That beach is in St Andrews, and we ended up there recently with fish and chips. What better place to eat freshly fried goods than a beach so associated with athleticism?
Each weekend my aim is to do at least ONE thing that involves leaving the house, as our collective tendency is to hermit it up with books or motorcycle repairs.
Plus, it’s good to get the Fitbit beyond three figures and have something to say when asked, “How was your weekend?”.
This was an extremely sunny August bank holiday Monday, so there was that extra obligation to do something and not waste those rare UV rays.
So we drove out along the East Neuk, the Fife Riviera if you will, and walked along Lower Largo Beach.
Our beach jaunts always go the same:
We walk along and say Isn’t this relaxing!
We talk about our longing to live in a cottage by the sea – in the middle of nowhere, with a big window so we can drink tea and watch the grey and moody waves.
We each try to convince the other that they’re the best one to get a better job to make this a reality.
I go on about how much I love the water and must go for a paddle.
The water is fecking freezing and I step on a jaggy rock or a crab shell.
I whinge that it’s too hot and say, “Do you fancy a fish supper?”
We ended up at Cromars in St Andrews, which I do declare has the best fish and chips in the area these days. We headed down to the Chariots of Fire beach, bellies rumbling.
The beach was packed with fellow pale folks, including a cute and feisty little girl beside us with her dad and grandfather. She was all geared up in her sun hat and swimming costume, making sand castles with her bucket and spade.
“DADDY,” she was saying, “Help me dig this hole!”
“Mmmyeah… in a minute,” he said, clearly rendered motionless by the heat.
Another thing about a sunny beach jaunt in Scotland is that we never have the right gear, because we never expect it to happen. Hat? No. Flip flops? No. Beach towel? Aye right.
I wrapped Gareth’s hoodie around my head like a bonnet and trudged across the dunes, my sneakers rapidly filling with sand. I found us a spot near a fence that offered a tiny bit of shade.
“Excellent choice,” said Gareth, “I bet dogs pee against this fence!”
We sat down and as we unwrapped our lunch a bright red dog bounded up to us and wagged its tail sweetly.
“EXCUSE ME, DADDY.”
I learned forward to pat the dog’s fluffy russet head, and that’s when it swooped in, snatched my fish between its chops and bounded away!
I’d forgotten how dogs joyfully hoover up food of all kinds. As opposed to Ziggy, who every couple of weeks will sit back from her food bowl with a haughty face like, “This food that I’ve been happily eating now displeases me for reasons too complex for a human to understand, so I will stare at you until the situation is rectified”.
“Daddy! That dog just ran away with our sandwiches!”
I could hear the Vangelis theme as it scarpered away down the beach, so many more lunches to steal.
“Would SOMEBODY please help me DIG. THIS. HOLE. NOW!
“You can dig your own hole!” said Gareth, “Fight the patriarchy!”
. . .
It’s now late October and six weeks have passed since I started this post and I can’t remember where I was going with this! In the end the little girl got digging assistance then they got an ice cream and all was well.
I was going to segue somehow into a big thank you for your comments on the last post of existential ponderment. Y’all so wise, compassionate and thoughtful and I was continually welling up. It’s so good to be able to talk about this stuff.
In the weeks since I’ve been thinking about the themes that cropped up about what makes a meaningful life – giving back, mindfulness, kindness, stretching (physical, mental, metaphorical), lifelong learning; appreciating the “everyday delights”. I’ve also been focusing more outwardly, as many of you mentioned. Hanging out with the humans always puts things in perspective. Thank you all so much.
July & August update for Operation Foxy By 40: sewing, shark mantras, cat quilts and the meaning of life.
A new hobby
This year Gareth is deep into restoring a vintage motorcycle, a 1976 Honda CB750. Much of its dismembered innards are currently living under our bed in neatly labelled boxes.
I’m often called into the garage as assistant mechanic, usually when something is going wrong. He gets so cranky…
Why can’t I just learn something WITHOUT having to make fifteen mistakes first!?
Why can’t things just WORK!
Who’s bloody idea was it to buy this anyway?!
It’s going back on eBay!
And off he stomps inside to see if some other middle aged dude on YouTube knows how to fix it.
A few days later mysterious packages start arriving from David Silver Spares. Random oils and rubber rings and chunks of metal. He goes back into the garage then a few hours later there’s a triumphant, YES! Get the kettle on!
