AWE-TUMN

I often hear people say that of all the seasons, autumn is their least favourite.

It’s cold. It’s dark. It rains.

None of those attributes would win first prize in a beauty contest, and eating ice-cream is nowhere near as thrilling (though it doesn’t prevent one from trying to find out).

But I am going to take a brief moment to defend autumn, and push it a little further up the perch.

I spend a lot of time walking around my hometown each evening as a way to get the steps in when working from home. There is something beautiful about this place during any season; the biting clarity of a winter sky adding fine outlines to chimney-tops, bonfires burning by the duckpond on balmy spring evenings, and bright red sunsets at 9pm in summer.

Come autumn, the walks invariably take place in the dark, I return with wet feet, and the town is very quiet.

And it can sometimes take a little longer to spot the scenes of brilliance, but they’re still there: golden reflections dancing off the water below, and Victorian lamp-posts illuminating the paths ahead. Deep-fried fish and vinegar floating through the air, and televisions lighting up living rooms like discotheques.

The glow of anticipation for impending festivities, and watching people chitter-chatter through restaurant windows. Cat-shaped silhouettes sprinting along the tops of fences, and smoke lingering in the air from bursts of colourful fire. The dazzle from the fairground as it visits for the weekend.

There are a lot of awesome things about autumn.

Everything has its place.

Song of the Day: Philip E Morris – The Polka

Spotify recommended this song to me. Philip E Morris is a Swedish composer who specialises in fusing electro beats with traditional, older songs. I can’t admit to knowing quite what’s going on in this piece but I like it, and it jazzed up a recent supermarket visit to listen to it. So there we go.

A CANTERBURY TALE

During a recent rainy Monday morning, I popped into Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site near to where I live.

My car was having its MOT nearby, and with the rain showing little sign of abating, I was hopping from place to place for shelter. The coffee crawl was fun to start with but by about Americano number four I wanted to head somewhere a bit different, and looking out the window towards Cathy’s Bell Harry tower, I felt inspired to be a bit of a tourist for the day, and made my way over.

I have visited the Cathedral tonnes of times over the years. It has played a notable part in our family history, and there’s so much more I could write about it beyond the content of this post, but those can be stories for another day.

Instead, for now, I’ll just tell you a little anecdote about a particular tile in the photo above, the tile with the reddy-orange stain on it next to the black rug.

During one of my first visits to Canterbury Cathedral, in the early 1990’s, I was too young to really understand anything beyond a very basic, watered down version of history. I knew that the Cathedral was famous for being the site of the murder of somebody called Thomas Becket – who had clearly irritated somebody (King Henry II it turned out) – and that it had attracted many visitors due to the belief in miracles which took place at the site after he was killed.

It all sounded quite scary and gory to a seven year old, like what might happen on Eastenders or one of Bowser’s Castles, but nonetheless it was intriguing too. As we walked around the particular area where the famous assassination had taken place, my older sister pointed down at the reddy-orange stain and looked at me with a grimace:

“That’s the stain from his blood when he was killed.”

Suddenly, a scary story became scarier and my infant self felt a shiver down her spine. Numerous questions abounded within – will we see his ghost? Will we have our heads chopped off too, if we stand here too long?

Well, evidently we didn’t, as I sit here writing this almost thirty years later, but there was certainly one long-term impact of this narrative which has made me look incredibly foolish over the years, and that’s the fact that it was only an embarrassingly few years ago that I realised that my sister hadn’t been telling the truth about the unusual stain on the floor.

It had absolutely zip-all to do with Becket, not then, and certainly not ever! I have lost count of the number of people I have given this misinformation too over the decades since; no wonder my Religious Studies teacher didn’t look overly impressed as I shot my hand up in class during year 10 as we learned about Becket, to tell a bunch of nonplussed teenagers of what they could see at the Cathedral.

And there’s an interesting lesson in all of this I suppose. Not to believe everything you’re told, for sure, but on the flipside I ask myself: would I have found the Cathedral as interesting as a seven year old if it weren’t for my sister’s gory story? Probably not. Would that one piece of stone still make me smile and recall memories of a family day out in 1992, thirty years later? Definitely not.

So yes. There’s a lot of history in Canterbury Cathedral. And that small, almost invisible speck, is mine.

SUNSET

The sun sets every day.
No matter where you are,
No matter what you’re doing.
And it’s been doing so for billions of years…


The sun sets as people dice onions, dust cupboards and stand in queues. And as they fill up petrol tanks, buy yoghurt and watch the news.
The sun sets whether you’re happy, hopeful, scared or depressed. No matter how your day went, that orange duvet permits you to rest
.

