Tuesday, 4 April 2023

20 to 50 in a heartbeat

                                             Cost per wear: about 2p over the 30 years....

On the verge of summer 1993. I'm living - somewhat improbably - in Devonshire Mews West, London W1.  (Opposite Babs Windsor no less - who I will later meet while working at Enders - a total diamond). My rent? A mere £30 a week. I'm attending Westminster Uni where I'm training to become a broadcast journalist. The course is amazing; being a poor student in London less so. Yet somehow, I've bought Vogue magazine, where there is a spread on Michael Hutchence and Helena Christensen, at his house in France - where they shoot each other with water guns and play table tennis. It all looks idyllic. He was of course a huge crush of mine (and I'd be lucky enough to score free tickets on the day of his Town and Country club gig in Leeds later that summer - to see INXS) and Helena epitomised the cool girl that I would never, ever, be. In the captions to the article (pic below) it said that she shopped at Portobello market and so inspired, off I went, with the hope of finding a vintage white dress, to wear that summer. 

I found the one above for a mere £20 and loved it. Wearing it was the first time anyone looked at me in the street or complimented me. It was the summer that felt ripe with possibility - my 20s lay ahead... No longer an awkward teen, but, I dared to hope, becoming a woman... Filled with hopes and ambition and energy and doubt and fear and all the things we are aged 20.

Almost 30 years have passed since that summer and I'm days away from turning 50. I cannot believe that fact is true, even as type. In many ways I am still that 20 year old - less ambitious, less doubt, less fear but hopefully still with that energy. It would be remiss of me not to reflect on all that has happened - but I am completely grateful that all of it did - because it got me to here. Without sounding like some awful hashtag or trite life phrase hung in a kitchen - I have never been happier - or rather, been as content. Shit that mattered doesn't matter so much. Fitting in, being accepted, being valued for things that ultimately are not who I am. For any 20 year old I have no advice - how can I - I'm not in their shoes - except one thing: run at life. Enjoy every fucking second because in a heartbeat it can be taken from you. 

The 20 year old that I was: I thought all my problems would be gone in an instant if only I could become a TV presenter - perhaps with a side order of fame. Well, I did manage to be a presenter for about ten years and THANK GOD I was never famous. If there is one thing to ruin someone with a fragile sense of self - that would have been it. The presenting was wildly fun - not like having a real job whatsoever (a dating show where I took teens on dates to Paris first class Eurostar/ interviewing Leo DiCaprio and Will Smith/attending Julian McDonald fashion shows with the Spice Girls or handing them a stolen pirate VHS tape of their Spiceworld movie with News Bunny at Heathrow on a rainy Halloween night 1997/Paris Fashion week/live studio audience at 11pm at night to keep me on my toes/backstage at V festival - or was it Reading - pretending to be in Robbie Williams' band). But there was a price to be paid for it, as when I had my son, trying to combine work and motherhood became the holy grail - and in fact why I began this here blog.

So what did I learn? Well nothing beats a cup of tea with a digestive biscuit and butter, that is for sure... (And yes with butter. Try it. You'll thank me later). The thing is, I'm still learning - I hope I always will be, so I'm not sure that I have any secret inside knowledge to life - no more than anyone else who is lucky enough to live to 50 doesn't have... Perhaps my best discovery is that life isn't all about those winning goals, the big celebration moments - but in fact all the little incidental bits in between: the first cuppa of a day, red wine by a fire, a wet rainy walk with a dog who is still delighted to be out there in the elements, a great hug, a comfy cinema seat and a hot coffee, clean PJs, a perfect old fashioned, laughing until you cry with oldest buddies. I try to find one of those moments in every day. 

Funnily enough, I hoked out all my painstakingly kept diaries (from age 8-28) for something I am writing at the moment and was amazed at what I read. Those that had wronged me, I realised were just finding their way too; a first love affair was anything other than the blissful romantic ideal that I had remembered - and was in fact one long lesson in what not to do... As an aside, for every boy that had to endure one of my many, many letters (god, it seemed all I did was write frigging letters) I apologise. All those emotions of mine just had to get on paper... They still do. The other thing I've realised, is that there is no term of love for friendships - and yet, they are the great unsung relationships of our lives. I've been a good, if challenging friend - as my own hang ups meant I need/needed to feel prioritised and valued, perhaps in a way that others don't. I think I've finally realised that people not calling me back immediately - isn't a sign that I don't matter. Yes, it took me a degree in counselling and 50 years to get there... 

