Saturday, 27 October 2012

It's been a while...

Writing has taken a back seat of late. Baking has taken over with a vengeance - every day a flurry of flour, a cloud of icing sugar and a sauna of a kitchen. Take Thursday for example - 72 cupcakes, 18 Halloween themed fairy cakes and the mother of all Devils Food Cakes. Both ovens fired up, two stand and one hand mixer whirring and both sinks full of dishes, bowls and implements.

All of this however belongs elsewhere - on www.filledwithlovecupcakes.org perhaps. This blog is more reflective, less about food and more about thoughts (tempted to take alliteration a step too far there but foughts really isn't what this is about...)

Last night a group of colleagues from Christian Aid reunited in the pub fondly known as the Old Man's Pub (OMP). On the one hand we did nothing special - the back room of a slightly grotty pub that sells horrid wine. No music, very few seats and nasty toilets.

On the other hand we did something very special indeed. We raised over £400 towards testing of an anti-cancer virus that could save thousands http://icancer.org.uk/

The reasons why we are fundraising for a clinical trial are many and complex. Especially since this drug could be an amazing breakthrough. In a nutshell, pharmaceutical companies are generally interested in research only when it looks likely it will produce a profit and in this case the research is some years away from that stage.

More than that however - the research team placed much of their research in the public domain, so they cannot patent it. Which means pharmaceutical companies cannot guarantee they will own the research and profit from it.

Money - the bible says something about the love of it being the root of evil, and on this occasion it definitely seems as though it is getting in the way of the trials that might see this drug released to help improve the life and life expectancy of many living with NETs (Neo Endocrine Tumours).

Last night however proved that for many people life and love and friendship are more important than money as they dug deep and gave generously. If enough of us do the same we CAN raise the money needed to trial this drug and save lives.

You can read more about it here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9544400/Would-I-takean-untested-cancer-treatment-myself-Hellyes.html

Please do. Dom was a colleague when I worked at Christian Aid. He's a husband, father and all round great guy that I remember as the life and soul of every party. On the decks, playing some great tunes.

If you haven't already heard of NETs they are what ended the life of Steve Jobs. I don't want them to end Dom's life. I want to be at his 50th birthday. And his 60th, 70th and 80th. It cannot be right that this potentially life saving drug is locked away for lack of funding to trial it - let's put that right.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Spot The Difference


Yesterday we celebrated three family birthdays with Afternoon Tea at ours.

My brother in law took some photos which he transferred to my laptop this morning. Flicking through them just now I was drawn to one in particular as I vividly remembered a similar photo being taken a few years ago.

The image on the left above was taken in April 2009. On that occasion when I saw it I was filled with horror at the rib hump on my back. If you look carefully and note the position of the chrome back of the stool I am sitting on you will see how "scrunched up" I was from the waist up. As I often delight in telling people - where one item of underwear ended another begun!

Fast forward three years to the photo on  the right. No noticeable rib hump, a decent waist (with a gap between my top and bottom undies!) and I can slip easily into any off the peg dress.

I post this to give hope and encouragement to anyone considering or recovering from scoliosis surgery. Yes it is a massive challenge to go through and the pain is horrendous, sometimes for weeks if not months. But ultimately it is worth it if it means a better, straighter future.

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for surgery of course, and not everyone has the incredibly successful outcome I have been fortunate to benefit from.

But sometimes I believe it is good to simply share the good news and I'd like to give a big thank you and shout out to all the skilled surgeons and caring nurses, not to mention the patient physios, involved in scoliosis care.

Modern day miracle workers some might say.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Letting Go....

Two posts in one day. Unusual, not unheard of.


When I left Christian Aid I believed I could continue as the volunteer and supporter I used to be back in the day - before I joined the staff and enjoyed the rollercoaster ride that was being part of the directorate, the platform2 programme and the churches team.

I looked forward to volunteering with Christian Aid as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues, it never for one moment crossed my mind that this would not be a *good thing* to do.

On arrival at Greenbelt I fairly soon realised this was not to be the case. Ever felt like you're on the outside looking in? Not one of the *cool* kids? Watching a team/club you don't belong to in action and wishing you were a part of it....?

I tried - oh so hard - to let go. Of all the anger and upset and bitterness and rejection. Our compline service actually included a bit about that and I clenched my fists, tried hard to "let go" and hoped against hope it might have worked.

Clearly not as the very next day felt like I had picked it all up again - indeed I went so far as to tell the person who had led the service just what a failure I was.

His reply was simple yet significant. Sometimes we need to let go of one thing before we can let go of another...

I can't - or couldn't - let go of the anger, upset, yada yada yada, without first letting go of Christian Aid. That doesn't mean I can't support the organisation. It's a great agency doing fantastic work and deserves the support of us all.

But I am not on the staff and need to accept that, and move on. Perhaps having done that I will be in a better position to find another post - be it writing, baking, creating or stacking shelves....

Years ago I remember hearing how if you are hurt and wounded you need to let it scab over and heal. Don't scratch or pick at the scab - it will bleed again and delay the healing. One day when it is all healed you can perhaps go back to it and it won't hurt.

The advice often given when a relationship ends is to make a clean break. "We can never be friends - we've been lovers too long" and all that.....

Time to let go then and look to the future - which may well be bright and orange but perhaps not of the Christian Aid hue....

Saving Paradise


Greenbelt 2012. Saving Paradise. 

I'd looked forward to - longed for even - the Festival all year. Ever since I left Christian Aid having been on the working group planning for what was always going to be a fantastic presence in Cheltenham.

We arrived full of excitement and anticipation, in particular I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with friends and ex-colleagues, still feeling myself to be part of the movement for change and the amazing organisation that is Christian Aid.

More of my personal angst elsewhere - this one is all about the mud...

An apocalyptic downpour on Saturday afternoon, on top of an already saturated racecourse, led to flooding and a soggy boggy quagmire such as I have never before witnessed. Six inches of swampy water around and inside the entrance to the venue reduced footfall dramatically and as the picture shows the situation was much the same for many of the centre course traders and venues.

The grandstand side of the Festival was able to carry on regardless with a certain sense of cheery calmness of the type currently popularised on greetings cards in the style of wartime posters. Meanwhile punters were stopping at the end of the walkway to the centre of the racecourse and turning back - even The Jesus' Arms with its fine wines and ales could not tempt them to walk on the water.

Is it okay to admit the situation was ghastly? That in spite of looking forward to the Festival for months I was miserable, disappointed and ready to go home...?

Surrounded by jollity, positivity and punters making the best of it, not allowing the weather to spoil their enjoyment of Greenbelt, I felt at times like a moaning miserable whingebag. Perhaps I was.

But reflecting this morning, in the comfort of a hotel after a decent breakfast, hot shower and great night's sleep I felt emboldened enough to scribble a few notes.

I believe it is okay to admit the situation was horrid.

Without in any way minimising the suffering of others throughout the world it's okay to say that suffering is a part of life and small scale suffering of the kind we experienced this weekend is a reminder of this.

Is it possible that by denying the reality of our own small taste of suffering we are denying ourselves the opportunity to share in the experience of others who suffer more deeply?

Where do we draw the line?