He kept asking when I’d get my own new hobby to ease his spare part shopper’s guilt. I’ve been wanting to learn to sew for ages but was wary of bringing even more stuff into the house (home brewing, cycling and motorbikes are not compact hobbies).
But then Mum visited with a half-finished quilt for Ziggy (squee!). She needed a sewing machine to finish off the border, so we decided a basic machine would be my early birthday present. Thanks Mum!
It took me a month to work up the nerve to touch it. So many levers. So many dials. So much jargon! Praise be to Tilly Walnes’ Make Friends With A Sewing Machine course. She explains things down to my level, which is the “this is the ON button” level.
I love the scary sweary newness of it. So far all I have done is sew squiggles on pieces of muslin (old Liz Earle facecloths!). But it was great fun. Especially after I realised it looked so shit because I’d neglected to put the presser foot down.
Tilly’s course has a lesson to make a basic scarf so I’ll try that next. I don’t have a particular project in mind after that. To be honest, I quite fancy just getting a really long piece of fabric and sewing down that bastard as fast as I can! Every time my foot touches the pedal, I’m overwhelmed with the urge to accelerate. It’s like being back in Canberra at the start of a Northbourne Avenue Dream Run.
Six months with the fluffy one
I found this scribbled in my morning pages notebook from January 3:
First of all, what the heck is You Can Do This, You Are A SHARK! Morning brain, you crack me up.
I’m happy to report back to January 3 Shauna that yes indeed, a cat can help with anxiety. Ziggy keeps me in the here and now. I melt when we arrive home and she sprawls belly up in the hallway ready for a pat. I love the days when she decides to sit on my desk in the loaf position, alternating snoozing with a withering stare. Best of all I love her refusal to eat her dry cat food from the bowl – you have to toss it around the room, piece by piece, so she can “hunt it down”. It’s love.
Much of July was spent in a post-Brexit existential cloud. Questioning the point and meaning and purpose of things, what I’m contributing; the state of the world in general. I’ve always been a big ponderer but this one was a doozy!
Can we have some real talk?
One of the biggest aims of Foxy By 40 is to stop hiding and of course that’s the one I’m struggling with most.
Cat in box marked fragile to represent July state of mind… snort!
Writing and sharing here is how I’ve connected with the humans and made sense of things since May 2000. But many times in recent years I’ve let some old negative experiences put the frighteners on me. As a result I’ve only tended to write about deeper stuff after I’d “figured it out”, in an attempt to preempt negative outcomes. Like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, except my eyeballs are completely intact.
Life though, is messy and refuses to be tied up into neat blog posts. And of course you cannot control the response to what you put out there.
Since the binge eating situation has improved so much this past year, I’ve been flooded with all these feelings that were previously repressed and numbed. I’m restless and questioning and hungry hungry hungry for I don’t quite know what.
I do know that I crave big deep conversations. But how often do I ever bloody try to start such conversations? Not often, because I’m too busy hiding. Deary, you are knocking on the door of 40. Enough of that.
Which finally brings me to today’s question!
Has anyone else out there come to a time in their lives where you felt a little overwhelmed by the vast yawn of years ahead? Wondering what to do with them; how to fill them in a meaningful way? For example, if one doesn’t end up filling some of those years with a family, what shall one do? What’s next?
Yet simultaneously thinking:
Holy crap, we are running out of time! Life is fragile and I could get snuffed out by a bus tomorrow. So much to do while I can! So many delicious possibilities! Still so many books to read before The End!
(I’m still hoping to be talent spotted while reading a book under a tree. Oh my goodness the way your eyeballs slide across the page is exemplary! You are the Kate Moss of readers and I want to sign you up right now. You shall be handsomely paid to do nothing but read books for the rest of your life. A mix of fluff and classics, sure…)
If you’ve ever reached such a place, what did you do? How did you navigate your way through?
I feel quite okay with all this swirling around upstairs, just observing it as I sew squiggles on muslin cloths. In the spirit of unhiding I thought I’d share in case anyone else out there is pondering, too.
In the meantime I’ll keep on swimming, because apparently I am a SHARK!
P.S. Issue #2 of the Marginalia newsletter came out last Friday. Deadline success! If you’d like to have a nosy, you can sign up here and it will be zapped to your inbox.
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.