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A few years ago I decided to start a new career as a performer. I used to be a biology teacher but couldn't face walking around in a white coat all day teaching children who didn't want to learn. Actually it wasn't so much the children as the system cause I think all children want to learn - they just don't all want to learn in schools. Anyway I now work as a Life and Executive coach. Work is perhaps not the right word because it never feels like work. I just love to see people grow and change. I love it when they peel of the layers of limiting beliefs and find their true self. And I make some great frends in the process. I've re-discovered my writing and have published two poetry books and now working on 2 CDs, a novel, a book of short stories and talking to someone about a collaoration on a film script. That should keep me busy for a whild. Oh and I do bellydance.
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Friday, 26 December 2008

Boxing Day

Yesterday was a blur. Woke up at 11.30, made it to the settee to watch Christmas TV and to the kitchen at 2 pm to prepare a turkey and put it in the oven. It, along with the rest of the meal, was ready by 6.30 and although there were only 2 of us I made an effort to dress for dinner. After exchange of presents, a large meal and virtually a bottle of champagne on my own I returned to the settee. Pretty much it for Christmas day. Not sure how much of my late getting up today was due to sheer fatigue and how much to the champagne but I didn't make it out of bed till 1.30 pm today. Managed a walk in the Liecestershire countryside in the bright but cold sunshine, then back to the settee. Managed a visit to Andrew's parents this evening for a couple of hours then, you guessed it - back to the settee. I can't remember the last time I watched so much TV but I've tried to rest my mind from project management during my waking hours these two days because during my sleeping hours I'm back there - all night long it feels like. I've given Andrew a holiday as a present to be taken when the house is complete. We'll both need it.

And what of the house? Well it's not complete. We have one more bedroom to paint and lot more painting in the hallways. On the plus side we've now got all the furniture for all the rooms - beds arrived on Christmas eve. As they are all flat packed we'll spend tomorrow putting them together. We should have at least one room complete tomorrow - hopefully in time for when my son arrives.

History seem to be repeating itself in the yard. The new people have proved not much better than the old ones - needed pushing to complete the work in their stated time, rushed it, very poor finish, and a demand for their money. I've refused until we are satisfied - he became abusive, called me difficult and hung up in the middle of our discussion when it became clear I would not pay him any money until we were absolutely satisfied with the work. But for two days I've been able to leave it all behind. Tomorrow will be time enough to pick it up again.
Saturday, 20 December 2008

5 days to Christmas

I went to see my coach last week and he suggested that I could aim for the end of December as a new deadline. He is also my acupuncturist and when I asked why he'd put needles in my ears (normally I only have needles in my hands and feet for balance) he said it was for calming me down. Wasn't aware it was that obvious.

So where are we with the house with 3 more working days before Christmas? By Monday 4 of the bedrooms will be habitable. Going shopping tomorrow for furniture. Curtains have been dry cleaned and rehung, carpets are down - got a good deal from Abdullah and Son in Sparkbrook. Kitchen is nearly there - just need a few holes filling in and a bit more paint, a few pictures on the walls and a few old cupboards removing. I love the new cooker and the matching black fridge and freezer went in today. I cooked for the first time in ages yesterday. We've still to find a home for the huge microwave to make way for a dinky new one.

The painter is working his way through the house. He'd got a plan worked out yesterday for moving systematically through the hallway into the lounge - but like everything else that had to be shelved. I bought the carpet for the lounge yesterday, they could fit tomorrow or after Christmas. Guess what - the painter changed his plan so the room could be ready for the carpet tomorrow. He's a great guy but I can't help but think that he could probably work a little quicker (and with less paint dripping everywhere) if he wasn't always drunk. He's 65 and when he's not working here he's down the pub. One morning he rang at 10.30 to apologise for not gettin here at 8.30 - he'd just got home from the night before and was grabbing himself some breakfast. He offered to do a couple of hours for free to get the upstairs ready for the carpets but I told him to come in for half day and I'd pay him. He's been reading me some of his poetry. He writes in the pub, instant stuff about what's going on at the time, and performs them there and then. With the round of parties at the moment I don't think we are likely to see him sober this side of the year; and by his account he's pretty much out of it in January as his birthday is new year's eve. Still, even allowing for cleaning up after him it's still quicker than trying to do it ourselves.

The bathroom is functional, as is the toilet - doors went back on today. Still some touching up to be done in the bathroom but once Andrew fits the shower head we are in business. Chippy was in creating more dust but should be finished tomorrow. Please dear God let it be the end for him.

The only big jobs left are the tank to be fitted in the loft and the outside. They've made good progress out there but didn't turn up today - the day they'd promised it would be finished by. When I rang to enquire why - they said it had been raining very hard and they can't work in the rain - they must have been in another part of the country to me because I only say drizzle today. Anyway they phoned later to say they'd come tomorrow (even though they don't work on Sundays) Jesus preserve us from British workmen. It isn't as if they are cheap either - I can understand it with Brian but these guys are being paid £2,200 for a week's work. And they had the nerve to critisize others who didn't dieliver on time. We only took them on because a) they were recommended and b) they promised they would not let us down.

This whole process has had an interesting effect on our relationship (mine and Andrew's) It's the first time we've spent such a concentrated amount of time together. Most of the time it's been much better than we were expecting but as we've beome more tired we're becoming a bit frayed at the edges. What it has shown us though is that we are pretty solid - and I'm glad we're doing this now and not next July.

Alas there's been no time to focus on Christmas - next year should be better.
Sunday, 14 December 2008

14th December

Eleven days to Christmas. It looks like 3 rooms will be completed and possibly the kitchen. With a real push (we've got a decorator in all week but he's not speedy gonzales) we may get the lounge painted. Guys coming to start the paving and patio tomorrow - promised to be finished before Christmas.

Then the blow - my boys are not coming for Christmas. Will the first one without them. We are both very zombified.
Friday, 12 December 2008

Will it be done by Christmas?

Well, it's the 12 December and not a single room is complete. We really are going about this arse about face. The decorators have moved in but the electrician is still taking up floorboards to put in first fix cabling. The tilers have gone to another job and send me texts almost daily to say they are coming next day and then another one on the day to say they are coming the next day, and to think we got them in to speed up the job. The problem builder has now done his bit and gone. He wanted paying for the remaining fire doors which were £900 and to leave the small tasks (worth £10) to finish off 'as and when'. I had to use the broken record technique 'I'll pay you when all the jobs are done' to get him to come in and finish off all the little jobs - one of which turned out not to be so little after all - he just lead us to believe it was. He surprised us by not wanting payment for a day spent making and fitting 2 shower bases - not for labour or materials - just goes to show you can never completely know someone.

On the other hand the drainage guy, having threatened me has now sent me a bill for £5,777.00 what he claims is the full amount for the work carried out. I have already paid him what I calculated the work to be worth (£1,480.00) and wait to see what he will do now as I don't intend to pay anymore.

So what progress have we made? The kitchen is tantalisingly close to being finished - just a cupboard to be fitted and a few cables boxed in and I can start moving in the furniture. We had black brickwork tiles and they look surperb. I spent 3 days covering up the yellow walls and green woodwork with magnolia and white - now the kitchen looks twice the size it did - it's going to be lovely. The front bedroom is now almost there, just waiting for the dado rails to be fitted in the ensuite and the carpet and we are done in there. I don't want to be overly optimistic but may also have the other two bedrooms on that floor done by Sunday. There is still, however, a mammoth painting job to be done on the lounge which hasn't been touched yet (more yellow and green) Not to mention the garden.

Been getting quotes from the yellohw pages. Very interesting will write about that next time.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008

That was a week that was

My intention was to write a blog everyday to chart the progress of the HMO development. Alas some days I haven't even been able to switch on my computer I've been so busy/tired. This week (or at least the last 9 days have been crazy.

