Wedding Bells and Techical Hells

Wedding Bells Title

THE SUN IS SHINING, THE BIRDS ARE SINGING, and I’m rescuing confused wasps left, right and centre. (Unlike nearly everyone else I know, I have a lot of love for a wasp. I feel that they get a lot of bad press for just living their lives and I relate hard to their spikey nature and urge to sting anyone who looks at them funny). Whilst there have been a few near misses with the weather, we have had at least two days of mostly blue skies and warmish sunlight so far this week, and I’m starting to feel mildly hopeful that winter might soon be over. Obviously I’m not getting too excited; no doubt next weekend will herald blizzards and terrible conditions to punish us all for getting too hyped up with the sun we’ve had, but I’m embracing it whilst I can.

Admittedly, my positivity has taken a slight knock these last couple of days though. Once again, Hans von Manshaft has deemed it necessary to give up the ghost. Poor TMM left the house on Wednesday morning to go to work only to discover a glaring alarm light and large puddle of brake fluid on the pavement and very much not in the car where it was supposed to be. Considering I don’t even drive, cars are very much the bane of my life and I am resentful that after all the money and attention we’ve given to Hans, he still thinks it’s appropriate to break every couple of months. I can’t help but feel soon might be the time to heed Mr B’s advice (“should have got a Dacia”) and send Hans off down the river in a flaming Viking boat. Until then, I am once again a complete and total “Bus Wanker” (opposed to usually, when I’m only part time) and poor TMM has had to resort to begging lifts from kindly work colleagues by doing his best puppy dog eyes.

We’re also currently contending with a broken fridge, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth after we had just stocked it full with the weekly shop. TMM has manfully defrosted the whole thing (there’s cool boxes of miscellaneous freezer surprise tuppawears all over the place) and we’re desperately clinging on to the faint hope that it might have just been a blocked fan. To be fair, if it is in the final death throes, it is really not the end of the world. We live in rented accommodation which, whilst not being the best for everything, does mean that broken household appliances actually fall under someone else’s remit. The only problem is that we had to speak to our landlord not so long ago to get the washing machine replaced, and being the nervy little buggers we are, there’s the slight concern he’s going to think we’ve started trashing the place for lols. However, I would rather end up with a new fridge than not, so if it’s not fixed by tonight, I’ll be pulling up my big girl pants and giving him a call.

Though if I’m being honest, it might have to wait until the weekend because the house is currently a pigsty and I can’t have anyone coming round to replace anything when I can’t even remember the last time I vacuumed…

On a much more chipper note, we did have a very lovely weekend attending the wedding of TMM’s younger brother. We are now officially the only unmarried and childless pair of that family group. Coincidentally we are also the oldest, which possibly says a little about our mental ages, so the baton falls to us to start actually (and in all grown up seriousness) planning our own nuptials. Though we sharn’t be planning the children (we’re definitely sticking to cats). Whist I am not the best wedding guest you could ever want (Introverts and Social Anxiety R Us), there’s always something nice about attending the ceremony, and I teared up at least 3 times throughout the day – which is definitely a winning sign. Everybody looked beautiful and TMM’s sister once again excelled herself at the flower displays and buttonholes. (She’s already been volunteered to do ours, thought I’m not sure if she knows it yet). I also felt slightly smug when I got a little thank you in the speech for doing the place settings and somebody whispered “she handwrote all these?!” in amazement.

TMM, I and baby Thea looking our best

TMM and I also excelled ourselves on the dance floor, which I think was a surprise to all involved. Admittedly, I love a good boogie as much as the next person, but I was quite content to sit on the side-lines this time. However, TMM took part in (and lost) a few drinking competitions with his sister. A foolish endeavour as everyone involved soon realised. She is actually a demon when it comes to pints and has never entered a contest she didn’t smash. Consequently he was a lot more easily influenced by the lure of the banging tunes. By 9pm, I had being lassoed and wrangled in and I actually don’t think we stopped dancing until 1.30am. Sensibly though, I has transferred to flat shoes early on in the evening and woke up the following morning with feet as fresh as a daisy.

It did become abundantly clear though that the TMM family share one very specific trait (other than having the worst luck with cars) – trying to keep them in one place for more than 5 minutes is like trying to keep hold of a bag full of eels. They’re basically weasels in people suits; adorable, but as tricky as hell to keep track of. TMM kept dragging me into dance circles before vanishing through doorways and reappearing twenty minutes later on the opposite side of the building deep in conversation with someone. His sister seemed to have some kind of teleportation device and popped up for the beginning of every song only to disappear and leave people bewildered and dancing with the faint outline of where she’d just been. The groom, doing his best groomly duty, managed to be in every conversation group I saw whilst also successfully wrangling various tiny dots who were zooming around the dance floor with all the gay abandon of, well, a kid at a wedding. I shared many bemused and slightly hysterical glances with the respective partners of the TMM clan each time we lost one of them, though Nan Pat did reveal with much glee that she used to do the very same thing to her husband, so at least we know their keeping up family traditions.

Poor TMM was slightly worst for the wear the next morning (he’s not used to such hard-core partying) and spent most of Sunday napping whilst I did a bit of DIY and finally dyed my hair. I’d been keeping the pink until the wedding because I’d, completely incidentally, managed to get it to perfectly compliment my dress for the occasion, but after 3 months with one colour I was starting to push the limits of my comfortableness with commitment. However I am now feeling fresh and funky with my new lagoon/atlantic blue shades. Though I do have to be honest, the general shape of my hair is somewhat less than satisfactory. I’m currently in the horribly awkward stage where it’s not long enough to do anything with, but not short enough to be cute and punky and I’m left looking a little bit like Wendolene from Wallace and Gromit. I’m having to keep firmly reminding myself that I need to stick it out, because if I get it cut I’ll only end up in this situation again in a month or so. Better to push through now and come out of the other side a stronger and more stylish person, rather than shy away from an inevitable event. Hopefully it won’t take long to grow out and soon I’ll be able to model a fashionable and adorable bob in all the colours of the rainbow.

