NOTHING MORE THAN FEELINGS

Sometimes we all need an emotional MOT. An inner spruce up can work wonders and there’s plenty of unconventional options to investigate.

Maybe you’ve always fancied finding your inner child (mine is probably in a huff). Perhaps you have a long held ambition to reach out to the universe by naked sky diving – flange or knackers to the wind.

I’ve explored a few alternative notions and although the following, painstakingly researched guide (which took a good five minutes) is not definitive, it is, at the very least, deeply flawed…

I Didn’t Know You Could Shove Something THERE…

Colonic irrigation!

The very mention could bring tears to a ventriloquist doll’s eyes. It’s supposed to inwardly cleanse, outwardly improve appearance and boost energy levels so I thought I’d give it a crack (no pun intended…OK, maybe a little bit intended).

My backside bubble bath came courtesy of a ballsy Aussie (of course) called Molly who immediately got down to the job in hand – she didnt even buy me dinner first. Within minutes of meeting I was on my side in the foetal position, arse open for business while she casually nattered on about Tim Tam biscuits and sorted out her hosepipe.

Next thing I know, my cat flap had been well and truly infiltrated as Molly began having a rummage around with what felt like a Pringles tub. She muttered something about it going up the wrong way…how many routes can there possibly be? It’s pretty much a cul-de-sac (again, no pun intend…oh who am I kidding?) So, after reversing then re-entering, presumably having consulted a map, we were off again and the tap was turned on.

I felt so violated I thought I was going to have to call the Police. Surely this couldn’t be legal? After a couple of minutes though, it sort of settled down and she even showed me ‘stuff’ that was being flushed out and through the clear pipe. It can even dislodge things that have been stuck in your tubing for years. I swear I saw the Basil Brush fan club badge that I swallowed when I was seven finally evacuate the building.

After half an hour of flushing, abdomen massage and being told everything there is to know about box jellyfish I was done. Inwardly cleansed and fairly unscathed. Did I feel massive bursts of energy afterwards and that glow other people raved about? For about ten minutes maybe but it was a tad disappointing to be honest.

I did feel that the hosepipe and I should have got married though (the fickle implement has never even kept in touch).

Oh Reiki You’re Not So Fine.

Reikie.

This is where a ‘master’ lays his hands just above and around your body, channelling the healing powers and strength of the universe in order to clear any blockages in the body that are stopping it from doing its duty.

I called up a practitioner who told me to call him Ricky. Game over. How could I take seriously getting reiki from Ricky? He told me he charged £45 for him and his wife to basically feel me up on a table for an hour with no guarantee it would help. A win-win for Ricky the reiki then but a severe loss to my bank balance.

Shrink wrapped!

Therapy.

Emotional release can be attained through counselling. A check up from the neck up if you will. If this was America, I could pop along to a therapist in the same way we go to an optitian. Good analogy – both can help you to see better – but the UK just hasn’t caught up with the USA in its ‘can do’ attitude to mental health.

Over there it’s very analytical with your every thought challenged. Over here the woman I tried was more like talking to an old biddy at the bus stop. She spent most of the 45 minutes telling me HER life woes as if this qualified her for the job as much as the dubious framed certificate on her wall.

She threw out phrases like ‘I’m holding your troubles in my heart’ and ‘I feel your pain’ (yeah and £38 plus bus fare of my money in her back pocket thank you very much). I did glean two important lessons from the session however:

1) Anyone can set themselves up as a counsellor (so beware).

2) There’s one born every minute.

For feck’s sake, SMILE

Think it, BE it!

Studies suggest that loneliness undermines health which in turn causes high blood pressure and heart disease. Urine samples taken from the lonely (well it passes the time, they’ve nothing else to do of an evening) were found to contain high levels of epinephrine – a “fight or flight” hormone.

Since the body’s stress hormones help fight inflammation and infection, doctors believe loneliness contributes to the wear and tear of aging. Being the eternal singleton truly is the unwanted gift that keeps on giving…

So what have scientists offered as an antidote? Smile therapy. Keep a rictus grin glued to your face until you’ve convinced even yourself that you’re actually in a good mood.

There’s a fine line between a grin and a leer though and when I tried smiling inanely at anyone and everyone I freaked several people out and attracted the unwanted attentions of a nutjob called Gladys.

BOOZE

Merlot or shiraz.

Works everytime.

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DREW-RASSIC PARK

My names Drew and I am a dinosaur!

Apparently acceptance is the first step towards enlightenment but good God – when did it happen to me? I am still so young and vibrant (to all my friends – SHUT UP! I AM). I pride myself in my effortless immaturity. I am hip, cool and groovy – kids still use those terms right?

