Where have I been?

I have on so many occasions in the past few months attempted to write an update to the blog. To give some kind of reason as to why my writing seemed to have just come to an abrupt halt here online. It’s as though I feel that you deserve an explanation for my absence, the hope that perhaps in all this time (dare i say it) My writing may have been ever so slightly missed.

I haven’t been doing anything spectacular. No more trips abroad for the time being. It has been a year to this week when I wrote this when I visited Corsica and the memories have come flooding back, my brother so small in stature, yet still as large as life appearing in descriptive music and favourite songs, special moments, when dragonflies, robins, butterflies and white feathers appear. Reminding me that although he is no longer here in the physical sense, he is most definitely still by my side spiritually and for this I am thankful.  I am still grieving for him and dealing with that it sometimes catches me out and leaves me weak and vulnerable. 

Life in its various forms has taken a bit of a backseat as ill health has stepped to the fore and rather dominated, stamping over hopes and dreams and causing mayhem at every twist and turn. 
I have fought again, to try to overcome the irrational fears in my head of dealing with an illness which still has yet to be given the correct diagnosis. I have tried sometimes in vain, to treat it homoeopathically without causing further health implications and at this present time, again my health is suffering. For a small part of the summer at least, I have been able to enjoy the warmth of sun on my skin and time sitting in my little garden. A small corner of solitude which has been so neglected and yet still rewards me with flowers and colour to lift the spirits and delight the senses. It is good for the soul. Despite the short bursts of scents (my sense of smell has still not returned) and colour it calms the sensory overload. There have been times, when my nerves have spasmed and dislocated joints quite often in my sleep, when I am fortunate enough to get some. These do not follow a pattern they choose randomly and I am left in pain until it reseats itself sometimes days later. 
My neurological symptoms have worsened over the past year and I am still waiting for the neurology appointment I was referred for in November 2018.  Meanwhile the nerve pain is at times unbearable causing me to cry out in pain, sweat and shake and causes numbness which makes me clumsy. The restless legs at night are only controlled by taking  Gabapentin which I’d rather not take. My pain relief these days is Tramadol and I am conscious of the fact that both of these are controlled drugs and could be highly addictive. I do not wish to take them, but since I am unable to take codeine based drugs and no other options are available to me I am left with no real choice. I am regularly covered in bruises from clumsy incidents, my hands don’t work properly and I get disorientated. It is embarrassing, I don’t have a social life, save for visiting a few understanding friends when I am able. On good days I can hardly function for a few hours and on bad days I can’t get out of bed.
One of the things about how things have been is that for someone with a good command of English and grammar, it seems to have gone to pieces.  I often have word blindness and brain fog, I type now since hand writing is no longer an option due to pain. I find that not only do I forget the words I intend to put down, but I often am unable to spell words which I know well. I type them the wrong way round as though some wire in my head has come loose and the short circuits caused by the spasms have dislodged the memory.  It is deeply frustrating and means that typing anything now takes me twice as long and spell checking is always essential.  It also happens when I read things, I see them round the wrong way too.

Anger and frustration over this time has caused me to write things which I do not feel that I should share. Personal feelings when I have been angry or upset I still write about them and hope that I have the sense not to put them into the public eye, for fear of reprisal later. Along the lines of if you don’t have anything nice to say, then you should say nothing at all. 
I find myself asking”When did I turn into a person who got so angry, so impatient for change and yet bitter about the cards I have been dealt”. I am fighting my own demons every day and sometimes it feels like a losing battle. It is depressing. There have been family issues and upset and health scares in my beloved, I have watched his health decline rapidly, reach a plateau where I am grateful for any small improvement in his health, whilst his pallor has turned from white to grey to tanned and everything in between until the depression has taken a hold of him and he has felt as though he was dying and I was certain that he was. His fight against cancer was getting the better of him and he became more and more depressed. His constant pain getting him down so far that he did not feel as though he could pull himself out of it and the positive mental attitude dwindling before my eyes. 
It took a turn for the worse in early spring he was assualted and robbed in the front garden and late spring someone else threatened him with a knife outside his own house. It seems that there are more junkies who will now do anything for their fixes and life becomes as cheap as their next fix from a schizophrenic drug dealer who thinks we are out to get him. 
Yes we have been angry, felt cheated by our health and unable to do a damn thing about it to improve it.  We do not want to settle for a life like this, where our dreams are shattered before our eyes and we are left behind, shadows of how we once were. Life is not supposed to be this way. Our life is not cheap or worthless it is still worth fighting for.
Our darling dog had surgery, he was hosting a tumour on his back which had it been left would have paralysed him. Thankfully the surgeon was able to skilfully remove it and he has now made a full recovery back to health, his skills at assisting us when we have health issues have also improved out of necessity and we are so grateful to have him in our lives.

