Tripping Up the Kardashians

cake-meme-generator-get-the-freakin-crayons-34d274

Dear and lovely reader, I must start today’s blog with a bit of a confession: I’m really rubbish at keeping up with the news.  When I say “news”, what I actually mean is “the biggest trending stories on the internet”, which usually involve a jaw-dropping image, some hilarious video footage or an insane quotation from a celebrity.  There are three reasons for my lacklustre approach to the contagious caterwauling of online updates:

1) I think that celebrity culture is an inherently dreadful concept which encourages people to feel insecure about themselves, and to value notoriety over talent.
2) Wireless internet, as comedian Chris Addison very wisely pointed out, is an absolute miracle of modern living.  It should be used to educate our minds, widen channels of communication and bring joy to our lives, not as a harmful gossip machine of hatred.
3) Like you, dear reader, I’m actually too busy for any of this nonsense.

Sometimes when I’ve ignored the internet for a little while, I find that it’s rather like having left a toddler unsupervised in a zoo with a box of crayons: there is a HELL of a mess and a lot of random noise going.  Take yesterday morning, for example: Lily Allen’s comments about Band Aid 30 were going viral, Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen’s theme park closed after a day and people are still sounding off about Kim Kardashian’s ass photo.

Let’s focus on the Kardashian issue for a moment: lots of people are understandably very annoyed by her behaviour, and are saying that viral photos on the internet should be of woman like Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie and Sylvia Pankhurst, i.e. women who made a very obvious contribution to the world we live in today.  This is an absolutely understandable and excellent argument.  People are also making noises about nudity on the internet, offensive and anti-feminist notions, etcetera.  This is a complicated issue concerning censorship and freedom of speech (and freedom of ass, I guess).

If you’ll allow me to return to the toddler similie, the Kardashians and other like-minded ass exhibitionists are just like small kids making a mess in a zoo: why are we even paying attention to them?  Who gives a monkey’s if people want to “break the internet” with silly and superficial imagery?  Like most spoilt brats, they will be most likely to change their behaviour if we do not reinforce their sensationalist stunts with any publicity at all.

Do you know what else?  I don’t have the faintest notion why the Kardashians are famous in the first place.  And what is more, I cannot be bothered to Google it.  I will quite happily spend the rest of my life not knowing why those strange, sad people are in the public eye.

Don’t pay attention to the crap news.  Lily Allen’s opinion of Band Aid 30 will not change your future, and Kim Kardashian’s ass has no effect on your career.  Pay attention to the news that affects your life and the people you love.  Read up about what’s going on in Syria, sign a petition against the privatisation of our nation’s assets, or even write a heartfelt email to Putin telling him that we’ll still love him when he eventually comes out of the rainbow-painted closet.  Don’t waste your time sharing petty little pittances of “news” when there are so many fascinating, world-changing and historically significant things going on.

Could someone help me down off my soapbox, please?  Cheers.  Shall we go and get some brunch?

Growing Pains

Funny-Zumba-500x466

Happy Friday, lovely reader!  How are you?  Shall I stick the kettle on?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we don’t know what we’re doing.  This applies to all aspects of life, including Zumba classes (left step right step turn step jump step trip over your own shoelace step) and the bigger questions like “where is my life going?”, “how do I find happiness?” and “will I ever achieve my goals?”

I had a small meltdown this week about those questions – although it turns out that Zumba is actually a lot of fun, and it’s ok to fudge your way through the trickier moves – and turned to a friend of mine who is in a similar position, i.e. in his mid-twenties with a passionate desire to succeed but no clear idea of how to do so.  When we boiled the issue down to its essentials, we decided that no one knows what they’re doing at our age, and that we’re not really supposed to.  This made me ask another scary question: “when are we supposed to know what we’re doing?”

