Backposting Drafts: Merry-go-round feelings

Going through my draft folder for Nanopoblano 🙂

***

Written on Nov 8th 2018. Mostly. The draft was saved on the 21st (also Nov ’18) Found and backposted on Nov 4th 2021.

I was on my way home from a holiday in France and Spain, staying in the AirBnB for the second time. The owner had let me leave my bike there for the Spanish part of the trip. Reading through this post, I remember the day, the feelings, the sunlight. After a minute or so, I know it continues with buying posh pastries at a patisserie and having to rush back to the station afterwards; going a different way, and getting frustrated about my inability to go the same way twice, but loving the feeling of riding the hill down to the station. I don’t remember these moments after the post finishes quite as well as I remember the written moments. I’m not sure if the writing or the reading is more responsible for the memories. Whichever it is, I’m grateful to my past self for writing, even if she didn’t finish describing the day.

Merry-go-round feelings

Back when I wrote this, I didn’t know this song (quoted below) but I think it fits – for the writing and not just because of the literal polaroid pictures 🙂 I need to remember to do this more often. There are so many things I wish I could go back and re-visit as clearly as that morning in France.

But in the stillness of the moment it takes for a Polaroid picture
To capture our faces forever
The world has turned a touch on its axis
And the only thing certain is
That everything changes
So honey I just need a little time
To take a little time today
To save all the triumphs and tragedies
Before they slip away
Before they slip away

Frank Turner, Polaroid picture, 2013

On having chipped nail varnish and ALL the things..

I’m cycling along part of the Swedish coast and as usual, packing and getting ready to go was a series of small breakdowns and catastrophes, and as usual, I survived and got to the bus much later than intended but with enough time to be let on 😉 (They were running a little bit late, and then the bikes needed attaching to the bus.. Mine was the last up, and a lady arrived while they were hanging my bike on the hooks and thanked me for getting her the extra time she needed 🙂

“..her nail polish is always chipped,

but ooh-oooh she’s got that thang!”

Uncle Kracker

I’m not exactly sure what a thang is, but I’m assuming it’s a southern American thing.

I’m not exactly sure what I have either, but there’s a lot of it.

All the thangs :p
Hah! Look who’s still wearing the last remnants of nail varnish from weeks ago… (picture of the Malmö beach added later)

On living a disappointingly boring life

Among the things I don’t actually know to be scientifically proven but assume to be true based on observation, risk-addiction doesn’t appear to be genetic.

Some people do a lot of crazy, scary, dangerous, adventurous, amazing, story-worthy things with their lives.

Some don’t.

I, unfortunately, am firmly ensconced within the second group, where I am safe from lions and guns and live wires and other such exhilarating things, but am also disappointingly, cringe-inducingly boring and wimpy…and am even scared of the possiblity of having nightmares involving doing the things other people want to do in real life.

Such is the way of these things.

🤷‍♀️

On homemade crumpets and future memories

“Thank you” he said, wrapping the second tissue around the small stack of slightly soggy crumpets. “That’s really sweet of you.” He looked at me, “this is the sort of thing I’ll still remember in 10 years..” He paused and looked briefly at his feet before looking up again, “..I wonder what I’ll be remembered for, 10 years from now..”


Breakfast crumpets 🙂

Many, many thanks to Amy for her patience and company while I fried my very first homemade crumpets until the early hours of the morning – I’ll remember this too 🙂

On retail therapy

Hell hath no desire to buy power tools like a woman determined not to be dependent on people who don’t deserve it…


I just bought a drill.

Isn’t it pretty!

It’s not the exact model I really (really) wanted but it was available and much cheaper and close to where I live. It will do the job. I hope. If it doesn’t, I will get rid of it and move on.

With some of the money I didn’t spend on the posh drill, I bought a set of posh drill bits.

And a set of posh screwdriver bits.

And a posh box of screws.

And an assortment of posh rawl plugs.

And a posh spirit level.

And a posh(ish) bluetooth speaker.

And gave a beggar my last Jammy Dodger* and 51ct.

If I’d given him the theoretical change from the posh drill he wouldn’t have to beg for a while. As it was he only got the actual change in my purse. And a biscuit. Now that Brexit has been fully brexited it’ll be harder to keep the supply chain going, so I hope he appreciated it.


Time to head home now.

This might have been a slightly unorthodox retail therapy trip, but I think I’m now ready to change more than the way my house looks…

* English biscuits with jam in. They’re not really that exciting except that they taste of birthday parties and childhood and I love them.

On unempathetic headfighting

I have a handful of friends I very (very, very) rarely see in person. We live too far apart and our lives don’t collide on any kind of regular basis. Instead, we write (and now that corona’s struck, we have more time for more in-depth writing). Technology is a wonderful thing.

Except.

Except, regardless of all the emojis and jokes and stories of our days and silly photos of things we find share-worthy, sometimes words fail to convey the emotion behind the keyboard.

