#100 happy days revisited

Personally I blame the hashtag.

#don’t see the point.

# seems to be a look at me, search for me, I fit in, I am relevant/original/#on trend.

All of which make me feel like a #grumpy old woman.

Anyway I haven’t done very well with submitting the #photos. They became a bit samey. Quite a lot of food and the occasional blue sky. Waves on the beach and pictures of my current book and half empty packets of biscuits. William in various poses showing his gappy smile which never fails to raise one in me.

But here are some which conjure up happy moments for me. A pebble with a pair of glasses on it. A ticket to a crazy mash up event in Canterbury which involved a folk band, hip hop dancers, clog dancing and Morris dancing as you’ve never seen it and a beat box performer who gazed in to middle distance while making bizarre noises which they all danced to. Strange but great fun.

And two more stones with holes in to add to my collection. These things all made me happy. I wish I could make the photos all the same size and neat. That would satisfy something spectrummy in me, but it wouldn’t make me happy. That’s something different.

IMG_3454

IMG_3437

IMG_3456

But while a picture paints a thousand words, there are so many elements of happy days which can’t be captured in a photo. The smell of hyacinths. The sound of the wind and waves outperforming the sound of traffic. My garden at the weekend was like the beginning of a Disney film, birds and insects busy and working up to courting. There was even a dopey bee in my greenhouse.

I like the way a waitress pays my dad special attention and gives him his pudding just the way he likes it. The way in turn his thank you is  old fashioned and courteous and so … him. I can’t reproduce these in a photo. They are moments in my memory and I have to be awake and aware to see them. I have to be mindful, present to the now and not rushing past the moment wishing I were somewhere else.

And I think that’s where middle age and maybe even old age could be a blessing. Because there’s not so much to achieve anymore. There’s plenty to do and aspire to and enjoy but the need to achieve, to have something to show for my time, to do more or better than last week feels less powerful. For example, while I enjoy walking and running, I can only do it now. There’s no point my looking at my mileage and times in November. One day I ran nine miles and averaged 10mins/mile. Pretty good for the terrain and conditions. But today I ran 2.5 miles like the proverbial potato and felt as if I had been mashed. Tomorrow I may manage a walk. I will have to wait and see. Right now it’s time for #tea and cake.

Gossip at the hairdresser

Foolishly I ticked a box which sets a reminder for me to blog and, like the scales in the bathroom, it’s another prompt to guilt and a reminder of all those good intentions down the drain. But hey ho I’ll write something, anything. It doesn’t have to be meaningful or finely honed.

I have just been to the hairdresser. I like my hairdresser, she is real person. After years of girls asking me about my weekend, just gone or plans for, I now have a woman about twelve years younger than me and she has a fully formed life and opinions. Better still she makes me laugh.

She doesn’t watch much tv but, like me, if she finds something she likes she watches it compulsively. (At the moment it’s The Good Wife – not as gripping as Breaking Bad but it’ll do. And I have a girl crush on Kalinder). She, the hairdresser, Melanie prefers stuff which has a guaranteed happy ending: so LIttle House on the Prairie and The Cosby Show feature large.

I drove there in pouring rain and in a filthy Land Rover peering out through steamed up windows.

My hair is nondescript and thin. Mousy. It all adds to the general feeling of beige which pervades at the moment. So I have decided to grow it a little and have some blond highlights put back in, this in an attempt to make spring happen. I told Melanie this and that I believed her foils had magic powers and that from now on all this awful rain would stop and the sun would come out and the daffodils would bloom.

She was up for it.

I had a seat I didn’t like – it’s by the music machine and a lot of wailing was coming out at some volume – but I didn’t ask to move because next to me was a woman having her hair done by the very camp male hairdresser and slagging off each of her friends, family, colleagues and neighbours one by one. I couldn’t believe it. She hurtled through each relationship in her life complaining.

Her husband – her second husband – uses a flannel and leaves it on the side of the sink, whereas if he leant a little further he could put it on the radiator and their bathroom wouldn’t smell of wet flannel.  (He lost it for me at flannel. Why marry a man who uses a flannel? A deal breaker as Helen would say).

