Laughter – The Best Medicine

Take time out to have a giggle today…

There is no better cure for a bad or sad mood than laughter. Not just a little giggle but hard to breathe laughter which is a bit like having an emotional cleanse. It’s hard not to feel better after a convulsion of hysterical laughter. Think of that feeling when you suddenly find something amuses you to the point of no return: breath comes in short pants, you double up and totally lose it. You straighten up then convulse again and again, tears streaming down your face. Sometimes you remember the moment for ages afterwards. Laughter should be a daily ritual for us all – a feel good factor to help us through the day, but sometimes spontaneous laughter eludes us. Stress hormones, depression, boredom and many other factors tip us into a mood that makes it impossible to feel jolly. I was feeling this dark mood today until I reminded myself of some funny experiences I’ve had in the past. Sometimes what sets us off along the path to possible hysteria may not be anywhere near as funny to someone else. Sometimes they are ‘you had to be there’ moments and indeed when you try to recount a funny story to someone some of the mirth gets lost along the way, but just for fun this week I want to write a few true stories that hopefully may amuse you .

For some reason some of the amusing things that have happened to me concerns cats. I don’t have a cat now but in the past we have had two. Both totally full of character and both typically eccentric like our family. Let me introduce them:

Jim : The most handsome Ginger Tom. Looked like a cat who should have been cast in a production of Garfield The Movie. Used to share his lunch with a Magpie. Prone to explosive diarrhoea which usually peppered the kitchen walls.

Fred : Black and white. Very fluffy with a bushy tail. Scared of his own shadow, adorable. Always walked into a room sideways. Had his own giant cat bed (the family sofa which he would let you sit on occasionally). Took a morning constitutional walk the same time every day always following the same route.

Jim’s story.

One morning I felt some foreboding as a letter fell onto the mat bearing the logo of the local Veterinary Surgery. That could only mean one thing: Jim’s annual vaccination was due. This may not sound too worrying, but for a cat who had a morbid dislike of cat baskets this posed quite a problem. Somehow we had to attend. I am not normally a  deranged woman but I have to say on this occasion sensible reasoning went out of the window on the appointed day, and for reasons best known to myself I decided to take the cat in the car sitting on my lap whilst I persuaded my husband to drive. Jim, sensing adventure, started getting restless and began to knead his paws on my thighs before exploring the interior of the car and then climbing on to my back. It did not bode well. As we drew up outside the vet’s surgery the receptionist looked from the window, perturbed to see us arriving in such an unusual fashion. But there was no going back. We had come this far and WE WERE GOING IN. But first we had to get out of the car without Jim making a quick getaway . Good-naturedly, Jim allowed me to clamp him tightly to my chest and I manoeuvred the two of us out of the car and made for the entrance to the surgery. Thinking all was going well and this was a doddle, we entered the waiting room. Unfortunately , a sense of unease followed as we eyed the full waiting room. Here before us was a total menagerie of birds, rabbits, dogs, cats, hamsters and even a (hopefully) docile python coiled up in a glass case. Their owners looked at us with a mixture of sympathy and pity and started muttering among themselves. I was aware that Jim was beginning to struggle in my arms , even for a relatively placid cat this was way too much temptation tinged with a dose of fear. The receptionist looked at us with something close to horror and walked firmly to the clinical room. I heard her announcing to the young vet that there was a woman and a possibly wild cat in reception that had better be seen. (Or maybe it was a wild woman with a cat – I can’t remember which way round we were announced). A harassed looking veterinary surgeon emerged and, after apologising profusely to the packed waiting room for letting us jump the queue – ushered us in. More mumbling and raised voices ensued and the snake rather alarmingly uncoiled, raising its head and poking out its forked tongue in protest. A parrot in the corner then ruffled its feathers, its owner looking embarrassed as it was distinctly heard to squawk ‘bloody hell, bloody hell!’ Once we were inside the surgery it was suggested we get on with the vaccination as quickly as possible. The vet grabbed Jim in no uncertain terms by the scruff of the neck to plunge the needle in and the job was done. ‘Mrs H’ said the poor harassed chap, ‘I don’t think I need to tell you that bringing a cat along unsecured like this is not a good idea.’ I apologised profusely and totally agreed, promising never to attend again with a loose cat. He showed me out . Grimly, the receptionist handed me a cardboard cat box and demanded I put Jim inside. With a shriek, Jim broke loose from my arms and made for the door. Luckily the snake’s owner was a retired rugby player and caught him in an admirable tackle . Wailing and much flying of fur followed. We tried to edge Jim towards to box whilst holding him in a vice-like grip. He struggled free again and jumped on top of the box, purring smugly as if on a winners’ podium. The receptionist had had enough. She approached, flapping a towel, which she deftly wrapped him in in one fell swoop and unceremoniously bundled him into the box. I paid up and slunk out, the box moving and tilting at dangerous angles, muffled yowls of cat indignation emanating from within. In the car I viewed my reflection with horror . My hair was on end and ginger cat hair coated my pink lip gloss most unbecomingly. My hands were shaking and I gripped the the sides of my seat tightly to steady myself as my speechless husband drove us home. Back at the cottage I let Jim out of the dreaded box, whereupon he looked at me accusingly, leaped off and didn’t return for three days.

