Daily inspiration

You will never forget your wedding day…

A wedding day to remember…forever! Mrs. NIxon, 1948 at Mountbatten, Plymouth

Yesterday, I had the huge privilege of meeting some incredible women – role models from the oldest generation; those who grew up in different times and in a different climate, marrying during or post-war and having to deal with hastily arranged legalities during a tight forty eight hour emergency leave, getting permission from parents and designing speedy celebrations, with limited resources due to rationing.

Even after war had ended, everything was strictly rationed and the speed and ingenuity with which families rallied round was impressive – so full of love. Clothing coupons would be donated to access material for dresses, and treadle sewing machines would whir from tireless feet of Great Aunt dressmakers to ensure the bride and bridesmaids looked stunning. Donations of home grown veg from winter stores made up recipes for a spectacular wedding breakfast with potatoes, beetroot and fresh summer salads. Precious rations of butter and sugar enabled Mothers and Grandmothers to whip up celebration wedding cakes, with creative trimmings to adorn it and to make it personal.

Rationing for weddings allowed solely for an additional 2lbs of cooked ham – hardly the basis of a feast – yet somehow, meat rationing was supplemented with perhaps a fine cooked leg of lamb or a clutch of hard boiled eggs. Guests knew not to ask from whence these delicious ingredients had been sourced!

Brides were frequently worried that the grooms would not turn up and that they would be left, bereft at the altar! Not for reasons of cold feet, but rumours abounded that their platoon would have been instructed to regroup as they were commanded to a last minute posting. Or, transport from central stations had been curtailed, and grooms desperate not to let down their about-to-be brides, walked miles throughout the night to ensure they were there, next morning to say, ‘I do!’ Often, by the following day, they would be back with their regiments and sharing a barrack bedroom with forty ‘mates’ and not in the marital bed with a longed for wife!

The lady proudly displaying the photograph above told me that she was now ninety years of age! The image of her and her beloved husband has been carried around in her purse for seventy two years. What an incredible time in which to hold such dear memories of a day when a union – which was to see her through a lifetime of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren – five generations in fact – a day when a beautiful marriage union, was not necessarily made in heaven, but by an army of family, precious friends and a bride and groom who truly intended to live by their vows to each other.

A wedding day, at the start of a lifetime of love together, never to be forgotten!

Daily inspiration

Keep Dancing!

It will be your rock of ages!

It’s twenty three years since Robbie Williams bounced about in his glitzy dog collar, stretched to the max, star-spangled lycra and sporting an Axminster bear/ bare chest. Twenty three years! His song ‘Let Me Entertain You!’ still gets me up on the dance floor, whether kicking off my heels at an equally glitzy wedding (and, because of those twenty three years having whizzed by, I was at quite a number of those celebrations before the lockdown – the generation of siblings children tying the knot) jiggling about barefoot in the grass at a socially distanced family barbecue party, or alone in my own lounge in front of a YouTube version of it, recorded live in Sweden four years ago. If it’s good enough for Robbie, and he’s still rockin’ it two decades later, it’s good enough for me. And yes, I often dance in the house by myself…with the shutters open…so that passers by can witness this not so guilty, not so secret secret. Can’t say the same for my yoga sessions!

Life, as they say, is short. Life, as Robbie says, is too short for you to die – in other words to not live life fully with energy and stretched to the max fun and laughter. I am not at all melancholy about this short lifespan and nor should you be. It is this fact that makes it all the sweeter. Its why I dance…often…not just at weddings.

Just think about all the changes that have occurred since Rob wrote those lyrics – for a start, you couldn’t look me up in the yellow pages anymore. I bet most of you reading this won’t even know what the yellow pages are! It’s why I have a wedding website and a Google business address and social media accounts galore – they’re the new yellow pages and I am so grateful for them. I couldn’t have done anything to lift anyone’s spirits with a wedding celebrant business listing in pages jaune. On here, I can be your rock of empathy!

Robbie is bang on when he says, ‘your mind gets burned with the habits you’ve learned.’ It’s so easy to shy away from letting yourself go on a dance floor and it’s so easy to let ourselves be bombarded by messages that we should isolate, lockdown, be miserable, follow orders, stop having fun, don’t laugh because there’s no humour or anything to celebrate right now!

There is! Loads to celebrate. People are still falling in love. Loads more to laugh about. We can find humour in anything. (The first dance at my wedding was ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!’) And, we’ve got a list of dance tunes to organise so that when you can gather everyone together in the most entertaining wedding of the last two decades, everyone – as Robbie says – can really shake their tush!