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans it seems. Not sure what I was busy planning but I certainly seem to have been looking the other way. I was probably busy eating a Twix or something, I don’t know, but here we are, well into the digital party and I forgot to R.S.V.P.

I now seem to be constantly and unavoidably hit with barrages of technical babble just to enable me to get from A to B. A piece of poop for the majority it seems but, for me, you might as well ask me to scuba dive in a saucer because, frankly, I don’t want to play.

I think the online world has caused us to lose way more in life than we’ve gained. It’s become an iron lung we cannot seem to function properly without.

Whatever happened to :-

  • Talking to people face to face ?

  • Being able to spell ?

  • Forming proper sentences ?

  • Shake & Vac (OK, not a relevent example, but what DID happen to it?)

Call me an old fart if you like – and, after a quorn stew, you’d be uncannily accurate in that accusation – but we’re fast becoming a world of illiterate strangers.

Go on public transport, into any bar/cafe/restaurant or in pretty much anywhere there are living breathing people and all you see are heads looking down at some sort of appliance, ignoring their partners, friends and the outside world in general. Wasn’t the advance of communications supposed to bring people closer together rather than making us more and more distanced from one another?

Walking to work, its impossible not to notice that the bulk of my fellow pedestrians have earphones in and eyes fixated on a screen, thus cutting off two major senses. They don’t even look up at crossings to check if a truck is approaching.

It’s a pretty embarrassing demise if you get flattened by a tram just because you were too distracted watching a clip of juggling kittens or something equally trivial. No minister or vicar could deliver that eulogy with any dignity.

I have a friend who doesnt even use a credit card and steadfastly refuses to be forced into getting one, preferring instead to pay by cash or cheque! This may be extreme but there are many things in life that are thrust upon us with no choice, so if you can dig your heels in about other things I can see the twisted appeal. I’m not advocating we go back to barter and exchange – I don’t have any camels to trade at the moment – but often the simpler things in life remain the best.

A sunset, angel delight (Flake optional), a genuine belly laugh with that old friend who shares your sense of humour, turning on the radio and hearing a song you love – the list is endless and none of it involves charging anything up !

Maybe those of us without the natural inclination or desire to form relationships with computers should start a support group?

I concede that part of my aversion is a complete lack of interest and that now, more than ever, the working world largely rejects you if you’d rather cut your googlies off than create an excel spreadsheet but it’s square pegs, round holes people! We can’t all be good at everything. Some of us are just on a more spiritual plain (again, to my friends – SHUT UP!)

Mind you, if that shepherd job I’ve applied for turns out to involve electronic sheep that only operate on j-pegs I’ll be hugely disillusioned…

Perhaps I’d just prefer a hassle free life? A less meddle-some existence? Just yesterday, my email provider, for no valid reason, forced upon me changes in the format and design of my messages. It hasn’t made things better, its made them worse…way worse (with no option to change settings to suit). Why BT why? I was happy with the way things were in my limited little PC world (good name for a shop that – what do you mean there already is one?)

My name is Drew and I’m a dinosaur…and proud of it !!!!

TEA TOWELS AND TEARS

Spring cleaning time again.

With every move my space seems to have become smaller and my belongings reduced. A succession of clear outs has pared my things down to almost the bare essentials…give or take a treasured knick knack or two.

There’s always a few things that manage to survive though. You convince yourself they’ll be needed one day so you hang onto them for a bit longer.

Sometimes an item you haven’t seen for a while can trigger all sorts of memories.

Having made an unsuccessful attempt to get the hoover right into the corner of the bedroom to tackle a dust bunny or three, I remembered storing away something my Mum had bought because she thought it would make it easier for me to clean the stair carpet.

I think she had visions of me getting all tangled up in the vacuum cable halfway down and having the kind of accident you normally see at the beginning of ‘Casualty‘ where someone gets admitted with an attachment lodged up some unfortunate orifice…

Anyway, it had to be in the spare cupboard that everyone has. That place you shove everything you don’t have another place for.

I opened the door tentatively, worried that an avalanche of stuff would come tumbling out.

I carefully dug under the pile of suitcases, spare duvets and coats, trying to avoid a Jenga-type collapse and there it was…

The mini Dyson.

As I picked it up my eyes suddenly welled up with tears.

‘What are you crying for son?’ I could just hear her ask over my shoulder.

‘It just reminds me of when you bought it. You were so chuffed with it.’

Of course the reality was that the novelty wore off as soon as we discovered the thing ate electricity and constantly needed charging after giving about 5 minutes of suction but, right at that point of rediscovery, it just brought back a happy moment.

It’s often the daftest things that trigger the memories. Every now and then I’ll notice an insignificant item that my Mum bought that I still use – a tea towel, torch or some stationery – and it just strikes me as insane that these everyday items are still here but she isn’t.

