Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014s Final Word

I've been a very lazy girl blog-wise this month but I thought I'd add a final Word of the Week for this year before resolving to be better next year!


My word is ...



Obviously lots of folk think about family at this time of the year so I guess I'm not alone in this being a #WotW.

This year my MIL visited for the festive season which is lovely although rather stressful in the run up to her arrival - I always feel that I have to hoover & dust everything! The luckily cats escaped this cleaning madness ...

On another note I found out just before Christmas that an aunt had died in the summer and no-one had told my sister or myself.  We now feel guilty and hurt that we were not able to pay our respects but I keep reminding myself that we weren't to know so it can't be helped now.


So there we are - the two sides of family.  Let's hope for more lovely family time next year.


Happy New Year, dear reader.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Prompt

I read the news today ...
 
 
Over this past week or so I've spent a fair amount of time in tears when reading, watching or listening to the news.  I'm a bit of a softie anyway - I blub like a baby at certain films - so this isn't all that news worthy.
 
However the news of the injury and death of Phillip Hughes has touched me most deeply.  I confess to being a fan of cricket - love a summer Test series, especially an Ashes one - but I'm not a cricket nerd.  I'd have been hard pressed to name Phillip Hughes or recognise him as an Aussie cricketer before he hit the news recently.  Like many others I was shocked at the footage of him being hit by a fast ball during a match.  I remembered other times I'd seen this happen, most recently to Stuart Broad, a ball which left him with a broken nose and two black eyes.  So I knew that these things happened from time to time.  when he was hospitalised in a coma I thought how shocking that an ordinary day playing cricket could end in such serious injury.
 
Then I woke to the news that he had died without regaining consciousness.  For some reason I cannot fathom a lump came to my throat and tears sprang to my eyes.  I felt so sad for the loss of that young man on the other side of the world.  Every time it was reported on the news I found myself wiping the tears away, saddened beyond reason at this one death among all the others.  The fact that he died on the same day as PD James, who had a long and productive life, only seemed to heighten the sadness.
 
The tributes began to pour in and each one made me tear up.  I could hardly bear listening to the Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke talking about his ' little brother '.  When his voice cracked with emotion in the funeral address I was in tears again.  I'm even finding it hard to type this through tears with another lump in my throat. I was also moved by thoughts of what Sean Abbott, the bowler of the fatal ball, must be going through.  Two young men touched by tragedy while playing the sport they loved; sad beyond belief.
 
 
So why am I affected like this?  Why has this one death touched me so much?  I don't know; maybe it's his youth, maybe the fact that it highlights the fragile nature of life, maybe I'm getting soppier in my old age.  Who knows.  But this one death has moved me greatly and I guess I may continue to weep at the oddest things.  It's part of what makes me, me.

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Prompt

Thankful

What am I thankful for?

Those who love me - you know who you are.
Kitty snuggles - few and far between.
Home - many aren't so lucky.
Health - despite a nagging cold.
Strength - some days I'm feeling stronger.
Cheese - NOM,NOM, NOM!
Strictly on a Saturday night and sharing it on Twitter!
It's nearly Christmas  so looking forward to time with family and treats (chocolate and scent please!)
My lovely Postcircle friends - I love getting Happy Post and sharing a little of your lives.
Books - thankful that I was taught how to read and enjoy reading, I can't imagine life without being able to escape into other lives and worlds.

I'm sure there are many other things I should be thankful for but that's today's snapshot.

Word of the Week

Just a quick one this week. None of my usual waffle, straight to the word, which is ...



Flat!

I've been feeling very flat lately, lacking oomph and vim and pep and all that lark.  To add to the malaise I've got a cold starting so boo, hiss to germs.

Am planning a better week next week - bring on the supplements and the antibodies!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Word of the Week

Well blow me down with a feather!  This week I had no problem deciding on my word! Let the bells ring out, maybe I've got the hang of this #WotW after all this time ...

So this week's word is ...





I've recently discovered podcasting.  I was aware of podcasts before and had a vague idea of what they were but hadn't downloaded or listened to one.  Then I heard about Serial which sounded right up my street - a real life murder story with an element of mystery.  One Sunday when OH was watching a Grand Prix I found the podcast and listened in.  It was really interesting and I immediately downloaded the second episode.  I'm late to the party but I'm catching up. 

It has recently been suggested that I might write and record a podcast and I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the idea.  I'm a tech idiot so I'll need to find the easiest way to do it but I've been having ideas and feeling positive, creative about the idea. 

Now do I grasp the podcasting nettle?  Or do I back away from it paralysed by the fear of failure?

Maybe next week's WotW will let you know!  Ooo, cliffhanger ...

#ThePrompt - Age

AGE
When did you first notice you were getting older?
For me it was that fateful moment when I looked into the mirror and saw my mother staring back at me. 
I guess it shouldn't come as any great surprise that I'm getting more like my mother as I grow older; that's what happens when you get older, right?  Girls start to look like their mothers and boys like their fathers, it's just genetics after all. 
But it still came as a shock.  I was used to seeing myself in the mirror, had been for many years.  I didn't always like what I saw but I was accustomed to my face (Yay! My Fair Lady!)  I never thought of myself as vain but I do spend an awful lot of time seeing myself in mirrors or windows.  So it was a bit of a shock when the woman who looked back at me, although familiar, seemed to have morphed into my mother!
I think it was the lack of fringe that did it.  I was trying to grow out an annoying long fringe rather than go to the salon and have the 'what do you want to do with it?' chat with my hairdresser.  I can never make my mind up what will suit me and end up going for one of my two default hairstyles - mid length with a fringe or short with a fringe.  So I decided to let my fringe grow out and sweep my hair to one side.  And that's what did it.
Mum always had her hair swept up and over.  So it shouldn't come as a surprise that adopting a similar hairstyle would highlight the similarities between us.  And as my mother didn't resemble the Elephant Man there were worse things I could have looked like. 
I suppose that Mum had a similar Damescene moment as she looked a lot like her mother.  There must have been a moment when she saw her own mother in the mirror.  I wonder how she felt about it.  Did it make her sad, thinking about the passing years and lost youth?  Or did she accept this as a normal part of aging and rejoice that she didn't look more like plain Aunt X?  And, more to the point, why didn't she warn me that this was going to happen?!? 
But the real problem was that it wasn't my mother when she was young that I resembled, it was my mother in my wedding pictures, the middle aged mother.  And at that moment I knew that I was getting older, was no longer in the first flush of youth and other clich├ęs. 
So now I have to accept that I'm a middle aged woman with my mother's face.  And I think I'm ok with that.  After all that means I have some of my grandmother's face too and her face was smiley and crinkly in a warm, happy way.         

Friday, 7 November 2014

#ThePrompt

Smoke
 
I used to smoke and I was good at it.  I started when I was 17 because it seemed cool at the time.  One of my friends had a boyfriend who smoked and though he wasn't the coolest guy at school he hung out with some cool guys who did smoke.  It seemed like an easy way to get close to the cool crowd so I  gave it a go.
 
I vividly remember the first time I inhaled after many months of just rolling the smoke around my mouth.  It was awful; I coughed until my eyes watered and stubbed the cigarette out straight away.  But for some reason I went back to smoking soon after and coughed again but less harshly this time.  After a few more attempts I could inhale without coughing and I liked the way I felt when I pulled the smoke deep into my lungs.  So now I was a proper smoker.
 
