Seeing your world through other people’s eyes

In between changing jobs and returning to one I did 4 years ago I’ve been having fun finishing my crystal healing case study and practising on my friends. .While in the next few months I will be setting up in business and charging people for friends I don’t expect cash payment.

We were told on the course that if not charging cash you should still request an exchange. So how do you work out your worth? How do you define your time in bartering terms? In all honesty I would be happy if someone bought me a bun and a cup of tea but at the same time you don’t want to downplay the treatment you’ve given someone. So in the end I’ve left it for other people to decide.

So far I’ve been given a lovely friendship plaque, been bought a pizza and given the offer of someone to do some work in my garden. Another friend is going to treat me at a local Mind Body & Spirit fair and a further one today gave me a postcard with her hand-painted watercolour.

I actually feel strangely spoilt, forgetting I’m being paid for services. It feels more like people keep giving me presents and I forget it’s for services rendered. I’m going to make sure that once my business starts I do still do these swaps with friends. As much as the mortgage needs paying there’s something special about an exchange. It really doesn’t matter if that exchange doesn’t meet the rough estimate of a cash price; it’s the thought that goes into it. Plus it gives someone a chance to try something they may not have thought financially possible. It could even just be someone making you a meal. It’s the act of kindness that means the most

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The Sewing Room #short story

Another one from my creative writing course. Based on my mum’s life. I was the baby in the pram 🙂

The Sewing Room

Betty was really nervous. This was the first day of her first real job. Things hadn’t gone very well at school; she’d managed to leave with little more than a pregnancy after a drunken fumble with her boyfriend. She didn’t have much in the way of qualifications but she did know how to sew. She’d spent her pregnancy and the first few months afterwards making clothes for the family – shirts for Bob & for herself plus lots of beautiful little dresses for her baby girl.

She’d managed to use this skill to get the job at Jackson’s who made uniforms for air hostesses. Now there’s an exciting job, she thought, but not one she would ever be able to do now. No, she would have to make the best of it and instead make clothes for the women she could only now dream of being like.

She walked into the building with a shudder. She couldn’t help it. As glad as she was to have the opportunity she wished that it was housed in a nicer building. The dark grey walls seem to loom at her menacingly, like some street thug wanting to do her harm. She was sure she was just being silly but it was hard to imagine the rooms inside being cheerful and inviting when you looked at the outside.

Taking a deep breath, Betty went inside to start her new working life. She’d not been able to meet her colleagues during her interview and was curious as to what she would find. She really hoped that there would be some other young women there. It was bad enough that the neighbours stared at her walking past, pushing the pram barely out of nappies herself. She wasn’t sure she could bear it if she had to suffer that at work as well.

The glamour of the fifties and the cool of the swinging sixties seemed to have passed this little northern town by. It’s the 70’s now, she though, people ought to accept that young people want to live their own lives rather than continue on seamlessly from their parents.

“Ok I can do this” she says to herself, mentally preparing herself for stern looks as her elders as she walked through the door ion her platforms and flares. The first thing she saw was Fred Jackson himself, her new manager and the guy who had interviewed her. Just like that time he was poured into his shirt and trousers, the buttons almost popping as his shirt strained against his huge belly. Beside him were the machines, great big beastly sewing machines all in neat cramped rows like giant teeth just waiting to clamp down and sour faced, weary looking older women grinding away at their piece work. Yep she was right in her thinking; the inside of the building was just as glum and imposing as the outside. Then the door slammed open and three younger girls walked in.

“Hi, It’s Betty right?” they ask. “We heard we were getting a new girl. It’s so great to get another young’un like us, did you bring lunch, come and sit with us, aren’t these machines awful. Don’t worry you’ll soon have them purring away like a kitten”….

And away they went to their machines all youthful smiles and chatter. Betty smiled. Maybe things would work out just fine.

Son, You’ll Be a Dentist… #shortstory

I wrote this for one of my creative writing exercises. Maybe I should do a little something more with him???  I can never read the title without singing   🙂

Son, You’ll Be a Dentist…

People are often surprised when they meet me. I’m 6 foot 2, broad shouldered, long black hair that reaches my waistband and I’m always belting out the latest rock tune. Then I tell them I’m a dentist…

Suction please nurse…I’ve been practising dentistry for the last 10 years and been a frustrated rock star for another decade on top of that. It’s all the fault of Little Shop of Horrors. I was already fascinated by mouths and the way they work, the shape of my teeth; comparing my wonky overbite to my fathers crooked, nicotine stained gnashers. At the age of 10 it was decided I would have a brace – a huge metal monstrosity that left me a laughing stock for a long time at school. But I could block that out easily as I slowly watched my jaw line move and the crooked molars falling into even place like a row of soldiers on parade. I made notes every day, measuring the differences no matter how minute until finally the big reveal and I could stare at my perfect teeth with awe. I decided that day I wanted to do the same for others, help them achieve that perfect smile and so set to work on my studies to enable me to do that.

