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”Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness”.

George Sand

Kindness

”Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its colour”
W.S. Merwin

Quote: Marianne Williamson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Prayer

”Prayer demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person” 

Henri Nouwen 

Its been ages since I’ve blogged, please forgive me, my two fabulous followers. Sigh. 

There I was, armed with a plan to remove the orange shade from my hair that I’d unwittingly acquired from a previous, graciously un-identified salon.

I arrived on time to find an intimate, louder than I enjoy salon, where I met with Francesca, my stylist. In my eagerness to de-orange I’d over-filled the parking meter with coins for way longer than necessary, I’d had a feeling that removing the orange and correcting my loosely termed hair-do may take some time. I have natural spiral shaped curls that I frequently, though not always straighten with all of my might and an industrial pair of ghd’s. My hair was in much need of some care and attention.

I had felt a combination of alarm and relief upon viewing the much cheaper online price list at this new-found, recommended salon. If they could remove orange from my hair and provide me with a half-decent cut, then this could be the jackpot of hair experiences. It was a risk worth taking.

Francesca filled me with semi-confidence and so we got started.

Fran, as I like to call her when I’m typing, had agreed that my hair was in fact orange, this was delivered in a matter of fact tone that led me to believe she and I would get along famously, there was no flattery, no nonsense, my kinda gal.  

A short way in to my ‘’relaxing’’ hair salon experience, I was a spectacular combination of orange and silver, with tin foil on much of my head.

Just as I was settling in to an article about women having it all, power left us. (Not mine or Fran’s power, obviously!) No, the electricity power had left the building and so, there I sat, all foiled up, getting cold in this much quieter yet more frenetic, unfamiliar salon.

No lights on a dark rainy London day, no hair dryers, no hot water, no music, no TEA.

Fran began to run around firing off orders like bullets in Italian to her team of three. I sat watching and flicking through one glossy magazine after another wondering how long we may be sat there. I asked one of the other salon workers if this was a regular occurrence, because they all seemed to have very clear roles in response to this hiccup, apparently it was not. A customer on the opposite side of the salon looked disappointed in me for asking this question.

With chaos flooding in, various delayed customers were sending a passive aggressive message of ‘’I have somewhere important to be’’ this tangible tone began to fill every corner of our chrome and mirror existence.

I’d set the afternoon aside for orange removal therefore I was fairly relaxed by comparison to the other women, which led to enjoyable feelings of superiority.

I felt like the good girl in the scenario, the less troublesome one, oh yes, an unfamiliar and fabulous experience.

After being abandoned by Fran (which was tough because I had hoped we’d be firm friends, but to be treated in such a disposable way so soon in to our relationship didn’t bode well for our future) a young man arrived at the back of my chair, he moved so quickly that it was as if he had just appeared, I was struck by the fact that I had not seen him coming toward me from any direction even though the salon was wall to wall mirrors.

This was very odd and I was beginning to ponder the possibility that pranksters were playing with my afternoon off. Come out Ashton! Okay, Beadle then! That’s right, because I am, as we all are, a little narcissistic on some incy, wincy, ugly level.

This Mr. Ben type chap (no name, no introduction, just high-speed and a serious face, way to serious for hair-doing if you ask me, but my opinion was somewhat diminished having arrived with orange hair that I had lived with for a month, despite being a dark brunette naturally. An experience I may share more on at a later date) reminded me greatly of a time way back when I was project managing an event for a very important person don’t ya know.

The event was being held at The Dorchester Hotel in London and I’d spent days on location planning and organizing the various needs of said important person who will, I’m sorry to say, remain nameless so that I don’t break any confidentiality clauses.

Security was such at this event that the security services had been enlisted to check things over prior to the arrival of our VIP.

All this to say that my hairdresser, rushy mc.speedy, reminded me of the security services men.

There I was, all J-Lo in ‘The Wedding Planner’ movie, minus the headset and feeling really rather powerful, wishing that the people who didn’t respect me could see me now, but my family live out of London so it just wasn’t practical, when two men had arrived on either side of me in The Dorchester foyer (a wide open space). I’m a diligent, hyper-vigilant sort of gal and I hadn’t noticed them coming toward me to discuss the details of the event and to clearly give me the once over, not to mention royally freak me out. I mean, neither one of them, I hadn’t seen either of them walking / rolling or lowering themselves down to be standing on either side of me. I didn’t know which one to look at!

