Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Hobbit (movie v book) plus free book giveaway

I re-read The Hobbit the other night.  I can’t remember when I first read it; in fact I couldn’t remember a whole lot about it at all. Which, come to think of it, is pretty damning, right?  I’m pretty sure I read Lord of the Rings first – when I was about ten, if I recall.  And then again, when I was thirteen and again when I was sixteen.  Let’s just say I was a bit obsessed with it.  Okay, let’s be really honest here, I was more than a bit obsessed with Aragorn.  I had a serious downer on Arwen because, really, what kind of vapid wimp was she?  What did she do when her beloved rode off to battle?  Er, give him a flag. 
Nope, I identified with horse-girl Eowyn because, frankly, she is the only female character in the entire trilogy with any kind of get up and go. 
“I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death. But I do fear to stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”  Attagirl.
Then again, she hasn't got a lot of competition as female role models are pretty thin on the ground. The elves are just too wafty, Goldberry sings and that's about it...which leaves... Shelob. Great.  

Nope, Eowyn it had to be. And, anyhow, I kind of went off Aragorn a bit by the third book – he was much better as grubby gloomy old Strider.  By the end, he’d morphed into stereotypical king material. And poor Faramir, poor doomed Faramir with his bonkers father, riding hopelessly against impossible odds.  Yeah, I shifted allegiance, fickle teenager that I was.

Anyhow. Back to The Hobbit.  After the broad vistas of LOTR, it all seems a bit tame.  The characters seem too small.  The adventure too trifling.  And what’s at stake?  Gold.   Y’know, not the freedom of the known world; not the soul of mankind but…jewellery. Okay, and a lost kingdom but, tbf, the dwarves (in the book anyhow) seem far more focused on the bling than the homeland.

Lately James has been asking me to read to him at night again. Yeah, he’s thirteen. So what?  Curiously, I love reading aloud and for some even more curious reason, he seems to enjoy listening to me. And there is nothing nicer at the end of the day to sit on the edge of his bed, with the SP curled up and making the odd grunting noise (or scratching off a flea), and just lose ourselves in a story.  We had galloped through the latest Rick Riordan (The Serpent’s Shadow) which was, have to say, a total cracker.  In comparison, The Hobbit seemed…umm…a bit boring, a bit slow.  And no jokes.  Yet James seemed to enjoy it.  Well, he said he did. And, anyhow, in a way it doesn't matter what you read...if you're reading, if you're hanging on to a little bit of childhood. Right? 

My view?  Well…a few thingies bothered me.
 Too many dwarves. Just way WAY too many dwarves.  I never did get to tell ‘em apart.  Apart from the grumpy leader one and the fat one.  The rest? Just dwarves. They all came across the same. Is that dwarvist?  Bite me.
* Gandalf. Bit of a bumbler really. Flits in, flits out.  And, like, why did he get Bilbo to go on this quest thingy anyhow?  
* Elrond. Now, am I reading this right but it seems to be saying he isn’t ‘all elf’ if you get me. Look…page 70… “In those days of our tale there were still some people who had both elves and heroes of the North for ancestors, and Elrond…was their chief.”  Sooo, why was he all arsey about…oh, never mind.
* Elves in general. Much more sprightly and silly than LOTR.
* The necromancer. Sauron, right?  Routed from the forest and banished.  At no point does he pick up on the ring malarkey – even though he made the darn thing. Okay, so I’m missing something here but I can’t be arsed to burrow through LOTR – remind me, someone, why he’s able to ‘feel’ the ring when Frodo has it; but not before?
* From banishment to massive evil empire in…what?  Fifty years?  Hmm, on second thoughts, that’s perfectly possible. As you were...
* Smaug. HUGE wasted opportunity for dramatic tension, IMHO. Does he ever really threaten?  Nah.  And how does he get killed?  Off-set. By some random guy that comes out of nowhere.
* Bilbo is fifty, right?  So how come he looks like this?  On second thoughts...scrub that. 

Am I being a miserable old cow?  Is this the danger of re-reading books years after you first encountered them?  Mind you, like I said, it’s not like The Hobbit were on my ‘Favourite books of all time’ list.  And, having said all this, I confess I am looking forward mightily to the movie.  Check out the trailer below - it's a cracker!  And I reckon this will be one of those rare cases when the film might well be one hell of a lot better than the book.

