Ever onwards; always developing

Someone once described me as being like a butterfly – and later had a dream of me as the Ice Queen, fighting off his enemies.  Both beautiful images which I take as compliments, holding them dear and treasuring them in my heart (“Thank You” to the man who said them to me).  But they also made – and make – me consider myself: what do they say about me?  Obviously any interpretation is subjective – what they conjure up to me may be completely different for someone else.  The main thing that struck me was a sense of strength and elegance; of flying free; and yet of delicate beauty – of fragility.  A butterfly can so easily be crushed, and ice can shatter into seemingly glass-like shards, which melt away to water (another substance however which can seem so fragile and yet have such enormous strength).  But that is not to deny that there is an appropriate strength there.

That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling recently.  I know I am strong; I know I can get through the bad things which have happened and which continue to happen to me; but I am also conscious of how I flew too high and crashed so, so far, and I feel broken; splintered.  Is that possible?  Is there anything wrong with flying too high?  Do we sometimes have to do that in order to learn the very lessons that we need?  Do we need to fly that high in order truly to become freer – to fly off the path we were on and perhaps crash land onto the one we were meant to be on?

Hence the previous post: I am trying to face up to my pain and to learn from it: and there are all sorts of lessons I am learning.  Lessons about myself (as a mother; as a friend; as a singer and creative person; as a lover); lessons about human nature.  By stepping back and examining myself I am also learning better how to look out at the world and see myself in perspective.  Although I could be accused of being introspective, that is helping me at the same time to be more sensitive to the world around me, and to look at the bigger picture, and I’m reading all sorts of writing by all sorts of people from a worldwide spread of religious and non-religious viewpoints.  Some themes keep repeating themselves: for example that we are individuals but we are all made of the same matter, and interconnected.  Whilst we are tiny specks compared to the stars, I love thinking of us all as star dust.  I also want to help others – not in a social worker sort of way as that’s not me, but somehow through using my skills as a writer, performer and communicator.  I want to help change the world: and it’s interesting that my daughter seems to have the same ambition, which she has acquired completely on her own, not from anything I have said to her.  Perhaps she, at 10, has a better sense of her ‘life path’ than I did.

I went for a walk up Talkin Fell again yesterday.  As I walked up through the woods the bluebells waved under the trees, a blue haze splattered with sunshine and shadows (the photos at the top show the bluebells in Ridge Woods as well), birds singing as a backdrop.  Up on the solitary top the wind was strong and in the distance I could see it was raining over Scotland and the Lakeland Fells: but above me there was a bright blue sky with just floaty wisps of cirrus.  The tiny exquisitely graceful white wild flowers were brushed by the wind; a lapwing and its mate called anxiously to each other and then flew up together to check that no predators (me) were approaching their nest.  For a time I sat, leaning against stone, and just soaked it all in.

Later my friends Jo and Mike arrived, on their way home from Orkney.  They took me out to dinner at the Golden Fleece at Ruleholme – we had booked a table as it’s practically impossible to get in otherwise, it’s so popular.  Deservedly so – the décor is lovely (I particularly like the maps on the tables, and we all liked the way there are different dining areas); the ambiance is comfortable and busy without being too noisy; they had about 5 or 6 different gins to choose from; the service is professional but friendly; and the food was lovely and cooked exactly how we requested.  However it is probably one of the most expensive restaurants locally, though it’s good value for money as the food is good and the helpings are generous.  The only disappointment was that there was not more choice of vegetarian and fish options (and in fact that is where Capernaum bistro in Brampton has a real selling point – but perhaps people around here are predominantly carnivores!).  A 16 oz Chateaubriand was 57 GBP (sorry – the pound sign has disappeared from my computer)… none of us had that…

Today was Sunday, the day of the week which I have always found the lowest point if I’m feeling low already.  I refined a promotional leaflet for Two Red Heads and… for Care Homes, and delivered a few by foot; a big pile of ironing is waiting (perhaps to be done in front of a film) and a pile of washing is waiting to be hung up.  My children used to come back on a Sunday: I won’t see them until tomorrow after school.  Something has to change.


Places for contemplation

This blogpost has been some time in gestation.   I’ve been travelling around the north west, and travelling always makes me contemplate life: I’m also currently reading Jostein Gaarder’s novel-come-philosophy book, Sophie’s World, and have just finished Lyn Thurman’s The Inner Goddess Revolution.  All heady stuff (I’m going to read about the Crusades next… one middle-eastern originating monotheistic religion fighting another… don’t they think that maybe they worship the same God, who would be disappointed in the squabbles and blood shed over the detail of how to worship him?).

