I’ve been pretty busy for the last few weeks. I’ve been sorting out my mum in law’s estate and concentrating on getting further along the path to publishing my first book. One set of activities has been really bad for my anxiety & depression but the book preparations have kept me going.
I’ve now started working with an amazing couple who run a company that helps people like me self-publish. You can find them at http://www.authorpackages.com Mark has been hard at work on my cover design, after doing my editing. All that’s left now is for Lorna, the other half of the team, to get it formatted for me and then I’ll be able to get it out there.
I’m really excited about it all and can’t wait to share the end result. So I thought I’d do a quick non – traditional haiku to celebrate getting this far. It has the 5-7-5 pattern of words instead of syllables. If you’re unfamiliar with haiku poetry then maybe you need to get the book when it comes out as it contains an explanation of what it involves. It’s also a concise story of my experiences with OCD, Anxiety & Depression and is aimed at anyone who suffers with these conditions themselves or their loved ones or carers.
Written finally done deep joy
Fizzing excited nervous like it will they
Help others see pain fear
Cover design by Mark Reid
My family and I said a final farewell to my Mother-In-Law, Ginette French, last week. The humanist celebrant, Alison Orchard composed a fabulous story about her life which was read out at the service we held to celebrate her life. It would be a shame if only the few people who attended the service got to hear her story so I’ve decided to share it with anyone who might be interested in her life, which included living in German occupied Paris during the second world war. A lot of her stories died with her but this bit can live on, as her legacy to the world.
I can highly recommend Alison if you’re looking for a humanist celebrant as this is the second time I’ve used her and, on both occasions, she really worked hard to get a true understanding of the people she was talking about and did so in a truly warm and compassionate way. You can find her here :- http://www.humanist.org.uk/alisonorchard
Ginette had a longer life than most and, with a little help and support of others, she remained independent and relatively fit until the last few months of her life, doing the splits into her seventies and going shopping on the Tesco bus . She remained able to live in her own home, with the help of her sons , right up until early last year. As a self-sufficient person she would have appreciated that; she eventually moved into the Ashdowne Care Home last July and there the staff provided her with a happy and loving environment to end her days; she remained in good spirits and retained her strong presence until the last few days of her life; and the end, when it came, was calm and peaceful; beautiful even.
The greatest blessing of all is that Ginette had an interesting and fulfilling life; she found love and friendship and, as someone who liked the finer things in life, she enjoyed what the world had to offer her. Hers was a strong character, fools suffered, she liked things to be right and did her best to make them so. She was a woman of substance with a bright and passionate presence and a resolute and determined spirit; you knew when she was in the room! And she lived life to the full, all the while gracing our world with her beauty, elegance and style. In the words of Coco Chanel, that Suzi thought described Ginette so well, “You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life”
There is much to respect and admire; we must celebrate her life today.
Here is her story:-
Ginette Braziér was born in Paris on 18th April, 1927, to Alice and her engraver husband, Robert, known as Mimi and Pipi, Ginette was as sophisticated and lively as the city she grew up in; she was Parisienne through and through. Times were hard when she was a girl, and her parents were strict, but hers was a fortunate upbringing, too; her grandparents were wealthy, they had a beautiful house in the suburbs of the city and were looked after by servants; Ginette loved going to visit them there, whenever she could. She liked the outdoors, learned to swim from an early age and she enjoyed swimming in the River Marne and she was, by all accounts, a good and enthusiastic dancer
But life was to change for young Ginette when in 1940, when she was thirteen, Nazi Germany began their occupation of France during the Second World War. The people were as humiliated as they were frightened, and Paris became quiet and dark.
In his book, ‘When Paris Went Dark’, Ronald C. Rosbottom writes:
“The cacophony of daily urban engagement — passersby, hawkers, street minstrels and performers, construction work, and especially traffic noise — was severely diminished . . . writers of the period … emphasize how quiet Paris became during those years. Sometimes the silence brought benefits, when pleasant sounds — birdsong, music — were able to reach Parisians’ ears. . . . But mostly, the new silence in such a vital capital [was] confusing and intermittently frightening. Police sirens were more menacing, airplane engines meant danger, a shout or scream demanded a more nervous response.”
