Just a Smoothie Operator

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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).

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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.

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An Interlude from the Sunshine Library

So, in order to make up for my lack of post the other Thursday, TMM suggested I do another mini weekend bloglet. An exercise, he said, in allowing me to use up a little excess blog material that didn’t make it into last week’s offering as well as keeping up my word count. Not one to counter such a wise and logical argument, or deny him the chance to share super little teasers on his instagram story #socialmediapresence, I agreed, and what follows is just a peek into my personal library. It’s been a while since I’ve shared any reviews or book recommendations and I’d hate to leave you bereft.

The warm weather has actually been the perfect excuse to catch up on my reading. My refusal to sit inside for any length of time has limited my televisual intake and having lunch breaks out in the park have meant I’ve had time to just chow down on a couple of books that have been waiting patiently in my “to read” pile.

So far I’ve managed two books this week; “Early One Morning” by Virginia Baily (picked up from The Works for a couple of quid) and “The Hollow Tree” by James Brogden (from our last trip to Hay on Wye).

The first one I’ve been eyeing up for a while. It’s been on and off bookshelves, in and out of day bags and left on the bedside table for weeks, but I finally managed to make it past the cover on the trip to visit my Mother last weekend. It opened quite dramatically (WW2 Italy) with some Nazi involvement and the heart breaking rescue of a young jewish boy. The story itself was focused on the woman who rescued him, in flash forwards and flashbacks throughout her life, and a young girl in the 1970s who finds herself linked to the pair. Overall, I struggled a little with it, specifically the stylistic choice of flicking through time periods without identification as well as between characters, and I found myself becoming frustrated with the women themselves. However, I wonder if perhaps my disappoint was spurred more from the fact i went into it hoping for something different, rather than the fault of the author. Still, it kept me company for a lunch break and an evening of TMM watching tennis so I sharn’t be too put out.

On the other hand, “The Hollow Tree” was exactly what I thought it would be with some added supernatural elements and I am all about it. I went back and forth a few times before I picked this up in Richard Booth’s bookshop (or Heaven as it’s also known). We had intended to limit ourselves to one book per person at the time *spoiler* it didn’t last, and eventually I caved and bought it after lunch.

Inspired by a legend (which also led to an hour long wikipedia search) it follows a woman, herself involved in a tragic accident that results in amputation, who becomes embroiled in the horrifying tale of a woman trapped in an oak tree and left to die. It deals with death, danger and the discovery of a darker exsistence parallel to our own in a very engaging and provoking manner; and in such a way that I found myself desperate to get back to it each lunch break. There was also another book on the shelf by the same author which attracted me and by the time I’d gotten round to picking up the one I’d bought, I’d combined the blurbs a little and was a tad confused to find this one wasn’t the one with the mysterious children (“Helka’s Children” for those of you interested) as I’d originally thought. However, children not withstanding, it was just as thrilling as the recommendations on the front cover suggested (and I’ll definitely be investing in the other’s he’s written).

Now I was going to end this post by telling you all about a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” that i was going to start this morning, but in what might turn out to be the biggest betrayal of the century, it appears that instead of the book, I unknowingly bought a notebook made to look like a beautiful copy of “Rebecca” and I am wounded. Thankfully though, I’d ordered a spur of the moment purchase from Amazon, and as a salve for both my need to read and my pride, I’ve spent the afternoon reading “A Sky Painted Gold” by Laura Wood. Turns out , lazing around on the grass with a gin and tonic ice lolly, TMM looking delightfully sunkissed and dozey and a book set in the 1920s is apparantly just the cure I needed.

The Art of Being (Effortlessly) Busy

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Once again, I’m starting a post with an apology for absence. I’ve let you down, I’ve let Jesus down, but most of all, by not blogging weekly like I promised, I’ve let myself down. Oh the shame.

Still, you should all count yourselves lucky, because you almost didn’t get a post this week either and just think how apologetic I’d have had to be with two weeks AWOL…The thing is, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (social media may have clued you in) but it is warm. Like, delightfully warm. The wonderfully tropical kind of warm that saps all your(my) energy and just leaves you(me) wanting to lie around in the sun like a giant sun slug and do absolutely nothing but gently baste like a festive turkey.

