In praise of women…

I will be honest. Last week was the pits. After all the excitement of buying and selling houses gave way to the drudge of the legal process everything felt a little flat.  We were both tired and a little snippy. Then on Wednesday The Cold returned. Yes, I know, you are all suffering too, seems there is no one that has not been afflicted with it to some degree over the last couple of months.

Anyway, to cut a long story short the week ended with a flat battery in Birmingham due to me forgetting to turn my lights off and me missing a new product launch and training for one of my product ranges as I had to drive for at least 40 minutes to recharge…well you get the picture. The pits.

Suffice it to say that I woke up on Sunday with the grumps.

But in 127 minutes of glorious cinema that all changed. We snuck off to see Hidden Figures at 11:30 in the morning.

IMDB said:

“The incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

A small paragraph for a big film.

I had heard of Dorothy Vaughan, somewhere in my IT knowledge I knew of this smart, bright lady who mastered the IBM at NASA. But I had no real idea of what these women endured to believe in themselves and realise their dreams.

The film covers their struggles not just as women, but as black women at a time, in my lifetime, where there was still segregation, alongside rampant sexism. Of course, these ladies triumphed and went on to lead successful, happy lives, involved in some of the most incredible scientific advances. It is a clever, beautiful and gentle film, but it lifted me up, inspired me, filled me with joy.

I have never seen myself as a “feminist”. And let’s be frank, if I was to burn my bra the fall out could kill someone! But I do believe passionately in equality. And I hate bigotry of any kind. This film shows triumph arising out of adversity, of how essential it is to believe in yourself and to persevere and endure. Not to be afraid of the challenges and changes that life throws in our direction.

I left the cinema feeling inspired and uplifted. Joyful and happy. Grateful to live in a world where such women existed. Where they paved the way generations of other women, of all colours, to be able to make choices, pursue their dreams. My plan for this blog was to cheer for this film, to encourage women to go and see it. Celebrate their achievements.

But I also watched Testament of Youth. Vera Brittain’s heart rending memoir of living through the first world war. She was another inspirational woman who fought society and tradition to follow her dreams and found a way to believe in herself through the horror and the misery of the loss and destruction that the war brought.

Then last night I watched the latest edition of Call The Midwife. This week’s edition dealt with the thorny subject of Female Genital Mutilation, a practice that still goes on in our supposedly enlightened world.

The direction of my blog has slightly changed. And I am feeling slightly ashamed of myself. Im my working life, and my personal life I have experienced sexism, and other “isms”. I have been judged in many ways. People have made assumptions about me because of who I was married to, how I look, how much I weigh, because I cry easily, for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with who I am, or what I am capable of. I spent many years without one iota of self-belief. Without feeling that I could achieve anything much, feeling as though I didn’t deserve anything. It doesn’t matter what was behind my lack of belief. What matters is that we ALL matter! And we need to remember that.

I see so many young women now settling for what they think they are capable of. I want to say to them, get your heads up, decide what you want and go out and get it. Take advantage of everything that is out there. Because all those women before us worked really, really, hard so that we could be just about anything we want to be, with knobs on!

And irrespective of whether you want a family, a career or both don’t be afraid to go for it. Just believe in yourself and reach for those dreams. Sure, it will be a struggle at some point, but persevere. You will win.

It is never too late. I am on the verge of reinventing myself, at the ripe old age of 58! I am lucky enough to be grabbing a blank canvas and creating a new future for myself. Being grumpy isn’t an option!

We are so lucky. There are still awful horrific situations for women in this “enlightened” world of ours. Current political changes in the world are bringing fear and doubt into our everyday lives. Many women face physical mutilation and mental suffering all over the world. Those of us that can, should. Be brave, be confident, believe.

Don’t wait…just do it!





