Monday, 9 November 2020

November memories

"Remember, remember the 5th of November". This was an oft quoted chant from my childhood.

I learned later, much later... that it was to do with a historic gunpowder plot that went awry. Historic, in that it was a failed assassination attempt in 1605, nearly 400 years ago! And historic, as far as I was concerned, as it seems to have nothing to do with our celebration of an annual fireworks display. 

There can't be many children who know or understand the significance of what they are celebrating on the 5th November. Or many adults either, come to that! 

We also celebrate the coming of November, or rather the end of October, with fancy dress! I have many happy memories of dressing up and parading round to the neighbours, to perform my party piece and get a handful of monkeynuts, some sweets and if very lucky, a "thruppenny bit"!

 I even subjected my own children to the experience...  

 And Gordon is carrying on that tradition...

Rosie as Elmo
Guess who is the skeleton?
 

However this event is even older than the Gunpowder plot. 

It is an ancient Celtic tradition when, on this night, magic was said to be about. Hallowe'en, was a night to stay at home, as it was believed that ghosts and ghouls prowled abroad, due a weakening between this world and that of the "spooky".

Alternatively dressing up in strange clothes, to disguise yourself, meant that you could venture out and not be recognised by the roaming spirits. This is a far cry from the "Trick or Treat" experienced by youngsters nowadays. Although this year their trick and treating was curtailed by the covid restrictions. Covid, an unseen force, reminiscent of what kept our fearful, pagan forefathers at home.

 So many of the festivals we celebrate now have nothing to do with the original event. Easter seems to be about chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies and Christmas is more about presents and turkey stuffing. Not decrying these traditions just flagging up that they are not part of the Christian story, as I remember it from my Sunday School days. 

 Even the turkey is relatively new, traditionally speaking, from when we imported it from across the pond, as we did the tricking and treating! However we haven't imported America's Thanksgiving Day from across the pond. How could we when it is celebrating their freedom from our oppression. 

It is held on the fourth Thursday in November and the traditional meal is... you guessed it... turkey. 

 We do however have a Harvest Thanksgiving tradition when we celebrate the abundance of what our annual crop has brought and share our surplus with the less fortunate. 

I remember this fondly and vividly from attending church as a child when the usual, pristine altar was covered in food, and the aroma of the church was one of fruit and veg. The display is still one I treasure, as was the activity that followed the church service. This was when the Sunday school children were given boxes of groceries to deliver to various, housebound members of the church. It always took all day as everyone we visited, invited us in, wanting us to stay a while...

 I also remember wearing mittens, that were tied together with elastic, threaded through my jacket sleeves so that I wouldn't lose them. Seemingly losing mittens was a habit of mine! 

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday and this Wednesday, the 11th of November, is Armistice Day. These days are inexticably linked to remembering past times. Not as celebratory occasions that have changed their meaning over the years, but to hold on to the necessary memory of loss and sacrifice. This year, more than any other, we need to be grateful for what we have, for what others have done for us and to never allow that memory to fade or to be altered by the passage of time. 

Teaching our children the real meaning of what we hold dear is perhaps the greatest gift we can give them. Whether it is as America welcomes a new era, with a different President or whether it is as we honour a past time, with different values.  


 November is the month of remembering to be grateful.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Souper October!

Last October I wrote that October was for me the month of making soups! 

Chunky Courgette

Creme Dubarry
 

 And this year is no different on that front ... 

but different in every other way!

 

 

 

With many of our family birthdays being non-events this year, our elder son, Kenneth decided that we would celebrate his birthday, not through a zoom video but through a socially distanced weekend away in Portpatrick. It was a great plan and we had a wonderful time just the four of us, Natalie, Kenneth, Andy and myself sharing fun time, bubbles...

Cheers Nat!
 

 

 

 

 

 


 



Drinks on the terrace.

Seafood Platter
 ... and scrumptious meals!

Andy and Kenneth even managed a round of social distanced golf on the Sunday. 

 Well, we have always found as a family that playing golf ends up socially distanced anyway as none of us ever hit the ball in exactly the same direction as each other! 

