Rooted in Bristol

by Penny M

Since writing my previous blog, Timing in the Countryside of the mind, I have found a job in the city and am going back to my roots.  I was born in Bristol and returned to live and work there when I was twenty, before heading for the next few decades in ‘sunny’ South Africa.  Both parents grew up in Bristol and family memories and records are still there, waiting to be unearthed on a visit to the Bristol Museum where a great aunt stashed them years ago.  I have bleak, dank and drizzly flashbacks of a city without a heart.

Bristol 2017 is far from that.  I was there today for an appointment and met one of my cousins for lunch afterwards.  We walked down Christmas steps on route to a Moroccan restaurant, hidden in the depths of St Nicholas Markets.  The steps were built in 1669 and paid for by a wealthy wine merchant, Jonathon Blackwell[1], who was probably tired of the slippery muddy street that was there before.


Passing the old buildings laced my senses with history.  Worn flagstones brimmed with shoppers and diners, exotic cuisines wafted wonder amongst ice cream and sweet shops with their ‘penny’ jars.  The Pieminister served up quirky, British humour with their scrumptious pudding-bowl pies with names like Kate and Sidney.  No prizes for guessing the ingredients.

Old rippled with new in a melee of glorious abandon.  We went in search of a place for dessert and found a cute coffee shop on the outskirts of a sun-bathed square.  A massive, open air screen was showing Wimbledon to a crowd of hatted fans who were parked off in deckchairs on a fake lawn slightly off-centre.  Ha ha – only in England.

Bristol has changed greatly and new buildings have transformed the city centre, but the vibe is way cooler.  There is so much to see and do, I can’t wait until I start living and working there again in a few weeks’ time.  Roll on August.


[1] Wikipedia


Timing in the countryside of the mind

by Penny M

I set my alarm for 8.15 a.m. before I went to bed last night – after all, my appointment the nextWhat happens if you wait too long day was for 10 a.m. (plenty of time).

Never mind that I had to bath, dress, put on makeup, have breakfast and meds, strip the sheets off the beds (Mondays are washing and cleaning days), pack my handbag with prerequisites for my appointment, and walk up a 45 degree hill to catch the bus.

It was 8.33 a.m.; I was just getting into the bath when it dawned on me I would have to catch the 9 o’clock bus to reach my destination, Boots in Taunton, by 10 a.m.

I dipped in the bath, put moisturiser on my face, a stroke of mascara and discarded the rest of my non-medical routine. Breakfast of porridge, almonds, sunflower seeds and yoghurt became a packet of cheesy oat biscuits for the bus.

It was raining, so on went the boots and raincoat; back upstairs for scarf and gloves.

“Bye, Mum.”

Out the door and up Golden Hill which became an Everest of puffing prayer.  My heart struggled to catch up with the shock.

Countryside living tends to books, screens, social media, and the odd walk.  Popping out for something (without wheels) involves a bit of a time plan.   I miss my car; I could plot my course of action so incredibly well when I had my four-wheeled friend.  I had appointments down to a fine art, knew the quickest routes to avoid rush hours, school turnouts and month ends.

I’ve realised why I don’t walk as much as I should, even in this country where I can safely wander. It’s because I must have a measurable purpose with exercise and fresh air as by-products. Wandering along aimlessly with nobody to talk to except of course my invisible friend just doesn’t do it for me.  But a walk up the road to the village to actually buy something, post a letter, catch the bus – now that’s different.

But I digress.  Buses are amazing spaces for blog writing and provide lots of time for thinking and breathing. If you are reading this then you will know that I made it, but with new resolve to add an extra hour to my alarm clock – the one I always thought was there. There must be a market for 26 hour alarm clocks – now there’s a product for the Dragon’s Den.

How did I make it?  I put it down to the accuser who sat on the shoulder of my common sense and whipped me to succeed or die of shame.  I think my heart has forgiven me and returned the extra seconds I thought I might have lost in the rush.

I love the English countryside and know I need to walk more, so would somebody please lend me a dog?

Merchandising Matters by a Marketing Refugee

By Penny M

(layouts for the naïve)

I have come to the conclusion that Merchandising is the unsung hero of retail marketing. clothingNot only does it require creative flare, but intuitive thinking. Behind every tidy, well signposted display lies the logic of customer flow, seasonal grace and the innate ability to get inside a shopper’s head.

The other day, I met someone for a coffee in the restaurant on the top floor of a local department store.  As per usual, I had to ‘spend a penny’.  Intent on my purpose, I hurtled through the baby and children’s wear departments, but on my way back I slowed to browse through the cute array of spring range clothing for tots, some with jaw-dropping prices. Visions of my grandchildren appeared in various outfits and I was momentarily mesmerized.

