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Where did the joy go?

July 13, 2017
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Not so very long ago I felt filled with joy, in life, love, even work.  Now it all feels a bit, meh.  All a bit of a struggle.  All a bit boring.  So, where did it go?  Well, you know, joy comes and goes in life, troughs and peaks, ins and outs, positive and negative, blah and blah.  My last big peak of joy came around my 50th birthday, with the advent of a new love, and lasted a pretty long time all things considered.  My new love is now my old, married, comfortable love.  It has its share of issues but this is not the platform on which to share those.  This is about me.  Me and my work.  The new love thing distracted me from the same-old-same-old of my work life, and fooled me into thinking it was all just as it ought to be.

So, here I am.  I have love in my life, I have good friends, a nice house to live in, I eat extremely well and enjoy the fruits of the vine.  Who could want more?  Well, me.  I do.  I want more.

The joy started slipping away about three years ago I think, and my need to boost it resulted in taking on a new business, creating a new brand, and getting excited about making something out of nothing.  And I did it, and it was, briefly, quite exciting.  And now it isn’t.  It’s just a worry and fret, a VAT, payroll and how to fire someone nicely kind of irritation.  I wouldn’t mind but it pays very badly.  Also, it’s the same as my other business, which seemed to make sense at the time, but I clearly forgot one very important question – ‘do you want to keep doing the same thing Betty?’, to which the  answer is (altogether now) no.  First world problems I know, but I am done flagellating myself because I can’t fix the bloody third, second fourth or fifth worlds and frankly this country is looking less and less first world what with brexit, burning tower blocks and the death throes of the NHS.  I do what I can while attempting to remain healthy, happy and hopefully quite nice.

So, anyway.  I have now started looking for other things to bring back the buzz into my life.  I am beginning to recognise myself and my strengths, at the ripe old age of, you know, fifty something.  I like to create things.  I like collaboration.  Therein lies the crux – collaboration.  For the last twelve years my work has been just mine, all my control, ideas, plans, fuck ups, successes, gains and losses.  I have staff, suppliers, customers, all of with whom I interact on a fairly regular basis while my inner push-me-pull-you says this is good/I want go home and write*.  It is deeply unsatisfying.  And yet I am proud of what I have achieved.  My business is as ethical as I can make it, my staff are lovely people, loyal, kind and generous and creative and understand the concept of real hospitality.  The company makes very good food.  I use the ‘company’ intentionally because despite my lack of an equal partner in the business, the actual process of producing food to sell and then selling it is a very collaborative one, and a very positive one.  The VAT man gets most of the financial benefit of course, the tax man likewise (yes, they are men, I am quite sure, in brown shiny suits, with comb overs and damp, flaccid handshakes), the staff get some, not enough, and I get the warm fuzzy feeling of attempting and not quite managing to be satisfied by what we all produce and yet still living on the same amount of money I earned in 1988 as assistant manager at the River Cafe in London.  Bitter?  Yes, a little.

You don’t like it?  So fix it.  Yeah, yeah.

I have some small irons in some even smaller fires right now.  Creative fizzing is taking place in my brain.  I am making plans to free myself from the hum drum, while realising of course, because I’m a grown up, that some hum drum is a necessary part of life so what I really need to do is find balance, so don’t start with the lecture…  It’s a bit messy in there right now but you will be the first/last to know when it all happens and my joy returns.

brain

* Griselda hung on with her flexed claws digging into the cloth of an innocent coat, rigid, scared and indignant,  She was an elderly cat, grey with tabby streaks, grumpy by nature ever since she lost her playmate, a small Tibetan spaniel named Tensing, when she was still just a kitten. Tensing was run over the road that fronted Griselda’s old house.  The same road that had seen the untimely deaths of her two kittens Dustpan and Brush.  Griselda didn’t yet know that her old was house was her old house.  All she knew was that she had been bundled into the car with the family.  A car journey meant one thing to Griselda. Being a cat she hadn’t worked out that either the vet had moved very far away or that, after all, this journey was for another reason all together.

and on…

February 2, 2017

I have ring, made by the wonderful Diana Porter, that says on and on endlessly.  Or you can choose heaven on earth, or spirit.  Anyway, there it is, it’s a lovely ring but sometimes I think on and on can be a wearying thought.