We have all been brought up to believe that the older, wiser and taller people around us know what is going on: teachers, parents and older siblings have all made it clear to us that they can be trusted to know what they’re doing.  This led us to believe that one day we will know what we’re doing, too.  But when is this elusive day of understanding?  At what age should we be waking up and saying to ourselves, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got the hang of this ‘life’ thing now”?

I have friends my age (or thereabouts) who are teachers, home-owners, paramedics, married, producers, in possession of a pension plan, and even parents.  They are, as far as the world is concerned, sorted.  But internally they worry just as much as people who are unattached, students, renting flats, between jobs or between life ambitions.  In many cases, their external lives have little or no relevance to their internal persona.  My own mother, who has five grown-up children and a life-long teaching career, admits that she doesn’t feel like an adult most of the time.  (I can believe that.  For starters, her ridiculous sense of humour completely belies her actual age.)

So what hope do we have, if our apparently grown-up friends and actually grown-up parents do not think of themselves as sorted, respectable adults?  Are we doomed to feel a bit lost and uncertain for the rest of our lives?

The short answer is: yes.  The long answer is: yes, but that is actually a very, very good thing.  When we have everything that we want in life, we stop looking for anything else.  We stop pursuing new ambitions, pushing ourselves to achieve and chasing after our goals.  Not knowing what we’re doing is scary, but it also motivates us to keep looking, and to keep finding things to learn about and enjoy in the world around us.  Essentially, happiness and feeling ‘sorted’ is fine, but it doesn’t open your mind or make you grow.  Uncertainty, ambition and passion make you keep going.

It almost doesn’t matter whether we find the elusive feeling of knowing what we’re doing.  As long as we keep looking for it, we will be learning new skills, travelling to new places, meeting new people and trying to be the best possible versions of ourselves.  Pursuing that feeling is what shapes your attitudes and makes you a fascinating person, and if you really think about it, being interesting is much more important than being a ‘proper grown-up’.

Right, kettle’s boiled now.  Could you grab the milk out of the fridge, please?

The Lie In, the Witch and the Wardrobe

maxresdefault

Hello there, dear reader!  How are you doing?  I’ve just made some biscuits, do you want one?  Careful, they’re still pretty hot.

Winter can be a magical time filled with joy, love and yummy food.  It can also be an absolute pain, complete with freakish weather situations, the stress of Christmas shopping and the inevitable do-we-don’t-we of turning on the central heating.  Here are some of the most common occurrences in the lives of twenty-somethings during the winter of our discontent (or disorganisation, in all likelihood):

  • The ‘where are we meeting?’ argument:
    “I don’t mind hosting.”
    “You’re just saying that because you don’t want to go outside.”
    “Well…yeah.  And I’ve got mulled wine here.”
    “Well played, my friend.  Well played”
  • The lie in:
    “I am NOT GETTING OUT OF BED until this house stops feeling like a BLOODY IGLOO.”
    “You’ve got work in forty minutes.”
    “Shh.  Inuits don’t have to get the Northern Line.”
  • The witch:
    “I’m not coming out tonight.”
    “Why not?”
    “Urgh.  I feel disgusting.  I’m so snotty.  My voice sounds all croaky and evil.”
    “You’ve got a cold.”
    “No, I’m dying.”
    “It’s just a cold.”
    “Were you not listening?  I feel like DEATH.  I’m not even sure that I’m HUMAN anymore.”
    “Yeah, you’re the whinging witch of the east.  Drink some Lemsip.”
  • The wardrobe:
    “It is SO COLD outside.  Should I wear tights or leggings?”
    “Tights UNDER leggings.”
    “You’re a genius.”
  • The transport issue:
    “Why did I wear tights under leggings?!  It’s hotter than Mount Doom on this bus!”
  • The prodigal glove:
    “I had two gloves last year.  I had two matching gloves.  A pair of gloves, in fact.   They live in that drawer.  Neither of them has had any reason to leave the drawer since February.  As far as I know, those gloves have been the best of friends for the past ten months.  One of them is here, in the drawer.  So where the HELL is the other one?  Did they have a row or something?!”
  • The festive season:
    “Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?”
    “Nope.”
    “Me neither.”
    “Amazon?”
    “Amazon.”
  • The festive reason:
    “We’ve only been going out for two weeks, but we were seeing each other for nearly three months before that, and technically we met over the Easter weekend, so should I buy him a Christmas present or not?”
    “I have no idea, but please throw your calendar away.  It’s creepy.”
  • The festive treason:
    “Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?”
    “Yep.  Everything’s bought, wrapped and safely hidden.”
    “I hate you.”

