Category: Wellbeing

It’s not easy being green

In July, as a  first step to a green (er) life, I decided to take part in #plasticfreejuly – ie not buy anything wrapped in plastic, or made of plastic.

I failed on day one. Because it is bloody hard to be plastic free. I know it is not impossible because others, such as Lindsay at Treading My Own Path do it, but flip me I don’t know how they do. My first fail occurred because the organic veg in Aldi is wrapped in plastic. Of course I could go to a an old fashioned green grocers. If we still had one.

not green

This abject failure to stop bringing plastic in the home made me start to think about what else I could do to be more green. After all, what I do to today impacts on how life will be in the future,  not so much for me, but for my children, your children and their children.

First minimalism and now going green

It seemed a logical step, after downsizing, decluttering and embracing a more minimalist life. This is an ongoing journey. I still have a way to go. Much of my stuff is still in boxes. I haven’t seen some things for two years now. As I unpack, I keep a bag for donations. As Sleeve Notes and I cleared the bedrooms for the flooring to be laid we decided not to have any wardrobes in the house and no furniture except a bed in our room. We have got rid of so many clothes and possessions, we don’t need so much storage. And I know, that as soon as you create storage, you fill it.

This does mean that we are in limbo – there is stuff in boxes – and nowhere to put it. And this makes the choices of what to keep simpler. If we love it, will use it we will find space. If not, we won’t.

There is no rush. We can take time. The winter months are a good time to sift through photos. Art can be put on the walls once they have been painted. And we will continue to off load stuff we no longer love nor need.

Going Green in the home

As I planned the house renovations I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint as much as I could, within the budget I had. The flooring is made of sustainable Bamboo. I have replace radiators with underfloor heating as it more efficient and therefore uses less gas. Which will cut my bills. The extension is very well insulated. The glazing brings in more light and heat, saving more energy. We have no bath, only a shower. We had a water meter installed. Nothing like a water meter to make you think twice about leaving the tap running when brushing teeth.

Our utilities provider has installed a Smart Meter. I had to put it in the cupboard to stop me checking every 5 minutes how much gas or electric I am using. For the first time in 25 years I have a tumble dryer and now I am afraid to use it. It makes me think about turning off lights, filling the dishwasher completely before turning it on and washing clothes less frequently.

I have stopped buying paper towels. I used them all the time from mopping up spills, instead of napkins, to chop veg up on so I could scoop it all into the compost without making a mess. What a waste of paper. Instead I have a dedicated absorbent cloth for spills, peelings go straight to the compost from the chopping board and eventually I will buy some cloth napkins.

I changed my loo roll and now buy Who Gives a Crap toilet roll.  Delivered in cardboard, wrapped in paper. It is as ethical as loo roll can be, I reckon.

48 rolls delivered to my door, I won’t be driving to the shops to buy in bulk. They look so pretty and are fun. And in one swoop I have reduced the use of plastic.  Coral 1 Plastic 0.

Reducing the chemicals

Stern warning on my bathroom fittings tell me to avoid using harsh chemicals on them. I will do so. Currently I wipe them down daily with water. That is all. Most of us have an undersink cupboard of cleaning liquids, almost all in plastic bottles.

And after we have emptied all these chemicals into the environment, polluting rivers and contaminating the water supply, we put the plastic bottles in recycling. I personally don’t know what happens to my recycling. I put it in the appropriate bin and assume the council are doing the right thing. I certainly felt smug that my recycle bin was fuller than the waste bin. Smug about all those plastic containers I have used. Water bottles when I have a tap. The empty milk cartons when I could have milk in glass containers. Like we all used to. That were collected and re used. Not recycled.

I am addressing this by as I use up the chemical laden cleaners I am replacing them with ones that are more ecological. the most obvious of these in the uk is Ecover. I am also investigating using Splosh, who send returnable refills in the post. It still uses plastic containers, but reduces its use and reuses the containers. No more recycling. And that is a good thing. And sometimes I just use water and a microfibre cloth to clean. Nothing else. No chemicals, no sprays no soap. Yup, there is downside to microfibre…. it really isn’t easy being green. For now they are a better alternative to chemicals in my house.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Who doesn’t feel smug about recycling? We are so proud that we rinse out our plastic lined cans and cartons. When I was a child, pop came in glass bottles that we took back to the outdoor (an off licence) to get our deposit back. Indeed in Greece in 1979 I fed myself on the proceeds of collecting glass bottles that others left on the beach. Water came out of the tap. Now, from pop to water, it is all in plastic bottles. Many are put in the recycling. Many more aren’t. What we really need to think about is that the aim is to reduce, or reuse before recycle. 

And we don’t. Because we can recycle, we do. Of course that is better that putting it in the trash, and much better that throwing your plastic bottle out of the car window or leaving it in the gutter. But not better than not buying water and milk in plastic bottles.

I now have glass bottles that I refill from the tap. I do have a filter on my tap water as the water here is very hard. My fridge is alway full of filtered cold water. I am investigating milk deliveries, in glass bottles, to my door.

I have always used plastic bin liners. Back in the day when we got free plastic carrier bags I used them. Now we don’t. So I buy bin liners. That is not a good thing. I looked for alternatives. I asked people. Some suggested lining the bin with news paper. I don’t have newspapers.

I now reuse packaging. I got new saucepans and they come wrapped in plastic bags, so this week they line my bin. Food that came in paper bags line the recycle bin. In future I may use the big strong supermarket shopping bags and wash them out.

I have read about people who will take food containers to shops. Could I would I do that? I am not sure I could. Would my local shops do this? Maybe that is an experiment for the future.

We need more stores offering loose food, not just fruit and veg, but that would be a start. Because it is not just the supermarkets who sell everything pre packed, smaller stores do too. I suppose the answer is to use a local market. If I had one that I could walk to.

Plastic can damage your health

And if the environmental issue isn’t enough to make your think twice about using plastic, what about the health issues? Chemicals from plastic leach into your food.  Again smug me has recently dumped all her nasty plastic and replaced it with a brand that is BPA and Phthalate free. I am not sure I have gone far enough, because it may have other chemicals lurking.  Going forward I am saving all my jars and using them to store what I would normally use plastic containers for. I won’t be using plastic containers in the microwave. A dish covered with a plate will suffice.

Take out or dine in? The healthiest option

I like a curry. I live in Birmingham and it is not hard to find a good curry in these parts. And I like to flop in front of the TV with a curry. It is one of the most popular take out dinners. But. If I order take out it comes in plastic containers. That can leak harmful chemicals into my food. What to do? Two options: 1 go out to eat, make it a special occasion. The cost is the same. You concentrate on the food and the company and not the telly. 2 cook the curry at home. This saves money, if not time and requires some skill. But hey, it is still better that those piles of plastic containers, that never biodegrade, leaching into your food.

Alternative bathroom products avoiding chemicals and plastic

Every morning I use shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, all packaged in plastic. I use a plastic shower puff. 4 plastic things to just have a shower. Then I brush my teeth. I have already ditched my plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. But toothpaste comes in plastic tubes. What to do?

