comments 23

In which my parents go to Tunbridge Wells and discover that it is far away

woodHalf term and so I have treated myself to a half-day off work! 🙂 But it’s raining 😦 So I can’t go out and take  my pictures of autumn berries, but instead when I get home I put the fire on, and settle down to catch up with my blog posts and start Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.

Look at my wood pile!  I made it yesterday and today I was grateful not to have to go out in the rain to light my fire. Last year I was a bit lazy about bringing the wood inside to dry before bunging it on the fire, but it’s not much fun lighting a fire with wood that’s been sitting in the garage.  This year I decided to make a bit of a feature of it, although it’s clear that whoever styles your typical White Company winter catalogue sources significantly more prettily cut logs than the ones my local garden centre does.

I’m currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and Bertrand’s presence is cheating my normal one book at a time rule.   However, I’ve reasoned that it doesn’t apply to fiction vs non-fiction.  I’ve paused with Tales anyway, as it’s a bit intense.  It’s hard to read about someone’s suffering and loneliness for such a long time, however sparky and self aware the narrator is.

It takes me hours to catch up with my blogging.  So much has been happening with everyone since I’ve been away!  At the beginning of the week I was still a bit tired, and my evenings after work have been spent with my parents.

Yesterday, my parents went to Tunbridge Wells while I was at work. Those of you who have seen my previous posts might remember that my mum loves the idea of Tunbridge Wells, especially as it has grammar schools, and that since Kent and Sussex are neighbouring counties, it might have been an idea for me to send the Lovely Daughters to school there.

Anyway, now that they’ve done the drive – twice, there and back! – I don’t think that this idea is going to resurface.

We sat around in the kitchen having a chat about various things, such as the direction in which our government is taking our Universities, mainly to wait in for the Trick or Treat action.  This is Lovely Daughter #2’s pumpkin:


(Lovely Daughter #1 didn’t want hers and so I am going to make it into soup :-/)

Trick and Treat was remarkably restrained this year.  I’d catered for around 40!  But we got just the one group, of about twenty.  It is lovely in our village, as they know all the houses that will give out sweets, and the parents of the small kids get together and organise a small party with hot dogs etc before they go out.

Then we went to Prezzo for dinner, which was a lot nicer than the Ask we went to the night before, and was accordingly much fuller and we had to wait even for our booked table as they were running behind.

I enjoyed my lobster spaghetti – was very impressed by the number of seafood options they have.  I love seafood!


(My dish did look a lot prettier before I picked up Lovely Daughter’s mushrooms.)

I am not saying that my life with my parents is bound to go totally swimmingly from here onwards, but I’ve discovered that being definite in life leads to much better results.  I mostly grew up trying to avoid situations, and placate if ever there was conflict.  And that can lead to so much trouble.  Long and short term.  And the irony I think is… people don’t really like it.  People don’t like it if they think you are trying to please.   I imagine people find it tiring trying to second guess others… or it makes them feel nervous, as if it impinges on their own boundaries… or nervous, not really knowing how they are supposed to be…  I know I don’t like it, and actually find it positively annoying.  I like other people to be definite.  But for such a long time, I was not.  Weird, huh?

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone for the time and thought that went into replying to my last blog post, and also for all the posts I’ve shared over the last few months.  If I hadn’t had all the encouragement and connection that I have had since I started blogging, I wouldn’t ever have been able to think through all my concerns and thoughts to get to this point.

This last picture is a very weird thing.  It stems from my previous anxiety whenever I had my parents over that everything looked properly “presented”, so that I could hide from any kind of intimacy and keep them from seeing anything less than a perfect exterior.

Normally I wouldn’t buy flowers at this time of year, as I find them a bit unseasonal, and certainly not for £8 from the M&S garage on the way home from work.  But as my parents were coming, I did.  And they are the strongest smelling lilies I have ever come across.  Even though I have taken the orange bits off, they are actually making me feel a bit woozy.  But being of Chinese heritage, I have to get my money’s worth, so they are sitting here looking showy and nice, and I am practically being asphyxiated for a cultural/genetic mixture of comic effect and ingrained propensity for suffering for the sake of… nothing sensible at all.




  1. I laughed out loud at this: “But being of Chinese heritage, I have to get my money’s worth.” Because of course I totally get it!

    I agree with you about being definite. I get wishy washy sometimes too, even at simple things like ordering from a menu, because I’m too afraid to voice my own opinion. I feel as though I can live with whatever others choose but I don’t want to burden anyone with the need to follow me. But my husband will leave all minor decisions to me because he says I’m so picky while he is much more relaxed about things. My public persona is different from my private one…

    It’s fun to read about your environment. We were in London 2 summers ago but I don’t really have a sense of where the other areas are.

