Something I’m usually forced to utter a few times a day, now with added Doctor.
Something I’m usually forced to utter a few times a day, now with added Doctor.
Having spent last weekend camping solo for the first time ever, I thought I’d share some tips I picked up from the experience…
1. Tents should be set up according to their specifications. Slapping it together with a ‘that’ll do’ attitude will only result in it collapsing around your ears during the inevitable rain storm that will occur on the first night. Leftover tent poles are not a good thing. Guy lines should be set as close as possible to your tent; they should not be attached to another tent or passing camp-goers.
2. Keep an eye on your socks as they are mischievous and will try to make a break for it during the night. I found one of mine in the middle of the field one morning. I’m pretty sure I know how it got there, but I will be taking a sock-lock-box camping with me in the future, to keep the little bastards under control.
3. Should you find a large, leggy flying insect in your tent at any point, that insect will have instant claim over your temporary home until it either decides to leave of its own accord, or can be coaxed out by a much braver fellow camper.
4. Visitors should always be made welcome to your tent and offered every courtesy. This applies doubly if they bring presents or alcohol with them. If they are still there the next morning, you should offer them a cup of tea and both be quietly thankful that neither of you ate baked beans directly out of a can the night before.
5. Large, bright lanterns should never be waved around near the camp toilets at night, unless your key intention is to thoroughly embarrass the man who’s peeing into the hedge next to them.
6. Keep your clothes handy when you go to sleep. Even though you never, ever have to pee during the night while sleeping in your bed at home, camp rules state that your bladder will inevitably become full to bursting at 2.30 in the morning during a torrential downpour, no matter how many times you visited the facilities before you turned in.
7. A snoring camper can be made much more entertaining by attempting to whistle the 1812 Overture in time with their snores.
8. Don’t underestimate how freezing-ass cold camping can be at night. Hot water bottles, blankets, thick sleeping bags, heavy duty pyjamas, and compliant hot-blooded friends can all help you to stay warm and hypothermia-free. Picking a fight with a ram or a grumpy bovine can also warm you up enough for a good night’s sleep, but be sure to wear good running shoes.
9. Fit puffy sleeping bags and inflatable beds back into their miniscule storage bags by running them over with your car.
10. Take the time to lay on your back next to the camp fire and gaze up at the stars. You won’t regret it as there’s no light pollution in the countryside. If your back becomes hot, you’re laying in the fire; get up as soon as possible. If someone starts yelling at you, you might be inadvertently laying on their dinner/marshmallows/closest family member; be more careful. You’re only doing it right if your back becomes cold, muddy and damp. And the myriad of ants ranging through your underwear are just a bonus. Enjoy.
Please feel free to add your own…
I’ve always had a pretty good relationship with my brain. It helps me imagine and write creative stuff, play musical instruments, understand what Morgan Freeman’s talking about in his science shows, and dream crazy, laughable things (I mean, a few nights ago I dreamed that I was trying to round up an escaped talking llama, for Pete’s sake). Without its pin-point noticing and listening skills I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the world around me, let alone wave enthusiastically and say hello to it. I’m grateful that it knows how to spell, is capable of the odd witticism, and has strange little quirks that enable me to tune into people’s emotions, see ghost cats and the like. Generally, it’s a happy little brain.
Only in the past six months or so, I’ve also noticed that it’s started being a bit of a dick.
Among other things, it seems to have taken great delight in disabling the ‘off’ button. I’m sure there was one, but now whenever it’s deprived of visual stimuli my brain tends to clear off on its own merry little path of randomness. For example, last night as soon as I closed my eyes to sleep it dredged up parts of conversations I’d had that day, a list of essentials for camping, and the Powerpuff Girls theme. Needless to say, I couldn’t care less if Bubbles is the joy and the laughter when all I want to do is get some decent kip, but it’s something my brain thinks is vital to know at two in the morning.
