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Monday, 19 September 2016

The Power of Friends with Stripes - how a zebra aided my mental health


Hello hello.

Today, I have a guest post over at my local branch of the mental health charity Mind, and guess which story I decided to share ...


If you've been visiting me here for a long time then you'll probably already know the backstory of the unlikely bond I made with a plastic zebra. If you're newer to me you might just have thought I have a  zebra collection because I like stripes. Which I do ... but there' more to it than that.

I'm always, always, keen to have the story - and indeed little companion zebras - reach and help more people so I leapt at the chance to share it with the Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind blog readers.

Here's how the story begins ...

"Depression can be a lonely place; one where, as well as battling with ourselves, we might also struggle to explain to others how we’re feeling. [...] 

But what if we had a secret back-up to help us approach those moments with a little added confidence? What if we could find a calm, constant, non-judgemental companion who wouldn’t leave our sides, who could help us concentrate when things got a bit wobbly, who could reassure us that no, we aren’t going to die, we’re going to breathe slowly, get through this, and then get home for tea and biscuits unharmed. 

 What if that someone, that calming friend, could fit in our bag or pocket so no one around would know they were there? And what if that someone wasn’t a someone at all … but rather a plastic zoo animal?" 


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If you know someone:

  • struggling with their mental health right now;
  • or who needs a little confidence boost;
  • or who is anxious about starting a new venture (maybe someone heading to University for the first time);
... and you feel like there's nothing you can do ... please know that there is, even if it feels like a tiny gesture.

Share my zebra story from the Mind blog today with them and maybe even find them a striped supporter of their own.

Or - if you are that person - get one for yourself, or print one out, or draw one ... whatever helps. (In an ideal world I'd buy up the world's supply of plastic zebras and hand them out to anyone who needed one!

Zebras don't solve our problems for us ... but they do make excellent companions while we work on the rest. (Now there's a sentence you don't expect to hear very often).

If you do join in the stripey army, whenever, do let me know. But for now ... make sure to read the full story here ... so that everything else begins to make sense!

Julie


Monday, 5 September 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: August


Hello, hello.

I won't lie, I'm definitely struggling to keep up with my Month in Numbers but I'm determined to see the year out (marking 7 years of numerical-life-documenting) before setting it gently to one side. (I may cry ...)

And it's not just my own regular feature I'm struggling to carry on with ... I've also let the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt slide and, as September arrived, I would usually join in with Shimelle's Learn Something New Everyday project too ... but I can't seem to get going with that either.

I'm trying not to read too much into all of this (even though it's giving me a few pangs) as it just feels like another in a long line of shifts in focus I've had over the last year. And it's not like I'm not being creative any more ... I'm just not yet sharing everything I've been up to.  When I've got something properly share-worthy to tell ... I'll be telling you. I swear. You won't be able to shut me up.

And now ... before I postpone this for another week ... to the numbers ...


100 people, 1 novelist, 1 basement
 I travelled up to Waterstones Newcastle last month to hear novelist Jessie Burton discussing her latest book The Muse. You might know Burton from her bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist which the BBC have just announced they're adapting into a 3 part series due to air in 2017, but here she was, rightly, focussing on her new work which I read this summer on its release.

It's the 3rd author event I've attended this year and I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of hearing from people who've gone through the entire process from having a tiny idea and then nurturing it into a papery object that other people can hold in their hands. They make it all seem 'possible'.

We even sat in the front row, which came in useful as there was no stage, so if we'd had to sit further back I'm not sure we'd have been able to see her amid the other warm bodies in the stifling basement.

And I say 'we' because, for once, I didn't go alone. I met up with Dawn of the lovely Book and Brew blog  (Book and Brew. You can imagine why I felt she and I might get along.)

We met up in a slightly hipstery cafe - like bloggers are legally meant to do and we both took photos of the Jessie Burton window displays. For important Instagramming purposes. (I'm @withjuliekirk Dawn is @bookandbrew2719).

And, unlike the last time I met up with someone in 'real life' who I'd befriended online (which I wrote all about, in graphic, bodily detail last month in a post all about periods) nothing surprising happened to me in the toilets ... unless you count this ...

