Chutney Molly

I’ve always wanted to be a capable, organised cook. One of those deft fingered, sure footed women (sorry guys, but this is about me) with strong hands, that know where everything is in their kitchen, and exactly what they are doing. The cakes that rise every time, the crackle crusted breads from silken doughs, the glossy stews. My Nan was like that, and I cannot recall anything that she cooked going wrong. She would criticize it, almost as a reflex, because that was her all over, but everyone else loved whatever she made.

The difference in watching my mum cook, and my Nan, was that my Mum enjoys it. She enjoys food, and combining flavours, trying different things, talking about what goes well with what, and discussing what she’s cooked with other people. Nan always seemed to maybe not dislike cooking, but she didn’t revel in it, not like Mum and I can, and do.

Perhaps, for her, it really was just a chore, but one that she happened to be very good at indeed. Her chutneys and jams were things of legend in their Norfolk village, and she made so much every year that she could have had a cottage industry going if she’d ever thought to charge. As it was she just cooked mountains of chutneys, her kitchen piled high with garden produce. Always a harsh sting in the air from the white and spring onions, heaps of de-strung and sliced runner beans awaiting a mustard sauce, wooden chopping boards stained puce from fresh beetroot. She  gave most of those mountains away.

She had cooked for as long as I could remember. My first knowledge of her girlhood were the tales of her in the Land Army. Hoping to be sent away to somewhere she’d never been, but instead sent to a farm owned by a relative in Thundersley, Essex, was a bit of a blow but she coped, and coped admirably.

She was so small, and slight – “I had a 21 inch waist back then!” – that she could lie down in between the rows of cabbages in the fields when German planes went over, shielded by the dark, voluminous leaves. I can only imagine how terrifying that was as machine guns strafed the fields.

There was the time she had to ‘take the cow to the bull’, which she thought was just a “take that cow there, to stand outside that bull enclosure” instruction. She didn’t realise she had to put the cow IN with the bull, as she wasn’t aware of the purpose of that particular bovine visitation. The farm hands found her an hour later, still stood there, wondering what was meant to happen, with a particularly cross bull glaring at her from behind his fence.

The bull seemed to take a dislike to her after that, charging at her on one occasion and pinning her to the fence, each of his horns either side of her waist embedded in the wood. She wriggled free.

Another time he chased her across a field into a barn, where all she could do was flee up a great pile of chaff which, of course, just kept giving way beneath her. She was, essentially, running on the spot halfway up, while the bull stamped and snorted at the bottom, foaming at the mouth. The farm hands rescued her, once they’d stopped laughing.

Poor Molly Kathleen.

Life never ran smoothly for her. There were Things we never spoke of, which had made her very wary, and almost scared – certainly highly suspicious –  of any man that wasn’t my grandfather, whom she nagged to death. Sadly, that was literally. His last words to her were “For once in your life, Molly Crowe, will you shut up and listen!?”

Life probably could have been good to her, had she not seemed to always tread the path of most resistance. In a way I do wish that I could have made her journey easier, but she withstood even me, her only grandchild, becoming by the end a paranoid and bitter woman, insisting that we only wanted her for her money, which could not have been further from the truth.

Our last conversation, after my cards and letters were sent back torn up,  was her telling me that I was dead to her, because I’d taken the ‘side’ of my mum and my step dad (over some made up row that nobody but she could actually recall), and me telling her that if that was what she needed to do to feel safe, then so be it, but that I still loved her.

That was that. All contact severed, never to be heard from again. I tried a few times, but there’s only so much hurt you can take before you painfully realise that it’s actually a relief not to walk on eggshells, or jump when the phone rings any more.

Molly Kathleen Crowe, you may not have given me your love, at the end, but you did give me your skill, your curly hair, your siege mentality when it comes to the kitchen store cupboards, and two chutney recipes. (in her words, below)

Beetroot, Apple and Onion Chutney
(Nan’s Recipe)

1lb cooked and peeled beetroot, cold (about 1 cm square)
1lb (after peeling and coring) cooking apples
½ lb onions
½ lb soft brown sugar
¼ pint malt vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Chop apples and onions quite small (1 cm square) and put into a pan with the vinegar and sugar. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is quite dissolved then simmer gently until thick and soft. Season and remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then add the chopped beetroot and stir really well. Put into sterilised jars, cover with jam pot covers and secure tightly when cool. Try to use plastic lined lids as the vinegar reacts with the metal ones and can cause the chutney to taste awful. (This in a cheese sandwich is pure, sweet, tangy heaven ~ Lisa)