Fred’s story.

You would think I had had enough of cat antics, but as luck would have it, soon it was necessary for Fred to pay the vet a visit. Sadly, he had been injured by another cat in a fight and needed some attention. Luckily he didn’t have such an aversion to cat baskets as his erstwhile friend Jim if he was enticed in with a treat. Fred’s problem was his nerves, and when he felt cornered he would go crazy. All started well and on entering the vet’s surgery I placed Fred on the table as asked. A slight hiss could be heard from Fred but nothing too untoward. The wound wasn’t serious and after inspection it was cleaned and sprayed with antibiotic spray. Another slight hiss ensued and I noticed Fred’s hair starting to go on end. However, we were nearly there so no panic. Then the vet spoke. ‘His nails are a bit long, I think I will just give them a little trim.’ I looked at him as if he was totally mad but said nothing. ‘Just hold him for me’ he instructed, approaching with clippers. ‘It won’t take a moment.’ Fred had other ideas. As the vet tried to steady and position his paws, he shrieked and leapt off the table, ricocheting off the walls as he tried to find a way out. Eventually, after flying past us at eye level, he ended up in the open store cupboard and could be heard crashing around the shelves. The vet sighed and went to catch him. Time passed. More crashing and wailing reverberated round the room. Eventually, the vet came back in, his white coat in shreds and his hands wrapped in towels. Fred was dangling from his grip by the scruff of his neck. Wordlessly he pushed him in the basket and shut the lid. Eventually his voice returned. ‘We will leave the nails’ he said and ushered us out with a sigh.

Post script – In all seriousness I do realise Jim’s story could have gone horribly wrong and I would never recommend taking an animal loose in a car etc. Jim was unharmed and lived a long and happy cat life, seemingly unscathed from his escapade with his foolhardy owner, but still…..

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A Crystal Ball for Christmas?

Don’t panic – you WILL be ready for Christmas!

It’s almost December and I had one of those nights last night when I woke up worrying about Christmas shopping, or to put it another way, the lack of it in my house! Of course, when I was up in the morning with the curtains drawn back and the light streaming in, I realised how little I have remembered about past experiences: I wonder why I fall into the same trap every year. I am getting on a bit now and I have seen a lot of Christmases – I should know that everything always gets done in the end! And if it doesn’t, does it really matter?

This year, I am more aware than ever that not everyone has the chance to celebrate Christmas in the way that I and my family do, and I am mindful of the fact that we are bombarded with commercialism at this time of year. The big stores competing to screen the best Christmas advert may cause us to ooh and ahh as we watch their presentations of cosy and homely perfection, but at the same time, we are encouraged to fill our homes with every conceivable gadget and tasty morsel so that we can achieve the perfect Christmas.

