I love the Olympics. I measure life in Olympiads. It’s a nice handy unit of time, more interesting than your usual years and minutes and so forth. Thus, it’s been six Olympiads since my sister was born. I blogging for an Olympiad. And it’s been an Olympiad since I bought new trainers. I must buy some new ones, they’re really starting to honk.
I wrote the above at the start of Athens 2004, so to update my dear sister is now nine Olympiads old and the blog has clocked up four Olympiads.
The five-ring love came back strong for Rio. I resisted at first, what with all the corruption and drug scandals and economic implications and images of decaying venues from previous Games. But once it started I got suckered in. I can’t look away from people being excellent and physically coordinated. Awe and envy, that’s a compelling combo!
So what did we learn from these games, other than Ryan Lochte is a knobber? That it’s glorious seeing women win all the things. That Andy Murray rocks. That I could watch Simone Biles soaring through the air all day long.
SHAUNA: So we’re clear, if/when I win a gold medal, don’t go thinking you can jump on camera and propose. It’s MY moment of glory, dagnabbit.
And the same lesson learned at every games: watching hours of athletics does not make one athletic by osmosis. The other morning I put on my trainers (only 0.25 Olympiads old and still smelling fresh) (from lack of use) and bounded out the door, ready to take on the world… only for my lungs to be filled with pollen and unfitness seconds later.
There were many golden moments, but I have a soft spot for cyclist Mark Cavendish’s silver medal in the omnium. Opinion is divided on the lad, but I love that he has FEELINGS and is not afraid to let them rip. Sometimes he’s witty and charming, sometimes he’s just crabbit AF. No boring media-trained soundbites for him; he expressed his disappointment. I like when people dare to show how badly they want something. Why not, when you’ve devoted your life and heart and soul and legs to it? He takes GOLD for personality in my book.
Does anyone else get all End Of Olympics maudlin about how old you’ll be at the end next one and what will happen in between?
And now another four years stretch before us. Plenty of time to brush up on the high school Japanese before Tokyo. What do you reckon we’ll be like in 2020? Faster, stronger higher? Older, slower, lower? Bolder, wiser, awesome-er?
Hello comrades! I’ll be back en blog next week, but wanted to share that I finally zapped out my monthly newsletter today. Only 29 months since the last one!
In a moment of madness I put “Greetings, friends and Russian spammers” as the subject line, since so many of my subscribers are Russian spambots. But this has caused emails from puzzled people thinking I’d been hacked. My apologies for the confusion! I’m out of practice with this newsletter caper.
The Mothership is back into orbit after a month in the UK. The pinnacle of the trip was a jaunt to Manchester to see her beloved band Heart in concert, to belatedly celebrate her 60th.
I had no expectations other than fervently hoping that those giants of 70s rock and 80s balladry would play Barracuda, the greatest song ever about a toothsome fish. They did play Barracuda, plus three Led Zeppelin covers as an encore!
But the best thing (aside from Mum’s deliriously happy face) was simply revelling in the wonder that is the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, aged 66 and 62 respectively. Ann is still belting out the tunes and Nancy remains kickass on the guitar.
As well as their enduring talent, I was struck by their style and energy. I’m 24 – 28 years younger but my style and energy levels felt about 24 – 28 years older.
And the chicks in the crowd – mostly Mum’s vintage – were all dressed up. Lots of gloriously enormous hair and tottering heels.
It hadn’t occurred to me to show up in anything but the jeans and top I’d worn all day. When do I have fun getting dressed? Bloody never! I’m determined to lift my game.
I also liked that Ann wore knee-high leather boots, but they were flat. That’s the kind of adulting I aspire to.
Scribbling on my face
“Learn to use eyeliner” was another thing on the perpetual New Years list, so I booked a lesson with a makeup artist. She did one side of my face and I had to try to replicate it on the other. So I was actually putting on makeup, instead of eating toast and watching people on YouTube putting on makeup.
It was a brilliant afternoon. While I can be very lazy about beauty stuff, I love talking about beauty stuff. Tell me about your four-step skin care routine that finally eliminated your dehydrated flaky lizard face, said no one, ever… but Colette politely listened. And she was also up for chatting Japanese sunscreens! And mascaras for sensitive eyeballs!
Putting on the makeup was hard. Colette would do all these delicate ninja moves with the brushes on her side, then I’d be all Slip Slop Slap on mine. She mercifully stepped in to assist on many occasions.