Then there’s Important Things. My brain thinks it’s hilarious to easily remember these right up until the point where I actually need them, and then to suddenly block that part of my memory off from conscious access. Sometimes, if it’s feeling particularly bastardly, it’ll give me a glimpse of the details I need and then snatch them away again. It would probably be sticking its tongue out at the same time, if it had one.
And don’t even get me started on why the heck it deems it necessary to dig at my self-confidence by analysing the crap out of everything.
I can put up with it for the most part because I’d much rather have an overactive brain than an empty one, and I’m very appreciative of that. And it does give me somewhere to escape to. In my imagination I can do anything and go anywhere, whereas in real life I’m really nothing special. It’s obviously working properly, and you know what they say: if it ain’t broke…
So, Brain, what gives?
Perhaps it’s just that it’s become too full of useless information gathered over the years? If it were a computer I’d be able to clean it up, hide all the naughty stuff, move things to storage and generally have a good tidy round. But I don’t think that’s going to work here, mainly because it’s in charge and a tad rebellious. However, I think I may be able to get the unruly sod calmed down with some meditation techniques, preferably some directed ones to keep it under control. Something for me to look into, right?
But ssshh, don’t tell my brain. It might just be keeping me distracted while it takes over the world.
1. You are on a flight from Honolulu to Chicago non-stop. There is a fire in the back of the plane. You have enough time to make ONE phone call. Who do you call? What do you tell them?
Hmm. Well, for a start you shouldn’t be using your phone on a plane. And a fire at the back of the plane can be controlled, so there’s no huge emergency unless everyone turns their cell phones on all at once, right? So I wouldn’t call anyone. All the important people in my life know how I feel about them, and the last thing I would want to do is panic them by screaming down the phone at them. However, I might write a few lines down to them in a note and seal it in that bag they give you to put your 100ml items in. Huff a bit of air into it too, so it floats. Sorted.
2. Think of the last time you were REALLY angry. WHY were you angry?
Ah, easy. I was angry because my amygdala was going crazy, releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline into my system, before the increased blood flow to the reasoning centre of my frontal lobe managed to counter the effect.
3. You can have one of the following two things; love or trust. Which do you choose? Why?
I choose trust, because love without trust is no love at all.
4. You are walking down the street on your way to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street. Your boss has told you if you are late even once more, you are fired. Do you take the time to save the dogs life? Why or Why not?
I would whip my phone out and call in sick, then jump in and save the dog. That way I can’t get fired for being late, the pup lives, and I get the afternoon off to go and buy a much better alarm clock. Win-win all round.
5. Think of the last person who you know that died. You have the chance to give them 1 hour of life back, but you have to give up one year of yours. Do you do it? Why or Why not?
This sounds a little bit ‘Pet Sematary’ to me. No, I wouldn’t do it. It would be a purely selfish pursuit, and I’d rather have happy memories of those I’ve lost, instead of them being confused and grumpy at me for yanking them back from the Summerland.
6. Does love = sex?
Of course not. They’re completely different words, look. One’s even a bit longer than the other, and only one has an ‘x’. And in a numerology sense, love=9 and sex=3 so no match there either. Although, interestingly, sex does equal mint chocolate.
7. Imagine it is a dark night, you are alone, it is raining outside, and you hear someone walking around outside your window. WHO do you wish was there with you?
I’d say a policeman, but seeing as my window is on the first floor, there would be something highly unsettling about someone walking around outside it. So I’m going to plump for The Doctor, because if he can’t sort it out what the heck is going on, we can at least escape in the TARDIS.
8. You can have dinner with three celebrities. Who would you choose, and why?
Oh blimey…erm, MST3K’s Kevin Murphy, because I’ve met him and he’s lovely, plus he makes me roar with laughter; Neil Gaiman, because I’ve met him and he’s lovely, plus his books are just brilliant; and David Tennant, so we could play Doctor afterwards.
9. You’re trapped in a dark basement and can’t see well enough to find the exit. You feel your way around the room and find a half-filled oil lamp, a burnt-down candle, and a pile of logs in a fireplace, but you only have one match on you. So what do you light first?