Except (update) - see here - my thoughts on the movie  ...  

Did you like it?  Have you read it to your children?  Would you like to?  I have a couple of copies (no, not my old one - new, new, nice and new, unthumbed by my grubby paws) to give away if you’d like to try it out. I may even throw in a bit of dragon hoard if you’re very lucky (or maybe an invisible ring). If you’d like a copy let me know in the comments – and make sure I can get hold of you one way or another. 

And check out the Hobbit blog:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Writing agony aunt columns by committee (Who's the goat of your life?)

Okay, so I write an agony aunt column for Natural Health magazine. Each month I’m given a dilemma and I have to come up with some sage words of wisdom for the unfortunate soul in distress. Don’t ask me how this came about as I too doubt my credentials for this role.
Anyhow. This month’s dilemma rolled in.

"Dear Jane. I have a really good relationship with a genuinely kind, nice man. I know I should count my blessings but I just can’t stop thinking about my ex – who is quite the opposite, wild and unpredictable. I can’t get him out of my head. What should I do?" 

Hmm.  So I asked Adrian.
‘She won’t ever be happy with him,’ he said firmly. ‘And, anyway, she wants to have her cake and eat it too.’
What a bizarre expression that is.  So I Googled it and discovered that pretty much every language going has some kind of variation on the theme of having it both ways.  And, weirdly, the vast majority involve either cakes or goats.  For instance, we have…

On the goat side…

Czech: Aby se vlk nažral a koza zůstala celá - The wolf is full and the goat stayed whole.
Serbian: Не можеш да имаш и јаре и паре - You can't have both goatling and money.
Bulgarian: И вълкът сит, и агнето цяло - Both the wolf is full, and the lamb (pseudo goat) is whole.
Polish: Wilk syty i owca cała - The wolf is full, and the lamb (goat) - whole.

And on the cake side…

Hebrew: אי אפשר לאכול את העוגה ולהשאיר אותה שלמה - you can't eat the cake and keep it whole.
Dutch: Jij wilt kiezen én delen - You want to both pick (a part first) and split (the cake)
Swiss: Du chasch nit dr Füfer und s Weggli ha - you can't have the five cent coin and a Swiss bread roll.

In Persian the phrase apparently goes ‘To have donkey and God as well’ but let’s not go there, huh?

Anyhow…I posted this on Facebook and a lively debate arose around goats and cakes.  And then I thought, hey…let’s see whether my friends can shed some light on this poor woman’s problem.  So I asked.  And they replied.  Like this…

Tommy:  First, do no harm.  (I can't get the Withnail quote out of my head... "We mean no harm")

Marek: Second, keep doing them both.  (Men, huh?)

Susie: I would first ask her what about excites her? What traits did she find attractive? Did he break it off or did she? Is there unfinished business? I also don't think someone should have to count their blessings to stay in a relationship. Either she's happy there or not.  (Oooh, sensible).

Me: Okay, keep talking. I'll put the kettle on.  I need 500 words.

Susie: Okay... Is it a good relationship in her mind or is it good because of what she thinks other peoples' opinions will be? How can she get her new guy to exhibit some of the traits of her ex that she likes- like unpredictability?  Maybe she needs to start being unpredictable. (Which does not mean I am telling her to dump new guy and go back to ex) but rather experiment with new things that give her a thrill. (hmm)

Susie: And I am wondering whether the sex is good? Cause maybe that's the issue?  (Who knows?)

Marek: Jesus…

Trisha: I think she should organise to do something wild and unpredicable with her genuinely kind, nice man, why wait for someone else to be wild and unpredictable? (can you teach an old goat new tricks?)

Susie: Hmm…so you’re not liking my answers, Marek?

Marek: that was not a comment, Suzie, but a suggestion. :o)

Susie: lol

Sarah: What she really has here is two relationships which is actually rather greedy of her. She should stop wondering which one is right and start looking at her need to covet both. She wants her cake with jam on. And is behaving like a randy goat. :-)  (Ooh, you tell her, the randy goat!)

Susie: aaah

Theo: All very interesting and I can see where some of you more sensible, considerate people are coming from, but I'm really more interested where the goats fits into all this, should someone be thinking about calling the RSPCA?

Marek: The goats fit…The goat fits into the cake.

Me: She wants her cake with jam on? Missed that one earlier.  This is all great stuff, people, I’m gonna go down hard on this greedy goatish bitch.

