Self Compassionate Diet and finding the Erotic in every day.

tea-in-bed

It has been an interesting journey recently – last week I came down with a flu type bug which resulted in spending a lot of time in bed, sleeping resting and delightfully, reading.

It is no coincidence that my illness follows a month or so of stress, worry and a busy workload, but when I woke up on Tuesday morning, with every part of my body aching so much that it hurt to simply walk – I could do nothing else, but rest.

This year has been a joyful one in many ways, when I set out to follow the Romancing the Ordinary, I did not expect it would open out so many areas of my life – call it synchronicity, or  serendipity, but I have discovered some wonderful books recently.

 

You may already know that I have been feeling uneasy about the weight gain I had in the last three years, but I am not really a dieter. My upbringing was so strict and disciplinarian that the adult rebels anything that imposes rules and regulations.  What I eat isn’t the greatest challenge, I think it is something to do with why I eat and how I eat that makes me gain weight.

To focus on the outward only – as in reducing calorie intake has always sparked bingeing and the self reproach that goes with it. Dieting and along the exercise programmes feel like punishment – which is not the best way to make life long changes.

Who on earth wants to spend their lives disconnected from all that gives them comfort and joy?

I read Dr Moseley’s 8 week blood sugar diet – and began to follow the diet plan – until one day, I found myself looking longingly at a bunch of bananas. My body wanted a banana more than anything else and the berating bully shouted NO NO in my head. A day later I had a binge of eating not just a banana but spent a sublime 20 minutes messily eating a mango – it was delicious! (Bananas and mangos are forbidden in the diet, as is most carbohydrates). Maybe I need to read a diet plan that forbids salads, fresh fruit and vegetables?

food-and-love

The quote above is in both books I am reading at the moment, The Compassionate Diet and  Soul and Spirituality is about bringing the Erotic into the every day…yes, you did read that correctly, erotic and soul in the same sentence!  It is all about the senses, with little essays about each sense inviting a connection to the delicate sensual experiences from our body which are mostly overlooked or simply ignored. Sadly, the only time I give my body attention is when it lets me down, when I am in pain or suffering.

For me, who has spent a great deal of my life disconnected below the shoulders, connecting with the body is the first step to really getting to grips with food. I’ve forgotten what real hunger feels like and sometimes I am eating watching TV that I am not aware that I am full.

I have been practising Yoga for a little while now, one day I felt a sudden heat rising through my spine, and it took the exercise onto a whole different level. Yoga invites me to really inhabit my body, every single inch of it – right down to my toes. It is that awareness of this wonderful vessel that serves our soul, the first bitter sip of a latte, the feel of soft grass wet with dew between your toes, the tender warmth of a hand holding mine. This discover offers a tiny strand of hope – that I can discern what is an emotional hunger and what is genuine, belly gurgling hunger. Exploring the sensations of the body, which this week has been painful and sore, has been necessary!

the-power-of-loving-kindness

The Self Compassion Diet is not a prescriptive diet plan as such, you won’t find diet recipes here, but you do get a menu of options to approach weight loss from the inside out: Self Compassion, Hypnosis, Mindfulness, Social Support  and Continuing education. You can pick one or pick them all. I am beginning with Self Compassion – and it is making a difference already.

Diets usually come with a list of prohibited foods as I have already mentioned, – do’s and don’ts which seems a great approach – I have a clear idea of what I am supposed to do and, for a time, while my motivation is high, I get a sense of achievement. But life isn’t like that, I get bored or there times of stress where I need comfort… which usually takes the form of sweetness for me.  Then I have no-where to go, I’ve broken the rules, in the world of good and bad, I am now a bad person because a good person never slips up. You see how it all becomes so negative. And don’t get me started on my inner critic who just loves to join the party and tell me what a failure I am, and how I will just end up getting bigger and bigger….. ENOUGH.

mindfulness

Self compassion isn’t like that, there is no black and white – it is accepting where you are without judgement. Self compassion sees us for what we are; we don’t have to be saint or sinner, we are loved and accepted as we are. We don’t have to walk on a tightrope, we can simply acknowledge that we will fail sometimes – that is part of life, it is how things are, we made a mistake but who doesn’t? Let it go and continue towards the goal… doesn’t that feel more achievable?

To put it another way, if you are training for a marathon which coach would you prefer? One that is like an Army Sergeant – yelling at us, berating us at ever step and challenging us that whatever we do is not good enough? Or think of the kindest person you know, the person who makes you feel good about yourself, but gently encourages and nurtures the small steps we take.

self-kindness

While I might not be able to follow the 8 week blood sugar diet, I can still accommodate the desire to reduce my dependency on sugar. I set my intention to reduce the amount of sugar in my food, and I acknowledge that there is a deep seated part of me that needs something sweet and comforting in times of stress. So, I have been exploring ways to nurture and satisfy that – so when I reach for the biscuit tin it is full of home made biscuits that offer more of a satisfying energy boost.

