Tag Archives: family

Pooh Sticks and Perfect Intentions

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Happy 2015, dear reader.  How are you?  I hope your festive season was joyful, relaxing and as sparkly as possible.

I’m sure that everyone’s Christmas experience is unique, but there are a couple of thoughts that most (if not all) of us have towards the end of the holiday season:

1) I love my family, but I could probably go a few weeks/months/decades without seeing them now.
2) I have GOT to eat a salad.

Ending the year with good intentions for the future leads me neatly onto my main topic for today, which is new year’s resolutions.  Of course, many people don’t want or need the excuse of January 1st to try new things or give stuff up.  In some ways it seems bizarre to block out twelve months of our lives and classify them as having been collectively “good” or “bad”, and to make decisions about our future based on the events that took place during that time.  Is that why the tradition of making resolutions prevails in our culture?  Because we need to believe that we can divide our lives into units of what we have done and what we are going to do?

There is nothing wrong with doing this, of course, or with most traditions in general.  Tradition – as the characters of Fiddler on the Roof know very well – is extremely important.  Traditions can be religious, cultural or local.  They can even be something that only you and one other person abide by, such as the annual game of pooh sticks that I play on Hungerford Bridge with my friend Paul.  We do it on New Year’s Day, and each stick represents a resolution for the year ahead.  The original idea was that the person whose stick came out first was most likely to keep their resolution.  This year it was so windy that our sticks kept flying back to hit us in the knees, so we had to improvise slightly.  (“Shall we just go to the other side of the bridge and chuck them downriver?”  “Er…yeah.”)

I don’t know about you, but Paul and I usually find that our resolutions stay fairly similar year on year: there’s always a resolution about learning to manage our money, and another about improving ourselves in general.  There also tends to be something project-based (Paul: “Build a PC!”) and an optimistic love life goal (Me: “Sort it out”).  In some ways it is disheartening to think that our aims are inching rather than leaping forward, but then who can be expected to completely change their lives in just one year?  Or two?  Or three?  Or…oh…I’m spotting a problem here…

People’s resolutions stay similar because we are only human.  No matter how many years we are given or how good our intentions are at the time of resolve, we will probably never achieve complete perfection.  Paul, God bless him, never criticises me for the fact that “clear my overdraft” has been on my resolutions list for the last three years in a row, and I appreciate that.  He does remind me of my successes, e.g. last year I resolved to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, which I did.

This time of year can be very tricky, because we are caught in a limbo world of recovering from the previous year and trying to plan the next.  If we think that we have made little progress over the past year, we can become pessimistic about what we are capable of in the next one.  The important thing is to keep going, keep trying, and to make sure that you have people around you who will remind you of how far you’ve come.

Have a glorious Friday, and a wonderful 2015.  You have achieved a lot more than you think.

Christmas Presence

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Happy Tuesday, you lovely thing!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Have a seat, I’ve got a rant to get through.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Camden, waiting for a friend and quietly minding my own business.  As anyone who lives in an urban area will know, sometimes when you’re out and about you have to talk to strangers.  Most people approach you to ask for the time, directions or to hand you a flyer, but the guy I encountered yesterday was a whole new breed of weird stranger (even by Camden’s gloriously bizarre standards).  He approached me to ask for my opinion on his hand-made Christmas cards, which were the most horrific, disturbing and unsettling images I have seen in a very long time.  Genuine excerpt from our conversation:

Stranger: “So, which one do you prefer?  There’s this one, which is the masses of sheep – the consumers, you get me? – bowing down to a tree made of bloodstained iPods, the one of Jesus shooting Ronald McDonald in the face, or the creepy Santa with a bag of kids’ faces.  What do you think?”
Me: “…I think you should talk to someone.”
Stranger: “So you don’t want to buy one?”
Me: “No, thank you.  I really like Christmas.”

And I do, I love Christmas.  I love the carols, parties, decorations, lovely food, sparkling drinks, shiny wrapping paper and rubbish cracker jokes.  (I would love the silly hats too, but they don’t fit over my ridiculous hair.  True story.)  I also love presents, as of course we all do.   I understand that the consumer-driven chaos of Christmas is what the guy in Camden was angry about, and I can respect that.  I also realise that most of the things I’ve just listed as ‘reasons to love Christmas’ are consumerist and non-essential.  I’m not going to apologise for liking things that don’t really matter, because I don’t think that crackers and all that stuff are more important than being with my family, or showing my friends how much I love and appreciate them.