Things that sound harmless in my head occasionally snowball down my arms and through my fingers, so that by the time they reach the screenpaper several latitude lines away, they’ve built up a dangerous energy and explode through my friends’ eyes and send splitters of bad feelings into the furthest corners of their minds, pressing all the niggly buttons as they go. The buttons I would never intentionally poke. The ones my friends are aware of but still, after all this time, haven’t worked out how to disconnect. The ones that are hard-wired into the central nervous system and which set off their own trails of destruction like dominoes or the mouse-traps in comedy films, except fully lacking the humour.

The same reaction can be sparked by the lack of a response.

I know how well these automatic reactions work because I have enough buttons of my own. Buttons my friends press, as unwittingly and unwillingly as I press theirs.

Harmless isn’t always harmless. Sometimes it really hurts. Sometimes it’s the memories of past hurts that come to haunt us, sometimes, but luckily far less regularly, the hurt is new. The ‘battleground of past hurt’ is one of our most frequently but unintentionally visited places.

That we’re still friends is something of a miracle and I’m grateful for them and their patience and ability to work things out.

***

Accusations

My About Page starts with the following story:

Once upon a time, someone interrupted my rant about someone else, with the words, “you do that too!”. That stung for a while, but it’s proved helpful since then. It makes me stop and check my position before getting stressed about others.”

That accusation feels like an eternity ago. Since then, there have been (many) other stinging comments from various people, but nothing quite as soul-shakingly succinct or ‘for general-purpose use’. Things happen, people say things, we work through them and they’re over. Rinse and repeat.

Recently I received the following general-purpose slap-round-the-face-with-a-dead-fish type comment:

“… [you] like to win arguments through domination and tone, not solve anything in any factual or sincere way – it’s all unempathetic headfighting.”

BAM.

*breathes*

Ok.

I would argue (!) that I aim for factual more than dominating, but I can accept that I miss the mark (and hit the wrong tone) more often than I’d like to admit.

“Headfighting” is a word I’d never heard before it was thrown at me like a grenade, but it’s a good word, one I can live with. It fits me and the way I argue more perfectly than any other word I can currently think of. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

Of all the uncomfortable words thrown at me in one sentence, it’s the “unempathetic” that really stings.

No matter how much I tell myself it’s unlikely to be true, that I’m probably not completely unempathetic, the idea lingers that it doesn’t really matter how empathetic I am or think I am; if it’s not felt by the people I care about most, and this person I care about is obviously not feeling it or they wouldn’t have found it necessary to say such a thing, then it doesn’t count.

That’s kind of worrying.

***

Empathy

Wikipedia says: “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states.”

If anyone had asked, I would have said I often sense what people are feeling. I would have said I regularly ‘know’ what kind of mood people are in before they start talking. Once upon a time I was even proud of picking up mood changes by the punctuation people used when writing to me. I would have said I could pick up differences in the atmosphere like a people-y barometer. Sometimes I get so caught up in other people’s emotions that I lose track of my own.

Turns out that none of that’s worth very much if you lack the words or the ability to do anything with that knowledge (thinking of it as “know-ledge” when really it’s “feel-ledge” might be part of the problem…) and I lack both, to varying degrees in varying situations.

***

Emotional Vocabulary

When Kate asks me how I feel about things, I tell her what I think about them. I lack vocabulary for feelings and emotions and even when presented with a list (!) I have a hard time matching them to myself or other people. I once told her “I don’t feel.” In return, she sent me a quote that I instantly identified with:

“Others of us come equipped with a somewhat more basic emotional vocabulary that […] consists primarily of ‘good’, ‘not so good: and ‘I already told you’.

When […] asked what they are feeling, they usually say ‘Nothing’, and when they are asked how they are feeling, they usually say, ‘I don’t know.’”

– Stumbling on happiness

This is me.

This is so me, it’s weird reading it from someone else.

I might have a few more words than the person in the book, but it’s not a long list.

I’m working on it, but it’s a sloooow process.

***

Talking about feelings (and cats)

Luckily, or maybe unluckily, this lack of emotional words is only an issue when it comes to things involving people.

Inanimate objects, with the possible exception of glass, don’t care or talk about feelings. (The washing doesn’t care how aggressively I load it into the machine. My bike doesn’t care how I’m feeling when I cycle it. The weather doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it, it does its thing regardless of who hates it. The wardrobe doesn’t care how indecisively I get dressed. Glass, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered, does care what mood I’m in, at least enough to only cooperate when I’m being nice to it. Even then, it doesn’t talk to me, so words aren’t an issue.)

(Many) animals can sense moods and intents and act as they gauge appropriate. A cat might curl up on your lap and let you stroke it, or it might hide and avoid you, but it won’t talk about feelings, neither its own, nor yours.

