The enemy of apathy

friends_enemies

They say to keep your friends close but your enemies closer. That’s why apathy and I are almost inseparable. All that lies between us are empty yoghurt pots, dirty socks, and a layer of dust.

You don’t fight with apathy. It always seems to win. So why bother? It enjoys sitting with you on the sofa, doing nothing, avoiding everything. It’s favourite word is procrastinate.

Apathy doesn’t judge you. But it makes you judge yourself. To the point where you wonder, why do I let myself live like this? DO SOMETHING. But it doesn’t let you. It holds you down, holds you back.

You want to scream and shout at apathy for turning you into the person you have become. The person you don’t want to be. But it muzzles you and reminds you of your feeble purpose.

So, in the end, you comply. You grow used to its company and its consequence. Toleration becomes normality. But apathy never changes. It’s always there. Right by your side.

The worst of friends but the best of enemies.

A path untrodden

A path untrodden

Someone I haven’t known all that long, but whom I would class as a very good friend, has just done something crazy. Amazing. Terrifying. Admirable. Brave. She has left the place she knows, where her friends are, where she had a fabulous job, where she called home, to live in a city she’d never visited, in a country she’d never been to, where they speak a language she doesn’t know. She’s young and has her whole life ahead of her, and I absolutely love how she is walking her own path instead of waiting for one to appear in front of her. She was at a crossroads and instead of playing it safe or choosing the easy way, she is doing something incredible. I’m jealous. I’m sad, too.

It’s not often you meet someone you think you really relate to. Someone with lots of common interests. Someone you enjoy talking to and listening to. Someone you can be honest with. For me, Amber Bell is one of those people. Sassy and ambitious, I was so pleased to get to know her. We aren’t incredibly close, but we just click. I certainly think we do anyway.

I don’t have many friends. Those I have are friends because I make time for them and they make time for me. After moving to Cardiff permanently I really struggled to meet people who I would class as friends as opposed to acquaintances, perhaps. Luckily I met a few early on who are still good friends now. With friendship quality is much more important than quantity. But Amber is someone I met fairly recently (in the last year or so) and now she’s gone. And I’m gutted. Florence captured her heart and she went to find it there. I hope to visit next year. In the meantime I will have to make do with her wonderful blog as company.

What she’s doing though, makes me question what I’m doing. I’ve never gone travelling, for example, and I’ve never lived outside of the UK. Everyone I know who has says it’s the best thing they have ever done. So, am I missing out?

I’ve always played life quite safe. I did well at school, did a sensible degree, worked hard to get a sensible job. The only crazy or brave thing I’ve ever really done was to quit that job. And I was right to do so. I could have stayed there and been unhappy. But I hated being unhappy. I was the one to make the decision to turn off that path and find another one. I’m not sure where it will take me, but I’m much happier walking down it. There will be other paths, I’m sure, but I will be the one to find them. Make them. Opportunities don’t fall in our laps unless we are very lucky or were born with a silver spoon.

One day I hope I can travel. See more of the world. I’m envious of the freedom Amber has and the adventures she is going to experience. I hope that moving to Florence was the best decision she ever made. For me, there are things to keep me where I am right now. Those are important things that I hold dear. I’m in a good place and I remind myself of that every day. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be other paths which I lay down for myself further down the line.

When the time is right.

What December means to me

Hello December

It’s that time again. The chill I feel in my bones, the mist I make when I breathe, and the frost which sleeps on my car, all tells me that we have turned the twelfth corner of 2014. We have entered the final chapter of the year, and who knows what will be written on its pages. November arrived in a flurry of fallen leaves and promptly left again. Which leaves us only with December, and all its glory. I’m not one of those people who has my Christmas tree up by now, listens only to Christmas albums on repeat, and has the presents already wrapped and under said tree. Far from it. Having said that, I am incredibly partial to some festive cheer and I feel content knowing that Christmas is on its way. Why? For me, it’s all about family.

When I properly moved to Cardiff 4 years ago I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my family very often. It’s a sacrifice I made to pursue a career good enough to be able to live very comfortably. However, that career was short-lived. I was miserable. What is the point in living very comfortably when, most of the time, you just don’t feel happy? I digress. Having lived away from my family for so long, it’s times like December when I feel a bubbling excitement. Not just because I will soon be eating Christmas ham while sipping bucks fizz, devouring a big fat turkey, and stuffing myself with as many pigs in blankets as I can possibly stomach, but because I will be going home. They say it’s where the heart is.

This year, I will be spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day at Olly’s parents’ and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to feel when the time comes. It will be the first time I wake up on Christmas morning without my mum, dad and sister. I might even cry a little. The voice inside is saying ‘You’re 26 woman! Grow up!’ That may be true. But for me, the charm of Christmas is about being a child again. I want to hold on to everything I loved about that time of year when I was young. Sleeping in the same room as my sister on Christmas Eve and opening our stockings together in the early hours. A Christmas morning walk. Trying to de-stress my mum. Sorting the presents under the tree into piles for the family. Dressing the dogs in their bows and bells and laughing as they help us unwrap. Listening to the same tape (yes, tape) of Christmas tunes over and over while we eat lunch as a big family. Playing board games long into the evening. Curling into the sofa to read. Laughing. Laughing lots.

I don’t want things to change. I know they have to, but I don’t want them to. I don’t have either grandpas around any more, my uncle, aunt and cousins are gone, and one of our beloved border collies passed away earlier this year. I’m in a relationship and it’s only fair that we split Christmases between our equivalent families. My sister is also now in a relationship which means she will be doing the same. What I have to come to terms with, is that it isn’t Christmas itself which makes anything special. It is simply being surrounded by the people I love. It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is. Things will inevitably be different. The important thing is that I try and embrace those differences.

