Why am I avoiding being the new Samuel Pepys?

 

‘But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the ‘Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.’

There will be many, diarists of this time.  I have written some stuff, but nothing that will be discovered centuries later about life in the middle of this pandemic.  Perhaps I should have started a year ago, when the first smatterings of news of COVID19 had us at, what, when, how and now, almost a year later, more anxious than ever that this will ever end. I honestly cannot say what I think about it, believe about it, but that sadness has descended on the world is the truest thing I could say.
A friend lost her husband yesterday, on Christmas day, to the virus.  Forever to mark the day. The loss of life, the horror of it all, I don’t want to think about it, cannot even bring myself to read the statistics and wonder, and I do, if I will succumb to it. I fear more for my family, friends, and those I love and yes, I have prayed for release from this all.  Walking the empty streets of London, I am so reminded of Mr. Pepys and how history is a great lesson.
A little about the man.  Samuel Pepys kept diaries, particularly from 1660 to 1669 which covered the Great Plague, the Dutch War, the Restoration and the Great Fire of London.  His biography is riveting stuff, the diaries written in code, but this was more to mask all his numerous affairs and undesirable associations – the man married a girl of fourteen for goodness sake! Yet he is the one we look to for day to day recordings of what it was like back then – he witnessed the execution of Charles I and was on the ship bringing Charles II back to royal power.  A man of Naval office, walker of streets, observer of all.
I walk the streets now.  London is empty and filled with stories.  I love the mesh of lives past and present.  We have soared since then, technology, space, medicine and education.  Yet we fail with Cancer and COVID. But this is not why I walk the streets of London at this time.
I walk because I feel the passion for life.  Senses acute, eyes averted up and far, touching, reaching, immersed in life.  Lives lived and remnants of their being here, lives loving and birthing and painting and writing and creating lace, buildings, taming rivers, trading in coffee houses, putting on plays at the Globe, I am part of something bigger than just now.  And that is what gets me through.  I am watching the same view, tripping on the same cobbled streets, caressing the same pages.
Our pain is universal.  Our achievements too.  I could not imagine getting through this if I did not have the past to show me how. Perhaps it makes me feel small in some way, that I am but a little human at this time, and not so significant in the big scheme of things.  No Kingdom, no Papacy, no Master of Art or developer of the latest app – but I am part of something great. And as much as this time is a tragedy we, as modern day, solve it all, super achievers have been knee amputated and no real answer, we are still part of something magical. Life.
Part of our own story.  Like the millions that have been before, simple workers, homemakers, mothers and daughters, we have a right to be here.  To write our own story. Diarise it, paint it, print it … or just be in it.
Who would have thought I would ever get to be in the ‘high risk’ category?  The close up there to getting the vaccine because of my age, underlining conditions, and just plain on the other side of fifty? Does it scare me – you betcha it does, but I cannot just sit and wonder if living every day is going to be unfulfilled, without curiosity, without hope?  I do what is needed, isolate and follow the rules. When I go out, I am alone, choose the empty carriage, touch no-one and wear my mask.  I know how serious it is.  I know how much I need to cherish my children. But I do go where I am allowed, and in this city, I am allowed to wake up super early, be the only one on the bus, exit and begin the journey to the past, to validate my present.
I will not diarise this time, for this time is not what we are supposed to endure. Pepys wrote everyday, I appreciate everyday now. Follow amazing people writing blogs, filming on You Tube, being creative in a new normal.  I embrace every single person who still wants to act, write, sing, paint, build a building, fly a plane.  I embrace every midwife, nurse, teacher, lawyer, politician, fisherman, baker, barista, decorator, truck driver and everyone who is making the best of this time, without documenting their journey, but doing their journey regardless. One has to love the final recognition of true heroes at this time. It is time. It is long overdue.
In my fifth Lockdown, worried and afraid about the year that has been, and the year ahead, I will not diarise the darkness, but the light of being here, part of an amazing journey.
I will leave the light on. To music, love and just being human.
Suffering exists and my heart breaks all the time, but somehow, I don’t know how … she keeps pumping.

