Times you need to be alone, but trust me, you are never alone.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude.  The latter smacks of zen like karma, that space of oneness with nature, the universe and all is as it should be. A feeling of peace.  Loneliness is the exact opposite – experiencing intense loneliness is the same as having a slow heart attack.  It should kill you, just it doesn’t.  The physical grief of feeling alone is a bloodless, harrowing experience, a numbness of self and despair. It is the worst.  Loneliness I believe, is the worst human condition there is.

This morning I was listening to a quip on the radio and it went something like this. How do you make your parents, grandparents, friends and children live longer?  You visit them. It is heartbreaking to find so many elderly abandoned and living in the real fear of being lonely.  It is not just the elderly, it is anyone who feels lost and vulnerable.  It is an insidious disease.

I speak from experience.  Until a while ago, I was never alone, literally and physically, always meeting, chatting, planning and engaged in the lives of others.  Things happened and in the turn of a season, I felt totally bereft, so acutely alone.  There were days I would walk through the city and wonder if, say I died, would anyone really care? What did my life matter after my divorce, the broken relationships, the letting go, of me. Call it depression or purposeless, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of being left behind with no clear agenda was all I knew. In that state, and if you are experiencing it now, you actually don’t want to reach out do you, you just wallow and wake in the early hours of the morning with feelings of panic, fear and worst of all, worthlessness. What have you lost, what have you achieved, what are you going to do next, what happened?  And you feel so terribly alone.  I have the badge, believe me, but I also managed to crawl out of the void and two things happened.

Only you can get up from the cold, lonely floor of despair.

No rush.  You need to go all the way, and I mean, all the way down to reach rock bottom and then like JK Rowling, start all over again.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Not sure how to begin?  Herein is the first lesson.

You cannot stay there for the rest of your life.  No-one but you can stand up from the floor. It may feel like learning to walk again, but you will.  You need to get up. Being lonely sucks, I know, but it is up to you to say ‘ so what if I am alone, I will not be lonely, unless it is the way I want it to be.’  And then being alone becomes being alone on my terms.  And being on your own will slowly become the empowering medium for you to take time out, re-think, re-evaluate and like the Phoenix, rise again, only this time, on your own terms.  The being alone becomes the doing time, the dreaming time and you will come to value the time you, you unique, misunderstood, imperfect you, takes time out to undertake the most important mission of your life:

Take care of yourself.

And I let myself go. Like the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) I did not resort to the trakkie pants and dirty hair, but I sort of stopped everything else. Eating well, exercising, going out, too much wine, indifference and self inflicted boredom. Being lonely had me being bored with things to do, and so, I did little.  The basic daily things, and then … mindless TV, not going out, not engaging with the world. Thinking no-one else would care, I didn’t. Not for myself anyway. I became trapped in the wallowing.  Take care of yourself, if you look great, you will feel great and great things will follow. Create a diary and be honest. Walk often. Make plans for trips, yup, solo trips are become the thing du jour.  Work, work hard, even if you have to take a new job or better still, create your own. Hello you entrepreneur!

Embrace your loneliness and transform it into a positive things – it is a wonderful transformation.  Soon being by yourself is rather creative and empowering.

The second thing that happened, is that I discovered I was not alone.

You are not alone.

Like an idea, it is never an original one. Your situation is not unique to you. Its life, even though you got dished a few more negatives than those around you, you are still better off than many others. Crushed relationships happen to everyone, empty nest and distant children are part of life (this took me a little longer too accept), losing parents and those you depended on is hectic, but that should not lessen you; you were there for them and if they are no longer there for you, all the time, or part of the time, you are not alone in this.

During my divorce, I spent hours searching for blogs, information, advice or just about anything to make me feel less than a leper on an isolated island, and was amazed at the amount of women, and men, going through the same experience.  Living alone, being part of the grey divorce syndrome, having to find some validation for our lives.  Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation did not have careers and strong financial accounts; imagine ourselves single. Some were suddenly homeless, orphaned, caring for elderly parents.  Widowed too soon. I was not alone.

Thank God for my children who deserve medals for putting up with me whilst enduring their own grief in the separation of their parents. I was too indulged in my woes to really take it in.  Thank God for friends who were supportive, even though I did not think they really could understand.  And thank God for finding, as one does, so many others who are going through the same thing – strangers who connected in the ‘being alone’, became friends.

