Little Things I Love Pt. 3

The other day, I was taking a sunny stroll along the Grand Union Canal when a family of ducks caught my eye and made me smile. I loved how fluffy the ducklings were – like five little buns gliding across the water – and how the mother managed to keep them alongside her as they ventured to a destination that presumably only she knew.

It’s been three years since I last published a “Little Things I Love” post, to follow on from the original, and so I think it’s time to write another – particularly after the past twelve months.

So, along with ducklings and the things already written about in 2016 and 2018, here are some more of the little things I love:


…The satisfying sound of a hoover whooshing up bits you couldn’t even see but will certainly feel better without…

…Discovering a new food which you think about for days and days after consuming for the first time…

…Being so engaged in something that you forget to look at your phone for a while…

…The smell of seaweed on days when you can feel the sun against your skin…

…Sunsets on the East Kent coast, a burning peach sinking into the sea…

…The first day of the year when it feels so warm you can just slip-on a dress and be fully clothed by free-flowing fabric…

…A buttery plate from where the spread has seeped through the crumpet…

…Staring competitions with sheep and lambs…

…People who manage to craft puns out of nowhere at all…

…Applying the ink from a brand new marker pen to flip-chart paper. A symbol of meaning business...

…Victorian-style lamp-posts. Generally…

…The smell of old, family photos and fond memories they trigger…

…Moments when you lose yourself in a good piece of music…

…Big, tall pine-trees and the smell of barbecues…

What are yours?

Song of the Day: Weezer – Aloo Gobi

This is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard from one of the best bands I’ve ever loved and if I had to pick one song to listen to for the rest of my life it would be this one, which is pretty funny when you understand the meaning behind the lyrics.

Day of Reflection

Today’s National Day of Reflection marks a year to the day that we sat nervously in front of our television screens to be confronted by the directive that would change our lives quite dramatically. An issue which had been bubbling away on the side for weeks was becoming increasingly vociferous, and with that evening’s press conference in March 2020, the switch was finally firmly pressed, and the lights went out in an instant.

The resounding message absorbed within the deafening silence which followed?

You can’t see your family or your friends until further notice, and no, there’s no time to just go back and fetch your jacket. Settle down and get comfy; you’ll be here a while.

I umm and ahh about how much I want to include in this post. I documented most of my thoughts here at the time, in order to refrain from turning totally insane during the period when the only people I spoke to face to face were dog-walkers or shop assistants. I think we’re all suffering from pandemic lethargy too much at the moment to really go over those things again; but one day, when we’re much less muddy and feeling more confidently in the clear, it’ll certainly be an interesting few months to reflect on.

However I think it’s important today to differentiate between the lockdown and the pandemic – hand in hand though they may be. A lot of us will think of this past year in terms of the myriad of effects on our day to day lives. We have missed out on so much, and it has been utterly heartbreaking at times, but I don’t actually think all of the effects of lockdown have been negative, and I will write about why another day.

For now though, for today, it’s about reflecting on and respecting the worst affected victims of this pandemic. The ones who don’t get to reflect back over the past year at all. The ones who were unable to live as fully as people should be able to, before they had to leave. The hundreds of thousands (or millions worldwide) of their relatives who lost somebody special this past year in the cruelest of ways, who couldn’t grieve in the way people need to, who couldn’t say goodbye or hold hands a final time, and who couldn’t feel the comforting hugs of friends and relatives as they mourned alone.

The other effects of this pandemic, heavy though they may have often felt, somehow also feel so light against this.

Thinking of everybody who has been affected in such a cruel way today, and wishing that each individual within the startling figure we have seen rapidly rise over the last twelve months, will be remembered as exactly that, an individual.

To Be A Cat in a Pandemic

This little fuzzy face has absolutely no idea that there’s a global pandemic happening at the moment.

She wouldn’t even know what a “pandemic” is, let alone any of the things that come with it:

Lockdown? Fine by me. I don’t really venture beyond the sofa or back garden anyway.

Isolation? Also fine. Can’t stand other cats. They make me hiss.

