Careful, a Scottish Stereotype is Showing

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Question.  What makes a gift ‘practical’ rather than ‘impersonal?’

To put it simply, my mother turns 50 this year.  And she did more or less hint she’d like something substantial for it.  I think last year I only sent a card, the year before we sent flowers, but the previous year was one where I was frightfully broke and honestly couldn’t think of anything she’d like.  Nor did I have £30+ to spend on flowers.

So this year I decided I’d do something a little more thought out.  Flowers were expensive, and to me have always felt like a copout.  They’re expensive, but don’t last very long, and there’s nothing really personal about them – unless the flowers in question have some meaning between the parties.  Not to mention when you’re trying to send overseas, the logistics of what company to use can drive you up the proverbial wall.

So instead I did some searching.  I found a relatively nice (and admittedly cheap) necklace, and bought a bag of Thornton’s toffee – something my mother loves and I used to buy on special occasions all the time.  For the main gift, I dug through all our recent conversations, and after remembering she’d recently taken up golf in the last few months, I bought a book on golf tips for women.  It looked interesting and useful enough for my mum to appreciate it.

Finally, I decided to add an additional.  Last phone call, my mother admitted she was going into the hospital, so I plucked my fluffiest toy Angus from the bedpost and popped him in too with a get well card.  She gave her pet dogs away last year when her job’s hours made it impossible to care for them properly, so I figured a fluffy toy would help while she was recovering.

With all this sorted, I wrapped it up and headed for the Post Office along with my most recent eBay sells.  Then I put the parcel on the scales…

I think I nearly passed out at the price.  The postage was almost more than the gift itself!  Was almost twice what I’d expected to pay – never have I been so glad to have made extra cash on eBay, had to withdraw money the second I got home to recover costs.  I can believe some sweets, a book and a soft toy cost so much to ship.

So much in fact, that it actually would have been cheaper for me to send flowers.  Which brings me to my question.  I don’t think flowers make a great gift.  I never have.  Considering how much they cost to buy and then deliver, I’ve always wondered just why people don’t just send money in a card – surely that’s better than something that will be thrown out in a week.  But when the alternative of sending a gift is made financially…crippling?  Is it better to send a token arrangement rather than a thoughtful gift?  I’m sure my mum would appreciate receiving anything on her special day, but I have always appreciated gifts that have effort in them.

Regardless, it’s a little late in the day to be debating this, but it does make me wonder what the situation will be when I’m in Australia next year, and it’s the friends and family in the UK whose days will be many.  Some I’m sure, will be happy with a card, but I can’t help but wonder if my Dad and Nana will find flowers on their doors come their days, and a rather guilty expression on my face for taking the ‘cheap’ way out.

Alternative Physical Arrangements

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Well, spent half an hour writing the start of an entry, only to realise halfway through that I was talking about someone else, and really shouldn’t write about another person when I’m not even part of that story (just outraged on their behalf).  So I had to scrap it and try to figure out what to write instead that’s not hideously old news.  And naturally, despite my determined post last night, I’m all over the place today.  So let’s go with the one thing I’m proud of.

Taekwondo has been on holiday for the last 2 weeks.  Not that big an issue for me as I’ve been pretty much laid off for the last month and a half with a torn muscle that still hasn’t healed!  However, because of this, the last time I was at Kettle Bells, I checked my weight and nearly passed out.  Skipping my regular exercise, my weight has slowly crept up and up, and 2 weeks ago, I was close to 11 stone.  That’s nearly a full stone that’s crawled back on since April – something had to be done.

Then my mind wandered back to the half-baked plan I’d had months before.  The idea of finally utilising the full power of my iPad, uploading several dozen episodes of One Piece, and then watching them while exercising.  With even my Kettle Bells gone, I decided it was worth a shot.  So every day after work for the past 2 weeks, I’ve gone down to the gym at work, and spent 40-60 minutes a day on the bike and the treadmill watching 2-3 episodes.  Two things have happened thanks to this – One: I’ve been painfully reminded of just how long One Piece took to get through the Enies Lobby/CP9/Buster Call arc, 2 weeks of episodes and I’m still not at the end.  And Two: watching a show you actually enjoy instead of the TV in the gym is a GREAT motivator.  I only skipped out 1 afternoon, and as of this week I’ve managed to increase the level of difficulty on the bike.  Up until Thursday, I could do about 5 minutes on level 10 – now I can keep it up for the entire 20 minutes.

