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Let’s get creative when we vent

grumpy suckerI work in an office of about 20 people. Most of us don’t like swearing, but there are a couple of guys who really do. (They know who they are, and I dedicate this post to them!) Since we all sit in an open-plan office space, throughout any given workday our collective hearing is peppered with “F***  this” and “F*** that”, and an array of similar auditory treats.

As the company copywriter, it has occurred to me that perhaps it is up to me to suggest more elevated rantings. We all have occasion to need to vent, but I prefer more creative and wordsmithy options that get the point across but are less generally offensive.

So here are my suggestions of some more inventive insults and expletives they could try:

(Note: not all are original. Also, quick caveat: I’m NOT promoting hate-filled rantings! Just light-hearted, cheeky insults …)

  1. That lily-livered lout.
  2. You first-rate turd. (Thank you, Johnny English.)
  3. He’s a real turnip.
  4. You miserable wench. (What my mother’s biology teacher called the schoolgirls if they didn’t do their homework.)
  5. Fredumkim! (Just sounds expulsive to me.)
  6. You bag of nail clippings.
  7. Foo!
  8. You chewed up toffee. (Let’s bring it back!)
  9. The plonker.
  10. She’s a real domipootrix!
  11. He’s half a bubble off of plumb. (An old Americanism, meaning kind of crazy.)
  12. The crazy hoot owl.
  13. Like a fart in the face from a warthog. (A toned-down version of a Blackadder favourite.)
  14. He’s a bogus booger.
  15. Mary Poppins! (I’m sure that if said with enough feeling, this could be a cathartic expression of frustration … Go on, give it a try.)
  16. You smelly crone.
  17. The little lickspittle. (An C18th insult that equates to the modern-day ‘suck up’.)
  18. Twerp. (Such a goodie.)
  19. Lazy lummox.
  20. Thou animated offal.

Take it from there, boys!

Instead of a road, a trampoline serves as highway!

Photo by Caters News Agency

Photo by Caters News Agency

Design practices around the world are getting very creative in terms of thinking up new ways to allow people to commute. There’s been a design for a network of swimming canals in London that would transmute into ice-skating lanes in winter! And in Russia, a 51-metre long trampoline was installed in a forest as part of the art exhibition Archstoyanie 2012 so that folks could bounce between destinations! I just love everything about this – it’s eco-friendly, it’s innovative, it’s FUN.

Want to read more? Here are some newspaper articles about it:

The trampoline that could help you bounce in to work

The world’s longest trampoline: Russian art exhibition hosts 170ft long bouncing runway built in the middle of a forest

 

 

The book-lover’s Christmas tree

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This Christmas tree was fun to make – finding the right size and thickness of books, varying the spine styles, and then decorating it. It’s far from an original concept – I first saw the idea here (where there are lots of other creative ideas too).

I’ve now wrapped some lights around it too, which gives it an even more festive look. What is Christmas, really, without some fun DIY?

Finally, and importantly, to all of you who visit my blog:

I wish you a very happy Christmas!

~

 

 

 

 

25 things you may not know about me

If you read my blog, you’ll know a lot about me, not because I’ve focused on myself very much, but because a writer’s character and personality always bleed through in their writing. But since it’s nice to know some details about the person behind the blog, here are 25 random things about Megan that you couldn’t know without me telling you:

