About Alison

A feisty mother earth type, who has an opinion about everything I would like to think I use my "chopsy" attitude to throw some light and perhaps a new slant on current social and cultural issues.

Since I moved to the country for a quiet life I have been lucky enough to create a more healthy more relaxed environment for myself. I love country life, Family, Friends, Horses and Dogs. I also love, photography, writing/chatting and connecting with others.

Please have a look at a collection of my photos blog,


or join in on my chats here or on my otherblog


which follows my efforts to learn to ride and care for horses in my 50s! or just follow me on Twitter and I will follow you back (if you are a real person) on @alisonbarton1. Enjoy and talk to me.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Would you suffer a fool gladly?

The phrase “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly” takes me back to the days when I worked for a living, I am now retired. It was banded around like some badge of honour in the testosterone fuelled environment that I inhabited then.

Got a new boss coming to join us, if you asked what they were like you’d get this response, like watch out if you’re a fool! Tough super slick guy on the way and I would cringe. It encouraged a culture of intolerance where  compassion was a sign of weakness and there was no place for it.

You can’t help but get sucked into that way of being, you’re either the fool or the one who doesn’t suffer them.

Retiring is good, you get out, away from the crazy performance related egotistical ladder climbers and you are left facing yourself. Sometimes, and it’s pretty accurate in my case, you don’t like what you see. It’s been four years or so now and I wouldn’t say I am changed, I would say I have regained myself.

I get comfort from the Buddhist  doctrine, the most important aspect is “do no harm ”it is also the most basic principle and further steps progress to “taking responsibility for helping others” a proactive endeavour which takes commitment and energy. So where would this toe curling phrase, first written by St Paul and forever taken out of context, sit with a Buddhist way of life?

Firstly the way I understand Saint Paul and I’m not sure here, but I think it was written as a criticism of a group of people who considered themselves better than others (the fools) and therefore put themselves above them considering themselves wise. At times the phrase is used to describe a short tempered grumpy type, but still some sort of backhanded insult/complement. The inference being again they were superior.

Buddhism acknowledges that being good is not entirely altruistic and it can be done for selfish reasons. Because being the good guy feels nice and a lot of kudos can be gained by it. It matters not if good is done. So showing tolerance and patients to someone who is difficult to communicate with or live with is a win, win situation. There are a number of possible outcomes, you may realise they have something important to share with you that you gain from. You take time and figure out that the person can be helped, you get information that you need to help yourself or others. You have an opportunity to influence someone who is doing or thinking about doing something detrimental to themselves or others. The list goes on. The plus side is you did something good and you can feel good about that.

So what about thinking about it like this. Gladly take time to listen to others or suffer like a fool.

Alison x

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A ghoulish sale of Titanic proportions?

An estimated value of 200 million dollars has been placed on relics recovered from the wreck of the Titanic. They are to be put up for auction soon and sold as a single lot. Initial reaction from some descendants of those who lost their lives was strongly against the retrieval and sale of some very personal items, such as a bracelet with the name Amy on it. A piece that could easily be identified and attributed to an “owner” one would think.

My initial reaction was that it was akin to grave robbery I felt uncomfortable with the scavenging through a scene of such tragedy. I thought about an occasion when it is necessary to disturb such emotive debris. Past the time when the search for survivors and retrieval of the dead has gone why would you route through the remains with any justification. 

Obviously a crime scene or an accident where questions need to be answered, evidence amassed to prosecute offenders and learn lessons for future safety. The other situation is that no matter how sensitive or distressing the aftermath at some point it has to be made anew, so life can go on at that place. The Twin Towers springs to mind, such was the horror and loss it could never be a place other than a memorial to the victims and their families, but every peace of debris had to be picked over and eventually cleaned away.

There is an argument put forward that recovering such items and examining the wreck allows us to tell a story and great care has been taken to protect the process in conditions set out by courts and solicitors to authenticate what some see as unnecessary intrusion and uncivilised behaviour. There have been many occasions where in the name of education a “civilised” society has rummaged through another cultures’ sacred artefacts and taken them away for “safe keeping.” Seems to me they were pretty safe where they were, and the process has been subsequently vilified on several occasions and the precious belongings returned to their rightful “owner”. Such as the case of the Aboriginal remains, returned to Australia from a Glaswegian museum last year.

If I were to come across the scene of an accident where everyone was clearly dead and I was able to  examine this closely because I had the means to access the, car , shall we say, deep in a dyke upside down in water, because I had the equipment, a ladder and a crow bar and a snorkel. What if, once after expending energy and using my equipment  I saw property which had been flung from the open boot in the ditch and collected it and decided to keep it or sell it and keep the money for myself. Because otherwise they would be ruined or lost and I found them Would that be any kind of defence when I was standing in the dock? Of course not! Also surely even though I called the emergency services what kind of monster would I be to scavenge amongst the poor dead casualties. Isn’t it easy to see what is right and wrong?

