The Times, They Are A’Changing

Been a busy old couple of weeks this month. Considering February is supposedly the shortest (and often most lambasted) of months – the Tuesday of the year if you will, it’s managing to cram a hell of a lot in. This week alone, we’ve had 3 events and it’s not even Friday. I’ve celebrated Galentine’s Day (a personal favourite, celebrated with the customary Leslie Knope pictures declaring ‘ovaries before broveries’ and love for magnificent land mermaids). We smashed Shrove Tuesday – the pancake situation involved bacon, eggs and maple syrup, followed by chocolate spread, bananas and squirty cream and then ended in a pallet cleansing lemon and sugar. This repetitive and delightful ongoing cycle did mean that I had to lie on the couch afterwards and groan for a while, put it was so worth it.

We’ve also had Valentine’s Day, and once again TMM brutally betrayed me; even after we promised each other repeatedly the ‘no presents rule’ was in full force, I still got into the car to find a bundle of my favourite flowers, a box of beautiful macaroons and two tins of gin and tonic. I reacted in the obvious romantically accepting manner. I punched him in the boob and told him I loved him rather aggressively.

macroons

I mean, just look at it. What is a cold hearted, emotionally shuttered and terribly awkward girl to do? He’s such a bloody sweetheart. 

The trouble is, it’s our anniversary next weekend and I’ve got no idea what the etiquette is now. The ‘no present’ rule is supposedly still standing, but after this shambles who knows what’s going on. TMM promises that he’s not going to buy anything but I don’t know if I can trust his devious yet adorable face. I might just go wild and buy him something dramatically garish and over the top. Or maybe a barbershop quartet…

It’s not just been the last few days though. There’s also been a couple of birthdays (and you’ll be glad to know that those presents I did actually remember to send were all posted to the right addresses), preparation for an upcoming wedding (so much craft to do!) and the annual work’s conference in London. I did rather well I think and can confirm that I didn’t throw up (though it was a bit touch and go) – which I am taking as a sign of my ever encroaching adulthood.  There were some sad points around the time we requested a bit of Daniel Bedingfield (classic) where I had to turn down some proffered beverages (and depressingly, a krispy kreme) in order to maintain my non-vomit status, but overall I’m rather proud. I managed to come home with £2 more than I left with, a new liking for mixing strawberry vodka with white wine and a pair of skin coloured tights with the feet completely ripped to shreds #hardcoredancing. Admittedly, I did have to spend the Saturday after lying on the couch wrapped in blankets whilst being brought chicken bites and Victoria sponge cake by friends whilst shamefully binge watching Ex on the Beach

Work has actually been rather dramatically busy recently; there’s only limited time to share embarrassing stories about each other from the party. Yesterday I spent 5 hours (5 hours!!) training on a new all inclusive platform that’s being integrated into our daily lives. Whilst being slightly bitter about it (it’s basically going to make all of my skills defunct in about 3 months) I can’t help but be grudgingly wowed by how snazzy it is. Today I have been raging at pretty much every thing (so many tersely worded emails have been fired off) and even worked through my lunch rather than hiding behind my book and snarling at anybody who interrupted my food break like usual. However I have attempted to deal with my three inboxes, numerous KPIs and constant questions from colleagues regarding training in a sensible and mostly calm manner. I haven’t even cried once yet. It’s a brave new world out there people…

Well! Look at me talking about work in my blog! Who would have thought we’d ever be here. This is just another step on the endless escalator of adulthood, and a sign of things to come I think. I am starting to feel rather aggressively grown up these days really and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ve got sensible cleaning products and a regular laundry routine. I’ve got a savings account, a perm office job, at least two real lady dresses and I use the phone on a semi regular basis now (still hate it though). I seem to be ticking a lot of the boxes on the “how to adult” guide sheet (including the one that says 25-34 age range which does sting slightly) and I’m still not really sure when it happened. It all feels very much like some kind of rabbit hole I’ve stumbled into by accident and have been tumbling through since the early 2000s. I’m moving forward with some control (though very little purpose) and so far have been seemingly to do somewhat passably. I mean, it’s not all going completely smoothly – I nearly had a mini breakdown the other day when I realised I had no idea how pensions worked, and had to watch all of the Pirates of the Caribbean films to calm myself (I live by the rule that if I all goes horribly wrong, I would make an excellent pirate as a last resort). And let’s face it, I still have the gangly limbs of a teenager, the flat chest of a child and the hair of Beaker from the Muppets, so I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet but there’s this secret longing for posh cream tiled kitchens and regular skin care routines that I don’t remember having 6 years ago.

I have always been rather antiquated at heart – old films, sturdy knitwear and Sunday nights in with ITV3 crime dramas are definitely preferential to skimpy outfits, drinking holidays to the coast of Spain and “dick pics”.  But perhaps in my old age, I’m developing a previously unknown level of maturity… Though considering my reaction to the below Valentine’s picture and caption sent from TMM to our WhatsApp group, maybe not…

noods

“I believe Valentine’s convention among the youth now comes with the understanding that one sends ‘noods’ to their sweethearts. So here you go team, happy Valentine’s Day.”

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Springtime for Ebears (and TMMs)

It’s just going to be a quick blog this week, dear readers, but try not to be disheartened. In my quest for topics over the past few days, I’ve been given/come up with a couple of rather good ideas for future posts, meaning that even though this one might be lacking, you’ve got lots of things to look forward to.

