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Oops!

January has been a bit of a walking through treacle month so far. But then it is for many people. The post-Christmas slump when the family has departed and the house de-Christmassed, the overly long wait for payday, the winter blahs (even though we’ve turned the corner and the days are getting longer)…all that stuff.

In addition to the usual suspects, January has been a month during which

  • I have been battling the black dog.
  • I have attended the funeral of a man who died far too young (he was 30!).
  • I have grown to despair of the sort of conversations that take place on Twitter. During my years in the field of L&D, Twitter was one of the most important tools in my toolkit. Since I no longer have those conversations to take part in, the balance has changed, and there is just so much vitriol. I have begun the process of extricating myself from that space.
  • Someone I thought I knew has metamorphosed into someone I barely recognise, and it is causing pain to two people I care about.
  • I have been entertaining grave doubts about the future of Karyn’s [re]Kreations.

This combination of factors already had me a bit of a low ebb, so I wasn’t in the greatest of places when the tree surgeon hired by our landlady had an accident and fell through the roof of my workshop. There are so many aspects to this event.

  1. The tree surgeon dude’s wellbeing. When he came to the house to let us know what had happened, the first question Mr Namasi asked him was whether he was okay. He said he was fine. Mr Namasi thought he’d probably feel less fine the next morning. (spoiler: he’s back today, and he is indeed fine – he said he’s had worse falls in the line of his work))
  2. The roof is asbestos. Apparently the risk sets in when it breaks and the fibres are released. Well, it was broken. The broken bits have now been removed. But I don’t know what the associated risks are of fibres on the contents of the workshop (see below).
  3. The structural damage. The hole in the roof is huge. Unfortunately, because it’s asbestos, a specialist replacement is probably on the cards. Because we don’t own the property, this is of course, the landlady’s problem, but she’s a lovely lady and it’s not a nice problem for her to have. And, now that I think about it, I guess there will come a time when there is asbestos-related work going on, on the property. I’m not sure how that will affect us.
  4. The damage to my stock. The part of the workshop that was damaged is where I keep my pending and completed projects. Some pieces of roofing have done damage to the pieces, and lot of dirt and debris has landed all over the place. I have yet to do a proper audit of the true extent of the damage.
  5. The impact on my already wobbly mental health.

On my Karyn’s [re]Kreations Facebook page, I shared a post about the damage to the workshop, focusing on the potential impact on Karyn’s [re]Kreations. Because that’s what the page is about. I reshared it on my personal Facebook page, and on Instagram.

This was when I discovered that I might not always present myself in the best light. A few people urged me to be grateful that the tree surgeon hadn’t been hurt, and reminded me that that was the most important consideration. I was utterly taken aback. Of course it is. And of course I know it. And of course, if the man had been hurt in any way, I’d have made a completely different sort of post. Of course. Well duh. Obvs. All those things.

But apparently it isn’t ‘well duh’. Apparently people didn’t automatically infer from my post that the structural damage to the roof and the damage to my stock was the worst of it. Apparently it isn’t immediately clear to people – even those who know me personally – that I value people more than things. That sat in my belly like a rock. And it reminded me of something.

Years ago, when I was submitting papers towards my Master’s degree, my course supervisor would repeatedly ask why I hadn’t elaborated on this or that point. I would explain that I had only 3000 words, and didn’t want to waste them stating the obvious. She would reply that ‘the obvious’ wasn’t necessarily obvious to the person reading the paper. I still contend that anyone to whom that particular obvious wasn’t obvious had no business marking Master’s degree level papers on the subject, but that’s a tangent we don’t have time for here.

It does seem, however, that I fell back into the same damned trap of assuming.

I clearly need to rethink how I present myself. I need to find a way to make it clear that I care about people. About the planet. About the environment. About animals. That I’m not just about stuff. Belongings. Possessions. Property. Things.

The problem is that I thought I was already doing that. This is a helluva concept to be tackling in a state of blah-ness. I might have to come back to it when my inner Tigger moves back into the front room and my inner Eeyore has dozed off again.

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The birthday I never expected to have

Yesterday was my birthday. My 56th birthday. And this is a big deal, even though it doesn’t have a zero at the end. Here’s why. Warning: this is going to get weird. But I can’t not write this post, for some reason.

There have been times in my life when I have known something. Something I had no way of knowing. Something I had no business knowing. And – most of the time – something I haven’t wanted to know.