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My doctor says I should practice mindfulness.  My doctor.  Does anyone actually say that anymore?  My gynaecologist.  My psychiatrist.  My doctor is actually a practice of several doctors, nurses and therapists.  The one I saw yesterday said my constant jaw clenching, forgetfulness and general stress and anxiety could be helped by mindfulness practice.  Weirdly I had just bought Ruby Wax’s book on that subject.  Reading it actually induced more stress so probably not a great place to start. She really needs a very firm editor.

I know some of my vast number of readers will be doing an ‘I told you so’ smug bust rustle right now, but these things must be reached in one’s own time.  I still have to discover precisely what mindfulness is and how to practice it, but I’m on the way and very much looking forward to a new, clear headed, articulate and efficient me.

I am on holiday today.  It’s a little, tiny holiday.  Two days, yesterday and today, at home, not looking at facebook (did a sideways glance at it by accident just now), trying actively not to think about work, getting my MOT at the doctors,  nearly finishing my tapestry, tracking down an old friend who I had been a bit worried about, going on a nordic walk and later today I will be sitting a sauna with a friend who likes to eat oranges in the sauna, and then for my finale I’m having a massage and a facial.

tapestry

Nearly finished tapestry.  Not quite sure what to do with it when it’s finished.  Any thoughts?

How very self indulgent, I hear you all say in mildly shocked tones, and on a Thursday as well.  Or is that me I hear muttering about self indulgence, and what about the refugees and the artisan cheese makers and my business and my son and the one who cannot be named and the price of eggs?   And there goes my jaw.  Clamp.

Why do I feel guilty about taking two days off work?  It’s my business, so surely it’s my choice?  No one has emitted shocked noises, or looked daggers at me for having such temerity.  No one.

A note on Nordic Walking.  I have taken it up of late, only managing one a week but it’s something.  I go out with a group of white topped ladies and the occasional gent, and we march around Clifton Downs, propelling ourselves along with what look very like ski sticks.   It’s a lovely thing to do.  It’s making me stronger.  Not thinner, but definitely stronger.  I get to see the seasons up close and personal because we go out what ever the weather.  I don’t so it for the social side, although some do.  People chat away if they want to.  I tend to mutter my little mantra to myself and march eyes down, but occasionally I get sucked into a conversation.  Like today.  Wind whipping various shades of white and grey hair around like ancient silk skeins, anoraks buttoned up tight the usual question of ‘have you been doing this long’ is directed at me, followed by the what do you do, and oh how interesting.  Obliged to ask in return the answer was “I cut people’s toe nails”.  That was a first I have to say.  A very worthy and necessary job.

snow-drops

Tiny, white heralds of the changing season, seen on this morning’s walk.

And so, on I go, so much to do, say, think, absorb but right now I am being mindful and not doing, saying, thinking or absorbing.  Tomorrow I will do all that.  I am now going to make a little pack of things to take to the Lido including oranges, a book, maybe some nail varnish for my toes should I manage to bend in the middle enough to reach them, an open mind and tired eyes.  I may absorb some steam and some scented oils.  But that is all.

 

 

 

 

 

First of all…

December 29, 2016

I’d just like to give the finger to 2016.  Bloody awful year.

There have been too many premature deaths, from celebrities to children in Syria, or should that be the other way round?  Politics has taken a bizarre and scary turn to the right.  Trump will be president of the USA.  A new word has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, post-truth.  It looks like two words to me, but since facts don’t matter and experts are the new unwashed, who cares?

So, anyway, I had a lovely Christmas, how was yours?  And before Christmas, in a daring move towards dammit, it’s my one and only life and the world has gone mad so better make hay etc, I went to Barcelona for four nights with my beloved.  It also helped that the flights there and back for two of us cost under £100.  The misery and guilt in helping tip the world toward it’s demise by flying on easyjet was balanced by the afore mentioned ‘dammit…’ (partially anyway).

Here are some photos for you to look at.

