Month: August 2014 (page 2 of 2)

The world is divided into people who like symmetry and those that don’t care

Yesterday my husband put the following status on facebook:

We had one egg left when the Sainsburys delivery arrived. I was secretly pleased to find a broken egg in the new box because it left me with an even number again.

There’s no hope, is there?

Does this make you anxious?

Does this make you anxious?

This status generated 24 comments (a nice even number) concerning his mental health and the pros and cons of even vs odd.

Or does this make you anxious?

Or does this make you anxious?

He likes symmetry (in eggs and other things). He likes even numbers. He likes straight lines. He likes clear spaces. He wants his socks in pairs. He likes his t-shirts to be perfectly ironed and neatly arranged, evenly, in the drawer (he would be employee of the year if he worked for GAP). If I let him iron my tights and fold them neatly, he would.

To him, cushions, like eggs, should come in even numbers and there should only be two of them, evenly spaced on the sofa. Just as he can’t cope with there being a fewer or greater than even number of eggs in the egg box, he likes the cushions to be partnered.

Neat cushions

Neat cushions

If a room in a building leans to the side, he feels queasy. We used to live in a 300-year old house. He was surprisingly tolerant of its wonkiness.

As for me, I love wonkiness. I loved our 300-year old house and it’s quirks. I think there aren’t enough cushions in the world and they should be allowed to fall any which way, the more sporadic the better. As for eggs? I don’t even notice whether we have an odd or even number of eggs left.

Messy cushions

Messy cushions

His clothes are arranged logically and neatly. My wardrobe looks like a jumble sale.

Neat t-shirts

Beautifully ironed t-shirts

So in response to his facebook status, my weird thought today is twofold.

Firstly, are there people who sit between these two extremes (and I do think we are both quite extreme in this regard)? Can you be a little bit tidy or a little bit messy?

Spot the messy person's wardrobe

Spot the messy person’s wardrobe

Secondly, are we attracted to each other’s opposites as an acknowledgement that we don’t feel entirely comfortable with our ‘funny ways’? Are we, by living together, trying to find a place somewhere in the middle? In other words, are we both in fact quite self-aware of the deviance in our personalities? Perhaps we are looking for the other to help loosen / tighten us up. I think this is the case. I know that he gets frustrated at my ‘funny ways’ at times but I also know that he still finds them endearing (or at least I hope so). I find his love of order very admirable and I see that some of it, over the years, has rubbed off on me (although I do have the fight the urge to swap his socks around just for fun).

I haven’t yet got to the stage where I write cheque stubs but I do think that writing a shopping list is A Good Idea.

Eggs are on the list

Eggs are on the list

As for eggs? I’ll try to care more, or at least hide the odd egg from him if we are uneven to save him from anxiety.

 

 

It’s unfair that I can’t just travel back in time…

…to spend just one day at a previous time in my life, whenever I get the urge. And I get the urge a lot. I’d only want a day, that’s not much to ask, is it?

This was the weird thought I had the other day while watching LA Story, a film I hadn’t seen for 20 years. Naturally watching this film got me reminiscing about the last time I’d watched the film (or last approx. thirty times, to be more accurate).

The film with the talking signs

The film with the talking signs

In my final year at University I lived in a flat with five friends.

Me and four of my five flatmates

Me and four of my five flatmates

Me and four of my five flamates (spot the one missing from the previous, and the extra one here)

Me and four of my five flatmates (spot the one missing from the previous, and the extra one here)

The flat had a video recorder. In those days, 1993, this was a rare treasure. However, we owned no videos between us, being the impoverished students that we were. So a friend lent us three videos to watch sporadically during the year. They were: The Life of Brian, LA Story and one other I can’t remember. We watched them all many times over during the year. We would regard watching one of these videos as a ‘special treat’. I hadn’t watched LA Story since that time (having got to the stage of knowing it line-for-line) until two nights’ ago. So that is why watching it after such a gap made me desperately wanted to go back to an evening of watching it with my flatmates.

Rowe House, Exeter, where we had access to modern technology

Rowe House, Exeter, where we had access to modern technology

My current book is a translation of a Japanese novel about two people (a student and a teacher) who meet many years after first knowing each other. They enter into a strange relationship based on their mutual disconnection from society. This relationship is largely carried out in Japanese eateries and bars, and partly on a mountain trek looking for mushrooms. There is a lot of imagery in the book of the Japanese eateries they meet in, the food they eat and the beer and sake they drink.

My current book

My current book

It is a lovely little book and vividly takes me back to my two years living in Japan (1995 to 1997). Reading this (not at the same time as watching LA Story) makes me long to step back to a day in 1995 and walk around Iwatsuki, a small town (officially a city, the city of dolls) north of Tokyo, where I lived.

Bad photo of a photo - my local video shop in Iwatsuki 'Big 10 Video'

Bad photo of a photo – my local video shop in Iwatsuki ‘Big 10 Video’

If I could go back it would be a Sunday and I’d simply walk around town and visit all my favourite places: the Big 10 Video Store (possibly to browse the Julia Roberts shelf, or the Bruce Willis shelf), the ‘philosophy’ shop (to buy milk with a straw) and Saty the department store (to take ‘puri kuraa’ (print club) photos).