And it never gets any less impressive.


Yesterday evening I met with a friend and was due to head home at around the same time the sun was due to set. The original plan was to get home as quickly as possible – calling in at Sainsburys to pick up a sandwich – and curl up in front of the t.v whilst devouring it.

Even though I was feeling peckish and daydreaming about supermarket aisles, something prompted me to head to the nearby hamlet of Conyer instead, where I could take a short stroll along the creek in the springtime evening sun.

As I walked, what first appeared to be a blazing bullet hole in the distance gradually blossomed into a marbled blanket of pink, orange, peach and purple that cloaked the entire sky. It felt like one of the most tremendous sunsets I’ve ever seen, an evening of magic for which I hadn’t paid a fortune – but instead had the fortune – to enjoy.

As I walked around in wonder, I thought about how easy it would have been to miss this. I thought how about how I could have easily been swapping sunsets with sandwich aisles at that very time, and how much of a shame that would have been. I’d never have even known what I was missing out on, and that ignorance too, would have been a shame.

I marveled at just how much richer my day had become simply from enjoying a show that has happened every day since time began, and wondered how many of the previous episodes I’d lost to dicing onions, dusting cupboards, and standing in queues. And I know that I’m not alone in that, as I only saw half a dozen others during my walk, out of thousands who could have been there. Yet despite what could have been perceived a lack of interest, the show went ahead anyway. I liked that.

I set myself a personal goal for the Summer: see more sunsets! Give that splendid show an audience more often! I think I’ll enjoy this one, and suggest you do it too!

Song of the Day: Dosh – Um, Circles & Squares

I am very much into instrumental music at the moment whilst working on a number of different projects. I find it much easier to keep focused on what I’m doing without the shift of mental direction that lyrics can enforce.
Dosh is a multi-instrumentalist based in Minnesota and this is a nice, whirly, almost meditative piece, which is great to study to. I bet it also sounds good whilst walking underneath a sunset 😉

The House

Do you have any of those fleeting, pixelated memories from very early childhood, which you’ve not necessarily been able to place into the context of anything else?

I have a vivid one in which I’m stood in the doorway of my grandparents’ house in August 1989 (I only know the date because my mum has kept a family diary for decades). I’m saying goodbye to some relatives as they leave a family party. I remember it because I heard the word, “fortnight” for the first time. Through a wound down car window, they said they’d see us in a fortnight, as they drove away in their beige car. It made me think about forks and knights, and I needed my siblings to explain its real meaning. There are many other memories – all just as fleeting and fragmented as that one – from that particular house, and they always seem so mysterious and magical. Maybe just because the wider detail, and explanations, are missing.

Over thirty years later I often walk past the same house, and from the outside it looks exactly the same as it did then. The same front door. The same lion-shaped door knocker. Same bricks, same roof.

I expect, and want, to be able to ring the doorbell and be embraced by my grandad – still in his ’70’s – and a plume of sweet tobacco smoke from his pipe. Behind him, I expect to see puffy maroon sofas, wooden cabinets stacked with crystal sherry glasses and toby jugs, and pale green lampshades with tassels on the end that I can jiggle between my thumb and forefinger. I expect to smell a joint of meat being roasted in an oven.

But I won’t, because it’s 2021 and somebody else lives there now, and they probably wouldn’t take too kindly to a random 35-year old woman knocking on the door expecting to find 1989, turquoise walls, a cream cake, and some relatives who left us a long time ago.

Plus, I need to hurry home and send an e-mail about an urgent matter. One which I doubt I’ll be recalling within a pixelated memory in thirty-two years time. And what time does Morrisons close during the week?

Time is a very, very strange thing. I am always pretty mesmerised by old buildings such as this. Those which have seen so much, and changed so little, plonked within a society that zips along and changes so frequently by contrast.

They’re building more and more new houses here in Faversham. But I’m glad they’re keeping the old ones too.

What buildings make you feel this way?

A beautiful drawing by my very talented mother

Song of the Day: Smashing Pumpkins – Beautiful

My challenge to you is to listen to this song and not fall absolutely in love with it. Beautiful by name, stunning by nature. It’s the final minute of the song and it’ll do things to you. And even if you’re not a massive SP fan (I’m not) you’ll be so thankful this band exists.

