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 Cooking, Lost in Thought

Song Ghosts and Baked Potatoes

I haven’t written in my private diary for a few months. Was wondering if I might kickstart it again by writing descriptions of my surroundings rather than keeping a record of what’s going on. That’s something better done during the day: an attempt at written snapshots instead of photographic! Right now there’s nothing I feel like describing.

Well OK, just a short paragraph…

The only light comes from a single spotlight bulb. The lamp is a white twin spotlight, so I could have both, but that seems wasteful! It’s nicer with both on… I’m trying it out. The second bulb is shining straight at the goblin print, which makes me nervous, because too much light on pictures isn’t good for them. Goblins don’t like sunlight, I’ve heard, though I don’t know what they make of too-bright artificial lighting.

Considerately switching back to one bulb now. It was giving me a headache, so goblin blood must run in my veins.

Enola Gay (OMD) has been in my head for a few days, though I’ve not listened to music since my mother returned from the hospital. I found this old Daily Mail piece about earworms here.

Someone in the comments section prefers the term ‘song wedgie’, claiming ‘earworm’ is too unpleasant. I don’t like ‘earworm’ either, but ‘song wedgie’ is worse! I don’t know if earworms affect my mood or result from something already affecting my mood… sometimes one; sometimes the other? At any rate, I feel earworms deserve a better label; something more dignified. They can be quite haunting… would ‘ghost tune’ do? Or ‘song ghost’?

On to food…

The other day I was trying to eat raw celery and it was bitter, so I left it till supper time and roasted it using the mixture described here: Maple Dijon Roasted Winter Vegetables.

I liked it. It would have been better if I’d added onions and carrots rather than use the celery on its own. Still, it slipped down more easily than when I was trying to eat it raw. 🙂 A friend said she mixed celery with carrots in a soup, and found the celery gave it an extra kick… I might try that some time.

A few days back I wrote a recipe for a baked potato filling. Tonight we had baked potatoes again, but this time I opted for plain butter, cheese, steamed vegetables and a dab of mayonnaise.

Usually we microwave our baked potatoes but I always felt uneasy about it. I liked a tip I read recently, and have done our potatoes that way twice:

Wash the spuds well. Prick with a fork so they do not burst when cooking. Microwave for about five minutes. Put on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with oil and season with salt / pepper, and bake in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. Foil not needed, though a bit of greaseproof paper under mine kept the baking tray clean.

The texture of the potato is better this way… mine positively melted in the mouth. I grated a small amount of cheddar cheese using the fine bit of the grater… it comes out like a light fluffy cloud.

Hope I’m not setting a bunch of blogging tummies rumbling! 😈

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

Sweet Power

A neighbour who is also an electrician came in today to talk about power sockets. He is the tallest man I’ve ever seen… Man Mountain. I don’t mean he is overweight, because he certainly isn’t. It’s amusing to see the cats’ reaction when he’s visiting! Their eyes get very big and round, their bellies drop to the floor, and they don’t want to be in the same house with him.

He’s a pleasant fellow, but my anxiety makes me feel trapped if people are standing between me and the door. That’s multiplied when it’s someone as tall as him, so I can laugh at the cats all I want… I’m really no better!

Perhaps the universe is playing a trick on us and sniggers up its sleeve when you think, “I don’t know why I get so nervous!” and all the time it’s just that you were a cat in a former life. Nobody could possibly know that except the universe itself.

My sister brought us odds and ends (milk and other groceries we asked for) and also turned up with a large apple pie. Said we could share it, and cut it herself in the kitchen (turning it into apple crumble in the process). She wasn’t staying long, and took off out the door again with her share.

I know she was looking at desserts anyway to tempt my mother’s appetite, but I think it’s cute when somebody can’t resist something — hard to explain. I have a couple of bags of my favourite sweets squirrelled away in my room but haven’t touched them… just feel happy knowing they are there in case of need. Chocolate peanuts and Bassett’s Mint Creams, in case you wondered!

I need a cleaning agent to whiten some grouting in the kitchen. Asked everybody I could think of (other than Man Mountain) what would work. My mother was trying to tell me, and I said unfortunately my battery had just gone phut and she’d need to write it down. We didn’t have a pen and pad to hand, so she traced letters on the kitchen worktop with her finger: the name of a shop in town. Should see if they have something suitable.

I was amazed I could read what she wrote when it was invisible writing!