In honour of the happy couple though (and in continuing from last week’s hilarious post), I’ve done a little digging in the Royal Imperial Dream Book to find some topical snippets. (I’ve decided I want to really get my £5 worth from this book, so you might want to strap in for a lot of these little epilogues over the next few weeks). Please excuse the dodgy camera angles – I was in charge of my own photography and you can very much tell.

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Drunkenness. This one kind of makes sense. Everyone makes friends when drunk, and whilst TMM might not have felt so chipper about it the morning after, I think on the night it sounds about right.

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Wedding & Weeping. This one felt suitable for all aspects of my week, and I thought it was handy they were right next to each other. Somewhat unsurprisingly, to dream of nice things such as weddings results in sadness and despair, and to dream of crying is actually a positive omen. Either way, I’ve got a bit of good and a bit of bad to go off.

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Bank Holiday Bants

Well hello all – how are we this fine April’s Day? I hope we all enjoyed our bank holiday weekend?

I wonder, if like me, there was some slight gnashing of teeth and beating of bosoms on Monday night at the prospect of having to return to work? Was their perhaps some overdramatic sulking and wailing at having to set alarms and knowing that they actually had to be heeded rather than gleefully ignored? Anyone else weeping into their new orthopaedic neck cushions (Aldi’s finest) because they were unwilling to give up on the life of casual freedom and unstructured frivolity they’d carefully cultivated?

Just me?

(Side note – whilst you may smirk at my old lady neck support cushion, which admittedly is a hideous shade of off cream and does smell a little odd, you might want to bear in mind that my headaches have dissipated radically and I’m pretty sure I’ve slept so deeply the past few nights I might have actually been dead. Nurdees to you).

To be honest, we shouldn’t really be surprised at my possibly overdramatic reaction and the return to scheduled living. Whilst I don’t exactly hate my job, be warned that if you show me the tiniest bit of freedom, I’m chomping at the bit for a life of unemployed luxury. I am definitely a lady of leisure at heart. Still, despite the slight cloud on the horizon, my days weren’t spent entirely full of moping.

Admittedly, Friday didn’t go quite as energetically as initially hoped. I did have plans (such plans) as TMM was unfortunately not allowed the Friday off and I wanted to achieve lots in his absence. I didn’t. Instead, I painted a couple of storage boxes and watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (still an excellently trashy film) Mulan for the very first time (I got VERY BEHIND getting down to business to defeat Huns) and binged the entire first season of Marvels: Agent Carter (because Peggy Carter is life and I need to start preparing for the new Avengers film). TMM came home to find me very much as he’d left me, though I had at least made it downstairs onto the couch which is something to be proud of and definitely more than achieved on previous bank holidays spent on my own. (There was that one time he came home from work to find me in bed, in my pants, eating cold pasta out of a take out tub with my fingers. There has definitely been some personal growth since then).

Thankfully, TMM hadn’t expected too much from me and was happy enough that I’d put clothes on and managed to feed myself. He took me for a leisurely jaunt round the village to get me my daily requisite of fresh air and we finished the day by successfully making a fantastic chocolate Easter nest for my Padre.

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Look at this! It’s so fancy!

Saturday was a little more adventurous and we made it all the way to Manchester to visit dearest papa. He was dashing and dapper as always and we treated him to a light hipster lunch in a local café and a good natter. I came home with an excellent Easter haul, including chocolate eggs, pants (Harding Family Tradition – Easter Knickers. Everyone laughs but I swear to god Easter Kecks are one of the best annual customs) and a fantastic A4 framed portrait which now sits in pride of place on the new shelves. (TMM has decided in his wisdom that he wants to start a family gallery, so if you have any handy dandy painted portraits of yourselves, send them our way).

Family visiting continued on Sunday and we went for a rather spectacular Sunday Dinner at TMM’s sister. It’s a trait of the TMM family to prepare plates of food the size of the Himalayan mountain range and then demolish them like snakes unhinging their jaws whilst still maintaining excellent conversations and wrangling children/dogs with casual ease. (There’s still some contention amongst our friends as to whether anyone has ever actually seen TMM eat. We’re all pretty sure that we’ve seen the plate of food in front of him, and then an empty plate about 5 minutes later, but nobody knows what happens in the middle). It’s fascinating for me, one of nature’s slowest eaters (I’m basically a cow, I like to be constantly but leisurely chewing all the time) though it does inevitably mean I finish last and there’s usually something left on my plate because my stomach can’t cope with the amount of glorious chow that’s been presented to it. It’s the curses of being a weedy, lazy child in amongst a healthy and dangerously sporty crowd, but I don’t think they hold it against me. I held my own quite well this time though, and any lingering dismay at my failure to finish was quickly hidden under the chocolate cornflake cake the size of an oven tray absolutely drowning in mini eggs and maltster bunnies I made for pudding.

It also can’t be said I squandered the long weekend in my typically couch potato-y way. TMM was not to be dissuaded by the drizzling weather and over two days managed to make sure I got more day light than my poor pale, winter shrivelled body was prepared for. He’s got some ordinance survey maps of our local area on his phone and dragged me out to enjoy the beauty of nature with him. We walked for HOURS; literally a million steps (read: about 20,000) and to be brutally honest I’m surprised I survived. To be quite honest though (and don’t tell him this) I rather enjoyed myself and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air and do some exploring. I may have done a little whining and huffing, but it was only to be expected, and I think it would have confused us both if I’d gone for it whole heartedly.