There followed many happy years of smoking.  I learned to roll my own using liquorice papers and spent many a happy hour picking stray bits of tobacco off my tongue. Rolling a cigarette felt like proper smoking, smoking in the raw.  I loved being able to control the size of the cigarette - a generous one when the tobacco pouch was full, skinny, mean cigarettes when funds were low.  I also liked the companionable nature of rolling a cigarette for a friend, so much more personal than just handing over a packet.
 
I stopped rolling my own after I left college and moved on to low tar cigarettes - the healthy option! short cigarettes with perforations on the filter to dilute the smoke.  They were less satisfying than the proper fags or rollies but I was happy with my smoking experience none the less.
 
I dabbled with cigars but they were a bit much for me - strong and made my head spin.  I used them for the shock value - a reasonably respectable woman with a cigar in her hand had a certain shock value.
 
I did have a moment with the dodgier side of smoking but one joint was enough to tell me that if I were to have a drug of choice it would be alcohol - I didn't get a buzz from smoking cannabis and was happy to stick with my legal fags and booze.    
 
The smell of cigarette smoke still evokes happy memories, taking me back to those younger days when I shared companionable cigarettes with people who lit up and enriched my life in those far away days.  But the second whiff of cigarette smoke usually makes me cough now and I have to move upwind of the smoker!
 
I gave up smoking when I found out I was expecting my son.  I thought it would be a temporary thing and I'd go back to smoking when he was born.  But when he was a few months old and I tried smoking again it was dreadful.  It tasted horrible and made me feel sick.  There was no pleasure in it nad it was not for me anymore.  I remember my Dad saying, after many years as an ex-smoker that there were still moments when he wanted a cigarettes, usually after a meal or when having a drink.  I can relate to that - even after 27 years as a non smoker there is sometimes a moment after a meal or a drink when I think 'I'd love a fag now'.  Maybe this will always be with me - the final legacy that smoking has left me, a memory of a time when everything ended with a smoke, my little naughty pleasure, something I was good at a time in my life when I didn't often feel I was good at much.    

Word of the Week

Oh #WotW how you haunt me!  I never know which word to choose and feel so bad for all the words I've rejected!  A Twitter conversation with Jocelyn means I'm even more dithery this week but, hey ho, let's go ...

This week's word is




Procrastination 


I've been putting things off again.  Last week I submitted my writing and am waiting to hear how it was received so I haven't had the focus of that to keep me on track. 

I've bought and washed the fabric for a skirt which is sitting unloved in a corner of the room waiting to be cut out and sewn.

Last week NaNoWriMo started and so far  I've managed a grand total of 1818 words - this means my 50,000 word novel will take until March next year to complete rather than getting done in November!

All this putting stuff off is so typical of me - so next week I need to pull my finger out, put my shoulder to the wheel and make those cliches work for me.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Word of the Week

Time flying again and before I knew it Friday was here; Word of the Week time!


I'm being a bit predictable today and the word is ...





Of course there's nothing screams 'Autumn!' like changing the clocks.  The extra hour in bed is just a joy; waking up at the usual time then remembering that you don't have to stir for another hour - bliss!

Walking down to Abingdon I'm noticing more leaves falling, a slightly damp feeling in the air and that rotting leaf smell which sounds yuk but is really rather pleasant.

Yesterday I walked t the folly in Abingdon's Abbey Gardens with OH.  It was a work project for him and I thought it would be nice to go too.  I'm often aware how living in a place blinds you to its glories - it's all ordinary and familiar, you just stop seeing things.  So it was lovely to pop down to the folly and enjoy it. 


Not an autumn shot I know but I forgot to take my camera!
The added bonus, for me at least, was all the squirrels!  There were so many of them, running up and down the tree branches, squabbling and most wonderful of all sitting under the trees nibbling fruits and nuts from the trees.  If I stood very still and quiet I could get quite close to them.  I love squirrels, I love the fluid way they move, the ease with which they run up and down the trees and the way their tails flow behind them like furry trains.

Maybe the Word of the Week should have been squirrels!

The Prompt - My Favourite Season

#ThePrompt has got me thinking about seasons.  Rather apt as we move seamlessly into autumn.  It's tempting to wander down the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' route but let's see if I can avoid getting stuck in a Romantic cul-de-dac.


Keeping It Seasonal.

Thinking about the seasons makes me think about my childhood.  Winters were snowier, springs were warmer and full of bluebells, summers were sunnier and much longer and autumns were crisper with tons of conkers.

I grew up in a large city so the seasonal changes were less vital to me.  Yes, the weather changed but mostly things plodded on as usual.  It took a severe weather event to impact upon our lives - snow rarely closed our school in the way a more rural school may have been.  Rain just meant get an umbrella out, it didn't cause flooding that devastated lives and homes.

That's not to say that I was unaware of the passing seasons.  We celebrated the coming of autumn with Harvest Festival, summer meant Sports Day.  But my childhood memories that are season-specific are summer memories.  Sunbathing in the park instead of revising for A levels; family holidays in caravans around the South West; sitting in a deckchair listening to the Test commentary on the radio with Dad; leaning over the bridge to wave to the train drivers; making a den in the garden; eating lunch on the lawn; white ankle socks and sandals; paddling in the park (just don't mention the broken glass incident).

But wait, I hear you say, The Prompt was about the favourite season, not just the one with most memories.  But, I reply, my favourite season has changed! When I was young it was summer - the lovely long sunny days away from school, spending hours out and about.  Now I'm older I love autumn; the cooling temperatures mean I can put more layers on (I'm always happier covered up!); the cool weather fashion of scarves, hats, gloves and woollies; the welcoming warmth of a mug of hot chocolate; soup for lunch; golden leaves fluttering down on my walk to the shops; the extra hour in bed when we change the clocks (why can't we do that every month/week?) 

So hurrah for autumn! Here's to the woollies and the warmth, feeling cosy wrapped up in wool, coming over all John Keats every time I walk under a tree!  

Friday, 24 October 2014

Word of the Week

#WOTW time again and can you believe I almost forgot?!?

This week has been all about




I've been 'commissioned' to write a SOW on An Inspector Calls and this has been taking up most of my time this week.  I admit to the occasional lapse but I've been rather good and have got plenty done.  The deadline is next week so with about half of the writing done I should be ok.

Small steps ... progress ... Good lord I almost sound positive!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Joy

#ThePrompt - Joy

I started off by looking 'joy' up in the dictionary - great happiness or a person or thing that causes happiness.  This didn't fill me with inspiration so I just decided to 'go with the flow' so let's see what happens ...

Joy

The clock crept slowly, oh so slowly towards 3 o'clock.  It had been 5 minutes to 3 for about 10 minutes; then 3 minutes to 3 for 15 minutes; the final minute had so far taken 3 hours and showed no signs of ending.

The noise in the room reached yet another crescendo and she looked up from her desk, peering over her glasses until it went quiet.  With a sigh she closed her book, clipped the top on her pen and stood up.

Thirty two expectant faces turned towards her.  Eager faces, hanging on her every word.  The power she had; power over these lives.  Whatever she said next would make or break their weekend.  She smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt, removed her glasses and coughed to get their attention.

The minute hand finally reached 3 o'clock.  She breathed in deeply.  Here came her moment of joy.

"Class dismissed.  See you all on Monday."

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wedding Anniversary

Today is my wedding anniversary - 32 years and counting!

