Wow, me, time and the mouse in the house.

There are no planes in the sky.  Used to watch them stack over Heathrow and could count about eight at a time.  Nothing now … and yes, we are in lockdown, and yes, the world as is being held at ransom by a deadly foe.  The tourism industry is all but evaporated for now, and we are thinking, will we ever travel again?

I live in hope. The novelty of travelling within my house is all but stale, all intentions scuppered for not being able to get paint, or plants, or anything to actually do some re-decoration and gardening.  Tried to sneak some Rose food into the trolley yesterday, on my first supermarket visit in over a week, and no, it is not an essential item and was promptly scooped out.  I get it, but how are we supposed to have any kind of house quarantine when I have so few tools to get to those odd jobs?

The second spring clean of the week.  Living in Africa, albeit in a lovely Estate for this time in isolation, I have been leaving all the doors wide open to capture as much fresh air and sunlight while the warmer climes linger.  Setting the background so to speak …

Imagine the sheer horror of seeing this mouse scamper down the passage and into one of the bedrooms.  This is (apart from a snake and those hideous rain spiders) one of my worst fears.  This is one of those times I do curse being on my own with no-one to send into battle.  Hastily shut the door lest it decide to do another tour of the house, and after (to return)I stopped screaming, and cursing no end, it was time to formulate a plan.  Fortunately the bedroom also had a door onto the garden, so, standing on the desk, managed to open the door, whilst Wilbur raced around the room … and under the desk.

Tried pleading for him to just saunter outside, his natural habitat … for goodness sake, just be gone from here, you cursed little piece of …  Brooms, bucket and baking pan at the ready, still on the desk, the one woman band of banging on baking tin, prodding behind the desk and actually thinking I was going to trap him under the bucket (although I had no idea what to do next if that happened) took to yelling and stomping on said desk – and at last he shimmied his way outside.  So I thought.

The moment I tried to lock the door, still atop the desk, Wilbur had a moment and promptly left the sanctuary of the flower bed to do a U turn and straight back into the room, this time under the bed.  I could have platzed right there and lost any last shred of humanitarian instincts to save him, thinking only of ridding myself of this invasion. Let it be said that there was a struggle and much more dancing, shrieking as he ran through my legs (me now trying to get him from out under the bed) before he decided to leave, and sit beneath the rosemary bush.  Door shut, every window promptly shut, every living space available for another visit, bolted down, but he had to go … all the way out of my property, which I eventually achieved with a strong water hosing until he decided to up his newly adopted turf.

Will admit, at some point when I had him cornered, I swear I could see his little heart racing with fear.  It equalled my own.

I pray he doesn’t come back.  I am having more than the usual wine this evening to calm the nerves and face sleep with visions of his entire family coming to visit.  All the trying not to kill the ants in my grass and saving wildlife is dissipating fast with this encounter. Still, it made for a few hours of excruciating time lapse in these long, long, long, long days of isolation.

We are half way and let the gods not decide to extend this for surely many shall be going, justifiably, insane.  All for our own good I know, it’s just rather difficult explaining to the authorities, that me and a mouse in the house, is a volatile situation which may require the ban on alcohol to be lifted for desperate times.

At best I have never been a good girl guide, or a happy camper going into the bush to sleep in dirt and have moving things crawl into my pants.

This lockdown in my own house is about the most rustic form of camping I ever want to do – and I get a mouse to add to the ambiance ugh!  Someone I know is laughing at me now …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Time, have time for you now …

 

Let me never complain of not having enough time again … or grumble about crowds, ever again.  I have this friend that always used to tell me when I complained of one thing or another, would say: ‘be careful of what you wish for.’  One of my least favourite phrases – feel like something my teacher would say …  and if I wished for more time, oh Lord, I didn’t mean this much!  A little time, a little extra time, the sort of bank holiday weekend time.  And now the hours on my own are endless  …

The third day of the lockdown had me at Bridget Jones in the bath pulling at her false eyelashes in pure despair, but have since rallied to ‘fruitful exploration of all I did not get time to do, understand, finish and dreamed of but never really believed was possible.’  You are no doubt, doing the same.  We have time now. From waking to sleep we have duvets of time, full, plump and enveloping every inch of you.

