Half a Century

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In just over two weeks I will be entering my sixth decade of living. I would like to say that time has shaped me into a wise, capable, mature woman, but instead I feel like I have regressed, and the older I get, the more childish I become. Perhaps it’s a lifetime of masking my true self in a bid to fit in and I’m just too old and tired to pretend anymore, or perhaps I am just more comfortable being authentic since I removed all the people in my life that couldn’t see, hear or understand me. I feel loved, and accepted and I’ve never been happier. I am delighted to report that I am also deliciously comfortable. No itchy clothing, no tight bras, no high heels, no aggravating waistbands, just a lounging vibe and everything is chilled. I had no idea before discovering I was autistic just how much my clothing and jewellery were aggravating me until I focussed on what was bothering me and sorted it. High heels may look great, but I’ve lost all desire to hurt my feet just for mere aesthetics. blogapril13Pi Acres doesn’t care what I look like. It feeds my soul irrespective of how shiny my hair is, or whether my cardigan has a hole in it. Paul loves my face free of make-up and the silver of my hair since I stopped dying it. Despite the fact that I can see the wrinkles, the jowls, the rosacea, the dimples where I don’t really want them, I’ve never felt more beautiful. Ironically, the less you care about external looks and the more you work on having a huge big conscience that practices kindness, the more you shine.

We have just moved house and when I unpacked my trousers, leggings and pyjama bottoms, I symbolically popped them together in the same drawer because they are completely interchangeable now. If I feel like walking the dog in a kaftan or pyjamas (to be fair they look more like lounge pants or yoga wear than pjs) I will. I feel liberated by growing older, and am coming to terms with dealing with people less lovely than me; I’m no longer afraid to tell people how it is and not tolerate nonsense. Despite this, I feel blessed to have no conflict in my life at the moment, having resolved all squabbles with builders and incompetent traders, and as I have no contact with my siblings or parents, there are no family arguments to deal with either. We’ve moved away from our sociopathic neighbours. I’ve removed all the deadwood, discarded everything that made me mad, and it’s quite astonishing how good life can be once you remove the bullshit. Moving house and getting the old place ready for tenants has meant grafting far more than I have grown used to recently, and coupled with a loss of routine, I’ve noticed I feel more autistic than usual. Tasks like getting my DMs laced up or doing laundry have made me feel almost sick with impatience. I’ve been more tearful. More vulnerable. I wanted to dash up to London as soon as we had moved and make my stand along with all the Extinction Rebellion heroes getting arrested in a bid to save the planet, but I’m all too aware now of when I can’t handle cities, let alone the noisy chaos of civil disobedience en masse. I decided some soul food in the form of Pi Acres would set me up and help make me battle ready for rebelling in London.

So, instead of going straight up to the big smoke, we collected our caravan shortly after moving house, left the chaos in our new dwelling place (I’m going to have to part with far more possessions to fit in our tiny house!) and spent a few days at Pi Acres. It was Easter weekend, and we had a heatwave.

It was beyond gorgeous and it restored my soul. After letting the sunshine, the flowers, the lush greenness and the exquisite birdsong heal me, I am more determined than ever that the land’s healing properties should be shared. Western living is soul destroying and getting back to nature is more important than ever as we spin out of control in our consumerist, capitalist ugly desire for growth at the expense of being kind.

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Wild garlic everywhere at the moment!

It’s a bizarre concept to say that I own this piece of land. What gives any of us the right to partition up something that we are custodians of rather than landlords and say that we own it? That said, it’s a concept I am currently embracing with our locked gate and defiant positioning of the caravan where everyone can see it; like a territorial flag that says ‘We are here!’ and ‘This is Ours!’. We parked the caravan in the only sunny-all-day part of our land as I wanted the sunshine, but having learned how hot in can get in there, we will choose a shadier spot next time.

