The grit in the oyster …

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Beautiful evening yesterday, and a beautiful day today. As my good friend Sue has commented, I am very lucky to have the life I have. The world is my oyster, as I am living in a very lovely part of the world, with time to do the things I enjoy: writing, taking photographs, painting,  finding out about online selling, blogging, and writing ebooks. Yes, I am half way through a book, and will tell you more shortly. When we relocated from Hertfordshire, we were anything but certain that things would work out well …

I think the biggest piece of luck is to have a partner with whom I am very in tune. It is so much easier to do new things and take a risk when you have someone who is thinking along the same lines as you and who is willing to take the risks with you.

There is a little bit of grit in my oyster of course, as few people have a life that is silky smooth and through which they glide without any ripples. Nicely mixed metaphors there! My point is that it’s the grit that makes pearls, and it’s the fact we need to find ways to make money in a way that we enjoy and can share that is adding a potential pearl to our lives. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we are learning so much as we try different creative lines to see where our best chance of success lies. Not that we want major financial success. Far from it, as we are hoping just to make enough so that I can continue to work from home and spend time with Alec rather than being committed to a full time job. We want to be pursuing projects that we enjoy, rather than things that are money making schemes.

The pearl, if – when -we achieve it, will be a life that has variety, keeps us thinking and happy, and gives us enough income to be able to make choices, and to visit family and friends when we want to. I am more than happy to work until I am 80+ so long as I can work at something I enjoy!

Hang on –  Margaret means pearl … spooky!

Perfection

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Here’s a picture of the sky over Clevedon this afternoon, so clear and blue that I had difficulty taking the photo, I had to include a piece of roof and then crop that out.

There could be a message in there for an issue with perfection. With a little wisp of cloud the automatic focus would have known what to look at.  Maybe the wisp would have set off the blue of the sky, so it looked more impressive, somehow. I guess that in the case of this photo, it would at least have made it more obvious that this is the sky!

Although I am not citicising the perfect blue of today’s sky – we see too few cloud free skies in the UK to get that used to them – I think I have a tiny problem with perfection, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. For example I usually prefer a slightly unusual singing voice to one that is flawless – although that often also has something to do with the song being sung too. Bob Dylan’s voice is rarely called beautiful, but he is always good to listen to. I can also find a room that is perfect a little unsettling. It’s almost as though I feel guilty at living in it and running the risk of messing it up. And don’t some perfectly even, perfectly white smiles look a bit artificial?

It’s worth remembering, as we strive for perfection in our lives, that it’s not always achieveable, nor always necessary. Fortunately the best we can manage is often good enough!

 

Why don’t we ever plan our own funeral?

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I don’t want to bring you down, or be macabre or anything.  I only ask because when my father died recently, we realised that no-one in the family really knew what sort of a funeral he wanted. We were pretty sure he wanted a Christian service, but that was it. When my brother in law died a few years ago, it was even harder to say as we were pretty sure he didn’t want a religious ceremony, but had no idea what he did want.

Now, the obvious answers to the question I posed at the top are:

  • I don’t want to think about it
  • I don’t care – you can do what you like when I’m gone

but I think these are both the wrong way to be thinking.

If you have cared about how you have lived your life, I think you should care about how the ending of your life is marked. What are your religious or philosophical beliefs? I know I want my funeral to be as green as possible, for example, and that I don’t want people being sad for me, or spending a fortune.

If you love the people you are leaving behind you should care too. Help them out by telling them what you’d like, what sort of music or readings you want, what sort of a celebration. They’ll be missing you already, and upset, with a load of arrangements to make, so you can take some of those difficult decisions off their hands.

I’m definitely living life to the full and I am not intending to be leaving this life any time soon. Health and happiness is what I’m pursuing. However, I am going make sure my nearest and dearest know what I’d like, and I’ll suggest the music too. I quite fancy Morecambe and Wise “Bring me sunshine” as everyone leaves the service, but maybe that needs a little more thinking through …

By the way, dad’s funeral was great.  Lovely personal words from two of my brothers, nice classical music, a couple of hymns and a lovely atmosphere. Great to see family I haven’t see for years too.

Living well

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I must start by dedicating this post to my dad, Gerald Charles William Wistow, who died early this morning aged 88.  You might think I am a heartless beast to be writing a blog on a day such as this, but of course I have some thoughts in my mind that I am working through, so my reasons for writing are a little selfish.  And I really don’t mind if no-one reads any further!

I was with dad just a little more than 24 hours ago, and we were able to have a good chat, and to understand how much we mean to each other.  How fortunate we were that he had his mental facalties until the end. He was also clearly reconciled to his coming death, even happy about it.  So he died at home, in comfort and at peace.  And that is a very lucky way to go.