People do. Especially people you know. In the best case, they care what you do and feel and they have their own doings and feelings which need considering and reacting or responding to. A while ago, when I was seething about something, but willing to admit that it wasn’t a rational something, and not wishing to explode all over the person I deemed ‘responsible’, a friend suggested I give my hurt a bubble bath. That is an idea I would never have had in a million years.

When it comes down to it, my approach to feelings (and empathy) is much more cat-like than people-like. Approach cautiously, then, if I like you, and/or I think you like/need my company, I’ll stay close and listen and maybe hug depending on the person, or if I don’t like you or I feel disliked or unappreciated or hurt or scared, I’ll distance myself (maybe after I put my hackles up, hiss, scratch or bite). I might well talk, possibly too much, but I am unlikely to talk about feelings.

***

Private thoughts and Button pressing

I love good words when they’re directed at me, but I’m more likely to return my sentiments in a hug than an equal outpouring. I don’t ‘gush’. It takes me forever to tell people I love them (if I ever do :/). I try not to get angry. I rarely cry in public. I don’t shout at people (in public or otherwise). I don’t (like) kiss(ing) in public. I don’t go in for public displays of anything. Private things are private, and even then, even in private, opening up to what’s more than just below the surface is something I don’t do easily. Stirring up what’s below that, is something I hardly do by myself…

Against that, when my buttons are pressed, and they are unfortunately quite easy to press, especially when I’m tired, and even more especially in writing, I can get hung up on something secondary, something unimportant and not at all the point of what was being said. If I feel hurt (or angry or any of the ‘not-so-good’ emotions) I have two main go-to ‘programs’ either retreat-and-sulk or claws-first, reasons-after. Reasons, especially badly explained written reasons (or any reasons at all when aimed at heart-people), aren’t particularly useful as either bridges or bandages, and sulking doesn’t solve anything. If I’m very aware of myself and my own needs, there’s a third option – to accept that I’m not able to respond to something constructively ‘right now’ and say so, but that is something I’m still working on, very very slowly. (NB: I’m open for advice on further options..)

***

Robotic self-awareness

Awareness is a hard beast to tame. Sometimes, when I try to focus on not stressing, not hurting (you or myself), not getting angry, not being unreasonable, not saying anything that could be misinterpreted, I end up sounding robotic. Getting rid of the perceived negatives sometimes seems to erase the humanity in the positives. I’m sure there’s some way of striking a happy balance, but I haven’t found it yet.

In primary school, we were read a story about someone who built a wall around their garden so they could stay safe and wouldn’t be harmed by anything. It took them quite a long time to realise that they were also keeping out the good things. I don’t remember the details, but at the end they took down the wall, and let everything in. That’s something I’m working on too.. Unfortunately, I still have overly-enthusiastic antibody-like guards to warn me that ‘bad things’ are coming and to defend me from them, and there are far more of them than celebratory-messengers to let me know about ‘good things’.

***

Dodging deep feelings

On a related note, when I’m scared by the deep deep feelings in myself, I’m liable to skirt round yours, partly because I don’t know how to help, but also partly so I don’t have to deal with my own. Sometimes I’ll actively pick out the bits I’m confident I can handle, and ignore the rest, sometimes it’s more subconscious than intentional. Sometimes I get stuck on the first bit of new information and don’t register the rest.

If you tell me Ghandi survived on a grain of rice a day and that you know that it’s possible because you’ve been close to death [by starvation], there’s a good chance I’ll focus on Ghandi and the rice. That’s something I don’t know and which causes an instant “need to know more” reaction. Death (and related suffering) is not a topic I’m good at talking about, at least not on a personal level, so I, mostly unconsciously, skip it. I’m not trying to reduce your experience, or imply that you’re not telling the truth.

If you tell me you’re so scared or worried by what someone told you that you won’t be able to sleep, and then, almost in the same breath, ask me how I prioritise what I keep in my too-small freezer, I’ll be 3 lines deep in frozen soup and fishfood before it even registers that there are deeper and more important issues at stake. By the time I’ve discovered what’s happened, we’re buried in superficialities and the potential for sharing (and possibly eradicating) the “can’t-sleep-tonight,-help-me” moment is gone. I don’t want to think about how many similar moments I’ve missed ;(

***

People pleasing

Being responsible for other peoples’ unhappiness is one of the worst things I can think of. Yeah, there’s all that stuff about everyone being responsible for their own reactions, but I think if you punch someone, or bash them with your suitcase when you rush past in a packed station, you’re responsible for the physical pain they feel, even if it wasn’t on purpose. I don’t see that it’s all that different for mental pain. If I say something that hurts someone, regardless of whether I did it on purpose or accidentally, it’s still something I did. Apart from not being a good thing to do, it hurts to see other people hurting and if I can avoid it, I will. I think this is kind of normal.

My problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I’m not really sure where ‘actively hurting’ stops and ‘not actively making them happy’ starts. I don’t think it’s my duty (or even actually possible long-term) to make people happy but I still feel bad if I do something they would like me not to do, or could do something but choose not to do it.

