The Sunshine Blogger Award

blogger award - CopyThe Sunshine Blogger Award is about positivity, kindness, and bringing a few rays of sunshine into the lives of readers. But those drops of sunshine are brought about by those who write the blogs which get nominated, and I’m honoured that my blog is considered worthy.

Way back in March when I was still in the US enjoying being with my family and grandchildren – let’s call it BC – before coronavirus, I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Carol Kubiki. She has ever-itchy feet and writes about her campervan travels in her Back on the Road Again blog. Thank you Carol for nominating me. Carol visits plenty of interesting places in the UK and overseas, has had many accounts of her travels published in MMM Magazine, and has won an award for her travel writing. She has a penchant for ice cream too. Go take a look at her blog and read about some of her travels.

I was pleasantly surprised that Carol has nominated me, but that was back in March in Houston. Now it’s May, and I’ve finally caught up with the challenge that goes with this nomination. Since arriving back in the UK we’ve been in lockdown for weeks after making that dash back to the UK so we didn’t get “trapped” in the US. Being trapped with grandchildren would have been no bad thing, we had a roof over our heads and were in the good company of family, but there were small worrying details like travel, health, house insurance and US visas which had limited length to run.

I did initially heed Carol’s comment on her blog that she’d discovered this award comes with a fair amount of work/writing (it does) and I’ve been back to revisit the award guidelines. I’m (sort of) willing to have a crack at it, and I’m going to bend the rules a little because it’s proved to be a bit of a challenge to do the whole thing so I’m not convinced that the 11 people I “should” go on to nominate will be so fulsome in their thanks and praise of being nominated! I follow a fair number of photography blogs, so as much as I enjoy looking at them, these bloggers are more photographers than writers so they’d probably turn tail and run! So my nominees will be fewer than the suggested 11, and of course it’s entirely up to them if they want to take up the challenge.

It’s lockdown days at the moment, and a challenge is always character building and good for the soul, so they say. And rules are meant to be bent a little, so let’s call them guidlines instead. Here goes with my take on things:

The Rules (aka Guidelines)

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog. Thank you Carol!
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. Another blooming hefty challenge which I have interpreted in my own way!
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions. I’ve nominated 5  blogs.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. Done it.

My Nominations

1) Jane Fritz in Canada who writes Robby Robin’s Journey. Always sensitive, thought-provoking and on the button. I’d be so happy to meet her and talk.

2) Graham Welch who writes A New Life In Lille, telling of his ongoing journey from being a UK resident to a resident in France, and on the cusp of opening a cheese and wine bar in the Dordogne. If we get to France when this lockdown is over, we’ll drop in.

3) Little Miss Traveller who writes of her many UK and overseas journeys in her Love Travelling Blog. I don’t know how she’s managing in these lockdown days, but am sure she’ll have plenty of happy memories and photos to sustain her.

4) Karen Harding writes of life from the magical perspective of being over fifty and proud of it in her Some Kind of 50 blog.

5) Paul Handover writes about Learning from Dogs, and as a fellow dog owner I enjoy reading some touching and hearwarming tales on his blog.

And there I’ll stop, throw the ball to them, and answer my 11 questions.

My 11 Questions (set by Carol)

What is your favourite thing about blogging?

It’s a space to express/share/rant/mull over/discuss/pontificate even, about something that catches my interest or triggers a response. It doesn’t matter if nobody reads it (although it’s nice if they do!) because I’m doing primarily for me to keep my writing wheels oiled, my brain active, and to express something which is important to me.

What would be your top tip for a new blogger?

Just do it!  Get on with it, write even if you’re not sure where it’s going, but don’t give up. Keep at it and don’t let a good idea disappear down the plughole of intertia.

Assuming you are still with us, do you think you will still be blogging in five years time?