Lucy who blogs as Lulastic and the Hippyshake (brilliant blog name) has been poo free for five years. That is SHAMPOO free. Lindsay at Treading My Own Path also ditched the shampoo. Bicarb, oat flour, white vinegar or cider vinegar replace the shampoo and conditioner. I have not tried it myself. I may start with using the solid bars from Lush and see how I get on. Toothpaste can also be made with bicarb and coconut oil and some even add turmeric to the mix. In the meantime I am using Aloe Vera toothpaste from a well known health food shop. But it comes in a plastic tube.

The shower puffs in addition being made of plastic also harbour bacteria. So I am ditching mine and going back to the good old-fashioned flannel. With a bar of soap. I bought hand-made soap in Melbourne, so will take the shampoo bar with me when I go on holiday, as I am travelling carry on solid shampoo makes so much sense, and it will double as body soap too.

Reducing food waste

I hate food waste, yet I am guilty of it. I am. I get good intentions of eating more salad, that goes slimy. It is often cheaper per kg to buy in bulk. So 5kg of potatoes is bought and then they go green and sprout. And it is not just food waste, it is also a waste of money.

I watch people mindlessly shop, with no list. Buying stuff because it is on offer. Filling their trolleys and I wonder how much of it will be thrown away.

So what can I do?

I can buy from The Real Junk Food Project, many of them them operate a ‘sharehouse’. Here, food that would otherwise gone to landfill is sold on a Pay As You Feel basis.

The is a local enterprise that sells veggie boxes. There are a couple locally. I need to investigate further.

I could make household cleaners and cosmetics using natural products. I am certainly going to experiment with this going forward. Newspaper and vinegar is an excellent window cleaner. Coconut oil is an all round moisturiser for face body and hands.

Find a milk delivery service that uses bottles.

What have I done?

I have started to use an online food delivery service, that provided menus and ingredients to make a main meal for 5 days a week. I just need to work out whether it is green and ethical and is it worth it? I think I have spent less money on food this week and have definitely had zero food waste. I have also not had to shop every day so I have saved time. Not going food shopping is high on my list of priorities. I will blog about my experiences with this service in the future.

I bought Who Gives a Crap loo roll.

I don’t send greeting cards.

I don’t wrap gifts (I give very few physical presents).

I am using a chemical free deodorant. I love it.

I have stopped buying clothes for a year.

Government must step in and legislate

They have to if there is to be real change. I am not advocating a nanny state but without legislation the big companies will not change.

There was public outrage about losing our free plastic bags. Now, almost everyone has their own shopping bags. I already did and certainly did not complain about this legislation.

All supermarkets should offer free refills for a range of cleaning materials, or a bottle exchange scheme. Only last week I was in a small shop that sold infused oils and vinegar – the first bottle was around £4.00 but you could bring it back and refill it for around half the price.

Bring back the deposits on pop and beer bottles.

Bring back pop being bottled in glass.

Ban BPA’s in plastic.

Ban plastic straws.

Stop fruit and veg being wrapped in plastic.

What would you add to these lists?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couch to 5k – not fit to run, the new plan is pilates

If I can’t run. I can do pilates.

In July I did day one of the couch to 5k plan. Bolstered up, I was determined to succeed, and then I had a fall.

Which laid me up back on the couch for 4 weeks. Not only could I not run, I could barely move. No walks with the dogs, no stretches, not nothing apart from lying down and reading.

If I was un fit before the fall, I was descending into new levels of unfitness.

More excuses

Also the only ipod we own was stuffed full of Sleeve Notes music collection. Because he downloaded ALL HIS MUSIC. Others cherry pick and have play lists, not he.

I couldn’t work out how to delete them. His lap top died. He couldn’t remember his passwords, and I couldn’t download the couch to 5k podcasts.

Therefore I could not possibly ever complete the programme. Another reason why I can’t run. Or an excuse.

Fitness

Defeating technology

Fast forward 8 weeks. I worked out how to download itunes and Apple stuff  to the new laptop, reset the passwords and deleted lots of albums. Because he never listens to them. I can see on his play list how many times he has listened to them. Never. And then I uploaded the podcasts.

We are going to do it together, because I don’t want to run around the park alone. What could possibly go wrong? His foot is hurting (gout) and he hit his hand with a hammer. I have sciatica. And neither of us have clothes to run in. In the summer we had shorts. Autrum is rolling in fast so we need trousers we can wear to run in.

My solution has been to start pilates classes.

Slow gentle movements to improve my mobility. Ha! Turns out pilates is hard. How can gentle movements make you sweat so much? I am not at all bendy and my sciatic nerve problem makes some movements difficult. I am hoping that with perseverance pilates will help with that. Other movements, that I have been doing for 20 plus years, I don’t find as challenging. Which goes to show that if you do some stretches every day, your body responds positively. With practice I will improve. This is not a quick fix it is a programme to improve core strength.

And as the evenings draw in and it gets colder an indoor activity seems a better option than a run in the park. I can wear leggings and a t shirt. The instructor is excellent and the other people in the class are fun. When I struggled with a movement, the instructor gave me a different one to counteract the pain from the sciatica. I will be honest, at this point I was close to tears.

If I hadn’t had to climb over everyone to leave the room I would have run away. Or hobbled away. As it was, when we did the next movements my tears had gone, I managed the rolling bit and can make my legs go to the side (I do this one every morning) and I started to feel better about myself. I am not going to give in. And I will start to run. I have a plan, I have a podcast. I have trainers. I just need to find some clothes I can run in.

We need to move to a warmer climate

Sleeve Notes said that we need to move to a warm country. His arthritis, my cracking knees and trapped sciatic nerve don’t do well in the cold. This time last year I was hiking in the Northern Territory. The warm weather and the sunshine make us feel better, for sure. And I would rather run on the beach than the road.

Another plan.

 

What are you waiting for? Someday or retirement day? What about today?

Do you have plans for one day, someday or for when you retire?

What have you always wanted to do or see? What are you waiting for?

Because here’s the thing. We don’t know our expiry date.

Most of us are aware when we get to our best before date. The aches and pains of middle and older age remind us of that. It is also something that we can do something about. But none of us know when we will die.

Save to retire or plan to pretire.

This is what we are told, almost as soon as we start work. Save for your pension we are told. Most of us spend years saving for our retirement. Working long hours, buying bigger and better, Proving we are successful, chasing promotions, and working past 60 or 65, all with the eye on the pension pot. Defining who we are by the job we do.

With dreams of what we will do when we retire. What if we lived out those dreams now, at 30 or 40 or 50? Why not pretire? Instead of buying bigger homes, newer cars, the latest phone, accepting perceived and built in obsolescence go shopping for new shoes/handbags/ gadgets, and slob on a diet of take out and Sky, use that money to pretire. Cook instead of dine out, make you existing home bigger by having less stuff, use public transport or a bike instead of a car, Borrow don’t buy, stop shopping for things you don’t need. How much would you save?

My Grandad dreamed of the cottage by the sea

My Grandad used to say when he retired he would buy a cottage by the sea. The nearest he got to this was a caravan at Uphill near Weston Super Mare.

