The Pandemic P’s and how you will flourish in the midst of it.

‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity:

An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’

Winston Churchill

 

Sometimes words just don’t mean much when your life has fallen apart.  There are no clichés powerful enough to make you feel better.  Trivial platitudes don’t cut it when the soul lies lifeless and the heart is torn apart.  We question life itself; what is the point of all the struggle and loss?  It is in the understanding of why, why not, and how I deal in times of trouble, that I was forced to re-evalute, re-direct and re-adjust my life, over and over again.

Some of the scariest moments in my life, I willingly, or unwillingly, contributed to.  They were partly of my making.  Life came to easily to me, and when it all went wrong, after the outfall, I had to face up to some very hard facts – and how I was going to move forward from that point I thought I would never have the courage. Call it growing up. At my age. Call it facing the truth about oneself, but in all the darkness, like now, like the five stages of death, we are faced again with something out of our control, and rather than give into the wasteland, we need to see this as an opportunity to look deep, open the wounds, find the source and change what needs to be changed, to be ready when we can no longer blame the war, but take responsibility for how we are going to embrace what we find in the next step.

The Pandemic caught us all unaware.  It may change, but for now, these are the 5 P’s that most account for my getting through this time, and I hope it helps you too.

 


  • PANIC

Of course.  Not at first, we sort of became numbed individuals as the reality of this illness arrived, like fog over an airport, and we are no longer able to carry on as normal.  Orders to wash our hands, wear gloves and cough into our sleeves, that was all.  Panic grew as the numbers of casualties and deaths increased – this was becoming something serious.  Plans to stay at home, and get to the home we were going to stay in, for a little while … till it all blew over and the skies opened up again.  Bad news became the norm, we really began to panic; about food, medical supplies, not seeing family and friends.  Everything closed up – this becomes real, we are in seige mode.  The war has begun and we are totally unequipped for the onslaught.

The level of panic remains for we have no cure.  Anxiety leads to sleepless nights, frayed reactions.  We are locked in, or locked out.  Arguments happen, snapping at others increases, loss of freedom leads to cabin fever and not working, to listlessness.  Initial banter and resilience wanes. WE are all pessimists, and rightly so – the enemy will not stand still.

Accept the panic, it still comes in waves, but this, for me, subsides as a hibernating bear.  As long as I don’t prod or defy it, I can tred lightly.


  • PAUSE

Difficult.  Being asked to.  We are not a generation of small stuff.  Big lives, bold moves.  Time turns to water. Days to a dripping tap. We are in the shelter of hoarding and waiting.  Obedient. The day before grows stale, as the jokes and memes and catching up with those you don’t really feel the need to anymore.  Longing for those you do grows intense. In the pause, you are willing new things; the learning of a language for a country you cannot visit, the baking of food you have no taste for. Cleaning with vigour to find some order.  Everything known to you looks different. Effort becomes the operative word.  Elastic pants your friend.  The Pause period, which we are still in right now, is one of letting go, be it willingly or not caring a damn, is dangerous.  We begin to accept what we would never before. And we are tired, tired to the bone of expecting, of media, of all the horrendous reality of our state of being, outside the window, and inside our souls. The excitement of the pandemic affair, deflates very quickly.

Times I am so down, listening to myself breath is enough. The fog is everywhere still, but, and it is a lovely but, the eyes begin to focus of the small stuff. The heart flings aside the fluff and the mind … the mind is a mess, but its time for a spring clean.  You have enough time now, no excuses and, oh my, the dust is everywhere, physically and spiritually, everywhere. Recognise that we have no choice but to pause, and in that pausing, recalibrate.

With time on my hands, and planes on the ground, I did the anger, and the wallowing, and the doing nothing in depression, and am facing the third stage.  Like the levels we are being forced to live in now.


  • PRAISE

If you keep a gratitude dairy, you will understand the meaning of praise. Giving thanks for the good things in your life, for moments that mean so much, for others who contribute to your happiness.  I don’t have a gratitude diary, more like an angst journal, but being alone in lockdown, the person I have to face, and give some praise to, is myself. Praise all those I love, they know that, and now it’s time to turn inward.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to praise yourself.  Over, and over again.  Whatever you think about being egotistical and rather be self depreciating, let it go.  You are your own soldier here.  The one going to walk out with, you. Gosh, you have made it this far, warts and all, with all the scars and the journey can only get better now.  Strip the layers of negativity you wrap around yourself and now is the time to do it.  Everyday.

