Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Walk in the Park

It was a strange conversation to be had at 7am in the morning but considering the topic it was probably better than politics or religion.  I'd seen ‘Four Dog Lady’ many times before and had passed a few salutations when our paths crossed. It wasn't difficult to wave and shout 'Good Morning' and continue on my way, but occasionally I felt the need for a bit of chit chat and allow the dogs to sniff, growl or consider their pecking order before moving swiftly on.  As usual, it was a beautiful morning in the park. 

It wasn't an ordinary park found in suburban areas, but acres of beautifully planted shrubbery, paths for runners, and a haven in the early mornings for dog walkers. A spot we'd named Twilight Barking was a point where four paths met at an open space beside a bridge and running stream where dogs could cool down and clean off the mud from the walk before they returned home. Dogs and owners would converge at this point, either starting or finishing their walk, say hello and then move on. 

You didn't have to cross paths with the beast who'd prick up their ears then come charging at you intent on getting to your two dogs who walked calmly by your side. 

This didn't happen too often but occasionally the two dreaded huskies would would corral the puppy and nip him as he lay submissive with his legs paddling the air. It wouldn't be long before the older boy spotted what was happening. He'd look up from his interest in sniffing other dogs ablutions and when he did, he'd bound down the hill, his fierce, deep war cry echoing through the air. As he reached the group he'd rise up on his hind legs and bellow his warning. It surprises me each time as he’s a gentle, quiet boy most times, but is obviously protective of his young charge. 

They didn't scrap. His fierce stance was enough to have them running back to their inept owner, who stood in the distance blowing into his silent whistle. It obviously wasn't working.  

The morning was a beautiful crisp one. It wasn't quite autumn, but the leaves were falling from trees in preparation for their quiet time. Like I said, I'd seen her before with her own four dogs. I'd chatted as I waited for a friend who was late that morning.

I remember how we continued our conversation and how it started. It began fairly normally. A comment about a limp that Brown Bear had displayed (the delicate boy has issues with stones and won't walk on gravelly pathways), with Four Dog Lady stating that she'd helped my friend on a previous occasion in the park. 

“Yes,” she said “her lurcher pulled a leg muscle and I used my gift to make sure she was on her feet in no time”

“Ah,” I responded, thinking she'd meant a topical muscle rub that maybe someone had bought her. “What did you use?”

“My hands” she replied 

I giggled inwardly. Very often, I'm not clear about the response I'd expect, and waited for her to expand. 

“Yes”, she said “My gift are my hands” raising her palms upwards like an offering. “I heal!” 

Maybe it was too early or maybe it was because it wasn't after 5.30 pm and I hadn't had a drink, but it felt like the conversation was about to take a surreal turn. It's not that I'm not interested in spirituality or alternative therapies. I am. Very much so. I carry crystals. I sneak precious stones into the bags of the kids to keep them safe, and I wave white sage about when I feel a bit 
overwhelmed with the things that seem to go wrong on occasions. I close the toilet lid so that our fortune doesn't disappear down the toilet pan and I have a Buddha in the garden (apparently I need to raise it so that it's looking down on me. Christ knows how I'm going to do that! It weights a ton!).

However, I must have shown an interest as she continued.

“I heal myself and I heal animals.”
“How interesting” I said. I should've given myself a kick at that point but didn't. Foolishly.

“Yes, my boyfriend once took me to another world” stated Four Dog Lady with her gently frizzing grey hair surrounding her head like a halo, belying the awfully young sparkle in her eyes as she recounted her otherworldly experience. It must have been awesome for there were tears in her eyes. 

“It was beautiful” she'd recounted. 

“Oh yes?” I enquired politely “Where was it?” 

I hadn't been listening too closely so I was surprised when she replied. 

“I've no idea. I floated away on a bed of clouds. He couldn't get me back.”

Maybe she'd been speaking metaphorically. I know what it's like with words. You can say one thing but it might mean something completely different to someone else. 

