Lockdown, a little bit of sex and the Chameleon going for a walk.

Lockdown day one million.  Little mercies.  A good walk.  Will I call it a ‘Beautiful walk’ as at My Silver Street?  In the beginning perhaps, on the Estate and nature in all her glory, hedging towards Autumn. Now it is the same walk, round and round. At least I still drag myself out of a virus inflicted crazy dream and little sleep state and pull on the trainers.

Beginning each day with ‘Enough, going to do this and that, change my life, change the world’ to end of day … blah. Getting the little soldiers into a plan of action.

The weekend had me in a chatroom. The Zoom Room.  Chatting to family who are shedding the jumpers for summer frocks, and an Art Class; sketchbooks.  Of course Karen, the moment you find a shop open with Art Supplies. you have to buy the biggest Sketch book known to man.  A great big, bloody red Moleskin sketchbook.  Initially the idea was sound, to put and plaster and tag and dot little pieces of inspiration.  Quite the other when you have to show it to the group via webcam and cannot actually hold the atlas/doomsday book up for them to see.  Memo, a little one will look so much more attractive in your handbag whilst sipping a noisette ‘a la sidewalk cafe in Paris in future.  The Red peril will not fit into your suitcase.

Where the Art continues to be curious and beautiful, the book reading attempts right now, have been less so.

The painting is by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678)  You can find it in the Wallace Collection, in London.  It speaks of abundance, both in flesh and nature, of plenty, of fertility and harvest.  Surrounded by humans, satyrs, children (fertility) and reference to Bacchus/Dionysus, the god of wine and hedonism, the composition is one of sensuality, voluptuous abandon and lust.  Lust, sex and passion.  An allegory of Fruitfulness.  Ripe with sex.

Poetry does it beautifully, and many novelists can engage the words with graceful imagery to evoke all the nuances and beauty of sex.  Just as many get it so wrong. So embarrassingly wrong.  There is even a ‘Bad sex in literature award’.  I kid you not.  Anyway, there is no Daunt Books close by, but dear Lord, why have the past two ‘International Best Seller’ books been sadly lacking in writing about sex in a realistic, yet magical way.  Of course, the first I read had to deal with every topical subject the author could tap into; we have war, rape and revenge.  Now I am trying to, with a skewering, vinegar in your eye determination to finish, has me going ‘oh dear, forgiving Lord, has EL James begun writing under a pseudonym?  Have I not escaped her? Again the topical jam it all in list: dreary marriage to a cold hearted orc, jumps in the Seine, totally rescued of course, anyone can dive into the Seine with its currents and whip out the desperate – runs away, to the idyllic seaside town.  Instant job, lodgings, favourite of all – late life sexual awakening, first orgasm and sjoe … the convenience of it all!  Does it not reduce you to a pulp of craving for wine – it did me.  So please, good recommendations for I cannot do the ‘hope it goes to Hollywood’ stuff.  Amazing don’t you think, when you think of it, just how every book seems to be ‘The number 1 bestseller’ – what would happen if it were the ‘Number 4 best seller’? Oh dear … Suggestions please, or I shall revert to the classics once again (always a good thing) to read about real passion and sexuality.

Fans of EL James, by the way, you have made her immensely rich.  I hope she took some grammar lessons with the loot.

Sadly, the past week, we read of the passing of Nigel.  Monty Don and his beloved Nigel, which I watched religiously on ‘Gardener’s World’ – the perfect couple, boy and his best mate. They were the closest to what I believe a real home, garden and life should be.  It is a long time ago, I had any of these together, and I suppose they were like a dream team – his loss will be great, for those who love the programme, but immense for Monty Don and his family.  Times I think, this is what it really should be like, pushing the wheelbarrow through the seasons, followed by two faithfuls in a beautiful garden – and the nuzzling, the unconditional love an animal gives, that is the most powerful love. I hope one day, when I grow up and settle down, I will have a companion like Nigel.

In closing, I stumbled upon another unique couple.  On my walk today – we have  to distance and it’s rather a stop and let pass situation, complete with masks, as one does in the fresh air. Seriously? An elderly gentleman came towards me, and I stopped to allow him right of way.  Walking stick in one hand, the other was held out in front of him, almost in a shield holding fashion and it was only when he was right beside me, I noticed the chartreuse, bulging eyed chameleon perched there.