Like all things when you follow your heart, the universe offers such fabulous opportunities  – this weekend I was invited to a food demonstration on how to reduce refined sugar in your diet, from two lovely ladies who are ‘food coaches’, I’ve never heard of a food coach before. In two short hours I came away with fabulous recipes for delicious, sweet and nutritious foods.. I will share with you soon, I promise. Especially the low sugar, non fat chocolate pudding… yum!

 

 

Promises Promises!

self-help-books

It is a hefty stack of books – just pulled from my shelves (most of my stuff is in storage so this is not the entire stack!)

These are all promises… and, because I like to be honest with you, these are broken promises. Most of these have gathered dust on the shelf – after an initial flick through they have been filed under ‘something to do one day…’ the problem, as you may already know is that ‘one day’ is never ‘today’.

This is the time of year when; urged by the media, we sit with that beautiful blank page diary and see opportunity. January offers a tantalizing chance to change which, in my case, reverts to a failure hangover mid January – which is the most depressing time of the year.

Maybe you don’t collect books, maybe you collect fabric, or wool or paper as a promise that one day you will actually use them. Yet, and I am confident that I am not alone on this, craft materials, books all sorts of promises and dreams pile up without ever being used.

Last year, a lovely man got in touch with me, he needed help as his wife, an avid and talented crafter, had passed away. I visited his home to see a huge collection of items that filled their home – and it really brought home to me that time is not infinite.

So.. over the next few days I hope to sit and make one more promise to myself.

I will give myself time – to sift about for what really matters to me and that begins with disconnecting from the ‘collective’ more commonly known as ‘media’

You see, I have noticed of late, that while Pinterest appears to be something creative – it is counterproductive for me.  All the time I spend pinning could be time I am actually doing something. And there are times when my creations that I was so proud of a moment ago, hold up very badly against the talented souls on Pinterest. The pins that appear in my feed are from people with extraordinary talent – where are the ordinary folk like me? Oh and while I am on the subject -I have also lost count of the times I have followed a link to a website where the original idea is lost among the advertising… (ok I will stop there before my rant gets any stronger)

While it is also great to fill my feed with spiritually uplifting groups – they are counteracting each other. I have created a vision board and imagined a new wonderful life, but I also realise that another way to happiness is mindfulness..and what is so wrong with my life right now anyway?

I love the concept of minimalism but it contradicts the creative in me – do you really need another drawing? or a painting? a new vintage style dress or a pot holder?

I like the concept of The Secret that we attract what we project… but have an issue with all illness or conflict in our lives is our own creation… how then does a baby create cancer?

So without a bit of a diet from these things it is hard to get out my head what is sparking my inner magpie and what is sparking my soul. Two very different things.

With the Christmas break falling so well this year, I have lots of time available.. so here goes. I am switching off the computer now… promise!

 

 

Careful what you wish for… a lesson in minimalism

I have been interested in the concept of minimalism for some time now.  I have been enjoying reading a wide range of bloggers on the subject, made easier by using the iPad app. (it is wonderful, I can’t believe I hadn’t used it before!)

Quilt

When we moved last year, I was shocked at the huge quantity of craft materials I had accumulated over the years. It is surprising how much I had squirrelled away in nooks and crannies, but when I finally got a large studio space in which to set it all out, the room was soon full to overflowing. It did connect me with a lot of UFOS, one of which was this quilt above. I resolved not to buy any more fabric until some of these things were used or finished. It was quite satisfying, because this quilt took no more than a few hours to complete, it was the same for many other little projects.

We live in a very sought after area, it had taken us 18 months to find a property having had many struggles and blips in the process – but despite taking a lease for 2-3 years, we discovered that the landlord wanted to raise the rent by nearly £500 per month! without much notice… in fact the new agreement was overdue. We decided to look elsewhere and found the most delightful house and organised to pack up and move. I don’t know if any of you rent, but Agents give you days not weeks to move!

So, the moving day arrived, I headed to work as Scott was arranging the removal with a local company – imagine what a shock it was to discover that the new Landlord had taken a dislike to the fact we were self employed and had decided, at the 11th hour, not to let the property at all…..!

