Fusspot and Clart

Fandango asks an interesting Provocative Question this week – he asks:-

Do you feel that people are more attracted to one another by their differences or by their commonalities? And why do you feel that way?

Looking at my own relationship with my husband, which so far has lasted for 48 years as friends, 21 as a couple, and 9 years married (concurrent, of course!), my answer is – both, in equal measure.

Starting with our differences, ooh, there are so many! My husband is a gregarious American by birth and heritage, I’m self-consciously quiet with understated British reserve. My husband is an extroverted night-owl, I’m more introverted and usually up with the lark. My husband is tidily organised in all things; order and method are his watch-words. With him quality over quantity wins every time, he’s a real perfectionist always. He’s always excellent at finding the exact right size of dish in which to store leftovers but has absolutely no natural sense of direction.

And me? Well I’m not a total disaster in the tidiness stakes, just not a neat-freak in any sense; I’m far more comfortable living with a little creative chaos and in most things ‘good enough’ is good enough for me. I’m totally rubbish at judging small volumes or areas but nevertheless have an excellent perception of larger-scale distances and directions. We joke with each other that as a couple we’re complete complementary opposites and often call ourselves ‘Fusspot and Clart’ – my husband works hard always to keep things ‘just so’, whereas I’m definitely more slapdash and messy in my approach to anything and everything.

Our similarities, though, although far fewer when listed on paper are nevertheless just as important to point out. Looking from the outside in, physically we are of similar height and build (short and stocky), and both look young for our ages (as in other people are usually surprised to hear how old we are), so in all practical ways we fit together well as a couple. We’re both first-born children of young parents, and were both brought up with a strong work ethic. We’re of similar ages and are both educated to degree level, achieved under our own steam as mature students.

We both have had our struggles with ongoing mental health issues over a lifetime so are able to provide each other with much-appreciated mutual understanding and support at all times. Our political views and values match closely, as do our moral standpoints, and our attitudes to money and family and friendship and the importance of looking after the planet are really closely attuned. We are both natural home birds at heart rather than party animals, both enjoy preparing and eating good fresh-cooked food, and both love spending time in nature.

So although on the surface we may have many differences, deep down the fact that we share the values and attitudes in life that matter most to us means that overall we both keep each other on our toes like any other antagonistic pair in nature, yet at the same time feel wonderfully safe and secure in our lives together. For me it’s the perfect combination of give and take, of similarity and difference, and to be honest I wouldn’t change any of it for the world ❤

A Regretful Anomaly

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:

‘What is your biggest regret in life?’

Ooh, that’s a biggie for me! It’s taken me days thinking it over to even start to contemplate what to write. And in the meantime I’ve been reading everyone else’s response and the general consensus is ‘No regrets’… So that has left me pondering and angst-ing over it even more…

I mean I have loads of regrets, including mistakes I’ve made and decisions I took too long over and opportunities missed and misunderstandings over things not said and things that can’t now be unsaid… I regret having hurt people in the process, especially my kids. Yep, that’s definitely my biggest regret, messing up my kids due to my own dysfunctions. The fact that it wasn’t deliberate doesn’t make it any easier to live with.

So I suppose amongst the blogging fraternity the fact that I do have regrets probably makes me some kind of regretful anomaly… Oh well! 🙂

Subjective Over Objective, Every Time

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

Where do you get most of your news from? Do you consider your primary news source(s) to be objective purveyors of truths and facts?

In a word – no. I expect every single news item from every single source imaginable to be subjective to a certain degree, because all news is written by a human being somewhere on the planet and all human beings necessarily have a certain angle/ perspective/ opinion/ agenda that means they can never be truly objective, however hard they try.

Of course many so-called ‘news’ sources don’t even try to be objective, they just force their own fabricated falsehoods on an unquestioning public, for money or ratings or political power or whatever. And on the other side of the coin many viewers and readers choose only to view versions of a story that align with their favoured subjective stance and follow these often outlandish ‘truths’ with blind fervour, aggressively denying all other possibilities.

