Posted in Lost in Thought

Those Who Are Still With Us

Weather is suddenly cold… cold in the ‘I don’t want to leave this cosy room and go out into the rest of the less cosy house’ kind of way. The empire-building game I play has a Halloween event running, though I don’t feel ready for Halloween yet.

Mum found out today that one of the locals died violently. We didn’t know him as a friend but have spoken to him a few times. Normally Mum does all the talking but I spoke with him myself some time before the lockdown.

When a bad thing happens, it leaves you with a horrible feeling. There’s a heaviness at the pit of your stomach and you feel terrible for everybody involved. This is something none will ever forget or recover from.

Life is like that for all of us to a degree. At times we meet with deep, cold darkness and have to live with it. One of the worst things is that the people you want to save, speak to or comfort are beyond your reach, and will never be seen again in this world. You always want to go back and pay more attention to the people you’re about to lose, but it’s never possible. We could pay more attention to everybody all the time, but it’s not possible. There’s a reason why we live normally and pass from one thing to the next thing as quickly as we can, as though things will be the same from one day to the next, which they usually are.

I could go off my rocker a bit and say actually there are always losses and the next day is never quite the same as this, because even if there have been no human deaths, some birds will have fallen out of the sky unseen, and a spider that was crawling across your carpet tonight could be a lifeless ball of legs by morning. Weeds die, flowers die, leaves flutter off the trees and shrivel, houseplants given to you by someone you lost most regrettably die… you won’t get them back even while you guiltily wonder if you could have looked after them better. You eat your chocolate bunny and it doesn’t exist any more — there’s another in the drawer but it’s not the same bunny even if it looks like it. The world has never been the same since I ate that marzipan frog in 1986. I always felt I shouldn’t have eaten it, but it would have fallen to dust eventually anyway!

Then there are micro-losses, if you know what I mean… songs are always disappearing because you listen to one for three minutes till it ends, and the next one begins, then that too is gone. Maybe they play over again in your head — they do in mine, but there’s something oddly haunting and non-existent about them, as though they are the lamentations of the dead. You might spend all year listening to The Pachelbel Canon repeatedly, then next year you hardly think about it because you’ve switched to playing something else. Then suddenly you come across it again and wonder why you wasted so much time not listening to it — it’s the most wonderful tune in the world.

Nothing is ever quite the same, which is how things change so imperceptibly that one day we sit up with a shock, realizing we’ve moved so far away from a particular time that we can never get back to it. You feel it as a pain that’s all your own, but we are all going through it all the time, regretting the loss of people, places and things — of eras, seasons and states of being.

Mindfulness advises we should try to stay in the present. That does help bring back a sense of normality and comfort, and stops us brooding, or tries to. I would always come back to a feeling of discomfort, however — wondering what or who I’ve forgotten to pay attention to in my memory. I suppose if we are fully present in the here and now we won’t overwhelm ourselves with a limitless multitude of things we can’t do anything about — instead we can give lots of attention and love to those who are still with us and in our space.

Posted in Lost in Thought

The Mistakes of Tomorrow

I was scrolling through Pinterest just now and came across this meme: “It’s OK if you messed up today. Tomorrow is waiting for you with no mistakes in it.”

“Oh no no,” I thought, “I’ve already got all my mistakes lined up for tomorrow, thank you very much.”

There’s no avoiding them. I cannot see the future as an expanse of snow with no footprints in it… it would just mean I wasn’t there yet. I do indeed make mistakes every day, largely because I underestimate the impact I have on others, both good and bad, and I overestimate people’s capacity to understand where I’m really coming from or what I was thinking about, but that’s a difficulty we all share. Misunderstandings are rife. For instance, you might think if you laugh at a cat they won’t understand that they are being mocked… but they do. They understand mockery, annoyance, withdrawal… why wouldn’t they? We need to be as kind and polite to a cat as to a human, though they have a great sense of humour and don’t mind a bit of fooling around and play-acting.

Constant daily mistakes, then, can be due to autopilot, misunderstandings, underestimating others, underestimating your own influence, overestimating your skill (or not caring enough about quality), working too quickly, working when distracted, working or communicating when angry, etc. Mistakes are also caused by limits — limits to energy, time, patience, knowledge and understanding. We are wrong all the time; it’s a fluke if we get things right (or more right than wrong), just as we don’t always get the balance the same in a home-cooked recipe. Sometimes we put more onion and less salt in than last time, and it might be better, worse or just a bit different. It isn’t always something we can judge absolutely perfectly every time, though perhaps there are professional chefs and bakers who would disagree.