A friend came to visit last September having not seen me for quite a few years and she said I was calmer than she had ever known me. Thank god eh? I feel very lucky that I met my husband and had my children - even all the young kid years where I was working full time at Enders, writing 13 Babble articles a month and on my knees. The key to life I feel is balance - colouring in that old life wheel and realising that you've got each bit covered and none compromising the other. I work from home, I get to write every day, I get to counsel teens and give back something that would have benefitted me enormously when I was that teen. I get to jump in cold water and be fully in nature and that keeps me sane. Another dear friend asked me: 'you make your own Xmas wreaths and get in cold swampy lakes for fun - who the fuck are you?' As that is a picture far removed from my hedonistic 24 year old swinging from the Met bar days...  I don't miss that girl. I was looking for things to fulfil me that I was never going to find there, no matter the glitter, no matter the excitement, no matter the glamour. 

I still get excited by the thought of a cocktail. (Preferably at a hotel bar).  By a gathering. By parties. I still think anything is possible, no matter my age. I don't have regrets (except not going to see U2 that summer of '93 with my school buddies in a limo), because every mistake I hope - in time - I have learnt from. You learn nothing from successes bar one thing: that hard work is what it takes to get there. I've had several careers and instead of seeing that as some kind of failure - I see that now as a success. I wanted so desperately to become that TV presenter and I got there: replete with chauffeur driven cars to work, makeup and wardrobe and studio lights. It was fun, as long as presenting can be for women (until the work dries up). I'm happier where I am now. I'm saddened by cancel culture and the way I am more afraid in this era of insane correctness, to speak out than I was in the 90s... We are all too quick to judge and if we could all just listen that bit more or try and understand others - realising that division is pointless, we'd all be in a better place. The other day I drove into my local garage, and a guy was crossing deliberately slowly so I just drove on in. He shouted abuse at me and ignoring him, I parked up, got petrol and duly paid. I looked out to see that he had walked back and was in fact photographing my license plate. I went after him and he shouted that the Highway code had changed and that he had right of way. He was apoplectic with rage, gunning to fight, so I took a breath and replied: 'thank you so much for telling me, I'm truly sorry, I had no idea. I am grateful you took the time to tell me.' Well he had no clue what to do with that. He stood stock still, stunned. I was being sincere too. He was utterly thrown. Try it - back down, agree, understand, see their side - and wham, life isn't the row everyone expects or perhaps wants.

So what for my future? Who knows... What I have also realised is how little we control - much as we would want to. Money might make life easier and buy better health care (sadly) - but it doesn't keep us safe. I hope I make it to 60. I hope I'm still curious about people, still getting in lakes and that my dog is somehow alive forever... My 50th will be spent getting in the sea, cake of some sort, a wonderful seafood meal in The Rockstore in Cornwall and er... visiting the biggest Witches and Magic museum in the world. I may get a tarot reading to see what is in store, but in truth, I don't want to know...  May it be as glorious, as fun and as loving as the past 30 years have been. 

Maybe, I'll still be wearing my Portobello market dress... 


Wednesday, 30 November 2022

The M word/Mental heath and She Said.