All our stuff went into storage… we checked into a nearby hotel and suddenly the concept of minimalism became a big reality. We ended up having to buy underwear and a few items of clothing in order to get through the next few days! We faced a choice, either move back into my flat or go house hunting again … at the time I was due to go to the hospital to investigate the lump in my breast so I decided that it was best to return to the flat and have a bit of stability for a while.

It  has been an interesting lesson – shockingly all our stuff required three storage units – and many of the boxes had not even been unpacked in a year! We decided to spend just one afternoon sorting through and bringing ‘essentials’ to the flat.

It was fascinating to see what I missed and what we deemed essential.

Initially furniture to sit on! We had one armchair and a rocking chair, (which was not very comfortable at all!) so it was an absolute pleasure to see the return of my sofa bed. It was bliss to see the washing machine and tumble dryer!

My clothes were a sight for sore eyes! Although only about a third of them came back to the flat with me – the flat is a quarter of the size of the house!

So over the last few months there has been a bit of a mantra.. oh that is in storage!

For example, I thought I would make a shepherd’s pie and was almost finished before I realised I hadn’t a pyrex dish to put it in. Or I decided to do baking one day, but it was impossible without scales! We have been rather lucky to find these things in charity shops, but it has been an interesting few months.

 

Mostly it is my sewing tools that I find I miss – my cutting grid, or my rotary cutter! We were going to friends for Christmas this year, so I decided to make my own crackers – including felt hats.. which all had to be hand stitched as I did not have my glue gun!

I miss our large tea pot, the Christmas Decorations, my essential oils, the sellotape dispenser!

I did not realise either, just how much I miss my books, in the end I bought another copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Romancing the Ordinary, because I could not bear to be without it.

It has been a sifting exercise, a reality check – and it has surprised me at times what I missed and what I didn’t.

What is clear to me, is how blessed I really am and how many things in life might not be essential – but they are small things that make life pleasurable.

What do you think you couldn’t live without?

 

Birthday Blues

birthday cake

Birthdays are an odd sort of mix aren’t they?

Our childhood frames a structure around celebrations – it is our day to feel ‘Special’ where we are surrounded by our friends and family. Big parties, people showing us how much we are cared about, cake, cards and presents.  I remember lovely childhood Birthday parties – I once had a magician who pulled a live rabbit out of a hat – there was always cake and singing and that lovely glow of feeling special.

presents

As an adult it is hard to maintain, life just isn’t like that, is it? Our friends have busy lives, family may not always be able to drop everything. We may have to go to work. The day does not revolve around us – our parents aren’t there to make it special.  Our loved one might not understand the complexities of the emotional baggage that surrounds that one day marking our entry into the world. As much as I hate to admit – Birthdays leave me in emotional turmoil every year.

Childhood memories are mixed, my Birthday was a bit of a burden arriving just after Christmas and the New Year. Aunts and Uncles would inform me that my Christmas present were more expensive than my siblings, because they had combined my Birthday and Christmas into one big gift, but I knew it was a lie. Early on, I envied siblings who had Birthdays in Spring or Summer without being overshadowed by Christmas and the New Year. It bothered me so much that I made sure my children were Spring babies!

Icing on the cake

It is surprising how much anxiety I have had over the years about celebrating my Birthday, I hate that it arrives at the one time of the year when, quite frankly, I am tired of feasting and rich food and I am all partied out. I am also aware that most people have stretched themselves to pay for Christmas – to burden everyone with yet more present giving makes me feel uncomfortable.

This is an awful situation – friends and colleagues knowing its your Birthday and wether they feel like giving you a present or a card. I am not very comfortable receiving, it is embarrassing. But what if they don’t? What if I plan a party and no-one comes, what if my friends choose to ignore it or forget about it, what sort of message is that?

With reflection most of the anxiety is down to trying to maintain the childhood celebration in an adult world – it no longer fits.

I am uncomfortable being the centre of attention – that might surprise some of my friends because I never come across as shy. But there is an awkwardness about Birthdays – there is still deeply buried  five year old girl who wants to feel special, but an adult knowing that to be honest, for everyone else it is just an ordinary day. There is also a woman that needs to feel she is connected and supported, loved and cherished.

In her book, The Simple Abundance, Sarah Breathnach writes:

We need to see life as it is, not hold ourselves captive to a vision of how it ought to be. Surrendering our expectations opens us up for the gifts of spontaneity, serendipity, enabling us to cast off old agendas of what is supposed to make us happy.

Birthdays don’t have to be celebrated in a particular way, I can escape the past and do something different! Claim the day as my own, forget the old worn out hallmark celebration- it is time to map out the day to my choosing, let it unfurl with opportunity, rather than a barbed measure of my popularity.

reading in bed

I am going to take responsibility for my own happiness; not give it away to whims and echoes of the past, or the expectations of others.  I am going to fill the day with things I love to do – most of which can be done on my own.