It’s not about losing twenty pounds or running for office.  Not about being prisoner to the past, or martyr to falling down.  This is the time to be super honest, and super selfish.  Praise in the time of pandemic of self love at her best.  Be vulnerable, be honest and then be loving, and complimentary. You are  amazing, and if you need a makeover to be phenomenal, now is the time.

Praise everything you have, and are.  Everything you thought you needed and now don’t anymore.  Praise simple aspects of your day; how you put on your make-up, change the sheets, fold the linen.  Praise the messages you send, the kindness you exude, the ability to finish a crossword/puzzle and savour the way you taste your first sip of wine, toss the pasta – make is a slow, deliberate act of daily things that you do in your own special way.  A compliment to you, your own dance.

To praise is to reflect and say … I am ok.  I am not perfect, but I am no longer defined by others.  When the lockdown ends, be sure of a few surprises … and if you are not alone, no need to share this pact with yourself.  To go all the way to the inner most part of you, is the restoration and re-invention of the rest of your life.  Question everything. You have the answers already.

 


  • PLAN

This time would be such a waste if we did not plan for better.

Now that you have survived the initial wave, sat around watching the paint dry (or every series on Netflix) – now that you have taken stock of the things that make up your life, and your life itself, now is the time to plan.  So often we follow a path in our lives established by environmental factors, or falling into patterns of place and people that we bump along, quite happily.  Some are still on that road, happy and content.  Some have found some bumps and fell into a ditch. There is nothing that truly dictates what we should and should not do.  Just because you don’t come from a family of avid cooks, it is not too late to become a maestro chef, an artist, a journalist.  So you have never lived alone, become a CEO of your own company, or even written a blog, but that should not stop you.

The universe has thrown the room quite open.  Everything is up for grabs. I have always loved ‘The Invitation‘ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and thus I send it to you.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Just saying – this takes courage, and it brings rewards.  This is the time.  Plan for a journey, a career, a whatever – yes even in My Silver Street time, and greatness is close.


  • PERFORM

Here is the most difficult lesson.  The most difficult part.  The follow through.

We will survive this Pandemic.  We will be patient and go through all the stages. When it does end, will we perform? Take all we have been through and take centre stage in our lives, as we should?

I know I cannot go back.

Will meet you at the café of Life for the best coffee and the new stories of us.

Images: Youtube, Love this pic.

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.

One rose can be your garden.

If daybreak brought about a misguided twittering for sorting the social media, it has ended in an argument. A desire to pick up a fountain pen and write an entry that requires scratchy nib on paper and a dash of sherry.  All efforts of managing passwords, updating profiles and back and forth, back and ruddy forth to get a new code, change a forgotten golden password, is a teary endeavour and I lost.  It turns out I have three Twitter accounts, none of which I can change, or delete without upsetting the other one, and I want none of it.  If I must cull all to create anew I shall, but on another day.

The proverbial cherry was a message sent by a friend. Is this you, she queried with a link on Face Book. Now, what was I to make of that?  Was it me who sent it, perhaps cloning or being disrespectful?  Was I in the You tube link doing God know what?  Such were the words and just as the fingers tapped into a strange URL I shrank back in horror and closed the window.  Did I touch the devil himself?  Turns out my friend thought I had sent it, changed my password, apologies to all and have now decided, I am going focus on something lovely rather than the mean, disrespectful lot out there. Vulgar, human or not.

Sometimes one just has to step away.  Counselling has taught me that.  When things cannot be conquered, or changed, go smaller.  For me that can be a number of things.  And only lockdown has taught me the value of these, more prominent, more acute, more lasting.  I have learnt the value of a perfect cup of tea. The British answer to everything. Be it the cup of char, the infusion, the rooibos, whatever your fancy – it is the brewing and savouring that brings relief.  The good book.  I can write volumes on this – for years every joining a book club and finding drivel in the ‘Number one best seller.’  Topical – like a screenplay, must have angst, heartbreak, rivalry and for that extra touch, rape. I am talking about a book that will transport in words, create heavenly images, triumph in the everyday. A good, intellectual book will touch the soul rather than pass the time. An excellent glass of wine.  Past times, wine was water with a twist, had vat loads of it – now to look, sip and savour.  A long, languishing bath with classical music, and bubbles – so long that the skin will winkle and the wrinkles of the mind ease.