 1. Whoever created woman, really was a misogynist. Why on earth would they decide to give us teenagers, ageing parents and the menopause all at once? I mean, WTF? I worship at the altar of HRT as without it I would be more cray cray than I already am. It is like PMT on steroids. I'm FURIOUS - like, ready to kill because the dog has wandered upstairs and onto our bed, leaving a trail of muddy little paw prints everywhere. The kids haven't tidied their rooms and why WHY have I more laundry to do? Where does it come from? And why does no sock match EVER? Then, in a heartbeat, I just am so teary. Ready to burst into floods just because there are no cookies left in the tin. All I wanted was a cup of tea and that last chocolate chocolate chip. Husband says it is like walking a tightrope living with me. He has been googling menopause symptoms. I think I can get away with anything at the moment - because I just scream - IT'S THE GODDAMN MENOPAUSE at him loudly. Rationally, obviously. My hair is thinner, my face starting to droop, I am so TIRED all the time. More paranoid than a spy, I slink around the house, desperate to just go to bed and sleep forever like some middle aged sleeping beauty who doesn't ever want to be disturbed by any handsome prince. I rang a friend in tears on Sunday and discovered she too had gone to bed as she hated everyone and everyone hated her. She said at least there she wasn't fighting with anyone. I had my womb out in 2016 - I have no periods, so I have no freaking idea if I am peri-menopusal, in the thick of it - or like my mate E - who was told by her doctors that she had gone through it... unknowingly. So this not knowing where the hell I am menopause wise keeps me on my toes. I also forget everything. Who even am I? A few months back I wept as I couldn't find the car keys. I had bundled them up in a T shirt to take upstairs to the laundry basket... Why? Who knows. I am talking and I forget words. What is that stuff to clean your teeth with - tooth thread? Oh yes - floss! Floss! How did I forget that? Because the menopause is the gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think you have your symptoms licked - along comes a new one. Sigh. 

2. Last week, I did something I never like doing as a freelancer. I turned down work. The lovely universe was looking out for me as a chance encounter in a pub in my little market town, one Xmas eve, led to the events of last week. I was offered the chance to be in a writer's room (I love them even if they are terrifying) but I happened to know (due to the Xmas eve encounter with people who I have never seen again) that the head writer (who I had never met) was best friends with the only person I would never work with again. And they were likely to be in that room. Literally the only person in TV bar Kelvin MacKenzie that I would rather eat my eyeballs than have to be in a room with for 5 days. So I turned down the opportunity. Because, my sanity is worth more to me than any cash. The older I get the more I realise - work with those you like hanging around with. Creative life is difficult at the best of times, so be as kind to yourself as possible. I felt nothing but relief at saying no and thanking my lucky stars I had made the connection and not turned up in the room to be faced by the toxic fresh hell of that person. Who knows, they may have changed - and it would have been ok - but I take no chances. This year I've been so lucky with all those I have worked with - it has been my most favourit-ist year yet work wise. Gawd bless those who have been my creative team mates... My new rule in life - it is too short to be unhappy. It is too stressful in and of itself. So don't add to it if you can. You don't want to go to that Xmas party but you think you should? SAY NO. Tell them you are washing your hair, or the dog or whatever. No more to people pleasing. I spent decades saying yes to things that I didn't want to do for fear of upsetting people. Now, NO is my new word. Well, if I remember it... (see above). 

3. Last night I snuck off to the movies alone to avoid the football. Despite being DESPERATE to see Bones and All - husband miraculously wants to see it too, so I decided to go for 'She Said' the story of Jodi Cantor and Meghan Twohey - two brave New York Times journalists who wrote an article detailing Harvey Weinstein's decades long history of alleged abuse against women. The story that launched the #Metoo movement and brought about the horrific rapist's downfall. It's watchable, upsetting, if no longer shocking (we all know the stories now as the article led to many more women coming forward) and yet... 

I noticed at the start that this is a 'Plan B' production - which is owned by Brad Pitt. In it Gwyneth Paltrow is mentioned many times and held up as one of the women who came forward first about Harvey. Paltrow and Pitt are on great terms - she recently interviewed him on her Goop website. But what of Angelina Jolie's bravery in coming forward at the same time? Omitted here. The whole film gave more than whiff of Hollywood patting itself on the back for making a film about the article, when in fact the majority of Hollywood - Pitt included - knew exactly what Harvey was doing and yet stood by... As long as they got the parts and the Oscar buzz - who cared, right? I found it hard to stomach in parts. What of all those who enabled Weinstein? Who continue to enable predators? On a slight tangent - I guess it's ok that a woman is banged up for her connections to Epstein while all those who flew on his Lolita Express just go about their business... If anyone fancies on joining the dots of why fancy lawyers are representing Epstein victims - and ultimately deciding who is to blame for what happened - all the while Maxwell's little black book has mysteriously vanished - and no man has yet been held accountable for what happened to these women - take a little look at House Inhabit on Instagram. I no longer buy into  the narrative the media want us to know on stories such as this - when the real story is so much more shocking.... 