  1. Profile picsI used to think all old people lived in England (because all my relatives lived there).
  2. I famously once stole some cheese and kept it in my cupboard, snacking on it till my mother found the sweating piece and I was exposed.
  3. I’m so afraid of snakes I can’t even bear to look at pictures of them.
  4. I have no cousins.
  5. As a kid I swore I’d never colour my hair. It’s been coloured 12 of the 13 years since I left school.
  6. I sucked my thumb for so long as a child that I have memories of it.
  7. I  almost never read sci-fi, fantasy or action novels, but I can’t get enough of them on the big screen.
  8. I used to get nightmares every single night when I was little, then my grandfather told me to pray about it and for years afterwards I never had a bad dream.
  9. I  studied Latin for two years.
  10. When I was a littlie I wanted to be an artist.
  11. I love to study the world map and memorise capitals, states, mountains, etc.
  12. Wild grasses are my favourite thing about the South African landscape.
  13. My ‘deserted island’ foods are Steers chips, pizza, nectarines and Nesquik.
  14. I took ice skating lessons for four years as a kid.
  15. I used to drink so much carrot juice my hands went noticeably orange for over a year.
  16. The oldest item on my bucket list is to see (and ideally hold) a baby giant panda, because I watched The Giant Panda Adventure as a kid.
  17. I used to be an avid collector, collecting thimbles, souvenir spoons, stationery, Swarovski crystals, ornaments, postcards, gemstone trees, posters, stickers, stamps and coins. Now I enjoy throwing things out.
  18. I’ve flown business/first class six times but I’ve never once paid for the upgrade.
  19. My favourite movie ever is Emma (with Gwyneth Paltrow). My favourite series ever is Blackadder.
  20. My favourite book is The Pilgrim’s Progress.
  21. The first time I ever scrambled eggs was age 31.
  22. I’ve been to every continent except South America – but it’s very much on the list.
  23. I have an intense desire to leap really high and far, like male ballerinas do.
  24. I broke my ankle in high school and was so paranoid about losing movement in it that it’s now more flexible than the other ankle.
  25. My favourite year of school was grade 7. I kept a journal that year, making an entry every single day.

The 7 saddest days of my life

The saddest days are never the ones you expect. Here are seven terribly sad days that snuck up on me out of nowhere:

  1. smartiesThe day I was told cheese is not good for you
  2. They day I watched Jack die in Titanic (I was only 15 – too young for the trauma)
  3. The day I was introduced to calculus
  4. The day I discovered skinny jeans were the new jeans
  5. The day I realised how much tax one has to pay off a salary
  6. The day they installed eight new speed bumps along the road by my house
  7. The day they took the artificial colourants out of Smarties

Sad days indeed.

Clothes with people in them don’t sell well

Here’s a random titbit I picked up in the course of some research:

Shoppers apparently like to imagine themselves in the clothes being advertised, and having those clothes showcased on a model makes the imagining act harder. This means folks are less likely to buy clothes, especially online clothes I imagine, when they’re displayed on (skinny / muscular) others. So if you want to sell clothes, photograph them laid out on a flat surface, accessorised. I’ve seen this done and I must say, it’s very appealing.

My friend’s sister has a styling business, and the image below is how she advertises on her blog. Ladies, do you see yourself in it?

The 15 little daily things that make life good!

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“Dandelion Art – Perennial Moment” by papermoth on etsy.com. 

This is my personal list, but I’m sure there are many who will find it rings true for them too!

1. Waking up to discover I still have an hour left of sleep time.

2. Driving along my usual route and seeing beautiful trees and flowers and wild grasses.

3. Listening to one of my favourite songs and having a mad sing along.

4. Having one of the little people in my life hold up their arms to me to be picked up and held.

5. Having a good cup of coffee – and it must be a really GOOD cup – when I’m flagging.

6. Writing or reading something beautiful, creative, witty.

6. Stepping outside and feeling a beautiful breeze on a hot day, or the sun on a cold one.

7. Laughing.

8. Receiving an unexpected gift, compliment or kindness.

9. Getting stuck into a chore, like cleaning a cupboard, but finding my groove in doing it.

10. Driving home and seeing the big wire angels on the verge near my brother’s house lit up (a family puts them up every Christmas).

11. Having an unhurried Pinterest session.

12. Feeling I did something for someone else that made their life better, even if just a little.

13.  Sitting down in the evening to watch one of my favourite sitcoms or reality shows.

14. Having a hot shower or bath (this has got to be one of the best luxuries ever!).

15. Closing my eyes at night, knowing the world and I have no expectations of me for the next several hours.

I could of course add more, but I suspect lists of 15 get more reads than lists of say 22!

Do YOU have a favourite daily thing you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it 🙂

My WordPress anniversary and 100th post

I’ve been blogging with WordPress for a year now, and this just happens to coincide with my 100th post! In celebration I’ve chosen a new WordPress theme. Can I remember what it’s called? Not a chance. But thank you to WordPress for it – I’m digging it!

And thank YOU to everyone who has been reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and in any way idling around my blog – I appreciate it and you! I hope to bring you more readworthy posts in the future 🙂

I hope over the next year to sit and gaze contentedly at the sky like the girl in this sweet pic (perhaps with my cat nearby, as I have one of those), thinking new and creative things. After that it will be about uncovering the courage, skill and discipline to set them down and then share them with others.

Today’s Google image is of William Tell – who was he?

