Sunshine and Cactus

IMG_2843

 

I think sunshine has a habit of making everything look better, and feel better, and sound better, and taste better. Here in Britain we live under a perpetual cloud. The winter sky is characteristically overcast, gloomy light turning everything into monotone. When the sun finally does manage to beam her face down at us, once the relentless clouds have given her the stage for a moment or two, the world is suddenly flushed with colours I never knew existed!

Wow, grass is THAT GREEN?! 

That tarmac is looking particularly handsome today!

My goodness, I never noticed how very pink those roses are.

Oh, glory days, this doorstep is the most gorgeous russet I have ever set my eyes on. Peonies nodding in sunlit breeze. Gleaming black railings against the stark white of a Kensington building.

Everything has a humming vibrancy when the sun comes out.

n.b The photo taken above was actually in Spain.

Love Letters 29

The trees whisper secret songs through the breeze, but it takes a hard and strong wind to create a true symphony.

Their leaves are each a small instrument, thrumming against each other as the air surges between their branches. Swaying to and fro, back and forth, to and fro, and the thunderous sound of a million cheers filling the air, taking over.

If you close your eyes for just a moment, you will feel like you are flying. Your heart will swell along with the currents, and you will put your head back and let the sound wash over you.

I have always loved that sound. It is a sound that transports you to another world. The voices of the earth and humanity become distant memories in the background, life recedes in the face of this magnificent phenomenon. They are in harmony, and they speak to each other, telling one another things we can never imagine.

The wind does not roar, the trees do, in a deafening welcome.

summer_trees_by_hhhskrista08-d33qe5a-726x544.jpg

 

On Buttercups and Balance

Two years ago the sun was shining and buttercups rippled across the field I could see from my window. I could watch the sun rise, and set, and then rise again, throwing its magnificent morning rays over the world, through a film of atmospheric cloud. There were no buildings to start and stop the process, and watching that orb climb slowly up the horizon was a bliss I could never miss.

Hazy mornings turned into stunning afternoons, every colour highlighted and illuminated by the bright summer sun.

I was not happy then, even though I had everything I’d dreamed of growing up in an Arabian desert. I dreamed of blue skies to replace my dusty brown ones. I dreamed of vivid greens and the smell of freshly cut grass, to replace my fake grass and the dismal beige weeds that decorated the sand sparsely. I was not happy, though.

And I ate my feelings.

I am not happy now, either.

I just can’t seem to find a good balance in life.

Back then I had no car and no job and was stuck in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours and and no way of getting away unless I spent a fortune on bus fares, which I couldn’t afford because I had no job.

Now I have a job but I have to travel away from home to go to it and it is causing a raucous in my family life.

I suppose it is in the human nature to always want more and never be satisfied with what they have.

I suppose it is also a matter of finding balance. And being content, and making reasonable decisions.

Also there is an element of faith here. Maybe my faith is weak at the moment. In fact, I know it is. And that is why I feel so lost and discontent.

 

11701208_10207284828778675_2127143065816805248_n.jpg

This was such a beautiful day. I walked for hours and hours with nothing but the silence, the wind, the sunlight, the soft swish of swaying grasses to keep me company. 

Love Letters #22

Dear Pip,

Penelope.

Penny.

Pip, I have known you for approximately six years. And forty seven days. And three and a half hours (at the time of writing this).

We met the day I met with my fate. My fate was you, of course. Didn’t you know?

We were both looking at the same teapot. It was yellow and had blue spots on and I remember thinking you had to be a certain kind of person with a certain kind of taste to like such a teapot because let me tell you, it was hideous.

But there was only one of them left and you said, ‘Oh, you have it.’

And I said, ‘Please, no, you have it.’ Because I didn’t even want it in the first place.

And you said, ‘Oh, no, I was only looking. You have it.’

And I said, ‘I wouldn’t be a gentleman if I took it when a young lady has her eye on it. It would be daylight robbery.’

And you snorted and said, ‘Well how about we halfsies it and then share it.’

‘What, like, monthly swaps?’ I asked, ‘or shall we cut it in half?’

‘Sure.’ You were nonchalant. Casual. You even shrugged and that is when I noticed the apple green jacket you are wearing. It was hideous also. (Please don’t hate me. We have discussed the ways colours are worn. And apple green blazers were out of the question. I even made a graph. Please see attached piece of paper for reference.)

‘Well,’ I said very carefully, ‘that then means, of course, that we shall have to swap details.’