However, the perfect Christmas is about being together with family and friends, following the old favourite traditions and perhaps starting new ones. What do you remember when you look at past Christmases? It’s not normally about money spent or having the best of this or that, it’s about the simple things – the old favourite recipes that come out every year, the games after lunch or the corny jokes in the Christmas crackers.

I have written before about the anxious feelings we can experience with the holiday season fast approaching. The fact remains that no matter how hard we try to keep sensible about the festive season, there are extra things to think about this time of year and many of us can feel jittery and stressed. We may find ourselves more reliant than ever on those we love. Sometimes though, we find that those around us have their own problems and anxieties which sometimes present themselves in unexpected ways.

If you had a crystal ball and could see into the future, do you think you would find happiness? Would you put an end to anxious feelings you experience if you knew how life was going to pan out for yourself or others?

I recently came across a story about a ‘Naughty or Nice’ book. The heroine of the story mysteriously received a book through her post box at Christmas, which enabled her to find out more about the people she knew, and the actions they appeared to be taking to achieve what they wanted in life. Just by uttering a name over the book, the girl found that the book magically opened and revealed unusual and sometimes apparently undesirable things about the people she thought she knew. What was interesting was the girl’s reaction and the conclusions she came to after seeing what was revealed in the book. Rather than being helped by what she saw she was often dismayed and perplexed, and felt let down by neighbours and colleagues, and the people she loved. Rampaging around she accused people of various misdemeanours and often made them ashamed or shocked. Things got worse and her life started to unravel.

However, before long, she realised that if she turned the book over, there was another side to each story. People did things for a reason; they were led to perform certain actions because of a series of events. Sometimes what looked bad on the surface wasn’t really bad at all but just part of an ongoing story. Once she saw that everyone had their frailties and their own wishes and desires, indeed, their own story, she forgave, and built both old and new relationships. The book showed that hardly anyone is just ‘naughty’ or just ‘nice’, but perhaps a bit of both at times.

We may feel it would be a good thing to see what lies ahead and why things happen like they do, but I think most of us do not really need a crystal ball or a magic book. If we give ourselves time and give time to other people we can probably work most things out and find the real reasons for why things happen as they do.

So when we are feeling our own lives are complicated or we are bowed by worry or stress, it is good to remember that very few people live perfect lives. Almost certainly, anxiety and fear manifest themselves in our behaviour and can show that we are uncomfortable in our situations; we may feel isolated, but chances are that others will be feeling the same too at times. We are not the only ones who’s behaviour can be misinterpreted, so don’t beat yourself up after a night out; don’t go home and worry about how you come across to people. Chances are they won’t have noticed – they will have been more concerned about they came across to you!

Most people have times when life gets them down, but if you are someone who doesn’t have anxiety, I urge you to be a bit careful with your words and reactions during the holiday season. What may seem silly to you could be a genuine concern for someone else. At the very least, look at both sides of the story.

By the way, I must say I love the John Lewis advert featuring Elton John singing ‘Your Song!’ It’s my most favourite song of all time so I’m not totally against the advertising!

 

Have a good week!

 

 

Seen on a Christmas tree near me.

 

When Things Change ….

Hello again! I’ve been out of communicado for a few weeks due to a house move. It’s been a busy time with lots to do and great excitement as we enter a new phase of our lives. My blog will always be ‘Notes From Dove Lane’ though: this title is dear to my heart and was taken from my book ‘Tea at Raphael’s which was inspired by a favourite lane in Somerset.

No matter how we are pleased with life’s new twists and turns, anxiety can still creep up on us and make us feel unsettled or jittery; its as if the old ‘worry monster’ likes to gain our attention and remind us of those old scenarios that cause us to fret. But it is good to remind ourselves that change helps us move forward and embrace new beginnings, and by engaging in new routines and trying out new surroundings we can move forward, even though we may move tentatively at first.

Today I am sitting in a delightful cafe in my new village – it’s a book shop that serves coffee and snacks – definitely my sort of place! The walls are lined with books from top to bottom and the array of coffee and cakes available is fabulous. I may be here often, (especially as I have no broadband yet!)