This year, December will be about remembering the ones I have lost, smiling at the memories, loving the ones I still have, making new memories, chatting to my parents late into the night, reading, writing, walking, eating, laughing. And wondering what 2015 might have in store.

What does December mean to you?

Why I love lists

Why I love lists full

I may have mentioned before that my mother has forever described me as someone who starts things but never finishes them. It pains me to admit this is often true, except when it comes to my dinner. I pretty much always finish that. Sometimes my lack of staying power is down to boredom, or losing patience. Sometimes I just can’t be arsed. Instead of ploughing through, I procrastinate BIG-TIME, and things just don’t get done. For example, I have a pile of things to put on ebay which have been sitting in my utility room for a number of months. All I need to do is take some photographs and upload them and hey presto. But that just sounds like too much effort. So in the utility room they will stay. Probably until I reach the bottom of my list. Which is actually one of many lists.

The main reason I love making lists is because they make me feel so flipping organised. The joy comes not only from writing a list, with equal line spacing and in exactly the same colour pen, but from ticking things off. Oh the rush. The only problem is, I never tick everything off. Unless it’s about six months later. But even then it’s unlikely. Occasionally I will keep adding to the same list so it looks as if I’ve been super-productive. And there have definitely been times when I have already completed a task, but add it to my list anyway just so I can tick it off.

My brain – the simple matter that it is – likes things in easy-to-absorb chunks. They are better to read and better to digest. If I have more than one important point to make in an email then I whip out the bullet points. I have a constantly-growing to do list at work. At the weekends I often list all the chores which need doing at home. Pinned to the notice board is a 2014 bucket list which is 100% not going to be complete by the end of December. I have already written this year’s Christmas list. Lists are quite simply excellent companions to everyday life.

Clearly there is something to this list-making business which makes me feel good. It’s a therapeutic activity which my mild OCD takes a fancy to (hence the line spacing and same coloured pen). Only I am allowed to add to the list. If anyone else scribbles on it I may as well start it again. And if the pen runs out part way through, we’ve got serious issues. A perfectly formed and perfectly neat list makes me feel fuzzy inside. Spoil it at your peril. I tried Wunderlist on the internet but, for me, it doesn’t produce the same satisfaction as a writing utensil and a piece of lined paper.

The conclusion of this thought-provoking piece? Nike have a cracking logo.

An ode to time

Clock 2

Time.

How can there be so much of you, and so little.

I thought I controlled my days but I don’t, you do.

You are around me always, yet so elusive.

I keep losing you, but you were never mine.

When I need more of you, I can’t find you.

You are constant, yet I am always running out of you.

You can be so fast, and so slow, but you are always the same.

I don’t have you, but I always need you.

Despite your value, I often waste you.

I never capture you, but you always escape me.

You don’t do anything, but you define everything.

You make the world go round.

I simply watch.

Meet Monty the penguin – nice one John Lewis

Monty 3

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when people complain at those who mention Christmas is on its way, the time when you have to choose your menu for the work Christmas meal, the time when Secret Santa’s are organised, and the time when the Christmas adverts come out. For me, I really feel the Christmas spirit when I see the Coca Cola advert, but I haven’t yet. What I have seen however is John Lewis’ new gift to the nation. And it involves a penguin. Called Monty. A PENGUIN CALLED MONTY.

John Lewis always have a touch of magic about their Christmas adverts. I particularly enjoyed last year’s animation (which involved a bear and a hare – see a theme there?) because the concept was so clever. If you don’t recall, the bear always missed Christmas because he was hibernating, so the hare – being a wonderful friend – bought him an alarm clock to go off on Christmas Day, so he could spend it with the other animals. Touching, personal, SIMPLE.

I came in to work this morning and my boss played the new advert to a few of us – I work for an advertising agency, so it’s not unusual to do this. With a soundtrack by Tom Odell, it starts off featuring Pingu, so naturally I was hooked from the off. I used to love that show. But what I love most about the John Lewis adverts is the story which they tell, this time through the eyes of a young boy. He has a best friend, Monty the penguin, who he goes everywhere with. At the start I wondered where the advert was going – and what it had to do with John Lewis – but it all unfolds beautifully. By the end, my eyes were a little glassy. I am not ashamed to admit it. My boss took the piss, but was equally as complimentary about the advert as I was. And it only cost John Lewis £1 million to make!

Advertising which has an emotional effect is, in my opinion, the most powerful. Add to that humour, a cute kid, an even more cute animal, and you have a winning formula. Animals, or ‘cute looking things’ like Zingy are particular popular – look what Aleksandr the Compare the Market meercat did? Some clever advertising created a whole new business stream.

Having said that, some charities really play on emotional advertising and I often feel uncomfortable watching those. They are designed to make you feel bad, whereas I challenge anyone not to feel at least a little uplifted by John Lewis’ new offering. It’s just an advert, but it unlocks feelings in me. Perhaps I’m emotionally vulnerable, in a way, but I like that. I like being able to feel. And everyone loves a good story.

Other company adverts which have really impressed me of late are Marks & Spencer – serious food porn, nailed – and Lidl, which is doing an impressive job of changing perceptions. Lidl have just released their new Christmas advert which is in the link.

What kind of adverts get you engaged? What do you think of the Christmas offerings so far? And, most importantly, how much do you love Monty?