A Catastrophic Saga !

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HAPPY EASTER
For those of you who read my weekly blog and have missed the regular outpouring of midlife angst, I owe an apology. I have been on a sabbatical – of sorts. Unlike many who enjoy a period of time out from their regular pursuits, I haven’t been considering a lifelong calling, nor have I completed a writing course in order to reduce grammatical errors!
I have always been described as a bit of a worrier. In fact, in primary school, I would spend the latter half of the summer holidays, worrying about which classroom door to go through next term. As a teenager, friends would break off conversations and dramatically place hand to forehead whispering, ‘Oh Woe is me’, at any given opportunity.
However, more recently, I was introduced to a new term which gave my worrying a proper label. To my relief I discovered that I am not alone in the fruitless preoccupation to ‘catastrophize’. In fact, I have discovered that this propensity is surprisingly common, and there are many fellow catastrophizers who regularly make molehills into mountains, refuse to let 2 and 2 simply be 4 or given a poor situation will provide the worst possible outcome as the most likely conclusion.
As with most things there are degrees of ‘catastophizing’, and like me many simply need to be told to ‘ get a grip’ ‘stop spiralling’ or ‘find some perspective’. However, for some a husband not noticing a new hair cut can end, (in a catastrophizers mind) in divorce, loss of custody of the kids and inevitable homelessness! In those cases I guess a coffee with a friend probably isn’t the fix it all scenario cherished by womankind!
I originally considered it was an affliction of the modern world however, on reflection, I imagine it has most likely been around since time immemorial. One thing of which I am certain, the coping mechanisms today are very different. In Georgian times you would possibly have found a young lady absorbed in her needlepoint or reading and re reading a line of her book. Occasionally, she would glance out of the window looking for her beau who should have been with her hours ago. In her mind, he has obviously fallen from his horse and whilst crawling to her side in the rain has been mauled by a wild boar. If she had managed to rationalise that one away she decides he has eloped with the maid and her life is now over. The needlework provides a mindless therapy, an ability to switch off, preventing the mind from taking one down alleyways of ultimate catastrophe.
Today, I have discovered many a friend who claims Candy Crush Saga to be the therapy of choice. A computer game with brightly coloured sweets which you have to put in a certain order to blow up jelly or bring down nuts or cherries….quiet clearly addictive! It provides you with the opportunity to stop worrying about what’s for supper, shut out the argument between the kids that is currently ensuing or fretting about what could possibly go wrong with the world tomorrow. The ability to combine a striped sweet with a liquorice allsort also gives you a sense of achievement difficult to easily replicate in real life….Bam!…..Sugarcrush!….Divine!!!
This is regrettably the way I have spent my winter sabbatical! My evenings have generally been fairly meaningless… no writing or sea glass globe building, simply sitting by a fire, blocking out all worries or concerns and finding links of three sweets or more in order to level up!
The reality of life had to take hold and with Spring upon us I have said goodbye to candy crush on level 78! No more immersing myself in mindless sweet combinations in an attempt to escape from …….actually I’m not sure what!
This is good news for sea glass lovers! I have eventually launched my website, cornishseaglass.com, putting aside the fears of being sued by a international lawyer for a random point of consumer law. I have linked my website to facebook ‘Cornish sea glass creations’, abandoning the thought that I will make a henous error and be laughed at by the entire facebook community and I have been out collecting sea glass on the beaches of Cornwall, without fear of disappearing into a pit of sinking sand……..
In short…. I’m back and with new vigour! The sea glass has never been so exciting and plentiful after the recent storms which – despite my mind creating many catastrophic outcomes – didn’t blow the house down!

A Feeling of Discombobulation!

The other day whilst enduring a computer game ( in an attempt to bond in a modern world), my daughter and I discovered a new word: Discombobulated! Trying to pin down the meaning was problematic, and then in true spelling bee fashion, placing it in a sentence even more of a challenge.
I decided the revelation that her Mother spends most of her life feeling discombobulated, was perhaps an unnecessary and unconstructive point of fact. However, it did start me thinking at what times specifically rather than generally I feel, ‘disconcerted, upset, or frustrated’!
According to my husband, I am unique! This could be taken any number of ways, however, to put it in context it was his response to a probing question.’Was the need to always have something to look forward to a trait confined solely to women, or, do men have the same requirement for a happy life?’ In his view, it was in fact peculiar only to me and I could not gain comfort that the whole of womankind suffer the same issue.
As a girl growing up, having something to look forward to always seemed relatively straightforward. It came in stages, but there was always something to dream about, enough to keep me going for at least 37 years.
There was the prospect of a first boyfriend, What would he be like? Have I already met him? There was the marriage proposal, the wedding day, the husband, the first house, children, career…… There was always something in the future to pass away idol moments and to envision. Do men, I wonder, as they grow up spend conscious time thinking about the future in such a way? Do they visualise holding their first child for years before the event and if they don’t, does that mean the moment is even more special as it hasn’t been run through a thousand times in their minds.
But what now? I have been blessed with all the above and have happy memories and photos to reminisce over, but what do I look forward to now?
I have a tendency to start discussing what we should do next year for a holiday whilst lying by a pool 4 days into the current trip away. I normally get short shrift, but nevertheless get brochures ordered before I have opened the back log of holiday mail.
I look forward to Christmas every year, but drive myself mad by starting to plan in my head how to make it the best home created event of the decade.
It isn’t only the big events, but also the smaller milestones, watching a child’s sports match or picking up the kids from school.
Over the years I have tried to curb my anticipation of certain scenarios. I have learnt that too much enthusiasm can mean the reality is hard to bare, as your child doesn’t run into your arms ecstatic at you arrival, but rather states she doesn’t want to come home at all!