 

 

Staying strong. Stay strong.

My dear friends … it has been hard.  This whole year has been fractious, anxious, unknowing, and just plain difficult.

When I experienced my first lockdown, there was a sense of bravado, even fun, trying to get hold of wine, been told off for meeting someone across the road, waiting for the skies to open and then thinking … it will get better.

Tonight, I am in London, in Tier 4, and little is better.  This is my fifth lockdown, if anyone is counting, so effectively I have spent the entire year with some restriction or another.  Work has dried up, being in the tourism industry, and my walks around London are now not proudly showing off this amazing city, but walking alone. And now I cannot really do that either.

For some who do not know, I live between London and Cape Town.  A result of a change in relationships and a new chapter.  I love both equally, but my work is here, and having flown back in August, I have spent the past four months without an much of an income, like so many others.  For some who may know, it has been a change over the past few years of having to start again, re-define myself and build my future, firmly planted in my own two shoes.  My family are here and that is why I love being here, and then I go back to my roots to savour my heritage. Lockdown has brought some wild flurries of despair and heartache, but also a time of self growth, though I have not yet succumbed to the knitting or banana bread making.

Instead I have chosen to discover more of London, areas I had known little about and I suppose, determined to educate myself at this time.  Walked the streets that are dormant, listless, at times having coffee shops open, times looking around for the available loo stops (which are important) as I delve and photograph and research to a new level.  Looking up, looking down, into alleys and history and what fascinates me so about this city.

I have re-discovered my love of Art. In particular Art History, for I am afraid a master of the paintbrush I am not ever going to be, but the details and stories in every masterpiece has me at, just standing and so aware that I am in the midst of greatness, in every century.  More importantly, with all the submersion into history, culture and art, I have become acutely aware of how life has always been fragile, tenuous and fleeting.  Passengers all.  My life, till now, has been easy, no World Wars and endless days of bombing over my head, technologically advanced, and I think this pandemic has swooped me right back to thinking that it is all just about, taking every day at a time and appreciating a life I have been given.

And she says this, not in the free falling of … it is what it is … I don’t like that phrase, but in the flipping, I am part of an existence that has been a long time past and a long time coming and I am going to just be strong and weather this storm and leave a little mark, somehow, somewhere … who knows?

Can joke about this year, about to end with more restrictions and Dear Lord, Brexit.  Oh please, can we cancel Brexit under the circumstances and realise we really do need each other? Can we just go back to being friends and allies and fellow countrymen and file Brexit away? Guess not, not that it will deter me from travelling to Europe at the very first chance I can get.

Which is the plan. Must plan when everything seems without plans and without planes in the sky.

So thank you Charlie Mackesy for your words of wisdom, you are, with copious amounts of wine, getting me through this. I am strong, London stands magnificent and Table Mountain will still be there for me. I will not be defeated, she says hopefully, will be careful but now more than ever, rely on the lovely bloggers, mainly my age, who are strong, positive and feeding my soul.

Can you imagine how isolated and lonely people once were when no news arrived, you feared a letter and life was reduced to your own little corner? Some say it was better.  We have social media, bloggers, influencers and like minded people sharing, caring and drip feeding me everyday.

Truth, like blood, is here.  The times are coursing through our veins and we can choose to poison our blood, our lives or our dreams because of it, but I am holding out, staying strong and determined to find the positive, feel for those who have suffered greatly through this, and hope that I may be blessed to chat, discover, travel and grow, after this lockdown.

Some of us are alone, or feel alone at this time.  We may not know each other, but we are there for each other. Keep blogging, texting, Instagramming, Face booking or whatever you want to do … I am on the other side, feeling less lonely, less old, less hopeless, because of you. Staying strong. Stay strong.

Credit Image. Charlie Mackesy

 

Comforts in a time of Not yet the Christmas Spirit and Covid.