As you can imagine this took me by surprise, but I concluded that my powers of perception had been thwarted by the best of the best. I was mildly comforted and I decided not to focus on this too much, rather put it down to an interesting experience, not make it something negative about my perception skills, onward I moved, which has worked well for me for the past 5 years.

Until now, Rushy Mc.Speedy was not part of the security services. Ah, or was he? Lets look at this I thought, he is a hairdresser who had duped me with this unusual, sneaky, man on wheels sort of skill. Perhaps he was moonlighting, that must be it. ‘’Under cover eh’’, I said, he didn’t reply, which confirmed my suspicion.

Powers of perception again in question, I was intent on observing more closely what the dickens was occurring.

As I watched this man work on my hair I thought how stressed he seemed. His response to stress seemed to be to do all things at Olympic like speed and to yank the strands of my hair as if his very life depended on it.  Perhaps it did..

I observed that this chap was trying to do an excellent job, to prove his value in the salon during this time of crisis. I was struck by how this drive affected him. He was efficient, faster than is required, he was good at his job, he knew what he was doing and didn’t have much to say, which personally I value in a stylist. He even made me a mug of peppermint tea delivered with two chocolate chip cookies when the electricity returned. Apparently he preferred to act out kindness rather than verbalize it.

Although he did seem intent on the most ferocious overcompensation behaviour I’d witnessed since the war. (I have no example to give so the war will have to do) Why so hard on one-self, I wondered. That topic is a can of worms so I’m leaving it closed, for today.

With the return of shop power came Fran, back to her rightful place resuming her hairdresser role alongside me, her new, very patient friend.  

I wondered if I was observing him correctly and considered that this may just be how he is, permanently, which frankly would be very tiring for him and for those in his sphere. But hey, rock on.

Shocking, as it may seem, I shall return to the salon despite said power cut, if not only to find out if Mr. Moonlight has been assigned a new task and moved on, or whether or not he’s still running the race at top speed. Perhaps I’ll engage him in conversation about meditation or maybe even medication.

 In addition, Fran deserves a second chance at our friendship, I mean; we all deserve a second chance, right?

I received a free gift of hair oil for my troubles, you see, being a very good girl does pay off. Who said gifts can’t buy love and loyalty?

These are the reasons for my returning plus the fact that I am no longer orange of hair. Marvelous. 

Christmas

 

I enjoy getting our home ready for visitors, gifts under the tree pretty and curious. I like very much making every room feel welcoming, warm, cosy. I like it when people visit.

Christmas morning; Frank Sinatra Christmas and Sufjan Stevens Christmas songs (not together you understand) some early morning radio 4 whilst preparing lunch and getting breakfast ready. The cooking smells, the tired faces of family members at the breakfast table, the various needs, beautiful. These days we rarely get the opportunity to all be sat at the same table; it is a rarity that brings both the beautiful and the challenging with it. We, the Burke family (which is who we’re spending Christmas with this year, not all of them, just some) are an eclectic bunch, a colourful array of individuality, opinions, views and beliefs. We are family. (I feel a song coming on).

Christmas Eve when everybody arrives, we all settle in, agree sleeping arrangements, jobs to be done, more presents under the tree, the Radio times TV watching debate, board games, music, cooking, candles, PJ’s, a glass of red wine or some bubbles, mince pies, cheeses, a cup of tea, what church service we’re going to, who will attend and who won’t, lots of opportunity to make each other laugh because we know how to very well. The Elf! Several good movies and a few afternoon naps no doubt. This is Christmas now, at this stage of our lives and I for one am looking forward to it. I’m sure there will be moments where it’s not all perfect because after all, we’re family, and no family is perfect. Nonetheless I shall endeavour to enjoy many moments of this festive season.

As is their want, our next door neighbours have turned their home in to a Santa’s grotto type affair, they have a penchant for busyness whatever the season and this Christmas is no exception. It’s dramatic out there, whenever anybody is looking for our house we always say ‘’next door to the grotto, you really can’t miss us’’, and they never do. Our neighbour on the other side doesn’t decorate his home at all, not at Christmas, or at any time actually. Not sure when it all began and who is overcompensating for who at this stage as they’ve all lived in their homes for over 40 years and between you and I, we sense a little conflict. Well, I say ‘sense’, actually ‘’Santa’’ expressed an unprovoked dislike for the harmless, quiet, non-decorating type on the other side of us.

