Who exactly was Auntie Vi?

I have vague memories leftover from long-ago early childhood of an Auntie Vi, and yet there is no-one in my immediate family tree to fit my memory. As with many of my generation I grew up with a slew of honorary aunties and uncles, mainly parental family friends, and yet still there remains no trace of an Auntie Vi that I can see anywhere along the horizon of my dim and distant past. But I fuzzily remember a large-built woman with red-gold greying curly hair and a rather solid, plain face, so she must have existed?

Puzzled and intrigued, I asked my mum, and it seems the mystery is solved. Or rather, replaced with another kind of mystery…

Before my maternal grandparents got married, as a single man my grandfather lodged with a family who let out rooms. The daughter of the family was called Violet, and as they were round the same age she and my grandfather became friends. Once my grandparents married, as a newly married couple they carried on lodging there for a while and their continued friendship with Violet remained strong.

Eventually she became Auntie Vi to my mum and uncle, and was still close enough to the family for her to register in my earliest memories a couple of decades later.

But then apparently she just dropped off the radar, disappeared suddenly from all our lives and was never really mentioned again, and it was only years later that my mum discovered that Violet had developed some mental health problems, had been institutionalised, and had eventually died there. Mum has no idea what kind of problem she may have had – was it schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression? We have no clue, and it seems a sad epitaph for a sad end – who exactly was Auntie Vi?


Daily Prompt: Compass

Thinking about using a compass made me think about the great fun I had in Girl Guides – I’ve always been a real outdoorsy girl, and in my early teens I loved hill-walking and camping, and earned (amongst many others) my Ramblers merit badge, my Backwoodsman badge, and of course my Camper’s badge. Part of the Pathfinder badge required using a compass and accurate map-reading, which was perfect for me as I really enjoyed orienteering too.

I’ve still got a pretty good sense of direction even now, so all those practical outdoor skills I learned in my youth are not lost to me. The only thing I’ve not remembered as much as I’d have liked is my direction-finding at night using the constellations to get my bearings – I’ve lived in London for the last 16 years where star-gazing is pretty much impossible, so although I can still point out Orion and the plough when somewhere other than London, that’s about it these days… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Compass   

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Contrast

My first memory of the concept of contrast was from a Ladybird book I always loved, the story of Snow White and Rose Red. Not the well-known Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but the old traditional fairytale of sisters Snow White and Rose Red. Snow White was fair-haired and quiet and favoured being indoors and wore a white dress, while Rose Red was dark-haired and vivacious in a ruby-red dress and loved nothing more than being outdoors exploring in nature.

Even as a little girl the dramatic contrast between the two sisters puzzled me and pulled me agonisingly in two, lurching between either end of the spectrum – did I prefer Snow White or Rose Red? It always seemed to me that the meeker, gentler stay-at-home Snow White was portrayed as the ideal of femininity, especially as she won the main prince as her husband, whereas the more boistrous and robust Rose Red with her confident wanderlust had to settle for marrying the prince’s brother – who presumably was also a prince, but not the heir apparent?

Even then I recognised some of me within each sister, and I suppose even at the age of fifty-four a small part of me is still pulled between wanting to be each in turn, or more often than not struggling to be both at the same time… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Contrast

An Extravaganza of Heartache

I’ve had a very uneasy relationship with the forced fake frivolity of Christmas celebrations for most of my adult life.

This year will be my 55th Christmas on this earth and I think it’s probably time I sorted it all out for myself psychologically once and for all. Basically the generally recognised concept of a traditional family Christmas represents for me an extravaganza of heartache, not happiness. The main issue seems to be that in my head I long ago internalised a highly idealised, fixed-focus view of how Christmas should be that is truly troublesome for me; a view I dispute and disagree with fundamentally and that has never been my personal desired reality anyway.

