Slippery fish and the Sea of Uncertainty

slippery fish

 

Whats going to happen next? Who knows. The world waits with baited breath to see how things will pan out in the Trump versus Clinton saga.

Not so long ago it was Brexit. Will they, won’t they? Then when they did, we were all shocked. We are still shocked.

When it comes to the big stuff, stuff that is going to impact on all of us, we feel a need to predict outcomes.  Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable.

In the past, it was customary to follow  political parties in the way you might follow a religion. Party allegiance was central to who you were.  Frequently we followed the same parties our parents and grandparents followed. EASY PEASY.

It’s not so easy now. Somewhere along the path to shiny modernity, the cord has raveled, the anchor chain slipped. A lot of us are now  adrift on a sea of uncertainty.

Maybe the political arena is too vast, too confusing? Maybe we have lost faith in leadership? Maybe we never bought into it in the first place?

For whatever reason, when it comes to exercising our democratic rights, many of us fall into that big camp of unpredictables known as ‘floating voters.’

And the floating voter is a very slippery goldfish.  How s/he will vote is the subject of much speculation.

So the POLSTERS enter the fray- armed with statistical software and social science in an attempt to gauge the pulse of the people- see into their heads.

At best the polls offers some sense of normalcy, some degree of predictability but never certainty. Despite the best statistical software, they don’t always get it right.

Having always favoured shades of grey to black and white, I completely get indecision. I also have to stick my hand up and say that compared to my parents, I am a current affairs dunce, a disaster zone. A lot of it bores me silly.

But, hey- when it comes to something as concrete as our futures and those of our children, it seems to me that there is a responsibility to take a stance; to decide which side of the fence we stand on.

FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED!

We need to do something to prevent lunatics and nutters ruling the proverbial roost.

And so, a heartfelt message to potential floaters and slippery fish- Go on. Inform yourself, read the papers, watch those boring current affairs programmes, make up your mind. Don’t be swayed by last minute hype.  At the very least, ask your mother!

But enough of heartfelt pleas. Let’s digress.

It was with some surprise that I learned the phenomenon of political last minute-ism- is not altogether new.

Take Merry Olde England back in 1485-Richard III is happily ruling the country when along comes Henry Tudor (all the way from France) to challenge his title.

Richard is not overly bothered as he knows his army is far superior to Henry’s. He has also been promised more men in arms, from his nobles, should he need them.

In the ensuing battle Henry wins. Why? Largely, I would say because of ‘last minute-ism.’

Some of Richard’s most powerful nobles (who really deserved to be knocked off the christmas card list) held back, gauged which way the wind was blowing- then threw in their lot with Henry, who appeared to be winning. With the help of their private armies, he did win.

And so the Battle of Bosworth began early in the morning of the 22 August 1485 and was over by noon. In those few hours the Plantagenet dynasty was defeated, leaving Britain poised to enter a new era under the House of Tudor.

Momentous, ground breaking stuff.

The point I am making is that neither soothsayer, necromancer  nor opinion poll analyst could have predicted that one.

Then, as now, it seems that in the domain of politics, the only certainty is UNCERTAINTY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why blogging appeals to me

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I’ve said it before I am a technophobe. I don’t get social media. I tried facebook, but ran out of steam. I don’t do selfies because I am inherently unphotogenic. I promised my teens I wouldn’t post pictures of them- and there are only so many flower and craft project shots a body can manage.

Words, on the other hand, are big for me. Ever since I was small, I’ve enjoyed writing. I probably spent thirty years enjoying words- surreptitiously. I remember writing a report about waste water management (yawn!!) and still thinking there was space to turn a phrase.  Put a bit of a spin on some description. Inject a modicum of humour. Sad really.

Five months ago, I discovered blogging. I’ve taken to it with all the vim and vigour of a convert.

Blogging lights my fire. IT IS MY BIG JOY!

Initially, it was the headiness of thinking that I could write about anything I liked.  Then it was the fact that somebody might read something that I wrote.  As a wannabe writer ( inured to the million rejections clause that accompany the status) the fact that real people were  prepared to  read something I’ve written and engage with it blew my mind.

Then, it got a bit deeper. I started reading other people’s blogs. Again, it took a while to find my people- but when I found them it was like a homecoming.

Other people are writing all this profound, articulate stuff about things that resonate with me. There are bloggers who make me laugh. I love their style, their wit, their sas.

And there are bloggers who make me cry. HATS OFF to the people who share their vulnerabilities. They  are pivotal in helping other people feel less alone.

