Getting rid of the old.



Emerging like dusty blinking cave people…

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I don’t know about you but I am in a strange place with my stuff. Haven’t we had to get far more bored with our things recently!?! In our case, the house has been chewed and nibbled to extremes and needs a tv makeover, thanks to the wonder who is Bear.

Having lived in houses large and small, cosy and grand, but always creative, organised and usually pretty clean, no matter how much stuff there actually was; it was always pretty much in its place; so to see mass destruction has been hard! But, in the ebb and flow of life, there is a natural way of stuff.

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It comes to us, like a tide, washes up on our shores, people give us things, we own them, take them in, pluck them from the swirling seas, treasure and cherish them or we watch as the shoreline recedes and the stuff goes away again. Back to others, back to charity, turned into something else. It is just stuff.

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When we look around us at all that we own do we see our achievements and fruition of our hoards? A stack of accomplishments through our possessions? What is it that makes us happy about our things? I recently came across a picture of a soulless home for sale, no plants, trees, pictures, cushions, colours. A black hole of life. I felt my painting hand physically twitch. But for someone, it will be the perfect home, or at least the dream of one as a new life, before the ephemera of family life bathe it in a unique personality.

How much choice do we feel happiest with? Spoiler- This isn’t a post about owning one black dress and a futon. I personally LOVE textures, colours, life affirming words in stories, things I can offer tea to people in, plates I can bring out for high tea, special dresses I might yet wear, vintage French coffee pots. The point is that there is a balance in the perfect amount, for the right amount of comfort , before it turns to clutter and chaos.

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Spring and early summer are traditional times to let go, clear out, rethink and clean our homes , as all around you there is evidence of new life blossoming, and the warmth to let the light back in .

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New light through the window bounce off dust motes hidden until those first summer breezes gently stir their glitter.

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We are like this too, slightly bleery eyed and not quite primed for our close up. Add in, months of staying close to home; a home that has seen nobody but us, and it is no wonder there is overwhelm and a slight feeling of panic.

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Firstly know this though, that most people are so happy to be let out, they couldn’t give a monkeys about the state of your fridge. And their fridge is more than likely the exact same. Since contact is safer out of doors, you still have time to make the changes, if indeed there needs to be any.

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Start with your animals. The very first thing a house has on entry is its smell. Cooking and animal smells start to go unnoticed in our own homes. But to another nose might be a different olfactory experience. Keep inside animals clean and carpets hoovered. Try and get windows open, light incense, candles or boil leftover citrus fruit to make the house smell good. Or use a diffuser with essential oils.

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Look at your plants and check they are breathing still! Dead head old leaves and spritz them in the bath with a showerhead to give the dust a rinse off.
Although not a big chemical fan, I like a bit of spray bleach for the worst of the grime. But baking soda and vinegar is a cheap and easy alternative to expensive cleaning products. It is amazing on the glass of cooker doors. Just rinse them well.

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What can you do well?
What do you need help with?
What are you good at, and can manage without pain and what can you pay someone else to do in a fraction of the time? Consider help occasionally to free up time and impact on your sore bits.


Clothes

It is so very hard with clothes, especially now. Re-entering the outside world, you are possibly a different shape and size, especially if you’re a teen And growing like a weed suddenly nothing you own is right. All the things we had before seem old or aren’t as comfortable
As someone who loves clothes but struggles to get in them at times, due to poor joints and sensitive inflamed nobbly bits: here is my go to list of how to like your clothes.

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Only throw away what you genuinely don’t like or need.
If you bought something because it sang showtunes to you in the shop, it was meant for you. Are you still waiting for the perfect moment to wear it? Are you worried what people will say? Unless it will scare small children, put it on. Enjoy it. There are dresses I can’t wear because at the moment they get caught in my sticks. I wish I’d worn them more to Tescos . ( but I am keeping them. Nothing in life is static. Your health changes, I might find surgery that works , or I’ll wear them for parties.
Instinct is everything. Touch fabric first in shops. Buy only natural if possible. Most man-made mixes look fine before they are washed and shrivel up the first time they hit a spin cycle.

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Your skin breathes better in cotton, linen and wool plus you’ll be dressing like a French woman.
Speaking of which, always imagine that you are in your own shop in the morning. Pick out things as if you really like them. You did put them there after all. If you don’t love them any more, give them to charity.
It has taken me nearly 50 years to find a pair of jeans I like.. But they are out there. Get ones with a good stretch, that you can put on with literally any other garment without worrying if your bum looks big. If you find the perfect pair, maybe get a back up just in case.

