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I don’t do English food

26 Sep

Right,

We have just had a lovely couple over for the weekend. Hence lack of post yesterday.

After a two hour walk in Chislehurst woods,  inclusive of full enetertainment – seeing my husband attempt to relive his childhood days – unsuccessfully. He got stuck up a tree.

Anyway, we come back to a very belated lunch. Rumbling stomachs call for something very Sunday-ish. Warming and English.

‘Bangers and mash’ was batted around. So off to Sainsbury’s we went.

Us girls made ourselves at home in the kitchen whilst the boys played with jump leads and cars (I know) utilising almost every single pan to hand in the way that British cooking seems to require.

You know what? I’d totally forgotten about the delicious warmth that comes with good old English food! i’ve prided myself in welcoming my hubby home to all manner of cuisines. Indian (his roots), Italian, Moroccan (tagine – my favourite), chinese…

Because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach right?

And the more complicated food – the bigger the love?

But, after knocking up a waist band-groaning lunch of sausage and (leek, garlic & red onion) a field worth of potato, I’ve suddenly realised how tiring it is attempting to be a live-in food artisan.

As a girl who feels that following a recipe is ‘cheating’, i’ve attempted to, most evenings, design my own cullinary surprise. Never of course, being able to replicate it again, and probably (if i’m honest) not quite wanting to admit the odd mixture of store cupboard ingredients it contains.

So, i’ve rediscovered good old English food. And the stuffed lethargy that follows. Now I have that post sunday lunch slog that demands the sofa and constant replays of past episodes of Come Dine With me.

Right now I’m attempt to peel myself up from my horizontal postition and head to church, musing about the week ahead…

My husband has a week of pies, trifles, potatoes and puddings to look forward to.

Me? I look forward to kicking back whilst he battles with the  aftermath – a kitchen full of British washing up.

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Tie me up in a bow why don’t you

24 Sep

Tie me up in a bow! (Kim Cattrall for Baileys)

So, I’m starting big school today.

A Masters in Psychotherapy & Counselling. And very excited I am too. Pencil case – check. Pink folder – check. Geeky tin-foil packed lunch (because fees are darned expensive)- check.

After a whole summer course studying counselling & psychotherapy techniques, I felt challenged. And we all know I love to be challenged!

My question is…

Why, as humans, do we love things tied up in bows?

I’m not talking about presents wrapped in shiny paper and tied in sumptuous bows (although I do love them), i’m talking about life.

Maybe it’s just me.

So, I’ll make this personal.

Life is messy right? The t’s aren’t always crossed, and the i’s most certainly aren’t always dotted. Which makes me wonder quite where my discomfort in unanswered questions, and general confusion comes from (for it is what life is made of right?).

I am an organised girl – I file away my bank statements in the right section of my ‘House ‘stuff” folder. I have birthdays written down in a ‘birthday book’ and my filofax only stays at home when I do. I love to-do lists and I most definitely love the yummy satisfaction in crossing off the done items.

I wish I could cross of the things of life-

Issue with friend. Tick. Sorted.
Worry about family. Tick. Sorted.
Think about moving flat. Tick. Sorted.
Life plan. Tick. Sorted
~
The thing is, life is full of grey areas, journeys, loose ends, uncertainties. It can be turned upside down with one phone call, one prognosis, one sentence. It is full of things we can’t prepare for, ‘hold our horses’ for.

So, I have worked out. The battle I’m fighting is against perfectionism. A common battle. Maybe yours too. Perfectionism is the desire to meet high standards and the propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet these extremely high standards.

The funny thing is, we are often the ones setting these standards.

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.  ~George Fisher

Not many things in life can be tied up in neat red bows and filed away in a drawer marked ‘done’. Complete. I should know that. I love people – I love working with people in their incompleteness, their messiness and their undone-neness. But the thing is, I don’t have set these standards for them.

I set them for me.

So I am challenging myself. To leave things undone – to find peace in the questions, the unanswered, the unfinished. If we were all complete, tied up in bows, what would we learn? We would be unteachable, unshakable, unmovable.