I’m elated – apparently going to the gym does pay off.  That said, the inches around my waist don’t seem to have shifted – but I also haven’t weighed myself.  Managed to keep to the herbalife shakes last week, though faltered this week due to carrying my wallet one too many times to work.  Will be missing TKD on Monday for non-leg related issues, but will be there on Wednesday for the first bleep test I’ve had in months.  Hoping the gym workout will pay off and I’ll still be able to get to level 9.

Overheated, but still alive

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Well now…that took a little longer than expected.

I admit it.  I just sort of…crashed and decided that I couldn’t write.  Even went through the standard I’m-never-going-to-write-again phase for about a week.  And not just the blog – I haven’t updated any fanfiction or worked on original fiction at all either.  In fact, I’ve been meaning to update this all week…and finding reasons not to.  However, things have been piling up, things that I could have quite easily written about, but didn’t due to sheer laziness and getting distracted with other things.  I mean, in just over a month and a half…

  • Had a clean desk policy enforced at work, which has resulted in many a painful back from having to lug crates of letters to and from cupboards to desks (and no, nobody is happy with this arrangement – especially since the cupboards we’re using ‘for security’ aren’t locked).
  • My line manager has retired, and our floor manager is proving how woefully over his head he is by STILL not having someone to replace her.
  • Had my faith restored in anime with this year’s offerings of Hataraku Maou-Sama!, Attack on Titan, Dangan Ronpa and Swim
  • Got my hair cut the shortest its ever been – love it and have plans to go even shorter.
  • Saw Epic (disappointing), Now You See Me (glorious), and Man of Steel (astonishingly-better-than-expected)
  • Went bowling for the first time this year…and was painfully reminded just why it’s been a year.
  • Got to see the How to Train Your Dragon teaser – which had me gibbering in a corner of Tumblr for a good 3 hours
  • Started going to the gym 5 days out of 7 to try and get myself in shape while Taekwondo was on holiday…and actually managed to keep it up!

However, enough is enough – Had a long summer holiday, and now it’s back to updating.

Now to be fair, it isn’t like I haven’t been busy.  My evenings have been pretty full.  For one thing my great Perth trek is now in full organisation mode.  I’ve booked nearly all my accommodation, my Dad and Stepmum have offered to help cover the cost of the Vodkatrain, and I’m just waiting for my passport renewal so I can start buying visas.  As well as this, my cosplay has taken up a lot of my time.  I’m doing this:

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This is the Heat Dopant from Kamen Rider W movie ‘Gaia Memories of Fate’.  And yes, you can laugh at me – I am more than aware of how much effort (and money that I don’t have) this will cost me.  Is costing me.  However it’s the last one I’ll make for a while, so I’m willing to make a little more effort.  So now I have a mannequin covered in red velvet and pleather, while a paper mache helmet lies in the kitchen half covered in paper mache pulp that I made from scratch dries up.  Thankfully not taking too long due to the weather.

Which was my other major distraction.  This was the first day the weather hasn’t been in the 20 degrees region in over a month.  Something my poor Scottish brain hasn’t been able to process.  We don’t get hot sunny weather.  Anything above 12 is considered beach weather over here.  Suddenly faced with this kind of temperature has left my wardrobe woefully inadequate, and generally exhausted.  Also a little bit annoying, because for the first time in 3 years, my hay fever has been acting up because we actually have blooming flowers again.  That said, I’m the only one complaining – my foreign roommates are adoring the far-more-familiar-to-them weather – I swear the Italian is just 2 more days sunning in the park from changing ethnicity – he’s gone so brown!

Now, with the exception of my allergies, I don’t like to complain about nice weather.  But when you’re getting it at a time you have to glue yourself to a sewing machine, it’s not too much fun.  You go out and feel guilty about not doing the work you need to do.  But if you stay in, you feel awful because you’re missing (and in this country it very well could be) the last hot summer in Scotland.  Made even worse by the fact that due to my room having gigantic windows in 2 walls, I get the sun ALL DAY.  So from the time between 11 in the morning and 6 at night?  I am forced from my bedroom for my own safety.  Even with the windows open and the door wedged, the temperature is horrifying.  My laptop keeps shutting down from overheating and when I made the mistake of leaving a box of protein bars on the shelf, I came home to protein bar fondue.  Not to mention what my mother’s birthday toffee felt like this afternoon when I picked up the bag…  Can’t even keep milk in the fridge from going sour right now because the kitchen has the same problem.

