Monday Evening Motivations

I’m sure the people in my life are going to get quite fed up of me extolling the virtues of Faversham at some point soon.  Maybe they already are and are just being polite… but I’m pretty sure 90% of the stuff I bother to post on social media these days relates to Faversham in some way and I probably talk about it in similar proportions too! I can’t help it.  I just find it a really fascinating, bizarre, quirky place that is pretty much in a world of its own… but it’s a very nice world to be a part of.  Even when it’s not.

So – apologies – but this month’s post is only a continuation of that trend.

And one of the things which I am most enjoying about living here is that – particularly in Summer when the days are longer – I can spend my evenings after work in the places which were an inspiration to me even long before I moved here.  Oyster Bay House.  Seasalter Beach.  Oare Nature Reserve.

I’ve started to make ‘Monday Evening Motivation’ an unofficial official thing.  Time after work which I would usually spend in front of the tv, aka mundane Monday evenings, are now about being alone and immersed in some sort of nearby nature instead.  Walks I’d usually reserve for a weekend are now Monday’s desserts, and I love it.

I would encourage anybody who reads this to consider doing something similar.

These photos were all taken during such occasions:

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If you’ve not had a lone soiree with the great outdoors lately, I hope that these pictures might just inspire you to. So much to see and feel.

Song of the Day: Baseball Gregg – Pleasure & Pain

I don’t know too much about this band or this song, but it’s a perfectly chilled Summer tune.  Enjoy!

The Phenomenon of A Favourite Record

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My favourite album – ‘The Real Thing’ by Faith No More – turned thirty years old this month and quite simply I am in awe of that, because I’m still listening to it after all these years, and it’s still sounding as fresh as it always has done.

I’m not an especially young person – which is somewhat depressing to admit – but only in very recent years have I started to acknowledge how long I’ve actually been around for.  Up until what still seems like not long ago, many things still seemed ‘new’, but somewhere between then and now, some of my friendships passed the quarter-century mark, and some of the music I grew up with celebrated similar anniversaries of dancing around in my lugholes.  I can clearly remember when these things were still brand new to me, which is why this realisation seems so bizarre.

Older generations will understandably think little of these timescales in comparison to theirs, but to me they’re still amazing.  Time itself is amazing.  We live, day-to-day, feeling as though today isn’t that different to yesterday, and won’t be that different to tomorrow either, but somewhere it all changes.  Life is only punctuated by the sleep which separates one day to another yet somehow, somewhere, we turn from babies throwing tantrums to fully-blown people.  Possibly still throwing tantrums.

To think that there can be music out there which still feels as magic to listen to as the first time you heard it, decades ago, is remarkable to me.

 The Real Thing has traveled with me for most of my life.  Having a big age gap between my older brother and sister was a blessing in introducing me to great music at an age where without them, my choices probably wouldn’t have extended much beyond the top 10.  I used to hear them playing this record in their bedrooms or through their Walkmans (the cassette ones with the metal headphones that had that awful, itchy foamy stuff around the ear-pieces) on long, family car-journeys.  And then I got into the music too, and this one remained a firm favourite.

I’ll refrain from going into detail about why I like this record and what it has meant to me over the years, as that sort of thing is unlikely to interest anybody else, but I just want to take a moment to publicly appreciate records like this, and music’s meaning and power generally.  It’s not just a fleeting form of entertainment, but it can also be a life-long companion, and a soundtrack to many cherished and perhaps not-so-cherished yet significant moments.

Do you have a record that means to you what The Real Thing does to me?

Song of the Day: Faith No More – Epic

An obvious choice for this month’s post, but a good choice all the same.  I was torn between this and, ‘From Out of Nowhere’ which I love just as much. The final couple of minutes – largely instrumental – are particularly emotive.  I just can’t believe this stuff is thirty years old.  Well done FNM.

Let’s Be Boats

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This year I have started to get back into sailing.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a fib… as it makes it sound as though I used to sail all the time.  I didn’t.  I went on a couple of school trips to a place called Calshot, near to Southampton, during which I complained about the rain and getting wet (!), and concocted various reasons to excuse myself from activity so that I could instead sit and gossip from the sidelines with my friend Hutch, who felt the same way I did.

Back then, I had nowhere near the same amount of enthusiasm for nature and the outdoors that I do now.  Nowadays, there’s not much that gets my adrenaline rushing more than being completely exposed to the elements, even vulnerable to them.  The idea of being on a boat in the middle of a rainstorm, with saltwater splashing into my face, is actually quite appealing to me, hence why I was keen to get back into the hobby I never had, especially living so close to a sea I seldom otherwise… see (sorry).

