World Without End

Another pound in the pot to Unicef for a missed blog post last night. I crawled in last night after having had a beyond manic day at work, an afternoon swim and then the boot camp style exercise class led by the ex ballerina, who also, as it turns out is addicted to exercise. She runs 10 classes per week all of which are high octane, swims 50 lengths and runs, a lot. It shows to she is like a grasshopper, with muscley shapely legs and an incredibly tight upper body – fat is not permitted on her real estate.

I on the other hand have the odd wobbly bit. During some of the exercises I try to grasp whether it is good to feel your body wobble as much as possible, I like to think I could actually shake the excess off.

When I returned I got distracted by toast and Marmite (which I have a big soft spot for). I discovered a café in London that serves the most delicious bread with lashings of everything you fancy plus dreamy coffee. Marmite, honey and peanut butter all mushed up together yum! But that doesn’t help with butt reduction.

I then got distracted by car hunting online – we don’t really need to replace our car but just fancy a change. My mum said that, as a couple, that was our only vice. “you don’t drink or smoke so cars is your thing and that’s fine”… except smoking and drinking would be cheaper.

I then plunged into another chapter of Helen Thomas’ memoirs and couldn’t put it down so finished ‘The World Without End’. The ending was so poignant and created a small hole in my heart for the appreciation of her loss – it describes the moment she said goodbye to her husband as he began his journey away from their family home to fight the last time she saw her husband before he died fighting in France during WW1. It goes something like this:

‘I stood at the gate watching him go; he turned back to wave until the mist and the hill hid him. I heard his old call coming  to me: “Coo-ee!” he called. “Coo-ee!” I answered, keeping my voice strong to call again. Again through the muffled air came his “Coo-ee!” And again went my answer like an echo. “Coo-ee” came fainter next time with the hill between us, but my “Coo-ee” went out of my lungs strong to pierce to him as he strode away from me. “Coo-ee!” So faint now, it might be only my own call flung back from the thick air and muffling snow. I put my hands up to my mouth to make a trumpet, but no sound came. Panic seized me, and I ran through the mist and the snow to the top of the hill, and stood there a moment dumbly, with straining eyes and ears. There was nothing but the mist and the snow and the silence of death. Then with leaden feet which stumbled in a sudden darkness that overwhelmed me I groped my way back to the empty house.’ By Helen Thomas, World Without End

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can support the campaign please visit Unicef here.

Thanks for reading.

The chocolate of literature

I am in the throes of reading the memoirs of Helen Thomas. I cam across her work completely by chance at work and it only took a couple of sentences to realise that I had to devour every book she had written. So I have a pile of 5 to work my way through. I have already finished ‘As it Was’, which was exquisite and now I am reading ‘World Without End’. I have not come across an author who so successfully puts into words emotions and feelings that are very difficult to describe. Her prose enables you to re-visit such emotions and feelings. Her life was in the late 1800s and in her memoirs she talks about life with author and poet Edward Thomas and her struggles with loving ‘the typical male’ – gorgeous, maddening and brooding.

Over the next few days I will write excerpts from her memoirs, one from As It Was, I am tempted to email to the National Childbirth Trust as an example of how childbirth can be a positive experience without pain relief.

For today, I give you this excerpt, which I am sure most of us can relate to in the highs and lows of life:

“In an unconscious way as I grew older I came to realise that everything that is a part of life is inevitable to it, and must therefore be good. I could not be borne high upon the crest of ecstasy and joy unless I also knew the dreadful depths of the trough of the great waves of life. I could not be irradiated by such love without being swept by the shadow of despair. The rich teeming earth from which all beauty comes is fed with decay; out of the sweat and labour of men grows the corn. We are born to die; if death were not, life would not be either. Pain and weakness and evil, as well as strength and passion and health, are part of the beautiful pattern of life, and as I grew up I learned that life is richer and fuller and finer the more you can understand not only in your brain and intellect but in your very being, that you must accept it all; without bitterness the agony, without complacency the joy.”

Helen Thomas, World Without End

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – the blogging version of a social enterprise. If you can support Unicef please see my page on their site here.

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1.4 children

There is a place in my heart where all the good emotions and bad emotions go, perhaps you feel it too. When I am affected by a positive emotion towards something or someone, I literally feel the warmth of it in my heart. Unfortunately it works both ways and negative feelings creep into my heart like ink in water. I felt that this evening. On two occasions I had visited my sister in law, niece and nephew and thoroughly enjoyed their company. I took pleasure in admiring what a pretty and spirited little girl my niece is and enjoyed cuddles with my baby nephew. Rather than being the eldest sibling tyrant sucking parental attention away from my husband and his other sister to keep it all for herself, she transformed in my eyes to become a Mum like all of us, enjoying children but on occasions struggling with motherhood too.