    I’ve preordered Ozeki’s paperback and I’m supposed to get it New Year’s eve. I guess that will be my first read for 2014.

    Have a nice weekend!

    • I don’t know if they’re not part of the same thing though? Not wanting to make a positive choice, but also being picky? Because I was unable to make a positive choice, I could only define what I wanted through avoiding what I *didn’t* like.

      I live in the countryside. With wood fires and trees and fields and all sorts. Miles away from any civilisation!

  2. As a jaded student of philosophy, I feel I should mention that Russell’s History isn’t always that non-fictional, especially when he starts to show his biases on the modern philosophers. But that’s part of the fun 🙂

    We brought back a copy of the Ozeki to Singapore with us – I’m a bit wary of starting it, as like every other Booker nominee, it doesn’t look very cheerful. I think I’ll wait to see how you get on with it…

    Lovely lilies (I guess I get the better deal out of these, by being able to see them without smelling them)

    • You are not wrong “doesn’t look very cheerful”. I’m going to have another go at it this afternoon.

      I am sure I will need revisit when I am further into History and get your take on what is going on. What happened to the MA you were doing with the OU btw?

  3. I appreciate straight-talking from other people. Sometimes I think I might be mildly autistic because I don’t always get the little subtleties in conversation and really just prefer people to speak the truth. But I know humans are complex and we can’t always say exactly what we’re thinking because people get offended. I just wish there could be more honesty and less show.

  4. Firstly can I say in e again how far you e obviously come this year, it’s amazing what a confidence boost blogging can be 🙂 I think straight talking is the way forward, small talk makes me uncomfortable as it’s so false. Some times I think this is a flaw on my part, as it’s how lots of people operate. Making conversation with my in-laws can be excruciating for example, you never get a straight answer and they prefer speaking about the weather than important matters.

    I’m really pleased that things are better with your folks, and they have finally seen for themselves how unrealistic Tunbridge Wells would be. I’m glad that this is one less conversation you’ll be having in the future.

    Very impressed with your log pile! You must have got a huge sense of achievement after making that 🙂

    • I am definitely warm and dry this week with a log pile.

      Small talk used to make me nervous. Then I used to go too far the other way – at work I’d learned how to draw people out of themselves, people like to be listened to, etc etc, which was all very well, but it still left me reluctant to say anything about myself.

      Now I see small talk as an example to bring out of people – What really excites you? What drives you and makes you passionate? And then I can tell them about the same things in myself, and we an see where we have things in common.

      Of course there are some people who will always remain a challenge – not sure how much mileage I could get out of the weather. Or people who only want to talk about themselves. I don’t have much patience with that either.

      • I’m completely with you Denise. Some people just need a little coaxing but others are a lost cause and recognising it and not wasting time getting upset about is the way forward for me.

        After almost 10 years I’ve finally given up with the in-laws, they won’t change and any time I’ve ‘put myself out there’ it’s not gone well. Like suggesting recently that we could all have a holiday together next summer and my FIL point blank saying no. Because they like to holiday out of school term time, and that was that. When we saw them next he took great delight in telling us about the three holidays they have now got booked for next year! It’s best all round for me to just cook them a nice meal, smile politely and not say much to be honest. They’re lovely with the girls so I can’t fault them there. Just a shame they aren’t a bigger part of their lives considering my kids will only have them for grandparents.

  5. I never thought that making everything perfect was a way to hide from intimacy (like before having parents over) but I see it is. I used to do that…I love lilies and I love your beautiful wood pile and your village’s Halloween sounds so nice.

    • I am always on a hiding to nothing even trying to make things perfect as I am not that sort of person. Although I like cleaning and tidying I would rather spend the time writing or thinking if time is short. Also with cat hairs and wood ash, our house is never going to be immaculate!

      • I know, but when your a parents coming, it IS a way to avoid criticism.(To do your best to, as we here say, “batten down the hatches.” before their arrival.) My mother, at one point, used to criticize me for being too neat! She still does. Sometimes you just can’t win!

  6. I think you’re right about people not liking it when someone subverts her own opinions in order to please others, or at least healthy people don’t like it.

    I’ve known unhealthy people, however, who believe that intimacy depends upon unequivocal agreement in everything, who go crazy when a family member or friend has a different opinion or desire. I’ve learned to distance myself from those kinds of personalities, but that, too, took a long time.

