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Archive for March, 2017

Today, 27 March 2017, marks the end of a wonderful episode of and in my life. 6.5 years ago, in 2011, I moved in with my daughter for 6 months (Yes, I know right LOL).

Back at the time she had just been through a very traumatic divorce, had moved into a shared house with a lass whose fiance had been killed just recently, so there was a lot of high emotion and stress for both of them. Things didn’t go well after a few months and in time the other lass moved out and my daughter decided that she was settled in the house and didn’t want to move. She was also wary of sharing with another stranger and all the issues that brings with it. So after much discussion and since I had just recently quit my long-term live-in caring position, it was decided I would move in for 6 months to help her over the hump, so to speak.

Things went well. We had lots of tears to start with as she struggled to find her equilibrium and work her way through the trauma of the divorce, but we also had loads of laughter. I work away a lot with my job, so she had the house to herself for weeks at a time and when I came back, we had cupcakes and tea, long walks and talks, plenty of tears, hugs, kisses and smiles as we created new memories for her to take into the new future she was creating.

I loved it. Frankly speaking it was wonderful to ‘come home’ to my precious child and be able to hug the hurts better, chat about everything under the sun over tea, and just be with her.love you mum 05.06.2013

It helped me tremendously being able to see first-hand her progress and development into what was a new skin and a new person. The divorce had changed her. Now she was developing the next phase of her life. We created some memorable and wonderful memories.

After a few years of London living, she decided she wanted to move to the coast, get out of London. We had discovered that it was the pollution in London that was making her so ill. We lived right on a dual-carriageway in Richmond and the exhaust fumes were affecting what was already a fragile health issue; her heart. One night, the day before Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I was home when her heart stopped. Thankfully I was there. And she recovered after a time. After a few months of searching, she finally found just the right place in Broadstairs 🙂

broadstairs

Broadstairs – a seaside town in Kent

and even though the original arrangement was that I would stay on in London when she made the move to the coast, with one thing and another, and due to financial restraints at the time, it was decided that I would make the move with her…it made sense really; since I wasn’t home much she would have the house to herself for 2-3 weeks of each month, I would have a place for my possessions and get to see her more often than if we were 80 miles apart!! We also got to share some fantastic holidays and events!

Taking over the town and standing as a political candidate, she soon found her feet and settled into her new life

The next two and half years flashed by in the blink of an eye and once again we created some fantastic memories.

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Creating loving and lasting memories in Broadstairs

Soon we had a new addition to our happy home; Elsie moved in and not only took over the house, but our hearts as well ❤elsie

2016-03-25 20.26.37 1213979011156144061_231798962

Just look at this little body… @Elsietherescuecat could she have chosen a more purrrrrfect place to sleep? This little girl is so content it makes my heart ache with love. She couldn’t have been chosen by a more loving person…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Cémanthe has done an amazing job of creating a caring, loving, safe and clearly contented environment for a little body that suffered so much in her earlier life; Elsie the happy cat 😉 

20170323_195745

Last year we fetched Fiona – next was her driving licence and now she’s never home LOL

She met a wonderful young man last year, he proposed in December, they’re getting married in May 2018 and it was decided that they would start sharing a home from May 2017.

So today, 27 March 2017, is officially the last day Broadstairs will be my home. Mum’s moving out and the fiance is moving in ❤💑💍👰💂 In future I’ll just touch base for a day/night or so from time to time to change bags, swap clothes, get plenty of hugs and kisses before heading out again. Essentially I’ll be a gypsy living out my suitcase and travelling between jobs 😀😀😀👏👏 yayy. I’ll miss ‘home’ for sure but I’m excited for adventures new. Goodbye Broadstairs; it’s been fun.

And now it’s time for me to start creating some more fantastic memories.

happiness2

my daughter sent this to me…it’s now my desktop pic!! love it, makes me smile eveytime I log on

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A friend of mine posted this today. Copied from a post in a private group, he felt it captured his thoughts so well that he had to share it:

“I am a Londoner. In fact, I can see Parliament from my street. I walk over Westminster bridge regularly. I set up my local anti-war group, campaign for Palestine, support refugees and I don’t deserve to be attacked or killed by some brainless bigot who imagines he’s a mujahid. No one does. Terrorism is now part of the urban landscape. We live with it, just like we live with the noise and pollution but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shocking when it happens. Especially when it is literally so close to home.

The explosion of hate doesn’t end there though. For weeks to come we will have to hear our friends and neighbours vilified by the sort of people that hate London for being London, a diverse global city where different races, religions and lifestyles all live together and get on. Now those Londoners who happen to be Muslims will be terrorised again. The sort of people that set off bombs or drive into crowds don’t ask your religion first. So the millions of Muslims who live in London have to live with that fear same as the rest of us. Then, they have to live with the fear of being blamed for the actions of the one or two idiots who actually committed the crime. Idiots who acted on the belief that somehow we are collectively to blame for the thousands killed by our country in the Middle East.

I am a Londoner. That means my friends, neighbours and colleagues are Muslim and non-Muslim, black and white, gay and straight and from half the countries on the planet and that’s how I like it. I love London because of it and the little englanders hate it for the same reason. If the racists, fascists and common or garden bigots think they can use OUR tragedy to destroy OUR city, they’ve got another thing coming.

