Missing the point(illism)

Bonfire night, scattered over a fortnight or so, is more or less officially done with now. It’s once more safe to go out. I’m surprised we still celebrate it, given the Politically Correct culture we now live in.

I was never allowed to attend these ritual burnings as a child. Mother would not allow it. I thought it desperately unfair. Of course, it’s only as an adult that I realise (with great annoyance) that she was correct. She had a very good reason – possibly two – for her forbidding my presence there.

It turns out I can’t be around fireworks or large fires. I found out the hard way. When I went to university, I made full use of being ‘off the leash’ and went to a bonfire party at the first opportunity that presented itself. The next few days were spent in asthmatic regret. Clearly, the smoke and fumes are some kind of vampiric Kryptonite.

Oh, the other reason? Well, you do know about how to kill a vampire? Perhaps she was concerned that, if anyone found out about me….

Anyway, let’s get back to the disgruntlement…

I have mentioned this before, that sometimes in life we are told things that are initially an affront to us. We stomp, we whine, we moan about how unfair it is on us. Of course, if it is a case of political correctness, we state how unfair it is on others.

Off at a tangent, I was once severely told off for laughing at a blonde joke (I am extremely blonde, as you may recall). Yes. Told off. That’s not funny, they said. That’s offensive, they said. Why aren’t you offended? they said. My reply was quite simple (and probably equally offensive) ‘Oh, I don’t need to be offended at blonde jokes. I have people who do that for me. They’re called brunettes.’

Anyway, back to my point. Pun not intended. Have you ever seen a Pointillist painting? Artists such as George Seurat (apparently people in art galleries get upset if you call him George Sewer-rat) created the most incredible works of art using, not brush strokes, but small dots of colour. This means one thing though: stand too close to any of his paintings and they just look like a mess of tiny splodges. But stand back…. and be prepared to be hit by the beauty and sense of his work. Yes, sense. Suddenly, it all becomes clear.

Yup. And that’s life for you, too.

Although, here’s the thing…. this happens on a couple of levels. Live long enough, and you’ll see the pattern emerge.

1) The conscious level. This is all those times someone (usually a parent, haha!) gives you advice/instructions that at the time annoy the bejabbers out of you, only to discover afterwards (sometimes years afterwards!) that they were in fact, correct.

2) The subconscious level. This is where the big pain and big changes often happen. This is where the ‘advisors’ themselves are actually unaware of what is taking place…

Who are they? Usually (but not always), they are people who pride themselves on their ability to manipulate people and circumstances and are so often totally unaware of the big picture. Of what is actually occurring. Of course, I speak only from my own past experience. It can also be a pleasant process, with pleasant people. But, more often than not, it isn’t. This is why it all seems so clouded and incomprehensible at the time.

Sometimes you will find someone who plays chess with people’s lives, moving them around like the useless or inconvenient pawns they presume them to be. Playing with them like a spiteful child would play with puppets.

What few realise is that it is they who are the puppets, with the Universe, some greater power using them as tools to force/enable us to move onto some greater purpose. And as they clap their hands and congratulate themselves with smug self-hugs on another life ruined, another face-that-doesn’t-fit gone from their tiny kingdom, little do they know they have in fact helped the caterpillar break (however painfully) out from their cocoon and take to the skies of their future. They are in fact being used to help you, not hurt you – ultimately. Though it’ll never feel like it at the time!

So many incredible things in life are achieved only through pain: birth, growing teeth, healing…  Think of how a horseshoe is made – no amount of pleasantries or cajoling will coax that straight piece of metal into its final shape. Try it. Okay, start with something feasible like a wire coat hanger. Tell it to become an egg whisk. You know, one of those curly ones. Talk to it nicely. Offer it treats, bribes, then ultimately reminders, particularly about ‘how disappointed’ you are. I’m guessing nothing much will happen until you forcibly twist and twirgle it into shape. Ouch.

Think something doesn’t make sense? Step back.

 

 


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Sometimes the best things in life are free!

Life is pants.

“Never sweat the petty things, and never pet the sweaty things.”

Good advice.

I also like “Never sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.” I’m not sure about the link between perspiration and good advice, but I’m sure someone out there is clever enough to come up with a syllogism for that too. There is so much advice out telling us what not to do for a happier, healthier life, in the form of books, videos, cute little memes (yes, them again!). But say we’re fortunate/determined enough to give up over-thinking, over-analysing, over-indulging, over-anything-else-ing, with what exactly do we fill the void?