 

If I cannot travel now, I find the memories and momentous of my travelling times, the greatest comfort. Rooibos and Honey Tea and the honey I bought last year at Le Potager du Roi, in Versailles.  When I do find the perfect French/Sourdough loaf, there is little better than crispy toast, lashings of butter and this honey, along with a cup of the Red Bush, as the English like to call it.  I say Rooibos, with the extra touch of the rrrrr.

The Autumn leaves are almost down (Halloween style), whipped by the wind,  the world getting a little anxious, all over again, it is to the small things we return.  Not the initial lockdown of ‘survivor mode’, endless puzzles and illegal wine gathering.  Having said that, even here in England, should I be stockpiling the wine, or Merde!, perhaps the Christmas party food? If we are still having a Christmas n’est pas?  I do see some lovely Christmas decorations already …

Did I tell you about John Lewis and their Christmas decoration department?  A knock my socks off sort of shiny heaven.  Not just for the traditional green to gold to red, there must have been about six different themes, right down to a London themed tree, shiny cabs and glistening red buses.  Deeper than Prussian blue peacocks meshed with gold and aaah…  you had to be there. Thinking about it now, the staff then were just wonderful, so what happened to the goblins of yesterday?

This little home from home from home … as this little gypsy lives, is getting into a very early Christmas Spirit. We all know there is not much else going on.  Since my return to London, the café chapter has closed, there are no tourists and thus no tours, the travel and event industry lies beneath the spell, and so, why not get into the Christmas Spirit (and a little Halloween too).

For those of us with Children, you remember those early years when they made Christmas decorations in October?  Those delightful creations we gushed over and tried to identify?  Right along with the Nativity plays in November.

On the slightly melancholy side of things, my attempt yesterday at getting ‘Christmassy’ for stocking fillers and the like, was not the greatest experience.  Somehow felt like the pretend thing was going on:  we know Christmas is coming so we will put out a few decorations, churn out some jingles and patrol anyone without a mask, thorough washing of hands or cautious about a close up of the goodies on display.

‘Step back from that counter’ – was one ‘Hello’ and ‘How can I help you’, in disguise.

‘Madam, there is now a no touch and smell policy in place.’  Okay, so I want to smell the difference between the bath bombs, even through the mask which is like smelling a rose through a dishtowel, but you didn’t need to be so hostile.  The harassment continued when I unknowingly stepped into a cute shop for a take away coffee and was … merde again, the third man and crossing the boundary. Step away from the door, onto the sidewalk until summoned. You can imagine by that time it was … this is frigging random, and not working for me.  The zombies that should be thankful to still have a job, would make Nurse Ratchet seem like a Lark in a willow tree.  Glum, short, nothing like the jolly, jolly, jolly, but then, it could just have been me with expectations too high, what do you think?

The day was nursed back into happiness with family, a pot of tea and Marks and Spencer’s shortbread biscuits. Bought the biscuits for Christmas somebody and decided, invasive action was required for cheering up.  Worked a charm. And of course, George.

Home comforts hey?  Not going to be flouncing around Paris in the next few weeks, or popping to see the gardens which are either time slotted or closing for the winter.  No dash up to Balthazars, to dinner with friends, or a last lie on the beach, so I say … bring on the Christmas spirit, pretend if you have to, hoard up on the little home comforts and stay positive.

If you had to surround yourself with a few home comforts to lift the spirits, what would they be?

 

The Birthday. How to feel thirty with thirty years ago.

The last of the Birthday roses, verlep as the Afrikaners would say –  such a lovely word that, verlep.  Like the floppy giving into the last showing before compost.  Limp, but still lovely, and I have held onto them for two weeks, a reminder of the birthday day.

Sitting here tonight, much has happened, but one of the main reasons I am now in the midst of one of those gloriously, gusty, frigging gales of an English storm, post repatriation, dodging Covid and all the other horrible scenes of this year, is that I really could not face my birthday, being far from my family.  How times have changed.  Me, the Birthday giving Queen of all that is performance and splendour of the birthday genre, simply had to be close to my family when I turned the big one after sixty.