Out on the boat the other day, I realised that sailing is a hobby which gives me thrills and energy, and really does “put the wind in my sails”.  I then thought about that expression a lot.  We use it all the time, and we know what it means, but I don’t think I ever quite had the same appreciation for it that I do now.

When the wind hits a sail at the correct angle, a boat moves forward with much aplomb, crushing the incoming waves with ease.  What’s impressive about this is that the wind is, of course, a natural force.  The movement of the boat does not come at the press of a button, but a set of natural conditions to which you have to work your sail accordingly in order to get the most from it.  Get your boat facing the right way, and tighten the sail to the right extent, and off you go.  Nature takes care of the rest, and movement becomes effortless.

And perhaps that’s what everything we do in life should be like.  All of those natural things that fuel us – passion, interests, hobbies, talents – those are our winds, those are what can get us moving along on an exciting ride, but only so long as we are facing the right way, and have set ourselves up correctly.  Wind against a flapping, neglected sail won’t do much at all, in the same way that you’re unlikely to do anything thrilling with your interests if you don’t align all the other relevant conditions, like the time and place to execute them, and the way to execute them.  Take care of those, and nature will do the rest.  Things will move.

If we can align things so that we can feel the wind in our sails more often, then who knows what adventures we’ll have…

Song of the Day:  Benji Hughes – Baby, It’s Your Life!

“Have fun with your life”.  Well said, Benji.

 

 

 

Strength

People talk about strength as a positive trait, something which everybody should aspire to have, but I’m not sure I agree with – or like – how it is all too often portrayed.

Somebody who feels very passionately about something, and is particularly forthright and unwavering about what they believe in, may often be labeled as “strong”… but what’s not strong about acknowledging the merits of different opinions, and possibly even changing your own?

Likewise, we tend to label people as “strong” when they don’t seem to be fazed by life’s challenges, but what’s not strong about admitting to struggling, maybe even crying at times?

And “strong” people are often portrayed as life’s ‘winners’ – consistently achieving, succeeding, getting the gold – but what’s not strong about not even wanting to compete in the first place?  What’s not strong about not needing to win?

Strength is defined only as the ability to apply force against resistance, but people seem to forget that this force can come from a multitude of directions.  Personally, I think the truest forms of strength are those which also embody elements of “weakness”.

The strongest people I know don’t even realise it about themselves.

To me, that’s what strength is.

Song of the Day:  Bnny Rbbt – Anchor

This song is sufficient measures of both weird and cute.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The Freedom of Wanting Less

Not so long ago, if I were to have had a week off work I would have felt as though not using it to travel abroad would render it a missed opportunity.  Free time is finite, after all, and so it made sense to put any big ol’ block of it towards journeying further afield.  There’s only so far you can travel during a weekend, so your Annual Leave is what supplies you with that infrequent option to go to those exotic places beyond, and if you want to make the most of life, you need to capitalise on those opportunities.

That was very much the logic of my twenties; before the mortgages and the taxes and the service charges and the insurance premiums and ALL OF THOSE OTHER MISERABLE SOUNDING WORDS that do – regrettably – take a hold of you, enter your daily vernacular.  I knew that buying a property would hinder my ability to live the same kind of lifestyle as I had been able to enjoy previously, and though it filled me with slight trepidation, I knew that it had to be done.  I love my parents very much; but in life one needs- above all else – to be able to live independently; and whilst they allowed me a lot of privacy and we always got on, I needed my own kitchen where I could produce my own dinners, burn my own spuds, and replenish my own bin-bags.  I have absolutely needed the mental struggle of getting used to living alone, and the freedom to paint my living-room wall bright green; and my parents needed their guest-bedroom back and the additional space in their fridge.

I don’t have a lot of disposable income these days; I don’t know many people who do.  Just being alive is incredibly expensive; and when you’re trying to afford all of those boring fundamentals like water and gas on a single salary  – as well as trying to sustain the more emotional of the human needs, like a decent social life – you have no option but to carefully consider the destination of each pound you spend.  You want to make the monthly payslip stretch as far as it can possibly go without having to miss out on the activities that fill you with joy; and much of this is about sacrifice.  You learn to cut back on luxuries like eating out, (“spending twenty quid on something you just shit out the following day”, as a like-minded friend so eloquently put it as we rejoiced our financial epiphanies in unison during a recent car-ride) because you know you’d rather put the money towards a train-ticket to visit a friend.  You learn to see beyond the brand-names and realise that Tesco’s own coconut rice tastes just as good as Mr Ben’s.  You almost encroach Narnia whilst digging out those long-forgotten old clothes at the back of the wardrobe which probably suit you better now anyway, because they at least make you look younger.  Aldi becomes a deity; because if honey-roast peanuts cost you an arm and a leg in Waitrose, then there they’ll cost you a fingernail clipping.  And you do adore the occasional ramekin of some good old honey-roast.

