Saturday, 29 August 2009

Monday, 24 August 2009

Dirt Woman Transcends the Dust Mites!

Worried about the way mattresses take your sweat and dead skin cells and give you allergens and dustmites in return?

Wish you could go on holiday in the Caribbean but haven't got the money?

Wondering how to furnish a very long thin room?

Or just in need of a blissfully relaxing place to chill out?

A hammock could be your answer! This one came from Handmade Hammocks UK: the frame is made of sustainably produced rubberwood and the woven bit is made from fairly traded organic cotton.

"My life is my vacation" (Mohandas Gandhi) Woohoo!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Bad Woman's Guide to Painting and Decorating

Almond White.

If you look round your cosy home – because your mother is coming to stay, or you want to sell it, or it’s your turn to host Thanksgiving – and the only words that spring to mind are ‘Oh ****!’ – then what you need is almond white.

Because almond white has the happy property of being uncannily similar to paint that was white, once long ago.

So a duster and a damp rag will do for the passable bits, and the bits that need something a little more radical can be uplifted by a couple of coats of almond white.

Now, personally, I have grasped that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. I would not climb on the desk and the filing cabinet because I can’t be bothered to move them, and have a damp rag handy to wipe up the spots of paint that fall on the new telly. I would not skip the bit above the bay window because I can’t raise the energy to move the sofa and take down the curtains. And it would never, ever occur to me to paint over a brown patch where some damp got in once, without really bothering with the rest. Not me. Oh, no. I would have all the furniture moved out or covered in dust sheets, I would spread special floor-coverings made of recycled old bedding that I’d fallen on with a glad cry when someone else was throwing them out, and kept on their own shelf in the Useful Things Cupboard particularly for that very purpose. I would wash things down and sand things off and take days and days and days over the whole palaver. But you – now you might not be such a thorough kind of person. You might think, as some people do: ‘Oh, blow that for a lark – won’t a dab of paint just do the trick?’

And if you are that kind of dubious, half-hearted, indolent type of person – the words you need to hear are ‘Almond White’. Okay?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

O the ingenuity!

In our kitchen we have these really good pan shelves that Badger made.

Today in the post came a skirt I bought on ebay. It is max priti but also makes me look max fat.


So I combined the skirt with the pan shelves.

Ta da!!

Leo Babauta's Zen Habits blog

I really love this blog. His post of yesterday (August 12th) - The Minimalist Principle: Omit Needless Things is, I think, one of his best.

It has good writing advice, and a link to his excellent piece on creating a minimalist home, which I have just read again and enjoyed and found inspiring all over again - and paragraph on buying is spot-on.

I haven't yet explored the links to other related sites he's posted, but when I have done that in the past I've found them to be treasure indeed (so I'm off to do that next).

My two next tasks in my personal discipleship are:

  • Establishing in my life a discipline of joy. Joy is a source of energy and dispels discontentment. It encourages others, creates beauty and light. Too often (and increasingly) I have allowed my soul strength to dissolve into anxiety and restlessness, and this needs addressing now. I know that joy is linked to freedom and peace, and all three are linked to a discipline of simplicity - so I intend to meditate into this for a while.

  • Thinking carefully about treats and the creation of cheerfulness. When I am under emotional stress, to keep myself cheerful and prevent myself nosediving into depression, I ask less of myself and give myself treats. The problem comes when the treats cost money and involve accumulation of stuff - ie shopping. I mainly do internet shopping now, and restrict myself absolutely to very inexpensive items (or I would crash the simple and focussed lifestyle I have chosen, which is low-income). In the past I have noticed that companionship does the same for me as shopping - so planning a party with someone, and having a film from the library and party food for supper supplies the cheerfulness element of the treat. The challenge for me at the present time is being isolated from my family (and the writing discipline requires a lot of solitude, so working up a second group of people to have fun with would be writing suicide!), which has the effect of my cheerfulness draining away like water through sand. So when I get low, I buy some clothes (very, very cheap and usually on ebay). Then when I get too many for the allocated space I send some to the charity shop. But this is wasteful of time and money. So I need to address it.

'Thank you' to Leo Babauta, then, for his continued inspiration on the Zen Habits blog!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Opus Interruptus

Working from home. Oh, glory! The snag is, it’s not only your own home you're working from, but also the home of the other people who live there but work somewhere else. So you become the natural troubleshooter and all-purpose person to deal with everything of any description concerned with that location.

It wouldn’t be like that, living in a shed. There would be no phones to go wrong, no wiring or plumbing challenges, no painting and decorating, and only minimal repairs. Shed life is my heart’s desire.

I asked the magazine Woman Alive if they would like a regular column on living simply, and the editor thought that might fit in well with their vision for the development of the magazine. She offered me a regular column of 290 words in length, and after some deliberating I said ‘yes’. The hesitation was because it’s mighty difficult to convey or discuss a concept in 290 words – much harder than if you have 1,000 words, or even 500. Part of the reason I said yes is because it isn’t easy; it’s a writing challenge, and I like that.

The last few weeks have been full to overflowing with family and house matters – looming especially large was the interaction with estate agents and the preparation of our home for sale.