Let me give you an example. One of the clearest examples from my life. One day, when I was at boarding school, our temporary matron walked past me and I knew she was about to die. Imminently. The certainty of her death settled over me like a thick, heavy, black blanket. Just a few hours later, an announcement was made that she had indeed died.

This is one example. There have been others – usually less dramatic than this, but still very unsettling. There is something very uncomfortable about saying something to a person that you think is obvious and well-known, only to have the person look at you in horror and/or mortification and gasp, “How could you possibly know that?”

Some people talk about being ‘a sensitive’. In the charismatic/pentecostal church the term is ‘word of knowledge’ and it is regarded as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There may be other terms in other faiths. I don’t know. I haven’t researched it. I don’t want to know. I recognise that you might be reading this thinking, I know what this is, and I could explain. Please don’t. I don’t want to know. It’s no gift at all.

Some people have identified this trait in me, and have encouraged me to develop it. After the death of the matron, I became quite hysterical, repeating over and over that I had known it was going to happen. Most of the girls just shrugged it off as attention-seeking on my part. There was, however, a pair of sisters at the school who practised some alternative belief system. I think it was spiritualism, but I couldn’t say for sure after all these years. They were overcome with excitement at the discovery of my ‘psychic ability’ and wanted more than anything to mentor me as I developed it. I didn’t want to develop it. I didn’t want a closer relationship with the sisters, who made me feel uncomfortable at a fundamental level. Years later, I would say ‘they made my spirit itch’. I didn’t want to know when random people were about to die.

About 10 years ago, I went to an osteopath, expecting to have my skeleton realigned. The very first words the man said to me when he walked into the waiting room were, “Oh good. You’re a sensitive.” He was appalled that I had no interest in discussing my aura or my chakras or any other invisible/intangible thing, and just wanted him to sort my back out. He kept trying to steer the conversation in that direction, until I snapped at him that I was paying £1 per minute of his time, and I’d like to choose how that time was spent. He more or less asked me never to come back. As if there was any danger that I would.

So… that’s the context.

One of the things I have known, is that I wouldn’t live past 55. I attended my father’s funeral in 1998. He had taken his own life at the age of 57. It wasn’t his first attempt. During his wake, I became aware of a certainty that I wouldn’t even live to see 57. And the knowledge felt old and familiar, even comfortable, like a pair of well-worn shoes. As if it had always been there, but I was just looking straight at it for the first time. 55. That was it. That number was as clear in my mind as if it had been posted on a billboard. That was all I was getting. The knowledge didn’t scare me. It was just…there.

Until yesterday, I had only shared that information with two people.

The first was a young man we fostered for a while. Things were beginning to go pear-shaped and we were having one of many arguments. He made a comment about not living to a ripe old age, and I snapped out my certainty that I wouldn’t see my 56th birthday.

The second was much more recently. I was speaking to one of my oldest, dearest friends who knows me and my baggage well, and who also happens to be a doctor. I was discussing my chronic pain condition with her, and raised the possibility that this would be what finished me off, since I knew I wouldn’t see my 56th birthday, and that day was closing in apace.

I had never told another living soul. Not my husband, not my kids, not my Mom. Yesterday I did tell Mr Namasi. But you’re the fourth person to know this weird secret I’ve been keeping.

As you can imagine, as I neared 55, any condition that arose (including my bouts of depression and the attendant suicidal thoughts) would have me wondering whether this was the thing that would do me in. A cluster of cells in my breast? Oh, perhaps I’m going to die of breast cancer. Post menopausal bleeding? Ah, perhaps it will be cervical cancer. Unspeakable chest pain? Hmm… perhaps it will be a heart attack. And not in any hypochondriac way, either. There was always an element of academic interest, like watching something under a microscope and being interested in the developments.

And then I turned 56.

And the thing that I knew – the bedrock, familiar truth that has always been there – turns out not to be real after all.

It raises a delicious uncertainty. I have now entered into a period of life I never foresaw. I can plan a trip to South Africa for my mother’s 80th next December. I can start thinking about Mr Namasi’s 60th birthday. I might live to have grandchildren, after all. I might get to be mother of the groom. Maybe even twice! I might get to share my husband’s retirement years with him.

And perhaps some of the other things I know are also not true. Perhaps I have unwrapped the ‘gift’ and found an empty box.