Gretchin Rubin says,’Having something to look forward to makes you ‘feel good’ and may also give an ‘atmosphere of growth’ to your life , because the future seems bright.’
I take solace in this statement, that in fact I am not alone and although unique in many ways, not in my need to have something to focus on in the future.

One of my favourite descriptions of the word discombobulated is,’ When your mind has a million things running around in it and it makes you act like a fumbling fool’. Perhaps the sentence for my daughter should be, ‘Something to look forward to and focus on can be the key to happiness, and can stop you feeling discombobulated’!

Perhaps not!  As maybe, just maybe, that particular gene has ended with me and that for her, living in the here and now and relishing every moment is what matters!

The first of the Christmas seaglass globes!!

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In with the New!

I have never found New Year inspiring. As a Nurse I would always opt to work New Years Eve in an attempt to have Christmas off.  I would leave the celebrations and resolutions for those more in tune with the prospect of new beginnings and creative promises.

September, however, is my New Years Eve equivalent. It has been in the past the time to take stock, re-establish my purposes and cast off the bad habits of the past year. At school I would attempt to return in September as Miss Sophisticated. No longer would I be ‘one of the lads’. I would glide – not stomp, I would giggle behind my hand –  not snort in an over zealous manner, I would have matching dressing gown with slippers and everyone would say….’Wow what has happened to her over the holidays?’ Of course, what they really said was ‘ What’s the matter with her?’ In a few days ( 5 at most) the true me would reveal itself by the rugby pitch or on the netball court in some red faced manic fashion. I would resign myself to the fact that the opportunity had passed and that maybe next year my miraculous transformation would occur.

I still feel the same in my forties, although now it is my unwitting children that bare the brunt! Their bedrooms are cleared of all paraphernalia, any recycling handmade project needs to go and bookshelves are emptied in an attempt to declutter. My sadness is that neither of my offspring seem to share the same need to be out with the old and in with the new. Trips to town have been refused, they claim their shoes still fit and to my horror no new stationary appears to be required.

I asked my teenage son several times if he needed anything for the new term, to the point that even I was getting bored of my voice…. the answer was always the same, a grunt or an emphatic ‘Nothing!’  It wasn’t good enough, I snuck up to his bedroom to seek out the pencil case. The contents were both shocking and disappointing. It revealed a broken set square and a biro with no casing! Naturally, I have read the books about allowing children to make their own mistakes but this was clearly a bridge too far and unbeknown to him I placed new pencils and a new geometry set in his bag. I simply couldn’t let it happen!

The first day of term at home remains one of favourite. Sitting down at dinner you ask all the usual questions but with limited replies. The new exercise books all require a stroke with the hand and a comment of ‘ Make sure the first page is all neat and tidy’! I must be an irritant to them and only take solace from the fact that I did find my daughter secretly sniffing her new exercise book, a sight which I found both comforting and reassuring, perhaps she, at least, holds the same passion for a new term as her Mother.

As the term settles down and everyone has caught the new term cough / cold, reality returns and life takes over. However, my maternal September New Year resolutions remain steadfast, the promise of lovingly created meals, homemade biscuits, undying support , constant encouragement and nurturing endure…….. but for how long remains uncertain!

My personal challenges also take hold in September, and along with a few robust friends I plan to do the ten tors challenge on Dartmoor next year. Training started on the Cornish coast path on Monday where 13 miles of what started as an admiration of the Cornish coast from Sennen to Lamorna, soon turned into arduous ups and downs where the views were ignored in preference of the best to place my foot so as not to get stuck between two boulders.

The New Term has also reinvigorated my creativity and I am back turning my lovely seaglass gems into globes and candle holders. In the true spirit of New Year resolutions I plan to have hundreds made by Christmas!!!!

Emerson wrote:

‘Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year’.

Wow! That is how I would like to live, but to me you can’t beat the first few days of a New Year at school either as a child or a Mother. The new school shoes, the declutterd bedrooms, the turning over a new leaf, blackberries, conkers and the smell of a brand new exercise book! Ahhhh! September!

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From the Depths of the Med!

