An evening with a difference and some kick ass

I’m on the lookout for a donkey. It might cross my path though that’s unlikely in London. Or maybe it’ll crop up in conversation. I might hear a donkey carol on the radio or spot one in a crib. Highly plausible given the season. I’ll be sure to pause and take note.

My donkey quest is a result of my attendance last Wednesday at a workshop on Inspirational writing. I was intrigued when the flyer came through the door. A fiver for the taster session, an event at Richmond literature festival and linked to an exhibition running at Orleans Gallery on Madge Gill (medium and visionary). Destiny was calling. While I knew nothing about Madge, her ink drawings looked familiar. She wouldn’t be leading as she’s dead (she walked this earth until 1961) though given the topic I wouldn’t have been surprised if ‘she dropped in’, metaphysically speaking.

madge gill

For a hostile midweek evening – wet and cold outside – there was a good turnout. Sixteen of us. Sara, our workshop leader, is a tutor at the College of Psychic studies. She’s also a healer and coach. She works with Spirit communicators, her main man being the very wise Master Chow. He walked this earth before Jesus though he has had thousands of lifetimes as a Spirit being. He’s quite mischievous, according to Sara.  She tells us that most of what she knows, she’s heard from Master Chow.

The evening would be an introduction to writing via inspiration  “allowing the words to flow without judgement whilst understanding their origin and purpose in a supportive and encouraging environment”.  We are a curious and confused bunch and there’s much to ask.  Especially from the eccentric couple sitting across from me.  Seniors, he’s in a tweed 3 piece and she wears a hot pink polyester trouser suit. I imagine they live in a bohemian pile and later I hear them invite a woman to their ‘salon-style’ open house on Tuesdays in the company of artists, sculptors, poets, philosophers. That fits.

He’s the only man among us. He asks so many questions and looks for so much clarification it doesn’t take a mind reader to see that Sara is getting a teeny bit agitated. She has a lot to cover so she tries to move things along. When Sara introduced us to Master Chow – by reputation only – the gent in tweeds comes back with “Our daughter is involved with a Chinese man”.

“Very good”, says our tutor, anxious to push on.

“He died 300 years”, ago he continues.

None of us expected that.  Or maybe our tutor did as she’s psychic.

He tells us his daughter speaks Chinese though she never had lessons. The evening was full of similar disclosures. Evidence of other world activity though there were no sceptics here.

Sara did a Who’s Who of the spirit world. We heard about Archangels, Ascended masters, Gods, Shamans, Spirit guides

We’re told that each of us has three spirit guides who are with us from birth. A guided exercise would give us an opportunity to get acquainted or at least make contact with them and hopefully yield messages either for our self or another. Guides are dead people but it’s very unlikely that they would have been known to us in our lifetime ,or that they are family members as many among us had hoped.

With that , we shut our eyes and focused on our breathing as we slipped into a relaxed and open state to receive our visitors.  Sara had told us that our intent was important. Don’t let any riff raft in.

 I did feel a hot sensation on my right hand (which held my pen) but it didn’t take flight and write a directive as it seemed to do for the woman seated next to me. Instead I got a strong image of the colour Magenta. Not bad for a first timer. I was intrigued to hear that a woman opposite was given the word Enough. I didn’t want to hijack her spiritual experience but I did wonder if wires crossed and the word was meant to land on my lap given last week’s blog post.

Next she paired us up.  We would do the exercise again but this time we’d ask with the intentions of another in mind. Sara said we might find we are less resistant to receive something on someone else’s behalf.

So I was matched with Jenny*. Earlier Jenny mentioned how she’d written two books and one was with the aid of her Spirit Guide. I had lucked out.  She and Spirit had history. Jenny got plenty on me. Here’s where the donkey comes in. Jenny was presented with a donkey. ‘What could it mean”. Maybe there’s a message for me about being obstinate. Do I need a kick up the ass. Probably.

As well as the donkey I heard some lovely reassuring things. General and universal yes, but still lovely and hopeful too so what’s the harm in that. Jenny mentioned I’d get a pleasant surprise and two days later I did. It seemed to fit the prediction. She told me I needed to take a break away in the sun. I’ve written an account of Mumsnet blogfest and entered the Mark Warner bloggers competition with a family holiday as prize.  Is a win being predicted? Time will tell.