He had worked hard all his life. He left school at 12 or 13 and worked on a farm. During the Second World War, too old to be drafted, he was a volunteer fireman. At some point he worked at ‘The Austin’ as did most people who lived in Birmingham. There were times of unemployment, I know. When I went to live with him and Nan he was a painter and decorator for ‘The Parks’.

The Austin as he called it was later known as British Leyland, one of the biggest employers in Birmingham in the 60s 70s and 80s. Renowned for its strong unions and strikes. And birthplace of the Mini.

The Parks were the Local Authority managed parks. He painted fences and greenhouses. At some point in the past he painted Lightwoods House, and rescued books that had been thrown out to be burned.

When not working he would be tending to his dahlias and veg,  studying the form of the horses whilst chain smoking. He also made wine that could strip paint.

He had smoked since he was 8 years old.

The last 10 years of his life he was dependent on an oxygen machine and spent his days lying on the sofa. Removing his oxygen mask to have a cigarette.

I guess he was in his late 70’s when he died. He never left the UK. Never had a passport and had no desire to do so. In the 1940’s he would borrow a tent, find a friend with a Charabanc and pile his family into it and go camping at Highley. Today you can get to Highley in about 30 minutes or so. Back then it would have been a couple of hours away, at least. It was a big adventure. Later on, his eldest daughter organised extended family holidays, 10 to 15 of us from Granny to toddler, friends of the family and anyone who wanted to tag along would come. We would rent a house in Tenby, or 3 caravans at Brean. Days full of sun, making dens, building sandcastles, putting pennies on the railway line, flying kites Grandad had made, with Monopoly or Rummie at night.

Those were when he was at his happiest I think. He would get up early to pick the mushrooms for his breakfast. Make another kite (we seemed to break them regularly). If they crashed, he would follow the string to find them. When he was at work he was up first, making tea for everyone, leaving by 7 to get the bus in the cold and the dark and be home at around 5 for his ‘tea’. He wore Long Johns and a vest all year round, had a bath on a Sunday then put his best clothes on for Sunday Tea.

A different view from the kitchen sink

My nan, his wife, was a thrifty make do and mend house keeper. The 25 shilling leg of lamb we had every Sunday was stretched to make numerous meals. Nan only ever had a drink and a cigarette at weddings. She outlived him for another 15 years or so. One Christmas my mom surprised her with a Santa Flight. That was the first and only flight she had made. She did love her holidays but looking back, as we always self catered, she merely moved kitchens. A different view from the kitchen sink. I never heard her grumble or raise her voice. Not once. She was at her happiest with her family around her.

Her great sadness was that three of her four children died before she did. About a month before she died she had her health check and the doctor pronounced her fighting fit. We enjoyed a family lunch out to celebrate her birthday and mine, and my Silver Wedding anniversary.

A few weeks later she was gone. Determined not to see her only remaining child (who had just had a diagnosis with a respiratory illness, and like her father and sister to become dependent on an oxygen mask) die before she did. She took about three days to leave us, barely conscious yet I know she was checking off all who visited her in that time. Her daughter, my mom was by her side constantly. Once every grand child and great grandchild and great, great grandchild who possibly could get to see her had arrived, she demanded to get out of bed and sit on the chair with her family by her side.

She wasn’t going to die lying down.

Deathbed regrets

My aunt said to me, the day before she died, that she wished she had spent less time taking care of others and spent more time seeing the world. She was in the ‘sandwich generation’ for most of her life. As the eldest of 4 she cared for her younger siblings when her mother was ill. She married young and had four children, ran the family business, cared for her ageing in laws, looked after all her nieces and nephews and organise the aforementioned family holidays. And looking back she wished that she had put her needs first, occasionally. She spent her last few months on a bed in her kitchen with a portapotty at her side, reliant like Grandad, on an oxygen machine.

What happens if we don’t reach retirement age – what if our expiry date was sooner than any of us anticipated? What then of the dreams of the cottage by the sea we never bought, the cruises we never went on, the climb we never made to Everest base camp or eating Pizza in Italy?

Yes you can

You can’t do that it is selfish. Does anyone ever say this to you?

You can’t go to Australia and deprive your parents of time with their grandchildren.

They can fly out and see them and there is Skype. Seriously there are people who have grandchildren in the same town and only see them at Christmas and birthdays.

You can’t sell all your stuff and live in a campervan.

Why not?

You can’t throw in a good job just because you hate it.

Hating your job is a very good reason to leave it. Always.

You can’t stop watching the news.

Yes you can. You won’t change the world by watching the news. It may change your view of the world though.

You can’t start your own business.

You can, if you really want to.

You can’t take your children out of school.

Yes you can. They will learn anyway, they managed to walk and talk and eat and play, all without school. They will learn more important things out of school that they ever learn in a school.

You can’t go on holiday when your mother is ill.

She will be ill whether you are there or not. You being there won’t change that.

You can’t (insert here what you have been told you can’t do).

Yes you can. If you want to. It is your life. As long as you are not deliberately hurting people out of malice, killing or physically harming people you can do what you like. Yes you can.

What others do is lay on the shame to make you feel guilty. Judging you by their own values. Not yours. Guilt is social control. It is not love. You frighten them when you want to be different.

I was told it was selfish to go away for 5 months when my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I asked her if she wanted me to stay. She would not hear of it. She knew it was what I had wanted for so long. Mom was one of the few people who were genuinely excited about the trip. How can you leave your mom, your son? Easy I said. They will be just fine. And they were.

Note, no one said this to my husband, because apparently the welfare of elderly relatives and grown children is the responsibility of the female of the species.

Build memories today

Before our next big trip, my mother in law was very ill and we all knew it was only a matter of time before she died. No one knew when of course. He worried that it may be when we were in Australia. How would he manage, would he have to fly home? I shared these worries with the Pastor of a local church, who was also a work colleague of mine. ‘He has a brother’ he said. ‘He will be there for her. You can’t change the outcome. You could cancel and she may die or she may not. In 5 months you will be home’.

Another friend who is in her 80’s said to me ‘You can’t put your life on hold for what may be. You only have one life. Live it’. In her last few weeks we made numerous visits to ensure she got the best care. Every spare moment was spent travelling to see her. Even if she didn’t know we were there, we were.

And we knew that when she was well we had spent time with her. She had seen her grandchildren grow. We did our best. We had family holidays together. Days out, Christmas and birthdays and graduations. Family time. We did with both grandmothers. We built memories. My mom took us all backpacking around the Greek Islands in the 1980’s and on travels to Spain in the 1990’s.

Family time

Tell people your dreams

Last year the DH and I went to Sorrento. The view from our hotel room was of Vesuvius. Mr Travelling Coral said then that it was his childhood dream to see Vesuvius. I never knew that. 30 odd years married and I he had never told me that. His mom died (not unexpectedly) while we were there. He had thought of cancelling the trip as she was so ill. the nurses told him not to. It would not change the outcome. If we had he may never had seen and climbed Vesuvius. It would have been one of his ‘if only’s’. Sorrento had been on the ‘someday’ list for too long.

Vesuvius

Some day and one day are the same as when I retire wishes.

When I retire/one day/someday I will go on a cruise/sail around the world/drive Route 66/eat pizza in Naples.

But we don’t know when our expiry date is. So do it now.