The three R’s always feature quiet heavily on my annual holiday abroad and this year was no exception. However, there is only so much, Rioja, Rosada and Rest a girl can take before needing to go in search of the sea and some activity.
So it was decided that a snorkelling trip was in order. Once we had bought our masks and snorkels from one of the many Chinese supermarket bazaars, we headed to Las Rotas near Denia, a rural stretch of rocky beach only frequented by the Spanish.
It held great promise. With the octopus drying outside the little restaurant nearby, I had visions of the snorkelling being akin to ’50 leagues under the sea’! Only a fleeting image of one of us being dragged to the depths of the Mediterranean, a few feet from shore, crossed my mind.

octopus

My teenage son has always been cautious of any ‘at risk’ activity and you can almost see him mentally undertaking a full risk assessment before deciding his level of participation. On this occasion, he was adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere near the sea, even to paddle. Stories of Cornish weaver fish , a friends jellyfish sting in Menorca and basking shark siting’s had finally put paid to him ever enjoying an afternoon by the sea again. True to form, he sat on the rocks in the sweltering heat, watching as his sister and parents rather clumsily stumbled towards the water.

It was all going so well, the water was clear and I could see Father and Daughter pointing at various underwater marvels. It was one of those brief moments when, as a Mother looking on, you feel a little glow of ‘ this is what it’s all about’ ….only tarnished somewhat by my sons refusal to join us.
Suddenly this image was shattered, my husband looked up and pointed forcefully to the shore, clearly indicating a need for a rapid exit. My thoughts ran wild, and all the if’s, but’s, and maybes that belonged to my son were mine. Not wishing to alarm her I pushed my daughter like a bullet through the water, with visions of Jaws in hot pursuit and pulled / carried her to the shore in a way that must have resembled a Mother crossing the finish line in the nursery running race!
When he staggered to shore behind us, all was revealed, my husband had been stung by a jellyfish on his arm. He stood stoically next to me claiming, (in front of the children) that it only stung a little, whilst secretly looking at me as though his arm had the potential to drop off at any moment! I of course started thinking of the best way to acquire adrenaline and couldn’t for the life of me remember the emergency Spanish number.

sting

One might have expected at this point to find my son dancing around the beach like Rumplestiltskin singing ‘I told you so’, but he was very reserved and only had a slight look of vindication mingled with concern on his face. I’m not sure my repeated statements of, ‘Don’t be ridiculous nothing will hurt you!’ will ever hold weight again.

I should have known the moment was coming, but when my husband announced that he was going back in ( quietly indicating to me that we must for our daughters sake), I stood on the shore with my son deciding whether re-entry was in fact bordering on negligence! They returned un-scathed and I announced that I couldn’t possible go back in the water as the sun was now far too hot and we all needed a cold drink.

The rest of the afternoon was relatively uneventful. My son ate a baby cuttlefish which had so much black ink in it that he looked like a vampire for half an hour, and the conversation over lunch was somewhat stilted as every so often I would interject with questions as to my husbands welfare. ‘ Are you sure you don’t feel a little unwell?’ ‘Is it going down?’

All was not lost, Las Rotas produced some lovely pieces of blue sea glass, which I have thought probably came from the beautiful blue water bottles served at the restaurants….. however, it is true that sea glass is a vanishing gem as I was concerned to discover that in many restaurants now the blue bottles are made of plastic! I did consider having the conversation about blue sea glass with our waiter but decided, that on balance, it may not do the British tourists reputation any good whatsoever!

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Reckless to Responsible

 

In my mid twenties I used to commute 30 minutes from Bury St Edmunds to Cambridge, along a stretch of dual carriageway called the A14. I had a sporty little number and used to enjoy the ride, often when the roads were fairly clear due to my shift pattern. Many people have a commute of some type or other and most in that position I would assume have created a way of making the journey a little more bearable. Maybe the radio / audio tapes for some or not chewing a fruit pastille for others. Whichever way you look at it though, these drives can become repetitive and for me, at the time, a little irksome after a long hard shift. Over the years my way of breaking the monotony took on an alarmingly reckless guise.

I took to deliberately, never completely filling my petrol tank and whenever the red light appeared on the fuel gauge the game would begin. There was one petrol station about half way along the stretch where, if I didn’t stop for fuel, there was no other option for the next twenty miles or so. It was my very own secret version of petrol Russian roulette. Firstly, I would decide whether I was prepared to take the risk that night or not and as the point of no return came and went, my pulse would quicken and I would feel an almost tangible rush of adrenaline spurring me along the road. Would I make it? What would happen if I didn’t? Oh the excitement, the exhilaration,….. ‘Poop! poop!’ For me, in my otherwise essentially secure and safe existence, it was my high and every so often I needed a fix!

This invincibility came to a spluttering and abrupt halt one evening when I decided to test myself and play my secret game on a less familiar road. After a somewhat humiliating phone call, my knight in shining armour came to the rescue with a can of unleaded on the verge of the A143. In the rain, at night, his language was less than chivalrous, as my blatant lack of responsibility was hammered home. In vindication, I started to explain how successful I had been in the past, the pit just got deeper and in truth I was left feeling deeply ashamed, with a small rift having appeared in our compatibility as he revealed that, ‘No, he hadn’t played such a ridiculous game before’!

