A treasure trail of research lead me to Jessie Kesson and now I can’t believe her name wasn’t always part of my frame of Scots reference.
Jessie was born in 1916 Inverness to a loving single mum who worked as a prostitute and knew challenge intimately. At eight, Jessie was relocated to a children’s home in Aberdeenshire and denied further education because of her background. By the end of her life in 1994, Jessie was a London novelist, playwright and producer of Woman’s Hour.
Turns out he’s Everyman. He’s Joe Public, apparently, the work of German artist Stephan Balkenhol.
There are more women than men in Edinburgh (and Scotland). How about a sculpture of the city’s Everywoman, instead? Or perhaps alongside?
According to population data, she’d be between 16 and 29, living in a flat with a council-tax banding between A and C and as likely to be single as she would to be married. Her life expectancy would be longer than Joe’s, too.
There are jellyfish all round the coast of Denmark – my husband got stung every other summer as a kid playing in the viking sea.
The Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art was originally built as a mansion for William Cunninghame in 1778, for £10,000. Cunninghame was a Tobacco Lord who benefited hugely from trade winds, the hideousness of the triangular slave trade and the connections of his prosperous merchant family.
I’ve been a whirling dervish of clearing productivity. I’ve been thinking of the future and where we might be in five years time when, in all likelihood, the kids will be doing a lot more of their own things and none of us will need to live near school anymore. I’ve also been thinking about not getting too fixated on the future as well, lest I forget that actually, today’s the day we’re guaranteed so the happiness of now is much more important than perceived ideas of what might yet come. Tricky, isn’t it? You don’t want to take actions which scupper future choices but equally, a life lived in fear of hindsight is hellishly restrictive.
Anxiety about trying to control known and unknown variables kicking your arse as you move forward is never a great progress companion, I’ve found. As with most things, maybe the best approach is just to find a balance between planning and the now and maintain that as joyfully as possible, deleting unnecessary positivity-sucking-crap wherever it lurks and factoring generous margins for spontaneity into adaptable plans for the longer term.
One thing I am sure about for the future, however, is I want to own less. My first ten years of coupledom & parenthood had a definite theme of accumulation. By contrast,these last ten have moved onto a mind trajectory of simplification. That said, god knows we’ve individually and unitedly self sabotaged along the way – a new dog the size of a small horse, anyone? Old house at the very outer reaches of our budget to renovate rather than new house to simply enjoy and branch out from? Oh yes. Hello to you, contradictions.
An upside I didn’t see coming a few years back and have found out through daftness, I guess, is necessity really is the mother of invention. Too skint to buy a garden trellis that would mean more flowers to look at in summer? That’s a thought that lead me to up-cycle an old bunk bed step ladder I found behind a shed. Neither the looking nor the thought would have happened without the need. With cash for the trellis I’d have gone to the garden centre and bought one with decidedly less quirk. I know which trellis feels more like me.
[Side bonus: one less thing for landfill, too.]
Creativity’s like blowing into a Fairy liquid bubble cluster with a straw – each breath pops more bubbles up, sometimes huge, sometimes small. All that’s required is energy, space, inclination and wonder; the willingness and the audaciously human playfulness to still see a bubble and all its irridescent, cheap-as-chips-lustre as wonderful. If you can do that in the face of a world telling you to be serious, scared and reactive I say you’re winning because it certainly makes me feel like I am.
But back to the clearing. In the last seven days I’ve battled and won in the following cupboards;
Ovenware. Turns out that as we are not bakers we do not need 5 loaf tins, 16 muffin trays or 42 different shaped cake tins. Revelations!
Mugs – two varieties, only one of which was in a cupboard. Firstly, the corporate logo emblazoned type of coffee mug husband brings home from work promos and sticks in the cupboard till they’re all jostling like a cuppy version of a coin spilling machine at an arcade. Secondly, the facial type of mug. I’ve pretty much removed myself from Instagram for now – my feed suddenly seemed to become more faces than places and things and, lovely as faces are, it was the places and things that hooked me and inspired good work. So, for the moment I’ve jettisoned the app and am pondering what (if anything) needs to come back. While I ponder it’s probably also responsible to note the time gifted back from temporarily ditching a social media app: by my reckoning it’s between 60 and 90 minutes in 24hrs and this feels good. Of all the commodities in my life, it’s time I adore and lust after the most so I’ve no excuse for wasting it.