So after the spring upset we headed north, to our home in Scotland in the hope that it would bring us peace and comfort. I pushed him to go, thinking that it would do us both some good to get away from here. It has always been my serenity and peaceful place up until the horrors of last year and I hoped naively that that was now over. The reality however was far, far different and I am wholly responsible for the worst imaginable Summer there.  Now neither of us have a wish to return there and we had such plans for the place and the things we wanted to do to our home. We had taken up furniture and things and I was hopeful that my creative streak would once again return to favour me with poetry that I could share and things that I could make.

We had a very long and exhausting journey there and once we arrived and set up the house we had been there less than a week before we were both verbally and physically assaulted by our next door neighbour.  It seems that the grudge he has held for so many years since we bought the place now harbours a dangerous resentment and in his mind we need to be eradicated. So it began, almost two months of sheer hell, dangerous goons sent up to scare us away and threats to kill, a man with a knife despatched to finish us off and the daily torment of a workman who ran the engines on tractors, diggers, lawn mowers and machinery for 8 hours a day. He even left them running unattended right outside the house and clearly delighted in his work, when he wasn’t falling off them drunk. Of course we involved the police after the first incident and were advised not to confront the neighbour or his associates at any point. So we became prisoners in our home and were not even able to out in the garden without being heckled, abused or tormented for the duration. We were followed  in the car, had visitors abusing us in the night time and walking about shining torches into the house throughout the night in an effort to scare us. The fully working farm at harvest time made less noise than these guys.  For my part it worked I was a nervous wreck who sat up throughout the night worrying and regularly tearful, it rendered me incapable of doing things and we were around each other almost 24/7 which often caused friction. The guilt of making us go there was huge and excruciating. Our family, friends and neighbours were concerned for our safety and our family were just too far away.

By the end of July we had enough. The police are taking it seriously and we will most likely have to go to court, they were talking about witness protection for us.  It was worse than a soap opera, friends were saying you couldn’t write this stuff and yet. We’re living this nightmare. Both literally sick with the worry and worn out and run down, we packed up and came back South hoping for some rest when we got back here.  The journey was hellish and  my man was so ill that I did not think he was going to be able to get us home, but he did. He still has not recovered, he had pneumonia and a dislocated shoulder and neck, yet still drove us back as I wasn’t able to either. He has some stubbornness and  perseverance! 

So this last month we have been attempting to gather our strength and rest, well he has although the concept of rest and recuperation I believe is is alien to him.   My parents have finally sold and moved out of what was their family home for the last 35 years. It was extremely stressful for all concerned and distressing for my younger sister as she saw her childhood home pulled in so many directions until it was shredded. I found it less so and just pushed myself to deal with the task in hand and try and hold them all together. 
Trying to help go through sections of the house which had remained largely untouched for about 25 years was a voyage of discovery, that’s for sure! I moved out from there 28 years ago. Trying to do this with poor health has severely taken its toll, I damaged myself lifting heavy things and clearing out. But as of last week, they were finished and we all said Goodbye to the house in our own separate ways. I took cuttings from the garden that my mother had cherished and nurtured in the hope that it would gain a new life in some small way as she has done. Time will tell whether they are happy enough to reward me with growth. I was also allowed to give a new home to some old furniture from the garage and my grandfathers and father’s tools. So I am hoping that I will be able to use them for small projects when my health allows.

So as we settle back in down South after the changes have taken place and hope that we remain safe and are able to get well, or at least not any worse I hope that I get the chance to welcome my creativity back with open arms. I am looking forward to once I have the space and have cleared the debris of the summer and my parents house, found new homes for acquired items and disposed of others which are no longer wanted.   I am hoping that the peace I have regarding their home now being gone remains and does not turn to grief, I think that despite my sentimentality, that part of me is firmly in the past and I moved on from there a long time ago. They have new homes now and are living their lives differently, we have all grown.  I can then return to the task of getting my own house in order and going through the rest of my brother’s belongings. It has been over a year since we lost him now and although I feel his presence, it is not necessary to keep every thing that he owned, there are things which can be of use to others. I just need to sort them out. 