My 5th dachshund of the month:
Last month, in my crafty work life - I was commissioned by a magazine to work on 4 dachshund-themed items. Dog-phobic me. Not that I was afraid of paper and card dogs .. it was just a strange task to write up the text having to say nice things about man's best friend! But hey, I'm a professional .. and even I can see that they're cute dogs, so I finished it and sent it all off.

Then, inside the Tyneside Cinema cafe, where I'd met Dawn, I went to the loo only to be greeted by this chap:
Depending on how philosophical you're feeling it was either a sign from the universe that there's simply no getting away from your fears ... or just an advert for the Wiener Dog movie.

Now, while my crafting work's still fresh in my mind:

250 greeting cards, 10 gift bags, 13 gift tags: (BTW: for a few minutes after taking this photo I couldn't find the biscuits which I knew I'd put down in the mess somewhere ... #spottheRichTea)
I decided to sort out all of the projects I make for the magazine which then get returned to me following publication ... which took up a lot of space! Sometimes you take your own work for granted don't you? But en masse like that - several years' worth of my work laid out before me - I have to admit, with  all the colours, all the designs, all the care and attention  I impressed myself!  (BTW: If you fancy taking some of the 250 cards off my hands they're available in my Etsy shop)

And speaking of  Etsy ...

I reached over the 600 mark in my happy customer Etsy feedback!
I ask for feedback from my customers because I personally read feedback before ordering from a new seller as it's a useful barometer of quality and trustworthiness. So when I receive feedback (which you can read here) it really makes my day knowing that not only was that customer happy with their product and service but that future customers will now see those kind words and go on to trust me with their money and expectations. If you've ever left feedback for my shop or any independent seller, on Etsy or any other platform, then you've done a good thing - thank you!

Over 200 pairs of shoes from over 2000 years:
No, that's not what I bought last month, although you'd be forgiven for thinking ... it was actually the contents of the latest high-profile fashion-history exhibition at the Bowes Museum:
The Shoes: Pleasure & Pain exhibition was, as you might imagine, an absolute dream of a day out for a shoe-lover like me. I didn't take any photos inside - I wasn't sure it was allowed - but it's just as well as I'd have wanted to take sooooooo many that I might have missed absorbing the actual items in front of me. If you want to catch the exhibition it's at Bowes (County Durham) until 9th October before touring internationally. Check out more from the exhibition, including the thousands of red shoelaces dangling from the ceiling (which I couldn't stop looking at!!!) here.

After visiting the exhibition we walked into Barnard Castle right past a sign outside a church hall which read:
"Charity Book Sale. All Books 50p"
So we turned around promptly and spent a long while browsing the entire room filled with tables covered in boxes of books:
I bought 6 including a 111 year old copy of Hamlet!

(You could call it an anniversary gift ... as August 19th marked one year since I saw Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet. But you'd probably forgotten about that because I've never mentioned it since ... )

After finding those bookish gems my treasure-seeking good fortune continued ...

I discovered  2 vintage floral pillowcases, still in their original packaging,  in a charity shop for just £2.99!
Gorgeously gorgeous loveliness!!! Can;t wait to combine them with some of my other vintage bedding.

And, while we were shopping, we also spotted ... 1 cast member of Game of Thrones. Or at least we're 99.9% certain it was Gwendoline Christie, strolling past us which sounds incredibly unlikely ... but she's a striking woman, and not easily mistaken. We didn't bother her ... we just took great pleasure in seeing the almighty Brienne of Tarth window shopping in a little market town!

And finally ...

I watched the Jake Gyllenhall film 'Demoliton' twice in 48 hours:
When I work from home I rarely, if ever, take advantage of an empty sofa and a remote control to myself and watch TV during the day. But one day last month on a day I'd scheduled a day off my plans were cancelled last thing leaving me with time on my hands ... so I put a big mug of tea in those hands, plus a few butter crunch biscuits, put a blanket over me, and rented out Demolition from the Virgin movies on demand thingy.

When I told James that it was worth watching  (my amazing review "His wife dies then he smashes stuff up" clearly won him over) he watched it too ... and I sat in on it again because: Jake Gyllenhaal.

