Regarding Writers…

writers-inspiration

There is something acutely personal in talking about your favourite writer.

For me at least, I often hesitate to name my favourite writer because I feel like it reveals a part of me I’m not sure I want to share. I somehow feel that by saying his name out loud, my soul is been sliced open by a knife with an edge so sharp I can hardly feel it. I can be peeled back in layers so fine they are practically transparent, and somehow their name, like an incantation, allows whoever hears it to leaf through my innermost thoughts as if they are flicking through a book.

I don’t know why this is. It’s only a name, after all. The writing doesn’t reflect my life experiences, or expose any dark secrets I might harbour. All I know is that anytime I say his name, I feel like I’m divulging some confidential information that cuts right to my core. In some ways, I feel that – ludicrously – just knowing the name tells you everything you need to know about my likes and dislikes, hopes and fears.

I can still remember the sentence that cemented my obsession with his writing. I remember reading through a book and reaching a metaphor that made me double back and start the sentence over. It bounced around in my head, and that night as I lay in bed I said it out loud. Softly. Just to myself. Just to hear what the syllables sounded like in the darkness.

I fell in love.

I don’t always agree with the subject of his writing, but I always enjoy reading it. I love the way he constructs a sentence like nobody else. I get an actual, physical thrill out of some of his descriptions, where the words seem to crawl up the back of my neck and tickle my mind. I see through his eyes, and even if I don’t agree, I understand.

Any time I start to read something of his, I can feel a low hum inside me as my creativity stirs. When his words make me laugh or cry, feel anger or dismay, I can feel it stretching, as if after a long nap, and it nudges me gently, saying, ‘Look what words can do. Look. Look how they can make you feel. Look how you go from tearful eyes to unwitting giggle in a single paragraph. Don’t you want to sit down and write? Don’t you want to try?

If I fear I’m losing myself, or losing my way, or losing my words, I read a few pages from his book and I remember why I love writing. It makes me feel, even when I’m not feeling much of anything else. Tripping my fingers across the keys lifts my mood. Usually by writing about certain thoughts or experiences, I get a clearer, more honest look at how I feel about them. Sometimes I even surprise myself with the words that appear on the screen.

Of course, this can and sometimes does stop me from writing about certain topics.

I avoid the painful, the awkward, and the inconvenient. I skirt around them as if even the merest mention might prove agonising. I hate confrontation of any kind, and I know that writing about certain things will mean confronting myself, in a way. I will spill out – and spell out – thoughts that were previously only a nebulous, amorphous fog. When they stay in my head I don’t have to examine them too closely. I am aware of them, but they exist as old, dusty books in the attic of my mind. ‘I’ll get to them in time,’ I tell myself, and carefully sidestep the ladder that leads up to where I’d rather not go.

And sometimes, when my mind is all fog and I can’t see my way out, I know I should write.

And sometimes, when this happens, I reach for his book.

Guided by his vivid, powerful imagery and a healthy sense of humour, I reignite my sputtering love of words. I feel it again, the tingle of carefully, precisely placed consonants and vowels stacked against each other. Like building blocks, they allow my imagination to get to work building landscapes and concepts I might otherwise struggle to see.

Later, I sit down, and I write.

 

Wedding Daze

Wedding daze

I love a good wedding, and I was at a great wedding on Saturday.

The bride, my cousin – who is stunning on a bad day – looked so beautiful she actually glowed. I’ve read about people “glowing” before and always thought it was hyperbole, but I can’t think of any other word to describe her when the fact is that she legitimately had a honey aura going on.

Although we’re cousins, we look nothing alike. She is the blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, high-cheekboned, glamorous blonde to my hazel-eyed, dressed-in-the-dark, sallow-skinned brunette. As teenagers we would lie side by side on her bed, talking about boys and secrets and friends and life. Even though she’s a little younger than me, I’ve always looked up to her. She’s ambitious and determined, beautiful, strong-minded and incredibly talented. It doesn’t seem fair that one person managed to get all of those attributes, but here we are.

As a clear and timely example, let me tell you about her veil. If you tuned in (along with 2 billion others) to watch the last English royal wedding, you’ll have seen Carrickmacross lace before. It was all over Kate Middleton’s dress. Carrickmacross lace originates in County Monaghan, and involves a painstaking process of handstitching fabric to lace before cutting away the excess material. Consider that for a moment, and then consider the fact that my cousin decided – with all the ambition and determination and talent I outlined above – that she would make her own veil for her wedding day.

