This week's guest is a duo. Many months ago my former boss adopted a very small black cat from outside her front door. She named her Newt. Newt is small and neat and not much bigger than a kitten but as she promptly began to swell, my boss realised she had rescued more than one life. Newt had four babies but perhaps because she was so young, only two survived. My boss adored them but she had had a cat before she adopted Newt and four cats was simply infeasible. The fiancé and I had been discussing getting a couple of kittens so while the timing wasn't quite perfect, it seemed right that we ask to have them. Today they arrived.
Settling in
by Morley and Satriani
Morley: I shall start because I always go first.

Satriani: Ok.

Morley: Moving house can be very daunting but always remember that experience is how you frame it. Jump out and explore immediately, life is waiting for you.

Satriani: But it's ok to look around and check cautiously as you exit. Foolhardiness can land you in trouble.

Morley: I could've got out of the chimney by myself. The people just pre-empted my by pulling me out and dusting me off.

Satriani: Personally, I don't see the appeal...

Morley: Well I'm not sure either but that's clearly where they're hiding the good stuff as they are so keen for me not to go up there!

Satriani: Your logic is sound. They are a bit odd these two.

Morley: They do seem as enthused about the feather thing as the last people though. I don't get the appeal myself, we just bat a bit of fluff on a piece of elastic and they're positively beside themselves.

Satriani: They seem harmless enough. There's good lap potential there once they calm down and get used to us.

Morley: Well I can't fault them on hospitality to date. There's the food we like and the giant sofa we're hiding behind is rather cosy.

Satriani: The cooing is a bit irritating though. We aren't tiny, we're huge now! They seem obsessed with us being babies but hello, we've left home already!

Morley: Tell me about it! It'll be strange without mum but frankly I'm ready to spread my wings and this house seems great.

Satriani: Can we just stay behind the sofa for a bit longer first?

Morley: Good plan. It is a little bit scary.
Morley is grey with white paws and bib and green eyes and Satriani is black with yellow eyes.
 
 
I've been on a family holiday this week so unless I'm going to go into such inspiration as my three year old stepson telling my six year old stepson (who had just thrown up all over the car) not to eat the sick, I need to look to literature for my guest. I'm a big fan of Sarah Dunant and loved this extract from a book of hers that I devoured in a single day.
Extract from Mapping the Edge
by Sarah Dunant
'So you don't think of him now?'
'Hardly ever. It's funny, I'm not sure I can remember him very well. It's so long ago, as if I was another person.'
'Sounds like you came out the victor in the end.'
'You think so? I don't see it as a battle any more.'
'That's how you know you've won.'
 
 
Today's guest is my friend Samantha. We've known each other about four and a half years and she was the only friend to survive my marriage. Nobody messes with Samantha who is disturbingly intelligent in the way that makes even cats grudgingly respect her. While my ex always claimed to like her, I think perhaps he knew better than to take her on. It's a short entry, taken as it is from an email but it's so brilliant and so kind that nothing else would do for this week.
Superwoman
by Samantha
Even if you have a Superwoman costume in the wardrobe, you don't have to wear it all the time.
Picture
 
 
Today I had a couple of guests that showed up quite unexpected and I'm delighted to welcome them to my home. I doubt they'll stay long as I have big plans for ripping them open at the neck and devouring their contents but for now their presence pleases me.
Unexpected Guests
courtesy of Gridlock Magazine
Picture
There are many things that make me happy. I like the fridge magnet that reads "I take life with a pinch of salt... a wedge of lemon and a shot of tequila. I like that I don't buy such fridge magnets and instead have an integrated fridge/freezer (although I aspire to a Smeg). But high on my list of happy things are writing (and being encouraged to do so) and free stuff.

So imagine my joy when my next door neighbour turned up bearing parcels delivered while I was out (I was making the acquaintance of my rather lovely new Irish optician who reads my eyes like a crystal ball and predicts great misfortune unless I take an iron supplement). Parcels that I did not order!

Parcels are another big happy source. Sometimes I shop online just so I can receive parcels. The amount of dresses that come from Joe Browns owe as much to this love as to comfy pretty clothes. 

But mysterious parcels are rare.

I tore into them full of eagerness. Which was a bit embarrassing since at the time I was in the middle of a quotation for a loft conversion, but the salesman shared my enthusiasm so that was ok (this is a big tick for the company!) to reveal wine.

Free wine?

Yaaaaaaaaay!!!

