LOVE ON NANTUCKET ISLAND – A SHORT SUMMER STORY

8th August, 2019, 08.00 am.

Well you probably remember from my previous blog that it is now the 8th August and the replacement of my knee joint. I am not looking forward to it (understatement) but sometimes you just have to do things for long term benefit. So as I will be offline for a little while, leaving with a short summer story, which I wrote recently. Enjoy!

AN island girl is always an island girl. The one I was born on was a bit larger than a normal one, but still an island just the same. There was and still is, something a bit special about an island, a piece of land, no matter how large or small in the middle of one of the world’s vast oceans. This planet was not called the Blue Planet without reason, as the majority of its surface consists of oceans, deep and mysterious, holding secrets still waiting to be discovered.

The smell of the sea was something I knew from my birth. That salty, briny smell you feel filling your nostrils, particularly when the wind blew from the west. The aroma of seaweeds that often grew by the shore. The beaches made from shiny pebbles or sand, fine or coarse. The pebbles look especially nice when washed by the gentle sea, their surfaces rubbed silky smooth by the waves. From gentle to rugged coastlines, each and every one different from another.

The island of my birth was the United Kingdom. A kingdom made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Miles and miles of coastline surround this island, one side of it on the North Sea, the other the Atlantic Ocean. I remember as a little girl when we stayed with our relatives in Sussex during the summer holidays, that my mother always wanted to go to the sea for a day. She would pack up the car with towels, a beach blanket, some foldaway chairs and then a big basket for our picnic, which would usually start with breakfast on the beach. I can smell the aroma of methylated spirits, as she would light her little primus stove. Then the smell of sizzling salty bacon and eggs in the frying pan. She would place the loaf of bread under her arm, cut it thickly and then spread with Lurpak butter. It’s Danish butter would you believe it, but creamy and salty. Oh, I can almost taste it now; an egg and bacon sandwich and then followed by a cup of frothy milky sweet coffee from a silver thermos. I don’t drink coffee a lot now as an adult, but that coffee, on that beach, was just magnificent.

Then we would spend the day, lazing in the sun, dipping in the sea and the best time would always be later in the afternoon when the tide came back in over the warm sand. We would not leave until the sun was setting, as my mother also always had a large thermos can filled with some sort of stew, tasty meat or chicken, potatoes and vegetables and even though we ate from plastic picnic dishes it tasted the very best ever.

I was always fascinated with the shells and pebbles I could find, small pieces of driftwood, particularly from the Atlantic shores and one time I remember we filled a plastic bag with fine pebbles from a beach somewhere in Wales I think. It was just like very coarse sand and we filled one of my father’s empty Dimple whisky bottles and made it into a lamp. My mother made the shade, I remember it well. Yes, beach holidays, beach days, it was all part of my growing up. At home I kept a collection of shells and pebbles, which I had taken home with me over the years. Sometimes I would paint them with clear nail varnish, so that they looked wet.

Many years later on when I lived in The Netherlands, I was on an island again, on the south west coast. A lot of the country has been reclaimed from the sea, so there are not a lot of big crashing waves, like you find in England, particularly on the southern western coasts, but more like gentle lapping waves. The sea goes in and out, but the entire coastline is protected by magnificent sea barrages, built after a disaster in 1953. A lot of the coastline was submerged under water, following a huge spring tide flood, when lots of people lost their lives, as the sea flowed inland. I was not born then, but I remember when I came to live in this country that the first of the largest sea barrages (called the Delta Works) was opened. Never would the sea reclaim the land again. The barrages would make sure of that. 

So the four islands on the coast were surrounded by lakes, sweet and salty water mingled together called ‘brak’ or in English ‘briny’. The islands were joined by large bridges and dams, which often opened during the summer months to allow boats to pass. Sluices that controlled the flow of industrial barges making their way to and from the sea. Often it reminded me of the Florida Keys, not as posh and definitely not the same kind of weather, but from the air, it was very similar. If you flew into Rotterdam Airport from London, you would pass over the chain of islands and it always looked spectacular from the air. Cows and horses grazed on the archipels dipping their feet into the cool water. Often lazy seals would be sleeping on the small beaches and porpoises following the boats as they sailed through the waters.

Just off the coast of the North Sea are large sandbanks, where huge tankers lay in wait to enter one of the biggest harbours in the world: Rotterdam. But the thing that struck me the most was the colour in this region. The fact that the sea meets the sky and on summer days, that almost cornflower blue colour of the sky and the turquoise of the sea. Spectacular sunsets over the North Sea and because the entire area was not that built up compared to other places and bigger cities in this small country. The stars at night were just magical.

Yes, an island girl I was, the sea was in my blood.

WHEN my father was working in the United States of America for the IMF or some similar organization, it was the first time that I visited Boston. He had planned a family holiday; well just my mother and me, as I was an only child, on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts called Nantucket. My mother had tried to make a lot of excuses not to go, thinking that being away on a small island for a month, where there was not a lot to do (she thought) would be so boring. But my father was insistent and we flew off to cross the mighty Atlantic to Boston. He was waiting for us at the airport and drove us along towards the coast for about 60 minutes to a place called Hyannis. This is where the ferries left for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Cape Cod (and I always thought that this was an amusing name) is not an island like many people think it is, but a peninsular off the Massachusetts Atlantic coast, often referred to as the Eastern Seaboard. The two states of Massachusetts and Maine are the final two before the Canadian border leading on to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy. I noticed as we travelled along that very first time that a lot of the names sounded so familiar, the same as many places we had visited in England. Falmouth is in Cornwall, and Barnstaple in Devon. Obviously named by explorers who had discovered America many centuries ago. They called this area New England, of course.

My father ensured that we were able to catch the ferry and bade farewell saying he would be joining us in a fortnight. So off we set, my mother and I and our suitcases into the unknown. My father had rented a small beach cottage for us close to the main town in Nantucket. We were overawed I think was the right word, this was such a long journey for us, the first we had ever done and then going on by ferry to an island, somewhere in the Atlantic? The ferry stops first at Martha’s Vineyard before going on to Nantucket Harbour. Approaching the island the first thing we smelled was the heady scent of roses, also complimented by the salty sea air. It was the 4thJuly 1965. American Independence Day and lots of people travelling to the island for the holiday week. The American stars and stripes flag was everywhere to be seen and the whole island had an atmosphere, alive with a festive feeling. 

As we disembarked and took the ‘little hop on hop off’ bus to the main town to collect the keys for our cottage, I found myself in love with this island immediately. Beautiful houses, with outer walls of cedar shingles, which had turned to a pearl shimmering grey in the salty air. White doors and window frames and all surrounded by trellises filled with rambling roses, honeysuckle and hydrangeas in the borders. It is quaint and pretty. I could see that my mother was impressed to.

Everyone was so friendly, we were taken to our temporary cottage for the next four weeks and it was just beautiful and all decorated in pale pastel colours and so different from the more stiff English style.

We had guidebooks and lots of suggestions about what to do whilst on holiday in Nantucket and that same afternoon we hired two pastel coloured bikes with wicker baskets on the handlebars, to explore the island whilst we were there. The best bit was that we had our own personal path to the beach. And a pretty garden to enjoy too. This was our introduction to dining each and every single day ‘al fresco’ as the weather was perfect too.

It is not a big island only 26 miles long, with several beaches. Jetties Beach is shallow and you have to walk miles out to find water deep enough to swim in, whereas Surfside Beach is rough, where big Atlantic rolling waves come in. Where surfers can be seen any day, whatever the weather. I remember well, the thrill of lying on a body board waiting for the biggest waves, which would carry you right back to the shallow sand.

I had not expected my mother to enjoy it so much as she was normally a quiet reserved person, but she loved the American friendliness and soon we would be waving to people we came to know during our time there.  We cycled all the way to Brant Point, to see the famous lighthouse and then across the scrubby moorlands from one beach to another. Always with a picnic in tow when we found somewhere we wanted to stay for the day.

I think it was one of the best holidays ever, that is the way I remember it and my mother who was very fond of fish, found herself experimenting with lobsters and clams for our dinners or lunches in the garden. We often got invited out to join other holidaymakers or locals who were so generous. I found a large group of friends and it was safe for us all to go off whilst the mother’s sat drinking tea in the shade, exploring on our bicycles. My mother had introduced a lot of her new found American friends to the concept of English Afternoon Tea, thin cucumber sandwiches and Victoria Sponge cakes, filled with local jam and thick cream. Her newly found American friends taught her about the American counterpart of fine teas, Radish and Argula Sandwiches. I can almost taste them as I write.

Nantucket was not only a farming community but also fishing one too. The fresh fish, scallops, clams and lobsters were just delicious and whilst we were there, we tried everything, including the oysters. although I never got used to swallowing them whole with a mouthful of salty sea water.