I've read about flooding in Bangladesh for many years now. I've seen photos of people up to their necks in dirty floodwater and have on an intellectual level acknowledged their suffering.

But after wading through mud this weekend I finally - get it. As far as it is possible to from the warm dry sofa on which I am now sitting. I could escape, they cannot, and I have some small understanding of what it is they are going through.

If I deny how horrid the cold, slimy mud was. If I minimise the inconvenience, the soul destroying damp and damage it caused; if I keep calm and carry on with a smile and a cupcake - is it possible that I in some way minimise what my brothers and sisters in Bangladesh are suffering?

It's late, I am tired, and articulating this is not easy but it has to be done - if corrected tomorrow.

I will go to bed thankful for a comfortable mattress, hot water, good food and the life that I have - with a prayer for those who struggle with so much worse than we experienced this weekend.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Community Matters

I was going to write about the Olympics, having spent the morning at a historic and iconic venue and never having imagined I would hear the words "... will serve from the Downing Street end...."

However that will have to wait since another matter has been buzzing in my brain for a few days now and unless I pin it down on the virtual paper I fear it will be lost in the ether never to be discussed or debated further.

So... let's begin with a cake - or twelve...


Many of you know that I am now baking cakes for a living - along with writing of course. I create bespoke, "posh", (or as one of my friends put it "expensive...") cupcakes for birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, leaving dos, celebrations, commemorations and pretty much any other occasion  you can think of. I do cupcakes by post too - for less than the price of an (expensive) bouquet you can send a gorgeous box of hand made bespoke cupcakes especially designed for the occasion.

I digress - and advertise.

I now supply cupcakes for a new cafe in our community, which for those of  you not in the know is Croxley Green in Hertfordshire. The very same village mentioned by John Betjeman and in which brownies still dance around the maypole in the annual Revels on the Green.

There is so much to say about this gorgeous cafe that even me - so rarely lost for words - does not know where to begin. Not just the calm relaxing decor, the delicious menu, and the best coffee for miles. Much more than that - the sense of community that it is already engendering.

I deliver cakes two or three times a week - they are truly freshly home made (I advertise again...) On each occasion I stop for a coffee and catch up. The door opens constantly (but not of course draftily) with a stream of people all of whom are greeted like old friends. Many of them are.

I've spent hours already in Coco. I've met and chatted with managers and mothers, contractors, carpenters, commuters. Retired and unemployed, everyone with a story to tell - many of which I will in the coming months.

Every community needs a Coco because Community Matters. Pubs aren't everyone's cup of tea - to coin a pun-like phrase. But Coco is - especially if you love a Girlie Grey! But step into a community cafe and you can also step out of your daily life, relax and enjoy the company of friends old and new. Yes this sounds cheesy but think of Roy's Rolls (Corrie fans) or whatever they call the caff in 'Enders. It's a meeting place, where news and gossip - of the best kind - is shared and friendships made and strengthened.

If you live in Croxley be sure to drop into Coco - on the Watford Road opposite the Red House and next to the Dentist. Plenty of parking but why not take a stroll there and burn off the calories in one of their delicious cupcakes?

Did I mention I was baking for them?

http://filledwithlovecupcakes.org/2012/07/09/exclusive-to-coco-croxley-green/


Monday, 2 July 2012

Three Months!

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post about not having written for three weeks I've woken up to the realisation it is now three months since I left my "proper job".

Time flies when you're having fun - guess I must be having lots lately as no idea at all where that's gone.

Someone said to me at the weekend "would you rather be doing this - or back at (insert name of place I used to work...)?"

The answer didn't come easily, "oh this for sure" didn't trip off my tongue as if this was what I was born for. I had to stop, think, consider, and reply hesitantly.

The issue being I'd have preferred to have had the choice. Some might say it can take having circumstances thrust upon us to shift us out of our comfort zone and into new adventures. Others might point to my control freakery and say "well you would, wouldn't you?"

Personally I would have preferred not to have gone through the agony and angst; the uncertainty and indecision. I'd have felt happier knowing that leaving the security and friendships that had built up over eight years was my decision. And it would have been good to plan for that properly, to prepare for the next chapter and to grieve for the last one.

All of which isn't to say that those things didn't happen - the planning, preparation and grieving. But being thrown into the situation escalated everything, contracted the timeline (Is that a proper expression or born out of hearing a childbirth story on Daybreak as I write...?!) and forced me to make choices quickly.

Or did I ever actually make those choices? Looking back when did I decide to "be" a writer and cake maker? Let's not go there or my inner control freak will rear her ugly head and we'll be back where we were!

No picture - have to be a cake then....did I already post these?


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Three Weeks?!



Three weeks with no blog entry - hot on the heels of a blog post announcing my intention to blog daily as part of a commitment to the whole "I am a writer" thing. Should I be hanging my head in shame and failure?

Happily not.

Some readers may recall the whole "Write Bake Create" project born out of my redundancy and birthed on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Write-Bake-Create/345781545463824

Working as a Project Manager on the Southbank, struggling with the Met and Jubilee Lines on a daily basis but loving London Life I could never have imagined the about turn that my "career" has taken. I use inverted commas as I'm still not quite sure that is the right word to use. Sure I've stopped using the term unemployed, replacing it with "self employed" but is this really "a job"?

One of the main reasons I've not been writing on here is I have been so busy writing. It took a while to get into news writing - being so different from creative writing, blogging, poetry and everything else I was well used to. I love the immediacy - find the story, get the quotes, write it up, publish. See your byline, enjoy the compliments, take the criticism on the chin and move on - another day another story....

When not writing I am baking. Hundreds and hundreds of cupcakes. I look back six months and see how far I've come and have to smile....



                                      
Like what you see? See more at www.filledwithlovecupcakes.org



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Aaaaaargh!

So much to write that I haven't got round to writing anything for ages.

Where then to begin?

As I write listening to the news - and comments about unemployment, benefits, yada yada yada....

...except instead of ...yada yada yada I now hear these items with fresh ears as they relate to me.

This morning at the Jobcentre, fighting my prejudices as I observe so many people queuing to sign on, the majority of them hugely overweight. Wondering how they can afford to eat so much, or is it truly that cheap food is high calorie? Still struggling with this one as unemployment has cost me at least half a stone!

Thinking positively, that perhaps the (re)discovery of my creative side is a real blessing in the midst of the sadness and angst that was the loss of my job. I did O Level Art but since then life has been all about work, management, systems, processes, admin and getting things done. Making something of beauty is a challenge I love, enjoy, and willingly rise to!

Wondering how it is possible that being "unemployed" can be so exhausting. Needing to get to bed before 1am for once. Recognising the significance of social media, managing marketing, website, all the other stuff that makes up running a business and wondering - again - how you make the jump from un- to self- employed.

Meanwhile - some cakes I made today


www.filledwithlovecupcakes.org

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Taking the Challenge

As if I'm not already busy enough I've decided to take up a challenge - for the next 15 days I am going to write on a daily basis.

Because...

Well, because that is what writers do.

And I am a writer.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Bed Time

It's time to go to bed. The big hand has overtaken the little hand - at least I guess it has as I tell the time by my phone or laptop these days - and most sane and sensible people have hit the sack.

