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.


Mad As A Hatter 

It’s been too long since I’ve written – but like most people, life took over and for a moment it felt like I was standing in the middle of a Manhattan road, with everything and everyone passing me by whilst I stood, fixed to the solid earth beneath me.

Like Ross and Rachel , being on a ” break” from writing and doing the things that I wanted to do, but reasoning with myself that I had no time for – never really worked out. In fact, I’ve come to realise that the age old, ” life goes fast” tantra – is in fact – true. I’ve been foolish to put aside the things that I enjoy doing, for the things I have to do. Life is more than that.

I have well an truly been Mad As A Hatter.

And so with that ominous piece of reflection out of the way ( mindfulness is very a la mode) we can get to the top of the matter. In fact we can get to the top hat of the matter. (As much as I do prefer a fedora myself.)

This idiom is commonly used to describe someone who is said to be mad.  The story of this hat’s origins are somewhat dark, somewhat very 18th century.  Most associate it with Carroll’s Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865,  however Lewis Carroll’s character was in fact named – the Hatter.  It was the Cheshire Cat who described him as being “mad” and so the name seems to have stuck in popular culture. But perhaps there’s something more lurking behind the grin of the Cheshire Cat and he in fact  knew more than Carroll because we can in fact use Alice and her Adventure’s to visualise the origin of this saying.

It all begins in 18th century where the production of hats occurred by hand in factories. These hats were made from felt, which was treated with mercury in order to create the desired texture , (you can see where I’m going now. ) Employees who worked diligently for years in these factories were of course chronically exposed to the toxic element mercury. If you’re a science geek, or just remember basic school stuff, you’ll know that chronic exposure to a substance, leads to accumulation in the body beyond a point at which it is no longer harmless.  And so the ” Mad Hatter’s Disease” came to be, where it was seen that those working in the production of hats, and those who wore hats daily for many years, displayed a similar array of odd characteristics, which at the time, people attributed to mental illness. The mercury within their nervous system’s led to symptoms ranging from confusion, dementia, loss of teeth, hearing and tremors. Of course, our naive 18th century selves were quick to associate these behaviours with loss of the mind, and so the saying Mad As A Hatter, was used to describe those described as being “crazy.” Fear not, with the pioneering advancement in medicine at the time, these symptoms were finally found to be due to the exposure of mercury in 1869.

But back to Alice – the Hatter – as he should be called – is known to wear a top hat. Could Carroll have used this literary character to depict the history and going ons of the time, a clever play on current affairs, a sort of ” do you see what I’ve done here?” to the future. Or perhaps, it is just coincidence.

Either way, Hat’s off to you…no really, take the hat off.

Cat Got Your Tongue?

Now if you’ve read some of my previous posts you will know what side of the fence I sit on regarding the polarising opinions domestic cats instil amongst humans. Cats can be selfish, hedonistic and all together rude animals. They are out to get what they want and honey they know how to wrap you around their little paws. But even I know when somebody is getting an undue proportion of publicity and it seems almost strange the number of idioms and sayings that have the word “cat” in it.

– Cat got your tongue?
– Cat that got the cream
– Curiosity killed the cat
– Cat has nine lives

In that order, there lies an epic fantasy of a feline fiend who – got your tongue, felt smug about it, and then for his own curiosity – died – because your tongue had herpes and it gave the poor cat a cold sore which ended its days. Saga complete- no need for a sequel. Oh wait, the cat lives again it’s only life number 3.

But why are cats so damn popular when it comes to sayings? I mean if there’s any animal that could get you’re tongue, I doubt it would be a cat. You’re more likely to see a cat not move at all, basking under the sun and coming inside when dinner ought to be ready, than to see them lunge towards one’s oral cavity.

But if the day comes when cats decide to do something proactive – what does it mean if “The cat got your tongue?”

This expression is often said by a second party to you in the form of a question, when you’re lost for words. That horrible moment when you’re in the middle of a conversation, or passing a face from the past down a busy street, when someone asks you a question or greets you with familiarity, but your mind goes blank and mouth stays closed. That’s when the damn cat comes in – takes your tongue and saunters away, turning its head to mock you as you stand their frozen with nothing coming out your mouth but the empty silence of awkwardness and regret for ever getting a cat in the first place.

Now the saying has disputed origins, but here are a few.

Some say it originates from the Middle East where liars were brutally punished by having their tongues removed. As if being left mute for the rest of your life was not bad enough, you were then made to watch a cat feast upon your loss. Maybe this is where cats and their thirst for human pain began? First it was tongues but now because of political correctness they have to settle for less – not getting off the sofa, defecating on your favourite bag, general impoliteness.

Another equally as wicked origin is during the Middle ages where witches were less Hermione Granger and more grave danger. Feared by all and persecuted by just as many, it was believed that if you saw a witch, her cat companion would steal your tongue , so that you could not inform the law of her sighting and thus save her from death by dunking.