There are of course dozens more pictures, and I could go on and on about what a glorious city Barcelona is (it is), talk about their weird custom of having models of shepherds defecating in their Christmas nativity scenes, the ease with which you can eat for very little money, mostly good, sometimes seriously mediocre food, the entrancing beauty of the architecture, the obvious lack of funds for maintaining much of it, the poverty and the wealth, the bonkers and delightful hotel we stayed in, the little shops dedicated to just one thing (e.g. slippers), the charm of the people and the fact that Russell is now going to learn Spanish so we can go back there and all over Spain (and to visit Azahar of course!) with the ease of a native (kinda).

So, there was that.

Then Christmas spent in Somerset with a branch and some twigs of the extended family, about 15 all told.  I volunteered to cook (it’s my way of keeping focussed and in control of my control freakery), although it was definitely a 50/50 split in the end with my sister Sue (I was turkey, she was beef) and helped by many elves, tall and short.

oyster shuckers

oyster shuckers

Menu

Oysters (natch)

Prawn cocktail

Smoked salmon

Serrano ham

Roast rib of local, organic beef with mustard rub

Boned, rolled*  local organic turkey stuffed with sausage meat, parma ham and truffles

Tricoleur of carrots, sprouts & celeriac

Green salad

Roast potatoes 

Christmas pud, brandy butter, cream

Negroni jelly.

Yes, we are middle class and we do eat a lot, soz.  It was over about five hours though, with giggling concerts from small girls to aid digestion, some very damn fine wines brought by a non-family guest from the cellars of one of the colleges at Oxford University (don’t ask me which one or how he had access to them, Aunty Lizzie had been on the parsnip wine for most of the day, though not singing songs about bleeding hearts and death luckily) and by golly  it was delicious and one of the bottles had the date, 2004, embossed into the glass.

Boxing day brought us back to Bristol, with the lesser-spotted son and his kitten.  A more unlikely pairing would have been hard to think of a few months back, but Spooky, who does star jumps and loves sellotape, has become part of the family now, and he and his Person are a very good team.

Spooky, part of the family.

There I will leave it for now.  One of my new year resolutions will be to do more of this.  Writing.

May 2017 bring some peace and hope to this world,  mine, yours, theirs.  May Trump get lost at sea never to be found and Mike Pence put in the docks and have rotten cabbages thrown at him forever.  May Farage overdose on real ale and go and live in the gutter.  May May see sense and rescue the NHS and our trains.  May Syria find some peace and it’s people be allowed to return to their homes to live their lives and bury their dead.  May Putin fall off his horse, bang his head and wake realising what a complete arse he is and be very apologetic and make amends to everyone he has ever harmed.   May the Women’s March on Washington be without violence or negative incident.  May the Women’s March on London be likewise.  Who’s coming??

Over and out. xx

Counting blessings.

June 11, 2016

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Dear Reader,

It’s been a long, long time and it’s a rainy day in Bristol.  It is also my birthday, a mid June day following on from a pretty damn good week weather wise. I am not reading anything personal into the change in the weather, but still.

Russell is in the US, trying to help find a pathway to a good living situation for his parents, whose current one has turned upside down due a a routine operation going wrong.  Think domino effect which includes botched operation with side effects that will need another operation, infection, loss of use of one leg, broken foot, pulmonary emobolism.  With his brother Scott, Russell is facing the rigid, heartless corporate business that is US healthcare and elder care system.  Ours here in the UK may not be, and in fact simply isn’t, perfect, but for the time being it isn’t considered solely a means to make money out of those in need.  I miss him, particularly today because he so good at birthdays, but, first blessing is that Russell’s parents, Katherine and Harley, have Russell and Scott to help them navigate this scary path, and that we have enough money/credit to get him there.

I complain (constantly some might say) about my aches, pains, strange growths (new one on middle finger of left hand – really weird) and general misery of ageing.  Today I am 55, but am only going to admit to 52.  I do have a lot of aches and pains, it is true.  The mirror doesn’t reflect the person that I think I look like.  My boobs are heading south at a speed I find very shocking.  I have baggy knees.  I could go on, but hell, you’ve heard it all before.   Blessing two is that I am still able to walk, if not run (no bra can facilitate that, let alone these poor old hips), occasionally dance, work, play, use my imagination and best of all still drink quantities of fine wine.

