Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Connected - the Kindness of Strangers

As is undoubtedly becoming painfully obvious to anyone crazy enough to read this blog, I spend an awful lot of time on my own.  Being self-employed and working from home combined with a narrowing net of single friends (that in itself is the result of a complicated set of circumstances), means that it is far too easy to feel alone.
I am learning however that there is a difference however in being alone and feeling lonely.  It's taken me rather a long time, but I am slowly getting there.  One factor that makes an enormous difference in helping to feel connected is the internet and email.  The saviours of single home workers the developed world over I imagine.  There is enormous comfort to be had from logging on and seeing one's friends are also sat at a screen wherever they may be in the world, and to gain tiny snap shots into their day or thoughts from the 100 characters or so that facebook updates allow.
Being connected is expected of us, particularly in a professional capacity.  It is astonishing that in the space of one or two generations due to mobiles and instant messaging, we have leaped from looking forward to a letter in response to one sent within a week at best, to expecting a response to an emails within minutes.  In order to maintain a professional veneer (and certainly when trying to establish one's own business) it is therefore prudent to have technology to hand that can enable one to respond within a heartbeat.  Unless of course, you have a complete technological blind spot.  I am such a luddite that I have to rely on PNL's visits to the UK to install my new wireless homehub, update my TV freeview - I think you get the picture.  Imagine therefore the cold sweat that broke out when I was faced with setting up emails on my blackberry. I am sad to confess that the air was a vivid shade of turquoise whilst my face was a rather livid puce and the wretched device flew through the air as I hurled it at the sofa in my frustration.
Where oh where is the 'IT help desk' when one is self-employed?  Never had I wanted to hear the words "have you tried turning it off and on again" so keenly. In desperation I plea for help on the message forum for my tiny corner of London. So far this approach had successfully lead to a local plumber and curtain maker.  Could it however deliver an IT advisor?  With a huzzah and yes crikey, I'm delighted to report that the site came up trumps yet again!  A lovely self-employed woman gave me an idiots step by step guide and sure enough, I am connected.  Not just to friends and contacts emailing me, but I am reminded that sometimes, finding a connection can be as simple as reaching out and asking for help.
Thank you Debstar, whoever you are.  I hope that you are sat at your screen with a smile, knowing that you helped someone today.

Monday, 22 March 2010


be•reft /b{I}'reftadj. [not before noun] (formal
~ of sth completely lacking sth; having lost sthbereft of ideas / hope
(of a personsad and lonely because you have lost sthHe was utterly bereft when his wife died. * The shock of his departure had left her feeling alone and bereft.

Such a soulful little word.  One that tugs at the heart strings and reminds every one of us of a time when we have felt a little disconnected and somewhat alone.  Simply annunciating the word out loud causes one to sigh as the word leaves one's breath.  

Thankfully I have not been experiencing the former of the above definitions.  With the promise of a contract and the lessening grip of a virus, I find that my stressful state has eased, freeing room in my cluttered mind for a few creative thoughts.  Only a few but it's a start that's to be gently encouraged.

Sadly it was the second definition that described my state a couple of days ago.  A friend whom I have known since teenage years (the phrase 'oldest friend' would be misleading as actually my friend of the most advanced years is 67!), stayed with me for a rare Friday night catch up.  Warmed by the glow of such an easy but wonderful friendship (and okay, I admit, a bottle of fizz), I tipped into bed, looking forward to a relaxed day of coffees, chats and strolls with a friend who is almost like a sister.  

We giggled as the teenagers we once were as she nestled into my bed early the following morning with the news that she had to leave in an hour or so.  A change of plans due to a certain chap.  I love said friend so deeply that I felt sad for me, but hopeful for her.  Hopeful that this time the chap in question would not let her down.

She left in a flurry, full of hope and the need to clean!  My small flat suddenly felt very large.  Slightly empty as the last echoes of our laughter seeped out under the doors and windows.  I felt bereft.  Unconnected.  Yet, after a therapeutic walk through the park in the drizzle and whipping wind, I felt happy to have such a super person in my life again.  And a determination to connect more.  More frequently, with a lighter touch where required and to seek more pleasure from the precious time we have alive.

(n.b. obviously I will need to remind myself of this new commitment as I stare at my mac, waiting for the next email to ping its way into my day!).