Furlough? Is that when my fluffy coat starts malting in the heat?

Vaccine? Ah… know of that one, sadly, but fortunately my next trip to the vets isn’t for a good while yet.

Stock-piling? Never heard of it. My servants take care of all of that sort of thing anyway and if I’m still hungry I can either stare at them long enough for them to question whether they’ve already fed me, or just catch another mouse or bird.

Why are all the human things looking so glum on the television? Why do I never get the house to myself anymore? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m loving all of the additional snuggles and cuddles, but in a year I’ve seldom had the opportunity to crawl across the kitchen worktops in the quest for any edible scraps. Anytime I try now I just get spotted quickly, and snapped at.

Strange times indeed. Better take the twentieth nap of the day. Had a great dream about a frog earlier. Hoping for something similar this time.

Pandemic? Purr.

The Tier 3 Party

And so, Kent – like many other parts of the country – falls into Tier 3. The strictest and tightest of them all.

To celebrate, I’m having a party. Sadly, you are not invited.

Nobody is.

I hope you can understand the position,
behind your unfortunate omission,
from a guestlist made up just of me…
But only one can attend the “Tier 3 Partee”.

It’s Bring Your Own Booze,
which means I get to choose,
from what’s already here,
wine and gin, but no beer.

But – hip hip hooray!
Faversham’s new Aldi opened today.
I can now stock up on snacks
and a dozen kayaks!

BUT OH NO!

They only sell two seaters,
between them less than two metres,
so I’ll just have to leave them ’til Spring,
along with pretty much everything!

At my Tier 3 party there’ll be a cake,
because in lockdown we’ve all learnt to bake,
but hundreds-and-thousands are banned
so it’ll taste a bit bland…

The cake will have several tiers
so it will last a couple of years,
because I can’t eat cake that quickly.
Indeed, I find too much quite sickly.

I will also be hosting some games,
but please don’t shoot me down in flames
just because I’ll always win.
The opposition is just a bit thin.

But the very best thing about this event?
Is that I won’t even realise I went,
‘Cos when the games are done and it’s time to head,
I’ll just roll down the hall to my very own bed.

No need to R.S.V.P

Love,

The Tier 3 Party





C-19 Internal Monologues Part 9: The Wobbling Bridge

Since I last wrote, life has started to feel a little more normal.

We are still in “lockdown”, but many of the restrictions have been eased.  Crucially, we are able to see our friends and families again, albeit at a distance, outdoors, and certainly not in large groups.  But still, that alone is a very valuable something.

The death toll has continued to grow, but is slowing.  For the most part, society seems to have accepted both the challenge – and the need – to be socially distanced, and this is helping.  Businesses and hospitality outlets are there for us once more and we each draw comfort from the familiarity of this.

The smell of pizza by Faversham Creek and the ability to take it home with you.

The technician booked in to come and do the repair.

It still remains tough for everybody, especially health workers; and leading on from my last post, I do not see fit to draw any kind of comparisons, or surmise that there is anyone out there who is not still battling against the pandemic in some way.  But here are my own personal thoughts and reflections, which may resonate with others.

It’s perhaps only now, when the lockdown – in its strictest form – is a thing of the past, that I realise how huge and how difficult those few weeks in March and April were.  Weeks without seeing anybody I love in the flesh at all.  Weeks when telling a random stranger in passing that he had a cute dog was the limit to the social interaction I had away from a screen.  When 8pm on a Thursday was a rare opportunity to see evidence of life outside the window.  When I felt naughty just for looking through my parents’ living room window whilst dropping off some items.  Weeks when I knew that no matter how hard I was finding it all; millions had it worse.  Weeks of feeling like I didn’t have the right to feel sad about any of it because of that.

In June, we might be able to see people again; but the problem hasn’t gone and neither has the emotional friction.  We still can’t go in to or stay in anybody’s homes that aren’t our own, so if your family and friends live hours away, which is the case for most people I know, this doesn’t really make a lot of difference. And unless your loved ones live either with you or within walking distance, that purifying cry, hug and bottle of wine (actually, sod it, make mine a Buckfast) which we want – and deserve  – to share with them will also have to wait.

