Every time we say goodbye…

blog_goodbyeImage: Dankalilly | Dreamstime.com

I hate goodbye… Whether it’s wishing my far flung family farewell, or saying ‘sayonara’ to someone special…I’m a real wuss when it comes to goodbye.

For the last two and a half years, The Belgian (a.k.a. my lovely husband) and I conducted our courtship across the English Channel. Every other weekend was spent in another country, and since we both work as consultants, our weeks were spent apart.  Long working days, long distance love, and lonely nights… It meant we crammed as much into our weekends as possible, before that dreaded Sunday moment, when – having repacked our respective suitcases – we hugged and hoped that the week would pass quickly so we could see each other again.

This Sunday, The Belgian and I hugged, and said goodbye. As he drove away, I stood in the driveway of our cottage, feeling familiarly sad, but somehow different. As I walked back to the house, I was deep in thought.  Perhaps saying goodbye is not so bad, when you know that you will see each other again. There is fondness in farewell when you realise that time apart brings the opportunity to share your adventures over a glass of wine at the weekend. Next weekend, darling! As that wise philosopher, Pooh Bear once said: ‘how lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

Wild cats and other animals…

Women’s lib has clearly failed judging by the latest ‘article’ in the magazine at mylocal hairdressing salon. I use the word ‘article’ loosely since it implies some degree of intelligence and more than a smidge of writing ability.  Neither were evident in this tawdry piece of journalistic tat!

Yet again, the object of my ire is one of those really vacant essays on the relationships between younger men and older women. In this nobel prize-winning segment (not!) we were invited to pass judgement on Pumas, Cheetas and Cougars – the implication being that if you like younger men enough to sleep with them, you are either deviant or desperate!

What really got me was that this was described as a ‘new trend’.  Well, hello!  I, and a select band of my female friends have been doing this for years… The first boy I kissed was in the year below me – Ok, I was the same age as him, but in those days that was tantamount to being an older woman!  Most of the men I have dated, had serious relationships with, and almost married have been younger than me. So. Blinking. What!

What really got me was the ageism implicit in the article. Women in their 20s and 30s dating younger men were just about ok – women in their 40s dating younger men, were badged as ‘predatory’. Puh-leeze! It takes two to tangle! Besides, not being one for convention, I’ve decided to be an Ocelot! Salvador Dali had one as a pet, they are rarer than snow leopards…and… if you happen to find one in your bed, just thank your lucky stars it’s a nuzzle, and not a death bite!

I really resent the implication that as a woman, you can’t find happiness with someone younger than yourself.  Let’s be honest here…no one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that wrinkly octagenarian males are free to shag, marry and obey nubile young women several decades their junior. Put that in an article and most red-blooded males are ready to go ‘whoop, whoop’!  Why then, does society judge older women so harshly.  Has anyone stopped to think that they might actually enjoy being with someone who doesn’t expect them to conform. Has anyone stopped to think that men their age might actually be a) boring b) have baggage and c) just be really disappointing in bed?  Not to mention incontinent!

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. As for me, I’m a cat person, and always will be.


Given my rather jaundiced view of love, you would be forgiven for thinking this blog would be a diatribe about the perils of giving your heart to the wrong person.  Moreover, the actions of a recent, but now extremely ex lover –  he is definitely on my ‘I regret you and hope you die slowly and painfully’ list – made me wonder whether this blog should be fair warning to those tender souls who still think hearts and flowers mean something.

So far, so cynical…

Actually, St Valentine was a Roman martyr who was killed for marrying Christian couples around 269 A.D. and was stoned and then beheaded. Not terribly loving of Emperor Claudius!  Not a card or flower or soft toy in sight!  Nevertheless, I’ve decided that on a day which celebrates romance it would be fitting to share one of my favourite poems.   I read it at my sister’s wedding, and I reproduce here for everyone who has ever felt that toe-tingling, heart-stopping, crazy little thing called love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

I carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings

i carry your heart with me
(i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it
(anywhere i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you
are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Son et Lumiere…

I know exactly when it happened. My first love affair. Passionate… Enduring…  All consuming… Well, I was nine.  Yes. I know what you cynics are thinking, but you are sooooo…wrong. It was not a dog, cat or hamster…the lover in question happens to be a city.  Bricks and mortar, but so much more.

Frankly, I blame my parents.  After all…if they hadn’t gone to Paris for their honeymoon, I might have focused my affections on Skegness! God Forbid! Anyway, they chose Paris instead. The epitome of chic in the sixties. Thank God…and thank Yves St Laurent!

