quite in the right spot.  The dagger is not fixed, the words ‘a warbling. So for me, taking time out is when things happen.  And much did.  And it is time to write again.

I have never presumed to be writing for the world, success or business, it has always been for the few who can resonate, at this time of our lives and go … what happened? When the picket fence all but fell down, people came and went in our lives and we are at a stage when it can be a little lost, more difficult, but never anything but interesting.

I write for my tribe.  For women in their fifties and getting older, but smarter.  For women who have questioned their relationships, their confidence and their place in this vast world we call home.  For me, having changed many homes, lost and found many relationships, watching my children blossom and leave, work related, future unsure, it is for those who sort of didn’t get the memo of being, well, mature and what to do with the baggage of it all … the present of it all and the future only we can forge.

Because I live it, more than most, I want to share the stories, how dark it became, how unbelievably frightening it was, and how exhilarating it can be to be a baby boomer in the present.  There are many, like me who write and they are my inspiration. What can be a lonely and fretful boat out there, listless at times, it is also the best time – I had forgotten that.  This is the time we have ourselves to face – no longer daughter, full time mother, perhaps spouse, post menopause, post turning fifty, post just about everything.

Some see this as the downhill from here. Job done and what to do with the rest of your life. I wallowed in it. Product of the grey divorce, the leaving and the trying to just hold it together, I also realised that facing myself and my future meant going through the difficult times and coming out on the other side

Coming out on the other side and not just coping, but thriving, is the answer.

Much has happened, change and resolutions made.  Doors closed and doors opened and I shall share this with you for this is going to be the best time of our lives.

Trust me, been there, done that and I don’t want the T-shirt. I want it all.

Don’t you?

Chat soon x

Image:Twitter

Welcome February (my Macbeth month)with snow, ice and colder than a witches tit.

Four am on the 1st of February – and she is awake.  The snow is beginning to fall.  For me, snow is still the thrill of it all.  I love snow, will not complain … no, don’t complain, and revel in the silent whiteness.  I am standing at the window, transfixed on the flakes.  Silent gorgeousness. A few of us wake at this time, we work, we worry, we rise to babies, and we watch the snow beginning to fall.

It’s the beginning of the Macbeth month in London.  The shortest, and the bloodiest. Christmas joy pales, January sales lapsed … now to wait for the crocus and snowdrops.  To endure, only today was special … white magic came. Rising to give a tour of the hidden icons of London, daunting to say the least.  Having lived here for a decade has me well prepared, thanks to Uniglow 

Just call me the Michelin lass.  Can barely get the arms to meet with all the padding beneath.  Two pairs of socks, tights, more, more and more.  The black outer uniform, gloves, beanie and she is good to go. Oh, and the music – cannot live without the music and forever grateful for the present. It’s coffee before the tube, oat milk heaven.  Hope I don’t have to stand all the way to Victoria.  I do. I do not care, there is snow.

Son sends the picture of morning at Sandhurst. Landscape.

My clients are a mum and daughter team, mum’s first visit to London. How to make her fall in love with my city when the horizontal, ice rain whips at every turn? Coutours does not flail in frosty climes. Little giggy, get warm dance in Trafalgar Square and tea at St. Martin in the fields crypt. We are happy, we are learning from each other.  Great women.

But for me, rainy days are shopping days and I need to go to the department store.

Did I add that the umbrella flipped? Walking against the beast. Fingers frosted.  Time for comfort food and retail therapy.

It is most definitely a mash and mushy peas day. We have the finest restaurants and coffee shops in the world, but days like this, it’s the comfort food, comfort comments, ‘how are you love?’ followed by ‘oh darlin’ colder than a witches tit innit? For sure darlin’ – for sure.  And what is so special is all the learning I do on the tours – going back to what the winters were like in Shakespeare’s time.  God awful in the murky streets of London with little warmth, little work and literally no money.  No wonder gin had such a popular following!  A tot for a pence, would have begged for it – death by cold was not an attractive option when sober.