Autumn apple

Apple Chutney
(Nan’s Recipe)

2lb (after peeling and coring) of cooking apples
1lb onions
12 oz soft brown sugar
2-4 oz sultanas
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ pint malt vinegar

Chop apples and onions fairly small. Place onions in a pan with a little vinegar and simmer until soft then add the apples, dried fruit, spices and sugar. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved and then add the rest of the vinegar and cook until soft and thick. If you divide the mixture with a wooden spoon and the divide remains then it is done. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
Place in warm sterilised jars and cover with waxed pot covers when cool. Use plastic lined lids as vinegar attacks metals ones and spoils the flavour.

Green Tomato Chutney

But what about meeeee?

I absolutely understand the need for inclusivity. Deliberately excluding people on grounds of race or gender or sexuality or position in society or status is needless.

Being mean to people is bad, m’kay?

We are all agreed on that, yes? Good. Right then.

Twice a year we have Days for certain people. Mums and Dads. It doesn’t say what kind of dad, or what kind of mum, or how they became their version of that, it is just a day upon which to make a fuss of them and do nice things should you so choose.

Today, Mothering Sunday in the UK, a lovely place offered free little cakes for all mums going in to their shop. It’s a small business, not a chain. I expect they know most of their clients by name, given how warm and friendly they are. They posted a photo of said lovely cakes on instagram.

Oh dear.

I expect you can guess what happened next.

“What?! For moms? So those of us without children left out further? I really hope you plan on giving EVERY woman who eats with you today one of these.”

 Aside from the fact that I’m not sure how you would tell a person wasn’t a mother, as they didn’t specify you had to be accompanied by your offspring, I find that a little much. Plus a small business giving away a product free to everyone might not be economically viable for them. Everything is made by hand, so perhaps extra hours would need to be factored in to the work day.

I realise it can be extremely hard for people who do not have kids, and desperately want them, but offering a small cake on a given day is not a slight against you. It really isn’t, and you know why? Because this is NOT ABOUT YOU. It is not your day, and I am sorry for that, and sorry that it hurts you that it can’t be your day, but it is what it is. That doesn’t excuse your being mean to nice people.

There is a difference between a deliberate exclusion and a very kind gesture on a specific day.

However, the lovely shop very graciously said

“Every single person that comes today! We are all mamas here today”

Now, I’m not sure that was their original intention, but bravo them for saying it. Many of us are without our Mothers today. Some through distance, some through bereavement or estrangement. Many, many more of us are not mothers, and never will be. This does not give us the right to demand things that, technically, aren’t our due. Though we can ask nicely.

As a wise person said “Positivity and kindness? Uhhuh. I don’t have kids. But I don’t feel any need to muscle in on a day celebrating mothers or a sweet kind gesture such as the offer to give a little cake away for the occasion.”

The original poster came back and said she’d just asked a polite question, but it really wasn’t polite at all. Certainly not in the way it was written. A simple “What about us non Mums? We can has cake too?” with a smiley face would have been better. But this was guilt tripping for a kind gesture and I hate that.

Your personal pain does not give you the right to throw sand in people’s faces when they make a kind gesture. And yes, people will – and should – call you on your bullshit.

As another wise person said (I know a LOT of wise people) ‘Not everything’s for everyone.’

Suck it up.

Make a call when it’s something that is a real injustice, not this faux Twitter Outrage that seems so prevalent now.

Have a read of this, see how ridiculous you sound, and recognise that you cannot have everything all of the time.

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/magazine/news/20-astonishing-holiday-complaints-thomas-cook-abta

Wellbeing: mine, or yours?

“Health and wellbeing” seems to be the new favourite phrase. It’s being bandied about at my workplace, and whilst I am sure it comes from a good place, people do need to get a grip on what it means, not just generally, but individually.

It may come as a surprise to many, but thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy, and fat doesn’t automatically equal UNhealthy.

