Oh to be in England

Now that spring is there.

Appledore, Devon, Spring, Flowers, Rivers

Whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware

Robert Brownings inspiring ode, could apply to anywhere in England. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately many of us do not have the time, inclination or quietness of mind to behold our surroundings & draw pleasure from the exquitiste unfurling of new life & a new dawn.

Appledore, mindfullness, north devon, bluebells, new life
Peace & tranquillity

Throughout my life there have been many times when I have not been able to appreciate the true beauty of the world. The “black dog” had been firmly resting on my shoulder. In some lighter moments I could briefly see an image, which would momentarily stir my interest. The neon lights of a London Street being reflected on a black tarmac road during a torrental downpour. The sun rising over Clapham Junction, while catching the 6.45 to Waterloo. These thumb nail shots were very short lived, but for a moment in time, gave me a warm feeling of pleasure & peace, before the full claustrophobic reality of my life, once more emcompassed me.

Trafalgar square fountain, red buss, people, grey day.
Trafalgar Square

My mother, who’s birthay it would have been today, had just died & my son had left the nest & fled to Medical School. The black dog didn’t just rest on my shoulder it was firmly ensconsed inside my head. I wouldn’t say I’d reached a cross roards, but hit a major pile up on the motorway.

Gin, tonic, orange slices, ice. lose up in a clear glass

Spending to much time in pubs – yes, the glass was always half empty – I awoke one morning in my manic phase. I was going to Greece! Having been left a small legacy, I packed a suitcase, stuck a pin in a map & booked a flight to Corfu.

Greece. What can I say. My senses were on fire with new aromas, sights & sounds. I had been here on holidays, but this time, I was staying. I had also not yet reached the place on this beautiful island where the pin had landed. Gazing out of the hyrofoil window, 40 minutes into my crossing the small olive tree clad Island of Paxos drifted into sight. This was to be my home & my salvation for the next three years.

Paxi, made me happy – most of the time , – I cooked meals for the tourists, using local produce & wine. Went for exilerating walks & swam at sunrise, every morning and once again I began to paint. There were days, when I would just shut myself away, relishing the solitude & peace which allowed my creative side to come to the fore, once more. Whilst making friends with the Greeks, I also met a lovely English girl who was engaged to a Greek man, she hailed from Appledore, Devon, a place I had not heard of. I made a mental note to seek it out on my return to England.

Mixed Media Painting by Jan Steele Yellow greek fishing boats against a blue sea, white buildings
Fishing Boats


Returning to the UK, I visited Appledore on many occassions, escaping the realities of the dark places in my mind. I was determined that one day, I would live there. Appledore, with its quaint, pastel coloured cottages & cobbled streets reminds me a lot of Paxos, although the weather is possibly not as clement. But, at Christmas last year, my dream became a reality & I finally made Appledore my home on 1st February this year. Beauty, truly was inthe eye of the beholder.

BlackLabrador, sitting on pebble beach, with sea in the back ground.

Now, I’m not going to say, that every day is going to be filled with the sweet smell of roses, or that my life will be perfect all the time. What I do know is that with the help from a lot of people & organistations, I have learnt to manage the variations in my moods. And the black dog? well it still sits on my shoulder from time to time, but the therapy one, walks proudly beside me, each & every day. For which I am thankful.

Remembrance

Remembrance, what does it mean to you?

While the world paused for thought at the 11th Hour of the 11th day of the 11th month remembering the courageous young men & women who lost their lives in WW1,  Remembrance, then turned to my own family. Only last Wednesday, I pushed the pooch into the back of my car & set off to West Sussex to see my brother.  Over the years, I cannot say that we have been close. Living miles apart from each other didn’t help – that’s what I told myself – but in reality we both perceived things in different ways & were both – mainly me – too stubborn to talk about our feelings & emotions.

sea, emotions, family, remembrance, short breaks
Stormy seas often reflect our emotions

