When Depression is not a dirty word. Owning up to mental health.

This week is the decade anniversary of my moving to London.  Is this a depressing article, on the contrary, it is a joyful one.  So the title … yeah, about depression, but also in the owing up to it, the owning of it, and the liberation of saying out loud ‘I was, and still get, depressed.’

Let me explain.  I am in South Africa, mid-winter.  Sitting outside, the sun only just gone, with candles and a glass of wine and having a little chuckle to myself.  This for me, is England summer.  The days are warm, the sun shines all the time, and even though our houses are chilly early morning and night, it is so mild. Gets cold I know, but I have to smile when others are complaining and lighting fires and I think about the winters in London, and the SAD syndrome I suffer from every year. I get massively depressed in winter in the UK, I know I shall, and I do, and the best part of it is that I admit to it.

At first, a new recce to the Seasonal Affective Disorder, I was sort of taken aback at the absolute honesty of those who admitted to depression in winter.  Curious as to the easy admittance of those around me suffering from it.  But more, was intrigued that so many I met, openly talked about being depressed.  I never did.  I never really knew anyone who did. Mental health is a real thing in the UK,. not just in winter, and addressed, talked about, support groups in hand, a subject not to be hidden, but dealt with. Being depressed at times, was acknowledged.

Sort of wondering how to put this.

Growing up in South Africa, I hardly ever heard the word, depression. My mother, I learnt, took lots  of tablets, and later I learnt, some for depression, but it was never spoken about.  One never admitted to it, why I don’t know.  She never spoke about it. I didn’t know anyone who was depressed, or even just anxious, we simply dealt with life.  Life in London, was tough, I thought it circumstantial and smiled my way through it, especially when I came back to visit and like no, I wasn’t going to tell anyone how tough it was, how depressed I was, what would they think of me? A failure?

So it took some time, coping. It took some time.  Still never recognised the situation, until I found others in the same situation. Openly claiming to be depressed. But wow, aren’t you just supposed to deal and get over it? Like family secrets, is it not supposed to be way, way back in the closet?

Yet, my friends in England, famous people, the media … all addressed the situation.  Mental health and the effect of depression, particularly in the winter when the SAD syndrome is most prevalent.

Monty Don,. a secret crush of mine, wonderful gardener and personality, when interviewed in the Guardian in 2018 and in his books, speaks openly about the SAD syndrome and depression.

‘What do you hate most?’

Depression. Uncertainty. Crowds. Parties. Lack of sunlight.

A man talking about depression, uncertainty, crowds (get that), parties (get that too) and lack of sunlight – wow, I get him even more. Being open about mental health is not only important, it is essential and if everyone could just talk about it, then our struggle with mental health is a positive one, one to be addressed and shared, and solved. One can only solve a problem if one is honest about it, let it out, talk about it, and deal with it. And it is not a dirty word, but part of our journey.  Why do others still find it difficult to mention, or own up to it?  Why is that?  Does it lessen us in some way, make us weaker, hell no, it makes us stronger for the diagnoses and living with it.

I face the oncoming winter in the UK. I know the lack of light will get to me, that February will be my ‘Macbeth month’ and at times, I find it hard to deal with it.  I know that things happen, and have happened, that have seen me in the spiral of depression but I also know that facing it, admitting to it, and dealing with mental health issues is so good. I am a different person in winter there, but then, when spring comes … I know the life is back in my veins and I love it.  We have to go through the seasons to explore ourselves, and muster what is good and admit what is bad.  And it not just in winter.

So, here in the winter of not my discontent, I am not depressed when the sun rises and keeps me company. Natural light is the making of me in some ways. Rather I find myself depressed at the many who have to brave the cold in shacks, without heat, jobless and begging at the stop lights. I find myself depressed that they live depressed lives every day. Having to beg, never thinking things will be better. Hopeless.  That I find depressing. That they cannot even think about being open about mental health and finding support for it. When you have nothing, you are allowed to be depressed about it – so no, I am fine here, but depressed at times for the situation of others.