I know. Shocker, right? Who knew that a thin person could have chronic heart disease? Or that a fat person could have great blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

Or…what else? Oh yes. Did you know that both fat and thin people get the same illnesses? Yes, really. But did you also know that if I get an illness, I will get told to lose weight to cure it, and maybe given medicine but that when a thin person gets the same illness they will (mostly) be given a treatment without the body advice?

Appearance based healthcare should not be a thing. Actual medical evidence based healthcare should be a thing. The only thing you can really tell from what a person looks like is what they look like. (Apart from the obvious physical things like rickets, or decapitation, let’s not be silly about this.)

This week we had a Know Your Numbers session at work. What those numbers in relation to blood pressure, blood glucose levels etc., really mean.

Hurrah! says I. Useful stuff at last! and then I spied the devil in the detail. Those 3 letters that spell doom, gloom and lectures for most people who are not olympic athletes or star rugby players.

B M I

There were tape measures on all the tables, and little charts to help you work out your BMI. My heart sank.

Mostly it was ok. The Dr was an interesting speaker, and did a good job of explaining what most ‘normal’ numbers should be. BMI = 25, blood sugar = 5/6 and blood pressure more than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80). He did also say that BMI is of no real use. But then said it was a good measuring tool, which confused me.

I do not drink. I do not smoke. I rarely eat white bread, or pasta, or huge amounts of carbs. Junk food isn’t a thing in my house, and processed meals don’t really feature at all unless I have really run out of time and energy. I do not eat crisps, or even the latest ‘healthy’ snack, popcorn.

I follow, mostly, the Mediterranean diet because it’s what I love, it’s what I’m used to and who doesn’t love a good olive? (It’s ok, I know lots of people who do not.)

I decided to play with the blood pressure machine that the Dr had brought along, rather stupidly forgetting for a moment that I was going through two of the most stressful, upsetting, grief inducing weeks of my life, the culmination of which was going to be the next day, and which had a high probability of having a very bad, life altering outcome. Plus three people were crowded round staring at me while the machine was working.

I think my numbers were 142 over 91, then 140 over 90 the second time a couple of minutes later.

“That’s high blood pressure, you should get to your GP and get on statins. “

“But it’s never read like that before, it’s consistently within normal range whenever my GP checks it.”

“Well that’s just the numbers, that’s what it is.”

“So why, whenever I had had it checked, in all my 45 years, has it always been good? Even after a bike crash, it was perfect? Surely my GP would have said something?”

“Well, it’s just the numbers, go to your GP asap or get a blood pressure machine to use at home and keep an eye on it.”

But you know, it wasn’t his words. It was the look on his face. I know that look, I’ve seen it countless times over the years. It’s a slightly indulgent smile, and an expression that says

“Of course you’ve got high blood pressure, you’re fat.”

It doesn’t matter what I say, or how well I document what I eat, it’s never quite believed, because my appearance shouts the contrary, according to society. In fact one of my friends who kept a food diary, showing exactly how little she ate – and I know how she eats, she lived with me and was UNABLE to get to the shops herself to buy anything other than what was in the house – was told OUTRIGHT she was a liar.

The most stupid thing, the thing that I am angry with myself about, is that he actually managed to scare me, so I bought a portable blood pressure unit, and used it today. I could feel my heart racing as I put on the cuff, and of course…my BP was higher than when HE tested it, so has he now put so much fear in me that I’ll skew the result each time? Have I given myself some sort of white coat syndrome so that my adrenaline spikes at the very thought of the machine?

I feel fine, I eat well in a way that I know is good for me – the way my very first GP told me to eat when I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 16 – I try and walk as much as I can in the time I have each day, I try to not sit for too long at work, which is hard when you’re a PA whose job is mainly email and computer based, and I’m trying to lose weight for my own peace of mind but this whole thing has made me feel very scared, and about to run to my GP for statins.

This is not how properly done healthcare should make you feel. Whose wellbeing are they looking after, really, when one 10 minute meeting can leave a person upset and scared for days and spending money that they probably didn’t need to.

But, as ever…

G-PutOnBigGrlPanties

This courgette* has no morals!

*zucchini

I just read this rather excellent piece by Eva Wiseman.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/21/when-did-food-get-so-scary?

I have to say, I agree with pretty much all of it. It’s nothing that hasn’t been said recently, but it absolutely bears repeating, often. Gizzi Erskine came out against the clean eating fad a while back, expressing concerns – rightly so – about the negative effect the Cult of Clean has on people’s attitudes to food and body size, not to mention the moralisation of foods. Clean foods, dirty foods et al. They’re just FOOD, not a bible class.

