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 wholewheat 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 Life and Family

UK’s Icy Plight

“Aldi had plenty of bread and milk but no eggs. The shelves were bare of milk at Asda, sparse on bread but plenty of eggs – who can fathom it?!”

– from friend in Yorkshire.

I had high hopes things were returning to normal, but when I got up and looked out of the window this morning, snow was drifting determinedly from the sky.

Ahh, noooo!

Drooped downstairs, and my mother mimed falling snow, if you can picture that!

Nevertheless, people are moving around again, and my sister came in from her icy fastness yesterday with a variety of things from the supermarkets. Everybody seems to be doing a supermarket crawl; traipsing from one outlet to the next. I notice when our tall neighbour calls with food, which he did again today, the items are from different shops.

The cats are getting used to him… they used to slide out the back the same second he came in at the front, but now they just hover beside the cat flap and blink patiently. ‘Just in case,’ you know. In the same spirit, the other neighbour put our bin out for collection. ‘Just in case’, he said, but the bin lorry never came.

I emptied the bag of groceries… fish ‘n’ chips, M&S style. Salad and my favourite Piccolino tomatoes. Cold meat, more bread (wow!) and a copy of the Scottish Sunday Express, screaming in particularly large type: “WINTER HELL TO LAST TWO MORE WEEKS”.

Ahh, noooo!

The ‘TWO’ is picked out in red ink, and in slightly smaller type, it goes on: “Scots told to brace themselves again for snow in aftermath of Beast from the East.”

Reading the article, I get a picture of things being cold and wet, some more snow ahead, and likely floods when the snow melts. Some shops are still frantically putting things out on shelves only to have them snatched up by hungry customers… but on the whole things shouldn’t be as bad as they have been, floods aside.

We’re better off than some. Our house hasn’t been buried, or our front door blocked by a wall of snow, and our boiler got its breakdown over with earlier this February. I don’t think there’s a single thing we’re out of, though I finished my cucumber at the start of the storm and had to do without till yesterday! We also ran out of mayonnaise… It’s not so much the ‘doing without’ as the feeling that you are not free to have just what you want when you want. It’s still a land of plenty, but availability is uncertain, so don’t waste what you have.

As I said in the comments to my last post, my sister brought a luxurious Tiramasu cake yesterday. It was strange to be eating cake when folk have been struggling to obtain more basic supplies.

A couple of pages into the Express is the headline, “Finns are amused by UK’s icy plight.”

Well, I’m not surprised…

The paper also mentions a tweet by transport minister Humza Yousaf, who said communities have come together to clear their neighbourhoods of snow, and this weather has brought out the best in people. Our neighbours are great, but a friend is having issues with one of hers. She said they shovelled the pavement but stopped just as they got to her gate! They missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch, it seems. However… there’s plenty positive that’s going on, and we don’t need to focus on the determinedly negative.

A notification has just this minute popped up from The Independent. It says: “Seed vaults protect the world against the apocalypse — but what if doomsday is already here?

Ahh, noooo……

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats

Everybody’s Having a Snow Party

Here in the UK and Ireland we’ve been hosting the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, who were in the mood to party together. In Scotland we had the joys of a ‘red alert’ — apparently the first time we’ve had one. I took a few photos outside and figured out how to use the video option in my camera (nothing special resulted), then wished our snowy guests would leave again… am tired already.

Trying to blog with a cat squirming in your arms is not easy. 😛

Yesterday I lifted my toilet bag from the bathroom window sill and it felt cold. The toothpaste inside also felt cold and was stiff to squeeze out… I think it half-froze! This morning the toothpaste was more relaxed, although people are still not allowed to go anywhere. A local warned on Facebook that roads are closed, buses aren’t running, his car was sliding all over the place on a narrow road, and snow ploughs and tractors needed to be rescued… if *they* were in trouble, what chance has a car?

An old friend who lives locally contacted me via Messenger and said was everybody keeping warm? I said yes, though we heard from a neighbour that the shops were running short. He (the friend on Messenger) said he got the last lot of milk, bread and bacon from his local shop. I said we have fruity flapjack cookies with coconut in (I’m so glad I bowed to temptation when I saw these in M&S!) If he went back to the shop, he said, and raided it for oats, he could make his own flapjacks. I said he won’t be able to if the local old ladies buy all the oats before he gets there. “Then I’ll just mug them,” he said.

