25 January 2012

Not Quite Normal

I was shopping for Secret Santa presents before Christmas. Desperately hunting around WHSmiths novelty gift section for something remotely funny, or something that even just slightly hit on the personality of the person that I had to buy for. He's a nice sort of chap; likes his football, a couple of beers in quirky pubs, good mates with my boyfriend and we'd been to university together... But there was nothing hilarious about him. Nothing that stood out as something I could pick on with a carefully (and evilly) chosen gift.

I was finding it a bit tricky. Everything I picked up from the shelves seemed a perfect present for me. The Simon's Cat 2012 calendar that I knew would look fantastic on my kitchen wall. The Rubik's cube - because I've always wanted one and could clearly never do it. A set of sticky moustaches, of all colours and styles - brilliant - (and perhaps useful?)

I wandered over to the magazine rack, thinking that there could be something hideously unsuitable to give him, like Bliss magazine for teenage girls. My eyes flicked fiendishly across the shelves. Men's Health...? He wasn't particularly known for eating too many pizzas, so perhaps that wasn't insulting enough. I knew he loved his football, and recalled the deep depressions he got into after Manchester United lost a goal, an opportunity, or - God forbid - the actual game.

"ah-HA!" I whispered to myself as my eyes scanned the Sport section and plucked the Chelsea FC Official Club Magazine off the shelf, knowing it would really piss him off - which would be quite funny for me. Then I threw in the sticky moustaches for good measure. Yes. Everyone loves a sticky moustache.

As I took my secret Santa gift over to the counter to pay, something being advertised on one of the stands at the front of the shop caught my eye. A mug - on sale. It made me stop to turn it over, chuckle to myself and look around to see if anyone had seen. It was THE most perfect secret Santa present - but for me. I loved it. I had to have this mug. I thought about buying it right there on the spot and pretending I'd got given it for Christmas. But maybe that was really sad, so I left it there on the top of a pile of other mugs, and thought that maybe, just maybe, my secret Santa might get it for me.


Apparently, I'm too old for stockings at the bottom of the bed at Christmas. Last year, I felt so despondent that I might miss out on one of those wonderful, crackly, crispy, heavy sacks of presents that I informed Liam early in November, that I'd be doing him a stocking this year - and that I would like one too.

I spent ages thinking about what he'd like (this time I picked serious, lovely gifts, and thought about all those things he needed, but wouldn't buy himself). I got him a beautiful vintage leather bag for work, a matching belt, I even crocheted him some fingerless gloves (which maybe he wouldn't buy ever... but I was determined that he would like). I'd been patient all day, slightly nervous that he might not appreciate me buying him Disney's Robin Hood on DVD (because it was obvious I'd wanted to watch it too), or think that the really useful changing colour egg timer I'd found in the shop was a bit silly. It was early evening on Christmas Day and we'd just cleared away the dinner plates and sunk into the sofas in the living room when he looked over to me, winked and said;

"Shall we do our presents now?"

I jumped up and followed him upstairs. Lying on his bed all exciting in a crisp, white pillow case was a lumpy bag of crunchy presents. I squealed. 

"Can I go first?" I asked, acting like a five year old. 

"Sure! Go for this one." He said, picking a square shaped, neatly wrapped parcel out of the pillowcase. 

As always, I peeled the sellotape off carefully, tearing the corners just a little, enjoying the way the paper sounded as it ripped. I saw a flash of shiny blue. I held my breath and my eyes boggled. 

"No way...!" I said, leaning over to kiss him. 

There, in my lap was the mug I'd seen and loved. I couldn't believe it. 

Today, it sits proudly on my desk, slightly inappropriate for a posh, corporate reception and it still makes me laugh. I get it out the cupboard every morning to make a cup of tea (not too milky, one sugar please) and potter back to my desk. I like how it's become a bit of a talking point, a conversation starter. And I always say proudly;

"My boyfriend brought that for me. He knows I'm not normal, and I quite like that."

23 January 2012

Guest Post: 'My London' by Caroline from Hello Moon

I absolutely love her poems. They are beautiful, deep and emotive. Pop over to her blog and see for yourself. I feel quite honoured to star new blogger Caroline from Hello Moon, with a poem that she wrote about her London, just for my blog. 

My London

Jostled from the carriage,
Morphed into a herd of man,
The sound of a hundred footsteps,
Welcome to the commuters clan.
Heads down as we march together,
Minds collectively lost in thought,
Eyes not daring to wander over,
The shame of being caught.
The eerie silence lingers,
Interrupted by the buskers song,
Conserving my personal barrier,
Not feeling that I belong.
Grey sheets of printed paper,
Invades your capacity to see,
Bodies entwined with one another,
White knuckles clutching black coffee.
From tranquil, evergreen pastures,
The twee, rustic lull of the town,
To momentous, imperious buildings,
Watching you swerve and drown.

