Perfect conversations

Oh Cath, the time has come. I need a hair cut. I loathe going. It’s even worse now that I have all these stress highlights. Beautiful shades of silver and grey upon which the world (aka my kids) frowns.

It reminds me of what Mum said just before she died.

We were sitting one afternoon in the garden cottage, the sun pouring in the window behind her and she said, quite seriously, ‘I’ve been thinking of useful pieces of wisdom to share with you before I die.’

I leant forward in my chair, knowing this was going to be poignant and special. Something to remember forever. To treasure.

‘But,’ she said, ‘I can only think of two things. One, when you wash your upholstery always put the covers back on damp or else they shrink. And two, when you start to go grey, dye your hair.’

We looked at each other, nonplussed for a minute or two, then I said, ‘That’s it? After sixty two years?’

‘Well, I can’t think of anything else important,’ she said.

My mother knew exactly how I felt about hair dressers. She also knew that washing upholstery was so way down my agenda as to not feature at all.

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Thanks.’

‘That’s okay,’ she said. We spent a moment or two reflecting on all the things that the conversation didn’t actually say and without needing to say any more, we knew it was enough. In fact it was perfect.

 

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Finding success in the world of self publishing

Above, in the menus, are over 500 essential tips for authors wanting to improve their book sales.

Do they work? Yes.

Below are funny, weird, poignant, angry, daft posts for Cath, in an attempt to keep my sanity.
It’s okay, she’s already nuts.

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Thursday Thirteen – 13 Amazing Treehouses to stay in

Dear Cath – You know me, a serious sucker for weird and wonderful places in which to stay. Well I’ve been ‘collecting’ them, a wishful to do list and I have over 140. Wow. I have hotels underground and in caves, even ice caves. I have converted prisons, schools and hospitals. Underwater hotels, inside works of art, tents, tipis, yurts, caravans, etc I even have the smallest and the largest. And the most luxurious!

Here are my thirteen treehouses that I wouldn’t mind trying!
 


 
TreehouseEngland – Castle Cottages B&B and Treehouse

The tree house in this B&B is extraordinary. It is built in a huge chestnut tree and is wonderfully cozy.
Tree house offers unique romantic accommodation in a peaceful country location between the town of Petworth and the beautiful South Downs. Situated within the grounds of “Coates Castle”, a Strawberry Hill gothic mansion and surrounded by ancient woodland and pretty gardens, a warm welcome and a relaxing stay with a delicious breakfast is guaranteed.

 

Australia – Fur ‘n Feathers – The Canopy Rainforest Treehouse

The Canopy Treehouses is a unique Australian accommodation and wildlife experience.

Set in 100 acres of ancient rainforest located on the Cairns Highlands that is strictly for the private use of our guests, this eco rainforest resort blends award winning luxury accommodation with a passionate regard for environmental and wildlife principles. We invite you to relax in the privacy and luxury of one of our six treehouses and enjoy the rainforest around you that is teeming with wildlife.

 

Treehouse

California – Black Thorne Inn

Blackthorne Inn bed and breakfast is in a wooded canyon near the village of Inverness, California. The Blackthorne Inn bed and breakfast provides intimate overnight accommodations in a beautiful rustic setting adjacent to the magnificent Point Reyes National Seashore wilderness park in northern California. This unique structure resembles a giant elegant treehouse. Crafted from redwood, cedar and a 180-foot Douglas fir cut and milled on the site, the Blackthorne Inn bed and breakfast rises through fragrant bay trees to sunny decks on four levels.

Turkey – Kadirs Yoruk Top Tree Houses
With its unspoilt scenery and fascinating Lycian history, this part of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is the perfect place for an unforgettable holiday. Staying at Kadir’s will ensure that you do have the perfect holiday.

Olympos is one of the most absolutely gorgeous spots in all of Turkey – a paradise awaiting you. Home to a wide range of flora and fauna. The beach is one of a few breeding grounds for the loggerhead turtles.

Oregon – Out ‘n’ About Treesort

The Out ‘n’ About Treesort in Takilma, Oregon has 14 rental treehouses that range from fairly spartan to pretty darn nice.

Some feature restooms, clawfoot tubs, and microwaves. You can take treehouse building classes, participate in arts & crafts, swim in the pool, and go horseback riding. This truly is either camping on steroids or really, truly a resort where you just happen to sleep up in the trees.


Sweden – Woodpecker Hotel

Brace yourself for heights when it’s time to check in. Suspended 13 metres above the ground this tree hotel is located in Vasteras, Sweden.

There’s a sturdy and wobbly rope ladder and then once you reach the platform/deck area then you can view the impressive park bellow and the lake beyond.

 

Washington – Cedar Creek Treehouse
Imagine having your own state park for a weekend, with a clear mountain stream flowing by your cabin — except that your cabin is 50 feet up in a giant cedar tree with a view seen only by the birds! You’re living in the tree canopies of a lush temperate rainforest … you can see for miles … a great blue heron glides silently over the rushing creek far below … the sun splashes through a skylight and illuminates a mammoth tree trunk growing straight up through the floor of your kitchen and disappearing through the ceiling!

Panama – Canopy Tower Ecolodge
Awaken to a tropical chorus of motmots, toucans, and fruitcrows.

Your bedroom is at treetop level, no more than 40 feet from the birds. In the cool Panamanian dawn you can feel Panamá’s great rainforest awakening around you. Blue Cotingas and Green Shrike-Vireos, birds normally glimpsed high in the tops of trees, perch right outside your Canopy Tower room.
Up a flight of stairs in the dining room, a cup of coffee and rolls await you. Settle down at a table next to the window. Above the endless tropical forest of Soberanía National Park, a ship glides through the Panamá Canal. The hooting of a distant troupe of monkeys punctuates the birdcalls. You keep your field guide open on the table in front of you beside your rolls and fresh orange juice. In complete comfort, you greet the morning sun. Nothing obstructs your view. Through the unscreened open window, nature carries on its morning business.

Parrot Nest Lodge
This is a truly unique tropical experience. Spending the night under a 100′ guanacaste tree in a thatched tree house is like nothing else! The lodge is surrounded on three sides by the Mopan River, so a refreshing swim in clear water is never far away and the wildlife of the area abound.

