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Why hearts and flowers in February fill me with rage

It is February, it is nearly Valentine’s Day and I feel the rage. I’ve just been to Waitrose in Newport. While at the till, waiting to take home my coffee, Sunday paper (both free) and a few essentials (not free) my eye caught a display of Valentine’s gifts and I felt a strange rage surge up in me. It was a passionate rage, ironically, but a rage nonetheless.

Why the rage? I hear you cry, dear reader. What can possibly be outrageous about hearts and flowers? I don’t dislike Valentine’s Day per se. I am a big fan of romance. It’s nice to spread the love now and then. The admirers from afar may need an excuse to show their love, hopeful perhaps, and if Valentine’s Day prompts that, then so be it. That can be very romantic and can end in joy (or tears perhaps). I approve. Even when love is requited, it can be nice to make the effort for a bit of romance. Romance, especially unexpected pockets of romance, is one of life’s little pleasures. We all love a bit of love.

However, despite my support for the day and what it stands for, every year I get cross at it too. I get cross at the forced nature of romance that comes along with Valentine’s Day, and I get even more cross at what ‘they’ think ‘we’ should be giving each other (our respective love interests) on this day: flowers, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, teddy bears and champagne. To me, that is not true romance. Flowers, chocolates and champagne are all nice but they are not what I consider the most romantic. As for teddy bears…

So on my scoot home I started to analyse why I felt such anger. After all, that’s quite a strong reaction and quite harsh. Why don’t I appreciate all the grand, traditional romantic gestures of  the day of St. Valentine? Is it the commercial aspect of the ‘chosen’ gifts? I think that is a big part of it. However, I think the rage goes deeper and to find out, I think I need to look back.


As I scooted past the second-hand book shop, a little reluctantly, I took myself back to my teenage years. Hitting puberty, I remember the coming of St. Valentine’s Day became a time of hopefulness and, naive optimism. Once I realised that boys were desirable in some way, I so very, very badly wanted a secret admirer to send me a card, put flowers in my locker, or leave some heart-shaped chocolates on my desk. From the age of around 11 onwards, I craved this and for some reason, thought it might actually happen. Each year, I woke up on February 14th hopeful, and went to bed disappointed. Sadly, it never happened. Not once. I didn’t get anything, not even a joke card, in the seven years from the age of 11 to 18. As each subsequent February 14th arrived, however, I hoped again, against the odds. I longed for there to be just one person, even someone I wouldn’t fancy back, to be walking along the corridors of Walton High School harbouring a secret crush on me. Sadly, as far as I am aware, and if the evidence of February 14th is anything to go  by, there never was such a person. How sad. Please don’t cry. It’s probably a good thing. I had other things to focus on and I was a bit of an ugly duckling at school. For 364 days of the year I accepted this duckling status and plodded on with life being geeky and arty. However, for one day a year, I became a total girl and craved that glimpse of romance. I would have been happy with heart-shaped chocolates, flowers or even, dare I say it now, a teddy bear. But it never happened. But it’s not all sad, as soon as I went to university things changed. My dream came true in the end. I got a card.

However, the memories of those seven years of pubescent disappointment still sting and I think that is the main reason why I feel such toxic rage at the profusion of red and pink, flowerly, soppy, vomity stuff in the shops at this time of year. I actually feel the urge to dive into it and have a toddler tantrum. Perhaps I should.

But perhaps I need to stop being so angry and just accept that the red and pink love does bring happiness to many, and it’s not so bad, with the exception of the teddy bears.


I am a lady, except in Facebook Messenger

Last night I had a weird thought about swearing. I’ve written about swearing before, about the fact that I don’t swear more than I did ten years ago yet everyone else seems to (or that is the impression I get). In fact, I don’t swear much at all. When I do let out the odd expletive, it is rarely a biggie. I am a middle-level word swearer and usually only when I am driving.