Charlotte: Her preoccupation with her ex has nothing to do with his personality or the difference between him and her current boyfriend. He's still in her mind because for some reason or other, sub-conciously the former relationship is unfinished business. Perhaps he dumped her and never quite explained why. Perhaps she finished with him when she was in fact still in love with him. (That's the thingy with these darn dilemmas - you never know the full story).

Susie: I always wanted to have an agony aunt colum.  (At this rate, mine will be up for grabs)

Marek: The goat (we don't know her name) could leave boat... both cakes and travel offshore... And they wood... would sing: 'Pie, pie, Hollywood Hills...'

Charlotte: Me too, Susie! (Umm, split it between you?)

Anne: Bottom line is who will treat her the way she wants to be treated. At the end of the day, when she's settled down, which one is going to be there in the evening for her and the kids? You can be happy with excitement once in a while. You can't be happy without kindness and loyalty in your life. Excitement is good, Commitment is a whole lot better.  (yeah but...)

Charlotte:  But unless the ex is interested in taking her back, then it's rather a moot point, surely? Sounds like she's in a rebound relationship and still holds a torch for the ex.... Next!

Sarah (different one): I think she should take up baking, crack some eggs, cream some sugar, fling some self raising flour about and see if her new man does the wild and unpredictable act of licking the bowl. :-)  (okay, so that made me snort out loud)

Veronica: She's fucked, basically. It'll be about the sex. It always is. But the ex won't make her happy. She needs to go cold turkey and live without the danger. Sadly you can't turn kind, nice men into bad boys that make you scream - you can't 'plan' to be wild and unpredictable - but maybe she can learn to value security and comfort over the rollercoaster that is her ex. Kindness and loyalty, as Anne pointed out, are far more enduring and nourishing. Tough call, though. She needs to treat it like an addiction. One day at a time. And keep herself busy. And delete his number from her phone. And not drink too much.  (Now there speaks a sensible woman).

Philip: She should buy a goat and start baking her own bread. She will then be too busy to wonder what she should do. If that doesn't work, get another goat. (er, okay)

Marek: And milk it good. (right)

Philip: Forgot to ask, is she pregnant by the wild n crazy guy? If so, his job is done & Pappa Predictable's turn begins.  (Jesus)

Marek: But then the barking syndrome would apply.

Philip: Marek, do you mean somebody might ask, ‘Who let the dogs out?’

Marek: Sort of.

Philip:  Jane, I know you want a 500 word answer, but beyond buying a goat, or goats, there is not much you can tell the woman, especially if she is using birth control measures. Perhaps cold ocean bathing and buying an ereader might help. (Fifty Shades of Grey and a goat?)

Adele: This isn't about the ex. She's just bored in general. Tell her to get a life!  (Yessir!)

Ashen:  I'd go for goats. They're a wonderful addition to the here and now factor in your life. Which reminds me, I need to find the story I wrote about finding a goat - having come out of a similar situation.  (Which sounds like a story in itself) 

Marek: Everybody needs a goat in his life. What’s the goat of your life?  (Well, what is? :) 

So, there you have it.  Cakes, goats, dilemmas and agonising by committee on Facebook.  Now, over to you...what do YOU think the goat should do?  

Thursday, 21 June 2012

In my Pedlars-fuelled dreams...

I don’t know about you but I have these alternative fantasy lifestyles that play out inside my head.  And one pokes its nose out every time the Pedlars catalogue lands on my mat.

I browse through it and off I go again.  In this particular fantasy I am the kind of woman who goes off camping in wild beautiful places.  I have a VW camper or a large Landrover (can’t quite decide) with tent, canoe, guitar, surf boards in the back and we just drive around in a relaxed manner (windows down, music pouring out) and find somewhere lovely (not some scuzzy campsite of course) with nobody else around and pitch the tent and light a fire and lie down and catch the rays and watch the stars. 

How cool is that?
Okay, so I can’t surf but hey… In my head I can, right?  Just like I can swim like a mermaid and play slide guitar like Ry Cooder.  But, actually, you may be surprised to learn that I do have some outdoor skills.  I lay a mean fire. I can construct an emergency shelter. And…er…that’s about it.  Mind you, let's be really honest here, in my fantasy I am also twenty years younger, have pert tits and the kind of skin that tans to a soft glow (rather than trying to make up its mind whether to burn or go in for extreme freckling). 

