Part 6: Ha-ha-ha-heartbroken

We’re going to practice mindfulness.

Make yourself nice and comfortable. Some people find it helpful to smoke. Obviously if you don’t smoke this won’t help at all.

Close your eyes and think about your breathing. As you breathe in, remember to alternate this with breathing out (footnote: not at the same time – you aren’t a trombonist. Or if you are, you may wish to put down your trombone). Feel the cool air going into your body, and the warm air back out again. It doesn’t really matter which hole it comes out of.

Focus on your breathing. Breathing is good! Breathing means you’re alive. (footnote: If you find you aren’t breathing, you may want to stop here)

Some people find it helpful to listen to something soothing. I advise the older reader against anything involving running water, or One Direction.

Now think about a beautiful place. Imagine you are lying under an umbrella on a lovely deserted beach. In the distance you hear waves lapping against the shore, and a gentle breeze rustling the fronds of the palm trees. It doesn’t really matter where your beautiful place is, but it should never be the Ikea ball pool.

As you breathe (Remember! In and out!), begin to count down slowly from fifteen to one (beware: watching Countdown or Fifteen to One will not induce mindfulness. It will merely create the illusion of slipping away into another room from which there is no return. Deal or No Deal on the other hand will however help you to reach mindlessness quite quickly)

By now you will be feeling relaxed and warm. Yes, thoughts of the everyday will pop into your mind, but just let them go! (footnote: this is no time to be planning a patio, or wondering where you get the gas from for the blowtorch thing that means you can make crème brulee).

Begin to become aware of your head. If it helps, it will be the large device through which you are breathing. Now think about relaxing your head. Allow it to loll. Loll is a beautiful word, and you will want to play with it on your tongue for a moment, but just let it go.

Become aware of your eyebrows – try not to think about the last time you got them seen to, but relax them. Think about your mouth, and as you do, think about relaxing it by, for example, shutting up.

Relax your chins – no-one can see you, and frankly, no-one is really watching – relax your arms, your legs, your stomach and your bottom. If you have breasts, allow them to fall naturally into your armpits. If you don’t have breasts, you may instead have a penis, so just let it go. It will be fine for a while.

You are aware of sounds around you, of the feel of the chair on which you sit, of your breathing, of the room temperature, but these are of no consequence as you are calm, relaxed and in a beautiful place.

While you’re in there, try to bring to mind a person. Someone perhaps from your past. Maybe someone who broke your heart. Try to remember how it felt, and if it helps recall, poke your eyes out with a stick, and make yourself sick.

See this special person with their special person. See them laughing and having lots of fun.

Got it? Try to make it very real. See their joy, smell their fragrance diffusers, taste their baba ganoush. (footnote: whatever)

Breathe deeply. Focus on your lovely beach.

Now see those two people throwing things at each other. Hear your once adored shouting “I hate you! You broke my heart! I loved you and all you did in return was treat me like shit! How could you do that to me? I loved you!” See the actual snot.

There we are. It feels good doesn’t it?


The student

What do you have, that you don’t know you have, but you’ll only know you had it, when you know that you have lost it?

I watched you today as you watched someone else.

You looked tired, as if you hadn’t really finished sleeping. Today you’ll have the chance for more sleep than you will ever have. Tomorrow you might have a baby who cries, someone to worry about in the early hours, a leaking roof, an unpaid bill, indigestion, an early start, a late finish, restless legs. Today you have deadlines, but tomorrow’s deadlines are written into your payslip. Today you can appeal for more, and tomorrow you’ll realise how attractive your appeal used to be

You look pale as if you haven’t been outside. Today you can go out and walk without a dog, without a child, without an umbrella, without awareness of need, without awareness of knees. Today you can swim and play volleyball if you want because it’s all there and you are bobbing along riding the current of a fast-flowing river that tomorrow you’ll be battling with like an optimistic but knackered salmon. Tomorrow you’ll have to join a gym, you’ll have to be told, you’ll have forgotten what the grass smells like because it will just be growingmowinggrrowingscarifyingmowinggrowingmowing.

You look a little whey-faced and you have dark circles under your eyes but the skin you have today will be the best skin you ever have. Tomorrow you’ll know it, when you see it has leapt from you and landed on someone much younger, and you’ll spend money on trying to squeeze that bloom out of a tube. You have a little roll of fat that insists on sitting on top of your jeans, but the body you have today will be gone tomorrow. You will never have such peachy skin, such perky bosoms, such flawless legs. Tomorrow blind men will read your stomach as if it’s Braille, you’ll look down one day and see explosions around your calves, and ancient tree roots where your perfect toes used to be.

Today you are a queen sitting on a throne and the cleverest, most interesting and wonderful people in your kingdom will come to you and offer you their greatest gifts. You look a little bored by them as if they are in the pick’n’mix and you’re still full from ice cream. You are the centre of the universe today and everything you want is in the palm of your hand, or the walls of your castle, in the people you walk past, in the conversations you can join, in the arguments you can lose. You only have to reach out and take them but tomorrow you will have to search for them, and pay for them, and justify them.

