Today I Shall Be Fabulous!

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When I was ensconced in the wonderful world of online dating, a friend of mine suggested I google a chap called Matthew Hussey. He’s a dating guru, young and full of vitality and dare I say it, happiness. I found myself slightly addicted to his YouTube videos so when I’d watched them all, I bought his audio book and played it again and again and yes, again.

He speaks sense. He understands the psychology of both men and women, of how we interact and sometimes how we fail to interact and also understand each other. He explains how what we say and what we do can be misinterpreted, and how our very basic caveman instincts are still absolutely paramount in terms of our current behaviour.

But one thing that he talks of, is practising talking and engaging with people. People in the queue at the coffee shop, people in the supermarket, people anywhere. Just a simple smile and a happy brief chat can not only make your day, but also someone else’s.

Now of course living in London, it is deemed as a little odd to smile at a stranger, and frankly unhinged should one make conversation … and yet, why should the most natural thing in the world be given a few raised eyebrows?

The other day on the tube, my fellow passengers and I became united as a small dog raced past us on the platform and on reaching the end, threw itself onto the tracks and bolted off towards the tunnel. What ensued, along with all trains on the Central Line coming to an almighty halt, was that we bonded. We chatted, laughed, made suggestions as to how to entice said dog back and enjoyed even more hilarity as the Platform Manager in her fluorescent jacket took to shouting abuse at our canine friend. What became of the dog, I know not, as it clearly was unimpressed by being roared at, and subsequently turned its back on her, cocked its leg on the tunnel wall and promptly trotted off into the darkness.

My purpose of this post is this; whether we are dating or not, Matthew Hussey has a point. Some of us are good at ‘small talk’, some not so. But as with everything that we want to improve or even excel at, we should take heed of his advice, and practise.

Engaging with people and the world whether that be sharing a smile or a little chat with a person is good for the soul and the spirit. Not just yours, but theirs also. Sometimes, your kind words can lift someone’s day from being somewhat shabby, to positively fabulous. Go on! Be fabulous today!

Katie xx

Are you good at small talk? Or do your inhibitions prevent you?

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Anxiety and Fear of Strangers…

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I’ve been saving this up for you. Just in case you thought you were a tad unhinged, I think I’ve now overtaken you and reached the top of the class in that department.  (Nb Photo with lassie above is not me … even I wouldn’t clean the car in heels …)

A glorious day in Scotland, and it was not raining, in fact the weather was positively tropical. Everyone still wears their coats though, after all, it’s common knowledge for the Glaswegians that if it’s not raining, it’s about to and if you’ve not got your coat, you’d be well advised to nick someone’s else’s.

By now I think you will have understood that ‘The Car’ is my husbands true love (along with Jaffa Cakes, women with long legs and beating me at Scrabble). With time on my hands, I figured that an outing to the car jet wash was the order of the day.

I must confess that being somewhat mean with money (the old fear of dying broke with 5 children from 5 fathers in a studio flat in the darkest depths of some God-forsaken city surrounded by beer cans and cigarette butts regularly rears its ugly head) …. moving onwards and away from that particular thought … this forces me to not be frivolous with the old notes and to generally get out the bucket and sponge and wash the car myself. However, a moment of madness and a simple trip to the car jet wash ensued. Or so I thought….

My money is in the machine. I’m not wasting a penny. The timer is going. I sense urgency to get the darn car clean; I have only eight minutes to complete my task and the clock’s ticking … they don’t call it a pressure washer for nothing. What started out as a blast of water that ricocheted off the car onto my face, was quickly replaced by bubbles. A lot of bubbles, with force.

The hose is stuck under a tyre; I’m flicking it away, it’s caught on the stumpy aerial on top of the car, I’m flicking it away again … every flick comes with a drenching of white bubbly car detergent all over yours truly. Eyes stinging and streaming, I look as though I’ve entered a wet t-shirt competition for the over 60’s – it’s really not a good look. Perhaps wearing a coat would have been a good idea.

Suddenly the hose is snatched from my hands by a huge Scottish man who barks at me in a language I can only assume is native to the farthest part of The Outer Hebrides …. I comprehend nothing. I snatch it back …. However, I am now not alone in being covered in bubbles.

His eyes are narrowing and yet he once again lurches towards me to grab said hose with more of the guttural, phlegm-inducing sounds which I can only assume are more words …. ahhh but I’m quick off the mark here! I can see Angelina Jolie in myself as I swiftly dodge his swipe and point my brush at his face, bubbles exploding over his huge chest and now bubble-splattered hairy face.. God he’s enormous. “Go away!” I squeak. He responded with words that my brain couldn’t register, except for two, “help” and “mad”. He shakes his head in bewilderment at me, bubbles flying from his beard.

Dear God, he was trying to help me. Another squeak, “Oh … Bugger!” Back-tracking required with speed.

