A different kind of Sunday –

I don’t usually write a blog on a Sunday. Apparently, the best time to post a blog is about 7pm on a Tuesday. But now? Now is different. It doesn’t seem to matter what day it is when you are on lockdown! Maybe more people will spend time reading during the day now and if my words are interesting or thought provoking that is pleasing. However, the main reason I am writing now is that it really helps to get my thoughts down. It is not about finding clarity as that is quite hard at the moment, it is more about being creative and finding comfort. There is something very soothing about writing down whatever is in my head.

So what am I thinking today and what do I want to write about? Just some random thoughts I guess:

I was laying in bed this morning with no particular agenda mapped out. I thought about how the world has changed so quickly; in some ways it feels as though the rug has been pulled out from under my feet. From under all of our feet in fact, for we are all in this together, literally in all four corners of the world. The only thing is, we can’t be together physically. A lot of us can’t be with our families and loved ones. We can’t go out and hug someone who needs it, can’t do many of the everyday things we have always taken for granted. And that is hard, especially as there is no way of knowing yet when things will return to normal. And for some, it’s far, far worse.

I was thinking about the uncertainty. The lack of being able to plan. Yet there are rules we are being told we must adhere to. Most things are now out of our hands. Even shopping.

One thing I have always tried to remember in life is never to assume anything because life has a funny way of turning everything on its head.

History shows us that monumental and unfathomable changes happen, but we are never ready. Then again, perhaps we cannot ever be truly ready for unthinkable and unimaginable occurrences. For most of us, it is our natural way to strive and look forward and be ready for the next day, with all its plans and routines. We have an inbuilt optimism, together with expectation and a deep assurance that things are in place and will happen. We don’t often question if things will change.

But they do and they have.

Now we have had to listen to unwelcome and often sad news daily; it has taken a while for us to come to terms with the enormity of what is going on, but now we are beginning to realise we have to look to ourselves; to find resilience and new ways of adapting, like our long gone ancestors did in times of greats disturbances. We can, and have to set new and important tasks, and reset our compasses, so that we can navigate our ways through unchartered territory.

We can create new routines, new working spaces, let go of expectations and bake. We can walk in quiet, empty spaces. We can really enjoy our homes. Enjoy silence.

We can use some of our spare time doing a little reminiscing. Sift through some of our keepsakes. Remind ourselves of good times spent and good times still to come.

Nothing good is ever lost.

I remember my little grandson putting his hand on the window of the car a few weeks ago when he was leaving to go home. I put my hand on the other side. We were reaching out to each other in a loving way even though we weren’t physically touching.

We are all linked together, even when we are apart.

Be safe and love each other.

 

 

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Remembrance with Tears – The Darkest of Times…

‘Tell me there’s a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they’re all happy now,
Papa tell me that it’s so.’
Chris Rea

Holocaust survivors have returned to Auschwitz to lay wreaths to commemorate the 1.1 million people who died there during the second world war.

Ninety percent of those murdered at Auschwitz were Jewish.

This year Holocaust Memorial Day marked 75 years since the mass murder camp was liberated by Soviet troops and 7,000 prisoners were freed. However, almost half of these people would die as they were too ill, starving or exhausted to survive.

Ahead of the liberation, the Nazis blew up the last of the furnaces/gas chambers they had used so monstrously at Auschwitz. They then moved 60,000 prisoners westwards to other camps. Many of them died on these Death Marches. The Nazis knew that the arrival of the Russian Army was imminent and were trying to destroy evidence of their heinous crimes.

Last night I watched the UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative ceremony which took place at Westminster Abbey and was televised.

No matter how many times I read or hear about the atrocities that occurred during the holocaust I cannot comprehend how people could commit such evil deeds. And it is right that I cannot understand. No one who loves their fellow man ever could.

Survivors now are in small numbers. But last night I watched and listened as some of them who were able to attend the service spoke so movingly. One particular reading from a Second World War Veteran broke my heart. He spoke about a young boy of eleven years old who arrived at the camp, was separated from his family and left amongst unknown prisoners in that most terrible place. One night, he lay in a bunk with only a stranger’s feet to cuddle. In the morning it was found he had died in the night. As a mother and a grandmother, hearing this was almost too hard to listen to and the tears poured down my cheeks. But how could those who witnessed losses such as this cope with such unimaginable pain? We cannot know of all the individual suffering, the desperate fear and hardships, the hunger and illness, the waking and wondering if this would be the last day they would glimpse the sky.

