My journey to the tearoom takes anything from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the traffic on the M80 motorway between Kirkintilloch and Falkirk. I’m usually the passenger with Mr M doing the driving so I have the luxury of a wee snooze on the way if I need one (and who doesn’t need a sneaky snooze!). Believe it or not, the car journey is where me and Mr M have to do a lot of compromise with each other. Given the choice, I’d listen to my chosen music via a CD but Mr M likes to listen to the news – again and again! Well my moaning and sighing over the last four years about listening to the same thing over and over again has finally had the desired effect and Mr M will now eventually switch the radio from Radio Scotland and the ever repeating news stories to a station with actual music. That in itself presents even more grumbles from both us though, as we then have to listen to the seemingly relentless adverts on these other stations. Sometimes I can even get Mr M to switch to Radio 2 but usually before we get to the tearoom the radio has been turned off by either one of us and we chat.
However, sometimes the news items generate interesting discussions and ideas. One morning last week the news item was about the need to get mental health support included in the treatment of diabetes. The lady in the discussion was telling us of the effect that diabetes has in life - having to think about checking your blood sugar before and after eating, before and after exercise and before and after stressful events. She was telling us that the psychological effect of diabetes needs to be taken seriously and help and support for this must be provided by the NHS for all those with this terrible disease.
The morning we were listening to this discussion was gloriously sunny but one of the first really cold mornings of the winter. As we travelled along the M80 and then the M876 I was looking at the snow-dusted mountains in the distance. Suddenly I couldn’t stop myself and the anger burst out of me. “What about other illnesses”, I shouted at the radio. “What about people like me who have had a heart attack? Where is the psychological help for me? I’m fed up with not being able to go out onto the hills. I don’t want to be looking at the snow-capped mountains from a distance; I want to be amongst them. I’m cross with the world because this has happened to me. I don’t smoke, don’t take drugs and drink alcohol only occasionally. I keep myself fit by walking the Scottish mountains and cycling. I might be a little over weight but I eat a good diet – give or take a cake or two. Why me?” I grumbled.
Then I realised that I do have psychological support, just not on the NHS. So where does mine come from then? Firstly I’m very fortunate that I have the unconditional support of Mr M and Beatrix who seem to know when I’m down or just not feeling great. There is always the offer a cuddle and the sharing of a biscuit (and that’s just Beatrix!)
Then there’s the tearoom - my place of work. Except that it’s not just a place to work is it. Over the last four years we have enjoyed seeing the tearoom become a place for everyone – especially those who are lonely, those who need a friendly face and those who are too timid to visit the large, busy, noisy cafes and tearooms. It has become, in the words of our customers, The Magical Tearoom on the Hill.
It’s not just magical for the customers though. It really has been magical for me and Mr M. Where else can you go to work and have a constant supply of friendship, love, support and concern from a whole range of people – both in the tearoom and on social media. Our tearoom family provide that unconditionally to both of us – and let’s not forget that over the different things that have happened to me in the last few years, Mr M has been there to support me and he needs support too.
What is it about the tearoom then that provides this to us all? Well the tea and cake always work for me. There is nothing quite like a hot steaming cup of real tea with a proper home-made cake or biscuit. Add the cosy, homely and clean surroundings, with perhaps a friendly face alongside you and the smiles soon begin.
We both like to talk. We like to talk to anyone and everyone. Whether you’re regular customer or a new customer, we like to talk. We like to talk about anything. But we also like to listen. We know when you need us to listen. We know when you just want to sit and not talk. We don’t judge.
The tearoom family members like to talk. They like to talk about anything. They also like to listen. They know when you need them to listen. They know when you just want to sit and not talk. They don’t judge. (It’s starting to sound like a Christmas song now…. They know when you are sleeping…).
After my unplanned heart attack it would have been very easy for me to just lie on the couch covered in a blanket (hand-made of course), watching TV and feeling sorry for myself. But then we don’t actually have a TV and haven’t for nearly five years now. Slipping into my own little solitary, silent world would have been easy. Of course there were times when I did just that but my body probably needed me to do so.
Beatrix kept me company, sitting beside the couch and following me to the toilet. She was still a bit traumatised but she still needed to go out. I’m not sure she was all that keen on going out with me alone to start with though. She hasn’t forgotten that the last time I was on the hills with her I left her and disappeared in a helicopter!
Then there was the tearoom. Where would everyone go if we were closed? Where would people go for their usual safe gluten and dairy free treats? Where would they go for their chats, for their laughs and would they miss us? I was already missing them. I was missing the tearoom. I was missing baking.
Very soon, the voices in my head started to remind me of the things I wanted to do. I need to finish the cross stitched eagle because I know how much it will mean to Mr M when he gets this as his Christmas present after waiting for 15 years for it. I want to finish some Christmas Eve boxes for two special teenagers who will be having Christmas with us this year because I can already see their faces when they receive them. I want to finish more little mice like Vivien and Violet because they just look so cute and I see people smile when they see them.
So now let’s add in the crafting at the tearoom, or as we call it, Craft, Chat and Cake. It might be taking part in something you can do well, something you’ve never tried before, something you want to improve in or simply just watching others craft.
Crafts don’t have to be difficult. Sometimes the simple crafts are those that provide the most relaxation. Take crochet. Once you have learned the basics there are so many simple patterns that involve only one stitch. You can simply enjoy the feel of the yarn and the repetitive, soothing crochet rhythm with no need to constantly check difficult patterns or count stitches. You can simply crochet away. Before you know it, an hour or so has passed, your tea has gone cold, different people have been and gone from the tearoom and you are feeling more relaxed and peaceful than you were.
It’s not just crochet that does this. What about trying iris folding? This is a craft that looks so fiddly and difficult but one that’s very straight forward. If you can count and cut a piece of ribbon or paper you can do this. You will often see iris folding in the tearoom craft sessions and we have organised classes for this regularly too. At the last class we were doing Christmas Trees using different ribbons. One lady commented that the two hours had just flown by as she lost herself in creating her picture.
How about colouring? We have lots of adult colouring books. Colouring can have a relaxing effect too. Just try it.
Really, any craft that involves a repetitive action can have a relaxing, de-stressing effect if you allow it to. When you focus on a particular activity you are, for a time, not focusing on your worries. Your breathing will slow, which will slow down your heart rate, making you more relaxed. Crafting in a group such as at our Craft, Chat and Cake sessions, helps to make you feel that you belong and you can just feel the support you get from each other or share with each other. It’s also not just about the chatting. There are often times in the tearoom when we are all quiet – crafting, reading or simply enjoying just being in the company of the tearoom family.
So let’s go back to the diabetes discussion on the radio. Yes, I fully agree with providing emotional and mental health treatment alongside the physical support for those with diabetes but I would argue that this should be provided for any illness, disease or injury.
Who votes that we should have the Magical Tearoom on the Hill with our Craft, Chat and Cake sessions provided on the NHS!
And what should the song for this week’s blog be? Easy like a Sunday Morning by the Commodores of course.