Story: Trophy

Another monologue… This time from a suggestion of “Trophy”:

It’s weird, right? Stressing over something so small. I mean, it shouldn’t be that big a deal, but it is. It’s my trophy. I won it. I put in the hours and effort, I sacrificed for it, it’s mine.

I mean, she doesn’t even want it. She said so.

She said to me “Karen, I don’t care if I win”.

That drives me crazy. How could you not want to win? Isn’t that the point? I mean, why take part if you’re not wanting to win? What is the actual point? Dad always said “If you’re not a winner, then you’re a loser, and we’re not a family of losers”. So that’s driven me all through my life. I have to be first. I have to be the one to win. Nothing else matters. The highest grades in school, medals at the sports days, being top of the class. Nothing else matters.

Nothing.

If I don’t win, then I’m out. I’m a winner. I always have been and always will. It’s what’s important. Dad would always take me for a reward when I won. We’d spend time together, he’d ask me about how I won, what the reaction of the other kids was, could I do something else to win better next time? It’s the only time I ever saw him smile was when he talked about how to crush the losers in my life. I live for those moments with him. He told me once that one of his biggest disappointments in life was that his first child was me. He wanted a son… that’s how he’d know he was a winner. His brother didn’t have kids, so he’d be the winner in that competition. Raise a male heir to carry on his line.

He got me though. He blamed Mum for that. I have a memory of them screaming at each other when I was young about how she was trying to ruin him. For as long as I can remember, they’ve slept in separate rooms. They never paid me any attention growing up… Nanny ended up raising me. She’s the one who helped me to my first win. She helped me train to win the egg & spoon race at School. That first one was amazing. I left everyone else in the dust. Everyone cheering for me when I crossed that line. Bliss.

When we got home that day, Dad saw us coming in and saw the trophy. He smiled and said “Well done”. The first thing he’d said to me in months. I knew from that point on what I had to do. I had to win at everything. So I did. Every race, every competition, everything. Every time I came home with a trophy, he’d say something to me. He said to me once that “maybe a daughter wasn’t so bad after all”. I almost cried.

I put all my attention where it needed to be. On winning. Nothing else matters. Did I tell you my school report said once “She needs to realise that there’s more to life than winning”? Dad was particularly pleased with that. He said to me “Karen, this teaches you the most important lesson of all. To identify those who’ll drag you down and to cut them out of your life. Anyone who isn’t pushing you to be your best is worthless to you”. I cut everyone else out of my life. The only thing that matters was winning. If I set my mind to it, it was mine. That’s how I got to be where I am. Liv doesn’t care if she wins. Doesn’t that tell you something? Liv is satisfied with second. How can she be satisfied with second? How is that not eating her up? How does that not feel like a thousand stabs in her chest? How does that not burn her up? I don’t get it. What drives her if it’s not the need to win? Why does she even bother to get up? She’s got kids, and she doesn’t care about winning? What kind of message is that to them? They’ll grow up to be losers.

Like me.

No. No, she cheated. I can’t be a loser. I don’t lose. My family aren’t a bunch of losers. Dad said so. I can’t let him see me being a loser.

I can’t.

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2017: A Photo 365 Project

One of the things I’ve always wanted to try was a Photo365 project (capture one picture a day for a year). It was a surprisingly tough challenge when most of your days involve traveling to/from a bland business park in West London.
2017: A Photo 365 Journal
I’m pleased with some of the results. I think I’ve started to get a better understanding of what goes into making a nice picture, and the whole thing has been a pretty cool way of reviewing the year.

It’s been a lot of cocktails, knitting, travels & showtunes. I’d be happy if 2018 was something similar.

A “Best 9” compilation of my Instagram

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The Negotiations Failed…

Seeing my friend Madeley‘s retweet and additional commentary:

I followed up with a few more to round out the story… (included here sans @-replies…)

Shot transitions through scenes of empty stores, shuttered offices… Focuses in on a drunk guy in a Union Flag suit by Parliament.

The focus tightens to the man’s face… It’s revealed to be a bedraggled, bearded Nigel Farage.

He’s startled from his stupor… Turns to the camera and says “Oh! Welcome! Welcome to the glorious and independent Britain!”

