Category: Wellbeing

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 – they do, 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, I stuck to it. It doesnt 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 they are 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.

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. 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.

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 of 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 to  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, 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 am on a mission to declutter my house once and for all

I have been on the declutter wagon for a good few years now. I have purged my clothes many times. This year is the biggest challenge when it comes to paring down my wardrobe.

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.

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 jewellry 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 toiletry 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 toiletry 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 then I asked my clever, musical, linguist friend what he thought.

 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 is ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’. Let us hope that we get the 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we lie to our children?

Do you Lie?

Do you lie to your children? Have you ever lied to them or other people’s kids in the past?

You think you don’t? Think again. I have lied to my children and to other people’s children too and I am sure you have as well.

Even if you don’t have kids of your own at some point in your life you have probably lied to a child, or been complicit in a lie.

We teach children, whether we are parents, grandparents, teachers or carers, that it is wrong to lie. Some children are punished if they lie. We think it is wrong for adults to lie to adults.

It is wrong to tell lies. We say this to children all the time.

So why do we lie to children?

What made me think of writing this post is a conversation I had with my now adult son.

Santa is a myth

He said that if he ever had children he would tell them that Father Christmas does not exist.

He told me that the disappointment of discovering that Father Christmas didn’t actually come down the chimney and bring presents was enormous. And then that made him question all the other things I had told him. Mom and Dad had lied to him.

Now I am not sure what shocked him most, no Santa or that Mom lied.

Did the discovery that Santa was not real, distress him that much?

Or as a parent had I let him down by lying?

He told me that once he realised Santa was a lie, so was the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Childhood beliefs dashed in a day.

I reasoned with him that if he told his child that Santa didn’t exist his child would then tell other children and dash their hopes too. Or get bullied or ostracised by other parents.

He was resolute, it is a lie and it is wrong. He was not going to back down.

I was taken aback at this. What about the magic of Christmas, presents and the excitement? You loved Christmas when you were a child I reminded him.

Nope, apparently once the lie was exposed all that had been spoiled for him too.

I honestly did not know what to say.

After this conversation, I asked a younger person to see what they thought about the Santa lie. They agreed with my son. It is wrong to lie, therefore the Santa myth needs to stop.

What other lies do we tell children?

I would like to think that most of mine were to keep them safe. They probably don’t remember it but I told them that the car would not start if they weren’t wearing their safety belts. At some stage most kids resent the seat belt, especially when they are fidgety six-year olds as it restricts them. By telling my kids this, they always had the belt fastened and would not consider undoing it while travelling.  As lies go, I think I am allowed this one, even if it was told to get the children to comply.

Compliance

But isn’t that what the Santa myth is all about. Compliance. Santa knows if you have been naughty or nice. A lie to get the kids to act the way we want them to behave. Shocking really. I am sure I never told that one. And if I did, I am sorry. It was wrong.

Lies we tell children

I just googled lies we tell children, and found this. Apparently Santa is watching you is NBD (no big deal – I had to look that up too). The one about saying the dog has gone to live on a farm when it has really died is ranked as ‘cringing’ for wrongness. I remember being lied to about my first dog dying. It hurt more so when I finally worked it all out. After all, you wouldn’t say Granny has gone to the farm. That said, how many times have you heard the phrase ‘they’ve gone to a better place’ when someone has died? If you are not religious this is of no comfort at all. And if you are a child a better place for Granny is in her home, baking cakes or whatever Granny does nowadays.

Another lie, ‘it won’t hurt’ – yup my daughter still remembers the blood test that hurt. A lot. This was not a lie I told her, this was down to her Dad. Not just me that’s not a perfect parent then. I was cross about this. My poor daughter was traumatised. Given that as her dad had had to have a blood test when I  was pregnant with her he had nearly fainted, how could he have lied to her?  Nope, never lie about hospital procedures. Or the dentist.

I am sure that these sort of lies can give children phobias or irrational fears. Being told it won’t hurt and it does, could put you off a dentist for life. Perhaps it is only you that feels this pain?

Or it may be people are scared of the dentists because they have been told horrible accounts of visits by their parents. Just tell the truth, and if the truth may them scare them, manage expectations at the least. (See blood test above).

The art of diplomacy

Yet we need to remember the art of diplomacy – and teach that to our kids, because sometimes the blatant truth can hurt.

