It’s surprising how noisy a kettle is whilst boiling.
As the Colonel logs onto yet another meeting, I snarl and curse at myself for not having made my coffee before he started.
I’ve tried various methods of quietening it, such as covering it with a towel, but that was met with much waving of arms and pointing. Apparently it was a fire hazard. I’ve tried filling it only half full, but nope, even noisier. So I wait until the meetings are over, the phone calls end and then I make a dash to the stove and make a large pot of coffee … bliss.
I tiptoe around our open-plan apartment wondering if it would be rude to suggest his meetings move to the closet. I ponder over buying an electric kettle which I can attach to a power socket in the corridor outside and I momentarily ponder whether I have an addiction to coffee and obviously dismiss this immediately.
But let’s brush, swoosh and whoosh away the negatives … for positivity shall reign, and my positive news is … that I have mastered the art of the Chocolate Soufflé. I have conquered my fear of the sinking soufflé.
I shall admit this is not world-breaking news, indeed most of you can probably already make this light as a feather, airy and moist ramekin of deliciousness. It is heaven in a bowl with a dollop of ice cream. So much so that yes, I use that awful cringe-worthy word moist which in my squirming mind sits alongside soiled and gusset. But I digress, it is such a piece of heaven that I would be willing to forfeit my coffee for this utter delight.
So whilst we enter into another groundhog week of the same again, I search again for something new to dilute the monotony. We’re safe so there’s no complaining, but I must confess to a sense of pleasure in an achievement so small. Perhaps I shall try the Japanese soufflé pancakes or start learning Swahili on Duolingo. Either way, if the Colonel could perhaps make his way to the closet with his laptop and phone, I could make that darn cup of coffee …
Ps. Do you have a positive that obliterated any negatives from the weekend?
When I was in England, I owned a bread maker. Cumbersome, bulky and noisy, it did however produce, with very little input from Yours Truly, a magnificent loaf.
Imagine for a moment if you will, the smooth, mellow smell of freshly baked bread drifting from room to room; Can you hear the blade of the knife cracking through the crust? Can you see the sharp crumbs exploding outwards before the knife finally reaches the air-filled soft pillow of bread lying within? And the silky butter glistening, sliding and melting into the billowing warmth until finally one’s salivating mouth can savour and devour the taste, the texture, the pure heaven of a simple slice of bread and butter?
From this, I trust you have deduced that I love bread.
With delights and joy such as this, is hardly surprising 12 million loaves are sold every day and that entire books have been written about baking a loaf of bread. And yet, since living here in New York, I have tasted only one good loaf and it cost just shy of 7 dollars. “7 dollars?!” I hear you screech … yes. It used to make me screech too, now I just whimper and close my eyes as I painfully hand over a ten dollar bill. Don’t even bother work out how much that it in pounds. It’s simply, a lot. There is cheaper bread, but it is grim, partly due to the excessive sugar content. So, because I am essentially tight, I bought an american bread maker, flour and yeast, and for the next consecutive ten days I made a loaf of bread. Surely in the long run, this would be more cost effective? Apparently not. Ten days, ten disasters.
Dropping a loaf of bread with the consistency and weight of a London brick makes quite a noise as it travels at speed down 49 floors in a refuse chute. The crashes, rattles and hollow echoes boom way their way down to the basement. Another disappointment. Another bread-making disaster.
The Colonel raises an eyebrow at the latest effort, a twitch of a smile faintly teasing at his lips. “No toast for breakfast then?” He tentatively asks, looking at the gnarled solid body of inedible, semi-cooked flour in my hands. I harrumph and turn to go to the refuse chute at the end of the corridor once more.
“I could use this thing to sodding knock you out,” I mutter, clutching my loaf.
“And half of Manhattan,” he snorts with laughter.
On his return from a trip to London, he brings me presents. Amongst the other more romantic trinkets, there is a kilogram bag of strong bread flour and some yeast. He is nothing if not eternally hopeful and practical. The flour is Canadian, the yeast British. I try again.
Loaf number eleven I could smell as I woke. I don’t do jumping out of bed for fear of dislocating something, but this morning was the exception. A little jump and consequently having to limp to the kitchen, I peered through the viewing window of the bread maker. Dear God it worked! Hallelujah!
It is not perfection, but with a little help from Britain and Canada, I have made my first half decent loaf of bread. The Colonel and my son are still asleep having been up all hours watching some rugby which apparently was quite important. They have since gone back to their respective beds looking dour.
I wonder if the prospect of bacon sarnies for breakfast will raise the mood. One minor issue if I’m having to import flour and yeast, I suspect my loaf of bread is probably going to cost significantly more than 7 dollars …. hmmm. Might need to have a re-think.
I saw a picture of Kate Middleton in the news yesterday. She was crying. Well, in truth it was more of a dainty weep (and about what, I know not, but that is not the point …. what a lot of what-nots. Forgive me – I digress).
She had a delicate trickle from one eye which required nothing more than a gentle dab with a lacy handkerchief. I wanted to stroke her hand and sing soothing words, but given that she is on the other side of the world and I am a complete stranger to her, I suspect I would probably be arrested even if I could travel across continents in seconds and climb into her bullet/mad-woman-proofed Range Rover.
My point is this: Yes, her weeping brought out the mother in my soul and I wanted to comfort her, but most importantly, it was all so darn feminine and pretty.
I think I could learn something from her.
When I cry, I am a howler. I dribble unattractively, I snort, snuffle and cough. I wail loudly with much flailing of arms. Salty hoses open with full force from my pink puffy eyes and even pinker nose. I look like a small pig with serious issues and an allergy.
