Tag Archives: questions

You Are Not A Casserole

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Hello, you fabulous human being.  How’s this week been for you?  Busy?  Me too.  Put your feet up for a bit.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is the overheard conversation snippet.  You know the sort of thing: you’re walking past a couple of friends who are in the middle of an in depth chat, and as you pass you hear one of them say something insane like “…and then the whole thing went bright blue!”  Not knowing the context of a conversation can make for very confusing and amusing listening.

The other day I was sitting outside a pub with a couple of my lovely girl friends, discussing life, the universe and everything (i.e. boys).  Don’t get me wrong – my friends and I cover many fascinating and intelligent topics of conversation on a regular basis, but even the most sassy and savvy of us occasionally need to rant about the opposite sex.  On this occasion, one of my friends was asking for advice about a guy she thinks she’s dating, but isn’t sure.  Here is an extract from the discussion:

“He’s going to house-sit with me at the weekend, and he took me out for an amazing dinner, and he calls me “his girl”…”
“Well, that sounds promising.”
“Yeah, really promising.”
“But what does it MEAN?!”

And so on and so forth.  Despite being clever, worldly, independent and hopefully fairly likeable young women, my friends and I are still flummoxed by what men’s behaviour “means” more often than we’d like to admit.  We have all – including you, fabulous reader – learned a lot during our short stays on Earth so far, including our strengths, weaknesses and alcohol tolerance levels.  Why then have we not learned something very simple, something that even tiny children understand: that we only get answers by asking questions?

It’s not as easy as all that, I know.  And we’ve talked about this before: the importance of being emotionally honest even though it feels so alien to us, the terror we feel when we have to be frank about what we want, and the excruciating embarrassment we feel about having strong feelings at all.  Needing an answer from someone, whether they’re male or female, has somehow started to mean that we are needy full stop.  Not to the person we’re confused about, necessarily, but definitely in our own heads.  And so we don’t ask; we just stew.

What the conversation boiled down to – if you’ll excuse the appalling pun – is that stewing does nobody any good.  In the heat of our debate about the virtues of honesty and openness, I ended up declaring “YOU ARE NOT A CASSEROLE” to my lovely, confused friend.  At that precise moment an unfortunate young man walked past and gave us a very strange look.  I do not blame him in the slightest.  Context was particularly important there.

But my point stands: we are not casseroles.  We should not leave ourselves to stew in the pressure cookers of uncertainty, waiting for the vegetables of heartbreak and the dumplings of rejection to descend into our lives.  The happiest people I know are not the ones who never get broken up with, rejected or hurt.  They are the ones who save themselves a lot of time by asking questions, finding out what other people want from them and getting on with life in the aftermath, whatever the outcome is.  I know – BELIEVE me, I know – that asking people questions like “how do you see our relationship?” etc. is a daunting prospect, but if we don’t ask we won’t find out.  If we don’t find out, we are wasting our time.

And who on earth has got time to waste?  Not you, that’s for sure.

Grumpy Alert

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Hello, dear reader.  How are you?

Let’s be honest: on some mornings you wake up and just don’t feel right.  You might have had a bad day yesterday, or not slept very well.  You might wake up with a headache or find that you’ve overslept.  It might be for absolutely no good reason at all, but the fact is that some days just start with a bit of a black cloud.

As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be quick to decide that we are having a bad day.  However, it’s inevitable that people will be in a bad mood from time to time.  When that happens, it’s important to know how to deal with it.  Here are a few ideas:

Communicate
This will vary from person to person, depending on how they tend to handle stress.  If you’re spending time with colleagues or friends who might need a bit of a heads up about your frame of mind, make them aware.  If someone in your life tells you that they’re in a bad mood, accept the information and ask them questions (depending on how much or little they need to talk).

Don’t Make A Chain
One bad occurrence does not necessarily lead to another: just because you overslept doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to rain.  If you avoid linking small bits of bad luck together, your bad mood won’t last quite so long.