I’m standing up for my London. No one’s ever going to take it away from me. Who’s with me?”

I am.

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic events, we all need to stand firm and not allow hate to enter our hearts. This is once again a very small minority attempting to create fear and horror. We CANNOT allow these acts to colour our perception of other cultures and religions. This atrocity is not the belief or actions of a whole group despite the attempts of many people to vilify the Muslim community. 

I have today unfriended, reported or blocked any of the haters on my social media profiles. They are narrow-minded, shallow, racist and bigoted; not open to discussion or realistic discourse.

My condolences to the families who’ve lost loved ones, innocents caught up in one man’s warped beliefs.

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I absolutely love that this man has become so well known, that he’s generated so much media attention. Imad Alarnab arrived in London in 2015 after fleeing the brutal warfare of his home city of Damascus in Syria, and now he’s launched Imad’s Syrian Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant in Bethnal Green in London.

He’s a Syrian refugee. He’s a human being. He’s a great chef. He’s a person with emotions, feelings, love. He has a family. http://www.reuters.tv/v/F2c/2017/03/13/syrian-refugee-chef-cooks-taste-of-home

Because of the enormous refugee crisis Syrians, like Amad, and other people of other cultures have become and are portrayed as a faceless mass.

Due to this we forget that they’re people, the same as you and me.

Because of this portrayal they become an entity to be feared.

This man, along with millions of others, have been demonized, vilified and manipulated by governments, religious organisations, and media and yes, even ‘humanitarian’ organisations wanting to promote their own causes.

I truly hope that this particular story helps people to change their thinking. To realise that on that whole people don’t just up and leave their country of birth with nothing, just the clothes on their backs, a bit of money and a whole heap of HOPE,…. without good reason.

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While I was working in Oxted, on most days, I made the most of my breaks to explore the area and add to my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, as well as improve my fitness for the Camino. On one said walk my feet took me to one of the largest surviving historic estates in Surrey; Titsey Place in Oxted dates back to the 16th century.

Titsey Estate Surrey

the beautiful grounds of the Titsey Estate

An impressive manor house set in beautiful gardens on a large estate in the stunning countryside of the North Downs. Sadly the house was still closed for winter but I’m hoping to visit when I next visit Oxted.

titsey house and estate surrey

Titsey House, Surrey

My walk took me along the lanes and by-ways of Oxted and I enjoyed being able to explore further afield. I’m participating in the walk 1000 miles 2017 challenge and this walk from Oxted to the Titsey Estate and along part of the Pilgrim’s Way took 1 hour 49 minutes; 4.57 miles / 11,735 steps.

titsey place surrey

the highways and byways of Surrey

I so enjoyed the quiet of the Downs pathway, just me and the birds in the trees and a few cows. I could see and hear the traffic on the M25, and although it didn’t really spoil the walk, it’s interesting how difficult it is to walk anywhere these days without traffic encroaching. We’re meant to walk for health, but if you consider the amount of traffic we’re constantly walking nearby to….well!!! LOL anyway, moving on from that thorny issue, I love walking and thoroughly enjoyed the views and the house looked awesome….roll on March end.

titsey place oxted surrey

views of the Titsey Place Estate near Oxted in Surrey

Titsey House and Gardens are held in Charitable Trust and for part of the year are open to the public offering and there are guided tours of the house.

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15/03/2017 UPDATE!!!! The Government have done a big u-turn and WILL NOT BE HIKING THE N.I. ON THE 4.8MILLION SELF-EMPLOYED OF THE U.K. Bloody marvellous!! 🙂 🙂

Subsequent to the current Chancellor’s ‘spring budget’ I, along with millions of other self-employed people was dismayed (to say the least) at the increase in NI for the self-employed, 1%…doesn’t sound like much. Except when, as a self-employed person, trying to build a business, generate an income, and having to save for any annual leave you may wish to take, any sick leave you may need, not claiming benefits, and you’re already struggling to make ends meet, that little 1% can/could make all the difference between actually making any money or not, and to quite simply….in many instances just surviving!

I’m more than happy to pay my taxes and I realise the NI is vital to fund our national services like the NHS and to provide a pension pot (not that I can depend on that to survive in my old age). So when I saw the increase I was like ” urgh bugger, another increase, but hey ho, it’s not really that much and I’ll probably have to work an extra 10 days p.a. to cover the increase”. Peeved, yes! Unable to do much about it, no! So well fine then.

Then I happened to watch the speech Theresa May gave about said increase…and was dismayed to realise that once again this was a move to protect big business and tax smaller businesses (and more importantly in this instance; the self-employed) who don’t have the same Government allowable tax-avoiding loopholes and hand-outs that big businesses have the benefit of. That’s my understanding.

“The Prime Minister also said the shift towards self-employment was “eroding the tax base” and making it harder to pay for public services “on which ordinary working families depend”. – try closing the bloody loopholes that allow companies like Facebook, and Amazon, Starbucks and Google et al to avoid paying their fair share of tax on the profits GENERATED IN THE U.K. Then we will have more of a tax base!!!  2.5 million self-employed people is a drop in the ocean. (Apparently its 4.8million)

Consider this for 2016:

There were 31.84 million people in work, 37,000 more than for July to September 2016 and 302,000 more than for a year earlier.

There were 23.29 million people working full-time, 218,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.55 million people working part-time, 84,000 more than for a year earlier.

