Being Grommit

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesI hesitate to write this, because there are so many people out there much better qualified to talk about it.  Still, it’s come into my head and it’s lodged there like an ear worm and won’t go away until I write it, So I suppose I’d better write…

There’s a huge amount of non-sense spoken about sensitivity and highly sensitive people, so perhaps I can add a modicum of sense, or maybe just more nonsense.

I wouldn’t generally count myself among these people (which is why I don’t feel particularly qualified to write about them) but I seem to have some kind of magnetic attraction to them.  They keep showing up in my life.  Once they are there, they tend to stick around.  Whenever that happens with people in our lives, it means we have something to teach or learn from each other – probably both.

So let me give you a very personal, no-holds-barred snapshot of how it feels to be a neuro-typical individual, living and working amongst highly-sensitive people.

They’d like to fit in with the rest of us.  They really would.  It would make their lives so much easier and they know this.  Some of them elect to go down the route of medication aimed at suppressing their sensitivity, dulling their responses and turning them into rather sad but apparently average people.  Many, many more prefer to self-medicate, using recreational drugs and/or a mixture of caffeine and alcohol to render their daily lives (or at least parts of them) more manageable.  Both of these seem to me a tragic waste – partly because of the unpleasant side-effects and partly because all these substances mask the true essence of who they really are.  Nevertheless, I understand the reasons behind the choices.  For those of us living and interacting with these people, we’re faced with a double problem of trying to understand their innate differences from our way of being and to deal with the challenges faced when dealing with anyone who is drugged up.

I frequently feel hurt, offended, rejected and dismissed by those I care about and love who live within this spectrum of being.  As a ‘typical’ person I crave affection – and some occasional expression of this, attention – such as responses to messages or to be looked at once in a while, reassurance that I’m getting things right, and trust.  I’ve discovered, slowly and painfully, that I will only get any of these by explaining my needs very carefully, providing detailed instructions on how I would like the person to react and then being satisfied with what they are able to provide, even if it does feel more like a rehearsed trick than a genuine, spontaneous action on their part.

Does that sound terribly harsh?

If we look at it from their perspective, they do NOT lack emotions and feelings.  They have them in such abundance that their fragile human bodies are just about incapable of containing them.  They probably dealt with this as newborns by screaming endlessly, as children by throwing tantrums or head-banging, as adolescents by almost total withdrawal from society and family and immersion in music, video games or self-harm.  During that long, painful process, they have learned to suppress almost all emotion, except fear and anxiety, which just won’t go away.  They care and want to please as much as anyone, but it’s deeply scary for them, and any tiny steps they can take should be welcomed with deep gratitude by those of us who can’t even imagine what it is costing them.

They know and feel and see things we don’t.  They’ve learned that in our society, people who know more than others are usually considered clever, so they can easily become so supercilious and self-opinionated that I want to punch them.  They’re frustrated when we don’t get what seems ludicrously obvious to them.  I find myself thinking, ‘Good grief, here you are, treating me like a five year old, when you can’t even walk into a shop and buy a pack of underwear.’

So why is it like this?

In my opinion, all of us are – first and foremost – pure consciousness.  You can call it soul or spirit if that works for you.  We have all chosen to bring a portion of this pure, rarefied consciousness into physical bodies – to be born as humans.  It involves a fair bit of give and take to do that.  If you think of the consciousness as Light, there is only so much we can squeeze into a human body.  Most of us have been happy with that trade-off as it means we can experience physical existence and use this unique way of (human) being to grow in a way that can’t be achieved otherwise.  Image result for wallace and gromit images

Now think of the way consciousness works.  There is an innate wish to push the boundaries – to go farther, faster, higher than anyone else has done.  Consequently, ever-growing numbers of conscious beings are trying to squeeze more and more Light into the frail, delicate human bodies they are being born into.

It means the fit is not great.  They can’t bed down into their bodies so easily and some of the Light isn’t properly held in.  I keep getting this mental image of Wallace frantically screaming, “Grommit – these are the Wrong Trousers!” in the wonderful Aardman animated film!

Image result for wallace and gromit imagesAnd I often feel like poor old Grommit, frantically trying to avert disasters and melt-downs, and help my enLightened friends, students, relatives and acquaintances to fit into the crazy trousers-of-life they’ve entered, while assisting them to understand that yes, the world DOES need the Light they’ve brought with them and that their brilliance is an absolute gift to all of us.