It was a fun holiday and we had a good time too when my father joined us as well. He was used to the ‘American way of life’ by this time and as my mother always said: ‘he could talk all day to people’ which he did.

It was a shame when the whole month came to an end and we had to make our way back home, back to the chillier weather in England and getting ready for a new term at school. Often at night I would dream of Nantucket and I just knew that one day I would go back.

I cannot remember which birthday it actually was, but one year I got a present from my summer neighbours, a book called ‘The Nantucket Table’.

It had come all the way from the USA, my neighbour had been there for a business trip and just happened to see it in a bookstore and knew, that I had talked one summer about my memories of Nantucket and in particular about the blueberries that grew wild there across the rugged moorlands. The name Blueberry Pie itself, just conjures up ideas and thoughts about America, being an all-time favourite dish over there which everyone knows and loves.

Those summers were such fun too, when they would arrive for 6 whole weeks as the children finished school. We would all be a whirlwind of activities from their arrival to departure. Trips to admire the roses in the Zeeuwse Rosentuin (Zeeland’s Rose Garden) in Kats and come home with a boot full of new roses to be planted in our respective gardens. Catching small crabs in the harbour with pieces of string with chunks of ham attached to them. It was surprising how quickly you filled your bucket, but these were not edible ones and it was fun to watch them scurrying back to the water across the jetties at the end of the afternoon. Lazing about in the hot sunshine under the shade, whilst the children all swam in the lake. Exchanging piles of books, which were all read during those summers.

Trips out on their luxury motor boat, and sipping glasses of chilled pink rose, as all the children splashed about in the water, begging for just one more ride with the jet-ski boat. Oh what summers they were, the weather was always good, at least in my memory. Family barbeques in the garden. Jam jars filled with night-lights, which we had all painted shades of blue in the summer afternoon sun.

That summer we made recipes from the ‘Nantucket Table’ for my birthday, in late August, which always marked the end of summer holidays. So many memories came up of my parents, long passed and that summer in 1965 in Nantucket. We made the famous Tart Lemon Tart (why they call it that I don’t know) and also the Peach Melba tart. Drinks of mint julep. It is astonishing how just a taste of something can revive such vivid memories.

Later that same summer I made pots of fresh fruit chutney, from the book, made with peaches, melons and apples, mixed with onions, raisins, currants and hot chilli peppers. 

Oh Nantucket, how well I remember you and it would be quite some while before a return visit actually came to fruition. So much changed after my summer neighbours sold their house, all the children had grown up now, had partners and even children. But happy memories all the same.

IT was several years later when I found myself alone for the first time in my life. No parents anymore, the children all grown up and living their own lives with their own families. My husband gone too. It felt strange to put it mildly. I was still living in my little house by the sea and even though I had help these days with the garden, it was a wonderful place to live.

Several joint replacements had made me fit and well again. It was mid June when I decided to take a trip back to the Rose Gardens at Kats, which had grown enormously over the years from a small nursery to a large concern. Busy each and every day, as the roses were famous. They are proper roses with a rich perfume and not like shop bought ones, which had no scent at all. 

I parked and paid my entrance fee and meandered around the gardens, admiring the huge trailing roses, which were now completely covered walkways. I was bending down to smell a particularly vivid red and white one when someone called my name. At first I did not react, which I suppose is not really normal, but thinking it must be someone else with the same name. But then someone touched my arm. Straightening up I was looking into the face of someone I had lost touch with a long time ago.

I had often asked myself over the years how it is possible to suddenly lose touch with people who we have been so close to? I don’t know the answer apart from the idea that sometimes paths go off in different directions.

My first question then was: ‘What are you doing here?’ I mean how stupid is that, obviously the same as me, admiring the roses with perhaps the idea of buying some.

I just stood there and looked and looked into such familiar eyes. Even though I could not think of one single explanation why a friend/loveship had just fizzled out. Well actually it had been so much more than just a friendship and here we both were, standing by huge bushes with roses, almost searching for something to say. But nothing was really needed in retrospect. Just looking was enough.

Later on that same afternoon we sat in the ‘orangery’ drinking rose petal tea and eating some delicious chocolate cake, talking almost non stop. Telling our stories over the past few years, when our contact was much more regular and then telling the stories about both our current situations.

The afternoon just flew by and we had to made our way quite quickly before the nursery closed, to collect the roses we had both ordered.

‘Do you have plans for dinner?’ he asked.

WE just simply moved ourselves from one table in a restaurant to the next. The ‘Katseveer’ was a well-known Michelin star restaurant on the shores of what is called the Oosterschelde. The sun was just about to set across the water. It was a perfect end to a perfect summer’s day. It is really strange when you have not seen someone who you have been so close to, many years ago, that the conversation just picks up as if you saw one another yesterday.

Time had been kind to him. His once dark chocolate brown hair now tinged with grey at the temples. Those dark matching eyes, now wrinkled at the edges, still looked the same. He had a short beard, which seemed to be the fashion these days with men. Virtually everyone had one!

We spent the next few hours telling the stories of our respective lives, about what we had done in life, about our families and to be honest I would have never imagined ever, bumping into him here again, in the garden centre of all places.

He had been away from The Netherlands for many years, working abroad, but had returned a couple of years ago. In a similar situation as I was, families grown up and coping with the idea of being alone again.

He was slightly older than me, I could not remember how much exactly, but I knew I had always been the younger of the two. Of course the conversation started about the time when we had met. It was quite a chance meeting, at a local bowling match when I had been asked to make up the team. I had no idea at the time that it was a competition, having only bowled once in my life before. But you know those moments; beginner’s luck and I played well and then looked across the room at the most handsome person I think I had ever seen. 

My eyes just could and would not leave his face and he was staring at me in the same way. We got talking of course and it turned out that the people in my little group, knew the people in his. This was the beginning of a relationship that went on for more than 3 years. 

I had only just come to live here and been very lucky finding a modern flat in a sleeper town just outside of The Hague. I worked in another town and drove there every day in my English mini, which I had brought with me. It was the same vivid yellow colour as Mr. Bean’s mini, which he later became famous for.

My new friend lived on the coast in a block of flats overlooking the sea. Kijkduin; a small seaside suburb of The Hague and it was not long before I was spending evenings and weekends with him. We had a huge circle of friends, so there was always something to do. He was very fond of dining out and drinking good wines, so I learnt a lot from him. It was the second summer of our relationship during a holiday to the Provence in France, that he asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes.

Oh what a holiday it was too. We had driven down to the Provence into the intoxicating region where lavender grows in great abundance. Its perfume fills the entire region and looks magnificent. It gives the Provence a sort of relaxing sleepy feeling, which I am sure comes from the scent of all the flowers. Essential oils are made here and I remembered that my mother used to collect the flowers from our garden in England. She would dry them and then sew them into little lace edged sachets to put in drawers and cupboards. I think somewhere in the things I have from my family home that there might just be one of two of them still in the boxes. Intricate lace edgings to little pockets, which she would embroider too.

We were staying in a very typical French chateau like hotel and I just happened to wander out into the late afternoon sunshine when the locals all start to play the French national sport ‘Jeu de Boules’. Never understood the pleasure really in throwing some silver coloured balls in an enclosed gravel area, but the French are passionate about it! I asked if I could join in, having never ever played before. The old Frenchmen guffawed with laughter. Just imagine that a young English girl wanted to play and they were intrigued, their wizened, bronzed faces breaking into laughter.

I cannot offer any explanation why, but each and every ball I threw onto that gravel ended up in exactly the right place. My friend, who had heard the laughter from the open windows, had come out to watch too. In the end I won, I did! They were all perplexed – beginner’s luck I think again.

We wined and dined in the finest restaurants and it was on one of them that he produced a beautiful diamond ring, went down on one knee (in front of everyone meaning that I blushed from head to toe) and asked me to marry him. It was a very happy special moment.

We came home and all our friends were delighted. We celebrated with a large party at our favourite Indonesian Restaurant in The Hague. Life went on, commuting from one flat to the other. I cannot exactly pinpoint the moment that there was a change in our relationship. From being really modern and easygoing, suddenly he became over possessive and mistrusting. I had a busy and demanding job working at a large pharmaceutical company in Delft, which meant that the normal 9-5 hours never applied. Often I would ring before I left to say I was on my way, but heavy traffic would often make me later than he expected. He began to ask me where I had been? Why was I late? The whole point was, he suddenly didn’t trust me anymore and there was absolutely no reason whatsoever why he should not. Eventually, it was the beginning of the end of our relationship and I broke off the engagement in the New Year. Just could not cope anymore. Broke his heart and mine too, we had been together for so long, but being a free spirit like I am, I just knew I would never be able to cope with such possessiveness long term.

