Suddenly, I have a lot of stuff I want to say! But I'll restrain myself for now.
I will say hi to Pippa and Rob, who are more people that I know in "real life" and have checked out my blog. Hi guys! Make yourselves at home, maybe even comment or something! Because I need the attention. ;)
Anyone else lurking, can you let me know you're reading? Just so I don't end up repeating myself when I talk to you.
Tomorrow you can have a video and some pictures of a gorgeous fox that was relaxing in the sun in my garden Thursday lunchtime.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I like to use wrapping paper, and I'm always a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to getting the corners straight, etc. Which is stupid, as they just get ripped up.
2. Real tree or artificial? I'd prefer a real tree because I love the smell, but I hate the idea of killing a tree just so I can hang baubles on it. So until I find a nice small living tree in a pot that can live outside the rest of the year, I'm using a little plastic job.
3. When do you put up the tree? When I can be bothered. Certainly not til halfway through December, often only a few days before Christmas. I don't see the point of decorating in November!
4. When do you take the tree down? When I'm bored of it, usually around New Year's Day.
5. Do you like eggnog? Never had it.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Don't remember really.
7. Do you have a Nativity scene? No, I don't do religion.
8. Hardest person to buy for? Dad. he's got everything he wants, with the exception of a Subaru Impreza, which is a little out of my price range.
9. Easiest person to buy for? My brother. This year, he told me exactly what he wants.
10. Worst Christmas Gift you ever received? A gift box containing shower gel, body lotion and bath foam, from an aunt who seemed to have a selection of similar products as I'd received at least two virtually identical presents the previous years. So I took it back to the shop for a refund, only to be told that they couldn't refund it as it had been bought 4 years previously on sale for £1. Needless to say, I was not happy.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, although I haven't bought any yet this year so they may well go out late.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Don't really have one.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Mid-December. I'm disorganised like that.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. If something's crap, I don't want to inflict it on someone else.
15. Favorite thing to eat/drink at Christmas? I rather like Christmas cake. Also pomegranates, mulled wine, and those little bacon-wrapped sausages from Christmas dinner.
16. Clear lights or coloured on the tree? White, definitely. Much classier. I don't mind coloured if they're all one colour.
17. Favourite Christmas song? In the Bleak Midwinter (the Holst version), but I rather like Hark, Hark, What News (also know as Swain Hark) which is a local Sheffield carol, Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, and In Dulci Jubilo. I like loads of Christmas stuff. But I hate Handel's fecking Messiah.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I've never been away for Christmas. But I'd quite like to travel.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Of course I can. Even if most of them do have stupid names.
20. Angel on the tree top or a Star? Star. Both are equally religious I guess, but I've always liked the shape of stars.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Morning. It used to be very early when I was a kid as my brother was an early bird and couldn't wait, but now it tends to be closer to midday.
Because I've uploaded some videos from yesterday's seal adventure, and although they looked okay on the computer, they look shitty on YouTube. Bah. I'll find a way round it.
I'm also working on making a quickie video slide show type thing of the photos, because I hate making massive long blog posts with pictures. Much easier to just embed a video, surely?
So I'm trying out Jumpcut, in the hope that it will sort out both problems for me. Looks easy enough. I'm waiting for pics to upload as we speak. Unfortunately, as there are 97 pictures and 5 short videos, I might be here a while.
Well apart from being knackered because I only got 3 hours of (crap) sleep. Oh well.
Donna Nook is worth it. Seals close enough to touch (touching would be silly, but you could theoretically). Huge scarred ugly bulls, beautifully patterned cows, fluffy white pups. Grey (Atlantic) seals aren't exactly beautiful, but they are impressive.
We didn't get to do the sand crawling thing because access to the sea was completely cut off, as the MoD was bombing over there, as they do. Shame, but the seals were right up by the fence next to the path so there was really no need to get wet and sandy.
And it was a beautiful sunny day, not a single cloud. But fecking freezing, as you'd expect from mid-December.
A few interesting birds, the highlight being the little egret that I spotted in a field during the drive there. It surprised me, let me tell you! I saw a group of curlews in another field, which was also unexpected.
After Donna Nook we moved on to Skegness, because I wanted to have a look at the seals in Natureland. It was nice seeing places I remember from when I was a kid on the way there.
I'm glad we went there as well. Obviously they aren't wild seals, but I really wanted to get a good look at some common (harbour) seals. Now they really are beautiful creatures. I completely fell in love with the two pups in the rearing pool, I could have stolen them. We got really good views of the adults swimming in their glass-sided pool - they are so graceful and fast in the water. We didn't get much chance to take pics there because it was 3.30pm and the light went very quickly, but we did get a few.
Speaking of pics, I'll try hard to post some tomorrow. Maybe a couple of videos too!
And now I'm off to bed, to sleep off the unnecessary amount of Indian takeaway we picked up on the way home.