I was thinking about my wedding day last night as I lay in bed.  How nervous I felt; how disorganised the morning felt (too many people in the house and nowhere to get away from them); how quiet it all went when everyone left me and my Dad alone before setting off for the church; how stiff with lacquer my hair was!  The whole day seemed to pass in a blur but somewhere in the house is a legal document that proves we did it - that and some rather dodgy 1980s photos!  When I look at those I'm amazed at how young we both were back then and I get a little teary over the folk who are no longer with us.  Sentimental old thing, me!

So today I remember a younger version of myself who was sick with nerves, a bit excited but had no idea what this journey would be like.  Oh and lots of love to the other half who is obviously a saint for putting up with me for all these years! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Word of the Week

Oh hello Friday & Word of the Week. You've come round again rather quickly.  For once I've not struggled to think what I should choose as my word.


ACHIEVEMENT
 
This week has been one of achievement for me.  Not earth shattering achievements it's true but ones which have made me feel happy. Life has been fairly stagnant for me over recent months and this has made me feel low.  Not depressed-low but not my usual self.  I've doubted that I have  anything more to contribute to life and this has knocked my self-esteem, never the healthiest but better than it was at the start of the week.
 
After several months of silence I've heard from the website I have written for in the past and there is a chance to do some more writing for them.  This makes me happy as I can exercise my writing muscles and use some of my brain.  It will also give some structure to my time as I can schedule time to write and work again.  I'm terrible at procrastinating and letting time fritter away so the chance to have some structure to my days will be good for me.
 
After thinking about it for months I finally got my sewing machine out.  It was hard work, the blooming thing weighs a ton! I started small using Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes.  I cut out and sewed a head band.  I know, it's not high fashion but it was so good to do some sewing after many years.  It was good to start small as I needed to get the hang of the machine again - she's a bit of a temperamental old bird (like her owner!)     
 
 
I've recently started going to spin classes at the gym after a break from them.  Yesterday I took a different class to my usual one and it was hard!  Twenty minutes in and I was suffering.  A little voice in my head said 'Get of the bike and go straight to the shower, this is too hard'  But I gritted my teeth and carried on.  I got to the end of the class, dripping sweat and knackered but boy, did I feel a sense of achievement!
 
So this week I had some achievements.  I feel really great about them and I'm happy to celebrate them here.  For a change I feel positive that I will achieve more next week and am looking forward to what it will bring. 
 
Feeling positive?  Who is this person and where has the old pessimist gone?
 
 
 



The Mistakes We Make

The Prompt 38 from @mumturnedmom has really set me thinking.  I'm sure this is the point of doing these things but sometimes I get introspective to the point of paralysis!  Several ideas ran amok through my brain but I think I've banished the unhelpful thoughts and come up with something I feel mostly happy with.

Voices. I'm hearing voices.  Don't worry, I've not gone doolally, well no more than usual.  I'm pondering mistakes as a topic and I'm hearing voices from my past.  All the people, well meaning I'm sure, telling me what I should do. 

School days.  Advice on what qualifications to take.  You didn't do well in History so don't do it at A level.  Do Geography instead.  You're not very good at French, try Biology.  I was rubbish at A level Biology - no O level Chemistry so much of it was gobbledygook. I have little interest in Geography but my mates seem to be having fun in A level History.  I should have listened to myself rather than those advisers.

College days.  Leaving after 4 happy years to what?  Deep desire to work in theatre.  All the work seemed to be in London.  Don't move to London; it's too big, too busy, too uncertain.  So I go home, apply for jobs I don't want and end up working for the council.  I should have listened to myself rather than those naysayers.

Teaching.  A job I loved at a school I loved.  One bully ruined my career.  I listened to advice.  If you're unhappy you should leave.  Life is too short to stay where you're unhappy.  So I left.  I've never really settled anywhere since, flitting from job to job trying to find my place.  I regret listening to those advisers so much.  I should have listened to myself.

So what have I learnt?  That I should listen to myself; that I'm the only one that can decide what's best for me; that however well meaning folk are they can't know what's best for me.  Some of the biggest mistakes I've made have been when I've put too much faith in what others have told me I should do. I'm one of those people who worry too much about what others think. I always try to please other people which has led me to agree to things I don't want to do because I'm afraid to say 'No' and risk upsetting them.  It's also led me to make some mistakes in my life that I regret.  They haven't all proved to be disastrous but my life would have taken different paths had I not listened to others and followed my heart.

 Am I too British to be selfish?  Everyone else before me; don't rock the boat; after you Claude, no after you Cecil.

Shame it took me this long to realise it!



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sewing with Tilly & the Buttons

I never intended this blog to be a sewing or knitting blog - I'm no expert and also rather slow to complete projects so if I did make this a sewing or knitting blog then the posts would be few and far between.

However, after many months of procrastinating I finally dusted down the machine, wiped the rust of the hinges and set it up.  Now I'm not a techno-babe by any means but this is old school even by my standards.




 
 
This is my Mum's old machine, a Victor Deluxe according to the metal plates screwed to its incredible metal carcass.  This is one serious sewing machine.  It weighs a ton, a two hand and bend the knees to get it on the table job.  A good work out before you even start sewing!  I've 'misplaced' the instruction manual so had to thread it by trial and error - actually I was surprised how much I remembered.
 
I'd already cut out the Brigitte scarf pattern from Tilly and the Buttons excellent book ' Love at First Stitch' so all I had to do was pluck up the courage to start sewing.  So finally this afternoon I bit the bullet and pressed the foot pedal to become a sewer again.
 
And here it is, my first sewn 'garment' for about 15 years!
 
 
My camera phone isn't that good but it's a blue background, cats and keyboards print cotton.  I love it and even though I think I look like a twit in it, I intend to wear it loads.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Word of the Week

This week I've found it slightly easier to think of a word.  Maybe I'm getting better at it, maybe I'm starting to get into the vibe of summing things up.  So today I give you ...




I often feel helpless, especially when technology is concerned.  I'm starting to reach that time in my life when I don't understand things.  I watch the news on TV and I'm frightened by the way things are going.  I worry about things over which I have no control and turn them over and over in my mind.

I also feel that here are parts of my life that I am helpless to deal with, particularly around employment.  Many months of fruitless searching and I'm still gainfully unemployed.  I cannot do anything to help myself therefore I feel helpless.  It also means as far as looking after myself goes I'm dependent on others so again, helpless.

I'm trying to take an element of control - I'm hoping to start some more educational writing but again I have to wait for someone else to make a decision so I'm still helpless even when trying to 'help' myself!  Ironic or what?

Self help - I need to do it!  So here's to helping myself gain some control and feel in control.


The Prompt

I bumped into @mumturnedmom's prompt on her blog a few weeks ago, then lost the details, have now found them again and am finally joining in!  The fact that this weeks prompt was 'Books' was an added bonus.  As an English Literature graduate, English teacher and bibliophile I was instantly hooked and my brain began to whirl with ideas.

Naturally the first thought was a list of my favourite books.  Boring, predictable but it has to be done!
This is not really in 'like' order but Number One is my all time favourite book, ever.

1. Wuthering Heights - I first read this as an impressionable, hopelessly romantic teenager.  Although I've grown up and modified my requirements re the ideal man, my heart still beats a little faster when I think of Heathcliff.  I know, I know - he's a bit of a bastard but there's something undeniably romantic about the force of his love for Cathy.

2. Bleak House - this is a recent favourite.  I've always had a soft spot for Dickens dating back to my first encounter via Christmas Carol and Scrooge.  Bleak House has such wonderful characters - Esther Summerson, John Jarndyce, Harold Skimpole, Lady Dedlock - and the wonderful, scathing attack on the legal system which allows case to drag on over generations, sucking all the life and wealth from those caught up in its ever turning wheels.