 Caroline, Hello Moon 


19 January 2012

Personal Responsibility

I'd been meaning to catch him all day. We'd taken a break for lunch and I'd spent a while trying to negotiate my way around the dining hall towards him, watching the other students hover around him like wasps on a jam sandwich. He was a older man who had presence, and was well known within the Spiritualist circles. He had demonstrated his mediumship abilities and taught healing to students for years. At that time, I'd only been practising mediumship a couple of years, sitting in my local Spiritualist Church every Tuesday night, trying to see colours and 'feel' other people's energies. I was twenty years old.

Closing the door behind me, I stepped into the green of the small courtyard gardens, taking some fresh air and a deserved break from the heady workshop. Among the flowers and carefully slabbed paving stones, he was sat on one of the stone benches. For the first time that day, I saw that he had nobody around him.

"Sorry to interrupt, but do you have a second?" I asked, a little nervously, edging towards him.

"Of course." He said, smiling warmly at me. "Are you enjoying the course?" He shifted up on the stone bench to let me sit down.

"Yes, it's great. I had a question I wanted to ask you, though." I paused, thinking about how to put the question without sounding too crazy. "Well, in the last year I've been starting to see energies much more clearly, and I feel that it's all coming quite naturally to me, if you know what I mean. Sometimes, I feel them about me quite strongly, it's almost like I'm buzzing. I find it hard to just switch off from being that way, y'know? I'm often lying in bed, trying to sleep, and all I can see when I close my eyes are colours and faces that pop in and out of my mind, a bit like a flicker book. Don't get me wrong, it's intriguing, it's just not great when I want to fall asleep."

I quickly scanned his face, looking for signs of disinterest or amusement. But he was listening, so I went ahead and asked the question, leaning in a little as if I was telling a secret.

"I just wondered... Well, my question was, how do you turn it off?"

He took a deep breath, and exhaled, in a manner that suggested I was asking possibly one of the most complex questions to answer in the whole wide world. Then he said something that surprised me, and made me feel uneasy.

"You are very open to energy, especially for someone so young. And because you're young, you still need to learn control. You see, at your age, you need to be focusing on other more..."

He paused and crossed his arms pointedly, seemingly trying to fish the right word from a very large pool of wrong ones. His face contorted into slightly grotesque shapes as he moved his lips expressively, lengthening each syllable.

"more...important things, like getting married and having children. My suggestion is, we shut you down completely, and then in twenty years or so, after you've done everything you should be doing when you're young, you can open up again and practise your mediumship. You know, it's an ability that never goes away, you'll just be far more controlled when you're older."

He sniffed. He seemed satisfied with his response.

I stared at him, my mouth open and my cheeks flushing pink. I thanked him politely for his advice and turned and walked swiftly from the garden. His words etched deeply into my thoughts as I began to trace them over and over. 

Married and children... Shut me down?... Completely?... What was I, some sort of computer? 

Whilst that young, free and indignant side of me shunned his dusty opinion, in that brief conversation, I felt my confidence shatter slightly, which only nudged my sense of right and wrong into clearer view.


A while back, a friend of mine opened her new shop in Richmond called Inside Out Retreats. Inside Out Retreats is an urban retreat centre promoting good health and harmony of spirit and I decided to take a trip there just before Christmas. Which is how I found myself sat in a warm, beautiful space, with a cup of peppermint tea and the opportunity to talk with like-minded people on a Saturday afternoon. All kinds of people were chatting and as I walked through the rooms and drifted in and out of conversations about super foods, creative expression and empowerment techniques, I felt a long way from the hustle of Richmond's bustling Christmas shoppers. I took a sip of my tea and swirled the teabag around in my mug, enjoying the lovely atmosphere, when I noticed a lady sit down opposite me. I smiled at her and nodded.

"Hello!" She said brightly. We chatted for a moment, before she leant forward and asked me a question. The one question that always gets me slightly hot under the collar on how to answer it.

"And what do you do?"

I hesitated, reluctant as always to label myself with my job. But given we were in a place promoting harmony of spirit I was doubtful that she had much interest in me being a receptionist. I decided at once that the question leant more to 'what are you into?' (of the spiritual variety), but it hardly calmed me any more than the last question had. Over the years I'd come to realise that there was a definite art to working out who I could admit my interest in mediumship to, as in the past I had discovered that not everyone agrees with mediumship and some just plain don't accept it.

'Tarot cards, psychics and mediums are all of the occult.' My Religious Studies teacher from secondary school had warned me, after I'd sought out her opinion as someone who I knew was a good, Church-going Christian.
'So, if I was interested in finding out more, I'd be going against the Bible?' I'd asked cautiously, rather hoping not to be.
'I'm afraid so.' She had replied. I remember worrying about that for a very long time.