As you do.

I can’t imagine the patience it must have taken to make. If it had been me, I would have thrown it out the window after the first couple of months. Tulle and lace, needles and thread would all have gone sailing out onto the lawn in an unwittingly graceful show of frustration. My cousin being who she is though, she stuck with it; she found a teacher, learned the technique, and over many, many, many months… made her own veil.

Screenshot_20170703-122224
the veil

Even the most hamfisted, chronically unimpressed heathen would have to admit she did good. She did better than good. I mean, look at that. I don’t know anybody else on this earth who would take on that task on top of wedding planning and a full time job being the country’s best art teacher.

But that’s my cousin for you!

The day went off without a hitch. Everything was perfect. The cherry blossoms at the church, the incredible food, the heartfelt speeches from the wedding party, the cake that her mother made for the reception… In terms of talent and creativity, it’s a case of like mother, like daughter. As they say in the country, “She didn’t lick it off a stone!”

201707031234363390
the cake

So we danced, and we drank, and we toasted, and we talked, and we sang (not well), and we enjoyed ourselves. My cousin and her kind, loving gentleman of a husband (!) celebrated getting hitched and we were lucky enough to be witnesses.

After the meal, as I leaned back in my chair and wondered if I would ever need to eat again, I thought about growing up, and falling in love, and how complicated it is sometimes, and how simple it can seem from afar. It’s like an impressionist painting; from a distance it’s easy to think it’s a distinct scene painted in three or four colours, but once you really get up close and examine it, it’s so much messier than that. Every person lives in their own bubble, feeling things you can never know unless they tell you. Everybody has their own secret inner life, with their most personal dreams and hopes and memories and fears. It’s terrifying to trust someone enough to tell them all of that. It’s hard to let other people into your bubble.

And yet… we do it. We risk it. We feel passion, and loss, and love, and pain. We trust in people, even when we’ve been hurt before. We’re honest with people, even when we’re afraid they’ll throw it back in our faces. Over and over, we put our hearts on the line and we tell people the truth about how we feel, and sometimes it’s a disaster, and sometimes it’s magical. People have been doing this in all countries, in all cultures, again and again, over and over, since the dawn of time.

I can’t decide if it’s beautiful, or boneheaded.

Here’s what I do know though…

Life is hard sometimes. Nobody makes it through unscathed. With that in mind, it’s pretty amazing to find someone who you know has your back. I know that my cousin has found a guy who will go to bat for her everytime. If life was a zombie apocalypse, they would both be in the Winchester with her husband watching the door while my cousin came up with an elaborately detailed yet highly effective plan to get them to safety. They’ve got it on lock.

In the end, that’s what we all want, I guess. Somebody who will make the good stuff better and the bad stuff less bad. Somebody who you know is on your team, no matter the highs or the lows. Somebody who will keep the zombies of life distracted while you map out an escape plan using paperclips and toothpicks.

And vice versa.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts On… Adulting Struggles

It is unseasonably warm in Ireland at the moment. In a freak occurence, the sun is actually visible, the clouds are wispy and barely-there, and the temperature has crept up to Irish-sunburn levels (which isn’t very high, but it’s high enough for people to wander the streets in singlets, puffing and red-faced, panting about how it’s “FAR too hot!”).

I am currently sitting at my table, with a cup of tea beside me to wash down my many supplements*, thinking of the many, many things on my To Do List. The thoughts of all these things that need to be done have come together to form a thick, grey, thundercloud of tasks, and every so often it sends forks of lightning formed from pure unadulterated panic down my spine.

This is Not Good.

I know myself well enough to know that I need to get a handle on this situation. I feel overwhelmed, but I know that all the items on my endlessly long To Do List are doable; it’s only when thinking of all of them, together and at the same time, that I start to sweat and wonder whether it might be a good idea to change my name to Carmen Sandiego and move to Raja Ampat to sell beaded bracelets on the side of the road.

I do love making beaded bracelets…

Adulting is hard sometimes. I have yet to master the life skill of organisation. I rarely make lists, and even when I do make lists I inevitably lose them, which usually leaves me worse off than I was before. I often lose track of time because I’m so focused on a single thing that I forget 1.) to eat, 2.) that time is passing and 3.) there are in fact other things that require my attention. The fact that this blog is still alive and updated is a minor miracle considering how abysmal my scheduling skills can be.