3. Lord of the Rings trilogy - I've read this trilogy three times so far and I'm never disappointed.  Or as my son would have it, I've not yet outgrown my love of elves!

3. Being Dead - this is the  first Jim Crace who has become a favourite author (Harvest is awaiting my attention at the moment) Being Dead has an interesting narrative structure, working both forward and backward in time.  It is upsetting and unsettling in places but I still loved it.  Maybe a re-read soon.

4. The Night Circus - I adored this book from the first page, I was mesmerised and enchanted, reluctant to put it down and distraught when it ended.  It is a soaring fantasy revolving around a magical circus which appears and disappears seemingly at will.  Fantastic things happen in the circus and I wanted to visit, to stay and to be a part of this wondrous world.  I hope Erin Morgenstern writes either a sequel (hard to see where she could go with it but, hey, it's magic!) or another book so I can enter a magical world again.

5. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - wow, what a title  How could I fail to love this?  A tale of a feisty old man who refuses to be defined by his extreme age and travels through some of the defining moments of the Twentieth Century.  A joy from start to finish.

So there you are, five of my favourite books.  There are many others that I love and have loved reading that I would recommend others to read but these are the five that I adore and will re-read.   

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Second installment of the story ...

So now is the time to release the second part of the story into the wide blue yonder.  No reactions so far but maybe this part will get some comments!



No!  This wouldn’t do.  Why did it have to be that way?  She was her own woman, after all; she didn’t have to become her mother if she didn’t want to … and she didn’t want to so much!


Ellie put her mug down and headed upstairs.  After a dusty search under the bed (why did she never move furniture and clean under it?) she found what she was looking for.  Under a pile of cards, letters and postcards was a small blue note book.  It had a large yellow smiley stuck on the cover and the corners were scuffed.  Down on side was a faded strip; too many years left on her sunny window sill tucked under a French-English dictionary.  She pulled it out and stroked the cover gently.  For a moment she was 15 again; feathered hair, kohled eyes, platform shoes and Oxford Bags.  Ellie’s fingers trembled as she opened it.


There, in her younger-self’s handwriting, was her name and address.  It had been many years since she’d been there and many more since she’d lived there.  A drawing of a flower on the inside cover, several hearts coloured red and purple and a rotten anagram of a boy’s name.  What had he looked like?  She couldn’t remember.  After several pages – most of which contained a boy’s name (not always the same boy!) she found what she was looking for – her life list.


When she was 15, Ellie and her friends had each written a list of what they were going to do with their lives.  They had vowed, very serious thing to vow, that when they were ‘really old, like, 25’ they’d meet up and check their lists.  Of course that hadn’t happened – they’d lost touch when several of them didn’t stay into Sixth Form.  New friendships had formed, they changed when University started and even Uni friends had drifted away eventually.  So the life list had never seen the light of day again.  Thirty five years was a long time to wait to find out if she’d got the life she’d always wanted!   


Ellie’s Life List – by Ellie Jordan, age 15.

  1. Get married to either David Cassidy or Donny Osmond.
  2. Go to university and get a degree in English.
  3. Become a poet.
  4. Squeeze into size 10 jeans.
  5. Dye hair red and get loads of curls.
  6. Go to Italy and snog an Italian boy.
  7. Learn to drive and buy a 2CV.
  8. Learn Italian.
  9. Learn to ski.
  10. Become famous.


‘Wow, Ellie thought, ‘That’s quite a list!  I’ve managed 1 and a half – went to University and married; not David or Donny but that was always a bit ambitious!’


These were the ambitions of a 15 year old girl with stars in her eyes; real life hadn’t turned out quite like the teenage fantasy but that was true of most teenage fantasies – wildly impractical.  Her actual life had turned out to be rather conventional – after University a dull job; marriage; kids; some lovely jobs and several more dull jobs; approaching retirement and death!

‘God I’m depressing myself!’ thought Ellie.  ‘Better pull myself together or I’ll be in the kitchen swilling paracetamol down with gin!’


The list had depressed her more than she would have believed – all that potential, all those dreams and what had happened?  She’d got caught up in the boring business of ‘life’.  True of most people, maybe, but not what she’d wanted for herself.  She’d been the first member of her family to take A levels and go to University; these were chances that others hadn’t had – had she made the most of them?


Ellie wondered what her 15 year old self would say if she could see how it had all panned out – no snogging of fit Italian boys, little poetry and certainly no size 10 jeans!  She had a vague memory of sitting on a friend’s bedroom floor and writing the list.  Whose bedroom had it been?  She didn’t remember.  Who was there?  Still she didn’t remember.  Something so important had been pushed out of her mind and it took a shock in a mirror to remind her that she had once had ambition.  Tears welled up in her eyes and she rushed to the toilet for some tissue.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The fledgling novel's first public outing!

Well here we are, October 1st & as promised I'm putting up the first instalment of an unfinished novel I have lurking on the hard drive.  I'm not sure what to do with it - to finish or abandon, that is the question.

Read on, dear blog follower & let me know  what you think.


The Mirror


It all started when she decided to grow out her fringe.


Ellie was tired of the same old hairstyle; she’d lost count of how many years she’d worn her hair this way.  Time for a change!  A long conversation with her hairdresser later and she was growing the fringe out.  They also decided to leave her colour to grow out so they could change this at the same time.  This was fine to start with – just a longer fringe to deal with and some puffing of hair from her eyes.  Later, as the fringe grew longer, she tried in vain to tuck it behind her ears; there wasn’t enough hair to do that so it continued to flop in her eyes.


She bought some sparkly clips in an attempt to get it out of her eyes, where it was driving her mad.  However, she looked like a four-year-old who’s gripped their hair back in an attempt to look grown-up.  The hair flopped into her eyes for weeks, making her cross.


Eventually her hair was just long enough to secure with an Alice band.  She was stunned by her reflection – she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen so much forehead!  She had no idea if it made her look silly, older or just shocked.  At least the years had been kind to her and there were no visible wrinkles.  Heaven knows what lurked under the skin!  A wrinkled soul perhaps?


Then one day the dreadful moment happened.  Ellie looked in the mirror to adjust her Alice band and saw her mother looking back at her.  Time stood still.  She stared and stared.  There was no doubt about it; she had morphed into her mother.  There was the hair parted in the middle and swept back; admittedly no waves in Ellie’s but the colour was identical.  A streak of grey across the side, a sprinkling of grey through the rest.  The nose was different – thankfully she’d got her father’s nose rather than the Miller beak.  Her lips were slightly fuller than her mother’s but as she stared at her reflection they were drawn slightly down, mirroring her mother’s pursed look of disapproval.  Her eyes looked tired, dark circles under them reminded her of those on mother’s face in the last months of her life.


There was no doubt – she was turning into her own mother.


Ellie staggered away from the mirror and slumped onto the stairs.  How the hell had that happened?  All her life she’d been desperate to look like anyone other than her mother; looking like your mother was a curse.  As a teenager she’d joked with her friends about how like their mothers they looked.  The worst thing anyone could say about you was that you looked like your mother – it was even worse than being a bad kisser or wearing last year’s fashion. 


Now it had happened - her mother had invaded her face!  The scary thing was she had no idea when it had started.  Was it a sudden transformation?  Or had it crept up on her slowly?  More to the point, why had no-one said anything?


