Sisters under the skin…

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It may of course be my age and stage in life, but frankly I don’t care for the Kardashians, the TOWIE babes or any other half-witted, self-promoting bimbos. I may have boobs, but I do have brains, and no – my face isn’t at chest level nor is it surgically enhanced!

It seems to me that these days, superficial is super-cool, plastic (as in surgery and friend-fakery) is fantastic.  If you don’t have 40.5m followers on Twitter, you aren’t working hard enough. If you can’t influence on Facebook you are simply not worth friending.  Not writing your own cook-bake-make blog …while hand-knitting nappies for your test-tube triplets?  Shame on you, woman!  Worst of all, social media has given ordinary women such an inferiority complex, we have actually begun to buy the crap promulgated by popular culture. We actually think it’s ok to be a size zero, or to deprive ourselves of coffee, sex or ice-cream…all in pursuit of some photo-edited ideal that simply isn’t reality.

Instead of supporting each other, I see countless examples of women being disparaging about other women.  And no, the Kardashians are media freaks and do not count – they are only nice to themselves and Kanye!  Eating disorders are at an all time high. It’s estimated that 10% of young women will suffer this.  And the phenomena of on-line bullying is a worrying trend. Not content to bash you in the playground, girl-on-girl violence has evolved to the digital age. We’ll get you in cyberspace…For goodness sake, our’s is the era that has spawned the term ‘frenemy’…as in, people you loathe but are friends with? I rest my case!

As a grown up (sometimes) I’ve experienced first-hand how mean, petty and bitchy women can be. At one time, I used to be the only single woman at the dinner table…or not. Sometimes I was not invited, because being single clearly I must be on the hunt for a husband/promotion/shoes and therefore a huge threat.  Really? Shoes and promotion, I earned and paid for myself several times over.  Husband?  Well…I wouldn’t want to steal your bald, fat wallet! 

However, I’ve also seen how wonderful, supportive and giving women can be. Instead of competition, collaboration. Instead of combat, caring.  Women friends who hear your sobs and will be your solace, women friends who will cheer your success with champagne, women friends who leave money behind or buy you dinner, so you don’t need to worry about spending, women friends who will send you postcards so you don’t feel alone. Perhaps it’s a female destiny to love too much, feel too much or give too much…but it’s done gladly.

So here is a shout out to the women of my generation -my friends and my family. Let’s support each other. Let’s be present enough in each other’s lives to share the good moments, and the bad. Let’s be pleased for each other’s bravery, success or happiness – not envious. Let’s share the love, and magnify the support. Because…whether or not we are related… we are all sisters under the skin.

 

Wicked…

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I’ve just returned from a 2 week stint in South Africa – looking after my gorgeous nephew/godson, (5) and his equally gorgeous sister, (18 months) while their parents were away. I love them deeply and I’m more than a little melancholy I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. Which is funny, because I never wanted children of my own.

As a single, career-minded woman, I was happy to be the godmother/aunt/interested adult…as long as I could hand them back to their parents and go back to my own (semi-interesting) life.  Of course that all changed when the Tadpole (a.k.a. aforesaid nephew) was born, but I still had the luxury of hot-footing it back to corporate life and champagne-ville when it suited me. I quite enjoyed playing the role of not-so-wicked godmother!

Having learnt the entire theme song to Paw Patrol last week, along with reaching the dizzy heights of supercool stardom in Slugterra, I have also been reflecting on my role as an aunt and godparent. Parent– being the operative word.  It’s not something you prepare for. But damn…you need to be prepared.  For the questions, the challenges and the absolute clarity of a 5 year old.  For the high energy, instant requirements of a little 18 month old soul who is seeing things for the first time and demanding everything!

Which got me thinking.  In my other life, falling madly in love with The Belgian has also brought children into my life. They are not mine, but they are the most gorgeous boys. Two of them. When we first met, I was.. a single, career-minded woman happy to be the interested adult.  As long as I could hot-foot it back to corporate life and champagne-ville.  Of course that changed when The Belgian proposed. Suddenly, I faced the prospect of being a step-mother. I wasn’t prepared. I felt…wicked. In every sense of the word.