When we returned to Exeter after storing the caravan, the weight of the world truly hit me. I had work commitments, seemingly endless change of address letters to write, tenancy agreements to read and sign, and various other rat race type chores that sucked me into an abyss that stole all my spoons and left me with nothing. I have a friend with similar special needs than me, and yet she made it to London, so I felt utterly wretched that I couldn’t get away. I cried a lot. I felt pathetic, but I also felt very humbled. Doing what we can, and recognising where our strengths lie so that we can play to them is how we win the battle with climate change. I’m not popular with some for being vegan, and I’m especially unpopular when I tell people scientific facts like that the single most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to go vegan. Or that by buying meat, you are effectively ‘contract killing’ and paying to torture sentient beings for your tastebuds. People simply don’t like to hear where they are failing.

When we got back from Pi Acres, I avidly caught up with all the news from London from the XR civil disobedience protests. Over 1000 arrested in end, the police brought to breaking point, and Waterloo Bridge held by South West rebels (my tribe) for a full week. I wanted to take up a mountain of my homemade vegan flapjacks, samosas, and maybe a heap of vegan sausage rolls. I wanted to help in their kitchen, or comfort people in the well-being tent. I wanted to print rebel tee-shirts and explain while wearing flowers in my hair that we need to do this to wake people up. I felt the yearning to be with these peaceful rebels like my tribe were calling me to battle. It broke my heart that I didn’t make it there, but I am humbled by the lesson I have learned about myself as a result.

I’m not a front line person; especially in protests. Even non-violent protests. I’m a meltdown risk in crowds. I’m also so emotional at the moment, I might not be peaceful with my racing heart and jittery nerves. There are so many more rational, peaceful eco-warriors out there that are able to sit down in the middle of Marble Arch, get arrested and not be traumatised by it. So despite my yearning to be with my tribe, and battling with feeling utterly inadequate I just about managed some Facebook campaigning and offering messages of support to those who were there. I went out wearing my XR ‘ACT NOW’ banner. It isn’t enough. But here’s the thing; I am doing what I can right now. Like all the arrestables in the London protests that are not yet vegans, we are all doing what we can, and I am grateful for anyone that does anything at all that helps save the planet.

There were some fraught debates on Extinction Rebellion Facebook groups online with vegans arguing with non-vegans and it has forced me to face how I feel about non-vegans. It’s true; I’ve been judging you. But you see, I’m a foodie and I find it easy to make delicious home cooked whole-food where every meal is a beautiful peaceful protest, but I get it – not everyone can cook. Not everyone wants to. I have a love affair with flavours and spices that simply makes meat redundant – my food is so good, it’s simply not necessary. Whilst I would love the world to become vegan, the last thing I would ever want to do is make someone feel like they are failing if they aren’t being as ‘good’ as me because they eat meat. People willing to get arrested as part of a peaceful protest are doing their bit, regardless of what they ate. All efforts to change, no matter how small, add up. They really do. If the whole world went flexitarian and cut out meat for just a day or two a week it would be so much better for our carbon footprint than a small minority of perfect vegans trying to save the planet and yet alienating everyone else into the process. There’s been enough ‘them and us’ so we need to accept everyone and encourage all efforts to change, not chastise those who refuse to change as quickly as others.

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On the side of my hemp milk while we were camping.

We need a global shift towards kindness, and it is to this end that I have worked out how I can play my part in the climate crisis. It might not be chanting with a flag in a crowd in Marble Arch, but I have skills. I can see how we need to shift our thinking collectively. It isn’t just a climate crisis, it’s a humanity crisis. The world has become unkind. I’m putting together a leaflet about kindness (which will encompass veganism, neuro-diversity, inclusivity and how all our choices have consequences) and I’m going to set up a free mobile vegan kitchen and give out the leaflets with my best food creations in Exeter High Street. Paul’s vegan spaghetti bolognaise has already converted most of our friends into ditching buying dead animal mince meat for making their own spag bol. At Pi Acres this weekend, our non vegan visitors loved ‘Veganaise’ and have vowed to switch. They might still eat meat, but at least the mayo will be vegan from now on. Small changes lead to big shifts over time. Alongside attending XR meets, I’m setting up a singing ‘eco-warrior’ group for anyone that wants to meet up, sing, and work out how we can all do our bit to change the world. We’re gathering like ships in harbour, readying for battles that will be won with love and kindness and not hate and segregation. The time has come for change, and I’m changing. Are you? 

