Resolutions, Schmesolutions!

Don’t some people say, ‘My New Year’s Resolution is not to make New Year’s Resolutions’?

image

Seems quite defeatist to me. However, the thing is with me, I’m a bit on the obsessive side, so when I DO make resolutions, I bloody well STICK to them. (And I say this without wishing to make myself sound great. Remember: IT IS AN OBSESSION. There is little choice in it for me.)

This level of self-flagellating persistence can be good. Yes, I did run the marathon. Yes, I did plunge into the sea on a freezing cold New Year’s Day to raise money for refugees. Yes, I did do the Masters at university. And so on…  And, of course, I felt good about myself when I’d achieved my aim. But sometimes, it’s quite sensible to give up on things if they’re not working out or it’s detrimental to your health. That, for me, is where resolutions can turn out to be far more of a burden than a joy and I curse them with every fibre of my being.

weight-of-the-world-775x350Does this stop me from making New Year’s Resolutions? No, it doesn’t. I like fresh starts, even if it’s finishing a packet of Special K Red Fruits (other cereals are available) and opening a new one.

To save on the angst, I endeavour to make resolutions into possibilities, now. And what, I hear you ask, is the difference?

Here are two resolutions I’ve made. These are temporary, measureable, simply for myself.

  1. I will drink no alcohol at all in January.

no-alcohol

I will not be alone… A YouGov poll has revealed a stunning 3.1 million people in the UK are planning to do Dry January 2018. Why am I doing this? Not to raise money for a good cause, but because I know I drink too much and I want to break the pattern. Not excessive drinking, but consistent drinking—a couple of glasses of wine at least every day. EVERY day. It’s a habit. At 5.15, I stop work and pour myself a glass of wine…and then another…

2. I will do exercises to get rid of my flabby inner thighs.

INNER-AND-OUTER-THIGHS_CHECK-MARK-2_0

I’m not by any means overweight and my outer thighs are trim with all the horse riding I do – but I don’t like my inner thighs, and I want to be leggy again. Flamingo-like.

woman-flamingo

Only perhaps less pink.

Now, here’s one of my possibilities for 2018. A world without plastic packaging.

The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. What a statistic THAT is! Recycling initiatives are great but have failed to stem the eco-damaging flow, so envisioning a world without plastic packaging and taking steps to make that happen is a slightly different and more radical approach. From that, on top of what I already do by taking my own reusable bags when I go shopping, and collecting all litter wherever I see it, this is what I’ll be doing:

  • order a weekly vegetable box filled with local produce
  • no longer buy pre-packed vegetables from the supermarket (all too easy to pick up when in a hurry)
  • use the paper mushroom bags provided in supermarkets for ALL loose vegetables
  • lobby supermarkets about their use of packaging
  • instead of clingfilm, use the wonderful beeswax food wrapping given to me by my lovely daughter-in-law, Breanna, for Christmas
  • start using bars of soap instead of pump-action liquid
  • look into refillable detergent supplies
  • follow initiatives such as lessplastic.co.uk  and 4Ocean.com

In other words…

RethinkRefuse-pyramid_viaPrrrdy-com5rs

Well, that’s enough resolutions for January 1st, 2018, don’t you think?!

The rest cure

Do you know what? I didn’t realise the rest cure was an actual thing? I imagined it was just a generic term for enforced taking it easy, which is what’s happened to me since early January, thanks to an operation. I say thanks and I really mean thanks. And no, I haven’t got Munchausen’s Syndrome, “a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.”

(Factitious? A new adjective for Donald Trump? No, too kind.)

Here’s me at the moment:

fw_fainting-victorian-lady1

 

 

 

 

Why the thanks for a (painful) operation? (Is there any other sort?) Because I am completely hopeless about stepping back and saying no to commitments. It’s harder for me, takes more discipline for me, to take a rest cure than it is to carry on. I’m always telling myself I should do it – but never quite seem to manage it.

I spend money on self-help books like:

51tPBJl8RrL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

…which I never quite seem to have the time to read…

 

For years, YEARS, I have been schedule-driven in a crazy way, thinking I must adhere to a timetable in order to get everything done. My alarm is set for the following times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday: 6.15 am. Friday – 5.15 am. Sunday – the Big Lie In – 7.15 am.

I leap out of bed (or crawl out of bed) and start on a list of tasks too many and too mundane to mention here involving family, dogs, horses, chickens, pigeons and doves, work, domestic duties, networking, writing, university, seminars, activism of various sorts. Just a normal sort of schedule really BUT…

  • I’m tired all the time
  • Joy has gone out of my life
  • Creativity? What creativity?
  • Things I enjoy doing have become a chore
  • I can’t be that pleasant to be around

Here’s something Maya Angelou wrote in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now:

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

Here’s something I wrote:

“One day is not enough.”

