House at Pooh Corner

House at Pooh Corner
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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Laugh with me. Cry with me.


"The achievement of bringing someone to tears, is infinitely greater than the achievement of bringing them to laughter"

"We laugh all the time. And easily"

(Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker.[1] He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996)
##############################

Lucky me, I also cry easily.

But I cry easily at stupid stuff.  
Like over sad animal stories. Oh, and at the happy ones too.
Like at the big reveal of those gardening make-over programmes.  
Like National Anthems (everyone's. All of them). 
Like whenever anyone wins anything, or loses.
You can imagine I am a puffy-eyed wreck during the Olympics.

Mr Gladwell is right.  We do seem to laugh all the time.  Although I propose that not all Laughs are equal.

Neither are the Cries.

The Laughs

The most common is the 
Joining In or, I am One of You laughs.
The one you do when you don't really know what you are laughing AT but it feels more comfortable to laugh than not.
It is a shallow laugh.
It is a social nicety laugh.

In that it is a Getting Along laugh, it is a superficial but positive heh-heh-heh.

I am ok with that.



There is the OMG! I can't believe you just said that laugh.
This is accompanied by hands covering eyes or mouth, a *gasp* and some furtive looking around.
You love it, but you hate it.
You are also glad that whatever was just said, was said by someone else.
See, the technicality that YOU were not the purveyor of whatever-was-said, protects you.
You can laugh at this, and not be a complete bitch.


The rarest, most elusive and, most healing laugh is the Belly Laugh.

Now, this one is the one that will clear your soul.

Your entire body and mind surrender to this laugh.  

It purges and drives tension away - that's why often you feel quite weak after a good ol' Belly Laugh.

What makes this special is that only very special people can make you Belly Laugh.

If you have some of those people in your Life, you are blessed.  They are as essential to well-being as a good internet connection and a freezer full of chocolate biscuits.

Crying

As I have mentioned, I do cry fairly easily.
As someone who completed a Pet Bereavement Counselling course in the hope of being able to help clients, I am a big fat #fail.
You see, I am unconvinced that crying along with Crying Clients helps much.

That aside, yes, I well up fairly easily and fairly regularly.
Stuff moves me.
Eyes get watery.
Empathy = welling up

But, what is, thankfully, rare is the Full Sob of Sadness.
These are reserved for those extra-close, extra-special people or real-life sad or bad situations.

It doesn't happen much, I am happy to report.  But I am glad that it does.
It means that I have extra-close, extra-special people in my Life.

And, it occurs to me, as I write, that they are often the same people that Bring on The Belly Laugh.






Friday, 15 August 2014

Look up and love the Clouds

Of Magpies & friendly grass.
Of newspapers, magazines and radio.
Clouds and blue skies.
Wish I could wriggle my toes in all.

Last year it was the trees.
This year, whilst Trees maintained their Significant Significance status, out of nowhere, Grass stepped it up.

Perhaps Grass got wind of Trees' 2013 rave reviews.

Whatever its drive, clearly Grass has a competitive streak.  Its work, this Summer was impressive.

How had I in previous years, failed to acknowledge the deep joy of walking of soft, squeaky (the absence of dust and sand helps) juicy green grass?


The grass where I live is harsh, spiky, pokey, stabby stuff.
And, within it, live ants.
Bad ants.
Walk on this stuff you will find no joy.
Only risk.

The Bad Ants will give you the kind of bite that makes your dog suddenly drop and chew madly at its foot.
When, and it is 'when', not if, it happens, first it will hurt.
And then, it will swell.

If I could chew my foot, I think I almost certainly would.

So, I wriggle my toes, free from threat, in that lovely juicy squeaky clean grass whenever I can.

Also, I shall salute Magpies.


Can't help it. Always have.
I do it without thinking.

See a Magpie. Salute.

In fact, I salute groups of Magpies, which I know isn't, strictly, necessary, but, so far so good, I ain't risking it now.




As well as the United Kingdom's Grass and her black & white birds, I also fell under the spell of her Clouds this Summer.



My FB page is awash with photos of Seagulls (I am partial to a seagull too. Since Roo Time began, without a seagull fix, I haven't had me a British Summer Holiday) ...........................and Clouds.
We just don't get Clouds like it. And I couldn't take my eyes off their cumulonimby glory. (Cloud types)

*************************************

And so, we return to our sandy Home-for-Now.
We have those Happy/Sad feelings that all who have chosen our kind of life have when it comes time to say Goodbye & head home*.

