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Project 52 ’11 3: A List

January 16, 2011

I know this might be slightly out of Artsy’s remit but I’m going to post it any way. You never know, it may even interest you slightly. With an opening that downbeat and self-deprecating it’s got to be worth a read, right?

A while ago I started to make a list of things that make me happy. Not the usual things like spending time with friends and family or things like that. Nothing that everyone enjoys or is generally thought of as being good, but things that for some reason or another I just love and make my life seem better; things that speak to the deepest, most unknown part of me for the deepest, most unknown reasons. And I suppose these are the things that will affect a myriad of aspects of my life including the way I write and what I write about, so not so very far from Artsy territory.

1. Counting the number of buttons on a remote.

I have no idea why I do this or why it makes me happy. I had some training at work recently and something like this is a sure sign of Autism. I don’t think I’m Autistic but there is something about counting the number of buttons on a remote I find comforting. Maybe it’s about being in control and knowing what I’m doing. I don’t think anyone likes the feeling of being out of control and I suppose this is a way of grounding myself and getting control (literally and metaphorically).

I don’t care about how many buttons there are and I usually always forget when I start to watch the TV or whatever device the remote is for. Strangely I don’t count buttons on other things like phones or calculators.

2. Skimming stones.

Some people call it ‘skipping stones’. They’d be quite wrong to. My Dad taught me how to do this in my childhood. It was on one of our many holidays to Abergele in North Wales. My Mum knew a woman with a bungalow there and we went there about six years in a row because we were poor and it was cheap. Back then my Dad was more able to teach me something like this and also to tell me it’s all about the flick of the wrist. Girls, as a general rule, (don’t call me sexist, prove me wrong) cannot skim stones and I think it’s to do with the way they don’t move their wrist before releasing the stone.

I will spend hours and hours on a beach quite happily skimming stones. I remember on holiday once at Combe Martin in Devon, I spent about 2 hours on the beach skimming stones, regularly getting over ten bounces and doing really well. When I left the beach I went to my parents who were sat outside of a pub called The Fo’c’sle (pronounced folk-sull. It’s a corruption of the word ‘forecastle’ and is part of ship. Strange what you’ll remember) and several people were now at the shore copying me and trying to skim stones. We had a great time watching them fail to be as good as I was and only getting a few bounces off of each stone. Made me feel good and I suppose that is one of the reasons I like to skim stones so much. I always connect it with happy times.

After that holiday it took me about 2 weeks to get over the pain in my right shoulder that resulted from me skimming stones so much.

I also remember going to a place called Towers with my school. It was an adventure week with rock climbing, abseiling, orienteering, canoeing and things like that. One of the days we climbed a mountain (either Y Garn or Moel Siabod. I went twice and climbed two. Again, strange what sticks in your head) Half-way up this mountain there was a lake which was a flooded slate quarry. All around there were pieces of slate that were laser-precise flat and just the right size. The lake was completely smooth because the weather was excellent. (One of the instructors said it was the clearest day in Snowdonia for 7 years). Bliss. We were regularly getting over 20 bounces with the one stone and I could have stayed until it was dangerously dark. Actually it was difficult to know exactly how many bounces we were getting because there were so many.

3. Graveyards.

Some people will think this very odd and weird but I just find them peaceful and endlessly fascinating. I love reading headstones and seeing which one is the oldest. If there is one which is old enough you’ll get things like “Heere Lieth…” and nothing on earth makes me happier than that. Language change fascinates me. Next time you happen to be in a cathedral find the board which lists all the Bishops who have been incumbent over the years, you’ll notice that before 1066 there will be names such as Aethelbert and Wulfric, whereas after The Conquest the names suddenly change to John and Peter.

I can’t really reason why graveyards make me feel relaxed. I suppose there is a reason deep in me as there is a reason for most of everyone’s traits. I suppose I’ve been lucky so far as not to lose too many close relatives over the years (not to say I haven’t lost any) and so I haven’t yet developed the negative connotations quite a few people have. Hopefully, as the years progress and more of my relatives die (as they inevitably will), I won’t come to associate them with bad things.

4. When the top of bread is burnt.

Strange. Really strange, I know but out of all the foods I could have listed this is the one which has the most effect on me. I love the taste and the smell and it actually sends a tingle down my back. You’ll often see me sniffing the top of a piece of bread before putting it under the grill (if I ever make you toast, don’t worry; I wouldn’t put someone else’s slice under my nose and befoul it).

Unfortunately supermarkets like uniformity and spend a lot of money perfecting the baking of bread at exact temperatures to turn out exact results every time. Unburnt results. Which is disappointing to people like me (surely I’m not the only one?).

On a recent holiday to Anglesey we bought bread at a baker’s in Beaumaris and I deliberately chose the one with a burnt top. It was some of the nicest bread I’ve ever eaten and it’s why that holiday is one which has given me so many good memories I’ll treasure.

That’s the list (well there are more, which I might share later in Project 52 ’11). It’s actually quite cathartic to sit here and type this and I recommend it to everyone.

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