PERSPECTIVES… TRAVELLING LOG

When I’m on foot

My hat cocked at a jaunty angle, my jacket nicely fastened around my fit and healthy torso and my lovely smart backpack with everything in it I’ll need on this excursion I am nothing if not smug.

People in cars pass me. I think: you’re investing in a nice paunch there. I’m going to stay trim and be able to walk distances when I’m an older woman.

 When I’m on my bicycle

Look at my beautiful thighs and buttocks. Working. Pedalling. Powering this magnificent machine.

And think about what my heart is doing. I’m alive! I’m sometimes going faster than you in your car. I’m nimble and responsive. Good for the environment and really quite marvellous all in all.

When I’m on my motorbike

I am without doubt the coolest, smartest road user. A cross between the eco-approved bicycle and those silly smart hatches that are little more than four-wheeled prams with engines (See Small Minds: Mini Mentality).

My leathers are flattering and fitted – trousers that hug my super thighs, a jacket that hugs my lovely waist, boots that just unify the whole look… Aren’t I just the most enviable road user?

I can go fast. I can slide in and out of you stationary cars. I can go ultra slow – my clutch control is second to none. And I can smell the air, hear the sounds of English life and be somehow in the world yet speeding past with the coolness of Shrek’s Prince Charming in his finest moments.

Similarly, I remove my helmet with a duly dramatic shake of my head revealing shiny locks and then remove my gloves to reveal immaculately painted nails.

When I’m on the bus

I don’t travel on buses any more. People coughing. Sneezing. Blowing their noses. Fidgeting. Scratching their hair… Bus drivers fulfilling their Formula 1 dreams with helpless, paying passengers on board. Road bumps? Pah! Sleeping policemen? Let’s wake them up shall we..? They should provide ‘waste bags’ on board like they do when you fly.

When I’m in my car…

You idiot! In your cheap velour shorts and nasty buttocks in my face. Get off the road! No one’s going to remember you for saving the planet riding that monstrosity, love. Orange skin and a bike that defies style definition. Oh, it’s a racer is it? Well, try racing in it woman…  If I ever get out of my car…

If only pedestrians would cross at crossings. Move, Mum pushing a buggy! You’re an offence to society. Warbling on your phone, holding your latte or hazelnut latte or iced latte you coffee drinking imbecile.  All your children will recall of their pushchair years is the smell of burnt coffee (yes they all burn it) and thinking Mummy talked to herself. Susie Orbach, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and all the nouveau therapy on offer would be unable to help.

Oh there’s a biker. Great. I’ll move over and let him through. He’ll be quick and will know what he’s doing. He’s got his life in his hands. There, he’s gone. Wish I’d have thought of that.

It seems almost impossible to put myself in someone else’s shoes/saddle. Why?

I don’t think it’s anything to do with today’s pace. It’s just being human. We all think we own the road.

Vehicles with engines pay road tax so I suppose drivers feel justified in complaining.  A bicycle rider would argue, well, we don’t destroy the road so we shouldn’t pay tax. Ditto for the pedestrian. I question the political/language definition of motorbike riders. When you tax your motorbike, the tax disc used to state: Bicycle. That’s so offensive.

I won’t end this in a saintly statement saying I’ll try harder to see the point of view of other road users: I know I won’t.

But maybe I ought to get out more as a pedestrian/cyclist/biker… Maybe that’s a way of reminding myself I’m hot always right when I’m in my car.

Sometimes the only way to see the other side is to leap over and be there. It’s futile to think I can recall or bear in mind the perspective/sense of danger of other road users when I’m driving. We’re not built like that as humans.

So, what to do? I suppose the conclusion is to be a good road user however I choose to get around. Trash the self-righteous stance if at all possible and just do what I’m doing well. Tolerance. Probably a good philosophy to adopt in life.

Things I should be thinking: I don’t agree with your mode of transport. Your baby needs attention. I’m glad to see you considering your carbon footprint on that hideous contraption. You’re in my blooming way. You look stupid. Can’t you go any faster? Move, idiot!

Well, give me time…

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Greetings cards ideas…

I think I’ve spotted a gap in the market. With the scope of things we can now celebrate and sympathise over, I wonder why we haven’t seen a much fuller range. My ideas follow…

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve wreaked revenge on your sister/ex-best friend/ex-spouse

IN DEEPEST SYMPATHY

You’ve lost your common sense. Why else would you buy a Skoda on credit?

CONGRATULATIONS… YOU IDIOT

You’ve emigrated and left your friends, job, house and children for a life in a strange country with foreign currency, food you know you don’t even like and neighbours who all own guns

WE’LL MISS YOU…

For a month or so…

We’re celebrating

You’re finally leaving.

