Fusspot and Clart

Fandango asks an interesting Provocative Question this week – he asks:-

Do you feel that people are more attracted to one another by their differences or by their commonalities? And why do you feel that way?

Looking at my own relationship with my husband, which so far has lasted for 48 years as friends, 21 as a couple, and 9 years married (concurrent, of course!), my answer is – both, in equal measure.

Starting with our differences, ooh, there are so many! My husband is a gregarious American by birth and heritage, I’m self-consciously quiet with understated British reserve. My husband is an extroverted night-owl, I’m more introverted and usually up with the lark. My husband is tidily organised in all things; order and method are his watch-words. With him quality over quantity wins every time, he’s a real perfectionist always. He’s always excellent at finding the exact right size of dish in which to store leftovers but has absolutely no natural sense of direction.

And me? Well I’m not a total disaster in the tidiness stakes, just not a neat-freak in any sense; I’m far more comfortable living with a little creative chaos and in most things ‘good enough’ is good enough for me. I’m totally rubbish at judging small volumes or areas but nevertheless have an excellent perception of larger-scale distances and directions. We joke with each other that as a couple we’re complete complementary opposites and often call ourselves ‘Fusspot and Clart’ – my husband works hard always to keep things ‘just so’, whereas I’m definitely more slapdash and messy in my approach to anything and everything.

Our similarities, though, although far fewer when listed on paper are nevertheless just as important to point out. Looking from the outside in, physically we are of similar height and build (short and stocky), and both look young for our ages (as in other people are usually surprised to hear how old we are), so in all practical ways we fit together well as a couple. We’re both first-born children of young parents, and were both brought up with a strong work ethic. We’re of similar ages and are both educated to degree level, achieved under our own steam as mature students.

We both have had our struggles with ongoing mental health issues over a lifetime so are able to provide each other with much-appreciated mutual understanding and support at all times. Our political views and values match closely, as do our moral standpoints, and our attitudes to money and family and friendship and the importance of looking after the planet are really closely attuned. We are both natural home birds at heart rather than party animals, both enjoy preparing and eating good fresh-cooked food, and both love spending time in nature.

So although on the surface we may have many differences, deep down the fact that we share the values and attitudes in life that matter most to us means that overall we both keep each other on our toes like any other antagonistic pair in nature, yet at the same time feel wonderfully safe and secure in our lives together. For me it’s the perfect combination of give and take, of similarity and difference, and to be honest I wouldn’t change any of it for the world ❤

Weekly Smile: 26 July 2021

My biggest reasons to smile this last week or so include:-

My husband has recently turned 60, so we had a lovely little family celebration with colourful balloons and banners and traditional birthday party finger food – sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps and other savoury nibbles, followed by chocolate cake with six candles (one for each decade). What fun!

My son came to visit for an extended long weekend that included being here for the birthday celebrations – due to ongoing Covid restrictions across the country this is the first time we’ve managed to meet up this year, and it was so wonderful to see him again. Hopefully it won’t be so long before our next reunion ❤

The new bed we’d ordered was delivered last week, and oh, it’s sooo… comfortable to sleep on. Although I don’t always sleep too well so it’s probably just as accurate to say it’s sooo… comfortable to lie awake on in the middle of the night! 🙂

Weekly Smile

Foolish Things

The foolish things I regret most in life are those things I did not do for fear of looking foolish to others.

Things I perhaps wanted to do but instead I hesitated, waited, avoided, and lost the opportunity. So I would watch others enjoy the moment, not looking foolish at all but looking like they were not afraid to have fun, laughing at themselves, being silly together and not having a care in the world. And inevitably I would end up feeling foolish anyway for not joining in, hovering self-consciously on the periphery feeling frustrated at myself.

