So being a self proclaimed Royalist, I watched the funeral of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday. Sadly, I feel the sense of loyalty and duty to the Royal Family is lost on mine and younger generations. I am so proud to be British and it isn't lost on me the magnitude of what we are saying goodbye to here. The Duke was a living part of our collective history and he had been at the epicentre of British power since the 1940s. I am so jealous of all of his travels, I am awed at the legacy he is leaving behind and I am left in wonderment at his self less devotion in serving the Queen, his wife for all of these years, two steps behind.
Learning about the man beyond the well publicised gaffs this past week has left me with only positives to include in my own life: travel, be curious, ask questions, laugh, enjoy the good times, be patient during the bad times, this too shall pass, say what you mean to say, don't back down on your beliefs and values for anyone.
Losing someone we love and the resulting grief will hit us all at some point in life. It's no different for our Royal family and our Queen. When your partner, husband, wife dies, this is said to be one of the most intense emotional experiences of your lifetime. I can attest to this.
I'm starting 3 days of furlough today. What weird times we are living in. I should be gearing up for a busy January booking amazing holidays for people, but instead I'm working from home again with the office closing to the public for who knows how long. And we are 2 days away from Brexit finally being actioned. What a year it's been!
Despite all of this, it's been a lovely Christmas seeing family and friends whilst the restrictions briefly lifted. I did spend my first ever Christmas day alone and it was surprisingly lovely and I actually felt quite content. I cooked dinner for myself and ordered in my favourite champagne. I got to lie in and wake up to my own pace with the kitties and the only thing I forgot was the stuffing, so I had yorkies instead!
Our first session of family therapy went ok last week. It was with my older sister and mum to begin with. I wanted us to address the issues raised by my latest hospitalisation and how both parties were feeling and had felt during that time. As you know, I found going into hospital and the events leading up to it incredibly traumatic in themselves.
Here are a few of my main points I journalled in preparation, which you may be able to relate to:
The day after I saw my counsellor and I read her one of my all time favourite stories and the one and only Christmas story in my humble opinion "A Night Before Christmas". I also told her I appreciate and hugely respect her authenticity. I like the fact she's not on social media for example.
I've been watching so many fab shows on the box, a lot being about my heroes or being favourite programs of mine or celebrating a significant anniversary - Billy Connolly's goodbye to stand up, Sheridan Smith's Becoming Mum where she openly talks about her struggles with her mental health, 25 years of Common People by Pulp, Cliff Richard's King of Christmas, Victoria Wood's Secret Files and live stand up show from 1997, Bobby Ball's last appearance in Not Going Out before he passed, new comedy Pandemonium, Ricky Gervais stand up shows Animals and Politics, Mandy, Mrs Brown's Boys (of course!), the history of the Queen's speech, Have I got 30 years for you, Birds of a Feather, Motherland, King Gary, The story behind The Good Life, 25 years of Bridget Jones and Nigella doing her wonderful Christmas cooking, still going strong at 60.
but weren't - lots of adventure such as Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, some of the Classics such as Wuthering Heights and Sense and Sensibility, and books that I remember reading as a teenager and being deeply moved such as Judy Blume's Forever and Robert Swindells's Daz4Zoe. Now I just need a lovely bookcase to put them all in!
Well it hasn't been much of a flamin' June, more like one flamin' day of June.. and with less time spent on my new country commute to Reading, it would be great to have some sultry, summer evenings to enjoy, whilst I'm not tearing it up and down to London for five days of the week.
I do love the month of June though, despite the weather this year. Before the longest day, when the nights draw out to 10pm, and there's a sultry hush up and down the street, William Wordsworth's "A Night in June" comes to mind:
The sun has long been set,
The stars are out by twos and threes,
The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and trees;
There’s a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo’s sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.
Who would “go parading”
In London, “and masquerading,"
On such a night of June
With that beautiful soft half-moon,
And all these innocent blisses?
On such a night as this is!
From perfected, consistently brilliant talent to... you blow my mind fresh, new talent...
And they are best friends - which makes it even better.
I am a massive fan of BGT and this dance act (below) blew me away. Ingeniously put together - music and dance nostalgia!
Before we lose anymore of our National Treasures this year, I would like to dedicate this blog post to the ones that have passed. For some reason, Victoria Wood's death hit me particularly hard. She was amazing. They were all amazing. These are the icons I grew up with, who have influenced me in so many ways.
For a lover of words, this is pure genius! Spot a very young Patricia Hodge and Julie Walters ☺️
Iconic "will have you in stitches" sketch
And bringing it up-to-date, sadly minus our other funny Ronnie, but still brilliant comedy
This caught my eye a couple of weeks back, whilst I was making my way to work on the tube. As you know, I love all sorts of poetry. I remember studying Grace Nichols for GCSE English Lit. and Like A Beacon reminded me why I'm such a fan! It also reminds me that, although I love coming into the City and feeling the buzz, I also enjoy returning to the suburbs to relax and recharge.
Like A Beacon by Grace Nichols
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother's food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
I need this link
I need this touch
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold
Following on from my post on Wednesday; the funny poem I wrote when I first started working at the Post Office, here's another amusing P O related post.
