Category Archives: Taking stock

Nurturing the return

For the last few weeks, I have been avoiding the allotment. I know why. It all feels rather overwhelming. There is still work to do, and the growing season should be off like a rocket. Today, I decided to take a walk; least of all because I needed to fish some pots and growing trays out of Mama F’s shed.

Going back to the allotment actually scares me. It’s a big space, all 200 square metres of it. Half of it is actually covered, and to all intents and purposes is on pause. That half really doesn’t worry me so much. The other half, has raised beds, fruit trees and is what I am trying to get back to what it was. Most of the raised beds are covered, there are three that need clearing before I can actually grow anything. There are three grapevines that need shoring up. They’ve started to lean because of the wind, and need to be propped up.

As it stands, a quarter has become a mass of raspberries. That’s not a problem. I like raspberries. These are however the autumn variety, with runners spreading around. I do have a pink variety; Polka, I think. I was going to look into getting some more pink ones, but I fear I am a little late to plant some. I hear that the Glen varieties are fairly good.

I’m glad that I went for the walk. I’m able to see that things are manageable. At the moment, I have a dozen or so tomato plants growing along at home. I would like to take these to the plot and plug them in. I would like to grow something this year, even if it is simply tomatoes. There are chillies; the cayennes and a couple of habaneros. These are likely to be cultivated at home. I might even rescue a few more chilli plants, I certainly plan to find additional tomatoes.

This might take time, and this year might not be overwhelming abundant. If the tomatoes come off, I would rather like to make some hot yellow sun chutney. Growing yellow tomatoes is rather interesting! There has been cherry blossom on the plot, these are starting to fruit. I also spotted some pears. Then there are the currants. These have strings and strings! Thing is, I always end up harvesting these during the height of the hay fever season. These are likely to be jammed or jellied, I think.

At a loss for words

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At this moment in time, I am at a loss for words.

Ordinarily, be it at work, when blogging,  writing; I could waffle. I daresay, I could probably waffle for England. The hitting of a payload, a torrent of words and inspiration, does tend to be hard to stop. I experience it as un-brookable sensation, my brain is aflame with my handwriting only just keeping up with the daydreams wanting exit my imagination.

Words tumble;the whole thing is a emotional, psychological cascade. A torrent of things that might not have even been in my consciousness. To this day, I can’t read bits of Fragments, I remember my own pain.

In stark contrast then, is the barrenness of not writing. The overwhelming swirling of tumbleweed and screeching carrion birds in a desert.

I do have a list. I have a stack, in fact, of notebooks; each one has a list of things to write for that particular creating. So it’s not as though I have a block, as though The Muse-whatever form that creature takes-and I have deserted each other. The Muse has done what needs to be done, and gone off to where ever they are needed.

It is the impetus, the bounce and flow, the mojo that has gone.

At this moment in time, it’s actually difficult to look a the books. The ‘to-write’ lists make no sense to me. They may as well be written in a different language.

I think I need a rest.  Life has, after all, been rather busy.  Six books, a Bollywood wedding, a diploma in therapeutic counselling are all going to have an effect. As is not being in a stable teaching post. I have done, experienced, been part of one hell of an adventure. It is impossible for me to negate any of that; it has made me the woman, the person, the author that I am.

The diploma is now over-Just waiting for the certificate!  I am also thinking, about what the next phase of the counselling journey might involve. No idea what is happening on the teaching front; the end of the summer, would mark ten years as an educator.

That in itself, is special. I want to make it that far! Teaching has also been a journey in it’s own right.

I do feel a loss; as though I should be doing something, However, there is that small voice. The tiniest squeak, that is saying no. Something isn’t right, something hangs in the air; writing is not what I want, need,to do at this moment in time.

This, is voice, that I need to listen to. I also need, somehow, to accept, that the writing is paused. This is horribly difficult, when it has been a part of me for such a long time. I’ve enjoyed it; writing really is a facet of me. The thought of writing rubbish-whatever that might be-also crossed my mind. It’s been dismissed a couple of time. I want to value what I write, I want it to have some importance.