I want to quote from Thurman’s book as it relates in part to world philosophies and religions, and is relevant both to men and to women, as well as echoing many other things I have read over the past year or more.

“The time we have on this planet is precious and so very short.  We have to live each day in a sense of awe at the gift we’ve been given, and to treat each day with joy [Me: sometimes more easily said than done…].  Imagine how you would feel if each morning you were on a holiday…

You can do that, you know.

A holiday is a ‘holy day’; a day that’s spiritual and sacred… You’re given a brand new holiday with each sunrise… you can choose your path forward.  You can follow your dreams and be outrageously authentic… 

You change, the world around you changes, and you become the change.  The world needs that.”

What is clear to me from all this reading and thinking is that the majority of mankind has always felt that there is a spiritual side to us human beings; but also a consciousness that we are somehow both small and great at once – part of a larger universe and yet each of us capable of greatness, should we choose and should we follow our ‘true’ path and let ourselves shine.  Perhaps for some that’s almost an impossibility: for some day to day survival is the priority, and profound thinking is a luxury. On the other hand thank goodness there are those who do think profoundly, and have done over the centuries, as it seems to me that those who don’t think strategically, altruistically and wisely enough are those who at times have led us into meaningless wars.  There was a fascinating programme about the Crusades which I caught on catch-up TV a couple of months ago, which made me consider how blinkered in their thinking the medieval Crusaders were.

The travelling has also made me think about the ‘spirit of place’, however – the Genius Loci as the polytheistic Romans called it.  Even nowadays there are some places which draw us more than others: some draw many thousands of people (look at Stonehenge over the ages); some are more personal.  I’ve written about my special places in this blog many times, but out in the warm sun – for the first time this year I could just have worn a t-shirt – for a run this morning I thought about it again.

I love living where I do.  I love this wild borderland, further north than the north, and its deep sense of history, even if it has been a troubled history of conflict and death.  I also loved living in the Pyrenees, for similar reasons: I lived in an area which had swapped backwards and forwards between France and Spain, was a great distance from the capital city (and therefore ‘misunderstood’ if not ignored) and also which has the hills and the sea.  And today it made me think about places for contemplation.  They seem, for me at least, to be places with a strong sense of the physical as well as being soulfully uplifting.

The other day I was in Southport on business.  I’m rather nosey about places anyway – I’m not very good at just going somewhere directly and then turning round and heading home again – I like to explore a bit.  There was the long, long pier, just begging me to walk to the end of it, out over the sea.  As I walked the wind got stronger until I stood at the end feeling as if any moment I might be lifted up and blown away.  The sun was out but over the land to the north rain clouds could be seen: in fact as I travelled home that day there was snow on the top of Shap Fell.  From where I was standing I could see North Wales in one direction and Blackpool in the other.  The power of the wind was exhilarating.

A few days later I ran up Talkin Fell.  Again, the power of the wind was incredible but lifted my spirits.  This time I was, of course, high up and the sea was distant – and I stood on the top of the hill and shouted.  Despite the force and strength of the wind, I felt strong: rooted to the ground and yet with my head in the clouds (well, almost).  It’s an intoxicating feeling and in fact it’s always with some reluctance that I leave the top and start my descent.  In Ridge Woods I’m in amongst the trees and it’s they who are rooted to the ground with tops in the sky: funny how strong they seem and yet after a gale or storm there will be those which have fallen.

And then I sing.  An act which is physical (you can’t sing properly without some physical effort) and yet which is also effortless… I find my voice soaring high thrilling but I have to be firmly rooted to the ground to let it do so.

Which makes me think that life is all about balance and contradictions – which is just what I’ve been reading about in Sophie’s World.

What or where are your places for contemplation?




Children – and finding peace

At top of Hartside 10th Nov (2)The pendulum swings… I was on a high for much of last year, loving my newly-found state of being single and free from being a domestic drudge (as I had felt).  I loved my child-free time but also loved seeing them, and had enough money to treat them to things and take them places.  Having felt trapped and resentful within a marriage which was plodding along, the love having died some years earlier, life then swung the opposite way.

