C-19 INTERNAL MONOLOGUES PART 5: HEROES AND VILLAINS

The second week of lockdown:

There are times when you see the lighter and brighter side of it all – like the opportunity to pause and reflect, and catch up with friends and family – and then times when the gravity of it all concusses you with anxiety, fear, and that general gobsmacked, sicky feeling which makes you feel guilty for even entertaining the positive side when so many others can’t.

In the past week I’ve looked at the news more often than I think is healthy.  Each time I’ve read the headlines – which seem to have got scarier with each passing day – I’ve experienced that exact feeling, and felt a sense of helplessness.  We are all beginning to accept that the road to recovery from all of this is going to be very long indeed.  Longer than we may have originally anticipated.

Whenever I’ve checked the news I’ve semi-wished I hadn’t, but I do believe it’s important to know what this situation really looks like beyond the comfort of the sunlight-drenched kitchen and coffee tables which I look at every day.  It’s easy to become lost within a bubble whilst in quarantine, and in many ways that’s a good coping mechanism, but to lose sight of the bigger picture of what’s happening right now surely feels disrespectful to all those who can’t – the thousands of front line key-workers, and the victims, and all of their families, who have to face up to the brutal reality of this situation every single day, and just carry on.

There were a couple of photos that struck me in particular this week.  The first was of a dozen or so body bags in the back of a refrigerated truck in the U.S, and the second was of the funeral of a thirteen year-old victim.  I thought about the people in the truck and how only a couple of weeks ago they were probably planning for the future and dreaming about what they wanted to do when we finally awake from this really bad dream.  And how suddenly they vanished.  I thought about how they would have had to have died alone; no option to hold the hand of a loved one as they set off to sleep.  I thought about how degrading it is for the final image of somebody to be of them in an anonymous bright orange bag on a truck.  And then I felt angry at the press for taking a picture of this.  But then I thought, “Actually, maybe we do need to see this…”

I tried to think about how it must feel to lose somebody to the coronavirus.  To not be able to say goodbye.  To not even be able to go to their funeral – or, to be able to go, but not be able to hug your fellow mourner. To know your loved one died alone.  To feel like they were ripped apart from you by an illness that should never have grown to this scale.  A really unnecessary illness, originating from filthy practice.

We think this situation is tough because we can’t see our loved ones and we worry about money and not being able to buy eggs and losing things – yes, all be some of them big – but for thousands of others this situation is so much tougher – a game of life or death with each passing day.

When – eventually – things do return to some degree of normality, I hope that we don’t forget just who the heroes were during this time.  The ones out there fighting to save as many lives as they can whilst endangering their own – and those of their family – by doing so.  I love that we all clap our hands at 8pm on a Thursday to thank them, but I hope this gratitude lives long beyond the lifespan of the virus.

And I also hope we don’t forget who the villains were.  Billionaire business owners who are treating their staff appallingly whilst they self-isolate in the comfort of their private yachts and islands.  Citizens who are (still) laughing in the face of the social distancing rules  by hanging around in groups because they don’t care about anybody else.  Celebrities who are desperately finding ways to make the situation about them because they’re finally realising how pointless they are.  People on social media (usually found within local resident groups) who are using all this additional time at the computer to have petty arguments with people online about who really owns a particular footpath.

We won’t forget you beyond the lifespan of the virus, either.

 

COVID 19 Internal Monologues Part 4: Live TV

Any moment now, the end credits will surely begin to roll and we will have that moment of realisation where we simultaneously understand not only the script but the subliminal meaning behind it.

An advert proclaiming the powers of Veet EasyWax will appear and bring you crashing back to a sense of normality after an hour transfixed to your screen, and your partner or friend or whomsoever is with you at the time will alight from the sofa, picking up the bowl of Dorito crumbs for washing, and say:

“That was pretty realistic wasn’t it?  I’m going to have bad dreams tonight.  It’s crazy what technology and special effects can do these days”

You’ll have been watching a programme – of the Black Mirror ilk – in which an invisible virus that takes days to manifest, originates from a seafood market in a distant land and then – within a matter of days – brings an entire planet to its knees.  Thousands of lives will be lost.  Business will stop.  Economies across the world will crash.  Everybody, everywhere will be barely able to leave their homes.    Even world leaders will not be spared, our Prime Minister tested positive today.

All the things we normally take for granted will suddenly be the things we dream of once again.  Automated, annual social media memories will fill us with an envy for the past, and the times we could meet a friend for a drink, or ramble among the countryside for hours on end only to finish up with a pint and Sunday roast.

I even find myself missing being sat stuck in rush-hour traffic on the A249, thinking about the leftover stir-fry I plan to re-heat for dinner when I eventually get home.  It did have a nice sauce, afterall.