But as I grew older I also discovered the lure of rock and roll and the glamour that came with it. I saw my first concert – Iron Maiden. The long hair, denim jackets, screaming voice, 30 foot statue of their mascot Eddie. I wanted to be a rock star. How could I do both?? Then I saw the film. Steve Martin on his motor bike, hair gelled back in the perfect quiff singing away while torturing his clients with a range of the latest tools. Hmm maybe I wouldn’t go that far! I admit at college I may have joined the others in a sneaky game of dare – inhaling the gas & air used for pain relief but rather than indulge in the sadism of the film’s character I still had my vision of a world of perfect smiles. My dreams of striding the stage of Wembley arena though have since faded. Instead these days I am content to sing to my wide eyed patients while I set about giving them a reason to smile and smile and smile.

Ambition #shortstory

I recently returned to doing this job after a 4 year break. I’m seeing it as an incentive to push forward with my holistic training so I can one day finally completely leave 🙂

Ambition

“Yet another day, same as the last” I think as I trudge into work. Today is my fourth anniversary in this job. It’s not the job I wanted when I first left school and life has had its wicked way with me, kicking me to the curb and denying me my chance of being a Pulitzer Prize winner.

“Same day, different shit” I think. My work day life runs to its own timetable. Turn on the old battered PC that runs at half the speed the rest of the office does and seeing as my companions work at half speed anyway, it’s a pretty slow machine. Big clunky thing, actually chained to the desk just in case some angry customer take offence at what is asked of them and start to throw the furniture around. I’d like to say it’s a joke but it isn’t.

While the PC takes its merry time deciding whether it wants to help or hinder me today I make my way to the canteen for the first brew of the day. Past the peeling paint, drab grey because heaven forbid we want something that would make us feel content in our job. I look at the notice board. It’s the same posters that have been there since I first joined. It’s not like anyone has added to them, they are left to yellow with age and ignored. Exactly how I feel each morning.

Cup, teabag, boiler. I feel like I’m stuck on the hamster wheel. Round and round and round I go, where I stop…well will actually be the same place I started. Oh look someone’s drunk all my milk again. Doesn’t matter how much I label it, people just don’t care.

Back down the stairs and sit at my desk. My colleagues are starting to drag themselves in; the customers are queuing up at the front door, question ready. What have you done for me lately??? I’m supposed to help them but mostly I find they want me to do all the work for them. Doors open and here comes customer number one. It’s a glorious day outside despite my drab mood and she’s here in a bikini top and shorts that show everyone the colour of her underwear. Yet she’s supposed to look job ready? Then again if I was 20 years younger, 20 pounds slimmer wouldn’t I do the same? Here’s number 2. This one has decided he doesn’t want to wash. Great, now where’s my air freshener. Oh fab, it’s nearly empty.

Customer number 3 thankfully comes in clean and with a complete list of things he’s done this week. Finally someone I can work with and for a short while I can forget my surroundings. 10.30 comes around, time for a break. My colleague says Happy Anniversary. Isn’t it horrible to be here so long? You’re one of us now – the old timers, saying goodbye to your ambition.

“But I’ve only been here 4 years!!!”

“Is that all? I would swear you have been here 10 or more like us”

God help me, I need a new job.

Memories of Cornwall #shortstory

Cornwall

I thought I would always remember this, but over time it has become blurred. A childhood friend has just posted an old picture of us on Facebook. Fresh faced youths yet to face the realities of adult life. I can remember some details of that trip; the 13 hour coach drive on the National Express in the days back when Sunday shopping was unheard of. We stopped in Birmingham, I remember that much but what we did there is anyone’s guess. I would assume some food at the service station and then onwards again to Cornwall. The concert took place on a balmy August bank holiday. Two days of our favourite bands.

