Friday, 20 January 2017

Jigging Back to the '80s

A bit of music today because we haven't had any for a while have we?  I've thought that dancing is something that I've only recently embraced but if I look back in time there was a little window of jigginess back in my late teens and early twenties.  The place where I strutted my stuff was the Timepiece in Exeter.  It's still a favourite haunt for those who can manage to stay up past 10pm. Then it was a much smaller venue, a tiny bar and dance floor in a terraced property, an alternative nightclub rather than a discotheque.   Here's a wonderful tune that I seem to recall from those days. It seems to transcend the decades.

There seemed to be a dress code that spurned colour in that place.  I wore a lot of black and grey back anyway  then including a stack load of kohl around my eyes.  It was an attempt to be cool but I don't think that  I achieved it back then.  After all isn't being cool about attitude rather than wearing the right clothes?   I wonder if I'm nearer that state of mind now even though I'm  a relatively old codger in my '50s. Off course my teenage boy would tell me that I'm way off.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Things That Changed My Life

Inspired by that bloke I wrote about yesterday  I thought that I'd compile a list of my own today.
  • Moving to Devon from the South East at the start of my adult life and staying.  There is a different agenda and pace down here.
  • Walking 600 miles on the Appalachian Trail and living in my motorhome for nine months. Each time I realised just how few possessions that you really need.
  • Taking taxation exams and through that learning to think analytically.
  • A move to a  different career that focused on serving others rather than acccumulating wealth for myself.  Occupational therapy also changed my perspective on what it was that gave my life meaning.
  • Motherhood: Duh!
  • Living through and coming out of bouts of depressive illness.
  • Learning to drive, type, cycle and use a sewing machine.
  • Overcoming Low Self Esteem:  A book by Melanie Fennell
  • Unleashing my inner writer through blogging.
  • The passing of all those that died too young as a lesson in living life to the full each day.
  • Making the conscious decision to live a life guided by compassion and gratefulness.
  • Learning mindful meditation and its application to everyday life.
  • Being told by a doctor that they could not tell me whether I would live or die within a short space of time.
  • Marital breakdown and the self reliance this brought about.
  • Having insoles made for my shoes that stopped pain and allowed me to walk and run again.
  • Realising that it didn't matter that I wasn't as artistic as my brother.  I could still make art!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

One For The Book List

Here are words from someone else today.    For it's sometimes good for a chatterbox like me to stop talking and give the stage to other people when they're talking sense.  It's a page from Reasons to Stay Alive, the bestselling memoir about major depression, by Matt Haig. What a title for a book! There are plenty of things to keep us going even in a world where darkness seems to get the upper hand at times.  Think beauty of nature, manifestations of kindness, music, unleashing creativity, laughing until you cry...........

Given the rave reviews indicating how helpful it's been to others I've added the book near the top of my reading list.  It sounds a helpful addition in the armoury of a mental health practitioner.  And of course, I know as well as most that you never know when you might need a dose of the medicine that you're doling out to others.   In my virtual wandering I've come across Matt Haig's website. Here's a link to it .  Now here's a man who appreciates the value of a good list!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Single Horned Runners

My heel has healed!  So I'm back on track with my running albeit confined to three gentle 5K trots around the block a week.  I'm going to start to slowly increase the distance again at the weekend but easy does it has been my mantra for the last few weeks. As well as those comfy running shoes that were my Christmas treat to myself I've bought myself some new kit. There's a wicking top courtesy of those bins in Lidl and a bright, bright jacket, essential garb as part of the regular route that I take does not have a pavement.  Being hit by a passing car or van is not part of the plan.  Then there's the John McEnroe-esque headband that becomes rather necessary as I increase distance and pace.  I'll spare you the details as ladies like myself don't sweat.

What has really touched me is my own progress has inspired at least a couple of friends to try the Couch to 5K plan.  Scary Secretary took her first tentative steps this week and Disco Queen Vikki is well away.  She's definitely got the bug and is spurring me onto greater things, my first running event in over twenty years.  We are entering Age UK's '80's retro run in Exeter in March, a 10K challenge where we'll deck ourselves out like Bananarama and take at a leisurely pace.  We're getting a little team together and already recruited my dear friend Sugar Plumb is on board.