I watched a couple of acceptance speeches at the Glamour awards (no idea these even existed and feel sure I should be on the guest list) today, first by Jennifer Saunders, introduced by Dawn French (natch), and then one by Susan Sarandon.  Sweary words, fuck, cunt, and some others, were liberally sprinkled throughout.  One could pick apart use of feminine genitals being used as a swear word or insult, but not today.  I liked seeing these women, of about my age, looking amazing, taking credit, giving credit, honouring female friendships, being really funny and SO confident in their own skins.   Blessing three is these women and all my female friends who give me so much strength, hilarity and warmth.

I spoke to my Mum two days ago.  She is in Yorkshire, age 88 (or maybe 89, I lose track, its a lot of years).  She is painting a picture currently, using oil paints to paint what sounds like a kind of surreal, collagey, Fauvist style picture.  I could be completely wrong about that, and will wait until I see it to confirm either way.  I said ‘it sounds fabulous’ to which she responded ‘it would be if I was a good painter’.  She is a good painter, could possibly have been great in another life.  One of the reasons she is painting in oils is because she can do it as and when she feels like it without danger of it drying out too quickly.  Hugely practical approach as always.  Mum also carves wood, does tapestry, writes, enjoys concerts, films, travelling, making bread and being at home with her companion, dearest person and late life partner Nancy.  Blessing four is my Mum and her good (relatively) health.

Apologies for this sounding like a hallmark card.  I’m going to stop with the blessings thing now.

Are you an inny or an outy?  I’m an inny for the record.  I have my reasons.

I am watching three sparrows paddling in a puddle on my neighbour’s flat roof, splashing and flapping wings, in and out.  That just has to be for fun – mesmerising and very sweet.

I am going shopping now, for exotic bath oil, smelly candles and maybe a home electrolysis kit for my incipient beard (pennies to shop with blessing five, marred only slightly by beard issue).

Over and out.

Friends

October 15, 2015

This isn’t going to be one of those love is… you can tell a real friend … load of bollocks that seems to constipates social media these days, I promise.

I came to musing on this subject triggered by re-visiting an office I used to work in in a previous life, at the very fine Better Food Company.  That job, answering phones and taking orders for organic veg boxes and morphing into a marketing position over the years, came at a time in my life when my resources, emotionally and financially, were very low following a major bereavement.  It was a time for healing, re-thinking, starting over.  It coincided with a new beginning for the Better Food Co as well.  They had just moved in an enormous shell of a building which occupied three floors, empty and grubby, with us and our phones at one end of the top floor, wholesale on the ground floor and the shop in the street level bit.

The view from our floor was wonderful, very urban and gritty, big, somewhat dirty windows revealing the beating heart of St. Werburghs long before it started its upward social climb.  The other end of our floor was still empty and I would go there sometimes, leaving my desk with no explanation, to sit and cry.  It’s not often that someone who is grieving has the space, literally as well as with the tacit understanding of others, to do something like that.  I was sad when we moved down the dark, dingy office next to the shop on the street level, but the building had started filling up with other tenants, and it started buzzing with industry – it felt alive with promise.  The gin palace across the road started doing roaring trade in organic gin, stolen from the shop, along with the bacon butty van and their stolen organic bacon – the area was on the rise and no mistake.  The shop carried on, security got a bit tighter, we in the office made some order out of the business of buying and selling organic food, and friendships became sealed.

Amy.

Amy.

