Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reflections from the sofa

No, Jeana. It didn't work. But I live in hope that tomorrow will be the good day!

I don't think I stopped moving or sat down from 7.45 till 3.30. And I am creaking in places which should not creak. Not pleasant. I look 110. Old crone. That is me. Did I mention that I intend doing the Race for Life?? Well, my number arrived today. The one I will wear when I run. RUN???? Am I INSANE??? In 5 weeks??? Good grief. One thing I do know. I will not be wearing shorts. Of any description. Nope. Not me. In fact, I may just waddle around the course pretending to be a spectator. The slight problem to my cunning plan is that there are 16 others from work doing it too, and they would spot me a mile away. They are also half my age, might I add. What was I thinking??

This weekend is a long weekend. Bliss. Only 2 days till the weekend actually arrives. You may have noticed this. It can't come fast enough. Petrol price? (I feel I need to keep updating you on the ever increasing cost here) 111.9p a litre. That is about $10 a gallon. Food prices? Rising. General mood of the country? Worried and extremely put out. There are local elections taking place all over tomorrow. Not here though. We had ours a year ago I think. And the nation is unimpressed with just about everything the government is doing or not doing, and I am PARTICULARY unimpressed at the raising of the basic tax levels from 10% to 20%. It seems that the nation is too, and the government has just discovered that an angry nation is not a good thing to have on the eve of any election, local or not.

One of the wonderful things about British politics is that it is absolutely fine to disagree with the government. Interviews on TV get very heated, and making Cabinet ministers squirm is absolutely fine. If they have reason to squirm. The government is not the country. Patriotism has nothing to do with the government. And I am not discussing this very intelligently, but that is because my brain is half asleep. Anyway, it is interesting. I know what I mean. Disagreeing with the government does not mean you are unpatriotic. We hold them to account.

I have been to Parliament to lobby MPs before. A good few years ago. And when half of our local ones did not bother to come to their arranged meetings with us, I was incandescent with rage. That was why they called me a warrior. The man in the strange looking outfit, who I gather was quite important, almost hid when I barrelled across the hall in a fury, and suggested he go and look for them in the cupboards of their offices, and not to bother to return if he couldn't find them. Or that the Prime minister would do if all else failed. At the very least. I was there with the MS society, and my friend, who has MS, was very weak at the time, and had made the effort to go and I could not believe the MPs had not bothered to come. Mind you, that strangely dressed man proved to be quite good at running. He also even managed to drag parliamentary chairs outside when I told him my friend was exhausted and needed to sit. Chairs That Should Never Leave The Building. Ever. Hmmmm. Actually, it was really interesting. Maybe I should stand for parliament. Now there's a thought.

I am blethering. I am going to bed.

Night all.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gloom and doom

In the interests of keeping things real, you need to know that I have just spent the past 30 minutes cleaning this desk. That would be because if you knock over a glass of ginger beer, it becomes a swamp. A full glass. All over the computer discs and DVD cases, and notes and ....well, the good thing is that it missed the keyboard. I suppose. I have cleaned and dried it all, so why is my right arm still sticking to the desk top????

This is proving to be a day of mechnical disorder. The hot water, I regret to say, is not quite as hot as one would like, and I do believe that the element needs replacing. So I am adding a few pots of hot water to the bath. This is inconvenient. Especially because I like deep baths, and I lose the will to live after boiling water for more than 5 minutes. Not to mention what the steam is doing to my hair. So deep baths are but a dream right now. Bigger sigh. And then I sat down to watch the latest episode of CSI and the satellite dish is misbehaving. As in, it lets me see 12 seconds of the programme and then switches to 2 mins of blue screen saying "No satellite signal is being received. Error 25." Followed by another 12 seconds etc. Following the plot is a trifle difficult. Perfect.

And in keeping with the general tone of this post, I am being observed on Thursday and the class I am teaching is unteachable. I sense doom. And, I was told today that I do indeed have to do duty every day at lunch time, (I had complained, you see) so I am now off to compose a letter of resignation. I have had enough. I think this job is costing me more than I can afford to pay in terms of health and mental wellbeing. Please feel free to remind me next time, that if I have a funny feeling about something I am considering doing, to STOP! WALK AWAY! NOW! DON'T DO IT!

As I have said before, I always tell my children to choose a career or job which they love. I want them to get up in the morning with a sense of joy and anticipation. What a pity I didn't listen to myself speak.

Ah well, there is always next time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nothing much to say

One more thing about the things kids say to me on a daily basis....I have been told to ignore what they say. I will apparently get used to it. No. Absolutely no way. I will never get used to it, because it is fundamentally wrong, and I will not become part of the population which accepts this kind of treatment as normal. Never. I have no desire to be a part of a society which condones, through silence, verbal abuse. I do not want to get used to it. It is wrong.

I am just back from book club. What a delight to sit among friends, and discuss books. Literature. Interesting views and insights into new and wonderful stories, by talented authors. THIS is the civilised world, people. I fit in better here. Among friends who smile with their eyes. Laugh and chat, listen and care.

And now my brain is too tired to function any more, so I am off to crawl into my bed. Sleep is what I need. I will be back.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Archives are interesting

Last night David was at a party, and I had some time alone here at home. I have no idea what triggered the thought, but I found myself buried deep in my own archives, reading about my own life a year ago. About the hopes, fears, dreams, frustrations and joys. It was like reading a book about a total stranger at times.

So many of the things I wondered about then remain constant in my life. So many are joyful memories. So many have lost any importance by now, and others? Well I have buried them, or forgotten about them, or stuck my head in the sand and refused to look at them. See? I am human. I can hide with the best of them. I can't remember why I wrote some things. They were just important to me at the time.

Another thing I discovered was that I have already spoken very freely about things I have been hesitant to share at times more recently. I write about those things now and then and don't post them. Why? Maybe my self editing is a little too brutal. I need to think about that. Maybe I am giving in to an unspoken pressure to move on and get on with my life. It could be that that pressure is coming from inside me, and so I have two opposite elements to deal with at the same time. And before you all start yelling Yes! Move on! Now would be good! I am just saying that while I don't live in the past by any stretch of the imagination, letting go of stuff is so much harder than I ever expected. Especially when I have never had any answers. And when the reality of my daily life is so different nowadays as a consequence. And letting go of some things is going to mean letting go of the rein I have held so tightly on my emotions too, and we are not going to go there. No. Not now. Because I have stuff to do like work and........ STUFF. Stuff is a good word.

And then I looked at all the comments, and who was reading back then and thought how strong the bond has become between us over the past 2 years. How your lives have altered, along with mine. The things we have experienced. I know your names now, and I see them, and can visualise your past year too. And to those of you who read, and don't comment, please know that you are very welcome, and I am aware that I will never know who some of you are, but it is good to get to know new friends too!

Anyway, it was an interesting way to spend the evening.

I am in duck mode today. Appearing to drift along serenely, and the feet are paddling like mad under the surface. I am a good duck.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting older.....

What is "old"??

Lines on the face? Retirement? Over 40? Over 60? Movements not as quick any more? Frail? Confused? Used up? Past your sell by date? Grey hair?

I read something about old people. I need to say something here.

It is all about perspective, isn't it. To a 7 year old, 15 is old. To a 15 year old, 30 is old. To a 30 year old, 60 is old. To a 60 year old..... 120 is old. And it is all about what we see when we look with our eyes. Eyes see one thing only though. The external.