Tell other people what you have dreamed all your life of doing because that is one way to make it happen. Isolation is the dream killer. Surround yourself with people like you who will support you. And if the people around you are not like that, go find them.

And that is when the magic happens.

 

 

 

 

English summer, why Brits can’t make coffee, good reads and no quick fixes

The English summer

It is August. In England. It is raining and cold enough for the central heating to have kicked in.

This time last year I was in Melbourne, their winter, weather about the same. But that was Melbourne and that makes everything better.

Housesitting

I am house sitting and dog sitting in the countryside in the UK. There are similarities between the last two years house and dog sitting in Melbourne and this house and dog sit. The dogs are delighted to have company, love cuddles and a lot of fuss, and while they can be left for a few hours (which is rarely), greet us like long lost friends on our return.

The Melbourne houses were beautiful, in lovely suburbs. The house in England is luxurious, very quiet, and comfortable. There is a cleaner, a handy man and a gardener. And yet – I would rather be in Melbourne.

I miss the rattle of the tram at the end of the street. I miss the Greek food. I miss Melbourne.

Melbourne versus the Worcestershire Countryside

I miss the coffee, the burgers, the graffiti and going for brunch and knowing that the eggs will always be perfectly poached and the coffee good. Don’t waste your breath and tell me that poached eggs, barista made coffee and smashed avo are increasingly available in England. Tell me, can you ever add the prefix ‘good’ in front of these menu items in England? Quite frankly, all a bit hit and miss and frequently a disappointment. In so much now that I have but all but given up on brunch in England and opt for a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea instead. That we, us Brits, can do.

Take for example the ‘barista made coffee’. Somewhere along the line cafes in the UK have started buying in expensive coffee machines  –  in the mistaken belief that they by owning one they can miraculously make good coffee.

The same cafes have added poached eggs to the menu while having no idea how to cook them and smother them with shop bought hollandaise to disguise the poorly poached egg. A £1000 coffee machine does not make the operator a barista. It is a practiced skill. And yes I like pretty pictures on my coffee. I do.

If you can’t make good coffee or serve perfect poached eggs, don’t put them on the menu. Just don’t. And smash the avo please because sliced avo is nasty and slimy and the reason why I never ate in the UK before I became ever so slightly addicted to it in Melbourne.

I put all this whinging pom behaviour down to the summertime blues. Seriously, August, rain, confined to barracks and I am wearing a fleecy for goodness sake.

I am a city girl

Yet the countryside here is beautiful and green (the rain). There are canal walks and good pubs with excellent food. There is an Arboretum a few minutes away. Cities with cathedrals and Tudor buildings. The Commandery in Worcester is a few miles away and there are heaps of old buildings and gardens managed by The National Trust within driving distance. It is lovely here. My sleep is uninterrupted by light pollution, the traffic noise is minimal. The Severn Valley Railway is close by as is Bewdley and the River Severn. I need to get out more. And stop whinging.

Filling the time

The upside is that I am reading my fifth book – the downside is that I am isolated as it is 30 minutes brisk walk to the village that has one shop and one pub. My husband is at work four days a week so for 9 hours a day it is me, the dogs and the 3 acres of woodland and some rabbits.

For five weeks. Week Three. I am bored now. I had great plans – one was to start running – couch to 5k – but then I had a fall and that came to a standstill. The other was to finally treating my blog seriously, move hosts, increase SEO. That did not go well. Post fall injuries make sitting at a desk for more that 30 minutes painful. I have too many photos stored that I have not edited properly. I almost threw in the towel.

And in the end I wonder if I care that much. Do I want to be that person who has adverts on her blog to make some money? I am not sure that I do.

The book

What about the book I keep saying I will write? What about? The reality of decluttering? Will people be interested in a book to tell them that actually you can’t do it in 7 days and your house won’t be sparking joy in 5 days? No – the hoarders all want a quick fix and when it doesn’t work – whatever method they choose, Kon Mari or Peter Walsh – and they ‘fail’ they say that that method is crap and move on to the next one. Of course they do – have you seen how many self help books there are on decluttering? If they worked there would only be one book needed. Instead there are hundreds and all give conflicting advice.

Don’t follow decluttering groups on social media

I do because I thought I wanted to write the book about decluttering. Seriously the people who whine about their kids rooms and the Lego depress me. They are the people that bought all that bloody Lego. ‘My children have seven pairs of shoes and five pairs of jeans and twenty thousand t shirts’. They do? Who bought them? A mother despairs and says ‘I tell them to tidy their room’ yet they themselves don’t have the energy to do more than watch re runs of Hoarders and shop for storage containers on ebay. “Lol.” The child can’t get in the room because the Lego covers the floor.

Honestly if I write the book I will call it ‘first get off the sofa and stop whining’. Chapter One ‘turn off the TV’. Chapter 2 ‘Turn off Facebook’. Chapter 3 ‘If they can use a mobile phone they can use a washing machine’. I may have my outline now.

Some have got it tough – ill health, unemployment, family break ups –  and there is great support in many of the groups. And that is good.  But it is nearly all women who pick up constantly after kids and husbands and think that this is OK or whine about it.  It is not OK. Which is why decluttering and the process is personal to each of us – we cannot give advice. Just do it for ourselves. Offer support and empathy but not advice. And stop buying the Lego.

Be yourself

The vicious cycle of depression

Hoarding is a mental health issue. Like depression you cannot snap out of it. Indeed, anxiety, depression and hoarding is often part of the same vicious cycle. But please don’t project your issues onto your kids. And quit asking how many towels a family needs, justifying why a crafter needs 7 million bales of material, and buying more plastic storage to keep the beanie babies because you know you will never make that quilt and one towel each is enough and Beanie Babies will not be your pension fund. And then I remember how many towels I had. And I still have those Nat West Piggies and ‘vintage’ teddy bears.

Diets work, people don’t

Like diets – join WW and lose 7lb in the first month or your money back. And most people do lose 7 lb then by month two or three they plateau or gain and say it’s crap. As a former helper at WW I heard all this. “I stuck to it. It doesn’t work”. In reality we all know they have a stash of chocolate in the car and choose that over a salad.

Three months later they are a stone heavier and join Slimming World and lose weight and after 6 months get disillusioned as their once size 18 body is now size 14 and they wanted to be a size 8 by now so the diet is crap and they leave. They put on weight and in 6 months are on the next fad diet.

If I wrote a diet book called ‘Losing Weight isn’t Easy’ would it sell? Because no one want the unpalatable truth that is you have to work at stuff. Paying £5 a week to be weighed won’t make you thin. Eating healthily will improve your health, exercise will make you fitter and  improve your well being. You know this.

Gaining back control

When I announced my couch to 5k intentions I had a lot of support from friends and genuine sympathy when a fall the first day put me back on the bench. I also had some people say that the NHS have no business advocating a running plan and should concentrate on making people better. Going for the burn and running through the pain was the only way to gain. Not for me it isn’t. I know my body best.

And as I decided to do this to get some control in my life as other aspects seemed to be out of control and some people offered support there while others told me I had made a big fat mess. Yes a big fat mess of my blog, my attempts to run and therefore everything in my life right now that keep me sane, the temptation to crawl into a hole and hibernate in this autumnal summer was overwhelming.