We also tired our hand at a spot of geocaching (verb- to ferret around in hedge rows and fields looking for hidden treasures following maps and coordinate, or ‘treasure hunts for grown ups’) which was rather exciting, if a little damp, and spawned a new, slightly risqué game called “Geocache or Poo Bag?!” We had a 60% success rate, which considering it was our first and the fact most of them had been originally placed in 2014 is rather good I think. Admittedly, there weren’t quite as many super exciting treasures as I had hoped for (mainly there were pieces of paper with notes and such like from previous hunters), but we did rather enjoy ourselves. It’s also got TMM’s groove going and he’s already started following numerous different geochache instagram accounts (a lot of them look a tad more exciting than ours). Expect further updates as his passion develops…

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The secondary discovery of the walk; I promise I’m excited under all those layers.

Honestly though, I do have to admit that a lot of this really pales into insignificance because I got to play with puppies this weekend.

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PUPPY PILE

Oh. My. Lord. I mean, I love a puppy as much as the next girl, but good god were they cute. I have never actually been in the vicinity of such tiny pups before and it’s probably good because I was completely useless and unable to do really anything except fuss them and take a ridiculous amount of photos on my phone. I’ve been trying to convince TMM to let me have one (I was not above trying to hide one under my jumper on the way home) but he’s annoyingly sensible and keeps banding about weak excuses like “we have full time jobs and wouldn’t be home to look after it enough” and “we live in rented accommodation and aren’t allowed”. I’ve happily said I’ll give up work and hide the dog whenever the landlord turns up, but so far it’s not going in my favour.

Still, I am not to be dissuaded and I’ve decided that if I am not destined to be a proud puppy parent, I can at least pressure my mother into it. I basically managed to force a cat on her when I was 18 through a carefully constructed campaign of blanket social media cat coverage (emails that said “CAN I HAVE A KITTEN” 7 millions times on the hour, every hour), repetitive bullying and really annoying whining, so I’m pretty sure that I can recreate the conditions now.

To support my puppy petition, I’ve even made this handy and completely impartial pros and cons list to help her decide:

Pros
Great company – dogs have endless and undying love to give
Exercise – the dog can take her for walks along the local beaches and make sure she’s staying healthy and fit
Soft – they are so cuddly
Safety – the dog would protect her from any dangerous marauders who might have devious designs on her or her property
Socialising – everybody wants to pet a dog, so it’s a great way to make friends (and influence people)
Comfort – especially whilst her house is still in such disarray from the recent floods, the dog can provide a warm body and give her plenty of hugs and furry dog kissed.
Adorable – I mean, it’s a dog. Come on.

Cons
None. There are literally no cons. Puppies are great.

I mean, I can’t she how she can argue against this logically, rational and well thought out argument. Puppy anyone?

Shelf Life – Give a girl a book, she’ll read for a day. Give a girl a library and she’ll read forever

Rejoice Readers, for I have good tidings – Spring has finally Sprung! It is upon us in all it’s majesty and I for one am immensely grateful. The clocks have changed, the days are longer and if I hear one more person threaten me with another terribly named weather front, I will pitch an absolute fit. I have tasted sunshine and felt the soft summer zephyr on my face and I will be damned if I’m going to let the promise of another snowy weekend dampen my cheer.

To fully welcome the season (and bite my thumb at any lingering wintery atmospheric conditions) I’ve commissioned a lovely spring wreath to festoon my front door curtsey of the almost not quite but soon to be sister in law. TMM and I regularly drive past an adorable little house that really pulls all the stops out for year round seasonal displays and I’ve been completely bewitched by their practice of having a beautifully topical wreath always viewable. Last October, they had the most spectacular tea tray sized one made up of stunning coloured miniature pumpkins that must have weighed and absolute ton. At Christmas they had a lovely simplistic arrangement of driftwood and currently they’ve got one made up of beautifully painted pastel eggs. In my infinite wisdom, I’ve decided we’re going to up our game and give them a run for their money. TMM’s sister has been attending a flower arranging course over the past few months, and paired with her fashion design University degree, it’s done me very well. I’m expecting great things from her for the rest of the year. My house is going to look freakin’ fabulous.

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Look how pretty!

We’re not doing too badly on the inside of the house either. TMM hasn’t quite fully got into his fitness groove but now that things are a bit tidier, he’s back onto his daily yoga routine (Bucky is incredibly interested in this and likes to help in his own, incredibly unhelpful, way). I have done absolutely nothing to improve my fitness (because I am forever destined to be a potato wedge and will definitely be one of the first to go when the zombie apocalypse finally happens upon us) but project wise it’s all going quite smashingly. Over the weekend I managed to get a bit of a stomp on with the wedding place settings I’ve been tasked with for TMM’s brother’s wedding. Admittedly I have had them for a few weeks, but I’m finally on the home stretch now and am hoping to have them finished by Saturday, with 3 weeks to spare. After that, I’ve got a couple of personal requests from my best Woo for her yoga studio-cum-delightfully decorated bedroom and then I should be completely up-to-date with my commissions. I’ve still got plans for our living room (TMM shudders) but once the craft corner is re-vamped and everything is stocked in delightfully decorated and sensibly labelled boxes (FINALLY, says Woo, who has been far more involved in our house that she ever thought she would be), it’s going to be a dream.

