The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

Day 31 in the Corona house: Tell me on a Sunday.

08/04/2020

Month one in solitary

Those of you who know me well will know my love of language, words and idioms. It’s something that has fascinated me since childhood.

I think the first time I became aware of the curiosity in the space was just after starting school when I was bemused by the idea that a stitch in time might save nine.

I remember having the mental image of somebody applying needle and thread to a clock taking things unusually literally for me. I also remember my sudden introduction to Mrs. Metaphor – that you could describe an idea far bigger than the words used to construct it. Of course, at the time I didn’t understand this had a name ‘metaphor’, but I do remember it being like the shutters being taken off a window and wondering how big the view got.

I can remember asking my teacher save nine what? I also remember struggling with the concept of saved stitches. What did these look like? How did they differ from normal stitches and where did you save them? As for an ill wind blowing no good – let’s not even start.

My favourite metaphor

I soon found I had a particular liking for time related examples. One being once in a blue moon. It could mean occassionally when there is sufficient dust in the local atmosphere to give a blue appearance to the moon. Astronomically, it refers to the second new moon in a month (a not particularly frequent event). In any event it joins the stitch in time and month of Sunday’s turn of phrase.

It’s particularly the month of Sunday’s that I’m focused on today. I do remember once working out that (assuming a 31 day month) a month of Sundays would take you from 1st January to 2nd August. I didn’t claim that as an interesting fact but it does show what my mind turns to in quarantine.

The last thirty one days has been something I had never imagined living through. It may very well be the month of Sunday’s we have heard so much of in the past. It’s certainly felt like those Sunday’s in the 1970’s where everything was shut between Morning worship and Songs of Praise.

Veg-tastic

One advantage in the Shire is the number of small farms, wholesalers and distributors that are based here. One such made their first delivery to us (but I doubt it will be the last). Two boxes of provisions including eggs, tinned tomatoes and a great selection of fruit and vegetables.

Vaughan took a look through the box and we can identify all of the items, though a couple of them chef V-Dub is uncertain about. One in particular – the Chinese radish, also known as the daikon or in the Shire, a moolie.
When asked what it was the temptation was too great. ‘It’s a moolie I replied … and keep your hands off others moolies.’ For those unfamiliar with 1950-70’s musichall and end of the peer humour, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist. It also gives me the perfect excuse to share one of Kenneth Williams party pieces.

More seriously if anyone has any recipes or serving suggestion for daikon/white radish we’d love to hear from you.

Keep your ‘ands off others Moolies

In other news an update on the work front. As most of my regular readers know, my post was made redundant at the end of last month. (27th March to be precise). I can’t say I was sorry to go as the working environment had become pretty toxic and the business had badly lost its way. As if being made redundant in the teeth of the corona crisis were not enough they put the cherry on the icing by withholding the redundancy payment until one month after my last day working there. That’s apparently normal, nothing ti see here move right along the bus please.

We’d like to make an offer

While I think that’s about as convincing as Dick van Dyke’s cockney accent, it isn’t worth the emotional investment at this stage.

I hadn’t turned my mind to aggressively searching although I had put out a couple of feelers.

One of those feelers appears to be showing promise. I had a provisional job offer this morning and an outline agreement on salary (better), working arrangements (more flexible and friendlier) and potential start date. Can’t say any more than that at present or I would have to shoot you but it turns out I’m employable after all – whoda thunk it?
I’m not enumerating my poultry just yet, but it’s a bit of good news to pepper the glum and rather bleak news hitting us from all quarters. Fingers crossed here, let’s see what the next week or so brings.

Slightly curtailed tonight as we’re about to roll up our tent and return to Gumnut towers leaving the bungalow secured and looked after/occupied by the neighbours who welcomed the extra storage and garden space at this time. That is, of course, if all the veg fits in the boot.

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Today’s post takes it’s title from a number in the musical of the same name. For those who like to hear the tracks it may be heard on the control below.

Day 30 in the corona house: Getting out of town.

07/04/2020

.Today I can’t help but reflect on how quickly things change. How what was taken for granted and accepted as a norm years ago is now seen as increadible.

Whether it’s stock footage from the 70’s and 80’s with smoking thick enough to cut in pubs and restaurants or brick-like mobile phones change comes quickly.

A month ago, even three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have felt a need to justify travel, to prove its necessity. However, today, I am aware of the requirement to do so pressing on my social conscience. I merely note how quickly this has been true, I don’t seek to avoid it but my the times they are a changing.

