Month: June 2015

Weird thought: what do people think I really do for a living?

Recently, I read a book about an art project by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher which ran from 2002 to 2009. The project, which was a crowdsourced collaborative art project, aimed to engage random people in arty activities. The two artists asked people via their website to complete assignments, which could involve a variety of media such as pens, paint, collage, video and audio, and post the results to the website. The book is fascinating and shows just how creative and open about their lives people can be. Assignments included: no. 6) Make a poster of shadows; no. 9) Draw a constellation from someone’s freckles; no. 14) Write your life story in less than a day; and 39) Take a photograph of your parents kissing.

Miranda July - a quirky artist

Miranda July – a quirky artist and writer

One of the assignments that I felt like trying myself was this one (no. 35): Ask your family to describe what you do. This assignment asked for descriptions of people’s day-long activities by three family members. However, I wanted to focus it on work as nobody seems to get what I do for a living. So I asked a few friends and family to describe what they think I do (age range from 5 to 75). This is what they came up with:

‘You do things on a laptop.’

‘You write book blurbs.’

‘You seem to spend a lot of time on your laptop, I think that you read through new books and correct mistakes, grammar and spelling. I also think that you write the blurb at the beginning of the book, though not totally sure about this. You seem to spend a lot of time doing conference calls, I am sure these are work related. I am sure there is more to your job than I have described, but I guess I have never asked you.’

‘I think you edit writing for a living. I imagine you sitting, having to read lots of boring technical or factual drafts of books or papers.’

‘I think you’re a proof reader  (not even sure that’s actually the proper name) you check things for spelling mistakes and grammar issues but I’m not sure what you check , I know its not novels like 50 shades of grey haha and you have meetings on the phone. You also paint but not nearly as much as you’d like. Am I at all close?’

‘I think you edit text books for Oxford press .You have to write the resume I presume and what goes on the cover and all sort of other technical things. All this on your computer and telephone meetings.’

‘I used to know what you did – proof reading non fiction books for OUP.  Now you do something to do with project managing them being published but I admit I always get a bit lost!’

‘I think you make VSIs on lots of different subjects.’

One family member thinks I write these

One family member thinks I write these

Some elements are correct, clearly taken from snippets of conversation I’ve had with people. But nobody has quite got the full job description. I hope that more people respond and if they do I’ll post here as it amuses me that my job is hard to describe.

Do you get left-handed cats?

This was a weird thought I had today, watching my cat use her right paw to drink milk from one of my children’s abandoned cereal bowls. So of course I googled ‘left-handed cats’. Why wouldn’t I?

I was amazed to find that not only do you get left-handed cats that the chances are, if you cat is a boy he will very likely be left-handed. This article explains. Apparently, left-handedness in cats comes from exposure to testosterone. As a leftie (or predominately leftie), this hormone issue interests me. Does this apply to humans too? The internet seems to think that the reason for human left-handedness is different, for us it comes from genes (although they aren’t sure which ones) rather than hormones (this might explain why two of my three children are also left-handed).

I bet you he's a boy

I bet you he’s a boy

Only 10% of the human population (as opposed to 50% of the cat population) are left-handed and we are prone to the following:

  • psychosis
  • dyslexia, ADHD, IBS and other mood disorders
  • creativity
  • a tendency to vote for left-handed politicians (Barack Obama)
  • fear
  • sporting ability (many tennis players are left-handed)
  • a higher IQ

Things that we left-handers struggle with:

  • London Underground ticket machines
  • glass blowing (you simply cannot blow glass left-handed)
  • surgery (left-handed surgeons struggle to get access to left-handed equipment)
  • scissors (not a problem for me, I use my right hand for cutting)
  • American high-school desks
  • living in Japan (there are no left-handed people in Japan)
  • Le Creuset soup pans (the spout is on the wrong side for a left-hander)
  • kissing a right-handed person (a head-clash is bound to ensure – this was a huge worry to me as a teenager anticipating much kissing as an adult)
  • shaking hands (I just want to use my left-hand and have to go against my instinct in those hand-shaking moments)
I cannot pour soup out of one of these

I cannot pour soup out of one of these

Things we left-handers benefit from:

  • eating Indian food the authentic way (you should eat Indian food with your left hand because the right hand is reserved for less hygienic acts, something I was taught in Japan)

So my conclusion here is that if I were a male cat there would be more facilities for left-handers and at least I can enjoy my onion bhajis without missing my mouth.

