Her stomach sank to the floor. Immediately she was taken back to every single Saturday afternoon in the back seat of her parent’s white Ford Cortina, being ferried around shopping centres to help with the weeks groceries. Her sister, two years her senior, would be jumping around the back seat on the right, behind their Dad, the family’s designated driver. She always chose to sit on the left hand side behind their Mum in the passenger seat, who would have a smoke in the car en route, while both girls choked in the back. The minute she heard the click of the lighter and the mashed up sound of gas and burning paper, she would immediately wind the window down, even before her Mum had taken her first full drag. She hoped the smoke would spare her, but the unsolicited swirl of nicotine-laced vapour would dance its way around the interior, hugging everything; upholstery, mats, clothing and hair. Nothing was safe from this unwelcome passenger. Eventually it would weave its way up her nose, creating an intolerable throbbing at the front of her head and a deep nausea at the base of her stomach. Any ventilation was pointless, especially in summertime, as the nausea just seemed to intensify with the heat, so she’d bury her nose in the nook of her elbow to stop any more smoke penetrating her nostrils, lifting her head up intermittently in the direction of the window to take a breath. With each one, she felt like her small, undeveloped body was inflating with toxic air and she wondered if the sharp, stitch-like pain underneath her ribs was what lung cancer felt like. After the shops they’d often visit great aunts who would also join in the chain. She could at least play outside and breathe in the fresh air and feel clean again, but in the car, although they were moving, there was no escape from the musty odour of nicotine smoke, old and new, that made her feel dirty. Yes, this was the Saturday afternoon smell of her young childhood years, and there was no choice in the matter. Now here she was, almost 35 years on, back living with her parents, both of whom had seen the light long ago and given up the dreaded weed. She’d been offered a two-bedroom house, an opportunity to create an independent life for herself. A place of her own at last she thought. She’d spent hours on Pinterest and Freecycle looking at ideas to do the place up and furnish it at the least cost possible. She’d keep it minimal, tidy and smoke-free, she thought. Returning with her best friend for a second viewing, she could sense that something wasn’t quite right. The vertical blinds she could tolerate for the time being. No, there was something that was getting up her nose. She showed her friend around. The cigarette papers that were stuck to the artificial turf in the yard raised the alarm, and back in the living room, there it was; the stench of stale, aged, cigarette smoke, clinging to the carpets, walls and blinds of her potentially cosy home. ‘There is a bit of a smell,’ said her friend.
George’s jam fritters | Life and style | The Guardian 14/10/2017
We love to eat: George’s jam fritters
55g plain flour
2 slices of sliced white bread Raspberry jam
Beat the egg, milk and flour in a bowl to make a thick batter. Spread margarine on two slices of white bread, sandwich them together with raspberry jam, then cut into four squares. Heat the lard in a big frying pan. Dip each square in the batter to cover. Wait until the lard is sizzling hot, then place the battered jam sandwich squares into the pan of fat. Fry until crispy golden brown on both sides. Lift the squares out with a fish slice on to a piece of kitchen roll to soak up any excess fat. Sprinkle with sugar and serve.
My sweetest childhood food memory is eating my dad’s jam fritters, as an evening treat. The recipe originally came from his uncle George, who made them when he was a chef in the army in the 40s, and then later, back in Liverpool, for his own offspring and my nan and her six children who lived next door, probably as a cheap, postwar dessert. My grandad had died in the second world war when my dad was just a baby, so as a youngster he went everywhere with Uncle George. A good impression was obviously made because Dad, also called George, became an army chef during his national service, later becoming a full-time butcher.
During the 70s and 80s, my mum and dad worked full-time and had four kids to feed, so jam fritters became a staple of our household menu as a quick, fun way to satisfy four constantly hungry mouths. Dad made them for us after Sunday dinner, and often as a midweek evening snack. Smoke would billow from the back kitchen, through the serving hatch, to every room in the house. We kids would fly into the kitchen like vultures, grappling for that very first, golden fritter.
Despite the fact that they were essentially fatty, sugary, stodge, I still hold a special place for jam fritters in my arteries, and my teeth will never forget them.
Have all been eaten! x
To: Molly, 21, Student of Psychology from a strict Catholic background, high achiever, coming to terms about coming out as gay to family. From: The Happiness Blog.
I hope this finds you happy and well. Congratulations on having the courage and strength to stand up and be yourself and live a life true to yourself! This is the only way in which we can become happy and find true, lasting happiness. I understand it must be terribly worrying and difficult coming out to your family, given their very strong Catholic beliefs, and its normal to feel scared, alone and frightened at what people might say and do when our actions, words and lives don’t fit in with the beliefs of those who love us and are closest to us.
I’d like to share a quote with you, from my mentor, the Buddhist leader and Philosopher, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, who says;
‘Without opposition there is no growth. It is hard to argue with that logic. A state in which we are free from problems or constraints is not happiness. Happiness is transcending all opposition and obstacles and continuing to grow.’ Daisaku Ikeda, SGI President.*
What he’s saying is that, actually, without obstacles, we simply cannot grow and we cannot become happy. It may have already been a struggle keeping your sexuality a secret from your family and I want to encourage you that, not only have you been super courageous, in coming out, but that this is an amazing opportunity to create true, lasting happiness within your family.