Parrots are in great number here, along with hundreds of other types of birds, making this an ideal location for bird watching. Coati, agouti, otter, and the giant iguana are among the many animals which are regular visitors to our beautiful gardens which, though lush and exotic, are virtually mosquito free, a real bonus for those who love the great outdoors – and a good night’s sleep.

Curacao – Kura Hulanda treehouse

On this side of the Caribbean island, you reach the Tree House Mansion, a two-bedroom luxury suite at the Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club, via a spiral staircase from the outside.

Once inside, there’s an open-air living room, an authentic Bali bridal bed, a flat-screen TV and wireless Internet.

New Zealand – Hapuku Lodge
We built Hapuku Lodge to give our guests a great night’s sleep in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Located 12 kms north of the renowned, eco-marine town of Kaikoura, on New Zealand’s South Island, the Lodge is surrounded by an expansive deer farm and 1000 tree olive grove. Hapuku Lodge is situated in one of the most spectacular settings in New Zealand, nestled between the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Range and famed Mangamaunu Bay. Hapuku Lodge offers six guest rooms, a stand alone spacious apartment, five luxury Tree Houses, a function venue, and a dedication to creating exciting food from local, seasonal ingredients.

Arkansas – The Original Treehouse

CottagesTreehouse Cottages are custom designed and are suspended upon five wooden poles 22-26 feet off the ground. These cottages do not resemble the rustic Treehouses of one’s youth. They are pure luxury inside, with heart-shaped whirlpool tubs surrounded by glass taking in a panoramic view of the heightened forest.
There is also a floor to ceiling picture window that enhances the Treehouse feeling, bringing the outside in. The wrap-around deck is a perfect place to sip your coffee, read that book, or just holler a Tarzan call!

Costa Rica’s – Tree House Lodge

On the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in the heard of the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge, lies a hidden treasure and your best choice of sustainable tourism in Costa Rica. The tree house, a small eco lodge.

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Bad luck loses out!!

Hey Cath!!!

Been entering competitions EVERYWHERE so I can use up all my bad luck and be left with just the good luck and it’s worked! I WON!!!! Thanks so much to Laurie of BlackVelvetSeductions

I got the fab book Birthright by Nora Roberts! How lucky am I! :-) :-D

They have loads of competitions and the site is full of great info including author interviews, guest blogs and some great info – and right now I feel so very warm to them!

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The best letter I ever got


Hi Cath. I saw a photo today on my facebook of an author, Kylie Griffin who’d just received the a copy of her first book in print. The book cover was gorgeous but what was even bigger and broader and more gorgeous was Kylie’s beaming smile because it truly spoke of the pride and sheer exhilarated delight in her achievement.(And as an author I know what an achievement that is!)

I posted a comment to say how much a liked her smile and as I wrote I was reminded of a letter I once received. I had been trekking through Europe, backpacking, travelling on my own for months and I teamed up with a Korean girl and we travelled from Austria to Venice together.

When I got home to South Africa, months later, I received a letter from her, one that I was never able to reply to because apartheid sanctions restricted communications with her country. It was a letter that was so beautiful that I still carry it with me to this day. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t grammatically correct but I still treasure it with all my heart.

It read:

Hello! How have you been? I wonder if you finished your trip safely or not.

Look at your picture. How nice it is!

I could remember there we met. You were so good friend. So brave, also a stranger to me.

I still remember your smile, as like my sister.

Now I am working in this hospital again,

But I missed the day that spent before, so much, more than more.

Good luck to you

Bye!

Don’t ever lose your smile

Sincerely

Jun Tae Kyung 16th Oct 1985

Isn’t that just beautiful?

I want to say that to Kylie too. Don’t forget this day, don’t forget your beautiful smile. It’s easy to do, it can be bogged down by petty failures and you forget the shine. Don’t let it happen. Carry the triumph with you. It’s an amazing achievement, remember that. Don’t ever lose your smile.

Visit Kylie’s blog here Or buy her book here Vengeance Born (Novel of the Light Blade)

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Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?

Dear Cath

I am a writer. It’s what I do. I love doing it, take enormous satisfaction in weaving words into a story but a gift I have always deeply admired is the ability to give mood, emotion, vibe in the simplest and briefest of words.

Why take three paragraphs to say it when a single line can say it better. True poets can do it and a poem that I have always loved for it’s sheer story telling skill is this one. It is a powerful tale of passion, mourning, grief, dread, fear and loneliness but it’s singsong cadence can lull you into believing something altogether different until you get to the very end.

Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark verandah)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteeers
Who hadn’t got a penny,
And who weren’t paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the Din?
And the Hip! Hop! Hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Glancing,
Dancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of a clapper to the spin
Out and in –
And the Ting, Tong, Tang, of the Guitar.
Do you remember an Inn,
Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?

Never more;
Miranda,
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar:
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the Halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far Waterfall like Doom.

Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc

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Milestones

Hi Cath, it’s been such a funny week. It’s Thursday already and I’m not sure what’s happened to the last three days. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to pass in a muddled haze. I just couldn’t seem to get on top of things.

Osteopath tomorrow, that’s going to help hopefully. My back’s buggered. It’s all this yoga I’m doing. Thought it was supposed to be the answer. Instead I creak about more than ever. Have you ever noticed that when people do these exercise videos etc all of them can already put their knees behind their heads, or balance on their chins, or put their eyebrows on their belly buttons.

A great video range would be learning with someone like me, who can’t do anything so you don’t feel such a failure before you even start.

You sent me a pic of the crotch of your jeans today. While you were wearing them. I had to laugh. What are friends for I guess, but for sharing with them the holes in the fabrics of your jeans but seriously, hun, get some new ones! What happens if you bend over?!!?

 

 

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2012 – the truth revealed…

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Talking to Ralph and the big white telephone

Dear Cath

Happy New Year!! How are you? How’s the hangover? Yeah, right, I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t but I, I do… of course I do.

Do you remember the Sambuca hangovers in Durban? All those years ago? Well this morning I was vividly reminded of it as Max was very very sorry for himself this morning. Not sorry enough to make me sympathetic mind but close enough. He couldn’t face coffee, tea, pizza, more beer, in fact the only thing he said, in a very small voice was, ‘Water, please, water.’ And proceeded to gasp like a freshly landed fish until I handed him a glass.

It didn’t stay inside long. In fact Lisa was hovering outside the bathroom, wondering who needed rescuing more, him or the toilet when I came downstairs and I asked her if he was talking to Ralph on the big white telephone and she had no idea what I was talking about.

