Today I finally felt well enough to leave the house again, probably thanks to the super strong painkillers recommended by the out-of-hours GP service that I contacted last night in frustration at my continuing sorry state. This meant that I was able to meet up with some friends as planned, & we enjoyed a picnic in the park with lashings of ginger beer and cheese and rhubarb cake (to name just some of my personal highlights!). We lay in the sunshine, talking & laughing, before heading back to theirs for more of the same with endless pots of tea. And as I climb into bed, with rosy cheeks & the lovely kind of tiredness that comes from fresh air, I feel warm from the fond memories that I will treasure from the afternoon. I’ve realised that if I had the chance to trade the afternoon for a whole week of days out that I’ve missed through being ill, I wouldn’t take it. I’ll stick with what I’ve had, keeping hold of it like a little piece of treasure.

Am just wondering if it’s safe to watch the news yet. My 24-hour media blackout (oh how I love how dramatic that sounds!) has worked as I haven’t seen any footage of the wedding. I don’t know what her dress looked like, nor any other details of the day. It was very important to me that I didn’t watch the wedding. This isn’t because of some cumugeonly anti-wedding views; in fact, having been to a lovely wedding the other week, one that felt like a genuine celebration, I actually feel like I can see the point of them (although not the consumer circus that surrounds them). No, rather than being anti-wedding, my stance was anti-royal. I’m a republican, but generally my views are hypothetical. Unless there’s suddenly a referendum on the future of the monarchy, I can’t do much. I can’t boycott stamps with the Queen’s head on them, or refuse to trade in banknotes because of their royal picture (although I do always face notes in my purse and anywhere else so that the Queen’s head is on the back, out of sight). The royal wedding has therefore given me the chance to put my money where my republican mouth is. No sneaky peeks, no flag waving. And I’m so glad I have taken this stance. I probably would have got some vicarious enjoyment watching it, but that feeling would have long past. I can now hold my head high for the rest of my life, knowing I didn’t watch but stayed true to my principles. And long may that reign in my life.

Day six of holiday. Still feeling ill. Still dosed up on painkillers. Decided to make the most of my decision to stay at home convalescing by having a good clear out, focussing on my clothes, shoes & accessories. Several hours later, I may still have felt ill, but my soul was certainly lifted. Why is purging one’s wardrobe so cathartic? It feels like stripping away the layers of older selves; getting rid of the mistakes (sartorial & otherwise), abandoning the “who I was”, letting go of the who I wanted to be. All that’s left is who I am now, or at least who I think I am. I feel lighter, freer, unencumbered. In one of my drawers, I found an old bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier perfume. Determined to not forget it was there again, I dumped the outer packaging, leaving the bottle – modelled on a female torso – prominently positioned. I keep opening the drawer and looking at that bottle. It seems to be acting as not simply a reminder of the perfume’s existence, but speaking to how I feel right now: a stripped bare woman standing alone having broken free of all the excess packaging.

Going on a treasure hunt

Today is day five of my holiday.  It is also day four of me not feeling very well.  By this stage, I have accepted two things:

(a) Probably none of my holiday is going to pan out as I would have imagined it

(b) I am probably ill because I was a bit run down, hence I would be a fool to rush out & cram my hols with an action packed itinerary once I do feel a bit perkier.

Now I’ve accepted these two truths, the idea of a sedate, relaxing week holidaying from home quite appeals.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon sitting in the garden, reading & enjoying the sunshine.  I even had an ice cream soda, which made me very happy indeed.  And as I was in the holiday frame of mind, I even went as far as having two straws.  Crazy!  I also had a fab girly meal in the evening, where I added to my physical woes by giving myself indigestion thanks to laughing too much whilst trying to eat a sticky toffee pudding with custard. 

Today I feel a bit peeved as I was supposed to be taking my mum to see the new V&A exhibition on the aesthetic movement.  Alas, that will have to wait, but instead we are having a tatting day (tatting = from the made-up verb ‘to tat’, ie go looking for tat – or lovely old things, depending on your perspective).  I haven’t had one of these days in ages; I guess the last time was when I blogged about going, which must have been in about September.  Anyway, today we are staying local as I haven’t tatted for so long.  It’s only just noon, but I already have a haul of various treasure:

(1) a 1950s tea towel depicting various fantastically naff party foods under the banner ‘Let’s Have A Party’.  Perfect for my vintage bar collection – I’ll need to dry all my sherry glasses with something.

