Matsui Mix Tape

There are certain smells, sounds and tastes that can literally transport you back in time. For instance, when the weather is sunny but cold and the streets are quiet, it reminds me of home. Because home, to me, is a place my family moved to when I was 14 years old. We moved in December. It was cold, but dry and sunny (I previously lived in a place which was quite ‘dreich‘) and the streets where we lived were typically suburban, and a little quieter than I was used to.

Between the ages of 14 and 16, I was starting to think about boys, about life, about the future… I was given a Matsui Stereo System for Christmas. I had my own bedroom for the first time in my life and had chosen baby blue and white pin stripe wallpaper, white bed sheets (I still always have white bed sheets) and wooden floors with a white and blue IKEA rug (very matchy-matchy).

I would spend hours in my room staring out of the window, thinking, dreaming, self-analysing and having imaginary conversations with people (usually boys that I liked but who were in love with my friend). I often stayed up late to listen to the American Chart Show (my musical taste hasn’t always been eclectic – in my earlier years I was heavily influenced by time spent living near Detroit as a child… in fact, that influence reached far further than music… and still does to some extent).

I still happily participate in all of these behaviours when I have time on my hands 🙂

Anyway, back to the post in hand – feeling very nostalgic recently for those halcyon days of innocence, when the fate of my entire world depended on whether a boy would actually look at me or not, I made a mix tape! Well, it’s an iTunes playlist, but it would have been a mix tape if I still had my Matsui Stereo. And I thought, I’d share the first 3 songs with you, because they were (by a long stretch) the most played.

When I hear them, I close my eyes and I’m back in my room, looking out of the window. I can feel the floor beneath my feet, I can see the garden from my window, the weather looks cold but sunny. It is quiet (apart from the music), and my soul is smiling.

I hope you enjoy the mix as much as I do!

Matsui Mix Tape

  1. Tender Love – Force M.D.’s
  2. The Flame – Cheap Trick
  3. If You Were Here Tonight – Alexander O’Neal

Book Club

I’ve been inspired to pick up a book and read (an actual book with actual paper pages). Strangely, I’ve been inspired almost exactly at the same time from two different sources. Firstly, there was my Twitter buddy (@billy_mccallum), who’s been reading War and Peace and tweeting a synopsis of the plot lines as he goes. I never thought I could read a book as long as War and Peace, but his ingenuity with 140 characters makes the story seem very accessible. And then a suggestion from my Beloved, to turn off the TV for one night per week, turn on some relaxing music, read and talk. He’d picked up on something I’d mentioned in the passing about wanting to read more. How thoughtful!

So, I’ve started reading. As has my Beloved. Not War and Peace, but a fairly lengthy tale, and one that I have read before. A story that I love. In fact, I would probably say it’s my favourite book of all time (so far – I don’t read that much). The Count of Monte Cristo. The original (though, I’m sure even it is based on another original) tale of love, loss and rebirth. And I’m tweeting my synopsis (though not nearly as amusingly as Billy.)

Bear with me, whilst I digress a little… Another little hobby that I’ve been working on recently, is developing my family tree (more of that in another blog). The information that I am coming across is fascinating. But what really strikes me a general realisation about the world and human nature.

The story in the book, the stories I have discovered in my Family Tree and the stories I have lived in my own life, can all be threaded together by similar themes. Young love, loss, greed, lust, injustice, unrequited love, “illegitimate” children, “living in sin”, birth, death, relationship breakdown, mental illness… the list goes on and on…

But despite ideas held firm by my parents and grandparents, of things being different or better in the “Good Old Days”. They were just the same. Because fundamentally, human nature has not changed much over the last few centuries. And every generation lives through the same trials and tribulations, the same highs and lows. That’s life.

And that’s one of the wonderful facets of books. Some books offer escape, some knowledge. And many offer re-assurance that we are not alone, that someone else has walked this path before us and survived.

I’m a (Role) Model, you know what I mean? And I do my little turn on the catwalk

Even more shocking than the ode to Right Said Fred in the title of this post, is the realisation that I am a role model!

Why has this just hit me?

It was something that my Beloved said this morning that illuminated the point to me, in huge Vegas-style lights.

Strawbug went to day care today, carrying a tiny white, vintage style, handbag. It was her choice to take it, I had no influence in the decision. The bag was given to her (preloved) by her Auntie who lives in London. (Note to the reader: Strawbug has regular bouts of obsession with London, but that’s another post).