Dinner was a quiet affair that night and needless to say that part of my life was over….. I never did it again!

Twenty years on and a tendency to be too responsible is now more commonly the complaint.

A few weeks ago I had booked my 7 year old daughter onto the Rya level 1 sailing course on Loe beach . It was such a great idea at the time and she was very keen to do it. Naturally, it was the week the weather broke and the winds decided to blow strongly on the south coast of Cornwall.

blue-sail

As the other Mothers departed, I was left with one other potential neurotic sitting on the beach; surely the others hadn’t properly noted the weather conditions. My anxiety increased when I realised that from day one they were going to be actually sailing with one other 7 year old or similar in tandem….

‘ What’s the worst that could happen’? My comrade asked rhetorically, ‘I suppose they could lose there confidence’.What? No! I could think of several things that could happen much worse than a lack of confidence. Naturally, I decided to share these with her so she was not lulled into a false sense of security.

Over the week the wind continued and I stayed on the beach – now peculiarly alone!

Despite my binoculars I was limited in what I could see! The instructors had decided to use a beach right on the other side of the bay where one capsized boat was the same as the other. The reason for this midweek move was said to be an attempt to find a more sheltered spot. However, with hindsight, I was left wondering if in fact the relocation was an attempt to get away from the mad Mother, who, despite the rain and wind remained on the shore pretending to look the other way and occasionally raising the binoculars with a shriek!

The week ended and I was immensely proud of my daughters achievements. I had managed to perfect my smile as the intrepid sailors returned day after day, in addition to modifying my interrogation of the seven year olds, moving from a somewhat frantic powerless need for a complete run down of exactly what had happened and by whom, to a more general parental interest in the two hour experience.

I was proud of myself. I had turned over the responsibility of my child to a team of experts more than capable of teaching her to sail and I had survived! I was also left feeling, that despite being entirely powerless once she had left the shore, I had been responsible in sitting watching her for two hours, in a guise that must resemble that adopted by stalkers!

The two hours were not entirely futile. Loe beach provided enough yellow periwinkle shells to fill a jam jar and some lovely brown, green and clear pieces of sea glass.

periwinkles

It is in my nature to be responsible and probably over protective and I feel comforted when friends comment, ‘You are one of the most responsible people I know’. I do sometimes however (with worrying frequency) reminisce about driving down the A14 with a reckless disregard for my petrol level and relishing in the small but powerful feeling of doing something ever so slightly dangerous and naughty! Perhaps I should take a moment and start building a picture of the petrol stations on the school run……… Perhaps not, either way I am left with a faint uneasiness that my midlife Cornish crisis is deepening!

Tipping isn’t a city in China!

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I have taken a rare and somewhat unusual step and booked myself an appointment at the local hair salon, for a cut and blow dry. For most women this would be a regular and enjoyable experience, but for me it is plagued with potential issues. You may well consider the source for this uneasiness to be the fact that I am going to have to stare at my reflection for an unnerving length of time, or indeed the fear that the chit chat might run dry.  But no, despite the appointment being some two weeks away, I am already running over the tipping scenarios!

I remember as a young girl going to the hairdresser with my mother and dutifully being given a pound to be handed to the hairdresser, or 50 p to the girl that washed my hair. I would nervously approach the individual and pass them the money whilst mumbling , ‘This is for you’. I continue this tradition and subject my own children to the same routine but remain uncomfortable if I myself am required to tip.

My Grandmother would routinely give me a few pennies when she visited. Closing my palm around a coin she would whisper, ‘ This is for you, buy yourself some sweets’ .  It is a happy memory, but as I approach the recipient in a salon I get a faint recollection of the experience and it fills me with a sense that  somehow the whole business of handing over the money is inappropriate…. as if I am inadvertently suggesting they buy some sweets!

My discomfort with tipping is not reserved exclusively to the hair salon. In fact, whenever there is an indication for a tip I have a need to establish the ‘giving’ scenario and all it’s permutations before even entering the establishment.

When I was in my late teens the family went to the USA. Tipping was then and is now a well known and expected part of supplementing  the waiters income. During a very lovely meal at a famous restaurant, the waiter took to hovering nearby. The general perception of the group was that he was monitoring my drinks ensuring that I didn’t imbibe, as I was under 21. The atmosphere of the meal was ruined and when it was time to leave my Father didn’t deposit a tip on the table. The waiter followed us out asking why we hadn’t left a tip, it was explained ( somewhat heatedly) that a special meal had been ruined, however it was clearly unacceptable to the waiter who vociferously  made his dissatisfaction known. The whole experience was mortifying  and as we were ushered out of the restaurant by my parents, hotly pursued, I remember wishing the floor would open up and I would disappear into a well for the non tippers of the world.