In a world where there never seems to be enough time – a whole day seems such a gift.

Of course you know the old wise saying about Birthdays – those who have the most Birthdays live longest.

How do you celebrate?

Promises, Promises!

keeping promises

I expect you are, like me, extremely good at keeping your word to friends and family. I know there have been times when I have done something, through gritted teeth, because someone has asked me and I am not a great person for saying no.

In reality, this weekend I was shocked to discover that, actually, I was terrible at keeping promises; in fact I habitually break them at least ten times a day!

Does that shock you? Well ask yourself that question again but this time think of all the promises you make to yourself?

Quite a different question isn’t it?

I thought I would monitor my promise keeping… all was revealed in a couple of hours!

Saturday I got up quite early, I love that feeling of having the whole day ahead and time to fill any way I wish!  I wanted to do a little sewing Mr D had plans for reading the paper making a light lunch and then watching rugby, so I had the whole day for stitchery! Yay!

While I was waiting for the kettle to boil for my first cup of tea, I decided to empty the dishwasher, then I thought it would be great to put a load of washing on and before I knew it, I was dusting and cleaning through most of Saturday morning… all the time telling myself that when it was done I could have fun sewing. But each time I finished a task, I would spot something else, that wouldn’t take five minutes…

So it was no wonder that by lunchtime my mood had altered from sunny to grumpy!

WalterBaumhoferTeaPot

I cannot believe how well I scupper my own chance of pleasure, I can’t quite understand where this behaviour came from, only some distant memory of being guilt free some time Before Children.

I cannot take credit for these shocking revelations, I had been reading Leo Babauta’s Little book of Contentment and this little thought was in the first few pages. It is a delight to read and only 99p in the Kindle store.

Little book of contentment

So yesterday, it was a glorious Autumn day, full of blustery wind and sunshine – I picked up a few leaves and items on my nature walk, as I have done many times before, but this time I stuck to my promise and spent a happy hour sketching with some crayons and pencils, at the end of it I did feel content, so thank you Leo Babauta.

Do you keep your promises? How do you balance everything so that you can mix pleasure with a to do list?

Susanna Signature

A life observed – Journal writing: why it is so good for you and where to begin

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I have been writing journals most of my life and have found them to be the best tool for putting life in perspective and order. While photographs record a moment caught in time, it is just the external captured for that single second – a journal is a record of the inner journey – thoughts, emotions, fears, joys.

It is how we experience our lives, how we reacted to what was happening and what was important – on that one particular day.

If you have not kept a journal – I hope that this blog post will convince you of that journal keeping is worth the small investment of time.

a journal is your dearest friend

A journal is the best friend you can have

Make a pact with yourself – that you will never allow anyone else to read what you write and you will discover a sacred place where you can be yourself and where your soul finds its voice.

A home for your wildest dreams, your ideas, hopes and plans.

A journal is a gift you give yourself, it is your kindest, most patient listener, your loyalist companion and your tolerant loving confidant. It is a place you can go any time; day or night – where you are never judged.

Captured within the bound pages of a journal –  is place of safety to pour out your heart, express your fears and record triumphs.

Those blank lines can hold all the emotions that course through your veins – the disappointments, the jealousy, the rage,  once expressed, have a tendency to lose their potency. You can lay bare – the thoughts and feelings that could not be discussed with another living soul.

life is fleeting

It gives your life perspective

I have been journalling over twenty years, there are a stack of books that represent my life so far, not the external –  photograph albums but the internal – thoughts, emotions, reactions and lessons.

Life is fleeting, days fly by and before you know it years or months have passed, a journal is like catching each day, and preserving it.

At any moment I can travel back to a particular day and read what was on my mind. It helps me to see each day as a page in my book of life, one that moves the ‘story of me‘ – forward.

I have the photographs of my daughter’s wedding, but I also have my joy recorded in the pages of a book, the elation, the laughter, the pride – the preparations and small incidents noted that would be forgotten. Any day I choose, I can go back and re-live that moment of triumph- preserved forever.

Journalling gives perspective

It helps us to solve problems

Life gives us lessons, sometimes painful lessons; our journals can be a place where we can record how we react, but once the emotion is spent, we are able to discover our own inner wisdom.  It can be where we reflect and explore strategies to handle similar problems in the future.

We can re-read the some of the darkest moments of our lives with the benefit of hindsight – the fear that gave us sleepless nights – resolved itself eventually.