Course, it did mean that I got to enjoy a barbeque for the first time in years too.  My roommates all organised it on Tuesday very last minute, and we drove out to the coast, finding a great flat rock with a view of boats, cliffs and lighthouses.  Spent quality time with my roommates at the only barbeque I’ve had this summer, and one of the more unique since it was almost fully vegetarian too.  Had a sausage bun at the very end, but the main course was stuffed peppers, halloumi cheese, tomato, avocado and prawn skewers, along with classic corn on the cob.

Sadly, I couldn’t fully enjoy myself because of overwhelming guilt.  Not long after setting up, one of our group discovered that we’d set up shop on top of a baby chick!  Literally huddling not more than a few inches away from the plates frozen and perfectly camouflaged.  Suddenly the 2 birds flying around calling out made a lot more sense.  Not really knowing what to do, but realising there was no nest in sight and when it got darker there was no way we weren’t going to accidentally step on it, I grabbed a piece of kitchen towel, and gingerly moved the chick out of the danger zone.  To my astonishment, not 5 minutes later both parents had followed its cheeps and I spotted them leading the little guy deep into the rocks.

But the story didn’t end there.  Not an hour later we spotted another chick running across this rock face.  Along with another chick on the opposite side of the rock.  Managed to get these 2 reunited (original chick was being cared of by parent no.1 a good 100 metres away by this point) and I was focused on them all night – feeling awful that I’d separated this family through the best of intentions (much to the consternation of my roommates who clearly thought I was overreacting – but their little cries and parent calls were so hard to hear sometimes!)

Thankfully, it has a sort of happy ending.  When I got home I looked up the birds via the RSPB website.  Turns out, they were Ringed Plovers – a species that doesn’t have a typical ‘nest’.  They lay their eggs in a shallow sort of hole, and when the chicks hatch, they leave the nest as soon as their feathers dry.  The parents keep an eye on them, but they’re capable of surviving on their own almost from birth – so there was no broken nest or real abandonment issues to worry about.

However, today the weather was much cooler.  Still don’t-need-a-jacket weather, but cool enough that my room isn’t a death trap, so I can sit at my computer for a couple of hours to type this out comfortably.  Now if tomorrow remains the same temperature, I can write out my already planned entry and hopefully keep this ball rolling.

Pet Custody Etiquette

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Ever had something pretty bad and/or annoying happen to you?  It wasn’t a big thing, but even as years pass you still remember it and along the way it becomes one of those stories you tell because you still remember how it made you feel?

Ever had that, then had someone tell you years later that the thing you thought happened, was actually something else entirely, and even worse than what you though had happened?  And it just it just brings back all those negative emotions again – only this time you don’t have the original source to take it out on?  So you’re just going round in circles feeling angry and annoyed and have no outlet for which to vent?

Yeah, great way for me to start the weekend.

About 3 years ago, my mother was divorcing my then Stepfather (a whole other story in itself), but everything had more or less been in limbo until they sold the house.  My mum had moved in with her new boyfriend, my Stepfather was staying somewhere, coming home every few days for more clothes, so it was basically just my brother living there.  When they finally succeeded, we had a window of about 2 months to get everything out.  I was currently looking for a new flat anyway (current place was a postage stamp) – so was hoping to find a place that could fit my current stuff, and all the stuff still at home, while my brother was being hoisted off on some family friends since he couldn’t afford a place on his own.  But as we were preparing all this, we suddenly realised a problem.

Who was taking the cat?

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The only photo I have – taken several years before this story happened.

Simba, our somewhat overweight, 16 year old ginger tom – who we’d raised and fed and brushed and loved wasn’t aware of the situation, but my brother and I quickly realised with some dawning horror that with the house no longer ours, none of us actually could take him.  My brother was moving to a house with a kitten – and even if his host family had been willing (which they weren’t), Simba had proven he did not live comfortably with other animals in the past.  My mum had washed her hands of him the moment she’d moved out a year before and had no intention or desire to take him in – she’d wanted to give him away years ago.  And my Stepfather said his place didn’t allow pets.

With all this in mind, I quickly set out to finding a new place pronto.  If I could find a flat that allowed pets, all would be well.  After 16 years there was no way I was handing over the family pet to a shelter – our kitty was old, tired, and starting to suffer from arthritis.  He had to be groomed every few days because he could no longer reach his back, and stress of moving was going to be bad enough – never mind putting him in some sort of rescue home.  Taking care of him in his senior years was a task I was happy to take up.