“Um, gosh, thanks awfully. But um, I rather enjoy this …. see?” When in fear, the frightfully British accent lurches forward overtaking all normal speech. The thought of a burly Scot vigorously rubbing the paint off my husbands pride and joy was too terrifying to contemplate, so I now spend the next two and a half minutes pretending to simply adore washing cars as I rub and squirt and spray with gusto and all the time gibbering and thanking him profusely for his offer. He looks baffled, bewildered and somewhat wet.

At long last, the timer rings and the furious noise and force of water diminishes, and I am left standing in relative silence opposite a mammoth soggy Scot with bubbles in his beard and a now flaccid hose which rather halfheartedly gives a final and rather pathetic little spurt of water before dribbling onto the ground. “Sorry.” I mutter and hand it to him, whilst ineffectively wiping at his bubble-soaked jacket. I wisely leave the beard alone as I make out another two words, “Focking nootter …”

“Yes, you’re quite right … awfully sorry.” It’s the Noel Coward accent again, but I’m in the car pronto and making a hasty exit.

Sometimes you know, even if people look scary, they’re as kind and soft as … well, they’re just not. Think I’ll stick to the bucket and sponge in future – infinitely safer.

Katie x

Do you ever judge people wrongly? Do you ever act like a complete fruitcake?

Anxiety and The Fear Of Being Conned!

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A few days ago I went into the local cycle shop to prepare for my trip through France. The Colonel had advised me to buy a repair kit and an extra inner tube or two. Pas de problem!

However, it is tragically my horrible nature to distrust everyone (except policemen, firemen, the nurse back in Glasgow who does the best “screening tests” for women (apologies gentlemen), some relations and Delia Smith).

I also distrust pretty much everything too (in particular, the locks on the doors, my ability to keep house plants alive and my hairdryer which is on its last legs and I’m sure about to die/explode/cause a house fire).

Trust for me is a tricky old business. As a somewhat anxious old bird I am convinced that I am going to be ripped off, conned, or the innocent young man outside the house is in fact a burglar casing the joint. I fear that everyone is a wolf in sheeps clothing, an axe-wielding murderer and I am the proposed victim. Why? A bit of history and I’m slightly unhinged I suppose.

So a trip to the cycle shop was, in my mind a perfect opportunity for someone to pretty sharply realise that I am a complete novice in this department, to take full advantage, and within ten minutes I’d have them sucking through their teeth, shaking their head and I’d be be leaving with a boxful of gadgets, tools and a warning that cycling on my own from north to southern France was not only inadvisable, but dangerous. (Unless of course I bought their most expensive bike, complete with a six week course of maintenance lessons). And not being the most assertive of women, I’d agree to it all. Then of course I’d curse myself and have to go through the arduous task of begging the Colonel to take it all back for me as I was too much of a wuss to have said a firm “no” in the first place and I certainly couldn’t bear the humiliation of setting foot in the place again. Wet? Abso-bloody-lutely! I am a complete girl’s blouse.

Apparently, this all stems from a lack of life skills, yet again.

Ahhh, but I am learning! I am a new woman! I have had therapy to combat this. I too can be assertive …

So leaving Claude the bicycle chained up outside, I headed into the shop with a confident smile and a breezy gait, (how a gait can be breezy I’m not entirely sure, but you get the gist), determined to look as though I was knowledgeable, capable and therefore unable to be taken advantage of. Ha! I’ll beat the buggers!

Perhaps the fact that everyone in there (and they were all men) was head to toe in Lycra and I was wearing a very pretty floaty little number might have been the first giveaway (see my post Finding Etta which might explain why I figured cycling in flippy skirts was a good idea).

So I gulp, give myself a mental pep talk and go for it.

“Please may I have a couple of inner tubes and a basic bike repair kit?”

Fabulous! Well done me … not a stutter or a wringing of hands in sight ….

The young man behind the counter with orange hair, a matching beard and a lot of earrings raises an eyebrow. “What size tyre is it for?”

Fuuuuuuck …..!

Ok I’ve been caught out. I have absolutely no clue. Should I have brought a tape measure from my sewing box? Time to come clean. Time to admit that I’m clueless. Time to put myself at risk of being conned. Fear kicks in, panic is knocking at the door. I am vulnerable.

I give a defeated sigh, accepting the inevitable, point to my beautiful Claude outside the shop, and say, “Um, I think I might need your help with that.”

Forty five wonderful minutes later and I have several new best friends and am sitting behind the cashiers desk (Jon is his name) on his computer showing not only him, but also four of the Lycra-clad men the wonderful website (The Atlantic Cycling Route) detailing the route of my proposed trip in August. Claude, my EBay purchase is now in the shop being twiddled with, checked over with great enthusiasm from my fellow cyclists, so much so that screenshots of the website were taken, a wife was telephoned and Claude has had the complete once-over. Rather amusing n’est pas?!