“It must've been amazing.”

 I'm not sure I'd meant the floating away part or couldn't get back bit. If I'd been floating away I'm not sure BH would even try to attempt to drag me back. After 30 years I'm pretty certain he'd love to see the back of me!  

“Oh it was scary”, she recounted. “Eventually, I turned into a bird and flew above the ocean. I was alone and afraid and couldn't see anything for miles. I was getting tired. My wings were feeling the fatigue of the journey but there was no where to land. I saw a dark speck in the ocean, swooped down. There was a seal swimming close to the surface so I flew down and sat on its back to rest for a while. It was my boyfriend! He saved me!” She looked incredulous. I looked even more so. 

“I then turned into a seal and we swam, and swam and swam!” 

“Gosh, that was lucky!” I wanted to ask how they eventuality ‘got back’ but that would mean asking the question and continuing the conversation. 

I wasn't completely sure I was listening to someone sane.  However, what are the chances of two crazies falling in love and going off in the same journey? I wouldn't know the odds, but I'd guess it 
would be pretty unlikely, unless there was a club nearby for crazy, otherworldly beings nearby. I certainly hadn't heard of it but then again I'm not in the habit of avoiding the utter nutters club as they normally make a beeline for me and I only realise too late that I've once again engaged with a member.

At that point, my friend arrived with her two fur babies and we continued with our walk. ‘Four Dog Lady’ continued to walk with us until we reached the bridge which crossed over one of the many streams and we said our goodbyes. 

I was itching to tell my friend of my conversation and as we walked into the woods with our dogs playing ‘chase the fastest through the danger zone and avoid the trees’, I recounted my conversation.

“I've done that too” she said. 

Then she winked!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Is this my memorial?

I'm not being morbid here...or am I? Morbid curiosity? But what happens to those blogs of people who've passed away?

It's something I've wondered about for a while...but not too deeply. However, recently it came to the fore when I heard about an old colleague.

The reason I remembered her so well was that I was about to leave my son for a few days and was waving him off outside our offices.  I was upset and a few tears were running down my cheeks. She was waiting for her husband to collect her.

"Don't cry" she called over "you'll start me off...and I'm going to see my boy!" I laughed tearfully, pushed the lump in my throat back down to my chest where it sat like painful knot and went on my way.

I'd heard about her in the following years, after she'd left the company we boy worked for. Her son had beome incredibly ill and after a couple of years past away at the age of 14.  She had her love and religion to help her through her grief and I had no doubt she suffered. I'd met her husband several times and expressed my sadness for what they were going through.

However, when I found out she'd died in an accident I was surprised at how it affected me. I hadn't seen her for many years. I hadn't thought about her, except when I met her husband. Maybe it was her loss, her sadness and grief in the intervening years that got to me? How would I have coped in her same situation?  Someone told me she'd written a book about her experience. I looked it up. I searched for her name on the internet and came across a blog she'd written. It wasn't a huge one. It was her own thoughts, beautifully penned, charting her last few years. It made me sad to think that it's all that's left of her thoughts, but even more, that she'd left a tribute to her life that someone will read for a while. It will be a connection for her husband, to read her thoughts in that short blog.

What will happen to it now that she's no longer here? Will it become obsolete once it's clear that it hasn't been updated for a while? Are our blogs just temporary tombstones that will be wiped away once we've outgrown our words or our usefulness, or when we realise that our lives are more of a priority than sitting down and writing our blogs?

I've often read blogs that haven't been updated for a while. Where are those bloggers now? Did they get bored and drift away? There's rarely any conclusion...a final goodbye, or a 'Taraa for now'. Just a blank ending which makes me wonder what happened to their lives.

I'd hate to think that my scribblings will be lost in the ether one day.  I haven't saved anything I've written to hard copy so very few who know me will see how brilliant I am at entertaining the masses...or maybe that's a good thing.