I’m in uncharted waters. The next landmark comes on 1 June 2020, when I become older than my Dad ever lived to be.

Will you keep me company as I find out how that feels?

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The value of nothing

This morning, I was expecting someone to come and collect some items of furniture we had offered for free to anyone starting out. The person in question had identified the pieces they wanted, and said they’d be here at 11am. I moved all the items into my entrance hall in readiness. At 12:30, I contacted them to say that I needed to go out, having errands to run, and could no longer wait for them. They asked me if I could drop the pieces off on my way.

Anyone who has offered items on Freecycle, Freeloved (the free section of Preloved), Freegle, Free to Collect or any of the other myriad similar sites – including community pages – will be able to relate. My own experience with these sites is a show up rate of roughly 60%. In other words, people have failed to arrive to collect items they’ve requested from me about two times in five.

On a subconscious level, I suspect people attach no value to something they’re getting for nothing. If you don’t value it enough to attach a price tag to it, why should they attach enough value to it to drag themselves away from a nice warm TV?

I’ve found the same to be true of free-to-attend events that I have hosted. It happens less often than the Freecycle no-shows, but people do tend to say they’re coming and then fail to appear, with no explanation.

I’ve had similar experiences when I have offered to do something for charities on a pro bono basis (running a craft session, providing IT training to the office staff, etc.). You turn up at the agreed time, only to find they’re not ready for you, and please will you wait there until they are? If you’re lucky, they might contact you on the morning of the agreed appointment to request an open-ended postponement.

I don’t want to stop offering these items/services. And I certainly don’t want to start dumping perfectly serviceable items at the tip.  But I’d be very curious to know whether anyone in a similar position has found a way to reduce the no-shows.

On a (sort of) related note – there are those who decide to tackle a project themselves, but look to you for free advice and guidance on how to complete the project successfully. I need to think about where the line is, since I’m trying to earn my living at this, and one of the services I offer is supervised/guided DIY. I’ve always been happy to share my skills and knowledge, but it seems unfair to those who pay me for this service to give it away free of charge to others.

I don’t really have a conclusion to this post, but I’d really love to hear what others have experienced.

 

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Musing about seasons

I’m sitting in my studio, watching the snow fall gently and magically outside and thinking how very much I love the changing seasons. I fully acknowledge my privileged status in having a warm home from which to be able to do so, but thoughts along those lines belong in a different post. Today, I just want to revel in the joy of seasons. If you have lived all your life where the four seasons measure the year, it might be no more exciting to you than the hands of a clock or the pages of a calendar. But to me, it feels like a gift, and I think it would be the thing I missed the most if I were ever to move to a different climatic zone.

Let me explain.

I was born in Durban, situated in the subtropical, summer rainfall zone of South Africa. I spent the first 10 years of my life in this region, returning in my late teens for three years as a student. During this time, I ate paw-paws (papayas) and avocados picked from the trees in friends’ gardens. Litchis (lychees) and mangoes were readily available from the fruit and veg truck that pulled up in our street every week. People could often be seen munching sticks of sugar cane, dropped by passing trucks or trains. February was unbearably hot and humid, with temperatures well over 30C day and night at times. And when the rain fell on a hot summer day, the huge drops would hiss as they hit the hot tar. Winter temperatures ‘plummeted’ to 15C, which we found bone-rattlingly cold. Visitors from further north swam in the Indian Ocean throughout our (ahem) winter, while we watched in mystified bemusement from under our layers of clothing.

My mother moved us to East London when I was ten, and I lived in that climatic zone from 10-16 and again from 21-24. This is also a summer rainfall area, but the climate is temperate. This is where pineapples and aloes grow. And enterprising rural folks would pick, prepare and sell prickly pears by the bucket on the side of the road. The summers are hot (and I sprinted barefoot on a cinder track!). Winter temperatures in this region drop a lot lower than I had been used to. In fact, there would be snow on the nearby mountains in the winter. But central heating was non-existent. I learnt what it was to be cold – especially in the high ceiling dormitories of my boarding school.

By the time I moved to Cape Town at the age of 24 – all by myself, with no job waiting for me and just enough for a single month’s rent money to my name – I had never seen a proper autumn. The plant growth native the regions I had lived all my life up until that point was pretty much evergreen. I had seen countless pictures, of course. I suspect Vermont featured quite prominently, because, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to see Vermont in the Fall, and I can only think that pictures seen during childhood must be responsible for that. But it’s not the same. It’s really, really not.