Please excuse my short blog this week – there is much to do at home and many deliveries and callers to attend to! One thing I must say though is that the weather has been glorious, and as we look out over the open fields beyond our house and watch the red kites swooping and hear their familiar whistle welcoming us, I am filled with gratitude.

Before I go, I have some exciting news! Last weekend, the Janey Loves Platinum Award Ceremony took place – and I am very pleased to say that my book ‘Best Foot Forward’ received a ‘highly commended’ award. It is always wonderful to know that someone has enjoyed your work!

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See you soon and blessings to you.

 

Managing the Stress of Moving House…

Remember that home is wherever you and your loved ones gather….

 

Some say that moving house is one of life’s major stresses. Anyone who’s undertaken a house move will agree it’s one of the most challenging events we experience, both physically and emotionally. A lot of us find it stressful because it involves change and represents a transition in life – and with it comes unfamiliarity. Most of us, me included, like familiarity, routine and order, but when we are moving house, for a while at least, we have none of those. Depending on your age and your stage in life, you might be in a new area, having to find new schools for your children, take on a new commute to work and find a new doctor. Often too, when you move into a new house, it’s the simple things you miss, like knowing exactly where the light switch is in the dark, and where your personal mementos are stored.

Although moving can be exciting and you can embrace the thoughts of new beginnings, it is good to think about the mental impact moving will have on you. If you can clear your schedule a little way in advance and take some time off for preparation, this will help the actual moving day feel less overwhelming and give you a bit more control of your situation. If you provide ample time to pack and find removal firms, this will greatly remove stress. Clearing out clutter well before you move will help you let go and prepare for the future. Make sure too, if you can, to get your family members and good friends to lend a helping hand. This will lessen the burden on you and also give you a chance to spend time together before moving.

It is a good idea to have a few rituals before moving; maybe have a small leaving party, take a few walks around your favourite routes and allow time for special memories – this can help the transition from your old home to your new one.

This is a busy time and it is easy to neglect your diet. Being well-rested and having good nutrition is vital to good health and helps to keep stress levels down.

My own route to where I live now has been a long and sometimes winding road, and there are more moves ahead. For someone who’s home and surroundings are one of the most important things in life, moving several times over the last few years has been unsettling and at times traumatic. Several times I have had to pack and unpack my treasured and various possessions, some of which have become more battered and forlorn which each and every move. But with my footsteps echoing in a bare and empty room, when I start unwrapping a well-loved piece of china or some favourite photographs, or even a cosy blanket, the look and feel of those familiar things never fail to bring immediate comfort. As my home has scaled down in size progressively with each and every move, my belongings have had to be pared down accordingly, but some precious things remain, like the beautiful wooden chest decorated with painted birds that our elder son gave us some years ago, and a small chalkboard, carefully varnished over to preserve the cheerful pictures our younger son drew for me when he was little.

It is good to remember that we are only custodians of any house we live in. It’s as though the character of the house leaves with our possessions, and as we take that last look around, the feeling of familiarity is gone and all that remains is the echo of the voices of the inhabitants who once lived there, and the feeling that all the familiarity of home is gone. The house already feels as though it preparing for its new owners. Yet, if you ever have reason to drive down the same path again it would feel quite normal to step inside and feel you have never been away. One thing I have learned is that life has twists and turns and we end up in unexpected places. But once we make our mark on a new house, wherever it is, it turns into home. Home is where hearts are sure of each other; a place where you know your way in the dark.

As we enjoy the summer with all its outdoor pleasures, the cosiness and warmth of home is still important; we take comfort in a shady spot under a tree in the garden, closing the shutters or the blinds at the end of the day as the sun sets or sharing a simple supper around the kitchen table. And for that we all need that special place: a place to rest, recharge our batteries and sometimes retreat from the outside world for a while. Whether we are a large family or just one person, our home reveals in all its artefacts (those precious keepsakes, and the everyday and ordinary and extraordinary things that surround us), the story of us, and of who we are. We may think that style and inventiveness, as well as hard work and money, are what is needed to transform a house or an apartment, and it’s true, those things help create the space we yearn for. But what really matters is that we creat a place of security, a place of love and warmth, where children and grandchildren can grow and turn to, especially when the outside world seems to be creating stresses and strains.

