Presents for Christmas … for all those on the ‘lovely’ list.

Christmas starts really early here in London.  I mean really, really early.  August had the major superstores reveal their Christmas goodies. August for goodness sake, but the marketing is for tourists who want to take home some ‘genuine’ English goodies.  We begin early.

By October the ‘Love Actually’ nativity plays commence.  Trees to be bought before mid December or you will lose out.  And I held out, looking upwards and sideways until the first of December and then … whoosh … look at the lights mama, look at the baubles, the santas, the sleighs and let’s face it, London does Christmas like crack.  Spectacular high Christmas situation.

Totally on board.  Revelling in it.  Rolling in it.  I am every morning mince pies with coffee ( a la eggnog), till the mandatory Christmas movies at night.  The shop windows ooze Christmas, tinsel everywhere.  Bus drivers with antlers, cash up ladies with sparkles.  We wear them on our nails, put on the Christmas jumpers and still, yes still, take a minute to write Christmas cards. Supporting charities left and right, the homeless, the donkeys, Crisis Christmas.  Bake muffins with Rudolf at the fore, and it’s time to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to those travelling to families in Australia, America, South Africa and beyond.

Christmas advertisements done. Which one won? To the presents.  Ummm ..

What are you planning present wise?  For me, goes like this:

  • One for each that gives back.  A donation to charity.
  • One for each to learn.  A subscription to a worthy education.
  • One for each to use.  Practical stuff.  Coffee machine, mug and such.
  • One for play.  Happy lipstick, nail colour, make-up or cologne.
  • One for remembering.  Candle to light the way from past till now.
  • One for the personal.  A gift that only they will understand.
  • One for love.  The maverick one.  To show how much I love them.

And what do I want in return?

  • Christmas with family.
  • Knowing I have thought of those who will not be with family.
  • Christmas mass and carols in the cold.  With mulled wine.
  • A diary to make plans for time at the beach.
  • Blue eyeshadow to defy those who think I am past blue eyeshadow.
  • Wine for a year.
  • Time in Paris.
  • Cashmere in abundance.
  • Diptique candles for the remembering.
  • Lots and lots and lots of hugging.
  • Sweet whispers from lovers.

Not much actually.

And it is done.  The food will follow and the bellies will groan, I can so overdose on the party food (come on, we do it once a year) and make all those resolutions I am sure to break later.

Some of my loved ones hit the naughty list this year … mmm … what to do about this? Naughty or nice, grinch or Christmas fairy – I am in the mood for forgiving, as one does at Christmas, and so presents for everyone!

Truth be told.  When I really give into the spirit of Christmas, London has given me all the presents I need.  I am a child with light infatuation.  Regent Street, Oxford street, the windows of Fortnum and Mason, Selfridges.  Winter wonderland, ice-rink fantasies.  The reflection of Christmas on the river Thames – cannot describe the wonder of it all.  And I am recipient of all the presents I need, I am with my family in the wonder of Christmas in London.

Two weeks to go – what an explosion of goodwill, love and kindness. Thank you bus driver for wearing your reindeer jumper, the ringing of the bell on the corner, the every shop getting into the spirit.  Magical Christmas, it stuns and elates, heartens and thrills – as my family takes it all in, sings a carol, lights a candle and wishes every friend, every stranger good will, it is a Merry Christmas indeed.  Presents done, all has won, all is good …

Images londontown. pintrest, bjournal

Take your anger to the quiet place, with tea and toast.

‘Set an intention to heal any unexpressed anger that may be present in your life.  Go to a quiet place with pen and paper. Take a few breaths. Ask your anger to speak to you. Write down the thoughts and feelings. When you are finished, forgive yourself for holding onto the anger for so long.’  Iyanla Vanzant.

Blessed with quiet spaces in the heart of the busy city.  You may have a garden, a little alcove. a haven beneath a tree.  Favourite chair in the cafe – anywhere the white noise stops and breathing becomes calmer.  The shelter.  The sanctuary.  The Quiet place where all that craziness in your head, all that anxiety fizzles in a cup of tea.  A cup of anything warm.

The day did not start with anger.  Rather well actually, when sun brings frost and frost brings glitter to grass.  Red buses seem brighter.  A happy Winter’s morning. Alighting on the bridge, grand father Thames lay low and resting: mudlarks time.  Today was to be the admin day.

