Tag Archives: relationships

Inevitability Works Both Ways

kim_jong_il_team_america1Hello, lovely reader.  Do come in.  Shall we sit in the garden for a change?

Very often in life it seems that we get ourselves into strange holding patterns: we repeat unhealthy behaviours, keep staying up late on school nights, and even convince ourselves that THIS TIME going shopping on a Saturday will not be hellish.  (It is always hellish.  There are no exceptions.)

Part of the psychology behind repeating the same mistakes is, I reckon, to do with being comforted by routine.  Better the devil you know and all that.  If we burden ourselves with grimly grotesque hangovers weekend after weekend then it’s ok, because we understand them.  Hangovers are the logical conclusion of drinking too much.  Getting into a row with your friend about the same football team all season is ok because after a while the argument may as well be scripted: you both know where you stand.  When it comes to matters of the heart, pursuing a relationship with someone who is just as unsuitable as any of your exes has a certain appeal because it’s familiar.  We can tell ourselves that “this time” it will either a) go wrong in a way that we already know we can cope with or b) work out marvellously, which would be a pleasant surprise.

I, for example, have an unhealthy habit of going after men who are emotionally unavailable.  (Let’s not fall into the horrific rabbit hole of reason for that particular tendency.  It ain’t pretty down there.)  Every time I start to like someone I go through the exact same stages of excitement, nerves, overthinking, panic and eventually resignation.  The pattern ends at a very unhappy stage called “well, rejection was inevitable”.  What I usually fail to realise is that I am responsible for the inevitability.  It’s a large part of the reason that I was attracted to the guy in the first place.

The main thing that I wanted to say to you, lovely reader, is that inevitability can be good as well as shite.  Throughout my stupid cycle of fancying someone, my friends inevitably rise to the occasion with magnificent love and kindness.  I am extremely lucky in that respect (and I’m aware that they deserve better than having to spend several months at a time listening to me crying/sighing/whinging down the phone).  The other inevitable aspect of failed romance is that you do always get over it.  No matter how hurt or angry or confused you are at the tipping point, you will always be happy again.  You know that because it’s always happened before.

The unhealthiest patterns can be broken and the heart does heal.  The absolute pickle of it all is that it can take time, but that doesn’t mean that the recovery is any less definite than the problem.

Have a stupendous day.

I (Broken) Heart London

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s it going?  Anyone taken the plunge and turned their central heating on yet?

Last week my friend Abi and I went for a catch up, which is always a lovely thing to do, because Abi is marvellous.  She and I met on an appalling theatre tour in 2013, and ever since then we’ve been a very good team in a crisis. This was especially important last week because we’d both been through a pretty rough time.  Lowlights included moving house under sad circumstances (Abi), trapping thumbs in train doors (me), and getting our hearts trodden on (both of us).  Don’t worry, I won’t go into details.  Unless you want to know about the thumb-trapping thing, which is so embarrassing that it’s automatically funny.

Anyway, our conversation moved from the specifics of our own failed romances to the general way that dating in London seems to go these days: matching, chatting, meeting, dating and then…nothing.  Technology has made it frighteningly easy for people to disappear just as soon as you think things are going somewhere. Not an encouraging prospect.  Setting aside the fact that love is being left mostly to apps nowadays, the whole new relationship thing does seem to have lost a bit of its charm.

“Where are the flowers?”  Abi demanded.  “Flowers used to be a thing, right?  But when did any of us last get flowers?”
“Er…I got some the other day.”
“What?! From who?”
“Well…my sister.  And she was trying to cheer me up about getting dumped, so…” “Doesn’t count really, does it?”
“Nope.”

Generations gone by had rules and systems: courting, proposals, betrothedness. (“Is that a word?” “Too late, she’s said it now.” “Shall we…?” “No, best let her carry on. You’ll only confuse her if you interrupt.”) Our parents and grandparents knew what they were doing, because love in times gone by was a practised dance: everyone knew the rules and which move came next in the sequence. Love in times present is more like a Harlem Shake video, where there are no rules and no discernible moves at all.

Part of the problem, Abi and I decided, is the euphemistic nature of relationships: “dating”, “seeing each other”, “taking things slowly”, etc. I’m all for people discarding labels that don’t work for them, but there is no allowance for progress. No one wants to admit that, eventually, they’d really like a nice partnership with another human being.