A pet cuddle.  Miss those but appreciate them more now.  And a garden. You may not have one but to be in one is like falling into the personification of beauty.  I found a few roses ready for the vase today, as you see, and rather than plonk, I placed each one lovingly, in a vase and thought, where would you like to live in my home? Making a meal, not for mere consumption, but glorification of the dish. Each action, each process, one of deliberate undertaking. These little things take me away from the fraught time, the uncertainty and down, down into the enjoyment of just letting the mindful cake be placed in the oven and keeping the door closed until it is time.

We cannot run at this time.  We have to slow down, but slowing in a fashion of fusion of little things.

And of course, family.  This is a wonderful accumulation of blood, of amity, of others we chose to spend our lives giving ourselves to. The definition has changed over the decades.  We can love whom we please now, at last.

The day is complicated with the times now.  To re-design lives and work that will not fit anymore. Becoming more imaginative to survive, re-direct, re-shape, rediscover who we are, what we want and how to make it work.  It is not so new really, it is just our new time.  So, in the morning of got to get going, find some way to make a living, pay the bills, validate our identities, I was ready to give up with … at this age, now, what the hell do I know and how am I going to convince myself and everyone else, that I still matter – to, it will come, there is time … will go back to the simple measures of breathing in, breathing out, putting the cake in the over and waiting for it to rise, without hurry, until the answers come, in the small soaking up of what makes me happy.

Tomorrow to tame the beast.  Today, home. Be it here, there, in a one bed flat or a four bedroomed house, if there is a garden, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a good book, a soft nuzzle, a bath and my family … it will come.  And be extraordinary. It will be a different, but a better journey home.

 

 

 

 

Victory in Europe, travel and resilience. Going somewhere slowly.

Today, seventy-five years ago, Europe, breathed again.  Victory in Europe day.  Enemy defeated, though years of hardship lay ahead.  Survivors remained frightened, mourned, lost incomes, homes, the semblance of normality.  Individuals questioned just about everything, trusted few … had little to hold onto, but, little by little, began again.

The war to end all wars.  Not so much.  We are in the midst of The Third World War, only this time the enemy is an unseen virus.  We will get through this, and most now acknowledge that the world as we know it, and ourselves, will never be the same.  We will take the rubble of life remaining and build something quite unique.  My daughter keeps telling me that the previous war went on for four years, I should be patient after wanting it done within weeks.  We are an impatient lot, are we not?

In this strange time, my thoughts turn to sowing seeds and watching things grow. I can’t remember the last time I planted seeds.  The other day someone spoke of October and instinctively, I thought, that’s months ahead, I won’t be here … and they cancelled my flight to London, indefinitely. The idea of doing the same thing, day in and day out is foreign to me, but perhaps I will learn.  Cancelling all my travel plans today, hotels and Eurostar brought such sadness to my heart.  In the ensuing boredom of mid-lacklustre morning, scratching around the house for want of something to do (apart from the incessant cleaning), I found a wooden box, filled with my mother, and grand-mother’s photographs.  There are oceans of them floating around, these taken on a trip to Europe, a mere four years after VE day in 1945.

First trip to see family in Holland since the war.  Visit other European countries, travelling again.  The moment did not go amiss.  Was is not for my parent’s love of travel, I would not have walked past St. Paul’s weeks ago. During the war, a German bomb pierced the dome of St. Paul’s, destroying the high alter.  In 1945 services given in thanks for the end of the war, was attended by more than 35 000 people – the church survived.  I pop into the side chapel whenever I can. Notre Dame is being rebuilt.  We need to witness these magnificent symbols of man’s ability to create, design, paint, plant and build, to be in awe.  We travel to experience these pillars of man’s resilience under adversity, in and to tame nature, to glorify God or the gods, to be humbled and surprised.

How patient my parents, and their parents must have been back then, waiting to travel again.  To see for themselves how the world has changed.  To re-connect again. How patient must we be?

Today is VE day.  Against the odds, the war ended.  Maybe we will have a VE (virus elimination) day soon.  Pray it happens.

Have a blessed weekend and keep the spirit – it’s been weeks since the Hag meltdown thank goodness … looking back to plan going forward.

 

A strange, but lovely week.

Cannot tell you how enveloped with the pride at managing the second week of ‘Couch to 5K’ and the soothing voice of Sarah Millican, though I think I may require physiotherapy quite soon.  This is the body of the 60 something – there is the fortitude and strong belief, and then there is the reality of wanting to, from sloth to super marathon, in isolation syndrome.