Ginette often spoke with sadness when she told you how she lost a lot of her Jewish schoolfriends, whom she assumes were killed in concentration camps, certainly she never saw them again once they had been transported away. Ginette’s father took a more pragmatic approach and, always one to value education, he encouraged his daughter to learn German. She wasn’t keen, however, and became instead a proficient English speaker, although no one is quite sure how! Despite his pragmatism over learning the language he certainly wasn’t a supporter or collaborator of the Germans. Indeed his engraving skills were put to good use by the French resistance movement as he helped out producing false identification documents and travel papers wherever he could.
Ginette played part in the French resistance movement, too. By all accounts on one occasion the resistance were planning to attack a German building in her neighbourhood. They enlisted her help to go around an tell all the local residents to stay inside. However her dad was furious when he heard that the French had started firing on the Germans before his daughter had finished, putting her life at risk. Later on, during the mass exodus of parisiens from the city, she was once again forced to take evasive action. To save hers and her family’s lives. This time she ended up diving into ditches alongside the roads as german planes bombed the civilian convoys leaving Paris.
Despite all this, she grew up to be the most stunningly beautiful young woman; slim, poised and classy, with curly hair and natural fitness and elegance; she loved clothes, often embellishing garments she had bought to make them unique and chic. On leaving school Ginette trained as a secretary, learning to touch type in the process, and, when she went to England in her early twenties and found a company with a typewriter which had a French keyboard, she settled to work in London.
It was at a dance that she was to meet her future husband, Reg. ‘I’m French’, she told him. ‘I’m French, too’, he replied. She was puzzled until Reg showed her his identity card and she realised he was called Reg French! They made a handsome pair as you can see on your orders of service. And, so it was that French woman, Ginette, became Mrs French! The newly weds settled in Tottenham.
Theirs was a good marriage; they were different in character, Ginette was sparkly and chatty and Reg was quiet and liked fishing, but he became something of a shed man and they did lots of activities apart with Reg taking care of the garden and Ginette keeping a neat and tidy house; it worked and they each contributed to the other’s happiness!
They were to have two children, Alan and Jean-Pierre, known as John. Ginette had a strong sense of family and responsibility and she was supportive and protective with her sons; no-one short changed anyone in her family! Alan only told his mother once about the problems he was facing at school, he didn’t want Ginette knocking on the door of the headmaster’s office and demanding things change ever again
She enjoyed cooking, although with Reg’s tastes being somewhat traditional, she had to abandon the French cooking she loved, to embrace meat, potatoes and two veg; she made lovely cakes, too.
But she wasn’t a serious mother and Alan remembers her dancing in the living room, donning a gas mask to de-flea the cat and joining a noisy party next door whilst Reg went to sleep in the bath on the quiet side of the house! She warmly welcomed Alan’s friends and she never minded them mimicking her accent!
Ginette returned to work between the births of Alan and John and again when John was older. She worked in an international clothing distribution company, Tibbet and Britten, for a while, a job in which her French came in very handy and she insisted she was given a smoke free office but, when she was made redundant, she rang up Marks and Spencer and she started work there just days later. Hers was an enterprising and confident spirit
They enjoyed some lovely holidays, to places like Spain and Ibiza and especially to Cravante, a tiny village in mid France where Ginette’s grandparents had now moved. Their property was large, with a beautiful garden for the children to play in.
When her father, Pipi, died, though, Ginette and Reg retired a little early and moved to Bournemouth, they were able to bring Ginette’s mother over from France and Ginette cared for her very dedicatedly. Sadly in time Reg, too, became ill, Ginette didn’t want anyone else looking after him – they were sure not to have done a good job – and she nursed him until he died fifteen years ago.
Ginette enjoyed reading romantic books and historical novels; she loved old films, as well some of the soaps and quiz programmes; she liked to sing, especially along to old French songs; she continued to holiday, in America and New Mexico; she embraced computers and learned to email, although she still liked to write letters; and she looked amazing every day of her life! Suzi vividly remembers when they hired a French gite and Ginette was with them; they went for a walk through the forest, Ginette insisted on wearing open toed shoes which inevitably filled up with leaves and stones as tghey went. Once their picnic lunch was finished Ginette decided to put the plastic sandwich bags over her feet to protect her shoes…. and she still looked as classy as ever!
Sadly everything we cherish passes out of our lives. Perhaps it is only when we face this truth as those we love become ill and die that we realize how precious life with them has been.
