How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it

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How to respond nicely to an aggressive encounter (forgive me, I couldn’t help it)


Dear _____

It was good to see you in the corridor the other day. Sorry I didn’t have chance to say hello before you shouted at me.

I do appreciate just how cross you were that my eleven year old son and his friends woke you when they came up the stairs at 5 30 from their camping expedition in the garden. It is a shame that the sun rises so early in the summer and they felt compelled to get up and dressed.  When I offered advance warning of his birthday party and said they might come upstairs in the night for the toilet, or if they were scared, I hadn’t considered this scenario.  I do apologise.

When I said they were nice boys (all five of them) I sincerely believed it. I fully understand from your comments that this is not the case. Clearly nice 11 year olds do not jump on stairways. However I am immensely relieved that no other residents heard this atrocious behaviour.  Again, please accept my apologies.

It was lovely how so many residents (some I’d never met before) expressed how delighted they were to see the little camp hidden under the willow tree.  One even said how relieved he was, as he felt he’d made the wrong move coming here. I felt truly welcomed by this and other positive responses. It was encouraging that others share my belief that children should enjoy the freedom of a night in the garden.  It is such a dream spot, under the willow tree by the brook.  I had it in mind that all the boys would treasure such an experience. Especially being woken by a snuffling badger – how rare that must be these days!  Perhaps it was selfish of me.

On a minor note, I hope you will not be offended by a positive suggestion.  I generally find it helpful, in unexpected meetings, to offer a positive greeting before any grievances are unleashed to those clearly unknowing of a situation. Luckily I am fairly perceptive and was able to perceive how aggrieved you were by your face and gesticulations.  Not everyone is so fortunate, and others less sensitive might have felt threatened by the unusual volume .  I do apologise for my response, but I was caught off-guard by your assertion that placing a tyre swing under the tree has brought ‘undersirables’ to the area.

I’m relieved that, like me, other residents haven’t noticed any such types around.  This is puzzling as unlike you my balcony overlooks the tree.  I have been pleased on 3 occasions to see families on the swing (once with the grandparents taking photos) and I did once see two men who I mistook for the tree surgeons. It turned out one had brought his friend to see the spot, as he had fished there frequently as a boy and loved it so much, which was nice. I am sure you were trying not to worry me but If you do see more ‘undesirable’ types, I would consider it a neighbourly gesture if you could warn me.  Meanwhile I am sure you are right that they are being drawn by the swing, although it’s not visible until you’re under the canopy, and so I will of course remove it.

This is such a lovely secluded spot and my boys regularly remark on how lucky we are.  I had thought it a positive thing to encourage my children to enjoy the tree and the wildlife it brings.  We all share such a delight when the heron visits.  I hadn’t considered that locating a swing wouldn’t be a good idea, but perhaps they should just watch the squirrels from the balcony in future.

I do hope we can continue to maintain a good relationship and put this behind us.  Do feel free to say ‘hello’ any time.

Warm regards, Jane

PS I had considered putting a table and chairs under the tree for residents to share tea and a chat.  Would this be a bad idea, do you think?


Grrrrr 🙂


Poetry in motion





Remember the end of Thelma and Louise?  When they drove off the cliff?

It was gut-wrenching tragedy, understated glory, hand-on-heart, of-the-moment completion.  That final scene left them, and the viewer, suspended over a chasm.

There was no right way, but there was a way that felt right.  However hard.


I wouldn’t advocate anything quite as bleak (it still haunts me now).  I’m more of a Waltons girl;  give me an all-rounded happy ending any day, all cornfields and turquoise dragonflies.  But there’s nothing as achingly, hauntingly satisfying as a space, or an action, created in honour of a truth.

Truth might not be comfortable, like an episode of the Waltons.  But it lasts. It hangs in the air.  I’d be pushed to justify two women driving off a cliff, or even to explain how it was a fitting ending for a film. It wasn’t an ending.  It was an open space.