Aprons. For all the ‘we are not bakers’ reasons stated above. The kitchen hooks are dancing in the space and Mount Washmore will shrink as we focus on filthying just one apron, rather than a five-a-side football team of them. Hurrah!
Books, CDs and DVDs. Cheerie bye, redundant media and word collections. I’ve downloaded two apps that are helping me with this – Music Magpie and We Buy Books. The thought that I can transform stuff into cash as well as space is a handy motivator. Also, I like playing shoppies with the scanning in barcodes malarky.
Craft stuff. Yes, more of it. It seems I’m letting this collection go bit by tiny bit; jam jar of google eyes by jam jar of polystyrene eggs. What can I tell you? I’m shedding an old skin scale by scale, some months. There’s yet more to go. I’m sorry.
Games we don’t play. Like most of the above they’re on their way to a local charity shop. Farewell Cluedo & KerPlunk, time for you to go off and give other folk a shot of yourself and your luck based shenanigans.
As well as thoughts of the future and how I can’t be arsed cleaning stuff in the meantime, I’ve been super inspired by two programmes on Netflix, first off The Minimalist’s documentary is fricking ace. Its message is basically, live a deliberate life. That’s a phrase that just oozes appeal, freedom and sense to me because it reminds me succinctly not to get caught up in stuff – metaphysical or literal – that isn’t teaching me, aiding me or making me smile. Secondly, The Happy Movie, another documentary about how our accumulating behaviours mostly go haywire and can wreck things we thought they’d create. Both programmes are truly excellent brain fodder and left me totally uplifted and ready to chuck more, invent more and buy less.
There’d be no light without dark too though, would there? In case you’re hating me for being a smug, swotty Kim & Aggie-esque-clear-minded-bastard, know that I epically failed in the pared back Xmas department. Not only did I buy MORE decorations I also bought more cheap plasticky shit for stocking fillers. Watch this space for how ace I am for clearing them out sometime in 2017 when they’re tripping me up all over bedroom floors and never being used anyway (#anotherkindofmug). I’ve also bought a ton more books as I’ve managed to finally get my reading mojo on and, if they’re shit, I can sell them all afterwards on one of the above named apps too – HA!
So there you are, confessions and achievements done. I’ll leave you with this (possibly paraphrased) quote from The Minimalists, because I thought it so staggeringly brilliant, ‘Use things, love people. Not the other way round’.
Interested? Good. More about #Clearing40 here and by following the hashtag on Twitter.
I’m calling great big dirty bullshit on the word *just*
I put it to you the word just is a bullshit signifier; that whatever words come before or after it need to come under immediate suspicion because the fact that just is in the air means the integrity of the other words have, I believe, been compromised.
Test it out. Think of the times that you say just. Listen out for other people saying it. Is just justified for anything other than deliberate obfuscation to smooth over the cracks of something that isn’t as simple as the person saying it would like to convey?
I heard myself using just as a great big crock of smoothing over shit recently. I was explaining to a friend how to set the alarm in our house in prep for her checking in on the dog one day soon afterwards. I kept saying things like, ‘you just put in the code, then press one, then you run out that door and shut it before ten seconds has passed, then you just listen for a beep’. Then I really looked at her face and thought again of a quote I first heard through an Open University course, I think it was Gregory Bateson who said it first;
The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
The response I was getting was one of confusion and anxiety on the face of a very smart friend. The problem was not hers – it was mine. I was using the word just to cover up the fact that, deep down, I felt a bit shit about asking a favour that contained complicated instructions and no small amount of responsibility. We restarted with a new framing that went something like, ‘this alarm is a prick. I’m sorry. I’m writing everything about it down and I don’t want you to worry about it if it doesn’t go smoothly, it’s not your fault and you’re a bloody star for giving it a go – thank you’.
So I’m clearing just from my 2017. It’s hoodwinked me and got in the way of the open, more meaningful conversation I’m working to create by contaminating exchanges with a toxicity that works against the intention I have.
We saw Collateral Beauty. The film whisked me back ten years to a hell of a week. Mum had been admitted to hospital in Aberdeen with a DVT. My son had his sixth birthday party. I hadn’t organised a thing for Halloween.
The morning after cobbled together trick or treating, Mum called from hospital and gently explained she had terminal cancer.
The world stopped as grief started.
Who I’d been until then died with her and (slowly, painfully) a new gratitude for life was born. Heather 2.0. An unwanted, bittersweet fresh start.