 

I love the bloggers who are out there putting mental health on the agenda.

Painful and intense but also transient and RECOVERABLE from.

I just want to express solidarity here. I get it. I have always got it.

And then I get really excited when I find blogs about things I’m interested in-old stuff, art deco stuff, doors, words, old sayings, recipes, crafts and etc.

Then there’s mindfulness. Time after time, I read a blog and it’s just what I need to hear.  I get jolted right out of my comfort zone- and encouraged to right thinking by people who are walking the same road.

There is a lot of talk that screen time is inferior to time spent in other ways. I disagree. For me, time spent in the blogosphere is good time.

Since I’ve started doing this, I feel like I’m getting to know some really interesting, genuine, lovely people. It is a pleasure to check in with them. If I don’t see their posts popping up in my reader, I’ll go and visit. I want to know what their week has brought. I’m sorry if it has brought something difficult and happy if it has brought something good. Often, I’ll get a good laugh along the way.

So what’s not real about that? What’s virtual?

I am blessed to have family, friends and neighbours in the touchy feely world of everyday. I also feel blessed to have friends in the blog world.

So that’s it for today. Thank you the blogosphere and the people who inhabit it. Big virtual hug!!

Narry of the Bog

Driving along a country road yesterday, we spotted a grey heron. We see them occasionally. Big, flappy, ungainly birds- very prehistoric vibe about them. In Ireland they are commonly known as Narry’s of the bog.

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It was apparent that Narry was not happy. Ger stopped the car and we watched him for a couple of minutes. He made an attempt to fly off and failed. Just then a dog came bounding down to the road, barking like crazy.  So what to do next? Having stopped the car, we felt involved.

At this point, I should say that I have tried to stop getting involved in situations like this. Ever since I was small, I’ve rescued birds. Recently I connected with a former student flatmate on facebook. We hadn’t met in over thirty years. Apparently, her stand out memory of me is rescuing  a beat up, half dead pigeon that I brought home and attempted to keep alive. I think I made everyone take turns to feed him during the night!  The sad thing is, that despite my best efforts, 90% of the things I rescued died. I console myself with the thought that at least they had a happy death, knowing that someone cared. But, still and all, they ended up dead.

Given my past experience, I  was not disposed to taking Mister Nary dinosaur bird home. Did I mention his beak? It was sword like in it’s proportions. A lethal weapon for spearing fish. Pigeon rescue is easy. Rescuing this Jurassic relic took guts. And that’s where my beloved shone. He picked him up- tucked him under his arm and sat in the passenger seat. As we pulled off, the bird started squawking- raucous, dinosaur like sounds. Very Jurassic.

The grey heron  is approx 1 metre in height. His wing span is 1.6 to 2 metres. Suffice to say, he’s no pigeon. Sitting in the front seat of our car, with his mad, black, haunted eyes, he looked like a crumpled chicken. There was nothing to him under all the feathers.

Funnily enough, the grey heron has been revered in Irish mythology since time immemorial.  There’s a story about two girls, Aoife, daughter of Daelbeth, and Luchra, daughter of Abhartach. Both of them fancied  this guy Illbreac, who was a son of the great Sea God, Manannán mac Lir. Anyway, Manannan preferred Aoife and Luchra wasn’t happy. So what did she do? In a fit of pique, she turned Aoife into a heron. Aoife the heron, flew off and lived to be 200 years old. Manannan was so upset when she finally passed away that he decided to commemorate her in a very special way.

Remember Silence of the Lambs? Manannan would have loved that film.

To honour his lovely Aoife bird, he skinned her and kept all his treasures in a little bag made out of her. Ah, love’s true dream, eh?

When the Christian church hit our shores, somewhere back in the 5th century, it too had some thoughts about the grey heron. The nice thing about the early Christians was that they were very fluid in their interpretation of the way things were. Completely unphased by the strong hold of the indigenous Celtic pantheon, they simply altered some pertinent facts; inserted saints where there were previously gods and goddesses and proceeded to assume absolute control of the hearts and minds of the population.

So, the heron, once sacred to the Triple Goddess, worshipped as the keeper of secrets and shamanic travel, maintained a place in the popular imagination as a fallen sinner. Word was that if you failed to make it to heaven on account of your bad deeds on earth, you might well have to come back to earth as a heron, and this was by way of penance.

But, I digress. Back to the present day and the plight of  Mr Nary.