Today’s Google pic looks like this:

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Who can see an image like that and not be intrigued?

Briefly, William Tell is a Germanic folkloric character who was forced to shoot an apple off the head of his son because he (the father) had failed to bow in respect to a hat placed on a pole by the newly appointed Austrian reeve, Albrecht Gessler. (Other people’s children, hey?)

William of course managed the feat (he strikes me as being the German equivalent of Robin Hood – a stupendously gifted marksman having to deal with a ridiculous, power-crazed little overlord). Legend has it that William drew two arrows before shooting, because if he failed and hit his son he planned to use the second on himself.

Here’s a 1554 rendering of the legendary scene (notice His Excellency the Hat on the pole next to the ghoul-eyed son):

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~

Running to lose yourself, or is it to find yourself?

Nothing was to be heard, only the steady plea of the wind across the moor and the susurrus of the grasses closest to me. I knelt down on one knee, intent on listening to this raw environment but also needing refuge from the wind. My fleece was zipped up to my chin, and I could feel cold sweat sliding down my neck.

I had left the sheep farms well behind me to follow a path of heavy slabs that led across the crown of the mountain, past a line of lambing shelters and then on towards what appeared to be nothing but past-prime heather and dirt blending into mud. Tiny raindrops started to settle themselves onto my face as I knelt, but I didn’t turn back. This place – this rough expansive place that belonged entirely to me in that moment – was a place I wanted to store within me. I couldn’t rush it.

So I hovered there for insensible minutes, knowing it would all have to last me a very long time.

~

Megan’s UK diary: Summertime, and the living is easy at Newton-by-the-Sea

A poor woman from Manchester, on being taken to the seaside, is said to have expressed her delight on seeing for the first time something of which there was enough for everybody.

(Sir John Lubbock)

These are some photos from my visit to Newton-by-the-Sea in Northumberland.

View from up on the dunes:

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You know how folks in the West, when seeing an image of African children playing with a primitive ball on a dirt field or smiling over a slice of watermelon, are prone to say something like, ‘Ah, bless – see how happy they are with so little!’? I must say that travelling around the UK I find myself thinking things like, ‘Ah, look at them little British kiddies making the best of their cold, blustering summers to visit the beach!’

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A simple shot:

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I like the pattern of the water and the sand in this photo …

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In the photo below, it is as though someone thoughtfully placed this lifebuoy up on the hill expressly for the sake of photographers. It’s probably a clichéd pic in the opinion of experts, as it’s reminiscent of an emotional film finale where the fallen knight’s sword is stuck in the ground and the camera gives us a low-angle, sky-backdrop view, so that our hearts might soar to transcendent heights … , but I lapped it up with the freedom of the novice:

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Here we have a sparrow. I asked him to show me his right side …

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… and then I asked him to show me his left side. (He said he looks good from both sides.)

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This puts me in mind of these verses from Matthew 10:29-31:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Ah, how romantic …

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… unless that’s his mother. I really can’t tell.

A view of Dunstanburgh Castle:

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More about Dunstanburgh in a future post.

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For more ‘Megan’s UK diary’  posts, go to The green spaces of Sheffield and Jane Austen & Edinburgh Castle at night.

For other photography posts, go to Edinburgh shows off and Buttercup view from Stirling Castle.

For a history and photography post, go to Haddon Hall (the perfect mediaeval castle & location for Jane Eyre).

Megan’s UK diary: Haddon Hall (the perfect mediaeval castle & location for Jane Eyre)

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Two Englishmen, having climbed the Matterhorn, were regarding the wonderful view that stretched before them.

‘Not half bad!’ commented one of them.

‘No,’ replied the other, ‘but you needn’t rave about it like a love-struck poet!’

I thought on this quote, having come across it only that morning, as I strolled around Haddon Hall. You see, Haddon Hall is WONDERFUL, and my thoughts were thus in the territory of superlatives and exclamation marks.

A mediaeval castle in the Peak District, Haddon Hall is a quintessentially Norman building, square and solid, believed to have been built in the C12th. It is a romantic castle, containing everything from the Middle Ages that delights us in today’s world: battlements, very low doorways, a chapel decorated to the hilt, wildly uneven flagstone floors, and I could go on, but you are getting the picture, aren’t you, clever reader?