Um, the match?
10. If you could live anywhere you wanted, where would you choose?
A big log cabin, somewhere peaceful, green and forested, surrounded by nature. It would have a massive, luxurious bed, a library and a sound-proofed music room. There’d be big windows, and the lounge would have a high ceiling, lots of sofas and a fireplace. You’d be able to see the Aurora Borealis from it. And it would rain half the time. Perfect.
Zombies are among us! Oh yes, they shamble aimlessly amidst our ranks every day with slack faces and hunched shoulders, hands held out in front of them, unresponsive and silent except for the odd grunt, strangled moan or occasional piercing scream. They are relentless. Be afraid. Be very afraid! You’ve seen them too; that couple sitting wordlessly at the next table in the restaurant, seemingly unaware of each other. The person who shuffled into you in the street without noticing or acknowledging you, unaware of the direction they’re heading or the cafe chair they’re about to hilariously fall over. Zombies. Or maybe they’d be better described as Meanderthals? For these are the folk who are lost in another world, a world of the mind which leaves the physical body operating on automatic, the world of the…duh duh DUH!…smart phone.
Okay, so let’s get one thing straight here; I’m not dissing the smart phone. I love gadgets as much as the next geek, and I’ll admit to using my own phone to idly surf the net on long train journeys, or update my Facebook status with some inane comment that I’ll probably regret posting at the exact time I lose my connection, or find out where the heck I am when I’m lost, or chat to my buddies when I should be working (hey, I work from alone from home, so I need a little social interaction every now and then!) And there’s nothing wrong this, it’s perfectly healthy and dead useful at times, especially when you find yourself in the wrong part of town with a Doctor Who bag and a badge that says ‘Your Face Offends Me’. You’ve got to love technology. However, the danger arises when we are so self-absorbed in this virtual world that, in connecting with friends or news or trivia, we become disconnected from the physical world around us. That’s not so good, and yet I see it more and more.
There’s not only the fact to consider that you may wander into the path of a bus while you’re tweeting about what a good day you’re having; social niceties also go out the window when you’re a phone junkie. How many times have you seen someone so engrossed in their phone that they let a door shut in someone else’s face, or ignore someone calling to them, or fail to notice that an elderly person standing on the bus could really do with a seat?
True, contemporary social media is communal even if it’s not face-to-face, and any kind of engagement is good. But every now and then, we need to put down the phones and take a look around. Breathe in some fresh air. Listen to the birds. Really listen. Take in the details of the physical world around us no matter where we are, because it really is beautiful. Smile at other people, real people. Human interaction and warmth is a wonderful thing, and you won’t get it from a digital device. And don’t be afraid to be alone for a while – to quote actress Olivia Wilde “I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person”.
To put it plainly, don’t just send a hug, give a hug.
Love and light.
This may come as a bit of a shock to those of you who know me, but I’m not actually the confident, gregarious person I pretend to be. It’s all an act, a lesson learned through years of airport work where if you’re nervous and compliant you’ll be squished immediately beneath the feet of the first passenger who wants to take a pop at you because they’re trying to check in fifteen bags and a dog without paying extra. It’s a lesson you learn quickly, believe me. But actually I’m a horrendously shy, fluffy type of character, and this is borne out by the fact that, right now, I’m sitting here in abject panic purely because I have to go to London tomorrow for a meeting. And why? Because, having been away from the airport environment for nearly a year and working from home in my new job, I’m badly out of practice. My shields are down, and Scotty cannae fix ‘em for me, that’s for sure.
I don’t like London at all. Don’t get me wrong, it has cool museums, theatre shows and yes, a bloody huge Forbidden Planet. There’s always something to do or see. It’s just that to get to the cool places to see or do the cool stuff you first have to navigate the suffocating Underground, the shoving crowds of grumpy people, and the hideous traffic which seems determined to flatten you at every opportunity. And pavements are only as safe as the most deranged person on them. A gentle, fluffy type of character belongs under a tree in a sunlit field, not trapped in the middle of a manic five-way junction because she panicked at the crossing and got stuck on a traffic island.