 (I’ve also been UNHEALTHILY OBSESSED with “Feel It Still” by Portugal and find myself typing the lyrics to that automatically when trying to write anything, so you might just get that at some point. #sorrynotsorry).

There does seem to be rather a lot going on at this time of year though, and there is a somewhat frantic air of preparation everywhere I go. Spring, although not quite sprung yet (gosh darnit) is on the horizon and the promise of lighter evening, fluffy lambs and not having to wear 2 pairs of thick sock all the time is a pleasant balm for my soul. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, someone that could be defined as a “winter” person. I get very angry when cold (like hangry, only temperature related) and can often become enraged if not continually swaddled in numerous blankets. I remember one particular occasion when we went team camping in early May. It was pretty wet and windy for most of the day and we all retreated to bed rather early. After all getting rather hysterical and falling asleep like children, I woke up completely furious and almost spitting with rage when it turned out the air bed had gone down and the cold had seeped in. Despite wearing about 48 layers, being in a sleeping bag the size of a small space craft and surrounded by four other people I was absolutely freezing. It might not surprise you to know we gave up on that holiday rather earlier than anticipated (and perhaps not unexpectedly, one of the lads has never come camping with us again).

I just do not thrive in chilly climes and feel that everything would be better if it were warmer and lighter all the time. Admittedly, I don’t do too much better when hot (I get sweaty and lazy and flump about like a giant clammy caterpillar) – there really is only a small grouping of temperature where I’m truly happy. Still, I’m definitely ready to be too warm rather than too cold now, and could do with everything just hurrying itself along. Snow and frost is all very well and good for about two days. After that it loses its charm and unless I can view it safely from my comfy chair near the radiator, I am firmly “not about it”. 

We’re entering the dying months of winter now though, and with The Almanac guiding us gently through the turbulent ravages of these final moments, things are starting to look up. TMM has hoed the garden beds (somewhat frivolously as he gets bored with weeding rather quickly) and the seed potatoes are sprouting rather terrifyingly on the windowsill. There’s buckets full fruity promise (strawberries, chillies and tomatoes) and at this rate, we shouldn’t need to buy vegetables until autumn.

spring 1

“Oh, the barnyard is busy in a regular tizzy,
And the obvious reason is because of the season
Ma Nature’s lyrical, with her yearly miracle
Spring, Spring, Spring”

The bright sunshine and long afternoons still seem rather far away though, and poor TMM seems to have developed the winter death virus that’s going round with ardour. After spending most of last week valiantly trying to hack up a lung and going to bed at about 7pm complaining of weak limbs and aches, it all came to a head at the weekend. Not only did we have a super Lazy Saturday in an attempt to try and help him recover (TMM leaked noxious fluids out of every face orifice and knocked back Covonia like it was going out of fashion, we both napped through the rugby and I didn’t put trousers on all day) Action Sunday was cancelled after a trip to Asda proved to exhaust all of the poor boy’s energy resources. His adorably sulky little face as he sat on the couch, lamenting his inability to take any good photos of nature/breathe without sounding like Darth Vader, only perked up after I made him watch the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer is a rather stunning chap) and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. He’s on the road to recovery now though, cheering his way happily through Bullseye (he’s actually 70) as I type.

It’s for the best really, because I don’t think I make the most supportive nurse. Our attitudes to sickness survival are diametrically opposed which can make sympathy a little difficult to share. I am of the mind-set that when poorly, one should always try to take time off for recovery and douse up to the eyeballs with all the medication available. TMM comes from a much more robust family (his attitude to sickness and pain is oddly reminiscent of the Blank Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and tried to muscle on through the phlegm, shivers and dizzy fits. I also am completely useless at caring for myself most of the time, and as such surely can’t be expected to sufficiently look after anyone else. How we didn’t starve is beyond me.

He’s mostly back on full form though this week, which means I don’t feel too bad about leaving him for the annual work’s conference this Friday. I am usually not one for enforced partying/work related fun/anything where people might want to talk to me, but I am actually feeling rather positive about this one. I’ve spent all week tanning and breaking in my new heels (how people where fancy heels on a daily basis astounds me) and only have packing to do now before we go. I haven’t actually settled on an outfit yet (and probably won’t until about 15 minutes before we go down for the meal and my room mate makes an executive decision on my behalf) and I’m still a little touchy about the awkward life choice I made regarding my hair cut (shaved side panels are all well and good when your hair is a little longer and you look a bit edgy. When it’s already short, you (meaning me) end up looking a bit like a horsey faced butch lesbian. Which is fine if that what’s you’re going for. It is not, however, what I was going for). Alas, there isn’t much that can be done at this stage except lots of screwing my eyes up whilst lying in bed and willing my hair to grow faster. Worse things do happen at sea though, and I’ve definitely had far worse looks (shout out to that time my mum cut my hair with a migraine and ended up making me look like a jellyfish). With enough lippy and a shot of tequila I won’t even remember the hair and will inevitably be found on the dance floor grooving embarrassingly to My Humps by Fergie. And if that’s not something for you to tune in and read about next week, I don’t know what is.

spring 2

To be honest, I might just go with this look. I think it works for me.