There aren’t many open spaces in our culture.  We have right actions and wrong actions.  Correct and incorrect answers.  We’re not comfortable with the unresolvable.  We don’t chew much.  We want an answer, and to be the first one with our hand up.  We even try hard to meditate correctly.

Perhaps that’s why Thelma and Louise resonated.  Because that space we were left with, that openness, left a big wide space where we could suspend what we think we know.  A space where our assumptions, our beliefs, our cause-and-effect, our moral high-ground, all got scattered about a bit.  A space for review.  For looking afresh.  For revisiting truth.

That’s a lot of long-winded thinking.  The Dalai Lama says something more simple here:





But be prepared.  It can feel like this:



this is a truth


All my life I’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that I never really knew what was going on.

Instead of  dissipating, (which I hoped/ expected to be the case), the further I progress along the mortal coil, the more this observation holds.  In fact there’s a recognition of such massive complexities around me that any given situation seems so far beyond comprehension or opinion as to be almost out the other side.

The enormities of my un-knowing have reached so far that I stopped watching the news several years ago.  Now it seems radio too is so steeped in judgement that all I pick up is the judgement itself, and not the content.  So again, I reach for the ‘off’ button.

Conversation on current affairs sees me backing into corners.  Asked for an opinion, all I can offer is ‘it’s more complicated than that’.  Because I know it is.  There are truths, more truths, individual and collective truths.  And all the feeding and steering in between, that we participate in and strengthen with each opinion voiced.

I’m conscious that this could sound like an anti-propaganda rant; an anti-them, us-against-the-state stream of bitterness.  But it’s not that.

I’m looking at the judgement we seem to enjoy so greatly.

How would it look if our urgency to express an opinion, to belong in a camp of thought, to be on this side or that, wasn’t such a driving force?  I’ll bet the content of articles on our news programmes would change.  It seems to me that each news article exists primarily to create judgement, to generate strong feeling.  And I suspect that without this driving force, the programmes might disappear altogether.  I wonder.

My son is saturating himself with history.  He knows so much about world war 2.  More, and differently, I suspect, than those who participated in much of it.  How confusing that must be to them.  We talk about war crimes.  We discuss judgement, and punishment.  The need people have to punish for a crime committed in a different time, a different place, an altogether different set up, that we really can’t comprehend, in the here and now.

I wonder about that.

I wonder if the reason we object so strongly call so vehemently, isn’t purely the fight to have one’s opinions venerated and accepted.  And if it has anything at all to do with the crime itself.

I hear there’s a Buddhist philosophy of ‘no blame’.

I like that.  No blame.  If we removed blame, what are we left with?  A little empathy, perhaps, some compassion, an effort to understand, to deal with, to mend, learn, and grow?  Is that really so scary?

I don’t know.  I know less and less.  But it’s worth considering.


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Who’s captain?


Take yourself back, Jack. Go ahead.  I’m with you all the way. But were you really stolen? Or did you give yourself away?

We can all blame others, because that’s what we’re used to. Sometimes too easily.  I’ve done it.

It’s your life. Take charge. Keep being yourself, always. If you’re not being truly yourself things will get dodgy.  

Look out. Look left, look right, look straight ahead.  Whichever direction you can.  But always ask; Am I being myself? The quicker you notice, the faster you can rectify. Be you. Always. And learn to notice when you’re not.

And when you’re not, get yourself back.  Awesomely and with pride for doing it.  But don’t blame anyone, just learn the lesson.