I assume as I type a few things, that neither of them will ever read my blog that neither of them are frequenters to the World Wide Web that neither of them would care for my opinions… I could be mistaken of course. Perhaps their feud is more Zuckerberg vs. Winklevoss than I know…perhaps…

So here we are in the middle of this quiet avenue just after a little peace and goodwill to all men.

‘’God bless us every one’’!

Much love,

Charles Dickens, Tiny Tim and me.

Very trying…etc

 

Life rolls on, busy in all areas which seems to be a pattern
we constantly try to amend, unsuccessfully. My studies are going okay although
I did bolt awake the other night with the fear I may have chosen the wrong
course, the right subject just not sure this particular course is the one for
me….bit late now so I must press on and hope for the best, make it work.  I’d still like a part-time job to go alongside
but no joy there yet.

Lots of things don’t seem to be going very well lately, it’s
been a time of large and small things just not working out how I’d hoped they
would. Frustrating.

We’re still trying for our family, never been so worn out by
one area of my life. I know this is because it’s emotional, physical, spiritual
and I’m almost ashamed to say all consuming. Thing is, had I not experienced
the last 2.5 years then I too would be full of the wise sentiments of most that
we know. Good advice like, get on with your lives and don’t focus on it too
much, don’t let it become so big (ha)! All smart and all helpful, unless you
have actually been trying to have a
family for 2.5 years and then something else takes over that is not rational,
not objective, calm or relaxed at all.

We are creative by very nature and so it makes sense that we
long to procreate. But the ache that this longing evokes is more powerful than
I could have imagined. I consider myself in touch with what I feel generally, I’m
not one of those people who resists emotion, I see my emotions as very useful
and I think it’s healthy to have them rather that to suppress them. They don’t
dictate the direction that I go in but neither do they sit squashed inside of
me with no outlet. Nothing could have prepared me though for the epic,
distracting, hugeness of this heart wrenching, rip it out and jump on it path we’re
still on.

We’ve resorted to fertility treatment in the hope that will
do the trick. Daily injections in my tummy, administered by yours truly which goes
against every natural instinct, but it’s essential so, off we go. Simultaneous daily
doses of oestrogen, followed by progesterone. That’s right, if the vast array
of unpredictable emotions inspired by this struggle were not enough to contend
with, I’m now filled with additional hormones.
It’s like an experiment; I wonder how these two people will cope under
this level of pressure, desire, grief, medication and general fed-up-ness

Then there is the actual procedure itself: Goodbye dignity!
Painful, undignified, uncomfortable, discouraging to give you a small glimpse
of the general vibe in my hospital room.  I found myself saying out loud from underneath
my arm which was lying across my face at the time, ‘’there must be easier ways
than this’’! I wonder if I missed my vocation, there seems to be plenty drama
in my behaviour lately, I think I’m going to blame the hormones and just observe
that, hoping it will fade.

The Doctor, a nice man, said nothing for a moment and then
kindly tried to distract me with suggestions of nice things that I was surely
deserving of after such torment. He suggested a new handbag and new shoes
explaining this is what he always prescribes following this procedure. I thought,
conception would do, but I must admit a new handbag and shoes would ease me of
my discomfort for ooh about an hour. I felt like a child at the dentist. The
lollipop, shoes and handbag don’t really help. But they do distract the mind
from the ordeal briefly. I decided not to take offence or feel patronised. Mostly
because he also declared that if men had to do this he believed we would be
extinct, so I let him off. It was certain he had his procedure sentences at the
ready and I pondered the strangeness of his daily grind and career choice.

After the procedure, there is evidence to suggest that a good
15 minute lay down increases your chances, so they left me alone and there I
lay. Quiet, recovering, thinking, praying, wondering. I stayed for 23 minutes. I’d
have stayed longer but I was cold.

The part of the brain that registers physical pain is exactly
the same part of the brain that registers emotional pain. How we process pain
is affected by what pain we’ve experienced in the past too, this is due to the
neuro pathways in the brain, so if we’re used to pain then we MAY adjust more quickly
or cope better with the pain. However all pain is registered in the body in the
same way. The harm we can do by ignoring, suppressing or denying our emotions
is very real, what can be an opportunity for growth, healing, insight, depth
can often be ignored. I think the misconception is that if we don’t feel our painful
emotions, don’t show our vulnerabilities then we appear strong. It’s not true
though is it? It takes courage to feel difficult feelings. It takes strength to
be honest about what is affecting us negatively. Negative feelings make people
uncomfortable. Makes them flap about a bit and say clumsy, rushed things.