I was shocked. Apparently they no longer use those words. Now they say Whitied. Whitied?? How does that work? I whitied everywhere, I am going to Whitie, he whitied… I dunno.

Somehow the white telephone makes a great deal more sense. I must be getting old.

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2012 – it’s here, the question is, will it stay?

Dear Cath

I heard about the Mayan calendar prediction about four years ago. At the time 2012 seemed like forever away, funny to think it’s here already. Anyway I was interested but more in the way that I am interested in ghosts, UFO’s and witches. Would love to believe but on the whole taking it all with a large pinch of salt.

Then I read the Mayans did not say the world was going to end at all, just that the ‘Pathway of Mankind would be forever altered‘.

It got me thinking. What would it take to change the our futures, irrevocably. A change that would put us on whole different wave length. Friends and I chatted and they came up with all sorts of ideas, Pandemics, Fossil fuels disappearing suddenly, solar flares wiping out electricity and so on but for me none of them worked.

Those crises wouldn’t change us. Not as mankind, it would put us back a little maybe but essentially we’d be the same awkward so and so’s.

So I challenged my friends to think of twelve ways the world would truly alter and this is what we came up with. (One for each month)

  1. We discovered that God was real. One faith had unquestionable proof that THEY were right and THEIR God was the only way and there wasn’t a single way a non believer could wiggle their way out believing.
  2. We discovered that the REALLY was life after death – We found ghosts were real and were able to talk to them
  3. We learned how to time travel or to manipulate time and created countless paradoxes
  4. We learned the art of astral projection, tele-portation
  5. We could read each others minds
  6. Aliens visited earth in such a way as no one could argue that it was trick of the camera or good photoshop work or we found out, without room for argument that life existed on other planets.
  7. We suddenly were no longer able to make babies
  8. We were able to do magic for real
  9. We were able to breathe underwater
  10. We discovered other dimensions and were able to figure out how to cross between them
  11. We found a way of communicating with animals
  12. We lost our ego and instead of thinking of ourselves first, our first thought was for others.

It’s been fun thinking about, I tease myself by wondering which I’d like to happen and I like number 1 a lot. Imagine – there would be no religious wars, no sectoral violence. Life after death also appealed. It would be wonderful to KNOW. And know HOW it worked too.

I also love the idea of being able to talk to animals. I’d have a word or two with merlin about peeing on the damned bath mat.

 

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I have no friends!!

I've got no friendsDear Cath

This is the third time I’ve lived through being fifteen. Being fifteen is tough.

This time it’s Sarah’s, my youngest turn. In some ways she’s got it tough. Glasses, braces, puppy fat and, I’m sorry to say it, an imaginative fashion sense that doesn’t always work. Indie she calls it.

It’s also the third time round where the cry of, ‘I’ve got no friends!’ has been sobbed into my arms. I know the ache of being lonely and feeling rejected. It’s awful. I don’t know which time was worse for me. Living through it or watching my kids deal with it.

When Lisa had no friends I didn’t know how to make it better. I didn’t have the words to help so I doled out platitudes. Don’t worry it will get better, you’ll find friends soon, the girls at school just aren’t very kind, try a new club… and so on. By and large, useless advice.

It’s gone in cycles over the years – no friends, friends, no friends, friends… Because we’re not talking about the friends who wave hello in the queue at the supermarket, it’s not about your parents’ friends who have kids that you muck around with, it’s not about the girl you sit next to in science and have a good laugh with.

The friends that we’re talking about here are the friends that become those forever kind of friends, bridesmaids at your wedding, Godmother to your kids, laugh and cry on each others shoulder kind of friends.

I’ve cried, Lisa’s cried for friends like those, now it’s Sarah’s turn. Our conversation went roughly like this when she told me about it.

‘I can’t seem to make any friends mum. Everybody hates me.’
‘What about lunch breaks, can’t you get talking to the people at your table?’ I asked.
‘B-but Mu-um, no one wants to sit next to me!’
‘Well, what about at the gym?’
‘I -’ sob, ‘I h-hate going to the gym on my own!’
(There goes £80 on a wasted birthday gift… ) ‘What about joining something like guides?’
Roll eyes, sob and laugh at the same time, ‘Oh God mum! I’m fifteeeeen!’
‘What about hanging around with Sophie?’
Grimace and a sniff, ‘She’s my cousin, she doesn’t count.’
I left that and thought a bit more, ‘What about speaking to your teacher?’
She burst back into tears, ‘You’ve got no idea what it’s like!!!’

Well actually I do, I thought, I’ve been there with your sister and now, here I am, with you. I didn’t know how to make it better for me, for Lisa and I don’t really know how to make it better with you.

She begged to be allowed to leave school, she wanted us to move to Africa, London or Australia. She got quieter and quieter, more and more miserable and like me turned to junk food for comfort which in turn made her feel even more depressed. I felt so damn sorry for her.

Even more so this last weekend because we spent the whole two days shopping for a coat for Lisa. Again.

You know that Lisa is slim with a stunning figure and long red hair. She is also single minded, she knows EXACTLY what sort of coat she wants. Colour, style, buttons, pockets, lining, length… it HAS to be just so. It’s exhausting. I loathe shopping with her when she knows what she wants because there are no compromises. We’ve been looking for THIS coat for about three years.

However just like searching for your car keys and finding your purse instead Lisa’s coat gave me an answer to friends that Sarah understood.

None in stock

Sarah came home from school this afternoon and sat next to me, silent but for the tears plopping onto her plastic school bag. We looked at each other and she looked so damn miserable I wanted to cry too.