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve wreaked revenge on your sister/ex-best friend/ex-spouse

CONGRATULATIONS… YOU IDIOT

You’ve emigrated and left your friends, job, house and children for a life in a strange country with foreign currency, food you know you don’t even like and neighbours who all own guns

WE’LL MISS YOU…

For a month or so…

WE’RE CELEBRATING!

You’re finally leaving.

IN DEEPEST SYMPATHY

You still haven’t managed to conceive this year.

ON YOUR GOLDEN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Quite good going for a gunshot wedding…

ON YOUR GRADUATION

It’s going to be tough. Third rate grad with a degree in the films of Scooby Doo and a cocky belief that you’ll walk straight into role of right hand man to Steven Spielberg… Good luck

GOOD LUCK

As a third rate grad…

TO MY NEW SISTER/BROTHER

I’ll be nice when Mummy’s not looking to shove your head in the garden fence, steal your pocket money and humiliate you whenever possible

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

Twenty five years filling me with paranoia, insecurity and doubt, it’s your turn. The first of twenty five cards telling you how much you are to blame for my depression, lack of girlfriend and inability to manage my life. Cheers

Just a thought…


Online shopping: I’m a convert

The High Street catastrophe is well documented: we’re not shopping outdoors any more. Here’s why (in my mind).

This post comes fresh from a trip to my own High Street. I did things the old-fashioned way today and used my local shops. It was horrible.

These are the things I put up with every single time I shop the traditional way.

I end up putting the shop back together tidily for the incompetent staff. I only have to brush past a rail of T-shirts and they’ll shoulder off their too small hangers and slide to the fluffy floor.

Being considerate and anxious about some fully blurred-foundation-wearing, tarantula eyelashed manager accusing me of vandalism, I hang them all back up. On the right hangers and put them in size order. There, that’s better.

After arranging their shop as it should be, I leave. I daren’t risk dislodging any more clothes. And do I really want to try something on that’s probably been kicked about the shop floor by someone less attentive than me?

That’s the next hurdle: trying stuff on.

Do I really want that jumper/T-shirt enough to venture into a cubicle that smells of someone else’s BO and feet? And might have foot sweat or particles on the floor/mirror? A very easy ‘no’. Even the fact that other people have breathed in and out in that cubicle is enough of a repellent.

And another thing.

In the shop I’m looking at myself with my ‘shopping’ clothes on (smart, coordinated, a bit of make-up even). What if I want to wear those trousers with boots? Or flats? Or sandals? Well as I haven’t got them with me I can’t know if they’ll look OK. Best leave them. Ker-ching. No sale.

But there’s something even worse. Though it seems only to plague charity shops and I shop in these a lot.

What am I talking about? The undiscovered vocal marvel.

Some old geezer singing. Loudly. To some obscure rock song. Or some volunteer with aubergine hair who’s missed her calling as Cher or Tina Turner.

They drown out the real artist on the radio and even wander about the shop singing. You can’t get away from them.

I’m flicking through the skirts rail and suddenly the chap with the remains of his hair combed, greased and smelling of tobacco (my intolerance to fags and clothes that smell of fags has got worse since the ban) hurls out a bar of The Green, Green Grass of Home. God! How did you get there?

What he’s really after is for me to ask, ‘Are you a professional singer? /You’ve got a wonderful voice/aren’t you Tom Jones?’

And then he’ll corner me by the household wares and tell me about his claim to fame bumping into Rod Stewart on the Bakerloo Line once or something insignificant. I’ve got to get out of here.

The plus sides to online shopping far outweigh the benefits of the role of supportive community member in my immediate vicinity.

Bring me my goods in clinical boxes by postmen who are cheerful (mine are) and friendly but who don’t sing and I’ll probably spend a lot more money.

Death of the High Street? It had a good running.


Stupendous failures of mine

Among other things, Drama School, waitressing, revenge and applying make-up.

Youth is full of plans and dreams. Like many young people I felt capable of anything. I was young, fit and loveable. People would be willing to donate their life to my life. It was obvious. Well, I’m older now…

As a teen I thought I might want to be an actress. Well my brother and sister had succeeded on stage, I shared their blood so obviously I could do what they could.

I didn’t even have modest aspirations. I applied to RADA. Learned a passage from one of Ibsen’s plays. So astoundingly beautiful and talented was I, I didn’t read the whole play. Why should I?

I recited it with a few subtle gestures. Probably in one of those unimaginative dramatic monotones. I was sure their silence was out of awe at my ability.

I didn’t get in.

I had the same rejection letters from LAMDA and worked my way down until even the local Tina Jones (or something) drama school didn’t want me.

My dedication ended there.

I did a term at a Drama college where I was swiftly outshone by other youngsters who were brave, creative and born actors. Some had read Ibsen’s plays.

