B4Peace: Birthday for Peace

What a thrill – the B4Peace t-shirt arrived on my birthday!

peace cat tshirt

 

Many thanks to Kozo at everydaygurus.com for coming up with the idea, for nurturing it and for sorting out the t-shirts. Go and visit him.

Namaste.

 

 

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Eventfulness, thankfulness and creativeness

OK I made that last -ness up. The Rule of Threes demanded I did so, and I can only apologise for any unintended damages caused to the English language. It’s a robust little chap though, the English language, so I am sure it will recover. It’s one of the things I like about it, that you can put words in pretty much any order, or invent new ones, and still be understood. That, and the fact that loads of people in other countries have made the effort to learn it so I can relax when I go on holiday. It’s really very considerate of them.

I suppose I am fixating on language because I have been doing some Anglo-Saxon revision today. This week I have been on holiday so that obviously meant I got to rush about doing jobs instead of sitting about sunning myself. It was just as well, because there has been precious little to see of the old currant bun. Anyway today, Thursday, was the first day I was able to spend at home, so I decided it was time to break out the inks and start practising my penwomanship for a little project I have in mind. It involved cataloguing three shelves of books and sorting out the drawer under the bed before I could begin. Isn’t it always the way? I needed to find some books and they have all got themselves rather higgledly-piggledy of late, so I had to tidy up. That meant I discovered I had two copies of a book because I had forgotten I had already bought it and bought it again. So I created a spreadsheet which I can check on my phone when I am out to try and prevent me doing that again. That also led me to discover that a particular book I was looking for had gone AWOL so I ended up searching under the bed, and tidying that up too. It was two hours before I had the items I needed on the desk.

Beowulf manuscript

First page of Beowulf, from WikiCommons

Then I spent a happy hour getting all smudgy and blotting ink all over the paper and generally providing evidence that I am not really very good at calligraphy, although I certainly enjoy playing at it.

After that I thought it was time to sit down in front of the fire with my Anglo Saxon language course and refresh my memory of how the wretched thing actually works. Naturally I also messed about on Project Gutenberg finding a copy of Beowulf and downloading it to my Kindle so I can read it on the train, or rather, stare blankly at it on the train. That reminded me to pre-order the new Tolkien translation which is due out in May. Of course then I had to check my emails and figure out how to put audio files on the Kindle as well.

All of this went fairly smoothly though because of my great good fortune yesterday, which is the thankfulness part of this post.

I had an appointment at the eye clinic at the hospital because my left eye has been getting rather blurry. Last year I had cataract surgery on both eyes which resulted in the miracle of sight for the first time in my life. To celebrate I had a special ceremony where I burnt my contact lenses in a miniature Viking dragon ship on our pond.

However, back in the Autumn I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble reading sub-titles on the television, and car number plates and so on. Eventually I went to the optician who told me I needed to go back to the clinic because the membrane in my eye was growing over places it should not grow over and obscuring my sight. Yesterday I went to the clinic.

Snellen chart

They are such nice people at the clinic. They tested my eyes and I was unable to read even the letter at the top of the chart with my left eye. It was a bit of a shock. I almost started reading the furniture by mistake and wondered if I had inadvertently slipped into a Two Ronnies sketch.

After the failure of the eye test, the consultant explained to me what was happening with the aid of a little model of the eye, and that I needed laser treatment to get rid of the membrane otherwise I would lose my sight completely. Then he said if I would wait he would try and fit me in that afternoon as they were doing laser treatments that day anyway.

Sigoth and I sat and waited. The place was packed and there weren’t enough seats and I felt a bit of a fraud for taking up everyone’s time. Then I saw the man in charge, who had also performed the operation on my eyes last year. He explained it was important to do it as soon as possible and that although risky, the alternatives were not much better. Then he clamped a special lens on my eye and within ten minutes I had my vision restored. Another miracle! I was completely wiped out by it all, both emotionally and physically.

I am being cautious for the next few days as I am at quite high risk (1 in 40) of a detached retina, but hopefully I will be OK. It’s fantastic being able to see so well again; it had really crept up on me, like the frog in the pan of water.

Today as I have worked on my Anglo-Saxon writing and reading I have been untroubled by eyesight problems. As I type this post I am able to see the screen more clearly than for a long time. I have no idea why I waited so long.

I love science and medics and the miracles that are possible. I know that often we are let down by them, or they fail to live up to our expectations, or the side-effects are worse than the symptoms. But just for once it all worked out and I feel so lucky. Sometimes it can turn out OK.