A few days ago, I had a strange not-quite-headache. All my energy vanished in a puff of smoke and I couldn’t even get up the strength to sleep. I had a persistent cough that got worse and worse, and my mother pointed out that it started when somebody gave her daffodils. My lurgi did have that kind of vibe… could have been an early spring allergy.

Once I start coughing it takes absolute ages to go away, so I was dismayed… then remembered a friend dissolving a dessertspoonful of honey in a mug of boiled water. He said his mother gave him that whenever he had a cold. I tried it again for the first time in years, and it’s really comforting. My cough is nearly gone. The honey’s nearly gone too, sadly…

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, My Cats

Cats, Goblins and the Mysteries of Thought

There’s a print of a goblin on my wall, and I’m still a little mystified. My mother came home with it one time, and that’s all I know. I spotted similar prints at the town library, so it must be connected with that — it’s from The Spiderwick Chronicles.

I read a snatch of something somewhere… ‘scientists still don’t understand how the brain thinks’. Well, I had an odd thought just yesterday. I was playing the game Northern Tale for the umpteenth time… there are many levels and you get to know them quite well, though you don’t always win at expert grade without repeating some of them a few times. To start with, you click ‘play’, look carefully at the layout of the level, and think to yourself, “Oh yes, it’s *that* one.”

A couple of times I didn’t recognize one right away, and thought “which *is* it??” and studied it for a while, then suddenly… “Oh yes… THAT one!” and everything shifts in my mind as though I’ve found the general slant and form of the level, which now falls into place.

It’s quite a complex idea, if you think about it. I would be hard-pushed to explain exactly what data goes into my perception of that level as a recognizable entity. There are no words to describe it.

I wonder if we make life too complicated for ourselves. We live such short lives we end up sitting back, thinking “hold on… I never got round to even a fraction of the things I meant to do!”

Part of the trouble comes down to our energy levels. We berate ourselves for not acting more like well-oiled machines every day and doing all the things we meant to do. Sometimes we need to rest and take time to rethink our priorities and strategy. Sometimes there really isn’t a lot of point in a goal. We probably aren’t living lives the way we should but have been brought up to think it’s normal to live lives like these… all the games we could play or films we could watch or places we could visit or people we could get to know or crafts we could learn — or languages to speak, or books to read, or dishes to cook, or objects we can collect… well, maybe we can do a little of some of these things. They don’t have to be constants in our lives unless there’s a genuine need.

There’s a reason why we fall into ruts, routine, habits… it’s less confusing; less tiring. When we have a need for a new game to play or a new thing to learn, we will reach out, but otherwise we just bump along doing what we are used to. Perhaps, for some of us, that includes blogging!

I don’t want to get in such a rut that I won’t try something new once in a while — perhaps ennui is our guard against getting stuck in the mud.

Why do I have a goblin on my wall? Two other pictures in the room are of cats. They aren’t dissimilar creatures, come to think of it. I was constantly chasing the wee red one today because she was determined to be part of our coffee party when some friends visited. I must have carried her out again about five times.

Meanwhile, my mother’s cat clung to her knee, which was fine… you think of them as almost the same person, and it wouldn’t cross your mind to put her out of the room while there are visitors. After they’d gone, though, she was determined to sit on her at a moment she wasn’t welcome. We kept trying to dissuade her, but she was absolutely determined to cross that table and hop on.

I said “cats don’t understand the meaning of ‘NO’, do they?” and my mother said “they PRETEND they don’t understand.”

The cat tried again to cross the table… “NO!!” Mum said, absolutely clearly, and the cat hesitated and sat back. Well, she knows what ‘no’ means. She just hopes you will forget about it in a minute, when your mind has wandered off and she can sneak over without anybody even noticing.

I’m not sure that goblins would even care… they’d just leap on you and pull your hair, and the more you shouted ‘no’ at them, the more they would grin. Actually, not so different, really!

Got to make some leek and potato soup now. It’s not my favourite, but my sister bought two enormous leeks that I have to use up somehow! Zzz.

Posted in Notepad Conversations, Weekend Coffee Share

Coffee Chat IRL

Walked through the first snow of Christmas in town today… light, floating flakes.

We had coffee while we were out, and at the table we wrote in my conversation notepad, though it seems to have been mostly me wittering away! It’s been ages since I’ve copied one of these to my blog.