PS Random stuff, I know. It's the MENOPAUSE ok???? 

Monday, 19 September 2022


There is a famous saying: good girls keep diaries - bad girls don't have time. 

Not so, according to the diaries I managed to fill in the late 90s. I've been reading over them for something I am working on and 97 - 99, when I'm a budding reporter/presenter, is spent in a blur of filming, parties, launches, cocktails and stumbling out of the Met Bar at 4am when the lights came on - like a cooler version of the Shane Park school discos where the bright lights illuminating your dodgy neon leggings and even dodgier frosted lipstick, were a sign of - get the hell home now.  

Reading my antics, let alone living them, is exhausting. I am so busy STRIVING for attention and acceptance and well, love - that I barely have time to eat. I tell myself, shamefully, that if I am famous, if I get that glorious next job, if I rise up the ranks to dizzying heights (not sure what these precisely are) then I will be happy. It is goalpost after goalpost. Rarely do I stop to saviour the moments of triumph (blagging my way into and then backstage at Stella McCartney's first ever Chloe fashion show; lying my way into a Bond Premiere and getting a one to one with Bond himself; surviving attending a human autopsy with a Brit party induced hangover). Also, are these REALLY moments of triumph? Or just moments where I convinced myself that at long last I was 'enough.' I am certain that validation is waiting at the end of a camera, or in the arms of some fly-by-night director, or a morose comedian.  What I never realised is that I had to give it to myself first... 

Of course we live in a capitalist society where success is valued in monetary gains and status symbols - but at heart we are hunter/gatherers, desperate to belong to a tribe, needing to be amongst nature. We adapt  behaviours to compete - when we don't even realise who we really are competing against. Or what for. 

I listened to an amazing podcast at the weekend: 'Feel Better Live More,' where Dr Rangan Chatterjee chats to physician and author Gabor Mate. (I'm a fan). They discussed former rugby union player Jonny Wilkinson - who dreamed of playing for England, in a world cup and scoring the winning point... This was his ultimate goal. Then - it only went and bloody happened. In the World Cup final in 2003 he kicked the winning drop goal in the last minute of the game. According to a story he told, before the ball had even dropped to the ground, he started to feel low. The following morning he could hardly get up out of bed and then sank into a deep depression. He had a goal - it gave him purpose in life - but at the ripe old age of 24 he'd achieved his dream - so what then? Jim Carrey wishes everyone could be rich and famous to see just how it doesn't make one happy... When you fail and have to get up or when you are trying endlessly to get to a point in the distance and then suddenly, miraculously it appears - who are you then? Society says you are rich/famous/gorgeous/successful - so why do you feel like an imposter or if you take your foot of the pedal your house of cards will all come tumbling down?

Michael Jackson woke up one night (I know I know, he's persona non grata these days but hear me out) and he had a banging tune in his head. Rather than go back to sleep or just write it down, he got up and went into his recording studio, desperate to record it. At 7am in rolled his studio engineer wondering why on earth Jacko wasn't getting his beauty sleep.  Jacko tells him he has been up most of the night laying this tune that was in his head. Surely they could have recorded the song that morning muses the engineer? Jackson turns to him and replies: 'No, because if I'd gone back to sleep, God would have given that tune to Prince.' 

In the podcast Dr Chatterjee talks about a time when his book was coming out and he got a phone call to tell him that it had done well. Exceedingly so. He took the news, thought 'oh ok,' and then went about his day. He admits that previously, news like this would have given him a high as his ego would have been royally massaged. But, he's done a heck of a lot of work on himself and he doesn't need success (book sales, fans etc.) to validate who he is.  He discussed believing in his work, regardless of how others viewed it. The moment we look to outside sources to give us validation, we lose our own sense of power. 