 Of course we have a name.  We are the Unicorn Warriors.   Disco Queen Vikki hasn't been working in Totnes for long but those alternative vibes are definitely rubbing off on her!

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Quiet One

I had a quick Saturday afternoon trip down to my local with Mr Metrosexual and Ruff Stu. They tried to tempt me off my wagon.  'Go on, have a beer. We won't tell anyone.' Naughty lads!  I remained resolute and stuck to the non alcoholic ginger variety.   I've reached the crest of Dry January today and it's all downhill from now.  I'm still surprised how easy it's been but then I've been avoiding the pub, the South Devon mecca of real ales.

Aside from that I've had a very peaceful weekend just with Louis. There's lots happening behind the scenes for him. I'll reveal all at some point down the line.  With all the goings on  I reckoned that some full on mum-son time was called for.  So after allowing  a longer than normal lie in on Saturday, as Lou's growing and needs his beauty sleep,  we brunched at Lemon Jelli, his favourite Newton Abbot cafe and then holed up at home to watch a dreadful teen movie together.    Sunday was an even quieter day.  I cleaned downstairs in the morning and when the boy eventually emerged he decided he wanted to cook.  I'd done things the wrong way around.  Have you seen how much mess the average adolescent can make in a kitchen?

Jelly first!   Now I know that isn't really cooking but Lou insisted on making some.  After all my wine glasses aren't being used for anything else at the moment.  The ingredients on a packet of that stuff are pretty alarming.    There's half a sugar plantation and the waste from an abbatoir in one of those wobbly blocks!  On a healthier note here's Lou preparing tomatoes to roast for an easy soup.   Whilst he did that I rustled up a roast chicken, his favourite.

There's been time for talking, laughing and messing about. We've pretended that we've had no thumbs, tucking them into our palms.  It took two of us to lock the front door and put salt on our roast potatoes.  Lou gave me a back massage that seemed to consist of tickles and karate chops.  And homework had to be a joint effort.   From the depths of my brain I've trawled up the stuff about quadratic equations that was laid down nigh on forty years ago and  was able to conclude that one question in his maths homework was completely unsolvable.

Yes it was a quiet, no rushing around the country like we're prone to do.  But on reflection it was a precious one. It's left us refreshed to tackle whatever the new week throws at us.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Instead of a Cow

I loved the '90's series Northern_Exposure.    It was so life affirming.   How many TV programmes can you say that about these days?  Try as I might I cannot pick a favourite character.  Each person was so multi-dimensional and complex.  Just like real life!

I'm pleased to see that many episodes are on Youtube.  I'd like to revisit the town of Cicely if I ever have a moment(!)  To be going on with here's a particularly memorable clip. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017


Photo:  Lakeside Pottery
A  lovely friend with the kindest of intentions described me as fragile the other day.   I was bit puzzled by her use of words.  Firstly, under no stretch of the imagination could I be described as waif-like or delicate.  I'm more out of the fairy elephant mould!  More pertinently I'm not a person that crumbles at the first sign of emotional turbulence.  There's been a lot to cause this in both past and recent times but it's built such resilience.  And I'm not afraid to  chance making myself vulnerable to model trust and openess.  For ditching that cloak of fear brings great rewards.

So I'm  thinking again of kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of mending ceramics with gold to create a powerful visual metaphor. I thought that this was a particularly lovely example.

“Glass & peace alike betray proof of fragility under repeated blows.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Friday, 13 January 2017

Spider Man

Photo: Colossal
I'm working with a lovely person at the moment.  That's not unusual in my job. I can't help having a soft spot for most of my patients/clients/service users or whatever the NHS wants to call  the people that come through its doors at any particular point in time.  This particular individual identified all by themself that, by being busy doing something that they find meaningful,  they can keep depression at bay.  Ah! The life affirming and  health giving properties of occupation. That's what I spent three years studying at college.  For it can be as good as, or often better, than popping a pill.

