Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep calm and put the kettle on

Churchill might have spoken about fighting the enemy on the beaches, but I have determined that my front door is where I shall start, swiftly followed by my router and finally the TV.

No you haven’t missed something, we aren’t at war, but I am beginning to feel as if I am in a constant battle for my sense of well being.

During the war – the morale of the people was a consideration, news was suppressed and for good reason – imagine what it would have been like if they had gone into the in depth analysis and commentary that we have today, when people were dying every day on our streets?

reality sucks

I am not suggesting for one minute we suppress information, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where it was limited to facts and not the mountains of speculation.

I can’t control the universe or this country, terrorism – the very name of it, is all about inducing fear, but I can firmly put it in place by simply not reading about it, not listening to it – and not engaging in the collective sense of foreboding, propagated and stirred up by the media.

Yes, that is me in the corner singing with my fingers in my ears!

Let’s be honest, life doesn’t seem to be all that fair does it? There are some truly horrible things happening in this world – I can’t control any of it one iota, nor do have the resources to level the playing field – so I am making a stand – holding back the deluge of misery and mayhem that pervades and sucks the life out of anything remotely cheerful.

I need create a sanctuary of safety for me.

Call the midwife

Call me deluded, or an ostrich about to get a bite on the bum, but I need to feel safe – its the basic necessity according to Maslow, for me it’s about not letting the screws loose and keeping me on my rocker as opposed to off it.

When I had my first gorgeous little girl – I went a little bit crazy, well lets be honest about it I did go well round the bend to la la land, (I think sleep deprivation and hormones were partially to blame). When you hold your most precious beautiful baby, you also become aware of just how dreadful and fragile life is.

Alice in Wonderland

I censored my TV viewing, I could no longer watch casualty because the characters were always blissfully unaware of the accidents that were set to befall them – it just appeared out of the blue, with no warning! My mind could not come up with a way to protect me from the randomness of accidents – so instead it would simply go round and round in my head. I would be driving on the motorway, with a feeling that at any second my life could be different, that an accident might happen just two seconds away. I would be driving along with sweat on my brow and fingers gripped firmly – holding on to dear life and ending my journey feeling like a wet rag but grateful to be alive.

I had to learn, sometimes going through minute by minute, how to keep myself calm. How to balance my fear – how to get beyond the door step and walk down the street without feeling as if my heat was going to explode through my chest.

life is fragile

So that is why, years later, I am a little protective of what I invite into my home, I don’t let anything pass through that will feed the fear monster that sleeps like a giant only to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning.

There is a certain snobbishness about television viewing or lack of it – I do believe it has a real value in glueing our society together; remember the pride filled days of the Olympics or the sense of pure Britishness that the last night of the proms conveys. It gives us a way of connecting through a shared experience, bonds us all together – its so much easier to chat about the latest dilemma in a soap opera than discussing personal matters in the office on a Monday morning.

There is already so much stuff in the news that we don’t need lathering it on when we turn away from the real world into the realms of fantasy. I fear I am slipping into the comfy armchair of Mary Whitehouse at times! TV is full of murder and it appears to be more explicitly gruesome. Is it me or don’t people have relationships anymore? Just random sex and the women have to be single, and seeking unattached sex? New relationships, but it has to be odd to be interesting, homosexual relationships are passé its about transexuals,  government conspiracy theories, terrorism.. etc.

what is a weekend?

Ok, so that last paragraph has proved it, I am Mary Whitehouse re-incarnated.. but the point I am making.. (badly I know) is that at a subliminal level all this is having an impact on me, on my view of the world. If that is so then I want a view of a lovely country field rather than the mean streets of a inner London estate.

I am not against the media or television or the internet,  technology today gives us so much more control than the three channel viewing of my childhood spent watching programmes my parents chose because there was only one TV in the house. Remember all those terrible Saturday Specials or the Miss Worlds or even the Eurovision that kept us gripped to the edges of our seats!

I love some of the fabulous drama that has been on recently – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was simply fantastic, as is Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and of course the bake off that is starting again soon.

chummy

But by far, the very best and most wonderful resource, is BBC radio,  the envy of the world – if you haven’t explored the BBC radio app then you are in for a real treat. Radio is not as demanding as TV, you can busy yourself sewing or knitting while at the same time being transported to wonderful places and adventures. Our imaginations are far richer and deeper than any high definition screen. Somehow the radio experience, like a book feels like you are in the story rather than watching it.

There is no product placement,  blissfully no shouting adverts, you can add programmes to your favourites and listen anytime.

The Girl on the Train review

At the moment you can catch radio 4’s book at bedtime which is the brilliant Girl on the Train – what a great combination!

Radio 4 extra has some fantabulous programmes and radio drama that makes any household task a breeze. For me, it feels so much more intimate – cooking while listening to authors in the book programme, or relishing the book at bedtime while I soak in a candle lit bath.