Now, I’m not playing devil’s advocate here, but in both these origins, cats’ characters are not really untarnished. In each of these suggestions cats have some shady behaviour and associations with pain.

Maybe cats feel obliged to live up to the stereotype given to them in sayings and expressions such as “Cat got your tongue.” Like a tortured villain, they feel that the image thrust upon them by history is one which they must endure and so they cast themselves as the anti hero in our daily lives.

There’s nothing worse than people not seeing the real you and having to be what society wants you to be. So cats may not have my heart as yet, but they damn sure have my respect.

Bite The Bullet

It’s that time of year again – the end. And so as we all sit and reflect on this past 2014 we see our year – the highs, the lows, the adventures, the mistakes, the loves and the losses – as if it were an old movie playing on a movie projector whilst we sip on a New Year’s tipple. It is a curious time of year, one where suddenly nostalgia overwhelms even the most brazen of souls. We find ourselves stopping for a moment and looking back on the past 365 days, reflecting on all that we came, saw and conquered. (Can I remind everyone that we survived the end of the world in 2012 – which was really a close call – so really 2014 was piece of cake in comparison. )

This year I learnt that sometimes you have to do things you don’t really want to . In fact the very thought of doing such a task is nauseating and you succeed in putting it off for at least an hour by reasoning with yourself and by the end of those 60 minutes you have a long list of reasons to just call the whole thing off.

But it’s time to finally ” Bite the Bullet”  and get on with it.

It’s pretty easy to work out the meaning of this phrase and the origins of it are equally as straightforward.

Biting the bullet is used to describe gritting your teeth and doing what you have to do , when really you’d rather be washing your dog’s feet after it waded through a cow farm post bovine breakfast time. You get the point – you don’t bite the bullet unless things are really bad, in fact the bullets are usually locked away so it’s a pretty serious situation when the bullets are out and at arms reach let alone anywhere near your dentition.

The saying’s origin is set in one of these bad situations. It is believed to originate in the times of modern warfare. In these times primitive surgeries were necessary with high numbers of wounded soldiers . However the Western Front was no Western General and so access to anaesthesia was minimal. But every cloud; in these times of war, bullets were at hand and so were used as a trench trademarked lidocaine. Soldiers were told to bite down on lead bullets during the most savage surgeries including amputations as a means of enduring the pain and focussing their energy on anything but the body modifications occurring at the end of the bed. And so the saying biting the bullet arose.

Now I’m not suggesting we all risk the quality of our teeth and start carrying pocketful of blank bullets. It wouldn’t look good in the middle of a job interview if  we were to suddenly bring out a bullet nor would our dentists be best pleased. But what I am saying is that life is too short to put things off no matter how unappealing they are and no doubt similar situations will one day arise in the future, and so,  it is better to bite that bullet now before it gains momentum and hits you harder the next time.

Rudyard Kipling says it better than I do, but if there’s one thing I’m taking with me into 2015 it’s the belief that no matter what is expected of me, or what I expect from myself, regardless of the outcome – triumph or disaster – the success is in the bravery of trying.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”

Pull The Wool Over Your Eyes

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”  Walter Scott

The “art of deception” seems a most  poetic euphemism for telling a lie. But sometimes it can be fair to assign such a lyrical description for such an deceitful action because – well sometimes – the fraud fashioning the lies is in fact a (con)artist. Lies can be so engrained within this opportunist’s own being that like art – with each talented brushstroke – their lie develops more and more layers of elaborative watercolor and charcoal , adding depth and dimension,  which seep into one another until it seems almost impossible that the lie cannot be anything but the truth.

Behold –  you’ve well and truly had ” The wool pulled over your eyes.”

But where did the wool come  from and are we talking lambs wool or fine cashmere? (Quality my friends is always worth paying extra for.)

Pulling the wool over one’s eyes is used  in modern day English as an idiom when describing the act of beguiling a naive soul into believing the web of mistruths that you spin for them. But this isn’t a web of silk , no, you are so outstanding in your act of enchantment, so talented at twining the fabric(ations) together, that you’ve stitched together a wonderous woolen wig to perch upon your victims unsuspecting head.

A wig you say ? A wig indeed. The saying is in fact thought to originate from the 17th century where it was unbecoming to show the world what your momma gave you and thus it was common practice to wear powdered wigs on top of your own hair. These wigs are still worn today however usually only in courts of law – unless of course King Louis XIII of France is your style icon (each to their own.)  Now these wigs were temperamental and so could slip and send the wearer into temporary darkness until readjusted – and so was likened to keeping someone in the dark by hoodwinking them with your lies. Similarly another suggestion for the origin of the saying is that in courts of law where it was etiquette to wear these woolen wigs, as it still is now, it was said that a great lawyer could enrapture the judge regardless of his clients innocence and thus was, through the power of speech, pulling the judges wig down to cover his eyes to blind him from the truth.

