to sieze or not the day

Horace

Horace has a lot to answer for.  Often regarded as the first autobiographer as well as a superb poet he also was either right hand man or court puppet, depending on your point of view, to Octavius during the transition from Republic of Rome to Roman Empire.  He also coined two of the most misused words in poetry: carpe diem.

From the first book of Odes, the words carpe diem are frequently translated as “seize the day” and often quoted alongside six equally misused words: live each day as your last.  I have recently had good cause to consider these six words.

My eldest daughter has been travelling in southern Mexico. She was travelling with a friend who returned at the end of last week, my daughter is due to fly back tonight.  Like parents of most young travellers we watched her Facebook page and kept in touch with the occasional text.  Then on Saturday morning I woke up to the news of the devastating earthquake in Mexico.  It took me a good five minutes before I linked Mexico, earthquake and my daughter.  And then I went into panic mode.  It went a little like this.

  • Main damage is in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Check where daughter was last seen.  Chiapas.
  • Check last message from travelling companion.  Daughter due to leave Chiapas for Oaxaca.
  • Contact travelling companion.  Daughter said she was going to spend her last few days on the coast at Puerto Escondido.  The coast, the nearest part of the country to the epicentre.
  • I send emails, texts, messages to her.  None are returned.

I tell myself she will be fine.  Then I ask myself why should she be fine?  Why should ours be the story with the happy ending.  I watch the numbers of deaths rise alarmingly.  I remember what I said when she left.  It was something like “have a lovely holiday and take care” followed by a kiss and a hug.

I fire up all the networks I know and help and support comes pouring out of the woodwork.  A friend of a friend is married to a Mexican military official who will check casualty lists.  Old school friends offer somewhere for her to stay when (if?) she is found.  People offer help with repatriation when (if?) she is found and she can’t get to her flight.  Somebody knows a BBC journalist in Mexico and asks if I would like her to make contact.  Anything, yes please.  This was a little odd as I then found myself on the M74 heading up to Glasgow to drop another daughter at university and conducting a live radio interview at the same time (I wasn’t driving!)

I think back to the time she left and wonder if I should have said more, should I have lived that day as if it were her last?  I am now in serious mother panic mode, but on the outside am all calm and positive.  Only my feet are paddling furiously under the water and going nowhere.

We arrive in Glasgow, still no news.  I have been welded to my phone all day.  We go out for a meal and for the first time in my life I have my phone, screen up in front of me on the table.  All those times I have sneered at people who can’t leave their phones for one second and I have become that person overnight.

Late that night standing in the co-op whilst the twins pick up some fruit and yoghurt one of them yelps “She is active on Facebook!”  Frantic punching of keys and we phone her.

She is fine, she is safe and she is well.  She had not been in Puerto Escondido, she had not been in Chiapas, nor Oaxaca city.  She had been up in the mountains.  They had felt the quake and it had been terrifying, but in the middle of nowhere, with no telephone or internet connection they had no idea of the devastation elsewhere.  It was not until they got down to Oaxaca city that it dawned on them that they had had a very lucky escape.

I have no idea what the other people in the Co-op made of our happy little family squeaking and shrieking as we headed out onto Gordon Street, but who cared?

She isn’t home yet and today I am hoping to find out if she has made it to Mexico City where she can catch the first of her planes home.  If not, well we’ll sort something out.

Going back to saying goodbye to her before she left. If we truly are to live each day as if it were our last then we would not really be living at all.  We would be forever fearful of what tomorrow might bring, we could not seize this day because our minds would be forever concentrating on the next day.

Carpe diem is correctly translated as “pluck the day”, perhaps no better than “sieze the day” in its intention?  However, as with all things context is vital.

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – sieze the present, trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.

Now things start to make a little more sense.  Perhaps it is wise not to trust tomorrow entirely, because the lack of flexibility that would ensue would make for a very fractured and disappointing life as things fail to go as expected.  On the other hand, to have no trust in tomorrow is equally unhelpful.

So I have my own tenet.  I won’t seize (or pluck) the day, nor will I live each day as if it were my (or even my daughter’s) last.

I will live contentedly.  I will enjoy this moment and at the end of each day I ask myself if I had a good day.  If I did I spend a moment or two reliving and enjoying it.  If I didn’t, then I look at where I could have, if at all, improved upon it and then I let it go.  It is been and gone and tomorrow is another day.  To be trusted a little but not to be entirely depended on.

love Gillie x

in which the geographer gets lost

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I learned a new trick this week – how to get the seats with extra legroom when flying cattle.

Emirates, and I presume most other airlines, keep back the bulkhead and emergency exit seats when booking online.  However, if you arrive early at baggage drop and ask if you can be moved – hey presto!  So from Newcastle to Dubai we had bulkhead seats and from Dubai to Bangkok we faced the emergency exit and could stretch our legs practically into the next cabin.  Thank me later.