As easily as we had drifted into one another’s lives, it was over. I never heard another thing again. There were no discussions about the why’s and wherefore’s. Just heartbroken silence. I felt so incredibly guilty. But did not know why?

I moved on, met someone else, got married, had children and only one time did he briefly come back into my life. Quite by an extraordinary chance too. Something to do with patents and trademarks and a long phone conversation, as my papers had suddenly arrived on his desk in Munich of all places. I recognised the voice immediately and we caught up on one another’s news. It was quite surprising how often in fact our paths had almost crossed. We both had two children, born at the same hospital, same year within days of one another. How we had just not bumped into one another there in one of the corridors I don’t know. I had stayed in Holland and he had gone to Germany. Both of us had married Dutch nationals..

It was one conversation only until many years later, suddenly in a rose garden, one sunny afternoon.

After the dinner at the Katseveer and I cannot even remember what I ate, we talked so much, the evening came to an end. We exchanged telephone numbers and made promises to keep in touch. As I left to go to my car, he kissed my cheek; it was a strange sensation after such a long time.

I did not hear anything more from him at all and several months later a year had passed by. I looked back on it as a moment when all the pain and sadness that had remained in between us; his disappointment, my disappointment, the choice I had made at the time, his broken heart was finally cleared and healed between us. That had been the purpose of us meeting up that afternoon.  I truly believed that.

THE following summer I decided that it was time to return to Nantucket. I gave myself the present of spending some time there for my 65thbirthday. It was very easy on Internet to book a cottage for 2 months and book flights and connections and all of a sudden the day arrived and I was on a flight from Amsterdam to Boston. Re-tracing my steps made all those years ago with my mother, albeit it from London that time.

What a lot has changed since the first trip I made there all those years ago. The flight time for instance a non-stop 8 hours, which meant with the time difference only 2 hours, had been lost in the day. Hyannis was a much larger place than I remembered, busy and grown a lot and now the ferry was a fast one, arriving in Nantucket 30 minutes after departure. Nantucket had changed, but not a lot, apart from the fact that there were more houses, big and luxurious, as it had become the summer playground for many rich and famous people. I had arranged to spend the first couple of days at the White Elephant Inn, to get used to the island again and then move on into my own cottage for 8 weeks.

This time around being so much older, I delved into the past of the island itself. Nantucket, despite the fact that it is so small has a big history, which goes back many centuries. Back in the mid 1800’s it had been famous for whaling, and luckily something no longer carried out. The island had a rich culture of farming and fishing and many top fancy restaurants In New York loved the local scallops. But in all the years since I had been with my mother, the most economic growth had been, that Nantucket had become an island for vacations and many wealthy people built holiday homes on the island. The main town street lined now with shops with designer names. Trendy boutiques and restaurants and cafes. But still those familiar grey shingled houses, with their white doors and windows looked the same, they were just bigger and better now.

The heady scent of roses filled the air everywhere you went. The flowers on Nantucket are truly amazing. I have never seen so many ever as they line the doors and windows of every home. Neat grass lawns surrounded with borders of hydrangeas and other floral wonders are a real sight to see. Honeysuckle grows along garden gates, clematis trailing up the walls. Nearly every house has a pool in the garden too. 

But basically as I discovered during my first week, a lot of the island was as I remembered it. I hired a pastel colour e-bike this time around and explored the island cycling off to Madaket, Sconset and Cisco. One day all along the peninsular to Great Point and the lighthouse there. The island was busy with many people here on holidays and I soon found myself waving again to people and saying hello to them in the shops. I was often invited to join them for meals or days out on a boat. 

It was one morning when I had gone to collect a lobster at the quayside for dinner that evening, that I was just putting my shopping into that same wicker basket on my handlebars, that I heard someone call out my name. As I turned around, I dropped my shopping in shock. There he was again. Out of the blue on Nantucket!! I had moved into my own little cottage a few days previously.

Over coffee at one of the little café’s that Nantucket is so well known for, we talked. I was just amazed that he was here too. It was my stories from the past that had enticed him to visit the island, whilst his health permitted and before he got too old to travel. To be honest he did not even look a day older than that afternoon we had met at the Rose Gardens.

At first I could not believe the coincidence that we would meet again here in Nantucket of all places! I never even got around to asking him, and he did not ask me either why we had not been in touch. We just made an appointment to have dinner the next day at the Inn where I had been staying myself only a while ago.

As I left with my lobster and bicycle it just seemed incredible to put in mildly that we were both here on this tiny island in the Atlantic. That evening sitting in my temporary garden, watching the sun set slowly across the ocean, as the lobster sizzled on the BBQ, I thought how amazing it all was. I wondered what is the message and why have we met again, here of all places, having not heard a single word since our one off meeting that time?

I felt unsure, whether I should go or not to the appointment we had made for dinner the following evening. But this was a small island and if I did not, we would of course, eventually bump into one another again.

I think basically I was a bit scared of how this scenario was going to play out.

I did not sleep well that night; my thoughts were haunted by too many memories. I was awake very early, it was just getting light and I got up, got dressed and went on my bicycle to Surfside Beach. The sun was just rising as I stepped into the waves. Tingling fresh! The water felt cold, which is not strange really being the fact it is the Atlantic Sea. But it felt invigorating as I walked on deeper and deeper into the sea. The large waves, which always came in groups of seven, enabled me to jump up and over them. The beach itself was deserted apart from one or two keen morning swimmers arriving. I came out of the water, dried off and cycled back home, stopping to collect some fresh bread. My mind felt clearer for the exercise and over breakfast I wondered if I was on the verge or reigniting a love affair that ended nearly 40 years ago. Did I actually want that? I did not know the answer. Just knew that he felt familiar, he was actually very nice and what’s really wrong with a little bit of holiday romance? But is was more the coincidence of the events that was making me feel uneasy. And roses seem to be the connecting theme. As there are wonderful roses in Nantucket. They are literally growing on every house, trailing everywhere.

I spent a leisurely day, not doing a lot, taking a shower and washing my hair at the end of the afternoon. After a lot of deliberating on which dress to wear, set off on my bicycle to Brant Point. The Inn I knew well myself too where I had stayed.

He was waiting in the Reception. Standing there, looking incredibly handsome in a relaxed kind of way. My heart was pounding already!

We went into the bar and ordered pre-dinner drinks. He still remembered my fondness for champagne!

We ate outside on the veranda overlooking the sea. It was yet another lovely balmy early evening, which Nantucket can be so famous for. The sun began to sink slowly towards the horizon.

I was (well actually being honest not) surprised how easy the conversation was. It was as if we were re-discovering ourselves, talking about all sorts of topics, from food, to sport, to favourite books and films … just a normal exchange of views. By the time the dessert trolley arrived I was feeling totally relaxed having had a couple of glasses of wine in the meantime. He smiled remembering my terrible sweet tooth, deliberating on what to choose. In the end I went for the Puzzle Pudding, just because the name is so nice. I think you could compare it to Clafoutis, fruits in a batter mixture. The blueberries and raspberries grow locally and melt in your mouth like a sudden burst of summer.

He had sat back in his chair observing me, I could feel it. Then he said: ‘you haven’t changed at all really, just a bit older and wiser’ but you are still the same girl I knew all those years ago’.  I felt myself blush and he touched my arm sending all sorts of shivers up and down my spine. This was so surreal, sitting here together, all these years later.

I suppose it was not really the brightest of ideas to accept the offer of a ‘nightcap’ back in the bar. I knew that any more alcohol would mean that it was not sensible to cycle back ‘home’ in the darkness. 

Of course the inevitable happened and he asked me if I would like to stay over. He did have a spare bedroom, if I was worried about anything. But what was there really to worry about, it was just as if I had been transported back through time, to our relationship … even if our bodies had matured incredibly by age. It was as if he read my mind and said: ‘got a bit older since last time’. That made me laugh out aloud, because it was exactly what I was thinking myself and all my ‘wobbly bits’ which I preferred to keep to myself.

Well you know what they say about the ‘best laid plans’ well I can only tell you this, forget it. They sailed out of the window immediately we stepped into his room. It was the suite, larger than the normal rooms, but the same cathedral open ceilings reaching to the rooftop. He took me in his arms and kissed me and believe me I was completely lost. Lost back in bittersweet memories, the bitterness having been caused by me, having broken off the relationship at the time. But it felt familiar and good.

He led me to the main bedroom and to the huge bed. As I sank back on the soft pillows, he slipped the straps down from my dress and I was very aware that within seconds of being dressed to undressed, I was completely naked. I remembered his touch well, he was after all an excellent lover, and we both stepped back into the familiarity of each other’s passion and desires.

I slept well for the first time in ages and woke to see him still asleep next to me.

