A pencil and a dream can take you anywhere

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Scatterlike Navigation

I attempted to write a story this evening. I had a fiction square, for every roll of the dice you got a character, a conflict, a weather condition, a setting and an object. I rolled 6, 2, 3, 6 and 3 so this gave me: a checkout operator, inability to make a commitment, sunny, racecourse, a lost cat. In true Baldrick style I wrote,

It was a sunny day when Trudy, a checkout operator and a woman unable to commit to her boyfriend, Ian, went to a racecourse to look for her lost cat, Zuzu. She found her. Rejoicement. The End.© This is only copyrighted because I am in talks with Bloomsbury presently.

I do, however, need to be challenged more and really ought to stop using the fiction squares from the Cbeebies magazine.

Onto more pressing details. I wonder what most people got for Christmas, other than the obligatory toiletries and socks. I wonder what the most sought after present, after anything with ‘i’ at the beginning, was? Can we establish that it wasn’t itoiletries, isocks, ipyjamas or iperfume? I think for many people it was a device for satellite navigation, well I am making sweeping-like assumptions for the sake of this blog, I do know that my brother in law received one and that’s good enough for me.

So anyway, I don’t blame anyone for getting a satnav, as far as I am concerned it is invaluable, I have a Tomtom™ and think that it is wonderful, ok wonderful is a strong adjective, useful perhaps. I can read a map well, well a treasure map, that I drew myself, but I just choose not to, why plan when Tomtom™ will take you the long way round, probably past the destination twice and round the roundabouts a few extra times, where would the fun be? I feel it makes it easier if you choose a soft lilt-like accent for your tomtom™ that way when they tell you to turn left, you feel they are gently guiding you rather than ordering you as the harsh tones of the woman, my parents affectionately call ‘bossy Betty’, seem to do and, as an aside, who I also think says ‘roundabout’ like one of the Beatles (I do appear to be alone in this supposition though). In Galway I found my satnav's Irish voice, Sean (nicknamed Sexy Sean, by myself and Isabel) far more accommodating and friendly than many of the gracious, welcoming (read hostile) locals we encountered. We found his voice a sweet comfort on unfamiliar roads, the fact he didn’t have any idea where the little cottage we were staying in was, was by the by -he failed to recognise the postcode (Oh, Sean) He also lost signal a few times on bleak country roads, but that wasn’t his fault.

I have been a bit bad in the past, when it came to driving I used to get flustered and forget my left from my right. My driving instructor once took me to a housing estate, to practise driving him round the bend, and asked me at one point to turn right and park up. I turned left and parked up (perfectly, I hasten to add). We sat there, he marked something on his clipboard, (probably finished the doodle of a topless woman or whatever he had just fashioned on his paper). He turned to me and congratulated me on my exceptional turning skills (exaggeration added) and then said, nicely, “however [dramatic pause] I did ask you to turn right”. Dang it! It was going to be essential that I figure that one out. (I have now, so you know)

A year, or three, into having passed my test my parents visited me in Wimbledon, near where I lived at the time, and they wanted to get to a supermarket and, luckily for them they had me to act as their satnav (this was before tomtom's time). This was fine, except I hadn’t quite smoothed out the problem with lefty and righty. I didn’t actually drive round that area, so was only familiar with bus routes… and proceeded to drive my parents round the bus route, calling out at one point “left...nooo, the other left!”. Surprisingly my Dad, after gauging a rough idea of where to go, took over navigational duties.

So if they’d wanted Scatterlike navigation™ then I would have been perfect. I often feel my satnav has the same problem, every so often he malfunctions, usually on the motorway, and usually when I have a slight inkling of where I am going, thankfully. He often blurts out random things that could cause a few interesting accidents, not to mention hilarious insurance claims. Thankfully Sean and I have a relationship whereby he wilfully bosses me about and I wilfully ignore him. It is at these times that I laugh that the Spanish word for stupid is ‘tonto’ and said in Spanish sounds hauntingly like ‘Tomtom™’ satellite navigation naming committees were onto something when they came up with that gem. Should have gone with isatnav.