There was no getting away from the fact that she was getting older.  The last birthday had been a zero one – the ones that people always said were ‘Big Birthdays’.  For Ellie it had been a number to keep quiet about.  Not that she lied about her age; she’d rather it never came up at all.  Some of her friends had got frozen at 45 – some more convincingly than others – but she was prepared to admit to 50 if she had to but was happier if people thought she was ‘in her 40s’.  Thankfully she looked younger than her age so the question of her actual age rarely came up – she’d smile coyly if someone asked and allow them to ‘guess’ she was a Forty-Something.


Ellie got up from the stairs and went into the kitchen.  Without thinking about it she filled the kettle and put it on to boil.  She went through the mechanics of making a mug of tea and wandered into the lounge.  She felt in a daze; the years really were passing faster and she was getting older, more like her mother (curses!)  Was she really on the verge of becoming an old woman?


Was that how she thought of her mother, as an old woman?  Memories came flooding back – her mother sitting on the beach under an umbrella; her mother wrapping herself up in an Aran cardigan; her mother insisting on a plate for a single biscuit. There were no memories of her mother behaving badly; having too much to drink; wearing unsuitable clothes; enjoying life. Did she seem like this to her children, a dull, boring old woman?         


As she sipped her tea, Ellie felt sad.  There was no getting away from it – she was getting older.  The number of years she had already lived was probably greater than the number left to her.  This was a sad thought.  She tried not to think about mortality if she could avoid it – even though she joked about her funeral plan!  So, there it was; life was slipping away, she was turning into her mother and she’d got old age, slippers and a bus pass to look forward to.
By the way, by the magic of technology I've scheduled this post - as it hits the blogosphere I'll be doing a spin class at the gym!  Who'd have thought, eh?   

Friday, 26 September 2014

Word of the Week

Again it's Friday and Jocelyn's WOTW rolls round.

This week I wasn't sure I was going to take part.  I couldn't think of a word that summed up the week as it's been a weird, bitty week with lots of introspection.  However today something happened that made me think so I'm using that as my stimulus.







I've never really had many friends.  Lots of acquaintances when I was younger but very few friends.  Most of my friends were people in the workplace so once I moved job I lost those friends and made more at my new job. 

Lately I've not been going out to work so have lost most of my friends.  However there was one person from a previous job who I kept in touch with and we socialised a few times a year.

I've recently applied to become a museum volunteer and had to submit some references, to make sure I wasn't going to steal the exhibits.  I submitted my friend as a reference as  she knew me over several years.

Today I got an email saying that she couldn't/wouldn't give a reference as it had been 'too long ago' that she'd know me.  This despite going to the theatre with her and going out for coffee in August!

So maybe I've got less friends than I thought .  Or maybe what I think of as  a friend isn't what others think of as a friend.

It's sad to think I've lost a friend.  And also sad that I've lost the chance to volunteer as I have no-one else to suggest as a character reference.



Monday, 22 September 2014

I had a dream...


 
 

 
 
Don't worry, this isn't going to be a hippy, tree-hugging, lentil crunching post about dreams and
dream analysis.  I just had a dream last night that's made me feel sad and thoughtful in equal measures.

In my dream I was chairing a conference and everyone was talking about their children.  They were sharing the problems and challenges young people face in the 21st century.  One mother shared the difficulty their daughter had with school grades; a father told how difficult his son had found leaving home.  There were many similar tales.

Then I was asked about my experience.  People asked me questions about my son.  As I answered the questions the room gradually grew silent.  Then someone called out 'But you're the worst of all! You're a failed mother!'

And there you have it; I've failed as a mother. My son has found life very difficult; we've tried to help him but so far things haven't gone his way, for a variety of reasons.  We worry that he's depressed; he assures us that he isn't. We try to give advice; it's not well received.  Don't get the wrong impression; my son is an awesome person, talented, intelligent to the point of pain, funny, loving, crazy at times.  But I sometimes see a sadness in him that upsets me and I don't know how to help him realise his potential.  He has so much to offer but no idea how to offer it.  His interest is in language and I'd love to see him study and work in the field of linguistics but there doesn't seem to be a path open to him.  He's also into video games and computers but has no marketable experience.  So the difficulties/barriers remain.

So as a mother I'm a failure.  I'm tempted to make the old joke 'You had one job to do ...' but that just masks the hurt I feel.  How could I have got it so wrong?  What could I have done differently?

More importantly, what can I do now to make it right? 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Word of the Week

It's always a challenge thinking of one word to sum up an entire week.  So many things happen during the week - makes my life sound fascinating, doesn't it? - that choosing only one word is sometimes difficult.  This week I wondered for a long while and then yesterday a single word rushed to the fore.  So here it is, the word of the week is ...


 DISAPPOINTED

I've spent another week applying for jobs and getting nowhere.  I had an interview last week, thought it went well but yesterday got the 'thanks but no thanks' email.
I think I need to re-evaluate my life.  Am I destined to never work again?  Should I accept this and move on?

Food for thought.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Facebook Fail

Today I de-activated my Facebook account.  In two weeks time the account will be deleted.

I read an article on The Daily Mail website which annoyed me, upset me and prompted me to act.  The article was about someone who had complained to Facebook about a particularly nasty video on its site.  The video, which I have no interest in seeing, showed two men torturing a kitten to death. The description of what was on the video made me feel physically sick and I cried for that poor wee animal and its terrible suffering.   All of that was bad enough. But what prompted my anger was that Facebook refused to remove the video as it didn't break any of Facebook's rules!

I have no idea what Facebook's rules are.  I haven't read them anywhere or felt the need to investigate further.  All I need to know is that I can't be a member of any group which wouldn't act immediately when alerted to a vile video such as the one Facebook were alerted to.  The only tools I have at my disposal are the ability to post a comment on Twitter and leave Facebook.

Maybe it's a small gesture by one individual but it was something I had to do.  I will never forget the description of that kitten's final moments; the thought that an organisation as large and powerful as Facebook would do nothing  when alerted to this horror is a sad reflection on society today. I know nothing will bring back the kitten and I know that worse things are happening to children around the world.  I happen to believe that a civilised society cares about all living creatures.  Failure to condemn cruelty to animals is unacceptable. I have to hope that Facebook's failure to act doesn't constitute approval or acceptance of what is shown in the video but inaction is not acceptable.  Maybe they need to look at their rules again and amend them.

So I made a decision and left Facebook.  I feel happier for having done so, for making a stand, however small. I apologise to any Facebook friends who miss me but I had to act for the sake of my conscience.  

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Fragment

If I curl up really small maybe they won't find me.  Tuck my head tight against my chest, hug my legs into my belly, feet crossed.

Slow my frantic breathing.  In.  Out.  Slower and slower.  One long, deep breath to steady myself, exhaling slowly and deliberately.  Now long shallow breaths that can't be heard, that hardly disturb the air around me.

Pull my limbs into my torso even closer, make myself as small as possible. Relax the muscles slightly so I can hold the position for hours, even days, if I have to.  There is no way to know how long they will be here, how long they will search for, even if they know they are looking for me.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Word of the Week

Oh my poor, neglected blog!  I need to re-energise you so I'm starting with WOTW and here it is ...



As well as neglecting my blog I've let everything slip recently.  It's like my brain took a sabbatical!

So now that there's a new month about to start I'm trying to refocus and kick start my life again. 