The Write Can Never Be Wrong

So recently TMM has been rather taken by the idea of winning the weekly National Trust Instagram photo competition (because we are NT members and we do go regularly and we are secretly 70 year olds trapped in 20 something bodies, sue us). His photography is coming on phenomenally, if you ignore his humble and self-deprecating comments, and I think the structure of having something to aim for, such as the weekly theme, pushes him to try and find new ways of capturing sights that might have never occurred before. It’s rather delightful to watch and it warms my cockles no end to see him so passionate. There’s something rather engaging about seeing someone else so invested in a hobby and it makes me want to savour everything he does; to give each photo the attention it deserves. To this end, I’ve been trying to get him to set up his own photography blog to illustrate his progress. Somewhere he can virtually collate and keep all of his photos; group them into specific collections and something he can update regularly and share with others easily. I had lots of exciting ideas and a possibly unwarranted amount of enthusiasm when I discussed this with him at the weekend. I say “discussed” – mainly I rabbited on for half an hour whilst he just looked a little shell shocked and nodded timidly.

Afterwards though, it led me to think a bit introspectively about the whole process of blogging. (Oh joy, I hear you cry, yet another self-absorbed ramble about narcissistic hobbies that nobody cares about. What can I say, I’m a slave to my generational tropes.) The actual act of regularly blogging has forced me to think about writing more than normal and start to dissect what it is that draws me in. Writing in general has always been something I enjoyed; I suppose it goes hand in hand with loving reading as much as I do. I’m always full of relatively interesting ideas and often inspired by other people’s work (it’s not plagiarism, it’s homage, honest). Sometimes there is a turn of phrase or jumble of words that sparks a kind of chemical reaction in my brain and suddenly there’s a cascade of electric pathways darting off in all directions full of potential. I’ve got masses of notebooks absolute brimming with quotes I’ve taken from books, films, songs, adverts, conversations and even graffiti that have, quite literally, spoken to something in me and demanded that I remember them somehow. Every single one of them is a seed waiting to burst into bloom and there’s something both comforting and mildly terrifying to know that there’s a world of literature right there just waiting for me.

Just a few of the snapshots I’ve taken – including a guerrilla attack on the university system carelessly scrawled on the bathroom wall. If that doesn’t inspire a story in you, who knows what will.

Somehow blogging is a little different though. Writing truthfully is always harder I think, however counterintuitive that seems. Considering you have a wealth of things to discuss and extrapolate on, there is a vulnerability about putting something out there about yourself that is evidential. When you write fiction, you can hide behind a fake name, behind an idea, behind something so fantastical it can’t be measured on the normal scale of living. Writing about your every day life stripes away any of that and leaves you writing nakedly, hoping that what constitutes your everything is funny, interesting and worthy enough of others approval.

(I mean, if that last paragraph doesn’t encourage TMM to start a blog of his own, I don’t know what will…)

The process is a different too; working to a self imposed deadline puts a different kind of pressure on. Writing stories for fun is something that can be done whenever and can be left for hours, days, even years before being picked up again easily. Writing blogs means that you have to actually dedicate time specifically to a topic and commit to it, rather than flitting around like a literary hummingbird. I mean, my highly honed and carefully crafted process spends possibly a tad to much time focusing on the unnecessary and self inflicted faffing, but I’m definitely getting better at devoting myself.

My handy 15 step program to successfully blogging:
1. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what I shall I blog about this week? With a world so full of interesting, engaging and occasionally enraging topics, it really is a veritable fest of oysters for picking.
2. Day 2, 3pm – I could chose this subject or that one. Gosh, so many choices!
3. Day 2, Bed Time – Well maybe not that particular topic.
4. Day 3, Mid Morning – That one does seem a bit tricky/controversial/difficult to expand on
5. Day 3, Evening – I don’t really have any ideas for that certain subject, and the pictures would be a pig to try and get.
6. Day 4, Appox. 10am – Why is everything getting dark suddenly…
7. Day 4, Tea Time – Oh god what on earth can I blog on? Why is there a sudden dearth of approachable subject matter?
8. Day 5, Midday – Shitshitshitshit
9. Day 5, Bed Time – YOU NEED TO GET UP AND BLOG RIGHT NOW. PICK SOMETHING
10. D-Day – *screeching dinosaur noises and panicked scribbling*
11. D-Day, 6pm – That’s it, I’m done. I can’t take this. *posts*
12. D-Day, 7pm-9pm – Oh look, people are actually liking it. This is such a healthy and rewarding hobby.
13. Day 7 – *basks in smugness*
14. Day 7, Cont. – *relaxes*
15. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what shall I blog about this week….

As you can see, Step 10 (the only really important bit) is over with rather quickly. In all seriousness, once you strip away all of the unrequired and unnecessary, the act of blogging itself is surprisingly easy. Whilst the actual content of what you’re writing about can be frivolous or hard hitting, and the emotion and thought behind it trivial or full of importance, the writing itself doesn’t change. The words are the same, the sentences fit to certain guidelines and the muscle memory in your fingers doesn’t stumble.

More often that not, if I make time and sit myself down with some background music and a purpose, I can overcome any potential writer’s block and produce a reasonable amount of text with minimal crying (always a bonus). It’s not necessarily anything worthwhile, but it’s there. Sometimes, if I time it right, I can start writing and within half an hour or so, the whole of whatever I’m trying to write comes tumbling out. I get kind of overtaken by what I’ve poetically christened “The Literary Urge” and the writing just does itself, dragging me along with it. It used to happen quite regularly on car journeys home when it was dark and sleepy. I could just hunker down, open up the notes on my phone (or #oldfogey an actual notebook) and just write whatever came into my head, usually fully formed and just waiting for somewhere to be written. Mostly now though, I get blindsided when I least suspect it. I had an unprovoked attack last week and had to spend a flustered 25 minutes making desperate notes in the hope I could save it. Thankfully I managed to put it on ice until I got home where I then proceeded to ensconce myself in the arm chair with the blanket and laptop and refused to let TMM speak to me whilst I got it all out. This was despite his best efforts to distract me with documentaries on people living in Alaska which appear to have taken over our lives recently.