A huge chunk of the work is done now that the bookshelves are finally finished (TMM breathes a huge sigh of relief) and as promised, please find a picture of them in situ. I’m pretty chuffed with how they’ve turned out and the amount of space they’ve given us is actually a little ridiculous. I think we’ve both been a little panicked at how much room on there is (bookshelf number 5 in the corner has two completely empty shelves!) and TMM has demanded an immediate trip to the nearest bookshop and is chomping at the bit to start stocking up. I don’t think he actually has any idea of what books he wants to buy, but that’s never stopped him before. It’s more the prospect of having them there, ready and waiting, that he needs. I think he’s quite taken with the ides of an “anti-library” (a term I learnt from an article my dad pointed me to – please see the link below**) and the notion of being surrounded by so many unread books; the constant and steady reminder that there is an infinite amount of knowledge and experience available and the never-ending strive for personal improvement through learning (Or, I dunno, he just looks the look of it). I, on the other hand, am slightly panicked to know that I will probably never be able to read all of the books we will own in our lifetime and more often than not find comfort in picking up a well thumbed old favourite in favour of something new, because I aim for contentment rather than excitement. Still there’s a safety in unread books in that there is always something there to interest, engage and teach me, so whatever our reasoning, our library can continue to flourish.

These new bookshelves have also meant that we’ve been able to slightly categorise the books we already have (because we’re geeks with mental health issues and we can’t help try and identify patterns) and helped me flesh out a blog idea that TMM suggested a few weeks ago. He sent me a snapshot of a couple of questions that someone had asked regarding their favourite books, and whilst we were restacking, I couldn’t help but start to answer them for myself…

(I do warn you now, the answers get a tad incestuous because 1) I cannot ever just pick one answer to a question and 2) a lot of the things I love about one book overlap with the rest, which is why I love them in the first place, but I promise I’ll try not to repeat myself too much).

So, because it’s best to go big or go home, I’ve started with the hardest question. Favourite book of all time. And just to be annoying, I’m not going to answer it, because this is a stupid question. Seriously, who can pick a favourite book? It’s impossible. Anybody who can categorically chose one book to hold esteemed above all others is clearly an alien or an android and shouldn’t be trusted.

Ironically perhaps, considering my anger at the previous question, I have actually pinpointed a Favourite Series, though it is a bit of an extraneous question really, because all of the books mentioned (with the notable exception) are favourites of mine. Still, I can’t let a book post go by and not mention Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I have gushed about these so much I have managed to make at least 4 other people read them (3 bought their own versions, the other was bought them as a Christmas present along with the threat of death if he didn’t read them). A series that comes with 6 novels (so far), a novella, a couple of short online stories, an audio book, additional comics and the one fantastic rap by Doc Brown is something that deserves commendation. The fact the actual stories are pretty fab doesn’t hurt either.

The next question is slightly easier, though not much because I literally cry at everything. A book that made you cry – let’s be honest. It would probably be easier to find one I haven’t teared up at. I mean, I’ve cried at lots of books. Sometimes I just cry because I love them that much, but I think the one that stands out for making me actually ugly cry is The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The whole Northern Lights trilogy is stunningly moving and evocative, but I’m pretty sure I started crying about two chapters in and didn’t stop until about three days after I’d finished. Between losing favourite characters, having to endure biblical wars and ending on bittersweet endings to relationships you were convinced would survive, it’s a bit of heartbreaker.

The next choice made me cry too, but I hardly think it’s surprising. Naming a book that changed your life is possibly an obviously answer for anyone that knows me (and probably even for people that don’t). If anyone ever has to do a Mastermind episode on my life (it could happen!), Harry Potter will definitely come up. That series has had an actually ridiculous impact on my life. I cried, I laughed, I went to midnight opening sales and I bonded with my sister more than you’d ever think over those seven books. That story affected a generation of people world wide and I’m pretty sure it would be the answer to this question for more than just myself

To be honest, Harry Potter could probably answer nearly every one of these questions, including this next one. A book you always return to. Being who I am, I spend a lot of time retuning to books, because I fully adhere to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it”. Still, there are a couple of choices that I could easily pick from a line up to fit every eventuality in my life. One in particular is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Originally my sister’s (let’s be honest, most of these are), the copy of this that I have on my shelf is discoloured, crumpled, ripped in places and absolutely adored. It’s like a security blanket, a best friend and a diary rolled into one. It’s so embroiled in my life that each chapter reminds me of another time I read it; of a mood or memory or specific moment, and yet every time I pick it up, it’s a completely new experience.

The next question provides a bit of a U-turn and I’m almost ashamed to admit my answer. Worst book you’ve ever read. I am a tad sickened by this, but happy to give this title to Fifty Shades of Grey. Good god, could there ever be anything to beat that pile of badly researched, awfully written corrosive a-grade shite? No. No there could not. Unless Donald Trump rolled around on an ink pad and pressed himself against a piece of paper and published it. I can remember being sat in the bath reading a bootlegged copy of the second one on kindle (because like hell was I going to give any money to that cause) and absolutely raging, so much so that TMM threatened to confiscate it. Annoyingly, I had to read the whole series because I needed to know how truly awful it was, and let me tell you, that is a period of my life I will never be able to get back.

Conversely, my next answer brings nothing but sunshine and smiles to my life. Favourite childhood book. I naughtily have two answers here, but I read a lot as a child so you can excuse me. The first, Danny Fox by David Thomson, is a smaller yet perfectly formed trilogy that holds a place very dear to my heart. My wonderful Neens graciously allowed me to take possession of the family copies (dog eared, torn and adored) and they have prime place on the new shelf. Baby’s first crush (the Sailor), first feminist role model (the Princess) and first requested Christmas present (a Fox), they shaped my personality more than I think anyone could have expected. The second is The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and is possibly one of the most quoted works in my family (except maybe Blazing Saddles). A beautiful, funny, charming and perfectly imagined story, it’s something I would recommend that every parent read with their child.

Which leads on very nicely to the next question – A book you would recommend. Once again, I’ve slightly cheated here because I have two. They’re both books that I’ve shouted from the rooftops about though, and as my poor book club WhatsApp group will attest to, I have shouted about them a lot. The first you may recognise from previous blog posts – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Seriously, I cannot say enough about this book to make you understand how much you have to read it. It is summer joy wrapped up in one beautifully envisioned bundle and it’s as enjoyable to read now as it was when my Neens used to read it to us of an evening time when we were little. The second is the first of a trilogy (read all three. Do it) – The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. A decadently rich, wildly careening adventure full of erotic alchemy and gothic horror, it could not be more different to my previous recommendation but is by no means any less worthy of a look.