Sixty was the game changer.  Part relieved that I had made it to the number, and part, here comes the sodding downward spiral – I can’t even really say it, that I am sixty, and now, it’s plus one and the verlepness is more prevalent than ever.  A bit like the roses, officially the extra cast member in the play of life, the one you find in the background, like the wife of the tavern or the midwife, all round and flushed, whilst romance, sex and driving ambition is left to the central characters. I was not going to self verlep on my own, an ocean away from my children.

Moments of self wallowing are so permitted in my life.  I am the queen of wallowing and thrusting my pitiful self to the gods, wailing and cursing the furies.  Quite love that about me.  The birthday was a perfect excuse to regress to Lady Macbethean norm – who wants to be sixty-one, divorced, sort of homeless and just a little bit bitter? My mother at sixty one, dare I say I cannot remember, must have been happy with a small, morning tea party (at that time I was being the egotistical doer of all and called her on her birthday) but some of us, oh we just go on teasing the world and trying to find our part to play, still determined to be a viable character, rather than the settled frau.

I digress. My birthday in London was lovely.  It was worth flying all those miles back to London.  I even got a balloon!

I had forgotten how loved I was.  The day was filled with messages, calls and hugs.  My family spoilt me with breakfast that lasted till dinner and I was in the midst of all my reason.  A day of lovely things and lovely people.

It was me feeling old.  Me, feeling chased by age and possibilities I had not explored, challenges I had not faced.  It was me feeling that time had gone, memories, like fossilised bones, were haunting. It was me being boring, and afraid.

Two weeks has passed and I keep the roses, the balloon is all ballooned out and the gifts linger for my ‘oh dear, when can I travel’, travel. London is quiet, the world is in limbo, but that doesn’t mean I have to fade away to age and doubts and wondering if the next ten years will be one of wine, weight and settling.

Two weeks hence, the fire is still burning, deep in the belly of hope, optimism and growth. Being so very Churchillian about it all, and while some want to pull the statue down, the man is a hero with the cigar. Like so many other amazing people I am discovering more about, starting with great things after the big 60.  We can all decide to settle, be comfortable and pace our little lives like the plodders, or rise to the occasion.

Flip, I felt so old the day before my birthday. Not so much anymore.  To lovely things, and you know, it was the people around me that dribbled the courage from the glass of life into me

PS – little gray covered by safely brown – banished to hectic blond, as it should be, and that is just the beginning…

Happy Birthday to moi – and to all of you.  This is not the settling time, but the kick ass time. To lovely things and strong, deliberate, convicted belief that My Silver Street is not the colour of our hair, but the mercury that lingers in our veins.

Redundancy, financial loss and COVID.

In the midst of grief, any given clichés, advice, self help books or other bits of advice, may just be the last thing you want to hear.  Platitudes and attitudes that could not possible grasp the depth of your loss.  Believing no-one would ever begin to understand how devastating it feels, you are inconsolable.

You have lost your job.  Your income.  The future is uncertain. Your grief is real.  Some may feel it as acutely as death, divorce, any other form of trauma we experience in these crazy but wonderful lives of ours.

I remember the first time I was made redundant.  Total failure were the words that sprang to mind.  The more the company director tried to explain it was a financial, corporate decision, the more I felt I was being told I was worthless.  Not worth fighting for, expendable. It was gutting – I was broken.  All the doubts and recriminations dogged my every day.  Limping from the office, I was too afraid to tell anyone – what would they think of me?

I was twenty-two and it was a business decision, but I could not see past my shame. We do have a way of beating ourselves up for the smallest of nothings, but still I felt tainted somehow.  Young and energetic, another one soon came along.