I did the performance at the Town Hall with Ita. It was fantastic to be performing on such a big stage to such a huge audience. The event was promoted on the local TV station, radio, on the B'ham website and in the press. This coupled with the large cast of performance brought an audience of about 400. We were on in the second half and I was a) disappointed that my microphone kept falling off which detracted somewhat from the preformance and b) that the music and the action were perfectly synchronized, (A first for any performance with Ita) Andrew helped me to put the music together and the sound engineer (Tim I believe his name is) on the night was superb. We had some good feedback on the night - the audience laughed in all the expected places and we got good applause - but then so did everyone. There were some superb acts my favourites being Barbara Nice - the compare, the group of children dancing in white and the cast of RENT. I must go and see them at the Hippodrome in the new year.

I'll stay with performances for the time being as they have been the most rewarding things this week. On Saturday I did my co hosting of the Amnesty/WWB event. It was fabulous - not just because Ita and I were great MCs on the night but because the performers were so spot on. The musicians included Steve Yimga, an amazing djembe player, Joe Beale from the Joe Beale Blues Band, Silk Road, Matthew Tuite, Rockstone from Roakstone and ghe Y2K band, and the headline artiste - Ben Akofor who came all the way from Malvern. I was impressed when he said he was thinking what songs to sing at this event while he was in Palestine a couple of weeks ago. They were all superb. And the WWB performers really stepped it up a gear. I felt proud to be a part of the group.

As well as doing the MC ing we also did our poetry. Mine was 'The Guide' a poem about domestic violence. Almost immediately after I'd finished a gentleman came to ask me where he could buy the poem - sadly at this stage I don't have my poems available for sale. A bizarre thing happened. At the interval a woman took my hand - I thought to shake it - but no - she kissed my hand, looked into my eyes and repeated thank you a number of times. Apparently I was telling her story in the poem. A couple of people who work with women who have experienced domestic violence wanted to know if I would do something with their clients. A DJ from Newstyle Radio wanted me to come on to his show and many of the audience sought me out to tell me how much moved they were by the poem. What I find interesting is that while I was focused on the comparing part of the evening I was not overly concerned about performing the poem, and while I enjoyed the performace I really loved MCing. Much more so than I thought I would. Feed back has been really positive.

All this has been a welcome disraction from the house which is still inching its way forward. Too tired now to say much more but main builder completed all his work today. He's been paid and its good that all the fire doors are now in place (getting arm exercise opening them) Too tired to go on.
Sunday, 30 November 2008

Disappeared deadline

I should feel very depressed because the deadline for completing the conversion is today and the elves didn't come out and complete the work. Instead the electrician worked all weekend, the kitchen fitter put in a marathon spell, the door fitter put in a stint on Saturday and got all but one of the fire doors fitted, Andrew worked like a trojan with the electrician but it was not enough. I think we will be lucky to have it done by next week so I'm setting a new date of December 12. Apparently running over on your first project is not unusual - and is actually expected. It doesn't help either that we are now in dispute with the drainage company for not being able to deliver to our agreed date but worse of all for trying to rip us off on the quote. Not fitting equipment and trying to charge us for it. Will be interesting to see if the director turns up tomorrow to get his money as he threatened.

I'm not depressed because I've been too busy preparing for the World's Aid day performance at the Town Hall tomorrow. Amazing how long it takes to put together a ten minute skit. I'm doing it with Ita - one of the Mahagony Tree. Also today I was asked if I would be master of ceremony for the Amnesty/Writers Without Borders event on December 6th. My gut reaction was 'I'm not ready for this' but if someone considers that I am then I must be - so I said yes. I'll have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Still wading trhough treacle (or is it sawdust)

I discovered something today - some builders don't want you around when they are working - especially if you know what they should be doing and more to the point - how they should be doing it. No scope for scams, for charging you for materials they didn't use, for doing things shoddily and charging you top whack for the privilege. We are two our builders worst nightmare (or at least Andrew is) because he scrutinses their work and insists on getting it to his standards (which even I think are a bit excating at times) but as these guys don't come cheap they shouldn't expect to deliver a shoddy service. Yes- you've guessed it - the main builder and the drainage boss man.

I had to ring them today as I've had no word from either of them in a week. The fire doors are still not on and the drains which should have taken one week now looks like taking five and a half - and still with the unresolved issue of the paved patio. We should be getting a drawing of his proposal to incorporate decking into the design tomorrow. Though somehow I'm not holding my breath. And I've now been told that the new doors will be arriving tomorrow afternoon and the 'chippy' will be out to fit them on Saturday. Fortunately at this stage they are not holding up progress in the rest of the house so it will be no great disaster if he doesn't arrive.

What is holding up progress though is the tilers not being able to complete the bathroom this week. Not now till early next week. I can't really get mad at them because they had other stuff booked in and it's partly our fault that they couldn't get access to the bathroom when they were free. What is also holding up progress is that we still hven't got all the electrics in place - not even (or especially the first fix). Work is going on as I write (10.30 at night) but that's part of the problem. The 'sparky' can only come sometimes after work which apart from slowing the process makes for very long days for us. We have to be up to let in the workmen that arrive at 8.30 a.m. and be here for the ones that finish at 11.00 p.m. and frankly at this point I'm am fed up; tired of the long days, of the constant dust; of what appears to be so little progress or at least the sporadic nature of the progress. My dreams of having this all finished by the end of the month has not quite turned into a nightmare but it is certainly an uncomfortable place to be.

I am trying hard to maintain my belief that thing happen when they are meant to and that everyday I learn a new lesson but right now I just feel like I want a day off school. It was great to have the kitchen guy start yesterday. Please dear God let him be consistent
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Trouble in the waterworks

I'm still trying to get my head round what happened yesterday. Here's the situation. In September we were recommeded a drainage company and was initially impressed by the speed of thier response to our enquiries and the delivery of thier quote, and we were able to negotiate what we considered to be a good price. It was all in wiriting. Later we negotiated some further work to the garden, putting in steps, laying slabs etc. This was agreed at an additional price (not written) and there in lay the issue. Through a series of delays on thier part the work did not begin till 8th November with the promise of 'throwing 4 men at it and it will be over in a week'. On the 8th one man turned up - and he is still here and at the rate he is going (he's quick but still one man doing the work of four) he will be here for at least another 2 weeks.

Yesterday the guy we had done the deal with came and swore blind he had not quoted to carry out the work on the garden area - only to lay the slabs. I was gobsmacked but was incerdibly grateful for my previous experence of working with delinquent liars and managing difficult staff. I asked why his staff had started the work if it was never intended - he said Andrew had instructed him. There then followed a verbal tennis match about who said what, what was understood and more to the point what was misunderstood. He asked questions like 'Surely you could not have thought that all this work could have come so cheaply' to which I replied 'I am not in drainage or in groundswork I have no idea what the work is supposed to cost - that is your area of expertise'. He suggested the work we were asking for would cost another £1,500 . I suggested that his staff put back everything he had spent the last 3 days digging out exactly as he found it, every rock, every pebble, every shrub, every bulb. It was time for hin to look gobsmacked.

I then acknowledge that there had indeed been some major misunderstanding - I totally refrained from pointing out that he had underquoted for a piece of work and was now trying to wriggle out of it - and asked him to think of a solution that would leave the space maintenance free (which is what we wanted). I was not overly impressed with his idea of decking and shrubs.

No coincedence methinks that this issue has come come quickly on the back of a dispute with the main builder about the what was quoted for - he tried to wriggle out of paying for plaster work which was included in the price of a partition wall. The upside to this is that we've found another plasterer not connected to these guys in any way - just as good at one third of the price.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Deadline receeding

I agree with the woman in the bank who said most tradesmen go on a special training course where they learn how to look customers directly in the eye and lie about when work will be finished. Yes, due to some particularly efficient trainees our deadline is receeding fast. We are now just 11 days from our original finishing time of 30th November. I want to laugh hysterically when I remember that the plan was to have the house ready for let by this date- decorated, furnished and ready to show. I know I've been asking for a miracle but nothing short of one is going to bring this project in on time.