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Black Dog

Winston Churchill named it Black Dog and it tormented him throughout his life.  Caroline Aherne and Frank Bruno are both sufferers. Johnny Depp, Stephen Fry, Tony Hancock, John Keats, Morrissey, Spike Milligan ... I could go on and on and on. The list seems endless and these are just the famous names.  There are countless millions of 'ordinary' people who share this disability with them.  And this week we learnt that Robin Williams battled against (and may have lost to) depression.

I have no way of knowing how any of those people felt when in the depths of their depression. Some of them have spoken publicly to try and explain so it is easy to Google it if you want to read their words.  I can only speak for myself.

I have 'suffered' from depression.  I consider myself recovered in that I haven't had a depressive episode for many years.  However I know that at any time I could fall into a depressive state again.  Luckily I recognise the signs so can ask for help early on but I am aware that I am susceptible to depressive moods.

My depression seemed to be triggered by a change at work.  A new member of staff, who was in a position of seniority over me, made my life very difficult.  I don't know if it was deliberate and aimed at me but that's how it felt.  I was undermined, demeaned, bullied.  I felt that nothing I did was good enough, I was inadequate and I didn't know what to do about it.  I didn't know where to turn for help or even that I needed help.  This person was successful and therefore represented power; I was further down the ladder and felt powerless.  Over the course of a month or so I became overly anxious of my interactions with this person - I could do nothing right for them and 'knew' that our encounters would leave me feeling drained, small and useless.  Eventually I wasn't able to function at all in the workplace, suffered several panic attacks and was signed off work with depression.

I was shocked by the sudden and overwhelming way depression made me feel.  I had very little energy, everything was an effort and, to be honest, I didn't feel able to make much of an effort.  I managed the basics but anything extra was too much.  I didn't want to leave the house, this was  my sanctuary and I was safe here. I forced myself to go to the local supermarket so that at least I felt I was functioning 'normally'.  However it felt like a huge effort and was not without its own problems.  I was hypersensitive to people around me when I was on my way to the supermarket, I had to keep my finger tips in contact with a wall or fence while walking along and I had to take the same route and do the journey as fast as possible. I have no idea what would happen to me if I didn't do it this way but it made the task manageable. 

I saw no point in any activity.  There was no pleasure to be had in anything and I spent hour after hour sitting staring at a TV that I wasn't really watching. I certainly saw no value in me doing anything.  After all, a person in a position of power had told me that by how they treated me so it must be true.  I had no value in the world and the world was better off without me.  Now that doesn't mean I felt suicidal.  That was never part of my depression.  I often felt like running away, just taking off and trying to run away from the way I was feeling.  I don't understand the logic of thinking that running away would stop me feeling the way I did but maybe there was no logic in play. I formulated a plan, my escape plan. It was a detailed plan; I knew where I was going, I had a new name picked, I had an idea of what I'd do when I got there.  Of course I was never going to act on it - it would hurt those I love too much but I took comfort from knowing I had a plan.

Those same people also had to go through it with me.  The hardest part was trying to explain the depression to them.  In fact I don't think I ever successfully did.  Depression is so illogical, so hidden, so all encompassing that only another sufferer can truly understand how you feel.  My family were supportive but there were times when they really struggled to understand how I felt or how I could manage to do something one day but find it too overwhelming the next; how I could be chatty and relaxed one minute yet tearful the next for no apparent reason.

The road back from depression was a long and hard one.  I had help, some good, some not so good and I came out of the depression.  I have had brief lapses back but nothing as debilitating as that first attack.  Plus I now know when things are getting 'depressive' and can act quickly.  I don't worry about asking for help, I know I need it and asking isn't weakness, it's my greatest strength.

So while everyone is talking and thinking about depression in the aftermath of Robin Williams suicide spare a thought for anyone who is going through their own personal nightmare. Tell your loved ones you love them, hug them tight and hope that they never feel the depth of despair that can make life unbearable.

I think Stephen Fry said it best here:

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.


Monday, 28 July 2014

King Lear

Yesterday P & I went into Oxford for our annual Shakespeare trip.  That's not to say we don't watch Shakespeare at any other time during the year - I do love the Bard! - but ever summer there is a production in the Bodleian Library quad.  This year was King Lear which I last saw live in 1988 at Birmingham Rep with Richard Briers as Lear.

The Bodleian Library quad is a beautiful setting for a play. 



It is in the English Gothic style, rising to three floors with the doors to the various teaching rooms around the sides.  In the summer sun the stone seems to glow and it is a real sun trap, sometimes almost too hot to bear until the shade rolls slowly around the quad.  It is one of my favourite places in Oxford so the chance to watch a bit of Shakespeare there is a real treat.

The production this year was wonderful (as they have all been so far).  A cast of 8 actors played all the parts, which led to some amusement when the actor playing Edmund had to skip across the stage and don a hat to play the servant Oswald. The 'name' this year was Joseph Marcell who played Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  It was the first time I'd sat in the audience waiting for the play to start humming the theme tune to a 1990s American sit-com!



He gave a powerful, moving performance, switching effortlessly from calm gravitas to howling anger.  His portrayal of Lear's madness was truly moving and it was deathly quiet when he entered at the end of the play carrying Cordelia's body.



There was the usual mix of music and singing which is a feature of the summer plays in the Bodleian quad.  In the case of Lear it helped to lighten the mood at the end of the play when we were all feeling a bit emotionally drained.



   All the actors put on fine performances but Bethan Cullinane as Cordelia and the Fool ably handled two contrasting characters, Alex Mugnaioni was superb as Edgar and Daniel Pirrie as Edmund was very easy on the eye with a cheeky twinkle.  I was also very impressed with the gravitas Bill Nash gave to the role of Kent.

A most enjoyable afternoon of 'kultcha' and I for one can't wait to learn what they're performing next year.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Word of the Week

It rolls round with monotonous regularity and I'm never ready!

This week I have been mostly






For some reason I've found it hard to concentrate on anything practical this week (blooming humid weather not helping; I'm melting!).  It started on a low note when I didn't get a job I'd applied for.  This set me to thinking about why, what was wrong with me - see previous post where I rant (in a civilised way!) about that - so I spent the majority of the week thinking about where my life would go from now and what I could do to get things back on track.

I've not come to any conclusions yet so there may be more thinking next week too! 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Am I allowed an angry rant?

I don't usually do this - I mean, blogs are supposed to be fun, right? - but I think it's time to get all this off my chest.  It may do me some good.

As the title of the blog tells you, I'm in my fifty's.  Not over the hill but not in the first flush of youth either. I would say I'm between jobs but that would be more positive than it really is.  I don't have a job and I'm starting to think I've no realistic hope of ever getting one.  I applied for a job recently which would have been great for me - not too far from home, in an environment where I would have flourished and I have the right experience for the job.  But I didn't get it.  Now that's OK; I understand why another candidate was successful and I accept that.  It did however get me thinking.  Why am I finding it so hard to get a new job?  What are the reasons that I often can't get as far as an interview?


Much as I hate to admit it, my age is bound to be a factor.  There are many people looking for jobs and maybe I'm just not what they want but maybe I don't even get to the top of the pile once they cop how ancient I am!  There's nothing I can do about being fifty something.  If this is the reason I'm not getting lucky then I'm stuck!

The thought that I may have 30 more years to go and they stretch out before me filled with nothing is terrible.  I think I still have things to contribute but I may never get  the chance again.  This is really depressing and the more I think about it the more depressed I get.  What am I going to do with all that time?  There's only so much knitting I can do after all!

So what do I do?  How do I get my life back on track?  I do apply for jobs, lots of jobs, all sorts of jobs ... and nothing.  Often there's no acknowledgement of the application or it's progress.  Now I do know that every job vacancy gets loads of applications but an email would be nice.