The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.6%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

So how is it that a mere 2.5 million (4.8million) self-employed people are eroding the tax base?

Of course millions of people around the country were just as upset as I, as well as which her MPs were apparently pretty pissed too! (see their subsequent about-turn aka a Political u-turn). But what our PM and Chancellor are forgetting is that the reason the number of self-employed is rising is because those big businesses she wishes to protect have a bad habit of going out of business and leaving people jobless. So instead of signing on to the Benefits system, they’re taking the plunge and starting up their own businesses….in other words they’re being innovative instead of dependent. You’d think this would be encouraged! Innovation is what drives business and the economy after all.

And then!!!! I saw a post on Facebook that one of my ‘friends’ had left!! And my blood-pressure went through the roof!

Why are peeps moaning so much about this TINY national insurance rise for the self employed in the Budget yesterday? If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee“. What.The.Merry.Fuck!??? Is he serious? Does he not realise just how difficult it can be to generate an extra £300…which by the way is not JUST £300 but substantially more when you consider that by generating an extra £300 in your business you also pay more tax, have to attend more networking events, incur extra costs for travel, clothes, advertising/promotional material etc etc. So I replied that ‘I disagree’.

And then I set out why I disagreed!

I’m self-employed. If I work for an agency as an employee I earn less. If I want to earn an extra £300 a year I have to sacrifice what employees take for granted: weekends…ergo I have to work 25 days a month rather than 21…which means I don’t have those 8 days a month called weekends.

Also small businesses (mostly self-employed) face stiff competition from big companies who can cut prices due to tax loopholes that self-employed small businesses don’t have. Besides that, it’s not like big businesses are standing at their doors shouting “we have loads of vacancies, come on in so we can employ you”. Many of the self-employed are people who provide essential services. Many self-employed are stay at home Mums who are trying to make ends meet in a tough environment. They start a small business; ergo self-employed because it’s too expensive for childcare…and why WOULDN’T they want to stay at home with their children?
So…in my opinion ….It’s arrogant to make a sweeping statement of the like you just have. My daughter is self-employed. She works in a very tough environment where people want what she does for FREE. She goes over and above for her clients, sometime making only £30 profit and has to constantly look for new clients due to the fact that other self-employed businesses are also struggling and push prices down, or use interns to manage what needs skilled knowledge…because it’s FREE.
I don’t get any tax breaks. If I work for an agency I earn less. If I work for a bigly company like BHS I’ll be employed and get screwed over by the owners to whom I’ve paid my pension for decades so he can buy £10million boats and live the champagne lifestyle and then when it suits him fuck off without looking back.
So no, it’s not as simple as JUST looking for a job.
Actually the government are fcking idiots. They should be ENCOURAGING people who are at home to be generating an income rather than claiming BENEFITS who the employed bitch about all the time. How do you think Britain got the nom-de-plume BENEFITS BRITAIN? I think it stinks, many self-employed people are innovators through necessity and we NEED innovators rather than just a bunch of sheep who depend on other people to be innovative, start a company and employ other people so that they can pay them shit wages, claim tax loopholes and live the champagne life-style.” End of rant…or so I thought!!! Actually I could have said a lot more….I bit my tongue

And then!!! Some fuckwot who thinks he knows more about my life than I do leaves this comment on the thread of my reply:

“So many victim mentalities… reality is yours to create folks”.

My reply: “MENtality. Hardly victims. Rather, very tightly squeezed“.

And then he comes back at me with: “It’s still a victim mentality if something external of your own being is limiting you.
Have people created a different result? Yes. Therefore you can… you can’t change the tax you can change what you do, so change what you do, don’t moan about something out of your control.
If you’ve taken offence, good, it means its true

Now, firstly I read that as a challenge ‘If you’ve taken offence……’ And suggesting that I’m in victim mode!!! Red flag to a bull!!! (after I am a Taurean!!) LOL

My reply:
T.S., get back up your own arse. Seriously. That’s such a lot of PD bullshit. My job is not limiting me. I provide a vital service. I happen to love my job. Caring for elderly people unable to care for themselves. My beef is with the government penalising self-employed people who have the audacity to be self-employed and not working for a company. That’s pretty much what Theresa May said….in so many words.
If you take offence…then it’s true, you’re too far up your own arse.”

 

Then some other twit (I’ll refer to her as BG) replied: “Sounds like it’s time to increase your prices, Cindy!

Uhmm, really? And you know what I do for a living then, do you? So I replied:  “I can’t increase my prices B.G.!!! I work as a Carer for the elderly. Caring for the old people that need my services due to the fact their families can’t/won’t/don’t want to care for them. My rate on an hourly basis is less than the minimum wage. My clients and their families bitch about how EXPENSIVE I am. My rate is set by the agency who farm me out to said elderly people whose families don’t look after. I pay my own tax. I save for my own pension. I don’t get tax breaks. If I want to earn more I have to work more days or take on clients with alzheimers or dementia or challenging behaviour. In my line of work I’ve been attacked with a walking stick, sworn at, peed and pooped on, had sarcastic family members berating me, clients treating me like a servant. If I want to continue in this line of work I have to smile sweetly and take the abuse. So no, I can’t JUST increase my prices”.