‘Bad day?’ I asked.
She nodded. ‘Marissa told Kate that I was boring and that I was always complaining.’
Oh dear, she was kind of boring, complaining about not having any friends, chasing the few she had away, quite by mistake. No wonder other kids avoided her.
‘Poor baby,’ I said, ‘The worst thing about not having friends is not only do you feel you miss out you feel valueless. ‘
‘Like no one wants you,’ she sniffed.
I had a sudden idea. ‘You know this weekend we went shopping for Lisa’s coat?’
‘Yes.’
‘How many months have we been looking for this coat?’
She rolled her eyes, ‘For-ever!’ she said with feeling.
‘Why?’
‘Because Lisa is painful!’
‘Well yes,’ I agreed, ‘but why else? What makes it so hard for her to find a coat?’
‘Because she knows exactly what she wants.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘nearly there. Why else is it hard to find the coat?’
She looked at me, eyes still red from her tears, still looking miserable but starting to be interested too. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Because no shop seems to stock it.’ I waited for her to think about that for a second then I said, ‘It’s a bit like your problem isn’t it?’
‘Er?’
‘Well you know exactly what sort of friend you want, you’ve been looking for her for ages, but somehow none of the places you hang out seem to ‘stock’ that sort of friend.’
‘Huh?’
‘You want perfect friend to be just so. You’ve looked for your friend in all sorts of places, guides, clubs, gym, school, just like Lisa has for her coat; M&S, New Look, Macy’s, Jane Norman and so on. You’ve both looked hard haven’t you. Is it Lisa’s fault that M&S or any of the other shops don’t stock her coat?’
She shook her head.
‘It is your fault that your ideal friend hasn’t arrived in the places you’ve been looking?’
Light seemed to dawn in her eyes and she shook her head.
‘Does the fact that Lisa couldn’t find the right coat mean that she is impossible to clothes and she’ll never find the right one?
‘No.’
‘Exactly!’ I said. ‘Does the fact that none of the girls you currently mix with will become forever friends mean that you are un-likeable? ‘
She didn’t answer.
‘No,’I said, ‘all it just means the right person hasn’t come into ‘stock’ yet. That’s all.’
‘But there are some girls I like.’
‘Just like there are some coats Lisa liked, she bought them because she needed a coat to keep her warm but it wasn’t the perfect coat. As she wore them they got used to each other and they matched some of her other clothes and she was quite happy with them. But they weren’t forever after coats.’
She smiled at me. A real smile, the first for ages.
I said, ‘Sometimes you don’t find the perfect connection. Sometimes you can spend forever looking for the perfect coat, forgetting that you already have some wonderful coats. Sometimes you’ll find a coat that works fine and gradually your relationship grows and evolves into the one you feel most comfortable with and it becomes the coat you’ll wear everyday if possible. And to hell with style and fashion!’

I have no friends!!Five week update:

Lisa has found a coat.  She was right to keep looking, hold out, she looks absolutely stunning!

Sarah stopped looking for the perfect friend and decided to wait and see who came into ‘stock’. Ever since she stopped hassling about it she started to make some new friends. Maybe not future bridesmaid/God mother friends but just like the imperfect coat they keep each other warm where and when it counts. She knows that one day the perfect friends might ‘come into stock’ but in the meantime she’ll enjoy the one’s she has. She also realises, that just maybe, one or two of them might actually evolve into being perfect.

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Bus Stops

Hi Cath

Women with tombstone teeth, cop shy men, Russian scientists… Truly, American bus stops are a wonderful insight to the world.

The first bus was easy, the 2nd left me waiting for 35 minutes with these two guys outside a tyre shop. One guy was big and black and kept ducking into the tyre shop every time a cop car drifted past, the other guy was a young Hispanic who, in the blazing humidity wore a thick black hoodie about ten sizes too big and a pair of cuts off that would have fitted a sumo wrestler. Naturally they rode half way down his rump and I entertained myself by wondering when they were actually going to fall of completely.  He wore a baseball cap back to front and so far down over his eyes he had to tip his head back to see and he spent most of the time singing out of tune rap very loudly to his iPod and doing a gangsta style dance, complete with crotch grabbing. (His not mine!)

After about twenty minutes of this Cathy came trundling up on her smart yellow and blue bicycle, stencilled with white daisies. She was enormously proud of it and it was clear the bike spent more time being taken for bus rides that it did actually being ridden.

‘My brother got it for me,’ she said, stepping back so we could both admire it, ‘after I got out of the wheel chair.’

Cathy was in her late fifties and hugely friendly. She had top teeth on the left and bottom teeth on the right and it was clear the two seldom met, both sets being fairly tombstone like in appearance. She told me her mother was psychotic and her biological dad had adopted them (?) and when he died of pancreatic cancer it was Cathy who offered him the cocktail of drugs that hastened the end. Really???

Then I got the #10. This ride entertained me by the blonde waitress and the middle aged guy. The bus was packed and they sat across from each other where it was impossible to not see each other. Some minutes into the ride I dozed off and woke to the waitress snapping,’STOP STARING AT me!!’
The middle aged guy said, ‘Don’t flatter yourself, you too ugly anyway.’

Sheesh

The next bus ride was directed by the Russian woman. Fixedly unsmiling but kind, (funny how the two don’t seem to go together comfortably but she was both) anyway she offered advice in a deep Russian accent, gratified and pleased with me when I showed her my bus pass as opposed to a single ticket. What was she doing in Florida? I asked, gesturing around us at lack of snow and ice. She gave me her first smile, beaming it was, and said her heavy Russian accent that, ‘I am hlugky, I am scientisd at oceanographer instidude vorking vid leedle black visch.’ Whereupon her bus came and whisked her away.

As instructed I got the #40 and travelled back the long way round while a woman in her fifties three seats behind me preaching to the poor little five year old black girl that she’d cornered. The child kept glancing with wild eyes at her mama while the woman cried, ‘And it was Jesus, who saved me, JESUS I say, and YOU child shall know HIS NAME.’

As  the bus crossed 17th street who should board again but the Hispanic of the loose pants and the cop shy Black man. We greeted each other like long lost friends while the other bus passengers watched us with carefully blank faces.

When I got to the bus station for the final leg of my trip a big (BIG) black mama in bright tight red tracksuit pants with a very tight green sweatshirt took offense to an approach from a drunk homeless guy and started laying into him with one of her crutches, yelling at the top of her voice.

Truly I had an amazing day! I love America!

 

The first bus was easy, the 2nd left me waiting for 35 minutes with these two guys outside a tyre shop. One guy was big and black and kept ducking into the tyre shop every time a cop car drifted past, the other guy was a young Hispanic who, in the blazing humidity wore a thick black hoodie about ten sizes too big and a pair of cuts off that would have fitted a sumo wrestler. Naturally half way down his rump. He spent most of the time singing rap very loudly to his ipod and doing the jerky rap style dance. The one where they thrust their hands alternately in the air and down at their crotches.

