The PenIs…Mightier Than The Sword!

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Of course…whatever did you think I meant… made you look though! And that’s my point – words are powerful things.

I was in town a couple of months ago, sneaking in furtively to fulfil my latest craving… violas. Yes, those sweet little spots of floral colour that provide a pleasing range of hue in the garden in those dark few months between autumn and spring. The lady on the plant stall laughed when I said they were very “more-ish” but she knew exactly what I meant.

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I sped away, clutching my new garden friends and decided to call in at the crystal shop, Lizians. That day, Ian was at the helm and we launched into, among other things, a discussion about literature and the actual art of writing.

I love words, the music they create as they flow from your pen, the pictures they paint in your imagination… it’s like a three-in-one hobby. We both like to actually physically write, put down initial thoughts, words, ideas, so we both have notebooks and pens always at the ready. Laptops are obviously more convenient for sheer volume but sometimes my fingers trip over themselves and both myself – and my laptop – have absolutely no idea what I was trying to say…

I find connecting with pen and paper very organic, an emotional action that helps layer flavour and imagery, a useful way of capturing a string of words that chimes in the mind like a musical note…I am possibly too wordy, and a bit of a grammar stickler, but Ian and I both agreed that when you write, your aim is to make your reader feel without getting too bogged down in spellings and so forth. These are the sort of weapons people use to put aspiring writers off, intimidate them, when really, the action of writing is very important – a way of immortalising yourself, and your surroundings as the very first artist realised in the caves at Lascaux when they turned an abstract projection of rock into the figure of a horse…

I hope you get what I mean…or am I waffling? A lovely crisp baked treat…or pointless meanderings of words. That’s their beauty – words can be used to describe, punish, communicate, immortalise or obfuscate, but some of the simplest words are also the most beautiful!

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Ambivalent About Birds…

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Although I welcome birds to my garden – and sometimes my house, usually courtesy of Lily – as part of my wildlife-friendly environment I have endeavoured to create, I have decided I don’t really like them. They’re quite rude.

Alex had a budgie, who was a much loved and sadly missed family member, but even he had issues – a small yellow and green bird with the heart of a lion and the temper of a wolverine.

But yes, birds outside. I was planting some dianthus and violas in the back border when I heard a scream of raucous laughter.

Rude,” I thought, “I’m just minding my own business.”

I heard the laugh again and looked up, prepared to make a cutting remark like “Go away!” when I saw a magpie, perched on a tree branch above my head watching me. It opened its beak and gave another yell of unrestrained laughter at my gardening efforts and flew away.

Then the other afternoon, I was calling Ting. Every time the word “Ting” left my mouth it was echoed by a chuckling rasp, like nails down a blackboard. I looked up, and sat in the ash tree on the park was a jackdaw. It cocked its head on one side and laughed derisively, glaring at me with its pale blue eyes.

Ting! Hehehehehe!” it bellowed, and flew off in a flash of silvery black feathers.

We have a park at the back of our house and I can look out over it from the one of the back bedrooms, and I often see crows and seagulls diving and whirling like fighter jets, executing such tight turns and spins a Red Arrows pilot would be envious. Usually they battle each other, but sometimes they will unite in the face of a common foe and mob the peregrine who flies across every so often in search of food, screaming and laughing like demented banshees.

I don’t mind the little robin, Mr.Gibbs, who is part of the Avian Quality Control team in my garden. He will sit in the honeysuckle and make politely encouraging remarks. I also have a pair of little wrens, charming tiny brown birds that flicker in and out of the hedges, although they have a terrible, booming alarm call if one of the cats wanders too near their territory:

Cat! Cat! CAT! CAT! CATCATCATCAT!”

Now. I have a herb garden, which I planted earlier this year, and I am quite proud of it, not least because I recently introduced my partner to the pleasures of cooking with herbs. I was gazing absently out of the kitchen window – the back door was open – when I heard the most terrible scream.

Uh-oh, Lily’s got a bird!” was my first thought.

I ran outside to find the source of the enraged screaming and fluttering, fully expecting to see Lily at least dragging a pheasant, when a black feathered ball of rage shot past me.