I don’t know who your friends are, or even if you have any. I don’t know if you’ve fallen in love, but if you have, then that unbearable pain you feel when it isn’t returned, or is lost, will be nothing compared to the pain you’ll have tomorrow: today when you lose love you lose them, but tomorrow when you lose love, you’ve also lost yourself.

I would love to take your today. I’ve seen tomorrow, and it’s a bit shit.

Synaesthesia and something new

It’s hard to imagine that there is anything new that I haven’t shared. If you read my blog you know I like nice punctuation and grammar (especially an ellipsis), my mother has given up any pretence at diplomacy, I accidentally married a gay man, I am obsessed with coffee shops, and I have breasts and know how to use them.

Today, WordPress is suggesting that I try to incorporate some new element into my blog so I am going to have a go at links and pictures. Apparently it doesn’t really matter what I write about, as long as I have a go at doing new things. So here’s a mini-post about synaesthesia

Here goes.


The thing about synaesthesia is that everyone who has it knows they have it, knows other people don’t necessarily have it, but still persist in saying things like “but it smells blue! Can’t you smell it?”, and “ow it hurts, it’s got a k in it you idiot!”

Synaesthesia is when the senses get a bit muddled up, and it affects people in different ways. For me it means that letters of the alphabet have a sensation. The k in the middle of the word feels like being poked in the eye (as in the word poked) but at the beginning of the word makes the rest of the word fine (as in kookaburra). The name Nikki is spiky and makes me think of Venetian blinds, but is softened when it is spelt Nicky, and feels like something neutral, such as wallpaper. I like the shape of some words, especially if they can be divided into groups of three because three sounds melodic. So umbrella is uncomfortable and heavy like a grey duffel coat, but as a plural is warm like a duvet.

Numbers tend to have a sound, a feeling and a place but I think most people know this and it isn’t just about synaesthesia.  For example, 22 is perfect and is soft and warm like two little ducks.  Everyone knows that.  Sevens and ones are always sharp, primes tend to be painful, and number 6 is quite high up in the air.  Telephone numbers are a problem beacuse mobile numbers in the UK all begin with a harmonic 0, but are then followed by a discordant 7.  My own has a lot of sevens but is offset by two chirpy little fours.

Months of the year and days of the week have a place too. May is always here (points to a position just in front of me near where my waist used to be, and next to Wednesday) but September is over there (points to a place just over the right shoulder and just to the left of Thursday).

Buying toiletries and cleaning products takes a long time because so many of them smell blue, rather than brown, which I like the smell of.  I think it must be that chemicals smell of blue.  It’s totally confusing and devious – they should look like their colour, but it is easy to be distracted by something cream coloured that smells too blue, and vice versa.  I know other people who know this – a friend bought me some perfume this Christmas that smells utterly cream but is slightly blue to look at.  He said he had to smell a lot of blues but he clearly knew what he was doing.

And here’s a picture of the colour yellow


The truth about Post-Its

The reason I am doing this Zero to Hero challenge is to unblock my blog block. And now, having waited all day for inspiration, those nice people at WordPress have suggested I look again at my blog’s theme (footnote: this is what your blog actually looks like, as opposed to what your blog is about. Some blog “what they are about” themes include: my journey, religion, what I like to cook and then tell you about, grammar and the Oxford comma, or grammar, and the Oxford comma, whereas some blog “what do they look like” themes include: Passata, Tightfist, Gorgonzola, and Fitted Sheet)

So I am, instead, pretending that WordPress have suggested:

Today’s assignment: write about the day you first heard about Post-Its.

People in the 1980s only really had access to bits of paper and paper clips. (footnote: unless you wanted to take your stationery relationship to another level, in which case you’d commit to a stapler). We weren’t unhappy of course, because we were simple, and knew no better. After all, we had more than enough going on: shoulder pads, Kajagoogoo, Margaret Thatcher and Thundercats.

At the time I was working for the local Council and my job involved sending out bills to people. The bills were for dull things like hospitals, schools, roads and rubbish collection (that’s collection of rubbish, as opposed to really badly collected rubbish. That was given for free). Unsurprisingly, people disliked paying these bills, and so would come into the office and complain. We had three queueing options: Five Complaints or Fewer, Strongest Possible Terms, and Self-Service. This last one was simply a booth which none of us would attend to in the hope that eventually the rate-payer would simply get bored, leave and either pay their bill, or just get taken to court.

Each morning we would draw straws for Strongest Possible Terms as most of us disliked being abused. Back then I was still quite young and my only experience with swearing was when I accidentally overheard my father say the words “bloody hell”. My brother and I looked at each other aghast and could only deduce that the next plague to befall our family would be shop-bought cake. Derek, my boss, tried to be firm with us but he was basically a nice man who wore a fairisle pullover and liked Monty Python, and he tried as hard as he could to protect us from beastliness. In Leamngton Spa we hadn’t heard of motivational theory so Derek had no real concept of reward startegies, preferring instead to give us a gentle squeeze of the bottom whenever we did anything well. I have since studied Herzberg and Maslow and can find little to support his approach. These days his behaviour would have been viewed as both inappropriate and possibly abusive, but back then, he was just given a wide-berth. Our attitudes of course have changed radically: when I was about seven, I ran home and told my mum that a man in a white van had asked if I wanted to see his puppy but and when I looked though his window he showed me his penis. (footnote: I’m not sure if I used the word penis – we tended to refer to anything remotely in the area contained by underpants as “down below” so it’s unlikely I had any sophisticated language). On hearing this my mother smacked me and said it served me right for looking in men’s vans. To be fair, I’ve never risked it since.