So what am I saying? Yay for finally being open and admitting that I am a depressive person, through environment, through situation and through circumstance.  That in England I can go and find help for it. That I know it does not lessen me, but empowers me to admit to it.

And it is wonderful! Mental health is as important as physical health and I have learnt that now. It is not a sign of weakness but part of my life.  Death, divorce, re-location, relationships, they are all party to the depression that I have experienced but take me out, not at all, it is the growth of me, because I admit, I do get depressed and I do seek help for it, and it has made me a better person.

So positive yes on the owing up to mental health. It is the stuff in the creation of many novels, discussions, politics, world events. It is the small stuff of positive change. When I sit here and wonder at how I survive the British winters, and love them still, even if I get depressed at the lack of light, the darkness and greyness, I know that by saying, it happens, I value the coming of the light, the first signs of spring and the impending summer all the more.  And it is good.

Talk about your depression. Talk about feeling low, about how life gets the better of you sometimes and in the harnessing of being depressed,. you will find that that sometimes, your admitting to it, is true, situational and really, just ok.  Saying you are ok when you are not, why? Say you are struggling and you have mental health issues, and get depressed sometimes – it is the most freeing thing you can do.

And you know what? I miss the British winters sitting here – there is something in her seasons that lifts my soul to another level, the contrasts are amazing, and exhilarating, and to get that high, I have to go through the low of the British winter, no sun, grey but with such promise of what is to come.

Life giving. It is a decade of moving, and a decade of growing. And more importantly, a decade of embracing not only my physical health, but my mental health.

PS. Dark now, but still mild. Nothing like the winters in the UK but I go back to another winter now, and so ready for it.

Images: Unsplash, the medium and the torch.

 

 

 

Feeling low? Get yourself gorgeous, for you, wonderful will follow.

Yeah, let’s talk about the slumping time.  It happens.  Nobody loves you, darling has well, darling has … the children have flown, the job is sort of unfulfilling or non existent at the moment.  Menopause is the devil, you are feeling less than sexy … unhappy … and then … of dear Lord, you have succumbed to the precarious, comfort fit of being slumped in the standard outfit of tracksuit pants and can I say it … can I even say it … comfortable shoes … and oh, my … crocs.  There I said it.  You have taken the mood and suited up, or not, to the depression outfit. It exists, the depression outfit, it does.

I get it.  Not feeling up to getting dressed … who for … much better to do the no-make up, grey uniform, plastic shoes (or slippers) and for some, an entire day in the pj’s.  Not the sexy lingerie type pj’s but those flannel numbers that remind you of childhood. A wardrobe nest against the world. I had the gown you remember, the purple cloak of depression that was worn with despair, a castle of wallowing wrapped safely around the ‘giving up body’ to sit on the balcony and eat crips and drink wine and care not an iota for anything but the wallowing. I admit to the gown, much ripped from me by concerned children and tossed into the skip, but for the rest, never.

Why is it that all the slumping and feeling low clothes are so ugly?

Admittedly there is a time for the tracksuit pants – when you are actually an athlete, or slippers when the snow is outside.  There is reason for hoodies and flannel gowns, even pj’s that are Bridget Jones status, but unless you are boxer, an athlete, a gardener (and I am and don’t do the crocs) or stranded on an island, there is never a reason for crocs. Yeah, I can hear the indignation, at the sighs and ‘what the hell’ coming my way, but just hear me out.

It is a simple truth. If you look good, you feel good.  No matter how dire the situation, falling into the well of hopelessness is fine for your spirit and may be necessary for your mind at this time, but your body? Never. It is the one who is going to save you. It did me.  If you look good, you feel good, and being proud of how you look is going to resonate and that will drag the spirit and mind out of the well, in time. Apart from the fact that it will send a clear message to others out there … excuse me, I am going through some shit storm, but I am going to look fabulous whilst doing it. And more than that, looking good is all about self respect.

