Category Archives: value

I do like to be beside the seaside – Folkestone rediscovered

Spending a few days in Folkestone, which might surprise those who know I live in Dover. Longish quite nice story. Not for now.

It is beautiful in a way I had not expected even though I work here and live so close. It feels rough and ready in many ways and in many places, with ingrained grubbiness left over from a busier more nautical era that does nothing to reduce the charm and energy that exists there now, rather it acts as a counterpoint, an authenticity. Money has been spent on it, for sure, but that on its own would not achieve the lasting elegance and colour I have found. Wise and clever people-focussed spending is the key. Don’t be misled, there is significant poverty, sickness, mental turbulence. There is also grit, strength and heart to match and manage it, and the emerging beauty in the environment makes use of that and encourages the entrepreneurial activity I can see in abundance. What we create we value. The local initiatives have been rooted in the local communities, and that has given them a better chance of budding and flowering, and many of them have taken that chance and flourished – and those that didn’t are reinventing themselves and sailing in a new direction with the wind behind them.

As I write this I am looking out over the channel – I can see France, it feels as if I can almost touch our European counterparts. I can see the glorious Harbour Arm with Lowry-like people moving like ants in perpetual motion carrying their trophies – the view, a coffee, a book, their dogs leads – often overtaken by arrogant seagulls and for all the world like those desk toys that swing back and forth. Kinetic. That’s it! Folkestone offers a kinetic energy, a comfortable dynamism that is almost tangible.

I am pootling around the town for the next few days in between working. Perhaps there will be more to share with you about this glorious, throbbing, vivid, secretive, smudged, slightly slatternly but beautiful and blossoming coquettish town. It draws you in, promises to show you the sights, honours its citizens – the memorial arch is stunning and moving, all the more so, for some reason, as a result of the knitted poppies that surround it – and  Isaiah-like (“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places”) keeps revealing, bit by bit, another of its treasures, another half-hidden bauble that it soon becomes clear is a precious jewel, and then yet another follows……

I know I have only skimmed the surface so far. I have plans to visit a few places that I would otherwise miss: have a pint on the harbour, breakfast at Beanos, dinner out somewhere I have yet to decide, spend time in the museum and galleries – there are many galleries and bookshops  in the streets leading from the harbour some of which also do coffee. Books and Coffee, two of my favourite things……There is a fabulous creative quarter – I work actually in it but not of it – and I need, literally need, to explore that. Restaurants and cafes will also be taking a hit.  I also need to walk around the bits that are not attractive to tourists, that shelter the people I probably know best.

Through this week I will be noting the fresh chapters,  great initiatives, seamy side and chequered entity that is Folkestone. It is likely I will share this with you…….brace yourselves.  I will try not to write after that pint! No promises…..

 

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Bosom buddies over the years

My bosoms have been around the block a bit.

Early development brought early attention from older men as well as other students, long bus rides to school being littered by moments of leering and lurching, scary intimations of what being a grown up would be like. I was not alone in that, it just happened a little early for me, while I was still colouring in my future and playing with dolls. Fascinated by the appearance of maturity I soon became shy of the evidence, covering them up to stop the leers, rejecting them as evidence of change, and slowly having their deficiencies brought to my attention. Too big for comfort when horse riding, too small for instant popularity, too this, too that, two much.

And then I began to understand they could be fun as well. If I chose to share them it could be quite nice and they have joined me in a few lovely moments bringing some happiness to me as well as to someone else. Large and juicy and bouncy they caused me some joy, and spread a little of that stuff too.

And next thing I knew they were useful. I fed four children with them, nourishing my children, making them strong and healthy, bonding with them deliciously and creating memories for me and relationships for us all.  I spent a decade or so either pregnant or breastfeeding and it was, perhaps, the best time in my life. A wanton, verdant space in which my body made things right and that was all that mattered.

And after that, another opportunity for some joy. Short lived, but memorable. Because then I noticed things of all kinds changing, a little less overall bounce and more wobble and not just in the bosoms, part of a generalised weary reduction in joy and upswing in tasks and a tangible draining of verve, less noticeable purpose and a slipping away of meaning and value. The devaluation of the bosoms echoing a reduction in worth. The bosoms that had created such fear, then joy, then deeper joy and meaning, were entering a new and unexpected chapter. Cause and effect, or effect and cause? Outwardly so much was satisfying, so many achievements, but inside there was a little necrosis every day, a spreading of the dark shadows and the loss of significance, the essence bleeding away into a sticky vacuum of regrets, guilt and exhaustion.

But then, with little ballyhoo but with such a warm and welcome relief, it stopped mattering. My bosoms – MY bosoms – triumphed and became part of my story. They were mine and I dressed them for me, washed and cared for them for me. This old feminist remembered who she was and hacked and whacked through the  flourishing detritus uprooting the pernicious growths of expectation and control, flinging them onto the waiting pyre and planting nutritious saplings and mature thoughts in their place, where they have established and now thrive giving me colour, energy, the scent of a life to be lived. These bosoms have been through the mill, alongside the rest of me, and here we are having emerged from that vacuum into glorious sunshine and promise, with some beautiful hands to hold and memories, some obscured and some hovering on the surface, waiting patiently for me to sift and sort and calibrate them with proper reflection and some context. It may take a little while but I know now I am up to the task.

Two of my favourite, doubtless irritating, phrases are A Work In Progress and Onward and Upward. I have come to realise that both are applicable to almost everything, including me. And you.

Whoever you are, if you feel the pull of that vacuum, the quicksand beneath your feet, please: remember your unique merits, own your Self, live your life. It is yours, colliding with others but yours to fit into whichever jigsaw you choose, yours to steer or not, to enjoy the ride and harness the journey as well as savour the peace when it happens. Hard to see when the waters are closing over you, but swim upward with all your might and take the hand that opens for you. It is there.

Onward and Upward.

 

 

 

 

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