The Western Cape is a winter rainfall zone, and is home to plants with a more clearly identifiable seasonal cycle: apples, pears, cherries, grapes and oak trees. Mainly brought over by settlers from Europe, I imagine. Hot summers, cold winters. Temperatures in winter could drop below zero. Snow on the mountains was not uncommon. There was a stretch of country road near our home with oak trees on either side. The branches met overhead to make a sort of corridor, and the changing seasons could be observed in that beautiful tunnel. It was my first introduction to ‘proper’ seasons, and it became my favourite stretch of road.

Then we moved to the UK, and I finally got to see four proper seasons in a year. I can’t begin to tell you how magical that is to me. How the earth seems to sleep and wake and sleep and wake. How it seems to be breathing in and out and in and out.

As each season arrives, I am convinced that it is my favourite time of year. The brave little snowdrops, crocuses and grape hyacinths that venture out in the cold to promise that spring is coming. The delicate greens. The deciduous blossoms that festoon trees along the roadsides and later drift on the wind like confetti. The banks and banks of daffodils. Then I decide I’m all yellowed out (I’m not good at strong yellows), and I start to long for other colours. They don’t disappoint. The colours deepen and strengthen and ripen. Flowers appear in passionate profusion in gardens – oh, how the English love their gardens! Wisteria and clematis transform the fronts of houses. The evenings are long and light and luxurious. The crops in the fields become greener and greener and then seem to start to bleach in the sun. The poppies appear. And berries. Oh berries! And then the leaves start to change and autumn takes my breath away with its oranges and reds and browns. Virginia creepers turn the sides of nondescript and even derelict buildings into places of eye-watering beauty. And the leaves fall in a never-ending cascade and crunch underfoot or rise up in the wake of passing cars or capricious breezes. And then they’re gone, and the branches are bare and picturesque and skeletal against the sky. The night comes early and the world is like a secret. The sky is grey, and it rains. And perhaps the snow will fall, and cover everything in a layer of beautifying white purity. And my breath appears in front of me as I walk. And then I start to see those brave little harbingers and it starts all over again.

Sigh.

 

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In defence of pain

I have a strange relationship with pain. I’m not daft: I don’t enjoy it. But I do understand that pain serves an important purpose. And I would rather treat the cause of a pain than just blot out the pain itself with analgesics. When you do that (in my opinion), you’re at risk of doing something that could cause worse and/or lasting damage, because you’ve blocked out the signal that tells you to stop. The only time I reach unhesitatingly for a painkiller is when I have a migraine.

There are people with a condition called congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), a  genetic disorder that makes them unable to feel pain. These people have to keep checking themselves thoroughly, in case they’ve acquired an injury which might get infected, or a venomous sting or bite. They can – quite literally – die from an injury they didn’t know they had. When paramedics are called to the scene of someone with a back or neck injury, they breathe a sigh of relief if the patient complains of pain in their lower limbs: to them, pain is good. Pain is a sign that the brain and the body are still on speaking terms.

I have been struggling with a great deal of pain for the past couple of weeks. Blood tests have been contradictory and inconclusive. On my worst day, I had to ask Mr Namasi to put my socks on for me, because I couldn’t bend my knees or my hips enough to reach my feet. I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to brush my teeth properly. Rolling over in bed caused me unspeakable pain, and had me whimpering.

While we’re waiting for results from further blood tests, my doctor has put me a regime designed to treat polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). If it turns out not to be that, we’ll try something different. But PMR responds quickly to corticosteroids, so it seemed like a good idea to start without delay. The difference today is marked.

I was thinking about this, as I headed home from the dentist this afternoon, having been able to drive myself there and ‘open wide’. And then I started thinking about mental anguish, and emotional and psychological pain. As someone who has walked a tough road at times, dealing with various… ‘issues’ seems to be the current word of choice. And as someone who battles the black dog, I got to wondering about the role of emotional and psychological negativity in life. These days, it is very trendy to encourage people to steer clear of those who are in a negative place, and only spend time with positive people. I have a huge problem with that. It seems overly self-serving. And it’s a sure-fire way to make sure you’re on your own next time you find yourself in a dark place.

And then I got home, to find a doctor friend had posted this on Facebook. Please watch it.