Ginette did become frail, especially after her fall and her eyesight began to decline, and, after spending some time living with John, she came to Tiverton to live near Alan and Suzi. They were glad that the staff there seemed to like her and made such an effort to make her as comfortable and engaged as possible and they were warmly thanked at Ginette’s funeral. It was here that she died.
Don’t forget to remember Ginette, perhaps when you look through photographs, enjoy a French song or buy some new clothes, as she loved to do. In that way you will strengthen her legacy and she can come with you into your future.
The world is a sadder place without Ginette, but I’m sure you will agree, for you, a far more colourful and stylish place for her having been in it.
I’m currently lucky enough to be on a Pilates and meditation retreat in Spain. I’ve slept really well so far but, tonight, I had trouble sleeping so wrote a poem about the gorgeous people I’m on retreat with. Here it is ❤️❤️❤️
Therapeutically gorgeous she’d never do harm
Today I had a chat with someone who has a superpower. His superpower is that he can chat with someone for only 10 minutes and empower them to fix any problem by the end of the call.
The problem I shared with him started in my childhood. I can’t remember when I first picked up a book but, when I did I was hooked. I loved the way a book could transport me to another world and show me people and places that were very different to my own experiences. Enid Blyton was a favourite and I dreamed of being one of the famous five, off on adventures with my pals and Timmy the dog.
My reality was very different. I was the oldest child of three but my younger siblings were boys and that meant that I spent most of my time on my own whilst my brothers did things together and didn’t want a girl joining in. I was incredibly shy and spent a lot of my time lost in a book dreaming of what adventures I’d get up to once I was older. Why is it that so many of us dream of doing things but so often push those dreams off into the future rather than doing something about them at the time. None of us knows how much time we have on this planet so we need to start chasing our dreams right now not putting them off as that way they may never happen.
By the time I went to school I could already read and write well and English was my favourite subject. I had a vivid imagination too and my early school reports praised my abilities in this area. When it came time to go to secondary school I easily got into the local grammar school and was already getting poems and short stories published in various publications of that period.
It was around this time that my dad started to have frequent chats with me about what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. He had never had an opportunity to take exams and get qualifications growing up and seemed really excited about the fact that it was looking like I would have an opportunity to go on and get to university. Something that he would have loved to have done but never had the chance.
All I knew back then was that I wanted to be a writer but, Dad didn’t see that as a “proper job” He continually drummed into me the importance of getting qualifications and picking a career that would make a lot of money. Money was never a strong motivator for me, I much preferred to help people and got a lot of satisfaction helping others in any way I could.
As well as being good at English I was also very good at maths and actually enjoyed it too. I preferred applied maths rather than pure. I used to daydream about going back in time to an age where ships navigators were required to plot a ships course taking account of the prevailing winds and tides. Those old wooden ships embodied my childhood thoughts of adventures and exciting worlds with unimagined experiences. I longed to break free from my boring life and live a life bigger and bolder.
Throughout my teenage years my dad continued to push me towards something I really didn’t want. He decided my best bet would be to do maths at university and then get a highly paid job such as IT or accounting. I couldn’t think of anything more boring and didn’t want to spend my life shut away in an office or factory so landed on the idea of being a nurse. To this day I’m not really sure where that decision came from other than recognising it as being something I could do to “help people” and realising that if I got into one of the London teaching hospitals I would finally get to experience life outside of the boundaries of my family. I thought it would satisfy dad’s requirement of me getting a “proper job” as by this time I’d pretty much given up on my dreams of becoming a writer and was no longer entering competitions or writing anything except what was required for homework.
