Walk in Norfolk – Creake Abbey and Burnham Thorpe

On Sunday along with husband and dog I set out for a walk. The rain of recent days gave way to sunshine and mild temperatures. We went to north Norfolk as we often do as it’s prettier than the bit of Norfolk we live in.

We arrived at Creake Abbey. This is a ruin left in the Middle Ages due to plague. It’s peaceful. I like ruined things. There isn’t a great deal of it left, just two arches and part of a wall. There is a smart tea room with tables outside where you can have light bites. I had fish cakes. It was very pleasant.

We set out with our trusty guide book which turned out to be very untrusty. There was a large sign saying keep out where we were supposed to start and a handy map telling us that the walk was wrongly marked in the guide book and we had to go a different way. Very get off my land. You get a lot of this in Norfolk as in the rest of England. It is all owned and it seems like in a lot of it ramblers are not welcome. We found the “permissive path” and set off. Our walk was now two miles shorter than it should have been. We wound our way across fields and farm tracks. The countryside is full of life at this time of year. There is cow parsley along side the hedgerows, mallow flowers, butterflies, buttercups, all manner of wild flowers bursting into life. The farmers’ fields are full of yellow rape. I felt totally at peace.

The walk went through Burnham Thorpe which, to my surprise, is the birth place of Nelson. We stumbled across a plaque saying the rectory he had been born in was on this spot. Sadly it has been torn down. There is a smart holiday let barn built in its place. I felt a fascination to learn more about Nelson and read about him when I got home. He certainly had an eventful life and went to sea at the age of twelve. All a contrast to the quiet of his birth place.  The village is small and sleepy and very pretty. There are lots of intriguing cottages which would be idyllic to live in.

More farm tracks along the walls of the Holkham estate until we finally got back to Creake Abbey where we started. At one point we had to navigate through a field of llamas who looked at us inquisitively. It was an easy, flat walk through gentle countryside and I felt good when I finished. I think it was about two and a half hours walk at a slow pace.

North Norfolk is always a delight with a variety of countryside – green pasture, crops, small copses of woodland and a glimpse of sea in the distance.

A good day.

Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte and why they couldn’t be British

I have been the thinking all week about the French president elect and his wife Brigitte. Their relationship has caused quite a stir in the world’s media. I am no expert on their relationship after having read a few newspaper articles but I find it gladdens my soul, which does not seem to be the reaction of most British people.

Macron met Brigitte when he was fifteen at school in a drama class. She was twenty-four years his senior and his teacher. They formed a bond. Macron’s parents became worried about the relationship and sent him away to Paris to finish his education. The relationship endured this and they became a couple when he was seventeen. They later married and their relationship continues successfully to this day. They lived in Paris where Macron pursued a career in the civil service and then in banking until finally he entered politics.

Comments in the media and social media seem full of the usual bitter vitriol to such a woman. It is paedophilia to some, to others inappropriate because of the teacher-pupil relationship. All this may be factually true but the fact remains they have an enduring, loving relationship that has stood the test of time and disapproval of others. This is no mean feat for any of us. It seems to me to be true love, a meeting of soul mates rather than just a tacky sexual attraction which is short lived. How lovely. How rare.

I knew what  the reaction of the British public would be to the relationship because my novel Pearlcasting which dealt with a similar subject got a very luke warm welcome. It makes people feel icky apparently.

I can’t help feeling that if Macron and Brigitte had been modern day Brits their story would not have ended so happily. Brigitte would have been placed on the sex offendors register and probably imprisoned. Public office would not have been possible. Puritanism would have won the day. The French have draconian privacy laws and indeed their age of consent is only fifteen. They seem to take a much more relaxed view of such things.

I don’t know too much detail about their relationship and in a way I don’t want to know as it might spoil the love story for me. It gives me hope that somewhere somehow real love can actually exist beyond the conventions of society.

What is it with the British and our ever more draconian laws about sex and other aspects of people’s private lives? Indeed it is not just the British. The USA has even more stringent laws on this subject and Canada, Australia and New Zealand seem much the same. There is something about Anglo-Saxon culture that just can’t stand the fact that someone some place might actually be happy. Paedophiles, the definition of which is cast ever wider, should be jabbed with pitchforks seems to be the widely held view. Falling in love with a fifteen year old is not paedophilia to me or to some experts on the subject but this is where we are as a society. Of course young children need protecting but the hysteria surrounding this  reveals something very dark about Anglo-Saxon Judeao-Christian societies. The thriving nature of teen porn in the darker reaches of the internet tells us all something. Something we don’t want to think about.

I am glad Macron and Brigitte found love and I hope it continues for many years to come.

Vive la France!