Too many years and too many lost opportunities. Too many regrets. So the last time the opportunity arose to do something I wanted to do – something foolish, but fun – I did it! At the end of the last carefree summer before the pandemic hit my husband and I we were walking along Nairn beach with my son and his friend when I asked – Oh, is the zip-wire thing still there? You used to love that when you were kids… Yes, said my son’s friend, it’s still there… Do you fancy having a go? I’d love to, I said, without hesitation…

So I did. In a public place, with other people around, I climbed carefully onto the platform, tucked the little seat thing between my thighs with trepidation, and with a serious push off my feet launched myself across the divide towards the other side. I zipped across in no time at all, holding my legs out straight in front of me, swinging wildly and clinging on for dear life and laughing so hard I could hardly see. I hit the stop buffer at the other end and started to swing back. Eventually I came to a standstill, then pretty much fell off onto the ground about a foot below my bum.

We all had a go. More than once. Four adults, two in their fifties and two in their thirties, taking turns to try to go faster, further, encouraging each other to be even more daring, focusing on having fun and to hell with looking foolish. Occasionally other adults walked past, slowing down or sometimes stopping to watch, smiling at our high jinks. We stayed playing until a group of children appeared, keen to have a go too, then we left them to it.

It was huge fun, and for once there were no regrets. None. I was stiff as a board the next day, and the day after that, but OMG it was worth it. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, if the opportunity arose. I found out that fun trumps feelings of foolishness ever time. Every time… I just regret that it took me five decades to figure that out… 🙂

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Foolish Things

Lucid is a Relative Term

My 85-year-old dad has vascular dementia, the result of four strokes over several years, and one of the things we’ve learned over the last few years is that when it comes to dad, lucid is a relative term.

We’re lucky in that thankfully he still recognises us, he knows who we are, by name if not always by relationship. He doesn’t always get the family connections quite right, but it’s close enough for dad to have a reasonably clear conversation with the people he knows best. He sounds a little bit confused, perhaps, and if you don’t know him well it seems like nothing more than memory playing a few minor tricks on a sweet old man. Everything seems perfectly fine until for whatever reason the conversation turns to the realities of time or place, and then the extent of his confusion becomes apparent – because more often than not dad has no idea where he is, geographically or chronologically.

My parents still live together in the house I grew up in – they’ve lived there for forty-seven years. When it comes to familiarity for someone with dementia, this is probably as good as it gets. Dad spends most of his day sitting in his chair – he has mobility issues due to the strokes – but can’t always find his way without guidance to the bathroom, or his bedroom. By late afternoon he frequently frets about where he’s going to sleep that night, and sometimes stops in his tracks with his walker frame, mid-journey, unsure of where to go next. He worries about which way he needs to go ‘to go home’ later on, does he turn left or right at the front door, which car will he be driving (although dad gave up his driving license due to medical reasons years ago)…

We tell dad he is already at home, and he looks startled, irritated, telling us he is in a strange place he’s never been in before. We tell him it’s OK, he’s somewhere safe, but he’s unconvinced, unsettled. ‘Do you know this place?’ he asks me – Yes, I say, this is the house I grew up in, we all lived here together as a family. ‘Where was I then, when you all lived here?’ asks dad, and I tell him he was here too. He looks at me blankly, so I try to reassure him that it’s all fine, as long as we know where he is and where to find him, everything is fine. He remains uncertain, insecure, and behind his piercing blue eyes seems lost, looking for constant reassurance, and this pattern of conversation repeats in variations on a theme, day in, day out.

Time has different meaning for dad these days, too. When we visited last week, both dad and mum were due a birthday – dad’s 85th the following day, and mum’s 79th a few days later. Dad made jokes about them getting old, and we all laughed. Then my husband mentioned he’d be turning 60 this summer and dad said ‘Oh, I suppose I must be coming up to 60 soon!’ so we gently reminded him that ship had long sailed, by a good 25 years… I told dad I was going to be 58 later this year, and he was shocked. I asked him what year I was born and without hesitation he said ‘1963’. We pointed out to him this was now 2021, so we did the sums together and dad conceded – for that moment at least – if that was the case he must be older than he thought.

The last time I took dad for a walk outside in his wheelchair, he was smiling and animated and I took a few lovely pics of him on my phone camera. When we got back home again, dad settled down in his chair with his usual cup of tea and a biscuit. I showed him the pics I’d just taken and he wanted to know who the old man was in the wheelchair? He was surprised to hear it was himself, so he wanted to know when they’d been taken? I told him – About half an hour ago… And got a blank puzzled look in response… Sad not to be able to build new memories with him, but thankfully we can still share old memories from the past. Well, most of the time, anyway.