So Walter Scott had the right hunch all along with weaving webs of lies – but perhaps what he meant to say was :

“Oh, what a tangled wig we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”

Jump On The Bandwagon

Ladies and gentlemen. I have become someone I vowed never to be.  I have buckled under the marketing pressure. I have been ensnared  in a trap made from system boards and modems. I will soon be one those people whom I have always scoffed at nonchalantly , mocking them for their lack of originality,  whilst feeling safe  and content in the knowledge that I am not one of them. Or should I say  that I was not one of them.

I am writing this on my vista equipped , panoramic sized, so heavy nobody could steal it fast enough, laptop. I am replacing this martyr of a PC – a pioneer in its heyday – with a sleeker, lighter and significantly smaller  device which moonlights as 1 of my 5 a day. I am leaving this loyal and faithful housewife of mine , for a younger, hotter more talented model.

I have – Jumped on the Bandwagon. The one overflowing with juicy apples fresh from the factory, shiny and ripe. Best before – the next system upgrade ( or best before it bends right !?)

But where did the bandwagon originally come from and where along its journey did we come across it and hitch a ride ?

Bandwagon’s were  – would you believe it – the wagons for the bands which traveled with circuses back in the mid 19th century. To herald their arrival in a new town, circuses would parade down the main street with their bandwagons – if you’ve got it flaunt it right?  But if anything these circuses had nailed marketing 101. By showing the  town’s people a  sneak peak into what the circus had to offer –  what freaky delights, what wild creatures, what  travelling tricks they had – the parade was prime opportunity to drum up interest and enticed locals to part with their pennies. It took half a century for people to realize that they had fallen for the allure of the bandwagons and the flamboyant displays of advertising they encapsulated.

And of course if there’ something we all know about advertising, it’s that there’s always an ulterior motive somewhere; a secret agenda, an unlicensed ingredient, an unknown sponsor. And like most good ideas in life, it wasn’t long before politics began to manipulate the innocent  wagon’s  of the circus folk into  prime campaigning real estate. Bandwagons began to be used by aspiring politicians as a means of getting in touch with the people and for delivering false promises  to them  (in politics this is known colloquially as a delivering a  “speech.”)

The earliest reference to jumping on the bandwagon was in political speeches made in the late 19th century where the public were warned not to ” jump on the opponents bandwagon in haste.” So the saying originally didn’t mean to follow the trend and what’s popular, but rather it was a token of advice , a scaremongering political move to warn people not  to listen to the politician on the bandwagon from the opposite party. But alas politicians no longer parade the streets in open topped wagons , and the saying now is used to describe the act of following the majority and what’s a la mode.

So I have jumped on the bandwagon. I will be another drop in the ocean of fruit loving fanatics.

I shudder at the thought that I will begin to defend my purchase with the classic ” but  they don’t get viruses.”

That’s right, because my new laptop will be up to date with its vaccinations. So here’s hoping the old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away is true. Because I sure have hell have paid for this apple – bandwagon and all.

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Curiosity – or let’s be honest – nosiness, is one of the inherent natural instincts of most humans. You’d be lying to yourself if you disagreed.  In one way or another we are all inquisitive, questioning and sadly – suspicious. Mankind is  a distrustful race , but it’s not our fault ,  if evolution didn’t make us this way society certainly did.

But why use man in a metaphor when there is an equally suspicious and even more  cautious animal than man.

The cat.

Something about their cold exteriors, their lack of response to emotion , their arrogance and their self seeking behavior – is alarming. It’s almost scary.  I’m just putting it out there, there are some cat’s I know that could most definitely fit the criteria for a psychopath. (That’s superficial charm, lack of remorse and sensation seeking)

But enough of cat bashing. ( I’m a dog person – could you tell?)

Cat’s are inquisitive – I presume that’s why they like to enter every house  in the neighborhood – maybe some form of covert espionage where they then report back to their owners about who  has the biggest television. Keeping up with the Jones’ and all that.

But why did “Curiosity Kill The Cat” ? ( and did it kill the cat 9 times?)

The original metaphor was “Care Killed the Cat” where “care” was taken to mean “worry.”

The definitive origin of the saying is not known but the earliest written reference is in the 16th century play “Every Man in his Humour” by Ben Jonson. He wrote:

“Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat”

But since then nobody really knows where ” curiosity killed the cat ” came from. It’s a general consensus that the proverb was widely recognized by the start of the 20th century and most likely of British origin. There’s something about it -almost alliterative and musical in nature – I like this idiom. It does its job perfectly at warning you that you’re probably better off staying out of matters that you’re not involved in.

And if curiosity didn’t kill the cat – perhaps Schrödinger did!