Last year we Brits gobbled approximately 10 million turkeys, spent nearly £600 each on gifts, and probably splashed out thousands of pounds on stamps for our Christmas cards.  This is all in keeping with the Camden guy’s anti-establishment rage, but I don’t believe that the way to fix that is to send grotesque greeting cards.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not disputing this man’s right to express his opinion or use his creativity – fair play to him for coming up with such striking/memorable images – but I personally will not be swayed by his view.  (Although I will concede that this year’s Christmas advert war is starting to grate just a bit.)

Not to get all Tiny Tim about it, but the most important thing about Christmas is the people we spend it with: friends, family and loved ones.  (For instance, the photograph at the top of this post is courtesy of my dad, who captured this lovely moment of typical sibling silliness on Christmas day last year.)  We are allowed to enjoy the consumer stuff like food, drink and presents because they are much less important, but more controllable.  You can hope and pray that your parents won’t get into a row over dinner, or that your granddad won’t get drunk and be loudly racist, or that your sister will cheer up even though she got dumped a week ago, but you cannot make these things happen.  You can make nice food and an effort to find thoughtful gifts.

Even if you don’t have a completely harmonious, sober or exuberant Christmas, the consumer crap is a way of saying to people “I love you, and I want us to have a special day together.”  If we burn the turkey and get terrible presents, it doesn’t matter because it is just stuff and at least we tried.  I know that that’s not why the festive season is so financially spectacular, but if we’ve got this cultural phenomenon we might as well find the positive aspects of it.

Right, rant over.  I’m going to make some mince pies.  You go and have a marvellous day, whatever you’re up to.

Sisterly Wisdomousness

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Happy Friday, dear reader!  I hope that your weekend plans are coming together nicely.

Just like the leaves on trees and Nick Clegg’s policies, our relationships change.  (Cheap shot, I know, but I’m still really angry about the student fees thing.)  My relationship with my oldest sister, for instance, has changed a lot since we were children.  When we were younger she was very good at bossing us around with the impenetrable “Because I’m older than you” justification.  It’s very difficult to counter that one, as it turns out.  And it never stops being true.

Don’t get me wrong: she is and has always been a brilliant big sister.  Now that we are adults, our relationship has changed to become a very close friendship, which is lovely.  She doesn’t tell me what to do anymore, but she does have some very sage advice and ingenious ideas.

My sister has taught me loads of lessons over the years, most of the time without even realising it.  She taught me not to take myself too seriously, and to laugh at myself when I’ve done something stupid.  She taught me the value of being adventurous (standard telephone conversation: “I’m bored.  I think I’ll go to Burma”) and taking an interest in the wider world.  She taught me that it’s ok not to be a “proper” adult, and that you can find happiness in places you didn’t expect.  She is also very good at seeing things from an older, wiser perspective, and using the five extra years she’s got on me to help me see things differently.  In that respect, I’m never going to catch up.  (Because of time and physics and stuff, but also because she’s just very wise.)

In the interests of Christmas spirit, human kindness and practical living, here is a snippet of sisterly wisdom:

  • Don’t buy a piece of clothing unless you’re in love with it
    I think we’ve all picked something up in a shop and thought “meh, it’ll do”, or “it’s not perfect, but I just need something to wear for x event”.  We should not be doing this, for two very key reasons: firstly, it’s a waste of money.  Secondly, it’s a waste of confidence.  If you build up a wardrobe over months and years which contains a whole load of “meh” items, you will never feel your best, no matter what you wear.  Your wardrobe should be full of things that make you look and feel great.
  • Fakemas
    Very simple concept: have a fake Christmas day with your friends.  Food, presents, silly hats, the lot.  My sister claims to have invented the term “Fakemas” for this, and if you think she’s wrong then by all means take it up with her.  I wish you luck.
  • A wise man/woman wees when s/he can
    Another fairly straightforward piece of advice, ensuring that you are never caught short at an inopportune moment.
  • It’s all about the roast potatoes
    Roast potatoes are the heart of a good Sunday roast.  Get them right, and everything else will fall into place.  This is especially important if you have vegetarians at your dinner table, because they can hardly be expected to get excited about a properly-roasted chicken, can they?  Exactly.

Have a glorious Friday and a superlatively relaxing weekend.

Modern Moscow Rules

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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

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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.

Gratitude Attitude

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Happy Friday, you lovely thing!  How’s your week been?

