What is it about society today that people feel that they have to be perfect? How many young people do you know who spend time and undergo operations to ensure that they have the perfect figure, the exact size breasts and buttocks, perfect white teeth, pumped up lips? I think each and every one of us can think of someone like that in our circles. If you are not perfect, you don’t count anymore?
I often ask myself why? Why do people undergo such operations when it is purely pimping up – you? Of course and I will not deny there are instances when plastic surgery and such like can make improvement in say, badly burned skin, sagging skin around the eyes, but why on earth undergo a major operation from choice purely from striving to be perfect.
Here in The Netherlands, there is someone called Marijke Helwegen. She is the epiphany of plastic surgery and famous for her saying: ‘lipjes getuit, borsten vooruit’ (translated: ‘pucker your lips and breasts forwards’). In the end she had so many operations to retain her youth that eventually, her entire face was so tight, she could hardly speak. Later on she admitted that when the dramas hit the headlines about the problems with breast implants and particularly silicone, she regretted what she had done.
Even though we know how important a first impression is, but going that far?
One of Hollywood’s most famous actors, Robert Redford once said he never had undergone any restoration surgery, because if you did, it took away the natural ageing and expression in your face. How true!
This weekend I was watching one of the best programmes I think at this moment on TV – Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). I mean 90% of the programmes are such rubbish it is refreshing when something actually entertaining is sent out.
One of the contestants is singer Samantha Steenwijk, who recently appeared in the ‘Voice of Holland’ and ‘Best Singers’. A really lovely looking woman but as she admitted freely at the beginning of the DWTS first editions, had a huge lack of self-confidence about her own figure. Her partner Marcus Van Teijlingen (oh my goodness you are so on the same wavelength as me on this subject) is just perfect for her because each and every time he is able to boost her confidence with such a wonderful routine. They look really excellent together and people are not paying any attention whatsoever if her thighs or bottom are a bit bigger than average. I mean who cares; it is so totally irrelevant, when it is about a performance or a dance. I think anyone who has seen them would give their ‘right arm’ to look this good on the dance floor together, such passion, such timing and so genuine. I take my hat off to you Samantha as I told you yesterday in a private message on social media; this is exactly what people should pay more attention to. The curves and imperfections (and they are not really imperfections) are so much more important that having your body literally taken to pieces to create the perfect figure. Great if you have one naturally and can eat what you like without gaining a single ounce, but the majority of us, cannot.
So why is there such a big deal about curves or imperfections? I have no idea apart from the fact that society is projecting this image onto us. You don’t seem to count if you are not totally perfect. What a load of crap.
Isn’t it all about the person themselves and how they interact with you, or the deep soul that resides within them?
Of course it is.
It is time to stop all this ridiculous pimping of our bodies just to be what society as a general finds as suitable, acceptable and therefore perfect.
I think so, do you? Any operation however small is a huge invasive thing on each and every cell of you body and why, tell me, would you choose to do that just to have a bigger bottom, or bigger breasts and such like. Or smaller as well.
To make myself clear I make no comment whatsoever here about reconstructive surgery after say a mastectomy caused by cancer. That is something entirely different.
A few curves or imperfections are all part of you. The genuine person and I think that is much more important. Have you noticed that these people who get themselves so pimped up, have a terrible time getting into serious relationships with people. Sylvie Meis is the one who springs to mind here.
Accept yourself for who you are. Go on a diet or adapt your eating routine if you think you might prefer to be a few kilos lighter. We are so judgemental about appearances in general. Get to know someone for who they are and not their watermelon chest size.
If you would prefer your body to be a little trimmer, stop being a couch potato and get down to the gym. My cardiologist always says the best exercise is regular walking. Get a dog, walk to work; each and every day will make a difference. Half an hour every day is enough! Yes, to your physical appearance for sure, but it will also change the way you feel about yourself. If you feel good, then others will notice and you will proudly be able to say, you made the effort yourself. A real self-confidence boost.
A few wrinkles, or a blemish here and there, does not change who you are inside. It is just part of your story. That is the way I look at it, with quite a lot of surgical scars on my body: heart, hip and knee operations. Pretty big scars too, but they tell my story that I underwent the challenge and recovered from it, albeit with a lot of help from the doctors who made it possible. Doesn’t it make you feel stronger knowing that you recovered from something like that, as opposed to having scars from operations that were all about pimping yourself up to be perfect.
