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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Time for some showing off

So, last year I won Third Prize in the Chudleigh Phoenix Short Story competition.

This year, I went one better, and got second prize. Ha ha!

First prize next year? I'm not going to get cocky but here's hoping. Please click on the link above if you'd like to read it :)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Spooky moments in life...

I'm sure most of us have had weird/psychic/unexplained moments in our lives. Here are two of mine, although I have many more...

Weird moment 1 - The Mysterious Case of the blue & green Skip n Go

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Who remembers the skip n go? A ball attached to a rope which went round your ankle, which you then spun around and skipped over, until you tripped yourself up, whacked your nose off the playground and ran away to cry in a corner. Or maybe that was just me.

Anyway, I was late to the skip n go camp. Loads of girls in school had one, and I decided I wanted one. I daydreamed in class one day about having one. They only seemed to come in certain colour combinations, but I wanted one that was a totally different colour to everyone else. It would have blue rope, I decided. And the ball would be...green and white. That would be cool.

So, I went home for lunch. When my sister and I sat down to lunch, my aunt handed us each a brown paper bag with a present in it. Awesome! It was a skip n go each. Now, Coll's was pink with a yellow, white and blue ball - one of the more 'common' colour combinations that a few girls in school had. Mines was...blue with a green and white ball. Seriously.

Maybe my thoughts influenced my aunt in the shop, or maybe I psychically sensed her buying it. Maybe it was the famous Law of Attraction at work. Maybe I'd seen that colour and forgotten I'd seen it, but my subconscious had remembered it. Or maybe it was just a big, fat, weird, coincidence. However, I swear, opening that bag and seeing it there, exactly as I had imagined, was one of the most exhilarating moments of my childhood.

Weird moment 2 - How I remembered 'Remember the Time'


I was in third year at University and I was having a conversation about Michael Jackson songs with two of my flatmates. Two of us could recall a song with a kind of Egyptian themed video but none of us could think of what the song was. Now, this was the late 90s, so we didn't have smart phones, and the only internet availability was over on the campus. But I discovered I had something more powerful than Google at my disposal.

That night, I dreamed I was at a party at a remote cottage in the Highlands (for anyone who's familiar with The Broons, it was pretty much the same as their But n' Ben). It was a busy party, loads of people outside and I was standing chatting to folk, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned round, here was a small, skinny guy with a bald head, wearing a long sleeved granddad shirt and jeans.

'Sorry for bothering you,' he said. 'But the song you were trying to remember earlier is called Remember the Time,'

WHAAAAAAAAAT the actual fuck?

I have no idea what happened after that, but when I woke, I wrote a note and stuck it to my flatmates door, saying 'The MJ song is Remember the Time!!! (A bald guy told me in my dream!!!)'

This is easily explainable - I do genuinely think this is just my subconscious mind reminding my scatty conscious mind of something that it wanted to remember. Still a bit odd though. Its not the first time I've remembered on waking something I couldn't remember the night before, but its the first time I remember dreaming the answer. Perhaps the wee bald guy has visited my dreams more than I realise....

Any weird/psychic experiences to share?


Monday, 7 July 2014

The Accidental Sexist

The story in a recent 'daily' tabloid, which I'm not going to link to here, about the British girl performing sex acts on 24 men in Magaluf, has been dubbed as everything from vile to outrageous. But what seems to have caused the biggest stir is the backlash against the girl, yet the utter lack of contempt for the 24 men who also partook in it.

If I'm honest, I don't give a toss about tabloid twaddle like this. If that's what folk want to do on holiday, good for them, it ain't for me. But the public's attitude towards the girl has got me thinking; its reminded me of an incident a couple of years back in  a nightclub.

Now, I don't frequent nightclubs often, and the local nightclub in question is really a glorified pub, but nevertheless we were sitting at a table next to a man and woman who we were taking no notice of, until another bloke appeared and dragged the man out of his seat. Unfortunately, at that moment the man's hand was up the woman's short skirt and she happened to have no underwear on, so we all got an eyeful. Turns out the second bloke was actually her boyfriend, so both she and the bloke she was sitting with, were 'misbehaving', shall we say.

None of my business, and I know I shouldn't judge, but my first, instant thought was 'what a whore.'

Yup. Two men brawling on the floor over a woman, one of whom had his hand up the skirt of a woman, which is pretty tacky, yet my immediate negative assumption was about her.