And yet…

I love the feeling of being productive. I love the days when I smash through the things on my To Do List with reckless abandon and reach nightfall exhausted but delighted by my progress. I love seeing things look the way I envisioned, or finishing something and knowing I don’t need to worry about it again for a while. I love escaping out from under the crushingly heavy Sisyphean boulder of responsibility that builds up every once in a while after a period of slacking (or, say, a particularly lazy holiday).

Considering that I LOATHE this feeling of having every chore ever invented hanging over my head, feel positively meh about actually doing them, and enjoy the feeling of having done them, you would think the obvious thing would be to get through them as quickly as possible. The adult, rational part of the brain would tell you that it is the only logical course of action. I know this.

So why am I still sitting here?

Wish me luck. If you have anything stronger than luck (bourbon?), send that too. If you have a way of tackling mammoth To Do Lists in a productive manner, let me know your secret. You can whisper it. You can even send it by smoke signal; I’ll keep one eye on the windows just in case.

I’ll be right here, tediously checking my way through a list as long as my arm.

 

*Seriously it’s getting out of control; I’m now taking iron because my iron stores are low, folic acid because a friend told me everyone should be taking it all the time, vitamin D because I rarely see the sun here, vitamin B12 for my skin and vitamin C and zinc to help absorb the iron. I was talking to a friend recently who said I should also be taking magnesium, but I really don’t think I can bring myself to take more than five tablets in a day unless there is a serious and pressing need…

Thoughts On… The Ring Thing

So it turns out that when you get engaged, you wear a ring.

Who knew, right?* It’s a whole thing. There’s the proposal, and all the things that come with that (champagne… lots of champagne), and then there’s the ring. Usually a shiny ring. Usually a shiny ring with a sparkly rock perched on top so that you can blind your enemies with some carefully-angled light reflection. While I was aware of all of this in a vague, theoretical sense, I hadn’t really thought about it.

Like… ever.

Of course I’ve been around other engaged people, and I’m not completely socially inept, so I have taken part in the customary, “Congratulations! Oooh your ring is amazing!” routine. My congratulations are always sincere – I am a secret sap and melt internally during retellings of funny/sweet/charming/odd/downright peculiar proposals – but if I’m honest, my interest in the ring itself has always been extremely limited. My brain sees the new bit of jewellery and registers ‘beautiful silver-coloured ring with sparkly stone’ and literally nothing else. This may sound borderline sacriligeous, but by and large they all look the same to me. More importantly, they mean the same thing; this person (who I love) is getting married (to someone they love)… and that’s lovely!

But amigos, you have no idea.

Or rather, maybe you do have some idea, but I had NO idea.

The ring thing is an actual rabbithole. It’s Ringception. You think all you need to do is pick a ring. You think it’s simple. You think there’s only one layer… but you’re wrong. You’re so wrong. There are many layers, and once you’ve jumped in there is no Edith Piaf singing Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien to kick you back to sanity.

The first time I looked at rings, I felt the same icy panic that usually closes over me in the men’s shoe department. They all look the same. I know they’re not the same – I know there are differences – but God help me, I cannot point them out. I start to feel a strange, itemised kind of colourblindness; each ring I look at blurs into a muddy amalgamation of every ring I’ve seen before it. It turns out they are not just beautiful silver-coloured sparkly diamond rings. They are rose gold, or yellow gold, or platinum, or white gold, but if they’re white gold then they can be 14 karat, or 18 karat, and can I tell the difference?

No. No I cannot.

Then there are the diamonds (you can use any stone, but diamonds are most common); they can be round, or square, or oval, or pear, or princess, or cushion, or marquise, or emerald, or asscher, or a dozen other “cuts,” and that’s without going deeper into facet cuts and table depths and mathematical formulas for making the diamond a blinding weapon of refraction. I avoid mathematics whenever possible so as you can imagine this is not an area I am particularly interested in. When it comes to one round cut diamond or another round cut diamond, can I tell the difference?

No. No I cannot.

And then, after all that, you have the settings. Do you want it in a bezel setting? Halo setting? Tension setting? Prong setting? How many prongs? Four? Six? Square-placed or compass? Talon or rounded? Cathedral or Tiffany?

It’s endless.

When I started reading online about all of this, I kept coming across forums full of men planning to propose. There are threads out there in the wilderness of the world wide web crammed full of adorably encouraging strangers virtually psyching each other up and advising each other to “Check out her pinterest so you have an idea of what rings she likes.”