It is a syndrome, like the Stockholm syndrome;  the angst and terror has become an intimate bond of small spaces and the real desire to ‘begin again’ – clear all, delete all and gather the threads.  Finding half embroidered project abandoned years ago – shall finish that.  Open the puzzle (did so with great fever) – if I can manage one piece per day, quite chauffed.  All these things being rather attached to becoming unattached, it is a syndrome.  One good thing though, as the Hag is slowly transforming into Corona Syndrome of coping, calculating and blah, am no longer succumbing to all day and night attire, or flicking the edge of the duvet in an illogical attempt to convince myself ‘what does it matter anyway.’  The hair is now balayage – am not going gray with threads of luscious platinum – it’s murky mordor with follicles of grey on the top and remnants of burlesque blond at the bottom. And I am getting used to it. Go figure, I haven’t lamented about the lack of salon once – except for the waxing.

I digress.  I am doing well, as I am sure you are.  I am also about to run out of wine again and the restriction on that front is a mirage, enough said.  There are ways and then there is always pineapple beer – if I can do the hair, I can ferment something in the garage. Depends of the level of mania.

One of the more fetching activities over the past few weeks, has been the restoration of my slither of a garden.  For want of any garden centre open, I have been talking (yes, we know) and coaxing my roses to what is now a shower of white blooms throughout.  Summer splendour. Was I not too acutely aware of how boring photos of single blooms are (little like some food photos) I would present my pretties.  Gardening and Spring.  Hence Monet’s garden. The book was bought there on my first visit in 2007 and I have been back for more.  Longing for the repeat.

Another, ‘The English Garden’ by Peter Coats.  At least twenty years old.  I have so many gardening books and always dreamed of owning one, with borders and a kitchen garden, how about you?  This has not turned out to be (though I still dream) and it does not lessen my love for visiting others.  It’s about the ethereal beauty of creating and taming nature. Ethereal beauty.  Makes me happy.

What else inspired me this week.  A few links you may enjoy.

  • Of course, a little gardening to begin with.  Love Alan Titchmarsh and Country Life has offers some of his wisdom.
  • Passionate crush on Peonies, and yes, more gardening advice from The English Garden, on how to grow them.
  • Do you know about the National Garden Scheme?  These are private gardens, some offering B&B options and if you love gardens, make a plan to see some in England.  Enjoy the virtual tours of some of the most stunning on show.
  • Longing for Paris? Afar will help you be a Parisian in the lockdown (not so much comfort) of your own home. Viva all those croissants.
  • Talking Paris? David Lebovitz will help you create a bar in your own home.  Look for his virtual classes on his website. Love his journey to Paris and making a new life, his own way.
  • Setting the background to a groundhog, lockup day. Hip Paris.

Is it  all about gardening and Paris? C’est vrai.  These are the happy places, the garden and a memory trip to Paris.  Been a week of real frustration, then feeling bad about being frustrated because so many are worse off, and then being frustrated because, at sixty, life has a few more chapters and I feel as if I am in limbo in one.

We are all in limbo. We are all feeling fragile and lost. Strange times indeed.  But is this not the perfect time to also take stock of that long … yes … long life and go … ain’t done yet, and plan.  Perhaps for the first time you are putting yourself first? Going for the make or break? Changing what you think was a given to a bust up of set things?

It has been a strange week indeed. Angry, annoyed, anxious but so worth buckling down to change.  For in the fear, the lack of fear is the one true thing we can give ourselves.  It is a gift to dream, and not fear if all is still out there.  Take care of yourself, give yourself a break and dream.  No matter where you are now … you owe it to yourself to dream, be it a trip to Paris, a lovely garden, friends and family and getting off that couch. You are worth more …fyi … you are here.  Where to tomorrow?

Let’s see and go there. My homework is done, I have passed (albeit with maybe not the best marks) but nothing like a little lockdown to fuel the ambition.

Take care …

Isn’t life just full of lovely flowers this week.

Bon Jour to you and you and you and you …

Well into the New Year and the positivity bunny is still sitting next to me.  Admittedly, the Summer weather and daily dips in the Ocean may have something to do with the wellness factor, but there are other natural highs I drip feed into my soul.  Like planning small trips this year: talked about Paris and the Eurostar is booked.  My return to the ‘Grand Tour’ heaven of Lake Como is in the dairy and this time I may spend more time in Milan.  Anyone have great tips on Milan?

