Simple Pleasures

Today I had coffee with a friend. Well to be exact several coffees and some slightly crispy pizza which the kids didn’t finish! But I feel happier than I have for a few days. We talked, we talked, we laughed, we talked some more and laughed a bit more. We weren’t in some fancy coffee shop we were in her kitchen with the children running in and out of the garden and interrupting every few minutes as children do! Our conversation was most definitely not about all happy topics in fact we both had our turns to moan and set the world to rights. But it was just a perfect happy moment. And before we knew it four and a half hours had passed!

Coffee with friends- a simple but very happy pleasure

Fire!

I have loved camp fires for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of laying a superb fire, of finding just the right wood to make it perfect, of making it symmetrical, of deciding whether to go for a square or a pyramid. Then there’s the challenge of getting it to light with as few matches as possible. And yes I have done one with no ‘artificial kindling’ just dried grass which was lit with only one match! I love the tending of the fire, adding just the right amount of wood to make the fire as hot as is needed, the raking it out to form embers. And then there’s cooking on the fire. I am proud to say that I have, on many occasions, cooked an entire meal on fire. Not just the obvious things like marshmallows but camp pizzas, jacket potatoes, chips, eggy bread, chocolate cake, stuffed bananas, sausages, bacon, full English, stews, soups and dampers(which are delicious eaten with jam!)

But nothing beats a toasted marshmallow. I like them once they have ignited and sizzled for a bit so the outside is crunchy and the inside is oozy and sticky and coats your entire face and fingers! I love that I have introduced literally hundreds of children to this delight (often sandwiched between two chocolate digestives for them) However, I am ashamed to admit that my own niece does not like marshmallows! Hey ho, all the more for Auntie Karen – and Ruby is a champion toaster now as although she does not eat them she always takes her turn toasting one for me!

Then comes the camp fire songs. They come in phases just like any craze but many a child I have babysat for has been regaled with my full repertoire. The words are never written down, just passed on as children learn them. Old favourites such as ‘camp fire’s burning’ never go out of fashion. And then there are regional variations! My guiding family come from all parts of the country, it has been known that there are four versions of the same song all being sung at the same time around the fire. Each one of us sticking to the words we’ve grown up with, all blending together. The great thing about camp fire singing is that is does not matter if you cannot hold a tune (just as well in my case!) enthusiasm and volume are all that are required!

And then after the songs have been sung and the marshmallows toasted you can sit around the embers watching the sun go down from underneath your blanket and just chat and laugh. Before you know it, it’s too dark to see and you’re wishing that you’d brought a torch with you ( thank goodness for smart phones!).

And the camp fire doesn’t just last that night, that beautiful woodsmoke smell lingers, sometimes for days. Personally I do not mind that at all!

Ive lost count of the number of camp fires I’ve done. There’ve been daytime ones, nighttime ones, evening ones, ones that started out as a barbecue but then we decided wood cooks better ones I could go on. But some stick out in my memory more than others.

There was the one at guide camp where we ended up cooking frozen chips over a very dodgy fire in the rain! The one where it was so hot the marshmallows melted in the car before we even got to the fire. Several where brownies, and leaders have made their promise to me and many more where they’ve said goodbye. But the one that stands out for me is my last night at guides. I was fifteen, I had been presented, along with three of my best friends, with my Baden-Powell award. And, as was my unit’s tradition, we left the fire while the others sang. The song ‘Go well and safely’. It still brings a lump to my throat now.

Camp fires are definitely one of life’s happy little moments – thnaks to everyone who has shared them with me.

A happy goodbye?

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On Wednesday we said our final goodbyes to Granny. Not very happy I can hear you saying but surprisingly there was happiness to be found, even at such an occasion. In the car on the way to the crematorium we sat and chatted about our memories of Granny. My cousin and I remembered ‘pink rabbit’ which was our favourite, and always requested, pudding. It’s  actually pink blancmange done in Granny’s infamous rabbit mould. We loved it! We talked about baking with Granny, standing precariously on a stool by the work top wearing and oversize apron. She taught me how to make pastry for micne pies and jam tarts and I still use her recipe. I remember lying on the rug in front of the fire doing jigsaws. And all the clothes she used to knit for my dolls. We talked about her garden and how she loved it. And then, just as we turned into the crematorium we were silenced. Not in grief as you might imagine but by the beauty. The driveway is surrounded by woodland and graves and the whole place was like a carpet of snowdrops and early crocuses. Granny would have loved it. She loved all plant she but especially spring flowers.

During the service of course there were tears, but there was laughter too. We laughed as Gareth talked about Granny going for a walk with Joshua (her great grandson) on Boxing Day to ‘test their new wheels’. He on his new scooter, she with her first walking frame – aged 99 and three quarters.

We returned to her care home to toast her wonderful life. All 100 years and 10 days of it. And right at the end, one of her carers was looking through the family photos with us and said she had something to show us. She produced a short video clip taken only a few short weeks ago on one of the home’s regular outings. Granny was at the garden centre and there she was bright as a button, walking stick in hand, dancing along and laughing out loud to a giant musical, swaying Christmas tree! Not bad for almost a hundred!

