Passion is so powerful. Welcome back.

‘First the loving of self … then the passion ignites once more.’

Phew!  Been a while, she says.

Tilted life, balance in the gutter. Numbness and nothing matterness happens to the best of us.  I have written about it for a long time, that tsunami of events that takes us from the cruise liner to the raft, tattered mast and listless sea.  With no sail winds in sight.  The very worst and more so, takes the life out of your years … you lose them … and then, just one day, you find the mojo moment, the seedling in the quagmire and hello … is that a spark of passion?  You betcha!

Let’s talk about passion.  Sexual passion, familial passion, creative passion … that substance that runs through your veins and you cannot ignore it.  Sometimes you lose it when the death eaters come around, but it never dies.  You have to dig deep sometimes, really deep and you will find it, hiding in the cloak of disappointment, or loss, or just the humdrum of life when the one foot barely gets placed before the other.  It is there, all those elements of passion that you cannot deny. So, and it does take time, if life and love and just about everything tells you, you are not worth it, you are past it, you can let it go – don’t let it go. Never let it go, it will be the very essence of you – the new you, the real you.

When I gave up on my passions, it was alright.  A bit like faith.  We question and give up on it for a while when things are really bad.  It was not the time for passion, but hiding, closeting the self for self preservation and folding of cloaks around the battered heart. When all the questions arise – what am I going to do next, with the rest of my life … how to begin again, count, just become a little of myself again?  Leave it to your passions … they will arise again, like gorgeous little phoenixes and little by little, the self returns.  Stronger than ever.

Those passions?  They will lead you … from pain to purpose.

Those passions?  They will be the elements of your career in the making.  May not be the mainstream but what you love to do, and make a success of it.  Those little sparks will make you look at what you have, where you live, where you are today and say … I can work with this, and I can change it if I have to. Sweet little fairies that spin and dance to the music of your ego to build new resolve and purpose.

Purpose?  It is what WE are all about.  So you want to surround yourself with flowers, with pretty things and make a living out of it? Why not?  Want to become a CEO in your Silver Street, only you can make it work and with those little passion fairies, it is possible.  Want to create the beautiful home you ever dreamed of? Gather those passion fairies and make a plan, build a mood board, make goals, list the dream wish list and begin.  It is the beginning when everything makes sense, and one can only do it when you realise your passion. 

Rejection is a great place to fall into self. Wallow for a while and then, stop making excuses for the person you are, the things you did, the course you took, right or wrong, stop beating yourself up about it. You are the making of you. And your passions, your interesting led life is what makes you the unique human being in humanity from long before and long after.  Make you count now.

I was ready to let go and wonder about how to get through the next how many years. Now, with the  best music as my encore, I am dancing in my little place, no longer my cell but my place of ideas and sanctuary, bopping and planning just how to fuel these passions into a life I deserve, and want more than anything, because passion does that – passion brings purpose.  It’s exciting, it’s inspiring and most of all … we are still sexy, lovable, intellectual, wonderful and like no other.

Yay passion – so glad you are back!

Image: moneymotivatesme

Hello Grace. Forever remembered Kate.

Welcome to my world Grace …

Remember those pebbles one keeps turning up?  Today is a massive pebble moment for me. More like a boulder moment to be exact.  Today, after much trepidation and thought, the caution to the wind blew right in and I bought, for the first time, with my own hard earned money, the latest MacBook Pro. Woosh went the money, hard earned and into my life, came Grace.

Let me tell you why.  For the the first time, since the ‘divorce’ I bought an expensive item, with my own money.  All those hours put into working, not just as a hobby, but as a life changing career path, I have squirrelled my cash into the rainbow fund.  The ‘what if everything goes pear shaped fund?’ The sometimes ‘martyr’ fund, or ‘I don’t want to be ninety-nine and live in a council flat fund.’ All those thoughts of whatever and must prove myself fund.  

But there are times when you just have to say, I need investments, and so I began my sort of bucket list (though I loathe the very phrase) fund of what I needed for my own future goals, my want to call my own sort of thing:  these included, my own bought car, and a computer I could travel with.  The latter being very important.  Let’s just say that mother computer who has been my love for the past seven years, is one that requires a hefty shoulder to carry.  Big assed Bertha was becoming tedious on the bus, lugging and that extra piece of luggage needing a wheelie bag all of her own. Love her I do, but lugging her was not the smoothest operational procedure on an airplane, or bus, or pretty much anywhere with her zero battery hours.  Yup, I messed up on the battery saving thing. You know what I mean.