Somewhat conversely though, this is exactly the opposite of how my life has been these last two weeks. Summer has come and so, apparently, has my social life. Who knew? A splash of sunshine and I’m anybody’s for an hour or two.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful though by any means. I’ve had a lovely time seeing people and finally doing tasks I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I’ve caught up with old friends on long and mildly arduous hikes (read – we sweated our literal balls off and walked for miles). I cleaned the kitchen like a real life grown up – scrubbed the oven, cleared all the crumbs under the bread bin and even washed the windows with a vinegar solution (for achieving that perfect sparkle). I went out with some girlies from work for an evening of spectacular burgers, resplendent pancakes and a showing of the new Jurassic Park film, which was much better that I expected. We all got a tad overexcited I think and poor TMM had to drive us home whilst we hysterically prattled on about dinosaurs (it was mostly me – I really want a dinosaur) even though it was far past his bedtime. And personal growth alert – I actively enjoyed every venture (the cleaning in a sort of masochistic way) and didn’t get anxious or worked up about any of them. Boom for counselling and awareness of mental health issues.

Side note – the team also did a little road trip to Hay-on-Wye in the new car within which we managed to sneak in a visit to Neens. This was excellent on numerous levels, including but not limited to, finally introducing Woo to my grandma (they’ve been Facebook friends for ages now) and getting to play with the new kitten (who is actually the cutest and came to sit on my lap all of his own free will and nearly made me combust with joy). Hay itself was as superb as always and we all got slightly emotional at how nice lunch was and all came home with a decent little haul of books. This section gets it’s own little paragraph because it doesn’t actually count as exertion or busy activity – mainly because team are basically me and also Neens and cats and books. But, you know, I like to share these things with you.

 

I mean, a bookshop that makes a brew this perfect can’t be anything but heaven.

It feels like the longest days have come at just the right time though. As I’m sure you can gather by the mild level of hysterical awe in which I describe all these events, I am not a naturally busy person. I don’t thrive on constant activity. In fact, I get a bit panicked at the thought of having more than 2 events a week (god I’m boring). I need to know I’ve got time to sit on the couch and stare aimlessly at instagram for an hour followed by an early night on a regular basis or I get antsy. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I’m dangerously entitled too (don’t know who I think I am). I am fully of the belief that my social batteries work in a typically introverted fashion – if I’ve been out and about doing things and seeing people, I’m going to need an equal amount of time to sit and do eff all like the potato I naturally am. To be frank, this is possibly one of the largest arguments for me never having children – I am literally just too lazy.

With the sun staying out like a brazen hussy until all hours though, I feel like I’ve got more time to fit everything in. I can be aggressively busy at work and still have time to get home and do something before reverting to slob mode. Please note, this is the complete opposite to the winter months, when I get home from the office, cry about the cold/dark/Christmas and then go to bed at about 8pm. These past few days, I’ve done pretty much everything I can to be outside in the light, despite being one of nature’s cave dwellers. I’ve pushed myself to do more just so I can spend time in the sunshine and soak up the warmth like a cat on a window sill. I’ve taken to sneaking out of the office every lunch break to go and read in the park (I have a dedicated tree to lean against), eating all possible meals in the garden like some kind of Mediterranean (god, you can tell I’ve barely been abroad can’t you), and absolutely blitzing through any inside chores to ensure that the smallest amount of my time is spent away from the beautiful blue skies. It’s also meant that the garden has never been so well weeded- it’s so much easier to convince yourself to do it when you can get a tan at the same time.

There is still a mild undercurrent of worry; something in the corner of my consciousness that tells me I’m running out of time to get everything done, but I think it’s just something that comes hand in hand with being a grown up, like always worrying about bills or how long you can get away without doing the laundry. I hate thinking that I’m leaving something unfinished and being busy only compounds the threat, but boy, sitting in the sunshine does make it all that little bit easier to ignore.

Driving Miss Crafty

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Well we’ve only bloody gone and bought a new car! (About time too I hear you call). Hans von Manschaft has beeped his last and as of last night he has gone to the big garage in the sky (he’s not, he’s gone to the Hyundai garage as a part ex but you get what I was going for). Instead we now have a super swanky little motor that’s full of effortless chill – just like us. It’s got tinted back windows, as our gangsta lifestyle demands, DAB radio and a ton of buttons (which I have obviously already touched). We originally were going full the most bog standard model they had (it was basically a box with wheels) but somewhere along the line we ended up with a “Premium SE” whilst managing to stay completely on budget. We’ve got electronic windows, AC and headlights that tilt in the direction you’re turning (which we have been very wowed by). It’s also SUPER SHINY and very white which we were both unexpectedly taken with (though I expect that will remain as such for about two days. So many dates to the car wash though). We did turn down the extra fancy waxing and car mats for another £350 (much to the chagrin of the garage) because we’re not that precious or rich, but TMM already has designs on Amazon Prime options to ensure the inside stays as fancy as it is for a fraction of the cost.