It’s now settled back down a bit: but the interesting thing is that I now miss the children far more when they’re not around than I did for much of last year.  I love my single time, when I can write or sing or meditate or see friends – but the house feels empty and I miss the touch of warm squishy arms and children’s kisses. It’s made me realise how very hard it is for people to separate when children are involved: how low David must have been feeling (and for a long time) to want to leave badly enough that he was prepared to risk not seeing much of his children.  He and I have no feelings for each other, apart from a vague sort of friendship, if it can even be called that – the things that annoyed me about him when we were together still annoy me, but I’m now separate from them rather than living with them day-to-day: likewise I’m sure the things that annoyed him about me still irritate him at times in the same way. There’s no way we’d want to be back together, and the children seem to have adjusted happily to their new life with two homes: and at least we only live a few streets apart.

But the love you feel for your children… well, that’s surely the strongest love one can ever feel.  Certainly I was overwhelmed on the arrival of all three of my children at just how much love I felt for them: a love which seems to take over and possess you, which you can’t deny.  And with all three of them there is a special and individual angle to that love: the horrible ‘labour’ I had with Alex and the fear that he would die, so the relief when he was then finally in my arms, and the joy of my maternity leave; the beauty of Isabella who, even being delivered by c-section, was exercising her lungs and making her presence felt before she was out in the world; and the miracle that is Edward, who I had so late in life and yet who is – like the others – so perfect.  And so Heavy Metal and funny and loving.  Anything approaching that depth of love occurs infrequently between two adults and is a different thing in any case, a precious and rare thing.

As these thoughts and more whirled around in my head, I was reminded of something I wrote last year.  Here it is:

Finding Peace

Peace is, in the words of the hymn, the still, small voice of calm.  It resides somewhere inside your ribs and runs like a silent light through your body from tip to toe.   It doesn’t explode energetically with the vim and vigour of joy; it runs deeper than mere contentment and acceptance; it is less materialistic and self-centred than fulfilment.  All those are elements which can lead to peace but the real sense of peace is that connection with the world – with the universe – when all is still and for a few moments you can just Be.

Peace can be found in the eye of a storm; in the tiny things which happen in the middle of the tumult and craziness of everyday life.

When I lived in bustling, busy, big cities, peace was often hard to come by.  In the heart of the city a visit to a cathedral would provide some peace.  I would step in off the rushing street and wander in amongst the shadows, small against the grandeur of the building, hoping that not too many tourists would be there chattering and clicking away with their cameras.  The age of the building and the fact that I was just yet one in a long line of people who had trodden these stones, some perhaps with similar worries and woes, was a comfort.  I might sit in a side chapel and contemplate life for a few moments; I might light a candle in the hope that somehow my anxieties and pain would be carried up and away and be eased.  When I stepped back out into the hustle of the rush hour I would carry a morsel of peace with me: for a short time.

The countryside has always provided more peace for me than the centre of a city.  There is something soothing deep into your being about sitting overlooking water, or pausing at the top of a hill or mountain with the wind in your hair, or running amongst the trees.  It’s a force so much more powerful than man: it can take life but it also gives life.  It can provide a tangible sense of escape: get on that water and where might it take you?  All around the globe, if you choose.  And ultimately it reminds us that we are part of nature; that we are made of the same matter as the stars: ‘star dust to star dust’.

Peace is running up to the Ridge and looking across to the Solway Plain and over to Scotland.  It’s pausing for a breather with the sun on your face while running through Rowbank Woods, and looking across at the northernmost Pennines; or lolloping through Quarry Beck Woods with snow floating down with a whisper around you, creating a hushed world where only the crunch of your footsteps and the gentle rushing of the stream can be heard.  Peace is running to the top of one of the hills overlooking Lanercost Priory, once so troubled and now so tranquil, to see it huddled there amongst the greenery, centuries of history wrapped in its walls; or having ascended Talkin Fell on a clear, sunny spring day to gaze across at the shadowy Lake District fells or towards Scotland where the ghosts of ancient reivers charge silently across the border.  Peace is running up Carron Crag in Grizedale Forest and seeing a world of peaks spread around you from the top, pointing hazily up amongst the clouds.

But a deeply fulfilling peace is the children asleep at night after an energetic day.  However fraught or frenetic with fighting or fears the day has been, when they are asleep they look seraphic.  As I creep into their rooms to kiss each of them goodnight my heart fills with a deep, peaceful love.  I have made lots of mistakes in my life but bringing these three people into the world was not one of them.

Goodnight, my cherubs; my best beloved.