The place we call home needs to keep peace within its boundaries, welcome within its walls, shelter for its friends, and a cake in the larder.

So when you feel unsettled, have to move house or change your surroundings for whatever reason, remember that home is where you and your loved ones are – it is not dependent on fancy fixtures and fittings, palaces and mansions, but on you and the people you love, and in the cosy place where you gather together.

And a single small cottage,
A nest like a dove’s,
The only dwelling on earth that she loves’.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

 

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The House We Left Behind

The removal van is on its way, I hear it rattling up the lane,
The time is fast approaching for us to be moving on again.
Before I’m even ready, the men are standing in the hall
Examining the packing cases stacked up by the wall.
And as all of our possessions disappear from view
The old house turns its back on us and waits for someone new.

                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen

If It Doesn’t Open It can’t Be Your Door

Do you ever feel you haven’t got what you deserved?

Have you ever had trouble coming to terms with acceptance? When you feel you haven’t got what you deserved or when you can’t seem to bring a plan into action even though all the signs were there that gave you hope for a good solution? Stressful situations occur when we dwell on what we haven’t got, what we haven’t been given when we feel it it is rightfully ours or perhaps a relationship hasn’t worked out even though it seemed to be going well.

It is difficult to know when to give up sometimes; when to call things a day when something isn’t working or to accept that there are some things that you can’t change. Some things cannot be forced and some things cannot be kept. When you try to keep water in your cupped hands you cannot, not matter how hard you try.

There is a difference between finding courage to keep going in certain situations when you know you need to and when your heart is telling you you are doing the right thing, and finding the strength to walk away when a sitauation isn’t working and isn’t beneficial to you. Mostly, we have an inner knowing if we stop and recognise it  – we know when something is going to work and when it isn’t. Yet we sometimes do not know how to stop, or maybe we can’t find it in ourselves to let go of a situation. The more we force our selves into a situation the harder it becomes. It often takes more courage to give up on something than to keep going. To let go of something that isn’t working is not necessarily failure, it is just a result.

When a plan doesn’t work out it is very hard to find a reason – but when you feel stressed or upset ask yourself if it will really matter that much in years to come. Time helps us look back on situations and see them for what they really were. Some things just cannot be explained until you look at them retrospectively. Trust that even if you don’t have an understanding of a situation now, you will in time. So many times we can be thankful that we were saved from making a bad mistake when we look back. Perhaps you were sad when a relationship didn’t work out but would you have met the person of your dreams further down the line – your soul mate who was waiting in the wings?

It has been very busy at Dove Lane this week; I have been working hard on a project and haven’t always taken enough rest. Why do I keep going when I know I should pause, take a break and regroup? I know what I should do and yet I don’t follow my own rules! I hear the birds singing outside and hear the breeze calling me in the early hours – my mind is active yet I should take time to notice the small things – the things that matter – and remember that quality time is precious.

When the  door you want to enter won’t open for you, don’t keep pushing against it. It the door won’t open it can’t be your door.

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Ways of Coping with Stress.

We have to remind ourselves that we need to keep a positive self-image….

Do you have days when worries creep up on you and you just can’t shake them off? Yesterday was okay, you had a good day and felt content and optimistic but today you woke up knowing the old ‘worry monster was lurking in the shadowy corner of the bedroom?

Perhaps the cause of the worry monster’s reappearance should be addressed which isn’t that easy I know. Sometimes, you’d rather get up and try and get on with the day even though you know it won’t be perfect. But perhaps the cause of what’s worrying you should be identified and scrutinised; sometimes a change in attitudes could resolve the problem. Adapting to stress can bring about changes which are often all to the good. Other stresses, particularly those that aren’t of our making, could be eased by taking definite steps such as changing jobs or moving house.

