Dad’s Coat

“I don’t understand,” I said, “Nothing has changed, except we now know.”

“Yeah, “Mum said, “It’s like we’ve put on an extra coat.”

 

We have. It’s cumbersome and lacks warmth. It’s a weight of knowledge

We’ve slipped into this coat as it was handed to us and we can’t take off.

 

We have many coats.

We all do.

Some make us lighter, some warmer.

Some we grow into. Some we grow out of.

Some are in storage.

Some we didn’t know we had.

The coats we love wear thin.

 

We all have this coat. The coat of mortality – the knowledge that life is finite.

The longer you live, the more you wear it.

It’s not a coat we like to air.

 

We put on the fighting coat.

 

And we have love.

We have now.

This coat fits best.

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Classical Note

I love music, but I’m not particularly musical.

I can play the piano but I’m somewhat restricted by my repertoire. I have zero gift for improvisation and I’m unable to play sheet music at first sight unless the tempo is glaciale (yes, I made that up) – and even then, I can make no promises. My preferred audience is my cat, but unfortunately he hates me playing and will either meow at me, make a point of leaving the room, adjust his sleep position to ensure he’s on his ears or jump up onto the keys/hands/lap/anything-that-might-make-me-stop. My personal favourite is when he plonks himself on the low notes and just stares at me.

I’m also pitch imperfect which, on a positive note, allows me to play my old and un-tuneable piano. Miraculously, my husband who’s has perfect pitch has not yet divorced me.

I love music though and I rarely do anything at home without a soundtrack.

Although musically inept, I’m ridiculously pedantic about certain musical etiquettes. This IS entirely MY problem but I wish to enlighten anyone willing to listen so we can share the same, inane first-world-problem. And then we can be frustrated together – yay!

Rhythmic displacement – otherwise known as clapping on the wrong beat. Its disjointed effect and its seamless correction is shown in the clip below by the skillz of Harry Connick Jr.

Also, I have an issue with applause.

I promise, I’m not anti-clapping per se.  How can clapping even be wrong?

Well, since I asked myself on your behalf – it can be wrong at classical music concerts.  I struggle when people clap between musical movements. Which is, essentially, before a piece has finished.

The last concert I attended accentuated this issue – The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs by Henryk Górecki.

If you are unfamiliar with this work, it is as it sounds – profoundly slow, expressive and mournful – the words taken from the walls of a Gestapo prison. The first time I heard it in my teens, it froze me in my tracks. It is exquisitely beautiful and emotive.

The silence is part of it. More than any other piece, it deserves the silence.

*Awkward silence*

So, any thing small but musically significant frustrate you? I will not accept answers which include folk who are, allegedly, musicians.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on a musical bridge getting over it.

Extra Ordinary

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Find the ‘extra’…

I don’t own a single album of David Bowie, so the devastation I felt upon his passing seemed disproportional. A similar dichotomy happened only days later, with Alan Rickman.

Extraordinary strangers. People who I’ve glimpsed through the world’s eye with their extraordinary talents, while they undoubtedly continued with their ordinary lives, viewing themselves as unremarkable and simply creating, working and living.

I’m drawn to this humbleness. Not those who bask in their success but wonder at it, are confused by it and possibly curse the attention it brings.

I follow The Bloggess. I cannot claim to know her but she gives so much of herself on her blog and in her books that it is difficult to not feel connected. She wrote this post about David Bowie and Alan Rickman (among others) which I marvelled at not simply because I felt exactly the same but because she does not see herself among them. She is among them. She is extraordinary.

She’ll never read this.

Wil Wheaton and Anne Wheaton are extraordinary. They are good people and I would happily say I adore them. I feel delighted that they share their lives on social media because they make me laugh but they’ve dealt with enough nonsense for Wil (at one time or other) to post instructions on how to be respectful, and for Anne to quit twitter. Just before she quit, I sent her a direct message.

Twitter comment

She didn’t read it.

If she did, it didn’t make any difference – I didn’t expect it would. I am one of hundreds upon thousands of people waving my arms around her.

She’ll never read this either.

These are five people who have touched my life without their knowledge, be it by their humour or sensibilities or genius or grace, or they’ve simply shared a part of their life. There are many others. Writers, artists, creators, comedians – people I’ve found on Twitter or Instagram or WordPress or TED talks. Often not famous. There’s a part of me that believes if the world were smaller, we’d be friends. With some, I already am.

I am thankful for these connections – however large and worldly, or small and obscure.

Extraordinary strangers. Those who are likely think of themselves as quite ordinary but are remarkable. Not necessarily in a Bowie way, or a Rickman way, but in their own way.

And if you’re sitting there reading this thinking I’m not talking about you. Why not? Life is extraordinary . The mechanics of a purring cat. The brain. An opening flower.

Ordinary and extraordinary are not mutually exclusive.

The only thing that limits us is our perception.

Feedback Therapy

Through my working life, I’ve handled and had to respond to the odd letter of complaint. So, here are a few tips on the basis of my own experience.