I realise that as time goes on our dreams and our priorities change.  Sometimes these changes are forced by circumstances beyond our control. Those changes seem to be the hardest ones to accept and I will be dragged through them kicking and screaming and hopefully come out the other side intact.  
I am still writing, it is sometimes the only sanity that I have in all the madness around me, giving me a moment of clarity  especially when I am awake throughout the night in pain. It is my therapy, helping me to adapt and grow. I just hope that I am strong enough to keep up the fight, to nurture and cherish those around me who show me love and friendship, who have my back when I have theirs, who listen when I need them to and who speak when they need to. The give and take friends, my tribe.

I will once again share my poems with you. Carefully selected of course and I hope to stop writing what I refer to as “whine poetry” and make a return to the happy, grateful side of my personality. Perhaps I will find a new place that will become my muse, some fabulous life experience which brings back happiness, some joie de vivre.

Written on 080919

Sent from my iPad

Intricate dreaming.

It’s happening again, the broken sleep, the intricate dreaming.

Woven stories with such a huge amount of detail that it feels I am not sleeping at all, but reliving a moment in the past, except that it can also feel like the future.

Things that I should know, are laid out before me.  As clear as day.

Unrecognisable places where my life is unfolding.

People who seem to know me, where I am a part of their unknown life.

Like the ghost of Christmas past has visited and gone, is this the present and the future all rolled into one?

There is such clarity, a picture in time, just there. No explanation of it.

No voice to tell me why.

Or a statement of fact or truth, like a lightning bolt, waking me from slumber, forcing me to sit up and take note. Literally.

Sometimes, I am able to return to sleep, much later on in the night. Then I go back to dreaming the same dream, the same people the story growing as the night continues. I awake and can relive these dreams over and over, remembering the minutest detail once I am up for the day.  Sometimes I feel that I don’t want to be there at all, not with a part to play or even as a bystander. Sometimes the subject matter concerns me so greatly that sleep is gone for the rest of the night and I am perturbed or upset.

Occasionally I just awake with a different feeling, as though something has changed its course and I am unable to do anything  about it. I merely have to accept the new direction and go with the flow.

And in my waking hours things have also changed. There are skills that were previously hidden from view suddenly out in the open. Improvement in my mathematics, mental arithmetic and that is a first for me. Also painting and drawing that actually looks like its meant to. Recognisable artwork, just because I have tried a new technique I’ve seen or a different medium.

Things like I have experienced some sort of awakening to the real me. The feeling that nothing is impossible and I just have to try and it will all pan out. Perhaps the universe is finally working in my favour. Teaching me how to be better or stronger, preparing me for some unknown.

Image from Morguefile.com

As Time Goes By…

gold colored chain necklace with watch pendant
Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

I have awoken once again as I have done for as long as I can remember in the past few months, exactly two and a half hours after I had gone to bed. It seems to be such a regular occurrence now, part of the new normal forcing its way into my life. Again I am compelled to write about what has happened in the past few months and get it out of my head in the hope that it will not spend more time there and that I will be able to move on from it in some small way. I do not know if that is forcing something which is not ready to leave, or just stop it from occupying most of my thoughts.

I have been quietly writing in the background the past few months, so much has gone on in my private life which needs to remain private for now, but the difficulties of the past few years seem to pale into almost insignificance in comparison.  I have sat and purposefully written in a bid to explain, but those posts will not be shared publicly, there has been so much pain to deal with and I have been fighting still despite feeling ill equipped to do so. I have also written a few more poems, some of which I’ve posted here on the blog.

It is difficult to know where to begin so I guess it will just have to come right out and say it, that which I am able to share with you. My brother passed away, he died suddenly and although it was a huge shock to us all. I am struggling to deal with it.  The past almost three months since his passing, have felt like a year, endless in its quest and dragging onward.  It is not over yet, since the grieving process has really only just begun due to the delays caused by legal formalities. He is not gone from my thoughts and remains very much a part of me. In my home I am surrounded by his things which bring back memories all of the time.  Of course this does not just affect me, the rest of the family are left reeling from the shock of it all, he was a relatively young man at 48 years old and this was totally unexpected.

