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

 

 

 

 

Covid and Peanut butter sandwiches.

In a world gripped by Covid, we are all struggling, in our own way.

The day has been one of torrential rain, gales so fierce it is difficult to go outside.  I am safe and warm in my home, but I am also in a country that many are facing starvation – poverty so dire, it is difficult to imagine the sheer extent of it all.

So tonight I write, not of pretty gardens or far off beautiful places, but of what is happening, right here, right now.  And the heart is breaking for those who fight the elements of the fiercest cold, and the most desperate of hunger. The predicament has always been here, but perhaps Covid has brought the plight of the homeless and destitute to the fore.

Began for me, oh dear, staying longer than expected in South Africa, and making the best of it.  What to do, get though this, until I could fly back to London.

I felt very sorry for myself. How to pass the time and I have no work here.  Do a little decorating, work in the garden … wait it out.  Then  I found, by chance, a group of women who were making sandwiches for children who were now, not getting a meal at school, for schools have been closed.  Make a few sandwiches, they asked, help these children have at least one meal a day in their bellies.

I can do that, I thought.  Make my own little contribution.  Toss in a bag of oranges, or two. Every week I made sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches ( peanut butter is more nourishing) and happily deposited my bags of charity at the point of collection.  Once a week. Keeping the distance.

If I could post some of the pictures of the children, and adults, receiving packages of basic food, I would. But I won’t, for their sakes.  They are lovely, the utter gratitude, but also the real ‘picture’ of hunger, and fear. They do not need to be put on social media, or this post, and I will respect them.

This amazing, and generous, group of women has grown to the stage where nearly two thousand sandwiches are made every week.  As is, the need for other basics became evident.  Blankets, clothes, diapers, plastic, drinking water and even just something like tampons were top of the list. A handicapped child was found in a squatter camp, his mother trying her best. We were made aware, hospital visit arranged, a wheelchair donated by funds from children, parents, anyone who could help. Still I thought, do what I can, from a distance.

I was asked to visit a squatter camp, to take photographs for a newsletter, for a charity. Was reluctant. It’s one thing helping out, and quite another, getting up close. Feelings of dread, not wanting to seriously engage. I did go. There are people, of all races, living under plastic sheets, hoping against hope for a wooden structure, a steel container, anything to protect them from the elements. There is no race issue here, only one of survival. In the most basic form. The most basic act of just getting through the next hour, the next day.

And I thought.  How did you get to this?  How can you not make something of yourselves, seriously, is there no job, or self help scheme to lift you from this desolate state? As I began to speak to a few living there, there isn’t. Zenophobia excludes help. A few are trying to earn a few cents by begging at stoplights, making scarves and jewellery, selling plants they have gathered in the mountains behind them.  Yet, everyone I spoke to was strangely calm, hopeful and grateful. Can I just say, I felt so small.

I would love to post pictures of the smiles on those children’s faces when they received a peanut butter sandwich. I cannot.

The pandemic has prevented many from going to work. I worried about getting more wine. Africa is Africa and poverty will always be here I suppose, but now, in this time, people are willing to risk getting Covid rather than starving. They will risk the disease instead. In becoming involved, I have seen the elderly grasp at a parcel of soup mix, children running for bread, mothers crying quietly with resignation, others huddled against the cold. Under plastic, crates, makeshift corrugated iron sheets. And still helping others.

Around the world, statues are going down, anti racism protests, political chaos.  Dare I say it, but there are do-gooders who shout for a while, and go back home.  They should come here and see the volunteers who risk their own health, and at times safety,  to go into townships and squatter camps to feed and nurse the worst hit by the lockdown. Quietly – in all weather.

I would love to post the pictures. I won’t. I will honour those who think a tin of beans is a gift.

As the rain beats down, and the winds lift the tiles, I think of those who need a blanket, and a peanut butter sandwich.

 

As they say, keep safe, but also, keep giving. Give in any way your can.

 

 

 

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.

The diary that time forgot.

Every since I can remember, I have been the diary type of gal.  Dear Diary.