Before I met my husband we each had our own house one in London and one is Wiltshire. For reasons of work and my having a border collie who doesn’t fit with living in London full time that’s an arrangement we’ve continued albeit we split time between the two. When we came back from Milan and self-isolated it was to London and partly due to building work there we have remained until today.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been aware that the lawn hadn’t been cut this year, the weather was getting warmer, the days brighter and that would undoubtedly lead to the grass getting longer.
Although it didn’t count as justification for a trip back to the Shire (it would be pushing it for the necessary management of a household I suspect even if only monthly) I was concerned that at some point I wouldn’t be able to find Taz if he crossed the lawn.

However, a more pressing need for me was the lack of medication easily to hand. My stocks were running low and because I had a plentiful supply in the Shire it was nearly impossible to get more and that assumes I could get the two trusts, my GP and an out of region pharmacist to collaberate. As a result, for the first time in 30 days, we left Gumnut by car and drove to the Shire so my medication could be collected.

While here I also managed to cut the lawns, share a very enjoyable evening with the virtual film club watching Company, replenish our food stocks at a supermarket (Vaughan went). He gave the whole setup at Tesco an Aussie seal of approval stating ‘They’ve got their shit together in the Shire.’ Tomorrow we have a local farm delivery of vegetables, and eggs – so rare in London many of the drug dealers now offer a side of 6 organic free range large ones – so I’m told. Then partly because the Shire is not habitable until the building concludes we’ll be back to continued isolation in Gumnut.

I had my confirmation from the NHS that I should be inside for 12 weeks so look forward to day 100 in the corona house in due course.

Our journey here was uneventful and necessary. You can manage so long on a bag meant for a holiday, but things needed for job applications, bill payments and just getting on with life were needed. We weren’t stopped, checked or questioned by anyone not that I would have any concerns had we been. The motorway was down in terms of traffic by about 90% and the Shire is quiet though the village is pretty much as it always is – we’re hardly the throbbing metropolis.

So tomorrow late afternoon we will return to Gumnut with food, medication, paperwork and fresh Shire air. I look forward to being able to return when the builders can get back on site but until then Taz has had a decent run for an hour or three and all is well with this little part of the world.

The title of today’s post comes from 42nd Street. For those interested in hearing the track, it can be heard using the link below.

In my more pretentious teenage years, I briefly created a word of the week club. This meant I (along with a small number of equally annoying personalities) would slip an archaic or otherwise little used word into conversation where possible over the course of that week. After a promising start, it fell into terminal decline …

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Splendid Isolation: An insight into depression.

10/04/2015

It has been some time since I last posted something to my blog. Hopefully, this addition will explain the reason for the absence and the difficulty I have found when trying to put finger to typewriter. This update has been brewing for some time but – assuming it does reach the light of day, I hope normal(ish) service will be returned shortly thereafter.

I have always counted myself lucky that I have never suffered from anxiety, major stress or depression. I also thought I was fairly insightful and had a reasonable understanding of the challenges these conditions bring to the individual concerned. That was before my recent experiences that changed my outlook and understanding.

wpid-fatigue-depression.jpgRecent events have brought a perfect storm of pressures which seem to have joined forces specifically to trap me in a combined pincer movement which at the time seemed specifically designed to defeat me.

Firstly I found myself facing a higher than usual level of background stress. The possibility of having to resort to litigation to resolve what I consider to be appalling treatment towards me by a public body set a tone of anxiety and a considerable sense of isolation.

Add to this the fact that my local circle of friends is fairly small and my partner is around 80 miles away much of the week and that sense of isolation grew silently and progressively. Most of my friends and those with shared interest seem to have moved towards London – or perhaps my interests and focus has just shifted there. In any event I was aware of a background sense of running on empty and wasn’t really certain of the reason why.

suddenlyOver a week of so including some time during a visit to Berlin with my partner I felt a range of feelings I was entirely unused to experiencing. My emotional state really was something of a rollercoaster with one or two occasions bringing unexplained, sudden and for me extreme changes of mood.

At a time when I was having a great time with a meal for two or spending time looking at sights, I would  suddenly be hit by an overwhelming sense of sadness. No particular cause or focus, but it was almost overwhelming and although I knew I was experiencing it, I just couldn’t shake it.