He lived his life in the enviable position of having no responsibilities in fact he positively shied away from them, left no will and made me his next of kin.  Suddenly, there was a policeman on the telephone, faced with the duty of informing me that there had been an accident and that I was to contact his employer urgently.   At that point, he was in a critical ward of a hospital in Corsica and it was my job to inform Mum.  We spoke on the phone since I was also away at the time, and only a couple of hours later, he was dead.  Gone forever it felt surreal. He had been working away for most of the last five years, returning only for short periods in between and staying with friends, who were extended family, whenever he was back in the UK we tried to catch up, but during his trips he would call me at length and tell me all about where he was living and the people he was working with.   He was excited by life and new experiences and I loved those conversations. I was lucky to have had one such conversation the afternoon before he passed away, which made me wrack my brains and replay every moment in my mind to see if I could have sensed that something was wrong, if it could in some way have forewarned me of what was to come.  But it did not. What happened was just an awful accident, cardiac arrest brought on by shock of the extreme heat of the climate, to cold water in an outdoor swimming pool. One misjudged moment in time, deciding to go for a swim and he drowned. It was awful and it still is.  To think of a life so suddenly gone, I am still coming to terms with how final that is. He was just getting to do the things that he wanted to and living the life he felt that he should. He had plans and was excited by what the future may hold.

I still can’t believe that he is gone and not coming back, as a seasonnaire chef, his summer stint would be over and he would be back by now. I like so many others, his friends and his family are waiting for that phone call we would normally have had by now, saying “Hello, I’m back”.  He stopped calling it home a couple of years ago, when he decided that he wanted to live in Italy and began looking for a flat there, alas that was not to be. But here was where he returned to, his roots and the extended family he had chosen, lifelong friendships with people who anticipated his return.

It was August when he passed away. It took two months to get him home and have the funeral since there was an inquest and repatriation to deal with. I am relieved that his employers were a reputable company who had insurance, otherwise I for one could not have coped with it all and the costs of bringing him back and dealing with it all would have been impossible. It would have been a very different situation since as far as I can find out he had no insurance to cover him for his death. He had not written a will and had no savings whatsoever surviving from one pay check to the next and never quite managing it consistently living beyond his means.

Thankfully, from a leaving people behind point of view, he did not have a wife or children, just parents and siblings, me and his sister.  He also had literally hundreds of friends, dotted around the world.  I honestly feel that he never lost touch with anyone he ever met, leaving a lasting impression upon them, they stayed in touch or he would walk into a place somewhere in the world and someone would know someone who knew him, or an old acquaintance would reappear. It was uncanny.  He was a loveable rogue and when we planned his party for him, in celebration of his life it only then became clear to us how loved he was.  He did not want a funeral where everyone was sad, he wanted a party where everyone could gather and talk about the good times, drink and dance and talk.  Throughout the planning I was worried, wondering if I would make him proud. It had been many years since I had planned an event, but I wanted it to be perfect for him. Nothing would spoil it and as it turned out it was a wonderful night, which a month later people are still speaking about with fondness, cherishing new memories along with the old and rekindled friendships. It was a wonderful compliment to be told that if he had made it to fifty and had a party, then this would have been exactly what he would have wanted to do and it couldn’t have gone any better.

We picked a location he loved as fate would have it there was a real ale festival at the first pub. A local place where he always returned to, it was the perfect setting on a beautiful warm and sunny day. A refreshing seaside breeze after a funeral service packed out with around 400 people. It was massive and although emotionally exhausting, it was filled with love and tributes. We spoke, which was something I knew that I had to do, anecdotes from growing up together and then I read a poem I had written just after his passing, called My Brother. (You can read it here) It was a first for me, reading something I had written out loud in front of an audience but it was very well received.  Our sister, who is a musician, sang a song live which she had written, also a first for her and it was emotional and beautiful. Our Mum told everyone stories from his past which had everyone laughing and smiling at the memories.  My partner got up and spoke, thanking all of the people who had helped and been there for my brother and for us and the tribute from his friend, reliving the memories growing up, were both entertaining and captivating.

After the initial meet up where the beer festival was held, we moved onto another pub, where we had organised a buffet, some of his school friends who are DJ’s played the music he loved for a packed out pub full of people from all walks of life and all age groups who were there to say goodbye.  Our sister played live with her bands and we were fortunate that the entertainment that the pub had already booked for that night flowed effortlessly from what we had done for him. Everyone had a great time it was not like a funeral at all.  It was a day and a night filled with love for someone who has left a wide gaping hole in our lives by his sudden departure.  We had guest books and reading them after the funeral was lovely. We encouraged people to write their memories of him and are planning to publish his story at some point, the book he didn’t quite get to write.  I am sure that he was still too busy living his life to write it all down.  I have spent two months looking for the book he always spoke about writing one day, but have not yet found any evidence of it.  We decided that the stories should not die with him. They are too funny, heart-warming and vivid to let go.