I am under no illusions that it is not a pretty look. People will cross roads to avoid me. The Colonel has a tendency to look baffled, bewildered and faintly scared. With good reason I suppose. Thankfully, it tends to be fairly short lived, the end result being a blotchy face with mascara smeared like a panda around my eyes and black streaks down my cheeks; the occasional sniff, an apologetic grin and it’s all over. The relief on the Colonel’s face is rather endearing.
Thankfully this is a rare event. Indeed I’d say it’s only happened twice this year. But boy does it feel good! A hearty old blub and the world is a better place. A release of pent-up frustration and whoosh it’s all over. I could start on making comparisons to orgasms, but I think that might open a can of worms and I like to keep my posts tasteful and decorous … mostly.
Suffice to say, I am curious …
When did you last cry?
Are you a howler or a weeper?
Did you feel better afterwards?
Ps If there are any men reading this, I’d really, really like to know.
I don’t follow the Kardashians, or their voluptuous bottoms.
I think I might quite like a derrière like theirs, but I wouldn’t want surgery, and if I had to do those squat exercises … Well, nope. I’d squat down once and my knackered old knees wouldn’t allow me to stand back up again. Indeed, I think I’m beyond a pert bottom. Besides, if my arse was that curvaceous, without a cut-out hole in my mattress, I wouldn’t be able to sleep on my back at night.
But enough of the Kardashian’s, let me ask you about selfies: the pouting, the posing, the need for attention and adoration culminating in the form of a love-heart-shaped ‘like’ … Is this slightly odd behaviour? In the old days it would have been called vanity, now it’s just, well, normal. What do you think?
Of course, looks fade. One day we will all be old; what was once plump and taut will soften and droop; our paper-thin skin will crease and wrinkle and ’tis a brave soul who will want to flaunt it then. So perhaps the young should embrace their beauty and youth and put it on display to all and sundry because all too soon those days are over. Perhaps.
But shouldn’t we instead of following those simply with outward beauty, start positively celebrating those who have worked hard and achieved big? Those who have struggled and conquered? Those who have their beauty within?
Or perhaps we should stop looking over the garden fence altogether at the apparently greener grass, and start watering our own instead. Or maybe, I should just start trying those squats …
Yesterday morning I stood in a queue with dozens of others, waiting to see if I could get any ‘rush’ tickets for that evening’s performance of King Kong.
I did, we went, I cried, it was wonderful.
Many years ago I went to see West Side Story at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I went ten times, partly because it was utterly magical and partly because I rather fancied the leading man. As it turned out, said leading man sadly preferred men to women, however on a positive note, I did learn all the words to every song. Happy days.
I’m a bit stuffy these days and rather preferred it when in the past we used to dress up to go to the theatre. Yes, I know, times change and bah-blasted-humbug I need to move with them. But still, despite a change in attire and the request for mobile phones to be switched off, nothing has remotely altered the pure magic of the theatre. The red plush velvet seats, the high ceilings, the glittery chandeliers, the excited chatter before the lights dim and the curtain rises … heaven! The applause, the standing ovations, the squeals of terror, the laughter … bliss!
In truth I also enjoy the cinema, but am too easily distracted by crisp packets being incessantly rustled, people getting up and down to go to the loo, the smell of tacos and hot dogs being eaten, the crunching, the slurping, the rustling, and finally having to wade my way through the spilt popcorn and half empty drinks littering the floors. Somehow it’s not quite the same, but, I grant you, a fraction of the price.
So I shall save my pennies and be prepared to stand once again on the steaming hot street corners of New York. Not to earn money for those of the more smutty mind, but in the hope of securing more cheap tickets to the theatre. Yes, a two hour slice of utter heaven without a crisp packet, carton of popcorn or slurpy drink to be seen or heard. Bliss.
P.s. Any recommendations for shows gratefully received, and apologies to any noisy popcorn eaters.
Some would say categorically not. They have a disease, it’s a part of their makeup (genetic or otherwise) and they have no control over it.
Others might argue that yes, how we feel is our choice. We have a mind of our own and we can control it (using various methods).
It is also often debated whether depressive thoughts are addictive, in the same way that substances like alcohol, or behaviours like gambling are addictive. And when we are not using these substances or behaviours we feel out of control largely because in a (self-destructive) way the familiarity gives us an element of comfort. In a similar vein, it is often noted that women (and men for that matter) in unhealthy relationships are mimicking those they had with their parents in childhood. It might not be healthy, but it is familiar.
So, if using by these theories, we fight the urge to believe that we have no control over our minds and we fight the urge to fall back into the dark, warm but comfortable well of depression, ( Read my post on Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) can we overcome it?
My view, for what it’s worth, is yes. But it’s no walk in the park.
It’s curious how whilst I was cycling through France last summer, I had never been so happy or so at peace. Perhaps it was something to do with … the daily exercise (ok it was a brutal 60 – 90 kms a day); being in the sunshine (yup, it hit 41 degrees); a challenge each and every moment (wait til the book comes out, then you’ll understand); social interaction (albeit mostly in a different language apart from on meeting one couple who when I exclaimed how delighted I was that they were English, they replied, “Nah! We’re from Birmingham.” Right; No alcohol, but gallons of water and my weight in croissants; No toxic people to be around and no social media …. And so on and so forth.
Yes, all those things that we’re supposed to do daily to help ourselves (granted, perhaps not in quite such an extreme form), nevertheless, whilst I’m not suggesting that anyone heads off for a 1200 km cycle ride, it’s funny how happy one can be with just a bicycle a tent and the winding road ahead.
So what do you think? Depending of course on the severity of the anxiety or depression, do you believe we actually have a choice to be happy?
Should those words even be permitted in the same sentence together? Some might think not.