Simply put, I enjoy writing. Considering how much I chatter on, I enjoy it far more that I do talking. Talking doesn’t allow for any of the forethought or control. Talking is like an hysterical rolling tumble down a hill whereas writing is a leisurely and controlled stroll. Talking is an unfiltered look into my childish brain and a desperate way to fill awkward silences, whereas writing is a chance to make those same thoughts sound intelligent and interesting. You have time to actually think about what you want to say. You can reread, reword and rephrase things, you can spend time thinking of the perfect word for a particular point, you can work out exactly where you want your argument/story/discussion to go and how to make accessible. You can savour coming up with the perfect line and spend time rereading a sentence which just sparkles. There’s always a memory of it, tucked somewhere on a scrap of paper or an old word document, reminding you of that time, that feeling, that thought that so desperately needed to documented. It’s a selfish way of sharing and it’s something I will never stop enjoying.

Blog1

Long Live the Written Word

 

To Date or Not To Date; how to avoid pitfalls in the pursuit of love, straight from the voice of inexperience

So this week I went out to the team and asked for inspiration on ideas for blog posts. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been struggling a bit creatively and finding engaging topics to write about that are not only interesting for me but also enjoyable for you guys to read can prove to be a little tricky. Thankfully though the team came through and like the very helpful engines they are, they provided me with a corker of a post. “Shit dates and how to get out of them” was the tagline and I have to say, I’ve taken to it surprisingly well.

Now my track record for dating is pretty limited and since I’ve been with TMM for 7 years, any memory I’ve had of foraying out into the dating world has long since been lost to the mists of time. I barely left the house when I was younger (why go and talk to boys when you could stay in and read – am I right?) and The Man Muffin and I didn’t actually start going on any dates until we were already going out. Our relationship started after I told a friend I though TMM looked delightfully like Aaron Taylor Johnson (sighs dreamily) and she basically dragged me and forced a conversation. After that, all it took  was one ill timed yet enjoyable kiss on St Patrick’s night, a few brief occasions of awkward longing stares across crowded rooms and a serious drunken pep talk from a house mate who told me in no uncertain terms to “go over there and hold his hand” during a “Pounded” night (£1 a drink in the local student bar) and we were pretty much done. Within a few months it had blossomed into meeting the parents, moving in together and that was pretty much it for us. We’ve never looked back and any dates we go on usually end with us getting overexcited about going to a posh restaurant and having to go to bed early because we’re tuckered out. #players

Look at those love struck young fools. There was no way we weren’t going to end up together. Though it’s a shame we both look better in the pictures of us with other people…

However, whilst that is super great for me, it doesn’t really provide any data on how to cope with the whole “dating scene”. To be quite honest, if some reason TMM cruelly deserted me and I had to date now, I’d have already moved into my mum’s shed, adopted 16 cats and taken on the nomclature of Sister Christen Dover, embracing the monistic lifestyle with vigour. 

Still, never let it be said that I back down from a good challenge (note – this is complete lies and undoubtedly has never been said about me. I back away from challenges All The Time, but I strive to be better for my readers). To that end, I’ve been given permission by some of my more experienced friends to talk about some of their adventures, and these will be what we’re going to use as our referential case studies. Buckle up people, this is about to be a “this is what you could have won” look into the world of disastrous dates. 

The first example comes to us fresh from the weekend on behalf of Snooker Toes (the code name he chose out of the options I gave him). He’s nicely allowed me to make a few comments on his experiences (though I’ve promised to be nice this time round). Anyway, he seems to have a habit of attracting ladies whilst going about his daily chores (last time was at the bank) and this time he had gone for an eye test and started making friendly conversation with the lady showing him the frames (“hurrah” goes the cry from the Greek Chorus in the side-lines). He went in straight for the smooth guy approach – “You have my number, you might want to use it” (impressed silence from the Chorus) and by lunch time she’d messaged him back and they were chatting away. For a week they went back and forth, but here’s were old Snooker Toes started to spread the seeds of discontent. “TBH I was already questioning it because we didn’t seem to have much in common…I though I might as well arrange a date because it’s not always about liking the same thing and the first impression was good”. (Some of the Chorus are starting to fidget). Now, whilst it some red flags have already been raised, I think it’s important to respect not only his commitment to the dating cause, but also his positivity levels. A few virtual messages are no match for an actual face to face conversation and the human connection. Unfortunately though, this was not the case for this particular date. After some post-date evaluation, I personally think the setting might have been a slight issue. Typically a first date should be somewhere local that’s easy enough to get to (and easy enough to get away from), somewhere with signal in case your date is a killer and you need potentially rescuing, and an activity that allows for interaction but not continual and consistent scrutiny. Snooker Toes chose to ignore this dating staple though (much against our urging over a curry the night before) as he had a hankering to see the sea and suggested the beach. (Half of the Chorus have packed up and gone home). Now, living as we do smack back in the middle of somewhat grey and rainy country, this meant a two hour journey in a car with a practical stranger only to end up somewhere wet, windy and rather woeful. A rainy trip to the beach with pals can be a laugh. The same journey with a first date was not. Whilst he was quick to state that she was not a horrible person, she was apparently a fan of inane thoughtless chatter and after constant, endless talking about literally every thought that entered her head, Snooker Toes was forced to admit defeat and was so mentally exhausted he had to take a two hour nap when he got home – which was my favourite part of the whole endeavour. He was more than willing to admit that it was more than likely a bad case of nerves and that whilst it wasn’t as awful as it could have been (nobody threw up or said anything horribly racist) I think the main thing to take away from this is the importance of planning. Making friends is easy and meeting people at work is pretty much all sorted out for you, but deciding to focus all your attention on one person (someone who you are, consciously or subconsciously, pinning a lot of hope on, be it for a quick shag or a lifetime partner) requires forethought. Something that showcases you in your best light whilst simultaneously allowing you to get a good read on your date. It’s hard enough working out how to be yourself without having to worry about anything else.