Covid has wiped the jobs of millions from their CV’s.  Unprecedented, early shock had us at furlough.  At least we were ok, we thought,  but in my line of business, tourism and hospitality, the reality of not going back to work became a reality.  I remain optimistic though, there will always be a desire to travel and celebrate, I just have to think of other ways of going about the next few months to earn an income, re-adjust, prepare and will be ready when those itchy feet want to travel again.

Having said that, being made redundant at any age is traumatic.  Being made redundant or losing your income in The Silver Street time of your life, that’s just so much more difficult.  We know all the fluff of no-one being ageist and hang onto that belief, but we also know that when we are up against thousands of others desperate to work, it’s going to be a little harder for us. Defeatist though, never.  Getting by is operation central now.  Just getting by, like the proverbial swan, gliding on top of the water, but paddling like the devil underneath – and that is the planning for great things.

Just remember, you are not alone right now.  You know that, you read the papers, you are part of a pandemic, of a greater force and you are simply thrown from the economic fallout that is happening right now.  You are not alone.  It is devastating when you don’t know where the next salary check, dividend or any form of financial aid is coming from.  It is super scary, especially when you have expenses, accounts, financial agreements that have to be honoured, but how?

Never one for giving advice, I am simply going to jot down a few pointers that are helping me through this at the moment. Some you may relate to, some you may think … the woman has lost it and some may just be that kind of drivel you don’t want to hear.  Be positive, seriously?  Now? The woman is deluded.  But actually, she’s not.  Take it from someone who has worked in more jobs than a packet of liquorice all sorts – always adapting, always falling … and always getting up again.  This is my personal advice to myself.

  1.  It will pass.  Forever going back to compare this time to what others have endured in history. I am not close to starvation, isolated and far from my family.  Others are so much worse off than me, I see them driven by hunger and fear and I need to do the best I can, for I still have plenty by comparison.
  2. The little bit of money put away.  I need to dip into my rainy day funds, but am staying away from my capital.  To do this, I need to find temporary work until I can get back on an even keel.
  3. Been working on my CV, which let’s face it, at our age, reads like an encyclopaedia – how to reduce this to bulletin type, one page only, was surely a theory devised by an ancestor of The Marquis de Sade. Nevertheless a fun read. You may need to up the CV for the first time in a long time, no need to pay someone else to do it, anyone younger has it down pat, believe me, my children find this part of my life very entertaining.
  4. If money pinches, take anything you can, for now.  I am not averse to getting down and dirty if it means my bills are paid.  You never know, what you may think the most menial of labour, may just be the most rewarding.
  5. Clear your head. Clear your head of past accolades and any reference to what you were.  You will be. In the middle is, it will suffice until I will be awesome, even better than before.
  6. Be humble.  Everyone wants what ever is available out there.  Imagining you are a Ferrari and the job requires a white van is not going to play in your favour.  White vans can do so much more anyway.
  7. Be even more humble.  If it means calling every contact you know, pulling in the network threads, reminding relatives in the closet that blood matters, do whatever you can to clock the hours and get the pay.  Well, not everything …
  8. If your first mental response to lockdown was like mine, I was wondering about growing potatoes etc, and did just that.  Planted lettuce (which got aphids) and all sorts and made casseroles, enough of which I froze to feed an army or two in the future.  Then I took a repatriation flight back to London and the mountains of packeted food was given to others. With all the restaurants in lockdown, I saved a lot of money, and that is going to stay that way until things ease up. I don’t need to eat out and buy clothes if money is tight.
  9. I think that’s it for the surface part, now to the paddling beneath the water part.
  10. Planning a whole lot of new ways and avenues that will enrich (hopefully in more ways than one) my life.
  11. This I can do while I am working, part time or full time when I can, and do some more courses (are there any left I haven’t done) or get a new website up for something else I have always wanted to do.  I love cooking, what are the possibilities there … and so on.  Never let it be said that invention is not close to dealing with a disaster. Being unafraid and driven are the buzzwords required here. Post these words around the house.
  12. And my advice to myself is done.  I have to work, I want to work, I can’t be fussy and it will all come right again – then I will have a multitude of great things to make my day even more curious.

