NaNoWriMo Day 5 & 6 Update

Fuelled by the complacency of (almost) hitting my word target four days in a row, I happily allowed myself a lighter writing session on day five (what? It was a long day, I was tired – excuses ad infinitum). Despite feeling justified at the time, I am kicking myself today. Because, the fact is, week one of NaNo is about getting AS MANY WORDS DOWN AS POSSIBLE. I KNOW this, because I’ve done it several times before. According to Chris Baty in No Plot, No Problem (the edited version of which I have started re-reading to aid me along this attempt at the challenge) Week One is the fun part, when all the words come tumbling out and your characters are romping away. Week One’s evil twin, Week Two, is the bitch of the family, and by cutting myself some slack now I’ve played right into her cunning little hands.

The truth is, my characters were romping away, getting themselves into all sorts of scrapes without my even having to exert any influence. But all of a sudden, after yesterday’s pithy seven hundred words, the well of inspiration has run dry. Actually, that’s not true. It’s not inspiration that’s run dry, it’s my brain that has decided to down tools and stop. Take now for example. It is telling me, quite clearly, that it is Friday night at 9pm and I should, categorically and without question, be curled up on the sofa with a LARGE glass of Cab Sauv watching some heinously terrible TV programme. It does not, and let’s make no bones about it, wish to be sitting at the same computer it’s been sitting in front of all week, trying to make up stories about fictional people. In short, it’s just not having it.

So you see my dilemma. And even as I’ve been ruminating on this blog I have been switching over to the WIP, limping along with a broken stream of uninspired words, wishing my way to the word count target for today. And, to be fair, I have at least crossed the 8,000 mark, which feels like a bit of a milestone (until you consider I started today at 7,004 words). But it’s not flowing and I want with every fibre of my being just to stop and veg the hell out. ARGH. This is torture. But I SHALL NOT be defeated. I shall pour myself a glass of wine (hell, it IS Friday. I’m not a bloody saint) and plough on for just a little longer….

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Why Fashion Just Isn’t My Forte

I’ve never been a dedicated follower of fashion. Sure, I know what colours and styles go together (just about), but I’m buggered if I have the time, energy or money to make sure my labels are in vogue and I’m adhering to the latest trends. In fact, embarrassing as it is to admit this, I’m still wearing some of the same work clothes now that I wore to work a decade ago. But if they still fit and are in good nick, why not? They’ll probably come back into fashion again soon anyway, just like my mum’s suede boots from the sixties that she wishes she’d held onto. Then who’ll be laughing?

But the thing is, as fashion-averse as I seem to be, I’m not entirely comfortable being this way. Why? Because I care too much what other people think, that’s why. Take wearing trainers to work as an example. In London it’s virtually de rigueur to throw a pair of Nikes on with your work suit as you pound the streets to the office. In Brussels, I have learned, it is far less acceptable. In fact, it seems, hardly anyone wears trainers to work here, let alone neon pink Adidas ones like me (I refer you to my previous points re: being unfashionable). Because of this, on the days when I do dare to leave the house in them, I can feel the heat of peoples’ collective disapproval burning a hole in my feet as I walk. I tell myself I don’t care what they think, and fundamentally I don’t, but what I do care about is feeling a bit of a tool, standing out and drawing attention to myself. That I don’t like one bit.

But here’s my dilemma: The morning walk to my office takes twenty minutes, and much of the route is lined with cobblestones, so even if I could be bothered to wear high heels (which I most definitely can’t) they would be a totally impractical choice. Now the weather is becoming warmer the knee high leather boots (flat, naturally) are also inappropriate. This leaves either my lone pair of flat pumps (a throwback to last summer’s meagre fashion injection – or was it the summer before..?) or my running trainers – the former being prettier, but the latter offering more support and cushioning for my feet. And much as I hate to admit it, now I’m in my thirties I’ll take comfort over fashion any day (within reason, I’m not quite ready to purchase my first pair of Clarks granny shoes yet).