Distract
If you are in a bad mood, you need to stop thinking about it.  Do something else.  Distract yourself with something shiny, or read a book.  If someone in your life is feeling a bit moody, talk to them about a completely unrelated topic, or show them an amusing post on Buzzfeed.  It might not permanently fix the problem, but a distraction is a nice rest from feeling down.

Treat Yourself
Buy a proper coffee with a fancy syrup in it, or download that new album on iTunes.  You are a marvellous human being who is worth investing in, especially when you’re not feeling quite right.  If someone else is in a bad mood, treat them a little bit.  Reminding someone that you care about them, even in a small way, is an excellent tonic for the blues.

Have a fantastic Tuesday.

Valid (and Silly) Questions

Hello, dear reader.  How are you?

Today’s blog is a bit of a random one, based entirely on my realisation that there are some very simple questions in life that I just don’t know the answers to.  So on behalf myself and anyone else who is baffled by the universe, I’ve done some very (very, very) basic research and investigation into a few random wonderments.  Enjoy.

  • Why can’t we see stars during the day?
    One of my favourite weird things about nature is that sometimes we get to see the moon during the day.  I love the moon.  It’s such a maverick: “I know it ain’t night time yet, but screw you guys!  I’m coming out now!!”  However, it seems a bit unfair that stars, which are after all the basis of many wishes being made and songs being written, do not get to show off whenever they feel like it.  I am reliably informed (by a guy who is training to be a physics teacher, no less) that this imbalance is because the moon is perspectively much bigger than stars are, so it reflects enough of the sun’s light to be visible during daylight hours.  Clearly bigger is indeed better!
  • Why do we have earwax?
    No, seriously, what the heck is it for?  It’s gross and weird and does not – despite what the movie Shrek tells us – make good candles.  Having done a bit of (reluctant) research, I can tell you that earwax is similar to tears, mucus and other joyous bodily fluids, which actually serve a cleansing purpose even though they’re pretty disgusting themselves.  Let’s move on…
  • Why do the English pronounce “lieutenant” “leftenant”?
    The word “lieutenant” comes from two French words: “lieu” meaning “place”, and “tenant” meaning “holding”.  Thus, a lieutenant is someone who holds the place of a superior officer, should said superior officer die or go to the loo at an inopportune moment or something.  The confusion over pronunciation derives from the fact that the Modern French “lieu” was occasionally written as “luef” in Old French.  As far as I can tell, the United Kingdom and Commonwealth armies tend to say “leftenant” (whereas the Americans stick to the more modern pronunciation) purely because we’re a pretty old-fashioned bunch.
  • What the heck is a mint julep?
    Whenever my flat mate and I are pretending to be Southern belles (which is a lot more often than we’d like to admit), we inevitably claim that we need a mint julep.  It occurred to me yesterday that I don’t actually know what a mint julep is, but thanks to the good people of Wikipedia I can tell you that it is a cocktail traditionally comprised of bourbon, mint leaves, sugar and water.  Fascinating, no?
  • And last, but by no means least:
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I genuinely don’t know.  Have a gorgeous Wednesday.

Seven Signs of True Friendship

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Good morning, you charming human being!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Elite Daily recently ran an article about socially acceptable behaviours between best friends.  It’s very good (and worryingly accurate): give it a read here.  The article focuses on the peculiarly feminine attributes of some women’s friendships, but I think that there a few more which apply to friendships between people of either gender.  Here they are:

  • Strange Superstitions

In every friendship there is a phrase that both parties know has mystical powers.  For some reason, whenever Ash or I say that we won’t stay out late we invariably pull an accidental all-nighter, so nowadays when the phrase is uttered we both gasp and fight the urge to spin around three times, throw salt over our shoulders, etc.  It’s WEIRD.

  • Irrational Hatred

Everyone has a small aspect of life that they absolutely hate or just cannot understand, and we all need a friend who can back us up on it.  For example, my friend Harry and I both hate Waterloo station.  We have many reasons, none of which are rational enough to go into here, but we are adamant: no good comes from going to Waterloo.  Isn’t it reassuring to know that someone you love shares your slightly insane prejudices?

