On hurting (and carrying on regardless)

Dear mind, dear body, dear soul,

Yes it sucks. Yes, it hurts. Yes it’s hard.

Know what though?

We’re carrying on. We’re not going to stop or give up or collapse or breakdown. We can go slower if you like. But we’re not stopping. There’s a long way to go yet.

Sometimes, like when hunting bears, you can’t go round it, over it or under it, you have to go through it. Guess where we’re going?! Yup. “The only way out is through” and all that jazz.

And we will get through it. Eventually.

Apparently the right kind of pain means you’re getting stronger. I have no idea which sort we’re working with, but let’s assume it’s the helpful sort and go from there.

It hurts more than before, but we’re better than before, so we can deal with more than before. We got through everything to get here, we can get through this to get further.

On the way, we’re going to keep smiling, keep cycling, keep rowing, keep walking and plodding and crawling. Keep talking and writing and listening and laughing and reading and building and trying. Especially trying.

Even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard. Or raining or windy or snowy or silent or uphill.

We can do this.

Slowly.

With a million setbacks and a million and one restarts.

With tears and bruises and scars.

With stories and memories and pictures.

With late nights and early mornings and cake and hot chocolate and parsnips.

With barely-done-up trousers and worn out shoes and a brand new coat rack.

With good books and sunny days and amazing conversations.

With fish and fluffy slippers and freshly-put-up lights.

We’ve got this.

With lots of love,

Me xx

“And she never gives up…she just changes her mind!”

– Billy Joel

On being the weirdo who doesn’t like tea

“It’s in a cup so you don’t look weird” – Dad.

I was drinking apple juice. Everyone else was having tea. Black tea. The English sort with milk. The sort the sanity of the country, or at least my family, depends on. The sort everyone makes and offers you whenever anything happens, big or small, births, deaths, celebrations, calamities, meetings, visiting family, waking up, getting home from work, going to visit anyone, being visited by anyone. There are so many opportunities to drink tea that some people I know drink it purely because it’s easier than trying to refuse it. Peer pressure on a countrywide scale.

“Nice to see you – I’ll put the kettle on.” It is an integral part of social interaction.

And I don’t like it. I never have. Not really.

I used to drink my own version of tea when I stayed with my grandparents when I was very small. Grandma used to make it very very milky, and very very sweet – for me anyway, everyone else got theirs so strong you could stand the teaspoon up in it (as they say). I never made the jump to grown up tea. (Warm milk with honey still trumps tea any day, by any reckoning. I don’t drink it all that often though because heating milk is a faff, much more than putting the kettle on.)

I also don’t like coffee, unless it’s in icecream or cake or occasionally chocolate. I don’t like green tea either for that matter. That’s about the limit of choice, if there is any choice at all.

I drink herbal tea (“infusions” – my mother refuses to acknowledge it as an alternative, in her mind there is only real tea, or wasted hot water). I like mint and ‘mixed herbs’ and various fruit mixtures. I like drinking squash, hot or cold, although it’s considered a little kid’s drink. I like milk, hot or cold. I like hot chocolate and milkshakes and smoothies and most fruit juices. I even like orange juice with bits in.

But I don’t like tea.

And don’t get me started on alcohol.

Good job I like apple juice – you can disguise it in so many different cups and glasses!

🙂 🙂 🙂

On not being a sword

I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat on the edge while she waved her hands about.

“…your body wants to flow, you see,” she said, “it’s being held in place at the moment, but it isn’t happy. That’s why you have so many stressed and tightened muscles. You’re more like water. Water’s powerful, but it’s not a sword. You aren’t a sword….”

I expect she had more to say, my osteopath, but I don’t remember what; I was trying to work out what to do with those ideas.

***

Since then, my thoughts keep wandering back to the image of water trying to fight like a sword, or trying to be a sword.

***

The way I see it, water tends to flow round or over the things that get in its way. It doesn’t fight everything, at least not immediately. I have the feeling that when it does fight, water tends to fight more slowly than swords do.

It’s not weak though, even if it is slow. All the ravines and canyons, all the hilly landscapes, all the washed-away sea breakers and man-made constructs, all the round stones on the riverbed/at the beach, prove that. And the amazing lack of unrounded shards of glass on the beach show that it doesn’t always take as much time as one thinks.

The rain falls drop by drop. Even tsunamis and floods take their time to build up to the finale. But when they go, they go. When they’re ready, they make themselves known, often with catastrophic results.