(NOTE the lowercase 'h') See also Being Home

We have much to look forward to but, do me a favour ........
If you live in the UK, or anywhere that has good clouds, be thankful for them.
Look up and love your Clouds.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Fix - of calm, quiet Booky Coffeeness

Scattered around the world are Happy Places.
My Happy Places.

Some, but not all, are bookshops.
My Favourite Bookshop, just FYI, is Waterstones on Piccadilly, but I am blessed to have a 2nd AND a 3rd favourite.

I wish I could say that one of them was an Indie but sadly, no.
If I had regular (read: any) access to an Independent Bookshop though, I have no doubt it would be a contender.

All this aside, yesterday, I got to spend time with #2.

Waterstones (coincidence?), Swansea.

A hidey-hole of calm, quiet and considered bookyness.  It doesn't feel like a place where the primary concern is the rather vulgar financial transaction of selling paper, with words on it.

Here, I sense their desire to share books & to share their treasure box of enjoyment for them.

When you walk in, you feel the diversity of riches, inviting you, welcoming you to immerse yourself.
Here, you will be entertained, educated, amused, informed & enriched.
All you have to do it take your time, and make the leap.

It helps that it is also, beautiful.  The Art Nouveau frontage, the grand sweeping staircase (of this former Carlton Cinema) as you enter is a thing of beaty and, irresistibily, it draws up UP.

UP is where the most delicious coffee is.

UP is where in spite of all muttered good intentions as you ascend those pretty twisty stairs, the first sighting of a homemade Lemon Cake or Victoria Sponge will leave you powerless to resist.
Anything you want, just give the cake.

It is up to you how you want to do this.
For myself, the Optimum Book-Shopping Experience goe thus.
First, we are talking about an ACTUAL physical thing. That's why I am here, and not buying books sitting on the loo, hoping the Wifi stretches this far, with a Kindle. (no disrespect Kindle, but I am sure alot of your transactions happen there.)

Browse the shelves.
Pick up books.
Feel them.
Smell them.
Examine cover.
Red the back
Open, check font, paper and spine.
(Note: A book may be rejected & replaces, at any point, during the above sequence).

There is one final test I carry out before I decide if it is a Yay or a Nay, but it is a secret.
Not secret because it is terribly clever and high-brow, secret 'cos you will think I am ridiculous if I told you.

Once selection(s) is (are) made ........ THEN coffee.

Never coffee first.

Peruse Selections in an increasing caffeinated, cake-fuelled high.
(Note: this part of The Process is academic.  You will be buying all of them.  We know this.)

Gaze out of that beautiful bay window, if you are lucky enough to have scored yourself a seat there.  Look past the anti-pigeon net, feel like an Elizabethan m'lady locked up in an evil Uncle's beautiful house watching the Cheerful & The Free below go about their lives. #princesscomplex?

IN fact, what I can see from my vantage point within this cocoon of dignified, latte-rich serenity are a series of mobile phone repair/unlocking shops, e-ci vendors, bookies (that is book-IES, places not generally know for their excellent espressos, or books) & H. Street Jewellers.

Withdraw back into this other world, just for a little while longer.

Finish your FlatWhite/Cappu/Whatever, it is time now, Sweetheart.
Time to re-enter the world of parking attendants, mega-super-uber stores & pasties shops.

For me, it will be a while till I can get myself back here.  Such trips are always bittersweet.

But, fortified by these few hours, I shall float along buoyed up by today's purchase until I can get me to another of my Happy Booky Happy Places.

Wherever in the world it may be.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Free The Bellies


All this sunshine in the UK will not be without its consequences.


All ye Climate Change Nay Sayers, you need only look around your nearest Tesco's hypermarket, as the mercury starts to creep up and UV levels head past 'Burnt to a Purple Blistered Mess' & towards 'Irreparable Damage' to see that something is about to happen.

And that Something isn't going to be good.
And, it isn't going to be pretty.

'IT' is the sudden, & widespread, divesting of a Nation's clothes.

The Summer Wardrobe can be a wonderful thing. Words like 'wafty', light-coloured, natural fibres, cotton, floaty, cool - these are Summer clothes keywords.