The main problem continues to be the main builder - but much worse we've discovered his real links to the other tradespeople he recommended to us which we subsequently used. They all have the same ethos and work on joint projects which are similarly running over time (and as a result I suspect) over budget.

We are now having disputes about the spec of some of the work. Lesson here Predencia - get it in writing, and if the spec changes by agreement after the initial one - get that down in writing too. A couple of these guys are as slippery as eels. The drainage contractor who got the work in September is now saying he may not be able to finish by the end of the month. He promised to start on 8th November using 4 men to complete in a week. After a week and a half with just one man he will only now commit to the work being completed.....but wouldn't say when. Aggggh!!

We've had some good experiences though. The tilers are proving very reliable and sticking to their quoted prices; the plumbers were in and out in a flash Thursday, Friday and Saturday(though sadly they had to return this morning because of a leak in the bathroom that soaked the brand new kitchen ceiling) but they were pleasant and stuck to their quoted time and price and will put right any lasting damage from the leak.

We finally got an electrician. We were estactic - competent and ....not turning up when he says he will - completely screwing up our schedule. I still have hair - but only just. I've been making time for meditation - otherwise I'd be bald by now.

I'm still optimistic that some miracle will work for us and that we'll have the property ready for showing before Christmas or am I just being stupid?
Monday, 10 November 2008

Progress - but still a long way to go

It is now November 10th and things have begun to move. Not quite a miracle - maybe a miraclette. The tiler's proved a Godsend (maybe he is the miracle). Despite the fact that he's charging £20.00 a sq metre he's agreed to drop the preparation cost. He's brought his brother in to help. They arrive when they say they are going to, do what they say they are going to do and work quite quickly. The tiling is beautiful so much so that despite the cost we've had more of the ensuites tiled than we had intended (another 60 tiles and approx £80 labour).

After hearing nothing from the main builder for a whole week , and discovering that the tilers also fit bathrooms we asked if they would fit the bathroom and toilet for us as we couldn't see how the main builder would have time (even if he was able to fit the ensuites at the weekend). Not knowing till the moment he turned up on Saturday morning that he was actually coming is no way to run a project. He arrived with the doors and the carpenter. The focus for the weekend was fitting the doors which left no time for the ensuites. We could not help but think we are not at the forefront of his mind. He brought 8 doors - yes we had ordered 8 doors but he'd already fitted two of them. Five of the doors were the wrong size so had to go back, they were therefore only able to fit three and they may (or may not) be able to come back in the week to fit door furniture and may (or may not) be back next weekend to begin the kitchen, Arggg!!

There is some good news though. We found a plumber who gave us a quote on Saturday and carried out moving the gas pipe on Sunday - arrived when he said he would - took as long as he said he would and charged us what he said he would. We've also found an alarm engineer who is extremely reliable and his work is brilliant; but then he is the same engineer that fitted the alarm 14 years ago and it has worked perfectly ever since. We are having quotes from two ariel engineers tomorrow and they can carry out the work quickly - even though we need TV points in 6 rooms. And today we gave the ensuite as well as the bathroom and toilet to the tilers and they've almost completed one of them already. It was fantastic to see water running in the basin and to hear the toilet flush. They intend to have the two ensuites and the toilet done by tomorrow.

Our biggest headache (apart from the main builder) is finding an electrician. If they are good they are busy and we are asking for a major work to be carried in a very short space of time. We've had one taker out of the 5 we've approached - and we cannot afford him. We're thinking of engaging a specialist fire alarm company which would take a significant chunk of the work out and we may then have a taker for the rest. The more off putting things seems to be the alarm system and the metering of the rooms.

Despite this it does feel like things are moving and we've had an injection of energy despite working a 7 day week for the last two weeks. We managed a meal out on Saturday night but getting to the cinema to see the new James Bond film was more difficult - don't think either of us could have stayed awake long enough to watch it - and my friend said Craig is definitiely worth staying awake for.

The result of engaging all these people is a significangt increase in our budget - but maybe it has simply increased to the level it should have been in the first place.

It's easy to imagine that my life has been completely taken over by the building work - almost but not quite. I'm rehearsing for a drama performance at Birmingham Town Hall on 1st December as part of the World's Aid Day celebrations, and I've been helping to organise a Writers Without Borders/Amnesty International collaboration event on 6th December to celebrate 60 years of the Human Rights Declarations.

And my youngest son has just comeback from a fantastic gig in Berlin - The Fairytale took Berlin by storm. I can't wait to hear the details.
Sunday, 2 November 2008

Still needing a miracle

We are now into November and I now know we're going to need a miracle to finish this project by the end of December. As the end of November deadline receded and disappeared into a mist of brickdust we sat down to restructure our plans and our budget. The problem continues to be our main builder who proves to be more an more unreliable each week.

He didn't manage to get a tiler to us by last Wednesday or by Thursday, Friday or Saturday. He arrived on Saturday to fit the en-suites but after fitting the shower bases on Saturday informed us that he would not be coming on Sunday as he had a kitchen to fit elsewhere. He would try and get hold of a tiler for us a.s.a.p. When I suggested getting one ourselves he said he get one to us on Sunday - which he did. The only problem is that this tiles charges £20.00 per sq metre plus preparation of walls and floor. This pushes our budget up by about £800.00 for the total tiling job. We've agreed to go ahead because he can start tomorrow.

Even though the fire doors were the first thing we asked him to fit he informed us this week that he's just ordered them and that they will arrive within 14 - 21 days, then they will take a week to fit. It's too late for us to engage anyone else at this stage an so we live with the frustration.

The other big realisation for us this week is that Andrew has taken on too much and we are going to need a series of tradespeople to help us complete the work if we're to bring the project in by the end of 2008. We need an electrician, an ariel engineer, an alarm engineer and possibly a plumber. We hired a carpenter to reroof the shed at the weekend so we can store some stuff down there while all the floorboards are up. He was quick but left us a lot of mess to clear up. In addition we've had to have paving slabs for the back garden area which is going to add an extra £1,400.00 to the budget. I'm not even thinking about the budget till we get the quotes in from all the various tradesmen. All I know at this stage is that the figure we thought of in the first place was woefully inadequate if we are to hire extra people.

We are pinning our hopes on the week beginning 8 November when we've been promised the fire doors being fitted, the drainage people will be in and we may be able to have the kitchen started (its been dilivered on 6th Nov.) If the electrician quote is anywhere near affordable he may well be able to start work that week too. Maybe that will be our miracle week. God knows we need a miracle now.
Sunday, 26 October 2008

Wading through treacle

Progress is so slow it feels like wading through treacle. Although the demolition work is coming along a treat the construction part is reminiscent of a new driver doing kangaroo starts. I learned a new skill this week. Taking apart a chimney breast. I did it the slow way taking out one brick at a time. Chiselling out the plaster between the bricks and gently prizing each one out so as not to disturb the wall too much. One skill I was not ready to develop this week was using a cutter which not only cut through brick also cut through concrete and steel. I watched in awe and certain amount of dread as Andrew cut through the steep pins holding the concrete base of chimney to the wall above the sink in the kitchen. It was awesome watching all the sparks flying and wondering if he could avoid the dangling electrical cable. I was too busy checking the photos I'd taken to see the concrete block come away from the wall. The room was covered in red brick dust and although I'd sheeted down everywhere it was so intense it filtered through the dust sheets. Brick covered apples - yum yum.