  • I Hear Voices

Fairly straightforward: impressions, quotations, silly voices and random noises are always better when you are with someone who can truly appreciate them, i.e. someone who knows you well enough not to assume that you’ve gone insane.

  • Left Field Questions

Do you remember this blog post, in which I described getting a text before 8am asking what the plural of mongoose is?  That kind of thing is only ever ok between very close friends, because they are the people who appreciate that sometimes you really, really need to know something incredibly random.

  • Over Indulgence

This applies to all manner of things, including the dedication of an entire day to stuffing your face and talking about the same love interest repeatedly for months at a time.  Only true and loyal friends can engage in these activities together.  Case in point: I am about to go and meet my friend Laura for a coffee.  “A coffee” usually translates into “four or five pretty strong, industrial-sized soya lattes each”, and we don’t judge each other for it.

  • The Opinion One Eighty

When your friend is enamoured of someone, you nod and smile and agree (but not too heartily) that yes, s/he is indeed very good-looking, funny, clever, etc.  When the relationship sours, your job as a friend is to agree (but again, not too heartily, lest the relationship starts up again) with the opposite sentiments.  The Opinion One Eighty can be a difficult one to keep up with, but we do it for our closest friends because we understand that feelings are fluid and romantic relationships are absolute minefields.

  • The Inexplicable Field Trip

Only a true friend will walk to the shops with you in your pyjamas, accompany you to the play/gig/party where your ex is going to be or agree to walk over the top of the O2 arena with you.  (That last one was Harry’s idea, and I’m actually pretty excited about it.)  You just can’t make a fool of yourself/be emotionally vulnerable/scale a London landmark without a proper chum by your side.

Have this kind of Friday.

A Life Without Bacon

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Hello reader!  How are you this morning?  Good weekend?

One day last week two friends and I were pootling towards central London on a Piccadilly line train, asking each other ridiculous questions and generally amusing ourselves.  One of these friends is a vegetarian who has decided that she will never eat meat again.  My other friend and I were impressed but perplexed: who can promise themselves that they’ll never eat bacon ever again?  Even if you could manage a few months or years, surely you’d crack eventually?  And if the bacon doesn’t get you, surely the burgers will.  No?  What about steak?  Pulled pork?  Chicken nuggets?? Apparently not.  Not to be put off by something as trivial as our friend’s important life decision, we started baiting her a bit:

“Would you rather eat meat or poo yourself in public?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have to sleep with your gay best friend?”
“Would you rather eat meat or have us follow you around asking these questions for the rest of our lives?”

I’m very proud to say that our silliness did not deter our veggie friend one bit: she will never eat meat again.  She was a bit taken aback by our fascination (partly, I think, because she has no idea what she’s missing – roast dinners, for crying out loud!) but mainly because in her head this topic has never even been up for debate.  She has never doubted her decision for a second, and no matter what we threatened her with – career failure, being single forever, bad hair – she was unmoveable.

I have an enormous amount of respect for her, and for her certainty about something that must inform quite a big part of her lifestyle.  I think that we all have things that we are fairly sure about without being absolute.  For example, I don’t think that I will ever watch a Keira Knightley film ever again, BUT if someone casts Christian Bale in a movie with that talentless ironing board of a human being, I will have to do some serious thinking.  I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.  Ooh, coffee…

We all have opinions that we’re pretty sure of, and beliefs that we don’t think we could compromise on.  To a certain extent it’s more difficult in our generation to have any absolutes in our mindsets, because the internet, the news and the people who monitor equal opportunities can all throw us a curve ball at a moment’s notice.  New information, new opinions and new possibilities emerge all the time, and it can be a struggle to hold on to your beliefs in the wake of them.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to cling to an opinion that’s been proven wrong by science or what have you, just that if you’re a Christian (for example) and the Richard Dawkins brigade are throwing copies of his books at your house, it’s hard to keep resolution without becoming discouraged.

