Monday, 3 January 2011

End of year catch up

* I turned 26, and to celebrate we went to see Back to the Future at the cinema. It was incredible.
*I got a Diana Mini camera for my birthday, which makes it surprisingly easy for me to take good photos
*The week after my birthday I made an effort to start following a vegan diet, and the rules I am playing by are: no dairy or eggs, no meat, but I'm still eating honey and wearing some leather. 
*I went to see an indiepop band called "The Whatevers", and liked them a lot. The second time I went to see them, they said they needed a drummer. I'd been wanting to drum for a while so I said I would try out at their rehearsal the next week. Despite my very basic skills, and minimal time to actually practice my drumming in between drunkenly putting myself forward and trying out, they said I could stay in the band. We've now been recording and planning gigs, and you can hear us here: I absolutely love playing the drums.

*I planned to write a novel for NaNoWriMo but only got about 4000 words in. It started off being a fictionalised account of my October, with the plan to divert into fantasy once I had written up to speed, but I ended up writing myself into a corner and my characters (being closely modelled on those I had met the month before) seemed incapable of doing things differently to their real-life counterparts. I decided it would be unfair to write them like-for-like so gave in and focussed on the drumming and planning vegan meals.
*I got a junior drumkit from ebay, which is red, shiny, adorable and very useful. It was also only £13.
*It was really icy and cold, and one week I got a snowball thrown in my face whilst cycling, and in an unrelated incident fell off my bike on Meanwood Road. I then gave in and walked everywhere until the thaw, and ended up getting a really persistent cough and cold, and having to take time off work.
*I applied to be a volunteer at Leeds rape crisis centre SARSVL
*I carried on having driving lessons, and passed my theory and hazard perception test third time round.

*I gave myself licence to be less strict with my veganism this month what with Christmas and still being ill and worn out. That sounds like a cop-out as I type, and to be honest I would probably have gotten better more quickly if I had focussed on eating well and not falling back on dairy and snacking on festive food.
*I started going to Leeds Roller Dolls Training, and am making *very* slow progress. 
*I went to the Belle and Sebastian ATP and had a glorious, drama-free time. I especially enjoyed the fun-pool with rapids, the grabber machines and also the bands. The Vaselines and Edwyn Collins were my favourites.
*Set up a tumblr for my diana mini photographs:
*Booked a trip to Paris in the New Year to go see the elles@centrepompidou exhibition
*I got through the selection process for SARSVL so will be starting training in the new year. To make time for this, I decided to stop volunteering at Brownies, which was surprisingly emotional, but the definitely the right decision.
*On new years eve I went out to the commonplace, twisted my ankle on the way there and then danced on it all night and walked home to Meanwood. Ended up talking more freely, and kissing more people than usual, but I suppose it was new year's eve after all.

*Woke up on the 1st with a really swollen ankle, which is only just starting to feel better. Read back issues of the fantastic magazine make/shift, drank a lot of tea, watched a lot of Little House on the Prairie.
*Did all this again in the 2nd January, then went round to see friends in the evening for a vegan potluck and films with "Paris" in the title.
*Today I made some great peanut chilli, and am just waiting for the bread to rise before I bake it. I've already mended my first puncture of the year, and cheated by just putting in a new inner tube as I suspected it was a slow puncture as the bike was fine last time I rode it.
*And tomorrow I have to go back to work. 

So that's an overview of what I've been doing instead of blogging. I've started keeping a paper journal again for 2011 to give me some perspective and hopefully spot patterns in my behaviour, but hopefully that's something I will do alongside maintaining this blog!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Not always and not never

I drank so much coffee yesterday that I woke up at 5am today still feeling the effects. Only today there is a lot less of the giddy caffeine-fuelled excitement and feeling of invincibility and more of the caffeine-comedown with tummy ache, lower back pain and rising anxiety in my throat, although I still have the power to concoct harebrained schemes (get up/check sunrise times/walk into town/collect bike from work car park/go to university library to borrow book recommended to me) which then fail somewhere along the line as I realise that there is no self-service check out in the library on Saturdays, I just have to wait until 10am and check the book out when the library is fully staffed. 

