beanbag chair

Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down

– or –

On a more serious note

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I started this blog about a year ago, largely out of kindness to my loved ones, who’d been the only outlet for my terrible humour for far too long. Inflicting myself on the general public instead, while bad for society as a whole, seemed like the best way to keep my relationships with my friends and family intact.

 

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Just some of the people liberated from my sense of humour by this blog

 

A lot’s happened since then – I went on my year abroad, spent time in Brno and Petersburg, decided to take a year out from uni, and moved to Prague to find my fortune (update: as yet, unfound).

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Jerry the cat digging my yellow top

Geography aside, it’s been a big year for my personal growth: I got a couple of tattoos, discovered beer and techno music, fell in love a bunch of times, came out as bi, and stopped wearing natural colours.

This year, whilst dramatic and at times frightening, and – especially in the last few months – not without its low moments, has been by far the best of my life. Even the rough moments have been mitigated by more long-lasting wellbeing and contentment than I can remember having.

I’ve never talked about serious stuff on this blog, partially because I wanted to try my hand at being genuinely funny and partially because I know that the readership is largely made up of people who know me personally – and that makes it weird. Lately, though, I’ve been really craving a platform for more well-rounded self-expression – I suppose that’s why I’ve not posted anything for so many months: because I really haven’t been feeling all that funny.

blue moon

I’m trying to keep moving forwards in terms of mental wellbeing, and I feel like this could be a good forum to work through some stuff. In particular, I’m spectacularly bad at remembering techniques to lift my mood, even the ones that’ve helped me before.

The title of this post, and the page where I’m going to post links to mental health/mindfulness blogs, comes from a book by the Korean monk and professor Haemin Sunim.

cover

The book is a compilation of Sunim’s thoughts about modern life and advice he’s given on social media, at mindfulness events, and to his university students.

It’s a lovely book, both because of the written content and the beautiful illustrations that accompany it. One of the things that stuck with me so strongly was the idea that our mindset shapes the way we see the world – that’s why, when you’re feeling rushed, the whole world seems to move and breakneck speed, but when you’re relaxed, everything is much more chill.

There were times in Sixth Form when I did genuinely feel like the world was a grim and unforgiving place. I’m sure that objectively good things must have happened to me then, but all I remember are the bad marks or dirty looks, or the day the canteen ran out of coffee.

It works the other way, too: I particularly remember a couple of times in St Petersburg when I arrived at the stop at the same time as the bus did, or got to the crossing just as the green man appeared, I thought to myself, with a warm feeling, “That’s just how my life is at the moment.” Even though I surely had as many experiences with unlucky timing as I did with perfect timing, I only really noticed when things went perfectly – I guess because everything else was going so well, it was easy to perceive of the world as a pattern designed to make me comfortable.

I’d been introduced to the concept of mindfulness before, by teachers at sixth form and counsellors/therapists, but the concept never seemed particularly powerful to me, and, honestly, I never put a lot of stock in it.

Even that idea which I found so powerful, that one’s mindset dictates the filter through which we perceive everything, would’ve seemed insensitive and reductive to me. What you’re saying, I’d have thought, is that the world seems depressing because I’m depressed.

That’s one of the frustrating things about mindfulness: it’s so simple that when you’re in crisis, it just sounds like platitudes. Once the world starts to brighten a bit, then you can take more active steps that’ll help you out.

pink sun

Maybe that’s why Sunim’s book appeals to me now – because you can’t employ mindfulness techniques when you’re at your worst, but when you’re somewhere a little better, you can be more open to them. Nowadays, even when I’m in a pretty bad place, a combination of medication and perspective helps me recognise that it’s not a permanent state. butterflu

That said, a big reason why I enjoyed this book so much is the way I got it. A couple of weeks ago, I was visited in Prague by a close friend of mine. Oll’s visit was preceded by the roughest time I’ve had for a while – I’d been feeling self-destructive in a way I hadn’t for a while. Oliver and I met in St Petersburg, when we were on our semester abroad there, and after that he’d returned to uni in St Andrews whilst I’d moved to Prague on leave from my university studies.

