So ummmmmm, yeah (embarrased shuffle)… a (good) few months ago I dreamt up the Slow Scrub – ninety teeny little tasks that would help you take your house from hell to heaven without busting a gut in the process, released in three parts over three months, that I would write as I performed each part of the process myself.
So off I set: cleaning and polishing and scrubbing and writing and the first two parts went out over the described two months and then it was time to tackle the final month of the ninety days and… nothing. Nada. Zilch and zero. I couldn’t clean. My life went bottom up and my sense of home was swallowed up in the chaos of having to move twice in as many months and everything was miserable and I got a teeny bit depressed and quite a bit sick and I left us all in housekeeping limbo because I couldn’t write up month three because I hadn’t actually tested it out and I couldn’t bring myself to make it up as I went along so momentum was lost and you were all hanging and I was mortified and when I get mortified I go silent and drive everybody absolutely up the wall. And around the bend.
The Slow Scrub turned in to the Slowest Scrub EVER, EVER, EVER. Performed by a tortoise. A sloth with a pain in her chest. A drama queen in a floral apron.
I am telling you this in the spirit of honesty. I am telling you because if nobody speaks of depression then it cannot be something we will ever learn to understand and I have to speak my truth even if it takes me an age to spit it out. So spitting out I am. Sometimes despite the fact that I am the self-professed Vintage Housekeeper I cannot clean and when I cannot clean beyond the bare minimum, I cannot write about cleaning and then we all end up frustrated.
Luckily the bad times come and go. With the adventure of a new home and the general straightening of life as it should be, I am cleaning with spirit, vigour and zest again. And organising again. And writing again. I am so very thrilled. And more than that plain old delighted to tell you that the third and final part of The Slow Scrub is here. In the Salon Library for those of you who are members. And coming to your account page or in-box over the next forty-eight hours for those of you who are not, but bought it in the store.
So I want to thank-you for your patience. I want to say an enormous thank-you to those who read between my occasionally dramatic lines and understand. And I want to tell you how very grateful I am that you know me so very well and know beyond all certainty that I always return to this my lovely, spiritual home. To you.
May we always have kind hearts and clean kitchens.
Following on from the huuuuuuge success of my lovely Seasonal House series this year, I am excited to be able to tell you that on November 16th this year I will be releasing a rather darling accompaniment: The Festive House…
Created in exactly the same format as the four other downloads in this inspirational series, The Festive House will be a scrumptiously pretty guide to truly indulging all your senses during Christmas and the New Year and will be a gorgeous compendium of little things to do in the run up to Christmas to make your home feel like the cosiest, most festive place on earth…
“With a life in the day of a Vintage Housekeeper during the Christmas season, a list of festive puttery treats, some advice for sprinkling a little glittery magic around the house, and adding a layer of gentle excitement to your Festive house alongside the three housekeeping recipes you need to give the house a hug, a Christmas reading list and a list of journaling prompts for meditating your way through this twinkly season…”
I know you are going to love The Festive House as much, if not more than I know you have so thoroughly adored The Seasonal House series, and as usual if you PRE–ORDER it today you will get it for just $8.00 instead of the $10.00 it will be when it goes live.
My Living Roomers will find a voucher for an extra 25% off the price on the group page (usual code for those in the know!) and finally If you are a member of the Salon you will find The Festive House in the Salon library on the 16th of November absolutely free of charge (along with all the other downloads in my lovely store) – and at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I just want to remind you that the option to pay for the salon MONTHLY is once again available…
So to sum things up: there are three ways to buy The Festive House.
- Pre-Order it today for the discounted price of $8.00 here.
- Join the Living Room today for just $15.00 and get a voucher to buy The Festive House for just $6.00 when you sign in to the Living Room Facebook Group …
- Or join The Salon, get all the benefits of Living Room Membership, all existing downloads and everything I create for the life of your membership absolutely FREE for just $20.00 a month OR the lowly price of just $169.00 for an entire year of BrocanteHome wonderfulness!