I resumed my seat at the restaurant like a long distance refugee – the relief was palpable – I hadn’t purchased a thing.  When my companion decided to visit the toilets on our way out, I accepted an advertised invitation and made a bee-line for a sale-priced sofa to wait.  It was strategically placed on the edge of exorbitance.  I took the time to ponder the wonderful ingenuity of merchandising.  Of course, where else would you put the cutest department than on the beat from the restaurant to the restroom, a necessity for mothers and grandparents?  The comfy couch with panoramic views and an invitation to try it out was just another clever ploy to sell tots clothes to NanniPen.  There were no men screeching brakes here.

The menswear section was just inside the doors on the ground floor, another good plant.  I have a vague recollection that perfume and jewellery were close by.  In my opinion, ground floors are for quick buys.

Unlike women, men generally don’t shop around.  They aren’t likely to be found wandering on the second floor looking for a pullover or a tie.  Neither would they go too far for a gift for a friend, wife or girlfriend, though most would like to think they’d gone to ‘hell and back’.  One look at busy browsers is enough to drive the dashing outside and online.  I guess you could say that most men shop with purpose and it’s a rare woman who returns home with only what was on the list.

The toy, furniture and lingerie departments are all on the top floor – need I say more?

I have started my birthday list ahead of September which seems to be our family’s favourite birth month.  I suspect there will be some parcels winging their way to Australia in somebody else’s suitcase by then.  I can still outrun advertising, but when it comes to my precious grandchildren, merchandising matters.

Penny Mitchell – Communications that Matter –


Living Clock Controversy

by Penny M

clock smiling face animated clipart

So what time is bedtime?

I love my sleep, especially when it sinks into that deep rest where dreams happen and active participation requires no effort.

I’ve found in my travels that my system has its own clock which ticks at mealtimes, ablution times etcetera.  That’s why there is more to switching time zones than a bit of jet lag.

I’m having supper when my family in Australia is having breakfast, so lunch for me there is a skippable meal until mid-afternoon and supper is an uncomfortably early breakfast.

Some people stay on their work clock even when they’ve retired.  That would be perfect if I was a morning person.  Days are so much longer when you are up before the sun; I would get up if I had to and make use of those extra hours, but I don’t.

Actually, when it comes to somebody else’s time values, life can be tricky.  I pretty much push the boundaries on this one.  You can go to bed at the same time, but do you have to go to sleep?  If you don’t shut those lids until two hours later because, let’s face it, there are distractions, rising with a foreigner’s alarm pushes the old ticker into overdrive.  Lids defy eyeballs, especially if wine was the drink of choice with dinner the previous evening.

Did I miss out on my beauty sleep?  Well, if the standard requirement is eight hours*, the answer to that is no (by the time I have got my eyes in focus).  However, retinal streaming is interrupted prematurely leaving me with stories chasing endings and issues without solutions.  Breakfast could wait for a couple of hour glasses if we had them.

I know what you’re thinking – if I went to bed earlier more often, my system might adapt to birdsong and a morning cuppa. girl stretching in bed wakeup in the morningBut hey, who can retire this early for so long?  I may as well enjoy it until the rat race shakes me into the real world.


The Root of all Good

by Penny M

Forgive me for this, but due to my hectic schedule, I sought to resurrect a Christmas message from the archives.  Given the world events in play at the moment, I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ‘president’ Zuma, Julius and all the others who might hijack Santa and upstage Rudolf could benefit from a few grounding thoughts. I wouldn’t change a word except to say that there is a reason for the season and the author of my minutes is the giver of all good gifts and the best gift is the root of all good. Happy sowing, everyone.

P.S. For 2011, read 2016 and for 2012, read 2017.

The best gift

english bulldogs dressed up as santa and rudolph

I must have festivitis.

It’s a seasonal virus – let’s be frank, everything these days is viral.  I feel like I went to bed in 2011 and woke to discover that 2012 was a dream and my resolution is still written on rice paper left over from decorating last year’s Christmas cake.  I still haven’t sent the cards, done any shopping or even admitted to myself another year will run out before I get over it.

“Tis the season to be jolly tra la la la la la la la la la!”

I won’t bore you with my light-hearted poem about jingling tills and Santas on every corner.  The subject matter pales against the follies of so-called leaders using pothole repair funds to splurge on new wives or appease old ones.  While sensible people e-file, cough up for the TV licence and plan one-gift parties, others run up credit limits, buy whatever they want and jet away with no intention of returning to pay for their tickets.

