Friday 26 February 2010

Me Time

A few days ago I heard a discussion on BBC Radio 4 about me time. I had been looking forward to this programme. It would be a half hour of me time for me. I settled down to listen but was surprised to hear me time being referred to as ‘a sad, self-serving concept from those who have it all but want more.’ They talked about me time being ‘a marketing ploy from the States’ who have imposed a ‘me, me, me society’ on us encouraging us to be selfish. There seemed to be a general agreement that nobody needs me time.

Well this listener does not agree. Everybody needs me time. It doesn’t mean ‘I am the centre of the Universe’. The nearest the discussion got to discussing me time as I understand it was when they talked of ‘snatched pleasures’ but even that phrase has undertones of guilt. Why should a pleasure have to be snatched? We should all be entitled to take time out to do something enjoyable. It might be looking at the daffodils that are unravelling in a vase beside me as I type, or not running for the bus and watching it sail by knowing that you can sit in the bus shelter listening to the birds for ten minutes. After all, what harm can there be in arriving ten minutes later, especially when it gives you the opportunity to notice how brightly the birds are singing just now? It’s not only about being aware of nature. It might be wandering through a market looking for nothing in particular, visiting the local museum, the list is endless.

Me time is vital if you are living the sort of life where you rush around, ticking jobs off the to-do list, and refusing to say ‘no’ to anyone in case they think less of you. This is a routine that can creep up on you without you realising it. I rarely pop round to friends for a chat these days which could mean that I’m no longer encouraging them to have a bit of their own me time. So that’s it! Friends beware! I’ve decided I’m going to start visiting you all again, turn a bit of me time into me/we time. Come to think of it, if we have a cup of tea while we’re chatting I suppose we’ll be having me/we/tea time. [Sorry, couldn’t resist it!]

So bring on me time, banish guilt and I’d like to end on a quote from the radio programme. This is one I’m certainly in agreement with; ‘The next time you see a beautiful sunset, stop what you’re doing and look at it because we’re a long time dead.’

Sunday 21 February 2010

Being a Nosy Adam...

...why should Parker have the monopoly on nosiness?

I was taking Josh the dog to the park the other morning when I noticed a red ribbon on a neighbour’s hedge. It made me think about Joanne Harris and her red ribbons in Blackberry Wine. I wondered if it could be some sort of a sign, a talisman. This gave me an idea for a story so I scribbled it into my notebook.

Further down our road there was a small group of people pointing at something out of my line of vision. No self-respecting Nosy Adam could have walked on by, so we made a detour to watch a large digger turn a perfectly good house into a pile of bricks. This was to make way for a road and houses in the backlands but what fascinated me were gardens that I had never seen before. There were bushes, trees, an old fashioned garden shed... or was it a Wendy House where generations of children had played or maybe it was a bolthole for Dad with a radio and cans of beer or better still for Mum with a mug of coffee and her mobile phone. Another idea and I was scribbling in my notebook again.

Josh was pulling at his lead. ‘Aren’t we supposed to be going to the park?’ he said. (OK, so he didn’t actually say it.) We resumed our walk. A cat who was watching Josh from the top of a fence, didn’t know that dogs can’t climb. She panicked. She lost her balance. A pair of claws grappled and disappeared down the back of the fence, followed by a clatter, a hiss, a meow. The Nosy Adam in me wanted to go and investigate but I knew that it would only make things worse so I jotted it down in my notebook.

The red ribbon was still caught on the hedge when we returned from the park. I knew that red ribbons have something to do with charity. The Internet said that it is the symbol of the World Aids Campaign. They are calling for nominations for the 2010 Red Ribbon Award and the closing date is 28th February. Well there’s a coincidence, I thought, bearing in mind last week’s blog post and I began to type this post...

But when I looked up the link for the Red Ribbon Award I was surprised to see that there is a Burgundy Ribbon for Amyloidosis Awareness... come to think of it that ribbon on the hedge was kind of a burgundy red and I have a husband who suffers from Amyloidosis. So it’s not a coincidence. It’s synchronicity. I started out writing about how being nosy gives you ideas for creative writing and now I’m reading a website about raising awareness of Amyloidosis as early diagnosis can save lives, I’m planning how I can get involved and I’m right back with my last week’s blog post about coincidence versus synchronicity. Isn’t life strange?

