Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.

Advertisements

Save the Planet. Period

Planet Blog

I am glad to report things are looking a little rosier this week, dear Readers. I’m still tired and a tad weepy and horribly flued up, but it’s definitely looking a little brighter on the horizon. Part of this, I am overjoyed to say, is due to the in-pouring of supportive messages and kind words I received. These posts are never written with the expectation of response, but it just goes to show the calibre of my friends and family who are able and willing to reach out and provide a spot of sunshine in an otherwise dreary time. (True, I did cry at all of them but they were happy tears, which was a very welcome change to the standard depression crying I’d been doing the rest of the time).

I like to think my self-imposed personal-care regime (which sounds a lot filthier than it should) has played a part in this uplift in mood too. Admittedly, it is early days and one cannot expect to give ones life to change completely because one ate a little more and self-bullied a little less, but it’s rewarding to know I can actually take an element of control over myself when I am feeling so down. Given how I’ve previously dealt with similar dips, this feels like a pretty grown up response.

Now I can’t deny that I have gone from eating barely anything at work to demolishing eleventy billion packets of crisps and twixes a day, but we’ve been cooking super healthy teas so I like to think it’s balancing out. I have also developed a cold and am working on the proviso that I’ll fight off the virus with carbs. My surprisingly robust immune system is doing it’s job though, and the cold that has affected other people for weeks is already showing signs of fading. There was a rather dramatic and unnecessary event at the weekend which found me being so surprised and overwhelmed by a violent cough that I was caused to vomit and meant that, having no other means in which to catch it, I had to sacrifice half a brew before TMM could rush to my aid with a bowl (before leaving swiftly to gag in the hallway). We were all a tad disgusted and upset with that situation, but thankfully there have been no re-occurrences and I fully expect to be mostly recovered by the coming weekend. (You’ll also all be glad to know, I’m sure, that the chunder-brew was immediately and swiftly disposed of and a new chunk free cuppa was made to take it’s place).

I have been thinking a lot about caring recently. Focusing my attentions on things that made me feel better has lead me to realise I thrive on doing things that I know are good for others. I am trying to be a lot more aware of the world around me, and I’m keen on discovering ways of making the best of myself and what I can give. It’s important, especially in the current climate (both political and actual) to be aware of your impact and the differences you can make to your life that will help look after yourself and those you care about long after you’re gone. (I sound well hippy here, don’t I?). Basically what I’m saying is I’m trying to be more ecologically sufficient and I’m now going to talk about all the ways I’m being a greeny goody-two shoes. In the form of a list. Because I love lists. Soz.

Ways in Which Ebear is Single-Handily Saving the World and Being Very Modest About It Too, Amen.

Jumping on the Straw Bandwagon. I am sure you’ve all heard about the MASSIVE DANGERS single use straws (and cotton buds) pose to our very existence and the steps taken by various governmental bodies and big corporations to slow down the inevitable straw uprising and their subsequent world domination. We have had our attitudes to these plastic devils completely altered by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, beloved by everyone in the entire world except my friend Em who is clearly a spy sent by the straws (and cotton buds), and I for one am glad. It is such a simple change to make, but the effect it could have is almost overwhelming. It has also led to a great in-depth discussion about how companies like MacDonalds should provide reusable and travel friendly cups, like Starbucks, and could provide discounts on meals every time they’re used. (This occurred whilst driving cross country and trying desperately to navigate windy roads with flimsy cups sloshing with ice cubes). Down with straws I say, and hello to a better world.

Bamboo isn’t just for Pandas. Speaking of the devilry of plastic, toothbrushes are also proven to be monstrous harbingers of doom. Videos all over social media have shown the truly shocking amounts of discarded plastic toothbrushes that have built up over time; mountains of brightly coloured and barely rotted stalks greedily filling up landfills. It’s scary to think that the toothbrush you had as a child will outlive you. To this end, I have forsaken the standard implement in favour of a bamboo one; proving myself to not only an angel but also bang on trend. Bio-degradable, healthy and stylish, they really are this season’s must have. Also, they make adorable little plant identification labels once they’re done cleaning your peggies.

Lush Living. I love Lush. I love the overwhelming aroma of hippies that hits you as soon as you cross the threshold, I love the garishly bright packaging and I love the perfectly formed bath bomb triangles on every available surface. I also love their eco-friendly attitude and their commitment to making the world a better place and am more than happy to buy into their philosophies. One change we’ve made (poor TMM had no choice in this one) is to use their shampoo bars and body soaps in place of standard bottled lotions and potions, and let me tell you – it’s pretty great. We bought a smaller than palm sized shampoo bar about 2 months ago (“Honey, I Washed My Hair” – honey, wild orange and bergamot – scientifically proven to be delicious) and we’ve still got about half of it left. It lathers beautifully, smells divine and has meant we’ve saved space (no more bottles cluttering up the bath), money (1 payment of £6 vs countless payments of £1.99 per bottle), and a little bit of the planet. We’ve changed to bar soaps too, typically purchased from the old lady section of the bathroom aisle at your local supermarket, and the “dropped the soap in the shower” jokes alone have been worth it.