By this point my blood-pressure was sky high and my mouth was heading fast towards the potty!! I love that American expression ‘potty-mouth’. So in order to save my health, I removed myself from the conversation. It raged on with some people really upset by the insults the ’employed’ / ‘arrogant know alls’ levied at the self-employed who were labelled as ‘victims’ because they were upset by the increase.

As one lass put it, she already struggles in her line of work because by pursuing her passion (which the same PD fuckwits suggest we SHOULD be doing) the companies she gets her business from are, of course, only interested in their bottom line and keeping their shareholders happy with big dividends, and therefor knock her price down. So how many more days, weeks and months of the year should she work in order to just magically generate an extra £300 p.a. The same goes for my daughter. It’s unbelievable just how many people expect her to provide them with a service for practically free and complain like heck that her prices are too high! Trust me they’re not!  These same people are totally amazed when she says no, she can’t provide what is a valuable service for FREE. ffs.

Now for the sceptics who may be reading this…..yes, it’s only £0.82p per day!!! If you work 365 days a year! But since it’s virtually impossible to work 365 days a year and not crash due to ill health brought on by over extending yourself (unless you’re a mother) then that little sum increases.

So reduce that by 105 = the weekends that the ’employed’ get without losing income, and you’re down to 260 days which = £1.15 per day.

Then take off the Bank Holidays = 8 and now you’re down to 252 working days and up to £1.19 per day.

Now take off the 28 days mandatory annual leave days an employed person is entitled to and not expected to lose income for and you’re down to 224 days and up to £1.34 per day.

And now for the fun stuff….Add to that the extra costs involved to generate the extra £300 and it goes up even more, then add to that the extra regular tax you have to pay on the newly generated £300 and voila…surprise surprise, it’s no longer £1.34 per day but goes up and up and up depending on your overall costs for phone calls, networking, travel costs, stationery, phone calls, advertising, making/producing/providing the extra product/service you’re in business for. Suddenly you’re no longer looking at JUST an extra £300. Try telling your clients you’re increasing your prices because the Government has hit you with an extra £300 per year!!!

I think the thing that annoyed me the most was the simple arrogance of his statement: “If you are self employed and can’t make an extra £300 a year then really you should go back to being an employee.

What an incredibly thoughtless, arrogant and totally lacking in knowledgable comment to make. This is where my potty-mouth wants to go into overdrive and I’m tempted to take Helen Mirren’s advice on using the work fuck more often! LOL

Now before anyone who’s employed gets their knickers in a knot, I have nothing against being ’employed’, I was an ’employee’ for over 30 years! I was also at the mercy of said employers and the very last company I worked for (in South Africa) put themselves into liquidation over a petty argument the 2 principal owners had! This resulted in dozens of people becoming unemployed, one of whom was an elderly gentleman who had a heart-attack from the shock and died within a few weeks. It also meant that a number of companies to whom they owed money didn’t get paid. Much like the BHS scenario.  As an employee you are at the mercy of your employer, many of whom are quite abusive….see the many headlines when people blow the whistle. You are at the mercy of the largesse of your boss when it comes to the annual increase in your salary if you’re lucky enough to even get an increase (not that the self-employed even have a faint smidgen of this luxury). You’re at the mercy of a bully boss. Stuck with hanging out at the same place day after day after week after year, unable to JUST move on if you’re unhappy – that doesn’t reflect well on your CV.  And then the company downsizes, relocates, gets sold, merges with another blah blah blah. I’d much rather be self-employed than depend on a business or corporation for my income.  So when this increase in the NI came through, I accepted it with disappointment and felt it was unfair.

Anyway, why is it that being ’employed’ is still seen as the be all and end all…the achievement of respectability, the golden handshake goal to reach for? It’s amazing how many times people who are employed look down on the self-employed as if they’re failures! Not by any means are they failures. It takes a HUGE amount of courage to branch out and set up a business, to be self-employed. No longer the perceived security of a job where you earn a set income no matter how shit you are at your job (remember all those employment laws that protect you!?), no longer do you have weekends free – clients expect you to be at the end of your phone or computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you don’t reply to an email ‘instantly’ at 10pm on a Sunday night they get shirty!! And this is not an imaginary scenario….it’s only too real. As a self-employed person you no longer have the benefit of annual leave and PAID Bank Holidays. Being self-employed has all sorts of ‘perceived’ benefits by the employed who think it’s a long extended holiday. It’s not. It’s tough. People don’t sleep at night for worrying about how to make ends meet. As a self-employed person you are responsible for everything that goes on in a business. Pricing your product to ensure you not only provide a fair price, but that you also make a profit (your salary), marketing said product/service, the accounting, sourcing suppliers, preparing quotes, visiting clients etc etc.

As an employed person you go in to work to do a specific job, in your niche, and the rest of the business magically happens around you. (n.b. I realise this is a variable, and all jobs are different).

  • The self-employed currently pay a lower rate than those in employment
  • The government says this was traditionally down to a lesser entitlement to benefits and pensions, but that these disparities have mostly been removed, so the difference in rates is unfair
  • But critics say it is justified because self-employed people are not entitled to things like paid holiday and sickness leave.

And anyway, as I pointed out to one of the protagonists, it’s not like there are 2.5 million jobs available. In fact many of the apparent job vacancy numbers the Government loves to bandy around are on the very controversial zero hours contracts, and the job market, even for graduates is not flush with vacancies.