And the eyeliner. I suffer from what I affectionately call flabby eyelid but Colette called a “slightly hooded eye” so I had to learn the voodoo tricks to stop the eyeliner transferring to my eyelids. Basically the key is:
lots of practice
a good primer
keep looking straight ahead
take it SLOOOOOW
Ooh there’s your life metaphor!
“So I assume you’re going out on the town tonight with your glamorous face?” Colette asked.
“Suuuuure,” I said, then went home to eat reheated spinach pie in my bathrobe (selfie) and catch up with Countryfile on the iPlayer.
A month on, I’m getting pretty good at doing one eye, but the other one just never quite works out. More practice needed!
Keeping up with the youth
For about a year I’ve been installing Snapchat on my phone, looking at it in confusion, then deleting it again. But I decided I was far too young to be having the 2016 equivalent of a “Can Someone Under 10 Please Programme This VCR” moment, so I read some articles and signed up properly (I’m helloshauny on there).
Snapchat is baffling but utterly compelling. It reminds me of the early 00s of blogging, when everyone was enthusiastic and experimental, and everything looked a bit lo-fi and rubbish. In this age of careful curation, I love the unpolished, tiny windows into my Snapchat buddies’ worlds. Among my faves are:
Sara Lando (shipoftheseus) for witty insights into her artistic process and life
I’m pretty much just putting emojis on top of photos, and I still find navigating the app near impossible, and I haven’t figured out the face filter thingies yet. But it is great fun and you can never have to many ways to share your cat spam, right!?
There’s a number of items that I write on my Things To Try This Year list each January, never actually do, then faithfully carry forward to the next list.
Top of the list was meditation. I’d tried about nine different meditation apps in an attempt to calm the chattering mind, but always found a petty reason to abandon them. Like the one with waterfall sounds that made me need the loo. Or the one with the husky, manic pixie dream girl voice that left me a confused mix of highly annoyed and… excited.
Next thing it was January and I was yet again writing “learn to meditate” on the list. I was also emerging from a grim period of work-related anxiety. It had gone beyond the usual low-grade rumble of self-employment to barely sleeping, barely eating (!?!!), racing heart, daily tears and throwing up.
Of course managing such a thing takes a multi-faceted approach, but I felt drawn to adding meditation to my toolkit. At the Magic Cottage I asked Sas about her practice, knowing she’d been happily meditating daily for over a year. Turned out she was a TM person, too.
In the spirit of Foxy by 40 and armed with evidence of two awesome get-shit-done TM people (along with… Katie Perry!), I signed up for a class.
I had my first lesson in a little room in Edinburgh with flowers and incense and a painting of Maharishi. The technique took all of two minutes to learn. I couldn’t believe the utter simplicity of it. I was given a mantra, then all I had to do was sit on a comfy chair with eyes closed and repeat the mantra inside my head. Unlike other methods I’d attempted you don’t try to stop your thoughts or notice them or do any kind of thought kung fu at all.
It didn’t take long to get into it. The traffic outside faded and the mantra gently rolled between my ears, like socks in a tumble dryer. My body felt pleasantly still and heavy in the chair.
But then that Maharishi painting floated into my head. I started thinking about George Harrison. Then I heard the broooooooiiiiiiiinnnnng of sitar that kicks off Tomorrow Never Knows.
Specifically, it was Tomorrow Never Knows as heard at the end of Season 5, Episode of 8 of Mad Men. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. I watched Don Draper put on the record and sit down in his swanky Eames lounger. I sang along in my head as my thoughts raced.
This has GOT to be in my top five Beatles songs. Nooo. Top three!
I love that apartment he had with Megan. I want a sunken living room!
This incense smells like musk sticks. Or is it musk sticks that smell like incense? Could you set a musk stick on fire?
Crikey Don, what’s it like to be so good looking? I still love you even though you clearly didn’t think much of this song.
I felt a giggle rise up in my belly and told myself to focus on the bloody mantra. I found it again. And I started to feel good. Heavy and light at the same time. And hyperaware that under the flesh and lard and innards I was just a freaking SKELETON omg how cool is that?
The mantra, still accompanied by Tomorrow Never Knows, retreated to mere soft background music. I felt a delicious stillness. Then a spooky awesome sensation that my arms weren’t there at all.
Soon the lesson was over. I felt a lovely quietness, yet wide awake and energised.
I floated out of the building and decided while I was in Edinburgh I may as well get the bus along to Waitrose to see what’s new in middle class groceries.
