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.

On a cold and frosty morning

The car was covered in a thick layer of frost and the temperature gauge told me it was minus 4.  I was already dressed for a run though: looking out of my bedroom window from my toasty warm house the sky was blue and beckoning.  The plan was to go for a run and then get on with some work.

It’s a funny week so far though.  I have plenty of things I need to plan but other than finishing off some valuation work yesterday, no ‘paid’ hours so far.  I needed to get on with planning but then Claire asked me if I wanted to meet up for a coffee… well, one coffee and scrambled egg with smoked salmon and toast was followed by a another coffee… and by then the ground was warmer.

It was lunchtime when I eventually got out up the hill – my usual favourite Ridge route (if I’d had more time I would have headed up Talkin Fell, and if I didn’t know my toes were going to get cold I would have gone out on my bike).  Having had a good chat with Claire and a similarly bolstering chat with Sarah last night (NB everyone I know is called either Claire, Sarah, Nicola, Kath or David/Dave), I was in a relaxed and fairly confident mood.  Whilst I have some concerns about my lack of money-generating hours this week, it wasn’t enough to make me miss or shorten brunch with Claire nor to avoid going for a run.  In fact it was such a beautiful day the outdoors was calling me to come outside.

I didn’t even have that many deeply philosophical thoughts, though I sent some ‘wishes’ towards a couple of people from up on the hill.  What did run through my mind however was about people calling me ‘strong’.  You may have read my post a couple of months ago when I was claiming that I wasn’t ‘amazing’ but just ordinary: sometimes I don’t want to live up to being strong either.  However perhaps it is something to be proud of: and strong by no means equates to ‘unfeeling’ (in fact I sometimes think I feel things rather too much, but I’d rather be emotional and honest than not).  What struck me today though was that my recovery from feeling so low in November, which is what has made people call me ‘strong’, is as much due to my friends as anything.

I wrote a ‘story’ yesterday, which is very personal and – even for someone as open as I tend to be – not for publication.  What I can tell you is that it ended up speaking about the heroine having fallen into a deep black hole; a place she had been before but never so agonisingly painfully.  She clambered back out, but due largely to helping hands from friends.  That is me: if I am strong emotionally, it is only due to the enormous support of friends, who have listened when I needed to talk.  The best ones, of course, have not told me what to do: they have given me the benefit of their wisdom and experience but supported me in whatever I felt I needed to do.

I also need to ‘give’ that to someone else.  It’s not always easy: but true love is about accepting someone, including that they are – as we all are – trying to do their best in this life.

Meanwhile Claire gave me a limited edition print of her gorgeous ‘poenies’ painting – I will post a photo of it framed once it’s in pride of place on my wall too.

Thank you my friends.  Without you I would struggle.


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.






Snow – rather than rain

Last week the weather finally improved. Driving to and from Whitehaven for work on Thursday was absolutely glorious – and at one point on my way in to Whitehaven there was a stunning view across the harbour to a white-horsed sea and the Isle of Man beyond, thickly and shimmeringly covered in pristine snow.
Driving home from work Thurs 14th Jan. 2016

I had been feeling a lot calmer and more cheerful so had been back to the Doctor to ask how to come off the antidepressants. For almost a week now I have been on half the dosage I was on before, and on Thursday I even forgot to take one, I was in such a rush for work! I have far more energy and am able to concentrate better on things – I’m also eating normally, though I don’t seem to have put much weight back on (my ‘squidgy tummy’, as New Man would call it, is back though – probably because I’ve also been drinking a bit of wine without the adverse after effects I was getting (stinking headaches) before). I can also feel things more genuinely – it’s not as if everything is just supressed.

While in some ways this is bad – I can feel very sad and get very tearful – at the same time I’m glad to be able to feel normally again, and also I’m conscious that I feel sad/get upset rather than being depressed. In fact most of my life is going quite well and moving in the right direction: it’s just New Man who is causing me upset. We haven’t really been ‘together’ since I was first signed off and whilst he said he still adored me and wanted at least to be friends, at times he can appear quite unfriendly. As I’m trying to be friends and not expect anything else it can be rather hurtful, and the lack of communication is frustrating.  A couple of times I have been in floods of tears – and one time, having said I’d pick up a load of stuff for refugees from him, I chickened out and ‘ran away’ instead. Having had such a very, very passionate (and romantic) affair, and having been seemingly worshipped and adored by him, I’ve come to the conclusion that however much I love him and want him, I can only look after myself – concentrate on the things I’m progressing and make sure I don’t get further hurt. As they say, ‘if you love someone, let them go – if they’re yours they’ll come back’. Easier to say when you’re feeling calm than when you’re churned up though!

