“I stopped celebrating Christmas in 2013, the first Christmas that our suicide crisis centre was open. After witnessing our clients experiencing so much pain as 25 December approached, it never felt right to join in the festivities again.”Joy Hibbins writing in The Independant December 2016
For many people, it’s not a ‘Marshmallow World In the Winter’ and ‘December’ won’t ‘Be Magic Again’.
And I’m not talking about the homeless, some of whom will have a greater chance of company at Christmas than the lonely, forgotten grandma or grandad for whom the night will indeed be silent.
On December 1st this year, I was on a stage with 100 plus other singers, happily singing the Kate Bush classic, December Will Be Magic Again.
(Probably important that I say here, the choir does raise money for charity, this year it is for FIND the charity for families in need.)
But did I believe in what I was singing? No. Not for a single second. That lyric is wrong. It needs to be changed to truly reflect the nature of Christmas. It should say:
‘December will be magic again for SOME people but for far too many, it’s the month of a creeping, heightened sense of loneliness that will reach its excruciatingly painful peak on Christmas Day’.
But unfortunately, that lyric has no sugar on it. It’s clumsy. It doesn’t go well with the rest of the lyrics about the white city being so beautiful and old St. Nicholas being up the chimney.
But above all, it does not fit with the big fat Christmas lie that is peddled year in year out by the retail industry.
Old St. Nicholas is not up the chimneys of vast numbers of people who, through circumstance, do not wake up to the scenes of Christmas warmth trotted out by companies such as Coca Cola.
On December 1st, we also sang a beautiful Joni Mitchell song – River – which sums up how so many people feel about Christmas now.
The lyrics get a little closer to the truth. She sings about the coming of Christmas, the putting up of reindeer, the cutting down of trees, and the singing songs of joy and peace.
But don’t let that fool you because she wishes she had a river to skate away from it all on. Why? She made her baby cry apparently and now she’s all alone, facing her selfishness and the fact that she’s hard to handle.
Well done Joni, that’s a bit more like the truth for so many people at Christmas, who don’t so much live in a ‘marshmallow world’ as a harsh shallow world.
Christmas advertising has us believing we all need new sofas and if we order NOW we can have them in time for Christmas.
And then we can all sit on our new sofas, in our beautiful Christmas pyjamas, sipping egg nog as one big happy smiley, jing jing jingling family, opening our presents perfectly wrapped in sparkling paper while a roaring fire crackles in the grate.
Oh and everyone has perfect teeth.
Are you fooled by this bull s***?
Listen up you people who feel empty and sad because you don’t have a glowingly warm Christmas surrounded by loved ones – for many, this scenario only exists in Waitrose/Tesco/Asda/Sainsbury’s glorious Technicolor advertising.
Maybe this idyllic scene will unfold in some households. Maybe you will find yourself cooking a sumptuous Christmas lunch while your loving family members drift in and out of the kitchen, cheeks flushed from wine as they help peel sprouts and reminisce about Christmases past.
But a huge number of people do not have this kind of a day and are left feeling sad, despressed, lonely, unwanted and for some, suicidal.
This is why I hate Christmas.
As Joy Hibbins says, it doesn’t feel right to celebrate Christmas when there are large numbers of people for whom all the jollity and hype, no matter how false and misleading, can cause such feelings of alienation, despair and loneliness.
I first began to feel this way many years ago when I was at a huge Christmas lunch in a private member’s club (no big deal, anyone could join and be a member.)
I was at a table with my aging parents and the room was filled to capacity.
Each table had groups of friends and family and the tables were laid out very festively with Christmas crackers and treats.
It was all very lovely. Warm and fuzzy – full of Christmas cheer until, that is, I looked up and saw one elderly lady sitting alone at a table on the other side of the room near the door.
The scene hit me like a thump in the guts because as I laid eyes on her, people at tables around her were pulling their Christmas crackers with each other and putting the coloured paper hats on.
This lady picked up her cracker, looked helplessly around her and then she did the saddest thing I have ever seen, she took both ends of the snap inside the cracker and pulled them both herself.
To this day, I deeply regret not leaping over tables and going to ask if she wanted company – I was as guilty as every person in that room for not doing the human thing and letting her into our giagantic party by going over and including her.
I sat at my table feeling very uncomfortable for the rest of the lunch. There was no room at our table for her and I fought with the knowledge that my parents would not understand if I got up and left them to sit with a stranger – so I did nothing except sit there feeling like shit – which was of no help to anyone.
And then when I looked up again at some point, she had gone and I never saw her again.
But that scene has never left my mind, or the shame of being a part of the culture in the room that allowed this to happen.
