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The Surreptitious Snipper

During the last year or so I have become more involved in caring for the garden.

In the past, I have always acknowledged that hubby knows what is going on and how to care for various things but it has begun to dawn on me that not only does a garden need constant care, he isn’t actually a “flowers and borders” kind of guy.

Show him a row of carrots or a line of tomato plants, even some baby butternuts I planted and he glows with excitement. Will he be weeding in amongst the borders? No. In fact when we first moved in, over 20 years ago, he planted bushes down both sides of the garden for privacy and that was that.

I would head out and stare at different bushes and wonder…..then I began to google.

Last year I made some unanimous decisions and one of them was to dig over and ultimately remove the “bonfire” pile which grew and shrank depending on the season but was at all times ugly and wasting space.

I set to and made a bigger veggie patch- much to his delight and then googled most of the plants that were growing in the garden and how to care for them. I went to garden centres, after reading up on soil conditions and what would grow and came back with plants I carefully dug in and watched over, watering them daily.

I weeded.

Sometimes I would disappear into a thicket for a couple of hours, the only indication of me being there were the tree-like weeds suddenly flying through the air to land on the dog waiting patiently on the lawn for me to finish whatever I was up to.

To me, a garden is something that is maintained. A weed is a plant that grows where you don’t want it to and the hubby has a fairly relaxed attitude towards both. I generally leave self-sown plants (weeds) alone unless they are “bully” plants- ones that swamp or choke others. These are pulled up.

I now creep out into the garden most days with my trusty secateurs and quietly snip away at plants, dead flowers and long trailing vines which if left, would swamp any other living thing. Hubby is not told. He would become anxious at the thought of me cutting back the massive, self-seeded buddleia at the bottom of the garden. It was left last year and grew to at least 9 feet high.

I perform my daily yoga pose of “downward facing dog” as I fold over the fencing around the strawberry patch to pick a good handful of delicious fruit- so satisfying.

I find dead-heading the rose arch and patting each new rose very soothing but climbing beyond rung number two on the ladder to reach the top of the honesuckle terrifying.

Looking out at the fairly tidy garden with each plant minding its own business, not encroaching on any other is very pleasing so I shall continue with my surreptitious snipping, watching over everything and patting the roses as I go past.

Back to Normal

The whole country has had enough of the National Lockdown. Desperate to be able to socialise with any group of family or friends, desperate to eat out, drink out and chill out without the hassle of having to pre-book a table and then doing the awkward elbow-bump or virtual hug we have got to know so well.

Each relaxing of the rules has been joyfully accepted by people as they doggedly huddled under umbrellas in a pub’s back courtyard, trying to shield their drink from the pouring rain, shivering in the unseasonably cold weather.

Weddings have been on, then off, then on again with the number of guests rising and falling. BBQ guest lists have been agonised over as to who would make the “list of six” including the hosts of course.

Self-catering accommodation prices have sky-rocketed as the nation has taken to the roads, so glad to just be looking at a different view that they are prepared to sit in a traffic-jam for hours.

The “non-essential” shops are bustling, especially with the run of beautiful weather we have longed for, so gardening furniture and plants have been experiencing great sales.

I find it encouraging that the nation is so keen on human interaction and has missed it so much but more than a little depressing that everyone is still determined to claim their corner of the local beach, to create traffic jams in order to get to the shops for just “stuff”, is prepared to sit outside on a pavement in dreadful weather just to have a drink.

Everyone wants back to “normal”. I would rather we went forward to a new normal- less shopping, less consumerism, less traffic. More reflection, more walks and exercise, more appreciation of the small things- the birds we can hear more of, the fresh early morning skies and the glorious sunsets.

I want the new normal to be wildlife not seen in this country for many years beginning to make a re-appearance. I want the nation to be more vocal regarding the environment but to also be pro-active in their shopping habits and to pick up litter they see on the streets.

I want fish swimming in the canals of Venice and a clear sky above the streets of Delhi. I want all those remarkable images the world shared in a time of great sadness to be seen as everyday.

I believe we can all learn more from doing less destruction and more creation. I want that to be “normal”.

Once I wore a Crown

When I left university, my first job was in the Human Resources Department of the local government and we were responsible for all “incidents and allegations” amongst the mainly African staff of all the hospitals across the region.