An estimated total of 3,694 companies entered insolvency in Q1 2016
A total of 804 companies were subject to a compulsory winding-up order
in Q1 2016
An estimated 2,515 companies entered creditors’ voluntary liquidation in
Q1 2016
There were an estimated 301 administrations in Q1 2016
The estimated liquidation rate in the 12 months ending Q1 2016 was
0.42% of active companies (the report goes on to say) – the lowest level since comparable records began in Q4 1984.
I’m sure anyone who has been at the receiving end of said liquidation feels really comforted that it’s lower!!

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/519466/Q1_2016_statistics_release_-_web.pdf

So yes, I am, like 2.5 million (4.8million) other self-employed people a tad peeved at the increase in NI. It certainly feels like we’re being penalised for having the temerity to be innovative and trying to earn an income rather than claiming benefits. Which the ’employed’ have much to say about…till it happens to them.

Rant over! Or maybe not 😉

🙂 and yes, as of 15/03/2017 the government have done a u-turn and WILL NOT be increasing the NI for the 4.8 million self-employed citizens of the UK. Excellent!!!

Now all we need is for the major corporations to pull on their big-girl panties, fess up and step up, find their integrity and PAY THEIR FAIR TAXES in the country where they generate the ACTUAL INCOME.

 

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Yes, yes, yes!!! Yesterday I took the plunge and booked my ticket to Florence, Italy. 🙂 Whoop whoop!!! Florence has been a long held dream of mine to visit. After Venice, it was my next dream destination but for one reason and another I just haven’t been.

So, since it is my goal/plan/intention to spend my birthday each year at a different destination, this year its…….FLORENCE!!! Yayyyy. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Planning a trip to, and day trips in, a foreign country gives a thrilling frisson of fear…kicks the adrenaline into gear 😀😀😀😀

And so I took the plunge and booked my ticket….no going back now! I’ve decided to stay overnight in Pisa since my flight gets in quite late; I’ve found a super hotel…review to follow on TripAdvisor. And I’ve used AirBnB again since my other 4 experiences have been good, it makes perfect sense…and this venue has the use of a kitchen…VIP if travelling on a budget.

Today I’ve spent some time researching ‘things to do in’ Pisa, Florence,  Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. During my research I found this brilliant site that was ever so useful in giving a step by step guide as to where to go, which bus to use, buying the ticket, length of the journey and how to get back, as well as suggestions, along with the history of ‘what to see while you are there’ Fantastic!!

During my research into these cities I’ve discovered that:

4 of them listed UNESCO Heritage Sites: Historic City Centre of Florence, Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Historic Centre of San Gimignano and the Historic Centre of Siena

4 are walled cities: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca and Pisa (although not all the Pisa walls remain apparently.

and they all have cathedrals! Perfect as this means I’ll be able to add these to my goal of visiting 100 walled cities, 100 cathedrals and as many UNESCO Heritage Sites as possible (18 so far). 🙂 So as you can imagine I’m very very excited. My other lists of 100 places = Countries, Islands, Counties in the UK, Abbeys, Domesday Towns and Villages, Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities and famous Walks. So enough to keep me busy till I die. LOL Mind you, I’ve done quite a few already…so….

Anyway, for now it’s FLORENCE FLORENCE FLORENCE. I’m going to sleep, eat and dream Florence till 20th April…..35 days to go.

I’m now working on the travel details for the day trips to Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. IF and it’s a very BIG ‘if’ I get a chance I hope to go to Cinque Terre…it’s a 3 hour train journey so I may not make it, but still, if I’ve seen all I want of Florence and done the day trips then I guess I shall just have to endure the ‘hardship’ of a train journey to the coast 🙂

Before booking this flight I had dithered and procrastinated for weeks. I had originally phoned Flight Centre to plan my journey but after the lass to whom I gave my details, sent me an itinerary that had my jaw hitting the floor with shock….£888 for the flight??? What???? I’m going to Florence in Italy!! She had planned me a trip to Florence in America ffs. When I queried why it is that I have to fly to Florence in Italy via America she said ” I know, I’m so sorry, that’s the best flight I could find.” Uhmmm, really. I could walk there quicker….even with swimming across the English Channel, I replied. She said: Yes, I know, it does seems weird, but that’s what the computer came up with. I then said but I did a flight search myself yesterday and it was approx £80!!  At which stage she said okay, I’ll do another search and see what I can come up with…..a few minutes later she phoned back and said “I’m awfully sorry, it seems the ‘computer’ took you to Florence in America, and not Italy!”  No shit!!! Thankfully I know my geography!

Anyway long story short and a few words from me, I told her to forget it and I’ve booked the trip myself.  So counting the days…..OMG wow, I’m going to Florence!!! In Italy 😉

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As the year moves on, the time for me to step up and out on my dream of and goal to walk the Camino de Santiago (the Portuguese Coastal Route) is getting closer and closer, I’m reminded that no matter how old you are…….

In order to get more fit, I recently joined the #walk1000miles 2017 challenge. I’ve always loved walking and have done loads over the last year, but what I love about this challenge is that there are thousand of people around the world also walking and sharing their experiences and photos. Just brilliant.