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Sorting out your clothes can be a nightmare which leaves many screaming for a lunchtime gin. In this section however, one most really rely on instinct. Do you actually still believe that if you lost 4 stone you’d wear your 80s pencil skirt? Do you really like the feel of synthetic fabric even if it hangs well in the shop? . Do you avoid it in the wardrobe because it’s a mare to wash.? I have a lot of clothes, I’m not going to ever stop liking clothes. Having sticks has scuppered the wearing of swishy skirts and living in a cold climate, many summer layers have been relegated to the attic, but the ones I keep, fit me and can be worn; should the inspiration take me… !! 😎

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They resonate or still buzz with a particular pleasure and specific ownership to me. If the ceiling started to cave in under their weight I might think again. But clothes are worth hanging onto if you can genuinely rejig and repurpose their existence in later life. You never know, they might become heirlooms. Or at least fancy dress

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Books

Oh dear. I should probably just stop there. Books are my downfall. Fresh, crisp bookstore scented pages nobody can open until I’ve cracked that blissful first ‘New’ moment: the one savoured from the second the book was stealthily shimmied from the bottom of the toppling pile on display.

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To the drawn on charity shop kids books, well thumbed and loved, and lovely vintage books of beauty with paper thin pages and gold edged illustrations. All books have their own identity. Books calm us, take us places teach us, absorb us , remind us of other worlds and stories, histories and ideas. Keep whatever order you like, but look after your books.

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I have amassed a pretty comprehensive library on most subjects, and while I still have the space for books I’ll choose books over a virtual library anytime. One whose treasures arent fleeting and not subject to cloud space and weather conditions. Bad weather is the perfect reason for a real book. Feet up, clock ticking, firelight cackling and cats purring. I love a book on just about anything I am doing, or writing about, or subjects that are fascinating, old books. Pristine gorgeous smelling new books that nobody can touch until I’ve opened them, old vintage books with past lives in school trunks and dusty libraries, imagine all the lives that have crossed in the keeping of the book. And who doesn’t love an art gallery shop with it’s glossy books you have to buy and rarely look at again, but proudly display on your coffee table . I am rather partial to a good magazine too. They plop through the door with regularity and I then spend ages not having time to read them ! However, eventually they get added to the daily ritual or cut up and used, recycled for drawing ideas and cuttings. Or the privileged few get to be kept on shelves as resources.

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Stationery

This is the nemesis of almost every adult female I know. Harking back to the eighties where it began with Hollie Hobbie pencil cases and strawberry scented rubbers, the joy of Saturday pocket money spends. And it never goes away, that thrill of new adnin supplies. . That love of a crisp new empty notebook, journals if what has been, or the promise of new projects and ideas, journeys yet to be taken, lists if things to buy, make, do and new stuff to aspire to, all stuck and pasted onto fresh clean pages helping us feel renewed and full of hope.

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Toiletries

I love packaging. Its very superficial of me. But its just so much nicer when your stuff looks nice. However, not everything in a sparkly bottle is good for your skin or your wellbeing. Your products should be kind. I seem to be amassing a rather good blue bottle collection, and love that they can be recycled afterwards all around the house!

The tower of guilt.

Like most people I used to pile up books to read, clothes to still get wear from, chores to finish etc We go about our daily business and every once in a whole these silent niggles dig into our peripheral vision. They get louder. Finish me, read me, sew me, clean me, sort me, and before you know it you have a household orchestra of errant errands playing on a loop in your ear like an ear worm at a rave.

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You see, if I can see a stack of things I haven’t read, looked at, given time to all , and I see it all at once, it becomes insurmountable, whether it’s sewing, reading, art projects, letters to reply to.. . And then it feels I can’t approach it at all. These are all pleasurable things I do after the work, chores, and essentials have been completed, but often the perfect time for the fun things has gone, because we are too tired and numb by then. Too much overwhelm and anything becomes another job. ( if you have an autistic person under your roof times this by a thousand )


I have learnt, that with pleasurable things we must find ways to make them pleasurable.
We must sneak up on ourselves and engage in the art of pleasure, with excitement. Grab a book off a shelf and slip into the garden for half an hour. How much greater is the whole feeling when we can immerse in it. Don’t plan all your meals, wear three different colours every day, start a really mad collection of things to display that everyone else is throwing away. Enjoy the choice. But do these things from a point of calm and organised space first or your head won’t let you immerse in anything fully, one leg will always be in a pile of clutter
My books are on shelves with a specific one for new magazines and ones I haven’t read, like a shop. A piece of advice once given to me was to read ten pages of good literature to expand your mind, or to enhance your pleasure every day. My daily choices come from the library of bought books, magazines or books I am studying plucked and read in my bath office every morning . The only place where the rest can wait their turn and I get peace. .