Surely – nothing that is fully complete – is fully real.

I want to be authentic, real and…messy if needs be. We are all broken in our own way, but the most interesting people are the ones not afraid to admit it! And the most inspiring – are the ones that aren’t afraid to show it!

I love the metaphor of a cracked clay jar full of treasures. I imagine seeing glimpses of the bright jewels through the cracks in the mundane dusty clay. Without the broken, marred surface – you wouldn’t see these rich jewels.

I want to be like this.

So, i’m going to go against my natural desire to round off this post, to finish, to tie in a big red bow….

And here I end.

Foot massages in the cowshed

22 Sep

Right. I like my feet. They are fine. They serve me well.

I also like giving massages.

Growing up, massages were our currency. “I will cook dinner for a five minuter”. Or, I will endure your chick-flick/action-man/awful film for a good shoulder rub. The tradition lives on, and now my husband and I enjoy almost daily massages in front of the TV (I get extra long ones when I ‘watch’ football). Everyone’s a winner right?

That is until someone utters the words…

“Please can I have a foot massage?”

My instant reaction is to pull an unattractive face and scarper. If I love you –  then you may get one on the following condition –

socks stay ON.

If I REALLY love you, then you will get your fully fledged foot massage and I will suppress my grimaces. To me, that is real love.

Before you accuse me of double standards, I don’t even like massaging my own feet, so on principle, I don’t inflict my feet on another. Therefore, do not worry friends, you won’t find me knocking at your door requesting a foot rub anytime soon.

That of course, comes with one exception.

You let me pay you.

My lovely brother & sister in-law bought me a pedicure for my birthday. Not just a simple 15 minute get-your-nails-looking-shiney one, but a whole hour of scraping, exfoliating and massaging.

So last night, off I trundled to the very chic (albeit oddly named) Cowshed spa in Soho to meet the poor therapist assigned to spend the next hour tending to my runners/walkers/heal-wearer feet.

It was delicious. She did her thing, whilst I felt like a princess on a fluffy white throne reading shiny magazines. Although, I must mention a slightly awkward moment in which she asked whether I minded having my ‘feet drilled’.

Not wanting to seem out of touch with the pedicure world (of which I am – very) I nodded. After a fearing i’d been lured to a dentist under false pretenses, I discovered that a ‘foot drill’ is an electric foot sander. Nice.

So there I was, reclined in my blissful state, playing this little loop over and over in my head. It went like this:

1- I feel so sorry for her.
2- No! This is her job
3- Yeah but my feet aren’t nice
4- She is getting PAID
5- Yeah she’s seen worse
6- Eugh like that woman next to me
7- So relax and enjoy
(Insert a few minutes of pure relaxation – interspersed with feigning the desire to jump out of the chair due to ticklishness).

And repeat 1-7.

So after an hour of relaxing/reasoning with myself, I left. The owner of the smoothest, pampered and prettiest feet in London.

Massage-able, touchable feet.

So husband, if you’re reading this. I’d like a foot massage tonight please. And before you start getting ideas about reciprocation –  in return – i’ll make you dinner.


Shut up Anna!

21 Sep

There are some things in life that just shut me up.

I can be thinking, chatting or in a daydream, yet when I come across certain things – i’m stopped short. Captivated. I have been caught staring, brow furrowed at odd items just because I’m enthralled at the complexity or beauty of it.

Let me share my current list with you-

I have just rediscovered these gorgeously, sweet (and very in season) fruits. My first memory of eating figs was at an uncles house. My dad plucked one from the large, heavy tree in the garden and handed it to me. I remember being intrigued by its tough, purple brown skin and suspicious when I was told that I could eat it. Since then I have munched my way through many a dried fig – but fresh ones had dropped right off my radar!

Until last week! I stumbled across a fruit stall in Covent Garden whilst whiling away a lunch hour. After a few seconds musing as to what these odd purple fruits were, it clocked!

Off I went with a fresh fig in a crunchy brown paper bag.