So stay with us, all you wonderful Wallaces.  Try your best to function in those trousers.  We Grommits will keep trying to help you in every way we can – because that’s why WE incarnated.

 

 

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Mother

Bag Gypsofilia Seeds, Gypsophila, BagIt was Mothers’ Day here yesterday.  I say ‘here’ meaning the UK, because I know other countries celebrate it at other times.  Our Mothers’ Day changes each year – something to do with Easter wobbling about, which is something to do with the moon, I think.  Never really figured out what or why because it never really interested me that much.  All I know is that it often more-or-less coincides with my birthday, which means my offspring tend to send me some sort of greeting on one or the other, but rarely both.

This year the two dates were separated by a few weeks.  All three remembered the birthday.  For Mothers’ Day I received a text message and two phone calls, plus a DVD which arrived a week ago, it’s computer generated Amazon gift message proclaiming it to be an extra birthday/Mother’s Day gift.

I just didn’t rear the kind of kids who splash out on expensive mail order bouquets, trawl through Etsy for the perfect personalised gift and quirky card or spatter Facebook with multi-coloured ‘best mum ever’ photo collages covered in hearts and anaemic-looking teddy bears.  For that I’ll be eternally grateful.

No longer having a mother in the physical realm, I spent my Mothers’ Day communing with Mother Nature in my garden.  It was a glorious spring day and I was blissfully happy, up to my elbows in deep, dark loam, planting out a new herb bed, enjoying the nodding daffodils and clearing the grass from the ever-expanding clumps of primroses and cowslips that beam up from every cranny and corner.  My garden had a gift for me, too – a beautiful little tumbled crystal, just lying on the earth’s surface and waiting for me to find it.

In the evening, I sat down to watch the gift DVD – a sci-fi film called Arrival.  My youngest had selected it for me because he knew I would love it – intelligent, very cleverly constructed, with some fascinating takes on how language, communication and – most important of all – time itself works.  One line shone out and left me buzzing by the end.  It was something like: Imagine writing a sentence, using both hands, and starting from both ends at once.  You’d need to know everything that the sentence was going to contain in advance and you’d need to know exactly how much space to leave so that it met up perfectly.  You’d need to know the future.

Yes, my kids don’t shower me with trinkets on Mothers’ Day, but they know me very well.  I’m one lucky mother.

Having Fun

Munich, Oktoberfest, Ride, Carousel, FunRight now, at this point in my life, I’m having fun.

Should I feel guilty about that?  Would I be more worthy if I focused (as many wonderful people I know do) on wars and famine and the-state-of-politics and all the other worrying aspects of our world?

I dare to say it: no.

My life – all six-and-a-fair-bit decades of it – has had it’s share of disasters, problems, heartbreaks and despair.  I’m now – in hindsight (which is a much cosier place to view from) – thankful for all those difficult and testing times.  They’ve etched lines on my face, turned my hair white and allowed me to understand myself and others far better than if I’d had a safe, comfortable time reading the papers and keeping the house tidy.  (I do neither of those things.)

At this point, I have no major problems in my life and I have the most inordinate amount of fun.  If you’re about to say, “Oh don’t say that, you’re tempting fate”, you are missing the point.  In those terms, I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘fate’ – or, for that matter – a vengeful deity of any kind, which must be appeased and bowed down to.  I don’t believe that I have a preordained ‘lot’ that will come to me, whatever, or can only be avoided if I follow the rules, or store up good karma.

I believe that I create my life.

Now the devil’s advocate will be saying, “So if that’s the case, how come you created all those heartbreaks and disasters, huh?”

I don’t mean that I create the whole shebang consciously and meticulously (although I have come across a few people who are just about able to do that).  However I am coming closer to a conscious awareness of the process.

Since I started to see myself as moving through a thixotropic aether (see my last post for details if you have no idea what I just said there) rather than a vacuum which happens to have a bit of air in this particular portion of it,  I’ve altered my way of viewing life.  It’s great!  I’m loving it.

The Sand Dunes, DuneThe way I considered it was this:  Quicksand is thixotropic.  The more you bash and flail and struggle, the more unyielding it becomes.  If, though, you very softly and gently relax, flow with it and – causing as little resistance as possible – swim slowly and carefully towards the edge, you can gradually escape.