Abi told me about a friend of hers who is originally from Germany, and how the non-committal dating scene of London horrifies her. In Germany, this friend says, people go on five dates, kiss, and then they are in a relationship. No tricks, no games, no messing around. Those are the rules. I admit that these rules might not work for everyone, but I like the idea of a structure, of development. Couples who are working towards something as a pair of people who are interested in each other, rather than two individuals who are competing to see who can be less emotionally invested.

I have a group of friends who live in the Highlands, and they are all in happily married couples.  I’m not suggesting that they don’t have problems, or that their relationships have all been super easy, but they have all invested time and energy into making their relationships work.  During my last visit my friend Robyn joked that the only reason for that is, in that part of Scotland, there is nothing else to do.  She was being silly to make me feel better about being single, which I love her for, but I wonder whether there might actually be something in what she said.  Are the men and women of London so distracted by their jobs, pop-up bars, house-warming parties, Oyster cards and Buzzfeed articles that we can’t focus on each other for more than five minutes?  Is there any way to find a half-way point between being busy and being in love?

“Like, half-way between London and Inverness?” Abi asked when I brought this up.

“Yeah,” I said, and then realised something.  “Actually no, because that means we have to move to Blackpool.”

Have an amazing day, gorgeous reader.  Abi and I are both fine, by the way.  We’re certainly not moving to Blackpool just yet.

Dear Future Spouses

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Dear reader, I won’t lie to you.  I have reached The Wedding Age.

TWA is not, thank modern life and all its socially advanced attitudes, a self-inflicted notion of when I should be tying the knot.  I really, really could not give a flying fudge about when “they” (who ARE “they”, anyway?) think that I should be committing my life to a relationship.  It’s actually something that most of us are probably pretty familiar with: the age at which we realise we are spending most of our weekends at idyllic country mansions watching our friends get hitched, whereas we used to spend our weekends watching football, drinking, playing video games or indeed all of the above.

I’m really enjoying TWA so far.  My friends are wonderful people who deserve to be happy, and their weddings are, almost without exception, extremely joyful occasions.  My only qualm with TWA right now is that I am also careering headfirst into the world of bridesmaid duties, travelling long distances in high heels and investing extortionate amounts of money in waterproof mascara.  I am also, heaven help us all, being asked for my opinion on wedding things.  For example, a very close friend of mine recently said that she would like this song to be part of her wedding ceremony:

Now, here is the worrying thing: one of my first thoughts was genuinely “isn’t this song a bit unrealistic?  I mean, isn’t it a bit much to ask men to be nice to us for, like, the rest of our lives?”

Shock, horror and other negative forms of surprise abounded as soon as this thought had formed.  What the hell kind of feminist am I to question what women deserve in their marriages?  What on earth did the Pankhursts fight so hard for, if not women’s essential self-worth?  And for heaven’s sake, why hasn’t someone made a mash up of this song with Olly Murs’ “Dance With Me Tonight”?!

Let’s be honest: no one can be nice the entire time.  It’s not a sustainable way to behave and, even if you could sustain permanent affability, your friends and loved ones would start to suspect that you were a robot sent to spy on them.  No one, male or female, can spend their whole lives being unfailingly kind, understanding and romantic.  Having said that, the message of Meghan Trainor’s jaunty tune is basically a good one: we need to have high standards for ourselves.

Relationships are hard, and being in love can be a very messy business.  But if we want to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, we should a) be honest with them about how we would like to be treated, b) give them realistic expectations of what we are like on bad as well as good days, and c) marry the person who wants to treat us well forever more.

Hey: remember that amazing rom-com about that girl who met a guy who flirted with her a bit, replied to her texts after a few days and was a bit stand-offish with her friends?  And then after some clumsy dates and a few awkward advances they got together, moved in because one of their leases was about to end and the guy proposed when the girl half-jokingly pressured him into it?  And then their marriage petered out into a cordial but essentially passionless co-existence?  No?  Of course you don’t.  That, my dearest and most gorgeous reader, is because really excellent relationships and marriages are formed by people who work as a team and make each other the best that they can be.  They are not formed by people who are desperately trying to navigate the complicated world of mixed messages, passive aggression and emotionally distant game-playing.  People who really want you won’t push you away, and even if your loved one falls short every once in a while, the important thing is that they want to be good enough for you.  Trying to love someone well is better than being eligible for a mortgage application.

I sincerely hope that, if you are planning or hoping to marry one day, your future spouse will treat you the way Meghan Trainor wants to be treated.  More importantly, I hope that they want to.

Have a cracking Sunday evening, team.  Don’t let the end-of-weekend blues get you down.