So we arrived, tired bu in one piece.  We found our hotel.  Which is more than the PT volunteer, Geography student daughter did.  Our hotel is at 73 Sukhumvit 13.  The Geographer took the skyrail to the bottom of Sukhumvit 13 and rang us to ask where we were (more about the phone later).  At that point the Boss and I had left sleeping daughter at the hotel and were having a cold drink in a bar opposite a building site on what I later learned was Sukhumvit 11.  I described the building site but we decided our cranes were not the same ones (it later transpired they were).  So I gave the Geographer our hotel adress (again) and she decided to get a taxi.  An hour or so later she rang again, describing her surroundings it did not sound as if she was anywhere near us.  “Where did you get the taxi to take you?” I asked.  “13 Sukhumvit 73” she replied.  This, I remind you is the girl who is going to read Geography next year!

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She made it at last and yesterday she took us out to visit her school and meet her colleagues.  The train was interesting.  We were a feature of interest.  Some Europeans do take the train to visit Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand,.  But very few venture further to Tha Rua!

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We were taken out to lunch by Bea’s colleagues to a wonderful fish restaurant.

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I don’t think I have eaten so well and so much in a long time (though we managed another massive meal that evening at a streetfood cafe!).  And then a quick visit to her school and new home.

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It was lovely to see both how happy she was and how much her colleague and pupils loved her.

 

Oh and the phone?  I got a mysterious call on Thursday afternoon from an unknown Thai number.  It took several attempts for a connection to be made – it was the Geographer.  She had left her English phone at Tha Rua station and was using her Thai phone!  Fortunately her fellow volunteer picked it up later in the day and it will  make its way back to its owner this evening.  For how long however remains to be seen!

Love Gillie x

 

just do it

just do it

 

I know Nike got there first.  It is a great slogan and fits the brand.  But how many of us take it on board?  How many online courses you have subscribed to but never finished?  How many  books you have bought but never read?  How many workbooks half completed?  How much time do you spend planning and how much time do you spend doing?

Somebody recommended this website to me today.  TheDoLectures.com It is wonderful, I have spent ages there and am about to tick something off this year’s list “attend a festival” by buying tickets to The Good Life Experience festival in September.  While I was browsing around the site I found their manifesto.

“The idea is a simple one. That people who Do things, can inspire the rest of us to go and Do things too. So each year, we invite a set of people to come and tell us what they Do.”

How simple and how amazing at the same time is that?    But it only works if there are people who DO things, and sadly there are less of them than you think.  I fall into the mainly “not doing” category.  I am big on ideas and grand plans and less good at getting down to the job in hand.  It is a constant source of friction in our marriage.  I am a great compartmentaliser and can literally and metaphorically close the door on something I don’t want to do and pretend it’s not there.

I have had several attempts at businesses, some successful but dull and some fascinating but not successful.  I have managed to write one reasonably successful novel (not going to live in the Bahamas on the proceeds however) and create an innovative planner which is loved by most users, but there are not enough of them!  Notice the last two. They are physical things that need to be sold.  I hate marketing, I hate sales and I hate asking people for help  (The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls is a very good read if you are like me). And I am also fundamentally lazy and am very good at putting off until tomorrow and firmly believe that James Bond was right and Tomorrow never Comes 🙂

I need to practice Doing.  But how?  Well each to his own and what is working for me may not work for you, but trial and error and you will find your own route.  The key is to just do it, to start doing and stop planning.

I love routine and order.  I like everything to be in its place and always tidy my desk at the end of the day.  It may be chaotic during the day but when I return to it in the morning I want a clear desk to start the day.  So I played to my strengths.

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I adopted a Bullet Journal Lite  (excellent introduction to Bullet Journals here).  I don’t use the index but I do use the two ribbon markers a lot.  I don’t have a diary element – I have appointments that go well into the end of the year and early  next year I need a proper diary.  Isn’t she lovely?

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But I have monthly lists and daily lists.  At the beginning of each month I write down the things I have to do and the things I want to do.  It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are, I just get them down.  Big ones can be broken up during the course of the month into manageable chunks.

Each day I write the things I have to and want to do checking against the master monthly list to ensure at least one of the beasts on there is going to be addressed.  I also add the things I expect myself to do every day.  Specifically, journal, gratitude, meditate/House on the Right Bank (Mindstore)  and walk.  With the exception of walking all of these have to be done before I do anything else (apart from making my cup of tea).  I need the discipline of a morning routine to make sure I do them everyday.  Everything goes in the Bullet journal.  Meeting notes, lists of blog ideas, holiday checklists etc.  So there is the horrifying risk that it could be lost taking my life with it.  But hey ho, I can live with that.