I still carry this memory with me and stick somewhat tragically to the English unwritten rule of a 10% tip if service is not included. This provides me with a certain security, however, more recently and with the advent of the card replacing money, I get consumed by a new tipping predicament. I rarely carry cash, and have an overwhelming need to establish at the outset if the card machine allows tipping, as if not, and with no change, should I make a pre dinner trip to the cashpoint instead of enjoying my G and T. The dialogue is embarrassing and awkward for both parties.

A friend recently described a stay in a very expensive hotel where it was apparent that to tip would be considered rude. I interrogated her. How did she know? Was it written somewhere? The answer was that one simply knew! I made a note then and there never to find myself in such a hotel, left floundering as to whether or not tipping was acceptable, and living with the abject humiliation of getting it wrong.

It is in various hotels, (clearly not of the above calibre) that I have observed people arriving and insisting on carrying their own bags to the hotel room, keeping a tight grip on their luggage and insisting they can find their own rooms. Do their cases hold something too precious for the porter to carry? Or are they in fact taking a similar tack to me and trying to avoid the awkward pause in the bedroom. This is where they have finished talking you through the qualities of the hotel, and  leave the guest wondering at what juncture they should slip them some coins. My imagination can conjure up all sorts of ramifications if this intercourse doesn’t go to plan….  Will they look at their palm in a derogatory way? What happens if I drop it? Or, horror of horrors, will they cough in a pointed manner…… not for me, I would rather struggle up the stairs wandering the corridors with my luggage looking for my room, rather than subject myself and an expectant porter to the embarrassment of an exchange.

I consider myself a generous person by nature and have no problem parting with my money to a deserving recipient for service. However a  lack of tipping rules in any given circumstance forbids me  from enjoying the service, without both parties  knowing exactly how the encounter should end.

I  have noticed more and more little tipping pots on the side in coffee houses or  restaurants. This is apparently common in the USA and they are innovative in the write ups on the tins…’Boats can tip so can you’ or ‘Keep us off the pole’! This I find easy.. if there is change left over or in my purse I simply place it in the jar.. despite questioning what it is exactly I am tipping for in a coffee shop. I have even recently, tried to balance a 20p piece on a lemon in a jar of water until realising, 60p later, that in fact it probably wasn’t possible at all, but rather a unique way of procuring tips.

To keep with the sea glass theme ( although clearly somewhat hidden in this post), I have decided my Helford tea light holder would make an excellent tipping jar. In fact there could be a little note by the side…’Guess how this is made and you can have the money’ I wonder……

tipping

Women United!

In my experience there are a number of women who profess to preferring male company to those of the same sex. I myself, in the past, have been heard to say that I get on much better with men than women. That said, more recently the tables have turned and I now enjoy spending time with my female friends and have found a new pleasure in putting the world to rights with like minded souls! Maybe it’s because my world has become more orientated around home and children and less about career, that I have found my male friends just aren’t interested in discussing the rigours of getting the kids to school on time, the mess the house is in, the health of my kids nor the failure of last nights dinner!
I should probably take this moment to explain that I am not a feminist, nor have I ever been one. No doubt, had I been around at the time of the suffragettes, I would have been up there fighting for the women’s right to vote and without doubt I would be the first in the law courts if my male counterpart was being paid more than me. However, I still advocate the traditional values of males and females and would never consider burning my bra!
It was on the hottest day this year that I set out to do the Rcae for Life with my 7 year old daughter in Truro, she was keen to do it and had heard it advertised on Heart radio every morning on the school run for weeks.
Naturally, as we stood amongst 2,000 people on a school playing field, my concerns turned to making sure she had enough suncream on and that I was in possession of enough water to float a boat! The issue of the hat was also causing a degree of concern, she refused to wear it claiming it made her hotter, so the only solution was to pour water over her head and put the hat on top as a compromise!

The main priority was without doubt shade, it was 45 minutes until the start and looking around there was little escaping the heat! With no trees on a large rugby pitch, there was about a meter of shade being cast on the side of 2 catering vans and three retail tents. Being a predominantly female event, I was struck at how each of these patches of shade had men perfectly ensconsed in them, some on chairs, some sitting legs outstretched, but all taking up the majority of the available solace from the sun! The looks I gave were not enough to budge them nor was my daughter practically sitting on their feet at my instruction – they weren’t to be shamed into moving! I’m not suggesting all men would behave in such a way and I am sure chivalry isn’t entirely dead but I find it hard to believe any woman would leave a child in the blazing heat whilst they watched on sipping a cold drink in the shade.
Now possessed with this generosity of feeling towards womankind, we started to make our way to the stage. A mass of women in pink, all avidly listening to a  brave lady’s personal experience of her fight against breast cancer.
The official ‘warm – up’ began and I watched my daughter attempting zumba whilst surrounded by 1,500 other women of all ages, Grandmothers through to tiny babies in pushchairs.   It was at this point that I became entirely overwhelmed by the emotionally charged atmosphere, I found myself having to stem a flow of tears and a need to pick up my daughter and tell her how much I loved her whilst spinning her round in my arms! Thankfully, I was able to contain myself and hand in hand – Mother and Daughter – we moved to the flag marked ‘Walkers’ with like minded souls!
I was teaching my daughter to make a cake when she was four years old, when I had a similar overwhelming emotional experience. I was raising my hands above the bowl showing her how to get the consistency of breadcrumbs.. ‘ Only use your finger tips’… ‘You must raise your hands up high’, when I was struck that I was doing and saying it in exactly the same way my Grandmother had taught me. The soul filling sense of female togetherness, generations of my family’s women and the circle of life all flooded in. It was of course a short lived precious emotion, as moments later I was left to finish the cake in solitude!
And so it was, we were only a few hundred meters into the walk when my offspring started to look more than a little unhappy, I begun to think this was all too much and that we should abandon the event, when she revealed the source of her ennui. On route to our start line she had passed a friend from Brownies who was joining the joggers group, Why weren’t we jogging? She didn’t want to do it with me! It would be more fun with her friend!
I was momentarily crest fallen, the idealism of undertaking the challenge as one with my daughter and hundreds of others shattered. But as the grown up, I proceeded to douse her with water and apply several more layers of sunscreen, with few words between us for the next kilometer!