Turns out I was not alone.  Lonely perhaps, but never alone.  Now not lonely, but solo.

Now, many seasons later, I have become rather comfortable with being, not lonely, but alone. It has been the growth of me – and I had to go through the hell of it all to say this.  I have grown immensely as a person, for being on my own, and taking it all in in the silent hours, thinking it all through, I am more about becoming the best of me than relying on others, to validate who I am.

Take heart. When you think you are on the cold, lonely floor of life, you are not alone.  Never.

Here for you.

Hello to being solo, not lonely, and if you never thought you could do it, you can, and be the best you, walking out from the wings, onto centre stage.

Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit

Been a medieval lass of sorts, but Thank You God, for Broadband.

It’s a simple tale.  Were I living in the 1700’s, with no broadband, I would be dead. Death would have been boredom, or gin. Back then I reckon Gin would have been cheaper.  There was little time to be bored when hunger pains, labour and disease were taking up all of your time.  No, it would have been the gin.

When I give  tours in London and talk about ‘Mother’s ruin’ in particular, I often think, of course quietly to myself … well, what would you do living like that?  Take the gin and drink yourself to death, as living was just not an option at times.  But I digress.

The preface to the story. Past years and staying here a short while and letting most of the while, met my reluctance to pay for broadband in the house.  My visits would come down to three best friends:  my UK phone, my ancient 2008 Nokia SA pay as you go phone and a router with data to be bought, switched on and off and suffice for the time.

As she is here for longer.

Dutifully she decides to get broadband.  The powers that be must have been fighting in Winterfell, where its cold, everyone wants to kill you and no time to heed my call.  I buy data on the router, and more, and more and there is a thief afoot!  The data circles the drain and disappeared before I could say ‘Come back, little Sheba, come back!’ So I complain and buy some more, and more and whoosh … the thief I believe is watching Youtube.  Aside, the little Nokia has the battery life of a sigh and dies regularly so limiting to say the least but I resist here, I want my UK phone, cling to it. Need it.  Costly, but rebellious on that score.

Enough she cries as the Lords are still absent with my broadband – I will not pay another cent for data.  And so the Winterfell of moi begins.

Imagine if you will the scenario.  Daytime visits to connect with the world. I stalk cafés and lurk near the plug point.  I get fat for the shame of it.  Then comes the evening at home. Nothing.  Absolutely bloody nothing.  It’s ok I say, I can pretend I have gone camping and make the most of the hours till morning. Well, um well, it’s six o’ clock.  Okay, I say, it will be about thirty minutes to bath … and then. Seven o’clock. The phones and laptop are silent. Dark now.  Fiddle with thoughts.

Now one thing that did make a million mile trip around the world was the collection of DVD’s.  Remember those?  My fingers trail the movies on offer, all of which I have seen a billion times.  True, I have reconnected with Magnum PI. The entire series of Friends, Midsummer Murders and every other movie from two decades ago.  Find myself counting minutes to bed and for me, that is what I remember my mother doing, it does not suit me.  The world is moving outside these walls and I am pacing the floor, watching the candles burn, listening to the radio (which I thought I liked and now loathe for no Spotify).  Now nothing.  No dailies, no facebook, no Instagram, no connection, Oh My Lord this is excruciating!  Where is the embroidery?

I know my daughter is to New York, son to Wales, other daughter acquiring a new puppy and I cannot deal with not being able to message, laugh at photos or even emoji kiss them goodnight.  Emails are lost, dates for appointments vague, research well, research work, kaput. And the mornings, me up at five from going to sleep at nine, with a cup of tea and wishing the shops would open.  I pick up wi fi outside random shops, drink too much coffee all in the attempt to reconnect.

Note: let’s just add the empty post London diary and I am to drink for sure.  Try to pretend to live like those ages ago without Internet and you know what … can’t be bothered. Perhaps if I were putting babes to bed or talking to spouse about the war it would be different but now … can’t be bothered with the silence.

I think the crying helped.  Today the technicians (will not mention the length of time for the battle must have been lost at Winterfell and all returned to work) arrived.  They connected, me, not so much. More drama, some threats and more wailing but behold, I am back in the world of technology and darling, I do love you so. I am valid again, in touch again and all is well in the household of the mother with children on the other side of the world.