Have a lovely day.  Take a couple more biscuits for the road if you like.

Modern Moscow Rules

colin-firth-ciaran-hinds-and-david-dencik-in-tinker-tailor-soldier-spy

Hello there, lovely reader!  How has your week been?

As we all know (and occasionally grumble about), life is governed by rules.  Laws are in place to protect us, moral guidelines exist to shape our behaviour appropriately, and social etiquette is there to make awkward dinner parties more bearable.
During the Cold War, a (probably fictional) list of instructions called the Moscow Rules were developed, supposedly to be used as rules of thumb for spies and other shady characters.  There are various versions of the Moscow Rules in fiction and online, and although they are mainly for the use of espionage enthusiasts, I have decided to appropriate some of them for the benefit of the rest of us.  Here goes:

1) Assume nothing
Never assume that someone will definitely see your Facebook status, read your blog (ahem) or monitor your Twitter stream.  Then again, whatever you put on the internet is public, so never assume that you can get away with saying things like “omg I hate it when people are two-faced bitches, you know who you are!!!”  That kind of thing is just embarrassing for everyone.

2) Murphy is right
Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and is more commonly known these days as sod’s law.  I don’t think I even need to elaborate on this one, do I?

3) Never go against your gut
This can be explained for spying purposes as “if the circumstances of an operation feel wrong, they probably are.  Abort the mission.”  Despite the nebulous and unquantifiable nature of our gut feelings, we always feel a bit off when we go against them, don’t we?  Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.

4) Don’t look back; you are never completely alone
Again, in terms of espionage this means something a bit paranoid: essentially, the enemy and/or your superiors are never far away.  For those of us who are not trying to covertly execute a dead letter drop, what I think we can take away from this rule is comfort.  Don’t look back at your past because it has…er…passed, as it were, and there’s nothing we can do about that.  You are never completely alone because the best people from your past are still with you now.  Old friends, long-term partners, family members etc. have stuck around and are therefore worth paying attention to in the present.

5) Go with the flow, blend in
For the love of all that is good, pure, righteous and holy, stand on the right-hand side of tube escalators.

6) Don’t harass the opposition
Bitching, aggression, violence and snide remarks on social media are just not necessary.  Why waste your time digging at people you don’t like when you could be getting on with your life?

7) Everyone is potentially under opposition control
Good HEAVENS, Cold War spies were paranoid!  I suppose in some cases they were right to be, but really.  We are not living in an episode of The Demon Headmaster here.  The closest thing we have to ‘opposition control’ these days is the board of executives behind The X Factor.  What I think we could take from this rule is similar to the gist of rule 3: only you know exactly what is right for you in life.  Your friends and loved ones may mean well, but when it comes to drugs, fashion choices, watching reality television and the like, “everyone else is doing it” is not a good enough reason to fall into line.

8) Pick the time and place for action
Take control of your life.  Organise meetings, ask people out and get in touch with that friend who’s dropped off the radar.  Orchestrate your day so that everything works to your advantage as much as possible.  Don’t be afraid to say what you want.  Be prepared.  Tuck your shirt in, all that stuff.

9) Vary your pattern and stay within your cover
You can wear spots and stripes in the same outfit.  Always remember to take an umbrella.  (Yes, I know that that’s not at all what the original rule meant, but you’ve got to admit that the umbrella thing is very sound advice.)