Anyhow. I love Pedlars.  And no, they aren’t paying me. In fact they have no idea I’m writing this post.  I love them cos they are a small (well, not so very small now) company who have high standards, great principles, a fabulous sense of design and a brilliant sense of humour. I used to buy quite a bit from them back in the day (when I wasn’t broke) and their service was (and I suspect still is) just awesome.  Truly, if you want to go into business, you could do far worse than use them as your template.  

And yes, I'm plugging them because...
a) I figure a lot of you lot will love their stuff.
b) I feel ethical authentic businesses should get a shout-out from time to time.
c) Their catalogue says 'Everything's going to be alright' at the bottom of every other page.
d) They have a Dog of the Week page and app. 
e) Occasionally they have wildly brilliant little practical products like the Corkcicle (keeps white wine cool without having to dunk it in a river) and the Bheestie Bag (which allegedly dries out mobiles, iPods etc that have been dropped in water). Seriously. 

Yes, some of their stuff is expensive but that’s cos they are picky and for some bits of kit (like tents and so on), they hunt out the best.  I just love that they can make me yearn for things like a Swedish firesteel (developed by the Swedish Defence Department), a hurricane lamp and an axe.  Of course, in this alternative life of mine, I also live in a cool warehouse apartment kitted out with their posters, lights, plates and so on. 

And there is music, always music. I have lost track (ho ho) of the number of brilliant artists I’ve discovered through their music club.  To give you an idea, their current playlist includes Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, Air, Fleet Foxes, Nicholas Jaar, Beach House and Lanterns on the Lake. They mix up the old with the very new.  I don’t always agree but I always check out their recommendations cos sometimes they suggest real gems. 

So, if you don't already know them, check 'em out and say 'hi' from me.  

And now, on this wet soggy morning, let me leave you with a few of my favourites from their 'songs for a sultry summer's evening'… Sympathetic magic, huh?  

And this one isn’t on their playlist…but I figure it should be. My favourite camp-fire song…  Now if I could only play guitar like that…

Choices, choices...and slugs...and my inner Clive

God I hate choices.  It’s why it’s so much easier to say, simply, ‘I have no choice.’ Cos it devolves the responsibility of making what you hope will be the right choice, right?

But really, there is always a choice. Always. Bet you don’t believe me, huh? Well, let's take my example. Right now, I’m bitching about not having any money, about being stuck where I am.  And is that really true? Well, yes, it’s true I don’t have any money.  But I could have, if I really wanted. I just don’t choose to because I don’t want to work for scuzzballs (is that how you spell it?) anymore, churning out the same old crap day after day.  I could get my arse in gear and go out there and flog my books but, hey, I don’t wanna pimp my words to the world (and, anyhow, I wince when I read them now).  And, see, if I were really successful with my books, I’d have to write more.  I’d have to go and spout crap on television and radio.  I’d be expected to give talks and inflict my opinions on innocent people.  And… do I really wanna do any of that? Probably not.

So. What else could I do?  Well, actually that still leaves me with plenty of options – I’m pretty lucky. I could sell this house.  Move to Greece/Spain/Tanzania/Mitcham.  Buy a motor home like Jake Barton and tour the world.  Find a cave in the desert.  But, bottom line, I don’t.  My choice. Why?  I suppose because the responsible adult thing comes into play. One’s own choices impact on other people. Would James be happy to be tugged out of the school he loves?  Would Adrian be happy living in Greece?  Or Mitcham?  Nope.
How far do we have the right to inflict our own desires, wants, needs on other people?  Of course Byron Katie would say it’s not our business how other people react.  But it’s not that easy, eh?

Then again, often fear is involved.  Fear of leaving the comfort zone, even if it’s a discomfort zone.  
Take a guy Adrian knows.  He says his life sucks.  His wife is an alcoholic and he works pretty much night and day while his teenage son sits alone in his room playing Xbox.  The guy says there is nothing he can do, that his hands are tied. It’s cut and dried, he says. He can’t afford to pay two mortgages.  He can’t stop his wife drinking.  They’re trapped, in a hell of their own making.  But are they? 
'That is one huge house,' I said. 'They probably could do something.'
'Maybe he's worried that, if he leaves her, she'll kill herself,' said Adrian. 
'She's killing herself anyway,' I pointed out. 
It's not easy, is it?  I'm not saying it's easy.  
At which point, Byron Katie would unhelpfully add that our family and the people who piss us off are our greatest teachers.  She would also probably argue that, in this case, they’re both addicted, in different ways. At which point they and you would probably want to strangle Byron Katie, right? 

