Sunday, 26 April 2015

Small things.

As I started to reassess my writing style, I  thought about what I liked doing - what gave me satisfaction - and realised the primary one was just... pointing at things. Pointing out things I liked, and showing them to other people.
... However many terrible, rankling, peeve-inducing things may occur, there are always libraries. And rain-falling-on-sea. And the Moon. And love. There is always something to look back on, with satisfaction, or look forward to, with joy.
~ Caitlin Moran

This week was a good week. 
I struggle at times with recurring mental and physical health problems - and some days are easier than others. This week was one of the better ones. So I started to write the list below - which grew quickly, and made me feel very happy. 
I have some pretty bad days, still, and it's good for me to be reminded of the beautiful things in my life - the tiny joys and small wonders.
 So here's some small things that made me really happy this week, and kept me afloat. 

1. Receiving a surprise lemur card (filled with glitter) in the post from my Mum. This made me incredibly happy :) 

2. This post from The Bloggess, on depression and hope.  I found this to be very moving - partly for its bravery, and partly as it's always hugely comforting to know that others can be in the same headspace as you, and you're not weird or stupid for feeling fragile, even when life is generally good. 
But I mainly loved it because of the comments beneath. Jenny asked her readers to comment, and to tell her '...something good. Something you’re proud of. Something that makes you happy.'
And they did. Over 600 comments were posted.  They had me in happy tears. These are some of my favourites, but they're all well worth running through:

My Kickstarter tarot cards are doing really well! Which means yes, money, always needed, but also that people, most of whom AREN’T EVEN RELATED TO ME think my cartoons are worth cashy money. This is very exciting.

I’m almost half-way through making all the pieces to a giant weird ceramic totem pole that I’m going to put up on my front lawn and scare the neighbors. Making it makes me very happy and nervous that it might not work out but I do it anyway because I like the happy part more than the scary part.

i’m normally 5’2 and today i’m 5’7 because I have amazing shoes, and the very best part is that I havent fallen a single time.

I have thick legs. They make me a little crazy because I’ve always wanted to have long thin gorgeous gams. Last week I was snorkeling with my husband and he was following me in the water. After we got out and were drying off he said, “You are such a strong swimmer! When you would see something and take off I had a really hard time keeping up!”
Because of my thick legs. Because they are thick with muscles.
So now I know if I am out snorkeling with a group of people and we see a shark I can out-swim most of them and not become dinner. So I totally have that going for me now.

I started taking fencing lessons and it makes me feel like a badass pirate.

Next year I’ll be celebrating 20 cancer-free years! I was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer when I was 25, and I won’t lie, it was ROUGH. But I’m happy and healthy and that [insert your favorite, most breathtakingly offensive word here] cancer hasn’t shown its face since. There were so many times I just wanted to give up, especially since the next two years were awful as well, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Things can always, ALWAYS get better. I promise.

Last week, my youngest son told me that he didn’t think the tooth fairy was real anymore. I started to feel a little wistful and sad. But then he told me he had figured out that instead of the tooth fairy, there was an underground village of very rich people who were nocturnal. At night, the tooth under his pillow rolled out and into the air conditioning vents and down into their village. The underground folks had special machines that could then extend out of the vent and deposit a coin under his pillow. He doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy anymore but he believes in something even cooler.

i remembered to get out of bed this morning.
I made it to an aqua aerobics class.
My 12 year old asked if I had a copy of hitchikers guide to the Galaxy and a towel.

On Friday, I get to dress up as a unicorn and perform aerial work to accompany a musician I really, really like.

3. My cat being uncharacteristically sinister.
Grand High Evil Genius Cat watches all from above, and surveys his kingdom. 
I can see you, minions. 

4. Wanting to gift this to my 14-year-old-Harrison-Ford-obsessed self. (Mind you, my 37 year old self still appreciates it very much too.)

5. Spending Tuesday in solitary happy calm in Manchester:
 I walked in the glorious sunshine through teaming city centre crowds..... admired shy purple and white blossom erupting on willowy trees..... bought healthy ethical edible goodies at the 8th Day Cafe/Shop .... admired my sales assistant's beautiful tattooed arms and rainbow garments...... learned about Easter Island sculptures at Manchester Museum...... watched tiny jewel-like frogs in their Vivarium navigating rich rainforest leaves...... green and blue lizards darting along walls like quicksilver....... a small dragon dozing blissfully with its claws wrapped casually round a branch...... said hallo to my favourite resident - the bejewelled and stately chameleon........ Then sat on a bench in the sunshine with strangers and watched people drift out of activist tents that had been pitched in the town square..... sipped Elderflower cordial and read Amanda Palmer and felt the sun on my shoulders and the bustle of the city whizz around me .... found a book about the adventures of an underwater tiger.....

