I haven’t blogged in ages, and I’m not going to pretend that I have. I started my new job full-time, so I’ve been busy, and I suppose I just got out of the habit. I also quite liked having ‘Last day and beyond’ as the most recent title on my blog, as it seemed fitting.
But motivated by my friend Nic, I’m going to try to complete the Blog Every Day in May challenge for the second time. I finished it last year without missing a post, something I’m quite proud of, and I thought it would be nice to write something again.
It’s also much easier to write on a topic that’s been given to me than to think of something on my own, especially after such a long gap between posts. The longer I leave it, the harder I find it to blog again, as you either have to skip a huge chunk of your life like it never happened or try to summarise it into a few paragraphs. Neither is particularly satisfying.
So I’m not going to do that; I’m just going to try to complete the challenge and see what happens. For anyone who hasn’t read my blog before, particularly those who know me in real life, note that I don’t censor myself particularly on here, so you might find out some more personal things about me than you wanted to. At the same time, I’m completely fascinating, so you might well enjoy it. Judge me and I’ll cut you.
And for anyone who is really interested in how my life has been since last August, you’ll have to make do with these brief bullet points:
new job – going well; much more challenging; have achieved a lot.
new office – lovely people; lots of fun.
flat – has got much better, not perfect, but the woman upstairs has put carpet down!
Mum – continues to be variously mental, but actually doing a lot better and brighter than she has been in ages.
Chris – loved as much as ever, and still putting up with me.
For my 30th birthday, a group of us went to Go Ape. I can’t remember why I decided to do this – I think at the time I noted on here that it’s quite an out of character activity for me – but it had something to do with pretending to be spontaneous and fun, and trying something new.
As it was my birthday and I was all hyped up and excited, I volunteered to go first and lead the rest of our group across the first section of the course. This was fine initially – up a rope ladder, across some bridges – and you’re always attached by a safety cord so there’s no real danger. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really thought through the idea of going first.
If you don’t go first, you see, you get to watch someone else do each part of the course. You can see how to do it, and you can check that they don’t die a splatty death on the forest floor. This was something I realised quite quickly once I reached the first zip line.
The zip lines at Go Ape are at the end of each section of the course; there’s normally about three or four at each site I think. They take you from the end of that section, usually from its highest part, back down to the ground in a rush of air and nice views and a soft barky landing. They are loads of fun.
BUT TERRIFYING. To me, anyway.
I think I’d be fine on them now, or at least a lot better; but the first one, when I was all on my own, and no one had demonstrated it for me, was really difficult.
I found myself climbing up a rope ladder, when I was already very high up to start with, onto a small wooden platform above most of the treeline. I attached myself to the zip line and looked out ahead of me at what I was about to do. And there was so… much… space.
The feeling of emptiness all around me was overwhelming. There was nothing below me, above me, or in front of me. Just an insignificant metal cord running down to the ground that I was meant to entrust my life to. I was vaguely aware of some people behind me wooing and encouraging me to go for it.
Shit. I’m stuck up here now. I can’t go back down the ladder, there are people in the way, and anyway it was a bitch to climb up it so I’d never make it back down. My only two options are to go down the zip line, or to blow my orange panic whistle and be rescued. I’m not doing that on my birthday, I’ll look like a dick.
So, somehow, I sat my weight down in my harness and pushed myself out into the void.
And it was amazing! They’re so much fun! The air whips past you, and you glide almost silently (apart from the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ sound of the cord) through the sky, over trees and playgrounds and children waving up at you.
Then you realise that you’re getting near enough to the ground that you can’t actually die now. Even if I somehow fell off, I’d probably be alright. Oh look, there’s a huge mound of bark chips approaching. Do I try to land on my feet? What did they say in the briefing? Oh never mind, I’m already being dragged along the ground on my arse collecting a large part of the forest floor inside my underpants. Oh I’ve stopped.