The book in question is "The Uses of Literacy" by Richard Hoggart, recommended to me by our manager at work (who, when I asked him if he put an angel or a star on top of his Christmas tree, said he always used to put a red flag on top, until they had children and then it seemed less appropriate.) This is the second time he mentioned I should read it, the first time the title slipped out my mind but this time I got him to write it down. We were talking about the expression "there's no love lost" and how it didn't make sense to me. I was saying I had just had to learn that

"There is no love lost between Johnny and Mary" = "Johnny and Mary do not get on"

even though this is totally counter-intuitive, because if the love has not been lost then surely it is still there, unless it was never there in the first place, in which case its a pretty convoluted way of expressing that sentiment.
I remember when I moved to college for 6th form and made a new set of friends, who used to use the construct "do I ever!" to mean an enthusiastic yes. I just could not understand how "do I ever" equalled "yes", so in the end I just had to learn it by heart, so that when I asked a question and it was given as an answer, I didn't have to interrupt the flow to clarify what they meant.

I understand artistic devices like metaphor and simile and allusion and A Level English Language & Literature was a breeze (apart from the Chauncer module that I failed and then had to retake but that was due to not studying the text enough the first time round) but I seem to use language so much more literally than other people that sometimes I feel like I (literally, ha) cannot communicate.
To me, words like never or always only ever mean one thing. When I was once in a relationship with someone who said, in a moment of anger and upset, that we would "never be able to live together, then" (in response to my basic housekeeping standards, I think). I then took that statement as one of the constants on which to build the future of the relationship on. She had used the word 'never' so to me that was a clear parameter in place, a sanction that had been imposed on the relationship that could not be lifted. She hadn't said "we would really struggle to live together" or "the way things are at the moment, we couldn't live together", she had used one of the magical words (always/never) that ensures that whatever other circumstances may change, including the feelings of both people involved, the statement remains true (for better or worse.)
Another feature of that relationship was the way we often ended up arguing about the fact that I drank more coffee than tea, with her throwing accusations such as "you probably don't even like tea, do you!" at me (to my confusion, because I like tea very much). She bought me a tisaniere one Christmas to match the one she had, and suggested I should keep it at her house, only I never seemed to fancy loose-leaf tea when I was round there, I always preferred coffee. It got to the point that one time seemingly out of nowhere, when she had asked what hot drink I would like and I replied that I would like a coffee, she got upset and asked if she should just give the tisaniere to someone else.  No, of course not. Should I have a loose-leaf tea now to prove it? She replies only if I want to, or something...

It took me many months to realise that wasn't what we were really arguing about. I was the coffee and she was the tea and I was choosing coffee over tea time and time again.

Why not just say what you mean, especially in matters of the heart? No that's not quite right. I understand why sometimes people don't say what they mean. They may be angry, or upset, and say something that isn't quite true. Or it may seem true at the time, but then change (a "we could never live together" shifting into a "we could possibly live together if X changed") but whilst I understand this on a cerebral level, how the hell am I supposed to put it into practice? If I get angry and say I never want to see you again, that's that. But if you get angry and tell me the same, it could mean anything. How am I supposed to understand anything anyone says?!
I sometimes get really down about how flawed language is, and how if it really is the main tool we have to communicate with each other than I am done for. My inability to not take things at face value, to work on the assumption that people may not mean what they say, has backed me into more linguistic corners than I care to think about, and my inability to accept that people may not mean what they are saying is heightened when I myself am upset or stressed or tired, leading into somewhat of a negative feedback loop.

I worked as a trainee handyperson for 6months a little while back, and one day arrived at work feeling pretty tired and down. One of the handymen asked me how I was, but instead of taking it simply as a phatic utterance and replying as social conventions (and indeed he) expected me to, I unthinkingly took it literally and asked "do you mean emotionally or physically" so that I had enough information to answer the question correctly. He was completely thrown, and I went from feeling tired and down, to tired, down and awkward.
* * * * *

The sun is rising. I am going to go and get my bike back.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Adventures in Meanwood

I went to Meanwood Community Shop again today to drop off a couple of bags of clothes, and I got an armful of books and a cd for £1.25. It's pretty refreshing to find a charity shop that still prices goods affordably to make it accessible to the local community, unlike some of the larger ones that over-price. The charity the shop supports is "Leeds Community Trust", and you can read about them in the Yorkshire Evening Post here.

I then went to the Nettos and then the new Waitrose (more later) for groceries and on the way home managed to coat all my purchases in soya yoghurt after taking a detour home via Woodhouse ridge and slinging my shoulder bag over my shoulder a little too enthusiastically. 

