as the sun illuminates
in the grass
and bluebell hoods
carpet the woods
as the Spring phoenix dashes
from winter’s dark ashes.
as the sun illuminates
in the grass
and bluebell hoods
carpet the woods
as the Spring phoenix dashes
from winter’s dark ashes.
Recently a friend told me that she might have cancer.
Two lumps had appeared, one small, one big. The doctor immediately sent her for a biopsy. The cells were abnormal and treatment is needed.
The doctor was worried because she used to be a heavy smoker and overweight, two known risk factors.
She said the worse part was the torment of not knowing.
Once she has a diagnosis, she can plan, but for now she has to wait, thoughts churning around about the future.
We discussed how she could manage it and even speculated as to what the result might be. I tried to reassure her, but there isn’t much I can say or do, other than telling her that I will be there for her, no matter what. She was experiencing an emotional storm of frustration, anger, sorrow and fear. She is a strong woman both mentally and physically, but nothing can prepare you for the shock of being told you have a long-term illness.
My friend is courageously dealing with an uncertain future. She said that her illness had helped her gain more focus and she will now attack her bucket list with a renewed vigour.
In times of difficulty we need the courage to draw on our inner resources and access support networks. We may need to evaluate our perspective. In Buddhist philosophy, adversity is seen as the best teacher, a chance to learn from experience and emerge a stronger, wiser person.
So what have I learnt from the experience of my friends?
Firstly, the importance of living in the moment.
No one has a crystal ball. If we speculate about the future we only create fear and worry. This destabilises us and prevents us from being fully present to support friends in need. Everything is easier if we take a moment, slow down and just float on the river of life, wherever it takes us. Not accepting our reality is like trying to swim against the current; it wastes our energy and is futile.
Secondly, I need to be grateful.
We spend so much time focussing on what we do not have. We are constantly unhappy with the present and want more. We forget just how lucky we are. There is so much suffering in the world and, whilst we all experience peaks and troughs, somehow we escape the worst of it.
I would like you to take a moment to be grateful.
Be thankful for all the people in your life who guide and support you, your cheerleaders. Be thankful that you have mental and/or physical good health. But most of all, be thankful for the love and kindness of family and friends. Against all odds, love conquers all.
As soon as venue hosts hear the word, the price doubles. It costs so much and for what? Just one day where you pledge to love each other forever and get tax and inheritance benefits?
What is marriage really all about?
Anyone would think it was money now.
So there is a growing trend of people having small private ceremonies, shunning the money waterfall of caterers, cake, flowers and favours.
I would have a small wedding at my local farm. But it costs £2,200 just to hire an empty, unfurnished barn.
My parents had a simple wedding. Mum bought her dress for £50 at a vintage second hand shop in Great Yarmouth. They had the party in their back garden after a simple church ceremony. Their friends provided the alcohol and the only thing they paid for was catering. Their friend took the photos.
Marriage is a private declaration of love and ultimately is shaped by the whims of the couple. I wouldn’t have a big party at all but for my friends and family wanting to join me. I have already had two friends ask to be invited and I haven’t even had a proposal yet.
I hope the proposal doesn’t take long. But if Princess Kate can wait ten years, so can I. As Chaucer said: “He who is pacient in love is at avantage to all above.” Your wedding ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. Don’t feel pressured to have a day that doesn’t feel true to you. If you want to pop along to your registry office instead, why not?
Last week I had the pleasure of a paid trip to London.
I made the most of the last evening and morning there by seeing my cousins and visiting the National Gallery.
Looking at masterpieces from around the United Kingdom is always enjoyable and there is always something to catch the eye of someone creative such as myself.
I almost always forget my sketch book. Once again, I bought one. I only had an hour. I just managed to do a quick sketch in that time. When I finished and put the book down, I heard a collective gasp from a group of school kids age 6-7. “How did you do that?!!” a girl asked. “Practice”, I replied. “You can do art like this if you practice.” Another girl said “I have loads of sketches in my art book”. “Keep practicing!” I said, “it’s a lot better than watching TV”. Hopefully I inspired a future artist. I wanted to go to art school after sixth form, but my mum persuaded me that it was not a stable career and I am grateful for her for encouraging me to pursue a more stable existence.
I dislike the stress, rudeness, noise, crowded and polluted conditions in London. People would push past you constantly, even if there was plenty of room. Time is money and everyone has somewhere to be urgently. Travelling on the tube in the rush hour was an awful experience and made me feel ill. It was hot, smelly, dirty and uncomfortable. I had to jump on and hope people made way for me, it was the only way to travel. I try to walk where I can, it’s a much better experience and there is so much to see. Each area of London has its own identity, a patchwork quilt of little villages, with their own history and culture.
It was a relief to return to my city with it’s clean cool air, smiling people and relaxed atmosphere. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I was so happy to be home.
What I love about Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas market is its size, diversity and atmosphere.
It is the largest Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria and it takes place in their main square, as it has for 15 years. I had a Baileys hot chocolate and two “Christmas” shots. I also tried the German mini pancakes, a waffle and a hot dog.
Enjoying the merry go-round were people from all backgrounds and cultures, including a man wearing a taqiyah, a man wearing a turban and a woman wearing a hijab.
Get down there and enjoy it. It runs until 23 December.
