IT’S A HANDBAG JIM BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT!!!!

Dear friends. I have just emptied my handbag onto the kitchen table, as quite frankly the daily rummage for my car keys was getting beyond a joke and sadly the realisation has dawned that one of my youthful aspirations will never be achieved. So, I have looked deep into my own eyes in the mirror and told myself, gently but firmly, to just let it go, to free myself of an unrealistic goal and to never again be burdened by the gnawing and psychologically damaging effects of guilt. Today I allowed myself to confront the full horror of my handbag’s contents, acknowledge that it will never, ever be power woman tidy and that it is, in fact, ok not to be perfect. To be honest, the fact that it looks like an exhibit for the Turner Prize is actually quite satisfying, as the more I look at it, the more I realise that this mad pile of stuff is my reality, an honest reflection of who I am, a little snapshot of my life.

So let’s start at the beginning. Throat sweets, 3 varieties of, in ripped bags. Yes I had a sore throat this week and I am happy to report that the Jakemans of Boston, Original and Famous Throat and Chest Soothing Menthol Sweets, tasted very much like Sambucca. However, it’s the ripped bags that say more about me than the throat sweets. Not for me, a carefully opened bag, nicely folded and secured tidily. Oh no, these bags are ripped open by a woman with no patience, who holds no truck in finding a pair of scissors, which if she had, would have prevented the bag from splitting straight down the middle. Why I’m trying to keep the sweets in the ripped bag is a complete mystery because most of them are lying in a sticky heap amongst the other bottom-of-handbag detritus. My packet of Ibuprofen is similarly distressed, not for me a neat, un-squashed packet that other women seem to have, along with tissues, nail files, handbag-sized umbrellas, neatly folded shopping bags and other useful, womanly things. I’m trying hard not to be bitter.

Then there’s the lipstick, five of the same type, in a safe, natural pearl, plus one slightly off-piste racy red. I think I put the red one on once, then promptly calmed it down with the pearl, complete coward that I am. There were also two lip glosses, obviously  in case the other six got mislaid, as well as a three year old concealer. I think my game plan here, was to have one lipstick in an evening bag, one in the car, one in my handbag and one spare but somehow eight lippies seemed to have found their way into the same place. How? I have no idea. It breaks my heart really, as I do try.

I also have two notebooks, one with a lovely William Morris pattern, bought as a present from a dear friend. There were three. No idea what happened to the other two. Sadly there’s not much of interest in it. And then there’s a little battered one I bought in Ibiza, a replacement for the Spider-Man one I initially bought which turned out to be full of graph paper. Why any child would want a Spider-Man notebook full of graph paper on holiday, I have no idea, but it’s probably not as strange as a grown woman buying a Spider-Man notebook in the first place. If you must know, it was the only one the shop had. To go along with the notebooks, I have three pens, a blunt pencil, two pink golf tees, one broken golf tee, three 5p coins and a golf ball marker.

The toothbrush, still in it’s packet is from a vending machine at a Premier Inn, remnants of a weekend away. You actually get two, plus toothpaste for your 2.50 and this is the spare, which will now, no doubt, sit in the bathroom cupboard for the next three years along with the other might-come-in useful mini shampoos, shower caps and body lotions. There’s a bracelet, a little bit of sunshine and sparkle,  bought at The Hippy Market in Ibiza and there’s normal stuff like hairbrushes, hair bands, keys, reading glasses (sadly), sunglasses, a calculator and perfume, aptly titled Flowerbomb.

The garden vouchers, however, are looking at me accusingly, as my August birthday present from my Dad is supposed to have been spent on bulbs which should, by now, have been planted and snuggled up cosily underground before the frosts come, ready to remind me of me old Dad when they appear with a glorious hurrah in the Spring. I meant to plant some last year too. As usual, the best laid plans and all that, mañana mañana. Guilt, guilt and more guilt.

When I’ve finished writing this, I will tidy my bag. I’ll throw out the receipts and the sticky sweets, put the various bits and pieces where they’re supposed to be and move the garden vouchers to my car, which will hopefully remind me to buy the bulbs tomorrow. And for a short time my handbag will be clutter free and compartmentalised. I know it won’t last though. Next week it will be back to normal but hopefully full of new stuff, new stories and probably several lipsticks. Because, quite frankly, if a woman’s handbag is supposed to be a reflection of her life, I now realise that I  wouldn’t actually want it any other way.

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Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfullness

If I’m honest, after two years studying A level English Literature in sixth form, very few quotes stick in my mind. I remember sobbing down the phone to my friend Mandy at the injustice dished out,(by men of course) to poor Tess D’urberville,  and having King Leah’s ‘How sharper than a serpents tooth it is to have a thankless child’ quoted back at me by my dad, (pretty impressive for a copper from the East End of London) but Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Heart of Midlothian’ with its Scots dialect might as well have been Chinese to a 17 year old in a rural Cotswold comprehensive. If I’m right and I’m probably wrong, I vaguely remember that Jeannie walked from Edinburgh to London in bare feet.  Sadly that’s all I remember, sorry Sir Walter, I’m sure if I read it now, having lived in Scotland for twenty three years, I might now have half a chance. Milton’s Paradise Lost was, at the time equally tedious. The only paradise being lost as far as I was concerned was in my precious teenage socialising time.