The wonderful Colossal website was yet again a source of inspiration.  This person wanted to kickstart a textiles project.  So  I shared pictures of the  wonderfully zany work of Adam  Pritchett and we both enthused over its zaniness and the unusual nature of the subject matter.   It did the trick.  They've gone off to plan a design that they're going to show me in this week's therapy session.

I'm not sure why I was so surprised at coming across a embroiderer who's a bloke.  It's not as if stitchery is the exclusive preserve of women.  There are plenty of  male tailors out there and the lovely David who reupholstered my motorhome said that he been sewing for all his working life .  And I'm reminded of a time when I helped out during an activity morning at Louis' school when he was wee.  I was in charge of helping kids make a drawstring purse.  All the kids who chose to work with me were very enthusiastic little boys.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Random Bath Linen Grumbles

I'm always sniffing around for ideas for blog posts.  Maybe that's why I absent mindedly agreed when Mr Metrosexual suggested that I asked my readers if they too were finding that their face flannels did not last anywhere near as long as they used to in the olden days. Now blow me down he's even reminded me that I haven't done it.  What is he on!  Since retirement it seems that his horizons have narrowed somewhat.  I've suggested that if this is the type of question that now takes up more than a fleeting moment in terms of brain activity then perhaps he should pop out and get himself a little job or do some volunteering.

Whilst we're on bath linen I thought I'd add my own penny's worth.   Am I the only person who is annoyed by those ubiquitous signs in hotel bathrooms urging us to reuse our towels to help the environment?  For  I suspect that there are far different motives for encouraging this guest behaviour. As such I would be happier if those notices were reworded in the following vein.

Towels put in the bath: Please exchange
Towels replaced on the towel rail:  I'll use again

Please help for the sake of our profit margin.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Dry January Tipple

Eleven days into January and I'm still on the wagon.  Not a drop of alcohol has passed this smug bastard's lips.  Of course you have to overlook the stuff in some rather wonderful chocolate covered port soaked plums that the Second Martha Stewart passed my way when she cleared the cupboards of her Exmouth holiday home last week.  I don't think it counts.  Surely some transfiguration occurs when booze seeps into fruit.  That's my excuse so I'm sticking to it.

Here's what I reach for when I get home.  It's another Christmas present from Louis that picked up from Narnia when we visited in December. No, it's not a land reached out of the back of one of our wardrobes but the shop attached to  the Timehouse Muzeum in Totnes.  The same tea  is the complimentary stuff served in their Moroccan cafe. The silicone strawberry infuser was part of my son's thoughtful gift.    Does it hit the spot after a hard day in the same way  as a bottle of beer or a glass of wine?  Surprisingly it seems to do some magic.   I never thought that I'd be so enthusiastic over dried green leaves steeped in boiling water.   Those that claim that menthol, an active ingredients in spearmint is sedative  may well be onto something.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Pencil Pot

A quick video this morning that's  just forty two seconds long.  Not a sizeable chunk of  time in anyone's book.   It is a beautiful example of ordinary household items being repurposed imaginatively.  Ideal for anyone who's fed up with their adult colouring books!

So go on.    Press that start button.   After watching this, is there anyone else out there who wishes that they too have a lathe? 

PS:  Eek!  Shortly after I created my post the video disappeared.  So I've replaced it.  This one's a bit longer but gives more examples.  So it's worked out okay then!

Monday, 9 January 2017

Cyril The Squirrel

Lou bought Cyril the Squirrel for my sister  Esther just before she died. He kept her company in the hospice until the end and then he came back to live with us.

We take it in turns to hide him around the ground floor of our house.  Most of the time he's super easy to spot.

He seems to get  himself into some terrible fixes.  Oh Cyril.  What are you doing there!

We giggle when we find him.  It's silly.   Esther would have liked that.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Another Chapter

Some people only join you for a very small part of your journey in life.  Lovelybloke can keep the name, for it fits, even though he no longer walks with me.  He will be remembered fondly for because of him, my house is now toasty year round and there is a hare on my bathroom window sill.  Of course the parting brought sadness but what I've encountered in my working life this week puts things in perspective.  Loss after decades of loving partnership, or even worse severe mental illness caused by relationships steeped in years of bitterness and resentment.