It’s a bit bloody better than pads. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, or a complete lack of understanding of the female anatomy, this section might cause a slight widening of the eyes. Period pants are my newest investment and addition to the world-saving handbook, and so far they seem to be going pretty well. I have an intense dislike of all the faffing about that comes with my special monthly gift, especially the truly ridiculous amount of both money and packaging that’s wasted every damn time it comes around. Whilst you might think there is a multitude of options available out there, no matter what you always seems to end up walking a little like John Wayne and feeling immensely uncomfortably at least 1 day out of 5. Enter stage right – the specialised period friendly knicker. After spending yet another afternoon ruing the day I was ever born a woman and having to gingerly sort out my undercarriage when it seemed that once again the devil had tried to escape from my womb in as messy a ways as is possible, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give these bad boys a try. The website gayly declared promises of “moisture wicking!”, “no unshapely bulges!” and “odor-free!”, and whilst I was skeptical, I was also willing. It is with a light heart that I am pleased to announce that the website was fair in all it’s claims. Whilst when they first arrived I did raise an eyebrow at the somewhat padded nature of the butt area, I was pleased to realise they fit perfectly, were just as comfy as my other knickers and allowed for no leakage whatsoever! True, they are possibly not for the faint hearted as some light hand rinsing is required before they go in the laundry, but considering I’d being having to do just as much fannying (pun most definitely intended) about with pads, tampons or mooncups, I have to say these rate top of my chosen lady time companions so far. Saving money and the planet, one menstrual cycle at a time.

Soap Corner, being it’s adorable and eco friendly self

And so, I bring to a close the gospel of world friendliness according to Ebear. In all honesty, I am fully aware that I am not the bee all and end all of being ecologically friendly (I still shop at Primark and take showers that are outrageously long), but I’m trying and that’s got to count for something. I am open to all suggestions though, so if you have any ideas for changes to my general day to day living that will allow me to make the world that tiny bit healthier, you just let me know.

Misery: Seeking Company for Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

Blog Misery

It’s gonna start off as a bit of a shit one this week, folks. For those of you who are feeling resolutely cheerful and would like to remain so, or those who are already feeling fragile and would prefer not to be nudged over the edge, you may be excused.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post focused around my mental state, and to be honest that’s been quite a good thing really. It’s much easier to talk and write and think about other things when you’re healthy and happy. Sadness only seems to breed more sadness; and along with that comes a general lethargy, a general unwillingness to do anything other than spiral downwards and the ability to only talk about how bad you feel with an unhealthily narcissistic intensity. I’ve been Sad (with a capital S) for about 2 weeks on and off now and it’s been a right old muddle of all of the above.

This time of year always heralds a general ennui and underlying feelings of melancholy for me. The change in the weather; the encroaching dark nights, the sharp winds that get in down your coat collar, the rain that seems to find it’s way under your umbrella and through your hood to dribble down the back of your neck – I truly hate it. Now don’t get me wrong,  because I love the Instagram side of Autumn just as much as the next millennial. Long walks in piles of russet coloured leaves and long sleeved thick woollen jumpers wrapped around steaming mugs of hot chocolate; that I some good shit, but it’s hardly an every day occurrence is it? The all over greyness and malaise finds me ebbing lower and lower, hunching further in to myself in a paltry effort to hibernate and hide from it all.

Unfortunately though, this turn in the seasons coincided rather succinctly with a whole miasma of other things; a perfect storm of unique and ultimately bullshit events all coming together to screw me over. Whilst each one might have been okay on their own, having all of them at once has succeeded in just tipping me over the edge.

Sadly a few weeks ago I lost something very precious. Although it was completely accidental and there was no blame to attribute, it threw me. It was something rather minor in the grand scheme of things; not expensive or useful, but it was something I’d taken completely for granted and it’s loss rippled outwards in seismic waves of despondency, affecting TMM quite strongly as well. Stupidly it left us struggling to sleep, and as most of us know, the night is dark and full of terrors. Lying in the dark without distraction meant I found myself falling back into old and particularly unhelpful habits. Hurtful, insidious thoughts started slithering in, picking on things that I’d been successfully ignoring or hadn’t realised were even affecting me. All the dark and nasty fears that are normally boxed away start clambering out of the mental woodwork and it becomes so much harder to push them away.

It’s scary how easy it is to slip and it’s incredibly unfair, especially considering how difficult it can be to drag yourself back up.

The problem is once you find yourself in a state like that, other things start piling up and situations that don’t register as problems when you’re happy and healthy suddenly become insurmountable barriers. I’ve found myself struggling at work a lot recently; letting things affect me in ways perhaps they wouldn’t have a month a go. As it’s gotten busier and busier I’ve lost the ability to navigate my way though and instead of just getting on with it, I’ve found myself bursting into tears at my desk (which annoys me more than anything so god knows how everyone else felt about it) and getting unaccountably worked up and frustrated about things. Admittedly, there are parts of it that are just shit, but I would like to believe I am better at coping than this usually. I’ve been mean to TMM as well, struggling to rein in my cruel childlike tendencies that always seem to reveal themselves when I’m depressed. It’s as though because I’m hurting, I’ve got this need to make others hurt too; to appreciate my pain through suffering of their own.

