Posted in Books, Life and Family

Of Books, Brachets and Friendships Gone Bad

30 Sept 2020

Finished Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) and began The Once and Future King (T.H. White).

I like Diana Wynne Jones books. I haven’t read Howl’s Moving Castle before, but loved the Studio Ghibli animation when it came on TV some years ago. The book was entertaining too, and cozy. I liked the idea of hiding away in that castle, but wondered if the different doorways made it easier to assault than if it had only been accessible from one town.

I read The Once and Future King when still at school. It was enjoyable at first, then I started to struggle, so I don’t remember much about it. I bought it for Kindle when it came up as an Amazon deal, and now I’m reading it again, feeling amazingly happy. It reminds me of the old days when life was simple, by which I mean as a teenager I could sit and read while Mum slaved away in the kitchen — now it’s the other way around, heh. Anyway, I always had a special affection for The Sword in the Stone.

I’m just a few pages in, and already I’ve run into a shower of words I don’t know, most connected with falconry, though I doubt if it will stop there. The Wart is lost in a scary medieval forest at night, but has met a beautiful knight and his brachet. I knew what the brachet was before the Wart went behind a tree to look at it, but I’m not sure where I read the word before. In this same book, maybe, but there are other suspects such as the Dorothy Dunnett books.

I should be sleeping but am wide awake because at teatime I dropped off when the Coronavirus Update was in full swing. Woke and found myself firmly gripping a full mug of tea with one hand clamped over the top. Was enjoying the heat of it tucked against my ribs, but now it was cold. Just lucky I didn’t spill it everywhere while dozing!

Looked at the reporters who were asking questions of the Prime Minister and his advisers and wondered if they ever smiled. Mum turns the sound off when they come on… she used to listen, but quickly tired of them. In fact, they send her blood pressure up so she has to turn them off to calm down.

As I was saying, I should be sleeping now but instead am writing a diary entry cum blog post on my phone using a bluetooth keyboard. I love the keyboard because it makes me feel more in control. I can type at the speed of thought (!) and can go the extra mile. Dabbing things in via the phone’s virtual keyboard is so slow and difficult that I wilt at the idea of writing more than I have to.

My reading lamp’s bright LED lightbulb went phut a few nights ago so the room is pretty dim. There’s a funny little lamp that changes colour from pink through orange, green, blue, pink. It’s soothing, and last night I left it on when I went to sleep.

The phone app confuses me… I accidentally scribbled over my text and don’t know how to erase the marks. Shouldn’t have been possible! Why should anyone want or need to do that? Good grief.

I picked up my iPad a few minutes ago and found an email from a friend. She says she’s in a book club and they talk to each other in a chat app of some description. I wonder what books they have been reading? Maybe I could join one too, though it could be annoying if I’m in the mood to read The Once and Future King when they want me to read something else. I was in an informal book club years ago but it fell apart before we ever discussed anything because the leader began hissing like a steam kettle at another member for recommending light novels and romances. I read a couple anyway, as I reckoned if the other ladies liked them enough to recommend them, they could be worth trying. I can’t remember — don’t think they were my cup of tea but they weren’t awful.

I recommended Beverley Nichols’ garden books, especially Merry Hall. One of the members said she tried to get them at their library and they didn’t have them but they ordered them for her. The books were a success with her, so there was *that* positive outcome at least, before our wee book club drew its last gasping breath.

I was wondering why people fall out with each other. My family might get annoyed with each other at times, but we don’t start hating each other or trying to end relations. I wonder what are the factors that cause things to go bad when they don’t have to?

Perhaps someone starts bearing grudges and keeps putting the boot in, using a nasty tone while pretending it’s just humour, and in the end it’s more than flesh and blood can stand. Once I asked Mum if there were good reasons for ending friendships… I was still friends with A at the time so you can see my thoughts were already trending that way several years ago. She said the only reason you could possibly have for ending a friendship is boredom! Much later, A said something hurtful when I was trying to cheer her in a dark moment. Mum advised me not to object because I’d only sound huffy — but I think now that I should have stopped right there. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Posted in Books, Political and Social Issues, Quotations, Reluctant Landlord

Reflected in Books

Written in April 2020 but not published till now.