Last night we went to a delightful local restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I enjoyed a tasty goats cheese tart, hake fish in a spinach sauce topped with a giant King prawn, and berry sorbet with Moroccan mint tea. A pianist tinkled away behind us, just audible beneath the hubbub of merry voices, infusing romance into the atmosphere. I thought of the Shakespeare quote: “If music be the food of love, play on.”
Today we went to a village pub in Derbyshire, on the border between the “White Peak” and the “Dark Peak”, in the picturesque Peak District. It was built in the late 1700s when it was an Inn for weary travellers. I had butternut squash lasagne and a battered Yorkshire fishcake with fruit cider. We went to admire the view and stood together watching the golden afternoon sun illuminate the fields below.
So what is the secret of a successful relationship?
Patience, kindness, listening and laughter. The path of true love never did run smooth, but you can resolve most issues with communication. Whilst you may have many shared interests, you need to remember that you are different people and you are bound to clash at some point, unless your partner is incredibly relaxed or a pushover. It is hard, but you have to try and remove the emotion of the disagreement, rationally discussing each other’s views to find a compromise. Sometimes you don’t and you have to agree to disagree.
Your partner should feel understood and appreciated.
Laugh often and simply enjoy spending time together, companionship is as crucial as passion. You should bring out the best in each other. You can advise and guide your partner, but don’t try and change them or apply pressure. No one wants to feel like a decision has been made for them or that they have been coerced into making changes before they were ready.
Of course you will squabble and bicker. It may even take years to stop shouting and start listening to each other. But if you are willing to invest time and effort to develop your relationship, and maybe even yourself, the clouds of confusion will eventually clear.
The trick is to let the little things go and focus on the bigger picture. Stop finding fault in flaws, we all have them. In this age of technological Tinder swiping and souped-up selfies, it is important to remind ourselves that virtual reality is just that. Real beauty beats any fake “perfection”.
I feel lucky to have found someone that loves me for who I am, despite my quirks, foibles and bad habits. I still feel giddy when we are together. Through the twists and turns of time we stride on, six years strong.
Katherine Ryan is a Canadian single mum to a 9 year-old girl. They live in a flat in London with a “glitter room” and a “floral” room. She’s also one of the best comedians in the UK.
After a four and half hour coach journey I couldn’t wait to get off the smelly thing to see my friend. Sarah works in a pharmaceutical sales company. She is so organized that when we went to Vietnam she had a spreadsheet for the hotels and one for the flights.
The journey to her new place was supposed to take half an hour. Unfortunately at least three tube lines were having improvement works, so the Circle line was out. I needed to take the District Line (the green one) to Parsons Green, but it didn’t go that far. So I tried to take a taxi, but I was near the Chelsea football ground. It just happened to be Chelsea vs Liverpool, so all the taxis were cancelling on me because roads were blocked off.
Finally I stopped one the traditional way. The charming cabbie said he wasn’t going to work that day because of the match. I was so relieved to be rescued after hours of trudging around with all my bags.
The space and light in Sarah’s flat was lovely after the dark cramped coach. We compared rents and she couldn’t believe how little I pay in comparison. She had a lovely terrace with a city view. I enjoyed sipping tea there in the morning.
We got to the venue at Leicester Square through the excited evening crowds. I treated myself a Kir Royale cocktail and we settled down for the concert. There was a lovely vocal performance from the London Gay Mens Chorus with intricate acapella arrangements.
Katherine Ryan was hilarious. She was a natural, sourcing material from people in the crowd. It was very engaging. She somehow found someone from her home town in Canada and a single mum of three boys. She is 35 and probably earns a pretty packet.
The Garrick Theatre was a cosy venue, you felt like you were in her sitting room. It was at least half an hour before Katherine started recycling her gags but she created new material on the spot too. Have a look at her on YouTube. Sarah and I appreciate her fearless feminist ethos and gutsy life perspective. She makes us feel empowered and inspired. Catch her on her Glitter Room tour.
I also went to a dress agency near my friend’s flat. It was run by a charming Iranian woman and savvy saleswoman, who talked me into buying two designer dresses and a jacket which I thought was nice for social occasions but which my Chelsea-based sister has said is only suitable for interviews. I grimaced at the handbags made out of every kind of animal and the furs, from mink to fox. I got an embroidered blue wool dress which was so vintage it was actually made in the 1950s and an Italian leather and suede red and black dress, which I wore for the concert. Sadly, the wool dress shrunk as soon as I hand-washed it, and the other items are dry clean only.
On Sunday morning I went out for brunch with Sarah and my sister and then visited my sister’s new flat.
I was hoping to do something touristy for the rest of the day, but Sarah wanted to go to the gym. She was tired from moving flats and needed a boost. For her, this involves slogging it out at the gym. For me it is going to a coffee shop and having a brew. Each to their own.
I felt better for her boot camp gym workout. She is a natural personal trainer, shouting “no pain no gain!” and “come on, you’re not done yet!” as I groaned under the strain. I wrestled with a 10 kg weight while she did a 20 kg weight for the same time. She looks petite and dainty but this is just an illusion. She could snap your wrist with one hand.
For 2019, I am planning a holiday to Chile next summer for the solar eclipse. Watch this space…