Now, as you may have guessed, nearly all of my answers for these are affected in some way by my family. I have been surrounded from birth by people who emboldened me to read everything I could find; who taught my to embrace my ability to devour the written word and who shared their own preferences and paramours that allowed me to find my own. The final question; Favourite Author, is a bit of a toughie, but I think there could really only ever be one answer. I can remember being absolutely fascinated by the artwork on the front covers the filled my father’s bookshelves as a tiny dot, and then being equally enthralled by the stories within as I got older and was encouraged to read them for myself. And I remember being so heartbroken that I cried like a baby when I learnt that he’d died. Terry Pratchett was a true artist who created a world so bold and bright that it will stand the test of time. His characters, his mythologies, even his turns of phrase are each as individual and irreplaceable as something can be and I am more than happy to lay down my fealty at the foot of his swivel chair.

So we come to the end of this week’s lesson. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little peek into my library (and do please share any of your own answers because I do have some shelves that need filling).

Before I go though, I’d like to leave you with this final thought – A good book makes you want to discover more, to immerse yourself in that world and find out everything you can. It should leave you hungry, frustrated and immeasurably improved.

** https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-you-should-stop-feeling-bad-about-all-those-books-you-buy-dont-read.html_

No Money, Limited Space and Knee Deep in Promises and Projects. The Perfect Time to Start Something New…right?

Hello my little sprouts!
I hope all is well in your little corners of the world? I trust you’re all as pleased as I am at the blooming of daffodils and crocuses that are springing up all along the pavements, and that you’re starting to tentatively put away those big winter jumpers and look hopefully at short sleeved t-shirts. Admittedly, the sudden spells of snow and somewhat biting winds that have been battering at the flowers are making it a tad difficult to commit to that summer wardrobe, but I’m maintaining a firm air of positivity. I have also been the busiest of all the bees the past few days and this post comes to you from a much needed and wonderfully relaxing bath. Fernando the somewhat poorly balanced rubber flamingo has been providing some excellent moral support (as has TMM who is currently prostrate on the bathroom floor using the toilet roll as a pillow and reading).

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I’ve balanced him artfully on my knee for this pic, because left to his own devices, he just floats around sideways with his beak underwater.

Now what could possibly have kept you so hectic this weekend you ask, slightly dreading the answer. Well let me tell you, I reply, my somewhat manic grin making your concern completely founded.
As you probably already are aware, I have a penchant for getting these grand ideas, fixating wildly on them and then starting production at the most inopportune times. This month’s somewhat poorly timed venture was a casual re-haul of the living room. It started somewhat innocuously, as these things often do, with a casual remark made by an unassuming work colleague in regards to a lovely little hexagon shelf on the Primark Instagram. Such a small, harmless gesture you might think. Just one friend showing another some nice yet completely banal household items. Nothing that could cause any issues there surely? Well let me tell you, that is most certainly not the case. Within two hours, I’d mentally changed the entire layout of our living room (and the number of bookshelves, because why have just 3 bookshelves when you could have 6??), all to accommodate one simple £6 shelf.
Of course, it then transpired that these shelves could not be found locally for love nor money (or even slightly further afield when I made my dad go hunting around Manchester too) but by that point it was too late. The damage was done, the Ikea website was loaded in three different internet tabs on my phone and my dreams were rapidly expanding far quicker than my purse was able to keep up with.
Poor TMM, who has learnt to take this sort of situation in his stride, allows my flights of fancy and has proven nothing but supportable (even through my customary and somewhat non surprising mini breakdown at the weekend). He promised to take me to Ikea, look at countless Pinterest boards and nod where appropriate whilst I rabbited on about colour schemes, layouts and paint prices. Admittedly, there was a slight hitch or two (broken car exhausts) that threatened to derail me, but my creativity is made of sterner stuff. After being encouraged to purchase the slightly cheaper and somewhat more suitable bookshelves instead of the glorious corner curving, dangerously expensive set I originally had my eye on, I ordered three (2 big, one skinny) shelves of finest Billy MDF and a couple of storage boxes directly from the Ikea website. Now, I do still feel slightly cheated that I didn’t get meatballs or the chance to ride round on the trolley, which is literally a highlight of my life next to going to the car wash. Last time we went, small children were left gobsmacked as I rode astride a rolled up mattress and pushed round the warehouse at high speed. However, whilst my Ikea fix was to remain unsated, it did mean that my early Friday finish could be spent buying the correct painting equipment. It also gave me the opportunity to have a complete spur of the moment switcharoo regarding the paint scheme and we could pick up a sweet little build it yourself green house for TMM’s growing bucket garden. It meant as well that we had the sensible option of removing all the books, bits and bobs and fill up the cwtch in preparation for the delivery on Saturday morning.

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Before the carnage but after the first haul – it is not always this messy, I promise you.