There are very few ways to permanently keep water from going where it wants to go. Dams break, pipes burst, riverbanks overflow, the tide comes in, regardless who commands it to stay away.

Pretty much eveything natural shows how much water can achieve, given enough time. Not only in big crashy ways, but also in small, hidden ways.

All things need water. Nothing survives long without water. In fact, there’d be no life at all without water. The whole planet only exists the way it does because there’s water on it. The blue planet. our blue planet. The only one I want to live on, even if they reckon they’ve found another 10 out there in space. (But I digress)

Swords, on the other hand, aren’t known for their life-giving properties. l suspect lots of people could imagine the benefits of the public still having swords and swordfights but I don’t know anyone who can’t live without one.

***

When someone tells me I’m not something, I immediately wonder why not, and whether they meant that in a good way (or not), and whether they were hoping I was or are happy that I’m not, and whether I was aiming to be that thing at all and whether I should have been…. (etc etc etc ad infinitum).

In this case, after quite a lot of thought, I think I’m pleased to not be a sword. And if I’m not a sword, water’s not a bad thing to be instead.

🙂

On hurting people without meaning to

I’ve just been jolted out of an uneasy sleep in an uncomfortable aircraft seat by a food trolley. The absent minded trolley pusher rammed the trolley into my knee. I can only imagine it wasn’t intentional, so I can’t really be cross, even if it a) hurt, and b) woke me up. 

It seems like a good day for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

DB bashed me with my suitcase as he lifted it out of the car. The guy behind me at security bashed me with his tray while trying to juggle with it, his paperwork, a phone and his bag. A lady bashed me with her bag when she turned round waiting for boarding. 

I don’t much appreciate being bashed, yet none of those bashes were on purpose. No one set out to hurt me, they just did, without realising until afterwards, or in the case of the lady, not at all. And they all apologised (except the lady).

I wonder how many more times people will bash me before I get to my brother’s house. I wonder how many times it’ll take before I actually get cross with the basher.

I wonder how much I hurt people by mistake, just by living, just by going about my day. I wonder how many people I hurt without even realising it. Not just by wielding my suitcase carelessly, but also with my words, my choices, my actions. I wonder how many of those people never say anything, how many wait until they’re really mad at the world in general to snap and say something, or yell something.

On why I think life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster

Choice.
Decisions. 
Ability to choose. 
At least some things. 
Sometimes.

***

As much as I hate to admit it, I quite like Ronan Keating’s “Life is a roller coaster” song. I don’t agree with him though. I think it’s more like a pinball machine.

***

Until a couple of weeks ago, I’d only ever played pinball on the computer, or on a board so old it actually had pins (=nails) in.

Then I went to a national pinball convention. I lost track of how many different machines I played on/with, but it was “many”.

I even had a go at the “classic” tournament. Classic because it features older machines. I wasn’t very good, but I also wasn’t the very worst (by quite a long way), so I was chuffed, considering that it was my very tournament on my very first day of practise.

Anyway.

On a roller coaster, you get into your seat at the beginning and “just have to ride it” until you get off at the other end. You have absolutely no control over what happens in between. Okay, you can control some of your reaction. You can probably choose to scream or throw your hands in the air or close your eyes….or not. You probably can’t choose whether or not to throw up afterwards. You certainly can’t choose the direction or when to stop or change speed.

Pinball is different.

Granted, there is a lot of chance involved, (pinball machines were even banned in the past because they were considered purely based on luck), and there are things you can’t control, like what the bumpers do when you hit them, what lights up when you go past, what the noises sound like, how many points you get for various sequences.

On the other hand, because you control the flippers, there’s also a lot of input potential. You have to choose to do something with that potential, and it helps to have the skill to achieve the desired effect (like getting the ball to go up the ramp or into one of the holes), but it’s there. If you don’t do anything, the ball does its thing briefly, then falls through the gap between the flippers and you die.
If you do manage to catch/hit the ball, you prolong that life. That gives you the next chance and the next and the next.

Sometimes, reaching a certain number of points, or activating certain areas creates something like a safety net. Even if you would normally die, you don’t, you get a new ball instead and can carry on playing. Even if you don’t achieve those bonus lives, you still have 2 further chances, or 4 depending on the machine. You can aim for things, learn what happens if you hit and if you miss. Sometimes you aim for the ramp and land in a hole. Sometimes landing in the hole is bad, sometimes it takes you to a different level where you unlock new possibilities. Sometimes you can die on that level, sometimes it catapults you back onto the first level with new energy and extra points, lives or abilities. Sometimes, regardless of skill and determination, the ball will suddenly take up nosediving and head down between the flippers without any warning, and with no chance to stop it.

