Archive | March 2012


I have done some fabulous venting this week. If you have never tried venting I must urge you to have a go. I don’t mean the polite and useful kind:




More something like this:


Pressure point reached, I unleashed all the pent-up worries and frustration until the magma seas were calm again. And now I am ready for a relaxing weekend.

To revisit or not – that is the question

We are planning a trip to Belgium in a couple of weeks. Spending time with family and hanging around, enjoying the company and the things I miss back home. Actually, there’s been a major improvement on the “goodies I miss” front since last week: Sainsbury’s supermarket now stocks grey shrimps! I love them! Now I don’t have to take a car fridge anymore to bring some back. But I digress. Husband can feel a bit bored, as he doesn’t understand everything that is going on. He wants to play tourist sometimes. It is more difficult than you’d think to keep coming up with places an outsider might find interesting. I have told him I think we’ve pretty much covered the tourist hotspots. Belgium is about the size of a stamp, remember. Husband changes tack. He wants me to take him around where I grew up. He has been asking for years and I have managed to divert his attention to touristy things so far. What do I do now?

It is not that I have anything to hide. I have not run away from anything particularly, nor am I wanted for some ancient misdemeanor. And yet I have not been back to the town where I grew up for 20 odd years and am still reluctant to do so. I have been musing over what exactly I don’t want to face up to, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I am probably not being honest with myself. Maybe I should schedule a night time session with myself to get some true answers. One thing I am clear about is that seeing our former home again, my home for the first 22 years of my life, passed down seven generations in the family and now some stranger’s home, is going to be emotional. A tangle of emotions at the memories of growing up there and the loss of it all. I am just not sure I want to open that box again. I have managed to move on by looking ahead, not back. I also worry about the impact it might have on my parents if I told them we were going there. I probably wouldn’t tell them. Husband understands, even if he doesn’t know every detail. Things have happened in his life too. But I also understand he would like to fill in the blanks in my history. He won’t force me; I’ll have to make my own decision.

The simpler but still unresolved decision is whether I should contact some of the people from way back then. There are some I hope I won’t run into in town, and if I do, I might pretend I don’t recognize them; there are also a few people it might be nice to reconnect with.  At times it seems as if my history only goes about ten years back. I do feel home where I have decided to peg my tent. But maybe it is time to reconnect with older, deeper roots to find a more comfortable way of living with those closed boxes.

For now I’ll promise husband to show him the town, and I’ll decide on the day whether to go to the house. Depending on how strong I feel. I have another two weeks to reach out to people I may or may not like to see again – plenty of time for night time resolution.

Night time

Night time is possibly my favourite part of the day – no pun intended. I was never a morning person: too much stuff to get done and worry about. At night I come to rest. Time flows differently at night: it meanders and shifts with my thoughts, whirling or adrift.

The world is devoid of other people’s noise: no cars, trains, music – so I can feel utterly alone. I am comforted by the calls of the two types of owls in the woods behind the house. When the owls are around nothing ominous is, they are at ease, hunting and calling out to each other. Eating some vermin too, hopefully. Sometimes I hear foxes bark across the woods.

Worries unravel while I sit listening to the owls. Solutions present themselves virtually unprompted. I spend more time committing them to memory for use the next day than actually undoing the knots I have tied myself in. So much so I sometimes park something I am struggling with during the day, confident I will wake up at night and deal with it then.

I used to get all worked up when I was awake at night: lost sleep affects busy life. Maybe that was a remnant from the years when I had babies who were awake at all hours, needing me. That was draining. The babies are teenagers now, but I still relish a moment to myself. Night, I have discovered, is just the best time for that. Only the dog gets to share those moments every now and then. Because she is so cute.

Deceive yourself!

It is time to shake off a lifelong delusion, dear reader: that you have to be self-aware to be happy and successful. I have spent years advocating self awareness professionally as a means to getting better results from your interactions with people. That was a mistake.

I’ve been observing popular, successful people. They are often overconfident, overestimating their ability to achieve great things. Confidence is attractive, and so they amass followers and supporters who will help them and share in the success that so clearly lies in wait. They become “the people who get stuff done”. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I reckon self-deception is also a form of self-preservation: convince yourself that you are great at something and you can feel happy with yourself. Which would you rather have: constant self-doubt or happiness and popularity? If you want the latter, quit being so achingly honest with yourself. Apply it sparingly.