Another quick story: I listened to another podcast, where the writer of 'Call Me By your Name (SUCH a beautiful book) Andre Aciman was talking about his newest novel. The interviewer was commenting how Call Me By Your Name was huge and even moreso because of the Oscar-winning film adaptation. She wondered how all this interest and attention had affected him? Aciman said that whilst yes, it was lovely that the film had brought him a whole host of new readers, that they will disappear, the attention will vanish and then his core readers will remain. He didn't pay much heed to the glitter, the noise, the sudden interest, because he didn't need it nor desire it. He was just happy, sitting in his little office in New York, writing as he always did, enjoying the journey. It struck me just how assured he is; how happy in his own skin and how joyful he finds writing, regardless of how his books are received. 

Life is fucking short - I have witnessed this on several occasions over the past few years, when I've lost people I dearly loved, who died young. Why spend what time we have here, striving for something that only will temporarily boost our egos? What a horrific waste of time... 

I look back at those painfully detailed, raw and exposing diaries and feel compassion for my younger self. I was looking in all the wrong places. Now I get my kicks from the most mundane of activities. A dog walk yesterday led me to pass by a small library of books hidden within a little nest of bushes near the end of my lane. One book jumped out at me to read: 'The unexpected joy of the ordinary.' I picked it up because I've learnt (as the film 'Soul' so beautifully depicts) that it is the very minutiae of a daily life that makes it so thrilling: the perfect cup of tea in the morning, a robin landing outside a window; a hug from a friend; the chatter of my kids over dinner; a glass of red as the fire roars. Over the past few years I have very deliberately carved out a very simple life for myself; living on the edge of town, with a little stream babbling in my garden; venturing into cold waters every week and walking my dog through fields and forests every day. I've studied and graduated not only to counsel teenagers but more importantly to counsel myself. People keep asking - will you now be a counsellor? Or a writer? Can't I be both? It is surprising how similar both jobs are... 

Speaking of jobs - why does there have to be competition? Another thing Jonny Wilkinson said is that winning the cup meant he no longer played rugby for the joy of the game. Isn't that a shame? When does an activity you have loved become a ball ache - a means to simply make money? I've written diaries since I was a child, blogs as I got older, scripts for a living. I will never not write - regardless what it is for. Does it even have to be for something? My son has just done his GCSEs and I told him simply to pick A levels he would enjoy. That's it. If you don't enjoy what you are doing - studying/job/life - then why the hell are you doing it and who exactly for? 

Which brings me back to all that success I was busy networking for and hustling to get back in my stardust days. I think my nights on the town brought me one job in the end. I lied to myself that I was busy trying to get the glory and get my face on screen because I was 'good at my job.' Which maybe I was... But really it was to be seen, to be heard, to be wanted. It was all just ego.  All that comparison with others - it is only ever going to bring misery. A good friend of mine in the arts, rang recently - upset that her particular artistic endeavours were not being received with as much applause as some other people's. I told her that it was all just noise and fluff and instagram bollocks. I reminded her that she would still have to make dinner that night. Take the bins out. Iron school uniforms etc. That really all that 'success' is just bullshit. In the grand scheme of things, whatever you put out, however it received isn't really the point. What is one person's trash is another's treasure and art is subjective; we all respond to a painting in a completely different way. If you are doing it to be on best seller lists or to get awards - then what does that say about your needs and how fragile they are? What if they fail? Or perhaps worse - what if they succeed? Then where will you be? Trumping yourself I guess.... 

This year I had some bad news about a work thing in January. I walked up the hill, in the rain, through the muddy fields and wept. The next day, I felt completely normal again. Back at the wheel. In August I had some amazing news and I smiled to myself, told my husband and then got on with making dinner. The highs these days aren't so high and the lows aren't so low. That locus of evaluation is more internal. I don't need to feed my ego. Thank god. 

I only wish my 24 year old self could have discovered the above much sooner. I would've saved myself a fortune in lipstick and heels. 

Still, I got there in the end. 

Now I just need to burn these bloody diaries so my kids never get their mitts on them.

Monday, 5 September 2022

All endings are new beginnings....

 ... Or so the saying goes. 