Luckily, my partner recognised these and thankfully gave me his full support. Although like me he recognised this wasn’t my normal emotional state – not typical of my moods at all. Interestingly, looking back at this period, I was aware of the mood swings and the associated low. However, knowledge in this case was not power. I simply could not raise the interest in digging myself out of the low – there seemed to be no reason to do so.

What strikes me now is that sense was so strong when (in the greater scheme of things) I had so much going for me. I would usually be able to cope with one or two stress-causing issues but these suddenly seemed so very much more overwhelming. I can only imagine the impact this would have had if I had real issues of significance to handle as well. I’m relatively lucky with reasonable insight – how those feelings would have been amplified with real issues to fuel them.

fineThe other insight this period gave me was my unwillingness to discuss how I felt with anyone. I felt quite ashamed that I could feel so down. Certainly I was sure that nobody really wanted to know the honest answer to ‘are you ok?’.  Ironically a sense of isolation and loneliness meant that I was more likely to retreat into myself and feed the very isolation I felt so painfully.

Thankfully, after an initial visit to the doctors the reason for my low mood was tracked down to a combination of an infection causing malabsorbtion and a resultant interaction with existing medication. As treatment settled, so did the symptoms and mental stability returned as fragility of mood disappeared.

So what did this episode teach me? Well, firstly that there is still so much around the causes of anxiety and depression that we don’t understand. Also, that even those of us with no previous history can be hit by this condition without warning.

It was certainly the case that many struggled to understand my feelings. Anything to do with mental heath is hidden when compared to the more obvious physical ailments. My experience reminded me that these conditions address just as real as any physical ailment. Just because you can’t see the injury doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

Whilst I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased to see the back of this event, I’m also very glad I experienced it. My approach to anyone suffering from a similar episode would certainly be different with the benefit of some insight into the power of this potentially crippling condition.

I’m pleased to say I appear to have cleared the fog and lethargy this produced and looking back it appears as though it happened to someone else. I have regained the objectivity to see events for what they were. It was certainly an unnerving and unwelcome event but one from which I learned a great deal. So to that extent not a completely wasted experience.

Starting Points: You are here.

12/01/2015

hot

A common theme in my visit to Australia has been the willingness for people to move quickly to apologise for the unseasonably cold weather for January. The sentence itself jars to someone for whom January usually means single digit temperatures. However, I’m informed I should have experienced at least one day pushing 40 degrees during my stay.

The mercury or digital app has registered 35 degrees both in Sydney and Melbourne which was enough to allay most concerns that I had somehow missed out on a proper Australian summers day.

My partner had a rough day today attending a funeral. Although this was for the husband of a friend and the direct relationship wasn’t close family, it still had an impact. It was the first funeral he had attended for a while and the deceased was of a similar age which can always be a sobering thought. I knew he was more introspective than usual the evening before posting a couple of lines from Les Miserables (‘And the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder’) as an indication that I recognised the impact.

With the funeral sceduled for early afternoon, I found myself in central Melbourne on my own, trying to navigate the cities tram system. It’s certainly an impressive and efficient form of public transport, claiming to be the largest tram network in the world.

I’m not entirely sure if this is true as similar claims appear to be made by Singapore, Chicago, Vienna and Amsterdam. However, Melbourne does cleverly add the phrase ‘largest double track system in the world’. In any event, whether or not the claim is accurate, disputed or widely accepted fact, the system is effective and much loved.

Melbourne Trams

Melbourne Trams

In recent years, to avoid congestion at intersections and reduce the traffic versus pedestrian interactions, many of the tram stops have been moved back from their original positions.

In doing this, the safety factor may have been raised considerably, however there is a new challenge facing travellers – knowing exactly where you are.

As the roads are based on a grid system, the street names are most prominently displayed at the junctions where they meet, now some distance from the point at which most trams stop.
Not deterred, I walked a few feet to a static map of the city overlaid with the tram routes.

Although all the routes were shown, it was a rather high level with much of the useful detail omitted. Presumably in an attempt to reduce costs and aid with print runs, these maps are the same at each of the tram stops. However, importantly and frustratingly, there was one vital piece of information missing from these standardised route planners. At no point does the map tell you where you are in relation to the network as a whole. There is an implicit assumption that you know where smaller roads and districts are which certainly wasn’t the case with me.

