Disruption of the Mind

So TfL have foiled my weekend plans yet again with their engineering works at Twickenham meaning no trains departing from the station for the second consecutive weekend in a row. Either this means that the fans of the funny-shaped ball should be more grateful that the boys are pulling overtime on a Sunday to make sure the station is suitably beautified before next year’s Rugby World Cup, or I should be face-palming myself for not learning from last week’s mistakes.

Anyway, it occurred to me that engineering works, like the ones taking place at Twickenham, are quite tiring for those of us that have to endure their oar-sticking into our plans. I have compared travel-associated inconveniences with depression before, and guess what? I’m going to do it again.

I find rail strikes and engineering works loathsome. When something happens out of the ordinary to interrupt my journey, it can be hard to deal with, because, let’s face it, when everything is hunky-dory and things are running smoothly, everybody is happy because it makes life so much easier.

As you know, I suffer with depression, and at times, my mind will go on strike, and refuse to provide the services it should, such as returning phone calls to those who care about me. Other times, I will make that call, but the flow of tears make it hard to get anything sensible out of me other than a steady flow of negativity. Don’t my family and friends get fed up with that? Don’t they get a sense of dread when they hear the stony silence in my voice, or the sound of the quivering lip that is holding back the tears?

The answer is yes, I’m sure they do. But because they love me, and because they really have no choice other than to wait for the strike to be called off, or for the engineering works to be complete, they listen, and they take the Jodie Replacement Service that is offered in the wake of the real me.

Like rail interruptions, Jodie interruptions promise to cause havoc for much time to come. But the next time I see a Rail Replacement Bus heading over the bridge, rather than getting mad, I’ll do what my family and friends do: accept it as a fact of life and know that normal services will be resumed shortly.

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The Joy of Middlesex

This week I’ve had my dad and his girlfriend visiting (sorry – I hate to use the word “partner”, it always sounds so formal). While discussing what sights to see, Kew Gardens, which is very close to where I live, was suggested as a place we could visit. However, the three of us all being considerably less inclined to part with the fifteen-hundred pennies required to grease their palms for entry, we decided against Kew, and since it was a nice day, made the decision instead to visit Kew’s neighbour, Richmond.

We started off from Twickenham in the morning as the sun was starting to break the clouds. We took the Thames Path along the river, where the counties of Middlesex and Greater London are joined in holy matrimony.

Along the river there are many benches and at one point we came to a widening in the path where there was a whole crescent of them. We read the inscriptions – many of them remembering loved ones past and came across one in particular which read “You’re the measure of my dreams”. On the bench was a ladybug, or ladybird, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on. In the last few years, I’ve taken to calling them ladybugs, which is weird, since as much as I love America, I spent much of my time there arguing with my American friends about things such as the correct pronunciation of the word “pavement” (not “sidewalk”). This was the first ladybug I’ve seen all year, and so I honoured it by taking a picture.

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As we walked further along the path, we were greeted by the sight of the big red house upon the hill, which I previously posted a picture of in Jogga-Blog to the Moon. This is the former Royal Star and Garter Home, which until recently, has provided accommodation and nursing facilities for injured servicemen since the First World War.

As we reached Richmond, the sun was really warm and the cloud had dispersed. We found seats in the Tide Tables cafe, where we people-watched and relaxed in the sunshine with coffee and lemonade.

After a long spell sat by the river, we walked up to Richmond Hill and admired the vista from the top. The spot offers the only view in England to be protected by an Act of Parliament – the Richmond, Ham and Petersham Open Spaces Act passed in 1902 – which was implemented to protect the land on and below Richmond Hill and beautiful foreground views to the west and south. Then we walked back down the hill, through the Terrace Gardens. We came across a statue of Aphrodites, which caused a “furore” to the people of Richmond when it was built in 1952. Google “Bulbous Betty” and I guarantee you will see why. But she’s my kind of girl – making a spectacle of herself and not giving two hoots about it. On the placard below the statue I spotted another ladybug, this time a black one with orange spots.

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We found ourselves back down by the river, and to quench our thirsts we stopped at the Pitcher and Piano, enjoying a cold beer in their riverside beer garden.

After a while, we headed back along the river to Twickenham, stopping by Orleans House to view their World War I exhibition.

As I arrived home that evening, a third ladybug caused me to get my iPhone out for a photo. Brown with yellow spots, it greeted me on my front door as I put my key in the lock. Like my bus blog the other day, it appears you wait all summer for a ladybug and then three come along in one day.

