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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Smoke and Mirrors part 2

The mirror incident came about because of something I forgot to tell you. You know how (in modern films at least), how vampires have a low body temperature? Well, this is actually true. I mean, it’s not massively low: they always exaggerate everything in films. I suppose it’s to make us sound more impressive than we already are. Haha. It’s a matter of a few degrees (about 4 or 5 degrees), but it is enough to make a difference physiologically.

I don’t feel the cold that much, but I am very sensitive to heat. And yet, for some reason, I’m like a little human radiator. I never need to wear gloves – even in the snow. In fact, in snowman building season, I’m always the one people come to when they want to get their (gloved) hands warmed up! They just grab hold of my little furnace-like mitts and thaw them out.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It was a real nuisance when I was a child, because of course when I was feeling ill, I could have a roaring temperature and the thermometer would say…. Normal. Steam would be practically coming off my eyeballs and Mother would take my temperature and say, “No, you’re fine. Absolutely normal. You can go to school.”

Er, excuse me… I’m standing here with eyes like poached eggs, and you’re telling me that’s normal?

So, as you can imagine, I quickly gained a rather warped view of what constitutes ‘normal’. In the end I had to learn how to fake various illnesses if I really wanted to be treated as ill. That’s another story for another day.

And now, back to the mirrors. Because of the area and time I lived in as a child, we had to be checked for lead poisoning, due to how the water pipes were made in our area (I told you I was old!). Their interesting way of checking us for lead poisoning was to x-ray us. This will make sense in a minute. The temperature thing… This was the problem: if my temperature got too high, I was in trouble. As you can imagine, (high temperature) plus (sensitivity to heat) plus (V12 engine brain) equals… convulsions. Bad ones. I would just have a major neural freakout. This happened every time my temperature went too high. But of course, according to the thermometer, I was perfectly normal. So nobody could quite work out was going on with me. Hence the suspicion of lead poisoning.

This resulted in endless rounds of tests, on top of the lead thing. Everything had to be checked: liver, kidneys, blood, brain… It also led to me having these most horrific eye drops put in which made my eyeballs feel like they were being scrubbed with wire wool (I’m not exactly sure why this was done). They also made my pupils expand so much that my irises would appear to vanish. I have quite large eyes. Not Disney Princess large, but still big enough to give folks a start when I take my glasses off. I guess this is one of the reasons I have light sensitivity.

So where does this tie in with mirrors? One day, on the way back from one such eye-drop test, my father had been asked to go into the butchers and buy some sausages (Mother was always very good at killing as many birds as possible with as few stones as necessary). In this butchers shop hung the most incredibly beautiful mirror I had ever seen. It was full-length (well, full-length to a short 5-year-old) and had the most exquisite frame. It had mermaids and dolphins and seaweed all around it. At the top was that chap with the trident… Poseidon. That’s him. And there were little fish and crabs and waves and all manner of other encrustations. You’d have thought this sort of mirror would be more appropriate in a fishmonger’s, but I never really questioned it…

Anyway, I used to love this mirror and would spend ages staring at each little detail on it. However, on that fateful, post-eye-drop test day, I happened to catch sight of my reflection (yes, I do have one). More importantly, I caught sight of my eyes. Or lack of them, should I say. As I stared into the mirror, a pair of pitch-black animal eyes stared back at me. This caused me to have something of a meltdown, right there in the shop.

I don’t actually remember what happened after that, but apparently it took four men to carry me out of the shop. Even at that young age, I was immensely strong. I have been known to take doors off the hinges. In fact, the other day when I went for a run and stopped by a local bridge to stretch my calf muscles, I almost snapped the handrail of the steps leading up to it. It can be embarrassing.

So, ever since then, I’ve had a phobia of mirrors. Now, I guess that incident alone doesn’t seem enough to cause such an adverse reaction, but there is a little more to it. My big brothers used to make me sit down on a Friday night and watch films with them. Nice? No, not really. One of the TV channels (one of only 3 at the time!) would host a late night Friday creature feature, under the umbrella title of “Appointment With Fear”. Well, when I say ‘late night’, I of course mean it was on after the 10 o’clock news, but that’s really, really late for a little kid to be staying up!

It was the opening sequence that scared the living daylights out of me. There would be this strange and horrible noise in the background and a normal face would appear (turns out it was actually Bride of Frankenstein, but hey, what’s normal anyway?). The seemingly human face would then morph into a monster, and another, and another. It was – to me – far worse than anything in any of the films. (You can check this sequence out for yourself at http://youtu.be/24NiHts3fvU -it’s only the first 15 seconds or so). And then of course, I’d get the standard comment of “That’s you, that is!”