This makes it difficult (not impossible) to create and protect my boundaries or organise my own priorities.

It also makes it difficult to know when to object to the way things are said to me, especially if I can appreciate that the person saying them is stressed about something else. Awarding myself the same right to remain unhurt often comes second to being understanding.

Choosing to stand up for myself, at the cost of not siding with the other person, not being accepting, not being ‘nice’, is really hard, especially if that person isn’t happy as a result of it.

The ‘easy’ version of this, as something to practise on, is arguing about things of no consequence.

***

Self-criticism and slippery slopes

On top of that, I am ridiculously self-critical, to the point that if I think you’ve criticised one thing on my list of Things-I-criticise-myself-for, I will probably assume you would also agree with everything else on my list and more, and come to the conclusion that you think pretty much everything about me needs changing and that you’d be better off if I wasn’t inflicting myself on you. This is not logical or rational. I know this when I’m happy. On a not-so-good day, I can often recognise what’s happening and think my way out of it. On a bad (or very hormonal) day the slope is very slippery.

If you, for example, tell me you didn’t enjoy playing a game with me and that you would have preferred to do something else, that is entirely reasonable from your perspective because you’re letting me know something I couldn’t otherwise find out. It’s a knowledge transfer. A sensible reaction is probably to file that information and offer to play a different game next time. And yet, given the right circumstances (tired/hungry/upset/hormonal/whatever) it might well set off a chain of negative thoughts that are almost entirely unrelated to you or the exact game in question but entirely logical in my head, and before either of us know it, I’m having a pity-party that you didn’t see coming, and don’t understand when I try to spell it out, if I even try.

***

Words, in person and in writing

Words are tricky things. They evoke different feelings and meanings in different people. Nuances aren’t always minor. Explanations don’t always explain anything. What I say isn’t always what you hear (and vice versa).

In ‘real life’ face-to-face interaction it doesn’t really matter so much if we have words for things or if we don’t agree entirely on the meaning. Assuming I can remember the numbers correctly, the actual words people use make up something like 7 % of face-to-face communication, the other 93 % is all the non-verbal stuff; tone, gestures, facial expression, the way you’re breathing and standing and and and… We can wave our arms about and make faces and work out if we’re happy or sad or whatever. Happy is easy. Happy just involves existing and being interested and joining in the rejoicing. Sad (etc) is harder, but when I can’t offer words, I can offer hugs, or ice cream, or sit in the kind of silence that [I hope] isn’t oppressive. If there’s something that needs doing, I can join in with doing it.

It’s (much) harder on the phone, but I’m pretty good at hearing how people say things (I think), which makes it easier to know what they mean, and easier to change track or explain what I originally meant as soon as it’s obvious that something didn’t come across the way I intended it to. It’s instant too, like in ‘real life’, so you can work through things as soon as they happen (that’s simultaneously a potential bad thing, because you have no time to think out an answer, but on the whole still good).

In writing, this becomes horrendously difficult. If you can’t easily express what you’re thinking and feeling in person, when you’re face-to-face, with the whole range of possibilities, you have very little chance in writing, when you’re stripped to nothing but words and a scattering of small, round, yellow faces. Small gaps or differences in understanding can turn into a huge, ravenous canyons seemingly instantaneously. Even emojis, which are supposed to help, are subject to interpretation. I spent a long time using one smily as a ‘guilty-as-charged’ stand-in, later, I was told most people use it to indicate eye-rolling. That’s quite a difference. I use the monkey covering its eyes to represent situations when I would cover my face, apparently there’s a different one for that and the monkey is for ‘see-no-evil’. I can’t even begin a similar list for words. Ice cream doesn’t travel well, and since no-one knows what you’re doing when you’re not writing, silence can be taken as avoidance or lack of interest when you’re actually desperately scrambling to choose a fraction of what you’re thinking and feeling, and arrange it into something that can be read and understood by someone who doesn’t inhabit your head. Or you’ve just been phoned. Or your battery’s just died. Or your computer/phone’s frozen and you can’t make it unfreeze.

***

After all that introspective rambling, I think this is what I’m trying to say:

When you, whoever you are, are upset about something, I would love to be well-grounded and stable enough to wait out the storm and be an island if you need shelter before heading off again. To put myself aside and make a space for you until things are better. That….is not always a realistic expectation :(.

Sometimes I’m not strong enough for both of us, sometimes I’m in the middle of my own storms. Sometimes the way you talk to me hurts and I concentrate on my pain and not on yours. Sometimes I focus on ‘facts’ and not (your) feelings. Sometimes I try to see the whole story and miss that you need me to see your story. Sometimes I miss the whole point and think we’re talking about something else.

Sometimes I don’t have the words I need, to say what you need to hear.

Sometimes I let my words get in the way.

Sometimes I put them in the way on purpose.

Sometimes I suck at being a good friend, not just at being empathetic.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a lousy friend. Will you help me become a better one?