I soon realised that the key to working in local council offices was to do as little as possible for as much as possible and at the end of the day (4pm) stand poised in the doorway of our office until the Big Boss Man in his safari suit and knee-length socks had strode past and then we could all fall in behind, like a gaggle of goslings, bumping and jostling in the wake of Super Gander.

I remember the day when a dossier appeared on my desk for me to deal with. In it was the ridiculous tale of two hospital staff, working nights who decided to venture from their work stations and make merry in one of the operating theatres.

I got it.

The come-hither eyes behind the mask, the friskiness of the open-backed hospital gown, the snap of the rubber glove but unfortunately, a security guard doing the rounds discovered the couple and wrote a long, detailed description of what he had witnessed and what he had gathered as evidence.

I decided that as it “takes two to tango” and these two seemed to have tango-ed, fox-trotted and cha-cha-cha’d the night away, they were both to blame and so suggested that both receive a stiff fine and a final warning. Job done and the dossier began to wing its way up the long chain of male command.

Park that thought.

At the same time, each department chose a young lady to represent them in the district finals of a “Beauty Competition”. These young women then went on to eventually compete in the Miss South Africa pageant.

I still genuinely don’t get this but somehow, one Friday afternoon, I found myself being interviewed by Three Big Bosses, all in Afrikaans. I need to explain Afrikaans quickly- a bastardised version of Dutch, spoken only in one country so pretty useful. When I was travelling, I would speak to Dutch people who would occasionally lower themselves and reply but generally ignore me.

The whole building then gathered in the canteen with all the candidates lined up- maybe about 6 of us. We were obviously the only ones under the age of 40 so would have to do.

Each woman was thanked and given a bar of soap as a gesture and then told to sit down. I was given mine and was heading back to my seat when the organiser grabbed my arm and said, “No, not you.”

No one was more bemused than I to discover I had been chosen as the representative for the department and would go on to have a huge photo of myself, complete with gold frame, placed in the window of the local department store for my past classmates to jeer at.

I still maintain I won it for two reasons: I was bilingual in a language which no-one outside the country could speak and when asked, I knew who the President of the USA was- Ronald Reagan.

A sparkly crown was placed on my head and a sash about my shoulders. I said my thank yous and managed to squeeze in a sentence about World Peace before deciding to head off to the pub.

By this time, that little old dossier had wound its way around all the bosses for them all to comment on and then re-appeared on my desk. It was my job now, to issue the final judgement on the couple.

The judgement was that the woman be fired and the man kept in employment.

I returned to my line manager and pleaded the case but the decision had been made and I had to write the termination of employment letter for that African lady who was probably the sole bread-winner for her family.

A few days later, I discovered another decision had been made and this one was about me. Big Bosses felt I was too “left wing and radical” for a career in local government and that if I didn’t find other employment and leave of my own accord, they would fire me.

I don’t remember what I said but I do remember marching down the corridor to the office of the young woman who came second and slamming the tiara and sash down on her desk.

“Good luck” I said and walked out.

I always find that memory a bit unbelievable: that I was once bilingual, that I was effectively fired for standing up for the unjust firing of another woman and that once, I wore a crown.

The Voices in My Head

Everyone is plugged in- on the bus, the train, in the street, the park. Everyone appears to have headphones, earbuds ( I thought they were banned now), headsets, microphones, trailing wires, wireless, whatever.

And they all appear to be far, far away, listening in to podcasts, broadcasts, downloads, uploads. Just loads.

A few weeks ago, it was a beautifully fresh early spring day, one where the first brave crocus pushes up through the dark leaves, peers about and then calls down to the others, “It’s not so bad” and suddenly, before you know it, there are crocuses everywhere.

I had just begun to walk through the local woods with the dog when I realised a friend of mine was walking towards me. We weren’t far apart, quite close actually and I waved a big, sweeping wave at her- nothing. More waving and no result so I called her name. Still, nothing.

In the end I had to jump in front of her to block her path and only then did she lift her head, unplug and realise that it was me.

It seems to me that more than ever now, during our enforced lockdowns, we are trying to make good use of our daily shuffle round other neighbours doing the same thing, by listening to something on our headphones.

Well, that’s all fine but personally, I prefer to listen to the noises around me- the traffic, the birds and sometimes a woodpecker, busily hammering away, children’s voices, a dog. It feels so disconnected to me, to be listening to something unrelated to where I currently am.