So why does it feel slow? Because the builders are not keeping pace with our destructive work. Well - it isn't all strictly destructive. Andrew is doing a lot of the foundation work. He spent most of the week laying the pipes for the ensuite showers, basins and toilets. Floorboards are up everywhere, the house is covered in dust. The carpet, where it is still in place has acquired Mars like red sheen top layer over the green. I haven't quite given up vacuuming because I can't stand eating grit - but I did take myself away for the day yesterday when the workmen turned up to put in a fireproof partition wall and fire door in the loft. We were expecting them to come back and do the ensuite today but alas they were having a day off as well. The main man was coming round only to measure up. It was too much to bear. I pointed out our deadline of end of November and that I could not see how we could meet this if they only work one day a week on what by his own estimation was a job requiring another 20 days work. He suggested we could let out two of the rooms which would be ready on a £50.00 discount till the rest of the house is finished. I wasn't really asking for business advise - just for the job to be completed. I voiced what our problem was - we had put all our eggs in one basket and was now totally reliant on one builder. Not that we had much choise. We knew no other builder at the time.

Anyway, he has arranged for the plasterer to come and do the stud wall in the second ensuite room on Wednesday and is trying to arrange for a tiler to come and tile both rooms this week. He will come next weekend to fit the showers (when I think of how we rushed around getting the materials a couple of weeks ago and they are still sitting idle). Whe the elusive fire doors arrive he'll send the chippy in for a week to fit them. I think Andrew lost heart when he realized how much there is still to do and how little time we have left. He went home early with a bad back. At the rate we are going we need a miracle to bring this in on time.
Sunday, 19 October 2008

An unexpected day off

Its Sunday and I've had an unexpected day off - unexpected because the builder who was supposed to be fitting out the ensuite bathrooms is having a weekend in Devon - not told to us till Thursday afternoon and then only at the end of a very long story about his wife booking it and him forgetting. I was pretty damned pissed of especially as we had been busting a gut to try and get things ready for him. My partner had even agreed to go and pick up a couple of shower parts from Bridgnorth so they would be available. He could have saved himself the time (getting up a 6.30 a.m.) and money in petrol. They would have posted them if we knew they weren't going to be used till next week. He (the builder) said he understood that it's no fun livng in a building site but that things will proress very quickly once he gets the fire doors. He'll have the 'chippy' working all week to fit them and the bathrooms and tiling shouldn't take too long. He tried to reassure me that the kitchen shouldn't take more than 4 days (why did he quote 5 then?) He also tried to reassure me that the work will be completed on time. I reminded him that the end of November was for everything - including decorating - so his bit need to be done prior to this. It's at times like this when I just have to turn things over to my spiritual guides and trust that things will be done in divine timing (otherwise I'd go spare - and it wouldn't change anything). Does anyone know a builder that talks straight, gives a price and sticks to it, arrives when he says he will, completes the work on time and leaves your house clean and tidy? Does anyone know a female builder - that might be the answer.

Anyway with our unexpected day off we went for a two hour walk along the canal and river near Kegworth. It was beautifully sunny and although I wasn't quite blinded by the sun on the water it was certailly dazzling. Loads of boats were out taking advantage of the weather and although it was a bit blowly it was relatively warm. If only I could get over my fear of cows I could see their gathering by the styles as an innocent act and not one designed to terrorise me. I just don't see anything harmless in the way the stare at you as you try to get by. I'm convinced that there's at least one in the pack that's got it in for me and has persuaded the others to join in. It was a good thing Andrew was with me this morning or I may never have got past them.

The walk was followed by 2 hours in the wet area of the gym. Steam, sauna and jacuzzi. I love it at Reeds because they play music to soothe - not the manic stuff you get at L A Fitness. They understand that after a long week relaxation is what a body needs. So - next week we'll continue with bending pipes, cutting channels in walls, chisseling off tiles, dismantling cupboards and joy of joys I get to take out a chimney breast in the kitchen ; new skill to learn there - cutting through bricks.
Saturday, 11 October 2008

More studding

What a difference a week makes. The bath and sink are outside awaiting collection by the council; the bathroom is stripped back to the plaster awaiting tiling, en suite number one is plastered and ready for tiling, en suite number 2 was created today - all the studding went in, double boarded, fire and so and insulated. Unfortunately the plasterer is on holiday for 10 days so we'll have a wait till that one is progressed.

It's beginning to feel real now. We bought a ton of tiles on Thursday and by sheer coincidence got a great deal in showers in the tile shop. The two showers we'd bought in Junction 2 Interiors were not ordered in time and they offered us replacements, which when I checked on the web were up to £150 cheaper than they were charging us (199.95 on the web J2 charging us £350). So I cancelled and found in this tile shop in Kingswinford 3 showroom models ranging from £900 to £1200. It was one of those moments where both parties got what they wanted. The owners had been unable to sell them and were having the display removed at the weekend. We were lucky. We got 3 shower cubicles and trays originally priced at £3000 for £800. This went some way to compensate for the fact that the stud walls are more than double our budget (£900 instead of £400)

It felt last week like the project had taken over our lives. I kept sneezing and being fluey until I realized that I was reacting to dust. Once I started to wear a mask things improved - there is so much dust in the house old stuff and the new stuff being created with every job - especially the carpentry materials and all the sawdust. I didn't quite take to bed this week but was generally on a go slow. Performing in the Birmingham Book Festival on Thursday night was touch and go but I made it. My partner was so tired he didn't come - strange not having him there to do the filming or to mike me up for recording. So - I have no means of reviewing my performance. I'll have to rely on what I've been told by others - that they really enjoyed my pieces.

Andrew took the day off today to go walking with his group. I hope it's cleared some of the cobwebs out of his head and left him feeling a little less stressed. It's been a long day. It's now 12.30 a.m. and I can barely keep my eyes open.
Sunday, 5 October 2008

Stud walling

The partition walls are in and the spaces have been transformed. One wall is in one of the bedrooms (Bedroon no 2) what used to be my office - a room 17ft x 16ft. The builders have created the space for the ensuite shower room and I have to admit to being quite taken aback by the transformation. It's a room within a room and the very high ceiling makes if feel much bigger thaan the 6ft x 6ft square it is. The second wall is the one at the top of the stairs that encloses what is currently my bedroom and shower room into one suite (previously two separate rooms with a bit of landing between them). It is so cosy I wonder why I've never thought to do it before.

The two guys who acheived this worked like the clappers from 9-6 on Saturday and 10-6 today. Andrew and I looked on in awe from time to time and quietly admitted to each other that there's no way we would have been able to do a fraction of it in the time they've taken. Would probably have taken us three weeks. Especially as I've not been able to do much since Thursday when I was laid low and had to spend the day in bed. Friday was not much better and it was Andrew's day off. He insisted I do nothing until I was properly well and for once I heeded his request because I felt so lousy.

There was a point on Thursday when I felt I would not be able to write anything in time for the Writers Without Borders performance on the 9th. I was laying in bed at 8 p.m. listening to Radio 4 when David Dimbleby announce that Question Time was coming from Birmingham Convervatoir as part of Birmingham Book Festival. That jolted me. If Question Time could make it I could certainly make an effort to be part of the book festival. I struggled up and with head lolling on my chest from sheer fatigue at times I managed to write a piece on ritualistic killings (or theme is Rituals and Traditions) - albeit of goats. I managed to struggle in to rehearsal on Saturday morning and surprisingly the piece was well received.

I've done virtually nothing in terms of working on the house this weekend - lots of paperwork and research on the web. After the mammoth vacuuming session after the guys left at 6 p.m. we went for a well earned meal at Cafe Rouge - to spend one of our buy-one-get-one-free main courses token from the Sunday Telegraph last week. It's our day off tomorrow....but we'll see.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Tiling and tings

It was 2 o'clock before I made it out of bed today. That cold took a hold last night completely blocked my head. Now those of you who know anything about Louise Hay's philosophy will know that colds are about doing too much - having the head full of too many things. Yes - that could be me. I'm living slap bang in the middle of a building site, I've got a performance next Thursday with Writers Without Borders, and preparing for two in December; one at the Town Hall as part of Worlds Aid Day and the other with Amnesty International for the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day. I'm still seeing coaching clients. It wasn't until I did some self Reiki that I felt human enough to get up and face the day. Andrew (my partner) was very understanding. He's nearly finished the painting in one of the bedrooms in preparation for the ensuite which hopefully will be fitted next week.

