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”Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness”.

George Sand



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

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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


Orange hair, good behaviour and security services

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. 

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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.

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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

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.