In between all this physical exertion I spent a day with some friends at Maenporth Beach near Falmouth. I engaged the whole party in collecting seaglass and the beach on this day yielded enough for a globe with some left over. Whilst the kids moved away to play, the women sat around the remnants of the picnic. Like so many generations before us, in different guises throughout the world, our Idle chatter resulted in solving each others dilemmas, support for the most recent onslaught from our offspring and assisted planning of the next day, week or year!   We sit resolute in the fact that as Grandmothers, Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters – together united – we could take on anything… and win!
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Order in the house!

I find it almost impossible to just ‘be’! So much so, that I find a general apathy in the house on a Saturday morning stifling! The family are all happyily chilling on some respective electronic or other after a busy week, when I appear ( normally, no always, the last to wake up) and I have an unsatisfactory habit of exclaiming, ‘So whats the plan today then?’ Which normally causes the arguments to start about who is not going to do what!
I don’t know why it is. I believe part of the issue is that just chilling at home with no purpose to the day fills me with guilt, as another spidersweb is caught by the morning light…. I have a hundred and one things that I must do if I stay in the house or garden. I have days scheduled for cleaning and gardening but it is never enough to feel that the job is done!
In actual fact, if no plan emerges and the family continues in their individual pursuits I have been known to retire to my bed exclaiming, ‘When someone decides they want to do something let me know!’
My life is essentially ordered in term time. I know where I need to be and when on every day, a mixture of chores, tennis, kids clubs and societies I have even factored in two alcohol free days and my blog writing! I envy Mothers who relish the school holidays something that has traditionally sent me spiralling out of control!
But all is not lost,because as this summer holiday approaches I have had a revelation. It has been a perculiar coincidence that when the children are off from school at some point in the holidays – it doesn’t matter if it is one week or eight – I will threaten my husband with the need to be institutionalised before I completely lose the plot!

I have no doubt that institutions play a large part in my life , or at least the schedules and routines that accompany these establishments. Boarding school was closely followed by Nursing ( the alternative was the Navy), and a career set by structure, rules and schedules.

My revelation is, that I need structure in the school holidays and as a result I have devised activity charts for both my children which are proudly on display on the fridge door. My 14 year olds ( blue card) is broadly empty (although I keep trying to manage him), but I have painstakingly gone through at least four ‘what’s on’ guides and have pencilled in various trips to the beach involving a range of activities. I have been optimistic regarding the weather and have included Beach cleans, body boarding, crabbing, seaglass collecting and bbq’s. However, always mindful that I live in Cornwall,  I have a carefully considered rainy day plan , cinema trips, clearing out the playroom – with ensuing car boot trip, undercover golf driving ranges etc. The list goes on!
Before I have an outpouring of sympathy for my children, I am not dragging them out if they really don’t want to go and I do have empty days when I will happily co-exist in the home ‘relaxing’ with the kids, albeit with a list of household jobs to be ticked off! In fact, I think the reason I feel more confident than normal about this school break is that I have a documented plan, not necessarily that we will do it all!
Just to reassure those of you that are considering an institution maybe best all around! I can be spontaneous and not driven solely by a set routine! At the weekend there was another children’s party – this time in a soft play area near St Austell. It gave my husband and I three and a half hours together and we discovered a most beautiful cove. Polkerris, has a pub on the front and the most beautiful sheltered beach with little fishing boats and a restaurant too. Of course, on a hot Saturday the beach resembled one of those incredibly difficult beachside jigsaw puzzles, with all manner of activities and sites to watch over a chilled glass of pinot grigio!

polkerris

 

 

There was, however, utter delight when I spied an area on the west side with some stones and shingle. On closer examination it revealed some lovely pieces of seaglass. I meandered up and down this patch whilst my husband used his seaglass technique of sitting and exploring the area immediately next to him ( frustratingly often finding more pieces than me). As you can see, our haul for half an hour was commendable…. a spontaneous trip well spent.

polglass

So for this holiday, at least, I have a beautifully mapped out plan!
All I can hope is that Robbie Burns was wrong when he wrote,
‘The best laid schemes of mice and men are often gone awry’!