My children tell me off for saying ‘I can’t be arsed’. or ‘fart’. They are not normal. They tell me they never swear. I’ve never told them not to. They hate me swearing and they appear to hate swearing themselves. I never was a big swearer before I had them, in fact I haven’t changed. My ‘bad’ / ‘good’ habits have obviously rubbed off on them. I don’t object to swearing. I think it is completely normal. It doesn’t turn me on or off. It is just what it is. I have lots of friends who swear. This hasn’t changed me. Again, I don’t know why. I’m quite a susceptible person normally. I have some friends who swear big words. I even have some friends (you know who you are and I love you dearly) who swear the big words in every sentence. I’m not a very angry person so perhaps that is why I rarely swear. But I think that my swearing habits, for whatever reason, are incredibly moderate by 21st-century standards.

The crux of this weird thought is that so long as I’m not driving, I do swear when I type, particularly in Facebook Messenger. I don’t swear hugely often there, but I do swear much more often than I do in the real world. I type the odd ‘fuck’, or, because I am lazy ‘FFS’, or even ‘FML’. I also freely type ‘bloody hell’, ‘shit’ and perhaps ‘crappity crap’. I can be a complete potty mouth in Messenger. Why?

Message to my mum – no rude words here though

Why do I find it easier to spurt forth an expletive through my fingers than through my mouth? Is it because it doesn’t feel so bad if I can’t hear it? Is it because my children can’t see my typing? I’m not sure what the answer is. Swearing doesn’t come naturally to me, normally. It might be because I find written / typed communication far, far easier than spoken communication. The need to swear then must be in me. It just doesn’t use the same channel as it does for everyone else. This is all guess work. I don’t know why typing ‘shitty poo’ for me is easier than saying it.

Well all I can say to to this is I have no conclusion to this weird thought but I think I need to fucking swear more often, apparently it is healthy and a sign of intelligence and I could do with a better mental health and I am reasonably intelligent, most of the time, some of the time. Oh FFS FML!


The paradox of swapping identities

This morning, as I was waking up, I decided that I’d like to be a man for a week and I’d like to give a man the opportunity to be me for a week. I have always been at the mercy of my female hormonal fluctuations, and more so in the last few years, something which I find most irritating. It seems so unfair.

Lying in bed and thinking about this in the semi-darkness, I wondered whether men feel the same hormonal fluctuations as women obviously do. They don’t menstruate, but perhaps they still have emotional ‘periods’. A google of ‘Do men have periods?’ reveals some interesting thoughts on the matter. The Internet seems to think that they do. This may be psychological, perhaps from living with females who are going through their cycles, or it may be biological. I would need to do more in-depth research to find out (if only I had the time).

Google knows

So, with all this going through my mind, I decided that I’d like to spend some time inside a man’s identity and body, perhaps for a week, to find out first hand. Maybe I’d need a full month. In any case, as I am about to enter my worst hormonal week (the week before the decorators arrive) I thought that now would be a good time to do the experiment (if I can find a willing body).

I wonder if this man would consider swapping with me?

Besides all the interesting observations I could potentially make regarding how society treats ‘male’ vs ‘female’ and whether I’d remember to use the correct public toilet, to stand up to wee and how I’d cope with shaving (I think I’d just let it grow), a very important philosophical question came to me during the consideration of the idea.

To fully ‘feel’ the identity of a male I’d need to fully ‘be’ that male: mentally, emotionally and physically. So I’d need to adopt their self and abandon my ‘female’ self. If there is none of my own ‘self’ in the temporary body I exist in, the question arises: how can I rationalise the experience, analyse it, compare it, and view it from the perspective of my ego? Without my ego to observe, the experience is pointless. If I am fully the ‘man’ I am. Then I have nothing to compare the experience with. Returning to my own body and self, I would not be able to ‘remember’ the experience and put a perspective on it. Yet, if I were to retain some of my self while in the temporary male body, that part of my ego will effect how I act and how I be. I wouldn’t fully be that man. I’d be partly me. The experiment cannot work.

It has become a paradox. I can’t be me in another ‘me’ in order to be that other ‘me’. The scientific and practical impossibility of swapping bodies, emotions and metal states aside, it just could not happen.

That’s a great shame. I guess I’ll just have to weather the storm of the next few days in my own body and with my own emotional ego. I need chocolate.