I hadn’t had kids of my own. How would I know what to do when they came home with bruised knees. Wicked!  There are loads of Brady-bunch type books on the market.  You know, the blended family, step-parenting-for-dummies publications that are totally – and I mean totally – geared towards those people who a) have been married before and b) are bringing their kids together. Eh?   What about me?   I simply could not relate. I wasn’t sure whether ‘stepmom’ was something I actually wanted. Even more wicked!  Yes, I am a single, career girl by choice. My career is still important to me, regardless of whether I do the school run or not. Wicked-er!  And yes,  of course I have never had kids so will probably not know how to parent.  Oh so, super-Wicked!

Nevertheless..I’m not half bad with small people, and despite my own misgivings, I will probably make a semi-cool parent. So far, I have presided over the funeral of the pet gerbil, given big hugs when disappointment strikes and taught the boys to love jelly and bacon.  I am prepared to take on someone else’s most precious possessions, along with their birth mother’s foibles. I am prepared to hug them, love them and make sure they are well-fed and watered.  I am there to tuck them in and cuddle them when they can’t speak to mom or dad. More importantly I am happy to spend my spare time, teaching them things they might not otherwise learn.  Getting them to make a perfect champagne-cocktail  however, might be some way off!

The Year of Living Dangerously…

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I’ve never considered myself a daredevil. I’m no coward, but as I get older, my sense of self preservation prevails over my sense of fun.  The realisation that if I break myself, I shall be unable to work is probably a more powerful incentive than wanting to show off my hell-raising skills.  Well, on occasion I have been known to channel my inner vixen on the dance floor, but that is the subject of another blog entirely!

For this reason, I tend to avoid hobbies like base jumping, snake charming or dancing the cha cha on the wings of an aeroplane. This year, I decided life would be a little different. Having laid out my annual manifesto in my Burning Woman post, I concluded that unless I learned to live dangerously, life would stay predictable. So…I took a risky decision. I dared to chance it all on love.

Which is why I now find myself commuting by ferry, celebrating Christmas in two countries, and generally leading a life I thought was well beyond the reach of one so resolutely single. Stepping up – and out  – of my comfort zone has been scary and exhilirating.  Kinda like dancing on the wings of an aeroplane. But you know…50,000 feet up, without oxygen…feels less like something life-threatening and a lot more like something lovely.

This festive season, I wish my family, friends and dedicated readers of this blog as much love, light and laughter as they can handle. Merry Christmas!

Future Perfect…

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Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. After a prolonged period of down-time (see my post ‘The List‘ ) I’ve been spending the last few months doing some serious job-hunting and hopping across the channel to visit the Belgian. He’s fabulous. Has own hair and teeth. Tick. Cooks. Tick. Gardens. Tick. Gardens in my garden. And no, that is not a euphemism, he really did spend last Saturday digging up weeds in the coastal reaches…High IQ. Big tick. Romantic life is better than good.  Business life…erm, not so much. Faced with a looming tax bill and zero prospects of employment despite winning an award for my work, I’ve found myself in some sort of weird limbo. Being myself, and yet…not quite being myself. What gives?

The work I do means I should expect between 3-5 months between assignments, and under normal circumstances (i.e. sans tax bill) I’d be perfectly chilled.  Well, as chilled as a ‘control-freak Virgo’ ever gets, but you know what I mean.  If you aren’t worried about your finances, you can exist in a pink cloud. Curiously, I’ve found myself suffering all manner of insecurity around my professional capability of late. Which, if you really analyse it, is stupid. Completely dumb, especially as I’m a smart cookie. I’ve spent seven years building my business. I’m established. I have clients who rate my work and would recommend me in a heartbeat. What gives?

It’s got me thinking… If the consequences of today are determined by the actions of the past, how does one create a perfect future. Second guessing your decisions doesn’t work, believe me. And neither does second guessing yourself. Begone self-doubt!  Life is too short to peel a grape or knit a toilet roll cover, but it’s also too short to dwell on what might have been or what could be.  Nevertheless, we need to have some sort of vision for tomorrow, in order to make the most of today. And pipe dreams (mine is to sip cocktails in BoraBora) are an important part of helping us humans move beyond our perceived limitations to achieve great things.

I can, and I am!

Child’s eye view…

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I’m on the hunt for my next assignment, so I find myself speeding up to London a few times a week.  Annoying meetings with headhunters – yep, dealing with people who make insincerity a career is part of the territory – and… in between meetings, the chance to spend time in a city in constant flux.

Which is why I found myself in my makeshift office (a.k.a. a seat with a view) on the SouthBank last week. Despite it’s brutalist architecture, it’s really grown on me over the years, and it’s a fantastic public space.  Free wifi also means you can plug in, log on and at least give some semblance of being professional, though clearly my motives for being there are more to do with watching the world go by, than watching the clock.