The idea of first dates always remind me of the scene from Scrubs where adorable girl nurse Elliot talks about how to hide her volcano of crazy whilst going out with her new beau. I’m in two minds really and would appreciate your input. Is it better to go all in; crazy cannons blazing and stand proud knowing it could all end in crushing defeat and a night crying into a tub of Ben & Jerries’ and self-loathing? Or is it best to start out behind a mask of normality and drip feed your crazy in gradually until it’s too late for your partner to escape – let it all bubble through until they’re trapped in the lava of your lunacy?

I think it’s ideal to suggest the first, but our second example maybe argues against the point. This one comes from the first year of University and my transatlantic soul sister Jbear. She came over to the UK for a year and was transfixed by the skinny, pale, childlike boys we call our own here in dear old Blighty. There was one in particular we spotted in the first few months who peaked her attention; a sort of Noel Fielding type in a red leather jacket two sizes too small, a mullet Rod Stewart could be proud of and a lackadaisical approach to everything except his music. Anyway, she kept a weather eye on him for a few weeks and eventually I received a text saying she’d invited him back to hers and to stand by for a status report. Once again, I think this could be where things started to fall apart. First dates should NEVER be held in either of the respective dater’s homes. This can only lead to disaster. Remember people, some where local, somewhere with signal and somewhere with something to do.

Anyway, the next thing I heard was about 9am the next morning when I received a somewhat unexpectedly detailed text. Apparently after bumping into the Mop Top at the pub, Jbear had invited him back to hers for something to eat. She had left him safely in her room, gone to rustle something up and when she’d returned, laden with delicious and nutritional plates of food, she discovered that he had made himself comfortable and gone into full on “naked man” mode.  Thankfully I have never been unexpectedly faced with a strangers junk all up in my personal business, because I literally do not know how I would react in that situation. (Note – it is not appropriate first date etiquette). Jbear, bless her heart, was as polite as could be and told Sir Knickerless that she was not really into buying what he was selling and that it would be best if he got dressed. She was then forced to endure hours of excruciating awkwardness when he Didn’t Leave. That’s right folks, this kid’s metaphorical balls were so big that he was happy enough to have his somewhat unsubtle offer of sex rejected and then still feel comfortable enough to hang round. Now, kudos to him for thinking that it was still worth trying to build a relationship, but I think at that point any self respecting person would just ducked out. Not him. The best thing was, when I received the text, it wasn’t just an update, it was a plea for help. Mr “let me introduce myse-OH LOOK here’s my penis” was still there, helping himself to Jbear’s dwindling tea collection. After laughing myself practically sick, I rushed across campus and turned up to find a red faced and practically withered Jbear, a content and apparently oblivious date and a couple of other housemates who’d been dragged in for moral support. We all sat there, in Jbear’s tiny room, for a fantastically awkward few minutes before some one suggested a walk. Now, you’d think at this point, Noel Fielding’s less attractive and infinitely less socially conscious younger brother would have said his goodbyes and made his way home.

If only.

An hour later found us traipsing round the local woods, alternating between trying to fall far enough behind Captain Cock-a-boo  to die a little and power walking ahead and trying to lose him in the trees. Eventually, Jbear made the executive decision to just cut him loose and made up some tale about having something planned for the afternoon that he was not required for. He sloped off, a little hurt I think that we had shaken him off, and we retired to the flat to laugh, weep and then nap off the stress of the whole dating experience.

It’s important, I think, in this tricky labyrinth of love, to take some key points from these examples. 1) Make sure to have an escape plan. Having an evacuation route is not defeatist, it is just practical. Be it a friend with a mobile phone and handy excuse, a prior engagement or just a ballsy attitude and the ability to cut your loses and run, you want to have the safety net in place. 2) Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. A spontaneous trip to the beach or an impromptu invitation of tea might seem like a good idea at the time, but it will not necessarily stay that way. There is a reason lots or people go bowling or to the cinema on a first date. Ignore the wisdom of those who have gone before at your peril. 3) Remember that even if it does all go pear-shaped and you end up feeling lacklustre, lovelorn and lonely, if you just give it a little time you will have a great story for someone’s blog. And lastly, I think we can all agree that the moral of these misadventure are that if you have to take a nap afterwards just to recover, it definitely didn’t go according to plan…

As the old adage says – This Too Shall Pass

I’m falling horribly behind on my blogs recently, I need to pull my socks up. With work being so busy, I mainly get home and lie face down on the floor whimpering quietly, which is putting a massive damper on my creativity.

I did actually write one (admittedly, it was more of a bloglet) for last week with all the joys of my holibobs, but I ended up completely forgetting about posting it. Still, I don’t want you to miss out too much, so please enjoy some highlights from it. I feel all the salient points are there – the rest of the time I was just generally bumbling and enjoying the good old country lifestyle.