Logic interceded and suggested that this related to my new role as the food and drink writer for Gridlock magazine. But readers, my little mind was near to bursting. I am to be given free things and not only do I get to write about them but my writing will be in a magazine!

They are not to be guzzled in preparation for falling over due to winification but instead are ornamenting the dresser (not for the wine cupboard these special guests) until I've a few more details about the piece I'm to write.

Oh and since I've piqued your interest, here is my wine cupboard.
Picture
 
 
RSVPs and nobody at the party. Not that I can really pout too much but I've two people saying they're writing for this page and one touched but seemingly doing nothing about it. So no specific guest but hey, why let that stop me? Especially now the fiance and I have the internet again (it was down for 24 hours, we nearly died!). Anyway, there's a song that helped me move on from my ex by a band I think are just fabulous and so here's another Life Lesson blog (written as I'm sure you appreciate from a what not to do perspective).
Salesmen, cheats and liars
by my ex
The world is not a nice place and people are not on your side. Do not be complacent for man is selfish and ultimately there is nobody who would not sacrifice you in order to achieve their own goals. Even when things are going good be sure to hold something back and avoid being vulnerable. Some might say you are running with the self-fulfilling prophecy but don't buy it!

I know the only feeling you have is rage 
And I know that I'd feel the same as you, but 
I think you'd better take a good look around you 'cause 
You're so pissed you can't even find your drink 


Those that claim they're trying to help are merely projecting their own ideas onto you. Just because they've had their share of pain doesn't mean they won't inflict it as soon as you let them. Empathy is simply opportunism or loneliness that breeds desire for company at the bottom. Either way they'll drag you down.

Sometimes it's wise 
To know which way the gun is pointing 
Before you yell, "I see the whites of their eyes." 
Sometimes you'll find your senses all disjointed by 
The lines and wires of salesmen, cheats and liars 


If you let your guard down even one iota then people will trash all over you. You can think yourself in love even but you will either have your heart broken or settle for small scale casual cruelty. Set your strength from the beginning and keep them in their place. They are out to hurt you so subdue them. But even then, they'll leave you for the sake of causing pain.


Well she left, without one word of tenderness 
And noone saw you cry but me 
Your friends heard you say, "Good riddance, I'm better without her." but 
'Fess up, you thought about diving into the Don 


Trust in yourself. Hold your values and views. Adapting to experience is simply giving up and didn't you say all along people were out to screw you over. It's not pessimism, it's realism to assume the worst. You may get the rare positive that surprises you but you are never disappointed by life, simply prepared.

Sometimes it's wise 
To know which way the car is going 
Before you put your pedal down to the floor 
Sometimes you'll find your senses all disjointed by 
The lines and wires of salesmen, cheats and liars
 
 
A quick glance at a calendar tells me I've been ill for over a month. I've taken three sick days each roughly a fortnight apart. It is getting quite disheartening and is something I worry about as beyond the fact I feel I'm letting my employer down, I spent four years living with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) which is now more commonly referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I've had a couple of minor relapses over the years so I'm cautiously optimistic I'll soon bounce back. It's a controversial illness with some arguing it to be largely psychological. My response as a teenager was fine, give me crazy pills then but I'd like my life back please. Anyway, rather than get into that I've decided to share the health advice I've been given over the years.
Spit buckets and whisky
by Assorted
Paul was my on-off boyfriend from my GCSE's to when I went to uni. He was at Hull University (reading Physics I think) and was friends with a student nurse. Whenever someone was ill she would remind them to keep spitting in a bucket; spit spit and never swallow. The reasoning makes sense in that whatever you're coughing up is probably best out of your body. I try do it when I remember but actually it grosses me out a bit so today I haven't been.

Hot honey and lemon. My mum made me this as fairly standard fare when I was a child but I wasn't a huge fan of how sweet it was. Around my mid-teens I was allowed proper hot toddy's and think they are awesome (not really suitable for taking to the work place however). My ex used to point out that drinking while you were ill might numb the pain but could prolong the length of your illness.

Which leads me onto getting rid of unhelpful people. Really, my ex had to go. The fiancé makes fabulous hot toddy's and still wants to cuddle me when I'm sweaty and feverish.

The fiancé has had one piece of advice though and that has been banning me from consuming dairy as it increases mucus production (Mmm get me with the sexy talk in this blog!). Avoiding dairy seems smart but really I'm doing it because he's largely the person feeding and watering me.