Denial of feelings is not a strength neither is it a sign of
a healthy human being. The feelings don’t go away, they stay there inside the
body doing damage and they manifest in how we relate to others and behave, one
thing is for sure, they will out. Feelings will make themselves known, somehow.
It’s up to us how, by what we do with them. Have mastery over them or let them
have mastery over us by ignoring them.

Yes it’s tough, and then it gets tougher, some things in life
get easier as we become familiar with them but not this, the ache grows and the
longing starts to hurt and things are coloured by the absence of what you’ve
always dreamed of. It all shifts and changes, every month is different. I
imagine that to many people this sounds weak, self-pitying and many more
negative statements that I care not to delve in to. But I feel it necessary to
be honest about this part of our lives, I now know so many people who’ve been
on similar journeys and I realise how common this actually is. It’s a shame our
society is so uncomfortable when things are not going well because, let’s face
it, life is not always going to go as we hope it will. The feelings are
temporary though, you won’t get stuck in feeling sadness if the wind changes,
we may actually feel better for the release of whatever emotions we allow
ourselves to have. Stiff upper lip does not make one feel better.  We can intellectualise and rationalise our way
through life if we choose to, many do, I just think that is a much greater loss
than if we allow the tears or uncomfortable emotions that we may experience
along the way.

The definition of empathy is the ability to put oneself in
another person’s position. It’s hard to empathise when it’s not something one
can relate to. Sympathy, well, who wants sympathy?!

I think we’re more likely
to have compassion if we’ve struggled ourselves and if we don’t bury our own
humanity, frailties, fears, insecurities, losses, grief and so on. We can’t
numb out the bad without numbing out the good too, that’s just how we’re made. We’re
made well. I often observe those who are under the illusion that their ‘’strength’’
is superior to those who are more inclined to allow their uncomfortable
feelings. Life can be messy, hard, beautiful, exciting, sad etc, sometimes all
at once. We learn so much from really letting down our guard and being human. We
grow, we learn, we become wiser not just older; at least that is the hope. We are
accessible to those around us; it creates closeness, intimacy, relationship. There
is nothing wrong at all with experiencing our variation of emotions, the good
the bad and the excruciating. Its risk and reward. There is no learning like
those moments of deep revelation when you deeply face something difficult for
yourself. You can read about it in a book, but it will not shape you, build
depth and character in you the way it will if you have lived it. But of course
there is a cost to it; I’m not suggesting it’s easy, not at all. It’s also not
for every friendship we have; just for the places we are safe enough. Where we
can trust that what we are facing will be treated with sensitivity, care and
privacy.

Our society encourages us to portray an all together, glossy,
neat, seamless, smiley lifestyle that we all know is unreal, synthetic. Life
isn’t like that all of the time. Of course there are times where everything is
going well and celebrated that must be.

It’s the truthful
honest living that I personally miss seeing in more places, it’s okay to say
things are not okay. Stiff upper lip fools nobody, not even ourselves. Why
cheat ourselves with such superficiality when life has so much more to offer?

Avoidance of the difficult feelings and emotions strikes me
as a fearful way to live. Whereas if we face them, then we move on, through it
to a new place, it’s not permanent.

Personally I find people much more interesting when they have
more than one mode of being. The most beautiful people I know are those who do not
hide behind a veneer, who are free from perfectionism, who choose to not
pretend or deny. They are those who will shed a tear when they need to, who belly
laugh whenever the opportunity presents itself, they support others because
they can, they look beyond themselves, even just a little.

For us, my beau and I, we don’t know where our efforts will
lead us. Will we have our own children? We don’t know. The harsh reality is
that we may not. It’s not negative, it’s honest, it’s not that we’re not trying
everything we can to make it happen, we are. It’s just that we don’t always get
what we desire do we. Does it mean we will be lacking for the rest of our
lives? That somehow we are flawed, less than, weakened by it? I don’t believe
so. I believe there will be a way through that will bring its own unique
richness, a depth, an understanding and who knows what else is beyond that
place, we certainly don’t. We choose courage; we determine to do our best, to
live the great days and the discouraging ones and to know God, others and
ourselves more as a result. We hope, we dream of our own children, how we get
there we don’t know and if we don’t ever arrive at that place, well then, we
will grieve deeply, for as long as is necessary. And it will be messy. I think
part of honouring the value of life is to grieve when there is loss.