Bereft no more.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Found - Lists

Yes, I love words, but sometimes the gaps around the words belie a tale in themselves.  Take a list for example.  Whether it's a 'to do' or a shopping list, this string of words is perfunctory to the writer and yet is open to a myriad of interpretations to the incidental reader.

Perhaps it is verging on the voyeuristic, but I find a ridiculous amount of pleasure in stumbling across other people's shopping lists.  They are usually to be found in the bottom of supermarket trollies or baskets.  Spent, exhausted and discarded and yet, to me, they open a door to characters, endless scenarios and a tiny snapshot into the mind of the list's author.

Imagine my delight therefore at coming upon such a list in the most unlikely of places.  I was happy picking my way through chattering nannies and scampering dogs in a local park, when my eyes suddenly prickled with interest at the sight of a folded piece of paper, with a bold title.  Shopping List.  What luck!  Written in a childlike script, I unfolded the paper expecting to see a list of sweets, comics or, more likely these days, DVDs and mobile phone credits. Yet the contents hinted at a more adult, and likely female, origin (note - I've not corrected the spelling):

salt & vinegar Mcoys x 2
passion fruit rubicon x 2
cream cheese
smoked salmon
cranberry special k bars
hair dye brown x 2 (uses)
crushed green velvet

Was this the story of a woman enjoying a moment of luxury and preparation before a date?  Was the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich to be savoured whilst she covered her grey and sewed a beautiful dress in the velvet fabric?  I hope she remembers to wipe her hands.  Were the crisps and bottles of pop to keep two children entertained whilst she goes about her sewing?  Or is this the rather sorry tale of a woman going for calorie broke before a new regime that involves evil diet foods (even though they typically contain more salt, chemicals and hidden nasties than a couple of pieces of fruit)?
And the hair dye.  Is the author to buy two packs or a product with which one gets two bites of the cherry?

Without her list, will she remember every last item?  Oh I can just envisage the agony that ensues as she arrives at the shops, patting her pocket for the list.  Scrabbling in every nook of her bag only to find it's vanished.  Inevitably one item will be forgotten.  I just hope it wasn't the hair dye.  It seems to hold the key to a new found confidence.  A renewed sense of self.  x2 (uses).

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Love of Words

I love words.  I appreciate that that may sound rather silly however it's true. They have an infinite power that we rarely stop to consider in our daily churn of life.  What else in our existence has the potential to both unite but also to destroy?  To bring overwhelming happiness yet also to provoke gulps of tears that threaten to rip your chest apart?  To add warmth to a dank day but also to scratch a chill along your spine?  When thrown away they can hurt immeasurably without thought.  Yet when applied with care, they have the ability to inspire, to create love, to induce happiness.

Yes, using words can be quite a responsibility.  I apply words with care for a living that seems to add a certain weight and seriousness to them.  When the stress levels reduce I allow the seeds of creativity to peek their wee heads into the light, and find fun in how words can be used.  I have notebooks full of the beginnings of short stories.  Crammed with characters who are jostling for an opportunity to be developed into a whole chapter, even a story, of their own.  I have a blog where words are concocted along with recipes.

I wake up with stories in my head after a night of vivid dreams yet never manage to capture them on paper.  I am a word thief.  I pick up discarded shopping lists and create characters and scenarios.  I grab the end of overheard conversations and turn them into possible story lines.

And, perhaps rather oddly, I sometimes visualise words as I or others speak them, in a printed form.

I have yet, however, found an outlet for my words that does not necessitate agonising thoughts as to how to develop them into a larger opus.  Ridiculous obviously with its thoughts of grandeur beyond my grasp, but a new friend has introduced me to a completely new outlet and one that feels liberated compared to my usual angst over writing towards a larger work.

Word play.  Turning words, scenarios and characters into something visual.  I simply have to find the words and the wonderfully artistic and talented Sarah creates a visual dream.

The words will appear on this blog.  As will the random writings that I cannot help but create.  By posting them here I can learn to have fun with words, rather than finding creativity being drained by writing endlessly weighty, serious 'work' focussed pieces.

A seed is planted.  The sun is shining. Spring has finally started.  Who knows what may grow?

Thank you Sarah.