Adventures in Network Marketing – don’t do it – Kleeneze

In my multifarious attempts to gain an income stream without a bullying boss to contend with I entered the murky world of network marketing or mlm marketing as some people call it. I was lured in through deception which is what happens to everyone. I answered an ad on a local job site which was to deliver leaflets. There are hardly any jobs in my rural area so I was willing to give it a go to supplement my non-existent writing income. When enquiring about the job I was directed to a video. It was slick and clever and featured lots of successful people who had given up their corporate jobs to do this full time and had made a fortune. It wasn’t even about delivering leaflets at all. The video was all about posting ads online and getting buyers. It was that easy. Post a few ads online overnight and see the money come rolling in in the morning. Yeah right. Nothing could be that easy could it? I didn’t expect millionaire status but I could do with some extra money so I enquired further. I had a skype interview with a Midlands couple who did this full time. They were very matey and seemed to have a comfortable life. He had been a supermarket manager and she had been a nurse. They had to finally admit to me that the company was Kleeneze. I was slightly put off by this as I had heard of them before but I kept going.

Kleeneze was a company started in the fifties selling brushes door to door. They had expanded through network marketing and now sold all sorts through catalogues and online.

I rashly signed up for the online version of the job which was the cheapest version. I had to pay thirty pounds for which I got about five catalogues and access to a website which gave me all the information I needed to get started. What was really was involved was setting up a facebook group, inviting everyone you know on facebook to join it and then posting products from the catalogues in the hope that people would buy them. People could pay through paypal via Facebook message. It sounded simple. It really didn’t work for me at all.

The first problem was that network marketing is all about getting friends and family involved. The idea is that they will buy from you at first to get the ball rolling. None of my friends and family bought anything from me. I even sent my mum a catalogue who pronounced in her inimitable blunt style that everything was cheaper in the pound shop and flatly refused to buy anything. So much for friends and family support in your business venture. I posted in my group, advertised my group in local selling groups and got some new members. Nobody bought anything. I posted ads for the products in facebook groups. Nobody bought anything. I had to have weekly chats with my line manager/mentor supermarket guy who told me to keep going and it would happen. I told him it wasn’t working. He suggested delivering catalogues to get orders which was the traditional way of doing the business. He promised me that people would buy from the catalogues because apparently they always did. I had to buy the catalogues out of my own money. I bought about fifty. I delivered them in my small village and got two orders. I delivered them further afield and got a few more. I was averaging about two orders for every fifty catalogues. You then had to order the goods through the website and they would take weeks to arrive. You didn’t get free delivery unless you ordered loads so I orders some household stuff for myself.  When the products arrived they were all really poor quality made in China plastic crap. I was disappointed. Why would anyone pay a premium price for this stuff? The commission on each sale was pitiful and at the end of the month I had to pay a huge bill from Kleeneze for the goods. I was making about two pounds a week. So much for a get rich quick scheme.

I realised from looking at the support website that the way to make money was to recruit others. Money was given for each person that you recruited and you made money from their sales. It was like a huge pyramid with people like my line manager at the top. Pyramid schemes are illegal but Kleeneze is like a pyramid scheme in every way except there are actual real products which are sold. The thing  is the money is not made from selling the products but from recruiting others into the pyramid. You were supposed to yes again recruit your friends and family into the pyramid. This was not going to happen with my family. I tried recruiting through facebook job ads. I got a few phone calls but once people knew it was Kleeneze they weren’t interested. They were wiser than me. I got no recruits.

There was a facebook support group for Kleeneze reps which i joined. I needed all the moral support I could get. Apparently some people were making a lot of money. I talked on the phone to a really nice guy form Jersey who didn’t recruit but made a decent living just from the catalogues. The secret he told me is volume. He did hundred of deliveries a week. I liked the idea of just selling and not  recruiting. I didn’t feel comfortable at all recruiting people into something that might not work. There were a lot of vulnerable people being suckered in.  I bought more catalogues to do more volume and expanded into other areas with my deliveries. To my horror I discovered there were other reps in neighbouring villages doing exactly the same as me. Kleeneze do not give you your own territory. How could you sell to someone who has just had a catalogue the day before? Most of my customers were elderly and I felt massive guilt at selling them shoddy goods at inflated prices. They seemed to be the only people who were interested. Most people were lovely but some were incredibly rude and aggressive when someone dropped something through their door. Often I would drop a catalogue through and an enraged older person would leap out immediately and give me it back. Lots of people had no leaflet signs. Everyone was wise to this scam except me it seems.