AFTER our passionate love making, she fell asleep quite quickly and I sat and watched her from the chair opposite the bed. The rise and fall of her chest, her hair, which was almost white now, spread across the pillows. Her suntanned arms were just one mass of freckles, it was hard to distinguish where one ended and another began. Kisses from the sun, she called them, I always thought and wondered, how would it feel to be the sun and kiss her body all over, leaving the freckles as confirmation that I loved every single bit of her. Always had, despite the fact that when she broke off our relationship, I truly believed I would never dare to love another woman again. But I did over time and it is true; time heals, eventually.

When we met a while back in the rose garden, my initial reaction had been one of shock. I absolutely had not expected to bump into her just like that. I remember when we had just broken up I saw her one day, walking towards the beach close to where I lived. She was engrossed in a conversation with another man. I could have walked up and said ‘hello’, but the pain was still too intense for me to even try. I asked myself if she already had a new relationship. Was she so fickle that she already had a new partner, whilst my heart still felt as if it had shattered? I stopped thinking about it in the end, it was just too painful.

My life went on, but deep inside I still thought of her every now and again. It could be something simple, a song on the radio, or the mention of a place where we had been together. I am not sure why I did not pursue her more when we had met a while back. It was not as if I was afraid, I had grown up a lot since those early years. Raised my daughters who now had lives with their own families and had given me the joy of grandchildren. Losing my wife was tough for sure, but I was sensible enough to know, for her, it was a kind release from her illness.

After the initial sorrow and pain of being alone again, I started to eventually pick up my life again, not really at the time having any intention whatsoever of meeting someone else. I could not be like that, I had loved my wife dearly and we had had a very good life together, so it seemed almost disrespectful to her memory to start anything new.

But that moment in the rose garden, some flame reignited in me, those feelings that I had for her, rose within, just like the blooms in this garden, to the surface again. Of course she looked older than I remembered but she still had that same movement how she walked and how she would often flick her eyes before a smile broke across her face. Oh that smile, it was intoxicating. I felt drawn into it completely, right from the first moment I had glanced across the room at her, as she literally threw a heavy bowling ball down the lane, and jumped up and down in surprise as she got a strike. That smile, I knew I was going to fall in love with her, right then and there.

As I watch her sleeping, there is a slight smile on her lips. The evening was wonderful and I truly admit it was not my intention at all to ask her to stay. I almost want to chastise myself for admitting this; because of course I still felt that desire in me for her. But I had not wanted to rush anything, just enjoy and savour the moment of actually meeting her again, here on a small island in the Atlantic. Was it destiny? Was there some unforeseeable force pulling us back towards one another. We were both free. Oh it would have been devastating if she had not been.

The touch and feel of her skin, her perfume and her passion. It was like a return. Being given back something precious that has matured so perfectly. I sat and watched her for a while, thinking what have I done in my life to deserve this second chance with her? Does she want one with me? She is and always was, a true free spirit and I had always bitterly regretted the fact that my own possessiveness had driven us apart. I don’t know why I behaved like that at all, it was not that I didn’t trust her, it was more my own lack of self-worth, always fearing that I was not good enough for her. She was worth only the very best. We had a lot of fun together and I always blamed myself for losing her.

The sky was starting to turn light, the first rays of the sun breaking into another new day here on Nantucket and I slipped back into bed beside her. She rolled over and put her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her, under her pillow and pulled her closer. I felt the softness of her hair against my face. I loved her; I always had and had never stopped. She was my everything and I prayed to the universe, or God, or whoever is up there, to grant me another chance to spend my time with her.

When I woke up again, I could smell freshly made coffee coming from the kitchen area of my suite. She came across the room on her slender legs with a tray and placed it beside me, and then folded her legs gently underneath her and sat down on the bed. ‘Breakfast in bed’ she said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Her hair was still damp and she had obviously already showered. As I moved gently across to kiss her, I could smell the spearmint on her breath.

Where do we go from here?

WE just slipped into a natural routine with one another, just as if time had stood still and we were a couple once more. We met some really nice people who invited us to go out sailing with them. They loved our story and their boat was called: The Miracle. I remember how enthralled they were as we told them about us and laughed when they remarked, this was indeed a true miracle that coincidence had brought us back together. The friendship was cemented and we would often dine with them, or go out for days sailing on the Atlantic Ocean. I used to sail a lot, but this was so different. The vastness of the water, the stronger waves and currents. Enthralling, but sometimes scary at the same time. We all loved it.

By this time, he had moved out of his suite at the Inn and into my summer home. It just seemed silly to go back and forwards spending nights here and then there. It was relaxing, it felt comfortable and of course we had many nights of passion together. Summer was drawing to an end, a lot of the tourists had already left and the idea that we too, would be leaving soon, hung over us like a sea mist.

Often we would sit out in the garden on the swing facing the sea. Watching the sun setting and talking. It was as if we needed confirmation and reassurance that what we were re-commencing was right. I sometimes thought really coincidences don’t really exist, things just happen that are meant to be. We both told our families who were flabbergasted to say the least. I think they too, fell in love with our story. They certainly were happy that we had both met again. ‘Everyone deserves a second chance at happiness’ my daughter had remarked.

The final week approached and then out of the blue, he said: ‘shall we try and stay on for longer?’ We had become so settled in our daily routine. One morning whilst browsing the little local bookstore, I came across the book I had been given many years before: ‘The Nantucket Table’. I bought it again and looked through the recipes, a lot, of which I had made over the years. The fresh fruit and vegetables in Nantucket were wonderful and not to mention the daily supply of fresh fish (which we both loved) and lobsters, scallops, clams and such like. One evening I made the famous Tart Lemon Tart when our friends came over for dinner. It was a real trip down memory lane.

Luck was on our side, we could rent the house for another month, and so I changed my air ticket online, and told the family that I was going to stay on. He did the same. Some days we caught the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, which was slightly bigger than Nantucket, took our bicycles and spent the day there, catching the last ferry back. 

It was really idyllic there was no other word to describe it. We often took a picnic to the beach and lazed away either in the sea or on the sand. My skin had turned a golden brown. My hair had gone completely white in the sun and of course, with the boutique shops here, there were wonderful things to buy. A bit of a nautical theme, but lovely just the same. I decided that when I got home I would make a special wooden sign, you saw them everywhere here, with phrases about island life – like ‘my idea of heaven – the beach’ and such like. I thought it would be fun to make one myself as opposed just to buying one here, not to mention the idea if trying to fit it into a suitcase.

Eventually the final week came and within days, our stay in Nantucket was coming to an end and it felt heavy to say the least. Neither or us wanted to leave and we booked a table at our favourite restaurant to bring this amazing holiday to an end. Over the meal he suddenly said: ‘I have a surprise, I bought the summer house today!’ I nearly fell off my chair in shock! ‘What?’ I asked. ‘How did you manage that?’ He had set everything in motion earlier that week and whilst I was browsing around in a shop he had slipped off to sign the paper work. ‘I thought we would like to come back and also our families could come for holidays’. It sounded an absolutely perfect idea and took all the edge off feeling any sadness about leaving away immediately. We would be coming back. We, yes, we, that had a nice ring to it.

Journeying back to Europe meant that we arrived home and autumn had begun. In retrospect I thought, how we had perhaps missed the best fall ever in New England on the mainline, but no worry really, we could do it next time around especially as we now had a house ourselves on Nantucket.

We arranged for both families to meet and everything just slipped into a natural rhythm as if it was meant to be. A couple of weeks later we talked about the idea of buying our first house together. We had never got around to doing that last time. I put my house up for sale, he did the same and within a week I had a serious buyer and an offer. I would be sad to say goodbye to my home after all these years, but it was time to move on.

I felt very happy, as if things were finally being put right and we found a beautiful new house on the edge of a lake. It was three storeys, all glass and very light inside. It could be ready in a couple of weeks and we sat with the public notary and both signed the purchase documents.

It was a lot of fun choosing things for our new home, we agreed on virtually everything and used a lot of colour schemes we had liked so much in Nantucket.

Often in the evenings I would ponder the thoughts about the why’s and wherefore’s. How it had been possible that a chance meeting by the roses had lead to where we were? I think it was destiny that our paths crossed again, it was such synchronicity. Maybe it works that way with true souls and lovers?

                                                              Jill Kramer 2019 © 08.08.2019

Images: Private Collection Jill Kramer, Pinterest, Google Images.

I don’t know who wrote this amazing quote at the end, but I love it! Nantucket does not need to be anymore than itself. Hope you go sometime!

THERE IS ALWAYS A SPECIAL MEANING IN THE NUMBERS!