An open letter to my Facebook friends

I have comparatively few Facebook friends, as I’m picky. If you are one, consider yourself part of an elite crew. You will belong to at least one of the following categories:

  1. Longstanding and trusted friends. You know who you are. I’m deeply appreciative and love you all. Thankyou.
  2. Blood crew. Aka family. This is a special group as most of you I rarely see, and one or two of you I have NEVER EVEN MET, so your presence here is courtesy of the miracle that is Facebook. I love seeing your posts, and being kept up to date as your lives and interests unfold. That’s a special connection, and whilst I’m generally pretty rubbish at communicating my familial affections, here it is loud and proud. You’re great. Inherited ex-family, you’re great too.  If you’re on the list, it’s by virtue of your character. Well done!
  3. Old friends I’ve lost and found. Again, Facebook at its best. We shared that special time when we were young and intrinsically ourselves. We know each other at heart. That’s a very special connection, and I’m SO GLAD you are back in the arena because I’ve really missed you. If you’re in this category, you’re here to stay.
  4. Friends who are local yet distant. You are the ones I’ve worked with, conversed with, had coffee with, complained with, planned with, and exhibited with. The people that marked shifts in direction and process. Highly creative people that thrive on sharing ideas and creative experiences. Great people. When I see your posts I wonder just how it is that our paths don’t cross, currently. But they might again, and it’s great that you’re still there, doing your stuff. Each one of you I truly admire for different reasons.
  5. There’s another small group of you that came this way because you liked the things I made, and you invited me to be your friends. That’s a great compliment. Although I don’t know you your posts and comments remind me of the generosity and vastness of the community out there, and of some of my latent talents and achievements, so thanks…inadvertently you make an unexpected contribution to my world.

If you’re reading this far, welcome, as you’ve stepped into the world that is my blog. And I’ve invited you here for a reason. This post is written specially for you.

When I was very small, I thought that people from other countries, who spoke another language, we’re enormously, massively clever. Far more clever than the English.  Because they thought in English and translated their thoughts into another language. Yes, I really did think that.




I throw that in because most of you know me as a visual artist and lecturer (and some of you as a slightly kooky friend or cousin). Some of you were pained and confused when I lessened my grip on my creative practice. Why throw away something when I’d developed it into something unique, and special? When I’d practiced and specialised, honing a talent to fruition? I’ll tell you why.

Two reasons:

  1. You can only go so far with a process.  It might be your overriding passion, your reason d’etre, but at some point (if you’re really pushing it) you’ll reach a point where you’ve been all the places you want to go with it, and it ceases to have real meaning and place in your life.
  2. Your passion or talent isn’t you. It’s an expression of you, and there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Sorry, veggie friends).

Rather than translating my thoughts into another language so cleverly (like those intelligent foreigners do!) I should be just writing; honestly, clearly and effectively. Not ceramics, but the written word. I need to write.

Patient friends, I need your help.

This blog is where I practice. Bit by bit. Ideas as they come, threads of stuff that sit on my mind. Insights and musings, stories and sharing. They’re all different and sponteneous. I have 79 followers to date (just over 1 new follower per post) of which just 3 are people who know me. Only 3!

This week all 3 of those fabulous people expressed that they love what I write, and that I should write more. I can’t tell you what a boost that gave me and I’m deeply grateful to Tony, Paul and Lisa. And you, Laura. Honestly, I can’t. Amazing. Thank you.

The thing is, all of you on my Facebook list are good people. I trust that the feedback I get from you is honest and considered. I wouldn’t ask any of you to read all 69 blogposts but if you could scan through and comment (you can scroll through or visit posts individually) it would be SO helpful. Not just on content, but style as well. Really, it’s all beneficial. If you like it, let me know by clicking ‘like’ on the relevant post. (If you don’t, please message me gently via Facebook ;)).

If you’re unfamiliar, it works like Facebook so you can comment and ‘like’ any piece. That way I get a sense of what works or resonates. If you want to read more, you can click on ‘follow’ and get new pieces as they’re written. More ‘followers’ means my site becomes more visible on the net.

And please, do send me your stories too, and links to your own blogsites. It’s a community after all. I promise to comment back! Thank you very, very much. All of you x


PS fellow bloggers, you’re most welcome to ‘reblog’ this if it helps!