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So today I decided to try to imagine who Jayden K. Smith might be. Why? Because I don’t have enough work to do at the moment and it’s fun. Is he real? Nobody knows. He is to me though.

This is what I have come up with.

He’s 23 years old. He lives in a small provisional town in the West Midlands. He has two younger brothers. They are called Simon and Adrian. He’s white. He’s 5’8″ tall. He’s not hugely tall compared to his contemporaries but he’s happy with that. He’s tall enough, he thinks. He doesn’t like to stand out in the crowd.

He still suffers a little from acne. He had very bad acne as a teenager so it isn’t as bad as it was. He has wispy blonde hair, it is short. He has a bit of a fringe though. His face sports a largish nose, big lips, and a light beard (its not really a ‘beard’ as most people would know it, perhaps a better way to describe it would be ‘a few sprouting hairs’).

The K stands for Kenneth. It was his granddad’s name. Jayden likes to go by ‘Jayden K. Smith’ rather than Jay, or Jayden, as he thinks it makes him sound important.

His favourite colour is purple.

He likes triangles.

Jayden finds this image very pleasing

He once met Jeremy Corbyn. That’s his claim to fame. He’s quite proud of that. He has voted for Labour ever since.

Jayden has met this man

He can touch his nose with his tongue.

He is more of a dog person than a cat person although he doesn’t currently have any pets. When he leaves home, he has decided, he’s going to get a dog. Or perhaps not, it depends on what he is doing at that point.

Jayden would love to have a dog such as this one

He has a good appetite. He has a high metabolism and doesn’t seem to put on much weight whatever he eats. If anything, his stomach is concave. He loves Nandos and goes there as often as he can. He will more or less eat anything though.

Jayden loves to eat here

He has a favourite white baseball cap. He mostly wears bleached jeans, trainers and football tops. He supports Aston Villa. He always has. He doesn’t know why. His dad did so he does. His dad died a couple of years ago from a heart attack. He was devastated. He hasn’t really gotten over it if he’s honest. He lives with his mum and brothers in a three-bedroom semi detached 1930s house. His brothers are both still at school. The house has a nice back garden with lots of shrubs and an apple tree.

Jayden lives here with his mum and brothers

Jadyen K. Smith has a degree in computer science. He got a low 2.1, which he is really happy about. He’s currently working in Asda (he only graduated last summer) while he decides what he wants to do with his life. He isn’t really putting in a huge amount of effort into looking for a proper job yet. He figures that he has plenty of time. His mum is a school cleaner. She hasn’t nagged him too much about his career. She’s enormously proud of his degree. He was the first of his family to go to university (although his dad was very clever).

He believes himself to be more-or-less completely heterosexual. He’s never had a serious girlfriend. He’s not hugely bothered though. He lost his virginity when he was 16 at a party. She was called Helen. He really liked her but it didn’t really go anywhere. She’s now living in London. He’s not sure what she does, something media-related. They are Facebook friends.

He has a few real life friends: people he knew at school and a few from Asda. He goes out about twice a week, mostly to the local pub but sometimes into town.

Jayden K. Smith isn’t very passionate about much in this world. He doesn’t have any hobbies as such, besides creating a Facebook hoax in his name and a vague interest in football. He’s completely overwhelmed by how many people fell for his hoax and how far and wide it spread. He has no plans for any other such hoaxes. He is quite happy living his rather quiet, non-passionate life. He is hoping that by this time next week everyone will have forgotten about him.

That’s it, that is Jayden K. Smith.

 

 

 

Nobody enjoys Sports Day and nobody admits to it

This is the weird thought I had today at my youngest child’s annual primary school Sports Day (he’s in top infants, or Year 2 for you younger people out there).

Shortly after waking this morning and realising that today was his Sports Day my reaction was not one of joy, elation, excitement or anticipation, it was one of annoyance and irritation. My second reaction was one of guilt at feeling annoyance and irritation. I reprimanded myself: what sort of mother doesn’t enjoy Sports Day? I don’t know of any other parent who feels the same way as me. But then I wondered, it this just another example of one of tose Things Nobody Admits To? There are a lot of Things Nobody Admits To but that’s a future blog entry.