We can read how we were knocked back by life – and yet, slowly, day by day, got back up and began again.

Hopefully – when the same lesson presents itself – we know we shall survive. We are able to see how much we have learned, how well we handled the situation – and how much faster we recovered.

Arguments and disagreements feel like monumental events – but  as time moves on – they change,  incidents can lose their importance. The argument with the woman you work with – years later is someone who’s name you had forgotten. The period of unemployment – was an opportunity to review your career path and a change of direction.

words have power
Kipling

It puts you in control

If the past is still haunting you, a journal can be a place to re-write the story; laying events to rest so they don’t overshadow the present. You can record all the great ‘come backs’ you could have said, or write an ending where you come out on top. The job you didn’t get – can be a blessing.

Just the act of writing these things – helps us to release the grip of pain and regret so that they don’t take up any more of our lives than necessary.

Simple Abundance Companion - Sarah Breathnach
Simple Abundance Companion – Sarah Breathnach

This lovely quote from The Simple Abundance Companion always fills me with joy – words have a tremendous power to change our feelings, change our perceptions and alter the course of our lives.

When you write in a journal, that power is in your hands.

the power of the pen

It makes you happy

We live in a world full of advertising – bombarded on all sides with glimpses on a better life that are designed to make us dissatisfied with what we have. A journal can be a place to record all the blessings we have which give our lives balance.

Happiness comes from within – recording just five things that you are grateful for every day – focusses your thoughts on what you have. It can turn the worst day, into one where it is good to have a warm bed, good health and something to eat.

It helps creativity

As the digital world takes over, written documents are becoming increasingly rare. Handwriting becomes an exercise in mindfulness, it slows your thinking.

The Artists Way advocates morning pages – three pages of stream of consciousness writing – it gives an outlet for all the thoughts running through our heads, clearing our minds for creativity.

Ideas can be captured, expressed and developed – all within a place of safety, until they are ready to emerge.

Anias Nin Quotation

Journalling is accessible and affordable

I tend to use blank journals, a diary has limited space and if you are busy there are no empty pages to greet you when you return. Some days I can write night and morning, or I will miss a week or two.

You don’t need an expensive notebook, some of my early books were simply exercise books – you need something that you aren’t afraid to ‘spoil’.

Journals are your very own story –  recorded in your own hand – who you are and the life you have lived.

journalling

Why not start writing your story today?

Here is how

Or here are some great books that will start your journey into finding your authentic self, click on the pictures for a link to purchase. (I am not being sponsored for these clicks!) they are all books that I have found useful.

kindle-book-heal-v2-2

Simple Abundance Companion

Peace and Plenty

The-Artists-Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.

Who made your clothes? – Sew Solidarity

I love clothes, last weekend I dipped into Primark with a little sense off guilt. All around me were clothes piled high at prices that you simply cannot ignore – I know how much time and effort goes into making a t-shirt, so buying one for £2?

Everyone’s perception is distorted by the low prices of items – everything is made so cheaply that we have begun to perceive these as throwaway items. Why repair a microwave when you can purchase another for less than £30? Why bother storing your clothes from one season to another when you can buy new every season for less than the price of the weekly shop.

Sewing machines made today don’t have the staying power that machines did years ago – a friend of mine ‘wears her machine out’ in a year and happily buys a new one.

I have greatly reduced my clothes buying, even those from charity shops, I just am feeling a little sickened by the sheer wastefulness. Have a look at this lovely film – it really does show the scale of the problem. It is about the workers in India that deal with our discarded clothes. They think we throw clothes away hardly worn because we cannot afford to wash them!

Our sense of value is being distorted in such a way that craftspeople and artisans are no longer valued for the work they do. We believe that a t-shirt should cost £2 without even considering how it is made or where the cotton comes from. Or the true cost of the lives who are paid low wages so that we can have it all cheap.

The world is getting smaller, we are recognising that we can no longer distance ourselves what is happening in China and Asia will affect us one way or another. China is paid in dollar bonds they hold enough to bankrupt America if they called those in, and yet we and the Americans get more and more dependent on China for goods.

How much longer can we sustain this balance? We don’t make things in the Uk anymore, so where are our wages going to be coming from in the future? What do we as a country offer the world? Could we ever be self sufficient? We have lost all our skilled labour – generations ago.

But there are things we can do,  April 24th is a day we can all do something simple, have a look here. Its in memory of the factory disaster two years ago, when a building collapsed killing thousands of workers.

You don’t have to pay anything, you don’t have to go anywhere, just use your voice to join others in asking for sustainable, fair clothing.

We might just be one voice, but together we can help to change things.