Nature knows who has hairdressing talent and who doesn’t

This is today’s short weird thought. I’ve had three children. They were all boys. I have decided today that the reason that they were all boys is because nature knows that I don’t have any hairdressing talent.

I hope I don’t get a backlash of ‘don’t be so sexist!’ comments now. Please don’t. I’m not trying to be sexist. Boys, of course, sometimes prefer longer locks to shorter locks. Girls, of course, sometimes prefer shorter locks to longer locks (I did). However, percentage-wise, in the general population, not many boys like to sport bows, plaits, French plaits, Dutch plaits, English plaits, ponytails or buns. Some do, I don’t doubt that, but not many. My three boys have favoured short hair for most of their short lives to date. Two of them had lovely shaggy locks as toddlers (and looked adorable). But as they have matured, they have preferred to keep their hair short. I haven’t had to do anything to their hair over the years.

Back to the reason for this thought about nature and hairdressing skills. Last night I babysat overnight for two friends who have four girls (two sets of twins). I’m not used to looking after girls. Again, I’m not trying to be sexist. But all four of these girls have long hair. The eldest two are self-caring. So their hair was not an issue. The youngest two twins, aren’t. That was an issue. This morning I was tasked with ‘preparing their hair’ before dropping them off at school. There are three reasons why this task featured largely in my consciousness.

Firstly, the anticipation of this task brought me a low-level anxiety. Not enough anxiety to register on the anxiety scale but more than chilled with chocolate. Secondly, having me as a novelty babysitter meant that the two girls both had quite high expectations of what they could get away with hair-wise (one twin asked for two side plaits, the other requested one side plait, one side ponytail and a bun on the top with two bows). Thirdly, I’m not used to dressing hair. Mine is bobbed, it’s low maintenance.

When morning came, and everyone had been fed and dressed, I could not put off the task any longer, I had to ‘prepare the hair’. This task took me two attempts with one twin, and one with the other. We needed multiple hairbands, brushes, mirrors and bows. It took about 15 minutes I think all in all.

The result? Disaster. Utter disaster (in my opinion at least, they were happy). They both looked pretty odd. I’m hoping that the school, and their parents, will forgive me later. I’m currently lying low in Wolverhampton.

What I aspire to

So my struggles this morning had my neurons chundering over this topic as I drove to Wolverhampton after throwing the girls at education. Despite being an artist, am I just no good at hair? Are my creative talents firmly stuck in paint, pen and video? I think there is truth in this. I don’t like fiddling with hair, I don’t know why. There’s so much of it. It gets tangled. It catches in my rings. It doesn’t do as it is told. I just don’t like hair. It’s messy. It falls out. I’m clumsy. I’m inpatient. I’m not neat. All those things are not conducive to nice, tidy hair. If I am no good at hair, then is that the reason that nature gave me three boys? Yes. I think so.

I have sometimes longed for a girl-child of my own but in actual fact, I’m happy with my three boys. They are mine. I love them dearly, short hair and all.

My three boys


Why do experiences we’ve never had feel so real in dreams?

I had this weird thought last week after I dreamt that I was licked by a cow in Venice.


This is what I posted up on the old Facebook that morning (because of course everyone in my immediate circle, my Dunbar’s number and beyond, my mum, my son, someone I crossed paths with in 2014 for a week and the people I went to school with needed to know).

My dream

When I woke up, the memory of the sensation of being licked in the face by a cow in Venice was very real. I woke up feeling slightly disgusted. I could still ‘feel’ the sensation of the warm, solid yet a bit fatty tongue moving slowly across my cheek. The tongue (and the cow’s breath) smelt of digesting grass. I could still smell it in the back of my nostrils as I opened my eyes that morning. I could vividly recall the wetness on my cheek after I was licked. It was as if I really had been licked by a cow. The Venice part isn’t so important perhaps. I haven’t been to Venice for over 20 years, whether that is of interest or not I don’t know.