The pleasure of an unexpected choice, a gift to myself , is lovely. And there is always another lined up. I no longer think of them as a list. Because I chose these things in the first place. And all that we choose, we have the power to un-choose or weave into our lives in a way that suits us .

Make art from your fragments
Bath office


This last year has seen me pack more and more of me away in boxes. Artwork, possessions, childhood memories and photos rifled through in lockdown, clothes for another climate, holidays we can only dream about and projects on hold for now. As the small person grows from a child to a young lady too, so do her choices in stuff. And teaching 12 year olds how to actually maintain the dream room whilst not living in a pile of crisp packets and old socks, we came up with the list…

A rare and blissful moment….
Look familiar?

How to declutter

Keep like with like. Most things are easier to organise if you keep them together. Cables, bed linen for specific rooms, spares of things like batteries and bulbs. Dedicate one place where you know they go. And make sure they go back there !

Be realistic about how many of each thing you can really use. Unless you have fifteen children or run a b and b you night not need 25 duvet sets.

Do one section at a time. For example pick just all the plastic stuff, or all the shoes or papers or music. Whilst starting this with the smallest and working up is often easiest, it’s not the quickest. To get stuck in, eat the frog ( do the hardest thing first). (Usually clothes). Next – bag up charity bags with one category at a time, phone them ahead to book a drop off if you need to. Don’t trust charity vans unless you know them. Twice I have had goods taken by thieves pretending to be a genuine charity. These muppets find out when the real ones are coming and drive around the neighbourhood first.

Only buy what you really really really like, or know someone else will love as a gift. Often bargains are marked down because they didn’t sell. For a reason.

People often offer things as unwanted gifts because they are decluttering. You don’t always have to say yes! Also don’t feel obliged to keep presents you aren’t fond of. Be grateful and find a loving home for it elsewhere, without causing upset to the person.

If you feel someone else is making you do something you’ll never 100% give your self. Own your space and your stuff and how you look after it.

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Your journey can be as light as you like. MOST weights are ‘to do lists’ , the piles to sort, the immovable and never ending -‘why cant I get there’ feeling. Removing the clutter from our peripheral vision gives us a clear horizon.

Decluttering is a lovely feeling. But so is re-establishing the bond with what you already have. Going through your possessions one set at a time, looking for small gaps, or throwing away multiples gives your home a chance to breathe and makes space for your next purchase. And it makes peace with the space you’re in right now.

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Make space for things

Until such times as a distraction from table legs is in place, alternative dining sets are pointless in our house

But like those years with our chocolate covered toddlers, we relish the short time our control is lost in favour of daft moments

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One must find newness in other riches too. A moment of blissful peace in my garden recently.

So while the sun shines, we will chip away at this lifelong task and plant seeds for our next fairy House.

But know there will always be a vintage tea set ready for your arrival..

With love and deep breaths on your next steps, wherever you are.

Liz and the zoo xxxx

What dogs teach us

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There is someone for everyone


Some people believe, that every person or animal that crosses our path does so for a reason. Sometimes it is very brief moment, a look, an interaction, an understanding, or sometimes we stay longer with one another.

Although we can probably agree that the pull of animal company of some kind is often felt, everyone has a definite tolerance level and relationship with certain animals and or species of that animal. ( and yes, occasionally, there is the a heart which not even the fluffiest puppy can crack)

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So why do we choose a particular pet? What are we seeing that makes them stand out, hum, reverberate, send out little ‘you need me‘ signals to our brains? I have often wondered why the animals we have are so uniquely ‘ours, who does the connecting?!.’

There seems to be something inherently positive about being in the close proximity of other thriving living things, as we can often see from animal assisted therapies. Their key focus is to improve human psychological wellbeing.

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The Medical News today describes the Benefits of animal assisted therapy as;

  • reducing boredom
  • increasing movement and activity through walks and play
  • providing companionship and decreasing loneliness
  • increasing social interactions
  • improving mood and general well-being
  • By doing the following
  • providing comfort and reducing levels of pain
  • improving movement or motor skills
  • developing social or behavioral skills
  • increasing motivation toward activities such as exercise or interacting with others

Having worked in mental health over the last few years, including teaching in care homes; I have seen the joy first hand of how animals can pull a patient back for a few precious moments, in the way music often can, and give such pure, immediate pleasure. I have taken dogs and guinea pigs into classes with me, seen Shetland ponies in dementia wards or birds of prey help to calm adults with long term anxiety issues. .