On love and phone theft

I phoned a friend yesterday.

Half an hour or so into the conversation her partner came into the room..

Friend’s Partner: is that Jess?

Friend: yes..

Friend’s Partner: I want to talk to her, give me the phone *takes phone*

Friend: (in background) ..but..

Friend’s Partner: shh! Go away, I’m on the phone!

Friend: ..but.. (in background) ok Jess, let’s talk later..

Friend’s Partner: *takes phone outside*

Can’t say anyone’s ever fought over the chance to talk to me before.. *loved*

On Jesus and the Billy Goats Gruff

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between the prophets, John the baptist and Jesus with the three Billy Goats Gruff?

“Me? Nah, I’m not tasty/big/important/mighty enough – you want the next guy, he’s much tastier/bigger/more important/mightier than me!”

(the small part where Jesus dies can be overlooked as part of the biggest-billy-goat-kicks-troll’s-butt scuffle – coming back to life presumably counts as winning overall).

On balance

It seems that it’s impossible to add purely Good Things to a life.

Great news? Bam! Bad news.

Good mood? Bam! Some reason to hide.

Have lots to do inside at the weekend? Bam! Have a couple of fabulously warm sunny days so you either feel guilty about missing them by being inside or about not doing the things you’d planned.

Finally get motivated enough to practise running? Bam! Do something to your ankle and need to take it steady for a while.

Finish a project at work? Bam! Get a crazy migraine headache and have to be rescued because there’s no way you’re going to cycle home.

Find a friend you haven’t seen for years? Bam! Someone you love is taken to hospital….

The great universal scales seems to need balance.

Banal or super-important, nothing is safe and even if nothing is actually related, sometimes it seems to be.

On tears and tablets

I need to go shopping.

The tears fall heavily, the breaths juddering and irregular, my thoughts spiralling and my face getting steadily more puffy.

The tears have nothing to do with my need to go shopping. They’re just there. And their presence is a hindrance.

I want go back to bed. To hide. To cry until all the tears are gone and there’s nothing left inside me.

I know that if I do that, the shops will shut before I resurface. Tomorrow they’ll stay closed, and by Monday I will be ravenous.

Instead of hiding, I take the tablets*, pushing them out of their blister packaging with shaking fingers, washing them down with big, greedy gulps of cold water.

I still need to go shopping.

Whatever magic is in those tablets, they’re truly incredible – the tears dry up almost instantly. I pull myself together. Pull myself back into this world of doing not being.

Then I wash my face, pick up my shopping bag and go shopping.

While I’m out, I buy postcards. The wordy sort my family don’t approve of. I’m going to put them on the wall with the others. Regardless.

The tablets might dry tears but they can’t reduce puffiness. The shops don’t care though. My money has the same value regardless of what my face looks like. This, I think, is probably a good thing.

* they’re just vitamin D. They contain more placebo than anything else 🙂

On spending the day on a mental merry-go-round

Written on Nov 8th 2018. Mostly. The draft was saved on the 21st (also Nov ’18) Found and backposted on Nov 4th 2021.

New intro:

I was on my way home from a holiday in France and Spain, staying in the AirBnB for the second time. The owner had let me leave my bike there for the Spanish part of the trip.

Reading through this post, I remember the day, the feelings, the sunlight. After a minute or so, I know it continues with buying posh pastries at a patisserie and having to rush back to the station afterwards; going a different way, and getting frustrated about my inability to go the same way twice, but loving the feeling of riding the hill down to the station. I don’t remember these moments after the post finishes quite as well as I remember the written moments. I’m not sure if the writing or the reading is more responsible for the memories. Whichever it is, I’m grateful to my past self for writing, even if she didn’t finish describing the day.

***

Sometimes days go by coated in the same emotion, painted on slowly, coat for coat, and stripped off just as slowly, layer for layer. Or painted over, with paint that’s just a bit too thin to cover up the colour before.

Sometimes, like today, I can’t keep up with what I’m feeling as it changes so fast – like it’s been left to a kid just learning what the fill button does on paint programs. Click! Red. Click! Green. Click! Yellow. Click! Pink. And on and on.

***

I woke up and winced. My shoulder was complaining about lugging my backpack and a shopping bag around for the last few days. A reminder that I really need to learn how to pack lighter – having a bike to carry the load leads to forgetting how much you can comfortably carry when you leave the bike behind.

The French train ticket app continued to refuse to spit out a reasonable itinerary. Ne pas possible it jeers. I know it’s possible. At least. I think I do. I want it to be true enough not to believe that it isn’t. After almost an hour of switching between train app, map app and overnight stay app I decide to wing it. I can’t deal with the complexity. Especially at early o’clock.

The shower is cold. There’s a dial to choose the temperature, I twist it, pleading with it to let me have warmth before my feet freeze. My hand says the water’s warming up well before the rest of my body agrees. The shower head is transparent and full of beads in many colours – I admire the way the water makes them spin, before closing my eyes to both the water and to the sunlight cascading into the bathroom, flooding everything. Not even the shower curtain can protect the floor from the sun.