At times it's frustrating to be an "owl" - awake when everyone else is asleep. But the silence and solitude is something to be treasured and occasionally worth the struggle to wake up the next morning.

The main reason for this post is to thank those of you that read it! I saw some of you this evening and I am genuinely touched that you keep in touch in this way. You know who you are - so thank you!

Another reason for writing tonight is that I have just sent my first ever HTML email in an endeavour to drum up a few more cupcake orders. I would love for you to take a look and get in touch if you are considering buying cakes for a special occasion!

You can find out more here http://filledwithlovecupcakes.org/2012/05/25/welcome/

That's it for now - night night!

Linda


Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Sound Investment


I have to start writing down the ideas I get for posts. I had a really good one just the other day. It made me laugh, would have made you laugh, may have finally made my name in the writing world and allowed me to give up work and spend my time doing what I love. Except that might have meant give up writing and spend my time writing which makes little sense so perhaps the fact that I have completely forgotten whatever the idea was is a blessing in disguise?

This post came to me in a flash of inspiration as I was tidying my knicker drawer. Well, basket if we're going to be picky. I have a lot of clothes - of the under and over variety, and tonight it dawned upon me in a moment of clarity that these, ladies, are what we should be investing in!

Gentlemen, I apologise if at this point you feel in any way excluded - that is not my intention and you are most welcome to continue with us but don't blame me if from here on in you are bored...

I guess I have always been of the clothes are an investment school of thought, but never as seriously as today. I believe in buying the basics and classics and have a wardrobe full of black trousers and blazers, nicely fitted shirts and tops, cashmere cardigans and skinny jeans. Yes I have way too many pairs of shoes in some people's eyes but none of them are going to date, they're made of solid leather and I take good care of them ( my Dune boots have lasted more seasons than my sons have been season ticket holders at the Vic - that's some considerable time!)

I look in my wardrobe on a daily basis and find things to wear, things I want to wear, things I enjoy wearing. I take a certain satisfaction in not being part of the disposable throwaway culture that many are - er - primed to embrace from an ever diminishing age. Equally I won't be sucked into the designer catwalk craziness that insists I follow a certain trend at risk of social exclusion. I wear clothes that suit me, that I feel comfy in, that wash and wear well.

And the point of this self obsessed rambling is...? Had I not invested in all these clothes and shoes while I was working where would I be now? I wouldn't be rushing out to buy all of this and besides if I was the prices would have doubled by now. My clothes and shoes were a sound and solid investment for which I am grateful - forget wine and the stock market, blazers and boots are where it's at.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

I am a Writer



Telling the world you're a writer isn't an easy task.

It doesn't have the same optimistic or life affirming ring to it as "I'm pregnant", or the sense of hope inherent in "We're getting married". Some of those witnessing the announcement may smell a rat of the "feel like dossing around in my dressing gown all day" variety. Others may smile sweetly and make nice murmuring noises, thinking all the time that you've finally accepted you'll never get a full time "proper job" and from henceforth will be scrounging off the hard working taxpayer - themselves included, whilst deluding yourself a best selling novel is just 100,000 words away.

A writer however is not something you become or choose to be. Yes you can study, train, practice and perfect your writing. You can tear up endless sheets of virtual paper in fury and frustration as you seek to improve your craft, make a name for yourself, get a deal, an agent, a hundred hits on your blog... but the one thing you cannot do is decide to become a writer.

Writers are born not made. Birthed not recruited. Writers must write as an outlet for the myriad of words and phrases that assault our brains on a daily basis, that cry out to be scribbled and typed and blogged and expressed and edited and shared and published.

That is why we sit in our dressing gowns bashing out another blog entry, news article, thought provoking piece or poem. That's why maybe we have to accept there simply isn't time to get a "proper" job". Why we believe passionately that our dream - be it a best selling novel, book deal, agent, successful blog - truly is a few thousand words away.

"My name is Linda, and I'm a writer..."

http://youareawriter.com/contest/



Thursday, 17 May 2012

Going green - another rant regarding public transport...



Today was definitely a "write" day with several stories to file from yesterday and a full day in the office to look forward to. Ian is still on annual leave and offered a lift to Bricketwood so all good - so far.

After a long but productive day I was looking forward to a drinks reception just off Carnaby Street. An opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from a former life, surrounded by gardening items donated by celebrities and now being auctioned on ebay. Free wine and nibbles no less - and meeting up with Ian for a bit of quality time together.

On leaving the office and preparing for the mini trek to Bricketwood station I was thrilled to be offered a lift by one of my new colleagues. Within minutes I was stood on the platform waiting for the fast train to Euston where I would pick up the tube to Oxford Circus.

How, how, how had I managed to forget the events of two weeks ago? The whole Abbey flyer fiasco? Why had it not occurred to me to check train times, never mind whether there was a ticket office? What was I now doing standing on a station platform with a display sign telling me the next train was due in 50 minutes time.

And how had I forgotten that this station was on a branch line and not as I had anticipated the main line to Euston? That of course would get me as far as Watford where allowing for the sprint from Platform 11 and possible wait for the mainline train, followed by the hop on the Bakerloo Line, meant I would probably make it to the drinks reception around twenty minutes after it finished.

Never one to be defeated easily I struck up conversation with a young mum on the platform who, as it turned out, had a phone with the number of a local taxi firm saved, and an extensive knowledge of transport networks in London and the surrounding areas. She called them up but sadly the cost of a cab to Watford Junction was almost equivalent to the penalty fare on the Abbey Flyer. A Plan B was called for.

That involved me asking if there was any other railway station in the vicinity and another phone call later finding myself in a taxi to Radlett. From where I caught a First Capital Connect train to West Hampstead Thameslink. A short walk to the Jubilee Line, fifteen minutes to Bond Street, a ten minute walk and I was in the pop up shop with my husband and a glass of red. Twenty five minutes late and around twenty pounds poorer. Isn't it good to be green...?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Filled With Love


By anybody's standards today has been quite a long day. Common sense would say get to bed, get some sleep, you've done enough...

The Write-Fiend within me cannot go along with such sensible suggestions, feeling instead driven to post on here something of today's happenings before retiring to the warmth of the heatpad and comfort of the memory foam.

Today started - or ended - at 1.30am when sleep closed a long day of volunteering for Christian Aid. Judging a bake off that involved the tasting of 14 superb cakes, then hanging out in a pop up shop full of items customised and signed by A Listers made for an interesting day. It could have ended - or at least wound down - with a session of sofa slouching from 6pm onwards. Instead I baked somewhere in the region of 80 cupcakes to be tucked in lock'n'lock boxes for the night, ready for their 6.30am start.

I flat iced, frosted, piped and finished the cakes in time for a collection at 10am, a delivery at 11am and three postal orders this afternoon. All went well until the moment when the post office cashier told me - midway through my transactions - that the card machine wasn't working for my particular card. Expletive deleted but couldn't he perhaps have mentioned that before we started? Especially bearing in mind I am at the post office every other day with my pile of parcels?