When the world gets too much, to know there is a paw, a furry little face or a pair of sympathetic eyes to absorb your woes, is often a much needed gift.
Eventually everyone becomes your friend, whether you have any choice in the matter or not!
Reading to your dog and chicken is important!!


During the last year, for many people I know, including us, animals have featured in their wellbeing. From caring for pets, as a reason to get outside and shop for food, to get exercise, for children to do the same, an excuse to meet with a friend for a dog walk or run (as essential exercise,) watching wildlife in the garden and enjoying the small but incredible pleasures of hatching eggs in nest boxes, hedgehogs in homes, foxes wandering freely, and seeing on the television animals reclaiming areas once lost to man. We hear some horror stories too, of dog snatchers and fly tippers blackening natural habitats for natures creatures. And we care. Our children’s generation can know every inch of every creature if they choose to from the plethora of information and documentaries available.

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Forbes 2020

Facebook is full of animals. And our houses are. Unlike our actual families though, we get to choose which ones live with us. Our very good friend David lost his beloved Dog Glen last year , and will be the first to admit that the gap left by his best pal broke his heart. But the universe had a plan. Despite doubts that there would ever be another dog as perfect, Glen sent Kiera. A rescue, patiently waiting in the wings at a rescue centre. After a few lockdown hoops to hurdle, David’s perseverance paid off. Kiera recognised him the moment they met. She hung on his every word and gazed at him with pure love. I have never seen a dog that knew its owner so immediately and why they were destined to bring a smile to each others lives.

So why and how do animals trust us?

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Many dogs are happy-go-lucky, love everyone and are happy to greet people they meet with a happy wagging tail.  But there are also a lot of dogs who appear to like some people, but not others.

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Whenever I am sad, my dogs or cats never fail to sit by my side, put their heads into my lap and bring comfort. Conversely, when one of them has done something naughty, a dog has the uncanny ability to slink away as soon as you look at them, cats, not so much.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20201212_163710.jpg




Do you ever feel like there’s a dog sixth sense that allows your dog to read your moods and react accordingly?
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If you have ever wondered about this phenomenon, or if you like you are losing it for thinking that your fur friend has supernatural dog senses, you are not alone. Pet parents across the globe have the same question: Can dogs pick up on our subconscious cues, and essentially, read our moods?Dogs, who have been evolving alongside humans for thousands of years, have clearly demonstrated an ability to recognize and respond to human emotions, and scientists now know that they use ordinary and extraordinary dog senses to do this. A 2009 study found that dogs gaze much longer at happy versus sad human faces, indicating that they may be sensitive to human emotions.
Dogs preferentially look to our eyes to read our emotions, and the hormone oxytocin is also involved in this connection. Secreted by the mammalian brain, oxytocin is nicknamed “the love hormone,” and it affects social behaviors and cognition, among other things.Another study, published in 2016, found that dogs process human emotions from gazing not just at the eye region, but also the midface and mouth regions. Dogs are a highly social species, and they are evolved to evaluate social threats rapidly, including threats the come from humans.
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Does your dog like everyone he meets, or does he gravitate towards some people and not others?  We certainly notice how similar our dog feels about people in comparison to how we do. He can sense fear, ambivalence, or joy, and if presented with an air of calm authority, slips into the role of obedience he feels comfortable in. When people give mixed messages, he doesn’t understand the rules.

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Animals like humans learn to co-exist by trusting the boundaries and one another

Because the rules are clear and body language is calm around all the animals , at the same time, it has helped integrate them into the household together. Bear and Max ( a male cat) could easily have been at each other’s throats, and started out as natural rivals. But sitting with them both at the same time, giving them equal attention, soothing movements and an escape route, slowly got them used to one another. and now they are all pretty good at sharing our attention. I just have to watch that Bear doesn’t lovingly leap on my lap to cuddle the guinea pigs. He still thinks he is a puppy.

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I watched as my daughter, already (and this pains me ) she is taller than me.. lolloped down the road with our Bear recently….Far from being an aberration, (which having a large dog one is often made to feel that he is;) he looked, the perfect size for her growing gait. She needed a big dog. I watch them playing together. She needed him. At first their bond was tenuous. She wasn’t sure. He wasn’t the same as what she knew. But now she won’t get up unless he’s had his morning cuddle.

Have you ever met a dog that looks and behaves a lot like their person? The saying “like attracts like” applies to dogs and people, too. Dogs often choose a favourite person who matches their own energy level and personality.