Have been rather busy. Doing very little.  Doing little important things which would not be considered important if time was chasing me about. And time brought a mate – a slinky, slightly dodge character (looks a little like the child catcher) called ‘No Excuses.’ This character I do not like much, but can no longer avoid. Good thing, going to be tricky – this is the insensitive character that thrust the mirror directly onto the wine belly which I later found out, belonged to me – where the hell did that extra life ring come from? Looks like the one they find beside the super shallow pond in English parks, red and white and bit of an eyesore in the lovely landscape.  That my dear, is the first ‘No Excuse’ objective. This is the absolute worst time to lob the wine and comforting crisps, really is, but now I have the time to begin some self care and shall not emerge until bootcamp is done.  May sneak a glass or two, sorry Child Catcher No Excuse.

Would rather be walking through Hidcote Garden (picture provided) on a Spring day, just as the tulips are all about to unfold and the Serpentine hedge leads me to a view of Cotswold’s glory.  And I can, as the National Trust, like so many brilliant places – Thinking Keukenhof, the National Gallery, the Louvre – there are many, are offering virtual tours to fill our hearts with awe and beauty.  As I look out at my little garden, Icebergs battling the elements, I can but wonder and sigh … but online I’m watching virtual tours and it’s educational and just plain lovely.

Please look at the various virtual offers out there.

What I found time for today?

  • Picking up those coffee table books and pursue – with tea and no biscuits.
  • Re-reading my children’s story books I loved, almost more than them.
  • Reflecting on what really matters to me now, at this point of my life and sayonara to the hanging onto for all the wrong, sentimental reasons.
  • Thumbing through cookbooks.  When will be have a family feast again?
  • Watched ‘Who’s the Boss’ on Youtube and loving the 80’s Angela fashion. On a run with the ‘oldies catch up.’
  • Pretended to re-design the house for not being able to do anything anyway.  Who would come to help me paint?
  • Go through files and toss … just toss for things I have held onto ‘in case.’
  • Thin out material things to give to those who really need it when I haven’t for a while.

 

 

  • Email/Itunes/spotify/photographs/documents clean out.
  • Sorting through my mother’s many tins of collected tea spoons from ALL around the world.
  • Enjoying the idea that my mother just HAD to collect a teaspoon from every destination all over the world.
  • Loving all the calls and messages – to the point of actually being really busy chatting which makes me feel less alone.

This could go on for long time.  I am conquering day by day – there is no point in being negative anymore (though still allowed the odd wobble).  The world in crises has not lost her sense of humour and I continue to pray.  As Prince Charles, himself with the #COVID19 curse, said in his interview today, gosh and I am happy he seems to be recovering, we do not know when the virus will end, but it will end.  I am hanging onto that.

About the lots of time?  Digging deep and keeping faith – all this time is a time for self discovery my friends, a time for really taking stock and like a new world will emerge, painfully I think, I mean to go through this time to be there with new ideas and new ways of thinking to support, become more engaged and just be so intensely grateful to be alive.

Sending you flowers and beauty at this time.

Here for you xxx

 

 

 

Hello 2020!

‘What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.”

T.S. Elliot

Goodbye 2019. You have been a strange bedfellow. Forever remembered as the highlight of my eldest daughter’s wedding and my fabulous 60th in Paris with my family.  The arrival of George, the multi-talented and genie of love that is possible in a dashund pup. Kinship and kindness in my jobs at St. Clement’s and Coutours, and life affirming beauty in the trips taken over the past twelve months. The unceasing love and support from my children and friends.