Swallowing hard for the sake of progress, I did the deed today, and bought Grace.  Sleek, small, light as feather and nécessaire in this new life of mine.  We shall travel, we shall discover each other and I have another project at hand.  Right now, she is still sealed and looking virgin like on my table – there are the little issues of data transfer etc, but right now, all I can do is stare at her and think, Grace, you and I are going far. Why did I call her Grace? Because turmoil, struggle, hardship and surviving have dissipated and evolved into ‘Grace.’ What stories we shall write!

 

And Kate. Kate Spade was a well known, wonderful entrepreneur who brought joy to the world. To all she seemed the icon of achievement in business, in her public and personal life, in everything she did.  Kate took her life two days ago. Her death shook many – how can it be that a women in her fifties, having achieved so much in her life, always on the outside, bubbling and sparkling on show, could have been so unhappy, so desperate to have ended it with a note?

The shock of it all.  And yet, the sadness of it remains.  The hidden grief, trying to keep that chin up high and pretending all is well, when your inner soul is shattered and torn. I kept thinking, must it take the loss of a well known celebrity in her ‘Silver Street’ time, to jolt us into acknowledging of the many other Silver Street women who, on the surface, seem content and accepting, when they too are lost and afraid and think these thoughts of ending it, and we don’t see the pain?

Truth be told, when life spins from one existence to another, these thoughts of suicide are all too prevalent in those we least except it. When loss and loneliness confront us and we are bewildered as to how it came about, how to deal with it, how futile the future seems – building one life that seems now extinct and not being able to cope with it all.  Truth be told, I was there, many are there, but still we smile, go about our daily lives as if not wanting to burden. The darkness of grief affects millions of people at this Silver Stage – losing our parents, the empty nest syndrome, job redundancies,  failures in relationships, change of habitat … for some the where do I go from now, is frightening. And some, like Kate, cannot see beyond. To want to end it all may be there, in thought, but to go on is what we need to focus on … for help is there. Others are there who can relate and most importantly, it takes you, just you … to make the change, no matter how difficult, but it is possible. 

And that is why I write. The depth of grief is surmountable. The promise of more, even in a different form, is waiting and achievable.

Hello Grace. For all the Kate’s, for all the women in their Silver Street times, different but finding a new path, is going to be the journey upwards to the light. And I shall take all those who could not find it in this time, and take me with them. Everyone matters – everyone counts. New chapters waiting to be written, and for me, with Grace.

Image WWD.

 

 

 

Times life is a bowl of cherries. Adding them one at a time …

Got the lemons of late.  Bags of them …

Barges of them and the lemonade is fermenting in the cellar. I got so many lemons, got to the point of say ‘bring on them lemons baby, bring them on!’ Now the palate is seeking the sweet stuff – not the box of chocolates sort of humdrum stuff, but the bowl of cherries, and I aim to put them in the bowl, one by one.  Makes them all the sweeter, I say.

Post death, divorce and sweetheart remarrying faster than you can say ‘Blitz’ – ’twas the broken winged baby in the gutter of life. Trauma 101.  All those emotions, those martyr kick in stuff came to the fore – I wanted none of it, was going to do this, and that, and what the hell became of me? You have been there so you know the story, even if the cast is different.  Well, the cherries are filling up the bowl, and they are sweet!  One at a time.

Admittedly, living in England of course, it has a lot to do with the weather. No explanation needed. Summer brings flowers and yesterday, with my darling daughters, we bathed in them.  We revelled in them, creating, planning, executing, laughing and giggling till the tears fell freely for all the right reasons.  It all felt so, normal? Of course it did.  I am blessed to be close to my children and many of you I know are far from them, which is so hard at times – we mothers just want to hang around like those proverbial helicopters, and I don’t care what anyone says – it is fabulous to be close.

Massive cherry in the bowl.

The endless hours of work are beginning to pay off.  Up at five every morning, planning, posting, emailing and in between, working at the Travel and Events,at the coffee shop (which I love), the satisfaction of achievement is – let’s say twenty cherries in the bowl.  Never too old to begin again in business. Don’t count the hours in a day, but the joy I get from being so darn tired at the end of it, knowing I have done good, clients are happy and having many jobs is adding to my growth as a person.  Oh, go on, throw in a few more.