However, as dramatic as this all sounds, it’s not as doom and gloom as it could be. In times gone by I would have sunk down, deeper and deeper into this quagmire of self-pitying despair, not recognising or reacting to the problem in favour of just letting it overwhelm me. I would have ignored any helpful advice, spitefully choosing to wallow in my suffering because I thought I was a victim and deserved to be treated as such. In my older, and hopefully more worldly way though, I can decide not to do this. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but as so readily pointed out by the various mental health professionals I’ve seen over the years, I am able to help myself. Recognising this for what it is; as a symptom of an illness rather than some kind of built in flaw, and understanding that whilst it sucks, it is not forever, is something I am able to do. Sure it’s hard and I can quite resolutely affirm that it will not always be a walk in the park, but at least it’s easier than it used to be.

Weirdly enough, Russel Brand actually kick started this for me, which surprised me just as much as I’m sure it surprises you. He popped up on my Instagram feed and typically I would have just ignored him – I have opposing views on him depending on the time of day, phase of the moon and style of his hair, but something caught my attention. He was very simply talking about 5 points of self care; just 5 little suggestions he had for looking after yourself on a daily basis, and something about them chimed in me. The more I watched him speak; talking in a gentle, unassuming manner offering some simple principles about how to look after yourself, the more I felt it resonate and I felt almost bowled over by how obvious it all was. It lead me to wonder a little about what self-care principles I could put in place for myself; what aspects of general living I found myself eschewing or ignoring when I get like this and it was surprisingly easy to pinpoint.

  1. See People. As much as I moan about people and having to speak with others on a general day to day basis, I cannot deny that I am human. There is an innate requirement in us to seek out physical, mental and emotional relationships with others and we thrive off social support. Whilst I might have introvertive tendencies and very much require time on my own to recharge, I often feel better having spent time in someone’s company other than my own. People always seems to have much better advice than I expect, and are a lot more willing to be forgiving and understanding than I give them credit for.
  2. Eat, Regularly. Whenever I am feeling particularly low; my appetite seems to match my mood and it becomes too easy to skip meals altogether. Any grumbling in my stomach becomes mere background noise and sometimes the need for self-punishment is most easily abated by denying myself anything of substance. Being aware enough to stop myself before this thought solidifies, and get up to make a sandwich or a smoothie is something which is painfully simple, but can possibly have one of the most positive effects.
  3. Letting Go. Anger is something that always seems to come hand in hand with my low periods, be it at myself or others. I am an annoyingly proud person who is dangerously prone to spite and it is a combination which makes for bitter thoughts and unnecessary meanness. I still don’t think I’m quite cured enough to be able to let go of this for good, but at least being aware of my irrationality and trying to separate myself goes a long way on the road to betterment.

I get that this week’s post has been a bit of a drag, and I haven’t even got any pictures this week to break it up, but it’s felt good to get it off my chest. Mental health problems are no longer as taboo as they once were, and being able to talk about them so openly and without fear of judgment is a help in and of itself. So I hope I haven’t bummed you out too much and I promise next week I  will talk of nicer things.

 

 

Just a Smoothie Operator

Smmothie

The idea for this week’s blog struck me whilst I was lying prostrate and sweaty on the couch after our weekly kettle bell session (more on this below). Recently, TMM and I have been doing our best to act more like bright young things and less like 90 year olds trapped in the bodies of hipsters, and have made certain life choices to try and help. We’ve changed from Radio 4 to Radio 1 (TMM thought the youth music might liven us up a little), agreed to wake up/go to bed respectively at more appropriate times to “make the most of the day” and do some kind of exercise to loosen up our seizing joints. (Seriously, I have never been bothered about getting old, in fact I can’t wait to be a crotchety old lady with crazy hair, giant rouge patches on my cheeks and bags full of cats and knitting, but god when did it get so hard to get out of a chair?!) To this end, we now have a set exercise schedule that has actually lasted more than 2 weeks. (Let’s just ignore all the previous posts I’ve done about aborted exercise routines I have tried, alright?)

Indeed, it’s not the first time we’ve gone on what I would (very loosely) describe as a health kick, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. TMM and I have often had somewhat misplaced fantasies of getting memberships and meeting at the local gym after work for an hour or two of hard cardio. Let me tell you right now, in case you were under any kind of misapprehension about what kind of people we are, this has never and will categorically never happen. There was once even a mention of going to the swimming pool, but seeing as I can’t even float, never mind coordinate myself enough to do laps, and the smell of the chlorine brings TMM out in panicked hives, we shelved that idea pretty sharpish. Sometimes, even as we talk our way through the possibility of it becoming a reality we get a bit disgusted with ourselves and have to change the topic. Now this is not to say we have some deep mistrust or hatred for regular gym bunnies, indeed they are just doing them and it’s great, but it is definitely something we are just not about. We don’t like people, or after school clubs, or enforced fun (mainly I am the one who doesn’t like these things, but TMM defo enjoys his sports outside where he can be free and untamed. He’s like a wild stallion).