My friend Tamsin recently nominated me for that “list three things you’re grateful for” thingy on Facebook.  While I am whole-heartedly supportive of such a positive, life-affirming use of social media, I am going to cheat and do it my way.  This is for three reasons:

1) I post blogs and articles and silly statuses on Facebook all the time.  If I did this thing properly (i.e. once a day for ten days – thirty things to be grateful for, all told), the message of gratitude would get drowned out by the sound of everyone frantically removing me from their news feeds.
2) I can assimilate the point of this exercise in one bite-sized, easy to digest blog post, which is what I’m about to do.
3) I’m a contrary little so-and-so.

So, here is my take on the gratitude exercise: ten categories, three examples per category, thirty things to be grateful for.  (So yeah, I am cheating, but technically I’ve done the exercise.)

Friends

  • The ones who can always make you laugh
  • The ones who are still friends after being miles and/or months apart
  • The ones with whom you have excellent eyebrow semaphore.

Jokes

  • In-jokes whose origins are lost in the mists of time, but which still make you laugh
  • Christmas cracker jokes
  • A joke you tell that makes EVERYONE laugh – no better feeling in the world, is there?

Family

  • The ones who looked after you when you couldn’t look after yourself
  • The ones who remember your most embarrassing moments but don’t bring them up in front of people
  • The ones who become real friends.

Experiences

  • Life-changing, unforgettable ones
  • Horrendous, lesson-learned-please-God-don’t-ever-let-that-happen-again ones
  • Ones that make for rocking anecdotes.

Strangers

  • Ones who inspire/amuse you without ever knowing
  • The ones who show you compassion when you’re lost/stuck/in trouble
  • The ones who have taught their children how to behave in public.

Aspects of Nature

  • Landscape awesomeness, e.g. sunsets
  • Biology, which proves that deep down we’re all the same
  • Penguins.  Who does not love penguins?

Bands/Musicians

  • Ones that always make you feel good
  • Ones that remind you of happy times and/or good friends
  • Guilty pleasures (did somebody say Hanson?)

Technological Wonderments

  • Television
  • Skype
  • The animatronics behind Ann Robinson’s face

Gut Reactions

  • “This isn’t right.”
  • “This is amazing!”
  • “I love you.”

Cheese

  • Retro, cringy pop music
  • Mushy, sentimental conversations
  • ACTUAL CHEESE

My (Slightly Less) Naughty Little Sister

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Hello, lovely reader!  How’s life treating you today?

Does anyone remember those stories about a little girl who was incredibly naughty, but essentially loveable?  They were called “My Naughty Little Sister”, and I remember reading them as a child and feeling a bit cheated by the stories’ inevitable happy endings.  If I’d got up to half of her shenanigans, I would never have been able to charm my way out of trouble the way that little girl did.  In fact, on many occasions I was that naughty, and it’s shocking how useless a winning smile and puppy dog eyes are when you’re dealing with angry teachers/parents/older siblings.

Anyway, as most of my social circle know, my siblings are the most important people in my life.  We are five very different people who happen to have the same face, and despite the obligatory childhood scraps and rivalries, we have ended up being very close friends as adults.  Last night I had a long phone conversation with my little sister: nothing major, just a nice, lengthy catch up and a bit of gossip.  But it was, as all of my conversations with my siblings are, very rewarding.  There are a few reasons for this, and for the existence of siblings in general being a brilliant thing.

First of all, there is nothing like having someone just like you around to validate your existence (and personality, in some cases).  I know that I can say to my little sister “I’m worried about this”, or “I really don’t like that”, and she will always understand where I’m coming from.  Like everyone else, I sometimes worry that I am very weird and that everyone else is a lot better at life than I am.  Having four people in my life who share my neuroses, genetic predispositions and slightly odd frame of cultural reference makes me feel like a proper human being.  I may well be very weird, but I am not alone.  Having siblings puts you into context, and that’s extremely valuable.

Secondly, siblings – even twins – are never entirely identical as people, and it’s a constant source of pride and joy to me that my siblings all pursue different ambitions.  It’s amazing how different close relatives can really be, and talking to my little sister about her degree (which is in science, of all things.  Can you imagine?) reminds me how important it is to respect other people’s passions.  It’s easy to go through life assuming that we know pretty much everything about our nearest and dearest, and we may not share their beliefs or aspirations, but it’s always worth checking in on them from time to time.  I love hearing my little sister talk about her life, because it’s so different from mine.