‘Let’s buy this thing.’ You picked it up gently and as I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet my elbow jerked yours and it slipped out of your hands and fell down, down down onto the brightly polished John Lewis floors.

We both stared at it.

‘Ah well,’ you said, ‘I was only looking at it because I was curious about something so ugly. Good riddance, I say! I’m Pip. What’s your name?’

I stared at you in pleasant surprise and I felt my lips stretching out my face of their own accord.

‘James.’ I said, and then, ‘let us look for more ugly teapots.’

Of course we had to pay for that ugly yellow polka dot tea pot. It was atrocious. And then for your birthday present a year later I got you a similar teapot which you use for your indoor geraniums. It was from John Lewis and you killed yourself laughing at it and told me I was a money waster because there was no way you would use that for anybody. It could never grace your table.

I remember asking you all wounded, like, ‘What, not even for the reason that it was graced by my hands?’ I was also slightly flirting even though we were firm friends by then, but I could not resist. I can never resist you, Pip.

‘Nope.’ You were very firm.

I am writing to tell you that I want to marry you. I can’t say it to your face because you have beautiful eyes and I know exactly how they will look at me and I will not be able to help myself because I will kiss you and then I will be done for. I know you will be impatient with that and tell me that is nonsense and of course I can help myself but I will not want to. Help myself. At all.

Also I asked my aunt if she read those French books I gave her and she said yes, they were lovely books. You were right. She didn’t read them. Else she would have called me to lecture me horrendously about them. Lovely books indeed. She asks about you a lot and tells me I should marry you quicktimes before you grow too old to have kids.

So back to my fate. You are my fate either way. If you say yes then it will have been a good fate and if you say no I will be broken hearted forever and when I do eventually heal and marry somebody for realsies I will still remember you as the first ever woman who broke my heart.

You know love is a strange thing. So strange. I used to think I loved a woman before. I was seventeen. She wasn’t particularly beautiful but I was infatuated by her and loved her to pieces but she always treated me badly. And one day she went too far and I discovered she was sleeping with a right old tramp of a fellow, but I forgave her. Well I told her I did but I don’t think I really did. Something inside of me snapped that day. She walked on me one too many times. And three miserable months of forced smiles and fake kisses later I met you and the day afterwards she wanted to see me and I called her and I said, ‘I can’t. I can’t do this anymore.’

And when I was with her I thought there could never be anyone else because she was my first love. But it was meagre and ridiculous and pathetic and also desperate. Compared to what I feel about you. I am crazy about you. I look at you and I see my future. And I want to spend all my time with you and walk home from work with you and call you every single day but I stop myself because I don’t want you to get sick of me. I also want to kiss your forehead. It is so gentle and smooth and beautiful.

But see, if we were married I could call you everyday and it wouldn’t be weird, right? I could also kiss your forehead and it would be comfortable.

So, what do you say, Pip?

Yours sincerely and faithfully and truly (scrumptious),

Jim

dd4ebc897319bb76be270ba1f53879ae.jpg

 

 

Cupcakes and Frowns

I haven’t got a story anymore and I am exhausted.

Well, no, I do have a story. But it is shredded to pieces and I am too tired and emotionally drained to pick anything up. Also my heart feels like a heavy sack that is sinking low into my abdomen and it is making me feel sick.

So I am eating cupcakes to mask the pain only the cupcakes make the pain worse. There are vanilla ones with a vanilla buttercream frosting, topped with strawberries and blueberries. There are chocolate ones which came out beautifully glossy, with a sheen of chocolate icing. And a sprinkling of chocolate curls.

Well, cupcakes are delicious and delicious things are good for you – within a respectable limit, of course.

Listen up, folks. Adulting is about dealing with your problems and communicating with those who are important to you, also not being afraid of confrontation. I am terrified of confrontation.

But, Mr Damian, I have plenty to talk to you about and I will talk to you about it. I will. I must. I can’t not.

 

Love Letters #20

Rising above the hills was the smallest cottage you ever saw. When you looked out of its single glazed, diamond pane windows, you could see the hills sloping away, trees lining their edges, and a magnificent lake glittering in the groove the hills made. And if you raised your eyes a little higher, you could see the mountains pale blue in the distance. If you squinted, and if it was a clear day, you could even see their ancient, snowy caps. The cottage was the perfect place for a newly wed couple to start a family.