Then we all heard about her sister in law who sends a link to something she would like for her birthday, often from White Stuff and how she buys her that thing because that’s the kind of person she is. A nice person. However the sister in law does not reciprocate and buy smart presents back. She sent something from H and M. Oh no. Major offence taken.

After that a niece in Canada who, despite being friends on FB with her aunt, never wished her a Happy Birthday. Nor did she thank her for her Christmas present. And really her mother should have a word with her about it. It transpired the niece is 20. If they haven’t learned to say thank you by now, well your parenting job is done and they’re on their own politeness ticket. Don’t send any more presents if their thanklessness offends you.

Then a mutual friend, Amanda, who leads ‘a charmed life,’ who it appears never says a bad word about anyone and ‘that just gets on my nerves because life is gritty and shitty and sometimes you just have to get off the fence and say so’.

And finally her neighbours who by coincidence are both trying to sell their homes – I wonder why? And a very long and frankly dull story about parking and car vandalism and them not taking her advice about CCTV. I switched off about here. She did continue for some time but when it descended in to a description of the inside of a cupboard she was having fitted, I started listening to the wailing. I thought I identified Amy Winehouse. But it was Adele.

My hair looks nice: I am pleased with it. And when I came out the sun was shining. And as I drove home three buzzards were wheeling about in the sky.

100happydays

Click on the link – yes you. It’s not a nasty scam.

http://100happydays.com/

So much to like about this. It ticks a lot of my boxes in that I often attempt to record or make a map of things that make me happy. Writing about them helps me remember but, in the spirit of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, taking a photo is better. You don’t have to go public with them all.

This is an attempt at creativity without judgement. No one is watching.  It’s for you. You don’t have to hand it in. You won’t get a mark. In fact give yourself a mark for showing up and having a go!

Given the dire state of the world and the utter misery we are force-fed by the media, to practise noticing what makes you glad will go some way to redress the balance. It’s like food. We don’t just want to eat junk. Let’s face it there’s a lot out there which is junky. Let’s  treat ourselves to some nourishment. Maybe five fruity shots of happiness a day is a big ask, but one shouldn’t be so hard to find.

I remember a hymn from when I was at school. It had an unpredictable tune, but it makes me smile now.

Here are the words: I have reservations about the title, but let’s bear with it.

A Little Song Of Life

Lizette Woodworth Reese

Glad that I live am I;
That the sky is blue;
Glad for the country lanes,
And the fall of dew.

After the sun the rain;
After the rain the sun;
This is the way of life,
Till the work be done.

All that we need to do,
Be we low or high,
Is to see that we grow
Nearer the sky.
Glad. An old-fashioned Anne of Green Gables word but it needs bringing back.

And here is a poem and a website which – in the poet’s words – just about kills me with delight.

http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2014/01/03

Delight? Something else altogether. We could get good at this.

Walking in sunshine

Today has been a beautiful day after so many days of rain and nasty coughs. Moreover I’ve done no significant exercise for about a month, and I’ve eaten my fair share (and then some) of Christmas treats, and Mr T is off today so out we went to do this walk.

IMG_3220

The book was published in 1986 and much has changed in 27 years but it’s so delightfully illustrated i really wanted to use it. However past experience warned me that I needed a map in addition.

It was a glorious walk but muddy in the extreme: wonderful views of the marsh and some challenging terrain.

This was taken from the top near Lympne Castle.

IMG_3205

And this is looking back up.

IMG_3208
But inbetween this happened.
IMG_3213
IMG_3214
Just as we met the only other intrepid walkers of that day who were warning us of treacherous mud further down. They saw me fall flat. John waited till we were almost at the canal before he toppled. Neatly and discreetly. (I laughed anyway.)
Not the most attractive of photos I realise, and I did intend to go to Sainsburys afterwards…
But despite the humiliation and the bruises it was worth it just to be out there. Milky coffee from a flask and Christmas cake at the top. More turkey and ham pie at home. What’s not to like? Aren’t we lucky?
I might need a new map.
IMG_3221

Phew

Well, it’s over. All the thinking, planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, unwrapping, eating, more eating and drinking and clearing up. It’s all pretty much done with, and all our guests bar one, Bertie-blackcat, have left.

