Something to Make you Smile
During these turbulent, Corona Virus dominated times I need to count my blessings; my family is so much luckier than many. I am very grateful to have the girls safely with me, but I have still felt a bit gloomy about this and that over the last couple of weeks. It was, for example, super sad yesterday when my mum and dad couldn’t celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary together. Dad is still in a care home due to a broken leg. In addition, only last week we spent an anxious night in Accident and Emergency as my mum was ill (not Corona Virus related!). Thankfully, she is much better now. It also seems sad not to spend my 24th anniversary with Saint Mick of Thana tomorrow. I know it can’t be helped, but it is rubbish that he is stuck in Bangkok away from us all, with no sign of being able to return home any time soon. On the plus, Mick (by which I mean he asked the girls) did send me a lovely bouquet of Moonpig flowers through the post. They are beautiful, though should those drivers be out delivering flowers? I’m not sure.
I am very grateful that I can talk to Mick daily and complaining doesn’t help anything, so that’s enough of that. Being mindful of this I’m trying hard to stay positive and I thought I’d inject a little humour into the day. When I realised yesterday (yes, I know I’m a latecomer to that realisation) that Corona is a brand of beer, as well as the name of the virus I started to think about how drinks might typify a person’s personality. I thought it might be fun to share my thoughts with you.
The Joy of Smiling
Seven Pints Sam. Seven Pints Sam can usually be found, along with Whiskey Chaser Brian propping up the local bar several nights a week. He is known as ‘not being short of an opinion.’ Whilst not going quite as far as to denying the existence of Corona Virus, Sam feels that most things can be cured with a pat on the back. He thinks that most of what is written is ‘utter nonsense’. Sam claims to have a good immune system so therefore thinks it is fine to visit his local supermarket daily and ignore the social isolation rules. Sam tuts at any sign which mentions the ‘two metre’ rule and says that he only deals in old money. He reluctantly stands ‘six feet’ away from the next customer. Seven Pints Sam is considered by some, to not be an intelligent man, but who knows what his back story is. Reading back, he reminds me just a little bit like Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove.
Black Coffee Brenda. Brenda likes nothing more than a walk round a car boot sale or a mooch through the jumble at a coffee morning. She is a pillar of the community and despite recent cancellation of bingo sessions, afternoon dances and meatboard sales she is keeping busy ensuring the elderly are catered and cared for during these difficult times.. In fact, Brenda has never been busier; this is a good thing as Brenda hates to be bored. Just this week she has been volunteering to fetch groceries for the over seventies and chatting to people from a safe two metres distance. There is no doubt that Brenda is a good sort and the eighteen cups of coffee she drinks a day keep her bright, alert and chipper. Some neighbours and friends do question her need to promote her own good deeds on facebook quite as frequently as she does. In addition, the jury is still out as to actually called the local evening telegraph to do a ‘local heroes’ interview with her. We all need a Black Coffee Brenda in our lives.
Proscecco Guzzling Petra. Petra is someone I feel really sorry for right now as she is struggling to manage her anxiety. She is terrified of catching Corona Virus, so is strictly adhering to the guidelines of self isolation. It is for this reason that Petra sent her husband Pete to Aldi to buy up the whole bottom shelf of wine. Petra was afraid to venture outside and was sensible in following the guidelines of not making unnecessary trips to the shops, but Pete has now been banished to the shed in quarantine for the next fourteen days. Petra is leaving food outside of the shed door and is being innovative in the kitchen. She has learned to make a variety of proscecco-based sorbets and breakfast smoothies. As these items are considered food she can and does eat them in large quantities, without breaking her rule of not drinking prior to ten o’clock a.m.