Yesterday I took my (almost) 21 year old son to three shops. He coped admirably in Sephora (a beauty emporium to any understandably baffled male or otherwise readers). In a nutshell, when asked at the entrance if we needed assistance, I whipped out my phone, showed a screenshot of what I wanted and boom! We were in and out in less than four minutes. Now that’s a good shopping experience according to him.
Second shop – J Crew for women … even I was bored; uninspiring and rather ordinary clothes with disproportionate price tags. There was also a sale consisting of a couple of rails of crumpled, make-up stained unwanted items, many of which were on the floor being trampled on. I love a bargain like the best of us, but .. So with my son ambling behind me and despite trying to make the occasional positive remark, we lasted rather less than four minutes.
Final shop – J Crew for men … ‘Jacob’ came to our assistance with a friendly manner and a rather natty scarf tied around his neck. Good looking shirts, shorts, trousers all laid out neatly, no fuss, no noise, no mess and and yes, even a sale. And with Jacob folding and refolding everything within his sight, there was order. What more could we ask for? In less than ten minutes we left with a fab pair of shoes, big smiles all round and a joyous Jacob.
How does this happen?
It has been known to take me weeks to find the perfect pair of shoes. And yet, perhaps therein lies the problem. Am I seeking a form of perfection that most probably doesn’t exist?
Should the thrill of a bargain override this need for perfection? Does order and presentation really matter that much?
Dare I suggest that we, the fairer sex, can spend days trawling the shops, searching endlessly with a picture in our minds of a particular article of clothing? Will we ever find it? Or do we actually enjoy the trawling process?
And finally, if we believe that perfectly beautiful clothes will make us equally perfectly beautiful, do men have that same perfectionist gene? Or do they have more realistic expectations?
Shopping is, I find, a frustrating but occasionally necessary pastime. I have no answers except that I clearly need a Jacob to iron out the creases in my life and clothes, and perhaps occasionally I can borrow his rather natty little scarf. It’s really rather perfectly lovely.
If you have any, please give me some solutions … I have too many unanswered questions here!
To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.
It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.
We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….
I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.
So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …
I made the mistake yesterday whilst on the underground, of asking the Colonel what he was thinking about.
He looked instantly baffled and faintly like a bunny in the headlights. Once again I think that history was paying him a visit and he thought it was a trick question. It wasn’t. I was simply curious as to how and why someone could remain completely silent for the amount of time it took to get from Baker Street to Notting Hill Gate.
‘Really,’ I grinned, nodding encouragingly, ‘What were you really thinking about for soooo long? I don’t mind if it was about the lady with the big boobies over there,’ I whispered.
‘I hadn’t noticed’ he said sanctimoniously but with a twitch of a grin. I laughed.
‘In actual fact’, he said, (he never uses normal words like ‘actually’) ‘In actual fact, I was wondering about the advert up there’ and he pointed towards one of the advertisements set in a neat row above the tube maps in our carriage. It was a drab and dreary looking picture. He carried on solemnly, ‘It’s for a new business card which apparently is being voted rather highly by Which magazine’.
I paused, it now being my turn to feel baffled. ‘Seriously?’ I asked. ‘That’s what you were thinking about?’ He nodded.
‘Crikey,’ I sighed. ‘No wonder you get so much more done in a day than I do. Shall I tell you what I was thinking?’ I carried on without waiting for an answer. ‘By the way, you do realise you didn’t say a word for at least four stops, and we had to change platforms?’ I confess this might have come out in a faintly accusatory tone.
He was starting to look a little bewildered; indeed, as though looking at the lady with the big boobies might have been a better option.
‘I too was looking at the adverts,’ I said importantly. ‘That one,’ I said and pointed to an advertisement containing a picture of a simple white bowl which was filled, indeed heaped rather artistically with peas.
‘However, I don’t know what mine is actually advertising because that isn’t important to me. But,’ I held up my finger to point out the crucial part was to follow, ‘But, I was wondering if I was to take one of the peas from the bottom of the pile, whether they would all have fallen out. And then,’ I started giggling oblivious to his bemused expression, ‘And then,’ I carried on, ‘I started thinking how funny it would be if all the peas fell out of the advert and onto the lady with the big boobies, down her cleavage even, and then into our carriage, until there were peas everywhere! Imagine it!’
By now I was laughing uproariously. My hands were clasped together in delight and I fear I was receiving a few quizzical looks from nearby strangers.
The Colonel peered closely at me whilst scrunching up his nose. He pushed up his glasses with one solitary finger and frowned. ‘Help me God,’ he muttered and started shaking his head. He then opened up the newspaper.
I sighed, my bubble momentarily burst. But seconds later, I rummaged in my handbag for two pencils and then opened up my own copy of The Standard. I silently handed one pencil to him and we glanced at each other, slowly both beginning to smirk and then, in an undignified scramble raced to find the crossword at the back of the newspaper to see who could finish it first.
Do you think it matters if you’re like chalk and cheese?
I love to write. I need to write. So why have I allowed a diddy little move across the pond to take precedence over writing this week?
All I need is just a couple of hours each day to sit and tap, tappety tap. A bit of editing, a little rewriting. Simple. And yet tiny doubts have been creeping to the forefront of my mind. Doubts are clever little blighters. They ensnare and suffocate any lingering fragments of confidence. Will the book ever be good enough? And then the inevitable happens; procrastination claws its way in and takes a firm hold.
There is always another box to be packed (despite an army of packers due next week), or the need to ponder for far too long over whether I need my wellington boots in New York City; or whether I should take some sachets of bread sauce mix for when I can’t be bothered to make it from scratch. Important decisions you see. Oh, I have no doubt of my ability to procrastinate! I have honed my skills over decades; frankly I could have a Masters with distinction in procrastination.
