Ten reasons to be thankful

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Last week I celebrated my first ever thanksgiving dinner, where a very good American friend, bought me and a whole bunch of other great people together to share the traditional thanksgiving feast. As a Brit I don’t necessarily understand thanksgiving but it felt great to be embraced by the tradition and taking a bit of time out to pause and relfect on things I’m thankful for didn’t seem a bad idea.


 

1. The milka chocolate advent calendar Tom bought for me for next week and the sparkly picture one that arrived in the post today from mum and dad. I was wondering if I had outgrown advent calendars (at 30 years of age, now is the time to ask myself that question) but clearly Tom and my parents know me better. Although I have never really been convinced by chocolate advent calendars (having once bought one of the really cheap ones) I like milka chocolate so am pretty excited about this one. Only question is can I actually just eat one chocolate a day or will I slice open the back, slide out all the advents in one go and then feign disappointment at every opened door where the ‘manufacturers have failed to put the chocolate in’?

2. Just how good the latest book I’m reading by David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) is. I’m a big fan of the author and didn’t want to buy this book until I knew he had another coming out (so as not to run out of future works to read and feel the sadness of knowing there are no more works out there I can enjoy…), I would have been massively disappointed if it wasn’t as enjoyable as it currently is. However at some 600= pages it is running the risk of being one of those books I can’t put down and forget to clean, sleep or go to work until I’ve finished it.

3. The accidental discovery that Netflix UK is accessible on my laptop, which has a whole new world of time-wasting possibilities to enjoy (and is bound to come in handy when Christmas comes around and I actually have some time).

4. Slipper socks. These keep my feet cosy and warm on a much longer term basis than mere slippers alone. I live in a household that is very geared up to the felicity of it’s two primary residents: Jasper and Buttons, who happen to be cats. Us poor humans are forced to put up with constantly opening and closing the living room door and all the cold draftiness that entails just so that the hairy gods we are allowed to live with can come and go as they please. Slippers are good, but if you are a wriggly squirmy, feet up on chairs, feet down again-kind of person slippers that aren’t moulded to your leg have an irritating habit of getting lost under the sofa, migrating to different rooms and generally conspiring to keep my tootsies cold.

5. Life could always be worse. It could be that one day I wake up and just from one hour to the next a series of horrible, terrifying and complicated events start to emerge over the next 24 hours, where it turns out your friends are conspiring to kill you, your enemies are suddenly on your side and you are trying to navigate complicated relationships with family members. In an alternate universe I could be Jack Bauer so every day I wake up and don’t find myself thinking that this is going to be one of those days is something to be thankful for.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 13.23.506. Reusable rubber duckie drink coolers that work like ice cubes, without diliting all that wonderful alcohol, to cool down my lovely white wine I forgot to put in the fridge.

7. Every day I manage to exist in this world without adding some sort of bruise, scratch, paper-cut, scrape, twisted limb, etc to my constantly evolving collection. Not feeling like the Queen of Clutzes or having to explain to colleagues that I really did walk into the door frame or slam the cupboard door into my forehead all of my own accord, without their suspecting I am a battered woman, usually amounts to a good day.

8. Tea. Enough said.

9. Sticky paper fly strips, electric fly swats, citronella candles, copious amounts of garlic, ninja cats and anything else that prevents annoying flying buggy things from getting in my face or trying to feast on my flesh.

10. The satisfaction on a Sunday evening/Monday morning at 12.37am when I finally finish a work project I’ve spent the last two weeks sacrificing sleep and sanity to work on.

 

 

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Ten reasons to love the rain

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1. As a wise man said, in a book I read about the Dalai Lama, there are certain external factors in life you can’t change but you can change how you respond to them. Sadly, I can’t control the weather (although I would love that as a superpower) but there is no reason why a little downpour is any reason to get down in the mouth.

2. When you are in the midst of a month-long heat wave a bit, or even a lot, of rain is a refreshing relief. The sensation of feeling cold and wet from the rain rather than hot and wet from the heat and sweat is something that can be relished whilst those blistering memories remain fresh in your mind.