I know which deal I would grab…x
Well now, with one thing or another it is taking me longer than I expected to settle in and get my routines and rituals in place. Though heaven knows why I imagine myself to be some sort of Superwoman capable of organizing an entire house in the space of two weeks, with all utilities correctly set up, furniture sourced for all the odd little corners, an extra bedroom created for Stevie where there was no bedroom before, clothes folded and stored away in sensible places, deliveries accepted apparently all day every day, no garden to speak of, an audience of toilet going workmen all day every day, finances helped back on their feet after all the expense of moving, and the stabilizing of a business that is rather suffering in the midst of all this.
Yep. This is a case of Superwoman Syndrome if ever there was one.
The day before yesterday I developed a stomach bug of sorts, ran upstairs to vomit and promptly opened the toilet seat on my head resulting in an egg sized bump on my head that along with the thyroidy bruises I am sporting everywhere from exhaustion, rather looks as though Ste has taken up beating me with a big stick in the dead of night. I am, I am sure, now known as The Battered Woman in the post office down the lane: a post office that frightens the wits out of me so close is the experience of popping in for a pint of milk there to visiting the twilight zone. I am not from around these parts see?
Then yesterday in my haze, I got in to the car to go and meet Kath to give her her daughters much overdue birthday present and managed to reverse the car in to the ditch the gas man had made to channel pipes to the house being built behind mine. Oh yes. The car was in the ditch. The drivers seat was hard up next to the lamppost and I had to scrabble out over the passenger seat, somehow managing to rip a big hole in my trousers on the way and go get a man or ten to heave the car out of the hole.
I now truly believe that anyone moving house should be gifted a week in the Seychelles immediately after to get over the sheer horror of the whole shebang. Because I am telling you, moving house addles your brain.
Anyways. I am writing this post to tell you that as I recently mentioned in the Living Room, I am currently having to reverse some of the changes I made here on BrocanteHome in the Spring because some of the new systems are causing absolute chaos for you my lovely readers. Mostly those of you who visit or shop at BrocanteHome on a tablet or mobile and who thus do not fully see the links you need to follow after becoming a member or purchasing a download. And those of you who email my vastly cluttered ancient old email inbox.
So I am for the moment having to do a little bit of tinkering behind the scenes. It is terribly, terribly dull but it will hopefully alleviate many of the admin problems currently consuming my time. You see it is not only at home that I suffer from Superwoman Syndrome. Here on Brocante I convince myself I can do absolutely everything and that not asking for help or paying for the kind of services that would make all the difference would be foolhardy when clearly it would be EXACTLY what I need. Damn it. Do you think there is a pill I could take?
Today then I am re-opening the original Shopify Brocante store because digital delivery was more reliable and didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to help you find your purchases. I am also setting up a dedicated Customer Service email in-box so you don’t get lost among the flotsam and jetsam of every newsletter I have ever signed up for, slapping a raw steak on to the giant bruise on my head and taking delivery of a bookcase and walnut sideboard I bought on the wonder that is Schpock for the princely, silly sum of just £20.00….
Busy, busy, busy. Have a lovely weekend won’t you?
My ridiculous child managed to get himself run over on Friday.
No really RUN OVER. By a CAR. Flung on to the bonnet so hard he cracked the window screen with his scull. Then because he is Finley and rates kindness very highly he stood up and apologised to the driver and asked HIM if he was alright.
Having only encouraged him to walk to school alone the week before, my heart had been in my mouth each day as I crossed him over the main road and stood waving in my pom pom slippers and crazy lady morning hair-do, until I could no longer see him. And by the end of the week I was feeling calmer. As if my little bird had flown the nest for the first time without plummeting to the ground like a fluffy feathered stone.
And then the morning came when I waved him goodbye, made a cup of tea and nipped upstairs to the loo. And there I sat. And I heard a knock on the door and I heard a man tell Ste that there had been an accident and I thought perhaps another car had knocked my passenger mirror clean off for the second time in a week and then I heard him say “your son” and that made no sense at all because Ste’s son was miles away and surely tucked behind his desk in his lovely maroon and yellow uniform. And then in my Mummy this isn’t possible bewilderment I thought that maybe Finley had caused this man an accident and was himself now in school and then I heard him say “smashed his head on my window-screen” and I ran.
