Never too late.

Every day, I drive around many roundabouts. But there’s one roundabout in particular which never fails to make me smile to myself, and I’d go as far to say, lift my mood. Perhaps thats why they planted it full to bursting of poppies, cornflowers and yellow daisies. Its like a Mr Potato-Head-Play-Doh apparition…a rounded green hump with a mass of sprouting crimson. This roundabout I’m talking about is right near the office I work at. And since its my last day here on Friday and poppies don’t last long, I thought I’d better go and get myself a little picture.

As I walked up to the roundabout,  I realised that in all the years I’ve worked here, I’ve walked around the lakes many times in my lunch break, but I’ve never walked through the carefully manicured gardens which I drive through, approaching the office, which is sad really. I always see the gardener. He’s always hard at work, tending the borders under a weeping willow or fishing out yellowed lily pad leaves from the many little ponds which teem with a life from another world.

So, I took a few pictures along the way, and wanted to share them with you. And here they are. They may not mean as much to you, as they do to me, since I took them and I know where they were taken, but still, I think they look quite pretty. Anything with sprouting green leaves is alright by me.

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Dear Bella

Dear Bella-In-Ten-Years,

Do you remember when you were 31? Do you? Or shall I remind you? Ok. Here goes.

You went back to work at Christmas, just before you moved out of your house for building work. Is it becoming clear yet? So, you went back to work. Then a month later, work announced that they were making everyone redundant. Yeeeeeees. You remember now, don’t you! Do you remember how you felt? To begin with, you were indifferent. You wanted to help your friends around you, by cheering them up with your baking. You even baked gluten free for the only person in the office! (Despite them being disGUSTing) And then one night, you went to the cinema to see Avatar with Sven. You fell asleep an hour into the film, fidgeted about a bit and then when you decided you couldn’t doze anymore, you sat up to find big, fat, warm tears plonking themselves down my fat cheeks. You didn’t know why – how could you be crying when you have disliked your job for so long? They’re doing you a favour, right? But you weren’t crying because you were upset. You were crying because the decision had been made for you. You were out of control.

Gradually, as the months went by, you turned into a bitter, resentful, unhappy mess. And then one day, the light shone from above, you heard a chorus of singers crooning from behind you, except whenever you turned around to look at them, they weren’t there. You were so wise to realise that it was what they call ‘an epiphany’. Why don’t you just leave? Amazing.

So you did. And it all worked out for the best.

I bet you’re reading this thinking ‘What on earth? How pathetic!’. My, you’ve come so far.

See you soon Bella-In-Ten-Years,

Love Bella-In-The-Present-Twenty-Ten x

Wakey wakey!

“Maaaaa-mmmeeeee.”

“Maa-mee.”

My left eye struggles to open. It snaps shut. I’m able to prize it open to pick up my overturned phone from on top of the book I’m not reading on my bedside table, to check that it really isn’t the ungodly hour I think it might be. It is. I sigh out loud, through my nose, but groan on the inside. I’m frustrated, my ears hurt pathetically with the not so loud noises I can hear coming from his cot. I check again, and muster the energy to speak. “It’s half. past. five.”

“I know” my husband says, like I’ve said the same thing to him for the fifth time.

The bedroom door gently opens and Rosa peeks around it, as quiet as a mouse. “Mummy” She whispers. “I’m thirsty.” Displeased, I sit up. My brow is furrowed, for a few reasons. My left ankle is weak and slightly aching from a 10k run the evening before. I am frustrated that children don’t understand time. I’m annoyed at myself for feeling frustrated that children don’t understand time. It’s not their fault. I feel mean. And, I’m just trying to wake up from a very deep sleep, my eyes aren’t adjusting to the dawn light as well as they should. I hobble downstairs, to fetch drinks for the children. On my return, I put the drinks in the childrens’ bedroom, that they’re currently sharing, the reason for not just one child being awake at this time. As I walk back to our bedroom to try to steal a few more seconds in bed, I see Rosa in front of me. “Your drink is in your bedroom”.

I left her drink in there when I took her brother out of his cot, and put him on the floor, hoping he would want to play.

“Why?” she asks me. I think for a few seconds.

“Because that’s where I put it” I say, irritatingly. I immediately feel dreadful for my answer and for the way in which I said it. Especially when she replies,

“Mummy, I’ll play with Jackson” in her sweetest, loveliest tone. “Look, Jackson. This is what you do with this” and she drops an oversized, moulded, plastic coin into a toy piggy-bank.

Despite feeling engulfed in guilt, I steal away, in the hope I won’t be followed by my little ducklings, so that I can crawl back into bed.

With all the noise I’m sure he can make, Jackson runs into our bedroom. He stands by the edge of the bed, near my face and makes a noise, which means ‘Let me up, let me up’.

I lift him up whilst I’m still lying down, and put him on the bed. He sits on me, like he’s on a horse and bumps up and down on my tummy, with a perfect chubby smile, stretched across his face. Its incredible how children can smile so happily so soon after waking up. I should learn something from this. He lurches across me, onto his daddy, to routinely slap his daddy’s shaven head. Steve lifts and turns his head to Jackson and smiles unconditionally at him with his eyes shut.