No life is all at the top of the big wheel and the chapters of painful loss, feeling small and moving yet again peppered the bright lights.  What the year did bring though, for me, was the ability to face these pockmarked moments with courage, something I barely felt over the past few years; and it is this courage which, in the end, has make 2019 a remarkable year.  

New Year’s resolutions are deep in the folds of my mind and I am sure to break them. 

As we begin the next decade, let it be with resolve to be brave.  About the dreams we see dim, bring them to the fore.  About the confidence we find wavers when we need it most.  About the love we hide for fear of rejection.  Have the courage to change our very core rather than settle for comfort and the courage to act against injustice, unkindness, loneliness and fear.

Courage is not just about brevity in the face of adversity.  It is the blade of honesty.  Admitting your faults, mistakes, regrets.  Being honest with yourself is perhaps the most courageous act – facing yourself and having the courage to admit you are not perfect.  Rather awful at times.  It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, of yourself and others.  Of letting go.  Choosing a different path. 

2019 taught me great courage, and in a silent but wonderful way, opened my mind to so many new things. More delight in what I had, stripped me, smacked me around, and lifted me to new levels of creativity, exploration and many, many avenues of life I had waved on by for fear of stepping off the sidewalk. The year has ended up on a happy note.  There is still many details to determine, knowing changes will happen, but not being afraid of what lies ahead.

So 2020, you are welcome. Waiting for you with my best frock on and the biggest bottle of Champagne!

Wishing you all the most exciting 2020, with love xxx

Image: Forbes

 

 

I am the lucky one.

Happy Birthday, to me. It is the definitive birthday.

I hear myself telling everyone I am sixty now, as if it is an aforementioned excuse for anything I may be faltering in, for feeling suddenly slower than I did last week – I can only say it is the weirdest feeling, and I am an idiot for saying it, or feeling so. Self sixty sabotage has raised her ugly head.  She has been banished.

 It has also been the beginning of a wonderful birthday month.  Autumn in London and Paris.  Could not have asked for a more beautiful setting than these two heavenly places.  Now that there is a puppy in the family, the park walks take on a whole new significance and makes them more special.  

My family spoilt me.  Tea at the Ritz, a weekend in Paris, but more importantly, with their time, and love.  

It has been a while since I was on My Silver Street, a good break is sometimes needed; to re-group, review and re-ignite the sparkle once the fires have all been put out.  Very excited about the new, positive phase, post a deal of sadness, but also an immense amount of learning, forgiving (even myself) and appreciation of my life as it is now.

We find ourselves in the midst of the longest separation in history, the Brexit tragedy. The political world is a farce and despite hearing that house prices are plummeting here in London, I will not be able to afford anything more than a deserted and damp garage at the moment.  Undaunted and optimistic she remains.  Things do change. It is Halloween today and the city festooned with pumpkins, cobwebs, spiders and other spooky things. Already being replaced with the Christmas offerings, and as I sit here in Peter Jones, it is dark outside already.  The winter has arrived.  Getting the Christmas list together.

Am going to travel more, slow down when I need to and add to the richness of my life.  Turning sixty was met with some trepidation to be fair, the fifties were anything but easy at times – and let’s see where this incredible Silver Street of mine will lead me.  What about your journey?

 

 

Our parents, at this time. And it is difficult, and it is good.

Spoke to a friend tonight. Her parents are frail, and it is a struggle. The child becoming the parent, the parent wasting and whisping into the shadows of life.  Did I forget?  Has it been awhile?

Your life goes into standby. Not always the best timing for that standby mode  – things are happening in your own life; things to deal with, things unforeseen and all I could say was … I am so sorry, I am so sorry you have to go through this.  I know of what I speak. At the worst time, when my own life was difficult … sort of all comes at you at once doesn’t it?  When life changes so fast.