Daily inspiration

What’s in a word – wedding or gathering?

Well, I am four hours into this Saturday morning, I haven’t actually physically spoken to anyone alive in person, or on the phone yet and I’ve already run through a whole gamut of emotions and I am not an anxious soon-to-be bride.

The news that weddings are once again a strict ‘no-no’ will affect so many beautiful, and excited couples who were planning to celebrate their love in the coming weeks in a marriage celebration with an already adjusted guest list; now they have to face disappointment again as the plug is pulled on weddings with more than six guests. Frustration, anger, anxiety…and those are just the feelings that I have for the couple planning on getting married. If I include in the mix my inability to work at the celebrant job that I love then we can add disappointment, dismay, adjustment, worry, guilt, joy…

Wait a minute! Joy? How did that one get in there?

It sneaked in, or perhaps it seeped out because, in amongst all of that negative stuff linked to Covid-hacked wedding plans, there’s an inner gratitude and a sense of peace that washed over all of it. Yes, the situation with the wedding industry is indeed crazy, especially when it makes no sense and I can see from my own window that the local hostelry can easily cater for thirty customers; they’re just not allowed to call them thirty guests! And two of the guests/ customers aren’t allowed to dress up and carry flowers, or exchange vows, but they can carry wine glasses and exchange talk and make promises and show compassion – it seems like it all boils down to the words we employ!

What’s in a word? Especially when it comes to wedding celebrations…

Well, if that word is love, then the whole world is in it…or could be.

If you’re aware of any of the content of my book – The Will To Surthrive – then you will know how much I adore the greatest wordsmith of all time. When he writes of how Juliet is not allowed to fall in love with Romeo and they are not allowed to marry because he is a Montague, he writes, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If Juliet was taking on any other married surname it would be fine. She says that the word is meaningless. If the rose was called an orse or an esor, it would still be the same. And so Romeo would still be the same beautiful young potential groom and Juliet a blushing bride, even if he had a different name. Juliet knows it was only his name preventing the marriage.

A rose, even if it were called something else, would smell just as sweet. So Romeo would still have all the perfection which attracted the betrothed couple in the first place.

And that’s where and why the joy seeped out. Despite the ridiculous fluctuations in government edict and policy on weddings and celebrations, we are still able to love with all of our hearts. Those with whom we were going to celebrate still care for us deeply, and want the very best, and even if it means we have to wait a while for the nuptials, and cope with set-back, we are still surrounded by love and support networks and those who have the utmost compassion for the current plight.

Hang on in there people; your magnificent wedding celebration may be on hold but remember you are love! And when your ceremony does happen, it will be all the sweeter for your patience as a bride-and-groom, or bride-and-bride or groom-and-groom in waiting…

Daily inspiration

A little later than promised – Tip Two

I had one of those weird experiences today…you know, one of those where you’re just thinking or talking about someone and the phone rings and you know its them! I was out walking with a friend, Siobhan, and we were both saying how we hadn’t seen or heard from another mutual friend, Tracey, in quite some time, either in the flesh but, more significantly since the lockdown, on social media. And then Siobhan’s phone rang, and there in the address bar was Tracey’s name.

I cannot tell you how many times this happens to me; I will think about a place or a person and then, hey presto, I see an image of the place, or the person calls or physically turns up, out of the blue – sometimes they even suggest we visit the place I’ve been thinking about. I have had so many of these just lately that I’m beginning to think I’m psychic, or even more mystically, that I have some exceptional power.

And then, I remember that I do. I do have an exceptional power. In fact, I really believe that we all do. We have the power of manifestation. If you are familiar with this idea then you will know that it is tied up with firstly, being really grateful for all the experiences that have brought you to the place you’re now at, for seeing every event that’s ever happened as having in it a golden opportunity to learn from it. And then, with that gratitude, being able to envisage a future that encapsulates all your dreams, all that you love, all that brings you contentment.

So…Tip One is to know that you have the authority to write your own script.

and…Tip Two is to clearly have in your mind a focused vision and an absolute confidence that what you have scripted will become a reality. Get ready to be wowed by your own performance!

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As promised – Tip One

So, the good news is we don’t have to live in the past – it was a lesson, not a life sentence! We can re-write the script at anytime and these aren’t just empty words intended to poke at you and leave you wondering (like I did, for so long) ‘Yes, but how? When this is my circumstance, or that seems my luck?’ Of course, you can read the many real-life examples that I give you in the book, ‘The Will To Surthrive.’