My daughter was angry with me when I destroyed my teen diaries – it was the de-cluttering and moving of stuff, but endearing it was that she may want to read my silly musings of being in love with Robert Redford and that beautiful chap from ‘Chopper One.’  The seventies desire for Wesley in ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’ and who could forget Nick Nolte emerging from the ocean in ‘the Deep?’  I wasn’t fussy or anything, anyone would do to come and rescue me from a small town in the Free State, when high school was about disappointing dates and detention.  I was a child living out of herself, into dreams of better things.

My diaries are my chapters.  Written notes on friendships and romance, children’s playdates and visa applications.  Notes on ‘he loves me not’, and divorce. On the dying, and changing and being lonely and lost.  And good things, notes on Rome and Juan Les Pins.  My of course, the best children in the Universe. Tangible references of jobs suffered or loved – places lived in and said goodbye to.  All in those little books.  It will be easy to read my life one day.

Always a thrill to get the one for next year.  Clean, smooth pages to be filled. A ritual. And not just any diary, it has to be such that I have travelled the world to obtain, just the right one.

This year began the same way. Notes on clients to meet, tours to give, trips upcoming.  And then the dairy just … sort of died. We went into Corona forever it seems.  The willingness to write in it seems obtuse, hoping to fill, lying fallow on my table. The loneliness overwhelming, the silence too loud.

Had an entry yesterday. A doctor’s appointment in Cape Town, some thirty minutes from my home.  Easily done in better days, now nervous to leave the sanctuary and dare the drive, but I had the letter of permission to travel – oh dear Lord, even writing this seems insane. I had something to do other than fear, and listen to the negativity and gloom, I could travel, albeit a mere distance.  Felt like an exploration, not without dread and the dread manifested in two police/military road blocks.  What should have taken little time, turned into an hour and half of stressful edging in traffic, being pulled off and questioned as to my purpose to get into my car in the first place.

Cape Town, like any other city in the world, is a lonely place, bereft of life. The doctor’s rooms a laboratory.  Sanitising to within  the layers of skin, shoe covers, head covers, masks and gown.  How can one be amongst a few and still feel so isolated and untouched?  But, as much as I have become a criminal in the foraging of wine in this country, I also discovered that there was a possibility of coffee, a real, barista type coffee, secretly vended at a service station.  Which service station was elusive but having had the letter to travel, I was determined to drink the beans before going back to lockdown.

At first I thought, it must be the service station at the airport, weary travellers and needing the fix and all that.  Veering towards the airport, I slammed into another roadblock, now having expired the appointment and no reason for being there.  This is fear, I thought: how to explain my reckless abandon of rules in search of coffee? I was interrogated, and turned back. Before leaving the freeway, I spotted the midas gold on the other side of the highway, it was to be true, sighting of red coffee cups outside the venue.  Only I was on the wrong side. Undaunted, I turned back over the bridge, made it to the place and order the largest grande whatever in existence.  Only to realise, stupid, stupid me, that now I was on the highway, back to Cape Town, contravening all rules and about to be arrested for getting a cup of coffee.  The fear, the angst, the delicious nectar.  In the end I managed to get back without a fine, or worse.

Angry. Astonished at the lengths I would go to for a bit of normality.  I am a London girl, coffee is our go to, our first stop, our conversation.  In a way our identity, how we call the order, feel caffeine mix with blood and strut to the tube empowered with our morning sanctuary. What the f…k is this all about? We face months of servitude to the virus, to the government and the not knowing what is going to happen, day after day, month after month.  Coming here before lockdown seemed a good idea, but will I still be lockdown when the rest of the world is coming back to life? There are questions, quiet resentment, lots of fear and no information as to when and how we shall overcome and find some semblance of normality – and most of all, be able to fly home. For me, the rebellion in finding a cup of great coffee was my stand.  But is it worth a diary entry? The coffee thing that is?

The United Kingdom, and many other countries have suffered great fatalities with the virus.  Life has ceased, and fallen apart in so many ways.  As with the rest of the world, but where I am, hunger is becoming more of a threat, than the virus.  Little can help those who cannot work, living in dire conditions and facing poverty and starvation. Seven weeks of no income is awful here.