I stand half-dressed in the almost familiar bedroom, holding my knee and trying not to howl. I’ve just walked into the bedstead. Again. For what feels like the hundredth time but is probably only the sixth or seventh. Familiar obviously isn’t familiar enough. As if two nights is ever going to be enough for real familiarity.

The trains I thought about getting last night leave the station as I retrieve my paniers and start the never-ending job of packing all my things into the bags which may or may not have shrunk in the last week.

The conversation flows easily, naturally, as I make tea in a kitchen that’s beginning to feel like I belong. We talk about big things, little things, things that matter, things that probably don’t to anyone else. I use a french keyboard to type my email address on a phone that doesn’t belong to me and which my hand doesn’t recognise, and laugh when it comes out wrong. I delete it and start again. I rejoice when I discover that the word I found in a printer manual and chose for my email address all those years ago is phonetically the same as the almost obsolete local language for “what is this?”. I am suddenly back in another friend’s kitchen after a water fight. I’m wearing borrowed clothes and warming up damply as my friend hangs my wet clothes on the line in front of the Aga. “What is this thing anyway?!”. It seems wrap-around skirts aren’t as easy to recognise when they’re unwrapped. It’s a good memory, from a time I don’t want to go back to, except for maybe for a few moments of that afternoon. As far as I can remember the really good moments were few and far between. It’s funny how the memories of some moments hardly fade at all and yet whole months can vanish into the past, not to be missed or remembered.

We stand in front of the garage, her on the steps, me next to my bike, attaching the bag I bought for the handle bar onto the crossbar – the only place it has a chance of fitting. I could squeeze it into my backpack but I like having my ticket on view behind the clear plastic. I can never remember times or platforms – checking is easier if you don’t have to unpack first.

We’ve already hugged goodbye, she’s just waiting for me to finish and leave. “Can I take a photo?” she asks in her soft French accent. “Klar” I reply, German my immediate response when faced with Foreign. I correct myself, “yes, of course.” I needn’t have bothered, she’s already on her way back up the stairs.

She reappears with a pale pink Polaroid camera – bought for taking pictures of and for her guests. The picture is taken before I register what’s going on. It seems she hasn’t had a guest in a while though, the film doesn’t develop instantly. “Hmph. It must be old” she mutters, shaking the tiny sheet of paper. She sticks it between her teeth and takes another picture, and this time I’m better prepared, my bike is at a different angle, I’m smiling. The second picture develops as slowly as the first. We stand together and laugh as we shake one each, willing the picture out of the white nothingness. Faint lines appear. I’m aparating. J’apparate*. My pronunciation is hideous but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters on the pavement by the garage. The sun is shining and the world is shining back. There’s no rush to leave. The trains will wait. If they’re willing to take me with my bike at all. Failing that, there’ll be more trains. There won’t be more of this moment. I soak it in. Delight in my own apparition. Take photos of the photos. She holds them in one hand so I have a hand free to zoom in on my phone. When I think she’s not looking I notice that the camera is shaking in her other hand. “Take another one” she commands, “so you have a series.” I take another one. Then another.

Suddenly she hands me a photo. “This one’s for you.” It’s the first one. I would have preferred the other one but I reprimand myself – you weren’t going to have either until 20 seconds ago. “Can I pack it away or do I have to wait until it finishes developing?” I try to work out where I’m going to put it. “No. It needs the sun – you must carry it like this” she places the photo back between her teeth and pedals with her hands. We laugh again.

Then she’s gone. Poncho flying. The goodbye hanging in the air longer than she takes to reach the top of the steps and her conservatory.

I tuck the photo in front of the stack of used tickets although I have no idea if the sun can work its magic through the plastic. I swing my leg over the bar and set off.

Barely 20m later I stop. I haven’t set my bike computer yet. I really can forget anything. I take a picture of the house since I’m still there.

A crossroads. I have no idea where I am so I follow the signs to the station. A few km later I realise that I am somewhere I’ve never been before. I start berating myself for my lack of navigation skills but stop when I see the church on the hill.

I park my bike on the side of the road to take a picture. I wouldn’t have got nearly as good a view from the road I meant to be on. I am so lucky to have such good weather and not so many cars on the road…. And of course to have let the road lead me to the view.

The train station is

* j’apparais

On making time to be ill

It’s Friday.

I’m supposed to be in the middle of a two day committee meeting. Instead I am lying on a towel looking at this:

rejoicing at the slight breeze and listening to the birdsong and the buzzing of a million insects.

Yesterday I looked up at the sky through the branches for the first time in too long. As I lay there, I couldn’t actually remember the last time I’d done that. It’s amazing how seldom I lie on my back outside.

