A Fresh Start

So here I am with yet another blog – Image & Word – blogging seems to be my main motivation for creativity, which I guess is no bad thing?

After a complete break from WordPress for seven months I did wonder about just picking up the reins again with the blog I already had, but somehow it just didn’t feel right – so I’ve started afresh, new name, new theme, and I’ll carry on from here.

Hopefully some of my followers from madmeanderingme will take the leap and follow me on this new blog, too… maybe see you there! 🙂

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Living the High Life…

I grew up in a farming community in the Highlands of Scotland, then brought up my children in a rented council house in an old fishing village just along the coast from Inverness, but I now live with my husband in a tiny one bedroom first-floor flat in an old Victorian-built property in East London. Living in such a small, relatively confined space with no garden, I find I really miss just opening my door and sitting on my herb-scented doorstep with a cup of tea, enjoying the fresh air, feeling the breeze, neither being fully inside or outside.

I wonder sometimes what it must be like to live in an ordinary high-rise tower-block, with no possibility of a garden but perhaps with a tiny balcony space looking down over the rooftops, potentially bringing a little bit of the outside in – would that feel better or worse than where I live now? Would I feel trapped in a concrete prison, or would the soaring height instead bring a feeling of open-ness, especially if I could have a few carefully-chosen terracotta plant-pots filled with flowers and herbs to fill my senses?

I guess I’ll never know, but I pass this particular tower-block and its twin regularly, and often wonder what it must be like to live there… living-the-high-life

Lost in the Myths of Time…

Behind all the movies and TV dramas documenting the never-ending speculation over the identity of Jack the Ripper, it’s all too easy to forget that regardless of the man behind the myth, his five confirmed victims were real women, with real lives, who suffered very real and brutal deaths at his hands.

The first and fourth of his victims, Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nicholls and Catherine Eddowes, were buried in communal graves in the City of London Cemetery in Manor Park, East London, not far from where I live. Today, two small round plaques laid in the ground either side of a pathway mark the general area of their last resting places – single flowers are often placed there by passers-by who realise the significance of the names.

Second victim Annie Chapman was buried by her family in Manor Park Cemetery, and third victim Elizabeth ‘Long Liz’ Stride was buried in East London Cemetery.

And his fifth and final victim Mary Jane Kelly, also known as Marie Jeanette Kelly, was buried in St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery here in Leytonstone. Although the small grave marker that exists today is not the original, and may no longer even indicate the exact spot of her burial, again flowers are often left in her memory.

Five real women living in dire poverty in London’s notorious East End in the late 1880s, all for varying reasons down on their luck with no-one to help support them, all brutally murdered by a madman over a period of a few short months well over a hundred years ago, all now sadly lost in the myths of time…

Marie-Jeanette-Kelly‘None but the lonely hearts can know my sadness. Love lives forever’

21 Things That Make Me Happy…

Suzie from Suzie81speaks has today posted a list of 21 things that make her happy – what a lovely idea, so I thought I’d do the same.

As ever I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now, some good, some bad, some big, some small, including several ongoing complicated issues not easily resolved.

But whatever else is going on in life I realise there are always things to be thankful for, so here is my list of 21 things that make me happy, spilled out onto the page in the weird and wonderful order they came to me…

1. To be alive… I’ve suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, but having survived an overdose at the age of 24, I can honestly say I’m just glad to be alive, to feel everything there is to feel, to embrace it all and remember how lucky I am to still be here…

2. To have a family to love, who love me too… we’ve had our ups and downs over the years, but I’d still far rather have my family than not…

3. To have good friends… friends are different from family, but equally as important. Of course, the best people can count as both, with one foot in each camp…

4. To be married to my best friend… even though we’ll only be celebrating our third wedding anniversary this year, we’ve been together as a couple for 15 years, and friends for 42 (since I was 10 and he was 12)…