Two Sugars Please Tim. Tim is arguably more sensible than Proscecco Guzzling Petra. Tim knows that running out of sweeteners for his favourite drink, a cup of tea, doesn’t justify a trip to the shops. He is using sugar instead. Tim is a generous type and is willing to forgo his daily exercise slot in order that those more in need, such as Lucozade Loving Len can take exercise twice daily (Someone needs to tell Len this fact). Tim doesn’t like wearing lycra but does enjoy wearing grey sweat pants whilst eating biscuits and cake. Tim is gaining weight rapidly, but thinks in the grand scale of things it doesn’t really matter. Tim will regret this mindset if he is able to go on his eighteen/thirty holiday to Lanzarote in June. Tim is actually thirty-two and feels that the holiday may be his less chance at finding love. Tim should be aware that is unlikely that he will be able to travel so may as well enjoy eating cake.
Vodka Vera. Before the Corona Virus Crisis Vodka Vera could sometimes be found chatting to Prosccco Guzzling Petra over the garden fence. They even went to the same church and used to take it in turns to top up the communion wine. The communion wine never seemed to last long, but no one really knows why. Vera hasn’t been seen in pubilc at all since the Corona Virus outbreak. Black Coffee Brenda has been asking around though and has heard a rumour has Vodka Vera has gone to stay with her grown up children, who have grasped this opportunity to ‘dry her out’. This is likely to be confirmed later by Vera later today whose head is clear enough, for the first time in months, for her to venture onto social media without a fear of what she might write whilst ‘under the influence’. Vera has been successfully managing her anxiety by spending the days completing colouring activities with her grandchildren. As the days pass by Vodka Vera is getting much better at staying between the lines. She may soon be allowed to have a pair of child safety scissors to help her grandchildren complete their online learning tasks.
Diet Coke Dan. The truth is that Diet Coke Dan is addicted to both diet and regular coke. He can easily distinguish between Coke, Pepsi and the lesser known brands. Whilst his favourite tipple is Pepsi Max he is prepared to drink any and all of them. Diet Coke Dan is also prepared to go to any lengths to acquire supplies. Although signed up to online for shopping at Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tescos, Morrisons and Lidl he is unable to wait six weeks for the next home delivery slots so plans to to mask-up and take a tour of the supermarkets to make some essential purchases. Dan does have a social conscience and knows that this isn’t strictly adhering to the rules of Corona Virus induced shopping guidelines, so he is compensating for by adding rum to his coke during his evening tipple. This, he states, will make his wrongly procured coke supplies last longer. A responsible, conscientious and caring Dad, Dan has helped his children complete online Science learning by completing the ‘soak a tooth in coke’ experiment, thus demonstrating to them the dangers of drinking too much coke. He personally helped his young son extract a tooth for this and has put a lock on the kitchen cupboard door where the cokes are kept, so that the kids won’t be tempted to drink too much.
Lucozade Loving Len is secretly quite pleased at currently having to work from home. As an Estate Agent business is slack and he has plenty of time to focus on his passion for health and fitness. Lycra-d up to the hilts, Len can be seen indulging his hobbies of running and cycling and flexing his muscles (not necessarily in that order) as he powers around the village in his designer Adidas trainers. Although of optimum physical perfection with a six pack that would be coveted by Two Sugars Please Tim, Len isn't always as upstanding as his physique is tall. He has been known to cheat on the recently imposed once a day exercise rule, but is confident that he will escape from being caught on camera by overhead drones or passing police. Despite his running pants matching the lucozade he loves to drink, the speed at which he moves means that if you blink then you are likely to miss him.
I better stop being silly .. Me. I’m quite keen on a latte, but I identify with aspects of all of my drinkers!
The Power of a Smile
A doctor friend reminded me the other day about the positive power of laughter and the need to smile whenever we can. She was of the firm belief that humour is a great tonic whatever the situation. It is therefore, kind of with her blessing that I’m messing around on my laptop like this and decided to post my ‘silliness’. I almost didn’t for fear of seeming insensitive to everything that is happening around us. I hope that this isn’t the case as I am so thankful to all the amazing essential healthworkers, carers, retail staff, drivers and everyone else who is keeping us all afloat. I do feel a bit calmer though for having spent some time on this writing. It’s what makes me smile and serves as a stress buster. What strategies are you using to manage stress at this difficult time?