As I negotiated a variety of maps seeking some help from online resources I suddenly received a flurry of messages responding to my posted lyrics. Many of my friends assumed these were indicative of a problem and were asking if everything was ok.  ‘We just  assumed it was about you’ one of them said.

Thankfully, that made me aware of a parallel with the cartographic challenges I faced. In the absence of points of reference and context we can feel lost – not just in the case of physical geography.

Late that afternoon, the impact of the funeral was still fairly apparent to me. Thinking back to the mapping problem we spoke about how he felt and what might be causing some of those feelings of unease. Thinking of my own life experience I hope I was able to put some of those concerns in context. In some regards, it was like finding a known point of reference on a map – once you have that, the landscape becomes more understandable.

Assume Nothing !

Assume Nothing !

What did I take from today? Well, ironically it was more about the way we interpret other people’s actions. The analogy with my own experience of the map reminded me that assumptions are often the children of ignorance.

I was certainly reminded not to assume a known or shared starting point and the greatly undervalued capacity to listen. For me, it is only by listening to (and not just hearing) what is being said that you can hope to gain a shared understanding and context. It sounds little more than common sense, but so many people I know assume that they way they would react to a set of circumstances is universal or the only legitimate response. With a little more maturity comes wisdom – at least that is the hope.

So, something of a quiet, reflective, but ultimately positive day. I must admit I re-learned a valuable lesson during the process of disorientation. That said, to the Melbourne tram map management team I still have three words for your consideration. ‘You are here!’

As any fan or student of meteorology will tell you, winter officially starts on 1st December. I was reminded of that fact by a comment on the television this morning – that and the fact that the temperature has dropped suddenly losing the last mellowness of autumn. In addition, I remembered that the last week …

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Over the past week, I have received two unrelated emails which remind me how easy it is to accept unconfirmed but accepted ‘truths’ and how easily we can confuse cause and effect. The first email asked for my view as a former theatrical ‘lovie’ on whether a strong amateur operatic group would be wise to perform Gershwin’s …

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Define ‘Friend’

25/09/2014

Define 'Friend' ?

Define ‘Friend’ ?

In the world before mass transportation, the internet and social media, a friend was most probably somebody with whom you had a person-to-person relationship of some kind. At the very least, it would be a near pre-requisite that you had met and interacted with personally to a greater or lesser extent.

Today with the rise of social media actually having met your friends is now entirely optional. For fans of The Big Bang, a comment made by Doctor Sheldon Cooper sums up the views of a growing number of social media users.

Sheldon: I have a very wide circle. I have 212 friends on MySpace.
Leonard: Yes, and you’ve never met one of them.
Sheldon: That’s the beauty of it.

So today, I had three messages and contacts from ‘friends’ who started their introductions with the following lines:

“So I know we haven’t spoken for a few months – I suppose lending me £300 would be out of the question?”

“You’ve never been my cup of tea but I wouldn’t mind a go on your boyfriend if you can put a good word in for me?’

“I wondered if you could give me a reference. I know it’s been years but you’d look good on my CV”

Is it me ? Am I alone in finding both of these unacceptable (although I have to acknowledge they have the merit of brutal honesty)? I just find such a blunt, selfish and callous approach to be entirely out of bounds.

Although I rarely find myself watching and never (to this point) quoting Opera Winfrey, I do remember her saying something in an interview which strikes me as very true.

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey

Of course, I take my share of blame for falling into the friend collection trap. But the past week has helped me formulate a plan to identify those I want to keep and those I can frankly do without. Also, a subtle change of approach on my part is kicking in as a result. Best summed up in the following quote by Dale Carnegie

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. – Dale Carnegie 

Simple Pleasures

21/09/2014

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures

It’s often the really simple things that have the most impact on us and speaking personally they are the things we most often remember. When all the stresses and pressures of a modern commercialised world need to be countered, for me it’s something very simple and uncomplicated that will be most likely to do it.

The form that has taken has varied from time to time. There are the traditional (some might  say clichéd) candidates such as eating fish and chips with plenty of salt and vinegar out of paper at the seaside. Why it only works with that particular combination I don’t know – but for me it’s a constant winner.

Similarly there are the unexpected finds. On a difficult skiing holiday in Canada, I remember taking a wrong turn to find myself next to a waterfall now frozen in time until the spring thaw. Had I stayed on the more widely taken path it was a sight I would never had seen. The tranquillity in that location is something I can still recall today. It remains one of those mental retreats we all have and resort to at times of stress and when we seek some solitude.