A marvellous rant on Twitter by Poots attracted the interest of Jay Rayner and Tim Hayward, thereby ensuring that it went viral. People said “Oh but it’s been said before.” and yes, it has but it needs to be heard again and again.

The demonisation of sugar, of gluten, of dairy – yes Lorraine Pascale I’m looking askance at you and your proclaimed avoidance which is rich for someone whose shows about baking made you famous – has people who aren’t food aware running in ever decreasing circles as they cut out one thing after another. (There’s also something very uncomfortable for me about people who have access to huge amounts of food cutting out whole swathes of it needlessly when some people have access to almost none.)

STOP IT. YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO THAT. (disclaimer: if you have an actual allergy, or an actual intolerance, then of course, you need to do that. This isn’t about you.)

People like Ella write as though all their readers suffer from a food allergy/food related illness. Most people don’t, so stop making people eat like they do. Her own illness getting better by changing her diet is a good thing for her. However, that doesn’t automatically mean she has authority or the knowledge to teach others how to eat. What works for her may not work for others. Hooray for her, she’s healthy again, but health and diet are so subjective that any attempt to blanket diagnose is sheer idiocy. I feel better in myself when I don’t eat white bread or white pasta, but that’s personal to me, and I’m not going to push that on anyone else, because nobody else has my genetics, body or physical make up. If my friend Pete ate my diet – fibre rich – it would, quite literally, kill him.

Gluten is only bad for those people who are allergic, intolerant to it or are Coeliac. Coeliac disease isn’t an allergy or an intolerance, it is actually an auto-immune condition but gluten can make it a life-threatening illness.

If you aren’t one of those people, then yay you! Go eat a bacon sandwich, hoist high a baguette, chew on a croissant and celebrate your freedom. Please do not say things like “I ate a whole baguette and then I was bloated! I must be allergic!” because that’s daft. You aren’t, you just ate A WHOLE BAGUETTE.

If you have a real allergy, you will absolutely know about it. Feeling full and a bit uncomfortable after eating too much bread or pasta doesn’t count. Go take a TUMS, and have a lie down.

I could bang on about this kind of thing for ages, but my opinion doesn’t count. No, really, it doesn’t.

Why?

Because I don’t look like this.

ella

I look like this:

DCP01236

and an overweight person’s views on proper healthy eating are never going to be taken seriously because the underlying response, though never spoken out loud unless that person is particularly asinine, will always be “But you’re fat, so surely you can’t be healthy.”

Never mind the facts, which are that my blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall health is excellent despite having a chronic illness, let’s just look at shape.

I come from a long line of round and fluffy people. I am never going to not be round and fluffy. I am totally fine with that. The only thing you can tell from my body size, is what I look like.

As for my diet, I know what to eat – FOR ME. Same as Ella knows what to eat FOR HER. Most people know and will admit if pressed that crisps and highly processed snack foods are treats, not staples. At least, I hope they do. Pringles aren’t one of the four main food groups, Twinkies aren’t even a food.

I know how my body works, and how it reacts to foods. I am acutely aware of those things. I certainly do not need some trust fund baby pushing squidged dates and chia seeds at me in order to make me into some semblance of what society deems normal just because it made her feel better. Nor will I benefit from reading books or instagram feeds about glowing, unless they are written by people with actual, bonafide certifications (get in the sea McKeith), medical training and years of experience.

I will also add that if you are a convert to the school of GAPS diets, take yourself away from me now. Far, far away. http://angry-chef.com/blog/want-to-see-something-really-scary

I wonder if what this fervour for eliminating everything we enjoy, what it all boils down to, right at the end, tucked away and going unacknowledged in that hidden room that nobody talks about, is the totally illogical quest for eternal life. Or at least the prolonging of this one. Putting off the swish of the scythe for as long as possible, by dint of quinoa and brain dust.

Well my lovelies, it isn’t going to work.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that the Man in Black will turn up as and when he will.

If only it was the skeleton in a robe riding Binky, who loves cats and music with rocks in, coming to take us to the afterlife we think we deserve, but it isn’t.

It’s stealthy, and sneaky, and mostly grabs you when you aren’t expecting it, no matter how much kale you eat.