I for one can’t see the difference there is no other reason to disturb the Titanic it is at rest, we should leave it and the memories at peace.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Starting a Horse specific Blog

Hi to my little group of followers I have decided to start a horse only blog, as I rant on about lots of things and these blogs get mixed up with my "adventures! on horseback, so from now on I will chat about Tales of a middle aged Novice  on the following blog http://talesofamiddleagednovice.blogspot.co.uk/.

General stuff will be discussed here on cup of tea and a chat.

Hope you can join me occasionally on both
Alison x

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The ground is hard but getting over it is harder

I talked about my over reaching experience, which resulted in falling off and hurting my back, in one of my previous blogs “catch 22.”I have had a lesson since and thought I could draw a line and move on, but no.

I did see my Doctor about my back and he identified a lack of flexion in my lower back and advised a combination of pain killers and exercises to increase mobility. He also encouraged me to get riding again as soon as possible. My husband said I must of misheard him and looked at me suspiciously, no I assured him, the doctor wants me to ride honestly. I promised Phil I would be careful and not overdo it. At that he smiled knowingly and gave me a hug ”take it easy.” I honestly intended to be sensible.

As it was I was on my faithful Flair and felt very safe, ahh  great. The weather was great too so everything was hunky dory. (See photo the fabulous safe and sound Flair, my schoolmistress)

I had no choice about taking it easy , not too bad in trot but as I cantered I could feel a stiffness in my back and couldn’t really ride with my seat. I was gripping with my knees and couldn’t “pulse “ with my leg , oh get me, with my technical jargon. But I could feel myself lifting out of the saddle as if I would go pop. So I stopped cantering and concentrated on my trot, flexing and generally trying to ease my lower back. And enjoy being on Flair.

The realisation of what I had done and what could have happened hit me as I discussed care of my back with my instructor. She is so careful about how she introduces new challenges for me, the choice of horse everything and I go and screw it up by being impatient. Going off into the sunset on some random ex racehorse and being caught off guard.

How can you get to my age and still be so reckless and immature?  I had been feeling  unwell with my back, with my ME/CFS and the flood gates opened. I want to be good so much I try too hard. I cried like a baby how embarrassing and now I am telling everyone! I couldn’t write for a few days I was so raw and wobbly. My emotions were all over the place.

I sound like a right flaky weirdo getting so worked up about my hobby? Its supposed to be fun right? Its not that though its not that simple, riding, learning, pushing myself trusting other people respecting other people, loyalty judgement success and failure. Its about life how I relate to myself, others and how I try to grow and that very basic requirement, how to pick yourself up and start again.

OK I started over, but not quite I’ve had a cry, “fessed up “ (to everyone) made my apologise, now I must get over it  repeat after me (to myself) “I was a  muppet, I’ve survived, its not the end of the world, I wont do it again, end of”

Love Alison x

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Real relationships or virtual friends ?

Some people say using computers is making us all cocooned from reality. Having virtual relationships through a computer screen, means we have undeveloped interpersonal skills because when we get bored  we log off  controlling our environment in a very clinical unemotional way.

We can be delighted by a cheery message from “someone” we have never met, and
when we are in real company we get our phones out and start tweeting. Which takes us back into our comfortable virtual world. The real conversation fades to a distant hub bub and once again we are in agreeable company.

What are so many people finding in this medium that they aren’t getting in the “real world” can it all be too much, too" in your face".

There has been a growing trend for people to express their feelings more honestly.  Could it be the influence of reality TV where people are encouraged to be honest with each other to make exciting viewing. People who are “nice” all the time are slammed for being cheesy and not real! What’s so wrong with making an effort being kind and considerate of other people’s feelings?

I know there are incidents of cyber bullying which are atrocious and really harmful, but in the main it’s a more controllable environment. There are also a lot of people who can’t get out and about so much and social networking opens up a whole new world.

I for one am in a position to choose who I spend my time with, being retired, I don’t have to deal with office politics. As well as keeping in touch with and seeing friends and family, I enjoy meeting new people and chatting face to face. But when I am tired and resting up I love writing my blog and casting my social net wide, through tweeting. Tweeters can be so interesting too and you can have chances to hook up with people you would otherwise never meet. Yes you can switch off whenever you like. But far from keeping me isolated tweeting has brought new opportunities my  way, so  there is simply no choice, real life or tweeting, like puddings I will have a slice of each please.