This cat, being a boy, struggles with the ticket machines

This cat, being a boy, struggles with the ticket machines

 

 

People who think a lot sleep badly

This is a weird thought I had at 5am this morning when I couldn’t get back to sleep. I found myself early this morning lying in bed engaged in, rather than sleeping soundly, thinking, thinking, and more thinking. I thought about work, art, artists, philosophy, food, coffee, chocolate, my children, my week to come, parents’ evening (what I was going to attend this evening), Zumba (another activity of today), the cat, science, religion and the sea.

The most chilled cat in Shrewsbury - she doesn't think much

The most chilled cat in Shrewsbury – she doesn’t think much

After an hour of constant thinking I gave up and made myself a coffee and an egg buttie so I could think and eat at the same time, and read my book (a book about philosophy).

I’ve been plagued sporadically with insomnia all my life. Even as a child and a teenager I can remember lying in bed thinking and not sleeping. Luckily, I am generally only plagued by sleeplessness about once a month, but when the plague hits me, it hits me hard.

Is he just thinking too much?

Is he just thinking too much?

So my weird thought is: do people who think a lot sleep badly? Do we all spend the same amount of time thinking? Do I think as much as the man stood next to me in the Post Office queue, as David Cameron, as the milkman, as my eldest child? Is thinking a constant for everyone? I suspect not. I think people who think too much can’t sleep.

Interestingly, if you google ‘high IQ and insomnia’ you get some interesting results that claims that on average, people who suffer from insomnia may have a higher IQ. However, my theory is not based on intelligence. It is based on thinking. I don’t think you need to have a high IQ in order to be a thinker. I’m sure there are some very chilled people with a very high IQ who sleep like babies – I’m married to such a person. Equally, I think there are some very clever people who don’t bother their brain with thinking too much.

I've never known this person to suffer from insomnia

I’ve never known this person to suffer from insomnia

This article claims that night owls are likely to be more intelligent than morning larks. Poppy cock I reckon. But then I would say that, I’m a morning lark. This article thinks that ‘creative geniuses’ are plagued with sleep issues. Of course that must be true, I say.

However, whether sleeplessness is related to cognitive ability I couldn’t possibly say, but I do believe that those who suffer from excessive thinking are more likely to be lying awake at 2am.

 

Do people in real life swipe mantlepieces…

…and dressing tables, tip up table tops and punch holes in walls in anger?

Last night, I was watching Revolutionary Road. This is a film riddled with marital rows. During one of those marital rows, towards the end of the film, Leonardo swipes his arm across the dressing table in the master bedroom and knocks everything onto the floor. Watching this I thought: ‘I’ve never done this’. I also thought: ‘I’ve never witnessed anyone else doing this’. So this had me thinking (would any less be expected of me): do real-life people swipe at their treasured possessions in anger?

One of the many rows those two had in this film

One of the many rows those two had in this film

Unless you are a cat, I can’t see the pleasure (or release) you would feel from knocking things off a table. I’m not a very angry person so perhaps that is why I can’t see it. I would hate the mess and regret the destruction of precious objects.

I'm just waiting until you turn away...

I’m just waiting until you turn away…

I don’t think I even want to try it to see if I would feel better. I’d have to manufacture a reason to be angry, and that I fear is not possible.

I think if I did experiment by swiping the mantlepiece my cats in hats would be upset.

My cats in hats

My cats in hats

I love Parma Violets but there is a limit

I love Parma Violets. My weird thought is: why does nobody like them just a little bit? They taste like soap, so why like them at all? And why love them? I don’t know the answer. But when I was pregnant with my second child, I loved nibbling on soap so perhaps that explains why I love these sweets.

Yum city

Yum city

So it seems that Parma Violets are the sort of sweets most people either love or hate. They are the sweets of little old ladies, and me.

These singing men are also Palma Violets

These singing men are also Palma Violets

I have a warning for all you lovers of Palma Violets out there. Be careful how widely you spread the knowledge of your love of these little purple sweets.

The sweets you either love or hate

The sweets you either love or hate

Because I love Parma Violets, the local haters of Palma Violets are very willing (and very kind to do so) to give me the packets of Palma Violets that they don’t want to eat. This is lovely, and very much appreciated. However, there is a limit to how many Palma Violets I can eat. One friend regularly gives me the giant kind, a few other friends give me the usual small-packet variety. Even though I love Palma Violets, I have an optimum speed of consumption of these sweets. per hour. I like to eat them, but I don’t like to binge on them. I have a bit of a pile of Palma Violets waiting to be consumed.

Don’t be mistaken though, I don’t want the palming off of Palma Violets to me to stop. It amuses me. I frequently come across half-eaten packets in the strangest of places around our house. This is a pleasant surprise.

So as they have a long shelf life, please do keep giving them to me! They will get eaten, eventually.