I was sent out to Corsica by his employers, they arranged for me to attend where he lived and worked and meet the team, his working family and the ones who had tried to save him. It was cathartic towards the end of the trip, I was so pleased to be able to do that and it helped immensely to piece together the time before his death and share some wonderful memories with those who surrounded him. I returned only six weeks ago, it feels much longer.  Time seems to drag on and all of a sudden it will be three months since he died, this weekend it has been a month since his funeral. The seasons have changed and with them so have I. Although I am not sure whether it is for the better or worse and I am so far out of my comfort zone lately that I can’t remember where it is any more.

As I deal with his affairs in the line of duty, my own personal grief has kicked in it catches me out at the most awkward of moments, creating havoc in the day to day.  Having dealt with the formality of the funeral now, it no longer consumes my every moment, I am still dealing with formalities as this will take some time to do.  I have time to think now and remember and those memories which fall as tears when I think of him, of that lump in my throat which arrives when I get to thinking about the fact that I will never again get to hug my infuriatingly haphazard, but very endearing and loving brother. Meanwhile I am surrounded by the belongings which I am still gathering in able to sort them out and share out amongst family and his closest friends. He left his things all over Europe and even now I am not quite sure where, some are only just coming to light now. I do not know if I will be able to recover it all. Despite my daily routine being somewhat relaxed, insomnia and concerns are wearing and damaging to the health and mine has suffered, along with that of my partner who has been at my side, supporting me every step of the way.  He is tired, for that read exhausted and already suffering ill health it has really taken its toll upon him, I must look after my rock and not let it crumble. As he pointed out to me, life is for the living and we are still here.

Last night I visited one of his close friends, I called round on the off chance and we talked for over an hour about the funeral and how he would normally be home by now. That he still shows up now and then, in the strangest of ways.  She has been married to his best friend for over 20 years and they were a very large part of my brother’s life, always there for him come what may. Only 3 months ago I had never met her.  It was the case for so many of his friends throughout his life he kept them and his family separate.  But the love and warmth that they had for him has been extended to me and the rest of us and never fails to move me.  I came home happy but emotional it was good to talk about my brother, but I am conscious that we also talked about other things in our lives such as making plans for the future. It was just what was needed after a week where I have been going stir crazy at home, seemingly chasing my tail to get things done, although I have made small progress nevertheless.

As time goes by, things are slowly changing, things which are forcing me to re-evaluate and make new plans.  I need to concentrate on improving our health and moving us onward.  I hope that down the line I can begin to follow some of my dreams with regard to work and I want to be able to write again, not just poetry but other things.  The future could be a long time, there is much to do.

What it Takes

Could you spare a couple of minutes? He said. Actually I can’t right now, I answered I’m on my way somewhere. Could we ask for a donation then? He went on… I’m sorry, but I’m not working right now, so I don’t have any to spare. “Aye, that’s a good one” he answered.
In that moment He wrongly assumed that I did not like cats! I stopped, walked back and told him that if my partner wasn’t violently allergic to them, I’d probably work in a cattery and have a house full. I also explained that I had been out of paid work for two years now and that next time I was back in work I would be happy to donate once again as I did previously.
So I wonder if the man in the shopping centre who was collecting for the Cats Protection League, would have worded his request differently had he known just what I was going through just to get to that point walking through the shopping centre in the afternoon?

I also wondered briefly what he saw when I stood in front of him in my battered work boots, jeans and a vest, hair all messy. Dehydrated and melting in the heat, feeling stressed, exhausted and quite literally lost. He probably didn’t give it a second thought.

Yes, anxiety had well and truly kicked in, but I had chores to do that day and it was my only chance to get them done. When the car is playing up, you take your chance and do a round robin trying to get everything done before arriving back exhausted but happy that you made it.

It so often seems to be the way I feel after going out these days, Yay I made it! After I have returned home again but I had so many more tasks to complete before that point.
It had taken me three days to get up the courage to drive into town in the car which is misbehaving again and threatening to break down. At the moment the fuel is fighting to get through so it doesn’t like climbing hills and drops to a crawl. Two mechanics have been unable to fix this so far, so I really don’t know what to do about it now.
So firstly I visited the Bank in the shopping centre to try and open a new bank account. It used to be so simple. I had ID with me but I had to make an appointment for another day. They couldn’t deal with it then and there, which meant I would have to come back again. I stood in there for half an hour. Frustrating and then they decided that my ID was not enough for them I would have to have paperwork which I do not have here with me. So I would have to get Mum to send it up through the post before I could return to open one.  I’d also have to make another appointment but I had already tried to call them 3 times that morning before I had even got in the car, they don’t answer the phone. I asked for directions to the Post Office and began to walk there. I felt exhausted at that point and then desperately needed the bathroom and have to walk back for 15 minutes to the toilet I had walked past on my way into a shopping centre, one of the places where I feel most anxious.
I also had to buy Birthday Cards and write and send them. Send a parcel from the Post Office. First I had to locate the Post Office which was more than a mile into the biggest shopping centre I’ve been in for years and ask three people for directions, how far away can it be and was I still going in the right direction? I finally found it after walking for another 20 minutes in the opposite direction, going into a shop and then upstairs. How bizarre!