Love Alison x

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Love has to be tough, hearts need to be tender

There was initially a cocoon time for me, when I felt I was, at the core of my Mom’s universe and she was the epicentre of mine. I remember tiny fragments of actual moments, with her, which were warm and cosseted, snippets of fuzzy recollections of how we were together. Her back turned to me as she busied herself clearing a pile of ironing the steam hissing intermittently. I would happily chatter on, her reassuring responses, timed to keep me content. Her routine was my routine and we were inseparable.

 Before we ventured out we would dress as if for an important occasion, even if it was to buy potatoes from our, busy musty greengrocers. I would watch mesmerised as she painted her face to life, with a genteel spit into her mascara block, she used the gooey paste, to emphasise her lashes. Then, her mouth wide, lips stretched she pushed on the sticky scarlet lipstick, and lingered to glance at the face I adored.  She was mine and I revelled in her sublime magnificence. She was as glamorous as the monochrome movie stars I would see in the Sunday afternoon films. To this day a glimpse of Maureen O’Hara fills me with nostalgia and reconnects me fleetingly with her. That’s the way it was, until I was four, it was my ‘norm’ and I enjoyed it. It was an unwelcome shock when she changed and no longer wanted me continually by her side.

Mom tried to prepare me for my first experience of separation. My recollections are quite vivid. Initially I was excited at the prospect of going to “school” even though I had no comprehension of what “school” was. All I knew was that my older Brother and Sister went there most days.  This was an intense time; Mom enthralled me with stories of what lay ahead. We were excited together, we went shopping and I was happy to have new clothes .It was as if I was going to a party. To me it was not a preparation for separation, more an opportunity to bond even closer together in this joint enterprise. When it actually came to it, I decided I preferred staying at home with Mom. I told her and expected things to revert back to “normal”. Unfortunately she was made of steel, no heart. All the warmth between us dissipated and she sternly told me there were no “if, buts or maybes about it,” I was going to school. 

Going to school meant walking. My Mom never mastered driving, even though teaching her became almost an annual event. As spring turned to summer my Dad would get the L plates out and gird his loins in preparation.  Alas no, Mom never did learn to drive. On reflection, her inability to grasp the rudiments of driving was totally out of character. Patting her head whilst rubbing her tummy was a doddle, she could knit the most intricate of sweaters while keeping up with instalments of Coronation Street without dropping a stitch. Perhaps she simply preferred to walk, or at least resist the consequences of being able to use the car herself; after all it would mean loosing her chauffeur.

So to go out with Mom meant hopping on a bus or more usually having a “good stretch of the legs”. It was five stops to my new school, a distance of roughly two miles, which meant, to Mom, that there was no need to waste scarce money on bus fares everyday. She assured me that the exercise would do us good, so we walked. More accurately,  it was a long drag of a small screaming child.  I hated school with a passion. Perhaps more fundamentally I hated the fact that Mom wanted to take me there. Moreover she was extremely determined to battle with me every inch of the way and intent on leaving me there no matter how wretched I was.

 At the school gates I was totally inconsolable. My mom tried to peel me off her arms and legs, as if I were some monster from the sea, all sucking tentacles and slime. How could she hate me so much? What exactly had I done? To add insult to injury my teacher joined us and aided my Mom in the final separation. It made an incredible spectacle for everyone; other Mom’s looked on smug because their children had gone quietly inside. Older children jeered and imitated my crying, which only exacerbated my efforts and worst of all Mom’s face became stonier and I felt her increasing disappointment. I gave in collapsed into my teacher’s arms wet face and snotty nose, rubbing up against her prim white blouse. My spirit was broken. There was no point fighting anymore.  My recollection of the following weeks and months are non existent, how I transformed into a child who went willingly to school, I do not recall, I only know that I did, eventually.  I made friends and got to like teachers (well some of them) but I was never entirely happy at school and always felt separate a little apart from the others.

The experience of being separated and “abandoned” by my “mom” was a lasting hurt, which although buried still existed like a tender spot on my heart.

Of course this is an isolated event and as my Mom was my “idol” before I went to school as I grew up and watched her cope with life she became my role model, a woman I loved, admired and respected above all others.

Years later as I myself approached motherhood my Mom talked to me about lots of events in my early life. It was a poignant time as my Mom was terminally ill and as my pregnancy progressed it became imperative to share memories and get answers to questions before it was too late. It was evident that our new baby and her grandmother would never meet. To say my Mom was stoic would be an understatement, she remained calm and brave throughout making visits warm and bearable. She would place her hand on my bump and talk to our baby, telling her stories about me, one story was about going to school.