For years afterwards I had a recurring nightmare where I was at a party and when the clock struck midnight, the other guests would force me to sit down in front of a dressing table mirror, and make me watch as I slowly turned into a monster. Very Freudian. No, not Freudian like that! I mean Freudian inasmuch as since then I have tried to lay low, in case people found out what I am. Perhaps this is what made me the Everyday Vampire.

You can probably guess how I got my phobia of spiders…!

 

 


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Smoke and Mirrors part 1

Did I ever mention mirrors?

I think I did. Please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong (said no woman, ever).

I saw this thing the other day. It was a blog telling you how to pretend to be a vampire. It was adorable! It had these really cute pictures and lots of great tips. How did I come across it? I did something that everybody does at some point: I typed my name into Google to see what would come up. Well, not my real name, just my nom d’internet, so to speak. Who hasn’t googled themselves from time to time? You can’t beat a good self-Google, I say.

Anyway, as I said, I came across this gorgeous blog. Written by an enthusiastic teenager, I imagine; given the references to ‘school mates’ and ‘classes’. It was beautifully done – that blogger has a great future ahead of them as a graphic designer. The tips were really sweet, like – always wear sunglasses… well, that’s a one-way ticket to A&E, if you ask me… And things like – never let your friends see you drink; or if you must, make sure you’re drinking tomato juice (you know my view on tomato juice!).

Oh, and of course…

don’t have any mirrors in your home

which I have to agree with. I have one mirror in my home. That’s it. That’s for necessity’s sake. Shaving. I mean, my husband and shaving. Not me! I’m a vampire, not a werewolf!

The reason I don’t have any mirrors is because I have a phobia of them. It stemmed from (as so many phobias do) an incident that happened to me as a small child. This whole thing about vampires and mirrors… you know, the whole ‘a vampire casts no reflection’ thing; although that depends on whatever twist the latest trend is using. Sometimes we have a reflection, sometimes we don’t… The consensus of opinion was always that a vampire doesn’t have a reflection because ‘it’ doesn’t have a soul. (‘it’!! Pffft!)

When you realise that this stuff dates back hundreds of years consider this: mirrors then were not like they are now. They probably weren’t made that well. Whether metal or glass, they almost certainly weren’t flat so only gave you a straight image if you stood right in front of the thing. Therefore, if you stood at an angle, you wouldn’t be seen. Possibly all that would be seen would be the other side of the room. That’s how that one could have started, quite easily! How many times have you seen that little moment in a vampire film? Someone stands in front of a mirror, brushing their hair or whatever, sees nothing but themself, then they turn around and – boom – the vampire is standing there. Cue tense music, flapping of cape and baring of fangs, with obligatory screaming.

However… the person brushing their hair or shaving can see the brush or the razor, and I’m pretty sure brushes and razors don’t have souls either! I just have this image in my head that when we die and go to heaven, we’ll be sat there on our fluffy clouds, playing the harp while surrounded by little hair care accessories with wings…

This also dates back to the days of smudging. I’m all for smudging, if you know what it is, though not for the reason you think, if you knew what smudging was… Er… Anyway… in ye olden days, what they (whoever ‘they’ were) used to do was to take a tied-up bunch of herbs, usually Rosemary or Sage and burn it (a bit like an incense stick).

You have to be careful with Rosemary – it’s very oily and will go up like a rocket if you’re not paying attention! However, accepting for the moment that you’ve got it right, and it’s smouldering away beautifully, you then wave it around doors, windows, and the fireplace – basically, any of the house’s ‘orifices’.

The idea was that smudging – as part of your spring clean – would keep out the evil spirits. How did you know if it had worked? Well, nobody got sick because as everyone knows (or, in those days, knew), sickness is caused by evil spirits. And Rosemary was this magical herb that had the power to ward off these disease-causing evil spirits.

Just goes to show how things change, doesn’t it? Fast forward a few decades/centuries, and it’s discovered that Rosemary is actually a powerful antiseptic. Of course people weren’t being sick. They were disinfecting their house against germs, rather than cheesing off any malevolent spirits with a grudge against the family! So there you go. It’s all a bit of the ‘flat earth’ technology, you know, we’re sure as sure can be of something and then new facts emerge…

What was I talking about? Oh yes, mirrors. The wretched tale of how this vampire became terrified of them….