I believe a little discipline is required in Mrs Colonel’s house. A sharp rapping of the knuckles and the occasional poke with a pointy stick.
I am not a lounge lizard who wanders around the sitting room mid-afternoon still wearing pyjamas. I do not shuffle around the kitchen in Donald Duck slippers and a matching onesie as I peer bleary-eyed into the fridge at noon. I go to bed early and get up early. I love mornings and am annoyingly bouncy from the moment I see the light creeping through the gaps in the curtains. I must be hell to live with.
But my point is this … we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we all choose to use it differently. And I have been lazy for the past week and have not set aside a couple of hours a day to write. I have not (and never will) be seen wandering around in the Donald Duck slippers and matching onesie, but without the structure of writing daily, I may as well have been. Just wait a moment whilst I bludgeon myself to death …
To be fair, I have been overhauling my relative’s garden for the last several days, but that’s besides the point …
Poignant Pause …
Excellent! Knuckles have been duly rapped and a pointy stick has metaphorically poked me. I have given myself a little talking to and told you, my wonderful WordPress friends of my failings. I am now a new woman and ready to do some more editing and re-writes … Quick cup of tea first though, it’s still early …
I am officially old. Frankly, the fact that jet lag took me a week to recover from is a pretty clear indication that, yes, I am old. I obviously also suffer from first world problems so forgive me if you can.
When I was a young and carefree twenty something, we would party all night and still manage to go to work the next day. We simply giggled our way through the day on happy memories of the night before, cans of coke and black coffee. Now, if I manage to stay awake until ten o’clock, I’m doing well. ‘Tis a sad state of affairs.
Yesterday on the train, I was not just an old woman, but a grumpy old woman.
“Why do they say twice at every single station, ‘Mind the gap’?” I snapped at my husband.
“I mean really,” I continued, warming to my theme, “How many people have actually fallen down the gap between the train and the platform. I’ve never seen even one!”
He peered at me over his glasses, looking a little baffled and worried as to whether or not this was one of those test questions, like “How much do you love me?” (Just for your information, this is a test question and in order to avoid divorce, the answer should be … “I love you more than the best pint of beer in the best pub with the best supermodel talking about the best Formula One cars.” This would be a perfect answer.)
“See!” I said, “Nobody has ever fallen down the gap!”
“Perhaps they haven’t fallen because they constantly remind us not to.” He replied carefully.
“Pah!” I snorted. “I’d like to test your theory. Are you honestly saying that if they didn’t say “Please Mind the Gap” in that mind-numbingly dull voice, then we’d see a plethora of people wedged side by side hanging between the train and the platform all wailing to be rescued with their arms waving?”
By now I was not only belligerent, but completely beyond all reason, so husband dearest twitched his nose and took it upon himself to find the newspaper rather interesting. In his mind, this too was clearly a test … discovering when it is best to keep quiet rather than to instigate World War III. Some times it really must be hard being a man.
Betty was my black dog, my little cackling demon, the ogre clutching on to my back. Haven’t we all had a little of her from time to time?
The majority of us have suffered from moments of depression, anxiety or a combination of both. I had my fair share, yet whether mine was worse or not than anyone else’s, who am I to say? I had moments of feeling blue, but then don’t we all? Perhaps that’s all it ever was, just a little bit of blue.
Like all the evil bullies of this world, in the end Betty found me to be a rather repellent host and has consequently moved on.
The sun is shining, the world is a happy, if complicated place and I can see Betty and the bullies for what they truly are. Having used every resource available to me, (see my post Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) I can confirm that this slightly unhinged woman has indeed killed Betty and moved on.
“Ha! Don’t you get so cocky!” I hear someone say with a smirk. Perhaps they’re right; but in truth I don’t want to be around that person. I only surround myself with positive people who like me want to live in peace, love and optimism. Yes, I have to be careful and keep an eye on myself, but that’s what we all do anyway.
Life is for living. But most importantly, life is for living in the light and not the darkness.
Forgive me for sharing, but I’ve been faintly hysterical. To clarify, I am most certainly not looking for sympathy. That was very kindly given, free of charge by the staff in the coffee shop. I think it’s the only thing I’ve had free of charge there, the place costs me a small fortune.
My lovely coffee shop has endured months of me sitting in my usual spot, tapping away at the iPad whilst buying a few desperately expensive lattes and a chocolate brownie or two. We chat and laugh and they ask about my writing, and are the most kind and friendly bunch of people. Suffice to say, should I ever get this wretched book published, I’ll have to sell quite a substantial amount just to break-even, in order to compensate for the amount of coffees I’ve bought.
Each day they hear me come through the rickety door as the little bell above gives a jingle and a jangle. They call out with a cheerful, “Morning! Your regular decaf latte, in a mug not a cup and saucer? We’ll bring it right over!” and I smile coyly, blatantly ignoring the snarls and filthy looks of the other customers in the queue in front of me as I take my place in the corner with the cushions and the squishy seat. As the morning progresses, I change my order a little and try not to be quite so predictable. Sometimes I ask for extra cream or try an Americano in anticipation of moving across the pond, but I don’t really think that’s going to help me.
But today was different. Today I began the final chapter of the book, which is now less of a book and more of a friend. I friend I have created and although at times I have loathed it when I have come to a tricky section, I also love it with a passion that makes me want to weep. And sadly today, that is exactly what happened.