Midwinter Spring: and Midsummer Music

There are certain phrases from T S Eliot’s poetry that have stuck in my mind since I was a teenager, studying English Literature at school.  ‘Midwinter Spring’ is one of them*.  It always seemed somewhat ambiguous at the time: a contradiction in terms.  Living in rural Cumbria has made me appreciate midwinter spring however – especially this year.

What made me ponder the matter in particular was planning, in my head, the programme for Midsummer Music and the lunchtime recital Deborah and I are giving as part of Lanercost Festival the same week.  It struck me that here I was, thinking about a concert and a recital just a few weeks off around the time of the summer solstice and yet there are days when there is still snow on the hills or the odd icy hail storm.  How can ‘summer’ be here so soon when we have hardly left winter behind?

The house and garden are full of spring flowers and the days can be glorious, and yet it’s the end of April and the temperature can plummet to wintery levels: today I went to buy more firewood as whilst I don’t want to put the heating back on, I still want some warmth in the evenings.  But yesterday I was running in Quarry Beck Woods en route to Lanercost and the bluebells are beginning to come out: a flower I normally associate with May.  They’re not yet the blue mist they will be, but they seemed to be saying that summer was on its way.   And I love the tiny, delicate wood sorrel – imagine this sight with the sound of the beck splashing and birds singing.

The day before I had noticed how buds of leaves were beginning to appear on the trees.  The leaves of some of the horse chestnuts, when they were in a sunnier, warmer, position, were already open – not yet full size but small vivid green umbrellas.  One tree had fallen over and yet it was bursting with some sort of prickly flower, the branch bent but not broken from the trunk.

Spring is such an uplifting season, reminding me of more words used by T S Eliot, this time quoting in part the mystic Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well and   All manner of things shall be well.”*

Meanwhile I dream and muse while I run, glad that I live here in this magical corner of the world, where your feet feel the earth, history wraps the lives of the people who have gone before around you, and you can stand at the top of a hill and let your spirit soar.

Monday: a footnote.  I was in Preston all day on a site visit.  It was sunny and fairly warm.  As I approached Brampton on the A69 a gritter lorry went past me and the radio started talking about snow…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

*both quotations are from Little Gidding, which begins “Midwinter spring is its own season   Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown…”

From Darkness into Light

Easter 2016 (5)
Down in the valley bottom

The cows ambled in an orderly line returning from milking,

Hugging the field edge.

Evening spring sunshine burst goldenly –

Suddenly – (then faded)

Against the grey distant rainclouds feathering the further hills.

Twin souls shone in the summer, and

All basked in their glimmering goldness.

Did it rain that year?  Nobody could say for sure:

Their adoration glowed so brightly

Happiness poured forth, a warm bright sun

Covering everything in the miracle of new love.

It was a marvellous, wondrous, majestic time.

Then early one morning on the cusp of winter

He left.

The door banged shut and the house echoed emptily.

She tumbled blindly, cascading, spiralling




Into the deep dark pit

Stripped of appetite, of flesh, of energy.

Desolation and despair engulfing, smothering her,

Their thick heaviness stifling all feelings.

Null and void

She gave up the struggle of grappling with her inner fears

And closed her heart to pain; to love;

Felt nothing.

And yet too much.

The torture of a broken heart;

Too great a pain, this time, to cover it and walk away;

Too deep a love, too profound the lessons to learn

To ignore it.

Yet not forgotten, not alone:

The miraculous hands of friendship reached out;

Pierced the walls with kindness.

Brick by slow brick they pulled her, lifted her;

Stone by hurtful stone she clambered,

Climbed, scrambled, hands bleeding,

Heart bursting –

Eventually raised her arms, spread her wings

And flew


Up and out of the blackness.

It was dazzling out there in the world, in the light,

In the unaccustomed brightness.

But the strength of emotions

Was life coursing richly through her veins:

An awakening; an opening; a rebirth.

Up in the woods on the hills the trees stood black and stark.

An exhilarating icy wild wind

Blew away the remnants of winter.

Through the devastated woods – nature’s clutter

More beautiful than mankind’s –

Yellow bursts of jubilant daffodils shone,

Shouted joyfully against the brown of the earth,

The grey of the sky;

Nodded their heads, “yes, look closely!”

Buds on trees;

The glorious green shoots of spring underfoot;

The colour of the heart opening: a widening door.

Everything in its season.  Live life.  Fly free. Shine.

New Beginnings

or… Lessons learnt…

or… Better to have loved and lost…

For blog 23rd Feb (3)
Ridge Woods – my place for contemplation

OK, I lied.  I thought that the previous post was my last but in fact I’ve changed my mind.  I would, if it was easy, change the name of my blog to reflect the fact that this is a new beginning – perhaps it should be looked on as a new chapter.