I stopped walking after taking a bite, just to observe the hidden beauty of the fruit. What colours are concealed within the dark, boring skin! Intricate strands of burnt orange and red, flecked with sweet yellow seeds.

Since then, I am having to stop myself at 2 a day. I can report that as it stands, no colleague has yet commented on my excessive fig habit.

What can I say about peacock feathers?

I mean look at them.

If you want to see a girl spellbound, put one into my hands and I will just stare in amazement of the colour and the simplicity of the design. How do they grow like that? How does each separate strand produce such an array of stark colour that lines up so perfectly by the strands beside it?

Has any human managed to produce something so incredible?

Just like in yesterdays post. The night sky, like the clouds, evokes a similar reaction in me. A feeling that I am so small, that we as a human race know so little. The sky is such a mystery to me. So much beauty, such incredible beauty, and yet so few will ever see it. For more pictures taken from the hubble spacecraft, click here.

As I stepped off the sea plane onto our Maldivian honeymoon island, I couldn’t speak. After spending my life not quite believing postcard pictures of paradise beaches sent by gloating holidaymakers, there I was – stepping out onto a piece of paradise.

I would lie on a sun lounger staring silently in awe at the beauty around us. What a contrast to the city I live in – pure and completely unadulterated. And here, I sit at my desk in central London, wondering whether it was all a dream.

Like the night sky, here’s another stunning world that exists away from our eyes. The colours, designs and breathtaking variety of tropical fish silenced me (not that one can talk much when snorkeling). I couldn’t believe the ‘finding nemo’ world I had found myself in.

Standing in queue in Boots once, I remember staring at a woman’s pregnant stomach. Although at risk of being carted out the store, I continued to stare, enthralled by the miracle happening within her body.

It’s like our world is a canvas, painted on by the most incredible artist with a palate of incomprehensible colours that no human could ever mix, match or combine. When I begin to consider that a thousand forests could be formed from a single acorn, or think of the incalculable myriad of stunning butterfly breeds (that were seemingly created – just because!), I am silenced.

When we see something beautiful, stand on the edge of the vast Grand Canyon, watch the gushing water of the Niagra falls. When we see the swirling, paintbox mix of the northern lights or snorkel the great barrier reef..

How can we be unchanged? How can we think that we know it all, did it all, can do it all? How can we think it all ends with us?

We are creative beings, powerful, knowledgeable and capable of producing breath taking artwork. But for me, nothing,  nothing can compete with the handiwork of the creator.

Accident Schmaccident.

My relationship with bearded Greek men

16 Sep

I have a life philosophy. And i’m quite proud of it.

If being philosophical means reading books by bearded Greek men, or sitting under trees musing single sentences and contemplating the meaning of life – I’m not very philosophical.

I do think alot though, not too much, not headache-inducing, think-yourself-into-oblivion amounts, Just nice, comfortable amounts. On journeys, whilst procrastinating, and in those odd, surreal moments just before you slip into sleep.

It began when a single sentence (from a youtube video) got stuck in my mind, playing itself over like a jammed record. And this sentence was:

‘To be known is to be loved”

It reminded me of the feeling of home. I’m not talking about the bricks and mortar ‘home’ but that feeling of being ‘at home’. For me, that feeling of home, is being relaxed around people who know, understand and love me. Family, friends, people who have taken the time to really get to know me – how I tick, what I hide, what makes me grin like a cheshire cat….

Allowing people to know you requires vulnerability.

Vulnerability and a decision to offer insights into the very core of who you are. Your story, your stories. And as you share little pieces of who you are, you may be surprised. Surprised that people don’t run, or laugh, or dislike you as you may have expected.

Because isn’t it true that we often love the people we know most

More?

We know dark places and pasts, intricate stories and shameful secrets. Vulnerabilities and insecurities. Yet we understand them more, love them more.

An in that uncomfortable place of vulnerability, you begin to feel comfortable in the vulnerability that comes with being known.

No rose tinted glasses.

No soft-focused images.