‘Write about the three objects, books, songs, people, or places that best tell the story of the past year in your life.’

That Discover prompt jumped out at me. Songs can be twisted to mean anything about any part of your life, but I wonder about books. I’m only just getting back to reading now, so am trying to remember what books were on my radar before the virus struck.

(1) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Jung Chang). I took it into my head to re-read this at the start of the year. There it was in my Kindle and I wanted to refresh my memory of it. On 13 January I wrote in an email to a friend: “Reading Wild Swans just now… I read it before years ago, and I’m amazed how little of it I remember. Landlords are mentioned a lot… they were hugely unpopular in China, and they and their families ended up at the bottom of the list for rations in the famine.”

The British Government knew about the coronavirus in China ten days before I wrote that, but I didn’t hear about it till later.

What has happened since then? Disease, death, lockdown. Suspension of industry. Hunger in some places because of job loss, shortages and disruption of food supply chain. Everybody rushing to the support of everybody else, but some in Britain suggested ‘fat cat’ landlords should absorb the loss of rent and expect no renumeration. That’s scary, especially for the ‘poor pensioner’ type of landlord who depends on the rent to get by. Some have been living this way since the credit crunch.

I’m worried by moves to paint some sectors as good or deserving and others as selfish or pointless. For a while at least, one shop reportedly kept certain items at the back and only sold them to ‘the elderly and vulnerable.’ I can understand why, but my sister’s neighbour said ruefully that though she’s immunocompromised and qualifies as ‘vulnerable’, she looks in very good health. If she went into that shop and asked for these things, they possibly wouldn’t sell them to her. No matter how well-meaning such actions are, I remember the Chinese landlords. When you are always at the back of the queue, the shelves will always be bare when you get there.

(2) A Winter Book (Tove Jansson). Went on to read this after Wild Swans. Read it twice before but was in need of comfort. At this time of year it was the perfect choice but I abandoned it halfway through and have only just got back. There was a post on Facebook yesterday that asked a random question… if you had to do the job of the main character of the last book you read, what would it be? Writer and artist who lives alone on an island — sounds perfect to me. 🙂 In the chapter where I abandoned the book, she is worrying about the arrival of a squirrel on her island. It just floated up one day, and because it returned to sit on the jetty, she’s afraid it’s disappointed and intends to leave the same way it came. That’s like me with my blog, perhaps… scattering breadcrumbs in a hope to draw like minds, but, oh look — they might leave!

When I started reading it again, I immediately thought of the lockdown. Anyone who’s lived on one of these islands must laugh. I’ve no experience of it myself, but I imagine you would need to keep good stocks. You can’t just leap in your boat and go shopping at a whim, especially when there’s a storm. You would need to think ahead and obtain all kinds of things for emergencies, repair and maintenance as well as food. You need your comfort items to keep yourself happy, so books, games and sweets are as essential as anything else. You would be by yourself or with your family, and there are certain things it’s only polite to do if visiting someone else’s island.

Listen to me rabbiting on! I don’t know about any of this, but a lockdown must seem like nothing new if you’re used to living this kind of life, especially when a storm hits.

(3) Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Theodore Dalrymple). I read this before the other two books, and absolutely loved it. It fits in beautifully with my own feelings about things, especially concerning recent events. I could quote bits of it and never have enough, but all I can say is, ‘read it for yourself’. It finishes with the following line from Pascal:

Travaillons donc a bien penser. Voila le principe de la morale.
‘Let us labour, therefore, to think well. That is the principle of morality.’

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 Books, Writing

Sleepless in Anórien

wwjotter

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.

Bother.

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

jaathome

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 Books, Lost in Thought, Music I Like, Quizzes and Memes

Headaches, Hate, and Self-Improvement

What anniversaries do you mark on your calendar and keep?

Birthdays. Halloween. Christmas. Passing reference to Easter. That’s it.