Why the change of heart?  Well, for a start, writing is therapeutic.  Secondly, as a performer I do, I admit, seek some validation from ‘putting myself out there’.  It’s not so much wanting everything I write to be confirmed as right or true, but more that the process of thinking about what I’m writing and the feedback (challenging and critical or supportive) I get from it once it’s been read, helps get my thoughts straight.  I am not afraid of people questioning what I write – as a manager I have always appreciated staff who disagreed with me and were prepared to argue a point with me (one of the best things about working at British Waterways was that it encouraged an atmosphere of debate: ‘conflict breeds creativity’).

I do however have a genuine hope that my writing openly about what I feel about, and how I handle the ups and downs of life as I go through it, might help other people.  It’s the same for me – if I am puzzled or confused by something I will talk about it or read about it. We’ve all had that ‘lightbulb moment’ when a book we are reading expresses something which touches us with its accuracy; which seems to light upon something in our very deepest being.  Likewise there are passages we read which we disagree with, and which make us consider things anew: we either conclude that we were right all along and the writer is wrong, or we change our outlook.

And finally, I have had comments that it would be a pity if I ended my blog: that I write well and am astute.  One particular comment I liked: “Latterly it was as much about navigating around, through and with other people a route for yourself, but being mindful of other people’s feelings on the way”.

And so… today’s blogpost, formulated in my mind as I ran through Ridge Woods (again), is not only about why I am going to continue blogging (and, at root, I enjoy it) but also about lessons learnt.

Just over a year ago I was getting over my marriage break-up.  I had a good sense of self-worth and a great feeling of freedom: there are frequent references in my blog posts to how great it was to be single.  However what I hadn’t mentioned was that there was a man showing interest in me who I was also interested in.  A year on and I am now getting over another relationship: a passionate, intense, romantic love affair unlike any I had had previously. I think some people go through life without ever experiencing that, so whilst its ending has been acutely painful, I am glad to have experienced it.  It was the stuff of stories: which is perhaps one reason it couldn’t last.  In stories there is generally a tragic or at the very least melodramatic end – usually at least one of the lovers dies, either of consumption or by taking their own life.  What the stories don’t tell you is how the survivor carries on or what happens if the relationship does just end.

You never step away from a relationship with nothing, however much it might feel like that initially.  As I ran through the woods I thought about the lessons I’ve learnt, and what I’ve gained from both recently-ended relationships:

  • I learnt to love: genuinely and openly, and feeling the vulnerability of such intense feelings
  • I learnt that my ‘baggage’ has not been dealt with.  All I had done was bury it, for many years.  It resurfaced, painfully – but I am learning to leave it behind and to move on
  • if you are adored and worshipped, make the most of it – enjoy it, revel in it, appreciate it, trust it – it’s lovely and to be cherished.  And you are worth it and do deserve it!
  • love someone mind, body and soul – but remember to retain something for yourself too.  Be open and giving but love yourself.  Not in a selfish way but because you can’t really be true to yourself if you supress yourself.  If your head occasionally says ‘what about me?’, it’s for a reason – you’re letting yourself drown in the other person.  And, whilst true love is about being altruistic and putting someone else first, it shouldn’t be at a cost to yourself
  • I had a reminder of the saying that we criticise most what we dislike in ourselves.  When someone criticises you in a derogatory, even aggressive, way it’s usually because they are feeling bad about themselves or are fearful themselves – particularly if they are criticising you for things they have complimented you on in the past.  Whilst it’s healthy to ask whether they have a point, don’t dwell on the negatives – retain your sense of self and know that you’re doing your best (‘I am a good enough mother’).  However also ask yourself what you have been criticising about them, and why
  • be brave and face up to reality.  Follow your heart and trust your gut instincts, and if you’re unsure about something then ask for clarification.  This can be incredibly hard but the pain of uncertainty is far worse than the pain of a broken heart (and your heart gets broken into far more niggly, splintery pieces by not having clarity than by straightforward openness)
  • if you need help, ask for it – it will be there.  Self-esteem is something we have to develop inside ourselves and does come from overcoming challenges, but there’s nothing to say you can’t ask for help in overcoming those challenges
  • you’re allowed to feel upset and hurt when a relationship ends.  You followed your heart; your heart aches; you’re human
  • open your heart.