 

We were so bored waiting for the bus when this woman, Cathy came trundling up on her yellow and blue bicycle, stencilled with white daisies. She was enormously proud of it and needed the bus ride to take it to get lights. It struck me the bike would be taking many more bus rides and not so many roads trips. Cathy was hugely friendly. She had top teeth on the left and bottom teeth on the right and it was clear the two seldom met, both sets being fairly tombstone like in appearance. She told me her mother was psychotic, the bike was a gift from her brother when she got out of her wheel chair and her biological dad adopted them (?) and when he died of pancreatic cancer it was Cathy who offered him the cocktail of drugs that hastened the end. Really – it’s funny the things you learn at bus stops.

 

The next bus ride was directed by the Russian woman. Fixedly unsmiling but kind, (funny how the two don’t seem to go together comfortably but she was both) anyway she offered advice in a deep Russian accent, gratified and pleased with me when I showed her my bus pass as opposed to a single ticket. What was she doing in Florida? I asked, gesturing around us. She gave me her first smile, blinding and said her heavy Russian accent that, ‘I am hlugcky, I am scientisd at oceanographer instidude vorking vid leedle black fizh.’ Whereupon her bus came and whisked her away.

 

I got the forty and travelled back the long way round and as I crossed 17th street who should board the bus but the Hispanic and the Black guy. We greeted each other like long lost friends while the other bus passengers watched us with carefully blank faces.

 

When I got to the bus station for the final leg of my trip a big (BIG) black mama in bright red tracksuit pants with a very tight green sweatshirt took offense to an approach from a drunk homeless guy and started laying into him with one of her crutches.

 

Truly I had an amazing day!

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Fed up

Dear Cath

I’m writing. Thank God you don’t read this blog (yes, I’m annoyed at you for being so far up yourself so I’m feeling resentful. Deal with it.)

Anyway I am writing new stuff, challenging stuff, for me. By and large it’s going well but it’s funny how some days the words just pour out and other days it’s like plucking nostril hairs.

I’ve not had a good week. I feel lonely, isolated, scared and fed up with my life. And YOU haven’t helped.

That’s all I have to say.

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Creating characters

Dear Cath

I have been busy working on a new book. It’s huge fun writing it but it’s early days yet and I am still drawing my characters together, forging them if you like.

We all know that a character, whether likeable or not, if they are vivid it’s what makes the story come alive. right now my characters are… a little ‘sleepy’, transparent and one dimensional.

I’ve found that while some characters step onto a page already alive and kicking, blinking sleep from their eyes, others aren’t quite so outgoing! Nor yet forthcoming.

So I’ve been thinking about ways to make them come alive. By coincidence I’ve just had some fun putting together a careers test for Lisa and we found the ‘High-Level Description of the Sixteen Personality Types’ from the excellent website www.personalitypage.com

It’s really extremely interesting and it’s helping me so much with my characters. Below is a direct copy and paste but the website is brilliant and well worth a visit. By the way Lisa is an INFJ, Joe is a INTJ and I am a INFP and guess what?? They often tend to writers!

ISTJ

Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Well-developed powers of concentration. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard working, they work steadily towards identified goals. They can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.

Click here for a detailed description of ISTJ.

ISTP

Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems, but not overly concerned with respecting laws and rules if they get in the way of getting something done. Detached and analytical, they excel at finding solutions to practical problems.

Click here for a detailed description of ISTP.

ISFJ

Quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings. Interested in serving others.

Click here for a detailed description of ISFJ.

ISFP

Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind. Do not like conflict, and not likely to do things which may generate conflict. Loyal and faithful. Extremely well-developed senses, and aesthetic appreciation for beauty. Not interested in leading or controlling others. Flexible and open-minded. Likely to be original and creative. Enjoy the present moment.

Click here for a detailed description of ISFP.

INFJ

Quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people, and concerned for their feelings. Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for their perserverence in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.

Click here for a detailed description of INFJ.

INFP

Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.

Click here for a detailed description of INFP.

INTJ

Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional ability to turn theories into solid plans of action. Highly value knowledge, competence, and structure. Driven to derive meaning from their visions. Long-range thinkers. Have very high standards for their performance, and the performance of others. Natural leaders, but will follow if they trust existing leaders.

Click here for a detailed description of INTJ.

INTP

Logical, original, creative thinkers. Can become very excited about theories and ideas. Exceptionally capable and driven to turn theories into clear understandings. Highly value knowledge, competence and logic. Quiet and reserved, hard to get to know well. Individualistic, having no interest in leading or following others.

Click here for a detailed description of INTP.

ESTP

Friendly, adaptable, action-oriented. “Doers” who are focused on immediate results. Living in the here-and-now, they’re risk-takers who live fast-paced lifestyles. Impatient with long explanations. Extremely loyal to their peers, but not usually respectful of laws and rules if they get in the way of getting things done. Great people skills.

Click here for a detailed description of ESTP.

ESTJ

Practical, traditional, and organized. Likely to be athletic. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities. “Good citizens” who value security and peaceful living.

Click here for a detailed description of ESTJ.

ESFP

People-oriented and fun-loving, they make things more fun for others by their enjoyment. Living for the moment, they love new experiences. They dislike theory and impersonal analysis. Interested in serving others. Likely to be the center of attention in social situations. Well-developed common sense and practical ability.

Click here for a detailed description of ESFP.

ESFJ

Warm-hearted, popular, and conscientious. Tend to put the needs of others over their own needs. Feel strong sense of responsibility and duty. Value traditions and security. Interested in serving others. Need positive reinforcement to feel good about themselves. Well-developed sense of space and function.

Click here for a detailed description of ESFJ.

ENFP

Enthusiastic, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities.

Click here for a detailed description of ENFP.

 

ENFJ

Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis. Very effective at managing people issues, and leading group discussions. Interested in serving others, and probably place the needs of others over their own needs.

Click here for a detailed description of ENFJ.

 

ENTP

Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoy debating issues, and may be into “one-up-manship”. They get very excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. Generally outspoken and assertive. They enjoy people and are stimulating company. Excellent ability to understand concepts and apply logic to find solutions.

Click here for a detailed description of ENTP.

 

ENTJ

Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.

Click here for a detailed description of ENTJ.

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Cookie Monster

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The Green Thing

Dear Cath

At the check-out at the supermarket, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologised to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The check-out girl responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have a lift in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning kilowatts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of a football pitch .

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled fountain pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took a tram or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza outlet.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person.