Following the once again coup of moi – the little flat is no longer quiet.  Packing begins.  Not the place to work anymore, so to the softness of one of the quiet places I love to work.  Walking along the river is breathtakingly beautiful, past a smattering of small children like dodgems on the grass.  Buffered to the hilt against the cold, more like cheese puffs in neon colours. Immediateness of tiny ones.  You fall, you cry, you find a curious incident and watch, want it, take it.  Life within a metre of your face.  Would love that sometime.

It was minutes in the reverie of toast and tea that the death eater emails came through.  The sadness of separating assets and all the dust of love that lies within the archives now.  Anger rose as anger does when people misunderstand, do not value, do not care and you are powerless against the sails of indifference.  The worst feeling.  Cannot change the hearts of Rushmorean stone.

And then, you can.  The quiet brings it down:  the veil of gentle grace.  Tea was made for calming and anger taking properties. Pen takes the words of anger and then … I look at them … then look out of the window … there is a walled garden across the lawn, a small gate of wrought iron.  A little wilderness.  Lady Catherine de Bourgh ‘shall we to the wilderness’, wilderness. My anger follows the path but fades before it gets there.  Anger is not worth my day, I have things to do.

Right here, at this little table, in the quiet place.  More plans are made in the quietest places, than on vast battlefields of anger.  More hearts are healed though quiet than hollow, loud words. I know why gardeners cannot live without their gardens – they find their quiet souls there.

Taking responsibility for causing anger in others is important too.  That anger, of which you were the substance, needs to be penned and forgiven for.  Penned and put to bed. Do not live a life of guilt, or anger, but when you do feel hard done by, victimised and wretched (love that word), truly wretched, it is not the quiet corner of disobedience days, but the quiet place of openness you need – and then, a beautiful walk to the garden.







Christmas, dealing with it when you are on your own. And those parties …

It’s Christmas …

Right in the middle of the ‘Christmas Carol’ at this moment, I am.  All the ghosts of past, present and future just swirling and swirling around. Don’t you find Christmas can be the most marvellous, and also the most emotionally profound, all at the same time?  I am such a memory hoarder! Such an emotional button.

Technically not alone, as I have my precious darlings to celebrate with, but technically, and especially when it comes to those umpteen Christmas parties (the office kind) well, it sort of a hit and miss situation at times.  Of course we know this madam is doing about four different jobs (all of which I love) at the moment and that means lots and lots of year end celebrations.

Given that these are not careers but jobs new in the making, the Christmas parties are either with many I do not know well, or mostly those a few decades younger than me.  Interesting when it comes to the Secret Santas and I am National Trust when others are party games.  I am the thinking of leaving pronto for my bed and the rest are only just starting the night’s festivities.  For me, a Christmas party is watching the Christmas movies with loads of popcorn and Sauvignon Blanc.  Oh how dated I seem…

Then there is the single situation.  And the commute situation – getting home seems like Hannibal crossing the Alps. Also, and it must be said, having a great night out and walking to the tube past so many homeless sheltering in doorways from the bitter cold, is upsetting.  On the plus side, I am the chipper versus the hungover brigade next morning.

Then there is this:  The shift.  It has happened.  

My gorgeous children want Christmas at their home this year.  No longer Christmas at mum’s.  If I were still in the family home with a dozen Christmas trees in every room and cooking enough to keep the Romans off oysters, I may just sink into the redundant spot of self pity.  This year I am in the transitory living situation so my abode is somewhat cold in hospitality and I am happy to join rather than host.  But it is something to ponder – is this the ghost of the future coming a little too soon? Has it happened to you?

Find myself thinking of Ghost Christmas past and it gets me so teary.  Little people with big eyes and huge expectations at the Barbie/Postman Pat/lego possibility.  Family large in generation, feasts and fondness all around. God, I loved Christmas then.

Ghost Present and small, but significant.  Survival and change.  Micro family, with greater depth and understanding of the fragility of life but equally loving and kind. More appreciate of the essence of family.

Ghost Future.  Oh this is a nasty thought.  Looking forward to the grandchildren and oh, hugging is going to be my favourite pastime, but to the further than that.  The thought of me being sat at a communal table of white haired grumpy people, paper hat on head and warbled voiced ‘Santa’s coming to town’ as the tissues and tears flow, and a box of ‘Celebrations’ as my only reward for staying alive, fills me with dread. The hoping the children will come and visit the death nest and my teeth in a glass, well some know me – not on my itinerary.  Not going to have a Christmas when someone denies me wine and I cannot chew the mince pie.  But I digress …

Back to dealing with Christmas when you are alone.  Truth, never are.  