I keep trying to picture us on the coach, myself, Lisa, Ashley who I’d never met before and one other. This is the hardest part to remember of all. It wasn’t Joanne, she didn’t like the bands. I want to say Claire but I just can’t picture her sitting beside me but there was definitely four of us. I can’t ask Lisa if it was her, they didn’t know each other before or talk again after. Little things flit into my mind, the bed and breakfast – no fry up, cereal only. And the bloody crickets! So hot that we had to keep the windows open through the night but then the noise was deafening. Then they’d come into the room. This is how I know there were four of us. We ended up top and tail in single beds of one room, terrified for our lives that these crickets would turn out to be some kind of mutant insect, trebled in size and out to eat us! What imaginations we had. I didn’t sleep much that weekend.

Ash & Lisa spent some time on the beach so who was I with?? I can’t ask Claire. She’s up in the great concert hall in the sky, chasing Jim Morrison, John Lennon and who knows which other rock stars. It’s how she lived in life, I have no doubt it’s how she’s spending her eternal life.

I wish I could see her again and reminisce, maybe that would help fill in the gaps. Funny I haven’t seen her in two decades and her features are fading more and more each year but yet I can picture the events we went to, stealing cardboard cut outs from the cinema, endless bags of pick ‘n’ mix sitting and gossiping long into the night. But she’s blurry, it’s like I did all these things with a shadow

I start and stare at the picture, almost willing the other people to saunter up and join in with us so I can see the faces properly and then hopefully remember the rest. Everything is there on the tip of my brain, refusing to be drawn out any further. Maybe it will remain one of life’s eternal mysteries. Who was that fourth person? I guess my memory has failed me yet again.

The Care Home (short story)

Mary sat down at the computer. “Hmm what shall I write about today” she thought. “Do I write a piece about our recent trip to the seaside or should I go with our bowls competition”.

She’d thought her life was over once she’d gone to live at the old folk’s home. Wheel-chair bound she’d needed help with most acts of daily life and knew she’d been a burden to her only son. She’d had Robbie very late in life so by the time he was ready to move on and start his own life she was retiring from her job and suffering from the arthritis that would put her in the wheelchair by her son’s 40th birthday. How did this happen to her? As a young girl she swam every day, even swimming for the County during national competitions. She had many medals from those days. After school she had worked first in a bank working her way up to personal secretary of the director before falling pregnant with Robert and deciding to spend time at home bringing him up. When he went to school she took on part time hours at the local doctors and that’s where she stayed until her health forced her into retirement. That just made things worse. Without her work routine to keep her occupied her health seemed to deteriorate and she became increasing fed up.

Robert by this time had married himself and had small children of his own. He had no time for caring for his mum and if she was honest with herself she didn’t want that burden placing on him. So they looked around for a place where she had personal freedom but with nurses and carers on hand to get her going at the start of the day and help her prepare for the night. The time in between she wanted to be her own woman. Her mind was still active even if her body let her down and she had wanted the freedom to explore what hobbies were available to her besides her love of books. She wanted her move to be a positive start to her new life and was determined that she could make something of it if given the chance.

She’d heard so many horror stories about care homes and feared being left to rot in her chair for the rest of her natural years. However, the truth could not have been more opposite with Sunshine Pines residential home. The manager had taken them on a tour of the building, showing her potential apartments made up of a bedroom, bathroom and living room so she could entertain guests. There was a small kitchenette for snacks and drinks mostly as residents mainly ate together in the huge elegant dining room on the ground floor. But even more exciting, Pines had its own cinema with films shown every other evening, a small gymnasium and part time fitness guru who would put the fitter residents through their paces and even had gentler activities for those like Mary including wheelchair bowling. She loved the idea that the home did not see their residents as past their prime but looked at trying to find alternatives for all the hobbies and interests that people had had in their prime.

What interested her most was the room that had been transformed into an internet café. The manager did say that most people avoided this room, seeing themselves as technophobes due to their age and also believing scare stories about being online. They didn’t have the resources for a member of staff to work with the residents so the room was often empty.

“There you go,” she exclaimed to Robert and the manager. “This is how I can keep my mind active! I know how to use a computer and like to look at photos of my grandchildren on their Facebook accounts. I can teach the residents how to do the same”.

And just like that she’d agreed to move in.