Instead I read

Bloody good short stories in The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon. Writing that makes you wonder where they find the words. Writing that make me think I can never be a writer if I can’t write like this. I read some not so good books, with the over and unnecessary use of the words really and literally. When did everything have to be really amazing or literally the best thing ever?

Writers like Mark Haddon and Bill Bryson make me feel it is not worth my time picking up a pen and writing ever again. Then I read a poorly concocted tale that gathers four 60 something women in a villa in Italy. Five hundred words about forgetting a passport that add nothing to the plot, a dig at Investment Bankers and a millionaire property developer. Add to the mix a stereotypical young Italian gardener, a husband bonking the intern from Essex and an English bounder art stealing hotelier and some lemons. And I think, yeah, I can can write.

Be the Change

To get something done, to make a change to your life you have to make a change in how you live. Losing weight isn’t difficult. I have done it before, half a dozen times. What is difficult is committing to the things you need to do to lose weight. And you know you did not put on those pounds overnight so why do you think a diet that promises losing a dress size in a week will work?

I spent my teenage years (skinny teenage years) watching my mom on one diet after another, putting vile artificial sweeteners in her tea, PLJ in her hot water then eating a whole loaf of bread, butter and cheese in one sitting. Or going to the carvery and having all of the meat, three types of potato, followed up with a Black Forest Gateaux.

At 15 I was adding sweeteners to my tea, eating baked beans out of a tin (the baked bean diet was a thing) as I thought I was fat. I wasn’t. I was 8 stone (51kg). It was just that did not fit into clothes made for the typical English figure with curves. Only mens trousers fitted me. Thank goodness for Levis.

At 18 I lived on cottage cheese and bran flakes. I was a student and still a beanpole. I cycled or walked everywhere which offset the beer.

At age 25 at full term with my first born I was 61 kg. I was not fat. I got fat. Only I have the tools to reverse this. No one else.

So where did all the stuff come from?

In my teenage years and life as a student I could pack up my belongings in a couple of bags. I did use a van to move to London – I had a moped by then, a few more books and possibly two pairs of shoes. How did I go from this to a 6 bed house full of stuff? Because those magazines sold me a lifestyle of swags and Roman Blinds and shabby chic and collectables. Like weight, clutter is not something you acquire in a week. It takes years to acquire it so you are not going to lose it in a week. The link between excess stuff and excess weight is there to see for all – almost everyone is hoarding clothes three sizes too small for them. Wish clothes. That mock us all.

Magazines perpetuate the myth of perfection

If you hoard magazines, go look at them now. If you don’t have a backlog to 1985, leaf through them at the newsagents or supermarket. A good 50% of the content will be advertising. You are paying £5 to read adverts.

Every spring there will be a ‘spring clean’ article. Early summer the ‘bikini diet’ – interspersed with chocolate feasts for Easter and the best ever Christmas by Nigella/Delia/Jamie. Next month will the January money makeover. You are broke, of course, because you were told by the same magazine the best gifts to buy for Christmas that cost a fortune and no one needs. Made to feel guilty by a helpful account on why experiences count for more than stuff. The February edition will be the pre spring clean decluttering advice. It will delight in telling you it is ok to donate that expensive unwanted gift. The one you were told to buy for the man in your life.

Sell the family silver as your family won’t want it will appear after last months article on why using the silver for the best table decorations will make your Christmas party sparkle. The digital detox guide will be on the same page as the must have gadgets for this year. Frugal food articles fight for space with sumptuous feasts with impossible to source ingredients.

No wonder we are all confused.

I need a flat white.

 

 

Living at the pointy end – not growing old gracefully

The Pointy End

“We’re now at the pointy end” –  said my friend. We were chatting about people we knew who had died and about getting older. She has been ill and was aware of how unfit she is. I know how she feels having been forced to lie down for much of the last two weeks. Indeed one of the reasons we were unwell was because we both need to do more exercise. Her commute to the office is all of 3 metres across her yard. Frustrated by the illness she reflected “Being forced to slow down and limp around the world means I have time to ponder about getting fit”

We both knew someone who died this week

People around our age have died and, for me, it has made me reflect on my mortality. After the fall I realised how lucky I was to have caught my back and not my head on the tiled step in the bathroom. And having to ask for help to get out of bed and put on trousers, not be able to wash my hair and being scared of showering when there is no one else in the house in case I fall again, made me stare old age in the face and not like what I saw.

I Googled ‘the pointy end’

(This is where my friends and family will be rolling their eyes) and discovered that this was the name of an episode of Game of Thrones. I am that person who has no clue about GoT and probably never will. I am sticking to the title of the blog because that is what my friend said. I don’t think she watches GoT either.

We are at the pointy end of life now. What pointy end means to 30 somethings and many 50 and 60 somethings is probably not the same – meanings of words change. Jane Austen uses the word gay in a very different context to what we do today. So I am sticking with the pointy end (yes I googled enough to know what Jon Snow said).  The sharp end. Looking down the barrel. Google it – once you get past the pages about Game of Thrones, there are other meanings.

Give it your best

Being forced to slow down

Is not always a bad thing. Many of us need to do this more. Slow down. And on this house sit I have to. Not just because I am injured and finding standing up, sitting down, lying down, getting up and getting dressed painful. But also because I am in the countryside, with two dogs and see no one all day. I don’t have a radio or the TV on. The noise distracts me.

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies

I had so many plans. Couch to 5k was one. Because when you are at the pointy end, being fit helps to dodge the arrows of ageing. But I fell. Running is off the agenda for the time being. Why did that happen? I was feeling positive that this was my time to get fit and not be fat. Everything happens for a reason.

The sound of silence

The silence is occasionally punctuated by horses hooves along the lane, the dogs barking at them and a annoying dripping tap. For a city dweller, this is quiet. No sirens, no hum of traffic and no children playing in the garden or neighbours chatting in the street. The tap of course is all I can hear. Like a clock ticking. One of my major irritations, the ticking of a clock. When the mother in law was alive, she had numerous clocks, all tick tocking away all day and all night. I had to go around the house and stop them all just so that I could sleep.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Wystan Hugh Auden

A poem about mourning. Why do I have to stop the clocks? There are no clocks in this silent house. Time stands still here. I like clocks, in every room. Not knowing the time disorientates me, a through time person. I am rarely late. I need to know the time, all the time. I feel naked without a watch. I detest being late. Lateness in others irritates me. On the rare occasions I am late people worry. They phone me to check where I am.

But now like Prufrock I feel that I am measuring out my time with coffee spoons.

Noticing

And the universe is really messing with my head today because as I reflect on silence, this article – the Most Underated Sound in Our Society pops up on my screen. Because I have time on my hands. With a million other things I need to do and working out what I want to do and being frustrated by not being able to do them, being here and not at home, being injured, and being at a crossroads of my life. Not working, not knowing what I want to do  and wondering what my passion is the universe is swirling. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as coincidence. When I read The Celestine Prophecy, I had lost my way in life, I have spent many years looking for the path. Yet I wasn’t noticing then. I do now.

So what do you want to do?