Once I got my headspace right, just the same as all the other times when grief was all consuming and that black cloak tightly wrapped, I am ready to listen and learn from others.  There are many groups on Face Book, i.e. Over 50’s job seekers, that share real stories, advice and links for potential jobs.  There are, yes, she says, books and articles that will give you the sugar in your tea, help you focus, which is a tad difficult at the moment.  There are people to talk to, people to follow who have courage enough to feed some into you.  And you can then do the same for someone else – speak, write, advise, hold spiritual hands.

And me, I consider myself fortunate.  It IS going to be tough, but I am the little mole, digging and clawing my way through the tunnel right now, convinced I will find the light.  You hold on, we are in this together.

Images: Pintrest

 

 

June. Glorious June.

Envigorated. The first of the week and the first of the month. Double delight.  We are beginning to see the light.

Who would have thought that the first half of the year, 2020, would have brought such immense change, deep level five changes to our lives? Who would have thought? Life became about biding our time, locked down, hopeless to control, in the worst season of war some of us had ever experienced.  And we suffered, we lost, we feared and we got to know a different kind of future – for some, still unknown – do we still have jobs out there, can we still go out there, how will it be, how will we cope?

Just like that, half the year swept under a veil of fear and uncertainty. Being our time, housebound, locked out, locked in. Brutal stuff .We learnt the possibilities of confinement, tried this ,did that, baked the banana bread. Some exercised, some began on line courses, some cried all the time, some rebelled – but the collective human nature, coped.

Where I am tonight, lockdown is still deep. But, and little by little, light shines through. Today we were allowed to buy wine, ‘hello wine!’ and able to walk around at all hours of the day. These little givings changed all around me, smiles came forth … and we still look to the skies to see the planes, for so many of us are waiting to board – me back to England and missing the Summer, but hopefully that this will happen soon. In the meantime, in lockdown, all sorts of acceptance happened.  Being here, at first, was scary, so far from my family and what I know, but now a time, a retreat of sorts, to accept the quiet and kill the fear, the stuff, hone into the what matters and that is a good thing.  As I said, the stages, which is now, the planning and doing time.

Would I have done this if life was as frantic as it had been? Doubt it.  I have been forced to slow down in in that, to find the simple stuff, lost long ago.  Cherish that.  I have sorted photographs, memories, songs, little anxieties and the past.  And now, with June, happy June, it’s the light to where we fly.  To the light we look up too.

I have finally spent time in my other home.  And made it more so.  A family place to come to and love.  Over the years we rented, had strangers stay, and now it’s finally become the place of peace.  Am here now.  It has also become the place of family to return to, have when things are good, and not so good, and done.  When I leave, close the door, and I can, it will be here. Times we are given things we at first, resent.  This was part of a settlement and I thought, I don’t want to live here, I live there and all that … the lockdown of being here has forged a new love affair. It is home.

Life gave me two destinations. Blessed I think. Not by choice, but now by choice.

For me, June has the beginning of true Summer,and the beginning of Winter.  The vineyards are turning golden to red, to brown. In England, the roses are blooming.

It’s all about the light, wherever you are.  The slow but steady lifting of darkness this year. Parks are opening, shops are opening, coffee is back on the menu. We can walk, and talk again of subjects other than Brexit and Covid. Thank you! We have downed the crafts and seeking nature.  We can dance with optimism in anyway we choose. The into ourselves and re-inventing is going to bear fruit. New careers, dishing the old out with the plughole, force drive to the other ourselves.

Confetti June.  Diaries are opening again. Plans are possible. I am excited.

We have found the small stuff, the little posies, the big bouquets of life. To the rivers, the beaches, the mountains and the stage of all that we can do.  And I am not alone in this, in this possible reinvention, renewal and loveliness of it all.

June is a great month. Glorious June.  You have come around and we are back on the stage of all we want.