Well, let’s not be discouraged.  Let’s have some faith in ourselves and our beliefs.  Your instincts, thoughts and feelings are all valuable and worth hearing, and you mustn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  I might be incredibly sad for my vegetarian friend that the joy of a cooked breakfast is forever unavailable to her, but I am very proud of her conviction.

Have the best Monday that anyone has ever had in the history of Mondays.

Chance is a Pretty Fine Thing

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Good morning, reader!  How are you feeling?  Ready for your weekend, I’ll bet.

Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess (i.e. a very good friend of mine) who had just come out of a horrible relationship.  Her ex-boyfriend had lied to her, stolen money from her and shown her no respect.  Out of shame and sadness, the princess had hidden most of this behaviour from the world, including the nasty boyfriend’s best friend.  The princess had always been good friends with the ex’s best friend, who was horrified when he discovered how badly his friend had been treating the princess.  In a fit of chivalry, he ditched the nasty friend, rushed to the princess’ side and vowed to support her – just as friends, you understand – with anything that she needed.  They rapidly became very good friends.

After several months of this very sweet friendship being strictly platonic and respectful, some courtiers (i.e. me and the girl’s parents) clocked that a pretty serious mutual crush was afoot.  Through subtle prodding and gentle encouragement – which mainly took the form of blatant chivvying – we got the girl to admit how she felt, and eventually she told him, too.  I believe his exact response to her declaration was “Thank God”.

I like that story for two major reasons: firstly, the girl in question is very important to me, and she really, really deserves that fairy tale ending.  Secondly, it was excruciatingly obvious to the rest of us that those two were nuts about each other, but in their respectively awkward situations they didn’t believe that the other person would or could feel the same.  The only way to find out conclusively was to take a chance.

Here is the thing about chances: we take them all the time without realising.  You cross a road because you expect to get to the other side (unless you are one of those mavericks who doesn’t wait for the green man, in which case you’ve really taken your life into your own hands).  We make suggestions in meetings at work, we pipe up with answers in lessons and we make jokes in the pub.  Nine times out of ten nothing terrible comes from these situations, but very occasionally your suggestion might be off-piste, your answer wrong and your joke unfunny.  We take the risk because we’ve calculated that the chance of a negative outcome is pretty small.  That’s brilliant, but we only got there by doing the research: the school kid gets cleverer by being brave enough to put their hand up and give answers every day.  The funny person discovers that they can make people laugh by making those quips or comments whenever they come to mind, and getting a good response.  We reduce risks all the way through life by playing to win from an early age, and learning from the situation when we lose.

As we get older, the chances that we take are much bigger: job applications, going travelling, proposing to someone, getting a mortgage.  Sometimes these are terrifying, but the principal of confidence still applies: we go for these things because we know, deep down, that we can do this.  There is always the possibility of defeat, but we are also very sure that success is obtainable, if not certain.  We take a chance because the chance is there to take.

It’s important to jump at opportunities because it builds up your confidence to tackle those same risks over and over, and build up your odds of winning: it’s the same as raising your hand in a classroom.  Doing it over and over again will make you wiser and more capable of dealing with wrong answers.  (As someone who is friends with a lot of teachers, I realise that it might also drive your educators mad, but you need to learn as much as possible.  Also, this is mainly a metaphor.)

Take a chance on something this weekend. It doesn’t matter how small or large it is: see that film you’re not too sure about or declare your love to someone; book a plane ticket to a faraway place or read a different newspaper.  It’s up to you.  But your weekend is so much more likely to be awesome (or at least memorable) if you use it to do something new.

Enjoy your Friday!

Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For

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Hello, reader! Long time no see!  How was your week?

After a few days’ hiatus while I was running amok in Paris, I am back in Blighty and brimming with blog ideas.  I also appear to be massively over-using the letter “b”, for some reason.

