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It's Not All About Self Care
Anyone else feel like there’s a lot going on at the moment? I haven’t written one of these in a while, I’m feeling a bit on the back foot at the moment and while ‘officially’ it’s podcast week, I’ve not had a chance to edit it yet so I’m tweaking the plan somewhat!
First things first, how are you? I hope you’re well and not yet panic-stricken that Christmas lights are going up everywhere. Is it earlier than usual? I’m not quite ready to think about it, not helped by the fact that this time of year is birthday season for our family, and as it’s my daughter’s 18th and my 50th this year, it’s been a tad busier than usual.
One of my jobs on the to-do list is to come up with a list of dishes for my party in a couple of weeks. I had considered an ’80s throwback buffet with vol-au-vents and prawn cocktails but it does rather leave me cold so our latest consideration is trying a modern-day twist on the wee puff pastry buckets (obviously other things too) and perhaps go with an alternative filling…. we shall see.
I have to say that looking at them on that plate does rather take me back to Home Economics GCSE classes and memories of life in the late 80s and not for the first time recently either. They’ve come back a few times of late, both with reflection on turning 50, and now with the arrival of the John Lewis Christmas ad:
When I was 14, we were evicted from the house we lived in because the owners who lived next door, couldn’t bear another day hearing what went on our side of the walls. I don’t blame them, there was a lot of anger and violence in our home, and it must have been very stressful to live next to us, particularly as we were living there rent-free as they were also trying to help us out.
So with no money and no home, my parents hatched a plan to rehome my older brother and me so they only had our two younger siblings to look after. They weren’t inclined to use social services so took it upon themselves to find some willing folk to take us in. As time ticked on, there was just one offer on the table, from an elderly couple. They were the parents of someone in the church so it was assumed without question their care would be fine.
The wife was an alcoholic who attacked her husband and smashed up the room underneath my bedroom most nights. I would go to sleep with three pillows over my head, and the mattress soaked with my tears. My grades in school plummeted, but back in those days these things weren’t talked about, the school didn’t know and I didn’t tell my friends.
I begged my Mum to find us somewhere else and eventually the pastor of our local church and his wife conceded that it would be better for me and my brother to go and stay with their family. The agreement was that we could stay, but that we didn’t eat supper with them as that would intrude on their family time. So, every evening we walked to the other end of the village to eat with our parents and two younger siblings, who now lived in a tiny cottage. There wasn’t room for all of us in the kitchen, so each evening I would sit with my supper balanced on my knees, on the bottom step of the staircase, aware that I didn’t belong either there, or up the road.
There is always need around us and right now, on the back of yesterday’s budget, we can see the pinch is going to get even tighter. I love that John Lewis have focussed on sharing our homes and helping each other for their campaign this Christmas. I also love that they’ve ignited a conversation around foster care - on the last count by the ONS, there were over 80,000 children in the UK care system.
Earlier this week Brian and I went to watch Living and it deserves every single one of the accolades it’s receiving! My tears were so heavy that they streamed down my cheeks, down my throat and under my shirt - usually, they run out of steam at the mid-throat level at best. Bill Nighy‘s character finds out he only has a short amount of time left to live, and it’s not the sadness of his situation that made me cry, it was the change in his attitude towards people. Suddenly everyone mattered and what he does is beautiful….
Paying it forwards
It’s easy to forget that people matter when we’re rushing from pillar to post, from work to the school run, from the fridge to the oven, from upstairs to down. We fly through our days, busy busy busy and sometimes all it takes, is a little bit of slowing down and looking around.
Last week, Brian went to get his car washed. He pulled up and parked before going in to get a ticket, and an older gentleman parked next to him to do the same. They exchanged a brief conversation and when Brian was at the till, he decided to buy two car washes, and gave the other to the gent by way of thanks for making him smile. It turns out that gent and his wife had been out the night before and found a girl crying because she lost her phone and wallet, so they gave her money to get home safely.
‘We’ve got to look after each other’
‘Thanks so much’ he said to Brian as he handed him the ticket, and told the story of the night before. ‘It just goes to show, we’ve got to look after each other.’ he said.
We don’t have to have everything sorted, or even have much to spare. We’re here for a brief time and we all know as we watch war on TV, and hear tragedies on the news, that life can change in an instant. So, I hope that this message finds you well and that we all see opportunities over the coming days and weeks, to pay it forwards. Self-care has its place and importance, but it’s far from everything, we’ve got to look after each other too. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all?
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