Today, I CAN go outside, I CAN look up and glimpse the sky. I can breath the fresh air, smell the newly mown grass. But I can’t guarantee life will be like this forever. I can be hopeful and even assume I will be able to live out my days in safety, without fear of invasion or worse. But how can we know for sure? Nobody really knows what developments could be around the corner.

We have to rely on our memories so that we can try and protect our world and question our leaders. Just because we have supposedly intelligent leaders it doesn’t mean they always get things right as we all know. But what is memory? It is an empathetic mingling with other people’s stories, where you allow their stories to affect you in such a way that you are changed; your mind , your heart, your nervous system. You are changed in such a way that you cannot ignore the suffering of others. And because you cannot ignore the suffering of others, both from the past and in the present day, you can learn to educate people in a positive way.

Time and time again, when hearing the stories from survivors, their pleas are that we move forward but that we never forget. No matter how hard it is to be reminded of man’s inhumanity to man, and even writing about it is hard, we must never forget. Yet in the Jewish tradition, mourning death really takes place in the service of  choosing and celebrating life. There is a place for mourning and grief and a place for encountering dark places in history, but that place always returns to life – that is human nature – what we do to celebrate life helps ourselves and helps others. We need to think about how we can make the world a better place for today. Our lives are better made up of the small things that really are the big things – being free to watch the sunset, dance in the rain, to bake a cake, to laugh out loud. Life is made of moments and choices we share with our beautiful families, our friends and communities. We need to make our choices good choices.

I have never met any holocaust survivors but I have listened to many of them being interviewed and listened to many telling their own individual stories. It seems to me that there is a strong thread that connects them. They have encountered unimaginable evil, they had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they have had an incredibly tenacious hold on life.

As people who have seen the dark side of humanity they are an example of the human spirit’s ability to adapt, rebuild and recover.

So if any of us encounter dark or traumatic times, we can learn to keep going, to draw a sense of hope when all seems bleak, and reach out to those who need us. Most of all, we can remember, and comfort those who are alone.

 

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Settling for a Quiet Life…

Do we try to get off the merry-go-round of life from time to time?

 

I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.

If we are prone to anxious feelings, feeling we have to adhere to all sorts of ‘performance rules’ may not do us a lot of good. When we are trying to get by and working at being positive we don’t really want the extra burden of guilt – the sort of guilt that comes from somehow feeling we are not doing all we can to help our well-being.

There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. I once listened to a medical person talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he seemed to be saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some exercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!

Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear.

There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally leading an exemplary life.

It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.

I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in our busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. I am grateful that most of our carers and medical staff that treat us look at us as a person needing love and care and on the whole do not judge us, for how would that help?

When we weigh up everything, and come to the conclusion that searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?

 

Sometimes it’s in the quiet that we hear the loudest things’.   Anonymous 

 

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Finding Strength

For those days when the worry monster lurks in the shadows….

 

There is no doubt that we live in a time of doubt, fear for the future, uncertainty and economic frustration. I worry about the state of the world and indeed our country. But most of the time I can cope with worry from outside because although it gives concern  (and is even totally baffling at times when one sees the behaviour exhibited by those who are supposed to lead us!) it is possible to shrug my shoulders, offer a few expletives, close my door, light the fire and feel secure in my own patch.

Sometimes, though, the sands shift beneath my feet. When someone close to me is suffering and I can’t find a way to make things better, I experience doubt on a gut level – the kind that can punch hard and bring me down. So one thing I have to remember is when I ache to my very bones with stress, I have to find a way forward. Negativity is contagious but I have to remember that we cannot take care of others if we don’t look after ourselves and look forward.

Remembering we have love and we have hope is so important, especially when things seem a bit grim. When we are consciously keeping a loving heart we can share it with others and help make both theirs and our own immediate world better.

These are some guideline I try and follow when things are getting me down. Hopefully, they can help you too:

Keep Trying

If you make yourself keep going, even when it is the last thing you feel like, you will eventually get stronger and closer to where you are heading.

Be Grateful

Remember what you have. We all have something or someone to love. Even when I am fearful I know I have wonderful things in my life. You do too I am sure. Write down tonight all the things you feel grateful for.

Think Differently

Change your words. It is easy do be dispirited and make remarks like  ‘ I knew this would go wrong’; instead, how about saying ‘ah well, maybe that wasn’t the best result but next time will be better’.