Me: “I seem to remember an old bugbear — cars that don’t signal a turn till the very last moment. So you wait for them and then find you didn’t need to wait at all, but by then it’s too late and another car is coming. Even worse are the ones who think they only need to signal to other vehicles. Pedestrians don’t count.”

Me: “L still looking for a tree — but I’ll use the plastic one if I don’t see anything better.”

Mum: “Get the feeling L house will be better decorated than ours.”

Me: “Currently only has a Turkish rug and a silver wreath.”

Me: “Nigel Farage looks sad in his radio shows.”

Mum: “How can you see him in a radio show?”

Me: “They film him and put it on YouTube as a video. I can’t hear the radio shows — no captions or transcripts. But the YouTube videos have automatic captions — a bit garbled. His name often comes up as ‘Faraj’ or [sometimes] ‘Large Parrot’ or ‘Roger Ferret’.”

[Mum rolls her eyes and sighs].

Me: “I think I made the right choice, buying the teak cupboard.”

Sister: “Why?”

Me: “It looks nice and is quite convenient for clothes — and the house fits on top. Also the Ikea thing [in the same charity outlet] was ramshackle, over-priced, and too big.”

Sister: “Local auctions often sell chests of drawers.”

So that was part of our coffee chat. Bet the blogging world is fascinated (!)

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 Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

A Gold Toothless and Other Ramblings

There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.

A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.

Today I’ll just write and see what happens.

Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”

You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.

I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.

Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.

Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂

My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.

Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.

I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.

Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.

It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.

How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
The Croods

Those will be a good start.

*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*

Posted in Political and Social Issues, Writing

O False!

False‘ is a recent word prompt, causing me to stare at a blank page for several minutes. It’s not that I’m without ideas; more that it strikes me as false to offer a word prompt that isn’t a noun.

‘Falseness’ is an easier to way to begin and makes a better blog title. “Falseness bedevils the modern world”, I could intone, or “Falseness is a fool’s flight from reality”… unfortunately, it’s not going to be that simple. Must I approach the topic differently because the subject is not ‘falseness’ but ‘false’? Does my grumbling even make sense? Doubtless it doesn’t matter, as I can approach it any way I want to and use whatever title I see fit. Nevertheless, it threw my mind into a non-productive spin.

Whatever… ‘false’.

The word usually means ‘untruthful’ or ‘fake’, possibly even ‘non-existent’. For instance, a false promise doesn’t imply you’ll get the opposite of what you were offered — it’s more likely that there’ll be no change at all. Sometimes the person making the promise really meant what they said but it fell through for some unforeseen reason — does that still make it ‘false’, or does it become something else such as ‘unfulfilled’? I don’t think it would be a false promise, as ‘false’ is a very negative, deliberate word.

False fruit
False friend
False teeth

Wait now… false teeth aren’t a negative thing. False teeth aren’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, pretending to be something they’re not. Instead, they very sensibly and usefully take the place of real teeth that didn’t want to stick around. False teeth are a good thing, which is a rare quality for anything that’s false.

More viscerally, false or shallow pockets (especially those ‘decorating’ an otherwise useful winter coat) are the most pointless, infuriating invention ever and should be stamped out of existence — by referendum if need be.

False grass… not good. False assumptions… somebody got confused and miscalculated. False bottom (in a suitcase) — a positive thing for the world, I suppose, unless you’re up to no good.

You could have a false bible — you open it and it turns out to be a box you can hide your false pearls in. That’s a good thing to have too. In general, if the false thing works for you and is protective of you, you will think it good — but whoever you were trying to dupe or deny will be less impressed.

Sometimes something creates a false impression, which can never be good, as it’s better if we all know where we stand. Even if you realize the case has been overstated, there are others who somehow don’t, and the disaffected will take full advantage of that confusion by claiming false outrage.

A truly false promise is obviously a bad thing because you thought you would get something that didn’t materialize. On the other hand, a false threat isn’t a good thing either, because you were being manipulated against your own interests.

These are very black and white subjects, but falseness can be a lot more subtle. Just about everything we think we know or see is false, in the sense that ‘truth is relative’. People can experience the same thing in completely different ways… it tastes good, it tastes awful, or something in-between. The picture is beautiful, ugly, nothing special or even quite nice. That person is wonderful, a walking disaster zone, or merely human. What you believe would seem false to another, but in your world there’s no question — Marmite is brilliant for you, always, though to someone else it’s anathema.

