Tag Archives: #MondayBlogs

Now, make yourself comfortable. I have a few questions for you…

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I’ve been dithering about this blog post on and off all day. I’ve started it and stopped. I’ve written an entirely different blog (I’ll save that for a rainy day). I’ve stewed this over and over and, in typical me fashion, have totally over thought it all. “No change there”, I hear some friends cry.

This morning, armed with my second mug of coffee for the day, I sat down to interview myself for this week’s blog. I’ve been really restless with my writing and not been making much progress – well not as much as I had hoped for over the past ten days-  and thought an interview might be the way to refocus my train of thought.

But what questions to ask myself? ……..

I’ve wracked my brains (didn’t take too long). I’ve Googled and then I’ve Googled some more until I had a list of questions to ask myself. 

I’ve whittled the list down to ten and I’ve not actually answered them …yet.

Here goes…..

Q1- Describe yourself in ten words.

Wife. Mother. Friend. Writer. Short. Introvert. Caring. Loyal. Habitual. Worrier.

Q2 –  What am I really scared of?

Spiders, boats and bananas – long story.

Q3- When did I last push the boundaries of my comfort zone?

Last week when I took my Baby Girl out to practice her driving. She was great but I was a nervous wreck! Really tested me.

Q4 – Does it matter what others really think of me?

No. I used to tie myself in knots trying to please people but not anymore. After a huge amount of soul searching I’m comfortable with “me” as I am. 

Q5 – Which is worse : failing or never trying?

Never trying, definitely.

Q6 – How many friends would I trust with my life?

Two and, no, I’m not naming them.

Q7 – Have I made someone smile today?

Yes, I think so. I’m also grateful to the people who have made me smile. Never under estimate the importance of that. There’s a lot of power in a wee smile.

Q8- Am I source of inspiration for my friends and family?

I honestly have no idea! Several people have said so in the past but I don’t feel inspirational. I am just “wee me”. My family may argue strongly that I’m a source of frustration rather than inspiration!

Q9 – If I could live anywhere in the world where would I live?

In a house right on the beach. I’d love to live in a beachfront house that leads down onto the sand with the ocean beyond. (Those that know me know which beach.)

Q10 – Hold old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

OK, if I exclude the fact I have two teenage children which kind of impacts the answer here, I feel about 25 inside. I don’t have any hang ups about age. I still do the things that I enjoy doing and don’t think “I’m too old for this.” Age to me is all about mental attitude and I’m not grown up enough to be as old as I am. Several years ago someone at work gave me a backhanded compliment about a necklace I was wearing. They said it was an unusual choice of necklace for someone as “mature” as me. She obviously didn’t know me well…I’m not as mature as me and long may it continue!

 

Ok folks, now it’s your turn to interview yourselves. Makes you stop to think a bit….

Surviving or Thriving.. a personal tale

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As I sat at my desk in the salt mine mid-week an email with the communications to be cascaded to staff the following week dropped into my mail box. In the body of the text I spotted one topic to be highlighted and discussed- Mental Health Awareness. (This week 8-14 May is Mental Health Awareness Week)

Immediately it crossed my mind to wonder how many of my peers may overlook or pay lip service to this highly emotive topic.

It got me thinking. How could I play my part in raising awareness? Part of the salt mine’s key focus for this year is on Wellbeing so this topic slots in nicely alongside that. The article suggested hosting sessions akin to coffee mornings to allow people to talk and share their stories.

I wondered. I pondered. As usual, I over thought every angle of this before reaching a decision.  I lay awake for more than an hour at 3am thrashing out in my head what I may or may not do. Could I do something to raise awareness? It was a risky strategy for me as I don’t open up easily to people about myself.  

I felt strongly though that I had to at least attempt to do something. Staying silently locked in my own security bubble felt all wrong. If I spoke out about my own personal brush with stress and anxiety then perhaps my peers would see things differently. Could I go through with it?

Last Friday, I bit the bullet and spoke to a small group of my peers at our weekly team session. I kept it short and succinct, largely to prevent me from becoming over emotional in front of them and feeling like a complete idiot.

I pitched it as a “show and tell” thing and took my three book babies as props.

The short story caught my peers unawares. I hope it opened their eyes a little. I hope in some small way it heightened their perception of what someone who on the face of things is “fine” is really going through deep inside.

And the story I told?

