Category Archives: Author Sue’s memories

Life is for Learning

You might think that there’s not much left to learn by the time you reach your 60s. Think again. My last couple of years have probably been the most life-changing of all. I suppose that becoming a Nichirin Buddhist has affected that in many ways but this is not intended to be about the benefits of Buddhism. The Buddhism contributes to the self-awareness and thence to happiness and fulfilment and because of that, this post is about creativity and me.

As you know, I am a writer – well, I write, but I also teach children with special educational needs, and run a Bed and Breakfast business on Airbnb, so my writing time is limited.

Our bed and breakfast guests are diverse. Many are inspiring but some, we are pleased to wave goodbye to, and one or two become friends. More about the friends later.

It was our lodger (call him Roger – of course) who started it. He longs for an idyllic life, running a tea room by the sea and selling his paintings to tourists. He and I talk a lot about painting.

Before he started staying with us, I had suppressed my urge to paint, telling myself I didn’t have time for anything else in my life. With Roger’s presence in the house, I have changed my mind. All that talk of landscape and portrait. When I spotted  and an advert in a local magazine for lessons with the inspirational teacher, Lorna Moore, I decided to sign up. What an amazing decision it turned out to be.

I’m not about to be the next Hockney, but I am improving all the time.

The way I have found the extra opportunity in my day, has been to stop watching television. I have also knocked some minor domestic things on the head. I no longer make our bed in the morning – nobody sees it anyway. I run the dishwasher more often and employed a lad to do some gardening for a while at the beginning of the summer. We also pay a dog walker (runner) once a week.

In December I read an article by Jon Westonberg  encouraging readers to make a life plan – duh. How had it taken me this long to recognise the wisdom of his words. Make a list he suggested, and avoid anything that distracts you from it.

I think Jon may be a little younger than I because his list contains 100 items. I’m not saying I’m old but (call me negative …) I don’t believe I have enough years left for 100 things . Here follows my list. It is pinned on my kitchen wall – well, attached by a magnet to a paella pan as a matter of fact. I reckon I have 20 years if I’m lucky assuming I still have all my marbles, which is in the balance as this blog will testify:

  1. Write 4 novels
  2. Get an Art degree
  3. Read The Iliad and The Odyssey
  4. Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  5. Go to Australia
  6. Go to New Zealand
  7. Go to the Galapagos Islands
  8. Go on safari
  9. Find my inner Buddha
  10. Run 2 miles without getting out of breath
  11. Eat at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Savoy (This is a no-no as it has closed.)
  12. Lose 1 stone (chanting to change my eating and drinking karma for these three)
  13. Lose another stone
  14. Lose a third stone
  15. Get an article published in a magazine
  16. Get a story published in a magazine
  17. Run a writing course
  18. Sell my books in hard copy
  19. Visit all the houses I’ve ever lived in
  20. Illustrate my books
  21. Work with words

The list – thanks to Jon, and my positive mental attitude – thanks to Nichirin (and me), are the reason for my life-changing couple of years.

Note on my list points 18 – 20.:

20 is ticked for book 1

18 and 19 are in progress

I have regained control over Be Careful What You Wish For, re-edited the content and painted a new cover, inspired by Lorna Moore. This is now uploaded as an eBook (see picture, above, and the paperback version is at the printer’s. Exciting times.

I have decided to enrol on an art degree in 2020, when Mavis has finished her first year at university. Wait? How sensible of me – a sign I am weening myself off knee-jerk decisions. If I’m honest I’m a bit nervous about uni, but I’m gonna do it anyway.

Notes 12 – 14: I’ve lost lots of weight – and regained it. Hmm, keep chanting Lil.

I am living number eight, vicariously through Horace at the moment, who is honeymooning in South Africa.

Number 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A full course is planned for the autumn.

So, lookout world, here I come, limping but determined. Ooh, I nearly forgot the obligatory funny story, Well I thought this was funny anyway:

One of our guests (call him Boatman), who has become a friend, was at the breakfast table and I was telling him about Mavis’s wedding, and the fact that over the course of the weekend I had found 2 raffle tickets in the turn-up of my jeans. I had kept them for a while, mistakenly wondering if they were a sign of impending fortune.

‘The strangest thing I found in my turn-up was a fish,’ he said.

‘A fish?’

‘Yes. Years ago I was tottering home from the pub and I had to use some stepping stones to cross a stream. I missed my footing and stepped into the water. When I got home there was a Stickleback in my turn-up.’

I don’t know why, but I found this very funny. It’s so random, and the word Stickleback was perfectly placed in the story. I’m giggling as I write. Hope you giggle, too.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Garden Ornaments

Once upon a time I thought garden gnomes were to be disdained.

desk_murder

As I grow older, however, and less judgmental, I discover that I rather like them. A house near ours has a tiny and immaculate front lawn with a number of garden ornaments, including a gnome pushing a barrow, a couple of  less than cuddly animals, and a spinning windmill. This little plot, delights passing children in the same way that gaudy Christmas lights might. I’d like to hail all those gardeners across the land who entertain us with their cheeky Big Ears lookalikes.

garden_gnome_with_wheelbarrow-20051026

The subject of gnomes brings to mind an old college ‘professor’ of mine called Banable Lecture. He was my friend at college, and we still keep up a sporadic correspondence. Banable taught programming and program design, but considering the technical nature of his career, it is notable that he prefers to put pen to paper for his annual letter to me, rendering it practically illegible. Mine to him on the other hand, is ‘MSWorded’ with appropriate illustrations, as I was taught in college.

