on the year of change

When I look back at the year just ending there will be so many things to reflect on.  Watching my gorgeous Granddaughter change from baby to toddler, taking her first steps and finding her voice.  Delighting in every stage, we simply could not love her more.  Taking equal pride in her Mum and Dad, who have come through tough times, now more positive than ever, they are an amazing team.

A summer spent in a Welsh garden, nestling in the hills, our own little bit of paradise.  We were joined this year by friends and family, creating happy memories of fun in the sunshine.  We built a shed, we planted and watched the flowers bloom.  We laughed here, perhaps more than I ever have before.  Getting to know new friends, joining neighbours for Pimms and beer, swapping stories and finding shared interests.

Waving my daughter off on her adventures, hoping that the world will love her as much as I do was tricky, but then finding to my delight that she makes friends easily and is living in the moment every day.  I couldn’t ask for more for her than what she wishes for herself.  Her spirit, her sense of fun and her friendliness equips her well wherever she chooses to be.

In the middle of family life I was beginning to feel a bit rootless, wondering what I should be doing with myself and how I could find my own place in the world again.  Social media brought new friends, people from across the world and I have loved getting to know these people, talking often, sometimes too often.

Then came the end of the summer and with it news of the refugee’s walking across Europe in search of a new normality,  their homes destroyed and lives threatened they set off to in hope towards a new life. Shocking images leapt into the living room and were not forgotten. They are not forgotten yet.  It took me weeks to work out if there was anything I could do to help them on their journey, but once I worked it out a whole world I had never imagined lay before me.

Once I saw into this world there was no going back.  In the midst of helplessness and despair there was one amazing focus.  There are lots of people, just like me, coming together to help.  All my life I have wanted to change the world, this year was the year I worked out how to do it!  I know whatever I do, here in England may not change very much for very many, but there are hundreds of people just like me, everywhere, and together we are changing things.

I understand that we cannot stop bombing and war, that some people will continue to hate, and there will sadly be many more babies dying in the seas.  But the wonderful network of people across the world and especially within Europe are making a difference every day.  The small acts of kindness together are comforting those on the journey.  A new pair of shoes, a warm coat, a kind word and food in the belly.  All provided with love and care from strangers, some of whom are now amongst my dearest friends. The strong and brave people who put their lives on hold and give time and love to those arriving on the shores of Europe, guiding boats into safe beaches, treating the sick, feeding the crowds.

So in a year when so many governments across the world turned away from those in need, when the mega force of media magnates raged against people who happened to live and love in a place of war, when my country inexplicitly elected politicians that were never going to care about anyone but themselves,  where we could have given up hope, we didn’t.  Instead we got off our sofas and did something, and this alone meant that we were joined with many more people who also did the same.

As we leave this year behind and move into 2016 I cannot help but think that 2015 will be remembered forever as the year the world began to change.  The year that ordinary people worked together in spite of governments, in spite of people telling them it was hopeless.  A wave of hope and friendship was forged, where it no longer was enough to give a bit of cash to an appeal, when people power was harnessed and help was offered.

As I watched my Granddaughter this afternoon, working out her world, laughing and playing, safe, loved, warm and well, a part of my heart was lost to all the other toddlers, the Mums and Dads, the Nana’s and Pop’s who love as passionately as I do, to the people still walking towards safety, those sleeping in tents in the snow and the children playing in the mud in a camp. I hope they know ordinary people are coming to help them, that we care and we will not longer leave it up to someone else.

I start this new year in a positive yet reflective mood.  I have hope that the human race may yet be won with kindness and love, and that we will all choose to offer the hand of friendship to others.  I understand I am the luckiest of people, I have all that I need and most of what I want.  May 2016 be kind to you all.

on happy days

‘Happy Days is a saying I have perhaps overused at times.  I have been fortunate to have many days in which I have smiled and laughed, have spent time doing things I love with good friends and family.