Don’t write a letter of complaint. Give feedback. A letter of complaint sounds like this: whingy, whingy, whine, whine, I’m the centre of the universe, mehne nah nah, poo poo. Feedback though, feedback is reasoned and calm and logical.

State facts, not emotions. Avoid words like ‘disappointed’, ‘devastated’, ‘upset’, ‘angry’ or ‘shocked’. Avoid exaggerated phrases like ‘I just couldn’t believe that’ or dramatising rhetoric. On that note, there’ll be no name calling. You know this already, right? Good.

Find calmness. This isn’t easy. The whole reason you might write a letter/email of complaint feedback is because you are, at the very least, quite annoyed. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure calmness. Firstly, write the letter you want to write. Let it pour out of your head like sewerage into a treatment plant. THEN treat it – throw it out, delete it, or set it aside. THEN, write the letter you should write. Secondly, get someone else to edit your letter or even write it on your behalf.

It’s not about you. I mean, it is about you, but you are giving feedback to prevent this from happening to someone else. Yes, really. You are the Good Samaritan trying to help. Thinking like this helps to distance you from the initial situation and makes it easier to sound rational and not whiny .

c040d166db35f50da0264149abfbff7cWas there malicious intent? It’s a good question to ask yourself before making a complaint giving feedback. Has someone been a complete arse, or was this likely to be an honest mistake, an error of judgment or badly managed? It’s usually not the former. It is not in a business’s interest to annoy people, inconvenience people or give poor service and if that is their game plan, don’t expect a decent response to your feedback. In that case, you may need to take your complaint feedback to the next level.

Find the plus side. If you’ve had good experiences mixed in with your bad experiences, mention those too.

Get perspective. Is your grandmother about to die due to her appalling hospital care, or are your monogrammed slippers two days late on their delivery? It’s okay to be annoyed but one must have perspective. Recognise when something is merely annoying but not a matter of life and death. Think about what is happening in the world right now. Read the news. Think about a terrorist attack in Jakarta, an earthquake in Nepal or the death of a loved one. Get perspective.

Move on. Is the argument worth your time and /or money? You may even decide they’re not worth it. In the wise words of Elsa, let it go. And if you can, well done you.

Sometimes, simply writing the letter is all the therapy you need.

Housekeepers’ Guide to Hoarding

How can one keep their house neat and hoard stuff?

It’s a great question and I’m here to help, with Wally’s Home Hoarding Tips.

Firstly, where possible, use the floor indirectly. One should restrict their collections to shelves and shadow boxes, whatnots and tables. This will probably be difficult if you hoard pianos or tractors, and confusing if you hoard doorstops but it’s a great general rule.

Limit your collections to low activity areas. A cluttered kitchen is a great look but if it’s all over your work surfaces things are asking to be broken. Also, it’s difficult to make dinner.

Baskets, old suitcases or retro industrial tubs are your friends. These are endlessly useful for storage and offer the impression of neatness. Storing magazines in an open old suitcase is neater and easier to clean around than simply stacking them beside a chair. Think how awesome your vinyl record collection will look and how easily you can move it to a different room.

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Anyone for chess?

Bowls, bowls and more bowls. Seriously, get some bowls. The wooden variety are the hardiest, but any bowl will do. I don’t know why things in quantity look beautiful together. For those non-hoarders amongst you they are also awesome for life’s clutter. We have a bowl for emptying your pockets of our keys and phones and small change. I have a bowl for mail and receipts that need to be sorted.

Have I mentioned bowls? Bowls, people. When I tackle some sewing, I throw the loose threads in a bowl, when I’m picture framing or crafting my way to something resembling art, I throw the off-cuts and scraps into a bowl.

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Rubbish never looked so good.

[To reassure the non-hoarders, I don’t keep the afore mentioned off-cuts and scraps. I recycle all that I can, and I have a bowl for that too. Rubbish in the bowl does make it to the bin when it’s full but it looks awesome in the meantime. Am I right?]

Anything looks neat and intentional when it’s contained within a receptacle.

*ahem* Sorry. Unintentional rhyme.

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Old watch parts in a bowl

It doesn’t have to be a bowl per se, pick something to suit your decor. It doesn’t have to be expensive either, I’ve found my bowls for a couple of dollars each at our local flea market.

I’m a lazy duster. I dust when I can write my name in it. I call it clean dirt and dusting is only fun if you can see where you’ve been. But. But, if dust is something that bothers you and is something you would obsess about weekly/daily/hourly, I recommend glass fronted cabinets for your collections.

To be clear with some terminology. One thing is one thing, two things are two things and three things (or more) is a collection. Objects display better in odd numbers (generally), so if you if you have two similar things, I recommend finding a third. Unless we’re talking about objects like salt and pepper shakers – pairs of things are counted as one.

You may conclude after this I’m either a bad housekeeper or a bad hoarder.

I know where I’m placing my bets.

 

Cross Your Heart

We visited Ireland two years ago and it felt like home.