He gets up with the children, with an unequivocal energy I admire, and takes them downstairs for breakfast, as I bury my head under three pillows, still swamped with self-condemnation for being so abrupt.

I am me.

I was born in Leeds, in 1978 and moved to Norwich in 1980. In 1997, I moved to Nottingham to go to University. In 2000, I moved to Olney, Buckinghamshire. In 2005, I moved north of the county, where I am now settled. I knew I wanted to be settled, I don’t like moving about. I want to encounter the same old journeys every day. I want to drive, run, cycle and walk down the twisty, turny, crumbly back roads home, providing me with a secure sense of belonging – “I know these old roads like the back of my hand”.

When you grow up in one place, you naturally take it for granted. You know you’re going to be bumping into the same people when you go out. You know what time all the buses run by the end of the street, even if you don’t take the bus. In the same way that you know the local shop keeper. That all changes when you move, and in many ways, it’s never the same again. For me, its something I think about frequently, but don’t really talk about. I don’t talk about it with my husband, because it would mean nothing to him, since he didn’t grow up in the same place I did. Almost in the same way it means nothing to friends when you drive them to tears talking about your recent holiday, or showing your holiday snaps. If you weren’t there, its neither here nor there. I mean, you can try, but its never the same. I don’t keep in touch with many people from school, so I don’t naturally talk about it that way. I don’t talk about it a lot with my mum, dad or sister, because I never have the time with two young children ever present.

I used to walk to middle school, listening to my beaten up, red Sony walkman, complete with black foam ear phones. I would listen to rock’n’roll rhythms…”I’ve. Found. My. Freee-dom……..duh, duh, duh, duh, d-d-duh, duh….ooooon Blueberry Hiiiiill”. The smell of the towering hedge of conifers I walked beside was so fragrant. And when I reached the creamy vanilla-coloured house on the corner, the one with the Scottie dog, that scent changed to a drifting photocopy-smell of a tiny, white, blossom creeping up the stippled render. Time to cross the road. Time to methodically negotiate my feet over the crawling roots of the imposing Oak and Horse Chestnut trees, circulating the entrance of the schools, almost like they were keeping watch over the approaching youngsters. And then school. Now there’s a story for another day.

When I was a baby, my mum noticed a small area of bluishness on my upper thigh. Immediately concerned I had been bruised, she took me to the doctors, to be told that I displayed signs of Mongolian Blue Spot, something prevalent amongst East Asian, Native American, Polynesian, Micronesian and Hispanic children or of that descent. Kind of exciting and exotic to find out when you’re younger. Especially when, like myself, I am more than interested in Brazilian and American/Native American cultures. I’m not only interested because I had Mongolian Blue Spot and therefore I feel I should have an interest, I have always had a deep-rooted interest in both American and Latin cultures, almost to a point where, at certain moments I would actually feel part of them. Crazy, I know. And I almost feel childish and moronic revealing this about myself. When I hear the Berimbau, when I taste any kind of South American food, when I gaze spellbound at brightly painted street art, when I am drawn to handcrafted twinkling, silver and turquoise jewels, when I hear the flamboyant chatter of a native Carioca……anything, it would seem, which appeals to the left side of my brain. Recently, I have given this affinity a lot of thought. Why do I feel so connected to these things? Why do these emotive occasions make me feel like I almost belong to them? Are we more connected to these things than we will ever know? In my own private way, I like to think so. Its almost like a secret I only share with myself. The moment I share with anyone else, will be the moment I wish I hadn’t, for fear of feeling the blood rush to my cheeks in a moment of juvenile foolishness. And I realise thats exactly what I’m doing now, but somehow its different, because I’m not telling someone, I’m hiding behind my writing. But actually, you know what? I love this about myself, and it’s quite rare that I would say that about myself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to be ostentatious or gloating. This ‘secret’ I share only with myself (and now, my blog readers) is precious to me, its something I have spent alot of time mulling over. And now I share it with you.

And, as if by magic, I hear a lady nearby pick up the phone. She dials a number. There’s a pause whilst she waits tentatively for the other person to pick up, and the beginning of a long, excited babble begins…..”Olá! Como você está? Sim. Eu não sou realmente ruim. Você tem um bom fim de semana?…..”

Wafting aromas of Lemon Chicken Flan & Wisteria

On a raw, icy morning in January, our mini-tribe trundled across the village, leaving our rickety old home, to hibernate, for the rest of the gloomy season, in a rented house.

We moved into our humble Victorian nest back in July 2007, and were to be married two months later. In theory, moving and marrying in a very short space of time, could have been fraught with angst and apprehension. But the moment the key slipped into the tatty old lock, it turned and clunked solidly, the door creaked open, echoing gently through the opening of the empty house, I was absolutely certain that this was all I had ever dreamed of. That feeling was simply confirmed the following morning, when I opened my eyes to find myself looking out of the window onto the village church. The morning sunlight flooded onto the creamy, intricately embroidered bed sheets and in turn, reflected onto my face, which slowly unfurled a warm, comforted smile. I will never forget that moment.

