Favourite thing about yourself…..

“Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favorite thing about yourself.”

My first response to this blog prompt is “can’t I be self-deprecating instead, its much easier”, which I guess says a lot about me.  It’s true, I am not good at blowing my own trumpet, but here goes…..

Whenever there is a quiz going on somewhere, either in a pub, at church or elsewhere, a lot of my friends/acquaintances can be found frantically trying to get me to be on their team.  This is not because I know everything on any subject (I really don’t, I’m no Sherlock with my own mind palace) but because they know that when the category “Music” comes up, I generally do know the answer.  I should probably clarify this: if you want answers on opera, jazz or classical music, I am NOT your girl.  However, if for example there were to be questions on nineties indie/britpop, the sixties or my secret weapon of everything you ever (didnt) want to know about Paul McCartney’s back catalogue, I am a walking anorak.  I used to think that this was just an embarrassing skill I had that would never be needed, and to be honest, in everyday chat or life, it pretty much is.  But it suddenly becomes very useful and is a quick way to impress a lot of random people in a pub, who admittedly are easy to impress after the first couple of alcohol drinks. 

And to think that all those years of being an only child stuck in the dull suburbs with only my record collection to keep me relatively sane would end up being an advantage.  It’s a bit like getting A starred grades for an exam you didnt even know that you had been studying for….

A bit of a break in blog posts…and now the teacher’s pet!

Oops….it seems that I have missed a few days on my 365 days blog already and it’s only early January!  It turns out that, not unusually, I have been a bit overambitious about what I can do.  I think maybe signing up to a weekly blog would have been a more sensible option, but I signed up in the no man’s land called christmas/new year period.  I forgot how many other things I have to do in a normal week, yet alone day.  As a self employed person the paid work has to come first…then time for unpaid hobbies.

Anyway, better get back on track and today’s prompt is to write about a Teacher who was important to me at school and the impact they had on my life.  Impact on my life?  Wow, thats quite a thing.  Can I actually say that about a teacher?  On closer reflection, I think that I can.  I also think that it isn’t just ONE TEACHER that has been important to me, but also lecturers at College, Open University and further studies.

The first one that comes to mind is a school teacher though – Mr Andrews was my high school history teacher for the first two years of high school.  He was very enthusiastic about his subject, which was a favourite of mine anyway, but his enthusiasm and the way he made learning history fun has kept my interest up in the subject to my current decade of my forties.  I particularly remember a computer game that was about the black death that really got the class involved in the real life issues of that time.

Unfortunately, in my third year of high school my teachers changed and I got two history teachers who were very different to Mr Andrews.  One of them did dictation the whole lesson – hard to keep up with him, boring to listen to and deadened my enthusiasm.  I recall I bunked off his class on one or two occasions – and I was a good girl, I NEVER bunked off anything, even if I hated it.  The other one was a bit better, but with a bad attitude and had a biasedly working class, left wing opinion about history. I guess that might explain my own lefty-ist learnings at times!

Once at college, I came across another history teacher like Mr Andrews, only possibily better as he was a friendly Brummie who also taught at the prison and was an overall good egg.  I even went drinking with him and a few other students.  One time we ended up round a friend of his who had an open policy to people coming round unannounced for meals – a very middle class experience for me, with the mother being called by her first name by her children!

Later at college, my A level history lecturer was also a favourite in a different kind of way.  Getting to watch Blackadder episodes in a college lesson is apparently okay, as he told us, because they got a lot of the actual historical details right.  This may or may not be true, but either way it’s a good excuse to laugh your way through a lecture!

These days I do a bit of work supporting students at a local university and can come across some inspiring lecturers, as well as some rather dull ones, who know their subject but don’t know how to relate to students.  Self motivation is important when you get to that level of studying and it is the ultimate responsilblity of the student to find a way to keep up their interest.  However, I think an inspiring teacher or lecturer is something that really helps to instill an interest in a subject, that can last a life time.

Quote Me

“Be Still and Know That I Am God”

As someone who at times has bouts of anxiety, the above quote has meant a lot to me ever since I came across it.  It is taken from Psalm 46:10  and I have used it as a affirmation in times of stress. For a quote that has meant so much to me in the last four or five years it is surprising that I cannot recall the first time that I came across it.  I have a feeling it was probably given to me by someone at church or mentioned in a preach, but regardless of that it continues to have a power for me.

Added to that, my interest in Mindfulness also taps into the idea of stillness, of sitting with however you feel and feeling the stillness inside ourselves which is always there in the background (if we look for it) but gets hidden.  Hidden particularly under all the distractions that can take us away from ourselves, often because to be totally with ourselves can make some of us feel uneasy, insecure etc etc.  I realise that that last sentence was done in the third tense to take its meaning away from myself personally, but lets face it, I AM actually talking about myself there – to be totally with myself can make ME sometimes feel uneasy, insecure, etc, etc!  Its not spending time on my own that is the problem – as am only child I am well used to entertaining myself.  But that is not the same as being WITH myself and acknowledging exactly what I am feeling in that very moment, particularly if that moment is a difficult one.