My line manager got extremely shirty when he found out I had been talking to the Jersey guy. He said if I wasn’t going to recruit I couldn’t be in his team. Lots of people on the support forum were also far from supportive. It all seemed very poisonous and I abandoned the whole project after a couple of months. I didn’t even mind the walking delivering part and it made me think being a postman would be okay. I made peanuts. This is the modern gig economy and it stinks.

According to the many videos and marketing burb that Kleeneze produces there are some people making a lot of money. I can believe this to be true but it didn’t work in my case at all. Yes I could have kept doggedly on but I think the whole enterprise is borderline unethical. I kept in contact with some of the other poor souls who started with me and they have all since abandoned it with virtually no sales. I think the market must be saturated.

I wouldn’t really recommend this to anyone.

The silver lining is it gave me a kick start to start my own company selling what I want in the way I want and being able to be ethical. No line managers for me.

There are a lot of other companies operating in a similar way but I think the  outcome is usually the same. The only way to succeed is to recruit an awful lot of people.  I was out of pocket on what I had spent on the catalogues and I had probably alienated some friends and neighbours.

Beware.

Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob James Bowen

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This book was bought for me as a Christmas present and I left it lying around for a while. When finally I opened it up I had a pleasant surprise. It is the story of a young Australian guy living in London. It opens with him leaving his sheltered accommodation for recovering drug addicts in Tottenham.  The protaganist is down on his luck. He has been homeless and a heroin addict after his failure to succeed in the music business. Into this dark world steps Bob, a cat he discovers hanging around at the bottom of  the stairs. They srike up a friendship and a close bond develops. We share their adventures as James gets his life together and comes off methadone. Busking in Covent Garden as a source of income Bob is a lucky charm. Everyone stops to pet him and the money rolls in enabling the pair to recover from street life. The book is simply written and hopeful. The mood is not black in spite of the  inauspicious start and we see the goodness in so many people. This is a story of redemption and love. It was quite lovely.

Becoming Henry Moore – Finding Inspiration

On Easter Monday my husband and I set off to The Henry Moore Foundation which is in the tiny village of Perry Green in rural Hertfordshire. There is a new exhibition being staged there called Becoming Henry Moore explaining how he became to be a sculptor.

The village is down tiny lanes and didn’t appear to be on our old, erratic sat nav but we found it through the signs and common sense. They must be making money at the Henry Moore Foundation as there was a flashy purpose built visitor centre with cafe. It was tastefully done and fitted into the landscape. It snugged next to the old farmhouse where Henry Moore spent the last decades of his life.

There is a permanent exhibition and then a vast array of huge sculptures dotted around the grounds. They are treated with indifference by the many straggly sheep grazing all around them.  The outdoor exhibits are solid and impressive. There is a common theme of reclining woman. They suggest other sculptor’s work of the same era. They all went for that huge scale and bold shape. I am no expert in art but I love them. I love art. I love the way there is no need for words. You just feel the work. I was told at school I was no good at art, my efforts usually laughed at by friends and family so I never attempt any now but I am so interested in it and how it makes me feel. I like modern work, work that unsettles or suggests. I like art that plays with form and texture. Henry Moore certainly does it for me. I like his sturdy buxom women. Angelina Jolie they ain’t.

There are other exhibitions in barns dotted around the huge grounds. He must have made some serious money in his day to buy this pile which surprises me as I always think of sculptors beavering away in garrets, living in messy poverty with cheap red wine and cheaper whores. Not so Henry Moore who passed his time in this ever so respectable part of Hertfordshire in married bliss. The tranquility is slightly marred by planes from Standstead Airport but you can’t have everything.

Becoming Henry Moore is a temporary exhibition about Moore’s early life and how he was inspired. I was thrilled to learn he was a Northern boy, a miner’s son from Castleton. He had great talent from an early age of course. He was entwined with the landscape of the north, the rock, evident in the work. He went to art college but became a teacher in line with the wishes of his father who thought being an artist was not really a career. This is an attitude I am familiar with in the working class where proper jobs are always the thing. Bravely, he gave up teaching pretty soon and pursued his art career being lucky enough and talented enough to attract scholarships and funding to pursue courses and get started. He was influenced by the other modern artists of the day like Picasso but also by ethnic and tribal art. There are plenty of examples of these in the exhibition. Later he became one of Britain’s best known sculptures and received commissions from all over the world which made him pretty wealthy. Overall a success story!

I felt inspired by his life. I am also a northern girl and also became a teacher. Of course I don’t have Moore’s talent but I do have a hankering to be a good writer. I stayed in teaching too long and I should have been like Moore and followed my heart to write. Now weary and battle scarred I think I could still devote myself to my writing as he did to his art and stop worrying about jobs, work, money and all that rubbish our heads are stuffed with.