The disappointment wasn’t because I couldn’t act but because I couldn’t do the thing I thought I could. Ahhh, so lacking in direction…

While living abroad I found I was quite good at working in a bar. Blimey didn’t I look cool carrying that round silver tray filled with drinks. I was hugely impressed.

I managed to get people’s drinks right. Three coffees, one black, one American, one normal. Two Fantas, one bitter Kas (has anyone else come across that? Medicinal and very refreshing.) Two waters, one fizzy, one still. Three wines, one milkshake, one brandy…

I got tips and people were nice to me.

When I moved to working in a restaurant, all I got was yelled at by the owner and sulky looks from the customers.

Bear in mind I was abroad. The customers were English, German, Spanish, French and Italian. One owner was Spanish, the other (the shouter) was Swiss.

I wrote down orders in English (often translated from French or German); it was all I could think of to do.

About the third time I did this, the Swiss man came out of the kitchen with my neat order sheet in his hand, teeth clenched, hissing at me that the kitchen staff didn’t understand English.

“Write it in Spanish. What do you expect them to do? They’re cooks. They don’t have time to find the dictionary and look up your English words!”

So now I had to translate orders told to me in French, German, Spanish, Italian and German into Spanish on the spot and make them legible to the kitchen staff.

Errrm, OK, pork chop = chuleta de cerdo; frites = patatas fritas; jelly = ? Jelly! What’s that in Spanish? Gelatina?

My Swiss shouter would bring out a pig’s trotter in a bowl of thickening liquid. He’d shout at me and force me to take it to their table. Just desserts. Punishment for my imbecile order. The customer would shout at me too. Maybe hit me. No, maybe I can persuade them to have fruit salad.

I’ve never been so blatantly hated before or since.

Back in England I failed at operating a switchboard. I connected callers to wrong extension on a daily, hourly basis.

I didn’t succeed at being a travel agent either. My job was to sell customers the holidays that made the company most money. I wanted to sell them what they wanted. My manager and I had a pep talk, then we had a consultation, a one to one, then I had a warning then I left.

When I was a temp in a solicitor’s office, some suited little upstart mocked me in front of other staff members. I did my job well but she frankly didn’t like me. It’s all yours shorty, you post your own letters. I’ve hidden the stamps and crumpled all the envelopes by the way.

So where am I today?

Well none of the above. Obviously.

I tell people I live off the fat of the land. I manage the family’s estate. I’m a poet’s muse…

My failures were painful at the time. When that young, we really have such energetic aspirations and no experience to support our desires. I thought I really wanted those things.

Some of the blame lies in lack of training, some in just being a young fool with no confidence and a lack of direction.

Bring back military training. I could have done with an officially-sanctioned slap by some uniformed swine. “You’ll never be anything but a second rate person…! Go scrub the mess floor with a toothbrush!” Literally or metaphorically, I seem to do that a lot now anyway.


Are the obese the new persecuted?

It’s just that they’re beginning to look like they’re at risk of being oppressed.

Firstly, I’m not obese; not overweight either so I’m not writing this as a subjective plea for understanding and tolerance.

Secondly, why the focus on this group recently? Yes, numbers are growing, yes, questions about why they’re growing need to be asked but why are drinkers still being ignored?

The obese population is being blamed for a huge burden on our (UK) health care system with more hospital beds being taken up by those with associated health issues. They’re virtually scorned. And you only need to watch one US TV programme made for young girls (Zoey 101, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Really Me…) to see how they view anyone with more than just skin covering their bones.

The fat (or normal-sized) person will always be uncool, have a weird personality trait, be over-emotional, not be part of the core ‘sleek and skinny’ group. They’re just portrayed as ridiculous.

I’m wondering whether the next step is to make ghettoes for them. Or special homes, or camps…

If they’re a drain on the health service and on taxpayers money; if they’re not being employed as much as thinner people, aren’t we doing the opposite of helping? These news stories and documentaries only assist in cementing our existing dislike of larger people. And I think it extends beyond the obese.

It seems to encompass the slightly overweight. God help us if we adopt the US model of body beautiful.

In UK society, we’re already leaning towards a prejudice towards not just slim but skinny.

But… it’s the big folk carrying a lot of food storage who’ll survive in a national crisis. Famine and food rations and disasters where food is scarce will be water off a duck’s back. The bony, starved skinny mob will die within a week. Leaving the genes of the large to repopulate. Ha! What a surprise, in evolutionary terms!

Just a thought.


Don’t call me Scrooge!

Just because I anticipate this time of year with a heavy dread, doesn’t mean I’m an awful person.

First some literary corrections.

Ebenezer Scrooge was a miser and was mean to everyone around him all year round.