Sunday 14 February 2010

I don't believe in coincidences...

or do I?

I often start to say something to a friend only to hear them saying it first.

‘Creepy!’ I think. ‘Am I psychic or was that a coincidence?’

Surely the most logical explanation is that we spend a lot of time together and so have similar thoughts and experiences. Likewise a phone call from my mother will often coincide with me thinking that I really must ring her.

I would like to think that serendipity* is not a coincidence but some sort of divine intervention. When I first joined Twitter I tweeted just the once and my name was seen by the Chair of Lapidus. This is a lady who never normally uses Twitter but she recognised me and invited me to a local Lapidus meeting. It was fortuitous, serendipitous, and I’ve gained a lot from that reunion, but why should divine intervention be bothering itself with my Lapidus membership?

Can synchronicity* be explained in a logical way? Have you ever read or written a story only to see the same scenario reported in the news shortly afterwards? When I interviewed Pippa Goodhart last month she told me that she had recently read in the paper about an aristocrat whose wife had given birth to twin boys by Caesarean section and they had to decide which of the two should become the heir.

‘That was almost exactly the dilemma I'd put into my Cake Test story where triplet girls get muddled by the nannies and they have to devise a test to choose which of them would make the best Queen. Isn't life strange?’ mused Pippa and it gets stranger...

Several years ago I was sure that I heard a voice as the phone began to ring. It was my father-in-law’s voice. He’d been dead for many years but I heard him tell me that I was going to have to be strong. In the few seconds that it took me to answer the phone I became convinced that something must have happened to my mother-in-law. I was relieved to hear my best friend on the line but she had called to tell me that her husband had died and I really did need to be strong. So was this a coincidence, because I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about any alternative explanation?

And now I’m faced with another coincidence. Rod has just finished his 3rd month of chemotherapy to control his Amyloidosis. I said in an earlier post how well he was coping with the Melphalan and Prednisolone but that was before he developed blurred vision. Eye Casualty said that his optic nerve is inflamed. They sent him for an MRI scan, lumber puncture, field vision and all manner of tests. Last Thursday he saw an Ophthalmic Neurologist, a Neurological Ophthalmologist and a Haematologist. Three ologists in one day - is this a record? None of them could say what is causing it. It came on shortly after he finished his 2nd dose of Melphalan but apparently blurred vision is not a known side effect... and so it must be a coincidence, or is it?

If you’ve experienced a coincidence without a logical explanation then I’d love to hear about it. Please share it in Comments below.

If you’ve had any experience of Melphalan and blurred vision then we would both be interested to hear from you. If you don’t want to post a comment then I can always be contacted through my website at

I get mixed up with these two words and so have put the definitions here for myself as well as for anyone else with a similar serendipity/synchronicity confusion issue.

* Serendipity: when events coincide with a positive outcome
* Synchronicity: when a series of coincidences appear to be related

Sunday 7 February 2010

Writing is fun

and groups are good for us

Imagine an exercise class consisting of one person. How would you fancy doing aquarobics on your own? Rambling groups are reportedly growing in popularity and as for singing, I have been told by a reliable source that nothing beats singing in a choir... except maybe writing in a writing group and there’s a good reason for that. Writing is fun and groups are good for us.

Last night I was invited to talk to a local community group about creative writing. As soon as I walked into the hall I knew that I didn’t need to convince the members of the South Knighton Community Events about the enjoyment of being part of a group. For more than two years they have been hiring a local hall and organising a monthly activity. Events range from live music to photography to wine tasting to a quiz night. There's something for everyone. The atmosphere last night was full of friendship and warmth. They have created a community. They are proof that it’s better to share a Saturday night with friends and neighbours than watch the telly on your own.

We listened to local writers Krys Wysocki, Maria Smith and Keith Large reading their work. I talked about my Heritage Lottery funded Memories Project and about writing blogs. Everyone was bubbling with enthusiasm and after a lively book swap and wine session they launched themselves into a writing exercise. This activity produced much laughter which came as no surprise to me. It wasn’t just the wine laughing. It was because writing is fun and groups are good for us.