Psssh! I scoffed. Like there are people out there pinning their ideal engagement rings to their pinterest boards. Pinterest is for food! Everybody knows that!

Alas, further googling forces me to admit that I was wrong; these people exist. They are legion. There are many, many people out there who are extremely prepared for any potential proposal that might pop up. In this, as in so many other things, it turns out I am that one suddenly cramming for a test I didn’t even know I had to study for, while other people have been carefully compiling binders of detailed notes** for years.

Quelle surprise.

Still, there are a few things here that are bring me a measure of serenity when I start to feel like I am falling into a vertically-placed, asscher-cut hall of mirrors.

asscher cut diamond engagement rings
You could fall in and never come out

 

  1. This is the most first world of first world problems.
  2. Parts of this process have allowed me to say shake my head vigorously and say truly outrageous things like, “NOT THOSE PRONGS!” which is not something I ever thought I would have an opinion about, let alone say out loud.
  3. I don’t really care. I mean I care in so much as I do not want to wear an uncomfortable, heart-shaped eyesore for the rest of my days, but I don’t care. I would have said yes without any ring. I would marry Scrubs with a rubber band around my finger. He is the best.***

So that’s where I’m at. I’ve read more than I ever thought I would need to know about engagement rings. I’ve made some tentative decisions (I’ve decided against heart-shaped diamonds as a general rule). I will no doubt update you when I receive the final product so you can say “Oooh your ring is amazing!” in keeping with the well-established custom.

… Even if it does just look like a beautiful silver-coloured ring with sparkly stone.

*When we got engaged there was a provisional ring (rose gold, with rose quartz and little diamonds for the curious), with the plan being to find The One Ring To Rule Them All at a later stage, together. Hence, Ringception.

**Pinterest boards.

***I realise I am biased. He is though.

Thoughts on ageing when do i get the manual

Thoughts On… Ageing

imageedit_26_6565736822

I’ve dealt with confronting ageing in the same way I deal with confrontation in other areas of my life; I’ve avoided it like the plague. I like the age I am now. I don’t want to think about getting older. I don’t want to think about my body changing. I don’t want to think about liver spots and papery skin and dentures. Instead, I live in the moment.

Or as other people might call it, ‘in denial‘.

This mindset of pretending it’s-just-not-happening-and-I’ll-have-this-same-human-body-forever-and-I-will-always-be-capable-of-solo-dance-parties-in-my-kitchen-and-I-could-climb-Kilimanjaro-but-I-just-don’t-feel-like-it-right-this-minute has served me pretty well so far for an attitude that I realise is, frankly, unsustainable in the long-term.

Up until this year, I didn’t use moisturiser with any frequency whatsoever. I also didn’t use sunscreen unless I was in 40° heat (that’s 104° for you in America). In terms of skincare or exercise, I lived a life of blissful ignorance. When it comes to spa treatments, I have never had a facial, and honestly the idea of a stranger stroking my face with gloop makes me stiffen with discomfort (I’ve heard people say that it’s relaxing, but I truly cannot fathom how that could possibly be the case). The only massages I have ever had are the painful, physiotherapeutic ones that feel like physical abuse and leave you bruised for the rest of the week.

What I’m getting at here is that although I’m grateful for my body and all that it does for me, I don’t exactly treat it like a temple. If my body must be an architectural metaphor, then it is a ramshackle treehouse on a desert island built from bits of trees and patches of moss. I need it. It’s all I’ve got. I could probably stand to make it a bit prettier, but for the moment it does the job. Yes, time is passing and I haven’t so much as given it a coat of varnish, but it still looks fine.

… And then yesterday, I found an unwelcome, uninvited squatter.

As I tried to french braid my hair in front of the mirror (and failed. Again. Seriously how do people manage those braids? They’re like wizardry! You need spatial relation skills I was never born with), I found a single, solitary strand of silver.

I KNOW!

So rude.

I looked at it accusingly. It was trying to disguise itself as blonde, trying to hide among my long dark hair. My eyes narrowed and I pulled it from my head and stared at it. Logically, I’m aware that since I’ve turned thirty I should have expected this sort of monstrous betrayal. It was only a matter of time. My hair – which in the past has been treated to such indignities as blue extensions, a quick magenta dye-job in a bathroom sink, and an extremely ill-conceived period of jet black permanent colour which took about a hundred years to grow out – could only hold out so long. AND YET.