Moreover, the family who own the Hall, the Manners (it has been in their family since the C16th), has thankfully not gone the common route of restoring it to within an inch of its life. There still isn’t a perpendicular anything, anywhere. Some of the stone steps are curved into almost non-existence in the middle as a result of centuries of footfalls, and the decaying wooden chests and ill-fitted windows have been left alone.

wish I had the capabilities of the love-struck poet ridiculed by the Englishman above, because the only words that presented themselves to me to describe Haddon Hall were words like lovely, outstanding, amazing, and truly wonderful. Bleugh! The frustration of living in a society where such words are regularly used to describe getting the parking spot you wanted or a tasty sandwich, meaning that when I want to really express that something is special, I can either go with one of them, and sound bland, thereby failing to capture the imagination of a hyperbole-drenched readership, or I can go all Italian and really do risk sounding like an overwrought poet whose been sniffing heavily on deadly nightshade. Not great options either of them.

I will have to satisfy myself with something very simple. I will say that, to the C21st tourist, the castle is perfection.

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The Long Gallery, with a mom in it. My mom, in fact.
Long galleries, apart from their other uses, were intended as places where residents could find exercise, no matter what the weather. Elizabethan ladies, moreover, didn’t expose their skin or clothes to sunshine, so they could either walk the gallery or I suppose do sit ups in their bedrooms?
Is anyone else put in mind of Bingley’s sister asking Elizabeth to take a turn around the room with her?

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A very impressive old tapestry, coupled with some fresh oranges to give the room a lived-in feel.

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The garden was bursting with summer flowers, and as such was delightful in the special way that only English gardens can be. During my visit there were English roses, day lilies, thistles, agapanthus lilies, nasturtiums, yellow daisies, deeply purple clematis, red-and-white fuschia, and too many others to list. It was a garden of every colour.

IMG_2011One of the most striking things when you stepped out into the garden was the abundance of white butterflies (also called cabbage whites). They were everywhere, as were the bumble bees and wasps. I’ve perhaps never seen such a ‘busy’ garden.

IMG_1933The Jane Eyre connection

I also rather enjoyed discovering the Jane Eyre connection with Haddon Hall. The 2011 Jane Eyre film adaptation with Mia Wasikowski and Michael Fassbender (how fussed are we really if Mr Rochester is decidedly good-looking this time round?) had Haddon Hall as Thornfield Hall.

I recognised the little pavilion where Rochester and Blanche Ingram play at keeping a feather in the air, the courtyard where Rochester drags Jane off to the church so they can marry, and the narrow stone bridge that leads to Thornfield Hall. The romance of the castle and its grounds are so well suited to the romance of Jane Eyre – a gold sticker for the film’s location manager, please!

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Tra la la … I’m never wearing my C19th gown at the right moment.

~

For more posts on castles and stately homes, go to:

Megan’s UK diary: Chatsworth House forever

Megan’s UK diary: Jane Austen and Edinburgh Castle at night

Lindisfarne – A Holy Island.

Megan’s UK diary: Jane Austen & Edinburgh Castle at night

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There’s so much going on at the Edinburgh Festival, and not only strictly-speaking Festival things, but also other events capitalising on the crowds that the Festival brings. Like the Jane Austen evening we stumbled upon that was being held by Charlotte Chapel, a church that can be found in the pretty pedestrian, bunting-lined Rose Street. Like pilgrims, we journeyed to Rose Street on Friday evening to attend the event, secure in the knowledge that any evening devoted to Austen would be a good one. We arrived, and, intriguingly, were among a crowd of women only.

While queuing to go in we were all given an Austen quiz to fill in, and from thinking I would dominate I was instead chagrined to realise I knew very few of the answers with any certainty. For example:

– Who can say what the title of Pride and Prejudice was originally going to be? Options: “First Impressions”, “Elizabeth and Darcy”, or “Pemberley”.

– Also, which actor prompted a phone call from the Jane Austen Society to the director to complain that he was too handsome to play his assigned role? Options: Greg Wise (Willoughby), Hugh Grant (Ferrars), or Colin Firth (Darcy).

(Answers at the end of the post.)

It was a small, intimate affair – maybe 100 of us, tops? – and I really enjoyed it. One lady played Jane, sitting at the desk in the picture above, and she would read aloud extracts from Jane’s letters to her sister, Cassandra, wherein Jane would introduce her latest book and explain the primary themes she addressed in it. Other women from Charlotte Chapel would then appear, dressed in regency costume, and read relevant extracts from the novels. Sometimes snippets from some of the TV/film adaptations were also shown. My only complaint is that they used the BBC Emma when wanting a scene from that story, and I can’t stand that version; the 1996 McGrath version is superior in every way, from casting to directing to editing to … well, yes, everything. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam forever!

