Updated: Nov 9, 2019
I was literally born in the wrong time period, let's just put that out there before we get started. Mobile phones and technology annoy me, electrical lighting irritates my eyes (especially with night floaters) and I dream of the days where people took the time to write a letter to share their news, no matter how uninteresting it was.
Let's jump back to 1987 and find out why I became such a biddy...
I was born not so far from London, but my small and screamy self was soon whisked off to the countryside in the south-east of England, where I spent my childhood. I grew up in an old-fashioned household with a strict upbringing, and if you didn't bring your good manners to every situation with you... then you would have certainly known about it! We didn't have much as kids, but we were content with what we did have. We used to roll marbles up the fire-guard that was propped on a stack of VHS boxes - which we considered as a good hours' worth of entertainment! We went horse riding on the beach at weekends from the age of four and we went for picnics in the neighbouring village of Sandringham, where the Queen's country house is.
The Grandparents still lived in Luton and we'd generally go back to see them a couple of times a year. Going back to Marie Gillman's (nan's) was like stepping back into the 1940's, in fact, I'm pretty sure that much of the furniture hadn't been changed since the war... the carpets certainly hadn't; with there giant holes that revealed the underlay! "I'll put the wireless on" Grandad would say - as he referred to the only new thing in the house, a black plastic radio. The gas fires were broken and would often be lit with long matches, scaring us to death, in fear of the whole place going up in flames.
Auntie Lil, Marie's sister, was always in the wars with a gas cooker or a party popper. She'd say; "corr that didn't 'alf go bang" as it took her eyebrows and fringe with it. Oh bless her soul, she used to make us laugh and she was my favourite relative, growing up. I still think about her every month, even after all this time. She permanently installed a fear of anything gas related in me to this very day.
Now, not only was the furniture surviving the forties, but the clothes, the hair styles and the makeup were still paying homage to that defining era... and thus their sense of that fact that; "children should be seen and not heard!" was still fighting fit too. Grandad would often talk about the days of the war and we would bombard him with questions for our school homework. Poor Grandad had Alzheimers, so we often wouldn't get past the first answer without him repeating it, and he'd often answer are infamous question of "what's for supper, Grandad?" with the same old joke of "Oh, I think it's kippers and custurd tonight... or cold cabbage and lard, no?"
Later on, mum got a job working as a linen maid for the Queen at Sandringham house. Not only was I ugly and geeky according to the bullies at school, but now people laughed because my mother worked for the Queen. I would often go with her to work at the weekends and get to wander around the house when it was closed to the public. I used to love how grand and classy everything was and the musty smell of the upholstery is something that I can even smell to this day. I was taught to speak properly and address people I didn't know with a well spoken accent. Mum always changed her accent when she was on the phone or with friends and family, so I picked up her well-spoken accent from a young age.
Being well mannered and classy (even though we didn't have any money) was drilled into me from as long as I can remember. Other people's opinions of how you presented yourself were important... and this brings me on to the next point.
I sometimes wonder if this importance on pleasing others created a level of insecurity in me. Would I ever be good enough for these people (or anyone else for that matter)? What did they think of me? Did I leave a good impression? These were questions I asked myself on a daily basis -- and I soon began to doubt myself in every way possible.
I found comfort in visiting one of Mum's colleagues who lived a ten minute bike ride away. She'd often listen to how badly school was going and would try to cheer me up whilst she did the housework and I petted the Labradors. This couple was amazing. Trish and Fran's house was literally like stepping back into a time capsule. They used oil lanterns and had a vast collection lined up on shelves on the wall. It was so comforting watching Trish polish them one by one in her apron. In the driveway sat a large steam locomotive (roller) which they drove through the village up to the fete in Sandringham every now and then. They lived in a time that they appreciated more and they were happy.
I left home at seventeen and had to grow up even faster, and as technology was growing to be a bigger part of everyday life, I just couldn't seem to catch on somehow.
When I moved to London at the age of 22 - I literally had the shock of my life. I was in no way prepared for that after my sheltered and country upbringing, and it turned into two very crazy and stressful years. I craved to go back in time and escape the modern world and I needed to go to a place that was stuck in a time warp... somewhere like Paris... so I did just that.
After watching Amelie (some introvert waitress with too much imagination and time on her hands) about ten million times, I decided that I was going to move to Paris. I would work in a café, just as she did and I wouldn't worry about the pressures of society. I would have a little apartment in Montmartre that smelt of dusty curtains, I'd go to the market once a week and I would live happily ever after.
Erm... that's not how the story turned out at all. It was a hard slog and I was cleaning toilets for a living, I lived in a suburb where I almost got robbed on a night bus as three men jumped on top of me in search for the only thing that was dusty... my wallet.
I slept on a blow up bed for nine months and cried like I'd never cried before. Paris was not at all the romantic happy ever after of stress free coffee making and collecting polaroids of strangers -- It was sitting at the laundrette for hours on end, scrubbing the loos and cleaning up after some animal-like people. But it taught me something, it taught me that nothing and nobody were below me. I wasn't good enough to work in a café because my French was terrible.
I persevered and got some makeup jobs and started teaching English for a bit. I hated teaching English, because my grammar was terrible and I was not a good student at school, but you know what, it taught me about my own language. I learned along with the students I taught and I learned a lot about people! These were mainly business students that where between thirty and sixty and I had some amazing conversations. They opened up to me and my 'lessons' turned into a weekly chat - where they chose to offload what was going on in their lives, and for me - that was an honour, that people trusted me with their vulnerabilities.
So, here we are - six years later, arriving at thirty and I've learnt a lot, but not even a smidge of what I'm set out to learn. The most humbling thing is that I've reached this checkpoint and I'm saying to myself; 'I'm just happy doing my thing, I'm happy doing my inner beauty thing and working with interesting people and then going back to my home in the Marais to see my little cat, Willow, drinking tea and being happy as a minimalist that doesn't spend money and wears cheap clothes. I'm not trying to impress anyone these days and the rewards have been endless.'
I went out searching for a world that doesn't exist anymore. But we can create our own personal space however we want it to be. You close that door to your home at the end of the day and it's safe. Books line the shelves that are eager to be read, unconditional love from you pets is there waiting for you, and a reflection on yourself about how you did your best today, because the best is all you can do! Well, that's one of the best feelings ever.
I want to share a piece of technology with you that can contribute in a positive way. This week I discovered the application 'Stop, Breath & Think'. I've tried a lot of meditation applications and this has to be, by far, the best one!
You start by telling the app how you're feeling, in mind and in body. Then you describe how you're feeling by selecting up to five different emotions. It will then find which of their meditations are best for you based on your current mood.
My favourite thing, wait for it, is that it's not only focusing on you, It also focuses on feeling compassion and empathy for other people, and it also teaches you to keep calm and wish even people you dislike to have joy and success in their lives. I really love this because most meditations focus on the self and not taking into account that we all want the same thing, which is happiness and to share more joy with people, getting rid of feelings such as resentment and jealousy.
If you find it difficult to take the time for meditation, then this is great for you - because each session is only about 5 minutes long (I've had some that went up to 30 minutes). I've been using it a couple of times per day and it really helps me to just have a bit of me time and to calm down the inner chat whilst looking of ways to turn it into positive thoughts.
Let me know if you try it and what your thoughts are. Or, maybe you have a recommendation of how you like to take time for yourself?
Until next time!