Ultimately it becomes quite liberating.  You realise that many of the things you thought you needed in life you actually don’t, and that by cutting back on those things, you have more financial and mental freedom to focus on the important things: spending time with people you care about.  Sharing fun experiences together.  Just talking.  Moments which invigorate your spirit and soul don’t actually need to cost you much at all, and you can get so much more satisfaction from those than you could an over-priced perfume, or a – let’s be honest here – completely pointless cocktail served in a thimble that makes you pull a face after one sip.  There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a little bit of luxury every now and again; but it’s not something you need to spend your life chasing.

During my latest spell of Annual Leave, I realised I didn’t actually want to go anywhere like I may have wanted to before, even if I had been able to afford to.  All I wanted, was to stay at home and use the free time during the days to make the most of the sweet, humble little town I live in.  To cycle along the river and slip over in the mud.  To walk along the cobbled streets and listen to my favourite songs.  To make small-talk with strangers and pat their little yappy dogs with silly names (no offense to Olive’s owner).  To sit at the duck-pond where I used to go with my Grandad when I was a little girl, and reflect upon the magic of life and time.  I realised that whilst things haven’t felt especially easy in recent months; I don’t actually need as much as I sometimes think I do.

When I think to some of the occasions in my life in which I have felt particularly sad; it has often been because there was something I wanted but was struggling to get: a change in my life of some sort, to move out, a nicer set of teeth, for somebody to like me back, to be better at something… it’s actually of very little surprise that in Buddhism, desire is seen to be the root-cause of suffering.  To want can be – and is –  a great source of direction that should never be dismissed without considering the reasons why; but feeling sad about things you don’t have is a negative energy that won’t help in changing things.  In fact, it will only serve as a further resistance to the possibility of that change.  In an instance of exceptional timing, I came across this quote and it seemed to slot in perfectly with many of the things I have been thinking about recently:

“When you love what you have, you have everything you need”

There is definitely an exciting freedom to be gained; and new, energising lease of life to enjoy, from wanting less, and appreciating more.

Song of the DayWeezer – Byzantine

Weezer are one of my all-time favourite bands; I love the fact that their new album coincided with my week off.  This is such an upbeat song and I love the lyric within, “it’s only complicated if you want it to be”.  Damn straight.

A Lesson from Cats

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Insta: @sophiekemz

Several weeks ago, I started to think about what our social media news feeds may look like if cats were to use it.

And then I acknowledged – not for the first, second, third… or even hundredth time – that I am slightly strange.  I am fine with this.

But it made me start questioning a great number of things.  If cats had the capability to manage a social media page, do we think they’d do it in the same fashion as humans?

Would they apply filters, maybe a set of human ears and lips?  Would they upload photos of a bowl of Whiskas and attach hash-tags like #foodporn, or check-in from next door’s shed?

Would they celebrate life’s major milestones with a status update for their fellow felines:  caught first mouse, had first kitten, neutered?

“In a relationship with: Muffin from number 32”

I thought about this for several minutes, then concluded that I don’t think they would.

I think one of things I like most about cats, is that they don’t really give a toss.  They just live life in the exact way they want, and there is something quite blissful about such nonchalance.

Cats do whatever they feel, and most of the time that means sleeping on whatever comfortable surface they can find, or going out for an explore.  They just live in their own little cat-world and have no real idea of anything that’s going on around them; yet they’re savvy enough to know when there’s a remote chance of getting something to nibble on.  They know exactly what they want from life, and have their priorities in check accordingly.

They’ll just sit blissfully in the sun, legs akimbo, eyes closed in contentment as they feel the rays beating against their paws, until they feel – from several yards – the flutter of a bird.  Then they’ll exhibit more movement within the next five seconds than in the five hours preceding them.  Pounce!

And then, after all the excitement of this, they’ll give themselves a good lick and go back to what they were doing: sunbathing in a garden which to them represents an entire world, with owners who represent its entire population.

I think there’s a lesson we can learn from cats.

Song of the Day:  Aztec Camera – Salvation

I’m struggling to understand how it’s taken me 33 years to appreciate ’80’s Scottish new-wave band Aztec Camera.  This is a beautiful piece of music; a nice one to stroll along in the park to, watching as the aeroplanes scar the dusky skies overhead.