His hand gestures across the skyline… Smoke wafts across the sky, as screams are heard in the distance

He struggles… As if trying to remember something… “OH YES! We start here at the home of Democracy!” pointing to Parliament

The shot pans across the grounds… No sign of anyone… A cat stalks some pigeons

He stares at you… “Did you bring food?” he asks… “we’re waiting for a trade deal to kick in, so we’re all on a national diet”

The camera pans out, transitional shots of the narrator and Nigel walking up Whitehall, past a shuttered McDonald’s

He stares wistfully through the window… “The US told us we’d be better off without these, they were right…”

The walk continues… past an ocean of detritus in Trafalgar Square. Empty shells of shops on Regents Street

“Ah! My favourite store!” he cries… running to a kiosk selling tourist tat. The stall holder looks forlorn…

At this point, Madeley implores me to stop…

So I decided to finish off the story here…

Efforts to engage the store-holder in conversation fail, his eyes are hollow and empty. Nigel seems not to notice

“Good stock today Chris! Jolly good stuff!” as he moves a grimy model of Westminster, and a broken snow globe of Buckingham Palace

The tour wanders on. We arrive at the British Museum. Nigel seems upset, mutters about “so called experts”. He bristles when I suggest wander in, but relents and we go inside.
Tattered posters and glass litter the floor.

“The ‘experts’ tried to tell us how to safeguard the exhibits” he scoffs “that we shouldn’t touch things”

“So obviously, they had to go… but they sabotaged everything… all the ancient things broke when we played with them”.

The shot transitions outside, as we watch the narrator and Nigel wander through more streets. A sequence of shots where the narrator tries and fails to engage passers by. They appear catatonic. “Marvellous, isn’t it? The city is burbling with witty English banter! We’re renowned for it!” after several unsuccessful attempts.

The loop ends back at Parliament. Shot tightens on Nigel’s face. He seems disappointed. “You won’t forget about us, will you?”

Fade to black.

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Story: Abandoned

​Another monologue… This time from a suggestion of “Abandoned”:

IsolEx Arctic Base: Daily Log:

It’s been 16 months now. Not a word from anyone anywhere. When I signed up for this Arctic Isolation Experiment, I thought “how difficult could it be?”

It’s helped a lot just talking to you. I know you’re not real, but it’s helped. I like to think someone is seeing this, that someone remembers I’m here. I found a lot of the cameras put in to monitor me. It was weird at first, then was a bit comforting, then it made me angry. I resented being their lab rat.

There’s someone out there, right? Back at base? Back at home? I’ve been trying the radio ever since the experiment was supposed to end, nothing but static. I sleep in the radio room now… well, you know that…. No. You don’t… you’re not real.

I sleep in the radio room. I’ll wake up in what passes for night to what I think is a voice, but it’s just static. I’m trying to keep it together, but it’s hard. I’m tired of having to dig myself out of the snow, of the radio, of the endless whiteness.

Someone has to be out there? Right? They said 12 months. That they’d come and get me.
I keep trying to remind myself of Chris, of why I’m doing this. He won’t have forgotten about me. You remember… no. You don’t. We needed the money… I guess people do stupid things for money. Did the treatments work? I want to see him again so badly. He wouldn’t abandon me here.

Unless.

Unless it didn’t work. What if he’s dead? What if all of this was just a waste of time? He died without me by his side. I could have been there. Make him feel better.

I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m sick of it.

End of Log.

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Story: Making Space

Having drawn blanks trying to write more for my blog, It occurred to me I could try and write a story from a one-word suggestion. So I did… Having written it, it feels like a monologue…

Suggestion: “Loving”

I met Lydia back when I first moved to London. We kept bumping into each other at the Starbucks in Liverpool Street Station. She with her Soy Latte, me with my Americano. She surprised me one Thursday, asking me to join her at her table. It had been a particularly bad week for me, the adjustment to London life, and a hard few days with the markets in Shanghai had given me pause to wonder if I’d made the right move coming to London, and if I’d be better off going back to Devon.

Something told me I should sit down.

She’d not long moved to London herself. Swapped a life in Glasgow to live with the Sassenach. We sat there and talked. On reflection, it seems strange to just talk openly with a complete stranger, but we did. We covered everything from how we regretted not making time for anything other than work, through to our mutual love of Matisse. It was intoxicating, making a connection with a total stranger out of the blue.

I didn’t see her for days after that. We’d not exchanged numbers, and all I had was her name and coffee order. I was bereft… I kept berating myself for not giving her my number… Then, I saw her again. Same table, same coffee, same smile.

