The miracle of sight

If there are errors in this blogpost, please forgive me. I began it yesterday, while trying out some new contact lenses. The first day of my five day trial didn’t go especially well for two reasons:

1. I couldn’t read my screen clearly. It’s all very well to be able to see the world at large clearly, but if I can’t read my Twitter feed and answer an email, what’s the point? [Ironically, I’d mentioned the fact that my last lenses were useless for this purposes multiple times during my eye test. These were meant to be an improvement.]
2. It took me twenty minutes to remove them. I may still be something of a lens novice, but removal has never ever been an issue. Honestly, little panics me as much as not being able to remove lenses from my eyes when I really, really want to be sleeping. (Have you heard horror stories about what happens when you sleep in them? Not pleasant, trust me.)

Eyesight is a miraculous thing, which you only truly appreciate when your own is becoming impinged. Or, as is the case at the moment, when your friends’ very cute son has been diagnosed with optic nerve issues related to Albinism. (Having said that, his cuteness factor has increased with his recent acquisition of mini-specs.) However, permit me to rant – just a little – about the perils of life as a speccy four eyes.

For a start, why was I trying out new lenses in the first place? Because I am a vain human being who has days which aren’t complete without some amazing eye make up which does not deserve to be obscured by some frames – no matter how hot they are.

These would be my new ‘not so sensible’ frames.
(You don’t want to know how many self-portraits of my new glasses now exist in my phone…)

Glasses are fine, I generally don’t mind them, and they’re an excellent tool with which to flirt with babies, but do you realise how difficult it is to ensure that these accessories match everything in one’s wardrobe?? At least many opticians offer two for the price of one, enabling me to own ‘sensible’ and ‘not so sensible’ frames, but still, it’s a limitation on life…

More importantly, do you realise how difficult it ease to buy glasses? Think about it. You need glasses, so you try on countless frames. But, because you’ve taken off your current glasses in order to try out new pairs, you no longer have perfect vision. So, you’re stood in front of a mirror in an opticians, trying on countless pairs and peering through finger print smudged lenses (of no prescription) covered in stickers, and attempting to work out whether they’ll suit your face. Yes, some opticians now have fancy photography systems where you can take several photos and compare frames, but it’s still tricky. They also seem to judge you if you stand in the store with your phone taking photos of your face, posting them on Twitter and wait for a response from your followers.

Sometimes, you get new glasses, are delighted with them and the response they receive from others, but within days you realise they don’t fit properly. Perhaps they fall off your face in the middle of a sneezing fit? (This did not happen to me during last week’s cold, not at all…) So, you have to return to the opticians and wait for them to be adjusted under an industrial hand dryer. (On the plus side, your glasses are then toasty warm for several minutes afterwards – handy for an arctic January day.)

Then there’s the absence of spectacles – like when you wake up with no memory of where you’ve left your glasses. Or, when you choose to engage in physical activity where glasses aren’t practical, or even permitted. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve realised what a hazard it was that my father (bespectacled all my life) was the ‘responsible adult’ who took us swimming in childhood. (Well, more responsible than my non-swimming mother I guess.) But how on earth did he know which frolicking children were the ones he was meant to be watching??

Finally, you have to endure the teasing of friends who for some reason think it’s ok to mock your disability. Though, on reflection, as they only ever mock you on occasions when you’ve removed your glasses out of vanity (and haven’t put contacts in), perhaps they have a point?

OK, so there’s at least two self-portraits.
(Though, in my defence, this one was for playing with Flickr app filters.)
There is an answer though – which came through as a tweet from a friend yesterday when I was whining about my lenses: laser eye surgery. This friend had it last year and it’s transformed her life. I’ve got to say, I’m tempted. There it is people, my first admission of a desire for cosmetic surgery. It’s a slippery slope…

Waiting, waiting and yet more waiting

Over the last 10 days I’ve spent approximately 32 hours waiting for things. It hasn’t been an entirely joyous experience. Sure, TalkTalk arrived within 2 hours of their 5 hour window beginning to fit a phone line (but I now have to wait an indefinite length of time for the broadband to be connected). And yes, Ikea have a system where they call when they’re nearby, so at least on that occasion I wasn’t tied to being in an internet-free flat (but they were an hour late). But there are two stories that need to be told…

Firstly, John Lewis – a name normally synonomous with excellent customer service. I’ve waited for two separate deliveries during this moving process (one for the flat I was moving out of, one for the one I was coming into). The first was fine, bar the tiredness that follows a jet-lag interrupted night’s sleep and a slightly late arrival. But the pain of that day paled into insignificance after the debacle that was the second delivery, which finally arrived during delivery window number three.

Delivery window #1: 7am-2pm on Monday. I used the time wisely, organising a vacationing student to come in and help build the bed Ikea had delivered the week before. I even anticipated a tardy arrival by re-locating an afternoon meeting from the church to the cosiness of the flat. 2pm came and went, a phone call to customer services yielded no info – apparently the van had no phone signal, a common problem in central London (not). At 3pm, a call back informed me that there’d been an ‘incident’ and delivery was rescheduled for a 2 hour slot the following day, helpfully coinciding with a wait for TalkTalk.