Of course, that was easier said than done.  I soon discovered that if you wanted a pet in this city, you’d better be prepared to pay through the nose for it.  Every flat within my budget had a strict ‘no pet’ clause in the contract.  The few that looked promising often turned out to be scams, and the one genuine offer ended up being so far on the outskirts of the city the bus would have crippled me financially.

With only a few weeks to go, I admitted to my mum and brother that there was no way I could find a flat in time that would let me take the cat – and then mum suggested I start asking my Dad’s side of the family.  Which turned out to be a stroke of bloody genius.

Dad, when hearing Simba’s plight, promised to ask around.  And if nobody could take the cat in, he would do it himself.  Not long after, he called back with the good news.  My Nana, who had once had cats and still loved them dearly, would be happy to take the old boy.

It was such a relief.  Nearly 2 months of constant failure, stress and sleepless nights worrying about our pets fate and I’d finally found him a good home.  I called my mum and my brother to tell them the good news, accepted a non-pet flat that I’d fallen in love with, and a week later, went to the house to pack up the last of my stuff.  Although he wasn’t meant to be, my Stepfather was there too.  When he asked in passing what was going to happen to the cat, I told him the solution to the problem, which he seemed to accept.

A few hours later, while my mum was helping me cart stuff to my room, I received a text from my Stepfather

Took the cat – don’t worry.

Livid did not do justice to how I felt.  While the others had all shirked any responsibility I’d bent over backwards to find Simba a home.  My Stepfather said he couldn’t take him, and now that I’d actually succeeded he’d changed his mind?  My mother suggested that my former-stepdaughter had quilted him into it – as to be honest, Simba had always loved the men in the family most – especially my Stepfather.  I wondered if he’d just said it to be difficult and in the hopes that we might beg for him to take him as some sort of power trip.

But as it was, the cat was gone – and gone with his favourite member of the family. I might not be happy about it – this solution meant we’d never see him again, but least I knew he was safe.  Told my Nana the bad news, and went about my life.

Only now in hindsight do I wish I’d called him and asked him just what he’d been thinking…

Over the years I did wonder about Simba.  He was old, so I had no clue if he was even still alive – but given our less than stellar history over the years, I really didn’t think I could call up my Stepfather and go ‘Hi, how’s the cat?’  So I let it be.

Then tonight.  My brother called me and the topic of pets came up.  He recently bought a kitten and the topic of Simba came up.  Both of us wondered if he was even still alive, and I mused about how part of me still wanted to call up former Stepfather and find out how he was.  To which my brother replied with some confusion

“…But [Stepfather] doesn’t have him.”

“…What?”

“He gave him away to friends of his.”

“…Are you telling me he stole Simba then just gave him away?”

“No…He took the cat to give to his friends because they really wanted a cat.  Didn’t we have this conversation years ago?”

“NO!  You just told me ‘he took the cat!’”

All the anger and fury from 3 years ago just bubbled up to the surface.  All this time I let the fact that my Stepfather took Simba go, because Simba loved my Stepfather most and would probably be happiest with him – even if it meant we couldn’t see him anymore.  And now my brother tells me the real story is that my Stepdad took the cat to give to friends, not family who would have let me continue to see him?

The fact that my brother genuinely seemed to think this conversation had happened before suggests that he did have it – with my mother.  Which makes me very angry at her for not telling me – you know, the one who went crazy trying to find a home in the first place?  Though I should probably actually ask her before I start getting angry about that.

Deep down, part of me understands that this was a communication breakdown – had I asked my brother the full story he would have told me, and I could have at least ambushed my Stepfather and asked him why he’d done it – and gotten the contact details of those who had him so that if they had issue with him in old age I could make sure he still had a home.  As it is now, my brother has lost any contact details so our cat’s fate remains unknown, and I am now left with this frustrating rage that my efforts were brushed aside and betrayed. And considering my brother’s final remark on the subject – “well, it was years ago” – even if I do bring it up again, people will assume I’m overreacting.

Okay, so I didn’t live in the house anymore.  I’d been at university with infrequent visits before that and Simba probably couldn’t recognise me from Jack.  But I was the one who realised he wasn’t able to groom himself anymore – and started grooming him myself.  I was the only one who bought him toys and the first one to realise he needed to go on a better diet in his old age.  And when I was home, he slept on my bed.  If it had been financially possible I would have happily taken him in – I said no to great flats because they weren’t pet friend at the start of my search.  And I wanted to know I could keep an eye on him and see him from time to time – hell even help with his vet bills if necessary.  I don’t care that it was years ago – I wasn’t given the opportunity to be properly upset then.