Self-care is the big thing here. To look after myself, nourish the elements within that have become depleted.

Who knows. Perhaps the words will come back.

Eventually.

 

Bliss at the Brum Botanical Gardens

I spent this morning, having something of  botanical, therapeutic adventure. It’s book release day; I didn’t want to stay inside and sit on my hands. A few days ago, whilst walking through the greenery around Sarehole Mill, I decided to plan a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Despite the fact that I’m a born and bred Brummie, I’ve never actually spent any time there, enjoying it. I remember going to a wedding reception, by the Arid Glasshouse and making a mental note to come back.  It’s taken me  few years, but I made it!

There wasn’t a concrete plan, not really. I had a thermos of tea, some lunch and a pair of walking boots.  A class of kids-Year 2 from a local school-were also wandering around, so I made sure I was well off their radar. Their teachers, have my empathy. Not my school kids, not my trip. I carried on.

As I sit here and type, I’m actually creaking. Who knew, that such a gentle, aimless and ambling walk could have an impact?

Anyway. Using the map from the entrance desk, I did amble and quite aimlessly. Everything is labelled clearly, the information is presented concisely for everything. Better, in my mind, than most museums.  I could spot Camellias-Dad has two in the garden-so I didn’t feel completely clueless. There were daffodils in dots and splodges, all very timely as we kick off with spring.

 

Whilst not a huge site, Birmingham Botanical Garden is best savoured slowly. It didn’t take long for me to take a walk around. So I made the conscious decision to sit, stare and take tea a couple of times. Least of all when three pea hens and a peacock were in the vicinity. Taking that one picture, the peacock more or less posed and looked me in the eye as though I was crazy. Even the pea hens shuffled around as though indifferent. I had hoped that the peacock might shake a tail feather to give everyone a display, but alas no joy. To sit, stare and sip tea was part of the deal for today’s adventure. To be completely immersed in greenery, to take stock and just absorb everything has been crucial this week.

A special mention, goes to Alison Levey, who made me smile today. A couple of days ago, she posted an image of a Magnolia. I happened to read the name as Lionel Messi. Yes, the footballer. I forget now, the proper name of this plant. It struck a cord today, whilst I was adventuring. In walking through the memory garden, I saw a sign in the boughs of a pink Magnolia. I read it as Lionel Messi. In the image above, the white magnolia does cover the pink footballing one in the fore-ground; it genuinely made me giggle and out aloud.

I nearly missed this, but on the way out, I found the Japanese Garden. I’m glad I did too. This is a pocket of serenity, that I might have otherwise missed had the universe not nudged me to head out of one of the glasshouses. This garden is tucked away, and there is just something about it; even the air is different.

Carefully observing, I was wandered in, and there were three red camellias sat in water feature. Whether they were put there, or landed there through serendipity I don’t know. There is a sign, that details how in Buddhism and Shinto, fallen blossoms are a sign of the transience of life. That really did strike me; life is too short, to sit back and not smell the Magnolia. I edged in and I found this one.  A Saucer Magnolia. Something was ringing, and for three seconds I had no idea where the sound was coming from. Then I realised it was the chime sat in the middle, caught by the breeze.

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There was just something about that moment that felt almost ephemeral. I don’t have any other words to describe it.

I’m glad that I went, even if the gardens are half asleep. I want to go back and see the rose garden in full bloom. I do think, that when the whole thing wakes up, it will be even better.

 

Blossom in the Breeze

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Blighty has been battered by bruising winds; Storm Freya has been swirling around to cause all sorts of mayhem. The Indian Spring has started to fizzle down, with temperatures returning to a seasonal norm.

I took a walk down to the plot today, to simply clear my head. For days now, stories to write have been jostling around in my head. I needed fresh air, half an hour perhaps to potter around and refocus a little.  There were however rain clouds over head and what was a smattering, spitting shower became a cold, momentary downpour that saw me beating a retreat.

