Tag Archives: loved ones

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.

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

Time is of the (Vanilla) Essence

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Good morning, you lovely thing!  How’s your week going so far?

If you’ve read my blog post about deadlines you will already know that I think working towards deadlines can be very good for us, but that we should have faith in the idea that opportunities don’t just come around once.  This post was similarly positive in tone, and dealt with the idea that we can afford to wait for the opportune moment.  Having made these fairly optimistic assertions, I would now like to talk about the slightly more frustrating side of things: the best laid plans of mice, men and mortgage brokers can be utterly scuppered by bad timing.  Good timing is like a ticket to your dream gig: you know some people have managed to get hold of it, but your best endeavours haven’t got you anywhere.  Sadly, there is no eBay equivalent for those of us who can’t seem to time things correctly.

In many cases, timing is problematic because it isn’t something we can entirely control.  Your best friend’s birthday party inevitably falls the night before your big job interview, and the season finale of your favourite television show is always showing when you’ve got a hefty essay due in.  In my house, we tend realise that we’ve run out of vanilla essence three minutes after Asda closes on the evening before some kind of cake-centred event.  (For the record, almost all of mine and Ash’s social interactions revolve around cake, and we are not ashamed.)

Currently, timing is just being a bit inconsiderate: I somehow managed to get ill just before today’s recording of Pointless.  This is an absolute pain in the sinuses, but I have two very good reasons not to let this bother me:

1) I have an incredibly compassionate flat mate who is very good at taking care of sickies, and who is unfailingly sympathetic when all I can muster by way of conversation is a feeble “uuuuuurgh my face hurts”.  Everyone should have an Ash in their lives, especially one who always has Olbas oil and vapour rub.

2) Pretty much everyone I know is ill at the moment, and we all know that lurgy loves company.

That’s the main point, isn’t it?  The worst feeling in the world is not necessarily going through something difficult, but feeling that you’re going through it alone.  Bad things don’t necessarily come in threes, but they definitely come in large numbers.  Sometimes it seems that we have stumbled across a school trip of bad news, and the little gits have taken over our mental landscapes with their lunch boxes of doom.  It isn’t necessarily encouraging per se that all of our friends get ill at the same time, that lots of couples break up within a few weeks of each other and that everyone seems to be in a bad mood on the same day, but our problems are so much easier to deal with when we realise that our loved ones understand them.  In many cases, their experiences of your situation will qualify them to offer you good advice, lots of empathy and, where necessary, decongestants.

Have a truly marvellous Thursday.  You deserve it.

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Good afternoon, you lovely thing.  Sorry this post wasn’t written earlier; it’s been a bit of an odd day.

One of the biggest side effects of my mental health condition is feeling disconnected from reality.  I could be sitting in the middle of a pub with a large group of friends, talking, laughing and (not naming any names) burping, and still feel as though I am sitting in a bubble that prevents me from engaging with my surroundings.  This is, as I’m sure you can appreciate, a horrendously irritating state of affairs.

That’s not to say that I am alone in feeling this way.  Whether or not you suffer from a mental health disorder, we all have times when we feel cut off from the best and most fun things in our lives.  This might be because of stress, tiredness or even just having a short attention span, but the biggest challenge that all of us face at times like these is not to accept the disrupted connection.  We have to renew our efforts and keep trying to break through the bubble.  There are people on the other side of it who want to connect with us.

When I am feeling (for want of a more technical word) “bubbled”, it is as though I am sitting in the bottom of a pit and the people I love are standing around the edge of it, leaning down to me waving various potential remedies.  Sometimes it’s my lovely house mate Ash, who will be holding diet coke and offering me a hug; at other times it’s my uni lads, who usually come bearing cider and silly voices.  A lot of the time it’s my theatre company team Harry and Jules, who wave production meeting notes and coffee at me in an attempt to lure me out of the pit.  As you can see, beverages are a big factor in my recovery from feeling “bubbled”, but I’m not sure why…

There is a line that connects you individually to all of the people who love you, and that connection doesn’t go away, even when you feel completely isolated from them.  They hold onto the line very tightly when they need you, and they want you to hold on just as tightly when you’ve fallen into your pit.  If you have the courage and the humility to say “help me” when you’re totally lost, they will combine their efforts to support you and get you the heck out of the pit.  They don’t want you to be stuck in there, because when it’s their turn to fall down in one, they’ll need you.  Also (in my case at least) it’s just not practical for you to live in a hole in the ground.  How can anyone run a theatre company from down there?

Sorry about the mixed metaphors and similes; whatever you’re up to today, I hope that you feel neither bubbled nor pitted.  If you are, then let your loved ones haul you out.  They are quite right to want you around.

