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…

The Field of Possibility…

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Coming home to the coastal reaches is almost always a driving epiphany. I work away for a living so time at home-base is treasured. After fighting recalcitrant traffic on the motorway, and making my way down winding country roads, I pass ‘The Field’.

To untrained eyes, it is simply a farmer’s field.  To me, it is so much more. This is the patch of land I affectionately call ‘The Field of Possibility’ – because it reminds me that even when things seem barren, there is always something more just waiting to burst into bloom.

In Winter it’s fallow, in Spring it’s buzzing with new life. The landowner rotates his crops, so over the last four years it’s been a wheat, cabbage and canola field. The world is full of change. Change brings possibilities…you just have to be able to see them.

Tadpole…

Tadpoles

Sometimes it takes a very big shake to wake you from a very deep sleep.  About five years ago, almost everything in my life went pear.  And I’m talking major disaster of the heart-ripping, long-sobs-in-the-car-while-you-contemplate-suicide type fruit here.  While my life was going into meltdown and I was taking a cosmic kicking, something really extraordinary happened. After all, the universe never takes away without giving something back…

My sister fell pregnant unexpectedly, and when the tadpole – a.k.a. my nephew  – was born, she asked me if I would be his godmother.  That probably doesn’t seem extraordinary to people who have kids, but to me it was huge.  The first moment I held him in my arms, I knew my life would never ever be the same again.  As Nancy Mitford so elegantly described it in The Pursuit of Love:

‘She was filled with a strange, wild, unfamiliar happiness, and knew that this was love’

At that point, I decided that I could either be a warning or an example. I chose the latter. I’m so glad I did. Four years on, and the tadpole has brought love and lightness to my life. He is a hilarious character and the nearest I will ever get to having my own children.  This blog is for him, and for godmothers everywhere.

Elemental, dear Watson…

It’s been a surreal few weeks. Work has taken me from Stockholm, to Amsterdam and Paris…via Wales and London.  On Monday – as a deranged (and I mean batsh*t crazy!!) Parisian cabbie drove me from La Defense to Gare du Nord –  I had the luxury of sitting back and absorbing the scenery.  As regular readers will know, Paris is one of my favourite cities – not least for the food, the art, and the fine underwear available for purchase at Galleries Lafayette!

On this day however, I was marvelling at the weather. It’s February, and although days are lengthening in the Northern Hemisphere, blasts of winter ire still rain down in the coastal reaches! But in Paris, it was a balmy Spring!  As I crossed the Seine, Winter light illuminated the architraves of this elegant city…Life felt good!

This got me thinking…are human beings conditioned by climate?  I blame my hot temper on the fact that I have Irish, South African and Italian blood running through my veins.  But perhaps I am a fraud? Perhaps the climate in which I find myself determines my mood?  My true love is for Winter – log fires, red wine and convivial evenings with friends.  And yes, while I am drawn to Summer – I really do hate the heat – freckles and humidity – Eeuww!   Autumn is good because you can be melancholy with justifiable reason – and you get berries, apples and pumpkins as harvest!   But at the same time, Spring means fresh starts and renewed vigour as nature (and life) bring hope with longer days.  In my language we often describe people as ‘being in their element’ – meaning they are happy in that particular space, place and time.

Forget about personality type, culture, or class – perhaps people have a season… What’s your element?

Lessons in love…

 

My own Valentine arrived early this year. Not once but twice! On Saturday, a card from the US arrived – a dear friend and her husband, who worry about my singleton status and send me a valentine’s card every year…It’s nice to know I am loved. That’s a good thing!

And…After months of feeling rubbish, a series of MRI and CT scans, blood tests, and countless X-rays (any more and I would feel like a microwaved chicken with a bad tan)…still no news, no card in the post. No hearts or flowers…That’s probably a good thing, too!

Both events have got me thinking. If life is a gift, then love is the ribbon that ties it all together. It’s been over a year since the man I loved ripped my heart out and handed it back to me on a platter.  It’s been a year since the pain in my side has meant extended visits to the local NHS hospital. Long. Complicated. You really don’t want to know, but… ok...I’ll admit, It still hurts...

Nevertheless instead of a diatribe against the perils of love…instead of being morose and despairing on Valentine’s day…I’ve decided I’m going to focus on the gifts love has given me…

  • Gift #1. The gift of poetry. My first serious boyfriend at uni was partial to Irish poets. He gave me a ring engraved with the words from a William Butler Yeats poem.  The ring was tossed into the Thames a long time ago, but the poem lives on!
  • Gift #2. The gift of humour. My 2nd serious boyfriend was English. He endowed me with a love of British humour, and the ability to see the profound in the ridiculous. This is why I can laugh at myself!
  • Gift #3. The gift of music. Another amour taught me love to all music, to the point that I am now the arbiter of cool for my younger sisters as far as beats go!  Well, in my not so secret life I blog for a music website! Thanks…now I know there is more to music than Randy Crawford…
  • Gift #4. The gift of forgiveness. Aforesaid man… he of the heart-ripping, platter-handing mode…well, that was my greatest gift of all. He taught me to let go of things I don’t comprehend and cannot fix. He could only lie, so he taught me to speak the truth even if it meant risking the loss of what I thought I held dear.  He taught me to choose my own destiny because he could not choose for himself.   He made me laugh. He made me love.  But most of all he made me cry. He also made me see what I was not when I was with him…and that…that was enough to set me free!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just the facts, ma’am…

This blog has been inspired by a C4 documentary about people who work on London Underground.  Actually…I should say this rant has been inspired by lazy journalism.  Apparently the individuals who work for the world’s oldest mass transport system do not want to be identified because they fear for their jobs…we are told that ‘actors’ are ‘speaking their real words’… What a crock!  Either they are just moaning Minnies or sniping backbiters who really should seek employment elsewhere, or they have a legitimate grievance. Either way, C4 have not realised that having Victor –  ‘I don’t believe it’  – Meldrew narrating the whole episode will only detract from their authentic purpose, not advance it.  And if you don’t live in the UK, you probably won’t get the reference, so check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Meldrew

As a small child, a Calvinistic work-ethic… and a love of knowledge probably set the precedent for me. If you are going to tell a lie, then make it a good one. Otherwise, just stick to the facts!  Of course, one should tell the truth as you see it.  Yes, the empaths amongst us would argue that there are always three sides to a story – and they may be right. Reality seen from multiple perspectives, is not necessarily the amalgam of truth. But facts are facts. 2 + 2 = 4 in this universe… And yes…sigh… quantum physicists, I know it doesn’t in others, but that is not the point!


