The key(s) to happiness

Just because you MOSTLY only write about Christmas music doesn’t mean you are ONLY allowed to write about Christmas music. I was going to tweet this, but it’s a complex and many-layered story which won’t work in 140 character-bursts, so here we are.

It did start out on Twitter, though, when last night I tweeted this from a train that had just left Brighton:

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 12.03.06

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 12.07.15

I mean, everyone knows that tempting fate is a terrible idea, and tempting fate when you’re super-tired and relying on Southern Rail to get you home is an even worse idea. But here’s the thing: all my connections worked! I got to East Croydon in time for the 23.32 to London Bridge and I got to London Bridge in time for the 23.56 to Victoria via Crystal Palace, and I caught a bus from New Cross Gate and I was home not much after midnight. And as the lift stopped on my floor I thought, I am SO HAPPY that I’ll be in bed in five minutes, and then I fumbled my keys and dropped them down the lift shaft.

Have you ever done a proper, filmic gasp? I don’t think I had until that moment. There followed ten minutes of going up and down in the lift, trying to see whether the keys had got caught on something or were hiding on a ledge somewhere. No luck, so I went outside to the concierge and asked if he had a torch I could borrow to shine into the spaces and see whether I could spot them. He didn’t, but he pointed out that I probably had one on my phone. And he was right! I went back and had another look, and managed to see that the space underneath the lift is deeper than I expected, six feet or so, but there, just within the corner of my vision, I could see the glint of what could only be my keys.

So I went back to the concierge and asked whether he had some string and a magnet. Astonishingly he didn’t (you can’t get the staff) but he did have a long pole and some sellotape, so I fashioned a sort of makeshift fishing rod and went back to the lift (my block is across the courtyard from where the concierge lives, so all of this involved a certain amount of back-and-forth in the rain).

Shining my torch into the void whilst being careful not to send my phone the way of the keys, I slid my sticky-ended pole downwards towards the glinting object. The pole caught on something at the bottom – I couldn’t really see at this point – and I ever-so-gently lifted it out, only to discover that the a glittering treasure on the floor of the shaft was actually a piece of plastic wrapper.

I mean, what do you even do in a situation like this? Like, what do you even do? I shone the torch around a bit more but nothing was visible, so I slowly packed up my makeshift fishing rod and headed back out to the concierge, thinking that I’d have to check into the hotel opposite my block and try again in the morning, when I’d be able to retrieve my spare set of keys, which live too far away for a late-night raid and anyway, I didn’t want to call anyone up at that time of night. Fine. Except that I have deliveries coming today, and one of them has a starting window of 7am. Fine, I’ll leave a note asking them to call me when they get there and I can run down and let them i – no, hang on.

Just as I was on the point of giving up I remembered about emergency locksmiths. I Googled. The first result said “£59, we’ll be with you in twenty minutes”. That sounds OK, I thought. I mean, I don’t really have any spare cash this week but I can stick it on the credit card and it’s cheaper than the £89 it’ll cost to stay in the Premier Inn.

I called them up. “£59,” said the man. “He’ll be with you in half an hour.” I waited. After ten minutes I got a phonecall from a different man. “I’ll be with you in half an hour.” I waited a bit more. Eventually a very polite and smiley locksmith showed up, introduced himself and shook my hand. We went inside. “Ah, two locks,” he said. “You know it’s £69 for each one?”

I made a vague, tired attempt at arguing for the extra tenner (the per-lock price, while a nasty surprise, seemed fair enough) and we agreed to disagree for the time being. “I’ll have to drill,” he said. He drilled. It was LOUD. I think my neighbours were all out, because there’s no way the sound wouldn’t have woken them. Either that or they thought there was a monster outside and were wisely ignoring it.

I have no idea how long it all took; I wasn’t paying attention, which is why it came as even more of a surprise when he asked me whether I wanted the cheap lock or the expensive one.

Say what?

“Ah, the price we quote is just for busting your lock open; if you want it replaced that’s more. Do you want it replaced?”

Now, my block is pretty safe, which is one of the reasons I live there. But even so I’m not keen to leave my front door open for anyone who takes the fancy to wander in and out while I’m sleeping. So YES PLEASE I’D LIKE IT REPLACED.

“OK, what kind of locks do you want?”

I don’t know! I’m not supposed to know about locks, you’re supposed to know about locks!