Would I tell Granny her pasty is horrible when she thinks she is the best pastry chef ever? Well no. I told my Nan I didn’t like pastry and guess what, I still don’t. If our child brings home a painting from school that is hideous, would we tell them? Interesting is always a good word for those moments, I found. My mom used to ask her class to tell her about what they had made or painted, she never ever said ‘what is it?’

Encouragement builds confidence

Of course it is not helpful telling your child that they are a beautiful singer or talented artist if they aren’t. We have all seen those X Factor Contestants that cannot sing at all and are in total denial. How many times have we heard the words ‘my Mom says I have the voice of an angel’? Why lie to them? Don’t set them up to fail or give them an inflated ego. Because no one likes a big head. Confidence is good, arrogance is ugly.

Yet I believe that we need to encourage them if they love singing or painting, even if at first they show no signs of talent. They may get better. They will have lots of fun, so let them dance/sing/paint like no one is watching. Even the most talented artists have to practice their art – singers have voice coaches, dancers and musicians practice for hours everyday.

I am so glad that my mom let me try everything I expressed an interest in. The violin, the recorder, swimming, ballet, ice skating and ballroom dancing. I knew my limitations, I did them for fun. And it made me believe that I could do whatever I put my mind to, I was not frightened to try new things nor scared of failure. I found out for myself my talents. I knew I wasn’t going to be an olympic swimmer, yet I still enjoyed training with one.

Set up to fail

A while ago I heard this story and it made me think about how we can make or break someone’s life in a matter of moments. A young girl, first week at school, was trying out for the choir. The music teacher told the class that if she put her hand on their shoulder, they must stop singing as they were not a good enough. This girl felt the hand on her shoulder and didn’t sing again for years. At that moment she was labelled a bad singer, she was five years old. In her fifties she summoned the courage to join a singing group, and now enjoys singing with a choir. All those years with no music in her life. Because of the tap on her shoulder at age five. Told that she was not good enough. A failure at five. Maybe she wasn’t the best singer there, yet to take that joy away from someone so young was wrong. I am sure it could have been handled so much better. Not lied to, of course, but encouraged.

That is why I don’t like gifted and talented programs in schools. If you are not ‘gifted and talented’ then what are you? If you are on such a program can they not give you an inflated ego, being told you are better than others? Everyone has a talent – we are all gifted in our own way. It is up to parents, teachers, work colleagues, managers and friends to help an individual to discover and nurture that talent. Like the girl who was told she couldn’t sing at aged five, at fifty she discovered she could.

So is it good to ever lie?

Can the truth hurt?

When does diplomacy become a lie?

Do you have a talent that wasn’t nurtured as a child?

And most importantly, do you believe in Santa?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had suggested to my son that as he wasn’t religious, and didn’t believe in Santa, perhaps we need to cancel Christmas. That’s fine, he said. We don’t really go overboard with Christmas anyway. It is just another day. As he hates roast dinners, he doesn’t even like Christmas Dinner.

In 2011 Phil and I were in Melbourne for Christmas. We had planned on Skipping Christmas altogether and probably taking the dogs for a walk on the beach instead.

 

 

When life gives you lemons

You don’t have to make lemonade.

Yup. You know, when people say you need to make the best of it, it will get better, pull yourself together, blah blah blah.

Black Dog visits.

You need to crawl into your bed and sleep, sometimes as I have done, each day till 11. I sat on my decking every afternoon, in the bit of sun we have had last week, and read 5 murder mystery books. Outside is good. Sun is good.

Supermarket ready meals have been the staple diet for a week.

Last week I did not shop, nor leave the house for 5 days. I saw no one apart from my family and my neighbours, briefly over the garden fence, as I obsessed about washing and pegging out every day because it was sunny. Texted the shopping list to my husband.

On Saturday I eventually got myself dressed in something more than tatty shorts and t shirts (I can not do PJ’s during the day, don’t get that at all) and went out of the house. I coped, although being in a car was a struggle. I had lunch with my family which was good. I even managed some shops (we need stuff for the trip down under) and then came home for a snooze before changing to go to the University of Birmingham Proms.

It was good to get out. Wear proper clothes. Be with people. Talk. Eat proper food.

I have not done one thing on the long To Do list. I have let people down. Possibly won’t get the husbands tax return in before we go. Not booked a service for the car. Not checked out whether we can add some total strangers to our car insurance.