Although one old long-term memory of dad’s that seems to have been erased completely has had a surprisingly positive outcome. In the past – at least in my lifetime – dad never ate yoghurt. Apparently one day when I was a tiny baby my dad was holding me up above his head when I was sick straight into his mouth, and ever since then even the smell of curdled milk in all forms had dad gagging and retching. Until his brain destroyed the memory, and now dad happily eats yoghurt without a care in the world. No memory, no trigger, no reaction. Amazing.

I suppose every cloud has a silver lining…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Lucid

Hugs All Round

From Monday 17th May here in the Highland Region of Scotland we moved from Level 3 down to Level 2 Covid restrictions, which means lots of different things for lots of people. For me it means we are now allowed to visit in very small numbers indoors instead of being restricted to the garden, and we are allowed to hug people again!

Seriously, being allowed to hug the people I love most in the world is such a wonderful gift, my ageing parents and my adult children and my growing grandchildren… We’re normally quite a touchy-feely family so it’s been really difficult NOT to hug for months on end, always keeping our distance while only meeting up outside.

So without a shadow of a doubt that’s my Weekly Smile for this week – being able to hug my family again ❤ 🙂

April A-Z: Y is for Yearning

It feels like what I yearn for most right now is the impossible… I want things to feel the way they did before the pandemic. I want to be able to feel easy around other people, not warily filled with ongoing anxiety about keeping my distance at all times and wearing a mask and constantly being careful not to catch or spread the virus…

I just want to go back to being able to meet up with and hug and hold close my friends and family without these oh-so-necessary limitations and restrictions. I want to feel OK to have people over to visit indoors and likewise be able to visit others myself, all of us comfortably and un-self-consciously relaxing and sharing and laughing for hours on end without a care in the world…

But what I yearn for most right now feels impossible… We have learned over this past year to live with the underlying fear that friends and family may unwittingly become the Trojan Horse that attacks our household from within if we get too close, and when it comes to people and possessions ‘Don’t Touch!’ has become our miserable motto, alienating us all so unnaturally from those we love most…

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…  

April A-Z: H is for Hugs

Say hello to my Mother’s Day Hug from my youngest daughter and her family!

Thankfully Mother’s day fell on the very first weekend we were allowed to meet outside in the garden (hooray!) but sadly we were still not allowed to touch or stand too close (boo…!) so they all arrived outdoors with this perfect heart shaped hug cushion as a Mother’s Day gift for me. Its arms are folded across here with its fingers entwined but it can open out to a full, love-you-this-much stretch.

My grandchildren each gave it a big open-armed hug then gave it to me and then I gave it a big open-armed hug too – it was the nearest we could get to sharing a real hug, and my lovely red hug cushion is a permanent reminder of this never-ending Covid pandemic and the loving sacrifices we’re all having to make. We’re usually a very huggy family, so for us this not-touching malarkey is a bloody nightmare.

Still, needs must… 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: D is for Distancing

One year on the signs are maybe showing their age, but no matter – we’ve definitely all got the message by now. And we may be quite comfortably used to keeping our distance with strangers now when out and about, but with those we love it still feels plain wrong to be keeping apart, especially after so long.

It hurt so much being prevented from seeing people from any other households at all for extended periods of time, but it almost hurts more now that we’re allowed to see some people in very limited numbers outdoors only, but not be able to touch, not allowed to hug, not even supposed to stand too close together. Outdoors in the North of Scotland, sometimes even in Spring, neither the temperature nor the weather are necessarily conducive to comfortable gatherings in the garden for more than about five minutes at a time. I mean, we woke to a covering of snow again this morning!

So at this time of year being apart as a family feels almost harder now than it did during the last lock-down. Yes, we’re now legally allowed to meet outside again, but in practice it’s just too damned cold for the kids for that to be a workable solution much of the time. And then even when all other things are favourable and they can come round to visit, not being able to hug someone you love who just isn’t there is one thing, but not being able to hug someone you love who is standing right in front of you so tantalisingly close is almost unbearable… ❤

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Scents and Scents-ability

I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers wearing any kind of perfume at all. My dad’s mum was a farmer’s wife and had no opportunity for anything more fragrant than scented soap to get rid of the everyday smells of the farm from her person. And my mum’s mum was born with no sense of smell at all so the whole point of perfume was entirely lost on her.