What is your favorite genre of painting: abstract, impressionism, cubist, surrealism, etc?

I don’t think I have a favourite — I like a variety. My mother likes Klimt, and I have a huge Escher book in the house — it’s beautiful.

How do you deal with a headache?

Drink water, open windows for fresh air… lie down if it’s bad enough. Occasionally I take a paracetamol. Usually, after a little sleep, the edge of it has gone. Also don’t eat too many nuts at once, as an excess of those can bring on headaches!

Is there anyone in your personal life that you profoundly hate?

Hate seems a pretty strong emotion — I don’t have that consistent a feeling about anyone, though there are those I dislike.

About how often does a catchy song get stuck in your head?

It’s a permanent setting! There’s always something playing in Radio Me. The two songs bothering me the most tonight are Why Does It Always Rain On Me (Travis) and Every River (Runrig).

If you were going to read just one self-improvement book, what would the specific subject be? That is, in what way would you most want to improve?

I don’t know about the term ‘self-improvement’. I’m more inclined to think “perhaps my life will be better if…”, which is not the same. Or I look at a self-improvement book and feel annoyed, and think “why do you think I need to change?? I’m not changing for other people!” It depends. I feel more of a need to understand human nature, most of the time, so, anyway… rambling aside… if there was a very new, important and life-changing book about anxiety that was taking the world by storm, that would be the one. Otherwise, it would have to be one about … wait, have just looked on Amazon for a range of choices. I could read books on mindfulness, happiness, self-esteem, fitness, assertiveness, ‘not giving an eff’, kindness, freedom from various addictions, self-care, self-discipline, anger management, positive thinking, wisdom, time management, dealing with stress, success, effective communication…

You know… I think it would be Gretchen Rubin’s next book that I’d read, whatever it may be. Although her main focus is on happiness, it’s a subject that covers a lot of ground and there’s so much in there that I find interesting.

The questions were from Café Philos. I could get used to these. 🙂

 

Posted in Blogging, Books, Lost in Thought

Dare to Blog

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” — Brené Brown

Ten months ago, a certain book got me thinking about how it might relate to blogging. It also led me to consider how all the books we read connect together to shape our individual world views. They don’t quite fit together like jigsaw pieces, as each has something different to teach and might change our attitude in one direction or another, or bring us up short with “I can’t be sure about this after all… I’ll have to keep an open mind for the present!”

I will find myself agreeing with one book, only to completely reverse course on the next when faced with different information. It can be unsettling, but I would rather get a rounded view on things than make up my mind once and possibly be wrong for the rest of time.

As some may have guessed, the book that sparked off these thoughts was Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. For a while I was quite shy about mentioning that I’d read it, but it made me think about how we come across to others online and how we might be better to engage (or not).

Just as an aside, I almost forgot about this post you’re now reading! It was 99% mapped out in MindNode before being abandoned… life and self-doubt got in the way. I said at the end of my last post, Confuddled by Our Politicians, that I should stop using bits of my private diary and return to writing properly. That was when I remembered these notes.

Well, to start with, reading books challenges your own attitudes and brings about welcome change in your life. I used to blog a lot about deafness, anxiety and related negative experiences. Eventually I got cold feet and withdrew, deciding it’s only socially acceptable to be light and cheerful. Daring Greatly causes me to reconsider that, though I’m not 100% certain I would go back to those particular topics — maybe sometimes.

It’s not that we should descend into doom and gloom and have no good word to say about anything or anybody — far from it. It’s simply a fact that nobody’s perfect! People like to find a point of connection with others, and perfection isn’t it. It’s hard to have a satisfying conversation with someone who’s determined to talk about nothing but sunshine and roses. To sound a note of caution — in daring to put ourselves out there and engage, Brené Brown doesn’t suggest we pour out our deepest, darkest secrets to total strangers or slight acquaintances. Connection always starts with a first step of trust. Trust can be eroded, but it doesn’t mean you instantly give up on a person — we all make mistakes and deserve a second chance.