There, in my lovely herb bed, was a battle royal. Two male blackbirds were having a massive punch up, going at it like professional wrestlers. One seized the other by a wing tip and flung him into the parsley- which was flattened by the force of his landing. He rebounded off the sage and dived for the other, grabbing him by the leg and upending him into the lemon balm. The other one retaliated with a solid body blow that knocked him into my thyme – I’m very fond of my thyme as it has therapeutic benefits as well as flavour – and that was when I decided enough was enough.

Oi! Get out of it you little b$%*&@*s!” I shouted – most unladylike, I know, but I had glimpsed what they had done to the chives.

They turned and looked at me.

Fair cop guv!”

And fled.

For such little birds, they fought with surprising ferocity – easy to see they’re descended from dinosaurs!

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Now – butterflies I like!

Gardens Are Good!

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My garden earlier on in the summer

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching “Gardeners’ World” (and still do, actually) with my Nan and Grandad. The presenter at that time was the wonderful Percy Thrower, another Shropshire resident like my grandparents, and those evenings spent in the company of my beloved grandparents and the gentle voice of Percy Thrower stared a love of gardening in me.

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These petunias are called “Galaxy” – you can see why!

It’s only in the past two years that my love of gardening has been able to translate itself into the creation of my own garden. For some reason, it was assumed that I didn’t like it, the dirt, the labour, the bugs… However, this misunderstanding is something I have endeavoured to put right.

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These are “Ray Sunflower” – love the name!

Also – the link between gardening and the benefits to mental health are undoubted. That veritable green-fingered gardening god Monty Don and the brilliantly brave and lovely Rachel De Thame have both in recent programmes talked about the emotional connection with their garden. I found it very moving.

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One of my wonderfully tactile ornamental grasses, “Pennisetum Rubrum” – or “Basil” to his friends..

I am perhaps a somewhat chaotic gardener. I start out with the best of intentions (“Why don’t you make a plan Mum?”) but then I get carried away digging, or something, and I forget what I’ve planted where… It’s like my birthday every day in my garden when Spring arrives, as there are new surprises sprouting up all over, much to my delight.

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I named this one “Casanova”…although he is more properly “Pennisetum Fairytales,” just couldn’t keep his hands to himself on the bus home!

I love the stately beauty of tulips, the robust colours of dahlias, but perhaps my favourite, well, in this year just gone at any rate, have been the petunias and ornamental grasses. The grasses bring a lovely flow and movement to the garden which I find ineffably soothing, and after a stressful day, there is nothing more I like than to come home and dig a few holes, plant some things, tend to others and communicate my love for my garden, watched, usually, by my four faithful girly gardening buddies.

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Not unsurprisingly, one of my favourite books is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I would like to finish with this quote:

If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden”

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Meeting Mr.Middleton…

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Now. I don’t often mention mental health or my own go-around with depression and anxiety because I write this blog for entertainment and if I can make someone smile, forget their cares for a minute, then my job is done. (“Meet the gang coz the girls are here – the girls to entertain you -” Oops, apologies to all who might remember “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”)

It’s been a difficult few months earlier on in the year, one of the reasons why I was absent from the blog, but I read a book that really helped… I suppose this a sort of self-help post. But I have lived with a formless sort of fear for a long time which in turn gave me crippling anxiety to the point where I found myself in Asda crying because I was completely unable to choose potatoes.

Enter Ant Middleton. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. He is an English ex-soldier, adventurer, television presenter and author. I have watched his television programmes, “SAS:Who Dares Wins,” “Mutiny”,”Escape” and “Extreme Everest.” I was taken by the absolute determination and fearlessness of the man. Granted, he’s not to everybody’s taste, but his courage, achievements and adaptability drew me.

I read his book, “First Man In: Leading From The Front.” Then I read it again. Bite size chunks of psychology and encouragement that I could understand and apply to my own life, put in such a way I could understand and use his lessons. One of the first – “Always have a plan” might seem pretty basic but it rocked me back on my metaphorical feet. Of course. There are always options.