I always think of the vultures in The Jungle Book when I hear this question. Google it – it is Disney so it is copyright but it’s on YouTube of course.

The thing is I don’t know. I said the universe was messing with me – hey universe I am noticing. First up I see this blog post about not living yeah, that is me, lying down in a life I don’t love, addicted to Netflix. Going nowhere.

What is my passion?

I am at the pointy end and I bloody better work this one out. As a child I wanted to be a clown. I hate clowns now. At school, a writer. I applied for journalism courses. I was rejected. I have little respect for most journalists now and those that work for the majority of newspapers have sold their souls IMHO. So journalist it is not.

I am butterfly like – flitting around to find the passion. And then, I get bored. So they can’t be my passion. Multipotentialite or just plain flaky?

Last week I got so frustrated with my blog. Technical issues, no one reads it. How come really crappy writers make money out of their blog? Seriously truly crappy writers who win awards for the 6 sexiest female travellers type crapola. Because people click them. Advertisers love them.  Perhaps I need to up my game but I could never sellout to get people to like me. In 12 months I have posted 6 times. Not a writer then.

I decided to abandon the blog and become a runner. We know how that turned out.

Last year I said I would use my time house sitting in Melbourne to write a book. Not even an outline. Not a writer then.

Five weeks here in the English countryside, alone most of the time. I will write then. And start running. And give up sugar. I have read three books and cooked once from a cookbook that promotes a sugar free lifestyle. Started a post about the Sydney to Brisbane road trip I made last September with my husband. Ten months after the trip. Not a writer then.

However, sitting at a keyboard is not conducive to my recovery. Nor is lying on a sofa reading helping me find my passion. According to Mark Manson I don’t need to find it – I already know what it is I just haven’t worked it out yet.

It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”

I decided to walk the dogs aka avoiding it

I don’t need to as they have three acres to run around in and horses, rabbits and squirrels to chase. I play football with them and tug of war. After the chat about being at the pointy end I decided that maybe a walk would be good for me – and the dogs. Instead of lying on the sofa reading lollipop books, eating chocolate and popping painkillers. I can’t run. I can walk.

The dogs led me – they know the walk – there is a narrow footpath leading past the neighbour who has horses, a field of cars and status dogs. I was aiming for Bodenham Arboretum. Tea, cake, people. The footpath leads through caravan park – static holiday homes. City dwellers holiday homes recreating city life in the country.

For a moment I thought I had entered the palace of the White Witch in Narnia. Statues everywhere. ET, meerkats, dogs and cats and country maids frozen in stone. And no people. Where was everyone? A dog stared at me silently. Maybe if he barked he too would turn to stone.

This is how some measure out their pointy end. Jigsaws and Sky TV in a caravan park with a clubhouse and Bank’s bitter. And garden ornaments.

Bodenham was closed. I walked back through the silent park, past the angel statues, not blinking.

The war veteran

And as I ponder how to fight the inevitability of old age, I hear of another death. Bunty, a WWII Spitfire pilot, who was a volunteer at The Omaka Aviation Centre. Last year Phil and I were privileged to have spent some time with Bunty when he guided us around the centre. He told me off for using my mobile phone during the tour. He was right of course. I explained that his photo was off around the world on Instagram. Bunty was not impressed. I put my phone away.

Bunty stared the pointy end out for 97 years.

And I have to write.

 

 

From #couchto5k update – on the bench already

Fall seven times

After day 1 week 1 of #couchto5k I was raring to go. The 20 minutes of exercise had an instant impact on my mood. I felt good. I was positive that I would stay with the programme. Considered bringing tennis racquets from home to make use of the nets up on the lawn at the house we are looking after.

I zipped off a post about day 1 and how it went. I was no longer feeling sorry for myself. And support for both the running and the tech issues came from a good friend.

And then I went and had a shower.

After the shower, I had a nasty fall. I slipped on the tiles and fell over landing awkwardly on my right side. My right foot slipped forward, I fell backwards. Instinctively I curled up to protect my head from the step behind me (I did) and broke my fall with my right arm.

After the fall, I stayed still for about 30 seconds and then checked that nothing was bleeding or broken. I knew I was winded, so got into the recovery position while I assessed my injuries. Slowly onto all fours and even more slowly, to standing position.

First, I counted my lucky stars – and then went into shock as I realised what a lucky escape I had had. I played through all of the scenarios. I was by myself. If I had cracked my head and been knocked out or had a head wound it would be 7 hours before anyone would be home. My mobile phone doesn’t get a signal and the house phone was down stairs. I had a little cry and slowly got myself dry and dressed.

And then I thought bugger (well lots of the F word in reality) day bloody one of #couchto5k and this. The warnings of aches and pains post exercise, stretching, rest days etc from the web site and others saying don’t rest run through the pain and don’t have a rest day. This fall mean lots of rest days.

The following day I was surprisingly un achey. I thought I had possibly not hurt myself as badly as first thought. The dogs came home with the DH and me and we had a little walk around the park. Keep moving, it will do me good. I genuinely thought that on day 3 I would manage a little run.

As the evening wore on I got less mobile. In the night I could not roll over without screeching in pain and getting out of bed without help was difficult. I managed a shower and had to ask for help getting dressed. I cannot bend to pick anything up. No running then.

We had to come back home from the house sit again today so we planned a short walk in the woods with the dogs. I could not hold the dogs leads. My pace was not brisk. I am however keeping moving and mobile. I can’t get back on the couch as I may not be able to get back off.

Bugger

 

From #couchto5k – I can’t do this

A big fat mess

After a disastrous tech day yesterday where there were tears and tantrums, long story for another day, I casually mentioned that to get fit would be easier than to deal with moving this blog to another host. It is not that is is technically challenging, the blog migration that is, but that I have, to coin a phrase, ‘got myself into a big fat mess’.

Well yeah I have. Technically blog wise and physically body  wise .

I can’t fix one but I can bloody well fix the other.

Starting point

Age 58. Rarely exercises. Sleeps poorly. Had custard cakes for lunch yesterday. 170cm. 90kg. Yup that much. You do the BMI math.

I am fat, no, I am obese. I ache. And I don’t sleep. So not just physically in poor shape but mentally too. Clothes don’t fit me so have lost interest in how I look. Skin is terrible so don’t bother with make up.

My hair is good. It is. Too long but good. I like my hair.

So after the tears and tantrums, realising that I had made a ‘massive cock up’ and feeling like shit about myself I had two choices.

Give up.

Get off my ass.

The wake up call

Being called out for being a failure, I did what usually works.

I went to the pub. I drank beer.

The beer did not help, but eating decent food, talking about the day and just taking stock did.

And the eavesdropped conversations (or the can’t help but hear you woman who has to dominate the conversation with her opinion) of the people there were just the boost I needed. To Do Something. The negative Ninnies and Daily Fail readers who won’t go to Greece because of the mozzies and Egypt because it is too dangerous. So they spend their summer in a caravan and a pub. And compare engine size and gush about Primark.

Mr Sleeve Notes and I agreed we had to get out of there. We could end up like them. If we continue this life path of eat, drink, couch, Netflix.

Sleep escapes me

Exhausted I went to bed and read at 9.30pm. At 2.30pm I was wide awake. Every bone and muscle ached. So I read some more.