It just got me wondering. Are these our memorials?

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Hoarding and getting rid of the dross!

Ok, so I'm a bit late with the 'out with the old' but I've been terribly busy doing very little. However, the new year is well and truely 'in' and I'm dragging all of the 'old' in with me!

I have so much 'stuff' that I literally cannot see the good stuff or the stuff I like.  I end up using only the 'stuff' I can see, which isn't always a good look.

I popped over to sis's place the other day as she'd had a whole brand new kitchen installed. Y'know, the one with the massive island, bifold doors, boiling water tap, copper lighting and oh so expensive beaten leather dining chairs. The whole place is clutter free with clear surfaces. Not a kettle in sight! She can even put the oven knobs in the drawer! She took me up to her swish dressing room. A home for everything. Shoe shelves. Neatly folded t shirts in coloured piles. She even had a chaise for trying on her multitudes of shoes!  I came over all faint for a moment and thought I was in a shop! Mimi wants to live in her dressing room. She said that it was beautiful, calm and nothing like my wardrobe where she could never find anything she wanted to filch!

I'm so envious...in a good way, but visiting someone's home always gives me 'House envy'!

I came home seriously depressed, if not a little bit determined.  So today is a new day. I'm having a clear out. How long it will last I've no idea but I'm going to give it a go. I've read the articles by Marie Kondo and her KonMari method


I know how to fold my clothes so that they're so small they could fit into matchbox.  I've read the new Woman and Home advice on decluttering.  I've even watched the videos on how to declutter. I'll always have a few days where I move things around but magically they appear back in place after a few weeks.
I know I've become a bit of a horder in my old age. It's hereditary, I'm certain. I hang on to the kids baby stuff in the hope that I might be able to use them...but I'm pretty sure that boat has sailed. Some of that 'stuff' is sentimental. I look at them occasionally...and I remember.  That's nice, but it's all taking up so much room.

I read a lovely article about a woman who had lost her husband. She had his clothes, the things he wore day in day out, but she was downsizing and had no room for everything he'd worn.  So she took pictures of his well worn shoes, his jacket over the back of a chair and his pipe resting in the ashtray.  Beautiful pictures that she'd be able to look at day in, day out.  How lovely is that?

The trouble I've found is looking at all of these items as £££££'s! How much could I make? EBay it or car boot it? It's soooo stressful!

One piece of advice I read was that you must have an exit strategy.

Makes sense.

How many times have you filled up those black bin bags only to unload them when you realise  that you might just need that raggedy old cardi or that vile vase is just what you need to hold that bunch of flowers you've just purchased? How many bags now fill that spare room of yours and how many bags have you stacked in your attic....all waiting for that run to the dump, charity shop or car boot? And how long have they been sitting there?

I've compiled an exit strategy based on what I've learned. It might not suit everyone but it worked for me.

Decluttering the wardrobe.

  • Plan your exit strategy. Get the car running with your man in the driving seat. The rest will make sense shortly.
  • Give yourself 15 minutes. No thinking, no trying on.
  • Open your wardrobe doors and peer in. Immediately take out the less appealing items, things you don't like, things that have holes in and things you wear for the dirty jobs. Put them in a black bag without pondering too much. If you don't like it, you'll not wear it. If it's used for the dirty jobs, don't worry you'll find something you'll be able to replace it with.
  • Chuck it in the black bag. Carry on until you have filled the black bag. Get one of the kids to drag it down stairs and chuck it in the boot.
  • Go, go, go!

Your man will drive the bag or bags to them recycling depot and you'll never see them again!

See! Easy peasy!

My next post will be on doing the car boot and making some money from your dross...your trash is someone else's treasure.

Go on, it'll set you free!

Monday, 11 July 2016

#Love Island...actually

I don't watch a lot of TV.