And deliver on Saturday morning they did, I can tell you! Not having many large scale items delivered, we’ve rarely had to deal with the dreaded delivery slot drama, where they give you a helpful 7 hour window and then proceed to turn up three days later. Our slot was narrowed between 7am and 11am, and no points for guessing what time they appeared. They even called at 6.30am to confirm delivery, though it didn’t really do any good because I immediately and unthinkingly declined, believing it to be a completely unnecessary alarm. However, that put TMM on red alert and he was dressed and ready to receive by 6.50am. Within 20 minutes, two adorable looking chaps (Bobble Hat and Beardie) in high viz and the worlds biggest lorry (or at least that’s what it looked like compared to our tiny dead end of a road) were outside, unloading boxes galore and watching with rather bemused yet thankful expressions as TMM carried them all easily into the house. I saw this all from my vantage point under the duvet, peering out of the bedroom window like some kind of hermit crab. I am completely useless with strangers, early mornings or heavy objects and it was decided to be best for all if I just stayed safely out of the way. Beardie was apparently most concerned to make sure we had a good building playlist and Bobble Hat nearly spotted me owlishly peeping out through the window, and by 7.45 everything was in and ready for construction, which was a rather novel experience. Usually our Ikea trips happen late afternoon and we’re building dining room tables at 11pm at night. To have half the battle already won before breakfast time is pretty encouraging.
I eventually deigned to move downstairs at about 9am and we had a chill morning eating oatcakes with TMM’s parents who’d come to help fix Hans von Manschaft (the car) and take TMM out for a walk and some good photo opportunities. I, in the meantime, managed to mostly successfully construct a greenhouse in gale force winds and snow flurries (much to the amusement of the chap from next door who was moving stuff round and was only noticed by myself after I’d said the C word several times and pretended to use the cover as a parachute). I then constructed a half width bookshelf for the bedroom and primed half of one of the big ones before TMM made it home. Definitely one of my more industrious days.
Sunday was spent in a haze of priming, painting in plum and carefully positioning.IT became abundantly clear that I am in desperate need of a workshop (or a tad more self control when it comes to DIY) when I got to the point of having completely taken over the green house and the living room with deconstructed slabs of furniture all over the place. There was also a rather heart-stopping moment halfway through the first coat of the colour paint (after two coats of primer because I will make this shit look good) when we (read I) started to regret all of my choices. The beautifully red wine colour I had been envisioning seemed to be more of a lurid shade of fuchsia and I was furiously calculating if I could nip out and get a time of the dark green I’d originally planned. TMM was terribly sensible though and suggested that multiple coats would improve the look of the thing and then took me out to town to take my mind of it. After returning from a soothing cinema trip to see the new Tomb Raider (enjoyable, but room for improvement in upcoming chapters, 3 stars) he was proven right and the whole situation seemed much better.

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I had been hoping to show you some pictures of the garishly pink shelves and Buck’s adorable yet badly placed paw print, but I accidentally deleted the photos. So instead, here’s Bucky just helpfully sat right in the way giving me a disapproving stare.

Except, that is, for poor Bucky. Due to the toxic nature of the paint (and the fact he’d managed to sneak in and leave a incriminating paw print on one shelf) he was banned from the living room and spent the night with his nose pressed against the living room door, pathetically singing us the sad songs of his people.
Monday (and my final day of holiday allowance) was for final coats and explorative walks – TMM was going slightly stir crazy and was, I think, concerned at my lack of vitamin D and exposure to daylight. We racked up an impressive 10000+ steps on my third day of being awake and out of bed before 9.30am. It was around 7.30pm (who knew how long the days could be?!) before I had my customary strop when there was the inevitable hiccup during construction (I shouted, got hugged, sulked, got shouted at, nearly cried, got passively aggressively encouraged and finally came to my senses) and we got the frames up with minimal injury. I think I may have partly been upset about having to go back to work and give up my free and carefree lifestyle so carefully cultivated in that long weekend, but who knows. I also, rather annoyingly, did have to give up on my design plans for the backboards in favour of sensibility and peace of mind, but I’ve still got a couple of ideas up my sleeve for embellishment (WILL YOU NEVER LEARN, I hear the Greek chorus cry from the side-lines).
Tuesday morning saw me up even earlier than normal to get the final coat on everything and after a mildly harrowing day at work, we got the backboards hammered into place, the shelves on and the touch ups touched up. The colours look rather splendid and after a complimentary coat of wax I think they’re going to be a bit of alright. Unfortunately I haven’t had time too refill them in a carelessly yet totally artful fashion, but rest assured you’ll have photos next week to show the outcome. Overall I reckon its going to be an improvement and is going to allow us at least two more justifiable trips to Waterstones so I’m taking the whole endeavour as a victory.
Now, about those other 3 bookshelves that need painting….
(And in answer to your question, I still haven’t got that bloody Primark shelf.)

And so I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new

Well it’s all been very exciting up this neck of the woods recently. With “The Beast From The East” making it’s way unrestrainedly through the country, there has been snow related chaos nationwide, so much so that I got to go home a whole half an hour early yesterday. I’m not complaining – I love a good snow day as much as the next person, but sometimes it does make you wonder how Great Britain was ever composed and disciplined enough to control an empire when we struggle to sufficiently grit major roads. Admittedly though, I think as a country we’ve been doing much better this time round than we have in previous years. I’ve barely witnessed any winter hysteria and the only person injured so far is TMM (and that was less of a physical concern and more of a personal slight – some young scrote threw a snowball at his testicles). To be honest, the best thing about the whole situation is the highly sarcastic and derisive nature we as a nation approach the snow calamatists with. *

* Sadly, I don’t think “calamatist” is a word, but it definitely should be, so I’m just going to go all Shakespeare on it and see if I can get it into the dictionary. Calamatist – noun – from Calamity – a person drawn to melodrama, overreaction and hyperbole.

It is communally known truth that we are unlikely to get any more than 2 inches of coverage, and that compared to the rest of the world, we get off incredibly lightly, and yet there still appear to be some poor souls who lose all sense or reason and flood to the nearest super market to clear the shelves. It seems not to concern them that most of the things they stock up on are perishable, or unlikely to be of any use in an emergency (I mean, who is stockpiling 0% fat yoghurt for this situation?!). I’ve found that these few idiots bring the rest of us together though, in a beautiful conglomeration of ridicule and mockery, as we all tut, shake our heads despairingly and share passive aggressive social media posts.

