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.

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You’ve Got to Be Crafty to Be Kind

Knit Blog

It’s getting cold out there folks. Regardless of what the weather people keep trying to tell me, whilst wearing the plastic smiles of secret hostage victims on their faces, it is not going to be an Indian summer. Summer is dead and gone and the other morning TMM told me it was dark at 7am and I had to have a little weep. Winter is Coming, and I have already started to bring out the Bear. That coat (a most glorious fake fur beastie that makes me look like some kind of Russian oligarch) has got me through a lot of hard times and it’s been waiting patiently by the door, biding it’s time in the limelight.

The cold weather has driven us up into the Cwtch again though, in search of warmth and comfortable reading spots (which is never a bad thing). TMM is like a man possessed and has read about 4 books in the past month. He’s doing a themed Halloween book selection this month and he’s nothing if not persistent when it comes to achieving his goals. His instagram (and our CuriousReads account which has been reactivated with much aplomb) has been awash with excellent filtered pictures and superbly giffed stories detailing all the books we’re working our way through. I’ve been letting the side down a little though; after blitzing through one book in a night, I’ve only managed to read half of my current choice – though not for want of trying. It’s a lovely book and one that’s been on my list for a while (“The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden) but I’ve just hardly had the time to pick it up recently. Hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to get a good stomp on though, because TMM has already eagerly lined up my next few choices.

I do find that the chilly weather and dark nights always make me feel like I want to start crafting again too – though I’m not sure if it’s because it speaks to the Victorian lady part of me, or because there’s there ever encroaching subconscious panic that Christmas is on the horizon and I really need to start preparing. I really haven’t done much of anything recently and I do miss it. I always like to keep my hands occupied, and there’s something much healthier about making a pom pom or sewing a piece that just playing solitaire on my phone.

The trouble is I suffer pathetically from an overabundance of “wokeness” and although I desperately yearn to start creating again, I can’t help but focus on the waste. I’ve got so many projects lying scattered around the house; ones that are either finished and have nowhere to go except into drawers, or ones that are half done but need something else purchased in order to be finished. I’m loathed to go out and buy more materials if I know they aren’t going to make it anywhere, and we really are starting to run out of room now to house all my crap.

It all came to a bit of a head on Sunday, and I had a minor existential crisis on Sunday night after watching a Country File Special on how all of our native species were dying out due to our cavalier attitude to Nature and caring for their habitats. TMM came downstairs to find my huddled up on the couch in my onesie with a cup of tea and a right sulk on and had to prise out the reason for my truculent mood. Once I’d farted about on about my general life impotence and feelings of uselessness and unworthiness in the face of helping the world, he very gently suggested I try getting rid of some of the wool by starting a new knitting project. He deftly managed to head off any further arguments about pointlessness by suggesting preparing for Christmas, or looking to charity. He brought down the 3 carrier bags of spare wool, handed me some needles and told me to get to it.

And get to it I did. Once I actually started looking, there are hundreds of websites and organisations out there looking for support. I mean, I know it’s kind of obvious, but I don’t think I realised quite how easy it was. Within 30 minutes, I’d found about 15 different websites who just wanted blankets, scarves, hats or just square patches to support the homeless, hospitals and children. No cost, no commitment – just asking for people with some free time to spend it making some simple pieces that could be used to help. What’s not to love?

I emailed a couple of the websites to check they were still live and interested in receiving items (they were) and I’ve even made myself a little handy note guide on my phone with each organisation’s name, what they’re looking for and where to send it. I’ve narrowed down my top three though (didn’t want to over face myself or promise too much too early) to start supplying.

Knit for Peace (Keeping Britain Warm) want squares (knitted or crocheted) in bright colours to sew together into dressing gowns for people. I love this because a square literally takes no time at all, and involves very minimal skill. It’s perfect for all those scraps of wool that are lying about that you can’t bear to throw away but aren’t big enough for an actual project. Also, their website had a picture of a very snazzy elderly lady in a brightly coloured patchwork dressing gown. She looked like a fabulous version of Elma the Elephant.

4bysix is a street wear branch that has all these awesome projects to help the homeless. Every item they sell is accompanied by an item for a homeless person donated on your behalf. They provide the patterns for what they can accept (I’ve just started a hat in a fetching shade of sea green) and if you contact them they’ll even send you the yarn to use. All you have to give is your time and your skills. Also it’s well trendy, so, y’know.

One that I saw and really loved the idea of was Project Linus UK. It started in America in 1995 and is so called because of Linus from Snoopy who always had his trusty security blanket. Basically, they just want to give vulnerable or sick babies, children and teenagers a “sense of security and comfort” by providing them with their own blankets. As they’ve said in their bio “we cannot reach out to every distressed child, but we can provide them with tangible evidence someone cares” and if that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, there’s no hope for you.

There are hundreds of thousands of other charities out there; helping families who’ve lost children, pets, even penguins who need jumpers – literally anything you can think of and could want to help. Sure, it’s not saving the world, but it’s doing something for someone and that’s got to be worth it.

~

For those of you interested, these are just a few of the links to the websites mentioned above, but seriously – just google and you’ll find more.

http://www.knitforpeace.org.uk/keep-britain-warm/

https://www.4bysix.com

http://projectlinusuk.org.uk

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate/donate-goods (this has some great general patterns of things you can make and ideas of where to send them)

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).

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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.

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.