Never Ever…

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For years the same question haunted me, ‘Who the heck am I and why am I here?’

So decade or so ago, with naïve, bravado, I began a series of serious self-development endeavours, determined to overcome self-doubts and discover the authentic ME – whoever I was, warts and all.

Which led me to joining a year-long transformational workshop that could only be described as boot camp for the soul. Ironically the marrow of the work I chose, posed an intriguing question, ‘what do you love?’ ‘What do you love’ was the starting point and compass throughout the experience of change.

My ego threw up an imposing and confusing maze of things I loved — family, friends, creativity, theatre, literature, cooking, history, cold chicken and bubble and squeak, flowers, music, romance, knitting, patchwork, watching netball, friends, puppies, beach walks, public speaking, travel, lunches out, organising anything, movies, ABC radio/TV, writing, beach walks, coffee, George Clooney and new clothes. It seemed I loved everything ….

I was in a hurry for answers as time was a-marching but I found this quote that spurred me on…..‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’ George Eliot, ‘Mill on the Floss.’

I found transformational work capricious, one minute I was rutted and gutted and the next it cleared as though it never was. Gradually I began to understand that while I broadly embraced so many aspects of life, the vital and intrinsic ME is at home when I am — communicating either through the written word or public speaking as a means to serve and connect with the rest of humanity.

The first glimpse of this love and service of communicating to others happened well over seventy years ago. My family lost everything in the London blitz in World War 11. Homeless, my mother, sister and I moved drifted around England wherever a billet or bed could be found.

My constant companion was my imaginary friend Sonny; I carried him around in my father’s battered attaché case. It was an earnest relationship — I shared secrets with him that I would never tell another soul. I remember – in between air raids — telling Sonny ‘One day I will write a book and I will talk about it and people will listen to me.’

It was a momentary whim that never really saw the light of day, mugged continually by an impoverished sense of worth embedded by the wartime loss of education and deprivation.

Instead everyday life – marriage, children, bereavement, single motherhood, sickness, a new relationship, family growth and building a business in midlife with no experience and no capital — became my world.

But I was always scribbling short stories and in my working life getting my food and travel articles published by newspapers and magazines. I was contributing to a writing group and doing creative writing courses. This coupled with an eighteen-year membership of a speaking club, meant I was incubating my dream.

My writing was a hobby. Communication to a wider audience through my public speaking was a hobby. Hobbies – yes simply hobbies but somehow I never strayed — the more I wrote and communicated the more I began to hunger to be true to myself. I wrote more, communicated more to wider audiences. The more action I took the more realistic the dream became.

Today I am centred, I find joy and fulfilment in expressing myself through the written and spoken word.

I am living testament to ‘it is never too late to be what you might have been,’ I have written two non-fiction books and one fiction. And I talk.   On cruise ships. I lecture on history, culture, travel, and writing enriching guests’ travels.

Oh how I love it.

Who’d have thought that little girl’s fantasy of achieving something beyond her wildest expectations could happen?

It just goes to show that you should never ever — not ever give up on your dreams.

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Creative Journeys

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My parents and I on a summer holiday 1952

 

In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe  that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.

When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age.  My mother was the ultimate creative,  and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow,  I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!

My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore clochethem well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’

imagesWhen eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’  in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery.  In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it.  Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.

make do and mendMake Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists  would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation.  She bought the old, tired and worn back to life;  recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.

lampshadShe especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.

She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set pinkup a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.

She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system,  she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.