She saw a beach ball and frolicking on a strand. I was instructed to be more playful. To get in touch with my inner child. I’m studying counselling and we do a lot of inner child work. Coins were spotted, money would come in. Trust and Let Go. In a funny way I needed to hear that.

And for Jenny? I didn’t get as much on her – being new to Spirit. I saw a black fury hat and a skyline with eastern orthodox cathedrals blanketed in snow. And vodka shots. I knew she liked to write so I’d asked if there was any message of a literary nature and Samuel Beckett came to mind.

I left it to Jenny to join the dots while I thought about my donkey.

* Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.




Since when did Waitrose start employing kids? Only a child could dream this up. I am hosting my book club this evening and need to bake and cook and clean before they come. I’m not expecting my two to help but I am hoping these doughnuts will buy compliance.

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More than enough – Blogfest 2013

I have a very vivid memory from a moment in my childhood.  I’m sat at my desk in third class. I must be 8 or 9 and I’m having a spelling test.  “Spell E-N-O-U-G-H”  – the teacher commands.  My mind goes blank and the word will not take on any shape for me at all. It’s flatlining in my head.  Enuuuuuuufffff.  Puff.  It disappears in to the ether. My spelling record of perfect scores is broken and Enough was my downfall.

I’ve had an uneasy relationship with it since.

As an OCD sufferer – my compulsions to repeat rituals like touching light switches and door frames had me telling myself  “You’ve not done Enough, do one more.  And another”.

Insecure teenager – not thin Enough.

Flirting with bulimia – my body didn’t seem to know it had Enough and hours later I’d  fast and purge.

As a first proper jobber – I was not earning Enough.  With boyfriends – I was not loved Enough. Or maybe even worthy Enough.

Then as a wife and mother, as an employee… was I good Enough at the juggle or even at one?

Decades later the word still haunts me.  Taunts me.   Though it never really went away, Enough came knocking at Mumsnet blogfest.

The date crept up on me – so preoccupied was I with figuring out my purpose (the impetus behind this blog – Mahogany soup) and flagellating myself for the task taking up so much of my time. My DH had given me a pass for the whole day.  I’d shed my Life and my Worries on the 7.51 to Waterloo.  I arrived at Kings Place in good time and queued for my badge.  What a genius stroke from Mumsnet Towers and because of it I felt a little braver in my approaches to other bloggers.

Was it really twelve months since I’d outed myself as a blogger in Pimlico last year. I hadn’t achieved all I’d hoped for my blog ( a cause, wider audience…world domination…invites to international blogger conferences). I hadn’t embraced social media.  My last tweet was sent back in 2012. I still didn’t have a top drawer novel.

In fact, I felt a bit of a fraud and I hoped I wouldn’t run in to anyone from the last gathering who might hold me accountable.  “Hey, mahogany soup…oh yeah…didn’t you say you would…”

I put that to the back of my mind as I scanned the programme and planned my day, making sure to note the wheres and whens around Lionel Shiver’s appearance.  Now there’s a woman who wasn’t going to disappoint.  Richard Bacon proved himself a very adept Chair as he wagged his green pen like a  referee in the ring while Toby Young and Stella Cressy (MP) did the rounds and took the blows.

I passed my lunch break on the Honda conundrum. I found my twitter voice and got a kick out of seeing my tweet display on the screen behind the speakers. Though it wasn’t clever enough to bag the box of Beverley Hills buns.

Fame!  One of those tweets is mine
Fame! One of those tweets is mine

It was sometime after lunch and before Jo Brand that I met Morwenna who blogs at Noprizesfornormal.  We talked about meaning and worth and mantras.  She offered one to me and I recoiled.  I wondered if she noticed.  Three little words I couldn’t bear to take on. “ I am Enough”.

I could hear that she found great comfort in them.  Maybe she was Enough.  But is being Enough really good Enough? In that moment I thought how I was not Enough.   I can’t possibly be Enough.

We talked some more before clanking badges and going our separate ways.

The day was coming to an end.  I went along for the gin reception where I sipped Prosecco until I knew it was time for me to go.  My Life and Worries were waiting on the 7.12 from Waterloo.   I checked out my goody bag – good Enough.  In that closing session, instead of talking about lipstick feminists and jam making and big baps we could have been talking about being Enough. Because I hear we are.