He tapped away into a calculator. “OK, total is £252.”

At this point I was resigned to spending more than I could afford just so I could go to bed, but even then this seemed a bit steep. I protested.

“£200 if you pay cash.”

“I don’t have £200 cash!”

“You can go to a cashpoint.”

No thank you, it’s 2am and raining. And I’m really tired, and as I continued to protest I realised he didn’t want to be here any more than I did, and he probably wouldn’t be seeing much of this money anyway, and I should probably stop being so graceless and just agree to pay. So I did, and we shook hands again, and he went home and I went to bed, and at 9am the next morning the daytime concierge called me and said “I’ve been down into the lift shaft and got your keys, do you want to come and get them?” and I couldn’t decide whether to be sad or glad, but on balance I think the night concierge is probably also not paid enough to be held responsible for solving my late-night problems, and after all I paid with the credit card so it’s not real money, and at least now I don’t have to ring the bank and ask for a replacement dongle-thingy, which was attached to the keys.

And what last night felt like an actually insurmountable problem (“what do you even do?”) went away with the application of (1) a small amount of clear thinking, (2) a credit card and (3) the passage of time, which I think is a lesson to remember, because although of course I am lucky to have had a credit card and been able to pay that much at short notice, it really wasn’t an insurmountable problem and now that it’s gone away my mood is lighter than it would have been if none of it had happened, because happiness is only ever relative.

That said, next time I think I’m an hour and three quarters from my bed I will remember the time I said that and turned out to be four hours and £252 from my bed, and I will keep my thoughts to myself.

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I Do A Lot Of Work For Charity

All my life, I’ve envied people who had a career plan. People who, at school, knew what they wanted to do and were able to pick GCSEs and A Levels that would let them go ahead and do it. I especially envied people who wanted to do a job whose purpose everyone understood instantly – a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a vet. Nobody ever asked those people what they do and then stood around looking politely perplexed when they heard the answer.

I can’t ever remember knowing what I wanted to do. I went to a school where you had to pass an exam and then – unless you did so well in the exam that they gave you a place right away – attend an interview. Quite what they look for in ten-year-olds I don’t know, but I do remember my mum coaching me for the interview by asking me questions that she thought might come up. When she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I thought about it for a moment and then said “a waitress”.

(I was a waitress, for a night, at a pub in West Wickham, when I was twenty-two. My first task was to take two plates of food out to the customers who had ordered them. I checked the table number, checked the table plan on the kitchen wall and confidently walked over to the customers with their meals, only realising as I reached them that I had no idea what was on each plate. “A sort of stew, and…something with meat?”, I asked them uncertainly. I never did another shift at that pub.)

Actually there was one thing I wanted to be, which was a theatrical lighting designer. I did the lighting for all our school plays and I loved it. There was something about being able to make perfect and ephemeral art by pressing buttons and sliding dials that thrilled me, and I also liked being an expert (nobody else was interested in the lights, so I was the only person who knew how they worked). But when I put this ambition to my school careers officer it was pooh-poohed, and I was told that I could work in the theatre as a hobby, but it was important to have a proper job (by which they meant, one that required a degree). I still think I’d have liked to be a lighting technician, although I have become less confident with climbing ladders in the intervening years so it’s probably too late now. You have to climb a lot of ladders when you do the lights.

So I chose the subjects which seemed easiest and most interesting at GCSE and A Level, and I did the same when I went to university, which is how I ended up with a degree in art history. And while I was doing that degree I got genuinely fired up about architecture and urbanism, but I knew I didn’t have the time or money to study architecture so I thought maybe I’d be an architectural writer, but that’s not a thing you can do from scratch. I did a Master’s and in the course of it found myself talking to a retired professor at Harvard University, and ably guided by him I came up with what seemed to me to be a brilliant idea for a doctoral thesis, but I was tired of being skint, so after I got my Master’s I went and got a job instead. And then another job, and another, falling into each of them through friends and friends-of-friends, never with a plan or a prospect or a great deal of enthusiasm. Somehow, accidentally, I ended up being a person who worked in digital media, and then I did it for long enough that I became a person who had lots of experience in digital media, and then I became a person who was head-hunted for jobs in digital media, and all the time I had intermittent bursts of enthusiasm interspersed with long periods of indifference and occasional bouts of active loathing.