Having come across the Cats Protection man on the way, it left me feeling rather rattled. Disbelieving so and so, I had told him the absolute truth, but why should I have to explain myself, the reasons why I cannot stand there and listen to his pitch about why I should donate money I don’t have simply because he thinks that I could. It upset me, at that point I felt that I could barely stand and I still hadn’t found the post office. I was feeling dizzy and sick and so very tired that if I had stopped, then I may not have got started again and I was about 15 miles from home too.
I still had to tank up with fuel, get some food shopping and collect Water from the camp site before returning home.

I arrived back home four hours after leaving and was totally exhausted. I just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. The relief of being back safe was immense. I just about made it through dinner, my eyes heavy and I slept for 11 hours. I couldn’t move for 2 days, the pain was absolutely ridiculous. I hurt everywhere. I had lost the grip in my hands again and kept tripping over things, my co-ordination was all out of whack and I was clumsy. My nerves jumping and muscles in spasm kept me awake day and night. Sometimes people have no idea just what it takes to do the simple tasks that we once took for granted.

Although the voice inside us tells us to get up and show up and keep on fighting, achieving and we will win, sometimes we have to face it that we just wont. However On the days we do achieve we return triumphant with a sense of euphoria that one day has gone better than we thought, before the crash comes and we spend the next two days in bed, or just too exhausted to function or even do the mundane. The highs and lows of having a long term chronic illness.

Infused Dandelion Oil

Infuse Prompts – Infuse

Like many gardeners, I have long thought disdainfully at the Dandelions creeping through gaps in the pavement, through pots of blooms and pretty much anywhere they can get.  There seems to be an endless quest to rid gardens of these bright and cheerful plants and many resort to harsh chemicals to do just that.  But last summer I made a discovery about this wonderful weed. It is amazing, that something which has been considered bothersome is in fact packed with nutrition and healing properties. So I thought in my quest for better natural remedies and health, that I would give it a try. I had nothing to lose.

I made some oil which I thought might help with arthritis pain. It is also good for aching muscles as well I have found out and has a slightly warming sensation on the skin. It is olive oil infused with dandelion and smells rather nice. It is also a pretty good skin conditioner so even if it didn’t work I would still use it. But to my surprise it did. So I made some more and gave them away in bottles as Christmas gifts. As I patiently wait for more dandelions to bloom again this year I’m finding out just how useful they can be. Since the oil has only two ingredients, it would also serve as a dressing oil for salad so is multi purpose.

I rather wish I had the means to store them up on the hill and can only look forward to the day when I will be able to. I fully intend to make use of natures bounty when we spend more time there. Whatever the season there is always something I try to bring back when we return South, it makes me a little less homesick.

Meanwhile I exhausted the southern lawn of dandelions right up until the end of November and gathered a stock of them picking them every other day since the Summer. I was interested to learn that if you dry them, they continue to open and you end up with the pretty seed heads or “clocks” even when they are no longer attached to the plants. This also happens whilst they are in oil. It doesn’t matter, I dried them anyway and now have them in jars. I was also pleased to note that since the winter had been fairly mild, at least up until recently here in the South, they continued to grow and flower.

I am now looking at the many benefits of this herb both topically and it’s culinary uses. Salad leaves are popular and I did incorporate them with spinach but my partner wasn’t keen on the more bitter taste. Using the roots for tea is another use but I have not perfected the knack of drying the roots out properly yet without moisture getting in, I will however work on this again this year having just discovered that I also love the taste of a Dandelion Latte.

So as the new spring Dandelions are poking through the as yet unmown lawn, I have left these as Bee food, as it is their first readily accessible nutrition. But since the lawn is due for a mow any day now, I will have to get out there and start collecting them as it would be a shame for them to go to waste. Meanwhile I have cultivated areas of the garden, where they steadily growing undisturbed in pots for the Bees and I to share so they won’t go hungry.

To make your own Infused Dandelion Oil.

Rinse Dandelion flowers collected  from a safe source (free from pesticides) in water and leave them to dry naturally in a warm place. This can take a couple of days.