Things have seemed a littler perkier though, despite the unnecessary weather front, and I’ve decided to reflect such positivity in my blog this week. Over the last few posts, I feel like I’ve delved more deeply into wistful and morose introspection that I intended, and perhaps now is the time to try something a little more uplifting. Visiting my Mother last weekend has lifted my spirits and I think the Welsh country air has given me a boost. I’ve heard birds a’tweeting and seen daffodils spring into bloom and spent more time thinking about the things I love.

Love has indeed been in the air a lot recently. With all these designated celebrations and my numerous anniversaries (I don’t care what anyone says, I’m keeping them all. Why would I bunch them all into one specific date when I can spread the festivities? Since we’re not supposed to be doing presents, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep our first date, engagement and soon to be wedding anniversary separate). We’re apparently not the only lovebirds around the place either; Bucky keeps bringing his boyfriend home. It’s more surprising than not at the moment if we come home to find Mr Biggles (some big ass white cat from over the road who likes to help himself to our heating when we’re not in) not sitting at the top of the stairs, giving us his big eyes from behind the bannister. Considering how unhappy Bucky was when the other cat was with us (there was a lot of shade being thrown about and sad singing from under the bed) he seems rather taken with Biggles. For a while, we weren’t even sure Bucky was aware there was another cat in residence, but after we drooped him in front of Biggles and he did his sexy “let me rub myself all over the carpet in a sultry manner” in front of him, we’ve come to the conclusion they’re dating. They do make a rather pretty pair (I can’t stop myself singing “Ebony and Ivory”) and it bodes well for my dreams of becoming a crazy cat lady.

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Bucky, lying supine on my lap and dreaming fondly of his Biggles.

To this end, and in honour of such affirmative emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I love. Specifically, those unexpected little things that you discover throughout your life and that weave themselves into your subconscious. Odd bits and bobs that somehow always seem linked to a happy memory and fill you with a sense of wellbeing without ever being obvious intruders. Little happiness burrs that latch on and have a delightful habit of making you smile without you realising. I’ve been making notes of mine for a while; just scribbling them down so that when I’m flicking through my notes later, they’ll pop up and remind me of something wonderful. A lot of mine focus around the senses and I’ve been a lot better at identifying them since using the sense technique to help with anxiety.

(It’s a cute little 5-4-3-2-1 coping mechanism for helping yourself to remain grounded. You pick a sense and name 5 things you can identify with it. Once you’ve done that, you pick another and name 4, and so on and so on. It’s easier to start with an obvious one, like 5 things you can see and work onto the harder ones. By the time you’re really focusing on the 1 thing you’re smelling, you’ve become a lot calmer.)

1 x Smell – Honeysuckle

The waft of a honeysuckle plant in someone’s garden always makes me pause for a moment and inhale deeply. It’s like an automatic trigger and it makes me stop whatever I’m doing, regardless of what it is, where I am or who I’m with, just in order to get a good lungful. I don’t even think it links to a specific memory or certain time, it just always makes me feel warmer when I spell it. I think it helps that it’s such a beautiful and evocative word, because we know how I feel about those.

2 x Taste – Hot Tea & First Mouthfuls

This one is a little weird, because it’s not actually the flavours but instead the actions involved. Making a cup of tea and taking a moment to just sit, warm cup in your hands, and take a few sips is possibly one of the most calming things I think anyone can ever do. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing (I still categorically believe you cannot call yourself British is tea isn’t your go-to beverage in times of stress), a family thing (if you’re with my Mother or my Neens and you’ve not got a brew on, something’s dreadfully wrong) or just a me thing, but the ritual involved around tea is one of the key pillars in my life.

First mouthfuls is similar in a way; it’s a tradition that was never specifically imposed but has somehow become crucial to me. If I’m eating with someone, I cannot start eating until everyone has food and is tucking in. It can be a family gathering, a cake with chums or even just eating tea with TMM, but I can’t start alone. There’s just something fundamentally social and authentic about enjoying the first bite together.

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I mean, look how perfect that is. what more can you want?

3 x Sound – Cat Purrs, Spanish Seas & Singing

There is not much better in this world that the sound of a cat purring on your lap. It signifies comfort, ease and the satisfaction of knowing that a cat not only chose you, but was happy enough to settle in for the long haul. Bucky has a purr like a motor engine and when he gets going can actually be so loud you can feel it through your skin. Ptolly-mo (my first cat, currently rooming with Mother) is an accidental purr slag – you can tell that he doesn’t really want you near, but once you stroke his head he can’t help but start purring away. Bobby (my Mother’s other cat) is a bit of a tough cookie to crack, but when he scrunches up his disgustingly beautiful eyes and trills away, I feel like I’ve basically won at life.

Music is an obvious contributor to nearly everyone’s happiness burrs I think, and the right song can flood your system with joy. I’ve currently been stuck on Toto’s “Spanish Sea” which has recently been released and it’s been in my head so much it’s actually been the soundtrack to a few dreams, which is a sign it’s a keeper.

My Mother’s singing is possibly one of the most evocative sparks though. It’s a bit ridiculous now because all she has to do is open her mouth in a choir and I’m crying. I mean, they’re good tears obviously, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

4 x Touch – Soft Cotton, Supportive Arms, Knee Pits & Book Ache

Now I know this one is a family thing and I blame my sister and Mother for this. We spent countless hours in shops stroking smooth cotton items (we even had the “tummy test” where you had to rub it on your belly to see if it was soft enough – how we never got kicked out I will never know), but I find myself constantly running well worn blankets or silky sleeve cuffs across my lips. It sounds unaccountably weird when I write it now, but there’s something so comforting about brushing your lips gently with something smooth. I suggest you all try it and stop looking at me so accusingly…

Another weird one is something I specifically link to TMM, and I’m hoping he won’t judge me too much. He runs about 3000 degrees hotter than anyone I’ve ever met and is such a good soul, he always lets me put my cold feet on him in bed. He also provide truly excellent snugs, but there’s a bit when he pushes his hot knees (I mean, who even has noticeably hot knees?! My Man Muffin, that’s who) up into my knee pits and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing things ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly cold knee pits before, but boy let me tell you, when they’re warm it really makes a difference.