There is nothing safer and more cosy than listening to the shipping forecast while snuggled up in a warm bed on a winter’s evening – imagining fishing boats bobbing about in Moderate North Utsire, or gale force in Fair Isle?

ahh, I feel better already… anyone for tea?

x

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Sunday stroll – from the Country to the Sea

Sunday Stroll

Sundays were very different when I was a child, only local newsagents were open to sell morning papers and sweets. There was always a sense of quiet on a Sunday, with most families heading off for walks or picnics, the streets were quiet and even noisy gardening was curtailed on a Sunday.

Rumi quote and wheat field

Sundays aren’t really any different from the rest of the week now. Family outings head to busy shopping centres; you often hear noisy grass cutting or DIY tools, there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of peace and quiet; unless you manage to find some peaceful spot, like this one!

dog walking

These wheat fields are at the height of their beauty,  green wheat slowly yielding to golden husky brown while the breeze gently ripples the heads, slowly swaying, like the field is dancing. As we wandered the paths, where the hardened earth was deeply cracked by the warm dry summer, we caught the summery scent of hay and the slight sea saltiness on the breeze.

walking the dog

We followed the path between the tall wheat, eventually coming to a small woodland path between the fields. The coolness of the trees was welcome, but it was a little battle against nettles and brambles.  The wood was narrow, creating a gap between the large fields – barely wider than the path, leading towards the sea.

beach

Despite the heat of the day – this beach is virtually deserted! The sea was warm as we paddled for a while

the sense of peace was wonderful, as the waves gently lapped over my feet.

empty beach

We had the beach to ourselves – there wasn’t even a boat on the horizon!

wheat field

Eventually, we turned around and followed another path through more wheat fields

Baliffs court hotel

To a lovely spot nearby, the lovely Bailiffs Court Hotel,

It was built in 1927 from old medieval buildings it even has a secret underground tunnel.

Tea and Cake

After our walk we were ready for a lovely pot of Darjeeling and a selection of cakes.

If only all Sundays could be a as good as this!

ttfn.

Summer Reading – Book Reviews

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This is the second Lesley Pearce book I have read, I picked this up reluctantly, I wasn’t thrilled about the last one, but was interested in this story and willing to give the author another try.

Coronation Day, 1953.
Molly Heywood has always been a pillar of strength for her local community, so when her friend Cassie fails to attend the Coronation Day party in the village, it is Molly who heads out in the rain to look for her.
But nothing can prepare Molly for what she is going to discover.
Now with Cassie gone and her six-year-old daughter Petal missing, it is up to Molly to head to London to uncover the past Cassie kept so well hidden.
But will Molly discover the truth before it’s too late? Or has Petal disappeared forever?

I found Molly a likeable character from the start, anyone who volunteers to run a children’s party has got to be nice! Cassie’s friendship broadens Molly’s outlook from the small village and she heads to the smoky streets of London not only to get a better life but to uncover what happened to Cassie’s daughter. Molly makes friends and enemies along the way and finally discovers who murdered Cassie.

I was reluctant to read another of Lesley Pearce’s novels because I find her characters a little on dimensional, they are either good or bad, with nothing in-between. I also dislike it when characters are given modern opinions – such as women’s equality and homosexuality. It just irks my sense of authenticity.

That said, this is an interesting tale, the story has its twists and turns, with a rather unexpected twist. Although I found once the mystery had been solved, the story continued along for another chapter – tying up loose ends, but for me it was simply padding.

A good read for a poolside holiday – I would classify it light hearted chic lit.

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Stephanie Lam’s stunning debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House, is a gripping read laced with mystery, secrets and love.
It’s 1965 and eighteen year-old Rosie Churchill has run away to the beautiful but run-down Castaway House in the seaside town of Helmstone. But when she uncovers a scandal locked away in the walls of the old house, she soon comes to realise that neither her own troubled past nor that of the house will stay buried for long. . .
In 1924 fresh-faced Robert Carver comes to Castaway House to spend a languid summer in the company of his much wealthier cousin, Alec Bray. But the Brays are a damaged family, with damaging secrets. And little does Robert know that his world is about to change for ever.
As Rosie begins to learn more about Robert, the further she is drawn into the mysterious history of the house, and their stories, old and new, entwine.

This was an engaging mystery, I liked the two timelines although Robert’s tale was preferable. There are a number of links that bring the two timelines together, not least the House itself, re-invented in 1965 into small flatlets. The characters were well rounded, both timelines had their twists and turns, and I was drawn into the tale easily finding it difficult to put the book down. This is a great read, I can thoroughly recommend this book for a holiday and hope the writer publishes another soon!

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Since reading the book, the Woman In Black, I have been a huge fan of Susan Hill. She is a superb spinner of gothic ghost stories – don’t confuse the book with the film, which was not a patch on her novel. She weaves a tale in classic gothic tradition mixing cosy libraries and fire lit studies with chilling ghostly shadows. Read the woman in Black, it is one of her best, but these two smaller novelettes are a wonderful introduction to her writing.

The Man in the picture is the story of a haunting tale,  the picture appears to collect victims who are mesmerised by the scene depicted.