There will be a great number of lessons from all of this, surely, and we are only starting to learn them.  I would hesitate to think whether we have graduated beyond the Beginner stage yet.  I hope so, but looking at the news, I’m not so sure.

Either way this is still just feeling very, very strange.

Hey – you – can you do me a favour, and try pressing the “TV Guide” button on your remote, so that we can see what else is on?

I fancy something a bit more upbeat.  Those endless repeats of Only Fools & Horses I normally avoid or something.  Paris Hilton’s maudlin search for a new best friend. Or anything whatsoever on the Smithsonian Channel.

COVID 19 Internal Monologues Part 3: Escaping the Supermarket, and the Stroll

21st and 22nd March 2020 (two days before Lockdown)

I’ve changed my mind about supermarkets.

The other day I was quite excited about them, because they are still a surefire way to see people after spending the rest of the day alone.

Now they just terrify me.  Not everybody appears to be adhering to this concept of social distancing, and you’re more likely to see those uncooperative people in supermarkets, because those are essentially the only place people can congregate still.

I needed to buy some bits for my parents in Tesco.  I had to spend an hour or so psyching myself up to do so before marching into the store in my disposable latex gloves, snood (who would’ve known the Action Challenge branded freebie from the 50km walking challenge in the Cotswolds 2018 would have come in so useful!) and sunglasses.  A trio of people standing near the entrance looked at me in disgust as I wiped down my trolley with a Dettol wipe, “The world’s gone maaaaaaad” said one lady, in a Marge Simpson-meets-rusty-washboard voice that sounded like she smokes fifty fags a day.

I did feel slightly embarrassed by her shaming, but didn’t let her words get to me too much.  I had only to witness other shoppers coughing and sneezing, and kids running around touching stuff, to know that I was doing the right thing by erring on the side of caution, even though in many ways it might’ve seemed a bit overkill.  I don’t like to automatically distrust people, because most people are good and taking care right now; but when this virus stands to harm so many, my view is that you just have to treat yourself as a carrier, and treat strangers as though they are all carriers too, and keep your distance accordingly.

Coming out of the supermarket, I felt something similar to when you’ve overestimated your ability to hold your breath whilst diving down into a swimming pool, and face a long, desperate rise to the surface.  I knew when by the bread that I was at the furthest point of the store to be able to retreat back out from.  The question was – how to avoid the various perils I may encounter en-route – the coughers, the touchers, the sneezers and the wheezers.  Those who should be isolating, and the invisibles with the bug awaiting.  Gaming metaphors seem to be the trend here, and this particular moment felt like Frogger.  Or that curly copper wire thing you used to pay to try at school bazaars, usually manned by a grumpy looking girl, where you had to run the loop on a stick across it without touching the wire.  If you did, it would emit a sound that would simultaneously perforate your eardrums whilst making you leap back in terror.  In this instance, that sound is the coronavirus.

Later on, I took myself on a long, solitary walk around the town, but keeping away from the centre to help ensure I was sufficiently distanced.   As a result of this I experienced parts of Faversham I’ve never felt before, and walked down streets I’ve never before been down, like the residential roads over towards Bysing Wood, and out towards the church at Ospringe, returning home via the nearby paddocks that take you back on to the London Road.   The town glowed in the hazy springtime sun, evoking memories of Saturday afternoons as a child; celebrating the return of longer days and better weather by spending longer in the garden.  There was something incredibly peaceful about acknowledging this; a welcome juxtaposition to the chaos of everything else.  It felt relaxing; almost a way of making peace with the situation.  I relished the opportunity to see somewhere new too; even though it wasn’t far from home.  “Could this be one of the only gifts Covid 19 brings us?” I thought to myself, “a new way of looking things and appreciating what’s closest to home”.

I enjoyed the stroll and subsequent thoughts so much, that the following day – Sunday – I took myself on another walk in the opposite direction.  The craze with which this situation develops each day makes me wonder whether the opportunity to do even a walk may soon come to an end, so I was determined to get a big long nature fix whilst I still could.  I stuck to the desolate footpaths near the polytunnel farms (sorry dad, I still don’t know what’s growing inside them, in spite of this unexpected close-up inspection) and over towards Graveney before coming back along the railway line.  For a couple of hours, all seemed good with the world.  The rapeseed was out and glowing its bright yellow magic into the world.  Trees swayed smoothly in a light breeze.  Most incredible of all, were the number of bunny rabbits hopping about in front of me.  I can’t remember the last time I saw so many.

A Southeastern train passed by and I gave the driver a wave.  He waved back.  And that was pretty much the extent of my physical contact with anybody else today.