Of course Judith Dufour was hanged for killing her baby to sell the clothes for gin. With such a shite life, gin deadened the senses and murdered the mind long before she swung on the rope. Not condoning anything but after this spell, understanding a little more.  I would have been a hag of note back then, if I had been deprived of basic life, of love and broadband.

Suffice to say, living in this day and age, being so dependent on technology and communicating with life out there, not having it has been more than bottom of the pond scum awful.  And interesting.  Time, rather than the lack of it, became the too much of it.

In this new chapter, with all the doing and Ewings of the day, all I can say is I missed you all out there, it’s lonely without my daily Paris, London, everything fix.  Glad to be back.

And no, didn’t do the Gin. Did the wine as after all, I am in the wine lands which is so much more appropriate, don’t you think?

Now to the business of not going to bed at eight, staring at everything around me and getting back to business.  The business of life as we know it now, and it is good.

Image: TNT magazine.

Change again … but it is our Silver Street time after all. If I can, you can.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”
Roy T. Bennett

If there was anyone adverse to change, I have become the champion of it. The master of moving on, of packing up and packing out … of saying goodbye and saying ‘Hello’ and in the muddle of it, when all have experienced change and the hardship of it, I have learnt, that for me, change has been the breaking of me, the making of me and I know, and I know, that change has now become addictive.

It has been a lesson.

Ten years ago, I was thrust, reluctantly into a new world.  It did not suit me.  After all I was fifty, I was settled, I was living the life I knew and the comfort of it was, comforting.  I hated the extreme  circumstances, cried and fell into a deep depression in a new country, in a small flat, having to do everything myself and live with the noise of human existence at every turn. Gone was the luxury of life, of place, of community.  I felt reduced and unfairly treated. I had to lose everything to realise how selfish I had been.

The last of the decade I received British citizenship, the ability to appreciate a gifted city, learnt to be humble and receive, from strangers, and make new friends.  Made a new life, working seven days a week and loving the empowerment. Learned how to change a car battery, sit in a bus on the worst of the rainy November days, be part of immigrant stories and lug the groceries from road to flat.  If this was as far from what I knew, it is true. The princess did not fall, she tumbled, ungraciously, into reality.  And it was bad. And it was good. And change, changed me.

The tide came again.  My flat was sold – I tried so hard to stay, and change was thrust upon me once again.  It was back to my homeland for a time, I have a little house here, and also back to the ghosts and lovely memories.  Reluctant but accepting, I have landed back in the middle of my past life.  In the leaving I realised that the horror of change and moving to England, was now the sadness of leaving her for a while.  Suddenly, as we all do, we want what we can no longer have.  All things taken for granted become golden moments, places take on more reverence, experiences manifold into exceptional tales you wish for again.  I cried at the walking on the South Bank, the signs of Spring after a long winter survived, the lamenting of winter and darkness, the silence of snow falling in the night. I cried at the thought of the gardens in the country, the sweet coffee and walking into a warm place.  Scarves, gloves and Covent Garden. History and a country that took me in, held me close when others left and leaving my children behind in a land that I encouraged them to love as I did … only I was the one leaving.

So, landing with the proverbial crash two weeks ago was not that serious.  I was already numb from the leaving.  Change does that, when you know it is going to happen, you just go numb and walk to war, alternative pages, to a different situation.  I was up for it, for I was numb.

Two weeks into life in Cape Town. I say Cape Town but my home is a little further out, in the wine lands, the beautiful wine lands and I could not have asked for a more welcoming time.  The weather is sublime in late Autumn, yes, I am from winter to winter to winter this year. Returning to London in September, but for the time being … what is to happen?

I have to get a car and broadband.  Empty the boxes and in doing so, the ghosts swept up – confined for so long.  My grandmother’s treasures, my mother’s ‘guard these forever’, my children’s past and or course, the life with my darling ex, whose ghost is the most profound.  I had forgotten in boxing up our lives,  that so much of him was present still. I wonder if it matters to him?  Some will say ‘Burn!’, only this is the journey of my life and love still lives there, so out of the boxes he comes.  I thought in coming back for a while, it was the next project: to keep me busy. It took less than two weeks.  The house is set up, revealed, and for the first time in ten years, all our things are in one place.  Done and lovely.