I enjoy long conversations in my head with other people, imagining their responses, judging their reactions and planning my own, witty comebacks. This can have a drawback however, as I can sometimes think I have told the actual person the whole plan in reality and am always surprised when they don’t seem to be “on the same page” as myself.

I also have great debates with myself, talk it all out, consider the options and have usually resolved the whole matter by the time I get back.

Or sometimes, I just listen to the world instead.

‘Tis the Season

2020 is finally staggering to a close and what a remarkable year it has been for many different reasons.

It seems we are all just “done” with the whole thing and are now firmly focused on the next couple of weeks in order to bring a bit of sparkle and cheer back into our homes and to wish the wishiest of wishes that 2021 will be so much better.

I am “done” too, but before December is kicked into a corner in order for January to come lolloping in with a healthy dump of snow just to remind us that, yes, we do live in the Northern Hemisphere and that we really should be more prepared, I consider what I like about this particular time of year.

I love the fresh, clear light which sets the autumn trees on fire as they slowly change into glowing jewels for no reason other than why not? Children’s rosy faces in bright wellies stomping through puddles and kicking the fallen leaves.

I observe the green and red of the holly bushes, so bright they look still wet with paint, the fat robin rustling and bustling amongst the branches.

Industrious squirrels scampering along the ground and then free-running up the bark of a tree, only to pelt my confused dog with acorns. The frosted ground sparkles in first light and in the quiet dark of midnight as I head out to my car.

Sometimes, the fog swirls and moves along the ground, dampening down noises until even the fox’s harsh cry sounds less harsh and far away.

Sometimes the night is icy clear, the deepest of ink-black velvet, peppered with the glitter of a countless stars and endless galaxies.

This is the season of change and patient waiting. Waiting for the warmer times, the longer days and for new dreams to begin.

Never mess with a woman in an uncomfortable bra.

You know how it is- difficult, worrying times, sitting at home with only your laptop for company.

Suddenly, boom! An advert appears promising luscious, comfy lace which will gently support and shape your bosom buddies without the need for underwires. You click on the link….

Wowzers! Lovely bosoms encased in a front-fastening bra ( I never managed to learn my mother’s generational trick of doing my bra up behind my back. Some forty-plus years on and I still do the hook, twist round my waist and pull up manouvere). Cautiously, I read the reviews- wonderful, amazing. I look at genuine customers all proudly showing their lovely bra. I notice the site appears to be endorsed by the Breast Cancer charities as the pink symbolic ribbon is on every page. Best bra of 2019! Glamour Magazine!

All looks good. I order one, in nude from their “UK-based” business and settle down to wait my “2-7 day delivery” time.

It arrived 16 days later but I was not really concerned- more excited to try it on. There was no return address on the label other than some writing in Chinese so the first penny began to shuffle forward and teeter on the brink, like the Penny Arcade game, before beginning its inevitable descent onto the “You’ve been scammed” pile.

Bra was bright salmon pink. Ok I thought, I can deal with the colour. It still looks comfy.

The next few minutes were a frankly painful and humilating effort of me trying to wrestle my buddies into this thing so they could be zipped up. I would get one side sorted, then grapple with the other side, get everything under some form of control and then try and hook the zip into its closure so it would do up.

Then it all went downhill further as I tried to contact the company. Of course there was no return paperwork. Of course there were no phone number or address, just a contact form on the website. Of course, a whole cascade of “scammer pennies” plunged down into my consciousness.

I was told I would only be allowed to exchange it. So I emailed them using the form and showed them a screenshot of the website where it specifically says I can get a full refund, as long as the tags are on. Did it have tags? What do you now think?

I complained to my bank who are working on the case for me and also to Consumer Watchdog.

I googled their company on Company’s House but couldn’t find them listed, nor could I find their blogger they use on their website. I left a message with Glamour Magazine, asking if they are aware they are endorsing this product but have yet to hear.

I have since received a return address, which is in Paris so I googled that and it appears to be a company which sells machine parts. I queried the address with the company again and was told that was the correct one.

Then I reached out through the original advert, to all the women who had used “angry” icons under the advert and six have responded saying they too, are being fobbed off with the exchange only drivel. We are all busy fighting away in our own corners, hopefully gathering comfort in the thought that it is not just them who has fallen for it.

Facebook has been told every time this company pop up, that they are scammers and I will continue to do so. At present, I am loathe to return the bra as I paid postage for it to begin with and in order for it to receive some kind of secure delivery, I will have to pay for International Signed For- about £9 and then this company will probably deny all knowledge of receiving it back.