As depressing as your situation may seem, you have it good.  The need around Christmas time is greater than any other time of the year and you have the ability to make a difference, no matter how small.  Charities are desperate for people like you, for an hour, a chat, a touch of hand upon lined hand, for making food, saying a prayer, simply being there.  You have no excuse not to be part of another’s story at this time of the year.

It is then when I look past the shiny shiny, the glitter, the surge in celebration.  Then I can say, I cannot walk past the homeless and not stop, moan about just about everything and know a mother is struggling.  Someone is lonely, another is grieving.  Alone, no, not alone, rather a little timid at getting out of the comfort box to be a fairy for good.

The thing is.  The other night I lead a tour (in blisteringly cold weather, wind chaffing, fingers numbing cold) of ex-pats joined by a singular company on a Dickensian experience through South London.  There were all – religions, cultures, ages and gender.  What London was like in the earlier centuries when kitchens were unknown and heating was scarce.  We were all different yet all together, far from home, new home and linked.  A little mulled wine, some mince pies and story telling and another Christmas story was written. 

Ending along the ever riveting Thames, Christmas was good.  I had made a difference to their Christmas, in my small way, and that is what it all about.

To Bridget Jones, The Holiday, Love Actually and all the movies that make me cry buckets for Christmas past … to the joy of being able to watch them in Christmas present and again in Christmas future.

Don’t feel alone and stand in the corner at the Christmas parties.  Be yourself and give of that substance that is you, to others.  The gift will be returned.

Images: BBC, and pintrest





Sometime serf visits The Sanctuary – faith, law and feudalism.

THOMAS PAINE: Founding father of the United States.

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religion, or religions established by law.”

little date cocktail this morning, as I sit in The Celerium; off the Dean’s Yard, through the Sanctuary, in the depths of Westminster Abbey.  My journey –  to deliver, (and not happy about it)  the deeds to my little home in this place, armed with city mapper (without I will be lost), the irony did not escape me (it was not lost.)

Following the little headlight (which is me) on my app, I stand before the Abbey.   I am before the entrance to the Greatest Abbey on earth and yet I have a date with solicitors.  The Sanctuary.  Ever so politely, the security detail (who I am sure prays all day not to bite a tourist in anger) reveals that I am beside the law firm I seek  … right there… number 1 … next to the gift shop.  What is this?  Church and Law?  Law and Church … smacks of Medieval practice.  Circa 476 AD.

During the perpetual darkness of the Medieval period, death and taxes – what has changed? The Church was in control of the landowners and if you wanted ‘everlasting life’ you paid them taxes.  The landlords forced the minions, called Serfs, to live on the land, work the land, give the landlord your produce, which included blood and sweat and all sanity, in return for military protection.  The only thing you may be lucky to own, was your teeth and back then, not guaranteed.

Me, Third from the left.

So, the situation has me entering the hallows of the Law world. Could not be more of a cliché:  panelled, dark oak, royal red carpet with golden detail that is so deep and spongy, no sound will escape these walls for sure.  Traditional, stoic and serious happens here.  Feeling like a puppy going to the SPCA.  Sit and wait, for fate.  With apologies to all my wonderful friends in the legal world (you are awesome), I also remembered why I never finished my law studies:  

‘You should do law’. I was told.  Was it, now I think, a compliment or because I talk too much?  Anyway, my experience of the law (wee bairn back in the day I had the visions of justice and pretty solved relationships)  has always meant sorrow.  The world of the struggle and I am not for that world.  I struggle enough to decipher my own heart, let alone deal with the others breaking all around in those deeply carpeted chambers.

‘The Sanctuary’ is the incorrect address for my legal date.  But I am not sad or unhappy anymore, and as I leave through the ancient stone steps, one, two, to a different kind of chapter, I need only to look to the right and the Majesty that is the Abbey.  Our little love affair goes back a long, long way.  My virgin pilgrimage took me to St. Margarets next door, and then the looming edifice of the Abbey, young and ignorant of poets till later, my first sighting of the tomb of the unknown soldier left his mark forever.  A mother’s son lies there.  Overwhelming story.