No need to invalidate the love you receive by mutterings of ‘yeah, but if you really knew me’

Because to be understood, is to be known. And to be know, is to be loved.

Damn you Mr Fry. The murder of the sweet tooth

15 Sep

I had a sweet tooth. Nope, an entire set of sweet teeth. Main meals were a mere step to a pudding and my eyes would devour the dessert menu before even considering drinks. I would substitute bread for sweets, and chocolate would be the essential full stop to every meal. Except maybe breakfast. Sometimes.

Damn that Mr Fry. No, not the twitter-holic, but the man who bought the good stuff to the UK.

‘Sharesize’ were banned as they were far too ‘mesize’. Instead everything had to be in poxy lunchbox portions – safely wrapped and packed. This tactic, plus a well loved pair of running shoes are the only reasons I am not obese.

So.

I gave up chocolate for a month. Yup, a whole month. That’s 30 days and a potential 60 pieces, bars, slabs, packets of tasty chocolate.  And instead of yielding to the advice of the thousands of articles online on ‘how to cure your sweet addiction’, I didn’t hunt for a therapist, a hypnotist or take a trip to the doc for some magic patches. I didn’t even buy one of those newfangled Le Whif chocolate inhalers (what!). I just stopped.

Let me tell you- stopping is easier than ‘having just one piece’. That one piece is like taking the plug out the dam. Like the alcoholic version of ‘one drink to drunk’, one piece is the chocoholics ‘one piece to…’ i’m not sure that works so well.

Unlike giving up caffeine, I didn’t get the shakes, the headaches, the sick-day worthy flu-like symptoms (another story all together)… nope. I just really, really, really wanted it. I had to battle temptations to find a new muse – digestive  biscuits, gingernuts, percy pigs, percy pals, percy tails, percy and friends…

For a week perhaps.

And then something happened. I stopped dreaming of chocolate, wanting chocolate, desiring to pounce on anyone who was holding the stuff. In fact, all things  saccharine sweet began to lose their sparkle.

And, timely as ever – headlines announce that our sweet treats and junk are as addictive as cocaine. Well if that’s true…

Then I just went cold turkey.

So now, fruit is sweet enough for me. Chocolate has returned – no, for the first time holds ‘treat’ status rather than an end to every meal. The ultimate test is a humongous, open bar of toblerone sitting in the fridge. I have had one chunk.

My husband however….

Is now hooked.

Oops

So, although I can go a day without chocolate, I wouldn’t dare give it up all together. I owe it to my body to continue with the odd indulgence here and there (see below). And whilst I half-heartedly attempt to wean my husband off it, I love him too much to deny him the positive health benefits that a step into chocolate heaven offers.

So do yourself a favour, grab a square and read about all the lovely things you are doing for that body of yours

•It’s a natural stress reducer as it releases the brain chemical serotonin.
•It’s high in magnesium which helps stabilise moods & emotions.
•It helps keep arteries clean, may well be as effective as red wine.
•It contains antioxidants.
•It’s a natural mood elevator – it releases ‘feel good’ endorphins.
•It helps prevent tooth decay – it contains an anti-bacterial agent.

PS: These lovely list of course, is increasingly overridden by not so nice things as you continue to chow your way through the entire bar. Here’s a free supermarket mantra, as you walk down the choc aisle mutter to yourself – snacksize, not sharesize. snacksize not sharesize….

Frustrating creativity?

13 Sep

I have a creativity in me. So strong that at times I can barely bare to think of it, to muse on it. I start to think of poems and books unwritten, words not yet typed. And then I think of time, and how it ticks away, falling like sand through open fingers. How do I harness it, use it, communicate it, channel it? When do I put pen to paper and what do I form? Do I research and plan? Or trust my innate desire. Fiction or fact, poetry or prose, personal or dreamt?

I wonder if there are any other frustrated creatives out there. Do you identify with this? What do you do to meet it? As a child, I used to feel so alive sitting on the carpet surrounded by glue and shiny sweet wrappers. I still do actually! Do we do this, pursue this, or suppress it as we are intimidated by its intensity and potential power.