What Christmas does for so many people is to very painfully accentuate what they successfully hide from for the rest of the year.
So many people are ‘unclaimed’ on Christmas Day – the one day of the year when there is nowhere left to go to mask the fact that they are lonely and maybe being ignored by younger family members.
All the places where the lonely among us can get out and talk to people are closed – shops, libraries, community centres (although thankfully many community centres are open for this very reason now).
It’s almost as if the bustle of life suddenly stops on Christmas Day, a bit like musical chairs, only in this game, when the music stops, if you don’t have a family to be with you are out of the game. It’s just horrible.
As a society, we are no better than I was when I failed to go over and connect with that woman sitting all alone at a Christmas lunch.
Most of us are knowlingly ignoring the fact that a huge number of people will be alone on Christmas Day. We say, ‘well it’s sad but what can I do about it?’
What we can do? Each and every one of us can ASK our own friends and aquaintances, particularly single ones with children living away, what they are doing on Christmas Day.
Would you tell people if you were going to be alone? That would be a hard thing to do for so many reasons. So ASK.
We can share our day with people for whom life circumstances have left them in a lonely place. The death of a husband or wife, divorce, adult children who live away, adult children who, as is becoming more and more common these days, rarely communicate with older family members.
Don’t assume everyone is ‘sorted’ for Christmas day. Ask the question. Be inclusive not selfish.
Lets make this Christmas day better for lonely people who may not have the courage to admit they will be alone.
Don’t let this be a case of Silent Night for those who long to have some company on Christmas Day and while we are at it, perhaps we could keep it going all year.
Another Ronnie Corbett style story. You have been warned.
Whether I like it or not, the fact is, when we are out with my mother at the weekend, what we actually are is a car full of old people.
My mother won’t have it of course. No. At 63, Garry and I are barely out of our teens, in her eyes.
She’s the the old one, she says. Deaf, doddery and done for, in her opinion only. The truth of it is, once past 60, it’s all the same .
Past 50, you don’t get your own decade anymore as in, a ‘twenty something’ or a ‘30 or 40 something’ – no, once you hit 50 you become an ‘over’.
Over 50’s Yoga. Over 50s Lunch Club. Over 50s funeral plans. Over 50s Bingo. Er, no thanks.
I’ve written about this ageist nonsense before. You can find a link to that story here.
Once you hit 60, that’s it from there on, you will share your ‘over’ status with those in their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond.
No one ever says, ‘over’ 70s 80s or 90s do they? No, we are all lumped together after 60.
Cast aside as one great greying lump of humanity known evermore as the over 60s.
Once over 60, we are so past it that no one actually gives a shit what our decade is
Great. Thanks everyone.
So regardless of the fact that my mother, and anyone else in their 80s and 90s, see us 63 year olds as ‘youngsters’, the truth is, in the eyes of those not yet wearing wellie knickers, we are just a bunch of over 60s bumbling around in a car doing some Sunday driving.
But come Monday, I’m back behind the wheel doing the kind of driving we can’t do with mother in the car; that’s anything from 50 to 100 miles per hour. Did I say 100? Gosh I meant to say 70, officer.
I wouldn’t dream of acting like a 20 something with a souped up BMW. 😂
Anyway, back to my story about breaking the law.
Before I get to how we found ourselves breaking the law on a lazy July afternoon deep in the Norfolk (or Suffolk) countryside, I must fill you in on how I see my economic status. (I’m not saying which county we were in for reasons which will become clear later.)
So, regarding my economic status – quite simply, I’m a peasant. To put it another way, I’m Working Class.
And unless you are reading this from the deck of your luxury yacht moored in the Med or from the terrace of your country pile, you are probably a peasant too.
And if you are reading this in America, you may not get what I’ve just said, because class isn’t really a thing for you lucky people.
It certainly wasn’t when I emigrated to Canada in the 70s – no one had a clue that my accent was a dead giveaway to humble roots.
Or, is social class a thing for North America now?
We may have worked our way to a comfortable detached house which is paid for and we may enjoy a life of very little worry compared to some but, I am still attached to my peasant roots by that piece of invisible elastic that can only stretch so far.
I am a realist and I know that most of us probably wouldn’t last more than a year in our comfortable lives without a monthly income.
Without a vast fortune in the bank, the comfortably off ‘middle’ classes are really only one financial catastrophe away from being barefoot in the woods again.
You don’t think so? How long would your savings last if your income dried up?
A week? A month? A year?
I thought so, you are a peasant just like me. Accept it. It’s fun.
At quite a young age, I knew, that given a choice, I would have chosen a below stairs kind of life.
