Is your glass half-full or half-empty? We are not talking here about a glass of your favourite tipple, be it G & T, (mine with ice and a slice-of orange for preference, thank you), a robust red or even a glass of 'Old Peculiar'. We are talking the glass of life.
This subject was bought vividly home to me the other day, after a prolonged and mournful telephone conversation with an old acquaintance. He is not old, but our relationship is of long standing and I sometimes wonder why this is. It is not a reciprocal friendship, as in he says 'hello, you fine and wonderful lady and how are you and what a fantastic life this is' and then I say 'you lovely flatterer you. Yes I am in the pink and indeed life is pretty yipee isn't it.'
We do not proceed along these lines and now I come to reflect upon it, we never have. I have known, let's call him 'Jim' for a great many years and he is aware of my upbeat take on life. My glass is more than half-full. Sadly, his is always half-empty, making for something of a chasm between us that no amount of rickety bridge-building on my part can do to construct a full and rich friendship between us.
He is Eyore to my Tigger. Admittedly a Tigger type is a bit much for most people and I am more restrained than our stripey friend. But 'Jim' is Eyore to his boot-strap bottoms. No patch of nettles would ever be big enough or succulent enough to please our Eyore-Jim
You could lay all the earth's riches out before him, have Salome dance for him all night and a lot more besides and he'd still be mournful. I don't know why this is, he has everything going for him and still isn't happy. Exasperating? Maddening? Yes, in view of our far less fortunate brethren around the world, I could cheerfully strangle him, and yet, he IS so lonely and miserable in himself I cannot.. To throw another animal into the mix, can a leopard ever change its spots? I doubt it. Sadly, his glass will always be half-empty and the joyousness of life elude him. And I will always be a Tigger. My glass is half-full. Half-full? Ha, better find the bottle and get the glass filled up. Cheers everyone, Christmas is coming, I need the practice!
Theakston's Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire brews a dark ale known as 'Old Peculiar'. According to Theakstons this name arises from the fact that Masham had a unique ecclesiastical status known as 'Court of the Peculiar' and is also a reference to the strong characteristic of the beer. For many years it was affectionately referred to as 'Yorkshire's Lunatic Broth.' My husband is not much of a beer drinker, preferring the grape to the hop, but is sometimes referred to by my good self as 'Old Peculiar'. Not that any of the dark qualities of the brew are reflected in his character, but because, as I suspect in common with all humanity, he possesses certain little habitual traits that are peculiar to him, hence the affectionate nomenclature.
Well, give us a clue, I hear you say. Do not blacken this man's character without airing the evidence. Fair do's.
Picture the scene. We are in the queue at the supermarket check-out and there are a line of those 'Next Customer' metal bars lined up - always, always under the care of the check-out lady or gent. I'll give Old Peculiar his due, he tries. I can feel him, resisting the urge, trying not to give into temptation, but always the inevitable happens.
I favour him with the death-stare, which briefly checks him, but not for long. Soon the restless fidgeting begins again. He cannot in the end resist and it matters not how many people are in front of him in the queue. With many an 'excuse me' he makes his way to the front, reaches over to the lined up 'next customer' bars and sends them shooting back up along their rail towards our end of the queue. Beaming now, he saunters happily back to our trolley and places a bar down on the rolling mat and carefully marshalls the rest of the bars for the customers coming behind us.
Is there gratitude for this service? Are our fellow customers wringing his hand in fellowship and thanks? No. They shrink nervously away. They could not shrink any further than they do, given the confines of the narrow aisle. They look away, avoiding eye contact with this most odd of fellows. What might happen next if they engage with him? These notions are palpably floating in the air. My Old Peculiar doesn't mind now. He is relaxed and smiling, mission accomplished.
This is only the beginning. I could go on about a certain way to mow the stripes on the lawn, how to wind the extension lead and worst of all, don't get him started on the double parking habits of the folk in our nearby village. The streets around the main square are wide enough to accommodate triple parking were it needed, but just let Old Peculiar catch sight of one vehicle parked alongside another, whilst its owner nips into the shop and there you have it - he's off on one.
What is his problem? I can't say he should get out more. He does. Our lives are hectic and chaotic most of the time. Perhaps that is the problem in a nutshell. Maybe he is trying to bring some kind of order into our roller coaster life. Stable doors, horses and the bolting of spring to mind, but I don't think my Old Peculiar will ever accept this. One day ... one day, he hopes he might restore a smidgeon of order to our lives. I think not, but shan't tell him. Better to travel in optimism...
I love cooking. I love music. I love to combine the two. For me, it is always a great pleasure to have a good chunk of time in my kitchen, preparing supper for friends coming over and putting on music to chop, slice, braise or roast to.