A little note here:  Having just delivered my first child, in hospital and feeling like death warmed up, wanting nothing more than sleep and everyone else to go away, except for darling little girl of course, there was this amazing woman on the ward. A neo-natal nurse and though she did the usual, she also gave me the best advice ever: ‘Put make up on everyday, get up and shower, prepare yourself as if you were awaiting the Queen, for your little girl, she is a Queen and she wants to see you strong,  You have just become a mother and that is immense.’ I never forgot that.

So, to the here and now, and life has been a orchard of lemons, but what I am trying to say is, getting up, making an effort and still thinking myself, despite the muffin top and sagging boobs, wonderful, it was the antidote to depression. Some went for counselling, I went for a wax.

Apart from the gown episode, I still get up every morning, dress as if to receive the world, do the highlites, the tinting and facials and let me tell you, best therapy ever! A single compliment is like the best anti depressant drug. Found myself striding rather than stumbling through the storm.

So what am I saying?  Many are going through tough times, like I did. Many are wondering what the hell is the point and letting go of the one thing that is the most important thing. You. Your body and your beautiful you and if you think no-one is caring, the fact that you do, is everything.

Others may take it all from you, but not the real you. And the real you is not festering and loathing in some grey track suit pants, or crocs, or pj’s that need mending, not in comfortable mum jeans and big tops and hectic eyebrows and no exercise.  It’s being absolutely determined to be the person you used to be, and still are … and care less about what others think but about who you are, beautiful on the outside, and on the inside.

The slump is good for awhile.  But if you must cry and rail against the world, do it in Chanel. Do it with flair, fortitude and grace. Do it with presence, with elegance and attitude.

Not about revenge in mind. Or pretending. It is about you remembering who you are. The sophisticated, cultured, educated and classic woman who may have forgotten, but will come to remind you, you matter. You are the gift to the world. You matter and you have much to do.

Image techjunkie

 

 

 

Let’s talk about fathers today.

To each and every one of you fathers out there, that love and nourish and cosset the relationship you have with your children, Happy Father’s day.  Being a father, creating a life and not only steering that precious gift forward, but being on board, totally, through the many storms, and lulls that happen – you have been blessed and it will be returned.

Not everyone has been a biological father, but many have fathered.  It is important to recognise this. If you nurtured, be it an animal, a child, an old person, a friend or a colleague, and given of your time, advice and love, you are part of this day.

Some of us come from a generation where father’s, bless them, didn’t really know what to do.  The stoic, quiet presence in the background, was mine.  There to provide, discipline and dish out advice on the world even he struggled with at times, but not emotional. Never emotional. Left the hugging and birthday presents up to mother.  Dependable was my father, loving to the extent of reading the report card and going ‘that’s too good’ when it wasn’t so good and I fearful that anyone would not jump to attention and shake his hand when he walked in the room. I could say he was cold, but now I just know he was at odds with what men could mean to their daughters on a loving scale.  I fear he thought it weak to show emotion, and never did, but he was there and that was everything to me.

The father of my children knows how to show love.  My children have thrived on this and though we are no longer together, his love for them is so intense, it makes us better as a family. I wished him ‘Happy Father’s Day’ today because he deserves to know how much I value his input in our children’s lives.  There are some who did not like their fathers, who had no fathers to name, who struggled with daddy issues and felt let down – felt frightened by them, avoided them and it only highlights the neglect and sadness of those who had the opportunity to be real fathers and wasted it.  They shall have to live with it.

Many of us, like me, have lost their fathers at this age.  It is only then that we may begin to understand how much a role they played in our lives, and more importantly, that we accept their strengths and weaknesses – that we now see them as human, with all the faults in the stars and how they struggled with life, just like we do, but never wanted to show that side to us. My father had a difficult father, lost his mother as a little boy, a step mother, brutal discipline, never a kind word – and now I understand that he was only doing the best he could and that he loved us. And I miss him for it.

Today, with father’s day and all the wishes and instagrams and social media hype, there are fathers out there who wish they could have said more, done more, loved more and then there are fathers who cannot let go, who love unconditionally, race into the storm to save us. There are fathers who are broken children themselves, those who are warlords when it comes to protecting us,. fathers who sing, tuck in and cry at the very sight of us.  There are fathers all.