I’ve no idea how Derek got hold of the first ever Post-Its. Maybe he had contacts in London? However they came to him, he knew he had something really rather special, and something we all wanted a bit of. We were spellbound by the stickiness – sticky enough to stick, but not so sticky they couldn’t be unstuck. I don’t think I’d ever been quite so entranced. Derek seemed, I don’t know, glamorous I suppose. Attractive and ever-so-slightly dangerous. I think I fell in love that day and suddenly I was volunteering to go on Strongest Possible Terms. Some people have a profound impact on our lives, and he was one of them. In fact I often think of Derek when I’m repositioning a note.


Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! WordPress give me something else to post tomorrow! I’m still stuck. And a little bit unstuck. And stuck again. Brilliant.

Meet the neighbours

No, not the actual neighbours. As it happens I have great neighbours now. On one side, they mend their fences – not just in a Robert Frost way but I mean they literally mended the fences when they blew down last month. Living in Coventry, there is every chance that these are the very larch laps that the Luftwaffe missed, so I appreciate it. The other side blew down too, and I am taking responsibility for these. My Nigerian neighbour on that side is great – in fact he once helped me break into my house and when I thanked him, said “we don’t just do cars” – but he isn’t a fence mender. These are much better neighbours than the ones in my last place who dropped me a thoughftul note one day to say welcome and to tell me (a) my music was too loud and (b) they could hear me snoring. To soften the blow, they used notepaper with pictures of meerkats on. I really wanted to tell them that I could hear them having sex (footnote: unsatisfactorily, as it happens) but instead I moved and took my snoring with me to a place with thicker walls. And then there was the neighbour whom I never saw. I went round once by way of introduction and he didn’t answer the door. On reflection I should probably have been alerted by the fact that his front door was actually barricaded, but I just eventually forgot all about him and assumed that I would one day just smell his rotting corpse. But then out of the blue, he popped round at 5am one morning and broke all my windows, and demanded I return his trousers (footnote: I didn’t take his trousers)

No, the neighbours in question are my blogging neighbours. Today WordPress suggests:

Today’s assignment: follow five new topics in the Reader, and begin finding blogs (and bloggers) you love.

Now I’m already acquainted with some bloggers, but I will do my homework and explore more widely. I already have a random collection of favourites – poets, artists, writers, photographers – and I love the eclectic and bonkers nature of life on Planet Blog. To be honest I find some not to my taste. There are those, for example, who claim to be funny, but in fact just apply lots of exclamation marks. Or worse, LOL (with an exclamation mark for added hilarity). There are also many whose lives are beset by the madcap antics of their cats/dogs/children and who have to hit the Pinot Grigio at the end of a crazy day!!!!! And there are the survivors. Oh dear. Just typing those words makes me look like a psychopath. Is it OK to say that there are just some neighbours I don’t feel any connection with? I have nothing against them, but I find some of these blogs derivative, just a tiny bit predictable, a little bit lazy. A bit like Marks and Spencer’s Per Una range.

So for those who don’t know, the Reader is the repository where you store your favourite bloggers, and check in from time to time to see what they’ve been up to. After a busy day, having put the little tykes to bed, pulled the kitten out of the tumble dryer – LOL!!! – and onto my third PG, I like nothing better than to sit down and write ad nauseum about my miserable life and my failed marriage. When I’ve finished (footnote: I have written about 25 of these derivative, predictable and lazy posts if you want some examples) I then check out my neighbours and see what they’ve been up to.

I have some real favourites: the type of neighbours I wish would ask me round for coffee, because they kindly leave their curtains open and their lights on, and I love what they’ve done with their alcove. I would like to share one particular favourite if you don’t mind: the fabulously intelligent, talented, perceptive, sharp, funny, and cutting writer, artist and generally all round annoyingly brilliant Sian at Chapter 20. I’m looking forward to meeting many more. And I absolutely promise not to steal your trousers.

Day One. Motivation: high

Ah me.  I have a little writer’s blog.  I mean block.  And I’m not exactly a little writer.   It’s not as if I’m a big writer, I mean I’m an inconsequential writer.  I have a following (thank you! I am so excited to see you every day!) but a big writer would have books, and an agent, and the face (footnote:  the face is the face you have for the back of your book.  If you’re Sebastian Faulks you not only have a face, you have a pose.  I once saw S Faulkes in a Waterstones walking down the stairs and behind him was his publicity picture.  To my delight, he was not only wearing the same jeans/jacket combo, he even had his hand in his front pocket just like his photo.  Note to self: check if S Faulks has paralysed hand).  No, I’m not a big writer:  I just like to write but as it happens, I have big feet. Continue reading