My favourite bit of the Paris trip was visiting the Eiffel Tower.  It says a lot that this was my favourite part of the weekend, because we had to queue for TWO HOURS to get inside.  Being British we were completely comfortable with the queueing process, but Mario and I were nonetheless obliged to play some fairly silly games while we waited, including the classic Would You Rather.  Here’s an example:

Me: Would you rather live in a cave for the rest of your life, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Mario: Would you be able to leave to go shopping and stuff?
Me: Um…no.
Mario: Top of the Eiffel Tower, obviously.
Me: How would you get your shopping, then?
Mario: I’d get it flown in.
Me: How?  There’s no helipad or anything up there.
Mario: I’d get the people to throw the stuff at me and I’d catch it.
Me: Oh, of course.

In front of us in the queue were two families, both British, with five kids between them of various ages between six and twelve-ish.  Understandably these kids were as bored as we were, so they ran around, played games, annoyed each other and climbed on the railings.  I have two problems with this:

1) There is no way on earth my parents would EVER have let us behave that way when we were kids.  If we so much as raised our voices in public when we were little we didn’t know which way was up, I can tell you.  It’s so unfair that these kids can get away with messing around when I never did.  Mutter, grumble, back in my day etc.

2) Damn it, I’m a grown up now!  I’ll never get to run around and play silly games in public!  I’ve missed my opportunity forever!  More muttering and grumbling.

With this horrific injustice in mind, Mario and I came up with a list of the Top Ten Things We Are Officially Too Old For.  By “we” I mean people in their mid-twenties,  and by “officially” I mean “according to me and Mario, who are not qualified to be authorities on this kind of stuff, but we’re pretty sure we’re right”.  Let me know what you think:

1) Running around and messing about in queues
Even as a drama graduate with a Masters in (essentially) Messing About and Doing Silly Voices, I know that that’s not cool.

2) Ordering kids’ meals in restaurants
I tried this one in a Wetherspoons last week.  I’ve never seen such fear and confusion on another human being’s face before.

3) Drinking Nesquik
Mario argued this one, but would you drink it in public?  No.  Same goes for Panda Pops, sadly.

4) Friendship bracelets
Unless some kind of bizarre retro-kitsch fad comes around (and I’m not ruling it out), these lovely tokens are off-limits to us now, even ironically.  If you want to give your friend something that says “I like you, you’re pretty fun” you have to buy them a pint.  Or a puppy or something.

5) Weird hair ornaments
Scrunchies, Alice bands, smiley-face hair clips, glittery hair bobbles – basically anything from Claire’s Accessories is a no-no.

6) Crying in photos
As a baby or small child, crying or looking grumpy in photos is completely fine, and often makes for ammunition that your parents will use when you bring home your first girl/boyfriend.  I know of several school/family photos that meet the gleeful criteria of parents in those circumstances, but nobody cries in their graduation photo (I hope).

7) Light-up trainers
I waited MONTHS to get a pair of blue light-up trainers when I was a kid, and to this day they are my favourite of every pair of shoes I’ve ever owned.  As a grown up I own lots of shoes that I like, but none of them make me feel like a super hero.

8) Having tantrums in public
Let’s be honest: sometimes lying down on the floor, kicking your heels, pounding your fists and screaming blue murder is incredibly appealing.  But as adults we have learned that that’s not always the best way to get what we want, so we have to do more boring things like compromise and negotiate.

9) Drink Calpol
This one makes me the saddest of all, I think.  If I’m ill I have to wander wistfully past the purple syrup of magical well-being and head to the boring, tasteless Ibuprofen.

10) Ask simple questions
There are lots of questions that are seen as cutesy, typical kid questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “What’s love?” “Why can’t we feel the Earth spinning?” and I STILL don’t know the answers to most of them.  I’m too old pull off the eyelash-batting, adorable curiosity thing, so in my ignorant adulthood I turn to a different long-suffering parent: Wikipedia.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; I hope your Sunday dinner involves the best roast potatoes in the universe.