I am not a fan, afraid more like. When it comes to some animals, I wish David Attenborough a long life, he can cuddle them. Yet, as I walked on, I thought of how much he must love that green fellow.  The responsibility to nuture is there. Is gives sense to being. Maybe the fraught existence of sex and lust and passion has waned with every step.  Maybe he still feels them all, I hope he does. We must endeavour to feel the fluttering for as long as we can.

Reflections in the water.  A few Geese and Coots still visit.  The birdsong is lyrical, and the tiniest weaver is in the orchestra. It is a quite and reflective time; I may not be able to visit the Galleries, but art abides.  Not sure of the reaction if I meet swivel-eyed Sam, now being aware of him, but how charming was that moment in the morning?  Just to find a really, really good book that doesn’t make me despair.

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
–“Sonnett XVII,” by Pablo Neruda

“my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom”
–“since feeling is first,” by e.e. cummings

Want more words like these … be safe and plan for your own continued journey.

Till more xxx

Image: own and Bournmouth news.

The diary that time forgot.

Every since I can remember, I have been the diary type of gal.  Dear Diary.

My daughter was angry with me when I destroyed my teen diaries – it was the de-cluttering and moving of stuff, but endearing it was that she may want to read my silly musings of being in love with Robert Redford and that beautiful chap from ‘Chopper One.’  The seventies desire for Wesley in ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’ and who could forget Nick Nolte emerging from the ocean in ‘the Deep?’  I wasn’t fussy or anything, anyone would do to come and rescue me from a small town in the Free State, when high school was about disappointing dates and detention.  I was a child living out of herself, into dreams of better things.

My diaries are my chapters.  Written notes on friendships and romance, children’s playdates and visa applications.  Notes on ‘he loves me not’, and divorce. On the dying, and changing and being lonely and lost.  And good things, notes on Rome and Juan Les Pins.  My of course, the best children in the Universe. Tangible references of jobs suffered or loved – places lived in and said goodbye to.  All in those little books.  It will be easy to read my life one day.

Always a thrill to get the one for next year.  Clean, smooth pages to be filled. A ritual. And not just any diary, it has to be such that I have travelled the world to obtain, just the right one.

This year began the same way. Notes on clients to meet, tours to give, trips upcoming.  And then the dairy just … sort of died. We went into Corona forever it seems.  The willingness to write in it seems obtuse, hoping to fill, lying fallow on my table. The loneliness overwhelming, the silence too loud.

Had an entry yesterday. A doctor’s appointment in Cape Town, some thirty minutes from my home.  Easily done in better days, now nervous to leave the sanctuary and dare the drive, but I had the letter of permission to travel – oh dear Lord, even writing this seems insane. I had something to do other than fear, and listen to the negativity and gloom, I could travel, albeit a mere distance.  Felt like an exploration, not without dread and the dread manifested in two police/military road blocks.  What should have taken little time, turned into an hour and half of stressful edging in traffic, being pulled off and questioned as to my purpose to get into my car in the first place.

Cape Town, like any other city in the world, is a lonely place, bereft of life. The doctor’s rooms a laboratory.  Sanitising to within  the layers of skin, shoe covers, head covers, masks and gown.  How can one be amongst a few and still feel so isolated and untouched?  But, as much as I have become a criminal in the foraging of wine in this country, I also discovered that there was a possibility of coffee, a real, barista type coffee, secretly vended at a service station.  Which service station was elusive but having had the letter to travel, I was determined to drink the beans before going back to lockdown.

At first I thought, it must be the service station at the airport, weary travellers and needing the fix and all that.  Veering towards the airport, I slammed into another roadblock, now having expired the appointment and no reason for being there.  This is fear, I thought: how to explain my reckless abandon of rules in search of coffee? I was interrogated, and turned back. Before leaving the freeway, I spotted the midas gold on the other side of the highway, it was to be true, sighting of red coffee cups outside the venue.  Only I was on the wrong side. Undaunted, I turned back over the bridge, made it to the place and order the largest grande whatever in existence.  Only to realise, stupid, stupid me, that now I was on the highway, back to Cape Town, contravening all rules and about to be arrested for getting a cup of coffee.  The fear, the angst, the delicious nectar.  In the end I managed to get back without a fine, or worse.