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Look at all those buttons, it’s like a little present just for me and my pointy fingers

TMM was the most brave during the whole situation, and I think provided a soothing balm for the young man who was dealing with us in the face of Woo, who we brought along as our enforcer and money man. She made a name for herself at the last garage when she proceeded to completely destroy the chap who was somewhat poorly trying to sell us a car. She basically beat him into verbal submission, and I think he was close to tears when we left. She has no time for anyone’s shit and, !)as such, is now in charge of all grown up aspects of our lives. She proved herself invaluable whilst we navigated the somewhat choppy waters of car sales though, and definitely has her face up on a couple of salesroom back walls with a big red BEWARE plastered across it. In fact, her response to this very paragraph was “DAMN RIGHT, LOOK OUT DODGY SALESMEN, I AM ON THE LOOSE!”. Be afraid, be very afraid.

This time was much better for all though, and I think Woo and young Blessing (our salesman) built up a good relationship of lightly fond exasperation. There was a slight fission when he went out to inspect Hans though. The previous guy had just given him a once over and offered us a set sum. For Blessing, ever the professional, this wasn’t sufficient. He took his iPad and his earnest nature and got all up in Hans’ grill. TMM had nicely mentioned the somewhat temperamental nature of the parking break and incessant beeping beforehand in a casual sort of way, but there was still a lot of panicked rolling when he came to try and park it. We enjoyed a little giggle too when he came back in with wide eyes and told us in no uncertain terms how scared he’d been and that temperamental was not the way he would have chosen to describe it. Still, it all went through smoothly and we now have a lovely new little Hyundai I10. It is just a slight change from the somewhat canal boat sized Passat. I think after The Duchess had been replaced with Hans, we’d just planed to keep upgrading to bigger and bigger cars until we were just trundling along in a tank, but common sense won the day. Our road has minimal parking and as much as it’s nice to have, we don’t need a boot the size of a barge. Poor TMM was a little cut up at the thought I think, but I’ve promised him that we’re just doing this to save money for our dream cottage in the country. Small cars now lead to big dreams later on.

It has been a bit of an eye opener money-wise though I think. We’ve never done loans or finance or the like before, and it’s a bit of experience. TMM is most distrustful of all big companies (he’s basically a recluse who should really be living in a forest somewhere with a giant beard and a pet wolf) and I have no idea how anything in the real world works, so it took a lot of research, grown up conversations and soothing stories of positive experiences from friends to get us to this point. We’ve only ever had one big expense before and that was buying our first car with student loan money. We’re in the thick of it now though and our credit scores will hopefully soon reflect it (I am mildly ashamed at myself for even writing that. Who have I become!) The point is, whilst we’re not quite as JAMmy as Teresa May might like to suggest (see what I did there – political humour gone mad), we are also going to have to learn to cut back on our somewhat more unnecessary expenses. Whist we are both lucky enough to have full time permanent jobs, we’ve also got a lads lads lads holiday to Prague with my mum planned, and a new sudden liking for coconut water (super tasty, super expensive), so I think it might take a judicious sprinkling of restraint when it comes to the weekly shop and our trips to Primark. Still, I’m not too concerned; we’ve lived on less quite successfully before, so we can definitely do it again.

Perhaps what has come at just the right time is the formation of a new working partnership between myself and Woo and the soon to be grand opening of our Etsy shop. We have been threatening to do it for the longest time, but with the resurgence in my crafting activities (I’ve finally finished the wall piece of Woo after promising her it for about 3 months) and Woo getting her garage hopefully cleared out and converted to a workshop, we have finally decided to take the plunge and just see what happens. I’ve gone a bit wild recently on pompoms (so bang on trend) after having to power craft a little present for our friend Wilson after realising somewhat belatedly that it was her birthday on Friday and we hadn’t got her anything (HAPPY BIRTHDAY HoneyBadger!). She is terribly on trend in a sensible, grown up, Pinterest kind of way, but she loves a good pompom and a splash of colour so hopefully she’ll be taken with what we’ve got her.

img-20180612-wa0010672072023.jpgDo you like a pompom? Could you see such a garland festooning your house? Come to us for all your bunting needs!