10) Keep your options open
We are all under a lot of pressure to settle down into long-term careers, marriages and mortgages.  If you’re ready for any or indeed all of those things, then good for you.  If not, don’t worry.  We have no way of knowing what kind of opportunities, people and prospects we are going to come across from one day to the next, and it is no bad thing to keep your options open.

Have a spectacular weekend.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Worriers

img_7626

Hola and a very merry Friday to you, you lovely thing.  I hope that your week has been productive, enjoyable and unusually amusing.

Today I would like to have a chat about worrying, and specifically worrying about someone you love.  It’s completely acceptable to worry about someone, because it means that you quite like them and want them to be alright.  Similarly, it’s usually quite touching to be told that someone else is worried about you, because it means that they’re thinking about you and wishing you the best.

So worrying comes from a good place, but what is it good for?  (“Absolutely nothin’, say it again y’all!”  Etc.)  Worrying about a loved one doesn’t actually fix their problems, and it’s not going to do you a huge amount of good, either.  Unfortunately, nobody has handed you a magic wand/fairy dust/a time machine with which to fix your loved one’s troubles.  So you feel a bit rubbish and you’re also aware that that feeling isn’t doing any actual good.  This is decidedly not cool.

The way to deal with worry is to act upon it.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we follow people around saying “are you ok?  Are you sure you’re ok?  What’s the matter?  You look annoyed.  Are you annoyed?  I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU” ad infinitum.  That is definitely not the answer, for obvious reasons.  However, I think we can agree that we need practical ways to deal with our worry:

1) Say something
Tell the person that you’re worried about them.  Not to make them feel more stressed or guilty for upsetting you, but to reassure them that someone (i.e. you, you super star) is thinking about them.

2) Say something to someone else
If the person you’re worried about has confided in you, obviously don’t go blathering their secrets around your social circle.  But if you have a mutual friend or family member who will understand how you feel (and may already feel the same way), share the load.  For example: I have four siblings, and if I’m worried about one of them I automatically rally the other three.  There’s a lot to be said for strength in numbers.

3) Say something helpful
Offer your support.  Make sure that your friend/loved one knows that you are willing and able to help them if they need you.

4) Really mean it
Only offer support that you know you can give.  You may not be able to fix their entire life, but offering someone a shoulder to cry on or a good distraction from their woes is still very valuable.

5) Really mean it and prepare for it
Stocking up for emotional emergencies is a lot more fun than panic-buying for the end of the world.  For example, I have a secret stash of nice things – chocolate, fancy coffee, etc. – just in case one of my friends comes round and needs cheering up.  On a slightly more serious/less sugar-based note, if someone you care about is going for a scary hospital appointment, for example, clear your schedule for that day as much as possible.  They may claim to be ok, but they might change their mind at the last minute and need you to go with them.

6) Really mean it and prepare for it and then do it
If there is anything that you can actually physically do to help, do it.  If you’ve offered help to someone and they’ve taken you up on it, that demonstrates a huge amount of trust on their part.  Respect their trust and don’t push them to do/say things they’re not ready for.  Worrying is hard, but being worried about is also a big deal.

7) Let them get on with it
If you’ve said all you can say and done all that you can do, your only course of action is to sit back and let them work through whatever’s happening.  You can’t force someone to confide in you, call you when they’re sad or turn to you when they’re scared – some people prefer to do these things alone, and we have to respect that.  But if you’ve made it clear where you stand (i.e. right beside them whenever they need you), then you have already acted upon your worry as much as you can.

One last thing: I completely understand that being told not to worry is a bit annoying, because we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.  But just as your words and actions come from a well-meaning place, so do the intentions of the person who says “don’t worry about it”.  They just don’t like to see you wandering around looking as stressed out as the goldfish at the top of this post.  Poor, worried goldfish.

Have a glorious weekend.

Awkward Conversations with Foreign People

tea-cup1

Hello, reader!  How’s the world treating you today?