In that brief window, I did manage to re-centre, think about how I might move a raised bed as it is now full of raspberry runners. They are everywhere, places where I didn’t think they would travel. These are fall gold, yellow autumn fruiting variety that aren’t actually half bad. I have had more luck, through sheer fluke, with yellow raspberries than pink ones. Raspberries, being raspberries, do rather like water and lots of it. By moving a raised bed, it can be located somewhere far more useful.

The mission continues to cover and contain. That had been my plan for this afternoon, to cover a couple of raised beds. The precipitation and chilly wind weren’t particularly motivating. I surveyed instead, to literally get a lay of the land. Reclaiming the plot is starting to feel a little less overwhelming as it all becomes a little more organised.

With the pottering, came the realisation that the Moorpark Apricot was effectively in full blossom. There has never been so much, with only one or two blooms. I do wonder though, if this could be false hope. The weather has been unseasonably warm, the winds are swirling and temperatures are falling away.  I do feel that the blossom is something of a lesson in resilience. Each and every bloom is looks very fragile, as though it might float off in the breeze. However, the blossom is hanging on in defiance of a sort.

 

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

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The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

Beyond that one day

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A couple of weeks ago, I was in the supermarket. There was baby stuff event and the merchandising sat next to various bits and pieces for Valentine’s day. I chuckled, there was a wonderfully funny link between the two. The Feast of Saint Valentine, the annual celebration, of all things hearts and flowers; you can’t miss it. There is merchandising as soon as Christmas is over.

There is an immense power in this run up. It can make you feel overjoyed, positively ecstatic if you are well and truly in love. There is the sadness, pain and feelings of being something of a social pariah if you aren’t. There is also being apathetic about it, not having any opinion on it. All of these perfectly valid.

However, there is an onus pick a camp and stay in it.

For years, I have had a dislike of February; a dislike of the fourteenth day, that is slap bang in the middle of month and unavoidable.  It has taken me a long time to understand why I have felt like this, how I might change that way of feeling and also accept how I really feel about what is effectively a massive great big marketing campaign entrenched in socially constructed gender politics.

This may well come across as a rant, and I guess in part it is. It is not, a woe is me, what is wrong with me, sort of diatribe. The latter, is the complete anti-thesis of my perspective.

I’ve grown up with the ideology and cultural values that by the time you’ve gone to school, you graduate, get a job and get married. Getting married, happens to everyone, you then produce kids. The notions of love, romance and relationships are manipulated and there is an expectation of everyone following a very linear, very much pre-determined path. This does mean, that by 25 and 30, you’ve been to a lot of bollywood weddings, heard in the following year that the bride is not expecting and then had eyes made at you, signalling that you are next.

But what if you’re not?

I’ve had those eyes made at me, and it is soul destroying. I’ve even been asked why I can’t find someone, what could possibly be wrong with me? Trust me, I raged for days, took it to therapy and wrestled with introjects that ares so deep-rooted within cultural norms and values, I decided enough was enough.

I’m doing my best to buck a massive trend. I should in theory, be married, have two and half kids, and be settled. I’m not trying to avoid the linear strand of expectations; no, I’m just re-arranging the tracks a little.  I’m trying to do what makes me happy, allows me to nurture my own actualising tendency, and consider my own valuing process.

Valentine is an introject, it has become an normalised part of that linear experience. That’s part of why I’ve found it all uncomfortable.

Just because everyone else is loved up, it’s okay if I’m not. I’m okay with it. I don’t need someone else to complete me, to be my better half. I don’t see why I have to dangle off someone else’s arm, or have someone else dangle off mine, to be perfectly honest. I’ve got to some level of acceptance; I’m okay with being single-don’t assume I’m alone, that’s different-the world will recognise that when it is ready.

Single woman are stigmatised for not being part of a duo; our value diminishes and is only increased when in the company of others. Our individuality, assertiveness and autonomy is considered to be defiance, to be disrespectful and contrary to the norm. As though we need a counter-weight and counterfoil to validate who we are. A single woman is a threat to the status-quo and that just won’t do.