My extrovert mum loves (and has always loved) all the surface trappings and trimmings of a traditional family Christmas – the bigger the better. She puts up several different-sized Christmas trees over the entire house, creates Christmas dioramas, adds copious amounts of Christmas decorations all over, and really goes to town with a flurry of festive present-planning and seasonal socialising. Her vision has always been that everyone joins in harmoniously and ‘does their bit’ to help her create and fulfil her ideal dream of a wonderfully happy family life – the more the merrier in all things Christmassy.

However anyone who doesn’t share her overly-enthusiastic view – and ‘anyone’ here historically means her introvert depressive daughter, in other words, me – rather than being left alone in peace to do their own thing is accused of deliberately ‘spoiling Christmas for everyone else’. Yet another nit-picking nail added to my life-long ‘not good enough’ coffin. So it has aways felt to me that my birth family’s one-size-fits-all, over-the-top approach to Christmas celebrations was created as an added challenge to force people-pleasing me yet again to consider others’ desires while ignoring my own personal preferences.

Over the years, as my own children grew up and created their own scattered versions of Christmas after their father and I divorced, it gradually became far easier for me simply to say ‘I don’t do Christmas’ and to withdraw from it all wholesale than to stand up and say to my parents ‘I won’t continue to be party to the painful pretence of perfection that requires the aggressive application of emotional blackmail and behavioural manipulation channeled in my direction in order to create an illusion of familial festive fun for the rest of you at the cost of my personal sense of worth’. Because after all, why spoil things for everyone else…

But surely by now and at my age there should be ample room in my head for many different, equally legitimate ways to spend Christmas? Why in my mind’s eye does it still have to be an extrovert extravaganza or nothing? Why isn’t the offer of peace and goodwill to all men a two-way street in my brain, why should I continue to feel I should always be the one expected to sacrifice my peace and offer my goodwill all the time to make others feel better? What’s wrong with me as a depressive introvert preferring to spend Christmas quietly, intimately, differently, and not necessarily alone – but still being allowed to celebrate Christmas in my own way? And the answer, of course, is ‘nothing’.

I’ve been working so hard this year to try to finally lay that old ‘not good enough’ coffin to rest, and part of that ongoing exercise is to re-evaulate my difficult and decidedly dysfunctional relationship with all things Christmas. So this year I’m going to try to resist the resistance and actively embrace the concept of Christmas with compassion and consideration for my own happiness, and see where my newborn confidence takes me… ❤

Share Your World: 30 October 2017

Where do you eat breakfast?

Nowhere – I’m really not good with eating anything at all when I first wake up and need to be up for a couple of hours at least before I eat. But I always like to have my first cup of tea quietly curled up on the sofa, contemplating the day ahead.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want to have an evening with?

My long-gone paternal grandmother, who first inspired my love of cooking – a farmer’s wife with a large family and a large farmhouse kitchen, I discovered at her knee the traditional task of coaxing minimal food ingredients into making maximum impact with a lot of love and practical ingenuity. So I’d choose to spend just one more evening cooking a huge family meal with her as she was in her prime, but with me at the age I am now – two women two generations apart but with hindsight a lot more in common than I’d ever imagined was possible during her lifetime ❤

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I’d be a beautifully delicate yet hardy snowdrop, triumphantly pushing through the partially-thawing frost and snow every winter to herald the promise of spring ❤

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?

My mum is newly home from hospital after having another chest infection – she has chronic respiratory problems – so while mum was being treated in hospital, instead of staying with my youngest daughter as planned over the last couple of weeks I stayed for several days with my 81 year old dad who is in the process of recovering from a recent mini-stroke.

It felt quite poignant being once more in the house I grew up in, as it has become resoundingly clear to both mum and dad that they simply can’t go on living there alone for much longer – the sprawling house is just too big for the two of them rattling around in, too impractical for coping with ongoing failing health issues as they grow older, and far too isolated from the increasingly necessary intensive support of the rest of the family.

