Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Life's Curve Ball

Just as I was starting to get used the the constant merry go round from working in the cafe to teaching embroidery and everything else in between.... just as I opened my mouth and said that at last life was starting to feel okay for the first time this year... a curve ball came and threw everything off course. Once again my youngest son hit a crisis and I had to drop everything. It is his story and not mine to tell but it obviously it impacts on our life too. He has faced much anxiety inducing change over the past few months and finally something tipped him over the edge. I'd like to tell you the NHS were amazing but without us to provide him with a safe environment I'm not sure what he would have done. When a crisis team finally got to see us their "help" amounted to little more than a series of platitudes. Telling someone who barely has the energy to get out of bed and feels that life is hopeless that they should try exercising more or should perhaps practise mindfulness is not in the least helpful. When he is in a better place he is well aware that these things help to keep him well but not when he is in a place of despair. For three days, I held his hand, ministered cups of tea and listened when he had the energy to talk. I didn't leave the house except to walk the dog and I did what I always do when  life is stressful... I baked!


There were apple and oatmeal cookies...


Chewy brownies with nuggets of caramel...


Orange scented almond ricciarelli biscuits...


And even some membrillo jelly sweets because I was given another bag of quince to use up.
Being confined to the house and missing a couple of days of work also meant that I managed to get my paints out one afternoon and I finished this painting of tango dancers... which was just as well as it had been accepted for an exhibition that opens this week!


Then by the end of last week things improved enough that I took J back to his house in Cambridge (the boat is a thing of history!) and although I wasn't sure I would make it I managed to get away for a much anticipated girls weekend away. Ten of us stayed in a fabulous barn conversion in the middle of a nature reserve in Oxfordshire for three days of eating, drinking, walking and friendship. On Saturday we ventured out in the sunshine for a walk though the nature reserve. It wasn't long before we were faced with a small stream and no bridge.... the only thing for it was to take off our boots and socks and paddle! It might have been okay if I hadn't dropped one of my boots in the water!


With boots back on we carried on walking as the black clouds closed in and we tried to decide whether we could make it to a pub before the rain started. Instead we opted to go straight back to the barn...


But not before walking headlong into driving hailstones. We laughed but oh boy were we wet! And the barn was a lot further away than we thought. Back in the dry we shed our wet things and stayed in for the rest of the day to drink tea and eat cake (I knew there was a reason I'd done all that baking!)


Sunday morning was glorious and so we set out again, albeit with slightly damp boots for a lovely walk along the river Thames


At one point our navigator led us astray to a ford across the river... She was much amused as we all protested and refused to take our shoes and socks off  a second time to cross to the other side. Only then did she confess she had taken us on a detour!


We carried on walking and found a bridge instead!


At 11 am we stopped beneath these trees near an old pill box to observe two minutes silence. As we all stood together the only sound was that of the wind as it picked up and rustled the last remaining leaves causing them to flutter down amongst us, a fitting metaphor as we remembered the many fallen. And as the last post sounded, a single bird sang. I'm not a particularly spiritual person but it was an amazing shared experience that moved us all.


For me, it was also a moment to realise that all I can do is be there for J when he needs me, I can't make him better. But equally it is important to live my own life to the full too. And being away with these nine fabulous women certainly was a life affirming experience. We ate some amazing food that everyone contributed, drank prosecco, wine and gin (although not all at the same time) as well as copious amounts of tea, read books, did some knitting, finished a jigsaw and even played pass the parcel with some hysterical forfeits... have you ever tried turning around ten times and then drinking a glass of water? And on the final night we discovered that one of our party, Fiona, is a talented poet when she read us some of her very witty creations. We thought she should write a poem about our weekend away which led to everyone trying to contribute an offering... this is my rather amateur attempt:

"Ten fabulous friends converged in the shires
For a long weekend around cosy log fires.
With lasagne, chilli and tiramisu
There was plenty of food and lots to drink too!
Gin, Prosecco and the odd glass of wine
plus tea and cake ensured a good time.
On Saturday morning they ventured outside
To set off for a walk and spy birds from a hide.

They dipped their feet in a stream that made them all scream
As they paddled and slipped across.
The water was cold and tingled their toes
And the stones were all covered in moss!

Before very long, black clouds blew in and everyone got a good soaking.
But back in the barn they soon dried off and glasses were raised with more gin in!
They ate more food and games were played
Photos were swapped and stories relayed

On Armistice day they walked once again
In cold winter sunshine by the banks of the Thames
They stood together in silence beneath some bare trees,
As leaves fluttered down in the whispering breeze.
Remembering the fallen, there was a tear or two
A spiritual moment and beautiful too.

It was all agreed they had a great time, despite the brief spot of rain
in unison they all declared... When can we do it again?"


Back home, J is in a slightly better place than he was two weeks ago, I'm feeling refreshed from my change of scene and I'm hopeful that life will get back on an even keel once again. Who knows, I might even manage to blog more than once every two weeks! I hope all is well with you x

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Being Creative

I still feel I'm on that merry go round, juggling the work life balance but trying to fit in as much life as possible around the work.

Last weekend our drama group put on a Jazz evening with live music. We decided to provide canapes and cocktails, which might have been my idea so I volunteered to make the canapes... I'm full of good ideas me! Just for the record... canapes take a ridiculously long time to make. Remind me of that next time I come up with a good idea!


I also volunteered to cut out some silhouettes to decorate the walls.



We dressed up in glitzy 1920s outfits, danced to the live jazz and generally had a brilliant evening.


After a full day at work on Sunday, I then had a yearning to bake so made this blueberry, lemon and almond loaf cake... an Ottolenghi recipe that was featured in Delicious magazine. It really was deliciously simple!


Tuesday I managed a nine hour shift at the cafe. It was ridiculously busy for a Tuesday and I ended up only having a five minute break all day. I was so tired I don't really remember driving home, which I guess is not ideal. It was tempting to do nothing all day yesterday, but it was Halloween and I couldn't resist a bit of pumpkin carving...


Not too scary for all our little visitors last night. And as a bonus, we've lots of chocolates to finish off tonight!


And then today it was my turn to provide a cake for our village over 60's club. One of my earliest blog posts was about providing a cake for the over 60s club... something I've done on the first Thursday in November ever since. I'm ignoring the fact that I'm now actually eligible to attend the club myself! I made a cherry and coconut cake, not for the first time, as you will see if you followed that link.


And tomorrow I'm back in work again, back on that merry go round. But something I have realised this week is that I'm happiest when being creative, whether that means making canapes, cutting out decorations, baking cakes, carving pumpkins...  sewing, knitting or painting. That is what I really love doing. Now if only someone would pay me for doing that every day!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!