And so, tonight, as I look at my diary, with helpless frustration, I don’t even want to think of maybe, when, whatever … hang on,  at least I thought so.  She may lie idle now, for who wants to record another day of nothingness (oh, I went for a walk, now allowed) and how many times I thought I saw a spider in the house … not so much.  We no longer speak or debate about Brexit, or can confirm dates, meetings, visits and now that I have cancelled my trips until when … the lethargy of uncertainty is of no value for the dairy.

But then, as a friend who has also survived a few rough years, and bought a guest house in December said: ‘We have been through so much worse, this is nothing and we are going to be fine’, I thought: unlike Pepys, I don’t want to record any more pain and suffering and write a plague diary … wait for the novels and plays etc … but I should record the little things that have taken precedence at this time. Like seeing the ocean again for the first time in weeks, how my hair is about to lose control of its own nature. How the human spirit is beginning to defy draconian laws.  Being there for others, supporting the frontline workers … hoping and hoping it will end, and how this mad woman, nearly got arrested in pursuit of a great cup of coffee.

Be safe, be well and dream of better … it will come.

 

What to say, we are all living in hope and counting the days …

What to say?  Always believed if you have nothing to say … don’t.  Try and sit on that, and then just go … there must be something to say in this epic plague (third world war?) time when we are all in lockdown and the world has come to a total standstill. Surely, like Samuel Pepys I should be recording the ‘worst of times’ and keep a diary for future generations to go … wow… really?

My diary is totally empty.  Seriously, I still use a week by week dairy to write in and it is … totally empty. Could note that I, let’s see, ate, slept, did the laundry, scrubbed, washed, ironed and then just … got so interminably tired of my own company. This lockdown thing could be, yay, I am on my own and not have to spend it with stuck with another, or sadly, I am stuck with me. Not sure which is the better, but this is not going to be a negative, wanting to lynch the spouse sort of post – it’s going to be,  weeks in and … is there still a world out there and what is madam doing within the walls of confined space.

Positive, definitely positive – sort of “About a Boy’ units of the day positive. I do the units.  An hour of this and an hour of that.

Let me begin with that ‘I don’t do Facebook’ secret.  A new group called ‘From my window’ has me connecting with others who wish to post their views from their windows. Jealous at some of the most magnificent views, and blessed when I see some others, like the view from your apartment is the inner courtyard with no direct sunlight all day. A view from a hotel room, there are many of those – wonderful people working in essential services who cannot be with their families.

On the Estate I am in at the moment, we are not allowed to walk around, never run or take the dogs out for a walk.  We are limited to our own properties. No buying of alcohol or cigarettes. The wine is dwindling, as is my sense of humour, but no, we shall be postive. And thinner I surmise, sans the alcohol, though unsurprising, as is the times, I have been offered ‘alcohol’ via dubious means, if I need it.  Nothing like a restriction to boost the illegal trading of alcohol, but I must admit, meeting a dubious character in a car park close by, to pay a months wages for sneaking the wine into my boot is still something I am going to resist, for now. She sips from the last bottle.

At first, all fearful, law abiding citizens and now the sneaking has started:  dog waling in the dark, running at five in the morning past my window, for fear of being caught.  As one is allowed to go to the shops, and we have a shopping centre outside the gates, one gentlemen walks at seven every morning, with a shopping bag in an attempt to fool us he is on his way to buy groceries – when the shops only open at eight am. Will the lockdown make creative criminals of us all eventually?

No, being productive is the answer when one’s life is confined to a few square feet.  And yes, I found a puzzle. I have resorted to the ‘le puzzle’ – one of Lake Como, which I was to visit later this month, so alas, puzzle will have to do.  What else? The random squat en route to the kettle has transformed into the walk/jog routine in my garage. Hit the music, run in circles and boy am I one proud mama for doing it.  A step up she thinks.  Told you I found the missing weights whilst chasing a mouse (now identified as a shrew) and so they are on the kitchen counter to be held, lifted and released when the toast is ready. Very proud.

We all know that nature is playing the upper hand at the moment:  fishes in Venice, flocks of seagulls on the West Coast and numerous lion, elands and other species on golf courses and taking over villages – sweet.  Not so sweet when you wake up to face a praying mantis on your pillow – not after the shrew, ants and noo noos in drains that have come to visit. Love nature, stay out of my house.  It’s like camping I say again.