Paris, with chocolate

I interviewed with chocolate on my face today. In a cafe in Paris. One more entry on my list of embarrassing things I’ve done.  I did suspect for a fleeting moment I might have smeared chocolate on my cheek but then forgot about it, absorbed in the conversation. The guy was interesting and seemed a good fit. One problem solved. It was a couple of hours later, having finished the interview, debriefed with my colleague, walked back through Paris Nord station and made my way back to the airport that the unkind lighting in the ladies’ confirmed I did have chocolate on my face. In my defense, I had been ravenous: I had not had time to eat anything since breakfast other than the miniature galettes the Air France people gave me on the flight out to Paris. The coffee we all ordered to grant us leave to use the cafe as a meeting room came with a sliver of dark chocolate wrapped in foil, perched precariously on the saucer. My chocolate had been leaning into the coffee and half melted away. In my desperation for an energy boost (and my craving for dark chocolate, fine) I tried to eat it anyway, getting the goo all over my fingers. No napkins. I could either put on a show by trying to fish for a tissue in my handbag without getting that coated in chocolate too, or pretend it never happened and hope the chocolate would just dry and peel off or something. No-brainer, I am a professional. The thing is, my fingers must have had the right temperature to keep the chocolate smooth, for a really long time. Long enough for me to forget it was there. Judging by the smears on my face I must have swept my hair out of my face at least twice.

I am grateful to the interviewee and my colleague for being just as professional: they never once looked at me funny. I guess it would have been gracious of my colleague to alert me once the interviewee was gone to spare me the embarrassment of travelling through crowded public places in my decorated state. I can’t decide whether he is ultra shy or a tiny bit evil.

It could have been worse though. I could have been the interviewee, vying for my dream job.

Lunch at Terminus Nord, Paris

The green green grass (on the other side)

With spring turning the limp tufts into lush green grass again my thoughts are turning to the other side. They say the grass is not greener over there, but I don’t know. It sure looks that way.  With every fibre of my being I want to be there, in that patch of green green grass.

Work is great there: it is gratifying, with wonderful people, it pays well, and is just around the corner from my house.

The sun shines most of the time, it rains only during the night. Keeps the farmers happy, and the fruit in the garden abundant. We live in the garden as much as in the house. I could have my own vineyard if I knew how.

There is a fabulous baker around the corner where I get fresh bread every morning, and pastries on a Sunday.

I’m sure I can see it from here. How do I get there?

How much is too much?

More is always better! Never too much of a good thing! I am finding that these are just slogans sly sales people fling at you. I had no intention of experimenting, it was put upon me. Poor me. Allow me to explain why this is plain wrong:

It was my birthday not that long ago (celebration of another year’s wisdom won), and my parents had sent me a HUGE box of fresh chocolates from a local chocolatier. Heaven! I told the rest of the family in no uncertain terms that they were to be very very nice to me if they wanted me to share. Always a bonus. There is no better chocolate than Belgian pralines, I absolutely love them. You select a few and enjoy them ideally with freshly brewed black coffee. But you can’t possibly eat half a box, they’re just too rich. So I stash the box, carefully rewrapped, with the Belgian beers (Tripel Karmeliet and Westmalle mostly) in the garage. The perfect storage temperature for both this time of year. They’ve been there a week now and there still is nearly half a box left. I have enjoyed a few every day of the week, and they don’t nearly taste as heavenly as they did anymore. They are still in mint condition, but my palate is going stale. I am beginning to consider sharing.


Arrested in a disused metro station in Paris in a full wetsuit

Apparently this happened to someone known to a colleague of mine. I can’t stop fantasizing how on earth he got there. I must ask my colleague next week to expand on this summary he dangled out there, to get us all to reveal something nobody else knows we have done.

What intrigues me most is the wetsuit. What was he plotting in the middle of Paris that would require a wetsuit? Exploring the catacombs via the sewage system? I imagine rats and cobwebs, drip-drip-dripping and dank air. Dark – with a flame torch. But he was probably just getting ready for a stag party wasn’t he.

How do you get into a disused metro station? Does anyone even know where there is one? Maybe the Parisians do. Again I conjure dank darkness, where there may actually have been stark fluorescent lighting that nobody had bothered to cut off. I picture the lone diver plodding towards the hole in the wall that leads to the catacombs, while he probably was just drinking beer with his mates. And he was probably arrested for trespassing. How boringly mundane.

What should I reveal about myself? That I once walked into the office full of young men (I was their age then) with my black skirt tucked into my sunny yellow underwear? Nah, I’ve probably already told someone that. That I have eaten jellyfish? Boring. That I once had a brief chat with Harrison Ford in a lift? Yeah, I may go with that one.

Harrison Ford