We came to the conclusion that we should bring him some place where he could recuperate, safe from dogs and cars. Not too far away was a  lake. Ger found a sheltered spot and we left him there. By way of remembrance,  our friend gave Ger a parting gift: a two inch scratch down the side of his face.

Who could blame him? He was freaked out, big time. The wound looks worse than it is. It will heal.  I sincerely hope that Mr Nary will recover and live to fly another day. The younger me would have brought him home and fed him worms and put him a bucket of hay.  Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. I don’t know. It’s tricky with wild things.  The shock of being out of their environment can be too much for them. Many of them don’t survive the trauma.

Anyway we drove off, went home and thought about what had happened.  Being up close to such an ancient, scrawny specimen of life was pretty special, humbling even. I love that about life in the countryside. Those rare, insider moments when you get to experience the natural world in all its diversity. Truly, we live on an amazing planet.

 

 

 

 

ME TIME BLUES

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Unaccustomed me-time! Two hours to stroll through the emporiums of bling, maybe stop for a coffee, buy a little treasure somewhere along the way. Sounds nice?

The sun is shining, the summer sales are on:  Life is good.

So what I do actually need? In truth, not a lot.

Things are, however, a bit grim on the underwear front. I locate the nearest M&S and head straight for the undies dept.  There is a spring in my step. I feel like a six-year-old in a candy shop. I want everything…….

A whole  lot of other ladies, whose underwear drawers must be in a similarly depleted state to my own, are already hard at work.  Together we embark on a frenzied raid of the sale rails.

Some time later, the underwear has been selected and its time for coffee.  I order a cappuccino which comes in a  bucket sized mug. These days, I mostly drink herbal teas, so am not prepared for the scale of the caffeine rush. Pumped up with adrenalin, I hit the shop floor some twenty minutes later. Ready to go again.

This time, I wander into the kids department, which is swarming with people. Deep breath as I remind myself how much fun I am having!

A blond lady is perusing the PJ’s with her affable pre-teen daughter.

‘Darling,’ she says, ‘We must buy this! (holds up floral print pj’s) Even though they are too small for you, they are just soo…. pretty!’ The pre-teen emits girlish squeals of joy.

Maybe I should buy some for my  teenage daughter?  However, I really can’t buy pj’s for Jude without getting some for Iarla. But would he like stars or dinosaurs? Decisions, decisions. Maybe I should also buy some for my friend’s little girls. After all, I’ve had it on good authority that:

  • They are pretty
  • They are half price
  • Children like them

Twenty minutes later, I have selected four pairs of pj’s. My arms are overflowing with treasures, my heart with beneficence.

SMALL REALITY CHECK.

How much are all these bargains going to cost? I do some quick mental arithmetic and realise that I must put something back. But what? Who can I leave out? Actually I can’t  leave anyone out, so I  put all the pj’s back and hang on to the underwear. After all, that was what I came in here for in the first place.

By now, it is all getting a bit much. I am succumbing to CONSUMER CONFUSION

Doubts creep in about the selected underwear. Do I even need it? Probably not. Is it nice? Not sure. Maybe there is better, more perfect underwear in another shop. Should I go and check?

Yes-but first a little rest would be nice.

My yoga teacher has shown us all these wonderful positions you can do when you need to recharge your batteries.

Suddenly, I have a longing to do a calming position. Zone out for a couple of minutes in a Downward Dog.

An image of my teenage daughter pops into my head. She is waving a finger at me.

‘Don’t even think about it Lady,’ she warns

‘I know, I know,’ I snap.

It’s not as if I really meant to- but a chair would be nice.

Given the average age of Marks and Spencer’s clientele, I am surprised there are not more chairs around the place. By now the bucketful of coffee I downed earlier is taking its toll on my bladder. Not only are there no chairs in this emporium, there are no loo’s either.

I locate an aisle in menswear and stash my underwear under a rack of ties, promising to return and commit the final act of purchase  once I’ve found the loo.

Due to time constraints the promise is broken.  Operation UNDIE REPLACEMENT  has to be abandoned til another day.  My ME TIME is up and I’m glad.  I willingly revert back to mummy mode and scarper off to collect my boy from summer camp.

 

 

 

Absolute or Approximate?

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A Spanish woman and an Irish woman are having a chat. The Spanish woman is asked to convey in one word, something quintessential about her national character. She thinks for a minute. Then she has it. ‘Manana.’

The Irish women has a long hard think, shrugs her shoulders and says:

‘We have no word in the Irish language which conveys a similar sense of urgency’ .  (HAHA!)