Beanbags and hula hoops – the main ingredients of Sports Day since 1955

I don’t enjoy Sports Day and I hope that I’m not the only one (otherwise I really am a horrid mother). I didn’t enjoy it as a child and I enjoy it even less as an adult. Why? Well, I’ll tell you. There are a number of reasons and here they are.

 

It is the same every year.

Since having children I’ve attended at least 11 sports days. I’ve watched them toddle, jog, canter, skip and run in front of me. I’ve seen them throw beanbags into hoops, jump as high as they can, stumble over hurdles and slide over the finish line. I’m bored of it. The formula doesn’t really change much. I’m more than regular bored of it. I’m bored to tears by it. Sports Day has changed little, if at all, since the 1970s when I was at infants school.

This photo was taken circa 1980 on one of my sports days (I think this was the after sports day picnic)

 

If they have Sports Day why not have Maths Day or Art Day?

None of my  three boys are particularly athletic. They like maths and art. They are good at maths and art. They’d win maths and art races for sure. They never win running races. They don’t look to me like they are enjoying the whole Sports Day experience that much so since they look a bit miserable, therefore so do I.

 

Parents are expected to attend unless pinned to the ground at work by an elephant 

Sports Day means that I have to forego work for a whole morning. I am paid by the hour. It costs me £40 to attend Sports Day (on average). The timing of Sports Day is never convenient. They either start half an hour after school drop off or finish half an hour before the end of school and this entails a lot of hanging around and more small talk (see next point). So Sports Day actually costs me more like £50. Do I sound grumpy? Yes.

He so badly wants to go to Sports Day

 

Sports Day is hell for introverts

I have to sit with people I don’t know (at least this is the case this year as we moved to a new school in January) and wait desperately for someone to engage me in conversation.  This is painful. I’d rather take my laptop with me and do some work thereby negating the above point, at least a little bit.

 

Parents are more concerned about capturing the moment than enjoying the moment

See point below about ‘bringing out the worst in people’. All parents and grandparents have their phone out, and pointed at their child, as the race happens. Nobody is actually watching their child run. They just want that ever important photo. Yes, I do this too.

My middle son running last summer – good photo, eh?

 

The Great British Weather

It is usually borderline freezing cold (having said that, today was a glorious day).

We are having fun, honest!

 

Sports Day brings out the worst in people

I am not a ‘cheer ’em on’ type of mum. Today, I found myself sat sandwiched between two groups of screaming women who kept jumping up to holler ‘Leighton! Leighton! GOOOOOOO!’ or ‘COME ON SUMMER! RUN! RUN!’ They got on my nerves. They did it for every race. I have no urge to do that. I also witnessed one mother pushing a second mother out of the way today when the second mother lept up to cheer her son on thereby obscuring first mother from taking a good photo of her son. That really did happen. It was quite aggressive. I’m surprised second mother didn’t give first mother a knuckle sandwich. Now that would have made Sports Day more entertaining.

The one thing I do like about Sports Day is the mummy race. However, this is the element that brings out the worst in my personality. I know my children won’t win any races (and they accept that, as do I, as part of life’s way of saying ‘you can’t be good at everything and your skills lie elsewhere’). However, I am good at short distance running so this is my time to shine. I love the mummy race. As soon as the teacher in charge exclaims ‘and now for the mummies’ I have been known to leap up and be the first on the start line, with gritted teeth and a determined glare. I have won past mummy races. I once missed one because my youngest (who was three at the time) needed a poo. I had to hide my irritation that day but boy was I irritated.

My moment of glory

So at least today I had the hope that there would be a mummy race and I might leave these Donnington mothers as dots on the horizon as I glided gracefully over the finish line, arms raised, sweat poring and joy oozing. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. At the end of the last children’s race the teacher in charge announced ‘thank you all for coming, we’ve had a great day, bye bye see you in half an hour’.

So today was definitely a hip hugger sort of day (yeah, it wasn’t so bad really), not granny pants but no go commando either (which isn’t a good look on Sports Day anyway, especially during the mummy race if you are wearing a skirt).

Is it a granny pants day or go commando?