I was actually once a gym member (weird right?) and used to go on a semi-regular basis with a lady I worked with for a while whilst at uni . We agreed it was better to go together (safety in numbers) as at least that way we’ve had someone to talk to and provide sorely needed motivation. I think the whole things lasted about 3 months at the most, and mainly I discovered that I enjoyed the rowing machine, hated the treadmill with a passion an just generally wasn’t about having to leave my house to have other people watch me get sweaty. Turns out I am very easily bored as well as tired and running on the spot staring out at a sports field is not my idea of a fun time. Still, I look back fondly at the memories, especially the fact I purchased a specialised sports top (from a specialised sports wear shop) as somewhat of a personal learning curve. I know now that no matter what job I get (or when I win the lottery) I will never have enough money to spend on a gym membership when I could be buying cake.

However, stagnation is not allowed, and TMM has been very encouraging of me actually getting off my butt and moving a little. (Don’t get me wrong, he is also incredibly supportive of my lying in bed all day and eating cereal, but I think he genuinely cares for my health too. He’s a good egg). He enjoys outdoor running, walking, hiking, climbing and pretty much anything that gets him out under the wide open skies. I enjoy indoor sitting, eating, napping and anything that involves me moving as little as humanly possible. Together, we can just about commit to minimal exercise to ensure I don’t die of stroke at 45 and the agreement to do occasional outside walks so TMM get’s to see nature and I get some fresh air.

So over the past couple of weeks we’ve been doing 15 minute kettle bell routines every Tuesday (and the occasional Thursday. Very occasional. Okay, we did it one extra Thursday, but we’re trying!) TMM found the YouTube tutorial a few months ago (done by Joe Wicks, over-excitable health guru extraordinaire) and was doing them on his own, but has since lured me in with the promise of better stamina and arms more like arms instead of wet noodles. I can’t say I’m particularly enjoying it and I have been known to hurl abuse at poor Joe, with his beautiful curly hair, perfectly defined muscles and in my opinion, unnecessarily preppy attitude towards kettlebells (“it’s a great little workout” is it? Is it really Joe!?), but I have stuck with it. We’re about five weeks down the line and I can now lift the kettle bell over my head (hurrah) but still can’t do a burpee (what the ever loving eff are they even about?) so I’m calling it an even draw.

The whole healthy living business has spread outwards too (unlike our waistlines and chiselled abs as TMM pointed out). We definitely eat more like grown ups than we used to – it’s amazing what a full time salary does to your grocery shop. Sometimes I even actively go out of my way to include salad, I mean, what? In fact, most of our meals now include some kind of leafy green shit, which was something I swore as a child would never happen. I was willing to try anything once, but most vegetables were pretty much the devil to me. Now, we’ve got a fruit and veg basket (two actually – one for holding bits and bobs in the house and a sweet little wicker one for picking up fresh un-bagged produce (literally could we be any cuter?)) and we’ve even been growing our own. Admittedly I say this like we’ve gone full Tom and Barbara Goode and sold the TV for a goat, but that is not quite the case. So far we’ve had 3 small bowls of raspberries, 2 medium potatoes, a handful of adorably small tomatoes and we’ve got high hopes for our rhubarb. It’s not really enough to feed the 5000, but I’m still very proud of us.

Look at this bountiful harvest. Have you even seen anything more beautiful and healthy?

This very adult attitude towards the healthy bounty of nature has led quite nicely into a new recognition of the greatness of smoothies. Mother is a great believer in the homemade smoothie, and whenever we go to visit her she’s come up with something new. As she rightly points out, they are perfect if you’re in a rush, too stressed to think about cooking or just need something quick, easy and hearty in one fell swoop. And for someone like me, who is prone to perishing from scurvy at any given moment, it’s an excellent way of cramming 5 (or more) portions of fruit and veg in. We’ve been creating new and increasingly bizarre combinations, but I have to say they’re proving to be rather tasty.

The TMM and Ebert Smoothie Menu
Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Chocolate Nana Ovalteeny; a family classic – banana (2), Ovaltine/hot chocolate powder (some scoops), peanut butter (2 sizable dollops) and milk (enough to make it drinkable rather than chewy).

Lemony Thicket; a silvery summer sensation – banana (2), frozen spinach (1 handful), lemon juice (a dash), kiwi (however many you’ve got lying about), frozen blackberries/blueberries (1 handful) and spirulina powder (which is some kind of green witchy stuff).

screenshot_20180905-223906570193003.png

You’ve got to love a drink that comes out the same colour as your counter top.

A Song of Fire and Iceberg Lettuce; our new warming autumn concoction – strawberries (1 punnet), raspberries (1 handful), watermelon (1 wedge), ginger (1 chunk – unpeeled), iceberg lettuce (half a heart) and added optional passionfruit (2).

Turns out that whilst our joints may be aching and our bodies very unwilling, we’re not doing too badly at this staying healthy malarkey.

Czech Us Out

Czech us out.PNG

Alternative Title – Bombs Away!

So before we start, I think it’s very important you know that this week’s post was brought to you by my homemade early 80s rock playlist (inspired by Steve Harrington from Stranger Things – my new life guru), which consists of possibly more Toto and Journey than is ever strictly necessary. However, it’s helped me through some real hard times (mainly the overwhelming holiday blues and god awful early mornings on the bus to work) so I won’t hear a word against it.