Given that she watched me fade before her during my ME days my mum is understandably concerned and keeps reminding me to rest and stay warm. Obvious advice but hard to follow. Feeling a bit better I did some gardening on Saturday (in the drizzle no less) and subsequently spent yesterday ill on the sofa and had today off work. Two days doing nothing and I'm bored as hell.

A piece of advice I'm not following is my paternal grandfather's prescription of iodine for everything. From applying it neat to open wounds to gargling with it, iodine was the answer. I have never actually tried it as my mother always got in his way with her radical application of plasters and paracetamol. Still, Grandad isn't far from his 90s so maybe he's onto something.
 
 
Oh my goodness but have I been procrastinating lately. Utterly self-indulgent, totally soul destroying and completely futile and yet I persist. What to do?

Well I could have sought an expert to be my guest but I procrastinated about it. Fortunately the genius of Allie Brosh has written an excellent post on the subject and has even created an award for those of us who are quite frankly, a bit rubbish.

But hey, I've got a badge on my blog so really this is a win all round. Yay!
Picture
Credit: Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half
 
 
For the last two weeks the Monday Guest has written a blog for me. But there are a whole host of people I want to feature and not all will write. Some will be interviewed and others will have their story written by me. This entry follows the latter and is a life lesson from my maternal grandmother who I called Nana.

Wear fabulous shoes
"by" Nana
It was the last time I saw her. I knew she was dying and that this last meeting would be goodbye and felt at a loss as to what to do. On impulse and from lack of any other ideas I put on my hot pink suede shoes.

I went into her room in the hospice and felt really awkward. It was her but somehow not her. Nana wasn't the staying still sort. Even on the sofa at the end of the day her hands would be busy with cross stitch or tapestry. She asked to look at my shoes. She liked them.

And on her deathbed my Nana told me to always wear fabulous shoes. I promised.

I'm not one for regrets. For the most part I endeavour to live a life that I won't regret but I wish she could have met the fiancé. I wish I could tell her that not only do I wear fabulous shoes that not only make me smile, feel good about myself and that in making me make that promise to her, she was giving me the gift of taking her with me with each step I took but that I could tell her an utterly absurd love story.

About a girl that met a boy online and his username was Jimmy_Choo and when she realised she was in love with him she took a train to London and went into Jimmy Choo. That the girl bought a pair of shoes and told the boy and that absurd action not only made him smile more than he thought a pair of shoes could make him smile but that in a single crazy action she realised anything was possible.

Life lesson #1: Wear fabulous shoes
 
 
I'm delighted to share the third instalment to the trio of pieces that began with my column What floats your boat and was continued last week with Jan's pursuit of happiness. It has been fascinating to see how three people have taken such different interpretations of what for most of us, is arguably an underlying life's goal. I'm grateful that Jan and Trev took their time to put their views down and allowed me to share them. Thanks guys!

Thanks also to Trev for reminding me that it's Monday! The fiancé took me for lunch at The Daffodil where a fabulous Passion-tini cocktail kicked off a meal where gluttonously we took up the offer of a second bread basket and I had a couple of glasses of wonderful Syrah. As a result I've been languorously feeling there was something I was meant to do today but lacking inclination to try to remember!  

The pursuit of happiness
by Trev

In this, the third and final essay on happiness I can categorically state that the answer is, beyond any shadow of a doubt... forty two. *

I jest of course.

In truth the answer to happiness is just as difficult and unfathomable as the answer to life, the universe and everything. Part of this is because the question is so undefined. What is happiness? Are we talking satisfaction? Contentment? Do we want to be happy now? Some time in the future? All the time? Is it even desirable to be happy all of the time? 

Recent studies have shown that people that are happy are more inward looking, careless and selfish! Other studies have shown that guys that look happy are less attractive (though the opposite is true for women). It is a very modern western phenomenon that we even seek happiness. You could say that it is a luxury, afforded to us by our convenience driven lifestyle...

For now I’m going to assume that happiness is something that is desirable. Something that we all want. And I’m going to tell you how I have managed to find my own happiness in life. 

Part of the answer is just to have a life path. Having goals, no matter how simple they are, are a good way to get rid of the ennui that many people habitually fall in to. In that sense Kathryn, Jan and myself were all on the right track. We all had paths in life that were taking us somewhere. They may have seemed very different from the outside, but they gave us all a direction in life so we knew what was coming next. In my case it was my world travels (I have now replaced that with “getting a real life”); For Jan it was the career that she was pursuing, and for Kathryn it was the new life with a new guy, and her dissertation, and becoming the leading socialite on the Kuala Lumpur scene (Kathryn likes to keep busy!).

