What Do You Take For Granted?

Writing

I recently started volunteering at a charity for children with additional needs.  The charity provides free sports and activity sessions to give these children the opportunity to play and have fun as any child should have the right to do. 

 

Having only attended  a moderate number of session so far I can already feel that volunteering is making an impact on me. 

 

I come away from the sessions with so many feelings and questions. 

 

I asked myself on the train heading away from the venue this week – are the children trapped in their own little worlds, or have they escaped the chaos of mine?

 

They won’t experience the world in the way I do, but as my sister rightly said, they may be happy in their life. If born the way they are then they know no other way of living so how can they miss  or be annoyed at not having another way of living? A point I could not disagree with,

 

Volunteering is a humbling experience, I realise how much I may take for granted. If you can read what I’m writing right now then you are privileged as there are still 750 million illiterate adults across the world today. If you can understand these words in English then you are within 20% of the world’s population that can.

 

This is not me trying to play top trumps, I’m not saying that because you and I can read and another person cannot, this makes us better than them, not at all., I simply mean our ability to read is almost taken for granted, we think nothing of it to read signs and books, yet somewhere else in the world a person cannot do this. 

 

We live in a society of ‘I want more, more, more’, we always want more money, more friends, more holidays. And we forget to notice our most fundamental abilities, we take these privileges for granted: talking, listening, reading, writing. All taken for granted. 

 

Being a charity volunteer is a humbling experience, bringing with it an appreciation, a gratitude for many factors of my life which I may have ashamedly overlooked previous to this. Maybe our own lives would be alot happier if we focused on being thankful for the simple things instead of material things.  

Review: The Aeronaut

Writing

Not to be confused with ‘the astronaut’ this eccentric public house also doubles up as a theatrical extravaganza. From circus to stand up comedy and everything inbetween, why be on the moon when you could be poking somebody in the neck with a pickled frankfurter?

 

Atleast this is what I came to realise on my recent escapade to the Acton based watering house this Friday passed. Voted ‘best pub in west London’ by event ticketing website ‘design my night‘, I thought I’d pay it a visit to see if it really did stand up to this accolade.

 

Strolling up on that dark Friday evening with my lovely friend from university – Leo, we entered with great anticipation. Inside, it appeared to my eyes to be something similar to, if you know the scene, in Harry Potter when Professor Slughorn holds a glorious Christmas party in an outdoor tent. Well, this place, with arguably the same amount of magical enchantment donned a similar decor. With crimson and canary pinstripe material draped  throughout the walls of the main theatre area. And as if the outdoor beer garden wanted to adopt this lively pattern too, a continuation of the vividly coloured striping within each heated little cabin in the garden area took form also.

In the main bar section to the left of the theatre area was a spooktacular salute to all things Halloween. I could see clouds of cobwebs as thick as smog, so dense it put my own home’s to shame. I also spotted pumpkins carved into everything under the sun, from self-portraits to spinal cords. Stumbling further through the zany labyrinth I became aware of the volume of two mens’ voices, they were becoming distinctively louder, also equally alarming to the volume was the words they were saying with such conviction. Something like ‘shoot em’ again, shoot em’ again’ I almost froze in fear, if curiosity hadn’t got the better of me I probably would still be standing there now. With my beady eyes and increasing paranoia I turned the corner of the corridor of the pub expecting to see a crime scene infront of me, yet instead the real crime was done on my eyes as I seen before me the cumbersome movements of two grown men banging into the walls and eachother in such animated fashion. Turns out they were wearing VR (virtual reality) headsets playing what looked like some simulated version of Call of Duty.

With the investigation solved, Leo and I returned to the theatre. No sooner had we entered than were we greeted by a granny named Maggie, conversing with us in a thick brogue straight from the highlands of Scotland.. Little did I know soon Maggie would be taking to the stage to do her comedy act.

Before Maggie was to crack a few knock knock jokes, another lady came round to the table Leo and I claimed as our own for the 2 hour performance about to unfold. She asked us how exactly we were related to Maggie. At first her question bewildered me and then I realised oh it’s an interactive comedy, and that’s when the meatsweats started. Maggie the old bat, was part of the onstage comedy trio who would be performing a sketch inwhich the objective of the storyline was that some of the geriatrics would compete against eachother to be lead event organisers of their carehome, and it was our job their audience, soon to be mock family members , to take part in the ‘competition’ also on behalf of our elderly relative.

Leo naturally piped up saying with great conviction that we were to be Maggie’s grandmother, which is obviously a realistic family member to be to an 80 year old. So no sooner had we taken our seats than had the show began with the aim of the game being Maggie’s family would compete with Arthur’s family (the other old guy) in a range of interactive tasks in a bid to help their elderly relative win the coveted role of event planner.