Some of the titbits that most struck me were:

– Jane was very concerned with showing a development in self awareness in her heroines, and often her lead males too, Elizabeth and Darcy being prime examples. Only Fanny Price didn’t really need a journey of self-realisation, but rather it was those around her, like Edmund, that needed to learn a thing or two about themselves.

– Of all her heroines, Jane liked Elizabeth the best. Me, I have more sympathy with Emma and Anne.

– Jane dreamt up the independent and wilful Emma in response to complaints from her readers that her last heroine, Fanny, was too much of a doormat.

At the very end, a 30ish, single lady from the church chatted about how Jane’s preoccupation with marriage was very understandable, given that women of that period could only find any kind of financial or practical security through a husband. She then asked why, as modern women, we are still as preoccupied with romance and marriage, since we no longer need it to be financially secure? She pointed to our desire to have a relationship with someone who will love us and meet all our needs. Jesus, she said, is the only one who can actually be that person for each of us.

Charlotte Chapel seemed a really lovely, motivated church, and I was glad to have visited. I really admire them.

Afterwards, we walked home, a stroll of at least an hour that took us first through Princes Street Gardens, then up and over the Mound, before dropping us down again alongside Bruntsfield Links and our little res. As a South African, I have to give a nod to the awesomeness that is a late evening stroll through the city without a care for safety. So, yes: a big nod to that.

This is the beautiful sight of the castle at dusk, as seen from Princes Street Gardens:

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Answers: “First Impressions” and Hugh Grant.

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For more posts from “Megan’s UK diary”, go to Chatsworth House forever, The green spaces of Sheffield and Edinburgh shows off.

Megan’s UK diary: Edinburgh shows off

Edinburgh is beautiful. I visited it for just 24 hours a while back, but was sufficiently captivated (not a word I use lightly) that I have always maintained I will return. Now I am here for the Edinburgh Festival – lucky sausage that I am – and I am seeing it at its best; the streets are overflowing with all sorts of interesting people, the sun is shining (not warmly, but at least it is there), and the late evening hours are about pink, streaky clouds and expansive parks filled out with lounging, relaxed people.

This is the view from the university residence where I am staying. The photo was taken at about 9pm. I love the romantic architecture, the warmth of the brick face as lit by the last, low rays of the sun, and the pretty, broad leaves of the trees, which were swaying in a bracing, night-is-coming breeze.

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For more “Megan’s UK diary” posts, go to The green spaces of Sheffield and Chatsworth House forever.

Megan’s UK dairy: The green spaces of Sheffield

Getting lost in new places is wonderful. In fact, I rather make a point of it. This morning I went for a jog, paying little attention to where I was going, just darting right or bolting left as the whim took me, because that is how I discover the best, most unexpected gems.

Today I managed to do a loop (loops being life-giving, backtracking the opposite), starting from Walkley and finding my way down the valley into Philadelphia and Upperthorpe, areas that are new to me. En route I found a charming warren of pedestrian paths in and around a housing estate (first moment of self congratulation), then I came across the Philadelphia Green Space, a small, elongated stretch of forest, footpaths and playgrounds (second moment of self congratulation).

“Phil”, the little bird on the educational signs dotted around Philadelphia park, told me all sorts of interesting things during my stint in his park, like the fact that 1/3 of Sheffield lies within the Peak National Park, and that although Sheffield is very urban and industrial, the city prides itself on its ubiquitous green and open spaces and is the greenest city in Britain.

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My mum, who was born in the 50s, remembers how in the decades after WWII the rose bay willow herb could be seen everywhere, from bombed buildings to wastelands, being a tenacious sort of plant that will settle in the most unlikely of places, like this one here, which has planted itself in a roof gutter.

 

I realised as I jogged about, smelling the damp, cut grass and smiling at the tiny white daisies that have already shot up in the short grass, that I always talk about how I love to travel when in fact I detest travelling. I’m a motion ninny, for one. Moreover, who doesn’t lose their joie de vivre when unable to sleep on an overnight flight? But what I do love is having all the travel behind me and then getting to explore new places. And Britain is one of my favourite places to explore, having so much in such a small space and containing things like public footpaths (the lure of which cannot be understated), ancient, crumbling buildings, Starbucks, and bus drivers that call you “love”.