Friends. We know about the fair weathered ones, and the stay the distant ones. The ones when we went to see ‘Book Club’ and they went ‘aah’ and I went, what was that? Sorry Jane, Diane, Candice and Mary, you sold out to the cliché.  So had the opportunity to really take mature women and their stories to the max and you did the Hollywood fail.  My friends just sighed and let me rant. Another cherry for great friends.

Massive cherry for ‘Alias Grace’ and me getting back into clever stories.  And to you Hugh, for risking and being great in ‘A very English Scandal.’ May have served you tea on a few occasions, but love you still the more for it. Even now that you are married … I wished I could write great stories like that and that is a cherry to those who can.

Add a cherry to the fact that I am going solo to Paris this week. Solo to Lake Como in July. Double cherries to any woman who travels solo in Silver Street and fears nothing. Oh why not, twenty cherries for travelling solo anyway.

A whole punnet of cherries for still being in love. With love.

Not bad for two days of cherry picking.  And soon there will be an orchard of cherries in my bowl of life.  What about you? Gathering those cherries are we, dissing the lemons along the way … you go girl!

 

Come back little diary, come back …

And she was dreaming, and in that dreaming, the diary got lost today …

It is a disaster!  A malady of note.  And such a day of all days.

Truth is, today was one of those, will get the life sorted today, days. Empowered with all sorts of ideas and plans in the making.  Such a big sigh escapes me now, for in the planning in a cafe, I returned home to find my diary is missing.  It is a tragedy.

My ‘other’ child is out there somewhere.  Too late to call.  Not sure about you, but a visual diary, is my life.  Seriously, my life in a book with weeks and years and collecting.  I am lost without her.   Since I can remember I have kept a diary.  None of the google calendar stuff for me, but a tangible little life book that has my appointments, my daily notes, my life.  Everyone knew that and it was to the diaries for immigration information, birthday reminders, work shifts … basically everything that is my life, is in those books.  As far back as twenty odd years ago, and this year is somewhere tonight and I pray I can find it, for like my arm, missing it will be missing a limb.

The crazy thing is that I had all out in front of me – for the empowering day. I was going to invest in transport today, she thought, my choice of transport … so my mind began to wander to those lovely Pashley bicycles, the ones in Duck egg blue with a little basket in the front.  Or maybe a Vespa, to imagine me putting through Tuscany, or the South of France, or just London (the quieter streets where the buses could not take me out sort of thing.)  And a car, I dreamed of a little but cute car – maybe a Fiat 500 that would make me think of Italian towns and pretty colours.  Told you I was being practical in my thinking, but others may disagree. Truth be told, I don’t do practical very well – aesthetically speaking, I want pretty in my life right now.  But to dreaming I succumbed.

And in that, oh my word, in my age of putting everything in the right place in my handbag (cause we do tend to misplace at times) I frigging must have left the diary behind at the cafe!

She is not a happy bunny tonight and will search for the missing child with the hope of finding her soon.  It happened once before, I left my diary in my hotel in Paris, only to have Christene post her back to me, with great relief.  My diaries are stacked in a drawer for reference and a map of my life, so I do hope this one, 2018. will return to join her sisters.

Do you have a diary like me?  A tangible life voice with all the messy, lovely, interesting stuff that is sort of your entire life in a book? Then you know how I feel tonight – lost a little. Being positive though,  come back little diary I pray.  I need you more than ever … you are the practical in my dreamy world.

Images Pashley, eagle diaries

Creative dreaming on a rainy afternoon.

Creativity is nothing but a mind set free.’

Torrie T. Asai

In all the years I have been an inhabitant of the soft, yet gentle rains upon this island, I can count less than five times I have heard thunder.  This week it happened twice – thunder, lightning and torrential rain.  Waking up in the middle of the night kind of rainstorm.  We had a real topic of weather conversation at hand and it did not go amiss.

For many, the highly priced homes, were flooded.  Years of building basements below the water and sewerage pipes, below the water table led to overworked flooding pumps in basements and the need for coffee and conversation with fellow basement flooded friends was essential.  Yesterday evening, sun blazing and having dinner along the river, darling daughter barely had time to say ‘look’ before a sheet of angry rain crossed the river and diners headed indoors, perplexed at the freak of nature at hand, only to return minutes later to blazing sun and soaked tables, in order to continue dinner. Such is the weather here, unpredictable, and all.  There is a reason the British discuss the weather more than their health and families – it remains the very factor our lives and happiness is based on. I do miss those South African thunder storms.

