Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates: a good book, although a lot of the tips are fairly basic. I’d say if you’re making the transition from undergrad to postgrad, or you’re starting a postgraduate degree after a break in studying, this book is probably really helpful. (more…)
Today I came to a realisation that can be summed up in a sentence that sounds fairly simple, but has taken me an embarrassingly long time to grasp:
Just because you’re good at something, that doesn’t mean you have to do it.
Tattoos, I have found, tend to have quite a polarising effect. I have several of them (23 at last count), mostly in places that are openly visible (hands, arms, fingers, neck).
People either love them or hate them: rarely do I meet someone who doesn’t have an opinion on whether I’m “ruining my body” or “making meaningful art”.
It is a refrain often heard in my group of girlfriends when we meet up. “He just wouldn’t take no for an answer!”; “He was convinced I was attracted to him even though I wasn’t flirting at all!”
We are definitely not alone in these complaints. And now someone has studied this phenomenon, producing a paper which has perhaps my favourite opening sentence of all time: “Heterosexual men consistently overperceive women’s sexual interest.”
So, what did they find out?
This week I’ve decided to experiment with doing the weekly round-up on a Friday. Doing it on Sundays never quite happens, because… well… Sunday. And Mondays feel wrong, somehow. So let’s see how this goes.
Considering that the last one was posted this Monday, this is more of a three-day roundup, but I’ve managed to fit quite a lot into those three days.
…because I most certainly don’t.
I really want to write something inspiring (or at least interesting) but my brain’s at a stage of tired shutdown that won’t let me do that, so this round-up might be less exciting than the others.
That’s one of the things they don’t tell you about living your dream life: it’s bloody exhausting.
I set this blog up today on something of a whim, but I’m hoping it keeps going for a while at least. Mainly because I tend to forget what I’ve done on a day-to-day basis, and having a blog helps with that.
I’m reintroducing a thing I used to do on my old blog, which was the ‘weekly round-up’. I used to try to write it on a Sunday, but inevitably by the time Sunday rolled around I’d just want to chill out and not bother thinking about the week that’d just passed. So it might end up being a Friday/Saturday thing this time.
Monday dawned sunny again for the first time in ages. Which was nice, because my tan was just threatening to fade.
I spent the morning cleaning the house, editing the parts of the novel I’d written the day before, watering the garden and making rhubarb & apple crumble, and was just about to sit down and work out my plan for the week when the phone rang. A company who desperately needed some consultancy. Immediately. They have a product, it needs to be advertised in the right places. Well, it just so happens that finding networks of people online is one of the things I do best, so I offered my services and spent some time trawling the interwebs for relevant places to put their ads.
This of course had to be fitted around all the other stuff I had to do, so by the time I was setting off to run the youth group I was already exhausted. And when I got home after that, I was practically dead on my feet. I lay down on the sofa and tried to persuade myself that standing up and going into the bedroom would be a good idea. Eventually I managed it. Even caught the second half of the Paul Miller Show (my guilty pleasure).
Tuesdays are normally reserved for busking, followed by an evening of drinks with the girls. This week was already going to be different as I had an interview planned at 10pm. I awoke to the sound of the letterbox rattling and went downstairs to find a copy of Coco’s Secret to review. And it was one of those convergence things: the sun was shining, I had this rhubarb crumble to eat, I try to review books within the first 48 hours of them arriving… so yes, I’ll admit it, I grabbed a cafetière and headed straight to the garden without even bothering to get dressed.
A few hours later I’d finished the book and drafted my (scathing) review, and planned a solid amount of work up until about midnight. Then Nigel called and said he was unexpectedly in the area, and how would I feel about dinner and a glass of wine? I agreed, because I don’t see him often enough, and also I’ll agree to pretty much anything if there’s wine involved.
We found a wonderful little tapas place with beautiful sea views and ensconced ourselves there for a good few hours. We covered most topics of conversation, including sequencing DNA, solving diseases, cracking algorithms, identifying child pornographers, government policy, digital forensics, academic research grants, grouting showers and business nous. Along with the usual “Oh, how is X? I haven’t seen her in ages!” chatter.
Between us we devoured most of the tapas menu and a rather excellent bottle of wine. It’s been a long time since I’ve drunk anything that didn’t have “two bottles for a fiver” written on it, which made it taste even more excellent.
By the time he dropped me home I was happily fuzzy and more than a bit tired. I showered, caffeinated, changed into vaguely presentable clothes and attempted to brush my hair. It gets a bit unruly when I’ve left it for a few days. Settling down to turn on Skype, I lifted a biro and managed to draw a huge line down the side of my face. Which would have been fine, except that I was supposed to be recording the interview. Luckily the software cut out anyway, and then my computer overheated and turned itself off, so I ended up just having a very nice chat with my interviewee about how annoying technology is but how lovely the weather is in our respective countries, and then we vowed to revisit the interview properly when my computer wasn’t having such a bad day.
I clicked off of Skype and opened my inbox, not expecting much. Au contraire: full to the brim. Which is great, except that I’d already shoved my schedule back by a few hours due to dinner and drinks, so the extra work added another half hour or so onto a day that was already destined to finish at 3am. It wouldn’t have been quite so annoying if I didn’t have to get up three hours later, either. But still, I’d always rather be busy than bored. Naturally I decided that I had far too much energy to begin work straight away, so went for a run beforehand, making my angry toe slightly angrier.