(Waitrose does not service us riff-raff north of the Forth Bridges, you see. So I like to go along a few times a year to check out the adjectives and buy something ridiculous.)
I sat up the back of the bus beside a nanny and her two charges. The misbehaving one was named Zephyr. Zephyr! That was worth the ticket price alone.
I toddled round Waitrose, got some poncy cave-aged cheese then hopped on a bus back to Fife.
The instructor had said you could do TM anywhere, so I decided to try a bus meditation.
I settled in to my seat, closed my eyes and got ready to transport myself to my new personal temple of zen. But… I couldn’t remember my bloody mantra.
It was GONE! Curse you Zephyr, for distracting me.
I googled I forgot my mantra. Google was feck all help, but I did learn that Jeff Goldblum says that very line in his Annie Hall cameo appearance!
(How hot was he back then, by the way?)
The next day I went back to Edinburgh for a group meditation session. That just means a bunch of people all sit round in comfy chairs at the same time. I slinked up to the teacher and confessed I’d forgotten my mantra.
“Ahh,” he said, “Happens all the time!”.
Four months on, the mantra is firmly fixed in the memory bank. I’m still building up to the recommended two 20-minutes sessions a day. It’s more like 15 minutes. But I’ve stuck with it!
It’s been the biggest factor in toning down that January anxiety (Ziggy comes a close second!). The more I do it, the less I run away with unhelpful thoughts. I’m in there here and now more often than not.
It’s bonkers that something so mundane can be so helpful. It’s like a tiny superpower, a cloak of calm I can throw over my head, any time or any place I need it. Sometimes when I’m meditating my mind is blissfully blank. Sometimes I figure out problems. Sometimes I just lay back and think of Don.
It was green and fridge-cold. I’d been scoffing them straight from the jar when the rogue fella slipped and disappeared down the front of my t-shirt.
The olives were a hasty 3pm lunch on a wet and windy Friday last November. I’d been installed on the couch avec laptop since 9am, a mere 700 steps on my Fitbit.
As I rummaged round in my ancient sports bra, wondering if I could snuffle out that olive like a truffle pig, I caught the reflection of my faded tracky dacks and paint-stained grey hoodie in the kitchen window.
Hmmm… you know what? I thought. I think I’m ready to take things up a notch!
That’s when Operation Foxy by 40 really kicked off.
The moment I turned 38 back on 1 November, my mind immediately skipped over 39 and started thinking about the big Four Oh:
How did I want to feel on 1 November 2017?
What do I want to be doing?
What will everyday life to look like?
What would happen if I got out of my own bloody way for awhile?
I’m not talking about radical change here. It’s more a gentle renovation.
I just don’t want to wake up on 1 November 2017 feeling irritated or somewhat disappointed, like after an episode of Outlander without an Adult Scene.
On the whole the 30s have been bloody awesome. I’ve navigated some Mega Highs and Truly Shitty Bits. What I haven’t handled so well is all the spaces in between. For every big event there’s been a corresponding period of hiding and neglect that’s been at least three times as long. I’m getting on in years and I want to stop messing about. So I’m working like a mofo to make the everyday stuff more solid and sparkly.
Why Foxy by 40? It’s a bit tongue in cheek, and I like alliteration. For me, foxy is a feeling and a state of mind!
This is a two-year experiment to see how it would feel to take the best bits of 20s me and combine them with the best of the 30s into a SUPER SHAUNY. Or at least a slightly more competent, consistent and cared-for Shauny.
From the 20s: Reclaim: Determination, spark and endurance. The joy of putting in solid effort over time. The joy of blogging ones guts out. Ditch: Self loathing. The weight obsession (and you thought it was all about the lard, young Shauna… I’ve got two words for you… gravity and greyhairs)
From the 30s: Keep: Perspective. Not taking things too personally. Holding what I love lightly. Ditch: Hiding. Denial. Lack of exercise. That low-grade-meh, second-gear feeling.
Seven months in, I’m feeling more confident that I’m not just pissfarting around this time! So I’ll be doing regular updates on my Foxy by 40 adventures on here. Follow if you fancy this bold quest to:
hide less and have more fun
improve my health (not as lip service; not as dieting and restriction in disguise)
put olives onto a plate instead of into my brassiere.
P.S. My “monthly” newsletter is coming back from the dead! (last seen March 2014). There will be bonus stories, writing tools and maybe even a mini-column from the Mothership. Hop on board here if that sounds good…
I stand by all the warm and fuzzy things I wrote on her 50th, so I wanted to share with you ten of my favourite Mothership moments.
