Rule 52, Chapter 44: Things often get worse before they get better. But that’s ok. Because things do get better.

We have moved. From our cosy little London flat, to a semi-detached 3 bedroom cottage in the countryside. It’s got a big workshop and a big garden and big fields all around it. The husband, cats and I are in love with country life, and have taken to veg growing and pruning like you wouldn’t believe. We’re in the garden all the time, digging and lopping. In fact we’re never really in the house.

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Gardener’s world….

And that’s because we actually bought a bit of a nightmare. Nine days in and the old oil fired boiler exploded and flooded downstairs. We found out the oil tank was leaking. Then the roof started leaking. There’s damp everywhere. We need new windows. It’s freezing even in summer. The whole place needs decorating. And all I thought we needed to do was pop in a nice new kitchen….

However. We decided to face the problems head on. I did research on boilers and heating and learnt lots of things I didn’t know about pipework and lagging. We made lists of things we needed to do first. We got some chaps round to quote for a new boiler and oil tank for us. We felt positive about the whole thing. Moving house is an adventure, right?

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Be gone, big green evil leaky oil tank!!!

Then the quote dropped through the letter box. The cost was £10,000. Yes. Just for a new boiler and oil tank. That was pretty much our whole decorating and doing budget.

We nearly fell over. I cried. We had an enormous row about the stupid house we’d bought. We both thought divorce was on the cards. I sulked for about a week. I became inert with house buyers regret. But I pulled myself together and  got some more quotes. They were all just as expensive. I cried some more.

Now. There have been a few times in my life where I know I’ve made a massive mistake. Like one which alters the course of you, the very fabric of your being. With this house move, we’d changed everything. Left London and a vibrant city life. Left our friends. Moved to a town where we didn’t know anyone. Given me a 3 hour round commute every day which was tiring and expensive. And, whilst I loved getting home to the countryside, I started wondering if it was all worth it. The money we needed to spend was enormous, and as the sole earner in the relationship, I felt enormous pressure. Which lead to more rows and sleepless nights.

All in all, the house move was not going well.

So, just as I was about to give up on our county life,  I decided to phone one last boiler chap. He came round. We liked him. He also seemed to like us. We agreed that we (the husband) would do the labour and prep for him so that he could just come in and do installing of our shiney new boiler and whizzy new oil tank. He quoted a third of the original cost and the sun started shining again. We booked him there and then.

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Super new concrete area for our super new shiney boiler and oil tank

So we’re now living in a building site. We have lurched from good to bad to good to a right old mess. We have had numerous rows about money and how much everything is costing. But we’re learning all about building stuff. And sorting out our new old cottage from the guts outwards. The kitchen floor’s up. We’re insulating the walls. I might just get a new kitchen after all because I married a fine furniture maker and he’s offered to make me a hand-made bespoke little number out of beautiful wood which we can now kind of afford beause of our excellent boiler chap.

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Not quite the dream kitchen I had in mind…

Yes, there’s dust everywhere. No, you can’t walk on the floor barefoot for fear of splinters and nails.  The cats have been under the floorboards, and I thought we’d lost one of them forever, she seemed to like it under there so much. But things seem to be getting better. We are moving forward. Making inroads. And the boiler and oil tank are finally in.

When my mum visited, she told me that houses on corners have bad ‘chi’, which is why it’s all been a bit of a nightmare so far. I say that our house had just been a bit unloved. And although things might have to get worse before they get better, we’re going to patch her up and going to stick with her. And hopefully, when the dust settles, we’ll have also stuck with each other….

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Here’s to a super home and happy ending

Rule 10, Chapter 12: Your job should not define you

Last week, I had a mini epiphany. The clue as to what this was is in the title of this post.

british-newspapers-881358_640I was reading the Daily Mail’s You magazine at the time (I hate to admit it…), but the article I was skimming though actually made me double take. And indeed re-think the old career path. Let me try to explain….