The rest of the blog is brought to you by MY HOLIDAY which was most excellent and will now be gifted to you in great detail. You’re welcome.

For those of you that don’t know the background, TMM and I basically invited ourselves along on a trip to Prague that was predominantly for a gathering of various singers from all over the place (a sort of super group of the choir world) that Mother was going on. There was minor dillydallying from both sides, but it was eventually agreed that we would go along to provide Mother moral support (seeing as she’d never been on a plane before) and get a well deserved break at the same time.

Now, as I’m sure is quite clear if you are an avid follower of my work, both myself and TMM are what could be loosely described as “anxious” and it’s not a stretch to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On the build up to the trip, I received increasingly hysterical messages from Mother in various stages of capslocked panic regarding packing, passport and other preparation. I obviously responded to these in a very soothing and calming fashion, before proceeding to have very similar panics at TMM and Woo. Still, the day of reckoning rolled around swiftly and it found us suitably suit-cased and ready for our adventures.

We managed to successfully navigate a taxi, two trains and airport security (both TMM and I had to be patted down because we obviously just looked massively suspicious – TMM’s dungarees have been retrospectively voted as the worst flying outfit choice) before we even met up with any other members of our party, but before long we were safely ensconced on the plane.

Side note – it is important here to point out that Mother, a fan of the Film4 channel, has recently been finding particular joy in the Action Month advert. It apparently consists of clips from various adrenalin fuelled men shouting “bomb” set to the Ride of the Valkyries. Now, I wonder if you can see where this might be going…if you thought it might be somewhere along the lines of both her and TMM, whilst simultaneously being the nerviest of beans, finding every opportunity to mumble “bomb de bomb bomb, bomb de bomb bomb, boMB ON THIS (insert any of the countless modes of public transport we experienced here)” hysterically, you would be dead right.

Unfortunately we were all spread about on the flight itself (I was a bit gutted to miss Mother’s first ever trip in a plane but it probably limited her excuse to sing the bomb song which can only be a good thing), but I had a pretty good journey. I was sat just in front of a very cute little girl who had a great attitude to flying and her parents but the arse of the devil and apparently uncontrollable gastric upset. I was nearly forced to kill her when I realised I had no money for snacks either and she proceeded to happily munch on her Pringles with infuriating enjoyment. (Guess what, I did not learn my lesson on the way home and was nearly resorted to sucking olive juice out of my jacket to sate my hunger after there was an incident with the guy next to me and the air hostess both reaching for the packet at the same time and proceeding on getting that stuff everywhere). I do really enjoy flying though, especially at night, and it was rather stunning to be able to watch the sunset and the lights of Prague start to twinkle on our arrival. I always find looking over a scene like puts me in mind of a flickering map of golden neural pathways; a living city.

We lucked out pretty well whilst exiting the plane as well; due to a bit of faff with our carry ons, we ended up being the last passengers and Mother stopped to say thank you to the cabin crew. After they found out that it was her first ever flight, there was much kerfuffle and we got invited into the cock pit for a photo.

Let me tell you, I have never had to fight the urge to touch buttons like that before; the urge to try my hand at plane theft was pretty strong (it was like the hot air balloon festival all over again).

cockpit

Apparently my innate desire is to be some kind of aero-pirate; like Fast and Furious but with hot air balloons and airplanes. (Woo rightly pointed out here that I have the best ideas but am so entirely unequipped to carry them out)

Once it became clear that I wasn’t allowed to hijack the plane (TMM gave me some serious “don’t touch it” eyebrows), we regrouped with our party and were shepherded onto the coach and to the hotel by our lovely (and longsuffering) guide Helena.

The first morning found us all up bright and early (half 7 – good god) for breakfast before the choir disappeared off for their first rehearsal as a group. TMM and I took the opportunity to have a little nap (because we might be young but by god we’re not energetic) before braving out to tackle the public transport system – which I have to say is excellent. We could definitely learn a thing or two, just sayin’. We made it on and off the underground with minimal stress (the hardest thing was 100% the escalators, which all appeared to move at warp speed) and then bumbled around the centre for a while. We inexplicably managed to entirely miss Old Town though, and spent most of the morning skirting round the New Town section looking for Charles Bridge – spoiler: it’s freaking massive and should really not have been that hard to find.

Giving it up as a lost cause for the moment, we returned to the hotel to merge with the rest of the party and spent a good hour or so watching with thinly veiled hilarity at the ensuing stress caused by the underground ticket machines. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, generational thing or just the fact a lot of people really have no idea how to navigate ticket machines after having had their own car for so long, but TMM and I have never felt so accomplished at being able to just hustle my mum to the front of the queue and be ready to go within a few minutes. After eventually making it into town, we split into smaller groups for lunch. We were treated to the wonderful scene of Mother accidentally chatting up one of the waiters – she insisted she was just trying to ask how large the plates of food where, but mainly she got as far as saying “how big” and gesturing somewhat crudely in front of his crotch. Either way, we all had a great laugh and I’m pretty sure we made his day. The afternoon was frittered away with casual wanderings and we finally made it to Charles Bridge (only to have to survive a completely unexpected deluge) before we met up with a couple more of the group for a guided coach tour and a absolutely bloody lovely river cruise.  Between eating a buffet tea and chattering, we were treated to views of beautiful apartments with chocolate box facades and open windows that spoke of romantically struggling artists with jazz soundtracks and cigarette addictions.