Happy birthday, dearest Mum – I love you loads. Thank you for keeping me on the straight and narrow for 38.5 years. Thank you for providing me with things to blog about for nearly 16 of them. Can’t wait for your royal visit next month!
Kimba is famous for its Big Galah, lovely sandstone buildings and as the birthplace of “Cats” midfielder, Corey Enright. Can’t ask much more of a town of around 800 people.
Oh, did I mention that you can buy a pair of jeans for $2, a collarless shirt for $1, a paperback mystery novel for 10c, home-grown lemons for 5c each or a like-new dressing gown (Giovanni) for $2? You can get all this and more from the Uniting Church Op Shop.
6. And another:
Yesterday morning whilst enjoying my rolled oats, I was fortunate enough to witness a lovely sight – a black and white border collie, tail waving enthusiastically…
The dog was full of life, not pulling on his lead, but bouncing along on three legs. The rear right side leg was missing.
I figure I need to remember my own blessings and bounce through life more often.
7. On my brilliant career: Hope your receptionist job goes well – you can do anything with all that experience working at KFC!
Mum, me and cousin whose name escapes me. Our 80s game is strong.
A quick shoutout: we have an Up & Running 5K course starting on Monday! We’re running it as a live group again, as opposed to self-study, so you’d be part of a great global group of women all starting at the same time. The 8-week course gets you ready to complete a 5K. Julia is a brilliant running coach, and I am a devoted cheerleader! So if you’d like support to get running, we have 3 spots left. You can find out more here if you fancy!Update: all spots taken now.
I have to mention another life-affirming weekend, way back at the end of January. Not to say the default harrumph-around-the-house weekends aren’t life affirming, but anyway…
The sassy Sas invited me and three fellow self-employed ladies to the Cotswolds for what she dubbed a #ladybossretreat.
We stayed in the gorgeous ye olde cottage above. It was designed to age just so over the centuries, to reach a perfect level of crumbliness in time for the invention of Instagram.
I’d travelled seven hours on the train in lieu of an hour’s flight, to give myself a ridiculous amount of time to switch from introvert to social mode. My plan was to curl up in an armchair and simply observe at first, like a crow lurking on a telephone wire. Or offer to make tea all the time.
But the moment everyone arrived all friendly and laughing, and pretty much immediately changed into loungewear and slippers, I felt a wee jolt of elation and meant-to-be-ness. I was all in, baby!
Once the cosy fire was lit, we gathered round and each said what we hoped to get out of the weekend. My thing was a desire to feel more legitimate about being self-employed. Despite paying my bills for going on three years, it still felt accidental and fleeting, like I was really just noodling around on the internet.
Next Sas each had us draw a card from a deck of animal cards, so we’d have a little symbol for the weekend. I drew a card with a bat on it. A BAT? What the hell? But according to the little book that went with the cards, the bat was a symbol of rebirth. I was up for that.
I wanted to nick that bedspread!
Over the next day, each person had an hour in the spotlight where we talked about an aspect of our business that needed a sounding board. Everyone raised what seemed like a very straightforward, practical topic but they all turned out to be so much deeper and interesting. Layers were unravelled, buttons were pressed, honest conversations were had, emotional ponds were dredged and all the bodies and shopping trolleys came up. It was exhilarating.
I started my own stint waffling on about editing services and content calendars. Then somehow the next minute every long-held long-buried shitty doubt, fear and crazyass thought began to speeeewwwwww out of my mouth. Well I’m actually a fraud and not a real writer and I only got a book deal because it was ancient times with hardly any blogs or weight loss memoirs yet and it would never happen now coz you need 5 million followers on Instagram and zoodles and smoothies and a shapely arse to get published and the running book was an accident too and it’s not like it’s a Kate Atkinson or a Marian Keyes or something…
Then Clare said something that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know if she’ll even remember saying it but I’ll never forget the moment. She said something like, “Shauna, there are many different kinds of writing. There are many different kinds of writers. But they’re all writers.”
For the past five years when a lovely baby bird Up & Runners says, “I’m not a real runner”, we always reply, “Are you running? Then you’re a runner!”. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow or if you take walking breaks, you are doing it.You’re allowed to run, you are a runner, there is room for everyone.
Clare made me see that likewise, it doesn’t matter if you write award-winning novels or inane blog posts about cats and travels… you’re allowed to write, you are a writer, there is room for everyone.