It was Amy who stood out among them for me.  Amy who wore trousers under her skirt way before it was fashionable, refused to shave her legs just to conform with society’s narrow expectations, who wrapped enormous home knitted scarves around her neck and wore fingerless gloves on cold days at the keyboard (and there were many cold days in that unheated little hive of industry).  We would sometimes share my enormous duvet coat, until I took it to a dry cleaners where they dyed it purple and shrank to the size of a barbie doll.   Amy who came from the heat of Australia to sit and share stories and food at our chilly desks, cobble together ideas and tasks to help this company we worked for and loved to grow, tactfully attempting to reign in some of the more insane ideas from our boss (who was also my brother) who we loved, admired and were exasperated by in equal measure.  Amy who was part of the most monumental job of logging every single item in the shop and stores onto an epos system, who laughed and teased Mark about his waste bin full of apple cores and fruit flies (not as picturesque as it sounds) and helped bring the Better Food Company into the 21st Century.  Amy with whom I went** on a late, winter evening search for the main post office depot, getting lost more than once, so we could get the Christmas newsletter and order forms for turkeys and trimmings in the last possible post before it would all be too late and Christmas would be ruined and life as we knew it would end.

Then one day Amy said she was leaving.  It was around the time that I too was due to leave to start the now *world famous (*people in Canada know of it so it’s technically true) Folk House Cafe.  I don’t actually remember who said it first, but I think it was her.  She was heading home.

We had a farewell lunch, Amy, me and the boss man.  I felt sad but also joyful and hopeful for her and her new life.  I also knew the likelihood of ever seeing her again was pretty slim.  This was the dark ages, before facebook, when mobile phones were just that so contact was thereafter was spasmodic and via email, and eventually there was silence.  I know what you might be thinking at this point.  Getting the tissues ready.  Well, don’t worry, there is no sad ending to this tale.

With the age of social media and the click of a mouse came news of Amy, in a far away land that isn’t Australia, hanging out with a man in a sarong and with a baby on her hip.   We swapped messages but Amy isn’t a prolific fb user so we just keep watch over each other’s lives and that’s a good way to be.

So, there I was, back in that office to pick up keys so I could borrow their van and move a pizza oven, like you do of a Thursday, and there was our corner, not much changed, a bit cleaner maybe, staffed by others now.  I sent Amy this:

“Amy Musgrove recognise this place??? Many hours of pain and joy spent here! Xxx”

The hub of the business.

The hub of the business.

And she responded:

“In a heartbeat, Betty Boo, how could I ever forget?! Having to go driving in the car with **heated seats and your doona jacket over our knees when our fingers couldn’t type anymore and our breath was clear on the frosty air. Smartened it up a bit since our times!! SO THRILLED it’s survived, and thrived. Enjoy the snippets FB gives me into your world, and LOVE LOVE LOVE Betty bites….more please. Love you.  xxxxx”

And so this Betty Bites entry is for you Amy.  Love you too!

** yes, my car had heated seats.  There is nothing like it on this earth, except maybe an electric blanket.  When the car died I asked the garage who bought it’s remains if they could give me the seats, but they seemed to think not. Sad face.

Summer?

August 27, 2015
this is how i do it

this is how i do it

Crikey, it was May, now it’s the end of August.  Somewhere between I have carried on doing what I do, and having a pretty good time doing that.  I think.  I can’t actually remember.

Here are some things that I do remember in no particular order.

I saw my beloved friend Maire who stayed for a weekend and brought sunshine and jollity in to the house as always;  Russell and I have hosted many airb&b guests, lots from France plus 2 sets of Kate and James’, consecutively;   we also welcomed the lovely George (new associate director at Bristol Old Vic) to stay and he is now practically family;  Russell and I went to Edinburgh and saw lots of family, art, theatre and Juliet Binoche, like you do;  lovely extended family wedding in Surrey (had forgotten how beautiful that county is);  I became a signed up member of the re-hab gym and can now do 45 forward extensions without dying (started at 10 and thought I was going to expire right there);

this is EXactly what I look like when doing my exercises.

this is EXactly what I look like when doing my exercises.

I had my birthday and Russell had his four days later (we do this every year);  we celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  Obviously I continued to work etc all the while, yada yada.

I am currently sitting at the kitchen table of the little Pembrokeshire hideaway, recently returned to us by a longish term tenant (and now available to all family and friends who wish to use it).

Sunny lane

Sunny lane

It is lovely to be back here, and because the café is shut this week for our annual hols (skipadee!) I am here on my own to bash our second and most wonderful Café Cook Book.  So I am writing my blog, doing yoga, dusting corners, planning lunch…  Truthfully though it is coming together well, and I am happy with progress so far – hopefully it will be done in time for Christmas (shhhh…).

