Saturday, 31 December 2016

How To Survive New Year as an Introvert

Introverting is hard work.   Hiding away and trying to avoid people might not seem like a challenge but, believe me, it very much is.  I am the woman who refuses to answer my door or home phone. In fact, I rarely even answer my mobile phone unless I know who's calling.  My husband tells me I'm terrible on the phone and he's absolutely right.  I see no need for talking when I could send a text message.  Or maybe a carrier pigeon, to get my point across. To be honest, I'm of the introvert category that most of the time I don't even bother *putting* my point across. I don't have the energy for communication that isn't electronic.

Being this adverse to communicating makes Hogmanay (I'm Scottish; this is our word for That Night) a bit of a worry.  Aside from the pressure to do something special, I just really can't cope with having another night of fun when I'm still recovering from all the peopleing I had to do over Christmas.  I need at least a month between events, if not several more.  This is my guide to surviving New Year's Eve as an introvert:

Don't Go Out On The Moors:
Yep, you heard me right.  Stay home, lock your doors, lie on the couch and DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES answer the phone.  Yes, people may think you're horrible and rude but, do you really need those people in your life?  I think not.  Plus, once you spend one NY this way, it's highly likely you'll set a pattern for those to follow.

Set off your own fireworks in the garden and don't invite anyone to watch
Don't Use An Excuse:
Don't feel that you have to tell people you have other plans/are ill/would feel the need to put your bra on if you left the house.  Just say No.  I am the Queen of Excuses and, although they're usually true, I also mostly just don't want to do stuff.  My depression and stomach problems are more than enough to get me out of anything, but even if these weren't an issue, there's every chance I would still be the same.  Stop excusing your introverted ways and take a leaf out of my sister's book.

On Boxing Day, I answered a call at my parent's house from my older sibling.  She has 3 young sons (one of whom was sick) and was knackered from spending the previous days preparing food, wrapping presents and working two jobs.  I took her call to hear her tell me she literally couldn't be bothered coming over for dinner.  She wanted to sit in her jammies and watch football, probably with a glass of Champagne in hand, and just not DO anything.  It amused me that she was so honest.  Between her refusal to go round the houses to tell us she wasn't coming and our completely relaxed and understanding attitute, she knew it wasn't a problem.  This is how I want to be.  And these are the people you need in your life.  But you can't have them because they're mine and I don't do sharing.  Seriously, though: stop excusing yourself.  You don't need to. 

If you don't invite people round, there'll be more Champagne for you...
Have Your Own Party:
As far as I'm aware there's no minimum number of people required in the same space in order for it to qualify as a party.  I am the lone party queen.  Seriously.  I can be found of an evening, dancing around the house on my own, blasting out my music and singing at the top of my voice (I'd like to point out here that I live in the middle of nowhere and that no one else can hear)  This, to me, is way more fun that being stuck in a party dress, eating tiny food and making awkward chat with strangers. 

If you want to introvert on Hogmanay, do it with as many or as few people as you choose. You don't have to be out on the streets of Edinburgh or Cardiff in the freezing cold with thousands of other people.  You don't even have to be down the local pub.  You can simply spend the evening relaxing with close friends and family.  Unless, of course, those friends and family are out on the streets of Edinburgh or Cardiff or down the local pub. Then you might have to rethink your plans. 

Embrace Your Introvert:
You might as well face it: it's the way you are.  If people have a problem with it, it's exactly that: THEIR problem.  Don't make it yours.  This time of year, more than any other, with everyone making promises to change and be better people and all that other crap that gets spouted, why not also make a change? Why not just accept that you're introverted?  You can't help it; you didn't choose it, but it is what it is. Stop making excuses for it and stop feeling bad about it.   Living in a world of extroverts doesn't mean you have to be like them.  it's OK NOT to be like them.  After all, they probably wouldn't want to be like you.  If we were all the same the world would be very boring.  It would also be extremely quiet and we'd all be at home with our dogs, but at least there'd be less fighting, right?  Introverts don't start wars because OHMYGOD the confrontation. 

Whatever you choose to do this New Year, make sure it's YOUR choice.  If you need me, I'll be at home in front of the TV in my jammas, eating rubbish and drinking Champagne with the doors bolted and in the company of my husband.  I can't think of a better way to bring in 2018.  

Happy Hogmanay!

Suz x

Friday, 30 December 2016

The Curse of 2016?