One of the best things about living in England is the mutliculturalism.  (What makes it even better is that every time someone says that, Nigel Farage gets a stabbing pain behind his eye.  I have absolutely no evidence to back that up, but you never know…)  This is particularly relevant in London: did you see the re-imagined tube map showing the languages spoken in different parts of London?  Here it is.  How cool is that?!

I don’t understand why UKIP, racists and other generic twats get their knickers in such a twist about British identity.  Firstly, other nationalities have all sorts of beautiful, fascinating and useful things to teach us, as evidenced by all the purloined objects in the British Museum.  If we didn’t think that foreign stuff was cool, we wouldn’t have nicked it in the first place.  Secondly, we’ve kept all the Britishness we’ll ever need.  Seriously, we have.  There are certain British values which to this day remain undiluted, unwavering and inexplicable to people from elsewhere.  Our identity as a nation and our global reputation rest upon these unshakeable pillars of completely peculiar principles.  Here are some examples of things which we Brits are totally fine with, but which we find difficult to explain to people from other countries:

Bonfire Night
“About four hundred years ago, a bloke with a bit of a chip on his shoulder tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, so now we burn effigies of him.”
“And this is a happy time?”
“Oh, yes.  Fireworks, fairground rides, family outings.  All good fun.”
“You celebrate a four-hundred year-old terrorist attack.”
“…Well, yes.  But it’s a failed terrorist attack, if that helps.”

Queueing
“You just stand in the line?”
“You just stand in the line.”
“What if you’re in a hurry?”
“You have to wait.”
“What if you need the toilet?”
“You wait.”
“What if your feet get pins and needles?!”
“You just wait.”
“What if somebody jumps the queue?”
“Ah, well that’s different!  In that case, you TUT.”
“Yeah?”
Very loudly.  And then you carry on waiting.”

Why Tea is So Important
“It just is.”
“But why?”
“It’s traditional.  It’s English.”
“It’s Chinese, actually.”
“Yes, alright, but we like it over here, too!  It’s comforting!”
“How so?”
“Because it’s…hot?”
“So is coffee.”
“Yes, but…”
“And hot chocolate.  Hence the name, ‘hot’ chocolate.”
“Yes, but you wouldn’t find the queen serving hot chocolate to her guests at Windsor, would you?  She’d serve tea.”
“She’d serve coffee to the Americans, I think.”
“Perhaps.”
“And actually, I don’t think she’d be serving it.  I think she has staff to do that.”
“I’m not having this conversation.  Go and put the kettle on.”

Talking About the Weather
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, comment upon the weather.”
“Why?”
“Because weather is the ONLY thing that you can talk about with absolutely anyone at all, without needing any prior knowledge of them as a person.  Unlike religion, politics, current affairs, art and literature, talking about the weather doesn’t involve having an opinion or risk offending someone else.  It’s an excellent way to start or maintain a conversation with someone by purely stating empirical, uncontroversial facts. No one can argue with ‘nice day today, isn’t it?'”
“If you don’t want to talk to someone about their opinions or discuss interesting topics, why on earth are you talking to them?”
“…I have no idea.”

Sarcasm
“So you’re saying one thing, but you mean the opposite.”
“Yeah.  It’s a type of humour.”
“But why do you need it?  Why can’t you just say what you mean, like America does?”
“Oh yeah, because British people would love to be more like America.”
“Really?”
“NO.  THAT WAS SARCASM.”

So there you have it: the British identity in a nutshell.  Obviously those are all a bit silly, but you know what I mean: we’re a pretty odd bunch, and our identity as a nation isn’t going anywhere.  We are the affable, slightly strange grandfather at the global dinner table, and we’re ok with that.  We also need to be ok with other cultural identities, even if they seem strange to us.  Bearing that in mind, could somebody take Farage’s toys away and send him to his room?  No dessert for intolerant eejits, I’m afraid.

Have an amazing Tuesday!