What Are You Tumbling After?

Photo credit: Flickr.com
Photo credit: Flickr.com

Good morrow, dear reader.  I must begin by apologising profusely for having been absent for a whole month, which is just morally wrong.  Please forgive me.

My main excuse is that I have had pretty dreadful writer’s block, including all of the usual symptoms: staring blankly at my laptop screen, getting distracted in the middle of conversations and constantly thinking strange things like “WHERE ARE ALL THE WORDS?!”  The weirdest thing about this bout – which is also kind of reassuring – is that I know where the writer’s block has come from.  I have been trying to do too many things at once, and this metaphorical juggling act has landed me in a pile of broken plates and a lot of unfinished tasks.

A lot of the time life throws us all sorts of tasks and trials at once, and we have to prioritise accordingly.  Some people thrive under pressure of the multi-faceted kind, but for the rest of us it feels impossible to keep on top of everything, and instead we tumble after our lives with a vague sense of having forgotten something important.  In my case, it’s usually the house keys.

So what is it that you are tumbling after?  Which small duties are distracting you from chasing after what you actually want?  Do you have dreams and ambitions that you’re not fulfilling because your to do list is out of control?  Who do you want to be?  What kind of people do you want to spend your life with?  Where – if I may paraphrase the question that haunts all twenty-somethings as soon as they wake up in the morning – is your life going?

These questions and more besides are driving a lot of the collaborative work in rehearsals for Tumbling After, the devised piece that I’m directing for the Edinburgh Fringe 2015.  The cast, movement director and I are especially interested in why people choose to spend their lives with certain people.  How often are our relationships the result of sensible choices that we make with clear minds?  (Answer: rarely.)  How often are we willing to blindly fall down a hill, hoping to find love at the bottom?  (Answer: alarmingly frequently.)

It’s never easy to ask these questions, because they remind us so vividly of how much time we spend chasing after purpose, success and overall happiness.  That can be stressful.  But the unexamined life, as Socrates once said over feta and vino, is not worth living.  Examining ourselves in detail and assessing where we are in relation to what we want is not an easy thing to do, but if we don’t check in with our lifetime goal list at least once in a while, then all we are ever doing is stumbling and tumbling without knowing what we’re getting into.

We all have our own ways of sorting out our lives: mine is to sit in a rehearsal room and tell four actors where to stand.  Not the most ground-breaking approach, but it seems to be working for me.  I hope that your method is equally enjoyable.

Have a fantastic day.

10 Lessons Not to Learn from Twilight

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s the world been treating you recently?

We all have guilty pleasures, don’t we?  We watch television shows that we know will not enlighten us, and we listen to music that makes us feel uncool (anyone for a 90s pop binge?).  Among the most worrying of these little weaknesses is my generation’s tendency to watch unrealistic and emotionally demanding romantic films.  Sure, a decent rom-com can be uplifting and life-affirming, but most of these movies are designed to make us believe that if you don’t look like Katherine Heigl then no man will ever be able to look past your character flaws.  Even worse, they make us think that you can be as much of a prat as you like AS LONG as you are physically stunning.

The worst (and most dreadfully acted) of these culprits is the Twilight series.  I freely admit to owning the books and having watched the films, but I’m not proud of that.  In many ways, the series is the definitive guilty pleasure.  You might think that it’s a harmlessly gormless tale of supernatural pretty people, but it’s actually pretty offensive and worrying in the “lessons” that it tries to teach us.  Here are the most disturbing ones:

1) You can be UNBELIEVABLY annoying as a person, breathing in weird places, mumbling and not finishing sentences and boys will find you fascinating.

2) If a guy is pushing you away it is definitely because he loves you TOO much, and/or is trying to save your life.

3) You should always date the most dangerous guy you can find.  If no bloodsucking immortals are available, the nearest mythological beast will do.

4) Get married as soon as possible, without considering a career, travel or further education.  Why bother with anything self-fulfilling when a pretty boy wants you?

5) It is totally ok to string someone along as long as you don’t enjoy hurting them.

6) Everyone you know secretly fancies you.  You literally cannot step out of the front door without heartsick men swooning at your feet.

7) Your boyfriend’s family (and basically everyone else you know) should be regularly required to risk their lives for you, and fight other scary monsters just to save your skin.

8) Never, ever smile. You’ll get wrinkles and your boyfriend will be baffled by your sudden lack of brooding sulkiness.

9) The world revolves around you.

10) Vampires and shit like that are definitely real.