What I loved about this quote, besides the image and the words, is that a few months ago I worked in Great Malvern where C.S. Lewis once spent some time, and where urban legend has it, he found inspiration for the lamps in The Witch and The Wardrobe after seeing the lamps there.

lamps in great malvern

lamps in Great Malvern; inspiration for C.S. Lewis

p.s. I had planned on walking the Camino last year, but money or lack thereof got in the way. This year then…..

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Whew, this discussion on BBC1 Breakfast yesterday morning had me in tears.

Listening to those young children saying why they were there and who they were remembering reduced me to tears. A Killing in my Family.

Being a child, especially in today’s world, is difficult enough as it is without your parent/s being killed by your other parent or a family member. It is however not a new phenomena. It amazes me still that there wasn’t a killing in my family.

For me the programme raised some VERY unwanted memories of mine (and my sisters) childhood. We, at various stages, grew up in a very violent household. My parents divorced when I was 6 and my sister just 3. My Mother remarried some years later to what I can only call a monster when I was 9 and my sister 6. She had to marry him as she was pregnant with my 2nd sister, her third daughter, and due to these circumstances would have lost my 1st sister and I to my Father  who had threatened to claim custody. This person that she married turned out to be a psychological maniac, a heavy drinker and a sexual predator. We had to call him ‘Daddy’. I recall many many fights in our home, fights that lead to violent confrontations with multiple items being thrown, as well as physical violence. On one memorable occasion my Mother slammed a plate full of spagetti bolognaise over his head at the dinner table. Her nerves had been shredded. He kept her short of money. He bitched about everything. He criticised the food. He drank a lot. He brought home unsavoury characters. Eventually she lost her control. That was one of many scenarios that peppered our lives during that period till she left him and met someone else. I think she was suffering from postpartum depression, amongst other mental health issues brought about by an unhappy childhood, and the stress of trying to cope with a young family and a very unhappy adult life. I cry for her.

My father helped her financially to divorce her 2nd husband and she then went on to form a relationship with this new person whom she had ironically met through my father’s sister. This relationship was no better than the previous, he too was a triple-A; abusive, aggressive, alcoholic – within a very short space of time we were again living in an environment of extreme violence. Friday nights were the worst. I dreaded Fridays. I knew that Friday meant a drunk live-in father (they weren’t married at that stage) who came home from the pub reeling and reeking of alcohol and violent with pent up rage*. By this stage my Mother was pretty much an alcoholic as well and so the evening would deteriorate and the weekend would be hell in one form or another.

Glass and food and anything else that came to hand would be thrown. Much glass had to be swept up by myself at the end of the passage…which happened to be the entrance to my bedroom. I couldn’t escape into my room till I had cleaned up the glass because it would have cut my feet. Never mind what it would have done to a 9 year-old and a toddler. Besides that, my Mother would make us clean up the mess. 😦

I remember the screaming. The punches.The blood. The glass. The alcohol. The fear. The terror. I couldn’t eat honey for decades, and my sister still has difficulty with eating honey. He would, in his drunken rages, spread honey from floor to ceiling …..we had to clean it up. But some years ago, not long after I left my South African me behind and found a new UK me, did I force myself to eat honey. I refuse at this stage of my life to allow something like that to dictate what I eat.

My best-friend at the time, with whom I am now back in contact via facebook, remembers one particular instance, when late at night, when all children should be happily and safely in bed, a pounding on their door. It was me. Screaming…. “he’s going to kill my Mother”.

She recalls the incident with clarity. For me, it was one of many. We lived a good half hour’s walk away from them. I dont remember that incidence in particular. They’ve all become rather muddled.

But I do remember the fear of those years. Yes, there were ‘good’ times. Yes, we had ‘fun’. My Mother had a brilliantly wicked sense of humour and she tried her best to make life good for us. And kids just get on with it. You seem to form a shell around yourself and just get on with life. By my early teenage years I was pretty wild and finally I got packed off to live with my father in Cape Town who had been married to his 2nd wife for many years, a bit like going from the fire into the frying pan….although there wasn’t much by way of alcoholic fights with open violence, there was emotional trauma. Arguments that went on for days. Bitching that never ended. Criticism that endeavoured to bring my Mother down in my/our eyes. And no, it wasn’t limited to just that period. We got to spend Christmas holidays with him and his wife too. What a joy that was. The only best thing I can recall from those days was the love and relationship I had for my adopted brother (he died over 30 years ago). And somewhere along the line my 2nd brother was born. Oh and I loved Cape Town. 🙂 Which helped. My heart city.

However, after 5 months of living with them, I was weirdly glad to eventually go home to my Mother at the end of the school year. I was 14 at the time.

The violence escalated and escalated.

Eventually my youngest sister came along. Nothing changed at home. My Mother was rushed to hospital a few days after this birth. Apparently she was haemorrhaging? That’s what we were told. She soon came home and life returned to ‘normal’. They eventually got married some years later to fulfil a wager she had with her sister. I think by then my Mother’s spirit was broken and she just did whatever seemed right at the time to survive. It didn’t in any way or form change things. The violence still continued. Right up until a few days before she died in 1984.