Book Review of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I bought this book at the airport and it kept me entertained for a good chunk of the flight. I read it pretty much in one setting which has to be an accolade for it. I liked rather than loved it, and thought it a good rather than excellent book. It was a page turner with a well formulated and crafted plot, The characters were well developed and original, but I just didn't care about them enough to really invest. I guess if I'd have been amongst them, in Ohio (the setting of the novel), I would have been a nosey rather than concerned neighbour.
It is a story that uses two families to explore class, wealth and social acceptance. Single mother Mia is a free spirited artist with a secret past who works as housekeeper/cleaner for Elena Richardson, mother of the seemingly perfect family. Differences are glossed over until they find themsleves on opposing sides when a custody battle develops over the adoption of a Chinese American baby. Motherhood, teen angst, first love and the need to sometimes break rules feature in the story.
Book Discussion Questions for Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Why is the book called Little Fires Everywhere?
How much sympathy do you have for Izzy?
Whose side do you take over the adoption and the ensuing custody court case?
Who in the book do you think is most misunderstood by others?
What qualities does Mia have that makes Izzy so enamoured with her?
Elena would consider herself to be generous, liberal/broad minded and always prepared to help those less fortunate than herself. Do you agree with this self-evaluation?
Mia and Elena have very different approaches to motherhood? What are their strengths and weaknesses as mothers? With whom do you most identify and why?
What do you think happens to Izzy after the story ends?
The final events of the book are presented in the opening of it? How did this structure influence your reading of the book?
Which charaxcter do you least like and why?
Do you think Mia handled knowing about Peal's pregnancy well?
Book Club Discussion Questions for Little Fires Everywhere (If you haven't read the book!)
There are daughters in the story who choose to spend time with a different mother figure to their own mother. Has anything similar happened to you? How did it make you feel?
The book is being made into a TV series. If you were to serialize a novel which book would you choose?
In the story two brothers have feelings for the same girl. How would you deal with this if it happened in your own family?
In the story Mia thinks she is liberal minded, but arguably doesn't always demonstrate liberal values. What qualities do you need to have to be 'liberal minded? If you are amongst good friends have a chat about who amongst you is the most liberal and why.
Celest Ng's Little Fire's Anywhere is praised as a book that can be read in one sitting. Would this claim make you want to read a book or would it actually put you off? Why? What does this reveal about your reading habits or even what does this reveal about you?
Would you prefer to live in a village where everyone knows everyone else or a large anonymous city?
Summing Up of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Ending with a touch of arson the book concludes with the reader questioning smug liberalism and asking what really counts in society. I can see why Little Fires is Everywhere was considered one of the best reads of 2017. It took me a little while longer to get round to reading it, but I am glad that I did. There really is a lot in it that coud be part of a book group discussion. If you enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere my hunch is that you would also enjoy Tayari Jones' An American Marriage.
Book Review of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it is one to read slowly as there is so much to savour in it. The relationships are complex and ever changing. The insight into human emotion and what makes people tick is really impressive. The plot holds together effectively and is well balanced. The use of first person, where different chapters are told by different characters, means that everyone gets to 'have their say'. As such the structure is simple but effective.
The story unfolds after the one of the protagonists, Roy, is wrongly accused of rape. He then goes on to serve five years of a twelve year sentence. Jones doesn't explore the trial in any detail but it underpins all that follows; had Roy been a white man rather than black then it is extremely unlikely that his accuser would have jumped to the conclusion that he was a rapist.
The only part of the story I didn't find convincing was the development when Roy went on to share a cell with his biological father. It did, however, provide an opportunity for father/son relationships to be effectively explored in the text. Barack Obama and Elle both rave about the book, so I guess for the majority this isn't a big criticism. (As an aside, have you noticed how authors tend to have quite big names recommend their books these days. I noticed the same thing in Rosie Walsh's The Man Who Didn't Call which Liane Moriarty recommended.