Bring me sunshine…

Its 11:15 pm. And I wake in the throes of a full-blown anxiety attack. Hyper-ventilating, pulse racing, chest tight…and so on and so forth. My lovely husband is snoring loudly beside me while for 10 minutes I use the deep breathing techniques I learned about 15 years ago, when attacks like this were a daily occurrence for me. Of course, I should have woken Nigel. But to be honest, as the panic subsided, I felt a little stupid. Here I am poised on the brink of a bright shiny new life. A life which will leave us mortgage and debt free, living in a beautiful big house in a friendly northern town, close to the sea and other places we love…you all know the why and how. I have shared that many times.

But inevitably, there is always a flip side. A cost. It’s all about balance.

We took my mum and my daughter to visit the new house in Morecambe yesterday. I know that they both understand the why and how too. They both know about all the practical reasons why we must go. The “no-choice” part of the equation. I wanted to show them both the new house. Not for their approval, but more to take the mystery out of it. Show them that the house is good and that we will have a good life.

It was a dull cloudy day, and the tide was out. Not Morecambe at its best. No views across to the Lake District. Suddenly I was seeing the town through Mum and Zoe’s eyes, not seeing the possibilities, seeing the grey, run-down, seaside town where we have chosen to make our home.

After a coffee, we drove to the house to meet Fred, the Estate Agent. The street was so quiet. Being a Saturday, the nearby schools were closed. We parked easily (a very positive thing about this house with residential parking a real premium in the town). We had been told about a park nearby where we would be able to walk the dogs, down a  pathway between the primary and the secondary schools. To be frank it was quite grim. Dank, grimy and piles of un-picked-up dog poo. (A problem we have here too – irresponsible dog-owners make me mad!) And a school playing field but not a public field. I felt the gloom from our companions as we headed back to the house.

As we gazed up at the house I felt a bit calmer. It is a good house. It is solid, much loved, and reassuring. It will make a fabulous home. It is not placed where I wanted it to be, but we can see lots of improvements in the area, it is going to be ok.

We entered the welcoming hall way and made our way around the house, this time looking at it with owner’s eyes. Not everything is ideal, but there are infinite possibilities, gorgeous futures, parties to be had, meals to be cooked, memories to be made. Even a huge man-cave for Nigel to make his own! He mentioned a train set but I have a long list of jobs for him to do! I think that Mum and Zoe saw the possibilities, even though they also saw the drawbacks. Some of which we can address.

After our brief visit, we climbed back into the car and started the long journey back south.

In the car, I flipped between the excitement of those possibilities, and the misery of knowing that Mum and Zoe will not be with us on this adventure. I know they will both visit, and there is a room called “Zoe’s room”. But this is our adventure, our dream. Well a version of our dream!

I guess the visit made it all a bit real for all of us. It is going to happen. We have had the excitement of offers and acceptances on both houses.  Now we have the legal stuff to get through. And the sorting out and packing. On the one hand, it will happen quickly, but it also seems a long way off when you want to get going.

I lay in bed last night thinking about how it will look when we have made the changes we want to make. I have realised that I cannot fit this house into that house. My bold colour schemes will not really fit the outline of my new Edwardian terrace house. I feel the need to treat the house sympathetically. Choose colours that reflect its history whilst keeping it contemporary. It’s going to be fun.

But I was suddenly completely overwhelmed with a huge sense of loss. You know, normally kids leave their parents. They go to university, they find jobs, partners, lives. Parents are the ones that stay behind in their lives, occasionally welcoming their offspring back for a while, moaning gently about how they cannot “get rid” of their children. They don’t mean it. They will always welcome them back, grumbling slightly, whatever the circumstances. It is part of parenting. But I cannot shake the feeling that I am abandoning my “family”. One young, and one old. I want them to be happy for us, want them to send us on our way cheerfully and supportively. But they both have their own sense of loss to deal with.

It was a long drive home. It brought home the fact that we will be 250 miles away. In reality it is only about 4 hours on a good run. There are motorways, trains and buses. We will be ok. But my heart is aching.

Hence the panic attack.