Well, I guess here I can hide in the anonymity of words. Those of you who are still reading this blog won’t see the tears that fill my eyes. My peers heard the abridged version. Here’s the full story or as much of it as I’m prepared to tell.

Four years ago today, I sat down in the early evening sun on my front doorstep (exactly where I am writing the first draft of this blog) and began to write a story. I’ve always loved to write. That story grew longer and longer as the words flowed before it finally became Book Baby 1 aka Stronger Within.

But what made me decide to sit down and write? Why did I do it?

Almost a year before that, changes at work pulled the rug out from under my feet in spectacular style. It damn near destroyed me. Now, I want to make one thing crystal clear here – I am not blaming my manager at the time nor my employer in any shape or form here. They have a business to run and had a business decision to make. I totally get that. No one, especially not me, could have foreseen the fallout from that.

The secondment I had been on for almost two years came to a fairly abrupt end; the team I had been a part of for eight years no longer needed me to be a part of it. Put simply, I stepped back down to my previous grade and changed role. I was moved to another team within the same building. To many folk that would have been water off a duck’s back. I wish it had with me.

Initially, the news was like a knife wound to my very soul. Leaving the team that I had worked so closely with for so long felt like someone stealing my children from me.

I got the news on a Friday afternoon that I would be moving to a new team in a few short weeks. At that time I wasn’t told which team. I was just told I couldn’t remain with the team I was in.  Devastated doesn’t begin to cover it. I cried all weekend, torturing myself by questioning what had I done so wrong.

On the Monday I drew on my remaining inner strength (there really wasn’t a lot that morning) and what was left of my pride and self-esteem, painted on my best Disney smile and went to work. This was to be a routine I repeated day in day out for months, years perhaps.

To the world about me I was coping beautifully with the changes that had happened. I was praised for the professionalism I had shown. To the new team that I joined I was initially the quiet stranger in the camp until they got to know me a little. To most people from my old team I became a stranger, at least that’s how I felt as most of them went out of their way to avoid me, unsure of what to say to me or how to react around me. (There were a few surprising exceptions and to those people I will forever by eternally grateful) I felt exiled. I felt worthless.

Life went on.

Out with work there were a few challenges over the summer and autumn months in my personal life that I’m not prepared to divulge here (sorry). In at least one of these challenges, I was seen as the strong calming presence. If only my relatives had known the emotional turmoil going on inside me.

Winter was approaching and my physical health began to suffer as well as my mental wellbeing. My stress and anxiety levels were through the roof. I’d lost my sense of self-worth, my pride was battered and bruised, my self-belief was in tatters. I felt totally useless to everyone, including myself.

I was drifting through life one miserable day after another with the Disney smile painted on for the world to see. Not even my closest family knew how I was truly feeling. I kept all the hurt, the pain, the stress and anxiety locked inside.

Eventually I dragged myself to the doctor. By now six months or more had passed. During that time I noticed more and more strands of hair on my hairbrush each morning. I could feel the difference in the thickness of my long hair as I plaited it for bed each night. I’ve never been blessed with thick hair so this hair loss was sending my emotions spiralling out of control. I felt permanently exhausted and drained. After a series of blood tests the doctor diagnosed severe anaemia, most likely triggered by stress. My iron levels were through the floor, lower even than they had been after the birth of my son and they had been dangerously low then. The doctor said that the anaemia was the cause of the hair loss. I was prescribed a lengthy course iron tablets to restore my blood to normal. But what about the rest of me?

Pride got in my way yet again and I never mentioned ongoing stress/anxiety concerns or even increasing feelings of depression to my GP. As ever, I kept it all bottled up.

A few short months later I was back at the doctor. This time I was formally diagnosed as suffering from IBS, again episodes primarily being triggered by stress.

I was falling apart. By now more than half the total volume of my hair was gone. Fortunately, there were no obvious bald patches and for that I am eternally thankful.

Something had to change.

That something was me.

I had to take control of “me” and get myself back on track.

As is my usual want, I turned initially to books and articles online for guidance. Voraciously I read up about what vitamins and minerals I could take to try to address the hair loss fears and to prevent the recurrence of anaemia. (I loathe taking iron supplements and they really don’t mix well with IBS symptoms so I wanted to avoid these at all costs.) I spoke to the staff in my local health food store for guidance on which strengths and combinations to try. I was warned it would not be a quick fix. Soon I had a shelf full of bottles of supplements. I looked at my diet, eliminating the worst trigger foods entirely from it. Bye bye ice cream forever.

