The Pearl

In 2004 I ordered a CD from Amazon, and was sent the wrong one, but as it’s music (AND free), there clearly would have been something wrong with me had I not listened to it.

Love it.

‘The way we are’ is the album, by a sort of grungey/alt rock duo called ‘Fleming and John’, and it’s definitely intrinsically linked to most memories I have of my first crack at ‘adulting’. My favourite track (apart from ‘Ugly girl’ for its superb lyrics: “Is she so nice it makes up for her face?”) is ‘The Pearl’. Fleming wrote this after reading a book by John Steinbeck with the same title, and 14 years ago I thought “I’ll read that “. Last week I ordered it, and today I finished it.

The Pearl is one of those sorts of books that you would read in an English Lit class, and want to annotate. It really is so packed with meaning it takes a few a goes to really get everything that is trying to be said, but when you do get there, you are deeply in awe.

The story is set in Bolivia, and the main characters are from a fishing village who don’t have two pennies to rub together, but one day, discover great wealth. The rest of the story unfolds around how this ‘wealth’ literally changes everything, turning the world upside-down. Given a chance, I don’t think many people would be able to finish this book without being made to re-evaluate at least something going on in their life. It is actually that good. You would want to sing about it.

Castle on the Hill

Love really is responsible for some pretty cool things.

Pictured is Wilder’s Folly, or ‘Pigeon Tower’ as it’s also known locally (which is far too utilitarian a name in my view, given its romantic intentions), and was built by Rev Henry Wilder when he fell in love with Joan Thoyts, a local girl from Sulhamstead. The intention of the folly was that Henry and Joan could each see it from their respective dwellings, and would serve as a physical representation of their affections until they could be together. They married in 1768.

The folly is no Taj Mahal, but on my walk this morning when I saw it, it just made me think about how much I love that love can drive people to do extraordinary things. Like, it’s such a powerful emotion, and creates such energy, it feels like it can’t always be contained in your being; it drives you, propels you to ‘act’ in some way.

And then heartbreak can have a similar effect. In the same way that falling in love can make you feel like a Duracell bunny, no longer experiencing the return of your affections can sometimes create a new type of momentum, keeping you running for fear of falling flat on your face. It’s not always a bad thing. It’s a chance for introspection, and wisdom, and the fact you have all this energy to channel into finding balance again means that happiness becomes rather a cause for action, not merely an ambition. Elizabeth Gilbert I think would probably agree.

I wonder if love past and/or present for someone, or something is actually the cause of most action? Other than that carried out through obligation…

Perhaps time for another walk.

The 3am you

Except the watershed for my ‘reveal all’ seems to happen at roughly 11pm. For some reason, this is when my brain ponders the wonders of the universe, and I end up having my most deep and meaningful conversations. It’s something to do with night and the dark, which I think almost gives you the cover to open up. Maybe more conversations should be had in the later hours. Thus also supporting my fervent belief too in siestas.

You don’t always pay for what you get

Annoyingly, I have always been allergic to whichever metal it is they use to make the backs of watches. My skin swells up in red, nobbly, itchy, bumps which are very unpleasant, as am I (I imagine), until the irritation passes. So I largely gave up on the exercise of wearing a timepiece, which again, was probably an unpleasant experience for those around me as they became my time keepers; until I got my first phone, and then had the inconvenience of having to keep it on my person constantly so I wasn’t late. That was until…

THEY STARTED MAKING WATCHES OUT OF WOOD!

I know! Seriously cool! Not only can I wear these, but I LOVE them. Wood in general to be fair. It is my ambition one day to live in a house made entirely from wood. It’s a beautiful material, and comforting, and cosy and just, it has so much soul! Anyway, so I asked for a wooden watch for my Christmas present, and there are loads to choose from, but the one (pictured) had my name on it, and is made somewhere totally random like Outer-Mongolia or something, and cost £8, but I genuinely love it. And I don’t really have prized possessions. What’s more, I have accidentally washed and tumble-dried this watch twice now. And it’s still going. And you just rub a bit of olive oil into the wood and the leather strap, and it comes up just like new. What an awesome thing. And I’m rather inclined to think the best things in life really don’t cost much. I don’t think I need to say any more….