He suggested I withdraw cash from the machine outside. I refused - why pay to withdraw money from my own account. He told me to tear off the stamps (presumably aborting the transactions). I refused on the basis these are cakes, they need to go today, and he could have said the machine was out of order. I ask him if he has a phone, no. Lady behind suggests I drive to petrol station, I start to explain why I don't drive and get exasperated - until - hallelujah - I have an idea!

I run to the dental surgery three shops down from post office and yes, my dear friend is there and able to lend me £20. I run back. Lady with advice re petrol station is now posting a trillion engraved badges she's selling via ebay. I wait.

I wait so long that by the time I am walking home it is hailing cats, dogs, snails, rabbits, geese, elephants and probably rhinocerii. I have no key so ring the doorbell, but Ian is in his studio at the end of the garden and Dave has his headphones on. I make my way round the back, into the house, shiver, turn the heating up to a couple of degrees less than it used to be when I had a "proper" job and decide what to do next.

It turns out to be an easy decision - emails in my inbox suggest a couple of phone interviews might be in order, to get ahead for local news magazine this week. After which building a website becomes the priority - so I do that (as you do....)

I finish in time to go for drinks with some very good friends. Four of us, three bottles of red, the world is put to rights and it is finally time for bed. 

There have been some lovely emails asking how I am enjoying being a lady of leisure... #justsaying

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Not such a good girl

A huge, enormous, massive thank you to my daughter Sarah for sharing the link to my blog on her facebook page, with an exceptionally nice comment which doubled the hits on here overnight.

Another giant, stupendous thank you to my mum for an immensely generous blog post of her own which complimented me on my creativity when it comes to cupcakes, and tenacity in the face of some trials and tribulations.

In receipt of such compliments it would be easy to allow my head to swell to such a size that the London Ambassador trilby I am soon to be wearing would perch in a ridiculous fashion atop my plum tinted plumage. It might also be tempting for me to believe these nice things to the extent that I forget I have my faults also.

To ensure this is not the case I have decided to consider some of these faults and in a spirit of openness and confession to blog them here...

First up, since losing my job I confess that yes, I have been known to watch daytime television. Shock, horror, gasp I hear from those of you with better judgement and a more evolved sense of what is right. But please let us not bundle all daytime TV together and tar it all with the same sticky brush. We do have standards - well some of us do - and whilst Jeremy Vile may be a part of the government's conspiracy to keep us all in work until we are 75 there are some gems to be had amidst the gross and ghastly offerings. You want examples? 60 minute makeover - now that they are honest about the three and a half weeks (my estimate) or so of preparation that goes on before the team of photogenic painters and decorators move in. I have been known to cry at the stories of well deserving people who return home after lunch with a friend to find their dreary bedroom transformed into a boudoir worthy of Billie Piper...

I have also been known to cry at Dickinson's Real Deal - not only because I wish I could pick up a bargain in Sue Ryder's shop that would sell on ebay at a 1000% profit. But also because there is a particular dealer - male - who wears so much jewellery that I suspect a visit to "we buy any gold.com" would keep him for life and safe him the embarrassment of having to appear on Daytime TV...

When it comes to being bad I have other things to admit to sadly. Whilst I vowed never to give up putting on make up if I lost my job I have sadly succumbed to the temptation not to wear eyeshadow. Mascara is an essential - why scare the postman? But life is suddenly too short to brush taupe coloured powder across my eyelids on a regular basis. Who am I trying to impress with my shadowy sockets anyway - the guy behind the counter at the post office who's become my most regular conversationalist?

Likewise, I have given up on tights. Not that I'm suddenly into stockings and suspenders - nowadays it's more jeans r us. And not the skinny jeans I used to take comfort in. Autograph. M and S. Enough said.

And then...

When it comes to confessions this is the big one. Up there with the seven deadly sins in some people's minds, so prepare yourself reader, you may be shocked.

Apparently I have been known to leave the bathroom in a disgusting state. I know, you cannot believe this. Neither can I as someone who has enjoyed the company of an environmental health inspector on various occasions with my kitchen being registered at the local council offices and all that. However, having left the bathroom after pulling the plug out, and not having returned before a member of my family has entered the room, apparently the remains of a bath bomb were once found adhered to the base of the bath. Be warned ladies - and gentlemen - who are lovers of Lush. This is a grievous sin up there with the final confession of the night...

... Not eating "properly".

Put simply, outside of the office routine mealtimes become somewhat arbitrary. You're hungry? Then eat - and whatever it is you fancy. You're busy, engaged, focussed on something else and 1pm comes around and you don't notice it - so what?! You're thinking of making a business out of cupcakes and have spent a day tasting sponge and buttercream and frankly cannot face a mouthful of anything other than tea and toast. Does it really matter?

Naturally it's important to have a balanced diet. Five a day and all of that. But there is eating to live and living to eat and maybe sometimes when we're so busy living that grabbing a bite to keep us going is all we have time for then it is okay to listen to our bodies - our tummies even - and indulge in a little of what we fancy?

Says she, having just enjoyed a delicately flavoured vanilla cupcake with a spoonful of ice cream :-)















Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ticket Fiasco

If you haven't read the last couple of posts, please do.

That's not because I want more hits/followers/readers/whatever. I just want everyone to follow, understand and perhaps even smile or laugh at the ridiculousness of this situation.

We all need to bear in mind the context of course. A planet under threat from climate change, whose citizens are being urged to do all in their power to save energy, reduce their carbon footprint and green up. Who cling to their four wheeled carriages of independence with pride, looking down upon those who believe public transport, those slightly grubby looking vehicles that turn up late, in threes or not at all, are the key to our future and the sustainability of the planet.

I do of course digress.

I make it to Platform 11, throw myself on the Abbey Flyer, get out my yoghurt and banana (this is a train right - surely it is okay to eat here...?) I open up the Metro - how I have missed you - and prepare to enjoy my ten minute journey to Bricket Wood.

A ticket inspector asks to see my ticket. He has a ticket machine - clearly designed for the sale of tickets - around his neck. Oh joy! Hallelujah! Amazing - it is possible to buy your ticket on the train. By my calculation this allows me several minutes of grace at Watford Junction should the 320 arrive slightly later than expected, should there be a queue at the ticket machine, should I find myself unable to rival Usain Bolt's personal best whilst sprinting to Platform 11.

I engage him in conversation. Something he appears not to be comfortable with, his body language suggests he would prefer to be moving on through the train, scanning the tickets of others flying towards the Abbey. I express my delight and appreciation that it is possible to buy a ticket on the train, dreaming of the time saving possibilities this offers.

He crushes my carbon saving dream in an instant. No, madam, you cannot buy a ticket from me.

Unless.

Unless you are boarding at North Watford. Or Garston. And why might that be? Because they do not have ticket barriers.

I explain in a very nice, pleasant, amenable and co-operative sort of way that getting to the Junction for 08.04 is a challenge, and ask him, as if I didn't know, when the next train might be. As expected, because I already know the answer, he tells me it is at 09.01. So if I miss this train, unable to board it because of a bus delay, a queue at the ticket machine, or an inability to run fast enough, I am delayed an hour. Even though I have got up at six am, done half a days work, walked to a bus stop and paid a stupid amount of money to share the bus with others who have chosen, or have no choice and are therefore taking the green route.