I began to take more exercise and introduced a daily walk into my lunch hours.

Looking at my sense of self-worth and self-belief was harder, much harder. I wanted to do something just for me, to do something that up until then I’d only dreamed about achieving. Eventually, after a lot of soul searching, I realised I wanted to write.  I wanted to write a book.

And here we reach 8 May 2013, the day I finally sat down to write.

By the end of 2013 I had a growing pile of A4 notebooks brimming over with the Silver Lake story. All of Stronger Within was written. Most of Impossible Depths, Book Baby 2, was also written.

There was one final crippling fear to be overcome. I am terrified of letting people read what I write. (Right now, my stomach is churning at the thought of anyone reading this and passing judgement) This stems again from long established feelings of never being good enough and fears of looking stupid and opening myself up to ridicule. These fears reach way back deep into childhood and their story is one for another day.

I gave myself a stern talking to and on 29 Dec 2013 I wrote my first ever blog post as the first step towards addressing this fear.

I set myself a personal challenge for 2014 to write one blog post per week for the entire year. I did it! In fact, I’ve added one blog post every week since Jan 2014 to this blog page. Has the fear been conquered? Not entirely.

Could my Silver Lake story become a real book? Would anyone want to read it? Those questions hung in the air.

Again, I turned to books and the internet for assistance and discovered that anyone who is prepared to put in the effort can publish a book, an ebook, via Kindle Direct Publishing.

I began to type….

And really this is where the tale kind of stops. Finally, I was doing something just for me. I’d reached a place in my head and my heart where I was more comfortable. For the first time in too many years I was also comfortable with who I was.

The Disney smile by and large was replaced by a real smile.

I felt like “me” again.

Now, here in May 2017, I finally feel secure enough to share this journey. There have been a few pitfalls along the way. Life naturally brings periods of stress and anxiety but I’ve coped with them. I’ve never gone all the way back to that dark hole that opened up mid-2012. I’ll not lie, it’s been close a couple of times.

Writing is what keeps me going. Writing keeps me sane. Writing helps me maintain my wellbeing and mental health balance. To me it’s akin to the stress relief that other folk find by going for a run or going to the gym or practising yoga or going fishing. It’s an essential part of my daily routine. It’s oxygen. It’s part of what makes me “me”.

I still take the vitamin and mineral supplements regularly. The hair has never grown back but I’ve got my head round that more or less. I get excited when I spot a new grey hair as it means another hair has grown in. Sad but true. On the whole, the IBS is under control but requires medicating regularly. I’m exercising more than I think I ever have. I’ve even been known to go for a run, a major miracle in itself. I may not be as slim as I’d like to be (who is?) but I’m comfortable in my own skin.

Work in the salt mine over the intervening years has taken many twists and turns but finally at the end of 2015, I bit the bullet and applied for a promoted post. That in itself took a lot of soul searching and inner resolve but it was worth it. I was successful and got the job.

And the biggest achievement of this five year journey? My three book babies. Who’d have ever thought it possible? My name sits proudly on the cover of not one but three books so far.

Apologies if this has been rambling. It’s been written straight from the heart. It’s been written and typed through a veil of tears if I’m being honest with you. It’s been written with pride at having made it back to being “me”.

Surviving or Thriving? That’s the anchor line to this year’s Mental Health Awareness campaign. I’ve survived and yes, right now, I’m thriving.

As we journey through this week spare a thought for that friend or relative or colleague who suddenly seems a bit “off” or a bit too happy or a bit too withdrawn. Spare an extra few minutes to catch up with them. Check if they are “surviving or thriving”. You never know, their smile may be a Disney smile masking the truth behind it.

Thanks for listening.

 

For more information on #MHAW17 see the link below :-

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

When All The Stars Align…

Ever have a day where all the stars align and everything falls into place? They’re rare, I know, but recently I experienced one of them.

Six months ago, I’d bought a ticket to a rock show and made the decision to set out on a solo adventure.

Those six months disappeared in the blink of an eye and, on the last Saturday in November, I found myself sitting at Glasgow Airport with a coffee and a cinnamon whirl, waiting for my flight to East Midlands Airport.

I was heading to Nottingham for the weekend. No, I wasn’t in search of Robin Hood or the sheriff. I was going to see Alter Bridge headline a show at the Motorpoint Arena.