Is that fair, though? If you say, ‘Marmite is wonderful’ and for you that’s true while your best friend thinks it’s false, does that mean it IS actually false? Or is it like Schrõdinger’s cat where it’s both lovely and vile, and you won’t know which till you’ve opened the jar? It’s false to point to that theory, however, as there’s no sense of uncertainty — everybody who’s tried it has a clear opinion.

Perhaps this is a false premise to work on, as Marmite is in fact neutral. It’s not trying to be one thing or another… it’s just gloop to put on your toast. Statements such as ‘wonderful’ or ‘awful’ are all yours; your own truth and nothing to do with Marmite. It would doubtless post your opinion back to you with the words “I don’t own it.”

Now you’ve reached the end, I have to inform you… you’ve just been reading a false blog post. It’s not lying or trying to mislead you, but in some sense it resembles the false bible. You were perfectly well aware it wasn’t real, but when you opened it, hoping to find something valuable, it proved empty of any pearls of wisdom.

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Writing

All My Greatest Failings Start with the Letter P

My worst quality could be one I’m not aware of. Perhaps what I see as caution and an eye for a bargain would be seen by another as typical Scots parsimony. A wish for clarification and detail might be written off by the unsympathetic as pettifoggery. But from the list of failings that I own to, which would be the worst?

Let’s see…


This list could go on quite some way, but is already sounding like the seven dwarves.

I was labelled ‘pedantic’ at the age of 19 by family and friends. Was surprised and indignant, but over time began to realize what they meant. When I wrote letters, I answered every single thing that was said, dissecting each comment and rambling away, only to get back on track with the next nano-topic. It was only polite, all right? It showed I was paying attention.

I hadn’t shaken the habit by the time I was working — one colleague told another I tended to fly off at a tangent. The same urge to dissect everything and really get my money’s worth out of it was at play. Sometimes you’re not sure if a relayed comment is a compliment or not…

Anyway, you keep combing over little clues like this in your mind, spinning out a long list of weaknesses to be worked on. Pedantry might be undesirable, but I don’t think it’s the worst. It seemed to amuse more than annoy, and probably keeps my nose to this whole self-improvement track, though that’s not as New Age as it may sound.

Since that revelation back in time, maybe I’ve swung the other way and been too casual with emails and letters, ignoring a lot of things I should have responded to. Sometimes you just don’t seem able to get it right. The worst of it is, I can look back and see where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have talked so much about this; should have said more about that. I microanalyze everything I’ve written, cringing and thinking “no, that was terrible!” One friend recently reassured me that I didn’t come across as sounding the way I thought I sounded even though I didn’t mean that anyway. Maybe she knows me too well! Either that or she knows me better than I know myself, and would be able to tell you without hesitation what my greatest failing is. I would be very surprised and completely indignant… then bound to acknowledge the truth of it!

If I microanalyze everything I say or do, you can be sure I do it with other people. I used to believe implicitly that if you said it was so, it was so. Not so much now. “Your letters are so light and chatty,” could mean “you don’t half go on… I’m not able to keep up.”

And what about ‘keep in touch’? Never used to trouble me — schoolchildren commonly wrote it to each other and I thought it meant exactly what it said. But now my crazed and self-loathing brain sees: “I don’t mean to talk very much to you — just once every Christmas, maybe?”

Actually, that’s probably what it does mean.

I seem to have singled this out as my greatest failing… pedantry? I’ve talked so much about it here, but perhaps I’m just reluctant to get to the nitty gritty. Which leads me to…

Procrastination. This is a failing I’m annoyed by so much that I fight it by being earlier with things. This year I got the Christmas tree up in November! I feel better for it. The better and happier you feel with yourself, the more you think “that wasn’t bad at all!” and the more likely you are to be early with the same thing next time. Because there’s nothing I hate more than something weighing me down increasingly… the one thing I haven’t yet done that must be done.

If you get a Christmas card from me these days, you’re one of the lucky few. But if you’re thinking “she dropped me from her Christmas card list!”… oh no, I didn’t. I dropped the whole list by accident when busy a-procrastinating, back in the days when I was a greater procrastinator than I am now. I never took it up again, as I found I liked being free of that particular albatross.

I still shilly-shally sometimes. For instance, there’s the picture I never finished. Well, more like 500 pictures I never finished.

The back-up drive I haven’t bought, though my main one failed several weeks ago (I guess this might eventually solve the problem of the unfinished pictures).