I work in media, essentially doing a weird job which is a mix of sales, marketing and creative stuff for a national newspaper group. I have done this for various media companies for the last 15 years.

Therefore I:

  • Drink far more than I should do
  • Swear like an absolute trooper
  • Have very little patience for people when I’m busy
  • Can be very blunt, often to the point of rudeness
  • Go ‘mad’ – think gnashing teeth and hair pulling – when the work load gets too much. Which is frequently
  • Fight the daily (loosing) battle of keeping many, many people happy

However, when I left university, I was none of those things. Well, in truth, I liked a beer, and was known to drop the odd swear word into conversation for effect, but nothing like my traits of today. I certainly wasn’t rude, mad or impatient. And I believe I managed to keep most of the people around me fairly happy without much effort at all. Thus keeping me happy in the process too.

So why the change in me? Well. Newspapers are a brilliant industry to work in, but media sales is a highly pressured job (which I know many jobs are), but add to this a hard-drinking culture (a quick way to de-stress), somewhere where saying ‘fuck’ every other word is totally acceptable (in fact, it’s weird if you don’t), where editors often lose their temper on an hourly basis (so it’s fine when you lose yours), where everything is time pressured (you have to get the newspaper written, designed and printed every single day, therefore you need answers, the right answers now), and where no matter how hard I try, clients will always want more from me, and the company will want more off me, be it my time or more money to hit targets, then you get an environment that breeds bad habits. Very bad habits. And if those habits become ingrained, then what are you? I am my job.

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When I thought about it further, I realised that I’d let my job define me. In a really bad way. I’ve become a stereotype. And not a very nice one at that.

So on my journey home with You magazine, I wondered to myself, where was the kid at uni who just wanted to write great stories? Where was the person who was happy when they made other people happy? Where was the smiling girl who was laid back and relaxed, who liked to say yes to things, rather than a monster who was approaching the whole wide world with wry cynicism, a large glass of red and a pocketful of  ‘fuck you’s’?

I reckon she’s still in there somewhere. And, I never thought I’d say this, but thanks to that article in the Daily Mail, I’ve decided to have a bit of a rethink about myself. I don’t need to be those things that my job has inflicted on me, so I’m simply going to try and shed them and emerge happy in a new skin. Drink a bit less, swear a bit less. Try and think about how my tone of voice and behaviours affect others. And let my job just simply be my job. Not me. Because I can be whoever I choose to be, regardless of where I work.

And for my next career move, perhaps I’ll take a totally different path and write those stories, or simply do something that makes other people happy. Might make me a happier person too.

So. That’s my view anyway. As the Daily Mail so succinctly put it, your job should not define you. Should it?

The office worker is wearing a conservative business dress in appropriate colors with matching accessories. Her hair is arranged simply, and her hands are carefully manicured. She uses makeup with discretion.

Rule 64, Chapter 10: Birthdays are there to be celebrated

Last week at the office we had a birthday.

However. When Steve got to work, he told us that both his wife and his child had totally forgotten it was his 42nd birthday.  And that he hadn’t heard from his parents, although ‘there might be a card in the post when I get home’. He brushed it off with a ‘Well,  it’s only another day, isn’t it really’ and proceeded to make everyone a round of tea.

When my husband turned 30, he sent me a photo of himself working late in his birthday. He’d bought himself a beer, and was sat behind a computer cheers-ing himself. On his own. On a birthday that happened to be on a Friday night.

laptop-733572_640Now, you might read those two stories and think ‘Whatever! They’re 30! 42! Far too old to be enjoying birthdays! They’re not kids. And anyway, perhaps they didn’t want to celebrate getting a whole year older. Who wants to draw attention to that?’

Both of which points of view I totally understand. But…but…

Birthdays get a bad press in my humble opinion. A birthday isn’t about another year gone, or one step closer to death and all that depressing stuff. It’s a Birth Day. The day you were actually born. The day you popped into the world, purple and squealing, shouting your existence to all that you had arrived. Ta-dah! ‘Look!! I’m here! The party can finally start..!’