Cape Town and the wine lands is incredible.  As I write, I am overlooking the Atlantic from the 8th floor of my friend’s apartment, with a view that will quickly run out of superlatives. South Africa is unique, home from home and so beautiful – despite the problems, she remains feisty, sexy and strong.

Needless to say, the mind is full of flowers – when is it not, she asks, but today especially, it is full of flowers and inspiration around the blooms. Doing the flowers for a special Bridal Shower was like literally, oh leave me alone to just indulge in my passion.  The theme was an Afternoon Garden party, so the floral design was all about whimsical blooms: lots of roses, gypsophila, lisianthus, scabious and cow parsley.  Gentle flowers that create a free flowing prettiness.  Smaller vases filled with garden herbs such as lavender, rosemary and fennel flowers – the scent was perfume perfection.

With Flowers and Paris in mind, and so many other lovely articles I read over the past two weeks, I thought I would share them with you:

Love all things French, so this was a great inspiration for the New Year. We will be having four days in Paris, and though I have been many times, always looking for new ways to show my friends.  Good dining and flowers together, should check this one out. And then there is the ‘how to be a true Parisian‘ and more inspiration. Moreover, I am moving towards a more eco-friendly way of life, and this company really inspires me too!  It is possible if you look for brands that are vegan friendly and gentle with nature.

No trip to Paris would be complete without tasting, at least, a few dozen pastries – I am a sucker for the sweet things in Paris.

Back to the flowers.  One of the more lazy moments I have in the day, are spent watching the ever addictive You Tube.  Tulipina is a favourite of mine, and again, always learning.  Tulipina started her business with a passion for flowers, a website, instagram and true belief in her art of creating different and impactful floral designs.

A recent crush, and if only I were in Versailles the week before our trip, I would definitely join Molly on this course. Adore the town of Versailles, the Chateau and the Jardin du Roi, so a pastry course in the heart of Versailles, close enough to do in a day trip from Paris, would have been perfect.  Perhaps in the future?

Without bees, there would be no flowers – and little else in the future if we don’t take care of them.  As much as I love alternative ‘milk’ in my lattes, a sobering article on Almond milk.  St. Clements no longer offers Almond milk as an alternative, but one can still have soy and oat milk if the real thing is not your thing.

This year is a personal drive to being more conscious of our environment. I should have been all the time, but sometimes even I slip up on the plastic, the easy alternative and the not so great effort at recycling. Climate change is real and terrifying – I believe even the daffodils are coming up earlier, wow! Used to be in March, then February, and now some are popping up when we should be having snow in England.

It has been a fabulous week.  A floral, frilly week.  Going to the suppliers, getting the mechanics sorted, working with pure gorgeousness in petals and stems.  A wonderful Bridal Shower, and of course, always a pleasure to work with and admire, and eat, the delectable creations made by Lulubelle’s bakes, without whom the Bridal Shower would not have been so heavenly.

Till next time, get creative and embrace you life.

 

 

 

Planning for Paris 2020 – a special birthday.

It’s what I adore about a New Year.  All the plans and details and filling the diary with ideals and wishes you want the year to bring. Paris is of course, always uppermost.  Paris has been my ‘other love’ for over a decade, since I moved to London and found the ease of visiting Paris a secret loveliness, all of my own.

When the great re-location to London became more of an early coping in a new world, and nothing like I ever dreamed of, Paris offered me the sanctuary I desperately needed.  The London of tourists experience was nothing to the actual landing with the bump kind of experience my family endured.  Life reduced from the beautiful South Africa existence. We managed, failed on some levels, grew, and changed. In the midst of letting go and embracing a small and often daunting different situation, I discovered the great, and achievable passport, via the Eurostar, to Paris.  We have been in love ever since.

This year, the diary is poised for the return. The love affair has not diminished. With my family, friends or on my own, I have grown to know her small streets and captivating nuances. We know each other well.  In the past years, at least two or three trips a year, it has been Paris in the Spring, the Summer, magnificent Autumn, and always in the Winter ( I think I prefer the latter, just before Christmas when the tourists are gone and the bones of this lovely city still has me in awe.) Love the gardens, the parks, the shopping and side walk stopping for coffee – with Hemingway in mind – and the romance of Paris that still exists.

But, it is a New Year!  And a trip with a special person to celebrate her 60th birthday. The brief is such: Four days in Paris, guided by me, and a hotel with a garden or courtyard to return to in the evenings. A very special occasion.  We have done Paris before, my lovely friend and I, many times, only this time it’s going to be even more memorable.