OK, I'll admit it...I watch a  teeny weeny bit but its usually a drama on catch up or something staid and dull like The great British Sewing Bee or How neat is my Garden.

I don't do 'Big Brother', 'I'm a Celebrity' or even 'Strictly'. I don't really do much reality if anything at all...but Love Island has seriously grabbed my attention...if only for the drama and the utter craziness of the world, young adults and social media. Why has my world been so small?  

@loveisland - Twitter

There is absolutely no way that I'm going to admit watching in public(and I follow all the contestants...eek!) so when BH has caught me at it I told him it's down to the social experiment research that I need to do for my book.  Watching how young people interact with one another in groups that piques my curiosity and that we'll need this info for when the kids get older. Seriously!

Each night he'll catch me tucked up with my iPad and ask "Research?'

I'm not sure when I actually realised that they were actually 'doing it'. I think it was a gradual realisation that everyone in the Villa were all it, however, tonight (I've seen the clip)one very handsome Villa mate, (Adam M) looked decidedly uncomfortable when he realised that he was expected to perform on national TV and baulked visibly at the idea. Katy, the girl he's coupled up has previously flashed in public so already has form, and was clearly disappointed in the lack of action.

Now, I'm no prude but when did sex on our TV's become so mainstream and acceptable? When did it become so normal and oddly fascinating to watch our youth bonking the brains out of someone they've only just met?

Last night the parents and loved ones of 'the cast' visited their little babes in the Villa. The burning question from their lips were 'Are you proud of me?'

PROUD? Of what, exactly? Proud of their ability to wear a bikini in a beguiling way? Proud of their geography knowledge? Proud of their ability to stay with one person for a couple of weeks then admit that they might just make it on the 'outside'? Proud of shagging someone you've known for five minutes or proud that you did the mambo under the covers without anyone seeing...but everyone knowing, unless you're the 19year old that decided to ride with gusto, throwing caution and your hair to the wind by playing outside the duvet!

Proud is not a word I would have used. The question they should have asked is 'Did I embarrass you?'
As a parent, I would be ashamed had I been asked to appear and condone their behaviour.

Oddly, each parent brushed past the main element. They were proud.
"Yeah babe, you've done us proud. You've kept it real and been true to yourself"
"Oh really?" they cried
"Yeah, babe, we love you and so does everyone outside!"


So what is this really all about? Fame for fames sake? Fame for doing and achieving absolutely nothing? Is this what we want for our children? To aspire to be on a reality show?
I have absolute admiration for those who have the bollox to actually admit their true intentions. The other evening the villa Boys took part in a Lie detector game. One, Adam J, admitted that he was there for the fame and the girls after the show. The others went into melt down declaring true love!

From my research, many of the contestants either had links to past reality shows either knowing them  or had previous brushes with fame. From my research I can only conclude that reality TV has reached a new low. Shag someone on TV and you'll be famous. Shag someone on TV if you've got a small willy...you"ll never live it down!

Despite it all, I've loved every bit of it, if only to know what goes on in the heads of our youth and to know that they are in no way going to regret their brief dalliance with fame...along with their tattoos!

Be warned...it's addictive.

The final is tonight.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Pocket money or bribery?

The kids are all grown up...or at least that's what they think. Living with teenagers is a blast...not! We're in the midst of choices, exams, school changes and whatever the world can try and throw at us.

 I'm ducking it all and letting them each make their own decisions....a cop out I know, but try talking some sense into an obstreperous 15 year old who thinks gaming is a career choice and a 14 year old who believes that university is not the bee all.  And there was me thinking that in a very few short years, I'd be free of their smelly feet, the 'Perry' effect,  so that me and Mimi would have some quality time and do girly things together. It seems like Mimi has other ideas too. Apparently she asked my child free sister for ideas to make money as "Mummy won't pay pocket money". Sister was aghast and took her down to her studio where she makes all manner of crazy stuff from junk and gave her a few ideas. I'm a bit cheesed off as I thought Mimi would be my girl..but it appears she's not, she's not interested in girly stuff and seems to be intent on donning a mask and creating metal art!!