In other news, we surprised the staff at CCC (big camping/outdoors type shop in Sheffield) today by asking their advice on waterproof over-jackets and trousers. Mostly because we said we wanted cheap and cheerful, and didn't care if they only lasted a day. I think we spent a grand total of £32 for both of us. In a related note, I want an new tent, since my brother (unintentionally) knackered mine and CCC have some nice ones.
I tried on wellies too, but the ones that fit my (evidently small) feet are uncomfortably tight around my (muscular) calves. So I gave that up. Also, wellies are impressively non-supportive, and with my muscles/joints/back/body in general I really need something that's vaguely shaped like my feet.
So why the waterproofs?
Well, since Pete mentioned it a while ago, I've been wanting to go to Donna Nook to see grey seals with pups on the beach. I haven't seen wild grey seals before, only the ones at Natureland in Skegness, and after seeing bottlenosed dolphins and common seals in Scotland this year I'm rather keen to see more mammals.
So we're off to the east coast on Tuesday. Should take about 2.5 hours to drive there. I'm anticipating it will be freezing, and to get good pictures we'll need to crawl over the wet sand to get close to the seals. Hence waterproofs. I'm quite excited - maybe we'll get a few birds too!
In other other news, we decided against the Ikea chairs because although comfortable, they feel like you're leaning back about 45 degrees. Not much use for eating off your knee, or knitting, or anything other than vegging in front of the TV. So the search continues.
And speaking of knitting, I'm knitting a hat. Which I've never done before. And I'm knitting in the round, on double pointed needles (dpns if you want to use knitspeak), which I've also never done before. It took some getting used to, certainly... twice as many needles as usual! The advantage is that there's no sewing up and therefore no seams. Yay! Plus, if I can knit in the round I can now make socks as well. Or little hedgehogs with no seams, which will probably cut 15 mins off the hour each one takes to make.
It should be here any time, as they said early afternoon.
I'm kind of excited, especially as I can't quite remember what we ordered!
It's a fairly standard, modern-but-not-trendy, 2.5 seat sofa, in a pinky beigey fabric. It's been made especially for us, with our choice of fabric and everything, to the design specifications we gave them.
Then we can get on with buying the last few bits and pieces for the living room. We need two chairs......something like this will do the job. Another cupboard to match the ones we've already got, for the corner by the door. And a light of some kind to sit on top of it. And then the living room is finished! So off to Ikea pretty soon I guess.
I think Kay's the first and only blogger I know who I met in real life before I met online. Did that make sense? It does in my head, if that helps.
Slightly strange story. I met Kay back in 1998, when we both started on the same course at university. Despite there being only five of us on that particular course, and the five of us being in the same tutor group, we don't remember each other. But we must have met. Plus we both remember two of the others.
So then I met her again in 2005, when I joined SingSoc. I can't remember how, but at some point we realised what I said in the paragraph above, probably by finding out that we were the same age. Which was weird.
Kay sings soprano, but don't hold that against her. She's very funny and creative, so go and have a look at her blog.
Sometimes, when I'm just randomly thinking (a process I've come to refer to as brain-surfing), I find myself tracing back the links, wondering how I managed to get there. Fasten your seatbelts, you're in for a bumpy ride.
Recently I've added a fair few new people on Facebook, people I used to go to school with. One of which I had a crush on at school (but I'm waaayyy over it now!). I seem to have a lot of FB friends who aren't really friends, just people I vaguely know from school, or SingSoc, or uni in general, or from blogging.
So would it be weird for me to search for a guy (different one) I once had a weird sort of long-distance semi-relationship with, back when I was 15-16, and add him as a friend?
He was the first guy who'd ever showed any interest in me, a fat, relatively socially inept, frizzy-haired, bespectacled, slightly arrogant, annoyingly smart teenager, whose "friends" had by now pretty much convinced her that boys would never be interested in her.
I met him on holiday. I'll call him John, mostly because that's his name. He wasn't exactly my type physically, same height as me (5'6"), not my fantasy tall, blonde, athletic guy (that's changed now, but not the tall athletic bit). But who was I to be fussy? He did have a nice smile, nice blue eyes and made me laugh, and he was smart too.
His friend Mark was in a semi-relationship with my friend Kerry. He stayed on the same camp site as us for 2 days, and Mark and Kerry tried, successfully, to set us up.
He was kind of sweet, two years older than me. I remember we danced together in the camp disco, then when Kerry and Mark disappeared we ended up going for a walk, which cumulated in kissing in a kid's adventure playground under the stars. It was weird, I was very flattered in an uncomfortable kind of way, having never been kissed before. I guess I was infatuated with him.
We wrote to each other (okay, this was 1995, no-one had email then), then met up again the next year at the same site. He'd had a girlfriend in the meantime, and I played it cool. Well I thought I did. Things went a bit further, and he wanted to sleep with me. Being massively inexperienced and therefore a little scared, I declined, and he didn't pressure me.