We have amazing stores.  John Lewis, Debenhams, Selfridges, Harrods – vast stores of goodies. Designer everything, choices like petals on the prettiest flower. I traced the fabrics with my fingers, pretend choose lamps for the pretend home.  Waved evening dresses before the mirror, decided on shoes I could not afford.  Spritzed the perfumes, smelt the cheese and decided, once more, to discard all I have and start again – when I have lost the pounds around my untoned sculpture of me. Do that everytime, don’t you?  Going to shed and start again, the mantra of my life.

Big stores remind me of happiness.  When I was a young girl, in a small town, twice a year, my mother and grandmother, would take us on the train to Johannesburg, for shopping.  Starting at John Orr’s, we would begin at the top with anchovy toast and tea and then the expedition began.  One floor at a time.  An entire day of lists to be ticked.  Home, clothes, luggage – costumes for the seaside.  Patient in the following with the reward of a toy at Lilliputs before going back to the station. We shared much on those days, those mother and daughter days. I loved my mother more when we went shopping together. She seemed so organised and in control. Just the girls. The tradition continues with my girls.

Rainy days on holidays were always for shopping. Greenacres, Stuttafords, ‘De Hup’ as my grandmother would say … to the stores when rain descends!

And it was a rainy, snowy day today.  A nostalgic trip to the department store. May they never disappear. mecca of offerings and sharing lipstick trials. Bought dumbbells (do not comment) , lingerie (love great lingerie) and a Barbour T-shirt – had to have the British injection on that one.

Going to be a long February. “What’s done, is done” Macbeth

Oh the snow, she intrigues me, oh the tour, she was wonderful. Oh, the shopping on a snowy day, she was exactly what I needed.

Be kind this February… be kind to this soul.

We have much to do.

 

Dry January is for sadists and the Instagram standard winter uniform.Standard stuff.

Let it be said, she tried. January 19th and she admits … wine before all. Hopeless and happy.

Imagine the day.  I do hear the birds early this morning.  Cannot see them in the dark, but they are there.  A day off work to view possible new dwellings lined up.  Tidied the flat, checked nothing on that should be possible result in burning down of flat and checked the usual.

Mobile phone. Check.  Backpack with computer, books, pencils and ink, check. Don the first layer of Uniglow gilet, the second  protector jacket (thin lined but devastatingly effective against cold) checked.  Long black coat post wrapping up of Lavin scarf, coat, gloves, winter beanie, house keys and she is set to go.  Movement will be slow but warmth is uppermost – it is four degrees and staying.

Optimism in the mornings wraps the soul.  Coffee at my usual joint, hello, hello, oat milk cuppa with no chocolate before the dash to the tube. This bunny is organised, down to her cotton socks over the standard black tights – I know it will be cold all day and will be in the cold all day. I am viewing new address.

Music in my ears, instagram checking, emails calling – my office is the moving train to Kew.  Fast forward to four viewings – can I live there, should I be made to live there, where is the sun, and the laughter and ok, it’s doable on a rental which would buy me a castle somewhere else.  Not fazed at all – the sun is out, my finger tips are Checovian winter, the electric aura in my hair enough to light a fire.

Always a thing in winter.  The more the sun shines, the colder it is.  Do I prefer the sun and freezing cold, or that endless cloud that sits on my shoulders and I know the sun lies above.  not sure.  Disappointing options.  But she carries on.  When do we not and what is the alternative? More coffee. loads and loads of more coffee.  Two agents stood me up, me pacing the sidewalk to keep warm.  Two came through and I say the inside of other’s homes and thought, dear God, do you actually live like this? One very positive option on the green with Kew garden alongside so yay, she is upbeat.

Train, bus, walk.  Train, bus, walk.  And forever in the uniform.  For all I think, I could be stark naked underneath – no one will know.  Why dress at all, if coat, gloves and beanie takes precedence?  Why dress at all?  I could be in the La Perla best, the Tam Tam gorgeous lingerie for the actual clothes, not witnessed at all.  And I thought of all those past photographs of me in the winter in London – the coat is all you see … the coat is all that shows.  I am the coat, the black coat.  Maybe I should wear a bikini tomorrow, under the coat and be awesome beneath the coat.  Who would be any the wiser, they only see coat, as I see the coats on the tube, on the way home.  We are wear coats, one glove, the other hand free for mobiles, the beanies ranging from rabbit ears to covering the eyes beanies.  We are in uniform. Standard stuff. Moving along, standing, fighting those silent wars for the seat thing – I am eyeing that seat madam, standing in the middle waiting to sit sort of thing. Someone gets up, I am ready for action and don’t even think about it. This is mine, I’ve got it sister … sitting and you stand. No prisoners this time, I earned it, got to the right spot and ready to lurch to sit.