Oops.


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You keep using that word

Consequences.

Happy New Year! Yes, I know I said that last time, and I’m saying it again – for a very good reason. All will become clear. We all blether on from time to time about consequences, usually those of staying out too late, or watching just one more episode on that DVD, or the one more doughnut that-surely-wouldn’t-hurt. But in this regard we’d probably be better off using a more appropriate word: regret. The actual word ‘consequence’ has been superseded by another, more explosive word – fallout.

It doesn’t matter what the word or action is, there will always be consequences; there will always be fallout. Of course, things like social media have amplified this up to the nth degree. Essentially though, putting your foot in it, or saying / doing something stupid / dangerous / ill advised ‘for a laugh’ or because you’re cheesed off with someone / something is a concept as old as feet or mouths.

Example 1: A number of years ago I was out with a friend, her husband and her small son. We were in a small market town in the south of England, which had a real butchers shop. As it was the boy’s birthday that weekend, my friend and her husband asked me to take the little boy into the butchers shop to buy some sausages while they went to buy him a birthday present. All very secret, hush-hush.

So into the shop I dutifully went with this three-year-old child hanging on my hand. The shop was crowded; there were shelves and packages everywhere. It was unusual in that it had two of those big glass display counters. In one unit was the standard array: mince, chops, chicken legs et cetera. In the other was a side of beef. And I mean an entire side of beef. It spread along the whole counter. Being at his eye level, the little boy (let’s call him Bob) was immediately drawn to the scene of carnage.

“What that?”  asked young Bob.

“Beef.” I said.

He repeated his question. I repeated my answer. He tried the question again, slightly more forcefully this time. I thought I couldn’t really unleash the truth on such a small child. However his insistence left me with no option.

“What that?” came the question again.

“It’s half a dead cow. Okay?”

At that point, I had to take him hurriedly out of the shop as he burst into tears rather loudly. I did not tell his parents exactly what had happened: only that he had gotten a little fractious in the shop. The consequences only made themselves apparent a few years later.

Fast forward four years and one sibling later. I was at the christening of their second child. Bob was now seven years old. The proud parents gave a speech about welcoming the new baby to the family. In particular, they were singing the praises of young Bob, who apparently was the ideal older brother. He was a young man of honour and conviction. For example, out of the blue, at the age of three, he had decided to become a vegetarian, and still was one…

I shrunk down in my seat and said nothing…

I have my own scary butchers shop story, which left me with Spectrophobia – you’ll hear about that next time.

Example 2 – and this is where I was leading with my initial salutation. ‘Calan Hen’ is a Welsh tradition that is celebrated on the 6th January. It’s when the Christmas decorations come down, and you have to stop telling people ‘Happy New Year’, because the New Year just ain’t that new any more.

That’s what my mother told us.

Deciding to read up on this nationwide tradition, I uncovered something quite alarming.

None of it is true.

Calan Hen is indeed a celebration of the old New Year, just not what we were all brought up with. It started back in 1752 when the British dumped the old Julian calendar in favour of the new and shiny Gregorian calendar. Consequence? 11 days got lost. The previous New Year’s Day fell on what was now January 12.

But, undaunted, January 12th continued to be celebrated (two for the price of one, if you like), with children going from house to house with apples skewered with sprigs of holly, wishing the householders Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (I’ll leave you to work that one out!!) and collecting calenning (a few coins) as a reward for their good wishes. Oh, and of course there was the football match between one village and the next, with the churches of each serving as goalposts. I think they still do it, although in these days of Health & Safety, less people end up dead or maimed.

And there was something else, too. It wasn’t a nationwide celebration at all. It is a celebration that is exclusive to my home village. Which explains a lot of weird looks I got years later from fellow Welshies that I met.

So, be careful what you say or do – it might just come back and bite you on the bum…

Talking of bums and consequences: on a lighter note, I had one thing happen to me today that (I think) had a positive consequence, if rather painful. I had gone to the market to stock up on all the ingredients I need for my A+ juice and as usual overdid it a bit. So, as I bent over to put things into my rucksack, someone whacked me sharply on the backside. Standing up, I was expecting to see one of my friends. Imagine my surprise to see a completely unknown and random female grinning at me.

“You’re a cute little minx,” she said, “you do know that, don’t you?”

Consequence? I’m gonna have a bruise tomorrow, but it still made my day!!