Lovelybloke also helped me to see the wood for the trees in terms of restoring work-life balance .  There's been a sea change.  For the first time in perhaps a couple of years my work laptop and papers remained in the office this weekend.   There is time again, some of which I'm using to strenghten my meditation practice.  Here's something from Eckhart Tolle, my new virtual best friend, on relationships.  He articulates so well ideas that I started to formulate myself after the breakdown of my marriage five years ago.

And so I have space.  Isn't it said that nature abhors a vacuum?   I'm curious to see who or what might fill it.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Year Round Christmas Shopping

To avoid 'Bah Humbug!' type accusations  I restrained  myself before Christmas and resisted posting a link  to 'The Gift of Death',  But I've done it now.  Ha!   It's an article by George Monbiot about the type of pathological consumption that is rife over the festive period, a wise and considered piece of writing by a favourite journalist.  In particular he despairs about people buying tat that is designed to raise a smirk or two but is otherwise useless.  Don't many of those Secret Santa present fall into this category?

I'm not going to come over all Grinch-like here. Giving and receiving gifts that have been chosen with care is wonderful.   Lou is always surprising me with thoughtful little presents from his travels and I'm delighted.  I'm easy.  I'm a sucker for beautiful soap, lovely food and drink and pretty things for the house.    Some of the loveliest things I've been given are those  that people no longer have a use for themselves.  I'm just about to receive a rocking chair from Red Mel that isn't a good fit with her new home.  I'm very excited about that one.

I wonder if the Christmas problem can be rectified by accumulating presents over the year rather than being bought in a massive rush on a busy day in December.  By starting to think about gifting in January there is plenty of time to make stuff or hunt down things for each person that are well thought out and  fit with that William Morris mantra about usefulness and/or beauty.   Here's something that I gave this Christmas that I think meets these criteria.  I bought two of these wash bags that depict the scene of Brixham harbour.  They're  made in the UK and are exclusive to Doris, a wonderful local store.    These won't be going in landfill anytime soon.  Their recipients were delighted!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Modern Lullaby

Here's a  little gift from me today for all those who need to chill a bit.  I reckon that's probably most of you out there.  After all the majority of us have our stressy heads on sometimes.  So the Manchester trio ''Marconi Union' got together with sound therapists to produce this.  I had a fascinating chat with one of those once in a nightclub in Totnes.  She attributed all sorts of healing benefits to sound waves.

Perhaps she used  this song in her therapy sessions.  For it has been dubbed 'the most relaxing in the world' and is apparently blessed with powers that reduce anxiety and induce sleepiness.  There's even a warning that it should not be listened to whilst driving!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

An Angel To Watch Over Me

I'm not sure if the angel cards, that I use from time to time, give me insights from a higher realm or provide a means through which  I can gain access to my subconscience.  To be honest I suspect the latter but perhaps it doesn't matter either way.  We all have to build  our own unique models to help us steer through life.  Stipulating absolute truths applicable to all doesn't seem helpful in my book.  In fact examples from history and the current day show that it can be pretty darn dangerous. I'm convinced that I'd  have got my arse burnt for my kooky way of looking at the world if I'd lived in medieval times.

I'm fond of angels where they are real or figments of an admittedly overactive imagination.   So, I was super pleased to receive this Christmas gift from my brother, an ardent pooh-pooher of all such nonsense and my sister in law who harbours similar hippy propensities to my own.  It's a collagraph, a type of print made from an inked collage, that they bought from Totnes market when they borrowed my house for their honeymoon in the summer.  Such a thoughtful present; she's beautiful.  I've got the perfect place to hang her. She can live over the bed and fulfill that most traditional angelic role of watching over me as I sleep!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Each Other's Hearts

It's a week after the road accident which taught me a hard but necessary lesson about the need for more presence in my life . Yet it was only yesterday that Leif, my car arrived at the same repair company where he spent some time in December.  I went to retrieve our luggage that's been sitting on a random driveway in Reading for the last week.  It included our Christmas presents, toiletries and electric toothbrushes  and both my work and personal laptops.     Some people said that they would have freaked if this had happened to them but I managed to remain stoic.  If I've learnt anything from 2016 I now know that there are much worse things in the world than being parted from your stuff on a temporary basis.    However it meant many usual tasks that I do on a bigger keyboard were relegated to my phone. Hence I was less efficient.  It's my excuse if spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors have snuck through more frequently onto my blog than usual.