And then I started doing the job I do now, which is still a digital media job but is also a charity job, and through it I have met people who work in other charities, big and small, as well as people who are starting their own charities, or branching off from existing charities to do new things, or who have benefited or continue to benefit from the work that charities do – people who have never chased money or glamour or excitement in the pursuit of their careers, but who have instead committed their lives to making the world better in one way or another. And these people whom I once would have thought of, had I given them any thought at all, as worthy, serious people doing work that would never appeal to me; these people turn out to be the most engaging, funny, perceptive, interesting and interested people I have ever worked around. On Friday I spent the day in Hull with some folks who are working on the HullCoin project, which will introduce a virtual currency that can be exchanged for work that benefits the local community, which has all sorts of really exciting social, technological, financial and even political potential, and the passion and expertise and focus that they all showed made me realise: this is work that actually matters, and isn’t that novel and exciting?

So I find myself thinking, maybe this is what I want to be when I grow up. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy birthday to meeeeee

Sixth birthday candle

Gladallover is six today! When I was six I got a new baby sister AND a realistic baby doll, and I can’t remember which I was more excited by. Whilst I don’t anticipate any arrivals of quite that import on Gladallover, you never know; I might find something new to write about. But not today! So in the meantime if you are new, or bored, or amnesiac, you can read my most popular posts of the last six years, in ascending order:

10. A poll on the best Oscar dresses from the 2012 red carpet

9. A post from last week about Beth Tweddle, Twitter and sexist idiots

8. A rant about the Olympics

7. Some musings on the love life of Andrew Lloyd Webber

6. Another rant about the Olympics

5. A link to some stuff written by more interesting people than me

4. Last month’s advent post featuring Lou Reed singing White Christmas (thank you Suzanne Vega, whose Twitter link to that post is entirely responsible for its high placement)

3. A photo of a baby baboon (if you only click on one of these links, I recommend this one)

2. A very old link to Failblog

1. A post about swimming pools. No, me neither.

Perhaps this year I will try to write about football. I mean, don’t hold your breath.

A cautious welcome to the new year

Fireworks
Image courtesy of kimboltonfireworks.co.uk

I’ve been informed that it’s unacceptable, on January 20, for my most recent post to be a “Merry Christmas” one and I suppose that’s true. The problem is that for the last five years I’ve shooed away the musical advent calendar with a new year resolutions post, but this year I decided not to make any resolutions, for two reasons:

1. 2013 was so unpredictable that doing any sort of planning for 2014 seemed like tempting fate. As Baz Luhrmann so wisely said,

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Worrying about whether you’re swimming as often as you should be when you are (for example) about to be homeless seems unnecessary. So, screw resolutions.

2. Oliver Burkeman, whose weekly Guardian column sounds as though it should be annoying but is actually well-researched and thoughtful and elegantly written and useful, pointed out recently that a year is a foolish amount of time to commit to anything for, because it’s so long that you can’t think forward to the end of it, which ties in with the point above about unpredictability. Much more sensible, he says, to set short-term targets, maybe over three months at a time, and let yourself change focus as the year goes by:

In adopting this 12-week perspective we might also finally abandon the futile, misery-inducing notion of “work-life balance”. Nobody can devote enough time, every week, to work, family, sleep, staying healthy and the rest. Telescope your annual focus down to 12 weeks, though, and an alternative suggests itself: seeking balance across multiple “years”, focusing on one or two areas for 12 weeks, while deliberately dialling back on others, then shifting focus for the next 12, and so on. (Neglecting something as important as your career or your health for 365 days feels unwise, but when you know you’ll return to it after 84 days, that’s different.)

So in that spirit, I intend by the end of March to be settled in my new flat (about which more another time; for now all you need to know is that it’s awesome); to know how much money I have and spend less than it, and to start cooking properly again, rather than having some variation on cheese on toast for almost every meal (although I do really like cheese on toast). Those feel like goals which can withstand any amount of battering, but let’s wait and see.

I also want to talk about football, but I don’t want to get you overexcited, so that will have to wait until later in the week. In the meantime, though, feast your eyes on this:

Premiership league table
Sixteenth. That’s SIXTEENTH.