As I looked out of the window, I observed a small boy, delightedly splashing in a puddle of water.  He was about two, the puddle about 2 millimetres.  I was particularly struck by the sheer joy with which he stomped about in his bright green wellies, and the utter glee on his face when sat down, and then proceeded to lie in the puddle of water.  Needless to say…mom and dad were not best pleased with the end result, but small boy in green wellies laughed so much, that they began to laugh, and so did I.

Which got me thinking…as grown ups we are sometimes so busy chasing money, jobs, relationships, status, and the next best thing, that we forget what it’s like to enjoy each moment for what it is. Far better to have a child’s eye view – that simple innocence which comes from truly being oneself, the uncomplicated perspective that makes seeing and feeling real, not something you buy on-line. Life is precious. So, get your wellies and go find a puddle!

The List…

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So, I’m officially on holiday for the summer. This was something I’d promised myself about 2.5 years ago when I was in serious need of some significant R&R. Something promised, but only just realised.  In my mind’s eye I envisaged sipping champagne on the beach, soaking up the sun on the coastal reaches and generally living la vida loca.

Ha, bloody ha…

In fact, the last 2.5 weeks have been a frenzy of builders (yes, they are still back doing snagging) , sorting out the boxes in the cellar (thank you universe for spiders, …not!) and doing heavy labour in the garden (mega slugs, you are not my friend and will die).  And of course, I haven’t mentioned the five page ‘to-do’ list that is the inevitable result of working away from home for months at a time.   In fact, it was while I was focusing on the ‘to-do’ that I found ‘The List’…

Now I should state that ‘The List’ is not a specification for a decent man. I found him already and yes, he does have his own hair and teeth, so if you want to know more, read my blog A is for attraction. Anyway, I digress…

Aforementioned ‘The List’ captures my ambitions, hopes and dreams. It’s called ‘47 things I’d like to do before I turn 50! ‘  It’s 47 for a reason. Why be conventional and pick 50!  I’m still adding to it, but what struck me is that instead of chasing the extraordinary, we put our dreams on hold to pursue the everyday.  Life is short, so make it good. Make a list. Follow through.

Personally, I’m determined to tick some of the following:

List Item#1: Learn to shoot clay pigeons.  Now, I admit this isn’t what you’d imagine as a first choice. It’s just a way for me to deal with unexpressed anger. Yep, try explaining that to the man who gives out gun licences!

ListItem#2: Travel on the Japanese Bullet Train. In my imagination, Japan is the land of BladeRunner. The explorer in me wants to go somewhere so culturally different that I might as well be on another planet. The sci-fi geek wants to do hi-tech in Tokyo!

ListItem#3:Fall madly in love, at least one more time.  Ticked that one!

ListItem#11: Trace my family genome. OK, I like weird science and I want to know if I’m related to the Vikings.

ListItem#15: Drink cocktails in BoraBora.  Well, that is definitely one for the big 5-Oh!

In the meanwhile…I’ll give the slugs some beer and sip champagne on the sundeck.

Home…

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If home is where your heart is, what happens if your heart has been stolen by someone in another country?  As some of my regular readers will know, I made my home in the coastal reaches several years ago.  In the small seaside town where I live, life has proceeded in fairly uninterrupted fashion.  That is, until The Girl in Row B met the man of her dreams halfway across the Channel.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the universe to grant wishes.  I’d asked for someone intelligent solvent, own hair and teeth, etc. I’m a Virgo (a.k.a. fussy), so as you can imagine, the product spec was quite lengthy...

In previously universal requests, I’d also mentioned I might like someone who didn’t live in the same place as me.  Now don’t get me wrong…I wasn’t wishing for someone on the other side of the planet, just someone who didn’t live in the same place as me. Not too near, not too far.

The lesson here is to be extremely careful what – or who – you wish for. Because I now find myself in the curious position of contemplating life on the continent, having just completed the renovations on my new house – which isn’t.  And this got me thinking…

A house is just bricks and mortar. It’s the memories you make with the people you love that create a home.  Wherever that might be.

The Girl in Row B…

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As a singleton, one of my fantasies always involved meeting Mr. Right on a plane. And no, this does not involve becoming a member of the mile-high club, so you can stop reading right away if that’s where you think this blog is going!  