The Best People in Your World

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Good morning to you dear reader, and congratulations on reaching your four-day weekend!  I hope that you have some lovely plans to keep you occupied during this unusually long rest period.

Being the soppy little so-and-so that I am, I sometimes get a bit sniffly just thinking about my friends and loved ones.  They are incredible people, and I seriously lucked out by meeting each and every one of them.  I hope that the people in your life are just as amazing (and that you are capable of thinking about them without getting all girly and emotional).  Today I’d like to identify some of the best people in all of our lives, because if I’m getting emotional then I’m taking you lot down with me:

  • The person you want to lie in bed and watch stupid films with
    It usually (although not always) takes a very specific amount of love, intimacy and trust to share a bed with someone, but especially on days when you are hungover, ill or just refusing to navigate the confusing world outside your duvet.  Lying in bed with someone watching a film is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and we should feel very glad to have suitable candidates for that activity in our lives (and beds).  This is particularly true of people who will not only allow but often suggest that the film is childish/terrible/ridiculous – for example, Ash and I have been known to cosy up and watch obscure Disney films on our duvet days.  We are also very partial to a musical film version of Cinderella called The Slipper and the Rose, which I heartily recommend to you the next time you’re in the mood for something silly.
  • The person who can make you laugh on your worst day
    I am slightly paraphrasing the Friends theme tune here, but it’s true.  Someone who can make you laugh – not just any laugh, but your real, embarrassing, uncontrollable laugh that only appears when something is incredibly funny – is a treasure.  If a person can take you out of your stress, sadness or generic turmoil, even just for a moment, you need to keep hold of them.
  • The person who remembers tiny things about you
    It’s probably because my own memory is so flipping appalling, but I am always touched when someone remembers a small fact or silly story about me that I wouldn’t have considered massively important.  There are certain things about ourselves that we hope our loved ones remember (allergies being a pretty important one, for example), but what makes up a person is a combination of the tiny things as well as the big ones.  If someone has taken the trouble to remember something seemingly inconsequential about you, it shows that they know and love the whole you, not just the obvious attributes.
  • The person who unknowingly makes your day
    We’ve all had the experience of walking past someone and overhearing a snippet of their conversation, or seeing someone being kind to another stranger in public.  People who don’t know you and will probably never talk to you have the capacity to make your day, and I am grateful to all of those individuals who have unknowingly made me smile.  My biggest thanks must go to the business man – complete with suit and briefcase – who did the Gangnam Style dance all the way down a platform at Marylebone station once.  Whoever you are, I salute you.
  • The person with their head screwed on
    I am not the most practical of people, and I tend to panic in the face of things like technical rehearsals, tax returns and pedestrian crossings.  For these moments (and many more) I invariably turn to Harry, the Operations Manager of my theatre company, excellent friend and all-round voice of reason.  If you are like me, I hope that you have someone just as sensible to calm you down in times of stress.  If you are like Harry, I hope you enjoy being the sensible one with the practical solutions.  To the rest of us, it looks like a super power.
  • The person who wakes you up with a ridiculous text
    There is nothing like starting your day well, and the tiniest things can make a difference: you could put on your favourite outfit, see something funny on the news or eat a delicious breakfast.  But what you really need is the kind of friend who will send you a ridiculous message like “What’s the plural of mongoose?!” before 8am.  That kind of message amuses you, intrigues you, and then it gets you straight out of bed to Google “mongoose”.  It’s mongooses, by the way.  Sounds like it should be mongeese, doesn’t it?  Anyway, the point is that ridiculous questions first thing in the morning are only ok between true and loyal friends, so make sure you appreciate those people.  You never know when niggling curiosity is going to strike you down.
  • The person who reminds you why you love what you do
    I really hope that you enjoy what you do.  I really hope that you like going to work at least most of the time, and that you have a passion to pursue.  More than that, I hope that you have people in your life who remind you that what you are doing is good, and that what you are aiming for is attainable.  I recently met a lovely lady called Angela at a directing thing in Stratford, and in the short time I’ve known her she has wowed me with her enthusiasm, passion for theatre and her generous support for what I’m trying to do with my life.  She hasn’t known me for long enough to “owe” me her encouragement, but she gives it to me anyway.  We all need someone like that.
  • The person who gives you butterflies
    Yes, alright – I know I’ve said that my friends and I don’t like fancying people, and that feelings in general tend to make us feel out of control, but I think that we all need to feel that way from time to time.  If you’ve met someone who makes you feel giddy and nervous that’s a bit scary, but it’s also exciting.   Where would we all be without butterflies?  Exactly.  We’d be caterpillars.

Have a magical Friday.