So again I ask - what do I do?  I have vague ideas of writing but don't have any idea how to do that or what I could do to turn it into some form of career.  I've also thought of doing some from of crafting and selling but again I lack the knowledge and the confidence in my ability to do it.

Now that's interesting.  'Confidence in my ability' - something that I think may well be holding me back.  And that's a far harder nut to crack.  I've always struggled with confidence; not the sort that allows you to march into a pub and buy a drink or approach and chat to a stranger but the sort that lets you push yourself forward and say 'Me, I can do that, give me a go, I can do it'.  I feel uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet.  I always think I'm going to get found out and fail.  Mind you I'm good at failing so maybe that could be my approach!  Look at me, I'll give it a whirl and then fail, you can all laugh at my failure and thank God you're not me!



So that's where I am at the moment.  I'm spending far too much time worrying that I'll never feel useful and wanted again, that I'm now doomed to faff about applying for jobs, not getting them and trying to fill my time with something meaningful.  All sounds very depressing and not how I want to spend the next 10, 20, 30 years.

Sorry if this is a depressing read.  But I hope I feel better for it; I actually feel emotionally drained from writing this but sometimes you need to go down before you can get up.



 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Word of the Week

Every Friday I balk at Word of the Week.  Having to think back over my week and decide on one word to encapsulate the last seven days is often daunting.  This week has been no different.  How do I choose a single word that sums up the week so far?

This week's word is ... drum roll please ...






Yet again I'm wasting time dithering about.  My mind has been like a really flighty butterfly, whizzing about all over the place.  I've been unable to settle at anything - knitting, sewing, reading, writing.  The outcome of this is that I've accomplished very little this week.  All my hopes of being organised and planning out what I wanted to do each week/day have fallen by the wayside.  Now in the past this would have sent me spiralling out of control, beating myself up about my failure and inability to 'get sorted'.  However this Friday I've decided that I'm going to be kind to myself and forgive the dithering.  Next week I will try to  do better, to finally finish sewing up that sweater, to write something everyday, to make the most of my time and end the week feeling fulfilled and pleased with myself.

Wish me luck!


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

World Cup Fever

I don't usually write about sport, which is odd as I spend far too long watching it! But the World Cup has gripped the house (not husband obviously; he's not into footie!)  My son, who previously showed no interest in football, has got into this World Cup and it's been fun watching the matches with him.  He's making intelligent and informed comments about the teams and their tactics, I even think he's getting the hang of the offside rule!

As an England supporter it's always a good idea to pick a second team to support for when England get knocked out of the competition - which happened at the group stage this time round!  I chose The Netherlands as my club's captain plays for them, the mighty Ron Vlaar!  So I'm cheering for them now and have enjoyed being part of the Orange Army (no I don't wear an orange onsie or paint my face, I'm a grown up for goodness sake!)

Last night the first semi final was played between Brazil and Germany.  Naturally we were supporting Germany - I always support the European team and wanted to see a European team win in South America and kill that particular demon. 

  
At the beginning of the week I saw a poster in a bookies window offering odds on Germany winning 2-1 and I thought 'That might be worth a tenner' but I don't bet so didn't act on it.

Well there's no way I was prepared for what happened.  Germany were awesome and at half time they were 5-0 up!  They looked as if they could score whenever they wanted and their defence was rock solid.  By the time the final whistle went they had won 7-1, the heaviest World Cup defeat for Brazil.  Tears all round in the Brazilian camp and German smiles wider than the Rhine!

Now tonight Argentina play Netherlands.  We're supporting the boys in orange but I'm seriously worried that if they do get through  to the final they'll get hammered by Germany who look unstoppable. 

I'm not sure I can bear the thought of Ron Vlaar in tears!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

This is not Word of the Week

I know it's too early for Word of the Week but there is a word looming large this week and that word is ...

Interview!

I have a job interview on Thursday.  So I'm already starting to obsess and panic.




I don't do well with interviews.  I start to get worked up about a week before the actual interview date - I start to worry about what I'll be asked at the interview; I worry about how I'll get there, will I be too early or, heaven forfend, too late; what shall I wear and will I look presentable.  You get the picture.

I'm also concerned that I won't come over well in the interview because I've got in such a state.  At my last interview I could hardly speak when it was time to do my presentation as I was hyperventilating so much!  Thankfully I managed to get through it in one piece.

I'm trying to stay calm this time round but have already started to obsess about what I'm going to wear and which bus to catch.

Hopefully when the real Word of the Week comes around I'll have good news to share ...


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Book Swap

A few months ago I took part in a book swap organised by Jocelyn at   thereadingresidence.com. I was paired with Sarah,   boobellina.blogspot.co.uk and she sent me a book by Maggie O'Farrell called After You'd Gone. 


This is not the type of book I'd normally be drawn to.  I'd have classified it as 'Chick-Lit' and walked on by.  However once I started I realised that it wasn't like that at all.  It was a beautifully crafted book with some very interesting and realistic characters.  It's also a terrible weepy and as I'm a terrible weeper it needed several tissues and pauses to remember to breathe!

I sent Sarah The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace.  He's an author I've loved for many years.  The first book of his I read was Being Dead which is terrific with a really unusual narrative style.  Since than I've read all his books except Harvest which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize - I'm saving that one up for a treat!  Why do I do that?  If I want to read a book and I'm excited about it why put off reading it?  Just read the darn thing and enjoy it!  Right, that's my next read sorted out!

So when I saw that Jocelyn was running another book swap I emailed her at once.  I'm already looking forward to seeing what I get in the swap.  Now, which book should I send this time?  



Friday, 27 June 2014

Word of the Week

Today's word is ... drum roll please ...





This week, despite having a myriad (good word, eh?) of projects I want to get stuck into I've actually achieved very little.

The problem is that I can't make up my mind what to do first - I've got 2 knitting projects on the go and I should finis one of them off but I keep flipping between them.  I've got some writing to do but I'm moving the book around rather than concentrate on it.  I've got some sewing to do but the machine is heavy to lift onto the table ...

You get the picture?

So next week is a new week, I promise to be more focused and get something done.  The Word of next Week will be Accomplishment - I hope, please, maybe, hopefully, fingers crossed ...





Friday, 20 June 2014

Word of the Week

Well, hello there little blog!  It's been a while but perhaps this will explain it ...

This week the word is ...



A lovely, sunny relaxing week on Zakinthos was just what the doctor ordered!

Batteries are now fully recharged and I'm hoping to plough all my new found energy into a variety of projects over the next few months.

Also - many apologies to Little Sis for not telling her I was going - sorry! Hope a gossipy chat on the phone will make up for it (or a large helping of humble pie is she prefers!)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Good Intentions

Well I managed to miss the last day of #BEDM!  Well done me!  I don't think I made every day but I did as well as I hoped.  The prompts were helpful but I went my own way some of the time, especially after I re-vamped the blog.




Today I hope to get myself organised  and have a productive day.  I have some writing to do which I hope will prove to be good enough for publication on an educational website I've written for in the past.  So bring on Anita & Me!




I'm also doing some writing for my other blog using a writing prompt.  This is a new departure for me as I've never tried to do a piece of writing daily using a prompt.  I'm hoping that my writing muscles will get a good workout and this will propel me on to greater things.  Good grief that sounds pretentious!  You know what I mean though, right?