The day before that I lay beside a lake and looked at the reeds and listened to the frogs:

***

I have been neglecting myself recently, or at least not paying attention properly.

I’ve been working long hours during the day and watching the stars at night and not sleeping enough in between. I’ve been talking too much and not listening to my body enough. I’ve been eating beans and pancakes and müsli and chocolate and not nearly enough fruit and veg. I’ve been cycling and rowing (on the machine) but not stretching or actively relaxing. I’ve been trying to get things done, but not standing back to see which things are actually important. I’ve been spending a lot of time dithering and rushing about (mostly in circles) inside and not so much just existing outside.

All this is probably why I was the perfect victim for a passing virus. And also why I found myself spending the last few days in an exhausted heap observing the greenery and assorted wildlife.

As they say,

“If you won’t take time to be healthy, you’ll have to make time to be ill”

There’s a lot of truth in that.

Unfortunately.

On the other hand, even though being ill is no fun, there’s a lot to be said for lying on the ground under a tree, just recuperating. I might have to come here more often, even when I’m well again. Also, having a sore throat is the perfect excuse to up my icecream consumption :p.

***

I was invited to a party on Saturday. I had to turn it down because I wouldn’t be back from the committee meeting in time. That meant I was free to go to my AuPair kid’s birthday on Sunday, seeing as I was in Southern Germany anyway (and once I found out that I wouldn’t make it back for the party). Now, I’m not going anywhere. Hmph.

Not travelling means not needing train tickets. I was so chuffed about booking them in advance (and thereby saving money) but it seems that even if I am organised it doesn’t work out.. Very miffed about that – I thought I was doing so well! Luckily the train company refunds tickets up to the day they’re valid so I only “lost” the cancellation fee.

***

The next bit’s boring, mostly just for my memory in case I need to be reminded later.

I was tired and unmotivated for most of the weekend. Things that should have taken a few minutes took several hours. I started things and left them on the floor. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to buy when I went shopping and spent ages dithering between this one and that one, walking back to the shelves and putting things back, only to turn round when I reached the end of the isle and pick it up again, having changed my mind (this is a semi-normal thing when I go shopping, I’m just not usually quite as dithery as this weekend).

I had a dry throat and unquenchable thirst, along with a headache for most of Monday and Tuesday. Drinking 3L of water in less than 6 hours is possibly a little excessive, but it’s been 30+ degrees C in Berlin for a while, and 34+ in the workshop, so I assumed it was due to a combination of heat, dehydration and potentially a slight lack of salt.

Then I dropped my bike while getting off it at the crossroads on the way to work on Tuesday. Who’s that weak?! I put that, too, down to the heat and made a point of drinking even more, this time alternating water with squash, briefly thinking about adding some kind of strength training into my already largely unsuccessful mornings.

Swallowing started to hurt (rather than scratch) about mid afternoon. I waited until no one else was using the loos at work and looked at the back of my throat in the mirror (my mirror at home is waiting for me to finish its new frame). My tonsils were swollen and had white patches. Ewww.

That night I tossed and turned, froze, boiled, fought with the duvet, staggered back and forth to the bathroom and was generally not particularly rested when the alarm went off in the morning. I fought my way out of bed and towards the end of the road. I wanted to stop at the doctor’s before work and ask what to do about of the white splotches.

Turns out working isn’t good for healing. It’s also not good for other people if you work while you’re contagious.. Who knew. 😉

She stole some blood and wrote me off work for 3(+x) days and told me to get lots of rest and to avoid other people and talking. (She also recommended medicinal throat sweets, but they made my mouth hurt, so I gave up after the 4th).

The chemist suggested vitamin C crystals with added Zink. Taking that as she recommended.

Slept well and often for most of the rest of the day.

On going directly to prison

A couple of days ago I came across a YouTube video of a person I’d never heard of before being arrested. The arrest had been caught on camera by spectators. So far so normal. People get arrested all the time and people have had access to video recording equipment for a long time.

A couple of links and videos later I found out that this person had been arrested, tried, found guilty and taken to prison within a matter of hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 depending on the source). That seems much less normal..

I could understand them being taken to the police station or even to some kind of detention centre until the court case…but having the trial on the same day as the arrest seems a little bit crazy.

Also, although I’d never heard of them, they appear to be a Known Person. That means there’s a lot of public interest in finding out what happened.

However.

For some reason the judge issued a total ban on mentioning anything to do with the case, effectively forbidding anyone to report on the case since anyone who does mention details of the case stands to be arrested too. That’s reporters, journalists, newspapers, TV presenters, witnesses, family/friends of the person, random people using social media, etc etc etc. Some of the original news articles have apparently been removed from the websites they were published on.

That all means there’s no official information, which leaves a lot of room for speculation.

I understand (kind of) the idea of keeping ongoing cases non-public until the jury have made their decision. I would have thought that once the sentence has been given, then the case is officially over…

Apparently not.

That also seems crazy.

As does the fact that the arrest and consequent sentence took place in England. In 2018. Last weekend.