In England it is known as Mothering Day.  It should also be Fathering Day.

Women, like me show every emotion right out there. There are still men who believe that showing emotion is good, and those that believe it is the only thing. Some are more hesitant, but let’s just take one day, one day like today and try to understand, that deep down, I think most are bursting with hearts so full at the very idea of being a father.  And let’s give them this day, and say, yay you are my hero, not so much or whatever, but let us try to understand that. Let us acknowledge we are here because we do have a father.  And let us just honour them.

If you stood up for anything dad, and especially if you stood up for me, you are the best father I could want.

All I remember is how my father would swing me around, and know he would never let go.

He never did, and never shall. Happy Father’s day.

Images abc and paedicatricsoffranklin

Love. Of course. The only place I choose, is to be in love.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” — Morrie Schwartz

I need to say this.  Love still lives here.  She has been a little abused, some self-inflicted, but gone, never.  And it is a lesson I forgot to talk about – that despite the bumps and anguish, I never want to be anything, but in love.

Love is the best thing that can ever happen to you.  The constant in the pathway of life.  And we need to talk about it.  You see, I had quite forgotten the subject – call it survival instinct, only today I met a wonderful young woman who, knowing my story, and hearing so many others, was quite dismayed at the high grey divorce rate, so many people she knew were ending decades of life together, it seemed a given, was this what was waiting, does love dissipate with time and age, the concern etched on her beautiful face, and I just thought Whoa!  This has to stop. We have to stop.  We are after all, the educators, the experienced, the guides into the future with our little footsteps deep in the grooves of those who came before us.  And what did we learn?

Blinded by our own experiences, we missed the very message we were sending to those still dreaming of forever.

An understandable, but somewhat sad state of affairs.  Which got me thinking. Yes, it has been painful, and let me just check if my heart is actually still there, but now, now that the time has passed and the smoothing of self is happening, I just had to tell her. Fabulous stuff.

I totally, wholeheartedly, unashamedly, am in love. In love with love.  Been hurt, questioned it all, and now, if the showers come down, I really don’t mind getting wet because I refuse to be any place, but in love.  It has just changed somewhat, taken on a different hue, altered the fixed lines and still, as it softens, it is still there.

As a child I loved without restriction. Love was safety and warmth in belonging.

As a young women, I believed love affairs would be straight out of Mills and Boon. Intoxicating, exhausting, passionate and profound.

As a mother, love became acute and almost paralysing, so intense the feeling for my children.

As life turned and hardened, grief, as they say, is just love with nowhere to go.  It is still love.

Like a tapestry, the threads of love is in the whole, they bring the self together and if at times we feel the prick of loss, the blood letting of broken dreams, it is still the making of us. It makes no difference how we love, the many phases of love we experience, but that we love. And now, perhaps now, for the first time, the real sensation of self love is taking hold, and it is good.

When others leave, through choice, or death or circumstance, we doubt love, we rage and fight the furies that allowed it so, but what remains, is that we loved.  And that makes us all worthy. So when I look back now, I still love them – they had to leave me, only I send them off with my heart, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to do so.

They are my chapters of love.  They are part of my book.  And now, when I think of them, it is, after all havoc has been poured over my soul, it is the love I remember. Took a very long time for get here, honestly, but no, lovely young lady, we do not all end up broken, but with learning.  Wisdom is seldom bought cheaply.

Be romantic.  Be never fearful that who and what you love, will not last.  It will, perhaps in another form, but it does. You can learn from us, take notes, be more attentive.

Never stop loving with the fierceness in your heart. Never hold back, never be concerned that it may almost kill you, for it also the one thing that makes you feel most alive.

Passion, intoxication, forever dreaming of it, still.

Oh, romantic? Guilty as charged M’lord.

 

 

Honey, if you keep talking about how old you are, you are.

Let’s face it.  This writer has every reason, at times, to feel like Methuselah. I sort of deserve it. He lived to 969 and I sometimes feel I have done the same.  Packed a hundred lifetimes into one and yes, the body has been felt to be broken, the heart stopped a few times, but have I ever said: ‘ I feel old’ or ‘I am old’,  never escaped these lips. Because I do not.