Enough said I think.
Just leave you with this thought: People these days will judge you for literally everything; the challenge is to rise above it all. Those who love and accept you for who you really are, they are the important ones. And they never even think about whether you are perfect or not. In their eyes you are!
Images: Google and Dancing with the Stars (Samantha and Marcus)
Sorry everyone, I know I have written a lot about the pro’s and con’s of Instagram, but I keep hearing stories and so sharing another one with you.
If you like me use Instagram merely as a place to share nice pictures, quotes and ‘shout-out’s’ about your work for instance. Fine! However, just watch every now and again who is actually following you. Suddenly someone you don’t know personally will follow you from one of your posts. If you don’t pay attention to this, eventually there will be loads. What are the tell tale signs?
Well these so called ‘followers’ usually have a private account. There are little posts and they have few followers, but follow many! You may find a ‘request’ from them in your private message section. They always begin with Hi, Hello, Hello dear, Hello beautiful. The usual crap, flattering for those who are open to this, but to the majority of us, just a pain in arse.
So what do you do? Answer block them. Then they cannot see your posts anymore and delete any private messages. If you respond you are actually opening the door and they will keep messaging.
Fake Accounts are a major issue on Instagram now and believe me I see hundreds a week. People posing as others, stealing their photos and pretending to be who they are not. From my previous blogs you will have read about Fernando Gomes Pinto in Brazil and Thomas Lindegaard Madsen from Denmark. These are they types they go for, handsome men with good jobs who post a lot. Probably too much, but that it not my business. Suspect accounts should be reported to Instagram as spam, if you think that it is someone using someone else’s photo. Same applies of course to pretty women as well.
And now we have a new type of account. These are accounts, which are called ‘business accounts’ where someone else is running an account for a person who receives payment! Yes, I can hear you all saying really that is happening. Yes is the answer. A really handsome or pretty person, super job, great body and all the trimmings that provide photos to the person running his or her so called business account. Believe me it is not the reality of their life at all. It is really more of a fictive story. Then you would not believe the so-called ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. It almost makes you ask yourself is the world full of brain dead bimbo’s or dumbo’s that have nothing better to do that literally drool. Same applies to woman and men doing the same, but in the main it is male profiles and then thousands of desperate women following and commenting, not because they know the person personally, just because they are sad hopeless cases with little or no intelligence. This is the new 2.0 of Instagram profiles. Then of course money comes into the equation once more. To be honest I really do not understand why people in this hectic pace of life we all live in, have the time for starters, but at the same time I feel sympathy that people are so desperate for love they seriously think they will find it on Instagram. Come On. Wake up!!!
The so-called Instagram stories are really all fiction being made up by someone running their account and they are merely being paid to supply photos. It’s people like body builders, with killer bodies that attract attention too. Seriously think for a moment a really handsome good-looking man is not looking for a woman on Instagram. He does not need to because they literally drop at his feet when he is out and about. He or she has the choice out of many real life people, not the fake shit on Instagram. A lot of these accounts concern military people too. Do not be fooled, they do not have the time to be nattering away to people on social media if they are on an official mission somewhere. They don’t need the money either, usually well paid people who are already in real life relationships. Another favourite in this category is the British TV chef Paul Hollywood (who by the way is happily married to Alexandra since 1998). PS Just had a comment from someone that he is now divorced, oh dear, makes him really vulnerable again then!
I really dislike this because there have been problems with Facebook who share our photos and data and now Instagram, which is all part of the same family, is getting worse and worse. The whole point of just wanting to share something with friends and acquaintances has gone out of control.
Even the Dutch Royal Family is posting on Instagram? What??
My only word of advice is, take care. As I have said repeatedly in my blogs, scammers and fake people are out there. They hide behind profiles of others so that they are recognised or they make the whole story up completely. You seriously want to be connected to someone like that?
One of the biggest problems about why we do this is because: we are afraid to miss out on anything. But is this crap worth wanting to read or see? I don’t think so.
I can see myself what is happening with my own social media things. I post on Facebook when I publish a new blog, and shout out on Instagram and then get completely inundated with comments, reactions and emails, particularly when it concerns a new blog coming onto my website. I write these blogs for that purpose, to keep people informed or to express an opinion about something. The books I write are so much more about creating fiction and weaving a story and telling a tale, even if I make up every word. I make a proper disclaimer about this at the beginning of a book, it’s obligatory and my work is copyrighted by the fact, that I actually publish a book and it’s available to the public in general.