C-19 Internal Monologues Part 10: Looking Back & Moving On

The situation is far from over, but in recent weeks we have been furnished with a growing number of returned liberties that incite a mixture of trepidation, excitement and relief.  We are no longer locked inside, reliant on Zoom calls to socialise, or fearing that every time we go out for exercise we have to keep within one hour and be on the move at all times else be condemned by strangers spying out of windows.

There is so much more we are “allowed” to do at the moment and – whilst many of us are still reluctant to pile into the pub and overdo it – it does feel pertinent to appreciate and make the most of finally being able to do some of the things we missed so much.  Of course, provided you’re wearing gloves and keeping the hand sanitiser close by.

Many are quick to warn of a second-wave, and they are right that the threat of that is very real if people don’t adhere to the guidelines.  But do you know what?

I really don’t want to hear about things like that anymore.

Because it’s all well and good worrying about it, but if this pandemic has taught us anything (it’s actually taught us hundreds if not thousands of things) then it’s that life can take us by surprise, and be cut short any time.

Apart from all those wise folks meticulously scrubbing their hands and wiping their keyboards in January, pretty much most of us didn’t believe this pandemic would prove to be anything we should worry about.  We carried on.  We went into places. We saw our friends and family and greeted them with hugs. We booked holidays and dreamed of big things for 2020.

Then suddenly all of these things were snapped away from us like a plaster being ripped from a fresh wound – sudden, leaving a lingering sting – and we had no idea when we would be able to do them again.

Four months on, and there are still a vast many things are waiting for.  Hugs.  Meeting with friends and family without worrying about the number of households present.  Feeling truly safe.  Feeling truly free.

March, April and May in particular were three very distressing months for us all and I think the longer term mental health impacts of that time will ripple across society for years and decades to come, not least for those working on the front line or those unable to say goodbye to loved ones.  I’m also fairly sure that the majority of these mental health impacts won’t even manifest just yet, but in time, when the reality of what we have all experienced really sets in.

But there is also a danger that we will do ourselves even worse mental damage by avoiding, through fear, the time we have to spend with those we care about.  I find myself being marginally more concerned about this at the moment, than the virus itself.  Three months away from loved ones is hard enough – but manageable – but how much longer should we abstain from making new memories?  Time is so precious, the pandemic taught us, so does it really make sense to spend infinite amount of it zipped away?  To me it doesn’t.  I think we should be making the most of the time we have with people, but balancing it out with keeping safe.  Not overdoing it by engaging in hedonistic displays of mass boozing and bathing, like a scary proportion are.  Just having company, and appreciating the sheer ability to be able to spend time with people, is good enough for me right now.  It also helps that the weather is good and we can spend this time outdoors within nature; which is not only safer but beats the sterile environment of a restaurant chain, where we might otherwise have met, any day:

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To this end, this chapter may well be the last of my C-19 Internal Monologues, because even whilst the situation rolls on I’m not sure I want the topic to form the underlay of all my future posts until it stops.  This will undoubtedly be thing the defines 2020 for all of us but it’s time to let other things play a part in the year now too.

I think it’s time to Look Back & Move On.  Carefully.

 

 

C-19 Internal Monologues Part 7: F-unfair

Recently, I haven’t felt the inclination to write as often as I did when the crisis first broke out, which I suppose is indicative that the situation has seemed to reach some kind of plateau.  We are still in lockdown and the numbers are still staggeringly high, but perhaps we are getting used to this now.  The adaptations we needed to make to our lives are becoming the “new routine”.

“Emotional roller-coaster” is a metaphor frequently used to describe the past few weeks for each of us.  There have been some very low points, but also plenty of encouraging examples of humankind and communities coming together.

Promptly followed-up by more low points.

Then more hope.

But the problem with roller-coasters, though, is that if you stay on them indefinitely, you will get dizzy, and sick.

Over thirty days into the official lock-down and myself – like many – are prone to feeling a little bit fed up.

That’s not to say we disagree with what we are doing and why we are doing it.  I would far rather remain in lock-down and get this sorted for good, than race out under a false start and experience thousands more needless deaths.

But, I am still getting a bit tired and a bit weary of being on the roller-coaster at all.  Especially when it’s one none of us needed to still be on; kept here by a mechanical fault that wasn’t inspected thoroughly enough before they opened up the fair to swathes of thrill-seekers. A failure to adhere to basic hygiene on the other side of the world, or a leaked experiment in a lab (or whatever theory you choose to believe.  My jury is out, to be honest.  All I know is that I’m extremely annoyed by whatever the source is).