The thing is, if my whole life is a journey through this substance, just crawling out once won’t help that much.  There isn’t, in this existence, a place of safety, where no perils or challenges can possibly occur; physical life just isn’t like that.  I could argue that it’s one big sea of quicksand.  Once I know how to deal with that, though, it stops being a problem.  I can drift gently through it.  I can get used to the way it pulls and sucks at me.  I can stop seeing it as the enemy and just resolve to move lightly through it, not taking it too seriously, not resisting it.  I can start to enjoy it’s texture and the whole adventure.  It was my choice to be here, after all.

So I’m not living in some kind of fool’s paradise.  I know just how it all works.  I know the hazards and dangers, but that is not going to stop me enjoying myself.

Like I said, I’m having fun.

Didn’t know I had a petard, and here I am hoist with it

Grenade, Bomb, War, Weapon, DangerI had to look petard up: a small bomb apparently.  As for being hoist on/by/with it, we have Shakespeare to thank for that one.  All I knew was that it meant, roughly, to fall into one’s own trap, and that I’ve certainly done this week.

Embarrassed, but trying hard to be authentic, so…

Allow me to explain.

A few weeks ago I was asked to take on a pair of new students – young brothers who shared a genetic condition with their mother.  “Multi-systemic” I was told, so the effects of this syndrome involve skin, joints, brain and just about any part of the body you can think of.  The words ‘complex learning difficulties’ were also mentioned.

To be honest, I was almost at full stretch before these lads appeared on the scene.  Planning two lots of lessons in maths and English tailored to their particular mix of strengths (very high intelligence) and challenges, as well as homework each week would, I knew, take at least an entire day.  Then there was the teaching itself, which I could only just slot in amongst my other young pupils.  Everything logical in my mind was screaming, “No, don’t do it!  What about that work/life balance you wanted?  You are past retirement age, you know.  And this lady wants you to work on right through the summer holidays.  When will you get to see the family?”

But the kids were lovely.  Finding ways of working around their difficulties would be fascinating – previously uncharted territory, the type of challenge I thrive on.  They weren’t fitting into schools.  Their constant pain and exhaustion, as a result of the syndrome, was too much for them when combined with a normal school day.  The mother, though, was being threatened by the authorities for not providing sufficient education.

I said, ‘Yes’.

Of course I did.

Writing, Boy, Child, Student, KidFor a couple of weeks it went fine.  Yes, I did end up doing lesson prep all through the weekends but they seemed to be progressing well and I was enjoying working with them.  Then this week they appeared full of smiles but without homework.  A casual ‘lost it somewhere in my room’ from one and ‘I didn’t realise you wanted me to do that’ from the other.

Inwardly I was irritated.  The homework sheets had taken me ages to prepare.  The work I’d planned for this week followed on from what they were meant to have done.  Their mother had particularly requested homework.  It was meant to protect her from being taken to court… and blah, blah, blah.

Outwardly, I smiled, suggested mildly that maybe they could try to get it done for the following week and carried on.  The lessons went fine and I went to bed that night feeling very happy.

Oh I know at least one of my readers knows exactly what’s coming!

I woke up the next morning to a text from the children’s mother.  Both of them had told her I was ‘grumpy’ during their lessons.  She wondered what was wrong.

I was mortified.  The lessons had (I thought) been lovely – lots of laughter and progress.  Was I just a delusional old bat?  Had I ended up like those elderly lady teachers I remembered from my own school days – miserable and past it?  Was it time to stop and give up – to sit in a rocking chair knitting all day?

I flashed a quick message back, saying I had been disappointed that they’d not bothered with the homework, but wasn’t aware of being grumpy about it; that I’d tried hard to keep the work lively and enjoyable and so forth.

Then I sat and thought.

Why was I choosing to be so upset by this?  Why had this incident shown up in my life?  What did it have to teach me?

The reply came almost at once, in a further message from the children’s mum.  She hadn’t wanted to upset me.  She just felt she had to be authentic and tell me their reaction.  It wasn’t my words or actions they had reacted to, it was my feelings.  They were, she added, extremely sensitive and picked up on the energy people projected.

Heart, Love, Idea, Light BulbAh.

Got it.

That heart-based telepathy thing.

So I thanked her – and the universe – for providing me with that reminder.  I told her about my last blog post, on exactly this subject, and promised to attempt to be more open and authentic in future.

See what I mean about being hoist with my own petard?  This communicating-from-the-heart business is not easy.  I’m glad to have these two young teachers.  Like all good teachers, they’ve appeared just as the student is ready 🙂

 

I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

logo Well that’s a lovely surprise.

