posted on: Thursday, 26 June 2014

I am the world's WORST at sentimentality. Every past event can have a nostalgic air for me, even events that are better put in the 'been there, done that' box and pushed onto a high shelf. This makes me particularly bad at goodbyes and even worse at accepting change (as is well documented). Last night we went back to my children's old school, the one they attended before they both changed two years ago. Those readers with school-age children might get this; somehow certain schools become synonymous with a whole bundle of feelings about childhood and so returning is the most acute type of remembering. The realisation of how much my children have grown up.

The school they left really was a special place, smaller than the schools they both go to now, respectively. But there were some issues with it and it was time to move on, so we took the opportunity and made the change for my son. For my daughter, she was graduating on to senior school anyway, but still, it was a heart-wrenching shift that I was in the middle of here.

So these rose-tinted spectacles that I wear everywhere - should I want to take them off?! I observe friends who are less inclined to be sentimental and I have to say that life, and its ever-changing patina, seems easier for them. My friend Dawn (much loved Godmother, lives in the Netherlands) has lived in four different countries in her adult life, immersed herself in each, made good friends and then has left; moved on and each time in a positive, forward-motion kinda way. I do envy her! I would be in pieces and maybe, I ask myself, this is why I have lived in the same town (except for a University-induced hiatus) for most of my life. There is a lot to be said for not wearing those spectacles!

But for all I wish I could be less soft, it is that softness that makes me the one who can always remember every little detail of what has past. The things I hold dear. When I can't sleep, I think of all the houses I have ever lived in and remember all of the details of the rooms; the light, the furniture, what it felt like to ascend the stairs, the rooms as I happened across them. I can get so detailed that it transcends from something to help me sleep to something that hinders me. But I quite enjoy the process.

And as ever with me, it always comes back to outfits; I wrote yesterday about seeing my Mum wear silk, I can absolutely recall countless details of things she has worn. The snuggle of a fur collar when I was young enough to be carried. The softness of a sarong at a sandy beach (and the smell of Delial suncream), burgundy, velvet Jordache flares from the 1980's that I SO wish she had kept ;-) I thought they looked like something out of Charlie's Angels...

This is why I now keep many, many clothes that I no longer have any business wearing; just in case my daughter has some strong association with them or wants to rock them at a 2000's party in years to come. Who knows? But ultimately I wonder whether this nostalgic lilt is born or learnt? Both of my children express the same longings about revisiting the past as me. Ooops - maybe they have those spectacles too?!

Wisdom and me...

posted on: Thursday, 19 June 2014

If you meet someone who helps you - like I did when I found a dentist who didn't think I was mad for complaining about tooth pain for three years when it could not be clinically diagnosed - stick with them. I have this sometimes misguided loyalty to people I have known for years; I am starting to learn that it's healthy to make a change. Stuff changes. People change. It's OK.

I had to question my own bravery this week where I got stuck on a canal tow path facing an angry, very protective male swan. He had a family of six cygnets nearby (and the Mother swan) and he was not going to let me by. I spent a good forty minutes trying to work out how to get myself and the puppy past him without getting attacked. Honestly I thought I was brave; I now see actually less so! In the end I had to call a friend to come pick me up. I admitted defeat, not wanting to add 'surviving swan attack' to my list of endeavours.

My son, when we were driving to school, remarked that I had a 'secret day dreamy' life. I had been telling him about what I was thinking about and of course - for me - it was an eclectic selection of musings. I am a secret day dreamer. I took this to be a high accolade indeed.

And on the topic of day dreaming...this paints a pleasing picture of happiness. I am acutely conscious that my day dreams sometimes have a fretful side (isn't this blog a testament to that?!). If I could wish for one thing it would be to stop worrying so much. Seems that no matter how much life wisdom you pick up along the way, habits are habits and they die hard.

Still no passport; it's becoming a white knuckle ride now as we travel in a few weeks and the backlog for renewing passports is not diminishing. A depressing interlude when speaking to the advice centre. Why call it an 'advice centre' when they don't offer advice? No choice but to wait it out. Hold your nerve, basically. The lesson learnt - don't send your passport for renewal in the summer. I was not so wise after all...

I forgot I had leopard shoes; how lovely to go back to them after an absence. The joy of rediscovering lost shoes.