Angry. Astonished at the lengths I would go to for a bit of normality.  I am a London girl, coffee is our go to, our first stop, our conversation.  In a way our identity, how we call the order, feel caffeine mix with blood and strut to the tube empowered with our morning sanctuary. What the f…k is this all about? We face months of servitude to the virus, to the government and the not knowing what is going to happen, day after day, month after month.  Coming here before lockdown seemed a good idea, but will I still be lockdown when the rest of the world is coming back to life? There are questions, quiet resentment, lots of fear and no information as to when and how we shall overcome and find some semblance of normality – and most of all, be able to fly home. For me, the rebellion in finding a cup of great coffee was my stand.  But is it worth a diary entry? The coffee thing that is?

The United Kingdom, and many other countries have suffered great fatalities with the virus.  Life has ceased, and fallen apart in so many ways.  As with the rest of the world, but where I am, hunger is becoming more of a threat, than the virus.  Little can help those who cannot work, living in dire conditions and facing poverty and starvation. Seven weeks of no income is awful here.

And so, tonight, as I look at my diary, with helpless frustration, I don’t even want to think of maybe, when, whatever … hang on,  at least I thought so.  She may lie idle now, for who wants to record another day of nothingness (oh, I went for a walk, now allowed) and how many times I thought I saw a spider in the house … not so much.  We no longer speak or debate about Brexit, or can confirm dates, meetings, visits and now that I have cancelled my trips until when … the lethargy of uncertainty is of no value for the dairy.

But then, as a friend who has also survived a few rough years, and bought a guest house in December said: ‘We have been through so much worse, this is nothing and we are going to be fine’, I thought: unlike Pepys, I don’t want to record any more pain and suffering and write a plague diary … wait for the novels and plays etc … but I should record the little things that have taken precedence at this time. Like seeing the ocean again for the first time in weeks, how my hair is about to lose control of its own nature. How the human spirit is beginning to defy draconian laws.  Being there for others, supporting the frontline workers … hoping and hoping it will end, and how this mad woman, nearly got arrested in pursuit of a great cup of coffee.

Be safe, be well and dream of better … it will come.

 

What to say, we are all living in hope and counting the days …

What to say?  Always believed if you have nothing to say … don’t.  Try and sit on that, and then just go … there must be something to say in this epic plague (third world war?) time when we are all in lockdown and the world has come to a total standstill. Surely, like Samuel Pepys I should be recording the ‘worst of times’ and keep a diary for future generations to go … wow… really?

My diary is totally empty.  Seriously, I still use a week by week dairy to write in and it is … totally empty. Could note that I, let’s see, ate, slept, did the laundry, scrubbed, washed, ironed and then just … got so interminably tired of my own company. This lockdown thing could be, yay, I am on my own and not have to spend it with stuck with another, or sadly, I am stuck with me. Not sure which is the better, but this is not going to be a negative, wanting to lynch the spouse sort of post – it’s going to be,  weeks in and … is there still a world out there and what is madam doing within the walls of confined space.

Positive, definitely positive – sort of “About a Boy’ units of the day positive. I do the units.  An hour of this and an hour of that.

Let me begin with that ‘I don’t do Facebook’ secret.  A new group called ‘From my window’ has me connecting with others who wish to post their views from their windows. Jealous at some of the most magnificent views, and blessed when I see some others, like the view from your apartment is the inner courtyard with no direct sunlight all day. A view from a hotel room, there are many of those – wonderful people working in essential services who cannot be with their families.

On the Estate I am in at the moment, we are not allowed to walk around, never run or take the dogs out for a walk.  We are limited to our own properties. No buying of alcohol or cigarettes. The wine is dwindling, as is my sense of humour, but no, we shall be postive. And thinner I surmise, sans the alcohol, though unsurprising, as is the times, I have been offered ‘alcohol’ via dubious means, if I need it.  Nothing like a restriction to boost the illegal trading of alcohol, but I must admit, meeting a dubious character in a car park close by, to pay a months wages for sneaking the wine into my boot is still something I am going to resist, for now. She sips from the last bottle.

At first, all fearful, law abiding citizens and now the sneaking has started:  dog waling in the dark, running at five in the morning past my window, for fear of being caught.  As one is allowed to go to the shops, and we have a shopping centre outside the gates, one gentlemen walks at seven every morning, with a shopping bag in an attempt to fool us he is on his way to buy groceries – when the shops only open at eight am. Will the lockdown make creative criminals of us all eventually?