Maybe some of you will remember one of the first social media accounts –Hyves – and have you heard the news recently that all the shared posts and data is still available even though you may have deleted your account years ago. Now that is the thing about data it gets saved somewhere. Remember that.
My advice is only post things that are general. If its something personal you want to say to someone, keep it in the private channels. Do not post about going on holiday otherwise you might just as well send out an invitation to burglars and tell then where you have left your key. Take care when publishing things about your children, the photos are just not safe and do you want your child’s face on some horrific pornographic paedophile dark web? I don’t think so.
Just be careful that is all that I am saying. It’s only advice but every time I hear stories about these accounts, I think the only sensible thing is to get off them or only use them for the things I have said about.
Isn’t the feeling of being in love something we all crave for? How many of you remember the first time? The feeling that butterflies were doing somersaults in your tummy, you didn’t feel hungry, your entire body was buzzing, just as if champagne was flowing through your veins? It felt as if you were walking around in a fluffy pink cloud all the time.
Love can of course be many things: love for our partner, family or children, pets, your home, your car, your job, art and music, reading and so on and so. I could write a huge list for this blog right here!
So I guess you all know what I am talking about! It is that intense ‘feel good feeling’ that strengthens your self worth and basically makes you feel alive.
So what happens if it all goes sour? And that can happen to all of us.
Suddenly without warning, the feeling begins to fade and then often to such an extent it ceases completely. What then? Well there are two options either you make a huge effort to try and reinstate the feeling or you start thinking maybe this is some sort of sign, that it’s time to make a change.
But what are the signs? Complacency, not making as much effort anymore, too busy with your work, your hobbies, or in general just drifting apart.
Complacency I think maybe the key word here and also familiarity! And we all know the saying: ‘familiarity breeds contempt’!
Your soul begins to crave for something more. You may not recognize the signs at first but believe me there is not a single person on this planet who does not want to be loved. A lot of people have a lot of issues on this point when there is lack of love.
For the people who do a lot of mindfulness, meditation or any form of spiritual work, are often much more open to change and signs than the rest of us. They have learnt over a period of time, that the universe is giving us signs all the time. In many shapes or forms. From something simple like double figures on a clock to tunes on the radio. Giving you moments of déjà-vu. Or even better flash forwards. Visions of things that are maybe still to come.
I believe that each and every one of us should attach a great deal of importance to love. Love will change this world. We are all far too busy with futile things sometimes, and why? Well, since the introduction of social media, the basic deal is that we don’t want to miss out on anything, so we tend to dive into our social media as opposed to having a conversation with our loved ones. I can only say, guilty as charged! I do it too. I see it in my children too, there are seldom without their phones in their hands.
You have to be very strict to ensure that phones are a ‘zero tolerance’ thing around the dinner table. Good luck on that score!
Often in the evenings, those of us who have busy working days will spend time catching up on emails, Facebook and all the rest. We no longer actually sit around the table as families and have proper conversations. Not because we don’t want to, just because society puts such huge demands on us. The pace of life in general is hectic to say the least.
So it is no surprise really is it that love can fade away? We just do not give it enough attention. Please remember that I am generalizing here, not everyone does what I say above, but a hell of lot do!
So that wonderful warm, fuzzy feeling of being in love has gone? What next? And what if had got to the stage that any form of reconciliation or repair is not possible? What do you do? Sit back and think that it is my lot in life or do you choose to many real changes. This is no small feat.
When the feeling of love has gone in a relationship and you both acknowledge it, maybe it’s time to be fair and say so. Make the choice to make change. It will not be easy for sure, especially when there is the splitting up of a family involved. There are so many memories in the past. But you just have to be a bit cooler, take out the emotion, because the past is gone and will not be coming back. It is going forwards that counts now.
Often its better to make a clean break and start again. But you have to be tough to do it. I actually have one or two friends who have done this and they will definitely confirm that you need a lot of people around you who care for you to survive the next period.