All I’ve heard over the past year is about ‘ The Curse of 2016’. 
From the minute that the general world population was shocked by the death of music icon, David Bowie, back in January, which was closely followed by the passing of Alan Rickman, it seemed very much like it was going to be a long and rather hard 12 months.  A few months later Prince died and the world truly lost its shit.  And it just descended from there.   
Along with the horrendous refugee crisis; the war in Syria; the worryingly odd reports from North Korea, and the general nightmare that seemed to have unleashed itself on so many millions of people, we had the added bonus of rounding off the year knowing that Donald Trump would soon become the President of the United States.    
2016 was SO bad that people actually voted to put a racist, sexist, xenophobic, internet troll with zero political knowledge into one of the highest offices in the world.  Between the collective gasps of sheer disbelief, some of us laughed like hell until it struck us that, although he won't be in charge of OUR country, it is inevitable that his eventual reign will have consequences for us all. 
the curse of 2016
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days and made the comment to my family over Christmas that 2016 had truly been awful.  And then I actually thought about the year in MY life, as opposed to someone else’s, and discovered that it really hadn’t been.   
In early January, me and Les moved into our beautiful old farmhouse, with an acre of land, in the middle of the countryside and I finally had the chance to blast my music as loud as I wanted without anyone but the local sheep being able to hear it.  On 29th February 2016, I proposed to Les in the finest Leap Year tradition and shocked him into being so speechless that he clearly lost the ability to say ‘OHMYGODNO!!’ and therefore said yes.   
We got married in Santa Fe in September; took trips to Devon, Pisa, Florence and Barcelona, as well as a Honeymoon road tripping through the South Western US.  I struggled with my health for the entire year, but it didn’t stop me from starting my first paid writing job back in October and then being offered a second writing position in December, which had been a life long ambition.
When I look back on the year it hits me that I’ve actually achieved a lot. 
For reasons linked to my health issues and my on-going battle with depression, it often doesn’t feel like it and I struggle to give myself a break and pat myself on the back for the things I’ve managed to get through DESPITE the fact that I’ve pretty much felt like Hell for the best part of the last 12 months.   
As always, I look ahead with some trepidation concerning my physical, as well as my mental, health and hope that 2017 can be another step forward.  It remains to be seen whether this will actually be the case, but here’s hoping things will continue to improve.  
As long as I keep taking the meds, what could possibly go wrong?  Oh, and if someone could pop round to Stephen Fry’s house and hold him under armed guard until next December, that’d be just grand.    
Have a very Happy New Year and I hope that 2017 is all you want it to be.

Suz x

Monday, 19 December 2016

A Very Welsh Christmas

This is our second Christmas as residents of North Wales.  We're actually spending it in Scotland because, family is there and it'd be a bit odd if we stayed in Harlech on our own, wouldn't it?  

As a Scot, I'm accustomed to British traditions, which we celebrate with our own twist and I was keen to find out if my Celtic cousins had any of their own interesting takes on the whole Christmas thing.   I wasn't disappointed... 

Jesus wept...imagine this turning up at your door in the dead of night

Mari Lywd - this appears to originate from Southern Wales and involves a horse's skull attached to a pole and hidden beneath a sheet..obviously.   I mean, what else would you do with those three items than take them round the street and terrify your fellow residents? 
Tradition dictates that groups of men will wander around the streets, arriving at doors and being turned away by owners.   THB, if someone turned up at my door, dressed in a blanket  and snapping some horse jaws at me I'd be straight on the phone to the Heddlu (Welsh police).      Get back, weirdos!   This is not Sicily; there will be no Mafia nonsense here, diolch yn fawr. 

holly bush

Holly Beating - yeah, it's every bit as weird as it sounds.   On Gwyl San Steffan (Boxing Day, obvs), the male of the species would cut bits of holly from nearby bushes and proceed to sneak around the village and beat the arms and legs of their female servants, or whoever was the last out of bed on Christmas Day.   So, my little sister would be REALLY sore come dinner time.   Mind you, she'd soon leave a trail of dead Welsh boys in her wake, so we'd have to Ebay all our gift vouchers to raise bail money to make sure she could join us for cheese and biscuits.

creepy apple
creepy as

Callenig -  basically, a callenig is an apple.  Sorry, but it's true.  However, this an apple with a difference, as it's decorated. Yay!  It's a muy glamorous apple, adorned with cloves and perched on a stand made of twigs.  TBH, it's the most fancy apple EVER and would not look at all out of place on an episode of Masterchef, served up with a raspberry foam, lime twill and sheep intestine glaze.   Give a callenig to your friends to wish them good crops for next year.   Because everyone needs good crops, right?

church at dawn
I don't get out of bed this early for anyone.

Plygain - basically, the point of this is to get up really early and go to Church.    Now, I consider most Church services as early starters as, you know, Sundays are for hangovers, but the Welsh Plygain tradition really takes the cake.  