Anyway, back to the subject in hand....pocket money! In the idealised days of yore (pre-child) it as always my intention to reward any child I had with the cash once they'd completed a chore. I thought that to earn in that way would teach them the value of money and would encourage them to save for items they wanted and that it would be a great life lesson. It would teach them the basic principles of money.

That's all well and good until reality bites back. When they were younger and a lot smaller, we'd barter on chores.
Empty the dishwasher and I'll give you 50p.
Do the vacuuming -50p.
Lay the table 20p.
Mow the lawn £2
Clear the table 50p

We had a calendar and each chore had a price attached and at the end of the week we'd total up the chores and how much each one had.  It worked well for about 2 months, then they started to fight over who was doing what, they'd argue over did the most, who was earning the most. There'd be fights with forks whilst another wrestled the knives from my hands. I didn't fancy seeing an eye on the end of the fork so I made them take it in turns.

Then it stopped...completely! I couldn't get them to do anything. Then they started to negotiate more money for chores when in all honesty I thought they should be doing them anyway! They'd complain that it's slave labour and that they should join a union for exploitative child labour!  Trying to encourage them to come into the kitchen to cook was nigh on impossible. I remember peeling the potatoes and chopping up the cabbage for our dinner when I was growing up. It seems they fear the kitchen. They don't want to cook. Why should they? Mum does it all anyway. I was hoping that the bribery would make it easier for me. I hate vacuuming!

After months of trying to get them interested they didn't seem to want to earn any money after that. I couldn't exactly promise them their chance to save up for their Ferrari. They'd worked out that they'd never be able to afford the petrol....let alone the insurance! I could bribe Mimi with the promise of all the Shopkins her heart desires...but what then?

I worry for them when they leave home. They really won't have a clue, will they? BH thinks it'll all come out in the wash and they'll have to learn how to clean, how to wash their clothes and have their own rotas for the mind numbingly dull things I do on a daily basis, but they'll just do it in their own way...or not at all!

Little did I know that grandma was giving them a £5 secretly every week to do sod all!!!

How can I teach them the value of money when my own mother won't even play the game?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

War and Peace.

Cast of BBC's War and Peace - photograph Mitch Jenkins/BBC

Go on, admit it. You haven't read War and Peace, have you? I hadn't, but after the beautiful epic of the recent televised drama, I decided that I should....so I am!  The BBC drama ended all too quickly, and by rights should've had a further 20 episodes, and that would've given me then opportunity to lust after the stunning James Norton for a few more weeks.

I'm not sure what had put me off all these years. I can't understand why I put it aside in favour of a lesser tale. I think it might have been the thought of lugging the thick tomb about that had put me off (it's seriously thick!) or maybe the thought of the flowery descriptions...and the war bit. I didn't think I'd understand it; that it might be too intellectual.  But it's not like that at all. It's bloody excellent. It's a descriptive piece, but the characters are full of life and I can see each one of them as clearly as if they were standing in front of me.  The dramatisation has helped, of course, but had I not seen it I'm not sure I would have ever picked it up. It has dialogue, which I like and it has depth.

Many say that Tolstoy was a sage, some say he was mentally ill, but you can't deny he was inspirational. His beliefs of non resistance influenced the non violent resistance movement in particular directly influencing Gandhi. After reading A letter to a Hindu and The kingdom of God is within you, Gandhi, then a lawyer in South Africa, sought advice and permission from Tolstoy to reprint the essay. How amazing is that? A writer influencing and changing the face of the world and the future! (As an aside, did you know Indira Gandhi wasn't related to Mohatma? I'm sure you do, but one story goes that her husband was actually Feroze Khan who was then adopted by Gandhi as an adult so that she could take his name along with her fathers to ensure the great dynasty. The other story is that he was Ghandy, but changed it. Who actually knows?).

