Saturday 24 August 2013

Thoroughly decent

I'm sure you've all had quite enough of me rambling on about my 101 neuroses. Just for a change then, I'm going to blow my own trumpet and tell you what a thoroughly decent and honourable person I am.

So at the risk of seeming smug, patronising, supercilious, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, goodie-goodie-two-shoes etc etc, here are all my thoroughly lovely qualities:

1) I don't harbour malicious thoughts about friends, loved ones or workmates.
2) I don't make anonymous attacks on Twitter.
3) I'm not interested in porn.
4) I'm not misogynistic, homophobic or transphobic.
5) I'm deeply disturbed by all the poverty, violence, misery and oppression in the world.
6) I've never had an extra-marital affair.
7) I like fluffy kittens and cupcakes.
8) I mind my own business and try not to judge other people's lives.
9) I don't gossip, and I'm good at keeping secrets.
10) I don't annoy the neighbours with loud music or all-night parties.
11) I deplore machismo and male posturing.
12) I do my share of the housework.
13) I'm a good listener.
14) I don't hide my emotions.
15) I'm not easily offended.
16) I'm not the jealous type.
17) I like teddy bears and ice cream.
18) I'm not an angry or bad-tempered person.
19) I do all my own laundry.
20) I take off my high heels on delicate parquet flooring.

Monday 19 August 2013

No offence meant

Some insults are obviously exactly that. If someone calls you a f***ing arsehole or a stupid cretin, then there's no way you can miscon-strue it. They're having a go at you.

But other insults are more subjective, aren't they? What one person sees as a hideous insult another will find entirely trivial and not worth remarking on. So much depends on how the words are interpreted.

People sometimes say I've insulted them when for the life of me I can't see where the insult lies. As far as I'm concerned, I respect them, I value them, I may even admire them. Yet they're convinced I've abused them in some way.

They'll take what I've said as a criticism of their religion, their work, their political views, their parenting skills, or whatever, and any attempt I make to put the record straight is simply ignored.

Personally, I'm fairly insult-proof. If someone says something that might possibly be an insult, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume a quite innocent meaning. They'd have to be blatantly rude for me to take offence.

Even if they're saying something clearly derogatory, often I can see it's because they've obviously misunderstood me or imagined something about me that's complete nonsense. So usually I just laugh or shrug my shoulders or take no notice. Why fly off the handle at some gormless misunderstanding?

But some people just seem to look for insults, they love the sheer drama of feeling insulted and fuming at someone. They'll see an insult in every other sentence - a sly dig here, a snide reference there, a sarcastic aside somewhere else. Everyone is getting at them, everyone is busy sharpening a knife to stab them in the back.

The fact is, I don't insult anyone out of the blue, for no good reason. They'd have to insult me first, and quite flagrantly, for me to respond in kind. Even then, I find it hard to be insulting. I always feel uncomfortable and mean, however justified my reaction, however hurt or crushed I may be.

All I can say is, like beauty, insults are often in the eye of the beholder.

Friday 16 August 2013

Kitty corner

These three adorable little kitties are called Fluffy, Taffy and Tiddles. Aren't they just the sweetest little darlings in the whole wide world?

Unfortunately they can't speak. But if they did, they could tell you some fascinating facts about cats:

1) Cats were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians, who worshipped a cat god called Bastet, and mummified their cats to prepare them for the afterlife.
2) Cats spend two thirds of their day dozing or doing absolutely nothing.
3) Studies show that many more people claim to own cats than there are cats. (?)
4) The word "tabby" comes from a cloth: a kind of striped silk taffeta. It derived from the Arabic Attabiy, the quarter of old Baghdad where it was originally made.
5) Up to 85 per cent of white cats with two blue eyes are deaf.
6) Like many small animals, cats have a non-fatal falling velocity - in cats this is about 60 mph. Once they relax, they orient themselves, spread out, and parachute to earth like a squirrel. Some cats have fallen 30 storeys or more without ill effects.
7) A single pair of cats and their kittens can produce 420,000 kittens in seven years.
8) Sir Isaac Newton invented the cat flap.
9) Cats can make over 100 vocal sounds, while dogs can make only ten. (?)
10) A cat's tail contains over 20 bones, helping it to balance on narrow surfaces.
11) A cat can move at a top speed of around 30 mph.
12) A cat can jump up to five times its own height in a single bound.
13) There is no mouse-flavoured cat food because the test subjects (cats!) didn't like it.
14) Milk is bad for cats. It gives them upset stomachs, cramps and diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can be fatal to kittens because it dehydrates them. All cats need is fresh water.