And it’s because of things like this that the current time feels somewhat purgatorial: neither a beginning nor an end, but a wobbly drawbridge between the two, where we’re still very much afraid of falling off, and so are treading with caution.  Yes the end does now seem in sight, but by now we are all much the more weary from carrying our individual little suitcases of trauma to the point where our hands are really starting to hurt.  Many are bereaved.  Many are without jobs.  Many have seen their relationships fall apart under the pressure of lockdown.  Many are lonely.  And many others have just had way too much time to think.

And at a time when we are so much in need of coming together; we are learning – through incidents unrelated to the pandemic – how fractured we still are as communities and societies.

And that just makes this sad situation feel even sadder.

I still very much believe that there will be massive positives – globally- to come from the various struggles of 2020, which wouldn’t have been possible without them, but it feels far too early and uncomfortable to be looking at it that way just yet.  Nonetheless, it’s good to keep that in the back of our minds.

There has to be some good to come from this.

There will be some good to come from this.

Until then, I’ll be keeping myself occupied with good books, good music, online quizzes (becoming a pro – as are you – and her – and him – and them), YouTube videos about the twenty flavours of Pringles that I won’t believe exist…

…and dozens of air-hugs.

Song of the Day:  Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Pure Cinema

Everything about this – the song, the lyrics, the video – is simply breathtaking.

 

If You’re Feeling Old…

sunriseSunrise in Snowdonia, April 2019

One of the (many) things you notice when looking back through old diaries, having written in them every day for over twenty years, is that you have pretty much always thought that you are old.  And you saw it as a bad thing.

There were a few fleeting, false dawns of maturity during your teens – worrying acknowledgements of the fact you would no longer spend birthday parties eating jelly and cake at the likes of Aqua-splash – but really it started at 21.  You’d reached the first major milestone since officially becoming an adult three years earlier, and this latest, permanent indentation into the more middle-y parts of your lifespan came with the gloomy realisation that you no longer had it, “all before you”.  Your youth became part of the past.

With each passing birthday since twenty one, that youth became a smaller and smaller dot in the distance, but your responsibilities became bigger.  The jelly got replaced by too many glasses of Prosecco, and sunny Saturday afternoons besides riverbanks got replaced by rainy Saturday afternoons in actual banks, where prim-faced staff in suits would go through every element of your personal finances and calculate that you might need to work beyond your death – perhaps as a ghost at a jolly Halloween attraction – just to have enough to make ends meet before you go.

When you turn another year older, it’s very easy to see the negative, especially when you start throwing the concept of ‘life milestones’ in the mix (but I’ve written enough about the absurdity of those on here, and bored enough of my peers in real life too). 

It’s rare now, that we acknowledge our birthdays without feeling some sense of being “old now lolz”… or “REALLY old now!”.  I’ve been very guilty of this in the past, as my diaries have shown.  Apparently I was feeling completely past it at twenty four, and every year since I continued to do so.  When the first grey hairs started emerging a few years back, I probably would have started researching Stannah stair-lifts if I’d had the time.

But this year I’ve decided to look at things differently, because actually I’m not sure it’s a bad thing to be “old” at all.  We shouldn’t feel negative about being old, we should instead just feel lucky that we made it this far, because lots of others didn’t.  We all know people who didn’t. Another orbit around the Sun represents another 365 gifts you were given, and okay some of those gifts weren’t the sort that might have you sprinting down the stairs on Christmas Day, but a lot of the others probably were, and any that did neither probably still gave you something to smile about or learn about in their own, special, understated way.

And more to the point – you’re not old anyway.  Your future self is telling you to shut the fuzzy up.  Nobody is old, because everybody is in fact – today – the youngest they’ll ever be again.  Isn’t that alone worth smiling about?  Enough to make you believe you’ve still got it in you to go out and do something crazy, like go out and join a dance troupe or take a night hike across the Hebrides?  On rollerblades?

34 was the first birthday in many, many years where I didn’t feel any kind of dread or resentment about my age.

And neither should you.

Song of the Day: Midnight Sister – Daddy Long Legs

Experimental pop duo.  I always like those.  And I really like this.

Could Coriander Leave?

coriander

 

August’s post was quite deep, but I felt a lot better for offloading it.  This month’s post is not as deep, but I know I’ll feel just as good for offloading on this important matter too:

Coriander.

It’s taken nearly thirty four years, but I think I’ve finally identified a personal bugbear when it comes to the otherwise wonderful world of food, and that bugbear comes in the guise of a reach green leaf which makes me groan whenever I see it on a plate, or read about it in a recipe.

Which is a lot.

Because for some completely incomprehensible reason, the modern world seems to have a bizarre obsession with lacing all and every kind of cuisine with “a few coriander leaves”.  And I’ve had enough.

The recipe could be going so, so well.  You could be salivating over the thought of the nice, sweet, coconut-y Thai curry, or the rich vegetable soup you’re preparing, but then comes that inevitable instruction about the coriander leaves.

There you see them, immersed within the dish as it’s presented to you in the restaurant.

And that’s when you get that sinking feeling, when you realise that a highly-anticipated dish is now destroyed.

They’ll try and convince you that they’re just there for a bit of extra kick.  But if coriander was indeed just a kick, it’d be the sort that could boot Earth to the other side of the solar system – taking all the other planets with it – without doing any damage to its toes.

If coriander was a person, it’d be the kind that persistently talks over you in a loud honk of a voice and tells you you’re wrong.

And if each bowling pin represented a different ingredient, coriander would be the sixteen pound ball that menaces manically down the lane and bundles them all over into oblivion.

The smallest sprig of coriander can take over an entire dish.  No doubt that irritates all the other ingredients, who try their hardest to taste pleasant to the tongue, only to be overshadowed by a little green leaf.

And it’s just not fair.  And we need to start recognising that.

Say no to coriander.  There’s a thyme and a place.

Song of the Day: Eerie Wanda – Big Blue Bird

One of my favourite musical discoveries of 2019 – indie pop band led by Dutch-Croatian singer Marina Tadic.  Pet Town is a brilliant album and perfect for this time of year.

Fluorescent Grey: 2018

20181115_150851

 

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!

Image result for mrs mangel portrait

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.

Living Alone: A Reflection

It had become the topic of a long-running joke and I knew it.  People with whom I hadn’t spoken in a while had gradually stopped asking me if I had managed to move out of my parents’ house, because they would already know that I probably hadn’t:

The retrospectively optimistic sounding, “Ah well, perhaps by the time you’re thirty, though”  comfort-sentence was adapted several times over the years until it basically became something along the lines of “hopefully by the time you’re reincarnated, though”.

I didn’t stay living at home with mum and dad through choice, it’s just that moving out was something that was beyond my financial reach for a very long time, especially given that I was buying on my own.  And because I live in the South East of England, where even the old lady who lived in a shoe probably had to resign herself to a twenty grand deposit and a thirty seven and a half year mortgage for the benefit of cuddling up to a steel toe cap each night.

Everybody knows how expensive it is to buy a place.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to do so, and no matter how many sacrifices I have to now make to the amount of ‘fun’ I can have in order to keep myself fed and cleansed, I am so thankful to finally be here in my very own flat, where the cupboards are full of ingredients to create copious Thai curries, and the decor is dominated by my favourite shade of yellowy-green.

I have been single for an extremely long time and have never felt that bothered about it.  In fact, I am generally quite apathetic about the idea of marriage and children, which is maybe why I have been single for so long.  I genuinely enjoy my own company, and whilst I do, of course, also love being around friends and family, I am also a bit of a fiend for wanting regular access to personal space, and am not too ashamed to attend events alone if I want to go but nobody else is interested.  I have always felt very lucky in this regard, and some of my favourite memories are ones in which I “went alone”.