I filled out a form this week and it said: Occupation: Hah! I hesitated, considered putting 'housewife' but decided I don't live in the 1950's, so no. Then I considered putting my old vocation, then decided no, as one can't be defined by one's past.  In the end I wrote: 'None!' and felt happy about that. It's been nearly a year since I left my job; sometimes a new direction is what you need. Sometimes, it's OK to just concern yourself with flowers and bottles and making life seem clean and clear.

image by natasha calhoun

Keep thinking white...

posted on: Tuesday, 17 June 2014

There's progress on the house front. The oil contamination is nearly eliminated (we had a leak; this is BAD news in building and environmental terms). Things have moved slowly but thankfully the process has worked and despite being surrounded by a moat, and having countless cubic metres of water flushed under our foundations, our old house is still standing. Every thing in this house needs something doing. There seems to be no area that is untouched by the ravages of time. Buy an old house: it's a money pit. This week, more excavations. Our kitchen is being relocated, so that a drain can be decommissioned and used as an oil-flushing route. All change is good change (isn't it?) so I am holding on to that! I laugh in the face of easy building projects. This one, it seems, is going to be epic with complications from start to finish. I can't in fact even imagine a finish. But meanwhile, I just keep pinning pictures of white interiors and hoping for the best!!!!

My husband warned me that I shouldn't 'fall out of love' with our house; he is in it for the long haul. I have not fallen out of love, but let's say that I am contemplating a break! It's hard to love your surroundings when they conspire against you. But it will all be worth it in the end and if nothing else, we are putting right a lot of wrong things, restoring and making good.

Meanwhile in other matters, I woke up this morning and decided that I should own a silk kimono. This prompted by Boo, who got one at the weekend. I live in constant awareness that one can't dress like ones teenage daughter (my new mantra in life) but she does sometimes pick something that I would never have considered. How nice to loll about the house in a kimono. This, I must do.

An interesting conversation with her last night about the Olsen sisters. She wondered how these teen actresses could have changed so much and why did they look 'so weird'? I eventually got to the bottom of what she meant; it was that their faces that had changed, either through surgery or from being too thin. A good discussion ensued about how being really thin can be really bad. I try to never write disparagingly here about other women; I think the Olsen sisters did once look lovely. But now - they do look kinda haunting. I think it was good that Boo could recognise the difference.

And so back to white-washed rooms, which are my place of mental sanctuary. I read about painting wooden floors with boat paint, as is the custom in Nantucket apparently. It gives a high-shine finish and gets better with age. This sounds lovely to me - if it doubt, paint it white. There is something so calming about the idea. Life-trodden boards. This may actually be a fanciful notion rather than sound reality (a bit like a kitchen table strewn with last night's wine bottles and this morning's jam pots - a nod to a bohemian lifestyle - which in effect can just look, well, messy). I am willing to give the boat paint a go - even though our architect thinks I am slightly nuts and I have not any concrete evidence that it works. But if they do it in Nantucket, then that must be good, right?

Pink champagne on ice*...

posted on: Friday, 13 June 2014

Really happy. It's been a good week. Did a lot and saw a lot. It was my son's sports day at his school; 300m and high jump. We had lots of discussion about being sporting and taking part but at the end of the day; he wanted to win. He came second, so he was disappointed and I was amazed afresh at the masculine requirement to excel. I am not saying there is no feminine equivalent, just that in some boys it is so unadulterated. He did come to accept that he was not the victor as the other boy won fair and square, but nevertheless he would have loved to have been 1st. It's all about the accolade for my boy. Some schools shun competition. His doesn't. I am torn as to whether this is a good or bad thing. Life has competition; so should school?

I took delivery of the Nutribullet - OH MY GOD! It's the coolest, simplest thing. On its inaugural outing we had spinach, cucumber, blueberry and banana with a handful of linseed. I feel the health oozing out. I know I am faddish when it comes to these things but maybe this time, this gadget really will make the difference? It's just so easy. No excuses. Check in with me in a month and let's see if it's become essential to me as earl grey tea.

I had some really interesting comments to my last post about teenagers and social media. I feel so strongly about this issue, it makes me want to start a movement. How does one start a movement?? Thank you for your interest and your empathy.

I had a pedicure; always makes me happy.

I thought I was generally happier when I was coveting some item or other of clothing. But I also find that the sheer exercise of browsing, even 'adding to cart' can ally a desire. How odd. But I hear I am not alone; there are middle aged women everywhere adding to cart. It's a release...