Tough as life was for the serving class, (and it was, truly tough), I would have found all that ‘keeping up appearances’ stuff boring as hell.
Using the right fork for the right course, being a Lady at all times and shunning the most interesting people on the planet on the basis of their ‘low class’ is my idea of purgatory.
Some of the most enlightening conversations I have ever had have been with people with ’no fixed abode’.
I would have preferred living 10 to a room in a peasant hovel with icicles hanging off my peasant nose.
Well, that’s what I say now from the comfort of 2019.
Take Ickworth Hall, a place so grand that it has a rotunda between the two wings, once used as a dedicated party pad, just for weekend guests.
I love this place and yet, I gravitate towards the servants quarters below stairs. I couldn’t bear the oppressive nature of the heavy drapes and opulent surroundings upstairs.
Despite the space and big windows, the decor makes me feel claustrophobic – I prefer bare floors and the simplicity of below stairs – although I would have hated the lack of light in some subterranean areas.
The life of the servant fascinates me more than the lives of those they served.
Regardless of those around me who may consider themselves to have escaped their working class roots, I keep it real.
I know my place in the world and I am endlessly fascinated by what kind of a life my peasant ancestors had when peasants were answerable to the Lords of the Manor.
So it was quite exciting when we met one while accidentally trespassing on his land with mother in tow last Sunday.
Sunday’s are interesting days for us since my dad died last year.
Being the devoted couple they were, when dad became too frail to venture outside, my mother remained at his side and declined our invitations to get out and about for a change of scenery.
Right up until his death, mother ceased all activities outside the house to be with my father.
However, after all the trauma of the final year, in the weeks following my father’s passing, I encouraged my mother to get out and see the world again.
She can’t do this alone at 91, so Sundays are generally reserved for outings with her.
The rest of the week is taken up with dentists, opticians, audiologists and doctors. All those who fight the losing battle against physical decline.
But, where in the world do you go on a Sunday in sleepy Norfolk (or Suffolk) as a bunch of old people, with one in a wheelchair who won’t stray far from civilisation and its mod cons (yes, we are back to the touchy subject of lavatories again!)
So last Sunday, I had the brilliant idea of going ‘dead ancestor spotting’ in the villages around where my Great Grandad came from.
My mother often speaks fondly of the village where ‘Gaffer’, as he was known, came from. And I know she and my dad spent summer days in that area looking for the gravestones of Gaffers forbears.
Mother, of course, had no idea where we were going. It’s a longish drive by her standards, which, appear to be left over from the days of horses pulling carts.
When we used to go off to Brighton (for the day, shock horror) to visit the grandchildren, there were raised eyebrows from my father who couldn’t contemplate anyone driving ‘all that way and back again!’, in one day.
So when we are going anywhere that’s more than 10 miles away, we generally keep it a secret until mother is actually seat-belted into the car and can’t back out.
We did it once when we dragged mother and father off to Brighton.
We were at the QE ll bridge over the Thames before they suspected we weren’t actually going to a garden centre!
So back to the Lord of The Manor encounter.
Once we got to where we were going in Suffolk (or Norfolk) 🤔, our visit to the churchyards was waylaid by the very attractive vision of a quintessentially English tea shop.
Not many of those left.
So after tea, cake and sandwiches had been consumed, we resumed our original quest for names on gravestones.
But between the tea shop and the church was a vision even more pleasing than that of the teashop.
Across a field, we spied some ruins. Could have been a castle, could have been a church – my lips are sealed as to its former function for reasons of privacy, as I already mentioned.
Ruins are my complete joy in life, which is a good thing given that we are well on the way to ending up that way ourselves. Some more so than others, but there you are.
We drove on to the church and found the sloped driveway blocked by a car, leaving nowhere to safely park nearby and no way of getting mother into the graveyard.
Yes, I know, that sounds a bit wrong. But you know what I mean – the wheelchair.
Had we really driven all this way to find we couldn’t get out of the car?
‘I know!’ I yelled, like Georgina from the Famous Five, ‘Let’s go and explore those ruins!’
We were one person and a dog away from a full blown Enid Blyton adventure.
Never mind that the ruins were probably less accessible than the graveyard and more crucially, on private land.
But there were no signs indicating the latter and so, in we drove and parked on some patchy grass.
The ruin was some way off. It was across a long, grassy, bumpy pathway, roughly cut through a meadow.
And mother suddenly needed a ‘comfort break’ with no comfort break facilities for miles around.
(Oh how roles are reversed with children in the winter years of our lives!)
So off we set, Garry pushing mother across this undulating meadow in a wheelchair really only meant for hospital corridors and smooth pavements.