Recently I had a really bad day. It was an awful day. I spent the latter portion of the day in tears. That day was a granny pants day. A few days later I had a really good day, that day, I decided, was a go-commando sort of day.

Then my weird thought came: pants are a great way to classify 24-hour happiness levels.

Types of pants

So here is my classification system:

  • Control Briefs (Granny Pants): the worst sort of day imaginable, you have botched up big time at work, someone has died, you’ve crashed your car, you’ve had a bad review, someone has been really mean to you, you’ve failed an exam (or all your exams).
  • Classic Briefs (not far down from Granny Pants): a fairly bad day, you’ve got a stomach bug and feel awful, the exam you took was really had and you think you may fail, your dog is unwell, you’ve had a row with a close friend.
  • High-cut Briefs (I’m not even sure what these are): it hasn’t been a great day, work was full of niggles, you’re feeling stroppy and hormonal, you’ve got a headache.
  • Hipster (these are not unfashionable, but use more fabric than others): it’s been an average sort of day, not much has happened: things have been neither good nor bad.
  • Boyshorts (I wear these): you’ve had a reasonably okish day, perhaps you enjoyed a good cup of coffee but that was the highlight of the day. The rest of the day has been average.
  • Bikini Briefs (I don’t wear these, they are so 1980s): someone has paid you an unexpected complement, you’ve solved a problem, you’re feeling a little creative, you’re reading a really good book.
  • Tanga (I have no idea what these are): it’s been a good day, you’ve been shopping and bought an amazing pair of shoes or you’ve been out for a drink with good friends, you’ve had a good meal with your loved one, you’re book is unputadownable, you’re feeling happy and in love, you’ve got that warm gooey feeling you get from being content.
  • Thong: it is your birthday or Christmas Day and you’ve got lots of nice presents.
  • G-string: today has been excellent, from start to finish. You’ve been touched by human kindness, someone has surprised you in some way, a long-lost friend has got in touch, that handsome prince has kissed you, you feel healthy and alive. You’ve come up with a brilliant idea.
  • Go-commando: you are happiness. End.

These chaps are having the best day ever

We only live to 100 as we can’t cope with a century of change

This is my weird thought of the day.

Today, I came across an old lady in her mid-90s. She’s called Betty. She’s currently in hospital in Shrewsbury. She doesn’t want to walk. She’s not even that keen on feeding herself. I haven’t heard her talk. She’s inactive. She’s lived a good life. I don’t imagine she’s got a huge amount of time left on this world. Watching her sit in her chair today with her mouth agape I had one of my weird thoughts: ‘Perhaps we only live to around 100 because more than a century of change is too much for us to cope with’.

Betty was born in the 1920s. I’m not sure exactly when in the 1920s but at 90-something it will be the 1920s. She was born at a time when the motorcar was a novelty. The motorcar didn’t travel very fast. There were no motorways. We had had one world war, but not yet a second. I wonder if there were roundabouts in the 1920s? I suspect not. We didn’t watch TV. We didn’t have the word ‘television’. We didn’t really listen to the radio, or ‘wireless’. The telephone rarely rang and it had a handset and a mouth piece. I suspect we had to speak to an operator before we got to the person we needed. The idea of having a phone each would have been preposterous. There were no computers. We read books. We talked to people. We drank cocktails and sashayed about in flapper dresses.

Betty now lives at a time when we all have phones. We go to nightclubs. We watch TV every night. Our phones are connected to this amazing virtual land called The Internet. We drive up and down the M54 with such regularity, and rather fast, we could do it with our eyes shut. We don’t need to listen to the radio; we have iPlayer. Does Betty know what a pod cast is? Is she on Facebook? Does she update her status with ‘Spend the day sitting in my chair with my mouth open again.’ I doubt it. I suspect that Betty has reached her limit on change.

The M54

I don’t mean to sound patronising (perhaps Betty is very Internet savvy) but I suspect that in the year 2065 I, too, will feel tired of change. If I try to imagine what this world will look like in the year 2065, sat here in the year 2017 in the age of Facebook and Snap Chat, and I cannot. I cannot picture what it will be like. That’s my point. I suspect that by then, I will have had enough. I suspect that by then I will be like Betty.