Over the decades, I’ve seen so many parents barking ‘don’t ‘s at their kids: don’t run, don’t talk back, don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it’s been (bonus points on that one!), without offering an alternative… I would just once like a toddler, on being told not to run, reply “But mother, I’m only three years old, it’s in my programming to run everywhere. I’ve only recently perfected this technique of movement, and I wish to maximise my newly acquired skill. Give me an alternative, mother, and I will gladly comply.”

Or, more simply put – “Don’t run? What else am I supposed to do?”

So, here’s my two penn’orth: always have an alternative option to hand. Want someone to stop doing something (and that includes you!)? Then give them an alternative or two to try out. In sort, have a Plan B (C, D, and so on). Have a escape route. You always have a choice.

I like to do swapsies… Swap horrors for delights. And make the most of those delights, even if they are only tiny ones. Find yourself a list of simple pleasures. Make these the things you dwell on as you fall asleep at night, rather than visualising the person who hurrumphed at you in that queue, or who took your last Jaffa cake…

There are a few simple pleasures in life which can’t be beaten. Not in the schadenfreude kind of way, you know, where you derive deep pleasure from seeing the person who cut you up on the road get stuck behind a horsebox. No, I mean the true, pure innocent pleasures of life.

Here are some of mine…

  1. Moonwalking (literally) out of a pair of socks after a long day.

  2. Duvet Arms. This is when you snuggle down under the covers after sitting up in bed with bare arms. Try it. You’ll be glad you did.

  3. Climbing into bed with fresh sheets, especially after a shower.

  4. Radiator Pants. On a cold day, leaving your clothes on a radiator overnight and donning deliciously warm undies the next morning.

  5. Sitting down on the sofa and finding that the cushion fits your back perfectly, without any need to shuffle it around first.

What five things will make your list?

 


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…because no good story ever started with a salad.

One Meme Mama

****WARNING****

This is another of those posts which are unsuitable for anyone of an oversensitive disposition, and may contain opinions which differ from yours.

Okay, those of you that know me will get that the above is largely tongue-in-cheek. Having said that, I am unapologetic for being me, as I have had very little offstage practice at being anyone else.

I do feel that, as I’m on my soapbox today, you do at least deserve to be forewarned in order to prepare your nerves for one of my inevitable rants. Perhaps ‘rant’ is a strong word, but certainly these days, anything spoken about with passion or conviction is pigeonholed as either ranting or rousing – depending on where you stand via-à-vis the issue in question.

Yesterday, I saw a meme on one of the many available social networks. It was a beautiful selection of pastel swirls, decorated with a suitably heroic font and almost perfect grammar.

Only a mother can love and protect a child.

At first I wanted to reach for a bucket at the emotive saccharine. That quickly changed to a little hurt and outrage as it (I felt) sought to over-spiritualise those that do, and marginalise those who don’t have children.

So, let’s burst that elitist bubble right now. I have charge of a small group of darling little humans once a week. I teach them about being alive; they teach me about being human. I would happily die for any one of that little group. Or kill for them. I know which option sounds more fun…

No, I don’t have kids ‘of my own‘ (like you could ‘own‘ them anyway!). No doubt something else to do with my crazy vampire genes.

I’m going to throw out a few generalisations at you. Fellow vampires (if there are any) – please feel free to back me up here…. we don’t feel comfortable at baby showers. We’re grateful for the invite, to know you are including us but when we go, it does feel like we’re the only gluten-intolerant at a coffee morning…

Look, we know you can’t have cake, but you’re welcome to watch us eat some. Ooh! Here’s a Victoria Sponge for you to hold.

(the little devil sat on my shoulder tells me I should know my place as an inferior specimen and to hold my envious tongue. He then kicks me in the ear for good measure).

Ok, so no, I have never given birth. But then, neither have a lot of adoptive mums who will switch just as quickly to mamma bear mode when needed. I’ve never been catapulted into the heart of a sun, but I still know to put sunblock on if it’s a sunny day.

But here’s a thought that’ll fry your pancakes.

Everything happens for a reason, right?

What if….

What if the reason that some of us don’t have kids is not what we think?

I’m talking big, philosophical reasons here, people. Two, at least.

Bear with me: this applies to humans too.

Number One

I believe there is literally more to life than what we have in this physical body. what if it all plays out on a longer time scale as a result?

To clarify – consider the way we could never have all those things we wanted as a child (remember saying “when I grow up, I’m going to…”?), but we were able to do/have/be those very things when we became adults…

What if, in the grand scheme of things, this life is only the childhood section of an eternal life track..? Trust me, I’ve had long enough to contemplate eternity!

