Sunday, 19 April 2015

Metta: The Antidote to Snakiness

A little voice told me to reintroduce Metta Meditation back into my life. I'm not sure if it was my inner self or of one of those elusive celestial beings that I'd like to believe are around to protect me.  Who knows? It doesn't really matter who had the idea as it's a good one anyway.  The intention is to invoke feelings of warmth and friendliness.   That can't be a bad thing in this world where often these niceties are lacking.   And let's 'fess up.  I myself can be a bit snaky at times so I need to do something to get this out of my system as much as the next person.

The  practice starts with directing those good vibes towards yourself for we can all be too self-judgemental at times.   Even though I'm far more self-forgiving than I ever used to be I still need to be reminded not to be too hard on myself as an erring human.  After becoming still and focusing on the heart, words along the lines of the following phrase are repeated.

May I be safe, happy and well. May I be peaceful and at ease.

The same sentiment is then expressed in turn about a loved one (Louis!), someone neutral for whom there's no particularly strong feelings and then a person where the relationship is difficult.   One talk I heard was very clear that you only needed to bring to mind a singular individual who had pee-ed you off.   You don't have to think of  everyone who's been hurtful,  cheated you out of money or cut you up at traffic lights.   Grrrrr! Just a solitary miscreant suffices as they will act as a paradigm, an example from which loving thoughts can be extrapolated to all those other bastards.  You see I'm not there yet!

There's lots of free resources out there .  Just have a little look on YouTube if you're interested. There's guided meditation and talks aplenty  to whet your appetite.  My favourite resources are a couple of long talks by monks, which incorporate meditation practice that have caught my fancy, this one by Ven Ajahn Sujato and another with the incredibly smiley Bhante Vimalaramsi.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Van Half Empty, Van Half Full

Gotta share, gotta share!  Remember last month Salty Dog and I went to see the awesome local band 'Land of the Giants'. Well they were playing again last night in  Plymouth as the main act   in the first of four live free music events held in the Piazza in the middle of the city. A big group  of people, friends, friends of friends, random strangers were up there at the front dancing our little socks off.  And what do you know. One of the guys  who I got talking to is the photographer at some of the band's gigs.  He introduced me to the unfeasibly cute lead singer who (sigh!) picked me up gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek! No I didn't dream it.  It actually happened.  Salty Dog is dead jealous and I won't be washing ever again!  Here's a link to one of my favourite tracks in celebration.

Excitement over.  Soon I'll be heading back up the A38 to the motorhome.  There's work to do.  I want to get the latest module of my Masters out of the way so that I can enjoy the summer.  And so my mult-functional teeny tiny living space will be transformed into a study.  Thank goodness that most of the books and papers that I use are online, can be stored electronically and don't take up oodles of space.

People react in diametrically opposed ways in response to the notion that I live in a motorhome. When Mr Anonymous from Guyana was introduced to Klaus the Knaus he looked at me with genuine concern.  'How do you live like this?'  Lots of others get it and seem to have a wistful look in their eyes.  I'm living their dream.   Now  I've been full-timing in my cosy home on wheels for six months, half the time with a rambunctious kid.

So I've been thinking about why it works and I haven't succombed to claustrophobia.  Of course I'm not holed up there all the time and that's part of it.  I go out a lot, seeing friends, walking or cycling and now the weather is warmer I'm sitting outside more.  When I'm home, even when it's dark I keep all the blinds open which adds to a sense of space,  Keeping it uber tidy and uncluttered obviously preserves my sanity.  As does normalising the experience.  I do pretty much what I used to in a brick built house in my motorhome - baking, crafting, writing, meditating, playing  with Lou and helping with homework.  Friends are welcome to visit.  I feed and water them and they sometimes stay over.  Maybe this sharing fills the van with good vibes.  Who knows?  What I am sure of is that I'm happier than I've ever been.  My glass is well and truly half full.

Friday, 17 April 2015


A couple of friends shared  this short video with me on Facebook.  It illustrates beautifully a familiar topic that comes up a lot in my work with people with dementia and their carers. 'She ask things over and over and over again!'  an exasperated husband said to me just a few days ago.

It's easy to think badly of  the son in this little story don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes and all that.  This is a problem that is hard to live with day in, day out.  It would drive me absolutely potty!  So, if you know someone looking after a person with dementia, are you in a position to give them a break?  Allowing them to walk away from a situation for a little while  gives them time to recharge their batteries.  And that repetitive questioning can be due to boredom, the sign of a mind that's not sufficiently occupied.   Doing something with the person  that they find enjoyable while you'll with them can make a lot of difference.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Who Gets My X

'Tis the season that those politicians seem to be ignoring the wise advice 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.' even more than usual. They're all PR-ed up to the hilt these days too.  It's rare that someone is interviewed where we are to see the genuine person behind the carefully manipulated facade.  When we do  get a glimpse of  the human frailty that we all possess they're pounced on and criticised.

Sometimes I'd like to wash my hands of it all and ignore the political furore going on.  Yet I can't as people died so that I could vote. I view it as a duty and not  optional.