I have been known to say that I measure love in inconvenience: the extent to which you are prepared to put yourself out for a person is the extent to which you love them. No more. No less.

So perhaps we need to rethink the way we feel about physical pain. About emotional anguish. About being inconvenienced. Perhaps they have a role to play. And perhaps a life without them would become too desultory to bear.

Mr Namasi and I recently watched a TV series called Altered Carbon, and it addresses this very point. People with the means to have whatever they want, whenever and for as long as they want it, are seen to become more and more depraved as they have to try harder and harder for a sign that they are ALIVE!

This has been me, thinking out loud. Well, sort of. What do you think?

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Sticking to the day job… or not

I’ve agonised over whether or not to post this here, because it doesn’t really relate to my day job. But then I decided that that was precisely the point. So here goes…

This morning, I saw a clip in which Ashton Kutcher takes on those who tell him to ‘stick to the day job’ when he speaks up on political issues. I encourage you to watch it, but I feel obliged to issue a trigger warning.

I’m not going to write about the contents of the clip – that’s another conversation. I am going to pick up on this ‘stick to the day job’ thing.

Not long ago, Jack Monroe (of Cooking on a Bootstrap fame) also touched on this subject, having been told to ‘stick to cooking’ by someone on Twitter.

Anthony Rapp has been told to stick to the day job, too, as he has spoken up about being sexually abused by Kevin Spacey as a teenager.

Professor Brian Cox is repeatedly told to ‘stick to science’ when he voices an opinion on Brexit… or pretty much any other topic, to be honest. Here’s just one example.

Of course, all these people have had far worse things said to them, but that’s a different conversation.

‘Stick to the day job’ is not an uncommon riposte. I’ve been on the receiving end myself. In fact, any time the online conversation turns to politics, or climate change, or healthcare, or any non-fluff subject, it’s almost a given that someone will be told to ‘stick to the day job’.

My response to this is twofold:

First, people are multifaceted beings, and just because they do one thing to earn a crust (aka the day job) does not mean that’s all they know about.

  • I have a lifelong friend who is the head of critical care at a very large state hospital. But her FB page is full of knowledgeable shares about ballet – a subject dear to her heart, even though she hasn’t danced in decades.
  • My cousin trained as an accountant and now heads up a large, multinational corporation. What he doesn’t know about wild life and conservation isn’t worth knowing.
  • As Ashton Kutcher explains in the clip, he heads up an initiative that uses software to fight human trafficking. He is also a parent.
  • The first time Jack Monroe blipped my radar was when they (Jack’s preferred pronoun) appeared on television discussing the realities of poverty in the UK…from firsthand experience.
  • Although these days, I work with my hands, I spent 25 years in the field of Learning & Development, much of it as an innovative early adopter. And once upon a very long ago, I was on the national youth committee of a political party.
Second, what is the day job of the people who glibly tell others to stick to the day job? How come they get to be there but Ashton, or Jack or Anthony (or even I) must ‘stick to the day job’? Where is the list of day jobs with a legitimate right to join in the conversation on any given topic? Who drew up the guest list? Who are the bouncers, and are they open to being bribed? To whom do we need to speak to be allowed in to the hallowed conversations about politics, or climate change, or the state of education/health care, or equal rights, or sexual abuse?
I’d love to hear about a situation in which you have been told to stick to your day job. Particularly if the conversation was on a topic about which you are particularly knowledgeable.
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On being fifty-plus

A bit of introspection today.

Yesterday, an article popped up in my feed in one of my social media spaces. One of those ones that you know has been selected for you based on an algorithm. This one was all about fashion mistakes that middle aged women make, that make them look older. I was proud of my middle aged sisterhood for responding by flipping the article the collective bird in the comments section.

But it set me thinking.

Once we hit this patch on life’s journey, we’re constantly being given hints and tips on looking younger, slimmer, more attractive. Now, I understand that on a purely instinctual level, men are more likely to be attracted to women who are (or appear to be) of reproductive age. It’s that whole hard-coded drive to procreate. Attracting a mate is in the very DNA of living things.

But for those of us whose reproductive years are behind us, surely there are more important things to do than pretend to still be young enough to gestate?

Use our cosmetics (tested on animals) to make yourself look younger and more attractive to men!

Ugh.

