Beach Hut Boost!

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Our pale, blue haven “Forget-me-Not” 399 Eastcliff, Walton-on-the-Naze

I am greeting this blog like a long-lost friend at a reunion this evening: I have reason to celebrate, but it also feels a bit odd and like my past has possibly come to bite me on the bum.

It has been a really long time since my last post on Beach Hut Blogger – as many of you know – I began The Happy Hire Company as a result of the musings and deliberations on this blog page, you could say one made way for the other and then the new brain-child took over.  Much like with siblings, The Happy Hire Company grew and stole all of the attention, whilst, like a jealous older-child, this blog sulked in the corner for a while.

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Really not sure about the new addition…

Indeed, The Happy Hire Company has soaked up all of my beach hut thought-time and left nothing over for this little page.

I confess, I also began to shy away from sharing thoughts about life in general as it can feel a bit odd and lead to a stunting of ‘real-life’ conversations.  Nothing throws a spanner in quite like, “yeah I read it in your blog.” Whistles. I did also FEEL like a bit of a spanner at times, things I shared one day would make me cringe the next. We don’t stay the same, we grow and change and written word has an unforgiving permanence. Much like Facebook, once you have the bastard thing, there’s no getting rid of what you’ve put out there, even if you delete it, it comes back and remembers it ALL!

Anyway, the long and the short of it is: blogging’s a bit weird, narcissistic and unnatural at times  – but I hadn’t fully given up on why I first started it…

I wanted to write.  I lost the urge to write on the blog for a catharsis, as I found time to launch myself into writing fiction, for real, and privately.  There is a deliciousness to writing without anyone to read it, judge or criticise or simply ‘not get it.’ I can be free and explorative and enjoy (slightly wanky statement alert) the art of it all. The purpose, eventually, when I am bold enough, will be to send it to a proper literary agent and publisher-type person. Right now, I am back to waffling on this blog – but for very good reason!

WE made the shortlist for the Top 10 beach huts of the year 2017! Our little Forget-Me-Not, that started this, has made the shortlist! It is a national competition by Towergate Insurance in conjunction with The Sunday Times  -and I am really proud to have made the cut as there are so many beautiful beach huts around, with owners that have fantastic stories.

The stories are the first thing I skip to, whilst you might think it’s the bunting and bric-brac that catches my attention, it’s the people in the huts that fascinate me.

People buy beach huts for lots of reasons.  Rest assured these are not for the faint- hearted.  They are expensive and make no logical sense at all!  They are essentially over-priced sheds located in the place most likely on the globe to erode a shed.  They need maintenance EVERY year almost, and are effectively grown-up Wendy Houses!  So, for someone to part with hard-earned cash for this slightly-bonkers purchase there has to be a special reason. Plus, some have been in families for generations and this tells a story in itself.

Our story is documented in this blog in one of my early posts.  It is also briefly outlined in the competiton link.

Let me tell you some of the story that hasn’t been told.

Nobody can prepare you for a baby, and definitely not two, now, we had a beautiful first year with my gorgeous Grace…

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Feeling very fortunate…

– but I did not expect to be in surgery, twice, with a very small baby.  Grace was born requiring plastic surgery on her hands and feet under general anaesthetic, so they could remodel them to fit her shoes and for her to be able to grab and handle objects as she grew.  Nobody would ever know to look at her beautiful hands and feet now that a small team of plastic surgeons had sculpted those perfect little bones at just a few months old.

Any parent who has left their crying child with an anaesthetist and done that bleakest of walks back to the ward will tell you that it is a devastating feeling that you never truly recover from.  Now, Grace had relatively minor surgery compared with the life-saving surgeries performed on a daily basis by our completely amazing NHS and believe me when I say I am grateful daily – indeed many people around us don’t even know she had surgery as I have never desired to make more of it than it was.  But.  When I look back on those first blog posts and think of the time we bought that beach hut, after her first year with us, I can see a correlation that I can only see now that I am having this reunion and like a picture on a jigsaw puzzle, it can only be viewed once the pieces start to fit together and it is formed.