2022 has been a vintage year for me (bar one sad loss that I'm still getting to grips with). 

Hand on heart I'm not one for change. I like the comfortable falling apart worn slippers, the roads travelled, the familiarity of faces. So I understood perfectly why my 11 year old was utterly distraught when she had to say goodbye to her much loved primary school in July. The horrifically warm weather had put paid to a few of the school's plans, so she suddenly had her leavers' service on the same day as the leavers' show (where she played a resoundingly natural Peggy Mitchell) and then promptly left the following day. A day she declared as 'the saddest of my life.' I can only hope that stays true for the rest of her days as then she will be truly blessed... 

Meanwhile Sproglet - (which seems an insane name for my now 16 year old) had to contend with GCSEs and then a long stretch of summer with absolutely nothing to do. That of course changed the minute I herded him out of the house, suit on, CV in hand, with the words: 'get a job.' He is now a cherished employee (so he tells me) at Costa coffee, where I am delighted to report one of his duties involves cleaning the bogs. Amazing. I also have witnessed him empty and change a bin there - something he has yet to do at home. Coupled with refereeing money, he had enough to spend when he went camping at Reading estival for 4 nights. He survived. Perhaps also as importantly, I SURVIVED this - although a fair amount of alcohol was consumed to make me forget that my first born was doing god knows what in a tent in a field surrounded by people off their faces. 

The day before, he had held at our house an 'arts and crafts' day where with the help of his 3 buddies and my old schoolmate H, we had popped unbroken caps off water bottles and filled said empties with pure vodka. Another mother had made vodka jellies, disguised in shower gel bottles. Four bottles of shower gel carried in by a teen boy at a festival? Unlikely...  The house was a hive of activity that I image was similar to bootleg stores during prohibition. One of H's 11 year old twins asked to to sip water from a bottle she found in the fridge, lest it be pure vodka... 

GCSEs done successfully, he is now suited and booted and off to sixth year, to do A levels. I cannot quite comprehend that when I started this blog he wasn't yet 2 - and somehow in 2 years he will hopefully be heading to Uni... Where has the time gone?

This year began hopefully and ended up exceeding my expectations. Sproglette's school team won nationals at table tennis and bless her, she won Dacorum's Elite Sportsperson award from over 80 schools in the area in July (always a great time to sweat in a school hall for 3 hours).  From April - July was INTENSE. Juggling two scripts, the last term of a degree, counselling for Rape Crisis and at school for a day, plus supervision and actually attending college on Thursdays from 1-7 meant I worked every weekend for 7. It was punishing. My whiteboard looked like the diaries of the serial killer in Se7en.... I thought July would never come. Then suddenly, it did. College after 4.5 years was over. Those people know me in many ways as well as my oldest mates - and here I was saying goodbye. My supervisor asked me: 'what will replace college for you?' I'm still pondering that answer. I passed my counselling diploma in August, fittingly hearing on holiday and duly celebrated. A string to my bow. Writing is keeping me busy, but hopefully I'll manage to do a bit of both. There is nothing quite so rewarding as helping someone help themselves... 

Every week I still got in the lake with my mate KR and said to her - I will get to Greece. I am holding the thought of getting in that warm water. It keeps me going.

That warm water was worth waiting for. 

Especially as one of the places we island hopped to ended up being right smack bang next to an abandoned water park. The stuff of amateur horror films - and yet, I had several beach coves to myself, with water so aquamarine, it was as if I had dreamt it. On our last day I went for a swim alone, drinking in the beauty of the place; taking a mental picture to go back there when I need to. Paros, you were perfection. 

The summer was a haze of ABBA (My My!), cocktails, family and friends visiting, home made slip n slides, fishing in the stream and bizarrely looking after chickens. On one evening, I suggested a dog walk to a pub along our canal, where inexplicably two sets of Morris dancers decided to have a dance off. No fever dream I have had came close. Three gins later and I nearly danced with them. Three weeks later upon our return from Greece I ventured back to the same pub - only to discover - yep, those dancers were back for one last hooly. While my husband cried about one of the dancer's blind dog Stevie (as in Stevie Wonder) I found myself almost agreeing to join their group. Is there anything as joyful as a morris dancer?  I think not... 