Then he brought another book out, “The Fear Bubble.” I was wandering absently along when I saw it advertised in W.H.Smith. “Oh I must buy that” I thought. Then I read the poster properly… Ant Middleton was coming to Nottingham. I could get my book signed. OHMYGODICOULDMEETANTMIDDLETON.

I must point out here that I am not merely “fangirling”… well, perhaps, a little… but reading this man’s book has genuinely altered my mindset, and for the better.

Handily, Alex was able to come with me on the Saturday that Ant was coming to our city, so we arrived at W.H.Smith and joined the queue. I must say thank you to all the staff who made it such a pleasant and well organised event too. I gave my book to Alex to hold as my hands were getting sweaty with nerves, and as I was somewhat inelegantly wiping them on my front, who should appear from the back of the shop but – Ant Middleton!

I’ll tell you now, I don’t do cool. I have tried, but it never really works for me… so I said, in quite a loud voice: “Look! He’s here!” and shook Alex by the lapels in excitement. Ant smiled and said: “All right guys?” to the queue and disappeared to the front of the shop.

After some more waiting, we moved up and I had the chance to watch how he was with people. He was – brilliant.

Am I gushing? Perhaps, a little – but anyway, from an old lady, to a teenaged lad, to a little girl and others, he had a kind word, a hug or a handshake for everyone. Then it was our turn, he grinned at me, maybe remembering me from earlier, and said: “Come on then mother!”

We walked over and he laughed as I said I was unreasonably excited to meet him and gave me a hug. I said “It’s wonderful to meet you!” and he smiled, he has very blue, very direct eyes and shook Alex’s hand. He is extremely charismatic and very “alpha” but he uses that quality in an empowering manner. He asked us a couple of questions, and then I said: “Thank you. Very much.” I hope I managed to convey a little of how much better his book made me feel.

So… could be I’m “fangirling”… perhaps, a little – but I thoroughly recommend both his books, and as I said I am aware he’s not to everyone’s taste. But I was – and still am – unreasonably excited about actually having met Ant Middleton!

Stichtite And Suspicious Sisters…

 

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There is always something new and wonderful at Lizian – the colour of this stone drew me at once, a wonderful lavender purple, with a soap-soft feel to it.

Stichtite is a protective stone that opens your mind to being aware of how negative attitudes can damage, giving comfort and support while you learn how to adjust. It’s a happy stone that offers companionship and calm while helping you to open and attune your mind, emotional awareness and opinions.

I would hate to even hazard an opinion as to what Ting and Tooty were up to the other morning, other than to say it made me extremely suspicious…

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“We’re just sleeping…honest!”

I was pottering about in the bedroom wiping a trail of muddy paw prints off the windowsill that someone had thoughtfully left for me (“Got to keep her occupied, haven’t we…”) and I happened to look up and out of the window – our bedroom overlooks the close, which is sort of L-shaped, with a blind spot at the top corner masked by a hedge.

Just at that particular moment, Ting and Tooty came hurtling around the corner. They were a good couple of hundred yards away and they were really going for it – a full out cat canter, monkey sideways gallop, tails up and to the side.

They came, absolutely belting down the road, neck and neck, even though Tooty is a lady of the larger persuasion, hurdled the garden gate like a pair of tiny steeplechasing horses and vanished.

Seconds behind them came my neighbour in his car – he screeched round the corner, pulled up with a jolt outside his house, flung his car door open and ran into his house, looking upset.

I went downstairs and into the garden, just to, you know, ask if they’d been up to anything.

Hi Mum! Any treats going? Whatcha been doing?”

I was upstairs – I saw you both running. Anything you’d like to tell me?”

Nope.”

Sure?”

Yep… absolutely nothing… you might want to avoid him two doors down for a bit though…”

Ah.

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Ting’s Evil Genius face…

Chrysoprase And Crazy Cats…

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I happened to be sorting out a mixed bag of crystals one day and my partner was watching me. He said:

Ooh I like those ones! They look like crocodile eyes!”

I picked up the crystals he had pointed at and on closer inspection I thought to myself:

Hmm, he’s actually quite right…”

Glowing green orbs looked back at me, set in a scaly brown matrix. It seemed friendly enough, but I had no idea what it was, unsure if it was crocodile… or alligator, so to speak. I put it away in my handbag, for the next time I happened to see Liz.