I'm not sure I need to say any more. You can probably guess what he said. There is no option, I have to queue and buy a ticket at the junction.

As it happens when I get to Bricket Wood I still have to walk down the road, over a bridge, across the common, along a country lane with no footpath, back into the flooded entrance to the business park.

"How was your journey?"

"Much better. Thank you."

Public Transport Discussion - Part Two

After last week's two and a half hour round trip to Bricket Wood an alternative had to be found. The Abbey Flyer - pictured on the last blog entry - seemed to be a viable alternative. Stopping as it does at Bricket Wood, on the side that isn't by The Black Boy, closer to the business park, I decided this was the way to go...

The Abbey Flyer leaves Watford Junction at 08.04. Arriving at Watford Junction in time to buy a ticket and make your way to Platform 11 - which happens to be a pretty long schlep from the ticket barrier - is another PTC (Public Transport Challenge) to be negotiated. After fruitless searches on my friend Google, calls to Traveline, and a walk to the bus stop to look at the timetables printed in black and white on the inside of the bus shelter, I decide the only viable option is the 320. It doesn't stop at my local stop but that's not an insurmountable problem - it's only a ten to fifteen minute walk away and leaves at 07.27.

So I set the alarm for 06.00. I get up, I shower, wash my hair, put on some make up (would not want to scare the bus passengers...) eat something (remembering yoghurt and bananas are not particularly welcome on Arriva services...) empty and reload the dishwasher, put on a load of washing (all the usual morning stuff) and make a sandwich.

I grab a cereal bar, more yoghurt and fruit, my anorak and a brolly. The walk takes less time than expected and I have ten minutes at the bus stop to check emails and tweet. Cannot resist channelling Sting. "Wet Bus Stop, she's waiting...."

Bus is late. This sentence does not require explanation or expansion, it is a fact and not to be questioned or commented upon. Bus goes round and round the houses, the ring roads, housing estates and the highlands and Loch Lomond - or perhaps I imagined the last bit. At 07.5something I arrive at Watford Junction, leg it to the ticket machine, stress and fuss while someone very slow - probably inexperienced when it comes to these things - negotiates the buttons that lead to the delivery of a ticket to somewhere they will have to take  a replacement bus service to - and finally, eventually, I get my debit card into the machine, key in Bricket Wood, break out in a cold sweat over the cost ( the first half hour's work today will fund my travel ...) and obtain a ticket.

I run to Platform 11 - which seems to be located in Berkhamstead - and throw myself onto the train...

To be continued.....

Public Transport - Discuss


The photo shows the Abbey Flyer. Confessions and apologies - I did not take it, do not own the copyright and should probably take it down if anyone objects...

I've chosen this photo because I have an anecdote to share. It's not particularly exciting or entertaining but it did amuse me - with hindsight. And it has also challenged me to take action to change things so that this ludicrously ridiculous situation no longer exists.

As some of you know I have been doing some freelance writing for our local news magazine. As a youngster (yes - we used that word back in the day...) I longed to be a journalist. I craved a byline the way my peers craved chocolate, chips, or a snog with David Cassidy. Somehow life didn't quite deliver my wishlist and after a spell at Marks and Spencer and the birth of three children I found myself officially too old to train. Since when did thirty become old? I know some (almost) thirty year olds I gave birth to - they are, to coin an old phrase, mere youngsters...

The editor suggested going into the office once a week for a few weeks, to see how I got on. I jumped at this opportunity - believing the magazine office to be at the Croxley Business Park. As I put the phone down I realised the words "Bricket Wood" had come into the conversation. What? How?

Needs must and all of that. After an hour or so in the company of my friend Google I phoned Traveline who assured me Bricketwood is a mere bus ride away from Croxley. The 724 to be precise. I dutifully waited for it, boarded it (ten minutes later than expected) and journeyed to "The Black Boy". The journey itself was a revelation. Heads turned when I brought out my yoghurt and banana - apparently breakfasting on the bus is not as acceptable as it is on the Met Line. (thank goodness I had already applied a full face of make up).

And then - horror of horrors - people started to speak. As in talk to each other. Oh my goodness, no, please no. Not at this time in the morning. Don't they have ipods? Probably not - most of them are over seventy...

The twenty five minute estimated journey time was quite frankly a joke. After an hour or two - after we'd been hit by a lorry and delayed by around 350 sets of traffic lights - I was finally deposited at the Black Boy an hour or so after leaving home.

Now the fun was to begin. Bricketwood is not a small place. The Business Park is not on the same side of it as the Black Boy. Not to worry - I have boots and an anorak, a printout of Googlemaps and a newly acquired Android phone. I begin to walk. Twenty five minutes later after uphill and downhill walks and a particularly hairy stretch along a country lane with no footpath I arrive at the Business Park. I have only to negotiate the short stretch of flooded road, splashed only lightly by those drivers with the luxury of a four wheeled vehicle to themselves, and I am there.

Good morning, and welcome - how was your journey?

to be continued........


Friday, 4 May 2012

Saying Goodbye

Funerals aren't something we look forward to or particularly enjoy. When we describe what a funeral was like don't we often say that it was a lovely service, a fitting tribute, a good way to say goodbye, what they would have wanted? I think most of us would agree they are necessary as without them it is difficult to find that over-used word "closure".

I'd like to put forward the hypothesis that when someone is made redundant a similar rite of passage is necessary. With hindsight it is since the leaving drinks I "enjoyed" with my friends two weeks ago that I have been able to move on from the situation I was in after losing my job.

"Enjoyed" sits within inverted commas since it is hard to use that as the word to describe that evening. It was lovely to see friends old and new, colleagues past and present. (Well as present as they can be when you no longer work with them...) I admit to being tearful, feeling fragile, drinking large amounts of tonic water, wanting the night to end and considering doing a runner.

I stuck it out however and the conversations I had were precious. Some of them will stay with me for a very long time. Above all else they helped me to move on, to let go, to look to the future. The week prior to "the drinks" had been one of angst and anguish, tears and tantrums. I had almost cancelled it, and considered simply not turning up. But you can't have a funeral without a body...

Since that night - and I'd like to reassure everyone I did at the end of it enjoy a glass or two of red with especially close friends who had travelled a very long way to share the evening - things have been "on the up".

After a particularly stressful and soggy session at the Jobcentre I was redirected to a warm and sympathetic advisor who understands and "gets" me. It looks like the government (God bless'em) will pay for me to get the Prince2 Project Management certification, and can also offer me some advice on setting up a small (cupcake?) business.

This week I have worked 16 hours - declared on a Form B7 so I lose my JSA - at a rate I would have laughed at six months ago. Somehow that doesn't matter, just being in work does so much for your self esteem and bolsters your confidence. Once upon a long time ago I desperately wanted to be a journalist but was told I was too old to train. Here I am working as a reporter! This week I have written about a swimathon, a marathon, a skydive, a litter pick, a football team, someone living below the line, a flower festival, an x factor contestant and - favourite story of all - three hives of honey bees buzzing away on the local business park.

I've baked for kids with chickenpox, incredibly brave women who're battling cancer, people celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and for my family. I've walked miles, gained a better understanding of the bus timetables in South West Hertfordshire, spoken to any number of random people and feel fitter and slimmer than I have for ten years!