Would I have time for a quick bowl of raamen before coming home? I hope so.

A very yummy bowl of raamen

A very yummy bowl of raamen

Why do I always stand in the same place at Zumba?

I’ve now been going to Zumba for nearly three years. It is part of my Monday evening routine. And since I’ve been going I’ve stayed in more-or-less the same spot. I think I used to be further back than I am now. So I may have edged forward over the months. But for some reason I like to be in the same spot every week and that is just off centre slightly to the left.

There's me, in the middle to the left

There’s me, in the middle to the left

One Monday, about 18 months ago, a woman politely asked me if I’d mind swapping places with her so she could be next to her friend. Being the nice (or unassertive) person that I am I heartily agreed to her request without a pause. Afterwards as I took her old position (further to the left and near the back) I regretted my hurried reply. I even started to dislike this woman. How dare she? How dare she take my spot? Did she not realise how much I love routine? Why did she want to be by her friend? It wasn’t as if they’d be chatting! How rude! I became angry with her.

Then I started to worry that she’d be back the following week and would assume that my spot would be her ‘spot’. I could have kicked myself for throwing away my spot so readily. But I also felt cross with myself for being so silly and for also finding it difficult to deal with change.

The good news is that that lady didn’t go back every week and I managed to return to my spot the following Monday. Phew.

Is being a lover of routine a bad thing? I have so many routines and rituals in my life, just like my need to stand in the same place at Zumba. If I don’t eat meals regularly I get jittery. If I go to bed later than 11pm then anxiety may follow. If we run out of cheese I am throw into a complete state of nervousness. Perhaps routine is just a way to avoid this unpleasant feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. Or is it the need to have a control over my life that is driving my love of routine? Perhaps there are some people who thrive on uncertainty? Routine can be boring.

Was Paul Auster right in saying: ‘Failure is measured by the number of routines you have’? Am I missing possible adventures and experiences by sticking to my routine?

This man dislikes routine

This man dislikes routine

So perhaps I should stand in the far right-hand corner next Monday at Zumba. The thought makes me shudder but it might lead me to new adventures if I do.

 

Why do I like charity shops so much?

I am back at home now and yesterday on the way home from West Wales while we were on our lunch stop I dragged my family around the charity shops of Machynlleth. Every city we go to I drag them around charity shops: Edinburgh, Plymouth, and Aberystwyth to name just three. They are used to it now. They are very tolerant.

I had to take a trip to the local public conveniences shortly after our lunch stop in Machynlleth and while there I pondered: why am I so obsessed with charity shops?

I think the answer is partly genetic, partly historical and partly nostalgia.

These books make me feel nostalgic

These books make me feel nostalgic

My family are a family of charity shop lovers. We are bargain hunters. We don’t go to ‘normal’ shops very often (unless there is a sale on). However, cheap we like but we’d rather find something of value second hand that something cheaply made selling at a low price. We favour Severn Hospice over George at Asda.

Cheap and cheerful?

Cheap and cheerful?

I’d say that about half of my clothes are second hand. I own some lovely items from Coast, Jigsaw, Mexx, Boden and White Stuff. Most of them pre-owned.I am sure my friends think I have lots of clothes (I do). I’m sure they think I am frivolous with my money (I am, but only in Oxfam).

One of my favourites in Shrewbsury

One of my favourites in Shrewbsury

My mum, sister and I meet regularly to mooch around the local charity shops. So I blame them for the genetic and historic reasons for my love of charity shops. I remember going around charity shops and factory shops as a child (being dragged around to some extent). Then I remember going through a period of rebellion against charity shops from the age of about 14 to 18, believing that charity clothes were ‘cuffy‘. Later, while living in Exeter during my degree years, I re-discovered my love of second hand, when I discovered the most amazing vintage / second-hand clothes shop called The Real McCoy (and it is still there). Shopping by myself, I’d visit that shop to feel the fabrics, try on the ball gowns, and image myself in the vintage 1960s and 1970s dresses.

Next came a few years living in Oxford and Oxford town center is weirdly devoid of charity shops. Moving to Shrewsbury was a blessing in this respect, there are lots of charity shops here and I love them all. It felt like coming home.

Where are the charity shops?

Where are the charity shops?

The final reason for my love of charity shops I think comes from my craving for nostalgia and my love of the past. I think I am secretly looking to get that feeling of nostalgia, or the uncanny as Freud would call it, that we get from finding an object that reminds us of something or somewhere else (in time or space). I love to find objects that remind me of my past. I enjoy that warm, comforting feeling of recognition (such as I had from finding the ‘rock concert‘ in New Quay). A year ago I found an ornament in Oxfam in Shrewsbury that we had had in the house when I was a child. I bought it, even though it is really quite unattractive. I had to have it. I had no need for it. But the feeling of nostalgia that seeing it had engendered in me was something I wanted to keep.

This was one of a pair of statues we owned

This was one of a pair of statues we owned

I like to browse the children’s books to find old Beanos, Blue Peter annuals or The Bash Street Kids annuals that I owned for that same reason. Looking through the pages of these books takes me straight back to my childhood. Watch out, Proust is about to rear his head again.

And here he is. I’m sure he’d be a big fan of charity shops had they had them in 19th-century France (perhaps they did).

This man again?

This man again?

 

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