I will continue to fight the good fight, against the scammers and deceivers. The name of the company is Loovelybra, so look out for them and avoid.

I will keep updating, to encourage others not to give up, to tackle “the man”, to make their aggrieved voices heard and in the meantime, I shall tweak and twitch in the bras I have, flinging them off at the earliest opportunity.

PS: Don’t ever lie to me.

And The Beat Goes On

My father taught himself to play the piano as his mother could not afford lessons and so Dad began to play as a teenager and did not stop literally until the day he died.

Mum was a great singer, in fact before they got together, Dad took a bus ride one day to hear her sing in some performance and at the end, mentioned that he just “happened to be passing”. In any event, Mum was allowed to have records and these were of the musicals.

This meant that all through my childhood, I was surrounded by music. Dad would play the piano for at least a couple of hours in the evening after work and longer at weekends and I would sit nearby, watching his feet press the pedals until I couldn’t help myself any longer and leap up to fling myself around the lounge furniture. If that didn’t allow for enough freedom of expression, I would rush out into the garden where the notes of the piano would drift through the evening air as I leapt around the rose bushes.

When the piano had fallen silent for the day, Mum would then put on one of her records and my brother and I would roar the lyrics to “Camelot”, along with Richard Burton, trill out “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews or attempt a cockney accent with Dick van Dyke.

I’m not sure how old I was when I had my first Ballet lesson but I would have been younger than seven, wore my best party dress and for some reason, ended up dancing the polka with my teacher. I can still remember the sheer thrill of us spinning round the room, galloping along together.

From then on, I was a dedicated dancer. Lessons every week and catching the train with my parents to the big city to do my exams. After we moved to a much hotter climate, I continued with Ballet, struggling into my leotard and tights to heave and sweat my way around a stifling studio.

For a short time, we initially lived in a hotel, whilst Dad found a house for us all and so he and I could often be found in the residents’ lounge, him on the piano tearing his way through a complicated piece and me regaling the rather bemused residents with leaps and bounds around the potted ferns.

I had also been playing the piano now as well and the new house rocked as two conflicting pianos crashed away. I was relegated to the old upright at one end of the house and Dad had the grand in the lounge. Whenever he went out, I would sneak in, lift the lid and give a virtuoso performance to myself but if anyone else ever came in, I would stop.

As with all things, I found the exams for both Ballet and Piano just a bit much. Practising before school, having to play for assembly, my shaking hands fumbling their way around “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. Th hours spent working on my turnouts and pas de chas’s in the garden, knowing that I was simply just not good enough.

So I gave up the lessons and exams and played purely for me. I have recently attempted the piano again, whilst in lockdown and will perservere but it’s hard when you can’t play how you used to.

I still dance, my feet still tap. I still kick my heels up and I find that all kinds of music does still speak to me in a very deep way. I certainly hope that when I am gone, the daisies will nod in time in my grass blanket, the bees will hum in harmony and the butterflies will dance and leap above my face.

The Three G’s

My mother is a remarkable woman. When my father passed away, she began to go on walking holidays booked through the Ramblers’ Association. This meant that every year, she would travel from South Africa, arrive in the UK, see us here for a bit and then head off somewhere in Europe for a couple of weeks’ walking with a group of people.

She kept fit, she saw new places, made new friends and had a great time.

Each year, we would go through the brochure of new trips and she would excitedly point out new places to go. It got to the stage where she had done so many of them, there WERE no new places to go.

One year she suggested that I came along. She would pay and I would be the go-for, the fetcher, the carrier, the “Yes Mum, no Mum”.

The first year we went to Menorca and it was fabulous. I was happy to haul mum’s suitcase up and down staircases as there was no lift, organise our evenings out- this was generally a potter along to the edge of the village and back and to also organise our packed lunch made up in the local shop for the following day.

I learnt very quickly that it was a great mistake to believe that when Mum asked for my opinion, she actually wanted my carefully considered answer or to believe she actually wanted me to choose her dinner for her. I made the mistake only once and then silently handed over my own choice when her meal arrived. She had looked at it in dismay and then began to cast longing looks at mine.

The next time, someone else thought they would offer their opinion and again, I handed over my meal, gave the plate of whitefish I had been presented with away to the other diners, ordered a bottle of wine and stared out at the sunset.