This lady was born in 1898. She’s very old.

So I conclude, we simply cannot live past 100. Even as medical science advances further, we won’t live much past 100. Why? Because if we do, it’s just all too much and our brains explode. That would be messy.

 

What is the optimum number of friends one can have? Think of a number!

Last Sunday, I was driving from Shrewsbury to Newport at 11.30pm. When I drive home late at night, there is only one radio station for me: Radio 4. In fact, truth be told, most of the time there is only one radio station for me, that is unless I’m in the need to sing really loudly, in which case I listen to a CD (how quaint).

Anyway, to get back to Sunday evening, I was driving back home late at night after a particularly fun night singing karaoke at The Crown in Shrewsbury, and they were talking about ‘the future’ on Radio 4. Part of this discussion on ‘the future’ was focused on social media. In their discussion of social media the people on the radio mentioned something called ‘Dunbar’s Number’.

Me (far right) at The Crown on Sunday

My interest perked up at this point. I had heard of this before, but I couldn’t remember where. I have a bit of a soft spot for theories or postulates named after a real person (I also like diseases or conditions that are named after a person – I have a bit of a secret wish to invent Collins Theorem, Collinsitus, or Collins Postulate, or even Collins’s Number).

Again, back to Sunday evening, ‘Dunbar’s Number’, Radio 4 told me, refers to the optimum number of casual friends a human being can maintain whether they be living in the jungle or in Newport, Shropshire. Dunbar’s Number was named after a real person called Robin Dunbar who lives in Oxford. Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary psychologist and he came up with the idea a few years ago (before social media became the beast it is now) that we cannot maintain more than a finite number of, what he terms ‘casual’ friends / acquaintances in real or virtual life.

The magic number is apparently 150. This magic number, although coined a few years ago, is relevant today, Robin Dunbar claims. The irony is that Robin Dunbar, as he stated on the radio last Sunday evening, hates social media and prefers to sit in a pub with a pint and the odd friend than spending his time liking and commenting on Facebook. However, as I drove through Telford and across the most horrible roundabout in the world (Trench Lock) listening to this programme, I considered my Facebook friendship circle. I have about 390 friends on Facebook. That is 240 more than Dumbar’s Number. Does that mean that 240 of those people are not ‘casual’ friends (or close friends) and are just people I have met? If so, what are they to me? After all, what does the social media phobic Robin Dubar consider to be ‘casual’? He said that a casual friend would be a  friend you would call on for help, or someone that you’d go out of your way to talk to in real life. Well what do I have to say to Robin? I’d talk to any one of my 390-odd friends friends for help or to chat to about their mornings. So there!

Robin Dunbar and cat

I guess this disagreement with a scientist stems in part of my desire to refute those clever types who reside in places such as Oxford, Cambridge or Wolverhampton and say ‘aha, you might be wrong!’ I’m a firm believer in the teeny tiny possibility theory, as I have professed on here on many occasions, and I think that this is one occasion when I should play the ‘teeny tiny possibility theory’ card. Robin Dunbar, I have more than 150 casual friends! I agree that the category of ‘close’ friends is probably quite small. However, some of my ‘casual’ friends were close friends at some point in my life and circumstances have since meant that our paths stopped crossing so often. For example friends I went to school with or met at university, friends from my year in Amsterdam, or my two years in Japan, friends I met in Oxford or friends from when I lived in Charlbury for seven years. I had some very close friends at university and they are there on Facebook but we wouldn’t regard ourselves as close now perhaps. But it feels wrong to classify them as casual. They weren’t casual, yet we don’t see each other often now. However, should disaster befall me and I was in their area, I’d call on them in a heartbeat.

So in conclusion, my message to Robin Dunbar is, your theory is interesting but I think things are a little more grey than you presume. I have more than 150 friends I’d consider casual. There are Venn diagrammes of friendships that you haven’t really considered. So there! Poor old Robin Dunbar isn’t the only friend theorist I want to blow raspberry’s at, there is also Seneca, who had a lot to say on the matter too. What you say is interesting, dear Seneca, but you were not quite right. Sorry!

I love you all!

People are weird…

This is the weird thought that I had while waiting for a space at the petrol pump at Asda petrol station today.