We are going to be amazing – women, and men, who have had to re-define all we are.  Begin again. Try again.  And in that, the stage is open, the waiting in the wings is over … take centre stage in your life and live it with gay abandon.  If this time has taught me anything, it’s that we have no time to just be spectators in our lives, but to be the number one headline in it.

Happy June, I embrace you – you are the bride of all that can happen.

Break the rules. Make your own. A month of all the loveliness possible.

 

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.

It is forgiven to falter when the world is askew …

I’m fine, truly I am.  The world has gone mad, a plague is upon us, we dig deep, we smile and wish each other well … we can do this!  We can, we will and blah … Sunday night (is it Sunday) and if we have to be honest … this is bloody awful.

Take it from someone who has chosen optimism ( a dear phrase) in the darkness that has clouded our lives.  Been through worse, she says, this is nothing compared to the chapters in a long life that one would rather skip over.  This is a but a new challenge … a foreign challenge we have no answers too … and there are the moments, and we are entitled to them.  Be kind to yourself.

In the five weeks of isolation and devoid of physical contact, the days began with ‘I shall build a puzzle’ and do all the things I never had time to do right? Watch movies in the afternoon, eat pasta for breakfast, have wine at two in the afternoon – all rather marooned on an island kind of thing.  We use a razor (this is another story), we tap into thinking our scary hair will empower us – sans all the little lovelies we used to do, are hanging for a while.  The memes flood my inbox, laugh and keep that cheery disposition amidst the silent blaming and thinking, it’s just for a while.  Then things like ‘hang in there, the war lasted four years, Anne Frank hid for five years’ sort of things keep coming my way and I am armoured for the days when I don’t really know what day it is and the news just does not get better.  And then I think, shall I always try to be optimistic, or shall I just be honest and say … this is bullshit, but deal with it anyway.

The new normal.  Accustomed to isolated routine. Apart from flattening the curve, it has also flattened who we are.  Our lives, our individuality is flattened for habits that make us unique.  I like my coffee this way, take this bus, walk along this street, meet in this pub and so forth … we are not allowed, so we become levelled in that … all together in the doing little, worrying about money and jobs, and family and death … we worry about that.  Not so much before, classical, universal issues were something we didn’t have to confront at the time … and Sunday nights, this is what I think about.

I cannot face another puzzle. Truth.  I cannot bear to think that this will go on forever, be excited about making masks out of fabric and stand two hundred feet from another. That Paris and London are like other cities, zombie fashion of desolation – that galleries lie quiet and eerie. People running out of food.  It all seems too gastly, even with the cheerful upper lip fixed firmly.

And then, and then. The sunlight hit my little pineapple.  A gift from my special friends when I left London a few months ago. For a little while.  And I had to just stand, look at it and think for a moment.  That little pineapple represents all the pineapples found around London.  A time when life was exceptionally difficult, life was tenuous, grief all around and for those that could afford it, a pineapple was a token of wealth, of prosperity.  Could cost you up to 350 pounds.  If no pineapple was to be had, to rent it, print it on wallpaper, fabrics, mould the form into plaster casts on walls, in gardens … all about the pineapple.  Even on the tips of St. Paul’s cathedral they are, in gold. Aspiring to the pineapple. Who would have thought?

In 1664 London was plagued. ‘Ring-a-Ring O roses” … we all fall down. This is not new to civilisation – we are in a new plague and we shall survive and I look at the pineapple and think … it is history that will define us. We are making history now, and how we deal with it, will be the making of us. And the beginning of us again.  Delving deep into history is the way forward, for we have faltered, and cried, lamented and feared before. Be it the plague, the pestilence, the wars and now another form of onslaught, I look at my little pineapple and think how life re-built before. To better things. To Sir Christopher Wren and other architects, to scientists and key essential workers, out there, not just dealing but planning to make it better.

My Sunday blah … anxiety and worry is what so many felt before me, when life went crazy and we didn’t know the answers. Like now. I don’t know,  I can’t solve it and I have to believe. I have to have faith that it will pass and it will.  History is a great teacher.