And that was it. It all seemed so easy once I was back on the ground, albeit with slightly shaky legs, looking back up at the platform and the next person starting their descent.
I would recommend it heartily, and I would probably go again. BUT, be aware that it’s really fucking high, and once you start a section you’re pretty much committed to it, you can’t go back, and you don’t know how horrible that section might or might not be until you’re already up there. So it is scary, but it’s a great experience, and I’m reliably informed that most people don’t die.
[WOO I FINISHED THE CHALLENGE! That’s a post every day this month. I hope you enjoyed them, and thank you for sticking with me]
Blog every day in May topic – React to this term: Letting go
I can’t let go of things. I’m dreadful at letting go. I brood and I worry and I analyse and I plan. What if this happens, what if I’d said that, why didn’t I do that, if only I’d known, why did they have to, how can I be ready for. It goes on and on, around and around in my head, and I can’t let go.
So my reaction to the term letting go is NO I DON’T WANT TO I DON’T KNOW HOW TO I WISH I COULD MAYBE YOU COULD LET GO FOR ME AND THEN I WON’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. See? I bet you’d never asked now.
It comes back to my need to be in control of things. Letting go implies relinquishing that control. And if it’s letting go of something in the past, well usually the reason I haven’t let go is because I lost control of whatever it was and I’m beating myself up about it.
I’m sure it can’t be good for me. Isn’t that how you get ulcers? Ulcers sound like something I’d get. I think they’d suit me. Either that or nervous exhaustion. I’m not sure if nervous exhaustion is a real thing though or if it’s just something you say so you can get signed off work.
I would like to be better at letting go. I’d like to be able to think “I can’t change that. So never mind, I’ll just let go.” That would be very liberating and refreshing. Think of the freedom as it all drifts away. I don’t know if it’s something you can learn or if you’re just born with it though. A sort of ability not to care about things. Or an ability to set them away from you mentally at least.
But I don’t think that I can. I might try to let go, but they’d wheedle their way back in so I can churn them around again. So I’ll just have to hang on grimly and drink milk of magnesia instead.
[ONE DAY LEFT OF THIS STUPID BLOGGING CHALLENGE, OH MY GOD I’M EXHAUSTED]
Blog every day in May topic – Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories
Cher – Believe
As much as Chris might protest to the contrary, to me this is ‘our song’. It’s not a romantic song, and it’s not one that we chose. It chose itself, and that’s why I like it and have stuck with it.
This song was playing on the radio in my parents’ kitchen when Chris and I had our first kiss. It was my first kiss ever, in fact. I was 17. After six months of circling around the issue cautiously, we had recently confirmed our mutual gayness to each other, and now we found ourselves alone in the house together.
The memory of it is still electric to me. It was such a thrilling, terrifying, wonderful time of my life. A time of discovery and vulnerability and excitement, and a time filled with experiences that I had started to wonder if I’d ever have.
I’m not going to relay every detail here, but we kissed, that day, on the sofa. And Cher was singing Believe in the background, and so this song will always be very special.
Lisa Loeb – Stay (I Missed You)
Lisa Loeb is my favourite artist of all time. I have five or six of her albums and I never get tired of listening to them. I like that she’s someone a bit unusual – most people have heard of her and remember this song, but don’t know anything else about her – and I like that she’s been with me for more than half of my life now.
When I hear this song, and particularly when I see the video, I remember sitting on the floor at home aged about 13 watching the Chart Show on Saturday morning television. I remember listening to it at 16 on a stereo in the workroom of the library where I had my first job while I glued the spines back onto books. I remember playing the album for Chris. And I remember singing it a hundred times on Singstar in our home together. This song has been in my life for a long time and I hope it never goes away.
Shakira – Whenever, Wherever
I’ve included this song not because it’s my favourite or anything, but because it elicits a very particular memory for me.