    It sounds like you’re quite able to know your own mind. Congratulations, I know from experience that can be a hard-won skill.

  7. Your Halloween celebrations sound just right – fun for the children and not too taxing for the adults!
    Straight talking is fine – I’m all for it but as one who practises it most of the time, I know that sometimes it can land me in hot water: some people, even if they’ve asked for an opinion, don’t like the answer – so then, should we as straight talkers tune into this first and tell them what they want to hear? It’s all about balance, I guess. (Or manipulation!) 🙂

    • I suppose I really am converted to this straight talking way and I say yes we should! Within reason anyway. I suppose if it’s a potentially contentious opinion I would preface such a thought with the rider that it’s my gut feeling that’s coming out, and that is dependent on my own experiences and even prejudices.
      I suppose my ex taught me that engaging with someone’s opposing opinion is as valid a way of engaging with other people as engaging with someone emotionally and something that people also like to do, so I guess I’d be prepared to risk it!

  8. That’s a nice looking wood pile! You’re all set!

    Your daughter’s pumpkin looks amazing! To this day, I still turn to the regular ol’ jack o’ lantern when it comes to carving pumpkins :/ I definitely do not have the skills of lovely daughter #2. On the other hand, if you make pumpkin soup, please post the recipe! I’ve never had it, but seeing as how pumpkins are going on sale now, I’d love to try it 🙂 Let me know if you do make a post on it (I sometimes miss stuff on my reader :()

  9. Denise, I am so glad that we ‘met’ here in the blogosphere. The way you share your inner struggles, your family background and the way you share your personal journey inspires me greatly. I always look forward to your comments and interaction on my blog as your very great insight blesses me greatly.

    I know just what you mean about others finding it uncomfortable when around those trying too hard to please. As somone who was always the compliant, people-pleaser growing up I can resonsate so much with all you share here. This did me great harm and I had a lot of repressed anger when I was a young adult as a result. I hated myself for not saying what I really wanted to say for fear of being rejected and it took me many years before I acted on the courage of my conviction and became the real me, the me I don’t hate.

    My Aspie daughter has taught me a great deal about this, as she is painfully honest. She finds it hard to read ‘inbetween the lines’ and can’t stand small talk, she comes right to the point of bluntness but I admire her for this.

    I did have to smile when I read the very wry way that you shared the issue of Tunbridge Wells which now seems to be on the back burner after your parents experienced the drive (I remember your post very well when you shared your conversation about this!).

    Also, your daughter’s pumpkin is amazing!

    Your Halloween does indeed sound ideal. I counted out 40 trick or treat bags with the idea that when the bags ran out, that would be it. Hubby said that no way would we get that many. I told him we would probably get more. As it turned out we were both wrong. I gave away all 40 and after that nobody else showed up! I still thought it was a quiet night though compared to the nights we used to have in the States 🙂

    Love, love, love your woodpile, we used to have log fires growing up and also when my kids were young, I miss them very much!

    All this to say…thank YOU 🙂

    • Hi, Sherri.
      Thanks for your comments.
      One of the saddest things about being a people pleaser is that it doesn’t really please people 😦 So there you are trying your best to be good, desperately wanting to do the right thing, yet still feeling lonely and still feeling not good enough. Wondering why everyone else is having such a good time, when you’ve done everything to *deserve* such a reward, but end up going without.

      I can identify with repressed anger. Often that’s the sort of anger that turns in on yourself, because you’re the only person it’s safe to hate. I also identify with becoming the me I don’t hate. And that exacerbates the people pleasing cycle – I still hate myself, therefore I need to be a *better* person to solve it.
      I do love coming to your blog, it’s such a peaceful, thoughtful place.

      • Yes, it really does become a people-pleasing circle and very hard to break. It’s great though to see that you are enjoying your life and sharing your journey here with us.

        Thanks Denise for what you say about visiting my blog, that means a great deal to me 🙂

  10. Oh my, we do have a lot in common. I always try to prevent my parents from seeing anything imperfect or not in complete control about me (I’m trying to give that up, but it’s hard), and I was also a desperate people-pleaser. Like you, I know that being definite and saying outright what I want is the way forward, though I still struggle to do it at times. But I’m determined to change my ways on both these counts. Turn up and stay real is my current mantra… I think you are doing fabulously and hope you are giving yourself plenty of rewards.

    • My reward is that I am writing much more freely and with more energy now that I am getting used to communicating with people.

      My reward is also that I am now so used to getting a positive response in the blog world that I reach out to people in real life, and generally get a response there too!

      Hope you are well (better toothwise) and thanks for your thoughts.

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