(?) Can this really be true?

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Hidden depths

How much can we ever understand someone else? Even if we've known a person for decades, can we ever compre-hend more than a fraction of their complex personality? How much can we ever glimpse behind all the public masks and role-playing and social diplomacy?

By the time we're adults we're amazingly skilled at faking it - in displaying not our real selves but the selves we want other people to see. The competent mum or dad, the chatty socialite, the reassuring friend, the diligent employee. Some pretty astute detective skills are needed to cut through all the pretence and dig out the real person hiding underneath.

We don't want other people to see the secret reservoirs of malice, jealousy, violence, greed, sloth, contempt and all the other 101 varieties of untamed nastiness. And worse than that, the fleeting desire for sheer unmitigated madness - the wish to strangle our argumentative spouse, drown our impossible children, burn down the stingy bank, bomb that hideous new office block.

If we know someone really well, we'll have seen a few of these squalid impulses in unguarded moments. But it's unlikely we've seen them all, or seen them in their full naked ferocity. And the really shocking traits may be concealed so rigorously that we never discover them at all.

How many times have we read of a woman whose husband of twenty years suddenly turns out to be a serial killer, a multi-million pound fraudster, a polygamist, or a drug trafficker? They swear they had no idea what was going on, that he was an affectionate, charming husband who aroused no suspicions whatever.

Extreme emotions and beliefs are especially hard to fathom. Strange obsessions and passions and hatreds that make no sense. What fuels such vicious hostility towards a former lover? What fires such devotion to an obscure religious sect? There's something going on there we just aren't privy to.

At the end of the day there's only so much you can learn about another person. Only they can know the whole story. Only they can know exactly how they think and feel and react. Only they can know their every sordid nook and cranny. They'll always leave us guessing more often than not.

PS: Next post - three adorable little kittens called Fluffy, Taffy and Tiddles.

Friday 9 August 2013

Tucked away

By the time you're my age, you've been through a lot of pain and hurt of one kind or another. If I gave it all free rein, it would be overwhelming. I would be an emotional wreck.

Childhood bullying, a vile-tempered father, failed friendships, failed romances, tyrannical bosses, nasty betrayals and rejections. Painful at the time and still painful many years later.

Those glib phrases "Get over it", "Deal with it", "Put it all behind you" are easy enough to say, not so easy to practise. Hurt isn't something you can just put in a rubbish bag and throw in the trash. It lingers, it loiters, it refuses to die.

You can come to terms with it. You can suppress it. You can take it to a therapist. You can pretend it's nothing much. You can take it out on other people. But at the end of the day it's still there, it's something you actually felt in all its raw intensity, and that has to leave a scar of some kind, a psychic wound. It happened and it's not going to unhappen. Somehow it has to be dealt with.

I have a bad memory. I'll forget the vicious words that someone used, the brutal look on their face, the clinical phrases in a redundancy letter. But I don't forget the cold way I was treated, the unkindness, the harshness.

I'm a forgiving person. But even when I can put myself in the other person's shoes, even when I can half-understand why they did what they did, what their motives were, what the catalyst was, it doesn't take away the pain.

Pain can cut you to the quick. It can break your heart. It can tear you to pieces. If I let it all out in its sheer extremity, I would be a jibbering lunatic. Like everyone else, I find ways of subduing it, of damping it down, of keeping it safely tucked away somewhere deep in my being.

Pain is the hidden shadow in everyone's identity. They may smile and chirp for other people's benefit, but who knows what they're keeping under wraps?

Monday 5 August 2013

Not for me, thanks

Things I don't do:

1) Wear red trousers
2) Wear lacy knickers
3) Eat meat
4) Chew gum
5) Drink Coca-Cola
6) Own a pet
7) Sleep with a teddy bear
8) Buy porn mags
9) Ring the Samaritans
10) Cry my eyes out
11) Giggle uncontrollably
12) Blush
13) Go to the gym
14) Ride a bike
15) Look for trouble
16) Look for excuses
17) Recite poetry
18) Read the Bible
19) Sunbathe
20) Keep a diary
21) Jump for joy
22) Jump queues
23) Bite my nails
24) Dye my hair
25) Go clubbing
26) Collect shells
27) Talk in my sleep
28) Sing in the bath
29) Shoplift
30) Hug trees