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.

Travelling during Covid. September 2020 A soggy day in Bath.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Welcome to the new world of travel.  It is going to be a bumpy ride, but it will always be worth it. It is an insatiable thirst, once tasted, always needed.  Always wanted.

The thought of not being able to travel again, this year, was a heartbreaking experience, for me.  I decided, it was not going to be – to sit and wonder and dream of places I needed to visit, and be satisfied to stay at home and embrace Covid. For five months, I sat at home, in South Africa, but dared to venture out to explore the little I could and it was life changing, in my own back yard.  Yet the yearning and the not being able to go beyond borders, seemed stifling, controlling even, and a first repatriation flight for me. Fortunately, and through much hardship, I now have two passports.

Back in London, the fingers were tapping for places to go.  I was not fast enough it seems, for the more I looked, the more the borders closed down in Europe.  Quarantine again.  Go close, I thought, mask in hand, go close, and it was Bath to be. And this is where the travel consultant ventured, and learned, and makes sure she can advise her clients about the experience of Covid travel.  It seemed so simple, a train trip to Bath, a budget hotel –  I have been to Bath so many times, but wanted to see how the world, and travel had changed, or adapted to the new way of being.

Of course.  Distance above all.  The saddest Railway station welcome to date.  Ticker tape evidence, everywhere. There is no dining service on the Train, but the journey itself was gorgeous, through Wiltshire, relaxing and letting the countryside whizz by.  If you are looking for assistance on arrival, best to follow the appropriate apps on your mobile, for humans are scare on the ground.

I had arrived early.  In the past, this was no problem and you could either check in early, or leave your bags at the hotel and return for check in.  I say this now in terms of a budget hotel: arrival was an empty reception area.  To call on the phone for assistance.  Skeleton staff doing all the work, and that included the cleaning, so I was a little concerned as to the quality cleaning of my room. That’s ok, I thought, will leave my bag, and venture into rainy Bath for the afternoon.  No leaving of luggage.

NB.  This has not been my experience is upgraded hotels.  One can still leave your luggage pre or post stay.

I make notes:  does Covid travelling exclude Budget hotels with limited staff for a while?

So it was to spend the afternoon walking through Bath with my luggage, backpack and, feeling like a tortoise with a fancy umbrella, ventured across the river into the heart of the city. This is when you realise that life, or the virus, has sucked the last of small coffee shops, little rendezvous havens and though the actual Baths were open, timed tickets were required.  All looked desolate and sad, even the Roman gods on the edge of the pools. Was it just the rain, the only day of rain, that seemed to create such a morose scene? Lack of hoards in summertime visits, but there were a few diehards waiting outside Sally Lunn’s Buns to tuck into tradition and take that ever important Instagram.

As a good travel consultant does, always checking to see where the good eating places are, where the great toilet facilities are, which hotels had actually opened, I was determined to make the best of it.  Despite the rain, the Abbey Hotel offered a great Afternoon tea and lot of sympathy for the bedraggled, wet person I was, with the luggage.

In the midst of Summer, Bath was pouring down. A gap in the sky had me going back to my hotel.  Now the wi-fi was an issue, and bookings for breakfast strictly observed by time slots.  With masks.  And this is the moment of travel, for now. I got soaked in Bath, I had to lug the luggage, but was I sorry I went?  Not for a minute. It was going back to a gorgeous city, with a history of Jane Austen, the Romans, the Crescent,  the beautiful parks and gardens. It rains in England and I can only say, if you travel when it rains, you find other gems you would normally pass by on a sunny day.

So what am I saying? Travel.  Do it anyway.  We get used to the masks and the lonely stations.  We fly and a face quarantine but it will always be worth it.  The summer is coming to an end but there are are so many local places to visit – the Staycation option is brimming and busy – even to the point of struggling to find accommodation. The point is to get out there and experience the best travel can offer, but be beware of the changes and go with the flow.

Loved Bath: parts deserted, other fully functioning. Rain or shine. Check with your hotel before you travel about left luggage and rules.

Flights are cheaper now – specials are really worthwhile. London, where I am based, is open for business. For some, the borders may still be closed, but wherever you are, support your local tourism and visit.  It is so essential that we get tourism back on its feet, for all of us.  So maybe you need to adapt, we all are, and the more we do, the sooner we get to travel the way we used to.

First trip down. Different but lovely. Dare I say this, but maybe spend a little more for upmarket hotels that offer more in the way of comfort at this time.

Oh, and Italy is still open … guess where I’m going next …

I cannot imagine my life without travel.  Don’t intend to.

 

Do we really begin to feel so old, or do others make us so?

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” ― Sophia Loren

It has been a while since writing, much has happened and mostly the superior irritation of feeling a lot older than I normally do.