But of course, life will go on in all its complexity, beauty,
knowing and not knowing.

If we do achieve our goal, well, I will keep you posted; know
that there will be a mighty celebration.

For today, its Friday, tonight I have a date on the sofa with
my beau, a take-away, a movie, and a recap of our week. In our eyes we are
blessed beyond measure already, grateful for our good health, friends,
families, our God. We laugh often. We aim to live with integrity. We do our
best, far from perfection. If this is our lot then I have to say, it’s not at
all bad. We are fulfilled in many other areas of our lives. We have a long way
to go with so much to learn and experience. I hope we go through it all with
courage, honesty, grace, prayer and love. I pray we’ll add to our family
somehow. But if we don’t life will go on. God is still God. He is our peace.

‘’We gain strength, and
courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear
in the face. We must do that which we think we cannot. With the new day comes
new strength and new thoughts’’.

Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,–so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, ‘There is no memory of him here!’
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!”
―      Edna St. Vincent Millay

UB40

The very worst thing happened last weekend, we took our stressed selves off to a spa hotel in Windsor. No that’s not the thing, keep reading. My overworked beau’s Birthday
was on the Saturday and so we decided a treat was in order. We relaxed, it was ace!

Spa, sauna, swimming pool, movies, massage, long country walks and lots of good food. We were delighted with ourselves. We returned home with nothing but more relaxation on the cards for our Sunday evening.

All smug and in retrospect should’ve known better, we pulled up on the drive chatting about how we always like getting home. In to the kitchen I trot and start to do various things, as is my want. I open the cupboard where we keep cereal and to my absolute horror, and I really mean horror of horrors, there is evidence that we are not alone. I shout for my chilled out husband to ‘’quickly come here’’ thankfully he does. We set to work, we have a mouse. How the dickens has this happened! I
squeal, I am in immediate great distress. I am the woman who runs screaming in the opposite direction when I see a spider, this is a whole new level of wrongness and it’s in my kitchen!

Now, I must add, that my house is clean, VERY CLEAN. I’m a tad OCD on the clean thing. I make no apology for this trait. Our relaxing Sunday evening takes a sudden turn and I’m online looking for a pest control company who will come out NOW, I care not of the cost difference between now and tomorrow morning. Logic has left me,
as has the enjoyment of my own home; the relaxed state we were in has fled along with the imposter.

Simon our pest control man arrives and I feel sure he will make it all better. Upon surveying the house he looks under the kitchen cupboards and outside, he quickly identifies a whole under the floor which is enormous! And a hole under the sink to the outside! Basically, many an entry point for a pesky creature to come in and get fat on our organic muesli. Horrified, I sit on the dining table, crossed legs and tell this man I can’t cope with this information. He says its okay I’ll put poison and traps down, get a builder out to fill the holes and its job done. Easy for you to say Simon, you of the mouse occupation, I am scared witless in my own home. Stress levels are high now but nothing prepares
me for what is about to be declared, I’m sorry to say this Simon says, as I can see you are very upset by this BUT, it looks like it’s a rat! I quickly stand on the kitchen table, head nearly at ceiling level. For the love of all things sane and decent, are you joking with me I yelp? Where is the camera? Am I being set up, I will not cope with this information. No, I’m not joking he says as he thrusts a photo on his HTC in my face. I, no joke, scream loudly and say don’t show me!!!! He laughs, laughs! Simon  explains that it’s a photo of the hole in the wall not anything else. I’m sorry he says, it happens he says, they find a way in from outside, they smell food and they go in and out. The good news, Simon
explains is that your house is very clean and so you’ve spotted it straight
away. (See, my home is clean, even Simon the rat catcher said so). Good news? I look at Simon with the sudden dawning that he and I are from very different planets.

By now, I’m telling my husband that I’m moving out and, I’m ashamed to confess, that we’re selling this old cranky house, I can’t live here. The drama. I won’t sleep and how can this be and I told you we needed a new kitchen (just get that in while I have an opportunity). The people before us have left us with many a repair job but this one we had no idea of. Yikes.