I stood there, staring at this disloyal strand of hair and hissed, “Et tu, Brute?

Before you say it, I know that it’s just one grey hair, and I probably don’t have to run out just yet to buy a teetering stack of Nice n’ Easy Age Defy in the shade Natural Dark Brown. Still, it was an unpleasant discovery. It was an unwanted, obnoxious reminder that I am, in fact, an adult and will at some stage have to consider things such as (down the line) hair dye and (hopefully much further down the line) dentures.

This morning, having internalised all of these unpalatable thoughts, I sat down at my desk and decided to start treating my body better. We’re in this together after all, body and brain. If I’m going to be a ramshackle treehouse on a desert island, let’s at least do something cool with it; swing from branches or something. I feel good about this decision. I felt a rush of energy run through me as I thought about it, and that seems like a good omen.

Although actually, now that I think about it, that might have just been the coffee.

Cooped Up in Cork, Ireland

IMG_20170217_174812_687

I’ve been living in Cork for the past few months.

I’m a Dublin girl, so I’d grown up hearing Corkonians talk about how Cork should be the capital city of Ireland, and how Dublin had robbed Cork of its rightful place as the nation’s most important city… It left me with a somewhat garbled idea of what Cork must be like. After hearing all this chatter, I imagined Cork to be a large, multicultural place on par with Dublin. You know, an actual, geographically alternative capital city.

… And then I moved here.

Cork city is tiny. If I walk so slowly I’m practically going backwards, I can walk from my apartment all the way through the city centre to the other side in twenty minutes. Not only that, but considering it’s the south-west corner of the island, I had always imagined Cork to be positively Mediterranean weather-wise. This is also not the case. In fact as I type this, I’m looking out the window at a flat, grey expanse of cloud that is so low it’s partially obscuring the rooftops of surrounding buildings. It has been raining since last night without pause, and this seems to be the usual way of things in Cork. I never realised Dublin could ever be described as “dry” until I lived here.

I realise all this may sound very negative, so let me assure you that Cork has its positives. The surrounding countryside and all of West Cork is truly beautiful, even with the constant, unrelenting rain. The pubs here are charming, the restaurants are wonderful, and the people here will happily talk your ear off if you stand still for longer than two minutes (the key is to keep moving and look busy).

It’s a city with incredible detail. You can walk down a bland, narrow passageway and look up to find beautiful stained glass, or climb up a raggedy-looking hill and come to a little castle, or drive down a bog-standard country road and find an old viaduct.

IMG_20170217_174334_506Snapchat-333752619IMG_20170101_232211_638

When it comes to food and drink, Cork has you covered. For vegetarians, it has unbeatable options such as Cafe Paradiso – the only high-end vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to – and the Quay Co-op which has every possible vegetarian/vegan product you can imagine. For omnivores the arracy of choice is spectacular, from lunches at Orso to brunches at Liberty Grill to dinners and cocktails at Market Lane and Cask. There are coffee shops on every corner, and there are university students everywhere giving the city a young, slightly alternative vibe.

So on balance, I find Cork city… fine.

It’s fine. It’s okay. When we go out with friends it’s fun, and the rest of the time it’s raining and I’m stuck in the apartment, slowly being driven insane by whoever designed this place.

Really, the apartment is probably the crux of my issues with Cork city.

The place we’re renting here was clearly built with only optics in mind. The block was built before the recession, and is presumably now being rented out until house prices go back up and they can make their money back. Whoever designed it obviously gave a lot of thought as to how it would look in photos, but unfortunately nobody stopped to think about how it would feel to live in it.

When we first moved in, I spent valuable time and energy trying to figure out a way to make it more homely. Eventually I admitted defeat, because no amount of soft woollen throws can soften the angular white walls and black and chrome decor. The hard leather couch could probably just about accomodate half a person … as long as that half a person doesn’t mind sitting on something that gives about the same level of comfort as a window ledge. We don’t have a television, but if we did it would be smack in the centre of the room leaving no space for a dining area. The round table – that we have unceremoniously shunted into the corner – is a glass and chrome monstrosity that shows up every streak and stain on its surface. You never need to use coasters, which is nice, but there is something unsettling about seeing your legs every time you look down at your plate.