After some sense was made of unpacking our new lives from what felt like hundreds of multi-sized brown parcels, we ventured out into the garden. What a sight we were met with! Flowering jasmine clambered its way clumsily over our heads, above the back door. Over grown conifers shadowed the courtyard garden, swaying slowly and ominously back and forth beside the path around the back of the house. Ivy had sneakily crept its way slowly but surely over the red brickwork, edging towards the wooden sash window frames, in an effort to prize its green spindly fingers into the building. Some of it had to go. It had to be ripped and torn off the fascia. It had to be churned up within a noisy, disruptive, log-cutting machine. But when the silence returned, the true beauty of our new home was unhurriedly being discovered. We stumbled across a twisted, mature pear tree, heavy with miniature growing fruits. Another old fruit tree tucked away, down the steps at the bottom garden, which after a little bit of research and identification, revealed itself as a greengage tree. And underneath that diamond in the rough, some fuchsia pink rhubarb stems poked out from beneath the undergrowth. My mind was bursting with thoughts of jam making, cake baking, steamed rhubarb and rosewater.  A ready-made mini orchard of soft treats – what luck!

As a balmy autumn drew closer, plans for expanding our nest grew from small seedlings into ideas of grandeur, and a year on, along with a little seedling of our own flourishing in my tummy, those visions were put onto large cumbersome pieces paper in the form of bewildering architects drawings.

And today, we are only a heartbeat away from taking that walk back through the village to our brand new old house, which we will, once again, make into our home. Just two short weeks away. My heart flutters when I think about it. I think about that first morning I woke up to find myself overlooking a view to hold onto tightly. I think about making a house a home for those who I nurture and care for, creating memories that hopefully they will recollect fondly, the way I do when I think of wisteria and lemon chicken flan, creating homely cooking smells and leave-the-door-open-on-a-summers-evening smells. These times are precious. These times are here with us now, they’re here for a reason.

Inspire. Motivate. Stimulate. Push. Propel. Or stagnate.

Following on from my last post (where I ranted a little. Again. I really didn’t want to have to do that but selfishly, it helped. It really did), the next step of getting myself back in the game is to stick a bit of tinder on the flame. Y’know. I have the spark, its there, but nothing’s smoking yet. So where do I get me some dry, mossy, combustibles from? The question I really want to ask is how do you stay motivated without burning out? (I’m dropping the fire analogies now.)

For the past few weeks, my creative spark has gone astray. I can get it back, I know its not dissolved completely, like a sugar cube suspended in hot, milky coffee. Or. Oh yea, I know. Or, or, or like a McVities Digestive held too long in a cup of tea. (Good one, Vic. Hi-5 atcha). The problem lies in having the motivation to start doing something again. I mean, I’ve had other stuff to focus on. Leaving my job, being one of them. The other kind of major thing is our house renovation. We moved out of our home six months ago and its nearly time to go back. Its not been easy. Oh, and one more thing, my two babies. Yeeeeeah. They kind of wear me out, if I’m honest. So, there, on a plate, are my excuses. Do you buy them? I don’t. I don’t think there are any excuses really. If you’re creative, you’re creative. There’s no getting away from it. I’ve just been lazy. But then, even that doesn’t make sense. If you’re intrinsically creative, you still find ways of expressing yourself, right? Someone out there help me, cos I’m really beating myself up about this. I call myself a creative person, but I feel like a fraud. I started this blog a few months ago on the right foot. I maintained it, I managed to post reguarly. I thought I was past the novelty stage, and as it turns out, maybe I wasn’t. Or maybe, I should just shut up, and move on. I mean, this isn’t my full time job. This isn’t  how I make my living. Its something I do when I have a little bit of spare time. Writing it out like this, makes me realise that I crave for this to be my full time job. I mean, I kind of knew that already. (I can hear my husband in my ear now ‘Its a hobby. If you turn it into your job, it’ll take the enjoyment out of it). I don’t have time for it to be my full time job right now, but eventually, it will be. You know that already, right? Because I wrote about it a few months ago. I know. I’m boring. I talk about the same old thing. Blah Blah Blah.

One other preoccupation I would like to share, is that I would probably describe myself as a person of extremes. When I focus on something, I can’t give it up. I can’t go to bed at night, without dreaming about it. And the extreme at the moment is fitness. When I do make time for myself right now, its to run. Or do yoga. Or some lunges. I mean, its a perfect time of year to do that, and if I’m honest, I think I’d rather be outside enjoying our long evenings, saying hi to all the birdies in the hedges as I wallop past like the BFG in flippers, than sat under the dark stairs at a warm-buzzing-electrical fun box. Its refreshing, mind-clearing and truly liberating. I don’t have to talk to anyone, justify myself, or even think if I don’t want to. Its just me and the beats of the BEP’s.

Back to the point I was trying to make, or rather the question I wanted to ask you. I’m going to open it up to you, my fellow blog friends. How do you stay motivated and consistent without experiencing burnout? I am genuinely curious to find out if I’m on my own here. You can send me your tips or just comment by filling in the comments box at the end of this post. Go on, help an old girl out.