Ten Things You Do When You Live Alone

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Insta: @sophiekemz

1) Lock Every Window and Door Several Times Before Going Out

Leaving my flat takes an age.  In the warmer months, when I’d have the windows open, it took even longer.  There is not a drive away from my block of flats that doesn’t feature some kind of paranoia about whether or not I’ve closed and locked every single window and door, even though the reality is that I checked each about ten times before leaving.

2) Over-estimate How Much Mange-Tout You Will Need

Excess mange-tout seems to be a recurring theme in my flat… and probably my life in general, or so it sometimes feels.

I don’t normally have a lot of things in my fridge at a single time; I try to only buy the fresh groceries I really need and always like to use them up quickly, before they go off.  But mange-tout seems to be a little more stubborn than all of the other vegetables.  It’s flat little pods manage to mislead me frequently.  I always think that the contents of such a small pack should be gone within a couple of curries but… no… there is always a lot left over.  And I always forget, and buy more…

3 Eat Curry Every Day… Because You Can

…And because it helps use up all that mange-tout!  But also because before living alone, I would have to go out to a restaurant if I wanted to eat a Thai curry.  Now, I can make one every week if I so feel, and I can add as much crunchy peanut butter as I wish!  It’s a novelty that has still not worn off even now, after five months.  My stomach mightn’t appreciate it, but the rest of me does.

4) Arrange & Re-Arrange Your Bookshelves Until It Appeases Your OCD

The travel-writing books should take up the entirety of the top shelf, because they’re my favourites, and Bill Bryson should start the row because his surname begins with one of the first letters of the alphabet.  I’m happy if the remainder are just grouped by continent.

The second shelf should be for the various travel guides accumulated over the years, and the bottom shelf is the one for all those books with titles like, “The Little Book of Thinking Big” and “How Not to Worry” that I can turn to for inspiration when I feel flattened and depressed by the realisation that my mortgage, and ongoing need to buy bin-bags, have greatly reduced the possibility of needing the books on shelf two again.  Also includes a couple of anomalies in the form of over-sized journals to scribble in, and the Cilla Black autobiography.

5) Donate Cupboards to Things Others Wouldn’t

The Crisp Cupboard under the sink was quite unintentional but is what I personally perceive to be the jewel in my flat’s crown, and the first port of call after a hard day of work.  At the moment it’s in need of a freshen up; too many bags of Ready Salted left over from a cheap multi-pack from Tesco, but I’ll get there, and replenish without shame, with something a bit more exciting, like erm, Frazzles…

6) Consider a Jar of Pickled Onions a Treat Because You’re So Damn Skint

My philosophy with money since living alone is to try and make it stretch as far as possible by only buying the food and drink which I definitely need so that I can spend the rest of my money on trying to still have a life.  I’m quite happy with this arrangement, but there are still times when I feel completely torn.  I’ll never forget the time I walked around town for ten minutes deliberating about whether or not I should go back to the farm-shop and buy that jar of pickled onions in honey vinegar which cost £3.50 but looked at me seductively from the shelf.  I caved, as I often do for food, and, well,  I’m still enjoying them to this day, so perhaps it wasn’t such a needless purchase.

7) Celebrate Having Your Own Condiments

Never underestimate the power of this.  Your own condiments permit you to squeeze as much ketchup over your chips as you want, and it’s up to you, and you alone as to when you replace the bottle.  You don’t have to put up with that red spray of emptiness if you don’t want to, and if you see that thick, congealed bit of goo round the lid, take comfort in knowing it’s only your goo, a solace you can’t get from those provided in restaurants and pubs.

8) Over-Think

How much longer does the boiler have left?  Should I start saving for a replacement now?  How much will that be? What did that comment mean earlier? Was that a weird tone? Can a common cold be a symptom of imminent death? What am I doing with my life?  *And repeat*

9) Only Properly Clean the Place When Others Come Round

Well, I do like things to be tidy, no matter if it’s just me in the flat.  I’m not one to leave rubbish lying around or let the washing up stack-up.  I do like everything to be put away daily, and detest clutter.

But, clean the floors? Hoover? Polish? Dust?

Nah.  Life’s too short for that kind of nonsense.  I’ll save it for only when the visitors come.  And if I distract them with a Bourbon biscuit and a cup of tea, they probably won’t inspect the place anyway.

10) Assume Every Unusual Sound is a Ghost or an Axe Murderer

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve crept up nervously to the spy hole, convinced that I’ve heard a knock signifying an unexpected visitor, but of all the Ten Things, this is the one more likely to fade over time, once the surroundings have become more familiar.