The builder is coming on Saturday to put in a couple of partition walls. He came round today to measure up so I'm hopeful the work will begin as agreed. The drains guys were 3 hours late as they were stuck on another job. The negotiation skills I learned in Egypt came in useful tonight. 'What's your best price?' I asked and negotiated a £850 discount. They can start next weekend.

I learned how to use a chisel and lump hammer to remove tiles today - and spent most of the afternoon and evening taking the tiles off the bathroom wall. I stopped about 9.30 p.m out of consideration for the neighbours. Tomorrow is supposed to be my day off but already it looks like we'll have to go and buy the ensuite and bathroom equipment and, because Andrew is having Friday off, we'll have to put out two settees and the dishwasher (which has very conveniently stopped working and after 17 years and not worth repairing) out for the council to collect on Saturday morning. We are both tired and its only Wednesday and we'll be working with the guys at the weekend. It's the 1st October today we only have 9 weeksif we are to get this in on time.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Letting go

The constant packing is beginning to take its toll. Today I have a cold - loads of sneezing and coughing and blowing of nose. Maybe its the change in weather or maybe its breathing in years of dust. I cleared a bookshelf in my son's room that hasn't been touched in 7 years. Did I need to keep any book that hasn't been looked at in 7 years? There were a couple of novels I've put aside to read again (in another 7 years maybe). My son has outgrown most of his books and yet it was still hard to put them into the charity bag. I even found myself thinking I could save them for the grandchildren. No Predencia NO. Let go. If I ever do another HMO I'm sure it will take a fraction of the time because there wont be any of the emotional attachment to clearing rooms - no looking through past school reports; through music concert programmes; no reminiscing about the pride I felt when son number one was selected to play basketball for England, no welling up at the thought that it was all 10 years ago, no reflection on whether I've been a good enough parent. No doubt about whether I'm handling son number three's concerns that his home is being turned into a business. Sometimes if feels like this is more exhausing than the acutal work.

Today the application form to have the gas pipe in the kitchen moved came. Yesterday it took me 15 minutes and 5 calls to get through to the right department of Nationalgrid. I was even transferred to BT Glasgow by a Nationalgrid employee in the Midlands. It really pisses me off when this happens when I'm on an 0870 number. Not only are they charging an arm and a leg to do the pipework but they're making money out of my phone calls too. We're having second thoughts about paying over £1000.00 to move the meter. Does anyone know of a lightweight fridge/freezer that could sit on a plinth about two feet off the ground?

I've nearly done all the bedrooms now and the loft is looking pretty fat (where did all that space go?) Tomorrow I start on the bathroom - not only is there an airing cupboard to be emptied but there's a bit storage cupboard almost to the ceiling full of suitcases and travel bags. That wonderful week in La Tour de France just two weeks ago is beginning to feel like a distant memory.
Monday, 29 September 2008

Courting the builders

I'm working my way round the bedrooms and already the loft is looking full - despite the mountain of paper I took to the recycle centre and the copiously filled black bags that went to various Charity shops. I like to give to Barnardos; not only because I believe in their cause but because it is on the corner of the High St in Erdington and if I get there early enough there're places to park.

The clearing is hard work physically, emotionally and spiritually. But much more challenging is getting workmen to give quotes or respond to phone messages and turn up when they say they are going to. I was under the impression that due to the down turn in the building trade that there were a fair few buildiers just waiting to jump at the chance to work. Why then have we got the only ones that seem too busy to return phone calls - or can't start till March? I would like to think it is because they are bloody good and have loads of work on despite the looming depression that we keep being told is on the way. We've finally got a start date from a builder we have been courting. Please dear God let him turn up on Saturday and please let him be good.
Friday, 26 September 2008

An attic full of memories

I'd set myself 4 days to clear out the loft. It took 8. Whereas the shed involved throwing out old bikes, trikes, the Kettecar Marlon got for his 3rd birthday, my Nephew's books that went into the shed 5 years ago (my way of holding on to some momentos of his life), and black bags full of comics - the loft was mostly paper. True there was an old pair of speakers, (a fine bit of mahagony furniture), a few chairs, old off cuts of wood, rusted tools, old shower gubbings and the like, but the bulk of what filled my loft was paper. It would be to cliched to say there were several forrests in there but it was pretty damned close.

Of course the reason it took double the allocated time is because I hadn't allowed for the fact that I'd get side tracted into reading old diaries and journals. I found one from 1974 which was a real page turner. What I found amazing from reading that diary was how I had managed to reconfigure events in my memory. Things I remembered as happening sequentially were actually concurrent. How could I have forgotton people who had featured so prominently in my life? Makes me wonder who I will no longer remember in 10/20 years time.

I found hundreds of photographs, old letters, birthday and Christmas cards, gifts, momentos, and papers from just about every course I've ever done. Drafts for all my publications, drafts from other people's publications - God what a hoarder. Not to mention the clothes. The plus side with the clothes is that most of them would still fit -though I wouldn't be caught wearing them now (well - maybe as costume in a play or something).

Everything had to be cleared out so the floor could be strengthened and shelves and lights put in - then what I was keeping had to be put into storage boxes, labelled and moved back again. This is certainly an incentive to lose the hoarding instinct.
The intention is to use the loft (which is quite a big room) as storage and workshop space. Somewhere to keep the spare bulbs, irons, kettles, chairs, duvets and anything else a tennant may need in an emergency. Somewhere to keep tools and do repairs. With this hive of activity the Fire Service has advised that we will need to fit a fire door and a heat detector in the loft. This brings to 13 the number of smoke/heat detectors we have to fit whch brings with it a few challenges as the system we were hoping to use will only take 12.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The conversion begins

Work on my house to convert it from a family dwelling to a HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) got underway properly today. It was a bit of a milestone and a huge relief after months of clearing and chucking out. It's amazing how much stuff a family can accumulate in 17 years.

It began in June with clearing the garden, some heavy pruning, lopping and digging to make the garden as low maintenence as possible. I suppose we could have just gone for concreting the lot (all 150 feet) but what with the current flooding problems being linked to the amount of land paved and unable to allow water to drain away - not to mention the expense - it seemed more sensible and cost effective to just get my head down and do it myself. It was great during those few weeks of sunshine we got in June to be out there doing battle with the ivy. I think I may have won a few battles where that is concerned but there is still a war on at the bottom of the garden. The shed is still partially clad in the damned thing and each time I ripped a chunk of ivy it took a chunk of the felt roof with it.

We have a plan. Clear out shed at bottom of garden, then out houses, loft, bedrooms 2,3 and lounge. Begin work on all of above then when complete tackle bedroom 4 and kitchen, and finally the biggie - the kitchen. Bedrooms 1 and 5 would be last as they needed least doing to them. I'll let you know in the next blog how the plan is working.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Sex Education Channel 4

So....I've done my final bit for the Sex Education series C4 will be broadcasting next month. The first of six one hour episodes starts on Tuesday 9th September. Yesterday I joined about 80 other people at the Sunbeam Studio in Ladbroke Grove for a studio session with Anna Richardson. It was nice that they provided food throughout the day, lots of scrummy sandwiches, fruit (why was it behind the counter and had to be asked for?) and sweet chocolaty things.

I don't mind admitting that I was a bit disappointed with the day on a number of counts.
1. I think they tried to pack too much into the day for there to be any serious debate on the subjects they raised e.g why don't people use condoms, how many sexual partners are acceptable for men and for women, at what age should sex education begin, is porn on the internet making children more promiscuous, are people concerned enough about STIs given that Britain have the highest incidence in Europe? Of these issues I feel the only one that got any serious discussion was the STIs. The others simply skimmed the surface. The stuff on spicing up your sex life was amusing and I guess designed to bring some light relief to what could have been a heavy show - but in the end I think it was all a bit light.
2. I didn't like the way they used the stuff I filmed with the other parents. They made it look like we were all horrified at what our teenagers could be watching when in truth they used the only clip where I was shocked. Apparently there will be a more balanced view in the real programme. 3. Those people who attended in a professional capacity like the teachers and health workers were treated with little respect at times - no wonder so many of them left at lunch time. Come on C4, if you're going to ask people to bring their expertise at least take the trouble to listen to it. I loved the guy who talked about the work he did in schools around self esteem and teenagers loving themselves.