Dull and cloudy here in Glasto, but the lovely and hugely talented Swetha M has nominated me for A Sunshine Blogger Award.

Cheers, Swetha!

So here to celebrate are The Temptations, circa 1965, and assorted deer, badgers, foxes, frogs and things. (I know – the relevance eludes me too.  Very sweet, though.)

Now the rules for sunshine blogger award: 

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award.
  • Display the banner /sticker /logo on your blog.
  • Share 7 facts or things about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 bloggers that you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

So I’ve said ‘thank you’ and the banner is up there above the warthogs, and it now falls to me, as the proud recipient, to list 7 facts about myself.

Let’s see…  I was going to do a bucket list, but I’m actually the most ridiculously contented of people and I don’t think I could come up with that many desires, so I suppose it has to be facts.

  1. I don’t have any pets since the last of the goldfish died in October, and I have no plans to replace him (Could have been a her – not sure how you tell with fish – but its name was Merlin, so ‘him’ it was.) as I want to encourage wildlife in my pond.
  2. English: Good Hare Day!!!!!

    I love animals, but it has to be a glimpse of a red kite, hare or fallow deer on a country walk to really rock my boat.  The neighbour’s moggy relieving itself in my garden or a pug-on-a-pink-lead just doesn’t do it for me.

  3. I lose myself totally in gardening and disappear off somewhere magical – that’s the kneeling on the ground with hands deep in loam variety of gardening.  When I return to the planet, I feel pure joy for hours afterwards.
  4. My favourite place in the world is the Chalice Well Gardens.  I used to regularly travel hundreds of miles to visit them and now I live just across the road.  How lucky am I?
  5. Deutsch: Aspidistra elatior (Habitus)

    I don’t drive.  Never have.  Yet I love travelling, so do masses of bus and train journeys; less convenient perhaps, but greener, and they’re far more fun, as you get to meet such amazing and interesting people.  Last year I had a bus ride around North London chatting happily with a  pair of young Afro-Caribbean guys nursing a huge aspidistra; would love to know the back-story!

  6. I’m not afraid of death.  Absolutely not at all.  Dying could be unpleasant, of course, depending on the circumstances, but I’m with Peter Pan on this one: ‘To die would be an awfully big adventure.’  Not that I’m suicidal, I hasten to add.  I find life a huge adventure too, and am very much enjoying it.  When the time comes, though, bring it on.
  7. Just one bucket list item to finish, then.  I want to write another book, or maybe more – something that will help people feel good and important and generally as wonderful as they really are.  So a book to banish fear, basically, because that’s all that holds people back.

Right, and now for my nominees…

Yes, ridiculously difficult to select just five, and I do want these people to understand that if they don’t want to accept or do anything with the award, that’s just fine by me.  However they are people whose writing inspires and/or fascinates and brings me great pleasure, so I hope other readers will follow the links and discover the magic:

First a couple of ‘Version 2.0’ writers (You’d have to have read my book to understand that!).  Love reading their blogs and their comments on mine.  Don’t always understand everything as my mind isn’t wired that way, but enjoying learning and finding out more…

Atxero on Wording Through

Synamex on Startower

Next some wonderful, generous people who give freely of their time to channel incredibly wise Guides and answer readers’ questions.  I’ve learned so much from both sites…

Cheryl on Ask Higgins

Cynthia and Bob on Ask The Council 

and finally, a new discovery whose wizardry as a writer just blows me away…

‘Rosie’ on La Tour Abolie

Oh I never have been one to follow the rules…!  There’s a sixth blog I simply have to nominate.  Sorry if this brings WordPress crashing down around us, but I illegally nominate this wise and heart-based blog from an amazing and perceptive lady who has taught me so much:

Mariner2Mother on Life is a Journey… Not a Guided Tour

I’ll creep away quietly now… 🙂

 

 

A Fairytale Finale

English: Ballet shool Deutsch: Tanzklasse

A true story, this – and if not stranger than fiction, it at least has more or less all the features of a fairytale.

Those of you with long memories, who have been following my blog for quite a while, may remember the Tale of Tuesday.  Tuesday (her real name, for once, as I’m sure someday she’ll be famous) was a young girl I taught here in Somerset until a year or so back.  My job was to teach her maths and English.  It wasn’t always easy, as sitting at a table writing was the hardest thing in the world for her.
“I need to MOVE!” she’d say, so there would be several breaks in a lesson when she was allowed to waft around the study, arms and feet stretching and waving wildly, before settling for a bit more learning.

