The only thing I ever won before this Christmas was a set of kitchen knives in St. Day School raffle.

veryinspiringblogaward

I am feeling both delighted and guilty.

Delighted because I have been nominated for a Very Inspiring Blogger award – two awards in one festive season is more than a middle aged oaf deserves – and guilty because it means I’m expected to do some more rambling about myself. This time I’ll keep it to a minimum.

It was Nina at vackrare.com who nominated me. She is a graphic designer and a fantastic photographer whose mission it is “to beautify the world”. Certainly the world through her Swedish lens looks very beautiful – go and explore. She has an exceptional aesthetic eye. I only wish I’d been less lazy and learned some Swedish from my mother as a child, then I would be able to read her words as well.

The rules are:

  1. write 7 facts about yourself
  2. pass the award on to those bloggers who inspire you

Well, I’ll keep the facts short

  1. The only thing that annoys me about brown spaniel is that noise he makes when he’s licking his nether regions
  2. Tea and toast – evidence of a creator’s hand (not really).
  3. I spent all day reading articles and comments on goodmenproject.com and the commenters on some of the articles have made me want to go and live on a deserted island and/or drown myself in a vat.
  4. My wellies have sprung a leak and I’m too traumatised by the social class connotations of the wellies people choose to know how to replace them.
  5. My right knee creaks when I go upstairs.
  6. I don’t think Johnny Depp is handsome.
  7. Sometimes I pretend I have a narrator.

The second part of my duties as award winner is to nominate my inspirers, but I have been too busy exploring the ones that inspire Nina to give this the thought it deserves. I’ll do mine in the next installment, but in the meantime, here’s the link to her post so you can share hers.

Thank you again Nina.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012

This has been an interesting photo challenge. Interesting for me, that is, not you, my poor visitor. It can’t be very interesting for you to have to sit through people-you-don’t-know’s years. Especially since people tend only to take photos of the things that make them seem shiny.

It was interesting to me though because, before I did this, if someone had asked me, “how was your 2012?” I would have said, “Totally shite. Bloody awful. One of my worst years ever.” And yet, when I looked through my photos I found that there have been brilliant things in every single month of the year. Properly brilliant things – ones that made my heart sing happy songs – even though in the background I was in the throes of work-based misery. Of course, photos are a massive edit of your life – you don’t take pictures of yourself crying for days on a sofa or going to a funeral, etc. But even so – the fact that I was able to produce such a happy set of edited highlights shows there were some very highlighty highlights.

There’s a lesson in this. Something to do with the ways we view the world, etc. I won’t write it here in case it gets all fridge magnety.

An award! I got an award! An actual award!

A thing happened to me today. A splendid thing. I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award. Not only that, but I was nominated by someone whose blog I really admire and read regularly: Grimm’s Furry Tail. She is warm, humorous, wise,clever and takes fantastic photos. Do go and see.

This is my first blogging award and it’s unfeasibly exciting – it came as a complete surprise as I had no idea Grimm’s Furry Tail read my blog at all. It’s made me feel like a REAL blogger. And also ridiculously overenthusiastic like an 11 year old girl with a new ipod, or a spaniel with a tennis ball.

As I’m new to all this, I am following Grimm’s instructions on what to do. Here they are:

Display the award certificate on your website.  

VersatileBloggerNominations

  • Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award.  
  • Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
  • Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.
  • Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked to them in the post.

So. Seven interesting things about myself. Oh. Seven, you say. Um. Well. I suppose interesting is a matter of opinion, but here goes:

  1. I fell down a mud-filled drain head first when I was 6 and was rescued by a man who pulled me out by my red shoes and who I never saw again (Thank you passing stranger for saving my life).
  2. A boy called Jonathan persuaded me to crush a grasshopper between two granite blocks when I was at primary school and I’ve felt guilty for the rest of my life.
  3. I lived for 5 years or so with no electricity, running water or toilet.
  4. I once rode on a motor bike down a dual carriageway with 2 other people and a dog.
  5. I am descended, apparently, from Thomas Percy – one of the Gunpowder Plotters.
  6. If I had three wishes, I’d be more likely to wish away this extra stone I’ve gained than I would be to ask for world peace.
  7. If a passer-by crunches an ice cream cone in my ear I experience a flash of transitory rage.