Check out this website REFUSE TO USE

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Thirteen ways to travel lightly

Cath at a bus stop in Malawi

Dear Cath

Do you remember the trip we did to Malawi where we bought those stupid wooden chairs? Huge things, almost as tall as you and then we had to lug them around for days along with our backpacks and tents all.

Were we insane?

And all with a view to selling them for a small fortune once we got home. Your daft idea again.

Except it’s been 23 years and I’ve still got mine because, after the sheer grinding slog of carrying the damn thing through southern Africa for what felt like for ever, no one could pay me what it’s worth to me…

malawian chairs

Malawian chairs - smaller than ours...

Do you remember that when we got to Llilongwe Airport you became utterly convinced we’d be overweight and have to pay excess baggage so you wore ALL your clothes, despite the blazing African heat. Then you nearly passed out and embarrassed me to pieces.

Anyway I digress, I’m going to Florida next week, all being well and barring volcanoes and other catastrophes. I can’t wait to get some sunshine and some me time but carrying loads of luggage is strictly a thing of the past and I am learning to pack lightly. Cabin luggage only. Not always easy when you always travel with laptops and DSLR cameras and Kindles and phones… Things were a lot simpler back in the Malawi days!

Here are some tips I’ve learned from my more recent travels on keeping my luggage to a bare minimum.

  1. Leave the piles of books at home and take an ereader or Kindle. I have maps, travel guides and of course novels on mine.
    ~
  2. If you don’t have an ereader don’t be tempted to take the whole travel guide book. Tear out the relevant pages, or if you’re like me and hate the thought of ruining a good book, photocopy them.
    ~
  3. Don’t buy new toiletries. Take the half finished bottles. you can always buy new toothpaste or whatever when you get there. If you weigh full bottle of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, sun cream, deodorant and so on it can add up to a lot. Don’t be tempted to buy extra large toiletries for your trip.
    ~
  4. Take a sarong. This can be used as a towel, skirt, blanket, tablecloth, shawl, sheet, carry alls – the list is extensive. A hugely useful multitasking article.
    ~
  5. Double duty items. That T shirt that can double up as night wear, bath soap that can be detergent etc
    ~
  6. Leave behind the extra shoes and always wear the heaviest pair to travel in. I take two pairs, one decent and the other casual (slip slops or similar)
    ~
  7. Don’t take new clothes or clothes that you seldom wear at home. New clothes can sometimes be ‘wrong’ for various reasons and clothes are seldom worn at home tend to be seldom worn when you’re away too. The same applies to shoes and here you can get blisters too.
    ~
  8. If you’re staying in a hotel or with a friend check and see if they have hair dryers, irons etc so you don’t have to pack them.
    ~
  9. Never take ‘just in case’ clothes. 99 times out of a 100 you wont need them.
    ~
  10. Take detergent (or you can use shampoo/soap if you’re being extra light!) and wash your underwear daily. This way you only need to take three sets; one on, one drying, one clean.
    ~
  11. Leave the bulky winter clothes and go for the layered look. When it comes to keeping warm these lightweight clothes can be just as effective if not more so than huge sweaters and coats.
    ~
  12. Take ziploc bags. Toiletries can be carried in them, much lighter than fancy vanity bags and if something leaks they can simply be thrown away. They are also useful for storing damp clothing (that underwear you washed the night before).
    ~
  13. When you’re packing, don’t pack directly into the suitcase because you’ll see you have some space left and simply be tempted to fill it. Place what you want to take with you on the bed and once you’re sure put it in your bag and ignore the temptation to fill the gap!
    ~

Do NOT buy Malawian Chiefs Chairs – this does not constitute packing light…

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So you’ve just typed ‘THE END’?

With so many people owning their own computers and the ease of self publishing it’s become incredibly easy to write that ‘book that we all have inside us’.

That’s where ‘Easy’ stops.

Anyone can write but getting it out there for the world to admire (and buy!)? Well that’s a COMPLETELY different kettle of fish. With 1’000’000 (yes that’s one million) new releases scheduled for 2012 alone, making yours stand out is something of a challenge.

This website is a very honest look at taking my writing and books from being unheard of to becoming a household name. (Pause to reflect on that statement, fall about with mirth. But hey, wipe tears of laughter from my eyes, one needs to aim high.)

So the story, warts, tears, cheers, jeers and all, of my climb to glory can be found here on this website. I hope you find it useful and funny. And that you tell all your friends and family about it.

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Life changing jokes

Dear Cath

Did you ever hear or read something that had a such profound effect on you that it changed your life? Well not changed your life per se but your way of thinking?

I’m sure you have. Most people have I expect. The Bible, the Quran or even something slightly less exemplary. Paulo Coehlo’s Alchemist or Khalil Gibrahim’s The Prohpet. Profound reading and something you’d feel justified in laying ownership to. This passage in the Bible changed my life….

But what happens when it’s a joke that makes the change in your life?

Some years ago I read a book where the hero says, “I’ll quote the truth wherever I find it thank you.” In this instance he happened to be quoting Snoopy the dog but what he said rang true for me too. The truth, even if it’s in a joke.

It’s about blame, guilt, honesty, truth, death and certainly about not lying back and taking it! It’s also a joke. It goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a man who lived in a two stroey house by a river. One day the river began to flood.

Do you know it? It carries on:

As the waters rose, warnings were sent via radio, TV and shortwave. Large four by fours drove through the area to evacuate people.  As one drove by the man’s house, the driver shouted:

“The floods are coming. Leave now. We will take you safety.”

The man souted back.  “Don’t worry, I have faith. God will take care of me.”

The waters continued to rise and before long the man had to move up  to the second floor.  A rescue boat came by and the men shouted to the man:

“Come aboard, you will die if you don’t leave now.”

And the man said, “I have faith, the lord will save me.”

The flood continued to rise and the man had to climb onto his roof to escape.  A helicopter pilot spots him and flies over with a ladder dangling. “The waters are rising,” he shouts, “you are going to die, climb up!”

The man shouts, “I have faith, God will save me!”

The flood rises and the man drowns.At the pearly gates, the man turns angrily to God and says:  “I had faith in You and you let me die!!”

Surprised God replies: “I sent you a 4×4, a boat and a helicopter.  What more did you want?”

When I first heard that joke I laughed mildly and that was that. Yet somehow it stuck in my mind like a tiny little burr. When I wanted to whine that things weren’t happening for me something would remind me of the joke. Was life really getting to me or was I ignoring the opportunities I was given, the metaphorical helicopters/boats/4×4′s?

