I was made to live on a desert island…

**Once again, I’d like to thank all of you who have been kind enough to send me such caring messages. It really means a lot that you have taken the time to send us all these little supportive comments. If I could send you all chocolate, I would!**

I’ve decided that, on the whole, neighbours should be banned. There should be a strict vetting process before people are allowed to live in close proximity with others, and those who fail the vetting process should be exiled to a very crowded commune, a long way from civilisation, along with all the other inconsiderate idiots who make their neighbours lives a misery.

As you may be able to pick up, if you are talented at detecting nuances from the writing of others, we are having some problems with those who live around us. Unfortunately, as we live in a flat, it’s literally people who live around us. We have neighbours directly overhead who think nothing of parties until four in the morning, and although these don’t happen that often, most of the other nights we can enjoy the relaxing sound of a four year old being chased up and down the flat by her parents at half past ten at night. Not to mention the regular loud and heated domestic arguments and the incessant playing of their ‘Coldplay’ album (I’m wondering if they own any¬†other music). Then there are the neighbours diagonally above who rent the flat and don’t give a monkeys who they disturb with their stomping up and down the stairs and slamming of doors at all hours of the day or night. Not to mention the phone¬†calls which they feel a need to take in the communal hallways at significant volume. I sometimes feel like going and joining in the conversation. But our favourite of their activities has to be when, as happened last night, their friends show up in the early hours and hammer on the security door to be let in, and then ring each doorbell in turn. Let’s be clear; the security door at the entrance of the flats is just on the other side of the wall from the head of our bed. Their flat is on the second floor. I’m assuming that they don’t hear the pounding as easily as we do. And the doorbell ringing is extremely special. They obviously aren’t in their right minds because what sane person would expect any one of us in the other flats to buzz in a drunk person who has spent the last twenty minutes standing outside the building screaming at the top of their voice? After about fifteen minutes the tenant graciously let the screaming, drunk, hammering woman in, only to stomp up the stairs, slam the door, have an argument (yes, we could hear it clearly from that far away!), come back downstairs and let her out again (slamming the door just for good measure). I think a trip to their letting agents may be on the cards for me. Not that I expect that to improve matters; these tenants are actually significantly better than the last ones. These ones at least don’t stand in the hallway screaming obscenities for no known reason at the other residents of the block!

In theory, there is a phone number we could call to alert the police or the noise pollution officer to the problem. In practice, we’ve tried this before and nothing happened. I miss so much our house in Mid-Wales. It was a detached bungalow in the middle of an acre of land, surrounded by trees. Peace and quiet was the norm, and if you heard a car you’d get up to see what was going on. I’d dearly love to pick up that house and land and put it down in the middle of Cardiff (pick carefully and I could obliterate quite a lot of other buildings in the process!). We crave tranquillity. Perhaps when we move we could look to build a large wall around the perimeter of our new house and maybe install the finest soundproofing that money can buy. Until then I shall continue, I expect, to fume, within the confines of my own flat, about the thoughtless nature of some of those with whom I live in such close proximity.

And yes, in answer to the unspoken question, my early training to become a grumpy old woman is going very well, thank you.

Dear upstairs neighbours…

Dear Upstairs Neighbours,

I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you a little letter, as you’re way too aggressive for me to ever contemplate approaching you face¬†to face. You’ve lived upstairs for a little while now, but seem wholly unaware that you have near neighbours. Do you not know that every time you shout and swear in the hallways, we all hear you. We all hear your friends when they stand in front of the block and shout to your flat. We also hear when you throw things around in your flat and damage things like the hallway cupboard doors which don’t belong to you and I hope you have to pay for when you move out.

Most of us in the flats are of a ‘live and let live’ mentality, and so long as you respect the property and your neighbours, we’d have no problem with you. However, when you stand in the communal hallway or outside the flats and shout, swear and scream about how “everyone ‘f***ing hates us and can’t f***ing wait for us to leave, f***ing b*****ds”, ¬†it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and we do start counting the days. I don’t want my children exposed to that sort of language, in their own home, or that sort of aggression. And I don’t want to worry about leaving and re-entering my home in case you or your friends are hanging about and being intimidating. Don’t even get me started on¬†causing the police¬†to be called¬†to the flats because of aggression and threats of vandalism by people associated with you.

All in all, if you were polite to those around you, showed a little respect and empathy to your neighbours, I imagine you’d be a lot happier and would enjoy living here more than you do. And we’d enjoy having you as a neighbour considerably more.

From another perspective…

When you have backache, a headache, toothache or you injure yourself and are in pain, you become very focussed on yourself. This is natural, your body wants you to work out how to deal with the pain and get better. I have found that it’s the same with depression, without the obvious and pinpointable pain. In my experience, and in a similar way to when I suffer a bad headache or feel very sick, if I feel miserable I want to isolate myself, do very little and retreat inside myself in an effort to find a way to heal. It’s quite a selfish way to be. I remember when I was struggling a lot with depression about three or four years ago, becoming very antisocial and wanting nothing more than to stay at home.