Our front steps are covered over almost completely with snow drifts; you can barely see the edges peeping out. I opened the back door at one point to find a set of dog pawprints leading up to the cat flap. Today they are all over the place… scuttling through the hedge and crisscrossing the snow. People let their dogs off the leash around here (though they’re not meant to) and they run into people’s gardens. My sister’s seen dogs let off in the path behind the house who run up the length of the garden and dash out onto the road at the front, with the owners obliviously calling them on the nice safe path behind. One particularly bad-tempered canine attacked my mother’s old cat — my sister intervened and nearly got bitten. The cat (who had been picked up and shaken) was very shocked and had to go to the vet. I remember the blind look in her eyes that day, but she’s still with us and doesn’t seem to remember.

The ‘off the leash’ thing might explain stories of dogs and their owners ending up in icy lakes. Someone was writing about how drivers forget to change their driving techniques in icy weather… they go too fast; drive too close to the car in front, etc… it strikes me that that warning also applies to other things we do, whether it’s getting our stocks right or walking dogs.

I understand it’s difficult when we do things by habit… we can be knee-deep in trouble before we wake out of auto-pilot.

I was thinking to myself that I wished we had more milk and bread. I noted that we’d gone onto freezer rations — tins next! We still have vegetables and potatoes; biscuits and sweets (including my special hoard of Bassett’s mint creams and chocolate peanuts); a very little fruit; rice and pasta in the cupboard; one small loaf of bread in the freezer (the kind Mum likes but I hate)… I knew we would hold out for months and there’s no need to complain, but I still wished the fridge contained more in the way of fresh groceries. I can’t even make simple things like scrambled egg or macaroni cheese, as we are hoarding what’s left of the milk.

My sister can’t come out because she’s snowed up in her little village. It would be a long icy tramp for me to the local supermarket, though I would do it if it was really worth it. There are no little shops at the end of the block here… one of the not-so-good things about this particular location.

No need to worry, though… Man Mountain to the rescue! He appeared yesterday with milk, bread, and jam doughnuts, and surprised us again today with two bags of food. It was very kind. He said shops are running low in things like milk because the lorries aren’t getting through. The milk he brought today is long-life.

I still mustn’t make dishes that need milk… there are other things we can eat instead. (Eyes the pizzas and and sausage rolls hungrily).

Another neighbour rang up and said he and his wife are making the long walk out to the supermarket and did we need anything, and my mother said “thanks, but we’re okay!”

A friend in Yorkshire says the wind is still whipping up the snow into blizzards. They’re sitting tight and not risking their safety; the only thing they’ll run out of is salad, but they’ll survive without it for a bit.

Now the cat is squirming in my mother’s arms, but that’s fine by me… easier to blog! …D’oh… spoke too soon! This cat (Delilah) is the definition of the phrase ‘in your face’. She lies on your chest and watches your eyes. I escaped by going outside to change a litter tray, and cleaned it with balls of dry snow. Gosh, this stuff has its uses… it saves on kitchen paper.

The following piece seems to be going the rounds on Facebook: “Where are we going, Piglet?”

I don’t go on Facebook much, so don’t pay attention to me if I sound blase! It’s pure gammon. My sister posted me the link and said she visualized Pooh as me and Piglet as The Little Witness. The Little Witness was currently squatting on a box of chocolate-covered peppermint creams, so that doesn’t surprise me.

We don’t have the stocks of red wine referred to in the Pooh conversation, but we have plenty of cat litter, Man Mountain brought the pizzas, and there’s a little bottle of Dandelion and Burdock in the fridge.

It’s odd how differently you view your food stocks when you are snowed in. It goes from “I suppose I should drink it,” to “I’m so glad to see that there!” and “I wish I hadn’t thrown away the year-out-of-date tin of Carnation Milk.”

Ah… a blob of white just flashed past the window.

“Did you see snow drop off the roof?”


Hopefully this freeze party is ending.

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lost in Thought

Across the Universes

imageMy Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.

I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.

What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.

In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.

Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.

Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.

Friends are precious, even irreplaceable, but they are also fragile.

I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.

Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.

I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.

So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…

…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.

Kind of like my blog.

I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?

Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!

In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.

If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.

This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?

Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.

It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.

Or simply end.

And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.

Posted in Lost in Thought

Perfect Sunday?