I realise this might appear strange to all those well-travelled EU citizens out there. But to a shy, spider-legged girl growing up in Africa, Paris seemed impossibly sophisticated.  This affection for a capital I had never seen or visited grew, but remained unrequited until university.   It was there that I discovered my second love…French films. For those of you who eschew subtitles – just look away now and don’t bother to read any further!

 In 1895 the Lumiere brothers were the first to present projected, moving, photographic, pictures to a paying audience of more that one person. I think that qualifies as inventing cinema and probably explains why French films are pre-eminent in my own mind. By the time I graduated, I’d watched about 100 French films. The ones I love most, were set in Paris.  They usually involved complex, slow moving plot-lines and starred couth, dark haired men. Men of few words, but great passion.  They wore pressed blue shirts and dined and smoked in wood-panelled bistros. They rode vespas and had complicated personal lives. Well… it’s my fantasy so I’m allowed to dream!

Last week, I set off for Paris.   I had breakfast with Matisse and Picasso, lunch in a wood-panelled bistro on the Seine.  A good spot for watching suave men and elegant women as they sashayed past on their way to work…to assignations…and the Rive Gauche. I spent the afternoon getting lost in the Marais, but finding myself…in the architecture, the light, the sense and sound of an old city. I fell in love all over again.  Paris, j’taime!

F is for…Friendship

L.P. Hartley said “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” This week I packed  passport, memories, a few dollar bills. With my heart in my hand, I headed to the Midwest for a school reunion. My own pilgrimage to the past. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

Driving down roads flanked by seas of sweet corn, sitting in evening shade illuminated by fireflies, warmed by laughter and red wine (though not necessarily in that order), I had time to consider the friendships forged during the year I spent as an exchange student in Indiana. 

The boys who teased me mercilessly, the girls who shared the pain of unrequited love over ice-cream at Ivanhoe’s. Pizza and Proms, Baseball and Bruins, Keg parties…kisses, Cheerleaders and Candy Canes.  It really was the best of times.  But time passes. Twenty five years later I wondered if the friendships made would still be as strong?

They were. I’ve realised that like a good wine, good friendships improve with age.  Recollection mellows. Shared experience warms the heart and makes cheeks glow.  My past may be a foreign country, but my friends are the reason I will visit again.

B is for Bedpost…

I am the eldest sibling and therefore supposedly the ‘sensible’ one.  Yeah, and whoever made up that myth was clearly an only child!   When my middle sister went to university, I wrote her a long letter explaining that she would encounter several types of men – most of which came with a health warning.  I know…there are exceptions and she married one, but he didn’t go to uni, so bang goes that theory!

It wasn’t so much that I was trying to warn her off, more that with prior knowledge she would be better equipped to identify and neutralise nefarious types. A sensible approach. Now, I know loads of really lovely men – stand up guys, fantastic friends, great fathers, husbands and generally good boyfriend material.  But like I said, there are exceptions… After comparing notes with a group of girlfriends, I realise that even when you are a grown up, you may still need the sensible girl’s guide to a$$holes, so here it is, just in case…

Scenario #1. If… after a first date, they do not call, it is not because they are 17th century time-travellers who do not understand 21st century technology.  And no, they have not been in an accident and lost all memory of your phone number! They do not call, because they are a$$holes…and you…well, you are another notch on their bedpost.

Scenario #2. If… they say ‘I’d like to be in a relationship, but it’s complicated’…that is your cue to exit the building. Complicated usually means they are a) …married b) ….in rehab or c) …have more high-maintenance baggage than a Louis Vuitton store!  They are to be avoided…

Scenario #3. If…they text you incessantly at odd hours of the night but at no other time…it is not ‘grand passion’ – it is the drunken trawling of their Blackberry (aka the modern version of the little black book) and the arrogant certainty that you will be so desperate to have sex with them (well, you are single after all), that you will find this endearing.  It is not.

Scenario #4. If…they request spanking on the first night you actually do abandon sense and sleep with them, or if they profess a love for duct tape…(?)  fishing…(??) line or pole dancing…(???)  Do you really have to ask? They are deviant psychopaths and you should dial 999 immediately!