So eat your greens, enjoy your cakes, have that bit of sugar every so often if you want, tootle about in the fresh air when you can, glory in the seconds as they pass – and do your best not to fall off a mountain because you don’t want your last words to be remembered as “Oh bugger.”

Prosper

Wednesday’s Child

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace;
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go;
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I’m not a person to believe in things such as the above verse, but many people do. Then again, many people think the Daily Mail tells the truth, Bella magazine depicts the real world, olive oil is bad for you and that the Tories are here to help the country, so there we go.

I was born on a Wednesday. Whether by accident of birth, accumulation of experience or sheer bloody mindedness, I am a cheerful soul. I excel at cheerful. So that full of woe thing doesn’t apply. I try to see the joy in all the things, from big to tiny. Ok, I’m having a crap day physically, but oh! Look! A robin! Or a pretty flower, or the sky on fire at sunset. I still love crossing the river on the train, and press my nose to the window to see it better.

This does not mean that I am the kind of person who will say to a depressed friend “Come on, cheer up, could be worse! Pull yourself together.” because I’m also someone who tries very hard not to be a dick. I might say that to myself, when I become aware that I am wallowing in whatever negative emotion has hit me, but not to others.

I am, for my sins, an empath. Not in the  Anne McCaffrey Talents sense, because that would be a truly unwearable burden – although there have been spooky happenings throughout my life – but in the way of being able to put myself in someone else’s place. Perhaps because my imagination is very good, so it doesn’t take much for me to ‘feel’ what someone else is feeling. On occasion that has become an almost overwhelming gift, and I have had to remove myself from some people, and situations, but mostly it helps me to be a good friend. I hope.

I have an eminently practical side, and that practicality will switch on with a second’s notice. I remember, years ago, being utterly distraught at a situation, so much so that |I was panicking, in tears and preparing to leave a venue even though I had nowhere to go and was in a place that I had never been to before, when another guest had a crisis.

My partner at the time said afterwards that it was like watching a light flick on. My emotions got buried, while I sorted her out, organised transport and directed other people in what they should do. Apparently it was quite impressive.

That’s me, that’s what I do. I suspect that’s why I am in the profession I am – PA/Administrator – because there’s always someone who needs help, be it sorting out last minute travel at work, or rushing to the aid of a bike crash victim on the way to the office.

The empath side of things can prove problematic, too. I take too much to heart, get overwhelmed by it too easily, so I tend to build up a few walls. Some people say it’s building an echo chamber on social media, but that’s the way it has to be if I am to retain my grip on my own sanity. I lost that once, and I am never, ever losing it again. When you’ve been through a stage of finding the front of an oncoming train a comforting bringer of oblivion, you learn to recognise the signs. (If you ever moan at me about a person under a train at rush hour, it will not go well for you, as someone at work found out.)

I am full of friendly enthusiasm, and curiosity. Nobody is too much trouble to talk to, there’s always something of interest about other people, something to be learnt from them and their stories, though I do have to stop myself getting too involved at times, and taking on their emotions before I can get a wall up. I freely admit there are energy vampires out there, interested only in telling you all about themselves, never actually having a give and take conversation. I have learned to avoid those kinds.

I recall my husband asking me once “How do you DO that?” when I’d had an animated conversation with the cashier at Tesco and found out all about her in under 5 minutes. I just like people! I take after my mother, I have her temperament, her kindness, and have inherited the gap in her front teeth.

IMG_6068

I do not like sheeple, as I agree with Terry Pratchett in that ‘The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.’ and I have an unwillingness to follow a trend. I’ll come to it in my own time,  not just because everyone else is reading/watching/listening to whatever it is. It was 5 years after the first book was published before I read Harry Potter.

Bloodyminded. See? Told you.

Over the years, I have found myself out to be mostly a forgiving sort. If you have hurt me, then I’ll deal with that as it comes, and sort out how to react to you as we go along, but if you hurt someone I love, you do not get a second chance. You will not regain my trust, you will not be a part of my life again if I can help it. It’s not quite grudge bearing, but you will never be in a position to hurt that person again, because I will be in between you and them.