Of course there were pluses. Anna Richardson is very warm and friendly - no indication that she has any intention of disappearing up her own rear end. The crew too were helpful and friendly-and of course there is always the bonus of meeting new people. I came away clutching the details of the best burlesque dance classes in Birmingham and a greater understanding of the dance form. Will be checking out the Candy Box Burlesque school before the summer is out (maybe just to perform for my man).
Friday, 1 August 2008

Busy, busy bee

Nearly a month since my last post. I read somewhere that when you're busy living life you don't have time to write about it. Maybe it's just an excuse but I have been very busy lately (even busier than usual). Apart from the thing at the Cinnamon Cafe I did a couple of open mikes last month, Poetry Bites at the Kitchen Garden Cafe and Pure and Good and Right at the Fox in Leamington where I saw the award winning Tony Walsh who can make you laugh and cry in equal measures. He invited me to post some of my stuff on the www.writeout loud.net website. I will do - just not had time yet. Check it out if you have time there are some good people on it. It also has UK wide listings of poetry events.

At the moment I've got my head down in research on how to turn my house into an HMO. If you have any experience of this I'd love to hear from you. I knew how far I was in when I woke up this morning and realized that I'd forgotton my belly dance class last night. I NEVER DO THAT. Especially after the brilliant workshop I attended on Sunday run my Melissa Abrahams. After 3 and a half hours every muscle in my body ached - especially my abs and glutes.

Its my son's birthday today, I've got to prepare for co-running a creative writing workshop with Writers Without Borders tomorrow (with the font of so much knowledge Sue Brown) and I can't wait to see my friend Michelle who is here from Canada and coming to spend the weekend with me.

I'll try and post things I'm in before I do them in future. Sorry Geoff for not letting you know what I was up to. Thanks for the text. A timely reminder.
Thursday, 3 July 2008

Cinnamon Cafe very sweet

It was worth the travel to Bridgnorth on Tuesday night. The first act - a fiddle and guitar band were great. Then we had a poet (Trevor) followed by a reading because the main music act couldn't make it due to illness. The music in the second act (by their own admission) was under rehearsed. Then it was me. I tested out some new poems and got a a really good response. I'll definitely use that set again and I got a good set of recordings too. The evening ended with a storyteller. Did I mention that they keep a good cellar?

Porn on Channel 4

'Do you know what kind of porn your teenager could be watching on the internet?' That was the question a group of parents were asked today for a new C4 series on how and where teenagers get their sex education from these days. Me and two other couples were shown a number of porn sites and asked for our reaction to them. Maybe it's my past life as a biology teacher or maybe I'm just out of touch with current thinking about what teenagers should know but I was not as horrified as the others. Most of the sites showed either people in various acts of intercourse or various parts of the body in close up. Only three of the sites did I find unacceptable. One because it had models who looked like they could have been children; one because it had an image of what appeared to be quite a sadistic act and the other because it showed someone eating shit. While the others were all in agreement about these sites I seemed to be at odds them over the others. Children - especially teenagers know far more than parents like to think; and mostly it is only out of respect for their parents that they keep it a secret. The programme is going to be aired as part of a series in September. I've been invited back for a studio discussion. That should be interesting.
Monday, 30 June 2008

Cinnamon Cafe 1st July

A few weeks ago I agreed to do a set (poetry) at Cinnamon Cafe in Bridgnorth. I can't believe how quickly its come round. I'm there tomorrow night at 8.00 p.m. The details are on the up and coming page of my website www.predencia.co.uk Thanks to those of you who are coming - would be good to see a few more. Its a good night, they don't just have poets - there's music, storytelling and comedy - and really yummy home made cakes and snacks. They keep a nice cellar too and only £3.00 on the door.
Sunday, 22 June 2008

What a weekend!

It feels like my strategy for getting exposure is definitely working. It started when I got back from Spain last Sunday. There was a call from SB (Writers Without Borders) to ask if I'd do a radio promotion on NewStyle Radio the next morning. Fortunately I was free and managed to get an airing for a poem I'd only completed the day before while still in Spain.

Friday night I was dancing at the Bellydance Hafla in Sutton Coldfield - unfortunately not my best as a) I was knackered and b) I didn't know the dance that well. It was, however, great fun. I even stayed behind to join in the free for all dancing at the end - obviously gaining in confidence being able to put a small routine together.

Saturday was the WWB Fantastico evening with Infusion Ensamble - part of Refugee Week. We were a poetry group which included refugees and a band made up entirely of refugees from different countries. I had the prevelige of performing my poem 'Run Refugee Run' with the drummer of the band, Zirak. Thanks Zirak for bringing a new dimention to the poem. Look out for a clip on my website soon. It was a great night- everyone was up and dancing by the end. Infusion Ensamble will be performing again at the Yardbird in Birmingham on 6th July - part of Birmingham Jazz Festival and it all for free.

And then today me and Ester from WWB did an hour interview with two charming teenage presenters at Unity FM Radio. How do you answer the question 'What is poetry?' It was a great opportunity to air some of my earlier poems and another chance to do 'Run Refugee Run' and to remind myself how much I enjoy working with young people.
Thursday, 5 June 2008

ITVs Great Biritsh Body

Thanks to everyone who watched Trinny and Suzanna's Great Birtish Body Monday 2nd to Wed 4th June. I missed Monday night because I was singing with Birmingham International Voices (BIVS) at Birmingham Council House . It was the presentation ceremony for the students graduating from The College for International Citizenship. It was the second time I'd done it and have been very moved by the whole thing on both occasions. I love the Council House, and especially the Banqueting Suite where the presentations are held. The rich reds and golds are so beautifully complemented by the stunning colours of the floral and plant arrangements.

I got home just in time to catch the last five minutes of The Great British Body but was able to watch all of Tuesday and Wednesday night episodes. Now, I'm not usually a fan of Trinny and Suzanna but could really sign up to what they were trying to do in this series, which was to get people to love and appreciate the bodies they are in now - even if they are working towards change. It is very much in keeping with my own philosophy in life. Living in the present.

Watching Tuesday night I was amazed at how much I missed even though I was at the Birmingham road show. I didn't see any of that rating stuff, or the announcement of the results of the fat gene tests. Last night was also an eye opener as to what went on before I arrived at the big tent that bright and breezy moning on April 26th. I didn't realize that they were panicing that there wouldn't be enough people to make the statues. Watching it brought it all back and it was great to finally see the sculptures from the air.

Thanks SAS for recroding all of them for me. I'm looking forward to watching again my fear and elation as the day unfolded. It will be a reminder of how it was possible to overcome some of my deepest taboos. I must say I was a bit taken aback by how many wilies were on show ln the tv - also a bit pleased that so many people were willing to just let it all hang out. At the end of the day I think it was Trinny and Suzanna who were a bit reserved on the day, but fair play to them - they did, as they put it - get thier kit off. Check out the pics on the ITV website.
Monday, 19 May 2008

The wonders of NLP

This weekend I qualified as an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner. NLP studies three areas: Neurology - the mind and how we think; Linguistics - how we use language and how it affects us; and Programming - how we sequence our actions to acheive our goals.

There are many training courses out there all adopting different ways of delivering the training. Some work with small groups, others with groups of say 30+ and those by the likes of Paul MaKenna work with groups of 300+. I was fortunate enough to be on a course with 5 other people and two facilitators. It felt at times that I was getting 1:1 tuition. It wasn't the cheapest but I've come away feeling extremely well equipted to practice. Doing the course over seven weeks meant that I could work with the techniques as I learned them with existing clients and friends who wanted to shift some of their long held limiting beliefs and blocks to acheiving their goals.