As I said, interesting is a matter of opinion.

So, the important bit. Pass on the award to some of my favourite bloggers. Here they are:

1. The Heroic Art of Losing. This blogger hasn’t posted anything for nearly a year, but he is marvelous and needs to be encouraged to return to his making-me-laugh destiny. His versatility lies in the fact that he is even hilarious when he writes about things I have no idea about. Like football. Not only is he hilarious, but he exudes warmth and bewilderment like all the best humans.

2. The Life and Times of Nathan Bradley. He is funny. Funny is my favourite thing. You have to be versatile to be funny. That’s my excuse for nominating him.

3. Bill McCurry: The Whims of Fairness. He is funny too. Am I cheating nominating people for a versatility award just because they make me do actual real-life laughing? I don’t think so. All three of these bloggers write about a variety of everything and make me laugh. Even when they write about sad things. That’s what I call versatile, and I’m sticking to it.

4. Mostly Bright Ideas. Everyone loves him already, and I am shuffling onto the bandwagon. He’s probably won a million awards because he writes interesting things, causes amusement and occasional thoughts and draws pictures. Plus he has good hair. Versatile.

5. Peas and Cougars. Again, everyone loves her, and so do I. She’s probably a triangle, writes good words and draws good pictures. What’s not to like?

6. Literature and Libation. He writes about writing and reading and beer. But when someone is a really good writer it doesn’t matter what they write about. I like it.

7. Week Woman. I sometimes disagree with things on this blog, but I am ALWAYS interested and engaged in the topics. This is a very, very interesting, intelligent and well-written blog that covers a fascinating range of subjects.

8. Life is Funny. This woman can truly write and is genuinely amusing. I also enjoy her dad’s comments.

9. The Green Study. She has been winning a lot of awards lately and deserves them for her engaging, contemplative and human writing. Here’s another award.

10. Kevenbartle’s Blog. The Daily Genius. This is a teacher’s blog filled with warmth, wit and excellent comment on teaching and leadership. But it also features the writer as a human. And one of the most moving pieces on death I’ve ever read.

11. Thinkingcowgirl. What I like about this blog is the way the writer’s experiences with a new herd of cows lead to contemplations on life, the universe and… well… everything.

12. Lagottocattleya. I have nominated this blog for the absolutely breathtaking images and the lovely contemplations and descriptions that accompany them. she writes them in both Swedish and English so rubbish monolinguists like me can understand, and she rises brilliantly to a whole variety of WordPress Challenges.

So, for now, that’s 12 nominations instead of 15. I’m still relatively new and finding my feet around here so have many more bloggers to encounter. I would welcome any recommendations you may have. ESPECIALLY if they make me laugh aloud.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Not being a very delicate-minded person myself, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do this challenge. Then I found myself at Heartlands half way through a dog walk and encountered a group of delighted children being sprayed with foam from a fake-snow machine. I liked this little girl in particular with her delicate hand investigating the snow. I have no idea why I failed to focus the damn pictures properly. I think it might be my middle aged eyes.

Two days later, again on a dog walk, I was with spouse in Tehidy Woods admiring the glorious trees and sundry other winter delights:

We sat under a tree for a while so brown spaniel could dig a massive trench, and were joined by a little round robin who spent 20 minutes strolling around us eating worms from our hands. There’s a Cornish superstition, apparently, that a friendly robin is a visit from a dead loved one, but none of my dead relatives as far as I know were so keen on eating worms. Anyway, here is the robin with his delicate wings and tiny cute robiny feet.

Thank you, panic attack.

My panic attack was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.

Humans have this capacity to carry on in horrible situations for unlimited quantities of time unless something forces them to stop. I was unhappy in my job, I was working 70 hours a week, I was exhausted, I was disillusioned and seriously questioning whether the things I was killing myself to do were of any use to anyone.