(Prompted by WordPress’s Post a Week 2011 challenge. I meant to post it last Sunday but didn’t like it… this is an edited version!)

What would my perfect Sunday be?

Achievement! Both in the practical sense and the creative. I would communicate well and happily, make some little discovery or learn something new and useful. I would successfully complete at least one project; have lots of energy and direction through the day; have reason to believe in a bright future; begin some wonderful book or series that inspires me and makes me want to know the characters forever….

Any concerns will have been laid to rest… the day is always a lot brighter when niggling worries have been cleared up.

How the above differs from my usual Sunday…

Usually I only achieve one or two things, maybe part of a thing. Then I get so tired or distracted that I spend the rest of my time reading a book or watching TV. I might start a project or explore new software, and get tired of it even though it’s supposed to be my hobby.

On a good Sunday I hear from friends and have a good chat with them; on a poor Sunday I get no response to anything, and even the forumites aren’t speaking to each other, so I feel bored, disappointed and peeved. Or I do hear from friends and they aren’t saying what I want them to say… when you want a long chat, you get a ‘yes/no/I suppose’ email. When you are hoping to discuss something specific, they ignore it and bring up a topic of their own. On especially bad days they might say something that makes you wonder “is he/she annoyed? What did I say?” And if you’re upset or worried, even mildly, your heart sinks slowly into your boots, even after you’ve stopped thinking about it, and you end the day at an all-time low. Which is why, if something sets your mind to rest the next morning, you can feel so good in comparison! “The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la!”

Some bad Sundays can trail on for months…

Anyway, I have decided to start a new hobby, one that might take me away from the computer and shake me up… scrapbooking! (Adds it to lengthening ‘To Do’ database). Oh, I asked Mum for ideas for a scrapbook theme, thinking it might spark her interest, and she said “Horrible TV Adverts,” and went back to peering closely at a stamp.


Posted in Lost in Thought

The Pearls of Age

I’ve always liked the company of older people, and felt a little less at home with younger folks (who are more unpredictable in some ways).

Mum was talking about things from her childhood. She remembered buying dresses… they were taken ‘on approval’, and delivered in boxes and tissue paper. She kept missing trams and jumping on while they were on the move. The conductor would say “you’re not supposed to do that!”

I said I remembered double-decker buses with the door at the back with stairs — they had bus conductors with ticket machines. Mum said admiringly, “you’re quite old too!” and I said “thank you.”

I’m fascinated by any nuggets of wisdom older people decide to share… they are individual but have the ring of truth. Like from the rather worried old lady who said you know you can be perfect, but you must expect to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself. (I have a horrible habit of lying awake at night counting the very many mistakes I’ve made. Sometimes I think wistfully about Ally McBeal’s boss who said tactless things, then in the next breath he would mutter “bygones!”)

Liz Smith (elderly actress) had a lot to say that I was interested in. She said you can’t know why people react the way they do; it’s probably connected to things that happened to them. It’s rare to have true friends; people who know exactly who you are and what you’re about.

Liz wanted to talk with other passengers (while on her cruise) but couldn’t bring herself to make the first move — she was convinced they wouldn’t want her. I feel that more and more, even on the internet; I hesitate to comment, email or join in as much as I used to. I used to have an opinion on everything, but now I watch everybody else making mistakes and putting their foot in it, knowing that this time it isn’t me. More and more I decide it’s safer to pretend I’m not even here!

Perhaps it’s all part of getting older.

A friend and I were having a discussion recently — we were saying how we used to blithely do things that now make us curl up in horror and amazement. We were not mountaineers or explorers… but she used to ride rather nervy horses over jumps she wouldn’t even consider these days. Whereas I used to fill in those email letters that asked for your mother’s middle name!! Perhaps along with age we learn fear… but hopefully other, more positive things as well.

I wonder what pearls of wisdom might drop from my lips when I’m over 80 — everything I’m doing and thinking now takes me closer to those truths! It’s an interesting thought.

Posted in Lost in Thought, Political and Social Issues

Keeping Friends (and knowing when to let go)

After falling out (not for the first time) with a friend who lives far away in a place I’ve never seen, I was pondering the mysteries of friendship. Some people are easier to get along with than others, and it helps when they’re not busy and stressed… but I often wonder if I’m communicating the right things in the right way to the right people, and if my expectations are reasonable or the reverse.