I’m not quite sure what Carol meant here – “no longer with us” sounds a bit like final curtains…..of course, she could have meant if I was still blogging. In 5 years, who knows? But then I started my first blog in 2006 and kept it going until 2017, when I left it’s presence on the web as a resource centre for anyone interested in Astrological Psychology. On the strength of that, 5 years doesn’t sound all that long.

If you could have something named after you (either your real name, nickname, or blog name) what would it be?

Maybe a rare butterfly, if my real name would translate into Latin for the scientific listings!

If you could have one super power what would it be?

Flying, like a bird or a butterfly – what else?!

What is your favourite road trip film?

Now that’s an interesting one. I’ve taken several road trips in the US since my son and his family went to live there and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. But the film that springs to mind in response to this is Thelma and Louise.

What is your first drink of the day, tea, coffee, smoothie, water or something else?

Orange juice

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Here the choice is difficult – maybe a mash up of the following:

Thank you for the Music by Abba; Human by The Killers; Shine On by Chris de Burgh, The Logical Song by Supertramp and Tallis’s utterly sublime Spem in Alium motet which has 40 different voice parts.

If you could go back in time, what event or period would you go back to?

The Roaring Twenties & the Jazz Age

I was a chef in a previous life and love cooking and eating, what is your signature dish / favourite thing to cook / eat?

My signature dish is risotto, which is often a lot better than some risottos I’ve had in Italian restaurants in the UK.

Where in the world do you feel you most belong?

Here and now at home in lockdown feels pretty good. That aside, and travel once again being permitted, I’m happiest in Audrey, our palace on wheels (aka campervan).

 

Life in lockdown

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How come I seem to be even busier in these days of lockdown than I was before, when I was following a fairly normal, daily routine…….ah, of course, there’s the answer. Routine. Structure. Doing things at a sort of allocated, usual, habitual time. But now, with our daily framework gone all wobbly, we have to dig a bit deeper and find ways to focus, get through what needs to be done (like washing, ironing, deciding what to use from our food stocks then cooking it, and so on).

Yesterday I felt like the proverbial blue-assed fly, flitting from one distraction to the next like a headless chicken (excuse the mixed metaphors). Having successfully joined FaceBook in order to be able to easily message granddaughter in the US and take part in the Rock Choir daily Keep Britain Singing at 3 pm (I’m a member of Rock Choir and need a singing fix to keep me going), I found I was suddenly thrust into more techno-connections than I’d ever been.

Suddenly people I know were appearing on FaceBook wanting to be my “friend”. With extended French family (our daughter-in-law is French), the combination of choir members I know and French family I know got just a bit challenging at one point when I received a message – in French – from my daughter-in-law’s godmother. I had a bash at responding in rusty French and was part way through when I noticed there was a translate button. So I was able to translate her message into English, and if I wrote in English, she’d be able to translate it into French. Phew. I switched from rusty Francais to English promptly.

So that leaves the daily Rock Choir 20 minute sing to schedule for 3pm, and the Great British Home Chorus being led by Gareth Malone for 30 minutes every day at 5.30pm. That’s before I’ve even got near the on-line PE, yoga and keep fit classes.

Then there’s the WhatsApps arriving from friends and family, the face to face calls, the  phone calls, the chats with neighbours over the garden fence – all at a safe distance of more than 2 metres – the emails and the one daily walk to schedule for us and the dog, who, it seems has cracked this lockdown lark rather well.

He’s even decided to watch the daily sing, but he doesn’t join in…..

The Four Freedoms

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Freedom of Speech by Norman Rockwell

Last week – ahead of starting to seriously social distance ourselves – we went to the Norman Rockwell exhibition at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Because of fast-moving global events around coronavirus it turns out that this will be the only “treat” outing we’ll have while we’re here, visiting family.

The dominant theme of Rockwell’s paintings is Franklin D. Rooseveldt’s Four Freedoms which are extremely appropriate to the state of the globalised world and what’s happening all over it right now. Rockwell painted them during WW2, when they  were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post for over four consecutive weeks in 1943, alongside essays by prominent thinkers of the day.