I've allowed my body clock to have its way - enjoying the peace and quiet in the house late at night and waking naturally at 7.30am rather than with the shriek of the alarm an hour beforehand. I haven't missed the Jubilee Line even one teensy little bit.

But - can you feel the but? I miss my friends and colleagues, the work that I used to do. The pride in working for an agency that does such amazingly good work, the buzz of being in the greatest city on earth on a daily basis.

Maybe one day I'll be back. For now I'm grateful that saying goodbye was such a positive experience. Thanks for reading this far - here's a cupcake treat for you...


Linda xxx



Tuesday, 1 May 2012

One month on


It's exactly one month today since I lost my job. Those of you who need to know will already understand what happened. The rest of  you probably only need to know that my contract ended at the same time as a big restructure and somehow I found myself "let go" (to use the technical term...)

Life since that time has been a roller coaster. Not a day has gone past when I haven't thought of blogging, when I haven't thought that writing it all down might really help. I've hesitated for the reasons given on the last post - in spite of all that has happened I believe passionately in the organisation I used to work for, they do a fantastic job and I will always support them. For these reasons and more I am nervous about baring more than my friends need to see, that might damage our friendship or their view of me.

Moving swiftly to today I can see how far I've come. There's not a lot I don't know about cupcakes and even looking back at photos from the beginning of this year I am impressed with those I made earlier today (see image).

I had thought of doing some kind of college course, of upskilling ready for the next step up the career ladder. I checked out courses in cake decoration and decided that being the sort of person I am I could spend the £300 or so it would cost me on equipment instead and teach myself by watching videos on YouTube while messing about in my kitchen - proving very successful so far!

Making cupcakes yourself from home is unlikely ever to make you a huge fortune. However I'm sure it's possible to expand and make some money if you have an astute business brain. Maybe that is something for my wish list.

Linda xxx

Why haven't I blogged for a while?

Oh heck, not blogged for a while, decided I really need to get back into it and ... look what has happened. Well actually you probably can't see what I can see, as I am in what I believe is known as the back end of blogger. The place with the WYSIWIG editor where you - or I - type your rambling thoughts before hitting the button that sends them into cyberspace.

Not blogging doesn't mean I don't want to blog or don't think about it every day - so what is it that stops me, that accounts for the long silence?

Maybe there is nothing other than laziness? The inability to focus and write rather than faff on facebook or mess around on twitter? Possibly, but I'm not sure that is it as there seems to be a bigger reason...

... from my very first post I've hinted that I struggle with the soul baring aspect of a blog. At the same time I find it hard to see any real purpose in a personal diary or journal - though I appreciate others do. So if I am going to  chronicle life as I see it here is the place.

The real reason why I blog less often is, I believe, because of the likely subject matter these days. During my scoliosis surgery it was pretty straightforward - if almost impossible - to enter something every day relating to the operating room, intensive care, recovery, drugs, pain, physio etc etc etc...

The redundancy issue makes scoliosis surgery look like a walk in the park. Ironic really since someone said to me that scoliosis surgery made open heart surgery look like that very same walk. I'm not saying it is harder to deal with redundancy than scoliosis surgery of course. But I am saying it is harder to write about it. For starters you don't want to be bad mouthing the organisation you used to love and love working for.

More than that however - the soul searching process you go through is so painful and personal that a blog somehow doesn't feel like quite the right place for it. Give it a few weeks - or in my case one month today - and you gain a sense of perspective which helps you express what needs to be said in a way that is fair and helpful.

I'll unpack this more in another post, thanks for reading this far x

































































Thursday, 12 April 2012

A really positive day

Days like today are rare, special, and to be savoured. They can occur out of the blue, or they can be the culmination of days, weeks, months even, of hope, prayer, anticipation and bl**dy hard work...

The key to what makes them so special has to be, in my humble opinion, the degree of encouragement they bring to our life. Which has made me consider again what it is that we need for life to be happy, enjoyable, positive, fulfilling. Encouragement has to be up there with love as one of the key things we as human beings need to survive and thrive. For without it, if we feel that our contribution to life and the world is insignificant, unwanted or unacceptable, we can so easily believe the lie that our existence is futile and of no worth. But just think for a moment of the difference it makes to receive a "well done", a "congratulations", a pat on the back or a job offer - and you will perhaps understand what it is I am trying to say.

Redundancy - for whatever reason - is a massive kick in the teeth/wherever. Even if it's to be explained away by the end of a contract a little bit of you will always think "if they really wanted me they could have...." It's so easy to waste time going over conversations, projects, meetings and emails - trying to work out what went wrong or why you were "let go". How do you hang on to any semblance of self confidence when the stark message you've been given is "we don't need you"?

Subsequent job applications, interviews, callbacks and rejections can sap your confidence even further. The "ideal" looking job that a dozen friends send to you - only for you to have to reply that yes, you have seen it and yes, you applied, only for you to have been told that they will not be taking your application any further. The hours spent on competency based applications, hopes raised as you realise how well suited you are, before the email to tell you that others matched the criteria better than you did. the numerous CVs sent off to be surveyed by panels who don't know you as a person, the sum total of their knowledge of you being a series of bullet points listing your key achievements.

And then today - you get a call. Out of the blue, unexpected. In fact you suspect it is to tell you to stop hassling them as there are no openings. But instead it's to say they they would like to offer you an opportunity. One day a week, and just for a month. But finally a chance to prove yourself and show what you can do.

And all of this has happened on the day when you decide that maybe you need to go it alone and start building a website, a business, a way of earning some cash doing what you do best. And in the same week as another two or three conversations have led you to think that there might possibly be openings out there...

Ups and downs, a rollercoaster ride, onwards and upwards. I read recently that cures for stress are a waste of time - life is stressful (and perhaps we should get over it!) Maybe the key is to relax into it all, trust that what will be - will. And enjoy every moment, as life's too short and would we really want it any other way?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Getting Better

After weeks of talking about it perhaps the time has come to test the crazy cupcake dream out properly.

I spent some serious time last weekend costing the basic ingredients. Sat on the deck in this glorious spring sunshine I compared the price of basic, own brand, branded and luxury flours, fats, sugars and eggs. I then calculated the cost per batch of cakes, chose a few classic flavours and ordered the ingredients and equipment required. Nothing like getting stuck in and seeing just how many cupcakes can be made in a day, how exhausting/stressful/exciting/much fun it can be. And then of course establishing if anyone wants to eat or better still buy some.

Leaving work tomorrow gives me the ideal opportunity to test things out. 6 boxes of cakes as a gift to colleagues and friends. Four batches - vanilla, fresh lemon, chocolate orange and red velvet. Baked to perfection in 38mm tall funky greaseproof cases, supported in brand new deep muffin tins.

Baking the cakes was the delightful bit - as the ingredients blended together and the cakes magically rose in the heat of my recently repaired rangemaster. The aroma of fresh baking drew Ian in from his studio, but of course they were not yet iced - that was this afternoon's task.