I am enough. I have a lot about me-she types, oh so modestly-in my own right, to help me feel content. No one other person, should be needed an auxiliary or an accessory to contribute to my self concept, self image and self worth.

Yet, apparently, I need a boyfriend/husband to do what I do, to go wherever I go.

Above, you will see two images. The first, is me having a laugh; a plastic sword and an out-sized lid for a pan. One of my colleagues reckons I look a lot like a shield-maiden in that image.  Second. I am in Amsterdam, on something of an adventure and wondering where to adventure next.  The two images, in  my mind at least, sum up how I feel right now.

There has been a lot reflection to get that far.

The number of times I have heard the following, or words to this effect:

  1. You’re here by yourself?
  2. Where is your husband/boyfriend?
  3. Who you going with, you’re not going by yourself are you?
  4. You really should take someone with you.
  5. Oh, I’d never go by myself
  6. You should get your parents to put on your matrimonial list (This was interesting-the time of my birth, my height, my qualifications. whether I was a meat-eater, all factored in, and before I so much as got in touch with the candidate..I mean, suitor. The best response ever….We were looking for a doctor, not a teacher.)
  7. Have you tried online? (Oh, please, that’s weird window shopping and then some…swipe, swipe, swipe….)

I have also be told :

  1. It’ll happen when it is supposed to.
  2. Yeah, but being married/in a relationship, isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
  3. You’re still young!
  4. Oh, I didn’t get married until I was X, Y, Z years  old

I used the word perspective above. I do feel that this is important, given my how I’ve been raised, how I have experience the world and what I am continually learning about myself. Bend it like Beckham, East is East have a lot to flaming well answer for.

The next time, that a relative asks me, why aren’t you married, what is wrong with me, I’m not sure what I might say. I would like to have to the audacity, the bravery, to ask what this means for them, why is my relationship status so important to them? I know, that it is important for them. That in their world, we are all neatly paired up, there are babies and all is well.  For now, I will remain stoic -‘It will happen when it happens; when I find someone, what will be, will be.’ Any other response, would most likely get me labelled and ‘told off.’

The key is, knowing what I want, and how this is different. I can recognise and respect the difference. It is not up to them, how I do things, when and with whomever I might find. I might even cite Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone. Two Bollywood starlets who dared to defy convention.

I do think my animosity towards the feast of Saint Valentines has reduced somewhat. It’s cute, glittery; there are roses everywhere. I can grow my own roses, proper special ones at that, so I will shake my head at the air miles, as how they might not last more than a few days. Mine, last up to weeks, and the joy they elicits lasts longer too.

Thursday will come. I will go to work, come home, do what I do any other day of the week. The love, will be the love I have  myself; a love centred on acceptance of me being me.

Whatever you do, where ever you are and with whomever, have a good one.

The journey of a thousand miles #gdnbloggers

…starts with a single step.

A step to the allotment, and then to potter around. To survey, to soak it all; to remember what was.

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I went willingly. I went, with intention and a sense of purpose. I wanted to go, see what the literal lay of the land was. For a long time, seeing that space has felt really very overwhelming. I need to take the plot in parts, in sections to be worked on one at a time. I might also have to inveigle some help with that; I will have to find willing side-kicks.

This was a big deal. I felt that urge, where by the many different facets of me weren’t in conflict.  I went to the allotment to seek joy. Joy that has long since been absent, and has left something of hole behind.

I had spent most of the day baking. I have a bundt tin, a recipe book and the need to make something. Two cakes later-raspberry and milk chocolate, the one stuck the pan, lost its top-I resolved to go take a walk to the plot. I baked today as I feel as though I’m in a time/space vortex. My baking mojo exists as my writing mojo is fading and my gardening mojo is a spark. This in itself is slightly disorienting.

As I got to the plot, I felt resolute. I’d gone to have a look, I want to cover the top half, see what needs clearing, what is in my way. I wandered around, I took the above pictures.