If you too fancy ... well if you fancy Jake Gyllenhaal then it's a no brainer, but it's also for you if you fancy watching a good film, with an unusual love/grief story. And, like me, you may be able to use it to win around someone who wouldn't normally choose an emotional / human interest type movie as they can enjoy:

  • all that smashing up of stuff (it made me cringe ... so much destruction!!) 
  • while you are left to enjoy - I know I should write something like "the great script" here ... but I just keep thinking about the scene where he's crying in the bathroom. Naked.
----------------------


OK, I think that's a good place for me to leave things and duck out of here. If nothing else you'll want to get on with searching for and renting out Demolition your day.

I hope September's treating you kindly ... mine's OK so far but I'm not sure about that chill in the air. I don't approve.

Julie x


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

What happens under the fancy chandelier, stays under the fancy chandelier: a tale of pale dresses, periods, and female friendship.


Hi you.

A little context ...

When the events I've written about here first happened to me my initial thought was "Well now, there's a part of my holiday I won't be blogging about!".  And I thought I meant it. I did at the time I suppose.

And then ... because I'd ruled it out, and because I can be quite contrary, and because I quite often change my mind about my fears once I've spoken them out loud ... the idea just got lodged in my brain. I kept thinking "Y'know ... if this moment was powerful enough to make you decide against sharing it ... maybe it's exactly the thing you should be writing about."

Maybe it'll unlock a few stories from others, raise a few 'me too!'s, make someone reading it feel it isn't just them who things like that happen to. (Seriously, if there's a bigger goal in my life I haven't found it yet. It's apparently what I'm here for.)

And so my initial reaction of 'don't say it' became a red rag rag to a bull.

Pun intended.

Now, one year on, here it is.

*TMI WARNING*: if you'd prefer not to read about me discussing:

  • [a] periods 
  • and [b] yet a-bloody-gain that time I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet ... (frankly I don't know which will be worse for you) ...
... then simply click away now, move on down the road, and you and I can catch up in another blog post at another time. 

Still here? OK then ... here we go ... 





When I went to Monkey World, in Dorset, I almost went blind with excitement. True story.

I was 30 at the time.

OK, so maybe that strange disc of light in my eye, blocking my vision for a week, was just an especially tenacious, and strangely timed, migraine … but still. Whatever it was it happened while I was visiting the famous ape rescue centre, an experience I’d looked forward to for months.

This is not that story.

No. Rather I offer it as context, as a way to demonstrate how, when it comes to reacting inappropriately to an occasion I’ve been eagerly anticipating, my body has previous form.

Because this is the story of how - the day I was going to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet - my body decided to offer me an additional accompaniment to seeing one of my favourite actors in my favourite role: the gift of an unexpected period.

Oh body. You had one job.

And while you may have left almost a decade in between your earlier primate inspired opening salvo and this bloody coup d’├ętat, I've got to give you credit for your innate nay, Shakespearean, sense of dramatic timing.

But at least the appearance of this ‘gift’- in the toilets of the Tate Modern art gallery (no Jackson Pollock jokes please) - explained the dizziness I’d been feeling for the previous couple of days.

Until that point I’d been putting it down to the headiness of being a naive North Easterner set loose in the Big Smoke for a few days. A North Easterner with a front row ticket to the biggest show in town in her clammy little hand. (OK, so it was the front row of the upper circle from where I couldn’t see all of stage and where, admittedly, the altitude was slightly thinner, but a front row seat with an unobscured view of Benny’s sweat and tears as he recited some of my most beloved lines in all of the English language, is still a front row seat.)

And no wonder I'd felt so at home in the dimly lit womblike magnificence of the Tate’s dedicated ‘Rothko room’ surrounded as it is on all sides by the artist’s huge deep red, maroon, and black paintings.
The Mark Rothko 'Seagram Murals' 
The explanatory notes to the exhibition read: “Mark Rothko saw these paintings as objects of contemplation demanding the viewer’s complete absorption”. And my uterus clearly took this as a call to action.

So there I was, in a Tate Modern toilet cubicle ...
Genuine Tate Modern #bathroomselfie
... facing up to the inescapable fact that in a matter of hours, when the curtain went up on Cumberbatch, I’d have to sit in one spot for several hours (it's Shakespeare's longest play!) wearing  the dress I’d picked out so carefully beforehand, hoping that the only bodily fluids I’d be leaking on it would be tears. (Yes I cried. Of course I cried.) Unlike the majority of the play's characters would my lovely dress come out of this alive?