But the lure of ruins had mother in their thrall too and she held on for dear life, in more ways than one.
It was pure bliss. The air was so clean and fresh and there was the aroma of what seemed like apples and chamomile in the air. I was drunk on the atmosphere.
Unknown to us, the Lord of the Manor landowner had spotted us and was watching from a distance.
Up close, the ruins were just wonderful. We were oblivious to being watched.
We hadn’t been there very long when I took pity on my mother’s growing discomfort and, after snapping a few pictures while enjoying the fruits of my vivid imagination, heavy with possible ghosts of the past, we trundled her back to the car.
The brevity of our visit turned out to be a good thing.
We could see, in the distance, a man standing at the entrance to the site. He wasn’t happy.
Had I known this, I wouldn’t have been quietly and contentedly singing One Day Like This as we drove towards him. I would have been shitting myself and singing I Predict a Riot.
Now I love a bit of sarcasm.
So when this man, maybe in his early 50s, who was clearly not dressed by Primark, approached the car and sarcastically asked Garry if we were lost, I immediately liked his sense of humour.
Garry, however, is not as impressed with sarcasm as I am.
With one woman in the front singing that same song she has been practicing day and night for weeks (more about that in a future post), and another in the back saying she wasn’t sure if she could ‘wait much longer’, he wasn’t in the best of moods.
I sensed this could get ugly.
I was also kind of intrigued by the curious mix of masculine contemporary jewellery, piercings, sarcasm, nice clothes and the supreme air of confidence that is usually only seen in the aristocracy.
Someone whose family historically probably employed peasants like us.
This man, I thought, is not to be f****d with.
And so I immediately broke up the fight before it began.
We had, after all, been breaking the law – mother as well.
However, although we were technically breaking the law, as we had not sprayed the ruins with graffiti, carved our initials in the stonework or set fire to anything, we had not committed any arrestable offences.
I have not yet run this past my son, who is an upholder of the law in the capital, but I’m pretty sure the police would not have rushed to the scene to arrest three old people looking at an historic ruin.
But still, breaking the law of the land is not something I ever want to do because, I am a good peasant and so is my mother.
Which is why she was horrified when she realised what we had done.
Thankfully, her hearing aids, being 10 years old (about to be replaced if the NHS will stump up some of the money my father paid in for 50 plus years), spared her from hearing the conversation at the time.
If she had cottoned on, I am pretty sure she would have staggered out of the car and curtsied.
Her generation doffed caps. Ours not so much, thank goodness. After all, no one can defy death, regardless of status, which makes us all equal in the end, in my humble opinion.
But still, respect is important no matter who you are dealing with, although you won’t find my knees bending if the Queen pops in for tea – respect and unhealthy deference are two completely different things.
The land owner turned out to be a pleasant man who is simply tired of people trespassing on his land and leaving rubbish in their wake – which is why I’m not publicising where this is.
I don’t blame him for being annoyed.
But I’m pretty sure he realised a car full of over 60s wasn’t a threat to his land once he’d spoken to us.
Manners do pay off.
This man graciously answered our questions and told us a little about the ruins and then later, I researched what he’d told me.
There was a reason why he’d had that special air of confidence and natural superiority, usually only seen in aristocrats – he is one.
And his family history is one of the most rich you will find anywhere. The connections to well known historical figures are breathtaking – unless of course my research is wrong – but I’m sure it isn’t.
Why am I glad that Garry didn’t argue with him?
Is it because I think the aristocrats deserve more respect than your average peasant?
No, it isn’t. It’s about not letting ourselves down. It’s about being respectful to everyone, even those who some people would, (small mindedly), despise for their status of owning land that was of course, in the very beginning, just simply seized by those with the biggest sticks.
Just because peasants no longer defer to the upper classes in the way we once did, it does not mean we have to go the other way and be rude when we encounter someone from a class different to our own.
I feel the same about the drunk I may encounter sleeping rough on the streets of our nearby town or, people busking to buy food.
People are people and no one chooses the circumstances of their birth.
Politeness always to everyone. That’s my motto in life.
When the human in me can address the human in you, regardless of class, religion, race or any other secondary difference you can name, we learn things from each other.
And on Sunday, I learnt about those ruins and the rich family history behind them. It added to the overall experience.
My mother made it home in time, although I haven’t seen her move so fast through her front door in ages and, I am still happily singing One Day Like This, quite content with my station in life.
I am thankful that the only ‘ancient ruin’ in my life that I have to contend with is my dear old mum.
Ancient ruins of great national historic significance must be such a worry to all who own them.