Those who know me, know how much those guys mean to me, especially the front man, Myles Kennedy.

Those of you who are going “Alter who?”, Alter Bridge are a rock band from the USA, fronted by Myles Kennedy. (Look then up on You Tube!)

The flight from Glasgow to East Midlands was a hop skip and a jump on a rather small propeller plane..eek!!

An hour after leaving Glasgow I was sitting in the café at East Midlands Airport with a coffee and a panini for lunch, waiting for my American friend, Miss Janette, to arrive from Amsterdam. (Her devotion to Myles and all things RnFnR makes the rest of us look like rank amateurs!)

Bang on time, her flight arrived and we were soon in a taxi, chatting at a million miles an hour as we sped towards the city. (I hadn’t seen her for two years so we had a lot of catching up to cram in!)

The whole day almost came to a spectacular halt a short while later. Having checked in to my Travel Lodge home for the night, we set off on foot in search of the rest of the “AB Family” who were lunching at Annie’s Burger Shack.

Round the corner from the hotel we found a Kitty Café!!!

Both of us have Crazy Cat Lady tendencies and it took a lot of will power to drag ourselves past the Kitty Café and to resist the temptation of kitty cuddles!

Without too much bother we found Annie’s. (Gotta love Google maps!) Cue lots of hugs and hellos as we caught up with some of the members of our “AB Family.” It was a little surreal being face to face with friends I’d only seen on Facebook up until now. It really was an international family gathering!

Apart from a love of Alter Bridge, we all had one more thing in common. We were all doing the “Meet & Greet/VIP Package” before the show.

The city’s Motorpoint Arena was only a short walk from the restaurant and, by three o’clock, the AB Family gathering had expanded considerably. Some of these people have been following this tour, The Last Hero Tour, all over the UK and Scandinavia, having already followed it through the USA. I really felt like an AB lightweight but each and every one of them made me feel so welcome and a part of it all.

I’ll not bore you with a blow by blow account of the Meet & Greet but the whole experience was amazing! Even standing in the centre of that huge almost empty arena was a breath-taking experience. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like to stand on that stage and perform in front of a sell-out crowd!

The Meet & Greet package allows you entry to part of the band’s sound check before you are whisked back out of the arena to briefly meet the band, when they will happily sign stuff for you. (“One item each” we were told. “And don’t talk to Myles. He’s on vocal rest.” I had three. I chanced my luck and got two signed. Huge thanks to Miss Janette for getting the third item, my CD insert, personalised and autographed.) The next part was a photo opportunity with the band. There’s no denying that it is all a bit of a conveyor belt that involves a lot of standing in line. There wasn’t much time to speak to the band other than to say hello and exchange a few precious words, including a few with Myles to wish him an early “Happy Birthday.”

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The final part of the deal is that you get priority entry to the venue for the show.

By five fifteen I was standing on the rail beside my new friend, Miss Monica and Miss Janette. Cue one of the best evenings of my life. The show was incredible! (You can read all about it on my sister blog, The525to Glasgow  https://the525toglasgow.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/alter-bridge-at-the-motorpoint-arena-nottingham-261116 )

It was eleven o’clock before the last notes faded away and the lights went up.

The tired smiles on everyone’s faces said it all! The mad dash up the arena to the loo was hilarious. Six hours in one spot is a LONG time!

In the foyer of the arena and outside there were small pockets of AB family chatting and posing for photos with one another and with one of the support bands, Like A Storm.

A few minutes later we gathered again as an AB Family in the bar next to the arena. We’d picked up a few extra family members along the way. Tired and weary, and in my case starving (that panini at the airport almost 12 hours earlier had long since worn off), we sat and chatted, reliving the musical adventure we had just shared. We posed for “family” photos. We took photos for each other with various family members then the bar called “last orders”. It was time to head back to the hotel and bed.

There were hugs and kisses. There were some goodbyes. There were some arrangements made to meet up again in a few days in Glasgow when the tour reached the SSE Hydro.

A lovely member of the AB Family walked me most of the way back to my hotel. (Thanks, Marin)

Once safely back in my room, sleep refused to come. I lay snuggled under the duvet smiling to myself in the dark.

It really had been a surreal perfect day. It brought it home to me the combined power of social media and a common interest (rock music). Without those, none of it would have happened. Without the online interaction, I’d never have met these people. I’d have missed the opportunity to make new friendships.