Yesterday I had my final pre-op sessions at Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven before my knee replacement. I did not know the exact date planned, just that it will be sometime in August. Then when my orthopaedic surgeon Remco van Wensen said, ‘oh you are on the list for the 8thAugust’, I just knew instantly that everything has come together at the right time.

I will explain.  As you know from previous blogs to perform this operation meant that they had to remove a surgical pin from my left lower leg, which had been there for 16 years (note this number). It has been a really long haul on the road to recovery, but I can now walk quite easily with one crutch at home, two outdoors and think it is time to put away the wheelchair.

Before I go on, I just want to make a comment about ‘being in a wheelchair’. It doesn’t matter if you have to use a wheelchair temporarily or permanently, but one thing that I have really noticed is the way people talk (down) to you. Permanent users, you have my greatest sympathy. Just because you are in a wheelchair, for some form of disability, be in long or short term, does NOT mean that you are suddenly ‘brain dead’.

It is really awful how condescending people can be on the one hand and on the other side (and this is positive) how helpful a lot of people can be.

It is food for thought for everyone I think, to remember that being in a wheelchair means that you are still a person, just a bit lower down than average sized people.

So to continue with my story about numerology: My last operation was on 10thApril 2019) the numbers are then 1, 4 and 3 (you just reduce down to a single digit). Add these numbers 1, 4 and 3 and it equals 8!) My next is planned for 8thAugust 2019. So this reduces down to 8, 8 and 3. Remember that I said earlier ‘remember this number 16’ well 16 can be also seen not only as a 7 but a double 8.

There are a lot of eight’s in this scenario don’t you agree. 8 is of course, the symbol of infinity, the lemniscate, which often appears in symbology, or geometry, at lot. And has done for many centuries. You can see it as an endless flow going from right to left and back again. An endless figure to which there is no beginning and no end, it just flows on all the time.

It just so happens that I have a tattoo on my lower left arm depicting a double infinite! And so the story goes on:

So I think if they tell me that the time (and I really hope that this will be the case) is 8.00 am – meaning that I am first on the list – I think this circle or movement is absolutely perfect to ensure that all goes completely according to plan and in exactly the right way. Then I will have three 8’s in a row!! Fingers crossed.

I would not be truthful if I did not say that I am not really looking forward to the whole ordeal, but I know that afterwards, when the initial pain and soreness has worn off, that I will be able to walk normally again, pain free. And get back to normal.

I actually remarked to someone earlier this week, that I have more or less forgotten what it is like just to stand up and walk somewhere without having to reach for aids (like a wheelchair or crutches). Without having to think several minutes in advance, knowing that it will take you time to get there, that you need to visit the bathroom: (in other words 2theloo). Noticed that sign a lot yesterday in the car on the way to and from the hospital. A lot of people here in The Netherlands are complaining that the Dutch language is suddenly being taken over by English. It is true, there are so many sayings thrown into sentences these days doing exactly that, but it is trendy and catchy they say!

So today in exactly 4 weeks time, it will be all systems go. Had a much more satisfying discussion with the pre-op screening than last time, thanks to the letter written by my cardiologist (Lukas Dekker) and the intervention of the anaesthesist (Barbara Versyck) who I had last time around. This time it is clear and printed in large ‘neon’ letters on my file. Epidural with deep sedation because no, I don’t want to hear all the DIY noise going on in the Operating Theatre as the new part is fitted. Last time around I did and believe me it is very traumatic, especially if you just happen to glance across and see the equipment they use!!

So starting today with a 4 week build up of muscles. I have set myself a little project to walk outside (out of my garden) and build up the distance. It will help a lot if my muscles are in shape beforehand and it seems absolutely right to use 4 weeks (and 4 is half of the 8) so ‘half the work’ to do a little fitness project.

Once the operation is done, and believe me, they get you up and out of bed same day, standing on your new bright and shiny knee joint and walking a few steps (it always sounds scary beforehand) and if I don’t go fainting every 5 minutes, then you are on the move again and the joint is working properly. Apart from general pain from the fact that they have been working on your knee, removing bits and pieces and adding new ones, the painful joint is no longer there and a new one has been fitted. 

It does take time to settle in and of course there are loads of stitches, which stay in for 2 weeks (usually staples and by the way I have found a way to deal with the painful removal of same). I found a tube of cream available online, which is Lidocaine and it numbs (or makes the skin pain free) before removing, which is so much more bearable. Staples are a horrible way of sealing of an incision, but they are strong. At least that is the theory. But last time around when they were removed by my local GP, he wondered why he had never thought of such a simple solution. One tip, apply with gloves otherwise you will not be able to feel your fingers for a couple of hours. 

So here we go then, building up to the 8thAugust, which also just happens to be the date when the so-called ‘Lions Gate Portal’ is open in astrology. Being a Leo (and a double one at that with also Leo ascending), let’s roar then and get the job done. The energy will be absolutely perfect so I let go and trust that everything will be fine.

Images: Ask Angels.com/Numberology Secrets Net and Google Images

(apologies for the squeamish people who may read with the knee diagram)

MY TRUE STORY (a book by Karin Bloemen)

At the moment I am reading a book by Karin Bloemen called ‘My True Story’ or in Dutch (Mijn Ware Verhaal). Maybe not a lot of you reading this blog know or have heard of Karin Bloemen. She is one of the funniest, happy, most joyful people in the Dutch theatre world and tells wonderful stories, which have you in fits of laughter within minutes. She is quite a generous-sized person but this does not in any way deter her from making fun of herself on stage.

Recently she underwent a double knee replacement operation. Now you have to one ‘tough cookie’ to do both knees at the same time!

In her book Karin tells in her own words all about her youth in Schagen, the north of Holland with her mother, father and sisters. She has three in fact, Karin is the youngest. Her parents divorce and a new ‘father figure’ comes into her life Ben Kuijt. I am typing his name openly in this blog, as I think he does not in any way deserve anominity, or other members of his family either.

The book tells stories of how life was in the late 50’s early 60’s in a small village in Holland. But the underlying theme of the book is about the sexual abuse,

Karin and her elder sister are subjected to by their stepfather.

It is quite disgusting the means and ways he snares them into his dirty little world of smutty sex with minors. And disgusting is putting it mildly.

Now I know unfortunately, this whole issue and the me-too subject is almost a trending topic at the moment and enormous respect for those who dare to speak out about it. 

I don’t think anyone can make any judgement about how a person either feels or deals when they have been sexually abused.. It makes a scar on their soul and the damage lasts for life. So great respect for anyone who finally dares to tell their story, like Karin does in her book.

Other comedians here in The Netherlands were aghast as they read through her book. They have been friends with her for many years but never knew the terrible secret she had been hiding for so long. It is a book that you want, (no have to read), if you too have been abused. 

As I read on, with horror from page to page, it made me very sad. Almost tearful that a man could behave like that. But anger came into the equation to, because my only thought was, God I hope someone finds out and deals with him in the end.

The thing that always amazes me is that the mother figure never seems to notice. Why? Surely there must be signs? Or do they just ignore, afraid for their own position? Whatever the case may be, is there ever an excuse?

Of course each and every situation is different, and I have often asked myself this question when stories like Karin’s come to the surface. What would her biological father have done if he had known? Probably something quite dramatic to Ben Kuijt. And rightly so. 

The painful thing in these stories is that the victims, like Karin, are terrified about telling anyone. Even slight hints to other siblings are really scary things to discuss.

There may be many of you out there, who have found yourself in a similar situation. Personally I cannot comprehend in any way that a grown up person does this to a child, but I am sorry to say it happened and is still happening. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the laws of Ancient Egypt, when men were eunuchs. Perhaps that is the punishment for offenders?

In other words, when there is no desire, then no abuse will take place?

I know this is a very sensitive subject and perhaps one that not a lot of people would dare to write about, but having read Karin’s book, realising that she, like me, was a child growing up in the 50-60’s and why were things like this swept under the carpet? One thing that made my blood nearly reach boiling point was the part where other members of the Kruit family (her step grandfather and uncles) tried to sexually abuse her too, because they had heard stories from her stepfather, how much she enjoyed the escapades she had with him. Oh come on, seriously. How low can you go?

I am not at the end of the book just yet, but with the turn of every page, I just hope that Ben Kuijt gets what is coming to him in the end. That is one of the laws of the universe – ‘what goes around comes around’.

I salute you Karin Bloemen who I would describe as one of the happiest, funniest people is who graces our stages. Thank you for speaking out, I think like me, people will have enormous respect for you and justly so!

I have finished the book in the meantime and I will not spoil either the rest or the end of the story for you. A highly recommended read for those of you who may have unfortunately been subject to this too.

Take a leaf out of Karin’s words: ‘when people ask me why don’t you leave the past behind you, I reply I cannot as long as the past doesn’t leave me in peace’.

No matter how ashamed or how much judgement you think there will be: speak out! It is not your fault.