The reason I had been sent packing to my father in Cape Town was that I had become quite promiscuous. By the age of 14 I had already had a number of boyfriends and although I hadn’t yet had sexual relations, it came pretty close and at the time I was ‘involved’ against my Mother’s wishes with a man a good 10 years older than me. So off I went, banished to Cape Town. I returned to my Mother’s home just before Christmas 1970. On New Year’s day 1971 I was introduced to a man who was 6 years older than me and a good friend of my Mother’s sister…the one she had the wager with. They all liked him and thought he would make good marriage material. And so I went into a relationship at the age of 14 with the man who was to become my 1st husband. By the age of 15 I was no longer a virgin. Apparently, according to him he would have a heart-attack if I didn’t have sex with him because I was very ‘sexy’ and ‘turned him on’ and it was cruel to deny him. And so it went. By then I had been sexually molested by an uncle, both my step-fathers and a family friend, so it didn’t seem unusual. I hated it though. From 6-15, and even then it didn’t stop.

During this period, the violence at home continued. The guy I had been introduced to, who was now my boyfriend, moved into our home after about 10 months because my Mother (again kept short of money and by now just a shadow of herself) needed the money. And so we had a boarder that had sex with her  eldest daughter and was accused of being the father of her 4th child who was a baby at the time, by the father of said child. And the violence continued. Madness.

I remember one time coming home from school to find my Mother in a pool of blood on the lounge floor. She had slashed her wrists. I cleaned up the blood, helped her to bed and life went on.

Eventually I got married at 17 (another story) and left home. We lived in a caravan near to my Mother and her husband, who lived in the same caravan park. Although we lived at least three rows away, we could still hear the screaming and the fights at the weekend. Fights that led to severe physical violence. My Mother by that stage gave as good at what she got and I remember one time when I ran over to check that my sisters were okay (the fight was that loud) I was confronted with a man who had blood running profusely from his mouth. My Mother had slammed a glass of whisky into his face. It ended in 1984 when my Mother died. A victim of domestic violence, although not actually physically killed by her husband.

In all honesty, when I look back at those times, I am amazed, bemused, surprised, incredulous that there wasn’t ‘a killing in our family’.  Oh how we would have benefited from counselling.

So watching that programme this morning really churned things up. I manage to keep a lid on it all most of the time and have done for decades, but when I saw those little kids speaking about how they are there to remember their Mothers or Fathers lost to violence in their home, it just slams me in the heart. I’m so glad to see that there is an organisation there to help them and counsel them, and hopefully help them to heal.

My Mother died when she was 52. By then she had lost her spirit. I remember her saying so many times over those later years; “when C (her 4th and youngest daughter) is 13, I’m going to leave him” (her 3rd husband). She did. She died. She had a series of massive strokes just before my sister turned 13 and died just 4 days after my sister turned 13. I was 29. My other 2 sisters were 25 and 19 respectively. Those days are a blur. What I do remember the most besides not being able to cry, was having to organise the funeral because her husband was so drunk he couldn’t function, and one of my Aunts after the funeral giving me a R10.00 note in a card….to help support my sisters. Fuck you bitch. You stood by and did NOTHING for years and years. And you gave me R10!!!! and fucked off without a look back afterwards. I threw the money in the rubbish. If there is one thing that still enrages me, it’s that!

What today I find extraordinary is that so many people knew what was happening in our home; our Doctors, the Police, neighbours, friends and family members. And no-one did anything substantial enough to stop it. I know my father threatened many times to ‘take us away’ his 2 daughters from our Mother, but we loved her dearly and would not have gone willingly, despite what was going on at home.

This type of organisation is invaluable for children whose lives have been turned upside-down by violence and death in the home. I hope you will consider supporting them. Winston’s Wish.

http://www.winstonswish.org.uk/supporting-winstons-wish/

 

* he had a rather troubled childhood and I remember my Mother telling me (us) one time that his mother self-immolated in front of him when he was a child. I have no idea of this was true, but that is what I was told.

If you know of any children affected by violence in the home, please do something about it. You may just save a life.

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The weather had been pretty grim my first week in Oxted, with some snow flurries on the following Sunday, not enough to impress but just enough to get excited about….it soon melted and didn’t return. However, not to be deterred by the weather, on Tuesday, the afternoon after my arrival, I set off to explore and my meandering took me through the town of Oxted and along the streets and roads and on to a delightful medieval village called Limpsfield. What a treat!! The High Street is lined with houses dating from as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries.

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some of the quintessentially English houses lining the streets of Limpsfield; a Domesday village

Quintessentially English houses built of local quarried stone lined both sides, looking absolutely charming. I discovered the little church; St Peter’s, constructed in the late 12th century and a Grade I listed building.  As I was entering the church I noticed that it was in fact a Pilgrim church!!! Thrilling. In alignment with my Camino this year I am hoping to gather some stamps before I set off on my walk. There was a stamp hanging on a board at the door, so I’m planning on ordering my Camino passport as soon as possible and when I return to the assignment at the end of March I’m hoping to be able to add that as the start of many I plan to collect on my journey. The church is also famous because the English composer Frederick Delius and orchestral conductor Sir Thomas Beecham are both buried in the village churchyard. Although I looked very carefully I never did find Delius’s grave.

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St Peter’s Church, Limpsfield – a pilgrim’s church

Situated at the foot of the North Downs, Limpsfield would have been on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way that stretches along the base of the downs between Winchester and Canterbury. To my delight on researching the history I discovered that Limpsfield too was a Domesday village: and appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Limenesfeld and held by the Abbot of Battle Abbey, Sussex.