Delivery window #2: 1pm-3pm on Tuesday. Not going to lie, I had a nap – that’s an excellent use of time in my book. I began work on my furniture restoration project. TalkTalk arrived 3 hours before their window ended (good work) and I got onto the phone to John Lewis.

[I should at this point mention a mysterious call I’d had that morning from a John Lewis van asking for Mr Reagan who had ordered a TV to Lambs Conduit Street. It was my contact details but not my name or order – I should have taken this as a bad omen and called John Lewis, but was in the middle of a staff meeting.]

Turned out my order had never made it onto a van. A much more helpful member of the customer service team apologised profusely and got on to sorting it out – he also offered to escalate my complaint. I suppose you have to like a shop who realises you’ll be making a complaint before you’ve even mentioned it.

Delivery window #3: 5-6pm, Tuesday. Call from van driver at 5.06 saying they’re half an hour away. Van arrives half an hour later, tumble dryer and mattress safely installed. Simples. Did it really have to be so hard, or involve nearly 12 hours of my time?! I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of compensation I get offered for the saga…

The reason the John Lewis saga was really the icing on a cake was thanks to the Heathrow debacle of last week. I’d cheerfully gone off to Terminal 5 to meet an American couple who are coming to work at the church for the summer. I like airports, I like Americans – what could go wrong?

A lot, it turns out, when you’ve never actually seen the flight itinerary. Sure, I knew the flight number and terminal and that they were leaving San Diego on July 3rd. What no one at the church knew was that their flight didn’t get in on the 3rd, it arrived on the 4th. We discovered that helpful little detail nearly four hours after I’d arrived at the airport. It’s an excellent job that:
1. I have an excellent sense of humour.
2. I previously worked for organisations where international visitors were commonplace, as was itinerary confusion. (Some time I should tell you the story of Bishop Zebedee from the Solomon Islands…)
3. The Americans have turned out to be utterly delightful.

Needless to say, I will not be doing any waiting unless it’s absolutely essential, for quite some time to come!

500 Days of Ranting

Nil desperandum readers, I’m not proposing a 500 day rant – promise! (Though actually, thinking about it I have a couple of other rants brewing, but perhaps I’ll save them for a lot later…)

A couple of weeks ago I gave in and tried watching a new show that I’d resisted – despite it containing many of the things I like in televisual entertainment: intelligent humour, hot men and dorkiness. The major stumbling block for me was Zooey Deschanel, an actress who is (at least in the world of Wittertainment) the definition of ‘kooky’, particularly (but not exclusively) as a result of her role in (500) Days of Summer.

However, a friend insisted that it was worth watching New Girl and, once I realised it was under half an hour, I thought I’d give it a shot. Episode 1 was quite pleasing; by the end of episode 2 I realised I actually cared about the characters and was actually noting when episode 3 would air. At the end of the third instalment, I tweeted: It’s taken 3 episodes of New Girl, but I think I’m now ready to forgive Zooey Deschanel for the hideousness that was 500 Days of Summer. The use of ‘hideousness’ proved to be rather divisive amongst my followers – some agreed, others came to the film’s defence.

Let me share my case for the prosecution:

When the film came out, I was keen to see it. It seemed like just the kind of thing a hopeless romantic like me would want to watch, plus it had the fabulous Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it, who I’ve loved ever since 3rd Rock from the Sun. I distinctly remember a male friend (whose opinion in films I value) telling me that he enjoyed it and he was sure it was my kind of thing, yet somehow I didn’t get round to watching it for well over a year. In fact, I think it was my first rental when I joined LoveFilm.

I was massively disappointed.

It’s not often that I viciously hate a film, but this is high on my least-liked list. On the plus side, it’s well shot; includes an excellent karaoke scene; and is yet another film that highlights my need to get myself to San Francisco asap. However, its (many) negatives outweighs these (few) positives:

  • The female lead – the ‘Summer’ of the title – is a mean, manipulative woman who exploits a man who’s hopelessly in love with her. She leads him on multiple times and breaks his heart again and again.
  • The male lead is, quite frankly, an idiot. Summer makes it clear on other occasions (when she’s not leading him on) that she’s not interested, yet still he spends 500 days obsessing over her. 
  • At the end of the film, when he’s finally gotten over Summer, he meets a girl called…Autumn. Honestly! I ask you. 
Several good female friends agreed with me that it was dreadful, yet a couple of male friends insisted that they’d liked it. Thinking about it, these guys are both hopeless romantics who would definitely emulate the film’s plot given half a chance, they are both idiots. Pre-Twitter debate, I’d decided that men loved it while women hated it – but those that decried my verdict on it were all female. Those that came to its defence were male. Curious. However, I must at least be right in my opinion as I discovered that Mark Kermode also disliked it – so I must be right!

Anyway, a warning: if you are a hopeless romantic, yet like to be treated fairly, with respect and without manipulation, don’t watch this film – you’ll only get angry and want to throw things at the screen. If you like a bit of mindless entertainment and have been missing quirky, apartment-based comedy since the end of Friends, then watch New Girl – episode 4’s on at 9pm on Friday night.