In the apartment of Oliver’s old professor at Cambridge, there is a painting on the wall, a mysterious depiction of masked revellers at the Venice carnival. On this cold winter’s night, the old professor has decided to reveal the painting’s eerie secret. The dark art of the Venetian scene, instead of imitating life, has the power to entrap it. To stare into the painting is to play dangerously with the unseen demons it hides, and become the victim of its macabre beauty.

This tale is engaging – I love the contrasts, warm cosiness of college rooms to chilly cold nights, passionate love and black hearted obsession. I love the way her novel time periods are hard to define, but they have such an element of early 20th century when most men were gentlemen – not easily shaken. It is a great tale to read on a long winter’s evening, while the fire softly crackles and settles down.

The-Small-Hand-by-Susan-Hill1

Returning home from a client visit late one evening, Adam Snow takes a wrong turn and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiousity he decides to enter, only to be repelled when he feels the unmistakeable sensation of a small hand creeping onto his own. This is just the beginning of a series of odd experiences.

This has a more modern feel but still a male protagonist – our book dealer is not someone easily spooked, but the many incidents begin to unnerve him. All Susan Hill’s stories appear to revolve around similar characters, and I wonder if this helps us to take the ghostly apparitions seriously, men after all are supposed to be more logical and less emotional. What happens is believable, the mystery is slowly unravelled until we are left with a logical explanation and satisfying sense of justice. Definitely worth settling down for – though not in a rambling old house.

The joys of house hunting!

Box of clippings dress and button box

It has been a bit of a rollercoaster for the last 18 months, we have been trying to find a home, for various reasons we thought we would rent rather than buy. What a headache it is proving to be!

I have discovered that despite being willing to pay quite a considerable sum each month, perspective tenants are treated with distain.

Here is the following list of excuses so far before we are even allowed a viewing,

My elderly dog will wreck their beautiful home and pee all over the place. (He has never disgraced himself)

My elderly dog will viciously attack the owner’s lovely little dog, and she cannot stand the trauma. So she refuses to allow perspective tenants the same joys of dog owning she enjoys herself.

We were strung along for over two months, while the agent requested to know more about our finances than a tax inspector. Form filling, followed by more form filling, followed by more questions. Oddly enough we were expected to trawl through several years of accounts working to tight deadlines – only to be left hanging for weeks while the owner ‘decided’. They told us there were two people in the running, more questions, more waiting around for an answer. Then we were told no. So we organised more viewings only for them to return a week later with more questions. After a further two weeks we eventually phoned the Agent. They had gone with the other couple – the reason they came back to us with questions is because the ‘other couple’ they had chosen kept on failing their financial references. It was cold comfort to be told that our references were absolutely fine. The agent was simply using us to make it look as if they were doing a great job and the owners had chosen people who failed their financial referencing three times… good luck with that.

There is no redress, Agents tell you what they think you need to hear, to keep you dangling along. We are now going through the process for the 9th time – and despite a huge cash holding fee paid, yet more referencing and account details, contracts being drawn up and ready to sign the owner has had another couple put in an offer and wants to consider it. All we can do is sit back and wait, (yes that is me smiling through gritted teeth!)

Box of clippings

I have found that something that should be a joyful adventure has been an absolute lesson in detachment. There was the property where we got so far as having the key, when the owner woke up two days later and ‘changed his mind’ for no good reason other than ‘having a feeling’

I understand that renting a property has its risks, but we have often provided more information that would be necessary to obtain a mortgage and yet we are still judged and treated with scorn.

If you rent you are expected to move in within two weeks, there is no concept that we are a customer, the deadlines are tight. One agent showed us a property and we told her we were going away for a long weekend and would be in touch after that. We received a text from her the first morning of our break, ‘pay your holding fee in the next hour otherwise I am showing three people round this afternoon’ She ruined our weekend away, we had to find a bank and organise a transfer, to hold the property for us while the paperwork went through. Oddly enough despite paying nearly £500 when there was a delay on our side, she informed us that another person had looked at it that afternoon and was moving in the next day. all because we asked to delay for a week.

Box of clippings1

So I have learned to let go of the hopes and dreams you have about having our own home, and simply get on with other things. Thankfully I am going through a busy period with work.

One of the things that helps is the little boards of inspiration I make now and then, cuttings from magazines that make me feel uplifted when I see them.

It helps.

ttfn x

Critical Review – Poem

we are all fragile

This woman comes to visit

She is really quite unkind,

She tells me where I am going wrong

And where I fall behind

How everyone else

Is better than me by miles

They don’t leave washing up

or ironing in piles

She says no-one’s home

Is in such a mess as mine

With cobwebs hanging here and there

Kitchen smattered with grease and grime

She points out all my faults and failings

She really knows me well

She makes her judgements thick and fast

On my failures she likes to dwell

This woman bullies me,

Each and every day

She is wicked cruel and nasty

And has so much to say

I wish I could escape her clutches

Tell her to bother someone else

The problem is that

That woman is myself.