3. The rain makes you feel slightly less bad about the pot of lavender on the balcony you keep forgetting to water. Even if the upstairs balcony shelters said plant from nature’s watering can.

4. As my dad taught me if you have planned a picnic, then you have a picnic. Rain is no cause to stop play but, if you really have to, you can bring along an umbrella. Rain just turns an average picnic into more of an adventure activity.

5. If you aren’t going to work or somewhere else where you are going to have to spend the next 8 hours in soggy clothes then rain is just an extra shower for the day and it’s always nice for everyone to be clean, right?

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6. It’s pretty entertaining to find yourself with a friend, sat on a bench at the Geneva beach area at Bains-des-Paquis, a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming, drinking a beer, eating some Pringles and getting completely drenched whilst sensible types flee the premises in search of shelter and warmth. Add in a lunatic laugh every now and again just to convince any stragglers that you are as insane as they clearly think you are.

7. Running in the rain makes a lot of sense, are you sweaty, is it just rain? Who knows! But there’s much less chance of getting dehydrated when the skies are leaking, and if you are thirsty on route you can just open your mouth and look up for a little light refreshment.

8. Swimming in the rain also makes sense and I did this a lot in Cambodia. The women in my hostel clearly thought I was nuts as I’d be the only person in the pool pootling up and down but my thinking was swimming is already a wet activity, rain doesn’t change that so why should it put me off?

9. Rain makes it easier to get your cats in if you want to go out or lock up the flat before bed, without having to bribe them with kitty treats or wait hours for them to wander in from whatever catty business they’ve been attending to. It’s so much less of a battle to entice them away from the delights of sunbathing and birdwatching/killing if its wet.

10. Rain is really no reason not to do stuff but it does provide a great excuse not to do stuff if you are feeling a bit anti-social and would prefer to spend the next few hours huddled up with a cup of tea/wine and some chocolate and watch endless episodes of the latest Netflix obsessions (I’ve recently discovered Orange Is The New Black).

Self-awareness in three words

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Whilst out with friends not so long ago one of my chums was commending another on her cartooning skills and whilst accepting the compliment, wholly unlike me in that regard (Ten reasons I can’t accept a compliment), she commented that drawing wasn’t one of the defining aspects of who she was. We pushed her on this and she explained that if she were too summarise herself in three words she would describe herself as ‘scientist, feminist, geek.’

The rest of us fell silent and I knew that we were all pondering the very same question ‘ how would I define myself in three words?’

My scientist feminist geek friend (let’s call her SFG for short) explained that as a frequenter of dating websites and an expat abroad she’d become accustomed to having to summarise herself in brief. Three words of brief. But in those three words she could convey an idea of who she was, what’s really important to her and put out the gauntlet that if you don’t like it move on or swipe left or whatever you do on these websites.

Whilst we sat around the table drinks in hands, starting at the smooth wooden surface for inspiration of who we are in three words not one of us came up with such a succinct description of ourselves. Everytime I mentally tried I’d find myself getting bogged down in meaningless adjectives or explanatory clauses.

It doesn’t help that I don’t have a career that lends itself to a one word summary. I’m not a doctor, a teacher or unicornologist. And I’m still not sure if the career I do have is the one I will want to have forever and a day. Just as I wasn’t interested in a career in law ten years ago it wouldn’t’ surprise me if there were other career options I haven’t even considered now that I might have a burning desire to do in another ten years. Certainly there are a lot of things I have an interest in and projects I’d like to do beyond the current scope of my existing work role.

When I returned to the flat, I decided that my fella aligned himself with me exactly so that he could be of use to me in these sorts of existential crises, so I asked him to summarise me in three words and he came up with the following:

Driven, friendly and … actually something else, it was a few weeks ago and I can’t remember.

Anyway whatever the final word was I definitely didn’t resonate with the first two as that particular day I’d had a very unproductive day at work, where I seemed to be at the mercy of distractions and I was feeling pretty grumpy (possibly as a result of being unable to label myself in three words) so neither seemed appropriate at that time.