I’m going to be fifty years old in a couple of weeks. I thought about having a party but the truth is, I struggle with social gatherings. Having spent a lifetime masking so that I can appear normal and be the perfect hostess, I find I just don’t have it in me to organise a party, let alone handle all the stress and the endless ‘what ifs’ that come with being autistic. Instead Paul and I are going on an adventure in the caravan. We are doing a pottery class and camping off grid near Kingsbridge. We will probably end up at Pi Acres for the last leg of my 50th adventure. I fancy making a sculpture with the hundreds of wooden hangers we have stored in the shed at Pi Acres. Instead of it going to landfill, we are going to make some outdoor art with it. I want to encourage people to holiday at home. Stay-cations help save the planet! I know Britain has its issues right now, but the countryside is still beautiful. Listening to birdsong, babbling brook, and the rustling leaves in cool breezes is all I need. Isn’t it what we all need? A grounding in nature to restore the balance and keep us in touch with what really matters. Now we have the caravan, there won’t be any more holidays where we fly. I think Greta Thurnbull would approve.

 

Why Pi?

The journey begins…

land1Because I just bought 3.14 acres of land. That’s Pi that is.

I’d been looking at buying woodland, and had even gotten into a bidding war last summer on woodland near Exeter, Devon. My bid didn’t win, but just a couple of months later, I found my Pi nestled between Halsdon Nature Reserve and Dolton Village in mid Devon. It’s a long skinny stretch of land that runs along the edge of a stream that joins the River Torridge and a Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve.

Halsdon Nature Reserve is made up of over 57 hectares of stunning woodland and countryside and is home to a vast array of wildlife including otters and kingfishers. At the moment the forest is covered in snowdrops, and just like my wee slice of Pi will soon give way to wild daffodils and then before you know it, my favourite: bluebells. I am hoping that by the time the forest floor is carpeted with purple hues that I will have tamed my overgrown slither of land and made it a place to be. To just Be.

I realised about 18 months ago that I had become a slave to the system and had somehow been ensnared into the belief that I had to grow my business and pay VAT and corporation tax and set up pension funds for my employees and pay National Insurance and income tax and bills, so many bills and for what? To secure my future. But then shortly after moving into my property refurbishment nightmare, I injured my back. I couldn’t move, couldn’t leave my new flat, and couldn’t function properly at all, even after my back improved. Whether it was fatigue, stress burnout, (or as a member of my staff said: ‘I’d clearly had a nervous  breakdown’) I realised I couldn’t carry on the way I had been going.

The stress of divorcing a sociopath, (I’ve written a novel about that so no need to elaborate further), moving house twice within a few months, dealing with a rogue builder, acting as a witness in court against my alcoholic insomniac neighbour in a case against him breaching his ASBO, running a business growing so fast I had to run to keep up with it, at the same time as dealing with a teenage son, a breast cancer scare and attempting to date in a hook up culture I didn’t belong in all took it’s toll. I had reached a point of giving up. I have no real family (apart from my son of course) so there were times the loneliness was crippling; especially when it seemed like everything was going wrong. I took to hiding beneath my duvet and facing only the urgent tasks. I delegated everything I possibly could at work and gave in to it. Gave up. But there’s something very beautiful about giving up; about surrender. Erkhart Tolle says that suffering is only necessary to discover it isn’t necessary (or words to that effect) and there was an element of that in my burnout/breakdown/sleepfest. It was in my surrender I found acceptance not just of the hell I was living in, but in a deep knowing that the darkest hour is just before dawn. That all of this would pass, and I just had to get through it.