I haven’t started on the big building project. Seven months of living with a crappy kitchen, and here I am. Avoiding builders and kitchen people and not making decisions. Heating ready meals.

On a rainy Sunday, I thought it would be a good idea to go to IKEA. Take the son to choose a desk and husband to choose a mattress. You see now how my brain is not functioning properly.  IKEA. Sunday. Rain.

Fortunately we know the shortcuts, walk anti clockwise and exit through the entrance. Rebels that we are.

And. Buy. Nothing. Yes, we went to IKEA and bought nothing (except lunch). We need to eat. Remember we have lived on take out and ready meals for a week. We did not go into The Market Place. I bought no tea lights, lampshades, paper napkins or glasses. Nothing. For that alone I deserve a medal.

Today, I realised that I was not being kind to myself. Yes we have been in the house for 7 months and still have no decent kitchen. Realistically, can I go away for 4 months and leave a builder and a team of kitchen fitters, plumbers and electricians  in my house, knocking down walls and not be here?

No. I can’t.

Can it be done in the next 4 weeks? No.

Why has nothing happened in 7 months? That is what I was beating myself up about. We moved, we downsized, we had too much stuff. Mother in Law was ill, seriously ill. Many journeys were made up and down motorways, a care home had to be found. My husband was exhausted, upset and needed emotional and practical support.

Then there was death, taxes and funerals. Paperwork, sorting through carefully labelled possessions, decisions to dump or donate.

Phil and I managed to get away for a couple of weeks to make sure our well being was being looked after. 

I managed to book many Australian related things although I still don’t know where we will stay in Brisbane or how we will get there. It is on the To Do list.

I had 4 to do lists on one page the week before last.

I thought I was managing things in my usual control freakish way.

I wasn’t. I took my eye off the back burner and missed things I would have normally noticed. That pot bubbled over.

And life imploded.

Bloody hell and I was pissed off about a kitchen.

That sleeping in, doing nothing, eating crap food, it wasn’t about the kitchen, after all. The other stuff that has happened, you know that imploding stuff and let me tell you it was shitty, bad, scary stuff, was the tipping point.

I coped with the travelling the grief, the exhaustion. I coped with the shitty, bad scary stuff. And then I sat in the sun and read crime novels and ignored the world.

I am still not making lemonade, let me tell you. Bloody impossible in the crappy kitchen.

I will not be ‘pulling myself together’ when the Black Dog visits. Nor will I ask anyone else to do so.

I am cherishing every moment with my lovely family.

Because this happened.

I saw a photograph of a woman I have not seen for over 22 years. Not a close friend,  but at the time we were friends for a season and a reason. I knew she had been in a terrible accident and is in recovery. Has been for a couple of years. Not much more than that, most of it gleaned from fund raising activities and posts on Facebook. Her real friends, who I got in touch with, asked me to send a photo to her as that would help with her memory recall. I did. Nothing prepared me though for seeing her, surrounded by her friends for life, who had taken in a birthday lunch with a bottle of bubbly to share with her. The vibrant, intelligent, beautiful woman I knew was in a hospital bed. No longer on a life support machine, it was clear that she had a long road to recovery.

Was the bad shit I experienced as bad as what my friend and her family and friends have gone and are still going through?

Thankfully, no.

It was still bad shit though, and on a scale of bad scary shit, it was horrible and I never want bad, scary stuff like that to happen ever again.

And then this happened.

Lisa Cherry Beaumont, a life coach who through coaching empowered me to make big changes in my life, I credit with this. The context was, as ever, she was helping someone clarify a confused message about forgiveness.

In order to be happy you need to:

1. Realise that you’ve fucked up in the past.
2. Sit down in your bedroom on your own and make a list of how you’ve fucked up.
3. Forgive yourself for it; recognise that you did the best you could with the awareness you had at the time.
4. Make a promise to yourself that, with your new awareness, you’ll make better choices next time.

And this is what I thought. If I can screw up I need to acknowledge that others also screw up.  Understanding this will help with understanding why that bad, scary stuff happened.

I have messed up.

Other people mess up too.

I did the best I could at the time.

Other people are doing their best, at the time they messed up.

I forgive myself.

Other people can also forgive themselves for messing up.

I am making better choices.