I hate small talk

Generally you have to lead with it, sometimes you don’t (my absolute favourite conversations), but on the whole I just can’t be bothered with it for too long anymore. Particularly with someone I would regard as more than an acquaintance. This is definitely one of my ‘things’ as I’m getting old. It feels like life is far too short for just exchanging niceties; I want to know the good stuff: what makes you happy, angry, sad, motivated, dream, wreckless, inspired, skip, worry…. anything! Talk about things that are real, not things that you think people want to hear or will be impressed by. The best relationships I think are formed out of these sorts of conversations, and my absolute ambition is to have as many of both as humanly possible. I reckon it’s actually how humans make things possible. I love it!

How to be happy

My favourite presents to give, or receive, are books, umbrellas or wellies. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t find joy or usefulness in any of these things!

Anyway, there have been a lot of celebrations recently, and I have spent a lot of time looking at bookshelves (apparently you can have too many wellies and brollies…). Of particular note has been how many offer assistantance in seeking happiness. How extraordinary, and endlessly fascinating that a) such books have become best sellers, b) they are restricted to one volume, and c) one is written by Fearne Cotton…

Now, I can’t decide whether I feel a bit scared, or a bit happy about this. Scared in that this could have so many implications for so many people, and really negative ones…but then again Fearne Cotton has much better hair than me, which is indicative of joy, and so who am I to question her knowledge of such a complex human emotion? On the flip side I’m happy about these ‘happy’ books because I hope (in that they aren’t overtly dictatorial), that they force or challenge thinking. It’s forced me to really think. Because eventually, when I’m a grown up, I’m going to have a job making people feel happy.

Keep it clean.

All of this has taken over my little mental world of late, and has increased a burning desire to going travelling tenfold (I am never far away from chronic wanderlust), but specifically to visit Bhutan. For a start it’s in one of my favourite parts of the world, but it also rules by GNH, or ‘Gross National Happiness’; an official index which influences policy with the ultimate goal of achieving a smiling population. I need to read up more because I’m not sure how successful it is, or how they even go about, but I love the bravado of this tiny country looking at how the rest of the world works, and just going….'”nope”. They are working at it from the inside.

Which is I’m being kinder than I actually feel about the proliferation of these ‘happy’ books, because at least they are a start. We may have been lumbered with Theresa, but at Fearne is having a bash on our behalf. A revolution could start at Waterstones.

I’m not too sure where I’m going to be honest with this bizarre ramble, other than that ‘happiness’ is massive, and I don’t always understand it, but I love to feel it, and I’m fast learning that saying ‘nope’ can sometimes actually help achieve it, and the rest, well, it definitely is an inside job.

Important opinions on fish

I have never felt a compulsion to own fish. They are really pretty to look at, but then so is a nice vase, or that calendar with the Firemen on; yet neither of those things require feeding or a noisy pump.

Actually, I guess actual Firemen require both of those things, but that’s ok because I really like their shiny poles.

Having fish must just be like having a permanent screen saver.

This morning I was contemplating that I would really like to make a career out of blogging. I then thought that perhaps first I should try and refine my phraseology, whilst my punctuation and grammar can also be embarrassingly sloppy, but having revised the above, I’m feeling ‘engaging subject matter’ should maybe be my priority…

And strike ‘Practical Fishkeeping’ off the list of people to apply to. And put ‘Firefighter Magazine’ at the top.

It’s a journey.

Sometimes not much happens

Sometimes not much happens. This has been one of those times.

You are always learning stuff though. This week I have learnt that mental preoccupation can mean that you spend a whole day, including expeditions outside the house, with only one sock on – initially because you can’t mentally cope with putting the other one on, then latterly because you forget where it is.