It’s not that those two words are terrible per se, and if that’s the image I project to people that’s not so bad, it’s just that they are transitory in nature. I can be driven, friendly and whatever. At different times I can be lazy, grumpy and something else. The words the fiancé picked can’t always be applied to me and don’t really give a sense of what’s important to me in the way that SFG’s words did. I’d hold him to account for his poor choice of words but as I probably didn’t really explain what I was looking for and couldn’t come up with anything myself I’ll let him off.

Adjectives alone aren’t enough if I’m going to summarise myself in three words, I need to find something that is a stable part of who I am regardless of whether I’ve spent the day grumpily writing a 10,000 word report or an entire day on the sofa cheerily watching an entire season of my latest Netflix addiction.

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If I don’t know who I am right now I think I can pick out the three words that best sum up who I’d like to be:

Counselor, Polymath, Humanist

My interpretation of these terms may be a bit different to dictionary definitions so I’ll briefly explain:

Counselor – because I have always wanted to be there for and to help people and, whilst I’m still toying around with the best idea of how to do that on a consistent basis, that aspect of wanting to help has always been a part of me.

Polymath – one of the reasons I find it so hard to summarise myself in three words is that there are so many things I am interested in and would like to know more about in the future (for example history, politics, art, drama, writing, law, psychology, cybertechnology – ironic considering I’m quite the technophobe, photography, languages, to name but a few). Whilst this will probably prevent me from ever becoming an expert in a single thing I’d rather embrace that multidimensional, eclectic part of who I am.

Humanist – by this I just mean that I believe in people, we can do terrible things, we can do awesome things. I think that given the opportunity most people are pretty decent. Perhaps this makes me naïve but I can live with that.

So in conclusion I don’t know who I am but I know who I’d like to be. How would you sum your current and/or future self up in three words?

Ten Reasons Not to Diet

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1. There is already so much misery in the world: starvation, poverty, disease, there’s no need to add to this by denying yourself your favourite snack.

2. You’ll be less productive. Dieting requires willpower to say no. Willpower requires determined brain power. Brain power spent on willpower is diverted from work/chores/finishing the novel/whatever.

3. You’ll have less energy. Yes eating two grapes and a rice-cracker might help you shape up for swimwear season. But calories, so often denounced in the dieting world are a measurement of energy, the less you have the less energy you have. If you get fired from work for falling asleep at your desk or collapsing from fatigue picking up a document from the photocopier you won’t be able to afford to go on holiday to show off your bikini-buff body anyway.

4. The three ‘C’s’ of Chocolate, Crisps and Coke (4 ‘C’s’ if you want to call it Coca-Cola) trump the three ‘L’s’ of Lettuce, -Lite (note also how your ability to spell deterioriates with dieting) and Longing (for anything more tase-bud inspiring).

5. Lunchtime loneliness. No-one is ever going to invite you to join them for lunch if you are going to spent 45 minutes taking 30 bites of every mouthful of the two sticks of celery you have carefully prepared.

6. There is a danger you will crack and eat something inappropriate. I was a bit hungry going round Geneva’s Natural History Museum on Saturday and I noticed this by considering every stuffed animal on the merit of whether or not it would be good to eat. All sympathy for the fake dodo was gone as I looked at it and understood why it was eaten to extinction in the first place. Imagine what would have happened if I was at the Museum after a diet of licking one spoonful of muesli and having one cup of hot water and lemon? Can you get deported from a country for eating cultural exhibits and scaring the children?

dodolicious - bp image7. You’ll lose friends. Anyone slightly bigger than you will feel that your decision to diet means you think you are fat and ergo that you think they are enormous. You will be so insanely jealous of these same friends when they walk past you with a sandwich, biscuit or cup of coffee with sugar you’ll avoid them to prevent food-envy from making you throw the sandwich to the ground and stamp on it so they can’t enjoy what you are denying yourself.

8. There are only so many vegetables in the world. How can you justify eating so many of them and by increasing demand inflating prices so that poor kids will be forced to eat chips at lunch because they can’t afford the salads they would really like. Their poor day-time diet will affect their ability to learn. Eating vegetables is ruining the health of children and destroying their future!