It’s internal happiness thats matters most, and although its often important to us what our parents and family think of us or how they accept us, we must not allow whats happening in our environment to impact our happiness. No matter how your family or anyone reacts to your sexuality, I would encourage you to remain strong and through positive behaviour and your absolute happiness, show them that you are still the daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, auntie, cousin or friend that you have always been. Always be kind to people and respect them, even when they are being disrespectful, show them through your behaviour as a human being that your sexuality, although being part of who you are, should not matter. Love is love, no matter what, and by showing your family respect, they will come to respect you for the amazing young, woman that you are.
Please treasure, respect and cherish your life, have 100% gratitude for the constraints you’re facing and 100% belief that you have the potential within you to transform anything that gets in the way of your happiness. This will only come from your own self acceptance and strong self-belief that you truly deserve this. I wish you well with your family as you are now their teacher, and its up to you to show them that their happiness does not depend on their idea of what you should be or do in life.
Recent United Nations figures estimate that there are currently 7.5 billion humans populating the world. That’s 7.5 billion people with different minds, different bodies, different lives and different needs, and at least 7.5 billion different problems at any one time, each dealt with in more than 7.5 billion different ways.
The perception of something as a ‘problem’ however, clearly suggests the implicit existence of suffering and unhappiness for the person on the receiving end. Any problem, big or small, even a welcome one, can have the annoying ability of agitating us in some way, potentially making our experience of life difficult or challenging. We spend a lot of our lives strategising how to overcome problems, many of us foolishly thinking that, once they’re overcome, we’ll be happy, or we’ll be ’feeling or showing pleasure or contentment’* in our lives, deluding ourselves that happiness can only be achieved through an absence of difficulties, so its easy to get caught up in that never- ending pursuit of happiness; having problems, striving to solve them, feeling happy when they’re solved, then repeating the same pattern when another one arises.
We all have problems in our lives, but what if I said that, the problems themselves aren’t the problem, and that the problem, is, in fact, our life state? And if it’s not the absence of problems that creates happiness, then what does being happy really mean in today’s world? Also, what effects does happiness and unhappiness have on our individual lives, families, communities and ultimately the world?
When I’m feeling unhappy, I’m irritable, angry, unmotivated and anxious. I drift into victim mode, handing over control of my life to the external environment, admonishing all personal responsibility for the negative things happening in my life, generally fuelling a cycle of yet more negativity. In a high life state, I see the bigger picture - not problems, only opportunities, enabling me to become even happier, grow stronger and take greater responsibility for my life. Like a mirror, my environment reflects this positive life state. The happier I am, the more people are open to me. I want to create value rather than wreak havoc, and this has a knock-on effect on everyone and everything around me.
This ability to transform my life state and problems into opportunities, takes great determination and personal responsibility. As one of 12 million Nichiren Buddhists worldwide, I use my faith in the Lotus Sutra, my practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin to raise my life state. Why? Because the happier we are, the more we want to create value and contribute toward a more peaceful world.
Japanese Buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda, says the purpose of life is to be happy. This blog will explore how we begin the journey towards living a life of unshakable joy, no matter what, from the perspective of Nichiren Buddhism, also exploring the natural by-product of achieving happiness in this world.
It went cold. The sun went down and the shadows became long. The jumpers came out as families went home. Buses out of town were filled, shopping bags and all. Traffic cues, chips. Shadows eclipsed the streets. Only a slim strip of sun guided the cyclist alone on the road. It went cold. Strip lights on board the buses illuminated one.by.one. in succession. All-day-long punters, no longer dressed appropriately, ventured indoors as perfectly painted and decorated, golden graced revellers began their shift. Shadows raced up the golden brick walls as the sun got the last laugh assaulting glass facias. Cabs crammed the streets while the empty Magical Mystery tour coach made its final trip to the depot. Sirens sounded as shadows were cast on trees, leaving only one top gold leaf glittering. Litter lined the pavement. Papers, food wrappers, a half full paper coffee cup. It went cold. The bus struggled up the hill, now at full capacity. Lovers strolled hand in hand, dancing with the shadows to keep their blood flowing. Everyone on their smartphones. Talking about whats been and whats to come. The memories and the expectations, everything but the present moment. Because its cold. The bus windows invaded the shadows now filling the facias. Store car parks emptied like the seats of the bus. Staff finished work and thought of what they’ll eat. Interactions with strangers to warm the evening air. ‘That suns hitting me right in my eyes,’ issued as the bus hurtled through the suburban street and as the bell rang. and rang. and rang. Teased by giggling toddlers, excited from their day out. ‘One more time’ the warning comes from mum. ‘Pack it in.’ My stop. Coat on. Its cold.
2. Artist in process. Renaissance woman. My own secret weapon.