My weird thought is as follows: since I haven’t actually ever been licked by a cow in the face (in Venice or in any other town, city, village, metropolis, or countyside location), how is it that I can recreate it in my dream so well and now describe it as if it really happened? What is it about my imagination that can form such an experience in my head, as if it actually happened? How are we able to ‘remember’ how something feels if we haven’t ever actually felt it in real life?

This also applies to those sorts of dreams we don’t like to talk about in polite company. What I mean by this is dreams where we get a little too familiar than we’d like to in real life with people we have never met perhaps, and certainly, even if we have, never entertained the notion of, familiarity. In my case, I have a list of such ‘lucky’ people: Billy from EastEnders, Jeremy Kyle, a smattering of people I know in the real world who in waking life I wouldn’t ever entertain the notion of a lingering hug never mind anything else, and, lastly, Gordon Brown, the ex-leader of the Labour Party.  So how is it that I can imagine what special hugs with Gordon Brown would feel like if I’ve never met the guy or even partook in special hugs or any other type of hugs with him? How does my brain create sensations which to me are quite sophisticated and detailed, to the extent that in my logical head (the tiny part of the my head that is logical) they need to be experienced to be recreated in the imagination? The mind is a fascinating beast if it has this talent. If we take it as given that the mind really can create (note, not recreate) an event such as being licked by a cow or Gordon Brown in great detail then we really are clever. And therefore can we trust our minds? Is there not the risk of a dream being mistaken for a memory at some point in the future? Will I lie on my death bed and tell my great, great, great grandchildren about the time I met the leader of the Labour Party? I hope not.


What do the scientists have to say about this? I couldn’t find anything on the World Wide Web to help me here. However, I found one website that claimed that vivid dreams are a sign of mental illness.

I do suspect there is something deeply troubling going on inside my head. But I’m not going to go there, right now. Ignorance is bliss and anyway, I’m tired now.

Washington D.C.

Wide streets
Silent crossings
Relaxed walking
Missing the frenzy of New York
Without the speed walking of New York
No need to rush here, I don’t know why (when politicians seem so frenzied and the running of a country is achieved by workaholics)
Pompous buildings
Neo-classical kitsch? Dare I say that?
Yet it works, it is Washington
‘Look at me!’ the neo-classical buildings scream, so I do and say ‘wow’
Honking horns
Red hand up
Loud, enormous huffy puffy lorries (trucks)
A sense of Trump but a greater sense of neo-liberalism
Speedy taxis
Trees and pavement
Except the Metro which is grey, grimy and smelly
Hipster bookshops
Bearded hipsters
Skinny ladies who lunch
Bars and good food
IPA with a hint of orange
Books and beer – a good combo
Earnest, young intellectual Americans
Discussing college, work and the books they love
Science and study, not so much art
Health, running, fitbits
Lots of Saturday morning health on display, sweaty pits
Homeless friendly, jangling their cups, one man ironically wearing a Trump t-shirt
Dads running with strollers, whooshing past me, sweaty backs, bouncing babies
More coffee
Ridiculously pretty houses
Georgian style with a authentic yet not at all ‘English’ prettiness
Reminiscent of Anne of Green Gabels and other strong-willed all American young heroines
History, steeped
Politics, leading
Autumn leaves and bright sunshine
The odd cicada in the trees
American drawl, oh so cool and chilled
Shorts, sunglasses, take out coffee
Classical modernist art, not so much contemporary
Heat, so hot, in September
Turrets, so many turrets, why?
Amercan TV – hypnotic – could watch for hours
Medical adverts – sublimely surreal to the point of hilarity
The joy that is people watching
People who interest me, who are they?
I’m not a conversationalist here, there’s too much to see
Do I really need to go back to Newport tomorrow night?