We met regularly after that, making time for dinner or a drink. In such an isolating place, having that kind of connection to another person was incredible. It made everything so much brighter… the Overground bothered me less, grey skies over the City looked less gloomy.  I never pictured myself as a social animal, but she’d drawn that out of me.

People around us asked if we were dating. Until that point, the question hadn’t even occurred to me. I just loved being around her… anything beyond that seemed unnecessary. We talked about it after that, and I was ecstatic when she mentioned she felt the same.

We met up again a month or two ago. She’d been offered a teaching job in Singapore and was moving away. I was made up for her. Our last dinner together was bittersweet, and we made plans to meet up in the future.

Then, she was gone.

It’s been an adjustment not having her around, but I’m grateful for the time we shared. Going back to the old, gloomy world felt like death, so I’m embracing the idea of being open & present for someone else.

Which is why I’m here… what brought you to Liverpool Street?

 

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Wrapping up for Winter

I’ve written a number of times about knitting (see when I knitted a hatknitting handwarmers, all the way back to starting to knit my 9 1/2″ scarf).

knitting-jp

The Salisbury A/W 2016 Collection…

Since then, I’ve been trying to pick up new skills & improving my technique. The two most recent pieces are my 2nd hat and a pair of handwarmers (in a lovely worsted yarn called “Purple Mystery” by Malabrigo).

The hat didn’t teach me anything particularly new, beyond the importance of reading the stitch counting guidance on the yarn’s label (the other attempt to make this hat ended up with something which was about 2x too big to fit my head). The handwarmers on the other hand (so to speak) was the first time I’d ever attempted to make a thumb gusset (which I’d built up in my head to be a massively complicated thing – which it isn’t, as it turns out).

Going from the first effort, the lack of a gusset added a whole bunch of stress to the hole, meaning it didn’t really do the job properly. Adding the gusset means there’s room for the thumb joint, which keeps things a lot tidier. I then picked up some more stitches, which means I was able to keep working up the thumb.

This time, I’d actually written down the pattern I’d used to make the first one, which meant repeating it in order to complete the pair was much easier.

My take-away from working on these was to not over think any of the techniques. Fear of making mistakes with it will hold you back from producing something you’ll enjoy.

Now to look for the next thing…

B

 

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Let it go…

One of the benefits of moving house is it gives you a good excuse to think about the stuff you’ve got in your life and whether or not they’re still necessary. My Haclediad co-host Sioned (who is bloody brilliant btw…), introduced me to a podcast series at The Minimalists, who in turn got me thinking about all the stuff I’d spent time and effort in lugging across London. In particular, something called the sunk cost fallacy…

The sunk cost fallacy has been used by economists and behavioral scientists to describe the phenomenon where people justify increased investment of money, time, lives, etc. in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment (“sunk costs”), despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, beginning immediately, of continuing the decision outweighs the expected benefit [Wikipedia – Escalation of Commitment]

An alarmingly large amount of the stuff I’d moved from one place to the next were things that were either not being used or weren’t of any further use to me. Things I’d bought for a project I had intended to start, a book I’d intended to read but never got around to, or equipment that had long since outlasted its usefulness. We’d (yes, I had help to move – my folks are really helpful) expended a massive amount of effort to carefully pack each of these things, label the boxes, move them across town, then unpack it and find somewhere to store it until the next move.

These objects no longer provided the benefit I’d imagined, and were now a burden.

Books, DVDs, toys, magazines, beer-making kits, old electronics, old chargers for long-lost devices, trinkets from trips I’d hated for my old job. These things had now passed the point of adding value to my life, to a point where I was having to expend more effort to maintain them than what I felt they were worth to me. Letting go of them would mean they’d potentially find use elsewhere (charity shops etc), and I’d not have to worry about having to look after them.

An interesting thing happened when I started looking at what I was keeping. As the junk disappeared, the stuff that mattered to me became more obvious. My flat was easier to clean, and was now filled with stuff that made me happy, rather than a hoard of things I’d acquired to try and make myself happy.

I started thinking about how this would apply to some of the themes I’d explored in my previous blog posts. I’ve explored the idea that horrid internal monologue, and I’ve been practicing some meditation & mindfullness techniques to manage it. It occurred to me that some of these issues were an extension of the same cluttering problem in my home. I wondered if it was possible to declutter my mind and be able recognise when I’m dwelling on useless things at the expense of the things that can bring me joy?

image

Let it go...

In short, is happiness found in learning to let go? I don’t really know, but I’m really keen to find out.

B

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