Basically, if you want to feel comfortable in this apartment, you need to feel like one of those people who isn’t home long enough to give their house a personality and so rents the furniture from a staging crew. You need half a friend, since that’s all that can be comfortably entertained at one time, and you need to be really into microwaveable meals (the microwave here is a space-age contraption the likes of which I’ve never seen before).

The apartment does come with rack space for 12 wine bottles though, so while apparently the ideal home owner will have no friends, they will have the storage space to accomodate a robust alcohol dependency.

I like my apartments to be cosy. I like the place I’m living to have lots of soft textures and warm colours and preferably a fireplace or a stove. Maybe some twinkly lights. Ideally a pet around the place to snuggle with. This apartment checks none of those boxes. It makes me sad. I hope I can shake off my discomfort for the last few weeks that I’m here and maybe venture out into the rain a bit more… I can’t have seen everything there is to see here!

Still, I doubt I’ll be too sad when it’s time to move back to Dublin.

*********************************************************************

In other news, I numbered comments on the last post from 1 – 22 (I didn’t count double comments) and then used Google’s handy dandy random number generator to pick a number and it chose:

20170515_153147.jpg

… which if I’m right means Lost Astronomer is the winner of this giveaway. Astroboy, send me on your address (if you’re happy to) and I’ll send you on a little box of randomness!

I’m in a bit of a mood today which is seeping into everything I do so if you can read my grumpy thoughts crawling into this post I apologise. Poor Cork, getting the short end of the stick today! I think I’m going to go bake a cake or something to lift my spirits…..

But Trust Me On The Sunscreen…

imageedit_24_7577271744

Remember those What Would Jesus Do? bracelets that were popular a few years ago? The rubber ones that came in different colours for every cause, and looked a bit like cheap, Made in China, knock-off anti-nausea bands? Lance Armstrong had a yellow one before Lance Armstrong turned out to be the poster boy for sociopaths everywhere, and for a time they seemed to be on every wrist in the first world. At first they proclaimed our devotion to different charities, and then, later, reminded us in stamped technicolour to ask ourselves what Jesus would do in any given situation.

I mean to start with, I doubt Jesus would have bought a rubber wristband that takes at least 50 years to decompose, but I digress…

I never really fell into this fad – mostly because I have tiny wrists and the rubber bands only ever seemed to come in one size (HUGE) – so I didn’t own a WWJD bracelet, but in my life, whenever I reach crossroads of intent, I often ask myself something that boils down to more or less the same thing:

What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?

There are few problems in life that aren’t addressed by The Sunscreen Song. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, in 1999 Baz Luhrmann – yes, the film director – took a hypothetical commencement speech written by Mary Schmich, found a voice actor (Lee Perry) to narrate it, and set it to mellow background music. If you’re not familiar with it, I’ll add the lyrics at the bottom of the post so that you too can have a song as a role model.

The other day a friend asked me if I would be interested in running an 8km with her later in the year. Naturally my instinctive, gut reaction was to say, ‘Hell no!’ and do the usual full-body shudder that tends to accompany any thought of running on purpose for no good reason.* After all, I can’t even run to the bottom of my road without wanting to vomit, so 8km seems like an impossible distance. You might as well ask me to climb K2 in my unicorn slippers with nothing but a Capri Sun for sustenance.

Before the immediate no left my lips however, I thought, ‘What would Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen advise?’

If you are familiar with the song at all, then the answer is obviously:

‘Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.’

If my body is an instrument, it is an out-of-tune cello, but I have to say Sunscreen has a point. My body in its current configuration exists solely to propel me from place to place, from the armchair, to the fridge, to the desk, to the nearest pet-able animal… This instrument doesn’t really play. This instrument is the guitar lying forgotten under the bed ever since dreams of being in a band faded with adolescence. This instrument needs a tune-up; it’s long overdue some attention.

There is nothing wrong with my body. It does what I ask it to do without complaint, mainly because I never ask it to do anything too strenuous. It fits into my clothes. It is perfectly capable of having a solo dance party in the kitchen. I have no aches or pains, no ailments or diseases, nothing that would impede movement or limit my activity. I have never broken bones, or undergone surgery, or had stitches put in. I can’t burp, which limits my consumption of fizzy drinks, but other than that it works pretty much the way it’s supposed to.