The techniques are amazing. One of the guys on the course had a phobia of frogs. Using NLP and systematic desenitization he went from being terrified of being anywhere near a frog to holding one in his bare hands within an hour. Fear of flying came tumbling too within a very short space of time. Confidence was built and food habits broken. The great thing is that these things happened so very quickly.

I'm really looking forward to specializing in dealing with anger using NLP and have already got two people who are keen to get going. I'll keep you posted on how they got on. (No names of course)

If you're interested in the course I did contact Julie French or Tony Burgess at the Academy for High Achievers at http://www.aha-success.com/ info@aha-success.com or call them on 0845 373 4028
Monday, 12 May 2008


Ever wondered what happened to Dave Reeves, editor of Raw Edge Magazine? (A local magazine for cutting edge new writing whose Arts funding was withdrawn recently) He's now heading up a web radio station called Radio Wild Fire. It broadcasts live every first Monday of the month between 8-10 p.m. and in between runs a loop of past performers and interviews. The focus is on spoken word intermingled with mucic. Currnet loop of 12 performers include John Elgar, Stereogram and Julie Boden.

I had the pleasure of being Dave's guest on Monday 5th May - Bank Holdiay Monday. I'd agreed to do the show before I realised it was Bank Holiday, but it was worth going. And as the first guest I was out by 9.15 so still had time to enjoy the night. I was impressed with both Dave and what the team is able to acheive from the tiny studio on the edge of Birmingham city centre.

The loop will be updated soon with some of the material I performed on the night. To listen to the station go to www.radiowildfire and click on the loop. Dave and his team are always looking for more people to listen and to take part in broadcasts. Contact them on radio.wildfire@googlemail.com
Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Broken Love Entangled Lives

At the weekend I went on the most baffling and spiritually intriguing course I've ever experienced. You might know it as Family Constellation as i did, but discovered that it's actually more accurately described as Systemic Constellation. Even those who have experienced it finds it difficult to explain what happens. The blurb in the course details says

'Systemic Constellation is a highly practical method for making the hidden dynamics within systems visible, revealing the nature of a situation and its possible resolution'

For systems - read family; because it is essentially about healing family relationships. So what's new I hear you ask, lots of courses are about that. The difference is that this one heals realationships from past generations - ancestral stuff - as well as the more immediate bickering and in-fighting that goes on in families today. It works on the principle that if a family member is forgotton/not spoken about (usually for shameful reasons) some other person in the family will find a way to represent them by taking on one or more of their qualites (usually unsociable or disruptive ones) until the person who is not spoken about is acknowledged. Lets say someone committed a crime or was a drunk, drug addict, or wifebeater and everyone in the family refuses to talk about them. Some new child being born will agree at some spiritual level to take on some of those qualities and represent them in the family until the original family member is acknowledged and spoken about again - this may go on for several generations. I saw such generational healing taking place.
I shared a most transformational weekend with 9 other people who all helped me to understand the longstanding conflict I've been having with one of my sons and to find a resolution and heal the situation. Thanks to you all. You might like to know that in light of the burden my son has carried all his life to have his dead siblings remembered we've agreed that I'll call him by another name to mark the fact that he has put down his load and started a new phase of life.

It is extremely difficult to put into words what happened but if you are interested contact Vivian Broughton on info@constellationswork.co.uk or look at her website http://www.constellationswork.co.uk/ She is a most amazing facilitator
Monday, 28 April 2008

Bare bodies on South Downs

Saturday is one day I'll not be forgetting in a hurry. Its not everyday that I have to get up at 4.15 a.m. to get a coach from Birmingham to Firle is Sussex for a bare body extravaganza. I always knew it was going to be interesting but it surpassed even my expectations. There were only 15 of us on the coach from Birmingham so I assumed that the recruiting of the expected 450 people must have come from nearer the event - other wise we were going to be very thinly spread indeed. A couple of our party seemed to be still on whatever they were taking the night before and already I was questionning my sanity. One guy I was chatting to said he travels around the world taking part in naked installations - I was obviously among experts (or at least one).

Three and a half hours later we were being ferried up to the Downs by minibus as the track was too small for the coaches. Hardly any expense had been spared by the ITV crew with the massive white tent, the carpetted floor, breakfast (bacon and sausage baps for the meateaters and danish pastries for the vegetarians) I was moved to ask 'where is the protein in danish pastries' but was advised not to ask that on camera for the first of what proved to be many an interview to camera throughout the day.

The rehearsal was thankfully fully clothed and I was grateful to have been cast a a left finger. I'm not sure how the guy who'd been cast as the penis tip felt but he fulfilled his position admirably. I have to confess that I felt very confident throughout the day - until it came to actually taking all my clothes off and putting on the boiler suit in which I would make my way back out onto the Downs when I began to feel a little anxious.

Panic didn't really set in until the order to ditch the boiler suits and take up our positions on the grass so that we could be filmed from the helicopter came. What I hadn't actually bargained for was that we'd also be filmed by the crew on the ground. I have to confess that after a few minutes of lying in the beautiful sunshine with my eyes closed (funny how you think that if you close your eyes no one can see you) I began to relax a little - and by and by even plucked up the courage to give an interview to camera - completely starkers!! Well, how liberating is that. I'll never view my body with quite the level of secrecy I did before. I have been at my most vulnerable and survived. I guess it helped that there were over two hundred other naked bodies around. I bit of a surprise for the ramblers walking the South Downs Way. What they must have thought when the turned the corner to see naked bodies spread out all over the ground with camera people weaving in and out of them. A helicopter overhead, and Trinny and Suzanna standing naked hugging each other in the middle of a field.

It was all quite uplifting and liberating really. But the best part of the day for me was the service provided by the delicious Butlers in the Buff. (See photo) Very fitting for the event. The shows go out on June 3/4/5 not sure of the time yet but will post a reminder.
Friday, 25 April 2008

The Great British Body

Call me mad if you will but tomorrow I'm off down to Sussex to take part in Trinny and Suzanna's Great British Bare Body photoshoot. For those of you who don't know Trinny and Suzanna are currently filming a new series to be broadcast on June 3/4/5 in which they are looking at what constitutes the average British body. A think as most of us know it's not the kind portrayed in the magazines and music videos. Thery've been conducting roadshows across the country and asking Joe and Jane public to come and be weighed and measured. I went to the one in Birmingham. (Thanks Adrianne for coming with me - glad you had a good time). They had about six stations of nurses weighing and measuring, not just the usual vital statistics but head and neck circumference, leg length, hand span, and foot length. (I was given some helpful tips on cup size which I have taken with huge improvements). I was curious about the scan machine which I was not invited to use and was informed that it was to check the correct functioning of the internal organs of people who had lost a lot of weight very rapidly or who had been grossly overweight at one time.

They also had someone testing people for the fat gene. I didn't need a test - I have it, I just know - I just manage to keep it well muzzled. On Tursday I had a call from ITV to ask if I'd mind being interviewed by the social historian working on the show (they were trying to see if there are hereditary factors dertermining peoples shape, size, and in my case longevity.) They were interested in the fact that the female side of my family go on a long time. I have an aunt who died a few years ago aged 105 and another who is currently 96 and not looking like she's off anywhere anytime soon. My own mother died last year aged 92 and only then I think because she got bored. As you can also guess there is also an issue of late fertility. I was interviewed on camera so you may see me on one of the show in June.

So how is it mad to be going to Sussex tomorrow? Well, they are going to be doing an ariel photo of a male and female body made up of about 450 people. One will morph into the other - but they want to shoot them bare, yes - naked. 450 naked people making up one man and one woman. It should be a laugh. I've checked the forcast and thankfully it looks like sunshine and about 14 degrees C. I'll let you know how it goes.
Sunday, 6 April 2008

Where did March go?