We are pre-conditioned by stereo types, force fed to us through tv and newspapers. Young is good. Older is bad. The young hold the power. The old use up resources. I once read an article about a mugging, where the reporter mentioned that the "victim was an elderly woman of 35". I kid you not. That was the very first time I actually called the paper and asked if they were hiring 12 year old reporters. I was 32 at the time and less than impressed. Not to mention how that poor woman must have felt reading the article.

I have never thought of myself as "old". My mother is 82 and she is not old. She doesn't walk quite as fast as she once used to, but she can run if she has to. There is nothing she can't do. She may choose not to bungee jump, but that is a personal preference. I go with that one too.

One of our best loved and most professional of news readers here was removed from news anchoring, because she did not fit the profile. She was in her 50s and hugely respected. The target market for everything is the 30 somethings, but hey, the only ones with spending power any more are the older generation. All the old fashioned restaurants in shopping centres which used to have service areas, where you sat down and ordered your tea or lunch, have closed. It is all self-service. Have you actually seen older people trying to balance their shopping and trays? It is a disgrace. And me? Oh I would go for the "sit and be served" option every time. I don't think I am old.

When I started working at the place I am now, I had had some experience of the new breed of teenager. Now, remember that I too have one teenager left in my family, and this is in no way a blanket assessment of the younger generation. My kids are great, they have good manners, they are polite, they are well brought up, as are all their friends. They are lovely people. I was lulled into a false sense of security. In my innocence, or naivety, I assumed all kids were sort of like mine. WRONG.

When I started work here, I was not old. I never thought of myself as old. Older, yes. Old? No. The years have never mattered to me. But apparently those years do to the teenagers I spend time with now. "Oh G** it is the old woman.....I hate her", "I hate old people, go away", "You are so old and ugly", "Sh*t up old woman", "F*** o** old c*w", "Sh*t the f*** up you old b**ch", and yesterday's gem...."You are so G**dam**d ugly, grandma". That one came after I was informed that his mother would "get me". (I happened to be on duty in a place where he hoped to go and have a cigarette.)

Old? Maybe I am old. If they keep telling me I am, who knows, I may yet come to believe them.

But that is not why I am writing this today.

I get impatient sometimes when I go to the supermarket, and it seems as though the whole retired world is out shopping. I forget sometimes, that this could well be the highlight of their day. They are slower than I am. And I am usually running. But it is just momentary. The 20 year old out shopping may be thinking the same thing about me. His or her needs may be more important than mine. My needs are more important than the retired couple's. Or not. The point I am trying to make here is that when we get irritated by older people, whether we are 15 or 50, it is because we are indulging in a selfish moment. An "I" moment. Not a good idea. When we get frustrated because we want to be quiet, and they want to talk, we are having a selfish moment. Selfish moments are normal, natural and frequent around here, I can assure you. I wish they were not. I am no better than anyone else. But it is not all about me.

Think for a moment.... maybe you are the only person they have talked to today. Maybe they live alone. My mother-in-law used to talk to the tv. She lived alone, had no-one to chat to, and when the news came on, she would sit there and say things like.... "Good evening dear. Oh my, I really don't think you should be wearing that tie with that shirt. No. Maybe the blue one you had on last night would have been better..." and so on. It used to amuse me, and then I really thought, hang on, who else has she got to talk to? She chatted to everyone when she was out walking. In the doctor's surgery, at the park. In the shops. Why? It was her way of maintaining contact with human beings. Communicating. She was not ready to shrivel up and die in her house, alone. And why on earth should she?

I am like her in that respect. I talk to anyone and every one. I have been known to stop when I saw an unhappy looking teen on a bench, retrace my steps and ask simply if she was ok.

Why should old people have to apologise for being slower than us? Don't they have as much right as us to be there? Why shouldn't we take a moment and have a conversation with them? Smile and mean it? Don't all people, young and old, need compliments? How much have they got to share with us? Why are we so impatient? How much time are we really giving up? Are they lonely? Who has noticed they are alive today? Many don't have phones. They are expensive. Or computers. Or cars.

David is off to uni in the autumn. I could be alone in this house. If I don't go out and talk to other human beings, what would my life be like? I could get a parrot I suppose, or something that talks to me. Or maybe I will start talking to the news man too.


When I am really old, (about 90 or so!) I know I would want to be surrounded by life. Young people - not the ones I work with, may I add - children, 30 somethings, 50 somethings. I want to live, and be a part of life, not just on the outside looking in. I want to know what is going in their heads, and I want to interact. I am interested.

So one day, I will be the old lady chatting to you in supermarket queues, in doctor's waiting rooms, in the parks and wherever I can find you. Please don't get impatient, or irritated, or bury your faces in books or computers when I smile at you and strike up a conversation. Look up, see me, acknowledge me. Take a little time. Maybe just a couple of minutes. And talk back. I am nice. I am not a weird old woman. You may enjoy chatting to me for a little while.

And you may be the only thing that keeps me in touch with life that day.

Slow down. Think more. Put aside your schedule. Ignore the bells. It could be you one day.

Scratch that. It WILL be you one day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Weekends are wonderful

Things I am thankful for today:
  1. Fridays
  2. Fun with the "get a life" crew
  3. Sunny days
  4. Conversations
  5. Knowing the alarm will not be going off in the early morning

I love sitting here thinking of all the possibilities for the weekend ahead.... I may do some sewing, plant all the seeds, go to the allotment, visit friends, try a new recipe, doze on the couch, catch up with some reading.....

But then, I may not.

It is the fact that the days are unstructured which is the greatest blessing of weekends. My life at the moment is so rigid, and this is foreign to me. I need flexibility. I have one eye on the clock all day, listening for bells. They ring and I move. Don't forget 10 min starters, 40 min main topic, and 10 min plenaries. Ring ring. Miscalculate and the wheels come off. Take 10 mins to chat to a child after a lesson, and you are 10 mins late for the next one. Ring ring. Calculate where to cut off the time to make up. Make sure you email the register within 10 mins of starting lessons. Ring ring. Do duty at lunch and tidy classroom left in chaos because of duty. Run to get coffee but before the water boils.... Ring ring.

Oh the bliss of waking in my own time. Getting up in my own time. Doing what I want to do. And no bells. It doesn't matter if I take a little longer talking to someone who needs to be heard. Or reading an extra chapter. Having coffee when I feel like it. Hearing the silence and feeling the stillness.

Never ever take this for granted, my friends. It is a true blessing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh the shame....


You remember I spoke about a friend who would come and see the hot water problem here? Well, I actually got round to calling him tonight and sure enough, he popped in. And asked a very basic question. Have you checked the switch board? Has the switch tripped? Ok, 2 questions then. And the answer was no, I have not, and so help me, yes, it had tripped. He flipped it up and we roared into life. I am ready to dig a hole of humiliation. How can I not have checked???? I know better! I have checked the board for a zillion other reasons, like whenever a light bulb blows, and this time? Of course not. The brain is fried. I am not myself. Well, that is my excuse anyway.

But, as I speak, we are gurgling in a promising fashion. Or rather, the hot water is. It better keep working. I am not ready for more mortification just now. And when I think that Derek, another friend, offered to come round the day after it broke to check it out and I SAID IT WAS UNDER CONTROL........ Oh the shame. And if, in a couple of hours time, I am NOT sinking into a hot bath, you will hear the screech across the waters.

This blog has reached new heights of excitement. Hot water, and plumbing are the hot topics. I need to get a life.