I’m not suggesting that we neglect our skin care regimes and abdicate stewardship of bodies and faces. But surely we can move on from this notion that old=ugly? My skin is pretty good, but it is unmistakably the skin of a woman in her mid 50s. And why is that a bad thing? I am a woman in her mid 50s. My skin has housed me all that time. It has stretched as I grew up or got larger through pregnancy or gluttony. It has also (albeit less frequently and less dramatically) shrunk, after childbirth or due to diet-and-exercise. It bears the marks of the story of my life so far. A scar on my cheek from a close encounter of the painful kind with a steering wheel. Another across my brow bone, where said brow bone once made a bid for freedom and tried to forge a new life for itself on the outside of my skin. Stretch marks like laddered tights all over my hips where growing babies tested the limits of its capacity to stretch. Inevitably, for a woman who grew up in a sunny country in the days before people cared about sunblock, I have a few of the clusters of melanin referred to as age spots. I’m carrying far too much weight, and for the sake of my health, I should shed it. But my skin soldiers on, housing all the excess me and taking it in its stride.

You’ve got to respect that. Come on.

Stop wearing that. It ages you. Wear this. It makes you look younger.

But I’m not younger. And why is that a bad thing? I’ve had almost 55 years of doing stuff. There’s no way all that stuff could have fitted into a shorter period of time. 12 years at school, almost 30 years of marriage, a master’s degree, a career spanning 25 years, two adult sons. Races run, songs sung, awards received, conferences attended (and addressed), loss, grief, joy, achievement, triumph, defeat. I’ve acquired skills and knowledge. I’ve been places and done things.

Judging by the attitudes of my peers, it takes this long to find the sodthat button and push it with an unrepentant, if slightly arthritic forefinger.

These days, I spend most of my days dressed in overalls and safety boots. I’m usually covered in sawdust and/or paint. Quite often my face is obscured by safety goggles and a dust mask. Does my bum look big in that? Probably. Because it is big in that… and every other thing I wear. Does it age me? Almost certainly, because the sawdust will emphasise my wrinkles. I’m sure the appearance police would have a conniption.

It’s all about outward appearances. We’re obsessed. How old do you look? How slim do you look? Wear blocks of colour to look taller. Wear vertical stripes to look slimmer. Wear lilac eye shadow to look younger.

Surely it should be less about looking and more about being and doing?

So your outfit makes you look young, but you treat people like dirt? Is that okay? You have a tight tush but you’ve never helped anyone out of a tight spot. Is that cool? Your skin looks like that of a woman 15 years younger, but your cosmetics are wrecking the planet. Is that good?

I believe Roald Dahl said it very well (in The Twits):

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Gaggle of middle aged women (I’m in white)

So yeah. See that gaggle of middle aged women over there? You think they look faintly ridiculous in their inappropriate outfits. You wonder if they realise that you and your friends are laughing at them. You wonder if they realise that their confidence is misplaced, after all they lost their power to turn heads at least a decade ago.

Well, eat your heart out. They’ve earned their stripes. They don’t care that men aren’t drooling over them (in fact they feel quite liberated by that fact). It’s taken them fifty-plus years to reach this point and they’re going to rock it. Hard.

Women’s magazines are full of advice for them.

They don’t give a rat’s ass.

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So this is why they’re called turbulent times

Those who know me even a little, know that I am not great at the whole flying thing. This is something of a bummer, since – other than Mr Namasi and our two sons – my entire family lives a plane journey away. Mother, sister, nieces, nephew, sisters in law, aunts, uncles… you get the picture.

I’m actually fine, if the plane moves as if on a sheet of glass. I can even handle it if the plane moves something like a car on a tarred road. But any sign of turbulence, and I can’t even pretend to be holding it together.

I have even managed to embarrass the otherwise imperturbable Mr Namasi during one particularly rough flight from Oregon, when we caught the edge of a storm that had disrupted air travel all over the US. I can’t say I blame him: I was praying in tongues… at the top of my voice. And begging the crew to stop and let me off.

It’s the powerlessness, you see. I mean even the pilot can’t do a damned thing about the conditions. S/he just has to take us through them. Hopefully safely to the other side. We are all totally at the mercy of forces more powerful than anything we can control. If an air pocket decides to open up and suck the plane a few hundred feet earthwards…so be it. Down we go. If an updraught chooses to slam into the underside of the plane and send us upwards… up we go.