Ah yes! Apple green Chrysoprase!” she exclaimed.

The stones themselves seemed quite pleased to have an identity, and armed with their name, I thought I would have a look at what they do.

Chrysoprase is good to use in meditation, bringing a deep state of contemplative relaxation. It can be used to help calm and overcome impulsive thoughts and acts, encouraging reasoned thought and the release of judgemental attitudes. It is also said to help with attracting new love, abundance and prosperity. Essentially a crystal of joy, it brings happiness and helps to heal the heart from depression and anxiety.

Chrsyprase is useful in promoting forgiveness and supporting independence, especially when coming out of a toxic co-dependent relationship. It’s a nice crystal to add to any collection as it energises the heart and sacral chakras and infuses the physical body with Universal energy… always a good thing.

Apart from when it’s half-past three in the morning and really you should be sleeping, but for some reason – blindingly apparent to the feline brain of the Siamese persuasion, yet clear as mud to my humble human brain – the done thing is to run about, claws clicking madly on the laminate flooring like a demented lobster, shouting:

Wa-oh-ah! Wahhh! Ma – ow!”

No idea what it means.

Then at times, the whole feline family is beset by a moment of oddity – the cat flap will slap and Lily will enter the kitchen with an air of great self-importance.

Mew! Mewww- weh!”

Then she turns around and marches away, tail twitching smartly above her furry trousers.

Charlie, having listened to what Lily said, will leap off the sofa and run into the kitchen and out through the cat flap. Driven by her urgency, Ting and Tooty will usually run after her, and it doesn’t matter how many times it happens, they never remember that Charlie will wait -with malice aforethought – on the other side of the cat flap to smack them as they pass through…

Some kind of feline re-birthing therapy? I’m really not sure. Sometimes I think I’m the only normal one in this house…

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Buses and Bitching…

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I know – nothing to do with the words of the title..but I like butterflies…

As ever, buses remain a constant source of entertainment and material to me. There is something about the encapsulated of forty or so people contained within a vehicle that makes the magic happen…

I have three little gems to present to you. The other week I was on the bus into town to meet Alex, who had come over from Loughborough for a few days. Downstairs was packed with pushchairs and pensioners, so I decided to climb the stairs to the upper deck, ticket clenched firmly in teeth Errol Flynn style at his swashbuckling finest, shopping bag gripped tightly in fist, I swung nimbly up the stairs and collapsed into the first available seat.

(“Nimbly?” O.K. maybe “with panic” would be better as these drivers never wait until you’re seated before driving away… one of these days I just know I’ll come rolling back down the stairs like an armadillo to lie at the feet of an unsuspecting O.A.P…”Whatcha doin’ down there luv…bit of a fall?” Anyway, I digress…)

I settled myself, had a mouthful of water, spilling most of it down my front and sat back to gaze out of the window and tune in…

“… yes, but my dentist isn’t very pleased with me – said the fuel rots my gums…”

Bingo! I homed in on that snippet.

Yes, because when you do fire-eating – I taught myself by the way – you have to hold the petrol in your mouth. I’ve done a few Light Nights (I’ll just bet you have!!) but obviously I can’t make fire-eating the whole act because of Health and Safety, so I do yo-yo tricks, juggling…”

A loud, strident voice breaks in:

“… but I only removed her from the group chat! I didn’t say anything bad about her – just put a laughing face emoji – and now I’m being called in for bullying her! You have to tell them I’m not a bully – she just read the post wrong…”

The bus pulled up at the changeover point where drivers swap routes, and the shift changes.

Are you all right then?”

Yeah, not too bad. Yourself?”

Oh these bloody new buses! I can’t reach the pedals!”

Someone else said that the other day – who makes these things? Do you want me to pull the seat forward for you?”

Yeah, I’m only 5’6”,” said the driver, a small, frail-looking chap.

Not a problem for me,” said the other driver, a strapping bloke, who proudly declared:

I’m 6’4”!”

Gentlemen – size really doesn’t matter as long as you reach your destination…!