Over time, we’re hoping to be able to get rid of a lot of backed up craft that’s currently taking over my living room, treat ourselves to all sorts of new craft projects and fun toys (metal engraving anyone?), and any monetary profit will be an added bonus. We’re maintaining a sensible and professional outlook at the moment, but expect us to be world famous entrepreneurs this time next year. Just saying.

Adulting Volume #476

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Considering how long I’ve actually been waiting for summer, I feel like we haven’t really been utilising it all that efficiently now it’s here. Whilst we have spent the last few weekends bbqing hard (so much tasty fish), we have pretty much been in bed by 9pm every night after work. It’s like we’re under some kind of bewitchment and like true sleeping beauties, have spent a majority of our free time snoozing. I do find there to be something fundamentally pleasing about going to bed whilst it’s still light outside (I think I like to pretend that I live in one of those dreamy places where it never truly gets dark but just moves through various bruised pastel shades of dusk that turn into tomorrow) but I’m pretty sure it can’t be classed as living life to the fullest.

Still, we’re slowly getting used to this whole adulting lark and I suppose we have to take it one step at a time. First step – doing chores, Second step – staying up late, Third step – conquering the world. So whilst we have seemingly been struggling at Step 2, we’re doing our level best. This week we’ve been attempting to complete real life chores like real life grown ups. Now I am fully aware that most chores are something that should be done regularly in order to ensure your house is continually clean and whatnot, but I’m not going to lie – that’s not how it works with us. Landry and dishwashing etc. are obviously done on the regular (otherwise we’d have no plates or pants) but there are some things I just cannot bring myself to care about unless I really have to.

Hoovering is 100% one of these things. Little sessions, like just sucking up some fluff or the odd bit of soil accidentally walked in I can just about survive. Vacuuming the whole house (one of those proper hooverings where you sit on the floor so you can properly see all the fluff and make sure you’re getting it, and when you use all the attachments to clean all the ceiling corners of spider webs) is literal torture to me. I hate it with a passion. I occasionally think I wouldn’t mind it as much if we had one of those old fashioned hod-a-durs carpet rollers that just fluffs everything about (my grandma used to have one and it holds a fond place in my heart) but we don’t and as it is I definitely DO mind having to do the vacuuming.

Our Henry Hoover (Henri as we’ve originally christened him) is an actual fucker and spends the whole time he’s out doing everything he can to enrage me. He likes to get tangled up and fall over, wheezing smugly, or get caught behind door frames and just peer out at me like a little bitch. My language (as I’m sure you can tell) is never more choice then when I’m trying to clean. I have to listen to aggressively upbeat late 90s dance tunes at an unhealthily loud volume just to be able to complete one room without having a full blown breakdown. White/cream carpet is actually the devil (especially when you’re already lazy and prone to living like a slob) and having pets, a penchant for walking everywhere but never taking your shoes off and the ability to create tiny bits of paper that scatter everywhere make it almost unbearable. (Thankfully we managed to finally convince the landlord to get rid of the bathroom carpets. I still get flashbacks to those horrors). I’ve already made TMM promise me that when we own our own house it will just have laminate flooring throughout. Or maybe just no floors altogether. We’ll just have suspended walkways so far off the floor I won’t be able to see the dust and fluff and god knows what else that accumulates.

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Look at his self-satisfied smirk. God I hate that machine.

I think what really gets my goat is the fact that you spend your hard-earned leisure time putting all this work in and then within 20 minutes there’s fluff, spiders and mud all over the floor again and it’s all I can do to raise my eyes despairingly to the heavens and not have a hissy fit. This is why I’m still trying to convince TMM to let us hire a cleaner. It might be wasteful and bourgeois, but it also would mean that I don’t have to do it. I’ve tried to convince him that we’d be helping the economy and keeping people in employment and that WE WOULDN’T HAVE TO DO IT ANYMORE, but so far he’s still resistant. Damn him.

However, it’s not all been vacuum cleaner related toil and trouble. We have been using the long days and warm weather to make more of a concerted effort to tame the garden. TMM definitely takes more after my Mother and her green thumb than I do (she’s already promised to save him a wood pile for chipping which has pleased him no end) and he’s been taking good care of the various greeneries she’s gifted us. The greenhouse has been cultivating fruit sprigs and vegetables sproots beautifully and after a furious weeding session, we’ve managed to successfully move a potato plant and some raspberry vines to the outside boarders. Hopefully by the end of summer we’ll be able to gather in a small harvest and class the whole things as a win.