The next trip was to Ischia- a beautiful Italian island in the Bay of Naples. I had settled Mum in the ferry terminal whist we waited for the ferry and then when the tour guide asked for our passports, realised that Mum had slipped hers into a side pocket of her trouser suit and that it was lying on the floor of the bus, heading back to Naples town centre. Managed to get the passport back by contacting the coach station who persuaded the driver to make an unexpected return journey with it.

From then on, I always had both passports and checked them compulsively throughout the trip.

We went on a walking cruise to Norway during which I spent a day in Mum’s lightweight, missing-buttoned lilac mac. I had handed over my heavy-duty waterproof coat as it was pouring with rain. It was raining so hard that one group, with my mum, headed back to the ship whilst I, in her pathetic mac carried on with the others. That was a many-bottles of wine evening for me, just to recover.

On the final trip we did she was as chirpy and upbeat as ever, especially so as my daughter had come along too. Because of this we referred to ourselves as The Three G’s- three generations.

We went to Portugal where part of the walking was to include some sections of the Portuguese Camino- the medieval routes the pilgrims would have walked, braving bears and robbers in order to prove their devout natures.

We would see the modern-day pilgrims staggering along under the weight of their huge packs and the tour guide told me as we strode along, that when she completes a Camino- she had just completed a 600km one a couple of months before- that the one item she would not travel without was a bar of soap so she could always smell nice. Other than that, she carried a light daybag only.

I did have some sympathy with the travellers though as some days I too, would be staggering with Mum’s day bag on my front, my own on my back and most of her bodyweight on my arm. The daughter came into her own then and they would both be chuckling together over a shared moment as they negotiated the steep trails and boulders together and I was given a bit of a reprieve.

One day a strong hurricane hit the town and whilst we had ventured out in most weathers that holiday, even the tour guide balked at the idea so we decided to catch a train to a town, go in the museums and see what we could find.

I remember looking back through the strong winds and torrential rain and could just see a tiny figure heading towards me. As we both hurried to get her, she remarked, “Phew! A bit breezy today. Haha!”

Mum’s zest for life and “have-a-go attitude” was truly remarkable and when we have our weekly phonecall, she still talks about doing another trip. Yes Mum.

I am so grateful that my daughter has developed this same resilience and positivity and that if anyone can survive a lockdown in a foreign country, she can.

The Three G’s

A Rock and a Hard Place

A couple of months ago we arranged a family get-together. We would travel 5 hours (took 7 in the end but that’s another story) from England’s South Coast, our son would travel 4 or so from the East and our daughter would travel any number of hours from wherever in the world she was at the time.

Her long-time friend was having a baby and was based in Liverpool. I was born about an hour away from there and had always wanted to return and it seemed that lots of birds were going to be bumped off with one well-aimed stone.

It was a storm weekend. I can’t actually remember where we had got in the alphabetical naming of storms but as the car rocked and bucked it’s way up the motorway, sheets of rain smashing into the windscreen, we did wonder what we had got ourselves into- the eye of the storm, it transpired.

We gathered in an Airbnb just outside Liverpool, so pleased to be together again and catch up and to huddle under the extra blankets until the heating kicked in.

I had decided that the following day we would go back to my birthplace of Lytham- St Annes, see what we could, hang out in fancy nearby Lytham and then at least, if the weather was too horrendous, we had done that.

We hurried down the streets, scurrying under the awnings and being blustered along the beachfront I can remember playing on as a child. We found where my house had been as as it was right on the beachfront, knocked down thirty years or more ago and turned into a rather ugly block of flats. Across from the flats was a duckpond and rockery which I remember well, especially as I had fallen through the ice one winter and couldn’t get out.

The following day, we put our still sodden coats back on and trudged out again. This time we were crossing the Mersey to visit my mum’s birthplace- Birkenhead. She had given me the address and we found the house she and my nana had lived in. The stadium for Tramere Rovers FC was just nearby and she had said she could hear the roar of the crowds on matchdays. I took a photo.

I was more intent though, on finding the rock.

A couple of weeks before, I was doing some research about the general area and realised that there was a park near to my mum’s house which, when we were visiting nana, would go to. I found Birkenhead Park- it had to be the one so I contacted them and asked the question- Was the rock with the slide still there?

A reply came back- there had been a slide some years back but had since been removed because court cases were expensive these days. There were still some volunteer staff who had been there fifty years ago and remembered it. Well them and me both……

I had remembered this rock was in a clearing, surrounded by trees and you had to climb up a ladder, crawl through quite a tight gap and then the only way out was to go down a terrifyingly high slide.