Use a Clean Screw Top Jar and put the dried dandelions in, cover with Olive Oil and fill to almost the top of the jar.

Screw the lid firmly, shake gently and leave on a sunny windowsill for minimum of 2 weeks, tipping the jar to rotate daily.  The mixture will be golden in colour.

After 2 weeks, (or more) drain the oil into suitable containers for intended use and discard the preserved flowers, or use them in cooking. It will last for a good six months if kept in a cool dark place.

Since this oil only contains two all natural ingredients it can be used for both topical or culinary uses.

Photos by Unknown artists.

Person in Progress

via Daily Prompt: Toxic

Not to put to fine a point on it, most of the last year or two has been toxic in alot of ways. It has not gone well, besieged by illness and tormented by the past and situations which I felt powerless to change.  But underneath it all, little did I realise that actually I was changing. We are ever changing and sometimes, it creeps up on us and whacks us over the head with the proverbial hammer. Sometimes it needs to.

I needed to change, so many things.  My self-destructive thinking, my approach to people always thinking that it was my job to make them like me and getting awfully disappointed and even upset if they didn’t. My attitude to myself and general way of thinking. I had to stop taking things so personally, but the trouble with being an empathetic soul means that unless you take time to protect yourself, then it feels as though it is all on you, your responsibility to make things better for others, to listen, to advise etc, etc. Sometimes it is just too much to cope with.

Then someone wonderful sat me down for a little talk, well actually a lot of talks over quite a long period of time. She told me that I was a nice person, (I have always tried to be) that I am loved and that people should be proud to know me and work with me, that I am an inspiration and encouragement to others and if they didn’t like me, then it was their problem and not mine.

That last bit, I have to admit was a bit of a thunderbolt. I don’t think that I was equipped to deal with it at the time, but it was nice to hear it.  But there it sat, at the back of my mind for months and months.  Slowly over time, I began to view myself differently, I looked at the things that I could do, the ways that I could help people and even in some small way, I decided that if people didn’t like me, then that was it. I wasn’t going to beat myself up trying.

This was a sign of a new me emerging.  I also found my usually reserved thoughts, creeping out, when someone made me angry, or sad, or hurt then I became vocal about it. I occasionally swore, whereas the previous me would have done almost anything to avoid this, I have become more like my siblings who don’t hide their emotions. It didn’t always make me nice to be around, but as time has gone by, I have been fighting invisible illnesses which people do not understand and trying to keep a brave face.  Sometimes the cracks show.

I have looked into myself, rediscovered my spirituality, things that make me tick, instincts which I have long neglected to follow, recognition of things that I know to be true.  I have looked at alternative ways to heal physical ailments. Having been let down by medics who are supposed to help, left out in the cold I decided that it was not good enough and would look at alternative therapies, return to reflexology and homeopathic remedies in the hope that it would start to make a difference and slowly it did. Little steps, bit by bit I began to change.

I have consciously tried to regain my confidence that had been ripped from me by the people who tore away at me. By the circumstances which have caused havoc in my life lately and by the grief caused by the loss of loved ones.

But, I am still the new me in progress. My eyes have been opened to so much in the past few months. The toxic people and relationships which I have had to sustain in the workplace just to get along, are gone along with the job. I have found that by having time to work things out in my head and realise people for what they were has given me a better understanding of their behaviour.

I miss working, in the normal sense but I now realise that I don’t have to accept their bad behaviour any more. Lately I have been concentrating on getting my health back to normal and I am still a way off. I am less trusting of people now. I no longer take them at face value, I watch for the signs, body language and follow my gut feeling. As someone who was watching my back once said, “if something looks too good to be true, it usually is” the same can be said for people.

The environments that I had been around had become toxic, there was bad feeling all around me and it was making me more and more sick. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will notice that some of what had been happening, or had happened in the past has been mentioned sometimes at length and this has been part of the process of healing from it. Fixing my mental health along with my physical health and finally I feel as though I have turned a corner.

I took time out from the norm, actively encouraged, (well pushed and shoved kicking and screaming would be more apt) to go off and take some time out, to see friends not knowing how my health was going to be in the future it was arranged for now. I was also encouraged to do things which caused happiness and to get creative, which I have been busy doing for a while now. In conclusion it has been exactly what was needed.

So have I rebooted my system, for want of a better phrase?  I hope so. I think I am becoming a different person and it isn’t just about growing up and being an adult. Time changes us, situations change us, relationships change us, so we remain ever-changing, evolving into hopefully a new improved version of ourselves, before we get to grow old disgracefully, having the time of our lives, surrounded by loving people who will miss us when we are gone.