She could never have thought, wandering through Semi-Chem or Tescos, that buying these basic bits and pieces would trigger such emotions down the line.

Today (April 14th) would’ve have been my Mum’s 78th birthday.

Of all the many things that I miss in the 6 years since she’s been gone, one of the most difficult to deal with is the loss of that constant anchor figure in my life. Even now, if I’m feeling down or anxious, no longer having that endless, unconditional support is tough to deal with. It sometimes feels like I might drift so far out to sea I’ll never find my way back.

The gradual clearing out of my Mum’s clothes was spring cleaning at its most brutal – every charity shop bag a betrayal.

I was very lucky with my Mum and my Dad and the foundation that they built for me was loving, vast and reliable. Just before the first Mothers’ Day that came along a few months after my Mum died, I wrote down some thoughts and sent them to the editor of a national newspaper in Scotland that I’d worked with in the past.

I remarked how I hated that I was now a member of the ‘dead parents club’. I felt lost that I was nobody’s son anymore. I was 46 and orphaned.

The editor got back in touch and pointed out something so simple it has stayed with me ever since.

‘You’ll always be your parents’ son. NOTHING changes that’.

Happy birthday Mum xxxx

CRUISE NEWS

A few years ago, as another winter dragged on and the leaves continued to sky dive from the trees, I clung on tenaciously dreaming of sunshine and getting fresh air about my nether regions.

If we Brits holiday at home however, we have more need for an ark than shorts or bikinis so I decided to migrate south on a Caribbean cruise.

I took the bold step of holidaying alone and immediately encountered 2 things as a result of committing to a solo trip of this magnitude…

  1. The rip off that is the ‘single person supplement’ – OK, I’m single, rub it in why don’t you and charge me twice as much as the partnered people !

  2. Being socially unacceptable to fellow holidaymakers who did find a travelling companion (do we ‘singles’ remind them of unhappier times on their own?)

Sure I would have preferred to have gone with a friend but I still saw a lot of grim faced spouses looking as if they’d happily shove their other half overboard if they knew they could get away with it.

Romantic thoughts of meeting someone special on board were immediately dashed at Fort Lauderdale docks and finding myself surrounded by coach groups of elderly ladies and retired couples looking lost. It was like a touring version of ‘Cocoon’. Pleasant though it was for there to still be a room where I was the youngest, as I don’t play canasta and still have my own hips, I felt I wouldn’t have much common ground with my fellow sea farers.

Who are you travelling with?’ the insensitive check in clerk loudly enquired. This was a question I was asked a lot during the trip. It began with the stern immigration officer I encountered while dashing through Newark airport trying (and failing) to catch my connection to Florida. He couldn’t grasp the concept of a guy taking a cruise alone and he clearly thought I must be up to no good.

Hwever, the worst solo stigma presented itself as I walked up the gantry – the ‘souvenir photograph’. This happened throughout the cruise, always against my will and always resulting in shots of me looking awkward and vulnerable. The results were displayed along Deck 6 for all to gawp at – an ingenious ploy as you felt compelled to purchase the wretched pictures just to remove them from the gallery.

As we set off we had a compulsory life jacket demonstration – captured by our happy snapper of course. The sight of a bunch of hapless people putting toggles through holes they weren’t meant to go through was hilarious…though if the ship did hit the rocks, we really were sunk.

I was shocked to realise I was in the ‘I’m screwed’ category when it comes to evacuation protocol. The countless women on board would get their bony fingered grasp on all the best lifeboats and single people would be way down the pecking order – presumably because they thought there was no one to miss us! My only hope was that my life jacket light and whistle – obvious ’must have’ accessories in any emergency – had the ability to transform into a speedboat.

The motion of the ocean during the night took a bit of adjusting to. Sleeping in a windowless room with the sounds and movement of the ship pushed my imagination into overdrive. Had we cruised into a tropical storm? Were dozens of pensioners fumbling with their life jackets at this very moment, none bothering to let me know because they forgot I was there? I quickly got used to the vibrations though several others never managed to.

The gorgeous weather raised all our spirits and the ocean views were spectacular but couples everywhere did remind me of my solo status. They were rubbing lotion on each other’s tricky to reach areas, watching each other’s stuff while they went for a swim and could use the double umbrella sunbeds. I tried one on my own but it went all lop-sided so I gave up!

It’s amazing how obsessed people are about digitally capturing everything on holiday – they’re so busy recording the moment they never seem to actually look up and be IN the moment. Most of them experienced the trip through their view finder.

I decided to treat myself a massage. ‘Who are you travelling with?‘ my extremely young Balinese masseuse asked as I stripped off to reveal my brilliant white skin (I’m Scots – we’re blue). I didn’t bother to answer and just collapsed onto the bed to let her get on with it. I nodded off and half an hour later woke up to find an old woman kneading away at my shoulders – how long had I been asleep for? My aches and pains had been too tall an order for the girl and they’d brought in reinforcements to tackle the job. It must have been a change for her to have a young-ish model on the table though as pummelling the older guests must have been like massaging a xylophone.