A regular customer of mine handed me a very funny book "Golden Oddlies" by Paul Jennings around the time of my second Christmas stint. As you can imagine, it was pretty manic, but the Chapter "Psychological Grading" gave me great cause for comfort - and chuckles.
"Golden Oddlies" is the best of Jennings "Oddly Enough" column that he wrote for the Observer. If you've ever worked in a Post Office, stood in a Post Office queue, or worked in Customer Service, you will relate to his musings...
All British sociologists will welcome the Report of the Royal Commission for Psychological Grading in Busy Places, published this week for the Ministry of Development and Printing, for it represents the first real official attempt to cope with the problem in modern society of complication-neurosis.
This is a condition which can best be explained to the layman by actual examples. Let us imagine a suburban branch Post Office, with, say, six positions - Stamps, Savings, Money Orders, Position Closed, Pensions and Allowances, and Telegrams. An ordinary customer (in the sociologists' jargon, a neutral counter-unit, or N.C.U.) such as the reader or the writer of this article - a person, therefore, entirely free from complication-neurosis - goes in to buy a book of stamps. He is preceded in the queue by a complication-neurotic who, perhaps, wishes to send a parcel to the Virgin Isles, a possession of the U.S.A. The clerk looks dubious, then calls someone from an inner office with a glass door. They fetch down a big book - the Post Office Guide. They find the section on the Virgin Isles.
'Ah,' murmurs the First Clerk, 'Customs Declaration "A".'
They are not quite sure what this is, so they flip rather aimlessly through the pages until it occurs to Clerk Two to look up 'Customs' in the Index. They find it and Clerk One reads, in an unsure sort of voice, 'Two kinds of customs declaration form are in use, namely an adhesive form to be affixed to the parcel (mainly for Empire use), and a non-adhesive form (for most foreign countries). Two or more copies of the latter form may be required, see pp. 110-209.'
But pp. 110-209 are merely the alphabetical section covering the world's countries, containing the bit about the Virgin Isles where Clerk One started. We are in a vicious circle. But this is only the beginning. When they have finally decided about the Customs, Clerk Two says, 'What's in the parcel?'
'Well, it's a kind of model I made,' says the woman helplessly, 'and a few potatoes.'
'Potatoes, eh?' says Clerk One doubtfully. More page flicking, then, 'I'm afraid we can't accept it, ma'am.' For under 'Prohibited Articles' it says, for the Virgin Isles:
Letters, cotton seed, cotton and cotton seed products (except oil, manufactured cotton and cotton waste; see below); feathers and skins of wild birds (except ostrich feathers) unless for educational purposes; films or pictorial representations of prize fights; intoxicating liquors; potatoes...
And so on, while all the normal person or N.C.U. wants is this book of stamps. Not only Post Office are affected by the spread of complication-neurosis. Evidence submitted to the Commission shows that most of the people who want a simple second-class return to Birmingham in a hurry are preceded by the sort of man who wants to go on an obscure place in the Hebrides. He has voluminous inquiries about sailing tickets and seat places and insurance. His ticket, instead of being issued quickly with a metallic thump from a machine, has to be laboriously written out on a duplicate form with long footnotes about 'Messrs MacBrayne's Services'. In a bank, an N.C.U. who merely wishes to cash a cheque for £5, will be preceded by someone with a battered attache case full of little blue bags full of pennies and complicated company accounts.
The Commission's Report recommends a revolutionary technique of psychological grading, to be tried out experimentally at first in Post Offices.
We are in entire agreement with the experts who have given evidence (it says) that the present division of Post Offices into operational functions is arbitrary and inefficient. We therefore recommend a form of Psychological Grading. In a Six-Position Post Office two of the positions should be labelled 'SIMPLE'. The remaining four should be labelled 'COMPLICATED'. Counter units should be met at the door of the Post Office by a trained psychologist who by the answer given to some such question as 'Good morning sir (or madam); what do you require?' would be able to deduce the degree, if any, of complication-neurosis, and direct the counter-unit accordingly.
I need hardly point out the effect on our social life if the Report is acted upon. Normal people like the reader, or the writer, of this article will be able to pop quickly in and out of the Post Office, even at the busiest times. Complication-neurotics will have a special part of the Post Office all to themselves, screened off with trellis and artificial roses, there will be little tables where they can discuss their problems with fellow-spirits all day long over a cup of Post Office coffee.
The realignment of staff will mean an overall increase in Functionary Time (F.T.) without the corresponding increase in Functionary Units which sociologists previously thought this must involve. The Report, recognising the existing shortage of psychologists, outlines a scheme for Regional Training Colleges giving a special one-year course. In the Report's concluding words,
the initial expense should soon be repaid, since from Post Offices it is a short step to railway booking offices, banks, and shops. and we may therefore look forward confidently to an efficient rationalisation of the whole of our public life.
What to do on a rainy Sunday... I know, Netflix! Myself and my Aunty watched Becoming Jane with Anne Hathaway. This is the story of Jane Austen and, of course, I live in Jane Austen country - Hampshire, UK - and am a massive fan of her work. Last year I visited Chawton where her house still stands.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.