Category: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Grief and guilt

I was 13 when my Nan – my Mom’s Mom – died. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, with all my grandparents actually. She looked after me when I was poorly and my Mom was at work, or during summer holidays, or just because. She had an infectious laugh. She used to let me play hairdressers with her grey curly permed hair and made me cheese sandwiches with sweet pickled onions. In summertime she would sit in a deckchair in the garden while I made up songs and dances with an upturned mop. We’d go for afternoon walks where she’d nose in other people’s houses as we passed. She always had a tin of broken biscuits in the cupboard. She was ace.

Inevitably though, when I think of my Nan, I always come back to a similar memory which makes me feel sick with shame even now, 27 years on. My grandad used to homebrew beer and lager. He had a set up at home with all the kit. And one day me and Nan went to the local town and she had to buy him a new brewing container, like a big plastic bin. On the walk home (Nan didn’t drive) I was carrying this big plastic bin, in a black bin liner, and it was bashing against my legs and it meant I couldn’t walk on the wall like I always did when we came back from town. So I was grumbling and whinging and Nan took it off me and struggled herself with the other bags as well.

If my Nan was around now, or probably even at the time, she probably wouldn’t have even remembered that day. She certainly wouldn’t have held any grudge and would tell me not to be silly. I was just a kid after all, probably about 10 or 11 when it happened.

But it weighs heavily on my mind, and I can’t help it.

I have a different type of guilt when I think of my Dad. I’m sure I did lots of shitty thoughtless things to him when I was a kid, but there’s nothing huge that springs to mind. There was the time, after he and Mom had divorced, that I was supposed to go out to lunch with him (it was his birthday or maybe Fathers Day) but I’d been out clubbing all night and fell into such a deep sleep that I missed my alarm and all his calls. I do feel bad about that, but in later years we talked and even laughed about it. That’s one of the “good” things (if you can call it that) about him being terminally ill and knowing that time was limited. We got the chance to say all the things we wanted to say. I apologised for things like the afore mentioned deep sleep incident. I brought up anything that had upset me or played on my mind but I’d squirrelled away, because that’s what people do, and he was able to explain situations and put me at ease. I can’t imagine losing someone suddenly and having unfinished business or unanswered questions.

Me and Dad

The guilt I have around losing my Dad is mainly connected to what I’ve gained as a result of his death. He was a very switched on and organised man who was saving towards his future retirement, which he was supposed to enjoy with his wife. And obviously his diagnosis stole that from him; from both of them. So I was in the position of losing my Dad at what I think to be a young age, certainly prematurely to what I ever feared but also being left some money. Money that I didn’t need, didn’t want and certainly didn’t want to inherit in such fucking tragic circumstances. Money that, his wife told me, he wanted me to have for my future in the absence of him having a future. The only thing he asked of me, before he died, was not waste it. I know he meant spend it on shoes!

There’s a huge amount of responsibility that comes with inheriting money as a result of such a life changing loss. The thought of using it towards enjoyment when it existed purely because my Dad had died was unthinkable to me. But having money sitting there doing nothing isn’t what my Dad would have wanted either. He wanted me to enjoy it and benefit from it. So we’ve used some of it towards our home. We’ve been able to stay in our chosen area and buy a property with the intention of having building work and renovations done to make it into a perfect home for us. We couldn’t have done that otherwise (well we could, but we’d be living on dust and in a building site while we saved up enough money to do the work we needed). My Dad’s gift has given us a home and garden that we love with all our heart (so much so that we don’t go out anywhere near as much as we used to!) It has given us some financial security and an investment in our future, because the work we’ve had done on our house will increase the value as the years progress.

But how can I be so happy with something that has come at such a huge personal cost? The dichotomy between loving it, and hating the situation that made it possible. Knowing that the person in my life who would have been THE MOST EXCITED for us will never see it. He’d have been involved every step of the way; wanting photos, listening to our builder woes, telling us to give people a kick up the ass. He’d have walked in and done his amazed face where his eyes opened really wide and he said “WOW. Just WOW”. He’d have walked backwards and forwards and around and said things like “I tell you what…” and not finish the sentence because he’d spotted something else to look at. He’d have opened and closed and opened our bifold doors and said something like “these are a bit smart”. He’d have listened while I told him about all the different birds that come to our bird table and how my hydrangea is growing back after a cold winter. His eyes would have crinkled up at the sides like they did when he was happy and he’d have hugged me really tight.

And all of that would have happened because of the money he gave us, but can’t happen because the money he gave us is because he died.

It’s a headfuck.

I feel so lucky to have a wonderful home, but so unlucky to have been afforded it in the way it’s happened. All I can be is thankful and grateful to him. To do him proud. To have invested the money wisely in property, and not in my wardrobe! To be happy and settled. To share it with family. To make it a welcoming and lovely place to be. A place he would have approved of. To try not to feel guilty, because what good does that do? Gratitude is much more useful than guilt.

Somehow though, just like the feeling I have when I think about my Nan, it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake off.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Earning my stripes

I’m not really a stripy person, although my recent purchases would say otherwise!

I decided I liked the idea of monochrome stripes in my new casual work wardrobe (which still doesn’t come naturally to me at all), to wear with turned up fitted jeans and heels.

Rather than dipping my toe in to see how I liked it, I went stripe crazy!

Black and grey (£5.59 – 30% off), cream and black (£6.69), blue and pale beige (£7.79) – all from H&M current stock.

Grey stripe top Black and white stripe top Blue stripe top

I also got these skinnies from New Look sale (reduced to just £9).

Stripe skinny £9

We stayed at a hotel earlier this year which had the most amazing striped carpet. I quite fancy introducing some monochrome stripes into our home (although I’m sure the husband will veto it).

How great are these looks?