5. To be growing older… sometimes I look in the mirror and feel old in a bad way, with my saggy flesh and greying hair and wrinkling skin and hooded eyes. But then I think of friends and family who died so much younger than expected, and I remember that growing old is a privilege denied to many…

6. To still have all five senses… to be able see, hear, smell, touch, taste life and all it has to offer – because I’ve always had them I can sometimes take them for granted, so it’s good to remind myself of that from time to time…

7. Hugs… it’s probably the one thing you can’t give yourself, a hug, which to me makes them so much more special…

8. Reading… a love of words has always been a large part of my life, I inhale the words of others as naturally as breathing…

9. Writing… to be able to express myself clearly helps me understand myself better, lets me exhale my own thoughts out into the world…

10. Photography… I love making photographs as well as taking them, expressing myself in images as well as words…

11. Blogging… my blog is my own space to be me, and I love it…

12. Cooking… cooking for me is a kind of alchemy, taking the individual elements – ingredients – and turning them into compounds of something else. And I also enjoy the comforting repetition of chopping, whisking, sieving, or whatever the particular action may be…

13. Chocolate… I eat way too much of it, but I do love it…

14. Walking… there’s just something about consciously putting one foot in front of the other and moving myself along under my own steam that just never fails to lift my spirits…

15. Trees… particularly old trees. I love their age, and the fact that they grow from the inside out so that the tree surface you touch has been there throughout its entire history – it makes me wonder who else has touched that same spot over the years…

16. The beauty of nature… it’s just breath-taking, and I never tire of looking at it, photographing it, walking in it, just being in it…

17. Beaches… liminal spaces draw me in, those thresholds that are neither fully one thing nor the other – beaches are neither land nor sea but are also both all at the same time, and I find them magical spaces…

18. The smell of sea air… perhaps because I grew up on the coast (and being a small island we have a lot of coast here in the UK) I just love the blustery ozone smell of sea air…

19. The smell of babies heads… it maybe sounds weird, but most parents I know agree with me on this one…

20. Human reproduction… not just the sex part – although that makes me happy too – but the physical growing inside you and pushing out of a new human being that is half you and half somebody else is just an amazing feat of nature…

21. Curiosity… I was going to write learning, as I like to know new stuff about lots of things, but I realise that behind my insatiable desire to learn is the curiosity that makes me want to find out about new things in the first place… 🙂

Ten Years On…

Today is the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, and here in the UK the news is naturally full of national remembrance and personal memories of that awful day. Even for those of us working in the capital who were thankfully far enough away from the danger zone of Central London, it was still a terrifying time.

As I casually stepped off my usual busy train to work at 8.50am that morning – the actual time the three main bombs were detonated on three separate tube trains – confused rumours of disparate fires/ accidents/ unexplained delays across the tube network spread like wildfire, and soon escalated into real concern that these separate incidents may somehow be linked, with the final, fourth bomb on the double-decker bus at Tavistock Square almost an hour later making it clear that something was indeed seriously wrong, shocking the city into shut-down.

We monitored the breaking news unfolding throughout the day from our office in East London, watching, waiting, disbelieving. Public transport stopped, and London came to a virtual standstill. As the afternoon progressed, exposing the full horrors of an apparent terrorist attack, those with cars offered to take others home – while many other commuters, silently pensive, walked for miles, unfamiliar city streets eerily empty.

Fifty-two innocent people lost their lives that day, and 700 more were injured. It was nothing on the scale of 9/11, but nevertheless it touched us all, and it stays with us, especially during those uneasy moments when we find ourselves crammed like sardines on yet another packed commuter train stuck in a tunnel somewhere, wondering…

Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosey

I was attempting to unscrew something at work yesterday when a particularly recalcitrant screw became stuck, turning neither one way nor the other. After working the screw-head only the tiniest fraction in either direction for several minutes trying to ease it loose, I realised I no longer had any idea exactly which way I was supposed to be turning it anyway. A colleague helpfully reminded me ‘Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey’ and sure enough, with a bit more pressure in the right direction out it came…