But this week, in my blog, I am going to give you some condensed secrets – well, not secrets – but some insider knowledge. And the first one is this – rewrite your past.

I know that I talk about authenticity so much, alongside integrity and being honourable so I don’t mean lie about it and make it up. It’s no good pretending that you went to Oxford University and attained a First Class Honours in Organic Chemistry, if like me, you studied drama in Kent. You can already predict the finale in that kind of fourth wall drama. What I mean is that you should become the director and producer of it – just as if you were staging a show. Your own.

I had a really inspiring real-time example of this yesterday from my brother, who has, in the past been known to catastrophise his ‘bad luck’ and blame it on our troubled, shared up-bringing. A stroke ended his working life, back at the beginning of the year. He had been driving coaches for a well-known national holiday company – a job which he absolutely loved – and he was forced into re-examining his lifestyle and his choices. It was the biggest wake-up call!

He finished work abruptly and at first, bemoaned his bad fortune, along with his poor health. But he has children and Grandchildren and is a wonderful story-teller and an effervescent life and soul of any party, with a brilliant sense of fun and a wicked sense of humour, and he is an avid sports fan and a genuinely kind and gentle soul and he really does have so much to live for. So, these qualities had room to breathe in the time that he was forced to be introspective and they quickly bubbled to the surface, along with his will to surthrive!

Yesterday, he rang to tell me that, in the horror of the collapse of said coach company, if he had stayed on, he would have been given £10,000 redundancy. I was ready for his reaction, expecting him to be lamenting his poor fortune and just about to launch into my usual director’s role to try to get him to see another perspective when he beat me to it. He said that he had been goaded by the guy who had called him, who had received the package, but had responded with the fact that he is mighty lucky, as, if he had stayed on he wouldn’t be alive to accept it anyway and could have resulted in a tragedy way above any loss of any monetary compensation.

A lesson for both of us. I need to butt out and concentrate on directing my own show and leave him to direct his. It will be no surprise to me, if in the coming days, I am writing to tell you about how he has been further rewarded for his change in attitude although he already has. Not only is he several kgs lighter; he is lifted of the heavy load and burden of bearing his past!

Daily inspiration

A journey of surthrival…

I don’t want this to sound overly dramatic, but in the grand scheme of things, life is a bit of a drama, and for the most part, each day is caught up with surviving it. Whether it’s financial security we are fighting to preserve, or love we’re trying to sustain, or – as is permanently in the spotlight as of recent months – surviving a pandemic, we all face challenges and change.

I used to think that it was a never-ending roller-coaster ride; that on some days I am better at riding it and surviving it than on others and that I was at the mercy of Lady Luck. Now I realise that most of the challenges that I’ve faced come to all of us, and what makes it less of a melodrama, and more of a show-stopping pizzazzy festival is how we choose to react to them.

I’ve realised that we write our own script!

Instead of being at the mercy of bosses, authority figures, family – however well-intentioned – or feeling that we are trapped by our circumstances or our environment, we have the power to define our own life-story, to become the CEO of our own thoughts and our own destiny.

Words are unbelievably powerful! They become our thoughts and then those thoughts inform our actions and we can become stuck in a tornado of allowing our past to influence our inner beliefs, which limits our effectiveness and our happiness in the present.

Over the next few days, I will provide some tips as to how we can change our interpretation of yesterday’s journey to secure the present and the future that you envision.

Your dream show!

Daily inspiration

About the book…

There is nothing quite so sobering as the thought that everything you think you have worked for is attached by the most fragile of threads and can disappear in the blink of an eye. Prior to the Coronacoaster, I had become so aware of the futility of slogging at an education system which I no longer believe has the right principles, for a life that I don’t especially relish, so that I can buy useless things that I’m not sure I even like.

After a great deal of suffering loss, feeling the burn-out from teaching, an existential crisis brought on by my Mother’s death from dementia, deep soul searching, self-work, and relentless happiness seeking (incidentally, not to be found on dating apps – hilarity, yes, happiness, no!) – I had decided that life is too short to be living anything less than the one of which I am capable. There were seemingly no road-blocks, only my own thoughts and fears. Then came a shockingly timed loss of my job, along with financial insecurity, and a global pandemic. That’s a motorway pile-up, if ever there was one. No time to wallow…the show must go on! Time to put into action all the lessons I have learned to thrive in the heart of happiness, even amongst the chaos which surrounds us. I had this nagging thought – ‘Nothing shall come of nothing’ so I’d better do something!