She found it easier somehow telling Laura, our baby, the story instead of me. Mom and I knew that these conversations, between us, were well overdue and it was easier to pretend they were for Laura’s benefit. What we did not want, especially now was the pain of recriminations and the ugly taste of guilt to taint our last precious days and hours together. I let my gaze fall on our hands which lay on top of each other resting on my bump. We were deliberately forming a connection between the three of us that would never have the opportunity to become more real. Mom’s voice was light as she described my rueful antics and determination at avoiding going through the school gates. All of which I knew, she then shifted in her bed and placed a hand on her own face as if for succour. “Yes, my darling baby, your Mom cried all the way to school and I cried all the way home.”

She turned her head to face me, her eyes moist with tears, allowing a rare glimpse of her vulnerability. Mom had readily shared her joy of life with us, but had regarded it her duty to manage her own demons privately. I had maintained a childlike perspective on this early chapter of my life, selfishly never reflecting maturely, on what it must have been like for my mom to leave her distraught “baby” with strangers and go home alone. We held the moment between us, as if both catching up with the affects of her revelation.  She then went on to tell me that for her too, our time at home together had been very special and that taking me to school was the last thing she wanted to do, but of course it had to be done. I felt my heart grow as if it would burst and the tender spot, so long a weakness in my armour, heal. She thought at the time that I would be her last baby and she had to accept the end of an era. Mom told me that although she hurt inside she remained outwardly strong, hoping that at some point I would get used to  school and be happy again.

It was a matter of days later that she died. I missed her and grieved her loss for a long time and still do.  What I knew by then though was I had always been cherished and the separation all those years ago hurt us both. This time we separated understanding each other’s sorrow, trying to ease the fear. Both knowing I would carry her in my heart forever and she would never abandon me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Embracing setbacks?

I had such high hopes for today, not breaking a world record or winning the lottery, just baking some cakes and going to a lunging lesson with friends. Its not going to happen though.

I am now resigned to resting and thinking and nodding off, its just going to be one of the those days, when I need to restore my energies and rebalance.

I consider myself very fortunate and blessed, I have had a rough time with me/cfs  but for the last 12 months things have been much, much better.

I live in a glorious part of the country and enjoy the outdoors, I have paced myself up to  decent walks , riding horses a couple times a week and a weekly spot of volunteering at the Forest RDA(Riding for the disabled) where I lead horses around and generally chat and have a laugh.

There was a time when I shuddered at the thought of socialising answering the phone or the retched unease with keeping an appoints never knowing if I would be  well enough.

I have had an array of things that have depleted my energies beside the fall off the horse (nearly two weeks ago) and hurting my back. I have also been a contributor to a TV program. My kitchen has been completely refurbished.  Its been very exciting and unusually busy. The people I have met have been so energetic and bubbly and fun.

Upping my activity and changing my routine does affect me but I wouldn’t exchange this dip in energy for a “normal day” if it meant missing out on these new experiences I have had recently.(the TV thing not falling off a horse)

So it’s a case of three steps forward two steps back, missing a lunging lesson and a no riding lessons for a bit,even. But I will rest and reflect back on the excitement. Cut myself some slack for not being 100% reliable, my friends understand and start again when refreshed.

Because I have got over set backs before they don’t phase me the way they used to. Because its just a blip. I used to fear I would lose all my progress and go back down the black hole, now I know stay calm, rest and be patient. I am lucky I know not everyone with ME/CFS can make progress, so I do count my blessings. Now I am going to count some sheep!
Alison x

