The Miracle That Is Miranda Hart

Today we are completely and utterly off topic. And that has a reason. Yes, of course it is the last day of the year 2014 and we can all reflect and make resolutions and kiss the ones we love at midnight. But that is besides the point. There is a last day of the year every year, there has always been and will always be. Nothing to get too emotional about (although, of course, it is a lovely occasion to get teary and melancholy, but all within reason).

What I am talking about today is much bigger. It is the end of an era. And what an era! It was so filled with joy and fun and embarrassments. Today, my chums (you’ll get this soon, I hope), is the day that the final ever episode of Miranda will air. Now of course, you might not know what ‘Miranda’ is exactly, but you have gathered that it must be some kind of show on TV or the radio. Most likely, you will think “oh no, another one of these crazy TV fanatics, go get a life”, and usually I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Not today though.

Those of you who know the sitcom will know what I mean. It is hardly just a show. It is a lifestyle, and what a lifestyle. Tho those of you who have not seen or heard of such a thing ever: Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) go on YouTube and look for a trailer or a funniest bits kind of thing. Please, gain full access to the first season (maybe stream it online illegally, download it from some kind of cloud, buy/loan/steal the DVD, rent it – how would I know how you roll with these kind of things?) and start watching the first episode.

Now you will likely also end up watching the next episode and the next, but no worries, the worst-case scenario is you watching 14 episodes with a length of 30 minutes, which is a mere 7 hours of your life.

I have found someone who shares my enthusiasm for this British splurge on the distant shores: A lady called Carmen Croghan. She describes very well the appeal of the show, but watch out newbies, there are some huge spoilers. Also interesting: You can watch Miranda on hulu and Acorn TV (whatever that may be – rhyme!!).

So the question still open is ‘Who the f*** is Miranda?’. Well, ‘Miranda’ is the central character, a quirky unique and extremely lovable woman in her thirties dealing with the struggles of everyday life and social awkwardness. ‘Miranda’ is also the first name of Miranda Hart, a hilarious 6ft 1in British comedienne and actress, who, incidentally, portrays Miranda in the show and is also the writer and creator.

So although we will be able to enjoy Miranda Hart and her genius mind frequently in the future (she’s doing stand-up, will be hosting a new edition of the Generation Game plus she landed a role in a Hollywood production starring Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy), this sitcom, which is the perfection of her stage persona and so so funny, entertaining, relateable and so so good, will come to an end after today’s episode (there were three seasons – 6 ingenious episodes each, plus one episode on Christmas day, which left us with an incredible cliffhanger). Such sad times. And such NOT fun. But everything must come to an end (although I prefer Brian May’s stance ‘show must go on’…).

I sincerely hope you will share my love for this microcosm of odd habits and I with you all the best for the next year!

B x

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Do Good, Be Good… ?

Christmas is over now for real. Generally, that means we stop giving presents and focus on our New Year’s resolutions. But sometimes a wee bit of ‘giving’ sneaks in to this list of goals that we abandon before February begins – we want to volunteer or be nicer to others to make ourselves feel better.

Instinctively, we frown upon this ‘selfish altruism’. But isn’t altruism always also selfish? Anyone who had biology at school learned that animals show altruistic because ultimately it benefits them (I’m thinking vampire bats and boobies). And even those who don’t believe in evolution and instead call upon God(s) for answers do good in order that they get away pleasantly after death.

So, as you might have guessed, especially if you have been following my Happiness Project, I have a personal reason for all this philosophy: It will be part of my resolution. ‘Doing good’ is a broad field, though. And we all have a different image of what it means. My definition, I must admit, is a bit cloudy. This will not be an obstacle, I have simply narrowed it down, following the example of Gretchen Rubin.

I want to be generous. This is something that, in some situations, comes natural to me. I love to give gifts, I love to share music I love with the people I love, and all that. In other respects, it is harder. Especially when I am in a bad mood, I find it hard to give other people their due and ideally a bit more than that. But, fake it till you make it has always been my strategy, which also coincides with on of Rubin’s truths: Act like it till you feel like it (or something like that). Now I am not aiming to just donate some money and make a tick on my resolutions chart, I want it to make me happier and improve my relationships. As a consequence, I will have to learn to let people in the supermarket go first, listen to my friend when all she talks about is her boyfriend (who is lovely and makes her really happy), stop resenting people for changing and moving on and try to think of what I can do to make the lives of the people around me more pleasant.

As you see, trying to be more generous sounds like an excellent exercise for me to be more empathetic, pleasant and kind. When I call it an exercise, it is really an experiment: Will my conscious effort to be more generous have an effect on my unconscious behaviour?

We shall see.