And so, the summer is coming to an end. Sproglette headed off for her first day at big school today - the first time she has donned a skirt since nursery days... Sproglet advising her on skirt length/tie wearing/teachers... After the chaos of summer, the jam packed working calendar since March, the house was silent and I returned to my desk. 

On it is a photo of me aged 17, in London visiting my older, much more glamorous and beautiful step sister. Her bright blue eyes shining, her white blonde hair flicked out, her face tanned and smiling. It was July 1990. We lost her on May 13th this year. Well, losing her isn't quite right. Cancer devoured her until there was little of her left. The last time I saw her she stripped and said to me 'look, this is what cancer does to you.' It is a brutal, humiliating, savage bastard of a disease. 

So instead of mourning all the change in my life; fretting over the unknowns, the 'what ifs' - I embrace every single day. Sounds cliched doesn't it? I made a pledge to myself every day from now to Xmas, I'll throw on my trainers run out into the lane and up the hill and take in season.... I'll hurl myself into those cold lakes; I'll plan that up-coming 50th no matter the cost, I'll dance with those Morris dancers next time they appear in town. Because we only have today. That's it. The temperature may start to dip. The longer nights drawing in. Embrace it all. Who knows what's round the corner?

Friday, 31 December 2021

So, how was it for you?

It's all a bit of a blur isn't it? 

Are we in 2020, or 2021? Delta or Omicron? Lockdown or 'don't go to work, but DO go to NYE parties?' Will this fecking pandemic ever end?

I'm now super-immunised after covid last xmas (thank you delta); 2 jabs, a booster and 5 days later - boom! Omicron. It only lasted a day symptom wise - a few aches, a headache, but an underlying lung infection (my third this giving winter) required steroids - which today, I finished and I'm feeling much more my old self again. Hurrah! So I thought I'd take a trip across 2021 to see what pearls of wisdom I discovered this year and what I'm hoping for in 2022. Crickey 2022, it seems but a heartbeat ago we were ushering in the millennium. 

1. A quick gander across my photos of the year shows me that clearly the most important member of my family is my dog. 80% of all the pics were of his sweet soulful face and silky ears. It seems all I did all year was walk a dog and get in icy water. There was a particularly vicious ankle injury on St. Paddy's day - but sadly I was sober and yes, you guessed it, on a dog walk. The moral of this - look where you are going and it pays occasionally to look down - those little potholes on country lanes are just waiting to get you...

2. Talking of that icy water - nothing gave me greater pleasure than getting in. Ok that's a lie. Nothing gave me more pleasure than 25 seconds AFTER I had got in that freezing lake. For the first 25 the pain - THE PAIN - dear god - in my elbows, around the nape of my neck and oddly my shoulders, was like I was on fire. Then all of a sudden - nothing. Just bliss. Just swimming along, in awe of the fact that it was 0.6 degrees on Valentine's day. Well, what says romance more than being shouted at by a scary fisherman warning of impending death by catfish? 

3. Reading this week about an interview with CBBC presenter Sarah Jane Honeywell who lost her job at the BBC for daring ten years ago to strip naked for a PTEA, I was struck at how she turned a really difficult time in her life into something positive. She said 'I'm so grateful though and I now know - even when life doesn't go the way you want it, things can turn out better than you wished for anyway.' Which is perhaps the greatest lesson in life to learn. The failures, the mistakes - those are where we learn - not from our roaring successes. Also, these champagne moments are but just that - mere moments - so if we don't celebrate and enjoy the struggle to get there, then what's the point? 

She also added 'You are not your salary or even where you live. You are not what other people think of you.... You are you and to be alive means everything.' I couldn't agree more. The older I get I see how we all surround ourselves with 'stuff' to make us feel safe, to feel seen, to feel valued, to feel 'successful.' I read of a retreat where folk go and ask a single question all weekend: who am I? They begin with their job, marital status, if they have family, where they live, their hobbies, their achievements, but as they strip them all away - who really are they? A head-fry for sure, but really all the 'stuff' is just fancy window dressing. Don't be afraid to do a bit of an internal closet clear out - and what you find may not be pretty. But letting go of old scripts in your head that do not serve you; being fallible; being unafraid to take a new path - may not be easy, but, trust me, so worth it. 

