Trying something new

When was the last time you did something new?

Entirely new? That you’d not done before.

This week I painted a room for the first time.

This may be a surprise given my age, but not given the wider world. In the UK DIY stores are going bust as more and more people can’t afford to buy a home. Instead they rent, which means they are not allowed to so much as hang a picture on a wall without losing their deposit. There are complaints in newspapers that “the younger generation” have no home maintenance skills. But now having bought a home I can decorate it and learn new skills that I ‘should’ have learned years ago.

In other news, when the rats come back this year, they’ll have a surprise: there are fresh snakeskins sat in the loft, smelling of healthy, lively, recent snake…

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It’s also interesting watching ‘old’ films after the event. Parts of it will be of its time, parts will be universal and it’s not possible to foresee which will be which.

Yesterday the household watched ‘The devil’s advocate’, released in 1997:

The World Trade Centre is pride of place, acting as mis-en-scene – the viewer is focusing on the smaller skyscraper in front of it, but it forms two wings around it, all-encompassing, overshadowing and enveloping it. Buildings around it complement it by getting larger and larger, with building works ongoing.

Al Pacino refers to developing an interlinked network between minds everywhere on the planet – he’s describing an internet, a world wide web, just before it happened, and now with mobile phones and a generation who have no ‘privacy’ setting, the full content of every mind can be read by every other, just as he describes.

The shiny penthouse apartment shown as belonging to the ambitious developer was so gold that I said, “That’s Trump tower” despite not having seen it. Looked it up – it was.

Sadly, there was a representation of mental health ‘treatment’ which at best could be described as outdated. Apparently, patients are admitted chained to stretchers, then it goes downhill from there. Not sure where to begin on that one!

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Cold work

There are still complaints that my hair smells of sulphur. Good!

Just as the weather turned colder, I’ve started a new role. As there is no rest for the wicked, and all that, I went straight from one to another without a break, the result of which is that although continuously shattered, I’m finally sleeping properly at night.

The house is an anomaly, but we knew that. Houses of this design are usually built without cavity walls. This one has them, so next week a nice man is going to come and fill them with insulation. We’re in the process of insulating the loft. While it may not keep the rats out, it’ll at least constrict them to channels, which they will discover also contain snakeskins and the smell of healthy, lively snakes.

(The snakes are fine – it’s the dry skins they shed as they grow).

We’ve also had a nice man come to make the permanently open window close, the closed window open, and fit new hinges and handles to the backdoor so that it can both open and close without jamming or dropping off.

We couldn’t do any renovations while the rats were in and now have started with ones that should pay for themselves. The hope is that this will reduce the heating bills, given that the boiler is a mystery that not even gas fitters can work (they’ve tried), which switches itself on at full heat at whim any time it feels unappreciated. We still miss some things about the flat, what with it being grade II listed, high ceilings, real fires, original features and all, but being warm and dry now can’t be over-rated.


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Normal service

Frequent readers may have noticed a bit of a gap.

Normal service will resume shortly.

The household have just returned from a long-awaited time away on the other side of the world, returning with a New Zeal And determination to sort out the house and get other aspects of life in order.

We chose where to go by deciding that we wanted to see something none of us had seen before, which was so far away that if anything changed we’d not get to see it otherwise, that we couldn’t turn into a working trip. We booked hotels, a car and some day tours before leaving the UK, then simply travelled, seeing anything and everything that we found interesting. My hair still smells of sulphur from swimming in the thermal pools.

We’re used to doing this through Europe, but here we can take our own car and are used to driving through the night. Bit tricky when the car can’t fly.

Apparently, the land we visited has shortages in our professions. “Really..?” we said, “It’s lovely here, tell us more…”

New job coming up here in the UK. Might see slightly more daylight and other people.

Another new person has been welcomed into the world. For this one, “The waters broke early, then she tried to come out sideways.” Yep, don’t put me down for that. Did I mention my beer? And snakes? Aren’t they cute?

The cut to my hand from clearing picture frames in April has turned into a scar. I’m taking it as a reminder not to hoard. Now for the double-stacked shelves surrounded by boxes of books…

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Country of the Blind

Radio 4 extra have just broadcast a play that is three HG Wells short-stories in one. Two are fables, but the ‘Country of the Blind’ could be a fable or an analogy of any confirmed viewpoint’s inability to see something truly a new. It’s one that leads to an idea of balance: where the line is between what should be challenged and what should be accepted, and why each person believes this line to differ.

This appears to be a link to the whole story:

The synopsis is that someone stumbles into a country where everyone has been blind for generations, but have forgotten sight and adapted completely. He thinks that he can rule as he is the only sighted person so has an advantage. He discovers that they have adapted so absolutely that he is disadvantaged. He also discovers that as there is no concept of ‘sight’ they cannot comprehend what he is describing, believe he is unwell and set out to permanently ‘cure’ him to make him happy.

An analogy of the over-reliance on old, proven science at the expense of embracing and testing new ideas that may question it? After all, testing is what science is about…

And of believing that a perceived advantage is the automatic right to succeed?

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Picture this

‘Cluttering’ and ‘hoarding’ are subjective terms.

They are now also clinical terms used in mental health.

They speak of a happenstance of history, of what happens when a generation born after a war, brought up on rationing, then grows to be the most materially wealthy and healthy ever to have lived. They have it programmed into them to be discard an item while there is still worth or use to it is evil and they have oh so many items.

Hoarding itself occurs when the life that is behind appears happier than what is ahead. The future is frightening or simply unknown, while the things of now and yesterday are comforting reminders of happier times and times that mattered. And then it all gets too much, there’s too much to deal with, the shame of the state of the place means no one can ask for help and the person withdraws and disappears. At least one council has realised this isn’t a choice and is being proactive.

There is a nine-point scale, with anything beyond ‘4’ a problem.

The first clinical question, which allows people to see what this actually looks like, is, “On entering the house, do you have to move something in order to sit down?

While tidying up two months ago before visitors, I dropped a bunch of picture frames. One set was from family. Another was a picture that had hung on my wall for twenty years. I cut my hand badly when tidying up the glass. So they have sat together in a bag since – I wanted to get rid of them, but they were good frames, a familiar picture and I didn’t want to. They were also too big for the dustbin, so needed a trip to the tip.

Yesterday, we dug out the dustbin and fitted them in.

The house already looks a little more spacious.


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Dawn breaking through

The flood came and washed the sealed lean-to floor. The freezer is still up on bricks and a demonstrative word has been had with next door about guttering that funnels under their and our roof. It shan’t be happening again.

Yet another person is pregnant.

“Really?” I said, playing with my snakes and continuing to drink my beer.

Dawn is attempting to break through the cloud and it’s that time of twilight again, when I’m not awake enough to do anything useful but am too awake to sleep. If I sleep a couple of hours then am up for the afternoon later today it’s not a problem. If I keep on sleeping through because I need the sleep then it is as it’s another day wasted with nothing done. Yesterday I went to sleep late in the hope I’d sleep less altogether, then sleep well tonight. The first bit worked, the second didn’t.

When awake but not awake enough, my staple diet is Radio 4 Extra, where the detective stories and comedies of 80 years’ recordings are prepared and presented for my delectation and delight. At present though it’s detective stories that I’ve heard before and horrors, which are not the best idea in the dark when my mind is distracted by the real horrors that happen in everyday life.

So instead, after prompting from the Radio 4 extra documentary, I’m listening to Victoria Wood in stand-up, who made the domestic important, the obscure accessible and the horrendous funny. This is someone who can make ‘natural birth’ a comedy subject of interest and relevance to single men. She was gone too soon and is sadly missed.

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