This is the brief and the gift I can give. Four days in June to remember forever as being a milestone and, enchanting. My usual little hotel in the Opera district does not have a courtyard.  But no matter, the research has begun. Should it be on the right bank, close to the Opera for easy access to the Madeleine and Rue Saint Honoré for shopping, Paris style, or closer to the Place des Voges and the Marais?  Then there is the Left bank and all her gifts, the Café du Flore and Les Deux Margots to people watch? Always have to do the custom people watching from the illustrious vantage points. So important n’cest pas?

A visit to Deyrolle. Must be done for it is the ultimate scene in ‘Midnight in Paris’. Hidden gem, though a little disconcerting.

Any suggestions about the perfect hotel? With a courtyard or garden room?

A day to Giverney maybe?  A day to Versailles – most definitely. Got that covered. Restaurants, sorted.

Want this to be amazing!  Memorable.

What a good excuse to go over earlier – to sort of recce the city again. The deals on the Eurostar in February and March are enticing, so perhaps that is a good reason to visit before we go and celebrate.

This photograph was taken when I was in Paris for my 60th with my family. Captured a perfect moment on the bridge.  Paris is all about the bridges over the Seine – the not there anymore lovelock bridge, the Pont Alexandre 111, the Point Neuf bridge, so many to cross. And the parks – the Rodin Museum, the D’Orsay and the Orangerie. Perhaps a trip on the Bateaux in the evening? So many possibilities.

Last time I was there with my lovely friend, we spent hours in Montmatre. Years ago, my mother had my portrait drawn there, on the Place du Tertre – I took my daughters there to have theirs done and finally, on my 60th, the drawings of my son and son in law – all framed and up on the wall in my home. I think we should do this, to make it official, to commemorate her birthday. Sixty years of being there for each other.

So it is a trip to plan for sure, but a trip that will mean so much more. Sixty decades of having each other’s backs, listening to each others dreams, as life happened and has blessed us both. So you can imagine how important this trip is – it is my birthday present to her.

In Paris.

The dairy looks exceptional this year. This is one of those entries. Let’s see what else 2020 brings – keep you posted!

 

Into the memory boxes.

This photo was taken on the first anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.  That long ago.  Our visit to her grave at Althrop. Found in the box of photographs tucked deep inside a cupboard I keep locked away when I am not here. I am seldom here.  All my family things are here.

Our family home is in the Cape, in South Africa.  I live in London.  Still in the nomadic stage of life, I rent in London but keep our family home intact on the other side of the world.  Times we rent it out, times we just lock it up and return for the summer. It’s when I return, for a little while, that all the memories surround me, time to go back and swim into the past.  Not always easy, much has happened in the interim, but fortunate to find the pieces of self that brings nostalgia, but also a sense of belonging, and inspiration to pack the suitcase and fare out again.  The past will be here, when I am ready to surround myself with it years from now, but some say I am fortunate, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

When children leave home, they are not ready to take their lives with them.  To much to do, achieve, races to run.  We are the keepers of their pasts until they are ready to settle and own them. Do you do the same?  Hold onto your children through their chapters with you?  Admit to moments when hanging on seems more of a burden, only to realise how blessed I am, to have the role of keeper of what our lives became, once was, the weaver of the threads, the creator of the tapestry. The gatekeeper.

So I make a quiet time, a peaceful time, to look back.  We need to do that.  When life is fraught with anxiety, and at times pure hopelessness, when the road forward seems dark and foreboding and we are that stage when some of us are alone and despite the courage we all have within ourselves, daunted – it is a good thing.  We owned our youth, silly dreams, too much experimenting – our weddings and first jobs – being the smug mummies and creating homes.  When it was simple and no longer seems so.  The memory boxes remind us of a time of everyday magic, of swimming lessons and toddlers birthday parties.  Beach holidays and freckles on their faces. Our parents who may not be here anymore. Of laden tables and slim waists.

Going through the school days.  The all important, all consuming years of exams (yes, we soothed your fevered brows), the dances and first dates (yes, we listened and were there for you).  The sports games and rugby matches (yes, we closed our eyes in case you got hurt and wanted to run onto the field and box the ears of those you bullied you) and when you brought home your ‘Christmas’ decorations and we swooned over them. All still in the boxes.