Washington is bizarrely full of turrets

Why I love flying

The nerves
The fresh feeling that doesn’t last the first hour
The seatbelt that must have housed a really skinny Minnie before me
The free newspaper smell
The novelty of crappy airline magazine
The spring loaded pocket
The we aren’t moving
I can still use my phone ‘I’m on a plane!’
The safety bit (I won’t listen, I’m in denial)
The safety bit (I feel like I’m at school so I’ll appear to listen yet will secretly think about rude things)
Phones off. Oh no!
Moving slowly
Like a car
Slowly round, then the bloody hell acceleration
Going up
Sucking sweets with fury
Mesmerising view
Like a child
Or the first time
My legs jiggle involuntarily
I grip a hand (anyone will do)
The plane levels
The anxiety eases
Food smells so soon
High heels start marching
Pounding the plane carpet
The bright sun above the layer of white
Like a perfect day that is always there yet rarely seen
Like heaven to a child
Feeling on holiday with constant sunshine
Perfect yet nasty food wrapped in perfect yet nasty plastic
The leftovers from the 1950s – impeccably made up waitresses and beautiful waiters
With neck scarves (who wears those now besides these high fliers)
The tiny round windows with frost on the inside
The wind (am I the only person who suffers from aeroplane wind?)
The luxury of back-to-back films
What to watch first?
The comfort of Big Bang Theory
The knee ache
The elbow ache
The lull of the engine
The excitement of a film that is still in the cinema (even when it is crap)
Sleepy yet no sleep
The extra production of snot (see point above re. wind)
Tiny swoosh toilets that smell of old men’s wee
Metal cabinets
The 24-hour day that follows you
The glint of sunlight on the wing
The steadyness
Bumpiness when you’re trying to eat like those scouts on Jim’ll Fix It
The morning people who look like death
The middle bit (five hours plus)
The drag
The boredom
The what ifs
The hypnotic phase I won’t remember
Then I’m conscious
The hell which is 2 hours 55 minutes to go
The map
I LOVE the map
The stats: altitude 12,191 meters, time to destination 1.24, headwind -15mph, outside air temperature -67F, distance travelled 3,909 miles, distance to destination 921km, ground speed 524mph, altitude 39,000ft, distance to destination 584 miles
The little plane inching at 550mph passing towns with interesting names (such as New York)
The smelly feet
The chance to read for 8 hours yet I never do
Eating when told
The trays
The person in front of you leaning as far back as they can (they always do to me)
Wondering about the lives of the other passengers (is this their first time?)
The anxiety (yes, I even secretly like that)
The pull-down window blinds that remind me of my childhood Fisher Price plane
The historic sick bag (are they ever used?)
Earphones that hurt like hell
Nearly there
Not yet
Constant thirst
Yet free wine!
Food again?
Another film?
The boredom
And anticipation
Jostling in my emotions
The journey as adventure, the philosophy of motorcycle maintenance
Plastic cups
Sleeping people with mouths agape
Crinkly pillows
Slippers and tooth brushes
Thin pointless blankets
The between nations feeling
The lawless feeling
Yet you must behave or risk coming straight home
That would be embarrassing
The culture of the airline (Korean Air loves Mr Bean, United Airlines The Big Bang Theory)
The really nearly there
Gentle bleeps
Eating polo after polo to stop the ears
Prepare for landing
I need a wee
Floating through clouds
Suck a mint or seven
My legs involuntarily jiggle
Swing sideways
Suddenly land takes you by surprise
Phones on
Facebook withdrawal
Scroll, text ‘I’m here’
Update ‘I’m here!’
Takes ages to get off
I can’t wait to do it again
First, sleep

Free wine

Why I love waiting

Today, I had to wait for 45 minutes for something in a waiting room full of people in a place that was too hot with small windows. To most people that probably sounds quite tedious. However, I didn’t mind. I like waiting. That is strange. But I really do.

Why do I like waiting? That is today’s weird thought.

British people are good at waiting. We don’t mind, or we don’t show that we mind, to a point. If we do mind or get to the point when we start minding, we complain but only in a very jolly British way. We complain with humour. We complain apologetically. That is, if we complain at all. Mostly, we just put up and shut up.

People waiting

I am British and I love waiting. I have my reasons. Firstly, if I am waiting then I am not engaged in real life. This is especially so if I have no phone signal (as was the case today). Nobody can get hold of me while I am waiting. They can wait. Bliss.

Secondly, waiting gives me thinking space. All I can do is think while I wait. Thinking is healthy. We all should stop and just think now and then. It’s amazing what your mind can come up with if left to just think.

