Cup of Joe

Americano

Machiato

Espresso

Cortado

Ristretto

Coffee. A way of life to some, and to others a means to fuel each hazy morning. From the millennial sipping on their instagrammable paper cup to the middle aged mechanic with his morning brew – we all have a little time for a cup of  Arabica.  Myself for example, I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with it. Starting out like most-  with an utter disgust for the smell let alone taste – reminding me of my french teacher : a certain je ne sais pas.

Then I reached 16 and it was  cool to have an iced drink doused in sugar, cream and syrup. I realised quickly that this was not sustainable for both my health and wallet at almost 3.50 a pop. Exams came and the next rung up Jacob’s ladder was the warm embrace of a hot, smooth milky latte – essentially an adult milkshake, not proper coffee but not all milk – so 100% judgement free!

And then one summer I became a fully fledged adult – I moved on to the big boy – a nice, fresh Cup of Joe.

But how does a cup of coffee become anthropomorphised into Joe? And why Joe and not Tom, Dick or Harry?

The origins of this phrase are thought to originate on the sails of the American Navy in the early 20th century . Josephus Daniels held the elusive role of Secretary of the Navy and his lasting legacy was that of banning alcohol on navy ships.   Like flotsam, the sailors found themselves lost at sea and so replaced a cold beer with plenty of hot coffee – naming it aptly after the man causing their caffeine fuelled vendetta.

Another belief is that Joe is used to represent that it is a drink of any man and everyman – Joe around the corner enjoys a coffee so why shouldn’t you?

All I know is that life is too short for bad coffee – in an instant it will all be over . All the memories of the past will filter through your mind and you’ll ask yourself if given another shot would you have done anything differently?

Open your eyes – it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Gosh – it’s been a while hasn’t it?

That’s exactly what I have kept telling myself each day and yet I have let each of those days escape me, like the sighs that dissolve from my soul into the world around me, a quiet manifestation of the anger I harbour for my own forgetfulness.

Well I wouldn’t call it forgetfulness and I’m not sure I could call it laziness either. I don’t know what it is. The thought and desire to write is always there – but 5 months later here we finally are. I tell myself – where is the time? Where does this mistress hide herself and who is it that she elopes with to leave me here – without a single minute left to spare? She tortures; standing still in moments of fear and threat but running away in times of happiness and haunting me in times of regret.

But – it’s an age old excuse isn’t it – I didn’t have the time to. How could I not have had a single second, in the past 166 days, to do something which I started for myself? Something which is an outlet for me, which I enjoy and which is my own.  I know I want to, but I tell myself I have more important things to do. All this, at the expense of letting go of a part of me which I enjoy and which makes me more than just what the world around me knows.

I’m somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

Life’s responsibilities , the adult lucifer, is a constant pressure. It whispers in your ear when you are about to fall asleep  reminding you of the bills you have to pay and the work you have yet to do. Losing yourself  to your adult life  – is like drowning in the deepest of seas. For who are we if we lose ourselves? What makes me different from you and what makes me more than  just a piece of machinery ?

What then is the lesser of these two evils?

Some say this idiom: between the devil and the deep blue sea, heralds , like all good things, from Greek mythology.

Thought to originate from Homer’s Odyssey, this saying has travelled its own journey to becoming a modern day saying.

In fact, ” somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea” in its Greek origin is known as ” being between Scylla and Charybdis “. But who was Scylla and who was Charybdis?

Our story is set between the waters of Sicily and Italy – known as the strait of Messina. It was through here which Odysseus had to pass on his long journey back home to Ithaca from the battle of Troy. However like most myths, there was a catch. In this strait there lay two monsters. The first was called Scylla who was once a beautiful nymph – but now  a six headed monster of the sea ( the tale of many women’s lives!) who had a hunger for the blood of men ( again, akin to many women’s lives perhaps?!)  The second was Charybdis – another monster but less of the physical kind and more the geographical. Charybdis was a large whirlpool , lying very close to Scylla and capable of swallowing Odysseus, his ship and all his men, in one. These two monsters were so close to one another, that Odysseus had to make the decision of which threat was greater and which had less of a chance of taking them all alive.

Odysseus really was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

The decision? Well as Homer writes:

“Sail on past her—top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew,”

Odysseus sacrifices a few of his men to the appetite of Scylla at the expense of being consumed entirely by the abyss of Charybdis.

And so like Odysseus I too must make a decision – whether to let  the stress  of life consume all of me or make the small moments to stop and enjoy life – pressing pause for a moment –  and dealing with potential consequences later on.

Well at least I’m not stuck between a rock and a hard place – for the sea is a much gentler mistress.

That and I know how to swim.

Cut To The Chase

If there is one thing in life I am really terrible at – it is having serious personal conversations. I don’t know what it is or where it comes from – the irrational fear that being honest will hurt someone and the fear of the sadness of having to say goodbye. The ironic thing is – in my job – I have  important conversations with people about themselves and nothing comes easier. I guess when it’s someone else’s life – the repercussions seem distant, the effects will never be known to you. It’s a job that you’ve done, and the aftermath of which is not your problem anymore. You, the deliverer have delivered,  and now the problem must be reckoned with by that person alone. But when it’s you, your problem, your delivery and your reckoning – it all changes doesn’t it ? For me at least it does. And so out of an inability to get the horrible adulting out of the way – I end up in  a line of traffic –  the “should have saids”  like cars in mind keeping me at a personal standstill whilst the world bustles on around me.