Weekly visit to the shops.  I have a mask that looks like Donald Duck but I wear it, and my winter gloves from London. It is summer, going into Autumn here, but I wear the orange gloves and care not a fig how I look.  Which brings me to how I look.  Never one for camping, I am now as close as I shall ever be – no salon for the hair, no waxing ( and yes I did try the razor and yes, I shall suffer as a result) – been without make-up until I went, oh dear, I cannot face you in the mirror and today did it all, to be beautiful with my puzzle. One must look good whilst doing the puzzle of Lake Como.

Units I say, is everything.  We wake at ungodly hours for lack of a proper busy day, drink tea at four in the morning and resort to ‘The Daily Mail’ for something to do.  Ok, it’s awful I know, but I do read the other news and am being a good girl on the content page.  Magical watching of streamed galleries, exhibitions, documentaries and the odd, smaltzh on Netflix. Somehow cannot watch anything gruesome for, for me, gruesome is right outside at the moment.

Out drunk on the peppermint tea, the green tea, the ordinary tea, the instant coffee (would I give my life for a proper take away coffee) and so over thinking about what next to eat. So over most of this actually but being positive, I am updating playlists, emails, photographs and over the memes and funny stuff which has paled to the reality of it all.

Waking up. Grateful that I can. Getting through the day. Planning. Oh, I am so going to travel more than ever before, even to Brighton if I must, but travel. To be on a tube, a train and a plane again. Tried the sewing, nah!  Tried the freezing of food – awful experience – tried the meditation – even worse. Talked to my plants, imagined a new career and spent a whole lot of time looking at my nails after eating them for lack of something else to do. Being positive people. Have avoided any challenges, like downing a raw egg and talking stock of my life, again.  Ugh what is this about too much time and contemplation, constantly think I need to re-value my life, all the time.

It has been good, I say. I am being quiet, appreciative and planning.  All has changed for sure. The world will never be as we know it and I plan to be part of the new one, what do you call it …

What to do tomorrow? The same as today, I guess. Another squat and three planks. That’s all for now.  Oh, and never admit that the puzzle is bloody hard. Never.

Don’t look at the dark side right now. Miss my boys on the balcony, my friends and family and oh, yes, have the Zoom thing down pat … with the make-up, because let’s face it, looking at oneself on Zoom is not a pretty sight, and we do keep looking at ourselves, don’t we? To the frontier, to the getting out of the hoodies and sweatpants and no make-up, we have got this!

Be safe, be ok and be planning for the great you to be…We will get through this and smile …

I am thinking of you all of you out there and love you for being yourselves at this time  … We Silver Streeters have each other …

 

Gently, gently we need to tread. Gently to dispel the dread. To nature we shall cling …

 

‘The woods looked simply glorious in the morning sun, and all nature was at

its best.  Fancy a war on in surroundings like this.  It seems unthinkable.’

Private J.W. Graystone, of the 10/East Yorkshire Regiment, wrote of his camp

at Authie on the Somme.

 

There is a plague upon all our houses. A war of a different kind.

I have been silent for weeks – perhaps too disbelieving as to what was unfolding, uncurling like an evil, alien creature, to infect the world as we know it. Seemingly surreal, we witness life shut down, jobs dissipate, incomes flutter and space more and more limited. Sometimes I think that it wouldn’t matter what I say, would anyone be listening anyway, does it matter (it does to me) – and angry at all the awfulness that spills like an oil slick on a pristine sea.

I don’t really know – but what I do know is that my life, and everyone else’s, will never be the same again. I want to blame who I think is to blame, but blame is hot air. No longer matters. Human nature, in these circumstances, swings from jovial banter (the thousands of memes are testament to that)  boosting our spirits as we distance ourselves, to the worst traits, fake news and crashing negativity.  Not for a second can I be blasé about the situation we are in, we are burying thousands – but I also know if I want to keep sane for the days to come, fear will take me down.