Sometimes people judge us by one mistake without knowing about all the times we get things right, and perhaps that is their mistake — or maybe it isn’t a mistake for them in their lives, as they only have limited time and energy and can’t possibly take the time to get to know every person they meet. While judging, though, we should remember not to underestimate our impact on others, as that could lead us into further errors. Perfecting our best poker face is not a bad idea.

When I was younger, I thought it would be a betrayal of ideals,  morals, one’s own beliefs etc if you weren’t honest about disagreeing or disliking something, but that was before I learned how very wrong we can be every day and how very quickly we can adjust our own stance when learning all the new information we weren’t privy to before. Nothing is in completely sharp relief — there’s no such thing as ‘good and bad with nothing in between’. Also, sometimes you think everything is going to be a total mess and it won’t work out, and at the very last minute it all falls into place and is wonderful. You just never know.

Posted in Blogging, Lost in Thought

The Online Diary Quandary

Diaries are a good thing to have. Not only are they an informal record of the past, they help us to order our thoughts. Personal blogs are supposed to be online diaries, and I suspect this is where some of us get in a tangle. We would prefer to express our unedited thoughts since that is the main value of diaries for us, but at the same time realize we shouldn’t tell everything to the whole world. We crash repeatedly into the wall of our inner editor, hence the cold feet and long silences.

If we want to keep our blogs running, one idea is to draw up a list of safe topics such as hobbies and interests. Anything else could be posted privately or written up in a home diary.

I was about to suggest food and cooking as examples of safe topics, but it was a disagreement about food that broke one increasingly fragile friendship I had! I realized when viewing food sites and videos that the whole area of food and health is combustible right now. You may well be perfectly happy reading around and trying to discuss new ideas (or very old ideas long forgotten), but even family members and the oldest of friends can be too wedded to their views to be tolerant.

In any case, when it comes to diaries or any kind of commentary, it could be that keeping our more sensitive experiences offline is good practice.

I was going to link to a video I found that said we get comfortable online and feel we are writing to friends when that’s not the case. There are friends and acquaintances, and there are others. Unfortunately I can’t identify which video it was… a shame, as it was interesting.

This is the first blog post written entirely from my phone. I feel it distances me from what I write, as the screen is small and it’s not easy to type. I don’t ‘own’ my post the way I usually do. Technology gets better but also worse!

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Poetry and Verse

We Need Our Old Letters

I used to think of letter-writing as a creative endeavour and always looked forwards to it. I wrote things in different ways depending on my mood. I assumed most people I talked to read similar books, so it threw me once when I wrote a true short story involving my cats as though it was a section from the bible, and the penpal wrote back to say she didn’t understand it, and what was it about? She was too polite to say, “What IS all this nonsense??” but was probably thinking it. I can’t remember what my response was, but was perplexed at the time — how could she not get the literary reference?

Now I’m less creative, probably because I feel less chatty. There’s no point spinning a yarn when you’re no longer sure it’s of interest. I know there are people who understand that — how you begin life playfully writing a lot to people, then one day look round and realize you don’t any more.

It can’t just be about other people; it’s also about a changing perspective. Sometimes you reread something you wrote years ago and think, “What IS all this? Did I really think that??” and it makes you wary of similar nonsense you might be committing to paper right now.

On the other hand, I’ve written about things that I can’t fully remember any more, so if I look through old scribblings and find these accounts, I will be happy. Last night I was trying to remember something specific that happened, then said to myself “Oh, it’s OK, I wrote about it!” — but now I can’t remember what I was trying to remember.

That reminds me; a few days ago when having coffee with Mum and sister, I said “What would it be like to remember absolutely everything?” I can’t even remember what put that question into my mind, but sometimes I look back with the help of a paper trail of sorts and can’t make sense of the things I was doing, though I know there must have been good reason for certain decisions. I wasn’t making mistakes per se — just doing something different from usual, like an antelope twisting in the air when leaping. Nevertheless, what if we could remember absolutely everything… every letter, every word, every comma? The longer we lived, the more there would be to remember, but what if we could remember it all anyway, and look back over past sequences of events with clear-eyed confidence?

My mother said that would be absolutely awful! Who wants to remember everything? Then she started talking about one of her friends, saying she has an amazing memory. She remembers meals in perfect detail, long after everyone else has forgotten what they had. So my sister asked what I had for supper last night, and I said it was stuffed crust pizza, and I ordered it from the supermarket because it was half-price. Anyway, it’s easy to remember what you had for supper the night before!