But when you are open to change and welcome it clearly, then you will find that the Law of Attraction, which we all talk about, actually begins to happen. When you clearly give signs to the universe that you want change, you are willing and able no matter what, then you can dare to dream again. You really can. Your dream, your passion and what you actually want in life, will never come to fruition if you don’t take time to think about it. And definitely not if you just sit back and wait for things to happen automatically. You have to make effort.
And then all of sudden at the least expected moment (because it always goes that way) someone crosses your path and like a bolt of lightening that wonderful feeling of being in love is back. Because when you feel good about yourself and others, then you will be actually sending out waves of energy, which others will feel, pick up and recognize. Moping around feeling sorry for yourself will get you nowhere. And when this happens, people will see the change in you too.
It is well known saying – Love makes the World go around! It is true because there is nothing more satisfying or fulfilling than feeling in love. It is the reason that you get up every morning, start singing in the shower because you feel happy and desired again, go to work (if you do) or actually spend your day doing nice things. Things that give you joy. Because you feel joyful yourself.
There is a bounce in your step once more. People will really start to notice a change in you. Don’t believe me? Try it.
If there is one thing I have learnt through the years and all the practice I have done, confirms if you ignore the signs, you will for sure be literally stopped in your tracks until you literally stop, sit up and take notice. If you are in a toxic relationship and know then its time to take action. So you know what to do now! I have written about this in earlier blogs.
I cannot say enough times how important love is in my, your, our lives. It is the feeling that makes everything come together. When you are in love, you are able to give love in return and this is something that benefits everyone, and flows out into the world, like ripples on a pond.
So don’t deny it anymore. If you are in a situation where love has literally flown out of the window, choose for change. Choose to do something to reinstate. Love goes in many forms. Love can be something so simple like treating yourself to nice things every now and again, because there is no doubt whatsoever that the person who is at the top of all our lists for love, is us ourselves. Love begins by you. Yes, it’s true. Self-love is nothing egoistic; it is just acknowledging who we are within. Our source. Feed your soul with love and all will be well.
Dare to love!
Dare to go for change!
Let’s all be part of bringing more and more love into this world!
Images: sectorstock.com : notes on bliss.com and Google Images
Every day I get a lot of messages from you all and thank you for each and every one, asking me if it is OK to share my work in your own social circles.
Yes, of course, and I am flattered that you want to. Please one request: always acknowledge the author, as my work is protected by copyright, especially my books, because they are officially published documents registered with ISBN numbers.
The number of emails I get per day can be anything from a few hundred to 1500 or even more. I read them all but it is impossible to reply to each and every one of them
I am grateful for all the praise you give me for my work and virtually everyone of you says you are enjoying my posts. By adding them all into the feed would make me feel as if I was on a sort of personal ego trip, but please know I read them all.
This morning having watched the Dutch breakfast news, I stupidly flipped channels to the BBC just to catch an interview happening live in front of the Houses of Parliament between two members of the Conservative Party. As there is yet another vote planned today in the Houses of Commons, concerning the ‘yes or no deal Brexit’ planned for 31stOctober this year, it was quite shameful to see two grown up men, who have been elected by their constituents to represent them in parliament, not even being civil to allow one another to finish the sentence before cutting in! I mean how can you have a normal discussion when you are not even allowed to finish what you are trying to say. Shameful! There seems to be no rules anymore on this subject. Gone are the days when a discussion was comparable to a tennis match – pit/pat like the ball going over the net, he says, she says.
It made me feel grateful that I am out of this whole sorry process. But at the same time, as my roots are in the United Kingdom, I often follow what is actually happening more often than not, flabbergasted about the next issue.
With the election of BoJo, as he is commonly known in the corridors, it is sad to see that he too, is only interested in leaving his ‘stamp’ on British politics. Well they all do the same. The fact that he has not only pressured the Monarch into agreeing with a longer parliamentary recess than normal and thus allowing little or no time to discuss the pro’s and con’s of the NO DEAL BREXIT – and believe me it will be 31stOctober sooner than you think, amazes me. The poor Queen at 93 probably just ‘gave in and agreed’ when confronted by such a ‘plonker’ as BoJo. I mean he is almost material for the worst comedy series possible on TV.
