Thursday, 12 July 2018

Social media stagnation, removing yourself from it and being productive


I felt like this yesterday, and the day before - slightly perplexed, slightly anxious, and cross with myself.
The reason was part mega-procrastination due to not being sure about which direction to go in writing-wise and part waiting to hear something positive - or un-positive - about one of my manuscripts. The procrastination element was largely in the form of Social Media. It has its uses, and if you are feeling buoyant and in control, it's great to dip in and out of. If you are feeling rather more unsure, confused and ego-squished it's an insidious, clinging thing that sets up camp in your mind and crushes the creative urge.
I like Instagram - on the whole - mainly using it as a species of diary/journal/instant portfolio of everything I do, but when the doubt starts seeping, I'm on it far more than is healthy - checking likes, comparing numbers of likes other people have, posting something new just to get that little phone-lighting up fix.
FaceBook . . . personally I find it depressing. I've read and listened to enough Ted Talks, etc, to know it's not just me. Posting the odd weird picture, or beautiful landscape, or sharing an unforgettable image works - again like a sort of life-diary but only in homeopathic amounts. After even ten minutes of scrolling I feel empty and dull, even if I was feeling positive before going on the site. It has its uses - announcing a gig that Mark's doing, acknowledging a friend's new baby/business/wedding, etc, but if things are not steaming ahead on your own personal horizon seeing everyone else being shiny and great makes everything so much greyer - if they are indeed having such a great time. Maybe everyone is staring back at their rectangles of blueish light feeling terribly inadequate even while posting pictures of five-star cookery and new patios.
Twitter . . . no idea. Could be useful one day when I get published, (being positive here) so I have my place on the platform and post the odd surreal picture; like a few friend's comments on the state of the world and don't do more scrolling than a couple of minutes.
I think it was Will Self who was talking about reading a book as oppose to S. media screen stuff - the fact that books and articles have natural stopping points allowing you to go and do something else whereas the continual scroll is difficult to stop - just a few more posts . . . Mind you, I've just read Umbrella which has no chapters or breaks . . . but I needed to stop very frequently just to digest the wordage and complexity of the book.
This morning, faced with three possible semi-written, follow-up novels, and the procrastination-demon lurking, I started writing a completely new book, the idea of which had been gestating away in a deep recess of my brain for a while. Rather than try and plan anything very much, as is my won't, I plunged into the thing - which is about Social Media - and two hours later the haze of what the F am I doing sloped off. I didn't check my phone all morning. I haven't looked at FB or Twitter. I've written, cleared out the bathroom cupboard (ugh), prepared our B and B room for guests, cleared up my computer files and cut back some of the rampant garden: all stuff I've been meaning to do but had put off while pootling about on Google and my crap old iPhone had seemed easier.
And lo . . . this pro-activeness has somehow produced positive things.
This afternoon, I've had a useful email regarding the manuscript and have been contacted by someone else who wants to talk about my work. Can it be, as I've often wondered, that kicking yourself up the backside mentally and forcing a new direction that other things start to un-stagnate?
Whatever creative things you like doing - painting, singing, gardening, running, cooking . . . do it and maybe don't post it.

image: techcrunch

Friday, 6 July 2018

What you think you know about somewhere

I've been to Perpignan about six times and only ever visited the historic middle section or some depressing retail-shed bit on the outskirts. I've always though - yep, it's Ok. Not that bothered either way. Also people often say - 'oh, Perpignan, not much going on there', etc.
The people I talked to during this visit, including our lovely B and B host, seemed to think very firmly otherwise. And I think from what I heard and observed they are probably right.

the theatre complex and lovely postered wall

I don't usually like 80s buildings - which I think this is, but reckon this is a rather good example.