Some dog breeds are more likely to bond with a single person, making it more likely that their favourite person will be their only person. Breeds that tend to bond strongly to one person include:

  • Basenji
  • Greyhound
  • Shiba Inu
  • Cairn Terrier

If you are interested in this subject, and for more information on suitable dog breeds

How Do Dogs Choose Their Favorite Person? | The Dog People by Rover.com

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Looking back on Bear’s early months, is like a film reel, much like bringing up a boisterous child, it flashes up in memory scenes of carpet scrubbing, doggie howling, great escape attempts, ( and victories) pining for company at night and the ever present danger of the gate being left open. At least with a child there was always soft play on rainy days.

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Time races on, and if we aren’t careful we lose the magic of the best times inside the worst fragments of clutter, the mess, the noise. the lack of sleep, no routine, lack of control of no kind of order ever again.
We yearn for a different life, another one we saw somewhere online, where other people’s kids and animals always behave. We forget to remember the choices we made. And why we and they are here.

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What if the animal with you is teaching you what you need right now. What if the lessons being taught by daily experiences are showing up to enrich the life we can sometimes take for grated , and create new directions we hadn’t planned. Because we forgot there was more than one path to go down?.

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Our old dog skye was the gentlest calmest dog on the planet. She needed no lead, she just stayed by my side. She was so soft that Guinea pigs could sit in her box with her and be left there. She left the chicken use her as a sun block. Her soul was so pure and kind. It reached out to everyone that ever met her and we made friends through her as soon as we moved here. She was easy to take on holiday and we could leave her for hours quite happily, with food and toys. Building a life and painting things, creating art around Skye was a joy. She was like calm air next to you.

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So; losing her was devastating. You’ll know yourself if you love your animals how much of a gap they leave.
And out of the blue quite unexpectedly came a message on Facebook. My friend has a puppy. ‘She’s very cute,’ I say. ‘There’s one left in the litter’ Emily says back.
Crap
It wasn’t the plan. We were going to get the same dog again. Exactly the same dog. But it was what was meant to be.


This little black thing was put in my arms and nestled in. My friend helped co-ordinate the surprise for Leah, and it was wonderful. He was so small and fluffy and had big paws and a little round tummy.

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And then the reality sunk in.
He was also mad
And was not calm air. He was a cyclone.

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He didn’t stop. At all. And was very smart, working out to escape out of things very quickly, he literally had me cleaning carpets all day whilst crying for attention. He shouted when I wasn’t in the room (lockdown baby) and he needed a lot more love, moulding and effort than Skye ever did.
In short this soul was sent to try us.

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It was like going back 12 years with a small needy little baby and no support network to swap mum stories with.

However, we persevered. Through a mix of wierd trickery that dogs are expert at, love that can’t be explained , determination to get some sense into him and a bit of structure back. Two out of three isn’t bad.
He has taught us to be in the moment
He has been a much better guard dog and actually is helpfully instinctive about people. Although he is very gentle, he can still shout.

He has brought challenges which needed to be overcome, and is very good at receiving and giving hugs, which we are all desperate for just now.

Dogs need fresh air regardless of the weather, and we need reasons sometimes to keep getting outside and breathing it, especially if, like me, the cold affects your body. The days are planned better with the sun grabbed like a precious jewel and savoured between days and months at home.


His presence has encouraged a mindful way of living and possessing things. We have had to have less clutter because he eats it.
There is less of a concern with the perfection of our space (not that I was ever Mrs Bucket), because two minutes hater Bear will have charged around like a race horse and messed it up. Just like a toddler he has no concept of what is his to use, as I recall various lipsticks Leah smeared on her cheeks and shoes of mine she plonked about in. It’s ok. This will not be this way for ever. Already he isn’t the same as he was two weeks ago. What you get is to be in the moment with a dog. This was his very first moment of a play date.

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Writing this morning there is a big dog lump on my knee, having his morning cuddle, being gentle with the other animals, going through to Leah’s room soon for his morning leap on her bed, I realise he was exactly the dog we needed. Bear fits us all.


Time is spent more wisely when you have less of it, when incorporating a new element into the routine, almost like having a new born again. I had to make art when he napped, clean the house when he was out for a walk with Leah , keep things simple both in structure and in terms of what was around us physically. It was a daily battle. But it also provided a pretty great distraction from all that was awful in the world. Or at least somewhere to put all that love we seem to have around here.

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Between a child that is naturally messy and a dog that eats everything on earth, it is a daily ritual to scan everything ALL the time and has been since he arrived. . Socks, books, coal, Lego, plastic or wood of any kind. All small objects below waist height were up for grabs. As he grew, so did his range of edible delights and the strain of hiding more things. Or throwing them away.
But in doing that, another thing happened. Selections were made about what mattered and what could go, or be safely given as a new toy, or be saved.