I ran out of the ludicrously small toilet with my trousers round my legs, dragging myself together and fuelled by sheer fright I tumbled down the stairs and arrived at the door to see a very baldy kind looking man looking stressed with a very confused looking Finley standing beside him. And I listened and kept laughing for that is my wont when faced with a crisis (I somehow managed to laugh all the way through the arrangement of my Mum’s funeral) and I was doing a very bizarre thing and reaching a wobbly hand out to the sorry looking man and apologising profusely to him for RUNNING MY SON OVER and rather perplexingly feeling absolutely LIVID with Finley for stepping out from behind a lorry and not looking after himself when I wasn’t there to look after him and generally feeling much of a muddle and dragging him in and checking him from head to toe and phoning everyone I know who assured me I needed to get him to the hospital as soon as possible and kissing my boy profusely and phoning my Dad and having an unexpected little sob and listening to Finn relay his own astonishment at having found himself flying through the air and running back out of the conservatory to tell him off for getting in the man’s car and apologising profusely all over again for not understanding that all the grown-ups who had watched him get run down, including the lollipop man with the bad teeth and charming manner, had insisted on him getting driven home and then getting muddled over again and shouting “what part of stranger danger do you not understand?” and laughing all over again when he shouted back “I just wanted to go to science and now I’m missing it and I HAVE BEEN RUN OVER and MUM what part of that do YOU not understand??”.
In the face of a crisis I am utterly hopeless.
And then we were in the car on our way to the children’s accident and emergency for the third time in two weeks and I was worrying that they were going to set social services upon me for being incapable of preventing screechy attacks of constipation and road traffic accidents alike. And then the nurse was quizzing Finn on the whereabouts of the earphones she was convinced he must have been wearing and I was trying to say that this is a kid with SPD who feels like his head is going to blow off if he wears earphones and she said he had been very, very lucky and was bruised from head to toe with bruised kidneys and Finley was starting to feel a bit funny and I was a Mummy on the verge of a meltdown and Ste was as sane and reassuring as ever and then Mark arrived in his usual frantic state and repeated with all the same drama I had been displaying “he could have been dead Alison!” over and over again until we were all laughing, and then he took Finn to the road where it had happened and found the man who had done it standing in the same spot, demanding money for the smashed window-screen caused by our son’s head!
Oh my. So yes. I have been Nurse Mummy for a few days and I am writing this to tell you that trauma happens when you are least expecting it. Sometimes when you are minding your own business on the loo and there is no predicting how you will cope with it, but that more often than not your worst nightmare isn’t actually your worst nightmare but a warning in disguise and sometimes those little warnings reveal who we are at the very core of our being.
So it turns out Finn is a kid with a skull hard enough to crack glass and a penchant for science class even when he feels for all the world as though he has just gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali and I am a woman who never quite reacts how she should and occasionally could do with a short, sharp slap to bash me out of my hysteria.
An ordinary day. A blessed, beloved ordinary day. Oh how I love thee.
Today then. Hands that smell of garlic and coal tar. A kitchen that smells like home. Pictures hung in the conservatory. Books stacked on the bookcase in the tiny little breakfast room. A bulb fitted in the laundry room. The grey bin pulled on to the busy lane. Oh the tyranny of bin day. A constant worry on the mind of she who is too forgetful.
Ste making tuna barmcakes to eat at the football sidelines. Long dull conversations with all the utilities. A chat with a lovely new neighbour. 7500 steps taken just around this house. The desktop computer finally set up. A new resolve. Delicious egg paste (heavenly egg paste!) with garlic chives and rye bread. Cinnamon kisses sprinkled in icing sugar. Too much dough. Three quarters of it frozen for cookie emergencies.
Fifteen minutes spent giggling while the perpetually bewildered builders narrowly avoid a whole lot of damage with a crane and pallets full of heaven knows what. Entertainment on my back doorstep! An afternoon bath and a plan for my very own Miracle Evening dreamt up in sandalwood bubbles.
Pictures changed in the conservatory. Twice (ahem). A minor wobble about the size of the new sofa (huuuuuge). A lost pair of slippers, a lost yoga mat, a missing chair (how??) and a dash out for another glass chopping board I suddenly cannot live without. The irrational desires of the pre-menstrual woman. Clary sage rubbed in to my wrists. Selfies with my son. Another gloriously silly episode of Friday Night Dinner. Half-an-hour spent with a stack of recipe books on my knees. Fairy lights in a jar on the dining room table.