The trouble is, there is no one ‘truth’ that reigns supreme. Truth itself is subjective, as it necessarily follows the particular norms of culture and society as it stands at that given moment, it does not in any way speak for all people in all places at all times. So as long as you bear that in mind, you’ve got a chance of finding a balance that bears witness as evenly as is humanly possible in any given circumstance.

The trick is to try to peruse as many different news sources as you can, within reason, triangulate opinion and use your own common sense (not blind faith) to work out what the most accurate real-time global position might be on any given topic. Look outside of your own little world – politically, culturally, socially, morally. What do other countries think? Other nations tend to make up their own minds about where the ‘truth’ lies, and judge accordingly.

Remember one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, depending on which side of the argument you fall on at any given time. Right and wrong, good and bad are inherently subjective positions, therefore any news reports on topics that require judgement will also necessarily be subjective. Keep in mind that history is always written by the victor, take all news stories with a hefty pinch of salt and you’ll be fine…

Rest, Relax, Recharge

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks how we recharge when we feel depleted?

Would it surprise anyone who reads my blog that for me, I usually prefer to recharge by spending time in nature. Sometimes that means going for a walk – in the woods, along the canal, by the sea – or sometimes it just means spending time in my garden, whether actively gardening or passively resting.

It’s not a big garden, but as we used to live in a first floor flat in London with no outdoor space at all, with not even a window box allowed, I’m just delighted to have any size of garden space to relax in 🙂

From Buxom Blonde to Menopausal Matron

For years I was a natural buxom blonde. Natural in that my boobs are big without any intervention and my hair is blonde at source. In the past I suppose I had a reasonably nice curvy figure (although having three kids by 21 left their mark) and as I got older I used to dye my dulling dark blonde hair lighter to try to re-capture that youthful brightness. For the longest time I looked young for my age, too, so people would see me and judge accordingly. In many people’s eyes big boobs plus blonde hair equals bimbo – vacuous, dumb, shallow, whatever the particular stereotype du jour.

It used to be quite fun to see the look on people’s faces when I surprised them with the reality that I’m actually quite smart – I gained a first class honours degree at 40. Or parents would say to me in a patronising, parental tone ‘Wait til you have kids, then you’ll see!’ and I’d point out I already had kids, I’d been a mum since I was 18. My voluptuous soft curves often belied my underlying physical strength – beneath my layer of fatty tissue I also have well-built muscle. On initial acquaintance for various reasons I often simply wasn’t the person people assumed I was, and for many years that social dissonance almost became part of my identity – I was often able to use the stereotype to my advantage.

But as time passed it bothered me more and more to so easily be dismissed by others as irrelevant in a snap judgement just because of how I looked. It stopped being fun and instead I found it increasingly frustrating. In my late forties I stopped dying my hair and deliberately lost that ‘blonde bombshell’ look I’d kept for so long. And now I’m in my late fifties my once-shapely figure is more menopausal matronly than sexy hourglass, my dark blonde hair is greying and it seems the old stereotype no longer applies. So am I taken more seriously now? Nope, not a bit of it – it seems I’m still routinely dismissed as an irrelevance in society at large, but now it’s because of my advancing age rather than being a buxom blonde! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Advantages

PS After publishing this post, it was brought to my attention that it would be a suitable answer for this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question, which asks:

What impression do you think you give when you first meet someone?

So I’m cheating and using my post to answer this challenge, too! 🙂

Provocative Question Medley

Best sandwich?

Sizzling crispy smoked bacon on thick-cut soft white bread with lashings of butter… Mmm..!

What’s one thing you own that you should really throw out?

All my emotional baggage from the past.

What is the scariest animal?

Anything that kills humans, regardless of size.

Apples or oranges?

Apples, every time, even juiced. Citrus messes with my reflux 😦

Have you ever asked someone for their autograph?

I’m an introvert, so no, never in a million years…

What do you think happens when we die?

We stop breathing.

Favourite action movie?