Good bits included:

  • An early morning (read – 11am) high speed car chase when we realised TMM, who had to go back to work for a few days after the first week, had forgotten his bag. Mother and I threw ourselves into the car half-dressed, wild haired and with only 1 cup of tea under our belts and hared madly down country roads after him. Thankfully we caught up with him before he crossed the boarder into England and managed to do a hostage exchange in the car park of a petrol station. We did then have to go home and have a sit down to recover #hardcore.
  • A week of pleasant bumbling around and imbibing truly staggering amounts of tea, homemade mackerel pate and being in bed for 7pm. Due to the flooding (and the fact that I’m nesh) the house can be rather perishing, we made the executive decision to retire to the big bed with the cats and just watch Film 4 pretty much every night. We looked a bit like the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but the cats were most pleased with the turn of events (especially when they’ve been allowed to share the pate).
  • Having to leap out of bed at the drop of a power tool when Bas the builder (and changeable crew) turned up to build up the flood fortifications. It’s starting to look a little like the scene from Lord of the Rings when the Ents go around trashing Sauroman’s patch, but Bas have great plans for how it will look (Mother’s basically given him free reign).
  • Taking Mother to pick out her first real smart phone since the trusty Nokia 3310 (original model) has finally given up the ghost. By the time we left, she was picking out background themes with gay abandon and I’ve received topical gifs daily (which has brought much joy to my life).

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Bob-Cat, enjoying the gourmet Mackerel Pate straight from Mother’s toast.

Overall, it was a lovely week (as it always is) and I did my usual thing of holding it together very well until the last minute and then clinging desperately to my mother and crying like a child. It’s clear that we very much twinnies and I think we forget sometimes how much so. Over Christmas, Mother made the rather astute observation that I might actually be her Daemon (please refer to Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights Trilogy). We basically think the same person, shouldn’t really be allowed to do things on our own and get very distraught when separated. With my Father (whom I obviously  love dearly – even when he’s a boob) we do better with a little distance. Whenever we go and visit, he has to chuck us out after about 6 hours so we don’t kill each other. Conversely, I am 100% sure that I could move into Mother’s spare room and we’d all be dandy.

Coming back though has made me realise that I’m feeling static again. There’s always a slight undercurrent of dissatisfaction whenever I leave the un-stressful and undemanding environment of that little cottage. The attitude of just waking up, going about your business and living for yourself (rather than in the cycle of eat, sleep, work repeat) gets under my skin delightfully, but makes coming back to my world a little harder every time. The time of year probably doesn’t help (as much as I try to ignore the idea of the New Year being a specific cut off)and with the dark days, cold weather and grey skies everything seems a little less hopeful. Any grand dreams seem that little bit further away and it’s easier to find ways to rip apart any plans rather than build them up.

I’ve heard some people say that social media can have a huge affect on mood and productivity too, and I understand why some people choose to leave a particular platform and cut out any “toxic posts”. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed catching up with other people’s lives, keeping in contact with folk I necessarily wouldn’t and being able to share things in my life with far flung family and friends. I like seeing other people forging forward and succeeding and I love the ideas and inspiration they give me but at the moment I can understand the stigma. Where things usually make me feel good and proactive, they now just seem to be drawing attention to how fixed I feel.

I think the majority of the problem springs from the fact I don’t actually know what I’m searching for. I’m not looking to raise a family and I’m not particularly interested in becoming a team leader or manager at work. I have a wonderful fiancé and a very nice house and by rights have nothing to desperately lust over. Still I  can’t help feeling like I’m stuck in a rut. There’s a sort of personal frustration in the way that I feel I need to be doing something – working towards some kind of overarching goal, yet I don’t know what it is. Is this just the human condition? Are we destined to constantly aim to achieve and yet never able to identify why? Am I yet another confused cog in the grinding philosophical conundrum of humanity?

To be honest, I think I’m probably just feeling down at the moment. I’m too lazy to be a philosopher and not motivated or intelligent enough to strive for some unknown greatness. I know I don’t want to be stinkingly rich or world famous, and I am lucky where I am right now.

Perhaps, as TMM suggests, non-dramatic life goals are the way forward. He reminds me that we’re hoping to make a little bucket garden over the next few months; something to furnish us with fresh fruits and veg and provide a smidgeon of green in these dark days. We’re going to try and improve out fitness levels and go adventuring all over National Trust properties – “head out to the countryside where we feel most at home”, and we do have a wedding to plan in the long term – something low budget with “oodles of character”.

So, from now on, I’m going to try and spend time focusing on the small victories rather than the big holes, and find peace in the things that I know. My hair will always be bright, there will always be books to read and the stars will always shine.

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Is it wrong just to want to be able to sit by the fire and read all day?

Welcome to 2018 – In with the old, in with the new and in with all the bits in between

What Ho Readers!

How are we all after the festive season? Stuffed full of good food and good cheer? Overjoyed at the gift haul? Back in work with pained grimace and gloomy face? I woke up this morning to a rather dramatic nose bleed (I think it was my brain rebelling at the pressure of having to be a real person again rather than a Christmas blob) and spent a good ten minutes wailing quietly into my pillow.