Trust me. Everyone is excited to break out the flipflops.

When I lived in the UK, I had whole host of vests, shorts, sandals and flipflops all just waiting to leap into action when given the nod.
As I recall, they were a patient lot.
They needed to be.
There was a long wait between gigs.  

Sometimes, you make the mistake of bringing them in off the bench too soon, and pay the price in goosebumps.  Hunched up and cranky at how chilly you are, you fantasise about getting home and into those ancient, but best, trackies and slipper socks.  

Sweetie, we have all been there.
About 24degC, that's when you can go Strappy Vest, but still, bring a Cardie, would you?  




Now, as Life can be perverse like that, my Dubai Friends will confirm, we must endure the exact polar (pun intended) opposite of this Seasonal Wardrobe trial.  

Many a cousin of the Vests, the big brothers of Shorts & the Great Uncles and Aunts of Flipflops lurk within the dark, dehumidified recesses of a DXB Expat's wardrobe.

Lurking, waiting.
Quietly chatting amongst themselves.
Perhaps reminiscing of the last time they were all together. An Autumnal trip to the UK. A European city break maybe.  

Yup, we the Expats of Dubai (of my circle anyway) long for the Days of Jeans, Boots and Jumpers.
*gasp* dare I say it?
Gloves, hats & scarves!
(I did it. I dared)  

When living in the UK, the sign that everything might be ok & Winter might actually Bugger off for a bit, were daffodils. One's soul would soar at the sight of their jolly, sunshiny yellow heads.
Spot them and you know you are in the home-stretch.  









For me now, living in Dubai, bored of all that damn blue sky, heat and sunshine, I watch for A Sign too.

26degC.  
That is The Sign.  

As soon as we get to that, BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, the Boots are on. (Granted, I hold back on the Hats & Scarves a while longer).  

Anyway, back to that 'Something' happening in Tesco's, & all around the UK.  

Shirts are off.
Everywhere, they are off.

I think I shall go to a shop. Put my shirt on? 
WHAT?? Are you saying not everyone wants to see the EXACT proportions & vastness of this beer gut? 
That can't be right, I have put alot of time and energy into this. 
If someone should be intimidated and feel the need to move out my way when The Mountain of Beer & Belly should rest against them at, say the Checkout or in front of the Magazines, so much the better.  

So, what I have learnt is this, in the UK, for some people, when the sun shines, shirts are seemingly optional in all manner of public places. Ditto underwear.  

Not to be a fashion fascist but, to my mind if you are going to venture into VestVille, a bra or some alternative support device is a good thing.  
The bra is your friend.
Honey, those things will end up down there soon enough, thanks the Cruel Japes of Time, give the Girls a break and let them have a rest in a hammock, not the trolley handle.  

Also, FYI, I am fairly certain that 'dangling by your elbows' is NOT where a Bra Strap should be optimumly and most usefully located. 
From there, they will find themselves unable to fulfil their raison d'etre.  

Of course, I spend pretty much 10.5 months of a year living in a place where modesty is of significance importance.
Some might say too much. Some might say to its credit.

In honesty, despite my glib observations, I find the diversities of people, people largely just getting on with their lives in the UK, NOT actually worrying about what other people think or judge, hugely refreshing.  

No one gives a toss here what the hell you do or look like & that is a breath of fresh air.

Dubai can be a bit homogenous in some respects.  

So, despite what I have said above .......set those Bellies free & let your taa-taas swing loose and long, if you want to ...........but maybe not at the supermarket?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Daydreaming, of a Holiday before it Happens

Nothing like ramping up the ol' pre-holiday fever, whilst driving along in, close to, 50degC temperatures, staring out at sand, sand, dust & sun.

In this final run-up to our trip, I have been daydreaming about all the things I am looking forward to during our upcoming trip.

It feels like it adds days to our holiday, which is a jolly thing.

I have distilled them down thus:

NOT being in 50degC temperatures & being away from the sand, dust & sun
Just for a bit.
And what is going on with the kabillion% humidity these last few days??!

NOT having to steer with just the tips of my fingers. 
Tough call this, hands welded to a burny, roasting-tin-hot steering wheel OR everyone in here dying in a fiery ball of flames.