(2) A linen shirt dress from a charity shop.  Lovely & summery, although today’s weather suggests that that’s it for GB – our summer is probably over.

(3) Some Agnus Castus tablets.  I’ll admit that I don’t really know what Agnus Castus is, but the woman in the local health food shop told me that they are definitely what I need for my pre-menstrual angst (see last week’s posts).  Apparently you take one every day & two ‘when you know you need it’.  We shall see how it goes.

(4) Three guidebooks from the library for Florence.  I’m going in a few weeks, although obviously I won’t take all three books; the baggage restrictions for the well-known budget airline that I’m travelling with are such that I could probably only take the three books & one pair of pants before I hit the weight limit.  I’m hoping that one of the three will contain details of any haberdashery or craft shops in the city – or, failing that, at least help my Italian progress beyond ‘Un vino bianco por favore’. 

So, that is my morning.  This afternoon, my mum & I will hit the charity shops & junk shops of the neighbouring town in the other direction.  It’s not the high life, but it’s a happy one.

Sometimes life teaches you a lesson

It’s 2pm on Bank Holiday Monday and I am in my pyjamas.  I have spent pretty much the entire weekend in my pyjamas, and quite a large chunk of that time has also been spent in bed.  Unfortunately, this is not because of some glamorous, decadent weekend.  It is simply because I have been ill.  Somehow, despite the beautiful weather over the last week or so, I have got a chill and snuggling up under my duvet and sleeping seems to be the best antidote. 

Being ill has completely upset my imaginings for the holiday weekend.  While I had few set plans, I’d envisioned a couple of days of pottering around, relaxing, doing some visiting, maybe doing some crafting.  Instead I have been lying in bed, very sweaty and drinking a lot of orange squash (& discovering that my eyes feel like they’re rolling backwards in their sockets when I take two 500mg paracetamol tablets at the same time.  Not good). 

Being ill on a weekend is always annoying.  Being ill on a weekend that is also the start of week’s holiday and one of my favourite weekends of the year is even more irritating.  Having said that, I’m surprised by how un-annoyed I’ve been by the whole situation.  I feel that I’ve accepted the situation fairly gracefully: I’m poorly, there’s nothing I can do to alter, so best just focus my efforts on feeling better.  I’ve had a bit of a whinge about feeling rubbish, but have managed to avoid casting around bemoaning how unfair the situation is.  Being ill just is, and there is no point resisting it.  In fact, part of me feels as if there is a timely lesson in being ill right now: a reminder that we are not always in control of events.  I may have all these ideas about what I want to do with the weekend, but I’m not always in a position to really make those decisions.  Other factors can make decisions for us, removing our sense of control.  The only real control we may have is the way we react; as the economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb comments, ‘If you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour’.  As I sit in my crumpled sheets speckled with chocolate from Easter eggs, wearing smelly pyjamas and with hair like a cockatoo, I may appear to have failed in the obvious criteria for assessing elegance.  But in terms of my attitude to being ill, I think I’ve done pretty well. 

Look up, look down, look left, look right, look straight ahead… For some unknown reason, I had these words – the mantra chanted by opticians up and down the land – in my head as I went a walk to the Post Office this afternoon.  The result?  Five photographs that do just that: look up, look down, look left, look right, look straight ahead.  And as I looked all around – up and down, left and right, straight ahead – I could clearly see that all around me is good.  The dark cloud has lifted, leaving just bright sunshine & green leaves in its place.

As my pre-menstrual amalagm of tears and rage continues unabated (but fortunately relatively well contained), I found myself contemplating the question that haunts and taunts so many who feel self-conscious about life itself: is how I’m living really my life? At the same moment that this question surfaced (as it does at periodic intervals), I was struck by a realisation: my life has changed enormously compared to six months ago. Yet while I continue to observe and reflect on the quotidian, I have given the big changes far less attention. And seeing as tomorrow is my last working day until early May, it seems that I’m approaching an ideal time to step back and contemplate the shifts: “a life audit”, in self help terminology, to see where I’ve come from, what I’m doing, where I’m going and, crucially, how I feel about it all.