At 16 I found myself with 8 O levels and entered sixth form to take 2 maths A levels. I was still listening to my dad and that was what influenced my choice of subjects. He fought me all through the last two years at school and tried desperately to get me to apply myself so that I could get into university but it wasn’t my dream. I messed about and enjoyed myself with friends during those two years knowing I didn’t need A levels to get into nursing and ended up leaving with only one barely scraped A level in maths but with enough qualifications to enter my nurse training now that I was 18 (no younger entry back then) I knew my dad was disappointed in me and that seems to have followed me all through my life as I often pull back from doing things as I tell myself I’m not “good enough”
Years later, after I’d qualified as a nurse, I started a degree course and rang my dad to tell him. The conversation went something like this “Hi dad you’re going to be so proud of me when I tell you this, I’ve finally decided to go and get a degree, what do you think of that?” His voice sounded excited as he asked me “what’s the degree in?” “Nursing” I said and then his words came straight back at me “oh, not a proper degree then”. I went from feeling like an excited child, about to get praise from daddy, to once again feeling totally inadequate. Once again, I had failed to be “good enough”
But my question now is…… Who was I not good enough for? Why was it so important to get praise from someone who so clearly was a very different person from who I was? And, lastly, given that that experience happened over 30 years ago, why am I still living my life trying to get approval from someone who I haven’t even seen for just over ten years? Why have I continued to live my life not daring to give my writing a decent go?
Well in a ten minute call today I accepted a challenge and am declaring that that stops now. I am committing to giving my writing a really good go. I will work at it properly for the next year and see where that gets me.
I have written 3 chapters of my book about fairies and magic and I will finish that and publish it. I am committing to doing a haiku poetry book aimed at helping people with anxiety and depression and will finish that by the end of April. And I would like to write my story about my experiences of having OCD, anxiety & depression and my subsequent successful employment tribunal against my former employers. I want to show others that one person can make a significant impact on injustices and improve life for others experiencing discrimination.
Writing this has been quite cathartic and I’m going to publish it on my blog so that the world can witness my intentions and watch as I take back the life I was meant to live.
Watch this space!!!
Have recently discovered Haiku poetry and am starting to use it a lot. Here’s just one of the poems I’ve created.
Today is National As Young as you feel day and this poem is based on my childhood memories of holidays in Dawlish, Devon. I only have to smell that seaside smell to be transported back there and relive carefree days playing on the sand and swimming in the sea. What memories do you have?
Haiku is unusual as it doesn’t need to rhyme although you can rhyme the first and last line if you wish like this example demonstrates.
Azure blue and gently roar
Waves wash in and leave best remember
Salty smell, childhood once more
I’m getting back to a good place just now after suffering from a bout of depression and wrote this poem this morning as an expression of where I am now and some of the ways I used to get myself here.
We only have one life to live
So live it large, play and give
Some would love the days we own
So try and smile and never moan
We all have trials and things that test
Just courage up and do your best
And if its hard just break it down
Do a little each day to beat that frown
Focus on just one or two tasks
The joy at finishing will break your masks
And soon the false smile will start to be real
And joy returns and you can feel
The gift we’ve been given is to make a mark
So trust in that even when it’s dark
We own the power to spread the light
And harness others to join the fight
So do your best on every day
It will get better if you live this way
Harness your inner love and might
And focus on making it right
Be kind to yourself, live each day your way
Don’t focus on what others might say
You can only do what’s here and now
It’s the only way to get back to your wow
We only have one life to live
So live it large, play and give
Some would love the days we own
So get out and smile and never moan
I wrote this poem a few weeks back when I was stuck in a bout of depression. I didn’t want to share it at that time because I didn’t want any contact with the world and thought people would reach out to me and want to help. Anyone who has experienced real depression where nothing matters and there is no joy in the world will relate to that feeling. I love the Harry Potter books and can only describe it as feeling like you’re in the presence of dementors who are sucking the joy out of everything you normally enjoy. You want to hide away and just do nothing.
I’m coming out of the other side of that now and am posting this in case it helps someone to recognise that they are in the same unhappy place. I sought professional help when I first experienced this and now know what I need to do to get myself out of it. I will be posting another poem straight after this one which is mainly focused on some of the things you can do to try and regain your happiness.
How to explain why I’m not me
To the outside eye it’s hard to see
I’m lost inside this pit of fear
Enjoying nothing that I hold dear
Every step I take is so so hard
And every encounter depletes my guard
I’m trying to present a happy face
Whilst coming from a dark dark place
For those who’ve never felt this way
Chin up, smile, is what they say
But just to step outside the house
Has me cowering back like a scared wee mouse
Even this poem isn’t happening with ease
It’s like my soul is held in freeze
The cold stops me writing from a joyful place
And what comes out is fear, not grace
How to explain why I’m not me
To the outside eye it’s hard to see
I’m lost inside this pit of fear
But I need to get back to all I hold dear