Trees
oh, the Trees.
To save me repeating myself, you can see last year's Hug a What Now? post.
"Gorgeous, lush green big OLD trees.  Juicy, rich trees. Rounded, friendly leaves, not spiky, resentful & tense with the effort of staying alive"

 Suffice to say, brace yourselves, Trees.

The chance of some Welly action
Again, things won't have changed since last year's Her Soul Yearns for a Welly
Seriously, Glorious Sunshine can get stuffed, I need me some rain.








Family
Being with Family. The family that have known me since I began. The family with whom the British half of me shares real history.
Family that have stories that I keep meaning to write down so they don't get lost.
Family that I have known since THEY were born.
Family that I sadly, only ever see on these trips, but who are no less important to me because of it.
Nothing lifts the spirits
like crossing the bridge and
finally spotting this sign
(& now, cue panic-scrabbling for the toll fare)


Wales
Yes, Wales.
Wales feels like home in the UK now.
Wales = Family too.
Wales is very special to our family.
Love Wales.



Food
The bread. The chips. The crisps. The bacon, cheese and mushroom pastries.  Basically, the carbs of Britain.


Supermarkets
Even if they flummox me with their ever-changing technology - Self-Service Counters this is the year you will not intimidate me.
Rows and rows of alcohol. Just sitting there. Waiting for me to purchase, no limits, no judgement.

The Colours
The Greens.  The Yellows. The Blues. And, yes, the Grey.

The Driving
So orderly. So well-mannered. Trust me, relatively speaking it IS Orderly & well-mannered.
See you on the M4, Purple-faced Man


The Radio
ahhhhhhhhhhhh, hello again BBC Radio 4 & 5Live. And all you others.
Live, and in context.









The Bookshops
I can and will spend a fortune in bookshops.
Books bring me the Happy. 
And, the anxiety of overweight suitcases.


 


The Coming Back To Your Own Home again
Love that. However, obviously, it is always tinged with some sadness.
But it is a marvellous thing nevertheless.
All your own stuff, your pets, your car, catching up with the Here Friends - that is all worth looking forward to too.

THINGS I AM LESS EXCITED ABOUT
Flying.
Don't love it. Never loved it. Best not dwell on it.
Packing
Packing sucks. There is nothing more to be said on this.
Petrol prices
Boring Dubai expat moan but ...... OUCH. Best not dwell on it.
The Indigestion
(see above, Food) No matter, a fistful of Rennies and I am good to go again.
Those Extra Kilos
Thanks for nothing, British Carbs and my greatest love/foe of all ..... Fish & Chips.
Running out of time 
And not getting to see all the people that I would like to.
Feeling bad that we cannot travel the length & breadth of the country
A common complaint for many of us, I know.
It boils down to this - Try to do it all, ruin what is supposed to be a holiday.
The Leaving Bit
Without a doubt, the very worst bit.
but also (see above, The Coming Back to Your Own Home again)

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Moroccan Bath of 2014


The back-story

"Hey," I said to a Friend, "I found this amazing Spa deal on FB, must be a Ramadan Special. Fancy it?"
She said "Sure".

What happened next, I blame her for entirely.

If only she had said 'Naaaaaaaaaaah."
**************


So, turns out "I too much liking your body" will make you feel really uncomfortable at the start of a Moroccan Bath.

Who knew.

This, from very cheerful but exasperatingly chatty Massage Technician, as she sat, swinging her legs watching me undress.

Lady, this isn't a floor show.

I.
Am.
Paying.
For THIS?



(this will be my sole train of thought for the next 40 minutes, though it will feel like 40 days).

From hereonin it will become increasingly, & horribly, obvious that I am very actually going to hate this.


One doesn't wish to come across prudish (perhaps, in that case, One should avoid using words like 'One')

or

a Princess (I am aware that this falls smack-bang in the #FirstWorldPains category of woes) but, seriously?




No private dis-robing area?
No robe or towel at all, for that matter?
Not even freaking leaving the room to give me a moment and the chance for a few deep breaths?!

You are just going to sit there, swinging your legs, head cocked to one side cheerfully, & copiously sharing with me your every, no-holds barred observations as 'stuff' is eyes-firmly-fixed-to-a-point-on-the-wall, agonisingly 'revealed'.