It has been five nights since this event took place and shook my cosy little world. Each night I’ve gone to sleep afraid and woken up with a sense of panic, tense in my stomach and too afraid to get the dishwasher tablets out of the cupboard. I’ve taken to walking around the house in long boots. Oh my goodness, this is my worst nightmare. It really is. I am mortified. Horrified. Terrified. I’ve imagined all kinds of terrible things and tried hard not to imagine. I’ve ran through
the house shouting save yourselves to…my husband. I have cried, screamed, starved and to top it all off I now have bags under my eyes. This intruder has robbed me of more than my muesli.

I then went to deep shame, what will people think?! They will think less of us! Think our home is unclean!? Well, think what you like people but know this; Bree Van de Camp has nothing on me!

Builder arrives and fills every hole in the entire house although Simon has told us there are no other signs and it’s clearly just come in and out again, we’re taking no risks. Every hole in the building filled we now wait, poison and traps will do their job and Simon will return on Monday to check it all and then again a week later to make sure we’re still alive.

This morning my husband relented and said, okay, if you can’t do this weekend we can stay in a B&B for the weekend if that will help you to relax. But it won’t, I want the kitchen pulled out, I want every cupboard burned and I want new everything installed, tomorrow. I know, it sounds very extreme and spoilt, but honestly, this is the only thing that I think will reassure me that all is now well.

We have plans to re do the kitchen in January and the builder assures me that there is nothing in the house, they can’t fit us in before January either even if my husband did agree to a kitchen without 50% off in the January sale, which he won’t. This week has been preoccupied by this unwelcome visitor and the constant background noise of a UB40 song that until now had always confused me,
not any more. Now I understand!

It will no doubt take me a while to recover from this, I seriously have barely eaten at home all week, and there are cupboards I won’t open.

To top it all off, I contacted environmental health thinking that they should know; they have told us to tell our neighbours. This could be the end of us being rather popular on our quiet suburban road, we’ll soon be known as the people who have rats! Imagine what Chinese whispers will do to this situation? Not to mention that we live right next door to the biggest gossip on the road, such was our good fortune. The other side of us, an old chap who lives in a beautiful old run down house.

Simon the rat catcher, Bob the builder and Jason the plumber (I feel a chicken licken type story book coming on) all independently suggested his property is the problem! Fabulous, shall I just pop over with some home baked scones and tell him to clean up his mess?! That will no

doubt bond us in unity and neighbourliness forever.

I imagine that nobody will come to dinner for a very long time.

 

”Gifts”

It’s always lovely to receive a gift isn’t it, something lovely that somebody has chosen for you. What’s not to like? It’s free, its kindness with legs, it’s an additional thing in your life and we like that don’t we? We are a hugely consumerist society, so we must love a good gift.

But what happens when we get gifts that, well, confuse us a little? Not to mention disappoint, create a sense of bewilderment, a heavy fog, deep concern or plain old disillusionment. You know, that familiar feeling we’ve all had on Christmas day, it’s as if you’ve opened somebody else’s gift while sitting next to that big green, flashing tree. Makes you want to scratch yourself with the trauma of it all.
What displeases me most about receiving gifts that I dislike is that it happens rather often. Now, I’m no mystery people, anybody who knows me, even remotely, will know that I’m quite a girly girl. Candles, sweet smelling shower gel, a nice hand cream and I’m there like a big brown bear, I’m not ashamed of it. I also like to read, I have piles of books around my house that I intend to make my way through before my time on earth is done, they comfort me enormously, challenge me, make me laugh, cry, and help me to feel very clever indeed. I even enjoy a gift voucher so that I can go shopping. (For something I like) Then there is chocolate, a good bottle of red wine, the list goes on, I promise you. Simple pleasures, not complicated, not expensive, it really is the little things.
Now, I KNOW, it all sounds very ungrateful of me and not at all the done thing, but I gotta be honest people. What is with the bad gifts? Even from people who I know do actually like me despite the handing over of tat with smiley faces! It’s just that they don’t seem to know me very well, which is surprising to me as this sort of declaration you read before you tends to be how I roll, as in, there is no mystery here, heart is firmly planted on sleeve, thoughts and feelings are frequently declared even in the face of disapproval, scorn, and darty eyes from those present, still I persist, people pleasing left me round about my 23rd year so it’s all out there, what I like, dislike, prefer, think, feel. In fact me ‘telling it like it is’ was even part of my husband’s groom speech, such is my want. I try not to offend, upset or hurt anybody with my straight talking, I don’t believe it should be an excuse for being harsh and I hope I never am, it’s just little ole me being me in the world, no masks, no pretence, not trying to compete or impress, obviously.
All that said, I just cannot bring myself to tell those who deem it appropriate to buy me something, that I don’t actually like the gift that they have placed in to my hands, that on occasion some gifts have made me want to sob. Usually what happens is this, as I look at whatever offering it may be with a mixture of confusion, irritation and worry I find myself saying ‘’the right’’ dishonest thing! Noooo this is surely not the way forward? It has to stop here.
That is aside from my Mum, I can tell my mum because she pushes the bad gift limits too far, and so I resolved years ago that we can’t do life with me hiding things until she visits and then pulling them out and scattering them around the house for the occasional weekend visit. That’s right; a weekend is too long to be looking at things that make me belly laugh, soon followed by silent weeping. The last time I gave my mum her gift back was simply because I couldn’t even hide this thing in a drawer. It was a lamp first and foremost, yes, a gift for the house! Secondly, it was a lamp that I would actually point at laughing if I saw it in a shop, not that I know where to find such things. Third issue, the lamp base was in the shape of a very skinny woman’s body, with surprisingly large bosoms given her overall slightness. I’m not making this up. As a thinking woman this is horrific to me on many levels. Oh look, something for us all to be stunned by on a daily basis, a nice lady lamp, with the light shining down on her GOLD dress. It wasn’t happening, not under my roof, not as long as there was breath in my body, so after much deliberation and many a sideways look at the lady lamp who, by now, three days in, offended me to my core. So, I sent it back to my mum because she thought it was swell, pretty and I think quite glamorous.