All she wanted to do – and I truly mean ALL – was to dance.

Her ballet teacher told her parents  how talented she was.  She advised them to try for a place at a ballet school.  So it was that, in the spring of last year, Tuesday was accepted at one of London’s most prestigious (and expensive) ballet schools.  Now she was not from some wealthy, upper-middle class family.  The cost of moving to London, paying rent there and covering her fees would have been prohibitive at the best of times but this, it turned out, was the worst of times.

No sooner had Tuesday got her place, than her father was diagnosed with cancer.  He is one of the most focused people I’ve ever met, and thinks the world of his daughter.  He’d been quite prepared to work all hours to fund her place, but his health deteriorated very fast and things became incredibly difficult.

So do you believe in magic?  Friends rallied round, a crowd-funding appeal was set up and somehow – none of us are quite sure how it happened – the rent, the fees and the cost of all the extras a young dancer needs were paid month by month.  I know that some of my blog followers were kind enough to contribute to her fund, so heartfelt thanks to them.

Those were hard and difficult days.  Her mother was worried sick each day.  Her dad was battling his illness and still trying to work when he could.  Tuesday struggled to fit in with a class of children from very different backgrounds to herself.  When I met up with them in London last Christmas things looked bleak.  None of us knew what would happen.

Bridge, Wood, Forest, Woods, Tree, TreesTime for a sprinkling of fairy dust now, though.

The ballet school discovered the desperate situation the family were in.  They also discovered that Tuesday was an outstanding dancer – one they wanted to hold on to.  They offered her a bursary, so that she could keep attending for free.  Her dad was moved to one of London’s best hospitals specialising in cancer, so that he had access to pioneering treatment and expert care.  He’s still with us.  Tuesday began to earn the respect of her classmates and to fit in far better.  By the summer, things were looking up.

Every Christmas, the school puts on a performance of The Nutcracker at a small London theatre.  When I discovered that Tuesday had been chosen to dance Clara – the leading role, I knew I had to go and watch.

As in all fairy tales, though, there are twists and turns in the plot right up to the end.  The theatre was closed at very short notice and it seemed the show would have to be cancelled.  I did tell you it was a prestigious school, didn’t I?  There were friends in high places and somehow or other they were given the run of one of the most famous theatres in London’s West End for a day.

Statue of Anna Pavlova on the dome of the Vict...

Thus it was that I found myself sitting in the royal circle, watching the most magical production, while the little girl who had twirled and glided around my study just a year or so before was giving an immaculate performance and capturing the hearts of everyone in the audience.

The ballet school had thoughtfully sent a car to pick her father up, so that he would be able to watch.  During the interval Darcey Bussell – one of the UK’s most celebrated ballerinas – introduced herself to him and told him how brilliant Tuesday’s performance was.

I just could not have been happier and prouder as I watched Tuesday take her curtain call and accept a bouquet of flowers with poise and grace that belied her tender age.

On the tube going home, I overheard a couple discussing the show.
“That little girl who danced the lead,” said the man, “What a future she has ahead of her!”
“She was splendid,” agreed his partner.

She was.

 

 

 

 

The Pillow Monster

IMG_20150802_150019This morning I wasn’t woken by the Pillow Monster.

It’s the first time in over a week that little footsteps and the gentlest of touches on my head didn’t pull me back from dreams.  Once I’d stirred, the gentle three-year-old would transform into his alter-ego and clamber boisterously into the bed, giggling, attacking me with pillows or force-feeding me ‘pie’ or ‘cake’ made of plastic toys.

There are worse ways to awake.  This morning’s was easier, but felt a little lonely.

My grandson and his family were here for nine days.  Sleep was hard to come by; a hungry, teething 6 month old saw to that.  My cottage, which feels spacious and airy to me when I’m alone was transformed into a tiny, cramped place by the mountains of paraphernalia required by a young baby and toddler.

A traditional Punch and Judy booth.

We made bugs from egg boxes, watched dragonflies in the garden, did pirate treasure hunts for ‘golda balloons’ (yes, it took me quite a while to work that one out!) and made a fire engine from a huge packing box.  We yelled anxiously to Mr Punch when the crocodile tried to steal his sausages and sang whispered lullabies to little sister when she couldn’t sleep.