Far from my family in isolation, on another continent, for the time being.  This is what I find the most difficult to deal with.  When all the fluff of life filters to the pavement, it is family and the people you love, you want to be closest too.  Fortunate in that my children are all isolating together, with George, who continues to coax giggles and offer hugs as only an animal can,  thus ensuring the adequate levels of love and optimism in their confined space remain high. They are together and that is a great comfort to me.  Many are separated and find themselves in foreign climes, we need to be aware of that and pray they will get home when the restrictions are lifted.

 

This is the crossroads of choice. Common sense tells us to be cautious, self isolate and take extra medical and hygienic care.  Washing of hands for 20 seconds (I have come to see doing this as my spiritual ritual).  Much thinking and absolving and washing away of oh, so many thoughts …  More importantly, the choices, of optimism and fortitude.  There are generations below us who are facing more trials in the future – adding our woes to this tragedy does not help them.  It has them worrying about us – if I am positive, no matter how fearful, at least it is one less voice of doom.  Courage is my choice (though I do have the little melt down, in private, which is ok) as is refraining from sinking in the mire of tragedy lovers.

What I am doing is rising up to my renewed faith in nature.  My renewed faith in faith. How long has it been since I really paid attention? I mean, really paid attention, as a child does staring into a pond,  fishing for tadpoles, or studying a rock pool for ages?  Not just listening to birds but attempt to learn their unique calls, coax my sickly icebergs back to life and lie on my back, in the afternoon, now that I have the time to do very little, and stare at the clouds. To the trees I go.  If this sounds twee, that is exactly what it is – nature is calming and more importantly, it is the reminder that:

The ability of nature to endure, despite the bullets and blood, gave the men a psychological,

spiritual, religious uplift.  The unconquerability of nature provided the reassurance

that life itself would go on, that there was after all a purpose and meaning to things.’

 

Johan Lewis-Stemple

‘Where Poppies Blow.’

Our war right now may be different, the dread the same, but already one hears of increased birdsong, cleaner waters, less pollution as we go into hiding.  Nature’s resilience and that gorgeous light in the morning is my song against the darkness.  With calm, common sense and the beauty all around us in the natural world, we are going to be fine.

Already looking at my life, and the world around me with new, heightened senses.  Still get scared, there is loss on a scale unprecedented, and then there is us … the breaking and the making of us.

What will you be doing during the lockdown to take the fear and keep calm at this time?  Let me know, even if it’s just to share.  We all need to support each other.  Stay safe.

 

Quote from ‘Where Poppies Blow’ – The British Soldier.  Nature.  The Great War. by John Lewis-Stempel 2016. Published by Weidenfield & Nicholson. London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn in London – The first letter.

Whim Wood

Katherine Towers

into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter

Am sitting in the pub, possibly one of the most ‘infamous, or famous’ pubs in London for a quick spot of lunch today.  Done the walk through for the actual ‘Belgravia Pubs’ Tour this afternoon.  What another spectacular, Autumnal day it is. We have been spoilt, and possibly going to incur deluge from now on, but I have revelled in this season.

Though not doing any volunteering at Ham House at present, have popped in often to sit in the Kitchen garden and watch the turning of the soil, the squashes stacked like sweetie jewels and walk about to Richmond along the river.  The gentleness of the season quite takes me by surprise.  Hopefully I shall be back at Ham in time.  The richness of the time is so evident in Richmond Park – stags and bambi’s in the bracken. But it is the trees, it is the leaves, it is the colours one cannot quite explain. This is why we English speak about the weather all the time – it changes so radically, is so specific and part of our psyche here.  You had to be here for Halloween, children all of us, shop windows, houses and every available space draped in cobwebs and witchery – nothing unusual to see adults shopping in Waitrose for wine, full Halloween make-up and a cape or two, carrying a carved out pumpkin, before jumping on the tube.

 

 

Have not had the opportunity to get out to see Autumn in the countryside, but I did get to see the King’s Kitchen Garden, and Versailles, before they close for the winter.  A day trip to Vaux de Vicomte, just outside of Paris, was a further treat.  In the Autumn and winter months, the real structure of the gardens come to the fore – the lavish foliage and colour fades to reveal the bones of design, the linear shapes of hedges and box – the starkness of fountains, statues and follies – stripped and strong. This I shall write more about.  Am still savouring my honey from the Jardin du Roi – more special to know the source of the food you eat.