The little wisps of wisdom count I suppose.  Experience done, but feel old, not a chance.  And it saddens me when I meet other exciting people in their Silver Street who sort of, capitulate and blame life on the fact that they are old.  I am old now, they say, I cannot do this, or this, and I am settling for … what I wonder? All the time, wonderful individuals who are interesting, experienced and just bloody beautiful going … oh, I am old now.  Seriously, may I say, you piss me off.

I am for the never settling.  Not going to ride a pony in the jamboree or begin a career as a dancer in the company, but neither am I going … ‘oh I have a bucket list and maybe when I am eighty going to don the purple wig and jump out of a plane’. Why do we do this to ourselves?  My legs may be showing signs of those little bits of crumpling, actually google why my stomach looks like a roof after a storm. The belly wobbles on its own, without any invitation and well, the boobs, the boobs are no longer pert and ready for attention, but still, I am not for the ‘oh, I am over the action station, sort of gone to seed, it’s the way it is and I am going to spend my life getting all agog about knitting a square or waiting for the children to visit’

Talking of the bucket list, I loathe the very idea. Buckets are for water for mopping floors, and the defeatist attitude of the ‘bucket list’ rather than the future itinerary of things to do is just, plain, stupid. You are greater than the bucket. Call it a wish list or a to do list, but a bucket, dear Lord save me from the bucket listers who think that time is running out and we are going to the Andes and being a mascot at the football game before it’s all over. And why do I rant so?

Because we are not old, we are present and alive.

Age is not about giving up, but about wanting different things.

And I choose the company of Karen, another Karen.  Whilst others are complaining of life and succumbing to age, Karen is writing a musical, creating a Persian garden in Spain, writing a novel and travelling the world.  Our regular meet ups in London are short of ‘wow’! A chartered psychologist, specialising in the future in business, I often just have to sit and listen and think, get off your sorry horse and go forth!  So I turn instead to people, women in particular who embrace life despite the years for they keep me moving forward.

My friend Sylvia, deep in her sixties is still working and productive, owning properties, wheeling and dealing on a daily basis and never falling short of ‘I am old and this is hard.’

I follow bloggers who do the same.  Find them, like ‘We are ageist‘ and ‘Parisbreakfasts‘ and ‘Chic at any age‘ and ‘That’s not my age‘ and so many more if you are looking for a different, more fulfilling life than going ‘I am old.’

There are so many prolific bloggers out there, full of life and taking on the challenge in our Silver Street and I learn from them. Every day.  They continue to inspire and challenge me to a different level. And on that note, I have been a waitress in a coffee shop for the last two years, doing tours of London, running a travel company and a Wedding and Events specialist and stopping, no way?

Why am I writing this tonight?

Today someone I love dearly kept talking about feeling old. Not being able to do what they used to. Feeling as if the children were taking over, as is good, but a little redundant. Just feeling, well, a little out of place in their lives.  As I listened to the conversation, the word, old, kept creeping into it. Wanted to shake them and go, No!, don’t do that, don’t succumb because others are telling you this.

Perhaps the fault lies with me.  Should I blame or laud my mother who would have not one grey hair showing, ever?  Or blame the gods perhaps because, really, I do not feel old. I feel heartbroken at times, redundant in the fast moving world, a little out of place with the new technology and trying hard to keep up. I do feel some things have passed me by and I struggle at times to keep up, but I do not feel old, I feel incredibly blessed.

I have survived.  And lived.  Born children, worked hard, had relationships, some good and some not so good and learnt from them.  Still love travelling, my workouts, a little botox and colouring my hair. Love being there for friends and family and making new plans, all the time.  Love good food, a full diary and sex. Love waking every morning with so much enthusiasm and ending the day with a glass of good wine, wonderful memories and sleeping, not to sleep but to energise myself for tomorrow.  Love thinking, I will do this and try that and maybe, if I wanted to go skydiving, it’s not for some bucket list rubbish but because I have not done it before.