Missing the dog. Loving this house.
Candles lit. Floral pyjamas on. A splatter of pink and red roses on a brooding black fabric. A chat with my Dad. Radiators I can rely on! A stolen peanut butter cup. The cosy bliss of another Maureen Lee novel, just right for Autumn evenings. Birthday presents to wrap. Cedarwood diffusing around the house. Plans for a trip to the pumpkin patch with the kids. Dreams about toffee apples cold from the fridge.
Enough. So much. Just right.
It feels like you wait forever and then all of a sudden the moment both arrives and passes and all that you were dreaming of is now your new reality.
Oh yes, dear, lovely Housekeepers, we have moved in and though there is still one room full of boxes, the rest of the house is more than liveable and best of all, I have broadband and can enjoy your company all over again…
Here is what relief on this scale feels like: the gentle deflation of one who did not realise she was holding her breath. A hot bath after a long, long day. A hug from your Mum. It is all this and of course it is so much more to I who holds the very premise of “home” so dearly to my heart.
I am trying not to rush this new love affair of mine. Trying not to be in a panic about creating picture-worthy rooms or creating a home before I understand the house. For this is what it takes to make a home: familiarity with the peculiar quirks of the bricks and mortar – the door handle that will not close for you. The sliding door that opens with a startled groan. The sunlight streaming through the skylight on the landing. A heating system we do not yet understand. The bedroom door that slowly opens all by itself in the dead of night.
But there is so much to love: how sunny this place is compared with my former dark little nest. An abundance of cupboards to delight me. An under-stair cupboard Harry Potter would be thrilled by. Floors that are easy to clean. A proper hallway! Glorious coving and ceiling roses on ceilings so high one would need a ladder in order to waft a feather duster about. And a garden that will when it is finally completed be quite the perfect blank canvas for a gorgeous outdoor space.
At first Finley wasn’t sure. The day we moved in there were tears. Tears that spoke of too much change. The worry of being able to walk to school and having to do without the chats in the car that have long punctuated our days, horrified him. But for the first few days, the house was filled with people: my Dad helping Ste to bring two vans full of my things here. Ste’s wonderful family arriving en masse to help us put the house together. The men doing the heavy lifting and the wise women controlling my dithering about what was going where and making decisions on my behalf they rightly told me I could always undo. Finn didn’t have time to mope. We were giggling and erecting bunk beds. Drinking celebratory glasses of good wine and showing him how very close the park was. And all too soon it was time to go to school and he said I must walk with him. That I must meet him half-way upon his return for he would be worried about coming home by himself. He said he would get lost (impossible), that the clowns currently harassing school children around these parts would no doubt chase him down a dark alley and kill him stone dead while cackling like crazy witches, that he might (oh heaven forbid) get run over if the lollipop man turned out to be a weirdo he could not allow to see him across the road. Oh yes. He said all this and then two girls knocked at the door and asked if he would like to go to the park and all to soon my back garden that isn’t quite yet a back garden was filled with an assortment of teenage stragglers and he was showing off his moves on a scooter and I stood baking a ginger cake at the kitchen window and knew without a doubt that all shall be well.
For this is what I want you to know today: all shall be well. Even when you are buried up to your neck in fright, soon enough all shall be well. I so desperately need to remember this lesson: all shall be well. Even the darkest night is eventually blessed by the rising of the sun and we just have to have faith. And patience. Yes. Patience matters. for it is when we are not patient: when we work ourselves in to a frenzy believing that nothing will ever be right again, that the stress and fear manifests itself in depression and physical ailment and we find ourselves petrified by the unknown.
And so today is the start of this new life of mine. I have enjoyed a lovely week, puttering here and lugging stuff about there and now it is time to start establishing new routines. The rituals that will sustain us here. A commitment to the shape of our days in this house that will help us thrive.
This morning I did my miracle morning routine and felt alive again. Yoga on the living room floor, watched no doubt by an audience of bewildered men in hard hats. I have been to the local supermarket and bought a little bunch of berries and woody flowers for the sideboard. Lit a black pepper candle in the kitchen. Taken delivery of a sofa I bought for a song on Schpock and sipped at a carrot and ginger smoothie sitting on it rather delighted with myself. Later Ste will arrive home after a 24 hour shift and I will lay the table so we can all eat together before taking a magnesium bath and slipping in to bed in a room that looks for all the world like the storage room of the home for retired books…
Darlings, I do believe this is happiness. Boxes of books and all. Won’t you help me make this house a home?