Now an old poem has come to mind but of course I only vaguely remember how it started, though it was one of those things you’ve read over and over in a childhood book. “I remember, I remember the house where I was born.”

That’s amazing, when you think about it — how many people must have been able to say “I was born in that house!” but nowadays it’s rare. Most people are born in hospital, which is pretty dreary. Whoever wrote or was the narrator of that poem was from a time long gone, and I feel both awed and sad.

After a few minutes searching online — turns out it was by a Thomas Hood, and the poem itself can be found on the Poetry Foundation site.

Oh, I remember a swing too. It was in our garden, and I used to swing really high – what a rush! Mum said the swing was broken one time and I forgot and went on it before anyone could get to it to repair it, and it was fortunate I didn’t have an accident. That swing was the sort of thing I might tell people about, and especially about the army ants that took up beside the swing one time and jumped on me… but I got put off when one day somebody answering my chatty email said “you talk a lot about your childhood, don’t you?” I didn’t realize till then that it wasn’t considered normal. However, now I’m glad I did, because I’ve forgotten an awful lot of it, so it would be nice to have that little glimmer of light into the past.

The other day I was writing a business communication about something, and Mum took a look at my draft email and said, “Be chatty! Sometimes you can be a little terse.” I was taken aback. If anyone was the king of terse correspondence, it was my father, and my mother isn’t too far behind him in that regard, but I was always inclined to chat a little bit, and finish off with ‘Thanks and best wishes’ rather than something shorter and colder like ‘Yours’. I didn’t think what I wrote was terse in the least, especially as the individual I was writing to is one of the dustiest, most dour people I’ve ever had the pleasure to communicate with… so it was comical to be lectured on how I wasn’t chatty enough.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for tonight… time to sleep. 🙂

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought

The Year That Never Was

Summer has gone, more or less. It’s raining a lot and cold winds are beginning to blow. A Hercule Poirot drama about a Halloween Party was on television this afternoon. It felt right for all sorts of reasons. At the end he said something about Halloween being a time to light the candles for the departed, and I liked that. We make it into a horror event, but perhaps it’s more about peaceful contemplation and acknowledgement of all those who have gone before.

I have barely been out since lockdown hit, and it’s hard to believe the year is nearly through. So much happened globally, yet so much has not happened at all. My mother said she sometimes forgets about Covid-19 and all the restrictions, and it takes an effort to remember. I find the same, but at the same time we have been so locked away that it’s been a year of almost complete blankness… that’s not normal. It’s as though everybody we knew died long ago and are now just existing in our memories.

When somebody does die, the lockdown makes it worse. A friend used to take us out for coffee. We talked about how we would all go out for coffee again when the lockdown was over. I got emails from her, offers to shop for groceries, even flowers for my birthday, but haven’t seen her in person since January or February. Suddenly she’s gone — died during the night. She was one of Mum’s friends, around the same age, but would write me conversations when we were out — very sweet, bright and cheerful. I feel a real sense of loss. It complicates it that we were going to meet again when life started to get back to normal, and I looked forward to it, but now that coffee will never be.

I didn’t even realize how much I looked forward to it till it was gone… you just take it for granted it will happen, the same way you assume you will be getting up the next morning.

I asked Mum why Anne was so kind to so many, and she said maybe it’s because she’s a writer; used to be a journalist and is curious about people. Many will miss her.

Recently I’ve been playing an empire-building game online. Despite my determination to play my own game and keep to myself, I find myself increasingly drawn in to the community there. Somebody I never spoke to but who was part of our group suddenly announced today that he had gone so far in the game that there was nothing left that was new or fun, and he couldn’t do it any more. He was henceforth leaving, but he bade us all a kind farewell and hoped we would all continue to play and enjoy the game.

Nobody said anything in the public threads, and just carried on with normal business, which was reassuring… a form of ‘life goes on’. I looked at this name and that, thinking “I’m glad X, Y and Z are still here!” It really felt as though he had thrown himself off a cliff (which of course he hadn’t… he just went back to normal life and found something else to do and people in his own environment to talk to).

As the day went on, I grew more and more gloomy, thinking about Anne, my father, grandparents and others who have gone. It’s as though the game player’s departure had triggered those thoughts, which is apt, as his username is Trigger… what else?? I went to look at his city to make sure he hadn’t deleted it outright, but it’s still there. I don’t know this person but don’t like being left by anybody… life is cold enough. The more people who leave for whatever reason, the worse the world seems. Is that normal, though? It’s the normal state of being, isn’t it? We can’t all be there for everyone forever.