A is for Attraction…

So far, it’s been a weird month…which probably explains why I haven’t blogged for a while. I won’t go into the gory details, but recent events – you know, the sort of things that make you go ‘huh?’ just before you step on the exploding death-square or pick the card that says ‘Do not pass go!’ – have made it a bit tricky to collect my thoughts, let alone commit them to cyberspace in an erudite fashion. Anyway…so far, so blah! Rather than mope, I’ve decided to blog about a subject for each letter of the alphabet, starting with A. Reasons will become obvious, later…

Truth is, I’ve recently found myself with a surfeit of younger men in my life who all share the same first initial. Even stranger, they share the same first name… Yup, this is the parallel world I now live in!  Call me superstitious, but I think the universe is trying to tell me something, and it doesn’t spell C-o-u-g-a-r!  I realise that you might think I got lucky, but these boys seem to be cropping up everywhere – at work, in my uni class, via friends. If I didn’t know better, I would think this was a bad repeat of Matrix out-takes…

Still, It got me thinking whether I have a type – ‘younger’ fits the bill for reasons I won’t elaborate on in a public forum – but it also made me wonder what intangible qualities draw us to people, places and things. What is the essence of attraction? How is it that we know in an instant whether we like someone? And what makes some people obsess about art or trains or stamps? Why can a perfume or a pair of heels make you salivate? And what draws our souls to return to places and spaces that we feel fill our spirit and make us whole?

We are not all attracted to the same things, but I wonder…do each of us have a personal ‘A-list’ – a checklist of factors, characteristics or attributes that make the difference between love and loathing – whether the thing in question is animal, mineral or vegetable?  I guess, the bottom line is that attraction – like any other emotion – is deeply individual, sometimes cerebral, but almost always illogical.  What or who, does it for you…? Answers on a comment, pls…


I was up all night finishing an assignment and happened to check my inbox as part of my ‘work avoidance strategy’, which usually alternates with the ‘I must-clean-the-bathroom-strategy’ at times of academic duress.

One email.  From a friend who is grieving a parent. My own dad died when I was sixteen and my sisters were much younger, so I’m familiar with the emotions. It happened at a fairly critical time in our lives and we all had to grow up quickly…but it’s a long time ago now, and although it hurts from time to time, we’ve adjusted to life with loss and carried on living because that’s what you do to thrive in the present.

Still, as I read the words on my screen, I felt tears stinging my eyes and running down my cheeks. Everyone deals with sadness in their own way, but somehow this note made me want to howl and sob. I couldn’t stop myself.  Of course, I know it’s more than just an empathetic reaction to a friend’s bereavement. And though I could put it down to sleep deprivation, the real reason my heart aches is that I’ve lost someone too.

There is grace in grief, and strength in allowing yourself to mourn. Absent friends. A much-loved pet. Dreams that have passed their sell by date. There’s also a time to wipe your tears away and make a conscious choice to savour every moment.  I’m going to do that today.

Unintended consequences…

I woke up this morning feeling a little fuzzy headed after a night on the tiles. Whether it’s the morning after the night before, or just the events of the preceding evening, I’m in reflective mood. Well, they do say for every action there is an outcome, so it probably follows that if you drink lots of red wine, you will get a hangover…But what about outcomes we don’t intend? 

I sometimes think if we had sufficient information, we would be more prescient – able to predict the consequences of our actions.  But would this be a good thing?  If we knew, I mean – absolutely –  knew what would happen if we followed our hearts’ content, if we said what we really felt, if we kissed the friend we’d loved from afar, or took a job on the other side of the world…Would we still do it?  Or would all that knowing paralyse us and simply leave us wondering …‘what if’?

In the silence between our words, we litter our conversations with unspoken longing.   Often we don’t say what we mean or withhold information for fear of being made vulnerable. We may be intelligent apes, but it is not our language that give us away. When we don’t intend to reveal what we are really thinking, it is our hearts that betray us more eloquently than speech.


I shared a low-key but lovely Valentine’s weekend with an old friend. We meet periodically so we can put the world to rights over a bottle of wine and some good food.  This weekend, as we walked the beach in Margate and passed the lovers’ umbrellas and heart shaped lanterns adorning the harbour wall cafe, we agreed  ice-cream is a lot like love…

If you are going to have it, there’s no point in being a wimp. Why settle for vanilla when you can order that Knickerbockerglory with the whipped cream and crazy toppings? I know far too many sensible women, who got so tired of waiting for ‘Mr.Right’ to show up that they capitulated when ‘Mr.So-So’ entered the room. They aren’t enjoying their ice-cream, because they live a half-life – stuck in bland relationships with lovers who can’t quite commit to a flavourful partnership.What’s the point of that?

If you are going to love someone, then love generously and enjoy the experience. Life is too short for emotional parsimony. Giving only half of your heart because you are afraid of getting hurt, or worried about what the world might think, crushes real affection and robs the soul of joy. These days I really can’t be doing with any of that iffy, ambivalent stuff.  And in this, I am definitely with Frank Sinatra…‘no messing with Mr In-Between’ for me.  Of course, my ‘Mr Unique’ might be turn out to be just that – a one-off treat … ! At least I get to have cherries and chocolate sprinkles…