The clearest sign ending the British Summer is the changing of the clocks. We now have an extra hour in the morning but it gets darker, earlier and personally, I would have it as is – I can handle more darkness in the morning, but to find the darkness come early, is usually when the black dog comes lurking out from behind the haunted house, so to speak. It makes for a very long evening and by December, feels as if I am permanently in a thick sludge of soup.  Other than the past years, and so remembering when I first came to live in England, I am determined to be more positive about it.  Don’t quite now how but if you have any ideas, please let me know.

Inspired by the Venetian jewel colours, I have so enjoyed adding a few new items to the Autumn wardrobe. Hobbs is spot on with their rich tartan skirt in burnt orange, I just had to have it, adding a divine matching cashmere polo neck top – the skirt is a statement; block coloured jumpers in a variety of shades and voilá, you are sorted.  Fell in love with their classic, black jeans – in the basket it went. Marks and Spencer’s ‘could it be vermilion? matching trio of scarf, gloves and beanie just has me at ‘Hello Burnt Da Vinci colours’ – loving the new additions.  My heavy coat is still back in Cape Town, but the layer dressing of – Uniglo‘s thinly padded purple jacket tucked under the good old faithful Barbour, really works. 

Country Living would be proud.  And now I have a grand puppy!  One of the highlights of this Autumn in London, is being with my family and little George.  The leaves in the park are almost bigger than him, but going for walks in Bishop’s Park, has opened up a whole new world for all of us.  There is another society out there (we are new to this) of dog lover’s,  more like dog-children lover’s which makes the Universe a  much better place. George has brought laughter and happiness;  he is so little and yet so brave.  So curious and so loyal, and that soft George belly has me at putty in his little paws. 

Another lovely addition to the chapter in My Silver Street, has been a beginning of ‘putting my courage to the sticking place’ and … taking up Art.  What began as a weekend course at The Wallace Collection, an absolute refuge for me, has developed into a fun meeting up of friends at the National Portrait Gallery for ‘Drop in Lates’ and classes with the beautifully talented and ‘very kind to me’ Art lecturer,  Alison Kusner – I am pretty dire, and she makes me feel like my art is unique and wonderful (I think her far too flattering) – I shall endeavour and what better time than this, when the nights draw in closer,  to be found in a gallery, perched on a chair with charcoals in your hand?  Loved the Pre-Raphaelite Sister’s exhibition.
This has been our Autumn in London. The Dutch Masters and Impressionists would have revelled in the glory of the golden time. It has been a golden time.  Living in the room has improved, I travelled to Europe in Autumn, the cafe is still lovely (did you know I was back there) and now I am waiting to take some lovely clients on a walk around the pubs of Belgravia.  The pub I am sitting in now, was, it is said, where the elite and the gangsters sat side by side.  Place of the Profumo affair and the planning of the Great Train Robbery …
Giving tours in London, discovering so much more of this incredible city at every turn, finding the stories, the history and the reasons that we all stay here, is a delicious way of being purposeful and earning a living.  Hard work, lots of learning and walking, but so rewarding.  Perhaps one day you can join me?  Have a look at Coutours – we also do bespoke tours for ten or fifty guests – perhaps a voucher for a loved one for Christmas?  We have plenty of tales to weave through the wonder of London. 

And of course … South Africa won the World Cup Rugby!  Delighted that both the English and South African teams make the final but was rooting for South Africa all the way – the win means more than just the game.  It means hope and injected a little more spirit into a beleaguered country, reminding us of the possibilities of greatness still lying within her midst.  That was amazing. Well done to all of you.

As Bridget Jones would say ‘ must dash’.

Chat soon.

Images: The Guardian, Secret London, Time out

Poem: Katherine Towers

 

Giving yourself a guilt free day.

A work in progress.  Negative vibes are like spiders – I hate them but somehow they keep finding me.  Everything about them is insidious and scary, and dealing with them is difficult.  Trés difficult, ugh and ugh again.  Like spiders however, if not dealt with, the negative thoughts, they will ruin the most beautiful day.