I hope you have a miracle of some kind this week too, large or small. Perhaps even sight of the old currant bun – who knows?

Share your good fortune when you do to give us all a boost.

Namaste

 

Well Meaning Buffoon Next Door

Gaming diceI seem to have created a nightmare. Not a dripping-fanged, snarly-throated, blazing-eyed, scaly-tailed nightmare, at least not on this occasion. That other time was just a mistake and won’t happen again. Oh no, this is just one of those nightmares that gets into your mind like an ear-worm from the radio playing a catchy jingle that buzzes about for days. You play your loudest music or your saddest songs but as soon as they end, there it is again, gently tum-te-tum-ing in your head.

I suspect this is just what happens when you are a bit of a dreamer like me. I spend half my life living in a fantasy world, like Walter Mitty. I visualise. I imagine. And it’s all so real.

Recently I wrote a post having a dig at people who think they know all about IT. It wasn’t kind but that’s life in EBL Towers. Nature red in tooth and claw, and all that. However I was then prompted to consider how the poor Well Meaning Buffoon from Next Door might feel as they confronted my Nerd Army.

To validate my prejudices I checked with the local WMBFND and this is what she told me.

“Well, EBL, I have to be honest. I was a bit anxious about bringing the draughts board in but it was something I felt quite strongly about. I mean, why do your games have to be so complicated? It all seems so unnecessary.

When I mentioned to my husband that I was coming over he was really cynical. He said people like you think you’re so clever, what with calculating your credit card interest in hexadecimal, whatever that is, and talking in another language to make yourself look smart. I don’t think that’s fair. I mean, I really enjoyed learning Spanish at school.

You see, I just know you are deep down OK, and I thought perhaps we could all play a different game together, one that I understand and could join in. My grandmother taught me to play draughts and we had such lovely times on Sunday afternoons playing. I thought you might like to give it a go.

But then that chap with hairy knuckles and a bandana, Kevin was it? Anyway, he said his old Mum played draughts and he preferred something more challenging. Mind you, the other lad, the one in the torn denim and studs, he said he thought draughts was as complex as you made it so perhaps Kevin was just a bit simple. Well, I didn’t want to start an argument, so I just set the board out on that funny cloth with pentagons on it…sorry, were they hexagons? I don’t know the difference, I’m sure. Does it matter?

So I set the board up and the girl with the piercings asked me to show her how it worked and we soon had a good game going. Although Kevin and the other lad went and sat in the kitchen rather than watching.

I would find that A&D game too complicated, and isn’t it all about worshipping Satan anyway? I’m not sure I want to get into all that. Is it a requirement?

I do realise only two people can play draughts at a time though, I admit I hadn’t thought that through. Perhaps next week I could bring Monopoly instead?”

Honestly, being smartarse about knowing more than your neighbour is like kicking a puppy before you throw it into the well. The deep, dark, cold well.

So thank you to all my Buffoon Neighbours who, as it turns out, are wiser than this foolish EBL.

How do you deal with people wanting to play Monopoly – either literally or metaphorically?

Namaste.

 

Freshly Pressed

I am shocked to announce that I have been Freshly Pressed.

What? What just happened?

I don’t know. I don’t quite understand how posts are chosen, but chosen was one of mine and for that I am entirely unable to respond in a sensible or meaningful way. I have been babbling in a dark corner since I found out.

Anyway, thank you to WordPress, and welcome to any visitors – I am the Electronic Bag Lady (EBL for short). Please come on in and find a chair. People will shuffle up to make room. We’re a friendly bunch and very snuggly. The kettle is always on, and there are biscuits in the tin. Or fruit if that’s your poison. If it is, I’ll have a word with you later when things get quieter.