In the one time there is a national crisis with passport applications, my passport has been sent off to be renewed. Doh. I am literally praying it returns next week...or else Florida Disney is in jeopardy.

Those of you with dogs will understand the daily dog walk and its regularity. I try to vary location but sometimes, some days, it feels like a chore. I think this until I am about five minutes in, and then I am thankful I went. There is something life-affirming about walking every day, no matter the weather. Yesterday I met an elderly gentleman who was weeding a public foot path. I kinda hope that when I am 80 I take it upon myself to weed a public place. He started telling me that he studied Botany at Oxford in the 1950's and then spent time in the Caribbean, running a plantation where 60 men worked for him. He had been 26. It made me think that everyone has a life story to tell; his particularly rich.

We have a weekend of nothing much planned; if the weather holds we will go to the beach hut for an evening BBQ or bike ride and a pub. My husband has been away and now he's home so that makes me happy.

Happy Friday...

* This is a lyric from Hotel California by The Eagles - I heard it in the car and thought it sounded so decadent. I would like to have pink champagne on ice in some beautiful hotel, somewhere hot...

via here

Social media horror...

posted on: Wednesday, 11 June 2014

This is a topic I haven't written about extensively here, as honestly, it does not fit with the normal, gentle musings of life I piece together; yoga and dog walks. However, sometimes something has to give and I am interested to see whether I am alone in my perception.

In the last year I have gone from having a daughter who is a child to a daughter who is a young adult. And she is into social media. In most cases, from a parental perspective, this is what happens when it comes to the introduction of technology and social media:

You have a toddler and at idle moments they like to 'play' with your phone; they like the colours and maybe you have a couple of kiddy-friendly games they can mess around with. At about six or seven they might sit at the family computer and play word games and you feel OK about this as it's vaguely educational. They might even graduate onto owning a Nintendo DS or some similar tablet-style device. Maybe a Kindle which has browsing capability. Maybe as they approach nine or ten, you have a family iPad that they can use and of course you have parental controls on everything.

Then they get a phone.

In this country this seems to coincide with going to senior school which happens for the majority at age 11, for some at 13. Getting a phone is the single biggest deal in the life of an 11 year old, although as a parent, you don't realise this at the time. Or at least I didn't. Suddenly they have a way to chat their friends (or anyone else for that matter), to look stuff up, to communicate in a way they never have before. And despite your best intentions, that phone becomes THEIR domain. It's their device. You might periodically check it and pay the bill but you'll see that the phone is their constant companion and given half the chance would be in use during every minute of every day. I have seen some teens where this is not the case, but as a general rule, most teens LOVE their phone.

I do consider myself to be fairly technology-savvy. Fifteen years working for one of the world's biggest and most influential technology companies saw to that. Plus I 'get' social media; I write a blog, I am on Facebook, I use Instagram and utilised Twitter as a very useful business tool when the need arose. I also get that you can form relationships on line in a way that many people don't understand. So I guess you could say I am an adopter.

But when I observe the way my daughter uses social media, and her friends, I can see that this thing we have created and nurtured over the past five years has become a monster! I only see a small side of it but try to stay pretty aware of what she is doing, who she is talking to, what she is looking at. I would hazard a guess that a great deal of parents have NO IDEA what their kids look at. Absolutely no clue. Unless you are on those apps, you'll never get a window into it. Every app she gets I automatically get, as a direct, synced download, so I try to stay up on it. I know parents who don't even have an iPhone, let alone apps.

And when it comes to what they are looking at - I am telling you - you'd be shocked! We have parental controls on our computer. But what you can't control is what is searched for within an app. So in Instagram for example, which is used by a great many children and young teens, you can search under a 'hash tag' and no one will ever know and there is no filter. No parental control can stop that.

You know how curious young minds can be? It strikes me that there is such an irony that we police our children watching films that are rated 'PG' or '12', yet everyday through the phone, images and concepts that would not look out of place in an '18' or 'X' rated film are readily available. You know when someone describes a horror film to you and you can (within the confines of your imagination) conjure up an idea of what it's like? But to watch that horror film is different; the images are presented to you and then they are there, like a stain on the mind's eye. I would liken this to the images on social media.