I also realised many of my problems were of my own doing; if you can’t handle the stress of collapsed drains and rogue builders, you shouldn’t be a property developer. Even though I now live in a beautiful flat that’s doubled in value with the work I’ve done, I will never take on a property development project like that again that’s for sure. And if you can’t handle the stress of being a Managing Director, you should do something else. So last year I put my fashion business up for sale and very quickly had a buyer ( I actually had two, but I chose the local couple who wanted to be more hands-on than the other buyer) and that was when I started looking for land to buy. The buyers I chose seemed to be decent people (he was a semi-retired Christian minister and she was an ex head-teacher with a grown up daughter who had studied fashion). There were delays to completing on the sale of the business because the solicitor acting for my landlord took months to release a draft lease, but the buyers feigned a continued commitment long enough to run up thousands of pounds worth of legal fees (made considerably higher by them challenging things like buying new carpets at the warehouse should they destroy them while in their care) only to drop out after eight months. Long enough for me to believe I’d sold my business. Long enough to find the land and plan the dream project.

Despite the immoral way they handled backing out of our deal (they had their solicitor drop a one line email to my solicitor), I couldn’t let the opportunity to buy the land slip away, so I took out a loan and bought it anyway. I’m now so utterly broke, I can’t afford to pay anyone to do anything on my land, but it hardly matters now because I feel victorious in making the leap. Of doing it anyway.

I found the land just before I found Paul. His arrival into my life felt like an alignment of the planets; perhaps even a celestial reward for being so good. You see I’ve been very good for so very long, even when things kept going wrong. I kept my integrity, and despite all the challenges (some I still face daily) was brave enough to be authentic. So now it feels like it’s time for things to start going right for me. Karmic balance if you will.

Finding land was not all joyful; I was surprised to discover it was laced with sadness when I thought I would have to make my dream project come to life on my own. I’d always imagined skipping through the meadow hand in hand with the one I love while the sepia tones of summer evenings made everything look hazy and warm and stress free.

Paul came along just a few days after I found Pi acres (I’m wondering whether to call it that?) and it feels as though my soul must have cried out to him ‘Oi, divvy where are you? I’ve found the land so you need to get here quick!’. There’s a saying ‘Build it and They Will Come’… I think I did a version of this in that I bought it and he along he came. So now, instead of the project seeming so daunting it keeps me awake, I’m excited about our working the land together. You see, it’s his dream too. Long before he met me, he was dreaming about a project like this one, in a place like this. I’m his answered prayer as much as he is mine.

I’m inviting you to join us on this adventure, and as I write, I will share all our plans and drawings and keep you updated on my quest to lead a life of integrity. It’s not easy in our brainwashed Western culture; we are addicted to our phones, to soap operas, to booze, to believing material gain is the route to happiness. We have been fooled by industries that keep us sick so we buy their pharmaceuticals, by governments who encourage debt, by barbaric murderers feeding us sentient beings and normalising hunting and war. We have been desensitised by the horror and gore on our screens everyday and forgotten how important it is to just stop. To be present. To connect with nature; with each other. To feed our souls and not just our bellies and our addictions and our anger with each other. We are kept so busy we don’t have time to consider the consequences of our choices. We choose convenience over integrity, tastebuds over honouring our fellow creatures and bury our heads in the sand when it’s clear that the entire planet is run by narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.

But I will try to not to rant too much about the state of the planet or rue the day I moved into a city, but instead focus on the dream; on positive mental attitudes. On being present. On being happy because I have really started to think you manifest good things with the power of positivity. Negative thought seems to attract negative things, so it’s time to stop worrying and start creating. I hope my documenting this journey will inspire you to chase your dreams. To believe. To make things happen. To do what’s right even when the world tells you otherwise.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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