I was writing about the final few kilometres of my trip on a squeaky bicycle called Claude, when suddenly it dawned on me that it was nearly over. Through writing, I had been re-living this ‘journey’ of mine, and now, for the last time it truly was coming to an end. To the horror of everyone, this realisation suddenly found me wailing, howling and dribbling into my flat white with extra cream. Bless them, the girls came straight over, the men more slowly and somewhat nervously. (They wisely understood that women-of-a-certain-age in a state are to be treated with caution …)
As I wiped my mascara’d cheeks with a unlimited pile of Farrow and Ball coloured napkins, I explained how I would miss coming to their lovely coffee shop and writing and as I snivelled and dribbled, I thanked them profusely for all their kindness.
“Err won’t you still have a bit of editing or something to do?” one of the girls tentatively asked.
“Oh! Oh yes!” I exclaimed, brightening somewhat. “In fact, lots of editing and umm re-editing and things like that,” I carried on. “Err, yes of course … you know, spell-checking and things!” I trailed off at this point, quite unsure what on earth I was talking about. But this seemed to appease us all and the world seemed like an infinitely better place, with all-round smiles and lots of slaps on the back and reassuring, ” Well, you’ll be here for weeks then!”
“Thank goodness for that!
The men disappeared with sighs of relief that all was now well, and the girls gave me my first ever free coffee as a get better soon gesture and offered more Farrow and Ball napkins to wipe away the eye makeup which was apparently now on-my-chin-makeup. And we sat and chatted happily together about the benefits of waterproof mascara vs falsies. I thought falsies were fake bosoms, but they’re all a lot younger and infinitely wiser so I’ll heed their advice. So, when it really is all finished, spell-checked and edited, I’ll simply go to America as planned, have an Americano and get myself some falsies. Sounds like a fabulous plan – odd how the Colonel looks ever so over-excited …
Any tips, advice, suggestions for finishing a book? (Including editing and finding an agent or publisher or …. anything). Thank you x
Disappearing into the bowels of the earth, otherwise known as the underground system of London, the sound of a violin rose up to meet me. A young man was playing the tune from A Fiddler on the Roof, “If I were a Rich Man”.
Oh, if only I could have joined him with some fabulous Russia dancing!
oh how I wanted to don my dancing shoes and join this marvellous man with his enthusiastic fiddling on his fiddle!
Oh how I wanted to leap beside him with gay abandon!
(Nb. Slight yawn, but for those wanting to be politically or otherwise correct, please note that I am using gay in the old fashioned sense … I have no desire to make comparisons of dancing abilities between people of varying sexual orientations – I’m exhausted, should have used a different word in the first place).
As he played faster and faster I was swept up in the excitement of the moment and the exhilarating music, so promptly tipped the meagre contents of my purse into his violin case. He grinned widely at me and added a slight dip of his chin to acknowledge my paltry collection of two and five pence pieces. He also got two safety pins and a book of Royal Mail stamps, but I managed to retrieve those.
With my heart singing, I continued on my journey with his music becoming fainter, but with my walk infinitely lighter and bouncier. I write this despite the unhappy truth that even if I wanted to risk the disapproving looks of fellow travellers who would assume that I was most probably a complete loon, I strongly suspect that once crouched down in my Russian dancing stance ready to fling my legs from under me, I would never have been able to stand up again without the help of some small hydraulic apparatus.
So, if you’re needing a little boost today, turn on the radio, do a little jig, sing, or even join a fiddler and try a Russian dance.
Does jolly music make you want to dance with gay abandon?
It seems to me however that every family has their own dusty cupboard full of skeletons. And, within said cupboard, there is usually a black sheep, a matriarch and a faintly sanctimonious do-gooder otherwise known as Joan of Arc. There are sometimes other variations, but usually at least one lurking somewhere in the twisted branches of the family tree.
I am not deluded enough to believe that my family doesn’t have it’s own armoire full of rattling bones, but suffice to say I love it just the way it is. (Indeed, I am probably the “troublesome” one).
But what I loathe more than anything else, more than tax returns and eighteen year old yoga students telling me to find my inner wisdom, are those on social media who try to portray a life of perfection pertaining to themselves and their family. THEY LIE!
I watched a young girl on the tube the other day taking selfie after pouting selfie, photoshopping and then posting them on Snapchat or Instagram or … “whatever”.
Yes, I’m a miserable old goat, but if any of her 500 apparent “friends” were indeed to actually meet her in the flesh for the first time, they might struggle to recognise her. The fleshy-lipped, bosom-heaving beauty with cheekbones as sharp as a knife in her picture, bore no resemblance whatsoever to the girl sitting next to me. The confidence with which she posed, pouted and flicked her hair whilst completely oblivious to the other passengers, made me question as to whether this confidence was borne from the prospect of the inevitable “likes” that she was no doubt imminently due to receive; or from the pleasure that she was getting from making a perfect version of herself. As I said, I am a grumpy old goat.
Sadly I suspect that if I did the same on WordPress, I’d probably have you all in stitches of laughter at me as I tried to stretch out the wrinkles, hold in the muffin tops and hide the bingo wings. As for the bosoms, well, perhaps the answer is simply to do a handstand. I’d have bouffant hair if nothing else, except perhaps a cardiac arrest. The thought of that level of exertion is requiring a little lie down and some ginger nuts which won’t help the muffin tops, alas, I care not.
But, back to those skeletons. I wonder if those who pose for the happy family pictures in the luxurious locations that the majority of us can’t even pronounce, truly believe their own publicity. Is it a form of propaganda? Is it advertising oneself, and if so, for whom?
And when I see beautiful photographs of beaming happy families on a gin palace in the south of France, are they really trying to pretend that their decree nisi hadn’t recently been signed, or that the youngest child hadn’t just been expelled from a rather top-end public school for selling drugs? Why must we attempt to portray perfection?