The interactive activities included seeing who could wrap their partner up in a full roll of cellotape the fastest, guessing whether sausage or a finger poked you in the back of the neck (I had the pleasure of taking part in this one,  getting poked by some stranger’s sausage), putting tights on your partner without them using their hands the fastest and then consequently seeing how many objects you can stuff down those tights on your partner (someone got a chair leg in and suspended the chair in mid air, that must’ve hurt the crotch).

The winning team at the end got a bottle of Prosecco, and the fact that we went away empty handed is evidence that Arthur’s team won.

Would I go back again for a rematch? Definitely!

 

The only thing is, which is both good and bad about The Aeronaut is that their lineup of performance acts can vary so you may not see the same act twice. I guess what they give is a taster, an exhibition of quality talent, that if it impresses you enough you’ll go see them again wherever they perform.

I’ve booked my tickets for their upcoming comedy night, called ‘sketch n scratch’. Reminds of another saying involving scratching……

If you’re ever in Acton give them a chance to make a fool out of you, I’ve no doubt you’ll thank them for it!

 

We All Do This…

Writing

Creatures of habit, copycats, primitive minds, call us what you will. The bottom line is that there are just some things we all can’t deny we’ve done atleast once in our lives, wouldn’t you agree with the below:

 

  • We’ve looked away so abruptly that we’ve almost given ourselves whiplash, so to make it obvious that we aren’t watching the person ahead of us at the checkout entering their pin number into the card machine.

 

  • We’ve let one go out in public and purposely played it off by giving our neighbour daggers so nobody thinks it was us. 

 

  • We’ve scurried around the supermarket aisles like some badass ninja playing peek-a-boo, all to avoid that formidable awkward encounter with the person from work/school who we don’t really like.

 

  • We’ve agreed in our own minds to completely avoid a person for eternity all because we didn’t have the balls to ask them to repeat their name for the 3rd time, so we’ve concluded that ever having to say bye to ‘mr. anonymous’  would just be too awkward.

 

  • We’ve all had to reread what we’d just read because we weren’t paying attention to what we were reading.

 

  • We’ve all been freaked out at night when home alone, don’t deny that you haven’t checked the doors are locked and looked under your bed for the serial killer. 

 

  • We’ve all used our fingers to do simple arithmetic.

 

  • We’ve all followed google maps on our phone, only to quickly realise it’s bringing us the wrong way. Haven’t you tried to play it cool by pretending to look in a shop window before abruptly making a u turn? Or are you one of those people who just attack the right-turn with conviction while muttering how sh*t google maps is under your breath?

 

It’s safe to say you’ve done at least half of the above, if not you’ve lived a very sheltered life and I feel sorry for you. 

 

Stress: The Real SERIAL Killer

Writing

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.

 

The link between mind and body is far deeper than we may have realised. You only have to listen to Ted’s Radio Hour episode entitled ‘Hardwired’ to come to the stark realisation that stress and how we respond to it plays profounding roles on the biology of our bodies, right down to the cellular level. From changing the number of white blood cells  (immunity) in the bloodstream to affecting important DNA systems, the onset of stress can be deemed beneficial in short bouts but staggeringly damaging if prolonged.

 

“People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” — Epictetus

 

I write about stress today as I recline on my couch with a cup of tea in my hand, I’m overcome with the sensation of a pain in my lower stomach I soon come to realise is the release of tension I’d been carrying around all day. My shoulders lower, my jaw relaxes. My body deals with stress by tensing up, perhaps yours does too. I doubt anyone enjoys these sensations despite people saying they flirt with fear for the ’kick’. Perhaps they do momentarily but I doubt they want that affair to become full-blown mariage! As my body begins to relax, my mind starts to wonder – why am I so stressed, what effect is this having on me?

 

The Cause

Stress can enter the arena of our lives from a range of areas. From both internal and external sources, be it our own thoughts, the relationships we have with others, and our work environment to name but a few.

With stress mounting from various locations, it begs the question, who’s duty is it to alleviate the stress? Society? Your loved ones? Yourself?

Not pointing fingers but to not tip toe around the point of how stress-inducing the workplace can be. With the study conducted by Mind, the mental health charity, showing that 1 in 3 of us find worklife either quite or very stressful, that workplace stress has lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts. We therefore can’t shy away from the problems with worklife structure.

As much as stress comes down to our own perception of it, our internal coping mechanism, I so too believe that certain (external) facilitators in reducing the levels of stress experienced in our environment should be implemented. Specifically in that of the workplace. Do you think the same?

Another reason I wanted to write this post was to share with you the benefits I felt when my workplace did just that. I work for a TV broadcasting company and to my surprise they arranged for a handful of fortunate individuals to gain a  dose of ‘puppy cuddling’ (paws for life). Chosen by signing up on a first come first serve basis I was so pleased when informed that I’d gotten a place. Losing 30 mins of my time from work meant the company and I both actually benefited. I went back to my desk with a buzz and was alot more productive for the remainder of the day.

 

As you can see below:

 

 

What does your workplace do to reduce stress levels in your life?

And the even bigger question – what do you do personally to reduce the stress in your life?