 

I was recovering from a deep wound of my baby being handled and injected and medicated and left by me, albeit I did it for her own good, and we have had a very easy time compared to many, but I know why I bought that hut, why,  as it says in that blurb for the competition that I may have, in part, ‘struggled to settle into family life.’  I know why it took me a really long time to settle my soul and feel an inner peace I had previously known.  I needed a beach hut to escape to because it was a place that I could gather myself and reflect and be as near to the sea as I could possibly get.  The healing, restorative, cleansing sea.  I wrote of waves crashing and peace dripping in my first blog posts.  I now look back and can see what I was seeking and can gladly can say I found it.  But not at a beach hut.  The beach hut helped. It was a boost. Truly though, nothing actually heals pain externally of ourselves. No car, house, holiday, book or guru would work.  I had and still do try and find answers outside of myself and this doesn’t work.  It may temporarily  – but it doesn’t really.  The answer, as the oh-so-wise ‘Moana of Disney’ says, is inside me – and I realised that ‘still, small voice’ was just a bit louder by the sea that’s all.

Now,  I know, I can access that still, small voice anywhere I want and I can access peace in any circumstances… N.B except the school-run and when the kids argue, as they are the last bastions of hell as all mothers know.

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No problem with these jazz hands – and feet!

As for the reunion.  Well, it’s felt quite nice.  Remembering the boost the beach hut gave us, how far we’ve come as a little family -and for me as an individual -how one little, blue beach hut and a tentative blog, gave rise to a new career- of sorts – and an income- of sorts -but most importantly finding what makes my heart actually sing, which is what I set out to do and have found, though this will most likely come back and bite me on the bum at the next reunion.

We really shouldn’t leave it so long!!

 

You can vote for our beach hut to win the competition and – if I do -I get to meet that smooth operator, Phil Spencer, from Location, Location,Location, so please nominate us by clicking this link below and voting for ‘Forget-me-Not’ beach hut Eastcliff Walton-on-the-Naze…

https://www.towergateinsurance.co.uk/home-and-property-insurance/beach-hut-of-the-year 

 

 

 

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Should they have done away with Dick and Fannie?

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So, I am reading ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton to my little boy- well, the first one in the series- ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and he loves it. It’s great, old-fashioned fun and he’s as hooked as I was when I read it as a child. It has allowed me to happily revisit this childhood favourite, but it’s funny how it changes when I read it through, my now adult, eyes…there is new danger… reading of children who wander around the woods all day long, alone for hours, unaccompanied and taking huge risks, that I cared nothing for as a girl, in fact, the lack of adult supervision was thrilling then and i’m sure it’s part of what my son delights in now.  He’s wiser than I was, he’s dubious about the authenticity of magic: brownies, pixies and fairy-folk are less plausible for him.  I was far more hopeful (gullible).  Then there’s the names…I have to admit i’m torn here.  Do I read him the old ones or the new versions?

In case you’re not aware, Enid Blyton’s texts had characters named Jo, Bessie and Fannie; their cousin Dick comes to stay later. The publishers, in their wisdom, have brought out newer versions.  Joe, Beth, Frannie and Rick.  Yes, I kid you not. Rick.  I felt this was a poor alternative and a bit laughable really, if they were going to change them, they should have just departed fully from the originals- as the rhyming alternative only seems more farcical.

I admit, I was vaguely aware of the double meaning of some of the names as a girl and thought it odd that the author used them, but it certainly didn’t bother me for long, and I became engrossed in the adventures of these children and desperate to know what would happen to them next.  Indeed, the names became meaningless to me.  As Shakespeare so famously questioned, through his heroine, Juliet, ‘what’s in a name?’

I grant you, names, nouns, words, lexis, whatever you want to term all these things we utter-they are ‘signifiers’ of other things- and so are very important. The editors of Enid Blyton’s stories clearly believe that it matters enough to edit them out -but I take issue with some changes. The change from ‘Bessie’ to ‘Beth’ is said to be because they felt ‘Bessie’ too old-fashioned and ‘Dame Slap’ has become ‘Dame Snap’, as corporal punishment has been edited out of the books entirely, in addition, some of the sexism in the original books has been omitted.  Surely this is going a bit far?  I mean they showed little foresight in changing ‘Bessie’ to ‘Beth’ for a start, as ‘Bessie’ and many other ‘old-fashioned’ names have made a fierce comeback recently.  Registers are being loaded up with Arthurs, Alfreds, Betsys and Florences.  I mean, yes, I see that it is harder when said names become aligned with genitalia- and this isn’t desirable for a child’s book on the whole is it? But, i’m fully prepared for the fact that language will change in my lifetime and that even my humble moniker could become synonymous with someones’ nether regions eventually -as regrettable as that may be. I’m fully accepting that people may blush at the thought of an ‘Anita’ and I asked my husband how he’d feel if his name morphed into a rude word, and he wasn’t particularly bothered, saying he knew a Dick at uni and he got on fine.  I didn’t ask anymore.