Let the holidays commence!

 

 

 

The Need to be Needed!

Someone once said in my Nurse training, that many of the people that enter the profession do so as they ‘need to be needed’. As time went by, I began to realise that what fueled me for the next day was a smile of gratitude from a patient or a simple ‘Thank You’, not that I expected it but that it meant so much. As I entered management the ‘Well done’ and a tap on the back was enough to bring me back for another dose of targets and number crunching!
Leaving Nursing behind and becoming a housewife, I planned to throw as much energy at my new job as I could, becoming a full time wife and mother was my new mission in life – how hard could it be!
The reality was, that it made no difference how long it took me to cook dinner or that the produce sourced was all local and organic, that I spent endless hours on a village hall floor at sing and sign, tumble tots and Jo jingles, that I regularly cleaned the house and that the garden remained clear of dog poo, there was a significant lack of gratitude or positive reinforcement going around….. I was going to have to try harder!
It was a couple of years ago now when a friends Spanish Nanny caught a glimpse of my linen cupboard! I have never enjoyed ironing and the fact that many of my parents generation continue to iron duvet covers, pillow cases and even fitted sheets, caused me a degree of what can only be described as horror! Why else was a fitted sheet invented other than to stretch it over the mattress so it was crease free!
The Nanny looked on in disbelief at a mixture of random bed linen placed in a haphazard fashion, admittedly the time it took me to find matching linen for a bed or even a single sheet rather than a kingsize was probably the amount of time it would have taken me to iron it, but that was my linen cupboard a shake and a fold …. job done! It was at that moment that I was introduced to the wonders of a linen pack! I was shown how to iron the fitted sheets  so they didn’t resemble a ball and how to place them in a beautiful matching pack containing duvet, pillow case and sheet all the necessary pieces for a clean bed…. it was a revelation!
( for those of you who are like me and still confused I have lovingly and painstakingly prepared one for you as an example)

duvet

Then and there all the linen was pulled from the cupboard and I started ironing and producing the most glorious packs! Several hours later ( and having thrown out for recycling any number of random non matching pieces of linen) my cupboard was a sight to behold. All beautifully piled up packs!
I showed my friends…. ‘What does it normally look like then?’
I showed my husband….’That’s good Dear!’ somehow the emphasis wasn’t quiet right!
That afternoon the beds were changed using the new packs and I went to bed utterly convinced that everyone was sleeping better due to the ironed sheets!
Breakfast the following morning and I was prepared for an outpouring of gratitude!

Me: ‘So how did everyone sleep?’ In a nonchalant fashion
Them: Monosyllabic grunts.
Me: ‘I ironed the sheets you know’, in a matter of fact tone
Them: Open mouthed staring.
Me: ‘Did either of you even notice?’ With ridiculous emphasis on the word notice bordering on the start of tears!
Them: Looks of disbelief and confusion!
But really, what was I expecting from a five and an eleven year old?

Needless to say it didn’t last long and the linen cupboard is now kept hidden from visiting eyes!
I was recently introduced to the ‘Five Languages of Love’ a book by Gary Chapman. He explains that most of us have a predominant language of love . We normally give out to others what we would like to receive from those around us, in order to keep our love tanks full. The 5  languages are, ‘Words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch’. Mine is, without doubt, ‘words of affirmation’. Many may suggest ( as has been said in the past) that I should get enough satisfaction from simply doing a good job. Well simply put, I do .. to a degree… but a smile, thank you or well done keeps the motivation alive and my love tank full!
You can work out your ‘language of love’ from the quiz below. I would encourage you to do it and let those close to you know what it reveals. However, if it is indeed affirmation, like mine, be prepared for times when you feel  unappreciated and an overwhelming need to seek a well done from outside your initial family circle.

Take a tip from me:
The cheesecake I lovingly prepared last week went wholly unappreciated at home, so I started subjecting a friends 3 year old boy to my culinary delights, the look of pleasure on his face as he consumed mouthful after mouthful and the fact that when he sees me he simply says ‘Cheesecake pease’ is all I need to keep trying to encourage a positive word from my offspring with next weeks creation!

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

Luckily with friends like mine, I’m not allowed to dwell for long in the depths of unmitigated self-pity and smouldering martyrdom. We are all quiet good at bringing each other back to the reality of how domestic tasks are the same the world over but we get to do them in glorious Cornwall! I also remain resolute in the fact that, after all is said and done, what would they do without me….Right!

P.S
Many of you … horror of horrors are not passionate about seaglass but have been kind enough to say you enjoy reading my weekly blog! For those of you that are, infact, reading it for information about seaglass beaches in Cornwall I have been somewhat remiss! However, I intend to put that right! The school holidays are looming and although prising my teenage son away from anything electronic maybe a bridge too far, I hope to be taking my daughter seaglass hunting and beachcombing with picnic in hand!