A place of petrol

This isn’t going  to be a very deep, profound weird thought. But it is weird enough to share with my fellow over-thinking humans.

People are weird.

That’s about it. People are weird, they are odd. Don’t you think?

Why are we odd? I hear you cry. Well, we are odd because we wear clothes. We drive cars. We need entertaining. We are obsessed with our phones. We use Facebook. We moan. We like to drink too much and fall over laughing. We like to poo in private. We like to read while we poo. We look miserable as we plod around in the daytime. We think shopping is a form of enteratinment. We sit. We sleep in beds. We think we are amazing yet we also think we are utterly awful. We overthink everything. We don’t just overthink a few things, we overthink absolutely everything. That takes up an awful amount of energy. Yet, when we are stripped naked of our cars, phones, worries and clothes, all we are is animals.

We are rather similar to pigs. We have similar skin to pigs. I’ve heard we taste a bit like pigs. I think we are more like pigs than we are like monkeys (sorry, Charles). Yet we wear clothes and pigs don’t. Why do we feel the need to wear clothes all the time, even when we are too hot? That’s weird. We not only wear clothes, we have fancy, unnecessary things on our clothes.

People or pigs?

For example, there was a lady putting petrol (or diesel) into her car in front of me as I was having these thoughts and she was wearing a black coat. There’s nothing too odd about that. But her coat wasn’t just functional. It wasn’t just keeping her warm. It sported funny toggle things on the back. They appeared to have no function whatsoever. So, my busy overthinking brain asked: what the hell is their purpose? They weren’t very decorative. They just dangled. They looked, well, rather annoying.

This isn’t the coat, but it is black.

The people who design such things for people to wear are weird. The people who buy such things are weird. We are all just rather weird.

Then, just as I had that thought, a space became available and I had to put petrol in my car, just like all the other pigs.

Is sentimentality inevitable?

Just four months ago, I moved, with my little family, from Shrewsbury to the lesser known village of Muxton, near Telford. That move was a huge wrench for me. It was also a temporary move as the permanent move, to a house in Newport, wasn’t ready to happen. There are lots of reasons for this, which I won’t go into, mostly because I don’t pay attention to the reasons. But the reasons existed.

However, next week, the permanent move is finally going to happen. Next week, I will be moving from Muxton to Newport.

The temporary move was to a house which I fondly refer to as The Rented House. I have never loved The Rented House. In fact, I have always felt a strong dislike for The Rented House. I’d rather be out of The Rented House than in it. This dislike is manifested by the amount of time I’ve been spending in Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury since we moved. This dislike can be seen in the amount of money I currently spend on petrol and coffee.

This dislike is partly based on location (Telford – sorry Telford but compared to Shrewsbury you are a bit of an armpit), partly based on the style of house (1990s modern yet already falling to bits – honestly, this house is a right state) and partly based on what it represented – a move from a life I loved muchly.

My artistic interpretation of The Rented House

However, despite all of the above, over the last four months I have grown to love The Rented House in a bizarre love-hate unexpected way. I would even go as far as to say that I will miss it when the move to the permanent house finally happens.

The Rented Staircase

I feel as if I have gone through a lot while living for a short period in The Rented House. It has been a fun, fabulous, emotional, turbulent four months. I have dragged myself kicking and sometimes screaming towards a BA in Fine Art and I have laughed and cried my way to the end of May. It has been a time in my life I will never forget.

The messy Rented Kitchen

I feel a weird emotional attachment to The Rented House, the house that I hated on first sight. Why is that? Am I then just a naturally sentimental creature? Do I feel a inevitable attachments to ‘things’ whatever they may be, houses or otherwise? I think the answer is ‘yes’. I do find myself getting quite attached to things very easily. After all, try to take my cuddly poo off me and risk bodily injury. So, am I just going to be sentimental wherever I am, however happy or unhappy I am? I don’t leave any attachments to people in Muxton. Muxton isn’t Shrewsbury, not even close. Only one parent has spoken to me at the school gates since we moved here and that was just last week, I won’t miss Muxton. In fact, Muxton is confusing and weird to me. Yet, I feel oddly sad. The only thing I will miss is my Muxton lamppost.