So when forced to head for the capital on previous occasions, I’ve either guzzled Rescue Remedy in sweet homeopathic futility, or downed a swift gin and tonic or two. As I’m heading to a meeting tomorrow and am a notorious lightweight when it comes to alcohol, the latter is probably not the best idea unless the agenda includes a point on drunken bear-hugs. And the former only seems to work on and off. The last time, it was off. And really off.
So what’s a shy, fluffy character (albeit one that used to know how to pretend to be confident and gregarious) to do? I’ve mulled over numerous ways to combat my fear of bustling crowds and busy streets and I’ve come up with two possible solutions:
1. Music. I’m going to arm myself with my iPod in an effort to distance myself from the crazy, loud goings on around me, and thus beat the rising grip of fear with familiar tunes that make me feel good. I’ve even downloaded a few more songs to keep me occupied, including the Girls On Film Night Mix by Duran Duran. Ah, I remember that song well. And I remember the video being banned because it had nipples in it.
2. Borrowed attitude. I’m a pretty empathic person, and I tend to take on the emotions of the people around me without even thinking about it. Funnily enough, I’ve noticed that this also happens when I watch Doctor Who; after a couple of episodes I go all Doctor-y and feel like I can tackle anything, so I’ve loaded an audio book read by David Tennant onto my iPod too. I’m just hoping it doesn’t lead to me striding in there while shouting ‘Allons-y!’ and waving my sonic screwdriver around.
And that’s it. Tomorrow I’m hoping to actually make it back home with my sanity intact, thanks to carefully recreating my own little world around myself as protection against the madding crowd.
And if all that fails, there’s always the Doctor’s sage advice: ‘Just walk about like you own the place. Works for me!’
I love animals, and I think they have a lot to teach us. Over the past few months, I’ve had some unusual animal encounters so I thought I’d relate a few of them for you, dear readers.
Late one evening I was in the garden when a hedgehog appeared. Now, I think hedgehogs are wonderful little creatures, so I stood very still and watched as it came right to my feet. I knelt down and it looked up at me, then shuffled off only to return a moment later with a little baby hedgehog! Stopping at my feet again, they both gazed up at me, so I went to the kitchen and fetched a bit of steak left over from dinner for them. They rather liked that. Then they were gone again, the bigger hedgehog stopping and casting a look at me as they toddled off into the undergrowth.
On another evening, I was in the garden again when a fox walked straight up the path towards me, sat down and stared at me. The foxes in our neighbourhood are usually very timid and dart off at the sign of any movement at all, so this time I just stood stock-still and gazed at it. It cocked its head. I smiled, and it actually laid down on the path in front of me. I do wonder why this one was so bold, perhaps the hedgehog had told it that I had steak! We gazed at each other for about half a minute, and then it scratched its ear nonchalantly and trotted off through the garden, brush wagging as it went.
Yesterday I walked down to the seafront and had lunch with a raven, which sat beside me as I ate my croissant. Again, these are usually quite nervous, but this one perched next to me quite happily and ate the little pieces of pastry I set down for it. It was a beautiful bird; big, jet black with gorgeous shiny feathers.
And last night I communed with a black cat – we had a long conversation as I sat on the path. I’ve never seen it before, but it strolled up to me, sat down, and even though I couldn’t stroke it as I’m pretty allergic to them, it stayed for quite a while. It was very talkative, answering me with a variety of different meows as I spoke to it. I wonder what it was trying to tell me?
Maybe the wild animals living alongside us are becoming accustomed to our presence, which is quite sad in a way. While to me an animal encounter is very special and gives me that feeling of being connected to the natural world, to some others it may be an opportunity to inflict harm or injury upon them. There are some cruel people in the world. But maybe if we all opened our minds a little, we would learn a few things from our animal friends and share some cross-species knowledge of the world we live in. I bet they know a thing or two…