One of my heroes is George Harrison and watching Living in the Material World, the excellent film about his life, his wife Olivia explained that he had been determined to make a good death – to be as ready spiritually as he could be.  That really struck a chord with me.  It’s not necessarily about having strong formally religious faith, but I think an essential part of living well is thinking about your place in the bigger scheme of things, and how content you will be when the inevitable happens and you leave this life. What do you want your legacy on earth to be? What will you have left behind that you are proud of? And, whatever your religious and philosophical beliefs, will you be able to say with sincerity that you have worked out what your principles are, and have tried your best to live by them?  To my dad,  raising his family was the most important thing, and he took an interest and delight in news of his grandchildren until his very last breath.

I am happy for my dad.  A good, honest life, and in the end a good death.

Make the most of days like this …

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What a fabulous morning.  Blue skies, almost warm.  Wildlife and people out and about, enjoying the weather and feeling good about life.

Maybe you have to have winter and floods to really appreciate the beautiful days, or maybe we’re just hard-wired to respond to the light levels and the blue of a clear, sunny sky.  Whatever the reason, life is too short, so leave the housework, get out there and enjoy!

Walking and thinking

I’ve always enjoyed walking:  it needs no specialist equipment (just a comfortable pair of shoes) and it is non-exhibitionist (you always seem to notice joggers, but who takes note of a walker?

Provided your joints are in fairly good shape, the health benefits are obvious, especially if you keep up a good pace and take in a few hills along the way.  Here in Clevedon there are plenty of great walks and most days I get out before breakfast and do something between 7 and 12 thousand steps.  They say that 10,000 steps a day is enough to keep you healthy.

Favourite walks are Poet’s Walk:

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or looking the other way, towards Clevedon:

Imageor walking down the coast path, round Marshall’s field and the edge of the golf course and on towards Weston.

At high tide the boats moored at Clevedon Pill have an atmospheric look.Image

 

I’ve always known that I like the way that walking gives you the opportunity to stop and look when you see something interesting.  I like the natural world, and have been very pleased this year to see some wild birds I haven’t seen for years, such as linnets and skylarks, as well as a little egret.  And I like the vistas and landscape here too.  You can see why from the photos, I hope!

Recently I have been thinking about the actual pleasure that there is in walking.  There is a moment when you hit a nice rhythm and feel that you could walk for ever.  As it’s an easy and natural thing to do, you don’t have to think about what you are doing and your mind can range wild and free.

I think everyone has experienced the particular pleasure of stepping where no one has walked before – the first footprints in freshly fallen snow, or across a newly washed sandy beach for example. Recently I have been thinking about the pleasure of walking on ancient paths, where generations of people have walked over the years.  In more cases than you might think, footpaths have been in use since ancient times.  Lately archaeologists have been uncovering neolithic human footprints in the mud flats of the Bristol channel, and there’s an iron age fort on Wain’s Hill (around which poets walk runs). So my mind was running on the idea that I’m following in the footsteps of generations of people, and that more generations of people will follow the same routes in the future. This adds a spiritual aspect to the physical pleasure, which I haven’t thought about before.

Do pilgrims pick up on the same feeling, and does it add to their religious experience on reaching the object of their journey.  I wouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried recreational walking lately, pick a good route, some comfortable footwear and get out there!

 

Goodbye 2012. What’s your approach to 2013?

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Sunday 30 December 2012.

You are probably already thinking about New Year Resolutions.  We all do at this time of the year, don’t we?

Partly is because we are mentally starting a new calendar and we have that whole fresh year spreading out ahead of us to make the most of. Partly it’s because we already feel at least a bit guilty about all the extra food and drink we have consumed in December, not to mention the amount we have spent during the last year on things we don’t really need.  Partly too it’s due to an in-built desire to make the most, and to be able to feel proud, of ourselves, perhaps recognising a need to turn things around for ourselves.

What does the picture I’ve slotted in above have to do with resolutions?  Well to me resolutions are about being realistic and not trying to set on something that goes too much against the flow of my nature and what I am able to do.  If I set myself a target that is honestly unattainable, I am bound to fail.

So I do want to get back on track with my health, but no grapefruit-and-yogurt-drop-two-dress-sizes-in-a-month diets for me.  I know that I can lay off snacks and chocolatey treats, and drink alcohol only at the weekend (and then just a glass).  I know I can exercise more too, and tomorrow I’ll resume visits to the gym on a consistent basis, but I’m afraid you’ll never see me entering the London Marathon.

I’ll revisit my long-term issue with controlling portion size for meals.  The problem is I love food and cooking, and if you make something delicious it is really difficult to stick to the amount you know you should eat.  So renewed determination is called for.

My big resolution for this year is to make sure I organise my time, so that I have some time each week to be creative, and to properly keep in touch with the people who are important to me.  I have several projects in mind that I should be able to develop into something that is at least personally satisfying, but which might also be the basis for a little business enterprise …  it’s too soon to share details just now, but by this time next year I hope to have something to show for it.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve whatever you are doing.  Good luck with choosing and sticking to your resolutions and have a truly marvellous 2013.