There is nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures as long as we know how to distance ourselves from them.  There is nothing wrong with watching/reading stupid stories like Twilight as long as we ignore pretty much everything they have to say, and pay attention instead to people who say awesome things, like Dave Grohl:

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Have a glorious day, lovely reader.  Maybe get yourself a fancy sandwich for lunch.

No Man is in Ireland

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Hello, dear reader.  How was your weekend?  I hope you managed to catch up on your sleep.

Last week my lovely friend Katie nominated me on Facebook to post “seven things that you might not know about me”.  I love Katie very dearly, and I respect the fact that she met this challenge, but I will not be completing it myself.  This is for two reasons:

1) Whatever the seven facts about me would be, there’s probably a reason that they’re not common knowledge, i.e. they’re boring as hell.  Who cares about my Year 6 SAT marks?  Not you, that’s for sure.  Not really me, either.

2) I’m a very transparent person, and I’m not sure that there are seven facts about me which aren’t common knowledge.  My Year 6 SAT marks, by the by, were 6, 6 and 5.

I make no apology for the fact that I’m an open book, because I think being honest about yourself is the only way to make real connections with other people.  Obviously I don’t go around with a megaphone broadcasting my personal information to the unsuspecting public of London town, but if someone asks me a question I will do my best to answer it truthfully.  (Except in very specific circumstances, such as when I’m being interrogated by MI5.)

Making connections with other people is important, because we need each other, don’t we?  Even Bernard Black needs Manny.  Ok, here’s something that you might not know about me but could probably guess: I’m very dependent on other people.  I set a lot of store by my friends’ advice, because they’re a pretty wise bunch, and when I’m sad or ill or cranky I want hugs and sympathy.  Sometimes we might berate ourselves for needing other people.  We do this because it doesn’t really fit in with the whole “independent, capable go-getters of the 21st century” persona that we are all so determined to portray, but actually that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to feeling insecure.

It’s all very well to look like a self-sufficient success story, but in reality nobody is completely independent.  No man is an island (or “no man is in Ireland”, which is what I thought the phrase was until I was about 11, and it confused the heck out of me at the time).  Yes, of course we should be able to take care of ourselves, be aware of our own worth and cross roads without other people’s assistance, but there is no shame in respecting and valuing the emotional contributions of the people in our lives.  That’s why we have them in our lives in the first place.

This is also true from a professional perspective.  Working in the arts is demanding (not least because the amount of effort you put in very rarely corresponds with your salary), and we need each other’s support in order to stay motivated.  In the case of Tumbling After specifically (the show I’m directing in Edinburgh this year – here’s some more info in case you missed my last post), the devising process means that we all need to trust each other and be as honest as possible.  Just in terms of the admin, the producer and I find that we are more productive if we meet up to swear and glare at our laptops together.  Sure, we could sit at home individually and do the same thing, but we are more productive (and more importantly, much happier) if we have someone to share ideas and coffee with.

Have a beautiful day.  Go and hug someone who contributes to your life.

The Play’s The Thing

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Cast of Tumbling After from left to right: Steven Laverty, Marietta Melrose, Kate Goodfellow, Robert Boulton

Hello, gorgeous reader!  I hope that you’re keeping warm this chilly Tuesday.

I am delighted to announce that in August I will be returning to that fabulous world of sleepless nights, excellent shows and a bajillion flyers, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  (For more information about my 2014 excursion, click here.)  This time I will be pottering up the road to Scotland with the fabulous Kate Goodfellow, producer and performer extraordinaire.

My history with Kate is a classic example of how life can take you by surprise.  Kate and I met through a mutual friend, who is herself a flipping fantastic performer (quite literally, in terms of her physical theatre training), and hit it off immediately.  We have similar senses of humour, a like-minded attitude towards theatre and a mutual appreciation of red wine.  As a result, Kate has asked me to direct her devised show Tumbling After, a story about two couples living next door to one another.

The thing about devised work – particularly when it centres around romantic relationships – is that it requires an entirely different set of skills to rehearsing a straight play.  With a normal production you have clear instructions in the form of stage directions, lines of dialogue which have been written to shape the actors’ performance and a concrete context for everyone to work within.  When you devise a show, you have starting points and end goals: stimuli in the form of images and pieces of writing, music that informs the tone of the performance, and an idea of how the story will probably play out.  I say “probably”, because when a group of people devise they are basically being encouraged to go with whatever feels natural in the rehearsals, and that can take the whole performance off in unpredictable directions.