A Hell’s Angel went to hit my husband once, in a club in Essex. Neither man knew what hit them, as Angel was shoved across the room, away from my Husband, and into his idiot girlfriend who’d started it all in the first place, and Husband was propelled off the dancefloor, across the pub and out of the door. I then sat outside shaking for a while until people came and apologised.

If need be, I turn emotions off. My Grandmother tore up my letters and sent them back, calling them lies and hateful works of fiction. She disowned me, told me that I was dead to her, and I just wished her well, told her I loved her, and closed that door. Nothing I could do, nothing I could change, why waste time and feelings on it. I missed her, yes, but that part of my heart was shut off. I had nice memories, so wishing for more was futile. She lost out, not me.

My Greek family dropped me like a stone when my Mum and Dad divorced, when I was 14. My Dad then didn’t speak to me from when I was 15 until I was 22. His girlfriend forbade him, so as far as I was concerned, if he didn’t have the balls to find me, he lost out, not me. The family lost out, not me. There was that shutter door again.

The family stayed gone. Dad and I made it up, when he finally contacted me, but I’d never let him hurt me again. That door only partially opened. I’m glad that he was there to give me away but I wouldn’t have been upset had it not been possible. I would gladly have asked Tex’s father to do it, and if my beloved step dad had been alive, it would without question have been him.

016_10

One cousin and one Aunt came with him, which was odd, but nice. They had been caught in the crossfire by the other harridans.

I was there before Dad died, showing him what a good Greek woman I was. We were given time, and for that I am grateful.

My lifetime of experiences, some awful, which are not for here, some upsetting, yes, but so so many which are good and uplifting and amazing, make me who I am. I’d change nothing, because without those experiences, I’d not be me, and I really like me.

I’m not a person who hates her body size or shape. I don’t see the point in it, I will not practice it.

I refuse to look at myself in the mirror and deliberately pull my features apart. Why the hell should I, and how dare society try and make me feel that I am not already good enough?

I don’t wish to be like anyone else, I don’t envy people for their lives or their bodies, though I might covet a kitchen.

Occasionally I might like to find it easier to get clothes to fit, but that’s about it, and that isn’t my fault for having the wrong body, that’s the world not catering to everyone, because there’s no wrong way to have a body.

My body is amazing. It lives and it breathes and even when it’s not working right it keeps my lungs working, and my synapses sparking, albeit something in the wrong direction.

I can think and feel, and sing, and breathe and feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my unruly hair. I can cook whatever I feel like cooking, just for pleasure, or to feed my loved ones. I will continue to do so for as long as \i am able, and if one day I am not able, I will sit in a chair and direct.

I am me. Nothing is going to change that. Nothing ever has, and nothing ever will.

Nursery rhyme, this child is no woebegone thing.

She’s ME, and that’s awesome.

Lisa with phone

Baby steps, child.

Day one back at work.

I awoke full of a nervous energy, as tired and sleep-ridden as my brain still was, just wanting to get out of the house and on my way. The sun was shining, frost covered everything, and my feet wanted out.

7 days inside being ill was both a blessing, and a curse. A blessing because I love my house, and its comfortable clutter, the piles of books, the small but neatly packed kitchen, the occasional tumbleweeds of cat fluff dancing around in the corners until I chase them down with the hoover or the purple duster.

A curse because when I’m at home I want to cook, and I had no energy to even think about food, let alone create anything, so there was an underlying niggle that my kitchen was being somehow wasted.

I survived, the kitchen did not pine away into a pitiful shell of its former self, and I made it to work on time, trudging up from Temple station, stopping only to cast a longing look at the silver frosted ribbon that was the Thames this morning. I hate leaving the river behind.

Thames

The usual foray into Pret for some porridge was achieved, despite oddly curmudgeonly shoppers for a Friday, and then there I was, back in the office.

I felt like I’d been away for a decade. That unfamiliar familiar feeling when you come back from holiday and everything but nothing has changed, plus the slight uncertainty, started long ago at infants’ school, that you might get in trouble for playing hookey, not actually being ill.

Everyone was lovely. The result of everyone being lovely was that I felt like the tightly coiled spring of my worry had been released, and so I immediately became both exhausted, and manic.

It wore off. I managed to achieve Things. I didn’t kill annoying colleague, not even a bit. I did, however, ignore his phone calls. When you have told someone not to call you, but to email, as you have lost your voice, and they insist on calling you four times, you just have to ignore them, and get your desk mate to answer your phone.