Thirdly, I love reading really old copies of Women’s Weekly. Who doesn’t?

Fourthly, I love reading the random signs and notices that are always present in places of waiting: the adverts for coping with dementia, what to do if you think you have an STD, how much water you should drink a day, where the local support group for people with random unusual disease meet or the signs that tell you ‘please be patient if you have been waiting a long time’.

Finally, and most importantly, I love people watching and eavesdropping on those people. So for me, waiting is like being in the sweetie shop.

Today, while waiting, I heard all about one woman’s issues renovating her house (and what happened when the curtain rail fell down). I helped an elderly lady of 85 work out what day it is today. I amused a random man with my desperate need to know what a ‘Tilt Test’ is (he asked the receptionist for me, she wasn’t sure). I exchanged mutual carparking horror stories with a lady called Julie Davies. I watched as a doddery old man with a thatched head of pure white hair called John Thomas (the man, not the hair) was called into his appointment. I observed a lady called Florence Proctor amble past to her appointment shortly after John Thomas. I created a life for her in my head (lives in the country, higgldy piggldy house, too many books, cats, loves Radio 4, eats crumpets). I saw a youngish man called Paul with a hat get called into his appointment. I amused a random couple with my grammatical pedantry. I enjoyed waiting. It can be fun, if you make it fun.

The sign that I read about twenty times this morning

If only I had had my sketch pad today, the adventures my pen and I would have had. As it was, I decided that an hour in a random waiting room would make for a great Radio 4 play or Samuel Beckett story. It is an existentialist’s dreamv- waiting for something you don’t want to experience, and waiting patiently at that, and more importantly, being forced to consider your mortality and meaning on this planet while waiting for that thing you don’t want to happen. Arguably, there isn’t anything more exentialist as that.

When my time waiting came to an end, 45 minutes after it began, I hate to admit it but I was sad. And I will miss my new friends: John, Julie, Florence and Paul to name but a few. Perhaps our paths will cross again, in another waiting room somewhere else.

The sadness of defriending

Previously, I’ve blogged an awful lot about Facebook and what it does for me. I’ve also blogged recently about a pathalogical need to be liked, which I seem to be afflicted with. Today, I am thinking about both Facebook and being liked.

Just now I happened to notice that someone has recently ‘defriended’ me on Facebook and my reaction is to feel terribly sad. While I was cooking dinner, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from this person for a while and so I looked her up. To my shock, we are no longer ‘friends’. I never knew. I didn’t notice it happening. I feel so sad.

My response since then has to worry that I’ve said something bad, stupid, annoying or just been an annoyance in general (I’m rather good at that, I fear). I’ve tried but I can’t think what I might have said specifically to upset this person. I don’t see her anymore. Her child and one of mine used to be classmates. When our paths used to cross on the school playground we always had something to talk about. I like(d) her. So why does she no longer like me? And, more importantly, why do I care so much? Her reasons might not be that deep. She might just consider that since we don’t see each other we don’t need to stay connected.

A couple of months ago I noticed another ‘defriending’ and as with this time, I became quite bothered. This wasn’t a person I had ever met. She was someone I ‘met’ on Mumsnet a few years ago. Our paths had crossed online in our mutual grief over losing a baby. We were Facebook friends for months, years even. Now we are not. I don’t know why. It wasn’t my decision.

A while before that I spotted yet another ‘defriending’. Again, someone I had ‘met’ on Mumsnet. We’d both had babies in November 2009. I had thought we’d got on really well, ‘online’ at least. We nearly met up once. What did I do wrong? I thought she was lovely.

Years ago, shortly after I first joined Facebook, I was ‘reunited’ on Facebook with an old school friend. A couple of months later he defriended me (perhaps my first ‘defriending’). This was back in the days when we  could count our Facebook friends on one hand. I was so upset that I actually messaged him to ask him why. He was very polite in his reply. He explained that since we didn’t see each other he didn’t see that it was important that we kept in touch. I was gutted. I respected  his decision though. I was upset nonetheless and I still think about it.