I am grateful the landowner was so reasonable and agreed to let me publish this. In return, I have agreed I will not publicly divulge the location of this wonderful place.
I have to say he is a true legend – even his body language was sarcastic as he gestured to the ground, spreading his arms as if to say “ WTF are you doing in my garden?”
Silent sarcasm is an art I have never been able to master.
If anyone reading this guesses where it is, I would urge you to seek permission to visit, via the local parish council, which will put you in touch.
The land is private and I’m sure you would hate to have strangers wandering about in your garden.
Over to you. What is your opinion on us breaking the law in this manner and when was the last time you accidentally broke the law?
Buying a new camera is straightforward, right? Wrong!
Buying a new camera should be straightforward but sadly, in 2019, it is anything but, that is, if you want to do it the old fashioned way by walking into a shop and buying one.
I’ve been buying cameras for the last 40 plus years and it’s always been pretty easy to part with several hundred pounds, some of which went to pay the wages of the helpful souls who stood behind the counter.
If you are a Millenial you may be wondering what a counter is.
Well it was a thing they used to have in shops. A long thing, kind of like a table, that shop assistants stood behind to serve customers.
In the unlikely event that a Millennial is actually reading this, they are probably stuck on the words ‘assistant’, ‘serve’ and ‘customer’.
Let me explain.
Someone who worked behind a counter in a shop where they used to sell actual stuff.
‘Stuff’ being the things people wanted to buy which, made them ‘customers’ (I’ll get to that in a moment).
When buying ‘stuff’ the assistants usually had knowledge of any specialist products they were selling and could therefore answer any questions about the said products, thus ‘assisting’ the customer and encouraging a sale.
A person who buys the stuff in shops and therefore pays the wages of those assisting customers. See, it’s a quite a simple concept.
This may be a little tricky for you to understand if you are quite young.
There is an art to serving.
It requires respect for the customer.
If you have any trouble understanding this, there is a very helpful phrase you can recite inside your head when approaching a customer, who will be, waiting hopefully, money in hand, at the counter.
This is the phrase – you may want to write it down and learn it, “Customers pay my wages, without them I have no job.”
It’s quite easy to have respect for customers when you get a grip on how their eventual choices can affect your life.
Having respect includes not writing people off because they are over 30 and also, understanding that us ‘old’ people could actually kick your sorry, skinny little asses if we weren’t worried about getting a police record so late in life.
If you can’t respect us because we are so offensive to you, how about you try and respect the money we are spending? It keeps the economy afloat and you in a job?
To serve means you are able to answer questions about the products you sell.
Telling us to Google something in a tone that says you think we don’t know what Google is will only result in you eventually losing your job.
So ‘serving’ involves a little bit of Googling for you before you go to work. Get off your Play Station 4 Pro and LEARN about the products you sell.
I’m pretty sure no one over 50 has ever set foot in my blog so we’ll leave it there and get back to my rant about buying a camera in 2019.
I had no idea buying a new camera would cause such angst!
But oh my goodness it did.
My very first cameras were Nikons, fully manual and of course, with it being back in prehistoric times, we were using film and had a degree of talent.
We went out on tricky jobs, in difficult light and, shock horror, did not have the luxury of seeing our shots instantly.
Oh no – we had to understand a little thing called exposure and we had to know how to read the light in a given scene.
Anyhow – back to the actual story, or this will turn into a rant about the brilliant pioneer photographers and the donkeys they needed to carry all the equipment we now have packed into microchips.
Like so many other retired press and pr photographers, I want to give my left shoulder a break.
The days of not caring about the weight of my camera bag are gone and to be frank, unless you are shooting massive ad campaigns for billboards, who needs the bother of several prime lenses and three camera bodies? Not me for sure!
So – buying a new camera with an integral, very wide ranging zoom was my goal last week.
Easy. No it wasn’t. I decided I wanted either the Nikon P900 or the Nikon P1000. With one around the £500 mark and the other just under £1000, I wanted that camera in my hand BEFORE I shelled out a single penny.
Off I went to John Lewis where the sales assistants, I believe, have shares in the company and they are usually very polite and helpful.
And how very rude of me, but I interrupted an instense conversation going on between two salesmen. One older and one younger. Not sure the younger one’s mummy knew he was there but anyway…
…they ignored me as I looked around the island with all the DSLR’s and Bridge cameras, which is unusual I have to say. In the past, very polite young people come up and respectfully ask if they can help.
And in John Lewis, where I usually buy my Apple products, the staff know their shit – that’s why I go there.
Well that didn’t happen last week in John Lewis.
So I went up and interuppted the conversation by saying: “Excuse me……..
Gosh, how rude of me.