A new normal.  Being present.  Not listening to the doom sayers. Being occupied and planning for next week, next month and next year.  It is going to be fine, going to be good – going to be different but we can deal with that. Not, and not again I say, be excited about a puzzle or food, or wine, or tokens of making it through another day … making it matter when the world is struggling, I am struggling but I am going to be the best, the most amazing maker of a new time.

For now, in my line of business, times are really tough. Tourism will take a long time to recover. But it will… we will always want to explore the world, learn more about our cities, our landscapes, our history and how we fit into it all … it will recover and I will be ready, despite the Sunday blues, it will be the best time to show others what was, the pineapples and how we are survivors, like those before us, to make a new normal – be the best time we live in. Sunday night and I am thinking about the Churchillian in me … and I will be sharing it with you soon. London will be even more magnificent …the world will be new, and magnificent. Trust on a Sunday night, is what I need to believe in. And I do.

Monday will be the optimistic day.  Sunday blues are allowed … be kind to yourself, it will pass.

Keep safe, have the blues, and plan  …

 

Hag Sunday.

The fear is real tonight.  Totally normal, being down and up and chipper and swooping into sulking happens.  Being totally overwhelmed and depressed is part of the game, and tomorrow I shall be happy bunny all again. There are real issues out there, and this lockdown is letting the gremlins seep under the doorway.Sunday night blues.  You know that feeling.

Did I really spend the entire day in a pair of gym pants? The same one’s I wore yesterday?  My mother would be so disappointed.  ‘Darling, you will always make sure you look your best.’  Remember the thing about wearing the best underwear in case you needed the doctor to make a house call … got told that all the time. Ok, so I haven’t resorted to the dodgy underwear, the kind of ‘must have the matching lingerie type of gal’ and admittedly don’t even own a pair of track suit pants, or a hoodie for that matter, so the gym pants thing is indicative of the ‘blah’ state of self-isolation.  Another day of lockdown – the hag rose from the drainpipe.

Day didn’t start that way.  Yay for the new day, motivated and at the ready for productive day complete with programme of doing things to pass the time.

Can lick the walls of this house.  Bleached to within an inch of its life, cleaned and polished – by nine am.  Only a thousand hours to go. Work on hold, email box spits up only travel news, which is nil.  Ok, a bit of exercise needed.  In the mayhem of mouse in the house and literally hurling everything on it’s head to check for any other unwanted visitors, found the turquoise coloured weights I missed so long ago.  Lifted them above my head, once, twice, over that. It’s Sunday, I’ll do some more tomorrow. Danced a little to a song so that should count. Spent some time looking for my eyebrows which we all know at this age, seems to leave my face at certain times when I must be sleeping. Sigh. Shaved my legs yesterday, so that’s another pastime not to be repeated today.  Sigh.  Instead I spent time biting my nails as I looked out of the window for a sign of life. Hello neighbour’s cat on my wall.  Can you make sure no mice coming for tea in the future?

I do believe the wearing of gym pants is indicative of me being active. Holding onto that thought.

At the time ticks away, tonight I find myself regretting the wishing away of time.  Regret wishing that I was so skinny I could eat twenty Big Macs, and not buying a treadmill before the world did. Regret a multitude of things when the only thing still working is my overactive brain. These are trying times and the brain, and heart have too much time to think about the past when the future is a little vague right now. The hag is being wistful.

Others have been in lockdown for so much longer. Others are out there doing their jobs at great risk of the virus, but playing a very important part in this chaos and perhaps I am just feeling a little useless in the midst of it all.

But, and she says but, we are all still here, and must make light of the situation – tomorrow I shall wake and greet the ants in the garden, put on a frock and contemplate how to ban the hag and bring on the powerful change.

This is me tomorrow:

Keep safe, keep sane and if the lunacy descends everyone and then, it’s fine.  You are being human.

 

Images: Pintrest and New York Post

 

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 …