This is, to put it mildly, a bit scary.  As a director I am very excited about the challenge of shaping a performance from scratch, but I’m also keenly aware that this is going to take a lot of work.  In terms of administration, marketing and rehearsal schedules, Kate and I are Fringe aficionados who are completely comfortable with the production’s demands, but in terms of working with the actors to create something completely unique, this is uncharted territory for all of us.

The reason why (despite the various times throughout my Drama degree when devising was asked of us bright-eyed young students) this project is so much more daunting and exciting than anything I’ve done before is that it requires a level of emotional honesty about something that we all talk about, but very rarely publicise: our love lives.

Relationships are hard.  Falling in love is exciting, but staying there takes effort.  The people we form attachments to shape, make and break us, which is something that most of us seem to accept.  For instance, a person with ongoing commitment issues may trace their problem back to an earlier, failed relationship, while someone who finds it difficult to trust their partner might attribute this difficulty to a previous infidelity committed by somebody else.  We all allow our past relationships to give us attributes and attitudes, whether or not they are good for us.  The emotional hangovers of our love lives are difficult enough to deal with, and now myself and four actors are going to try and make that premise into a show.  Crikey.

The trick when it comes to putting real life into theatre is to take what you need, but nothing else.  Over the course of this rehearsal process I will be asking the actors (and the movement director – and myself, actually) to be as honest as possible about how their own romantic histories will shape the characters and the narrative of the play.  This is not because Kate and I like to make people cry – that’s a separate issue – but because we know that putting two relationships onstage means nothing if the characters don’t come across as genuine, and their problems are not rooted in something that the actors already understand.

The play, clichéd as the notion may be, really is the thing.  I am very excited about working with such brilliant actors and a stellar movement director (who is, in fact, the person who introduced me to Kate in the first place – her name is Liz Williams, and she’s headed for great things), because I know that this is exactly the right group of people to make a scary, brilliant, challenging and emotionally demanding project with.

Plus, you know, there’ll probably be red wine somewhere down the line.

For more information about Tumbling After and all the nonsense we’re getting up to in rehearsals, like the company Facebook page.  More information soon!

Have a truly sublime Tuesday.

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.

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.

Departing Party People

CKBBAINO

Good morning, you marvellous creature!  I hope that today finds you well-rested, prepared for all of your meetings and up to date with your emails.

Life, as many famous people have said in a wide variety of trite and/or profound ways, is made up of entrances and exits.  Your life-long social circle can therefore be likened to a train station, a play or a party.  Let’s go with the party metaphor, shall we?  Help yourself to a symbolic beer and a non-existent cupcake.

Some people enter your life and immediately make themselves comfy on your favourite beanbag, whereas others may only poke their heads in, apologise profusely and back out again.  The problem, as anyone who has ever hosted a dinner party will know, is that an emotional seating plan is very hard to stick to when the guests keep switching chairs, dashing off to the loo or disappearing for AGES while they make a phone call.

In some cases (both in the metaphor and in reality), you sort of know that the party won’t really start until a certain person shows up.  In the metaphor that person is traditionally your other half/spouse/life partner.  In reality I have found that it’s usually my dear friend Mario, who is always as boisterous and tequila-laden as anyone could possibly hope for.  Other pro party starters include my good friends Baino and Cieranne (pictured above), who are probably both going to kill me for using that precise image.  (They look like they’re having fun though, don’t they?  Exactly.)

The other party guests can be very surprising: friends whom you used to adore may end up leaving early, and comparatively recent arrivals can emerge as the life and soul of the shindig.  In other words: sometimes you lose contact with people you thought you’d know forever, and someone you’ve known for a matter of weeks may already be one of your closest confidants.  C’est la vie – or soirée, if you will.

Sometimes the departure of one specific person can be difficult – particularly if that person was up for the role of life partner – but we have to trust that when someone leaves the party early, they’re making room for a first-class late arrival.  Unless the circumstances are particularly fraught, I don’t think that people ever really want to leave your life.  (Why would they?  You’re a HOOT.)  It’s just that parties are a law unto themselves, and life has a funny little habit of doing whatever it sodding well pleases.

The party is the thing, and the shape of your evening/life is defined by a whole bunch of entrances and exits.  When people exit your life, it may not be permanent.  When people enter your life, they might come bearing more booze.  Whatever the circumstances, all we have to do is answer the door with a smile and enjoy the festivities.

Well, I think I’ve tortured that metaphor quite enough now.  Have a glorious Tuesday.