Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Patience...

Our new house (but not our car!)
... is a virtue. Sadly, it's a virtue that I struggle with. Over the summer Mr B and I moved into a new house in a pretty little village called 'Bunny' (I kid you not, it's really called Bunny!) We've been hunting high and low for a family house for a while now, only half seriously, but when this one came on the market we knew we had to have it. At the time it didn't really feel real, and even on moving day I'm not sure I was prepared for the fact that we were ACTUALLY moving from our little new build townhouse into this; our 1930s, family, 'forever' home. In fact, even 3 months later, I still feel like I'm settling in and the pangs of homesickness(?) I feel when I pass our old house are only just starting to diminish.

The thing is, now we actually live there (here?!) the enormity of the task that lies ahead is just beginning to dawn on us. Moving into a house that's as old as this one (ok, it's not old old but it's certainly not new build) means we have got lots to do. At the weekend we sat down and wrote down a whole list of things that we either need, or would like to do to get the house ship shape and exactly how we want it. It's enormous: Everything from painting to double glazing, from insulating to buying a new cooker (that's a story for another time) - but obviously all of this requires money. Money that, given we have just moved and taken on a bigger mortgage, we simply don't have. Little by little I'm sure we will get there, and perhaps, as Take That would say we just need to 'have a little patience' - it's perhaps not a very modern attitude, but it's certainly one that I could do to take heed of - and one that I think the new house is intent on teaching me.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The magic of John Lewis

When I was at university I remember a friend saying to me, "If I could, I would live in John Lewis" - and I was, at the time, totally perplexed, but over the last few years I've really come round to her way of thinking. If ever there was a shop that epitomised the life I aspire to (ok, call me a snob)  it would be John Lewis.

John Lewis, for the uninitiated, is a UK high street department store that trades on the tagline Never Knowingly Undersold. There's something incredibly British about the whole shop; it's understated rather than flashy, and sells a range of products and brands from the upper-middle end of the British high street. From typical 'yummy mummy' brands such as White Stuff and Joules to impeccably designed white bedlinen and crockery by Emma Bridgwater or Vera Wang right through to wallpaper, furniture and white goods (they give a free 2 year guarantee with everything!) We had our wedding list at John Lewis, and oh, what fun it was to go round the store with one of their magical list-making scanning machines. There's just something about the whole experience that makes you feel like you're incredibly safe and special.

But, aside from all of that, over the last few years, John Lewis has cornered the market in the MOST amazing adverts. Adverts that don't really sell a product but that capitalise on this very British yearning to be part of their brand story. Many other brands have followed suit but none do it quite as emotionally 'on key' as John Lewis. I won't wax too lyrical, but the first of these (check it out) had me in tears on several occasions, using, as it did Billy Joel's 'She's always a woman to me' to track the life of a woman from birth through to old age. Who really cared that the whole advert was full of anachronisms? Because in so many ways it was utterly, perfectly timeless. Apparently JL's sales soared by 40% in the months following the release of this advert, and I don't know a woman who didn't fall totally in love with the whole concept.Take a look at their most recent advert if you don't believe me that they must have geniuses of epic proportions working on their perfectly targeted campaigns:

So, call it clever marketing (well done 'Adam and Eve'/DDB ad agencies) but I'm right there. I want that John Lewis life, and, well, failing that, can I just have a copy of the tracks used in their last 5 adverts - they, like everything else about the brand, epitomise good taste!


Saturday, 3 November 2012

In search of a fairy godmother

I wonder if the lilac fairy would step up to the plate?
Ok, ok, I know it's rude to ask for things, or to seem wantonly materialistic, but the thing I is made a big mistake. BIG mistake. I accidentally tried on (well, sort of accidentally - I blame my mum for this one!)  this beautiful coat from Reiss in John Lewis and, well, I now can't stop thinking about it...

It fitted perfectly (not an easy task, I promise you) and flattered my colouring and figure and, well [sigh] I really, really wish I could afford it. Sadly, I think I'm going to have to wait until the January sales or until I've saved up enough since even Santa isn't £265 generous (and nor, honestly, would I expect him to be.) I'm kind of hoping that I find out that I have a generous, and as yet unknown, fairy godmother, who will flutter down and grant me this one purchase, but I don't think such miracles exist. 