The country has taken me by surprise. What I took for granted, or simply chose not to address now confronts me at every turn. Her natural beauty remains, as always.  Change here has happened and some good, some not so good.  The most amazing people, smiling and helpful but sorrowfully, separate still.

As an immigrant in England, I was part of a collective of tolerance and acceptance.

The haves are skyward to the have nots.  After the bump back, I was determined to do all myself, as I did in England.  Sipho needed work –  so many have no income, no access to benefits. Hungry and desperate.  Sipho and Dosha help me now, with ironing every second week and Dosha to help me create a garden – I thought, oh this is easy, striding out with fork and will of Anne Shirley. The soil turned out to be concrete and clay, and all efforts were painful.  Dosha is a Malawian, with a bicycle and little else, but a disposition of love and eagerness to work.  To provide for his family, as is Sipho, who has children she wants to educate.   I find myself now trying to be useful and harass with constant offers of tea.  I need to learn the thin layers of it all again and even as I write, I somehow feel unworthy of employing others to do what I could (not so sure about digging in a drought stricken strata of clay). Enjoy the company though,  someone else’s noise in my house.  After living in the flat, the house is a little too quiet.

My new little community. In the need to toss generations of holding on, am giving them as much as I can. I have little need for it anymore.  And then I learn.  The gratefulness of receiving hand outs is humbling, especially when you have a bicycle, or a taxi to try and get it home. Taking  a bag at a time. When I offered a lift both thanked and said no, we do not live in a place you can come to.

When the boxes arrived, the packers were surprised that I offered them coffee and cake.

People still talk of having servants.

The car guards greet me everyday with wishes of having a good day, even in the rain. We talk in French, as for many of these immigrants, this is their first language.

The security estate I live in protects me, but I have to accept everyone who comes here, with forms and identity checks. This sort of freaks me out.

Always offering to pack my own groceries at the till and talk like a silly woman whilst another does it for me.  Very consciously bringing my own bag – and I know that ‘Ham House’ Bayley and Sage’ and the National Trust carry bags are a snobbish touch: snobbish or feeling a little displaced right now?

I am listening to my mother’s radio for I have not connected to the local television, I cannot relate just yet.  There is lovely Afrikaans and African music.

Everything is different.  It may be my homeland but we need to get reacquainted..

And, in the end, at the moment, it feels like a lobotomy of sorts.  Life is slower, the pace of London missed and even though the house is sorted, the coming together of young me, married me, older me, and now Silver Street me, I have an acute case of FOMO. London does that to you, there is so much on offer, my work there fulfilling and now I am a lady of … what? Change all at the station.

No problem at all.  We all have these chapters and we must embrace them. I am here for a little bit and loving the slow pace, hating the slow pace and thinking – all the changes, the multitude of changes of which I was not really comfortable with, have become the very changes I have embraced and in that, become the person I am today. We do not always ask for it, we cannot always cope with it, wish it were different, still the same, but when we have these changes hit with the furies in a bad mood, we deal.  And we can deal, if we have lived this long we have had plenty of experience.

I am in another place, another change … and the experience is momentous.

Sixty this year. Nothing is as planned and nothing is more about losing, the past, the gathering of threads and embracing all that we have lived, loved and learnt, and saying … it over yet! Not by a long shot.  I am here and loving it, biding my time and then … this lady is not for settling anymore.  Have created the home, done the work and paid the dues.

London beckons. South Africa is the most amazing place to be … and where will she go next?

France seems tempting …

Closer to my children. Family.

Write your own story. And not do to be afraid of change. She could just be your best friend.

Where ever you are … make a difference, and call yourself … something and next …

 

 

 

 

If the past few chapters were written in blood, this one is going to be in Rôse.


My model crush of the moment. Anna Sainte Marie.

Those bloody forces of nature are perpetually on my case – and it is so very easy to feel depleted and it is so quick to spiral downwards in the firm belief that the death eaters continue to single you out.  Call me a semi-expert in the sphere, but daunted, dear lord, the office balcony is gone!

I mean …

I found myself on the other side of the world.

AND what do you say to yourself, as one does when you are verbally attempting to remedy  your current malaise?  You say to yourself. ‘What you need darling, is a brand new chapter. A chapter and a plan to Saint-Jean-cap-Ferrat.’