They said the murderer was born here. In this cottage. With its gleaming wooden floors and solid oak tables. Its hewn shelving, built not into, but out of the walls. The windows lovingly scrubbed, the garden tenderly kept – roses on the border, colourful hyacinth along the pathways and in the summer, the explosion of colour almost obscuring the little white house on the hill – with hydrangea of purple, blue, white, pink and magenta bobbing gently in the breeze, cascading over the small wooden fencing that formed a perimeter around the cottage gardens.

Two upstairs bedrooms overlooking the lake, one living space, one small, cosy kitchen, one bathroom out back and a tiny attic accessible by a pull down hatch with a roped ladder.

How could they say the murderer was born here. Walking under the low ceilings, seeing the stunning scene out of the windows – this place could only spawn motherly souls and gentle young ladies. Gentlemen who tipped their hats to you as you walked by, and who held doors open for you and gave up their seats for old folk.

If you went into the bedroom where he was born, you could see little white curtains framing the window. A wardrobe built of pine, in the crevice in the wall. A large double bed, a bedside table with a lamp and frilly lamp cover. Paintings of the scenery outside dotted the walls in odd places, and a little writing desk. A small journal lay open on top of it, on a blank page. A small rocking cradle under the window, a baby rattle hanging off the side.

I leaned on the wall. I felt so at peace with the world. The stillness of silence pressed into my ear drums, I could feel, then hear my heart thumping gently, regularly. I was alive. I was breathing. The world outside was alive, alive and beautiful. Unaware of the evil that walked its earth. This house was still, restful. This house that brought generations into the world and housed them under its sturdy beams. This house that helped rear the murderer, unaware of his innocent little brain flourishing and blooming and then plotting within its pristine walls. Satisfied another child was in its mother’s arms, away from the ragged winds outside.

My heart ached.

Everything was still.

I turned my head to look out of the window, and closed my eyes for a moment, just breathing.

The man who murdered my husband lived in this cottage. It’s funny. How circumstance can get you. The man who murdered my husband was reared in the cottage we bought together just after our honeymoon.

When I exited the building, and turned the key in the lock of the last time, I faced the lake and the mountains and breathed deep.

 

Every Last Drop

Loch-Ness-9.jpg

Loch Ness

Maybe we can pause the world and escape to a little cubby hole. Maybe we don’t even need to pause it. Maybe it can carry on without us but we would be content because we are not needed or required to help turn its magnificent cogs.

I suppose we don’t really need to turn its magnificent cogs. I suppose if we didn’t, the world would carry on as usual, and it would be exactly the same. But our little nooks would slowly vaporise away and we would be mere wisps on the fringe of it all struggling to find a parting in the heavy, stampeding traffic that is trundling along.

And it would be very hard to get back in.

And everything we worked for would be gone. Snap. Crick crack. Like a click. Or a tock.

That is why we need a holiday. To refresh and recharge our tired little arms, to carry on turning our very own special cogs.

Mine included driving all around this Island I call home. From the south to the topmost North. I only have four days left before I have to set the record player again and fall back into the stressful mess that is my real life.

The worry, the anxiety, the terrible marriage situation where the in-laws and commuting to work suck all the life out of my husband so all I get is an empty moody shell, the awful living situation, the nomad-like bouncing from house to house everyday, the exhaustion, the feeling of not finishing half what I set out to do by the end of the day because I do not have any private space for my work – aaaah!

I don’t want this peace to end. I really, really don’t want this peace to end. I could cry because I so desperately hate it back at ‘home’. But it will end.

And so.

For now.

I will find the Loch Ness monster (that’s Nessie, apparently), I will enjoy the scenic beauty of mountains and water and views and bagpipes for the last four days and squeeze out

every

last

little

drop.

IMG_4302.JPG

Loch Ness as we saw it

 

IMG_4231.JPG

Edinburgh from up top 🙂

IMG_3786.JPG

York – this man was blowing bubbles in return for a small donation to sponsor his trip to Japan!

All images are credited to my husband – he takes the good ones. 🙂

Love Letters #19

She was laid up in bed when I went in to see her, ducking my head under the low beam arching her doorway.

She was dressed in the largest nightgown you ever saw – she had completely vanished beneath it. And her face under the fringe of thick, ropy curls was pale.

‘I’ve got a broken heart,’ she said softly, looking up at me with her large, dark blue eyes. So dark they could be black.

‘Well, now.’ I told her, standing a little back so I could get a more complete picture, ‘Is that so?’

‘Yes it is so.’ she folded her arms like she expected to be in this for the long run.

I put my notepad away, and folded my stethoscope. I then sat on the chair next to her bed.

‘Well, then. What’s this about?’