A girl can dream though, can't she?! 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dancing in the rain

I was recently given a card with these words on it. It's not the first time I've heard the expression (in fact it's one my husband will often quote) but it is, perhaps the first time I've really understood the meaning. Life isn't always easy. That's a platitude, I know, and one I've churned out myself, but it's true. It's not always easy. Being alive isn't just about the good bits. We can only really appreciate the good if we've known the bad, but granted, most of us would rather not experience the bad if we had a choice. But that's life: The good, the bad and the ugly. And I suppose these words were never truer: If we waited for all of life's storms to pass, or for the sun to always shine we'd miss out on all the opportunities for real life; the opportunities to dance every type of dance and not just the joyous ones; the chance to really live, because that's what makes us human, and that's what makes us interesting, varied creatures with stories to tell and experiences to regale. From a purely practical point of view, let's face it, I live in England: if I never went outside in inclement weather, I'd spend well over half of my life stuck indoors, missing out!



Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Being positive

Some of you may have gathered that I'm not always or naturally the most positive person. I try, really I do, but sometimes I lose my way and, well, it just gets harder and harder to be positive, especially with myself. Especially with my job. Somewhere along the line I confused the compliment, "you're a really reflective practitioner" with a tendency to over-criticise everything I do. To the point where I can no longer see the good in what I do. Only the problem with that is that the more critical of myself I become, the harder it is to enjoy what I do, and if I don't enjoy what I do, I'm more likely to pick out the negatives, and, well, as you can see, it's a bit of a downward spiral.

A while ago I wrote about why I quit teaching. Perhaps what I didn't acknowledge on that was how much my own personality (and, admittedly, state of mind) played in my decision to leave. That self-flagellating negativity that hollowed me out and disabled me from being able to enjoy doing the job I trained for. Having had a year out, I want to reassess my position. I want to teach. I want to enjoy the job I trained for and I want to be good at it. Heck, I trained hard enough for it. But, you see, the thing is, breaking the cycle of negativity is so difficult, and, by the time I was forced out of the classroom by illness, there was nothing of me left. But I've had time to reflect (in a positive way) and grow emotionally, and repair a little and I have, happily, found myself back in the classroom. And, whilst it's not always easy, I recently remembered something that a tutor on my teacher training course said to me. It's rare that happens. Generally they weren't that motivating, but this particular tutor caught me in a moment of distress and self-criticism and said, "You have to enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it it will never be worth it and you won't last." Nearly 7 years later, perhaps those words have finally filtered through. I can see now how imperative it is to find the enjoyment. Yes, it's a job, but it doesn't have to be a life sentence; I can enjoy the journey.

So... I have been thinking. I know it's not going to be easy, but it is perhaps essential, that I pick out the positives in every day. That I remember why I love working with children. That I remember that I am good at this job. That I have been given a real vote of confidence by my employer. That I CAN do it. So, instead of picking apart all the negatives, I've taken to writing down the positives at the end of every day (in a pink notebook entitled 'Hannah's reflection book') and it's surprising how much it helps. Recording everything: From the smile from a child who's thrilled to see me after a few days off to the sense of achievement that I feel when the children 'get it'; from the chat with colleagues at lunchtime that reminds me we are all human and sometimes it's enough to 'get by', to the pride I feel at having got through a day and still be able to find the positives therein. My modus operandi has been set for so long at 'negative', and now it's about redressing the balance; finding the little things to smile about; retraining myself to think positively and starting to enjoy this job (and life) that I have worked so hard for. It's not easy. But I do think, slowly, it's beginning to work.

How do you stay positive? Any tips or tricks? Please share them with me.

Friday, 1 June 2012

A crack in everything

Leonard Cohen's words, not mine
Sometimes it's too easy to forget that life isn't perfect, and that things don't always work out exactly according to plan. Even when things are going ok, I think it's worth remembering these words.