I could say it was my Irish ancestry, but my last ancestor set foot in Ireland four generations ago – it’s not like I have relatives beckoning me back. I could say it was my vague Catholic upbringing, but it seems I only attended church (and Sunday School) to please my grandmother and The Church because my mother had to prove she’d denounced Protestantism. Pretty much like my Protestant grandmother did in the previous generation.

Hypocrisy aside. I’m getting off track.

Australia is home too, but Ireland resonated with me in a way I cannot easily explain.

As readers here probably know, I’m not especially religious, in that, I no-longer attend church. And while religion plays a part here, this post is mostly about people. Random people who briefly shared a moment of their lives with us when we visited Ireland.

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The Rock of Cashel

In Kilkenny, I followed an older woman down the street carrying two grocery bags, one in each hand. As she walked, she shifted the groceries from her right hand to her left. She crossed herself and returned the bag to her right hand. We’d walked past a church.

I don’t know why I loved this so much. It was so real and honest and an action I’d never witnessed outside of church.

I have always loved churches. They’re like buildings of made of peace. History has shown us, of course, religion has caused much conflict. But churches for me are sanctuary, bundled by walls and pews. I’ve always found them to be peaceful, beautiful places.

I lingered around the entrance of a church in Wexford and wondered if I should enter – could I take photos? A woman bustled up beside me. She dabbed her hand into the font at the entrance, crossed herself and went in. I followed her. She lit a candle and rested it, flickering amongst the others. She said a prayer.

I crept around to the aisle of the church – my camera a heavy thought at my side. I marvelled at the windows and the architecture. With old habits I crossed myself and took a pew and noticed others already had – their heads lowered in thought, or prayer.

I mentally confirmed with myself it wasn’t Sunday.

Then I had another thought: People are actually using this church.

It made me feel so areligious. Australia is so full of empty churches.

I sat there. I took a moment.

I didn’t take any photos.

While in Wexford, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast. It was unlike any other B&B we’d stayed in, simply because the owners had made little attempt to separate their business from their house. Essentially, we were boarding. We’d had an awkward introduction because minutes before we’d arrived, our host had received unexpected guests looking for a bed. We were ushered to our room, which wasn’t quite ready.

‘Weren’t you arriving on the 4 o’clock ferry?’

The next morning, our host was calmer, but frustrated because the other guests had decided to sleep in for breakfast. Which was a shame, because it was delicious.

We returned to the B&B after a day’s touristing, but struggled to get a park. Once inside, our host had prepared some salmon for us. She knew Seamus, who knew Peter, who knew a fisherman. She asked about my Irish roots and the places we’d been in the day, adding comments like, ‘you would have seen Eamon’  or ‘you must eat at Patrick’s’. Our host was a living street directory.

There was a knock at the door.

Our host’s neighbour’s neighbour greeted her. ‘Oh, I’ve just come from Siόbhan’s, I don’t know if there’s more I can do.’

They entered the kitchen and my husband and I were sitting there, munching on salmon. Introductions were made, but their conversation continued.

‘I’ve just taken around a casserole.’

‘I went around and did the dishes.’

‘You’re a good woman, Caitriόna.’

An elderly woman in the street had passed away. Everyone knew her. She had five children and several more grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The street was in mourning and a funeral procession was expected in the coming hours.

‘Will you go?’

‘Probably,’ our host nodded, ‘You?’

‘I don’t know, I don’t like an open coffin…’

Conversation circled like this for a while. Talk of life and death and family. We asked questions which were answered honestly.

The sense of community was overwhelming.


We saw many wondrous things during our travels through the UK and Ireland.
These unexpected and beautiful moments were among my favourites.

Do you have an unexpected, wondrous moment to share?

Truth of Lies

I’m feeling pensive.

As Nano Poblano draws to a close, I find myself looking back.  I used to write blogs and not post them. With Nano Poblano (or NaBloPoMo), I found myself ignoring my normal blog-filters and I wondered if there was one post which should have stayed in drafts. Sticks and Stones.

Over the last month, it was my most ‘silent’ post. Being the self-deprecating, panicking sort, I wondered if it was okay. I am alone in these thoughts? Did I offend people? Was I wrong to mention how I managed bullying at school? I don’t know.

This made me think about truth and lies and how sometimes they’re black and white and other times they’re grey.

In my post, the technique I used to survive bullying at school I related to an Aesop’s Fable. I went with the flow, I acted like I didn’t care, I played situations down. I acted like they didn’t happen.

I handle adult life in a similar way. I play the game. So long as I maintain my moral compass, I tend to be what people want me to be. It’s only when things I vehemently believe in are challenged and when that affects me, do I stand my ground. Everything else, I let go.

I play the game. A friend of mine says it’s not an honest game. I’m lying. By ignoring things that upset me, I’m pretending to be something I’m not.

She right, you know. It is dishonest in its own way.

But I’m me when it matters.

If you know me well, I’m me when I’m with you.

That’s the truth.


nanopoblano2015darkDay 28 of Nano Poblano!

[That’s Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo]

Two days left!!!!