Today was the National Union of Teachers strike. I am not a member of the union, and I have never been in the middle of a strike before. You learn more every day! The school day was shortened and only 4 year groups were in, and 3 were at home. However, I spent the entire day whizzing about, either in class or doing all the data collating. And I am happy to announce that all the folders are done. Till tomorrow, of course, when I teach more classes. I don't think the strike will work, by the way.

And tomorrow is Friday. Oh what bliss! It has been typical April weather at the moment, a mix of sun and showers and I can't wait to get out in the garden. Hopefully this weekend will bring time to clean the chairs and tables. Not to mention the house. I require all visitors to remove glasses as they enter, because at the moment, it is looking slightly neglected. Um...a LOT neglected. And the allotment is about to be plowed and scattered too. I have potting soil, and the beans will be started. I live in hope of a big harvest this year. Last year's beans were pathetic. I killed the lot, and have no idea how I managed that.

I think I am going to go and listen to the sweet sounds of gurgling hot water cylinders now. This is so exciting! Hot water!

I may even pat it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I finished re-marking a set of folders at 1am this morning. I was cross eyed. One set down and 5 to go. Each set is at least 28 folders. And each has at least 15 pages inside. I am doomed. The reason I am re-marking is because the "parameters have changed". You know what "they" can do with their parameters???? (I must remember that this is a family friendly blog.....)

As I was driving home this afternoon, the temperature was 18 degrees C. Positively summer. I even went into the garden and sorted out the pots for the seedlings. And then I decided enough was enough, and had some coffee. Coffee features prominently on this blog. I don't drink tea, even though I live in England. And I am rambling yet again.

I took one look at the garden furniture and it is in a sorry state. Nothing some elbow grease and bleach won't fix, but it seems to be an unattractive shade of green. I would take a photo, but it may put you off your supper. So I am resisting the urge.

Yes, to all of you who have suggested changing jobs. That is something I am working on and praying about. What happens with me, is that I apply for a job I am quite happy to do, and within 24 hours of them getting to know me, I am scheduled in to do 10 times more than I expected. The jobs seem to expand, and then it becomes difficult to say, hey, I would rather be doing what I came here to do. You know what I mean? And the pay packet seldom expands at the same rate, may I add.

I do not want a high pressure career. I just want to do something which enables me to pay the bills, and have a life. And preferrably, to be doing something I love. I am way past the ladder climbing thing, and my priorities are very different to those of 30 somethings. 30 somethings do not understand people who are not interested in ladders either. It is inconceivable to them. I am not my work. I have said this before. And I refuse to be a statistic. And face it, I am no longer 25. Or 35. Or 45 for that matter. Enough of that.

I don't mind trying something new, and I don't mind challenges. And now I have another challenge in the form of a pile of folders waiting for me to get back to them, so I am off. I want to be asleep long before 1am this time!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A pleasant surprise

That went well.
I am losing my mind yet again.
I set off for school, and got there at 7.45am, and was a little befuddled to see no cars in the carpark. That would be because today was a training day and I was an hour early. I had absolutely no idea we were having a training day. However, I am happy to report that school is great when there are no children on the premises. In fact, we all think they should be banned. For ever.

I woke at 4am. This was not a good start to the day. Yesterday, I managed to dislocate my big toe while walking on uneven ground, so it is 4 times its normal size, it hurts, and I am hobbling like a crone. And I woke early, after tossing and turning all night, because the duvet hurt the toe. And also because I didn't want to go to school. I decided the toe was yet another sign that was shouting Stop! Don't go to work! But I rose above such feelings and toddled off. Early. Ridiculous.

Because I have a lot of marking at catch up on, I have been lugging folders all over the place today, and that was also not a good idea. I can feel my chest. I am definitely going to have to modify my actions at school. I will take a shopping trolley thing in tomorrow. And will no doubt be forever known as the bag lady, but I can live with that. If I were to be completley truthful, I think I am back at work a little early. I didn't expect to feel any pain any more. I just have to be careful.

So now I am off to look at folders. They are sitting on the coffee table. Coffee. I mentioned coffee......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The holidays are nearly over...

I have written a couple more posts and then not posted them. This is becoming quite ridiculous. I go back to work on Monday and the gloom is descending. If you could see inside my mind right now, you would run for cover.

Update 1: I am ok. I think. I have not actually tried lifting or carrying anything at all for 3 weeks, so we will see what happens when I try to cart that laptop etc about next week. Lolling about like Lady Muck has been an interesting experience. Being driven all over the place has also been interesting. I am the world's worst passenger. Have I used all that lolling time well? Absolutely not. I am very good at diversionary tactics. What was that??? I can't hear you....lahlahlahlahlah....(sticking fingers in ears in a particularly grown-up fashion.)

Update 2: We still have no hot water. So my son is the chief water carrier around here. I live in a civilised world. I have friends coming back from holidays soon, who know all about hot water. I like useful friends.

Update 3: I have yet to start on the bathroom. But I do believe that my friend, Louise, and I have decided that we are intelligent, practical, logical women who can conquer new bathrooms. One day. And the fact that she has a builder brother who loves his sister dearly and would run to help if we were sitting on a fountain of water yelling help in a loud fashion has absolutely NOTHING to do with our confident decision to do it ourselves. David would provide the muscle. He knows nothing of this yet, by the way.

Update 4: I have been good and have not sewn the quilts. It is unbelievably frustrating. I did try a little embroidery but that was not very bright of me at all. So I stopped.

Update 5: I have fallen in love with the Elm Creek Quilt novels. I want to move to Pennsylvania tomorrow. I specialised in American History for my degree way back in the dark ages, and the combination of the love I have of quilting and the period of history which fascinates me most being combined in a story is just perfect for me.

Update 6: Andrew and Ann returned from their holiday in Hong Kong safely. They had a wonderful time, and can't wait to go back and explore more, and go further afield.

And, as I am not going to post those other posts, that is it for now. The couch is calling, and so is my book. It has just occurred to me that the one thing we all have in common, people, is that we all love reading. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. You can't love writing if you don't love words. And if you love words, you love reading them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Plumbing options....

I can't believe it. Blogger just shut down as I was in mid flow.... and even though it said saved, it clearly ATE my post.

Where was I??

Yesterday, while we were out shopping for bathroom tiles etc, I looked around the showroom, and saw a lovely bath. It was deeper than normal, and I do like deep baths. I mean, for heaven's sake, who really wants to feel as though they are reclining in a paddling pool when they get into the bath to relax with a book???? I prefer to be submerged. The great thing about this bath was that it came in different lengths, and the price stayed the same. So you could choose one to suit both you and the shape of your bathroom. And my bathroom is indeed in need of a make-over. Urgently. I am too, but we will not go there right now, will we.....

The set, including basin and loo, taps etc was £529. This is all hypothetical, people. £529 is exactly the same as £1 000 000 right now. I am getting to my point..... Not bad I thought, for everything you need in a new bathroom. My friend has a bathroom double the size of mine, and had just ordered tiles for walls, floors, mosaic trim, and stone mosaic for the wet room part, and the bill was in the hundreds. Note I said hundreds. So I cheerily asked the man in the shop..what would it cost to take out my old bathroom and put this new one in in the same place? No additional plumbing etc. And using one tenth of the tiles my friend had ordered (for hundreds). Take one out. Put new one in. Oh he says..... it shouldn't come to more than £6 000. WHAT??????? You read right. £6 000 pounds. £5 000 of which is clearly labour. When I returned to earth after rotating around the ceiling fan a couple of times, I looked at him, and said quite calmly,when I could breathe again.... "I do believe I am going to google how to be a plumber when I get home." For a maximum of 2-3 days work that is outrageous. And this is a shop known for reasonable prices. £6 000!!!!!!!!