Well now the week I have been waiting for is finally upon us: we move on Friday and though I am up to my eyes in boxes and muddling through the packing up process all by myself because Ste is working such long hours, I am giddy with excitement and simply cannot wait to begin the process of making our new house a Brocante Home.
There are of course mixed emotions… some of me feels as though I am abandoning my Mum here in the bungalow. That she will be forever alone once we have packed the final boxes in to the van we have hired and I can’t seem to quite put this plainly silly idea to bed, though the rational me knows I carry her with me wherever I go. Finley is woeful about moving: flinging himself between crying and raging and accusing me of all manner of things from having stupid hands (?) to failing to provide him with the security of a permanent residence over the past three months between selling our little house and moving in to the next one! And Ste meanwhile is thoroughly non-plussed and though I have tried to instill the spirit of BrocanteHome in to him, he keeps reminding me that a house is just a house and it doesn’t matter where we live. Doesn’t he know I am Mistress of HOME IS ALL THAT MATTERS??
And so in-between stroking the head of a sad boy with a permanent tummy ache and sending Ste to the tip whenever he can spare half an hour, I am getting on with the business of packing everything from hangers to hammers, spending many an hour trying to decide which of Mum’s belongings need to cherished in our next home and which can be safely recycled – and indeed trying to make the whole business as puttery as possible…
To that end I have been making Ste simultaneously giggle and roll his eyes with my rather lovely “Moving House Box” which I am stuffing with all the teeny things I need to transform the shell of a (lovely) house into a place that feels like home and from a practical point of view (for I can be oh so very practical from time to time!) gathering all those fiddly little things I don’t want to hunting around for on moving day.
In my box? My favorite Amber Noir candles. A few bottles of Hyacinth Zoflora (the fragrance of home). A packet of good biscuits and some tea-bags. A picture hanging kit (For a reason I can’t explain pictures are a worry on my mind). A stack of new tea-towels. Some batteries. Our phone chargers. A new dish-brush. A gorgeous glass bottle full of sandalwood air fragrance. A bottle of peppermint oil in case I get flustered (because I am prone to fluster don’t you know?). A tiny notepad and pen. Two bars of my favorite orange coal tar soap. A bottle of Method Grapefruit surface cleaner. A bundle of microfibre cloths and a bottle of Kalms in case I accidentally smash my oh so precious terracotta bust of a girl wearing a bow tie and find myself throwing the kind of dicky fit even Finley couldn’t match.
So yes: I am almost ready. Today I am laundering all the bedding ready to be thrown on to the beds on the first night, placing a food shopping order for delivery the morning after we move in and spending lots and lots of time snuggling Alfie because I am going to miss him so very much but know he will be more than happy in the bedlam of Helen’s house with my Dad, the dogs and the boys.
Tomorrow the WiFi will be switched off here and sadly Sky have not yet confirmed when it will be switched on in the new house so service here at Brocantehome may yet again be intermittent for a while, but very, very soon order will hopefully be permanently restored and I will be able to blog my little heart out thereafter.
This m’dears feels to me like the end of one chapter and the start of a new, happier one. Life has been intensely difficult over the past years and I am so very ready to move forward and live the kind of life I have long been designing in my head.
Thank you as always for your ongoing support and dedication to me and to BrocanteHome. I truly cherish it. I will be back soon, refreshed, inspired and ready to create the kind of routines and rituals that will take Brocante in to all of it’s tomorrows.
This morning I have started getting all my technological ducks in a row ready for our very first Salon webinar next month (details for Salon members coming very soon!) and to say I am nothing short of terrified might just be an understatement. I swear my mouth looks wonky when I move it!
