Tag Archives: instincts

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.

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10 Things “Tangled” Got Right

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Happy Friday, dear reader!  I hope this week has been kind to you.

Lots of us have a very strong emotional attachment to Disney films, and why not?  They tell magical stories using bright colours, silly voices and usually lots of marvellous songs.  What’s not to love?  Well, until very recently Disney seemed blissfully unaware of things like ethnic diversity, liberalism and…gosh, what was the other one?  Oh yeah.  Feminism.

Having said that, when they finally got round to it they did a great job, and Frozen is widely regarded as a triumph because it has two female protagonists AND was directed by a woman.  Nice work, Disney.  Have a biscuit.  

Having re-watched it recently, I think that Tangled actually deserves similar praise.  It might not have been as ground-breaking in terms of narrative format as Frozen, and it doesn’t have a talking snowman.  However, given that it was the retelling of a pretty grim (geddit?) fairytale about a woman being stuck in a tower, it did a pretty good job of giving little girls and boys some excellent ideas about self-belief and how love is supposed to work.  Here are some excellent lessons that Tangled teaches us:

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1) It’s always worth facing your fears, no matter how scared you are.  The alternative is being stuck forever in your isolated tower/comfort zone, where you are safe BUT nothing exciting happens.

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2) Go on an adventure for your own reasons.  Pursue things that you want.  Go and find out everything you can about stuff that fascinates you.  If you’re lucky and it’s right, a love interest will appear to accompany you, BUT they are incidental.  Your adventure is about you, not them.

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3) You can’t judge a book by its cover.  A simple lesson, but one worth reiterating.  Would you have expected this guy to be into baking?  Me neither.  But he is.

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4) True friends can communicate with just a look.  Pascal the chameleon doesn’t say a single word throughout the film, but you always know exactly what his opinion is.  It’s definitely worth paying attention to the things your friends don’t say, as well as the things they do.

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5) Don’t worry about your looks, because they seriously do not matter.  If you do worry about them too much, you can end up in a very bad place.  The villain of Tangled is consumed by her own vanity to the point where she kidnaps a royal baby.  That’s just not cool.  ALSO, (spoiler alert – although if you haven’t seen the film, I’m not sure why you’d have read this far) when Flynn/Eugene cuts off Rapunzel’s hair at the end, her looks change dramatically.  Does anybody care, or even mention the fact that her most defining physical feature is no more?  Nope.  Because it doesn’t matter.

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6) It’s always, always better to be yourself.  Even if your name is Eugene Fitzherbert.

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7) Girls – you can be the hero.  Boys – it’s ok to need rescuing.  Looking after the people you love is not a gender-specific thing.  We might not have magical hair, but we all have our own resources and traits that our loved ones rely upon.

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8) Always trust your own instincts over what your critics say.  Someone who goes to the effort of putting you down on a regular basis is clearly trying to suppress all the awesomeness you are capable of.

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9) The right person for you is the one who goes the extra mile to make you happy.  People have chequered pasts and we’ve all done things that we’re not proud of, but when people truly care about you their actions will be louder than their CVs.

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10) HAVE A DREAM.

Also, have a cracking weekend.

CV Essentials

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Hello, dear reader.  How are you?

Have you ever looked at your own CV and thought “who the hell is this?”  Our CV-selves are not us.  They are more smug, they exaggerate their importance in previous job roles, and they are way too hung up on when exactly they got their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.

The problem is that CVs don’t say much about who we really are.  For instance, my GCSE in Photography does not indicate anything about my pathological fear of being late for things, and the latter of those two definitely informs more of my identity.

Even when we are allowed to reveal something about who we are, such as when we are asked to list our strengths and weaknesses, we are obliged to transform our real characteristics into meek-faced, employable ones.  For example: your actual weaknesses may be drinking milk out of the bottle and stalking your ex on Facebook.  In a job interview, you would demurely confide that you might sometimes be a bit too much of a perfectionist about work tasks.

So what should actually go on our CVs?  Which facts and figures can we use to truly represent who we are?  I have a few ideas of things that would say a lot about us as real people:

  • Stories from friends – what do your friends say about you?  When they bring you up in conversation, which anecdote would they tell first?  My friends would probably go for “the time Vicki locked herself in her own porch”, which I’m sure speaks volumes about my grasp on life.
  • Speciality dish – what’s your favourite thing to cook?  Is it a big dish that serves lots of people, or a snazzy starter that requires obscure spices?  Where did you learn how to make it?  Did your grandmother teach you?  Is it a recipe you picked up while travelling abroad?
  • Emergency – never mind that “tell us about a time you had to solve a problem at work” stuff – how do you actually respond to emergency situations?  That’s your instincts taking over, which say a heck of a lot about you.
  • Childhood character – who did you play in your primary school Nativity? No, seriously, think about it: everyone knows a pretty, popular girl who played Mary, a mild-mannered ex-Shepherd and a seriously disgruntled Third Guest at the Inn who feels overlooked in life.  (I was a Narrator.  That makes sense, right?  I do like to describe stuff.)
  • Conflict – again, not in a serious “how would you resolve a dispute with a colleague?” way, but in day-to-day life.  Are you prone to bickering with your partner?  Do you lose your temper when a friend tells you that you’re wrong?  Do you bury your head in the sand and refuse to confront an issue?
  • Strength and weakness – what are your actual, truthful, honest-to-goodness strengths and weaknesses?  Are you a Candy Crush addict?  Do your friends usually turn to you in a crisis?  Have you ever cheated on someone?  Do you tend to make newcomers feel welcome in social situations?  Are you one of those appalling people who doesn’t put their hand in front of their mouth when they cough?