Most of my negative thoughts are related to guilt.  Whatever it is, I screwed up on something, forgot about something, did not do something else.  The idea of wasting valuable time, not exercising more, drinking too much wine.  Letting down a loved one, being selfish, starting a project and failing to deliver, it is a road map of life. With age, guilt grows.

Let’s give ourselves a break.  A guilt free day.  Can feel guilty tomorrow but negative, not today.  Choosing a guilt free day is a conscious decision to acknowledge that, like spiders, guilt and negative feelings exist.  Everyone’s soul needs a holiday.

Make today the ‘hold on the inner critic’ day.  You can beat yourself up again tomorrow if you like.

I have excelled at the beating up, inner critic, guilt ridden syndrome.  Drive everyone, including myself, crazy with it at times.  This is a new week, and in that a new beginning, so rather than the weekend, today is the day from being negative.  Liberating and you know why? Because I acknowledge that it is not going to be a permanent thing, that I admit that negativity will come again, like those bloody spiders, but allowing myself small spaces of ‘guilt free’ moments, is taking control and these will increase as I learn how to do it more succinctly.

So what shall we do with the Guilt free day?

Guilt and negativity can be an opioid. Weaning step by step is the way to go.

And I ask again, what will you do with a guilt free day?  Have to go, much to do.

Images: kindovermatter

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tale of two women, and a young Malawian.

Life is indeed a fragile experience, and yet there is joy to be found in the purest of places.

I am still learning.  It has been cold, very, very cold here.  Nothing like the British winters and there was me going ‘what, this is nothing’ … until I realised that my little house is in fact an igloo of the severest sort.  There is no central heating, a wall heater that pretends and does not deliver, and me wrapped in layers, beginning each day, with resolve to fly back to London.

Immersed in the history that is my family life, I have been clearing. Saying goodbye to the past of clutter, things I have held onto when things fell apart and making mental notes of what to keep and what will move with me again, should I decide to do so.  Sipho works for me once every two weeks.  Despite my questioning her super early arrival (knowing she needs to rise and get a taxi to get here) there she was at the door, still dark.

We chat a little and move around each other in silence.  Still unused to having help, hover with offers of tea but secretly love the fact that she and Dosha are here; it brings out the nurturing in me and I love being ‘mum’ again.  I fear they think I overfeed them, pack extra to take home and have a multitude of extra tea sets, linen, books and furniture which I offer, as I mentioned before. These trail away in backpacks and carry bags. Today however Dosha announced he had found someone with a truck to collect the old carpet and chairs.  My rejects, their delight and only too aware of this.  Why hoard what few will ever enjoy, I think. Wonder what mum would think of her tea sets in the townships?

The late afternoon has me taking Sipho to the bus stop.

‘Do you have heating in your home?’ I ask.

‘No, nothing.  We have blankets.  I do not live in a house, in a shack and the wind is very cold.’ she replies demurely.

‘How many of you live there?’ I asked.

‘There are ten of us. My family, my mother, my husband’s brother and his family.’

I had no answer, but having dropped her off, I burst into tears, driving in tears.  You are so lucky I mouthed between sobbing, despite having so little, when I am missing my children too much.  You have not been lanced with the arrow of loneliness. There I was, sharing the day with a woman who struggles, yet has warmth waiting in family.  The warmth of family close by, conversation and communal eating together.  To come home to. To come home to has changed for me. Comfort, but cold comfort at times.

The man with the truck did not come through for Dosha.  Already dark, he arrived with friends in a car and somehow they managed to fit a huge carpet, two chairs, a mirror and three bags into it. Flashback to us moving in London in the little car. Thanking me profusely for the ‘gifts’, he asked one more favour. Lying in the garage was a ‘Horrible History’ book on WW1.  Would he be able to have it, to read? Oh my Lord, the tears were right there.

Walking back into my chilly, but beautiful, secure home, alone, I felt humbled and old. And sad, and grateful, and made a little wiser by the day. They are huddling close tonight and I am writing this. Grateful for my family, though far, missing them and silently determined to make a change for them, and for me, for it is in the purest moments, one learns the most about yourself, and it is not about having, but sharing.  That is all.