It is unfortunate when times change and words take on new, unfavourable meanings- but surely we shouldn’t change the names and words of a much-loved author just because they are outdated?  These pieces of work reflect the history and cultural norms of the time in which they were written. They are a snapshot.  Our kids are going to read many texts throughout their school careers written in ‘outdated’ English and- particularly under the present government- many by old, white, british, men before the 20th century and so will undoubtedly be met with various examples of gender discrimination and many words and names that reflect the time in which they were written.  I know as an English teacher this is all part of the learning – to give them this insight into the way the authors wrote and lived ‘then’.  What next?  Are we going to edit Shakespeare’s insults out of all his plays because they offend or distract?  Is Macbeth too Scottish?  Are we going to take the sexism out of the social commentaries of Bronte or Austen?  It would be an editing and censorship nightmare. There are loads of Fannies in Austen.

Language can offend people it’s true- but I struggle with this a bit.  I acknowledge that words can be hurtful, damaging or cruel and I don’t comply with the notion that we’ve become too politically correct, I don’t think we can ever be too politically correct, in the true sense of the term. It is absolutely right that we should be respectful of peoples’ race, religion and gender and mind carefully how we refer to them.  At times though, words are also just that.  They can be made into crosswords, puns and anagrams. They are playful, silly and interesting and don’t need to be taken too seriously.

It’s a difficult thing when we put our adult perceptions on books meant for children, it warps it.  I mean, give kids credit, they may laugh, snigger and guffaw at first, especially on lines like, ‘Dick gets up to mischief’,  but honestly, I remember wading through those wonderful stories oblivious to anything but the wonder of Moonface’s slippery-slip and Silky’s pop biscuits. No double meanings there I might add.  I was truly enchanted by the fairy-folk; lands at the top of the tree; gripped by the danger and desperate for the next chapter.

There’s a film coming out.  Maybe they knew this would not translate as well to the screen and they may well be right, we don’t want to distract from the stories, but I think editing of any author is a contentious issue.  Where do we draw the line?

I’m reading the old editions to my son, mainly because we had those copies in the house and, being five, he is beautifully innocent and has no idea as to the connotations of those names.  I don’t feel an edit is required for us, although this might come back to bite me one day when he exclaims, ‘Dick!’ to the poor teacher seeking a character’s name suggestion from the class and gets a royal telling off or he might be scarred for life by my reading him a story of a very greedy Fannie… but I can’t see it.  Honestly, they are just names, and whilst we wriggle and squirm and become uncomfortable at the sheer mention of them, it was Enid Blyton’s wonderful imagination that was the heart of those stories and it is timeless. I am sure she wouldn’t mind them changing her characters’ names if it meant more children would enjoy her stories but I should also imagine she’d think it was quite silly.

The sexism…well that’s trickier.  I mean, it is grating when Jo is told to do boys’ work in the garden and the girls do some ‘easier’ jobs for their mother, but, once again we are merely reminded of a less enlightened time and surely this is a springboard for discussion with our children?  I’ll balance it out for my kids at some point with some cool, graphic novel about female ninjas i’m sure.  I don’t want to damage young minds or offend, but I think facing these language idiosyncrasies head-on is more favourable to a cover-up job.  I seem to recall that the Nazis heavily edited books that didn’t comply with their philosophies.

So, resolved not to be a language Nazi, and allowing common sense to prevail, I shall wistfully continue reading the beautiful stories of picnics and pixies with my son and enjoy the magic and charm of a bygone era.  Indeed, I must go, Dick just ran into Fannie in the woods. 😉

xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx

Never underestimate a ‘whim’, speed-dating rabbits or lollipop ladies…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a rabbit in possession of a hutch to himself must be in want of a mate. image

My childrens’ rabbits are feuding and it’s our own fault. They were bought on a mood-lifting ‘whim’ to help ease the misery that weeks of chicken pox -and subsequent infections -bestowed on us.

We are into ‘whims’. We got married quite quickly; had babies rather quickly and are now going around populating our garage with furry creatures -quite quickly.  I think to survive the melancholy of life, sometimes, you just have to do things on a ‘whim’.