Sometimes I find Air B and B a bit overwhelming, other times a great and inexpensive way of seeing other parts of a town or city you might never bother to look at otherwise - and meeting people who really know their patch.
This booking turned out to be a great choice in all senses. Christine was a wonderful host, her charming 1930s house stuffed with brocante finds. Also, she had lived in the city for years and was kind enough to impart as much historical and cultural knowledge as we could absorbe in our short stop-over.
The house was situated in a residential area which had obviously seen huge architectural activity around the 1920s and 30s - a completely different feel to the narrow streets of the inner city. I walked for ages, partly in search of a bar that might be open (oddly not) and partly as I became transfixed by the multitude of different building styles and materials that had been used. Several streets had houses that had obviously been architect - or builder - designed to be different from their neighbours, and, unusually, just about all the original doors, windows, gates, etc had been preserved.



I felt a familiar but long-covered up feeling start to seep out - hey, what about living here . . . Well, maybe. Maybe if Mark's work shifts to here, maybe I could start the weird brocante/café/music venue I've always harboured a desire to do - in a large 1930s, crumbling edifice with a lot of work to be done . . .
Nice to have new ideas floating about amongst all the day to day stuff.


Last light stroll 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Family bonding

In our family, as with most others - I'd imagine, there are certain film, TV and dear old Youtube extracts that are recited ad infinitum in a comforting way. Everyone knows them and everyone, presumably, shares the same visual and audio recall.

It might not be the phrase or bit of tune itself that sets off the recounting; it could be something else with the same intonation. This morning for example, Ezra said: 'Hey, I've found this amazing landfill place on the outskirts of Pau, I'd like to look at.' (as you do . . .) The conversation proceeded thus:

Him: 'You know, that one near Perpignan?'

Me: 'Yes?'

Him: 'The one with the weird silver roof?'

Me: 'Yes?'

At this point we both remember that favourite mini-film some clever person in the USA made - the one with the dubbed Alsatian and owner - 'You know that bacon - the maple kind? Dog: 'Uh, the maple kind'?

Well, if you have seen it, you'll know what I mean. It's irresistible to go over in your mind once the brain's dug it out and started playing it. And if a like-minded family member or friend is there and can join in . . . double the pleasure.

Amongst our other regular favourites: Bernard's pickle fetish (below); Give me 'arf and 'arf n' arf' from Champagne Charlie; 'Hi, I'm Barry Scott', from The vile Cillit Bang adverts; Armstrong and Miller's RAF pilots - 'he's got a note and everything' and many other's from that series; Dumb and Dumber's Mocking Bird song, Basil from Fawlty Towers - "Right!" you only have to say that in a certain way and the whole, Basil whacking a poor Mini with a branch all comes back . . .

Thursday, 21 June 2018


I've found it! The one that works . . . it's incredible. No calorie-counting, no eating only peas for three weeks, no fasting/binging, no tapeworm pills . . . Yes, people really did swallow capsules containing tape worm eggs - popular around the 1900s until doctors realised it caused a few problems, such as seizures, cysts on the brain, etc. Nice.

So what is this miracle weight-loss program?

Eat less, or preferably, no, sugar. That's it.

After researching sugar for a medical reason, I decided to cut it out and see how my body and mind might react. They like it. I like it. The manic-ness before meals has stopped as my blood sugar has plateaued, in fact I feel generally a lot calmer (most of the time) and I'm losing weight without trying too hard. It's not a dramatic loss, more a steady shedding - for life. Usually I lose weight after a massive attempt in the spring/summer, arrive at my goal weight by about August then quickly put it all back on again as winter encroaches.

This feels different. It's not just about the weight, it's also thinking about what we are supposed to eat and doing the best I can to support my body as it functions in its incredible way. We're SO complex; why stand in the way of all these extraordinary internal systems?

So. The boring side of it . . . There isn't one really. I'm not manic about it. I do drink a glass of wine sometimes and I do eat small amounts of fruit as it seems a shame not to enjoy the wonderful seasonal stuff - like apricots here at the moment. But jam, cake, chocolate - nah. Mostly gone, and if I do eat some, I feel the mental effects and don't like it. Toast, butter and Marmite seem to fill the gap, for me anyway.