A few photos of myself, only back then, photos were rare and not the best, not so? The odd school photograph of badly cut hairstyles and teenage angst. Beautiful wedding photographs. Now my daughter’s also.  All in the boxes.

It is a time of reflection, and a time of … gathering the threads to say ‘ it was good’, and put them back at this time in the new year.  They will be safe and no matter what the future holds, the past was pretty awesome. We are the fabric of how we dealt with the past, and that fabric, that tapestry, is the forever binding to what we do with it, and take it into the future.

Which is looking pretty good, now that I have had a giggle and a sigh at the boxes of memories. I know I keep everything, photographs, toys, slips and receipts and you know why, when I feel lost, as I often do lately, it really helps with the courage, to say, I am ok, I can be proud of where I have come from and even more excited of where I am going.

 

 

 

What I loved this week.

 

This is Big Sky Country – South Africa

Hello from Somerset West in the Western Cape, South Africa.  My other home.  Here until February and plan to enjoy and explore as much as I can.  The Instagram needs some input!

Flying from cold London to intense heat in Mauritius, it is to the summer of South Africa.  Must admit to being relieved at the cooler weather on arrival, even rain, but now we are back to the full on Summer sun.  Unless you are at the beach, or beside a swimming pool, not the best, but the evenings make up for the heat of the day.  Complete opposite lifestyle to the one I live in London, I am in our family home, complete with a little garden and playing at all it entails. Putting my hands in soil, clipping rose bushes and the fragrance of fresh herb bushes is idyllic.  Rather than the sounds of London birdlife, it is the Guinea fowl that chirrup me awake in the mornings.  This is Africa and I am revelling in the joy of being here.

Christmas in the summer is not something I am used to, and it was wonderful.  Double Christmas celebrations!  Shared with friends and family, the eating is done to excess.  Throw in the odd braai (barbecue) and my favourite wine, Tranquil Blush from Haute Cabriere, I am happy to laze the days away.

Last week I took my youngest daughter to George, up the Garden Route.  My car has been cloistered in the garage for six months, so this was most beneficial to ‘clear the pipes’.  Love road trips with a passion and South Africans do them so well.  Though I have done this route a few times, I find the countryside nothing less than breathtaking.  Big Sky, vast landscapes, white washed farm houses all around.  It is a four hour drive and I literally kissed her goodbye and turned around to return home. Nothing like the best company, awesome music on full blast and the open road. A little different to the bus in London, not so?

When I returned to South Africa in April, it was going to be a sort of permanent arrangement.  It did not suit me and I was back to London, on my own terms. Now I return of my own accord and cannot be happier to spend the summer here. This is a holiday, surrounded by our family things and the pace is slow, as it should be on holiday. I have time to read, watch movies, go for long walks and eat healthily. No sad looking supermarkets with sad food in the grey days, and of course I have the best Woolies in the world on my doorstep!  Crush on the freshness of all. Even the coffee is brilliant, which is saying something from this Barrista.

Yeah, it’s that kind of spoiling myself time.  Thinking of the right nail colours is important when lounging.  Spoiling myself to facials and all sorts of body grooming, which on the pound, is peanuts. But, I have not been that idle, still read my favourites and these are some of the links I love to share this week.

A lady in London (one of my favourites) has listed some amazing winter walks to follow in winter in London. The city offers so much, at anytime of the year, so wrap up warmly and get out there, post Christmas, when we all feel a little deflated after the Christmas buzz.

Love my fellow bloggers and these are some amazing women over Fifty who you should follow on Instagram. We all have a story to tell, whether it be our love for fashion, following a divorce, beginning a new business and just living life to the full.  I take huge inspiration from all of them.  Love the fact that we all are able to have a voice now and resonate from each other.

Somehow, in the sunshine, I still need my Country Living fix and this quiz popped up.  Afraid I was dismal at it, but how would you fair?

Being on holiday, and not working seven days a week, this is the time to get those resolutions for the new year in place. I want to update my playlists, begin the new diary, plan my travels, get more technologically savvy and again, sort out the clutter stuff.  Been listening to the local radio stations on my mum’s radio and this song is getting so much airtime  Also the song of an ad in London and so yes, in the mood and love her.

Lizzo. Good as Hell.

 

Being the end of the year, it’s reflection time.  Some of the best books for 2019 – how many have you read?