I am very lucky now that my earlier illness has dropped in intensity to only an occasional seasonal depression, but there’s still so¬†many of the same issues¬†to deal with, even with those infrequent episodes. I am lucky that my children, in the main, don’t see me looking miserable. They, together with my husband, are the three people guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. they are all three so selflessly loving towards me all the time, willing to drop anything if I feel like a cuddle.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, no sooner had I written the last sentence than I had to prove it to be accurate. I went directly to find my family. My sons immediately put down the wii remotes and gave me a cuddle on request, and my husband turned from the washing up bowl and dried his hands straight away in order to fulfil my wish for a hug!

However, my husband has often, over the years, had to take up the slack when misery renders me less than able for fulfilling my daily tasks, and I am so thankful to have such a lovely, uncomplaining man for my lifelong companion. He has never sighed if the dinner is unmade on his return from work, is never too busy or too tired to sit and cuddle me when I’m feeling low and never makes me feel anything less than wholly loved.

I do sometimes wonder how I’d cope if I were on my own. I very much enjoy and appreciate being in such a loving family group, and I wonder what I’d do to pick up my mood if I didn’t have them. I don’t often ponder the ‘road untravelled’, preferring to wonder about the future as being something over which I have a modicum of control.

I’m looking forward to a year with a couple of holidays, a bit of weight loss, a lot of dyeing and knitting and a new baby in the family! I’m looking forward to actually getting on with some pattern designing, getting back to having my market stall again, experimenting with different colours and yarns and maybe visiting a wool festival. I’m aiming for a well balanced year – one where I’m busy enough to make me feel useful and as if I’m achieving something, without being so busy that I have no time for fun.

In summary, I’m optimistic today!

To be, or not to be?

The writer in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. To be honest, the knitter, dyer, housekeeper, cook, seamstress and communicator in me has lost focus, drive and determination recently. Since the bout of flu I had before Christmas, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time ruminating and cogitating over what the next step should be.

New Year, then, brought more energy but even less will to achieve. I have my goals for the year, but not the impetus to start working towards them. And so I have spent my time in reflection. Learning from things which weren’t very good last year, hoping to do things better in the year to come. I know that January 1st is just another day, but in my mind, as in the minds of so many others, it is a natural turning point, a logical place to stop and take breath, to evaluate what has gone before and what will come next.

My ‘next’ is to lose weight. So much of my self confidence is stupidly tied up in how I look. I hate the vanity of that, and I wish I were only losing weight to become healthier in the long term, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit to donning the trainers with the thought of how I’d look in my holiday photos if I continued to do nothing. A stone down from my heaviest already, I’d like to finish this year at least a stone lighter again. In my current less than optimistic frame of mind, it feels unlikely, but I am a person who needs something to hope for, so this is my hope for this year.

But back to the beginning. My original premise was that my inner writer has lost the will to extend out through my fingers and into this blog. It has been months and months since I wrote regularly. I used to enjoy it, and find it soothing. I think if I made myself write, even a few words a day, maybe I’d come to enjoy it again. But I live in fear of my blog becoming nothing more than an advertising feature for my business, or a self-indulgent forum of ‘look at me and what I’ve done! Isn’t it wonderful?’ type posts. For me, my best blog posts have been written when I have thoughts in my head, bursting to get out and onto the page. Or when something happening in the world inspires me with thoughts and opinions which I just long to share with other¬†people. Yes, most blogging is essentially self-indulgent, writing as many of us do for ourselves rather than to cater to others. But ‘in real life’ I don’t think I’m the sort of person¬†who jumps up and down shouting about how wonderful I am, so why would I do that here? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m proud of something I’ve made, and so I post a picture. And sometimes, what I’m making or doing is part of the story I’m telling and so it’s incorporated that way. But on the whole, when I write I do it to catalogue and process my own thoughts and opinions and feelings.

I’ve noticed for¬†some years now that I suffer from a form of winter depression. It varies enormously in intensity, and whilst it doesn’t often prevent me from doing very much, I¬†don’t want¬†to socialise (tonight being a prime example – I really don’t want to go to my knitting group and yet I know from experience that if I force myself, I’ll probably enjoy it once I’m there) and will quite often go into my own head and not really know the way out. Last night is a prime example. I became miserable (for the lack of a better word) in the early evening, and then stayed miserable despite my excellent husband’s best efforts to cheer me. There was absolutely no reason for my misery, and the remnants are with me now. I’m sure that someone who hasn’t had to deal with this sort of thing would say that I should just push through it, keep busy and it’ll pass. But I hope that others who have regular blasts of ‘the blues’ will understand when I say that I couldn’t do anything. I have a large knitting project to finish, and without any exaggeration, I sat with a darning needle in my hand for well over an hour, unable to bring myself to touch the garment, before admitting defeat and putting the needle down. Something my friend Jo said in her last post struck a chord with me. Boldly paraphrasing, she said that trusting that¬†she will get better eventually is what she hangs on to. Which made so much sense to me, because it’s what I do throughout every rainy, grey winter month we have, until the spring warmth and sunshine bring the smiles and rationality back to me once more.