To my grandson, everyone is a friend.  Having just had his face painted as Spiderman, he shouted a cheery greeting to a pair of lads we passed drinking and smoking outside a pub.
“He waved to us!” one remarked.
“Look out, Spidy’s about,” laughed his friend.
“D’ya think I look cool?” the little one asked, tugging on my hand to go and chat with his new friends.
“Very cool,” they grinned, “Yeah.”

As I marched him on towards the playground he continued waving and shouting fond farewells.

Of course he’s been warned about strangers, but he stares reproachfully at us when such things are spoken.  For him there are loving adults surrounding him and the world is a place he trusts and enjoys, filled with excitement and fun.  His heart is so open it almost hurts to watch him sometimes.

As we sat in a cafe, he looked around the table, telling each of us in turn that he loved us.
“Hah!” winked the old man at the next table, knowingly. “What’s he after then?  There’s always a catch when they say that.”

I thought about that man’s experience of the world and my grandson’s.

So different.

There was no catch.  He loves unconditionally.  Certainly he can throw a mega-tantrum because he wanted his drink in the blue cup and it’s been poured into the red one, but he makes few enough demands.

“The thing what would make me really happy,” he told my daughter on his journey home yesterday, “is if I could sit on the sofa, watch a DVD and eat toast.”

When that very modest request was granted, he phoned me to tell me how good it had been and how happy he now was.

I feel so privileged that this lovely small person has arrived in my life and poured so much love into it.

 

 

 

Wish you were here…

On the 17th July last year, I spent my first night in my cottage.  There was nothing much here – just me and an ancient futon (long since free-cycled).

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The furniture didn’t arrive until the next day. I can’t say I slept much that night, but still it was a momentous time for me.

The studio now

The studio now

I never managed a house warming party.  The place was full of workmen until well into the autumn, and by then I was so exhausted and crushed by the whole adventure that parties were the last thing on my mind.

So, I decided, this first anniversary would be the perfect time to celebrate.

Upstairs landing.  Note the large hole in the ceiling!

Upstairs landing. Note that large hole in the ceiling!

Obviously, I’d invite friends – people who helped me with the move, people who took me out for a coffee or a meal when all became too challenging, people who made encouraging comments about the changes and kept me going when miracles seemed a little thin on the ground.

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Then I decided to invite all the neighbours.  They’d put up with months of scaffolding, yelling, banging and clanging without a single complaint.  They must have been curious to know what was going on inside but with typical British reserve, few called round to look.

Next, I wanted to invite back the tradesmen who had made such incredible changes.  After all, such people rarely get to see the finished article.  A room is plastered or a shower plumbed in, but to see those rooms decorated and finished would perhaps be of interest.

The kitchen when I moved in

The kitchen when I moved in

And last but not least, although you’re scattered around the world, I’d love to have invited you, my dear supportive WordPress followers.

The kitchen - now

The kitchen – now

Your likes and comments have been a source of such great pleasure and encouragement since the very start of my LIME story.  I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a virtual tour of the place, and  you won’t get to meet all the wonderful, warm-hearted friends and neighbours who joined me last Friday, but thank you so much for staying with me on my journey through time to reach the point where I can say the cottage is (mostly) in a fit state to enjoy.

I heard some fascinating stories from neighbours…

There was the time the Chalice Well stream, which still flows beneath the front of the building, suddenly overflowed in the middle of the night.  An elderly couple lived here then and were woken to the sound of rushing water filling the living room.  Apparently the water board engineer was unwilling to do anything at first, since it wasn’t his company’s water.  The neighbour who told me the story described how, in very forthright language, he told the engineer that since his van bore the word ‘water’ and this was indeed that substance, he should put these good people out of their misery and fix the leak at once.  Apparently there have been no problems since.

I was told that the little rubble stone garage that lies in a tiny lane of colour-washed cottages just behind my garden used to be a betting office, while the cottage opposite it once sold paraffin.

The downstairs bathroom then

I discovered that badgers have a huge sett in the garden of the house opposite and can often be seen padding past my fence at night.

Same bathroom now

Same bathroom now

Visitors arrived with jars of home-made jam, cordials and honey, plants and flowers, along with friendship, congratulations and kind words about the renovations.

It was a glorious day and I felt so grateful to have such kind and caring people gathered around me.