After being inspired by such joyous little greens bits and how neat everything looks, I spent Saturday morning vigorously ripping up dead pampas grasses and crusty heather bushes that had taken over the path by the backdoor with vicious severity. Considering the plant bed itself is no more than a few inches deep, there was a lot of sweaty exertion and unladylike grunting whilst removing all the unnecessarily dug in root balls, but I emerged muddy and victorious. Rather than look to replace them with something similar, we went instead for the classic Groundforce plan of just artfully gravelling the hell out of it. After 2 shopping trips (3 bags of gravel covers nowhere near as much as one would expect) and an unhealthy amount of hefting from TMM, we got everything in place. There was a slight hiccup about halfway through the whole exercise, when we’d both taken turns shovelling out excess soil with what can only be described as the “wrong tool for the job” I was firmly of the opinion we’d made a dreadful decision and should have just stuck with the little pathway of horrors. However, we powered through and by the end of the day, it looked rather lovely and I was resolutely won over with our hard work. As Mother says, there’s a goodness in gardening; an old fashioned healthy warming of the soul that tires the body but quiets the mind and looks pretty nice to boot.

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A little lavender, a little Buddha and a lot more gravel than anticipated…

I also finally achieved my Surviving the Dentist badge and successfully got my very first filling. Now I can’t imagine anyone particularly enjoys going to the dentist and I an definitely no exception. I have previously had mildly harrowing experiences involving oral care – due to my inordinately tiny mouth (no jokes, I can’t even fit a full chupa chup lolly between the two top rows of teeth) I had a mental framework brace inserted which was supposed to stretch out my upper jaw and widen the whole pallet area. Spoiler – it didn’t. What in fact happened was it cut into the soft fleshy skin and in retaliation, the soft fleshy skin ended up swelling and growing right over the bloody thing. Cue lots of whimpering and straw based meals. When we went back to the orthodontist, he was fully geared up to shout at me for not brushing my teeth properly and being a whiny little teenager until my Mother helpfully pointed out the immense amounts of swelling and acute pain I was in. After much flustered apologising, there was a flurry of cutting and blood and general ickiness as the contraption was removed and we made the executive decision that my piranha like jaw and wonky teeth were fine as they were. And there, good reader, ended any good feelings I had regarding the dentist chair. HOWEVER, in this, the 27th year of our Ebear, I got over myself and returned to the oral hygienists fold.

(Admittedly, I did have to have pep talks from no less than 3 family members and TMM had to buy me a curry as a pre-emptive reward, but whatever).

To be honest, it probably could have gone better but at least it’s over and done with now. I think I thoroughly annoyed my dentist who kept asking “does your mouth not go any wider” and then tried to winch it open when I replied in the negative, obviously believing I was a big fat liar pants. More fool her when my jaw strongly resisted and I nearly bit her with the bounce back. By this point she finally realised that I really do I have the tiny mouth of a vole. There was also a slight schism of exasperation in the room when I couldn’t stop swallowing during the teeth watering section (I’m assuming they were cleaning, but it honest just felt like that were jet washing the back of my throat for lolz) and nearly burst into hysterical laughter when the nurse kept accidentally sucking up my tongue with the mouth hoover. I refuse to be cowed though, because I’m pretty sure that subconscious swallowing when being forcibly drowned is a pretty solid reaction and she should be happy I didn’t just cry.

Anyway, the whole ordeal was thankfully over with within about half an hour and all I had to contend with was Numb Mouth. I have capitalised this because whilst it wasn’t quite American Youtube comedy video bad, it certainly wasn’t great. My boss even had to go out and buy me squeezy baby proof yoghurts to eat (which I did terribly unattractively) after she noticed my sulky face and the bemoaning of my inability to eat the leftover curry I’d brought for lunch. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but losing control over half of your face is fun for about half an hour and then just feels like the worse kind of bodily betrayal. Especially when people keep coming over and expecting to have a serious conversation with you. I spat on many people. Soz not soz. Still I made it through the day and have regained full use of my mouth and not swallowed the filling so I’m definitely counting the whole things as a win.

So whilst it may be true that we have the late night staying power of two overtired toddlers and can’t properly look after a house for toffee, we’re clawing our way through adulthood and that’s alright. Next stop – world domination.