Memories were created that will last a lifetime.

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Oh and by the way, I found Robin Hood next morning. (It would have been rude not to while in Nottingham) He too happily posed for a photo!

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Silently Watching On All Hallows Eve

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Another summer had come and gone. Safe in the abandoned mausoleum the dark angel had been biding her time.

The small village had been in mourning throughout the summer months following the unexplained disappearance of two young waitresses from the local hotel. Both girls had left work at the same time together late one evening. Neither of them had been seen alive again; neither of them had been seen since. A local runner had found a mobile phone belonging to one of them near the entrance to the cemetery and, a few feet away, the Radley purse belonging to the other girl. Nothing else had ever been traced.

As the sun set on a late October evening, the angel stretched her wings, stepped daintily over the desiccated remains of her last two victims and ventured out of the mausoleum. The youthful fertile feminine blood of the two waitresses had restored her strength. With her vitality fully recovered, the dark angel was ready to resume her hunt.

Noise from the nearby church hall disrupted her train of thought.

Effortlessly she spread her magnificent black wings and flew silently through the trees. Discretely perched on the hall’s roof, hidden from prying eyes by the shadow of the trees, she watched as a group of mothers, some in costume, shepherded a dozen or more children, all in fancy dress, out of the building.

“All Hallows Eve,” she thought as she admired some of the costumes. “How sweet would the blood of a child be!”

Licking her crimson lips, the angel watched as the mothers chaperoned the children as they set off guising through the village. In her cold heart, much as she desired it, the angel knew there were fruits that were forbidden even to her.

Flexing her wings, she prepared to head off to the nearby farm estate in search of an alternative meal when her nostrils detected a welcome aroma. Her senses heightened as the ferrous musk mixed with sweat wafted along on the light autumn breeze.

A rhythmic thud thud, thud filled her ear and was then drowned out by music, if you could call it that. How could he bear that infernal racket in his ears?

A second lighter set of footsteps echoed round, accompanied by lighter more melodic music.

There were two of them.

Glancing up the hill, she watches the two runners approach.

A wicked smile played on her lips.

As the two men drew level with the church hall’s driveway, the angel spread her wings and rose soundlessly in flight.

For almost an hour she followed them, soaring high above, keeping close to the tree line where possible as they pounded their way through the marina, along the beach footpath then back towards the village along the busy coast road.

Darkness had long since fallen. Using it to camouflage her, the angel risked flying lower and closer. His heavenly perfume was arousing her every sense. If only he was alone…..

Eventually their route brought them back to the village and, breathing heavily, the weary athletes began to head up the steep hill towards the church.

As they reached the fork in the road, they parted company – one ran straight on up the hill; the other, the source of her desires, ran along the single track road past the cemetery where he’d found the dead girls’ belongings.

She could see the veins in his neck pulsing, teasing her desire to finally taste his rich blood. Could this be her ideal opportunity?

In the distance she could hear the guisers and their chaperones coming down the road, Torchlight was flickering up ahead as they drew closer with every step.

It was now or never.

Silently she dropped down onto the road a few feet in front of him. Spreading her black, purple  tipped wings, she sighed as he slowed in his progress towards her. The beads of sweat on his brow shone like pearls in the moonlight. Feeling an uncontrollable lust stirring deep within her, she licked her lips. Their eyes met.

“Great costume,” he gasped as he was almost within her reach.

She rocked onto the balls of her slender feet, preparing to feast at last on his blood.

Suddenly, out of the darkness a cry shattered the moment.

“Daddy!”

The footsteps of a child were thundering rapidly down the dark road towards them.

“Soon,” hissed the angel, still staring into the depths of his soul.

With one strong beat of her magnificent wings, she vanished into the night.

3.4 cats ….yes we have a new arrival

I don’t very often mention in my blog posts that, apart from The Big Green Gummi Bear, Boy Child and Girl Child, I share the house with three fur babies. Well it was three until recently!

We are now a 3.4 feline family!

Yes- we have a new addition to the household. A little grey and white kitten who belongs to Girl Child.

The Big Green Gummi Bear struck a deal with Girl Child several months ago that depending on achieving certain grades in her SQA exams, she could get a kitten. Girl Child kept her end of the bargain. Cue MAJOR kitten hunting. I think in the space of 24 hours she sent me more photos of kittens than I had seen in my previous forty some years! And yes, all of them were very cute.