Anyway… in this particular airborne dream, Mr. Unique would be sitting next to me – sharp suited and smelling of expensive aftershave.  I’d be channelling trans-atlantic chic. He’d be ruggedly handsome and interesting. I’d be interested. We’d talk and find we had so much in common…

Uh...well, I don’t know about you, but… the gods that rule the check in system seem to take particular delight in putting me next to smelly old men and sociopaths!  If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume this was some sort of cosmic prank.  On my last plane I sat next to a guy wearing socks, sandals and a comb-over!   And I haven’t even begun to tell you about the annoying parents who spent an entire long-haul flight back to SA, bickering with their three year old in between bickering with each other. There is a lot to recommend business class, and I’m not just talking real cutlery here!

Still, you do sometimes meet interesting people. Snoggable…? Erm…no.  Fascinating…most def!  On a flight back from the US, I met a guy who had invented robotic fish with hidden cameras, which were used for conservation purposes. In Finland, I met a super cute four-year old, who spent the entire flight introducing me to ‘Katten’ – her favourite cuddly toy…My Finnish is rubbish, but just as well I can speak ‘kid’.  I’ve also met a man who insured space ships for a living…sadly, there is no ‘alien abduction clause’…I checked!

For readers of this blog who think my rich imaginative life has been the balm that soothes the melancholy heart of a solo traveller?  Well, what I didn’t tell you was that the girl sitting in Row B also happened to be sitting next to the man of her dreams when she flew to Spain last weekend. We met mid-air, but not on a plane. He is…ruggedly handsome and interesting. He does not wear socks or sandals, and he smells good. Really good!  I am…of course, smitten. But that is the subject of another blog…

 

 

 

Loud like love…

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Since I work for myself, I am periodically required to do paperwork.  Yep, nothing so certain as death and taxes… 

I love my accountant, but I’m less keen on the rafts of invoices and receipts I need to submit each quarter. The only way I get through this is to pour a glass of wine – only one mind, clearly I can’t be doing with drunken submissions to the VAT man – and… to crank up the music. Placebo and Sugarcult usually do the trick.  There’s something about the nihilism of a good rock tune that makes my self-imposed bureaucracy more bearable. The louder, the better!

So today, as I find my feet tapping along with my fingers while I fill in yet another Excel spreadsheet… I’ve been thinking about the other things in life that are less certain than a P60.  Love, for instance…

It often arrives unannounced, unexpectedly and usually at the most inconvenient time. Boo yah!  If you aren’t factoring it into your life plan, it can be a bit terrifying. Sometimes it’s loud. Really, really loud. Accompanied by the bass beats of a hungry heart. Fireworks, even. Sometimes it sneaks up on you like a deadly assassin with a crossbow. You are bleeding terminally before you realise you’ve been eviscerated by cupid. Unlike death and taxes, if it’s real, it’s probably the one thing you can’t – and shouldn’t  – live without.  It’s also the one thing you can’t control, which for a control freak like me, is a bit like having those dreams where you are at school wearing pyjamas instead of a uniform…more on that in another blog! 

This post was inspired by the music of Placebo.

Sign your name across my heart…

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Here in the coastal reaches, modern pirates are alive and well judging by the proliferation of ink and wooden ear-plugs which seems to grace the limbs and lobes of 70 per cent of the population. Honestly, you’d think we were living with some sort of remote rainforest tribe. And I’m not talking feral youth here…body art is the new black it seems, as friends who are approaching landmark birthdays, or dealing with traumatic life events resort to the needle. Personally, it’s not my thing, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the images and the motivation of people who will willingly endure something excruciating to create something everlasting.

My friend David and I are probably the only people in town who don’t have some sort of tattoo, which makes us the minority. Still, with the help of my smartphone, I’ve managed to turn this to my advantage in the flirting stakes.  Anyone scrutinising my photos would be forgiven for thinking I’d turned into some sort of fetishist  – well, I am…but only for vintage champagne!  At last count I had about 20 pictures of naked male torsos & arms – each and every one a masterpiece of sorts. My secret to getting young men to strip down to their knitting and bare all…Oh, that’s easy.  I just say I’m doing a ‘photo-essay’ on signs. Which is partially true, but I’m photographing funny roadside signs, not funny boys. The best bit – apart from keeping me gainfully amused in our local pub – is that it works every time. So far, no one has said no…which makes me wonder if I’m actually living in a colony of exhibitionists, instead of pirates.  Now where did I put that camera…