Un-Great Expectations

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Readers, I’m going to apologise now. This post was originally going to be a light hearted and carefree jaunt through my weekly endeavours, but it has most assuredly not ended up that way. Blogging, as with all things, does what it wants with no regard for any predestined plans made by mere mortal authors like myself.

So buckle up, because I’m about to drop some mildly depressing truth bombs on you all.

It may be pretty obvious, but I have come to the gradual realisation over the last couple of years that a) growing up really is hard as balls and b) destined to send even the sanest soul to the brink of collapse. We live in a world geared towards living the perfect life; being “the best you” and generally striving for (key word here folks) unreachable heights. We’ve created a sort of magical mirror world that shows us who the fairest of them all is, and it’s always someone with more money or better hair or prettier instagram filters than ourselves. We set unachievable ideals and scrabble round trying to fill them, but always seem to fall short. Now, for some people, continually pushing themselves to get to the top; to get the better job, better body, better life, is a realistic goal. But guess what? It’s not for me. Some days I literally struggle to get myself dressed, never mind about being the best I can be, and half the time I’m too exhausted with myself to try any harder.

Now I know I am a glass half empty kinda gal. Pessimism comes as easy to me as breathing and I live in a kind of envious awe of those who can look at something and only see the positives (or can frame the negatives in a better light). I understand in all too startling clarity that thinking the way I do is a choice (if a somewhat second nature one) and I realise that it is possible to train yourself to think differently, but panicked denial and acceptance of failure is my safety blanket and it’s so much easier to retreat into a quantified negativity than an unknown positivity.

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My Mother knows me too well – whenever I’m struggling I will, without fail, end up weeping happily at a gift she’s posted through with un-erring timing. She understands the fight and encourages me in the best way.

Case in point – my churlish attitude to my accomplishments recently. It’s stupid, but I’ve been such a Debbie Downer about the things I’ve done and it’s not a healthy attitude. There’s no logical reason either really, because this last week, I have achieved. I’ve done a full Enor MOT and done things I’ve been putting off for years.

I went for a hair cut (which is still a task I despise at the ripe old age of 26 and 363 days). Short hair has proven to be a false economy, and whilst I enjoyed a few months of super quick showers and not having to worry about hairdryers, styling or bobby pins, I am now in the tremendously awkward stage of having to commit to growing it and living with a completely shapeless yet frustratingly uncontrollable blob. Still, as scientifically proven, trimming inspires new growth and I bit the proverbial and I booked in. Admittedly, I was a tad miffed not to get my usual chap, who just sits me down, does what he wants to make me look presentable and says a pleasing fuck all to me. Instead I had to survive Erica, who was not at all helpful. She kept trying to carry on awkward conversations and somehow managed to not only maintain, but indeed strengthen the whole early 2000s Leonardo Di Caprio vs. Deidre Barlow vibe I’ve got going on at the moment. However, it’s something to tick off and means I’m free for another 6-8 months (I’ll just rock a lot of hats in public for now).

I went for an eye test (heavily overdue) that I’ve been ignoring texts and letters about for over 6 months now. (TMM supportively came with me and sat next to the Kylie cut-out, which he insisted was definitely taller than the real thing). I was there for a grand total of 25 minutes and a majority of that was spent in the waiting area peering nosily at all the doohickeys. I didn’t awkwardly laugh when I used any of the eye testing machines (nervous habit) and only panic lied a few times about which lens was better (even more of a nervous habit. I don’t mean to fib, I swear. I just literally cannot work out what I can see when they ask. It’s like when someone tells you to breathe and you immediately start to suffocate like a weirdo. To be quite honest I’m surprised I’ve ever had the right glasses).

I even registered at the local dentist (even more heavily overdue – read 5+ years, probably to the mighty shame of my once dentist nurse aunt) which took a good 4 hours of run up; including but not limited to a rousing pep talk to myself hidden under the duvet and far too much unnecessary sweating. Admittedly, I’ve not got my first appointment until next Wednesday and you can bet your bottom dollar that will send me of into gales of hysteria, but at least I’ve trapped myself into it now.

The trouble is, whilst I know each of those things is something I’ve been scared/petrified of doing, and I’ve actually finally done them, all I can think of is how silly I am. I’m an adult now, and I should be able to complete every day tasks like this with graceful aplomb and limited forethought. Instead, I work myself into a frenzy of hysteria and have to cry in a toilet on a semi regular basis.