The view out of the window

I know that I will shed a tear or two on Thursday. I didn’t think I would, but I will. I will leave a part of me in this funny old 1990s falling apart house fondly known to me and my boys as The Rented House. Bye bye number 33.

The messy Rented Sittingroom

 

 

 

Are we always biased towards the future?

This is a weird thought I had this morning. I am currently reading this magazine. I like to dabble in a bit of philosophy from time to time.

My current magazine

There is an article in this magazine about why people are conditioned to always look to the future and hope that better times are ahead. (Isn’t the thought that you’ve lived the best of your life already really rather depressing?) In its discussion, the article cites a thought experiment devised by philosopher Derek Parfit.

Derek and his cat

The scenario runs thus:

You need a life-saving operation. It has a 100% success rate. However, the only way the operation can be carried out is without anaesthetic, so you will feel excruciating pain. You are told that the operation will take ten hours. You are also informed that the doctors are able to wipe your memory of the pain as soon as the operation is over. This seems reasonable to you, after all, it is going to save your life and you won’t remember the pain.

You wake up in a hospital bed and you ask a nurse: ‘Have I had the operation yet?’ The nurse responds with: ‘Either you have had the ten-hour operation and had your memory wiped and you are recovering, or you haven’t had it yet and it is actually now only going to take two hours due to sudden advances in medical science. You will, of course, still feel the pain throughout. We can still erase the memory afterwards though’. She then asks you which would you prefer to the be truth.

So, dear reader, what would you choose?

If you are like the majority of human beings, you will chose the first option. You will prefer to have had the operation, gone through the pain, and be on the other end without the memory of it, rather than be facing two-hours of pain.

However, look at this logically. Why would you chose to go through ten hours of excruciating pain over two hours of excruciating pain. Does that make sense? Well, yes it does, if you accept that humans are naturally future-biased. We see the future as more significant than the past. We consider future happiness, and future pain, as more important to our current existence than past pain or happiness. We can’t bear the thought that we have had our greatest happiness. We are quite happy to accept that we have been through awful pain, yet, thank god, we won’t need to do that again. This happens even if the pain and happiness are equal either side of the present. There is also an argument that humans are incapable of remembering the physical sensation of pain; we remember the emotions the pain gave us, but not the actual sensation of pain (otherwise, why would women go through childbirth not once, twice, or even three times – in my case at least?)

Isn’t that amazing? Yes.

I put this thought experiment to my three children today and they all, as predicted, opted for the ‘ten-hours of pain in the past’ scenario.

Number Two son then piped up with: ‘I guess this means that if you go to Disney Land and have your memory wiped afterwards then it isn’t worth going in the first place.’

My philosophical boys

This lead to a discussion on this question: if you forget a pleasure or a pain, is there a point to having it? We talked about whether it is worth the effort of celebrating the birthday of someone with a severe memory disorder where they don’t remember beyond five minutes in the past. I argued that celebrating the birthday and giving presents and a cake to that person was as worthwhile as doing the same for someone with a working memory. It is the moment of pleasure borne from the experience that is the most important element of the experience, not the memory of it.

In addition, I argued, you will be dead one day and once you are dead you won’t remember Disney Land or every single birthday cake.

So keep going, live for the moment, enjoy the now, experience the pain. And appreciate that just because a great pleasure has past and an equal pleasure might not happen again, that pleasure was wonderful at that time.

I have a favourite mental state

This is my latest weird thought while sat on the toilet (just now).

I’m sure everyone has a favourite mental state. Perhaps other people are at their happiest when they are deeply asleep, or asleep but dreaming, or thinking hard about a problem and coming up with a solution (the joy of that mental state is undeniable), or having rumpy pumpy, or maybe eating their favourite meal, or feeling drunk but not too drunk (happy ‘I love you all’ drunk).

Happy Drunk photos I recently found on my phone

Although those are all good mental states, for me, my favourite mental state is that place between being awake and being asleep. I love that place. I visit that amazing place shortly before I fall asleep, and shortly before I wake up. I’m in that place at least twice a day (four times if I treat myself to an afternoon nap). I suppose everyone visits the same place as me, just not at the same time or in the exact location, otherwise it would be quite crowded there.

