Throwing down the wordy gauntlet

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A good friend and I worked together for a while and like many folk devised several methods for getting through that devised employee punishment: the team meeting. One of my personal favourites was buzzword bingo with the added frisson of having to interject the word ‘bingo’ into the meeting on hearing an agreed buzzword on three occasions. Retaining a veneer of calm professionalism: essential. Not making eye contact with said friend: P45-avoidance essential.

Occasionally we would pick random words to use in the meeting too. Ideally those words had to make vague sense, so adding ‘blancmange’ to a statement only really worked if you were discussing actual blancmange or exclaiming enthusiastically, “I say team mates, I do hope there isn’t blancmange on the pudding menu when we’re staying overnight in the TravelStop in Hathersedge. One does so detest blancmange.” I loved that game and when I’m having a wild and adventurous day (they happen!) I find it fun, educational and irritating on those days when being irritating is really enjoyable.

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Please enjoy using the following when emailing complaints to your chosen energy supplier, speaking to the space invader on the seat next to you, participating in team meetings, looking at objects in a gallery or museum, buying a new bra or just because you can. I can’t promise a prize for the most imaginative use of the word but the praise of the other two readers of knowingmoreorless will be prize enough. Now move away from the balustrade, remove your gaze from the slovenly street scene below and take those manacles off the shelf…

Contemporaneously Slovenly Balustrade Superfluous Manacles

 

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Settling, carpe-ing or striking

 

A settling down sarnie with carpe-ing and striking filling

A settling down sarnie with carpe-ing and striking filling

Do people still talk about settling down? ‘Nice to see you settling down at last’ was one of the most insulting statements I was ever offered, about 30+ years ago. So I was in my twenties… The implication of a rabble rousing youth I now see as a glorious suggestion, but sadly it was not true. How exactly does one settle down? Is it the alternative to carpe diem, plucking the day and all that goes with it? Is settling down the bread in the carpe diem sandwich? Pluck the lifestyle, live the lifestyle, start plucking all over again when the tedium of settling down suddenly hits. But perhaps settling down needs a whole lot of carpe-ing just to manage the actual settling, and all that might go with the features of settling – perhaps a partner, somewhere to live – the costs of which allow you and said partner to eat regularly way and see each other in between the hours of work that have expanded exponentially to enable the eating… I digress.

Is settling down an actual thing in the 21st century or is it something that has connotations of dullness? We settle for things rather than meeting those challenges head on (another exhausting concept), if we’re not carpe-ing we’re not really living, and don’t get me started on striking while the iron is hot. My theory is that settling down is incorrectly tagged with resignation and complacency labels.  But I think those labels are just plain wrong.

Maybe settling down has more to do with arriving at a degree of happiness with life, having discovered along the way (while doing all that carpe-ing and striking perhaps) that happiness tends to arrive unannounced in and amongst the muddle and mess of daily life.

I don’t iron, my plucking days are fewer and further between so I think it’s quite possible that this is me settling down.

 

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Brief encounters of the reflective kind

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ife offers many treats and one of my favourite is lone travel. It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling with friends and loved ones but am I the only one that finds other people’s travel tics stress-inducing? Not all my friends or loved ones have these travel tics. I say this to put friends and loved ones’ minds at ease, or to get you to really think about the obsessive planning, that pocket patting panic at passport control or the repetitive questioning about arrangements on arrival… just saying!

Anyway I like to take myself off on teeny and mild mannered adventures these days. I’ve braved longer journeys to distant lands which I’ve enjoyed but my increasing fear of flying means that for me land-based travel is definitely the thing. I’m still of the mind that there is a romanticism to train travel, particularly overnight trains of which there are very few left in the UK. Memories of night time train trips from Umtali to Salisbury, probably a bit pink and fuzzy these days, got me thinking that an overnight train to the Highlands would be just the thing.strangers

But while I may write a slightly snarky blog about my Caledonian Sleeper experience later … this is about the people along the way. Lone travel, whether it’s an epic journey or a short trip, offers every sort of possibility for personal reinvention. When I meet a stranger will I be me? Or will I adopt an air of mystery, become the Clint Eastwood Pale Rider character passing through and saving the town on the way? The latter alternative seems like quite hard work for a woman who barely manages to hoist her own backpack onto her back, never mind the quandary of how many pairs of knickers to pack. So let’s be me then. I often rather like me so strangers might too. But the great thing is you don’t meet them for long enough that it matters, and if you really bond you can terrify them by asking for email or FB details to stalk them sometime into the future.

I made the definite decision to start conversations with everyone I liked the look of. The result: Japanese B&B owner in Stratford and I chatted about things to see in Osaka; a rather attractive young man and I conversed about gin; a mum and her teenage daughter and I chatted about Connor McCarthy’s (agreed) best book ever, All the Pretty Horses; I attempted to explain the concept of public ownership of the rail service to an American mum, teenage son and her mum; the elderly waitress in Fawlty Towers Mark II and I described the finer points of white pudding to an English woman; I discussed the merits of chips with the teenage waiter in the (amazing) fish and chip restaurant in Golspie; I had a brilliant chat with the woman who owns the flower shop in Tain (go, it’s great!) and discovered that when she was a teen she bought all her records in my family record shop in Rutherglen; the kindle vs tangible books debate with the mum of an exhausting toddler; the young woman behind the bar in an Inverness pub and I agreed that soup was the ultimate food; B&B owner in Inverness and I discussed the problems of varifocals and had a moment of hilarity when we realised we each had a pair of specis on our heads and another tucked into our cleavage – oh, what larks!