Do we live up to our cultural stereotype as feckless, laid back, horizontal even?

Quite possibly.  One thing for sure is that we are bad time keepers.

However, we are not alone!

My experiences as a glamping host has given me a privileged glimpse into the foibles and idiosyncrasies of guests from many different countries.

The way I see it, the world is divided into two sorts of people. Absolutes and Approximates. Let me give you an example. An Approximate will tell you that they are going to arrive at 3pm.

DING- That for me is now cast in stone. I will organise my day to the Nth degree to be here to welcome them at 3pm.  However, for an Approximate 3pm is a rough guideline. What it really means is that they will turn up at any point from 12 noon to midnight. I kid you not.

The most favoured time for Approximates to turn up is dinner time.

Again, dinner time is one of these cast in stone family ritual things. I cook, we sit together. The fiery one’s fight. The peacekeepers peace keep. We eat. It causes me actual physical pain to leave the dinner table at 8.30 to welcome my 3pm guest.

Absolutes, on the other hand, relate to time in a very literal way.

Let me give you another example. An Absolute will do everything in their power to arrive at the assigned time. If they are held up, they will send  multiple texts informing you of their progress.  When they do arrive, they will apologize profusely. It upsets them to be late. They do not willingly mess with the sacred cow of time. Needless to say, these are my people. I don’t mess with the sacred cow either.

A recent discussion with another Absolute confirmed for me how deeply we revere the cow.

She recounted a story in which she was kept waiting for over thirty minutes. In all seriousness she said she felt the only reason someone could be this late, without texting was sudden death.

Breakfast is another potential minefield. Do you know how long it takes to soft boil an egg? 5 minutes. Not 3, not 8. Precisely 5.

So, when I ask guests, ‘what time would you like breakfast?’ I mean this in a very literal sense.

It should be simple. The guest names the time. I deliver the breakfast.

But no, an Approximate will find any way possible to wriggle around and violate the cow!

Some  Approximates won’t wake up.  Precious moments are lost whilst they scramble into their clothes (uh, hum, or not…) then the half-door of the gypsy wagon is flung open as bleary eyed, they receive their congealing breakfasts.

More insidious,  are the Approximates who disappear into the shower at the appointed breakfast time. What is that about?

No shadow of doubt that an Absolute will be ready on time for breakfast.  On a fine day, you will see them sitting out at the picnic table, showered and dressed, napkin on lap at five minutes before the appointed time.

Given the security and sense of well-being I experience when I am with my own kind, you will be very surprised to hear that I have married into the other camp. My beloved is an Approximate of the highest order. The king of Approximate and I am the queen of Absolute.  Opposites attract and all that…

Do you think the cosmos is trying to teach us both something?

 

 

 

 

A faux pas…on fashion friday

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I started my first ‘proper’ job  when I was 26.  The office was a  chic, caffeine fueled sort of place.  People worked long hours, had dark rings under their eyes… when asked how they were, they claimed one of two things.

Either they were  ‘UP THE WALLS!!’ or ‘UNDER PRESSURE!’

I watched, I learned.

Nowadays, I would identify the prevailing dress style of my colleagues as designer casual. At the time, I just felt it was all a bit nondescript. Boring even. The one thing everyone had in common was spectacles and those dark rings.

I drank lots of coffee and worked on my own dark rings.  After a while I was asked to attend an evening meeting with some colleagues from another research centre. It was a Friday night.

After the meeting, I planned to hit the pub  with my  buddies. The pub we frequented was a biker joint. Lots of loud music and long-haired bikers. My usual pub attire consisted of  Dr Martin boots, black leggings and a mini skirt. On this occasion I decided to tone it down, on account of the meeting.  I settled on a black vest and harem pant- probably the most respectable outfit I possessed at that point in my life.

I wasn’t exactly late for the meeting, but I wasn’t early either. When I walked in, everyone looked up. My immaculately groomed and dressed boss beckoned me to my seat and introduced me to all the other immaculately groomed participants as his research assistant. Needless to say, they were all wearing suits….

After that episode in humiliation,  I was consumed with longing for a BRIEF CASE.

I located, ‘the one’ after much searching.  Of course it was beyond my budget. A small obstacle, I threw caution to the winds and blew my savings.  Then I blew some more savings on shoes and a suit. The shoes were a novelty. Proper lady shoes complete with little heel.

By the time the next meeting came around, I was ready.

OH YES.  Never again would I turn up to a meeting in harem pants. How ridiculous! What could I have been thinking of?