Others can and will make better choices.

I needed to practice gratitude. Stop the negative thoughts. I am not a failure.

The kitchen works. The people who lived here before us made family meals in it and so can I. I have clean hot water, a fridge, a microwave. Food, heat, a bed and a roof over my head.

1. Realise that you’ve fucked up in the past.

The kitchen can wait. I dealt with the lemons and I did good. I didn’t make any lemonade.

I took the Black Dog for a walk. 

In the rain. And noticed things in nature.

No such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes.

Came home, looked at the to do list. Put going for a walk in the woods on the top of the list and in my diary for every day for the next four weeks.

Started working though to do list. Made phone calls that needed to be made.

I remembered that someday is code for never.

2. Sit down in your bedroom on your own and make a list of how you’ve fucked up.

Acknowledged that listing what I have not done (see above) was very negative of me.

3. Forgive yourself for it; recognise that you did the best you could with the awareness you had at the time.

Recognised that writing (which is when I am in flow) has helped me gather all those virtual post its that I had in my mind, keeping me awake, stopping me from moving forward, and now they are gathered on one page, letting me see the whole picture.

Realised that basically writing stuff, is my therapy (as well as that walk in the woods).

Sometimes a week of sitting in the sun, reading crime novels and living on ready meals, can be how I am kind to me. (I have a good tan and my Vitamin E levels must be high).

How can I possibly help others apply their oxygen masks before putting mine on first? 

How can I help me, if I have not got the tools I need, the resources at hand. Not practiced self care.

Admitting that I cannot handle it all, right now, is not failure.

Realising that I am not superwoman. I have come a long way in the past few months. Achieved so much. I have to remember that.

4. Make a promise to yourself that, with your new awareness, you’ll make better choices next time.

My choices now are to focus on my family, going for walks in nature and the big trip. Eat properly.

The kitchen can wait. The house clearance can wait. Not cancelled, parked. Until November.

Sometimes things do need to be put off.  I was spinning too many plates and if I didn’t put some away, there was a danger of breaking them all.

plate-spinning-o

PS Just sent text to husband to ask him to get dinner. So much was I in the flow, writing this, I ran out of time to shop.

PPS He didn’t see text. Have sent him for sausages. Compared to last week, that is proper food. He suggested supermarket lasagne. He got two no’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations at the corner cafe – Xenos my friend

As I entered the corner café, a stranger said hello.

Saying hello to strangers is not what the British do.

I said hello back and we fell into conversation.

We discovered we had at least one person in common.

And that we both loved Greece.

We talked about other cafes in the area, how another café had told him about the corner café. The best Greek food, and where to get it, the best tapas and SE Asian food. And how Moussaka from the corner cafe had won me a day with James Martin.

We talked about afternoon tea.  How a local café turned a poor review on TripAdvisor, due to them handling it professionally, into a success and brought more customers to the café.

He recommended two places for afternoon tea, one in Edinburgh another in Bournemouth, in the Echo building. Where Bill Bryson used to work I said. Yes, that would be right, he said.

I had been thinking of following the trail of Little Dribbling as a holiday idea before I go on the next big trip. And here I am getting café recommendations. How did he know?

We agreed that Tilt needed sofas.

Our conversation – it was as if we were speaking in code. A language no one else knew or could understand. We were not intentionally excluding anyone, yet this conversation of shared experiences,  no one else in the cafe that day understood.

I told him my story of the church in Santorini. He never questioned that I was led to the spot by my mom, she chose where I was to scatter her ashes. People with faith who know the story tell me God was guiding me. I think that connections with people you love don’t end at death. I think he thought that, too.

We talked about great places to eat, how he visited islands in Greece where no one speaks English. That this was the best Stifado he had eaten outside Greece.

He needed to take his own advice and book his trip to Greece he said. Make it happen instead of talking about it.

Two hours we talked. Two strangers.

I don’t believe in coincidences.coincidence

Later that day I sat down to start working through the Life Purpose Alchemy workbook that Lisa Cherry Beaumont asked me to review.

And I thought about my conversation with the stranger.

Because when he got up to go he asked if he could give me his card. I recognised the name, he is a life coach.

The person we both know is a life coach. I told him about Lisa, my life coach and how much I had changed since being coached.

He wants to live in Greece, as do I. I thought that we may end up working together in Crete combining our talents and skills. Not knowing how.