What is life like in EBL Towers? If you fancy any or all of the following you may want to come by more often:

  • I try to post at least monthly in support of Bloggers for Peace organised by Kozo over at everydaygurus.com
  • I tend to ramble meaninglessly about life as an IT Project Manager in the UK Public Sector
  • I live in God’s Own County of North Yorkshire (northern England) so that will regularly appear in posts as well. Just so you know – you never ask if someone is from Yorkshire. If they are, they soon tell you; if they are not, there is no need to humiliate them.
  • I suffer from depression so may appear a little dark and sombre at times. Be gentle. I hope one day to contribute to the Mental Health Awareness blog project but am not there yet.
  • I care for a demented mother. I may have a moan about that now and then. I need to let it out.
  • I acquired a partner (Sigoth) and Offspringses earlier in life and they have made living worthwhile.
  • I also suffer from nostalgia so keep telling stories about my younger days. Often the same one repeatedly. I am currently 51 in case you care to put that into perspective.
  • You will not then be surprised to learn that I also enjoy researching my family tree.
  • I am participating in the Quaker Alphabet Project 2014, reflecting on life as a British Quaker in (you’ll never guess) 2014! What – you did guess? Great, I like smart people. They give me hope. Please stay.
  • I knit, so the occasional knitted product is presented to my grateful audience – enjoy!
  • I am teaching myself Old English, what was spoke by the likes of Alfred the Great and the Venerable Bede. Because I can, in case you ask.

So have a look around my other posts and see if you want to be friends. It would be great if you called by more often. Say hello in the comments and tell me a bit about you too.

Namaste.

Grateful

Well, this is certainly a departure. I know, I know. EBL is hardly known for her humility or tendency to appreciate the small kindnesses and glimpses of fragile beauty that surround her. However, as usual, it has been a week of events, and for once I am in the mood for some gratitude.

Yesterday and today, that is to say Stormday and Aftermathday, I travelled up and down and round about Yorkshire by rail. At least, I went to Sheffield and Leeds, which is a reasonable approximation. Naturally as my first two days of travelling since my operation it seemed only sensible to do this at the worst possible time when the national rail network was still reeling form the frankly bracing weather which we have been enjoying recently.

All my trains were on time, except one which was almost 10 minutes late. That was the one from Scotland, so perhaps it can be excused. So I couldn’t complain. Literally, I couldn’t. I felt cheated. The breakfast news team, whom I trust with my life, had lead me to expect more trauma and my loins were seriously girt.

Nevertheless, two days in a row of hurtling in slow motion along railway tracks while it variously blew, buffeted, rained, snowed and shone outside left me a little weary. The irony is that York is not currently flooded, although there may be some minor seepage. However the rest of the country appears to be submerging slowly and gracelessly under the ocean. Honestly, all the movies about Atlantis sinking implied it would happen more quickly and with considerably more men in leather kilts and sandals dashing about. Again, cheated.

Of course I am genuinely grateful not to be flooded. We had that here some years back and it was appalling. However, the English can’t face disaster with anything other than a self-deprecating quip, unless it’s with a broken beer bottle and a Spartan “come on if you think you’re hard enough” face. I find the quip less exhausting, but don’t push me.

By the time I was on the final leg of my journey home tonight I needed to relax a little. I was tense from a tiring couple of days and a distressing work issue. In a moment of weakness I opted for some relaxation music which I keep on my phone for just such an occasion. I played the very nice music and took some deep breaths and stared out of the window at the scenery.

The Derwent has burst its banks along much of the way, and was muddy and bubbly with the effect of fast flowing water charging down to join the Ouse, like a toddler on a sugar rush. It’s a perverse river in that it rises in the Moors, flirts with the coast briefly then heads inland in defiance of riverly custom and best practice. During snow melt and heavy rain it gets deep and fast and strong, and very brown from mud and silt and Moors run-off. Today the brown water and the muddy fields and winter-bare trees combined into a pleasing palate of neutrals set against a pinkish evening sky. It has been observed, I believe by Stephen Fry, but am too lazy to check, that nature is incapable of being ugly. Even in this time of horrible flooding the scenery is beautiful – except for the man-made parts. Nature, I concluded, even in times of flood and fear and raw sewage on your carpet, was awe-ful in the original sense of the word: powerful, frightening and still majestically and cosmically gorgeous. If something is going to destroy your words it is only right that it is epic.

The music played through the head-set like a soundtrack to my own personal movie. It set the scene for some inner dialogue and reflection, and I obliged, trained up by years of film watching and exposure to the tropes and truisms of Hollywood (and more lately Studio Ghibli). The music and the landscape made me feel grateful for being able to live in such a marvellous world. I was seduced into gratitude for not being flooded, for living somewhere so clearly superior to the rest of the planet, for having a safe journey to a warm home and loving partner, for just, well, everything.