I felt uplifted. Thanks Henry!

PS The cafe does good cakes.

Why I write this blog

Recently somebody shared one of my blog posts to their Facebook page. It was a family member. I had written the blog a while ago and forgotten all about it. I think it was shared with the intention of causing drama and upset. I don’t really care. I could see from the stats people were reading it for all the wrong reasons. I know they are people I am not even facebook friends with. I am not friends with them for good reason.

It got me thinking about why I write this blog. It is not widely read, certainly not by any of my friends or family. Some posts on particular subjects are popular, some are hardly read at all.

I write largely for myself. I express myself. I organise my thoughts. I examine my reactions and feelings. I am brutally honest about myself and others. I also hope the blog might help people. It might be read by someone who feels like me. It might make them feel better that they are not alone, that there is someone like them. I write about my tendency to depression and my attempts to conquer it. I hope this helps someone. They might find something in it of interest. I write about writing. I hope to encourage others to write. I write about what happens to me. I am an observer of people and situations. I write about books. I hope to encourage others to read the books I like. Sometimes I write about my buddhist  and bohmeian gifts business. I hope it might encourage someone to take an interest.  Somebody might even buy something so I can pay my bills.I write because it is my form of art. I watched an interview with Anthony Gormley who said art should make us uncomfortable. I agree. My blog post may not have been fluffy but it was honest. If it upsets people then so be it. It is my art, my take on the world. Take it or leave it. Nobody forces anyone to read it.

Some people love creating drama on Facebook. They have nothing else. That’s why I got bored of it long ago. It could be a brilliant medium of communication but somehow it just isn’t.  It is a privilege to be friends with me on facebook not a right. People who use it to criticise and needle me are blocked. I got wise to the head games a long time ago. I grew up. I moved on. Some people don’t. My focus is now not on the past but on the future. I stopped being an insecure girl hoping everyone would like me a long time ago. I don’t care if you don’t like me. I don’t care. Drip your poison elsewhere. Buddhism has taught me the importance of non-attachment. It is hard but there is great wisdom in it.

I write the truth as I see it. If you don’t want to be written about you should behave better. Beware of what you say to an author. You could end up in a book.

Notes from The Old Chapel – Spring

So Spring has finally arrived in Norfolk. I feel with its coming  a lifting of my mood. There is still a weight on me. I think of my depression as a heavy block of stone lying on top of me but it is lightened with the changing of the seasons though still there try as I might to shift it.

I have sought help for my chronic sinusitis and been to the doctor. I have a nasal spray to use which is some kind of steroid. The doctor said it may take up to six months or a year to work. Well that’s a pretty big time scale. So as I attempt to heal my physical ailments I hope to do more mental healing into the bargain.

The farms have geared up again and started ploughing and planting and fertilising. Tractors are up and down the lane in their noisy business. The fields are full of yellow rape. The yellow is so bright it almost hurts your eyes. It seems like one day it wasn’t there and the next it was in full bloom. I think I am allergic to it.

The garden burst into spring last month. There were lots of primroses and daffodils. I have no bluebells or snowdrops or tulips. I must plant more for next year. I have begun gardening: the endless tasks of weeding and pruning.  The garden is beautiful and gladdens the heart. The birds are busy nest building and are frequent visitors to the bird feeder. I have a solitary robin who dots around. I have seen a goldfinch hopping on the path. The dog killed a blue tit which made me cry.  He was so perfect and pretty in life and death. I like to feel nature. It calms me. I still have lots to do in the garden.

The weather has warmed up considerably. As always in England it is very changeable. We have had some days as perfect as summer and some as cold as February. There is much more sunlight. The conservatory becomes really warm as soon as the sun dares to peep out. It is lovely to sit in. Such a contrast to the ice I felt in there in winter.

My business selling Buddhist and bohemian things has improved. I have a steady trade though it is not really enough to live on. I need to write more. I need to find another source of income. The search continues. I have  a fear of being bullied again so I must choose carefully. Maybe one day the business will take off. Maybe one day my writing will take off. I have to hope.

I tried to be frugal in Lent and eat simply. I didn’t quite manage no alcohol though I did have simple meals and no eating out. Easter has passed and the privations of Lent are over. We are in the season of plenty and enjoyment. Easter was lovely. We had a side of salmon with pomegranate dressing. My dessert didn’t set which upset me. I am overly critical of myself. I must stop berating myself.

Spring is the season of hope. I hope I can be well again.  I am exploring Christianity and Buddhism as my spritual paths. I think they have much in common. I know I have a long way to go. My faults are legion. I am trying to improve. I have improved. I will improve.

 

Spring.

Hope springs eternal.