The Warmth of The Sun

It is something that should not be underestimated. the Warmth of the Sun.

Before I came away on this trip, I was feeling tired. For tired read totally exhausted. My body felt as though it was giving up on me, failing me at almost every opportunity and although I believed that there was a light at the end of a tunnel, I just couldn’t feel it. But I had to keep believing in the fact that it was actually there.

Depression had taken quite a grip of me for a while, despite my attempts to “not give it any house room” and as simple as it sounds now, it has become clear in the past few weeks that what I needed a holiday. A real, relaxing, holiday with the sun on my skin and heat which warmed my bones from the outside in. Away from all of the things that had caused all the stress. A break from it all. Despite the trip to Barcelona last year, this has been my first downtime holiday in eight years. Since we got the house, that has been our go to place away from it all. Which was my off switch from work when I needed to get away. But due to the lack of work seems to have become another on the list of unfinished things which we have been unable to resolve. I love being there, it truly feels like home when we are there but it needs a lot of money we just don’t have spending on it to get it up to scratch and I know that it is weighing heavily on our minds that the climate causes us issues which even if we got the place tip top, we would still suffer in the winter there, thus requiring a warmer climate for at least part of the year.

This holiday has been wonderful. I have spent quality time with my friends and their family, which has been great. I have seen so much and felt the excitement of new experiences running through my veins. A renewed zest for life. I felt as though I have reset my system to deal with things that the future may hold and I feel much calmer now. I have also had some awful nightmares in the past month, but I have awoken from them knowing that they were just that, bad dreams and being able to let go of the details. The angst that has followed me around for so long, the looking over my shoulder spending waking moments and sleeping ones thinking about the antics and ravings of a disturbed neighbour had worn me down so much that I no longer felt safe in my home, or the life that was happening around me. As though every last bit of control that I had over my life and destiny had been removed. It is not the way that a life should be lived, little more than existing from one day to the next. It is not the life for me.

I don’t have it all worked out yet, clearly it is one step at a time. But I do feel better equipped mentally to deal with what is coming my way in the future. I have been trying to figure out my purpose as some of you have read for a while now, I still don’t have the answer, but I feel that I am now much more open to opportunity should it come my way and I may even be able to see it, if it presents itself instead of missing it by a mile.

I have missed my family a lot in the past month. I am reliant upon them for love and support and I am looking forward to seeing them again. I am looking forward to the intimacy of holding them close to me seeing their smiles in front of me, not just as a memory held dear.

I know that I need to find something for work which physically I am able to do. My physical capability has diminished so much in the past year that I do not know what I will be able to do, but there has to be something. I had hoped that a huge amount of sleep would mean that my energy levels would go up but honestly I can’t say that has happened. I am still incredibly tired. So maybe the Dr was right maybe CFS or Chronic Fatigue IS what has been happening to my body. I found out that I am not able to sleep at all if I miss my painkillers. I tried, but all of the pain that was there previously returned with a vengeance. So it hasn’t miraculously gone. I do not take lots of them but going without is foolhardy.

It was a huge relief to be told that the results of my MRI were clear and good, so there was no neurological reason for the seizures that I had last year, or the shaking which has at times taken me over. But what I have noticed as clear as day is that the warmth of the sun and being in this climate has stopped the tremendous pain that I have felt for months in my hands and feet. Although I still have it from time to time it is a lesser scale and less frequently. It took some getting used to the heat here and I don’t know how I would cope when it gets hotter but, this introduction to a warmer climate seems to have done me the power of good. It has also made me realise that if i can feel the benefit of this in just one month, then think of the effects that a move to a warmer climate would have on us as a family in the long term. Conversation with my friends here extolling the benefits of the warmth make me realise what I already knew from previous jaunts to the sun, that not only does it suit me, but I like it. Which is bizarre since it has rained a lot here in the last month. But it is generally warmer and you can’t feel that consuming damp that gets deep into your bones.

I don’t know that my partner would cope with the Australian heat particularly well, or that he would make a trip out here and it certainly wouldn’t be fair on our dog to make a long haul, but it has reaffirmed that we should attempt to get to warmer climes and Southern France or Italy still looks incredibly inviting and much more likely as a place where we could happily settle.

Could I make a living being a writer? I know that hat I keep asking this question but it’s because I don’t know the answer. I honestly don’t know, but I am not giving up on that idea. I have to find something. I have realised that I do need to find my career niche, but I may have to settle first with a job, just something that covers the bills. It depends on the location we find I guess, I only hope that health improves to enable that to happen.