Occasionally you get into a ‘Dauerschleife’, a routine of going round and round and round the same route: Flipper, bumper, bumper, light, flipper, bumper, bumper, light. To get out, you have to change something. Anything. Different angle, different strength, different timing. Sometimes that’s risky, sometimes it just feels risky. Sometimes the new ‘route’ is chaotic, sometimes it leads to a new Dauerschleife, sometimes it’s not exactly chaotic, but is continuously changing. That’s the most common. Change.

Occasionally, doing the same thing twice results in different outcomes, depending on what you did previously.

Occasionally you get bonus balls to be played at the same time, each whizzing round the board on its own mission, forcing you to split your concentration or risk losing both.

Talking of missions, some boards have a story line, a list of things to do, or collect, or hit. Some are less structured, preferring to offer differing musical notes, like a bell tower, or multiple colours – a kaleidoscope* of rainbow lights.

If you watch other people playing, you see an array of different styles and attitudes. Some tighten their muscles, stand gripping the edges of the machine, hoping somehow they can influence the course of the ball, or the reaction of the bumpers, with their tension. Others are relaxed, hardly concentrating, at least not noticeably. Some players laugh with the players next to them, some ignore everything around them. Some try to rock the machine, nudging it just enough to minimally change the angles of the board, the bumpers, the rebound, and steer the ball where they want it to go. Ohers go crazy, yelling and screaming and whooping and jumping…or kicking the machine.

In the end, no matter how you play, every ball ends up back in the box. Some live short intensive lives, some live long boring lives. The rest lead their lives somewhere in between. 

Every player dies eventually. Some just live longer, or more happily, or more excitingly than others.

***

I figure life is more like a pinball machine than a roller coaster. What do you think? What would you compare life to instead?

*collide-oscope?

On leaving without saying goodbye

Ok, I get it.
You don’t like goodbyes. I don’t think I know anyone who particularly enjoys them.

You were – and are – well and truly finished here, you did your time, you ate the cake, you packed your coffee cup, you were ready to leave.

There’s no real sensible reason to hang about waiting for people to appear so you can finally say bye and get the hell out of here.

I get that.

It’s just… I would have liked the chance to say bye. And thank you. You’ve done so much for me that you probably don’t realise. It would’ve been good to tell you I appreciate it.

Not that there were no chances. I just thought there’d be more.

More chances. More time.

Time to go the loo quickly while you finished packing.

Time to dig your prezzie out of my bag while you carried your boxes to the steps.

Time to say bye before you drove off to seek more fortuitous fortunes.

(I hope you find them.)

Today was a good day. I hope you thought so too.

I learned a lot, as always, when I work with you.

I’m going to miss those days, the ones where the goal was work, and the way there was fun. Pretty much everything seems possible when it’s fun. Even the tough projects.

***

I suppose the take-away-message is ‘don’t assume’.

Don’t assume they’ll always be there.

Don’t assume they’ll wait for you to say bye.

Get in there first. Say what you want to say well before they’re due to leave, even if it seems weird to say bye hours in advance.

***

No, no one’s died. I was just a bit shaken (and a bit mad) that one of my favourite colleagues not only resigned, but also disappeared without saying goodbye. I wrote it directly after he left, but didn’t want to post it while it was so fresh. I never sent it. Maybe I should have done. Maybe I still will.

On late nights and strange men

– Thanks Ed Sheeran for the title 😉 –

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a week*. I can’t say I didn’t have time, because I had as much time as in any other week, I just used it for other things…  😉 I think it’s going to be a long one… 😉 Admit you wanted one, and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you..

I haven’t been in bed before midnight since I can’t remember when, maybe last week sometime.. And men are strange. I’m going to provide some examples, but they probably won’t begin to cover the strangeness of men in general 😉

***

I changed the workshop round on Monday. Most of the move had to do with the atmosphere in the workshop and my inability to work when distracted as well as wanting to create distance between myself and the ‘unhappy’ person (man) with whom I share my workshop..

