How I manage not to throw an axe by Amy
It is not uncommon for people to ask me where I find my bounce … and it’s true that I tend to go through life as though hopping from trampoline to trampoline.
First of all, life is always easier when you are blessed with a happy, optimistic disposition, and I thank my grandmother, Hoo-hoo (yes, Hoo-hoo) for that. Hoo-hoo was named because whenever she came into the house, she would call out at the top of her voice “Yoo-hooooooooo, is anybody there?” and as a young child, I must have identified her like this. Hoo-hoo was always incredibly curious about people, relationships, what made people tick …. She loved a laugh, she loved her food and she was always game for anything. If I can live as long and as happily as Hoo-hoo, I will be a happy woman.
But when the days are long and the nights are short, and dreams are full of administration, two things seem to work for me.
One is my exercise bike: purchased during the first weeks of the pandemic to stop the family from going bonkers, it has been a friend in moments of needing to let off steam. I hop on top, close my eyes and off I go …. Pedalling through the Greek countryside, side by side with Jean Dujardin, probably cycling a lot faster than him but looking as fresh as a rose all the same …. Or puffing up the side of a Himalaya with the Dalai Lama listening to his words of wisdom while I smile beatifically.
The other is bread. There is nothing quite like pummelling the hell out of a lump of dough to put you in a good mood.
The proof is I have never yet needed to throw an axe at someone, although I have been known to get into the odd flour fight from time to time!
The act of fishing is relaxing
Fishing can be very relaxing. It’s like sitting next to the water, but with a chance to catch a fish. There are, of course, different styles of fishing. Some styles are more active than others, or require more equipment, however the most basic style doesn’t require much. All you need is your rod, some bait, and patience. That last item—patience—is the important one. Because you might wait hours for a fish to come along and find your bait. In a day of fishing you might only have a few moments of action, and so it’s those long periods between the action that the relaxation happens!
While you’re waiting for a fish there are many things to do. You can read a book, you can explore the area (don’t go too far from your rod!), you can play a game on your phone, if you like. Sounds not relaxing enough for your tastes? What would you like to do if you were spending several hours in a beautiful location next to the water? Sunbathe? Not a problem! Practise painting? Well, why not! Start writing a novel that will make you famous? What better time! Go to sleep? Hmmm, possibly, but maybe you should tie your rod to your hand first, in case a fish tries to take it! No matter what you do while you sit there, you’ll have the opportunity to do something that relaxes you. Because, you see, it’s not really the fishing that’s relaxing, it’s what you do while you’re there that’s important.
Doing it Myself
Some might find it relaxing to go for a jog around the park, others enjoy throwing an axe at a tree. Me? I love building stuff!
At university I studied Art and Design. It was a wonderful combination of everything I loved doing; drawing, painting, creating things from various materials and learning how to use enormous power tools that my father would never let me touch at home. I remember the thrill of cutting a piece of wood with a huge circular saw. The type of saw you could see in a James Bond film, with 007 escaping seconds before losing an important body part. I also had the opportunity to try some welding, like the woman from Flashdance…a wonderful experience, even without the dancing.
As you can imagine, I rarely had the opportunity to use my new skills after university but then at the end of last year my husband and I bought our own house. I saw my opportunity, found my safety goggles and got to work. In English we use the expression DIY (Do it yourself). During the lockdown, that’s exactly what people did. Instead of paying someone else to build a shed or to put a shelf up, they did it themselves. And thanks to these people I have lots of YouTube videos to help me through my own renovations.
For me, there is nothing more satisfying that being able to say: « I made that ». Anything I can build brings me enormous joy, even an IKEA flat pack. I’ll happily spend my weekends laying floorboards, designing my dream bathroom, measuring, cutting, hammering. If at the end of the day I am covered in paint or wood chips you will also see a big smile on my face.
Finally, I think it’s a good « girl power » lesson for my daughter. If you want something done, do it yourself!
Looming deadlines, covid anxiety and the surreal world of virtually meeting people you have not seen physically for months mean we’re all suffering from unprecedented levels of stress. As the world is slowly opening up around us, with restaurants and bars welcoming us to their terraces, and the very real possibility that soon we may be able to stay outside long enough to watch the sun set in the presence of a few friends, there is another form of stress building – how to interact socially when we’re so out of practice?
So we need to let off steam, decompress, and wind down. Personally, there are three things I do when it’s all too much for me: I go into my garden and rage at the weeds and destructive insects. I dig and prune and feed my plants. I take the time to revel in the beauty of nature; but overnight the insects start their destructive work again.
Or I cook. I take out my pots and pans, slice and dice, fry, simmer and steam until the house is full of tantalising smells. But then I turn around and rage at the ungodly mess I have created around the kitchen and I clatter and bang it all into a semblance of order.
Finally, I sit and think: I’m a writer, and concentrating my thoughts, ordering them, connecting them, trying to give them communicative form is, perhaps, the best way I know of draining tension from my body. But then I re-read what I have written the next morning and rage at the inadequacy of what had seemed so inspired.
More than anything, these are all solitary pursuits and, right now, I feel the need of company to really let off steam.
Two weeks ago, I had a truly liberating experience. It was a beautiful day – the heat of summer in the middle of spring – and I spent the afternoon at the beach with friends. Idle chatter and lazy swimming put us all in a good mood. At the end of the afternoon, we decided to walk into town, and we stopped at the first restaurant that had space for us. The owner was a jovial man, passionate about his job. He told us to trust him and in the warmth of early evening, looking out over the calm sea, we were all smilingly at peace with the world. The food and the wine were excellent, the atmosphere that of a family party as the people on the neighbouring tables joined our conversation and the owner came to sit with us.
Whether it was the timing, or the combination of friends and strangers, but that first meal in a restaurant after so many long months of meeting nobody new, was the perfect antidote to stress.