So travelling:

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But exploring:

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Whenever it’s time to wind my way home after an explore, I crouch down and study my footprints, sniff the air, lick a finger and put it up in the breeze … no, just kidding of course, I read the signs and if necessary stop a local and ask them to share their knowledge of local topography and road names.

I’ve realised that a neat and effective trick when it comes to exercising is to charge off downhill at the beginning, when you’re still full of energy, life and bravado. Eventually, when you start to feel somewhat weary, you consider that it might be time to turn around and find your way back. The hike then begins, and by the time you finally reach your destination your muscles are nicely kaput. You can then pull yourself across the threshold of your abode, climb up a kitchen chair and slide into a nice bowl of cereal.

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My blogging spot while in Sheffield

Megan’s UK Diary: Chatsworth House forever

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I have something of a love affair with Chatsworth House, but you’d have to know me very well to know that. So when I met up with an old friend today, and she suggested several things we might do, I stopped her after the mention of Chatsworth with an understated, “Oh, that would be nice – let’s do that.” So off we went.

Driving through the Peak District has to be one of the most pleasant experiences a person can have. Purple heather was everywhere, pinky-purple rhododendrons were everywhere else, and the sun kept breaking through the clouds as though to say: I know you’ve travelled far to be here, so I won’t let them nasty clouds ruin your day.

We reached the car park and decided to walk through the grounds instead of going inside, all the more to embrace the perfection that is an English country estate in summertime. We thought we would walk to the folly on the top of the hill, but the dirt road we followed never quite wound its way there, and so we enjoyed green lawns and grouped deer instead. By the end of our walk, my friend and I agreed that we’d not only caught up on the past 3 years, but had, in the chatty manner of girlfriends, set much of the world to rights 🙂

Here are some photos from our stroll:

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The golden entrance gate

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An Austenesque house

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Not only the biggest mushroom I’ve ever seen, but also a concave, chalice-like one!

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I’m trying to get close to them deer, but they had the measure of me…

~

I’m in the UK for 6 weeks, and have decided I’ll write some “Megan’s UK Diary” posts. I’m in Sheffield at present, heading to the Edinburgh Festival tomorrow, and then many places besides. I’ll keep you posted with anything interesting I see or learn. 🙂

A new epidemic: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

FOMO strikes me as an epidemic, fed by today’s very (read ‘overly’) connected world. People are invited to do this or that, or are at this or that place, but then they’re fretting over whether or not they should have accepted a different invitation, gone and done something else, and so it goes on… Exhausting, and, in fact, rather self-deceiving if you ask me.

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Learning to live in and savour the present moment is widely accepted as a good thing, but no way that’s going to happen if you’re always concerned that you’re not ‘where it’s at’. Tobias Jones, in speaking about globalised universalists, argues:

“As with television, the universalists stretch our horizons so far that we forget where we’re from and where we belong. So we’re all paranoid that we’re not where it’s at. We keep travelling.” (Utopian Dreams)

Permit me to take what he’s said (which I agree with 100%) and amend it here and there so it applies to a smaller-scale context, which is what most of us face in our day-to-day lives:

Television and mobile phones and social media and apps and online news stretch our horizons too far so that we forget or undervalue where we are at and what we are doing. Consequently we are all paranoid that we’re not where it’s at. We keep flitting about, trying to remain ‘unfettered’, trying to be in the right place at the right time so that we won’t miss out.

Hence a society peppered with folks who clearly suffer from FOMO.

I miss people just committing. I don’t like this keeping-your-options-open mentality. Knowing that one can communicate and (re)arrange plans at the last second, people have lost the ability – or perhaps willingness – to organise their lives and say, ‘Why yes, 3 weeks from tomorrow I am free and I would be delighted to join you for sun-downers on the beach.’ This ‘No, I just wanna first see if something better will pop up’ (which of course is not actually said but the message is still heard loud and clear) is terrible.

I don’t really enjoy the company of such folk – you can tell who they are, because you quickly get the sense that they’re not settled in your company (individually or as a group), that their minds are on other places and other people. Call me self-obsessed, but I like it when I’m in the company of people who have a sense that I’m valuable and my presence is a good thing and not a hindrance. I don’t think that I hang around such people anymore – I did for a long time but I’ve learned to wean them out of my life. I think that, ironically, FOMOs never feel they’re where it’s at because they never let themselves be fully at any one place.