So, the items I bought today and then had to wash yoghurt off:
  • CD Album "Hook Up" by The Veronicas (which I'm really enjoying, it reminds me of the sort of pop music my ex-housemates Bob and David might have listened to in the past, slightly rocky pop music with synthesised strings, drum machines and harmonies. Good in the same way Kelly Clarkson - who has a song called "I do not hook up" - is good) and 3 nicely illustrated children's books (from the community shop)
  • Box of crunchy nut cornflakes & bag of demerara sugar (from netto)
  • Various baking ingredients including buckwheat flour (for waffles) and cocoa and a pot of yoghurt (from Waitrose).
  • The guardian (from booze bargains, as Waitrose was over-run with guardian-buying liberals, so there were no copies left).
I couldn't really wash the yoghurt off the guardian, so some of the sections are just yoghurty, but I am pleased to report the family section (my favourite) remains undamaged.

(My typical reading order for the guardian is as follows: Work, Money, Family, Travel, Weekend, Main Section. I then sometimes read the guide but I never read the sport, that's for the cat tray.)

So, let me tell you about the new Waitrose:

It replaced the Co-op supermarket, and they didn't just take over the existing building, they knocked it down and built a new one with multi-level access, with a conveyor belt/escalator taking you from the car park level up to the store, with an autumated voice telling you when you are about to reach the top.

It was very busy, which is probably because it's the first Saturday since it opened on Thursday. They had an impressive range of flours in the baking section, and a good range of soya milks and yoghurts. This all seems to come at a slight premium; whilst 1000 prices have been price-matched to Tesco, the rest are probably higher, and Tesco isn't always that cheap anyway. But I was able to get organic cocoa powder, which I can't usually find in Morrisons. 

I have been tipped off that the end of Thursday is the best time to go to Waitrose for bargains, so I might call again then and see if there are any affordable treats to be had. That might also be a good time to check round the back as well...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Meanwood Community Shop, by bicycle

I have self-imposed the rule that I am not allowed to go to Meanwood Community Shop unless I am already taking some items to donate, and I can only buy things if I can think of a use for them, to avoid accumulating too much stuff in our beautiful but rather small home. (One of my Meanwood-residing friends used to go there several times a week when his son was a toddler, under the pretense that his son enjoyed it so much, but I think it was equally for his benefit. I have no small child to act as cover, so I only go on Saturdays, and not even every Saturday at that.) On this morning's trip, I found:
  • two old-fashioned sweet jars (ideal for making blackberry brandy etc in) for 75p each
  • a turquoise old-fashioned suitcase for 50p
  • David Sedaris' book "Naked" for 50p
The woman at the til asked me if it was "a rude book?" and I replied that I hoped it wasn't.

I then went on to Chapel Allerton to pick up a hi-vis vest that I had ordered from The Edinburgh Bicycle co-op, and it is incredible! (In both the sense that it is delightful and amazing, but also in the sense that it probably 'lacks credibility' - it is fluorescent pink, and has a design on the back that says "1 less car". I love it though, and am happy choosing road safety over street cred.) Irritatingly, I could have got it significantly cheaper if I had ordered it directly from the people who made it: 1 Less Car but by this point I had already bought it in one size from Edinburgh Bicycle, and then been back to exchange it, so then to have to order one from somewhere else and start all over again would take up time when I could have been cycling round in the sunshine wearing what is, effectively, a wonderfully luminous waistcoat.

I also recently treated myself to a pannier bag and it is really great! I am in danger of getting hyperbolic about cycling gear at this point, so will try and hold back with the superlatives, but this bag has revolutionized my cycling! I haven't had one before, and had always put off buying one because they seemed quite expensive for what they were (a bag that is only of use when clipped on to your pannier rack) but found a reasonably sturdy model at an affordable price and I just wish I had bought one sooner. My bike is my mode of transport, so I frequently have to load it up with all manner of things, usually by balancing items in the basket on the front, and filling a backpack on my back. Now, I can pack most of that stuff into the pannier bag, which means there is nothing to bounce out the basket when I jump over a pothole, and nothing on my back making me tired and, I hate to admit it, a little sweaty. Brilliant.

Whilst out on my bike today, I was also able to help one cyclist who was lost in Chapel Allerton by sharing my a-z with her, and was in turn helped by an off-duty cyclist in Meanwood when my chain got jammed.

As one of my friends said to me earlier this week, my life is pretty f*cking ace at the moment.

"When it gets to the part where he's breaking her heart, it can really make me cry"

I have spent the week listening to this album: Various Artists – If I Were A Carpenter, frequently moved to tears by how AMAZING it is. I stood in the sorting office this morning, with "Yesterday Once More" through my headphones and warm tears running down my cheeks. I don't think it's a case of me being weepier than usual, but more that I am feeling everything a lot more - the good and the bad, as I'm consciously trying not to bottle things up so much. Everything is now so close to the surface that it's accessible by something as simple as a really good key change in a cover of a Carpenters song.

