I Never Find Perfection

There are 16 types of people in the world.

That’s according to believers in the Myers Briggs Personality Types theory, at least – and I’m one of those. I won’t use up this post by explaining all the details, and instead suggest that if you’re interested in learning more, you take a look at this site. I’ve been fascinated by it for quite a while now, and welcome email discussion on the subject – particularly with those of the same ‘type’ as me, or similar ones.

I took the test last year. I am an INFP, and there’s really not any doubt about that when you read the description. Mine seems to be the somewhat neurotic, emotional, dreamy, angsty type – wanting the whole world to be peaceful and harmonious, agonising over discord, and feeling guilty about far too many things, all the while searching for Answers, dreaming of love and romance, and writing pretentious poems about the meaning of life. That’s not me, is it?!

Anyway. Enough about that. Here is a poem I wrote about the meaning of life. :)

I Never Find Perfection

They gave me but a minor role
On the world’s vast, crowded stage.
A bit-part in the final act
No lines until old age.

I yearn for the spotlight
But don’t want to be seen
I want to be adored
But I need to be free.
Let me have some decent lines…
Let me try…
Let me hide in the wings…
Let me cry.

I don’t want to argue, but you’re just not right.
I don’t want to be beaten, but I can’t stand to fight.

The world is beautiful.

There is love, and knowledge, and music,
and poetry, and laughter, and friendship, and…
…and pain, and hunger, and hatred, and
abuse, and war, and hurt, and corruption…

The world is ugly.

And I’m standing here in the wings
Waiting for my turn
Waiting for my chance to shine
Waiting for you to notice me
Waiting for Romeo’s kiss
Waiting for the battle to cease
Waiting for applause
Waiting for something to happen
Waiting for tragedy to end
and romance to begin
Waiting for the hero
Waiting to
be the hero

But remaining that unnoticed bit-part in the final act.
In a silly costume.
With a mask.

(I’m not being entirely serious with this poem, by the way. At least, I don’t think I am. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek with a healthy helping of self-deprecation and a touch of humour. But what do I know?! Maybe that’s all a front, and I’m crying out to the world from underneath my INFP shell…)

Up, and down, and oww…

On Saturday, I went to meet up with some friends in Schönried, which is a mountainous beauty spot serving as a ski resort in winter and simply a peaceful holiday spot for the rest of the year.

It was suggested that we take a cable car up to the top of a mountain and walk back down again — a suggestion greatly approved of by myself, not being much of a fan of vertical walking of the upward persuasion. And anyway, I’d never been up a mountain in a cable car before, so I was very excited at the prospect.

“Look at all the little goats!” I cried excitedly, pointing at the tiny dots on the hillside below as we glided up into the clouds. “And the chalets! And the mountains peaks all covered in snow!” I snapped pictures with the enthusiasm of a small child in a sweetie shop, hanging out of the cable car for a better view, much to the dismay of my cable car-savvy companions.

The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular.

From The Top

From The Top

And there was music to accompany us on our downward journey. Yes, the Swiss hills are alive with the sound of, erm, cowbells. There’s something magical about it. The notes ring out and drift through the otherwise perfectly still and quiet air, mingling with each other to create what could very nearly be described as beautiful music. Not bad for cows, anyway.

If you watched the clip, you will notice that at the end of it we ran into a slight obstruction in our path. Did I say slight obstruction? Sorry, I meant Very Hefty Cow. It was slightly alarming, but she did let us past, albeit with a lot of annoyed glaring.

Roadblock

Roadblock

It was a lovely day, what with all the cowbells and pretty flowers and stunning views and everything, but I have suffered for it, as I have not been able to walk since. At least, not without much groaning and a great deal of pain. Who knew that walking down a mountain could cause as much trauma to the untrained muscles as climbing up?

Probably everyone but me…

No eggs in Romont

For the three weeks before I went back to NI, I did a huge amount of driving around and exploring in Switzerland with Riho. So much so, that I had time to write up only maybe about one in three of our excursions, which means that there are lots of places and incidents that I have yet to share with you. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure that I remember some of them myself. Maybe I need to start keeping a journal, since my memory is decaying at an alarming rate.

Anyway, it turns out that for my remaining fortnight in this blissful place, I do not have access to a car. Just as I’d gotten the hang of driving on the right, too! But it’s fine, because I’ve done all my exploring, and I’ve got a pool to lounge beside in the sun as I write up all the outstanding blog posts. Am I going to complain?

So, using my photographs as a memory jogger, I have gone way back to the beginning. Not of time, of course, but of my adventures in the land of cheese and chocolate. ‘Twas Easter weekend, and all the sleepy little villages round these parts seemed to have practically shut down for the occasion. Fortunately, Riho stumbled upon an article about La Procession des Pleureuses, a rather unique and slightly disturbing parade (“Of Mourners”) through the streets of the small but extremely picturesque town of Romont.

Romont

Romont

Romont

Romont

Off we went in the beautiful sunshine, with a picnic lunch prepared and cameras in hand, to watch what was basically, well, a funeral procession, as you may have worked out from the name.

