Nothing breeds contemplation like commuting.

I’ve been taking the train to London for over three years now – an hour each way – and once music and the Metro became boring, the only thing left to do was stare out of the window and think (I can’t sleep on trains). Most of the time I think about things that don’t exist, like what it would feel like to be a CEO rather than an admin worker, or precise physiological reactions of the guy who spiked my drink if I hit him repeatedly in the face with a broken bottle, or how my unicorn would look at me if I walked past him on the beach with a perfect belly and finished tattoos. Then sometimes I think about deeper things; whether I’ll make a difference in the world, what will I think when I look back on my life, the precise chances of dying from a rogue blood clot at any random moment in time.

I’m not a fan of philosophising over existential issues; it’s much better to go out and do things without overthinking them, otherwise you’ll feel like you’ve already done most of the work and end up writing whiny blog posts about how difficult life is. But I’m too high-strung to meditate so the only thing left to do for two hours every day is to let my brain take over and fire off neurons in ten billion paranoid directions at once (incidentally I just googled the phrase “fire off neurons” and found this video which is pretty cool).

Sometimes it’s fun to mentally have an out-of-body experience and float above the train pulling into London Bridge station and London itself. One of the strangest realisations is that all the intense emotions, from euphoria to near-suicide are experienced by millions of people at the same time. They feel like they change the fabric of time but they’re just a storm in a meat-and-bones teacup. They are overwhelming but unnoticed by anyone else because we still keep a bored-and-slightly-pissed off facial expression and that paradox is scary.

I wrote the above paragraphs this morning and have been in some kind of daze all day. There are days when I wake up and feel so out of sync with the world that it’s like my brain has teleported to a different universe.

I’m also getting annoyed at this blog becoming all me me me but I haven’t done anything exciting recently that’s worth writing about.

It’s hard to go out and do things, even for the purpose of writing an interesting blog post about them (as good a reason as any), when all I want to do in my spare time is curl up under the duvet. It’s harder still when I get up with a ‘rah’ bravado and determination to git shit done and end up spending the day moping around the house and staring into space. I’ve also realised I tend to slip into the second person when writing about these things (i.e. “when all you want to do in your spare time…”), whether it’s because it’s difficult to admit to myself that I struggle with life sometimes or because it’s a technique to draw the reader in. Check me out. I use techniques.

What else? I’ve accidentally paid too much council tax because I hate logging on to my online banking so much that I forgot to cancel the standing order. I wore red lipstick that looked good for the first time last week. It’s my birthday on Monday. I feel less hostile towards people.

Life goes on, regardless of storms.

Thera

This is a work of fiction.

It happens around that time of the year when morning mist clears to make way for crisp yellow light and the leaves began to ripen.

We are in London for the weekend. Things are tense. I pretend not to understand his jokes and catch him looking at me with a mixture of irritation and pity when he thinks I don’t notice.

It’s the third anniversary of our wedding.

That morning I am sitting outside a cafe, shivering lightly in the cool September air as I sip a cappuccino and smoke a cigarette. He is still in the hotel room half a block away. He hates me smoking. I am wearing a shift dress which he said he hates, opaque tights, brown ankle boots and a black wool coat that he bought for me on our first anniversary. The first and last thing he ever bought me for an anniversary.

Our eyes meet when she presses the traffic light button, panting slightly. She is in head-to-toe black Lycra, with terry wristbands and a red beanie. Her face is flushed, her dark hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. She is big – tall, solid but not fat, with a runner’s lean physique. She has a dog on a lead, a big German Shepherd who seems to be enjoying the run as much as she is. I learned early on that runners don’t like to be called joggers. Joggers are amateurs. No one wants to be an amateur.

She crosses the road, maintaining eye contact, and stops at my table. ‘His name is Lord,’ she says with a nod at the dog.

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Bucket List

I’ve been meaning to make one of these for ages – a bucket list is a list of things to do before you die (or ‘kick the bucket’). For me, it’s also a list of things I want to do that would make me feel like my life hasn’t been meaningless, like I’ve not only done things that have shaped me as a person but also made the world a better place.

These are the things I have come up with so far (NB: the list is incomplete and will probably be added to)

Celebrate Día de Muertos in Mexico

Wikipedia says: “Day of the Dead (SpanishDía de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.”

