Blog

Terrorist attack, Uncategorized

After breakfast…….

…..is when I usually make a second cup of coffee and sit at the computer, check my e mails and then log on to this site to see who has written and what inspires me to respond before settling to my own Blog writing on occasions.

This morning I had already been thinking as I went about my early morning tasks of making tea, feeding the cats and loading the washing machine of subjects which may influence today’s writing. The ups and downs of house moving are never far from my mind at present, frustrations with the UK’s politicians as we grind through yet another election build to boiling point quite frequently, the latest amusing anecdotes of my grandchildren’s escapades had all flitted through my mind. Now having switched on the TV and heard the latest shocking news of the terrorist attack in Manchester last night all these ideas simple fade away and I am left contemplating the horror of what has happened.

Thousands of young people, many of them still children, had headed out full of excitement and enthusiasm to watch Ariane Grande in concert at the Manchester Arena. As the show finished and the audience began to make their way out of the auditorium a suicide bomb was detonated at the exit killing 22 people, many of them children and injuring 59. Many adolescent girls had been dropped at the arena by their parents who were then waiting outside to collect them; children and parents were separated and unable to find each other in the midst of this dreadful situation. As one eye witness said on the BBC this morning, “It was carnage.”

Once again our ordinary way of life has been threatened, our sense of well being destroyed and as yet we do not know who the perpetrator was, only that he is believed to have died at the scene.

As always the goodness in people came rapidly to the surface and the ordinary citizens of Manchester rose to the occasion by helping in whatever way they could, spare beds and couches provided for those who could not get to their homes or hotels, cabbies offering free rides to ‘anywhere’, food and drink supplied to all the rescue service personnel involved. It makes me so proud to be British when I see such a response and I like to think that should it happen on my doorstep then I would do the same.

The 22rd May 2017 will be a marker point from now on for many families who are facing this new day with broken hearts and bewilderment that any individual could take it upon themselves to mastermind such an evil act. Those of us in the UK sitting watching the devastating events unfold on our television screens feel an instant need to connect with our own children and families, a need to reassure ourselves that they are safe and well and to count our blessings that this time we have escaped such a tragedy.

I spoke with my own daughter before writing this and she had been working for the previous two days at a large show held at the NEC, Birmingham. She said that there was a much higher level of security than usual but she had felt, as always in large crowds, a sense of anxiety throughout the weekend, feeling vulnerable in a place where so many were gathered under one roof. She should have been able to relax and enjoy the opportunity of meeting with others in her profession, sharing skills and ideas and promoting the company for whom she works, not looking over her shoulder and eyeing up anyone with a rucksack as a potential assassin.

I currently live in a very rural area and will soon be moving to another similar spot; quiet villages where one knows all the residents, where neighbours keep an eye open for strangers or unusual happenings, where life  moves at a slower pace and in time with nature’s calendar and although I enjoy visits to cities after a few days I am always ready to return to the tranquility of the countryside. I take my hat off to those city dwellers who have no option other than to face the day following these awful events by retracing their steps to work, dropping their children at schools, heading off to lectures at university or into town for some shopping and a coffee with a friend. Your bravery is commendable.

None of us know what each day will bring, news good or bad, joy or sorrow but none of those young people deserved such an ending to the delights of what may well have been their first  live concert. For those who were killed their families will never truly recover from such horror; those who were injured must start the long slow journey to regain their physical and mental health. We should not forget those who escaped injury in the physical sense but who will bear the mental and emotional scars of such an event for many years to come.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Manchester and all who live and work there.

Moving home

Far too much choice

Now that we have come to terms with the sale of our house and the fact that almost  all of our furniture has been included in the deal we are faced with having a beautiful new home and the task of choosing new tables, chairs, beds and sofas not to mention soft furnishings, lighting, rugs and so the list goes on. Over the last twelve years since we have been together we have slowly replaced some pieces of furniture, fitted a new blind, painted a room and updated the cushions and throws but we have never had to contemplate such a spending spree. Initially I thought this would be fun, an adventure, an exciting opportunity to create a new home and make it unique and individual. What we hadn’t been prepared for was the absolutely mind boggling amount of choice with which we would be confronted.

Our first purchase was a sofa and matching armchair which we saw on passing a furniture store, both immediately liked and fitted our requirements in size, colour and price. This lured us in to a false sense of security. Deciding we would like a wing backed armchair in a contrasting colour – plum, damson, claret, aubergine I foolishly Googled and found myself on one site alone being presented with 347 chairs and that was just in the UK. By the time I reached the 40s I’d become so confused there was no option other than to close the computer down and reach for a refreshing glass of chilled Sauvignon. Over the last week this pattern has been repeated over and over again with everything from pendant lights to silver grey curtains, from rugs to bedding. Since when did we need this amount of choice?