To be clear, I am not perfect. I am annoyingly bouncy, irritatingly highly strung, scream with gusto if frightened, have dyed my hair which has resulted in a distinctly purple and yellow striped tinge, have lines, wobbly bits and am a grumpy old goat. I am not saying that I love my flaws, but I do the best I can with what I have been given and accept the rest. (Just call me Joan, Joan of Arc). Surely life’s too short to be worrying about what the rest of the world thinks? Isn’t it? As for the hair … there’s some work to be done me-thinks …
So, according to WordPress, and not my memory, which even I will admit is unreliable (and that is being generous), I have blogged, posted, written and rambled for an entire year; and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.
I have wittered fairly endlessly, mostly about absolute drivel, and yet, you my friends have tolerated me, humoured me and made me feel welcome in this, our rather special writing club.
I have read your posts, at times in complete reverence at the magical ways in which you have used our glorious language; but surprisingly instead of feeling that green-eyed monster crawl up my inner thigh and reach towards an embittered heart, I have embraced your work, loved it, praised it and attempted to improve my own as a consequence.
Pease forgive my failings and be confident that I, more than anyone, am the most aware of them, and be calmed in the knowledge that I am working hard to be the best person that I can be.
So thank you my friends … You’re completely and utterly fabulous!
Sometimes I astonish myself. It is quite extraordinary how I can so masterfully waste time. If there were degrees being handed out here, I’d have a First, with a distinction, several stars and a cherry on top for good measure.
I see myself as an (occasionally) rational person; I understand that time is one commodity that we in theory have control over, and yet as it slips away hour by hour, day by day, I manage to waste it on utter nonsense.
As I said to a fellow blogger this morning, what historically used to be ‘reading time’ to keep the grey matter alive and kicking, and as a very enjoyable pastime, I now can waste hours, hours on my iPad googling holidays that I obviously can’t afford, ways to make my eyelashes look longer and houses for sale in the deepest depths of France. And I use the word ‘waste’ because despite all this lengthy research, I still have no romantic little city-break booked, no house in Provence with a sparkling swimming pool, and my eyelashes are still as stubby as they were last week.
Reading my latest book, ( Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight) I have now had to resort to reading it in the bath. Even though my iPad I am sure would work perfectly well in the bathroom, I still have visions of it falling in amongst the bubbles and yours truly being electrocuted …. found days later with Rigor Mortis deforming my body and face whilst donning a particularly attractive perm. Not quite the death I had envisaged. As an aside, if one dies in an odd position, this ‘Rigor Mortis’ sets in, how do they fit you into a coffin? Would they have to force and squeeze you tightly into a recumbent, legs together position and then nail the lid on quickly in case suddenly you popped out like a Jack-in-the-box? Just a thought …
Anyway, I digress … now that I have used up my previous ‘reading time’, I am now using up my ‘bath’ time. Perhaps when I have realised that in fact I cannot be electrocuted by a battery operated machine, I will stop reading in the bath and the dreaded iPad will venture into the bathroom and I will start googling more nonsense from there. Heavens! My life is being taken over by a 6 x 9 inch piece of metal with a rather attractive purple cover.
So, Sarah Knight of the aforementioned book, explains very clearly and assisted by some fairly fruity language, that my problem is time management. We all have the designated 24 hours in a day, it’s just that some of us choose to use it better than others.
So, my resolution for the fast approaching New Year is to manage my time considerably better. Firstly I shall don a watch (that I secretly think my lovely husband is giving me for Christmas because I am apparently always late which is hard for these military types to cope with. As it’s a Christmas present I obviously can’t start this resolution immediately – procrastinator – surely not?). I shall then make to-do lists, must-do lists, get-your-bottom-off-the-sofa-lists. I shall have spreadsheets and bar charts and attempt to become a wonderfully efficient version of the scatty, forgetful, googling me. After all, isn’t that what resolutions are all about, a moment of pre-Christmas excited enthusiasm in changing one’s somewhat shoddy ways for the better? Any suggestions more than welcome.
Are you a time-waster like me? 😬
Are you organised and efficient? HOW do you do it …. ?
What do you google? (As per previous posts, nothing smutty or vulgar please!)
I spend my life trying to halt the bad habits in their tracks with a large stop sign and a smattering of self control. I usually fail, dismally.
The limited good habits that I have and I am scrabbling around trying to think of what indeed they actually are, I am unbearably smug about. Ah yes, I don’t like dark chocolate at all and therefore I don’t eat it. Filthy stuff. So when offered some, I say with a sweet self-congratulatory and faintly superior smile, “Oh no, thank you, but I’ll pass this time!” as though I have some exorbitant levels of self control and treat my body like the proverbial temple. I don’t. I am effectively lying. I just don’t like dark chocolate. Oh God, I’m a fraud.
However, back to the point; stopping the negative thoughts. Do you have a habit of thinking about something vaguely depressing or negative (usually about the past) that within minutes can be blown out of all proportion? And one’s musings seem to slide downwards into the dark murky waters of depression? Well, in the wonderful world of CBT there is a name for this:
Now, when these negative thoughts start to take over, there are 3 points to ask:
1). Have I made any progress towards solving the problem?
2). Do I have a better understanding about this problem now that I’ve been thinking about it? And finally,
3). Am I feeling better or less depressed than before I started thinking about this?
If the answer is a clear NO, then yup, you’re ruminating.
Thinking about something and trying to find a solution is completely different and not to be confused with rumination. Trying to find a solution is positive. Rumination is not. Rumination is a habit, of the bad, disgusting dark chocolate variety.