By Wednesday morning I had no concept of what day it was, but still somehow knew what I was supposed to be doing. I woke up, spent an hour finishing an article I was writing, sent a few emails and headed off into town for the day. Grabbed lunch with the girls, which was, as always, fantastic. I haven’t seen them all in far too long. And then caught up with Gee, who I see even less often. Finally it was Business Time and I was sitting in a coffee house, stirring a mango frappuccino and discussing terms with a new client. Exciting times.
Left the café, found Umit, went to a little French place and downed a glass of wine with some chips. Caught up on life, the universe and everything (there is nothing quite as wonderful as conversing with those friends with whom you have no internal filter: pure streams of consciousness gushed across the table and Umit didn’t even look scared. Much. The guy knows me too well.) Walked home, checked my phone on the way, found another few people wanting meetings and proposals, which is always a good sign. Took my shoes off, and swiftly realised exactly how fucked my foot was. When you break something, I don’t think you’re supposed to just wait for a few days and then immediately start using it again. But my uncle spent thirty years walking around on a broken leg – being a bit hardcore and weird runs in my family – and I’m not going to soil the crazy badass reputation by being a pussy about a couple of broken toes.
Feet plunged into a tub of cold water, I called a friend and nattered on at her for a while about life. And then it was time to send some emails and check my inbox properly, rather than the cursory glances I’d been giving it all day, before collapsing into bed for all of three hours. Clients around the world = 6.30am Skype calls. Ouch.
Thursday was immensely confusing and I spent most of it on Skype. At 6.30am it was midday; at 9am it was 10am; at 11am it was 5pm; and by 6.30pm it was 11.30am. Such is the nature of international business. OH GOD MY BRAIN. It’s like jetlag, but without the jetting. In between all the calls I did actual work in a variety of languages – mainly French and English, which was good because they’re my best ones – and then eventually got to bed at about 5am (GMT this time), only to be awoken again at 7am by the phone trilling its “Please help me I need an investigator STAT” call.
The dude heard my prices and seemed to get scared and run off, but he’ll probably be back. You know what they say…
Spent some of the afternoon working, then headed out to run a youth group (BBQ, waterslide, pool tournament. It was fun.) I’d specifically told the woman in charge that I could deal with any kids from about age 8 upwards, so she put me in charge of the pool tournament. I set everything up and got one of the kids to make a table on a sheet of paper. Then they all went outside to play on the waterslide (which had a strict 13+ rule), and I ended up in charge of a crew of hyperactive 4-7 year olds, who proceeded to chase each other around with pool cues and generally go wild.
I pretend that this bothers me, but it was actually a lot of fun. The kids where I live are hilarious. The other day I left my house to go to the shops and had the following fantastic conversation:
Child playing on the street: “Why are you wearing that top?”
Me: “Because it’s comfy.”
Child: “This dress is comfy too. But your top’s weird. Why are you wearing something weird?”
Child #2: “Why do you speak a different English from mum?”
Child #2: “Mum speaks different English. Why?”
Me: “Um, I’m not sure. People grow up in different parts of the country. Maybe her English is different because she’s from a different part of the country.”
Child #2: “Your English is weird.”
Child #1: “Yeah, I like you though.”
Child #1: “I need to fix these bells to my scooter, but I don’t have any string. Do you have string?”
Me: “Uh… maybe, somewhere…”
(Child looks at me expectantly)
(I go to find the string)
(Ten minutes later her scooter has a new set of bells which now drive me crazy every time she rides past my house. But at least they make her happy.)
I got home from the youth group surprisingly unscathed and collapsed into bed at midnight. Slept for eleven blissful hours.
On Saturday afternoon, by the time I’d finally emerged from bed, caffeinated and cleaned my house, I felt unusually energetic, so I had an Epic Practice Session which resulted in three recordings. They’re from two very different periods in my life, but I like them all anyway. “unconvincing” and “hole in the sky”, were both written at uni; sequestered in the dark of the lecture hall right at the top of the college, playing the grand piano until the early hours of the morning. “solitary road” is more recent, dating from about February of this year. I wrote it when I was walking back from busking in the centre of town one day, and gradually built up a piano part.
Following the crazy singing session, I realised I had to go and do some work, so I walked into town and pretended to be a human being for a while. On the way back it started pouring, and by the time I got home I was freezing cold and soaking wet. I ran a bath, grabbed a book and stayed there for the next four hours. By the time I emerged it was 10pm and I was ready to close off the day’s emails and collapse into bed.
Today I got up and realised – horror of horrors – that I’d somehow run out of coffee. This presented a dilemma: I needed to go and buy coffee so I’d have the energy to face the day, but I needed energy from coffee in order to go and buy the coffee in the first place. Eventually I had a cold shower and shoved myself out the door half-awake. By the time I got to town I decided I might as well do some busking now I was out, so spent half an hour singing at people before realising I was probably too tired and pathetic-looking to be doing anything other than drinking coffee. Walked back home, cleaned, attempted to sort out my bindweed problem, then got a text from my friend asking if I fancied a roast dinner. ALWAYS. So off I went, and hung out there for a few hours before coming back to email some clients and plan the next few days.
I’d just settled myself down with a glass of something nice and a laptop when the phone rang. My friend has died. It’s not unexpected, he’s been ill for a long time. But it’s still sad.
It ended the week on something of a muted note. Robert, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if I’m wrong, I hope you’re in an awesome one.
This week I read: A Maiden’s Grave by Jeffrey Deaver; The Faithless by Martina Cole; Coco’s Secret by Niamh Greene; We Know by Gregg Hurwitz.
This week I watched: Eden, Time Bandits.
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