While the chaps were enjoying the splendour of the golf course, Natalie and I enjoyed a leisurely coastal walk followed by a well deserved trip to a local tea room.

I am delighted that Andy got to play golf that Sunday as he has not been able to golf since!

He took a tumble while walking up and down the hills behind Largs and ended up in Inverclyde's A and E. Result of the fall is a broken right ulna and quite a bit shaken up... and of course no golf for a while.

He took this photo (not a selfie) while in the hospital, so everyone he sent it to, thought that it was his left hand that he broke. No such luck!

 

Plastered!
 

Safely back home
Nothing will stop Andy doing his crossword... even learning to write with his left hand. My hero!
 







Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Heroes and Super Heroes


Two thought provoking questions often asked are:

1. "What would you do if you won the lottery?"

2. "What would you choose to have as your superpower?"

Now before you laugh at the absurdity of the questions, especially in this time of covid, consider how revealing your answers would be. They are important markers regarding our values and our motives. What if we have to share them with others and we realise that we want to hide who we really are ... and what we really want!

For instance if you list all the things you want to do, where to go when given lottery funding, as opposed to making charitable donations or investing to make more money, it says a lot about you. Or maybe it is just what we have been programmed to think of as important. And if you change your list to show others how "enlightened" you are ... well that is certainly a contradiction in terms!

For full disclosure,  I won £30.00 on the lottery last Wed and spent it on a back and neck massage on Thursday. Yep, that says a whole lot about me

As for superpowers. What would you like? Invisibility, ability to fly, time control ...

If the past 6 months have taught us anything, it is to appreciate the ordinary. To value the heroes, not the super heroes. Those include:

    Support workers who work tirelessly for the good of others.  

    Family and friends who are our own personal support workers. 

    Shopkeepers and their staff who keep the wheels of the essential food industry turning. 

    Teachers who want to interact with their pupils, share their knowledge and change lives.

... and so on. Our list gets longer as we realise what our lives would be like if there was no refuse collection, no mail delivery, no farmers, no fishermen, no healthcare, no tradesmen.

Two or my "ordinary" heroes when I was a teenager at school shaped my whole adult life. 

My English teacher taught me to love writing, to read as many genres of books as I could and to open my eyes and ears to the power of debate, not argument. 

A school friend's mother was a physiotherapist, and her example of professional care and expertise inspired me to embrace the same profession. 

Neither of these people had any other motives in their careers than to be able to work at their chosen profession. They weren't striving to reach the top of their professional tree, or to think how their behaviour affected others ... they were happy with their day to day workload and their everyday lives. They had what is now termed as a "work/life balance". 

They were ordinary people leaving an extraordinary legacy and myself and many others have much to thank them for ...

So I am going to ask you a different question:

"What is your ordinary power, one you under-appreciate, one that could change lives?"

Is it the ability to be resolute or alternatively, be flexible? Do you have focused thought or are you a free spirit? Is your nature loving, generous, thoughtful? Are you reliable, trustworthy, honest, kind, brave?

... and would winning the lottery make you any of the above? because any one of them could be the superpower you are looking for!

 

  

 Finishing with a couple of photos of some of my very own super heroes... can you guess who they are?

 


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Kindness matters

We have moved into the second half of the year and here in the UK almost half of the year has been taken up with the management of the Covid crisis. Management that has been focused on restriction.
Restriction of movement is having an effect on everyone's life. Whether it is being unable to visit loved ones or being unable to escape from someone who is very far from loving. Our society's view of loving kindness is being shown up as flawed.

I recently watched a film entitled The Kindness of Strangers. I can thoroughly recommend it for many reasons. One reason is that it has the excellent Bill Nighy in the cast. Another is because it gives an insightful perspective in relation to our recent circumstances.



 Kindness matters. That statement is true. We all accept that, however what is also true is that cruelty and apathy are still in abundance.

This can be seen in some of our accepted beliefs/confused statements that still get bandied about ...
    "You've got to be cruel to be kind" 
    " It's a sign of the times" 
    "there's nothing anyone can do"
 and my least favourite  "They only hurt the one they love" 

I would argue that all of the above statements are untrue.