The point is: if you are going to speak your mind, tell your truth, diss someone or spill the beans…at least have the guts to do it in your own name.  Don’t dissemble. Don’t lie. Don’t get someone else to read it for you. Just say…and own up to it! Be true to yourself, not the journalist at  the other end of the mike. As the man said, ‘Just the facts, ma’am’… 


If you want to know why I’m so annoyed, check out: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/confessions-from-the-underground/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1

Hard-core Husky…

I should start this post by saying…no animals were harmed in the making of this blog and it was not written on the hard shoulder of the M4…any of you expecting voyeristic sex, or heavy breathing should stop reading and re-tune your satellite dish to the naughty channel!

Yes, dogs and harnesses were involved. Yes…on New Year’s Eve, so were a load of naked men in a sauna…more about that later…

Actually, the whole thing started because having grown up in a hot country, I happen to have a thing for snow. Goggles, a furry hat, and seven layers of underwear later, I found myself on a plane to Lapland in December.  Arriving in Kiruna, I had to do a double take on the thermometer…minus 25 Celcius. Pretty. Darn. Chilly.  That’s brass monkey weather to us normal folks…

I thought I knew what to expect.  Having good travelling companions was a given. Only fellow crazies or really good mates would don sledding gear and head out to the big white yonder with nothing but a tea light and some slippers to keep us warm!!  That was before we found out about the guy who didn’t make it, and whose ghost still lurks behind the first cabin we made camp at…Oliver – if you are out there, we come in peace…

What I didn’t expect was a guide who was a cross between Chuck Norris and Bilbo Baggins! What I didn’t expect was chopping frozen entrails twice a day.  And not a drop of alcohol in sight!  Or running water for that matter…the long drop loos are a whole blog on their own!

Despite expectation, what I got…was a pack of dogs – Honey, Simba, Isak and Nanuq to be precise – who loved me as I was. No make-up and nothing made up. They loved the moment, and so did I.

Despite expectation, what I got was a group of fellow travellers who were totally brilliant. In adversity – a.k.a. no booze – we had to forego our disguise and don our regular faces. No make-up, and nothing made up…honest people enjoying fresh, cold air and each other’s company. We loved the moment.

A good way to end 2011. A good way to start 2012.

Postcards from the Edge…

I use my brain for a living, so it’s funny how ideas pop into my head when I’m not actually trying to think.  One of my ideas was to go on holiday in Mexico.  Well, I figured I deserved a holiday after the cosmic butt-kicking that has been my life of late!  I canvassed a few mates, made some enquiries and before you could say El Jimador, we were lying on the Yucatan peninsula soaking up rays and enjoying the life aquatic!

 I usually travel alone, so it made a welcome change to be sharing cocktails at Miami airport with an old friend and getting to know the locals when we arrived. Another friend arrived. We spent the week talking about cats, philosophy & things that didn’t really matter. We shared the things that did…We hired a car and drove when and where we weren’t supposed to.  We swam in a lagoon filled with tropical fish and the odd Barracuda. We saw sea turtles and watched a mother lay eggs in the sand, and another clutch of babies battle their way into the sea. We went snorkelling in underwater cenotes. We developed a taste for ceviche and habaneros, washed down with frozen Margueritas.  We explored the ruins of an ancient civilisation, and saw the ruin created by a modern one. Blissful!

One of my holiday habits is to write a postcard to myself.  I jot down 3-5 resolutions to remind me of how I felt while I was away, and what I want to achieve when I return home. Just when reality bites and you have to go back to being a grown up, your postcard arrives to cheer you up and boost your resolve. This time, although I bought the card, it remains blank.  Perhaps I haven’t thought of what I want to accomplish, but I think it’s blank because after reaching a ripe old age, I’ve accepted that life is mysterious and challenging. It ebbs and flows like the ocean.

In Mexico, our past was in another country, our present in a place filled with colour and sunshine. Our future…well, a bit like the writing in the sand that gets washed away by the tide… that’s unwritten. Perhaps that is how it will stay.

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.

Put out more flags…

In my part of the coastal boondocks we are very excited because a rather large golf tournament is taking place in the neighbouring town.  Apart from the much needed injection of cash for the local economy, and the fact that many people have been inundated with visits from distant relatives with a fetish for sticks and small balls, this sporting fixture of note has meant access roads & short cuts to and from the Golf Open are subject to traffic restrictions. 

To help residents get over the shock, we’ve all been given bright orange car badges, that say ‘LR’.  These identify us as locals, and give us right of way over journalists, sneaky golf lovers and out-of-towners. The effect has been curious.  Weirdly some sort of cameraderie has developed – people who don’t know each smile, wave and let other vehicles bearing the LR insignia go first at a junction.  Actually, its the same as when it snows heavily in London and no one goes to work – everyone gets all Christmassy and starts performing random acts of loveliness.

It got me thinking…if a small square of orange plastic could create such profound change, wouldn’t it be great if we had a sticker system for life…?