All this positivity was lost in one interaction with my mother-in-law. As she mentioned my nephew and how he had enjoyed dancing to tunes on grandpa’s computer within seconds of seeing my son who she hadn’t seen for a while, I felt the black ink of jealousy and negativity creep into the place where warm positive feelings had been stored. I try desperately hard not to feel this way but I can’t help it. The fact cannot be changed that lack of phone calls, invites and time spent with us builds resentment when we are aware that my sister in law and her family are invited round frequently. It is the thorn in my side. My husband is resigned to it because he grew up with. He was packed off to boarding school while his sisters were at day school and enjoyed returning home every evening (well the eldest sister enjoyed it) the other didn’t speak to her parents for 10 years – maybe in her childish way she was trying to communicate to her parents that she felt out in the cold. I couldn’t help put two and two together when my mother in law was flicking through an old family photo album and felt compelled to explain why one summer she went away on a beach break with just the eldest sibling ‘I had a bit of a wobble, so (middle daughter) stayed with a friend’. That’s just not right. They have been living under the shadow of the eldest sibling, my sister in law, ever since. So my best way of overcoming negative feelings is not to care in the first place. It is horrid to be defensive but all I can do is pity her for missing out on the rest of her wonderful family.

I am blogging every day to raise money for unicef – please help the campaign here.

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After Eight

My earliest memory was when I was age 7 and even then it was a pretty crap one of recalling how I tried to yank my dress down to try and mimic the long flowing tresses of the bridesmaids at a wedding I attended. For me the memories don’t start to get real until the age of 8 when it was the year I went to Disneyworld, had my first crush on a boy, felt awkward in dayglo, got the hang of riding rising trot on a horse and began to jump ponies too and had frequent bust-ups with friends and my parents. It was a milestone for me on a variety of levels.

Now my daughter has reached that milestone, I keep searching my brain to match my recollections of being 8 with my daughter’s reality. Was I that aware of fashion? How much did I know about the world already and….dare I say it….sex? It is hard as a parent to allow your child to grow up, particularly when your daughter is 8 going on 18.

One area where there has been a definite change is clothing. I was thrilled that my favourite clothing brand Frugi, now do children’s clothing up to size 10. The clothes are brilliant – fair trade, comfortable and hard-wearing. Perfect for little boys like my son. However they are not ‘cool’ enough for my daughter. Every time I turned a page and suggested an item if clothing she would shrivel up her nose and say ‘too girly’. I would love my little girl to remain looking a little girl but as she will have me know ‘I’m not little anymore Mum’.

So I asked her if she would like to have a go at creating her own Frugi designs that put a tick in the ‘cool box’ and she was up for it. I just need to see what Frugi think now…..I will keep you posted.

Check out Frugi here.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. Would you like to support the campaign?

Thanks for reading.

Top gear for top dog?

What does your car say about you?

I watched Top Gear earlier this evening and sat in front of the TV green with envy. Oh to be Jeremy Clarkson – paid a substantial sum for weaving the new Alfa Romeo Disco Portofino (or something like that) through the stunning Italian countryside. Or Richard Hammond flying over sand dunes in a pumped up Merc Gwagon (or something like that). I try to think of the downsides of the job but struggle …. they may have to get up early in the morning???

I have been watching Top Gear since I was very young – it was the incentive to getting my homework done. My interest in cars has never faded, likewise with my hubby. Together we struggle to keep a car for more than 2 years because we get bored easily and want to try something new. We are of course on a limited budget so none of our cars are terrible exciting, plus they have to tick a number of ‘practical’ boxes (mpg, luggage space, room for kids and dogs). We have never bought new and like to hunt for a bargain. I think we should go down the lease car route given are penchant for swapping cars so frequently but hubby needs convincing.

So in the meantime its the used and hopefully not too abused market. We have had our current car (Soda Octavia VRS) for over a year now and can’t fault it. This has presented us with a problem because we like to identify a logical reason why we need to change the car so that we don’t feel so irresponsible about buying a new one.

Because we can’t find fault with the car, we have turned to our immediate environment (flooded like the rest of the SE in the UK) and concluded that the car does not suit the harsh terrain of where we live (the home counties). After having been through one too many potholes that have made us wince as the car shudders its way out of them, we have decided to pursue the rugged SUV/ small 4 x 4 option. Nothing to do with feeling marginally higher than everyone else (hubbys pick up does that). But ticking this box and the mpg and luggage space box is not easy. I rather like the look of the Toyota Rav 4 and was impressed when I saw a family of 5 jump into one after a dog walk earlier today. Although I can’t recall if they had a dog with them… The dog makes all the difference. We have 2 small dogs that are hardly there (often I am calling them while on a walk not realising that they are standing directly by my feet they are that small) but the cage they travel in (essential for keeping them contained in transit) is massive despite being the smallest one on the market. There is definitely a gap in the market for dog cages for short dogs. 