Is it just me that finds the prospect of sifting through more than 300 armchairs daunting rather than pleasurable? I had hoped that the internet would provide me with help in narrowing my options and so saving me from trailing around endless stores, and I suppose to some extent this is happening but so many of the items seen on the internet are internet only. In other words you are expected to order your furniture, your lights, your rugs and curtains without actually seeing them in the flesh as it were. There is an argument that says this is perhaps not so bad when you are buying a pair of curtains; if the colour or fabric are not what you expect you can soon return the goods and receive a refund. But what of a dining table and six chairs, a purchase of around £1,000? Are there really people who are happy to blindly order having only seen the items on line? How do you return a dining table?

Clearly I haven’t moved with the times as much as I thought I had; I happily purchase a new dress or pair of shoes on line but large items of furniture are a step too far. After many hours spent on a complex selection process we finally narrowed down our choice of armchair and were relieved to see that we could actually visit a store some twenty miles away and actually sit in it before ordering one in the colour of our choosing. Thankfully the chair turned out to be every bit as comfortable as we had hoped, the colour swatches were available in store so I now have a sample to take around with me as we pick up accessories for the room and we have completed purchase number 2! Its going to be a long haul to complete the house and we are going to have develop greater powers of selection or perhaps deselection as we move from living room to bedroom, bathroom to kitchen in our search for items that attract our attention and fit the brief. Either that or our wine consumption will be steadily rising!

After all that here is the chosen chair.

 

Aplum chair

 

Uncategorized

Buying a House – sight unseen!

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Today we met the people who have bought our old Cornish farmhouse for the first time, even though they settled the deal more than two weeks ago. Many of our friends and neighbours have looked aghast when we have told them that the house is sold but the purchasers have done so purely on the recommendation of their daughter and as the day of meeting them grew closer we, too became apprehensive and wondered what their reaction would be as they stepped over the threshold. Would they like it, hate it? Would the deal fall through? Would we lose the lovely new home we had set our hearts on?

After a seven hour journey from Whitby in Yorkshire they arrived this afternoon and fell in love within minutes. Their beaming smiles, relaxed body language and increasing delight as we moved from room to room were all the evidence we needed that they were happy. It has been an unusual sale, we did have to trust in what they were telling us but it was clear today that after many months and countless viewers trooping through our home, the right people have found it. Not only were they happy but we liked them as people, feel happy to pass on the legacy of this lovely home to them knowing that they will treasure it as we have done.

After the tour, tea and biscuits, more questions and exploring, and three hours later they left as friends with hugs and kisses. Our home will be in safe hands and this very special corner of Cornwall will have two new residents who will fit right in like the last couple of pieces into a jigsaw. Life truly does have a way of working out.

Moving home

Time has a speed of its own

 

The Tortoise And The Hare

I’m certain that many of you can recall the famous tale of the Hare and the Tortoise and I have found myself thinking about this childhood tale many times over the last few months and in particular the last week. Those of you who follow my blog will know that we have been trying to sell our home in Cornwall and move closer to the family. This process has been ongoing for over a year and having made the momentous decision to sell and move , we never expected things to take such a time. Whilst we coped with the slow housing market of 2016, courtesy of Brexit and the accompanying uncertainty, listened to the myriad strange reasons why our house wasn’t quite right for people, time seemed to move more slowly, the days on occasions achingly long. Each new set of viewers would see our spirits rise only to be dashed again as they found us too rural, not rural enough, too quiet or not quiet enough, and we would retreat to lick our wounds and press on albeit slightly more slowly each time and with just a little less energy.

An optimist by nature even my initially positive attitude was struggling and whilst not saying it aloud I had come to believe that we would never find a purchaser and that my dream of being able to help my father in his final years and spend more time with the grandchildren, was slowly being extinguished. My husband though remained steadfast. In contrast to me he is perhaps not a pessimist, rather a pragmatist and he had never been convinced that we would get a quick sale as our house is ‘quirky’ and would only be bought when the right person walked through the door and fell in love. His mantra over the last year has been,” It will happen”. And now he has been proved right and in such an extraordinary way. The house has been bought by a couple who have not even viewed it in person!