Lose some, win some

On the desk in front of me is a bottle of pills, labelled “digestive enzyme complex”. They are the only visible reminder of one of my less impressive moments: the time I went to a homeopath as a last, desperate resort when I was suffering from terrible heartburn that the usual meds didn’t seem to touch. He charged me £80 for the appointment, during which he wired me up to a machine which he said would pinpoint the cause of the problem, and I seem to recall having to pay another £15 for the tablets – tablets which, I discovered days afterwards, cost £6 at the health food shop on Farringdon Road. (The cause of the problem was apparently mobile phones, incidentally. I expect it usually is.)

Of course, none of it made any difference, and eventually the original prescription of Omeprazole did the trick. But looking at that bottle of pills just now, I started to think “what’s the most money I’ve ever wasted on something I didn’t need, want or use?” That trip to the homeopath is up there, but other candidates include:

  • The Vivienne Westwood shoes which I imported from San Francisco two years ago. They are beautiful, but they don’t fit, so they sit in a box under the bed awaiting the day when I can bring myself to do something with them.
The shoes
The shoes
  • The trip to the hypnotist who was supposed to make me stop smoking. He didn’t. (Though I did do it myself a couple of years later.)
  • The holiday an ex and I had booked before we broke up, for which we couldn’t get a refund on anything – flights, villa, hire car. I tried to hawk it around my friends but nobody could go away for a week at a fortnight’s notice. I am still cross at having missed out on a week in the sun, even though it was technically my fault for running away.

Together they represent about a thousand pounds’ worth of waste. That’s terrible! Except that there is a converse phenomenon, which is things which I have bought that have turned out to be worth way more than I spent on them. Things like:

  • Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, which I hold 100% responsible for landing me my current job as well as the last three, meaning the £9.99 it cost me was actually worth six years’ salary (and counting).
  • The winter coat I bought for £90 in 1999, which I have worn regularly every winter since. That’s fifteen winters and (conservatively) fifty wears per winter, giving an average cost per wear of 12 pence (and falling).
The coat, c. 2006
The coat, c. 2006
  • The Saturday Guardian. Specifically, the Saturday Guardian‘s cryptic crossword, which usually takes me most of Saturday and which – along with a leisurely breakfast and some football in the afternoon – is the high point of my weekend*. The Saturday Guardian costs £2.30, which is the price of half a pint of beer and it’s more fun and lasts longer and doesn’t, usually, give me a headache.
  • My digital piano, which didn’t cost me anything at all (thanks, Grandpa) but which was nonetheless quite expensive, except that I’ve had it twelve years and it’s more like a flatmate than a musical instrument, and if I am ever bored or sad half an hour on it will blow away the blues and set me fair for a new course. I am still not very good at playing the piano, and I’m definitely worse than I was when I used to play properly, but even busking away at a Beatles song is enough to lift me out of all but the darkest funk. (For the darkest funk I need Agatha Christie, but since all my Christies were acquired for 70p a time in the second-hand bookshops of Colchester in the mid-nineties, they also make the list.)

So overall, I think I’m in credit. Which means it’s time to buy some new shoes from Vivienne Westwood! Right?

*I know that makes me sound like a retired member of the clergy. It’s not that I NEVER have more fun at the weekend than when I do the crossword, it’s just that the rest of the weekend is variable, whereas the crossword is guaranteed.

Out with the old, in with the new

Mo Farah

I usually post a list of New Year’s resolutions on December 31, but this year’s resolutions are so boring that I thought I would enliven them with some things to be glad all over about. So <drumroll> these are my personal highlights of 2012, followed by some very dull resolutions for 2013…

In the arts:

Carter USM at Brixton Academy. A lifetime’s dream attained.

John Renbourn and friends at the Union Chapel.

The Flying Medallions at the Grosvenor in Stockwell, and if you weren’t there you’ll never know how good it was.

The Cindy Sherman exhibition at MOMA.

Limmy’s Show S3 was the best sketch show I have seen this century (though you should also watch Burnistoun, which I loved too), and Limmy on Twitter is just brilliant. I have a separate Limmy column in Tweetdeck, so I don’t miss anything. If you don’t follow him, start immediately (and while you’re there, you should also follow the Burnistoun boys – Robert Florence, the God of Games and nicest man in comedy, and Iain Connell, who doesn’t tweet very often but it’s always worth the wait, and yes, Scottish comedy is better than English at the moment).