And came and sat in the Royal Exchange and drew. Even with scaffolding up for necessary repairs, its still one of the most stunning and serene places in the world.

6. Reading Amanda Palmer's exquisitely honest and perceptive book, and going yesyesyes over her recollections and observations from time spent as a human statue (street performer) - and of the unspoken connections that are made with those who passed by:
...What I hadn't anticipated was the sudden, powerful encounters with people - especially lonely people who looked like they hadn't connected with anyone in ages. I was amazed by the intimate moments of prolonged eye contact happening on the busy city sidewalk as traffic whizzed by, as sirens blared, as street vendors hawked their wares and activists thrust flyers at every passerby, as bedraggled transients tried to sell the local homeless community newspaper to rushing commuters...where more than a second or two of a direct, silent gaze between strangers is usually verboten.
My eyes would say:
Thank you. I see you. 
And their eyes would say:
Nobody ever sees me.
Thank you.
(My human statue friend Alberto - taken on the afternoon that we first met.)
This brought back all sorts of happy memories of times I spent in Covent Garden, with three human statue friends (one silver-painted, one gold, one white), and of quietly watching the beautiful, subtle, intimate-yet-fleeting connection they formed with their audiences.

7. Watching this interview, with Ian McShane (at 5 mins 48) doing a silky impression of Richard Burton coveting his breakfast, and really, really looking forward to the prospect of eating a plate of kippers. Ooooooh, kippers - I love kippers.
And at 8 mins 14, of the same clip, Ian having a gorgeous hearty laugh at his younger self being awkwardly earnest during the chorus breaks of Avalon.

8. Finding one of my all-time favourite paintings again in the Walker
Although it's currently hung very high up on a wall, which restricts your view somewhat, there's something amazing about seeing the painting itself, and admiring the brush strokes, the texture of the oils, the light and the colour.
Here's the original. It's even more magnificent in real life.

9. Starting listening to my epic 44-hour audiobook of It, by Stephen King again, after a long period - and finding myself all surprised and moved (and scared) by the bits I'd forgotten. And remembering why Steven Weber is one of the all-time best audiobook readers I've heard - his wonderful, multi-voiced narration is not only compelling and inventive, but also by turns tender, playful and vivacious. 
(And he does all the voices. For eight key characters, and for countless others. All completely different, and completely believable. Which is no mean feat.)

10.  Hearing that my bookshop was featured in a list of reasons why Liverpool is totally and utterly ace

11. Rediscovering Gabriella Bir's Dance All Night video

This is another little gem from Jenny The Bloggess - who wrote  about her young niece Gabi, - and includes her self-made music videos, which are simple and sweet and incredibly uplifting. In the second of the videos, on a street decorated with amber and scarlet autumn leaves, Gabi wears a white tutu and sturdy boots, and dances an unselfconscious, ragged, twirling soft-shoe shuffle with her lacy parasol. It's really lovely - and wonderfully joyful.

12. Getting up at a reasonable hour every day this week and doing stretching exercises and a small workout. This is after two nights of getting only three hours sleep (due to bad insomnia), and a few weeks of bad-health-related recurring fatigue, so felt like a real achievement.

13. Finding curious and intriguing things at the Victoria Gallery and Museum.

And not being able to resist trying on a fez in the children's dressing-up area, while the curator wasn't looking. 
(And then pretending to be Doctor Who. Fezzes are cool.)

14. Making myself smile when I realised I'm harbouring secret hopes of one day turning into Lix Storm or Bel Rowley
Or if nothing else, being as brilliantly bold, eloquent, and brave as either of them. 
(Yes, they are both fictional characters from The Hour. But that doesn't stop them being marvellous.)

15. Receiving excitable greetings and big bearhugs from a friend's rambunctious 9-year-old triplet boys, when they came to visit my bookshopAnd marvelling at their insatiable, delightful inquisitive natures. Everything in my workplace was fascinating, and had to be investigated and questioned and exclaimed over and played with. 
It was an apt reminder to retain that generosity of affection - and a sense of curiosity about the world - long after we pass 9 years old. They're beautiful qualities to keep.

16. Where the Hell is Matt?
This is the third (I think?) of Matt Harding's uplifting, celebratory dancing-around-the-world videos, and I think it's his best yet. It's one of the most joyful things I've seen on the internet, and shows how - in spite of cultural and language differences - we really are all just the same. 
All these people coming together, to dance. Or bounce, leap, or cheer. 
(I think the Hungarians have the niftiest moves... or maybe the Rwandans.... although I do like the Hungarians' hats.)

17. Very nearly finishing a new illustration.

Now, let's see what next week brings.


  1. Very well written Cate. You write well

    1. Thank you, Usha! :) I feel like I'm still getting the hang of writing, but its hugely enjoyable. :)