FINALLY today offered a clear space for some writing, and this had to be a Good Thing, because today is also the deadline for the copy for December’s issue of Woman Alive, when my regular column begins (though I do also have an article in this month’s issue, about my new book which comes out in September).

Yesterday, at teatime, the telephones in our house ceased to work.

This morning I phoned British Telecom and had a lengthy interaction with a very nicely spoken female automaton. The outcome of this call was an assurance that an engineer would fix the problem by tomorrow, and that updates would be texted to my mobile phone in the meantime.

I thought that was okay, and went to hang out the washing.

When I came back into the house, there were letters on the mat – I had left the front door open, to be friendly and so the postie could drop in any parcels, knowing I was at home. One of the letters was a Post Office card explaining that, as I was out when the postman called, the parcel he had brought (which had to be signed for) would be taken back to the sorting office. The card had a time written on it – 3 minutes before the time of my reading it. I grabbed my sandals and dashed out to look for the postie, knowing I might have to be at home the rest of the day waiting for BT, so not be in a position to go to the sorting office. No sign of him anywhere up and down our road, or in the next road. Hey ho.

I gave myself a pep talk. ‘Why are you so stressed? Why do you get so het up about these things? What does it matter? There will be time to get the parcel, it’s no big deal! For goodness sake calm down, Ember!’

Resolutely, I set myself to the tricksy task of saying something useful, inspiring, interesting and intelligent in 290 words.

I fired up the computer, set up a file, typed one sentence, and the house phone rang, just one little trill, then stopped. A short while later, it did it again. ‘They must be testing the line,’ I thought – and addressed myself again to the task in hand. Then my mobile phone rang. It was BT to say they had an engineer not far away – would I be home later on? Yes, indeed.

I returned to writing the article, and began to warm to the task. Then came a knock at the front door. ‘Ah!’ I thought – this must be the BT engineer.’ But no – it was a man come to read the gas and electricity meters. The gas meter presented no problem, but the electricity meter lies deep within the cupboard under the stairs where we have put all the junk to be disposed of in the course of preparing our house for sale. I heaved it out to the point that with the help of a powerful torch he could get at the meter. Then put it all back when he went.

My computer had started to play a quiet little piano tune to itself when I returned to it, but I jerked it back to reality and read through what I had written. With some effort I felt my way to the state of mind I had been in before. Then came another knock at the front door. ‘Ah!’ I thought – this must be the BT engineer.’ But no – it was a delivery man with a large parcel from Amazon for the people at No 31 who are cunning enough to work in some other place than their own home, and were therefore not available to take delivery of their parcel. I felt a certain sense of injustice that things had so fallen out that I had missed my own parcel but been home for theirs; but, hey.

I signed for the parcel and gave the man back his clipboard. He gave it back to me. Could I please print my name in that box too? I did.

Then I went back and once more interrupted my computer’s harmless little ditties, and read through what I had written. To my astonishment, it seemed okay. I wrote another sentence.

A text message came in to my mobile phone. Assuming it to be one of the promised updates from BT, I opened it. It was a message from Orange to tell me I could now text anyone in Europe for 10p. I deleted it, and returned to my article. I wrote another sentence. My mobile phone rang. It was BT. The engineer would be with me in five to ten minutes. Was that okay? ‘Yes,’ I said through gritted teeth – ‘that will be fine.’

I finished the sentence I had been writing and shut down the computer. The engineer arrived. He needed constant attention. All the phones in the house had to be unplugged and plugged in elsewhere. Two of the sockets were behind large bookcases, one of which could be accessed only by moving our lodger's stereo speaker, which stood on a heavy and unwieldy metal stand fixed into the carpet with prongs and supporting a tall thin candlestick and a houseplant. And then the engineer asked for a cup of tea. Since he had done a nice job of fixing the phone I made him one, and gave him a cake, both of which he enjoyed slowly, while pursuing a conversation of considerable length.

‘D’you work locally, then?’ he asked me. This was an improvement on what most people say, which is: 'Day off, is it?'
‘I work from home,’ I replied.
‘Oh,’ he said; ‘what do you do?’
‘I am a writer,’ I said.

We then had the usual conversation – he has a fourteen year old daughter with a rich imagination; what did I think were her chances of becoming a writer? And we had the other conversation –

‘What does your husband do?’
‘He is a publisher.’
‘Oh, right! So that’s how you got your books published!’
‘No. No, not at all. After twenty years of writing books, I married my publisher.’

Then he tested the phone one more time and went away.

I switched on the computer. It was sulking now and didn’t want to play any pretty tunes. It has to be left in peace before it feels like playing little tunes to itself.

I opened the file with the article. It was looking good.

There came a knock at the front door. ‘Hello? Hellooo! HELLOOO!’

It was Melissa from No 31. She had come for her parcel.

For some obscure reason, my mind has just made a connection with a Christmas card my sister sent me when our children were small. The first four lines of text were on the outside, beneath a cartoon showing Father Christmas with a child on his lap. The last line was on the inside, discovered when you opened the card:

‘You’d better not pout
You’d better not cry
You’d better not shout, and I’m telling you why:
I have a gun.’

I have finished the article. 290 words exactement. I have submitted it, invoice attached. The phone is working. The sun is shining. I am off to the sorting office to collect my parcel. Howzat!


We grew these. Now, how groovy is that!