Where is the joy in giving to the ‘haves’ when the ‘have-nots’ can’t give at all?  It doesn’t seem fair that I should have to dip into my retirement savings to give to the not-so-greedy needy when a major part of my income fills the traditional stockings that lie at the end of the beds of reason (and Santa didn’t put them there).

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving.  There’s something eternally fulfilling about clothing a needy child or warming a belly with hope.  The epitome of sadness is a pavement full of empty hats.

But there is cheer here somewhere.  I discovered a secret.  Somebody once said, ‘The best things in life are free.’  I’m inclined to agree.  Money, whether given or received, can turn the humblest of hearts.  It can lie, make or break.  Wealth is a matter of opinion.   True treasure grows in the poorest places; without small change, it makes the richest difference.  Pure love is not for sale, yet each of us has the capacity to give it.  It’s on everybody’s wish list.  There is nothing more precious than knowing you are loved; that someone chooses to give you their undivided attention for a second.  If you are fortunate enough to have received this gift, it can never be stolen or taxed.

Festive occasions are laced with hypocrisy for those who suffer hugs for hand-outs.  Genuine goodies are not reserved for special days.  No need for wraps and trimmings.  It’s simple.  Live for the moment and love every minute.  It’s the best gift.

Now where’s that rice paper …?




by Penny Mitchell


As I watch minor puffs of pending precipitation waft across the sky like smoke signals, I marvel at the ability of nature to move between constant horizons. I am reminded of our tendency to fix motion and emotion in a snapshot of life.

We are quick to condemn in the courts of our mind. “A leopard cannot change its spots,” we say, convinced that a person will be frozen for ever in a framework of our judgement.

I was surprised to learn, from an online phrase finder, that the origin of this idiom is the bible, Jeremiah 13:23 (Old Testament).

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also can you do good who are accustomed and taught [even trained] to do evil.”

Zondervan (2010-08-17). Amplified, Bible, eBook (p. 1093). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

In a good story, characters should change. When trapped beneath the ‘paintbrush’ of an accuser some years ago, I wrote the poem you will find at the end of this blog. At the time of writing it and when I later wrote and rewrote a whole work of fiction around the ‘spots’ of my accuser’s character, I ignored the notion that my bad guy could ever be good. After all, he had to be willing. So much for my fiction.

I confess then that I have been both a victim and a perpetrator of the sinful art of framing.

I recently went to a Christian friend’s funeral. This man had changed significantly after his spiritual conversion. Evident from the eulogies of family and friends was a legacy of hope to steady us all in this evil world.

I find it interesting that Jeremiah refers to training. Those of you who have read my blog – Voices that Matter – what I did with my 67 minutes and more on Mandela Day (, might have noticed my focus on the upbringing of our children. “Children should be brought up to love, not hate. What kind of parent brings up a warrior? And yet there are those that do and call it honourable.”


I sit here and consider
The frame you’ve put me in
Accusations of your cruel heart
Over which I cannot win

The frame is not soft wood
But steel, sharp and icy cold
Deceptions in your mind
Untrue, harsh thoughts unfold

For if I were the artist
Every brush stroke would seem right
Not faulty or distorted
Like your picture which I fight

For should I accept the image
You have of me
I surely would be destroyed
And never ever free

Painted with double standards
I swim before your eyes
Too late I think I’m drowning
When will you realize?

So when you’ve finished painting me
And hung me on your wall
Forgive me if I escape for
From your dis-grace I fall

If I become more distant
It’s because I cannot live
Inside the framework of your mind
My very soul to give

I have resolved not to fix a person within the boundaries of my assumptions. Tomorrow is another day, and who knows what God can paint with a willing heart? Nobody’s perfect, least of all me. Let’s hope and pray for a masterpiece to be thankful for

I’m Just Saying

by Penny M

… from Communications that Matter:

Edition V July 2016: Longevity Nutrition Report – Adaptogens: THE STRESS SOLUTION by Kheyrne Danu

‘Dr Leila Sadien … explains: “We are all exposed to stress in modern times, and the capacity of our ability to adapt is a valuable strength in every person’s health. I prescribe adaptogens to every patient who is experiencing … , for example, and patients who are interested in general anti-aging and optimum wellness.”‘

Well, if you don’t mind ‘multiple choice’ grammar and expect to live long enough to finish reading this excellent article, you are as hooked as I am. Thanks for the amplified version of your article, Kheyrne Danu.

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