Questions I’ve always wanted to know the answer to…

…and I refuse to ‘google’ because finding the answers via the web would be a let down.

  • Why don’t nits die when you lie in the bath with your hair underwater? If they were people they would.
  • Do animals go in strops with each other?
stroppy cats

I’m in a strop with you

  • Who teaches animals sex education? How do they just ‘know’ how to do it?
  • Why don’t cats eat chocolate?
Yummy?

Yummy?

 

  • Why don’t cats and dogs try to walk on two feet? They must wonder why we do.
The world looks much better from up here

The world looks much better from up here

  • What is the point of pubic and armpit hair? We don’t need to be kept warm under our armpits or in our nether regions so why hasn’t evolution got rid of this stuff?
  • If humans have boobies, why don’t animals – they just have nipples? Is it because bras on animals would be odd?
I'm a 34B, you?

I’m a 34B, you?

  • Why is coke black? It’s not the most attractive colour for a drink.
Mmmm, doesn't that look appetising?

Mmmm, doesn’t that look appetizing?

  • What is the point of eyebrows?
What is the point?

What is the point?

  • Why does our hair go grey?
This Phil is happy being silver

This Phil is happy being silver

  • Why do people kiss? Why don’t animals kiss, with tongues?
  • Why do we need chairs when the floor is just as comfortable (ask the Japanese)?
I lived for two years in Japan with NO CHAIRS

I lived for two years in Japan without chairs

  • Why men go bald but women (generally) do not?
Phil doesn't mind being folically challenged

This Phil doesn’t mind being folically challenged

 

I now want to know what other people’s ‘questions I’ve always wanted to know the answer to’ are.

 

 

Doesn’t everyone iron on the cooker?

The other evening as I was drying my hair with a hairdryer I had a childhood memory. When I was a child, one’s hair was dried by lying in front of the gas fire first on one side, then on the other, and finally, on one’s back. It was always much more pleasurable to dry one’s hair on the one side (i.e. the side which enabled you to see the TV clearly) than it was to dry it on the other side (facing the sofa) or the back (facing the wall). I grew up thinking that everyone (at least in the UK) dried their hair like this after the Sunday-night bath. I can still remember the smell of burning hair and burning nightie and the sensation of hot nightie against cool, wet back.

My hair dryer

My hair dryer

However, as I grew older I realised that, some people at least, used these things called hair dryers to dry their hair. Other people just let their hair dry naturally. Both seemed so odd.

What I should have been using

What I should have been using

My weird thought is this: there are certain habits or behaviours that we grow up with that we assume to be ‘normal’ and we go through a period of disillusionment when we discover that they aren’t normal. I have a friend, and I can’t now remember which friend (hopefully someone who will read this blog and say ‘that’s me!’), who grew up with a fridge in their bedroom. They reported to me a few years ago that as a child they expected everyone to have a fridge in their bedroom. They felt quite shocked and upset when they discovered that this wasn’t normal behaviour.

I also grew up believing that everyone ironed their clothes on a towel on a floor (or on the cooker hob, also on a towel) as that is what my mum did. At university I discovered that there were these things called ironing boards. What an amazing invention!

What is this contraption for?

What is this contraption for?

I find it interesting that when you live with someone for the first time, these odd family quirks have to live together too and you are introduced to a whole host of weird and wonderful ideas. One example I can think of is that my husband has a collection of cloth hankies. I had never encountered such an indulgence before I met him. I grew up wiping my nose on toilet paper. I thought that was normal. However, here was a man (younger than 85) who used real material for his nose wiping needs. It still bothers me that he wipes his nose on cotton and not toilet paper or kitchen towel. It just doesn’t seem right.

My nose is not posh enough to blow on this

My nose is not posh enough to blow on this

I wonder what family quirks my children will discover one day to be eccentricities rather than the norm. A few years ago, one of my children expressed surprise to me after going to a friend’s house for tea at discovering that not all mummies painted pictures.

They will probably grow up thinking that everyone has ‘milk and a biscuit’ in the middle of the morning. This is something they still ask for. This originated out of a mid-morning feed when they were babies and has stayed with us. They also still request ‘milk and yoghurt’ before bed. This was a habit I adopted to keep number one son going until morning as he was a hungry baby. He’s eleven now and he still has milk and a yoghurt before bed. Will he go to university and wonder why nobody else has a glass of milk before bed, along with a petits filous?

My children have one of these every night

My children have one of these every night

At least we don’t keep a fridge in his bedroom (for those petits filous). Although, thinking about it now, that’s not a bad idea.

When will I feel like a grown up?

This is a thought I’ve had intermittently since I was a child: when will I feel like a grown up?