My sister, Lorna, laughed so hard when she saw the lamp that she had to hold her stomach because it ached. I did express to my mum that I liked the colour of the lamp. I felt it important to let her know that somewhere, on some level, I understood how she got there.

I’ll never know how I sprang to MY MOTHER’S mind as she cast her eyes on this object and what is now known as ’lamp gate’ in our home. It’s alarming to dwell too much on this part of history and I know that because I did it twice already.
Other offending gift items (not from my mum) include a Danni Minogue autobiography. Upon interrogation, the giver confessed this was purchased because they think I look like Danni Minogue (hopeless expression)
As a lover of a SIMPLE china cup and saucer, vintage style, I recently acquired a cup and saucer that left me speechless. I quickly turned that in to a sort of ‘in awe type gratitude’ (lie) what else was I going to do?! That gift is still in the boot of our car, such was my glee.
I have a collection of such articles and objects that I keep hold of because this or that valued person gave it to me as a gift. So valued a relationship that we mustn’t tell each other the truth!!

Oh the pain, not because I like, use or want these items do they fill my home, oh no, it’s due to the messy concoction of guilt, loyalty and sentimentality is large measures taken way too far.

Today it STOPS, enough I cry, as I fling Danni (hardback) in to the bin liner. I’m clearing out the unwanted gifts. So, Marie Curie shop, fling open your double doors and let me in.
You see, when I buy a gift, I tend to think about the person I’m buying it for – crazy I know (hands in the air, eyes wide) Personally, I think my taste is reasonable and sometimes brilliant.

My home is a peaceful haven of understatement, (at least in my head) I don’t like overdone, ever. I’m clearly a direct reaction to my mother’s frills, fancies and flowery net curtains but hey, there you have it. I’m all about the beige and muted tones.

I’m a straight forward, upfront, straight talking kinda gal. My kitchen is a shabby chic mixture out of necessity not choice, just making the best of what we’ve got until we can upgrade, just so you know… I must declare this because it seems, somehow I’ve confused folk and I sense it may be the kitchen that did it.
So, ungrateful and unrepentant I hereby declare; to those of you who love me enough to spend money on me, thanks, truly, thank you. But I’d just like to ask that when you next consider buying me a gift and you’re stuck for inspiration, please do us all a favour and give to any of the below charities, thereby doing us all some good and keeping my drawers and my mind uncluttered… and of course donate in my name, I want some credit, this may shock you but I wasn’t born selfless, this took work ;-)
That is unless you know how much I really do love your gifts….

NSPCC – £2, £5 or £10 per month will make a huge difference.

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/Applications/Donations/DonatePredonation.aspx#none

Marie Curie

http://www.mariecurie.org.uk/

Or

Save the children

http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/

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