I had a really funny conversation the other day with my friend Colin who had always wanted to own a Jaguar E-Type. No matter how many years passed, his hopes of ownership stayed strong. Then as middle age was starting to approach he finally treated himself to a test drive in the dream machine. Trying to bend down to fit into the front seat was the first sign that all was not going to go well. The steering wheel was pressing against his legs, he couldn’t see out the (tiny) windscreen and the gears were impossible to use. The drive went by in a blur of tension and discomfort, and the noise was unbearable. He finally came to a shaky stop and extracted himself from the small space and shook his head. The dream was dead.
The story rang a bell. Harvey the campervan was our dream travel vehicle for years. He was so cute, blue and bumbling and adorable, and we were so pleased to finally own one of these iconic beauties. But despite the happy smiles and waves from strangers as we trundled along, all too often the journey was pretty fraught. The engine was temperamental, the seats were uncomfortable and when the wind picked up, it was quite honestly terrifying. One fateful day on the motorway a gust of wind actually lifted Harvey up and set him back down again (thankfully in the right lane) but we were terrified. Not long after that we started to look out for a more solid and reliable van – and Hans came into our lives. The wind doesn’t bother him at all and Chris can even stand up straight in the back.
There’s something about dreams and reality – they don’t tend to match up. We close our eyes and sigh wistfully, but if the real world crashes into the picture it ruins everything. This is quite common, and it probably keeps us safe from disappointment. So why bother even trying to make dreams come true?
But sometimes stepping out of the dream and onto the path can bring incredible reward. Most of you know that five years ago Chris and I fulfilled a lifelong dream to run away in a van for a whole year. Hans carried us safely over hill and dale for sixteen thousand miles to see seventeen countries. And it was amazing. Yes, there were challenges, and it was hard to get going, but in the end I’m so glad we did it. No regrets.
Naysayers be gone, sometimes you can reach for the moon and it stays still long enough for you to hold onto it and bask in its light. What’s your dream?
What’s he from? Did he play the bad guy in that film? I know that face!
Watching a movie in my house is clearly fun (although normally I say this stuff in my head). Sometimes it takes a while but I tend to identify the face pretty quickly. I didn’t know until recently that this is an unusual gift and I’m in a small percentage of people who can do it. It comes so naturally that I never thought about it.
Chris, on the other hand, is the opposite. Even after hours of pondering over faces he can’t pick them out of a line up. This is probably handy if you’re thinking of committing a crime in his presence – he’d never know it was you. Apparently I’m what’s known as a ‘super recogniser’ while Chris suffers from ‘face blindness.’ Takes all sorts…
Super recognisers were identified in 2009 by psychologist Richard Russell who stumbled on the phenomenon while studying prosopagnosia – a disorder in which people struggle to recognise faces, even their own. And then Scotland Yard took notice and set up the UK’s first dedicated super recogniser police unit – the perfect marriage of science and service.
One got away dammit…
Neuroscientists aren’t quite sure why some of us can do this so well, the brain is as elusive as ever. It’s a complex process within the temporal lobe (a region of the brain just above the ear) and sometimes it just works like magic. I can see a face for a fraction of a second and identify it days later. It’s my superpower but I don’t know what to do with it yet, apart from shouting out loudly during movie nights. Who knows, it might reveal its purpose in due time. Shall I contact Scotland Yard?
Since a 2020 TikTok trend (of course) involving ‘putting stuff out there into the universe’ we’ve all been talking about manifesting things to make them happen in our lives. It’s pseudo science, no doubt, but as with most trends there’s something intriguing about it.
I’ve always believed that words have power. Saying something out loud is often cathartic or even painful – it makes things real. Hence the fear around a curse and the relief in a blessing. When words are out, they can’t be taken back. Speaking over someone bears a lot of responsibility and we all bear the burden of taking care of one another (not to mention ourselves).
So surely there’s something in the idea? Here’s a weird one: when I finally started this blog and website in late 2020, I also joined Twitter and took ages pondering what my short bio should be. In the end I chose three words: writer, reader and chocolate-eater. Now what’s weird about that? I hear you ask. Sure everyone eats chocolate. Yes indeed. That’s not the weird part. At that point I was a secret writer and read books as a delicious past time. But fast forward mere months later and I had secured an agent for my writing and got a job with an organisation called The Reader. It was as if I had manifested those two words into my life by writing them down and sending them into the world.
But let’s not get carried away because apparently too much of a good thing is actually bad. Who knew? Psychologists suggest a balance between self-belief and self-delusion. Manifesting can bring nasty feelings of failure and disappointment, or even judgement of others. So the science tells us to watch what we say, remain positive as much as possible and get clear on what we want. Self-fulfilling prophecies are a thing so maybe, just maybe, our hopes and plans will fall into place.
As the New Year settles in I’ve been noticing various trends for newness or openness. ‘New Year New You’ has become ‘New Year Same You’ (much less stressful). I like this idea. January is dark enough without adding resolutions and impossible-to-achieve goals. But lists are fun; they involve pens and nice stationery and make you feel busy and important.
So here’s my New Year list. Hope it’s helpful.
1. Identify your favourite things (cats, books, trees, for instance) and spend more time with them
2. Swing wildly between complete sobriety and clumsy tipsiness. Everything in moderation, remember
3. Say no to events that involve PEOPLE
4. Then feel a bit lonely and regret it
5. Wear whatever you want
6. Then feel a bit self-conscious and regret it
7. Find a cause that you believe in and devote yourself to it - reward from the effort expended is sweet indeed
8. Tell the people in your life that you love them (if you do, that is, otherwise just continue to tolerate them and throw the odd eye roll in their direction)
9. Move around as much as you can - stretch, dance, twist. Your body will thank you
10. Write down secret things. The letter to someone who hurt you (don’t send it, obviously), the journal of deep thoughts, the list of hopes and dreams
11. Read as much poetry as you can handle. But approach with caution: it will magically work its way into the darkest sections of your heart and open doors you thought were long-closed.
12. Find someone to look up to. Think ‘when I grow up I want to be like insertname’
13. Listen to music. But that’s all. Close your eyes and just listen. But see number 11 above and approach with caution (your heart may not be ready to hear)
14. Sit by the fire and congratulate yourself on your many years of acquired wisdom