I mean, I’ll still do the chain and activate the additional three locks before I try and sleep tonight but, I’m getting there…

More to come…

Song of the Day: Weezer – Longtime Sunshine

This is from the deluxe version of the ‘Pinkerton’ album, a disc I remember borrowing from the Library as a young teenager and falling in love with.  Towards the end of this beautiful song, they blend in elements of ‘Why Bother?’ – one of my all time favourite tracks – to create a mind-blowing version of jaw-dropping goodness.  Jaw-dropping if you like this kind of music, that is.  But I certainly do.

Cooking Up Another Year

When you think about it, a calendar year is a bit like a casserole.  The end product contains a lot of ingredients and some of them stand out more than others.  There are some you like, and some you don’t, but you include those anyway because you understand that they’re a staple part of the dish.

Especially on the first couple of occasions, you will always start out with some kind of recipe, an ideal list of what the dish is going to include, but in reality your weights and measurements of each individual ingredient might be all over the place.  Your scales might be broken and Tesco might be out of onions (if you don’t believe this can happen, come to my local Tesco, and walk back out with twenty five per cent of your shopping list unchecked due to the sparsity of the shelves).  You may have no choice but to purchase some alternative ingredients instead.  They’re not what you intended but… you’re up for seeing how they go.  Why not.

When you finally get round to tasting your casserole there’ll be times when you mainly taste the dumpling (yum!), and other times when you might only be able to taste the tinned tomatoes (yuck).  If the latter happens, you’ll probably change your recipe and quantities accordingly, because you don’t want that happening again.  It’s the same thing when it gets to this time of year and you reflect back on the previous twelve months.  Some themes and events will stand out more than others.

Personally, I’m not a massive fan of recipes.  I find them useful in providing a bit of direction at first, but struggle to keep in tandem with them after the first couple of steps.  Maybe that’s why each time I cook the same dish it turns out different, and perhaps in a funny sort of way it’s not far apart from the subliminal reasoning behind why I’ve slowly learnt not to create too much in the way of specific, tangible goals for any New Year.

For all I know right now, 2019 could turn out to be the best year yet, or it could be the worst one.  A lot of that will be in my control (‘energies’ and ‘chakras’ and all that modern day jazz music) but a lot of it also won’t (reality, shit luck, the weather, one’s monthly cycle creating emotional havoc and – dare I mention a topic I loathe to ever mention on this site but – British politics).

Sometimes I suppose the best thing to do is understand and embrace this in advance, maybe stockpile some additional seasoning just in case, and prepare the taste-buds for some brand new flavours…

Song of the Day:  Boogie Belgique – Memory

Latest offering from continental masters of innovative electro-swing music.  This nice, chilled piece is perfect for Winter evenings.

 

Fluorescent Grey: 2018

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Seven years ago I wrote a poem on here called, ‘Finding Fluorescent Grey’.  

It was hardly a piece that was going to see me named as the next poet laureate (poetry is really not my strength), but I’ve been thinking about the message behind it a lot lately; to the point where I wanted to try and express it in a more physical form through the scribbles above.

Neither the poem nor the graphics are anything special; if anything, they would probably be the subject of ridicule by professionals (or most other people for that matter) but… they felt so good to create, and in my opinion that’s what should be the priority for any artist, be it a writer, painter or somebody on stage.

I have come across many people who admit to a thirst for being creative but barely give themselves a chance to execute their ideas under the assumption that whatever they produce will be “rubbish”.  The truth is that there is no such thing as rubbish art.  I denigrate my poem because I have read a million better pieces and recognise that there are many areas it could be improved, but I’m still satisfied that the words are an accurate reflection of something I had an overwhelming desire to express.  Likewise the graphic above required no real talent to produce but I think it represents the meaning I was trying to get at in the poem, so I’m happy.  As long as you are working towards this, it’ll never be bad art.

It’s different if you are being asked to produce, with paints and pens, an accurate depiction of something else.  In these instances, it is somewhat more justified to judge. Take that legendary, less-than-flattering portrait of Mrs Mangel from Neighbours circa 1986 as an example, ha!

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But for everything else, there really are no rules, and I think that’s possibly why I get so much delight from maintaining this blog and uploading my crude cartoons to my Instagram account.  In a life governed by routines, processes and time-slots I relish my time to crawl outside of the cage and get creative, and would encourage anybody else to do so too.  It’s amazing what you can learn from it.

I guess you could say that, seven years on, I’m still in awe of the fluorescent grey…

Song of the Day:  Turtlenecked – Underwear

A sweet, soft little indie-pop song that unfortunately only lasts two minutes.  Really lovely listening, especially for cold Winter evenings.