The moral of this story, is do NOT send your child to university. Send them to plumbing school instead. They will be the super rich of the future.

It can't be that hard to switch off the water, unscrew all appliances, screw in all new appliances, and switch on the water, now can it? Hmmm. Tiling is a doddle. I have done that before. Woodwork? No problem. I can do that too. I may just go and remove the bath panel and have a look......

If you happen to hear news of a flood in middle England........

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books, birds and assorted things....

Here are the books.

The one you can't really see is A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam. I have not read any of them yet, but I did read the Summer Book by Tove Jansson which was absolutely beautiful, and I have read some of the Elm Creek Books by Jennifer Chiaverini. I love them. The couch and I will have fun over the next few days! In my fictional world, I will be travelling to America, Pakistan, Sweden, Prague, Berlin, and up north here in the UK.

I am off again to check out kitchen plans and bathroom tiles with a friend this morning. It is such fun to help spend someone else's money. I am VERY good at that. A veritable expert. I just need some gaffer tape to slap over my mouth now and then to stop from saying what I like, so I can remember to listen rather to what my friend likes! I have, however been known to say things like, "Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?" Hmmm.

The sun is shining, and I can hear the birds in the trees. The same birds which wake me up at 4 in the morning. Every morning. And then sleep is history. Mind you, there is something particularly beautiful about the peacefulness of 4 am. Silence. Except for the birds. Dawn's early light. Quiet. Serenity. Calm. Peace. All the things I am lacking. So Who do you think wakes those birds then??

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revolving doors here....

This place is closely resembling Clapham Junction at the moment. In the nicest possible way!

Jean, Margaret and I popped in to town this morning on a "we have to find some books for book club" quest. We belong to 2 separate book clubs, and it is both Jean's and my turn to select books for our clubs this month, so we had a wonderful time choosing what we liked. (And combining our purchases to get the best 3 for the price of 2 deals we could find!) It is great to have an excuse to buy books. Any excuse.

After coffee and hot cross buns, we wandered about and had a great time trying new perfumes, drooling over Radley handbags, and hunting through charity shops. We go for the total shopping experience! Charity shops to designer bags. Shopping (or window shopping), is so much fun with a friend or 2 along!

Jean came in for a coffee when we got home, and just as she was leaving, Louise arrived, so Jean came back in again. More coffee. We had just been chatting for about half an hour, and in walked Jackie with her 3 babes. Jean and Louise left a little while later, and I was just making the 45th cup of coffee, when Margaret arrived to put in some plants in my front garden flower bed. Margaret has single-handedly cleared the debris from my flower bed, and hacked back everything with vigour. She is such a star, and then she actually called me to ask if I minded if she put in some plants to fill the gaps. Mind???? That flower bed is forever to be known as "Margaret's Patch". She knew the debris was driving me crazy, especially as I cannot do it myself at the moment. So she just did it.

So I made yet more coffee. See what I mean about Clapham Junction??? I would not change it for the world. I love friends popping in. I love having time to chat and yes, make coffee. It doesn't matter what the house looks like. They come anyway. And they know they are always welcome.

Edited to add: It did not stop there... Julia barrelled through the door in the evening too. I must remember to buy more coffee.....

The holidays are flying by at supersonic speed at the moment. I really wish they were longer. I have absolutely no desire to go back to work. At all. Given the soaring price of petrol (and absolutely everything else here at the moment) it may soon be impractical to travel across town to get to work.

The world food shortage is also making headlines. We have seen people in different countries on TV demonstrating about the astronomic price rise of even staple foods. The crop failures in various parts of the world, and the conversion of so much acreage to bio-fuel crop production has meant that the world could be about to have a very real problem. And it could be one which will affect each of us. We stopped at a fair trade Whole Food store on the way home, and it is surprising how many "Sorry - crop failure has meant this item is out of stock" signs there were on the shelves. If ever I doubted that there was a real problem, that visit dispelled the thought.

The petrol price is 108.9p a litre at the moment. That means that every single thing we buy is more expensive, as manufacturers pass on the price hike. And they are also having to pay increased gas and electricity prices, as we all are, and that is also passed on. And so the spiral of costs upwards grows, fueling inflation, as the economy slows down. The housing market is in decline......

I am depressing myself. And I went and bought BOOKS??? Maybe I should have bought a large packet of rice instead.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Allowing another 1% to escape......

A few weeks ago, I wrote something which is not intended for publication. I read it now and then, and every time I do, the tears come, and so I close the document and do something else. Anything. I am a world champion in avoidance tactics. I was right when I said that only about 10% of me is actually visible. And you get to see the 1% extra, because only a couple of people know I actually wrote anything at all. I am rambling here, but bear with me......

I have been reminded that what you see is not always the true picture. I could take you on a walk around this village and you would meet my friends, and would see just what they let you see, and you would never scratch the surface. Lovely genuine people. Each and every one of them.

We are all like that. Some people accept just what they see, and only as they get to know you a little better, do they sense what could be bubbling under the surface. Others only ever see what they want to see. Assumptions can be made. And sometimes those assumptions are way way off base.

I lay in bed last night thinking about what I had written here yesterday, and then started thinking about what I had not written at all. About the things that happen to real people, and how they cope with them. About private battles being fought. Tough decisions made. Challenges coped with. Life is happening all around me. Birth, marriage, death, divorce, hopes, fears, celebration, loneliness, illness, the challenges and joys of raising children, coping with elderly parents and changing needs, finances, work, distance, you name it. It is the nature of life. It is happening wherever I look. To each of us. Sometimes I look around me and think....the tv producers would throw this out as too improbable if ever anyone wrote it all down as a potential soap opera.

Real life seems totally improbable at times. I think, no, this can't really be happening. Not to him. Not to her. Not to them. Not to me. But it is. To real people. Love/hate, laughter/tears, hopes/fears, good/bad, certainties/uncertainties, life/death.

Back to those assumptions. The mouths may smile at times, but look a little closer at the eyes. They may be distant, focussing on a place you cannot imagine. Confidence may hide a wealth of inadequacies. Laughter may mask a hurt so deep. Busy-ness may focus attention away from a bruised or battered heart. We are all masters of illusion in real life. Appearances can indeed be deceptive. And we hesitate to open what could be Pandora's box, because we don't have any guarantees about what might happen if we dare. How many times have we avoided asking personal questions? Or how many times do we look behind the expected/hoped for pat answers? Do we even want to go there?

We brush aside platitudes which make our lips tremble, and control waver. We use humour to mask raw nerves. We deflect attention away from ourselves to hide pain. We speak too quickly, and don't listen enough. Well, I do, anyway.

The one thing I have in abundance right at this moment, is time. Time which I have longed for, but not the time I had hoped for, to do all the things I had planned. I need to keep moving, and now I can't. Moving prevents me from going to the secret place in my mind where I can surrender control and just be. And sometimes that is an uncomfortable place to be. I am only human, and maybe it did take being injured to get me to stop and be still. Maybe I am the type of person who needs to be pole-axed to really get me to listen. Maybe Someone has another agenda I need to follow. It seems that this is non-negotiable right now.