Images: Karin Bloemen, Google.

Acknowledging all copyright in the book Mijn Ware Verhaal

EMPATHY OR SYMPATHY?

EMPATHY OR SYMPATHY?

Although you may think it is not so, there is a big difference between the words ‘empathy’ or ‘sympathy’.

So before I go any further, I will quote from the Oxford English Dictionary, the actual meaning of the words:

Empathy: is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Sympathy: is the feeling of sorrow or pity for someone else’s misfortune. Understanding between people, a common feeling. The state or fact of responding in a way similar or corresponding to an action elsewhere.

At first glance you may be thinking, this is perhaps all the same. But it is not.

If someone tells you something which has happened to them which has an effect on them, by offering them sympathy you simple join into their energy and pity them.

It is so much better in such circumstances to offer them empathy. This is saying; thank you for telling me about your problems. I understand how you are feeling. In this way, you are then not pitying them but supporting them by the fact you confirm you know how they are feeling. The energy is completely different then.

Many people confuse the two words, which is quite understandable. But there is a difference and maybe it is something for you to think about when a friend shares a confidence with you, tells you about something that has overcome them, a sad story, a loss of something. When you give them empathy you are offering so much more support to them, than when you offer them pity.

There are of course many stories, which I could refer to, or a lot of quotes about this subject, but one of the best ones is from the app CALM.

EMPATHY IS:

SEEING with the eyes of another

LISTENING with the ears of another

And FEELING with the heart of another

Another nice quote is from Barack Obama:

He said: ‘listening to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that is how peace begins. And it is up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character than can change the world’.

I am going to keep this blog short today, mainly because it’s only just after 10 am and here in The Netherlands, have a summer heat wave on the go. The temperature is climbing and already 25oC. The next few days are going to be scorchers, with temperatures rising up to about 40oC.

Whichever part of the world you live in, you may be thinking ‘is that all?’ But living in a country where a lot is under sea level and the amount of water in lakes and canals, this hot weather creates a very hot and humid sauna effect.

My advice today is starting your week in a peaceful and restful way. Don’t rush, why should you really? Plan things that you have time to walk instead of run. Drink plenty of fresh cool water. Take care and also take care of others. 

And give some thought to the word ‘empathy’.

Image: Running Water by Richard Thomas – Fine Art America

Quotes from Google

TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS

In this blog I want to write something about Toxic Relationships. The word toxic can easily be replaced by the word ‘poisonous’. But the word relationships is more complex because you can have relationships with people in many different ways: A relationship with your partner, your children, your family, your friends, your neighbours, your colleagues and even go so far to say a relationship with someone perhaps in a shop or a petrol station. Anyone in fact when it concerns a situation that you both know one another and see one another regularly.

Internet says when it concerns partners:

By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. … A toxic relationship is characterized by insecurity, self-centeredness, dominance, control.

But as is always the case in the world as we know it, said relationships can either finish, become less, change and even go so far as to become toxic. I mean this in the way that they affect you personally. The effect can in turn take on many forms, either make you sad, depressed, give you stress or come to the point that it can take the form of an obsession. The mere mention of a name brings everything to the surface once again. Good or bad.

So what can you do if this happens to you? Over the past few weeks I have been learning a lot from several online courses in which I am participating and I have discovered that one of the biggest things that can influence our health and general well being is: Stress. 

So if relationships become stressful, then eventually the stress can have very negative effects on your actual physical body. We all know that cells have memories; so said memory remains in the cells and eventually they cannot work properly. This is of course in very extreme circumstances. For example: Say if you are living with someone who abuses you physically. You regularly get knocked about. but from fear you hide yourself away and don’t talk about it. Because you know if you do, then the abuse will continue and become even worse. Your whole being begins to take on a new ‘you’ because you are suppressing so many negative things. The pain, the fact that someone stoops so low as to do this to you, you begin to blame yourself, your self esteem becomes less and less, you shut yourself off from family, friends and loved ones mainly because of shame. And there are also the physical effects of said abuse. This is a toxic relationship without any shadow of doubt and an extreme example.

A toxic relationship can also be about someone who constantly talks about you behind your back, stirs up feeling of animosity about you with others, tells lies and fabrications about you. In the end (because we all know that someone always feels the need to tell us) you become angrier and angrier. Your first instinct is to avoid them, hope that you do not meet them under any circumstances, but this does not stop them. Your anger can reach such a pitch that you begin to obsess about them and subject yourself to more and more stress. And as said above, the stress affects you in many ways. From stopping you sleeping at night, not eating properly and generally not taking care of yourself.

The thing about a toxic relationship in whatever form it takes, means that there is only one thing to do and that is sever the relationship. Do this in such a way, that you ensure you break away completely from it.

In the example of abuse given above, you have to seek professional help and leave. Either you or the abuser. This is serious.

The other example I mentioned is easier to deal with and being a writer I often find that actually writing things down makes it easier for me personally. It is as if the words literally take the problem away.

Quite by chance this week I came across a wonderful quote on social media, which says:

This actually made me laugh out aloud! It is genuinely funny but behind the humour there is some truth of course.

It was if it was a signal for me to get on with something I started earlier in the week and do what my original plan was. What a coincidence (or not) that this subject came up in my online course as well. The advice in the course was to do everything I could to end this toxic relationship for my own well-being.

Now when I write things, I am of course the person who chops and changes the sentences all the time but at a certain moment, the story was ready.

So what was my answer to the quote above?  … email to the person concerned.

I can only tell you that as I paused to press the button ‘send’ a final moment of doubt crossed my mind, shall I or not? In my mind I suddenly heard the words from my course and instantly pressed ‘send’.

It was then as if a huge dark black stone like ball left my body. It came up through my body and out of my head and exploded way above me like a firework. I suddenly felt free and in control once more.

I have decided under no circumstances will I ever speak this person’s name again. A bit like ‘he who will not be named’ in the Harry Potter books, but in my case this ‘he’ is a ‘she’.

So my advice to you is, if you have someone in your life who is involving you in a toxic relationship which you want to end, do not hesitate a second longer. Find a way, which suits your own particular circumstance, and end it once and for all.

Believe me it’s worth it. Because you are worth it. You need and have to come back into your own power, which means looking after yourself in the best possible way. Taking care of your body, your mind and your spirit.

Stop it once and for all and then relax, breathe and step into a new moment.

Images: Tiny Buddha.com and Google

MY BOOKS OM AMAZON.COM

As you know four of my books are available on Amazon.com in kindle version. If you want to purchase, download and read, you can also download the Amazon Kindle app for free.

The books available are:

The Blue House

Fireflies in the Summer (and other short stories)

A Second Chance

Art of Confessions

This morning I have reduced the price down to US$ 4.99. Why? I noticed that a lot of authors on Amazon do this after a certain period of time, so if you want to read on and find out more in any of these books, go to Amazon.com, type in my name (Jill Kramer) and the title of the book and then you are literally one click away from downloading to read.

I hope you enjoy!

MEDITATION

As many of you know from my previous blogs, I have been recovering over the past two months from a fairly difficult operation and in plaster (now removed thank goodness).

Even though I have not been so physically active as normal, I have been very active when it comes to my mind and my thinking. I downloaded an app, called CALM, a while ago and in one word: it’s wonderful. A whole load of meditations, music, sleepy time stories, and other short courses to follow. Have to admit that I have never heard the end of a sleepy time story yet, because I always fall asleep, but it is great way to end your day. (I listen again the next day). Every single morning I have listened to the daily meditation (often very early at 5 am and such like) given by Tamara Levitt. It’s only 10 minutes and so easy to do if you say, perhaps set your alarm a little bit earlier than usual. Every day has a different theme and it basically concentrates on relaxing your physical body and concentrating on your breathing. Isn’t that a great way to start the day?

Now yes, breathing is one of our basic body functions and we do it naturally every single second of our lives, without giving it much thought.

It is however, surprising how many people do not really breathe properly, because basically we are in a rush all the time. Often shallow breaths do not really give the body or our mind a lot of energy. It is only when you stop and try to breathe in a different way; you start to see the benefits. So I have been training for a while now on taking really deep breaths, and exhaling slowly. One thing I learnt was about the small pause between our breaths. You may be wondering what I am talking about but just sit down and relax. Take a deep breath in through your nose, pause and then exhale slowly. Notice the pause that occurs naturally, before you breathe in, as you hold your breath and then breathe out whilst you do this repeatedly a couple of times. Feel the sensation of the cool air entering the nostrils and the warm air then leaving. It is quite something to think about.

In some countries of the world they are now teaching children the art of meditation. Good, this is something we should all learn because a little bit of meditation on a daily basis is so beneficial. Why do I say this? Well I have done a number of special online workshops over the past two months, run by the well-known Deepak Chopra (together with Oprah Winfrey) and another with Roger Gabriel (from the Chopra Centre).