Yesterday, on my walk home (wearing the fashionable pumps, I might add), I found the answer to my dilemma: two pairs of simple, unbranded (not particularly fashionable but who cares?), canvas lace-up shoes – one pair in wonderfully neutral blend-in beige, the other a slightly more upbeat pink – that might just see me through this summer of urban living without having to hang my head in shame and avoid the reproachful glares of my fellow city dwellers.

Fashion – 0

Comfort – 1

Fin.

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Travelling in miniature (and I don’t mean the toiletries)

Anyone who has ever travelled far from home will be familiar with the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you come back. They will also, I suspect, be familiar with the sense of longing that creeps up once you’ve been back for a while, and the tingly anticipation that accompanies the planning of new travels and the promise of fresh adventure. The travelling bug is cyclical, you see, and it is only by leaving and then returning to your place of comfort that you can appreciate both what you left behind and what you discovered while you were away. Or is it? If we were always free to roam the world at will and on a whim, would we become complacent about our situation? Or would we simply wake each day beneath a swaying palm, curl our toes into the sand as the sea softly lapped over them and appreciate each lazy second that ticked by and how fortunate we were to have such an existence?

After my travels in 2011 I remember vividly being in a taxi travelling over Vauxhall Bridge after a night out. The sun was beginning to rise, bathing all of London in a gorgeous sleepy morning haze, and I felt a rush of warmth towards this city I call home. It was a particularly lovely moment because it could so directly be contrasted with a rather less enjoyable moment several months before when, unable to bear the sweaty morning commute for a second longer, I snapped at someone on the tube, and subsequently realised that for my sanity and the safety and wellbeing of those around me it would be best if I went away for a while. And you know what? It worked a treat, and since returning almost two years ago I can honestly say I haven’t exchanged a cross word with a fellow commuter.

Unfortunately the opportunity to just take off for months at a time is not something the majority of people are able to do, and now I’m back in full time (well, as good as full time) employment I’m trying to find a way to satisfy my travelling cravings without actually going on a full blown travelling excursion. I had thought the answer was to plan a travelling trip in miniature. That is, to pick a far flung place, book a flight there and then spend two weeks travelling around. The problem, as I’m coming to find, is that when visiting far flung locations the flight alone costs the earth. But a bigger problem still is that half the joy of travelling is the ability to drift around without a firm plan, changing your mind and direction at the drop of a hat when the winds of adventure change. If you only have two weeks it’s not as easy to go where the wind takes you. You have to have some idea of where you’re going or you might just find you’ve wasted your whole trip queuing for bus tickets in some dead end town. In short, if you don’t plan, you risk spoiling the short time you have, and if you do, the experience will likely feel more like a package holiday tour than a genuine travelling experience. First world dilemma I know, but a dilemma nonetheless.

Maybe it’s just not feasible to travel in miniature, and the whole concept was just a pipe dream I constructed to make me feel less confined within the boundaries of my current situation. Perhaps I should admit defeat and book a package holiday to some nondescript Spanish resort, where the all you can eat buffet and watered down cocktails are included in the price and there’s a talent show each night for all the families. Or perhaps I should keep thinking until I find a solution, because otherwise I fear London won’t be this agreeable forever…

Dilemma

I’m currently struggling with a dilemma. It’s of both a personal and financial nature, because I’m trying to decide whether to spend money that I don’t currently have on my personal development. In other words, the big question is whether it’s worth getting further into debt for.

There are pros and cons to both of the options on the table, and I intend to weigh them up very carefully. For the first time in my life – rather embarrassingly, given I’m now 31 years of age – I’m starting to think about my financial future. I have no savings to speak of but am fortunate not to be in an unmanageable amount of debt either.

If I don’t take the plunge with the personal development option I’ll be out of debt and saving for my future within a year (providing I buck the longstanding trend of frittering money away on holidays as soon as my finances are looking vaguely under control). But I will always wonder if I should have gone down that route, and where it might have led me.