Thirdly, I am a very typical big sister in that I hate the idea of my younger siblings repeating my mistakes.  I mean, really.  If you’re going to mess things up then at least have the decency to be original about it.  Jeez.  Seriously, though: I have messed up enough times and been hurt often enough to recognise the danger signs in my little brother and sister, and I dread to think of them going through some of the rubbish that I put myself through at their age because of pride, misplaced affections or your basic, thoughtless drunkenness.  Thankfully, my younger siblings are a lot more sensible than I am, and my little sister in particular is a wise old soul (for a twenty-one year old).  Talking to her and hearing her opinions reminds me that she is a lot smarter than I was at her age, and if she is slightly less naughty than I am, that can only be a good thing.

I know that I am very, very lucky to get on so well with my multitudinous siblings, but I think that the essential elements of our relationships are the same for friends and family members from all walks of life.  It doesn’t matter how alienated you may be now, or how little you think you have in common: your siblings are the people most like you on earth, whether that’s in terms of personality or physical appearance, and their influence on your life is incomparable with anything else.  Even if they annoy you, bore you or just have far too many embarrassing stories to tell about you: they will always be a huge part of who you are.

And that’s a very good thing, because you’re wonderful.  Have a cracker of a Wednesday.

There And Back Again

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you doing?  

I have now returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, exhausted and a bit bemused, but very happy.  I also feel more than usually hobbitish: I took something important to a faraway land; my friends were all there but a lot of us had to do our own thing (and wear different costumes); I climbed a massive hill, and I have even returned to a flat called Bag End.  Elijah Wood, eat your heart out.

Coming home after a big adventure is always tricky, even though there are always people and home comforts we miss on our travels.  It’s tricky because of two things: firstly, once we’re back the adventure starts to fade and feel like either a distant memory or a seriously elaborate daydream, and secondly because we feel like we’ve gone backwards.  Weird, isn’t it?  

For example, I’ve spent two years working on Chris is Dead, and a year working towards this specific production.  There have been countless emails, dozens of meetings, hundreds of rehearsals and a lot of rewrites.  The show went down really well at the Fringe: we had great audiences and lots of nice feedback, and we all had a blast performing it.  So why do I now feel like coming home is taking a step backwards?  Is it just because Jon and I sat in backwards-facing seats on the train yesterday?

Seriously, though – the big experiences in our lives make huge impressions on us, partly because they are important, but also because they are transitory.  When our eye-opening adventures are over we are understandably confused and a bit shell-shocked.  The trick is to appreciate what was good about the experience, but has to be transitory in order to always be a good thing in our minds.  For instance, I love being on the Royal Mile for two or three weeks of madness every year, but that would become hell for everyone if it carried on indefinitely.  Think Alfred Hitchcock but with flyers instead of birds.

The other trick is to find the things that aren’t transitory about your experience, and keep hold of them.  Whether they are physical objects (tour hoodies, photographs, souvenirs and suchlike) or nebulous ideas (a sense of well-being, a feeling of achievement, increased confidence etc.), there is always something from our transitory times that we get to keep.  In my case, this year I made new friends and reconnected with some very dear old ones, so I will hopefully be keeping hold of them for a while.

Last but not least, make sure you have something nice to come home to when your travels or adventures are over.  I will be spending today with the glorious Laura Lexx, so that’s me completely sorted.

Have a beautiful day.  Make sure you have some vitamins and drink lots of water.

“Find a happy place, find a happy place!!”

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Good morrow, fair reader!  How fares the world with thee today?

Ahem.  Anyway, today I’d like to talk to you about happy places, and the different forms they take.  We all have literal locations that we love, but we also have mental go-to places that put us in a better mood.  Here are a few examples of the best happy places.  I hope that you have at least one of each of these:

The Happy Place of the Past
Isn’t it weird that when someone asks you to think of a song, every tune you’ve ever heard goes straight out of your head?  It’s the same when we’re asked to remember a time we felt truly happy.  That’s not to say that we’ve never been happy, but that the pressure of recollecting our bliss on demand is a little too much to deal with.  When we are at leisure to consider, we can all think of a period in our lives that brought us real joy.  Whether it’s a childhood era, an irresponsible summer in adolescence or an eye-opening travel experience, each of us has a memory that can bring back a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

The Happy Place that’s a Person
Sentimentality alert – our loved ones are also our happy places.  Whether it’s a partner, a family member or a best friend, the right person can immediately transport you away from your woes and worries into a place that only you two know about.  When we talk about real love, isn’t that what we actually mean?  The people we love don’t have to be perfect, or entirely compatible with our every personality aspect, or even physically present – they just have to represent a safe and happy place. Keane know what I’m talking about.