 As I left Kings Place I knew I wasn’t alone. Enough was coming home with me. What would Life and Worries make of that.  Enough wouldn’t be the easiest house guest but I was willing to see how we’d get along.

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Sponsor Mark Warner are asking for holiday tips to be eligible for a holiday give away competition. Here’s one of mine:

When you arrive at your destination, be it a hotel, resort, campsite…find out who is leaving and make an approach.  Buy them a drink and get all their tips, the gems they only just discovered in their last few days but wished they had chanced upon at the beginning of their holidays.  You might even get bottles of shampoo, used guidebooks and buckets & spade sets.  And remember to be as generous with your time and holiday surplus to the new arrivals when your departure date comes. Karma and all that.

Leg it – it’s the only way to go

We were going out to dinner.  That was settled. No wriggle room.

That’s how they did send offs in this company.  Left to me, I’d have thrown a sickie on the last day and sent the sweetest email to all staff saying the nicest things. I’d have directed them to my top drawer where they’d find a giant tin of Roses and a list of stationery bequests.

But these folks liked the long farewell.  At my last weekly ‘huddle’ (think rugby scrum) words of well were said.  I was even moved. Why couldn’t we leave it at that.

But no, I was to endure a presentation over a meal.  I wouldn’t get away with a quick lunch either.  Practice decreed that it must be on a Friday and it must be after work. I was 37 weeks pregnant and the idea of a boozy late night held no appeal but I knew it had to be endured

Still it wasn’t all bad. The brown A4 envelope – bulging and jingling with gratitude – arrived on my desk one afternoon in error so I discreetly moved it on. One thing my years of office life have taught me is that you are only as good as your collector.  And I had the best.  Stan* from accounts. Definitely a spectrum kind of guy, no one was exempt from contributing to my leaving gift. He’d been known to stand behind colleagues at the cash point. He’d swoop on pay day  as a crowd headed for the pub. Resistance was futile. He went where others didn’t dare to go – to Board members.  They’d be tapped too.

There was one slight problem with Stan being at the helm.  If Stan collected, Stan shopped. I wouldn’t have wanted the hologram pendent he bought for the last leaver.  The third eye was gaudy and pretty creepy. I wasn’t to be consulted. Though maybe I’d be pleasantly surprised. He got it right sometimes. I did get to choose where we’d dine and I went with Thai. Everyone likes a Thai. Not that I wanted to attract everyone.  I got 18.  Ten would have been better.  Ten in to £200 or even ten in to £216.50 is easy to work out. Eighteen was more problematic though not as problematic as I could have foreseen.  I was already stressing out over the bill. Premonition, intuition, I’m not sure.

We left the office together en masse. A large table was prepared for us.  I sat at the head flanked by my manager and Stan. I survived my bosses sentiments.  Nice words were swapped.  I survived the presentation too. Stan knows I like to write so he went with a literal translation of that and purchased a very smart Parker pen.  It was engraved too thus negating an exchange or re-gift (bummer).  But there was more.  Stan had done good.  I had £80 of Mothercare vouchers.

By the main course, most of my workmates were locked.  Some bought their own drinks.  Others added it to ‘the tab’ as they proceeded to get more inebriated. The menu was extensive,  There were all sorts of combinations on offer.  Set meal options (for minimum of 2 persons), platters for 4, and dishes to share as well as personal favourites and the specials.

By 10pm they started to leave in dribbles.  Some folk were still ordering puddings.  Those departing would stumble up to me, big hugs and fond farewells before flinging down a note or two – their contribution to the meal – worked out by them in some drink sodden haze.  How could I query it though my gut told me I should. Some of the cocktails were over a tenner.

With each encounter I became more aware of a possible bill shortfall.  Until there were just three of us left. Myself and two office juniors pouring over a pile of notes and coins.  Where was Stan from accounts when he was needed? I took my new pen out of the case and started doing the sums.  I was £70 short!  Obviously they wouldn’t accept Mothercare vouchers.  I handed over my debit card. I’d take the hit.  And you know what the inscription on the pen read “2002-04.  MBS*. We are indebted to you”. The irony.