Tolstoy believed that the aristocracy were a burden on the poor and lived his latter life in a spiritual development.  His wife wasn't too happy and apparently the family werent too enthralled by his beliefs or his writings. The sad thing was that he was embarking on a pilgrimage (to get away from his family?) but fell seriously ill enroute to wherever and ended up in Astapovo where the train had stopped and passed away in the station masters home.  I read a short story by Rose Tremain a while back, fictionalising the account of the incident.

So there you have it. Tolstoy has been feted as the greatest writer of all times but he was also game changer. He's also at the top of the UK best seller list for the first time ever!

I bought War and Peace in the book format. After studying the preface, the notes and the 1000's of forewords that accompanied it I decided that I'd be better off downloading it to my kindle as the typescript was seriously titchy! I needed reading glasses and I don't use them!

I'm a third of my way through reading it and have barely put it down. Even the war stuff was interesting. Read it...you'll be pleasantly surprised!

The other day, Finn asked me what I was reading. When I told him, he laughed and said "Mimi said she'd heard you were reading this great new book called 'Leo's Toy Store' by Warren Peace. She wondered why you were reading a kids book!"

Friday, 29 January 2016

No regrets.

Standing at the crossroads of life, do you ever wonder where that other path may have taken you? You know...the one that you stood at, looked down and thought '"Nah...I don't like the look of it"?  Do you regret the choices you've made or worry about those missed opportunities that might have made the life you live so very different?

I'm pretty happy with my lot. Last night I did something that I don't regret. Generally, I'm someone who always looks forward, tries not to look back and gets on with the task in hand. I don't look over my shoulder, and I know that the grass is never greener on the other side or if it looks it, it's usually the same as the grass on this side. It's all grass.

I have no idea what made me do what I did and I had no intention of doing anything about it. I looked on Facebook for an old boyfriend...and found him!!! Well...I found his profile anyway.

It took me back to those days when I was young, pretty and , well, a little bit shallow. Yep...I admit there were times when  I thought a pretty boy would look good on my arm.  Who wouldn't? I could never shag an ugly man.

I met Jamie at a party. I didn't fancy going, as I knew most of the availables would be gay, so'd be a waste of my time (see...shallow!)  but my friend had promised that we'd hit the town later if we got bored. If I remember rightly, I was standing on the terrace and I got this feeling. You know, that feeling, when you know someone is staring at you. There was this guy standing by the wall, nursing a beer.  He was tall, blond, tanned, and incredibly good looking. He just had to be gay. He waved me over. I ignored him.  I'd had enough, so turned to Kerry and suggested we made tracks. We were saying our goodbyes, when he grabbed my arm and said "Och eye hen, ye shud meet me fer a wee dram tmorra". At least I think that's what he said.

I had nothing to lose so I met him, the next day...and he wasn't gay. He was Scottish. He was vain, arrogant but oh so beautiful. Getting ready to go out he'd spend more time in front of the mirror than me. He liked women as much as I liked men and would happily engage in flirting and I'd see him writing his number on the arms of girls we'd just met. I spent a weird year in a very odd relationship with him.  We never really talked about our relationship or what we wanted from each other. It ended. Well, it kind of fizzled out. Then I met BH, so less complicated and so right.

Looking at Jamie's profile, I knew it was him immediately. I checked through his pictures and there he was as the young guy I knew. I can see he hasn't aged too well, but we all get older, don't we and I
can't hold that against him. He has a daughter, but he's not married. Maybe he was, but he isn't now. He has his hair, and maybe his teeth. He's slimmer than he was, almost skinny. I checked out his friends list. It was full of women, young, older, sexy women so I guess he still likes them. I don't  regret looking for him. I'm pleased that I found him. It put a daydream to bed and he's has awful taste in sofas!

You won't be surprised to know I didn't add him!! 


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