But she’s got a point, I feel. 
I do try to look at the people who piss me off the most and try to figure out what they’re reflecting back to me.  Like the guy who kept phoning yesterday. Jeez, he was one irritating tosser. He never got the point. He never shut the fuck up. He wouldn’t listen. He just kept on coming out with all this total utter drivel. He wouldn’t give up, even when he knew damn well he was on a losing wicket.  Oh Clive… Oh Jane.  Oh shit.  :-) (yeah, I know, the irony of this post, huh? It may not make the light of may not stay up long..I dunno. I guess that's gonna be my choice.)

And now you’re saying, yeah but. Yeah but…  You (me) have choices. I (you) have no choices. And I would say again that, in my not so humble opionion (I love that typo so I’m leaving it – peeling layers?), there is always a choice. Bar none. If you can’t change something (and, sure, there are times when it really is a stretch to makes changes), you can shift the way you think about it. 

You’re shaking your head? Saying mentally (or out loud) cut the New Age crap, Jane?  Well.  Maybe.  But let me give you the example of my friend John. John had MND and, by the end of his life, he couldn’t do ANYTHING on his own.  Nope, not even breathe.  If I’d been John, I suspect I’d have just lain there being breathed and generally loathing God, the universe, everything and spent my time visualizing flicking my fingers at the lot of them.  What did he do?  He started meditating. He figured it was ‘as good a time as any’ to learn.  Did it change anything?  Yeah, actually, it did. 

Anyhow. I watched a slug today. Quite beautiful really. Firstly it occurred to me how very much it looked like a seal.  Which made me think – seal…slug.  Aaah... uuugh. What’s the difference?  Eyes maybe.  We like being able to see eyes.  
It was coming down an old oak tree and its progress intrigued me so much I just stood mesmerized.  Slug meditation.  Slug as teacher?  My inner slug?  Yeah, well, I can be a slimeball, for sure.  But really... it did strike me... 

If you’re coming down a nigh-on vertical surface head-first, take it very very slowly. 


It's not just me, is it?  

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

If you're going to knit, make it a honey badger or a beard

Oh God. I did child modelling? 

When I was a child (feel free to insert the Hovis ad music), knitting was something you did out of necessity.  My mother couldn’t afford to buy us new sweaters so my nan used to knit them. Looking back, they were probably quite cool in a sort of Enid Blyton four-ply way. Well, the first one was.  When I grew out of it, Nan unpicked it and re-knitted it - pretty much the same, just bigger.  And again. And again. And so on ad infinitum. Only problem, the original wool swiftly ran out so the jumpers ended up being striped.  Think of a depressing Neapolitan ice-cream – with grey instead of vanilla.

‘Couldn’t I have a blue one?’ I said wistfully. 
‘I could run to a blue stripe maybe,’ she said, as we threw another chair on the fire. 

But really it’s all different now.  Even terrier lawyers are wielding knitting needles.
‘I’m going to learn to knit,’ said Liz.
‘What do you mean you’re going to learn to knit?’
‘There’s a waiting list for all the best classes.’
Ye Gods. Only in London would you have to wait for a superior knitting class. Only in London would you even need a knitting class.  Can't we do anything for ourselves nowadays? What happened to winging it?
She had the grace to look rueful.

‘What are you going to knit?’
‘A scarf.’
Knitted honey badger...
Oh Lizzie, Lizzie.  Nooo.  Even I know that scarves and jumpers and practical thingies are all terribly passe now.  Why knit something sensible when you can knit something weird or downright disturbing? We've gone right past cute knitted toys, and even interesting dogs and the royal family now seem a bit tame.
I don't know about you but, wherever I go on the Internet, I seem to stumble over weird knitted things.  This is probably nothing new and the rest of you have probably been knocking up bondage kits and alien dissections for aeons.  But hey…this is my hijab right?  

Anyhow, these are my favourites to date… please feel free to add your own.  Actually you can Google 'knitted' + virtually anything and you'll find some nutjob has knitted it. Seriously. I tried - randomly - 'knitted Michael Jackson', 'knitted penis', 'knitted honey badger', 'knitted zombie apocalypse', 'knitted sex toys', 'knitted dead cat', 'knitted credit card', 'knitted Spongebob' and so on, and came up trumps every time.  