According to researchers like Robert Lustig - great video on the sugar industry/ diabetes, etc - we are just basically not supposed to eat sugar - maybe just a bit of gorging at harvest time, or honey for special occasions, etc. Our bodies - liver mainly - don't know what to do with the quantities we are consuming now and the result is only too obvious.

Here's Dr Lustig to tell you all about it. (Worth watching his longer lectures too - like Sugar, the bitter truth)

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A thing of beauty

I think William Morris would have liked these.

Yes, its a tiny thing in the face of all the MASSIVE plastic issues our planet and we are facing, but if we all bought wooden dish-brushes rather than the plastic versions . . .
Monoprix make, or at least sell these for just over two euros and they are a small work of art in every way.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hidden places

While trying to find an abandoned mine up on a hillside recently - as you do - me and the boy took a wrong turning and ended up on a gravelly overgrown track, the sides of which were lined with dismantled bicycles. It had to be worth further investigation, even with the risk of slavering dogs, or a slavering owner.
At the end of the track we came across a semi-derelict windmill and a huge rotting lorry, its inside full of everything from crockery, pans, hoses, sinks, to records, books, bedding, toys, furniture, dead plants, and more bike parts.

How had they got such a massive vehicle up there? And what had happened to the owners of the place? It was possible to see inside the windmill (I assume it was an ex-windmill) and there was a slight Mary Celeste scenario - plates and cups on the table, a stove with pans on it . . .
Feeling uneasy about trespassing, despite the place looking long-forgotten, I took a few photos, the weirdest being a picture of a decrepit Harry Secombe record in a wire basket along with many other long-forgotten English vinyls.

I often think about that place now as I drive along the main road and look up into the hills, wondering if all the stuff is still gradually decaying away up there, or perhaps someone has returned for the summer and is re-fitting the windmill with a shiny new Ikea kitchen - probably not.


Monday, 4 June 2018

Bloody waste of tax-payers' money

I'd only seen our local news-hyped contemporary art-work - that of Felice Varini's yellow-striping of La Cite, from the air, which was impressive enough, but went a couple of days ago to look more closely.
La Cité the fairytale collection of ramparts and pencil-point roofs is celebrating its 20th year as a UNESCO heritage site and for that reason the Carcassonne council decided to commission a work from Varini.
I've just tried to look up how much the project cost but no one's saying . . . a million euros? No idea but probably not more than some unnecessary prettifying a few of the department's roundabouts and planting all municipal flower beds with plants destined for landfill.
I do admit to having mixed feelings about massive art statements when there are so many human-scale necessities - better schools, better quality canteen food, council housing improvements, etc etc. BUT, why not create something extraordinary that will create debate, up the numbers of curious visitors and in some way make people look just a bit harder at the structure and sheer building feat of such a monument?

It is spectacular from far away and close up. In fact, close-up it's quite touching to see the way the yellow strips have been moulded to each stone by one of many pairs of artist hands.

I was hoping to hear some choice moans while standing gawping but I must have been there at a point of extreme positive vibes; everyone snapping away, selfi-ing and discussing the amount of time and maths it must have taken to make such a thing.
Mark went recently and caught some super-whinging - how it would spoil wedding photos; how people had travelled thousands of miles to see this fabulous monument - their trips utterly ruined!
Actually, it's only on one side, so you don't have to look at it if you can't bear the idea, and also, most people seem to spend most time inside the walls eating ice-cream and waffles, buying plastic helmets and looking at appalling art.

No parking
 I just read a local newspaper article in which a woman said: 'looking at this spoils our lives'. This does seem a little extreme - it's not permanent, either in time or paint, (as some onlookers assumed). After my visit, I think my overall feeling was pride, and wonder, that our local tourist attraction had been honoured in such a way.