My strategy of talking to folk paid off and it made my trip all the better. Just don’t get me started on the people with whom I avoided eye contact…

Booked but elsewhere

Booked but elsewhere

 

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Only the tenacious need watch

By 21st century entertainment standards I am a failure. While I fully get the concept of the boxed set, whether in the solid format with illegible print that takes up space in boxes and clutters surfaces around the blu-ray player when the cobwebs are (not metaphorically) blown away, or accessible via the webby waves that permeate everything, I rarely get beyond series one; series one of anything that was produced post-2002*.

The Sopranos = series one and a couple of episodes from series two. Breaking Bad = nada. Mad Men = nil. The Good Wife = a few episodes. The Wire = also nil, though I had every intention of watching but realised I probably didn’t need to because everyone just assumed I had and it was easier to nod and smile knowingly at rehashings of the ‘good bits’. The list of series I haven’t watched in ubiquitous boxed set format is getting really, really long and will only get longer when at the third episode of series one I am gleefully informed that the second series is to be released in about five minutes. By then of course we really know that nothing, and I do mean nothing, will stop series three, four, five…. and I just can’t be bothered. I usually enjoy series one and maybe a little bit of me worries that a follow on series will disappoint.

No, that’s not it. The real issue is tenacity. I have none where extended viewing is concerned and in fact recently realised that I am happier watching re-runs of things that I either enjoyed a great deal or didn’t hate. This approach offers me the freedom of not paying attention, helping me to develop my multi-tasking approach to leisure – enabling me to read my book, crochet Hello Kitty characters, daydream, talk at loved ones. My ‘able to do while not really watching something’ list is consolingly long.

A Scottish bodice ripper has recently caught my attention and I’ve happily watched kilted antics for hours at a time. But series two has been announced which has made me remember that there are several ancient boxed sets in a crate under a bed that could do with meeting a feather duster sometime soon.

*please note the use of ‘rarely’. I admit to watching, indeed owning, all of Game of Thrones but only after it has come off the channel that I will not pay for or indeed advertise to the three people who might read this. My excuses for omitting this fact are three fold: 1. I was addicted to the books – and wish Georgie boy would get on and get the next written (my enjoyment of medieval machinations and warfare knows no tasteful bounds); 2. Sean Bean, Ian Glen; 3. This blog wouldn’t have worked without that teeny caveat, if in fact it works at all.  

Good old reliable Alec

Good old reliable Alec

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Downhill SKIing

It wasn’t meant to be like this. I wanted it and nagged damned hard for it, but it hasn’t quite worked out as hoped. Spending the Kids’ Inheritance while downsizing big time to a new home was my next big adventure; I would learn the meaning of the word ‘fun’, buy pretty things, book exotic trips and flit in and out of the new abode charming work folk with my easy, sunny manner. I was going to be in my organisational element, smiling gently as visitors gasped in delight at my wondrous new home, and muttered jealously as I told them of my impending travels…

To blow my own trumpet I’m a mighty fine project manager. I’m great at working out the critical path in most situations, and I also pride myself on having a firm grasp on the realities of contingency planning. ‘What if?’is my mantra and I have happily spouted it during training sessions and life situations until I (and I know this is true folks!) became Mrs Bleeding Annoying.

So what if completion on the flat is delayed? What if the delay means having to stay in a hotel a bit longer? What if the work on the bathroom is more extensive than originally known (of course it is I hear you cry!)? What if my bathroom boys vacate and move to another job, leaving me sans toilet and a bath parked in the kitchen directly in front of the only functioning tap? What if the flooring fellows are more elusive than a size 14 short sleeved navy blue polo neck top from M&S (I have one, it’s lovely. I wanted another one. M&S doesn’t think I should have one unless I drop at least three sizes)? What if we have to move from one aparthotel site to another a mile or so down the road? What if new room is situated on a main arterial road and the term ‘triple glazing’ was an unknown to the builder? What if the gear box seizes up on the way to an evening of escape, approximately ten miles from the hell hotel? What if I have to manage a change of accommodation, shout at the flooring fellows’ boss, organise a skip (if the one that’s supposed to arrive doesn’t, and trust me it won’t), re-jig my project plan to allow for the fifth version of my critical path, on less than an hour’s sleep?

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‘What if?’ has been replaced with ‘why can’t?’ Explanations are thin on the ground, and the lack of imaginative response makes me worried for the future of civilisation. I have morphed from Mrs Bleeding Annoying to Mrs Effing Furious. And neither persona works. My jaw aches and stomach churns, and if I ever had charm in my armoury it has gone rusty and all I’m left with is sarkiness. Every day since 20 August, yes I can name the day, there has been an element of bad news. There has been the occasional glimmer of fun and joy; mainly through the purchase of bath mats, strangely. And I go to the cinema a lot. But even that hasn’t been without its issues. Sigh.

But what if it all changes? What if bathroom boys and flooring fellows flood my new home with dust and endeavour? What if I get a good night’s sleep tonight? What if Liam Neeson just said ‘no’? What if M&S produce more size 14s? What if there are no delays, again, ever? What if those pigs stop flying?

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