To quote others again: “hold your head up and know that you are loved”; “let yourself shine”, and don’t beat yourself up (or anybody else).

Nothing lasts for ever – but it all, good and bad, painful and joyful, comes around again one way or another.

Aim for the clouds

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (2)
Snow on Cold Fell

We have fab. skies in Cumbria: you can’t help but stand and stare at them sometimes, and feel your inner self somehow being tugged up towards them, whilst your feet remain on the earthy – and often wet and muddy – ground.  The trees at your side reflect your stance: their roots deep into the earth but their branches reaching up for the clouds.  When I sing I feel the same: my feet are rooted to the ground, giving me a firm base, but my voice and my heart are trying to reach the sky.

The weather has been simply stunning recently and the outdoors has been calling all the more loudly than usual.  Whilst I’m desperate to get out on my bike, I know that I’ll find it uncomfortably cold: and also rather than cycling for hours I do have plenty of other things – including work – which I’m meant to be doing (and have, in fact, done quite a few of).  I have however been out for a run for the past three days.  Each time I’ve run up to the Ridge and to Ridge Woods, my breath short in my chest to start with as it’s so cold, my fingers and toes icy.

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (1)
Looking north

I had my camera with me yesterday and took the photos here: I wish I had taken it today.  As I got to the top of the first hill and glanced across to the north, to the Scottish hills, I exclaimed ‘Wow’.  The white frosted icing covered mounds in the distance shone in the sun under a bright blue sky; and once again I was struck by how much I love living in the countryside, as the scenery changes from one day to the next and you’re so aware of the seasons.

I’ve said it so many times before: my spirits feel lifted (and also calmed) when I’m out running, particularly at the tops of hills.  I feel a strength in me to overcome all obstacles, whatever they may be.  Yesterday all the times I’ve been told I ought to or ought not to do something had been spiralling in my mind before I went out, and whilst I was running I was aware how completely disregarding them had not resulted in complete disaster but often taking what had appeared a risky step had resulted in something positive.

Almost as a poem they listed themselves, the do’s and don’ts which had come sometimes from my own worries and insecurities and sometimes from other people:

“you said I was crazy to switch to music…”  Look at me now – I’m a singer; a good singer…

“you told me I was not to chuck in a well paid job and go to be a holiday rep…”  But I had one of the best experiences of my life, and came back with a calmer attitude to ‘career’ and continued up the career ladder more quickly, confidently and successfully than previously – it got work into perspective

“you worried about me having children in my 40s, even saying ‘was it wise’ when I was pregnant with Edward…”   Look at my three gorgeous, healthy, lively children, who have given me so much self-confidence and love

“you said a freelance lifestyle wasn’t reliable enough; that the income wouldn’t be steady enough…”  It’s scary but it feels like exactly the right thing to do, it feels as if I’m getting the balance right, and I’m convinced it’s going to work

“you told me I wouldn’t be doing mountain biking ‘in a few years’ time’; that I was too old to be entering long runs…”  Well, I don’t see why not.  I’m still trail running and skiing and this year is the year that some of us ‘from the old days’ are going to get back together for a mountain biking weekend – the only question being whether we drag our children along as well.

“you said my husband shouldn’t leave me…”  But he did, and what a gift he gave me: more freedom to be myself and for us both to be happier.

I loathe 9 to 5; what I ‘ought’ to do; what is ‘wise’; what is ‘sensible’.  All too often I get wound up and worried by thinking too much about what I ought or ought not to do – things always work best when I follow my gut feeling, my intuition rather than listening to insecurities and doubts.  I’m not a crazy risk-taker but David and my sister certainly always thought I was more likely to take risks than they were.  Some of the people I most admire are those old people (aged 80 or so) who still run marathons or do parachute jumps.  Many of them are far braver than me and take far greater risks than I ever will: I have no desire whatsoever to do a bungee jump or a parachute jump (the thought of either terrifies me).  However give me an invitation to try out some off-road 4 wheel driving, or to drive a rally car, and I could be tempted.

As I ran home the low winter sun rested at head height and blazed straight into my eyes. “Il cuore ha le sue ragioni che la ragione non conosce” – Blaise Pascal, from my Italian calendar for this weekend.

Follow your heart.  Your heart – not anyone else’s.  And aim right up there – right up to the sky.  As someone said to me on Saturday, “you only have one life”.  Make sure it’s a full one, and live it with as much joy as you can muster.






Anno nuovo, vita nuova!