Two weeks ago viewers were booked and all we were told was that they were viewing on behalf of their parents who were moving to Cornwall from Yorkshire to be closer to their family…. here the coincidences begin. We assumed that they would take a look, report back to their parents and that they would then visit at a later date if the feedback had been positive. Imagine our surprise when the next day we received a call from the agent to say that on the recommendation of their daughter, the older couple wished to make an offer. In the days that followed we went through the usual nonsense of house buying in UK where offers were refused, increased and accepted. In addition this couple had sold their apartment complete with furniture so then asked if they could purchase some of ours, in particular the larger pieces which we had already decided to part with as they wouldn’t suit the new home we were hoping to buy! So, after all these months of one step forward and three back we are now moving like the hare at breakneck speed; the chain is short, all are cash buyers and the consensus is for the move to happen as soon as possible, certainly within 6 – 8 weeks.

Time is now flying by as lists are made, removers booked, cupboards turned out and decisions made on what to keep and what can be sold, what treasured items cannot possible be left behind and which of those unwanted Christmas gifts can be donated to charity. Suddenly we have no time to spare and the days are filling up with chores, meetings and visits to the new house where there are many exciting things to decide on as we consult with the builder over kitchen fittings, wall colours and carpets.

I have always been a hare by nature, loving the satisfaction of a task completed and the magical moment of crossing an item from my list but the last year has taught me that there is no need to throw myself at every task, things will get done even if I approach the list more slowly and we will be ready on the appointed day. When I begin to feel over tired and stressed with that niggling ache in my shoulders and neck all I have to do is watch my tortoise, moving more slowly than me, taking time out for a cup of tea and to read the paper but still achieving all he set out to do. Every hare needs a tortoise.

Uncategorized, Walking

Bluebell Woods

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Yesterday was a lovely spring day that we decided to make the most of the lovely weather and headed to Lanhydrock House, our nearest National Trust property. We followed a circular route along the estate boundaries.  Heading in to the beech woods we descended slowly though the trees, emerging by the River Fowey. There is something quite magical about being near to water and yesterday the river was fairly full, and moving swiftly, full of noise and bustle much more suited to the tempo of a working day rather than a lazy Sunday. On the far bank we spotted a Dipper enjoying some morning fishing before the antics of some dogs frightened him away.

Leaving the river behind the path wound it way around the edge of the wilder part of the gardens, skirting the huge rhododendron bushes , laden at present with heavy blooms from palest white to deepest red before leading us in to the oak woods behind the house. here there were carpets of bluebells, interspersed occasionally with primroses and wood anemones, wild garlic and the occasional flash of deep purple violets. It was a wonderful sight, nature overflowing with generosity, a bounty of blue from the palest almost white to the darkest, almost purple.

We saw only  a few people on our walk and were amazed when we returned to the car park to see many hundreds of vehicles; most of their occupants busy walking round the stately home or the cultivated gardens, both of which are definitely worth seeing but we felt as though we had found the real treasure yesterday. It was a good reminder that it’s not always the biggest  and most talked about that are the best and it can be only too easy to overlook the joy found in the quiet places, the pleasure that can be had from the simple things in life.

Below is a link to the house for anyone who might like to know more about it. Not to be missed if you visit Cornwall

 

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock

Politics, Uncategorized

Seven weeks is a long time in politics

So here in UK we are to weather yet another election and like many ordinary folk I am already somewhat disillusioned and it was only announced on Tuesday. I can understand the reasons for calling the election, I fully see that the Prime Minister feels a need to have the country and Parliament behind her as she embarks on a momentous process of negotiating our exit from the EU…..but as a nation I think we have had our fill of elections and referenda.

I feel what is needed is the benign presence of some magical fairy dust sprinkled liberally throughout the corridors of Westminster and with regular and repeated doses applied to all the party leaders especially before appearing in television and radio interviews. I cannot be alone in longing for the seemingly impossible – a straightforward answer to a  question instead of a rambling regurgitation of a pre- prepared statement. The woman in the street, along with the man, is ready to here some truths, however uncomfortable they may be to listen to. We are adults and are totally disenchanted with the myths and legends of what will miraculously happen after June 8th; we have heard it all before and it would be so refreshing to hear any politician, but particularly a party leader, just tell us the bare facts, the untarnished truth so that we can make a clear and logical decision for whom to vote.

We have had the referendum, Brexit is a given. What matters now is that we pull together to achieve the best outcome for the country as a whole not just for business people and politicians but the hill farmer in Wales, the fisherman in Cornwall, the elderly caring for their spouses with dementia, the young children who go hungry in school holidays, the pensioners who are just scraping by and the young adults who struggle and fail to buy their first home.