She looked at me for a long time, her eyes piercing me. Then she smoothed the covers before her with small fingers, and took a deep breath.

‘Nobody believes me at all’ she said, ‘everybody thinks I am exaggerating. But I am not. I really, really do have a broken heart.’

She clutched her chest, and I saw in her frightened little face that she genuinely believed it.

‘And why is your heart broken, my dear?’

The tears filled her eyes almost immediately. She picked at the embroidery on her bedclothes, and her mouth trembled.

‘I – I don’t..’

She stopped, and the tears leaked from beneath her drooped lids. She wiped them furiously away.

I sat solemn and still, waiting for her to finish.

‘They said,’ her shoulders heaved, ‘they said they took her to the hospital because she was feeling poorly, but then,’ a tragic sob escaped her, ‘they said – they said – they say-aii-dd..’

She couldn’t stop her tears. I could see her small fists bunching up the bedsheets, and her hair, straw coloured, obscured her wet face.

‘What did they say?’

‘They said she went on holidday-aay-ayyyy’ her voice rose to a wail, and her face was turned up to the ceiling, and the pain on her face made me feel, for the first time, a stab of pity for the poor little thing.

‘Ah,’ I sat a little straighter on my seat, ‘and why does this break your heart, my child?’

She looked incredulously at me, wiping her eyes, glaring.

‘They won’t listen to me, Mister Doctor. They say I am being silly, and that Lucy went on holiday because she was getting old now and needed to relax.’

‘Well perhaps that is exactly what she did do.’ I said, raising my eyebrows a little.

‘She didn’t, Mister Doctor. That is utter – utter poppycock.’ She was firm and resolute.

‘Oh?’

‘She — she died, is what she did, Mister. She died, and my heart is broken, and nobody thought nicely that they could tell me about it. And my Lucy is gone, and I didn’t – even – get to say goodby-yy-yye.’

I looked at the five year old child for a long, long time.

‘You are a very astute little person,’ I said, finally.

‘I think,’ I said, carefully, ‘I think you are right. You do have a broken heart. We must find a way to fix it as soon as possible.’

She pointed at my folded stethoscope, ‘Aren’t you going to use that?’

‘Not for this, I’m afraid. I think a broken heart needs quite a different fix.’ I stood up, ‘It needs first for you to get your little feet out of bed.’

child painting.jpg

 

 

 

Fake It Till You Make It.

Marriage is hard, folks.

Very hard indeed.

I have reached a hard rocky point, where insecurity and instability are at its peak, and it just looks so bleak. And it is very confusing to navigate, and how does one make the other understand, and how does the other understand one, and how does one love the other like before, whilst being so deeply frustrated and saddened by one.

Men are strange creatures, that is what.

And women are fools to their emotions and fantasies.

Marriage is not a dream boat. I think we all know that.

I am just trying to navigate these treacherous waters.

We all want to be happy in the end, I suppose.

Right now I am supposed to be gloriously happy but I am severely miserable. But I am going to fake my happiness until it comes to me of its own accord, because sometimes in life you have to smile your tears away and learn how to be savvy – in order to save your sanity and hold your relationship together.

But oh, it is hard. So so hard. I have to hug and kiss when my insides are furious and hurt and sad – but I have to because I love this frustrating man so much. I just need to figure out a way to deal with all of this insecurity.

How on EARTH does my mother do it?! Kudos to that emotionally strong woman, that’s what. I am realising now things I could never have envisioned before.

 

The Most Beautiful City in Europe

Today I am in Edinburgh.

They have a festival going on, which means the city is alive. It is heaving with folks and activities and music and throngs and mummers and minstrels and bagpipe blowers and Chinese people and ice cream and glorious sounds and sights everywhere.

Everywhere.

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited so far in my life, and I have visited a fair few.

edinburgh_151256843

It is stunning because it combines magnificent natural beauty with ancient, wondrous architecture – alongside a light modern touch. There are mountains pale blue in the distance, an ocean glittering under the sunny sky, and castles and gothic spires rising and falling in a cascade over the city.

 

Cobbled streets are so steep – but you barely notice the climb because your neck is craned upwards at the stone walls and jutting rocks and trees growing seemingly over roofs – at the coloured shop fronts and flower falls and steep, steep steps leading to wonderlands.

There is so much to see. Too much to see, that you are twisting your neck to manic proportions for fear of missing anything. In fact, I know I missed a lot.

Edinburgh is a stunning city. No wonder the Scottish want their independence. They have Edinburgh, they don’t need us English!

edinburgh-011.jpg