So – back to the rest cure. It was devised in the late 1800s by Silas Weir Mitchell, an American neurologist, to treat hysteria, neurasthenia and other nervous illnesses. (Yes, I often descend into hysteria.) Since my operation, until recently I’ve been (mostly) confined to bed; I’m not allowed to do anything at all strenuous, like lifting a kettle (ha!) and I’m not allowed to drive. If following Weir Mitchell’s rest cure regime to the letter, I would be fed “a fatty, milk-based diet, force-fed if necessary – effectively reduced to the dependency of an infant.” Thank goodness husband Peter didn’t read that bit! He’s been absolutely tremendous.

I HAVE RESTED. What’s more, my mind has rested, for the first time in forever. It was actually quite scary at first, not being able to do all those distraction activities that kept me from…thinking too much? There was a massive hole where chaotic mind used to live.

the_chaotic_mind___frac_27_by_mdk_fractal

The Chaotic Mind by MDK-Fractal (Deviant Art)

Hello, zen-like calm. Hello creativity. Thank you, operation. Thank you, rest cure.

My final words:

“Stay alert at all times, alert to any opportunity for rest.” (As miaowed by Ulysses Brave in The Wit and Wisdom of Cats and Kittens)

6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4feaa48970b-600wi

 

 

It’s not easy being green -ish

Not, here, referring to my newly-achieved membership of the Green Party, you’ll be relieved to hear – that’s incredibly easy.

No, I’m referring to living a green lifestyle. Not in a Jolly Green Giant sense…or in a Kermit the Frog sense…

e17592bb6ab971c1532b48cc0646bf21

 

 

 

 

download

 

 

 

 

More a dietary sense.

For for several months now, for reasons of conscience, primarily, but also for the sake of my health, I have chosen not to eat any meat or dairy products.

“The average British carnivore eats more than 11,000 animals in their lifetime, each requiring vast amounts of land, fuel and water to reach the plate.”

“On the ethical side, many dairy cows are never allowed to graze outdoors; they are confined to cramped stalls on factory farms. Although a cow can live twenty years, practically all dairy cows are slaughtered before before they turn five, as the milk production of ageing cows can’t match that of younger animals. Modern dairy cows are impregnated each year in order to maximise their milk yields, and their calves are often sold to the veal industry…”

That.

(While I DO realise that there are plenty of cows who live a long and happy life on grass, it’s somehow easier to be an all or nothing sort of gal).

Actually, the not-eating-meat side of being green-ish is easy. People understand it. It’s the dairy-free that causes me the most difficulty.

Three things.

The first to be covered in this blog.

Hoorah. I shall not use animal milk of any sort. I shall instead be very green and use such products as almond milk.

But wait a minute… each almond requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce and most almonds are grown in often drought-ravaged parts of California. Water diverted to almond farms threatens salmon in northern California etc. etc. etc… Damn.

I know. Soya milk. Phew.

aaaaargh

 

 

“Conversion of High Conservation Value Areas and other critical habitats for soybean cultivation is unacceptable as it threatens biodiversity, endangered species and the livelihoods of local people. The expansion of soybean plantations into forests is also contributing to climate change. Deforestation is responsible for about 15% of all the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by people.” (from vegan.com)

I now drink oat milk.  Oatly. (Other brands available but I like the packaging and branding. Go figure).

images (1)

 

 

 

 

Is that okay? I hardly dare investigate.

Little memories – or larger ones?

images (6)

Desert Island Discs nearly always casts me away (see what I did there?) on a raft of my own memories and yesterday was no exception. The subject was Julia Cleverdon (I’m sorry, who?) – she’s jolly famous, actually, if you’ve ever heard of her. Funnily enough, after writing that, I thought I’d check her out on her own website. Evidently, I wasn’t alone in requiring more information…

“We’re sorry, too many people are accessing this website at the same time.”

Anyway, here’s a little piece about her from another site:

“Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO, CBE is a passionate and practical campaigner who has gained an international reputation for inspiring individuals and organisations from business, government, education and civil society to work together for the common good.”

International reputation? Ooops. Mea culpa, as if apologising in Latin makes a blind bit of difference.

The first piece of music she chose was this:

And that’s always, ALWAYS associated with some happy memories of my university days, up in Liverpool.

As a surprise treat for my parents, Peter and I booked the four of us tickets to see Romeo and Juliet, the Prokofiev ballet, at the Liverpool Empire. We went out to dinner first and we still kept it a secret what we were going to see.