I feel distant from everything — from my past, my old hobbies, from people and from everything that used to matter. It’s struck me that big families are important. You need to have a big, supportive family who know you very well, preferably not living halfway across the world from you. I know this is an ideal scenario and some people might feel their families are not that supportive or kind, but life isn’t perfect and it’s still the ideal.

I find it difficult to write on my blog because I get cold feet even when I’ve written something I was happy with. Sometimes it’s difficult because I re-read things and wonder “why do I always sound morose?” or “I sound more angry there than I actually felt”… which is bad writing, perhaps. I wrote a post about books I was reading, then couldn’t bring myself to publish it, but that was because of recent political events.

I said a few paragraphs back that I feel distant from everything that used to mean anything to me, so perhaps it says something that I still blog now and then. My blog is a big part of my life despite the multiple cold feet I grow here. 🙂

For several days the song in my head has been Son of My Father. I used to play the song a lot as a schoolgirl, so it’s a link to a time when life seemed straightforward.

When I was younger, anything dramatic seemed wonderful or unusual. Life was ordinary and nothing spectacular happened to anyone, so if anything happened in my life that seemed like it was out of a book or a film, I had to tell everyone about it. Now it seems entirely the other way, and nothing is worthy of note, least of all my own thoughts. What was light and normal with rare notes of dark and drama is now chaos and darkness with brief flashes of light. That’s how it’s always been, but I didn’t have enough experience to see it.

Thank goodness for Poirot with his ‘light the candles’… We can take that thought with us into the dark, and yes — I will light mine.

Posted in Lost in Thought

I Still Don’t Have a Bullet Journal

I’ve been trying again to write a bullet journal. Decided to start simple — won’t buy a beautiful expensive notebook and illustrate it. Won’t fill it with habit trackers, mood charts or ‘collections’ to fill in every day. I won’t even waste time numbering pages and writing dates. Start small…

Even that appears to be beyond my will. I have plenty of cheap notebooks of different sizes that I could experiment with. I like the idea of a little notebook that’s always with me, and I can reach for it whenever I remember something I need to add. I like the thought of only having to reach for one notebook for various purposes, whether it’s something I need to do, buy, or record for posterity. I even like the idea of doodling in it so that it ends up being vaguely arty anyway.

Well, I spent all night reading about how to make bullet journals, then all morning trying to plan what I want in mine. The problem is, I scrapped so much of the recommended structure that it’s not going to be an actual bullet journal. It won’t even be a planner — just something to write lists in. I won’t ‘migrate’ items… they will stay where they were written the first time. I don’t want to waste the notebook by leaving lots of blank space. I don’t want to tear pages out or write items to be scored out later, like a temporary grocery list.

There’s a proper ‘shopping list’ kind of notepad I can use… just write ‘milk, butter, potatoes,’ then tear the pages out when done with them. It still seems a waste… I’m likely to do what I’ve always done: write lists on scraps of paper and put them in my coat pocket.

Well, I don’t have to put grocery lists in my bullet journal if I don’t want to. How about To Do lists? I rather liked the idea of writing them for a specific month. October 2019 — halloween decorations, Christmas shopping, plan scrapbook. It still seems like a waste. It’s not as if I have children or a packed social calendar — having to remember to go out to dinner, make sugar plum fairy costumes etc. I’d have things like ‘pick up electoral ID from council,’ as I’m one of those sad people with no form of photo ID. I can’t drive; I’m not an OAP; I’m not a student; I don’t travel.

I still wanted a bullet journal, but the thought of making a genuine one with an index, future logs and monthly logs drives me up the wall. I could have a section in mine for an inspiring quotation, but find that idea annoying as well. Is the artistic bullet journal the modern day version of a sampler?

For a while I seriously considered daily logs in which I would write one sentence a day, fleeting thoughts or…. but I already have a diary. I also have an ‘Ideas Journal’ for creative inspiration, and there’s no need to duplicate that.

It leaves me wondering what I’m going to do with all these blank notepads if I’m not going to write in them at all? Future Ideas Journals, perhaps. Conversations with mater or handwritten diaries.

My iPad diary is for fleeting thoughts and memories.

The blank shopping list notepad is for shopping lists; otherwise I can use scraps of paper anyway. There’s also a magnetic pad on the fridge, though there’s never a pen nearby!

I have a Things app for reminders (including when the bins have to go out).

Those are all I need. And yet…

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 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, 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.