B x

Blogosphere And Wills And Ways

As part of her happiness project Gretchen Rubin launched a blog. This was part of my inspiration to revitalize a blog I had started while without internet (who has an idea like that? Read it here) but not continued regularly – this blog. So now, as part of me mirroring that lady’s resolutions, it is time for me to use this as a pit stop and reflect upon how it is going.

Well, I guess, once you have you blog all set up, all you need to do is write, and, if you’re lucky, there’s people out there reading what you are writing. But, let me tell you, the first steps aren’t that easy when you’re new to the blogosphere (I hope people don’t actually use that as a word in real life), it is pretty confusing. What I have learned: The settings are your friends. Many problems get resolved if you just go through them once from beginning to end.

Apart from that, I am sort of having an odd start into daily blogging, because I started a week before I left uni for Christmas break and I knew I would not have time to write a blog post daily, yet I was not ready to fail my resolution to ‘blog daily’ every single day for over two weeks. So, what did I do? I though of some more or less things I could write about and then I wrote all of the posts in advance, scheduled them and left the blog to itself till I returned to Germany. Well, at least that was the plan. Turns out it’s not that easy to write fifteen blog posts in very little time especially when, like me, you have a tendency to write long elaborate sentences. So I am now halfway into Christmas break and I’ve managed to post daily, although I didn’t really have the time, and am now writing the last few posts so that I can finally lean back and fulfill my responsibilities towards my friends and family.

But, as they say in German ‘Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg’ (where there’s a will, there is also a way), and I will manage to keep this one resolution. And I am also extremely blessed to have readers from four different continents (where are you, Africa?!), people who actually read what I write!!!! So, yes, going strong. And I intend to continue this streak.

B x

I Love You The Most When We’re In Different Places

So, after a few days of posts of things I like, I’m now back to reflecting upon my happiness project. As it is still more or less Christmas, I have chosen today to ponder upon a topic that  we all seem to forget until this time of the year: kindness. Okay, I guess that is a stereotype (not sure ‘stereotype’ is the right word though). Generally people who are kind are kind throughout the year and those who are unkind tend to also be so around Christmas.

Anyway, to show greater kindness is a key aspect of interpersonal relations in Gretchen Rubin’s book and I’d really like to show greater kindness in my everyday life. Not only would it make me happier, but I’m sure seeing me less grumpy would also greatly benefit those around me.

I have been especially attentive to this resolution during the last few days, which I spent almost exclusively around my parents. Now, I love my parents, I really do, but we have the kind of relationship that flourishes when we are apart (see picture below). When we spend a lot of time together we tend to irritate each other a lot. Like a lot. This is partly because my parents are very different in their needs and ways of expressing whatever they want to convey, but also because we are all a bit eccentric and egocentric. The whole “being considerate” business isn’t really our thing. And usually, this is fine, because we all have our own routines and friends and everything, but when we are all in the same house for too long these traits clash.

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But I do recognize that our situation would be a lot less tense and more relaxed if we, or even just I, would try to be less grumpy and snappish, but instead show more patience, consideration and kindness.

It might sound odd, but I think sometimes it is harder to be kind to those we love than to strangers. Yesterday, I kept my resolution perfectly in the morning. I countered my dad’s grumpiness by putting on music, making breakfast, laughing at anything potentially funny and generally being so so positive. And it worked. He got less fed up with all the little things and everything was a lot better. Now I am more like my dad, so I can usually empathize with his behaviour even though it might be inappropriate or unkind. But my mum is a whole other story. She seems to run on a wholly different operating system. As a consequence, I find it harder to be patient when she is irritated and I find it harder to ‘forgive’ her less friendly actions.

My strongest enemy on this mission, however, proved to be my mood. In the morning after my shower and my first cup of coffee I was on a little high and being kind and friendly and patient and generous seemed to come natural. But just before we ate in the evening I felt so belligerent that I found it virtually impossible to even look at my parents, let alone smile and be all jolly. And even though I realised this I could not do anything about it. Note to self: Make sure to never be too hungry when around people. Maybe hunger that is the catalyst for these destructive feelings.

I am aware that this is only a tiny fraction of all the different applications that kindness has and I’ll make sure to keep you up to date on my continuing struggle.

B x

Christmas, Poetry And A Teary Me

Many of you will be celebrating Christmas today or will at least be enjoying the holiday and the free time that comes with it. And as I really don’t want you guys sitting in front of the screen all day (read! eat! spend time with your family! maybe even sing?), this will be my shortest post to date (well, we’ll see about that…).

It also contains my present to you! A poem! YAY (at least this should be your reaction)! I know that people have very different opinions on poetry, but I think it’s like music: you’ll like some, some not, and it is entirely up to you what kind of role it plays in your life. For example, although I do appreciate it, personally I do not read poetry on a regular basis because it makes me feel melancholy and often it makes me cry. Not in a bad way, but it does include tears rolling down my cheeks. Which is a tiny bit annoying, especially if you’re on the bus or in a cafe. But whenever I feel melancholy anyways and I seek the sensation of drops of salty water crisscrossing my face, I grab a book and read some poems (Spanish poetry especially cracks me up, can’t say why).