Love this watercolour from Carol Gillot at Le Grand Colbert.  My 60th birthday perhaps?

Rant over.  We are amazing, at any age, even better at this age. Paid the dues and open to so many possibilities. My year is full of them. A business that allows for growth, a trip to Paris and Lake Como, a sixtieth birthday to plan, and London.

If you want to spend most of your day talking about getting old, feeling old, I will listen.  Only for as long as I am here, and then I am gone. The bikini awaits, the cocktails on ice, the maybe who knows … but say I am old, not for me.

You are never too old for anything.

You must never compromise.

You must be the best you are now.

Image: The daily mail.  The Independent.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t you?

Chat soon x

Image:Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: V and A.

 

Colette – a quiet lesson to remind yourself to be yourself.

 

“Is that you there all alone under that ceiling, booming and vibrating under the feet of the dancers? Why are you there all alone? And why not somewhere else?” Yes, this is the dangerous, lucid hour. Now, whenever I despair, I no longer expect my end, but some bit of luck, some commonplace little miracle which, like a glittering link, will mend again the necklace of my days.

There are times, following a hard day working, flat hunting and generally that phew moment, that you just … well … don’t want to go home.  The city is bustling with after office hours catching up, lots of options on offer.  So I found myself thinking … rather than crack open a furtive bottle of wine in Dry January, I shall to the movies.

Right now, on my office balcony, the singing of post work drinking revelry is in force on the sidewalk below. I have come home to download the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack of ‘Colette’ by Thomas Adas.  I am post wonderful film scenario.  It stays with me still.

‘Colette’ was exceptional.  The story, the film locations (oh the house in the country), the music – all was strong, so strong. I learnt something new – never knowing about the tale of Colette: a young woman from the country, married and ghost writing for her husband – encouraged to engage in different relationships for his, and perhaps her growth, to the point where she realises that it is her story for which credit is absent. Words of her childhood, her nuances, her thoughts … she has instead gifted her husband her tale and he takes credit, urging her to write, for him, until she cannot stay in the shadows any longer and despite financial hardship, she takes control of her own life.

Literally takes control, engages in a relationship (which was then still frowned upon) and risks all to live life on her own terms. Bring in the fantastic score.  Would we fare better in our own stories if we had the most enchanting music to accompany it?

What was it about the film that made such an impact?

What did I learn tonight?

We go to the movies to escape, to pause on our own realities, and also to be empowered through someone else’s ideas – the written work, the notes, the ideal of it all. We are transported to what can be, what was, what others have experienced and come out there, in the dark, winter’s London night and think, hey, I have a story too. May not have the brilliant collages and film locations but have the story nonetheless.

Why not be glad for it? Inspired by it? Add to the necklace of our lives and be proud? Sometimes we need to relate to the stories of others to remind ourselves that we too have deep, rich and meaningful lives to lead.

Be yourself.  Others may not like it, judge but it’s ok.  It is your life. Be so very proud of it.

Think of the necklace of your days.  Add the pearls. I put the Fengal in my bath (my mother’s favourite), poured the wine (don’t tell anyone) and thought … this movie has been great for me.

We need heroines to champion the kindle of our own heroism. Mentors and music to get the juices flowing, the sparkling of an idea,  alight.  We need examples of struggle to muster our own.

And the music is hauntingly beautiful.  The idea of Paris is there for me.  Popcorn gone, and hour and somewhat blissfully born and so I shall tell you, watch this film – I even googled the film locations for the country home and thought, this is where I shall go and write, buy a little property and be amongst the wheat fields and poplars, to the city of lights and endless romance – to find it was filmed largely in Budapest (where I have not been) but no matter …. I continue to dream of how it touched me.

And I have the music to write by.

Images: The Guardian, pintrest

 

 

 

 

 

The scariest time of the year, is here …

I warn people well in advance.  Stay away to be safe, to be sure, for the week between Christmas and the New Year is a dangerous time to be near me.  I hate it.  Loathe it.  It’s like the dark ages, Medieval times – a time of fog and brooding thoughts.