I am getting better slowly, by the way. But as I have said before, patience is not something I have been blessed with in abundance. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not going to heal physically at all until I stop, turn round, take a deep breath, and face those giants lurking behind me. Do I want to go there? Absolutely not.

The problem is, I don't think I have any choice any more.

I am a widow. My name is Linds. It hurts.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More bits and pieces.....

It is the London Marathon today and as I speak, thousands of people are preparing to run. I, on the other hand, think the best way to join in is to watch from my bed. With coffee. Propped up all warm and cosy with my book at hand. I am energetic to the absolute extreme. Mind you, I will do the Marathon one day. It is on the list. But then so is jumping off an Alp with a parachute, and we could just be deferring that one too.

There is a lot I could have been writing over the past 3 days, but to be honest, it was hard to top the visit to London, and I am still grinning about that. Everything else seemed a little banal.

The fact that I HAVE NO HOT WATER is another minor irritation. My fixing failed. Don't worry. We are indeed clean. It involves making a decision to fill the bath 30 mins before you actually want to recline in it, many pots, a kettle and a son as a runner. I see it as exercise. And exercise is good. I will get it fixed. We do live in a first world country and I am not considering searching for a copper thing to use in the middle of the kitchen. Yet. But right now I am so frustrated because G replaced the element not so long ago, and it was a simple procedure. To him. And I did not watch. I know where to get the element. I know where it goes. But the rest?? Hmmmm. And I also know what "the man who fixes things" will charge. I could make an exotic trip instead. Sigh. I will have to surrender and this time I will absolutely stand there and breathe down "the man's" neck so I learn something.

So apart from helping someone choose a new kitchen, and going to Twickenham to watch rugby yesterday...... Did I mention the rugby? We went by coach. 15,000 supporters from our home team. I will never ever make another coach trip as long as I breathe. The seats are for stick insects with 3 inch legs. I have bruises on my knees. And not to mention the seats at Twickenham, which ensure that you get very up close and personal with the people next to you, while your knees support the ears belonging to the person in front of you. But it was fun, and we had a great day. The fact that our team actually won a cup is indeed a blessing. And we were in good voice. I am surprised Jeana didn't hear the roars from Central London.

My friends as we arrived. We were heading off to find coffee. And muffins.

Some of the supporters/fans!

Now THIS is a scrum. A rugby scrum!

And this is the amazing cloud we saw when we arrived back home.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


There..... I told you we were stunning. Do not ask why my sunglasses were still on my head. I have no idea. I forgot them up there.

Jeana+London=Special Day!

For those of you who may have the impression that I am a wizened old dear rocking gently back and forth in a rocking chair.....let me dispel any delusions. The rocking chair is simply a comfortable old thing I like curling up in. As in I can sit on my feet and rock. Quite fast at times. It depends on the mood. Good grief, I sound totally "off my rocker"!! Note - I can still sit on my feet. I can still bend. The fact that I can't walk when I stand up after lengthy intervals of sitting on those feet is irrelevant. Or that I look like a crone as I hobble about afterwards until I straighten up and reach a full head of steam as I regain all feeling in my extremeties. I am a constant source of mirth for my family.

I digress.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. One of those golden days which happen now and then. Just lovely. I am still smiling. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I hopped on a train to London, and went to see Jeana . She is absolutely right. This is exactly why blogging is such a delight. We started chatting as though we had known each other for years the moment we met at the station, and did not stop all day. And can I just say here, that she has the most delightful children I have come across in a very, very long time. That could well be because they have spectacular parents of course!

We had so much to talk about (like radiators and supermarkets and the fact that cornflour is cornstarch and what kind of sausages to buy - the important things in life, not to mention history, the economy, education.....) and so help me, have not even made a dent in the list of things we wanted to discuss. I watched her make black eyed peas and cornbread as we chatted, making mental notes so I can try them at home too. We sat at the park watching the children play, and there was so much laughter and such easy conversation that time just flew by. And she has now tasted hot cross buns! I can educate people, you know! Hot cross buns are important. It was so nice to get to meet Scott too, and we all had a lovely meal together, and then I had to come home. How can time whizz by so fast? We do have a couple of photos. Remind me never ever to let a child who is shorter than me take a photo without standing on a chair in future. I do not need to see the chin(s) up close and in detail.

I am really hoping that they can all come up here to visit, so I can show them a little more of the country. It was a lovely day. Jeana is a delight. She is gentle, caring, and such fun to be around. I have a new friend in real life. And it is not over by a long way.

Two women sitting in a park, from two continents, meeting on a third continent, two vastly different lives and experiences, different ages, different accents, and yet so much in common. Anyone watching us would have thought we had known each other for a long time. Without blogging, this would never have happened. We would never have met. I can't begin to imagine how much I would have missed.

Adventures are good. Very good. I could have spent the day on the couch reading. I didn't. I met Jeana.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


My daughter and I were speaking, or attempting to, rather, on video messenger this morning. She informed me I appeared to be wearing bells. Indeed I was. 2 Lindt bunny red ribbons and attached bells were draped over the headphones. Yet another fashion trend. You can rely on me, people. I couldn't get the headphones to work. And only after she had gone did, my son arise from the pit, and inform me there were little coloured lines on the plug thingys which denoted which hole they belonged in. I would need a magnifying glass to see them. Stupid invention. Hopefully next time they will work.

Here I sit. One daughter in NZ. And one son and his wife in Hong Kong. My friend has a son in Thailand, and a daughter in Rome. Another has a daughter in Italy skiing and a son in Australia. Another friend has a daughter and her husband leaving for Florida today. Can anyone spot the problem?????? Our KIDS are travelling the world, and we are sitting here. Sigh. But how great for all the kids to be off on adventures, seing new places and meeting new people. The world is very small, isn't it....

Anyway. I have an adventure on the horizon. Tomorrow, I am off to London to meet Jeana !! This is so exciting! I know I am supposed to rest. The train is "taking the strain" as the adverts say, and I am sure walking is a good idea. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the jaw, so chatting will be no problem. AT.ALL. And I will rest on the train coming home too. I have it all sorted.

The sun is shining and Spring seems to have made a comeback, so I am going to curl up with the book, and enjoy the warmth. I will be back!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Moving hemispheres.....

It snowed last night. It may well snow again. Spring? SPRING?? And I am the one who cheerfully told Jeana not to bother with heavy coats. Oops.

I have been reading her posts about staying in London, and I have been remembering what it was like when I first moved here. Well, I lived in the UK for a year when we were first married, but I am not counting that. That is worthy of a post of its own.

Prior to moving here in 1990, I had spent all of my life in a large, sprawling cosmolpolitan city, surrounded by sandy beaches and dominated by Table Mountain. An eclectic mix of people from all parts of the world, blended together to make a fascinating cultural combination. I remember doing a braai (BBQ) in CT for my son and his friends, and having 4 sheets of tin foil on the BBQ for 4 separate types of food. Kosher, Halaal, Veggie and ordinary. Complete with 4 forks and flipping things merrily without "contaminating" each other. No problem. I missed that mix so much when I moved here. I missed climbing over the fence to neighbours as a child for Jewish high days and holidays and them doing the same for Christmas. I don't think there is a single Jewish family living in this village. I forget when to send Jewish New Year cards. I used to know these things. My kids grew up knowing that you didn't offer your friends food or sweets when they were fasting. They understood Ramadan. Because their friends were sitting next to them.