Banable is a man with a boyish sense of humour (what man is not, I hear you say) and he once made a surprise visit to his brother (or it could have been his sister). To make the occasion more meaningful, Banable and his wife, Sparethe, rose before daybreak, and carrying with them various bits of equipment such as a washing up bowl, some sticks and string and some eccentric headgear, arrived outside the sibling’s house. The curtains were still blocking the first, pale infiltration of sunshine as the two crept onto the front lawn and set up their surprise. Then they waited, hoping the family would not lie in until midday.

Sure enough, after not too long the upstairs drapes parted and a sleepy figure glanced out, then stilled, then a face was thrust close to the glass before breaking into roars of laughter.

Outside, with the grass chilling their toes, Banable and Sparethe, sat facing one another on low stools. On the ground between them was a blue sheet of plastic, cut in a closed curve, and on top of this, a washing up bowl containing water and a plastic fish. Both figures held fishing rods made from the sticks and string, and both were dressed as garden gnomes.

If only I could read Banable’s writing, I might have a fund of other anecdotes. As it is, there is one story that can be linked to the above without too much meandering. It concerns my time with LH.

LH is a classic car enthusiast, and over the years I was the vicarious owner of a number of old sports cars, while he had a sensible saloon car (and an Austin Healey  Frog Eyed Sprite in the garage). I have driven M.G.s and Austin Healeys, some quite nice but most with  resounding rear end flatulence and/or water, leaking through the soft top.

1968_mg_midget_mk_iii_15611687240

On one occasion, LH was on the phone giving directions using his favourite landmarks. ‘Go past the Griffin,’ said he, ‘Take the next left and our house is the one with the midget in the garden’. Our visitor could have been forgiven for thinking we lived in Narnia rather than a residential estate in North Sheep Country.

Sexual press ups

When Mavis was about 4 she had a beloved friend, Peter. The two were inseparable, so much so that when they both went to school, the dinner ladies called them the little married couple.

Sadly for Mavis, Peter moved away leaving her distraught. For years afterwards she struggled to make friends, but it seemed that the girl groups had already formed, and Mavis had developed a preference for the company of boys.

One day before Peter left, when he was very much in Mavis’s life,  Whizz, Mavis and I took a trip to Woburn Safari Park. You know, the place with the monkeys that rip off your windscreen wipers. Whizz and I sat in the front of the car and Mavis, in her child seat, perched behind us on the rear seat.

We peered through the widows at lions and giraffes, and soon  arrived at the ape enclosure. In a line of cars we crawled along roads between trees, where the little blighters, Barbary Apes I believe, were soon landing from the trees onto our car and gnawing at the trim and peeing on the windscreen.  Mavis was delighted to watch them being sprayed with the windscreen washers.

We rounded a corner and looked back to see an ape making off with part of a car further back down the queue and then Whizz and I turned back, whereupon our eyes were drawn to a huge ape, squatting in a sort of hut, directly ahead of us. He was observing the mayhem like the King of the Swingers. We knew he was a male because unlike the Disney character, he had an enormous erection. We stared in silence wondering if our little girl would notice. As we watched, the penis of the King of the Swingers, swung. Well actually it bobbed, up and down in apparent response to the desirability of the various crumpet options  around the woodland. ‘Oh yes, there’s a good’un,’ up with the erection, ‘Maybe there’s a better one over there though.’ slight droop, and so on.

Mavis had clearly spotted the ape and its seemingly athletic part, and after a few seconds her little voice came from the back,

‘I wonder if Peter can do that.’

adam's penis

 

Now that’s what I call ‘customer service’

Some time ago, during my Friday evening fest of wine drinking and communing with Facebook, I reached a particularly engaged moment  and knocked over my glass of wine.

Oh no I thought as the glass evaded my grasp, there goes a whole glass of wine. What a waste. Oh No! Something else has gone wrong in the life of the authorThen I saw the direction the wine was arcing. Yes, straight for the keyboard of my laptop.

Being well educated by Whizz on what to do in such circumstances (I also know that I should put my mobile phone straight into a bowl of uncooked rice after retrieving it from the toilet bowl), I took out the battery and turned the machine upside down onto a towel. Nonetheless, the next morning, it was seriously dead.

Fortunately, nay imperatively, we have accidental damage cover on our contents insurance, so I rang Direct Line, and after noting the details of the accident, they told me they would have it collected to check whether it could be fixed. My laptop was very old, and already limped, in fact the wine incident, although entirely accidental, turned out to be well worth the loss of the wine, which I did not, dear reader, squeeze from the towel to drink later, despite what you may think of me. In short, I ended up with a shiny new Toshiba laptop. What a result. Continue reading Now that’s what I call ‘customer service’

Bed, Breakfast and Fine Dining

Michelin logo. The chef's family doesn't always eat fine cuisine

This has been an interesting summer. I have enjoyed it more than usual because a) I didn’t have a broken metatarsal and b) somewhat strangely, because we didn’t go away.

The reason for our lack of exotic (or otherwise) holiday, was two fold: First, we couldn’t afford it. Things are finally looking up for us financially, but this summer we needed to service, even reduce, our debt, and certainly not spend more than necessary.

To further assist this aim, we decided to set up bed and breakfast  in our home (airbnb). This was the other reason we didn’t go away, we had too many guests – brilliant, and a considerable relief I can tell you.

cooked breakfast at The Old Meeting Place

I broke up from my job at the local primary school, and the summer stretched ahead of me, full of possibilities. The lazy and aimless days were wonderful. Mavis and I spent the first week doing GISHWHES – more of that in another post – but the rest of the time we looked after our lovely and undemanding guests, walked, drank, ate and did what people are supposed to do on holiday. Continue reading Bed, Breakfast and Fine Dining