At first I assumed, it would happen when I reached 20. However, that didn’t happen. During my 20s, I was sure that it would happen at the next milestone: 30. But as my 30th birthday passed me by, I still felt the same. So I wondered: will 40 bring maturity? Surely it was bound to. Despite giving birth to three children between the ages of 30 and 40, regretfully, it didn’t.

I need a grownup

I need a grownup

Now I am in my 40s (early 40s), I am wondering whether 50 will be the magic age when I feel like a grown up. Surely at 50 I will feel ‘old’? But after the last few decades of waiting and watching the milestones wizz by without a change of inner grownupness, I have my doubts.

When I was at university, I came up with a theory which I enjoyed passing onto others. The theory goes as follows: there are three things a person must have achieved in their life before they can call themselves a true grownup.

These three things are:

  • A mortgage
  • A partner of some description (a long-term partner)
  • A pet and / or child
If someone is willing to lend you the money to buy one of these, you must be a grownup

If someone is willing to lend you the money to buy one of these, you must be a grownup

I had achieved all three by my mid-20s (I had a cat), yet I didn’t feel at all grownup. So my theory had to change.

The new three things became:

  • All of the above
  • Grey hairs
  • A preference for a glass of wine, a video and an early night over bottles of beer and a nightclub
This chap must feel like a grownup, with a head of hair like that

This chap must feel like a grownup, with a head of hair like that

My mid-thirties brought forth all of the above. But, damn it, I didn’t feel mature enough yet. The theory had to change again. So it did.

The new, new three things became:

  • All of the above
  • A preference for Radio 2 over Radio 1
  • A perchance for clothing from Marks and Spencer
Blouses and sensible skirts R Us

Blouses and sensible skirts R Us

My early-forties is here and I think I am on one-and-a-half of the above (I’m not quite into Radio 2 yet, I prefer Radio 4 but I still like Radio 1). So is there hope for my revised theory? Do other people my age have these three elements in their life and feel mature as a result? I have, as of yet, not really felt inclined to buy my clothes in Marks and Spencer (and I can’t see it happening too soon either). Part of me hopes that I never reach that point. I still love Top Shop, I choose Zara over Country Casuals, and H&M is much preferable to Wallis.

Old lady clothes?

Old lady clothes?

I think the issue is that I don’t really ever want to be a grownup. Equally, I don’t want to be the embarrassing Great Aunt who dances in leopard print leggings and a boob tube at her Great Niece’s wedding. I haven’t yet got a Great Niece so I have at least two decades to work on preventing this scenario coming true. I hope that I settle in to a happy medium between the two (leopard print leggings and twin-set). I hope that even in my 90s (if I get that far) I remain, forever, still to some degree that ten-year-old me who enjoyed headstands, jumping in puddles, and Radio 1.

If my legs look like this at 60 I'll be quite happy

If my legs look like this at 60 I’ll be quite happy

I’ll let you know (if blogs exist in the year 2061).

 

Why don’t people convalesce in Switzerland anymore?

This is the weird thought I had a couple of days ago when I was feeling a bit under the weather. I had had a nice, warm bath and I wrapped myself in a blanket and lay in bed for a precious five minutes reading my book. However, instead of being at home, I longed to be in a chair with a blanket (and my book) in a chalet half-way up a Swiss mountain. I felt the need for a three-month convalesce in Switzerland.

If I were to convalesce, I'd need a choice of tartan blanket

If I were to convalesce, I’d need a choice of tartan blanket

Why don’t we do that anymore? They used to do that is the books I read as a child (the sick, pale young girl was always being sent off to stay with great aunts by the sea, or even better, Switzerland, to ‘convalesce’). When did that quaint Victorian tradition end?

Now we just have to KBO as Churchill used to say. I don’t want to KBO when I’m feeling run down, I want to be sent ‘against my will’ to Switzerland, preferably with a small West Highland Terrier and a truck load of books (‘No, please don’t send me there! Really, please don’t!’). Why doesn’t anyone do that for me? I’m sure the family would cope for a few weeks without me and of course they could visit every weekend.

The view me and 'Snowy' would have

The view me and ‘Snowy’ would have

I’m not the only one to have this weird thought. The Daily Mail have beaten me to it. According to them, if we don’t take time to convalesce we end up in hospital. Is that not reason enough to bring this now long-gone tradition back?

One of the key ingredients for convalescence

One of the key ingredients for convalescence

Google tells me that you didn’t have to go all the way to Switzerland to convalesce during Victorian times (perhaps only the rich were able to do that). There were convalescent homes in this country which were buildings dedicated to the art of recovery.

The other key ingredient for convalescence

The other key ingredient for convalescence

I’m not sure whether they allowed dogs though.