Sunday, 27 September 2015

Reflections from Carcassonne.

I hadn't realized that scientists had potentially discovered evidence of former signs of life on Mars. There's an awful lot in life you don't realize. That's because you don't perhaps know how to spot the signs, or don't possess the ability to see matters that go beyond explanation. It's a neat trick that's free but it's a journey that takes a while to get there. Not everyone has the patience or stomach for it.

This week I have been reflecting. That is reflecting not looking back. Huge but subtle difference and an enormous step forward in shrugging off a previous life's shackles, ones that had me tethered and unable to concentrate on what really mattered to me. My friends and family matter, not useless materialistic possessions which to me are worthless.

To be an interesting book it helps if you have a few previous pages filled with words. They may be happy and uplifting or they may contain sadness and thoughtfulness which runs deep. No matter really. They can't be erased but they can be improved upon. Everything in life can be improved, even if you think its impossible. I can't write it for you and neither can anyone else. Previously I have had people cling onto me, thinking that I can save them with my strength but I can't. I could only throw them a life jacket, the rest was down to them. Some drowned, some survived. Such is life.

So I'm reflecting now with someone I held fast to. Someone I kept above the waves and steered away from the rocks. And when we sit in contemplative silence I wonder if the next chapter of both our lives will have happy words scrawled in huge capital letters right over the page.

You can say everything and anything and it will mean nothing if you don't love your life and the people in it.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ma Maison - My Home

In an idle five minutes I type in two addresses of places I have loved and lived in.

From a tiny cottage nestling in the folds of the undulating Somerset countryside to a majestic 'maison de maĆ®tre' in South West France surrounded by vines and sunflowers. They are both online for me to view. The first has my deeply loved and treasured oil fired rayburn in classic cream, the walk in fireplace and bread oven that I unearthed, my lovingly built wooden window seats. It was deemed 'uninhabitable' but I moved in with my babies anyway. Our beautiful London home had simply been walked away from, a legacy of over speculation during the 'Thatcher years'.  I scutinize the interior carefully and note that all of the original features are still intact. The stark furnishings make me sad but years later I am still very much in evidence.

I move onto the extreme opposite, the discreet mansion that we completely renovated, again with hindsight uninhabitable, but breathtakingly beautiful also. The dream four oven Aga, the handbuilt kitchen, the restored wooden panelling that lined the wide hallways, the pool, the garden abundant with wild flowers. The present owners heavy stark furnishings and harsh colours make me shudder but years later I am still very much in evidence there too. Luckily I have pictures of how it used to be.

They are both unloved, unlived in and are not a home to any family. One is too small for todays families needs and is a holiday home and the other is too large unless you have a bottomless pit and is a loveless let for large groups. How strange then to think both were once thriving family homes full of love, parties, endless laughter, boundy dogs and steeped in memories but with plenty of tears shed in both. The houses despite being so incredibly different in size felt like 'home'. It was where you could express yourself, paint the walls whatever colour you chose, move the furniture around to suit your mood, build a wall, knock down a wall, cover it with a hundred pictures of your choosing.

You could plant only wild flowers in the garden of muted colours where butterflies could flit and dance and sit on your grandparents old wooden bench. You belonged, you had a sense of identity, security let you sleep gently at night, the four walls of the house wrapped themselves round you in the darkest hour and whispered silently as you blissfully slept.

Then one day you wake up and everything had changed. It has all gone overnight, at least it is no longer available to you so you must up sticks and leave it all behind. Say farewell to your friends and family pack a small suitcase and enter the unknown zone of 'house rental'. It is somewhere you can eat, sleep and work from. But here is the difference albeit a subtle one that only a few can understand and very few do. It will never be your home however hard you try. There are no decisions to be made because you don't own it.

This is the price you must pay when your heart has ruled your head in life. 'impractical', 'daydreamer', 'foolish', 'rash', 'brave' are some of the names I have been called when I've bought various houses throughout my life.  In each and every one of them I nutured a dream and now they are stamped with my personality.

And all of this passes quickly through my mind as a friend recently remarked how very lucky I am to be able to work from home. But is this my home I think to myself or merely somewhere that I now live. Home is surely where the heart is which is somewhat ironic as matters of the heart and working on that very subject from home may well come to fruition.

I am no longer the mistress of my own home, simply the master of my own destiny.

It really is now all down to me. Again.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A year on, a year in, a lifetime.