And I think that the day that you were brought to life is pretty special. Regardless of how old you are. Because as a person, you’re unique and generally awesome. So why wouldn’t you – shouldn’t you – spend one day celebrating the wonder of you? Yes! Yes, you can make a fuss of me! Offer me balloons! Buy me gifts or just shower me with love and kindness for my one special day! Make me a home-made sheep cake out of marshmallow and don’t mind when I pretend to stab it in a ‘gag’ prior to cutting it…!!

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But what about the birthday ‘party’? Those partners, parents, kids, friends, work colleagues who need to combine, team up to make someone’s day brilliant? What part do you play in Rule 64: Birthdays are there to be celebrated?For those Birth-Dayers who are up for it, I’m pretty sure all of you guys could easily throw a pretty hot party. But I’m not suggesting that if you have a friend who really hates birthdays, you should ignore their feelings and throw a massive shindig anyway. It’s all about levels of celebration suited to the birthday person – it’s a day all about them, after all. So perhaps just a card. A card and gift. A cake. Buying them a coffee, giving them a hug. Not necessarily tequila shots at 2am or a private jet to Monaco, but a gesture. A little something. A nod to their Birth Day.

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Which brings me back to Steve at work. He’s not a massive birthday fan. But he does like beer, so we took him to the pub and bought him a few pints at lunchtime. We clubbed together and got him a card and cake, and sang happy birthday to him at his desk. We made him a cup of tea in the afternoon. We didn’t really spoil him or make a huge fuss, but we did make him feel a little bit special. And at the end of the day, he declared that it had been the ‘best birthday for a long time’.

And my husband with the saddest 30th I could ever imagine? That weekend I went up to see him (it was our first ‘proper’ date after we’d met).  He had an impromptu gathering in his local pub on the Saturday night. One of his mates had done a bit of calling round and facebooking so a crowd of friends and family arrived. I bought him a cupcake with candles and a bottle of overpriced champagne. He was over the moon and proceeded to celebrate by getting very drunk, and dance wildly on tables. Which to be honest, was probably the moment I fell in love with him.

So here’s to birthdays.

Celebrating you. And celebrating with others. And perhaps even blowing out some candles. Now. Where did I put that cake…?!
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Ahhh..life….what’s it all about, eh?

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. My first blog post of a spanking new blog. How very exciting!

So. What’s this one all about then? Well, as you may have guessed from the title of the blog and also from the title of this post, I’m going to try to make sense of life. Well, that’s not strictly true. In my 36 years on the planet, I am under the firm conclusion that life is throughly baffling in every single way. It gets no easier to fathom, and I have no doubt in the years ahead, I will only get more confused by it all. But, with this blog, the small amount of wisdom I have learnt, I will try and share with you, the good people of the world. And if you can help me out with your own thoughts and advice along the way, then all the better. Heaven knows I need all the help I can get.

A little while back, there started a running joke. Not so much of a joke, but general way of categorising things, situations, general happenings and the like. And so the virtual ‘Book of Life’ was born, and within it, multiple chapters, subchapters, sections, lines, verses, all of which help towards a vague way to cope with, deal with, enjoy, celebrate – you name it – different things across the course of well, life. Rules to live by. Things you can store deep within your memory for times to come. Things to loosely adhere to. Or simply things to read, pooh-pooh and ignore. After all who am I to claim to know anything about it?!

However, for want of a better idea, this blog shall duly start to look at random bits of the ‘Book of Life’. Bear with me. In my head it’s better than I’ve made it sound.

And, in conclusion to this first post, a far wiser man than I once said ‘the web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.’ Here’s to all of it. The ups, the downs – and trying to work out how to get through all the bits in-between….

Book of LIfe. Kind of....
Book of Life. Kind of….