Home. Heating switched on.  Begin the undress. Gloves off. Beanie off. Coat off. Uniglow jacket. Uniglow gilet. Hello clothes … forgot you were there. And then … mmm, another night of dry January – hell no. Hell, hell no!

Today I saw the best and the worst of other’s interiors. Spent the entire day outdoors in weather that I forgot existed and that without the vitamin D pills. Its was good though, productive, educating and despite the moaning, the tube delivers on stories of life I sometimes cannot believe I am part of – but then I think, it has been ten years of living like this so surely I should to be used to it? Be used to the winters, the coat brigade, the ants commuting, the exhilaration of urban life? Why do I still feel it is foreign in some way?

Home and thinking about the premise of  …. three worst things to happen in your life is death, divorce and moving. Have done that in abundance and the moving thing is happening again. Which is all possible, we are strong in our tribe of Silver Streeters, it is a doddle in all. But the uniform of the coat, beanies and gloves … not the best instagram option. So, let it end with the coming of Spring and I will be able to leave the flat, old and new, without the uniform and instead … that summer frock.

So, dry January is good. Really it is. I tried it and loved it with all the new years resolutions, but dear Lord, one picture of not the coat, the gloves and the beanie that covers my eyes so I can see properly again

The wine is sweet.  So sweet. Done the whole winter thing, survived it and now for the instagram of me with suntan, feeding grapes and no boots.

And the lesson is: Estate agents call for wine. Every time. Cheers to Dry January. I earned it.

Dry January only works if on a beach. Enough said.

Image: V and A.

 

So, how are those new year’s resolutions going?

 

 

In the illustrious words of Ebenezer Scrooge, all re-iterate, ‘Bah Humbug.’

All those New Year’s resolutions frosted and veiled in the post Christmas overload when the party food (all miniature of course), prosecco vapoured and jumper infused loathing has now come to the party,  A little late, but we do not judge.

Secretly I make them.  Never to vow or vocalise, for I am the breaker of so many rules.  Dry January is great for me, on every other night, the night post the morning of … ‘I am never going to do this again!, sort of night.  Gym, well I don’t like the guy, he does nothing for me and all attempts at liking have resulted in pools with clouds of chlorine and little ‘de-germing’ water puddles I have to step into, that is anything but. I have tried, dear Lord I have tried, but the idea of swimming with others in a pretend lane, watching nose plugs and swimming caps, pales to swimming in a pool on a sun kissed day. So lark it, leave it, Gym went down the plug hole. Swimming in a REAL swimming pool, outside, preferable naked, is still top of the list.

January is different.  We have all these … yeah, going to do it, re-invent myself and be amazon, is just lovely my lasses, but for me … this year’s resolution is … picking the year I loved the most about myself, be it a decade or decades ago … and whatever, going to do it again.  So what was your best year?  Apart from all the psychologists saying go back to when you were ten … which I loved by the way, running, jumping, halter neck tops and dreaming about all sorts of things, the simple life. my year of choice for this year is 47.

I loved myself at forty-seven and it is the year I will be again.  I don’t want to be younger, nothing like that, but be the fabulous I felt about myself then. I was fit (without the gym), drank copious amounts of wine, wrote endlessly and felt, well invincible. I was in the throes of lust and love. Like that very much. All still doable.

You see, it’s not about the age, or the decade, but the attitude. For a long time, circumstances have made me feel, well old.  Others around me speak of this time as a great gift – you get free bus passes. You can wear purple hats, be silly, go to bed early, eat soup You can let the girdle go, instagram your breakfast and go grey. Not me … for goodness sake, if I make another year’s resolution, it is to still the ageing thing as a gift. Me and William Blake, we do not go gently into that dark night. We go …

The New Year’s resolution is a mind factor.  A time factor of a great year and working on feeling those same feelings, living the same vibe and just discounting the numbers, wrinkles and sagging muscles to throw all to caution and be bold and silly and romantic and lustful and curious and wanting more. Settling is not just about the New Year’s resolution of go to the gym or not drink or not dream.