In the meantime I heed what my Grandmother used to say about not ‘washing your dirty linen in public’ and am not going to show you a photo of my linen cupboard ( feel free to share yours though), but include a photo of a recent candle holder I made with glass from pendower beach on the roseland peninsula!

pentewan

For those that need it: ‘Thank you for reading and sharing this’!

At Risk and Fancy Free!

Despite what some may think, I am not in denial! I will freely admit I can become preoccupied with issues of health and safety. However, calls of neurotic, fretful and paranoid can irk somewhat. I am the person that stands hovering over a random spillage in the supermarket, offering cautionary advice to a poor unsuspecting passer by.  I am also the irritating one amongst the throng to point out that a fire exit is blocked….. I could go on but you all will know the type. I’m not alone surely?
This sense of personal duty and concern for the health and safety of the public clearly doesn’t extend to my own protection. Since moving to Cornwall I have sought various ways to provide a sense of achievement, taking part in activities that could be seen, by some, as less than cautious! My first triathlon was a concern for family and friends, as I returned an hour after the last person had gone home; the mile long swim across the Fal Estuary having undertaken little training had its perils, and the 10k run where the stewards were clearing up behind me asking me repeatedly if I was Ok, was more than a little embarrassing.  My coastal path walking shouldn’t be cause for concern, however, my friends can sometimes be heard issuing instructions to ‘take care’, as I stride along a narrow footpath perilously close to the edge or tread boldly through areas marked ‘Danger mine shafts’, when our party’s navigation has proved less than accurate.
To a parent concerned with health and safety there is little let-up in Cornwall! Children’s parties take on a new quality. Rock-climbing is a popular choice, but last weekend I was introduced to The Flowrider…  As you can see below, my 7 year old took the cautious approach to her first trip on the board and went in tandem, much to my relief!

Secretly, I was hoping that maybe she had had enough, but she boldly went out alone only to be wiped out!

And when I thought that surely that would be her last attempt, she does a successful ride, revealing her Superman moves!

So, I don’t appear to have too much of an issue with ‘at risk’ activities per se! The accusations of neurotic etc. (mainly from my teenage son) may well stem from another source. When hormones are slightly out of kilter, sources of potential food contamination and my children’s diet can cause particular concern. I have in the past ( on more than one occasion) been known to throw away a whole pack of sausages that just didn’t look right after cooking; have found the need to prise away food at the slightest suggestion by my offspring that ‘it tastes funny’  and far too often can be found sniffing a leftover meal that has been in the fridge a little over two days ….is it Ok?…. I’m not sure? ….can I possibly risk it?
Last week, in an attempt to be the perfect rural housewife, I decided to make sourdough bread and elderflower cordial.

elderflower

I had no issue with my seven year old climbing on the car bonnet with secateurs to cut the elderflowers on our drive, but when she refused to try the end product because something was floating in it, I sighed audibly. Not, as she thought, out of sadness for not trying the elixir, but in relief that just maybe the something floating in it was something other than a tiny leaf or that I had used too much citric acid for it to be safely consumed! Likewise with the sourdough bread. Should the sourdough starter, lovingly fed for days, really smell that bad? Despite googling it many times to be reassured that it should indeed smell……sour! It will be going nowhere near anyone under 20 years of age until my taster has survived the experience! To those men (and women) that read this and despair, may I reassure you that I am not alone ( although I admit there are probably not many of us out there), and the habit of checking three times the dosage and date of Calpol before administering it, is not a habit reserved exclusively for ex – nurses!

A part of me wonders if the catalyst to these somewhat irrational issues with food could be directly related to the first year we moved here! Gung ho to embrace the outdoor lifestyle, I disposed of the pram and bought a child carrier on the advice of a friend. It opened up a whole new world of beautiful tucked away beaches and my first love of seaglass. It was on one such excursion to Durgan Beach, that I stumbled across a huge spider crab – dead. I of course wasn’t stupid enough to cook it for dinner but I did carry it home to make the most splendid ashtray. It was bleached, scrubbed and looking fabulous … I was living the dream! During the night, I was struck down by the most horrendous food poisoning which lasted for about 5 days! Clearly, a bit more nail scrubbing had been required or even a pair of gloves! I still carry hand gel to the beach to encourage a quick clean after rock pooling and beachcombing and before the picnic, and break out in a cold sweat when it is suggested we harvest some mussels for supper.

The link to seaglass? Well this week I decided to branch out and try my hand at soldering some pieces together. I incurred two burns and despite ventilation, my main concern was the degree of lead poisoning I had potentially subjected myself to. As you can see from the end product…I think I will stick to globes!

solder

Over the past few years and as my midlife crisis has deepened, I have taken to enjoying famous quotes. I discovered an affinity with one in particular from Mark Twain,

‘ Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover’.

My cautionary note would be by all means ‘throw off the bowlines’ but you might want to check your eggs are properly cooked and the ham sandwiches well sealed in a temperature controlled cool-bag before you set sail!