No, being productive is the answer when one’s life is confined to a few square feet.  And yes, I found a puzzle. I have resorted to the ‘le puzzle’ – one of Lake Como, which I was to visit later this month, so alas, puzzle will have to do.  What else? The random squat en route to the kettle has transformed into the walk/jog routine in my garage. Hit the music, run in circles and boy am I one proud mama for doing it.  A step up she thinks.  Told you I found the missing weights whilst chasing a mouse (now identified as a shrew) and so they are on the kitchen counter to be held, lifted and released when the toast is ready. Very proud.

We all know that nature is playing the upper hand at the moment:  fishes in Venice, flocks of seagulls on the West Coast and numerous lion, elands and other species on golf courses and taking over villages – sweet.  Not so sweet when you wake up to face a praying mantis on your pillow – not after the shrew, ants and noo noos in drains that have come to visit. Love nature, stay out of my house.  It’s like camping I say again.

Weekly visit to the shops.  I have a mask that looks like Donald Duck but I wear it, and my winter gloves from London. It is summer, going into Autumn here, but I wear the orange gloves and care not a fig how I look.  Which brings me to how I look.  Never one for camping, I am now as close as I shall ever be – no salon for the hair, no waxing ( and yes I did try the razor and yes, I shall suffer as a result) – been without make-up until I went, oh dear, I cannot face you in the mirror and today did it all, to be beautiful with my puzzle. One must look good whilst doing the puzzle of Lake Como.

Units I say, is everything.  We wake at ungodly hours for lack of a proper busy day, drink tea at four in the morning and resort to ‘The Daily Mail’ for something to do.  Ok, it’s awful I know, but I do read the other news and am being a good girl on the content page.  Magical watching of streamed galleries, exhibitions, documentaries and the odd, smaltzh on Netflix. Somehow cannot watch anything gruesome for, for me, gruesome is right outside at the moment.

Out drunk on the peppermint tea, the green tea, the ordinary tea, the instant coffee (would I give my life for a proper take away coffee) and so over thinking about what next to eat. So over most of this actually but being positive, I am updating playlists, emails, photographs and over the memes and funny stuff which has paled to the reality of it all.

Waking up. Grateful that I can. Getting through the day. Planning. Oh, I am so going to travel more than ever before, even to Brighton if I must, but travel. To be on a tube, a train and a plane again. Tried the sewing, nah!  Tried the freezing of food – awful experience – tried the meditation – even worse. Talked to my plants, imagined a new career and spent a whole lot of time looking at my nails after eating them for lack of something else to do. Being positive people. Have avoided any challenges, like downing a raw egg and talking stock of my life, again.  Ugh what is this about too much time and contemplation, constantly think I need to re-value my life, all the time.

It has been good, I say. I am being quiet, appreciative and planning.  All has changed for sure. The world will never be as we know it and I plan to be part of the new one, what do you call it …

What to do tomorrow? The same as today, I guess. Another squat and three planks. That’s all for now.  Oh, and never admit that the puzzle is bloody hard. Never.

Don’t look at the dark side right now. Miss my boys on the balcony, my friends and family and oh, yes, have the Zoom thing down pat … with the make-up, because let’s face it, looking at oneself on Zoom is not a pretty sight, and we do keep looking at ourselves, don’t we? To the frontier, to the getting out of the hoodies and sweatpants and no make-up, we have got this!

Be safe, be ok and be planning for the great you to be…We will get through this and smile …

I am thinking of you all of you out there and love you for being yourselves at this time  … We Silver Streeters have each other …

 

Gently, gently we need to tread. Gently to dispel the dread. To nature we shall cling …

 

‘The woods looked simply glorious in the morning sun, and all nature was at

its best.  Fancy a war on in surroundings like this.  It seems unthinkable.’

Private J.W. Graystone, of the 10/East Yorkshire Regiment, wrote of his camp

at Authie on the Somme.

 

There is a plague upon all our houses. A war of a different kind.

I have been silent for weeks – perhaps too disbelieving as to what was unfolding, uncurling like an evil, alien creature, to infect the world as we know it. Seemingly surreal, we witness life shut down, jobs dissipate, incomes flutter and space more and more limited. Sometimes I think that it wouldn’t matter what I say, would anyone be listening anyway, does it matter (it does to me) – and angry at all the awfulness that spills like an oil slick on a pristine sea.