Here the scale is small. It took me so long not to feel hemmed in in the houses. The ceilings are so much lower here. The rooms are small. I miss having windows on every side of the house. Now this might seem strange to some of you, I realise. The houses are so close together here, but then there are over 60 million people crammed onto this small island. Space is at a premium!
Little things. I rather enjoy having a fairly unusual accent. My British friends think I sound South African, and my South African friends think I sound British. Whatever. It is more the rythym of my speech which has changed than the accent. It does allow me a certain amount of latitude here though, as I can't be popped in a slot that easily! I also tend to have a colonial view of life. I think outside the box, and nothing irritates me more than heirarchy, and supposed class systems. Believe me, they still exist in some corners. With a vengeance.

Distance. Everywhere here is very close, and while my friends are all widely travelled, when I have conversations at the till (check-out) sometimes I discover people, usually elderly, who are horrified at the thought of me driving to London. Which is all of 70 miles away. "It's so FAR, can't POSSIBLY go all that way alone..." Mind you, there are people who have seldom left this village in their lives. Maybe to go to one of the 2 large towns close by, but that is that. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. It is just foreign to me and to them. We learn to live with our differences!

Attitudes about sun and sunburn. I once roared into the school carpark in a rage when I drove by and saw my 9 year old redhead son's class sitting at desks in the playground on a sunny day. No hats. No sunblock. With no sunshade. At midday. And delivered a lecture to the head on the dangers of sun. (And mad dogs and Englishmen....which was probably not that wise or tactful, now I come to think about it...) The head said there was cloud in the sky. I repeated the lecture adding that cloud is the most dangerous part of a summer day. The school changed its policy. I am all too aware of the risks of sunburn, coming from the southern hemisphere where the hole in the ozone layer is rather large.

Dress. In a large city, even when you slop around in casual clothes, those casual clothes are different to the ones I have been known to leave my house wearing here. I noticed the change when I went back to SA on a visit, and my clothing automatically changed, as did the way I "put myself together". Details. And the way I walked. Interesting, that. A friend of mine has moved to a large Scottish city, and she said she immediately knew what I was talking about. Her dress changed too.

I had never had gas in a house before, and it was a terrifying thing to me. The thought of a naked flame burning in my house was something it took a while to get used to. And central heating was a wondrous mystery to me too. I remember phoning the gas board when I first switched on the central heating, and it roared into life, rather like a Boeing about to crash onto my roof. They assured me this was just how it worked. I felt like a fool. Now I have a gas hob I cook on too, and I can't imagine going back to an electric one. I can adapt. See???

I NEVER had net curtains. I loathe them. I like to think I started a trend. I removed the ones in place as soon as I moved in to this house, and now, 19 years later, there are just 2 houses in this road with nets. I want as much sun in as possible. Or light. Any light. I am not fussy.

People here do not generally like to pay to have things fixed. They do it themselves. This saves a lot of money, and I am learning as I speak. I have just fixed the hot water cylinder. For the second time. And friends will always help with their skills. And gardens. Oh my...... you cannot live in the UK long before you start to garden. With passion. Things grow so amazingly, and as the gardens as generally really small, it is fairly simple to make them beautiful. It is in the air. British people garden. I never paid much attention to the garden I had in Cape Town. Now I find it hard to keep out of the nurseries. I want to buy all the plants.

Schooling was the most different. But that is a subject I am not going to touch right now.

I joined a church when I arrived, and I found it the most wonderful way to meet people and make friends. People here are generally very friendly, but may be a little reserved initially, or suspicious of the strange foreign woman who is invading their homeland. Once they see I am harmless, they are great.

Time changes. In South Africa, there is no time zone change, nor any seasonal change. It is NEVER light at 10pm, and this took a lot of getting used to here. The kids thought it was day time. I did not. That took a couple of years to adapt to.

Shops. Food was something I missed most. Things like butternut squash. The bread tasted different. I couldn't get pawpaws which didn't look like mangoes. I was used to ones bigger than rugby balls. But now, every type of food, fruit or vegetable is in the local stores. The world is certainly much smaller in that sense. There is absolutely nothing I miss any more. And it never mattered a great deal anyway!

The city speed limit here is 30 miles an hour. In South Africa, it is 60km an hour. That is 38 miles an hour. It took me forever to adjust my driving. Thankfully, I never got a speeding ticket. And then I went back to SA and drove through the city at 30 miles an hour, starting a near riot of road rage behind me. No wonder I felt foreign there then!

I go to London now and then. And I always come home wondering if the people there have missed the plot. Strange. They all seem to be smart, walk fast and purposefully, unsmiling, making no eye contact. Things seem to move too fast. I catch a glimpse of myself in the store windows now and then and mouse has come to town. (Or good grief, you look like a 110 year old bag lady.) And I am always delighted to get back to my village. Where people smile, chat and know me. I don't like feeling so small and insignificant.

Football. I have never learnt to love it. I love most sports. I love watching rugby, but football??? Maybe not.

There have been many things to adapt to. Many changes. Many new and wonderful discoveries. Many new experiences. So many new friends. I have never understood people who move countries and then stay firmly rooted in little groups of ex-pats, clinging to their old life. I chose to move here, and in doing so, chose to embrace the British way of life. I love the freedom to roam. Public rights of way let you wander through the countryside. And, no matter what the papers say, crime rates are still very low where I live. Especially when you consider where I came from.

When we first arrived, I could not believe that the kids would run in for dinner, leaving their bikes on the lawn and the bikes would still be there after dinner. This was amazing. Getting used to a home with no burglar bars was another. I was used to being unsafe. It took a while to remember I was much safer here. And worth every one of those hiccups at the start.

I am so thankful that we live here. In this place. For now. I have changed. The village has changed. The country has changed.

But it is home.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friends to play

I have great friends. I could just have mentioned this once or a zillion times. This morning, early, Nicky called and suggested we go for a stroll around the bird sanctuary, and so she collected me, and off we toddled. It was grey and misty, but very still.
And yes, I did say BIRDS. However, sheep and lambs seemed quite at home with the birds. I am known for my accurate observation skills when it comes to birds. Small brown bird, medium brown bird, large brown bird etc etc. I can can identify a robin if it looks at me. And a seagull, though they are not frequent visitors to Middle England. Flamingoes, but they don't seem to be local either. What else..... PIGEONS! Providing they are standing in Trafalgar Square. Doves. And that is about that. Another glaring omission in my education.

But LOOK! A swan!! A bird!

Anyway, it was a lovely walk, and so nice to have some company.We never have a problem finding things to chat about!

The sun came out just as we got home, and 5 minutes after Nicky left, Louise and her son Peter arrived. The boys disappeared to challenge each other on some computer game, and Louise suggested we escape and go to visit a craft shop. You can see that I am taking to the resting idea really well. The fact that Louise has a new sports car, with a roof down has absolutely nothing to do with my speedy scramble to gather up sunglasses and wallet, and off we zoomed. I was born for this. I was resting. I just sat there looking mysteriously "incognito" behind my sunglasses as the wind whipped through my hair. (See... I am trying to conjure up an image of glamour here. Hahahahaha.) And then I had to climb out of the low-slung thing. Hmmmm. It should have a crane attached to the roof mechanism. But I emerged. Eventually.