But reassuringly there are a few quotes that I do remember. Shakespeare’s King Leah’s ‘Nothing comes of Nothing’ has been thrown out into the ether a few times when I’m on my parental high horse and Jane Austen’s ‘There are certainly not so many men of good fortune in the world as there are pretty women to derserve them.’  and  ‘ A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of’ are also favoritesShallow, I know, but it will always have a special place in mine and my pal Mandy’s heart. If I remember rightly, at the time I also had an unhealthy teenage crush on a portrait of Lord Byron, a bit weird, I know, having a crush on a poet who’d been dead for 150 years but that’s what unruly hormones can do to a woman. Encouragingly though for my ever hopeful English teacher, I was inspired by one quote, a quote that has stayed with me over the years, the first line of John Keats poem Ode to Autumn.

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun’

And such has been the glory of this Autumn in the Highlands of Scotland, I’ve been inspired  to revisit the poem and in honour ofJohn Keats re read the whole thing. For this Autumn has been mellow in every sense of the word as high pressure, sunshine and stillness, sadly absent from Scotland during the summer months, has settled upon us and soothed away the hurt of daily weather forecasts of grey, wind and 12 degrees. As a child of the rolling Cotswold countryside, I have always loved autumn, a time of harvests, mists, berries and dewy spider webs and if I’m honest I have never felt it to be quite the same living beside the sea in the North of Scotland. This Autumn, however, has proved me wrong and I cannot tell you how many times I have stood  staring out of the window in complete awe of the beauty of our planet. The stillness and low sun has brought out an intensity of colour that is truly magnificent and day after day we’ve been royally treated to morning skies of pink and gentle mists rolling along the Moray Firth. The evening skies have also been spectacular; pinks and blues sometimes tinged with gold as the sun sets over the hills to the west. And as if Mother Nature has felt that she couldn’t  repay us enough for the rubbish summer, she’s thrown in flocks of geese, flocks (or bevy) of low flying swans and jumping dolphins, all merely the warm up acts for her piece de resistance, beautiful starry skies and The Northern Lights. Glorious.

So glorious has it been that I set out for a walk early this morning before the light frost disappeared and as I walked down the road toward the beach, a deer stepped out in front of me, calmly stopped, looked me in the eye and then gracefully disappeared into the bushes. Even the deer was mellow. The beach was deliciously empty apart from the sea birds and instead of walking at my usual pace I decided to follow the lead of the deer and be mellow too. Interestingly, at this point, my phone decided that it too wanted to be mellow and shut itself down for no apparent reason. As a consequence, I was treated to a feast of beauty that I would not usually appreciate. Have you ever looked at a lobster trap close up as it really is a work of art? Even the seagulls, the bane of our wee Highland toon were majestic as they rose in a silvery flock against the intensity of the blue sky.

John Keats wrote his poem Ode to Autumn in September 1819 after being inspired by the glow of the sun on a stubble field. He wrote to his friend  ‘How beautiful the season is now. How fine the air – a temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather. Dian skies. I never liked stubble fields so much as now..’

Dian translated from the French means divine, and even if you have no faith, this autumnal feast of Dian beauty has inspired many. The Nairn Facebook Page Nairn Rocks has been brimming with photos of sunsets, sunrises, Northern Lights and blue seas, the love it or loathe it modern way of sharing good things with each other and more importantly appreciating what we have on our doorstep. If John Keats were here now, I’m  sure he could have put it all into words. Sadly I am unable to match his poetic prowess. I would like to think, however, that he’s currently looking down and smiling, content in the knowledge that a wee girl of average intelligence in a small town comprehensive, was inspired enough by the beauty of his work  to remember a line from one of his poems and finally learn to appreciate him thirty years on.

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John Keats 1795 -1821

DO YOU REALLY LIKE IT? WE’RE LOVIN IT, LOVIN IT, LOVIN IT…..

When one of your kids utters those immortal lines, “for God’s sake Mum, you’re so embarrassing, you’re not 15!”,  you just know you’ve had a really good time and as I reflect on the night that the gorgeous Mrs W introduced me to Dubsmash, it still makes me laugh. Quite honestly ladies, this phenomenon should be prescribed on the NHS. It should be a part of every girls night out or even better, a spontaneous girls night in fueled, of course, by a  sip or two of Prosecco.

For those of  you unfortunate enough not to have discovered  it yet, obviously because “you are far too old“, Dubsmash is the app that brings the age old art of  miming with a hairbrush in the bedroom mirror straight into the 21st century. What’s fab about it is you can mime by yourself and annoy your friends,( my little sister thinks I’m funny), or what is much more fun is to gather some pals, then record, trash, re-record, trash, re-record etc etc to your hearts content  until something resembling perfection, or more usually, complete carnage is achieved. Then you can save your efforts and bore your friends senseless with them on facebook. And trust me, it is seriously funny watching them back. I, for example, had no idea I was such a nodding dog and I plead guilty  to complete over-characterisation whereas Vikki was the expert, the glam coordinated one, the Posh Spice of the group assisted by Victoria, who managed to look cool, beautiful and serene despite knowing absolutely none of the words.

Seriously though, if anyone had told me that an app had the capability of entertaining three grown women for five hours and reduce them to tears of giggling hysteria, I would never have believed you, but it did and for that I am eternally grateful. I am also grateful that our creative offerings ranging from DJ Pied Piper, Baccara and The Spice Girls to Doris Day, Tammy Wynette and dodgy lines about beautiful lips from Abigail’s Party, performed prone on the sofa by this point,  can be saved and churned out again and again and again  to make us giggle once more. Luckily for you, dear reader, I can’t seem to upload our productions, which is  mercifully a very, very good thing.

Yes, my child, I do realise that I am, in fact, 52, but for five hilarious hours I was 15 again and back in my bedroom, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong but absolutely everything right with that.

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