Our CVs encourage us to present a modified version of who we are in order to be employable entities.  Of course we should present ourselves in the best possible light to the world, but I think that the real people are far more fun and interesting than their class of university degree.

Have a magical Friday.  If anyone finds Narnia, give me a shout.

Friendly Advice

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Hello, you lovely human being!  Did you change your hair?  It looks amazing.  No really, you should wear it like that more often.

I’ve talked about this a lot before, but friends are absolutely ace, aren’t they?  (As in actual friends, not the television show.  Although that is ace as well.)  They make you laugh, they inspire you, they encourage you and they accept you for who you are.  Having said all of that, friends are also the most baffling and infuriating people on the planet.  Let me explain:

I love my friends dearly, and in many ways it’s great that a lot of them are drama types.  We all root for each other when we’re doing performances or projects, we’re an outgoing bunch so we tend to have excellent nights out, and every single one of us will drop whatever we’re doing for a good game of Werewolves.  The other main things that we have in common are a tendency to be pretty  emotionally expressive, and a burning desire to analyse everything.  In some extreme cases this can lead to over-thinking, hyper-sensitivity and being a bit of a diva.  In most cases it just creates emotionally aware, interesting people who can talk over a point.  In all cases, it leads to completely contradictory pieces of advice.

This isn’t specific to my drama lot, though.  All of our friends (and human beings in general) are hard-wired to analyse things in a unique manner, and therefore take the same piece of information and come to entirely different conclusions.  For example, consider the scenario of a shopping trip.

You: Shall I buy this?  (Whatever ‘this’ actually is.  Doesn’t really matter.)
Friend 1: Yes, definitely.
Friend 2: Not yet, give it some time.  You can’t rush these things.
Friend 3: Are you sure you really want to buy that?
Friend 1: Of course she does.  Get it!
Friend 3: I don’t think you actually want this item.  I think you actually want something else but you’re hiding behind this other thing.
Friend 2: You just have to wait and see how things turn out with a completely separate item before you decide to purchase this one.
Friend 3: I’m not even sure we’re in the right shop
Friend 4: Huh?  What are we talking about?

Bit of a nightmare, isn’t it?  Advice is very complicated.  Of course it’s good to listen to your friends, and in some cases their advice may be absolutely the best thing for you, but you should always go with your instincts.  Even if you turn out to make a mistake, at least you did what you genuinely thought was best at the time.  That way it is you who takes responsibility for the consequences of your decisions, and also you who reaps the rewards of them.  Besides, the fact that your friends have such different ideas should tell you that the situation is pretty complicated.  It’s best at this stage to give up on the shopping trip and grab a coffee instead.

Speaking of which, why not treat yourself to a fancy coffee today?  You deserve a little midweek pick-me-up.  Have an amazing Wednesday.

Fight or Flight (or Flail)

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Yeah, I think I’m coming down with something too.  Do you want some Lemsip?

Last night was the Empty Photo Theatre performance Date Night, and I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who came, was in it or has listened to me wittering about it recently.  Also, thank you to everyone who has contacted me to say nice things about it.  You are far too kind.

For absolutely no good reason, today I am thinking about our instinctive responses to stressful situations.  In physical terms, the fight or flight response is pretty fascinating: did you know, for example, that under stress our digestion and immune systems shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions?  Me neither.  I’m so glad that we’ve evolved to be able to deal with a sabre-toothed tiger.  Our bodies are weird and wonderful.

Our brains are weird and wonderful too, but in a different way: our emotional instincts tend to mirror our physical ones, and when an emotionally or just cognitively stressful situation occurs, we tend to either confront it or flee screaming in terror (metaphorically, of course.  In reality we tend to smile politely and change the topic of conversation).   Most people would respond very differently depending on different situations: for example, the person who would calmly walk away from a bicker with their friend might pull a machete on their partner in the event of infidelity.

Having said that, there are some people who tend to respond pretty much the same way to most things, and we know about this because we have terms for them.  For instance, the people who would usually favour a flight response to emotional problems are referred to as “emotionally unavailable”.  (I love that phrase.  It makes it sound like we’re doing a nativity play, and the emotionally unavailable people are the innkeepers shouting “NO ROOM AT THE INN, I DON’T LIKE TO FEEL THINGS!” before slamming the door on an awkward conversation.)  Bizarrely, people who would rather fight in response to emotional issues tend to be drawn to those who would not, and the consequences are usually frustrating and confusing.  I know lots of outspoken, heart-on-sleeve kind of people (myself included) who are attracted to fairly stiff-upper-lip types, and that has yet to end well for any of us.

Weirdly, I think that that’s probably for the best.  People who would run away from confrontation need the argumentative types, and people who are easily upset need to spend time with those who are slightly less fragile.  No one has yet worked out a sure fire method of dealing with emotional stress, so we need to try to learn from each other.  If we balance out fight and flight we usually end up with a flail, and although that doesn’t sound very effective, at least you won’t be doing it alone.

Have a supreme Thursday.