The Four Freedoms are as significant now as they were back in 1943:

Freedom of speech – Freedom of worship – Freedom from want – Freedom from fear

Rockwell illustrated each freedom differently; each is powerful in its own way. The jacket worn by the model in the painting shown is on display at the exhibition, and the occasion itself was based on a real event where a man spoke out on a controversial topic at a community meeting, where he was respected and heard out.

But the final freedom – Freedom from fear – at this moment has the greatest charge for me. Fear is rampaging through our world because of coronavirus. I realised today that I’m now more alarmed at what is happening all over the world because of the virus (lockdowns, curfews, panic buying, borders closing etc.) than I now am about catching the virus itself.

Fear is a powerful weapon. It was FDR himself who, in his 1933 inaugural speech said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself”. Fear is power. If we have fear we’re not fully in charge of our own liberties, we’re reined in, restrained in some way,  not connected to what is essentially good within us.

Two other mentions of fear also come to mind: the book entitled “Feel the fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers. It’s a personal growth book which I read many years ago and found helpful. The other book – a big one! – which touches, amongst many other things, on coping with fear is A Course in Miracles.

The quote from the Course which stands in my mind and is the one I go to in times of stress and anxiety, such as these, is “There is no need to fear”. That has got me through a lot of tough, challenging times and as a mantra it has a calming effect. I’ve added the link for this lesson of the course; it may help, it may not. It works for me.

But what of the other freedoms? To be free to speak out, to worship whichever higher being  nurtures our spiritual needs, to be free from want, through hunger or not having shelter are all important. Sad to say all these freedoms are not fulfilled in our current world, making The Four Freedoms as relevant now as they were when they were voiced by FDR.

Freedom from fear, for me, is the freedom which underpins them all. We can so easily be paralysed by fear, which would hamper us speaking out, as would being afraid to openly worship in ways right for us, and likewise we can be afraid of not having enough to survive on.

The world we know seems to be crumbling apart, but as scary and unsettling as this is, there are some good things emerging. People, marooned in communities locked down against the spread of coronavirus are starting to form support groups and organise how they can help each other, especially those seniors who may become isolated. Today, for  about 30 minutes I was distracted and delighted to hear from all my cul-de-sac neighbours in the UK who have formed a WhatsApp help and support group.

Although I’m in Houston and hoping to get a flight back home, I felt buoyed up by the friendship and community spirit as all of us joined in and added our twopenny-worth of energy to the enterprise. The fear retreated and something brighter and more positive took its place.

 

Being kind

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Much is being said right now about being kind. It’s been said before but now that we’re in the grip of a global situation with coronavirus spreading around the world, it seems even more relevant that we human beings all remember that we’re human beings and express kindness and consideration to each other. We’re all in his together.

I wrote a post a short while ago about the book “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesey. It’s full of gentle wisdom and reminders that none of us is perfect, but we can all support and help each other along the way by being kind. To quote from the book:

“Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse, “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses.” said the mole.

Being kind might involve being more tolerant and understanding of others. I gather there is an increase of racial intolerance towards people in the UK who are of Chinese descent or origin –  as if it’s their  personal fault that dubious practises in a food market in Wuhan have caused this virus to break out. To those being unkind to them I ask you just cut them a bit of slack. They’re probably as scared about it as you are. They’re human beings too.

I recently saw the film “It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood” starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, or Mister Rogers, as he was known when he presented his TV show for children. I knew nothing about him; Mister Rogers was not on UK TV in the 1970s. But I enjoyed the film very much because it was almost 100% about being kind to people, accepting them as they are, acknowledging their faults, fears and misgivings and not judging them.

The film is based on a true story, but the facts have been tweaked as film versions of stories so often are. In this case, it didn’t matter too much because the end product was heartwarming, showing us how people could be and how, if they were wounded or hurt inside, this could be overcome, transcended and transformed.

Love, acceptance and being kind – worth striving for, I think.