This morning the rain continued unabated, but I was to another call from the Estate agent.  You may remember that my little flat is now firmly on the market and I am subjected to random visits by scrutinising potentials – remember this from long ago.  A flurry of cleaning ensued, by moi, between working.  So I decided to give myself the afternoon off – I needed sanctuary, beauty and of late as has been my habit, it is to the V & A I took myself, with the proverbial brolly. Long gone are those days I worried about the hair – I live in England for goodness sake!

At it turned out, most of the world thought it a good idea too.  My eldest detests crowds but me, I stride in London as a Londoner does, tut tutting at the loungers, the stop and look at the mappers, the buggies and screaming children.  I nudge the bewildered, nod at the buskers (cannot give money to everyone, please) and as for the tour groups, let’s just say, London bootcamp with dealing with those, is paying off.

At last I am saturated in genius. To Constable, to Degas, to Morris, to ancient mastery in Silver and Gold. The Ocean Liner exhibition is still on, Winnie the Pooh over.  Frida and ‘Making Her Self Up’ coming soon. I succumb to the Pistachio and Carrot cake slice and a hot coffee before venturing as I have done so many times, and yes, there is always another passage, another room to discover.  This afternoon, the quietest of these was the tapestries.  The telling of stories in woven beauty of pastoral scenes, battles and mythological creatures.  Must have spent a long time in front of the three fates today – the giver of life, the decider of the length of it and the snipper of that thread – death, all women in Umbrian tones, laced with gold and silver thread.  For me, looking at something I could never, ever hope to achieve, is my education and belief in the essence of talent. Of creative genius.

And I leave inspired, like you cannot believe. No matter how small our lives, how insignificant we sometimes feel, if we put yourselves in a place of inspiration, it will permeate our own lives.  It will awaken our too long forgotten talents and urge us to take action. It could be in a garden, a gallery, in our own homes, the truth is we sometimes need to look outside our little realms to find our talents ignited.

 

Degas.  A passion of mine. But am I also in love with these heavily embellished frames?  I am. Wish I had a hundred of these, around mirrors, around art in my own home.  Maybe bringing back these frames could be a vocation? 

Leaving in the busy end of day life in London, walking to the bus, the rain had lifted.  All around me flowers were drenched and glowing.  Flower sellers were creating bouquets for ordinary people to take home, peonies, tulips, delphiniums and roses on every corner.  In my bag, a bunch of flowers, a baguette and a bottle of wine (of course) but in my heart, so many ideas of what I could do if I put my mind to it.

What inspires you?  Do you push to see things in a different way.  Do you have talents lying latent in your storage of genius?

Bet you do.

 

There there said Bear …

I have a confession, said I …

I have bear.  Bear is one year older than me.  Bear was my first ever present from my parents. 

At the time, bear was bigger than me and lived in my cot. When I found my first bed, bear was there. Bear, for never having been named, but bear, lives with me still.

Is bear a he or a she, I do not know.  Never asked. Never named. But bear.

Cannot say I loved bear all that much growing up, have no memory of holding onto bear, any photographs, or letters to such, but given the years and all the moves over the world, bear came with.

Times bear was nowhere.  I do not remember so I suppose bear lived in a cupboard, or a box. I do remember finding bear and putting said in my children’s cots, before they were given their own bears, a long time ago.  Bear was there, like a teapot that travels with you, or a photograph album that you hang onto for looking at once in a while.  Bear never seemed to be gone, or present sometimes, but bear was there.

All I can say, is with the years of adolescence, of growing and changing, as life took the pathways we do, I forgot about bear.  Bear I think, never forgot about me, because bear showed up, in my new country, in my new home, as if bear had always been there. I wonder how bear came back to me, I really do for I have no recollection of every having the conversation of ‘here is bear … take bear.’  Strange I thought to find bear in a box of all when I found myself here.  Wish I knew.  But it does not matter. Bear made the journey.  And now bear and I have a new relationship.  Bear is back in the cot, in the bed, in the reality of my life.

Guess bear has always been part of my journey.  When my mother had to leave her home, go to a retirement home after the death of my father, we tried to settle her into that place where she had lost all she knew, given away all she had collected and left with her new reality, and she mentioned one day, she had never had a bear of her own.  