Moving back to England is one huge learning curve. I thought I was English until I came back and realised that everything was alien. From driving on the wrong side of the road to bakeries opening at 9am instead of 7.30am enabling you to have fresh bread for your breakfast.From no-one having a siesta to combat the exhaustive heat of the midday sun ( don't let's go there) to people eating their evening meals before 9pm and sitting inside. There is no-one having the audacity to lounge around pavement cafes enjoying a carefree bottle of wine or two.

Yes actually I do miss the South of France and my friends and family. I look back to days spent at Le Chateau and Carcassonne and it seems a lifetime ago because in reality it was all a lifetime ago and yet there are countless exotic pictures, and some not so exotic to remind me 'I did it'. And that's what makes it all so much easier to adapt, 'I've done it', I have the stories and memories that fill my head and now I'm busy creating new ones and learning afresh.

When I awake in the mornings it's not to the sound of the dust cart emptying some of the city's wine banks or the screech of a late night revellers tyres accompanied by thumping music, the bass making my thin windows rattle. I don't wonder whether I can briefly open the windows lest the air is too hot, . Here I awake to the sun rising (it can sometimes be 5.30am) and listen to the seagulls screeching overhead and I look out onto hills gently covered in sea mist.

Here, supposedly, I don't have to explain myself or apologise to anyone. People didn't enquire as to what I did with my days back in France because I never stopped moving, I simply did not have time to think. And perhaps this is what is so alien to me and so puzzling to others, I have the space to breathe, to sit down, look around and survey the landscape of life. It is both uplifting and painful in equal measures.

It is approaching the year anniversary since my life stopped hurtling along at break neck speed and I was required to climb off the merry go round and stop and evaluate what was important to me. It is a peculiar road and one that requires you travel it alone. There have been casualties along the way, but as well with the inevitable disappointments come the surprises which keeps the scenery fresh and interesting as you meander along.

You learn that you can only cover so much ground in a day and that some days/weeks it can all go horribly haywire for any number of reasons and I am having to get used to this. But there are times when it all flows so fast you can't keep up. Ideas pour forth at an alarming rate and you scrabble to keep up with them. Folders are purchased, files are opened, notepads are furiously scribbled in and you go all topsy turvy again as a fresh idea swirls around your head.

You feel like a piece of clothing going around and around in a tumble drier and that's fine with you because this is who you are, whereas you learn that some people are best pegged out on the line and left to dry...

Friday, 15 May 2015

Blogging Love.

About time I tiptoed in and gave my blog some serious TLC. Blogs are fickle creatures, like flowers and friends they need to be nurtured or they wilt and fade away. I'm full of excuses, meandering around the wilds of Scotland to observing the wild in Carcassonne. I mean, writers need inspiration, right?

So I've been catching up with old friends, laughing far too much and hugging like crazy. Oh, and scribbling, writing, pouring out the prose. And so it goes on, until one day I typed so hard and fast until the split second I reached the end of the story. Then I sat back, breathed a huge sigh and felt the most overwhelming relief that can only be felt when those two words scream back at you. The End.

And then when you have finished celebrating the awful truth hits you, this is only the beginning.

Whats one supposed to do? Go out to play. Get on your bike, focus on life through your lens, upload instagram (finally) and yes, I would love to connect with you Sally on Instagram.

Meanwhile I have to gather up my friends (those who have hung around till the bitter end), sit them down, ply them with wine and be very brave and read aloud....

And maybe catch up on some cleaning....


Thursday, 26 February 2015

I'm writing a book.

Four words that are quite simply designed to put the person on the receiving end of this statement to sleep. Watch them shift uneasily as their eye's glaze over. If they are loyal friends or loving family they will give you an encouraging smile. Don't however mistake this for interest or an overwhelming curiosity so that you rush into breathlessly giving them a rapid taster of your work in progress.

I know for a fact that were I to announce 'I'm painting a picture' then a beam of approval would be forthcoming. 'How interesting, exciting, amazing, fulfilling' may be a few responses. A few more spring to mind. 'I'm having a baby', 'I'm renovating a house', 'I'm swimming the Channel, 'I'm having an affair'. See what I mean ? you're far more likely to engage me in further conversation. Everyone is writing a book, how can they not be ? everyone has a story to tell quite probably involving having a baby, renovating a house, swimming the Channel or some other amazing act, possibly slipping in an affair for good measure. And there you have it, wallop. A story.