How to stop it
The CBT experts will give you a load of chit chat about bringing yourself back to the present as rumination is so often about the past, I however need less of the chit and none of the chat. I need answers and solutions in what to do. So cutting through it all, the answer is this:
As soon as you have asked yourself those 3 questions above, recognised that yes, you are ruminating, immediately GET UP AND DO AN ACTIVITY. Um, yes it’s actually that simple but as with so many things, distraction is a powerful tool.
A pleasurable activity is of course the easiest way. Baby steps and all that. But in simple terms, find something, anything that ensures that your brain is totally and utterly focussed.
Despite some claiming to be able to multitask, it is impossible to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. Perhaps that is why rubbing your tummy and patting your head is so difficult, but maybe that’s just me. Whether this activity is turning on the television and cleaning out a cupboard, blogging, cooking, whatever floats your boat … it simply doesn’t matter. It’s just a case of stopping ‘feeding the beast’ and bringing an end to this self destructive habit called rumination.
Every time it happens again, repeat the process. Yes, your cupboards will be incredibly clean and you will have devoured the entire Game of Thrones series, but you will be learning how to stop the habit. And eventually, ‘the beast’ will wither and die. The habit will go and less effort will be required. You may become a serial cleaner with a penchant for trashy tv but hey … does it matter?
To me, this makes a lot of sense, and yes, I’m doing it. And yes, it works.
To summarise for those who haven’t read the above:
. Recognise it and act on it.
Give it a go … you have absolutely nothing to lose, but a happy and peaceful life to gain.
Do you ruminate? Do you let it lead you into the depths of despair or do you try and break the cycle?
Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.
I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.
I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.
And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.
I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.
So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.
And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.
As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:
Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)
Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),
Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)
Again, I hope you get the gist.
There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”
I can’t say No!
So the question is twofold:
1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and
2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.
Time management is not my forte. In truth there is no management. I flit from one thought or task to another with extraordinary ease. I start something, bore easily, become distracted and like the proverbial butterfly, flutter away to something else. The end result? An over-filled brain of constant thoughts and ideas, and an awful lot of half-finished jobs.
An ex-boyfriend of mine (the same one who gave me the self-help book with post-it notes in the appropriate pages) told me that I was not a ‘Completer Finisher’. Apparently there is even a term for people like me! I finished with him pretty smartish so not quite sure he was entirely correct.
However, to contradict myself, from time to time I find something that I genuinely enjoy and lo and behold I become addicted. (If you know me well, alcohol may well spring to the forefront of your mind, but I was thinking of something more positive like, cycling perhaps.). I become obsessive about it and am completely driven and focused. This is all well and good if it’s a positive activity, not so much if it’s something like drinking alcohol, over-eating, under-eating, biting ones nails (having typed this, I now realise that I can lay claim to all of those). Once again, this rather reconfirms my out of kilter ability to moderate. Fair enough, my total lack of moderation.
My mother used to say, “A little of what you fancy does you good.” And yes she was right, but then again she wasn’t having to peel the wine bottle from my arms as I lay on the floor wailing. I do think however she wondered, and often despaired no doubt, as to why I hopped from one ghastly secretarial job to another. The answer, they bored me rigid.
People however have never bored me. I love talking (one on one, rather than in large groups … it’s a social anxiety thing). And most of all I love it when I meet someone whom I ‘click’ with. The problem is that I get terribly over-excited, want to scoop them up, take them home with me and force them to tell me their entire life history. Slightly strange I grant you and hardly surprising that I struggled socially in my youth. But I need interaction to other human beings, because otherwise I bore myself. And that is why I must go and get a job as soon as I’m back from my bicycling adventure. It’s when I try to engage the postman in some chatter and I can see his eyes glaze over as he backs nervously down the path, then I know that I have to get out more. I suspect he thinks I’m a complete fruitcake, but living in London I suspect, or rather hope, that I am not alone.
Online dating was enormous fun! Again lots of people to chatter to, but of course they were always utterly confused when after a lovely evening together and I had listened with enthusiasm to their various tales, I said, “Thanks awfully and super lovely to meet you, but we’re simply not a match! Toodle Pip!” And with a breezy smile I’d be gone, and they’d be left scratching their heads looking utterly baffled. You see, as a friend, they’re fabulous, but as a future husband, hopeless. By the time pudding had come along my mind was starting to wander, by coffee I was losing the will to live, so in order to find a lifetime partner (awful word, apologies) I was going to have to meet someone slightly extraordinary who kept me hooked, interested and completely on my toes. Thankfully for the male population of the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, after four long years of searching, I found The Colonel and we are both as nightmarish as each other, so really it’s a match made in heaven.
So you see this butterfly behaviour when I lose interest, and obsessional behaviour when I find my passion, is really rather an extension of my lack of moderation. I do wish that I was normal, but there is a positive here ….
Whilst a lot of things will find me filled with ennui at the tedium of it all – paperwork, political debates, Post Office queues and quinoa (I don’t do ‘bland’ and that’s at the top of my list, along with semolina), I do have passions and they include … you. I adore my WordPress friends, my non-Wordpress friends, blogging, writing, reading, cycling, tennis, quirky people and crumpets with masses of butter and a tiny dot of marmite. You are all my passion, not just for the here and now, but if you can possibly tolerate me and I don’t bore you senseless, then I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. Sorry about that …
Do you have a passion? Do you bore easily or are you disciplined and finish tasks?
I am one of those strange creatures in life who doesn’t just have a minor deficiency when it comes to the trait of moderation; rather, it doesn’t exist whatsoever.
On a positive note, as obviously there has to be one, (I am nothing if not eternally hopeful) what it does mean is that we non-moderators are full of passion. We are ones of extremes. There is no soft diffusing button, melting polars into each other. It is one or the other.