He did have a heart and compassion (you can’t just develop them overnight just because you’ve seen a ghost – or three…)

I, on the other hand am loving, generous, and openly compassionate (often wasted on the cold and heartless. Note: remember this in 2014) most of the year.

But… the next person that calls me Scrooge gets it. A full and foul outburst where I tell them they’re stupid followers and mindless slaves to consumerism (“let’s hock the house and buy our kids EVERYTHING they want honey!”)

I’ve already bought one person I don’t like a gift (an in-law); will probably be invited by my neighbour (who doesn’t particularly like me; it’s OK, it’s mutual) for drinks and sent cards to more than three people who I have no feeling for whatsoever.

Is this Christmas spirit? Is this what we’ve come to understand and accept as festive cheer? You can keep it.

Not liking Christmas is not liking the hypocrisy, the lies, the stepped up budgets each year for presents and the expense. Yes it bloody well does all cost too much.

The few catalogues that come through my door have this smirking section at the back: ‘Gifts for £1.99.’ It reaches out to those either unwilling (because they’re mean) or unable (because they’re poor) to spend more. It makes you feel mean and poor. What the hell’s wrong with a £1.99 gift?

Frankly I like giving gifts. But I don’t like the duty of buying them. I’ve scaled it right down this year. I gave my daughter a list (because she asked for one) but insisted she buy from charity shops. I can’t stand new stuff.

Every year I get called Scrooge when I’m checking my shopping out and complaining about the season (it’s not a season, it’s one day.)

Sure, let’s have a feast and a family gathering. But do it without presents and cards (oh the bloody cards…)

(An aside about the cards. What’s the point when the sender has just written their names and your family’s names inside? No greeting, no kisses, no little note…)

For the cultural ripples that this one book left, I want to put Dickens in the stocks and fling tomatoes (or cheap presents – shower gel, mince pies, keyrings that beep…) at him.

I make a supreme effort every day to do right by my children and family. I serve them (yes, serve them) and consider them in everything I do. So is Christmas for those who feel guilty at having neglected their loved ones all year? Is it a sort of plea for forgiveness? (‘Soz’…)

Yep I think it is.

The social manipulation and hoping to have me complicit in everyone else’s own filthy Christmas apology requiring debt, grudge, resentment and bestial overeating is unwelcome.

To you, I’m Scrooge (have they even read the novel?); in my own eyes, I’m noisily and publicly rebelling against the one massive festive apology to our loved ones.

Scrooge for a day versus Scrooge all year round? I know which I’d vote for.Image


No wonder we’re tired!

Have you noticed? Do you detect the changes? Is it any wonder we’re stressed, depressed, hitting the bottle or driving like maniacs?

Social networking is the most recent ‘job’ for many of us. Before that came ‘Be your own insurance broker’ and before that ‘Be your own painter/decorator’. The increase in new jobs we have to do for ourselves makes us into frantic doer who’ve lost sight of everything except lists and alarms (I’m speaking for myself here…)

When I first had a car (and when I could afford to insure it) I’d go to my broker and get some figures. Probably by today’s standards they were quite high. But I didn’t sit for house – yes it is hours – trying to save £10 on annual insurance, hoping to offer a £50  voluntary excess of and checking whether it includes NCD protection.

The same for the house, potentially my supermarket shop, my entertainment packages, utilities, holidays,.. How cheap am I? How little do I value my own life here? (“Well not that much because I want everything half price.”)

Facebook,.. to me, it’s a way of making us pass the time in a focused out sort of way, not considering taxes, crime, corruption or anything else which is difficult to deal with. We can drown our human misery by watching ads and looking for people we know. I’m tempted to repeat back what I just wrote but will leave it hanging there for contemplation.

I’m not saying this is the worst it can get but it’s quite severe. The loss of our time is now something we take for granted. Yet it makes us furious without knowing why exactly.

We’re brutal to people around us, aggressive, isolated, and are beginning to forget how to interact. Comments I make to people here while queuing or doing work in the garden are met with blank silence. Maybe they think they’ll go home and write a post on their FB page and it’ll be OK.

We’re busy and I think technology has made us into exhausted, lost people who don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing.

I’m not going to urge you to go outdoors or join a group or have an elderly neighbour over. I don’t know what to do myself.

All I know is my life is disappearing down the hole of virtual activity and searching out cheap deals. I’m selling my life at a low price. How long do I have to spend at my PC looking for that £10 off? It makes my hourly rate appalling.

I don’t know the answer because I know I’ll do it again in another two weeks when my car insurance expires. I’m weak and cheap. And a liar (my online profile says nothing to this effect); and a miser (I don’t do anything exciting with the money I’ve allegedly saved); and a hypocrite (I always complain about how expensive everything costs)…

But somehow (awfully) I’m comforted by the fact that most other citizens in the western world share these characteristics.

Developed world? Don’t make me laugh!