My singing is, as ever, a palliative though – as is my writing. I’ve just been asked to write a feature about Gelt Gladiator, which I also wrote about last year, and when I get around to doing some pitching I’m sure I’ll get some more commissions. Meanwhile I have got some music I’m meant to be learning off by heart, as well as practicing for the earlier part of the year’s forthcoming musical events. Yesterday I sang in a ‘scratch’ Messiah in St. Cuthberts, Carlisle. By mid-afternoon it was starting to snow quite heavily. When we left the city looked lovely with the fresh snow gleaming under the city lights – some of the Christmas lights were still up, which made the city centre sparklingly beautiful. As I drove up Brampton Road the snow, strangely, suddenly made me realise how many telephone or power lines cross the road – they showed up far more because of the layer of snow on them!

Today I went out for a run up on the Ridge – though I didn’t get up on to the Ridge but only the Moot, as the path up to the Ridge was slippery with hard-compacted snow and also I was running out of time. Loads of people were out enjoying the perfect weather – one even skiing. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the end of all the torrential rain (and flooding) we’ve been having?



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.

Most definitely Not a Domestic Goddess

I pride myself on being able to juggle many things and on being quite practical.  However the number of jumpers I’ve shrunk in the wash, clothes that I’ve dyed pale pink, the toaster I washed (which then blew up) and the fact – that David never lets me forget – that I once tried to drill a hole in the wall with a screwdriver, rather belies this.

10th Jan.

As does this photograph.  I couldn’t help laughing when I saw it -foam pouring out of my (new) washing machine as if it was some alien being spawning ectoplasm – but I have to be honest.  I had put too much washing liquid in the drawer and not only that but it was the stuff for delicate fabrics which always seems to foam more anyway.  Of course, because it was for non-delicate dirty fabrics I thought they’d need extra… perhaps not that much extra.

I’m pleased to say that it did neither the washing machine nor the clothes any apparent harm, and that Sainsburys delivered some new clothes washing liquid of the non-delicate variety last night.

The washing machine is now going again as I have, satisfyingly, got out on two runs this weekend.  I did more-or-less the same route both times but the weather today, when I went with Kerry, was at least consistently windy and rainy – in fact the wind was providing extra resistance on the way back as we headed into it, which I told her was good for us.

Yesterday Penny came up and the weather alternated between being sunny and sleety.  It had been snowing around Penrith when she left: in Brampton the sun was out and the skies were blue – until we turned to run back to my house, when it started sleeting.  The great thing about being up on the Ridge is that you can see the weather coming towards you (or going away): we could see snow up on Cold Fell at the northern tip of the Pennines, and the big cloud rolling towards us from Scotland looks ominous…

10th Jan. Ridge woods (1)10th Jan. Ridge woods (2)

Soon the children will be home and the quiet of the weekend will be shattered.  However I’m glad.  I’ve had an enjoyable, productive weekend but when I leave the children at David’s I always leave a little piece of me behind with them.  The fire is burning merrily, the room is warm and welcoming: there will be time for TV and a cuddle before bed.



The topic for my next writing group get-together is ‘water’.  Easy, you’d think: but in a way there’s too much choice.  How do you pin down a fluid and mutable subject like that?

I don’t consider myself a poet but from the first ‘water’ felt as if it needed that form as a response.  The New Year in Cumbria began with rain (water) but then became beautiful yesterday afternoon with one of those winter afternoons filled with sunshine which make the world turn golden.

Finally, in the early hours of this morning (well, probably 6.30 a.m….), while the rest of the house slept, the words of my poem came into my head.  It’s not very good but sums up relatively briefly how I have felt the past few days.  As I probably won’t get to my next writing group meeting as I’ll have the children, I thought I’d share it here.  I’m afraid I don’t know how to get rid of the extra line spacing…


After the party, the new year started with rain:

and a row with my ex.

Water poured down the window panes:

and too readily down my cheeks.

But on the third afternoon the sun burst gloriously forth

and up on the Ridge the trees in the wood and the grass glowed golden

as I ran forward in the late afternoon sun.