Number Two

And this is the possibility which I find particularly makes sense to me :

They say (I’ve still to discover who ‘they‘ are) that life/God/the universe only gives you the lessons you need to learn. Notice how certain things keep happening to you, until you learn to get past them? A good teacher will never set a task that the pupil has already succeeded at. What a waste of time that would be! When I went to school, my first teacher did not teach me how to go to the toilet successfully – that had already been accomplished (the same went for reading and writing, incidentally).

So what if…

What if the reason some people remain childless is because the skills and talents needed be a parent are already in place in these individuals? What if it’s actually a box we’ve already got ticked?

Lesson learned, move on.

What if we don’t have kids because we simply don’t need to practice being parents? (oh, you’re just trying to justify your failure to accomplish a fundamental human function, says the little shoulder devil again. Well, he can do one, for a start) Look around at the people you know that don’t have kids. I’m betting a fair few of them are actually pretty good around the little ankle-biters. How did they get to be so good with kids if they don’t have any in what must be their empty, unfulfilled, incomplete little lives (yes, I’ve had all those adjectives levelled at me at various points in my ’empty’ life!)?

But, in the meantime, we have to live in a worldly world that wants everyone (humans and vampires alike) to feel pained over what they don’t have. To focus on that pain until they – we – feel like utter failures.

I can’t ride a bike, said the fish. I’m a failure.

I can’t fly, said the elephant. I’m a failure.

Stuff this, said the earthworm. I’m outta here.

Excuse me, I have an imaginary shoulder devil to throttle. Please feel to give your own a darn good talking to as well.

 


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(((hugs)))

Sole Mates

Let’s get this contentious issue out of the way immediately…

There is no such practical thing as ‘finding’ a soulmate.  (I’ve probably lost half of you straight away)

It comes from Greek myth.

According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”

― PlatoThe Symposium

From the people who brought you the woman who turns men to stone with one look, and the man with a bull’s head… Funny how we don’t hold those stories quite so dear as a lifestyle choice...

Soulmates do exist, yes, but finding one? Practical thinking now, people. Measure it up against the other myths.

No, folks, narcissists don’t turn into flowers; ferrymen do get paid, and let’s not even talk about Oedipus! And yet folks are happy to believe there’s that one perfect person who will magically appear.

One?! Just one?! I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy those odds! And if you never find them? Well, that makes you responsible for ruining the life of someone out there…

And what if you find the wrong person? You’re depriving someone of their soulmate, thereby ruining the lives of three people.

You make the person you choose your soulmate. And they in turn make you theirs.

Okay, so let’s buy into this for a moment… say that –

YOU’VE FOUND HIM/HER – WHAT NEXT?

Prince Charming farts, Belle has to sort out Beast’s ingrown chin hairs, and Rapunzel’s prince picks his teeth at the dinner table.

The fairy tale is there, but sometimes the world gets in the way. Take as simple a thing as your prince waking you up in the morning…

The Hollywood:

He kissed her gently on her forehead. She stretched languorously, sighing as she slowly awakened. Peeling back the covers, she slipped gracefully from the bed and, with her hair slightly tousled and her make-up still intact, she smiled gorgeously at him as she slinked off to the bathroom.

The reality:

He kissed her gently on her forehead. She stretched awkwardly through the tangle of bedclothes, letting rip a terrifying fart and a satisfied groan as something clicked in her back. Ignoring the look of gassed-out horror on his face, she tumbled gracelessly from the bed, releasing such odours as would make her beloved’s face crease in disbelief as she lumped her way to the bathroom, tripping over last night’s bed socks as she went.

 While describing the stories of fairytale heroines, a wise man once said: “Sandwiched between their ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after‘, they all had to experience great adversity.”

The fairy tale can continue – particularly if you look at it from an eternal perspective – you just have to accept that while you are living in this world, worldly things will sneak in and kill the moment. A lot. It would be wonderful, for example, to spend forever staring into each other’s eyes, but you must eat, or your human body will die. To eat, you must cook.

To cook, you must have food.

To have food, you must shop.

To shop, you must have money.

To have money, you must work.

To work, you must rest.

To rest, you must have a safe place, a home.

To have a home, you must –

You get the idea. And don’t even get me started on the washing up (no, literally – don’t!)!

And, of course, the going to the bathroom. I’ve never seen a fairy tale princess sat on the bog – have you? So unromantic and yet so unavoidable.

Life cannot be 100% fairy tale – you’d be dead within a month – see above. But neither can life be 100% the human necessities. So…

If you can just accept that these icky human details must and will be attended to, you will be able to enjoy the fairy tale moments much more.

So, dance on the beach in the moonlight, kiss under the stars… Just remember – that toilet won’t clean itself.