Batman Begins… Does that count as an action movie? Plenty of action in it…

Favourite smell?

Now you’ve made me think of bacon sandwiches, all I can think of is bacon cooking, all sizzling and smoky and crispy… Mmm…!

Least favourite smell?

Probably vomit of all varieties – it makes me want to throw up too… yuk!

Exercise – worth it?

Maybe, if I could be bothered.

Flat or sparkling?

Flat water, sparkling wine.

Most used app on your phone?

WhatsApp

You get one song to listen to for the rest of your life – what is it?

Can I choose a whole album? Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell, played in order all the way through… the absolute anthem of my youth. And if I absolutely HAD to choose one track only it would probably be Paradise by the Dashboard Light… All 8 wonderful minutes of it… Brings back so many memories, and that’s all I’m saying! 🙂

Describe the rest of your life in 5 words?

Growing older but not wiser 🙂

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Housework, Hobbies and Hopes

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:

How many hours, on average, do you spend per day (or per week) on blogging-related activities? And what do you think you might do with your time if you didn’t spend it on those blogging activities?

Without putting any sort of numerical value in it, right now I feel I spend way too much time on blogging-related activities. But on reflection maybe that’s a tough judgement call to make in the middle of winter in the middle of a Covid lock-down, one year into a world pandemic.

I mean, we legally can’t visit friends or family or basically socialise with anybody at all beyond our immediate household so a lot of ‘normal’ leisure activities are severely curtailed for the duration. Life has become far more restricted for everyone, so for now blogging has definitely become more important to me as a way of feeling I’m still reaching out, still keeping in touch with the rest of the world.

Usually, when I’m out at work or otherwise busy with everyday real life I inevitably blog a lot less. But right now I’m furloughed from work so I have a lot of free time and real life for me at present consists pretty much of housework and hobbies. And blogging is most definitely one of my hobbies, so in general however much hobby time I have gets divided up accordingly between all the fun stuff I like to do.

Other current hobbies include watching TV (and that encompasses watching DVDs and other recorded media too), gardening (hello, it’s winter in the North of Scotland, you’ll be lucky in this weather), crochet (although thinking about it I’ve not actually done any crochet since we moved into our house 16 months ago), photography (some of which gets shared on my blog), a lot of colouring in just for fun, and writing the occasional poem when the mood strikes me (also to be shared on my blog).

Hmmm… So what is it I DON’T do now that I blog?

My immediate response is to say ‘reading’ – I used to read A LOT of fiction, I generally had at least one book on the go at any given time, especially when the kids were small. But to be fair that was decades ago, my kids are all in their late thirties and life has changed a lot since then. Reading was my go-to fantasy escapism that didn’t rely on anyone else, that I could pick up and put down however many times was necessary and that was always 100% portable. I grew up reading, as did my mum and my maternal grandmother – we used to share books amongst ourselves. And I used to read a lot of women’s magazines, too.

So when DID I stop reading fiction so compulsively and completely?

If I’m honest that happened a long time before I started blogging, and probably dates from when I was studying for my full time degree as a mature student. For three years solid I read voraciously myriad academic books and journals and articles and essays and essays and even more essays. I absolutely loved studying and learning and all that entailed, and for those three years academic stuff was pretty much all I read. And I suppose when wholesale reading is so firmly associated with work not leisure it stops being a form of indulgent escapism.

After I graduated I seem to remember I didn’t read anything I didn’t have to for the longest time, so not surprisingly other hobbies soon filled the gap left by reading for pleasure and I simply never picked it up again to quite the same extent. I do still read my beloved paperbacks, but not like I did before. And anyway, blogging includes reading as much as writing, just not entire novels. It’s more like reading while being involved in an interactive multi-functional magazine of life you also contribute to, filled with stories and snippets and tips and shared interests and opinions and creative connections.