I don’t really know – but what I do know is that my life, and everyone else’s, will never be the same again. I want to blame who I think is to blame, but blame is hot air. No longer matters. Human nature, in these circumstances, swings from jovial banter (the thousands of memes are testament to that)  boosting our spirits as we distance ourselves, to the worst traits, fake news and crashing negativity.  Not for a second can I be blasé about the situation we are in, we are burying thousands – but I also know if I want to keep sane for the days to come, fear will take me down.

Far from my family in isolation, on another continent, for the time being.  This is what I find the most difficult to deal with.  When all the fluff of life filters to the pavement, it is family and the people you love, you want to be closest too.  Fortunate in that my children are all isolating together, with George, who continues to coax giggles and offer hugs as only an animal can,  thus ensuring the adequate levels of love and optimism in their confined space remain high. They are together and that is a great comfort to me.  Many are separated and find themselves in foreign climes, we need to be aware of that and pray they will get home when the restrictions are lifted.

 

This is the crossroads of choice. Common sense tells us to be cautious, self isolate and take extra medical and hygienic care.  Washing of hands for 20 seconds (I have come to see doing this as my spiritual ritual).  Much thinking and absolving and washing away of oh, so many thoughts …  More importantly, the choices, of optimism and fortitude.  There are generations below us who are facing more trials in the future – adding our woes to this tragedy does not help them.  It has them worrying about us – if I am positive, no matter how fearful, at least it is one less voice of doom.  Courage is my choice (though I do have the little melt down, in private, which is ok) as is refraining from sinking in the mire of tragedy lovers.

What I am doing is rising up to my renewed faith in nature.  My renewed faith in faith. How long has it been since I really paid attention? I mean, really paid attention, as a child does staring into a pond,  fishing for tadpoles, or studying a rock pool for ages?  Not just listening to birds but attempt to learn their unique calls, coax my sickly icebergs back to life and lie on my back, in the afternoon, now that I have the time to do very little, and stare at the clouds. To the trees I go.  If this sounds twee, that is exactly what it is – nature is calming and more importantly, it is the reminder that:

The ability of nature to endure, despite the bullets and blood, gave the men a psychological,

spiritual, religious uplift.  The unconquerability of nature provided the reassurance

that life itself would go on, that there was after all a purpose and meaning to things.’

 

Johan Lewis-Stemple

‘Where Poppies Blow.’

Our war right now may be different, the dread the same, but already one hears of increased birdsong, cleaner waters, less pollution as we go into hiding.  Nature’s resilience and that gorgeous light in the morning is my song against the darkness.  With calm, common sense and the beauty all around us in the natural world, we are going to be fine.

Already looking at my life, and the world around me with new, heightened senses.  Still get scared, there is loss on a scale unprecedented, and then there is us … the breaking and the making of us.

What will you be doing during the lockdown to take the fear and keep calm at this time?  Let me know, even if it’s just to share.  We all need to support each other.  Stay safe.

 

Quote from ‘Where Poppies Blow’ – The British Soldier.  Nature.  The Great War. by John Lewis-Stempel 2016. Published by Weidenfield & Nicholson. London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn in London – The first letter.

Whim Wood

Katherine Towers

into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter

Am sitting in the pub, possibly one of the most ‘infamous, or famous’ pubs in London for a quick spot of lunch today.  Done the walk through for the actual ‘Belgravia Pubs’ Tour this afternoon.  What another spectacular, Autumnal day it is. We have been spoilt, and possibly going to incur deluge from now on, but I have revelled in this season.

Though not doing any volunteering at Ham House at present, have popped in often to sit in the Kitchen garden and watch the turning of the soil, the squashes stacked like sweetie jewels and walk about to Richmond along the river.  The gentleness of the season quite takes me by surprise.  Hopefully I shall be back at Ham in time.  The richness of the time is so evident in Richmond Park – stags and bambi’s in the bracken. But it is the trees, it is the leaves, it is the colours one cannot quite explain. This is why we English speak about the weather all the time – it changes so radically, is so specific and part of our psyche here.  You had to be here for Halloween, children all of us, shop windows, houses and every available space draped in cobwebs and witchery – nothing unusual to see adults shopping in Waitrose for wine, full Halloween make-up and a cape or two, carrying a carved out pumpkin, before jumping on the tube.