When I was younger, before courts hauled parents over the coals for keeping children off school and publicly disgraced them for sneaking off to Minorca, we used to have the odd ‘stolen’ day. Now, my mother valued education, she ended up with children who have all studied and two ended up teaching, but, she knew the value of ‘whims’.  We used to wake up bleary-eyed, heads hanging and expecting the usual: uniformed, bag-packed, walk of death to school, when, she’d suddenly say, “we are not going today”.  The shock would ripple. “What do you mean?!” elated voices would implore. “We are going to have a stolen day”, came the blasé reply. Oh did I love it.  We’d go to the zoo or somewhere special and relish every minute of it because we ‘knew’ it was stolen.  Like someone else’s chips- it was so much better. Now, don’t go trying it and blaming me if your kids nag you for more; become school refusers and shop you for it.  I’m not advocating it as a parenting choice, i’m just pointing out that ‘whims’ can be beautifully refreshing- and memorable!

‘Whims’ also get things neatly into perspective as an adult.  When you really feel ‘that’ person’s opinion matters sooooo much, or, you absolutely ‘have’ to do this thing or that, ‘whims’ can come along and blast that out of the water.  It is a bit of a finger-up to the rules, but, history is littered with those who have broken the rules and it has served them very well on occasion.  This is coming from a teacher – a mouthpiece for the rules.

I don’t believe in breaking rules for the sake of it, or deliberately hurting others in the process, but, I do think some rules are self-imposed or can become out of balance with our purpose here on earth.  “Whims” have an important job.  They can make you remember that it is o.k not to care what others think, when they get too important, or to relax a family home a little after weeks of telling yourselves, we need to ‘do’ life better.  Really?  Do we need to ‘do’ life better? A ‘whim’ is needed when we think we could have a better way of approaching the washing, shopping, bill-paying, work-life balancing, card-buying, homework organising, DIY ing and many more verbs that I don’t want to think of…i’d rather this go off on a whim…

So, the rabbits, we were told, were communal creatures who needed a furry friend. Right. So the two rabbits that bite each other at every opportunity (I won’t go into the explicit nature of the last attack) are meant to be together? I spoke to a rabbit expert. She claims they can be matched up with more appropriate partners… ?!?! Apparently, like us, some bond instantly, literally love at first sight; others do a bit of jostling and chasing then fall in love, slowly, then others hate on sight and will probably never bond and she wouldn’t risk trying to match them up. My only option…rabbit speed-dating apparently. I kid you not. This woman does it for a living.

It got me a thinking though about how some people gel and some don’t. I can suffer from a mild social paranoia – I think we all suffer from it at times, for me, like a cold, it is mild and it comes and goes. I mainly get it when I go into new situations where the stakes are high- like when my son started school. This is a tricky time.  You don’t want to alienate a whole group of people you are going to be seeing off and on for the the next decade potentially.  This is on top of the general parental angst around this time-am I doing things right? Am I too scruffy to go to the school like this? Should I wear hot pants at the nativity? (Only joking!) You can’t worry about everything -you just have to keep it all in perspective.

The problem is, like a cold, it resurfaces , like the time I had fallen asleep and woken very late and had to run to the school with a pillow mark and hair that looked like I had auditioned for ‘The Supremes’. My daughter chose this moment to let me know she is two and threw a tantrum of such epic proportions that an entire playground of parents and staff stopped to have a good-old gander.  Then -on a ‘whim’ – a lovely woman I had never met placed her hand on my back and simply said, “we’ve all been there”.  I felt my shoulders drop and I smiled it out.  Thanks to that woman, I gained a teensy bit of perspective when I needed it.  You see at the end of it all I am not going to wonder if I should have worried more am I?  I mean, yes, I may turn up looking like a call-girl at the school gates on occasion because I let my two year old do my make-up or a bag lady that forgot her bird-feed because I haven’t slept properly all week- and can’t be bothered to sort the pile of clothes on my bedroom floor- but it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I believe in a grand scheme and I believe in ‘whims’.  They’ve worked out well for me. Really, people, especially parents, just need others to be in community -not competition-with and we all really, really need whims!

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Not the real lollipop lady.