In sport:

Crystal Palace’s 14-game unbeaten run and continuing campaign for promotion to the Premiership for the first time in years, and only two years after we almost went out of business altogether.

The Olympics and Paralympics, of course. I loved everything, but my favourite bits were the women’s Wheelchair Basketball final, Bert Le Clos, a family day out at the Paralympic athletics and Mo, who was robbed for Sports Personality of the Year.

…talking of which, my own sporting endeavours included running 5K for charity, twice. That’s two-thirds as far as Mo ran to win his brace of gold medals, in just over twice the time.

At work:

The Mind the Product Conference at the Mermaid Theatre in September. Reminded me why I do what I do, and if you work in digital product development you must go next year.

And in November, the Radio Festival at the Lowry Centre in Manchester, which was so much fun that I think you should go next year anyway, regardless of whether you work in radio.

Elsewhere:

I visited a lot of new places this year. I liked them all, but my favourites were Glasgow, Naples and Coney Island, with Edinburgh, Nassau, Dingle and Warsaw close behind.

(I took photos of all of those places, but I seem to have forgotten to upload most of them to Flickr. They’ll appear there one day soon, I expect.)

Honourable mentions go to being married, my new job, my old job, baby Betty and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in years, or in some cases decades (you know who you are).

And here are my resolutions for 2013, which I am putting in the present tense because a man teaching a yoga class I went to recently said that if you want to do something, you should make a resolution to do it now, not in the future. It made sense at the time, though I think I have paraphrased badly.

I watch more films than TV. (This, by itself, will markedly improve the quality of my life, I am convinced.)

I eat fruit for breakfast. I started this earlier this year after reading that your body derives more goodness from fruit if you eat it on an empty stomach. Since my stomach never has time to be empty when I am awake, I decided the solution was to eat fruit first thing. Sometimes I follow it up with porridge or crumpets or eggs on toast, but it still counts.

I floss every day. (Sorry, I know this one is especially boring, but if I don’t write this one down I might conveniently forget it, and it’s probably the most important of all.)

I go to bed by 11pm on weeknights, unless there is a good reason not to.

I cook what’s in the fridge before I buy more food.We’ve been doing this over Christmas, and you get to try nice new things that you wouldn’t have thought of if you didn’t have to use up pak choi, carrots, red pepper and an egg, AND you get to feel virtuous about it, AND when you really don’t have anything in you don’t have to feel bad about ordering pizza.

I leave the camera at home sometimes. I have always taken too many photos, and if I don’t have my camera with me I get antsy, but sometimes it’s fun just to have fun and stop frantically trying to record it all. So sometimes, I will do that.

I think that’s it for now. Last year’s resolutions were all tasks, rather than changes of behaviour, and I did them all, but I don’t think a task really counts as a resolution. You have to do the stuff you have to do, whatever time of year it is. I did make a new set, in February, one of which was “I will go to the cinema more”, a version of which is included every year. But watching more films is easier than going to the cinema more often, isn’t it? Well, I’ll find out.

Happy new year!

Too little, too late?

ian thorpe aquatic centre

I always enjoy reading the search terms that bring people to this blog. The commonest, not including “gladallover” and its variations, are “baby baboon”, “nakheel tower”, “bram stoker”, “phantom of the opera” and “thelonious monk”. In each of those cases, and in most others, I know which post they will have found, and I hope that what they read there was what they were looking for. Sometimes, though, someone ends up here having searched for a very specific piece of information which I know I don’t have, and that always makes me feel a bit sad. So last week, when someone found me by searching

“How wide are the lanes at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre?”

I decided I would find out the answer. I couldn’t find it on the internet, although I did find the measurements for a standard Olympic-sized pool, which I discovered has lanes two metres wide.

(I don’t know why it needs lanes two metres wide, when an Olympic pool is the one pool where you don’t have to overtake slow swimmers in your lane, but there you go.)

But that wasn’t enough. The main pool at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre is described as Olympic-sized, but it has never been used for the Olympics. It might just be fifty metres long and anyway, there was no use in my finding an answer that could have been discerned from the very search that led someone here in the first place. I needed an answer from a more convincing source.