Yesterday was a happy day.  I journeyed to Spain, for a pre Christmas visit to my beautiful girl.  From arriving at the airport everything was wonderful.  No delays, swift boarding onto an half empty plane and a flight with views over France and the mountains that was straight out of a film.  I watched from my window as green fields crossed roads and railway lines, towns spreading into the countryside we then were headed over the foothills towards Pyrenees. There I coud see below me tiny villages nestling in mountain passages, you could almost reach out and touch the snow capped peaks.  I was thinking of the time almost forty years ago when I travelled up those mountain roads on an adventure to Andorra.  Then I had no clue of what the world was really about, just a desire to travel, to seek out new places and to see for myself places I had only ever seen on maps.

Landing at my destination and hugging my gorgeous girl felt good.  She is the only one of my children who has my travelling spirit.  She has lived in several places this past year, each time making new friends, finding her feet, getting jobs and learning about the world.  We travel to our home for the next few days by taxi, the driver friendly and helpful, and once in our apartment we planned the rest of our day.

Heading firstly to the beach, my baby girl negotiated the Metro with the confidence of a resident, she is very much at home here.  We walked a while then sat and ate good food, people watching and catching up on news.  Later we headed into the city and I was spellbound by the beauty of the buildings all around us.

Spanish people shopping, chatting, talking in groups amidst the bright Christmas lights and pretty decorations.  It felt wonderful.  We found a pretty square, there are dozens to choose from, and sat at a table watching the street entertainers, Spanish guitars strummed and hopeful sales people offered us their wares.  It was still warm, although the light was fading.  We laughed at the crazy lady with too short trousers who gave a rendition of Jingle Bells loudly and in tune, in a mixture of at least three languages all in the same verse.  We watched as bright lights flew above our heads to float back to the ground to be snatched back by the man intent on selling them to everyone.

It is tiring travelling and enjoying yourself.  We headed home for an early night, where we watched Spanish TV while drinking English tea and eating cookies.  We talked about life, about what we will do tomorrow and I think both us recognised how fortunate we are.

Sometimes it is hard to be a Mum of a gorgeous girl who is determined to live her life in the world.  Sometimes you think it would be good if she stayed close to home, then I wouldn’t miss her quite so much.  Sometimes that is true.  Mostly though I am glad that she has the confidence and the talents to make a life of her own choosing.  That she knows just who she is and is not afraid to go into the world, she does not expect things to come to her.

So for the next couple of days we will wander around the city that is presently her home.  I am due to meet her friends, to see her workplace and together we will experience a Spanish city in December.  Next week it will be Christmas and I will be back at home peeling carrots, roasting turkey and wrapping presents.  She will be with her Spanish friends, laughing and having fun.   Of course we will miss her, but how much more can Mum want than a daughter who is making her own Happy Days and living the life she is choosing.





on rainbows

this advent is celebrating things that make us happy, and there is very little that makes me happier than seeing a colourful rainbow across the sky.

I have always loved rainbows.  I love the way they appear when you are least expecting them, nature and science combining to brighten up a grey sky.  I love that you have to have sunshine and rain to make a rainbow reminding me that in nature as in life everything is connected and working in unison.  I love the way they have no end, stay for as long as they do and they are out of our control.

A bright and beautiful arch of colour in the sky gives me a hope for better things to come.  I have seldom seen a rainbow without being reminded of happy times, and always they are a symbol of goodness.

When I first met my husband we spent a lot of time in cars driving across the UK.  Almost every trip we made, be it in the south, in London town, in the hills and at the coast, we almost always saw a rainbow.  They seemed to follow us around, constantly affirming what we already knew, life was getting better.  It was as if the world was smiling on us. All these years later, we have had our ups and downs but rainbows still appear and always make me feel peaceful and happy.

I remember as a child being fascinated, when one day, I found a rainbow in a puddle.  I excitedly told Mum this miracle in the gutter, she explained that is was oil on the street mixing with rain making colours.  I have no idea if that is true but it is what I believed her and marvelled  once again the mixture of such different things creating something beautiful.

When faced with difficulties in an impossible job a colleague and I used to have a saying to get us through the tricky times.  ‘Rainbows and fluffy things’ was our code for, it isn’t all bad, the world has lots of good things to offer.  It does indeed.

May your rainy days be followed by sunshine and may your heart be lifted by the colours in the sky.



on dressing the tree

tomorrow we are planning on putting up our Christmas tree.  Not the huge big one we have had for several years, this time a smaller tree, just right for our little house will be decked with a hundred memories.