The lollipop lady though – now she really hates me. She’ll meet every eye, smile warmly to every parent and child, but when she sees me it’s all she can do to hold a grimace. I rub her up the wrong way. All I say is “good morning” and “thank you”- I swear- nothing else has ever left my lips-but still she avoids eye-contact and smiles sweetly at the next mother or father or child. One day I tried to ignore her; perhaps I was too keen, maybe I smacked of desperation for lollipop lady love. It didn’t work. Lollipop ladies don’t like playing hard to get. I am living with this.  I mean she smiles at my kids and that is who she is there for- I don’t need to jump on their bandwagon. I have concluded, I won’t always be accepted, not everyone will like me and some will dislike me for no reason on sight, as with rabbits, this is nature and it is ok. As long as there are ‘whims’ floating about I will be just fine. xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx

By the sea all worries wash away…

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We all go through times of hardship, it is the cost of being human, but sometimes we go through times when there are no hardships to speak of- yet we are just not happy.  Happiness, of course, is overrated- many believe contentment is far more prize-worthy.  Personally, I think peace is the dark-horse creeping up on the inside.  To me, peace is everything.

IMG_0310You can be in the middle of an emotional storm and if you can keep even a tiny sense of peace in that core of your being then you can weather it. When you don’t have peace everything is hard. I always think of the words of a W.B Yeats poem, “when peace comes dropping slow” .  I can really relate to that line, many times, I have felt that lack of peace and it can be excruciating, drip, drip, in small droplets, like the agony of a leaking tap, when what you need is a gushing wave of it to cover you!

I needed waves.

I had recently had my second baby, perhaps it was my hormones, but I just couldn’t settle my heart.  My head was o.k, I just knew my soul wasn’t right. There was one place I always went when I had that disturbance inside and it was the sea. I booked a long break at an old familiar seaside town from my childhood.  I didn’t particularly want to go there exactly, but, then I came across this little beauty…

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Oh how it spoke to my heart!  I knew this was somewhere i wanted to be for a while.  I couldn’t contain my excitement when I realised I could hire it and a caravan and it was only an hour up the road.  I know some would find this strange…it is hardly Barbados and it definitely is a holiday ‘of old’ these days…but a simple, caravan holiday, a spit-away from the sea with a perfect little hut straight out of a Cath Kidston brochure really rocked my boat!

Then I saw the sign at the back of thIMG_0199e hut, “by the sea all worries wash away” .  That sealed the deal.  I knew it was the tonic I needed.

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I couldn’t wait to soak it all up.  I didn’t care if it rained – alright I did a bit – but I just wanted to drink in that saltiness; take in the energy of that wild air and watch the crashing waves of the North Sea.

We made pancakes in the mornings, a tradition that has stayed with us whenever we have a lazy day of nothingness ahead of us.  We fed birds from our caravan door and they came up to my little one’s highchair to feed; she squealed with joy- and the peace dripped.  We went for long walks to get the baby to sleep and it dripped some more.  We built castles and moats and channels and pretended we were deserted on islands and it dripped and dripped.  We got a dingy and took it out to sea and laughed and screamed when we got splashed, then the baby fell asleep in the boat on my lap and we bobbed about near the shoreline.  It dripped and dripped and poured and poured and soon we were awash with peaceful, joyous moments and finally relaxed into our lives as a new family.

IMG_0306We didn’t want it to end.  So I went in search of a hut of our own.  I asked around and rang numbers and discovered they cost a lot.  Then we came across a wreck- at least to an untrained eye.  To me, a keen spotter of something that is going to make my heart soar, this was a haven by the sea.

I envisaged a retreat where I would spend hours of quality time with diaries of ideas and (in my imagination) a typewriter.

In reality, I had to spend hours cleaning theIMG_0262 thickest layer of grime I have ever seen and wire-wool a rusty old gas stove just to get a cuppa at the end of it- but what a cuppa!!!!

Look at that view!!!

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To me, she was a beauty… sure, her interiors were, erm, rustic but that was and IS her charm…  We intend on dressing her beautifully, it has been a long process, there were stairs to fix, stain to buy and rusty nails to deal with.  This year though, it is the interior that will take the limelight and I cannot wait!! Below is the first time I went in, after picking up the keys, and recently… after painting!!!!!!!

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There are many things in life to try us and none of us escape pain or a lack of peace, as I guess we won’t truly find this until we meet our maker, but, I have found if I concentrate on the things that make my heart do back-flips then I get a little closer to that peace.

Now can you see how this hut is begging for crochet??!!

More pics to follow, charting the journey of this neglected- but heavenly -hut!

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx