Posted in Lost in Thought, Writing

A Positive Energy Template for Diaries

A few years back, before being advised to do the online CBT course, I found myself studying articles about whether or not keeping a diary was beneficial. Mostly it’s seen as a beneficial thing, but there’s concern among some that it could lengthen spells of depression and encourage negativity. If you are writing the same bad thoughts day after day, that could make it harder to overcome them and move to a more positive place.

Well, I wasn’t feeling too great, and I’m not sure what I would have done without the diary at all… it gave me something to do; a safety vent; a place to keep the better thoughts circling, because too often I would wake again in darkness. If I re-read bits, though, it was always with detached curiosity. After only a few hours I would have changed or forgotten, and already it as though I was reading someone else’s words. Whatever encouragement was there would shine all the brighter, and I would copy those bits to later days.

That said, I could see that writing the same time after time isn’t as healthy as sallying forth and finding something new to focus on — if you can. And if you can’t? What then?

The thought process I had at the time was that it was taking much longer than expected to heal — years instead of weeks — and so I should heed the warnings about negative journalling. I couldn’t quit it cold turkey, but could nudge it in a healthier direction. That would mean reducing ruminations to a minimum and talking more about other things.

If you’re in the habit of rambling on, it might be hard to break away and include the small stuff, so I created a diary template. It took the form of questions to answer every day, including mini-lists such as ‘five things I’m grateful for’. Creating the template was a beneficial exercise in itself, but, true to form, planning was more fun than follow-through…

Well, the template helped at first. I used it for several weeks, looking forward every day to filling it in. It was scary how important it was, like a colourful little raft in a sea of grey. After a while I realized some questions were pointless. “What five things am I grateful for? Family, friends, The Little Witness, Inspector Montalbano, sun.” Then the next day it would be the same, though I made the effort to mix it up a little. “Rain, liquorice tea, cream, coffee, chocolate.” You were discouraged by the banality. I cut the template down, deleting some questions and amalgamating others. Answers did not need to be so specific, and my focus could vary from day to day.

The next problem I noticed was that because I had banned myself from rambling and was just saying isolated things like “nobody came to the house today, though the nurse came yesterday” or “we watched Inspector Montalbano and a programme about lemurs, then something else with Lucy Worsley in it but I can’t remember the title”… anyway, because this was the new format of my diary, the natural arc of the day had been interrupted and I felt fragmented as a result. I suppose the aim was always to break the connection between myself and the emotional merry-go-round I was on, but now that I was succeeding, I didn’t like it! Whoo.

I decided to allow myself to ramble again — I would start with a ‘narrative’ (the normal daily diary entry) and follow it with a shortened template to fill in. That way I would have the best of both worlds. This was harder to do than expected, because it’s like writing two diary entries instead of one! In the end, I was writing the normal narrative while leaving the template blank every night, either because it had all already been said or I’d used up my time and energy.

So that was that.

I’m grateful the template helped as much as it did. Putting so much thought into my swing away from everything damaging and fruitless was enough in itself to encourage healthier habits. And though that part of my life was painful, I came out of it with a thicker shell.

I’m including my diary template here, in case others want to try — either for fun or because it might be useful.

Delilah’s Positive Energy Template

Start (if you prefer) with a free-flowing narrative, then fill in the following. Things to keep in your narrative: times, health notes, dreams, songs in head, conversations, weather as it progresses, visitors, progress of projects. Go for lightness, fun, detail, happy moments, plans, energy.

Average mood rating over the day:

Average energy rating over the day:

TV watched, with brief comments:
Books read, with brief comments:
What today did I enjoy the most, and why?
What today was the most draining?
Is there anything helpful to suggest about it?
Anything you think you learned today:
At least one positive thing to say about today:
At least one thing better about today than yesterday:
Anything I’m in the mood to do, no matter how wild and wonderful?
At least one habit, good or bad — yours or someone else’s:
One thing you like about yourself or think has potential:
One thing you like or appreciate about someone else:
Any resolutions kept or broken?
Do you feel better now than when you got up? Y/N
How do you rate today?
Which section(s) of this template seemed the most unnecessary today?:
Is this journal template helping me be more positive? Thoughts.

There’s a second mini-template I have… it was part of the original long template but I split it off as an optional addition. Later I dropped to listing just one item a day, because having to come up with five fresh items per question is too much night after night… especially when you’re tired and it’s 2 in the morning!

Daily Lists

Five things you’re grateful for:
Five resolutions or personal suggestions (e.g. ‘go to bed earlier’):
Five wishes (include goods, apps, books, music or things you’re unlikely to have):
Five things you could imagine being part of a perfect day?
Five creative ideas (e.g. likely haiku/blog/painting subjects, new hobbies, old hobbies…):
Five things to do some time:
Five things you’ve been forgetting about:

Experiment and change the templates to suit yourself, but never allow them to become a chore. Happiness and courage to my fellow diarists! Enjoy the sun where you find it, along with the rain.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Life and Family

Timetables and Self-Motivation

Creating a weekly timetable was a task in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course online. It’s useful against depression and a lack of motivation, but my main problem at the time was agoraphobia. Keeping a timetable is not likely to make a difference to that.

Timetables don’t work for me, as I’m more likely to do things if nobody expects me to do them just yet. If I write on my timetable that I should iron on Tuesday afternoon, I’ll probably do it on Monday morning when I’m meant to be tidying the loft. The one thing I tell myself to do right now is the one thing I don’t want to do just yet.

This is one reason the CBT course annoyed me… I wanted to do it properly but realized right away it was likely to fail. It’s not that drawing up a schedule is a bad idea — it just won’t work for me because I’m a flawed human being! Proving that depressing fact to myself put me in a bad mood, especially since I was so determined to do my best.

Recently I decided to set up another timetable for myself, but this time divided it into ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’ and ‘evening’ rather than hourly slots. A couple of days are marked ‘free’ because other people control the agenda on those days. I added five activities to the rest of the week, leaving plenty of blank space. I’m not free to do *nothing* in the blank space… it’s more that I’ll do plenty of ‘whatever’ throughout the week whenever it seems right, and the five activities are just suggestions to give the week a little structure. I don’t have to do them, or so I told myself.

I was happy that I had my timetable drawn up, and for a while was full of energy and buzz. I’m fairly well organized, see people from time to time, and the house is clean and tidy, so I felt pleased with myself. Yet, when I thought about it, I realized I haven’t followed the timetable at all. For instance, I suggested to myself that I write a blog post every Saturday evening, but today I’m writing it and it’s early Tuesday morning. Art was down for Saturday morning, but so far I’ve done nothing remotely creative.

I fondly imagined myself writing a blog post about how my crafty new timetable was working well and how it had turned my life around so that I was doing more of the things I wanted to do, but I can’t do that, because it’s not working the way it’s supposed to.

Well, the house is clean and things are going to plan (more or less) and I’m in quite a good mood and haven’t panicked recently, so is there a problem? Yes, I think so. I want to write more and do more creative things, but quite often I can’t tear myself away from where I am. Setting up a timetable with those things added doesn’t mean I will actually have the time or energy to do them.

I took a break just here from this blog post because my mood was getting dark and scratchy while I brooded over my intransigence. I thought it might help if I searched online for articles about timetables and their role in (fighting) depression.

The Big Picture

Here’s one from the good old NHS. They talk about the importance of dealing with the big picture first. Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve in life? It’s possible you might have issues with a timetable if the things on it are not things you really want or need to do. Perhaps you no longer see the point of things you used to enjoy. For instance, your special skill could be tapestry — you’re really good at the various stitches and using the right colours and textures, and have even learned to make your own designs and have collected all the right materials, equipment and software. But then what do you do? Keep the tapestries around the house? Sell them? Give them to friends or charity shops?

I don’t do tapestry, so that’s just an example. The NHS tapped into something with their article… ‘the big picture’ has become a problem for me, even where leisure is concerned. There’s plenty of reason to cook, clean and reorganize, but when it comes to creative hobbies, not so much. I should consider changing to the kind of hobbies that are pure experience rather than creative. Gardening might be good — it’s creative but it’s also work around the home, and you don’t have to worry so much about storage or future-proofing. If you can’t afford to buy plants, you can concentrate on tending what’s already there while weeding and mowing.

Ha ha. I could start small, I guess. Moving on…

Morning Routine

As related in Britt’s Story, focusing on morning routine might work well for some. I can understand kicking off the day with something that motivates you to get up and doing, or at least doesn’t put you off. You never want to get out of bed when all the things you start with are dull, unpleasant or hard work. For myself, mornings always begin with picking up bills from the floor, followed by cleaning out cat trays and emptying undigested lumps from cat dishes. Then there’s emptying the dishwasher and restocking it with anything that’s been waiting overnight. Often there’s something to put in the washing machine, which you do early so it has all day to dry and gives you time to wash more things, preferably before Mum gets to it with her blouses, vests and hairy cat bedding.

When you’re getting up, it’s usually a good idea not to think too much about what lies just ahead. I don’t have breakfast, but a mug of black coffee is a good start. Some days, playing a few short iPad games before getting out of bed helps me sit up and clear my head of anything negative. I do this even before checking my mail, because who knows what might be in my mail folder?? My mail always has to wait till I’ve sorted out the cats and got myself some coffee. At least then if I get angry or in a panic over anything, the main things will already have been done.

One of the things that attracted me to Britt’s article is mention of being able to do three hours of work after a solid-sounding morning routine, so… hmm. Would I be able to have my morning routine then do some digital painting? Or is that just me indulging in magical thinking again? I’ve never been a morning person and am more inclined to get going around tea time.

Overcoming Low Motivation

Another thing I found online is this 35-page ‘depression’ worksheet. At first I skimmed lightly through, thinking it seemed like more work than it was worth, then stopped at a section near the end — ‘Dealing with Low Motivation’. Previously there was a list of possible leisure activities… I was already considering changing to something new and different, so that could be useful for inspiration. Then there was talk about the difficulties of using a timetable when you have depression. Earlier I was grumbling about not feeling like doing any of the things on my timetable. The worksheet says well, no, of course you don’t feel like doing them, but the whole point of the timetable is to give you a reason to at least start. It’s not till you begin something that your appetite for doing it increases. You think “hey, this is more fun than I thought,” or “I like talking to these new people,” or “I like the way there’s more space around here now.” You feel the challenge… “can I do the same thing better or quicker?” If you’re feeling depressed and can’t motivate yourself to even start, you will not get around to feeling motivated based on nothing.

I know from experience this is true. Sometimes you’ve been putting something off, then start doing it, and after a while you realize that you’re enjoying it and have stopped dwelling on whatever else was bothering you. The more you get on with doing something or talking to someone you like, the less relevant the bad stuff becomes. It’s amazing how rapidly I can shift from “things are terrible!” to “not true — or if it is, I don’t actually care.”

I saw something on TV recently that’s relevant here. I’ve no idea what Mum was watching, but they were talking about Papillon, Devil’s Island and solitary confinement. Somebody said that one reason solitary confinement has such a bad effect on people is that it’s just you, lost inside your own mind, going over and over things with no information, distraction or perspective from outside. Perhaps you are mistaken about something, but even if you’re right about there being a problem, it becomes completely distorted and blown out of proportion.

Distortions. Yes, I understand that. I wonder if most people do, or is it only people who’ve experienced isolation or depression? That could be most of us! We have to beware of these distortions and must set ourselves free from the prisons of our own minds. For some, a timetable might help to spring the trap.

For myself, I’m glad all of today is blank on my timetable. It would be annoying if I was supposed to be cleaning the bathroom, because I don’t want to stop writing now that I’ve got back into it!

Well, finding that section in the worksheet made me happy all of a sudden. “Maybe I was wrong and could do this after all. There are tips to make it work.” Things like ‘start small’, break things down, be kind to yourself and don’t give up. When it comes to art, I could pick up a cheap sketchpad and doodle… I can do that in any room in the house. One of the problems with digital painting is that I’d have to go upstairs and turn the computer on. Dark, shady room. No company. Sometimes quite cold up there. There are psychological reasons against taking myself away from where I am. If you do go, in no time at all — after you’ve cleared the decks and not actually started painting yet — you find it’s already time for tea or to make supper, and you have to return downstairs to peel the potatoes.

Take Your Time Over Things

A statement I saw somewhere online was ‘quality, not quantity — take your time.’ That reminds me of ‘a job worth doing is worth doing well’. I used to know both those expressions but forgot them. Lately I’ve been too rushed to take my time over anything, and that includes writing blog posts. Possibly I have doubts about whether things are important enough to be worth more than 15 minutes, if that. But whether things are important or not, I still have to live my life and enjoy it.

Your Future Self

Someone I follow on Facebook is Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. Recently she linked to this article on Man Repeller: ‘What’s Your Favorite Thing to Do for Future You?’

One of the things people do is clean the kitchen and fill the dishwasher at bedtime so it’s nice and neat when your future self gets up in the morning. You don’t have to plunge yourself straight away into kitchen chores! Sometimes I do that, but not always. Like with sisters, there’s a balance between my Future Self and my Now Self. Sometimes Now Self has to take precedence, probably because she’s ill, over-worked, or amazingly sleepy. Anyway, I saw a connection between morning routine, the article Gretchen linked to and the topic of self-motivation that I’ve been exploring for this post. Consideration for Future Self can be a powerful motivator, to the extent that it supports or overrides any timetable, but you can’t always bank on your future Now Self having enough time or energy to save the day for future Future Self.

And More…

The morning I was writing this (a few weeks ago now), I was unsettled when I turned on my iPad and the following notification popped up from The Telegraph: “How to become a morning person: The Swedish lifestyle trend that could transform your life.” Unfortunately it’s behind a paywall, so I can’t read it. Right after that I checked my mail, and Amazon said: “Brave New Girl: Seven Steps to Confidence… new book for you!” There were other books advertised in the same email, all dealing with anxiety.

Have these companies been reading my as yet unposted words…? Then I realized Amazon wouldn’t need to; it was because I was searching online and visiting sites about depression and motivation. The advert only appeared after I did that. The Telegraph (or Apple News) will have noticed I’ve visited articles on similar topics in the past. No great mystery.

For me, timetables are still an experiment in progress, and I’m hoping mine will bring a little creativity back into my life. Meanwhile, for those who like comic strips and cartoons, here is the realization of one character who struggles with lack of motivation: The Purposeless Driven Life.

Here’s a cheerful song to play while you start drawing up your own timetable: Nana Banana — I Do What I Wanna Do! One of the comments explains that ‘Nana Banana’ means “I don’t care.”

Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, Reluctant Landlord

Dented and Daunted

Personal diary extract: Sunday 28 April 2019

Will need to pay out for new kitchen and appliances, dining chairs, redecoration, blinds, window fittings, new beds and bedding. Bin’s lid was broken — should report to council. Old kitchen worktop scarred — tenants weren’t using chopping board. Stainless steel pans grimy and burned on their bases. The biggest has a small dent near the bottom… maybe someone used it as a hammer to bash in a nail?

There are council taxes and power bills, and the agent keeps going on holiday.

By the time we went home today, I was depressed. Hoped I’d feel better if I wrote in my diary, but am in the process of becoming someone else and have temporarily lost my speech. Gradually finding my voice again in another way, if that makes any sense.

At night I finished reading The Abolition of Sanity by Dr Steve Turley. Makes me want to read C.S. Lewis! I don’t entirely understand the concept discussed — men with chests, Gaius and Titius, sublime waterfalls. Too many pieces are missing from the picture, at least for me. Why is the Tao important in ways that inner morality isn’t? Is the Tao a kind of universal constitution?

Perhaps combined security and morality is important — even while we take care of others, we need to be secure. You must buckle your own seatbelt before helping anyone else, and I doubt if that rule has changed. That might be one way the head and stomach meet to become the ‘chest’. Rationality takes precedence and balance must be found… we’re in a world where intellect has taken over and is trying to deny human nature, so there’s no ‘chest’ any more.

The above are just my garbled thoughts! An attempt to shine a light in a corner that’s still dark to me. I will obtain C.S. Lewis’s books and see if I can understand this thing better.

I’m less hooked on Facebook than I was a week ago, which is brilliant. Can’t blame the political groups for being open’ rather than ‘closed’… my favourite has the specific aim of sharing discussions and information as widely as possible. Fortunately I’ve found a closed group with similarities — not as good, but it offers a useful safety valve.

There’s not much being talked about that’s new just now. It’s recently been about the launch of The Brexit Party under Nigel Farage. Voting intentions for the European Elections. We got our poll cards a couple of days ago. Bill Cash has a court case against the government. Ann Widdecombe joined The Brexit Party and was expelled from the Conservative Party. (That suddenly made me think of my dream about Donald Trump firing me from one job because I was better suited to another!) JRM’s sister joined The Brexit Party — one of the first candidates to be unveiled.

It’s a little samey at the moment, and my focus has shifted. I’m excited about getting a new kitchen, though I’ll never have the fun of using it myself. The cost scares me, as well as the logistics of getting the house ready to rent out again. Will the next tenants be better… or worse?

Mixed feelings, but we’ll muddle through… we always do.

Posted in Dreams and Nightmares, Political and Social Issues

Eyeball to Eyeball With the Rest of the World

I dreamed I was working for Donald Trump. I was suddenly sacked, and at the end of that terrible, horrible, no good day, Donald Trump walked in, sat down next to me on a plain wooden chair, and explained he’d fired me himself because I had the perfect skills for another vacancy he had. He would be pleased if I would turn up for the mystery job on Monday, 9 a.m. sharp, in the Trump Tower adjacent.

As you can see, I’ve been too focused on all the political noise recently. I wasn’t particularly enjoying Facebook till I discovered political groups and pages, and I don’t know if this is a good thing or not!

The Good:

(1) There are knowledgeable lawyerly and political types who do a great job of managing expectations and beliefs, steering us clear of murky waters while clarifying certain issues. The lawyers in particular have the humbling effect of making me realize there are a lot of things I’ll never fully follow. It makes me want to erase all our laws and start again from a blank slate — keeping it simple, and not writing much at all! What was that that Bill and Ted used to say? “Be excellent to each other.” That’s all we need.

(2) These groups are a useful steam valve. People to actually talk politics with! Yay.

(3) Am made aware of political events as they unfold — such as who voted for what in the House of Commons 11 minutes ago, or who’s being interviewed on TV right now.

(4) I love political cartoons! They brighten up my feed regularly.

The Bad:

(1) Shouters and droners, no matter which side they’re on! Some are so busy venting or writing the same thing over and over that they don’t absorb the finer nuances of what was said or what’s going on. It doesn’t take much for someone to be rude to someone else for the wrong reasons.

(2) My favourite political groups on Facebook just happen to be open, not closed. Facebook friends and family can no doubt see what I’m writing there, so I need to keep such interactions to a bare minimum. I feel restricted and frustrated by this, but have no way of keeping these worlds separate.

(3) Now that Facebook has started to blow up and destroy itself with privacy issues, censorship and such-like, I’ve finally got addicted to it… a decade behind everybody else. I don’t WANT to be addicted! Black depression descends when there’s nothing going on in the political arena, and nobody saying anything… or at least nothing strong and positive.

Facebook is supposed to draw people closer together, promoting greater understanding of the rest of the world, but you don’t want to be close to absolutely everyone. Things get distorted and aren’t explained well, and snag your attention when it would have been better not to notice. “X doesn’t really believe that, does she?? That’s too disingenuous!! But it wasn’t meant for me; this was on a newspaper.” On my MP’s page I read comments that made me hate my own community, and it took me a few days to shake the feeling off. It can be truly alienating. On the whole it’s better to forgive people, ignore everything that annoys you and pass silently on…

I still believe Facebook is a dangerous place. The more I’m drawn into it, the messier my life is liable to get. Eyeball to eyeball with the rest of the world, I risk falling out with it en masse! It might be good for my health and sanity to deactivate my account after Brexit, but when will that be…?


I keep writing blog posts but not getting round to posting them — mostly because I don’t trust the iPad any more, while the desktop computer has been off a lot (I was meaning to blog from there). This post was written maybe a week ago. Another one after this is waiting to be copied out.

Posted in Writing

What Should We Do With Old Diaries?

Scans of diary covers

Anyone out there with old diaries? Why did you begin them and why do you still write them — or why did you stop? What formats do you use, and how do you store them? Are you worried someone else will read them or that you might lose them? Is your blog your diary, or do you see it as being separate?

I came across a 2009 article with many varied comments: Ask Unclutterer: What Should I Do With Old Journals? So many people out there wrestling with similar issues! Some burn or shred their diaries while others keep them safe or pass them on. I was concerned at the thought of them being destroyed, but the more I read, the more I realized it’s a very personal decision. Some diarists may feel their writings have no relevance to anyone, not even themselves. They worked through old problems and moved on, and don’t wish to go through any of it again. Others have no space and feel their families will want to lead an uncluttered life without being weighed down by a grandparent’s angsty old tomes. I can empathize with that thought.  Would I want to take responsibility for a large collection of family history? I don’t know. I kept some of my grandfather’s old books but didn’t want all of them, foxed and old-fashioned as they were. He didn’t keep a diary but I would have liked one, maybe half a dozen. On the other hand, a whole boxful, supposing he’d been a serial diarist like me? Difficult to know.

Recently I mentioned personal projects and feeling unable to complete them. There are many things I begin and then forget about, or I don’t forget but start questioning myself, or become distracted by something else. One of these projects was to scan and index my old diaries. I used to worry about how I could search them for issues, dreams, recipes or events I knew I’d written about.

I tried writing with a digital pen but that was more work than it was worth. I had to clip a receiver to the book I was working on and keep my writing very straight and neat. I would upload the files onto my Toshiba laptop then edit them in the related software, only to find lots of errors to edit out. It was disconcerting how short the entries were… my handwriting made them seem long, but they weren’t! Later, some of the files disappeared, even saved ones, and the refill for the pen wasn’t available in the UK.

OK, that didn’t work.

I tried typing out journal entries from recently handwritten diaries, but that was boring and I could always think of something else I would rather do. Dropped that plan.

Then, of course, I started typing daily entries directly onto the Mac or the laptop, and quite enjoyed that, because it was easy to edit them and delete stuff I’d changed my mind about. I could also insert photographs. It wasn’t terribly relaxing, however, and I yearned to curl up somewhere comfortable and write what was on my mind without restriction, so bought an iPad. That worked very well for some years and I was careful about backing up — only lost one short paragraph when the word-processing app on the iPad failed to save. I just rewrote what I’d lost as it was still fresh in my mind, but I knew I couldn’t risk that happening again with a longer entry. It was due to lack of space, and I can fix that if I really put my mind to it, but I’ve not got around to it yet. I have to carefully transfer nearly 3GB of old Notes out of Mail. Some of these were diary entries themselves, so I can’t risk deleting them wholesale, and I can’t leave them in Mail where they might get synced into oblivion! Meanwhile the iPad gets older and the days are passing.

The diary must continue, so on 29 December 2018 I picked up a blank jotter from Woolworth and started writing. Now the diary-writing circle (circus?) is complete.

I still have older diaries to worry about, so scanning them seemed the quickest way of backing them up. In 2011 I randomly chose a big orange one, which I finished scanning just yesterday, 7 and a half years later! Shocking. But I’m delighted that I’ve finally completed one of these albatross projects; it’s put fresh heart into me. It can be done! I feel so heartened that I moved the scanner closer to the Mac (why didn’t I do that before?) to make scanning quicker and easier.

I’ve already scanned 31 pages and the front cover from a big pink 2010 diary. Having the colour cover scanned into the same folder will give me a visual reminder of which diary it was, and of course there’ll be an index to help me find things. I don’t need to copy all my diaries into text, especially as I’m still writing… it would be a never-ending task.

This reminds me of a Terry Pratchett book. In one of them, people’s lives write themselves into diaries in a strange library somewhere… was it on Death’s premises? If you were to go there and read your own, it wouldn’t be finished yet, and you would see the scrawl continuing as you looked. “I decided to read a blog post on Aw Diddums while waiting for my friends to turn up. I got to this point in the ramblings when suddenly the doorbell rang. I jumped out of my skin.”

No? Maybe you were reading someone else’s diary then. I can’t help it if you pick up the wrong book!

I don’t know, I’m probably wasting my time doing this, but I believe completing it will give me peace of mind, renewed self-belief, and maybe new ideas — or old ideas buried in old diaries that come to light again and are found. A new better-organized me beckons, and 2019 could be the year! Let’s get on with it.

Posted in Life and Family, Music I Like

Musing About Facebook and Other Things

A Message to You Rudy by The Specials:

I love this song. I challenge you to hear it and not dance, nod, tap your feet or fingers. It’s been in my head a lot over the past few days, and today I found myself dancing in the kitchen, even though it was only playing in my head and I was waiting for the kettle to boil! I felt happy and summery, which is strange at this time of year. But that’s this genre of music — I can’t think of many (if any) that make you sad.

Gosh, that new kettle’s a slow boiler. EU regulations, or just cheap?

Am fed up with cooking and in the mood to mess around a bit more. I found the old blog draft I was looking for; the one about internet reading. It was written three years ago exactly! Will publish it soon, though held back by the plaster on my index finger… clicking the mouse doesn’t work well, but the keyboard isn’t happy either.

As a Brexiteer, I thought I’d lost a cousin on Facebook… possibly a Remainer? I sighed and plodded onwards, then a couple of nights ago received a friend request and realized he had set up a new account. The old one is gone or inactive, and all his friends and family had to sign up to the new one. He ‘liked’ a couple of my posts, and I scratched my head and thought “a few days ago I was convinced I was persona non grata! And now I’m getting likes.” It’s good when we are slow to jump to conclusions, and it also feels good when friends and family put up with you even if they don’t agree with your views or understand your interests. Mind you, I haven’t told them about the dancing! 😝

I checked it wasn’t a fake page I was being invited to, and found myself talking to his sister after years of silence. She’s the nearest to me in age. Turns out life has been Heap Big Stress for her lately; you don’t get a full picture from the dribbets you read on Facebook. She sent a photo of their family Christmas so I’ll need to look out a return photo. Maybe the one of the Christmas tree… or the other one of the Christmas tree. Or one of another 500 pictures of the Christmas tree? I can’t decide!

Do you think one day they might have a giant library of all our photos? They’ll look at mine and decide they don’t need to keep hundreds of photos of the same Christmas tree when just one will do. Will they keep thousands of photos taken by every person who has lived? I don’t see it. Our pictures and words will die with our hard drives, along with our family Christmases.

Finishing up with a haunting song…

Pipe Dreams by Travis.

I’d pray to God if there was Heaven
but Heaven seems so very far from here
and it all boils down to the same thing
just a yin and a yang or a couple of pipe dreams
and it all boils down to the same old pain
whether you win or you lose isn’t gonna change a single thing

Posted in Cooking

When is a Pie Not a Pie?


Monday 14th

One of the nicest things in the kitchen is the slow-cooker. It’s less frightening than the soup-maker! I got the kitchen ready for some early morning cooking tomorrow — slow-cooked steak pie. A while back I saw a Facebook discussion with people stating if you cook the pastry separately from the filling, it’s not a pie. I reckon that’s hairsplitting, myself — convenience is king.

I found my recipe in the Best-Ever Slow Cooker, One-Pot & Casserole Cookbook. It’s actually Steak and Kidney Pie with Mustard Gravy, and we don’t like kidney, so we miss that particular ingredient out!

My mother bought another one today — The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney. There’s something ‘no nonsense’ about it — lots of good clear recipes and none of the white space and sprawling fonts you get in some. I’ve already seen a lot of recipes I want to try, and though it’s easier to run a house if you stick to what you’re used to, it’s good to push the boundaries and try new things too. It might be fun to pick a new recipe each time, and do so regularly — perhaps once a week, working my way through the book. I could end up with a quiverful of new tricks.

If I find any good vegetarian ones, I could invite my sister for supper one of these chilly nights. She brought us tasty homemade soup — it had parsnips, other vegetables, spices and cream, but no potato. Worked very well, and we were sorry when it was finished!

Wednesday 16th

Well I made the pie the next day using our black CrockPot. It was good, but though I only made half the amount in the recipe and we ate steadily through it for two nights, there’s still some left over for a third. I started cooking with a plaster on my index finger, but by the time the food was bubbling in the pot, there was a plaster on the other as well! The first was where I broke a nail on a car door; the second was where I nicked myself with my brand new supersharp knife. I was cutting a superround, superglossy and superlarge onion, and the knife slipped right down its steep curve. Ow. A bigger knife might have been better… on the other hand, a bigger knife might have left a bigger nick!

On the whole, the broken nail was worse… that was brutal, and I had to wait till we got home before I could apply first aid. Now I have to wait till it grows out, meaning the plaster could be there a while — annoying.

We can’t let the little things put us off though, and I’ve already picked out a pumpkin and ginger soup recipe for next time, from the Heather Whinney book… looks good!

Posted in Books, Writing

Sleepless in Anórien


The Great Diary Project asked about New Year’s Day entries, so I looked up mine. Of course, I’d missed it this year, so couldn’t tell them! Typical. I do have an entry for January 2nd:

Watching Jane Eyre. The Christmas tree is lit, the room getting dark, Jane Eyre is full of creaking floorboards and howling winds. Jane is mystified. I’m hungry… will have something at tea-time when M gets up. Nibbles and shortbread with tea. I got my Evernote app working again. A while ago I forgot my password but sorted it before Jane Eyre came on. I can use two devices without upgrading from the free version. For some reason it had me down for three devices: iPad, iPhone/iPad and Mac! That made no sense to me, but I deactivated the ‘iPhone/iPad’ device and now it works. It annoys me how computers, more and more, do things you don’t understand.

The rest is unquotable! I went back to keeping a handwritten diary — currently using an old Woolworths spiral-bound jotter, purple with spots. My daily entries in it are shorter than typed ones because…

[7 Jan]: …”I’m struggling with my hand-writing. One reason I make so many mistakes is that I leap too far ahead in thought. The form of my words drops away like loose string, and the wrong letters appear too early. I am deliberately writing more carefully at the moment, and it’s slow and frustrating. It feels strange to be carefully spelling out each word when my whole thought is waiting to be expressed, as though jammed in a bottleneck and at risk of vanishing altogether in the next second. Perhaps there’s something wrong with my ability to focus — perhaps the internet really has changed our brains.”

A while ago I started a blog post about the impact the internet has on people’s ability to concentrate, but never finished it. (!) I should look it out.

I’ve been unable to sleep, often waking around 4. I’ll put the light on and read, eventually dropping off again around 5 or 6. Then I’m useless for anything the next day, even falling asleep on the sofa when I should be up and doing. As I said in my diary on the 7th, “if only I could switch the sleeping with the ‘not sleeping’ — that would work out a lot better!”

I started to wonder if it was ‘house noises’ again. Being profoundly deaf, I shouldn’t hear anything at all, but it’s more like ‘feel’. At times the whole room seems to buzz, and I can’t work out why. Mum is absolutely clear that there’s no ‘buzzing’ whatsoever, and I’m equally clear there is! I reckon I’m onto something, because I was very nearly asleep when something in the air suddenly changed, as though we’d switched up a gear. My bed started to rumble, and I thought, “oh NO!” and woke up completely.


I put the light on and reached for my copy of The Lord of the Rings. The first words out of it were:

It was dark and Merry could see nothing as he lay on the ground rolled in his blanket; yet though the night was airless and windless, all about him hidden trees were sighing softly. He lifted his head. Then he heard it again: a sound like faint drums in the wooded hills and mountain-steps. The throb would cease suddenly and then be taken up again at some other point, now nearer, now further off.

~ The Return of the King, Book 5, Tolkien; p862, Chapter V: The Ride of the Rohirrim

That must have been annoying. Do orcs never sleep??

My energy has gone. Life is full of interruptions, and it can take ages to return to whatever I was doing, especially if motivation has vanished in the meantime. I don’t know why it should, but suspect there’s little or no value attached to my personal projects. There’s no real purpose. The most important thing I do right now is ‘keep house’, and my hobbies are as hollow baubles… they don’t hold my interest for long. When younger, I was convinced these things (writing, art and photography) would have their own intrinsic value and not just for me, but I no longer believe that! Life shows you that you are nothing out of the ordinary, and very little survives the passing ages. I still wish I had enough drive to make the most of my spare time. How much more we could achieve if we didn’t tire out, lose focus or lose heart — but perhaps that’s unrealistic. 🙂

I’ll look for that blog draft on internet reading, and see if I still agree with any of it…

P.S. About those orcs I blamed for keeping Merry awake, I’ve been corrected by Marshal Elfhelm in the book:

“Nay, nay'”, said Elfhelm, “the enemy is on the road not in the hills. You hear the Woses, the Wild Men of the Woods: thus they talk together from afar. They still haunt Druadan Forest, it is said…. they are troubled by the darkness and the coming of the orcs: they fear lest the Dark Years be returning, as seems likely enough.”

~ The Return of the King, Book 5, Tolkien; p863, Chapter V: The Ride of the Rohirrim

Ah, we are doomed…

Posted in Books, Christmas and New Year, Health Issues, Lost in Thought, Technology and Software, Weekend Coffee Share

If We Were Having Coffee in the New Year


I wrote the following on a good old fashioned notepad a few days ago. As I type, one of my CDs is playing… It Keeps Rainin’ (Tears from My Eyes) by Bitty McLean. It’s a cheerful song which I used to play a lot in my little house. The video is funny too! Do I know the feeling? Maybe. 🙂

Anyway, back a few days, you find me in a pensive mood.

The battery-operated lights are fading and I’ve been too mean to replace their batteries. Apart from that, the house has remained tidy and clean over the festivities — you would not be shocked by anything, though we are not so perfect that we would cause Jane Austen to feel ‘sick and wicked’. I wish her sister hadn’t destroyed so many letters in an effort to make her seem more so, but never mind. As Lucy Worsley points out in the book Jane Austen at Home, letters may have been edited or destroyed in an effort to spare feelings, as Jane’s commentary on family and neighbours could be quite cutting.

Over coffee I would show you this book and gush about how glad I am that my mother gave me it for Christmas. It saved my sanity, because I fell ill on Christmas Day with a bug of some sort. Well, what sort? Mum opened her eyes wide and declared it wasn’t the flu, though I’m convinced it was. She said you would wish you didn’t have the flu if you had it, but that’s exactly how I felt. In the middle of Kung Fu Panda 3 I was sick with horror because they were throwing around steamed buns or shovelling them into their gaping mouths. if I’d eaten anything that day I might have regretted it. As it was, I was convinced I’d die if I felt any worse! It was as though my entire system was creaking with the strain. Right or wrong, to insist I just had a cold is to make it sound like I was only snuffling and sneezing, when it really wasn’t like that.

Jane Austen believed in being stoic, so I don’t think she would sympathize with any of this!

For several days over Christmas I slept on the sofa under a furry pink blanket, but when I was awake, I read the book by Lucy Worsley. I was stunned at the sheer amount of detail it contained, and found myself wondering about earlier biographies which missed out a lot of this kind of thing. I discovered that I’d had the wrong idea about events which were seemingly glossed over or over-simplified, at least in my memory. Best of all, though, one big mystery about Jane Austen’s life was cleared up… ah! It’s shocking, but good to know at last.

I spent too much of 2018 clinging to my old iPad, which was never far away, but while I was unwell, it was dumped unceremoniously to one side and ignored. I suspect it was still on for a couple of days, during which time it had a mini-seizure, but I couldn’t deal with it! On the run-up to Christmas I was bored with it, as what I could do on it was curtailed by lack of space. I couldn’t write my diary; I couldn’t write blog posts, and I definitely couldn’t use any of the art apps. I had to avoid taking photos otherwise it would get very glitchy, and sometimes refused to save what I had written. Even the Mail app convulsed a couple of times — crashed so completely that it had to restart and then download a bunch of emails I’d already read and deleted. All my Safari bookmarks disappeared. I would try to entertain myself by scrolling through Facebook, but this would become extremely repetitive with the same old posts appearing again and again. The more I visited Facebook, the worse it got.

Abandoning the iPad felt good. It was as though I was having a proper Christmas break, and I was able to relax and get through books surprisingly quickly.

I don’t use the iPad for my diary any more, and as that’s the main reason I bought it, it looks as though I’m slowly returning to more ‘analogue’ pursuits and ways of doing things. Recently I was thinking about what computers used to mean to me compared to how I feel about them now. I asked myself if I’d still love and depend on computers if they were what I expected them to be, and the answer is yes’. Computers could give us simplicity, convenience and stability to a degree that they are not permitted to. They change too much and too quickly, and it becomes too expensive to maintain everything so that all your interlinked technology continues to work seamlessly. The victim of these pressing changes is our data. If we feel we can no longer trust computers to store, protect and maintain it, and we frequently get the sinking feeling that we are wasting time and money on software that quickly changes or disappears, we will eventually withdraw and find surer, safer and less expensive methods. I feel this recoil increasingly, and I’m getting to the point I just want to give up. Am I alone?

But I see you nodding sleepily over your empty mug — perhaps I ran on too long. Thank you for dropping by and listening with such patience. I hope things work out well for you in 2019!

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Rants, Weekend Coffee Share

Sticker Trouble

If you were having coffee with me, I would probably talk your ear off. It’s nice strong coffee, though, and we’re having it black (unless you insist on milk).

It’s bin day tomorrow so I took the trash out. Washed things sitting around, emptied and filled dishwasher, took care of houseplants. They have greenfly again, so I took them out and gave them a good blasting with the hose. I will blast them a few more times during the day, but not too often. I asked Mum why *her* plants never got greenfly, and she wrinkled her nose and pointed at her begonias. I noticed the little lavender spriglet was drying out again, so I shot it outside after a dousing, and told Mum I’d try leaving it outside because it keeps drying out too much in the house. It will certainly die inside. Outside is its best chance.

The coriander was completely dead, so I emptied it outside and stored the pig-shaped pot in the shed. The soil was all pretty wet… it was probably over-watered.

One of the things Mum bought when she was out with a friend this morning was over-packaged pears. There were four, and I immediately pulled them out of the packaging to place them in the fruit bowl, and realized two weren’t just bruised, they had cuts in the flesh and the juice was running. You couldn’t see the damage because of all the stuff they were cocooned in. I showed them to Mum, and she frowned.

“It says ‘from Italy’,” I said, reading the front of the covering film.

I was thinking about it while emptying the coriander skeleton onto the flowerbed, and remembered how sometimes you’d buy a pumpkin or a squash, and remove a big supermarket sticker only to find a considerable dent or other blemish under the sticker. When pumpkins are intended to be the decorative centre of somebody’s festive display, it’s an mean-spirited thing to do (oowoowoowoo), but I don’t know who puts the stickers on in the first place. The supermarket or the producers?

Probably it’s not something we should formally complain about… pick your battles, as they say. Presumably most squashes and pumpkins have flaws and blemishes, and it would be like moving to the country and complaining about farmyard noises at crack of dawn. The fact that somebody has deliberately hidden flaws with carefully-placed stickers does leave a bad taste in the mouth, though. The daft thing is, if they put a blemished pumpkin in the wonky veg section and discounted it by 10p, we would rush to buy it. At least we would know about it beforehand and be pleased with our bargain!

Stickers must cost money, and ultimately the customer and the environment both pay; the real issue is probably why they put stickers on loose produce anyway.

Having mused over this during the funeral of my poor coriander, I stored the pot and headed back into the warm.