Today in the workbook I have been working on the section where Lisa asks you to

free-write some ideas about what you could do to earn a living. Play with ideas, without restriction. Don’t worry if it sounds crazy or too “way out” – put all your ideas down and don’t limit or edit what you write. Use more paper if you need to

and I thought about that conversation with the life coach in the cafe.

How comfortable we were sharing information with each other. How defined our goals were. How we believed that anything was possible. How open we were to possibilities. How positive our language was. How we said what we thought. How we went with the flow.

It struck me that this can make some people uncomfortable. We have been conditioned to limit our self belief. From childhood. The day you sing for your teacher and don’t get chosen for the choir you stop singing, perhaps forever. You fail a test and label yourself a failure. If you are not in the ‘gifted and talented’ stream at school, you believe that you will never be gifted or talented at anything.

Two strangers, not limited by can’t. People who don’t wait for someday. Who have dreams and make plans. And put a date on it. This scares people because they like the comfort of limited self belief.

That way they can’t fail.

If there is only one bus a day, I will get it. The first ferry of the season that will get me back just in time for my flight, could be cancelled if the weather is poor, book me on it. Get on the wrong bus, fate will intervene. Telling me I can’t do something is merely laying down a challenge.

The stranger too found himself on islands with one bus a day with no one who spoke English. He discovered he could speak Greek better than he thought.

I guess that if you get on the wrong bus in Corfu, a bus full of locals with goats and chickens and not tourists with sunburn, and two minutes later the bus that gets stopped by the police as it is unsafe, you realise that it has happened for a reason. And when there just happens to be an English girl on this bus (she is teaching English in a remote village) who directs you to the right bus, you just know that things have a way of working themselves out.

Yet somewhere along the way, in between being a carefree student, and becoming a mom and getting a mortgage and jumping on the work, watch, spend treadmill, I forgot this. Instead I opted for safe choices, because that is what I believed I was supposed to do. Get a job, get a house, get married, have kids, get into debt, watch the news and get depressed. Be normal.

Don’t talk to strangers.

In Greek the word for stranger is the same as for friend.

Xenos (Greek: ξένος, xénos, plural xenoi) is a word used in the Greek language from Homer onwards. The most standard definition is “stranger”. However, the word, itself, can be interpreted to mean different things based upon context, author and period of writing/speaking, signifying such divergent concepts as “enemy” or “stranger”, a particular hostile interpretation, all the way to “guest friend”‘ one of the most hallowed concepts in the cultural rules of Greek hospitality.

In my workbook I wrote:

A social media language café, where people can learn Greek and English, life coaching, I could coach people to declutter, fulfilling my need to socialise and help people clear their lives of whatever is holding them back.

I told Lisa that going through the workbook was like playing pass the parcel and unravelling the layers to get to the prize.  The prize? A map of my life. Yet the map is a jigsaw, that still needs to be assembled. I haven’t completed all the exercises yet, I’ve unraveled the layers, found the jigsaw, now I have to build the map.

What I have discovered is that everything that I have done and everything good that has happened to me, the lovely people I have met, the crappy things and the horrid people, has made me who I am now. I needed to unravel those layers. To find my purpose. The map is a jigsaw and I can’t find my way until I put the pieces together. When I am uncomfortable it is because I have forced the wrong piece in the wrong place, as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Sometimes pieces are missing and we have to go find them.

Or they find us.

The conversation in the corner café was a the missing piece I needed to place in the jigsaw to discover what my authentic life looks like. It is pretty much how it looked at age 23 as I got off the bus full of chickens and goats in Corfu and thanked a stranger.

I asked the life coach if I could write about our conversation.

He said yes, but only if I didn’t say he wolfed down Stifado like a wild animal. I don’t think he will mind.

Addendum 3/6/16

Recently, while in Winchester, I met a Greek bar man and talked about the word Xenos. He told me the word I was looking for was this.

Hospitality, the official English translation of ‘philoxenia‘, doesn’t do justice to the concept as it does not encompass its main element, which is generosity of spirit. The Greek noun ‘xenos’ initially meant ‘guest’, acquitting the meaning of ‘foreigner/stranger’ at a later stage.

I have recently returned from a week on Skiathos. Yes, Greece still feels like home. Never a stranger there, always a guest.