This time the meeting was about drug prevention.

I had to fly to Amsterdam. ON MY OWN

It was a big deal. The stuff of stomach ulcers (sadly, I kid you not)

After a sleepless night in my hotel bed, I got up. Showered. Put on my spectacles, and sombre black suit. Stuffed my paperwork in to my new briefcase.

Ah the gravitas of that bag!  Seriously grown up.  Deep breath.

LOOKING GOOD, GIRL!

I strolled into the meeting room, intentionally early and fiddled with my paperwork.

Twenty minutes later, there was no sign of anyone.  More deep breaths.

Eventually my colleagues filed in. They were assorted youth workers, night-club owners and people recovering from addiction.

This time,the only suit in the room was my own.

Everyone else was pierced, tattooed and colourful. Mega cool. In fact, they’d have fitted right into my pub of preference back home.

Personally, I’d never felt so uncool in my life. Wrong footed AND those bloody lady shoes were killing me.

I would like to tell you that was the last time I got it wrong, but I would be lying. On a more positive note, I don’t have to worry much about transgressing dress codes nowadays as I live on a farm.

So that’s it for fashion friday. Have you ever made a fashion faux pas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wardrobe Mistress and the Monk

Anne and Ron rolled up last night.  I was cooking dinner so Ger went out to do the meet and greet. We often take it in turns.

So who are Anne and Ron? In their email they described themselves as two senior citizens visiting Ron’s homeland. They told me they were very excited about booking a night in our gypsy wagon.

All well and good. A lot of guests pass through the gates of our little glamping site in the Summer. Most of them are young couples, or friends on holiday together.

Ger returned twenty minutes later. ‘They’re lovely,’ he said.

‘Good,’ I said, shaking the sweet potatoes. ‘Do they want tea or coffee.’

‘I don’t know.’

‘OK go and ask,’ I said, putting on the kettle. Lately I’ve found that people have been leaving my chocolate brownies so I baked cookies instead. I was keen for the guests to try them out.

Ten minutes later, Ger returned. ‘Ron will have tea,’ he said. ‘Anne has gone to bed.’

‘That was quick. Is she OK?’

‘Yea, she loves it here. She’s always wanted to stay in a gypsy wagon ever since she ran away with the carnival at the age of seventeen.’

Carnival?? Double take. This sure is a new one to me.

Intrigued, I volunteered to carry the tea-tray down to the orchard, I encountered Ron -deep in conversation with the lovely French couple staying in our caravan.

First impression- he looked like a wizard with a walking stick.

He told me to drop the tea into the wagon. Slightly uncomfortable as I knew Anne had gone to bed, I knocked on the door and introduced myself.

Ann climbed out of bed and took the tea. She was wearing a full length white cotton nightdress. She looked like a teenager who, unaccountably, has become a senior.  I could clearly see the girl she once was. Slight, fair-haired, impish smile. I could imagine her running away with the carnival.

I have a golden rule when it comes to guests. I do not ask personal questions.  If people want to talk about their lives, their families, their jobs, then I’m happy to listen but I will not ask.

This time was different.  I REALLY wanted to know about that carnival.

The night passed. Ger brought their breakfast to the wagon this morning. Ron was wearing a long red tartan nightshirt. Anne had slept well.

 

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Turns out Anne worked for a freak show in the carnival as the ‘Amazing  Elastic Lady’.  (Ger has less qualms asking personal stuff than me!)

Ger and I had an appointment at 10.a.m, so we said our goodbyes and drove off. We felt sad that we didn’t have more time to talk.

As luck would have it, we met them driving along our one track road on our way back home. Ger pulled into the verge to enable them to pass and wound down the window.

They said they were sad to go. They had enjoyed their stay.  We said that we had enjoyed having them. Then Ger asked Ron if he had worked for the carnival too.

No. He had done various things. Mostly followed where the Spirit led. The Spirit led him into a long stint of nursing. He had also also been a Cistercian Monk for twelve years.

After she finished with the freak show, the elastic lady had become a WARDROBE MISTRESS. So cool. I am blown away by this. It ranks as dream job number 7 on my list.

(more about dream job number one another time)

So there we have it. Anne and Ron. The Wardrobe Mistress and the Monk. This amazing couple who drifted briefly through our door and filled us with curiosity about the variousness of life.

The link between any of this and fashion is extremely tenuous.

Yes, there were two long nightdresses, some elastic and a lifetime of costume making. No more.

But, hey, fashion friday is like that.

See you all next week!