Sadly they know now they need to think seriously about moving somewhere smaller and easier to access for them and for everyone else. So this last week or so I’ve truly appreciated the chance to spend precious time quietly with my dad in the rural landscape of my youth, which will always hold a special place in my heart ❤


Cee’s Share Your World


Daily Prompt: Recite

There’s always a lovely familiarity in still being able to recite things learned in childhood through the regularity of repetition, a satisfactory comfort in the cadence and conscious flow of the words.

At school early on I learned the Lord’s Prayer, and of course my times tables up to twelve. And I also remember with fondness my Brownie Guide Promise:

‘I promise that I’ll do my best to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and help other people, and to keep the Brownie Guide Law’.

In order to remember how many days were in each month we’d always recite:

‘Thirty days hath September, April June and November. All the rest have thirty-one except February alone which has twenty-eight days clear, and twenty-nine on each leap year.’

From maths class in my teens I particularly remember the Pythagoras Theorem, for some obscure reason:

‘The square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the opposite two sides’

And from English class, as well as being still able to recite simple rules of spelling like ‘i after e except after c’, snippets of Shakespeare’s ”Hamlet’ that resonated at the time and have stuck with me throughout the years:

‘To be, or not to be – that is the question? Whether tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.’

Turned out to be the story of my life, that one! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Recite




Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction II


I may be a 53-year-old grandmother, but the intense satisfaction of colouring-in pre-printed generic outlines I’ve enjoyed since childhood has never left me. The current trend for producing adult colouring books has been brilliant for me – I have three A4 sized books, all slightly different, and alternate them depending on my mood. Some pages have full-page abstract designs, some with only central circular mandala-style shapes; some with recognisable subjects, some no more than doodles.

Colouring-in for me nowadays is a completely harmless way of creating some semblance of control over my actions in what can sometimes feel like an otherwise uncontrollable adult world – I can choose which colour to put next, one after another, finally building up a complete picture that is uniquely mine. Even someone else with the same book will no doubt choose to colour the same image very differently – perhaps using felt-tipped pens instead of coloured pencils, or pressing lightly and shading larger areas rather than pressing more heavily, concentrating on smaller sections.

Personally I prefer applying relatively dense colour by using the same kind of coloured pencils I used as a child – I first lay them all out on a tray to locate each colour more easily, before becoming completely engrossed in the rhythmic patterns of small movments, simply letting my imagination run free going with the flow of colour in whichever direction suits me best at the time. Some pages I work from edge to edge, and others I begin somewhere in the middle and radiate out. And I don’t tend to plan each design in advance – I simply move on playfully from one colour, one shape, to the next until I’m done.

Colouring-in soothes me in a way I can’t quite describe – it connects me in the simplest and most inclusive of ways with the immersive joy of creative artistic expression. Perhaps not everyone can draw or paint, but everyone can colour in – it’s not as daunting as facing a completely blank page as the outlines are already there in principle, providing the perfect framework to entice you in. When life feels drab and grey, it really does help me put a little colour into my world… 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

Daily Prompt: Tailor

Beatrix Potter features heavily in my memories of childhood – I loved not only her stories but also the delicate watercolour illustrations sitting alongside the words on each page. The little hardback books I remember so fondly still sit in the bookcase of children’s books at my parents house, grubby and worn but oh-so-well-loved through the generations in our family. The Tailor of Gloucester, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and the Flopsy Bunnies were always my favourites – for  some reason Mrs Tiggywinkle and Squirrel Nutkin just didn’t resonate with me in the same way… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Tailor

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Identity in crisis, I feel lost

Confusion reigns as childhood truths change form

Disintegrate as barriers are crossed

And old horizons, stretched, create new norms

Beliefs I’ve held for years emerge as lies

Distorted falsehoods firmly posed as fact

Still trouble me and need to be revised

To help me hold my mental health intact

But somehow I feel stronger in my soul

Perhaps I’m not as lost as first believed

More wounded needing healing to be whole

Than broken needing fixed – I feel relieved

No longer guilt-fed child who cannot cope

This careworn woman filled with future hope…