If I do take the plunge, the goal of saving within a year will be pushed back. Realistically it could be quite some time (and by this I mean a very long time) before I’m in a position to put down a deposit on a house anyway, but in doing this I’ll have to accept it will be even longer. And yet…I might have gained something that money can’t buy which will help me for the rest of my life.

I don’t believe that money can buy happiness, which is really just as well considering the sector I work in and the salary I’m currently on. That said, I’m fully aware what money can buy is security – and the ability to splurge on the occasional weekend away, which those who know me will attest to my being rather partial to.

I’ve always struggled to balance my desire to ‘make a difference’ with my desire to enjoy life to the full and it’s a struggle that’s getting harder as time passes. But something’s telling me that now’s the time to take responsibility for my actions, to make a plan and stick to it, whatever sacrifices that entails. Because there will be sacrifice with either option, of that I’m sure.

I’ve always gone with my heart over my head but now I have to decide whether to keep doing that or buck the trend and be ‘sensible’ to the detriment of my own personal development. It’s a quandary, but one I am determined to solve, and which I’m certain I’ll come out the other side of stronger.

The bag like any other

Before Christmas I went shopping for a new handbag. Not being a materialistic person I had waited until my previous handbag was, in wardrobe years, the equivalent of an incontinent 90 year human before accepting it was time to move on, so the task at hand was pressing to say the least.

So there I was in the handbag department of Debenhams, surrounded by row upon row of leather, pleather, patent, snakeskin, dogtooth – the list goes on – searching for the one bag that would accompany me home.

I said I wasn’t materialistic and that is true, but it’s not to say that on the rare occasions I do treat myself to a pair of shoes or handbag I don’t want them/it to be special. Not expensive, but a bit different – original.

But on this day, try as I might I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. This put me in a considerable dilemma, for my current bag was on the verge of popping off to handbag heaven, and waiting for a future shopping excursion may well mean risking an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction (which, let’s face it, would almost certainly happen on a packed commuter train to or from work).

After quite some time deliberating, and with extreme reluctance, I chose a small black tote bag made of shiny rain mac material, with light brown leather handles and bottom, and a silver buckle clasp. It was, I knew with depressing certainty, a bag like any other bag – the kind you see ten a penny of every single day on the underground. Worse, it was the style of bag often touted by posh girls from Chelsea with names like Tallulah and Cheska (only without the designer label and obscene price tag theirs would obviously have).

Feeling glum, I trudged towards the counter with my selection. I stopped half way to take one last glance around the room, hoping by some miracle the perfect bag which had up to this point evaded me would somehow make itself known, before it was too late. And there it was. On a low hanging branch of a display unit, the last of its kind – tasteful dark brown leopard print material with a dark two tone leather flap and silver buckle. In that moment – and many moments since – I truly thought it was the most beautiful bag I had ever seen.

I stooped to pluck it from its perch, checked the price tag and, delighted to find it more than affordable, beat a hasty path to the counter to complete the purchase. Needless to say, the bag like any other was returned to its original location for some unsuspecting soul with lower aspirations than me to pick up and buy.

You will probably be wondering by now why on earth I’ve written five hundred words about buying a handbag. Well, it’s because last night, as I waited for my tube train to arrive, it occurred to me the bag like any other wasn’t just a story, it was an analogy for life. So many people pick a job like any other, a partner like any other – they take the path of least resistance, the one that will provide a decent return but won’t excite or challenge them.

We only get one shot at life, so why do so many of us settle for less than the best for ourselves? Why don’t we take risks, pick partners that excite us, occupations that challenge us? Why do we let ourselves drift and then feel surprise when we wake up one day wondering where our lives went?

I’m so glad I didn’t settle for less than I wanted that day, and I’m determined never to settle for less than I want – and deserve – in life.

After all, who wants a bag – or a life – like any other when, if you search a bit harder, you can find one that’s unique?

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This bag signifies so much more than just a handbag – it signifies the importance of waiting for the right opportunities in life to present themselves, rather than reacting to the most obvious ones. It’s also very pretty, right?