I am a British AND Chinese. Historically, neither of my people are known for their exhibitionism & 'grooviness with nudey bodies' culture.  #tooBritishforthis, also #tooChinesetoo

Why didn't I stop?  For the same above reason.  Neither of my people like to 'make a fuss'.

I will not go into the sweaty, scrapy nuts & bolts of it - if you have had a Moroccan Bath, you will know what has been endured.
We will look into each other's eyes and we will see the knowingness reflected back.  We will know the places we have been taken to.


I.

Am.
Paying.
For THIS?


I have since learned I know many who have trodden the same Ouchy, Red Raw Path of Humiliation but no one brings it up.
Seems people, non-Moroccan People maybe? only ever have ONE Moroccan Bath.

Dear Lord, Moroccan People, what is up with your baths?????!!!!!



Me, I like a soaky, drifty-away, relaxing bath, ideally with a book.










If I am screwing up my face, making noises like "oooof!" and "YEOW!" it would be fair to assume:
a) I am not relaxed &
b) I am not having a nice time.





I.

Am.
Paying.
For THIS?


Yes, my skin was super-soft afterwards but, jeeez, the return of soft-skin was not enough.
Turn back the clock about 25 years and we might be on to something here.
If the experience could do that, you might see me back but no, I am done.


Final Thoughts
Apart from the Too-much naked, Sandpapery nightmare, the other Low was the 'sitting perched on the edge of an empty bath for the steam' part of it all.

First, nothing happened. Just me, naked as the day I was born, sitting. Perched.
No steam.
Only self-consciousness.

Then, from the depths of somewhere, cappuccino-like burbles began and steam began to percolate out of the nozzles around me.  The glass doors were shut, I was sealed in.

Time might have passed easier had I been able to read but, steam, sweat and paper are not friends.

I could see my magazine, through the steamed up glass doors, sitting there in the little shelf.  Just out of reach. Mocking me. Taunting me.

So near. So far.

My magazine and, my pants.

I.
PAID.
For that?

Monday, 30 June 2014

My Dream Life

"Most people over the age of 10 have 4 to 6 dreams every night ......... which can range anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour long."



We accept that a mere fraction of the Dreams dreamt will be remembered.
And, we must ALL have experienced that Dream You Absolutely Will Remember and Must Share, only to find within 20 minutes of waking up you can recall none of it.

But here's what else I have noticed.

Some people DO dream fantastical, adventurous Flying, Doing Battle with Dragons, Winning Olympic medal, prophetic dreams.

Except me.
Fancy a bit of drama?
My dreams are so mundane.

My dreams are about my regular life.
I dream about work, about stuff I do every day, about people I see everyday.  

I dream about going to the petrol station, answering the phone and feeding the dogs, for crying out loud!

I don't dream about teeth falling out, going to work naked or flying, as is
commonly reported.


Not infrequently, I have had dreams so realistic & bog-standard that I have awoken NOT refreshed, mentally rested and fighting fit for the day but, knackered & worn out like I have already done a whole day already.

Groundhog Day without even a sleep-break.


That doesn't feel very fair.







Surely Dream Time is your chance to go on an adventure, a safe adventure?


Here is your chance to turn away from a Life where the extent of your dilemmas are choosing a box of mushrooms that looks nicer than the other boxes of mushrooms or, which carb to have with your dinner tonight.

Hardly Soloman's Choice. Right?

That's the kind of drama I am up for.


But, no.

Should not Dreams be a time to have a play at a 2nd Life?



So, this leads me to draw one of 2 conclusions:

A) I have no imagination & I need to try harder & get a bit more dangerous


OR

B) My Real Life is already my Dream Life (a simultaneously depressing and pleasing concept)

Recurring Dreams
I DO have those.

And, have had one, in particular, my entire life.

A little guy, watching me.  I only ever see his eyes though post-box slits, out of rubbish bins, over window sills.
Just his eyes.
Makes me shudder a bit just thinking about him.
He has appeared in all scenarios, all stages and in all the countries of my Life.
Just peeking.
The eyes.

Only eyes.

What's THAT about?
Am I outing myself as having some deep inner psychological issue?
Find that hard to believe, after all I am living my Dream Life, innit?



Further Dream Questions I have:

Do you dream in Black & White or Colour?
For those of you who are bi-lingual, which language do you dream in?

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