Our tree has very few shiny baubles and it is never, ever going to be themed or classy.  Instead it is a cacophony of colour, of home made wonderful things, of tiny angels and beautiful bits and pieces from a lifetime of Christmas joy.

The precious pieces will be lifted from boxes and placed with care.  Each one an old friend, each one a memory. The crooked smile of the angel, the last piece to be placed, high at the top, where she has sat in all of my living rooms for almost thirty years. Where she has watched the children grow, the family change shape and now the next generation will be under her spell. As will the tiny robin who has his own place on a branch every year.

There are decorations made by my children at play school and in the kitchen, there are those gifted by friends from far and wide. The angel from Latvia will dangle delicately, while close by the Disney mouse will remind us of happy times in France.

My tree will never win an award, it is not one the neighbours would covet but to me it is perfect.  An annual reminder of all that has been good.  The trinkets are worthless and at once priceless, and somehow it says clearly and loudly, there is a family here.  There are people who love each other and who believe.  It is never quite as polished as it could be, and yet it is full of memories and hope, brighter than any of the lights that adorn it.

Tradition and family, the Christmas season repeats patterns and somehow roots us in the now.  This year things will be very different, but the tree will be there, with the angel keeping watch over all of us as she has done so many times before.


on a second self

this weekend my hubby and I gave our good friends a lift to the station where they were setting off on a weekend away to celebrate a birthday.  As we drove off from the station watching them carry their bags onto the platform I was filled with happy thoughts.

These people are more than friends to me.  In the darkest hours, in my worst moments they have stood next to me and held on tight.  In the happiest of times there they were in the middle, getting on with making everything even more wonderful than it was already.  They have also been there on the mundane, dreary days when nothing much happens. Together we have watched our children grow and have delighted in their successes. We have worried about nothing and laughed more than I ever would have known.

Shared memories, investing time and a helping hand.  These are the mechanics of friendship.  If you have such friends then you too are lucky, you will know the power of acceptance, you will understand how it is when words are not needed, when you have as it were, ‘a second self’.  Me but not me.  That is my best friend.


on singing

today I had the great pleasure to be in a group who were serenaded by a flash mob choir at an event I was involved with.

They came in all shapes and sizes.  I first saw them waiting to cross the road, standing on the kerb smiling, lots of smiles.  There were men and women there were young people.  Some tall, some small and everyone single one with a huge voice and a heart to match.  They started slowly,  as the song developed they each took their own part, the melody echoing around the room. My tears fell freely, this was a song of inspiration, of hope and of challenging oppression, then the tears gave way to smiles as the positive energy bounced from the walls and into everyone’s soul.

There is a tremendous connection between music and feelings, no more so than hearing voices singing in harmony, singing a song that has meaning and relevance to the time and the place.  In truth the song was perfect but the reason for that was the singing was heartfelt, honest and wonderful.  A whole bunch of people on a Saturday afternoon bringing happiness where ever they go.

If I live to be a hundred this experience will stay with me.  One of those memories that will keep me going when times are not great, will make me smile as I remember the happy feelings.  For that I will always be grateful

If you have a voice, you must use your voice.  Use it to sing loud and proud and take happiness to the world.  It will lift, it will cheer and it will spread happiness from the heart to the soul.

on generosity

to be generous is a gift.  To give to others what they need and not think of yourself is one of the happiest things anyone can do.

There are so many people who have very little, so many struggling to survive and to live a life worth living.  From those sleeping on the streets of our cities to the families landing on beaches running from war, their reality is not what anyone would hope for.

No one plans for this sort of life, not one person wakes up and thinks today I will make my life truly difficult.  Whether it is bombs and bullets or family breakdown, mental health problems or despair, those in need, need help.

How wonderful it is then, that there are many people, often who have little to spare themselves who are generous of spirit and offer the helping hand.  The pensioner knitting hats and scarves for cold babies on beaches, the young Mum who is collecting duvets for homeless people, the children giving a favourite bear to a child who has left all their toys in a war zone. Small gifts with great consequences.  Then there are those who give money, lots of money to support and help where it is most needed.