Get a full driving license

I have a provisional license, mostly for ID purposes, but I have always regretted not learning to drive as soon as I was old enough. At the time my parents didn’t have much money, and what I earned from part-time bar work went straight back into the bar’s till. Now, with credit cards and overdraft debts, and an imminent move to London, driving lessons are on the backburner although I did enjoy the couple that I had.

I’m convinced that the earlier a person starts driving, the better a driver they become, and also that if that person learns to drive in London, s/he will never be scared of driving anywhere else, so more lessons are definitely in the pipeline. It’s just a question of money (as usual).

Go to Rio Carnival

Back to Wikipedia for the source: “The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous festival held before Lent every year and considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets. The typical Rio carnival parade is filled with revelers, floats and adornments from numerous samba schools which are located in Rio (more than 200 approximately, divided into 5 leagues/ divisions).  Street parades, blocos and bandas take place throughout the city of Rio during Carnival. There can be more than 300 bandas taking place at any given point in time. According to police estimates, more than 5 million people attended a bloco during Rio Carnival 2012 and there was not one reported incident of crime.”

So basically, it sounds like the best street party in the world – what’s not to like?!

Swim with dolphins

I know, one of the most cliched bucket list items, along with “write a novel”, but it would still be magical.

Shoot a gun

When my mum was at school in late 60’s/early 70’s Russia (then USSR), they had a class called Civil Defence. One of the tasks in this class was to take apart and put back together an AK-47 – pupils were timed and my mum scored the fastest time, multiple times. The downside of the Perestroika is that I never got to do anything cool like that, but I’ve seen an advert for a shooting range in Poland where you get to run around with anything from a Glock to a Kalashnikov, and that would be cool as fuck.

Donate a piece of medical equipment to a vet

On a less deadly note, I’ve always had a soft spot for animal charities because if there is a God, they are doing God’s work helping those that in Russia are called ‘our little brothers’. When I was out of work and returned from the Job Centre one day to find my cat alternating between collapsing and peeing blood all over the flat, I don’t know what I could’ve done without PDSA. They saved his life and I’ve always wanted to do something for them in return.

But – I do feel funny about just donating money. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, and I always feel like that money is probably just going to pay the directors’ salaries rather than buying food or medication for the animals. Directors are necessary to run a charity but I still prefer that the money goes to the root cause. So I’d like to buy equipment for a PDSA hospital – like an X-Ray machine or a CT scanner or any other scanner. If I win the lottery, that will be the first thing I do.

Visit Chernobyl/Pripyat

On 26 April 1986, an unexpected power surge in Reactor 4 led to a series of explosions and an eventual highly radioactive fallout over an extensive geographical area, leading to evacuation of 350,400 people from the most contaminated areas of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

When people were evacuated from the nearby town of Pripyat, they were given almost no time to gather their belongings. As a result, the ghost town has become a goosebump-inducing ghost town and screenshot of Soviet life at the time – some photos can be found here and an interesting blog post here. It’s not your standard city break but if after seeing the photos and reading that blog post you don’t understand why someone would want to go there, I’m not sure how to explain it!

Adopt a retired greyhound

When I was younger, my stepdad owned a racing greyhound that won a shitload of awards in races. When it retired, I begged my parents to take it in but his co-owner adopted it and we got a cat.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how lovely they are and even went to Croftview Rehoming Kennels to walk a few dogs. I was amazed at how friendly and well-behaved they were, and read up on their general behaviour and temperament when I got home. Apparently, the fact that they need loads of exercise is a myth – they actually do pretty well with 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, the standard amount that a human requires. They sleep a lot of the time, have been nicknamed Velcro Dogs because they love human contact and will follow their owner from room to room, and get on well with cats. Plus by adopting one, I would be doing a good deed by giving an ex-racing dog a good home.

How can you not love this adorable face... aww!

How can you not love this adorable face… aww!

Own my own house/apartment

Pretty standard/suburban bucket list item… but not only does it bring safety and security to life, it also requires a hell of an effort to accomplish. I can imagine there’s no relief quite like the relief you feel when the last mortgage instalment is paid.

Design a heirloom piece of jewellery that will be passed on through generations

At this point in time I don’t want children, but I’m happy to admit that this may well change a few years down the line. I have a silver ring that my mother used to wear, and before that, my babushka (grandmother), and now it’s on my finger. I’d love it if my daughter (or niece) had a similar piece of jewellery, one with history attached to it, that they could show to people and say, “Oh, a woman called Elena designed that, back in 20..”.