I was trying to persuade myself that these occurrences were the kind that you'd only find in Newcastle. But I had to admit to myself that they were as unusual here as they would be in any other city.
The rest of the day pretty much sucked.
Anyway, Alda sent me some questions as part as the me-me-meme, so here are the (rather long) answers. Let me know if you want any questions :)
1. Which person in your life has had the greatest impact on you and why?
Which person? Like, singular?! Wow. Hard question.
... no, I just can't do it. There has to be more than one.
Firstly? My grandad. He taught me to speak when I was just six months old and he was on holiday with me, my parents and my other grandparents. He tested my spelling, he helped me work out about which side was left and which was right. But it was never work; it was just fun. I looked forward to seeing what he'd be testing me on next. I don't think I'd be the person I am today without my grandad.
All this isn't to say that my parents, my other grandparents, didn't have an influence. But I think my grandad's might have been the strongest.
My best friend J is another. Before I met him, I'd had a pretty sheltered life. I was very naive. From meeting him I started to learn that some people, even if in some ways they grew up with the same middle class priviledges as me, didn't find life so simple. Some people had to deal with abuse, and that pushed them down paths that I hadn't want to believe were really out there. Also, if I hadn't met J, I don't think I ever would have met D, and then? I would have had a very different life. My backup plan was (still is) being a batty old woman with a hundred cats. But without D, would I ever have got the courage to mess up my relationship with A, to set it down a course of self-destruction? Because I knew I wasn't happy in that relationship, but I couldn't end it. Would I really have left G? Because I knew I wasn't happy with that one either, but I was making the same mistakes again. Without D coming along, without realising how he made me feel, I think I would have ended up married to G and realised at the age of 30 I was trapped with a man I loved, but wasn't in love with.
It's amazing how much meeting one person can change who you are and what you end up as. Both J and my grandad did this for me. I'm eternally grateful to them both.
There's D, of course. Meeting your life partner is always going to have an impact. But I think I talk enough about him....
Oh, and my dad. Who taught me that books are the elixir of life, to be devoured and savoured at the same time. I honestly can't imagine what I would have turned out like without books.
(An aside: how strange, for such a committed feminist as me, that the people who've influenced me most have been male. At some point I will do a post about women who have influenced me, because there are plenty out there.)
2. What type of food do you always have in the fridge?
In my ideal world, there'd always be grapes, wine and champagne. Cans of lager. Soya milk in small cartons, so it didn't get wasted because all I'd usually use it for would be to put in my tea. Oooh... chocolate soya milk. Ah, for a daily supply of chocolate soya milk....
Alas, in the real world... well, I've thought and thought about this, and there are only two things that really come to mind.
Onions. And filtered water.
They are pretty much the only constants. There used to always be hummous in there, but D's allergic to garlic (.... I KNOW!), so that kinda stopped. I could eat hummous every day - did you see that episode of Friends where Monica talks about going to France and just eat bread and cheese forever? I could totally do that with hummous. I am literally salivating just imagining it.
I mean, I'd prefer it if I could have occasional vegetables to go with it (cherry tomatoes! veg roasted in lemon and garlic! salad!) but hummous and bread. Yum.
Guess what I'm going to have for lunch tomorrow now....
3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Excellent question, once more. And again, incredibly hard to answer.
I like who I am now. I like where I am now. My only problem is that although I can finish things that I start (courses, tidying the house, that kinda thing), I can never just go at it. I always end up wasting immense amounts of time before I can start. I spend hours on end checking to see if there's any new email that just can't wait two hours, checking BBC news, sitting doing nothing at all. And it's proper nothing. Not just 'getting my thoughts together' nothing. If I could change anything, I would stop myself procrastinating. Because it drives me mad, but I don't know how to stop.
Like, I should be working on my course now. Not answering questions on my blog. But I wanna, so there! *sticks out tongue*
4. Name three of your greatest strengths.
I'm really bad at recognising what my strengths are. Having said that...
- I'm a very good listener. I think I've always been a pretty good listener, but Samaritans have really honed that skill. I'll try and quash my instinct to jump in with reassurance and advice, and just listen to whatever they need to say. I don't always succeed, but I'll try.
- Sometimes I can be very stubborn. This isn't usually considered to be a strength, but I think that's wrong. Call it tenacity, and suddenly people are much more positive :) I'll stick at things when necessary. (That's something else I've got from my dad. The two of us can argue the toss for hours about whether it's ten past or quarter past the hour. Drives my mum and the rest of the family mad, but we love it. Stubborn and pedantic. What an awful combo, eh?)
- The fact I care. I believe I can change things for the better. I think life is pretty pointless if you don't believe that. I can be there when people phone Samaritans. I can donate money to causes that make a tangible difference in my community. I can offer to take my friend's dog for a walk when she's stressed and doesn't know how she's going to fit everything in. I can refuse to take a carrier bag unless I actually need one. I can write letters for Amnesty International that might just be the straw that broke the camel's back. That might get someone realised who shouldn't be in jail. That might get someone treated with respect who could otherwise have 'disappeared'. I can't make the whole world better single-handedly, but if everyone does their little bit, we can make a difference.
5. Which book do you wish you'd written, and why?
Any book would do, really. I'd just like to have written a book :) But I actually think it would have to be The Bad Mother's Handbook by Kate Long. It's not the best book in the world, but it's well written, made me care about the characters so much that it broke my heart when I could see them stumbling towards disaster, and made me cry my eyes out - still does, even on re-reading.
Ask me tomorrow, and I doubt that would be my answer, but it's true for today. Also, I wouldn't recommend her second book. I found it a huge disappointment and didn't like it at all.
Runners up: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. After you'd gone by Maggie O'Farrell. Possibly Skellig by David Almond.
So, there you go. Answers to some very searching questions. Thanks Alda! And congratulations to anyone who reached the end of this post. You get a gold star :)