Sometimes, there is only one solution and that is to come to terms with unpleasant realities that may be there to stay for whatever reason. Occasionally there are things we just cannot change. Accepting that once and for all can actually take the pressure off and lessen the impact.

We have to remind ourselves at times that we need to keep a positive self-image.  We can train ourselves not to indulge in self-fulfilling negative prophecies with a bit of practise, and not indulge the worry monster. When you attempt a new way of coping with stress and whether you succeed or not, do a kind of de-briefing afterwards. Ask yourself what went well and maybe what went wrong; how you could have done things differently; think about it and tell yourself all the positive and useful aspects of what you did. Don’t forget, you can learn from anything – good or bad.

It is important but often difficult to pinpoint the relevant triggers of stress – sometimes we spend too much time trying to work on one thing when really we need to turn the spotlight elsewhere. It’s good but sometimes painful to be really honest with yourself. That is why the wretched worry monster reappears with monotonous regularity if you are not careful to really look at what is bothering you.

Stress in one circumstance may spill over and influence another situation. For example, if you are feeling stressed about your work you may get irritable about other things that really aren’t the main problem. Factors can interact and stress builds up in all areas, so it helps if you can really identify the main problem so that you can tackle it.

As far as stress is concerned, how we see ourselves is often more important than the reality of our situation and can be the main factor as to whether we can cope or not. Isn’t that an interesting point? How important is image to us and why do we worry about how we appear to other people? If we can find a way to accept ourselves as we are we are on the way to becoming more self assured and comfortable with ourselves. Stress responses are largely determined by, for instance, the perceived threat to emotional security or to self-esteem. Changing the perception of the stress – how one views it and views oneself  – can mitigate the effect of anxiety and sometimes neutralise it more or less completely.

So this week, if the worry monster lurks nearby maybe you could just turn your back on him and go about your business. He has a big ego so just watch him shrink when you don’t look his way!

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A Thousand Pleases…

Kindness Matters. Always.

This is my mantra.

No matter who we are, whatever gifts life has or has not bestowed on us, we all benefit from kindness. Words of kindness can help our fears and anxieties disappear, like ice melting in the warmth of the sun.

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Lately it has come to mind – It is most important to be kind. To take a moment, make a choice, Comfort with a loving voice.’

Perhaps I can offer a few examples of kindness I have encountered.

One day last year I was sitting outside a cafe enjoying some coffee and Some welcome winter sunshine. All was quiet until a group of young men walked towards the cafe. They appeared to be in boisterous spirits, shouting and laughing. Swaggering along dressed in their hoodies, they gave off an air of arrogant confidence. They ordered drinks and sat down at a nearby table. They were loud. To be honest I felt slightly uncomfortable next to them and a little annoyed that my space had been invaded. I began to make assumptions about where they were from and wondered why they were out and about. Why weren’t they at work or college? But my thoughts were interrupted when an elderly lady walking across the road tripped and fell, scattering all her shopping in the street. Before I had chance to move, the young men next to me all stood up and dashed over to help. I followed over too, to see if there was anything I could do. Very gently one of them checked the lady over to see if she was badly hurt, and as a group they wondered whether an ambulance was needed.

It was decided that the lady was just shaken up. Getting slowly to her feet she insisted she was okay but was agitated about her groceries and handbag. No problem they said, and gathered up all her things, reassuring her everything was there. I took her over to the cafe and sat her down whilst one of the young men went inside to order her some tea.

We all sat outside the cafe together, our chairs pulled round one table in a companionable circle. Soon the lady was smiling and feeling better .

She looked up at one of the lads. “Why, I know you! You are Jenny’s son from the next block of flats to me! I haven’t seen you for a long time! It’s young David isn’t it?”

‘Young’ David smiled and looked embarrassed. “Yes that’s me.”

“Well I’m blessed,” said the lady, who’s name was Molly. “How you’ve grown! I’m so pleased to see you.”