The older man abruptly stopped talking and turned to me.
The younger one sighed and cast his eyes upward.
Now this isn’t the first time a shop assistant has done that in my presence.
The last time it happened it was aimed at my mother and the assistant didn’t realise it was my mother.
I was so incensed I almost started a riot in the garden centre where my poor old mum was trying to buy plants.
But that is another story.
Back to this one – again. 😆
Unfortunately, the older man made the boy serve me and it didn’t go well.
Now I know the store policy is not his fault but I still wanted to shoot the messenger because of his shitty rude attitude.
No, they did not have either camera for me to look at at and yes, they could order them in for me.
I would have to pay for the camera/s in full before I could open the box/es to try it/them out.
So I’m stuck between two cameras – don’t know which one I want until I see how they handle and I have to pay for them before even looking at them?
“Yes” he said, without a shred of an idea as to the ludicrousness of this premise.
“Because once the box is open and you press the shutter, the camera is considered used.”
WHICH IS WHY – JOHN LEWIS – IF YOU ARE LISTENING – YOU WILL PROBABLY END UP CLOSING STORES EVENTUALLY!!!!!!
Just like other major retailers who don’t understand what they need to do to keep customers.
You need to have demonstration models IN STORE. Not just the handful of demos you have bolted to the stands. We don’t all want to choose from a narrow range of models.
So I’m clearly not buying a new camera in John Lewis and off I go to Jessops a few days later.
Meanwhile, in between John Lewis and Jessops, out of frustration, I very stupidly buy the P1000 model from Jessop’s online believing that I have covered all bases with my research.
I’d just competed payment when a very in-depth review of the Nikon P1000 came up in my YouTube suggested videos list.
And for the first time, I learn that this very expensive Bridge camera has a sensor no bigger than that of an iPhone camera, meaning, that it is not good in lowlight conditions.
Who knew? I mean who would have guessed this very expensive camera would have a tiny sensor?
There followed a mad scramble to find out how to cancel my order and a long wait to get through to my bank on the phone, only to be told they could not halt the payment unless the company sent them a fax with their shoe size on. Jessop’s probably doesn’t know it’s shoe size.
At that point, I gave up on the idea of getting a new camera and decided on getting an 18-300mm lens for my current Nikon body.
And oh the heartache that followed. John Lewis told me they had a few on order but had no idea when they would be delivered. All I could do, they said, was go on the website and ask to be emailed when they come in.
So off we went to Jessops in town.
OMG. Another boy who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about anything much at all.
I still wanted to look at the Nikon P900 and 1000 but no, they hadn’t got any.
‘We used to’, he said, as if it was some consolation.
“I can order you one in though”.
“And I have to pay for it first, right?”
Well of course I would!
This is God, I thought, telling me these Nikons are not for me. Give it up.
So I did.
At that moment, I decided to get the Nikon 18 – 300mm lens but guess what?
“Sorry, we don’t have any.” He flicked his fingers across the keyboard of the computer that’s in charge of the business now.
“We have 105 on order but they won’t be in for 28 days at least”.
Jeff Bezos – you win – buying a camera or a lens from Amazon is a whole lot easier than dealing with our High Street stores.
I am sitting here awaiting the delivery of my new lens – it was so simple with Amazon Prime and delivery isn’t costing a penny.
Thank you to Mimi and Debbie for their posts about how tech is affecting the world – you inspired me to share this tale.
Over to you – has anyone else had trouble buying a camera, or anything else for that matter, in an actual shop recently?
Because although it would be great to pretend that the swear word ‘crap’ is merely an affectionate term used in his memory when seated on the white throne, it is a word that was in use well before his time.
This post was inspired by Debbie Dog Lady in Toronto who recently wrote: A John By Any Other Name. Read it (after this! 😬) – it has a hilarious video with it.
THIS Game of Thrones was played in Orford Castle in Norman times.
I don’t know who Norman was because the day we (well, they) learned about him at school, I wasn’t listening – as usual.
But Orford Castle, a 20 mile car ride away from me in the UK, is a jolly nice place to visit, it’s run by English Heritage – so, thank you Norman whoever you were.
And I must say, I love the big guns outside! But by the size of them, I’m guessing you had some enemies.
I’m just kidding! See me after school if you want the low down on the Normans or better still click here.
Anyway, back to Norman’s Game of Thrones.
First off, I have to say, if you are going to Orford Castle expecting to see a throne, please lower your expectations.
The ‘Thrones’ you are about to see do not require you to wear a crown when sitting on them. Although I suppose you could, if you had one and felt the need to wear it while having a *crap.
I’m going to come back to that *naughty little word in another post, in which Thomas Crapper will make an appearance.