I think it is fair to say that these generous acts make us all happy.  Happy that we can do that one small thing to show another we care.  Happy that people are coming together and together are making a difference.  Those in need,  I hope are also made less miserable, they must know that someone cared, cared enough to write a note, to bag a teddy bear, to pack new underwear and to say, here is our hand, take it and we will hold you.

So, to be generous is to be the best of humankind.  Everyone has something to give, their time, their friendship, their money, their Teddy Bear, all will make the difference.

Maybe we will never change the world, but we can make it better one Teddy at a time.

on baby steps

last week I looked out of my kitchen window to see my daughter in law making her way up to our house.  We are so lucky to live so close to each other, as their home is in the road directly behind our house.  I go and unlock the back door and wait for her to arrive.

Several minutes pass and she has not arrived.  I open the back door wondering where she is and see the back gate swing open. There holding tightly to Mummy’s hand is my gorgeous Granddaughter.  She has walked all the way from her house to mine in her shiny new first pair of shoes. Her smile beams out from beneath her huge hood as her warm winter coat keeps the chills away.  Her cheeks are red and she is so proud of herself. Her slow determined steps coming towards my back door.

Later they make their way back home and I am reflecting on the moment. Her very first walk to our house.  I am thinking of her tiny self, putting one foot in front of the other and loving every second.  It makes me think of her future, of all the other places her feet will take her in time.

I am thinking of her first day at school, dancing classes and trips out with friends.  I am thinking of later, when, without Mummy holding her hand she will stride out and make the world her own.  May her feet take her everywhere her dreams want her to go, she will be brave and strong and I hope she will always know how much she is loved.  I will never forget her first walk to Nana’s house, this tiny beautiful girl.  She makes my heart happy every day.

on being kind

a wonderful thing happened recently.  I was accompanying an older relative to a tea shop were we had the most lovely lunch.  The shop was warm and welcoming and real tea in Santa festooned tea pots played well with the festive decorations and the warm smile of our waitress.

As I went to pay our bill I chatted to the lady at the till and told her how impressed I was with the tea shop.  I said ‘it was just how I would want a cafe of mine to be, wonderful!’  She replied that I must return soon, and I had to tell her that I live many miles away and was just up visiting my relative, who lived close by.  ‘Well she must come again then’ said my cheery new friend.  I had to explain that my relative is isolated and cannot go out alone, so this might be difficult, but thanked her for us having a lovely lunch today.

Back at our table we were gathering our things together to go back to the car in the wind and rain when the lady from the till appeared, pen and paper in hand.  She turned to my relative and said ‘you are exactly the type of person I want in my tea shop, you really must come often’ as we began to reply she said ‘so if I can have your name and phone number, one of my girls will pop and pick you up, you can come and sit near the counter and chat to us and enjoy our tea’

My eyes filled up.  This woman had understood in a heartbeat how to help. There was no pity in her tone, just matter of fact, wanting to fill her tea shop with nice people.  My relative pulled herself up straight as she gave her details, I think she said thank you, I wasn’t paying too much attention as my eyes had started leaking!!

The kindness of strangers, it can change the world for someone.

An advent of happiness

to counteract all the wickedness in the world, the hopelessness and the fear this year the Advent had to be about happiness.

Each day in December  I will be remembering the good things and reflecting on the strength in positive thoughts.  This is not to say I am not concerned, worried and tired of the negative in the world.  It is just to say that now, in the run up to Christmas I am going to focus on the other things that make us all smile.

There are a thousand small things that make a difference to an otherwise gloomy day.  Finding a space in a car park that is just where you need to be.  Sunshine on the step on a Spring morning, fresh crisp bedlinen after a bubble bath.  These are the things that pass quickly and are sometimes unnoticed.  These are the things we need to pay attention to, as these are the happy moments within busy lives.

One of my very favourite happy moments happens often as it is sitting in our snug warm living room, chatting with hubby about something and nothing   An asthmatic cat is wheezing behind the sofa and yes it is very simple, but I remember the days when I didn’t have my hubby or this snug home, and taking it for granted is just not an option.

So here it is, Day One of the Advent and it is all about the happy times. May they be all around you and may you take the time to enjoy them whenever and where ever you can.