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When in doubt, freak out

In late 1939 the poster KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was produced, designed to boost the morale of the British public during WWII. The idea was that it would be released upon invasion of Britain by Germany but, as you all know, this never happened consequently the poster was never in the public domain and was only seen by very few people. Years later it was discovered and released, becoming the iconic symbol of the very British ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ (SUL).

Now, of all the things I have been blessed with in life, an SUL is not one of them. For years, as a tantrum throwing child who morphed into a tantrum throwing teenager, and then a tantrum throwing adult, my instinct has been to freak out. Keeping calm and carrying on does not come very naturally to me and I blame this on my very non-British background.

Born into a Jewish family family gatherings were never a quiet, reserved affair. It was survival of the loudest and luckily for me (if not for my friends and family) being loud is not something that I struggle with. If you had a point to make you had to make it loudly, repeatedly and pretty much continuously until one of two things happened: a) everyone agreed with you or b) everyone left the room. If you were upset you had to shout about it otherwise (god forbid) no one would notice or not think it very important which – of course – it ALWAYS was.

Not being one to hide my emotions (as regular readers of this blog will know) I was told continuously by my mother to ‘internalise’ because, apparently, not everyone in the whole world needed to know what I was feeling 100% of the time. This, as you can imagine, has always been a bit of a struggle and while I like to think it’s lovable, ex-colleagues, Danny, friends and yet more family will probably suggest that it can be a bit tiresome.

My initial instinct is to freak out, to throw my toys out of the pram, and to rant and rave to anyone who will listen about the sheer unfairness of it all, how difficult everything is, and how – if you were me – you too would be sitting on the doorstep crying while carpet fitters tried to pretend that the ‘mistress’ of the house was behaving completely normally and passers-by (we are not on a road so luckily there isn’t that many of them) shuffle past desperately trying to ignore the 34 year old woman weeping like a child in the doorway.

OK, so I’m exaggerating slightly… but it’s not as far from the truth as it should be. Sometimes, just sometimes, things become overwhelmingly hard. I stare at the house, which is far from finished, and panic about opening in two weeks. I watch my friends on Facebook planning their weekend while all I can see is a weekend of yet more DIY, dust, paint and drudgery (hark at the Cinderella). I get photos of my family sent to me on email and miss them so much, I then look to Danny to provide all those missing elements in my life and get annoyed when he tells me that he has better things to do than feign sympathy at yet another self-pitying rant, tantrum or weepy moment.

I knew something was not quite right last night when I tripped up in the hallway, landed on my knee and started to bawl like a 2 year old whose toys had just been taken away by his big brother; and it’s kind of been downhill from there. I wonder, I really do, when the motto Keep Calm and Carry On will really sink in. When we first moved down here a friend bought me a card which had it written on the front and despite staring at it for the last 4 weeks I can’t seem to bring myself to follow its rather basic instruction.

Surely, after 34 years on this planet, it’s slightly odd that my first instinct is to burst into tears. I’m almost (but not quite because I can’t see your faces while you’re reading this) embarrassed to write this in a blog, but the truth is that if they were making a BBC3 documentary about this project I would be the one crying into my hand about it all being so hard, while Danny would be the one just getting on with it.

I suddenly felt an enormous connection with those victims of reality TV programmes who watch their tight budget disappear on fire extinguishers and food safety courses, rather than the antique mirrors and little knick-knacks that money was earmarked for. Those who dream of owning the most stylish guest house in the area but who end up painting the entire place white and eggshell because a) they have no design instinct and b) it’s too expensive and time consuming to do anything else… Oh, wait a mintue, that’s me! CUE: tears of self-pity and pointless rage.

Awesome post, It’s so important to have good fire safety.

Tony Solomon says:

Fab post!

It’s very reassuring reading this blog – and hopefully reassuring to you that other people (i.e. me and my partner) are finding things exactly the same!

Gave up my job at the end of the last year in advertising for a little lifestyle change to start a boutique street food business.

Since then, I’ve learnt that I’m the Jewish panicky one – Anna – the more SUL.

Even in our tiny two man band there is a ridiculous amount of red tape to overcome (one small fire based example – for a tiny market stall we need a fire extinguisher AND a fire blanket AND fire safety signs). Each bit of tape uses up just a little more of our time, budget and hope!

I don’t think it helps when in one of my ‘i didnt realise this would be so hard’ panics i rant and rave that ‘i’d rather be in a lovely office stressing out about a lunch meeting rather than this’…(i wouldnt… i dont think!).

Anyway – good luck….keep up the blog and making us laugh!


Elias says:

Bookmarked, I really like your blog! 🙂

ann and andy says:

Oh Lee we truly sympathise with you but everything WILL BE alright in the end. It`s a process we all have to go through some time in our lives if you want something soooo badly. Chin up!

I have days like that as well – its part of the deal working for myself. But I wouldn’t have it any other way – I could never move back to a proper job.

Steve’e recipe for dealing with bad days:
Insert Iron Maiden CD into player.
Turn volume to 11.
Hit play !

Julia says:

Honey.. I am feeling for you.. have spent the past 5 hours sorting out junk (in one room – still another 5 rooms to go!!!!!)and still in my nightie.. I wont tell you to keep your chin up – you have a good old rant my lovelyxx

Rich says:

Since the children brought “Madagascar” into my life, Keep Calm and Carry On has definitely been surplanted by the unbeatable “Just smile and wave!” which, with the inevitable mental image of the penguins that accompanies it, lightens almost any stressful moment.

Your journey doesn’t end when you open the doors – Little Leaf will continue to evolve from that day to what you want it to be (kinck-knacks and all!). And I’m sure your blog readers and guests will be willing partners on that journey.

Matt Bowden says:

You can do it Lee!

You had the bottle to make the leap and now you just need to follow through.

Hopefully you can see the carrot and the end of the tunnel…

Terri Bunn says:

Hi Lee,
have recently discovered your blog and it has been wonderful following your journey.
You sound so stressed and I can relate BUT take a big deep breath. You will get there in time for opening (you have to!) and you will look back on this years later and laugh.
We have now been here for 14 years (from London too). I really miss family and friends but you will make lots more and love it here. Email or ring me if you need any advice or help and when you are sorted, I would love to meet for coffee. I have already referred a couple of people that I couldnt accommodate and will continue to do so. Good luck and breathe! xx