It went well. We were a large group on Christmas day, nine plus one baby, one toddler, two lively dogs and Bertie-blackcat, who held his ground despite terrier provocation.

What helped?

I created a Facebook group where I posted suggestions for a menu and a secret Santa. Instead of everyone buying for everyone and it being stressy and somewhat pointless we each contributed a short list of things we’d like and we all then received something we wanted. 🙂 In my case a hyacinth in a jar and a small John Lewis watering can.

It came down to asking for what you want: basic assertiveness. You have a right to ask for what you want and equally others have the right to refuse you.

I was lucky. I had a cooperative group who played by the rules, but the principle applies. People don’t know what you want unless you ask. Don’t assume they do.

I could have provided all the food and drink and negotiated presents between every member but I didn’t. We all contributed and felt like adults.

What else worked? Masses of cooking beforehand. Including this:

IMG_3177

A Tunis cake, including chocolate ganache. Get me!

And this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mincemeatstreusel_73426 – much easier and more tasty than normal mince pies.

And the slut jelly things which went down very well in shot glasses.

And finally this:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/turkey-recipes/turkey-and-sweet-leek-pieIMG_3187

Yum. (I left out the chestnutty bit.)

So, a fair bit of self congratulation but I’ve still got a lot to learn. When I get old and start wearing purple and being much more difficult I am going to emulate William (18 months). If you offer him a biscuit he nods vigorously and says, “Two”. I plan to do that with gin.

If you give him something he doesn’t fancy or begin a song or a book he doesn’t want right now, he just comes out with it. “No”. With an o as in ‘orange’. Very clear.

If it’s food like a sandwich, he either palms it off or just takes it and drops it immediately. “No”

No games. No ambiguities and very funny for Granny. Not great for mum and dad who have got to establish routine and discipline.

This was still funny but probably because he was leaving in the next five minutes;

IMG_3198

Where did those beans come from?

Guest post from Mr T

It wasn’t just me:

Being like William

What’s it like to see people on horses for the first time, to be on a windy hill and see cows scattered throughout for the first time?

Picking up pebbles and examining each one large or very, very small as if for the first time.  Stamping in puddles, moving from one to the next and splashing in each one as if it was the first one.

Spending an hour on Firle Beacon not managing to be more than a five minute walk from the car because there are so many pebbles to pick up, puddles to splash in and a lot of grass to pluck and watch the wind carry away, while we the oldies also watch the grass and sense his future before him.

Bliss

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven.”

But alas I am no longer young. Sunrise lights up chin hair vibrant with life, glistening with promise.

One quick snip and those telltale whiskers are gone. For now.

Note to self, make an appointment for wax/thread/electrolysis in New Year.

20131222-151239.jpg

This was the view form our hotel window last Friday. It overlooked the golf course and the grass was crisp with frost.

I could have stayed and watched it melt for many minutes but I didn’t, I ate a tepid hot breakfast and went to look after William.

I’ll not bore you with the detail, but it was the first rainfree day for about a month we took him to the top of Firle Beacon and intended to go for a walk. He had other plans.

Begin by identifying every living creature in sight.

Moo. Baa. Clip clop noise. Caw.

Move onto inanimate stuff. Brrm.

IMG_3140

Test wellies in every puddle. Turn over stones large and small. Poke sticks in to mud. Stroke grass with cold bare hands. Try to climb the wire fence despite Granny pointing out the sharp hurty bits. Allow yourself to be lured away with snaffled hotel biscuits.

IMG_3141We were up there for an hour and didn’t leave the car park.  It was a particularly well placed car park for spectacle, but his absorption in each and every detail was contagious. It was all there for him but he didn’t possess it. And Time, that familiar tyrant, became irrelevant. We left because his trousers were drenched. The wellies held up though.

Back to Wordsworth. His was the quote at the top. He didn’t just do daffodils.

Another favourite poem – this came on the Camino with me.

The World Is Too Much With Us

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174833

I have so much to learn and unlearn.

But he’s a patient teacher.