I have my perfectly pristine diary all ready for 2020!  Though I do use the Google calendar on my phone, having a diary in my handbag is vital to me.  The same type of diary I have had for fifteen odd years – have to have the horizontal diary and I can only get it here in South Africa, so she is here on my desk, all ready to fill with exciting dates and times.  Diaries are a reflection of my entire life, not just meeting times so one can say, the journey is in all the dairies past, tucked away in a cupboard – my life is literally an open book.

Getting back to the garden.  Truth is I am trying to coax my David Austen roses to survive the harsh Cape climate.

Everyone else has better sense and planted indigenous.  The winds are fierce, there is a water shortage but no, I want my Litchfield Angels and have planted four of them.  They have, despite me not being here for six months, sort of survived and I have a bloom – hello girl! I am a fan of the Piet Oudolf idea of roses and grasses combined in a bed – got the grasses and nursing the roses.  Fortunately I have an amazing helper in Dosha, who comes to help me when I am away.

But it is back to the joy of being here in South Africa this week.  There is so much to do, the beaches are packed to bursting, the wine farms are beyond mere words, the sightseeing and Table Mountain is awesome.  Love the shopping, sipping and savouring of it all. So this week, it has been, for me, great to be here. More to come, but this week, the things I love the most, are the people, the climate, the views and the lifestyle of South Africa. Wish you were here.

What I loved this week.

It’s been two weeks since I left the cold and Christmas love of London, bound for a ten day break in the gorgeous Mauritius.

I would not have planned a trip for myself to Mauritius per say – not the sort of place I would have thought to visit on my own, but it was a ‘good morning Kari’ on my 60th birthday from my dear friend Bev, with an airline ticket to the island.  Her present.  Bev is a present to me every day, and this was overwhelming. Landed in Cape Town at 11.40 in the evening, just time to toss the winter clothes, throw in the bikini and off the next day.

A quick thanks to the brilliance of Air France and Air Mauritius for amazing service and getting me halfway around the world in two days!  From four degrees to forty degrees and darlings, the body crisped up in a matter of minutes in the sun. I am now the shade of tomato, from lobster to tomato.  Learning to do absolutely nothing everyday was a bit of a strain in the beginning but swimming again, that was pure magic.

It is paradise indeed. Being with friends who knew me when I still believed I was going to marry Robert Redford and had stayed throughout the highs and lows of my life is something few have in their lives and I do know how blessed I am. I only hope I am as good a friend to them, as they are to me.  With the liberty of taking time out, a slow wi fi and literally just chilling, what were some of the things I loved this week? – other than the gorgeous holiday of course!

Finally got stuck into ‘The Fingersmith‘ by Susan Waters. If there is one book I can recommend or begin reading almost immediately again, it would be this epic novel.  Pulsating, thrilling and brilliantly executed.  Details and imagery of London and the Borough in the 1860’s, just up my street.

Since the arrival of George, I am so aware of dog friendly places to visit.  Sawdays has a great guide to Dog friendly hotels in the UK. This would make a fabulous gift for fellow dog lovers.

 

Watercolour of George by Madison de Villiers

For those fortunate enough to find themselves in Paris over Christmas (I do envy you), Paris Insider has some wonderful tips of things to do.  Still on the subject of Paris, I do try, and never really get it right, but this is a great guide to learning the different bridges spanning the Seine in Paris.  Which is your favourite? Cannot wait to see these early next year when I return. Still on the subject of Paris, good news for all – a face lift for the Champs-Èlysées

Cannot wait too see the results, and Paris again.

Something else I cannot wait to try again, and discover a few more venues for Brunch, is this article I found of the best places to have brunch in London.  Am constantly finding ‘the perfect coffee shop’ or the perfect spot for lunch in the different boroughs of London (St Clements being my favourite, of course) and now I have a handy guide for brunch.

Part of the gorgeous offerings by Coutours is The History of London in Four Drinks, which includes the history of Gin.  We also offer Gin tasting evenings which a so much fun for friends and family to share.  This article gives a great view of the History of Gin and it may just tempt you to join us for a more in-depth exploration of the History of Gin and a fabulous tasting to boot. Everyday I am so enthused by all that is still possible to explore in this silly world of ours.  Not only can we show you a unique part of London in a fun and informative way, we can also help you plan your days when you visit.  Herewith a list from the Londonist, of some of the superb exhibitions we can see in 2020, so get that itinerary on track!

The mind brims with all the ideas of these places to visit, what next year holds in store for me, travel wise and every way otherwise and I do believe it will be a fascinating year.