I left on time, I came home, surviving the journey by burying myself in my Kindle, as it has dragons in it.

The kitchen awaited.

Two dinners – and lots of washing up – later, and I feel better. Still full of cold, and with a cough waiting in the wings like a malevolent understudy, but I did it.

Let’s see what the weekend brings.

 

Keep Calm and Twitter On

Friday 12th was meant to be a day off. I had to go to the dentist in the morning, and I always take the whole day off because it’s just easier that way. Thursday night, The Sniffles started, and it all went downhill from there. My previous post will detail that for you.

Fast forward to today, the 18th.

I AM STILL ILL. I am so fed up of this I can’t even tell you. It takes a lot for me to take time off work, so believe me, this thing is a lot.

You see, I am a contractor, so being ill means using up our small sick day allocation, then holiday once you run out, then going unpaid after that. This is not helpful for a person who already has a stress exacerbated chronic illness but that’s the way it is. I won’t say it’s what I signed up for, because how the sick leave is worked out is a mystery to me, but that is the way it is. C’est la vie.

Being home alone with a non verbal cat does give you time to think though. Probably too much , in my case, but that’s a habit I’m never likely to break. Something struck me today as I wallowed about at home, feeling quite pitiful and more than a bit Sad Sack about things, wailing into the void on Twitter whilst prone in bed.

One of my friends answered a LazyWeb question of mine, then another, and another, giving kind, caring advice to what is, essentially, just a name on a web page.

Far be it from me, a lowly mortal, to oppose the likes of Stephen Fry (darling, I adore you, but really…) but I have to say that Twitter is a valuable resource for many, many people.

It enables me to be, and keep, in touch with hundreds of people. I can get an answer in seconds if I ask a question. I can watch the antics of people on the other side of the world, share a joke with someone in my town, and headbang along to a livetweet session of Metallica at Glastonbury with people all across the country. (Yes, we did that. It was AMAZING)

I have been shown photos from decades past,

Moonshine

FT

seen weather fronts rolling in across the sea as people film it, watched many kittens chase many bits of string, and gazed at beautiful things that people have cooked, and shared.

Cake

I can ‘talk’ to beloved chefs, even have a story ‘read’ to me in real time by one of my favourite authors, whilst I sit in bed feeling sorry for myself. Seen the inside of buildings on the other side of the world that I’ll never visit, and wept along with thousands when Bowie died, all of us feeling the same thing, sharing that loss with one another as we filled the internet with as many images and songs and sounds as we could, trying to affirm that it wasn’t really true, but knowing it was, and holding each other close in the only way we had open to us.

TheHunger

It has opened up paths to me that I never thought I’d have, met people that I simply wouldn’t have come across in my every day life, and whom I now consider to be some of my closest friends.

The everyday things are there too. Train times, travel updates, finding out where not to go, and where to go. It was a source of huge information during the London riots, and also a great way for criminals to out themselves by Tweeting selfies with their ill gotten gains.

Twitter is what you make it. You can be as loud, and out there, and as outspoken as you want. Or you can spend a few days just reading, and watching.

Of course it has its downsides. Everything does.

As easy as it is to be a platform for greatness, it can also be a platform for the underbelly, the Below The Line commenters, the trolls and the quite frankly psychotic women haters out there. This is as it is in life. Every person you meet can be a hidden criminal, or a murderer, or an angel, or a saint, or anything in between those things. You can even be Donald Trump or Kanye West, though please, I’ll not Follow you, if that’s ok.

All you can do – the only thing open to us to do – is block and move along. Disable notifications, stop reading for a few days, breathe, breathe, breathe…and then come back and poke your head around the door again. (I am aware there are serious cases of harassment, that have had police involvement, this is not about those.)

Stephen, all you had to do was say “Oh darlings! We’re great chums, it’s an in-joke, we’re all fine. Sorry it came out wrong sweeties.” but you didn’t. You reacted in such a way as to more or less provoke the backlash, and then were surprised you got your botty spanked.

It was a botty spanking by thousands of people, admittedly, but then thousands of people hear your voice. I do hope you return, but if you don’t, then I hope you at least feel all the better for it.

I’m not giving up on Twitter just yet. (Though I admit, I pray they don’t go the Facebook route, because that has become wholly unusable.)