Taking them in order, "You've got to be cruel to be kind" in itself is a nonsense but it is also an excuse to be hurtful. In past times, as a physio, it was a phrase that people thought described my profession. I choose to believe, that being a physio is more about encouragement. Getting people to do what they don't want to do, is definitely a skill, as any parent will attest to ...

Then "the sign of the times" excuse is just that ... an excuse! What happens in life is a sign of people's attitude to others and that as we have seen recently can be changed. Because if ever there is a statement that has been shown to be false, it is "there is nothing anyone can do!"

Just watching how vocal, impassioned teenagers have recently altered government decisions, should show that people can alter what is an unacceptable action. And there is hope that change too will happen as we recognise the inherent racism in our societies and see the widespread damage that this inhumane thinking can do.

I thoroughly disagree with "they only hurt the one they love" . I would alter the statement to "they only hurt those they can" ...  and has nothing at all to do with love!

 Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world" a perfect mantra for our times. Part of being that change is to acknowledge and act on the fact that "kindness matters". Start with being kind to yourself today and notice how it naturally wants to flow outwards ... it is a force to be reckoned with.




Tuesday, 28 July 2020

A beginning ...


It is so easy to make a drama out of a crisis. Sometimes we forget that gifts come to us, wrapped as obstacles.

I am not referring to the overwhelming losses that many have experienced in recent months or the many challenges people have been forced to face, as one crisis after another appeared on their horizon. These can be daunting at any time but are especially stressful when it seems that there is no end in sight.

What I am referring to here, is my taking personal stock of the many moments when it seemed that disaster had struck, only for me to realise that it was only a hiccup in life's order of things. Obviously not my order of things ... which my family say is working to an instant timetable of events. Except for coffee of course!

This involved looking in the (metaphorical) mirror and noticing how many times my mind went to a hasty judgement rather than a considered point of view. Another biggy, as in a "Eureka" moment, was realising that frustration can be a favourite "go to" emotion and how destructive that particular emotion is to myself and on others!

Disappointment too, loomed large, as one delay after another had to be dealt with  ... and I am not just talking about the attic conversion!
What once was!
Now  - a stairway to heaven!






















I broke a tooth during the first week of lockdown and as initially there was no dentistry available (apart from extraction)  I  have had to deal with some ongoing "issues" such as toothache and problems with eating!

These circumstances are easy to dramatise. However when there is no Oscar nomination forthcoming, it is best to recognise the gift and reflect on what it is offering ... such as:

Time for reflection, which is always a gift when a hectic schedule drains our energies and finding what is important in life sometimes needs that time-out period of inactivity.

Also Andy and I found that our wardrobe choices became limited due to clothes being in storage but it was our favourites that we wore over and over again ... after washing of course.

We also became more selective in other areas of choice.
  • Choosing what to watch on the TV or even whether we wanted to watch the box, as we preferred to spend time enjoying what we were viewing! 
  • Picking books that made us smile or recipes that inspired us to cook differently. 
  • Scheduling daily activities of walking, yoga class, rebounding and gym ball have expanded for Andy into a regular three times a week golfing and an occasional cycle, weather permitting.

 ... and let's not forget, choosing to keep the communication channels open for family and friends. We are all inclined to assume, that people we love, know we care. However just setting a little time aside to share a chat, text or zoom will always be an important choice in our various relationships ...


When I attended Tony Robbins coaching, many, many moons ago, one of the first things I learned was that it takes 30 days to change a habit ... and recently we have had 4 x 30 days at least. So what habits have you changed or maybe you're like me and have just began to really notice what your habits are.

Tony also recommended appropriate regular reflective questioning. Lockdown questions could be:

What have you changed during this time?
What have you realised ... your "Eureka" moment?
What do you treasure?
What has gone, never to resurface?

The result is being a "renewed being"! Someone with a fresh perspective on life, a personal insight into who and what matters ... and importantly, how not to make a drama out of a crisis!

This moment in time could be the chance to experience a different way of being, not necessarily a total transformation ... but certainly, a new you, a beginning ...



Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Family fun times.

Looking forward to a return to fun family times ...

Family fun
As you can see the Canukes are managing to enjoy some outdoor family fun. They have been experiencing a little more freedom on the west coast of Canada as their restrictions are being lifted before ours.

Happiness is ...
Here on the west coast of Scotland, I attempted a walk in the gale force wind only to be blown off my feet! Scampered home quickly to indulge in a little rebounding ...

 Andy and I have been using our lounge as a gym with exercising on the rebounder and gymball!

as well as our usual daily walk and yoga class.


take me seriously!
Yep there are all sorts of ways to enjoy a little bit of family fun!

However even with all this regular exercise the pounds are still piling on as food has been exercising our minds!

We have been occupied by thinking about it, buying, it, cooking it and then eating it ...

Here are a few of our favourites:

seafood tagliatelle - cin cin
lasagne - just out the oven
fruit salad - always a favourite

 ... and family fun before lockdown, a Mexican evening at Natalie and Kenneth's!

Memories ...
I am sooooo looking forward to the releasing of lockdown restrictions. Nicola Sturgeon, our first minister has promised that next week will see a lifting of some of the "rules" and playing golf and tennis are going to be top of the list. Guess who is a happy chappie in our house?

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Unprecedented times ...

In these unprecedented times, today is Wednesday and it is my day for the weekly shop ... and as it turns out, it is also the day to write my monthly blog.

There are so many changes happening around our present circumstances, that it is hard, not to be sad or anxious when we are informed of the many people affected by this global pandemic.

However, it is also easy, to notice when we are surrounded by blessings. Whether it is the ability to take a walk, have a talk with friends and family on facebook, whatsapp, messenger and zoom or just the ability to breathe easily ...

Andy's and my personal routine while social distancing, is very similar to many others with the daily walk and weekly shop. Andy and I usually walk to the Largs "Pencil" landmark and over the past 3 weeks of lockdown, we have noticed that less and less people are walking the well trodden path to the local monument ... for whatever reason the town is getting quieter and quieter as we acclimatise to what is asked of us.

A normal morning always included a coffee with puzzles on the balcony when the sun shone.


Likewise, home made soups for lunch when there was a chill in the air was a regular feature in our weekly routine.

However experimenting with what's available in the fridge and freezer is totally new to us! As our cupboards empty, we are getting more and more inventive as the nearer to Wednesday's shopping day looms ...


Some of the other activities that are new to us, are the family zoom parties including Rosie's first birthday ... experienced as a virtual party!




 

It was good to see her enjoying her special day albeit virtually...

Virtual party

Birthday girl.


Our visit to Canada had been cancelled so connecting through the ether has been a godsend. Rosie is such a happy child and Murphy has been a very supportive big brother including helping her open her pressies.

Notice the suspicious hand in the photo!

Party frock.






Another difference in our daily routine is a return to teaching a yoga class.
Namaste

 Andy and I have been exploring yoga postures and various relaxation methods in order to keep our bodies healthy and our minds relaxed.

Regularly at 4 pm, through an iphone video call to other members of the family, we stretch, bend and breathe in all sorts of ways.

I must say that it has been a unique moment of connection across the airwaves.

We all need to stay connected at this time. If someone comes into our thoughts, let's not let it be a transient moment in time but hold that person close and contact them anyway we can. Whatever we can do ... this is the time to do it.


Ready for the stairs?

However there are also times when there is nothing we can do!  As you can see from the photos, understandably, our plans, like everyone else's have gone on hold.

The attic conversion is waiting for the return of tradesmen ...
  the joiner even left his overalls!

Where is the en-suite bathroom?




 The loft is empty, however the rest of the house now has everything else that was once stored here. Lockdown has given us a chance to clear out much of our unecessary accumulated "stuff", but like everything else at this time, it has nowhere to go!
Porto Azzurro
 One of my favourite places to go is Porto Azzurro, on the island of Elba. I was intending to enrol again this summer for a course at the ABC Italian school. This is just another one of our cancelled visits. Our thoughts are with all those Italian friends who have faced this pandemic a few weeks ahead of us, here in the UK.