My lovely dress. My lovely vintage dress. My lovely off white vintage dress.

The dress, waiting for me expectantly back in the hotel room.

Today body? Really?

I didn’t need to panic straight away though, I’m a grown woman and this wasn’t my first time at the menstruation rodeo (is that a thing? I bet it is a thing somewhere. Imagine.) and I had some emergency tampons in my bag. I always do; tampons (‘cos you just never know), tissues (need you ask?), biscuits (‘cos: biscuits) and a pen and paper (‘cos when things like this happen you know I’ll be writing it all down).

But I had only come prepared with the ‘Light’ variety and quite frankly, for the sake of the dress and my dignity, I’d have much preferred to have had the back-up of the ‘Whoah there these will suck so much moisture out of you you’d better have a drink handy’ sort.

But life doesn’t always check what kind of sanitary protection you’re packing before it gives you bloody lemons, does it ladies?

I suppose I could have gone out and bought something more reassuringly absorbent but we didn’t have a great deal of time to go wandering. We needed to eat, go back to the hotel, shower and change and then find the theatre - on the other side of the city - which neither I nor James had ever been to before. Plus, truth be told, I hadn’t the first idea about where one would go to buy such dreary essentials in London.

I mean, I was only in town for a total of around 70 hours yet I could have told you a dozen places on the South bank where you could pick up organic rhubarb juice or anything you could ask for served up in a brioche bun but I wouldn’t have known where to begin to track down anything practical. (Is there such a thing as a pack of Regular tampons and a pint of semi-skimmed in all of the capital?)

So I just made do with what I had and I refused to change my wardrobe plans. (If that doesn’t tell you about my dedication to wearing the right thing for the right occasion then nothing will.) And I headed to the Barbican in the clothes I’d always intended.

And you can forget about carefree teenagers rollerblading in white shorts; what those feminine hygiene advertisers really ought to be filming is a stubborn woman who’s had her outfit picked out for weeks, speed-walking, in wedges, across London in a light drizzle, who gets to the theatre on time, all while successfully not bleeding on a stone-coloured 1970s vintage dress.

Because Hamlet doesn’t stop when your period starts.
I know, I look so relaxed don't I? 

Long story short … everything behaved as it should, including Benny C, and there was no untoward gushing (don’t). Which was just as well really as I had an eagle-eyed usher sitting inches away from me throughout, facing into the audience, to prevent anyone taking photos of the stage (you might remember this post where I talked all about it)  So if I had bled on the upholstery the chances of me casually sneaking out afterwards would have been very slim.

Right then, so now we’ve got Hamlet cleanly out of the way let’s leap to the next morning, where I’d arranged to meet up with Kirsty, the loveliest of longtime best friends but who, until that morning, I’d only ever spoken to online. Again, I had my outfit planned in advance, and again – as it was yet another light coloured dress - it was biologically inappropriate. (One look at my wardrobe choices could tell you I really hadn’t been anticipating being anywhere near any blood at that particular moment in time).
Me, in the frock, on the way to meet Kirsty.
Here again I decided not to change my outfit plans; not least because as we’d never met in ‘real life’ before, I’d told her to keep a look out beneath the London Eye for someone wearing a white dress with black pinstripes.

If you’re going to be unromantic about it, yes, we did have each other’s phone numbers, and yes I could have phoned her to warn her of the change, but I generally don’t make a massacre of my clothing and so I thought I’d be OK, that there was no real need to be extra careful by dressing head to toe in black.

It would be fine sticking with the white dress. Wouldn't it?

After more criss-crossing of London, chatting, taking photos, visiting an exhibition at Royal Academy, all while wearing white, (those advertisers were missing another trick) we settled in Fortnum & Mason’s ice cream parlour – because if anything is going to seal this momentous meeting-in-real-life stage of our friendship it was eating expensive ice cream together.

Although, apparently, there was an even greater friendship testing moment still to come.

On a visit to the Fortnum & Mason's toilets – which contained a glittering, glinting, chandelier, #poshestloosever - it turned out that I seriously and swiftly needed to change my protection (and no, that doesn't mean I needed a new bodyguard. Although Bodyform? Maybe.).