After a short but thorough search, we found her future fur baby. Cue more emails and photo exchanges and Hey Presto before we knew it we were all in the car  heading to the far side of Glasgow to collect said fur baby.

Part of the deal Girl Child had struck with her father surrounded the naming of said fur baby. He has named the last two cats who have come to live with us. We have Pythagoras a huge ginger and white tom cat and Frankenstein, a Birman tabby who looks like two different cats stitched together. The third and oldest fur baby, is my big black fluffball. My boy names Sioux.  

So what name had been chosen for this tiny grey and white baby?

Stinky!

It has proved to be an apt name!

Less than five minutes into the hour long journey home, this tiny bundle of fur pooped in the cat carrier. Stinky it most certainly was!

Like Sioux many years before him, Stinky’s introduction to his new home involved a bath to remove the poop! Poor wee fur baby. What a soggy start to life in his new forever home.

Having been dried off and cuddled, we introduced him to the litter tray and to his dinner bowl. And that was the one and only time we required to complete that lesson. At nine weeks old, Stinky figured it all out and there were no puddles and no little “stinky” bundles left anywhere for us. I was really impressed that this little guy had it figured out so fast.

Move on a few hours and it was time to introduce him to the first of his big furry brothers. Sioux is the most gentle and tolerant of the three older cats so we introduced him first.

When he saw the kitten, I swear that cat rolled its eyes at me as if to say “Are you kidding me? Another one?”  He was not impressed. There was no aggression. No anger. Just sheer terror when the kitten ran towards him! We kept a close eye on them and a truce appeared to have been reached. So far so good.

Next morning there was a queue at the back door waiting to come in for breakfast. Frankenstein was at the head of the queue. Well it was now or never…I let him in as Stinky danced round my feet. (Frankenstein is quite aggressive normally with other cats and it took a long time for him to settle in here.) Frankenstein eyed the kitten suspiciously. Stinky ran towards him. Frankenstein’s ears went back and he crouched down and hissed at the newcomer. To my utter amazement Stinky did the same. Frankenstein legged it and disappeared upstairs as fast as his paws would carry him. 700g of kitten had just stood its ground against 4kg of cat!

Pythagoras came in a short while later. He’s the biggest of the three at 6kg but isn’t the bravest. Again the kitten ran to greet him. Pythagoras bolted into the kitchen and up onto the table with a look in his eye that screamed “Save me!”

And that’s pretty much the way it has been for the past ten days.

The kitten is ruling the roost!

And it’s not just the Fur Brothers that Stinky has full control over. He’s done the same to the humans who live here too. Yes, even the Big Green Gummi Bear! Countless hours have been spent playing with, cuddling him and just simply watching him. He is a tiny ball of fluff but he’s a HUGE distraction.

He’s irresistible. (Yes, I know I’m biaised)

I will say though, he is not good for creative progress. My poor Book Baby 3 has suffered twice already at his tiny paws. He danced across my laptop and reformatted the entire document. Sheer skill as he managed feats on Word that I have zero knowledge of! The next night he danced across the keyboard and deleted over 300 hundred words. Let’s say I was less than impressed by those dance moves.

But then he looked at me with that cute wee face and those huge blue eyes and purred…..and all was forgiven!StinkyStinky 2fur babies

Let Your Eyes Wander…..

To quote Chris Cornell’s lyrics “Let your eyes wander wild and free”.

How often do you really look around you? How often do you pause for a second in your hectic day to appreciate your surroundings?  When did you last stop to listen to the birds sing?

As Spring moves seamlessly into Summer, the world around us has become a riot of colours. This was something that I only noticed  the full extent of the other day.

We all lead busy lives and are always dashing from here to there. It’s so easy to jump in the car rather than walking to your destination.  If you’re cocooned in the car, you miss so much of the beauty of the world about you.

What struck me when I was out early one morning last week was just how many different wild flowers were growing along the edge of the road. No, I’m not talking about flowers and shrubs in people’s gardens but plants that are growing wild and free.

Yesterday I retraced my steps, camera in hand, to capture some of these. Yes, I got some odd looks from passers-by as I was sat on the pavement photographing what to a lot of people are considered weeds. When I got home and downloaded the images onto my laptop, I was amazed by how many I’d taken. (Don’t panic they’re not all coming up !)

There’s a whole beautiful world out there if we only slow down long enough to look. So “Let your eyes wander wild and free” as Mr Cornell suggests and have a look at your world. You might be surprised by what you see!