Take Care

Be kind to yourself. Don’t blame yourself when things go wrong. You have tried your best and you will continue doing your best. If you do make a mistake, own up to it, learn from it but then put it behind you. Very few of us actually want to treat anyone or anything badly and those that do can’t be our concern. Continue doing your best.

Avoid Ideals

Let misconceptions go. Look at things differently. Try not to be governed by past ideals or be ruled by others who want you to continually fit into their expectations of you. I really struggle with this one. It is natural to want to please people but sometimes you just have to be yourself, and that takes courage.

Be Proud!

Celebrate your accomplishments. Think of all the good things you have achieved. Trust me, it is a lot, and often it is the smaller things, the gentle kindnesses or actions that don’t always propel you into the limelight, but are more important than anything famous and showy.

Speak Carefully

Remember how words affect others. Sometimes when we talk, less is more. Listen, then choose your words carefully when advising others.

Exercise

As usual I will mention the outdoors. Any worry will lessen slightly when you are outside and at one with nature. Breathe deeply. Look at the trees standing strong and firm. Shred the anxiety of the day, even just for a while. There is a natural world out there which can take us away from the laptop for an hour or more.

There is always a but….

As I am writing this I think there are times when any advice can seem trite. So many times we hear well-meaning phrases trotted out. We are supposed to nod sagely and take heed. It isn’t always what we want or need.  I am aware that there are days when sorrow gathers round like a heavy cloak or fear takes over. Those are the times we may just need a hug or just to sit quietly with someone we feel really understands. I do not want to make light of anyone’s pain and how can we ever know entirely what another person is going through? All I can add is that somehow, at least for me, onwards and upwards is the the only way. And the odd bit of advice may just be enough to allow a little glimmer of light in.

Whatever you are going through, you are deserving of love and care. Take it easy out there. In the never ending love of this universe, you are a small, yet very precious thing. You are worth everything.

With love …

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Faithful in Small Things

Never forget the people who take time out of their day to check up on you…

Recently I was listening to a hospital chaplain talking about life and death situations and how people pull together during times of crisis. He noticed that various loved ones waiting for news or maintaining vigils in the intensive care unit of the hospital all did what they could to support each other and surround each other with kindness and compassion. Sharing a cup of tea and listening to each other helped them in small ways to cope a little bit better in sometimes dire situations. Suddenly all the normal everyday worries and stresses were forgotten and nothing really mattered except the well-being of those they loved and those they knew who were hurting.

It made me think about the importance of small things and the things we often take for granted. Very often, it is the small things in life that matter the most. We read so much about self-improvement, learning to love ourselves, how to manifest more of this or that, and how to reach for the sun, moon and stars etc, etc, which is all well and good, but do we really learn how to just let go, be at peace with the world and face the day? After all, today may be all we have.

How do we make the most of today?

What if we made it a habit to embrace and celebrate the small things? Real life is happening all around us while we’re waiting for the big thing we hope is going to give us some sort of inner peace, contentment or joy.

Sometimes the best way to remember the value of small things is to look for random acts of kindness you can do for others. Don’t underestimate the power of taking time to phone a friend you are concerned about, or inviting someone who’s had a bad day for an impromptu afternoon tea, volunteering a few hours a week at a charity shop or offering to drive someone for an appointment if they are struggling.

Forget about the need to be noticed.

It’s so easy to feel like we are being overlooked at home, at work or in our community when we are doing the small, faithful things, because they are usually not the glamorous things. It can feel more gratifying to be the loudest voice in the room, but we need to remember that just because a voice is the loudest doesn’t mean it’s the one making the biggest difference. When we can get to a point where we find value in our contributions, no matter how small, it helps us be secure in who we are and eliminates the need to be constantly noticed.

Take some time out.

Our daily lives move so fast. A hectic lifestyle can cause us to overlook all the little joys life has to offer. Don’t be afraid to make time to (literally) stop and smell the roses. Listen to the sound of your children or grandchildren laughing and actually getting along in the back seat; enjoy the cool, crisp air of the first day of autumn, or take a walk around the block to clear your mind and give yourself a mental break. Work and responsibilities will still be there when you return.

Practice gratitude – gratitude does bring happiness.