 

For some this may seem insignificant. For me, now living so far from her, an inspiration to find and deliver every bear I could to take the place of me.  Every time I flew to her, at the airport, it was with a new bear – Harrods bear, Paddington bear, Eton bear, you name it, I was the bear supplier and bless her, each and everyone became her friend, to be put, ever so carefully on the chair, in order, for her to coo over in her last years. Bear friends. Huggable friends. I was compensating my not being there for her, with bears.  We both knew it, but we both accepted it.  Now they are all with me.

The thing is, life was very difficult when mom was no longer there to talk to about the bears.  And when others left, I sort of , and I don’t know how, found my bear again. Nights of total lostness, at my age, I would climb into bed (I have a bed I would say to myself, at least I have a bed) and bear would be there, stiff, worn, arm chewed by puppies, still both eyes though, and tuck myself in saying, night bear, (at my age) and wake to find bear there.

There, there.’ bear seemed to say. Stiff as ever.

There, there.’ I replied. You are still there.

I have a bear – almost sixty years old and most likely a vintage celebrity. But this bear is mine, and now with all the others (which I do not have on my bed I may add) but close.  Did I know that a bear would be with me longer than others? No.  Did I know that bear would find me, like now, and I can enjoy just having it around? Who knew?

Turns out I have been so fortunate.  To have a bear for as long as I have lived, a gift from my parents I can still cherish.

Mum, you got your teddy bears ( rather a few) and I always had mine.  Didn’t always know it. but thank you.

Do you have a bear like bear? We all need teddy bears, in whatever form, to be there when it gets tough – and when I go to sleep, at my age, I still say ‘night bear.’

And bear says…’there, there.’

Images Vectis auctions, totally teddy bears.

And she learns everyday … in the funniest of ways.

You know what they say about pride.  I am dealing with the before and after.

All I can say is I doubt those female icons possibly never had to deal with some of the things we Silver Streeters do.  Talking about pride we are.

So, in the huffy puffy way of ‘I need to do this for myself and ain’t gonna take that kinda of shit no more’, I looked around at the things I thought were bringing me down … and there was the little Mermaid Honda.  My farewell gift from now departed.  She is sweet I have to say, and got us through some situations, but we never bonded.  2004 model for starters, headlights so brittle the light barely shone through.  Had the battery issue, the whatever issue, and in one of my moments of ‘ain’t gonna take that shit no more’, I bequeathed her to another.  I will get myself a new car or do without (which is quite possible in London with public transport).  Done and dusted. End of an era Mermaid!

So imagine me yesterday.  On the bus.  Did I mention it was a crowded bus?  A long awaited for, crowded bus. As any normal woman would, the handbag, the kind of long strap bag that refused to stay on the shoulder and like the Greenwich meantime ball, crashes when you look down. Doable, but tricky when you have the groceries, dozens of them, in both hands.  The kind of my fingers are a distinct shade of purple weight grocery bags. Bloodless fingers. Cement bag grocery bags filled with sweeties and biltong for the army son.  And wine – we know how heavy those are.  Oh, did I mention the vacuum cleaner?

Handbag + grocery bags + vacuum cleaner.

Did I mention the cardboard box, flat pack style that fits not in the grocery bags for son’s sweeties?

Handbag + grocery bags + vacuum cleaner + cardboard box.

The narrow aisle meant casualties (and a bit of swearing English style … so rude!) I did not care, I was going to get home regardless of any future banning from bus.

And I did.  All fifty pounds of me and stuff.  Would have made the news but they were all focussed on Meghan’s new dress. And I was so bloody proud of myself.  Yes, I was hasty in my salute to Mermaid for sure, but I was thinking to myself, whilst vacuuming with new accessory – I did it.  All by my little self, and sometimes pride does not have to mean an achievement noteworthy of the Nobel prize, sometimes it’s just getting through the day, however the means, to do something you would never have done before. Had never done the bus and vacuum cleaner before.

I was proud.  Before the fall.  And am proud still, only in a different way, if that makes sense.

Don’t stop you hear – you are so worth it.

Image: Entity mag.

Divorce and the wedding ring issue.

I don’t know about you … but me?

It’s been a while now that I was left with a ‘you will be alright.’