9. Time is precious. Yes, you could waste an hour or so preparing your vegetables for a nutritious bowl of broth or you could spend 5 minutes pricking the plastic on the ready-made-fare and letting the microwave do the work so that you can start your Netflix binge a whole hour earlier!

10. You are pretty awesome as you are, wobbly bits or right angles or whatever’s going on with you, you can work that and there are people out there that will love that about you.

The unexpected surprise of an early morning

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“Morning is wonderful. It’s only drawback is that is comes at such an inconvenient time of day.” – Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

Generally I’m not a morning person and I usually like to start my weekends in a lazy fashion, with a bit of a lie-in and then lounging around over a leisurely breakfast watching some sort of trashy tv (and since Netflix is now available in Switzerland a whole new world of trashy options has been opened up for me – hellooo Gossip Girl!).

But this Sunday I had to come into work for an important meeting, which takes place every six months and always involves at least one day’s work over the weekend. This involves not only getting up earlier than I would usually do on a weekend but actually getting up earlier than I would usually do if I were going to work, which for a non-morning person comes as a bit of a shock.

So last Sunday morning my alarm went off far too early and I bumbled around the flat with bleary-eyes, trying to find my toothbrush (charging in the kitchen) and keys (eventually located in another work bag) so that I could actually get out of the flat, without having to climb out the window, with reasonably fresh breath.

Finally, I was ready to leave, but still in plenty of time despite the minor setbacks, as I got up extra extra early (for me). It’s an important meeting and I didn’t really want to leave anything to chance so I factored in time for the toothbrush tracking, key-locating and about 10 other potential mini-mishaps.

Venturing out of the flat I released my bike from it’s cave* to ride to work in the early morning light.

Riding my bike to work is one of my favourite moments of every working day. There is something incredibly liberating about riding a bike, especially when it comes with the added bonus of the smug awareness that it’ll get me to work faster than the bus.

Actually let me just amend that. There is something incredibly liberating about riding a bike in a bike-friendly city like Geneva, which has on the whole been a positive experience (aside from one minor, albeit expensive, brush in with the law for running a red light see ‘Daring to dare but don’t dare to run a red light’). Cycling in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was liberating but more in the sense of an almost-liberating-myself-from-the-land-of-the-living, dicing-with-death, experience navigating a treacherous path amongst trucks, jeeps and tuk-tuks loaded up with people and produce, who may or may not have been driving on their designated side of the road, if on the road at all. 

But riding to work on a Sunday morning in Geneva, with barely a whisper of traffic, was an entirely pleasurable experience. Whizzing through the almost deserted streets felt kind of magical. There is something rather wonderful in knowing that you are awake and active when most people aren’t. And being up and about, on my way to an important meeting, hours earlier than I would probably even have woken up under more typical Sunday circumstances, felt like something to be proud of in itself. It was an unexpectedly enchanting way to start the day.

When I was studying for my law diploma in London, exams would happen once every three months on a Saturday morning and every time I would experience this same strange sensation. The heart pumping from the adrenaline needed to accomplish an upcoming event (then the exams, Sunday pulling off the meeting without a hitch), added to the buzz of being almost alone in a normally busy town (and not just for the opportunity it afforded to pretend a zombie apocalypse is underway) topped off with the somewhat conceited self-satisfaction of knowing that by the time I’d normally be ready to face the world, I’ll already have achieved something.

I’d like to say that I’ll repeat the experience voluntarily by setting my alarm for 6am on Saturday to go for an early morning run and revive the mystical circumstances. But…But…But I don’t think you can force these things… and I wouldn’t want to disturb the cats…and I would probably do myself some sort of an injury setting off at that time. And any number of other excuses to explain the fact I just don’t want to.

Magical morning experience over mooching about until noon? I’ll take the mooching thanks. I already admitted I wasn’t a morning person.


* I really love that in Geneva cellars/garage/general storage-holes are referred to as caves.