Tag Archives: pooh sticks

True, But Not Useful

1372220907272711

Happy February, lovely reader.  How is 2016 treating you so far?

I realise that I’m a bit late to discuss this, but today I want to chat to you about new year’s resolutions.  I think I’ve told you before that my friend Paul and I observe a slightly strange tradition: every year, we write five new year’s resolutions on coffee stirrers, and then play pooh sticks with them on the Hungerford Bridge.  Our vague/specious/utterly unprovable premise is that whoever’s pooh stick comes out the other side of the bridge first is most likely to succeed in their resolution.  Yes, we think it’s silly as well.  But what is friendship about if not exuberant silliness?*

The slightly more mature aspect of our annual custom is that we always talk our resolutions through before we write them.  Paul and I have been friends for a very long time, and our relationship allows us to be very honest and compassionate with one another.  We talk each other out of insanely ambitious ideas (“You can’t write an entire novel in a year.  You have to sleep and eat at some point.”) and we encourage each other to pursue things that we will enjoy. (“Write one about archery.  You love archery.”)

Every year we sit and assess the choices we made twelve months ago, and we try to work out what effect they have had on our lives.  If we fail to stick to a previous resolution, can (and should) we roll it over to this year?  If we try our best at something that doesn’t pan out, is sadness a good enough excuse to let it go?  How vague are we allowed to be about the fact that, underneath all of these promises to ourselves, we would basically just like to be happy?  And rich, ideally?

As he ages, Paul is becoming incredibly wise (which sounds insane to those of us who remember him at university), and this year as we sat and wrote our resolutions he advised me to approach things as either true or useful.  For example, there’s no point in making a resolution like “I will not fall madly in love with someone who is bad for me”, because it’s usually based on something that is true but not useful, such as “I have in the past fallen madly in love with people who were very bad for me, and I got hurt”.  And how the heck are you supposed to predict something like that, anyway?

It is important to know the difference between what is true and what is useful, my lovely reader.  It may be true that bad things have happened to you, but it is not useful.  It may be true that people have hurt you, but that is not useful either.  It may also be true that you have made mistakes in the past, but guess what?  It ain’t useful.  Thinking about your future plans under the umbrella of previous pain is negatively reactive, and your future should be all about being proactive.  God, I sound pretentious.  Sorry about that.

But the point stands: your future is an exciting thing, and what you decide to do with it should be based on how fabulous you want to feel, not how much negative stuff you want to avoid.  And I implore you, you lovely thing: be excited about the future.  Don’t be scared of it.  It’s only a metaphysical concept of an aspect of the fourth dimension, after all.

Also, have your favourite dinner this evening.  You deserve it.

*It’s also worth pointing out that last year Paul won with a devastating 4 sticks to 1, which corresponds almost exactly with how our resolutions panned out in 2015.
Advertisements

Pooh Sticks and Perfect Intentions

funny-pic-dump-1-2-12

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.

Top Tips for the Thames

Good morning!  How’s your Thursday going so far?

I live in London, and although I am fairly far north I tend to gravitate towards the banks and bridges of the Thames whenever I can.  I love the river in this city, and it has a lot to offer that all Londoners know about: the BFI, the National Theatre and so on.  However, today I would like to recommend some less established entertainment and activities that the Thames offers.  Some of them are ridiculous, but I think they’re all definitely worth doing.  If you’re a proper grown up you might not agree with me, but then I’d rather be silly than sensible.  Being silly is how you have fun.  Speaking of which:

winnie-the-pooh-pooh-sticks

1) Play pooh sticks on a bridge

My friend Paul and I did this on New Year’s Eve (daytime) a couple of years ago, and we loved it.  It was a snap decision made in a coffee shop somewhere off Wardour Street.  Finding sticks between Soho and Embankment was a bit of a challenge, so if you do this I’d recommend raiding a park beforehand.  The added challenge with Embankment Bridge is that people are crossing it all the time, so you have a game-within-a-game situation whereby you’re playing Dodge the Tourist as you dash across the bridge.  If you don’t know what pooh sticks is (and you’d be surprised how many people don’t), then you need help.  Here is help.

southbank-merry-go-round

2) Go on the merry go round next to the Southbank Centre

I know you’re a grown up.  I know you feel silly.  But it’s a wonderful feeling to be soaring through the air on a noble steed, laughing your head off with your friends and watching the river swing around.  I’m sure we looked like eejits, but it felt brilliant.  And what is the point in looking normal/sensible/good when you could be having a good time?

0449220_29473_MC_Tx360

3) Re-enact the end of Sliding Doors where Gwyneth Paltrow is yelling at John Hannah and then they make up

This one is particularly good for Londoners, because it rains often enough to give you plenty of opportunities.  For a bit of variation, you could try Miranda and Steve’s reunion in the Sex and the City Movie or Anastasia; pick a film with a bridge in it and go for your life.  Maybe stay away from The Bridge on the River Kwai, though.

images

4) Stop and have a boogie to one of the buskers

One of my favourite things about the summer months in London is the buskers who play steel drums along the bridges.  Next time I see one, I’m going to stop and have a little dance.  No big deal, just a few minutes of boogie.  I’m a terrible dancer, but whatever.  I hope that whoever accompanies me on this occasion will be prepared to cut a rug (knowing my friends, they probably will be.  Hell, they’ll probably bring tap shoes).

2014-02-26 17.17.11

5) Just look at it

The Thames is amazing.  Especially on days like yesterday, when that photo was taken.  When I’m upset or confused or just feeling a bit weird, I love going and looking at the river.  Sometimes I go with someone and talk, but I’ve also been known to have a wander and ponder by myself.  Londoners sometimes look at the river as a barrier: something to traverse, something that could flood, something that makes the air colder.  But it’s actually a very beautiful thing that unites loads of parts of the city, and personally I think it’s London’s best feature.

Have a brilliant day – I hope your lunch break is the perfect length of time.