This would have continued indefinitely if my body hadn’t said enough is enough. My breathing went wrong, I was sent to hospital, I was told that this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the physical damage long-term stress and overwork can do, that I needed a long rest and that I probably need to change my life in some way.

My first month off sick was spent sleeping, crying and raging about the fact that I’d spent nearly 15 years working to get out of the travelling scene and into the ‘real’ world and overcoming all sorts of mental barriers to become the professional teacher that I am now; only to find out that I am too much of a wimp to cope with the demands of the job. I had so much to offer but the education machine had smushed me into a little weeping pulp.

In my second month off sick, in between the crying and sleeping, the world-outside-work began to edge its way back in to my life. It was a complete revelation. I found I could properly listen when spouse spoke for the first time in years – there was real space in my head for his problems and concerns. I was able to cook him meals occasionally because I was no longer home much later than him in the evenings. I could watch films with son 2 because I wasn’t marking or lesson planning. I could see my parents because I didn’t have to spend all Sunday working. I could go out in the evenings. I began to paint and draw again for the first time in years. I was home when the shops were open so I could buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread. I could stay up late editing my photographs. I could read whole books which were not work related. I had time to write, and this blog took off. I started to make things again. If someone dropped in unexpectedly for a visit I no longer panicked. I could spend a whole afternoon drinking tea and chatting without that low-level depressing knowledge that I’d now have to stay up extra late to catch up on the work I should have been doing. And most of all, I had time to think about what I want from life. And to realise that living like I had been was no way to live.

A friend of mine once explained how it was she had remained in a horrifically abusive relationship with a mentally ill man for so long before escaping. What sticks in my mind is how she had started seeing the world from the point of view of her abuser. She had begun to share his delusions and feel the same paranoia as he did, losing confidence in her own opinions, and constantly doubting her own judgement. She ended up believing the same things he did, and sharing his warped value system, while at the same time knowing it was all insane. This, I realised, is how I had been working in education (minus the cruelty). The more the management earnestly promoted new impossible and/or contradictory and/or alien ways of doing things, the more I found myself in a state of rampant cognitive dissonance – questioning the system, my own responses to the system and wondering if it was me or it that was insane. I was trying very hard to make it work because I thought I loved it, but in the end I realised it didn’t love me, and it took a hospital visit to make me realise it was over.

In this third month of my being-off-sick I’ve started recovering. I feel as though the clockwork of my brain has been oiled and rewound. I am inspired again. All the clutter and worry of A Level teaching has finally cleared out and space has been made for new ideas. I have a new job for January thanks to a human/fairy godmother (much less money and security, but real purpose again and opportunities for creativity) and I have two new ideas for exciting things to do with my life on top of that.

One of my ideas involves this:
garden square And another idea involves these:

Just looking at these images and thinking about what they represent fills me with the kind of inspiration and gut wrenching happiness I haven’t felt in a very long time. So thank you panic attack. Thank you very, very much for awakening my brain.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

This challenge has taught me a surprise thing about myself: I take a lot of photos of feet.

I discovered this when I went in search of some Autumnal photos from a walk some weeks ago and found a set of images of my bewellingtoned feet on a flooded path. Then I remembered I’d also taken some of my pudgy hobbit feet in some pound shop flip flops on another walk earlier in the year. When I went searching the folders for them I kept stumbling on various other feet and realised that feet are very good at expressing the changes of seasons. Bingo.

 

Pubic Catastrophising

I have a theory that the reason women are (anecdotally) becoming more predatory in seeking out sexual encounters is because it’s now against the law to have pubic hair.

Ok, maybe not actually against the law, but among young Western humans it seems to have become more or less standard to find hair in the female nether regions pretty repulsive. Cherry Healey (on her programme about body hair) asked a bunch of males whether they would prefer to break their foot or have sex with a female with pubes and they chose the former option. That’s pretty compelling evidence that women may feel obliged to pre-pubertify their privates if they’re hoping to have some normal human relations at some point.