***

I went dancing on Tuesday. I think I wrote about how I have a whole group of new people to get to know. As a woman, I tend to dance with men, which makes getting to know the women a little more difficult. Naja, at the end of the dance class, all the women vanished, leaving me and 3 of the guys to decide what we were going to do with the rest of the evening. There was the offer of meeting the intermediate danceclass for waffles, but they’d been there for an hour or so already and were on the verge of going home. The dance teacher had mentioned a bar/club/restaurant which has a Brazilian evening every Tuesday. We dance Forro, a Brazilian dance, so that sounded pretty cool. When we got there we were greeted by a rather underdressed lady who presented me with a coupon for a free cocktail; ladies only. I was a little disturbed by the idea, but maybe my imagination is too active. The others tried to get her to give them coupons too, but she wasn’t covinced by their feminine sides. The dancefloor was entirely empty as we finally made our way down the stair into the underlit bar. An even scantilier clad lady sat on a stool singing while a couple of guys accompanied her on a DJ mixing deck (???). A this point I wanted to bail out. I didn’t because.. actually I don’t really know why because.. I just told the barkeeper-bloke who appeared out of the gloom that we wanted to sit somewhere, and that there were 4 of us. It’s probably not fair to assume the others were too busy oggling to answer. It was pretty loud, maybe they didn’t hear him ask….

*grins* A short while later things started looking up. The others ordered burgers (Tuesday special) and one of them offered to buy me a non-alchoholic cocktail in exchange for my ‘surprise’ cocktail which the waiter kindly explained was premixed and therefore couldn’t be made without. I ended up with 2 half-burgers (the special involved buy one get one free and all 3 of them ordered them. Only one managed to eat both of his) in addition to my non-alcoholic contail. In return, I let myself be persuaded onto the dancefloor by one of them, where we were the only dancers. A couple of songs later, one of the others demanded it was his turn, and a couple of songs after that we all decided it was late and we should probably go home. And that was the end of another interesting day.

***

I spent a lot of time between Thursday and yesterday with a man with metre long dreadlocks who has been staying at my house for the duration of the film festival in the city. He’s a pretty awesome guy. Runs a film school for people who aren’t interested in making Hollywood style films. He knows EVERYTHING there is to know about films, and shared a minute fraction of that knowledge with me. I am now a million times more knowledgeable about films than I was before… He got me a film festival pass, and helped me decide which films would probably be worth watching.

***

I walked home last night and was asked, “Can I know you, please?” by a random stranger on a bench. I’m not really sure what that means. I know the Bible occasionally refers to sex as ‘knowing” someone, but I’d never heard anyone use it in normal conversation (as far as yelling at passing strangers counts as normal conversation) so I assume he was foreign (though I couldn’t say where from) and just wanted someone to talk to… I don’t particularly need more strange men in my life at the moment, so I smiled, pretended not to understand his broken English, and carried on home. He went back to his beer. Which is probably a good thing, considering.

 

* I’d almost finished it too, but left it in Drafts. I’ve finished it off (wasn’t much needed) and posted it today, 29.7.16, 3 1/2 years later, but it the ‘rightful place’….

On the upcheeringness of good music when nothing works out

I can’t work well at work.

I have a problem with people watching me, and since a lot of people seem to want to spend their day sitting at my workbench I spend a lot of time not working at my best. It’s not my workshop, so I can’t banish them, but I can’t work with them either. Sometimes I’m actually glad of their company – it helps spread the load my colleague can be. I don’t have such a problem with making easy stuff with people looking on, so I save the ‘easy’ tasks for when they’re there. When I don’t have anything tricky to do, or a deadline to meet, it doesn’t matter so much. It’s the stuff that needs to be in the oven today and which involves concentration and perseverance that gets me. I officially start and finish an hour later than the rest, but they regularly stay to talk and drink (less hassle than going to the pub ;)), which doesn’t help much. I often find myself staying on once everyone’s gone home in order to get things finished.

Having the workshop to myself doesn’t always make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.

I hate it when my glass doesn’t co-operate. I hate having other people watch it not co-operating. And I hate said people asking questions about said non-co-operational glass. As if that wasn’t enough hate for one paragraph, I also hate them giving advice.