For someone who likes routine, life and business, the enforced public holidays, nothing happening, dark afternoons and endless nights bodes ill in my home.  Totally forget what day of the week it is, literally, what is today? Oh, it seemed as long and lifeless as yesterday.  Little, if anything happens, if you discount the madness of zombies packing Oxford Street for the sales and returning of gifts given in love and swopped with disregard to the giver.  ‘Didn’t like them socks, or them jumpers … gonna swop them for somefink more suitable.  For when we go to Ibiza and me holidays.’ Christmas cheer seems to disappear into bustling and jolting on the high street – ugh, note to self … do not seek life in the midst of post Christmas retuners of gifts.  Discarded Christmas trees all around. So depressing.

While some may revel in the lethargy of the week, I brood.  Don’t want to watch another Christmas movie, post Christmas, fat and flabby from the festive fare, hating the lack of sunshine and totally unmotivated.  This is when the gremlins come. The pixies of self doubt, another year looming and what are you going to do that is different, how to change the things you don’t like in your life, what will the new spiffing diary hold?  That is if you can actually read the diary in the half light.  Lack of Vitamin D.

This sunshine girl is all too aware of the sun shining somewhere else.  True, the weather has been the mildest Christmas I can recall, but when will the evening be later that four in the afternoon I beg – I plead, I have done the duty, been super positive, so please, please let the world begin again.

It is a dangerous time.  Despite feeling like a monk in a half lit seminary most of the time, it is a time coming close to the ending of the year and why I do not know, but for me, a time to look back and see the loss, the mistakes, the ‘God what happened to my life’ and being so very lonely in the fogginess of post Christmas, not quite New Year and the ghosts in-between. My ghosts don’t come at Christmas, I love Christmas, but descend around now, with the little to do, idle hands, idle thoughts and idle memories.  Am I alone in this?  Maybe if I could go snorkelling, or lie on a beach it would be different but London, love you as I do, you are stale post Christmas until the New Year starts.

All however is not lost. Though I feel loss more acutely at this time, danger is a good thing.  It is a motivator, a sifting of sorts.  The lull of this time is a motivation of self.  For one, I am packed. Still not sure where this one is going, but packed.  Moving on. Acceptance of the situation is at hand.  It is a driving time of saying ‘where am I at right now.’  ‘Where will I be going?’ ‘What will suit me when the bells chime on the brink of a New Year?’ ‘Will I be ready for the change in my life?’ And I will.

The lesson:  My dear friends keep saying ‘you are always like this betwixt Christmas and the New Year.  True. Am a Greek tragedy at this time, every, single year. Ever nostalgic for life before divorce, change in living circumstances, children all grown up and doing their own thing. Still lamenting parents gone – do we ever recover from it – and now, when the sun is missing and a longing for Spring deep, I am not going to succumb to the bleakness this time, in my little office on the balcony, but resolve to do the dangerous thing, in the dangerous time of this betwixt it all – I am going to change, absolutely everything. For good. Change the way I depend, rely and look for affirmation. And it is exciting.

The other day a friend asked me why I write about the not so great things. Most blogs are about yay, uppity and beautiful aspects in life, or alternatively about the down side of it, but I write about it all.  Times of just living, seeking, wondering, fretting, fearing and being so very part of the Silver Street part of our lives.  The changes – the not being the centre of a family anymore, the finding your children wanting to take charge at times, the not being the one to come to, admitting that sometimes, no I don’t know the latest technology and what is happening right now – but also, the one who knows what it was like, how lovely it was, how you meant the world.  And the change.  We have to adapt to the change. Life changes.  Parents die, children leave, relationships change.

And this is the dangerous time when it all comes home to roost because I have only my thoughts and the days fall from one into the other, the weather is close and dark and the calendar in flux with what to do until 2019.  The dangerous time. 

So, thanks for the invites for New Year celebrations, I am working.  On better and greater and what I shall become in the New Year.  Hope you are too …

We are going to take this time, this foggy time between Christmas and New Year to plan and deliver.

Dangerous for me … great for me. And for you.

Images Flick

 

 

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