Possibly less weird (though probably not) is actually a specific memory more than a continually achievable feeling. I’ve been remembering this one a lot due to the current climate and my completely irrational terror of falling over. It was whilst I was still living partly at Papa’s in Manchester and was coming home one super slippery snowy day. It was getting dark and I had a treacherous walk ahead of me. I was dithering near the exit to the tram stop, trying to find a way of walking as quickly as possible without slipping or looking like a complete tit, when this lovely gentleman walked past, gave me a searching look and offered me his arm. Now, I am horribly socially awkward and usually would have died at this, but I was just so grateful to have a supportive arm. We didn’t talk much (it was windy as shit) but he half carried, half dragged me all the way down the main road before making sure I was able to carry on across the crossing and home alone. I can’t remember what he looked like or if I ever saw him again, but I often remember his kindness whilst I’m slip sliding my way to work.

The last one is, unsurprisingly, a little odd too, but more in a kind of self-destructive kind of way. It’s the kind thing hard-core readers will relate to and wince at sympathetically. It’s the moment when you realise you’ve been holding your book so long that your fingers have gone numb. The moment when you have to make the harsh choice to stop your chapter, mid sentence, to put your book down and massage some life back into your blood drained hand. The moment the pins and needles you’ve be mind over mattering make themselves known rather dramatically and you regret, fleetingly, picking up the pretty hardback copy instead of the easy kindle version. It’s a pain, but it’s also a badge of honour.

5 x Sight – Bright Sunshine, Snow Wind, Wrist Bones, Cat Beans & Full Bookshelves

Now sight is probably the easiest one, and I had trouble narrowing down to just these five. You realise though, that there are just some things that stick with you, year in and year out and will pop up after an age and surprise you into smiling.

Snow wind is one of these for me. It’s that bit when you’re walking; bundled up to the eyeballs, hands shoved deep into pockets and pink nose buried in scarf, when there’s a gust of wind from behind you and the top layer of snow powder shifts and dances across the floor. It’s fleeting, hardly noticeable and completely magical.

Now I know I’ve already mentioned cats once, but they just make me really happy so suck it. I challenge anyone, when faced with a tiny toe bean on a cat paw doesn’t just scrunch up their face with love. I mean, I think some people (weirdos) prefer baby toes (TMM does get rather broody when faced with tiny baby hands) but there’s not much sweeter than a curled up cat cushion that lets you lie alongside them and play with their toe beans.

I also have a similar kind of fascination with wrist bones (though most people definitely DO NOT let you lie alongside them and touch theirs). I just find the intricate play of skin, muscle and bone so delicate and I’m constantly amazed by the strength that can be held in such a fragile form. I’ve always liked hands and fingers; I love watching people play instruments or knitting, just to see the clever way they can manipulate whatever they’re doing so easily.

Bookshelves is rather shelf explanatory (LOLOLOL, see what I did there?) really. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t have that many bookshelves, or who has one with empty spaces. There’s something decidedly natural about a cluttered book shelf, filled with a mishmash of books in various colours, shapes, sizes and positions. I love when you can tell someone has just picked up a book to flick through it and placed it back haphazardly, or when a trinket has been left behind, slightly obscuring the book behind it. The signs of regular and routine use of a what is basically a stationary object shows a lot about the person who owns it.

The very last thing on my list (and kudos if you’ve made it this far) is sunshine. It’s probably a bit obvious, but that moment when a flash of warm sunlight falls across my face, obscuring my vision and leaving little flashes of gold afterwards is one of my most favourite things. I get unaccountably grumpy at work when someone shuts the blind to protect them from the glare; I would happily squint at my computer screen all day if it meant I could keep the sunny strips of light that lie across my hands. I’ve been known to rearrange entire rooms throughout the day to keep my chair in patches of sunlight, or there was that one time at University I spent three hours scrunched up on the windowsill with the laptop balanced precariously on my knee just so I could get the warm splash of light for as long as possible. I remember waking up when I was little and watching the dust motes dancing around in the streams of light and just knowing that for that moment, everything was alright.

Side note – I am equally as fascinated by, but not quite as desperately drawn to, moonshine. The past few days, or should I say nights (a ha ha) have been beautifully silhouetted by the moon doing its best to shine directly through our bedroom sky light and cast everything in ethereal shadows. Note, we do have a sky light in practically every upstairs room (bathroom included) because our landlord is apparently some kind of backwards vampire who designed this house with the fact he couldn’t sleep without constant light firmly in mind. I’m not complaining because it suits my predilections rather well, but I do wish he’d continued the theme through the whole house rather than deciding windows were a wonderful feature of the modern age for upstairs but were basically unrequired for any downstairs rooms. The living room tragically survives with a tiny postcard of a window at the far end of the room – no sunlight to chase there, I can tell you.

So there we have it. I think I may have possibly gone slightly overboard this week, but I’m taking it as a good thing that the one post I’ve dedicated to purely happy things is almost double the size of those which aren’t. I hope some of my happiness burrs inspire you to think about some of your own and bring a little unexpected smile to your face.

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Just look at this beautiful sunny window. I even remember exactly when and were this was taken because I was to pleased with the perfect size and placement of it. Admittedly, I did go and ruin the whole thing by having a nose bleed so forceful and lengthy that my father actually became concerned enough to text his nurse GF for guidance to ensure I wasn’t dying. Still, it was a great window.

The Write Can Never Be Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long Live the Written Word

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If only.

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

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