Whatever you believe, this pandemic could – and should – have been avoided, and I think that is the most infuriating part about all of this.  Millions of people all over the world have sacrificed their lives, their jobs, their homes, their relationships and their mental health, for something that didn’t actually need to happen.

And I’m not sure any kind of penalty will ever be enough to atone for that.

And so yes, whilst on the whole we may be “coping”, whilst we may be keeping “strong” as we get used to our new normal, I think it’s critically important that every now and then, when we feel a little queasy from the many twists and turns, that we remind ourselves that we are experiencing a global trauma that will impact on each of us in very different ways, for years to come. And we didn’t need to be.  And so it’s perfectly okay to feel piffed off about it every now and then.  Even to cry about it.

I’m looking forward to whatever day we can finally get off this roller-coaster, and head towards something else at the fair which has much less motion.

The candyfloss stand would be perfect.

 

(Read This Carefully) I Love Pens

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Is it too late to write a post in the spirit of heralding a new year?

I haven’t done so yet because I’ve been too busy playing with the Sharpies I got for Christmas (and a few other things, like submerging back into reality following the halcyon days of the festive break; a reality consisting of diets, exercise and bills, after a week of pretending that none of these things exist.)

I’m not sure what it is about marker pens, but they just excite me.  It’s not just been the Sharpies.  I seem to recall being just as joyous about an own-brand set from Smiths I received one Christmas in the early ’90’s.  I’m pretty sure that in every home there are remnants of a set of felt pens that seem to have been around forever and that nobody has the heart to throw away even though they do sod all – the nibs far too frayed, the ink long gone.  In my home, it was the Smiths markers.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if they were still languishing in the depths of some old pencil case in the far corners of the attic, ruing the fact they can no longer colour in pictures and make images come to life.  A compatriot of the same pencil case, a biro with a similar lifespan, probably finds the lamenting piss annoying, as it could never colour anything in the first place.  Only write shopping lists.  Boring, boring shopping lists.

So I suppose that it was probably the inner-child in me that was partially responsible for being so excited by the latest colourful acquisition.  Twenty brand new Sharpies, of eccentric hues, ready to illuminate scribbles like the one above, greeting cards and – well – anything else in close proximity for the next couple of decades.

“If only everything in life was this exciting”  I thought to myself, as I began to experiment with all of the different colours on the paper.

Given those diets and bills, I’m not naive enough to think it could be.

But I do believe it should be.

So I’m choosing to focus on the exciting things for now.  As much as possible, at least.

Happy 2020 to anybody reading this.

Song of the Day: That Handsome Devil – Charlie’s Inferno

A Brooklyn band that basically put rock, swing, jazz, jive, funk, psychedelia and every other genre you can think of into a big, musical blender and puree it into something that sounds like this particular piece.  There’s a lot of narrative in this song and to be honest I’ve no idea what it’s about, it’s just a good tune to wash-up to.

The Best Kind of Gift

There was a major milestone to celebrate within my family this month.

Identifying what would make the best gift caused a complete stress within.

I had a few ideas; but found myself frequently judging the merit of each using just their monetary value as the means with which to test their suitability. I felt compelled to spend a significant sum of money on the basis that it was such a massive milestone. It’s rude to be cheap, right? The more you spend, the more it looks like you love them, right? Of course not, but there’s still a part of your conscience that believes so, when all you want to do is give the perfect present.

This time of year is beset with the pressure to give good gifts to those around us, and often the measure of a “good” gift is seen to be in the bold figure at the bottom of the receipt…the greater the number, the more generous the gift! A Casio and a Rolex both tell the same time, but one would arguably be seen as far more generous a present than the other. Wedding presents are another example of when cost is perceived to correlate with generosity. According to many sources, ‘good wedding gift etiquette’ dictates that you should spend a minimum of £50 no matter your relationship with the happy couple, which I find horrendous. If that’s what you expect, then please don’t invite me to your wedding, we shouldn’t really be friends. But the question it makes me ask is – what makes £50 the value of that bond?

Quite honestly, I find this stuff sad and depressing. There is a quote I’ve seen on the internet dozens of times which captures one of the reasons why, you’ve probably seen it too, but I’ll post again anyway:

10dollars

If you are fortunate enough to have a lot of money, it’s pretty easy to be “generous”. You just have to go online, or into a shop, pick out the most expensive item, flash your plastic at the till, and job done. Five minute job. If you don’t have so much money, it’s a bit harder, though even then, it’s quicker and easier to buy something than it is to give your time to something.

