Monday, 31 January 2011

Brave and Brilliant!

We have just returned from a really wonderful weekend in the Lake District - absolutely just the tonic for the January blues. 'Just the tonic' for all sorts of reasons but perhaps mostly because we have been to bear witness to our friends' brave and brilliant change of lifestyle.

David and Manda have been our friends for over 20 years. Living nearby and bringing up their family of three who are similar ages to our older girls, we have been close chums for a long time, so, imagine our surprise when they announced last year that they were heading up to the Lake District to run a B&B and change their lives. We worried for them that they would be lonely away from their busy social lives around here and that Manda, who was giving up her well-paid job, would miss her steady income. Oh, and we teased them relentlessly about being the new Basil and Sybil of Fawlty Towers.

We arrived at their new home/business on Friday night, twins in tow, in the dark and were immediately bowled over by the lovely welcoming atmosphere of Low Graythwaite Hall.  Manda is a terrific homemaker and her light touch was everywhere. I had forgotten how stunningly beautiful the Lake District is and the following morning when we woke up (me ridiculously early because I couldn't wait to see the lovely countryside) it was a clear, crisp, sunny day with frost dusting the topiary outside my bedroom window.

We walked (and climbed some very steep hills!) and talked all weekend, drank too much wine, ate too, too well and sadly watched Andy Murray bite the dust (or rather the tarmac) in sunny Melbourne. Even that didn't dampen my spirits - and I kept my usual level of shouting at the television at such times down to an acceptable level (because there were proper B&B guests in the room directly above). It was all brilliant.

It made me wonder... could we ever do something so brave? I don't know but it certainly gave me food for thought. It also reminded me of the wonderful writer, Derek Tangye who is sadly no longer with us. Derek was a Fleet Street journalist and his wife Jeannie was the public relations officer for the Savoy Hotel. They gave it all up to farm daffodils in Cornwall in the 1960s and Derek wrote some beautiful books about their experiences there. Though I haven't read them for many years, I still remember the wonderful sense of peace in a busy world that they gave me and I felt that same peace in the Lakes.

So, I've made it to the end of January (my worst month), I'm feeling better than I've felt for weeks, thanks to my Lake District jaunt and now all I have to face is ... oh, no, another birthday!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

'I'll get by with a little help from my friends'

I am determined to beat the winter blues. Each year, I make it to Christmas in reasonably good fettle and then, come January I slip into the slough of despond. Reasons for this come in spades - lack of sunlight (yes, the whole SAD thing, I suspect, is real), post-Christmas blues, the shortly upcoming birthday (how can I be this old?!), and the long, long haul to spring. But this year, I will not be downcast - and if I keep saying this enough, maybe it will work!

So, to beat the blues, I am cleaning the house (ok that's a bit sad), taking the dogs for a walk/run whenever it isn't precipitating in some manner, buying and cultivating as many indoor bulbs as possible, planning some nice treats and really, really appreciating my friends.

After my Damascus moment, courtesy of my son, when I realised I had been an old bag for most of 2010, I had a phone call from one of my closest pals who recently moved to the Lake District. She told me that I was a useless friend because I never ring her. I hate the phone. I have never got the 'I love to chat to my friends on the phone in the evening' thing because, to me, the phone is work. My great chum, who uses the expression 'friend to friend, enemy to enemy' before she delivers the killer blow (probably so you know it is coming!) told me to get over myself and whilst I am still not about to adopt the phone as my favoured means of catching up with my chums, I am making a big effort to keep in touch with those I love but don't always see.

When you all have children of the same age, there's a lot of socialising at the school gate that goes on unplanned and, as your children get older, change schools, go on the bus, go to university and finally flit the nest, you lose touch and then it becomes an effort to keep the contact going. Having had two rounds of children (like sandwiches but less digestible), we have friends whose children are in their twenties - daughters one and two - and young friends (to us!) who have teenage children - twins numbered three and four. It's easy to catch up with the latter set because they are doing the same round of school, cricket, tennis, parties etc that we are. The harder part is organising time with the first ones who have probably moved on from all of that and can go on weekends away and midweek nights out without worrying whether homework is being done in their absence. Some of these were friends of the time and perhaps force of circumstances made us spend more time with them than affection and mutual interests would otherwise dictate. Others are real treasures and very important in our lives and I know that we must not let these friendships drift away from lack of communication. And it takes both sides to make it work.

So my plan for beating the annual slide into the dark slurry of January is to phone/text/email and best of all, call in to see my dearest friends because their friendship is what will sustain me till spring comes.