Sadly though we are already being subjected to the same old, same old with party leaders giving away little that is positive and forward looking, preferring to counter questions with denigrating criticism of the opposition.

If they want us to become engaged in this election they must begin to treat us as equals, as adults with views and opinions; we are not in need of sales talk, this is not a purchase in a superstore. What is needed now is clarity, truth and respect for the population as a whole.

Roll on June 9th!

 

Uncategorized

Home and away

Home again after a fortnight of travelling, seeing family and celebrating my husband’s 70th birthday, today has been the first time for days that I have had chance just to’be’, to collect my thoughts and to reflect on the events of the past days.

The visit to my son was mostly positive although he is clearly stressed as he takes on a new and more responsible role at work; my daughter in law, like so many other young women, is stretched to breaking point running a home, bringing up a child and going to work, striving ceaselessly to attain perfection in all areas of life that I fear she experiences few moments of genuine pleasure and rest. My beloved grand daughter seemed worn out when we arrived, having just finished school for the Easter holidays and although we enjoyed some fun days out she seemed to be below par and it was no great surprise that she woke after a few days covered in spots and joined most of her friends with chicken pox. A classic case of the body holding out and then succumbing to illness when the pressure is off. In one way a blessing as all children need to go through the baptism of childhood illnesses, they are best caught when young, and she is now fine again.

No matter how good our relationships, how strong our affection, it is never easy to stay in close confines with one’s adult children for too long and as we reached day 5 I was reminded of the old Chines proverb : After three days both fish and visitors begin to stink!

Perhaps it is a sign of ageing that we begin to yearn for the comfort and familiarity of our own homes, our own bed, the quiet calm of our country home as opposed to life on the edge of a city, the sound of birdsong rather than traffic and the contentment of the small routines that punctuate our days. Whatever the reason it was good to go and equally good to come home again.

After a few days recovering we packed a small bag again and set off on a short journey, less than hour away from our home. My husband is not a party person and generally prefers low key celebrations so for his birthday I had booked us in to a quiet country house hotel overlooking the North Cornish coast. He had no idea where we were headed and we spent the day walking the coast path over The Rumps near Polzeath. There were few other walkers and for the most part we had the day to ourselves to enjoy the stunning scenery, the carpets of spring flowers: primroses, bluebells, wild garlic, squills, violets and even thrift beginning to appear. We could not have asked for a better performance.

At the end of the day we arrived at The Longcross.  Miles from anywhere this lovely Victorian building is a haven of comfort, exquisite food and discreet service. The Manager had laughed gently with me when I had made the reservation as I had booked their honeymoon suite, The Love Shack, which stands alone at the far end of the beautiful gardens with views overlooking the stunning coastline, because I had also said we were coming to celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday. I suppose I can understand their surprise and amusement; from their 30 something viewpoint we must seem like ‘old people’ but as we age we come to realise that how old we are has little bearing on our feelings, emotions and desires. On discovering where we were staying John was amused, but mostly delighted and thrilled to be staying in such a special and beautiful place but also pleased that I still thought it quite normal for us to consider ourselves ‘honeymooners’.

His comment to me as we packed to leave the next day was that he would never forget his 70th birthday and never be able to hear the song, Love Shack, again without remembering this special time. So a success.9 Longcross

This is the view from the hotel, which takes some beating and we had only travelled an hour from home.

Uncategorized

Change of scene, change of pace

The cases are down from the attic, the cats are prowling as they sense that something is afoot and I have a plethora of lists scattered around my kitchen. Tomorrow we head off to Yorkshire for a week long stay with my son and his family ; after enjoying some together time at the weekend my son and daughter will return to work on Monday morning leaving us in charge of seven year old Poppy as she starts her Easter break from school.

Poppy is a bright, bubbly little girl whose recent school report extols her prowess in art, reading and creative writing so we are going to write a book together on this visit using a ‘Story Bag’ as a stimulus. This is something I used with the children in my classes over the years and contains a random selection of small items from around the house and garden. Having first created a main character from scratch, you then dip your hand in to the bag and choose any 3 items, all of which must be included in the story. It will be lovely to share this activity with her and light the touch paper of her imagination and see it flare.

Much patience will be required throughout our stay as the other request has been to teach her to knit, so I am armed with child sized needles and a selection of wool….so watch this space. If we manage a scarf for a teddy bear I will deem that a success.