Then it hit me. Sadness and guilt.

Sadness that this is what I am faced with; but know why. Guilt, as more often than not, I experience looks and tuts of disapproval at having let things lapse. There is a big part of me, that blows raspberries at that. I blow raspberries, as I have grown and developed the plot quite successfully in the past. The plot has been a mini Eden. I’m hanging onto that; I would like to return to that. This won’t happen quickly, there is no immediate gratification here. There never has been.  I can confess that I do not react well to disapproval from plot neighbours. I do try to ignore it for the most part, but that doesn’t stop bits of seeping through. Judgement and disapproval are horribly damaging, your autonomy takes a hit and you start doings that you’d rather not. That’s the bit I’m hanging onto.

This is my tenth year as an allotment gardener. A lot has happened in that decade, a lot has happened on the allotment plot. I have until April to make a dent in things, get back to a level playing field and to cultivate something.  It might only be January, but already I see folks on blogs, on social media; they are getting stuck in, they have grand plans.  I myself, feel very much at sea. The thought of going to look in my seed tin, doesn’t feel right at the moment.

That said, the chilli seeds are very much on my mind and will be sown in the next few weeks. Sowing the chillies, having a look at the plot feels like an intuitive step in the right direction.

Feeling the spark….#gdnbloggers

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…the gardening force awakens.

Over the last week or so, I have been thinking about Chilli seeds. The thought, the impetus appeared in my mind like a starburst. It came out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it.

I had just finished the second draft of Book 6.

The universe was sending me a signal. A signal, that I have not felt for nigh on a year. A signal, that jolted me awake as I pressed save. I switched off my computer. I had completed one form of creativity, it was time to return to another.

I want to sow chilli seeds. I want to plant seeds, I want to go back to my allotment, feel the dirt beneath my fingernails.

Just where exactly did I put my red wellingtons, though?

Hold up, a second. It’s only the second week of January. Anything I sow now, will be long, leggy and likely to keel over.

Let’s just revel in the spark, just for one moment. There is a spark, a desire to plant potential and it really does feel as though the universe has sent it.

There is more to this, however, than meets the eye.

2019 stretches before me. When I look at my diary, it is blank.  Unlike 2018, I have no plans. There is no fast, furious, chaotic sense of being that life has felt like for a long time. There is peace, serenity and the opportunity to surrender to all that makes me happy.

This time last year, I had sown seeds. Chilli seeds, at that. They failed; there was something in the air, that told me they were meant to. I was saddened, I really was. I went with it; 2018 was a big year beyond the allotment.

Christmas 2018 came. I found myself looking at the aftermath of a figurative tornado. I found myself looking at the potential to move on. I wrote a few blog posts, it all felt really bitty.  A lot like trying to start an engine, only for it to cough and splutter. The timing, the feeling, the passion wasn’t quite there. I was trying to start something that really wasn’t ready to return.

I joined in with the Garden Bloggers twitter chats, and this started to form a quiet groundswell within.  The encouragement, support and camaraderie is something that I cannot describe; there was a sense of being a part of something really beautiful. I’ve hung onto how I felt during that chat; I’ve felt buoyed about returning back to gardening.

So, how do I cultivate that spark.

Slowly.

Remember, I have a very wild allotment. The plan, that is all very tentative, is to cover half of it. Make less overwhelming; assume control of bits and pieces. To ignore, the naysayers who do not expect me to turn my allotment around. The odds, would have me turning my back and walking away.  I have not spent nearly a decade playing in the dirt, to give it all away. A big part of me want to remember what it feels like to be on that plot of land, walk around, tending to things. I feel as though I need to go back to something and rekindle things.

Bits are broken, in disarray. Yet I have felt the spark, I am feeling the force. A force that is asking me to put down my inks pen and nurture something within. The writing is certainly one outlet for the universal force. It is however, time to return another aspect.

I will shortly have chilli seeds. I think I have pellets somewhere. I might also think about tomatoes eventually.