But you know someone who isn’t a writer? Someone who doesn’t do any bloody writing! That’s been me, for long periods, frozen by my wacky thoughts. The you suck voice was no longer the voice of old critics and trolls, it had become my own. And I realised, there by the stylish fire, that it was time to stop listening.
That evening we wrote down all the crap we were ready to let go of, then SET FIRE TO IT in a ritualistic manner. Ooh that felt great. I had some Airmail stickers in the back of my notebook so we stuck those to our letters… FECK OFF old crap! Fly away now!
The next morning I got up early and went for a walk in the mist, peering at other crumbly cottages and feeling so much lighter. Then this little tiny cat tottered over to say hello.
The weekend was over all too soon. I spent the seven hours back to Scotland alternately in tears and grinning like a loon. And texting Gareth, BEST WEEKEND EVER, btw we’re getting a cat… TOMORROW!
Had the desired outcome for the weekend been achieved? Yes, I felt more legit. I also felt totally pumped! That’s how I summed it up to those four brilliant women. PUMPED! So many old cobwebs had been blasted from the brain, leaving room for focused action, as the Sasmeister calls it.
Of course, it’s taken me two months to process it all and actually write something, but I always take a wee while to warm up.
There’s a fair bit to catch up on from the past two months but first we need to get the CAT SPAM out of the way.
Yes, it finally happened. As so many of you said it would. We got a cat!
And she’s a non-Neighbour Cat, too! Her name is Ziggy and she’s a 2.5 year old tabby with a fluffy ginger belly. We adopted her from a local shelter. After a shitload of contemplation and angst.
I started stalking the shelter website about three months before we moved back to Fife. So it was a full six months of umm-ing and ahh-ing before the moment of action arrived. I kept saying to Gareth:
Now, we don’t have to do this!
It’s a big commitment, I know. A cat can live for twenty years or more. So you need to think about this very verrrrrry carefully. You can say no! I won’t be offended at all! Just be honest with me! I won’t do it unless you’re fully on board!
He kept looking at me like I was off my rocker, saying he was cool either way. It wasn’t until the first night we bought Ziggy home and I was staring at the ceiling at 3am with guts churning like a washing machine, that I realised the commitment issues were MINE ALL MINE.
What the hell have I done?
I don’t know what to do with a freaking cat!
What if she lives ’til she’s 25? What if I don’t like her as much as Neighbour Cat? What if she’s a jerk? What if she pees all over everything all day long? What if she gets really bored and hates our guts and claws our faces off in our sleep?
I can barely commit to a free Boots loyalty card so I dunno how I managed to twist it in my head that it was Gareth holding up the process. But anyway. ZIGGY IS BRILLIANT!
In the interest of hitting publish on a blog post before the next decade I am going to hit you up with some quick Ziggy facts:
1. She has cute white socks! She looks like she’s off to play a round of golf or referee a snooker match.
2. One paw has a tabby-coloured toe though, for added cuteness.
3. She is tiny wee! I now realise that Neighbour Cat wasn’t just “festively fluffy”, she was a bloody large cat.
Ziggy with her friend the Squirrel doorstop
4. She doesn’t really sit on your lap, but she loves to curl herself around your forearm and use the palm of your hand as a pillow then take a nap. Melt!
5. She is a near-silent cat. When Alfie/Neighbour Cat was hungry she’d get vocal and sometimes tear open the Whiskas pouches herself. Ziggy just waves the end of her tail like a rattlesnake when she’s hungry. And every time we sing “Huuuungry Taaaaail!” to the tune of Eric Carmen’s Hungry Eyes
6. Sometimes she makes a quiet “brrrrt!”, an almost Space Invaders kind of sound, if she wants to play or have a nap in your palm.
7. As per cat cliches, I bought her a cat bed and she prefered to sleep in a cardboard box instead. But a couple of weeks ago she finally got in and fell for its cushioned charms. SUCKA!
8. Her favourite game is Chase The Ping Pong ball. You have to say, “Ready Ziggy?… GO!” and throw the ball across the room, and she springs off like a dog, paws scuttling along the tiles. Then she pounces and swats it around. Extra cute with the aforementioned white gloves, like a tiny goalkeeper.
9. She also has a pet golf ball. Gareth had dropped it in the hallway when we moved in and it rolled under the radiator. We realised this when we heard her battering it off the skirting boards at 3am.
10. She falls for the Cats In Circles thing, every time.
11. Turns out that yes, you were all right. There is room in my heart for more than one cat. I LOVE HER SO MUCH, SHE IS MY LITTLE PAL!