Romont is a beautiful, fairytale sort of place. Pastel coloured buildings, a majestic chateau, jaw-dropping views over the tranquil countryside, and an old church, which was the setting for the most unusual Good Friday service I’ve ever been to. All the local townsfolk seemed to be there, along with an impressive number of tourists for what is quite an out-of-the-way place, and a few camera crews. Clearly this annual parade attracts spectators from all over.

And really, if you were to suddenly turn around upon seeing everyone looking over your shoulder, as I did, and were greeted by the sight of a dozen or so figures cloaked in black and gliding noiselessly towards you, you too would be somewhat startled.

La Procession des Pleureuses

La Procession des Pleureuses

They went into the church, with the spectators following to make up the congregation, and after a service which seemed more like a roleplay than anything else, with different people reading out different parts of the Easter story, off they all went. Crowds lined the streets outside the church as the mourners walked slowly down the hill, each one carrying a scarlet cushion bearing a symbol of the Passion of Christ: a thorny crown, a hammer, nails, a whip…

Cross

Cross

… and led by another black-cloaked figure carrying a large cross. It was definitely interesting, but for some reason I can’t quite determine, I was oddly freaked out by the slow-moving figures veiled in black from head to toe. It was like watching the Grim Reaper coming towards you, flanked by several of his buddies, and knowing that there was nothing you could do to stop them. And it was something of a relief to leave them behind and enjoy a picnic lunch at the top of the hill, overlooking the much more cheerful-looking fields and hills and mountains and vineyards.

I don’t think it’s the sort of place you’d go to roll your Easter egg – and I certainly wouldn’t mention the Easter Bunny.

Know Your Place

I arrived back in Switzerland this afternoon, and stumbled into the first carriage I came to on the train for Lausanne.

It had been a long day. For a start, I’d gone to bed really late and then had to get up stupidly early to catch my lift with The Sister to Belfast, where I got an early morning bus to Dublin. Then there were the usual airport delays, and a cramped flight to Geneva, and now I was finally on a nice quiet train for the final part of my journey.

I sat back and relaxed, marvelling at how smoothly everything had gone for once. I was on time for everything, and I’d had no disasters, and I’d really impressed myself, if no one else, with how easily I switched back into French to buy my train ticket and give directions (hear that? Give directions!) to a lost man in the station. I am a cool, savvy and worldly-wise traveller. It felt good.

Plus I discovered that I was sitting in what turned out to be a Quiet Zone. No phones, headphones or noise in general was permitted. How fabulous is that? I’d never heard of such a concept on a train before, but I heartily approve.

DSC03243

I lay there, half-snoozing, looking out at my beloved Alps and lake and chalets, and feeling the warmth of the sunshine through the windows.

The ticket inspector didn’t make it into the Quiet Zone until we were very nearly in Lausanne. I presented him with my ticket. It was at this point that he pointed out that I was riding in a first class carriage, which was somewhat embarrassing, as I quite clearly had a second class ticket and, more generally, do not look even remotely like the sort of person who should be travelling in a first class carriage.

I blushed very deeply, and looked imploringly at him, hoping that he wasn’t going to fine me or have me arrested or throw me off the moving train or something dire like that. He didn’t – but he did tell me to follow him out of the first class section of the train. A little cloud of shame gathered over my hanging head as I picked up my belongings and flip-flopped sheepishly behind the ticket man, along the aisle of true first class passengers, all of whom were no doubt staring sternly and disgustedly at me.

The aisle went on for miles and miles.  Miles and miles of rich, distinguished, disapproving stares, all the way to second class, where I was unceremoniously turfed into a corner next to some scruffy backpackers who were noisily playing cards, and an Italian housewife who was screaming rather hysterically into her phone.

I brushed some unidentifiable crumbs off my seat and slumped down, back amongst my own kind. Dreaming wistfully (and still with some embarrassment) of the first class carriage and the Quiet Zone.

People are strange, when you’re a stranger

There is an agonised howl from the toilet cubicle next to the one from which I have just emerged. I pause in my handwashing activities. Agonised howls in toilet cubicles are not good, not that I’ve ever heard one until now.

Due to an unfortunate series of events involving a broken shower at The Parents’ house, a botched repair job, water dripping through the ceiling, and a plumber who has yet to turn up, I have had to nip out to Sainsbury’s to use the toilet. And now someone is howling in the cubicle. What a day.

“Is somebody there?” asks the howler, in a quavering voice.

“Erm… ye-essssss…” I reply somewhat dubiously. I am really not sure that I want to be involved in the toilet difficulties of a howling stranger, but I am a good person. It would be wrong to sneak out at this point.

And so I am still standing there as the door flies open and a tearful young woman emerges, with mad hair and a slightly crazed look on her face. She looks distressed, to say the least. And she is clutching a pregnancy test.

She thrusts the stick into my hand, which means that I am now holding a stick that has just been peed on by another human being. I am uncomfortable with the way that this day is turning out, but I take the accompanying leaflet and skim over the instructions as my sobbing companion launches into some hysterical babbling, every sentence punctuated with another “is that what it says – am I – am I….?” and some more swearing.