On Christian goats and trolls

Something has got my goat in quite a big way – in fact, it got my goat quite a long time ago, but now I actually want to do something about it.

I love social media and social networking dearly. I write a blog(s); I tweet – probably too much; my life is organised via Facebook; heck, I’ve even spent time teaching people how to use it better. It’s definitely a good thing in my opinion, as long as it’s used with care and thought. The problem is that we are humans, and sometimes we’re not careful or thoughtful.

There are trolls (as they’re known) across the internet. Recently, there’s been a lot of coverage of the hideous comments many women receive on blogs or articles, simply because they’re women – especially if they’re writing on an issue that seems to be ‘feminist’ in nature. But they’re everywhere, from newspaper columns to blogs and random Facebook pages. Oh, and Twitter – there’s nothing like Twitter for a vicious, insult strewn argument…

I’m not naïve, I know that everyone gets annoyed or upset and does things that maybe, if they’d thought more about, they wouldn’t have done. This applies just as much to the internet as it does to the real world. Nor am I perfect – I’ve made mistakes just like everyone else. However, I have higher expectations of good online behaviour from my Christian brethren (perhaps that is naïve?), after all, isn’t the greatest commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself?

Is bitching about other Christians in a public forum an example of following this commandment?

What about haranguing an individual just because you’re fed up with the (Christian) organisation they work for?

What if the people making the comments are ordained? Shouldn’t they know better more than anyone else? [In every single case that’s recently got my goat, the person concerned has been ordained.]

My goat has been severely got over the last few weeks. Time and again I’ve seen examples of this behaviour and last week it made me so angry that I wrote an original version of this post, just so I could do some cathartic venting. Some good friends read it and said that, once I’d removed the specifics, it might make for a helpful blogpost – so this is it.

In a Facebook thread where some of the worst behaviour was found, came a response that actually proved inspiring:

“To say it’s ok to discuss xxxxxxx, as though they are not also a brother or a sister, someone who will flourish best with edification, support and respectful engagement kinda defeats the whole point of battling through a life of faith.

It is not ok to malign people as though they were not human, let alone fellow believers working, to the best of their knowledge, for the good of the Kingdom. There is a marked difference between expressing feelings of dissatisfaction and seeking solutions with like-minded people and aggressively hurling abuse!”

I’d also like to challenge the people making these negative comments.
Would they say these things in front of the people they’re insulting? Have they thought about how people would feel after reading some of their posts? Have they considered how they might feel if they read something similar about themselves?

Ultimately, what is it about social media that people feel gives them permission to behave in a way that they wouldn’t do in ‘real life’? And, how, as Christians do we encourage others not to behave in this way? How do we demonstrate Christian love and relationship in a virtual context?

I don’t necessarily have the answers to these questions, but I thought they’d provoke some thought and possibly discussion. Interestingly, on the day when I needed to vent, a post along similar lines to this was published on the Big Bible blog, so other people are thinking about it too. In the mean time, perhaps the best approach is to challenge behaviour that isn’t appropriate – like my friend above did – and put ourselves alongside those who are being attacked. Oh, and to not press ‘send’ in haste…

Christmas disaster

Forgive me, this is a wallowing post.

Christmas has been something of a disaster. Yes, I got to Belfast ok, so did Australian god-sister (though she had 50 hour journey from Milan to Belfast) and the sibling & sibling-in-law arrived safely on Boxing Day. Yes, presents were more than satisfactory (praise God for the Amazon universal wishlist), and there was plenty of yummy food on offer. However…

I spent much of Christmas day morning huddled under a duvet and managed to eat all of two mouthfuls of Christmas dinner. I stayed totally sober all day, while other family members indulged in cava, some nice red, a dessert wine – torture. Boxing Day didn’t exist, I slept my way through it, waking only to cough dramatically. I may have thought the lurgy was dissipating when I arrived on Thursday – I was most definitely wrong.

It is deeply unfair that during this holiday of food consumption, I have consumed next to nothing. Across the room from me right at this moment is a large tin of Roses, am I tempted? Not in the slightest. Bleugh. No turkey, bread sauce, stuffing, little sausages; no post-Boxing Day fry-up; no home-made mince pies or picnic slice (a family favourite that’s only baked once a year) – it’s all been deeply traumatic.

However, as a couple of friends have been quick to point out, there is a positive to this misery. I’m probably going to be amongst a very small minority of people who lost weight over the holidays and therefore won’t be making guilt-ridden trips to the gym in the new year. Every cloud…

Another annoying aspect of this malaise is that I’ve not had chance to make the Christmas project I’d come up with…hopefully I’ll get on to it before I leave on Thursday.

Oh, and to top it all, we lost our water supply this morning – along with the rest of South Belfast. There’s next to no bottled water available in the shops (there was already a shortage pre-Christmas because deliveries weren’t getting through from Scotland) and we now have a complicated system of which toilets can be used when. Nice.