So I floated back on Claude, flippy floppy skirt thankfully not catching in the newly oiled chains (my new friend Jon behind the desk gave it a bit of ‘lubrication’ for free … (dreadful word I know, apologies …. a bit like moist, soiled and toilet … it’s the ‘oi’ words … shudder … can’t bear them) and I headed home on a high with simply the two inner tubes and a repair kit, plus some funny little plastic things to get the tyres off which he threw in for free. (I think he realised that I didn’t actually have a clue how to change an inner tube … I thought it involved a spoon end or something and a bit of a wiggle).

So you see, all is well with the world. Not everyone is a baddie, in fact, there are some rather nice people out there. And now all I have to do is google “How to Repair a Bicycle Tyre” or I could ask the Colonel. Alternatively my new best friend, Jon with the orange beard, did mention a series of maintenance classes that they have for only £10 a session …. might be an idea, he did recommend a course of three however …

Katie xx

Do you worry about being ripped off? Or axe-wielding murderers hiding under the bed? What are you frightened of?

What’s Really Going On In Their Life?

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One of my indulgences in life is not to have a personal trainer, a dietitian or haircuts every six weeks, but to once a year, employ an accountant. Not quite so glamorous and perhaps not quite what you were expecting, but I’m nothing if not practical. My justification of this ‘indulgence’ is simply based on the fact that I don’t have Sky Tv or Netflix, go for regular massages, manicures, pedicures or any other types of cures.

You see, I feel no shame in not spending six hours of my sodding life trying to fill out a sodding tax form that I don’t sodding like, don’t understand, is badly worded and each and every times results in tears, tantrums, a minimum of two phone calls to the bank and four phone calls to the tax office helpline which takes, oh yes, a minimum of 20 minutes to get through before you can actually speak to an actual human being.

(And breathe) …… I’m sure you understand.

The last time I did a tax return, I finally had to beg the unfortunate man to stay on the phone whilst he and I filled out the last four pages of the form together which probably accounts for why it takes 20 minutes to get through to a person in the first place … because of people like me, but I’m guessing therefore that I’m not alone in doing this.

So now I have the lovely James. The lovely blue-eyed, twinkly-eyed James, whom, with his wife, has the perfect set-up of a life together in a beautiful riverside village not far from London where in their garden beside the swimming pool is a little cream painted wooden office where their employees come in each morning and presumably James and his wife simply tumble out of bed and head through the garden to their little office, via the pool, clutching a hopefully not too soggy piece of toast and begin their day. It’s all rather idyllic in my mind, and frankly as James always looks rather chirpy, I’m guessing I’m not too far off the mark.

So, suffice to say for the last few years James has been doing all the hard work for me and I now simply telephone him with the figures, send him a cheque and he does the rest. The result, I don’t have to battle with the tax office, make endless phone calls, cry, behave like a brat, and James does it in a nanosecond, happily receives my cheque and then goes for a lovely swim in his beautiful pool. Win, win I’d say.

With my various anxiety issues (yawn) I still intensely dislike making telephone calls and naturally therefore procrastinate telephoning even the lovely James, but this year we were getting dangerously close to the deadline so needs must, and I thought happy thoughts and dialled his number.

Now usually once I’ve bitten the bullet and made a call, I wonder what all my fuss was about and berate myself for having procrastinated, but this time James was offhand and cold. I’d even go so far as to say verging on rude. I was upset. I was irritated. I only want kind, gentle people in my life otherwise my demons (aka Betty) start paying me a visit, and she is not the sort of visitor anyone wants knocking on their door.

I therefore, being overly sensitive, took James’ coldness to heart and then somewhat predictably to the absolute extreme, as is my default setting, and vowed that next year if I was going to pay someone to help with the finances I’d darn well pay someone who was going to be gentle, friendly, ask me how my day was and generally smooth my naturally ruffled feathers, (clearly no doubt that I really can be quite the spoilt princess) rather than someone leaving me feeling more anxious than usual and as though I had done something wrong, upset him, not asked him enough about his wife …. “Manners maketh man James” I wanted to remind him. I’m glad I didn’t.

I received an email a month later. James was dead.

Apparently only a few days prior to my speaking to him, he had been diagnosed with a brutal type of cancer, had a couple of weeks later gone in for surgery, and a few days following that, died from septicaemia.

I am ashamed to admit that at the age of 48 I still hadn’t learned to put aside my own self-obsessed thoughts and instead think and ask if he, James, was ok during that strange and final telephone call, rather than to focus, yet again on myself, my own feelings and me. Yes, me, me, me. I’m so, so sorry that I never stopped to think for a moment and ask.

We just never know what someone else is truly going through, do we?

Sleep well my twinkly, blue-eyed friend.

Katie xx