And my marriage was over.  Two years of paralysis and fear, of times, hoping to just ‘go away’ or ‘what are you doing with the rest of your life?’ When the boxes are sealed, the papers signed and the thought of carrying on, at this late stage of your life, seemed entirely, impossible.

One of the issues women facing divorce in their Silver Street time is the question of the wedding rings.  Let’s face it, we have had the bands on our left hand for so long, the dent on our fingers are clearly visible.  The bands have worn thin over the years but more importantly, these bands are an integral part of our bodies, our psychological make up, they have been a part of us for decades. A symbol of our state, our relationship, our commitment – so when the marriage is over, what to do with the wedding rings?

I have thought a lot about this.  Interesting how many different people react to the same situation. One woman I spoke to literally took her wedding ring off the day her husband left and gave it to her daughter.  Another threw it in the river and yet another melted it down into a new piece of jewellery.  Those who somehow (and I am curious as to how they do it) went headlong into another relationship. happily ripped the wedding rings, now redundant to their new lives. I could not.  I could not take them off – forever it seemed – I could not make the gesture of removing my wedding rings. In my mind, I was not the one getting divorced, I was still married, in my mind, part of my life which I was not ready to change.

For a very long time I kept looking at anyone on the tube, on the bus, at their hands and sussing out the wedding ring situation.  Women, my age – wedding ringed, wedding ringless – and wondering about their stories.  The wedding band and eternity ring on my finger were my safety, and they stayed, for a long time. I was not ready.  How could I be if this was not of my choosing?

When my giver of my wedding rings re-married, I thought to myself. It is time – get over it and go ringless on that left hand. They should have a burial ceremony, a little coffin box for wedding rings that die when passion did. A hectic moment for sure.  My hand was bare, vulnerable, out of place with its nakedness.  For me, it was awful, not empowering.

For me, it seemed like I was advertising a new status, and not long after I stripped the relationship and tangible evidence of marriage, I found others thinking it an invitation.  I was not prepared at all. Neither wanted or invited the expectation of another in my life.  The reality was, I was still in love, still ‘married in my own eyes’ and still wanting to be the person I knew for the past thirty years. On my own now, I did have a choice in the situation – and in my eyes, choosing to wear the wedding bands took on a whole new meaning.

So I put them back on. I wear them still.  I may not be married to another, but I am still married to myself.  I like that feeling.  I want the time to grow and simply exist as I want to be, and that is committed, be it to myself or the one who is no longer committed to me.  Does that make sense to you?  I liked who I was then, and I like who I am now, after the drama, without the idea that I am on the market, available, ready for another experience.

It may change, who knows? My wearing my wedding rings gives me security, for myself.  Time to ponder living on my own until I am ready to change. May be soon, may be never but I am comfortable wearing the rings, content to be betrothed to me for a while. On my left hand is my wedding ring, my grandmother’s wedding ring and that of my mothers.  I am committed to all of them.

It is not a sad story.  If you are not ready to remove your wedding rings, don’t feel obliged to do so. They are part of who you are.  When someone does come along, seeing them, wanting to know more about you and you are ready to share you life, maybe then it will be the right time to take them off.  When you are ready.  Wearing my wedding rings is a message to my children that I still love their father, that I am acknowledging change but that most importantly, that I am now in a relationship with myself, growing, changing, facing life in this Silver Street time and happy.

I wear my wedding rings because I loved being married. I am not bitter and continue to honour someone who, in youth and life, I loved.  When I no longer feel that way, I will take them off, but only on my terms.

On my terms is what it is all about.  What do you think about it? 

Images: Pintrest,today,

Country garden guiding with horses, dogs and interesting people.

I volunteer.  Eight years ago, stranded in a small flat, disorientated and trying to adjust to a new life, I began my volunteering at the National Trust.  Why not I thought, having done my Master’s dissertation on the very subject, why not find a place close to me to offer my services and so my journey with Ham House, on the river banks near Richmond, began.

