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Psychoanalyst gives a lesson in Not Working

18 May

I’m sorry this post is so late – it’s been a busy 24 hours.

In my defence, it really has, but as Josh Cohen suggested at Swindon Spring Festival yesterday (Friday) this is not so much an apology as a self-righteous desire on my behalf for you understand how very, very busy I am.

Author, psychoanalyst and professor Josh was talking at Swindon Arts Centre on the topic of Not Working. In “a culture of overwork and hyperactivity, where being busy is a source of pride,” inactivity, he argued, can be good for us.

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Lost yourself in a good game recently?

18 May

Since I began attending Swindon Festival events, I’ve heard politicians of all parties discussing politics, historians talking about history, philosophers philosophising, and comedians cracking jokes. But never did I imagine I’d hear a psychologist discussing World of Warcraft.

For five or six years the MMPORG (or Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game for the uninitiated) was an important part of my life… and my wife’s.

With a new baby in the house, our opportunities to socialise were diminished. Not only did World of Warcraft (or WoW) fill our evenings or hellishly early mornings – and become an important distraction for my wife during hours of breastfeeding – but you could interact with your friends. Dungeon raiding became our new clubbing.

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The Creativity Code—Marcus du Sautoy

16 May Marcus du Sautoy. Photo © Fernando Bagué

For me, it’s all about socks. I’m obsessive about wearing a matching pair—unlike my eldest son who just grabs the first two in the drawer. I find that behaviour even odder than his socks but, then, he finds my sock-matching fetish equally peculiar.

Obsessions can, of course, be debilitating. My socks are in various shades of washing machine-faded black and precision-pairing is time consuming. But, one wonderful day, a fabulous time-saving thought came to me in a flash; if I can’t see the difference then it actually doesn’t matter! Now I just grab the first two darkish items in the sock drawer and put them on. Like son like father.

This marvellous new way of seeing the world was truly liberating. Corn Flakes need not be Kellogg’s and my British gas is no longer supplied by British Gas. My next vacuum cleaner purchase could be something other than a Hoover whilst a broad vista of yeast-extract options has opened out before me.

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Hamlet (My Experience)

16 May Milo at Hamlet, photo © Fernando Bagué

As I walked into the Theatre I noticed somebody sitting centre stage. Their hoodie was pulled up over their face. They sat cross-legged and had their arms out stretched. Every now and again they would screw their hands into tiny balls and release them again.

The strange figure had a horseshoe-shape of chairs around them. I presumed other actors were going to come on and occupy these chairs, but nobody came. Eventually Festival director Matt Holland gave us a helpful hint: “You are supposed to sit in the chairs.” My Mum and I had heard there was audience participation, but I hadn’t even thought of being on stage so close to the performance. Someone had the right idea and was already up there, so I followed after, getting the best seat I could.

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Hi diddly dee – a single life for me

15 May Catherine Grey (right) photo © Fernando Bagué

Hi diddly dee – a single life for me

Catherine Gray – on the unexpected joys of being single!

This one had me at the strapline. I’ll expand. Following a longish (16 yrs) marriage, a follow-on semi-detached relationship of a similar length and a small number of dalliances, I’m now contentedly single and absolutely not looking. But it’s taken me time to get to this stage. When my marriage ended, I so wanted to be a couple again. Then I slowly realised that I didn’t want marriage/co-habitation so much as a person. And now? I have no real interest in any of it. That said, were a gentleman caller with a healthy bank balance, a generous nature and a weak heart to rock up … that might be a nice thing. But it really doesn’t matter if he doesn’t. I’ve got Netflix! It’s a lot less bother I can tell you.

So! I related to much of what self-confessed love addict Catherine said in conversation with her interviewer on stage at the Swindon Arts Centre. Having already given up the demon drink and written about it in the Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, she decided to tackle her addiction to the love drug and set out to stay single for a year. The notes she made during her non-dating sojourn formed the basis of the new book. Continue reading

Monogamy is dead: long live monogamy!

15 May Rosie Wilby, photo © Fernando Bagué

Rosie Wilby on monogamy or not,or what’s best for life today.

Yes readers, I have been transfixed by Netflix’s The Crown and ITV’s Victoria. Gloriana!

Aside from the fact that thinking of royalty provides a pleasing titular pun, the latter marriage at least was one utterly unsullied by rumours of liaison dangereuse. Theirs was a monogamous relationship that remained so until the end, with Albert’s untimely early death. They managed twenty-one years and there’s no evidence to suggest that anything would have changed had Albert not shuffled off this mortal coil when he did.

Which brings me to the thrust – if you’ll pardon the expression – of Rosie Wilby’s set at the Spring Festival around her book Is Monogamy dead? I use the term set because Rosie’s entertaining appearance was, in part, a talk and, in part, a stand-up gig. A TIG perhaps? Continue reading

On dresses, wigs and still being human

15 May Leslie Tate and Sue Hampton, photo © Fernando Bagué

Every time I drag myself away from social media and engage with real human beings, I feel a buzz. With community events over the years, and especially with the Literature – turned Spring – Festival the buzz of attending events is palpable.

Even if, or often especially if, the speaker is not a ‘celebrity’, listening to a person who is knowledgeable and passionate about their subject is almost universally rewarding – heart-warming, brain-stimulating, thought-provoking and fun. I can make a comment or ask a question afterwards. What’s not to like?

No more so was this illustrated than at Sunday night’s event, Ways to be Equally Human. We were privileged to hear two people who, from the start, exuded that they were ‘comfortable in their own skin’ – no pun intended – as one speaker spoke of her alopecia and the other of his ‘cross-dressing’.

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