I'm heading to the gym again this evening to work on my new training programme.  I'm not a natural gym bunny bot I do know the value of getting fitter, so I soldier on.  It's always nice to stop though!





By the end of this week I hope the new organised state will be feeling normal and routine.  Then I can have a positive word for Word of the Week for the second week running.  At this rate I won't recognise myself by the end of June! 




Friday, 30 May 2014

Word of the Week

Friday rolls around again and it's time for Word of the Week.

Some weeks I struggle to decide what word best sums up my week.  As I don't go out to work there are days when I see no-one apart from my lovely family and my only chat is on Twitter!  That makes it tough to decide how to sum up the week.

This week, however, I had no trouble.  My word is ...


HAPPY




I'm finally getting my head around where I want my life to go in the next few years. 
I'm finally starting to organise myself - in my head at the moment.
I'm finally doing things that make me happy and content and not worrying about what everyone else is thinking!  Can it be that after fifty something years I've finally learnt not to worry about people judging me?

So I'm planning to crack on with my writing - I've a few ideas milling around and on my other blog - https://withlovefromjohanne.wordpress.com if you're interested - I'm trying out a few ideas.  Hopefully there will be a book in the offing later in the year.
I'm also doing some craft work - not Kraftwerk!- which I hope to sell via a Folksy shop.  This is making me unreasonably happy as I'm really enjoying sitting quietly and making something.  Just wish I had some artistic talent, then I could  do more.



Thursday, 29 May 2014

How far have we really come?

At first glance there doesn't seem to be much that Maya Angelou and Farzana Parveen have in common.  One was an award winning poet, playwright and activist who died aged 86; the other was a 25 year old pregnant Pakistani woman.  By co-incidence they died within 24 hours of each other. 

So what is the link?  Both women were victims of prejudice.  Racist, religious and misogynistic.

Maya Angelou was born in the deep south of the USA in 1928.  Her family were, in modern terminology, dysfunctional; a broken marriage, children moved around the family, an abusive step parent, violence.  She was abused and traumatised so much that she didn't speak for 5 years.  Through great strength of character she rose to become an award winning writer and humanitarian.  She was honoured and feted for her work - her auto biographical book 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' tells of her childhood, the abuse and her rise from the ashes of her life.  It looks at identity, racism, abuse, literacy - a sweeping, moving book which reduced me to tears on many occasions.  Her poetry is funny and touching in equal measure.  She wrote about being a black woman in the 20th century, but is more than that.  It touches on the lives of all women, how we are treated by society, how our lives really are and how we soar above all the adversity we face with humour, grace and style.

Farzana Parveen was a Pakistani woman, 3 months pregnant with her first child.  She was married to a man that her family disapproved of.  For this she was stoned to death outside a court in Lahore by her father and other family members.  These so called honour killings are not uncommon in Pakistan.  The BBC reported that there were nearly 900 in 2013 but stated that these were only the reported cases and the number is most likely to be much higher.  These women are killed for marrying against the wishes of the family, for adultery, for behaving immodestly; basically for not doing what the male members of the family wish.  For in Pakistani society it is the men who hold all the power; women are goods and chattels in the way they were in Medieval Europe. 

I was saddened by Maya Angelou's death.  I admired her as a woman, a writer and as a wonderful person.  Her voice alone thrilled me - slow in pace, deep in tone, she radiated thoughtfulness and wisdom.  Her poetry moved me and amused me in equal measure; would that I could write like her!  Her story moved me.  Along with Alice Walker she opened my eyes to the plight of black women in segregated America and acted as a contrast to the Gone With The Wind view of the Deep South - and I do love Gone With The Wind!

I was saddened and outraged by the death of Farzana Parveen.  She was a young woman expecting a child, a joyous time for most women.  She was innocent of any crime by any civilised measure.  The only thing she did 'wrong' was to marry a man that her family didn't want her to.  For this 'crime' she was humiliated and murdered in a brutal, horrific and public manner.  I don't really want to think about the terror she must have felt when she realised what was happening to her, neither do I want to think about the crowd of people who stood by and did nothing.  My anger is directed at her father and Pakistani society which allows these honour killings to continue. The police don't investigate thoroughly, the courts hand out light sentences or no sentence at all and many families don't pursue cases against those who kill or are violent to women.  This means that such violence is seen as the norm and acceptable.  Unless and until the people of Pakistan take violence against women seriously we will continue to read about shocking events like this.

RIP Maya Angelou.

Rip Farzana Parveen.     

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Lovely Stationery!

As it's Wednesday I thought I'd get involved in Paper Peep over at  thereadingresidence.com where people share their often irrational love of all things stationery.  As luck would have it I popped in to Paperchase yesterday to look at planners and by some strange coincidence I managed to buy some things!

So obviously I bought a planner!  There are lots of nautical print about and I was drawn to this jolly string of bunting.  It almost looks too nice to write on but I think I'll manage, I badly need to get my time organised so that I can begin to achieve everything I want to.


Now I didn't need a new notebook!  That being said, I couldn't resist this notebook as it has kitties on it.  The tiny book, which is slightly out of focus, has pretty shells on it.  Again, I didn't need it but it is so cute and will even fit in some of my tiny handbags so it came home too.




I'm a member of Postcircle so I'm always on the lookout for lovely stationery to use.  I was drawn to the shaped note cards as I've received a few of these from my Postcircle friends and I loved them.  So I got a pack ready to send out some happy mail!




Lastly I bought some postcards.  I've recently joined Postcrossing which sends postcards across Europe.  So far I've sent 2 but thought I'd get a few in and get involved again.  I'm not sure the cute cats one will get any further than my stationery box though!  I might share the contents of the box next week!




So there we are, this weeks papery acquisitions.  I didn't 'need' any of them but I'm sure I'll enjoy using them and they make me happy so who cares! 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tuesday thoughts


Today I'm supposed to be writing about National Barbecue Week but the fact that it's drizzling out there means I'm not really inclined to think about barbecues at the moment.  So I thought I'd just ramble for a bit about things that have been going on.

Well, having mentioned it, I suppose I should start with the weather.  Yesterday was a Bank Holiday and thankfully we didn't plan to do anything specific ad the weather was in full Bank Holiday Monday mode.  We Brits have a love/hate relationship with the weather.  It is said to be a national obsession and it's certainly true that we spend a lot of time talking about it.  It's a safe opening gambit when you meet someone to comment on the weather. We also seem to think that the weather was much better in 'the olden days' and always refer to the long hot summers of our childhood.  Maybe we just remember the times we spent all day playing out in the sunshine rather than the days when we were cooped up from the rain!  The winter weather seems to go in the opposite direction with us only remembering the dreadful weather like the terrible wet weather and flooding this past winter.  My mother used to talk about the terrible snow in 1962 &63 when she had to trudge to school through snow drifts with me and my baby sister.




The other topic that's been keeping us talking over the last few days is the European Election.  My son sat up most of the night watching the results and tweeting.  I must confess that by midnight I'd had enough and went to sleep.  The death of the coalition has been predicted, various part leaders have been interviewed and the Daily Mail is getting its knicker in a knot about the rise of UKIP.  Personally I don't think I can bear a whole year of build up to the general election next year!  I tend to make my mind up which way to vote when I'm standing in the polling booth, although I've already decided who not to vote for by then.




I've written a piece about my Tourist Trap which may feature on another blog next month.  So if you feel like reading it  pop over to  suestrifles.wordpress.com and see what I have to say.
Here's a clue what it's about ...




 



Let's hope I can be more focused and less woolly tomorrow!