Of course, he was my "proof" that I wasn't as hopeless as the girls at school claimed. I thought I was in love with him. I did like him. Probably still would, if I spoke to him now.
I don't remember how we stopped "seeing" each other. We wrote for a while, I remember that. He went to university in Nottingham, fairly close to me.
Sometime during all this was when I first remember self-harming. I used a compass (okay, okay, a pair of compasses) to scratch his initials on my left upper arm, deep enough to bleed and scab, deep enough that you can still see the initials in white scars. I don't know why I did it. Maybe to convince myself that I was serious.
I moved to a different school to take A Levels. Made different friends, went out a lot, had a few encounters with guys. One night I was out with some girlfriends, including my new friend Kaz - I was pretty drunk and probably a little stoned and we were in an alternative music bar, listening to the band. I spotted an old friend from school, Penny, and sat with her in the floor for a while. Someone dropped a glass near me, and I picked a piece of the broken glass up and made three cuts into my ankle, in the shape of an asterix, then some random cuts on my left arm (actually trying to cross out the initials). I don't know why I started. Penny tried to stop me, but she was even drunker than I was so she didn't get very far.
Kaz was more successful. She noticed I'd cut into a blood vessel in my ankle, and managed to stop it bleeding using loo roll, and getting me to lie on the toilet floor with my leg in the air. She was scared to death that I was trying to kill myself, or that I was working up to that.
I stayed at her house that night, and she kept me up talking in the kitchen for hours. I was confused and tired and tried to reassure her that I wasn't suicidal, and that I wasn't intending to do it again. She insisted that I had to tell my parents, which I refused because they wouldn't understand and would just go mad at me.
A few days later, at school, she insisted again that I had to tell my parents and threatened to tell them herself if I didn't. Which pissed me off a lot at the time, but I later realised that she was trying to make sure I got help because she was worried. Anyway, we argued, and a teacher intervened and mediated between us. Kaz agreed that she would keep quiet, if I promised to go to see my doctor, and get treatment if necessary.
I did see the doc, who told me that self-harm is quite common and not to worry about it unless I did it again. Things were a little fragile between me and Kaz for a while, much more so when I slept with her boyfriend while very very drunk. In her living room. Oops. Took her a while to forgive me, but we did make up. She like to bring it up occasionally even now, in a jokey way, like when I met her new boyfriend recently and she said "This is X. No, you can't sleep with him." In my defence, I only have vague memories of the event, I was pretty out of it. Anyway.
I didn't cut again for a while. At almost18 I got my first proper boyfriend, Chris, and he asked me not to, so the few times I did it (always with broken glass) I told him it was accidental, and hid them from everyone else. After a few years, I stopped altogether.
Fast forward to age 23. I'd broken up with Chris, started seeing Michael, put up with living with Chris for four months after the breakup while he saved money and found his own place and annoyed the shit out of me, and finally got my own space when he left. I was working in a school by then, as a lab technician, so I had practically unlimited access to broken glass and often cut myself accidentally. I was suffering from moderate-severe depression, and wondered how many visible cuts I'd need to have before someone asked me what had happened - turns out that for everyone except Michael, it was a lot. More than I dared to inflict. I was testing people, it wasn't that I wanted attention particularly, just wanted to feel that other people knew (and cared) I was alive.
On a few occasions, I used chemicals. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide was a good one, because when you apply it neat to the skin it takes maybe 10 minutes to actually hurt, so it can take you by surprise. You can pretend you didn't realise you'd spilt it, if someone noticed. And it hurts a fair bit, a stingy, burny kind of pain, so it's great as a distraction. I was in a lot of mental/emotional pain, and physical pain could make me forget everything else, even for just a second. It sure as hell was better to cry because of a chemical burn, rather than because you feel like you're in some sort of horrible limbo of blackness and despair with only one way out. I didn't want to go on living, but couldn't be bothered to kill myself. Weird to think that I was ever that bad.
Once my depression treatment started working, I stopped with the self-harm. Possibly because I knew that someone else cared at that point. Michael did, and my psychiatric nurse Lisa and my counsellor Mike did. They noticed, but didn't judge.
And I haven't done it since. Nothing worse than picking off scabs before they're ready, or squeezing spots, or scratching mosquito bites. Maybe I don't need people to notice any more.
I don't tell people, generally, that I used to self-harm. Most people don't understand. Either they ask me why (and I don't really have a proper answer), or they sympathise too much. And also SH has become almost trendy in some circles, particularly with goth and emo teenagers - I'm not going to comment on that particularly other than to say that it's a bit like the boy who cried wolf, detracting from the seriousness of the act - when I tell someone I have the urge to qualify it by saying, "But I did it before it was (almost) socially acceptable, I never knew anyone else that did it, I'm GENUINE."
But I guess you guys know me well enough. If you don't understand, to be honest, I don't much care. I'm not here to make everyone happy. I just am.
So yeah. That's where my thoughts took me this afternoon.