Prague 2

It’s been decided that we are very much about night time river cruises

Day two started in very much a similar kind of vein, and once we’d picked up Mother we took a little trip up to the Castle. Let me tell you, that place is stunning (also super hot). We enjoyed lunch (I had goulash in a giant bread bowl and literally don’t think I will ever use crockery again) in a cute little village café (no waiter mishaps this time, but I do think he found us somewhat bizarre) and then wandered round in amazed bliss, staring at towering spires and sparkling stained glass windows. Heading back to the city centre, we treated ourselves to some of the famous tunnel cakes (so so good), but we did manage to make a complete mess of ourselves. Mother had pistachio filling which succeeded in making her look like she was covered in baby sick, and my strawberries and cream seemed to attract a swarm of wasps that kept trying to dive bomb straight into our mouths. Still, we enjoyed them immensely and they kept us going all the way back to the hotel for Mother to get changed into her concert gear.

The concert itself was in a lovely little church (very different from the Palace) and I was proud of myself for only tearing up three times. I’m pretty sure I have some kind of switch that just flicks and turns me into a blubbering mess whenever Mother sings, but I managed to not embarrass myself too much, and take some nice photos/recordings for everyone. After they finished, we went back to the hotel for a late night picnic and all stumbled into bed.

Day three was yet another early start (we holidayed hard) before the entire group were shepherded into the centre for a team photo in front of the bridge (school trips never change). After finally managing to get a couple of fairly decent shots, we slid off to wander and visited the Mucha Museum. Now I’ve always loved Mucha’s art, ever since being a little girl and being obsessed with a Mucha mirror my Neens had in her hall, but seeing some of his work up close just really drove it home how amazingly talented he truly was. The level of detail and forethought that must have gone into every piece is mind-boggling and we might have all gone a little mad in the gift shop. Finally managing to drag ourselves away, we took a break (we must have walked approx. seven thousand miles over the whole holiday. No exaggeration.) and spent a good 45 minutes absolutely wetting ourselves at a couple of folks trying their hand at a bit of zorbing. We thoroughly appreciated the efforts of a dad who was obviously trying to be very serious and active about it whilst his little girl just threw herself about in the background, and a gorgeous girl who’s hijab kept getting tangled and nearly garrotting her and her boyfriend whilst they proceeded to make it about 2 foot away from the starting point. It was unanimously agreed that we all need to have a go next time.

After lunch, we did another quick change round at the hotel and left Mother at the new concert hall (the Czech Museum of Music) for the final rehearsal and went for a quick drink and an apple strudel (when in Czech…). The second concert was just as good as the first, and once again the venue was stunning.

Prague 1.jpgTMM ponders the classics

After they’d finished, we snuck off (we did a lot of that) for a pizza and a late night wander across the Charles Bridge and a peak into some of the tourist shops – Mother was very taken with the little wooden dollies and Christmas decorations (before you ask, yes we do all have nice new Christmas decorations. And what).

The last day was a tad more reserved, and after a leisurely breakfast/lunch, we said goodbye to our slightly harried guide (she was definitely happy to see the back of our party I think) and were dropped off at the airport. Once again we somehow managed to lose everyone but we made it through with minimal fuss (there were a couple of sneaky older folks who were trying to sneak over the limit liquids back through – v troublesome) and before long were back in the home country. Off the plane, we made a quick departure and made our way back to Manchester (whilst traipsing somewhat sluggishly through a Mancunian train station that was crawling with men with unnecessarily large guns, TMM and Mother both took up another chorus of the bomb song and I had to fight the overwhelming urge just to give them up as terrorists and strike out homeward alone). After various train journeys (only got on the wrong one once), taxi rides and snack stops we made it home in mostly one piece.

Overall though I think it can be classed as a success and I’m terribly proud of Mother. We’ve already started to surreptitiously mention other holidays, but I’m laying down the law on the musical accompaniment….bomb de bomb bomb, bomb in this blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in Stranger Times

Stranger

Alternative Title: Stranger Binge: Dustin off 2 series in one upside down weekend (TMM is really wasted here. His pun game is strong).

Well, I was planning on writing this blog all about the preparations that are currently underway in readiness for the family trip to Prague next week. Mother has never been abroad via an aeroplane before and consequently there is much hysteria and full capslock messages flying back and forth about size of luggage and how many pairs of emergency knickers to pack (we’re a nervy bunch). However, my intentions have been completely overhauled and this week’s post has been waylaid by telly (for shame).

Now I know I am about 3 years behind the times, but I have finally joined the masses in becoming completely enthralled by Stanger Things (for those of you not in the know, it is a show set in the 80s around children and monsters from other realms – think Stephen King meets a juke box entirely stocked with spooky synth music).