We all chatted for a while and then David offered to walk Molly home. Off they went arm in arm, the others following behind. David promised to tell his Mother he had spent time with Molly and suggested Molly came round to visit sometime. Molly smiled such a sweet smile as she waved goodbye to me. An upsetting fall had had a happy ending.

I went inside and ordered another coffee. I thought about the boys and their kindness to an old lady. I realised one thing. It was not my business to question how anyone passes the time of day. And it was the last time I ever made assumptions.

In this complex world we keep afloat, Care for ourselves without rocking the boat. Weigh up the politics, Try and do what is right, Find something we believe in and follow the light.’

I remember having to start a new school when I was thirteen as my family had moved house. I was crippled with shyness and it was a very distressing time in my life. I joined the school at a time when everyone had been there a while and had settled into new friendships. They all had their allocated seats and knew the routine. Break-time was miserable. I lurked around in the changing rooms as I didn’t have friends to hang out with. Sometimes after my father had dropped me off at the school gates I would watch him drive off and then I would turn around and walk the three miles home again. My parents were worried about me but at a loss about what to do.

I knew somehow I had to get used to going to school. Gradually some of the other girls started to include me in their circle and the days started to improve. It would take a while until I felt that I belonged but the person who really helped me was my English teacher. Mr. Walker was a kind and thoughtful gentleman who took an interest in me. He made me welcome and took time to concentrate on my work. He taught us good values and good manners by example. He gave me good marks for my essays! He instilled in me a lifelong love of writing. He remembered my name, even when we met by chance years later. Mr. Walker had a class full of pupils but he took the time to be kind to a young, timid girl. He must be long gone now, but I have never forgotten him.

   ‘Too many times on a solitary track Have we passed on by, and not looked back Not knowing the difference we could have made, To the person standing alone and afraid?’

Kindness often comes at times when we least expect it. A random stranger smiling and opening a door for us. A passer by giving us change for the parking ticket machine, or, as happened to me recently, a waitress who was so kind to me after a rough day she brought tears to my eyes.

No matter who we are and whatever our circumstances, we all have times we feel alone. We struggle to understand what is going on around us, both in our own small world and the big wide world too. Most of us have times when we feel lonely in a crowd; days when we wonder literally what this world is all about.

On Monday my elderly father was rushed to hospital with a sudden infection – he had gone to bed perfectly okay the previous night and the onset was sudden. When called, the paramedics were very professional and efficient and realised he needed to be hospitalised and so we were soon waiting in the emergency room of the local hospital. The immediate care was good and the staff did their best. It was very, very busy though and the staff had their hands full. The unit was overflowing and there was stress. In the midst of it all I heard a lone voice asking for help – ‘please help’ and again, ‘please help! A thousand pleases!’. It made me think that when we are at our lowest the basic need in all of us is to be shown some kindness. And the person was helped. And shown compassion. I’m so thankful there are people who do their best in tough conditions and who are not just motivated by earning money or by fame, but who are just there to make a difference to someone’s well-being and who are doing their job the best way they can.

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‘After frantic years of business deals, With arrogant managers clicking their heels, Would anyone look back and say: “I’m glad I acted mean that day?”’

One last word.

Some days I can get out of the bed the wrong side and feel grumpy. We all can. These are the times when it may be harder to summon up a smile or be polite. After several cold calls interrupting me on the telephone I can feel exasperated. Or maybe it has taken what seems like hours to be served at the checkout. Or perhaps I have been stuck in a long queue of traffic. These are the times I take a deep breath. These are the times I remember life is good. These are the times I tell myself I have today. I am lucky to have today. I am lucky to be able to walk around freely. I am lucky to have a phone I can take a call on no matter how irritating. I am lucky to have some change in my purse. Therefore I will try and cope with my day and whatever it brings. And I hope I will be kind.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare system? In the Uk we seem to be at crisis point although the present government disagrees. As a former nurse and someone who has worked for many years in the NHS system and believes in it wholeheartedly, I hope to see change and more resources before we lose it forever.