I stumbled upon this poem randomly (it was featured as the Guardian poem of the week, you can read more about it here) and I liked it. Also it didn’t make me feel too teary.

Louise Glück

A Work of Fiction

As I turned over the last page, after many nights, a wave of sorrow envel-
oped me. Where had they all gone, these people who had seemed so real?
To distract myself, I walked out into the night; instinctively, I lit a cigarette.
In the dark, the cigarette glowed, like a fire lit by a survivor. But who would
see this light, this small dot among the infinite stars? I stood a while in the
dark, the cigarette glowing and growing small, each breath patiently de-
stroying me. How small it was, how brief. Brief, brief, but inside me now,
which the stars could never be.

Hope you like it too, and Merry Christmas and all that!

B x

Why Christmas In Germany Is The Best

As you might or might not know, the main Christmas celebrations in Germany are on Christmas Eve, the 24th aka today. This means that you don’t have to wait as long (perk #1), but even better, it means that Christmas lasts three whole days (perk #2): Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (which is called Christmas Day II here, which I personally find very amusing). The only downside is that advent calendars here only have 24 little doors, but who wouldn’t happily give up a tiny piece of chocolate for a whole day of presents and food.

So we have now established the theme (which you have already derived from the title…): Christmas in Germany and why it is so good.

Where do I start… Well, I guess what I like so much about the season is that it starts even before December begins. From the end of August onward the supermarkets pile up various Christmas-related treats. My favourite: spekulatius biscuits. They’re amazing and ideal to have with tea or coffee.

Then, as soon as December starts (and sometimes earlier) Christmas time begins. Traditionally you have an advent wrath with four candles, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas, and you light them one after the other (which means that they are all different lengths by the time it’s Christmas, which is VERY annoying and impractical, but I guess it’s a nice tradition).

Then, on the 6th, it’s St. Nicks and no matter what age you are, you leave small treats in the shoes of those you live with. Which I guess falls under the category “show others how much you appreciate them at Christmas time”. There are various other ways to do that: You can give an advent calendar to your boyfriend/girlfriend, give little parcels of homemade biscuits to your neighbours and, of course, buy or make presents for your friends and family. Also, I always find that writing Christmas cards is a great way to stay in contact with those who don’t live close by.

The bestest thing about Christmas in Germany, though, are the markets. Not only are they extremely festive and pretty and nice, but there is nothing better than drinking hot Glühwein (mulled wine) with a few friends outside in the cold.

Merry Christmas!

B x

P. S. Another thing Germany deserves credit for is the Christmas tree. Yes, this tradition started here and then spread across the globe. Fun fact: It was introduced to the English-speaking world by Queen Victoria’s German spouse.

Smoking, Porn and Resolutions

It feels a bit odd, all this constant self-improvement. A bit like taking spontaneous New Year’s resolutions to the next level.

Anyway, one of the resolutions Rubin made in her book was to give up something. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what she gave up, it’s not really that memorable a book, but the general ideas tend to stick around.

So what could I give up. I love the idea of giving up things. Makes me feel grand, sacrificing, like a martyr. I tend to do it frequently. Sometimes I then revert these later because the fun of abstinence wears off quite quickly and I often lack the conviction to give them up for good. But I guess even giving something up for just a while is a good move. The worst thing that can come of it is that you take up the habit again, you’ll probably appreciate it more and/or will do it (whatever it may be) more decisively. And sometimes you don’t. Sometimes sacrificing something stops being a sacrifice. It becomes natural.

My current giving up concerns those little cylindrical white sticks we tend to call cigarettes. I truly love smoking; smoking itself, but I also love the communal sense it gives and I love pondering over life while standing outside in the cold. And I know I won’t give it up for good (yet), but I’d like to reduce frequency. I know we only ever thing of success as an all or nothing, but why not. Who cares. Improvement is improvement.

This might be a bit of an odd thing to share, and if you’re a bit prude, please stop reading now. A thing I’ve given up and not regretted is porn. I was not a frequent consumer, if that’s what you’d call it, but it was kind of there. When I was about thirteen porn was where I saw my first erect penis. I knew about the technicalities of blow jobs and double penetration before I had even kissed a boy. That is a thought that makes me shiver. I guess the age of the internet is everything but an age of innocence.

This is the video that inspired me to do so, and as the TED motto is “ideas worth sharing”, here it is:

If this post is a bit jointed, I apologise. I was simultaneously watching Love Actually (a Christmas ritual I plan to cultivate more) and writing this.