Which is all very well and good, but the choice of music does not always complement the choice of menu. To digress slightly for a moment for illustrative purposes, let's talk taking a shower.
There you are, happily soaping away, humming softly or loudly, as the whimsy may take you and then, of a sudden, you decide what is needed here is a tad more cold water in the mix. So you duly turn the dial and up the ante with the spray and lo, you start soaping faster to keep up with the increased speed of the spray. Am I alone in this?
Now, extrapolate this to music and chopping. If it's a dreamy symphony day, that's fine. I move gracefully twixt stove and worktop. Supper slowly builds and slips on to the table with no effort. But, If it's a bit of rock or heavy metal it can be a different scenario. Fast music requires fast chopping and not being trained in the culinary department I am no Jamie Oliver, knocking seven bells out of an onion in three seconds flat. Food flies off my chopping board and not always into the pan where I want it. I slip and slide across the kitchen as drops of oil spill out of my rocking-on hands. My stir-fry gyrates in time to a Mark Knopfler riff, rice is tossed high in the air as Pink Floyd pounds out 'Another Brick In The Wall' and cream is whipped to the Eagles 'Get Over It'.'
On reflection, it is just as well that I do not interior decorate to music, or exterior come to that. Imagine the paint that could be sloshed about conducting Beethoven's Fifth or playing air guitar along with Eric Clapton. Fortunately for me and my walls, my preference is for the spoken word when wielding a paintbrush. Come spring, when decorating projects hove into view, I raid my local library for talking books and happily spread emulsion and gloss paint about the place whilst listening to a variety of books. Only, if it's a whodunnit and the action is getting a bit tense, I make sure I'm not doing coving, or the lines can get a bit wobbly.
A perennial favourite of mine is 'The Navy lark'. a comedy series produced by BBC Radio in the 1960's and 70's. I just adore the characters and the plots and the whole daftness of it all and it doesn't matter how many times I listen to my old cassettes, (yes, I still have plenty) or CD's, they remain as fresh as the first time for me.
So, if you see a small, blondish gal up and down a ladder, guffawing and snorting with laughter, it's probably me. Don't call the doctor. Just put on another cassette and creep away. I'll carry on painting 'till Christmas then.
It has been borne in on me for some time now that I am in need of some new bags. Handbags to be precise. I have bags for shopping, bags for precious writing paraphernalia, bags for re-cycling, bags for sports gear, etc. You get the idea. I also have a few handbags.
Now, I know these days ladies tote cavernous bags around with them, that so weigh them down it looks as if they are carting a small child around in them. They have a distinct thirty degree list to their gait, which I'm sure can't be good for the old vertebral column. and of course, said bag must lay claim to have issued forth from the stable of a 'designer'.
Am I missing something here? Now, I like items of quality with the best of folk, but I'm darned if my purchase if going to be dictated by the label on the product. Besides which, there are so many counterfeit products of famous labels in circulation these days, the bag/clothes/dress/shoes/jewellery could just be hot off the boat from anywhere.
As ever I buck the trend. This is not intentional I assure you. Quite the opposite. What I have realised over recent years is that I'm a bit of a dinosaur. By the time I have absorbed the details of a new fashion or trend and eventually decided I might like it and may even wish to try it, said fashion or trend has long fled, leaving me lamely in its wake, still dithering.
I do not think this is the problem when it comes to new handbags. I have a collection of three; brown, back and blue. These go with most of my attire and are just big enough to accommodate the essentials I deem necessary to cart around with me on a daily basis. Keeping to 'small' also keeps it reasonably light, bearing in mind the essentials these days include mobile phone, small dictaphone, diaries, plastic hacker-proof card wallet, tissues, make-up, comb, etc.
I do not think I will ever be converted to the carpet-bag size designer bag. That is one fashion that will pass me by. Meanwhile, the need for new bags remain. The weeks go by and they remain the niggle in my life, the stone in my shoe. Proscrastination does not feature large in my life, but bags are one area where it does. For some reason I have to be in the mood to go handbag buying.
Why? I know not. Trying on shoes or clothes are the scariest occupations of all. In comparison, buying handbags should be peachy and yet ... I can pass dozens of shops selling bags in all colours, shapes and styles and shy away like a nervous filly. As my friend Marion says, 'I have to get the signal.' I think she means being in the right frame of mind before a partiular task can be done.
And so it is for me when purchasing handbags. As yet te signal has not arrived, but it had better hurry up as all current bags are in a pretty dire state and liable to collapse any day now. The worst case scenario? The signal never arrives and the bags expire, leaving me a Dumfries & Galloway carrier-bag lady.