For me, “Be Still and Know that I Am God” helps me to realise that whatever is going on for me in that particular moment, God is always there as a still calm presence that can and will protect me from whatever life throws at me.  I say can, because I have to allow God in to give me that stillness.  There have been times when I have said this bit of scripture to myself and I had to suspend my disbelief; I had to almost will myself to believe it was true, as on the face of it the situation would offer me no actual evidence that what I said was true.  Psalm 46 speaks of the earth giving way and even of mountains falling into the seas.  To be still and know that God is there in those circumstances is beyond any troubles that I have ever experienced.

 

Bucket List? No thanks, I’d rather read a book….

I’m rebelling against today’s prompt and going to blog about something else.  Main reason being that whilst I understand what a bucket list is and the concept behind it, I don’t actually have one.  I’ve not really thought about it in any meaninful sense, other than ocassionally thinking “I’d love to…. go to San Francisco; sing in a band; learn Danish” etc etc.

There are a lot of books that I would llike to have read before I kick that aforementioned bucket. Certainly one of my favourite things to do is to buy new books, and I had the pleasure of doing that very thing this afternoon.  Thanks to some Christmas money given to me by a generous relative I was able to go to Waterstones in my home city and indulge my passion.  This is something that I don’t often get to do these days, as funds aren’t often spare and most new books I have bought in last couple of years have been for educational purposes.  It is still possible to get a thrill out of buying a second hand book in Oxfam or somewhere similar, particularly if you find a quality paperback in almost pristine condition, as I did last month when I found a copy of Siri Hustvedt’s ‘What I Loved’ novel.  (And love it, I did!)

But, for all that, there is nothing as thrilling as being able to go into a bookshop and choose from hundreds of titles.  All of those books just crying out “pick me! pick me!”, their attractive, many coloured covers tempting you to look inside, smell the print of the pages, feel the weight of the book in your hands, read the first sentence or page and debate whether this or that book will be the one(s) you take home, or will you toss it aside for another?

Today I had the pleasure of buying not one book, but three books which I excitedly carried out of the bookshop in anticipation of curling up with them over the coming months. Two fiction books and one chunky modern history book.  BLISS….

Resolved

There seem to be an abundance of cliches available when it comes to the end of one year and the beginning of another.  As soon as the turkey is digested and the crackers are pulled, the attention, particularly within media outlets, turns to the New Year and thoughts of Resolutions.  In themselves, resolutions can be a positive way of looking towards the New Year and encourage people to make changes in their lives. However, like other things that are overly focused on, they can be counterproductive, leading people to make unrealistic resolutions that they are doomed to  be unsuccessful in. 

Of course, I have made some myself over the years, but as I never wrote them down I can’t actually remember them or if I kept them up after New Years Day.  Which makes me think that I probably didn’t keep them.  This year I decided that I would make a record of mine in order to see if I can keep at least one of them.  So far, I have kept my resolution to walk more (if I’d said walk a particular distance everyday I would have already failed!), have done some mindfulness practice (though not any long meditations), but not really succeeded further in my third resolution to have a closer walk with God. 

The year is still young, thank goodness…

 

Stroke of Midnight

As Big Ben made its first ‘bong’ of 2014 I was in the front room of some mutual friends house watching bbc one’s coverage of the turn of the year.  Drink had been generously consumed, including 2 and half glasses of rose, and a small glass of champagne to toast the new year, rich with possibility. 

Music accompanying the following Fireworks in London led to my husband dancing wildly and slightly ‘Dad-like’ in front of the screen with his partner in crime, O.  Their joint love of all things zany, particularly Mike Myers “yeah baby” catchphrase from Austin Powers, had not managed to dampen the evening.  Overall then, I was happy to be spending the New Year with good friends, interesting party games (and for me to type that is nothing short of a small miracle as I generaly say that I dont DO games) and away from own home.

For a long time, NYE was the time of year that I dreaded the most, generally because I knew I was going to be spending it alone or unhappily with the wrong people.  Also, the reflective nature of the time of year can be difficult to deal with when you are reflecting back on unpleasant events in a year.  Thankfully, my life has improved socially and personally in the last few years and knowing that I won’t be alone is a great blessing.

 

Explanations for blog

having stumbled on the word press.com website I have decided to follow the 365 days of writing prompts it has.   

Its New Years Eve 2013 and I am feeling particularly reflective about it and my life this year.  The title of the blog doesnt at this point really mean anything – or maybe it does, and I shall find out exactly WHAT that is as I go along.  Bit like my life really, making it up as I go along most of the time…..

So for 2014, one of my resolutions is to write a blog.  It feels like I could write a very long list of resolutions but I need to be practical – can’t change your whole life overnight and don’t wish to set myself up for a fall.