To be honest though, work itself hasn’t been that bad (not great, but it could have been worse I suppose), but having to wake up and leave my duvet nest before 10am has been absolutely hellish. It’s been absolutely and most unnecessarily pitch blank both in the morning and when I’ve left work and I am just Not About It. By the time I’ve actually built up any energy, it’s about 11am and when 5.30pm rolls around, I’ve lost it all again. Home time mainly results in me getting in, immediately changing into pyjamas and then sulkily doing a jigsaw until bed time. Any hope of doing anything vaguely constructive or helpful has been swiftly denied and if I’m honest you’re lucky your getting a blog post this week. (Gosh, what a little ray of sunshine I am). Anyway, to this end I have made the  business savvy and hopefully conducive decision to move my regular blog day to Thursday. This will hopefully give me more time to actually write and prepare each update and will give you all something to look forward to before the weekend. Bear with me though, and we’ll see how it goes…

In other and far less depressingly morose news, I am glad to let you all know that Christmas was a roaring success, even with a couple hiccups during the build up. The best (or possibly worst) issue we had was when, during the Great Wrap of 2017, gravy was accidentally spilt onto a beautiful hardback copy of a book we’d bought for my sister’s partner. After much hysteria, gravy dabbing and a narrowly avoided hissy fit (not me for once), we ordered a replacement. This would have been the end of it, but after a few days the new book turned up with a big sticky black mark on the front of it. Obviously I was not okay with this (cue my narrowly avoided hissy fit) and I wrote a sternly worded complaint email (inclusive of pictures because I am nothing if not thorough). There was a bit of back and forth – I didn’t get the vouchers I was angling for, and we finally agreed a new (un-besmirched) copy would be sent directly to the gift receiver. Imagine then my surprise when a day before Christmas a third copy unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep. Poor Jo from Blackwells Customer Service Department was as confused as I was and who knows if yet a forth copy is winding it’s way through the postal system even now. Still, we managed to get the clean copy to wear it needed to be on time and we do now have two spare/slightly sullied copies of the book for our own personal use. If anybody fancies a copy – do let me know.

Apart from that fun little interlude (and the one evening I spent in floods of tears, covered in cello tape and had to be sent to clean the bathroom in disgrace), everything went swimmingly and TMM and I ended up with an almost repulsive amount of presents. TMM even managed to keep nearly all of my presents a surprise (something he has previously been incapable of doing) and went far beyond the self imposed limit we’d given each other. Still, I’ll let him off because he also prepared a truly scrumptious Christmas dinner and has generally been rather fabulous for the whole period. (Admittedly, he was in bad books on Monday night after he burst in on me in the shower and sprayed a bottle of Cava everywhere like a nutter – I nearly died trying to get away without slipping all over the place, but I grudgingly forgave him before bedtime).

 Here’s just a little sample of our presents…Prepare for mention of the others in upcoming instalments

My Mother came up and spent a few days with us too over the holidays and was generally the best house guest we could have asked for. She came with us to visit TMM’s family on Christmas Eve (where she once again proved herself to be the best of all Baby Whisperers), took me on a road trip to see my dad/sister and respective partners, helped me clean the kitchen on the day after Boxing Day. She also spent a good twenty minutes helping me try and catch a vole that Bucky had thoughtfully brought in for us (cleverly named Malvoleio) which was fun for all. She was, in fact, so well behaved that we have deigned to grace her with our presence at her house next week as a reward. Hopefully a week without us will have given her time to recover and she’ll be willing to welcome us with open arms when we rock up at the weekend…

We also kept up the excellent tradition that we started last year of playing Cards Against Humanity with the family. There will still never be a greater pleasure in my life than seeing my Neens say “cheeky bum sex”. We involved my mother this time as well, which went much better than expected. She took to it like a duck to water and I don’t know whether this makes me proud or concerned. Either way, she’s started using it as a weapon against me; there was one particular card that caused much hysteria in the under 30’s but left everyone else looking at each other blankly, and she now likes to whisper it at inopportune moments, safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t know what it means but that it will inevitably cause me to spit out whatever I’m currently drinking. It definitely helped us clear out chests though and I don’t think I was the only one who woke up with rib ache from laughing too hard.

Pepe

Pepe the Cat sits disapprovingly in the pile of burnt cards. This was before he went and sat in the oven, which is a great new pastime of his.

Family once again went above and beyond on the present front and I am now the proud owner of a projector, a raccoon picture (the cutest of all things), a Slytherin sports bra, a microscopic camera (literally all of the close up pictures), a super snuggly blanket and a literal shit ton of other things (too numerous to list but all AMAZING). Two of the best presents we got were books (surprise surprise), including Dawn French’s DIY diary (which I have started with great enthusiasm) and The Almanac by Lia Leendertz; a gorgeous compendium of facts, ideas and seasonal suggestions for the coming year. This month we’re on the lookout for Redwings and TMM is going to get some seed potatoes to plant. It also suggested buying some blood oranges and making marmalade which we bastardised into making orange vodka (sue us) so we’re already feeling quite chipper about our progress.

However, do not take this as a sign that we have gone in for this “New Year, New Me” crap. Remember what we spoke about this time last year, class? January is not the time to be starting this resolation-ary bullsh*t. It’s dark, cold, depressing and I would much rather spend my time wallowing in my left over Christmas chocolate. Any resolutions I do choose to make will come into fruition some time around May when it’s sunnier and I’m able to take criticism and self judgement a little better. Still, I’m will not be too much of a Debbie Downer on any you who are foolhardy enough to start the New Year with serious life changes. If you are ready to start dieting after the Christmas Binge, have dreams of brand new shiny gym memberships or just fancy trying something a bit different, I wish you all the luck in the world from my sulky winter nest.

