Haiku of the Week

Coffee breath, bed head.

A thousand strangers snuggling.

My morning commute.

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Interpreting your Dreams Again

Dreams connect us, so they say, to the metaphysical world. Let’s explore their meanings together.

Falling

Ever jerked awake suddenly, with the horrible feeling that you were falling? I read a really interesting article about that, but I can’t remember what it said, so I’m just going to make something up instead. I think it had to do with your body freaking out because your muscles suddenly relaxed as if you’d died, or something sciencey like that.

My explanation is much simpler: the reason you have such a vivid sensation of falling is that you actually were falling.

Think about it! When have you ever felt like that before? I’ll tell you – when you were falling. And be honest – your imagination isn’t that good. You can’t just pretend to fall and have it feel that real, so you must have been actually falling. Stands to reason.

The question remains – where were you falling from? Well, boys and girls, that’s for the scientists to explain. I just write the blogs.

 

Interpreting your Dreams

Did you know that the average person experiences over fifty separate dream sequences in a single night? That’s not true, but it makes the study of dreams seem more relevant.

Exams

It’s a classic TV trope: the lovable but ne’er-do-well protagonist is sitting in an exam hall. He’s freaking out because he hasn’t studied, maybe he’s naked. He’s staring at his paper, clenching his pencil in his fist, sweat beading on his brow. Then something implausible happens, like his crush kisses him full on the mouth, or he looks down and he’s wearing his sister’s skirt, or his teacher turns into a bat. This is a subtle technique to let the audience know something isn’t quite right here. To hammer it home, he might say something like, “Of course, this is a dream,” in a resigned tone before he jerks awake, sweating, in his dark bedroom.

The truth is, no matter how well you did in your GCSEs, exams are a stressful time. So stressful, in fact, that fully grown adults remain traumatised by them well into their thirties, breaking into a nervous sweat at the mere sight of a revision guide.

Dreaming about such a stressful time is an indication that you are, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, too relaxed. Your subconscious is seeking out high-stress memories to try and provoke a chemical response in your brain.

Why not try some high-octane sports, like jousting or badminton, or push yourself to engage with things outside of your comfort zone? You will subliminally reward yourself with sweet, sweet dopamine.

 

Excellent ways to name your pets: Volume III

Get out your engraving tools, lads. Your fuzzy friend’s collar isn’t gonna be bare for much longer.

Excellent ways to name your pets.

Modernday Heraldic Titles

Forget Richard the Lionheart and Æthelred the Unready – that shit is dated. For a noble name with a modern twist, simply combine names of authors you studied at school with sciencey jargon you don’t really understand. Hey presto – your iguana has a classy name that suits both his social superiority and forward thinking attitude.

  • Steinbeck the Blueshift
  • Attwood the Eutrophic
  • Chaucer the Saponification
  • Delaney the Vesicle
  • Sylvia the Immiscible
  • Nabokov the Amphiphilic

and, of course,

  • Hemingway the Isopropyl.

Excellent ways to name your pets: Volume II

Go on, register a pet called Honestly Shitfaced at the vet. I dare you.

Excellent ways to name your pets.

Bob Mortimer’s Twitter

We’ve all been there: you get home from a long day at work, your creative juices all used up from composing passive aggressive emails to Karen in sales, and 2when you open the door, you find an adorable pet wearing a blank collar gazing up at you. You know you have to give that little bundle of love a name, but you can barely muster a “Whiskers” or “Spot”, let alone a distinguished title.

Hey, sometimes these things are best left to the experts. For the low, low price of £8 p.a., you can be the owner of a Mortimer original. He’s a national treasure! (Click here for a whole archive of ’em.)

Here are some to get you started:

  • Django Untrained
  • Friendly Toffeebloke
  • Jane Coconuts Gun
  • Wendy Broadcast
  • Bus Pass Ron

And my personal favourite:

  • Threat Level Tesco

 

Tricking yourself into being productive.

I’m fairly open about being one of the least productive people in the history of the world. It’s something I’ve had to make my peace with over the last twenty-something years. No sooner do I sit down, determined to do some work, am I distracted by my phone or an email or a passing moth. This is not ideal, to say the least, seeing as I’m a humanities’ student and blogger – both of which require a decent amount of independent work.

That feeling you get after spending a day sitting your desk without getting anything done is one of the worst in the world. Believe me – I’ve had it a lot.

And I’ve tried it all: telling myself off, writing a detailed revision plan, the “60 on 15 off” method, studying in cafes, studying in libraries, studying at the train station, even bribing myself with Smarties. (This method fell down when I realised I could eat the Smarties without doing any work. I ended up no cleverer, but whole tube of sweets fatter.)

Finally, after having been in education for nearly fifteen years, I had an epiphany: since I couldn’t be trusted to work under normal circumstances, I would have to be smarter than myself. I needed to outwit myself.