We have visits planned to some nearby places of historical interest, parks and play areas so are hoping that the weather will be kind to us and make this visit another special time where we build on good memories and reinforce that very special bond between grandchild and grandparents. When we leave we are heading to the Yorkshire coast to stay in a small cottage for a few days and recover from the increased pace of life which we will have experienced with a young child. These times spent with our grandchildren are so precious and valuable and worth any amount of tiredness;  stepping out of our normal routine is  a positive thing, it enlivens us, recharges our enthusiasm for life to see the world through the eyes of a child and all the laughter and cuddles really boost the spirits.

So no posts from me for the next 10 days as my focus changes from reflection to action, from thinking to being, from trying to stay in the moment to having no option other than to be in the moment. Can’t wait!dscf1216mod-copy This was taken last year during Poppy’s summer visit to us in Cornwall.

Uncategorized

Reflections on Mothering Sunday

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This photo was taken a couple of years ago when we all gathered to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday and I have just realised that it is the most recent one I have showing my daughter (second from the right) and my son (second from the left) together.It was the happiest of days but sadly we are all separated geographically by many miles and getting together is not as straightforward as it could be.

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in UK and far from the simple  day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members, the religious tradition has evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.When I was a child a bunch of daffodils and a hand made card sufficed but today consumerism has taken over completely filling the shops with expensive cards and useless gifts, increasing the price of all flowers for the preceding days so putting them out of the range of many. Some years ago I asked my son and daughter to turn their back on this ridiculous charade, to just send me a card and maybe buy me a small gift at some other time of year just because they felt like it. It has resulted in some lovely and unusual surprise gifts and visits which mean so much because of their spontaneity.

I spoke with both my children and grand children yesterday and received two cards and it was these that made me reflect on the differences between my two and the ways in which we all find to express our feelings. My daughter, Amy, is an open book, her feelings both good and bad spill out and her love is expressed regularly with texts and e mails, calls and visits, gifts and hugs. Her card, predictably, described me as ‘the best Mum ever’, was showered with hearts and flowers, butterflies and birds, her written words were full of gratitude and love along with promises of treats to come on my next visit. Who could fail to be moved? Not me.

In contrast Ben’s card was one sent via the internet so not even hand written but the message printed. The front of the card showed two jammy dodger biscuits, one larger than the other and the smaller of the two was saying, ‘I feel jammy to have you for a Mum!’Inside was printed Happy Mother’s Day, looking forward to seeing you next week, lots of love, Ben.’

There were no frills, no kisses and at first glance it would be easy to think that his feelings for me were less than those of his sister but this is the point where our understanding of our children comes in to play no matter how old they are ( and Ben is now 40). He has always found it difficult to express his feelings and shows his love in more practical ways. When we visit next week and stay to look after Poppy, our grandaughter, for a few days of her school holiday he will find many ways of showing his love and caring. He will take us for one of his favourite countryside walks, he has brewed a special beer for his step father, John, he will relax in his own home and each day we will hear a little of his life since we were last together, his new promotion, the work he has been doing on the house.

It would be so easy to compare my son and daughter and look only at the surface but no matter that I brought them up in the same way, they have become their own people and see the world from a different perspective and so I try to remember that when I am with them, to enjoy their differences and to value them for what and who they are and to accept that our relationships are good and supportive, meaningful and loving – just different!

 

mental health, Uncategorized

Tai Chi

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Just recently life has been out of sorts, there have been too many things getting in the way of the routines that make life so much better for me and today I was able to return to my Tai Chi class after a three week break and how much better I feel. When I took up this ancient exercise form a little over two years ago I never imagined what an impact it would have on my well being and peace of mind. For a whole hour I get to focus entirely on  the gentle flow of movements my body is making, the way I am breathing, the energy that I now recognise as it flows throughout my physical being. Added to that I am more supple, my balance has improved out of all recognition  and I have met some wonderful people.

So, my advice to anyone who has been thinking about joining a Tai Chi class wherever you live, is to go along and give it a try. For me it has been life changing; I have always been a person who dwells in the mind, finding it hard to switch off busy thoughts and so yoga was a complete no go as while my feet were in the air my mind was still whirring away. In Tai Chi, I am so busy thinking of the pattern of movements in The Form, concentrating on slowing my speed right down that my mind is taken away from its usual manic course. All the benefits are compounded by the peace and tranquility of the room, regardless of the number of the people attending and the combined energy released by  the simultaneous and identical actions of many is a powerful phenomena. If the atmosphere could be bottled it would be a potent stress cure.