Luther and Janet once said that the best things in life are free. Well it’s true – they are. With the exception of beer. But combine what nature has to offer, with a cold beer on a beautiful sunny September day, and there is proof right there that you don’t need to fork out excessive amounts of cash to have a good time.

As I prepared to write this blog, I reviewed the pictures I took of the ladybugs, and came across the first one on the bench. I had taken a picture of the whole bench, the one with the quote, “You are the measure of my dreams”, followed by the inscription, “Richard Ayley 1971 – 2010”. At the time, it was the quote that struck me, but today it is the young age at which he died – 39, only three years my senior. I was curious, so I Googled him. Richard, a Twickenham resident, was actually only 38 when he died of a brain tumour. He had been married just two years before.

Luther and Janet were right – the best things in life are free. But life is short. So enjoy the sunshine, a walk by the river or in the park. Find things that cost nothing to do and save the expensive things for another time. As winter approaches and the sun disappears, enjoy the fresh air in lieu of the sunshine. But most of all, enjoy the company.

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The Best Things in Life Are Free – Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson (1992)

It’s a SAD, SAD Summer

Ok, so 80s supergirl group, Bananarama called it a Cruel Summer, which I guess is also an applicable term. After the longest sunny spell that I can remember in years, the last week had seen plummeting temperatures and almost daily rain. I’ve gone from wearing dresses and bare legs with flip flops to jeans with socks, Converse, top, cardigan, denim jacket and scarf. And even then at times I’ve wondered if I’m going to be warm enough.

I’ve had friends staying from overseas who have also been dressed more, if a little over sensibly for the weather, and we’ve been out and about in London and other places, which may have influenced my wearing so many clothes. But after getting caught in the rain a few times and being chilled to the bone, I feel like I’m scared that I’m going to get cold. And with that, I just feel scared. My mood has dropped as quickly as the temperature, and I find myself becoming irritable and tearful. The unsettled feeling I’ve had with my life over the last few months has been exacerbated and I feel like I can’t find a way out of this. My Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is back with a vengeance, usually not appearing until at least September or October, and going into full swing in November, I feel like it’s going to be a long winter.

Last week while waiting at Richmond for the train home, I was stood on the platform in the tunnel, which is the best place to be located if you want to get in the first carriage ready to be straight up the stairs and out at Twickenham. As I looked through the dark tunnel, there was light at the end of it, as the sunshine illuminated the small piece of track, surrounded by trees, that exits the tunnel before it goes round the corner and out of sight. I tried to take a picture, but all I got was a big bright light surrounded by darkness. But on second thoughts, maybe that is all I needed to see.

Cruel Summer – Bananarama (1983)

A Room of One’s Own

So after three long weeks of homelessness verging on despair, I have been saved from making a decision about either leaving London or abandoning my cat. Which is good, because I didn’t fancy either one really.

On Saturday I moved into a flat in Twickenham, home of the sport with the funny-shaped balls. A friend was moving out, and I took the opportunity to move in. It all happened pretty immediately, saving me from any more nights in a hostel bunk bed.

The relief I felt at having a room of my own when I slept there for the first time on Saturday night was immense. It is one thing travelling the world, not knowing where you will sleep from one night to the next, but when you are trying to hold together a normal life, with a 9-5 job, living out of a suitcase is not easy.

The last three weeks have taught me that life will not always give you what you want without a fight, and that when it does, you better be damn grateful.

I met a friend yesterday afternoon, and he was asking me what the future holds for me now. I burst into tears.

While this is not uncommon behaviour for me, it highlighted the fact that while I had come to the conclusion last week that I didn’t want to leave London if at all possible, I really hadn’t been able to think past finding somewhere to live. That is what the future hinged on – I could not stay if I couldn’t find anywhere to live. Now I have that, it’s time to put a future plan into place.

Right now I’m on a train heading North to Lincoln. I’m going to visit friends and family, before retrieving my stuff from storage and collecting The Bish at the end of the week. I’ll use the weekend to sort my new room out, then next week it is time to focus. I don’t want to waste this chance I’ve been given. If I want to make a go of it here then I need to write write write, as well as getting organised with my finances and dejunking properly. Writing so I can pave my future. Saving so I can pay my future. Dejunking, so that my future is clear of physical and emotional baggage. It feels good to have a future. It was always there, but it has been clouded the last few weeks. While I still can’t see what is round the corner, I can at least feel able to walk the path, knowing that I feel brave enough to face whatever lies beyond.

Republica – Ready to Go (1996)