By playing to my need for order and routine I am now starting to DO rather than just talk and plan.  I have finished two online courses and read two business books and two novels.  I have completed several knitting and crotchet projects and the building work we are having done at the moment gave me an idea for a very simple but I think rather good business idea.

Are you doing or talking?

Love Gillie x

 

 

the martyr method

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I have new glasses, actually the prescription is exactly the same but I have new frames.  I think they are rather cute.  However, the strange thing is that I am having to look at the work from a new perspective.  These are bright red and my previous ones were tortoiseshell and rather larger.  Consequently not only am I viewing the world with a hint of red around it, but as the lenses are a different size and shape the varifocal element is different.  The angle I need to look to read isn’t the same.  It’s taking a bit of practice.

We also have the builders in (bear with  me there is a sequitur).  With all three daughters at or about to leave for university we don’t need the huge amount of space and with the Boss having recently retired we could do with a little more income.  So we are converting the Barn and Gin Gan into a three bedroom house to let.  The builders (the boys) are brilliant, we have known them for over 20 years and infact did the original renovation of the house.  But they are still builders and they need space cleared to put up partition walls, install bathrooms and build staircases.

The great declutter doesn’t feel like quite so much of a declutter after all!  From the perspective of a large house we had done very well,  from the perspective of one half the size we had only scratched the surface.  Well perhaps we had inflicted some serious wounds here and there, but the rest were relatively superficial.

We have not become profligate shoppers, I still stick, more or less, to the one in one out rule.  However, over the course of a few years and a large house that can absorb a lot of stuff if you are as organised and tidy as I am, we have allowed more in than out.  Had we not decided to downsize I doubt we would have noticed for considerably longer and the consequent job of getting back to square one would have been much harder.

Initially we worked the same way we had previously: sorting through in and out (I don’t do maybe, maybe always comes back in again).  Then one day in a fit of pique I cleared out cupboards and shelves until it looked as if Phillipe Starck had popped over for the afternoon.  For two days my husband tried to persuade me to look again at the enormous pile of boxes on the kitchen floor.  The poor dog couldn’t even get to her bed.  I stood firm.  I was going to rid the house of the detritus we had collected, books we would never read again, ornaments that just collected dust.  Hats that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the kitchen door).

Gradually I noticed a couple of things had been returned.  A carving of a fish, a rather beautiful and simple pair of glass and silver candlesticks and I realised that whilst I had thought I was doing what was wanted of me (to get rid of the unnecessary stuff that we had no room or need for in our smaller house) I was actually giving away things that broke the Pre-Raphaelite rule I try to follow.  “Keep only what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  The Boss found the fish carving and candlesticks beautiful (and the latter useful as well) and if truth be told, so did I.

I dismounted from my high horse and slowly started to go through the mountain of bags and boxes.  Quite a lot has been returned, but as you can see a significant amount is still to be collected by the British Heart Foundation on Wednesday.

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So three lessons learned:

  1. Share the work.  First time around, even though we got rid of five or six vanloads of stuff, even before the furniture, and even though I did most of the initial sorting on my own the Boss always had a chance to rescue something he felt had been misappropriated to the out pile.   This time I had taken that choice away from him.
  2. Don’t declutter when you are angry or tearful.  The martyr syndrome is easy to fall into and you may make extreme decisions you later regret.
  3. On the other hand a scorched earth policy can work if you are prepared to increase your physical workload.  When we went through the boxes it was much easier to say out to something that I had already consigned to the out pile, so whilst quite a few things returned home, I suspect there were far less than there would have been had I taken my traditional approach.  However, it did mean I had to drag them all back to their original places again!

Love Gillie x

Save

Save

the working wardrobe

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Depending on where you live in the world by today most people will be back at work.  Whether that means going out to work, getting up for the school run or sitting down in your home office/studio, one way or another the lazy “hey what day is it today” lie ins of the holidays are over.

I haven’t gone out to work for years.  I have worked at home, been a stay at home mum, helped with the family translation business, written books, all very time-consuming but almost all things that didn’t involve me dressing up in work clothes and going out to work.  Consequently I have read a lot of books and articles about how to succeed at working at home.  I know for some people being at home is just too distracting and they need somewhere else to go to work even if it is the shed at the bottom of the garden.  Personally I like working at home.  I like to have the flexibility to put on the washing and do an hour or so of work before emptying the machine, and to be honest if you suffer from distraction you are going to catch up on Facebook and play a couple of games of Candy Crush whether you are in an office or at home!