So I stopped looking at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre website and instead I found the link that said “Contact us”, and I sent an email to the address they gave, asking how wide the lanes were. I instantly got an out-of-office reply (it turns out the pool was closed last week after elevated bacteria levels were discovered, so even if they’d been at home, they’d have had more pressing concerns than my question), but this morning I got the following email:

Hi Laura,

I don’t have an exact number but they would be approximately 2 metres wide.

Thea Harrild

Aquatics Coordinator

OK, so it’s not much more confident an answer than the one we found for ourselves, but at least it’s from someone who we can assume has seen the pool in real life, rather than only in glossy photos like the one above, and therefore knows that 2 metres isn’t miles out.

So thank you Thea, and person who searched for “How wide are the lanes at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre?”, please come back. I think I can help now.

Getting Away With It

Ferris Bueller smiling

I’ve said this before (but it’s early in the morning so I’m expecting you not to notice that I’m repeating myself) but there is almost no better feeling than waking up feeling better, after you’ve been ill. A week ago, the day I was due to see Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine at Brixton Academy, I did the Brockwell Park 5K Parkrun and I should have guessed from the pain in my lungs right afterwards that all was not one hundred per cent tickety-boo. That evening, after the show (about which more soon, of course) I had a sore throat but I put it down to singing along and whooping and didn’t worry too much, except that it woke me up a few times in the night so that the next day, the day I had to travel up to Manchester for the Radio Festival, I woke up feeling pretty rotten.

And it didn’t get better! I pick up the occasional cold, but it usually lasts a day or two. This got steadily worse over the course of the week, so that I couldn’t go into a meeting or a talk without ensuring I was fully stocked up with water and Lockets and painkillers, otherwise I was liable to begin a coughing fit that wouldn’t end, or else find my head and face aching so badly that I wouldn’t listen to anything anybody was saying.

My body usually waits for me to stop being busy before it gets ill, for which I am grateful, but this time around it must have decided that since there was no sign of any imminent letup in my busy-ness, it was just going to go ahead. I did two days of the Radio Festival, two days in the office, drinks with an ex-boss, work drinks and dinner with two lovely friends, all in a state that would usually render me bedbound and miserable. I was a bit miserable, but I was also busy and interested in what I was doing, so I could ignore it, sometimes.

But yesterday it reached my sinuses and left me with an excruciating headache as well as no voice, so I decided I would work from home, which was a terrible mistake because it allowed me time to actually be ill. Yesterday was the worst day of all. I thought I might never be well again, and that I would have to cancel Christmas. And then this morning I woke up at 7.30 (instead of 2am and 4am and 6am) with a sore throat and a blocked nose, but only the last vestiges of a cough and no sinus pain, and honestly, it feels like the best gift anyone has ever given me. It’s grey outside and I have chores to do, but this is already an excellent Saturday.

Arrested development

 

John Cleese in Clockwise

This is a historic moment.* I have just checked my bank balance and realised that this month, for the first time in about two years, I will not veer dangerously close to going overdrawn. I achieved this feat by writing down my monthly income and outgoings, subtracting the one from the other and working out how much I could sensibly spend each week, and then doing it. I know! Rocket science.

In celebration of the fact that it’s taken me two years of nearly (and sometimes actually) going overdrawn every four weeks to work out how to stay in the black, here are some more things that it took me ages to figure out:

Just because someone disagrees with me, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. I still have trouble with this one, even though I know it’s objectively true. But when I remember to act like it’s true, I get into less trouble.

It’s fine to bring two pieces of hand luggage. Those warnings about having to pay extra if you carry an extra bag are LIES. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve squeezed everything I needed for a trip overseas into one bag, only to arrive at an airport and find everyone else has merrily brought a handbag, a rucksack, a shopping bag and a laptop case and nobody minds a bit. IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP (thanks Egon): this doesn’t hold true for Ryanair, where you can’t even carry a bottle of water outside your one weeny bag without being told off and charged an extra hundred and twenty thousand pounds.

I am the only person who notices if my nose is shiny. Amazing, but true. I look in the mirror and see the swamp thing, everybody else sees the same person they see when my nose isn’t shiny. I can’t decide if this is good news because I must always look like the person I see in the mirror on a non-shiny day, or bad news because I must always look like the person I see in the mirror on a shiny day. Thoughts welcome, even though I now know nobody cares but me.