I’ve used the words ‘decides’ and ‘chooses’ as if the forces of nature are sentient. As if they have a will. But I think the fact that they don’t makes it worse: they are implacable. They can’t be reasoned with. It’s not personal: they’re not vindictive. They will simply do what they do – what they have always done – without a thought for our convenience, comfort or safety. No matter how much I might beg and plead for them to stop, they are without remorse.

Mr Namasi and I were comparing notes about the place we find ourselves at the moment. And it’s so very much like this. I’ve used the word ‘turbulent’ to describe life and circumstance before. But today it really hit home how very much like flying through turbulence our current situation really is. We are utterly at the mercy of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

The closure of John’s company: beyond his control. The loss of my workshop: beyond my control. The impenetrability of the job market for the over 50s: beyond our control. The delays in the sale of our house: beyond our control. The factors that led to the closure of the shop where I have working: beyond my control (and pretty much beyond the control of the friend who owns the shop, too). We have some control over the rate at which our bank balance changes, but no control over the inexorable direction of that change.

Our circumstances are what they are. It’s not personal. It’s not like ‘they’ are or ‘it’ is out to get us. And we’re being buffeted and blown hither and yon.

We’re both desperate for it to stop. We’re bruised, battered and exhausted. And yet it goes on. And we have no idea when – or even if – it’s going to stop.

When you’re flying from A to B, you have some idea of the maximum duration of the discomfort of turbulence. In roughly x hours and y minutes, the plane will land, and you can disembark and – if you feel so inclined – kiss the unspeakably unhygienic ground.

We don’t have that assurance. We don’t know how much longer this is going to go on. And it’s the utter helplessness we find so difficult to deal with.

We have been repeatedly blessed by friends and family with gifts of evenings out, groceries, a couple of days away. I have managed to sell a few of my kreations. We are deeply appreciative of the ongoing trickle of small blessings during this turbulent patch. But we yearn desperately for smoother sky or – better yet – a handy airport. We cling to each other for support and pray… no, wait. Is it still called praying if you’re alternating between pleading and throwing a tantrum? We’re doing whatever that’s called.

Is this flight ever going to even out? Is it ever going to land safely? Is it going to crash?

And of course, now that my thoughts have moved in that direction, I’m imagining a cold caller saying “We have reason to believe you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault…”

“Yes, as it happens. My metaphorical plane has crashed into the side of a metaphorical mountain. Do you offer any kind of compensation?”

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When you’re busy making other plans

Life. That’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

You probably know that, for the past few weeks, I’ve been helping a friend get a little shop up and running in Northampton.

Neither of us planned this. She had originally set up a completely different business in that space, for which she had employed a manager, and she had allowed me the use of a good sized workshop on the same premises.

I was going to use that space to make and upcycle furniture and larger items. I had a studio at home where I did smaller crafts like sewing, jewellery and so forth. Because my husband had a well-paid job in the city, I wasn’t under pressure to make pots of money, and could allow things to grow organically.

Those were the plans.

Ha!

The business my friend had set up did not go well and the manager quit very quickly. I lost the use of the workshop space. My husband’s company folded and he – together with his entire staff – was made redundant.

So we revised our plans.

We would sell our house and downsize. While my husband looked for a new job, we would rent and live off the proceeds from the sale of the house.

My friend would open a new shop in that space and I would work for her part time, using the rest of my time to continue working on my smaller craft items until such time as I was able to once again gain access to a workshop space. Once the shop was rolling along, she would recruit a full time staff member, and I would revert to being one of the shop’s team of suppliers of goods and (in my case) services.

Then those plans were disrupted too.

The sale of our house fell at the final hurdle. My husband’s job hunting has (to date) borne no fruit. My friend was diagnosed with something horrible.

So it was time for revised revised plans.

We introduced a phase 1 austerity budget (if things don’t improve soon, phase 2 will have to be invoked) at home. The house went back on the market. My husband applied for jobseekers’ allowance, although he continues the job search with dedication and commitment. I will work in the shop full time for the next while. My friend will work somewhere else on a part time basis and undergo a treatment programme.

In due course, we hope that the house will sell. We hope that my husband will find a job. We hope that the shop will do well enough to recruit a full time staff member. We hope that the treatment will work.

It has been a very weird time. And there is so much uncertainty surrounding us at the moment. The next few weeks could be interesting, to say the least.