At forty seven I was in a different place to now.  The skinny dipping will be difficult in the city and sure to be arrested if I try in the Hampstead Heath pools, but I am undeterred. The size ten may be elusive but the will to flaunt it does not die. Travelling is not going to be … oh have to get up early but darling, I am on my way. Full Brazilian wax still there. Hair done, no grey darling, not yet.  Paint those nails, wear the make-up, strut the stuff, kill this fluff.  That is my New Year’s resolution. Times change, working harder than ever before and that is good.  It’s all good – the balcony swan song is done.  The hideous gown when I get home is done. The lamenting is gone. Needed it, went through the valleys and all gone.

So, what am I saying?  If you are doing the January New Year’s resolution thing – pick the best year and take it forward. If there is one thing I have been guilty of is only looking back, and those were the sweet times, but now, in my Silver Street, I am going to be forty seven forever.

What it your ‘Good Year?’ See yourself there. Be there. I am sure it does not involve any settling.

Image: Urban matter, kut.org.

 

So it begins. Flat hunting in London. Give me strength she prays.

 

 

So it begins.  I know that I am allergic to morphine, but of late find myself allergic to Estate Agents as well. Who knew?  Not so much of late, have had to deal with them for some time, but lately, and especially since one cretin chose to play the underhanded game, I am not a fan. Yet, like morphine, there are times I need them and in the next two weeks I am going to have to rely on them even more.  Cue in the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ music.

As a result of the one who underhandedly led to the demise of my current home, I find myself having to enlist the help of others to find my new abode.  Today was the day.  It requires, as you know, endless, wasted time on the internet, looking at properties to rent within the said budget. I could be planning a trip to Barbados but no, I am looking a photos of properties to rent. In the winter, in grey light, in the mood of caved bear who wants to sleep and eat rather than engage.

There is something so wrong with this picture.  Rather than have to ask for a new address from college leavers, I should be smiling at the last mortgage payment on my home bought a few decades ago.  Not this gal, she is the ‘all over again’ kind of gal. And they think Dry January is a good thing.

Anyway, to the front I went today. To be fair, some were lovely, patronising and sweet. Others smelt of too much aftershave. My first visit resulted in the Estate agent, not pitching up. Ok, gave up a work day for this and rather than the coronary imminent, chose to Zen and move on.

Let’s talk about some of the properties seen shall we? First one. Could not see out of the windows.  The windows that were filmed with years of London pollution came twofold. Original windows of sash (pretty) did not keep out the cold and noise, so landlord put in other windows that resemble those of bus drivers, or the ones you find in the cockpit of planes – shift and small. No air here, but at least it cuts out the noise.  Dark blue walls, lovely for the winter months.  Depression acute guaranteed. The bedroom was that of a hamsters cage, but some may call it intimate. Bathroom – um, blinked and it was fuzzy and gone. The advantage of this place was the bus stop right outside – with the entire London traffic close behind.

Moving onto two.  Quaint, lovely outside. Quiet location and I thought, let this be the one. It was the one and only place I am sure long inhabited by mould.  Black along the window frames.  There were lovely remnants of past lives, on everything, even the picture outlines on the walls.  Imagine the rush hour on the tube and spaces between people – that was the size of the kitchen. Can I work with this I kept thinking, can I work with this as the boiler stared at me and the gas meter plonked under the sink, sneered at me. Oh my Lord … this would be punishment still.

Third.  Not even going there.

Fourth – already dark so the black bedroom doors, in the kitchen, did not appeal. Where is the taste I wondered? Where is the modicum of decent living, and at the price of a five bedroomed mansion of past living?

But in fairness, the agent was lovely. Thought I would be lovely, and I was, and when we parted, the nausea was kept at bay.

Not their fault on my budget. Perhaps if I move to the island of Orkney, I will find something suitable. But am not daunted, am resilient and have a million more viewings to do.

No more Dry January. Champagne is cheaper than these stupid options.

The search, as Alan Sugar says, continues.  Watch this space.

Image: Cartoon shock.