 

 

Have not had the opportunity to get out to see Autumn in the countryside, but I did get to see the King’s Kitchen Garden, and Versailles, before they close for the winter.  A day trip to Vaux de Vicomte, just outside of Paris, was a further treat.  In the Autumn and winter months, the real structure of the gardens come to the fore – the lavish foliage and colour fades to reveal the bones of design, the linear shapes of hedges and box – the starkness of fountains, statues and follies – stripped and strong. This I shall write more about.  Am still savouring my honey from the Jardin du Roi – more special to know the source of the food you eat.

The clearest sign ending the British Summer is the changing of the clocks. We now have an extra hour in the morning but it gets darker, earlier and personally, I would have it as is – I can handle more darkness in the morning, but to find the darkness come early, is usually when the black dog comes lurking out from behind the haunted house, so to speak. It makes for a very long evening and by December, feels as if I am permanently in a thick sludge of soup.  Other than the past years, and so remembering when I first came to live in England, I am determined to be more positive about it.  Don’t quite now how but if you have any ideas, please let me know.

Inspired by the Venetian jewel colours, I have so enjoyed adding a few new items to the Autumn wardrobe. Hobbs is spot on with their rich tartan skirt in burnt orange, I just had to have it, adding a divine matching cashmere polo neck top – the skirt is a statement; block coloured jumpers in a variety of shades and voilá, you are sorted.  Fell in love with their classic, black jeans – in the basket it went. Marks and Spencer’s ‘could it be vermilion? matching trio of scarf, gloves and beanie just has me at ‘Hello Burnt Da Vinci colours’ – loving the new additions.  My heavy coat is still back in Cape Town, but the layer dressing of – Uniglo‘s thinly padded purple jacket tucked under the good old faithful Barbour, really works. 

Country Living would be proud.  And now I have a grand puppy!  One of the highlights of this Autumn in London, is being with my family and little George.  The leaves in the park are almost bigger than him, but going for walks in Bishop’s Park, has opened up a whole new world for all of us.  There is another society out there (we are new to this) of dog lover’s,  more like dog-children lover’s which makes the Universe a  much better place. George has brought laughter and happiness;  he is so little and yet so brave.  So curious and so loyal, and that soft George belly has me at putty in his little paws. 

Another lovely addition to the chapter in My Silver Street, has been a beginning of ‘putting my courage to the sticking place’ and … taking up Art.  What began as a weekend course at The Wallace Collection, an absolute refuge for me, has developed into a fun meeting up of friends at the National Portrait Gallery for ‘Drop in Lates’ and classes with the beautifully talented and ‘very kind to me’ Art lecturer,  Alison Kusner – I am pretty dire, and she makes me feel like my art is unique and wonderful (I think her far too flattering) – I shall endeavour and what better time than this, when the nights draw in closer,  to be found in a gallery, perched on a chair with charcoals in your hand?  Loved the Pre-Raphaelite Sister’s exhibition.
This has been our Autumn in London. The Dutch Masters and Impressionists would have revelled in the glory of the golden time. It has been a golden time.  Living in the room has improved, I travelled to Europe in Autumn, the cafe is still lovely (did you know I was back there) and now I am waiting to take some lovely clients on a walk around the pubs of Belgravia.  The pub I am sitting in now, was, it is said, where the elite and the gangsters sat side by side.  Place of the Profumo affair and the planning of the Great Train Robbery …
Giving tours in London, discovering so much more of this incredible city at every turn, finding the stories, the history and the reasons that we all stay here, is a delicious way of being purposeful and earning a living.  Hard work, lots of learning and walking, but so rewarding.  Perhaps one day you can join me?  Have a look at Coutours – we also do bespoke tours for ten or fifty guests – perhaps a voucher for a loved one for Christmas?  We have plenty of tales to weave through the wonder of London. 

And of course … South Africa won the World Cup Rugby!  Delighted that both the English and South African teams make the final but was rooting for South Africa all the way – the win means more than just the game.  It means hope and injected a little more spirit into a beleaguered country, reminding us of the possibilities of greatness still lying within her midst.  That was amazing. Well done to all of you.

As Bridget Jones would say ‘ must dash’.

Chat soon.

Images: The Guardian, Secret London, Time out

Poem: Katherine Towers

 

Giving yourself a guilt free day.