4. All I am hoping for in 2022 is health and more life experiences. My new rule is for every item of clothing I buy - I'll sell/give away something else. I'm all about simplicity this year. Less is more. Looking through this year's photos again - my best days were those with friends or family, sunshine, sea, lakes or country lanes... My swim buddy KR is all about the mini-break. She believes the way forward in life is simply to have as many mini-breaks as possible. This year I had several - including a girls' night in London in October - and I have to say - they are my new favourite thing. Holidays can drag. Family tensions can rise up after sharing an apartment for a week - but a mini-break? No time to get grouchy! No time to feel on day 4 that you can't face the buffet breakfast again or having to make small talk with the people by the pool for the 7th day in a row... 48 hours people is all you need! 

5. This year I have had to volunteer as part of my degree - 100 hours of my time no less. Its a bit of a gift to help others empower themselves. You get to see (forgive me for getting all Carl Rogers over here) that giving people autonomy, a safe space in which to talk, to feel free of judgement and showing them unconditional positive regard - changes them. What I think surprised me more, is that has changed me too. The biggest gift of this year was realising - really getting - that I can't control anything pretty much or anyone. Just my reactions to things. God I wish I'd known that at 25. I'd have saved myself an awful lot of energy caring about what others think. 


6. Life can change on a dime - so there is no time to waste! Do everything you want to. Today. Don't find excuses. Dare yourself. Be bold. Go on!

The other day a friend posted a pic on Facebook of a plane she had taken across the barrier reef - and 3 days later the same plane crashed killing one person and giving life changing injuries to the rest onboard. Below are photos of the bravest family I know - J, C and kids - who had their whole lives upturned in a matter of seconds, when J crashed his bike.  Their lives have never been the same - but the resilience, the determination, the sheer strength of getting through this - is a testimony to what incredible people they are. Donate here if you can - as they continue to battle for help from the already stretched to breaking point NHS - and every penny raised goes towards helping them all live as a family and Jaime continue his journey to regaining more sensation in his legs. 

6.  Roll on summer. My happy place: Rathmullan. This year we were blessed with weather that was quite frankly - unbelievable. Normally you can't see your hand in front of you for the rain - but in 2021, the weather gods did shine upon us and grant us an insane amount of sunshine. Such a highlight. Bar the bastard jellyfish who stung me on day 2. (As an aside I am never not going on a mini-break without JM - who has a Mary Poppins stylee bag, whereupon she will bring out ANYTHING you request. Hairband? Plasters? Sting medicine? How about a full size beach blanket folded into a bag the size of a hankie? Oh and she had a 'whole rake of wine' in her room. I mean, if Carlsberg did holiday buddies....).


7. My last year of my 40s - HOLY SHIT. But you know, I'm lucky to be here. I'll be seeing in a new year with my family over a particularly vicious game of Bullshit/Kids against maturity/Uno. I'm grateful for all the experiences of 2021 - even lockdown in Jan/Feb (although I remember virtually none of it). The 3 birthday cakes before 9am on my birthday, the dinners and the drinks and the sunshine and even the moments of unbearable sadness. Loss is all around us. Borrowing from 'Inside Out' - it is ok to be sad. I think sitting with sadness is another of my life lessons this year. It means that you loved...

There were lots of work highs - but it's funny, the highs don't last as long, with the bonus, neither do the lows. I'm lucky to have worked with the nicest folk - and been able to row my own boat - rather than dancing around trying to please producers who have no idea what they want - and it has been revelatory. Writing should be joyful, it should be fun. This year, it really was. 

8. Final thought of the year. Show up. Make the effort. Letting someone know you are there for them, that you care, that you value them - well, that's really what its all about isn't it folks? So all that remains is for me, is to wish you all a happy, healthy, warm and wonderful 2022.  Who knows what the tide will bring in... That's the fun of it eh?

Love always CM xx