Embedding videos within posts was one of the things that I couldn't do  because sometimes features within phone apps are more limited than the full screen versions.  I'd wanted to share this one with you as soon as I saw it but I had to put my patient hat on.  But yay, I can now!   It's a powerful lesson about walking in the shoes of others which, of course, has relevance in the wider world and not just inside the hospital environment where it was filmed.    After all no-one could have guessed what's happened to me over the last week just by looking.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2017: A Healthy Start

Like many others and a few of my friends I've chosen to observe a dry January.   This seemed like a massive sacrifice when I did a similar thing before.  It may be a measure of how my health habits have changed but I actually looked forward to it this time around.   In the past I used alcohol as daily medicine to cope with stress.  Many will know that it's an easy habit to get into and a tricky one to break.  Now I use alternative means to do this such as exercise and meditation, giving up the pinky pink juice altogether doesn't seem onerous at all.  And past experience has shown that I lose weight and sleep because of a period of abstinence so that's an extra incentive.

I've also noticed my running seems easier if I haven't had even one beer the night before.  I've got to a stage where I'm more motivated to run than drink.  Wow!  Thankfully  my poorly heel is all better now and I'm back to half marathon training.  I'm wondering if my healthy intentions could help me towards another goal for the month.  I'd like to complete half of the race distance by then.   Keep those fingers firmly crossed for me and pop the kettle on instead of a cork if I'm a visitor.

Monday, 2 January 2017

No News

As a church going university student in my late teens I was told off by my minister for not keeping up with the news. I was focusing on hedonism rather than developing an awareness of the plight of others to drive prayer and action.  At that  time in my life he was making a good point. I was extremely self centred in those days.  Even though I don't identify with being a Christian anymore I like to think that  Jesus' teaching about compassion and intolerance of injustice have a much greater influence on how I live now.

At the moment though I've made a conscious decision not to be news hungry.    My preference is for music in the car rather than Radio 4 and lyrics often  speak volumes.  Here's a link to Passenger's beautiful  ' The Long Road' which touched me deeply yesterday.   I think that the quote above  sums up why I'm avoiding current affairs to a greater extent than usual.  Of course there are terrible things going on in the world like men dressed as Santa shooting strangers out dancing.  But maybe recognising humanity's tremendous potential for good is the way forward.  It goes without saying that this starts with ourselves.  Those kind deeds, right words, manifestations of gratefulness, acting with dignity and integrity:  let's will them to add up and make a difference.

Early on in my blogging career I wrote a post about an idea contained in ' The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'  by Stephen Covey.  It encourages us to focus on what is inside out locus of control, i.e. what we can actually do something about. By doing this we can expand our influence.   Many years on from when I first heard it,  this concept still resonates.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Pallaver II

Happy 2017 everyone! May this be a year filled with blessings for us all. I am in Fowey with Salty Dog for my first ever Cornish New Year celebration, an eagerly anticipated trip that we planned back in the autumn.  It was a lovely one.  Thanks especially to the kind  folk in Gallants Sailing Club who made us so welcome.  Oh and the very cool German blokes who decided that Fowey was lacking an official firework display and so provided their own on the quayside.

What with the car crash and other stuff going on in the background it's been a bit of a week.  Things did not go entirely to plan yesterday either.   There is a story of mixed messages and dippyness.  When loading our luggage I thought Salty Dog said that she was putting my bag and my coat in her car rather than mine . A bit odd I thought but hey I'm easygoing.    We'd planned a Cornish coast path walk but instead ended up driving back to Plymouth to retrieve it!