To my mind BoJo (and isn’t it strange that he almost looks like the twin brother of Trump) is just purely and simply a narcissist. He doesn’t give a damnation about the British public; it is all about making his mark for the history books in the political sector. Does he seriously think that cavorting to and fro to other European leaders is going to suddenly produce a new opening for discussions? I don’t think so. He may think he is becoming friends with Merkel, but everyone here in mainland Europe know all too well, that Merkel and Macron decide absolutely everything that is happening in the EU, the people chosen to lead are merely their puppets.
Let’s go back to the basics. When an election is held and constituents choose by voting a candidate to represent them in the British political scene, why is it that once elected, they just become like sheep in a herd immediately they enter the chambers of parliament? Any of you who ever follow a live debate will know exactly what I mean because they all literally sound like a herd of sheep. Politeness, respect, actually listening to what people say, opinions, choices, thoughts, fly straight out of the window and the poor John Bercow nearly goes hoarse having to shout ‘order, order’ time and time again.
I truly believe that a lot of people in the UK have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the effects of a NO DEAL BREXIT mean. I confess I don’t either. Apart from the fact that the UK will take back control of their own affairs and in this respect a lot of other European citizens will agree with that, because they too, are sick to death of dictatorship from Brussels.
But what does it mean on a day-to-day basis?
Yesterday I just happened to read a post on social media concerning the ‘back wall’, which is the new proposed boundary between Northern Ireland and Eire. That people will have to go through passport controls and customs just to visit members of their families who just happen to live on the other side of the fence. Ridiculous. There has been a lot of bloodshed mainly because of religious views in Northern Ireland, but its peaceful and quiet now and why would anyone want to awaken that again. The frustration and difficulties because a ‘back wall’ has to be created. It reminds me of Trump’s wall between the USA and Mexico and I remember in 1989 we were all thrilled when the Berlin wall finally fell. But 30 years on we are building new ones. Where is the respect for our fellow man?
And more to the point, what is the point? Wouldn’t it just be easier to call Ireland one single country? Maybe someone reading this will say words like ‘never’ or ‘no way’ but please enlighten me what is the reason for creating a divide on one island?
So as we approach 31stOctober and the politicians are still discussing ‘yes or no’ to NO DEAL BREXIT I think there is not a single one of them who truly knows what the consequences will be. One simple example is the trade that passes across the English Channel from Europe to the UK. How long are the traffic jams going to be when the controls for freight etc are even stricter and even more frustrated lorry drivers waiting hours and hours to clear customs to bring their goods either to or from the UK to mainland Europe. What will be the effect for farmers and other small businesses that import and export to Europe and also not to mention enterprises that can only survive with EC subsidies? It is a real mess isn’t it? And in the meantime as I saw this morning on the news, political party members, and from the same party as well, cannot even agree with one another. A sad state of affairs. Even after today’s vote, yes or no, to the hard-deal-Brexit, what is the next step? There must be someone out there who has an answer.
It is true that other European leaders, are fed up with the whole subject, just as I suspect everyone is, but they are not going to contemplate going back to the negotiating table once again, no matter how many times Bojo crosses the English Channel for talks. The Dutch PM Mark Rutte made a statement some time ago along the lines: That the British voted to leave so they must just get on with it and leave! But no one really thought through the consequences did they?
I don’t have an answer either, but I do know and remember well, that the British people in general unite forcefully when lead by someone who knows what he is talking about. My immediate thought is Winston Churchill. This is not the case with BoJo, who cannot even get a decent haircut despite his Eton (I think) education. How sad is that? He is just a very big bag of wind.
I am a huge fan of Netflix series like ‘House of Cards’ or ‘Designated Survivor’ but politics is not for me. It is such a farce to be honest. Far too much ego and backstabbing. It is survival of the fittest. Maybe we should send them all away to some remote island and actually see if they can survive? I doubt it very much.
I saw a friend of mine posted a cynical thought this morning on Facebook and is it true that the British people will be stockpiling in the next few weeks, wondering if there actually will be any food shortages. The more worrying thought is medication or instrumentation for medial needs that will be caught up in the ‘over the border’ hassles. What will BoJo have to say about that then? Does he care? No of course not. His only goal is to go down in the history books as the PM who ensured that a No-Deal-Brexit happened and was totally blind to the consequences, basically because he could not care less.
To make matters even worse there is now a calling for a General Election in the UK, so what happens if another party is elected like Labour and someone like Jeremy Corbyn takes over? Time is running out for sure, is there even going to be anyone who will step up to the table with some sensible solutions?