Shadows lengthening across the hillside, gazing contemplatively

across to the waters of the Solway Firth and to the hazy hills of heaven beyond,

my heart lifted into the sky and its wounds washed by water gently healed.cropped-coniston.jpg

As the river ever-changing, so is life:

Move forward.

Start as you mean to go on

OK, so it may not be the first day of the year – but I think it’s near enough to have started putting some of my New-Year’s-non-resolutions into practice.  The first day of the year started off very well at midnight but went somewhat pear-shaped later when I argued with David (as an aside, what do I call him?  He’s still legally my husband so do I call him my ex-; my estranged husband; or what?).

1st Jan. is always a bit of a wash-out anyway: everybody feels tired from New Year’s Eve, aware they’ve overindulged, and too lethargic to implement ‘resolutions’ straight away.  So I didn’t get out for a run on 1st or even on 2nd.  Torrential rain welcomed the new year in here, which didn’t help – it didn’t really beg me to get outside into the fresh air.

On 2nd I stacked wood: Jeremy came round with his chain saw and sawed my old decking into wood-burner sized pieces while I stacked them in the crates I have turned into a log store.  By the time I’d then faffed around with various other things on the computer, it was time to get out to tea at Chris and Mandy’s – my sense of time completely confused by the kitchen clock which was running about 20 minutes slow (it needs a new battery).

Today, however, has been one of those great days when I feel as though I’ve achieved things.  You know, one of those days when you tick quite a few things off the ‘to do’ list.

It started with a trip down to Borwick, near Milnthorpe, to interview Edwina about Nordic Walking.  I met Edwina when I ran Ullswater Trail race at the beginning of November, and was impressed and inspired by her positive attitude (and glowing, youthful skin, despite being 3 years older than me).  Rather than giving anything away here, there will be a feature about her, written by me, in an edition of Lancashire Life at some point in the not too distant future, and I’m also hoping I might be able to get her story into the nationals.

It was lovely to see a different part of Cumbria/Lancashire and also just to drive from the top of the county to the bottom.  Even though it was mostly on the motorway, it’s still a stunning and scenic drive.  On the way back I did some singing practice, singing through my Grade 8 songs again.  Despite not having done any singing since before Christmas, I still remember all the words.  Just as well as I have concerts coming up at which I want to sing those songs!  If anybody is interested, I have a playlist on Spotify where they are sung by far better singers than me.

Edwina also gave me to contact details of her Nordic Walking instructor – another feature possibility.  I need to get pitching…

On getting home all the grandparents were here and were happy to continue to child-sit while I went for a run.  My father-in-law had also bought me a camellia, which I really appreciated as it’s something I’ve wanted for several years.  I now just need to decided where best to plant it.

My favourite run at the moment is up the Moot and along through Ridge Woods – you can do a big figure of 8 or loop which takes in at least two hills (when I get fitter I could fit in even more).  It was an absolutely glorious, golden, late winter afternoon and I wished I’d taken my camera, although I have taken lots of photos up there in the past.

Family walk up Brampton Moot towards Lanercost 5th March (2)

Looking up at the trees in the wood they glowed copper in the sun; the grass shone brightly green or yellow, shadows lengthening across it.  I love pausing on the Ridge and gazing over to Scotland and the Solway: I think being up high and staring across at water and/or hills makes you incredibly aware of being part of the world – of the Universe.  There’s something that makes me feel very grounded but also somehow lets my spirit fly free, in a way which just doesn’t happen in the hustle and bustle of a big city (standing on top of Carlisle Castle and looking over to the Lake District fells isn’t too bad…).

By the time I had finished my loop and was heading towards home the sky was turning red with the sunset.  The colours were fantastic and it felt good to be alive.

My parents then offered to take Bella and me out to dinner (Edward by then had headed down to David’s with his other grandparents).  We tried Capernaum, Brampton’s newest restaurant, first, but unfortunately there was a private party on.  So instead we went to Brambles, which was lovely.  The food isn’t quite as classy as Capernaum’s but it was still nice and the service was lovely, the waitress putting up with our queries and fuss with a good grace.  My Mum and I had Brambles Cocktails, which are lovely but which slip down very easily…

As we walked home there was already frost on the car.  I’m hoping to go running again tomorrow.  And perhaps do some more singing practice!