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Catch 22

Eureka ! I’ll advertise myself to exercise other peoples’ horses. Then I will have unlimited time in the saddle, great idea? You decide.
Of course I’m honest and say what level I’m at and over a few days I get some interesting responses. I pursue some adverts too and get into really interesting (email) discussions about other peoples horses and their lives in general. This starts to feel like a dating game and I feel nervous and excited about the possibilities. As with all matters of the heart there is the issue of managing expectations, so I review what I’m looking for. I want a friendly owner, who has time to introduce me to their “baby/steed/mount boy or girl” is generous, knowledgeable, and patient. I need a horse that is well schooled calm and forgiving.
However from my research I am starting to realise that “The owner” wants someone confident trustworthy, experienced with plenty of time and initiative to just get on with riding their horse, getting rid of excess energy and fizz and perhaps iron out a few problems as we go. “The Horse” needs someone who can ride them well, who can thoughtfully channel their energy and develop their potential and make riding a joy.
So not a lot of common ground there then, but in the spirit of optimistic optimism, I ploughed on through my emails, yes I do eliminate some because the gap between us was so wide, but decide to take things to a first date with some of the others who whilst honestly pointing out possible issues encourage meeting up.
I will just mention briefly the ones I eliminated, some were described as “sharp when fresh, otherwise a dream for the right/strong, confident rider”, “generally calm and not prone to bucking or rearing 90% of the time”. “A lovely hack but occasionally spooked, better with others but sometimes better alone.”
The first one I met was a beautiful horse is there any other kind? very attentive sucking my zip fob, pushing his head between us, listening in on our conversation and generally part of the family. The yard was pristine with a school and hacking out directly from the yard. Wow I thought, this could be “the one”. I took a friend along to provide an objective viewpoint and I was already thinking perhaps there could be another horse at this yard for her to exercise and we could go out hacking or in the school together.
So he was tacked up and stood quietly in his stall where he lived most of the time. He stood perfectly still in the school for the owner to mount him and show him off. She rode him in a tight 15m circle at one end of the school, he walked and trotted but constantly pulled his head and came off the circle away from “stuff” drifting sideways. He hadn’t been ridden for a while although she had lunged him the night before.! Did alarm bells start ringing? , no I was in love and agreed to have a little ride. She advised it was probably best to stay in her track as he didn’t like the bottom of the school, because he could see tractors on the neighbouring farm. The birds in the hedge on the one long side frightened him and he didn’t much care for the gate going out to the fields at “C” either.
My friend gave me a quizzical look, but I thought “what?” this is great. I got on no problem he stood like a statue, small circle at walk ok ish a bit sideways then he went into trot all on his own and did the wagging thing with his head, then I decided to walk a serpentine to keep changing direction and give his head something to do and he seemed better but I wasn’t happy to do anymore, I got off smiling. Talked about going for a Hack my friend looked startled (what was wrong with her?)
So we spoke to others about this horse and got some good advice. About lunging, turning out, and defining barriers regarding personal space and magnesium. This one, albeit interesting, a challenge and having endless possibilities was not “the one”..
The next one I went to see alone, possibly I knew it was a bad idea from the start. I used to tell my daughter if you can’t tell me what you are doing then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. Well I told myself if I had a doubt I wouldn’t get on. It was a lovely day and the horse was waiting in the stable. He was lovely, of course and the owner suggested I groom him and tack him up while she got her horse ready and we would go out for a short hack! He was so calm and quiet and stood beautifully for me while I brushed him and lifted each foot in turn, what an angel. For an ex race horse he was so relaxed I thought. I checked with the owner he wouldn’t just go off you know bolt at a gallop. She assured me he never would do that. Before I knew it I was on him and walking out onto the lane with the owner on her much smaller horse/pony..
We walked until a car came along and she asked me to come into single file and he trotted off and I lost my balance a bit and my weight came forwards and then he started cantering I wobbled a bit and then we stopped, thank goodness. The owner told me I needed to keep my weight back I leant too far forward and this made him go onto his forelegs? And he had to catch up. I was constantly conscious of my shoulders. I had a little trot but that was it. I just couldn’t relax.
After about half an hour we came back and went into the school, familiar territory for me I thought. We walked round nicely and then I asked if a trot would be OK with a nod from the owner we went into Trot to canter and then a fast canter and after a tussle a bang of heads and a whip round in the saddle I came off on my bottom. Ouch! I lay there for a while, I could wriggle my toes and fingers but had to catch my breath. The owner was sorry I came off and she told me I had let my weight go forward again, what am I like! I thought I would tell her how sorry I was as soon as I got my breath back and stood up. The owner suggested that on reflection he was obviously too much for me. I think I had worked that out for myself. But I was so disappointed with myself, yes he was too much for me and I was not good enough. You know they say pride comes before a fall, that’s true on this occasion. I can see you wagging your finger at me and tutting and I don’t blame you. What did I think I was doing? I wanted so much to find the right horse to ride so we could create a beautiful partnership. I wanted so much to find a way to become a better more accomplished rider to learn from the horse and for the horse to enjoy our rides.
The fantasy was over I had to face facts I know plenty of you will be screaming yes finally! You are a novice trying to ride an ex-racehorse you nelly!
I have learnt a valuable lesson about over reaching and will continue my lessons but beg the question. If I am going to become a better rider then how? It will take forever at this rate (one or two lessons a week). There are loads of horses out there that need exercising by the capable rider/trainer, but I am not ready for that.
Whats the bit in the middle that I am missing is there help out there for a Novice rider who wants to be “experienced”
PS No horse was hurt in the making of this blog, only a daft human being!
PPS Everyone I have spoken to has been lovely and tried to help me and lots have spent time discussing my situation, thank you Horsey people!
Alison x