I berate myself for doing this, but as much as I tried, the weariness and physical inability to dance through the moments, left me not only hobbling and frayed, but spiritually bereft. All my own doing …

At first, lockdown had me at ‘once again’ transforming everything.  Walking and, oh dear Lord, trying to become a runner without having trotted for a million years.  ‘Besimpled’ is all I can say.  Would it be karma at her wittiest, in bestowing me with ‘runner’s knee’?  One minute I felt the twinging of my right knee cap and before you could say, ‘we can have wine again’ I was hobbling to the Physio therapist for treatment.  ‘You have Runner’s knee.’  ‘You have to be kidding!’ Pain central.

This was not enough however, I was shifting to the London mode.  Time to return to the wee bairns (now seriously in no need of mother’s attention), signed a lease, took a repatriation flight and spent three weeks, with the wounded knee, living out of a suitcase.  Moving to a new house – falling down the stairs. I am Methuselah. And I was doing it to myself, feeling like a cripple without fitness, no energy, lots of depression and basically, deeply unsatisfied, hurting and unhappy.

The injury heals and the energy returns.  Which made me wonder if I was just plain feeling my age, dear God, or sinking into the acceptance and telling everyone that I was feeling old and miserable, and thus began to be treated thus?

Yesterday two things happened.  The first was a darling elderly gentlemen, who has yet to work out the wearing of a mask on the bus, or defiant perhaps, escorted by I surmise, his wife, who verbally  erased him from any form of independence.  A two year old had more freedom of choice, how to get on the bus, where to sit, how to sit, what was in front of him, outside the window – it was horrible to watch and the more she babied, the smaller he became.  The same happened in a coffee shop.  Two women in their thirties I think, brought in their mother.  Brought, it was more like escorted, plonked down on a chair, positioned and decided what was best for her to drink. The more they ignored her, only to order her to drink up, the smaller she became, and I knew I had done that to my own mother, not so long ago.

Why do we do that?  It’s a patience thing I guess and I was treating myself equally so, having no patience with this injury, transferring the frustrations of a lame leg and moving into a state of believing I was to old to cope. Resisting the change, even though I had brought it upon myself?  Looking for sympathy and then feeling sidelined because others had no patience with me? Physically, things will take a little longer – I doubt I would qualify now for things I would not have qualified for two decades ago.

But I was pissed off yesterday.  We are dealing with such ageism anyway and now, spirits sink at every turn when we are made to feel smaller, and I just hate that we fall for it. We accept that those younger are so much smarter and can stream, beam anywhere, virtual this and drink us under the table, but maybe we just secretly don’t want to know and do all those things anymore.  Champion of the Boat race drinking at University was sort of my highlight and now Mommy cuddles the bottle of wine, not because she has become a stereotype, but perhaps sometimes this world had just become so super boring.  We have cooked, cleaned, bathed, soothed, medicated, worked, travelled, loved and lived in full technicolour, thank you.  Kudos to Hugh Grant and Colin Firth who both turned 60 this week, the heart can still flutter and maybe more so that the looks are chiselled rather than winsome.

‘Ageing is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.’  David Bowie.

As to the question, yes.  We allow ourselves to feel old, become morose and think we have passed our time and wallow, and yes, others do make us feel old and we allow them too.

I will never wear the purple hat and fall into the stereotypes we tend to, but dammit, I allowed myself to think my life, romance, experiences and everything else, was over, because I struggled to walk, moved into a new house, take three buses to work and wore a knee brace on a nine hour shift.

And I am looking back at the pictures – not to feel sorry for myself, but to teach myself that granny frocks and socks and trainers and not really my style, so why the hell did I think my age made it acceptable?

If you are reading this with some delightful socks and crocks … you know what I mean.

Cheers!

 

 

er

Summer heat and finding my feet.

If Lucifer is testing me, am not ‘going to pull ‘a Karen’, but Hades, it’s hot!  London and heat like this has us wilting at sunrise and crisp by even fall.  32 degrees at seven pm – how are you holding out? What are you doing to keep cool?

George has been semi comatose all day.  Feet in cold water, feeding of the ice cubes, poor little fellow.  I have resorted to freezing grapes and juice, cold showers on the hour and still the glow has turned to ditch digging sweat. Still, its great to be back in London. From the alcohol ban in South Africa to this – Lucifer has been busy.

Patiently waiting for the International boarders to open, the wait is ongoing.  Decided to do a ‘repatriation’ flight back to the UK.  The prospect was daunting with all the rules and regulations and I was in a total panic; what if the temperature was a little high, the document a little missing … this was all a non-refundable exercise.  No going directly to the airport, loaded on buses and single file, we returnees were ushered onto the flight.  Gone were the lovely uniforms, replaced by white suited, visor clad and mask wearing crew. Understandable.  Worst airline food in history – no hot food, no coffee – day old smashed chicken and a slice of cheddar on a stale bun. Moving on.  Then there was the delightful ‘you must register with the UK government and quarantine threat.’ No-one at the airport to check.  All the drama for nothing – I think most airlines are stepping up to the ‘repatriation’ game to just get back into the air (at a hefty fare of course.)