Once again, as I always seem to do with on-trend TV, I’ve come a little late to the party. But worry not, because now I’m here I’m going to overstay my welcome, throw up on the carpet and be found hugging a lamp at 3 in the morning whimpering softly. I am 100% in love and to be honest slightly ashamed that I’ve waited this long to watch. In my defence, we really didn’t realise how much excellence we were missing out on. I do love NowTV and am happy with the service it has provided so far, but little did I know what wonders awaited on the other side. Now that we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon, I am pretty sure I can say we won’t be getting off any time soon.

In fact, our overall introduction to Netflix has gone rather well and exactly in the way as I promised TMM it wouldn’t. Fully aware of my stalkerish tendencies, we were going to pick a couple of shows to watch and limit our viewing of them to 1 or 2 episodes a week, like the good old days of terrestrial. Guess how much that didn’t work? We’ve barely even scratched the surface and we’re already two full shows down and stayed up way past our bedtime on a number of occasions. Poor TMM is flagging dramatically, poor boy.

Stranger Things started very casually on a Friday night and by the time the weekend was out, we’d finished both seasons and I’d developed an overwhelming urge to perm everything in sight and avoid all suspicious looking cracks in the walls – there be toothy monsters. Seriously though, it has everything I could want in a nice little bundle of thrills. Teenage boys who can be a little dim but have great hair, good hearts and deal well in the face of otherworldly dangers and young children. Tall beardy men with unresolved issues who aren’t afraid to hug people aggressively at every opportunity (you cannot know how rewarding it is to yell at the TV about how someone needs a hug and then for it to actually happen). A whole plethora of lady characters with vast quantities of rage, stunning eyes and varying telekinetic/psionic abilities that may or may not being able to throw vans with their minds. You don’t even want to get me started on the truly excellent soundtrack.

I think TMM actually spent more of the first season watching me watching TV rather than watching it himself and getting increasingly giggly at my hysterical outbursts and constantly muttered commentary. It appears I am incapable (except at the cinema or theatre when NO talking is permitted) of not putting my oar in and telling each character (yes, I know they can’t hear me) exactly what I think of their questionable life choices. It forever enrages me that they don’t listen and still insist on touching things/going into dark rooms/being complete plonkers. Does the dramatic music not clue you in to the terrifying monsters/painful death that awaits?!

I spent a lot of the first few episodes gripping my blankets (yes I have multiple TV blankets – and what) and yelling things like WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH BAD LIFE CHOICES and DON’T DO THAT, IT WON’T END WELL (spoiler – it didn’t).

I really missed an opportunity to Tweet this as a live stream. I could be internet famous by now.

Now that it’s over though, my life does feel a little bereft. I’ve found myself obsessively watching cast interview videos and falling in love with adorable young actors. I’ve enjoyed such gems as life coaching techniques from 14 year olds, trust falls (harsh on some points because a 25yr old falling onto a 13yr old is always going to be a bit trickier than the other way round) and bro buddies staring into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes (which is ridiculous because I couldn’t even look into my own eyes for 4 minutes, never mind someone else’s).

I don’t know why I’m so surprised really, because it was always bound to end this way. I thought it might be a little different this time as the seasons were only short, but how wrong I was. Instead, they just compounded the awesomeness into about 16 hours of pure thrill that left me shell shocked and more than a little impatient for the new series (which apparently isn’t until sometime in 2019 – and don’t I feel betrayed by that). I had a sort of underlying belief that Season 3 was supposed to be starting sometime soon (the 02 shop on the way to work has promotional stickers for it in the window), but it seems that I was misinformed and instead I have to wait until next year (which is just criminal).

Still, I have no time to mope about my televisual misfortune with Prague looming on the horizon. There are tiny suitcases to cram full of books, emergency books and a pair of shorts (if it turns out we’ve missed the heat wave and I spent the last week of it sat sulking I the office, I will be miffed, I can tell you). There are liquids to carefully measure into tiny bottles, cats to ensure are fed and supported through this separation and Mother’s to get drunk on Bloody Mary’s before take off to keep her relaxed and calm as we bundle her through the barrier. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you all next week with our holiday adventures; expect pictures galore of nice bricks (TMM loves a good brick) and unsteadily filmed videos of Mother singing whilst I can be heard sobbing emotionally in the background. I can’t promise it will be quite as timely as normal, but I’ll do my best!

And We All Live Apacaly Ever After

Alpaca Blog

So as some of you may have seen on my Facebook or Instagram, I spent the weekend living my best life and enjoying my birthday present from Woo. Woo is what we would class as “good people”; she puts up with my consistent and often hysterical emails, endless hearty bants and works well within the dreaded birthday constraints of “no stuff” when dealing with potential presents. I am very troublesome when it comes to giving people suggestions of what I want for my birthday. When I was younger, I would prepare colour coded lists in triplicate that went to all family members to provide clear guidelines on what I wanted. These days, I merely shrug and ask specifically for “no stuff” because I am a hoarder and must be controlled. Woo understands that my life in a constant battle between wanting All of the Things (like a true millennial), whilst simultaneously wanting to live like a Buddhist monk and free myself from the fetters of the material world. Last Christmas, she got me a trip to the Manchester Cat Café (that came with a hand drawn card which still sits on the mantle piece) and a pot of hair dye because she gets me. For my birthday this year, she succeeded once again in pulling it out of the bag (along with matching card) and this Sunday found us in the Lake District walking Alpacas.