And it felt so important.  It felt so needed.

I took a look into the train and – unsurprisingly – saw carriages full of empty seats.  It won’t surprise me if they suspend the rail services soon.  An empty train splicing it’s way through the Kent countryside does nothing for our environment and for our fight as a nation to get through this battle.

But a simple wave back does make a girl feel less alone.

It really is the little things.

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COVID 19 Internal Monologues Part 2: The Town Centre and The Supermarket

**Basically a live stream of an internal monologue which is not designed to make a great deal of sense, because nothing about the current situation does**

After another bizarre day of not seeing anybody in the flesh until post-5pm – but having plenty of work-related phone-calls at a kitchen table ordinarily associated only with meals and personal gatherings – I begin to get extremely excited about the fact I have a letter to post. Excited, yet also somewhat dubious.

On one hand, I get to go outside! And there’ll be people there. And I rarely see those now.

On the other hand, I have to go outside. And there’ll be people there. And I have to avoid those now.

I walk and post the letter – envying the envelope’s travel plans – and carry on into the town centre. The charming Guildhall building on the square is lit up – as it usually is – but the cobbled pavements which surround it are completely empty. Nobody is stumbling out of the pubs after a few Shepherd Neame specials like they usually are, and I almost miss the cursing and burping usually overheard at this point. Benches are vacant. Restaurants remain lit up, but the view inside is just of a set of plain brown squares which represent empty tables.

The only people I see are dog-walkers, joggers or those who – like myself – are out alone running an errand. I pass them – but keep well away. It feels very rude.

In this town, we usually say hello to strangers when we pass.

But today we don’t, because we’re keeping too wide a berth, veering out into the road to avoid passing too close on the pavement.

It’s heartbreaking. But we just have to do it. Fight now, and celebrate later.

In the midst of the feelings of despair and fear that have dominated the last few days, I walk down Abbey Street.

Abbey Street. A place I usually just associate with my jogging route and tipsy walks to (and especially from) The Anchor pub. Abbey Street – the most iconic street in Faversham. Houses that have been there for more than century. Houses whose timber frames represent so much more than an historic method of construction. As I pass I imagine all the occupants of the past, generations who experienced times much worse than this – like the first and second world wars – but who fought through it. Who survived. Who morphed their challenges into the creation of stronger communities. Much like we will, once all of this is done.

And then I get closer to Tesco and suddenly I feel a sense of excitement akin to the one when you arrive at a friend’s house and know that in a moment’s time, you’ll be greeting somebody you care about. Or when you’ve been walking across remote countryside for hours and then stumble upon a pub full of people. Right now, the supermarket is the extent of your mingling with the outside world. The neon signs may as well be flashing in the manner of a ritzy club, denoting the lure of socialising.

The pubs might be empty of people, but the supermarkets aren’t. The one place at the moment where you’re guaranteed to see people and not feel alone. Comforting, but also mildly terrifying. A Dodgem experience where you literally do want to dodge them, and shudder at the thought of coming too close, but which you also feel a strange sense of excitement by.

A man seems to follow a similar route around the shop to me, distracted by a video call to a woman who is unknowingly announcing to all else within the Easter egg vicinity of the shop that, “Tonahht we’re playin a gaaaaaaame!!!!!”. The man chuckles.

The laws of social distancing mean that his presence unnerves me. I fear the distraction of his call means he’s not really thinking about where he’s walking. I skip away from him – past the juices – and whilst en-route bank the observation that Prosecco is on offer for £6 a bottle.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of times I consider that information over the next twelve weeks. Good to know. Useful to put into practise.

I’d seen on social media that the supermarkets were lacking in supplies. I couldn’t believe it to be real as all had seemed okay as recently as last Friday, when I’d last been in one, but it was. No bread. No pasta. No eggs. No beer. A multitude of empty green crates where the fresh produce usually lives. You know you’re living in apocalyptical times when you have to embrace the fact that there was a severe yearning for every single cucumber that was recently in that box. Usually when I buy a cucumber, it’s pretty much a game of Jenga – trying to ensure that the one I remove doesn’t offset the rest into rolling around in chaos. Now it’s just a game of Blind Man’s Buff with no ending.

There will be many things we take away from this period of time, but the importance of supermarket staff will be right up there with the rest. They don’t have the blessing to be able to work from the safety of home right now but they carry on and smile regardless. Regardless of the fact there’ll be no respite for them anytime soon. Regardless of the fact that their public-facing roles put them in more danger of catching the virus than those of us who just get to stare at our kitchen tables all day. They just carry on smiling, doing what current escalating need dictates.