And also possibly, if a little belatedly, I could have done with a reassessment of my dress choice. Without going into graphic detail, there had been a mere hair’s breadth between where I’d halted the situation and where it could soon have ended up. ie: on the back of my dress.

So I got myself straight, sorted ‘things’ out and headed back out beneath the fancy chandelier where I was then faced with a decision as to whether or not to say something truly, bloodily, corporeal that could test our hitherto virtual friendship:
  • Do I say something about my near-miss? 
  • Do I break into this day of delightful culture and violet-petal ice-cream sundaes with some casual menstruation chat? 
  • Do I ask her to keep a look out through the rest of the day for further thrills and spills? Because while I doubted it would have ended up as something akin to that scene in Carrie … , I could have easily come away from the situation looking like I’d sat on, and crushed to death, an unfortunate mouse.
And, because I’m a grown up, and because I couldn't live with the possibility that I’d end up walking around the country’s capitol with a blood stain on my airy summer linen, I decided that I would say something. Surely a small mortification in an extremely posh shop was better than the leaky alternative? And so I announced:

“I’ve had a bit of an incident … the kind you don’t want to have while you’re wearing a white dress.” And without hesitation Kirsty turned to me and asked:

“Are you alright?”

But it was more than that. In those 3 words she wasn’t just asking if I was OK, she was asking “Have you got what you need?”, she was asking “Can I do anything? Can I help you out?”

And – as tests of friendships go – her response was quite the clincher in fact, I consider our Molly Hooper and Sherlock moment (well, I would, wouldn’t I?). But, seriously, bear with me, in Season 2 Ep 3, The Reichenbach Falls episode Sherlock, knowing he’s got to get himself out of a tricky situation, goes to see Molly and says - (no, not “Molly I’ve just leaked blood everywhere, help!” but ...) “I think I’m going to die”.

And – just like Kirsty did to me – Molly responds immediately with “What do you need?”.



That’s a true friend right? And I – and my light coloured dresses - consider myself fortunate to have found myself a friend in the Molly Hooper mould.

 Another woman defiantly wearing a white frock. Portrait of  'Marguerite Kelsey' by Meredith Frampton, Tate Modern. 

  • Someone who understands.
  • Someone who is totally there for you in the moment and who doesn’t ask too many awkward follow-up questions! 
  • Someone who keeps my secret and even comes up with the perfect euphemistic title for the whole situation which we both still use when referring to the 'incident': ‘What happens under the fancy chandelier stays under the fancy chandelier’!
  • She’s even someone who – despite having kept it to herself for a year – has now stuck with me when I decided that – you know what? – even though it's still awkward I actually quite fancy sharing the entire story with all and sundry online! Her encouraging reaction when I told hr made me think that maybe other people would like to hear it too. 

And it's during moments like those I've shared today where female friendship and solidarity means so much. Because this kind event between women doesn’t get talked about very often in public even though it's happening all the time. All. The. Time. 

Everywhere. 

Always (no pun intended).

At any given moment there’s someone in light coloured clothing worrying that she’s carrying around with her the potential for public embarrassment, and – if she’s lucky like I was – she too will have a Kirsty or a Molly who, in an unflinching instant, will offer her support.

Someone who – in the face of unpredictable bodily functions - has got her back.

Someone who she can rely on to always be on red alert. Literally.

Someone who will be prepared to act as her wing woman.

Or, maybe in this instance, ...  her ‘with wings’ woman. (Couldn't resist. Forgive me.)


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I usually say feel free to join in the conversation in the comments or catch me on social media ... but in this case, don't feel obliged. If you're anything like me, maybe it'll take you a year to get around to feeling brave enough! Whatever. I'm sure I'll be around to chat somewhere online in 2017!

But if you do feel happy sharing any similarly life-affirming female friendship tales to tell, then you're very welcome to.

This was scary to put out there. I hope it finds the audience it was intended for.

Julie

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Is life too short to eat a surprise trout? A fishy meditation on adult responsibilities.



“Are you sure this is cod?” I asked, already doubtful of its true nature. It was Easter weekend and we’d eaten all the lamb and chocolate we could, and should, feasibly digest so we made the mature decision to have something lighter for tea. Which is how a so-called ‘cod’of mysterious origins came to be defrosting by the sink.