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Things become less precious when you keep having to throw away cushions that get eaten. And I love cushions. But there are years of your life that are scruffier than others, more dog eared, more selective.
He was in affect, the doggie version of Marie Kondo.

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And once he started it became a bit easier to keep clearing out and taking stock of what was precious and needed to be hidden for now!

There were months of stressful bits, but it wasn’t the whole story. Leah magically captured the real Bear so far here .

My hearts

It was never my intention to have lots of animals! Your heart seems to expand the more beasts and children you squish into your life. From the multitude of cats and dogs, to the guinea pigs, fish, and chickens who have lived with us, all of them have been loved , valued and treasured. However long an animal is with you, if we respect its temperament and fears, the rest follows. And hopefully the time we have together teaches us to slow down and see life through our pets eyes..

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I have lessened the time spent online recently, pouring energies into the immediacy of home, creating, animals, future ideas and health. But this quote I saw on face-book captures what animals teach us to do by proxy, and returning to life after the pandemic, I hope will teach us the same.

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Even if you don’t have an animal yourself, but enjoy the company of other people’s, there is much to learn from how animals learn from us and how it is possible for us all to co-exist peacefully, slowing down and using our instincts wisely. And maybe oiling our hearts in the process.

With love, fur and feathers, Liz and the zoo xxxx

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Sandcastle


This week has made me realise just how fast the Roller-coaster between feeling pure joy and the physical paralysis sadness can wreak in this wonderland we call lockdown.
It is amazing. One minute everything is so boringly normal you could scream stepping into your Monday pants, and then all of a sudden there you are staring into the eyes of yet another crazy person with too much time on their hands and not enough energy directed at their own underwear drawer.

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I might be the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet, so please don’t think I’ve had a bump on the head. But this Tiger mum who keeps her 7 cubs safe… ( only one human one) unknowingly woke up in the Jeremy Kyle show. The weather was warm with a promise of Spring sunshine. Along came a tornado.

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Whilst in my favourite pyjamas, secretly desperately chuffed with myself for changing my broadband and setting up my new tv package, I was basking in the happiness that can only be found in a remote control and Netflix and twiddling with business computery things in front of the fire, various animals snoozing next to me, child happily playing for once outside with her best friend . Bliss.

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The air is starting to ease it’s winter tensions, Spring smells had begun to tease us in the morning, just slightly too cool to actually drink tea outside, but almost.
And as I uploaded photos, this week , it felt lovely, both of us in the middle of creating new projects, some things nobody knows about yet, some things are revisited, some are ongoing and some are bearing fruit ; and like the garden and the clothing possibilities in the morning’s choices, we are starting to unfurl towards Spring..

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There was a hammering on the door and an angry woman’s face. In mine.

The people attempting to cause problems for others in the world aren’t really what this art and positivity site was supposed to be about. But that is unfortunately a mirror for life’s weird and wonderful journey; we do not get to chose everything in it. Sometimes the big kid stomps on your sandcastle. And it is whether you let the big kid stop you ever building another one again, that counts.

. When we moved to an idyllic little village we had visions of an idyllic little village, leaving the city outskirts for the sanctuary of a new start, we created a beautiful new home by the sea, with all the freedom a child could need . In the short few years we have lived here, both of us have now been subjected to behaviours by adults last seen in the playground .

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Model village

Whilst there have been reports filed, this is apparently quite a frequent occurrence to anyone not born in a small village. And the Police and other agencies have been overwhelmed with a stack of historical paperwork on these small town politics, chasing the blue skies into grey storm clouds…
Sounds a little bit to familiar to me.

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Making physical and verbal threats to other humans is clearly unacceptable.. Which was what the authorities also thought. Especially when unprovoked and repeated.

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There are many reasons, as we’ve discussed before, why people believe their feelings are more important or true than others. And therefore they feel they can dominate people because of this.


And the smaller and smaller a place you go, the worse this gets. Ironically, it is usually the most beautiful of places too. Having lived most of my adult life in Edinburgh where you could be any version of yourself at any time, nobody would notice. Walking home dressed in face paint from a performance, or covered in paint one day and dressed in a suit the next. The melting pot of human diversity in most places is what makes it healthy, interesting, fun and normal.

I don’t know how it feels to wake up and think anyone else’s business is mine, apart from those I love

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Despite having the same physical symptoms every day, keeping positive and creative keeps chronic conditions more bearable. Having layers of meaning and joy with the little little things we do, helps with all our states of mind. We eat so we don’t get inflammation, we breathe better, we maintain simple clarity for our family and health, we take pleasure in the ways of life that are colourful and joyful, especially when those things connect with other like minded people.