…And there’s nothing I can do about it!

26 Winks

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Today I got a painful reminder that I’m not a plucky young teenager anymore – and that getting a good night’s sleep is not so much an option as it is a necessity.

I love sleep – ever since I was a little girl and could only nod off if I wrapped the blankets around me like a cocoon in the top bunk bed.  I’d spend a good hour just trying out different twists in the blanket and putting myself in weird positions to see what was the most comfortable.  Course because we’d gone to bed before the sun set, I’d wake up stupidly early and spend the mornings dancing to the Teletext music until the TV programmes started.

Then the joy of school starts, and you suddenly lose the ability to wake up stupid early…mostly because you’re finally allowed to stay up a few extra hours.  You spend every weekday begging for the weekend, so you can just collapse and forget how to walk.  Then in the morning, I’d unbutton the sheet and slip inside to hide under the duvet so my parents couldn’t just drag me out.  It took the combined forces of Real Monsters, Insektors and Rugrats and coax me from its safety in the mornings.  And only because I wasn’t allowed to drag the duvet downstairs.

Then part time work joined my life in the teen years and I lost all my long lie in mornings.  Think every set of holiday snaps we ever took in the teen years weren’t complete without a photo of me still passed out on the sofa bed come noon.  Oh those were the days.

The biggest plus of giving up my part time job last year was being allowed to have a lie in 2 times a week.  Of course during the week, I have to be up at 6 so I generally have to be in bed before midnight if I want to be coherent in the morning.  However, sometimes my brain ‘forgets’ this.

At the moment, for some insane reason I’m trying to watch all of the One Piece anime.  If you’ve never heard of it, One Piece is a cartoon from Japan about pirates.  It’s the most popular anime in Japan, and it’s been around since 1998.  Which means there’s a lot of it.  Been spending my evenings with it on in the background for the better part of the month and I’m still just at the start of the 200 episodes.  Right now there’s 600, and it’s still going just so you get an idea of how big a task this is.

Anyway, like an idiot I spent the last few days marathoning it at night, but also getting up early in the morning.  Now, when I was a sprightly 18 year old, staying up till 3 playing video games and getting up at 6 for university for old hat.  All you need is a hot shower, a very large cup of tea and a bacon roll and you’re all set.  If I ever got more than 6 hours sleep any week night during uni I’d be very surprised.

Now?  Going 3 days with 5 hours sleep or less is apparently the same as drinking a tall long glass of viral infection.  This morning I woke, and the floor moved without me.  A hot shower, several cups of tea and breaking the diet for a sausage bap soon followed, but by 11am I was very unhappy.  It took everything I had not to drop my head on my desk and fall asleep.

Needless to say I didn’t improve the longer the day droved on.  Made worse by the fact that I know the bleep test was tonight, and I was in no shape to walk home, much less try and run laps for 15 minutes.  Decided my best option was to try and get some sleep and see how I felt at 6.  When it rolls round, I get up, shower…then start throwing up.

So yeah, bed again.  And yet again I’ve missed the Wednesday class.  Starting to wonder if I’m cursed cause I just never seem to make it to the classes.  Might be able to do damage control and do the test on Sunday instead.

Why is it the older you get the harder it is to bounce back from stupid things?  I’m not exactly old but it seems ridiculous just how much harder it is to get up from knocks now than it was 5 years ago.  Especially considering that I’m technically in better shape now than I ever was back then.  I can run longer, punch harder and recover my breath faster – but I can’t get out of bed after a late night and my formerly cast iron stomach is starting to rust.  I’m just a little bit terrified of what I’m gonna feel like in 5 more years.

The worse bit?  I’ve slept this evening so now I feel wide awake – lord knows how I’ll get to sleep tonight!

Marketable Faults

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Although there’s no love lost between me and my home city, there are always silver linings to any location.  This weekend was one of them.  The International Market.

ImageTo be fair, a lot of places have International Markets, and every time it shows up I spend money I don’t have on food I don’t need, but given that it comes 4 times a year I never quite have the willpower to stay away.  And this time around not only was it here from Friday to Sunday – it didn’t rain this weekend.  In fact it was broiling hot all 3 days.  I had to keep the door and windows open in my room before I left, or the heat increased to the point where I couldn’t enter it once I returned (which, by the way, is not something I’m accustomed to in Scotland).