You can clean everything with baby wipes. I used to think you needed a different type of cleaning product for every surface in the home. This always felt like too much effort, so I combated the problem by only cleaning things made of glass (because cleaning mirrors is fun). Then one day I used a baby wipe instead of a piece of kitchen towel to mop up a spill, and noticed that the bit of kitchen I’d mopped up was cleaner than all the rest of the kitchen, so I carried on mopping until my kitchen was sparklingly clean, and I’ve never looked back. Just, don’t get the ones that smell of nappies.

Frank Lampard and Jamie Redknapp are cousins. I found this out a year ago and told everyone I knew, and they all shrugged and went “yeah, everyone knows that”.

The Kylie Minogue who played Charlene in Neighbours is the same Kylie Minogue who sang I Should Be So Lucky. Yeah, I know. In my defence I was eleven, but for a good six months I was absolutely convinced they were different people. I even knew what they both looked like.

* Not really, but I can almost never resist quoting Clockwise, even when I should absolutely know better.

Stay in bed, float upstream

Las Vegas

Do you ever have days when everything feels like too much effort; when the outrageous unfairness of all the stuff you have to do weighs so heavily that you can feel yourself grinding to a physical halt?

Standing in a café this morning, I contemplated the free magazine which had just been stuffed into my hand and for which I was now responsible, the change from my breakfast which needed to be replaced in my already-overstuffed purse;  the chaotic interior of the bag from which I would shortly need to retrieve the keys to the office – and I thought O God, I can’t be bothered with ANY OF IT.

There’s no quick fix for feeling like this. Winning a million pounds and going to live on a desert island (my usual cure for everything) wouldn’t fix it, because you’d still have to decide what to wear and when to eat. But one thing that works a bit, because really for a psychological problem what you want is a psychological solution, is thinking about all the things you don’t have to do. Yes, you might tell yourself, I have to reshuffle my belongings and climb a flight of stairs in the next five minutes, but at least it’s warm and sunny and I don’t have to hang up my coat or find somewhere to put a wet umbrella. And you’d cheer up a bit.

On a larger scale, this works even better. Thinking about stuff you don’t have to do is a liberating and joyous experience. You’ve heard of the “bucket list” that people make of things they want to do before they die.You need to be an energetic sort of a person to make and act on a bucket list. For those of us of a more languid disposition, I propose an alternative: a list of things we are happy to go to the grave without ever having done. The “fuck it” list, if you like.

The beautiful advantage that the “fuck it” list has over the bucket list is that once you’ve made it, you’re done. You’re better than done  – you’ve reduced the number of things you need to think about ever again. If life is overwhelming you, make a “fuck it” list today! Here’s mine:

I will never go mountain climbing. I don’t mean the kind where you wear boots and walk up and down hills – I’m happy to do that. I mean the kind where you have to stick spikes into rock and get stuck on ledges and carry oxygen. I like nature and I like views, but there are ways of appreciating both which don’t involve vast amounts of equipment and a significant risk of injury. I am sure it’s wonderful, I am happy for the people who love to do it; I don’t need to join them.

I will never watch Gone With The Wind. It’s too long.

I will never run a marathon. I like running, but not at the expense of doing anything else. Preparing for those things takes months, which could be better spent cooking and watching TV and lying in bed looking at the wall.

I will never run a company. Even more than I am not built for running 26 miles without a meal in the middle, I am not built for 16-hour days or having the power to fire people.

I will never read all of Dickens. I have read Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and half of David Copperfield. I liked them, but not enough to devote the necessary time to reading the others – or even the second half of David Copperfield. There are a million writers out there whom I’ve never read at all: Boz has had his fair share of me.

Counterintuitively, the “fuck it” list is less restrictive than the bucket list. If you are planning the holiday of a lifetime and you have Guatemala on your bucket list, you will feel obliged to at least consider going to Guatemala, even though you really want to go to Las Vegas. The “fuck it” list will let you go to Las Vegas unencumbered by doubt, guilt or other unproductive emotions. Here’s another reason the “fuck it” list is better: removing something from your bucket list because you can’t do it equals failure. Removing something from your “fuck it” list because, as it turns out, you ended up going mountain climbing and it was the most fun you’ve ever had, is a triumph.

With a “fuck it” list, you can’t lose, and you get to stay in bed all day and still be achieving every one of your stated aims. I think I must be a genius.

Ada Lovelace
A genius. Like me.