“Well, um…” I try to interject, looking up from the leaflet and trying to get the woman off me at the same time, “there’s one line here. That means it’s negative.”

“No, no!” howls the woman, clutching at her hair in a terribly dramatic fashion, “a line means I’m p-p-pregggggnannnnnt!”. She does some more howling, and I gingerly hold out the pee stick to let her see.

“Look – this is the control line. It just means that the test is working. It’s here in the diagram, see? If you were pregnant, there would be two lines, not one.”

The howling stops.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. It’s negative. You’re not pregnant.”

There is blissful silence. “Thank ****!” she says eventually. I smile politely, wash my hands again and, leaving her staring joyously at the peed-on stick, return to check that The Parents’ house has not floated away in my absence.

The world is a strange and alarming place at times. And that’s just Ballymena…

Something to write home about

I’ve always been an avid reader of the Ballymena Guardian.

I wouldn’t exactly call it the cutting edge of journalism, but they do the best they can with what they’ve got, I suppose. Anyway, I always spent many enjoyable hours going through it every week, idly circling all the spelling and grammar atrocities with a red pen in my tea breaks. Do not judge me. This is who I am. In fact, Mother BonBon, if I remember correctly, used to go one step further and post her corrected copy to the Guardian office when she was finished. Mind you, she also used to correct the spelling and punctuation on chalk boards sitting outside restaurants in the town. She is my hero, in a strange sort of way.

I know I’ve waxed lyrical about poor spelling and so on in the past, and perhaps I have been too harsh. This recent thought-provoking post from Grannymar really stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder if I’ve been nasty and inconsiderate about it. Of course people should be encouraged to blog and communicate through writing regardless of their level of education or natural ability in terms of spelling and grammar. I’d hate to think that I’ve ever put anyone off leaving me a comment or writing me a note because they think I’m going to criticise their writing. I wouldn’t do that, I promise!

My problem has always been more with people who are writing in a professional capacity. Journalists, authors, anyone who is receiving payment for their work… I guess I just think that if I’m being expected to pay to read their work, they should at least have a natural ability as far as the basics go, and maybe consider a spellchecker for the rest. For example: I’d like to think that if I cooked a meal for my friends they would appreciate it and overlook small imperfections because they know I’m not a professional chef, and I’ve done my best to make them a nice dinner. But if I were claiming to be a professional chef and charging a small fortune for the pleasure of eating my food, people would be perfectly entitled to complain and criticise if it wasn’t up to scratch. I think I’m entitled to feel the same way about writing standards.

Anyway, the Ballymena Guardian appears to be no better since I’ve been away. There is still their and are can be is and plurals have unnecessary apostrophes and that sort of thing. But what has actually stood out for me this time is the news itself. In that, well, there isn’t really any. I was struck by the headline Swine flu has not come to Ballymena! in last week’s edition. I pointed it out to The Sister to check that I wasn’t being overly critical, but she agreed that it seemed a little odd to make a non-event into headline news. Sort of like putting No murders in Sainsbury’s this month! or Old lady went shopping and did not get mugged!. A little unnecessary.

For all its problems, Ballymena actually begins to seem like a safe enough place when you read the Ballymena Guardian. I did note with some alarm, however, in today’s edition, that the police are dealing with some pretty serious issues:

DSC03190It is unclear whether this was an isolated incident or part of shady mafia-type gang activities.

On the front page, however, was the main story of the week:

DSC03189It seems that some geese escaped from the park and caused havoc by wandering down Thomas Street. The horror of it all! Apparently passers-by couldn’t believe their eyes and “nearly quacked up”, according to the report. Fortunately the geese were captured and returned to their home, prompting the line: “The incident ended happily, but it could have gone eider way.” Ho ho…

Ah, Ballymena Guardian. Where every day is the first of April. :)

Not enough coffee in the world.

I think I’m too old for all this.

One week of frantic running around in an attempt to visit and spend time with friends and family, and I’m in need of a holiday. It’s all good fun, and great to see familiar faces again after a year, but I’m asleep on my feet now.

The Sister and I decided against the traditional going for coffee to catch up, and instead took off on an impulsive jaunt to see some more big stones, following my newfound interest in such things in Switzerland. We took Maxine, and directions from Google Maps, and still it all managed to go wrong in the Belfast area. “Oh,” said The Sister with a faint note of surprise as I found myself in the wrong lane again, “I think, actually… yes… we’re heading back to Ballymena again.” It is ridiculous. Belfast is out to get me. (“But… but… there’s only one junction to negotiate,” spluttered Ed incredulously upon hearing the tale. “How could you possibly go wrong?” Let me tell you: one is all it takes.)

Still, after a few laps of Belfast we found ourselves on the right track again, and went to see the Legananny Dolmen. The Sister posed for amusing pictures in which she appeared to be holding up the top stone. It was all good.

Driving on the left hand side again has been disturbingly difficult, not to mention being on the other side of the car and having to change gears by myself. Plus, it turns out, I know an awful lot of people, so you can throw exhaustion into the mix. Still, it’s lovely to see everyone again. Bear with me on the blog posting front… I have neither time nor awakeness, and a severe backlog of topics about which to blog.

More coffee.