Knowing I was going through a tricky spell (I’m aware I use a bouquet of euphemisms to refer to depressive periods, but the real words are too scary), Ollie’d brought me, along with his infectious joie de vivre, a gift of five books individually wrapped in yellow paper.

“Unwrap them when you’re feeling good,” he said, “and then you can have them to look forward to.”

He gave me a sixth book, which was unwrapped. This one wasn’t from him, but from a friend of his, Rachel. Although Rachel and I’d never actually met face to face, nor, at that time, even texted each other, I felt like I knew her from what Oll had told me – she featured in a lot of his stories, either as a regular at his coffee shop, another person dancing at the raves he and his friends organised in St Andrews pubs, or, most often, as a good mate to have a pint with.

It turned out the feeling of knowing each other through Oliver was mutual. Rachel had gone to the bookshop with him when he went to buy my gifts, and she’d got me one too. I was honestly shocked by the gesture – even before I’d taken the book out of the bag, I was composing thank you notes and plotting ways to by her a pint.

The book she’d bought was, you guessed it, Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down. (After all that build up, it would’ve been really weird to reveal that she’d got me a Mr. Man).

Still overwhelmed by the generosity of a person who was, technically, a stranger, I opened the book where it had been marked with a sticker:

 

you are neither your feelings

Remember that you are neither your feelings nor the story your mind tells about you to make sense of them. You are the vast silence that knows of their emergence and their disappearance.

Rachel didn’t just get me the book: she marked specific passages she thought I’d find helpful. Honestly, I’m still disbelieving of how kind that is. Like – this girl has never met me, at all.

Despite Sunim’s suggestion to read his book slowly, with many pauses, I ate the whole thing in one night as Oll worked on his philosophy essay. There are parts of it, perhaps because I’m still struggling significantly with my mood, that I simply couldn’t understand; but the whole thing was written in this singular tone of calmness. I felt soothed by Sunim’s tranquil words, and Rachel’s generosity.

I know it’s a book I’m going to revisit multiple times over my life – I’ve already reread it once – and I wanted to share it, and the, frankly, remarkable story of how I got it, with you.

When life disappoints, rest a while.

 

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advice · Bland Stuff

New Laws

I’m not sure exactly why (I sense Brexit has something to do with it) but the British government has just finishing codifying some interesting new laws. The police officer in the featured image may be smiling, but she’s ready to bop you on the head with her truncheon should you infringe any of them in front of her.

Not sure if “to codify laws” is a phrase, but it sounds about right.

You might be scratching your head, wondering what on earth I could be talking about. “But, Ro,” you might be saying, “I am a British citizen. I think I’d know if we had a spate of new laws coming in. I think I’d have seen it on Twitter.”

Yeah, you’d think. The sneaky, sneaky government has purposefully made sure no one knows about this new legislation by posting it exclusively to Google+. And why don’t they want anyone to know about these laws? Because their infringement incurs a hefty fine – money which goes straight into Johnny Westminster’s pockets.

Luckily for you, Google+ is the only social medium I use. I prefer it because I can post sarcastic comments about my loved ones without them ever finding out. Also I can slag off Love Island without anyone thinking I’m just doing it for the attention.

For that reason, I’m abreast of the upcoming laws, and I’m more than happy to share them with you. Be careful: you don’t want to get caught out!


person pouring seasonings on raw meatsNo fish on Tuesdays.

This one’s as simple as it sounds: from October 2018, absolutely no fish are allowed in the United Kingdom on Tuesdays. Persons found to be infringing this law will be subject to immediate arrest and a fine of up to £200. Fish found to be infringing this law will be eaten by the local constable.

That picture is actually a little misleading, so let me clarify: it’s not that you’re not allowed to eat fish on Tuesdays, but rather that fish generally are not allowed. It’s expected that police officers will be SCUBA trained as standard in order to enforce this. If you have a pet fish, make sure to hide both it and any paraphanalia (eg fish tank, model castle etc) related to it on Tuesdays.


person holding drafting paper

All drivers must wear high-viz.