So my charming satnav has got me a few places, got me lost a few times and tempted me to turn left into a hedge by saying ‘turn’ left when he meant ‘bear’ left. He’s not perfect but then neither am I. I can get lost just fine on my own, thank you very much. I once drove up and down a road looking for a house that I missed because the gate with the house name on was open, thus hiding the front name plaque (that one had me crying with sheer frustration). Once an AA guide, printed off their site, had me turn the wrong way on the M40, resulting in me battling with London traffic and pointing politely to get a lorry driver to let me in his lane. That was fun for the first day in a new car driving to visit my sister, Lynsey.

But I couldn’t get through life without guidance, I am not completely tonto without it but we all need guidance. I had great guidance that has altered my life, namely my parental guidance. I almost gave up my degree and walked away because a jealous girl was making my life difficult, shall we say, but my Dad, who quit officer training 3 weeks before qualifying and regretted it, cautioned me to learn from his experience. So I did and now have a BA (Hons).

Anyone who is not religious may want to look away now… but in my experience I have the ultimate satellite navigator in the sky, God. He guides me in everything, through all my life I have felt that guidance and I continue to seek his voice, he, like Sean™, has a soft lilt, he does often has to repeat himself and I often wilfully ignore him and sometimes think I know the way better. He doesn’t chastise me for taking the wrong turn, just gently tells me how to get back on the right road. He knows the destination and how long it will take for me to get there, teaches me patience when I try and get there too quickly (thankfully not by a loud beep emitting out) and I can press the ‘help’ button at any time.

I particularly like the John Cleese voice on Tomtom™, at the end he blows his own trumpet and congratulates himself on having got you to your destination (it is your job, John) but is quick to point out that he won’t take your luggage in for you, well what did we expect for £99.99?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Inspired by it's a wonderful life

How many of us have ever contemplated the contribution we feel we do or don't make to the world. In the wonderful Christmas tale of George Bailey and Clarence the angel in 'It's a wonderful life' the viewer watches as George Bailey contemplates his contribution, and after losing $8000 from his business, he considers ending it all. Having been rescued from that attempt he then wishes he had never been born. At one time or another we may have all come to a place in our lives and either wished we could just end it all.... or wished we had never existed in the first place.

Recently I have been thinking about gifts. I read an article (that I cannot find right now) about honing the gifts we are given, many of us have read the parable of the talents and how people use their talents for the best and how one person buries his talent and achieves nothing. We all think about learning something new, sometimes instead of improving the talents we already have. I love to listen to people playing music, I have many musically talented friends. I know their talents took practice but I believe that they have been gifted to begin with. I listen and have sometimes envied them for their gift. I have other gifts and have decided to start focussing on those gifts and improving in them. I may still try and learn to cook better and be more creative, but I will also work on improving the things I know I can do and make those a priority.

Anyway, back to George Bailey and a little nod to the wonderful actor James Stewart who bought that character to life...
George is a wonderful man, he cared about his community so much, he, like all of us had dreams and aspirations but due to his father's death his life took a very different turn to the one he'd imagined for himself. He rose to those challenges, faced with a takeover from a powerful man, Henry Potter, who had monopolised George's hometown, Bedford Falls, he used his wedding money to help tide his customers over till a bank crisis had subsided. Years passed, and due to an childhood injury, he couldn't fight in the war (though he did his bit for the homefront) but his younger brother returned to the town a war hero. All these things took their emotional toll and his self confidence took a hit. George Bailey took in a subliminal message that he wasn't essential, that it wouldn't matter if he hadn't been born. He just could not see what his life had bought to others and it took for a wish to be granted, for him to have a glimpse into what would have happened had he not been born. Now I won't ruin the end if you haven't seen it, but would highly recommend it. On that subject I then found an article that I thought tied in perfectly, a wonderful extract from an an author called Stanley Kunitz.

