little things

A few people close to me are having a really, really tough time at the moment.

When life is throwing what feels like the worst of everything at you, I think it’s really important to have little things you can do to make yourself feel better quickly and/or cheaply.

Much as my reserved British nature gets a little twitchy around the popular concept of loving yourself, I do recognise the importance of self-respect and looking after yourself. I think they’re basically forms of the same thing, and while you’ll never find me telling myself I love me in the mirror, for me self-respect and looking after yourself include standing up for yourself, not getting pushed around, not over-committing to things you have little interest in or will bring little reward for a punishing outlay, and recognising that it’s OK to put yourself first at times, especially in a relationship.

I’m really bad at all those.

But over the years and through the bad times, I’ve assembled a pretty foolproof list of things that help me feel better instantly when I’m feeling low or exhausted:

SMALL THINGS

A mug of tea

I like Lady Grey or Tetley. Milk and one sugar, in a nice big cheerful mug.

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A shopping trip to buy something small and brightly coloured

Paperchase serves well here. I’ve been known to give myself the grown up equivalent of a 10p mix at the sweety counter – even £5 will buy a couple of cute colourful (or polka dotted) bits in here, and it’s one of my favourite shops.

I used to love buying a new bottle of nail varnish as a cheap cheerful pick me up, but in truth I hardly ever wear it so I try not to buy it now.

Something small and sweet to eat

French Fancies or Swizzels sweets will do at a push. A warm cinnamon bun if I’m somewhere with a few more options.

Writing a long list

It’s one of the few Virgo traits I actually possess. Doesn’t matter if the likelihood of ticking everything off the list is minimal to zero, the act of writing the list is enjoyment enough.

Baking something using my Kitchenaid

Pizza dough or lemon drizzle cake would be top of the list,  or mince pies at the appropriate time of year.

A new gin I’ve not tried before

With proper tonic.

Peperoni pizza

Ideally home made, with posh salt and vinegar crisps while it’s in the oven, and plenty of juicy red wine to wash it down with.

Nigella’s kedgeree risotto

Without the eggs. Smoked fish is the main reason I could never go vegan. This is my most favourite comfort food and I love cooking it as well as eating it. I also love eating it cold.

A funny film and/or a trip to the GFT

Preferably with a glass of wine or coffee and a piece of their lovely cake before the film in the bar upstairs.

A quick fix of Grand Designs

Ideally the one with the disused power station near Chesterfield or the chalet in France.

A run/stagger up Cort ma Law or Meikle Bin

These are two of the biggest hills in the Campsie Fells and happen to be just behind my house. I can be at the top of either within an hour of leaving my doorstep, and despite being so close to the city, I’m often the only one up there.

A cycle up the Crow Road or the Cuilt Brae/Stockiemuir Road

Only when I’m bike fit (which I am most definitely not at the moment). I love the effort of a good climb on my bike and the instant reward of the downhill afterwards.

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The Coronation Street omnibus on a weekend morning

Preferably curled up with a pair of greyhounds and a few mugs of tea

Sitting down at my beautiful harp 

and working in a very small way on my very long list of very big pieces

Doing a small easy DIY job in the garage or garden

Hanging pictures, painting, trimming hedges, putting shelves up, tinkering with my motorbike. I’m quite handy really and I am very proud of this. I love the satisfaction of a job well done afterwards.

A board meeting/drinks in the city centre

with one of my most loved, most respected, most insightful and most straight-talking friends.

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A blowout at my favourite Italian deli/restaurant or cafe

Eusebi’s or Once Upon A Tart, that’ll be you then.

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A loud blast of one of my favourite songs in the car driving round the city at night

Ageispolis by Aphex Twin takes me a million miles from this planet.

It has to be loud enough to make the car shake.

If there’s an epic sunset, even better.

 

BIGGER THINGS

A long run in a beautiful place

Provided my energy levels are good and it’s not too hot, in which case this is less enjoyable. But if I’m feeling good in myself but in need of a clear out in the brain department, this is one of the best things I can do for myself. Ideally to be shared with a similarly paced and/or sympathetic supportive friend.

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A trip to a quiet beach on the west coast of Scotland

Preferably involving getting my toes in the water and a pint afterwards.

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A fast motorbike ride

On quiet, well surfaced roads

A trip to my gran’s 

And a good catchup over a dog walk with my uncle

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A trip to a certain German lake

On a very sunny day, smoked fish and beer for lunch, involving getting my toes in the water, and next time I visit, the rest of me too. Maybe I’ll even find a gold bar.

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On (not) giving up

I had a tough day today. I was a bit wobbly and a bit hungry when I toddled off down the hill at lunchtime, to see my osteopath about a sore bit on the long-ago-injured foot.

Unfortunately for him, he asked politely how I was doing and just at that moment I couldn’t quite keep the tears in. Up until that point, no matter how much he has hurt me in the course of treatment, I have managed not to cry. It was almost a matter of pride that I never cried no matter how painful it was. He knows to keep talking if he is working particularly hard on an area, and I know not to try and reply but just to keep breathing.

The afternoon got even worse.

At the end of the day I left, and sniffled all the way to the bus station, having repeated “I don’t know” and “I haven’t finished that yet” like a broken record for the best part of half an hour.

All the bad things came, the chimpiest of chimps put on his really nasty hat, shrieked some really nasty things at me, and I wondered how on earth I was going to shake all this off and get some decent practice done tonight.

But just now I popped over to one of my favourite websites and found this – What If You Didn’t Give Up? – as though it was meant just for me to find, right now.

And then I remembered a quote a friend had shared with me a few years ago.

Courage doesn’t always roar.

sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says,

“i will try again tomorrow”

mary-anne radmacher

Tea-soaked days of nothingness

I ran a very long way last weekend. I completed the Highland Fling, a 53 mile race along the southern section of the West Highland Way. To my surprise, I’ve recovered really well and my legs were feeling ready to run again on Wednesday.

I promised myself a good long break after it though.  After a lot of weekends and evenings spent either training or practising for my concert (6 weeks ago now!) or a combination of both, my time is my own again. A bank holiday weekend means an extra day to be savoured.

I’m trying to plot the next adventure, the next goal, the next Big thing. I’ve done a few Big things, particularly over the last year, and I know very well the slightly lost feelings that come  in the aftermath.

The desire, or even the need, the urge, to be pushing forward so continously can be quite destructive – putting too much in too soon leads to burnout and exasperation, and if not to over-training then to under-recovery.

But by nature, I’m quite lazy. I think most people would be surprised to hear me say that about myself, but the truth is, unless there’s something right ahead to work for, I can find it quite difficult to stay focused and not let my days off float away in a blur of tea and TV.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking maybe I need a bit of that. I guess it’s all about balance.

So I have designated today a most exceptionally lazy day. I have a stack of reading I’d like to do, some blog posts to write and a LOT of tea to drink.

Other than that, I think the most pressing question will be whether I really should have another piece of the crumbly sticky lemon cake I made yesterday.