Elizabeth thinks she can talk to ghosts - the report had stated, in hard, printed letters. It continued: I therefore put into question how stable she is mentally. Also I wonder what kind of influence she might be on my other children. 
I swallowed, hardly daring to believe what my own father had written about me to Social Services. I wondered if it was what he truly believed about me, or whether it was a new low in the seemingly endless acrimonious divorce battle against my mother.
"Is he joking, Mum?" I asked my mother who leant silently against the kitchen table. She looked tired and fraught, as anyone who had had their parenting ability unfairly questioned might look. He wasn't joking, and neither was I- after spending an hour and a half on the telephone, justifying both my beliefs and how I was in fact very normal to a rather sceptical social worker.

It seemed that whilst I was proud of the abilities I'd developed over the years through the many books on the subject I'd read, the workshops and courses I'd attended and the evenings spent in group meditation, I'd also developed a bit of a fear about admitting it to anyone. A fear that niggled inside me, whispering cruelly that I was too young and inexperienced to be a medium. It liked to remind me that people might be horrified if I told them, or worse, they might use the fact that I believe, against me. 

Remembering suddenly that I had been asked a question, I pushed my fear deep down, straightened my back and hoped that my eyes hadn't been staring at the fairy lights decorating the bookcase too long. I looked at the lady sitting opposite me on the sofa, only deciding at the very last second what I was going to say. She had a kind face.

"I do mediumship. I know I look quite young, but I've done it for almost seven years now." I laughed, nervously. 

"You don't need to apologise! That's great." She said, smiling at me.

The bell on the front door rang as I left the warm, open space of Inside Out Retreats. The lady I'd spoken to hadn't seemed remotely shocked that I was a twenty-six year old medium. In fact, quite the opposite; she had asked me for my business card.
I walked slowly, but with purpose towards the station. Around me, Saturday shoppers darted in and out of the crowd, distracted by bright lights and the ever looming closing time. Little did they know that the girl they were dodging in the grey duffel coat and converse trainers, was having an epiphany.

Age means nothing at all... Nobody can tell anything about you based upon just your age. It's a number, not an explanation. Your thoughts and personal experience shape you into being exactly who you were meant to be.

I thought about the eight-year-olds I have met who have the sense and maturity of eighty years spent on this planet, and similarly recalled a few eighty year olds who I'd seen stomp their foot and throw a tantrum as if they were eight years old. I concluded, quite pleased with myself, that only I can decide what I can possibly be and it is my responsibility to prove it to the rest of the world.

14 January 2012

100 Word Post : Dusky Dreamer

I sneak in, teased by the dusky tones of Chanel. I’m quite sure you’ve just left. The silver Victorian hand mirrors lay guarded on your dressing table, about to keep my secret. I gently pick one up and allow myself a seat. I tilt my head and raise my chin – pouting just a little - casting high ivory cheek bones swept with glittering bronze, your pearls wilting around my neck. My soft mousy wisps transform into deep chocolate curls and my lips become slicked with pink. I’m so ready for the man of my dreams; I’m now thirty, not thirteen.

12 January 2012

All things bright and beautiful

It was one of those rare, sunny winter days, when the sky is a clear brilliant blue and you can tell just from looking out of the window that it is so cold outside that your fingers will freeze, your cheeks will smart and you cant help but let your eyes blink tears. And rather than being sensible, staying in and snuggling up under a duvet with the cat, Liam and I pulled on two pairs of socks, some boots and a couple of warm layers. I grabbed my camera and we headed out to Wandsworth for a walk.

I think there is nothing quite so beautiful (or peaceful) as walking through an old graveyard, and Wandsworth Cemetery, which opened in 1878 was where we found ourselves. As the sun cast spectacular shadows upon what would usually be seen as a sombre and mysterious place, we took our time walking along the paths. We read aloud unusual names, admired the Gothic stone carvings, and noted how on even some of the older graves, someone had placed fresh flowers.

There were a few older headstones that stood out and caught my eye as we passed. I didn't think it would be wrong to take a photo to remember them and share how beautiful they were with you. 


4 January 2012

January Jitters

So, I'm back in the office and it's definitely January. The flowers in reception have been replaced. Transformed from the festive red berries and silver sprayed pine cones to a rather demure thistled number with grasses, red gerberas, pink lilies and (most confusingly) all bundled together with a palm leaf. The weather has also gone a bit berserk. Last night the wind screeched through my single glazed windows and caused havoc with the flower pots on my balcony. But today the deep rumbling clouds of yesterday transformed into a beautiful warm pink morning sky. They seem a bit like me; unsure how to be now January is about. You still feel the same as you did last week; same clothes, same hair, same old work to come back to. But there's also something different. You feel bolder and a little bit braver. When you woke up on New Year's Day, did you sense what I did? A spark, a sort of hope that musters about in the air, not quite brushing away last year's cobwebs, but giving you that lift to take on anything. Especially that fresh, clean, sparkling new year.