If you’re getting behind the wheel after the 1st of March 2019, please, please make sure you’re wearing a high-visibility jacket that conforms to government standards. If you don’t, you’re liable to pay an on-the-spot fine of up to £70, and, if what you’re wearing is particularly subdued, your licence may be revoked.


black and white business chart computer

No more saying, “I rate it.”

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s the bloody thought police!” No, it’s not. It’s the speech police, so reign in your disapproval, George Orwell. Jesus.

Anyway, the police are cracking down on increasing numbers of people saying, “I rate it,” to express approval. After December this year, those heard saying this will be put under house arrest.


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Pick up after your dog.

You might say, “But, Rodge! Leaving dog poos around is already a crime.” Yes, true. But this law goes one step further: in an effort to combat declining standards of tidiness in the canine community, dog owners will have to pick up any and all toys the dog carries around the house and place them in a designated dog box.

If a homeowner is seen to be remiss in this duty, whether because toys are outside of the dog box, or because the dog box is incorrectly labelled, they will be sent to prison for a maximum of 35 days, during which the dog will be cared for either by the police constable (if it’s a cute one) or a nominated relative (if it’s gross).


document id uk driving license driving licence

All citizens must carry ID cards.

I don’t know if you remember, but there was actually a move to introduce a similar law not so long ago.

However, under this legislation, set to come into effect from November 2019, citizens must carry the ID card belonging to the last person they shared a pizza with. Those carrying their own ID cards will be subject to serious scrutiny, since they’ve either never shared a pizza with anyone, or shared pizza with a chain of people until their own ID card ended up back in their pocket.

Those with missing or irregular documents will be forced to either pay a £17 fine or present the local police constable with £15 worth of pizza. It’s not clear whether this act will constitute giving or sharing a pizza, so no one yet knows whether the buyer of the pizza will have to swap ID cards with the police constable. I’ll let you know more when I do.


Mrs Brown’s Boys is outlawed.

I can’t argue with this. It’s for the good of the nation.

I can’t even bring myself to find a relevant picture.


The more you know.

Bland Stuff · Gripes

A Solemn Oath

I like to think, in the realm of blogging as in the rest of my life, I’ve got good integrity. For example, I always let passengers disembark before alighting and I leave the bathroom door slightly ajar as I leave it so it’s obvious it’s unoccupied. That’s just the kind of stand up guy I am.

Everyone has a moral code, whether they’ve consciously developed one or not.

Unfortunately, the world of blogging is quite different from normal life. My alighting/disembarking rule just isn’t relevant on the Internet, for one thing.

As such, when I started this blog, I sat myself down in a quiet room with a mug of horlicks, and developed the following set of rules. More than anything, I wanted to make sure the power associated with writing a blog didn’t go to my head. My priority, from the start, has been keeping you, my readers, safe from my own excesses.

Rodge and the Blog:

keeping yourself reigned in.

  • I will never ask my readers to “like and follow”.

This one’s easy to keep because, and, believe me, I’ve looked at the data, no one reads this blog unless they follow it anyway.

  • I will never ask my readers to “share this”.

I’ll just strongly imply they should by saying things like, hey, don’t you have any friends who might appreciate exactly this brand of off-beat, sometimes funny humour?

  • I will never ask my readers to “comment with your thoughts”.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I just consider that the sort of thing a prick might do.

  • I will not sell my readers’ data for personal gain, be it financial or spiritual etc.

Again, this one has been super easy to keep because 1. I don’t have access to any of your data and 2. no one would want it anyway (no offense).

  • I will regularly post links to my blog on Twitter.

This is so my thirteen Twitter followers can also have the chance to enjoy my updates. They’re people too, I think.

  • I will rarely use my blog as a forum to moan about stuff no one cares about.

Yeah, alright, I’ve broken this one a bunch.

  • I will never post anything unless I think it is, as a minimum, slightly more than not funny at all.

It’s called standards.

  • I will not use my significant power as blogger to sell my readers inferior products.