On-board entertainments were a treat for the ears and eyes and included a tuneless lounge singer regularly murdering ‘Chanson D’Amour’ and ‘You Are The Sunshine of My Life’. There was also a wonderfully cheesy, multi-lingual theatre show featuring a 7 strong dance troupe who wouldn’t know the meaning of ‘syncopation’ whatever dialect you said it in. Hats off to the juggling team though as they only managed to concuss half the front row when their routine went belly up as we hit choppier waters. Thank God there wasn’t a knife throwing act.

Cruising however, is basically about one thing – food. 3 hour breakfasts, 2 hour lunches, 7 course dinners – not forgetting afternoon junk food on tap, tea and cakes at four, plus midnight snacks. What’s curious is that your appetite starts to increase accordingly and before too long if you saw anything on a plate, you ate it. It’s a curious concept – you start off on a ship and end up becoming the size of one.

I signed up for an excursion to the rain forest at Puerto Rico. Once up in the mountains and the soaking wet conditions I realised that I hadn’t thought this through. I come from the home of rain so what on earth was I doing spending part of my sunshine holiday in a rain forest? Compared to the monsoon summers we’ve had in Scotland, it just felt a bit damp. It’s also surreal to see the usual tourist rubbish sold even in places of such natural beauty. Same crap, different island !

A second excursion in St.Marteen was just bizarre. I’m not saying they padded the trip out a bit but the guide’s commentary included informing us that the Dutch and French parts of the island have different electricity voltages – hold the front page! The driver also wanted us to participate in that age old crowd pleaser ‘if you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet’. Hadn’t he studied his audience? These were people whose feet could barely manage decent circulation, let alone stamp.

Some fellow holiday makers did have genuine insights into life on board though. One woman felt that we were all sailing away from something we wanted to forget for a while – heartache, bills, ailments (it was amazing how my aches and pains seemed to disperse as the trip progressed). She was one of several travellers who never even got off the boat and didn’t care where we were. So long as it was sunny and there was luxury on board that was all that mattered !

In St Lucia I paired up with another couple who haggled with a very patient taxi driver who took us everywhere for just a few dollars. I was amazed at how lost in our own little worlds Brits can be. We drove past a little shanty bar where three pig carcuses were being prepared for barbeque. Not a pretty sight but still my taxi share couple’s viewfinders were itching to take a picture – until the bar owner started waving his machete at them. Like me, he didn’t appreciate having his picture taken against his will. Did the couple get the message and return to the taxi? Nope, they just kept snapping merrily away, oblivious to the situation. What part of a man waving a giant knife at them didn’t they understand? It’s pretty self explanatory in any language.

The shanty towns in this area were very poor with everyone trying to make a dime. One toothless old guy (not quite on the planet) came up to my side of the cab and waved a bag at me. As we sped past I asked our driver what he’d been doing. ‘He wanted you to pay to see the snake he had in his sack’. A line that could get you in a lot of trouble back home but anything to make a living I guess.

Soon, the ship became like a second home. A routine was dutifully followed – early breakfast, morning trip around whatever island we’d arrived at (Antigua and Tortolla were especially beautiful), back on board for lunch, off again for another wander then setting sail by late afternoon ready for another 7 course dinner – plus cheesy snacks – and another even cheesier show.

There is also something incredibly liberating about looking out on deck and seeing nothing but blue all around you – sea, sky, passengers’ varicose veins. It soon felt like we’d always lived together on this boat and as we passed the halfway point of the trip it seemed impossible to contemplate living any other way! Quite a contrast to how I felt at the start.

The liner company had also managed to rent out a small island that we were ferried to on small boats for the day. Beach bars plied us with boozy cocktails in coconut shells, people flung beachballs about and scuba dived beneath the blue – it was like a private piece of paradise for a few hours.

I also fullfilled a long held ambition to swim with a dolphin. Neptuno was a fickle character who delighted in my life long inability to float let alone swim and although his Flipper-esque cackle reminded me of my old PE teacher mocking my pitiful attempts to master the breast stroke, I felt me and my aquatic chum bonded. In fact it was the nearest to flirting I’d had all trip…although the fickle beast hasn’t kept in touch.

Inevitably, the cruise drew to a close. Bags were packed with tacky souvenirs that had been haggled over and we were efficiently disembarked. They had another boatful of travellers coming on board in an hour and I would’ve happily been one of them, glad to have had another chance to appreciate other cultures.

Now where did I put that authentic, hand crafted, bouncing lobster fridge magnet from San Juan..?