Ok – so – Orford castle and its Game of Thrones. What was it all about?
Well, I’ll start with what it wasn’t. It wasn’t so ‘exciting’ as the Game of Thrones.
You know, the Game of Thrones where everyone was arguing over a f*****g chair that ended up being burnt to a cinder, disappointing the crap out of everyone who’d been watching it for the last 25 years.
Oh, it wasn’t 25 years? I do beg your pardon. Having a husband and 900 friends who wouldn’t shut up about Game of Thrones, it made it feel that way.
Back to Orford Castle – again 🙄.
The game of thrones of which I speak was basically about who got to use which throne (toilet) according to their importance within the castle. But unfortunately, my memory of the toilet hierarchy is somewhat blurred by the trauma of being in such an ancient, atmospheric place which, I just know is haunted.
When I visited there recently, specifically to get pictures of the toilets, I was shown round by English Heritage workers Jane and Gaynor.
Jane told my husband about the history of Orford Castle while Gaynor took me to view the toilets, or Garderobes, as castle toilets are called.
And although I was chatting away as if I was totally ok being surrounded by freaky ‘vibes’ – every hair on my body was standing on end as invisible people passed through me – probably.
Ok – so I have no evidence of that and maybe I am just another Nut Job – however – I am not like this in all old buildings or spaces.
In some historic places I feel nothing out of the ordinary. In others I feel a sense of peace and in some, it feels as if I have been plugged into the National Grid and the entire electricity supply for the UK is flowing through me.
At Orford Castle, the atmosphere I sense is, electric for me. It really is like a non-stop low level electric current running through my core and, the tiny hairs on my arms and back of my neck bristle.
So imagine the voltage when I went into this passage in search of the medieval toilets hidden around the deep curves – it was fer-REAKY!
The above right is one of the ‘thrones’ that I saw, inside the castle.
I’m pretty sure it is the toilet, or Garderobe, reserved for the Chaplain because we had just come out of the chapel room when I was taken in here, with my hair standing on end.
And I’m not even exaggerating.
I’d already seen the double ‘thrones’ – just off the kitchen.
Once upon a time, these were accessed via an opening in the wall from the kitchen. Oh yuk! Did Medieval Health and Safety intervene?
And speaking of Health & Safety – this is where the contents of these toilets exited the castle. Lovely.
And then there is the urinal set into the wall leading into a room set aside for the castle Constable.
So there you have it – a very different game of thrones with no dragons and no burnt chairs.
There is a least one more throne/toilet, I believe, in the cellar but I didn’t go down there. Oh no! I wasn’t invited and I definitely didn’t ask.
All joking aside – these are excellent examples of medieval castle toilets. And the urinal, complete with a stained wall beneath, is a rare example of such a facility.
I can highly recommend visiting this castle – it’s great for children – my boys used to love playing war games in the undulating earthworks around the castle.
Thank you Debbie for prompting me to write about medieval toilets.
This wasn’t the post I was intending to write since 2014 – that is coming next.
More about toilets on the way you lucky people!
Where do you stand on the real Game of Thrones – did you love it, hate it or couldn’t be bothered to get worked up about a chair – let me know in the comments!
(Hope all the videos will play in whatever country you are in.)
7 Rules For a Happy Life
Don’t Ever Leave the Cake Out In The Rain
Why? Because it took so long to bake it and you’ll never have that recipe again.
Think about it. Is your cake outside right now? Are there clouds overhead? Do you care about your metaphorical cake?
Then protect it. Nurture it. Mend broken bridges. Make the first move. Say sorry and get that person or those people back in your life today.
Don’t embark on your 19th Nervous Breakdown without questioning why you’ve already had 18.
Really shoulda been asking by the third one at most!
As your 19th Nervous Breakdown approaches:
Take it as a warning that you are the problem in your life.
What do you need to change?
People who keep on doing the same thing in the same way while expecting different results are, if you’ll forgive my bluntness, just plain stupid.
Don’t be that. Just don’t.
If your 19th Nervous Breakdown is coming at you like a speeding train – Jump. Off. The. Track. Now!
Take control of your mind, go somewhere different with it.
Changing your thinking will change your life.
No more blue pills. Ok?
Are You Lonesome Tonight? Don’t be.
Maybe it’s because you left the cake out in the rain at some point.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go take a look outside at the cake.
Has it completely collapsed? Are there rivulets of sweet green icing flowing down the drain like sugary neon tears?
Then scrape that mess up, put it in the garbage can and move on.
Do it now before the world loses patience with you.