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So…..
When that subtle but vital cloak of protection is constantly snatched away by jealousy or ignorance it is not only another thing to maintain, but starts to become a very scratchy garment to wear instead. Thankfully we have an amazing network of friends and support out with the immediacy of certain goings on. But I am compelled to write about this because I know from your letters and responses that our experiences are not singular. If one of you feels something, somewhere we all do, or know someone who does. And hopefully it can help a little to discuss and compare .

Suddenly being scared, or anxious and confused because of something, someone out of your control, can physically overwhelm all your senses and your body’s defences.

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It is hard enough to deal with if you have the strength to go and kick box a giant padded dummy, but if your immunity is medically low, your body literally starts to attack itself. Go figure. It joins in.

The world is supposed to be a magical and kindly place. We should be able to trust all the creatures in the forest. There should be kindly folk at hand on our adventures and little birds singing on our shoulder.

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Just like in the story books


Thankfully, as I had both cctv, and my daughter was cavorting about with her best friend in a field making Tick Tick videos, both events were recorded. What I can’t get out of my head, is my daughter’s reaction after she had politely answered the screaming woman, and after the car sped off. That fear will haunt me, hopefully far longer than it will her.

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We all recognise this feeling.
Bullies from the snotty lunch money thieving playground ones to the ones we accidentally become involved with in innocence, trusting their stories of past heroics and future bounty, or the sudden and unexpected lashing out of a probably sad, angry human whose path your shadow fell onto.

Their fallout is the same, the negative, horrid, damaging, heavy, words, actions, threats, imminent behaviour strikes fear which goes way beyond the action of simply getting the stuff out of their heads into the world. These arrows land on the victim like physical blows and can change their entire outlook.

If we let them. And if our invisible armour isn’t adjusted.

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I couldn’t stop crying. My face hurt from it. But somewhere I knew it was temporary. I ran out of words a little bit and couldn’t move. My body was changed. The life force we need to choose our clothes, make a meal, be centered, that energy that usually flows was frozen. I had to say to a few people, for a few days, give me a minute. Those days were stolen .

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When we get attacked, we get invaded. Sometimes it is easy to brush off, sometimes though, especially if it has happened over and over, it can be one time too many. Here was a numbness and a seemingly irrational powerlessness.


There was too many associations with other situations which were similar. But I knew this. I could feel it like a cold hand pushing me back into a dark forest of feelings I just didn’t want to go into…… I witnessed myself experiencing this mad event through the eyes of my future self and knew letting this negativity win
wasn’t an option.

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Some days there are just too many ladders to climb


Observing my earthly body thus, it occurred to me that we must go through a series of bodily trials when we are shocked, appalled, worried and exhausted. Physically stunned, we lose our hunger for food, or the usual routines, but our senses are acutely aware of our loved ones in our peripheral vision.

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Your head gets crammed with cotton wool, your body wants to do is turn inside itself. Your eyes are leaking all by themselves and start to be filled with sand, which you keep trying to hide in front of your children. Gone is the tiny reserve of energy you stored up for that evening’s or day’s essential plans like cooking or bathing or folding laundry . Your already exhausted immune wrecked body is on hyperdrive looking for the enemy but attacking only you.
When you are ill and you are bullied, you are being slowly rubbed out from the inside and it takes a will of iron to stand in the eye of the storm, preserving precious energy.

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But of course you must. Every day, everywhere, situations are occurring where terrible things happen to good people day after day. This in the big scheme of things was horrible for us, but was dealt with and we are lucky to have the ability to make future choices. A pandemic, already challenging the world’s mental health, already forcing the isolated into isolation is why all differences should be celebrated not picked on. If we as humans are watched, it should be with loving eyes , because your self is so marvellous. This is no time for not being able to shine.

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After so much life on hold, we can’t hide our selves too.

We are equipped with ways to cope with sudden shock, if we hear our higher kinder self. As much as we want to please the concerned friends trying their best to help. What we all need sometimes is a different thing. Your true friends can and will want to learn to understand this, just as you do. All we can do is keep being open. Last night I received a lovely phone call from a 90 year old nun . I taught her and several of her friends in a care home. She and I haven’t spoken in three years but have sent letters. It was like we were on the phone yesterday. One of the residents, another Elizabeth Walker, who was dear to Leah and I , died yesterday. Monika gently talked about how she had sat with her and it had been very peaceful.

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Life is short, and sometimes tricky but there is always a light on. There are so many good people it is almost ridiculous. There are still so many reasons to brush yourself down and keep going. There are so many people in our lives even if we don’t see them for the longest time.

