My Cheating Heart -The Third in my Mini Blog Series on ‘Buying Nothing New’

I’m about to make a confession, although not that I’ve taken up Country Music!  When I decided in January that I wasn’t going to buy anything new this year, I didn’t kid myself it would be easy.  I did however believe that I would manage without too much trouble, after all I’m not a shopaholic, I mean I don’t even live close to any shops. It turns out my view was naïve to say the least.

Take birthdays.  I hadn’t thought about them.  Whilst I might be happy not to have a new gift for my birthday, my family and friends might not feel the same.  Is it fair to make them abide by my ‘nothing new’ rules?  Generally I make things for my parents; they’re at an age where they don’t want anything new and always tell my sister and I not to bother with presents.  We do of course, but usually something comestible: cake, sweets, chocolates, or meals out.  What about cards though?  I’m happy to make cards, and most people are happy to receive a handmade creation.  Most people, except my dad, who sees them as a sign of ‘cheapness’.  My partners mother was a bit like that too when she was alive, as if spending time making something didn’t show you cared as much as buying a mass-produced card-confection.  Perhaps they’re not the only ones.

As you know if you’ve been following me, I’ve already excluded the wedding, and now it seems my heart, or my brain, is trying to bargain more exclusions. I’m planning to start swimming again after an absence for health reasons.  My costume is wearing thin and decency demands I get a replacement.  Making one is not within my skill set, so my only option is to buy one.  The idea of buying a second hand one didn’t do much for me, but the idea of breaking my ‘vow’ seemed a lot worse.  So, eventually I packed up my pride and bought a second hand costume. I mean we all have washing machines right?  I was pleasantly surprised.

So, anyway, you can see my tricksy heart is looking for ways to circumvent my good intentions. I’m onwards into month 4.  Any suggestions gratefully received.


Outdoor Girl


Watership Down 58 miles from London
Findhorn 600 miles from London

I was born and raised in the suburbs of London.  It was Surrey then and is South West London now, less than a dozen miles from the city centre.  We lived on a busy main road in Park Villas, salubriously titled in honour of the local authority recreation ground which our long skinny garden backed on to, and which we called ‘the rec’.

As kids we spent hours in the rec, playing in the playground, kicking a ball about, playing mini golf or messing about with a racket and variously annoying the park keeper. If we weren’t in the rec, we were in the garden, playing with the animals, in the Wendy house, on the swing, or when we were older, doing a bit of pretend gardening.

Most of my childhood memories are outdoors: we’d cycled to Richmond Park as a family, and when I was older I cycled there with friends. We got 2 buses to the outdoor pool in Richmond in the summer, completely unsupervised. We played pitch and putt on summer evenings and went to the coast – Angmering-on-Sea, Littlehampton, Bournemouth – on summer weekends. We picked blackberries in the late summer and early autumn. We walked, cycled and swam in the open. Sitting indoors was reserved for winter and really wet days.  TV was an evening only activity, and restricted at that.

So, a city girl living in the far north of Scotland is more at home than you might think. I enjoy being close to nature and the seasons.  Living on a farm means time passes by the things that happen outside: ploughing, planting, lambing, hay-making, harvesting; passing the year through nature’s rhythms.

Life is less frenetic here.  It’s easier to take time to walk, to chat to people.  A lot of children walk to school, and get the opportunity to play outside, although I suspect far less than did a few decades ago.  Nowhere, however remote, is immune from the spread of technology in day-to-day life: the phones, games, pads, music, laptops and Macs.  The gadgets that keep kids, and adults too, locked indoors in bedrooms and lounges across the country.  Electro tech’ that’s deemed so vital, yet keeps a generation of children from accessing what really is vital – a connection to nature; enjoying the great outdoors.

We can’t go back in time to those halcyon days, which we remember as more idyllic than they probably were, but we can teach our children and grandchildren that there is joy to be found in fresh air and countryside by encouraging them to engage in outdoor activity from an early age. Being stuck indoors with a piece of tech should be the less interesting option.  I’m not demonising technology, simply suggesting that children need to reconnect to with the natural world.  We need a generation of caretakers for the earth, and sitting inside watching nature programmes is less likely to spawn one than being outside connecting with nature.

My life-long love of the natural world was kindled by being outdoors, by bringing all sorts of creatures home – rabbits, birds, tortoise, cats, fish, crabs – strays of all descriptions.  My tolerant parents encouraged me to be outside if I was moping about and that always energised me in ways I didn’t understand.  This still holds true today.  A brisk walk, a stroll along the beach, a short run, they all blow the metaphorical cobwebs away and re-charge us in inexplicable ways.

I’m lucky to have arguably the greatest outdoor destination in the country on my doorstep, but whether you’re in the city or another part of the country you’re never far from somewhere outdoors where you can rejuvenate your spirit.  Make being outside a part of your week and I promise you’ll feel better.

Guilty by Association

Is it just me, or do other people feel frequently guilty?  I’m not sure if there’s some innate fault-line in my psyche that guilt bubbles out of when bad things are going on, or whether there’s something more prosaic happening.  Even though it’s rarely me at fault, I feel the hot-faced shame nonetheless. Today is a classic example. I was driving merrily along, abiding the speed limit in my insured, MOT’d – and for a change clean – car, when a police car pulled up close behind me with blues on.  I panicked: what have I done? Is something wrong with the car? Where can I pull in? A rush of thoughts pinging about my head. The police car has already passed; overtaken and rushed on to whatever emergency was occupying him.  It’s not the only time that’s happened.  About a year ago I was pootling down the road minding my own business when a police car with blues on raced up behind me.  I was convinced he was trying to pull me over.  He sat on my tail as I looked for a place to pull in, feeling more terrible by the minute.  Eventually, I pulled into a junction.  Woosh!  He was gone like a rocket.  Breathe.  It’s OK.

I don’t suffer from anxiety as a rule, but if there’s a commotion going on somewhere it always troubles me: when the alarm goes off at the supermarket door, and I know I’ve not stolen anything, I feel guilty; when I’m walking through security at the airport and there’s nothing dodgy in my case, I go hot with embarrassment, worried I’ll be rumbled. What?!  You don’t have anything to hide.  You haven’t done anything wrong!

As a ‘mostly vegetarian’ I  eat  a lot of sulphurous vegetables and wind inducing pulses.  Flatulence is almost guaranteed.  My father has a delightful expression: ‘wherever you be let you wind go free’ which allows him to fart(I refuse to use the ‘T’ word) with impunity as far as he’s concerned.  I’ve never been quite so free-spirited and certainly not in public, but whenever there’s a public incident where something malodorous is involved, I will be the guilty looking party, whilst whoever the real culprit is gets off scot free.  I get the hard stares, the people moving away.  Honestly, it wasn’t me.  I don’t dare protest innocence. In all circumstances this confirms guilt. I smile and blush vividly, embarrassed for the person who has no such emotion.  Not that they should be embarrassed.  And neither should I!

I’m sure the psychologists among you will have a field day.  In the meantime, let me say simply, even if I look guilty, and lights and bells are going off around me, the likelihood is -it wasn’t me!  Honestly.