And so, despite the occasion, we left with smiles on our faces.

Lazy Sundays

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Today was one of those Sundays! Me and my best friend, pjs, the sofa, our duvets and the tv. Lazy I know but the perfect end to what has turned out to be a very busy half term week. I love that I have the freedom to choose to have a lazy Sunday. Being an adult does have its advantages! Hope you’ve all had a good Sunday too 🙂

Happy Hump Day Hugs

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Hugs are fab. I love hugs! I love the spontaneity of someone rushing up and throwing their arms around you. Or the ones you ask for. And the ones where someone just scoops up your sadness and turns it into laughter. Hugs are warm, comforting, familiar, and safe. I’m lucky, I work with children and get dozens of hugs a day. What the children don’t realise is that when they come and ask for a hug and I give one, they are also doing me a favour too! However, I’m also lucky enough to work with colleagues who understand my hugging needs! And this morning I was greeted with many Happy Hump Day Hugs. So here I am passing them on. If you are in need of a hug, here is one for you … catch!

My Best Friend

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My best friend is amazing. She is one of the few people in the world who truly “gets” me. And she always seems to know exactly what to say. We laugh, at the stupidest things – and go on laughing way after it’s funny. We go on road trips and sing, badly and loudly, to the cheesiest music. We gossip over pizza. We cuddle up under a blanket and watch property shows – planning our houses for when we have money… We shop and spend more money than we have. But it’s more than that. Without my best friend I probably wouldn’t be here today. She is my absolute rock. She has seen me at my lowest of low points and still stayed by my side. She has held my hand and let me cry and patiently reassured me when my anxious paranoia kicks in. She has firmly told me that “giving up is not an option”. And I listen to her when I can’t listen to myself. She always seems to know the right words to say, when to be serious and when to have a joke. She hugs me and reassures me and loves me unconditionally. And I can never fully put into words how much she means to me. Happiness comes from spending time with people who truly love you for who you are – just like she does for me.

The kindness of children

Children can be so honestly kind in a way that I think adults struggle with because to us it all seems a bit over the top – we’ve learnt to tone it down and not show too much emotion (something I have not learnt to do very well yet!). As a teacher I have moments every day where a child says or does something with such open honesty that it knocks you back for a second while you realise that they’re not being sarcastic or manipulative or cheeky, they’re just telling you how it is from the kindness of their hearts. Examples include:

“You know how when you love someone a lot you try to show them how much you love them by making them things or writing them a card, but it’s never enough to show them just how much you love them? Well that’s how I feel about you.”

“I wish we had school at the weekends so that I could see you every day.”

“You’re like a rare, bright star – you shine brighter than the others.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are, I still love you.”

These children have so much love and kindness inside that they just want to let it out – they’re not bound by social conventions and the British stiff upper lip, they just want to tell the people that are important to them how much they love them. It makes me so happy that children are free to do that – and to hear them speaking to each other with such kindness is heart warming. I often see posts on Facebook from taken aback parents whose children have written them a kind message, done something kind or said something kind and it’s just lovely to see that it happens everywhere! There really is nothing like the kindness of a child to make you stop for a second and feel warmed by their love and compassion. I’ll leave you with one more example that put a huge smile on my face (after I had stopped crying!)

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I wore this as my ‘something blue’ for my wedding!

Kindness

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It is very easy in the frantic world we live in to give a hasty response or a sharp comment. I’m guilty of that myself. However, if we all try to be that little bit kinder, perhaps that will help us on the way to happiness. Kindness costs nothing and yet it can be the difference between anger and acceptance, anxiety and happiness, a good day and a bad. A kind word, a smile, a hug, a compliment. Small gestures but with huge impact. I know that whole days have been changed for me by that person who stopped to say my hair looked good or to give me a hug or even just to say hello and smile. Its not always easy to accept a compliment and sometimes I get very strange looks when I tell someone they look nice or similar. I think they are secretly pleased and a little embarrassed!

Its actually pretty easy for me to be kind to other people. It’s being kind to myself that is the tricky bit. I’m trying to be kinder to me and not so self critical but it’s definitely a work in progress! So … in this world, where we are lucky enough to be able to be anything, be kind. Be kind to yourself and to others.

Laughter

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Laughter is generally thought to be synonymous with happiness. Certainly a good laugh can make you feel happy. And I don’t mean a half hearted chuckle. I mean a full blown belly laugh where you have tears rolling down your face, you’re not sure if you are breathing at all, your body starts to ache and you are rendered incapable of anything else at all. But how often do we actually laugh like this as an adult?  I often see children laughing with sheer joyous abandon but somehow as we grow up we lose that ability to see the sheer joy in our lives. So for my next goal I want to recapture that joy and that laughter and see the world through tears of joy rather than tears of sadness. To recapture the joy of living…