There’s just something fishy about the kind of person that’d use their platform to sell ad space to the highest bidder. But not as fishy as Wilson’s New Fish Sauce© (RRP £5.99). Wilson’s New Fish Sauce©, now with actual fish! The fish sauce that’ll make you say, “Wow, that sure is fishy!” For sale in all good supermarkets. Not suitable for vegetarians, those with heart conditions, pregnant or nursing women, or the elderly.


It might seem trivial to you, reader, but rules like these are what ensure the high-quality blogs you’ve come to expect here at blandhyphenblogdotcom.

Bland Stuff · Gripes

Cursed Objects

Do you ever wonder what kind of a person would be spiteful enough to make those cursed objects you see in films? To litter their tomb with mean tricks designed to catch out any future adventurers/grave robbers/curious teenagers stupid enough to disturb their final resting place, just on the off chance one of them happens to pick up the tantalising diamond necklace you left draped over the door handle? Who that you know would derive any kind of joy from the thought that they’re messing up the lives of generations of meddling kids to come?

Me; I’m that kind of person.

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Who’s got great taste in shades and a wrathful nature? This guy.

When I die, should my family, as I expect, baulk at the idea of cremating me in a sack of potatoes, I’d like to be interred in a fancy-ass tomb. I’m talking statues and frescos – that’s the level of luxury I want my corpse to experience. I’ll instruct my second-youngest niece to go into my grave just before it’s sealed and strategically place cursed objects there; I’ll make sure to give her these objects, along with a cryptic warning about handling them with gloves, just before I die.

The rest of my niblings will be charged with the task of creating a mythology around my resting place – eg pretending they saw my ghost there, boasting about my fabulous collection of diamond saucepans I insisted on being buried with, drawing enigmatically unfinished maps. That kind of thing. I want the whole local community to be abuzz with rumours about what my grave might contain.

Assuming my descendents do a good enough job, the local people’s interest will be piqued and their imagination’ll be running away with them. Within a couple of generations, the masses’ trepidation will have evaporated and a rag-tag group of friends, possibly needing the money for child support or gambling debts, will be cracking open my tomb with crowbars.

grey skulls piled on ground
semi-related spooky imagery

Obviously, this takes a lot of planning, so let me tell you what I’ve got in mind so far.

When our heroes, such as they are, break into my tomb, they’ll be met with a message etched into the wall. I haven’t got the wording down quite yet, but it’ll be something along the lines of

Hey, thanks for breaking into my tomb, you tosser. Very rude.

There’s a special prize on my coffin but don’t touch anything else or I’ll curse you forever.

Best of luck,

Ro Daniels.

(1996-2087)

You know, something like that. Anyway, just as the intruders finish reading the message, the doors’ll rumble shut behind them and they’ll realise they’re trapped. Torches along the walls will burst into flames as they take a tentative step forwards, and, in the very distance, they’ll be able to make out the shape of my sarcophagus.

Between them and their prize, however, will be the following tempting objets:

  • my dog-eared copy of “Death and the Penguin”;

(I’ll leave it bookmarked at one of the bits where the penguin is splish splashin’ about in the tub. People who take it will be cursed with the not insignificant fate of no one ever taking your book recommendations seriously (possibly because they have stupid names like ‘Death and the Penguin’).)

  • a bent fork;

(If you touch this, you’ll never be able to eat gracefully again. Goes double if you’re on an important dinner date (eg with the love of your life, with a local radio DJ toying with the idea of interviewing you etc).)

  • a glass duck;

(The glass duck, as a clearly inferior imitation of its rubber counterpart, will bestow its new owner with the unenviable quality of always being outshone by brighter, plastickier equivalents.)

  • a model of St Isaac’s Cathedral in Petersburg;

(St Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest cathedral in the world, when size of cathedral is measured as volume under the cupola. The architect, having calculated volume including the cupola, therefore considered the building robbed of the title of world’s largest cathedral. With mathematical simplicity, then, all exploits undertaken by anyone who steals this model will be one quarter as successful as they’d hoped.)

  • an empty beer glass;

(This curse is inspired by my incredible ability to spill every drink I’m handed. Now you can see how it feels, thief.)