However, each situation should be judged on its merits. I wrote most of this post nearly a year ago and, since that time, I’ve come round to believing that we do need to keep our guard up and robustly defend ourselves where necessary. Friends, family, colleagues and even ‘experts’ sometimes lie, bully, and manipulate, and it’s really not good to be the always-amenable sheep. I hinted at that in a recent rambling and irrelevant post (which I don’t really recommend): Finding My Inner Monster.

There’s something I do recommend you watch when you have a spare half hour. Just yesterday I came across this video in YouTube: Doctor Admits KETO is Worst Diet in the World (WARNING: Ninja Level Sarcasm)

It is beautifully captioned… no autogarble. :-D.

Another video I found today, by Chris Kruger: “Ketogenic diets damage the liver and kidneys” – Is ketosis ‘starvation mode’? -How many carbs…?

I was thinking about the word ‘vulnerability’ as used in the book by Brené Brown. It doesn’t give us carte blanche to tell all our secrets or show weakness; it’s just about being human. The word I might have used in its place was ‘authentic’ — you hear a lot about writers needing an authentic voice. Then I thought again and realized it’s not enough on its own, but that particular Eureka moment seems to have passed me by…

OK, I had a wee think, and conclude it’s actually about accepting and being at peace with our own weaknesses rather than beating others over the head with them; that’s why it’s more than simply being authentic. Perhaps that’s the doubt that rose in my mind!

Humility is also important. Someone I knew described herself as ‘authentic’, but she could be brusque, opinionated, and didn’t like alternative points of view, no matter how carefully worded — so I found myself walking on eggshells rather than trusting that she would understand where I was coming from. Being authentic doesn’t mean we should be inflexible and dismissive of another person.

People need to feel valued (this is reminding me now of yet another book — Lost Connections by Johann Hari!) Perhaps that need in us is at the root of many unhelpful behaviours, such as:

(1) not allowing people to see our real selves
(2) putting up a false front of perfectionism
(3) defensiveness
(4) overreacting when criticized or questioned
(5) hiding rather than telling the truth

These in turn would lead to never wanting to admit we were wrong, as there’s an underlying fear that people would think less of us for it. There is a strong tendency in society to cut people down to size using ‘shame’ as a tool, and that can be damaging. Jon Ronson wrote on the subject himself in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It was truly thought-provoking, especially where it relates to social media. Making people feel bad doesn’t help matters and might make things worse. See his book for exactly how much worse it can get.

When younger, I struggled a lot with the situations deafness could get me into, and never understood what that feeling was. How could you feel it when you hadn’t even done anything wrong? The mere thought that people were determined to misunderstand and judge you was unpleasant, even if you knew they were out of order.

What I got from the book should be relevant to blogging in the following ways:

(1) We need an authentic voice, while not oversharing.
(2) We can say what we need to say while looking outward… we’re not the centre of the world!
(3) We accept we are not perfect and might get things wrong or litter our text with typos.
(4) It’s better to get our feet wet than hang back and not engage.

I wrote the above list several months ago, and definitely needed the nudge! I still get cold feet about saying what I really think about things, and attempts to bring in a form of internet censorship are not helping: 5 recommendations to tackle disinformation and fake news. We are often told how difficult it is to sway other people from their opinions simply by talking at them, but suddenly that simple fact is forgotten. Everybody we talk to is apparently a mindless sponge, and has to be protected from careless words.

Coming down to earth again from my mini-rant…

It’s good to be light and humorous while guarding your privacy, but not at the expense of saying what you wanted to say. You do have to weigh your words and decide where to draw the line. You have to decide if what you have to say is really helpful, and if it would influence people for the better. Blogging is a balancing act, but so are many other things in life.

Reading a lot pulls you first one way, then another, but maybe that’s how you find out what works best. Gradually you start finding your feet. It’s how we are able to form a life philosophy, though it’s OK to change our minds based on new experiences and fresh information. I used to think changing my mind would betray weakness of character or lack of intellect, but eventually realized it’s normal. We aren’t fully rounded individuals unless able to accept, reconsider and change. This post is a case in point, because I feel I’ve been changing my mind about some of it in the interim!