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

Once again I have to apologise (surprise surprise) for being a week behind on blogging (though it was touch and go whether or not I’d get this one posted). Fighting against Christmas colds, hangovers, present prep and the most ridiculous period of busyness at work (WTF? It’s Christmas? Go away!) has left me with very little time to call my own and even less to call blogging specific. Which is just rude really. Still, I am returned for now and will give you one last chapter before the festive season truly kicks in.

I did struggle a lot to think about what to blog this week. I think being so busy with everything else has just turned my brain to mush, rather than giving me inspiration on what to write about.  It’s been complete madness, but I hasten to add; an acceptable kind of madness. The kind that leaves you constantly achieving and with slight levels of hysteria, rather than the type that overwhelms you and makes you sit and stare at a wall for hours on end terrified of how much there is to do and how much you can’t do it.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t really make it sound so bad when it’s poor TMM who’s been in charge of the wrapping extravaganza that’s currently in progress in our living room. We now have practically every present (there are still one or two either in transit or waiting to be put together) and they are scattered in loose family piles all over the floor. I have mainly ensconced myself safely on the couch with a gold pen and the festive labels and left TMM to fight with the temperamental tape dispenser and countless rolls of seemingly sentient paper. He’s done very well over all (there’s only been one minor injury and two small huffs) but there’s still about 20% to go so who knows how the rest of this week could go down.

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The worrying thing is, this is 3 days in and it actually looks much better than it did…

You’ve got to find coping mechanisms from the Christmas Chaos how you can though, and I’ve mainly found respite by going on a reading bender these last couple of weeks. TMM set me onto Jo Nesbo, a Scandinavian crime/thriller writer who he’s been trying to convince me to read for a while (he’s regretting that now I can tell you). Very much in my typical fashion, I started reading with the intention of just finishing one book and seeing how I felt but ended up desperately bingeing the entire series and am now 9 books in and devastatingly obsessed.  Typically I shy away from particularly graphic scandi noir crime thrillers so I’m actually quite surprised how obsessed I’ve become with these. I nearly had palpitations watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ve had to limit my viewing of The Tunnel to one episode every few days because I get so panicked about the high levels of peril. These books (based on the Harry Hole series – those of you who’ve been paying attention will have seen the recent film “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender which is based on a book in the middle of the series) are really no different and have started to get particularly violent – The Leopard (the next one to the Snowman) is particularly gruesome and there’s interviews I’ve read with the author in which he’s stated that even he thinks he might have gone slightly too far. Still, I’ve found them so addictive I’ve been unable to stop. Poor TMM has had to put up with my ranting and mild stresses throughout the last few weeks and has done so graciously, even when I made him buy a second copy of one book so we could read them at the same time, overtook him on the series and spoilered him for character deaths.

This, in fact, is one particular bugbear I have with Mr Nesbo. Like JK Rowling and the writers of Spooks, he belongs to that school of writer who aims for “realism” in his books and thinks you can achieve this by killing of main characters. I would like to set the record straight once and for all – this is not on. Mainly, I choose to read because I am looking for a distraction from real life. I want something that takes me away from my own world and submerges me in another, full of adventure and excitement that I want but am too lazy and awkward to actually aim for. What I do not want is sadness and death of characters that I have become attached to. I especially do not want it to happen MORE THAN THREE TIMES! Seriously, it’s a good job Nesbo isn’t on Twitter otherwise he would have had as a severe and unapologetic diatribe as I could have sufficiently written in 218 characters. I’m not reading for the heartache of reality. I’m reading to escape all that, and if you could stop killing off all my favourite characters in cruel and unusual ways, I’d very much appreciate it!

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Just a little light reading

The main attraction for me though, as I once again am slightly embarrassed to admit, is my love of crotchety old men. I don’t know what is about them but every single time they become one of my favourite characters. Harry Hole is, admittedly, a little young for my typical type (at the fair age of only 48) but his sarcastic outlook, inability to not do the right thing (much to his chagrin) and heavy mental and physical scarring pretty much fit the bill. It’s like my inexplicable but uncontrollable love for Lewis (TV show) all over again. Give me an aged, wrinkly, bitter old copper over a youthful heroic type any day of the week. I’d rather Samuel Vimes than Batman, Robbie Lewis over Peter Parker and pretty much any of the old cast members from any of the Star Treks (in real life or as their characters) than the sexy new young’uns. It’s definitely starting to become a bit of a problem though, and it was only compounded last night when we went to see the new Star Wars (which was excellent) and I spent the whole time being shamelessly in love with grumpy old Luke Skywalker. I mean, Oscar Isaacs is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but why would I fancy his reckless and flippant Poe Dameron when Luke is in the background growling about everything and letting his beard flow magnificently in the wind? It’s not that my fascination is gender specific either. There are some truly excellent female characters in this new addition to the franchise and whilst I love them all, how can I focus on them when you’ve got Leia stomping around slapping people all over the place like a cantankerous little ewok? Those Skywalker siblings are the definition of “great hair, don’t care” and I would happily watch a 3 hour film of them just doing their thing, minus all the dramatic and political plot arcs.

It’s not like it’s a general fancy either. I may be odd but I am particularly in my strangeness. It can’t be just any type of cranky crinkle and just nasty old meanies are no good – I want good intentioned but world weary grouches; grizzled with just a hint of sarcastic charm and preferably a bonus young sidekick they can continually gripe at. I’ve tried to reason it away and diagnose it but there’s just no hope. It might be peculiar but it’s just how I am and if nothing else it surely bodes well for TMM. I mean, if I love him now in the flush of youth, I am going to just adore him when he’s 70.