These were actually free online courses, which were not only very interesting but also good for me (and you of course as well) as a person. It is proven medical fact that meditation is beneficial for so many things.

We all know that it brings both the body and mind into a quieter state. But the actual facts are: the heart begins to beat more slowly, our blood pressure can become lower, all sorts of beneficial hormones are released into the body. We feel calmer, less agitated, more relaxed and to be honest who would not want to try that? In studies done in the USA by well known institutions, it is now proven that meditation has a real benefit on our health and well-being. It can prevent a lot of disease like diabetes, obesity, some other forms of disease and why? Because meditation is beneficial for each and every one of the cells in our body. We feel better, so we not only eat better but we sleep better. It is easier to stop addictive habits too (like excessive alcohol, smoking or drug abuse). An all round winner.

You may be thinking, yea right, all sounds too good to be true, but these are not my words, these are scientifically proven facts.

So my question is: why would you not want to try? Why would you not want to give up a small part of your day and meditate? It is not hard, anyone can do it and with practice you become better and better. That is what I have found out myself over the past few weeks. And yes, I feel better, more focussed, more alive, despite the fact that my mobility is restricted. More inspired to get moving again, despite the fact that my muscles and tendons don’t agree because they have been still for a long time. But I am inspired to do it even pushing myself across ‘pain boundaries’.

At the moment I am taking part in a paid course by Deepak Chopra and Roger Gabriel about the ‘Pathway to Peace’. It is a course split into several sections, and even though I have only completed the first session yesterday, I can only say, it is the best thing I ever did for myself by enrolling. The reason was mainly because I heard the words ‘primordial sound meditation’ and even though I cannot tell you much about it in detail (as I have not got this far yet), these words really resonated with me. Why? Well this is all about a sound (a personal mantra) which with practice, will bring me back to my core essence. My authentic self. 

In the hurly burly of the busy world we live in, this sounds perfect to me. Just by taking some time for myself, meditating and using a personalized mantra (which the Chopra Centre will send to me – having informed them of the exact moment of my birth, time and where) and reciting that silently in my mind, sounds wonderful to me. Because when it all comes down to the basics, why should I deny myself this? Wouldn’t we all like to come back to our core essence? The person we really are, free from the expectations of others? Free from obligations that life expects of us.

Why not indeed? That is a good question. Life expectancy is much longer now than it was say 50-odd years ago, so isn’t it up to me (and you too) to take each and every opportunity to improve life, well-being and mind by allowing ourselves the time to meditate each day.

Of course there are sceptics who do not believe in this. Think it is all far too ‘woozy woozy’ and spiritual, but it is a proven fact that people who live in Eastern countries, like Japan, China and such like who practice this technique every day, are much healthier and live longer than people in the West.

This blog is not a ‘promotion’ for the Chopra Centre, despite the fact that I like it very much (and you should just have a look about all the things they offer) but more of a wake up call to us all, that it is time to pause, we deserve it to give ourselves just a short moment each and every day to meditate. We are worth it aren’t we? 

Thanks to Tamara Levitt (CALM)

The Chopra Centre

Images from Google

FREEDOM !

Freedom

Today is the 6th June. A nice number combination: a double 6 and the day I have been waiting for over a fairly long period of time. Today is hospital day when they are hopefully going to remove my plaster cast.

It has been really tough at times, frustrating to say the least, constantly having to rely on things for mobility for just the simple normal actions in life. Even more so, being dependent and constantly having to ask for help. That is not me, I am a do-er and there have been some really deep moments of despair.

So the past is over and now looking forward to what is going to happen next? To achieve the original idea of a knee replacement, which was what this, was all about.

So before I go on let’s have a look at the word – Freedom:

As I suspected a word with a lot meanings because you can use it in many contexts:

Freedom is:

  • The power or right to act, speak or think as one wants
  • Freedom of choice
  • Absence of subjection to foreign domination or a despotic government
  • Power of self-determination attributed to the will, the quality of being independent of fate of necessity
  • The state of being imprisoned or enslaved
  • The state of being restricted and able to move easily
  • Unrestricted use of something
  • The state of not being subject to or affected by (something undesirable)
  • A special privilege or right of access, especially that of full citizenship of a city granted by a public figure
  • Familiarly or openness in speech or behaviour

That is quite a lot for just one word. But each of them applies to the basic principle. And even though this blog all began about a simple plaster cast. I suspect many of you reading this have perhaps experienced something related to this word at some time in your life.

We all understand the basic idea why some part of your body has to be immobilised to allow it to heal. That is just a sensible thought, but to my mind one of the most frustrating ways to heal because you are so restricted. As I have written above just simple things in general become a huge task.

I always tell a lot of my personal friends about my thinking when it comes to the past, or perhaps looking back on things that have happened. There is just one general rule no matter what: you cannot change the past; it has gone, over and out. Of course you can have memories, pleasant or perhaps even unpleasant, but it all comes down to the same thing. No one has a magic wand to wave around in the air to change the past. It is more about the way you deal with it in the here and now and looking forward into the future. The future is something we really don’t know about what will happen, later today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. The only thing we can do is make choices as situations happen. What do you want? What choice do you make? Go or stay? Ignore or take to heart? Fight or run away?

But going back to this blog and looking forward to freedom from this simple plaster cast, which has been with me all the time since 10th April to 6th June. Nearly two months, all but 4 days!

So it was, as I knew, a very early start. I was actually awake at 4 am, the alarm set for 5am. So in the meantime I did some meditation and took a shower. Horrendous rush hour traffic but on time.

It is a very strange sensation when they actually remove the cast and my God, my leg is so much thinner, the skin looks almost snake like, it’s so dry. I cannot even feel my main leg muscle. Off to X-ray and then a chat with my orthopaedic surgeon who is pleased with the progress. So now I can use the leg for 50 % on crutches for the next 6 weeks then back again for all the final pre-operative screening (this time making damned sure about what anaesthetic I want and more important I want to be asleep through the entire procedure) and the new knee planned for August.

On the way back home in the car, my mind wandered off to the fact that today is the 75th Anniversary (well that is not exactly the word, remembrance is better) of the D-day landings in Normandy in France. We all remember I am sure, the films about this event, a turning point in the Second World War. It sort of brought everything back into perspective for me. Freedom, all those people who fought for our freedom and lost their lives. It is food for thought isn’t it. And so I say, my idea of being freed from a plaster cast is peanuts compared to a day like this, 75 years ago.

The remembrance of this event and this day, the longest day, to me is more about freedom. We should all remember this and think about it.

So many lives lost for our freedom.

Unfortunately there are still wars, disagreements and suffering going on somewhere in the world. Isn’t it time that we all made a much more positive effort to bring love and freedom back in to our world? End it once and for all? The big question is how!

I always think that it only has to begin with one person making a positive change and then like a ripple across the water, one becomes two and so on. We need to make an effort, not only for ourselves and our future, but in respect for all those like Winston Churchill said: ‘never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’.

Winston Churchill actually made this famous speech on the 20th August 1940. Many years before my own birthday on the same day.

When I started this blog today, I suddenly realized how many coincidences actually happened on this day 6th June 2019. 75 years later. There is some nice synchronicity in the numbers too: 6/6 = 12, 7/5 = 12

This is a 3-year (2019) and here we have it then three 3’s in a row.

So I will finish off with the words I received in an email today as well about the meaning of 333

‘You are in the middle of a divinely creative flow right now. Follow where the imagination leads, don’t worry about trying to understand where it is all taking you. The art you create will inspire and encourage others to make this world a better place, so great changes are possible if you stay true and commit to expressing your authentic voice. You are capable of having a powerful impact on masses of people’.

Isn’t it lovely when everything comes together, that we are actually given a sign that we are all making a difference and actually can. Let’s do it shall we? Why not begin today? Join in as one group, making the world a better place for everyone.

Images: Google. Thanks to Numerologist for the words about numbers.

JUST VOTED!

Well, dear readers I have had an interesting morning for sure!

Yesterday I received a phone call from RTV Rijnmond, a local TV and radio station if I would be willing to take part in another interview for them. Can’t say no to that can I?

The theme this time, having taken part in a similar interview at the beginning of April this year about becoming a citizen of The Netherlands, ties in with the European Parliament Elections which have kicked off here today and go on in other European countries until this coming Sunday. Many millions of people all across Europe will be choosing new members of this parliamentary group.

It is a lovely sunny day here too, so perfect for TV interviews in the garden. Last time around it was such fun: talking and a lot of laughing, filming, re-taking until there is enough footage to prepare an item for the news today.