So I thought it over, and I warily, tentatively, somewhat reluctantly said yes; I said yes to the 8km. If this is the greatest instrument I will ever own, I might as well learn to play a tune on it, even if the tune is the physical equivalent of Three Blind Mice. I’ve downloaded C25k to get me started, and have lost myself in a sea of runner recommendations, so if anybody has any suggestions for a good pair of running shoes, please let me know.

Also, if there’s a way to stop the feeling of getting sick at the slightest hint of exercise, I would love to hear it!

*Good reasons are limited to situations in which I am escaping an axe-murderer or trying to outrun a pack of wolves.

Sunscreen

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’97,

Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind, you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you, and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future… Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees; you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40.
Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse, but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Thoughts on… Ancient History

People have a way of looking back at their past and painting it in golden hues.

“Those were the best days of our lives” they say, as if that isn’t just the most depressing thing to utter about your present situation. “Those were the days!”

It’s hard not to get carried away by nostalgia sometimes. You remember people more fondly, events more kindly, and the minor details that might cast shadows on a memory tend to disappear in the light given off by the time that has elapsed in between. We all do it. I do it. I even do it with history that isn’t my own.

I have a fascination with ancient civilisations. The myths and legends and stories of the past capture my imagination like nothing else. When I was a child, it was Norse, Greek, and Celtic mythology. I loved Loki* and Sleipnir, his eight-legged horse. I loved Greek mythology because the gods and heroes were flawed, like people are, and didn’t always make good choices**. Celtic mythology is morose and tragic and almost everybody dies which, while not cheerful, is definitely compelling. You know there’s always a good bit at stake in a Celtic myth. It’s rare that someone doesn’t end up dashing their head off a rock a la Deirdre of the Sorrows or impaled by spears like Cú Chulainn. I also read about South American mythology and Egyptian mythology. I had a book that laid out all the old religions of the world, and I practically inhaled the stories.

From Roman and  Egyptian mythology, it was a small slide-step into reading about Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, gladiators and sacred cats, gymnasiums and Isis temples.

There is something mind-boggling about the fact that thousands of years ago, people were living their lives much the way we live our lives now, only without selfies or social media. They had religion, they had beliefs and values and societies and political intrigue. Rome even had its own version of a tabloid journalist in the shape of Cicero. Life was much sketchier then considering the amount of poisonings and stabbings and decapitations and general mayhem that was happening on the regular, and of course a lot darker and dirtier without modern sanitation or electric light, but they had parties and luxury and in some ways more magic than we could ever have now. Not everything could be explained. Not all questions could be answered by Google. Instead they had oracles, and soothsayers, and Gods, and monsters, and legendary leaders, and plenty of entertaining drama to brighten their days, with or without the lightbulb.

Of course – of course – I’m doing that thing again, where I colour the past in a rosy glow while conveniently forgetting about things like the bubonic plague, or the fact that people were being burnt at the stake, or that women had no rights and were traded like cattle for social mobility… I mean, I would love to see the ancient city of Alexandria, but probably only from Cleopatra’s perspective. Maybe from the balcony of her onyx and marble palace, looking out at the Pharos? It sounds wonderful to be throwing parties were the floor is laid with roses until they’re knee deep and you have lights strung through the trees and you get to dress up like the goddess an awful lot of people already think you are.

Then again, I don’t think I’d like it half as much from the perspective of a sickly Egyptian slave, sweltering in the sun. Even Cleopatra, with all her wealth and power, felt forced into suicide after everything went pear-shaped on the back of her political maneuvers…

… So maybe there’s something to be said for the present after all.

After all, it’s not so bad to be lying on a sun lounger in a pool of water, typing away on a device that can teach me almost anything I could want to know, without any danger of someone poisoning my food. I’m also not at all concerned about the black death, and I have to concede that I am exceedingly grateful for modern plumbing.

And on that note, I’m off for a shower! Time to climb on board a metal tube (another wonder of the modern age) and fly through the air at hundreds of miles an hour to my country, which is half a world away!

Magic!

*Now I look back and realise he was the ‘IT’S JUST A PRANK BRO!’ OG. I mean that trick he played killing that guy with the sprig of mistletoe? Ice cold.

**Zeus I’m looking at you. Rape by swan is never okay.

Back to regular scheduled programming on Monday once I’m back in cloudy Ireland! Looking forward to catching up on blogs and comments!