I want to be able to be proud of myself for completing a task that was hard for me, rather than measure it against this unattainable scale of adulting I’ve decided exists. That is to say, I don’t want to be smug or seek attention, but I want to be able to think positively of myself.  I know deep in my heart that I will never be enough. Never brave enough, never tidy enough, never tanned enough – my singular achievements will only ever be measured against my countless failings (new word), but this in the insidious nature of the beast. It takes time to learn how to be nice to yourself, how to take comfort and pride in succeeding at the things you do rather than seeking to tear them down.

However, there is one thing I have been able to allow myself to be content with, and that is getting my tattoo. As a lot of you will know, I had no intention or plan of getting a tattoo (except a long held sort of tentative desire). I had ideas and Pinterest folders, but I’d kind of come to the sad realisation that I would never work up the guts to get one. Turns out, if you don’t plan and let yourself get swept along with supportive friends, you don’t really need the guts. Who’d have thought it? The lovely artist was delightful and completely relaxed and just swept me along with his genial attitude. By the time he’d drawn up my idea and asked if I just wanted to go for it, I was pretty much ready to throw caution to the wind. Obviously there was still some residual fear, and I think the whole situation was 10% social awkwardness of not wanting to back out, 85% ballsy fuck-itness and 5% sheer white noise.

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Bees – a symbol of industry, hard work, loyalty and my home town of Manchester. A Hexagon – the symbol of structure, balance and unity. My Tattoo – a little of a, a little of b and a lot of just loving a bee.

I’ve looked at it since though and been proud in a sort of second hand sort of a way. I think possibly because it’s not something that anyone else could have any say or judgement over; it’s something that is of no loss or gain to anybody and it’s not social scale of success to measure myself against. It’s something I wanted and something I did and I can’t find many faults with it, which in itself is a victory.

I’ve come to terms with myself a lot more over the last few years though, and whilst I understand that my faults lie in the things I cannot control and my failings in the things I can, I know now that my mental health issues are not something that can be cured but instead something that can be managed. It is not a mountain to be scaled, but a road to be travelled and learning to live with that is the first step in the right direction.

~

“We deserve a soft epilogue, my love. We are good people and we have suffered enough”

–          Nikka Ursula

 

 

 

Remembering to Forget or Forgetting to Remember?

So I found a new word the other day. I stumbled across it accidentally whilst trawling the internet for something else entirely, and was completely bewitched by it. I have a magpie like affinity for words and I like to hoard them like old stamps – collected and carefully pinned out for future reference. I love the fact that there is always a suitable word; no matter what the topic, object or situation. If you can’t think of one, it’s because you haven’t found it yet, not because it doesn’t exist. They are not always easy to find or remember, and sometimes they are in a completely different language; but they’re always there.

The English language is pretty handy for it though; it’s basically the thug of the language world. It waits on street corners and then takes other languages down back alley and rifles through their pockets for loose words. Our back catalogue is such a higgle-di-piggedly amalgamation of words we’ve begged, borrowed, or just plain bastardised, and you’ll struggle to find something who’s etymological root doesn’t start somewhere else in the world. We’re doing it even now – absorbing words like “hygge” (cosy and happy) and “lagom” (just the right amount) and slotting them seamlessly into our conversations as if we’ve always had them.

This particular word seemed to come just at the right time though and it’s lodged itself rather firmly in my psyche. It’s a welsh word, so perhaps I already feel a gentle affinity for it, and it perfectly crystallises a frame of mind that seems to be quite prevalent at the moment.

“Hiraeth – a longing for a home you can’t return to or never had”

Isn’t that just glorious? It’s so small and yet it evokes such vivid daydreams of lives you’ve never lived but wanted to, places you’ve never visited but imagined, times you’ve never experienced but feel like they might be where you truly belong. Especially at this time of year when things are just starting to bloom; delicate daffodils and sweet snowdrops are pushing their way up though dark dead earth, there seems to be a promise of something. For me, it’s the whisper of summer. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but winter is really the bane of my life. From an objective standpoint, I do understand the necessity (do you like the casual and patronising way I talk about it, as if I actually have any kind of say in the matter) and it’s true that without the opportunity for things to die back and rest, there can be no chance for new growth. I just really think it doesn’t need to be quite so looooonng. One, maybe two months tops should be sufficient, six is just taking the piss.