Mum had taken the three of us to the park that day and my brothers were scampering up the ladder and shooting out through the gap and down the slide. So was most of Birkenhead, it seemed to little me.

Off I went, one foot and then the other felt its way up each rung and into the cool, dark heart of stone. Above me was a gap where sunlight filtered down and where even more daring children would climb to peer down at the ones creeping along underneath, their mothers oblivious, cardigans draped round their shoulders, PallMall ciggies dangling from lacquered fingertips.

I stood in the exit at the top of the slide and was overcome. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t go down that terrifying gleaming steel tube. I couldn’t go back because there was already a queue of far braver children than me, waiting their turn.

I cried, I sobbed. I ventured into the opening over and over again, only to retreat back into the dark. I peered at the ladder. I couldn’t go down backwards. Even if I wasn’t terrified, no child, having queued up to this point was going to budge off their rung so I could creep down in shame and self-disgust.

In the end, after a couple of years it seemed to me, a young girl, probably no more than ten but in my eyes, my wise, bold and adult saviour, climbed up the outside of the rock, put her feet in their saddle shoes and frilly socks either side of it, learnt forward with her hands and pulled me out.

Some mothers, dimly aware that there seemed to be some kind of bottleneck, looked across at the slide but then resumed their chat when it suddenly started spewing children out again.

I cannot remember the rest, just the intense relief of being pulled free into the sunshine. My brothers had probably moved on to the swings and mum would have been relaxing on the bench, face turned to the sun, confident that all was well.

And now, over fifty years later, I was on the hunt. The staff on duty that day weren’t sure where it might have been but I found an area called The Rockery so that was a clue. It was very overgrown with a jumble of brambles and trees but I think I found the area. I could not find the rock, perhaps it was too buried under the dense vegetation. I was so determined to find it and to understand, that to return to a fear so huge in childhood memory, dwindles away with adult eyes.

I still am terrified of heights- the third rung of a ladder is good enough for me and I am quite claustrophobic. I have been known to spring up in the middle of the night in a tent and unzip it as I “can’t breathe”. I would have liked to face up to that childhood memory but it wasn’t to be.

My mum probably asked me if I had had a nice time and I would have nodded dumbly, clutching her hand and on a fast trot for the bus home.

Possible rock location
Site of childhood home

Staring At The Wall

In this strange and rather bewildering hiatus of time, I have been unable to begin my new job. Instead we have regular zoom meetings in which I have to remember to regularly mute myself so the other participants cannot hear either the dog or my hubby bumbling around in the background. I also have to remember to at least try and wear a different top once a week, otherwise they will be organising a clothing fund for me.

Now the dog is very uncertain of all this. He is simply not used to us both being around quite so much. I think it has curtailed his own personal lifestyle of which we are blissfully unaware. This means he needs a new regime.

I sit at my laptop and watch him. Over to the patio doors- fair enough. He can see the garden and the cats marching saucily across the top of the fence. Then he comes to lie under the table. Again, perfectly valid behaviour as he has discovered that as the day wears on, there are often unexpected titbits which can rain down like manna from Heaven. Then he does the wall thing.

He will stand stock still, slightly behind me as though he is on the way to somewhere else and just stare. I look around, nothing that I can see. He will do this for a good minute or two, then comes to stand next to me and stares at the blank wall. I look across at him, he’s not moving, his ears aren’t twitching so he’s not listening. And then I begin to wonder- has he developed a new coping strategy for these unnerving times?

Perhaps we are all so distracted most of the time that we never get to do some “internal wall staring”, where we face down our own souls?

I believe very strongly in the validity of boredom. Although I grew up in a hot climate with a swimming pool, we were far away from various friends- it meant at least an hour’s drive across town for mum and there were buses only once a day. So I learnt to deal with boredom. I was an avid reader. I played the piano, I embarked on huge, knitting projects, sewed my own clothes and learnt how to self-entertain.

I was also often alone with just me and my thoughts and I believe this has stood me in good stead for now. I do not expect to be endlessly entertained and it worries me when I see young children playing a game on their parent’s phone as they are wheeled around a shop in their buggy. Look up, look out, observe and learn that sometimes, we are stuck in situations we don’t want to be in.

And that most of all, we can all learn a lot from a long hard stare at a wall with just ourselves for company.