***

Regardless of who they are and what they’ve done (or haven’t, perhaps), can someone please tell me how it’s logistically possible to go to prison on the same day as the alleged crime, the arrest and the court case? And if it is possible, why it is that some cases take such a long time to settle?

On the day the world didn’t stop turning

Sometimes, when you’re small and still busy growing up, people tell you not to do certain things because otherwise Bad Things will happen.

Sometimes, many years later, you do those things anyway, and realise that the world doesn’t actually spontaneously combust, or stop turning or fall on your head.

It’s quite a let down in a way. But it’s a welcome let down. I didn’t want to be responsible for the end of the world 😉

On being an awful partner

I currently have a friend over for a long weekend and I am becoming more and more aware that I am not cut out for a long-term female partnership..

How do I know?

I have no patience for conversations about frilly knickers, nail varnish, the best way to burn candles or which bread has the lowest glycemic index. (But I can sit for hours listening to people talk about the finer points of changing the blades on a thickness planer machine, despite never having seen one).

I am not very knowledgeable about yoga, stretching, running, or really any exercise in general.

I don’t care much about fashion, fabric, design, pattern, or clothes as long as I’m dressed and warm enough.

I have less than no idea about hairdryers. I don’t blow-dry my hair unless I absolutely have to. That happens maybe once a year, twice if I go to the hairdressers. I have a small hot-air-blowing device which I use on the rare occasions when I deem it necessary, and which packs into a small bag in a cupboard for the rest of the year. (Naja, that’s not quite true, it’s also pretty good at drying paint/woodstain if I’m too impatient to let things dry by themselves, so it does get to come out of the cupboard sometimes). It turns out it isn’t a proper hairdryer but rather a styling brush (and therefore not useful for drying one’s hair). Who knew?

I wouldn’t recognize an electric nail file if I tripped over it, nevermind know which way to hold it or how (or why) to use it. Or an electric callous grinder (see? no idea what they’re even supposed to be called). I don’t remember ever having or doing a pedicure, unless you count filing the pointy edges off my toenails when they break and threaten to make holes in my socks.

I am used to being the dithery party. I am used to getting lost in places I’ve been before. I am used to people complaining about how long it takes me to get ready to go anywhere. I am used to people getting stroppy about me leaving a trail of my things strewn across the house. I am used to people laughing at or not understanding my clothes (“so what is this thing anyway?!” – talking about a wrap around skirt).

I am not used to waiting for more than an hour to get into the bathroom in the morning.

I am not used to working round other people’s PMS.

I am not used to multiple (many many many) bottles of ‘body care’ potions appearing all over the house.

I am not used to getting home and being greeted by a wave of ‘girly smells’. Perfume and baby powder and shampoo and conditioner and body lotion and hand cream and whathaveyou each with a different (but strong) fragrance.

I can’t work up any excitement (at all) for an evening of ‘pampering’ if it involves anything other than massage. Start talking about mutual makeovers and I will bail.

I can’t deal with “What’s up?” “Nothing.” conversations.

I don’t understand freezing but simultaneously objecting to either finding another jumper or turning the radiators on.

I don’t understand why anyone would [regularly and willingly] eat nothing but salad for dinner and then get up in the middle of the night to raid the fridge and the breadbin.

When I get ill, I am more likely to have manflu and go to bed with honey-and-lemon and a hot water bottle (and maybe my laptop) than to try and keep up my manic schedule while sneezing, snuffling and coughing, at least for the worst couple of days.

I am not naturally a tidy person. I don’t think anyone could reasonably call me a neat-freak (:)) – I severely dislike washing up and doing housework – but finding cups in the bookcase and plates left on the coffeetable instead of at least in the vicinity of the sink has helped me develop a new sympathy for people who are.

Also. Hair. I used to laugh at a long-distant-ex-boyfriend for complaining about the “hairy woman-beast” inhabiting his space. I’m not going to take sides with him, but I can at least see that he might have had a point.

In short, I feel like I’m suddenly on the wrong side of all the bloke-whinges-about-girlfriend cartoons/sketches/blogposts and I’m not used to it. I’m not sure I even like being on the other side of the frustration.

Ok, so frustration is frustrating on both sides.. I’m just usually defensively frustrated, at the people trying to hurry me for example, but I could never really see where they were coming from. I used to get upset at people who weren’t understanding or able to listen or were obviously disinterested by what I was saying, people who wouldn’t cooperate with me and/or my way of working, people who were more concerned about reaching a destination than enjoying the journey..

I am slowly starting to understand some of the people who complained about me, as well as some of the actions of the people I complained about… and that’s worrying!

I’m not a particularly good hetero girlfriend, but it seems I would be an incredibly awful lesbian… 😉

***

NB: Against the impression I’m probably giving, I do like this lady 🙂 I’ve just previously only seen her in smaller doses (like for an afternoon) and never had her to stay..