Because of this, I didn’t think I’d have any issue at all with loneliness when I moved into my own place.  Largely, it’s been as fun as I thought.  I watch whatever I want to watch.  I eat whatever I want.  I don’t need to explain to anybody where I’m going or what I’m doing, and the truth is that by the time I come home from work I’m often so tired that I don’t think I’d be a great conversation maker anyway.  It’s nice to be able to sit in silence without worrying about radiating tired or draining energy towards others.  I’m terrible at concealing my feelings, and can’t feign enthusiasm if the reality is that I feel like a dusty old over-caffeinated broomstick who drastically needs a bath and a mug of Horlicks.

I hadn’t noticed any problems at all, until one day I realised how much more anxious I had been since moving.  Combined with a job which whilst enjoyable also necessitates a great deal of time alone, I have been spending a lot more time in my own head and not around others, and am only just starting to pick up on the thought patterns and behaviours that this  has influenced.  When I’m at home alone, or driving around in the car, I overthink and ruminate about things a lot more than I used to.  I see problems that probably don’t really exist anywhere else beyond within that mass of space between my ears, and then wonder if I’m being overly cynical, yet other times, I think I’m incredibly naive about a lot of people and things.  And then I just get confused and don’t know what to think about what I think.

As soon as I’m back around people, those anxious thoughts vanish.  It’s almost like putting on a pair of spectacles that enable me to read situations more clearly (to be fair I seldom wear my  prescription glasses as I just feel that they make me look like Velma from Scooby Doo).  I either conclude that my thoughts were irrational, or realise that even if they were true and the world really was about to end, I could probably get over it anyway.  Perspective comes flooding back and reminds me of everything that I have spent many years encouraging others not to forget through this blog and other means – that the world is much bigger than your living room, pretty much most problems are only temporary, focus only on those you care about, and that even when times are hard, Frazzles exist to make it all better again.

I know all of those things and have often pride myself on being pretty emotionally aware in many regards (though this has not always been the case), but only since moving out have I really started to understand how much of an influence loneliness has on the way we feel.  I haven’t always felt as strong as I thought I was.  Living alone is different to traveling alone, attending a concert alone, or going for a walk alone.  Living alone is having nobody who really understands or knows about everything you’re going through.  You may have plenty of people you speak to about a lot of things, but there’s nobody that has understanding for absolutely everything that happens on a daily basis, nobody who just knows. 

If I sound as though I’m feeling sorry for myself, then please be assured that I’m not trying to.  I chose this way of living and I don’t regret it.  I’ll happily take a few anxious thoughts every now and then if it means be able to watch retro episodes of Bruce’s Price is Right at breakfast-time, or listening to the same song on-loop for several hours, without causing anybody else any unwarranted distress.

I have always believed that the key to inner peace is knowing how to manage alone – emotionally, practically and financially – and so I see this latest challenge as nothing more than exactly that, a challenge, and a learning curve which will make me stronger.  The anxious thoughts I’ve been experiencing recently may disappear as soon as I’m around other people, but I’d like to get myself into a position whereby I can work through them alone instead, from the convenience of my kitchen table rather than anywhere beyond.

I’m writing this post for several reasons; not just for a bit of helpful reflection of my own situation that may resonate with others who feel or have experienced the same, but largely to be open about loneliness as something which is widely known to cause a great deal of emotional difficulty to many people.  As a society, we have become so much better at understanding mental health over the years, yet still many people suffer from the likes of anxiety and other issues to which over-thinking often contributes, and don’t voice it, for whatever reason.  Perhaps they are afraid of what others might think, or they just don’t know that they can talk about it.  If these people are lonely – be it because they live alone or they just feel alone – then it can be even harder to trace or help.

If you are feeling lonely and are finding that the internal thoughts, questions or worries are making too much noise within, then recognise that that noise is just a scream for release.  Pick up your phone and either make a call or send a text to a friend or relatives to make arrangements to meet.  Let the thoughts out and see how different they now look.  Listen to another person’s perspective on them.

You are not really that lonely, and your worries aren’t really that bad.  You just needed to talk.

Song of the Day:  Proleter – Lullaby

Now this one has definitely been played on loop in my flat at least hundreds of times in recent weeks.  It’s the sort of song that just makes everything seem hilarious if you have it stuck in your head.  Which happens frequently.