And when supermarkets are pretty much the extent of your social life, that is so, so important.

A Typical Musing of a Single 30-Something

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It’s not very often that I actually sit down and watch television, but I had read about Channel 4’s one-off drama, “I Am Hannah” and felt compelled to tune in.  Starring the talented Gemma Chan as the protagonist, the drama told the story of Hannah, a lady in her mid to late 30’s who was single, without children and – in contrast to the questions being thrown at her from her mother and various Tinder dates – not really set on an interest in changing either of those circumstances.  The only thing she was sure of, was that she wasn’t sure, but it was clear as the programme went on that the constant enquiries were wearing her out.  We saw her have a meltdown a couple of times.

The script resonated with me in a way that I haven’t experienced from television very often, and left me feeling an overall sense of relief.  I Am Hannah may have been a piece of fiction, but it was a real piece of fiction, no doubt influenced by the current state of society and the fact that more and more people are choosing to be single, and fewer people are choosing to have children, whether in a relationship or not.  Yet, considering the increasing volume of people making these choices and living this way, there seems to be very little acknowledgement or celebration of it as an option.

When typical conversations among groups of 30 year olds are about engagements, weddings, babies… it’s easy to forget that living any other way is actually pretty common, and an increasing number of people are doing it.  It’s easy to forget that happiness and purpose can be found down many avenues beyond the traditional ones, but it shouldn’t be, and it wouldn’t be, if only we spoke out about it more.  And if as a society we stopped with the echoes of defeatist mantras like, “you’ll find somebody!” when people say that they are single.  These only perpetuate the message that happiness depends on being with somebody else and that what you have right now will never be satisfying enough… and that’s a very dangerous realm of thought for anybody to get into.

I am 33 years old, in two months’ time I will be turning 34.  Tickedytickedytock.  For basically – well forever, since I am older now than I’ve ever been – I have sailed happily on a wave of open-mindedness when it comes to marriage and children.  It’s still very much my belief that life is a matter of fate, and is there to be enjoyed no matter what happens and which way you end up living it.  There is a massive part of me that feels more inspired by the thought of a non-conventional lifestyle – whatever that might entail – than one dictated by a set of milestones, and the race to reach each one “in time”.  Those milestones don’t stop (“So when’s the next one due?”) and quite frankly, I’ve not been to the gym enough recently to believe I have the stamina to cope with engaging with the race. That’s not to say I’m not interested in having a partner or children, there are many things about that particular avenue that are attractive to me too, but it just means I haven’t got my heart set on it.

But, whilst that may have been a useful and healthy way of thinking for 33 years… tickedytickedytock makes you put it underneath the microscope a bit, particularly when you see so many others out there formulating mathematical equations as to when they should meet someone, when they should marry, and when they should start trying for a baby.  Then you wonder if you should be doing that yourself.  Then you remember you’re not sure you want those things anyway.  Then you get up, go and make a coffee and get back to the billion and one other responsibilities you have as an adult – work, paying Road Tax, hoovering.  Then before you know it you’ve turned another year older.  TICKEDYTICKEDYTOCK!

“But what if I get to 40 then think I’ve made a mistake” says Hannah, to a friend who looks incredibly awkward about the question.  And therein lies the nutfuck.  The prospect of trying to prepare today for how you might feel in a tomorrow in which you might be a completely different person, that’s assuming you’re lucky enough to still be alive.  Yes, who’s to say you won’t change your mind and become desperate for a child?  Equally, who’s to say you won’t remain feeling indifferent to parenthood, or – even worse – end up regretting having a child?  But, the response to this dilemma isn’t like stockpiling bottles of water because you’ve heard a draught may be ahead.  You can’t apply that sort of premeditated logic to this. This involves human life, and I can think of nothing more inappropriate than going through the motions of having a baby I feel indifferent about now just in case I later decide that I want one.  I’d like to have a Wagon Wheel right now though, that’s something that I am certain of.

And actually; maybe that’s the only path which is a necessity to take in life.  Concerning yourself only with the here and now and letting nature dictate the rest.  Being fulfilled by what you have right now whether that’s a husband and kids or an evening with friends and a delicious lemon meringue in the fridge.  Making decisions on the basis of how you feel right now because that’s the only emotion you’re sure of.  Putting together the model kit that represents your life without any set of instruction or illustration of the final image, only working out on a piece by piece basis of how it’s meant to connect.

We’ll all have a completely different structure in the end.

And how cool is that?

Song of the Day: The Derevolutions – Spinning Twister Sound

This pretty unique band is so vastly under-rated yet they write upbeat Summer tunes like this.  What is going on in the world.

 

 

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

faith no more the real thing

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.

 

 

 

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.