Anything you ever imagined and a lot you didn't, is there. And even worse, there is a pervasive action of clicking 'like' when you see such an image. They have no idea how grotesque it is to 'like' an image of humiliation or self-harm or starvation to the point of hospitalisation, even suicide. For children who are vulnerable or open to suggestion, the glorification of suffering can become habitual. You will hear of teenage girls and boys flocking around the 'drama' of a peer in distress and this is all playing out in their on-line world. To be vilified on line or to be 'unfollowed' is a public humiliation that no parent can soothe.

I write this in the knowledge that you may draw conclusions about me and even worse about my kids. I suppose I share because I am comfortable that I am aware and I observe these behaviours through a wide range of young people, friends and friends of friends. It is not limited and it seems no one is immune; no socio-economic group, no facet of Western society.

The easy (and rather glib) answer is to just confiscate the phone. That is indeed one way. But would that really solve the problem? I can't pretend that this on line world doesn't exist! It does. That would be equivalent to not playing music and abhorring Elvis in the 1950's, because some felt he danced in a sexually suggestive way. Is this simply the modern equivalent? As with most things, until you're in it, you can't authoritatively suggest what to do about it.

My daughter comments that I 'patrol' her phone life and to some extent, I do. This is of sufficient worry to me to stay close to it. But this can be a full time job and equally as I have written here before, she has to make her own mistakes, have her own privacy and I can't be there every step of the way. And whilst I may paint a bleak picture, a lot of the stuff kids do is pretty cool - honestly if I could have had a 5-way video face-time session before getting ready for a disco, I so would have!

What I do think is that her generation have met with a perfect storm of the social media phenomenon. I accept that it has been a wonderful invention and some aspects of it are so life-enriching I can't imagine being without them. Surely there is a ground swell of realisation about the potential horrors of social media, and eventually (hopefully) it will become more understood and more legislated.

As with all parenting matters, there is no right or wrong answer. You have to trust your instincts and hope for the best. Does anyone have any suggestions? I am all ears...

Baby steps...

posted on: Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Yea, so we went to see One Direction. Think 7 hours in the car and 90,000 screaming girls. It was an interesting evening. But they were so good and because she loves them, I love them. I am harbouring a 40 year old crush on Harry. I know it's really inappropriate. But it was kinda exciting when he sang and fireworks went off and streamers flew out in time with the music. I heart concerts; they make you feel alive. I just need to go to one where the average age is not 14.

I ran 7K this morning. I normally run 5K and quit because that is just my distance. It takes half an hour and then I am done. Today I kept on running and actually, though I ache now, that extra distance felt good.

We did yoga outside on Monday, at my friend's beautiful boat-side house, overlooking the still, calm water. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live where I live.

I am planning a beach summer. Boo is booked in for surf tuition and if the weather is good I want to spend as much time as possible by the sea.

Allegedly the builders are to return to our house tomorrow after a month's hiatus. The sludge green pond outside my kitchen window has not abated but I am told they are going to sort it. One step closer.

Meanwhile the 'what am I doing with my life?' sensibility has watered down to: 'what shall I do with my day?' Baby steps. I am wondering whether actually what I need is a new challenge but suspect that getting a job is not what I am looking for right now. I have observed many friends take up physical training for marathons or triathlons or 100 mile walks and I wonder if that is it? I feel like I could try to get really, really healthy and fit and see what happens. I have dabbled with this before but never truly, properly embraced it. I have the time. I could so do it...

And finally, I am pondering whether I am too old for ripped cut-offs?

Let's talk it out...

posted on: Friday, 6 June 2014

I have concluded that key moments in my life are defined by outfits. I have an uncanny recollection of what I (and everyone else) wore at certain times. This is one of those useless skills that I carry around; I am sure it will never have a real use, unless I am the witness to a crime and need to judge an identification parade '...he wore a navy duffel coat!'

I am struck though, at how this observational skill permeates my everyday life. How, if you were to ask, I can remember the EXACT outfit I wore to i) my thirteenth birthday (ra-ra skirt, pastel polka-dot), my graduation (beige skirt suit, circa 1995), our engagement party (black hipsters and a crop top - I was 25!), and when pregnant (leather maternity pants from 'Pea in the Pod' in Boston - I thought I was the bee's knees, newly pregnant, and rocking leather).

Elephantine memory.

When I was at University - a veritable hotbed of fashion disasters - I recall pink angora jumpers and thigh-high socks with checked mini skirts (really). Given that as students, we had no money, we still managed to go out and buy a 'night out' outfit which usually consisted of a top that vaguely went with Levi 501's.