Note:  This is a true story.  I’ve mislaid the pen otherwise I’d include a picture here.
*Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.
This is my entry for a competition.


Omissions – rookie fairies and busy parents

My son couldn’t understand how the tooth fairy had forgotten about his tooth.  Frankly nor could I. DH and I shared accusatory glances. I wonder aloud if perhaps in wrapping his little tooth in a scrunched up tissue, the fairy might have mistaken it for snot rag and took off.  Lame but I hadn’t much to work with. His father suggests that it probably was a logistical oversight.  So many teeth, so few hours in the night. Or maybe they assigned him a rookie tooth-fairy.  Cut him some slack, DH pleas. It won’t happen tonight.   In fact I’m guessing there’ll be at least 2 fairies on the job.  Our good boy promises to share the levy with his sister.  This hasn’t been a good week – cramming like a teen with assignment deadlines looming, chores mounting and now slacking fairies.

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The curse of my friendship

We’ve a saying around these parts that goes something like this…Get close to me and you’re off.  On an upward trajectory to better things – better jobs and bigger homes…and far from me.

I have a friend who divides her friendships in to two camps. There’s the bread and butter lot and the Fruitcake ones. I still have a lot of bread and butter pals around  but the fruitcakes don’t seem to stay long. It started to happen almost as soon as we moved in to the neighbourhood. The great couple in the house next door announced they’d be moving up North, back to the land of her childhood. Weeks beforehand R and I agreed to be tennis partners. As running buddies we’d planned on losing our baby bellies. When they put their house on the market, she told me she’d choose a buyer I’d like. And it was a nice couple who took up occupancy but things just weren’t the same with them. Shortly we ourselves moved a mile away and were soon pouring over a party wall agreement with another decent family. There was something ethereal about the woman of the house – gentle, genuine and great crack (yes, she was Irish too).

We ran together for a while, shared baileys and whiskeys in our kitchens, carried the others spare keys  and traded kids over the fence. Until she and family left suburbia for the shires. Bereft once more.

And in between those neighbour wrenchings, my boomerang pal from Istanbul took flight. We met eight years ago when I noticed her walking manically up and down my street trying to soothe her baby to sleep. I sensed her distress and we chatted, then clicked, soon becoming firm friends.  She made better lattes with her espresso machine that the local coffee bars.  She put my semi-permanent hair colours in for me. She flung a nazur (amulet) in my garden to ward off bad spirits. You want a friend like that on side. I  was sad when she told me they were returning to Turkey. Then delighted when she came back a year later. Bewildered as they had another shot at living in Turkey once again. I was happy to have them back within six months. And finally resigned to their big departure for Saudi Arabia four years ago. Imagine my delight this Spring when she wrote to tell me they would be back in  the neighbourhood for six months while visas were renewed.

All summer our friendship flourished and deepened as we embarked on The Artist’s Way, a 12 week program of artistic and self recovery.

Three weeks ago my Boomerang pal flew back to Riyadh.

Some years ago I drove another great friend and neighbour to the airport as she departed for Brussels in search of  love and fortune. We still have her golf clubs in the shed though it’s unlikely she’ll putt on these shores again.

F went to the Silicon valley and was back within two years as their contract decreed. It’s great to have her here again but I fear it’s not for long as they field off enticements. It’s tough to be resolute as the incentives stack up.

And then there’s my Mexican amigo. We met at the school gates  and amongst shallow waters we  recognised in each other the capacity for depth. In March they moved to Washington, the realisation of boyhood dreams for her husband. They are working to a (her) two year plan that should see them return.

I don’t want to discount my anchored local friendships. Good people too. I have flash-forwards where I see myself and K from across the road talking fondly about these very days as jugglers when our kids were little and our men busy.

There are wisdoms gained from the brevity and motion of these intense friendships. They tell me I’ve made a dent on their lives as they have in mine. These are people I can bare my soul to. I know I’m not being judged by my housekeeping skills (poor) or my wallet (eh, poor again) or my wardrobe (I’d expect a higher  score here mind you). It’s not really a curse I’m talking of but a blessing  – that I have been fortunate to have these amazing women cross my path. Even in that sentence, see how the action comes from them. Maybe as I bring change and movement in to my life,  things will play out differently.