Our views are our own…

We went to Alexandra Palace at the weekend to a self-build home show.  We have toyed with a dream (you know how I like those heart-singing ideas) of building our own house.  Not with our own fair hands of course – we can’t finish a 12×8 beach hut – no, this would be a professional job and our family home.

For those of you who know North London and ‘Ally Pally’, as it is affectionately known, will know there is a VERY steep hill leading up to the entrance.  We were compelled to climb this Everest, behind a panting jogger with very reluctant, fat, Labrador, in order to reap our reward of some free cadbury’s chocolate; a bunch of self-build leaflets and a DIY voucher, with lots of small print.

When we did actually reach the top and looked out across London – we were met with a bracing view.  It was vast and far-reaching, deep and long.  Grey blocks, towers and landmarks imagereached as far as the eye could see, a beautiful vista.  It made me think of other views throughout my life, so far, that have taken my breath away: the top of Mount Sinai in Egypt, a black sky pricked with stars and silouhettes of camels dotted along the devastating edges; the foggy haze of the Hong Kong skyline, oppressive, grand and confusing; the refreshing and exhilarating beauty of the glassy lakes, mountains and waterfalls of the Glengariff road to Killarney or the blinding, aqua-blue, sereneness of the Maldives.  I am privileged (and am in debt) due to the views I have taken in.

As with many of these other views I had that moment where you just can’t take it on board.  Have you had this when looking at a view?  It’s as if you look, are amazed and theimagen can’t appreciate it, it’s too big to digest.  You pause and can’t quite fathom what you are seeing, then become desensitised to it very imagequickly.  We could make out the whole of London from our vantage point –  the edge of the dome, Canary-Wharf blinking in the clouds, and it seemed unreal.  We were looking at it but we weren’t really.  Views are spectacular for messing with our minds and stopping us for a moment.

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I read, ‘A Room with a View’ when I was at college and, apart from the descriptions of Italy, I hated it.  The female protagonist Lucy was wet and uninteresting to me.  I like ‘gumption’ as they say in ‘The Holiday’.  What I do remember about this distant A-level text was the symbolism of rooms and views.  You were either a ‘room’ or a ‘view’.  A commimageent onimage your outlook on life.  It was implied, though not confirmed, that views were better than rooms.  Or so my 18 year old self took it to mean.  I wanted to be a ‘view’ kind of person.  I knew they were the exploring, outgoing, life- embracing characters and I wanted to experience all that life had to offer and still do.

The thing is though, as good as some views are you have to change them every now and then.  You get used to the view and, like at Alexandra Palace, you grow used to its effect.

Also, now I am a little older,  I can appreciate the ‘room’ characters a little more.  I am looking forward to watching my children experience the view, for example, and they do not need me getting in their way.

I don’t need to be constantly exploring anymore. I like life in it’s more peaceful state. I am a little less headstrong and get a little less disappointed when IMG_1464big plans don’t come off.

Every now and then I get a grand scheme going and get quite far… “I’m going to be a business entrepreneur” or “build a house from the ground up”, undaunted, I pursue it and learn all there is to know and sometimes plans come off and sometimes they don’t. Usually, I decide that I don’t want to do it anymore or sometimes it falls through.  At 18 I would have been far more childish and wallowed in pity that it wouldn’t happen for me, now, I may nurse a wound for a day or two but then I conclude, ‘ah it wasn’t meant to be hey’.  I don’t feel the disappointment as keenly and this is probably because my world view has changed.

You can’t be up-in-arms over planning permission when you watch the news and see others suffering so badly.  I still let myself feel.  I don’t say I shouldn’t be disappointed or sad or have frivolous plans, but I can get them in perspective, they are only plans and plans- like views -can be changed.

We met some very interesting people at the self-build exhibition.  Those who have done it; those who would like to; those selling their services, of course, and also those people who love to have an opportunity to point out to others that their ideas and plans won’t work.  Sometimes, they are right, but sometimes they just want you to take on their view of things.  So, for example, a stone-bathroom, salesperson, who we simply asked a question of, proceeded to tell us we were mad and implied on lots of levels how we couldn’t possibly build a house and tried to quiz us to prove his point.  Clearly, we didn’t linger long and will not be buying bathroom tiles from him in a rush, but, it dented our vision for a moment, spoiled our view.  We could have let it bother us and let his comments feed into the inevitable doubt you feel when trying something big but we were in good spirits and so brushed it off and pressed on, regardless of the stone salesman’s ‘stoney’ heart (sorry).

So, now we are about to start drawing up some plans and it may or may not come off and we may or may not have to change them, a lot.  We may have to ditch the whole idea and change our views -in both senses of the wimageord.  It doesn’t matter though, as long as we are trying to stay true to our own ambitions and not wavering to suit other peoples’ plans and views.  As long as we are making the effort to find our own views on the world and are open to changing the view when needed, that is what counts.

“I am a big girl now”,  my little daughter keeps saying, to assert her independence, and I know what she means.

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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!

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