She carried it over her arm, the strap cradled in her elbow. She looked like a mini Jackie-O, without the hat and gloves… and in some leggings and a pair of baby converse. OK, so, she didn’t look exactly like Jackie O. But, she did have an aura of 1950’s glamour about her, in the way that she carried herself, or more specifically her bag. I digress.

When I told my Beloved about how much everyone smiled when they seen her, he said “Aww, she wants to be just like you. She loves you.” And the lights went on…

I have lost count of the number of times that I have reprimanded my Beloved for things he has said, or done, in front of the kids. “I know that they are only little, but they are like sponges. They take it all in” I say. To the point where now, I only have to look over at him and he says “I know, I know, SPONGES!”. And to prove my point, Strawbug regularly walks around the house reciting “Oh, Blimey!” continually. (To be honest, it could have been worse). I have a stack of parenting books that back up this theory (and, it seems now I have Strawbug backing me up with real, live, evidence).

I’m always so careful about what I say in front of the kids, because the feedback from their learning tends to be rapid. (i.e. they pretty much repeat what you say, word for bloody word, immediately – especially if it’s a word you shouldn’t have said within earshot of them).

But I often forget that they are soaking in all that I DO as well. Because the impact of this learning appears (to me, anyway) to be more subtle or, at least, deferred until later. Now that I have seen my first exhibit of evidence, though, is it time to start moderating my behaviour as well? That’s seems like a big ask.

But surely I would only need to change my behaviour, if my behaviour was defective. And well, if your a mother, (and you are anything like me) you probably question your behaviour (and your abilities) on a daily basis. Every day I think about how to help Strawbug be the best Strawbug she can be. And now, it has finally dawned on me that the best way to do that is to be the best Me that I can be.

So, here I am. My life is a catwalk and I’m being watched, admired and looked up to, by my babies. I need to show them how to face life with dignity and grace. I need to show them what beauty really means. If I come across an obstacle I need to show them how to find a way to the other side. If I find myself at a crossing, I need to show them how to choose the right path. And if I fall off my heels, I need to show them how to get up again, dust yourself off and keep going. Because I am a role model!

Scaredy Cat

Are any of you afraid of the dark?

My Beloved and I have lived together for almost 4 years now. Before that I lived alone. Every night. With the lights out. And had no problem whatsoever sleeping.

Since we’ve lived in the same house I’ve been on numerous trips and left him home alone, but he’s only been away once overnight. I slept (well, on and off) with the lights on, the TV on and the deadbolt on the front door – which I almost cut my index finger off trying to get closed, being that it was so rusty from lack of normal use!). And I don’t mind admitting; it wasn’t loneliness that prompted the “ON” environment, it was fear.

There are some nights, even when my Beloved is in situ, that I hear strange noises I need to reconcile before being able to sleep. Not that I would ever attempt to seek out and reconcile these by myself. No, my preferred method is by proxy. My Beloved gets up, goes downstairs (with a heavy sigh, usually), checks everything is as it should be and returns with the news that, as expected, there is no-one else in the house except me, him and sometimes the cat.

Now don’t get me wrong, as I’ve stated in a previous blog, my home is my sanctuary. It’s my safe place. Just not when I’m on my own at night, it seems…

And, it would also seem that the Gods are looking down on me and have decided that I’ve been having too easy a time of it lately. They have re-instated my “recurring nightmare”. Now this is a dream, a nightmare, that I have had (on a recurring basis) on and off a few times in my life, starting in my late teens/early twenties.

I dream that someone has gotten into the house and is standing at the foot of my bed, poised and ready to kill me. Now, I can’t see what this person looks like, I can only really see a dark shadow. But I know why he’s there and I am petrified. Petrified to the point where I suffer sleep paralysis. I can’t move at all (though my Beloved has a fair few scars and bruises that would beg to differ) and I’m trying so hard to scream but I can’t make a noise. Eventually I manage to make a kind of muffled scream, which sounds more like a poor attempt at a moan from a bad 1970’s porn movie. And then I either eventually wake up myself, or in the last 4 years, my Beloved wakes me… and generally holds me, like a human safety blanket, until I feel safe enough to fall back to sleep (which can sometimes be hours).

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found out that my mother experiences the same recurring dream (except her shadow is a recognisable person). Although, she hasn’t had the dream for a long long time. And my brother also suffers sleep paralysis.

Well I (and my Beloved) had 2 sleepless nights this weekend, after 2 attacks of the Killer Shadow. And still, after all these years, I have no idea why it happens or what it means. Although, it’s probably related to my fear of sleeping alone now, when my saftey blanket isn’t there.