Don’t blame them.  Let the world open up now thank you!  It has been too long, very sad and life changing, but too long. So what did you do in the months of not being allowed to step outside, stop working or work from home.  How did it work for you?  Are you still employed?  Many face redundancy and worse, many over fifties are now facing an uphill battle to find work.  Don’t stop going for it, it will happen.  This is just the time to re-evaluate and perhaps change direction. Is there something you have always wanted to do but feared for it at the same time?  Now is the time.  This lady is in the tourism business.  The tourism business is on it’s knees right now, and it breaks my heart, but I remain optimistic that it will pick up again.  That doesn’t mean I am not looking in different directions for something to add to my working life.  If weddings are on hold, I have seen wedding photographers change course and are giving virtual lessons, doing family shoots … you know what I mean.  It isn’t easy, and that is why, once again, I am finding my feet in a new dynamic, in a new world so to speak.

Challenging, but exciting at the same time. Finding you feet is what it is all about.  Doubt if I will ever be hired as a CEO in the next few months, but Lordy Lord, do I want to do that?  Rather be a dog walker (when it gets cooler).  No, it is not going to be easy, but it is going to be a path of discovery and DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE. If I am a typical Karen, than it is only because no is not a word I have a place for anymore.  Over the past few years, I have had enough no’s to build a fountain – base of no’s ,water of tears, but I have put that angel right on top.

As Dory would say, ‘just keep swimming’.

A darling friend, who like me has had an interesting, if never to be repeated, past few years.  She took her maintenance and bought a Guest House in December.  World crashing, I asked her how she was coping.

‘After what we have been through, this virus is nothing.’  That’s the spirit boss girl, that is the baby steps to success.

Not quite going to dive into the Thames, but a paddling pool in the living room is looking ever so attractive.

Hello lovelies … it’s going to be a great time.  I have been lying low, sort of if you have nothing to say, don’t spill the banal onto pretty ears, but now, oooh, now there is so much to say, do and discover.

Watch this space and get inspired in your own Silver Street – such a cool avenue.

Images: The Standard

 

 

 

 

Keeping faith and those French cafés.

C’est possible!

Saturday afternoon and I am onto my bigillionth cup of tea. Am a viable little teapot of late. Morning tea, blah mid-morning tea, after lunch tea … afternoon tea… it goes on and on and on. Count tea before I can count the wine. Dream of coffee. Dream of coffee on the sidewalks of Paris, which since this week, is possible again. Who would have thought, those tightly packed cafés, a breath from the person next to you, facing forward and viewing the world with a great little noisette, would be back in business? Can’t keep a good thing down.  Drinking coffee at home, during the lockdown, just isn’t the same n’est pas? Paris has come to life again, and plans made, sidewalks widened, tres interesting head gear in place,  the romance may be tainted, but not forsaken. Talking of inspiration, I have my little list this week.

Getting away, when I can get away. It’s to the beaches, the mountains, the cities. Until it actually happens, here’s to dreaming of Europe’s beaches. This of course, may have to wait until next year, and I shall never complain about Easyjet ever again. Much to complain about of course, nothing like the six am flight from Gatwick to lose one’s faith in humanity, big time; having to reduce luggage befitting a sparrow on route to the sun, the security snarls, stripping and apologising for whatever because you are convinced you must be guilty of some heinous crime. Not to mention the lovely louts in airspace, drinking largers in slipslops and the greasy spoon offerings before being shoved into a seatless space whilst the Speedy borders bully their way in front of you. I digress, I will not complain of Easyjet again for she can get me to the beaches of Shirley Valentine and Donna Sheridan. Low Budget airlines do test the faith, but I am keeping the faith to get to travel again. Hold that plane!

Whilst the rest of the world slowly returns to a semblance of what we know, the focus for me, rather than be pessimistic (and I have my moments), is instead on the amazing resilience all around. The last to be allowed to resume to business are the Hospitality, Wedding and Events and Beauty industries. You can imagine what the hair looks like now – think Charles Manson, but even in this faith remains for rescue. Many restaurants have turned to delivery services, setting up shop outside to serve customers. Entrepreneurs are offering online courses, writing great articles and making videos to keep their livelihoods relevant whilst holding out for salvation – it will come.

We will always want to go somewhere special to celebrate, meet friends. Weddings will happen. All will be well, if but in a different form.

We are still here. We have planning and projects to explore. Face realities of what still exists and what we can salvage out of what is not working anymore.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Brene Brown. Keeping the faith is key. Believing that we can rise, change, deliver and drag ourselves up from the floor over and over again, is what makes each of us unique and valuable.

Adding bookmarks of inspiration to daily life, is what it means to plan forward, rather than be stuck in the disappointment of the time. We need creativity, innovation and regeneration now. New careers are out there, it may be a first for you, doing something you never dreamed of.

Think outside the box, if the box of your life has a lid on it. No matter our age, we are all going to have to be inventive – no-one is immune to change and this mother of all change has many of us in the starting blocks, running a new race. I’m ready and impatient to start. And then to the beach and a stop at the Café de Flore.

 

Image: Christophe Petit Tesson

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till more xxx

Image: own and Bournmouth news.

One rose can be your garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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