Watched the weddings, and the funerals in this Abbey.  First foundations laid in the 13th Century, though King, Church and Law still closely connected. It still feels spiritual and I contemplate going in again, but the hoards of umbrella following selfie stickers deter me.  Sanctuary when tourists are around, it is not.

Remember buying the smallest of English soldiers for my son in the gift shop.   Little boxes of chain mail wearing fighters – and now he is in the British Military: okay … my eyes lift up to the heavens and I am having a little conversation …

In refuge of Tea and Lemon Drizzle cake, the realisation that my own path has been too much entwining of Church and Law.   Raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, schooled at The Convent of Notre Dame with Jewish friends – doctrine rather than faith to put the fear of God into me, rather than the Love of God into me.  Here, the Law and Church lies side by side – an idea, perhaps practical who knows, but I am fascinated by it this morning.

Felt like the serf for a little while.  At the mercy of … the law intervening and dictating, once again, my life.  Strangers making rulings.  All the loving, the messiness, the dreaming and stumbling of relationships cold in the archives.

Liberating actually.  Good to know history is once again jabbing the curiosity  for learning is fun.  Excellent to know that irony can be delicious.  Serf no more no more – would rather be a smurf.

And the most important thing.  FAITH. 

Faith is not a set of rules, limited to time and place, class or power.

Faith is not judgemental, critical or pompous.

Faith can be in yourself, in family, in nature or religion.

Faith is calming, accepting and spiritually rewarding.

Faith is hope and hope is love.

Images: FEE and Pintrest



Are you going to sit it out, or dance?

There is a line from a song that goes’ are we all lost stars, trying to light up the dark?’ and let’s face it, times our little stars are fading, tarnished and dim.  Youth and our stars are bright with possibilities, and now, we think, forget the stars, just survive. What happened to the glow?  The bright, fierceness we once possessed?  Are we going to start sitting out, or dance? Dance card empty … phew, not even almost.

A few days ago, I was back in the dark place.  The new normal was not to be but once again change is thrust upon me … and I felt like that little lost star, spinning out of control.  Needed some deep breathing for sure. Yoga was not going to help, meditating not so much, the breathing was fractured, fear installed, panting and shallow.  And then I thought about this star that was spinning …

And turned it into a pirouette.

Let’s face it, living in this time of our lives brings so much change we are caught in the spiral and it can take us down.  Or it can take us up and up is where I am going.  Things are going to change for sure.  Some of us are lucky to have the normal and the continuation of self, relationships, home and family, and then there are some of us, like me, that finds each day a whole new one, in every way.  I think I tend to start again, every single time.

Which is scary, but also good.

It is the making of self.  I know of many woman, and men, at this Silver stage wondering what the hell … how did this happen, what is going to come of it, where to go … despair in the face of the future.  More than that, many of us have children or close friends who we know, look up to us, waiting and hesitant to see how we shall fare.  A little more pressure, a few more smiles and deep within, when the stars turn dim, that is the time to get to the shining.  With dance … may not be centre stage, but it is your stage.

The thing is, the thing is … it is your call.

How you respond to life and its challenges crosses all decades, all ages, but in the mature times, times the mantel gets heavier. And so back to the pirouette …

If you think growing older is growing weaker, think again.  The body failing and flabbing out … only if you want it to.  Strength, still there.  Effort? Takes  little more but totally doable. And please, don’t burden me with talk of ‘getting older’, and the sighs … I don’t do the sighs.  I begin with the music.

The playlists. The not sitting it out playlists and thinking you are old. They are dancing to life playlists. Do you have them?


A playlist for early in the morning, upbeat and groove challenging. The kind you hit the sidewalk with and go … got this day? Totally!

The public transport/driving in the car/ getting there playlist.

The workout playlist.  When I go … don’t want to but when the music starts, I am Martha Graham, musical theatre, hit the treadmill type of playlist.

Paris playlist.  Pretending I understand all French and oui, my, of course mon ami.  Perfect for walking the streets of Paris in the evenings before dinner at Chez … of your choice.  Shuffle and dance at the thought of romance. Trés sexy stuff.

London playlist.  Strong, artsy and hip. The strutting stuff to take in the history, the diversity and walk faster than the tourists – bold music to shimmy too, and yes, I am doing the shimmy rather than the close moves. You should see me on the platforms of the tube … moving, not standing. I am the one doing the moves with music in my ears. You may not hear it, I hear it.