And then we’ll all live happy ever after.

 

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Ah… that’s better.

Coldsore salad

Pardon the gross title. Heh heh heh…

Aaand I’m back! Happy autumn, everyone! I’ve been away, in hiding/hibernation/cold storage. I have to do this every year, just in case we have a decent summer here in Britain. It’s yet to happen, but I would hate to get caught out!

So, here I am, with more raves, rants, and seriously random health tips…

And I’m not the only one that’s back. The students have started reappearing in their case-dragging masses. Which means one thing: very, very late loud nights. Now, this really shouldn’t bother me, what with my being a nocturnal animal and all that. Sadly, just like humans, I still have bills, and those bills say that I have to be a diurnal animal (luckily, I love my job!). This means that (like a lot of humans) I have to sleep during the night.

This is made extremely difficult because I’m constantly being distracted by my animal loving side hearing what sounds like a hundred cats being strangled outside. Of course, it isn’t a hundred cats being strangled at all: it’s just a hundred drunken teenagers let off the leash for possibly the first time in their lives.

But you really know when the students are back when you’re in a supermarket and it takes six people to buy one chocolate bar. And then the following conversation ensues at the till:

A: I’ve only got 47p I need 79p. B, can you lend me the rest? I’ll pay you back later.

B: I’ve only got 20p on me but I still owe you £1.50 from last night so if I give you the 20p would that do for now?

C: I tell you what, B owes me £1.70 for that bottle of water, so if I give you the money, she can owe me.

A: Great, thank you!

C: Oh, but I only have a 50 pence coin on me at the moment… I know, if-

Just buy the wretched chocolate!!!

Then, to add to the externally imposed sleep deprivation, there’s the meteorologically based skin problems…

Sunburn: no problem. Eat loads of tomatoes; cover up, aloe vera for the unlucky bits.

And then there’s the real villain: cold sores. Now, I know most people get these during winter, but for me, when I get them, they’re triggered by sunlight. But here’s a little secret that the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know about: Lysine.

Here comes the science bit…

Our DNA is made up of strands of four chemicals (called base pairs) holding hands: Adenine with Thymine, and Cytosine with Guanine. The only time they let go is when your body’s cells split to make new cells. Viruses like cold sores have their own twisty-windy thing called RNA, which is basically a cheap knock-off, using the pairs Adenine/Uracil and Guanine/Cytosine. Viruses con your body into replicating them instead of your own cells. So when your DNA unzips itself, ready to get all jiggy and replicatey, the viral string of RNA slips up in there and tricks your cells into making another one of it, rather than another body cell. Rather like when you go to make a cuppa and your lazy toad friend says “Hey, make me one while you’re there!”

So, in steps Lysine. It interrupts the process, acting in much the same way as a vet in the same room as a male dog and a big pair of scissors. Take this and it will stop them in their tracks. Until of course, you catch the next one!

Okay, so I’ve probably just lost any readers who are biologists with my simplifying and Everyday-ifying this. Oh well.

Just…. Trust me on this.

It’s good to be back.

 


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It’ll be fun. Honest.

Trigger Happy

I found out something new this week: the phrase “trigger warning”. Never heard of it before. Found out the hard way. I went onto an online baking forum to make a simple enquiry about an ingredient because of something my doctor has advised me to do (yes, even I have to seeks a physician’s aid occasionally).

Someone got extremely upset over my question because one of the words I used was a ‘trigger’ for them. The word? “Calorie”. As simple (and deadly) as that. It seems they were recovering from an un-diagnosed (what?) eating disorder (which I’d had myself, many moons ago), and certain words get them irritated. So I was asked to put a ‘trigger warning’ on it  Remember that this was a site dealing with baking some relatively unhealthy items!

So, someone weighed in telling this person to put down their internet device and go for a walk, preferably nowhere with food shops that might have foods labelled with nutritional values, then someone else weighed in, supporting the person, and how heartless everyone in the entire world was being. And so the battle between Camp Cottonwool and Camp Common Sense continued for a while.

I stepped in and posted an apology – of sorts.  You know, my sort of apology….

Far be it from me to make light of someone’s issues… You know me, I would never do that, as I stated quite clearly before. My heart goes out to anyone who has a struggle in their lives. After all, mental health issues are no stranger to me, so…

I apologised for upsetting them, and for not having prior knowledge of their issue at time of posting. I thanked  them for helping me learn something new and wished them well. The person felt vindicated and was as nice as pie after that.