In a very calm, grown up inner voice, I told myself that I wasn’t going to do much studying at all today. I was just going to do a little bit, and then I would lie in my bed and read Guardians of the Galaxy fanfic. All I had to accomplish was that tiny, little bit of work, and then I’d be free to do whatever I wanted for the rest of the day.

And how would I know when I’d done that tiny, miniscule bit of work? Well, I told myself in that teacherish tone, I would make notes just until my pen ran out. That wasn’t so daunting, was it? After all, even I couldn’t remember when I’d started using this pen; for all I knew, it would run out after a single chapter of Czech: An Essential Grammar. Bolstered by relaxation that seemed only minutes away, I set about scribbling down declension patterns.

Four and a half hours later, my pen ran out and I stopped studying. I was thrilled: not only had I actually got a fair amount of revision done, I also had an unfamiliar feeling of accomplishment. I could get used to that.

Enthused by this success, I racked my brains for other ways to wring a little productivity out of my reticent brain. Bribery seemed hopeful, since I’m almost always one stressful situation from eating my bodyweight in chocolate. But this method, as I’d already discovered from the Smartie debacle, was fatally flawed because, instead of studying hard and then rewarding myself, I would simply eat the incentive and go and have a sugar nap.

But what, I thought to myself, if I couldn’t eat it? What then?

Instead of buying my reward beforehand, I lay out 70p on my desk – 70p that, if I got enough done, I would spend on chocolate. The bribe worked: unable to devour the money but still dreaming of a sweet treat, I got my head down and studied hard – although I did spend a fair amount of time gazing longingly at those silver coins.

After scheming up these two strategies, I have to say my general work output has increased. Sure, I’m still not the most conscientious student in the world, but I no longer feel like I’m basically incapable of sustained periods of concentration. I consider this a success.

It does seem fundamentally stupid that I have to cajole myself into studying in this way, by treating myself like an unruly schoolgirl, but hey – whatever works. As far as I see it, it’s better to study because you think you’ll get some chocolate at the end than not to study at all.

How do you stop yourself from procrastinating? Let me know in the comments.

Things I miss about living in Britain.

For the past four months, I’ve been living in Brno, a small city in the Czech Republic, as part of the Erasmus programme. Whilst I can honestly say that the past couple have months have been amongst the best in my life, there are a couple of things I do miss about Old Blighty.

Tea

OK, OK, it’s a stereotype: the Brit abroad with suitcase full of PG Tips, telling anyone who’ll listen what a watery mess Lipton’s teabags make. Determined to reject my own stereotypes, I stubbornly didn’t import a Boston Harbour’s worth of Yorkshire Gold in my cabin bag – and I regretted it.

Let me tell you about my first cup of tea in Brno. It’s a horrorshow.

It was my first full day in the country, and I’d headed to Albert, the local supermarket, to stock up on those student staples: pasta and teabags.

Pasta – no problem. Aisles of the stuff. I chucked a pack of spaghetti into my basket, and headed to the hot beverage section.

At first, things looked promising. There were enough different kinds of hot chocolate to satisfy even my sweet tooth, and there was clearly a wide selection of tea. I wandered over to take a closer look.

Of the thousands, if not millions, of kinds of tea on offer, only a paltry four boxes boasted black tea. To my horror, and with the help of a pocket dictionary, the deciphered labels revealed the truth: English Breakfast was not on sale.

Still, I thought, such is the reality of living outside of England. On the Continent, people just don’t have a taste for Breakfast tea. I picked up a box of Earl Grey, doubled back to grab a lemon, and headed home.

My (sadly not electric) kettle boiling, I grabbed my favourite mug and the pen that I had designated makeshift teaspoon. The teabags were individually wrapped in little paper envelopes, which I considered a good sign. All the best tea comes fancy packaged like that.

Listen, I’m not going to go into the taste, for fear of upsetting you. Let’s just say that if you dropped a teabag into a vat of Chanel No 5, you wouldn’t be that far off my brew. It wasn’t great.

The thing that really surprised me, though, was the way the tea stained my mug. Everyone’s been guilty of not washing their mugs properly and ending up with stains on the inside, but this was something else. After a single cup, my favourite mug looked like an almost finished jar of Nutella.

I stuffed the culprits into the cupboard, eyeing them with mistrust, and pledged never to leave the country without trunk of teabags again.

Gin and Tonic

Here’s a true story: my friend and I were in a bar here in Brno. I ordered the Czech classic – as much beer as can be physically lifted – and my friend opted for a G&T. Pretty standard stuff, right?

A couple of minutes later, the waitress was bag. She gave me my frosty one, and then turned to my friend and asked her whether she’d wanted a gin, or a tonic.

My friend and I looked at her.

“…Both,” My friend said. “A gin and tonic.”