And the main culprit as to why I don't write as many words as I would hope for in a day is distraction. A fly buzzing round the room can be a fascinating subject should I allow my eyes to wander and chart its progress. I know how many tiny crocuses are clustered on the lawn for example, I've watched the neighbours jolly yellow daffodil heads nodding in the wind and I know how marvellous the morning light looks on the sensuous hills opposite. I love the deepening shadows as the day draws to a close. I can be fascinated by wonky chimney pots with screeching seagulls on top, sloping roofs and solid chestnut trees as they arch upwards and wait patiently for the warm air of spring to blow over them.

So that when I am asked what I have been doing all day, as sometimes I am, I can reply quite truthfully that I have been watching. I have been quietly observing, reflecting and turning stuff over in my mind.

Because I don't know if I've told you this, but, I'm writing a book.

The End.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sally's Lent.

 'Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by the Devil'

I made some rather scrumptious pancakes last night even though I say so myself, I tossed one quite high much to the amusement of the recipient.   Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is of course the chance to feast and party before the beginning of the 40 days of Lent commences on Ash Wednesday. It is observed all over the world whether it be street parties in Trinidad,  Cajun Mardi Gras or dancing with the devil in Bolivia.  A time, (supposedly) when we 'give up' something that perhaps for the rest of the year we indulge in. A period in which to nurture your spiritual growth.

I tentatively asked a selection of people what they would be personally foregoing for 40 days. 'Nothing' they replied, 'what is the point'? 'Chocolate perhaps' I suggested. This was met with an indignant stare.  'What are you going without' they pointedly asked. I thought about this one quite carefully. 'Nothing' I replied as I thought back to times in the past when frankly my family and I had gone without more than most, things perhaps that people I know take purely for granted and I became secretly rather agitated. And there again there were times when we had had more than most so mine is a personal dilemma between abstaining for all the right reasons rather than because I am told to or feel I should.

I realised too that I was rather 'hazy' about Lent in general, too caught up in my own life and immediate surroundings to stop and ponder so I poked around a little on the Internet and found it was seething with conflict and drowning in a babble of nasty self opinionated voices by people seeking cheap publicity by denouncing other people's beliefs. There were also countless suggestions of what you could go without, but my favourite, and the one I am going to try and achieve is to give rather than go without something that is only beneficial to me.

I got through Day 1 easily, just another 39 to go then..... This will take both time and thought and won't be without a little effort which is what the point of the entire exercise is I guess.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities, take hold of the controls, steer your own course and be the master of the road ahead. Once you do this you will give to others without even realising it.

So far so good......


Monday, 9 February 2015

Walk to Broadchurch, Dorset.

My interest was immediately piqued when I saw this chap standing alone. There was something about the way he held himself, the casual aloofness, the confident manner as he nonchalantly ignored my presence even though I crept quite close to see if I could arouse his interest. Even though he was a mere cock, albeit a rather fine one,  I couldn't help but compare him to people that I know and to secretly admire his independence.

There is something suspicious, in my opinion, of people who cannot bear to be alone. Not the awfulness of and soul destroying feeling of loneliness. Indeed there is an achingly painful divide between feeling loneliness and contemplative solitude, but people relishing their own company and being content without the need of constant distraction and amusement have my admiration. 

I don my wellies and prepare for a muddy trek. Oh how I have missed my mud, the biting cold wind that cuts you to the quick, the starkness and brutality of the trees branches against the watery winter sky. But today is surprisingly gentle, snow drops bow their gentle heads in the surprisingly warm sunshine, crocuses wriggle their brightly coloured bodies out of the soft soil to join other delicate spring flowers in subtle shades of lemons, lilacs and dreamy creams.

I head for West Bay, otherwise now known as 'Broadchurch' after the popular TV series which will undoubtably bring even more people flocking down to the beautiful 'Jurassic Coast'. I have mixed feelings about West Bay. You have to look beyond the insensitive architecture, both past and recent, which sit alongside the unique and breathtaking sheer rockface. Bite a Crunchie bar in half and you have the honeycomb layers that tower over its beach.

 It's an odd mixture of wonky wooden chalets perched on the mouth of the River Brit as it flows down to the tiny working harbour, otherwise known as Bridport Harbour.  You have to elevate yourself above the pervading smell of fish and chips if they're not quite 'your thing'. There's a real knack to being a relative pauper and living like a king. If you can grasp this handy concept in life its a real bonus, so that the mundane becomes magical and the harsh truth is that no amount of money can buy you this gift.

I just possess it.