Saturday, January 17, 2015

95 Days of Happiness

It is believed that by taking photos of things that make you happy (every day for 100 days) you will improve your mood, become more optimistic, and, intriguingly, receive more compliments. Does it work? Let's find out! (Or go to part 1 to start at the start).

Day 92

It was the night before moving into my new flat. The old flat was an orderly mess of cardboard boxes, cupboards were bare, tempers were frayed.

We needed to get out for a bit, so Jen and I went round to Anna's for pizza, beer, and Apprentice.

Note that 'Apprentice' doesn't mean the dire American travesty, but the hit UK series. It's got some value as a set of business case studies, there's a serious message behind it, and the editing is superb.

But of course, people watch it for the idiots.

This guy's name is Giles, spelled with a 'Ch'. He chose that suit of his own free will!

Idiots who believe they are the best and brightest young business people in Britain. They say things like 'I'd sell ice to the eskimos' but when under pressure they offer 99% discounts and high-five each other to celebrate the sale. They say things like 'I smashed that presentation!' and are confused when it is pointed out to them that the audience hated it and didn't place any orders.

It's a brilliant show to watch in a group because not a minute goes by that doesn't provoke laughter, gasps, or a full-body cringe. 

So entertained and distracted was I that by the end of the episode, I'd totally forgotten the stress-filled day that lay ahead. Fortunately Jen was on hand to remind me. "Tomorrow," she said, "is going to be a dick."

Day 93

The move was awful, yet barely anything went wrong. I can't imagine how it feels for people whose delivery trucks don't turn up, whose new flat doesn't have a lift, and all that. Even in the best case scenario it takes as much out of you as an embalmer.

When the movers were finally gone and we were alone in our new world, Jen curled up into a ball on the floor and started snoring.

I walked around rubbing my cheeks onto all the surfaces, then set up my PC so I could play my new obsession - Rimworld.

Rimworld is very much like real life, but instead of watching in horror as an elderly Turkish man buckles under the weight of your girlfriend's ornamental treasure chest - actually, never mind, Rimworld is nothing like real life.

It's a charming, addictive game where you control some everyday people who are marooned on a remote planet. It's a bit like Robinson Crusoe, except the colonists have psychological traits like 'nudist' (they get grumpy if you make them wear clothes) or 'prostophile' (if you cut off their arms and give them a bionic replacement, they'll be ecstatic).

This picture is not a typical scene from the game - it's actually my new flat. I had my colonist dudes build it so I could plan where to put the furniture. 

Bottom left is the entrance, to the right of which is the bathroom. All the gaps around the edge are windows. (Buildings in Rimworld don't have windows yet - the game is still in development.)

The room on the bottom right will be my office. Above it is a 'loggia' or winter garden (Basically a conservatory, but on the 7th floor). The battery thing next to the 4 stools symbolises our TV and sofa. The 'Stomp' character represents Jen and her crazy loud footsteps.

Who says games are a waste of time?

Day 94

I woke up in the new flat for the first time, and opened the window. It was really, really quiet. So quiet that I could hear cowbells in the distance. Cowbells! From a farm! Instead of thumping bass from shitty car stereos. Instead of barking dogs!

My new neighbour

I felt incredibly refreshed and relaxed, and Jen and I took a tour around our new domain, discussing where we were going to put things. I pretended to agree with her, because I knew that she'd be away for the weekend and I'd be able to do exactly what I wanted. After all, I'd been practising my organisational skills on Rimworld. Jen wouldn't know where to put a defence turret so why should I let her choose where the sofa goes?

I mentioned how incredibly quiet it was compared to the old flat, and we looked for other points of difference.

Me: "The dishwasher doesn't just push dirt around the plates, it actually cleans them."
Jen: "It's nice having our own washing machine and dryer instead of being allowed to use the communal one once every two weeks."
Me: "The bathroom fan isn't noisy so you can relax in the bath with the light on."
Jen: "The landing doesn't smell like piss."

Day 95

I told my brother I had just finished binge-watching Breaking Bad and True Detective and was in the market for a new show.

"Oh, that's easy," he said, while taking a duck-faced selfie. "Gogglebox."
His delivery was like the man in The Graduate who says 'plastics' - as though the word explained itself. In my opinion, it didn't, so I asked, "Gogglebox? What's that?"
He eyed me with pity. "It's a show where you watch people watch TV."
"You... watch people watch TV? Seriously? And that's it?"
"Yes." Then he repeated the word Gogglebox, this time like he was Orson Welles.