So in order to get the car we would really like we need to re-think our dog transportation method. Our dogs are smaller than most cats so maybe one of those little wicker cat cages you see grants use to take their darling kitty cats to the vets might be the answer.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef -call it a philanthropic blog – are you the next blogger to donate?

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healing hooves and paws

I went to London today, the second time in the space of 7 days. To me, visiting London is just like visiting a relative – enjoyable for short infrequent visits, but stay any length of time and it becomes unbearable. I like a little taste of what living in London must be like but that’s it, never more. We all walked together to  local park, which took us down a road like millionaire’s row. My friend pointed at one impressive double fronted Edwardian property and mentioned that it had been on the market for over £ 4million. While I admired the architecture      and character of the property, I couldn’t help but compare this with the kind of property you could buy for the same money elsewhere, which would include acres, woodlands and stables in the property details. In fact for me its all about land. I wouldn’t mind living in a mobile home if it meant I could own a few acres to graze a few horses. I would probably end up erecting a few log cabins or yurts for use by charities such as Action for Children, who every year take children from deprived areas of inner city London to activity breaks in the countryside (as part of their general services programme supporting vulnerable children).

I would use horses to help the healing process of children who have suffered abuse and other problems in their early lives that have impacted on their wellbeing. I experienced a glimpse of what can be achieved between young people and horses when I introduced a boy with adhd and behavioural issues to contact with horses and dogs. At first he was suspicious, scared and hostile at the prospect of dealing with something he wasn’t see to dealing with. I didn’t fuss over him, i just handed him the lead rein attached to a 17 hand horse and asked him to lead him back to the stables while I walked alongside. Of course he was scared at first but after a while he learned that the horse was a gentle giant, skittish like he was but never to harm intentionally. At the idea of walking with my dogs he thought i had gone too far ‘i hate dogs’ he said. I had no choice but o take the dogs with me and leave them to run around his garden one day while i fixed his supper after school. It didn’t take long before he was throwing a ball and playing sticks with them. They were inseparable. It brought another side to him that i didn’t know existed. Rather than a pale drawn face, he had colour in his cheeks. When I picked him up from school he didn’t seem to want to talk to anyone but his face lit up whenever he saw the dogs or the horses. It is almost as if horses and dogs and other intelligent and sensitive animals draw out all the positive parts of a human person, the parts that some people didn’t know existed. They can also expose the worst personality traits.

Upon reflection the kindest people I have come across in my life to date have been those who are amazing with children and animals but yet come across as a bit ‘off’ with adults. I wonder why that is.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – see here to donate to the campaign. I am aiming to make £200 for the charity before the end of 2014 so all donations gratefully received.

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Working for the weal of all?

I received an email from Oxfam recently with ‘this is shocking’ in the subject line. Of course I clicked on it as I was intrigued and discovered the headline of the story was a report that found 85 of the richest people own the same wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people. They call them the ‘have yachts’. I am not surprised by this, nor do I find it shocking. It has become a given in society that there are people in the world in poverty, meanwhile wealthier residents of the globe, not just those with yachts, are deliberating over what flavour Molton Brown body cream they should choose while flicking through articles in Hello magazine of glamorous couples and families showing off the trappings of their wealth…..I am guilty of living in a consumerist society just like the next person. I enjoyed a lovely day with my friend yesterday as a belated birthday treat where we had our nails done and jumped on a train to the nearest town to do some window shopping. It felt good but I also felt bad. I found myself wondering what it would have been like if we had instead devoted our day to helping other people in some way. I am going to try it next time.

I read an article about David Beckham visiting the Philippines on behalf of Unicef to help raise awareness of the recovery process out there, but in a separate article I read that him and his family had recently bought a home which cost 35 million pounds. I can’t help but judge this exorbitant price tag and think what that money could achieve elsewhere. I am sure they give to charity and give up their time to contribute to good causes but their contributions, and most of the other celebrities for that matter, are just a drop in an ocean of need that we as a society are not willing to address effectively. It is so much easier to turn a blind eye and focus on the day to day of our own lives.

I clicked on Oxfam’s link to email my local MP to ask them about future policies for tackling world-wide poverty and the effects of climate change. But in doing this I felt defeated already because really the email should come back to me and ask what I am doing and what all of us should be doing. What the MP needs to do is seek an attitudinal change. It is starting to happen in small ways, such as in my local shop there is a food collection for families who need the extra support. Its taking that element of looking out for one another and ramping it up so that it is not simply a kind, unexpected gesture but something that everyone seeks to do as a matter of course. Famous names such as Paul Walker and Angelina Jolie shouldn’t be labelled as philanthropists they were and are just people with a name behind them wanting to do some good. Everyone should be philanthropists.

What would I do with 35 mill? I would look into how the money could help counter-act the effects of climate change in some of the world’s poorest areas, for example, irrigation to combat the effects of drought. I think that money would be a far better investment for future generations than a new clothing line and lots of fucking bedrooms.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – if you can support the campaign donate here.

Thanks for reading.