We wandered around the craft shop. It is months, if not years since I have been there, and it was amazing how many new things they had in stock. I didn't know where to look first. We have decided that our lives are incomplete without a Cuttlebug. And we oohed and ahhed over so many bits and pieces. Fortunately I found the bargain box, and had great fun choosing a few new things. "Few" being the operative word here. I was very sensible and just had some cash with me. Limited cash, you understand. They even had a book on artful blogging. That was new to me. Anyway, I was very restrained. And then we had to lever ourselves back into the car and come home, playing loud music. Of course.

Once home, David gave me the parcel from Amazon which had been delivered, and apart from his birthday present, I had ordered a book for me to read while I am RESTING. So I have spent the rest of the day on the couch doing just that. I haven't read any of the Elm Creek books before, and I got one with the first 3 books in it. So far I am loving it. So right now, I am heading back to the couch and my book. Because I listen to medical instructions and I do things they tell me to.

See? I am going to rest.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My son is 19 today

Today is my youngest son's birthday. He is 19. NINETEEN! Bring on the zimmer frame. I am a good mother. We have a chocolate cake. Bought. And candles. But I suspect he may just veto those. He is asleep. I am sitting here waiting for him to appear. Nineteen years ago, he was a couple of hours old, and he was so tiny....the smallest of all my 3 children. He was also 2 weeks early.

He was just 15 months old when we moved back to the UK, and he is 100% English, and remembers very little of South Africa. My older children were 13 and 9 when we moved, so they remember much more, and my oldest son spent another 3 years travelling back and forth when he went back to SA to finish school there, and stayed with my parents. As I have said, we spent a great deal of time travelling. This, however, is the only home David has ever known.

In September, he will be off to university, and out there in the big wide world, just as his brother and sister before him. The baby who came as a very welcome surprise. Who dismantled playpens, and tried to eat the dog's food. The toddler who used to slide down the stairs on his stomach at breakneck speeds. Who climbed anything and everything. Who never needed to sleep much. The little one who learnt to ski when his mother and aunt pushed him down the slope and caught him. Who had a little yellow BP bike thingy he loved to race about on. The child who set off my parents' home alarm for fun. And climbed the burglar bars. The boy who loved playing cricket. Who drew endless plans of cities on sheets of paper which had to be stuck together until they stretched the length of the lounge. The boy who chose to go to a school none of his friends were going to, because he, at 11, saw that people were nice to each other there. Who adores the computer. The teenager who helps out at youth clubs. Who is loyal to his friends. Who helped his Dad at his allotment. Who started writing his own books when he was just 15. Who lost his father at 17, and who has shown so much maturity and strength. The young man who is tallest and biggest by far in this family. Who is a gentle giant. Who loves hiking in the Alps, having adventures....Who is more perceptive than most, and who cares deeply about so many things. Who has great faith and an imagination that amazes me. Who has travelled a path from a human tornado of a babe to a quiet, yet strong man.

Who has dreams of his own to follow.

Soon now.

Happy Birthday, David!

I love you loads and loads.......

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Notes from the sofa

Try using the keyboard and restricting yourself to no movement with your right hand. If you are right-handed. You would be snarling too. I went to the doctor yesterday. That was the Event of the Day. You remember how I was joking about how exciting my life was 2 weeks ago?? Huh?? That was the HIGH LIFE, people. Now? I am considering counting the grains of sand in a bottle for entertainment.

Where was I? The doctor. I saw my own doctor this time, thank heavens, and I trust her, which is always good. She is very tiny. Very. I feel like a giant when I see her and I am only about 1.65m tall (about 5ft6-7inches). She looked at me quizzically when I walked in and I sat down and announced that I was wounded. She grinned. She had read the notes on the computer. She listened as I related my total panic attack when I thought I was about to expire, and suggested she examine me herself.

So I removed my clothing with all the grace of a hippopotamus in a changing cubicle at a dress shop. My pullover got stuck round my neck, and when I ripped it off, my earrings,butterfly things and reading glasses which I had forgotten on top of my head, shot in 5 different dirctions all over the surgery. Much muttering and crawling ensued, and I did notice she was trying not to laugh. I do believe the gold chain I wear was hooked over my left ear at this point.

So I stood up for her to make sure the heart and lungs were indeed functioning, and looked at her down there. I mean, she is TINY. And felt as ungainly as said hippo. But she prodded and poked, and I screeched obligingly when she managed to hit the torn muscle 3 times in swift succession. And then she wanted to take my BP. Excuse me, I was still trying to breathe after being in pain. And she took my pulse at the same time. BAD idea. So we started all over once I had taken several calming breaths and stopped muttering about evil sadistic women who caused untold anguish in their poor defenceless patients and considered humming. Her mouth was definitely twitching. I was watching.

Second attempt was reassuringly reasonable. And I looked at her and said - see - I am fine. I am not sick. Just a little broken. And she announced that I am indeed not fine at all, and would not be working this week. And that if we were not starting school holidays this Friday for 2 weeks, I would be off work for at least 3 weeks. The muscle is torn. Not just inflamed, and it takes time to heal. And no, there is no pill or magic potion to fix it faster. I asked.

By now the head was stuck getting back into the pullover ....what is it with clothes which go on perfectly easily in the morning and then refuse to behave when in the presence of people like doctors? So my words were a trifle muffled, and the out of control hair had decided to flop right out of the slide I had used to tie it back. The slide lodged itself in the back of my jeans. Give me strength. I was a picture of elegance and excellent grooming as I emerged from the neck line.

Anyway. Taking a deep breath. She said she was writing a doctor's note for work. I have never had one of these in my life. And she told me I am supposed to do nothing. NOTHING. I am supposed to sit and read and watch tv. And sleep. And go insane. I glared at her and said..."Have you ANY idea how dire daytime tv is?" and she threw back her head and roared with laughter. I am so glad I amused her. I informed her that I would probably be back next week for medication for the insanity which was clearly about to set it.

So I can't sew, or bake, or clean, or iron, or shop, or drive, or garden, or cut things, or quilt, or stitch, or sweep, or carry or rearrange cupboards, or paint, or decorate, or ANYTHING. And I am lacking some slaves to order about. And I am not supposed to use the hand on the keyboard. I need to be amused. I feel it is everyone's duty to entertain me.

However, I do want to be fixed. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You may need some coffee here...

There is a downside to sitting here with nothing active to do. It means I have time to think and to write. And once I start..... oops. This is long. Sorry about that!

There is a lot of talk and discussion around at the moment on how real we are, how much of "us" we put on our blogs for the world to see, if we should/should not, who we are perceived to be, what image we project, how much to put in our profiles, consequences, opinions etc etc etc. Lots of stuff. And we have all thought about this and spoken of it before. I know we all get new readers, which is delightful, and make new friends, and most of them do not have the time to go and read through years of archives to "discover who we are". Unless we seem rivettingly exciting (that would not be happening here at RCR, I can assure you - we are not rivettingly anything right now!) or unless we knew how to do exciting linky things on our sidebars, which we clearly do not over here. We are ordinary people. Living ordinary lives. Unless your name is Sophie or Shannon and you head off into the African wilderness, of course. Or Jeana, on location in London for 7 weeks, who I have just been speaking to about dishwasher salt. Or Crystal, who is just back from South America.

I like scrapbooking. I don't have time for it, but I love it. The idea appeals to me. I was trying to find something harmless to do, and came across a series of papers and stickers I bought a long time ago around the theme "Life is a journey". When I bought them, I thought, great. Holidays, travel, moving. I will need those. There are lots of images of suitcases, maps, tickets, and assorted other journey related items there. And today I started thinking about what I had been reading, and what was lying there in my hands....