Some lost our parents at an early age. I cannot imagine the pain.  Many of us are going through it now.  I was a continent away, trying to deal with life and worrying all the time about my parents who, did I ever think of it, felt abandoned in my moving.  They never spoke about it, but it was years of guilt, on my part, trying to fly out as often as possible, paying the bills (somehow the plans for retirement were never enough) and Sunday evening talks.  Till the talking became more difficult, the anger on their part, at the loss of control of their own lives, having to be moved, sitting in corners, hours passing like glaciers in the wintertime.  For me, five years of coping, and always feeling, somehow, inadequate … and times a little frustrated in trying to take care of them when I needed to take care of myself.  That is how it goes with ageing parents.

Others are lucky, live close by, there for the chat and tea.  Not for me.

We all have our own relationships with parents, and ageing parents.  And then … they are gone.

And we are orphaned.

And we wish we did it differently.

And it is something we can never get back.

And I said to her. my heart breaks for you now, you are rushing to their side, and life is half you and half them … but still, good or bad, they are your parents.  This is the time you just take each moment and cherish while you still can.

When it was the orphan thing for me, I forgot the frustration, and the paying, and the wishing it was easier. I would have done it a million times over for the moment of seeing their faces and telling them it was going to be ok. The touch, a flickering smile when you walked through the door, it is fleeting and it is part of you.

How to tell her that these years will fly by in the caring for elderly parents when now it seems so tough? Hindsight is all, as I have learnt in so many situations, only if I could tell her that my hindsight may be her opportune time to get past the stress and really learn, really talk, really let them share their young lives, their lives before you; being ‘not your parents’ and then ‘being your parents’ for it will be the foundation of her going forward.

And the blessing, the good of it?

We did that. I created a journal with my ageing Mum.  We talked of her birthdays, her schooling, her first date. How she met my father, her wedding, dreams and hopes for her children. We spoke of her wishes for her funeral, sorted her will. We had time to get past the mother/daughter thing to learn about who she was as a person, which I never really had the time to consider, until she was frail and worried more about her handwriting becoming illegible and her appetite disappearing.

It was in the frailty that I learnt more about them being individuals rather than my parents.

It was a difficult time.  Heartbreaking. And a lesson.

Today, when I fuss about how my children may not call me enough, that I am a hovering parent, that their lives are going forth, I always think about how I was at their age.  And it was not about worrying about my mum other than, I should call … faced with the ’empty nest’ syndrome, I realise I never considered how us leaving home affected her.  What did she do to fill the time, how deep was the missing, never thought about it, but as I say, hindsight.

Now I think about it … it is ok that when I was in a youthful phase of my life, always knowing my parents were there, the focus was different., we all do it, they probably did it.  As it should be … it is only at this age when they are gone, that I think … maybe I should have been more aware. Yup, hindsight.

But, and I say but, it is when they are frail, the season over, that we must take time to really connect, and value them. Should always value them (are you listening dear children).  So my friend, when the losing them is close … take the time to stop and go .. yeah, it is frustrating, and it is taking up of your time, cherish every moment and just love them, and yourself, through it.

I miss them everyday. Now more for not having them somewhere in the background of my life.

More importantly, good or bad, they tried the best they knew how.  And they loved me.

Love them when they are angry at life, and knowing they are leaving you behind. Love them when they rage and fight the furies, fall and turn their heads in defiance of not being who they were, it will happen to us too. They are afraid. When they are gone, you will realise that they were the making of you.

Make notes. Talk. Comfort.

Images US news Impulse.com

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of yourself.

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

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

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

You are not alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here for you.

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

Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit

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

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

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

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

As she is here for longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: TNT magazine.

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

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

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

It has been a lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People still talk of having servants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France seems tempting …

Closer to my children. Family.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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


My model crush of the moment. Anna Sainte Marie.

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

I mean …

I found myself on the other side of the world.

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

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

Write another chapter.

As one does.

And one does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Vogue

 

 

 

St. Clements Café … an incredible chapter of growth.

This is going to be emotional. Then my life is one emotional journey, seldom lead by head, but always, let’s face it, by heart. In this chapter, for the past two years, my heart, broken and bleeding was brought to healing and joy in a small café in Parson’s Green.