I hear you scoffing and laughing! Surely, I’m a grown up and can tell that it’s only a dream. Well, I can only say that, personally, I’ve never been able to wake from a nightmare, tell myself “Oh, it was only a dream” and turn over and go back to sleep, like they do in the movies. Either I’m a complete and utter scaredy cat (which is not entirely that ridiculous an accusation) or those guys in the movies are merely having a bit of a bad dream, rather than the full on terrifying, pant wetting, nightmares that I get to “sleep” through. (Though, I will at this stage, point out that my one saving grace is that I don’t actually suffer the indignity of actually wetting my pants.)

I’ve consulted many dream meanings books and websites and none of the explanations seem to make sense. Mind you, that may be becuase I can’t find one that tells me the meaning of “a shadow at the end of your bed ready to kill you – but not actually killing you”. The only thing I have been able to ascertain is when the dreams tend to occur. That is that the timing of the dreams (i.e. when I have spurts of recurrence) tend to be in times of uncertainty or change. (But then there have also been plenty of these times in my life when I haven’t had the dreams).

That and if I watch anything remotely scary, for instance the Angels on Dr.Who or Scary Clowns and Axe Murderers on CSI on Saturday, then the Shadow tends to make an appearance.

So, if anyone out there is a dream interpreter – or even better an Exorcist – please can you help me?

The thing that’s worrying me today is that my Beloved is away on business again this week. And I’m not sure how or if I will sleep.  But I’m not telling you when he’s going, just in case I see you in the middle of the night at the end of my bed!

Heaven or Hell? The Gym

I’m writing this in dread… very soon my other half will come bounding through the door full of energy and, in true Dr. Awesome fashion, cajole me into going to the gym. That’s partly a lie…  he won’t be full of energy, he’ll have had a long and hard day but he’ll be determined that a good workout is what we both need.

So my question is this; the gym… heaven or hell?

For me it’s hell… give me a dance floor (or even a rug in a living room) and some cheesy pop music or happy house and I’ll fling myself around with wild abandon for hours on end. But “the gym”… man! it’s worse than house work, which itself only gets done to avoid doing homework (or at least it used to when I was 15). I don’t know what it is about those machines. Even with the distraction of TMF videos in front of me and the cheery sound of the latest Ibiza “choons” compilation bouncing all around me I feel like I’m wading through mud… up a hill… with a gradient of 1:6.

Having said that, once I reach the top of that hill and even before I start the long meander home I feel like I’m in heaven. I feel like a Super Hero. Like I could do anything. Yeah man! I feel amazing!

Maybe that’s the point… no pain, no gain. Still… I’m sitting here quietly praying for a reprieve. Just for tonight. Honest!?

Lovely weather we're having

Thought I’d start with a classic conversation starter… the weather. It’s turned very cold today. Winter’s coming for sure!

A while ago I tweeted “touchĂ©! “Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.”~Kin Hubbard”. Frank McKinney Hubbard (a.k.a. Kin Hubbard) was an American journalist, well known for his humorous cartoons and quite a few observationally funny quotes.

But this blog isn’t about Kin, it’s about the weather. He’s right though, weather conversations are dear to our hearts (well, in the UK anyway) and I know I’m one of the nine-tenths! I have a friend who lives in Mallorca and I’m endlessly envious that she lives in (what I imagine to be) a permanently warm and sunny climate. Hence, most conversations include the staple question “how’s the weather today?”. The reality is that Mallorca is not permanently sunny nor permanently warm and my friend gets equally as miserable as I do when it rains or it’s cold. Which is surprisingly often, between October and March (well, surprising to me, anyway!). Apparently it’s cold now, but the tourists are still wearing shorts. Go figure.

The subject of British weather is critical to a proficient conversation between neighbours, strangers on buses and BFF’s. We think it doesn’t change that often – “raining again” – cue dramatic rolling of the eyes and an “hmph!”. We think it rains a lot! And now for the science bit… Actually, average precipitation figures in the UK this year are down 25% to 50% on the average for the last 30 years (with the exception of July & August, but I guess global warming is a whole other blog subject!)

So, if we think the weather doesn’t change much… why discuss it on a daily basis? A common denominator. With so many different people in the world each with different lifestyles and different problems, the weather is one of the few things that genuinely binds us together as a “human race”. Weather doesn’t discriminate, it affects us all. And so, in weather we have a common friend or a common foe. So Hurray! for the weather, I say. Anything that helps us come together, even if only for a brief conversation is worth celebrating.

And, as I’m sure you’re desperate to know, at the time of publishing; it’s cold, quite windy and raining again!