My mum always kept her sparing use of scent strictly for special occasions, so for mum the rarity of wearing perfume went hand in glove with the rarity of wearing make-up and jewellery and fancy clothes. Her favourite perfume was L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci, a rich, strong childhood smell I associate even today with lipstick and powder and fur coats and heels – because I grew up in a time where women still wore fur to dress up.

L’Air du Temps is a ‘modern’ perfume, first introduced in 1948, with a traditional spicy/ woody/ floral scent, and although it suited mum well enough it smells awful on my skin so I never felt the desire to steal a sneaky spray or follow in her fragrance footsteps. If anything, it put me off – too over-bearing and cloying, but it was the one-and-only example I had. So I find it strange that someone who grew up with truly minimal interaction with perfume should have developed such an intense personal relationship with it in adulthood.

Fragrance fascinates me, the way the initial heady top-notes in that first sharp haze give way to the softer mid-range heart-notes that in turn surrender to the deeper base-notes, and then the final dry-down. It amazes me how fragrances can smell so different on different people – and how even the same fragrance can smell so different on first application than when it finally fully settles on the skin’s surface, blending with body temperature and body oils. And how some scents seem to cling close for hours while others evidently evaporate into thin air after only the briefest of bonding.

I just love the way perfume makes me feel good in myself, for me it’s intoxicating, a perfect mood-enhancer. Sometimes I prefer something a bit sweeter, at other times something a bit fresher. Sometimes something fun and feminine, at other times something more sensual and sexy. I find I don’t stick to one recognisable signature scent, but own several similar perfumes that I love to mix and match depending on my mood and the time of year and how formal or informal my day ahead may be. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spritz on a little scent on my pulse points, whatever I’m doing.

Over many years’ experimentation I’ve found that as a general rule lighter florals work best for me, usually blended with cool citrus or warm fruity notes, whereas most heavier oriental woody notes just smell somehow ‘wrong’ on my skin. However it seems hitting menopause has caused a slight alteration in the way perfume reacts chemically with my skin. Some things that smelled really good on me before now smell a little… off. So I’m back to experimenting with a few new smells again in the hope that maybe I can find myself some new favourites for the future.

One thing’s for sure, the right perfume will always have the ability to soothe my senses… Ooh, it feels so good to smell good 🙂

Lock-Down Wedding

Yesterday my eldest daughter got married to her long-term partner, with none of either family in attendance but with our full blessing.

They had originally planned for a small civil wedding ceremony followed by a hotel reception for close friends and family, but as continuing current Covid 19 restrictions mean that weddings can only be attended by five people in total – the celebrant, the couple to be married, and the two witnesses required by law – and with no reception to be allowed afterwards, they were faced with a choice.

They could either postpone both aspects of their wedding – the legal marriage and the celebration, or they could continue with the legal part as planned, get married now in the local registry office and simply hold the reception at a later date once restrictions are lifted enough to allow everyone they wish to attend to be there, whenever that may be. So after much thought and deliberation they chose to get married quietly, intimately, alone.

Yesterday they both dressed up in their wedding finery and made their precious vows to each other without any distraction. Even the six children of their blended step-family were necessarily absent – the youngest stayed with me, the middle four were all at their respective schools, the eldest has already left home and is living and working away. Their mid-morning wedding ceremony was recorded on their phone so we could all watch it afterwards. They took informal photographs themselves, which they also shared with us later.

Altogether it was a beautiful day for them, with a beautiful, meaningful ceremony, and I know that when the time is finally right we will all get together to celebrate their lovely lock-down wedding with lots of hugs and an abundance of love. I asked my delighted daughter this morning – so now that it’s over did you enjoy your quieter-than-planned wedding day? ‘You know what’, she said – ‘It was absolutely perfect!’ ❤

Weekly Smile