But a bit different this time around, because they are going to take me to go and vote. The election papers have been lying here on the table for a couple of weeks and to be honest I did not think I would be able to go, as temporarily extra handicapped as you all know from previous blogs, with my leg in plaster, a wheelchair, crutches etc.

I have come to the conclusion after this morning’s session that this is a really cool job, making such interviews, apart from that fact that you have to pay attention to each and every detail, however small. Often when recording live radio or television you often mispronounce words, or mumble something, your tongue gets twisted, you need to cough and so on. Then it gets tricky for the re-takes, as you have to remember what you were saying, where you were up to and how to carry on. Thankfully the wonders of digitally mastering the film back at the studios are easy.  We had several moments going in and out of doors, getting into a large car, taking the wheelchair along to and the drive (about 8km) to the Polling Station.

Yesterday after the phone call I thought I had better use the afternoon by doing an online questionnaire about who I would like to vote for, catching up on ‘who is who’ in Europe (well those representing The Netherlands) and then for the first time ever, voting as a Dutch citizen.

When I had finished the questionnaire I had three choices of parties, all on 33% and to be honest none the wiser.

So what are my thoughts about this European Parliament? Well first and foremost I disagree that these people earn such exorbitant amounts of money, in their monthly salary (which is tax free), then expenses for this and that and believe me it is a really cushy job by the end of each month. Apartments in Brussels and Strasbourg, staff in both places, a fixed amount for expenses every month for having to commute between both places and so it goes on.

I have never truly believed since the formation of the EEC way back that you could actually make a ‘United States of Europe’. You can’t and it does not work because there is too much diversity between countries. Languages for starters, not to mention beliefs and customs too. And another big issue is the economic welfare of richer countries as opposed to poorer countries.

The idea of making one legislation for a large part of Europe just does not work. And if you are going to try and achieve that, then you have to make things the same in all member countries, like VAT for starters, or tax on things like cars, petrol, health care, schooling, grants, child allowance, unemployment benefit, the list is endless.

I am not going to go on and on about my thoughts on the EEC and bore you all to death, but it does not take a huge amount of intelligence to work out that basically it is a mess. A great idea, I suppose, of a single Euro currency, but as far as the Netherlands was concerned way back in 2001, then the rate of the old guilder against the new Euro was unfair. Basically everything was just halved, whereas the Germans got a better deal with the German Mark.

Anyway all that history put aside, today is voting day. I did like one of the slogans (‘Don’t let Brussels be the Boss’) of the SP party saying that they want to take back control of things here in The Netherlands when it concerns issues that are primarily Dutch. I agree. Why should people in Brussels or Strasbourg for that matter have any say about health care here, or when someone is eligible for their pension, or (and this is really a touchy subject) how many asylum seekers should be allowed into any one country? The Dutch (and that now includes me) do not want Brussels deciding on say: the public transport system, or the Dutch army. They think that people are more important than tax-evading multi nationals and they also want to stop the terrible wastage of monies concerning the EC parliament itself (as I discussed here above).

I could go on and on and make this into a very long story because there are so many issues. So to sum it up, I think I should vote today for the people who are saying the things I agree with. Even though I actually had the choice of three parties according to the online survey.

Of course during the interview this subject came up and I was honest and open about who I was going to vote for. 

A rather ridiculous aspect of this whole circus is that the United Kingdom is also taking part. Having stated clearly that they wanted to leave the EEC, the famous Brexit story, they are now being obliged to take part! What a farce, because if the Brexit goes through, deal or no deal, these elected members will have to give up their places and same will be divided amongst other European countries. I think The Netherlands would be entitled to 4 of the 200-odd British places, in the event of a Brexit.

Of course we have our own thoughts about Nexit, that The Netherlands would decide to leave the EEC too, there are parties here calling for that too.

It is a confusing jungle of what to do and what not. But one thing that I think is really important is that our forefathers and foremothers fought very hard at the beginning of the 1900’s that every single person, male and female had the right to vote. So, let’s do just that. I heard on the news this morning that they expect only 37% of the population here will actually go and vote. That is too stupid for words. You have the right to have your say and you should exercise it. There is absolutely no point then afterwards moaning on incessantly about the things you don’t agree with if you have not taken the trouble to actually go and vote.

Again, to my mind trying to create one single European nation is something, which is never going to work, for the reasons mentioned above. For those of you who read my last blog on GDPR will realize that a single legislation becomes far too complicated.

One final thing that I will say which I think is important is that we all stop and think about our planet and that we all try and agree on some sort of legislation, not only in Europe but also across the entire globe and that is something sensible about climate protection. We owe it to the younger generations to stop polluting this planet. It can only happen when everyone agrees with one another and to my mind we are a long way off from doing that.

But in the meantime, I have ‘just voted’ and the TV crew wrote those words on my plaster cast. 

It was a really fun morning, on a serious subject and I feel very honoured to have been asked again to make a short interview, which will be aired tonight after 5pm (Dutch time) on the RTV Rijnmond News. 

I am sorry I don’t have the answers either on these difficult issues! But at least I have voted.

Image: Google

ONCE UPON A GDPR …

I am wondering how many of you who have just read the title of my latest blog know what it means?

As I have mentioned before I have downloaded an App onto my phone called ‘Calm’. It is a collection of meditations, short sleep time stories, music etc to either begin your day with the ‘daily meditation’ or end it with a ‘bedtime story.’ This week I listed to one narrated by Peter Jefferson.

Now he is quite well known as a BBC presenter who was most famous for his daily shipping forecasts. He also read the news; announced programmes and an actor and all of this he did for 45 years.

So what is GDPR all about?

Well I will tell you and I hope that you can keep awake until you reach the end of this short blog.

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is one of the latest important regulations devised by the EU. This new legislation supersedes the Data Protection Directive from 1995. The former of course being introduced when more and more people started to use the Internet. But so much has changed since then. Hence the new legislation.

The new GDPR is basically to protect EU citizens on the following: data privacy, notifications, rights and protection. The document is 57.500 words long. Over 43 times longer than the American Declaration of Independence and 114 times longer than the Gettysburg Address. Even so, and let’s be fair, far shorter than the famous classic novel War & Peace by Tolstoy.

Bored already?

So Peter Jefferson is narrating a bedtime story and says he will start by reading just a short piece from the 107 page Introduction. I had to smile when he said: ‘I hope you can stay awake!’

Well to be honest I have to ask myself who writes such drivel? It is so incredibly repetitive that after about 2 minutes you are completely lost. Is this why parliament members of not only the European Union but also the European Council are paid so much? For writing stuff like this? Obviously they have never heard of words like ‘concise’ or ‘keeping to the point’.

Or summarizing! Even though it is a serious subject, I mean come on…

Even though this narrated story was only 33 minutes long in total, I am sorry to have to admit that I fell asleep before it ended. And not really surprising.

Of course I feel that as the worldwide web grows and grows it is a good thing that data is protected and certainly when it comes to things like personal information. How many of us fill in all sorts of forms online, when perhaps making a purchase, giving our name, address, phone number, and date of birth and more likely than not a credit card number too. Then we need protection, particularly as the news often speaks of leaks and that hackers have stolen data.

Really it is quite scary, also when you think about for instance the ‘dark web’ too. I know nothing about this apart from the fact that it came up in a TV-series I regularly watch.

So the EU made a new legislation and I hope that there is someone out there who can understand it. Yes, laws have to be detailed but this one really is unbelievable. I have listened to a bit of it again this morning before starting to write this blog and after about 5 minutes I still ask myself: ‘what an earth are they talking about’. I just wonder how long it took to write the thing in the first place?

Even though the world online is really amazing, you can find out anything you want, surfing on Internet. Whether we like it or not, it is a major thing in our lives these days. And we all use it regularly.

Many will agree then that it is a good thing to have protection. But to what lengths because a document like this is so intense and long, it is impossible to get a gist of what it is all about. Yes, our data should be protected of course, no argument about that and recently the majority of online sites have been obliged to ask your permission to not only share, but protect your data too.

It is quite mind boggling that WiFi is literally everywhere, so no matter where you are, at work, at home, in a bus, train, or even just walking down the street, with a mobile device, then your data is open to virtually everyone. You may think you are protected, but in fact you are not really. There are several apps and software for this purpose but my question is, how safe is safe?

I would not advice anyone to try and phathom out the real meaning behind these 57.500 word-long document, apart from its name GDPR.

But for all of you insomniacs out there, you can download the CALM app from the Apple or Android Store; you can have a free 7-day trial (but remember to cancel if you don’t want to continue in time) and have probably the best night’s sleep ever. You can listen to the narrated story about GDPR, guaranteed to send you off to the land of nod in minutes!

Sleep well.

Thanks to CALM and Peter Jefferson for the inspiration. Images from Google.