And that was when the "fun" started. No problem with the basic buttercream - in spite of the hand whisk having died last weekend. But the chocolate ganache set so hard it blocked the Wilton #1 nozzle I had finally sourced. Let's just say it's no longer a standard #1. Messing around with colours, cream cheese, more chocolate frosting and still no hand whisk made for an afternoon of hot water, washing up, throwing away endless disposable piping bags and wondering why I ever thought this was a good idea.

But once they were iced, and finished with edible glitter, wafer flowers and other assorted delights - wow! They started to look very good. Definitely getting better at this and beginning to believe there may be a market out there for them.

What do you think?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Bit of a boast

The Perfect Cupcake


Not so much a blog post today - more a blog boast ;-)


I wouldn't dream of saying so myself, but who am I to doubt Dave's comment last night that these cupcakes are perfect? That not only is the icing good (top priority till you reach a certain age surely?) but the actual cake is moist and flavoursome?


High praise indeed and felt worthy of it's own little post and pic. Taking a batch into the office later today so let's see what my wonderful colleagues have to say!

Workwise - just a week to go now. So much lined up in the next few months that even if a job were to appear through the clouds and land in my lap I suspect September would be the earliest I could start. Looking forward to volunteering at Spring Harvest (yes - Butlins here I come!) for Christian Aid the week before Easter. Then at the Olympics, and later in the summer at Greenbelt. Taking on a regional rep role with SAUK, perhaps some office/project work with them too. Writing for the local MyNews magazine and, of course, baking! More about that later - for now off to the office with that batch of chocolate chip and orange perfection ;-)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Another world

This blog post has been bugging me since I started it at about 8am this morning. "Started" being a fairly loose definition since what I actually did was upload this photo before heading into a day of cupcake research, scarf and blanket making, and the creation of two beautiful (yes, I said it myself) small boxes that will form part of tomorrow's gift offering...

The photo is of the first ever piece of quilting to bear my name. Literally in this case as having sewn it in full view of a not insubstantial crowd at the Craft and Stitch show yesterday I was encouraged to sign my name with a fabric pen and then offer it as a contribution to a (very large) quilt that is to be given to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee. Judging by the number of squares being produced I suspect it will hang on a wall somewhere in Buckingham Palace, rather than being something she snuggles under while watching Corrie, but even so I confess to feeling a bit teary at the thought of this beautiful gift for an elderly lady who has served her job, and her country, well for sixty years. (For reference that is also my response to friends who question my politics...it's about the person not the position)

And the blog title - the only other thing uploaded this morning - refers to the Craft and Stitch show itself. Yesterday's visit was my first, at the invitation of my mum and her delightful friend. Those who know me will of course be familiar with my forays into card making, scrapbooking and knitting, even if the latter consists mostly of a production line of knit one purl one scarves. I thought I knew about crafting and stitching, and that the show would have a ring of the deja vu if not been there done that-edness about it. Let me tell you - I was so wrong.

Ladies - and gentlemen - this is another world. A world of knitting yes, of card making and cross stitch of course. But also of quilting that has produced works of art to rival those in the Tate, of decopatch and decoupage, of beads and banners, shiny sparkly things and wool so light and soft it could only have been produced by a herd of alpaca lovingly looked after in Cambridgeshire...

It would be oh so easy to be cynical or sceptical, to dismiss all of this as tools - or toys - for those who have nothing to do but lunch and leisure. As one of the stallholders said to me "I get to play all day - and it is wonderful". So tempting to turn one's nose up ever so slightly and retreat to the "real" world of the office, of sitting in front of a screen, checking emails, attending meetings, printing papers, reading reports, grabbing overpriced coffee and sandwiches, spending up to three hours - or more - crammed on the tube, eating dinner then collapsing exhausted into bed ready to start all over again tomorrow.

Of course the pay off for such a life - literally - is the cheque at the end of the month. But redundancy has a funny way of forcing you to reflect - after the shock, denial, guilt and anger have diminished - and it is possible to begin to view such a life as the one W.H.Davies was describing when he wrote, "A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare."

No easy answers tonight. I'm definitely not criticising or standing in judgement on anyone whether they choose to work in the home, the office, some other workplace or not at all. It's not for me to judge and I know from experience on Twitter this week that taking a controversial stance can lead to abuse I neither want or need over this subject which I am still thinking through.

In some ways this blog is like a diary, but as I recently said to someone who keeps their own handwritten journals, I do not live with the fear of it being found and read - it's already out there. It's also useful writing "practice" and for someone who wants to Write. Bake. Create. it is probably a necessity. In some ways Friday's revelation filled in the final point of the triangle - I have no doubt of my need to write, ability to bake and desire to create. But as I mentioned in passing I have actually put the "c" word into practice today in the making of the decopatch boxes and crazy embellished scarf.

More photos to follow, along with exciting news of publication of my first piece in local news magazine. Please comment - love to hear your views!




Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Write. Bake. Create.

I hesitated before writing that subject line. Wondering if perhaps I should first copyright it. Someone said to me today that it would be a great name for "my business" and I've been holding that thought ever since.

Reason I came up with it? That same person (you know who you are - thanks!) asked me a couple of questions about what I want to do in my working life and what I need to learn from this situation. In the midst of the stuff about flexibility, working from home, being my own boss, managing staff; and alongside the angst about whether I am actually not very good, or not as good as people kindly tell me I am, not as good as I was led to believe, or not as good as I had managed to convince myself I might be during those long months of rehab, three little words found their way onto the virtual paper. Write. Bake. Create.

I used to think I enjoyed writing. More recently it's become what I do and I've come to realise that a lot of the time the enjoyment comes only after its finished. There's something in the challenge, as you craft random thoughts into sentences and paragraphs, build a description, an argument, a report, that is akin to excitment - perhaps even enjoyment. But wrestling restrictive wordcounts, phrasing things in a way that will engage and hold the readers interest, making them smile, or respond in some other way, then releasing something so personal into the ether for others to catch and comment upon is a scary risky business and "enjoy" isn't necessarily the best word to describe it. But if it's what you do - who you are even - then you have no choice as if the words don't find their way out they continue spinning round and round in your head, begging to be listened to...

Baking is something else. Sieving flour, creaming butter and sugar, whisking eggs and releasing the essence of pure vanilla into the feather light misture is pure joy. Spooning the resulting mixture into beautifully crafted cupcake cases and then watching as, in the heat of the rangemaster, it rises into perfect peaks of soft sponge is like watching a miracle occur before your very eyes! And then the opportunity to unleash your creativity in decorating them with soft fondant, fresh buttercream and frosting - what's not to love?

When it comes to how to earn a living yet another idea is bubbling and brewing away. Something to combine blogging, books and baking in a cauldron of creativity - watch this space!

photo: victoria sponge baked by Sarah Anderson - must be in the genes ;-)




Monday, 5 March 2012

Busy busy...

Mmmmmm.... cupcakes! Most of you who read this blog know how I love to bake, and some of you may have been one of those friends who've suggested I might sell them. If that is you then thank you - you are way too kind.

Time off this week is perhaps a taster of what it will be like to have no permanent job to get up for in a few weeks time, and therefore also an opportunity to explore a few possibilities. One of them being to take the advice of Woman and Home magazine (ouch - that still hurts) and think about things I enjoy doing, that I'm passionate about, that I'm good at.