Italian playlist.  I have so many songs I dance to in Italian and don’t understand a word, get the meaning, the total immersion of it, if you get my meaning? Love, love dancing to Italian music.

South African playlist.  This is a mixture. Home stuff, Afrikaans country and words of the mountains and beaches and earthiness.  Nostalgic and slow appreciation of being part of the story. Dancing to the beauty of her.

My writing time playlist.  End of the day, calm and nostalgic.  The pattern of my life in music, good and sad. Songs that take me back, fill me with love and romance, inspirational and moving. Goes well with wine and dreaming.

All dancing … never sitting this one out.

As I have said before, dance like EVERYONE is watching! Even in the dark, undecided, unknowing times, dance is the liberation of the spirit. Dance and then dance some more. A little jig, a small shuffle, in public, in the kitchen, in the bedroom… dance and, never sit it out.

Thinking about doing some adult ballet classes again. What about you?

We are not lost stars just yet, and ready to sit it out … no, going to light up the skies and light up the universe. Not caring how it looks, just how it feels.

No matter the moment, the dance will solve it all.  Get up and do it.

Images Pintrest and arts

It is time.


We are made holy
Through this burning,
Like a phoenix rising from it ashes
To become more powerful
Than it ever thought possible.

Shirley Maya

Can you feel my desolé, can you feel the falling, but oh, can you see the rising?

La, la, la … the pirouette of all, turning and turning again.  And at last, a long and breathless last, the fixing on the ever mark has found her place.  It has been a long time coming, a long time wanting and the holy is where she should be.

Few days back, the taking control of home.  It was to be where I will be.  Turns out not, there are other forces at play, not evil or malignant, but not me.  With sadness and regret my home was sold, me emanating a feint whisper of … please don’t, and it was done.  For a few days hence, the paralysis of fear, the not knowing where to, the under the water of life descended and all those ashes lay within my bed throughout the night.  I could not turn, rise, sleep with all those pixies running though my mind.  Was this it, the undoing and final bowing down to the wings on the stage when my soul still wanted centre stage?  Seemed impossible, undoable, unifixable and I succumbed to the ashes of the night.

Covent Garden, early Saturday morning.  The world was quiet,  rain laquering cobbled stones, pedestals, graves beside the church.  And the huddling.  Huddled within door frames, beneath pediments, below stairs – smallness of life in sodden, grime ridden capsules.  The homeless cowered there. Shapeless shaped vissitudes of once.  Escaping for coffee, me, followed by a homeless woman, with every shred of ownership and shredded dignity entered behind me to use the bathroom.  We turned our faces, lowered eyes and pretended otherwise.

I could not escape her fierceness.  Sucked in by her last attempt. And she turned me.

Not close.  Not forgotten, just yet.  So much within me, lingering, urging, rising to rage, no, not rage, not regret, not hopelessness, but the boat.  To the Rubicon.  What the fuck was I thinking?  How was I allowing this to be done, to be invaded, to be the victim in the story that was my life?  So very far from hitting the pavement all those buildings high.  Fire.

Fire in my belly. Fire in my soul.  Fire in my heart and the love that became the funeral pyre ignited the kindle of change.  The author of my own story for thank you, you beautiful woman,  you homeless gorgeous women, you are going to be my protagonist. So, raining became the blustering of a fire that had burned too long, a new kind of gathering of kindle and in those ashes in my bed, the Phoenix is born.

There is this gap you see.  Between giving up and, me.  Before acceptance with grace and raging with a driving need to do something, many things for the first time, for the best time, for building that skyscraper of me.  And if I can harness the hurt, I can also cherish those who did the same and tug at the threads of my battered wings. My parents, my sister, my children, my lovers and my friends.  I may fall, but as they say, I may just fly …

I shall be homeless for a while, but never without a home.  I may be disadvantaged, being in My Silver Street when I thought being a stay at home mum was enough, and it is still the best job in the world, when the icicles pierced and the indifference froze all movement, but this lady is not for turning: she is for burning and then the awesomeness of having the ability to adapt, to change and all I can say is, for you, homeless lady with the stare of a million arrows, you have called the Phoenix, and I am answering.

Do not mess with me again.  I am busy being beautiful and brilliant.