But anyways, I do know I mustn’t bore you with my own rather deep-rooted insecurities and must instead inspire you with some of the things I truly know for sure. You see the subject of our first webinar is going to be “Living Life the Brocante Way” and as I have been putting together a script of sorts, it struck me that the line ” a life less ordinary” is something I bandy about with alarming frequency and though I know what I mean when I say it, it struck me today that YOU might have no clue whatsoever…
And so this afternoon I want to tell you what my vision of a life less ordinary looks like. I want you to know that a life less ordinary doesn’t mean picture-perfect Instagram worthy home, heart or even hair, it simply means creating a way of life that reflects every last ounce of authenticity in you. Even the weird bits. And the wonky mouth.
A life less ordinary is created by a woman who wants her world to reflect her soul. It is fashioned by she who may not know exactly what she wants, but knows for sure, precisely what she doesn’t want. It isn’t a perfect life. It is sometimes messy and muddled. Constantly changing direction, not on a whim but to reflect the growth in her soul. For she who lives a life less ordinary is never static. She is always learning, needing, wanting, growing. She wants more and she knows with every inch of her being that more will never be delivered to any door she is content to hide behind.
For there’s the the rub: The woman who lives a life less ordinary doesn’t hide behind her own truth. She doesn’t pretend she can tolerate dull conversation or a job that has been numbing her lovely mind for years on end. She ends the marriage, says no to the invitation, moves out of the house, creates a business, books the plane and decorates herself and her home any damn way she chooses.
Sometimes she is scared. Sometimes she is broken. But always she is alive. With possibility. And dreams. Alive in a house that holds her like a hug. Not picking every last piece of furniture from one catalogue but giving her very own sanctuary time and space in which to develop a personality that truly reflects who she is and more than that, who she wants to be. Sometimes she is frustrated. A little demented. But she never finds herself standing at the school gates making the kind of small talk that makes her want to scream, nor tolerates the kind of practices designed to create robots instead of children. She reads, She meditates. She journals. And above all else she nurtures a rich inner life she does not have to share with anyone, for it is hers and hers alone.
You see I know far too many women who are empty. Who live to make money or please their husbands. I know women who are martyrs to their children. To terrible relationships with their Fathers. To housework and the botox in their foreheads. To trying to give the rest of the world the impression that all is well behind their own four walls when there is little beyond borderline alcoholism, a pile of ironing and yet another box set. I know women who say spiteful things because they are hurting. Who gossip about those living authentically because they so desperately want that authenticity for themselves. Women who simply don’t care that her relationship with her partner is non-existent as long as he brings home enough pennies to put another shiny car on the drive and pay the second mortgage on their holiday home and women who barely know their children at all, but enforce the kind of home rules that stifle their little souls.
I know these women. And I wish I didn’t. I wish I could give them all the key to their own authenticity. To grant them permission to be real, honest and even a little ridiculous at times. I want them to know that no-one cares whether the pictures they parade on Facebook show the perfect 2.4 family, but some of us care whether the woman who took those pictures feels alive. Feels hopeful. Feels energised by her own life and the routines and rituals she has created to support it. I want to say stop now. Take a deep breath and let’s examine all that is true and necessary and abandon all that is dis-honest and done only to keep up appearances. I want to say stand in your own light and reap the beautiful consequences. Feel the scary highs and lows. Cry and scream and throw in the tea-towel on something that isn’t serving you. Decide here and now to only tolerate that which brings meaning to your life.
Visit galleries instead of holding coffee mornings. Go the theatre. Go to Italy! Read and read and read some more. Take the course. Do yoga. Climb walls. Have therapy. Buy the shoes. Take your son away for the weekend. Tell the doctor you feel like death warmed up. Tell the man/mother/teenager that from now on you are simply going to rise above their histrionics and let them stew. Walk out of the room and seek silence. Go for long walks when you should be hoovering. Insist on being truly kissed. Kissed until you can’t breathe. And if he won’t kiss you: leave. Eat well. Throw away all your money on really good food. Tell the friend you find her attitude to her children abhorrent. Speak the truth even when you have to squeeze the words out. Choose the wild wallpaper. Dye your hair. Forget playing safe.
Remember what it is to be you. Before you were a mother or a wife. Or a cashier or a teacher. Find a way to integrate that real you in to your everyday, in to your relationships, your obligations and resolve here and now to weather the storms of protest that just might come when you finally decide to be your best self.
This then is what I mean by living a life less ordinary. It is the reason why BrocanteHome exists and it is a gift I so very much want to help you bestow upon your self.