The Death Tag

download (10)

Happy Hallowe’en, dear reader!  Have you got enough Haribo in for the trick or treaters?

Flying in the face of my Catholic upbringing (just for a change), it turns out that I quite like Hallowe’en.  It was inevitable, if I’m honest: the combination of dressing up, sweets and silliness is a drama graduate’s DREAM.  I also quite like introspection and morbid scheming, so I have decided to use today’s post as an opportunity to do “the death tag”, which my dear friend Ash alerted me to (and covered in this vlog).

1) How do you want to die?
I suppose most people want to die in their sleep, surrounded by loved ones, when they’re old and ready for death etc.  I would like that, but if I’m completely honest I would prefer a more dramatic departure, like the end of Thelma and Louise or Moulin Rouge.  (It’s the drama graduate thing again.)  What I would like more than anything is to die in a really stupid and/or amusing way, so that my demise would make a good story.  E.g. I want my last words to be “Oh look, a tiger.  Here, kitty kitty!”

2) What will happen to your WordPress?
It will serve as a reference point for my friends when they argue about what I would have said/wanted in a certain situation.  For example: “Vicki would NEVER wear pink shoes.”  “Uh, I refer you to blog #347, where she states in paragraph 12 that she would absolutely love some cerise flip flops.  BOOM.”  (FYI I would absolutely love a pair of cerise flip flops, so that solves that one.)

3) Who will you leave your money to?
If I may answer your question with a question: what the hell is ‘money’?!

Seriously though, if this question is about what you want to happen to your most valuable assets, then the items in question will be my books.   Their combined value is probably hovering somewhere near the 37p mark, but they are my favourite possessions.  They will go to my lovely friend Louise, who is the only person I’ve ever met who is as obsessive about books as I am.  If Louise pre-deceases me (horrendous thought), then I give my brother permission to turn my books into a fort.

4) What will happen to your body?
This Friends clip sums up EXACTLY how I feel about this question.

5) What do you want your funeral to be like?
A day at the seaside.  Probably Brighton.  Rounders on the beach and arcade games on the pier will be compulsory.

6) What will you miss the most that will exist after your death?
Well, I hate to be pernickety, but being dead will sort of preclude me from missing anything at all, won’t it?  But ok, I get the point of the question.  I think that teleporting will probably be a thing one day (my ignorance of the science behind it notwithstanding), and I would hate to miss out on that.  Can you imagine?  “Tuscany’s supposed to be lovely at this time of year.”  “Oh, really?  Shall we go?”  “Why not?  Let me just grab my sunglasses.”  ZAP.  Fantastic.

7) How will you want to be remembered?
This is the big one, isn’t it?  How we are remembered seems much more important than where, when or how gently we go into that good night, I suppose because it’s the factor that we can most easily affect while we’re alive.
I want what we all want: to be thought of with love by people who knew us and respect by people who didn’t.  I want my loved ones to grieve but eventually move on, and I want an obituary that makes me sound like a saint.  I also (slightly less realistically) want the world to say that my death heralds a great loss for the theatrical world.  I want my tombstone to say something heartfelt and meaningful, like a quotation from The IT Crowd.
Most of all I want people to tell anecdotes about the dumbass things I did while I was alive, because Lord knows there are plenty of those.  I want my friends to say things like “oh God, do you remember when Vicki locked herself in the porch?” and laugh about it.  I might not leave much money or fame behind, but I can at least leave a mildly ludicrous legacy.

Have a suitably spooky Friday!

Departing Party People

CKBBAINO

Good morning, you marvellous creature!  I hope that today finds you well-rested, prepared for all of your meetings and up to date with your emails.

Life, as many famous people have said in a wide variety of trite and/or profound ways, is made up of entrances and exits.  Your life-long social circle can therefore be likened to a train station, a play or a party.  Let’s go with the party metaphor, shall we?  Help yourself to a symbolic beer and a non-existent cupcake.