But out of a series of personal revelations  I’ve come to realise that however horrible and sad goodbyes are, it’s not worth putting off things you know you need to do. Life is too short. I’d rather remember the good memories and not of the foreboding anxiety I had when I was constantly putting serious conversations off. That’s right – I’ve learned at last that sometimes you just need to cut to the chase.

The origin of the saying ” cut to the chase” is thought to herald from old silent movies. These 1920’s films usually followed similar plot lines – a tumultuous love affair depicted by longing glances between the hero and heroine. Now for whatever reason, these love affairs climaxed with a car chase.  Unorthodox I know but whatever floats your boat. Perhaps the first 3/4 of the movie was made for the female viewers and the director remembered that the male members of the audience would need a testosterone fuelled action scene to once again arouse their interest at the films end. Who knows, but it is believed that ” cut to the chase” was first used in this context and was a direction from the script of “Hollywood Girl” in 1929:

” Jannings escapes . Cut to the chase”

In modern day it is used less literally and more figuratively to describe getting to the point. It’s easier said than done, and sometimes it is simpler to be a passenger in life. But as easy as it is to go along with things and trundle along in a car that badly needs a repair, in a pursuit of something you know you do not want,  it is better to be the script writer and director of your own film. Cut to that chase and let the end credits roll to one chapter of your life and the titles run of the next.

 

 

Break the Ice

There is possibly nothing worse than an awkward silence – where thirty seconds feels as if the universe could have been destroyed, dissolved and reborn all in that moment.

They say that silence is golden – but there comes a time when somethings are not worth their weight in gold, and  awkward first encounters , and the potential chorus of silence that can ensue from them – is one.

Don’t get me wrong – you can have silence  that doesn’t invoke terror . In fact those moments are one of the most humbling of all – to be so comfortable with someone that there are no need for words and just being is enough. Alas analysing even those relationships  you realise that everything always has to start somewhere. Everything has a beginning – a first encounter.

Sometimes meeting new people is an informal thing and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s a group activity day organised by the powers  high up at work to boost sales by  strengthening team morale. Sometimes it’s a friend introducing  you to a mutual friend and as a result you all having to try and find common ground.

But what is the default setting amongst these type of encounters? It’s the need to

Break the Ice.

Breaking the ice is often used to describe trying to make small dents in the citadel of a introductory social meeting. It is the act of trying to make thing less awkward , to get things going .

But are things always so frosty? Where did breaking the ice come from ?

It is thought that the saying originated back when shipping was the main mode of both transportation and trade. Naturally shipping in the winter was hindered by the cold weather and port harbours would lose out on trade due to ships being frozen  in ice at sea. The trading town would send out small ships known as “ice breakers” to sail towards the frozen cargo , thus creating a break in the ice behind it and forming a path for the frozen ship to follow back to the port.  And so breaking the ice came about.  Ice breakers- the small ships sent out to rescue the frozen trade ships  –  allowed the port harbours to continue to trade and thrive throughout winter months.

Simon and Garfunkel once said that : ” No one dared disturb the sound of silence,” but alas all they needed was a good ice breaker !

 

 

 

 

Start From Scratch

I have been travelling down a road. It is not a main road nor is it a cobbled path. This road has been long and enduring. The terrain at times rocky. There have been pit stops along the road – taverns and inns  – where I have met new people and learned new things about the world and myself – learned who I want to be and how I want to continue along the road. The road had turns – some sharp enough to teach me lessons about the cruelty that life can bring. But the road, at times, was accompanied by beautiful sights – some  enough to teach me that sometimes it is the journey rather than the destination which holds more reward for your soul.

And now this road,  has come to a junction. Abrupt yet subconsciously always expected – this new turn, this new path – is daunting. I have been slowing down in anticipation of it for a while now, yet I had never believed it would arrive. Am I equipped for where this new road goes? Will I be able to join it safely or will fear overcome me and will I need to stop completely? I had become so used to the old road, I could handle its bumps – for I had had years of learning its tricks.

This road  is a metaphor for where I feel I am in life right now . I have arrived at a point in my life which holds new opportunities, new prospects and new goals. But therein lies the rub- everything is new. It feels like everything I had done prior, all the relationships I had built, all the ways I had begun to love and feel at home in a city, all had to be said goodbye to  – not forever  – but for some time.

Everything feels like it has to be started from scratch.

Which got me thinking – why do we start from scratch? What is a scratch ? (Apart from something you itch )

The word scratch in today’s world is used to describe the beginning of something, or the start of something with no advantage in it. Its origin heralds from the world of sport.  Like most sports, cricket involves lines which demarcate  boundaries which cannot be crossed. The most important line for the batsmen  is the crease. Back in the 18th century , these lines – were etched – or scratched, into the ground. This was also the case in the world of boxing, where boxers were not permitted to cross the line on the ground afore them .

And so players were told to start from scratch.

Writing this has taken my mind off of the scratch that lies ahead of me .I am leaving the pavilion, helmet in hand, armoured with pads to protect me from the game of life, bat swinging by my side. I am approaching slowly to the crease. I have looked at the umpire. I have looked at the bowler – the deliverer of all my challenges. I have seen the boundaries that encircle me – the ring for my own battle.  I am taking a deep breath – for only I know, that unlike the ordinary batsmen,  I have to cross the crease, for it is one thing to start from scratch in life, but it is another to be up to scratch.