Clearly there were no angels in this threesome, but the instant demonising of the woman in situations like this, is commonplace. A woman gives a bloke a blowjob in an alleyway? She's a whore and he's a stud. A bloke goes down on a woman in an alleyway? Do the roles reverse? You get the picture. There are so many words used to describe women - whore, slut, slag etc, but what about men. Player? Stud? Both pretty complementary, really. So small wonder that the woman is always in the wrong. We have words for her. We have none for the man.

I know this is an old-hat feminist issue but nevertheless it's clearly still relevant. I daresay the girl in Magaluf's parents aren't proud, but would the parents of the 24 men be clapping them on the back and saying well done? I doubt it, yet somehow, it doesn't seem as bad. Its like we've been conditioned to accept that men can play around, but women are somehow supposed to keep a lid on it.

Is it something to do with women's sexuality - should it be oppressed and only expressed in 'appropriate' places and circumstances? In other words, in bed with a partner or on a porn video for the masses. And with my example of the woman in the nightclub - is choosing not to wear knickers and let a man stick his hand in your bits feminist or not? Feminism is about choices, but at the same time, is doing something that's traditionally deemed 'slutty', giving rise to the idea that women are indeed just sex objects? It's a minefield of a subject. Not one I write about often, mainly because I end up writing myself down rabbit holes (See Suzy and Janet's blogs for more succinct feminist comment and rants!).

Anyway, the point of this is, that in these situations, assumptions are made. And what makes it worse is that people who claim to be feminists (read: me) can often make these assumptions aswell. Not that I shouted my opinion about the nightclub girl from the rooftops at the time, but the thought came into my head.

I have no idea how we tackle things like this, but its wrong that a silly girl who made an error in judgement is being chastised when 24 equally silly men who should know better, are no doubt being lauded by their mates.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

On being hypnotised




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I've always been squeamish, but in recent years its verged on ridiculous. If I see so much as a drop of blood somewhere, I start to giggle. Which may sound odd, but giggling is my instant response, because the longer I giggle, the longer until I fall to my knees, sweat, gasp with thirst, then lie down. Pathetic.

Blood tests are always hideous. Last time I had one, I was so proud of myself because I felt fine afterwards. I even told the nurse how proud I was, because normally I have to sit there with my head between my knees for at least five minutes, and drink a glass of water. But that time I never. I made it across the road and into the park before the giggles kicked in and I flung myself onto a park bench where I sat for near on fifteen minutes until I was composed enough to head to work.

Interestingly, I'm fine with needles though. It really isn't the needles that freak me out. And it isn't just blood, its most things medical. Smear tests? Yup. Watching operations on TV? Yup. Seeing someone put a contact lens in or out? Yup. Hate it all.

There are various reasons why I would love to not be squeamish, not least so that I can watch an episode of Embarrassing Bodies without having a cushion on standby to stick over my face. I'd like to be useful if, God forbid, I ever come across an accident or some sort of emergency. Also, if I ever change my mind and decide I want children, I don't want the fact that there's inevitably blood involved in both childbirth and child-rearing, to be the reasons why I don't do it. But ultimately, I really want to donate blood. I feel its something that I, as a fit and healthy human being, should do.

I've always been intrigued by hypnotherapy. I believe the hype around it and other therapies like NLP. I absolutely believe that a human mind can be trained and changed, provided the will to change is there, so I figured that this redundant story I was telling myself about blood and guts could be amended to something more helpful. So I booked an appointment for a hypnotherapy session at Vitality Retreat.

My Therapist, Donna, was warm, friendly and clearly very professional. Any nerves I had about the process were soon eased by her calm, down-to-earth attitude. We had a chat in which she asked me loads of questions, some seemingly random such as what I enjoy doing in my spare time, and somewhere I feel safe. I told her I love to write and my favourite place is sitting at the top of my stairs with either a notepad or my laptop.

She told me to stare at a picture on the wall and let my eyes go all blurry, but keep them open. This was harder than I thought; I was desperate to close them, and had also explained to Donna that I hadn't slept well so was worried about falling asleep! When she did allow me to close them, I found myself in a weird, asleep-but-awake place. I could hear Donna's voice but she sounded far away. It was as if she wasn't there and was just a voice in my head. I felt kind of detached from myself, infact I had to flex my fingers occasionally to remind myself that I was still attached to my body and could control it. It wasn't a scary feeling though, just a bit odd. I've had a similar feeling in the past when I've taken anxiety attacks, but unlike in those instances, this time it felt peaceful. I felt safe.