Yes, I know, I know, you probably just rolled your eyes at this because it is something you hear so often, but it is true. The more thankful we are for what we have, the less inclined we are to focus on what we don’t have. Gratitude helps us value the small things we often take for granted because we start paying attention to the good things in life. Some days, it can be as exciting as getting rewarded for doing something well, and some days it might just be that your coffee tasted good that morning. I’ve found that my overall attitude toward life in general is better if I make myself think of three things I’m thankful for at the end of each day. I often write them down and put them in a little gratitude jar a kind friend made for me.

There are times in life when we yearn for big moments. Perhaps we hope for events that will propel us into the limelight, even for a short while. But, strangely enough, life has a funny way of teaching us as we go along in ways we didn’t expect, and looking back down the years it’s not necessarily the big moments that made our lives as such, but the everyday commitment to all the things we held dear.

When there is sadness in our lives the world keeps on turning but we don’t notice it. People still go about their daily lives and we may wonder why this can be when our own world is upside down. We wonder why we ever got upset about a petty argument yesterday. What really matters to us? Not the political situations that endlessly play out in front of us. Not the state of the world economy or the latest escapades of those claiming their moment of fame on reality television. What matters to most of us is chatting to our loved ones at the end of the day, sharing a meal with friends around the kitchen table, the light in our partners eyes when they look at us from across a crowded room, and the sound of our children’s laughter. What matters to us is all the small things that add up to the biggest things. What matters to us is love.

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that you find your strength…

Staying Sane in a Crazy World

I’ve been thinking this week about how we cope when all around us is in a condition of uncertainty. In the UK with the political situation nothing short of farcical, we could be forgiven for thinking that a decent solution to the current problems and deliberations will never be found.

Perhaps it is time to close our ears to illogical political theories and time to sift through the rules foisted on us that are the results of sometimes selfish and manipulative governing.

The world around us is suffering. This is nothing new – since time began there have always been monumental global challenges and there always will be. To list all the recent and ongoing global wars and tragedies would take us a long, long time, and finding a way forward seems impossible at times. We are heartbroken when we see innocent families fleeing their homes amid hostile conditions. We despair when we hear of countries in turmoil. We are disturbed by examples of greed and question some social policies. We see the divide between rich and poor become ever greater. In Europe we are exasperated by Brexit. Perhaps we cling to on to the fragile bonds of national identity, but how do we find what connects us universally?

What do we do to keep sane in this insane world?

I think the key is to maintain our relationship with reality. And that is much harder than we think. I’m not talking about the diversionary reality of Reality TV or social media here but the real reality that connects everyone with everything. As humans, we are not all-powerful but we are all powerful. We need to remember that there is both huge advantage AND limitation with power. When we understand that, we are able to maintain our sanity and manifest a saner world. WE have the power to choose new responses and keep our own lifestyles healthy. We may not be able to control our politicians and the way they use their power, but we can at least keep ourselves real.

None of us are completely rational at times. We can be afraid of everything that could go wrong or we can accept reality and make the best of it. Reasoning is good but sometimes emotions are good. Empathy is good. Getting depressed or angry about reality will not help us change things. If we use our own inner power we can become optimistic and have confidence to adapt to challenges and look for solutions.

Most of us look up to someone in this world who we admire. Often the people we admire the most are the gentle and peaceful ones, the ones who have no agenda, and no great personal ambitions. And yet they make their mark. Coherent and compassionate people have no need to dominate others, instead they seek to help rather than be in competition with others. Compassion freely shown reverberates around us like ripples in a pond.

Many times, bad things are predicted by those who think they are ‘in the know’. We are warned that all sorts of ills may befall us or the country if we don’t adhere to various policies. But when I think back to last weeks news it is mainly not relevant today as there have since been new twists or turns. There are now new predictions! And this is true of so many predictions we are either faced with, or make ourselves. Often what concerned us yesterday is forgotten and replaced by new concerns which in turn are replaced. Perhaps we should realise that most things get processed and dealt with one way or another. Can you remember what you were worrying about this time last year, or what was in the news headlines?

No one can deny that troubles occur, both in our immediate circles and in the outside world; often in life there is much to deal with. Interestingly, when we are focused on healing something in our own life, the outside world tends to carry on regardless and this should tell us something. We can just BE. We can think about the little things in life which are really the big things.

We are born with an inherent understanding of the world. It is a strange miracle that deep in our psyche we know things. When our minds are uncluttered we look benignly at the world and we are spiritually healthy. We are whole human beings and we have our own essence. Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of that.