Arriving at the Empire, everywhere there were huge adverts and billboards for the act appearing the next week at the same venue. Misleading.

images (5)

If you could have seen my father’s face…

An absolute classic of horror and disappointment, quickly transformed to British stoicism and good manners, expressing delight in the prospect of an evening’s entertainment with these comedy stalwarts of the late seventies.

Nothing against Little and Large, by the way, but absolutely NOT an act that my parents would have enjoyed in a million-zillion years.

Romeo and Juliet was magic!

So are my memories.

Caroline’s Awfully Big Adventure

An Awfully Big Adventure.

Not starring Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.

An_Awfully_Big_Adventure_(poster)

But ME.

Flying on my own…

maia-flore-sleep-elevation-girl-flying-chicquero-dundelion

Image by Maia Fiore

 

Well, not quite on my own, I hope,  as I’ll be in an aeroplane…

download (3)

Like this one, only going in the opposite direction. Left, that is. Towards Canada.

My Big Adventure will take me to beautiful Vancouver Airport (and how many airports can have beautiful in the same sentence, unless accompanied by the word NOT?)

Snapshot 2011-03-18 17-00-50

Along the Sea-Sky Highway…

download (4)

To Whistler

news_whistler6

Sublime place (I was going to say beautiful again!)

To see my lovely little family…Laurie, Irene and Tilly.

1521787_10152212123688933_875891148_n

At the top of the Shard, January 2014

 

and my fantastic daughter-in-law, Breanna.

484679_10151614199274446_1034558981_n

I shall be in Mummy and Granny heaven!

I’m blessed.

One Awfully Big Adventure for one Awfully Excited Caroline.

Must remember passport, must remember which terminal, must get to Gatwick Very Early because of the security alerts…very early for me is RIDICULOUSLY early for anyone else…in fact, I should probably set out right now…

 

Time for important things

“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life,” said someone called David Jakielo, who is on Goodreads but hasn’t, apparently, written any books.

(Perhaps he doesn’t think writing books is important?) (Unlike me!)

Here’s a confession: I am sometimes guilty of rushing around like a headless chicken.

images (13)

(Oooh dear. As a very proud owner of three lovely chickens, I think I’m going to have to change similes…)

There you go…

download (13)

What happens is, I think I have too much work to do so, whenever I’m out and about, I’m hurrying to get back to my desk. Outstanding pieces of work (by which I mean  ‘not done yet’ rather than ‘exceptionally good’ !) become Very Important Things which divert my attention from what is REALLY important.

This means that I don’t stop to take in the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t take the time to chat to people that I meet, including friends. I’ve been known to scuttle down supermarket aisles to avoid acquaintances because I ‘haven’t time to talk.’ I sometimes keep my car windows firmly wound up so I can drive past people on the lane without engaging them in conversation. I pretend not to notice people.

Yet, I wouldn’t say for a single second that I’m anti-social or unfriendly. I’ve just got my priorities a bit skewed. Sometimes.

images (12)

Yes – the most important things in life aren’t things like pieces of work and deadlines.

The most important things in life are people – and animals – and…

images (11)

…spending time with people and animals – REAL time, not time with half an eye on my watch worrying about the seconds ticking by.

I can’t promise it will never happen.

You have my permission to remind me if it does.

Caroline’s complaint-free world

A complaint-free world? Surely that’s not possible?

Tell you what, I’m giving it a good go in mine!

And so, apparently, are another 10, 121, 812 others across the world. (Yeah, we love unverifiable statistics!)

download (8)

With thanks to the lovely Leisa Brown, a Brighton friend, who got me interested in creating a complaint-free existence.

I’ve been watching her progress on Facebook, noticing her posts are quite different, more cheerful, COMPLAINT-FREE! (There used to be a lot of moans about spiders…)

So, the idea, which comes from a motivational speaker chappie called Will Bowen, is to wear a bracelet on one wrist and keep it there until you notice you’re complaining.

images (4)

…Then swap it to the other wrist until your mind is clear again. The target is to have twenty-one complaint-free days. The difficult bit is, that each time you catch yourself complaining, you have to start again with the 21 days… I fear this is going to take me A Very Long Time.

I don’t think legitimate complaints count – for instance, if you receive a meal alive with maggots at a restaurant. It’s possible to complain without whining, I suppose, to be factual and lose the emotional charge.