Some people enter your life and immediately make themselves comfy on your favourite beanbag, whereas others may only poke their heads in, apologise profusely and back out again.  The problem, as anyone who has ever hosted a dinner party will know, is that an emotional seating plan is very hard to stick to when the guests keep switching chairs, dashing off to the loo or disappearing for AGES while they make a phone call.

In some cases (both in the metaphor and in reality), you sort of know that the party won’t really start until a certain person shows up.  In the metaphor that person is traditionally your other half/spouse/life partner.  In reality I have found that it’s usually my dear friend Mario, who is always as boisterous and tequila-laden as anyone could possibly hope for.  Other pro party starters include my good friends Baino and Cieranne (pictured above), who are probably both going to kill me for using that precise image.  (They look like they’re having fun though, don’t they?  Exactly.)

The other party guests can be very surprising: friends whom you used to adore may end up leaving early, and comparatively recent arrivals can emerge as the life and soul of the shindig.  In other words: sometimes you lose contact with people you thought you’d know forever, and someone you’ve known for a matter of weeks may already be one of your closest confidants.  C’est la vie – or soirée, if you will.

Sometimes the departure of one specific person can be difficult – particularly if that person was up for the role of life partner – but we have to trust that when someone leaves the party early, they’re making room for a first-class late arrival.  Unless the circumstances are particularly fraught, I don’t think that people ever really want to leave your life.  (Why would they?  You’re a HOOT.)  It’s just that parties are a law unto themselves, and life has a funny little habit of doing whatever it sodding well pleases.

The party is the thing, and the shape of your evening/life is defined by a whole bunch of entrances and exits.  When people exit your life, it may not be permanent.  When people enter your life, they might come bearing more booze.  Whatever the circumstances, all we have to do is answer the door with a smile and enjoy the festivities.

Well, I think I’ve tortured that metaphor quite enough now.  Have a glorious Tuesday.

Confidence Tricks

XKCD_Climbing

Hello, lovely reader!  How’s your week been?

For those of you who didn’t catch my last post about active problem-solving, the main aim of this post is to report back on my first ever indoor climbing session, which took place on Wednesday.  I was accompanied by my friend Laura, who has been going mountain climbing since the age of three and a half, and who kindly agreed to teach me how to climb.  Needless to say, she’s a very brave and patient woman.

Despite my novice status – and predisposition towards swearing profusely when under pressure – we ended up having a great time, and have therefore decided to make the climbing a weekly thing. I look forward to learning a lot more about it.  In the meantime, here is a basic report of my findings thus far:

a) Chalk gets everywhere.  You need it to stop your hands from getting sweaty and slipping on the grips, but seriously.  EVERYWHERE.
b) The names for various climbing holds and techniques sound like they came from a Carry On script, “jugs” being the least outrageous example.  Which leads me neatly to:
c) You can’t climb and giggle at the same time.
d) As with many things in life, it’s best to be cautious without over-thinking.  Staring at a wall for ages and trying to work out your route is only going to freak you out, although obviously it’s important to be careful.
e) Speaking of which, the climbing centre went to a lot of trouble to remind us that CLIMBING CAN CAUSE SERIOUS CASES OF DEADNESS.  So be warned.
f)  Climbing is a lot easier when you have confidence.  If you don’t have actual confidence, pretend that you do.

I am genuinely starting to believe that the way to get things done is to lie yourself into confidence.  For example, when Laura gave me a short bouldering demonstration at the beginning of Wednesday’s session, I mentally freaked out because the whole thing suddenly seemed impossible.  Laura has been doing this climbing thing for years, but I’m old and set in my ways!  I’ve been abiding by the laws of gravity for twenty-five years – what on earth makes me think I can start defying them now?!  Confidence, that’s what.  Stubborn, bloody-minded, if-R-Kelly-believes-he-can-fly-then-I-believe-I-can-climb-a-wall confidence.  If Laura makes it look easy, then it must be easy.  (It wasn’t.  It was brilliant fun, but it wasn’t easy.)  The kind of confidence, in other words, which is only ever borne out of a negative or scary scenario and is almost entirely composed of self-deception.