I have also learnt that sometimes sadness can lead to an unexpected motivation to make rock cakes, happiness can make you volunteer to organise a Suffragette event, and always be prepared to rediscover an AMAZING old favourite tune via the tannoy in Dunelm Mill.

The small one is also a font of knowledge. In my advancing years I am definitely more cynical than I would like, but this ‘5 years a human being’ is an absolute pro at keeping me check. “Why is that little boy crying Mummy?”, (observing a tantrum in full swing), “I think he’s not getting his own way my Darling”, “Oh… well maybe he’s feeling poorly and he thought that lolly was some medicine?”

Maybe the future isn’t quite as bleak as everyone seems to make out.

Repeating numbers

Every now again, I have these times where I’m really aware of the frequency and consistency my attention is drawn to repeating numbers. I’ll notice this most when I’m checking the time; it will be 14:14 on the clock, but then the next time I get a chance to look it will be 14:41, and then 15:15….

This pattern will also be on the time stamps of messages, on signs, on things I get through the post, on buses that drive past! And it’s not even here and there either, it will literally be one thing after another!

So weird.

If you Google the phenomenon, apparently it could be the universe trying to tell me something, or I’m on the cusp of an auspicious event. That would be nice. I haven’t particularly got my belief system nailed down yet, but I think it pays to be open minded about things, just in case. I mean, it would be sad to dismiss something just because you don’t understand it, or it doesn’t make sense, because then you could be missing out.

So universe, do what you will…but, seriously, how long did it take some product designer to come up with a container that holds exactly 888ml of washing liquid?

Simon and Garfunkel

A generation apart, mi’ Mum and I both got to re-live the same period of our youth, simultaneously, whilst watching the same band. Would that be something paradoxical? I don’t know if that’s right, but it was cool anyway.

Growing up we only had two tapes in our car, ‘The Animals’ which was Dad’s jam, and Mum’s ageing copy of ‘The definitive Simon and Garfunkel’ which never had a case. The equitable nature of my parent’s marriage meant that Simon and Garfunkel was essentially the soundtrack of my youth, and certainly linked to every childhood memory I have of family holidays, sat in the back of Dad’s red Citreon BX, eating something Mum had packed for us in tin foil, trying not to touch the actual food having had to stop at another one of France’s unfathomable roadside long-drop loos, and trying to revive one’s nostrils afterwards by squirting coconut Soltan on them.

Good times.

Anyway, so I bought Mum tickets to see ‘The Simon and Garfunkel Story’ for Christmas because, well, it’s part of our history, and it was everything I hoped it would be – all the classics, top band with cracking blokes as ‘Arty’ and Paul, and the whole back story of how the duo came to be. Mum re-lived the music from the first time round, and I got the chance to get down with my bad ’60s self in a slightly ‘recycled’ kind of a way…

Unexpectedly, it also reawakened my occasionally reoccurring ‘militant repressed hippy’ tendency. I get this every once in a while when I slip into my philosophical ‘what’s this all about’ mode. I found myself saying things like ‘this was real music, about things that actually mattered’ and ‘music these days just doesn’t bring people together like it used to’, to random strangers in the ice cream queue. Which is pretty embarrassing. It probably isn’t that true either, my musical knowledge doesn’t greatly extend beyond ‘The wheels on the bus’ anymore, and I had had a couple of large glasses of wine by this point, but still – I was feeling it, and kinda stand by it.

I do however also have a bit of a romance with the 60’s and 70’s. It felt like lots was changing in the world, and that most people had a view about that – which I greatly respect, and everything seemed culturally less ego-centric, and more of the music was about ‘something’, and lyrics were heartbreakingly poetic, and didn’t rhyme with ‘booty’, and critically, ‘Adele’ hadn’t been dumped yet.

It was a classic night anyway, in the company of my lovely Mum, the show was fantastic, if you get the chance to, go see it, it will knock your socks off!