  • £19.90 in loose change;

(If you’re anything like me, you put your silver coins in a jar in the corner of your room and save them for a special treat. When the day to spend your booty finally comes, you carefully count out exactly twenty quid – in other words, the price of a pie and four pints at my local – and head off into town. After stealing this pile of coins, though, you’ll be cursed with the inability to count properly, leaving you floundering, a pie and three pints in.)

  • dusty tin containing two (2) plasters and a 10p piece;

(You think you hoard shit now? Just wait until I hit you with this curse. Every time you go to throw away a normal household item (eg plastic fork, used floss stick, empty tub of butter etc) a weird emotional attachment will strike you and you’ll ask yourself how you could even think of chucking away something that’s been with you through so much. Tenderly you’ll place the rescued item on a shelf and you’ll cast it loving glances every hour or so for the next few days.)

  • and about forty intriguing pebbles.

(Every time you’re in a serious situation (eg job interview, close friend’s pet’s funeral etc) you’ll remember that story about the labrador that ate loads of pebbles on the beach and when he walked his owners could hear the pebbles clacking about in his stomach. Even if you manage not to beam, those close to you will be sure to pick up on the joyful glint in your eye. Plus, this one will be particularly hard to sidestep because there are some pebbles, we can all agree, which are just crying out to be grabbed.)


If those pesky grave robbers manage to get through all of that without giving in to the temptation of nicking something, they’ll find a humble envelope propped against my coffin. In it they’ll find

  • a congratulatory note;

(It’s important to recognise achievement.)

  • three spiders;

(This is in case, as I suspect, spiders will have been wiped out by the time of my death. Absolute travesty, I must say. If, by some miracle, these spiders manage to survive until they’re freed, they’ll run out into the world and repopulate the Earth with their disgusting eight-legged babies.)

  • a £5 WHSmith gift card.

(My successes at school were always rewarded in this manner; hopefully those who have proved themselves worthy will be able to buy themselves a treat from Smiths (eg some nice highlighters, this month’s National Geographic, a calendar to give to their aunt etc).)

future

Music in the Year 2079

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels.com
Artist’s depiction of a boat and some chimneys

It’s the year 2079. The sun, filtered through sheets of atmospheric pollution, is a purple orb in a sky full of drones of all sizes. Politicians are debating automatron labour laws in a fully holographic House of Commons; the House of Lords, stubbornly refusing to keep up with technological as well as social advancements, remains anachronistically analogue. Following a democratic process previously unseen in the animal kingdom, owls have voted to adopt a diurnal lifestyle, a choice which has serious and far-reaching consequences too complicated to go into in this blog. You, reading this, have only just got round to clearing out that drawer.

Music is just as important to our grandoffspring as it is to us – on the newly built Waterloo & Upper Atmosphere line, it’s rare to see a single commuter without headphones in (or, to be more precise, without inner ear audio implants switched on). Let’s explore the world of 2079-era music together.

Hacks will tell you that the music of the future will be IDM-style, coding-based sequences of beeps and bloops, that music students will turn in their assessed compositions in the form of sheets and sheets of binary. Not to be rude, or to denigrate my fine comrades-in-arms dedicated to the art of clairvoyance, but that’s filthy lie and I will not stand for it any longer.

Photo by Sabrina Gelbart on Pexels.com
“Bleep bloop, what a banger,” said no one ever.

I’m here to tell you (and, believe me, I’ve looked at the data) that, far from synths, it’ll be the bassoon that rules the roost in the year 2079. That’s right, the humble bassoon, in the present day constrained to medieval reenactments and post-ironic bands, is gonna make a comeback in a big way.

Sure, as our society becomes more and more dependent on technology and coding replaces English on the GCSE syllabus, it might be tempting to imagine that music will follow suit. Yet life does so rarely follow such predictable trends. I’m here to tell you, with as much certainty as anyone could possibly have on the subject, that bassoons will be all the rage in 2079.

