This is my greatest treasure. While starving in London trying to find myself, this was the one thing I couldn’t find that I was so sure I had packed! Evidently I hadn’t, yesterday it was unearthed from the back of a shelf in the lounge. Why is this book so important to me? It was a gift from my mum for Christmas 2006. The first 30 pages are full of, as she puts it, ‘tips from the school of life.’ Over the past 8, almost nine years, this book has become a trove of precious memories, notes to myself in my early 20s and small writings from others. Here are some of my favourite handy tips from mum and a couple of other gems.
Mum’s Handy tip #1
Given your genetic pool, and that’s saying something when you consider your father and I, you will have suffered your fair share of dead beats, opportunists, and the occasional psychotic whack job. Yes, dating can be a bit like reaching for something at the back of the fridge – rank! So handy tip #1 – don’t eat in your bedroom. You’ll attract mice, ants and bacteria galore. Keep your bedroom a dead-beat free zone.
Handy tip #2
‘Family’ is just another term for staying in touch your entire life with people who drive you insane. They are the framework, reference points of your life. We can focus all of our love, or pure white anger on them and regardless of whether or not they return the love/ evil, they will always be there. Just as the year has seasons, so we do we in our liking, loving and loathing of family.
Handy tip #3
Never flat with friends. You will eventually see all their sides, good/ bad, first thing in the morning (how they didn’t quite flush the loo) and you will wish upon them a plague of acne, herpes and debt, etc.
Handy tip #4
At all costs avoid the flat with a roster for chores and meals, taking our wheelie bin etc. A roster is a sign that in this flat lives an alpha male/ female with control freak issues badly wanting to play them out on unsuspecting flatmates. Even if you have moved in, paid rent and only then discovered the roster – give notice immediately and head for the hills!
Handy tip #5
Buy things with cash, hire purchase is just a sexy way to buy things you can’t afford. Recycling by buying other people’s stuff is affordable. Life sucks having monthly payments on things that depreciate as soon as you get them home from the shop.
Handy tip #6
If you’ve read all the way up to here in one reading you simply have too much time on your hands, or else you’re procrastinating so: look around – see anything that could do with a clean? Go for it!
Handy tip #7
When special becomes very special. Only the sun has a special connection to everyone in the world. You on the other hand, should aim for a handful of people who are very dear to you. Why? Fleeing from stalkers (ring a bell?)
Handy tip #8
The things we sweat about, the things that keep us up at night – are not as bad as we think. If you find yourself stressed, wound up, or fixated on one particular thing, step back, take a few deep breaths and attempt to see your life from a different perspective. Are you just exhausted? Lonely? Bored? Hungry? Be a good friend to yourself and be part of the solution. And if you’r still a nut job after all of that, ring a good friend or come round home for a good feed.
Just before my first writers’ residency in Berlin 2011, I had the most wonderful afternoon with Lloyd Jones at a cafe in town (Auckland). Seeing as he’d written such a wonderful book in Berlin (Hand Me Down World – which is evidently one of my favourite books of all time), he very kindly shared with me lots of advice about the cultural capital of the world, and he drew me a few maps of some of his favourite places there. If you’ve been to Berlin you’ll know and love the Tiergarten too.
This little piece of hot pink paper is much more than a map to me, it’s a cherished moment in my history where I truly felt – included in life’s chit chat. That one meeting has given me a rare appreciation for being on both sides of the table. Being vulnerable with your ideas takes astronomical courage, when I’m teaching and my students open up about their aspirations and goals, I call all of myself to the fore – to be present – to be engaged – giving your full attention is more important than anything you say.
This is a poem written by one of the most talented, funny and self defined ‘un-poetic and more into rugby miss’ boys I’ve been lucky enough to teach. I was giving a workshop over a few days, he didn’t speak much, sat at the back staring out of the window at the field. When it came to presentation time, he pulled this poem out and the quiet, macho, distracted boy I met on day one — transformed into a ten feet tall warrior.
We both taught each other something special, that we could trust ourselves to deliver against the odds, whatever the conditions, regardless. I’ve read this poem all over the world, one day when we cross paths again, I’ll tell him that and he’ll probably crack up.