To all those around the world who are dealing with adversity, illness and bereavement, let's include a daily moment of our time to focus our loving thoughts flowing out into the ether ...

               Unprecedented times require us all to connect in any which way we can.




Saturday, 21 March 2020

Social distancing - a world apart

What strange times we are living through.

It has become my routine to write a monthly blog ... mainly to keep a memory of what my living circumstances are, as a rolling calendar or diary of events. There is no doubt in my mind that what has occurred over the past month in the UK and in previous months to other countries will not be easily forgotten!

But what does social distancing really mean and what will be the long term results of self-isolation? Not sure there is a definite answer but what I do know is that we need to keep connected in any which way we can.

Who knew that Facebook would be hero in times like these? Just avoid fake news!!
Facebook's close relative, "whatsapp",  is keeping us as a family in contact. Both here in Scotland and far away in Canada. Although isolation is a common issue with us all, whatsapp groups are bringing many of us together as humourous messages are flying back and forth across the airwaves.

Enforced leisure is challenging to us and "filling" our time can create stress as our choices become more and more limited.

 I am choosing to keep writing in any way I can. Texts and whatsapps, emails, blogs and newsletters and as recommended by my publisher to all her hopeful writers "just get on with finishing your book!"

Let's keep some virtual contact going all around the world. Social distancing doesn't have to mean a world apart.  It could be the catalyst/final straw we need to bring the world together ...

Monday, 24 February 2020

Down memory lane ...

Clearing out an attic brings up lots of memories.

Whether it is the photos that remind you of happy times, wonderful holidays or the photos that remind you of who you once were, decade by decade.

There are the books read just once ... or the others that are read over and over again until you are word perfect but you still have to hold on to, just in case you want to visit them again.

The dressing up box that needs to go! but what if someone needs that feather boa, devil ears, angel wings? Although perhaps not all at once ...
Then, there are the paintings that are just gathering dust,  the clothes - no longer the right size, the right colour or even yours! and the ornaments that you no longer wish to put on display not to mention the mega mountain of towels that may come in handy someday.
Or is that just my attic?

Clearing out can be cathartic.
It can be healing as you let go of unnecessary "stuff".
It can be beneficial as you recycle your treasures.
For me it has been all of the above.
Clearing out the attic has been a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Now, it's time to enjoy the present moment, knowing that it will eventually join all those other memories ...

The following is one of the treasures I found in the attic that I would like to share with you.

Om shanti,
Eileen

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Whatever the weather - dress for the occasion.

Here I am all dressed up for two very different occasions.

First one is - the return
Just back from walking in the rain ... 
and the wind ... and the hail. 
However I am, as you will notice, still smiling! Just ...


I was dripping, but all the better for my walk. Honest...
As Billy Connelly has been oft quoted "There is no such thing as bad weather - just the wrong clothes!" My raincoat was an all weather coat, perfect for the ever changing Scottish weather conditions.

In the background is our new courtyard. Only a year after we started the process. Must remember that fact when thinking about any proposed 2020 plans.

... and of course I am still working with the plan  - to have no plan. That is probably why I kept putting off submitting two chapters of my book to a publishing contact.

Emailed them off today ...
and rewarded myself with a walk,
and then the gods rained on me ...




The second occasion is - the departure

Is it the same wummin? I hear you ask. Oh yes it is!
This time I am all dressed up, ready to set off for a family adventure to the Panto. Oh yes I am! 

and it was a perfect evening of Scottish humour wrapped up in the glow of Snow White's fairy tale.

Worth remembering that whatever the occasion and whether you are coming or going, it is good to dress the part. Whatever you consider your part to be.


So in keeping with the pantomime theme, 2019 is behind you...
and 2020 could well be the year of your very own fairy tale.
Which role have you been rehearsing for:
Sleeping Beauty? Fairy godmother or the "Godfather"? Or being part of an ideal couple like Fiona and Shrek?

Whatever part you have to play in 2020, I wish you happiness in your starring role with the best supporting cast you could ask for...