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, and in all honesty I hope to keep on blogging for years to come. I’m sure my blog will inevitably change and grow as I do, ebbing and flowing with the tide of life. In the future sits retirement, potential ill health and infirmity, and all sorts of possible alterations to my everyday experiences that may affect how I interact with the world going forward. I may blog less at times, and more at others. I may move away from one thing and towards another. I may even change direction entirely.

But overall I feel blogging has become such a valued hobby, especially since Covid ran riot across the world, I don’t see me giving it up in favour of anything else any time soon, so however much time I spend on it is never going to be time wasted, is it? 🙂

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To be honest I’m not a great fan of crude capitalist consumerism at the best if times, whether it be centred around the mass celebration of Christmas, or Easter – or Valentine’s Day. I truly believe it’s possible to mark all of those special days on the annual calendar with an appropriately appreciative level of tradition and ceremony without either breaking the bank or filling the world’s landfill sites with cartloads of cheap commercial crap just for the sake of it.

Because surely if you love someone, you can show them every day, quietly, and very personally, just how much you care. Small impromptu gifts of flowers and chocolates and suchlike ‘just because’ are a regular enough feature in our house, both in the giving and receiving, throughout the year. And in a similar vein hugs are never far away, several times a day, as is holding hands when we go out together. And of course small, thoughtful, random acts of kindness never go astray in life and love.

So this year as usual I’ve bought my husband a perfectly lovely and loving standard-sized Valentine’s card, and I know he’s bought something similar for me, and we may well exchange small meaningful gifts of mutual appreciation, and enjoy a nice meal (usually home-cooked) with a nice glass of wine in honour of celebrating our love on Valentine’s Day, but nothing over-the-top ostentatious or showy or extravagant – that’s just not who we are as a couple, and never have been.

Overall on a continuum of overtly romantic to not romantic at all, my husband probably scores a bit more highly on the sliding scale than I do, but that just makes me try a bit harder because I know how much it matters to him. He’s more of an extrovert and I’m more of an introvert, so it just comes easier to him than to me to wear his heart on his sleeve. Although I must admit the longer we are together, the more comfortably open my heart becomes when it comes to displaying my innermost feelings more readily.

The most silly romantic thing I’ve probably ever done was to get up early one Valentine’s Day to cover the entirety of the kitchen cabinets and counter tops of our flat with a whole pad of pink heart-shaped sticky post-it-notes and also one of flower shapes, just for fun – it took me ages but the look on his face when he came through to be greeted by such a profusion of pink hearts and flowers everywhere he looked was absolutely priceless!

Hmmm… Maybe I’ll try that again this year… Bigger kitchen in the house than the flat though, so I’ll definitely need a lot more post-it-notes… ❤

Fandango’s Provocative Question: Valentine’s Day

Blogging Breaks and New Starts

Fandango asks for his Provocative Question this week:

Have you ever taken a hiatus (break) from blogging? If so, how long did your hiatus last and why did you take it? How difficult was it to return to blogging after your hiatus? Did your stats suffer and did you lose readers as a consequence of your absence?

Ooh, good question for me as this is actually my fourth blog on WordPress in the seven years I’ve been blogging.

My first ever blog only lasted about seven or eight months before I lost interest and decided to stop posting, or even reading any other blogs at all. I left it all lying dormant for a while and then after a few months I started to wonder how everybody was doing and thought I might go back to it, but I found I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ any more so instead of picking up where I’d left off I created an entirely new blog and deleted the old one completely.

My second blog lasted a lot longer, maybe 18 months or so but I eventually got bored with it and again found I’d had enough of blogging for a while, so after another complete break of a few months I repeated the whole process as before and started all over again with blog number three. By this time I’d really started to work out what worked for me blog-wise and what didn’t, and that blog lasted a good couple of years before it too bit the dust. I guess you could say I have a kind of virtual restless wanderlust that happily uproots itself and moves on without a backward glance whenever the time is right…

So here I am now on blog number four, and this one has currently been going for three years next month – a bit of a record for me! Hmm, perhaps that’s why I’ve been getting itchy feet lately? So of course every time I’ve deleted my ‘old’ blog to start afresh I’ve lost all the followers associated with it, although I could still interact with all the blogs I’ve followed since the beginning. And often, as I picked up with them again as before, they would then start to follow my new blog and things would build up again from there.