The manager, Jackie, was happy to let her run the computer suite initially believing that nothing would change but she didn’t reckon on Mary’s forceful nature. You didn’t get to be PA to a banks CEO without being able to persuade people into doing new things and she soon put that ability to good use. She had gone around the tables during various meal times talking to her new friends and neighbours asking them why they didn’t use the room and what could she do to change that. That had been fun and she got to know the residents very quickly especially one devilishly handsome gentleman called Jim. From the information she had gained she made some posters advertising Computers for Fun lessons. Three people turned up to the first class including Jim. He was a 72 year old former gardener and quickly became her new best friend learning how to work the laptops and create his social media account. Even though he struggled quite a bit he seemed determined to learn, often staying back after the sessions to work with her on a one to one basis. At first she’d marvelled at his determination to succeed but as the days went by he found other ways of spending time with her.

He was also the one that encouraged her to start her next venture; creating a twitter account for the home. Many of the young staff had twitter account following their favourite bands and actors as well as their friends. She loved the idea of being able to have an outlet to show that the oldies could still have active lives and aging was nothing to be scared of. With Jackie’s permission she created the account and made her first tweet.

–Hi everybody. I aim to show you there’s life in the old dogs yet and tell you all about retirement life. Can’t wait to talk to new people

Not a very exciting post she had to admit but you had to start somewhere. She spent the next few days posting about the way people spent their days, job descriptions of the staff and stories about the residents and their past lives, she talked about the bowling club, the cinema and slowly her number of followers grew. It had been a year since she had made that first tweet and now she had nearly 500 people following her. She got to talk to people from all around the world and one of her proudest moments was when a young man in Sweden told his Gran about her account inspiring her to start one of her own. Mary & Olga often chatted on twitter comparing stories of their lives including how they had been children at the end of the second Great War. She had also loved sharing stories of boys they had met during the swinging 60’s before they had both met the men they would fall in love with.

She’d never had a pen pal when she was younger yet now she had this lovely friend she could send letters to via email and even talk to on the computer. Jackie had shown her how to Skype and now they talked once a week mostly in English but Olga was now teaching her some Swedish. Who’d have thought that at 81 she would be learning a new language? She’d tweeted this bit of news to her followers and had the highest number of ‘favourites’ and retweets of any of her previous messages. She was thrilled with the idea of other people enjoying the fact that she could count to ten in Swedish!   She’d always been one for dreams and bucket lists and since she had moved into the Pines she’d created a new one. A full conversation in Swedish with Olga was top of her new list. She was even tempted to write a book of her own, maybe a historical romance. Or even a self help book teaching other elderly people the joys of a computer and the internet.

“I have it. I know what to write!” she exclaimed. She’d been sat at the computer for the past hour trying to decide what her next challenge should be. She loved her twitter and Facebook accounts, she so enjoyed talking to Olga and being able to use new technology to make friends all across the world but now she wanted something new. And she had thought of just the thing. She would create her own blog and write about all the events of the care home. She could interview staff and residents and write their life stories and talk in much more depth than twitters 140 characters. Her next door neighbour Betty was a gymnast in the circus in her youth and her darling Jim had looked after the gardens of a stately home and had lots of stories about the parties held there. But she could also do reviews of movie night, the bowling and the day trips. Even if she and Jim ended up being the only ones to read the posts she didn’t mind. She had found a new lease of life with the writing. Her twitter account success had led to so many new options but also helped connect her to her grandchildren. They loved having such a cool grandma and she knew that by being able to do these things she had more contact with the younger generation than many of her fellow neighbours. James who was 17 now loved to come and visit and show her how to use new programmes he had discovered helping her to upload photo’s to her accounts. With all the new technologies she had discovered she could contact the world she’d never even thought possible when she was younger.

So the big question she had as she settled herself down to start the new blog- just what would she find to write about first? Well there could be only one thing really. She smiled as she placed her gnarled fingers on the keyboard and started writing…

“I thought my days of romance were over after becoming widowed at 75 but then I met Jim and embarked on the second greatest love affair of my life…..”

 

Energy Vampire talk and Healing event

From my sister site. Something we attended last year

New Beginnings

We love trying new things out so when I got an email from my good friend Sally Chaffer who is a Reiki instructor regarding a talk she was giving at the Heart centre in Headingley we just had to go.

Heart Centre is a lovely building tucked away from the high street. I’ve been there before for craft fairs. During our event they also had a Husting on as part of the recent national elections. Up until that day I never knew what a Hustings was! Turns out to be an archaic name for a Q&A.

Sally started her event with a talk about energy vampires and the people who seem to just sap all your energy when you talk to them, We all have that one person who makes us want to run in the opposite direction whenever we see them coming. She gave us some hints and tips…

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