Now, I do like to apologise to people, but I do also like acknowledge their behaviour to myself. Funnily enough, No-one ever bothers to read between the lines. For example: One day I was walking down the street and suddenly remembered that I needed to cross the road.  I stopped. The woman behind me walked straight into the back of me, which clearly upset her as I’d interrupted her texting. She scowled at me and ranted something about me watching where I was going. So I simply smiled and said: “I’m so sorry, madam, I didn’t see you behind me.” She softened, smiled back and replied, “That’s alright love.” She just heard what she wanted to hear. The man behind her, however, was about to pass out from laughing.

But seriously, the thing is, every time I go for a ride on my bike, I am reminded of the time I fell off one, fracturing my skull and shoulder, which left me with memory and co-ordination issues. But I choose to get on that bike. Every time I go out in the rain, I am reminded of the time I slipped in thick mud, breaking a finger and shattering an ankle. But I choose to go out in the rain. You get the idea. So, what am I supposed to do? Expect the world to protect me from these things? Or do I show just a lickle bit of common sense and get the heck out of Dodge if something is upsetting me that much?!

I mean, do I go onto Sky Movies and watch Arachnophobia and Eight Legged Freaks and get upset because they contain spiders (remembered I’m terrified of the things)? Do I throw a hissy fit because the description does not contain a ‘trigger warning’? No. I go watch something fluffy instead.  And by fluffy, I mean anything from Frozen to Silent Hill (that line about ‘in the eyes of a child’ makes me blub every time I hear it).

Do we have to protect individuals from their own choices? Is that what they expect? And if so, what on earth happened to Free Will? “You have to protect me from anything nasty or scary or upsetting out there when I accidentally or willingly come across it or seek it out. Only I won’t tell you what scares or upsets me until it’s too late.”

Hmm. I’m wondering if I should start using trigger warnings on this post, to protect those individuals who have Sanguivoriphobia. Basically, just in case this blog gets visited by someone with an irrational fear of vampires. After all, we have to keep everyone safe, don’t we?

 


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Unscrambling eggs

I said before that language is a funny old thing. I stand by that. It can help us, or it can hang us. For instance, take the time I got lost in Brittany… Down the docks. Not a good place for a teenager to get lost at the best of times! The whole idea was that we were in Brittany for a whole week to practice our French (of which I am a native speaker. Oh yes. Thought I’d drop that one on you. I’m a mongrel). Of course, you know how it goes… Everyone else uses you for English target practice. But not on this occasion. I was lost. The rest of the class had disappeared. The docks were otherwise deserted. Well, apart from the odd random group of old gentlemen.

So, hiding my native accent as best I could, I asked the gentlemen, group by group for help. No-one understood me (surely my own accent wasn’t that impenetrable?). So I tried English. The blank stares became blanker. Then something prompted me to try something completely illogical – speak Welsh to them (yes, native speaker… you get the idea). The reaction was instant. Within moments we’d swapped life stories, and they put me on track to re-join my class. You see, they were of a generation that never learned to speak French. Breton was their mother tongue. And Breton just happens to be very similar to Welsh.

Despite my young years, I had realised that they weren’t initially being rude, nor were they wary of some strange youngster pestering them. Nor did they think for a moment that I was being rude. They just didn’t have a clue what I was on about. And that can happen even when you do speak the same language. Beware! How many verbal wranglings have you ended up in for a similar reason?

I know. Me too.

However, you see, another one of my little gifts is that I’m a linguist. I can understand most languages, even ones I didn’t realise I did. Apparently this can be quite startling for anyone watching a subtitled film with me…

But languages aren’t just the obvious ones, you know. Anything that can be used to describe a set of events of experiences is a language.

And this is where I get topical. Science and religion. Why do people who speak sciencese and religionese not realise that they’re talking about the same things, but simply using different languages?

For example:

Place an ovulation from Gallus gallus domesticus in a thermally resistant receptacle and apply heat while producing agitative motions. Continue heat and agitation until there is a denaturing of the protein masses resulting in sufficient coagulation.

Enjoy your scrambled egg.

Okay, so a scrambled egg isn’t exactly a religious experience (depends on the recipe, though, I suppose), but hopefully my point is clear. Both are languages used to explain the universe, our existence, and all other matters in between.

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions how I can possibly be a scientist and a person of faith. Simple. There’s a third leg on this old milking stool called Life. Linguistics. That’s what makes those lightbulb moments happen.

Plus, I’m just really, really old and I can see how all this head-butting isn’t getting anyone anywhere. Just stop it, guys! Just acknowledge there are more languages in Heaven and Earth than dreamt of in your philosophy (sorry, Mister Shakespeare) or just agree to disagree, people. Play nicely.

You can’t untangle denatured protein chains….

 


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