It’s ok that the fuckery may be ongoing, or that the postcode needs to change, these are but temporary setbacks.  Instead, muster the angst and secret potions and venture forth onto that blank page. Not as those written in blood of past,  as if in a cell with nothing but hay and a guillotine outside, but one tainted the colour and taste of Rôse, Provence mark of origin.

Write another chapter.

As one does.

And one does.

Sans angst, avec un petit portion of poison in the larder. (pardon the french)

When my first boyfriend (well technically I thought he was my boyfriend but he never got the memo) broke my heart, I truly believed that Gloria Gaynor had written and was singing ‘I will survive’, just for me.  Every drama in my life had me manic on the dance floor to the song … yeah, yeah, yeah, I will survive … and so on. She so gets me, I wailed.  Now the Wedding planner goes … yeah yeah, it’s on the playlist with Whitney Houston and everyone from the Dragon Queen to Aunty Daphne thinks it was written especially for her. You did too, didn’t you?

Anyway, I am on the other side of the world, for now, for maybe a little longer than an English winter, but no longer than the 100 year spell cast on the pretty princess.  I am here now, with an enormous bump and entitled to a zillion years of free counselling but I am to the blank page. It is no longer sad, a case of survival or ‘the wretch in the alley with the pox and soon to die’ sort of me, it is going to be amazing. A change of scenery, is always better perceived looking out than looking down at my sagging stomach.  So a blank page.

First positive thing to report.  I can see again.  Ten years of no lighting in the bathroom in London has given way to the naturally lit, much larger bathroom.  And it is good.  And it is not good.  The multitude of sins once cast in dim light is glaringly obvious. If called facing one’s fears is required, I am facing the fearful truth. Dear Homeslice, we cannot meet again.

The opening of this new chapter will be … the return to Avonlea.  Avonlea was the name of my childhood home (my mother living in the Free State, imagined herself on Prince Edward Island).  I grew up in a drier place of Avonlea but where I am now, my mother’s home is.  My children’s home is and in a sense, the curator of our family is back. If every trinket were gathered, they are here with me now, I am surrounded by three generations and wallowing in the joy and nostalgia and multitude of it all. You can imagine some of the forthcoming chapters – how to let go of Delft, for example, or how to finally break the bond of noodle Christmas decorations?

The chapter taking place involves a whole lot of firsts. First time in my life I have every had to buy a car for example.  Go figure, I am the most gullible woman alive when it comes to anything to do with cars and just wistfully plead for all to treat me as they would their own mothers and not add a whole new level of fuckery to my life. A little runaround; I am at that stage, but would rather a little run around here and enough money to run around Paris again.

Speaking of Paris, I have two loves in Paris.  The actual city and this gorgeous crush on Anna  Sainte Marie, icon model of the 50’s and 60’s.  The photo shoot she did in a bridal gown  with Karen Radkai for Vogue, before the Notre Dame, is my muse. Into Vintage in a big way, all part of the going back to go forward therapy.  Beautiful women such as Anna, Margeaux, Karen and Beverley graced the pages, ethereal and airbrushed with great mastery.  Am trying to, in my new chapter, remember what it was I loved about them, the pictures, the frosted, feint, silent mystery of who they were and what they represented. So loved them, the circa ancient pic featured is moi trying to be Margeaux as Babe whilst at high school. It was the confident stride.

So I am returning to the allure of vintage and when I was a girl, with a curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  You see, the blank page is now the carefully written one, no scrabbles of sos and dear me, but Dear Me.  And Dear you.

Perhaps if we acknowledge that all is not lost, that beauty exists, if life turns as if it always needed to, then we can love the Silver Street, no, adore Silver Street.  My Silver Street love started in an ancient city, it continues to an African beat and like Anna Sainte Marie, I am on the edge of the river Seine, sylphlike and avec immense attitude.

How do you picture the image on the first page of your new chapter?  And may I ask, pourquoi?

PS was looking for some smaltzy quote and quite frankly, those about beginning again are like a chocolate milkshake after a whiskey – icky central.  Just take it as it is, that new page, that new chapter, it’s got to be real.

Image Vogue

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Another Silver Street interesting day …

The day was extraordinary, by past standards.  Totally unreal for the little of me.  For all experiences now, surreal, right here … who would have thought…

Like many of you on the Silver Street, mornings are the best times.  The nights are fraught with ghosts of swirling, but the mornings are the music of bold and new beginnings.  This morning, the sun greets. That in itself, for this one, is a gift.