So overall when it comes to the numbers game I’m not too fussed about having lots of followers data-wise, and I rarely (if ever) look at the figures or graphs these days. I mean, whatever the stats say there’s usually a set group of like-minded people who like and comment regularly on my posts and with whom I reciprocate, and that one-to-one personal interaction between us is what matters most to me. In fact some bloggers have been with me from the start, through every iteration of my online presence, which is great!

People tend to come and go for a variety of reasons. Some of the people I used to follow have now changed direction with their blogs and we’ve inevitably gone our separate ways as our interests have diverged, and I’m sure some of my followers have fallen away for the same reason. Inevitably when I post more regularly I get more interaction, and if I read other blogs more often, more people tend to come to look at mine in response, but I don’t need a stats page to tell me that. I like that fluidity of following or fading away as things change, it feels like that’s how it should be online as well as in real life.

In the grander scheme of things I blog just for me in the sense that I don’t have a business to build or a product to plug, I just want a dedicated space of my own to post stuff that allows me to share my everyday life with others, and those tend to be the kind of personal blogs I prefer to follow too. I like photography and poetry and family and home-based anecdotes and snippets and hearing about people’s health and hopes, and so for me it’s neither about wooing followers nor worrying about losing them, either.

I don’t ever think about what other people might want to read about and research in-depth journalistic articles accordingly, I just go with the flow of life, answering prompts or not as the inspiration captures my attention. Sometimes I do let myself get bogged down in stuff that I need to let go of, just let drop, because however much courting controversy can generate a frenzied flurry of firebrand feelings and a calamitous cacophony of comments, ultimately all that virtual vitriol is not what I’m here for.

Anyway, I think that’s probably answered that one, in however much of a roundabout way… Yes, I’ve taken blogging breaks, no, it wasn’t hard coming back because I started all over again, yes, my stats reset to zero and yes, I lost readers but then I gained back those that mattered again in time, and I’m still here after seven years, so that’s saying something 🙂

Back to Normal

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks, in anticipation of the new year ahead, ‘What do you fear most?’

The immediate answer that comes to mind is that I fear that the population of the world will get their wish and everything will go ‘back to normal’, as in exactly as it was before this global pandemic hit. Because in my opinion too much of what we considered to be ‘normal’ is what helped get us here into this Godawful mess in the first place.

I know there are conspiracy theories that want us to believe Covid 19 was developed in a lab somewhere in China then let loose on the Chinese, and then let loose elsewhere – this belief is especially prevalent in the USA, it seems. To my mind those kind of elaborately constructed theories tend to come from people who want the blame to fall anywhere but on their shoulders. People who can accept anything other than the simple truth that if we insist on messing with the natural environment too much, eventually nature will start to bite back.

We fly back and forth across the world with no more thought than if we were visiting our next door neighbours, effectively shedding and spreading invisible virus as we go. Our cumlative carbon footprint blackens the scorched earth and kicks huge holes in the ozone layer and melts ancient glaciers and creates giant pot-hole undulations in the permafrost as we bury our blinkered heads in the ever-warming sands of time and hope someone else somewhere else will eventually find a solution that absolves us from all cuplability. We know the cost of everything yet the value of nothing.

A selfish culture of ‘Me me me’ and ‘Now now now’ have seemingly made shallow spoiled brats of far too many of us – we demand our individual human rights with no thought of the effect that may have on others. We have forgotten that with rights come responsibilities. We need to be collective custodians of the planet, not conquerors. We need to learn the lessons Covid 19 brings us, understand that a little humility in the face of the power of nature is not a sign of weakness but of strength and wisdom.

So there we are – ‘back to normal’ is what I fear most for 2021. Let’s hope my fears are unfounded and life post-Covid will turn out to be wonderfully perfect instead… 🙂