Oh, and btw, I have only one thing to say to all you people indulging in this, frankly odd, pastime. You are sad sad people and you have way too much time on your hands. :-)  Yes, yes...pot, kettle, black...I know. 

Knitted Kali. Love the detail on the protruding tongue and bleeding neck.

"Knitted Testament" from the most excellent website Ship of Fools.  A relatively simple project to inspire faith in beginners.
Knitted alien dissection. Personally I think this one is trying too hard to be weird for weird's sake. 

Knitted whip. Okay, so it looks a bit like a long tassel but...   Hmm, there's a thought... hang about.  (insert pause). No. :-(   My first fail.  No knitted Fifty Shades of Grey. HUGE marketing opp there, guys... 
Knitted Karl Lagerfeld. Right.
The knitted beard. Possibly my favourite. Excellent use of texture. Reminds me of my ex brother-in-law who had brown hair and a ginger beard.


And then...from somewhere right at the bottom of my subconscious, a horrible memory emerged. Surely not?  I tapped in the words 'knitted naked people' and yes, there it was...  You've probably already seen this but, if may wish to shield your eyes right now.

So tomorrow's post will be on practical parenting, right? 

Monday, 18 June 2012

My Speedo memories and pudendum pseudo-augmentation

Okay, so I’ve told you before about my reverse body dysmorphia, right?  In which I look at clothes and think, ‘Shit, I’d look great in that’ and then get monumentally hurt when reality crashes in? 
Well, its worst manifestation comes with swimsuits. 

Kinda like this in my over-vivid imagination
Last year, when I was going to Israel and realized I only had a five year old M&S swimsuit with fabric fatigue, my beloved best friend Jane sent me a voucher to buy something swish, smart and sexy.  After much frowning, I plumped for a sort of understated slinky swathed number in iconic black.  Hey, it looked bloody brilliant on the model.  Unfortunately it was utterly out of its depth with my boobs – either offering them up on a plate (the kind of cleavage that could hide entire pencil cases) or sending them veering off in opposite directions.  Which was fine until I had to do a shoot for a magazine in a floatation tank.

‘Umm. You do know I float naked?’ I told the picture editor. 
‘Oh.’ Long pause.  ‘Crikey. Not sure the magazine is ready for this.’
‘What? Seeing me naked?’ Trying to keep the slight hurt tone out of my voice.
‘Oh, er, no, of course not.  Just it would be a first for us.’

So we went the swimsuit route.  Let’s just say that lying in a float tank with a photographer looming over you on a stepladder ain’t the best experience (practical note: don’t ever float in a swimsuit – you get bloody cold). 
‘Oooh, you look just like a mermaid,’ said the photographer.  Oh yeah. 

You really thought? :D
Except. Oh no. When I saw the pictures I nearly died.  It looked like I’d had a botched boob job and some kind of weird pudendum augmentation op.  Seriously, I looked deformed. 
‘Don’t try to tell me that looks normal?’ I said to the pic editor.  She snorted. Really, she did.
‘It’s the water pushing up the costume,’ she said.  ‘We can airbrush that. And the weird tit thing.’ 
Shit. So now I’m being airbrushed to look normal? 

Anyhow. I was still smarting from this when the PR for Simply Swim asked if I’d like to try out a Speedo swimsuit.  I had a sudden rush of nostalgia for my youth, when Speedo was THE only swimsuit.  The plain blue old school one didn’t have particularly happy memories but I spent a large part of the happiest year of my life wearing two Speedo swimsuits – one green, one blue (no, not at the same time!).  In the US. Driving my Toyota (the one where you could watch the road passing under your feet) to the lake to lie on the beach.  Swimming lazily out to the swimming deck, lolling for a while and then swimming lazily back again. Not to mention long lazy days on Cape Ann beaches and brief forays into the Pacific surf (no, not both at the same time - I know they're 3,000 miles apart).  Yeah, happy happy memories.  