You know, when I was a child, I used to love birthdays. I think it was mainly because my birthday was right in the middle of the school holidays and usually the weather was good.
My parents would usually organize a big party in the garden and all my friends, neighbours and of course family would come. My memories are all happy ones and I always recall that my maternal grandmother would say: ‘what is the good of a birthday if you can’t do what you like?’ How true is that?
My idea of a great birthday treat would be a visit to a funfair, like the one in Battersea in London. Now I suspect a lot of your reading this will not even remember that there was a permanent funfair at Battersea and a wonderful tree walk high up amongst the trees. We would go every year, that is all I asked for and go on every single ride, several times.
When you are young you always seems to be yearning for the phenomena – getting older! I wonder why? Is it that the number of years means that we are able to do more and more and become independent? Certainly yes, when reaching the age of 18, you can learn to drive a car! Then freedom to come and go, as you want.
One of the biggest parties we ever gave was for my 21stBirthday Party. Can you remember the famous little song : 21 Today? We hired a small hall in Send, near Woking in Surrey and also a DJ. Mike Reid, (who just happened to be in my circle of friends), then went on to become a really well known BBC Radio Disc Jockey. Literally everyone would be invited because there was more space and my mother and I would prepare the food, whilst my father took care of arranging the drinks. Everyone seemed also to chip in, help wise.
When you are younger you seem to have an incredibly long list of things you would like to have. So presents are plentiful and easy for people to buy. So when does the lustre and shine fade when it comes to yet another year has passed by and it’s your birthday again?
I think as far as I was concerned it was the sudden realization, at the time, that I was 30! The twenties had flown by and then I had a family of my own and all the attention was spent on birthdays for the children. Especially when you have two born within one day of each other. We in turn organized huge parties for them too, in the garden, as May can be very good weather wise for barbeques and literally everyone would be invited because we had the space. It was fun! Maybe some of you reading this will recall the parties well, 60-odd people all in our garden! Chairs borrowed from all the neighbours and all the Dad’s helping with the BBQ.
Yesterday was my birthday and I am 65. The official age when you become an ‘old aged person’. In the meantime my own children are coming up to or into their 30’s too. I had to laugh when one of my school friends sent me a message that ’65 is the new 45’. I wish!
But to be truthful I don’t feel as if I am 65. I don’t feel as if I am old now. Let’s be honest it is only numbers. Do we really care? It is more the stigma which society attaches to the idea that when you are 65 you are past it and you stop working (well that is certainly not the case here in The Netherlands where I live, as the ‘pension age’ has been lifted to 67.) The reason is that people are living much longer these days. Look back at your own family tree. 65 used to be old, now it is often seen as the stepping stone to more freedom and time to do all the things you wanted to do, but always put off because of other obligations, the biggest one of which was – Work!
Recently someone asked me if there was a mistake on my official hospital records concerning my age. The year could not be right, they said. You certainly don’t look that old. That is the crux of the matter; I don’t think that either, so why should I ever spend one single second worrying about numbers. Despite the fact that I pay a lot of attention to numbers sometimes when they have some significance. But age is something that is attached to feeling. How old do you actually feel? Probably a lot of people who work under extreme pressure, the 30-40 years old’s will probably answer that they feel about 80 at the end of a high-pressure working week. When tiredness and exhaustion become part of daily life, that burnout’s are very common too, in that age group.
So I come back to what my gran used to say: birthdays are just all about celebrating your arrival on this planet and the years are all about experience and wisdom. How your life has panned out so far? Birthdays are all about doing what you want and like and no longer an obligation. So chin up everyone, age is now declared unimportant, it is how you yourself feel and if you don’t want to act the age of your numbers, then don’t.
I did not have a big party yesterday, it was a very quiet day, but the lovely thing was that I got so many messages on social media and all my old (sorry I should say former) school friends sent me messages. That is better than any present, the fact that all these years further on, they still think about me, even though we don’t see one another on a daily basis. That readers of my blogs sent me birthday wishes, as well as lots of contacts on social media. I appreciate that. I mean it.
If you would ask me well, what present would you like, well it’s easy: It’s knowing that family, friends, neighbours and loved ones care. Care enough to just stop what they are doing and say ‘hello! Happy Birthday!, Have a magical day’. That is what counts most of all. Agree?
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?
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)
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
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.
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