Jam jar dreams?

I read an article weeks ago in a weekend supplement in which the author basically said that loads of us are having midlife crises and coming up with plans (which I think they called Jam Jar Dreams) to escape the rat race. Well, with shows like Escape to the Country, A new life in the country was it worth it?, A place in the sun, My family’s crazy gap year, there’s not really any denying many people choose to change their lifestyle when they reach a certain age/acheive a certain pot of money. What about people scheming to make and sell their own cakes for a living, to open a b &b? I think there are several things going on here:

The countryside

Is it something peculier to our time that people wish to see a return to the good life, to nature, to village community, to simplicity? This can’t be anything new, but are we hankering after it in larger and larger numbers? Are we just becoming more determined to go and get it (even if we have never ourselves lived in the country/a village)? The appeal is obvious – fresh air, friendliness, space, less stress. It’s whether you move there to commute back to real life, or take the plunge into a new lifestyle.


I personally think this has less to do with age and more to do with satisfaction and fulfilment. For many people, gone are the days a job is chosen for security, earnings or status. Now we feel we have so much choice, we have the education, and the freedom to choose. The possibilities are there – great, thanks – what if you don’t want a ‘career’? What if you want to make living your career? What if you want to earn enough to get by but not bust your balls for the sake of money itself? Why not explore ways to combine a hobby or natural talent and self-employment?


What is important to people right now? Of course, survival, of course family, friends, health. Rather what does life mean or what is it starting to mean nowadays? I think a globa consciousness opens up the sense that we are not fixed in our position on the globe. It’s really easy to contemplate moving and setting up in another town, country or continent. We like to be warm, we like the sunshine, we (mostly) like a laid back lifestyle, a reasonable cost of living. We’d be stupid not to think about upping sticks. Mobility it is. Also independence? Without a strong community loyalty, without perhaps needing others as much as we might have in the past, we can afford, practically to leave others behind, cut the cord. More importantly, who wants to spend most of their life at work (unless it’s work they really really love). Working from home, or as part of a family business are ways around this, failing that opting to work part-time is a probable option for this change in life priorities. The things you give up through these kinds of choices – well, acquiring and upgrading things we thing we need/want. Maybe we only think we need/want them because what they have to make up for?


This article I read was a little dismissive of Jam Jar Dreamers, maybe they could only see them as dreams. Some people are disdainful of ideas that seek to undermine traditional societal norms, and values? Maybe they don’t think dreamers will go through with it, maybe they are pessimistic about the success/happiness of the dreamers, maybe they are anxious because they couldn’t go through with it themselves?

There are loads of kids with dreams, dreams of becoming a footballer, a ballerina, a Doctor, a rock star. We’re all about encouraging kids’ dreams, but do we change tack when they reach a certain age? We become concerned with what they are good at, what will be a safe option. This is probably the right thing for parents/adults to do on behalf of the dreaming kids in most cases. In most cases it’ll be kinder to tell them if they can’t sing/dance/kick a ball. In some cases though the sensible option will be the wrong option. I know first hand the reward a life of doing what you’re good at and are cut out for and love rather than what pays the bills or what is accepted by others, brings.

Life, I think is about figuring out this destiny, coming to the truth of who you are and what you’re meant for. How can anything be more important than that?

It seems to me that this trend if you want to call it that to do something different with life, not just in retirement, but young, with your young family, before you have kids, is the new gay.

Johnny: ‘Mom, I have something to tell you…. I’m gay’

Mom: ‘Oh that’s nice dear’

Johnny: ‘and I’ve decided I want to make and sell jam for a living’

Mom: ‘You WHATTTTTT!!!!!!!!!’

Viva Bohemia.

This post is dedicated to my Nan, Ollie Catley, who was an optimist, a believer, a rebel.


It’s not very long now until I have to spend 12 weeks away from H2B, in another country, with only skype keeping us in touch. What is it that keeps two people connected despite a distance of 3000 miles, and 5 hours time difference? How will we fare with this imposed temporary long-distance relationship? We have been the sort of couple who couldn’t tire of each other’s company, felt wrong spending a night apart, miss each other during the day. You might think that in each other’s pockets couples might find it more difficult to be separated like this than ‘more separate’ couples. This blog is about why I don’t think this is the case. From my limited experience of long-distance relationships, I have found that the key is to have enough commonality to refer to and bind through the distance. In jokes, shared friends/family, shared hobbies, it’s the stuff you’ll end up talking about.  Without that, you tend to feel more separated by the distance and consequentially like you’re missing out on your loved one’s experiences. That, and the void tends to become filled with relationship talk.

Having thoroughly, thoroughly consumed one another, I think Ben and I are in a strong position going into the temp-split. Sure, our closeness will mean an intense feeling of missing each other, but we have built a bridge across the Atlantic with our focus on the other whether together or not here in Oxford, in England. It does sound funny that something as simple as really knowing each other, and I mean really knowing each other inside out we’ve been rewarded with through our hours, days, months relentlessly, snugly together, should give so much strength. Then again, what’s simple abut listening and learning about a person in this way? A way which is honest and deep and penetrating.