ImageNormally this market gets rained out, so the good weather meant there was a massive crowd throughout the day, and I had to struggle through masses for stuff.  All the usual stands were there – alternative burgers (I love being able to genuinely say I know kangaroo burgers taste better than crocodile burgers), mini pancakes, garlic potatoes (and then I wonder why my stomach’s been so queasy today), the stupidly expensive grocer with squashed peaches and French tomatoes.  Plus my very favourite stand:

ImageDon’t see them very well, but at the far end of that stand are different flavours of meringues.  The strawberry and chocolate ones are to die for – I have to hold myself back or I end up coming home with bags full.  Its right up with epi French bread on my list of things ‘I Just Can’t Say No To.’

Of course, I was so bad this weekend; I only got away with it due to being paid this week.  And I then spent Sunday evening feeling depressed when I realised how much I’d spent on food when I wasn’t even hungry (nothing got held back but chutney), considering I’m supposed to be saving money and keeping to a diet.  I have no self control whatsoever (unlike my roommate who still has half an Easter egg sitting on the shelf – seriously, how the hell has she pulled that one off?).

So now I’m slapping my cheeks and swearing to detox.  I managed to keep my spending down relatively well last month, so I think now that I’m back to Taekwondo and have a schedule again; I can keep to my milkshake diet.  Or at least if I buckle – it’ll be something like Ryvita and spicy tomato chutney instead of chocolate, cookies and ice cream.  Given the way my stomach’s been churning, my body isn’t happy with the arrangement, but have to stay strong!

My Friend the Wrist Restraint

You know, considering I’ve had to spend 6+ weeks not going to Taekwondo to get my leg functional, missed out on yet ANOTHER grading, and suffered typical lethargy the past few weeks from having my schedule completely skewered, you’d think my body could cut me just a little slack.

Nope.  This morning I woke up with a very stiff wrist.  Come 10am it’s so bad I can barely move it in certain directions. 

Am I worried?  No.  Annoyed?  Yes, but mostly because I thought I was done with this – it’s been a year without incident, and I haven’t even done anything to warrant it!

Simply put, in 2009 I kind of fell up a set of stairs while in costume.  Felt a little stiff the first day, the second day it was slightly sore, then on the third day it was time to go home.  And it felt like someone had slammed a screwdriver in my wrist.  Complete agony, to the point I made a makeshift sling out of my shirt just to keep myself from shaking it.  Ended up going to A&E just to make sure I hadn’t actually sprained it.  As it turned out, no – most likely situation was I’d torn the ligaments in my wrist.

And thus began 2 years of hell.  Ligaments are an absolute nightmare to heal – even keeping it restrained and holding back in class, one right hit and I can’t type the next day.  The part time job was the worst part though – heavy lifting and cold temperatures with one arm is not fun.

For the better part of 2 years I was suffering with a weak wrist on and off.  I was starting to think it was never going to heal – it’s affect me so much that my left wrist has physically become the stronger – my right acts more like a glass cannon.  Oddly enough my torment ended after a self defence class.  We were doing wrist locks and releases, and I despite trying to avoid twisting the wrist, my arm was in agony after the class, and I braced myself for the restraint again…only to wake up and find my wrist felt just fine.  Apparently torturous twisting was just what the doctor ordered.

Of course, it still bugs me every now and then, so I have to keep the stupid thing in the drawer just in case I have a relapse.  And today was the first time in nearly 6 months…but I haven’t injured it or done anything stupid!  All I can assume is that I slept with it at an angle or something.

Anyway, this forced me to dig through a drawer and dig out the wrist restraint to keep myself from howling in pain every time I picked up a needle for my costume or type.  Really hoping I can shed it tomorrow – although I’m glad I managed to do stuff regardless of pain, I kind of like not having a limb incapacitated if I can help it.

Those People

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I hated my last post – felt like I was writing utter crud just for the sake of it.  As such, let myself step back and wait until I could write something that sounded coherent and actually had something resembling substance.  Which this weekend thankfully provided.

Sadly, my roommates and I have officially become ‘those’ people.  The ones that are so lazy, they actually hire people to clean up after them.  Somewhere, my mother and stepmother are weeping at my fallen standards.

To be fair, it’s not entirely our fault.  Our flat’s cleaning supplies consist of 2 hoovers that don’t work, a mop that needs to be burned, and a variety of cleaning supplies we’ve all bought.  And it’s very hard to clean large spaces when you don’t have ways to getting the floors clean.  We do handle things like counters and washing, but it’s been fighting a losing battle with the kitchen floor and general bathroom for a while (not helped by the fact that one roommate never lifted a hand to clean the bathroom and me trying to hold out to see how long it would take before he did).