So I looked, like a kid in a sweetshop, at the website.  Heck, they’ve changed.  Gone all high-tech and serious.  And there I was, doing it all over again, choosing something on the way I wish I looked. 
‘I love the Fastskin Recordbreaker,’ I said to the PR.
‘Er, right. That’s a high performance suit for top level competition swimming.’
And?  You’re suggesting I’m not a top level competitive swimmer?
‘But it’s a nice design.’
I could almost hear the sigh over the email. 
‘They’re a very snug fit,’ he said.  ‘VERY snug.’ 
Shit. He knew. He KNEW.  That I have a body that looks deformed in swimsuits.  Holy crap, can you imagine the mountain, nay the entire Himalayas, of Venus in a skin-tight costume?  Then again..maybe the very snugness would stop the water getting in underneath and doing the puffy thing?  Oh hell, it was all too much.
‘I’ll think again.’

And so, eventually, I let reality have its check and requested the Women’s Endurance Plus Hydrafit 2 piece Tankini.  Offering ‘advanced support and comfort for lots of movement in the water.’  And snorted a bit because really my aqua expertise lies in advanced floating.  But, hey, wearing this, who knows?  And if I do make lots of aerobic moves in the water I can rest assured that the ‘lightweight power mesh’ will ‘eliminate rubbing’. 

So. Is it good?  Yeah, it’s good.  Let’s be very honest, when companies say ‘support’ they’re talking about keeping small boobs pinned down. Mine require industrial haulage (let’s not get onto sports bras which are another, VERY sore point).  So, not entirely sure I could bounce with total abandon.  But it’s kinda cute and the short thingies are well nice.  Best of all you don’t have to hoik it all to one side if you want a pee.  
And DON’T say ‘ just pee in the pool’ because that is, really, not nice, right? 

PS - you really thought I'd show you the floatation pics?    
PPS - Simply Swim are a decent bunch, they really are.  They do a whole load of swim stuff  - not just Speedo... They get your cossie out pretty smartish and, if (when you try it on) it really does look like a dog's dinner - they'll swap with no quibbles (providing you haven't worn it for, like, five years). 

I don't have a clue, I really don't...(Part 7,562)

Gorey understands... 

There are some days when I really truly don’t have a clue. I seriously wonder what on earth I’m doing.  I look in the mirror and wince.  I think about the rest of my life and wonder…why?  Why?  It’s not depression.  At least I don’t think so.  It’s simply a total complete lack of comprehension.  Nothing makes any sense. 

In Greece I had reached a sort of peace.  Before that, I’d tried pushing; tried again and again to make things happen; to prod and poke the universe into some semblance of (what seemed to me to be) order. It hadn’t worked. Just left me exhausted and sad at my failure.  I couldn’t figure out what it was all about.  But in Greece, watching the waves, I kinda got the Zen thing. I was content just to let go, to allow what would be to be. To let life unfold whichever way it so wished.  I decided that there were no choices to be made.  And that was fine.

Yet some days it isn’t fine.  I guess it’s allowable to have bad days.  I just freaking wish I didn’t think so much. Wish I didn't feel so much. 

‘I don’t get it,’ says Adrian frequently.  Not now, exactly (sort of), because he’s not here (he’s in a five star hotel in St Petersburg with a butler…actually this does make me smile). ‘I mean, why d’you think about these things?’ he has said, frequently (and doubtless will say again).   And, come to think of it, given I wrote this some time back but didn't post it until now (?), he isn’t even there now – he’s on his way to Norwich.  Possibly.  Depending on when you read this, of course.

But that’s it, isn’t it?  What?  Where? When?  As everything we think of as real is just energy converted into signals converted into a mental representation of experience?  As time is purely created in the temporal lobe of the brain and is not really objective in any way, shape or…time?  As infinity is about everything happening all at once?  And love?  Simply a response created in the mind by chemical reactions in the brain?  Based on what?  What do we mean by love?  Is it simply a crutch?  A panacea? A story we tell ourselves?

Adrian’s right of course.  Thinking, puzzling, probing…just makes us unhappy. 
‘Why do you put yourself through it?’ he says. 
‘Don’t you ever think about this stuff?’ I say. In wonderment.
‘Nope,’ he says.
I need a head transplant.

Anyhow. Today I walked the dogs up to the hill fort.  And for a few minutes the sun was shining and the world looked very beautiful.  I sat down on a log and drank in green.  And I believed in the moment, in just being, in being conscious, present, connected, in this precise second.  And thought, why wait until I get home to meditate – why not do it here and now?  So I did.  Breathing in green.  Trying not to think about how the world is really colourless and odourless and tasteless.  And it was fine.  Just fine.