The end of 2014 (‘the year of broken things’) and beginning of 2015 was pleasant but I was still having the odd ‘wobble’ about my marriage break up and separation and had a row with my ex on New Year’s Day, which resulted in his not coming around for a meal with all the rest of his family and my children. On the whole however I was feeling great about being single again and I was feeling attractive and ‘me’.

The end of 2015 and early 2016 was far calmer, although my depression due to basically just having too much to juggle in my life, cast a sad spell over the final months of the year.  On the whole however I feel very positive about 2016: I think this will be the year that the creative side of me is more fulfilled.

New Year’s Eve celebrations were great.  My parents generously paid to take the children and me to Capernaum bistro for Edward’s 5th birthday.

This was Edward’s cake (for some reason there seem to be fewer options for editing photos in wordpress today, so I can’t work out how to turn the photo round) – spot the Lego mini figure heavy metal band!

The children then went to see their Dad and his girlfriend while I got ready for New Year’s Eve dinner – as last year, at my house.  Dave Brooks brought some amazing Prosecco Punch with incredible ice cubes in it, which started the process of new year inebriation.

The menu was Insalata Tricolore (it was meant to be Insalata Caprese but my basil plant had all but died, so we only had a basil garnish); Salmon with a sort of Prosecco Cream (see note below) with Pommes Dauphinoise and green veg.; then dark chocolate mousse with a warm cherry and cassis sauce to finish.

Please note that the Salmon in Prosecco Cream is my very favourite dish at Capernaum and so it was a case of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’.  I have to say that whilst my guests were very complimentary about my cooking, the Prosecco Cream (which was a bit of guesswork rather than a recipe) was nothing like as good as Ant’s (the chef-proprietor at Capernaum).  Also my green vegetables were a bit overcooked, which I hate.  However I was proud of all my other dishes and I was really glad I had chosen salmon for the meal rather than a heavy meaty dish.

The chocolate mousse is a Raymond Blanc recipe except he adds port rather than cassis, and serves the sauce cold.

The lovely, lovely evening ended with several games of Bananagrams, which Nicola’s mother kept winning, and then a game of Carcasonne – which Nicola’s mother and I won as a team.

I then started the New Year well with a short lie-in while I read in bed and had a coffee, and then went out for one of my favourite runs.  The air was slightly icy but stimulating and I stopped several times just to enjoy being out.  The swing which Alex and his friends had pointed out to me a while ago was wonky and whilst I swung on it for a bit, the rope cut into my left leg.  I paused by the stone memorial which had appeared at about this time last year, wondering again who Lorna Games was and what the significance of the calf or whatever it was on the stone was; and of course I had to stop to admire the view.  Despite it being a rather dull day and hence not particularly great for photographs, I love this view over towards Walton, the Solway Plain, Kielder and then Scotland – the misty Scottish hills touched with a sprinkling of icing sugar snow on their tops.

As I ran I thought over my goals and desires for 2016: you will have seen them in my other post, and details of singing events and of published writing will follow on my website.  Meanwhile, I wish everyone (me included!) an incredibly happy, successful and abundant 2016, and that your dreams may come true – however remote they seem just now.

Happy New Year!


Running in the Spring

OK, so I said in the last post that writing about every run I did would get boring.  But today was so beautiful I felt it deserved at least a short mention.

It started with frost here in Brampton; nothing major but the car said it was zero degrees outside.  By the time I left work at about 1.3opm one of the Doctors, on arriving, complained that it was too warm!  As I drove home I could easily have not bothered to have run – there were plenty of other things to do – but the outdoors beckoned loudly.  In fact it was one of those days when, having got changed and headed out, I felt I should be able to run far better than I actually did: it was a day that made you want to run and leap and bound and spring for joy.

It was a day to contemplate what a fantastic, amazing world we live in: it was packed with the sights and sounds of spring.  A crowd of crows were cawing from their nests on the way up the Moot; other birds were shouting mating calls to each other, or singing blithely in the sun.  Everywhere was alive: with green shoots bursting up, ladybirds meandering across the track, noises in the trees.  In the distance I heard a dog barking; someone mowing his lawn; the whirr of a light aeroplane.  Scotland hid behind a light haze; the nearby fells were pale in the sunlight, not having yet donned their garish bright green of a wet summer.

I didn’t run brilliantly: but I loved being outside.