In keeping the conversation fresh, blogging plays an important part in the media — perhaps far more important than has been realized up to now. While continuing to inform ourselves and tweak our world views, we need to keep that space free and unfettered, and not allow ourselves to be shamed or manipulated into silence.

Posted in Books, Health Issues, Videos

Humming to Myself on a Grey Day

Snippet from my private diary…

16 June 2018

Another grey and rainy day.

The song in my head: Colours (Donovan). Blue is the colour of the sky, ay, ay, in the morning, when we rise, that’s the time, that’s the time, I love the best. Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinking, mm hm, without thinking, uh huh, of the time, of the time, when I’ve been loved.

Have watched a YouTube video already:

The EU Are Trying to Ban My YouTube Channel [Politics UK]

Politics UK is Stephen Edginton, a young fellow who interviews people across the UK and wider Europe… ordinary people in the street as well as politicians. He was talking about Article 13 and is really keen that we all write to our MEPs.

Have just bought a book called ‘Lost Connections’ (by Johann Hari) from Amazon. Renatha (is that the right name?) was talking about it in her blog, and it sounds good. I can’t read it yet, but it’s in my reading queue.

Here’s a bit of the blurb:

“What really causes depression and anxiety – and how can we really solve them? Award-winning journalist Johann Hari suffered from depression since he was a child and started taking anti-depressants when he was a teenager. He was told that his problems were caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain. As an adult, trained in the social sciences, he began to investigate whether this was true – and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression and anxiety is wrong.”

Then I discovered from another video that sometimes the helpless bees who need saving are humans:

The kind-hearted whale

I love it. 🙂

Posted in Blogging, Books, Quizzes and Memes, Writing

Random Selection of Stolen Tags

“I’ve been working on this for hours now… It’s too much to find questions and people (that would be like 100 people if I did these correctly) to tag in it. So maybe I’ll go with a cop-out and say “Hey, if you want to answer any of these questions, then go ahead! I nominate you!”

– Life of Chaz

Wow! Reading Chaz’s award catch-up post, I realize just how many of these are buzzing around out there. I confess I was tagged once and didn’t respond in any shape or form, even to say ‘thank you’. I still feel guilty. It happened just as I was screaming around the house getting ready for a rare family vacation, and at the same time was retreating mentally, which meant I probably wouldn’t respond to anybody online for a long while. I’m not sure what that was about, and it’s years ago now. Perhaps I can make up for it a bit?

From Chaz’s post I picked out 15 questions I could answer, along with a couple of short lists at the bottom.

1. What qualities do you like most in others and why?

A gentle sense of humour, genuine interest in others, patience and tolerance (though not loud and confrontational… I mean a quiet understanding of people with a willingness to listen and think).

2. What qualities do you like most in leaders and why?

Direct and discreet honesty. Supportiveness; tolerant sense of humour. Strength and determination (obviously!) but no blind arrogance.

3. Describe one moment in your past that you would say changed your entire life.

Becoming more aware of people outside my little bubble… I won’t say how that happened. 😛

4. What qualities do you look for in a friend?

Kind sense of humour, predominantly positive outlook, friendly patience, chattiness and responsiveness (though I don’t require that they write every day — life can be too disruptive!) A good conversation is balanced between two people… if it’s too one-sided, you feel frustrated and unheard, and the friendship is likely to founder.

5. What’s your favorite book?

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien — I read it four to six times AND it was first to mind, so I really have to nominate that. There are other frequently read and loved books too, but I’ve only been asked for one…

6. What advice would you give a new blogger?

I’m not much of a blogging personage, but I believe in caution. We don’t have the protections professional journalists do, so I’d say everyone on social media should read Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued (Mark Pearson).