‘Do we fade out, or burn like the sun
Do we let it all go or hold on
Do we see this through together as one
Do we go it alone into the great unknown’

Various cruelties.

For you, an invitation.  I have named my Phoenix, Eos, goddess of the dawn, of new beginnings – and if you are willing, you will find your own.  We are not old,(oh dear Lord),  we are not done. Life changes, but oh, those changes could be the very making of us.

Leaping from the ashes and into the light. So let’s begin with Paris.

Oh, and dancing in the kitchen tonight. Maybe I will be a choreographer?

Images.  Booksale. 

A rainy November day. To learn again …

Some may despair when the rain comes down on a November day.  I try to always remember the drought, the longing for rain in my childhood days and for me, rain is good.  It is a mantle of thoughts day – inward day.  A normal but never normal day (for she is never the ordinary good, or bad.)

I love the rain. The enveloping of it all. I love especially, remembering how much I loved the rain whilst at school – it meant, Art days.  Rather than try to compete on the sports fields, Art was the colouring, painting, expression of self time.  Can still smell the craypas – or pastels as we call them now.

As I began the long journey to Ham House, knowing full well that none would want a garden tour in the falling rain, it would be the perfect venue for working in.  Warm Orangerie, cheese scones and tea – the sort of mother comforting day.  Another misunderstanding lay heavy in my heart, we get those, but it matched the mood.  Still, as I walked down the foot paths in heavy rain, the drops from falling oak leaves and puddles before me, it led me to the Petersham.  And there, in the rain, the graves beneath the carpet of leaves were so full of stories, other than my own. I could not help but stand in their moments, some far back, some never back from war, and felt gifted, to just, in silence, pay homage and think, well madam, you are still here.

Perhaps ‘Melancholy walk’ seems more poignant when you are dripping with raindrops and standing before a bench of someone once here, loved it here and now … a name on a bench.  At least they were loved enough to have a bench – will I be rewarded a bench, I think, be rooted to memory in a favourite spot – and where will that spot be, I think and nod to this person, and move on.  I am alone along the river, covered in mist, the boats moored and listless.  Even the horses I pass have their heads low under the dropping, the dropping of rain.

But it is not a sad day.  It is a winsome day. Chatting to Tom in the Orangerie, he is full of dreams of acting and performing and I am lifted by his resolve. Dreams are such good things.  Blow me down, not only am I deep in working, but there stands, waiting, four eskimos ready for the tour. In this weather, me freezing and unequipped?  Strange but true and the tour is muddled around puddles – they are here and I deliver, wishing I were elsewhere instead, like a warm bed, with a great lover and conversations of life.

Pumpkin time is over and somehow the starkness of the garden shows another side to landscaping – the bare structures reveal the bones of her life.  Stark hedges, the kitchen garden with little to offer at this time – menus and diet were seriously compromised a hundred odd years ago.  We are fortunate now to be able to buy fruit and vegetables but then, it meant little people and lots of sickness so lucky us. Don’t ever give up on your Vitamin C!

Surrounded by wonderful stories, the rain continues unabated and the second tour, thank God, is empty.  It’s only two pm but I know that the dark is coming and she does, at four today.  A long walk to Richmond, another bus and this time the stories of today are hustled and closeted in the red bus that takes an hour longer because of the weather.  Oh my, the spirits are failing as a child kicks my seat, another is screaming and I cannot see out of the window for the vapours that are humanity as we move at a snails pace and then ‘your bus terminates here.’ Here! Where! This is nowhere for me!

The romance of the day is gone in the public shuffling to get home.  When I do, cold, soaked as a frail, discarded afterthought, darkness all around, I am still not defeated by the day. It was a up and down day, a day when others were troopers in their heady gear, full of dreams of youth, colouring in day, London winter day filled with history and stories day, I know that in so many hours of this day, I felt hopeless, invigorated, saw history, touched the future and survived public transport too. So many stories to share, to learn from and warm again, it was a good day.  The misunderstanding I shall rectify, the rain is feeding the daffodils and love will survive the seasons.

As for those still wanting the tours in the darkest, rainiest days – bring it on!


I’ve got the magic in me.  So how was your day?


A little Sunday night history lesson, with the gin.

‘Be grateful for being a baby boomer.’

Sunday night – for me the weekend simply means another working day, but it’s ok – building on the self strategy so all is good.