And therein lies the rub. (Oh, horrible phrase – sorry!) Hair removal down there is not something that you can just do in 2 minutes in the shower with a Bic razor like you can with legs and underarms and a little bit of your bikini line for swimming costume purposes. No indeed. If you feel obliged to sport the whole pre-pubescent look in order not to repulse the delicate male of your sinful dreams, it’ll set you back anything from £20-£30 a go (possibly more if you live somewhere more sophisticated than I do). And you’ll need to take time out of your busy day to go and reveal your most personal parts to a stranger with an NVQ in Beauty at least once every few weeks.

But even if you can afford that without qualms, the problems don’t stop there. Human skin doesn’t remain baby’s bum soft and hair free until the next wax. Oh no. No such luck. You start getting itchy re-growth fairly shortly after the wax-based humilation, and after a few more days there is very definite, uncomfortable and unattractive stubble. But you can’t go for another wax until the hair is actually long enough for the wax to grip onto. And if you try to shave, you get an inferior finish and delay the day when you can go for a more efficient wax… can you see the problem here? Basically, you can only have a socially acceptable pubic region about twice a month at best.

The itchy after-effects of hair removal
The itchy after-effects of hair removal

So, that’s why I reckon girls have (theoretically) started to be more forceful in their mating activities. If you’ve paid £25 to make yourself acceptable to a male who thinks women are made of sugar and spice and all things plastic – and you only have one day every few weeks in optimum mateworthy condition – you are damn well going to want value for money. You are going to go out and pull yourself a breeder and nothing is going to get in your way. It’s the modern human equivalent of being on heat, only briefer. And it totally undermines one of the chief benefits of being a female human as opposed to say, a dog or an elk – the fact that biologically we can mate at any time of the year – not just when we’re on heat. All of a sudden, thanks to pube-fear, we can’t.

I am convinced that the fashion for porn-based pube regions must ironically lead to less sex not more. Boys won’t have sex with girls with hair, girls can only be hairless twice a month at the most. So twice a month it is. Sounds pretty rubbish to me.

Not only that… how does it bode for long-term relationships? What about when you’ve been together with your loved one for a few years; you’re both working full time to pay your mortgage and you’ve got a couple of small children? What happens when you no longer have the time/money/energy to go and have your follicles abused? What happens when you no longer feel sexy because you’re a hairy freak and your loved one passes out in horror at the sight of your humanity? Will you both have to go and be hypnotised to be able to tolerate your hideousness?  Will you have to attend sex therapy to explain how human bodies actually look? Will sex stop altogether? Will partnerships dissolve and families disintegrate through the horror of the pube? Will the human race die out?

I call for a PUBIC REVIVAL. Before it’s too late.

Image borrowed from http://milendomagazine.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/skin-colours-in-my-collection-%E2%80%93-tonner-doll-nude-dolls/
Image borrowed from http://milendomagazine.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/skin-colours-in-my-collection-%E2%80%93-tonner-doll-nude-dolls/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

I found this week’s inspiration word, ‘reflections’ oddly difficult, probably because I was trying to be too clever. I wanted my contribution to say something all deep and meaningful about the human condition and stuff like that. Then I remembered that botched or clichéd attempts at profundity often trigger my sarcasm mode / vomit reflex, so it would be stupid to risk inducing that response in others. So I decided to post some pictures I took just because I quite like them. Trouble is, my favourite reflection pic is one I already posted here. But still, here it is again.
love yourself and watch 2This pic was taken in a derelict brewery in Cornwall and I love it because of the self-help/sinister quality of the graffiti.

The next two grubby reflections are urban pics as well, taken in Cardiff. My favourite is the first one because the distorted reflection makes the tower block look as if it’s peering back at the camera.

reflection 2reflection

Another building next, this time in Cornwall. This was taken in St. Ives, and I am the only person who has ever liked this picture. Since it’s my blog, though, I am allowed to include it.

round window

The final two are more conventional Cornish reflections. They don’t say anything profound about the nature of the universe, but they’re reasonably pretty, so.

boat reflection 2-pola

surf boy B&W