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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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.

 

 

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.

 

Prisoners of the Sky

Butwhosaid the following? I thought I would sit down and write and so I guess this time there is no common saying or a quote but a poem, which I suppose this time – I said !

I never thought the sky could be
inflicting – so cruel.
To keep me trapped underneath her claws
So many miles from you.

She hides her dark eyes
With glitters from the stars
But I have seen her soul tonight
And from far away it shows.

The wind her prey – is howling
For the sky too has captured him
It’s bound us both from what we want
And travellers have no remit.

Caged upon a muddy sheath
I owe the sky debts
My tears but have nourished the soil
On which she dances to no regret.

I cannot pay the wages the sky demands me to
And so she will not lead me to, the brightness that is you
But my love, the wind and I, we whisper in the rain
And plot so that the sky, up above shall feel our pain.

She goes on and on forever and to no end does she forgive
She hides the sunlight from us – and in darkness I must live.
The journey to your arms, though shadowed by her plight
Is not a victim to , a defeated endless fight.

And so I continue, with bruised and battered feet
Walking in the darkness to where we ought to meet.
But then the sky – in her wickedness- she laughed at me with lies
She told me that you’d given up – that you’d severed all our ties.

I told her I did not believe her – but she laughed so much it rained.
And my heart could not take it – for it was beaten and it was drained.
I thought that you would wait for me – that you would understand
That it was worth anything – to lie once more in hand.

A Hollowness inside me – dug away with no pain,
To know that you had given up – my sorrow I could not feign
The wind it tried to help me – he held me in embrace
But I had long been lost to you, that was always the case.

The stars I see now, are not dazzling rays of hope
They are but like the wind and I – victims of elope.
Naïve with lust and wonder, we all set off for love
But the sky all along knew what awaited from above.

And she tried her most to teach us how to be brave
By making us hate her – for keeping us from what we craved
And all the hatred I had once for her- has dissolved away in time
And the love that burned so violently for you – I have written into rhyme.

If the shoe fits…

Not everyone can handle these shoes - but they fit - so I'ma work it.
Not everyone can handle these shoes – but they fit – so I’ma work it.

I am bad with criticism. There I said it. I mean equally I don’t deal well with compliments, often not knowing that it is customary to acknowledge said compliment and perhaps return the favour with an equally embarrassing confession of your personal opinion of how godly someone’s chiselled jaw line is or how you want to drown in their rock pool blue eyes. In fact the hardest “would you rather” question you could ask me would be would you rather be blunt force trauma-ed to submission with compliments or repeatedly scarred by a constant bombardment of shell fire criticism. Trapped in no man’s land, somewhere between compliments and a hard place I know when the time came to pick a side, I’d probably pick the side of criticism.

But in my rare moment of Freudian wonder I feel I’ve got to the bottom of the rock pool and found out why this is the case. You see deep down, I know all my faults; I’ve had 21 years of knowing myself and knowing what others think of me, to understand my flaws, faux pas and frustrating habits. Whats more, like an addict who mourns his affliction whilst pushing the needle into his arm, I know exactly when I’m doing something that is ill received. So I think I can deal well with criticism because somewhere submerged under my pride and ego I know that I can be a nuisance. That’s my pressure point, but I can deal with it because sometimes the Shoe Fits.

“If the shoe fits..” is often used to suggest that sometimes a negative comment about someone may be justified by that person’s own actions or behaviour. Now like a well stocked charity shop, the saying has changed over time .Sifting through the armoire of the 16th century we find a delightful number , the original vintage piece “if the cloak sitteth fit.” Roughly translating to “if the cloak fits keep it.” Now the shoe fits is thought to be the younger American sister of the first born British equivalent of “if the cap fits.” Theories regarding to why cap became shoe are varied with one suggestion attributing it to the popularity of Cinders and her “they only make it in my size” glass slipper.

The moral regardless of the apparel in context, is that sometimes it is a case of one size fits all. We all have flaws and in that way we are all the same but nobody wears ignorance well – so don’t try and squeeze into that smaller size when you know that you’ve got a little bit of baggage you’ve yet to deal with. You’ve checked the bags in – you know that you have them – but you still have to get them past customs. In the meantime – you just have to admit that the bags belong to you.

The Die Is Cast ( Alea Iacta Est )

” Without an element of uncertainty, life is a meaningless game” John Galsworthy

Call me boring but there is no tune as sweet to my ears as that of the promise of an evening well spent with good company and a good old fashioned board game.( That is of course assuming that I am on the winning end of the team , nobody likes a sore loser and unfortunately I am as painful as they get when it comes to losses.) That said, it is not the winning that I enjoy as much as the pursuit of it; the adrenaline rush that comes with the quiet, mental, elegant competition of scrabble – oh you think you can make a 7 letter word, well just you watch what I can do. Boardgames are reminiscent of childhood, times when there was little to worry about other than hoping desperately with fingers and toes crossed that you rolled a double six.

But then adulthood hits. And you realise that all those “life is a game” analogies you heard in the movies and songs when you were growing up, were true.You’ve learnt from the hard experiences of growing up the bad moves, bluffs and dirty tactics life can throw at you. Sometimes you’ve been at the receiving end of a bad deal and at other times you’ve been the one with the upper hand.

Either way, when you make your decision, when you decide upon your next move, there is no going back
“The Die Is Cast.”

Now this well known phrase is originally latin: “Alea Iacta Est” And there is nobody in modern history who is more associated with latin and its home – Rome – than our man Julius Caesar ( after all he did come, see and conquer.) Now I’m looking forward to writing about the origins of this because it involves delving into the history of the past – the history of 49BC to be exact. Julius and his men await on one side of the River Rubicon in Italy. In crossing the river Julius would immediately be sending a message to Rome, and the formidable leader of Rome – Pompey – that Julius meant business and would no longer take orders from the Senate. Caesar was at a pivotal point in the game of politics – he would either win or lose. And so, making the first step on the bridge which crossed the river, Caesar looked towards his men and declared that now their fate was sealed: Alea Iacta Est – The Die Is Cast.

Now J-Cae in this moment aptly says it all. In life you have to make decisions and nobody can make them for you. Sometimes the decisions aren’t as easy as picking white or black on a chessboard. Whatever we decide to do , regardless of the outcome, once it is done, it is done. There is not enough time to play the game of life, to make decisions and then to regret. So once that die has been cast – let it roll. See what happens – then make your next move. The trick is to keep on playing.

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.”