It is raining, of course, with intermittent sunny spells, it is summer after all.  I don’t care because I am very busy writing.  And picking the beans that the tenant kindly left growing for us and buying eggs from the farm next door (they are really good).

eggs and beans, all you need

eggs and beans, all you need

That’s it.  Watch out for the book and then BUY IT please.  Over and out.

 

 

 

 

Project Betty.

May 28, 2015
Dem bones...

Dem bones…

 

I’d like to say I have been so busy that I simply haven’t had a minute to regale you, my loyal reader, with my doings since March.  I will say that vis á vis last post my buns turned out nothing like the picture but we will move swiftly on from there.

I have been working hard as it happens, seeing lovely people, dealing with family life and strife, you know, as you do.  Alongside this I have decided to become my own project.  We all like a project don’t we?  You start with a problem, or situation and make a plan which will take you toward a hoped for outcome.

So, Project Betty.

Age 53 (and 11 months and 341 days)

Physical state – medium to crap

Dodgy back (cronic), dodgy hips, feel 107 on a bad day, 102 on a good day, dodgy left knee, clenched jaw due to stress resulting in fractured tooth, menopausal = desiccating all over, over weight (obese if you believe those BMI chart thingys), ex-thyroid = unstable hormonal balance, energy no where to be found.

Mental state – wobbly

Dealing with best beloved son’s not so straight and narrow pathway into adulthood – best hope is he makes it in one piece (hope, wings and prayers come to mind); unresolved childhood issues (oh, come on, everyone has them);  confusion and lethargy; money worries, future stuff like where and how we will live (no pension, nothing, nada).

Life state – middling to really-pretty-good-Betty-get-a-grip

Lovely and comfortable home, business finally moving in right direction, supportive and loving husband, son alive and trying hard to get life together, family of nice and interesting people, good friends about me, good food on my table (possibly a little too much sometimes, but it’s organic, even if it is ice cream, quite often…).

So far I have done:

Therapy, yoga, pilates, acupuncture* and now chiropractic** treatment (chiropracticy?).

Back issues slowly, slowly, slowly being resolved (after much £’s and time I might add)

This is me, running toward my thin, healthy, energetic sunset years...

This is me, running toward my thin, healthy, energetic sunset years… (somehow boobs have shrunk to perfect 34b – amazing) = Hoped for outcome.

Next stop:

After chiropractic course I am being sent down into the basement to join the rehab gym.  Makes me feel modern to say I am going to rehab.  It should be the thing which finally makes my back better, and, if I keep it up, stay that way.

What else?

Lose weight.  How?  Thinking of taking up running and doing a half marathon (I’m not completely stupid and understand that a whole marathon is sadly beyond any abilities I may have now or in the future) in the autumn.  Anyone got any thoughts on this?  I am not a natural runner, boobs are too big for a start so it can be very painful if right bra not purchased for small fortune.  Also, I don’t like it.  BUT.  I don’t like needles* or cracking bones** and I have managed to get over that.

Anyway, here is recipe for a really utterly delicious Caesar Salad Dressing that will make you thinner.

Caesar dressing on romaine lettuce on really pretty plate from Wales.

Caesar dressing on romaine lettuce on really pretty plate from Wales.

2 cloves of garlic peeled and smushed

3 anchovy fillets (marinated ones – if you only have salted give them quick rinse first)

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup low fat plain yoghurt

juice of half a lemon

1 handful grated parmesan cheese

salt & black pepper as you like

Method by hand –

Bash the garlic and anchovies to buggery with a pestle and mortar or sturdy wooden spoon, then mix thoroughly with all other ingredients.

Food processor method –

Whizz all together – boom, job done.

You can add about 2 table spoons of lovely olive oil into the mix if you like (I like), but it won’t help the thinness factor.  Also croutons don’t help thinness factor either but I can’t eat Ceasar Salad without croutons, just don’t see the point, hence not being thin.  Sigh.

This was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe, I admit it, credit where its due.