Maybe a murder/thriller isn’t conducive to sleep.

I get up at 7.30am and decide.

I have two choices.

Give up.

Get off my ass.

And today I chose get off my ass and start #couchto5k

Trainers #couchto5k

I researched the NHS Couch to 5k. A number of people I know started with #couchto5k and have gone on to run half and full marathons. Or take part in Parkrun. For me it seems a logical place to start. It may not be for everyone, I know that. And I will continue to share my journey. The highs and the lows. The success and failure.

There is a podcast so I have to dig out the ipod from home and download it. But I was not going to let that put me off. I can count, I have a second hand on my watch.

I am housesitting in 3 acres of paddock and woodland. I don’t even have to leave the house to do this. The dogs joined me. It drizzled with rain. Perfect running weather, apparently.

This is what I look like after my first 20 minutes on Day 1. #couchto5k is not easy for me.

Day 1 Week 1 #couchto5k

When I was young and fit I could cycle, swim, dance, ice skate, do gymnastics. I could never run. But now.

This Girl Can.

 

Declutter your closet – a year of not buying any clothes

I decided not to buy any clothes in 2017

Having downsized and decluttered (and still decluttering) the clothes the DH and I have now fit into one small closet and one chest of drawers.

I am doing this for a number of reasons.

  • I don’t need any more clothes. I have enough.
  • My friend Lisa inspired me – fast fashion contributes to landfill, overuse of chemicals and exploitation of workers.
  • I don’t have the space to store more clothes.
  • To live more simply.
  • Too much choice is not good for mental health.
  • My mom hoarded clothes.

I have gone without buying clothes before. When the DH and I were not working we didn’t buy clothes for almost three years. Our priority was caring for our growing children, and to eat and heat.

Even when I returned to work I was so used to not having any money I still didn’t shop. I saved most of my salary as the plan was to go travelling when the contract ended.

Nine years ago I bought my first new clothes in three years

I was invited to a wedding. I bought a complete new outfit, dress, shoes, bag, jewellery and a fascinator. My boss remarked that he had never seen someone so excited about clothes shopping. I explained that I had not had any new clothes for three years so this was not mindless shopping, this was planned shopping and I was enjoying the whole experience. He was genuinely shocked that I had not had new clothes for three years.  Not shoes, not socks not underwear. Nothing.

Shopping is the quick fix

For many the payday weekend spent mindlessly buying more t shirts and tops and shoes that they don’t need is the norm.  A new top for the weekend or an impulse purchase that may never be worn (we all have those right) is a reward for working. Advertisers tell us to treat ourselves so we do. We deserve this, we tell ourselves, as we plunder Primark.

Investment dressing

Nine years later I still have the dress, the jewellery and the shoes I bought for the wedding in 2008. I know it was 2008 because when looking for a dress I knew that I wanted one inspired by the dress Meryl Streep wears to the wedding in Mama Mia. While I don’t wear the outfit every day (not a shopping in Aldi type of outfit) the dress and jewellery are loved and worn regularly. The dress packs well for holidays and when I wear it I still feel good in it. The cost per wear ratio is low. I intend that all my clothes will be an investment and last for many years.

Ditching clothes in Melbourne

Last year, whilst travelling, I ditched a substantial amount of clothes in Melbourne – donated to an Op Shop. The DH and I had brought too many clothes with us and whilst we needed winter clothes at the beginning of the trip we didn’t for the last part in Queensland and New Zealand. We had also packed the wrong sort of clothes and decided to buy some clothes in Australia. We replaced heavy sweat shirts with puffer jackets that are light and warm which pack down small. Jeans were replaced with travel trousers which have since been also discarded. Because I blame them for The Rash that blighted my NT trip.

Packing light

For 11 days in the NT I lived out of a 40l backpack weighing 8kg. It was enough. Why I packed too many clothes for the trip down under baffles me still. All I need is one pair of linen trousers, one pair of cotton shorts a t shirt and a linen tunic dress. Add one pair of sandals and 1 pair of trainers, swimsuit, travel towel and undies – and that was my 11 day packing list.

Back into the closet

In 2016 and now back in the UK I completely overhauled my wardrobe.  In 2015 I had adopted Project 333. I added some items, donated more to charity and replaced the shoes and jeans I had discarded in Melbourne. We have very limited space for clothes in the small house. One small cupboard and one chest of drawers. I converted to the KonMari art of folding and never looked back.

In 2017 I decided not to buy clothes for a year

It is now month four and I have not bought any clothes. Neither has the DH.

Have I been tempted? Yes I have. First was a cardigan on sale. One similar to my favourite cardigan. Made by an ethical clothing company, Thought. I tried it on, thinking of all the ways I could justify this purchase. Ethical, reduced, fits my colour palette. I did not buy it. It did not feel or look right on me. I put it back on the hanger and walked away.

My other temptation was when in Chester and there were a few shops with clothes I love. White Stuff. Mistral and Fat Face. I looked and touched and walked out of the shop.

I repeated to myself:

I have enough.

I need to check how ethical their clothes are.

Declutter not acquire.

Spending on clothes stopped but spending on other things started

I have noticed that I have been buying more of other stuff instead. Lovely notebooks and pens. Travel accessories.

I have justified them all.

I needed the note books and pen because I want to start a journal in long hand.

I needed the bullet journal and pen because I want to learn how to bullet journal.

I needed the Lamy roller ball pen because despite having inherited some beautiful ink pens (including a Lamy fountain pen) I am messy and ink goes everywhere, but any old biro isn’t good enough for Leuchtturm1917 note books.

I needed the pen loop for the Leuchtturm1917 journals to ensure I did not lose the pen. The pen does not fit the loop.

I needed the Travelon Anti theft bag because my old one was too small and wearing out.

I needed the travel document holder because it has RFID and is better than a poly pocket.

I needed the organisers because cables get mixed up in backpacks.

I needed the labels for the cables because I never know which one is for which gadget.

I needed the flat toilet bags because packing toiletries is a nightmare and these have special compartment for everything.

You see how it is.

And yet

Have I started a journal? No. They are so beautiful I don’t want to spoil their loveliness.

Have I used the pen? Yes and I love it. No one is allowed to borrow it.

Have I attached pen loops? No.

I have used the handbag every day – I can carry all I need, including the new purse I also needed, a book to read, another note book that I use all the time and my diary, plus phone and lippy.

I have used one travel organiser (used all the time) as we keep all cables in there now. The others will be used when we travel. So far we have not labelled the cables.

I have used the toilet bags because they discipline me not to take too much. However for carry on only I may go back to ziplock bags only due to airport security. We will see.

Many of the travel items were recommended by my on line friend of almost 2 years (although I have followed her blog for longer). And they are jolly useful. Because I don’t and she does have affiliate links to these items I am adding a link here. Alyson is chief blogger at World Travel Family. She only recommends things she uses and thinks are good. The blog is worth a read too.

I need to extend the no buy rule

It did strike me that I was buying much more than I usually do.

Why was this?

I had to give some thought to this. After all I write about decluttering, I help others declutter so why was I accumulating?

Because I was depressed.