There are others. I’m not sure why I notice  them. I lost another school friend after we fell out over politics. I had thought we’d been having a healthy debate. She obviously disagreed. I was also defriended by a family member over politics. That stung a lot too. That made me reconsider the way I express my passion for politics online. I have since toned it down.

I value all of these people who seem to want to be ‘friends’ with me

But am I strange in caring so much about people I don’t see deciding that they don’t want to have a connection with me anymore? I’m not sure why it stings so much. I think there are people who aren’t so bothered. I know people who regularly have ‘clear outs’ of Facebook. I’ve never done that. In fact, I’ve never defriended anyone. I couldn’t. I like people, even those who might vote for UKIP or support Donald Trump. They have their reasons. They are still in need of friendship and people in their lives.

I think I need to develop a harder skin though when it comes to people deciding it is Bye Bye Becky. I’m not to everyone’s taste and That Is Ok I guess. That is a hard thing to accept. Surely, I’m amazing!

I just want to say to the most recent loss, not that she will read this, that I’m sorry for whatever it was that made you cut off contact with me. I miss your statuses, even if you don’t miss mine.

I’ve no idea who Elie Wiesel is but I will end my mumblings with his words. It might not be quite true (love is very important) but friendship marks a life at least equally as deeply as love.

Wise words from Ms Wiesel

What it means when it feels as if things are plotting against you…

Today I’ve had one of those days when things seem to be just being naughty.

I dropped my money in Costa Coffee, my bag kept falling off my shoulder as I walked around Waitrose looking for six Cornish pasties, six Cornish pasties fell out of the oven and dribbled pastry all over the floor, I bumped into a lamppost while scooting home with pasties in my bag, I tripped over a kerb and Excel crashed causing me to lose an hour’s work. I’ve felt cross and upset at things. I’ve been close to tears (the pasty disaster was pretty bad). I’ve been grumpy and sulky. I’ve withdrawn into my introspective world of negative thoughts. Why? Because six pasties fell on the floor, and the rest.

Now the day is ending and thinking back to my annoying day with the benefit of hindsight, I like the idea that inanimate objects can have such a strong influence on my emotional state. They don’t mean to upset me. They are just stuff. They aren’t really conspiring against me. There isn’t ‘something in the air’. I didn’t ‘get out of bed the wrong side’ (I got out of bed the same side as I always do). It is just what it is. It is what it is. It’s all a big coincidence. But it feels as if there is a purpose to the stubbornness of things. It really does feel as if they have been conspiring and laughing in a Mutley hissy toothy way.

A couple of years ago I came across the Object Oriented Ontology school of thought. This is the idea that things aren’t just things and we are superior to things; things have agency. They have just as much right as we, organic beings, to existence.  They deserve our respect. This idea was influenced by the mighty Heidegger who was big on ‘things’, their interconnectedness and what they mean to us.

Heidegger described this ‘annoyance’ I describe at objects, or the feeling we get when an object causes us distress, as: ‘the being just present at hand, and no more something present to hand’ (Bakewell, 2016, p. 69). In simpler words ‘the way we focus our troubles on the object that has let us down’. We focus on the object that has caused us annoyance rather than the action we were trying to perform with the object. It is the object’s fault in our eyes. And that failure is symbolic.

Martin Heidegger

When an object fails us, the world is no longer running smoothly. Rather, it is in a state of flux and chaos. We see this failure and flux as a metaphor for our personal failures and negative issues with our life’s path. Imagine the day, a ‘bad hair’ day, when things just keep betraying you. Suddenly, your life is awful, your job is awful, your marriage is a sham! Of course it isn’t really. It’s just normal. The empty stapler and the jamming photocopier didn’t cause your life to crumble. They just happened. Your life is ok.

I like this idea because to me it proves that objects have agency in our minds even if we don’t think about this very often and even if in reality they are just objects. They influence our emotional state even if that sounds nuts. Don’t look at this logically; you won’t like what you see. If you look at it from the perspective of experience, it isn’t at all weird. It happens all the time.

A random pile of annoying stuff

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