When my turn came before God at the Pearly gates and I whined to him, ‘I had faith God that people would read my books and that I could make a living out of writing and here I am, poor and unread. You let me down!’

Could He turn and say, ‘I sent you Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. I even sent you Google with 20 million articles on how to Promote Your Writing. What more did you want?’

So while there is the element of luck/faith that plays it’s part in success without question much comes down to the effort you have put in. As the world famous golfer Gary Player once said, ‘It’s funny isn’t it, how the more I practice, the luckier I get.’

It’s true though isn’t it. God could have said to him, when he got to Heaven and moaned about not becoming a would number one, ‘I sent you fine weather, amazing golf courses and a wonderful caddie. It was up to you to practise!’

But Gary Player did use the weather, the courses, the caddie and all the hours God gave to become one of the best players of his time.

It happens all the time doesn’t it. The chance, the tip, the tool and it’s up to you to make the most of it. I only have one suggestion. There are sometimes so many choices and options that come floating by on the flood waters of our lives. It would be so useful if the right choice had a nice big green arrow floating over it saying, ‘Pick me!’

 

 

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Writing on my own

Dear Cath

Writing can be a lonely business. In some respects it’s like working as a temp in an office full of people that you really, really like.

But you know that once your contract is over and done with you know you will never be able to have that same level of camaraderie ever again, that unique relationship that you have with your characters is pretty much done when the book is finished. Over.

You can’t socialise with them, can’t speak to them, you can’t even exchange mobile numbers and email addresses.

When I wrote Finding Anna, I lived it. I was there on the boat with them. I felt the storms, cried with Em, chatted to Leah, bonded with Nathan, fell in love with Alex and a little with Mark too and of course Anna became my best friend. To the point where when she lost weight in the book I lost weight in real life. (Score!!) I miss them all desperately.

But what happens if you write a book with a friend? Surely the characters must take on more life? And what’s it like when you the book is done and you talk about the characters, the old friends you had, surely they live on longer?

It seems writing with a friend is a good way to go. Not so lonely and your book becomes a part of a two parent family so to speak.

I know we laughed, Cath, about writing together and semi thought about it but you’d drive me up the wall and you’d also laugh like hell at all my plot ideas to the point where my mind would go blank!

So it you’re writing with someone what happens if you don’t agree on a plot? Or if you don’t agree – do you get angry and heated? Bite your lip to maintain the peace? What about when one works much harder than the other?Or you don’t like the way your partner writes?

I met some people on twitter who write together and I’m going to ask them for their input!

(Update! April and Danielle, co authors of Flesh and Feathers are going chat with me about what it’s like writing as a couple. I said I’d get back to them on Friday, it’s now Monday and I am still putting together my thoughts about the things I want to ask them!)

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Visitors online

Cath! CATH! CATH!!!

Am so excited! I know it’s daft but I’m tap tapping away here, slippers, scruffy hair and a towel on my lap that’s keeping me warm, swish of cars racing past in the drizzle outside and I am putting down all my daft thoughts and ideas through this machine, hoping like hell that I wont be the only person in the world who ever gets to read it.

The thought seemed kind of lonely. So I thought I’d install some software to see if anyone else ever came to see me and as I type there are three people are reading my blog!!!!!!! How cool is that??? :-)

 

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The Rice Cracker Hat

Hi Cath

There was a woman in the pool at the gym today whose swimming cap looked like a giant rice cracker wrapped haphazardly around her head. I found it really hard not to stare.

I wondered if the woman was aware that she looked ridiculous but simply prepared to overlook the matter. Or did she think her hat looked stylish? I was more exercised by the hat than the entire thirty minute swim and here I was, some eight hours later, staring blankly at her computer, still ruminating on it.

Mostly, I suspect, because I’d had rice crackers for dinner, as part of diet attempt three thousand, two hundred and twenty nine.

I think, seriously, that it’s time I got a life.

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Being Brave Again

Dear Cath – the time has come for bravery.

I used to think I was brave. In fact I was dismissive of those who lurked behind the shelter of caution. Life was for LIVING for goodness sake. Fear was for fools. Fear made you live a half life. Then I got my first whiff of fear.

This kind of fear is a different fear to hearing a scary noise downstairs in the dark of the night. It’s not the same as footsteps behind you when you walk home alone in the dark. It’s not the fear of confrontation.

This is an insidious sort of fear. One I never thought to feel. It’s a fear that old people have.

All my life I’ve been a restless spirit and when I was about fourteen my mum, bless her decided that we should by a double decker bus and live in it. She didn’t mean it of course, she seldom did. She was a great one for ‘cosy planning’ as the family used to call it, creating these wonderful scenarios that had little chance of happening.

I spent weeks planning this double decker bus conversion which never happened and have, ever since yearned to buy my own motor home. A dream that was utterly unlikely to happen short of a financial miracle.

Well I got that miracle and all of a sudden my dream was possible. But did I jet off to my nearest motor home vendor? Nope. I spent months thinking about it. Stewing. Wondering which would be the best type to get, which would be a viable bet in terms of size. Where would we keep it? Would I cope driving the thing with these narrow British lanes and scary lorries barrelling down them. Even in my car I sometimes feel the need to suck myself thinner as we swish past oncoming traffic. How would I cope in motor home? No. It wasn’t a good idea. Save the money. Put it aside for something sensible.

Fear.

I was letting fear stop me from achieving a life long dream. The penny only dropped a couple of days ago. I was zipping down the motorway and in the way of things everywhere I looked there seemed to be motor homes and I suddenly realized I could play it safe. Not take the risk and live a half life. Or I could start being brave again.

 

 

 

 

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By the hairs of my chinny chin chin

Dear Cath

About six years ago there was a Mum who used to stand and wait with me while we waited for the kids to come out from school, She was blonde, quite tall, she wasn’t pretty, she wasn’t ugly, she was just kind of normal looking,  Apart from them – the h a i r s… on her chinny chin chin. And on her cheek. And on her mole.

I made the children swear to me that if I ever got hairs on any, any part of my face in places where they looked like they shouldn’t belong they were to let me know. They PROMISED. I swear, they promised.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was mindless stroking my eyebrow as I watched television. And I felt SOMETHING. I froze and cautiously felt again. A hair. But not a hair. A proboscis!!! Growing out of my eyebrow. So long that if I’d had more I could knitted them and dropped it out the window for Rapunzel. Oh. My. God!