I suppose communication styles and friendships are as individual as people are, and all you can really do is communicate in a way that feels right to you, and hope to connect with someone who has a similar outlook.

I decided to search Google for ‘maintaining friendships’, and the following were the most common tips and cautions:

(1) Be a good listener — prove you have heard by responding thoughtfully and in detail.

(2) There should be some give and take — we don’t want a situation where one friend makes all the plans, starts all the conversations and does all the listening.

(3) Communicate frequently (short but regular emails etc).

(4) Be supportive of your friend’s stance unless he/she is really about to land in trouble; avoid judging and moralizing.

(5) Be honest and genuine — preferably in a pleasant and tactful way!

I never understood people who request ‘brutal honesty’ about their cooking, artwork or whatever… I like honesty, but never brutal. Perhaps such a request is just a polite way of making people feel they don’t need to worry about commenting less than positively… but actually, we do need to do that tactfully.

Being ‘genuine’ includes feeling relaxed and ‘yourself’ in someone else’s company… if you feel you’re constantly on your guard and having to maintain a persona, then that’s not a good friendship to be in.

(6) If someone has a tendency to be hurtful, explosive and unpredictable (to your damage), or leaves most of the effort to you, it is most likely time to move on. But consider whether you’ve given the other person enough of a chance, and whether he/she might be going through a bad time just now — perhaps a bad time that you haven’t been told about. Not everyone communicates the same way, and it can be particularly tricky by email. Some people communicate naturally and well by email, but others don’t see it as a valid way to talk.

(7) Humour is good, and can save a situation from spiralling out of control.

Actually it was me who added Tip 7! Humour as a resource doesn’t seem to surface much in the other lists I’ve read, except (a) as a defensive barrier — it can be frustrating if you feel you’re not seeing the real person, or that you’re not being taken seriously… or (b) as something potentially destructive (sarcasm, thoughtless teasing etc).

This is already on the list, but is important enough to explore: real friends feel ‘at home’ with each other. The other day I found myself emailing a friend I always felt comfortable with… not the one I fell out with, but one I’ve not seen for years as we don’t live in the same country any more. I took it into my head to describe the room I was sitting in, just as it was… saggy curtains, CDs sitting around, an old and out-of-date TV that isn’t used much, computers still on the desk that aren’t even operating. The wallpaper came from a time when I was younger and more enthusiastic; those feelings are all locked up in it. It was something to giggle over or relate to… better than trying to come across as perfect and organized when we both knew that wasn’t me.

There were some singular pieces of advice here and there on the internet. I particularly liked one about how people on the edge of the crowd are likely to be the most loyal, down-to-earth and constant friends. They will have more time for you than someone who is very popular and busy. I’ve generally found that to be true.

Arguments, also, are not to be feared (unless someone is constantly browbeating you). I never sought out arguments, but at the same time never felt that a friend was here to stay until we’d rowed about something and survived it! If the friends we’re with tend to see a row as a reason for them to give their side of it but not hear yours, and especially if they see an argument as an automatic end to the relationship… well, we can find better friends; ones who don’t keep us walking on eggshells.

Do any of you have ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s you would add to that list? How do you keep your friends, even if they live far away, and in what circumstances do you decide to move on?

Posted in Dreams and Nightmares, Fantasy and Science Fiction

Vale of Tears

Dreamed there was a kind of flood disaster; people were standing around looking for help to get their loved ones to safety. When I looked round and said to the nearest person, “please help me get Zipadee out,” he fixed on me and said “help me get my brother out!”, causing me to feel frustration and irritation… how dare other people put their loved ones before mine?

All round me, that was happening… people asking for aid from people asking for aid.

I was too late to save my friend and she turned into a clear raindrop, being borne away in a huge river called The Ocean of Crystal Tears. It looked just like its name; there was no blue, mud or weeds in it, but it roiled and foamed so much you couldn’t see through it to its depths. It was icy cold.

I was telling my sad story to two important elves from The Lord of the Rings… Galadriel and Elrond. As I talked, I held myself firmly in check because I feared I might break down, and they looked as though they would like to weep themselves. But they turned to me and said “your friend is not alone; the River Mississippi saw her plight, and has dived into the Ocean of Crystal Tears to bear her company. It snakes through the centre, warm and brown, sparkling and laughing, enclosing your friend and keeping her safe till the journey’s end, when you will see her again.”