So today I've been thinking, amongst other things, about cupcakes. I've even gone so far as to create a website from which I could advertise and sell them. And a facebook page to use for marketing - heck tomorrow there will probably be a twitter account. croxleycupcakes ;-)

If nothing else I've improved my website building skills, and whilst online I've also explored how to self publish an ebook - lulu looks like the way. (I thought she was a 60's singer who famously appeared on a Take That song but seems she has other talents...)

Neither of these ventures are going to make me a fortune - well they might but I'm not banking on it. But if something along these lines were to succeed in bringing in enough cash to live on, at the same time allowing me more time for the other avenues I want to explore then that could be a good thing.

I've not yet spoken to one person who regrets being made redundant. Maybe that says a lot - many friends and colleagues who used the experience to take risks, explore opportunities, dare I say it have some fun and kick back a little.

And possibly eat cupcakes?


Sunday, 4 March 2012

Change

Unusually I have started writing this post with neither a title nor a photo in place.* If truth be told I'm not really in a blogging mood - if there is such a thing. But having said I'd blog more often I feel I ought to do just that so here we are.

Not altogether sure what we're going to be sharing either - on the one hand my head's full of the usual myriad of ideas/stories/subjects/sentences. On the other I've nothing to say. Maybe today's one of those days when you just open the laptop, launch the browser, log into blogger and allow your fingers to wander over the keys, watching the screen to see what words appear and whether they in any way connect with what may or may not be going on in your head?

This weekend I attended the funeral of a very good friend's father. My heart goes out to the whole family but the service was lovely and a celebration of a long life very well lived which I hope brings comfort to them and his many friends. One thing that the priest said, seemed to say often in fact, was we must make the most of every day, spend time with our loved ones, go for it and have no regrets. That last bit may be my own addition but it's often been said that we regret the things we don't do far more than those that we do.

These words and that thought resonate with the experience of the last few weeks and bring a fresh sense of opportunity to my current situation. Perhaps too it wasn't a coincidence that Woman and Home magazine (contemplating deleting that -surely evidence of middle age? what happened to the Cosmo subscription?!) ran an article this month on the opportunities redundancy can offer, and how to earn money from your talents and be paid to do something you really enjoy. A Twitter friend said much the same to me this morning. Perhaps a lump sum that allows you to take time out from paid employment is in fact a God-given opportunity to breath, to wait, and to see what the next chapter might look like.

But but but but but - I have at least four job applications pending now. What happens if one of them leads to a job offer, to a return to full time paid employment and commuting? What if there is no time to stop and wait and breathe? Will the recognition that taking time out to do that might be a good thing be enough? Would it be foolish to turn down the offer of a job that would offer financial security? How do you discern the right thing to do when at every turn you can see signs and reasons and opportunities and openings?

This isn't what I thought this post would be about - but then again if you don't know what you're going to write about what can you expect? Time now to think of a title and find a photo ;-)

* the title and photo came to me after I finished writing - photo taken in Barry yesterday morning, and yes - that is Ness's slots ;-)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Everything changes...

Anyone else noted how I love to title my blog with a lyric or three from Take That? Not always a conscious decision if I am honest, maybe their lyrics have an uncanny knack of capturing the zeitgeist, perhaps they are drilled into my subconscious, maybe it's nothing more than chance that means my blog posts begin with words from the greatest band in the history of the world (discuss...)

Meanwhile, to change. Apologies for lack of posts recently - have been totally taken up with job applications. Completing forms, attending interviews, coping with rejection, feedback, disappointment. It's been hideous and I am not yet ready to blog the detail, I need to find a way of expressing the learning and understanding of how it is to feel hurt and rejected without sounding negative, critical, harsh or unreasonable.

What I would like to place on record is the sense of freedom and liberation there is to be found if you can move beyond the disappointment, rejection, hurt and anger. I'm not saying that all is well - put it this way I am still thanking God for waterproof mascara. But I am beginning to see the openings and possibilities, one of which was the agreement today that I will write for our local news magazine on a monthly basis. This possibly and perhaps makes me almost a journalist - woo hoo ;-)

Money - lack of it - is clearly going to be an object. Massively. I've yet to see how we'll manage with that one but know many who do. Increasingly "Less is More" is the refrain in my brain and I'm excited to see how this works out in practice.

I'm planning to blog more and would value your comments and feedback, feels like there is a lot to learn and looking forward to it.... x

Friday, 13 January 2012

We want the same thing

What the hell is wrong with you tonight?
I can't seem to say or do the right thing
Wanted to be sure you're feeling right
Wanted to be sure we want the same thing

Anyone remember those inimitable words from the legend that was Joe Jackson? Meant a lot to me as a teen/twenty something, and I was reminded of them this morning.

I was privileged to attend the memorial service for John Stott at St Paul's Cathedral this morning. Tube delays meant I was rushing to the cathedral through the Occupy LSX camp ten minutes before the service was due to start, but even in my panic I found myself looking at the tents and thinking "What would Uncle John make of all this?"

The service was outstanding in every aspect. Archbishops of York and Canterbury were joined by Bishops of London and elsewhere. Music from the All Souls orchestra and choir literally sent shivers down even this fused and fragile spine. As they rounded off the service with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance you could almost feel Uncle John looking down with a wry smile at his choice of final music - and the impromptu and rapturous applause confirmed the congregation's approval.

When Mark Greene from LICC spoke he began with a reference to the camp outside, asking the question "What would Uncle John make of it all?" I agreed with all he had to say, but also had an overwhelming feeling that it would be totally wrong to come to St Paul's (a very special place for me throughout my life), attend the service and walk away. Touched by the music, prayers and tributes but not by the reality that is the Occupy camp.

How to engage with the movement didn't really cross my mind other than it was an imperative. I left the cathedral in search of caffeine and having heard that many of the protesters frequent Starbucks headed in that direction. Passing the library tent I stopped briefly to say hello to the young woman sitting on a stool there - introducing myself as from Christian Aid and mentioning that only this week I wrote to about 4500 church ministers with an update on our response to the Occupy movement.

Immediately she asked someone to cover her position and suggested we go on a tour of the camp. We chatted for probably an hour - during which I was given a steaming mug of tea from the well organised kitchen, and made comfortable in the welfare tent (pictured).

There isn't time or space to document our conversation here. But I understand better her vision of an alternative and equitable society, and her frustration at trying to change things from within that has led to her anarchist beliefs. She was interested in Christian Aid's new strategy which will focus on addressing power imbalance as a major cause of poverty. We talked about literature from Lord of the Flies to Brave New World and laughed over similarities with The Borrowers. We agreed on recycling and freecycling, on the hideousness of a disposable throwaway culture, and debated the welfare state, education and healthcare, and who exactly is the "they" that this movement is railing against.

Within the space of three or four hours I had experienced two deeply spiritual experiences. Both of them left me with plenty of food for thought and writing so expect to see more on here in the coming days. As ever thanks for reading - it's such a privilege to have this blog from which to throw a few thoughts into cyberspace and I never cease to be amazed at how many of you take a look - thank you!