Last night, I decided to decide.  For too long it has been the surviving of it all … the Camille on the couch.  Forever wanting what was, lamenting what might be and just going, oh, what the the hell … and hitting the stop button on the alarm long before the sun rises.  Another day at the office. I have many offices . The Travel office, the cafe office, the tour guide office, the other office …

Today the cafe.  For those who are new to this scenario, working in a cafe in a glorious part of London has been a total joy.  Two years she thinks, has it been two years already?  My sort of ‘Mary Poppins’ job and yup, she is still my crush.  The walk from Putney Bridge along Hurlingham Avenue is one of fine suburbia.  Dogs, children skipping to school, uniforms of gingham and velvet trimmed collars. London Planes symmetrically tall to shadow elegant homes.  ‘Tis London pretty in the city. The locals returning from their Christmas holidays.

‘Hello!.  Happy New Year.’  Catching up, sensing the world sway to the equilibrium – got the coffee orders down, catching up and pushing all doubts and fears to the back of my mind regarding my next address.  I learn from each one, look into their stories, there for their updates and as they rightly see me behind the counter, realise they know nothing of mine.  But it is good. Checking for messages, doing the social media thing … a normal day at the ‘office.’ Planning. Am I always planning? When does it get to the … this is it and not … what is it to be, she thinks.

Before my shift ended, the dream celebrity comes for a while .  Now in London, celebrities are taken as the norm, we see them often, unlike the early days when my mouth dropped open. my throat dry, visions of ‘I saw you in this movie’ etc.  We just let them be.  And in letting them be, like Mr. H who came in today, I sometimes find myself deliberately ignoring, hoping the indifference signifies a respect for privacy.  Even that is odd – chatting to everyone else and then causally distant to him seems out of place, it may mean I am really not that good with celebrities. How can I not look at him?  Pretend he is not there, other than the ‘is everything alright’ or ‘here is your tea’?  This is new for me. Fumbled quick chat about juices (shall rue my twittering answer) So we chatted briefly, me wishing I was not in the apron, with the oh, so unsexy, practical shoes. Mr. H, I am not always in these awful shoes, wearing an apron … God help me, I do have a life outside of the picture I present. He was sweet, I uncool and left, mentioning perhaps a little too loud that I was working again on …. Sweet, this would not have happened a few years ago.

Tick why I love London.

To Soho.  Meeting my boss (at my other job) at Soho house.  Why did I not think of this concept?  A members club where people can work, have meetings and find their ‘space’ in this busy city? Brilliant concept.  Now multinational with places all around the world, I land in a cloud of conversations about filming. marketing, business and finance – the most interesting people, all entrepreneurs, doing what they believe is exciting and different.  I cannot help listening to all the chatting around me, all the while thinking … this is so foreign to crumply, unsexy, practical shoes, me. We plan, we strategise. we throw the resolutions out the window as we order wine and discuss wonderful ideas. And I cannot help thinking … how far from the realm is this that I know? It is a new sphere, but let’s face it I have just served Mr. H his smoothie, am now in Soho so what is not to like?

As I leave … walking through China Town, towards the tube, Soho is vibrant.  The restaurants are full, the streets seething with hopefuls and those looking for a good night out.  London life never stops – we simply throw on more coats – it is busy, bustling.  I pass shops offering Peking duck, wraps with wasabi, grocery stores with ingredients I have never heard of. An orchestra of music emanating from all the different offerings.  I walk, I pass buskers, lookers for love, tourists and locals. Am I the only one going home? The night is young and I believe, I am the only one going home.

 Earls Court told me different. Lining up on the platform with many doing the same. Three rows deep.  It is now past eight and for all of us, the journey home is only beginning.  To repeat in the morning, hardly time to be with family and having some down time. I stand all the way to Southfields.  Exiting, it is past Michael, the Chippy Man I have known for nine years … walking home in the dark and then the gremlins come. It is a long walk of wondering about the sunny shores, the garden, the veranda and swimming pool. Community of friends forged forever. All seems so terribly lonely, as if it is all tinsel rather than tree, but  I had to admit, today was so very different … so alive and brimming with possibilities … so totally interesting. How many experiences in one day … how magical it all was.