Two years ago I lost just about everything I knew, and held dear.  The wings were broken, the raven deafening and the prospect of one step in front of the other, slow. Believing that I could exist was overwhelming. I had my children, dear God thank you for them, and in that wave of blackness and loss, I found a little café to hide in. So pretty, so everything I loved in the decor and atmosphere, and a small, insignificant sign in the window – help wanted.  Was it that I was beyond caring, but asked the manager if the job was still going.

‘For sure’ he said.  ‘Who would it be for?’

‘Me.’ I replied.  I could see the look of panic on his face, but the die was cast, the sign was sure and, could I say reluctantly, he decided to take a chance on me.  Let’s face it, a woman in her fifties, late fifties, wanting to work in a café was not something he had expected.  I was hired.  To be honest, the first few sessions meant me crawling home with legs unable to move, back and spirit broken, but I what else did I have?  Pretending to be something I had forgotten what that was. I needed work, I needed a distraction and more importantly, a reason to get up in the morning.

I have seen the looks with me in the apron.  Strangers, friends and children of friends popping in, going, shame, she has been reduced … I have seen it all. But in the seasons something else  happened – the forming of family. The joy of the walk from Putney Bridge in the morning to get there, set up and be delighted by the doing of it.  Freshly baked croissants and coffee smells lifting the very spirit of me.  I have been part of a community and they have become my community.  Babes growing, puppies growing, stories unfolding … the learning of the perfect cup, meeting celebrities (and of course Hugh, you have always been the one and I got meet you too), it was the everyday of everyone who came in, stayed, talked and left an impression. To the point where me going away, to South Africa,  meant those coming to say goodbye. Not a job, a place of happiness and even when it got so busy, we worked as a team, delivered perfection and I could go home knowing I had met and mingled with the best.

But it was more than that.

I had found my place. I belonged to a group of people I learned from, every, single day.  Young, gorgeous people, from all backgrounds, Sweden, Poland, England, Brazil … my kindred spirits. I learned from them. Energetic, ambitious, paying their own way, home far away, family far away, but never giving up.  We were in it together: kitchen porters, sous chefs, waitrons, owner – it was not about me, but about us and their love was tangible, support real, love unconditional.

And I am thinking, what have I done to say goodbye to it today?

I cannot stay.  My home in London has been sold.  I have no address here anymore. Taking a break to re-formulate, to re-address and hopefully return. We had so much time to laugh, the Christmas parties, the sharing of break-ups and new loves, of disappointment and new babies being born.  What I am trying to say is that working at this beautiful place, not only offered me sanctuary, but a home. I know your coffee orders, can do the milk art.  I can bake the cakes, fill the orders and remember the long recipe of what you want, with a little of this and a little of that.  I close with you in the winter, revel with you in Spring,  in the love of summer and chat about the Autumn delight:  do the flowers and admire your photographs of weddings, holidays and go – goodbye to those who have left, those who need to move on, and finally, it is me.

Olivia, I am forever grateful. You gave me more than you realise.  Kasia, Kat, Suzi, Michael, Beth, Lucy, Lounis, Anthony, Amanda and all those I worked with, my story is yours.  You are the making of me in this chapter  To Janelle, Fleeta, Toni, Nova, Sam, Kyril, Lucy and all of you, you know who who you are, you are the best thing that happened to me.  I am stronger and braver because of you.  And I shall return.

A small café saved my life. I will take your stories with me and be the better for it. Strong now, with or without the apron, and me again.  You did that, in the thrill of my favourite flower truck pulling up, the oat milk cuppaccino, the smashed avocado and the oceans of love.

We are not at goodbye. We are at we will support each other forever.

And I shall return. For I have found a family of exceptional people. How lucky am I?

Blessed. My apron on the back of the door … will pick it up again sometime. That is how great you have been St. Clements in Parson’s Green.