One of the tips that almost every home working guru gives is “get dressed” , even FlyLady tells you to put on your sensible shoes before you start your day.  First of all, the first thing I do when I get home is to take off my shoes and put on my slippers.  In my case I do this for comfort, but in some cultures to wear your dirty outside shoes in the house is downright offensive.  Rule Number One “Put on your shoes” summarily dismissed.

Now the getting dressed rule.  It is 12.34pm here.  I have been working since 9.20 and I am still in my pjs.  I have written and sent all the December invoices, set up the broadband account, set up a new email account, replied to various emails and phone requests, ordered some office equipment, written  my journal and gratitude list,  had 20 minutes of meditation and planned the meals for the rest of the week.  In between that I have had copious cups of tea, put on two machine loads of washing and fed all the animals.  Personally I think that is pretty good going for one morning, particularly one morning just after the holidays when I’m not really feeling the love for this work malarkey.

If you work from home and don’t need to get dressed to meet clients or Skype then for goodness sake if you don’t want to get dressed then don’t.  There is no rule that says you can only be productive if you are wearing shoes and a neatly accessorised outfit.  If you need that to put you in the work mood then by all means do so.  But don’t fret if you are still working furiously at 4pm and are still in your pjs!

 

Lessons from Dory … just keep swimming

How did you get along with the repurpose challenge?  For the final Friday challenge I repaired a photo frame that had been propped against a wall for eons and my knitting bowl that had a disagreement with the floor!  Not sure if it counted but I podded a bowlful of mangetout that had been allowed to grow on.  The peas are not great, a bit to marrow-fat for my liking but they made delicious soup and far better than putting them in the compost.  The chooks enjoyed burrowing for the handful I thew on the grass as well.

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This week has been Olympic week.  Especially exciting as we watched Duncan Scott who we have known since he was a wee tot win Silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and set a new British record in the 100m freestyle.  The final for the latter is at 3.00 am UK time on Friday morning if you want to cheer him on!

 

Duncan Scott

L-R: James Guy, Duncan Scott, Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne (courtesy of Ian MacNicol)

Watching the Olympics it is easy to get caught up in the razzmatazz and excitement and forget about the all the hard work that goes into just getting there in the first place.  Duncan announced he wanted to swim in the Olympics when he was nine, that’s ten years of early starts, homework in the back of the car on the way to evening training.  Ten years of driving across the country to swim in qualifying heats.  Ten years of physical hard slog.  Furthermore it’s not just Duncan that had to make sacrifices, who do you think drove Duncan across the country, sacrificed family holidays for training and so on?  Then there are the sports clubs, the ones that train our Olympians.  They don’t run themselves, someone has to be official timer, keep the books, fundraise, all volunteers.  There is much more going on behind the scenes than we ever see on the screen.

So when you look at your plastic bags, or the recycling that didn’t make it to the recycling box; when you buy a takeaway because you are just too tired and too hungry to cook; when you look at all the stuff you have accumulated and wonder how on earth it got there, don’t worry, don’t give up.   It took ten years for Duncan to become an Olympian and he worked at it seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Nobody expects you to downsize, declutter, go plastic free, live off grid (delete as appropriate 🙂 ) seven days a week, 365 days a year.  You have other responsibilities, needs, goals, ideals to fit in as well.

Do what you can, maybe up the ante every now and then and nudge yourself on.  But don’t beat yourself up and give up because you haven’t achieved it all in a year.  Watch the Olympics and remind yourself that nothing is quite as easy as it may look and congratulate yourself on getting as far as you have already.

Love Gillie x

Repurpose before you Recycle

Thank you for all the lovely comments both here and on  my FB page.  It is good to hear from so many people who want to ditch plastic and other single use items.  So in the spirit of reusing before recycling I have a challenge for you this week.  A repurpose challenge.

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This morning I lost an old stained bamboo tee-shirt and acquired some dusters.  Very easy.  I cut up the tee-shirt and have a nice new set of lovely soft bamboo dusters.  The tee shirt wasn’t fit for charity but it wasn’t yet ready for composting.  Win win.

So my challenge for you this week, and I’ll try to do it too and let you know how I get on:

Monday:  Repurpose something you used to wear.  It could be clothing, jewellery, a scarf or a hair accessory, anything you used to wear.

Tuesday:  Repurpose something you made.  It could be last night’s leftovers or a three piece suit!  Please do not repurpose your children however irritating they are!

Wednesday: Repurpose something you have put out for recycling.  A plastic bottle, a jar, some envelopes.  Get creative in your recycling bin.

Thursday:  Repurpose something from your black hole.  We all have them, the place where we put things we don’t know what to do with but can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of.  Some are as big as a garage or outbuilding.  Some are as small as a kitchen drawer.  You know yours, now go release something from it.

Friday:  Repurpose something that is broken.  If you can’t repair it can you turn it into something else

You get the weekend off!

Love Gillie