Hello, everyone - the weekend has arrived and with it some grey skies. So warm though.
The tree at the top of the road has just remembered that Autumn is here. I have not edited the photo in anyway - straight out of the phone. The colours are just breathtaking against the blue sky, aren't they?
In a few days, it could be even more spectacular. I will be watching it closely. Well, I have to pass it whenever I go anywhere at all, so that is a no-brainer. The beauty of mobile phones means that cameras are always with us. I remember days (about a year ago) (that makes us all sound ancient - in the good old days....last year) when I saw a spectacular sunset and had to rush home for the camera but then, so help me, the sun had gone by the time I got back to photograph it. Now there is no excuse.
Yes. I was standing in the middle of the road but there was no traffic at that moment. None at all. And i had my stick so drivers would have thought I was a doddery old soul pottering across the road and slowed down. Maybe.
But I was FINE.
And looking up to my left from the middle of the road vantage point, is the church on the hill. Leaves are starting to fall.
I had just been to the hairdresser to have my hair washed and dried. I have this amazing gift token which I received for my birthday and I can go and have my hair washed as and when I need to until it runs out. Having to avoid the soap and water in the eye thing means that this is a total delight. And one of my favourite things to do. I LOVE having my hair done.
And I can never ever get it to look as nice when I do it myself. My little hairdresser is a star.
Another photo. So very beautiful.
And now we get to the Soapbox time.
I read a post on Blogher yesterday about Pop-ins. And then I read the comments, and I was absolutely staggered at the number of people who loathed what they termed pop-ins. Even the photo used to illustrate the article was negative, in my humble opinion. Hang on, let me find the link for you, so you can see for yourself.......
There you go.
I come from a culture where popping in was the norm. Let me refine that a little. Illustrate it.
When we lived in Cape Town, our home was around the corner from my son's prep school. So, because parking is always a nightmare at schools, all my friends used to park at my home and pop in for tea while they waited for the boys. This may have been for hours if there happened to be after school activities. It was hilarious. The boys used to wander around as and when they felt like coming home, and their mothers would trundle off after they had all had refreshments and played a bit. My house was like Grand Central Station. In fact, a neighbour thought I ran an after school childcare place. I loved every minute. Sometimes, we decided to pile everyone into a couple of people carriers and head for the beach with a picnic supper, and the men would meet us there from work. Life happened spontaneously. And those, people, are the memories which linger.
Popping in was something everyone I knew did until I arrived in the UK and discovered that the door never flew open, the bell never rang, and the house was eerily silent most days. So then I set about encouraging friends to pop in whenever they were passing, if they needed company, if they wanted to show someone something, needed advice, whatever. And slowly, over the last 24 years, I have conquered their fear and now the door flies open, the bell rings and all is right with the world.
I have been known to greet friends with a shopping bag on the head, while painting. I have been covered with flour while baking. Mud when gardening. I even have a little sign I made which I hang on the window at the front door if I am out in the back garden and can't hear the bell. In fact I also bought a bell with extra speakers so I COULD hear it outside too.
I have just noticed that my daisy is dead. I will have to fix or replace her. Oops. But you can see the little sign.
You see, I really love having people pop in. They know where the kettle, the supplies and the mugs are. If I am in the middle of something I can't stop, they can make the coffee/tea, and watch or help. They can pull up a chair or stool, or perch on the counter as I finish putting a cake together. They can grab a paintbrush if they want to. It is all about doing life together.
Yes, there are, of course, times when it is not convenient. The mood is black. The pain is too high. But then, you see, my friends can step in and help too. And yell at me for not telling them they were needed sooner.
Nothing saddens me more than the reports of people lying dead in their homes for weeks before being discovered.
Most of the people commenting on that post were, I think, younger than me. I know that privacy is important. I know that independence is good. I understand the need to not interfere. I know people work from home.
One of my closest friends worked from home when the kiddies were in Junior school. I used to drop my children, and pop in then, at about 8.45 for a cup of coffee. And you know, I was gone by 9 because I knew she started work then, and she loved me having coffee with her before our day got started. Just because you pop in, does not have to mean you stay forever. 10 minutes, half an hour. But as long as you need sometimes. Because there are always those times when you need to be with people. Or they need to be with you.
Time marches on, though. Inexorably. And here I am, 60 years old. A granny, mum, friend, daughter, sister, whatever. Also a widow. And let me just say here loud and clear, that loneliness is horrendous. Choosing to be alone is a totally different thing. Loneliness is the pits.
I am so very thankful that my friends all know they are welcome here without announcement. There is always room to pull up another chair, introduce friends to each other, extend the circle, which in turn becomes my community. My people. My world. And it is not confined by four walls.
Walls can protect. They can also be bad.
What if I had spent my adult life pulling up the drawbridges, building the fences higher, encasing myself and my family in a tiny private world? What if then the children left, as they all have to do? What if then my husband left, either voluntarily or involuntarily? I would be like Rapunzel, but with greyer hair, stuck in my tower, all alone.
How do you learn to open up, to invite people in, when you are older with a lifetime of keeping them at bay as your only experience? We cannot control when we interact. Life does not have an "off" or "silent" switch.
I cannot emphasise more emphatically that you reap what you sow. A welcome begets a welcome. Friendship is not supposed to be restricted to times when it fits into your busy schedule. Or to when it suits you. Neither is family.
Life is messy. It overflows from one place to another, and all those little barriers get swept aside.
I am high up on my soapbox, people. I want to be striding up and down in front of ALL of you right now, telling, warning, encouraging you all to please listen and believe me when I say open up those doors. Open up those lives. Encourage people to pour through your doors. The kettle can always be filled. What are you demonstrating to your children? Welcome?
Because I need to drop the soaring blood pressure at this exact moment because I am in a right royal tizz here in Middle England, I want to tell you briefly about a friend of mine back when we were roughly your ages. 30s. Only she was younger. Late 20s perhaps.
It was approaching winter, and a busy time both at home, at schools, at work, wherever. I was a SAHM, and into the December baking frenzy. I always give baked things as gifts. And my young friend arrived on the doorstep after dropping her son at school, toddler in tow. In tears. I ushered her in, held her as she wept while the toddler headed for the toys he knew were there, and settled happily. In the course of that morning, I learned that it was the anniversary of the death of another child she had given birth to years before and lost to SIDS. That she just wanted to die too, her pain was so immense, and that she was frightened of being alone. She didn't need to talk or have me hovering. So she curled up in an armchair in the corner and I carried on baking. I made tea and coffee as I baked, I chatted from the kitchen now and then. I called her husband to let him know what was happening, and I arranged for another friend to collect all our boys from school. She stayed there and I kept watch all day.
By evening time, she was calm and back in control. All she had needed was somewhere she was welcome. Where she knew she could go and that she could stay as long as necessary.
I am honoured to this day, that she chose me.
(She was and is fine, by the way - and her sons are now grown - 2 lovely young men.)
Anyone popping in to visit me is ALWAYS welcome. And I will always pop in too - people around here have learned to welcome me!
Please do just one thing - think about it. How does welcoming a stranger to your table fit in with the "dreaded pop-in" idea?