My mind is at its most relaxed when I’m  in that place, yet I’m conscious enough to notice it and appreciate it and blog about it here. My imagination starts to play games when in that place. I see unicorns, multi-coloured goats, chocolate cakes, beautiful seas, fluffy kittens and all sorts of other amazing things. Also, ideas come to me when I’m in that state. I love it.

Picasso was a big fan of that place. He would sleep sitting upright with a spoon in his mouth so he could harness ideas that came to him just as he was nodding off (the idea is that the spoon would fall out and wake him up so that he could scribble down his ideas).

Sometimes, as I am waking up, I try to lengthen the time I am in that wondrous place by avoiding the lure of consciousness. The problem with consciousness is that it leads to clarity and the world loses most of it’s amazing colour and shape that it seemed to have in the in between place. The world is still fairly wondrous, just not quite as much, and in consciousness you need to search harder to find that wonder. In the place between sleep and awake, that wondrousness is just there. It cannot be avoided. Sometimes music plays there. But mostly all sorts of creatures lives there, most of them mythical. I might meet people there with whom I spoke during the day, or people to whom I haven’t spoken to for years. It’s always a lovely place though. It is somewhere where tea parties are had, cup cakes are eaten, and somewhere where Alice would feel utterly at home.

Alice lives between consciousness and sleep

I think I might just go now and have a nap. I feel like a cup of tea and a cup cake with a purple goat and a eight-legged stout.

 

Does introversion make you susceptible to post-natal depression?

This was a weird thought I had in London last week. I can’t remember what sparked it off. I was just travelling on the underground when the thought came to me. Actually, I know what sparked it off. I was reading this book at the time the thought came to me, which is written and illustrated by Marzi Wilson.

My London book

I love this book and the website that came before it. There is so much in it that I relate to. I don’t relate to everything, however. I generally try to resist labels such as ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. We are all individuals, after all. However, if I had to put myself in one camp or the other I’d have to veer towards introversion. And if I am an introvert, then I’m the sort who loves being around people and socializing. The stereotypical introvert doesn’t. I love socializing, on the proviso that I might want to get my sketch pad or book out when with others and be alone in company. So, contrary to the average introvert, I like to be with people, but I like to be alone with people. But generally, I’d say I am an introvert.

But this introverted ‘need to be alone’ whether physically or mentally, or both, brought to mind how impossible that is when you are a new mother. When you have a baby, your life, for at least six months and in actual fact for much longer, is no longer your possession. It becomes the possession of someone else, a child. Many people are able to embrace this change and in fact revel in it. However, three times, I struggled with this. And in London, last week, it occurred to me that my struggle with this stems from my introversion tendencies. I find comfort in the ability to withdraw. When things get too much, I turn into a snail. I retreat. I curl up with a book and forget the world. However, when you have a baby, you cannot do this. You cannot do this for months, or even years. And, this may sound awful to say this, that is very hard for someone who needs solitude. So my question is: are people with introvert tendencies more susceptible to post-natal depression? That great beast of wisdom, the Internet, seems to agree with me. In fact it says ‘they [introverts] get energy and strength from solitude’. So when your source of strength and energy is removed, it is no wonder that anxiety and depression could ensue. This is what happened to me, to different degrees, three times.

Me and Toby when he was about six weeks old.

I found this thought quite liberating. I think that anyone who has suffered from post-natal depression may feel a sense of guilt. I certainly had huge guilt about it. You feel a failure, inadequate and weak for having struggled to deal with something that is natural, or something you see others coping with admirably and with a halo of love around them. I know for me, I felt guilt because I’d dealt with various hardships in my life, including working in stressful environments, yet looking after a fairly low-maintenance being who, let’s face it, acted quite predictably, caused me much anxiety and distress. But this realisation that perhaps my personality just isn’t perfectly suited to early motherhood, helped me feel less guilty. It was actually quite a good weird thought.

After having this thought in London last week while travelling on the underground, I felt lighter, and more human. I love my children with all my heart. And it is much easier now that we can all be introverts together with our noses in our books and our mutual love of doodling.

Toby seven years later, nose in a book.

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