Many know I have been giving tours of London for a while now, but since joining Coutours a few months back, I find myself being a student again.  The brain is pickling around hundreds of facts, dates and anecdotes so you may just find me mumbling data and smacking my head when it escapes me!  Paying attention to a multitude of signs and symbols oft passed in daily life and now going … wow … I didn’t know this, and amazing to see how that makes sense etc.  This city is built on Roman foundations and her history is both fascinating and trés gory. Very, very dark layers to her frock.

Let’s just say there has been many a wee soul, a young lass and an old wench who knew only struggle and pain (if they made it past their fifth birthday).  Life was dirty, dangerous, and short.  If you didn’t die in childbirth or get lynched for being a witch, you were valued somewhere close to the local produce, or an ox.  Even if you were born to wealth and status, chances were, as a woman, you were a commodity to be bartered and sold.  No wonder so many turned to drink (so what’s new?) planned murder or went to jail to get the vote.

By the by, as we sip upon our lovely gins with flavoured tonic, back then gin was cheap as chips, and lethal.  Made of all sorts of dubious elements, including rat droppings, and highly addictive, hence the term ‘Mother’s ruin.’ One desperado killed her babe to sell it’s clothes for gin.  Drowning one’s sorrows takes on a whole new meaning.

The thing is – on a Sunday night – the thing is, history acts as a vital lesson to remind ourselves that, despite some hard times, life is actually pretty good for us baby boomers.  Next time life weighs me down, notes to self:

  • I never had to give childbirth in an alley.
  • Sleep beneath a rat infested roof.
  • Eat rotten food and have my teeth fall out.
  • Dodge drunken sailors.
  • Wear the same clothes every day and try and wash them in a barrel of water filled with river water, filled with sewage.
  • Be accused of a crime I never committed and be hanged for it.
  • Own nothing of my own.
  • Be seen as one without an opinion.
  • Slave each day for little or nothing.
  • Think death better than living.

Yet, there are still women who live these very lives today.  The lesson is also never to forget of fail to fight for them too.

History inspires me.  The world’s, my own, for times one needs only to look back to look ahead and realise, it’s going to be alright. Most of us have had a good life and times we need reminding of it.

So, when we do sip the gin, bespoke wise, let it be a  silent toast to those women who lived in dark times, still do, and making sure we create the best chapters of our own lives.

No longer ‘Mothers’ ruin’ but Mother having a G&T and secretly smiling ’cause she knows better.

Image: TNT magazine


Colouring my world.

‘The time has come … the time has come … that lovely time has come.’

‘But oh!’ She says, ‘where to begin?

One must always begin with a story …

Upon a time, there was this lady (which would be me), worryingly naive and unceremoniously set down in a foreign land.  That would be Great Britian, or England, or more precisely, the city of London.  That same city seen only through the eyes of Harrods/Selfridges/Harrypotterfilmlocations/prideandsanderson eyes.  The afternoon tea/musicals/postmanpat/englishgardens eyes.

We digress.  Rather, said lady landed in a tiny apartment with foreign furniture and even more foreign habits, such as never expected.  A few years passed and all dreams of buying the equal to before, dissipated in the fog. A small, two bedroomed flat became available and I had the bright eyed wonder lust of decorating a little dream nest.  Not really thinking that it would be a forever thing, but a purpose and pretty pastime.

The winds of change that blew across the lake and beneath the frosty doors were profound, unceasing and destructive and the little flat, though changed, changed again – pretty morphed into prison of broken dreams and sat within it, or on my balcony as you know so well, fearing my tears would drown me.  But they didn’t, I wailed at the furies and finished the vineyards.

In the midst of winter I resolved to sell it.  Be done!  Be gone, I shall walk away to God knows where and be the martyr, and beginner again. Little did the lady realise that the winds would shift, the spring, the breathtakingly long summer and golden Autumn shades would turn and  bring a new perspective. Rather than want rid of this little blessing, so close to my family, is exactly where I want to be. Winter came around, only I was no longer the winter past, but filled with summer and a decorating plan.

We are both in need of a loving make over, and the first task is the main bedroom.

A fitting whiff of burning sage to say goodbye to ghosts of past, out the window you go with good wishes, and onto the redecorating .  This is not easy – what colour, what design, what accessories to add?  The old adage, know what I don’t want, but what exactly is it that I want? Phew!