This rant is for everyone who wants to watch me work:

At the risk of sounding incredibly stuck up; I generally already know what I SHOULD have done differently, or how it was supposed to work. Sometimes it just doesn’t. I don’t need to hear it from backseat glassblowers. Or other pestilential nuisances. I don’t need to hear the tutting noises as you watch the piece I’ve been working on for an hour fall to bits. I don’t need the sharp intake of breath or the sideways “how-could-you-be-so-stupid” glances. I don’t need you to start a lecture, only to have you interrupt yourself to tell me there’s no point telling me since I’m not prepared to be helped. I don’t need the sighs of supposedly long-suffering teachers. I don’t need you to watch me forget to put corks in the tube ends and then laugh as I blow through, instead of into, my glass. I don’t need you to helpfully point out that the glass is bending while I’m holding one end between my teeth, balancing the other on some precarious pile of boxes, and struggling to put the graphite-paper back into a joint-holder that’s just come loose. I can’t simultaneously pay you and my glass 100% of my attention. I probably don’t need reminding that I still have something to finish for tomorrow, I probably know and am waiting until you go elsewhere so I can start it. I don’t want you to ask me if whatever I’m currently struggling with is Meister-worthy. I don’t want to talk about whether my jeans are in or out of fashion while I’m melting frits into tubes. To be honest, I don’t think I’d care much even if I wasn’t trying to concentrate at the time. I don’t care that you know all-there-is-to-know-about-glass. I don’t care that you ‘have-my-best-interests-at-heart’. I don’t care that you get goosebumps from watching me being so rubbish. I don’t care how much you feel for ‘the poor maltreated glass’. I don’t want to know. If you’re so great, either go and do something useful with your greatness, or make me feel great enough to attempt something more demanding in your presence. Making me smaller doesn’t make you bigger. And the more you have to tell me you’re great, the less I’ll believe you actually are. The people I consider great are great without telling me (or anyone else) about it. You can’t help but notice greatness.

Sometimes I need to be left in peace to figure it out. I need the space to test things out without anticipating your reaction.

Rant over.

Today.

I spent most of the day faffing about, leaving the tricky stuff for after work. I was accompanied into my evening by one of the non-glassblowing watchers. He didn’t stay long, maybe half an hour or so.

I had a complicated glass filter to repair. I did the main work yesterday but had forgotten to melt the broken ends of the spring-hooks. The oven wasn’t full enough to turn on so I hadn’t yet tempered it. Frits are temperamental at the best of times so I didn’t want the gas-air flame to accidentally reach the frit while warming them. So I didn’t warm it at all. Neither before nor after. Idiotic really. Thing is, I wanted it finished by Monday, so I took the risk. Idiotic, like I said.

Moving the shards of several hours’ work aside, I started on the next task: replacing an NSK14,5 with an NSK29 on the end of a 3 way tap set at an angle to a litre flask. Not easy to hold, but not [very] hard to do. I wanted to make my own flask though. The one I altered was made a couple of years ago by my colleague to show me how they were done. I’d made one afterwards and given it to the Doctorand who needed it. This one was kept in reserve. I knew I had been able to make it, this attempt was to see if I still could, and to give my customer something I’d made and not just adjusted.

I made all the preparations. Then I remade the central piece because I’d forgotten the Kernel needed an extension. ARGH. Then I reshaped the top of the central piece because it was too wide. Then I started putting everything together. So far so good. Litre flasks are heavy, and I’m out of practise. I’d also used a holder that was far longer than necessary for the right hand. The main join was okay, could have been neater, but as 30mm Einschmelzungen go it wasn’t bad, especially when you consider I haven’t done one in months. The problem was the tube on the other side. After fighting it for a while I decided to take it off completely and join a new piece on. In the time it took me to prepare a new join, the old join had got cold enough to break when I reheated it. ARGH. I tried to mend the ever lengthening splits, but it was a bodge-job and not a worthwhile one. I finally gave up when the glass pulled itself together and holes appeared. I tried rescuing the groundjoint but it fell off the holder and onto the floor where it smashed.

At this point, almost 3 hours after I could have gone home, I had had enough.

PendantI turned the radio off, put a CD on instead, and spent a good 3/4 hour swivelling on my swivel chair watching the walls whoosh past. (random thought: I have no idea if anyone else remembers this but back in secondary school, we said “go swivel [on a duck]” when people were stupid or annoying or whatever, haven’t heard it said in ages but I had to think of it while spinning). By the time the CD was about halfway through I was a lot happier. When I finished spinning, I mixed some coloured glass ready for next week, made a pendant and went home. I guess I could’ve gone home as soon as the flask broke, but I was too wound up.

Like I said, having the workshop to myself doesn’t make the glass work better, but it helps me to deal with it going wrong when it does.

On what we say v. what they hear.

I’m too sleepy to write as much as I’d like to on this, but it’s been a theme running through several conversations this week.

If what we say isn’t always what they hear, then maybe what we hear isn’t what they said…….. (/what they meant)