And then Asbo bit me.  J

Near death experiences, cancer and drinking champagne

‘You should read this,’ said Hilary.  We were sitting on the beach (yeah, yeah, in Greece) watching the waves.  I looked at the book.  Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani.  My first thought was that I didn’t like the cover (yeah, I’m shallow like that but really - it IS foul, isn't it?).  Then I read the subtitle: ‘My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death to True Healing’ and my second thought was ‘Eeek, no way.’

I have a pathological dislike of cancer. Not because I dwell on getting it myself particularly.  It’s probably a hangover from my father dying of it…maybe more of a habit now than anything else.  But still. 
And then, on the day I was leaving, I talked to Hilary again.  One of those conversations where, for every word spoken, another fifty were unspoken but the meaning caught.  It was a good talk/nottalk and, at the end, she said it again.  ‘You should read this.’  I sighed.   

Anita Moorjani was diagnosed with cancer in April 2002.  In 2006, she was rushed to hospital as an emergency, as a terminal case. Her organs were on the verge of shutting down and, to cut a long story short, she went into a coma and did all the usual NDE stuff – watching what was going on; going off to the place of unconditional Love; realising being dead would be totally cool; being given the choice and deciding to come back to life.  But she didn’t just come back – she came back healed, to the total stunned amazement of all the medics.

I checked her out with my sceptical cap firmly on but her story is pretty watertight and firmly backed by oncologists.  It was a spontaneous and downright miraculous recovery.  Which is great, of course, for her and her family…
But…for the rest of us?  What did she discover, what did she discover?  This is what I found really interesting – as often it goes directly against a lot of the perceived wisdom in handling cancer – and other diseases.

She felt that illness is often caused by suppression (and I have long had a suspicion about that link with cancer in particular):  “When we judge some of our emotions as being negative and try to deny them, we’re suppressing part of who we are.  This creates a blockage within us and prevents us from expressing the fullness of our magnificence. It’s about not being afraid to feel anxiety, sadness or fear, rather than suppressing everything until those emotions pass. It’s about allowing myself to be true to who I am.’

She says that she used to be terrified of negative emotions because she feared they would attract negativity into her life. “It’s about allowing what I’m actually feeling, rather than fighting against it. The very act of permitting without judgment is an act of self-love. This act of kindness towards myself goes much further in creating a joyful life than falsely pretending to feel optimistic.”

She felt that her cancer was her own unexpressed power and energy, turning inwards against her body, rather than outward.  “I knew it wasn’t a punishment or anything like that. It was just my own life force expressing it as cancer because I didn’t allow it to manifest as the magnificent powerful force of Anita.’

She discovered that there is no condemnation in the ‘other realm’ because there is nothing to condemn – we are all pure consciousness.  “I believe that people who hurt others only do so out of their own pain and their feelings of limitation and separation.  In fact they need the most compassion – not judgment and further suffering in the afterlife… I realized in the NDE state that it was myself I hadn’t forgiven, not other people.’

She realized that there really is no time.  “In the NDE state, I realized that every moment in all our lives, past, present, future, known, unknown, and unknowable – exist simultaneously.’ And that we can effectively alter our past by the moment-to-moment choices we make…  “I feel that the present moment is the only point in time we have to create our reality.” 

She learned that religion is immaterial.  “It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, Allah, or none of the above. What matters is how you feel about yourself, right here and right now.”

She found that there is no one right diet, one right way to eat, drink, live, be.  “I used to be paranoid about what I ate. I thought everything caused cancer.  I used to eat very healthfully, but I did so out of fear. Now I eat what I’m drawn to. I enjoy chocolate and a good wine or champagne from time to time.  I think that’s it more important to be happy than anything else.  It’s no fun eating all the so-called right foods out of fear of getting sick and being miserable about it.”  

Above all, she says, we should try to be kind – to ourselves.  “We always attract the perfect results, and like calls to like. So the kinder I am to myself, the more outward events will reflect that. The harder and more judgmental I am toward myself, the more my situation will match it. The universe always proves me right in my opinion of myself.”

Bottom line?  “Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. If I ever had to create a set of tenets for a spiritual path to healing, number one on my list would be to make sure to laugh as often as possible throughout every single day – and preferably laugh at myself. This would be hands down over and above any form of meditation, prayer, chanting, or diet reform.”