I can't believe it's April already. It seems like just a few days ago since it was February and March has just disappeared in a blur. Too many things happening. Thanks to all of you who came to see Veronica's Room. I hope you were impressed with my Irish accent - my son said it was a bit Irish/Jamaican. What do you think? I was hoping to get a few pics to post - especially ones of me as the elderly Maureen but they didn't come out too well. Look out for a film clip on the website soon. Soo much to do!!

I'm trying to catch up with everyone but the day job was rather hectic last month and looks like it will continue into this month. Also I'm starting my NLP training tomorrow which won't be completed till mid May; and have started rehearsing for 'See How They Run'. I also had a problem accessing my blog but will endeavour to keep up to date.
Thursday, 28 February 2008

An Amazing Women's Day

Some things are just an absolute treat to be a part of and the 'Amazing Women's Day' at Salford University yesterday was one of them. You'll know if you've read my profile that I'm a life coach and this event was made doubly amazing because it was co-hosted by one of my clients - JennyMcGuire. Jenny who a few months ago has difficulty standing up in front of 20 people at business breakfast meetings had organized with her business partner Catherine an event for up to 1000 women. On the day there were approximately 200 and Jenny stood up in front of them and told the story of her journey so far. Of the the way she had buried her issues of abuse and tried to mask them with sex, drugs and booze. And how it was only when she was able to face these things; bring them out into the open, deal with them and learn to love herself again that she was able to move on. I was amazed at her courage and felt intensely proud of her and the work she has gone on to do with her own clients - who were happy to testify of the changes she's helped them to make.

It was a fun filled day of music, dance, skits, interviews and sharing. Sharing in a way that touched the lives of everyone who was there. I discovered something about myself, about my lingering underlying fear of relationships which I can now put right once and for all. So many other people left with resolutions for making changes and a great many want to come back next year to share their progress. I think that definitely means another one guys. That's one I'm definitely putting into my diary as soon as you decide a date. Check out Jenny and Catherine at www.growingdreams.co.uk
Saturday, 23 February 2008

The Fairytale is Over

I'm generally a happy person and usually have great weeks but some weeks are just amazing and I've just had one of them. Have you ever had them? You know - the ones where everything you touch turns to gold. Everything just flows, where you glide effortlessly over obstacles and everything you need is presented to you exactly at the time you need it?

Thanks Julie for stepping in at exactly the right time with the solution to my NLP course, and to all my clients for having such brilliant weeks - your success is my delight. Thanks Geoff for providing the solution to the singing lessons, and Andrew the solution to the transport. Sandra, thanks for your input with Veronica's Room - I'm right on target now.

So if it's been such a great week how comes is the fairytale over? The title is a misnomer really because the fairytale is only just beginning. I went to see an amazing band called The Fairytale last night at the Hiberian in Birmingham. They were the second of a 4 band line up and stole the show. They're a young band - very individual - very dynamic - full of energy - and definitely going places. And I'm not just saying that because my son's the drummer. They completely usurped the headline band who had come over specially from Sweden. To check out their style have a listen to them on www.myspace.com/thefairytaleisdead

They've got gigs more gigs in Birmingahm and gigs lined up in Bath next month and they're planning a European tour in the Summer. For me - a perfect end to a perfect week...aaahhhh!
Sunday, 17 February 2008

Single on St Valentine's night?

St Valentine's Day is obviously big business now. Enough's been written about it and I'm not going waste much more time adding to the miles of words already out there about it. I'm not a kill joy, and I'm about as romantic as they come - hearts and flowers mean a lot to me - I just don't need someone telling me when to give them. I did, however, enjoy this Valentine's day more than most. Not because of the georgous red dress I got as a present, or the bling jewellery, or the fabulous meal (with my health in mind). All of that was fanastic and much apprecited. What made it more special was that I was performing at Waterstones's in Birmingham with Writers Without Borders in an evening focused on love and food. This event was absolutely made for me; because, as you know I love food, and I love love. To be in love, to be loved, thinking about love, talking about love, writing about love. And it was just great to be out there on the night rhyming about love...and food.

It was a busy time this week because on Friday night I was at the Museum and Art Gallery doing a re-run of Thursday night. This time at a 'Singles' event. I thought there would be about fifty or so people out on the 'Love Trail' around the Art Gallery. But no....over two hundred people turned out in search of their perfect partner. Not that we could fit 200 into Gallery 20 where we were performing. There were about 60 or so of them that made it from the bar and the jazz on the main reception area. It was a fantastic night; its always good when members of the audience feel so inspired that they want to join us on stage..an two people did just that. One man did a short poem in Urdu and another man an even shorter one from his mobile phone. We were allowed to mingle with the 'guests' afterwards - a gift if you wanted to hunt out your perfect partner too. Sadly we were not given a half of a postcard so it we could find the matching half as all the paying guests got on their way in. I haven't spoken to anyone from our group yet so I don't know if anyone got lucky.

I do know that one of my friends who I met there is going to meet the other half of her post card again.....maybe....who knows? Can love really be found when the meetings are so contrived?
Monday, 4 February 2008

Far from magic Monday

It started well enough; quite a leisurely crawn out of bed after a late night at the Kitchen Garden Cafe last night; recorded my dreams (which were a bit wierd - including keys, spectacles and mirrors) ate some breakfast; made some phone calls, cooked some food; did some work and was feeling that I was finally getting back to normal after the rush of next week. So how did it end with the ambulance coming to take my son's friend away because we couldn't figure out what she had taken and could barely keep her conscious. That was a couple of hours ago and I still haven't heard how she is. Why is it when you feel like you're just getting back in the groove, just getting back on track - life sends you the wrong kind of snow to try and derail you? Still, I guess I'm nowhere near as derailed as her parents are - my love and blessings are with them all right now. I trust she will be fine.
Saturday, 2 February 2008

Roi Kwabena's 21 Drum Salute

I've just come back from a tribute celebrating the life of Dr. Roi Ankhkara Kwabena. I am moved to write because I was move beyond my expectations. I met Roi a few times through Writers Without Borders - did one of his workshops and thought him an unusual man. The last time I saw him was a few weeks before his death when he came to do a poetry reading as part of the Equiano exhibition at the Art Gallery in Birmingham. I remember he missed his slot because his train was late. His audience had gone and so he performed to four of us who had gone to say hello. He looked very frail (more so than usual) and propped himself up on the lecturn when he spoke. I can't really remember what he said because a) I was cold, and b) I was too busy watching the movement of his face. He had a very mobile and expressive face. I remember Sue saying he was very ill, but I took it to mean with one of the numerous bugs that was going around then. Not with the cancer that was diagnosed too late for treatment.

I'm not too brilliant myself at the moment, coming down with a head cold but decided to go to his 21 Drum Salute at (very fittingly) The Drum tonight. I'm so gald I went. I learned so much more about him by going. I didn't know he played the drum - which seemed to have been such a big part of his life - and now I'll never hear him play. I never knew he was so well travelled. I knew he was an activist but I didn't know to what extent. The more I heard, the more humbled I felt because you would not know these things from talking to him. He was extremely unassuming. Someone said he had no ego; that he was a very spiritual man; that he quietly went about the business of fighting the battles of the oppressed, the displaced, those without hope and those with talent who needed a mentor to bring it out. And as I listened I realized that he was all the things I aspire to be, and I felt even more humbled. But by the time they did the second 21 drum salute I felt priviliged to at least have met him.
Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Missing Dahab

I've just come in from a cold and grey night, made even more noticable because this time last year I was in Egypt, halfway through a 10 day meditation and yoga retreat. Things seem so different this year. I was hoping to upload a picture of my friend's birthday but I haven't got the hang of it yet. Friend's Restaurant in Dahab (how fitting), Big fish, big cakes and big cats, and exceptionally freindly waiters. If you ever make it to Dahab make sure you go to Friends. For now I'll just remember the massage on the beach, the amazingly clear skies, the foaming randy camels and the unleavened bread cooked on hotstones in the desert. I'll pull the blinds, turn up the readiator, put on some music and pretend.