Shakira released this song in 2001, and it is part of her Laundry Service album. I spent 2001/02 living in Geneva, and at times this was quite a lonely period of my life. I listened to music on a portable CD player a lot to pass the time, so this song, and the entire album, reminds me of that. It reminds me of sitting in my halls room in an 18th century Swiss building, looking out through wooden shutters over the park that was my view, wondering when I could go home.
Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song
This song and the next are part of a set of songs that speak to me of wonderful nights out at Dynamite Boogaloo, a club night we started going to during university and which we still go to today. It has changed name and venue and format several times over the last 13 years, but deep down it is still Dynamite Boogaloo to us. Three, Six, Nine, as I call it because I never know its real name, is one of Boogaloo Stu’s signature songs – I don’t think I’ve ever heard another DJ play it – and it takes me back to nights of being drunk on rum and coke and tequila shots, dancing in a stupidly unflattering crop top, and laughing at absurdly childish cabaret games in a 3,000 degree basement club.
Meat Loaf ft. Cher – Dead Ringer for Love
I started with Cher and I’m ending with her. All things begin and end with Cher. This is another Boogaloo song, and is my favourite of all the songs they perform at cabaret. I’ve heard Boogaloo Stu and Dolly Rocket sing it a number of times, and I’m always stood there with a massive, enraptured smile on my face throughout. They even made it their cabaret song for us by special request one night, because we hadn’t heard it for ages and we begged.
It always starts the same – Boogaloo Stu on stage, alone. The music kicks in and he sings the first verse and chorus. It gets ever closer to the second verse, but there’s no Dolly Rocket.
“Is she coming? Is she not coming this time? It’s getting really close to her cue. Oh I think she’s not here tonight,” I think.
Then at the last possible moment, Dolly bursts from the wings in full song in her amazing Cher outfit.
Just thinking about it makes me laugh, and they’ve made me love this song.
Blog every day in May topic – A letter to your readers
How are you? I am fine. I hope your boils have cleared up and that your Aunty Pat’s hysterectomy went swimmingly.
I wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you for reading my blog this month. I don’t think I have ever posted quite as much or as often, and it has been a very enjoyable experience. It hasn’t always been easy, as the scheduling is relentless (one day insisting upon following another, for example), and at times I have been unsure what to write about. It has been very pleasant just to write for the sake of it though, and to be given topics rather than having to create them. I hope you have at least found it amusing, and perhaps learnt a little more about me.
We are only four posts from the end now, and so I am hopeful I can complete the entire challenge. This also means that in four days time you will receive some blissful respite from the relentless blogging of the small circle of us on Twitter who are doing this. No doubt all of us writers are looking forward to a break as much as you are.
I will try to continue writing after the end of the month, but I know I don’t have a very good history of doing it regularly. Do stop by from time to time if you can though. It’s nice to think someone might be reading this purely because I wrote it and that that’s enough to make them want to.
Blog every day in May topic – Something you read online. Leave a link and discuss, if you’d like
I read a lot of things online. It’s pretty much all I do all day when I find I haven’t got very much work to do. Sometimes I feel like I’ve read every article on the BBC News website, because all the links have changed to the visited colour where I’ve at least skimmed them.
So picking one thing I’ve read, and that I thought you might find interesting, wasn’t all that easy. In the end I chose this:
It’s an article by their tech people about smartwatches, discussing what’s already available and when and if they might become the next big thing.
I love technology and I love gadgets. I don’t spend all that much money on them, I’m too tight-fisted, but I love looking at them in shops and I’ll occasionally treat myself to a middle-of-the-range reasonably priced version of something cool. I wish I had enough money to buy all the things that excite me. At the same time though, I think they’re more exciting when you don’t or can’t have them – I’ve seen quite a lot of examples of buyer’s remorse with gadgets. Only a few weeks ago I desperately, desperately wanted a Nexus 7 tablet and couldn’t stop looking at them on the internet. Then I went into Curry’s and played with one for five minutes, realised I’d never use it for anything, and thought thank fuck I didn’t order one. They’re lovely and very reasonably priced, but they don’t fill any need in my life that isn’t already covered by other technology, so there was just no point.