I love all these silly little phrases and mnemonics we use all the time to remind us of things – the order of colours in a rainbow spring to mind with ‘Richard Of York Gains Battles In Vain’ for remembering ‘Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet’ or ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ for remembering the notes on the lines of an octave. I’m sure there are countless others I’m just not thinking of at the moment… what are some of your favourite memory-joggers? 🙂

Turning Over a New Leaf…

I love the prospect of the coming New Year with its promise of a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. I love turning over a new leaf, opening wide the first pristine page of my latest annual diary and preparing for beginning my year with the transfer of all birthdays , anniversaries, and memorable dates from old diary to new.

I like to take a quiet moment to remember and reflect on any birthdays no longer to be celebrated – those of friends and family sadly no longer with us – and happily add the first birthdays of relatively new arrivals, if any, along with the expected brand new birthdays of those yet to come…

I tend not to make New Year’s Resolutions as such, as I find the concept of creating a definitive list of ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ counterproductive and unhelpful in the extreme, but I do like to follow this crossing-over ritual from old diary to new every Christmas-time, around the time of the winter solstice, when the shortest day of the year has passed and seasonal darkness once more begins to give way to light.

It gives me the chance to review and mark the year’s passing with a critical yet compassionate eye, consider the highs and lows, take stock of where I’m at, and give some thought to which general direction I might want my life to go in next but without the pressure of specific goals and deadlines…

It feels to me that from the germ of a blank, virginal diary opening up before me each year, life can potentially flourish unblemished into a beautiful future as yet unwritten. That ritual crossing point between one year and the next always signifies for me a time of fresh hope, of magical metamorphosis, a threshold where anything is possible, and where dreams for a better tomorrow maybe can come true… 🙂

Better to Travel Hopefully than to Arrive…

There’s something about the rolling impermanence of working in a pub that I’m finding surprisingly intoxicating. I can be on my feet and on the go for a good eight hours solid (bar a very welcome half-hour break), barely stopping to catch my breath, and yet at the end of my working day I have absolutely nothing to show for it but aching muscles and a healthy glow in my cheeks.

There is no finished product – no end game – only a constant conveyor-belt of customers and colleagues coming and going, food and drink eaten and drunk, tables cleared and filled again, glassware washed and used again, bottles re-stocked and barrels changed, day in, day out, like some magical never-ending cornucopia of repetitive chores.

Conversations and complaints and catcalls and compliments all blend together seamlessly to create one rhythmic sound-wave that speeds and slows, rises and falls like a complete orchestral music score. It’s like a Public House Symphony, sometimes mellifluous, sometimes cacophonous, occasionally reaching a crescendo of broken glass and drunken jeers, but always entertaining.

It’s as if each shift brings a journey to be travelled rather than a destination to be reached. Often a journey potentially fraught with obstacles and challenges – the heady mix of people and alcohol can sometimes create a dubious cocktail that leaves a bad taste in your mouth – but I’ve learned that overall, that’s what actually makes it fun for me. And so I enjoy starting each shift with an open mind and a light heart, secure in the knowledge that whatever happens on that day it is the journey that matters, and that it always better to travel hopefully than to arrive… 🙂

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Santa’s Little Helper…

When it came to creating a fancy dress costume for wearing to work in the pub over Christmas, after careful consideration I decided to go with the Santa’s Little Helper idea of (from top to toe) red and white Santa hat, red T-shirt with white fleecy trim and black felt buttons, black skirt, red and white striped tights, and black boots. It has to be practical and comfortable enough to work in, so can’t be too fanciful.

I finished trimming the T-shirt today so tried it all on together to see how it looked – it’s not the sharpest of images taken on my phone camera (I tend to be infinitely happier on the other side of the lens, so you’re lucky to be seeing this much of me in shot), but hopefully it’s clear enough to get the picture! Let me know what you all think… 🙂

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