But – hang on – why do we often make gifts about the monetary cost anyway? Trying to equate the value of family, friends and lovers into numeric figures, when maybe the real value of what we give is in terms of our time, shared experiences, or thoughts.

In the end I just couldn’t put a price on the value of what it was I was celebrating in my family. To do so felt arbitrary, shallow and sad. I gave them a gift, but it cost little money, just time. Even now, I question whether I was generous enough. That’s because all around me I’m seeing adverts and pictures of lavish gifts; presents presented as a surefire way to please others.

But then I think about all the gifts I’ve ever received. One of the best was a drawing a friend did, on an A4 piece of paper, coloured in with Crayola pencils. She had a fantastic knack for art and had drawn a custom, fictional woodland scene containing references to things that we had found funny that year. It was brilliant. It made me howl with laughter, and I even took it away to Uni a couple of years later, to pin up on my wall for when I was feeling homesick. It was the sort of thing that wouldn’t have been possible to buy. It cost her absolutely nothing. But that’s the gift I remember most from that year (16 years ago). That’s the one I consider the most generous, because it took the most time and thought.

The reality is that many of the gifts opened this Christmas Day will be forgotten pretty quickly. They’ll probably end up on the Facebook Marketplace or the shelves of charity shops, in order to make space within the home later on. That’s because it’s a natural human behavior to eventually get bored of “things”. And if you can sell-off those things to recoup some money to buy more “things”, then even better.

So why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we keep stressing in shopping aisles or feeling the pressure to save, save, and sell an arm for Christmas when there are actually a range of ways to be generous, or please those people you care about. Say something nice to somebody. Tell them why you like them and appreciate them. Show them you care. Contrary to what it may seem, expensive presents don’t necessarily do that.

I’m not saying we should forget about physical gifts altogether, absolutely not, we all enjoy opening things, I just disagree with deciding whether or not to buy something on the basis of what it’s worth in GBP. Buy it because you have thought about it, and you think it’s something the recipient would really enjoy or appreciate.

Give people love, thoughts and attention. Don’t make it about the money.

Because I know which is needed more in the world today.

The Correspondents – Pier To Pier

This musical duo are the sort from which you never quite know what to expect, but I like this short, rhythmic instrumental piece. I’d like to listen to it whilst missioning it around Tescos to complete my grocery shopping in the fastest time possible. I think it would help.

Tired of Spinning Around on the Web

Is anybody else starting to get tired of the internet, or is it just me?

Tired of seeing the constant opinions on what we should do and think, from who to vote for and what to eat, to how to correctly hang toilet paper.

Tired of the ubiquitous presence of comments pages and review platforms, which too often are misused to host volcanic eruptions of strong opinions which – once the dust has settled – tell us only that: Some people liked the service, but some people did not like the service.  Some people agree with the article, but some people disagree.  Some people like the mandolin, but others – controversially – consider the banjo to be their favourite member of the lute family.

I actually quite enjoy reading what other people think, but what tires me out is when these features are used as an opportunity for some people to tell other people why, in their opinion, everybody else’s opinion is wrong.  Often in a vitriolic manner.  But perhaps that’s just my opinion (incidentally, does the word ‘opinion’ make anybody else think of an onion with a furrowed brow, half-moon spectacles and a tie?)

Tired of reading about what can help us, “live the best life”.  Maybe I don’t want to be practicing mindful cocktail-drinking somewhere flash, showing off my svelte, tanned figure in a Triangl bikini that costs the same amount of a month’s worth of groceries.  Maybe I just want to sit on my sofa, in a blanket, reading a book and listening to good music, eating a greasy yet utterly delicious takeaway.

And don’t get me started on those that use the internet to encourage people to talk about their mental health, yet in subsequent breaths or .JPGs with flowy fonts explain that to have good mental health ourselves, we should disassociate from those with “negative energies”.  Erm…

Make up your mind, internet.  Or just shush altogether.  I’m bored of seeing this dictatorial stuff, no matter how much I try and avoid it.  The content still manages to creep in.

Yet, here I currently sit, on the internet.  Writing my monthly blog.  Looking at pictures of cats that need re-homing.  Dealing with e-mails.

And sheepishly preparing for upcoming social events by salivating over PDFs of menus, knowing that when I get to the restaurant I’ll still manage to deliberate over what to have to eat.

I’m not so bored of those sides of the internet.

So perhaps I’m a contradiction too 😉

Song of the Day:  Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer – No Character to Clear

I didn’t even know ‘Chap-Hop’ was a thing until this month.  This genre of music is ridiculously fun.  And funny.