I do quite like the idea of a smartwatch though, if they end up being able to perform enough useful functions. I can imagine finding a watch much more convenient than a phone – because it’s always there on your wrist, you can’t drop it accidentally, and you can’t leave it lying around. I don’t actually use my phone as a phone very often at all; it’s just a small computer than can connect via 3G and which happens to be able to make phone calls.
The only real issue I have with the concept of a smartwatch is that the screen is always going to be small. I have particularly slender wrists (I’m willowy), so even if Samsung went their usual way of making an outsized device in order to create more screen space, I could never actually wear it.
So how will companies overcome that? I really don’t know. The things I use my phone for most are browsing the internet, social media things, and listening to music. It fills a gap in my life when I’m not sat in front of a computer, basically, so I’m pretty much always on some form of computer while I’m awake now. I don’t see that there are many things I do on my phone that could be transferred over to a watch completely. Using a watch as a second screen for your phone, like the Pebble, is a reasonable idea, but it only lets you do quite small things and it wouldn’t be enough to make me buy one.
Maybe the answer is that the watch needs to do things I don’t currently do on my phone, so that rather than trying to take things away from an already successful technology, it carves out its own niche in my life. But what those things could be, I really don’t know.
No doubt I’ll do what I always do – wait a few years until the technology has been polished up by the early adopters and the price has come down, then join the party late. The thought of what could happen with watches though makes my current watch, with its little analogue hands moving slowly around driven by cogs, look bizarrely prehistoric.
Blog every day in May topic – Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad)
I racked my brains over this one, because I honestly can’t remember very many things that people have told me about myself. I’m sure someone must have done at some point; but maybe I just wasn’t particularly interested in what they had to say so didn’t bother storing it.
In the end I could only think of one example, so that’s what you’re getting.
I was sat outside a pub in Geneva, where I lived for a year while I was at university, talking to my friend Paulina. I can’t even remember what we had been talking about, but she’d had some worry or difficulty that she’d been explaining to me. And after a while she said “Thanks, you’re a really good listener.”
It took me a little by surprise, because as far as I was aware I hadn’t really been doing anything. I wasn’t trying to be a good listener, I was just letting her talk because she needed to talk, and being interested in what she had to say. But afterwards it made me think that maybe I am a good listener after all, and maybe I’d like people to think that of me. So I started making more of a conscious effort to listen to my friends.
It’s not a very difficult thing to do really. Being shy helps, because it means I’m quite happy for the other person to talk usually so I don’t have to think of anything to say. And often if the person is explaining their troubles to you, they don’t actually want you to fix it or suggest a solution. They just want to talk it through with someone, to verbalise it, and to have you say “I’m sorry, that does sound rough”. Just doing that helps them, because they’re not bottling it up and they know they have someone else’s sympathy.
So that’s my thing. Paulina told me I’m a good listener, so I became one. Thanks Paulina.
Blog every day in May topic – Your top three worst traits
I’ve already covered this in some of my other May posts, but I am quiet and I am shy. It’s worse in certain situations, and I’m less shy than a lot of people, but it still has a negative effect on the way I interact with people sometimes. I wish I could change it, and I have improved over time I think, but really it’s just me and I’m just stuck with it. It’s quite annoying though.
I am a very, very petty, small little man sometimes. I bear a grudge like nobody’s business, and I exact revenge on people I don’t like in a number of tiny, pointless little ways. I once put olive oil in someone’s honey at university. I also threw a banana belonging to that person out onto a flat roof. Not while they were around, of course, but behind their back – I’m not mental.
If I don’t like someone at work, I might glare at their empty chair as I walk past it.
If someone is moving too slowly down the street, I do that spaz face where you stick your tongue down behind your lower lip at the back of their head.