In order to adhere to aforementioned tradition, you need to go to Church between 3am and 6am.  I'm not even kidding.   Basically, it sounds like it would be an IDEAL stop on the way back from the pub, if only it served kebabs.    Maybe the tradition would still be going strong if there was some sort of alcohol soaking grub on offer to entice in some homeward bound revellers... 

To be honest, us Scots have our own fair share of wonderfully dotty traditions and that's what makes us so unique.    Stay special, Wales. 

Do you keep up any ancient traditions in your family at Christmas time?

Suzanne x 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

More Christmas Movies For People Who Don't Like Christmas Movies

Last December I wrote about my slight bah humbug attitude towards Christmas in that, you know, I'm not its biggest fan. I'm not against it in any way; I just really can't be bothered with all the hassle. I'd be quite happy if you left me, vegged out in my pyjamas for two weeks, and just came and ordered me into the shower when it was time to go back to work.

Anyway, I do have to make some effort to fit in with everyone else at this time of year, and I’m not totally against sitting on my backside watching movies. I am, however, not a fan of ACTUAL Christmas movies in the traditional sense.  

Therefore, in the spirit of continuing on from the choices I made for Christmas 2015, I’ve decided to compose another list of movies that are ideal viewing for people who don’t really want to watch movies about Christmas, but still want their families to speak to them.   Last year's list included such classics as Die Hard because obviously and, can see the rest of them here.  Although I will be watching all those amazing titles again this season, I thought I'd update my list a little and find another 5 movies that can loosely be tied to Christmas, but without all the weird fake joy and shit.   

Please don't make me watch Four Christmases again.  

Home Alone:
As much as I'm not a fan of the holidays, I am a huge fan of this movie. It's just too much fun to dislike, despite its sometimes cheesy Christmassy nonsense. You simply cannot beat a small child defeating bungling burglars in the most cruel and painful way ever and not glean some sort of enjoyment from the process. I'm willing to bet this movie was responsible for a huge drop in home invasions circa 1990. Also: how much fun is it to be alone in your house and do what the hell you please?  It's like I've been saying all my life...

On Her Majesty's Secret Service:
Nothing says Christmas quite like shooting and blasting, am I right? And nothing says posh Christmas quite like a bit of everyone's favourite dashing and indestructible spy. In this outing, Bond is played by George Lazenby, who was a very short lived, but nonetheless, thoroughly decent actor.  In the true spirit of Christmas, I'd personally like George to be remembered as the First and Best Festive Bond.

In this snow soaked adventure he battles with bad guy, Telly Savalas, and is joined by the lovely Joanna Lumley for fun and frolics in the freezing cold.  Also: there’s an avalanche involved.  What's more seasonal than that, I ask you?  Nothing, that’s what. 

Iron Man 3:
Not even sorry about including this one. If a movie is *set* at Christmas, it's totally eligible, and this one is (hurrah!). Tony Stark returns of the third instalment in the, quite frankly, greatest super hero, action man type character thing EVER created.  I wasn’t even a little bit upset that they made this one a touch Christmassy because Robert Downey Junior can do no wrong in my eyes and that’s just the way it is. 

In Iron Man 3, Stark returns to fight more baddies along with Pepper and the rest of the gang. He ends up making friends with a little boy who reminds him of himself (can't possibly be a bad thing, can it?) in a town decked out for the holidays with lights and trees and all that other stuff.  However, the inclusion of all this unnecessary seasonal backdrop stuff shouldn’t distract you from the real story of Iron Man saving the world.  Again.   And those arms.   

While You Were Sleeping:
As well as not being a fan of Christmas movies, I’m also allergic to ‘chick flicks’ for the most part.   However, While You Were Sleeping and Juno are my only exceptions. I find it almost impossible not to like Sandra Bullock and, believe me, I have put some effort in to it. 

The draw of this film is that I can totally relate to the main character and the massive mess she gets herself into by not being able to let anyone down.  She somehow manages to be completely endearing and absolutely useless at the same time and I like that.   Although the movie is based around the Christmas holidays it manages to focus on severe head injuries and a web of deceit to keep your mind off it.   And there’s nothing wrong with that in my book.

I promised I’m not turning into an emotional old woman.  Well, no more so than usual, but I did like this movie when I watched it forever ago.  I chose it because of John Cusack, who stars in one of my favourite movies of all time; The Runaway Jury, and decided I’d give it a bash.  Despite its overly romantic and unrealistic storyline, I found myself enjoying it.  Not in the same way that I enjoy Die Hard or anything, but I managed to sit through the whole thing without wanting to throw stuff at the TV.  That's progress in my house.  

The movie is a *touch* cheesy but I can handle watching it once a year and enjoying the spectacle of John Cusack (obviously) and rejoicing in how pretty New York looks in the winter.   

Suz x