The Happy Place that Never Lets You Down
Some places make us happy time after time.  Lots of my friends have theatres that they always enjoy visiting, or pubs that always deliver a great night out.  Especially when we feel lost in general, or when life is confusing and annoying us, it’s a great thing to know that there is somewhere we can go that will always make us feel better.  If you’re stuck for ideas (and you happen to be in Richmond), I would like to recommend The Farmery, which I have visited three times in the last week.  I’m not even a tiny bit embarrassed about that.  Their frozen yoghurt is seriously tasty.

The Happy Place that’s a Good Old-Fashioned Metaphor
Whether it’s a memory, an idea or a vague daydream, we all have a handy bit of our brain that allows us to transcend the humdrum and the horrible.  We might not like to publicly admit the exact nature of our personal happy place, but it’s very healthy and helpful for us to have them.  Heck, have more than one.  Have as many as you like.  As long as you daydream in moderation, there is no limit to the places your mind can take you.

The Happy Place that’s Yet to Come
This might be a literal location – for example, I really want to visit Egypt one day – or it might be an ambition that you hold dear.  Either way, the best days of your life might not be ahead of you (although I sincerely hope that they are), but there is definitely happiness of some kind waiting for us one day.  If we keep working towards what we want and where we want to be, we can take comfort from the fact that we will always be moving closer to another, exciting happy place.

Have a glorious Wednesday.  May the place you are in be extremely happy.

Face Value

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Hello, and a very happy May Day to you!  Did you know that 1st May used to be considered the first day of summer?  Yeah.  Apparently that’s why the summer solstice (25th June) is known as midsummer, even though we all know that it will still be cold and rainy at that point.  Ah well.

Also, this day always makes me think of an episode of Red Dwarf when two of the main characters get marooned and are discussing the distress signal:

Rimmer: I wonder why they call it ‘May Day’.
Lister: Eh?
Rimmer: The distress call.  I wonder why it’s May Day…it’s only a bank holiday.  Why not Shrove Tuesday or Ascension Sunday?

I digress before I’ve even begun.  ANYWAY, one of the slightly surprising side-effects of writing a blog has been my friends’ reactions to it.  If I’m being ambiguous about certain situations or what have you (mainly due to respect for others, privacy and suchlike), my friends tend to ask “was that post about such-and-such?” or “were you talking about so-and-so?”  Sometimes the answer is yes, but to be honest I’m not sure that it matters.  If it’s really important I’ll talk to my friends about it in real life, anyway.  We’re supposed to be going to the pub in about five hours, after all.  Plus it’s your round.

This is something that lots of people (not just girls, before you think I’m stereotyping) find difficult: accepting a statement at face value and not trying to find hidden meaning.  I am terrible for this, so please excuse the blatant hypocrisy.  (I’ll make it up to you with biscuits.  D’you like chocolate digestives?)  I over-think like it’s going out of fashion, so I am constantly asking in wretched tones “but what does that MEAN?”, and trying to determine people’s exact feelings about life, the universe and everything based on sentences as simple as “I’ll see you later”.  I’m a lot better than I used to be about this, but I think a lot of us are constantly dissatisfied with transparency and longing to find some obscure meaning in a bit of opacity.

Why do we do that?  Is it because we are genuinely convinced that every sentence spoken or written has an ulterior motive, a deeper meaning or a secretive subtext?  We do it with everything: text messages from the person we’re enamoured with, oddly formal emails from colleagues, passive-aggressive messages from friends with whom we’ve sort of fallen out.  Why can’t we accept things for what they are, and trust that what people say to us is usually what they mean to say?

I’ll tell you why: because we’re British.  We hardly ever say what we mean out of a neurotic fear of seeming impolite.  This is the nation that can make “sorry” sound like anything from a sincere apology to a vicious death threat, for crying out loud.  So I have a challenge for you, lovely people of this United Kingdom: cry God for Harry, England and St. George, and try to be a bit more open with people.  If you want to be able to take statements at face value then you have to start with the man (or lady) in the mirror.  Michael Jackson would be proper chuffed.

Have the kind of Thursday that would make an excellent movie