Its origins were open to debate as neither James nor I had bought it. James had brought it home but he couldn’t even remember if it was something someone had caught themselves then passed on to (or off on) him or if it was one of the random fish he occasionally returns home with after visiting his parents. Although quite what it is about him that makes any number of people feel they need to offer him donations of fish I’m not too sure; perhaps he was a performing seal in a past life?

Either way this creature had been wrapped in a carrier bag and buried in the bottom of our freezer for months, during which it had developed a rigor-mortis curl as if one day, while minding its own business, it had been frozen on the spot while curving its dappled body around an eddy.

But was it a cod? I’d hoped so, it’s white flesh offering a cleansing freshness after all that rich Easter fayre. And yet as it finally began to soften, after many hours defrosting on the draining board, I began to have my doubts.

“It can’t be cod” I said, prodding it with the back of a spoon not wanting to transfer the metallic, penny-like, tang of fish skin on to my own. “It can’t be cod because look, its flesh is pink. It must be salmon.”

Which was fine. Salmon’s fine. More than fine. Everything’s fine. So it’s not cod; it’s salmon. Swings and roundabouts. I like them both.

And yet ... once the not-cod had warmed up enough to become pliant to the blade, allowing James to decapitate it ready for roasting, I then began to lose faith in its salmonliness.


“Is it even salmon though?” I asked. “I don’t know if it is you know. Cut a bit off, microwave it and taste it”.

Which is when it turned out that the cod that was a salmon wasn’t even a salmon.

It was a trout.

And, frankly, neither of us much like trout.

So now what? As an adult what is the right thing to do in this situation? What would you do? Do you eat it because ‘waste not want not’? Or do you abandon it because ‘YOLO’?

That disappointing trout-confirming mouthful had suddenly presented a raw, oozing, fishy, conundrum: is life too short to eat a trout you weren’t expecting? (We’ve all asked that at some point in our lives haven’t we? Haven’t we?).

As an adult it's a tricky decision but when you’re younger everything is a bit more cut and dried. For a start you rarely have to decapitate your own food, in fact it’s positively discouraged.

As a child when you’re faced with a decision over whether or not you’re going to have to eat something you really don’t fancy - your thinking isn’t so woolly. Back then the situation would tend to resolve itself in one of two ways.

Unwanted 'trout' handling method 1: Refuse point blank to eat it.
  • With a Dietrich-esque turn of the head and a dictatorially defiant confidence you’d dig in your heels while writhing and wriggling to avoid the offending plate, fork, parental control. You’d boldly declare “I’m not eating that!”; which is a feat in itself through watertight sealed lips.
Or else …

Unwanted 'trout' handling method 2: You’d have to eat it. No arguments.
  • You’d begrudgingly eat it because your parents were the kind of people who’d simply insist that you did. "There are children in Africa who'd be grateful for that". End of story. And while you may have ended up hating the pair of them more than the food you were refusing to eat you’d at least get a story for your memoir out of it.
Either way, back then, the ultimate responsibility for that food, that decision, was above your pay grade:
  • If you had followed your parents’ instructions and ate it, it was gone, problem solved.
  • And if you didn’t then it got left on a plate where it became their problem. (Let’s face it, feeling guilty about the waste they probably ate it themselves on the way back to the kitchen and then felt like a human dustbin for the rest of the day. But at least they got a story for their memoir out if it.)
So what do I take from all this?

Adult life has a way of defrosting unwanted fish on your draining board leaving you to deal with it for yourself. 

And once a surprise fish is your problem, it’s always your problem.

Because what can you do?

If you don’t eat it - if you decide that ‘you know what? I’m just not forcing that down’ - you’re still left with a body to dispose of.
  • Of course, you could just throw it in the bin, done with, out of sight. Problem solved.
  • But who’s going to be the one reeling from the smell of rotten fish broadcasting from the wheelie bin at 7.30am on a cold wet Tuesday morning? Yep. You are.
Or maybe you could give it away?
  • But who do you know that would really welcome you handing off your problem fish on to them?
  • Unlike some other problems a friend can help out with, a surprise fish shared is not really a surprise fish halved.
Or you could simply ignore it.
  • Yeah. Try that. See how it goes. (Tip: You might get away with that better in January than July.)
  • Turn your back on it by all means, push it to the back of the fridge for a week if it gives you momentary respite but, as much as you’d like to, you are not going to be able to ignore it for long.
  • The more you ignore it, the more it will rot, its scent, the stench of indecision, a pungent reminder that is still exists.
Because in adult life you do end up having to swallow your fair share of surprise fish.