Stripe wallpaper Stripe chair 2 Stripe carpet

Stripe wallpaper 2  Stripe cushion Stripe chair

Throw some light on the matter

I’m looking to decorate my hall and will therefore need new accessories, obvs. As much as I say this tongue in cheek, because who doesn’t like buying new stuff, I do actually need a new lamp.

In true me style, this lamp must be a bit different, and not cost the earth. Because, like, going out and holidays and stuff!

This is my current hall lamp.

Current Ikea £39

It’s from Ikea and it started off life in our lounge. Then last year I replaced it and thus relegated it to the hall. It’s still a cool lamp, but it’s been around for 8 years now, since we moved in, and it’s looking a little tired. Plus it doesn’t throw out enough light in our narrow enclosed hall. It’s still available from Ikea, for £39.

Here are my picks after a quick mooch round online.

This one is my favourite, from George at Asda. The metalwork looks black on this pic, but it’s actually chrome. £15.

Glass globe lamp £15

Also from Asda:

Letter A lamp (£30) – shame they don’t do this in other letters./ Black and silver lava lamp (£14) – I’ve never seen this colour combination so may just have to buy it for somewhere else because it’s so cool.

A lamp £30 Lava lamp £14

Lightbulb lamp (£20) – quirky style, although the wood base wouldn’t work with my décor / mosaic base (£20) – this would probably give off unusual patterns where the light is reflected on the mirror pieces.

Lightbulb lamp £20 Mosaic lamp £20

Moving onto Tesco Direct

Frosted globes in blue and purple (£19.99 each) – probably wouldn’t throw out much light but great for a pop of colour

Tesco blue frosted £19.99 Tesco purple £19.99

Silver sculpture (£19.99) – doubling up as an ornament during it’s “off” days / white retro spotlight (£17.99) – there’s something futuristic and robotic about this that I like.

Tesco silver sculpture £19.99 Tesco spotlight £17.99

New York skyline shades (£17.99 each) – quite chic and unusual; be interesting to se the shadows from the printed shades.

Tesco NY £17.99 tesco NY 2 £17.99

Now on to Ikea, where pickings are thinner on the ground then I expected.

More coloured balls, fnar (£13 each)

Ikea plum £13 Ikea turquoise £13

Glass vase style in olive green (£13) – wouldn’t throw out enough light, and white frosted (a bargainous £7) – this could be a contender for a nice bright corner

ikea olive green £13 Ikea white £7

Dunelm Mill have some nice offerings.

Crystal hanging ball (£24.99) / rattan hanging ball (£29.99)

Dunelm - £24.99 Dunelm ball - £29.99

Lantern (reduced to £13.99) / antler base (£19.99) – I’m especially fond of this one.

Dunelm lantern - £13.99 Dunelm antler - £19.99

“Urchin” (£14.99) / black spotlight (£19.99)

Dunelm urchin - £14.99 Dunelm headlight - £19.99

And, finally, the good old High Street stalwart, Argos, with 25% off at present.

Sculpture (£13.49) – another ornament as well as being practical / hanging shade (£18.74) – simple but chic

Argos £13.49 Argos 2 - £18.74

Touch lamp “mushroom” (£18.74) – this reminds me of a buzzer on a gameshow / touch lamp bulb (£18.74) – quirky styling.

Argos touch - £18.74 Argos tough bulb - £18.74

As usual I have quite overwhelmed myself, and think I definitely need more than one lamp for more than one room…

Officially unemployed

Today, after 3 weeks of “consultation”, I’ve been officially made redundant. I feel relieved, resentful, angry, frustrated, elated, exhausted, mentally weak, mentally strong, excited, scared, hopeful. So many mixed emotions. Even though I’ve known it was coming since the end of last month, it’s still an odd sensation. Not that I was hoping the company would change their mind – indeed I’d have been disappointed if they had – but even when you’re content with a turn of events, its still an upheaval.

The sun is shining and I can see the rudiments of spring on my balcony. It feels like a sign.

Hyancinths ready to flower / a cute pansy face popping out from the undergrowth

2 year old snap dragon which keeps fighting back / spring berries

New shoots on my strawberry plants / pretty blossom tree

<<end of Spring watch!!>>

Persistent petals and seeing the sea

A couple of weeks ago I bought some pre-potted bulbs. I never think to plant bulbs; partly as I only have balcony pots to put them in but mainly because I always forget until it’s too late. With the job of potting some up already done by the shop, along with the fact they were starting to sprout, I invested in some red tulips, hoping for a sunny day to get them outside.

I carefully transferred them home in a carrier bag…and promptly forgot about them.

So, now that I have remembered them, they’re ready to be thrown away, right? No water or sunlight for more than 2 weeks, stifled in a plastic bag in a corner. They’re bound to have withered and given up.

Wrong! Look at my beautiful tulips!

Curved tulips 2

Not only have they miraculously continued to grow, but they have done so in the most peculiar way; obviously growing towards the air and trickle of light that was available. Searching out the life force to not only survive, but flourish. That’s pretty bloomin’ special.

Curved tulips

I’ve now popped them on my kitchen window sill, flooded them with water, and hopefully they’ll straighten out and grow upwards towards the sunlight; after which I’ll transfer them to my balcony.

I still have some snapdragons from a couple of years ago that refuse to throw in the towel; I thought I’d cleared them all out at the end of the summer but they sprouted back up in November and came into bloom.

Here’s a couple of pictures from the North Welsh coast from my weekend trip.

 

It all looks rather gloomy, but I quite like the power of a wild and windy seaside in cloudy weather. Not as much as I like a clear blue sky and white sandy beach, but the chances of that in Wales in March are slim to none.

And how quaint is this cottage?

Hafan y Mor chalet

Its one of the holiday park rentals; looks like something from a fairytale.