Now let me tell you straight that walking with Alpacas might be the closest thing on this earth to true happiness and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deranged.

There were 5 of us that went, crammed into the new little motor (still as yet unnamed) and chipper at the prospect of the fun that awaited – little did we know how much joy we would experience. The company itself – Alpacaly Ever After (and whoever came up with that name deserves a medal) is based in the grounds of the Lingholm Estate in Derwentwater, Keswick. It is a gorgeous setting; coincidentally the Summer home of Beatrix Potter during her formative years as well as the home of where the new Swallows and Amazons film. It is basically the dictionary definition of “idyllic” and 100% the kind of place Alpacas deserve to live.

We arrived and went straight to the café (because we know what we’re about and what we’re about is fancy café lunches) before wandering the kitchen gardens that inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s tales and all getting slightly emotional that we weren’t posh ladies from the turn of the century. Soon though, the time came and we stood, all shifty like, by the statue of a giant and slightly mental looking red squirrel whilst waiting for our contact. Turns out, arranging Alpaca dates is somewhat similar to spy meetings – who knew?

Anyway, Shelley, our very knowledge and super smiley guide, appeared in a timely fashion and led us to our delightfully cuddly charges. She carefully explained the stroking etiquette – due to their eye positioning, they have a blind spot (unsurprising with those fringes if I’m honest) and like most animals don’t like being stroked where they can’t see. This meant their heads and backs were out of bounds, and also that there should be no butt touchings, which is just good manners really. Mainly she advised we stick to their necks when petting, but considering the length of them, this wasn’t too much of a hardship.

Whilst she was talking, she corralled our various partners and harnessed them up and we dithered about with thinly veiled excitement. By the time the gates opened and the Alpacas were led out, we were a undoubtedly overcome.

Now Jonbles had no Alpaca because he is a boring old fart, but he came along for the ride anyway and admitted later (no matter how much he tries to deny it now) that he wished he’d had one too. The rest of us picked (or were picked by) the four Alpacas who were milling about giving us the side eye – and the whole process was somewhat reminiscent of the wands in Harry Potter; the Alpaca picks the walker, not the other way around.

Woo went first because she is by far the bravest, and was paired with Kato; a big bubble headed beastie who was pretty much the agreed leader and enjoyed having a good chatter the whole way round.

      20180715_141645985761750.jpg

I followed and was paired with Jasper, who had fabulous hair, a casual attitude and the ability to wee for about half an hour non-stop (we matched perfectly). Shelley explained that there are actually only 2 breeds of Alpaca; Suri and Huacaya. Huacaya are by far the most prevalent, making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population, and whilst they were lucky enough to have Jasper, he is the Loneliest Suri. The only one in their herd, he stands out a little and after being unfortunately snipped in the trouser snake department, is destined to stay that way. Still, he was The Most Chill and we bonded beautifully (read I pawed him desperately and he snuffled me a little and posed wonderfully for selfies).

     

Wilson “The Honey Badger” was paired with Jake, a toothy gentleman who knew exactly what he was about and wasn’t prepared to be moved unless he was ready. He viewed the whole excursion as a sort of extended buffet selection.

    

Finally, an executive decision was made that TMM should be left with little Theo, who whilst looking like a baby and being 2 years old, was pretty much fully grown. They looked like a kind of comedy duo (think Shrek and Donkey but much prettier) but they bonded beautifully (possibly over their matching eye lashes) and I’m pretty sure might have actually been each other’s spirit animals.

     img-20180715-wa0035890386309.jpg

During the walk itself, in which we were lead around the grounds and, in turn, had much fun shepherding our companions around, our very lovely guide educated us about the Alpacas as well as the land the company resides on. Obviously I was in nerd heaven because we all know how much I enjoy fun learning – and learning with Alpacas in the most fun. For example, did you know Alpacas are bred specifically for their fibre, unlike Llamas who are working animals and can be used to carry up to 10 stone. Sadly this meant I couldn’t throw myself on Jaspers back and gallop off into the sunset as I had hoped, but a girl can dream.

We also learnt that they “hum” when talking to each other (Kato had a lot to say), only have one row of teeth (along the bottom) so no accidental dismemberment of which there was a slight fear, and only actually spit when distressed, but let’s face it – who doesn’t? They’re also incredibly graceful considering how silly the look, and surprised us all by taking the various sets if stairs we came across in their stride (ha ha).

Within the hour though, I can safely say that each if us had fallen head over heels with our charges and once we had taken them back and given them some snacks, were all heartbroken to have to walk away. I’m not ashamed to say I could have wept as Jasper non committedly bumped his head against my arm before scratching his belly with a back hoof and trotted off without a backwards glance. I know our love was a fleeting and possibly one sided affair, but I can’t help but hope that as I’m writing this, he still thinks of me now and then.

It was obviously a bit too much for some people…