I even started a list. I know some of you keep gratitude journals and I’m sure it is a worthwhile thing to do. Whenever I try the list is the same day after day: Sigoth, Offspringses, work colleagues, a job I enjoy nine days out of ten (because there are always some occasions when people are simply disappointing). The list may have the odd additional entry, such as Netflix or tea in bed or whatever ephemera have pleased me that day. Yet the core remains the same, my foundation for living, and I don’t need a journal to remind me of it. I know I’m blessed, even if I sometimes forget for an hour or two. Even if sometimes I get impatient with Sigoth or irritated by a colleague, just as allegedly Sigoth is driven to distraction by my quaint and endearing eccentricities (not nearly as infuriating as his faults of course). In my heart of hearts, I know.

At this point I feel it highly appropriate to refer my honourable friends to the beat poem, Storm, by Tim Minchin. I love Tim Minchin (not in a creepy way). He is a Dawkins kind of a chap, and the poem is a paean to rational and scientific wonder. No hocus pocus, just honest glory in the natural world.

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.

http://www.releaselyrics.com/1187/tim-minchin-storm/

If the very nice relaxing hippy music doesn’t soothe my troubled mind, then a dose of Minchin does.

Meanwhile I’m off to get into pyjamas and shake off this unfamiliar and bizarre gratitude. What is the world coming to? I’ll be turning into a nice little old lady at this rate and I can’t allow that. (Actually there’s no real danger of that happening. Don’t worry.)

Do you have your core list, your foundations, that keep you going through thick and thin? Hold them fast and share them if you will.

Namaste.

 

First World Problems

firstworldproblemI have recently found myself feeling grateful for a number of things, most of which I consider quite basic. I’m not sure what is wrong with me; EBL is not naturally a grateful or sensitive little flower. It must be all this darn meditation I have tried to incorporate into my routines.  When in doubt blame a Buddhist.

The thing is, once I started noticing it, I also started noticing how most of the stress factors in my life were in fact first world problems.

Let’s back up a moment and take it from the beginning.

The gratitude thing began recently when I started thinking how pretty the water was when it sparkled in the shower cubicle’s light. Our shower has a light and extractor fan which we always turn on if it’s too cold to have the window open, to try and prevent condensation. This means on dull, dark, winter mornings the water glitters as it comes out the shower head, and I think it’s shiny, shiny, pretty. Then I think how lucky I am to have access to plenty of good, clean, hot water to use on a daily shower.

So that sets me up for the day noticing things I usually take for granted. As well as clean water for making tea (even more important than showering I would suggest, although colleagues and close personal friends may beg to differ), I have all kinds of miracles at my fingertips. Like fridges – so I get fresh food and keep it fresh. Or safe public transport.

Anyway, you get the idea, I’m sure. Generally I keep thinking how lucky I am to live in a country where I have access to clean water, food and shelter. I admit not all of my fellow countrypersons are as lucky as me, so that just makes me feel even more grateful.

Obviously I don’t spend all day in a self-congratulatory miasma. Rather than feeling smug I decide to take myself down a peg or two by chastising myself for worrying about all my first world problems. In case you haven’t come across the term it refers to those irritations in life which people like to complain about but which actually only reinforce how fortunate they are. For example, worrying about the fact my new mobile phone case clashes with my handbag. Not that it does worry me, in fact, but I imagine some people get upset by such things. I prefer to think of myself as quirky. Plus having a purple phone case and red bag is really sticking it to the Man. Oh yeah!

Here are some of my terrible worries.

  • Logging on to the WiFi in the coffee shop from my phone will subject me to more spam.
  • I need to write a post for my blog or people will think I have died, but I have nothing to write.
  • My nail varnish is chipped. Now I’ll have to spend 10 minutes sorting it out.
  • Tesco appears to have run out of halloumi and have replaced it in the order they have delivered to my door with cheddar.
  • The hotel doesn’t seem to provide BBC4 on its TV. Can’t watch re-run of Borgen.
  • My train was cancelled and I had to run to another platform to get an alternative service, as well as losing my reserved seat.
  • How can I be expected to carry two mobiles about with me; why can’t IT set up bring Your Own device?
  • I have to stream the episode of Borgen I missed instead of downloading it and my broadband is not fast enough.
  • In fact I have to endure rural broadband speeds all the time; Facebook takes actual seconds to load.

It’s all a bit embarrassing when I look at it. Honestly, EBL, get over yourself!

I was just wondering how you all get through your days. Do you ever find yourselves worrying over nothing like this? Or have I just embarrassed myself in front of the whole Interweb? Share your wisdom, people.

Namaste.