Another part of the answer is to remember that “This too will pass”. You can’t cling onto happiness. To try to do so will just destroy the thing that caused it. Likewise you shouldn’t cling onto depression. That will just ruin your life. It may sound stupid to cling to depression, but I have seen so many people do it... myself included! I have also seen people cling onto happiness, normally with pretty bad results. You know those people that you see that are dressed in a way that makes you think they have been wearing exactly the same clothes for 20 years? Normally those people had a few good years, and ever since then they have been clinging onto everything that reminds them of those years... 

The third and final part (for now) is people. People are where your true happiness lies. I consider myself to be an introvert. Often I don’t want anyone’s company. I can seclude myself in my room for days on end, reading, or watching films, or even surfing the internet. But even I need human contact sometimes. It is important to have a good network of people in your life. People that you can trust. People that you can rely on. When you have that then no matter what the world throws at you, you always know you can take it!

Ok... I lied. There is one more thing I would like to say. It is just this. What you did in the past defines your reality now. What you do now will define your reality in the future. So if you want to be happy in the future, always do the right thing now. 

Thats all I have to say about that...

* To any of you that haven’t read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy; You probably haven’t lived! Go out and read it now!


If you'd like to read more by Trev, he writes The Real Man Project which we discussed in my column, A better man. a real man last August. Trev also blogs about his adventures on the road and on the subject of salsa (the dance not the food) in Trev's Salsa Travels and finally on the subject of food at Trev's Cookbook.
 
 
In last week's column, What floats your boat, I wrote about a friendship in time where three of us were trying to decide our life's direction. For the first Monday Guest column, Jan has written her side of things. I love Jan's writing and the way she sees the world in such a different way to me but often seems completely right! She makes me think and I hope you enjoy her contribution.

The pursuit of happiness
by Jan
Kathryn has asked me to write a column about the pursuit of happiness. I think it is an interesting subject as happiness is such a difficult word to define that till this day I still cannot fully explain what it is. I do however remember when I was a child and being asked what I want when I grow up, I said I wanted to be happy.

Such a simple answer. And yet as I grew older, staying happy seems to be a more complicated task than I thought some twenty years ago. Things happen and life can throw you a few curve balls, and try as I might, I couldn't at all times, "be happy".

Anyway I digress.

I guess what I consider to be happiness does not come with an easy answer. If I had to pin it down to something, my happiness comes mostly from people and companionship. With the right company, I am happy doing anything, anytime, anywhere. Life is without fun if not for each little moment that brings a smile to your face and more importantly, the people that you share those moments with. But it is by no means considered a "life goal" for me. Don't get me wrong, it does not come without effort nor is it to be taken granted of, but I don't think it has to be in conflict with what I want to do with my life.

I guess I am what one might call a "driven" person, whatever that means. I like what I do and want to be good at it. And if I am good at it, I want to go somewhere with it. I enjoy being productive and making a difference in my own ways. And when I said if I must choose between "money, power, fame, pleasure", I would have chosen power, it was said in the same spirit.

It was indeed an interesting discussion between Trev, Kathryn and me. Of course I think no one is wrong, or can be wrong, it was simply a matter of personal choice. Trev's choice to backpack around the world was an interesting contrast to me and of course is something I would never do. I think the need for a sense of security and stability has a lot to do with that. But for him, it works.

All being said, I am a firm believer in "work hard, play hard". To me, holiday is not as fun without work; and work is not as enjoyable without holiday. I can't see myself perpetually being on holiday, assuming money is not an issue. I will find myself without direction and don't know what I am doing with my life.

But direction is merely where you are headed. You could speed down the road to get to the final destination or you could slow down and enjoy the scenery while you get there. And I will say that I am not in great hurry so much so that I will give up the other important things in life.

At the end of the day, I guess, the pursuit of happiness to me is trying my best to strike that perfect balance of having (half of) my cake and eat it (the other half) too. I may end up with more of one or the other, willingly or not. But I have to at least try.

And of course as they always say - it is not about the destination, it's about the journey.


 

    The Monday Guest

    The Thursday Column has become an institution; mostly just for me but there are a few people whose feedback suggests that my desire to publish something near the end of the week has resulted in a product that fills a pre-weekend Thursday muse or a Friday morning coffee break. Well, I'd like to start each week in a similar way and have asked my many brilliant friends to support this goal. If you would like to contribute, please contact me.

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