It does mean though that, in some twisted and definitely unhealthy strive to survive, I develop these long and complicated fantasies, full of desperate longing for summers that I’ve never actually experienced. It’s not as if previous summers I’ve had have ever been bad, but the ones I imagine are so much more involved – seeped in a kind of childish romanticism. You want an example? (TBH you’re getting one anyway, so tough if you answered no). I watched a film the other morning whilst wallowing in the bath called Call Me By Your Name. Whilst I can’t recommend it enough for its story (the blossoming of a relationship between 17 year old Elio and his father’s graduate student Oliver), acting (Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are actually ridiculous) and cinematographic excellence, it was the timeless shots of Italian countryside that got me right in the feels. Artlessly crumbling villas drenched in sunlight and shadow, winding roads leading nowhere and bracketed by fields of gently wavering golden crops, effortlessly beautifully chaotically stacked tables in the garden laden with fresh fruit and coffee at dusk. I felt practically sick I was do jealous. I’ve only been to Italy on a school trip, but watching that, it was as if there was an ache behind my ribcage for something that I knew should be mine. I’m not meant to be sitting in a terrace house in the middle of England working in recruitment. I’m supposed to be living in a secluded chalet tending to my home grown peach orchard.

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I’m not joking – I cannot recommend this film enough. 

Admittedly, I’m rather easily swept up with this kind of daydreaming. Whilst it’s not like I’ll get bored of wanting the above, it can evolve rapidly into needing instead to live in the Greek countryside following in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell (who’s Corfu Trilogy is something that everyone should read at least once in their lives, if not annually like I do) or run away to Canada and become a Mountie like in Due South. What I love about reading or watching good show; the opportunity to become completely absorbed in some other world, is possibly also the biggest problem.

That’s the trouble with imagination I think – it’s so easy to become disillusioned with what you’ve got and obsessed with what you want. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but it’s important to not do it at the expense of those things you already have. Being able to settle yourself and understand how lucky you are is a skill I think many should have but few ever manage to properly cultivate. With it being so easy nowadays to see how great other people have it, or how easily you can be tricked into believing someone’s supposed paradise by a well filtered photo, it can be difficult to appreciate the luxuries and joys you have.

I often think memory offers the same kind of temptation as social media and fiction, or at least it does for me. Things always seem very cut and dry in my rose tinted memories. Sure there are some rather upsetting or embarrassing events that I’m pretty sure I blow out of proportion, but the ability to warp definitely goes both ways. I’ve got memories of things I’ve done that practically glow with ethereal light hum with angelic choirs. My time at Glastonbury is a pretty solid example of this. Now, I know that I spent those five days stuck in a paradox of hysteria and almost debilitating anxiety (you can practically see the terror in my eyes – I don’t do well with new things), but all I can ever remember is how great it was. The sunburn, the terror of having to interact with so many strangers, the lack of showers, food, sleep or anything other than red bull and vodka fades away every time I think about it and all I can do is gush about how fabulous it was. And it was, but not in the all encompassing way I glamorise.  I would go again in a heartbeat, but would I be sensible enough this time round to realise that most of the things that were bad the first time will be just as bad the second time? I mean, dancing in the rain at 3 in the morning to the Proclaimers might sound like a great thing (which it definitely was) but nobody remembers the almost soul destroying 4 hour drive home in a car full of annoyingly pretty and definitely judgemental strangers whilst wearing clothes so wet that my knickers had to be tumble-dried twice.

I’m actually reading a book at the moment (I am just too topical) where the titular character has a perfect memory. As in perfect. He remembers every single thing; every sight, sound, feeling and conversation he’s every had in stark clarity, and it’s startlingly heart-breaking. There’s a unavoidable philosophical thread that runs throughout the book, questioning if such a talent is a curse or a gift. Is it better to be able to remember something perfectly, without sugar-coating or warping it, or is it better to have imperfect recollections and the freedom to remember something differently each time? Perhaps it’s safer to be able to forget something terrible and not have to relive it in painful detail, but does it outweigh the ability to truthfully remember the best moments of your life?

It’s an obviously hypothetical debate, as I’m about 97% that such a memory doesn’t exist, but it has led me to ponder a lot on the bus in the mornings on the way to work. Would I prefer to remember my previous summers accurately and reveal in the reality of them, or to continue to get lost in my fantastical imaginings and try to combat the heartache of knowing they’re impossibly untrue?

“Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed”

Michelle K., I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

Booksss