Don’t break your own spirit. Your sanity depends on seeing the world as a good place, having faith in one another and believing in human dignity – not just in our own small corner of the planet but all around the world. It is not what people have become in this world that makes them special necessarily- it is what they are inside and how they behave when no one is looking.

Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with uncertainty at one time or another. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have amazing survival instincts. Out of the thousands of experiences we have in life, people doing wrong by us is not common. Most people are inherently good and we are biologically wired to love one another and to unite during bad times, and when we believe people are inherently good, this will determine how life treats us.

You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.’            Timber Hawkeye.

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Nostalgia at Christmas and Learning from the Children….

Do you find it hard to let go of Christmas?

It’s that time again when we have the slight lull that follows the festivities of Christmas Day with all the celebrating, eating and family time, before gearing ourselves up for the onslaught of the New Year. It is one of the precious few times of the year when we have several days off in a row (at least in our house), forget which day it is, and where we have time for lay-ins and cooked breakfasts before a leisurely walk or perhaps a trawl through the sales.

I always struggle with this time of year; I don’t like giving up on Christmas. I cling on to the twinkling lights and the decorations for as long as possible. I inwardly cringe when I hear people saying they can’t wait to ‘get back to normal’, or that they have already taken their decorations down the day after Boxing Day. I don’t get it. It’s dark. WE need lights. WE need to keep the fun going as long as possible and enjoy the time of year that allows us to slow down.

Whilst saying all this, I appreciate Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. For those struggling with illness, financial problems, or loss, it can be hard to face all the Christmas festivities. There is something so poignant about this time of year; it’s as if the world around us has altered in readiness for the revered time, and in the midst of the hectic build up there is a certain heightening of emotion which can be hard to cope with at times. For me, this was my first Christmas without my beloved dad; we missed him hugely, and I’m sure we weren’t the only family struggling not to look at an empty chair at this time.

I consider myself to be fairly senior now and I look back down the years with more than a little nostalgia, especially at this time of year. Memories flood back from Christmas’s past and I am plunged into certain wistfulness. The seasons seem to be getting shorter and shorter with the space between them constantly shifting and moving on before we have had chance to enjoy the present. At our local garden centre, Santa had moved in in October and was back in the North Pole before we knew it. (Although the grotto was amazing). All that remains in the Christmas store now are a few sad and bedraggled decorations selling at knock down prices, whilst the summer barbecue equipment is coming back in through the door, along with the garden furniture and the patio heaters. I have never been able to work out who would buy these things in the still dark days of winter, but obviously some people do. Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t cling on to Christmas for too long, but surely we can wait a few more weeks before calling time on everything festive.

I am sure now I will never be the Queen of England. I would put money on it. I’m not even remotely in line to the throne, although I must say, I can do quite a good royal wave, but if I WERE ever to be Queen, or Prime Minister (now there’s a thought) the first thing I would do would be to create a public holiday at the end of January. I have always thought that would be a very good idea. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad clearing up after Christmas if we knew there was another holiday on the horizon. Like a ‘Goodbye to Winter, Spring is on the horizon’ sort of holiday.

I don’t want to see chocolate creme eggs in the shops during the first weeks of January, and although I am a romantic, I’m not yet ready to see Valentine’s cards either.

You have probably deduced that I don’t bother with starting a new diet or a new project on January 1st. I will just try and stick to the healthy diet I have always tried to follow, not always successfully, but then we all fail from time to time. I will try and keep up my daily walks and do the odd bit of meditation, but I won’t be setting any rules that will be broken a few weeks down the line. Yet I think I need to view things a little differently. One thing I have noticed this season whilst watching and listening to my grandchildren is this: children love Christmas and everything about it. They are able to plunge in to all the happy things about this time with more or less total abandon. They are (usually) happy to wear a tea towel on their heads and pose as a shepherd, or as an assistant alien as in our grandson’s case, and wave happily to an adoring audience. They think it is quite normal to listen out for distant bells and gaze expectantly at the sky on Christmas Eve. They are more than happy to get up in the early hours of Christmas Day and jump up and down with excitement. But as Christmas draws to a close they move on to new days and new experiences, running headlong into the New Year and all the new experiences it will bring.

That seems to me to be the best way to go about things.

So as this year draws to a close I wish you all good things – a chance to walk in frosty lanes when all the world is quiet, stillness when you need it, and joy and laughter too. The love of family and the familiarity and warmth that lasting friendships bring. And for all of us, I wish us the gift of peace.

Ps. Perhaps keep the fairy lights going for another week…….

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