Donna told me to imagine I was sitting on my stairs looking at my laptop. She asked me to imagine I was watching a video of myself going to give blood. I had to watch myself through the entire scene, but if it got too much for me, just pause the video. I had to raise my hand in response when I had finished. This didn't tale long and didn't leave me too uncomfortable. I then had to do the same but imagine that I was actually there and observing myself. In the third instance I had to actually be myself. This was trickier and I did have to stop a few times and 'return to the stairs' as it were. We ran through the scenario a few times, as well as a few different scenarios, and I could feel it getting easier. By  the end, I could 'give blood' without having to pause the scene.

Donna told me to start counting down from ten and slowly awaken. I was surprised that on the count of one, I was wide awake, especially as I had been so sedate all through the therapy, plus I'd been tired beforehand. I was thirsty - very thirsty - but otherwise fine.

Donna recorded the session so that I could play it again at home and reinforce the message, plus I can play it before going into a 'squeamish' situation. She also advised that I put myself into such a situation ASAP. Now, I can't force myself to have a blood test, and sadly the blood transfusion folk won't be up for a while (they were up a few weeks ago, which was what prompted me to finally do this) but I've made a point of watching gory moments on TV and I can already see a difference. Its weird because I can fell myself start to tense up, then I tell myself 'stop, you're not squeamish anymore!' Its almost as if it had become a habit, rather than something I had no control over. Who knows?

Anyway, I intend to give blood next time. I'll listen to my CD a few times, especially in the run-up to it, just to give my brain the final push it needs to kick its squeamish habit for good, but I'm totally confident I can do this.

I'd recommend hypnotherapy if you're looking to change your thinking somehow. I'm now sorely tempted to go back and see if it can cure my spider phobia.....

Sunday, 29 June 2014

On a puffin hunt

Every spring I take a walk to Duncansbay Head with the hope of seeing some puffins. Once, a couple of years ago, I saw one from a distance. Just one. Just once. But ever the optimist I still head there at least once a year in the hope of glimpsing another. They're such colourful, jaunty little birds and while they're not rare as such, they're damn hard to spot.

But this year, I struck gold. There were LOADS!!! Well, there were four. Which is loads. And I had both the binoculars and camera on hand to make the most of them.

The other seabirds below are fulmars, which are also really pretty but have a habit of spitting a salty sea water/stomach oil concoction over you if you get too close. Nice.

Puffins, on the other hand, are pleasant sea birds that do not spit on people. But they don't have colourful beaks all the time - its just a show for the mating season. And they're a delicacy on the Faroe Islands - can't comment on that as I've never tasted one ( and I can't imagine there would be much meat on them either....)

**Note - these birds were surprisingly far away from me, and my camera isn't the greatest, so excuse the blurriness**
















Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A spot of upcycling

I don't really have the patience for any sort of DIY or upcycling, much as I like the idea of projects like that. But when I saw this dresser advertised at just £30, I challenged myself to do something awesome with it.




It's allegedly a Victorian wash stand but I don't buy the Victorian bit for one moment. Anyway, I bought it not long before we bought our house and it had been stuck in the garage after we moved in, until February, when I decided to make a start on it.

Now, it took me over 3 months to do what could have been done in 3 weeks, but that's only because I have a habit of starting projects then getting fed up of them. In this case I had to persevere but I found that doing just little bits at a time meant that I kept my interest in it.

Firstly, I borrowed my Dad's Black & Decker Mouse and sanded it down, just a bit. The I painted it with Home of Colour Duracoat matt emulsion in amethyst, two coats. Once it dried I followed it with a thin coat of slightly watered down Johnstones matt antique cream. Finally, two coats of varnish and this is the finished result.







I'm really pleased with it. It isn't perfect (yes, you can see the brush strokes), but it isn't meant to be, and the flaws are what make it unique. I was aiming for shabby, and that's what I got (not shabby chic. I don't do chic). It matches the bedroom decor perfectly and its completely and utterly mine.

I won't be doing it again in a hurry though. As much as I love second hand furniture, I prefer it when there's minimal work involved.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Just a quick reminder...

I'm guesting over on Two Days The Same this month, please head over there and check it out :)

Huge thanks to Sarah for letting me join in!

And that is all.