I grew up in South Africa. I moved to England. I have travelled quite a bit. I have had one, then two, then three children. I have been a stay at home Mum and I have worked. I have been a baby, a child, a teenager, a student, daughter, a sister, a grandchild, a bride, a wife, a friend, a colleague, a mother, a widow, a teacher, a mother-in-law, and most probably a pain in the neck quite often too. Note the "I" here. It is deliberate.

The "I" who was a child, bears little resemblance to the "I" who was a student, or the "I" who is a mother, or the "I" who is a mother-in-law, other than genetic coding, DNA, fingerprints and all that stuff, and my name. I am changing. I am evolving. I am a work in progress. Thank heavens. The "I" today also bears little resemblance to the "I" of a year ago, 2 years ago or 10 years ago. And everything changes, and will continue to do so. Appearance. Do not go there. Jobs. Roles. Things happen to us. I change my mind about things. My opinions have changed over time. Not all radically, some, yes, but edges have been honed, and I have learnt that life is an awful lot of grey and cannot just be black and white. I constantly learn new things, and that changes my direction and offers opportunities for choosing new paths. Action / reaction. Sometimes there is no choice. Resisting change can be fatal for your soul. Not to mention your peace of mind. I once had a quick temper. Not too bad now. I listen more, and say less. I was impatient. Not so much now that I am older and wiser. Wiser? Hmmm.

But this is MY journey. I am delighted when people join me on it for a while. Friends are always welcome here.

It seems almost trite to say we are the sum total of everything we have experienced. Yet we are. This is a HUGE thing. We live unique, individual lives and no-one can ever walk in our shoes. Our experiences act as the sandpaper which refines parts of our character. Sometimes, those experiences allow us to help where others can't. And, looking back, it is not the successes I have experienced which have made the most lasting impressions on my character or temperament, as much as the mistakes, or failures, or bad stuff, which happen to us all. We are in cruise control while everything goes swimmingly. No effort required. But when the track becomes a little bumpy, that is when we need to adjust, alter course, clutch at straws, leap off cliffs, (this random mix of images is making my stomach queasy) and we change. And because we blog, sometimes we take each other along on our journeys too.

Every person we interact with is unique, and calls for different responses from within us. I mean, just look at our children. I have 3 very different children. What works for one, does not work for either of the others. I couldn't treat them the same way, or react to their different needs like a robot using a manual. How I parent each of them is very different. How I love them is the same, of course. To bits. Each of them. With every particle of my soul. And each of them adds different new dimensions to who I am. (Like irritation, frustration, annoyance, worry, fear, panic, imagination - that is the worst - fury.... hey, I am a mother, who likes to keep things real...and amusement, awe, magic, admiration, pride, love in spades.... endless lists). If I had only had one child, I would be immeasurably different today. Or two. I would never have had all those particular extras added on to my life. And I can't imagine not having them today. They have helped shape me. Not to mention what they did to my waistline.....

If I had not been able to have any children, I too, would be very different. In so many ways. My life would have gone down other paths, leading me to other amazing places and experiences and other added extras I cannot even imagine. So many variables. How many people will we interact with in our lifetimes? Uncountable numbers. And unimaginable numbers of ways we will interact with each of them. Each one will alter who we are to one degree or another. And each time we adjust to the person standing in front of us, we are sanding down those edges a little more.

Now, here on the web, we can only see the words. We know a lot of the words come from the heart and soul. Some make us laugh and some make us cry. Some say things which we echo in our hearts. But I can't see your faces, or your reactions to the things I say. I don't know you well enough through your words. I only know part of you. A very small part. The part you let me see. I can't see your eyes. I don't know when what you are saying is actually masking a deep hurt, despair or pain, physical or emotional. Unless you tell me. I don't know, when I read a bubbly post, if you are weeping as you write. And you know, this is probably not the place to put all the bad parts. After a while, I sort of sense if something is wrong, with the blogs I read frequently. But I can never know for sure. I can just see what you want me to see.

There are some remarkable people out there, you know. All over the world. Getting to know them could just alter your lives. Change attitudes. Preconceptions. Offer different views. Clarify some issues. Challenge you. Make you think. Teach you. Encourage. Sand away more edges.

Someone who knows me really well in real life once said that I only let people see 5% of who I am, and keep the rest hidden. That would probably be accurate, or maybe I let 10% out. I think perhaps we are all similar to a certain extent. People who know me, say that I write the way I speak. They can hear my voice when they read the blog. We all reserve the right to keep most of who we are private, and that is as it should be. Real life or not.

You will have an idea of who I am. It will be your own personal view. I often wonder just how accurate your ideas are. Who you think I am. There is no right or wrong answer here, let me hasten to add. It is simply how you have come to know me.

One of the things I absolutely hate and despair about, is the way modern 21 Century education here has taken creativity and turned it into a marketing tool. At schools, you don't teach cookery. You learn about catering for the masses. You don't learn how to sew, you learn batch production and industrial cost analysis. You don't learn how to make something, you learn how to package stuff. You don't learn how to create, you learn to write a design brief, do product analysis, market research and how to apply rules of health and safety. From when you are 11. We start training our babes to "colour inside the lines". Whose lines? Why? Are we training the creativity and free thinking out of our children to the point where everything we do is about increasing turnover, productivity, and mass market appeal? Are we buying into the idea that success should always be their highest goal?

Is that what we are doing to ourselves? Is this why we blog? Absolutely not, in my case. The day I start obsessing about things relating to numbers, visits, mass appeal and demographics, is the day I press the delete button. I am here to write, and to make some friends. To share things. For me, it is all about individuality and creative thinking and communication. I am just being me. I don't want to measure my success in life by what I may happen to write here. Here I am words. In real life I am much more than the words.

We all set out to blog for different reasons. The things I am talking about here today apply to me. Me. I know that there are some amazing bloggers, whose blogs developed a life of their own and exploded into mega blogs, and I delight in them as much as everyone else. I absolutely love reading them. Just look at my blogroll. I don't think any of them set out in the pursuit of mega blogs when they started though. That is what makes them so special. There are books you can buy about blogging. There are formulas you can apply. If you want to. I like this little corner. I love the friends I have made. It suits me just fine. It adds to my life. It is NOT my life, though.

It is natural to want the world to see us as happy, successful, content, secure, amusing, together, living out "the dream", whatever that may be. But "the dream" does not exist in reality. We all know that, I think. Stuff happens. Perfection does not exist in this life. I am as far from perfection as I can get, and if you arrived on my doorstep right now, you would know that for certain. You would walk past the cars that need washing, the flower beds which are out of control, to the door where the flower pots need surgical attention. The windows? Do not ask. Into my house which needs Barb and her cleaning magic to turn up as a matter of urgency and you would stand in front of a woman with a pain in her chest who is wrestling with responsibilities, decisions, finances, family and fitness and who bears no resemblance to anything one would see in a fashion magazine other than that she is female. And do not mention the hair, which has developed a rebellious life of its own as I speak.

A woman who reserves the right to change. Move. Alter. Adapt. Colour outside the lines. Thumb her nose at convention. Use every bit of the experience gained over 53 years and make it count. I am not the same person who wrote stuff yesterday. And I will be different again tomorrow. And it doesn't matter. It is my journey, and I get to choose the paths. Thankfully, I have a great Guide, which certainly helps.