I came across this tribute album when I was searching for Shonen Knife on spotify, as they do a cover version of "On Top of the World". I then found out that my housemate has a homemade cd-r version of the "If I were a Carpenter" tribute album, with each song preceeded by the original version, so that has been on my mp3 player pretty much on repeat for the last week (interupted only by the All Girl Summer Fun Band)

When I get into a band I like to listen to them a lot. The same songs or album again and again and again. I sometimes try and disguise it by doing so on my headphones, or waiting until I am in the house by myself, because I know that not everyone appreciates the repetition. Which was why it was so lovely to have my housemate suggest she put the Carpenters on for me last night before we went out. To live with someone who not only tolerates my listening habits, but actively encourages them, oh!

I came late to the Carpenters. I knew some of their songs from childhood, but didn't really join up the dots and realise that they were all Carpenter songs, and until now I didn't own any of their records. But then last weekend I picked up their '69-'73 singles collections on vinyl from the Meanwood Community Shop for 25p, in one of those acts of synchronicity that made me wonder, 'would the record still have been there if I hadn't suddenly developed an obsession with the Carpenters?'

Of course it would have been there. They were a massively popular band in their day, and you could probably find one of their records in most charity shops that stock vinyl if you looked. I guess I just never noticed them until now.

Monday, 2 August 2010

My Swan D01 Teasmade

I now have my own teasmade. At quarter to seven tomorrow, it will make me a cup of coffee, which by seven will be cool enough to drink. I can then drink it in bed whilst reading about current affairs on the internet, or some of the zines I have under my pillow, or another story from the Ali Smith collection I bought from Meanwood Community Shop (my new favourite charity shop) at the weekend. Three stories in, I realised I maybe already own this one (The Whole Story) but it's not quite familiar enough to put down. 

 This teasmade came from Oxfam in Headingley, for a very reasonable £10. I later found that my friend has an identical model, bought from the same place, as she went into the shop earlier in the day than me when they had two for sale and bought one of them, leaving the second one (unknowingly) for me. I was especially glad to find this one, as only days previously I had bought a teasmade from the classifieds section at work, but when I switched it on it boiled continuously for half an hour, filling the room with steam. The same steam that needs to be captured and condensed into the teapot to make the tea, I think that's how they work. Well that one didn't work, and it didn't even have an alarm or a clock. It was clearly not the teasmade for me.

This one has an integral photo frame (!) and a removable tray on top. It will make up to two large mugs of coffee (or four cups of tea, but I find that idea far less appealing), although I have taken to only half filling it to avoid over-caffeination before breakfast (because for the time being I am still drinking my coffee in bed alone. As alone as a booklover can ever be, at any rate). I wish I had an actual photo of my one rather than this one, but it is exactly the same model so you get the picture.  

I remember when I first heard about teasmades, I thought they sounded too good to be true. An alarm clock that wakes you up with a hot drink! So now, to actually have my own seems like some kind of dream come true.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Booklovers never go to bed alone

I follow a blog called "booklovers never go to bed alone" which showcases a different photo of books everyday, and they have included a picture of one of my bookcases!

This is thrilling. I love browsing pictures of other people's book collections, and now people can see part of mine too.

My favourite picture from the site is this one which inspired me to start keeping the I-S section of my cd collection in a three story dolls house I found in the salvation army charity shop.

On the subject of going to bed alone, one of the things I like about being single is that when I've finished reading in bed at night I can put my book under the pillow, without comment from another person on the other side of the bed. This is something I have always done, sometimes to the point that the pillow becomes quite lumpy with three or four books under there and numerous girlfriends and boyfriends have found it strange. It's just the obvious place for me to keep a book I am reading in bed. But now if I end up with too many books under one pillow, I can sleep on the other side of the bed, because I have it to myself.

Another good thing about having my bed to myself is that I can let Milly (my cat) sleep in the room at night, because I don't mind if she jumps on to the bed whilst I'm sleeping.  In my last two relationships, it has always been suggested/insisted upon that she is shut out of the room overnight so that she can't jump up on to the bed and wake us up. And despite compelling arguments from both exes, I always felt bad not letting her sleep in my room at night. Now I am frequently woken up in the morning by her putting her face very close to my face, but I don't really mind. I like her to be happy, and I think being allowed to sleep on my bed with me makes her so.