Forcing my legs into the cold, and leaving the Grinch in bed, the bear and I went to the beach today at 7.15. Am. He loved it. Nobody to scold him for running up to them and mimicking a small horse.


He galloped about, I watched the sky, bigger than all of us. We watched the swimmers, braver than all of us.
I managed just enough steps to feel a bit proud. Next time I’ll get to the water.
He waited nicely at the car and we listened to story tapes on the way to do the shopping in Aldi.
I shopped in peace, and was met like a long lost friend because we hadn’t done our shopping in person there for a month. ( having done it online when I hadn’t felt well). Next time they said the staff would take it in turns to drop off my shopping.

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We even managed to witness God on the A1, n a miraculous burst of light on the sea. And stopping on the layby wasn’t accompanied by ‘ God mum, you’re soooooo embarrassing’

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Life can and always does make progress and another day passes without going backwards.
The line between easy and hard is often paper thin, and a moment of someone else’s madness can be enough to create an effect like the blurry button on your camera phone.. In these times, most people are still kind, and in the widest world billions truly are incredible.
Sometimes it is the thought of the cold that is the hardest challenge . But as these guys are there every day, my guess it is must get warmer once you brave that first step…

Everyone loves a little healthy kingdom ruling once in a while though… just ask a dog. The difference is they cover you in big wet kisses afterwards.

Once out of the house, the village, The Grinch was happy to have peace, bear was happy to have space and it felt good having challenged myself to do these things alone.

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Today our chicken got out of her hutch. A small victory swiftly regretted after a brief flap around the trampoline when a giant pair of bear like jaws came hurtling down on her wing… Whether it was surprise at landing a catch or his practice at being so gentle with the guinea pigs every night; they just stopped and stared at one another in shock . Holding one in each hand like toddlers in a food fight, the Beast had to be gotten out of the way temporarily in order to coax Sugar back.

Safely back in the kitchen but trying to get out of the cat flap, bear watched as Sugar frolicked for a while with me in tow. Wondering how I would convince my lower body half to get all the way down to the ground to catch her, I rang Dr Doolittle on her mobile. Knowing full well that it was highly unlikely she would tear herself away from making her latest mini movie..

And then I stood still..

Slowed my heart rate and considered all eventualities briefly before leaving fate to step in

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And just like that, Sugar wandered into the cage, as if nothing had happened.

In our time there have been a series of challenges which have bordered on unbelievable. But they have only underlined the sanctity of home, of stillness and of loyalty to those people in your life who never judge, never comment, never complain; just allow you to be you.

These recent experiences may be the beginning of a new chapter for us. Who knows. As my friend Yvonne, who lives in Spain and who I miss dearly says’ Going beyond our shores is so much healthier for understanding other people.’ Certainly, staying in one place and growing more judgemental and bitter is not a life choice, regardless of the petrol it saves.

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All through this week I have been listening to the audio of the Wintering by Katherine May. My friend Nicola reminded me of the existence of Audible and recommended this book . It has been an absolute pleasure to be immersed in the beautiful visuals of May’s words , sensitively conjuring up how necessary and elemental our own seasons must be. Through chopping carrots and kale in the mornings to folding towels or finishing drawings, hearing her exploration of why and how we winter makes us see how there is a vital need to stop and refuel, especially when we find ourselves on empty , to gather in, restock, replenish, recharge, re new . It has come to be my new favourite book on so many levels.

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Wintering isn’t a four month period. wintering is stepping back and knowing that you must preserve your energy, skills, sense of self and purpose, gather your fuel, gather those you love, gather your breath. We are all in a kind of winter at the moment. losing some of the choices we normally use to gather momentum to propel to the next season. Without outside reminders in big ways, explosive adverts for chocolate eggs and holidays, get aways and rewards for surviving another cold spell, we must be our own advocate, our own reward, our own chicken soup. ( Sorry Sugar)

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There is a big big world out there, full of all of you inspirational people . Perhaps we land in a place for a while so that we can winter and create without distraction. And then really find our words.

Sometimes we must stand still and save precious energy whilst we figure out what the big dog will do next. Sometimes we get to gather in all the tools that only we know we need, and sometimes when the time is right, we can walk calmly back into our house that we chose, because we know we chose it, and it no longer feels like a prison. And we will all know that there will not be monsters or viruses or big black creatures at the door.

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Personally our view will always be beautiful. We will keep building our sandcastle and put the most beautiful shells we can find on it. And if it gets washed away, kicked over, well do it all again tomorrow; because that is half the fun.

Standing Strong as I know you are Too

with all our love,

Liz and the zoo

xxxx