Choice is sometimes unhelpful. We can overestimate its value, because if we always have choice open to us we find ourselves constantly wondering if we made the wrong one, thinking about what could have been instead of what is. I’ll quote Jones again, because he’s very eloquent on the matter:

“Choice, once a promised land of individual liberation from fate, has turned out to be a disappointment […]. It means we mourn what we haven’t chosen rather than enjoy what we have.”

That’s a profound statement, and obviously has implications that go far beyond just that which I’m discussing in this post, but it certainly also applies to the issue encapsulated in this neat little colloquialism of FOMO.

One person at a time, starting of course with ourselves if need be, I think we should go retro and reclaim lives where we make choices, stick with them, and believe that wherever we’re at is where it’s actually at for each of us. Whatever anyone else may be doing right now, and whatever fun they may be having, I’m content with my ‘at’, which is in front of my computer, finding the words to share this diversionary thought …

~

If you enjoyed reading this, I think you’d also be interested in reading WWII, Socrates, Rwanda & personal boundaries.

Breaking out of the boxes we’ve placed ourselves in

I don’t know if this is the case in all cultures, but looking back I realise that somewhere during our time in high school my friends and I started (with the help of others) to make definitive assumptions about ourselves, and to put ourselves in boxes that have permitted us to pursue (with a degree of confidence in our abilities) certain avenues while essentially putting up roadblocks in front of others.

For instance, the areas of skill I settled on for myself were: academics, languages, performing arts. As I grew older, the extroversion required for performing arts slipped away, and so all I was left with was academics and languages. While I did and do still love those areas, how sadly restrictive to have them be the only avenues open to me!

Ruled out were the following: sports, crafts and design, technology and mechanics, among other things. In my (fear-of-failure) mind, I felt I was ‘allowed’ to put myself out there and expend time, money and effort on my so-called strengths, while my non-strengths were essentially off limits because ‘I’m not sporty’, ‘I’m not good at crafts’ and ‘I don’t have a mind for mechanics’.

It has taken years and years for me to shed this unhelpful mind-set. I am gradually learning now to experiment with and enjoy many of the areas that I’d previously ruled out.

I perceive there to be a widespread notion that when you have particular talent in one area you somehow ‘owe’ it to yourself and the world to devote yourself to it entirely so that you can go as far with it as possible. I see this as often limiting us, as we develop restrictive mind-sets about who we are and what we can (and should) do. To be sure, if that one thing makes you come alive and brings light and freedom into your life and that of others, then yes, just go for broke, but for many of us perhaps more freedom and joy will be found in spending time – lots of time even – doing activities that ‘achieve’ nothing, and which will never be of a level or skill to warrant marketability, applaud or fame. (I won’t go down this road again, as I chatted about this idea in relative depth in Think less, do more).

I find that I no longer wish to box myself in – not in any shape or form – and I hope to be able to encourage my nieces and nephews and others to refuse a narrow defining or delineating of who they are. I just hate it when I hear someone say “I can’t sing” or “Maths is beyond me”. Why the need for such blanket declaratory statements? Perhaps you won’t be a recording artist, but you still can and should sing if you enjoy it. And maybe you fail maths at school, but don’t let that limit the opportunities available to you later in life should you decide that you are going to pick it up again and pursue something that requires skill with numbers.

So in breaking away from my pre/misconceptions about myself, I’ve started, for example, to fiddle around with various crafts and decorating. Inspired by a pin on Pinterest, I made a boardless pin board on my office wall, and I stick things up and beautify it to my little heart’s content. It makes me happy when I look at it. And the other day I wanted to watch my old Star Wars video, so I climbed behind the flat screen and fiddled around with plugs and (much to my surprise and delight) actually managed to hook up the old video machine with the TV, which resulted in a victory dance on top of the coffee table. As you can see, I am truly enjoying the ‘unboxing’ process, giving myself the space and freedom to do and be many things.

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My boardless pin board – letting my craftsy flag fly, even if it has holds no merit to anyone but me

10 things I am far too lazy to do in this life

This is a thoughtfully constructed list of things that are too hard to do, or that exhaust me in the mere contemplation of doing them.