When we love, it is with intensity. God help those on the receiving end. They should be given a manual on how to cope. But when we hate, we loathe with an intensity second to none. I’m beginning to understand why as a little girl I found finding friends so difficult.
Whatever relationship we have, be it with another human being or even something as simple as food or drink, (yes I’m going there), it is extreme.
For example a fellow blogger (you know who you are) has a complete passion for ice cream, a certain flavoured ice cream I seem to recall, my love however is ginger nut biscuits. Put a packet in front of me and whoosh! They’re gone. The problem is that being so crunchy, it’s not something that can be quietly nibbled on whilst watching the telly. Unless, like in the cinema you wait until there’s a particularly noisy scene and then munch like crazy before it all goes suddenly quiet again and you’re caught out with a mouthful of half crunched crisps or biscuits going slightly soggy in your mouth but determined not to ruin everyones viewing within six feet. Tricky.
Sadly, I have little self control in this area. If I am on my own and therefore decorum can be eased somewhat, I don’t nibble delicately, I guzzle. Not ladylike I am fully aware, but I can promise you that I will never do this in your company.
But is this just a lack of self control? Of discipline? How did we miss out on this important piece of learning? (Clearly I was smoking in the woods at school during this particular lesson.). If we had an ounce more restraint perhaps. A little composure and grace.
After all, let’s throw a little philosophy into the mix to enhance the point, isn’t temperance one of the four cardinal virtues? In ‘The Republic’ Plato (bear with me here …) narrates a discussion of the character of a good city which included temperance which he said was ‘common to all classes, but primarily associated with the producing classes, the farmers and craftsmen and with animal appetites to whom no special virtue was assigned.’ Does he mean that we craftsmen with animal appetites have temperance or simply need to have it … If Pluto speaks of it, then it must be true. How extraordinary though! Am I a ‘producing class’ ie ‘working class’? From reading Jilly Cooper’s book ‘Class’, I would very much have put myself down as middle class, so I’m now rather torn between believing Plato or Jilly. What a conundrum.
May I continue? Drinking … Once I developed a taste for it, frankly it was all over. Thankfully it wasn’t (apart from my totally off-the-rails stage late teens) until I was in my mid-forties that alcohol became less of a friend and more of a naughty, somewhat addictive lover. Again, rather less Jane Austin’s even raciest moments, and more Fifty Shades of Grey.
But of course somewhat predictably, I always take things to the farthermost point and suddenly discovered what had previously been a way of relaxing the body and mind at the end of the day, had become a serious problem. I suspect some of you can relate to that. By that stage of course there is a fairly acute issue to deal with.
Smoking … I’m not even going to bother going there .. It’s a constant and pathetically boring battle of mine of always wanting, but never allowed. I shall continue to stamp my feet and have a tantrum.
Happiness and/or sadness. No, that’s much too vanilla for the likes of us. It’s either pure unadulterated, unmitigated and all-consuming ecstasy or I’m researching how painful it is to die in various ‘formats’ and googling Dignitas. I write not with humour at this point.
Sport. We don’t do a gentle jog around the park, a lighthearted game of tennis or a cycle ride for twenty minutes in the middle gears. Pah! Of course not. We push ourselves to our utmost and ultimate limits. We need and feed off that feeling of intensity. So, that gentle jog results in marathons being completed, a course of tennis lessons ends in daily three hour practice sessions followed by competitions, and a bit of a cycle pootle results in foolhardy trips from north to southern France (I had to get that in didn’t I …)
The list however is endless and a lack of moderation seeps into every aspect of our lives. From levels of anxiety and depression, to anger, OCD, to social media and how we deal or don’t deal with it … on and on and bloody on.
For we non-moderators, life exists at each end of the spectrum and then some. Our minds are frenetic and often filled with dozens of thoughts racing around and we struggle to find which ones to put into action and which to ignore … It’s like running from the North Pole to the South, daily. Sparkly and glittering one day, damp, dark and depressing the next. And because we put our heart, soul and body into everything we do and think and say, perhaps it is hardly surprising that we feel the need for acknowledgment and even praise for our extreme efforts. Therefore we can be needy and demanding. Attractive qualities? No, probably not. It is however completely and utterly exhausting.
But where we lack middle ground, we make up for in other ways. You could never find a better friend. You could never find a person with more dedication for their chosen subject, person or sport. You will be loved with intensity and if you are married to us, then we will make love to you with unsurpassed passion. We are filled with the utmost emotions of joy, excitement, laughter and love.
Fear not, it is just our way. And if, if you should find us not too strange, unhinged, a little too erratic, and choose to accept us for the extraordinary creatures that we are, (perhaps sometimes very gently reminding us to be calm) and return our love, you would be hard pushed to find a more grateful, more loving recipient.
Do you know anyone like this, or is it in fact you?
So now Robbie is making the headlines about ‘the disease in his head that wants to kill him.’ Well if that doesn’t help break the stigma, I’m not sure what will. There will be those of course, who say that he frazzled his brain himself with all the drugs and frankly with all that money he can afford the top treatments which perhaps are not accessible to the rest of us and therefore sympathy might not be high on their list of priorities. Personally however, I rather like him, not in a groupie sort of way, but in an ‘I’m going to attack life and give it my all’ sort of way.
And that is, when I’m feeling drab and a tad shoddy, what I lack. That ‘va va voom’. That gusto and effervescence that I know is lurking beneath the surface, but is being smothered by a heavy dark and murky fog.
But today is a beautiful day, snow is blanketing Scotland and I’m housebound. So, let’s turn on some Robbie, dance around the kitchen and find some va va voom!