Long term readers will notice that I usually have pictures of the first snowdrops up. In retrospect, this is clearly me looking forward to the spring and my winter blues disappearing for another few months. Interestingly, I was as happy as a sandboy when we had snow, so it’s not the actual time of year, but more our British dark, dull, dreary winter days which cause such chaos in my brain.

Well, without actually wanting to wish my life away, bring on the Springtime. May April be here in a jiffy, and winter misery be a thing of distant memory.

I’m off out now. Apparently the thing to do is to get outside in the fresh air when you feel low. Although I doubt the efficacy of fresh air when it is punctured by drizzle and a distinct lack of sunshine. But I’m feeling the need to search for signs of snowdrops.

Water

In our flat, we’ve been unlucky with water. Mainly this bad luck has come from above – the flat above us seems to be very leaky – although we’ve had a couple of incidents within our own walls.

First off was when the washing machine in our upstairs neighbours’ flat wasn’t correctly plumbed in – this caused a beautiful mess on our kitchen ceiling, and yet it took them months to admit it was anything to do with them. Then came the time when a pipe burst under their bathroom sink in the middle of the night – water pouring through the ceiling in four out of six of our rooms, and we had to get the police out to rouse them to get the water turned off, as they wouldn’t respond to our hammering on the door. Next was when the owner evicted the unwakeable lads and, while readying the flat for sale, emptied an immersion tank full of water over their kitchen floor – which then filtered through to make my kitchen extremely damp. Most recently, my newest upstairs neighbours have been renovating their bathroom. They removed the tiles from their bathroom walls but then carried on having showers in the tub, not realising that the water would run down the wall, onto their bathroom floor¬†and through my battle worn ceilings. And so I found myself, three days before a potential purchaser came to view the flat (she didn’t turn up in the end) up a ladder with some white emulsion, trying to hide the water marks!

Within my flat we have also had a badly fitted washing machine, which made a cupboard so damp it took months to dry out; a leaky toilet cistern which defied the efforts of several people to resolve; a fault around the seal of the thermostat in our immersion tank and a problem with the overflow of said tank which caused a constant drip out of the overflow pipe outside, at a time when I couldn’t really afford a plumber to sort it out and so it had to persist.

As you can imagine, all of this has made me more than a little twitchy whenever I hear a dripping sound. I have been known to leap out of bed at the merest hint of water being where it shouldn’t (ever since the ‘walk in shower’ effect we experienced in most of our rooms in 2004) and I experience mild panic when I see a drip on the underside of a pipe – is it a leak? Is it condensation? An unexplained¬†mark on the ceiling can hold my attention for hours, as I analyse it and watch anxiously for signs of expansion.

So I can’t imagine how I would feel if I lived anywhere near Indonesia today. Those poor people, only six years after the Boxing Day tsunami which caused such devastation and so many deaths in that part of the world, so far have lost more than three hundred more people to the capricious tidal waves. And also, think of Pakistan and the devastating flooding there. I don’t know whether it’s just that I am taking more notice of these natural disasters as I’m growing older, or whether there really are more of them. I feel the need to give thanks that I was born into such a stable part of the world, and I don’t have the worries about natural disasters affecting my family and friends that others around the world must live with daily.

Who knew that politics could be so much fun!!

I am having so much fun ‘debating’ on Twitter in the run up to our General Election next Thursday! Who could have guessed that I felt so strongly about things political! I think I’m holding my own, discussing the electoral presence of the Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties with people who have quite opposite ideas to my own.

I may even be quite disappointed once the election is over – arguing politics is a great diversion for my brain from thinking depressed thoughts, I’ve found!

Huge earthquake in Chile and Pacific tsunami risk

I switched the news on this morning to see that a massive earthquake of 8.8 magnitude¬†hit Chile earlier today. So far¬†sixty four¬†people are confirmed to have died, but I’d imagine this number will grow as communications are restored in the coming hours and days. There are tsunami fears across the pacific region, so eyes will be anxiously watching the coasts for a while. There is also the worry of possible aftershocks which I suppose would further damage already unstable buildings.

It feels like these natural disasters are getting more frequent. Maybe it’s just that, as an adult I take more notice or remember more of these events. But it really seems that every few weeks or months¬†there’s something else happening in the world which is causing huge distress and loss of life.

As much as we complain about the weather here in Britain, it almost feels like we have a trade off in that we don’t have the reliable summers or settled winters, but neither do we suffer the unpredictability of seismic activity through earthquakes or volcanoes. Compared to many other parts of the world, we don’t have the drastically severe weather events such as the hurricanes, downpours of rain causing landslides and flooding on a nationwide scale, or drought. Yes, we’ve had a few serious floods over the past few years, but there we are lucky that we are rich enough as a nation to recover from them. In Britain we don’t suffer the sort of huge calamities which rob people of their homes and the capacity to rebuild their lives thereafter, and for that I am profoundly thankful.¬†I only hope and pray that the people in Chile will be spared great loss of life, and that a recovery from this event can be effected quickly.