Because I had Amazon Prime.

You see the list above is not complete

I have also bought:

A wireless doorbell.

Bamboo toothbrushes from Holland and Barrett. And because I got free delivery if I spent £20 I got other stuff too.

Packing cubes from Muji. They were half price. I already have four sets of Ikea packing cubes.

A bed, two mattresses and bed linen from Ikea. Slipped that major purchase in.

A weeks holiday in Cape Verde.

A weekend away in Shropshire.

I realised that I was getting addicted to online shopping. So I stopped. This does not help my mission to declutter.

I was suffering with SAD and the ongoing problems with the house (lots of bills and no progress) and house clearing was making me miserable. So I shopped. And as I hate going to shops, I clicked.

I stopped. And then my hairdryer blew up. I considered doing without but I have long hair and it takes half a day to dry naturally, without sun. I bought a hairdryer.

I have stopped buying now

And now I am getting rid of all my unwanted furniture. It was a choice of paying removalists and storage for furniture that no longer suits my life or selling and giving it away. Today I have sold two sofas, two Turkish rugs, two occasional tables a computer chair and some other random things that were cluttering my life. My neighbour has  vintage desk and bureau. Another neighbour has my vintage breadbin and the other has the workbench. They are doing our garden as payment in kind.

I have moved on

I realised that I was stressed and depressed because I was planning to move and store stuff I don’t want. I lost sight of the plan. This house is an investment and we are renovating it to rent and sell. Not a forever home. I was buying stuff to fill the gap of not travelling. I have to continue to declutter to achieve my goal.

So here is the plan

Don’t buy anymore stuff

Declutter

Finish the house (involves buying things but not stuff)

Rent it out on Air B&B

Use it as a base when in the UK

House sit more

Travel more

Sell the house

Live in a warm country

What do you think of the plan?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La La Land – a metaphor for our time?

And the winner is La La Land

But there had been a terrible mistake and someone gave the wrong envelope and it didn’t win best picture. Or it did win best picture? For a brief moment and then the prize was snatched away from them in what was either a massive faux pas at the Oscars (or not) or a metaphor for the times we live in of fake news and alternative facts. Like the film – life doesn’t turn out as you think it will – choices are made and the outcome changes.

An alternative outcome if only we put love before ambition. Or use our hearts not our minds. Or, or….

Like Brexit and Trump – La La Land had another outcome. If only we didn’t believe the lies.

In a world that is more than ever full of confusion, conflicting opinions amongst our family and friends (Brexit has divided the UK and broken friendships) and I still can’t work out if Trump is really happening or whether Bobby will emerge from the shower and all is well with the world once more we have La La Land. The dream and the reality. Based on choices we make. And are they the right choices.

And isn’t that what La La Land is all about. The choices the main characters made.

I will state right here that I loved the film

From the opening credits (that opening sequence made me want to get up and dance) to the end which had me sobbing (choose him, choose him) much as the end of Bridges of Madison County had me inwardly shouting the same – I was gripped.

I don’t read reviews – I had seen the trailer and immediately wanted to see  it. Then a friend I have known for 40 years said this –

 my view of La La Land. I don’t call it terrible, just ho hum … 5 out of 10

–  commenting on this review of the film by THEAGE.CO.AU

Based on this I nearly didn’t go and see it. She urged me to do so because she valued my opinion. Anyway, I did want to see the film because how could I not love a film with dancing and music and set in LA?

I got tickets to see it at The Electric in Birmingham and booked a sofa. If the film was a disappointment I was going to be disappointed in a cinema I love, which would take the edge off my devastation.

Loved it. But Best Movie – it is not.

I was brought up on musicals

My mom was an actress in the 1950’s and had Hollywood Stars in her eyes. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singing in the Rain, then The Sound of Music and South Pacific – these were the movies I grew up with.

Then I saw West Side Story.

Officially my favourite movie ever. Everything about it. The way it was filmed – as if was in the theatre at times, the conflict, the racism, the music and the dancing, oh the dancing. And of course at the end I sobbed my eyes out.

And La La Land has references to West Side Story and many other movies. Depending on what you read they are Singing in the Rain, Top Hat and Wall E (no, nor me). According to this review the scene in the planetarium at The Griffith Observatory where they are waltzing in the stars (and how lovely is that) is based on a scene in Wall E. No one has, to my knowledge, noticed the reference to Le Ballon Rouge in the Paris montage.  We all know, us musical fans, that La La Land has references to almost every great Hollywood Musical and that is why we, or why I loved it.

It also reminded me of a book I had read for my degree back in 1978/9 – The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West.

Nathanael West’s Hollywood is not the glamorous “home of the stars” but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires

Good Reads

The scene when they are walking across the film lot – with lots of scenery being moved and how they walk  from one set to another seamlessly, which when I read it back then was, for me. the stand out scene that came to mind when watching La La Land.

Researching it now I discover that one of the main characters is Homer Simpson. This is what Wikipedia says in the current entry :

Homer Simpson – a former accountant at a hotel in Iowa who comes to California at the recommendation of his doctor to restore his health. Soft mannered, sexually repressed, and socially ill-at-ease, Homer’s almost constant inner turmoil is expressed through his huge hands which have an uncontrollable and detached nature to them.

Make what you will of who we all know as Homer Simpson now – and I am not going to reference the uncontrollable small hands with a detached nature.

What did others think?

Some shared my Australian friends viewpoint, and others loved it as much as I did. This is the conversation I had with my talented musician, musical loving, linguist friend.

 Me: I’m intrigued about how you felt about the what if alt ending. I sobbed.

Friend: it was heartbreaking as it feels like the message is you can only have one of your dreams: career or love. I wanted them to have both! Sort of want to see it again and find out they made that the real ending.

Was gutted actually… was so hoping it was true, and the sad ending was a dream. Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song.
Rarely was I rooting so much for two film characters!
 
 And these are the words that, for me, summed up the film so beautifully
Completely touching how they lived their whole alternative future in a song
If only we had a picture of the alternative future in a song right now. Right now that song could be ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’.
Let us hope that we get a better alternative future because if not I am off to find my Mediterraneo (Academy Award Winning Film) an island of enchantment where anything can happen and enemies become friends.

the mind numbing monotony of the mundane normalness of a life not travelling

Routine is Lethal

Sleep, shop, cook, eat, repeat

Notice that another shop has closed on the high street

The crapness of the Christmas crap

The fucking awful tv

The cold

the mind numbing normalness of the mundane

I am so bloody bored

Go for a walk – in the cold on a grey day to see the same thing

Bored bored bored

Waiting for the builders to start

Waiting for other people

Nothing moving forward

What if the building doesn’t start

What day is it

Light the fire

Wash the clothes

Clean the kitchen

Wonder what to eat

the small sky

looking at all the accumulated crap

no energy to deal with the crap

standing still

being ill for four weeks

seeing the same thing every day

book a holiday for 161 days time

found a house sit for when I have to move out for the builders

if the building ever happens

four consecutive winters

takes their toll

wishing I wasn’t here

being normal

round peg

square hole

Netflix

I wish it would snow

fights with bureaucracy

This is not the life I was born for

what if it is always this way

there is no change without change

waiting