So here it is. I am far too lazy to:

1. Pull on leggings or socks that are tight. They need to be loose and slip on in a second or I’ll just remain cold.

2. Stand up from my bed to fetch something that could potentially be reached by hooking it with a toe or by doing some Olympic stretching. This truly is me, all the time:

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3. Come up with a new outfit if the one I wore yesterday isn’t really dirty and the people who saw me in it then are not the same as those who will see me in it today.

4. Unlock my car door manually. The battery on my remote key died for a week and it was arduous having to every time insert that key into the tiny key slot. The quality of my life acutally diminished.

5. Clean my contact lenses the way I was taught as a kid, i.e. rub each one in the centre of your palm 10 times this way, then 10 times that way. Blessedly, no-cleaning storage solution has entered the market, so I can be lazy now with no attendant guilt!

6. Investigate strange sounds at night. What will be will be.

7. Get up during a nap to visit the loo. Rather I will lie there, uncomfortable and ruing the fact that I drank whatever it was I last drank.

8. Make two trips from the car into the house if I can somehow balance everything and make it in one trip. I’m pretty much where Frankie was at in the TV show The Middle – I will carry the bag of carrots into the house in the hood of my hoodie if it means I can carry everything inside in one go.

9. Cook.

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This is the perfect hoodie for me – I could wear it to help carry my microwaveable meal in from the car!

10. Focus overly much when walking through doors, so the odd bruised shoulder is just part of the story of my life!

Do you have any of your own to add?

~

If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure you’d also like:

The very best of the ‘Expectation versus Reality’ photos, plus one of my own

A superlatively random list of 11 very short, quotable quotes

How to ruin a pleasant morning jog in the bush

A story in just 6 words, then 5 words, 4 words … all the way down to a story in just one word!

I found writing stories in just 8 words a fun challenge, and so I decided to up the ante and whittle the word count right down.

I’ve realised that Stories 1, 3 and 12 in my post A story in only 8 words weren’t actually complete stories, so I’ve reworked them below. I’ve also worked hard to ensure that I’m only telling full stories in the shorter word counts as well. Interestingly, I’ve found that the shorter the word count, the more profound the story tends to be.

 

A story in just 8 words (original version, then reworked version)

Story 1

The castle flooding, he raced towards the turret.

–       The castle flooded. Gaynor survived in the turret.

Story 3

Harper’s chair started shuddering, then too the windowpanes.

–       Harper’s chair started shuddering. Then there was blackness.

Story 12

Secretively, she mixed the cordial into their drinks.

–       Sissy was a spy. Nobody ever knew it.

Story 14 (new)

She lived in a box with no sides.

 

She lived her life without him.

She lived her life without him.

A story in just 6 words

It’s raining. I’m inside. Happiness reigns.

“Let’s party!” Mickey shouted, then collapsed.

Raindrops fall lightly in his world.

Venter’s love for her was suffocating.

The turtle laughed at the tortoise.

David spoke passionately – the world reconsidered.

She held his hand, and stayed.

The ballroom was painfully heated. Again.

The chocolate melted into a heart.

He held his breath for forever.

Yolandi’s life is littered with gumdrops.

He looked once, and loved forever.

Tarryn was short, always too short.

“I called your name.” “I know.”

Meike only ever sang once. Beautifully.

Everything fell upwards, and stayed there.

Tina gives businesscards to absolutely everyone.

Relieved, Adam threw the photograph away.

 

Rough seas goaded his life.

Rough seas goaded Joey’s life.

A story in just 5 words

He didn’t want to know.

The doorframe shattered without warning.

Since birth, Piper wanted revenge.

Johanna quailed, but went on.

He bedded down in newspapers.

Charity only wears vintage jewellery.

Jackson gave up on life.

 

A story in just 4 words

“You’re it,” Talita said.

I see pretty people.

Singing is now banned.

Her name was Mildred.

That dog never barks.

I choose to believe.

They were always together.

Up close, she glowed.

She chose the dragonflies.

Sarah chose the dragonflies.

 

A story in just 3 words

The ice melted.

Sunset cheers me.

She walked alone.

The dam breached.

 

A story in just 2 words

I’m close.

Sin kills.

 

A story in just 1 word

Fight!

Ready.

 

~

Again, please respond if you have a mini story of your own that you would like to add!

If you enjoyed reading this, you’d probably also enjoy Inksomnia and Exaltation of doves and & destruction of wild cats: mediaeval collective nouns.