7. Are you a book person, digital person, audio person, or combo person and why?

Combo without the audio. I’m too deaf to listen to audio books. Amazon probably can’t understand why I never respond to its emails about the audio books I could download! eReaders are amazing because you can have access to a huge library without cluttering up your house with paperbacks or visiting the library. The town library doesn’t even have a smattering of what I could read on Kindle. Yet I have a big collection of books in print… cookery books, textbooks, some poetry, art and photography books, comic books and some old sentimental paperbacks.

8. Do you have a particular reading spot?

A solid and comfortable Parker Knoll sofa protected by a bright throw, with my feet up on a huge padded footstool. It’s also my favourite blogging spot.

9. Who is your all time favorite author?

Tove Jansson. Does that contradict The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) as ‘favourite book’? Well, I’ve thought about it, and both my answers are still the same.

10. What’s one insecurity you have about yourself?

My speech is very, very quiet and I pronounce a lot of things wrong (born severely deaf). I hate speaking, so clam up if I’m not comfortable with someone or in a particular situation. I’ve been amazed, on the other hand, how I can prattle away at a total stranger, one I’ve taken to for no reason that I know of… other than that I like them and they seem kind.

11. What’s one exotic animal you wish you could have as a pet?

Albino hedgehog. I don’t know if that counts as ‘exotic’, but it should.

12. What is one thing you can’t live without?

I’m torn between iPad and wheelie shopping trolley…………

13. What’s the best thing you’ve learned or experienced from blogging?

What my own writing strengths and weaknesses are. Also that the vast majority of people are kinder than you fear. 🙂

14. If you’re not blogging what are you doing?

Cooking, laundry, housework, shopping for groceries, feeding the cats, taking the rubbish out and putting out bins for the bin men, walking outside with camera, reading other people’s blogs, having coffee in town, chatting with friends, listening to music, watching TV or DVDs, reading the news, watching YouTube videos (mostly about Brexit), writing in my private diary, composing the odd weak haiku, editing photos and (when I have time, which I haven’t lately) digital art.

15. What’s the last record/album/mp3 you bought?

I bought two together — Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and 1989 by Taylor Swift.

‘One Lovely Blog’ tag: Share 7 facts about yourself.

1. Aargh! The Mini-Beast is here. (Snow whirling past window).

2. I hate excessive swearing and sudden bodily references (e.g. ‘he has balls’ or ‘all that shit’) because they genuinely distract me from the point that’s being made. 😛 I’m not a prude… it’s partly because it points to strong negative emotions, so when you feel that someone is angry or aggressive, your brain promptly clouds up and you want to retreat. Message lost.

3. I have brown eyes.

4. My best friend at university said she can never ‘read’ people with brown eyes, whereas it’s always clear what people with blue or grey eyes (like herself) are thinking. I’m not so sure about that, because people have a horrible habit of knowing exactly what I’m thinking without me saying a SINGLE WORD! Phweee.

5. A recent discovery in the local supermarket: stonebaked wholemeal pitta breads. They aren’t big tough ones… they’re soft and full of flavour.

6. In my blog’s side bar are the posts I’ve recently liked… more about that further down.

7. We’re having chicken, carrot and courgette bake for supper tonight (homemade, of course!)

‘Listicale Tag’; prompt given: Top Five Favorite Villains (in no particular order):

1. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman’s character in The Fifth Element)
2. Bill (Oliver Twist)
3. Any villain played by Alan Rickman, like in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
4. Count Olaf (as played by Jim Carrey in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events)
5. Gru (Despicable Me)

Blog posts I recently ‘liked’ in WordPress:

This isn’t a tag, though you can run with it if you like. 😛 I mentioned it above as one of my ‘facts’. I read and ‘like’ so many posts that they must disappear quite quickly. By tonight, the five at the foot of ‘Posts I Like’ in my sidebar will almost certainly be gone:

1. Other People’s Lives (Strange Codex)

2. Being Preachy Doesn’t Sell (James Harrington’s Blog of Geek and Writing)

3. A Short Analysis of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘The Rainy Day’ (Interesting Literature)

4. The Part of Me (MW the Mermaid)

5. Dealing With Anger (Discovering Your Happiness)

Posted in Books

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