Much as I love the children, I have to admit that having single, childfree time, is great…

Last night I went to Brampton’s newest and most classy restaurant for the fourth time in about 5 weeks (see my review and others equally as enthusiastic and complimentary on Trip Advisor – Capernaum Bistro).  I was early arriving – Nicola was a little bit late.  I hasten to add that I didn’t mind in the slightest – I was quite happy sitting there day dreaming and doing nothing for a change while Chef-Proprietor Anthony and his team rushed around looking after people. By the time she arrived I’d almost finished a gin and tonic and had munched my way through the delicious crudities (tiny slices of toasted (?) ciabatta with ham hock terrine and – I think – tapinade (sorry Anthony but I can’t remember!).  Both were lovely, the ham hock terrine being so delicate that it almost didn’t taste meaty.

Having scoffed the lot, when Nicola arrived we were generously provided with more crudities in the form of little cubes of ham hock with pistaccios.  Yum…  we then shared a starter of caprese, beef tomatoes and mozzarella with a lovely pesto dressing which I could have just eaten loads of on toast.  In fact a large helping of that entire dish with some salad leaves would make a fab. lunch… and fresh pesto is so much better than the stuff in jars.  The Co-op started selling fresh pesto at one point but sadly they’ve stopped again.  I’ll have to either make my own or keep my fingers crossed that Capernaum opens a delicatessen.  In fact one of my ambitions has long been to open a delicatessen in Brampton, and the block in which Capernaum is situated has always seemed the right location.  Any funders out there?

Capernaum 24th January (1)Between courses we were served the heavenly surprise of a complimentary palate cleanser.  I’m dying to use the term amuse bouche as I think it’s such a great one – lit. ‘amuse the mouth’ – but I’m not sure that’s strictly the right expression and in fact of course it would apply more to the crudities.  I choose the word ‘heavenly’ deliberately: the first mouthful of this damson sorbet with a champagne topping had my taste buds dancing with delight.  Superlatives aren’t adequate to describe that first mouthful (and the second, third…).  And aren’t its colours beautiful?

Nicola then progressed to Beef and Ale pie, which looked lovely, and I had a sirloin steak.  I love the straw fries with parmesan and we also shared seasonal veg. with new potatoes and root vegetables.  I had said I’d share a dessert with Nicola but in fact by then I was feeling far too full, so I had a liqueur (amaretto) coffee while she had crumble.Capernaum 24th January (2)

Post-dinner we sat and chatted upstairs in the lounge area with a glass of port each, continuing to put the world to rights.  This mostly entailed discussing how Brampton was a good place for ex-city-dwellers who want a truly rural life but with facilities (decent wine bars/bistros) as good as those in a city; talking about her forthcoming move to Holmfirth (her husband moves ahead of her and the girls tomorrow); and the reasons for my marriage break up (or should that be breakdown…).  I eventually rolled home feeling good about life, and about myself.  I have some of the feelings I had when I was single – the excitement of having a social life, potentially doing some travelling, and being able to go out with friends and feel no pressure to get home by a certain time – but with the fulfillment and satisfaction of having children.  Sadly, David leaving has given me the space I need from time to time just to relax, unwind and do my own thing.  I guess it’s partly that I don’t feel guilty – if the children are being looked after by him I have a few hours or a couple of days when I can switch off to a large extent from being a mother and, guilt-free, just be me.

One question which has come up in the past few days in my conversations with both Kath and Nicola is ‘would I get married again?’.  The answer is, I don’t know: there’s a lot to be said for feeling young, free and single at times: on the other hand a good marriage or settled relationship can be an especially close support and companionship.  At the moment I’m even in two minds about the whole internet dating thing, though it’s fun to get messages and ‘talk’ to some new guys online: part of me feels that just to do my own thing and concentrate on  my writing and singing and some exercise would be enough in addition to my children, work and friends.

In the spirit of temporarily reduced responsibility, I sat down this morning to apply for two jobs – but have decided not to as the deadline is tomorrow, the application form has some difficult questions on it which I don’t want to think about right now, and I’m just not sure enough about the organisation and type of work to want to apply at the moment.  Instead I’m off out for a run up the Ridge, to get some kindling for the wood-burner, and then to start some decorating or gardening and to do some writing-related stuff: plus a good hour of singing practice this evening after I get the kids to bed.

Life is good.

Footnote: while running in Ridge Woods I came across a new stone memorial to a Lorna Graves (2014).  It was rather lovely: roughly hewn with a relief of a cow and the moon on it.  I don’t know who you were Lorna Graves, nor the significance of the cow and the moon, but your memory lives on in a glorious spot.