Anyway, situation was getting so over our heads we came to a mutual decision.  Rather than pull money together and buy new stuff to help clean and put up a rota, we’d pull money together and hire someone to come in every 2 weeks to give the place a once over.  It’s a little embarrassing and an added expense, but to be honest, I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we could keep the place tidy on our own.  We mean well, but just getting Italy to wipe down the oven after he makes coffee takes a diplomatic intervention sometimes, and nobody wants to buy a hoover just because the landlord won’t pony up one that works.

Admittedly, I feel rather bad about it.  It reminds me of my university years.  Before I headed from home I was relatively good at keeping my room in order and helping keep the house clean.  Then came university, and my room became a battleground for space, while the cleaning of the kitchen was mostly an endurance race on who could hold out longest.  My biggest pet peeve was dishes.  I was lousy at wiping down counters or tidying up the living area, but I couldn’t stand piles of dishes just sitting there – roommates would have parties or cook and not clean up – eventually we’d run out or I’d snap.  At which point this conversation would start:

ROOMMATE: You’re doing the dishes?

Me: Yup.

ROOMMATE: Oh I would have done them.

At which point a vein on my forehead would begin to throb as these dishes had been sitting on the counter for anything between 1-4 days without a passing glance.  If they were gonna do them, they’d have been done!

However, it never got too bad (with the teeny tiny fourth year ‘maggot’ incident – long story) as student accommodation came with cleaners who gave the kitchen, hallway and bathrooms a once over each week.  So I let myself lose all my good habits and became a nightmare whenever I went home for the summer break.  I only really got the wakeup call on just how bad I was though when I had to stay with my Dad and Stepmother for 6 weeks due to work experience in Glasgow.  My stepmother openly admits that her hobby is cleaning, and as such her house is spotless.  My habits did not stand up to her scrutiny, and I quickly had to relearn all those things I’d let slide.  By the time I returned to my flat, I was horrified at just how bad it was, and tried to continue cleaning up.  Something I’d always tried to follow…although my last flat faltered.

Simply put, I did the cleaning, but my roommate who was much like my stepmother didn’t consider my level of cleaning acceptable – and as such she tore up the rota feeling we weren’t pulling our weight.  As we were moving out in 6 months, I didn’t argue, and the cleaning level went way down.  Since moving here, never got back into the habit without a rota to poke me into action.

This morning was the first ‘deep’ clean, where the crew came in and thoroughly sterilised the flat.  Didn’t get off to a good start on the grounds that said roommates were out till 4am, and left me a note by my door in case they weren’t up for 10 in order to let them in.  Good plan except I didn’t get up until 9.50 and needed a shower.  Thankfully other roommate was up and let them in, so crisis averted.

Gotta admit, although I’m loathe to admit I had to pay someone to do it, the flat looks great.  It’s astonishing what several hours of thorough cleaning with a decent hoover and mop plus several dozen cleaning products will do to a place.  Its cleaner now than it was when I moved in.  The only thing they didn’t bother to clean were the stairs leading to the flat – and frankly that’s just common sense, cleaning them would be like shovelling the drive when it’s still snowing.  Its filthy and gets way to much shoe and bike tread to ever go back to its natural colour.

Of course, didn’t last long.  I’m making a costume in the living room and the roommates had another pizza party – so there’s flour on the counter, piles of dishes in the sink and red velvet shreds in the carpet.  Lord knows what it’ll look like in 2 weeks…

Comfort Zone

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Today I was faced with something I never thought I’d have to deal with.  At least not in Scotland.

Despite having both my windows open, and my heater stone cold, today I was actually driven out of my room by the heat.  Had to leave the safety of my little haven and retreat to the unknown of our living room with my laptop and multiple eBay items for listing.  All in all probably not a bad thing – the living room had far more space and it was far cooler than the sauna masquerading as my bedroom, but it was a painful reminder of how set in my ways I can be.

I pretty much live in my room.  When I move into a place, everything I could possibly want save for excess plumbing is available inside the box and I don’t see any reason to leave.  In the past roommates and family have admitted they honestly don’t know if I’m home sometimes due to me closing the door and disappearing till morning. When you have a computer, video games, books, writing pads and every other distraction under the sun though, why would you go to the rest of your flat? 