“Oh!” said the waitress, giving her a look like she’d asked for a rum and Ribena.

We’d barely had time to comment on how weird that was when the waitress was back, holding a shot glass of gin and a can of tonic. When we gaped at her, bemused, she asked, “Oh, do you want a straw?”

The dog

I mean, look at her.

20180115_160246.jpg

Being in a different time zone from that Good Girle would sap anyone’s spirit.

Effortless Comprehension

This is pretty much the biggie. Although I’ve been studying Czech for two and a half years now, my most common response to any question is still, “ještě jednou (come again)?

I really surprised myself over the Christmas holidays by going out of my way to chat to people on the street, relishing the fact that they understood what I said, and, crucially, that I could understand them. It felt like a novelty, and I milked it until I realised I’d become that weirdo making conversation with strangers on the bus.

February’s Bland Horoscope

No one likes the unknown, especially when bland stuff is concerned. Get a head start on fate by seeing how your month is going to play out…

February: The Month of the Shopping Bags.

According to ancient Chinese legend, the second month of the year is the month when most carrier bag related accidents happen. Avoid uncertainty this month: read on to see how the trillions of bags under your sink will affect your day-to-day!

Aries (21st March – 19th April)

Be very careful: there is great danger in your path. Be sure to stock up on 5ps or old carrier bags before you leave the house, lest you end up high and dry with an armful of loose onions and a twenty minute walk home.

Astral gemstone: Onyx.

Taurus (20th April – 20th May)

Wow! You’re going to have an absolutely fabulous month, at least as far as plastic bags are concerned. Maybe you’ll end up with more bags than you paid for at the self checkout, or maybe a concerned auntie will give you one of those special foldaway shopping bags. Either way, you’re in luck!

Astral shapeRhombus.

Gemini (21st May – 20th June)

Ahh, Gemini. The sign of the twins. I have always had a soft spot for you and your early summer birthdays, which is why it pains me to tell you you’re in for it this month. Heck, your future looks worse than Aries! If I were you, I’d get a friend, parent or significant other to handle any carrier bag related matters this month.

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger: all I do is interpret the signs the heavens send me.

Astral bargain: PG Tips half off at Asda.

Cancer (21st June – July 22nd)

Fairly average month for you guys. You’ll probably forget to take a bag with you when you go shopping and get slapped by that hefty 5p charge, but on the other hand you might find a fiver in one of the old ones under the sink.

Astral herb: Parsley.

Leo (23rd July – August 22nd)

Life’s a lottery, and so is your fate this month, Leo. Some of you will emerge victorious, clutching a bunch of sturdy bags for life; others will stumble, shaking, into March, with nothing but a holey one from the chippy.

Astral phobia: Gamophobia (the fear of commitment).

Virgo (23rd August – 22nd September)

After a shaky history with carrier bags, it looks like things are finally going your way this month. You will remember your bag just before you leave for the shops, and will spend the rest of the day with a sense of mild gratitude.

Astral nostalgic banger: Kids by MGMT.

Libra (23rd September – 22nd October)

You will stuff a shopping bag in your pocket and be uncomfortable with the bulge it makes. Don’t fight it: there is nothing you can do to stop this from coming to pass. Such is your fate.

Astral fashion tipClean and polished shoes make all the difference!

Scorpio (23rd October – 21st November)

You will amaze your friends and coworkers by telling them about how this random blog you found predicted this very conversation.

When they question you, you will show them this very horoscope, making sure to draw their attention to the high quality content and the ‘follow’ button, found by clicking the little icon on the footer at the bottom.

By doing this, you will finally gain their respect and admiration, and the CEO of Tesco’s will give you unlimited bags for life… for life.

Astral fancy foodstuff: Caviar.

Sagittarius (22nd November – 21st December)

Keep your wits about you this month. There will be people (neighbours, coworkers, enemies) who will try and take your bags from you. It’s up to you to stop them. Good luck.

Astral beverage: Soy latte.

Capricorn (22nd December – 19th January)

Carelessness this month will cause a pointy object to pierce a hole in your favourite plastic bag. It may be wise to double bag your groceries in order to avoid a high street accident.

Astral vegetable: Artichoke.

Aquarius (20th January – 18th February)

There is a crossroads in your path, and you will have to make a decision on an issue you’ve been avoiding for months. In this trying time, you will find consolation in throwing out all the old bags you’ve been hoarding since 2012.

Astral score: 2-1 Middlesborough United.

Pisces (19th February – 20th March)

Despite your marine star sign, you’ve always been wary about fish. This month your guard will slip: double bagging your purchase in a vain attempt to keep it fresh, you will leave your fresh salmon fillet in the car as you pop into work. The results will be carnage. Invest in one of those tree-shaped car airfresheners.

Astral reptile: African Pancake Turtle.