If you’re sitting there thinking, Only The Lonely Know The Way I feel Tonight (yes, this rule merits TWO song mentions), then get out and find some happy people.
Don’t ever worry about not being a Cornflake Girl
(Or guy – just to keep this politically correct 🙄)
Raisin girls/guys are sweeter, more unique and stand out against the cornflakes by a million miles.
I know Tori Amos’s inspiration for her song had its roots in a whole other, darker area of female betrayal but the lyrics also helped me to process the betrayals that go on in day to day life.
Cornflake girls stick together and raisin girls get stuck in their sludge – if they aren’t careful.
When you find yourself, metaphorically, in a box of cornflakes, don’t waste time wailing because the cornflakes don’t like you or exclude you from their cliques.
Instead, put your energy into finding the other raisins and enjoy their loyalty, openness, acceptance and authenticity – those traits are pure gold – they are not the dull yellow colour of cornflakes.
And remember this, when someone stamps on a cornflake, it disintegrates into flaky dust. But when someone stamps on a raisin, it goes flat but, it stays whole. A brief spell in warm water brings flattened raisins back into shape.
Be thankful if you are a raisin. Rock it.
Don’t worry about not being flower – Take a lesson from the weeds or Wildflowers
Why? Because they grow very easily despite limiting conditions.
Don’t believe me?
We put down a membrane against weeds before we put laid our patio, which, rarely gets sun.
But the weeds are constantly pushing up through membrane and grouting, fighting for their right to flourish.
Be a weed. Flowers are pretty but they depend on nurture and the right conditions to grow. I mean who in the hell gets that in this life?
And what is the definition of a weed? It’s a plant that grows where it is not wanted. And in human terms, that’s quite often amongst the Cornflake Girls (I know! I know! And guys, FFS!)
Weeds and wildflowers are tenacious, self-nurturing, determined plants that do not rely on the approval of others to flourish.
Be a Wildflower and love yourself even when the neat and tidy flower beds of life shun you.
Are you a Poor Poor Pitiful Me? – Well stop it.
Woe is me will never cut it.
It’s true what they say: Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you piss everyone off.
They will bang on for hours about every shitty thing that’s ever happened to them since first grade.
Survivors, on the other hand, use each shitty thing like the fertiliser of life – they grow from adversity and move forward.
Poor Poor Pitiful People stay stuck where they are, droning on and on about how unfair life is.
It’s boring. Get over yourself. STOP! IT!
Don’t soak up Dirty Laundry – Quit reading ‘newspapers’ and watching the ‘news’.
The daily ‘news’, however it is delivered, causes Cancer of the soul and it will destroy yours in the end if you don’t watch what you soak up.
The daily ‘news’ is designed to control, manipulate, and frighten us into submission. It makes us into compliant Sheeple.
Fight back by refusing to watch, read or listen to the ‘news’. Don’t let its darkness destroy the light in your soul.
Remember, for every story about death, destruction, misery, murder, crime and corruption there are a billion more that would inspire love, laughter, happiness, hope, truth and trust in this life.
But we only get to hear the bad stuff.
The ‘news’ is the place where you will find every bad thing that happened in the world each day, all concentrated in one ghastly, ugly lump.
It distorts reality in the minds of the masses who lap it up.
It is a deliberate betrayal all the good things that are happening in this world.
Frightened people are easier to control. Don’t play the game. Switch it off. Be happy.
I know I said 7 Rules For a Happy Life but here is a bonus one for getting this far.
Because, as the song says, being yourself ‘is all that you can do’.
So do it well.
And if you are a raisin girl (or guy 🙄), don’t EVER let the actions or attitudes of Cornflakes Girls stop your from being yourself.
Cornflake girls form cliques, they gossip about others and complain when others gossip about them, they tell tales when it suits them, they ostracise, ignore and dislike raisins.
Some cornflakes get along with raisins when there are no other cornflakes around but will quickly conform to type when more crispy little flakes show up.
But no matter. Revel in your sweet, strong raisin-ness and Be Yourself – always.
And forever sing this song. This has been my power song in life for years.
Like most other fans, I was knocked sideways when Chris Cornell died and I couldn’t listen to this for awhile but, despite his apparent suicide – his message lives on in this song and remains sound advice.
The problem for many people comes when they don’t believe being themselves is good enough.
But it is. It always is. We are all born good people and that’s who we have to get back to be happy.
We have to shake off the layers of crap heaped on us from our upbringing, conditioning and education to find our own true selves.
So that’s my 7 Rules For a Happy Life (well ok – eight).
If you wrote down 7 rules for a happy life, what would your number one rule be – my number eight here is actually my real number one – Be Yourself – now off you go and be happy!