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A Few Manners Go A Long Way…

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Call me old fashioned but manners cost nothing.

A few days ago a friend and I went to an all-seated show in Glasgow. Yes, it was a music event, an acoustic show, but the setting was most definitely more akin to a theatre setting than your standard rock venue.

Now let’s make something quite clear from the start here. I am not against folk against folk having a few drinks and a good time at a show. OK?

It was the lack of manners on several levels that quickly got under my relatively thick skin.

I have been in the habit of visiting theatres and concert halls and attending rock shows for over thirty years. (EEK!) I’ve always been taught that if a show is all-seated then there are some basic rules of etiquette to be followed. They’re not difficult!

The first is common courtesy – arrive on time!  (yes, I know folk get stuck in traffic etc. etc.) Please don’t arrive half an hour or, as was the case with several folk, an hour and a half late and expect to be shown straight to your seat, especially if said seat is in the middle of a row of folk who actually arrived on time and are enjoying the show. I’ve also a word of caution for the theatre staff here. Please be careful where you are pointing your torches as you escort latecomers to their seats. Repeatedly we were blinded by a member of staff pointing his Maglite torch in our faces as he walked to the front section of the stalls. Point the damn thing at the floor not the audience!

The second rule, especially when there’s clear signage on display, turn off your phone and don’t attempt to take photographs or record parts of the performance. If it’s the theatre’s policy, then please comply. There’s no one who enjoys capturing a few photographic or video memories than me but, if the venue says “No” then I’m happy to comply. The man with the torch was policing this by shining his torch directly on the offenders but yet again was blinding those in his path to the offending fan.

The third rule is around food and drink in the auditorium. I appreciate that this is a sensitive area and that I am in the minority as, in general, I don’t drink alcohol at a gig. Never have, never will. (Makes you need to pee and also leads to fuzzy photos!) If, however, you feel the need to bring drinks into the theatre then please do so at the start and during breaks in the show and not in the middle of the set. The traffic to and from the bar throughout the entire show was ridiculous and unnecessary! This behaviour also leads to two other issues. The first of these is spillage. From our elevated seats, I watched numerous music fans who were happily enjoying the show have to stand up to allow folk to return to their seats and who got slopped with beer for their courtesy. It kind of goes without saying, if you drink too much liquid then you need to pee so by the latter half of the show there was a constant stream of folk heading out of the auditorium towards the toilets, again disrupting the show for those around them. Now, if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go (as an IBS sufferer I totally get that) but in these surroundings be considerate to all concerned, including the performers on stage.

The fourth rule in my book is no talking during the performance. Now this one can be relaxed a little as singing along was most definitely called for throughout the night. However, among the worst offenders for talking loudly throughout the entire show were the two “mature” members of the theatre staff, who were manning the doors to our left. The music may not have been to their personal tastes but they of all people should know that you don’t carry on a full conversation at normal conversational levels during a performance. There were many,many other offenders throughout the evening. At one point, someone on their way back to their seat explained in no very direct terms that he hadn’t come there to listen to a particularly noisy group of music fans but had paid money to listen to the guy on the stage. The piece de resistance though was the guy seated diagonally behind me who either made a call or answered a call on his phone and sat having an entire lengthy conversation in the middle of the set.

The fifth rule links back to rule three. If you’ve got an allocated seat, sit in it! Again, it’s different if the show allows for the audience to be on their feet or if the performance has earned a standing ovation which this one did. Rule six links in here too. Keep your feet off the seats but also don’t interfere with someone else’s seat by leaning on it or kicking the back of it, even if you are kicking in time to the music!

I’d love to know what the performers on stage thought of this behaviour. These guys had travelled thousands of miles to bring this show to the stage and a large number of the audience didn’t even pay them the common courtesy of arriving on time and paying attention to the magic being spun on the stage.

It’s sad…..tragic almost.

One music fan caught my eye late on in the evening. He was seated in the stalls near the front and several seats in from the aisle. He waited for a lull between songs before leaving his seat, quietly slipping from the auditorium. Upon his return, he stayed at the back until the song in progress on the stage was over then walked back down the aisle towards his seat. The star on stage launched straight into the next song. Did this music fan barge his way back into his seat? No, he stood in the passageway until the song was over then re-took his seat. It was nice to see that not all manners had been lost.