So – things were going very well for a couple of days until I had a riding lesson on Alfie.

immobile Alfie

Alfie had other ideas. He wouldn’t budge. Or at least, he would budge, but only at the expense of me kicking and slapping and puffing and panting and expending so much effort that by the time he took a few steps forward I was so exhausted I crumpled into a collapsed heap on his neck in desperate need of oxygen.

I caught myself complaining! I swapped my bracelet on to my left wrist.

When I’d recovered my composure, and a right-wristed bracelet, things were going very well UNTIL…today.

images (5)

I was telling some girlfriends about the complaint-free thing. At the end of my lively and cheerful description, I said the immortal words: “The only thing is, I wish the bracelet were a bit smaller because it’s driving me INSANE!”

images (6)

We all started laughing at the same moment.

Hello, twenty-one days!

AGAIN!

 

 

“Man is never out of range of surprises!”

…said Mehmet Murat ildan.

z7877 surprise word

(It surprises me that very often, when I look for a quotation, who should appear but Mehmet Murat ildan. Either he’s written a lot of stuff or is very good at self-publicising?)

Anyway – the next week is going to be full of surprises – not for me, but for Peter, because it’s his sixtieth birthday. That’s not a surprise to him, his birthday, more of an occasion to ignore, I think!

I’ve planned a lot of surprises.

images (1)

But not that one.

Will I ever learn? The thing is, Peter isn’t that good at surprises. We shall cast a discreet veil over his surprise 40th birthday party (which he didn’t attend!) and the trip to Barcelona, (which actually turned out all right in the end but might not have.)

“Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.”

Hmmmmm…

Perhaps Peter was expecting SOMETHING and what I had planned just wasn’t it? Or perhaps it’s that he doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control of his emotions, which is an inevitable result of a surprise?

download (3)

But I so much want him to have some happy surprises that will fill his day with joy. So I’m risking it. Again.

Wish me luck.

One last thing.

“There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved,” said Charles Morgan and Caroline Coxon, not necessarily to the same person.

images (2)

Thine be the glory – St. Matthew’s Church, Northampton

Listening to the Easter Service on Radio 4 – yes, Thine Be The Glory.

Uplifting and takes me back to my childhood, attending St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

By John Piper, 1956

 

Looking at some images just now,  everything’s so familiar it’s part of my DNA.

Here’s the sculpture of Madonna and Child by Henry Moore. I loved the smooth curves. “Everyone wants to touch the sculpture, to connect and interact with it, and make sure it’s real. The Madonna’s knees have over the years become darkened and shiny where visitors have done just that.” Visitors – and me. I can feel those cold knees now.

images (2)

And here’s the Graham Sutherland ‘Crucifixion’ (Oil painting, 1946) which rather haunted my childhood.

images (1)

I always saw a hideous mutated goat’s head. In fact, I had to avert my eyes to avoid nightmares. The horror it generated in me was, I’m sure,  very appropriate. Yes – in a description…” Sutherland seeks to bring home the horrific reality of death by crucifixion.” Well, he didn’t just seek, he succeeded.

St. Matthew’s Church – gosh, blessed with some iconic artwork for a regular parish place of worship.

Then here’s the chancel, altar and the elaborate marble pulpit.

3530508865_befb6af0ce

Sad to say, the last time I was in St. Matthew’s Church was for Daddy’s funeral in 2003 – and few childhood memories of the place itself surfaced on that day.

Today, looking back, it’s the happy memories that triumph.

And so it should be.

And so Daddy would have wanted it to be.

Thine be the glory.

Happy Easter, everyone.

 

 

Only one shopping day left ’til tomorrow

Well, at least today’s not Good Friday or Easter Sunday…

download

“In an article about Tesco on the BBC news, Easter was described as ‘an important date in the shopping calendar’. In the context, I understand why – but purlease! Easter is an important date in the Christian calendar. Rant over.”  Yes, Libby, I share your opinion, even though I’m more of a humanist than a church-attending Christian, these days.

So – today Peter and I went shopping to Brighton, to purchase a new pair of walking boots for him, ready for the Great Expedition to Snowdownia. Peter’s old walking boots, circa 1903, were something like this:

DSCF0057

And do you know how many outdoor clothing and footwear shops there are in Brighton?

download (3)

I think it’s about three hundred.

download (1)

And do you know how many we visited? (Some of them more than once)

download (2)

I think it was three hundred and two.

And do you know how many pairs of walking boots Peter tried on?

I think it was ninety seven.

And do you know how many pairs of walking boots Peter bought?

download (4)

And do you know how much the parking in Brighton cost?

£18.20

Yes, EIGHTEEN POUNDS AND TWENTY PENCE for between 3 and 4 hours.

Peter might go shopping again on Monday.

This time.

Without me.