A work in progress.  Negative vibes are like spiders – I hate them but somehow they keep finding me.  Everything about them is insidious and scary, and dealing with them is difficult.  Trés difficult, ugh and ugh again.  Like spiders however, if not dealt with, the negative thoughts, they will ruin the most beautiful day.

Most of my negative thoughts are related to guilt.  Whatever it is, I screwed up on something, forgot about something, did not do something else.  The idea of wasting valuable time, not exercising more, drinking too much wine.  Letting down a loved one, being selfish, starting a project and failing to deliver, it is a road map of life. With age, guilt grows.

Let’s give ourselves a break.  A guilt free day.  Can feel guilty tomorrow but negative, not today.  Choosing a guilt free day is a conscious decision to acknowledge that, like spiders, guilt and negative feelings exist.  Everyone’s soul needs a holiday.

Make today the ‘hold on the inner critic’ day.  You can beat yourself up again tomorrow if you like.

I have excelled at the beating up, inner critic, guilt ridden syndrome.  Drive everyone, including myself, crazy with it at times.  This is a new week, and in that a new beginning, so rather than the weekend, today is the day from being negative.  Liberating and you know why? Because I acknowledge that it is not going to be a permanent thing, that I admit that negativity will come again, like those bloody spiders, but allowing myself small spaces of ‘guilt free’ moments, is taking control and these will increase as I learn how to do it more succinctly.

So what shall we do with the Guilt free day?

Guilt and negativity can be an opioid. Weaning step by step is the way to go.

And I ask again, what will you do with a guilt free day?  Have to go, much to do.

Images: kindovermatter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tale of two women, and a young Malawian.

Life is indeed a fragile experience, and yet there is joy to be found in the purest of places.

I am still learning.  It has been cold, very, very cold here.  Nothing like the British winters and there was me going ‘what, this is nothing’ … until I realised that my little house is in fact an igloo of the severest sort.  There is no central heating, a wall heater that pretends and does not deliver, and me wrapped in layers, beginning each day, with resolve to fly back to London.

Immersed in the history that is my family life, I have been clearing. Saying goodbye to the past of clutter, things I have held onto when things fell apart and making mental notes of what to keep and what will move with me again, should I decide to do so.  Sipho works for me once every two weeks.  Despite my questioning her super early arrival (knowing she needs to rise and get a taxi to get here) there she was at the door, still dark.

We chat a little and move around each other in silence.  Still unused to having help, hover with offers of tea but secretly love the fact that she and Dosha are here; it brings out the nurturing in me and I love being ‘mum’ again.  I fear they think I overfeed them, pack extra to take home and have a multitude of extra tea sets, linen, books and furniture which I offer, as I mentioned before. These trail away in backpacks and carry bags. Today however Dosha announced he had found someone with a truck to collect the old carpet and chairs.  My rejects, their delight and only too aware of this.  Why hoard what few will ever enjoy, I think. Wonder what mum would think of her tea sets in the townships?

The late afternoon has me taking Sipho to the bus stop.

‘Do you have heating in your home?’ I ask.

‘No, nothing.  We have blankets.  I do not live in a house, in a shack and the wind is very cold.’ she replies demurely.

‘How many of you live there?’ I asked.

‘There are ten of us. My family, my mother, my husband’s brother and his family.’

I had no answer, but having dropped her off, I burst into tears, driving in tears.  You are so lucky I mouthed between sobbing, despite having so little, when I am missing my children too much.  You have not been lanced with the arrow of loneliness. There I was, sharing the day with a woman who struggles, yet has warmth waiting in family.  The warmth of family close by, conversation and communal eating together.  To come home to. To come home to has changed for me. Comfort, but cold comfort at times.

The man with the truck did not come through for Dosha.  Already dark, he arrived with friends in a car and somehow they managed to fit a huge carpet, two chairs, a mirror and three bags into it. Flashback to us moving in London in the little car. Thanking me profusely for the ‘gifts’, he asked one more favour. Lying in the garage was a ‘Horrible History’ book on WW1.  Would he be able to have it, to read? Oh my Lord, the tears were right there.

Walking back into my chilly, but beautiful, secure home, alone, I felt humbled and old. And sad, and grateful, and made a little wiser by the day. They are huddling close tonight and I am writing this. Grateful for my family, though far, missing them and silently determined to make a change for them, and for me, for it is in the purest moments, one learns the most about yourself, and it is not about having, but sharing.  That is all.

 

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