Bassoon covers of ’00s hits will hit the market in 2074, and before you know it, bassoonists from Upper Perthshire to Greater St Agnes will be jamming to ‘Sexy Back’. Indeed, the most talented bassoon masters will be hailed as this generation’s greatest artists, their names etched into plaques and hung on disused post boxes in their hometowns.

You know how the sexiest boy in your geography class at school used to play ‘Wonderwall’ on his imitation Fender in the corner at every party? In 2079 nothing will have changed – except it’ll be Shania Twain’s ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’ instead of the Gallaghers and he’ll be tooting not strumming on your heartstrings.

On the other hand, and this might surprise you, visual arts will go the robotic route. Paintings of the most attractive canning machines and drone mechanisms will be rendered in 1s and 0s and hung in the National Portrait Gallery.

It’s a funny old world.

future

Peanut Butter Sandwiches in the Year 2079

Maybe it has to do with reaching the threshold of adulthood, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the future.

It’s not just me: whenever my friends and I meet in a cafe, the conversation inevitably turns to what’s going to happen in the coming years. We hunch over cups of Horlicks, BBC News open on our phones, and prophesy doom about global politics, Brexit, graduate schemes, house prices in London. That kind of thing.

To be honest, when I’m on my own, I rarely think about such lofty aspects of future life. When I’m done with my homework and I’m too lazy even to watch Netflix, I like to sprawl in my armchair, wrap myself in my duvet, and think about how life will be in the year 2079.

What will people do for work 81 years from now? I ask myself. Where will they live? What will they do for fun?

I will be an old lady in 2079 with squadrons of great-great-grandnieces and nephews, and I think it’s important to catalogue my expectations of society so when, bribed with sci-fi sweets and glow sticks, they gather around my atomic rocking chair I can bore the kids with stories of retrofuturism.

“Put down the nanoflobuliser and stop messing with your sister’s space suit,” I will say, “and come listen.”

As any dedicated bland-blog reader will have discerned, approximately 60% of my brain power at any one time is spent considering food. It’s not surprising, then, that one of my favourite things to wonder about is food in the future. Will, as my parents believed, the next generation grow up on pills, spurning regular food for lab-generated, vitamin-balanced supplements?

No. That’s science fiction, and on this blog, dear reader, I’m concerned with facts. I’ve studied global food trends and conducted surveys with consumers and with giants of the food production industry, and now, after years of painstaking research that’s had a huge impact not only on my degree but on my private life as well, I present to you my findings. This, I can tell you with 84% accuracy, is the food that will dominate the dinner table of the future:

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Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a peanut butter sandwich.

More specifically, it’s smooth peanut butter spread on white bread with a garnish of sliced bananas.

Maybe you’re disappointed: maybe you were hoping for something futuristic and unrecognisable – a plate of concept food you can barely comprehend. Test tubes of gloop or strange, fluorescent orbs full of a viscous jus. Compared to the science fiction food of your fantasies, the humble peanut butter and banana sarnie must be something of a disappointment.

The science doesn’t leave room for interpretation. The peanut butter sandwich is the food of the future, and, if you think about it, it makes sense. As the meat industry loses its capacity to sustainably feed a growing population, more of the world will become vegetarian. And the vegan’s treat of choice – a spoonful of peanut butter scoffed over the kitchen sink.

In the year 2078, the status of the peanut butter sandwich will have been elevated. Now a guilty midnight snack, in the future it will be the very zenith of haute cuisine. The Queen (yes, she will still be alive) will spurn roast swan for her Christmas dinner in favour of a toasted peanut-butter-and-banana delight; the top restaurants in London will boast about the superiority of their bread:spread ratio; and cooking shows, from Saturday Kitchen to Hairy Bikers, will be centred around making your own peanut butter from scratch.

People, living in their biodomes on Mars, will stockpile bread and jars of peanut butter and the artisan coffee shops of the Martian capital will be rated based on the quality of their sarnies.

Also, and I don’t want to believe this either, instead of pudding, people in the year 2079 will eat ham yoghurt. To be clear, that’s a regular greek yoghurt with Billy Bear ham stirred through. Stuff like that is just hard to swallow.