Let’s see what happens, eh?

The Icelandic Adventure April 2018

This is by far my biggest adventure to date. I went to Iceland. Generally, I am very fortunate to have wing-people. Be it siblings or friends. This, this was very different. I did this by myself, much to the amusement of some. Why there, it’s so far away; do you know how cold it is there, Punam?

An amazing CPD opportunity arose, where by I could meet fellow Psychology teachers from across Europe. This was a conference that happens every two years, and I rather fancied making an adventure of it. It’s not that I don’t adventure alone, I do. Just not so close to the Arctic circle.

I’m glad that I did. Iceland is beautiful, Reykjavik is phenomenal. I also met some fabulous like-minded individuals. The camaraderie within the teaching fraternity really is second to none. If you are a Psychology teacher, go find the ATP and also EFPTA; you won’t be let down.

There was a bit walking on this trip, in doing the Golden circle tour. The double waterfall was one of the most soul-tingling experiences ever. I stood there, really quite mesmerised. There a couple of geysers, one big, one small. I will never, ever, complain about rain here in Britain. Icelandic rain comes down in King-size sheets and does more than drench you. Thank goodness, for a Birmingham Blue-coloured hat that Mama F had crocheted for me.  I stood between two tectonic plates, walked passed the dunking pool of unmarried mothers. That was really quite sad and eerie.

The secret lagoon. What do I say? An experience beyond words. It makes me smile as I sit here writing about it. Must have been what two, three degrees, but stepping into that water. That was something beyond magic, I tell you.

This was by far the trip of a life time. Scared the living daylights out of me, whilst giving me butterflies, but I did it. I was very lucky, to have met up with friends and colleagues; this did do something to help me get rid of the nerves.

I did have some sadness too. I actually looked at the coach seat next to me, and there wasn’t a sibling or someone significant there to elbow. That is another story, I  guess.

A year of dresses

 

This year, has  been a year of dressing up. I don’t think I ever had so many different outfits. Then again, I had fairly good reasons for wearing them.

In April I dusted off, arguably what will always be my favourite sari. It’s Imperial, Cadbury purple and always make me smile. It is also swooshes fabulously on a dance floor when busting a move to Bon Jovi.

Then came the annual international conference of the Association of Teachers of Psychology in July. Every year, I have a think about the dresses for conference, for the gala dinner amongst everything. It is always a great event, dressing up is part of the excitement. I clearly have a thing about vintage inspired swing dresses, so purple was factored in. The came the gala dinner. This was different. I actually wore an Indian outfit, and liked it.

And blimey, it’s been an Indian outfit summer. The weather certainly helped with a massive, Bollywood wedding. A family event that was nearly a year in the planning. With it came the outfits.  Quite a few outfits.

So let’s put this into context.

I’ve never done that before. Having these outfits for the wedding, was a big deal. From not being silver-I’ve been going grey since 16, I’m mid thirties now-so having to go back to being raven haired, to wearing outfits that only exist in movies. Outfits that tall, beautiful, model types wear.

I woke up at half two to  have my hair and make up done. Looked in the mirror at six, nearly scared myself. That woman in the photos, she really doesn’t look like me.

‘Wow, you look different.’

‘Punam, that you? I almost didn’t recognise you.’

That, that is a big point.

I don’t do glamour. I don’t do hair, make up, eyelashes and swooshing skirts.

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But for that day, I felt like a princess. I was still me beneath it all, that’s for certain.

I am not what you see in the Indian bridal mags. That’s an uncomfortable thought, when the world around us is based up on physical appearance. What we look like, is what we get judged on.

Three days after the wedding, I had a massive hair cut. I’ve not coloured my hair since either. I actually got ID’d when my hair was black. It’s been a struggle, trying to defend why I don’t dye my hair. There is sadness too, what with the ID’ing; to look that bit younger. Having silver hair as woman, is viewed as being negative. For a man, not really a problem.

Being me whilst wearing all those of outfits has been incredibly important and still is.