I also do so  because I've got a sense that a wealthy and increasingly powerful minority would  prefer it if us minions kept our traps shut and did not express opinions. That would never do.   And maybe my moderate vote counters extremism too.  It's sensible to remember that the Nazi Party in Germany were elected on  nowhere near a majority.   Some of the stuff that I'm hearing from some parties seem to express far too little compassion for those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.     Am I overreacting if I think this seems dangerous to me? No matter if I am.   A healthy dose of paranoia is acting as a good motivator.

So who will get my tick in the box on polling day? Just in case I've got some parties completely wrong I decided to examine whether their policies were a good match with  my own beliefs and values.  After all leopards sometimes change their spots.  I've been trying a few of those online quizzes. like, and  Have they shown that my true colours are indeed blue  or, horror of horrors, purple?  Unsurprisingly no.   Nor, thankfully am I a good match with the Liberal Democrats who betrayed many   tactical voters in 2010's General Election who'd hoped to see the formation of a left of centre government.  That would have caused a bit of emotional turmoil.  I resolved after the event never to vote for them again.

I pretty much knew that I'll be putting a tick in the box of either the Labour Party or Green candidate. So have all those quizzes helped me decide between these parties? Sadly not.  My views seem to sit squarely in both camps.  I'm still in a quandary about what to do.  What I need is someone to come up with a really good tiebreaker to help me decide!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Not Really Silly String

Every so often I come across a piece of art that gives me goosebumps.  I never know when it's going to happen. It might be when I pass a gallery, stumble upon something online or visit someone's home. This time I was flicking through the free 'Plymouth Magazine'.  Salty Dog had picked one up and left it in the motorhome.  Bah!  It told me that I had missed the exhibition of the work of the cityscape artist Edward Waite and showed this example which I covet very badly indeed.  It depicts the top of Smeaton's Tower, a  familar landmark in Plymouth that was originally the lighthouse that stood to ward ships away from the Eddystone Rock.   I love the use of colour and the silly string-like texture of the work.  Sometimes art is better when its made that transition from 2D to 3D.

I went off in search, on the artist's website, for more squiggly familiarity and found some.  He's a well travelled guy and depicts his own take on urban landscapes from around the globe.  This was somewhere I've visited many times.  Once, in my late adolescence, I ended up to Trafalgar Square, on New Year's Eve with a group of friends where we went with tradition, jumped in  fountains and kissed policemen.  It's a bit of a change from December 31 2014 when midnight found me tucked up in bed bringing in the New Year in the Land of Nod.

We were back at Nelson's Column on the day of my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  There's a security guard who has the almost impossible task, being unarmed, of keeping the kids off the four lions at its base.  I took a photo of Louis earlier in the month on our birthday trip sitting between two of those enormous bronze paws. Even though the big cats seem to be missing, this lovely artwork brought back memories of a great day out.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Crafting in the Motorhome: Badge Making

Red Mel bought me this Indie Rock Button Factory by the Yellow Bird Project  for my birthday  It's one of a number of bits of merchandise that raises money for a charity based in Montreal that's supported by indie bands so it's credentials are dead cool.  What this kit contains is the gubbins to make what we Brits call badges twenty five of them. Buttons are  something different.  We have to sew, rather than pin those on our clothes.

One evening last week I banned Louis from any more screen time. His nose had been glued to his mobile phone for way too long. So I suggested that we made those funky badges.  He agreed and we got a bit of a production line thing going on.  The kit contains a piece of retro cloth covered in music themed designs. After he'd used the template on the back of the instruction book to identify which parts of he'd like to use I cut them out and he used the simple two piece press to make up our finished pins. There are twenty five of them altogether.  We made them all in about an hour.

And so what to do with them?  Louis wanted to put them all over his school bag.  But they were my present so my badges.  Actually I wouldn't have minded giving some to him except for the fact that I know they'll get lost PDQ.  So I've held my ground and insisted on sticking them on one of our cushions for us both to enjoy as a reminder of an evening of great mum-son crafting.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Bye Bye Mr Metrosexual

It's the end of an era. My lovely friend Mr. Metrosexual who's sat next to me at work for the last four years retired on Friday.  Hence yesterday's manic sausage roll making.   They all got eaten at his leaving do at a Brixham pub today.   'How are you going to survive without your boyfriend?' the girls who work on hospital reception have asked.  They see us going out together most lunchtimes to sample the delights of Totnes together. 'Do you know there's rumours about you two'. said one of the receptionists.  'Mr Metrosexual will be dead chuffed about that.' I replied.

This was his leaving present from all his colleagues, a fabulous raku hare made by Paul Jenkins, sold in the Ninety Three gallery at the top of town in the historic Narrows.  We went out to choose it together the other day. After all you don't want to surprise someone with something that they're not going to like.

Mr Metrosexual counts as one of my closest friends.   We share the same sense of humour and love a bit of juicy gossip.  Will it be so hard for me to manage with our daily banter?  I don't really think so. There's  geographical distance between many of the friends I've made along the way yet we remain close.  Sure Mr Metrosexual's departure will leaves a gap in my everyday life but past experience suggests that there's almost a certain guarantee that it will be filled.