Presently the walls are painted in Laura Ashley’s Pale Biscuit.  Sort of leaning towards the palette of greys, french blues and raspberry hues, but the lovely French headboard is cream, so need to work with that.  Perhaps linen, textures of natural fabrics and duck egg blue?  French blue – botanical green?  The point is, for the first time, in a long time, the little home is changing her ballgown and it’s all rather exciting, so watch this space.

Taking stock of your life, where you live and despite the loving artefacts, it is important to keep changing the scene to invigorate, not only your home, but your attitude to life.  For too long all has been stagnant and waiting … change is good, but only when you are ready for it.

Begin with a mood board of what you love. What you believe a bedroom represents, and the making it your own.  What style suits you.  What colours soothe, comfort and how it will enhance the purpose of the room.

Nights are closing in fast this winter in London.  Lighting is important (still shying away from the must have winter lamp and vitamin D – she shall embrace the winter nights and dark mornings). Investing in good, atmospheric lighting and great pieces of art, a bespoke, bevelled mirror and carpets to retain the warmth are on the list.  Fabrics that caress, excellent linen and photographs to kiss before bed. It is especially in my bedroom that I want my family, past and present, close.  Utterly Romantic is the thought uppermost in this room.

Amongst so many things!

The story continues … 

She is living on her own, for the first time in her life (if you exclude the college and early working stages) and her home is now a haven to reflect the things she loves, the ideas that make her feel, safe and empowers her.  A home from home for the children. No matter how small her life, and abode has become, it is still a reflection of me, her dreams and her haven when the door is closed from the outside world. It is enough.

Let you know how it goes, and if you are feeling a little caught between this and that, life and all the drama, look around you, and like me, begin to colour your world. Starting with change …






Borough Market – would I have made a suitable shrimp girl?


Interior of Borough Market by Mike Bernard


‘Do you know the Muffin Man, the muffin man, the muffin man …  This one lived on Drury Lane, but the song keeps popping into my head when I go to Borough Market.  I am transported back to the days of street sellers, fish mongers, swishing skirts and soot soaked caps – I am not of the present but tripping through the past when I to Borough Market.

Perhaps the cockles and whelks and jellied eels have something to do with it.  Since a fairy friend introduced me to Emma of Coutours, I am learning more about Borough Market.  More about London.  My first tour, ‘The History of Street Food’ had me spilling stories of pineapples, pies and all sorts of doings and goings on in this famous spot that is alive with food and fantasy. I am falling in love all over again.

For years, just admiring the mushrooms was good enough for me.  I love the way they look, cuties all.  Avoided the cheese up close experience: seriously, you have to love cheese to volunteer for the olfactory overture.  As for the seafood – let’s just say a non fish eater was, occasionally, very disturbed by the smell and ghastly, dead eyes staring up at me.  Dead rabbits, dead pheasants … I mean, I liked going there but being a little greenling foodling, happy to amble and hit Waitrose on the way home.

Oh my Word!

The transformation in a short few years.  This growing up, meat, rice and potatoes girl is on a fluffy cloud of food adoration. London does that to you, opens your mind and your soul to the markets of magic in food.  Seasonal Autumn now, risottos in pans, as big as my flat, lure me closer.  I am studying the detail of artichokes, tripping on artisanal caffeine and shhhh, those toasted cheese sarmies are my nemesis. 

Back to yore of shouting sellers, the noise, cacophony of baskets, bales, potatoes and venison.  Sweet cherries licked to dispel the soot. Brine and beer and playwrights and not spoken of.  I am a Londoner now – fully immersed in lore and stories and in these markets, in Borough Market, I think of the Oyster men and the shrimp girls and am grateful to them, and being here to discover more and more each day.

Would I have made a suitable shrimp girl? For the non sea sort, I sort of think I would.  I could sell them, if not eat them. But I think I understand the tale of making the most of what life gives us, how far produce goes from field to fork – the dedication of self to support. 

In Borough, every time, I am happy to be a tourist, a local, a learner. And eater of nearly all now.

In the learning, I am loving the smelliest cheese, the squishiest urchin, the bread, the cured meat, the plums and plaice.  And in love with the idea that I am treading where so many have done before – the ghosts are there, and they are friendly ones.

To the pub she says … to the story.

‘Do you know the muffin man … the muffin man, the muffin man …’ Sort of think I do.

Image: Mike Bernard.