My roommates are just as bad as me – more so than any roommates I’ve had in the past.  Two of them even have en-suites so they have even less reason to leave.  Ironic considering that they’re also the most sociable group I’ve ever had.  Which is of course the issue – living with other people should result in socialising, but I am by far the worst of us.  They are quite happy to get together in the evenings at the weekends and talk and eat in the living room, while I’m only aware they’re doing it if I stumble out for nourishment.

Privacy is probably the biggest reason for wanting to remain alone.  Watching videos or doing something online is something you don’t necessarily want an audience for – and university taught me that people generally dislike it when you play video games in their presence (hell even before then my parents had the games console hidden away in the rarely used ‘guest lounge’ in order to keep it away from the TV).  But I’m old enough to remember the time before computers and I-gadgets, and I remember spending many an evening curled up in my room playing with toys or reading a book, rather than do it in the living room – even when the house was empty.

Perhaps it’s to do with security.  Your room is a haven – it’s filled with things that are quintessentially ‘you’.  Nothing in it is foreign, and anyone who enters in intruding on your land.  Being in the one room of the house where someone feels obligated to knock before entering can give an unexpected amount of relief – even when you know the knock is just obligatory and they’re coming in regardless.  Sometimes it actually feels awful to have someone else in my room – like someone grabbing hold of your arm and getting into your personal space without permission.

Frankly, being in a room that exudes nothing but my own personality day in and day out makes me happy, and now the temperature’s dropped, I’m back where I belong while my roommates chat in the living room.  I guess at the end of the day, I value human interaction a lot less than I should, despite considering myself a very tactile person.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been around people I’m fully comfortable with for long periods.

Bird Drop

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I hate seagulls.  Or rather, herring gulls, and yesterday I was reminded just why.

The downside to living in any town or city on the coast means they are a natural part of life, and one everybody resents.  To give them credit, I understand they’ve been driven to the cities because there isn’t enough food at sea for them anymore, but that doesn’t make them any less tolerable.

For one thing, they’re absolutely fearless.  On top of which, they’re as smart as they are vindictive.  Don’t think for a second they’re not intelligent – they’ve long since learned that humans are easy targets and both a source of entertainment and food.  Find me another city that has a shoplifting sea fowl as a local celebrity…

I was struck dumb when my roommate claimed she’d never had any problems with gulls, because I’m pretty sure living in the Granite City requires losing a meal to a bird as a rite of passage.  They scope out from the sky and if they spot a burger, sandwich, cake or alternative food source in the hands of one hapless city dweller, they descend.  The closest thing you get to a warning is a shadow on your shoulder, before a brush of wind, a sharp pain on your cheek from the passing claws and very empty hands.  When you look up, there will be a gull snacking on your lunch a few metres in front of you, possibly with friends cackling their heads off.

Rookies will at this point try to get revenge and rush the birdie.  Then find themselves fleeing for their lives as the thief and his posse take to the sky and attack them en masse, forcing you to flee into the closest building.  Those of us who are experienced in this, just brush the blood away from the cheek, curse the flying buggers and keep on walking.

I’ve lost count of the number of meals I’ve lost to the gulls.  Happened enough times that I instinctively duck whenever I see a shadow on my shoulder (don’t care how many people laugh at me – it’s worth it to see the buzzard fly over and falter) – It’s even gotten to the point that I have to cover my food with one hand and walk hunched if I’m ever eating and running.

However, although that may be the most common source of annoyance, it’s not the one that had me riled.  Yesterday afternoon, while waiting at the traffic lights and enjoying another sunny weekend, I felt a smattering of wet drops across my back.  First instinct was rain – until the woman in the white shirt beside me shuddered and wailed.

Yup, birdies had gone to the edge, aimed, and fired.  They’d been really active in the hot weather recently – I’ve had no less than 5 near misses this month, literally by inches.  I’d been lucky enough to get away with minimal damage – mostly on my bag.  The poor woman next to me had it all over her hair and shoulders, and I had to rush home to make sure it wasn’t on my hair or similar and I just couldn’t see it.

Luckily enough, no.  Which makes it far superior to the last time I was targeted – vindictive bird had the entire street to himself, let he chose to defecate when 3 people were directly under him – the only people on that side of the street at all.  Ended up having to toss that jacket after that too – and I really liked it!

Then again, I’m sure we’re not the only city with a bird problem.  Considering other places have to worry about insects or reptiles or even the neighbours, gulls are generally tolerable.  Just wish they would at least act a little afraid – it’s bad enough they sound like velociraptor’s in Jurassic Park, can’t they at least fly away when we walk past?