Pie mash and eels

Pie mash and eels

Then the third category – for me the best – the vicarious gift category.

I recently took a friend visiting London to an ‘authentic’ pie mash and eel shop in Peckham. These have gradually disappeared over recent years. Manze’s is staffed by three typical ‘East End’ matriarchs – this was not a place for the faint hearted. The food wasn’t exactly cordon bleu, the bench seating was functional and not designed for comfort. The menu was limited (to anything containing eels). However, the pleasure was in seeing how much my guest enjoyed the traditional view of a disappearing part of London life and trying an authentic taste of London.

To him the mundane seemed suddenly interesting and historic. The green and white tiles missed by most observers were mentioned as adding character. The way the mash was trowelled onto the plate to stop the green liquor from overflowing was noticed and the variety of London accents was seen as a celebration of the city’s culture. Isn’t it strange how the routine and run of the mill can seem so full of charm and interest to a new pair of eyes – prepared not only to look but also to see.

Today, I was lucky enough to observe and hopefully share one of those third category simple pleasures. My partner has had a rough few days for reasons that don’t need to be explained here. A mix of the normal stresses and strains of life meant that a quiet, restful and less frenetic weekend than normal was the order of the day. Of course, he was worried that just sitting quietly reading a book in the garden (for example) might be seen as somehow impolite or aloof. I offered assurances that I would be more than happy if that’s what he needed/wanted to do. Following some additional soundings from trusted friends operation rural retreat was underway.

So my simple pleasure has been watching him relax over the past few hours. It has been like watching a wound spring gradually lose tension and gradually return to its natural state of equilibrium. Whilst I’m blogging this post he is enjoying the gentle autumn sun and reading his book and clearly enjoying the relative peace and unstructured time – by himself but not alone. His simple pleasure is that moment of personal stillness and acceptance; mine is seeing him so relaxed and at ease. My first double whammy (shared) simple pleasure – a new category!

Nanoo Nanoo

12/08/2014

Mork and MindyThere are some personalities who seem to have been ever present. For me, Robin Williams is one of them.

Cast in the spin off from Happy Days, Williams was unknown in 1978 so given the delay in airing the series in the UK, I can’t really have been aware of him much before 1980, but to me he was a quirky, whitty ever present feature in my childhood.

With Pam Dawber in Mork and Mindy, his off the wall mischievous ability to add-lib was clearly given fairly extensive latitude. So unlike any other performers of this time, the producers of the programme said he was the only actual alien to turn up for the audition.

It’s probably a mark of an entertainer or a performer that they pass the ‘ I remember where I was when I heard’ test. Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Jack Lemmon all pass that for me and now Robin Williams is added to the list of those who’s death seems to rob me of something very personal.

For me the stripy jumpered Mork will always be associated with Sunday afternoons when it was first aired in the UK. For some time Williams was just the clown, the zany, ever performing live wire who had thousands of one liners and more energy than your average power station. Then as I grew older I saw him struggle and admit to issues with alcohol and substance dependence.

Along side that were some deeply touching and genuinely powerful acting roles that dispelled the image of the jobbing clown. Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society and Mrs Doubtfire had touches of deep pathos and real emotional insight. Less popular choices where I think I saw a momentary glimpse of the real man were Hamlet, The Birdcage and Insomnia. Even One Hour Photos (although a troubling and dislikeable film in my view) showed his bravery and real talent.

His star had certainly faded in recent years. The comic who could do no wrong and who’s mind travelled at warp speed had faded to a parody of a jaded comic on Family guy – something unimaginable and somehow hurtful for those of us who remember him at his zenith.

Even now the questions have started to be asked and reasons put forward for his apparent suicide. An alleged struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the suggestion of the risk of bankruptcy and the re-emergence of the well known battle against depression have been raised as contributing factors.

For me – none of those matter or diminish his gift and his curse which was to be an incredibly private and gifted performer. Unable to switch off in public, perhaps unable to be himself – we, the audiences who lapped up the madness share part of the responsibility.

So today, despite the news of unrest in the middle east, Ebola spreading in west Africa and many other more ‘serious’ news stories it is the death of Robin Williams that dominated the day and my thinking. An incredible talent and undoubtedly a vulnerable personality. It’s too easy to say we won’t see someone else like him (and often obviously untrue) … but in this case, it may just be accurate.

Nanoo Nanoo !

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