The emails and letters I never wrote.

The squeaky wheels I haven’t greased. (Sorry, trolley!)

The coffee percolator that still has old coffee grains in it. (That should give a good rich, ripe, earthy flavour to the next brew). Yes, the pink one.

The failed spotlight bulb still not replaced, after years of irritably wishing the spotlight would work.

The ‘solar lights’ owl I didn’t furnish with batteries (and it got smashed in the next gale anyway).

Dental check-up. Had it to here with dentishts after being elevated to the status of a vampire at my last session, blood streaming down my chin. “What did your last dentist think she was doing?? Why so long to get this gaping hole closed?” Gosh, I don’t know.

All things considered, looking at it point by point, it seems procrastination is a failing I’ve not yet vanquished. In my vain pursuit of personal perfection, though, I’m sure I’ll get to it. Maybe tomorrow?

Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lost in Thought, Technology and Software, Writing

Just Nipping out to Peru

“Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?” WordPress prompt.

I used to think it would be the invisibility cloak, as I don’t particularly like drawing attention to myself. Faced with the other two items, though, I’m wavering!

Anyway, there’s a difference between being the only one and being one of many. If these were made available to everyone, there would be invisible people everywhere. Would you see other invisible people when you were invisible yourself? One might as well not spend money on the technology in that case!

If I thought there were invisible people everywhere, I would probably become paranoid and refuse to sleep till my door was locked and the room properly scanned. It would be like wondering if there was a virus on your computer that was keeping very quiet. Everyone else would worry too, and there would be a market for things that could scan for invisible people — everyone everywhere would do a sweep before having meetings or settling down to relax. As a result, donning an invisibility helmet would not do anything to ensure your own privacy… it would be a way of ensuring you’re noticed. People would scan, find you, and tell you you are not wanted. You would be better to save your money… you can be more invisible just staying part of the crowd.

The scariest thing on the list is the time machine. Perhaps I could go back and change a few things I did or said wrong. You question how it would work, though. Do I go back to be myself in the moment? In which case, would I remember this was a re-run? Where would the time machine be in the meantime? Or would it just dump me in the moment and leave me to relive all of that time again?

What if it could take me both ways, but broke down? You can’t complain to Currys from 1347, or even from 1987.

And what if changing my actions made things worse? Things are the way they are for a reason.

I wouldn’t like to have to make decisions about every little thing I did anyway. If I could smooth out absolutely everything I believed I’d done wrong, would I be sitting here thinking “should I go back to that dentist and tell her I don’t want that particular tooth removed?” Or “I feel awful today so I’ll go back to two days ago and refuse the flu jab!” (and maybe die later in the winter… who knows?) Everything would get in such a muddle that I would end up uncertain how to untangle all the different things I’d changed to get myself to a different place.

Added to which, if we could all buy time machines, perhaps I’d get back to someone to change my response, only to find that person was no longer there… he or she has used a time machine to change something in his own life, and everything is so completely different that they never met me, or aren’t alive any more. Not only would I get in a muddle about my own sequence of events, it would be made still more complex by the meddlings and self-edits of others.

So much for the time machine, then. That leaves just one thing — the anywhere door.

I can imagine if there was such a thing, people would start to call it the suicide door. Because, why jump in front of a boring old train when you can really go out in style… step out onto the surface of Venus?

In one way it would be worse than the invisibility helmet. You can guard against invisible people by scanning, groping, or perhaps donning your own helmet for a quick check around. With the anywhere door, though, there would be no locked doors; no privacy at all. People would be dialling wrong numbers and popping up in your locked bedroom as you sleep.

If those drawbacks could be contained, though, it sounds the most convenient, useful and positive of the three gadgets. You won’t be using the anywhere door because you’re shy, sneaky or obsessing over how perfect you can make your life. Imagine the difference it could make! You could visit friends who live very far away, just for coffee. Or, if you like to take landscape photographs, you can pop out to some famous beauty spot and back, regardless of where you live. If I wanted a photo of a snow leopard taken by myself (so I wouldn’t have to credit someone else with it), I could nip out in my slippers and take a series of shots, and be back before you know it, downloading pictures of a startled big cat to my Mac.

OK, it probably wouldn’t be quite that easy… The idea has its attractions all the same!

Bring on the anywhere door… though I suspect in reality it would be ruined by laws, Customs, scanners, disinfectant and red tape.