One little life saver. My contribution, voluntarily, to help others.  Volunteering takes the moving of self to the giving to others.  It’s great and you should try it. It’s heartwarming, freezing at times when I stand in the winter rain waiting, hoping no-one will turn up (and they do, dressed for the Artic, determined to have a garden tour) and off I go.  It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Lately, in this phase of ‘I am going to recapture my life’ stage, I gave my car to my children.  Carless in London is not a problem, yet there are times, like getting to Ham, it involves a trek of note.  Hour on the bus to the Dysart Arms pub and then literally walking across fields to the house. Think winter, yes, it happens.  Today however, Summer welcomes the heavily laden, designer handbag and ancient computer laden madam to meander past brook, park, scary horses.  We eye each other as I negotiate manure and gnats. Stopping nevertheless to absorb the sheer beauty of Spirea, cow’s parsley, running water and greenery that makes the eyes blink. This is Pooh country, Enid Blyton country, little lanes, public footpaths, houseboats on river and buzzing of the largest bees I have ever seen. Bumble bees.

Did I mention the Copper Beech – plumes of purple amid the white blossoms?  Could get so carried away here!  Nature is intoxicating at times.  At Ham House, giving these tours about 17th Century life in England, I am honoured, and at times, surprised at the people I engage with.  A study in characters for sure, most of them foreign, visiting London, sharing their stories from all over the world. Today I met a couple from Norfolk and a man who worked for Scottish whiskey, to fall one day and wake eighteen months later from an aneurism. Starting a new life in a different way.

As I finished, a dear old ditty woman accosted me with a question about a particular plant.  Is it really what the label says? 

‘Umm … think so?’

‘But you should know.’ she insisted. ‘ I come here all the time and the labels are a little confusing.  Is this a 17th century specimen?’

‘Umm .. think so.’

‘Well.’  she said. ‘The problem is that one has salads and then the flower may change the entire taste, if you eat it, you don’t like it, and if you discard it, the flavour will change with the dressing.’

Say what!  I lied. ‘Of course.’ I said.  ‘The flower is edible, but with the given vinaigrette could alter the flavour.’ Even I did not really know what I was saying but she insisted that the salad leaves … oh my Lord … was not authentic to the 17th century.  Like the shape of the leaves, the colour of the roots … and all I could think was this dear ditsy lady was lonely.  Was this going to be me in ten years time?

 

Hope bloody not. Loved her all the same.

The tours over and she begins the walk back to Richmond, via Petersham nurseries to get her fix of beauty.

I volunteer because I get to live outside the norm of my little world.  To meet and learn from others.  To be in a place where history lives, films are made and true English life is tangible.  The bus ride back is another story.

If you are sort of struggling about life at this time, go and volunteer.  If you already do, I would love to know more about what you do.

The Chelsea Flower Show 2018

I don’t much care for the Chelsea Flower show, I remember saying once upon a time.  That is not true – I love Chelsea, it’s the rivers of visitors I find hard to navigate at times.

Since it’s inception in 1811, and current venue since 1813, Chelsea remains a landmark event in the world of Gardening. It’s huge.  It’s a must visit once in your life and has become the most popular garden event in the world.

While we wait for a week in May to indulge our gardening fantasies, to witness design gardens and mountains of blooms, what is new and what remains classic, the exhibitors and nurseries around Britain have spent months in preparation to showcase their best work.  A mammoth task.  Holding back the blooms to flower at their peak during the week, moving earth and creating designer gardens that have won the right to be there – all in search of the gold. 

Perfection.  Pure perfection.

The top favourite this year is Sarah Price’s Mediterranean, Monet inspired garden to take show design of the year.  I am particularly interested in Jonathan Snow’s debut entry, the Trailblazers: South African Wine Estate design focussing on Fynbos, from burnt earth to bliss.

The beautiful setting in London, the home to the Chelsea pensioners, allows one to glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary men, dressed in their finest red uniforms, they epitomise the traditional and respected, and one can visit the Coffee shop throughout the year (which I do) and love interacting with these individuals who have given their lives in service to their country.

The Chelsea Flower Show is the feather in the cap of the Royal Horticultural Society.  Be it your love for roses, alliums, delphiniums or whatever, you will find them at their finest – get the latest gardening tools, sip champagne as the sun sets over the many magnificent displays for it will be an excursion you will never forget.  And yes, the throngs are daunting, the multitudes of visitors at times a barrier to stand back and take it all in but nevertheless, be a garden lover or nature lover or simply a lover of beautiful things, in this case, living things, Chelsea is an event of the prettiest sort.

If you cannot be present, there will be many television programmes to highlight the beauty of Chelsea.  And did you know, just for a little extra bit of random information, gnomes are banned.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/about-the-rhs-chelsea-flower-show/history-of-the-show

Images: country living, express, sporting class