Having suffered mental health issues since a teenage & being diagnosed with Bipolar in later life, I now know I wasn’t the easiest person to get on with. With reality comes the dawning that something has to be done about it. But what?  I spent many years in therapy, being told to “hold on to that positive thought, acknowledge it & let it go”. Didn’t seem to work for me. To be honest, I didn’t even know what they were taking about. I can only describe it as clambering up a crumbling cliff side. As soon as you think you are reaching the top, bits of stone & chalk start sliding under your feet & you slip back again & on and on the process goes. Of course, all this was hidden from the people around me. I just kept it to myself. When work colleagues found out I’d had a nervous break down, they all said “No. I don’t believe it, you are always so, jolly & happy, nothing worries you”. But, you see, that’s what its all about. Shame & people knowing. With that shame & silence, monsters grow in our minds, which are difficult to cope with. If we remain silent & ashamed these monsters can take over.  So seeking help & talking, is a must.

I digress. Having finally reached Sussex, through the pouring wind & rain & let my pooch, leap the break waters on the beach like a racehorse,  my brother & I took  afternoon tea in a small local hotel.  Delightful. I thought.

afternoon tea, food, family, dog walking, cake
Balliffs Court Hotel. West Sussex

Now. I must say at this point, the company was amazing. We spent a good couple of hours in conversation & I haven’t laughed so much in years, but, the food was appalling. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cheap sliced bread with hardly any filling, but when it is priced at £31 per person, I think they could have done a bit better. Being a cook myself  truffleicious.org  I pride myself on fresh home made food, which is value for money.  This afternoon tea, certainly wasn’t.  The scones were hard & the cakes of dubious quality. Hey ho. that’s only my opinion. Did notice another two tea takers ask for a doggy bag.

Cake, afternoon tea, hotel, by the sea, dogs
Afternoon Tea.

tea, cakes, sandwiches, afternoon tea, family
No. Go on, you have it.

Tea concluded we set off into the dark, wet & windy gloom of a late afternoon in November.

I had booked myself & the pooch into  St Marys Gate Inn in beautiful Arundel, opposite the Castle & next door to the Gothic Cathedral. I had been a frequenter of this quaint little watering hole about 45 years ago & my how things have changed.  The establishment has been transformed from a gloomy pub, into a very smart Inn with comfortable accommodation, restaurant & cosy bar, complete with open log fires. Another great plus for me, when booking was that it is dog friendly. On arrival being greeted by the pubs five resident fur balls, was a delight. The staff & jolly landlady were also friendly & house trained.

After settling into my room & giving the pooch a quick trot around Arundel Park. It was time to retire to the bar.  My brother had returned, with his two lovely sons – my nephews – who I had not seen for more years than I care to remember. Bit embarrassing for them to be reminded of when they were about 6 years old. Photos being called for, Gypsy who had settled down in the brick hearth of a large fire place – unlit, not trying to toast her -, decided it was time for her to get in on the act. Now, we were sitting on a rather comfortable leather sofa, in front of a low table. Picking her moment, when one of the nephews had his camera, trained on us. Gypsy leapt, from a lying down position, straight on top of us. 28 kilos of furry Labrador proceeded to settle herself comfortably on our laps & pose for the said photograph. Needless to say a great time was had by all, with a couple of us feeling a bit worse for wear, in the morning.  It was really great to talk and I shan’t leave it so long next time.

dogs, labrador, photographs, family, furry friends
Just let me in this photo.

Next morning, after a freshly cooked breakfast, which Gypsy was determined to share, I set of for home, reflecting on the most enjoyable time we had, together & that it really is good to talk & drive out those monsters.

dogs, bed & breakfast, accommodation, hotels, Arundel
Pleaseeee let me have some of your breakfast.

Now there are three morals to this ramble. Those being:

Not everything that is expensive is good.

Make time & TALK to your family & friends.

and finally – to me the most important:

REMEMBER:

If you suffer from mental health problems, DON’T try to hide it & suffer in silence. It is good to talk & write things down. I found that writing this blog was very cathartic. Long healthy walks with my dog are also a great benefit & most of all meeting my brother & feeling good about myself.

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