My passion has for thirty years been at the heart of teaching, but education, along with health and economics…well, they are no longer the bedrock of a stable world, are they? Disillusioned with tired same old same old and no sight of my longed-for utopia, I turned to my real love – reading and Shakespeare. His take on love, sex, parenting, race, patriarchy, authority, foolish kings, insane politicians and wise children are mesmeric and I soon absorbed the parallels between his experience and ours: surviving a rat-borne-not-bat-borne plague, furiously writing King Lear during his lockdown, shutting down the world as it is/was known, yet the show still having to go on.

I have out-life spanned, by seven years, the great playwright and poet. I have accrued more than a smidgen of wisdom, so these life lessons, from a Ba(r)d-Ass teacherrevitalised and rejuvenated – are worth a read. They will certainly shed a light on your own performance. The great Bard’s plethora of works, both preceding and following King Lear, are full of observations and golden nuggets of advice on ‘How best to live out a good life on this stage’ – it is after all, widely agreed that “all the men and women are merely players…” As a naïve theatre studies student some forty years ago, I took this at its simplest inference, thinking that we thespians are as magnetically drawn to the theatricality on stage as we are to the dramas of life off. But the crux of Shakespeare’s intent was so much deeper.

We should wake up to life, to who we are, to realise that we are director, producer, playwright, we are even the stage on which our roles are performed. We are everything which precedes and follows the act and as such, we have complete authority to script our contentment.

The fourteen chapters of “The Will to Surthrive” use Shakespeare quotes as titles and the lessons we can learn from them, illustrated with some hilarious anecdotes and self-deprecating humour, are underpinned by a lifetime in education, positive psychology, expert certificated mental health awareness, and an informed passion for the theatre and Will.

As this book immortalises in words the condition of my mind, and the tragi-comedies that I have staged, then it is vital to say that in sooth, I know exactly why I have been so sad; as a direct result of the coronavirus and of the events leading up to the lockdown, I have a better understanding of what is truly important to me and so am at peace. My family may be right when they worry that this is the eye of the storm; they have been before. But forced to delve underneath all of the external trappings – all of those things that I believed made me ‘me’ makes for an entertaining and helpful read.

I might just be at the source of true happiness. Now if that is not a reason for reading – and taking a leaf out of –  my book, I do not know what is. I hope my journey becomes your guide!

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About me…

I am a one-woman band, a lone author, new to publishing, not new to writing.

I don’t have a ghost-writer or an editor, not even a mentor, and I’m all about honesty and authenticity so I’m not going to pretend I’m someone else and write about ‘Julie’ in the third person! I am a Mum to one son (and about to be a Grannie); I’ve been a brilliant wife – twice; a surthriving divorcee – twice! Brilliance plus wayward husband does not equal permanence, hence my nom-de-plume reversion to my birth name and I may just reinvent this as I become an even more accomplished Covid Chameleon. I am, after all the Mother of Reinvention; a teacher for thirty years, an educational leader for some of those and for all of them a maverick. I’ve directed dramas – on and off-stage. I’ve been a serial dater, and an occasional real-time Bridgette Jones – yes I have been incarcerated in a foreign jail. And I’ve worn ‘big’ pants from a perfect size ten to a bustin’ out of the seams eighteen.

My timing is appalling – or fabulous, depending on which way you look at it! I lost job security two weeks before lockdown and I’d just got myself back into lead vocals in a band but I will be a rock broiler before live performances are permitted ever again it seems. And I was writing a musical before all of this but, with a cast of thirty in my Tolpuddle version of Les Mis, it doesn’t easily lend itself to a Zoom staging and in any case, Sir Cameron Anthony Mackintosh (I’ve moved him to the same categorization as John Hutson) is not in my best books. Besides, Michael Sheen and David Tennant are too hairy to take the lead roles.

But this is just my script so far! The scenes I’ve chosen to act out. The plot I’ve adopted and even without the global lockdown, it’s been a little too theatrical. So I’ve just sacked the scriptwriter! I have become the CEO of my own thoughts and I can hire, fire, demote or promote as I see fit.

Character traits? Well, they’ve enhanced the performance entirely. I’m a warrior but I don’t fight; I make peace, I don’t ever try to keep it; I am resilient and resourceful and that makes me a target for challengers to test those qualities out; I love fiercely, but have no passion for hatred and I truly believe that we have the power to turn the world, and our own performances in it, around.

And now, I am a published author. Here’s to me…and to you, my much-loved reader. I am so excited to see how this change of script affects the performance!