Still in Mexico, Now with Added Sunburn

20170424_085651

Since I am still away and have limited access to the internet, I first want to say thank you to everybody who commented on my Discover post, I will be replying to all of them when I get back. I got such thoughtful messages and honestly it’s made this holiday even lovelier than it is already. Given that I am currently typing this in my bikini from a beach bed in front of an astonishingly blue sea, with a palm tree overhead with ACTUAL COCONUTS, that’s saying a lot.

I haven’t had any odd stranger interactions here (yet), although yesterday I did take a colectivo*, and the driver had four sets of rosary beads wrapped around his rear view mirror, a virgin mary statuette glued to the dashboard and a rabbit’s foot dangling from the windscreen, which honestly did not instill much confidence in his driving abilities.

Scrubs and I arrived on Sunday and laughed smugly at the amount of people walking around sunburned. Almost everyone we saw had a rosy tint to their skin, as if they’d been passed through instagram and coloured ‘red’ in the edit. “We have factor 30” we reassured each other. “We’ll be fine!” Factor 30 is already at least 15 more than I usually use, so I was feeling pretty confident.

Pride goeth,’ as the text says, ‘before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Well this haughty spirit was very wrong. This haughty spirit should have bathed in factor 50 before inching so much as a toe out into the midday sun.

It turns out the sun over Mexico is not like the sun over Spain. Or India. Or Egypt. Or Miami. The sun over Mexico is not playing games. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sun over Mexico is being focused through an enormous magnifying glass with the explicit intention of burning us like little ants. Today, Scrubs and I have joined the ranks of the rosy-hued. Hence the beach bed, with the shade, and the coconut trees.

That will teach us.

The coconuts here are huge by the way; I avoid walking directly underneath the trees because I am convinced that one innocently falling coconut could conceivably end my life. Death by coconut. That would be embarrassing.

“Oh, that’s so tragic” they’d say. “How did she die?”

“Her skull was crushed by a falling coconut.”

Cue at best an awkward silence, and at worst a hastily-stifled horrified laugh.

So lately I’ve been wandering around with one eye turned to the palm trees overhead, reminding myself of a stray cat who, years ago, showed up uninvited at my family home. At the time I named him Twisty because he walked sideways with his head tilted at an awkward angle as if he were listening for something the rest of us could never hear. Later it turned out he had Feline AIDS and had to be put to sleep, but for the short time he was with us he would zig-zag around the place looking perfectly content to have one eye on the sky the whole time.

Maybe he was keeping an eye out for invisible falling coconuts.

*A colectivo is sort of like a bus but not quite, and sort of like a taxi but also not quite. You simply stick your hand out and it either stops for you or it doesn’t, and when you hop on you tell them where you want to go and sit down with about seven other sombre faced individuals. When the colectivo reaches where your destination, you pay and hop off. My colectivo was full of Mexican locals with their packed lunches on their laps, getting dropped off to work for the day.

Thoughts on… Spending Monday in Mexico

20170423_224524

I am actually in Mexico as I type this, and I’m typing it on my phone, at the bar. I’ve had one Bahama Mama and one Electric Lemonade, and if you know me then you know that’s quite enough to have me enthusiastically humming Disney villain songs loudly and in public.*

Currently, I’m on Poor Unfortunate Souls, but I’m open to suggestions.

It’s nice here. I arrived a few hours ago and already my hair has taken on a life of its own and doubled in volume; it looks like it inhaled deeply and never exhaled. Waves have appeared out of nowhere. It is basically now a duvet for my head and shoulders. I have considered shaving it off about three times since the plane landed.

Make that four.

Today (tomorrow) is Monday, but I’m typing this on Sunday (today) because I am functioning on about four hours of sleep and trying to untangle time zones is beyond the scope of my capabilities right now. The Bahama Mama didn’t help. The Electric Lemonade was the nail in the coffin. I’m getting ready for a Mudslide and honestly, once I’ve had it I’ll probably have to ride a giant iguana back to my room because three cocktails is enough to have me talking to the walls.

I’m a notorious lightweight.

The bartender keeps calling me Emma, which makes me feel like I’m an incredibly unprofessional undercover agent. Is Emma supposed to be drinking something that tastes like melted lime Calippo? Is she supposed to be sitting on a swing? Are swings even safe in a bar? I feel like this is a head injury waiting to happen.

Speaking of muddled heads…

Today my Falling Half In Love With Strangers post is being featured on Discover WordPress, which is exciting and lovely and flattering and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

“…And that’s all I have to say about that.”

*Yes I also do this – regularly – completely sober. Stop judging me.