It sounded like something stupid to put on that would annoy Jen, so I gave it a go. But after five minutes we raised our eyebrows at each other - it's bloody brilliant! 

People watching TV

It's my new favourite thing. 

You get a clip of the TV show that they are watching so you know what they're reacting to, then you see the goggleboxers laugh, cry, complain, and discuss. Inevitably, you react to their reaction, whether that means tears or tearing into politicians. 

Example: today they were watching the news. It had a report about desperate migrants trying to get into Britain via the Channel Tunnel. The poor sods were sneaking onto the axles of trucks and clinging on for dear life. There was hidden camera footage; it was appalling and terrifying.

The various families and friends discussed it for a few minutes, but the final word fell to 14-year-old Amy. "Well," she said knowledgeably, "if they're willing to risk their lives like that, it just goes to show how bad things are in Calais."

Must watch. Two thumbs up.

Progress after 95 days:

Mood: Uprooted but happy

Compliments: "Are you still playing that stupid game?" "You forgot to do this section on the last post." "Everyone says you're a brilliant teacher."

Optimism: Running wild with expectation on the edge of the unknown

Monday, January 05, 2015

How to Not Die Like Bob Marley

"In July 1977, Marley was found to have a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe."

So Much Trouble in the World

"Now they sitting on a time bomb. Now I know the time has come."

I was slapping my belly in front of the bathroom mirror (I'm unsure whether to describe this as a hobby or a ritual). I put my hands on my hips and let my gut hang out, and turned sideways to admire my bulbosity. My gaze was drawn to a weird patch of skin on my back. It looked like a bunch of rotting Christmas sprouts.

I sighed. "Probably should get that checked out," I said.

Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)

That was in 2009.

Once a week for the next 5 years I did and said the same exact thing. Every time I either forgot or chickened out. There were always other demands on my time, and what if it was bad news? 

"Shoulda come earlier, fool! Now we gotsta amputate youz back.  You ain't getting in no plane."

I wasn't sure I could deal with that kind of news. So I did like Bob Marley:

Forget your sorrows and dance!
Forget your sickness and dance!

(Eventually I found enough time and courage to make an appointment.)

Could You Be Loved

The dermatologist told me to hop onto the examination table. She peered at my moles through a special device that looked like a cheap toy. After three seconds she breezily said, "No problem there!"

Huh? I'd been worrying about nothing the whole time?

"Now turn over and let me check out your legs." I briefly considered refusing. After all, didn't Bob Marley once say 'don't let them rearrange you?'

The doctor spent a long time peering at some insignificant freckles. Then she took even longer studying a bruise on my foot I'd gotten playing football. "That's just a bruise from football," I said.

"Ha!" she laughed. "That's what killed Bob Marley!"
"Excuse me?"
"Bob Marley had the same exact bruise as you. In his case it was a melanoma. He thought it was an impact from football. It killed him."
She was so delighted that I didn't really know how to respond. I was also unsure what melanoma meant. I was thinking about 'melanin' - the harmless pigment in skin. How would that kill anyone? "Er... so what... er what?"
"This will have to come off," she said, indicating my foot. "This too." She pointed to a tiny black dot on my shin.
My foot! I needed that for picking up the remote control when I'm on the sofa. And my shin! I needed that for bumping into coffee tables. "Just to clarify, what do you plan to remove?"
"This." She waved.
"Be more specific."
"This little freckle thing. It is, how do you say in English?... suspicious. And that one. To be sure."

Iron Lion Zion

A quick look on Wikipedia suggested she'd got the Bob Marley story wrong, but whatever. The operating room contained a massage table and not much else. 

The only decorations were the knives that would slice up my beautiful flesh.

I tried to be iron like a lion in zion, but was more frightened than a bison in Brighton.

My worries were misplaced. The anaesthetic injections were painful, but I didn't feel the knifework and the stitches were painfree, though weird and icky.

"Don't shower for two weeks," she told me as I hobbled out.

"I wasn't planning to."

Nice bit of blood oozing out there

Wake Up and Live

The dermatologist gave me the results of the biopsy. It took a while because she didn't know any of the relevant words in English. Eventually I just said, "Is it cancer?" and she said no.

Get Up Stand Up

The lesson here is probably something like 'check your skin and if you see anything weird go see a doctor.' Or perhaps the real lesson is 'don't try to shoehorn a Bob Marley theme into a text because it's hard to do well.' 

But the message I'm ending on is: 'There's no point checking your skin because you don't know what to look for, so just go to an expert and let them do it. Oh, and do it right now.'