"When you look back on a lifetime
and think of what has been given to
the world by your presence, your
fugitive presence, inevitably you think
of your art, whatever it may be, as
the gift you have made to the world in
acknowledgement of the gift you have
been given, which is the life itself.....
That work is not the expression of the
desire for praise or recognition, or
prizes, but the deepest manifestation
of your gratitude for the gift of life."

I would encourage you to think about your contribution to other people's lives, your contribution to the world. I don't want you to be downhearted or negative and reply 'nothing'. Think about your gifts, I cannot play the piano wonderfully like my friend Isabel, or cook like my friend Helen, I cannot run like my friend Louise but I can take great photographs and I can write a mean story. I want you to focus on what you can do and what you want to improve on in 2010. I also want you to consider the impact you have on others' lives, I have many friends who send me daily encouragement that maybe don't realise when I am feeling downhearted or discouraged.

I think you do far more than you realise.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

New Year Rest-Solutions

This is my first blog (even though I have secretly had this blog for a fair few months now) ready to start the brand spanking new year. There is something so fresh about the new year, it is like a blank page, a blank canvas, the year is still unwritten. We all get pretty tired of resolutions, impossible ideals we set ourselves, and if we are honest, which I am going to safely assume we all are, then we will not be too scared to admit that we never keep our new year resolutions, apart from the resolution we will 'give up giving up' or the resolution to 'make no resolutions'. Those kind of resolutions may aswell be written on cling film for how clearly we see through them or how easily they fold in on themselves or break. Instead of making a resolution this year I want you to make a rest-solution... some kind of solution to rest a little, I am not saying become a lazy, good for nothing lay about, I mean put time aside and truly rest. Take the burden off those shoulders, release some of that stress, be anxious for nothing and slow down a little. Take some time to just 'be'.

As an English teacher I have had the fortunate position of being able to travel a little aswell as fund some extra curricular travel, friends of mine reading this will identify with not knowing where I am most of the time! As fun as this travel is and as exciting and interesting as it can be it can be a little unnerving not knowing where you are going to be, whether the place will have internet access, laundry facilities, a shop open past 2pm, running water etc... and this can cause some anxiety add to that, not knowing who you will work with, whether the students will speak more than three words of English or whether the contact teachers will supply coffee or bring in homemade cakes and you, my friend, have a recipe for stress. After working under these conditions for a few months it is fair to say I actually need a rest, I do have weekends free but they are spent travelling somewhere I can stay for cheap and somewhere that may have a laundry facility. I have decided to forego the magical mystery tour that is teaching English in Austria and opt for a rest, a rest from work travelling (workelling, if you will) a rest from eating copious amounts of ham, cheese and bread/ Schnitzel and a rest from the no vegetable ban that seems to have been imposed on most Austrian restaurants. I have decided to stay at home. This doesn't mean lounging around on the sofa for hours on end catching up on Coronation street (well only on a Saturday) or watching reruns on G.O.L.D. No sirree this is not an advocation of laziness, rather a 'stop and smell the roses' piece of advice.

Earlier this year mum and I visited New York, on a pilgrimage to the much visited Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the city fame, I trekked my poor mother up and down Bleeker street (mainly because I felt to turn right off a side street, to discover that had I turned left we were 5 minutes away) Mum, happily looking at the scenery was fine walking up the long street that is Bleeker, however she was not content to walk at my unnecessarily hasty pace, she urged me to slow the heck down and just enjoy it, look at the houses, observe. So I did and I realised all the interesting things I would have missed maintaining my blinkered 'must get to Magnolia lest their be a rush on cupcakes' pace.
Which made me think: how many of us race around, tunnel visioned, toward a certain goal? I urge you, no order you, to rest a little, slow down, smell the roses, the coffee, the cupcakes and just BE.

I am making rest-solutions. Are you?

May I suggest you take a tip from my cat, Lily (the Lilmeister), seen taking a rest from mouse chasing. (photo top right)