I saw my Mr. H.  Was part of a community who does not judge. Planned a future. Broke all the New Years resolutions. Found myself in China in London.  Always safe. Not what I imagined.

All I can say is, if this is what I experience on a Silver Street day, what can you do to make your day interesting? Maybe no celebrities, maybe no Soho, maybe you are in a different place .. but the point is… learning.  I am learning … and the decision time will come, but in the meantime, take every experience and the wonderful knowledge you gain, who you are and add it to the list.  And then decide …

Been surfing the city for nearly ten years.

The wind is changing … is Mary coming?

 

 

 

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

 

 

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 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

 

Culling the killing kind.

It is a strange thing.  For those of you going through a tough time, particularly at this stage of our lives, kindness is sometimes all we ask.  Just for others to be kind.

Read the other day, that true grief does not want platitudes, or clichés of how time will heal, how sunny dispositions are all – we have mastered the art of sunny disposition, but what one truly wants is acknowledgment of the pain one is going through at this time, and yes, time will heal, but time related to your own situation, at your own pace.

So two interesting things happened of late.  The first was a woman who, how can I say it, assumed and conducted a hate campaign against myself, and friends with no knowledge of the situation, or care that she may have deeply hurt innocent people.  Even got her daughter involved, whom none of us had ever met, to throw the proverbial acid in faces of individuals who only loved, and they in turn, accepted no blame.  Until recently.  After four years, that is how long it was, a flood of emails arrived, asking for forgiveness.  Mmmm … may I add, without any true acknowledgement of what was done.

As you know, I hate those who ghost.  And insidious practice. To act as if  someone never existed and it happens so often nowadays.  What is wrong with these people, I ask.  If someone has hurt you, tell them, talk, get through it and move on, but to ghost them forever … just bad manners and small.

In this instance however, I decided not to reply. Oh, I had volumes to say, but with this person, nothing I would have said would have resonated and been a change for the good. Nothing would have helped and so I decided not to respond. It was time to cull the little I knew of her, and her daughter, though the words sting still, but to move on, knowing they know what they did to people I love. I have no words for hatred.

The same goes for those who are ‘friends’ on Facebook. Many from way back, who now, know little or care to assume things about us.  Friends for sure, over a distance, but in truth little knowledge of the truth. It’s funny, when I go on Facebook (will I ever learn but still do so for many of my friends live far away and it is the only medium of connection at times) some comments hurt,  it really hurts – and that hurt whips one back to difficult times.  Times, as I said earlier, takes a long time to heal from, to move on from, so why would I want to put myself in that position of seeing it on such a beautiful evening?

Bless them, for they know not what they do.  And I do bless them, and wish them well.  But for those of us who are beginning again, trying to make sense of being, well, older and sorting out our worlds, they cannot be part of it. If they mean well, or not.  They have not bothered to be kind. I only want kind people around me, don’t you?

It pains me, it really does, to have to go and ‘unfriend’ people I have known for years – we share a history, a bond, but they are not in the present of the struggle to regain life, to build a new home, new relationships, new jobs, new connections, new environments and new faith in ourselves.

Oh, hello Fox.  Yup, Fox is roaming in the garden below.  More of a friend sometimes I think.

So what am I saying?  Apart from the daily struggle, and joy for there is much of that, I am finding, against my everything, that I need to cull the killing kind who constantly remind me of the pain of the past few years. If we are to make a life, post divorce, struggling with illness, post parents passing, post losing community and self confidence, we need to sometimes say … just give me a break.  But that does not mean we will cut them forever – just for now when the stakes are high and the doing is important.  They will always be a tap away from friends again .. and I hope they know that for we never give up on others, do we?  We just sort of put them in the holding stack until they realise that sometimes, saying nothing is better than saying something that will hurt.

Culling time for the killing kind, but kindness will out.  For those of us who feel misunderstood, dealing with our own dilemmas and getting there … we hope you will come back to the journey of being our friends, on Facebook, but more importantly, in life.  We are there for you, when you realise it.

We are happy with our lives, but times the struggle is real, and we don’t need reminding of it.

And I did it.  Sorry, but I had to ghost (and hated doing it) but sometimes we need to sort our lives out, hoping some will understand … and when you do, we will be there for you.

Images: Jessica Rose Williams and Pintrest