I woke this morning exhausted, with a tight chest and feeling very sad. But also secure in the knowledge that it will all be ok. We will make it ok. With reassurance from Nige, I feel stronger and hungry for the good things the move will bring. Already there are plans for me to drive back down for planned events. Our new life will mean that I am not tied to my desk or a job.

So, I do acknowledge the pain and upset that will be an inevitable part of our move. For us and those that we love. But I am going to embrace the opportunities that I know will come my way. It won’t be without difficulty, but it will be good.

The sun will shine and the tide will come in. Twice a day.







The Overture…

Never mind La-La-Land – welcome to Limbo-Land! It has been a very weird weekend. From receiving the news that the offer we made on the house in Morecambe was accepted – in a Little Chef in Skipton. To arriving home to our house in Bishops Stortford, knowing that at least 20 people had tramped through the doors earlier in the day. Well it’s just weird! At least one person has requested a second viewing with the intention of making an offer, so I guess it is now just a matter of time.

Sunday seemed to go on for ever. Sitting in our immaculate house, talking about our dreams and how we will redecorate the new house all seemed very surreal. Whilst I am excited and looking forward to new challenges there is also much grief. Zoe is upbeat but sad. I looked out at my snow-covered garden in the morning and felt bereft. Silly really, our garden is owned by the Labradors, not us! But the view is amazing, and the options have always been there.

So, negatives and positives. The life we are contemplating will be a completely different life. Close to the Lakeland that we love, even closer to the sea which both of us are thrilled about. Some of the new stuff is a little hard to contemplate. I have lived in BS since I was 7 years old! 51 years! It’s a lifetime.

There is a lot of compromise with our choice of house. The original house we found in Morecambe, is bigger and definitely more beautiful. But so much work needed. It would inevitably be a money pit and I do not even want to contemplate the stress involved in making it into a home. My friend Theresa hit the nail on the head when she said that Clark Street was a concept. A glorious, beautiful, painful concept. But when we walked into the house on Arnside Crescent we felt the love of a family who had lived in it and cared for it for 15 years. It was warm, welcoming and homely. And we can move straight into it, without the pain of spending a fortune. It’s a solid and welcoming option.

That’s how the decision was made. The negatives are not really negative. I am choosing to see them as opportunities. Walking the dogs more often, with no option to let them in the garden, will give me the chance to meet people. Nigel will be able to choose a new job, one with better hours and less stress, hopefully a little closer to home. And me? I have a world of options available, so many roads to choose from. And best of all? We will be mortgage free. Something that I thought I would never achieve.

We are changing other people’s lives too. Zoe will be striking out on her own. She is nearly 22, its time, but I always imagined her doing it with me just around the corner, being close when or if she needed reassurance and support. I will of course still offer that, and she will always have a home with us if she needs it. But we will be further away.

My mum is also struggling with me moving so far away. She is used to having my sister and I close by. It will be strange not to be able to pop in. I know she understands the reasons, but I totally get how hard it is going to be for her, and me.

Zoe and Mum are coming to Morecambe with us to see the house and get a glimpse of where we will be making our home. I hope it will help us all with the transition.

My best friend came with us to view the house at the weekend. She loved it. We are both so happy that we will be less than an hour away. After years of us living a long way from each other we will be able to meet for coffee whenever we want. It will be amazing.

We have a couple more viewings booked for the Bishops Stortford house. I think that in the next couple of days our time in limbo will be over. Then we have a few weeks of extremely hard work, so I suspect that we won’t have time to worry anymore! Feeling very glad that we are to visit Greece at Easter. It will be a little pocket of peace in amongst the chaos!

Provided everything goes to plan, the new house will be known as The Corner House. Our Corner House.

When we finally leave Limbo-land, be aware that there may be a bit of spontaneous bursting into song at every available moment as we move towards our own La-La-Land. Everything is better with a soundtrack! And we have a brand-new soundtrack to write.