Limpsfield’s High Street is named as a conservation area with 89 listed buildings along the street and in the immediate locality; one of which, Old Court Cottage in Titsey Road, (formerly the manorial court of the Abbot of Battle), is Grade I listed building and dates from c1190-1200 (including aisle posts and arcade plates) with alterations in the late 14th century, and a 16th-century crosswing. (ref wikipedia). Unfortunately I didn’t get to see this building, but the Post Office/village store was just charming so I stepped over the threshold and bought some stamps and a chocolate 🙂

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Limpsfield High Street

I spent some time photographing all the buildings and meandering about the church and churchyard. I love these old ancient places and often wish I could just knock on the doors of the houses to see inside 😉

At the entrance to the village is a delightful name board – I love finding these!

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Limpsfield, Surrey

Limenesfelde 1086 (db). ‘Open land at Limen’. OE feld added to a Celtic place name or river-name

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You can imagine my absolute delight on discovering that my last assignment which took me to a town called Oxted in Surrey, is one of the Domesday towns of 1086!! Now that I’ve starting compiling my list, the towns are adding up fast and furious 🙂

Of course when I got the booking I wasn’t aware of this, but after a few days with my clients, the gentleman of whom is a history buff, we got to talking and he loaned me a book about the town….voila….Domesday town!! In the Domesday Book the then village is spelled ‘Acstede’ – meaning ‘the place of the oaks’.

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Oxted; the place of the oaks – a 1086 Domesday Book village

Oxted – the place of the oaks. I delight in finding out the meanings of the names behind some of these older villages. Although first mentioned in the Domeday book of 1086, Oxted area was inhabited from as early as the late Iron Age. Located exactly on the Greenwich Meridian at O* longitude and on 51* 15′ latitude. The so-called Pilgrim’s way from Winchester to Canterbury passes the north of Oxted. As soon as I discovered this little snippet I set out to find the plaque. No-one seemed to know anything about it (?) but eventually I located it, set in the pharmacy wall on the exterior, the lass who directed me to the person who knew where it was, said she’d walked past it every days for months and didn’t know it was there! Such is life when it comes to history!

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Besides being a Domesday Book village, Oxted lies on the Greenwich Meridian

On one of my walks I discovered a 2nd plaque that marked the point where the North Downs Way crossed the Meridian Line. 🙂 Awesome!!

St Mary’s Church in Oxted stands on a mound believed to have been a pre-Christian place of worship. The church has undergone much restoration and the walls were raised. There are remains within the church from Saxon times and changes and improvements range from 12th century through to 19th century. Sadly the door (unusually) was locked whenever I went past so I didn’t get to go in. Perhaps next time.

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St Mary’s Church, Oxted.

On one of my walks past the church I stopped in at the old graveyard and to may amazement discovered a herd of goats!!! A notice on the fence said that they graze them here to keep the grass and weeds under control rather than mowing…makes perfect sense to me. 🙂  Further exploration revealed two Anglo-Saxon graves next to the porch of St Mary’s Church.

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2 Anglo-Saxon graves at St Mary’s Church, Oxted

The period before the Battle of Hastings in 1066 laid the foundations of a new age and with the coming of the Normans a small settlement began to grow up on the site of the Old Oxted. The medieval period is when Oxted began to establish itself as an integrated community. During the 15 C and 16 C some of the most picturesque buildings were constructed. Many of these buildings are still standing albeit occupied with vastly different businesses. Many of the survivors date to 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. An architectural treasure trove.

I spent a number of days meandering about the town exploring during my time in the area and spent one of my breaks exploring the Old town of Oxted.  Now that was an architectural marvel.

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Old Oxted – High Street

The Old Bell Pub at the top of the High Street was a wonderful discovery ; with one section built in the 14th century, the middle section in the 16th/17th century and the latter part in the 18th century. It’s now a listed building and no further alterations can be made…quite right!! I stepped inside for a brief look and to photograph the 14th century beamed ceiling.

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The Old Bell Pub, Old Oxted, Surrey – an architectural marvel

On Tuesday, the afternoon after my arrival, I set off to explore and my meandering took me through the old town and on to a delightful medieval village called Limpsfield. What a treat!! The High Street is lined with houses dating from as far back as the 15th and 16th centuries.

Other days were taken up with walking to Titsey Farm and along the North Downs Pilgrims Way. The views are spectacular and the only thing that spoils it all is the M25 motorway that runs between the town and the North Downs.

Oxted reminds me a lot of another town I visited some years ago…Weobley in Herefordshire. ‘The term “black and white” derives from presence of many timbered and half-timbered houses in the area, some dating from medieval times. The buildings’ black oak beams are exposed on the outside, with white painted walls between. The numbers of houses surviving in this style in the villages creates a very distinctive impression and differs from building styles outside this area.’

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I loved this sign. Oxted, Surrey. – the place of the oaks. If you look at the windows you can see some other buildings reflected.

I’m looking forward to my next spell In Oxted at the end of March. And since UPS (the slackers) lost my hard-drive with all my photos from the last 10 years on it, I shall have to visit Weobley again too. Maybe I should sue UPS for their tardiness.

p.s. I’ll be posting the article on Limpsfield shortly 😉 come back then.

Limpsfield; a Domesday village

 

 

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