Handling, getting rid of, the unexpected trout, in whatever form that might take in your life, is now your responsibility. That trout isn’t really a trout (except when it isn’t a cod, or a salmon, because, in that case it most definitely, and disappointingly is a trout) – that trout is now all the things life throws at you.

People die and you have to deal with it.

Things break - ornaments, washing machines, relationships, hearts - and you have to deal with it.

Tyres burst, shelves fall, hopes fade and you have to deal with it.

That decision you’ve been putting off for years suddenly becomes unavoidable, and you have to deal with it.

That confession, that suppressed dream, that unspoken disappointment, that overdue credit card payment, that overdue conversation … that lump ..., life won’t let you go on ignoring them forever. They’re all going to stink out your fridge eventually.

And yet … and yet …

… maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe I’ve overlooked the fact there are other things in life that you probably can get away with ignoring, or refusing, or turning away from. And maybe we don’t need to see everything through to the end.

We’ve heard the phrase “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” but what about to eat an unwanted trout?
  • What about to touch up your roots every 6 weeks? Or keep up with the fashion for whatever shaped eyebrows are on trend this month?
  • Isn’t life too short to turn down cake at a party, or to miss capturing the moment in a photo because you were embarrassed to whip out your camera?
  • And it’s definitely too short to bother pulling out the fridge to clean behind it, or to always try to win an argument, or to turn down the opportunity of a day trip just because it’s cold and rainy (apart from anything else, here in the UK if we always did that we’d hardly ever leave the house).
Maybe there are occasions when we can just paddle out and drop our dead fish out to sea without repercussions.

Maybe we can (should?) decide to stop wasting time eating a fish we don’t like, watching a film we can’t stand, or wading through another 467 pages of a book we should have just cut loose at page 10.

There's definitely something to be said for letting certain parts of life just swim away from us. 

And I guess one more responsibility of being an adult is in deciding what’s right for us; working out which trout we can put an early end to and those which we really need to see through to the fishy end.

Ultimately I wonder if it’s all a balancing act, that throughout life we’re all simply fluctuating between supporting Team: Just Eat the Damn Fish and Team: Life’s Too Short?

But as for the cod that wasn’t a salmon but was a trout; reader, I ate it.
  • Whipped out merely momentarily from beneath its smothering blanket of camouflaging parsley sauce; but I ate it.
  • Through gritted teeth; but I ate it.
  • And quickly. One of the best ways to deal with any life’s unwanted and unwarranted difficulties.
In this instance, to misquote Winston Churchill, it was a case of: ‘When you’re going through surprise trout ... keep going’.

Julie x

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So ... tell me ... have you lately found yourself in Team: Just Eat the Damn Fish OR Team: Life’s Too Short?

  • Have you had to face up to something and swallow it down?
  • Or have you cut something loose without regret? (A book, a TV show, a diet, a pattern of thinking?)

(Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences but without having to include all the personal details.)

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Overheard: Let's hope the Olympians are better at Geography


It's been years since I shared an overheard here [although if you follow me on Twitter you'll be all up-to-date with what my ears have been eavesdropping on lately]. 

It hasn't been quite as long ago as the last Olympics, but it's not far off. So let me rectify that right now with (well, I was going to say "With something suitably Brazillian" ... but, I know you, you'd get the wrong idea. Deliberately.) ... with something suitably topical then ...

Overheard when? 1 May 2013
Overheard where? Boots the chemist. North East England

Two sales assistants were chatting about a third ... and this is how their global themed conversation went: 

Sales Assistant 1: "She thought Brazil was in Spain". 

After which Sales Assistant 2 paused before replying: "Well ... isn't it?"

Let's hope Team GB and the rest of the Olympians (I suppose it's only sporting) have had the foresight to flip through an atlas by now! 

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* Find collections of original vintage maps (pictured)  in my Etsy shop which is stocked full of all kinds of vintage materials to inspire brand new creativity.