Book Discussion Questions for An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Book Club Questions for An American Marriage (if you haven't read the book!)
Summing up of Tayari Jones' An American Marriage
This is Tayari Jones' fourth book, but I believe the first one to be published in the UK. I hadn't come across her writing before but will now definitely seek out her other novels. There is flair and craft in every sentence she produces.
Things to do on Mothers' Day
Who would have thought a couple of weeks ago that Boris Johnson would now be telling us the best present we can give to our mothers this year is to stay isolated from them? Challenging times indeed. It is natural to want to be with family on this special day, but, of course, we have to do what keeps everyone as safe as possible.
I was thinking back to the type of thing that we would usually do as a family on this day - it is likely that we would have a brunch at our favourite Sheraton Grande, or perhaps a walk in Rama 9 Park (along with half of Bangkok!). This year I am lucky that I have the girls with me back in Broughton so we can enjoy Mothers' Day, I even received a lovely card and flowers from my little scamps. I can't pretend it isn't a bit rubbish not having Mick with us but we are lucky to all still have each other.
It feels a little bit like the time between Christmas and New Year when there isn't that much to do and the hours in the day seem to drag on. As we're self-isolating as much as possible, we've not got an awful lot planned for the day but here are some of the activities I've still planned for us to do:
- Watch a TV show we all like together
- Complete a jigsaw (or in my case, watch Annie complete it from the comfort of the sofa!)
- Make a nice meal (although really on Mothers' Day I should be the one being cooked for!)
- Chat about Mothers' days in the past.
- Not forget to give ourselves our own time and space!
Mothers' Day from a Distance
I do feel a lot of sympathy for families who can't be together at all and are only able to talk on the phone. I guess this is particularly hard if they are not used to Mothers' Day from a Distance.
The truth is that there isn't necessarily that much we can do if we're not with our mums, but we can still ring and try to make a phone call just a little bit more special than usual. Perhaps even make a plan of how you will celebrate in person when this craziness is over. (In effect, reschedule Mothers' Day!) Here are some other ideas of how to still celebrate today despite the current mad circumstances:
It's Just a Day
I've got to be honest, my own mindset regarding Mother's Day is that it is nice to mark it, but it has a pretty low priority for me. It is, after all, just a day. However, with everything going on at the moment, it certainly doesn't hurt to celebrate when we can and let the people around us know they're appreciated.
Ways to Manage Corona Virus Stress
Along, I suspect, with most of you, I’m feeling a bit stressed and worried about the Corona virus (Covid-19). Just to be clear, this is posted in the early days of it taking centre stage in the UK. Everyone has their own story to tell about how it is affecting their lives, finances and well-being. Being stranded at an airport, quarantined from family and friends; feeling ill and being unsure whether it is Corona Virus or not are just a few of the multitude of concerns that people are experiencing.
In our family both girls have had to return from university and leave their friends behind and courses unfinished; we’re feeling super sad about my dad being in a care home with a broken leg, so unable to have mum or the rest of the family visit; and for me personally my Saint Mick of Thana is in Thailand and I am many thousands of miles away in Broughton. My family all understand the need to self-isolate and have kept up to date with the advice, but it is still stressful.
Strategies for Managing Corona Virus Stress
Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’m a bit of a stress cadet at the best of times, so this post is as much therapy for me as it is anything else. I’m hoping it might help others though too, please do comment and share your own tips for managing stress. These are the ideas that I’ve come up with:
Summing up of Ways to Manage Stress
OK, I better stop as this list of ways to manage stress could go on and on. For me, writing this has made me feel a little bit calmer. Producing this blog post was at the top of my list for managing my stress and I can vouch that having a goal and achieving it, however small, does work. Thank you for reading the post!! I also wrote down that I should try and write something funny too, but I’m not sure I’m quite at that point yet.
I guess my final tip for stress management is to accept it is ok to be worried and anxious and that to own the stress and take any steps to reduce it, is worth a self-congratulatory pat on the back!