That is all.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A perfect date

I've been so busy that I haven't had chance to post much recently. In fact, so busy that I forgot to mention the fact that Mr. B had bought us tickets to see Ballo Della Regina and La Sylphide at the Royal Opera House on Thursday. He had some time owing in lieu of all the international travel he's been doing, so he, very generously, chose to spend the day taking me to the ballet. 

We've always enjoyed slightly crazy 'date days' - by which I mean we don't do things by halves. Our first ever date was like 5 dates rolled into 1, and we always push what's possible within the bounds of normal 'dates': driving to the other side of the country on a whim, going out late, late at night to buy ingredients for chicken soup, or just rolling lots of things into one date. So, this wasn't exactly unusual for us; to drive to London and back (a 250 mile round trip), see a ballet, have dinner and head home, but when we're both really busy, these things often go out of the window.

So, Thursday was a perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together, and it really was quality. In fact I think it was my perfect date day.

We left Nottingham late morning, driving via Hemel Hempstead for Mr B to test drive his new car, then parked on the outskirts of London before heading towards covent garden just after lunch. The sun was shining and even though it was midweek, it felt like there were lots of people out enjoying the beautiful weather. Covent Garden, as usual, was full of tourists and street performers and had a lovely buzz. Although both Mr B and I used to live in London, there are some places that don't ever really lose their charm for us and we'll happily spend hours wandering aimlessly around Covent Garden or the South Bank, just chatting and chilling and soaking up the atmosphere. 

We weren't at the theatre until 7.30, so we wandered around the market and some of the little shops around the area. In a little silver shop, Mr B bought be a beautiful new charm for my bracelet: a hebrew 'chai.' Things have been really tough recently, and this was a particularly meaningful charm for me, as it reminds me that's what it's all about: having a life, enjoying each other's company and looking to our future family (hopefully.) I also like the fact that the charm is made up of the Hebrew letters 'Chet' (pronounced 'het') and 'Yud', and my name in Hebrew begins with a Chet, so it's sort of an alphabet charm too. 

After this, we mooched some more before having a leisurely dinner at pizza express. It was so hot we weren't that keen on doing much, but we were able to get into the theatre from just before 6. It was here that we retreated to our favourite secret spot in the West End: the rooftop terrace of the Royal Opera House. It's almost never busy, and we were able to sit and chat whilst looking out over the market - it's like sitting in an Italian Piazza, especially in hot weather.

The View From the ROH terrace
The ballet started at 7.30 and we were lucky enough to have really great seats, only about 20 feet away from the stage. It was Nehemia Kish and Marianella Nuñez in the principle roles of Ballo Della Regina, and, typical of Balanchine, the ballet was beautiful and technically perfect; fast feet and full of humour. I was a little sad that it was only 18 minutes long, as I'd happily have watched the clean lines all evening. It was particularly fascinating sitting so close to the stage, as you could see the differences in the corps much more clearly. They really do range in size - some diminutive and some really quite tall! Plus, in such a technical ballet it's a delight to be able to see the feet, although you do lose the visual effect of the formations of dancers from above. The second of the two ballets was La Sylphide, which befuddled me to begin with. It was mainly character dancing for the first half, and the scene was completely stolen by a small dancer from the Royal Ballet School who plays a very confident little girl in the group dancing scenes. I loved her chutzpah in taking a grown up man's hand and demanding he dance with her. I was fascinated by how perfectly she kept up with the adult dancers around her and suspect that she's one to watch for the future; not just for her technical aptitude, but for her comic timing and characterisation. I couldn't take my eyes off her!
The Paul Hamlyn Hall - the
most beautiful venue in the whole of London!

The final act was very much a ballet blanche, all white romantic tutus and misty forest scenes. It reminded me a lot of Giselle and was completely visually stunning to watch. Whilst at the beginning I wasn't sure what I was going to make of it, I really enjoyed both ballets. Mr B, too, came away from the theatre with a smile on his face, although he was upset that La Sylphide had a sad ending as he said "I wasn't expecting that!" We didn't get home until 1.30am, but buzzed all the way home; which may have been partly the result of the strong coffee we got from pret just before we left central London, or may have been just that we had a perfect day. It really was a day to hold on to regardless of how difficult life gets.