Now of course it is all much more pared back, but I wonder if in years to come I will look back on 2014 and think: what the hell was I wearing??!

Meanwhile, I've stumbled across some new blogs that are written by the 20-something blog sorority. I am all for new blogs; sometimes you just need to look at something fresh. These girls are getting married and forging ahead with their careers. I think back fondly to that time in my life and had there been such a thing as blogging, I SO would have done it.

Also, I got on the 'Linkedin' bandwagon this week in an attempt to maintain my professional credibility. I am doing some consulting work for a small local business and I thought I had better be grown up about it. Linkedin is a phenomenon. Because it is so grown up and career-related, it tells you who has viewed your profile (I believe it's called 'networking' hah) and so every click becomes a discoverable act. It's so unlike every other kind of social media, where you can stalk at your will.

It did occur to me that no matter how serious I am in my professional life, the fact that I still write here about frippery like outfits and my inner-most thoughts would suggest that I am not a serious person. I wonder how these 20-somethings do it? Everything they ever did has been recorded; they don't know a world where it has been any other way. Does this mean they don't have the self-consciousness that I clearly have about my multi-faceted on line identity? One to consider...

It's Friday, I have been to circuit training, walked the dog and am off to see One Direction tonight with a gaggle of teenage girls. Thank goodness I have a friend to accompany me; last time I went I felt rather conspicuous standing alone as my daughter inched away from me. A stark realisation that you are cramping your offspring's style ;-)

I've been back in the swing this week and it has felt so good; I really did fall off the wagon when I was unwell. I know things are back to normal as I am again lusting after summer clothes. I ordered some Birkenstocks - which again is testament to the power of suggestive imagery. I saw my friend sporting some on Facebook, then I saw them on Pinterest, then I thought - time to purchase, click, click. There is a lot of commentary about them at the moment and their resurgence (I had them before - see above regarding 90's fashion; will this be the same?).

Meanwhile, just because, I leave you with this...happy weekend.

But I rallied and in the end it was fine...

posted on: Tuesday, 3 June 2014

It's June already? Seriously? 2014 is rifling by. In the fields where I walk the grasses are now waist-high, making it quite difficult to wade through. The puppy has even taken to looking for a clear path. We might have to decamp to the beach for unencumbered walks.

Meanwhile my son asked me: 'Mummy, if pillows were real, could they hear your dreams?' The idea of him musing this point melts my heart, wondering if his feather pillows were in fact full of his dreams, all mushed in together. He then picked me some fresh lavender from the garden so I could have it next to my bed. Oh, to be nine.

At thirteen, my daughter is going through a good patch. This is a welcome interlude after the struggles of this past many months. I wonder whether I have found it hard because it has coincided with my not working and so I have simply noticed more. But then I check myself and realise that no; regardless this transition from child to teenager has been fraught. I feel like I have caught up with myself now and can see it for what it is. But as a mother, it's been a shocker. I read this blog post which resonated hugely. You have to be on your toes with a teenager in the house; always ready to i) answer a tricky question, ii) make a decision on an activity that might not be entirely in your or her interests (sleepovers, parties, boys) or iii) drive her somewhere. Everything comes thick and fast. I am holding up, with a little help from my friends, and knowing everyone is in the same boat is comforting. And on Friday, I take her to see One Direction in concert! Yes, me and a gazillion screaming teenagers. Last time we saw them I actually thought I would have to leave and wait outside; I have never heard a noise like it in my life! But I rallied and in the end it was fine...

A friend mentioned the health benefits of one of these and now I WANT one. This is so typical me. Our house is littered with appliances and devices that should have rocked my world and now languish in cupboards. But this one just might be the one! I have a juicer but I hate the process and the mess. Apparently a Nutribullet is easy and has no mess and is super good for you (so much fibre!). Any thoughts?

Despite the calendar month, the sun has barely made an appearance so I hanging on to being able to one day wear a summer wardrobe. For now, it's still jeans jeans jeans.

I made a welcome return to yoga yesterday after being unwell. It felt amazing to get back. Good thoughts on getting fit are written here by my friend Simone

I wanted to say thank you for all of the kind comments and wisdom you have left me lately. It never goes unheard and I always take each piece and think about it afterwards. Without knowing, you've got to know me.