‘Why didn’t you tell me? Didn’t you SEE it??’ I shrieked, hurtling over to peer into the mirror and ruthlessly plucking it out. It was easily an inch long. And wiry to boot.

‘See what?’ the family chorused, peering at me.

Now I know why they didn’t tell me. I’ve discovered the answer. These hairs do not grow like the rest of your hairs. They grow in an instant. One minute your chinny chin chin is blemish free. The next you have a strand of hair so long that if you were a teenager you could flick it.

I’ve just been to the bathroom to slather on some make up and I found three of them. Three. I swear they weren’t there this morning when I brushed my teeth.

 

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How do I forgive myself?

how to forgive myselfHi Cath

It’s all well and good forgiving everyone else but I’ve come to realise that while I can get a handle on that, well ish, forgiving myself is another matter entirely.

Why are we soooo tough on ourselves? If I gave other people the same level of grief that I give myself not only would I have no friends I’d pretty much be locked up.

I’ve done many things that I need to forgive myself for. Things I did as a teen, as a mum, as a wife, as a child, sibling, employee. Many desperately trivial in others eyes but to me a stain, inked into to my psyche. There are a lot of things that I’ve done of which I’m not especially proud and I know my inability to look past my own mistakes, wilful or not, really holds me back.

So I’m looking into how to forgive myself.

It seems that, as usual, it ain’t simple. Forgiving myself needs to be broken down into several phases and it really starts with understanding what I did, why I did it.

We know that the sensation of anger and loathing is often manifested by a lack of forgiveness. By not forgiving myself I need to ask, am I using my lack of forgiveness to punish myself? Am I even aware that I am doing this?

How Do You Know You Have Forgiven Yourself?

Apparently when I can think of what I did without wincing, without shame.

I know that I am harder on myself than anyone. I mean really hard. My self expectations are enormous and as a rule, most days I fail to live up to them.

When I step back from myself and look at my actions I wonder how much I push other people to perform above and beyond their own capabilities because I expect it of myself. But in order to stop myself punishing them I need to learn to be gentler on myself.

Why do we judge ourselves?

Why do we withhold forgiveness from ourselves? When we are angry with someone else we don’t forgive because, through our anger and hatred, we feel we are punishing them. We stream out bad and angry thoughts in their direction hoping that this will ‘hurt’ them.

Nine times out of then they are completely oblivious to our hours of angry vibes, our sleepless nights of roiling internal rage.

But when you are angry with yourself you spend the hours shooting angry thoughts but sadly the target, yourself is not peacefully sleeping in that other bed. Not a chance. You get to hear ever angry thought, every vicious condemning vibe. WE, on the other hand, are truly punished by our own anger. We FEEL every stinging lash of own disappointment in our selves.

I hit a pet. I hate myself for doing it. Am angry at myself, wish I had never done it. Wish, with all my heart I could take that moment back. But I can’t, it’s done, water under the bridge. Or is it? More like an ever deepening well of issues that I can hold against myself. So I need to figure out how to drain the well or at least put some purification tablets into it, stop the poison.

So I asked people. Lots of people, ‘How do I forgive myself?’ And this is what they said.

Make a list. Write down the things that fill you with shame. There might be many small incidences, there might be a few big things. Take the ones that worry you the most.

The first thing to realize: If you could’ve done better, you know 9 times out of ten you would have. So weed those 9 times mistakes out of your list.

Being angry and refusing to forgive yourself for doing something wrong when you didn’t know how else to behave is like being angry at a baby for crawling instead of walking. If you don’t know how to be then you can’t blame yourself for not doing it right.

Hmmm, okay.

Next look at the things you did wrong that you know you did wrong. You can’t change them, you can’t fix them but you can forgive yourself for them.

Write a letter to the event. Describe how you felt. Be courageous. Face your failings full on, the only person witnessing this is you. Explain why you did what you did, how you felt inside, why you said what you said. Describe your own fears, your knee jerk reactions. And then explain how sorry you are.  Apologise, write how you would like to make it right, what you would like to do for recompense.

Seeing the words, written down in steady order can shape what really happened. Sometimes guilt can colour what happened.

If other people were there, if you can, ask what they remember about it. It’s not unheard of to find that your memories were based on an immature understanding of an event. Something, with hindsight of adulthood, that you have been beating yourself up over for years can very often have been something that you simply much too young to deal with.

This letter can sometimes take days to put together but when you’re finally happy with everything you’ve written you can either keep it, send it or you can burn it.

Sometimes it’s impossible to send, what happened is so long ago or you know that people have moved on and you can’t bring it back to life again so take the letter and shred it. It’s over.

If you can apologize in person, do, but then if it is really bad, they may not forgive you, but at least you gave them the chance. And anyway that is their problem if they can’t forgive.

Light is stronger than dark, but if it’s ever more than you can handle, speak to someone. Talk to a friend, a counsellor, a therapist. Some times talking it out can release the pressure cooker sense of guilt and give you a sense of perspective.

Of course there is knowing that, ‘Not being perfect is not the same thing as needing forgiveness.’ And there is selling that idea to yourself. I don’t know about you but I’m really good at dismissing the dodgy sales tactic. I couldn’t sell myself an ice cream in a desert if I felt I was being pressurised into it against my will!

People will have to continue to pay for our inability to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes. For example friend lets us down. Once. Then again. And we learn the lesson and are angry with the friend and angry with ourselves for being stupid enough to be hurt.

So we try to learn the lesson and each time in the future, when a friendship starts to play out in the same fashion we immediately get out defences up, punishing and wounding for a hurt that hasn’t actually happened.

Questions to ask yourself

Will I do this again? Will I repeat this action and need to forgive myself all over again? Have I learned from my mistake? I have some bad habits and faults, but am I really all that bad? Many things I do don’t lead to perfect results, but do I try to do my best?

Forgiveness is not something we do for somebody else; it is something we do for ourselves. It is in fact a selfish act, because it rids us of the weight of malice and hatred and it brings us peace. If we are able to forgive ourselves we become better people. To forgive, REALLY forgive, we must FEEL it. It is not enough to just say, ‘I forgive.’

Forgiving yourself begins by understanding that you are already forgiven. (I’m writing this! Ok?)

 

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