Now that I’ve proved to my own satisfaction that miracles can and should be expected, and more-or-less finished my repairs and decorating, I’m free to focus on the other passions in my life – the writing, the metaphysics, the teaching and the living of this glorious physical reality I find myself in at this point in my consciousness.

The alcove now

The alcove now

The alcove in the iving room - then

The alcove in the iving room – then

Doing the Gratefuls

A depressed man sitting on a bench

Charlie was stuck.  He recognised it.  He just didn’t know what to do about it.

I’m sure it’s a fairly familiar tale.  He’d given up a well paid managerial position in his late twenties to study for a degree in a subject he loved. He met his girlfriend at university.  They graduated, though, at the time the recession really kicked in.  Both of them had applied for plenty of jobs, but nothing came up, so both moved back in with their respective parents, hundreds of miles apart, and applied for job-seekers allowance.

Eventually, both found regular jobs.  These were not highly paid, not anything connected to their degrees or aspirations, but enabled them to save a small amount each month, pay their way at home and put together enough money to visit one another every month or so.

That wasn’t too bad for a start, but it dragged on year after year and both became thoroughly fed up.

“I’m 33,” Charlie announced miserably, when he came to stay with me last month. “I haven’t done anything yet.  I’m bored with my job, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life living with Dad, I miss my girlfriend and I’m fed up.  I’ve applied for loads of other jobs but nothing comes up.  Nothing is going to change.  There’s no way out.”

On the surface of it, his situation didn’t look great.  He didn’t earn enough to move into a place of his own.  He certainly didn’t earn enough to keep his girlfriend while she relocated and searched for a new job.  He spent his evenings trying to write a best-seller and learning carpentry, but – as I’ve said, he was stuck.

I hated seeing Charlie this miserable.  I toyed with the idea of talking about how we create our own lives with the way we think about them, and about the nature of reality, but he wasn’t in a space where he could hear that.  I thought back to the time I’d been at my lowest, and the teacher who had rescued me.  He’d instructed me to go and write the words

I’m grateful for all in my life

on a sheet of paper, to look at it at least three times a day, and to repeat it five times on each occasion.  To say I’d been sceptical would be an understatement, but I’d done it, and the turnaround had been amazing.

I told Charlie the story.  His reaction was exactly what I’d expected – exactly what mine had been.

“Am I allowed to say it through gritted teeth with deep irony?” he asked, grimly.

“Sure,” I said.  “Say it any way you like, but say it.  As you say it, challenge yourself to think about the most depressing, horrible, unpleasant situations in your life, and work out what they’re teaching you or showing you.”

We tried a few together.  He named a particularly hated manager at work, listing the ways she undermined others, sloped off early leaving them struggling to meet deadlines, bad-mouthed others behind their backs while being sweet as sugar to their faces.  The list went on.

“So what is she teaching you?  What lesson does she have for you?” I asked.

He thought for a while.  “How not to be a manager?  How not to handle people?”

I suggested he turned those to positives.

“So… she’s showing me that people matter, that they deserve respect and that if I end up managing others I lead by example rather than giving orders and doing something else.”

“Valuable help then,” I grinned.  “You can be grateful for Jenny.”

“I’m grateful for Jenny,” he snarled, but at least he was smiling as he said it.

I reminded him of the sentence a few more times during the holiday.  He dutifully repeated it, but with a fairly bad grace.

English: Tropical Rucksack Side View

Before he left, I had the opportunity to slip that sheet of paper I’d written the original message on into a pocket of his rucksack.  At some point he’d find it.  It might jog his memory…

Last night, Charlie phoned me.

His girlfriend had been given a large pay rise.  She’d calculated that it was enough to rent a house in a lovely town close to where she works.  He had handed in his notice and was heading up to view properties with her this weekend.  They’re planning to move in together at the start of June.  His boss has promised him a glowing reference and he’s going to search for a job there.

He’d written 40,000 words of his book, he said.  He was happy with the way it was going.  His latest wood carving project was a large green man.  That was going well too.

I asked how he felt about uprooting and moving across the country.  He admitted it had been difficult at first.
“I’ve worked through it now, though,” he said. “Friends and people at work have been very supportive and now I’ve actually committed to it, I feel hopeful about the future.”

There was a pause while I took all this in.

Quietly, almost shyly, Charlie added, “Oh, and I’ve been doing the gratefuls and that every day…”

Charlie is my son.

I’m grateful for all in my life…