It’s always pathetic little expressions of my disgust that the person won’t ever know about. Well, she might have noticed the honey tasted weird. But I don’t in fact want to change this about myself – I get a tiny, petty thrill out of these stupid wastes of my time.
I’m quite clever. I’ve always been more intelligent than most of my peers, and I like it. I tend therefore to think that I’m right practically all the time, and it sticks in my craw if someone points out that I’m wrong about something. I realise that it’s arrogant to assume that you know more than someone else, but to be honest I usually do. So what am I meant to do? Let them prattle on wrongly, using up valuable seconds of my life with their wrongness? I don’t think that’s reasonable.
So I don’t mind that I’m arrogant really. I hide it fairly well most of the time, and being quiet masks some of it, so I don’t think I have a poor reputation for arrogance. But it does mean that I have to expect to get violently bumped onto my arse every so often when someone swans along knowing more about a topic than I do. The know-it-all bastards.
Blog every day in May topic – Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you
I had to think about this one for a while, but in the end all the things I came up with seemed to have to do with children’s perception of adults – either the perception they create themselves, or the one adults ask children to have.
So the first thing I’ve learnt that school won’t teach you is this: adults are just children in bigger bodies.
When you’re a child, you might typically think that your parents and your teachers know everything. That they’re always right. That they generally know what they’re doing. That they’re sensible and grown up, and probably a little boring. This, however, is false.
Adulthood seems to consist of a learned veneer of maturity and a way of speaking with a degree of confidence. But underneath, we’re all just big kids. We might speak to children (and adults, in formal situations) in a lofty, knowledgeable way, but lots of adults when left alone in a group will just talk about rude things because it’s titillating. We’ll make idiotic jokes. We’ll talk about people who we don’t like, and encourage other people not to like them either. We’ll hope that other people like us, and secretly worry that they don’t. We’re just unsupervised children with driving licences and credit cards.
Lots of adults aren’t very confident either, even if they seem it, and lots don’t seem to know anything at all. They might know more than a child, but there is a reason why children have a reputation for asking difficult questions – it’s because if you press most adults beyond their veneer of knowledge, there isn’t actually very much underneath.
We need children to trust adults because adults have to exercise authority to keep them safe. If an adult says drinking bleach is dangerous, a suspicion that the adult doesn’t know what they’re talking about is not going to be advantageous to the child. So I’m not advocating that we reveal our flaws and foibles to our offspring. I suppose I am instead just musing that there must come a point where a child will realise the truth on their own. And at that point the child could choose to start behaving like an adult if it pleased them, and all they’d be missing is the bigger body.
Related to this is the second thing I’ve learnt that school won’t teach you: it’s OK to question what you’re told. In fact, it’s very important to question what you’re told.
This is a funny one, because children spend their earliest years being instructed to accept knowledge as it is presented to them. We might say we want them to be independent learners, but for all the core stuff, basic skills, social mores, and anything to do with any religion they’re being instructed in, we actually just want them to shut up and memorise.
It’s only later in their education that they start to be told that this is a very bad thing. By postgraduate level, you’re not meant to be reading and regurgitating – if you aren’t questioning the text you’re reading, you’re not reading it right. But what happens if children never get told when they start questioning things? If it’s left too late, or they never learn that lesson, they go through life accepting things just because someone says so in a loud voice, or because it’s printed in a newspaper or written on a webpage.
This is a very, very bad thing. As mentioned earlier, lots of adults don’t know what they’re talking about. Accepting what they say is a recipe for disaster. Learning about something, hearing different points of view, and making up your own mind based on evidence, is extremely important, and not enough people seem able to do it.
So I suppose my advice to children would be – yes listen to adults, but be a little cautious. Look at a dictionary or an encyclopaedia (it’ll be an online one, I imagine, so make it reputable) and don’t be afraid to check things. Taking control of your own learning is one of the most valuable things you’ll ever do.