The other thing I think you need to survive 12 weeks apart is security. Knowing, being sure, without doubt that the other is thinking of you, waiting for you and only you. Belonging to each other, not just with each other is what we’ve got. This doesn’t work for everybody, and I think it has to be what both parties want and to some degree need, and we’re lucky like that, we both love it.

Even the closest couples are made of two separate souls. I do believe similarity works for me in love, but it’s the unique qualities, issues, quirks we love about our partners. When I read Ben’s blog this week after a while, I had a wonderful sense of pride and respect for his separate and personal thoughts, ideas, voice. You’d never get that with an old-fashioned diary or journal, the peek into the private think space. It’s beautiful to behold, no matter how confused the ramblings of the blog. I’m glad we’ve reached a point where we can dispense with a certain amount of verbal communication. Maybe that’s what I’ll miss most when skype makes me fill the time with talk rather than just being.

I wouldn’t call myself obsessive, but I am thorough, an all or nothing kind of girl.  H2B loves me for this, thankfully.  H2B for those not in the wedding planning know how is hubby to be, yea yea cheesey but I’m going to relish my engagement to the max.  As I was saying, I do tackle things with a committed determination to be comprehensive.  I won’t take offense if you compare me to a dog with an upcoming wedding bone.

I am discovering that this has its pros and cons.  Every morning since H2B popped the question, I’ve been more alert and more productive, I’ve also eaten less though I’m not sure how that fits in.  Then bang, my mind lets me have it at 6 in the morning.  I’m wide awake and the damn thing won’t switch off.  Out of nowhere my imagination decides to present its idea, no! its edict of the perfect wedding dress based on the venue and theme imagining I’ve been doing all week.  BUT IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

As a couple, we move fast.  That’s just us being true to our natures.  When we fight this, we lose.  Still, to think I actually laid out post-its to represent food on my actual dinner plates yesterday makes me chuckle.  Bridal brain has taken over, and it’s all I want to think about.  It is very exciting to be marrying my soul mate and to be proposed to much sooner than expected.

H2B is being a diamond about wedding talk and our ideas are developing through brainstorming, but even so, I’m carefully aware of where the wedding talk overload line is.  To my surprise, I had to take a wedding time out myself last night.  I think it just hit me again how real it is and I felt pretty emotional.

I couldn’t resist watching Bride Wars this morning to recoup from my obscenely early morning.  This will be the first of many, many weddingy movies to be viewed over the coming months, without H2B of course, unless its Mamma Mia, which I think I could swing.


As I write this I can hear the whirring along with the occasional plop of water of the dehumidifier I took delivery of this morning.  Its initial effect was to make me feel I couldn’t breathe.  Thinking it must be being super efficient, I checked the water resevoir and it was bone dry.  Oh well.

The reason for the dehumidifier is this.  We live in a new ground floor flat with many windows/doors and storage heaters.  Having decided not to use the heaters because of (among other things) the air quality they produce, the flat is now very very cold and suffering from dire condensation.  A mould problem started in the bathroom which has only a pathetic ceiling fan to ventilate our bathing steam.  It doesn’t suck much air up though it technically works (we did the ‘piece of loo roll test’ my mom suggested) and makes much noise which disturbs my bathroom jollity.  I also found mould near the front door and on pieces of seagrass funrniture in the lounge, then later, two pairs of shoes in the wardrobe!  Action was needed: I have thrown out, substituted fabric for plastic, and bleached.

Opening the window might eventually cause the window wet to disperse but it’s damn cold, and we are currently trying to dry clothes on airers while we are sans tumble dryer.  Enter the dehumidifier.  We ordered a halogen heater to stave off the frost but it arrived broken.  Eventually we hope to have the optimum set up of tumble dryer, heater and dehumidifier at our disposal.  The whole thing has made me regret switching the storage heaters off over summer, but I’m too stubborn to go back on the plan.  If only my fiance’s dream last night was based on physics, then sucking out of damp air really would just leave behind naturally warm air.  Bless.

The image I use as my page header is a detail from Shadowplay by Annie Taylor.  You can see her work here.  Beautiful colour use which captures much of nature’s beauty.  When my fiance saw the image, he asked if it was from Where the Wild Things Are – a book I have never read and film I have never seen – and I can see some similarity in the artistic appreciation of light and shadow.  When you find an artist whose style speaks not just to you but also of you, it’s comforting almost, reaffirming.  It seems to me that many of us go through life searching for outward expressions of ourselves in clothes, jewellery, hair styles and colours, cars, household accessories, dvds, the list can go on and on.  We accumulate things which appeal and connect with our perception of our current, past or aspiring selves.  Do we feel safer for it, secure, like we are arriving?  Or just more alive, more us?