This kind of motivation might seem silly or counter-productive, but it really does work.  It would be nice to spend our entire lives feeling constantly capable, meeting new challenges with panache and overcoming obstacles with the right footwear.  However, sometimes we have to accept that things are going to be difficult, or frightening, or involve an excessive amount of chalk.  In those situations, we need to know ourselves well enough to pull out all the stops.  Procrastinator, know thyself – and know how to trick yourself into feeling confident.

Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing clothes that make you walk taller, or listening to music that puts you in a good mood.  Whatever your tricks and treats are, make sure you use them whenever you have need.  Eventually, they will become second nature and you genuinely will feel as confident as you’ve pretended to be.

Have an amazing weekend.  Make sure you get a lie-in at some point.

I Love You John Hannah, But Please Shut Up

John Hannah (Vanya), Joe Dixon (Astrov) and Alan Francis (Telygin) in Uncle Vanya at St James Theatre. Credit Simon Annand.

Hello, reader!  How are you doing?  You’re looking very well, I must say.

Last week I went to see Anya Reiss’ modernised version of Uncle Vanya at the St James Theatre, starring the relentlessly wonderful John Hannah as Vanya.  Having studied all kinds of plays at uni – including the work of that cheerless bunch of bastards known as “the Naturalists” – I am already as familiar as I want to be with Chekhov’s story of love, labour, loss and smug gits.  I mainly went to see John Hannah, if I’m honest.

For those of you who were not forced to read two Naturalist plays a week for a year, all you really need to know is this: traditionally Naturalist plays are characterised by all of the characters being miserable, and unanimously doing sod all about it.  Actually, that’s not very fair: sometimes they commit suicide.  But that’s about it in terms of problem-solving techniques.

What these characters do instead of pro-actively fixing their lives is talk.  They bitch about each other, they speculate on each other’s love lives and futures, they whine a LOT about the causes of their constant unhappiness, and they make terrible jokes.  What I like about Uncle Vanya as a play is that someone finally picks another character up on this.  Vanya is to be pitied for falling in love with a much younger, married woman, but it’s not her fault that she doesn’t feel the same way.  Will he shut up about it and behave with a shred of dignity?  Will he calmly and quietly enjoy their friendship for what it is?  Will he resist the temptation to constantly attempt emotional blackmail?  Of course not.  Understandably, Yelena cracks in the face of Vanya’s relentless whining and tells him to shut up.  Well, wouldn’t you?  I mean, John Hannah is absolutely wonderful, but even in his sultry Scottish voice, Vanya’s lines sound pathetic.

I am a big fan of words, talking and verbal communication in general.  I think that it is healthy and positive to have conversations about your feelings, and to process ideas and upheavals by discussing them with loved ones.  But venting about our problems means absolutely nothing if we are not willing to do anything about them.  It’s all very well and good to bemoan a bad situation, but if there are steps you can take towards resolving it – even if it’s just walking away with your dignity intact – why not take the flipping steps?

It makes no sense to talk the talk without walking the walk, especially when it comes to our emotional well-being.  Talking about stuff is wonderful, but (unfortunately) it won’t always solve our problems.  If you think about it there is always something that you can actively do to make a situation better for yourself, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it might be.

Also, acting upon your social survival instincts can lead to good things, and it teaches us to follow through with stuff we know is good for us.  For example, since I came back from the Fringe I have been contemplating (out loud and in front of witnesses.  Oops) taking up indoor climbing.  The time has come for me to face my fear (and a wall, presumably), so tomorrow I will be going climbing with a friend of mine who has given me strict instructions not to “fall off and die”.  I will do my best.  Assuming that I’m successful, I’ll report back on Friday.

Have an amazing week.  Eat super tasty breakfasts every day.