The elephant overpowering the rider

As a child, my favourite animal was the elephant. I don’t know why, I certainly don’t remember seeing an elephant in my childhood; they aren’t particularly cuddly, and I don’t suppose they make very good pets. But, when my BigLittleSister was collecting every kind of Frog toy or miniature every made, I started a little collection of elephants.
They’re beautiful creatures, old and wise looking. Perhaps that’s why they really seemed to speak to me. There’s an eternal feel to them; sturdy and very real.

Tomorrow is the start of a new beginning for me, the first day of the summer holidays, and a time I often think about New Year’s Resolutions. It’s more important this year that I make some concrete plans, given the changes that are coming about in September when the new term begins.

I am an avid self-help reader, and always looking for new ideas about how to change your life for the better. Today, I came across an article based on The Happiness Hypothesis (Basic Books, 2006). The book aims to explain that positive changes are usually so difficult because the elephant (our emotional side) overpowers the rider (our intellectual, analytical side). The rider can think long term and make sensible decisions, but he is smaller than the elephant, who prefers quick fixes and immediate gratification. This is why, I guess, that when I try to lose some weight, I get quickly persuaded that a few glasses of wine won’t do too much harm… and then find that I am still putting on weight. The trick, says the article, is to do a number of things. First, you need to accept that your elephant (if he is on board) will be the driving force of motivation and keenness. Second, that he needs very clear instructions to get there. It is not enough to say, for example “I must eat healthier”. you need to tell your elephant “I must eat more green vegetables, and fewer chips”. Thirdly, it is exhausting making changes, so you must trick your elephant into seeing how small and easy to manage the change is. Things like, I suppose, when you are giving up smoking, thinking: “I just won’t have this cigarette, now” – rather than “I will never smoke again!”. One of the main reasons people give up on their changes is because any change is tiring, and you become emotionally exhausted. This is why, I imagine, it is important not to change too many things at once.
So, whilst my resolutions include losing weight, quitting smoking, learning to drive, writing for at least 12 hours a week, seeing my friends more, drinking less, etc etc… I will start with only one. The main focus for the next few weeks is to lose the weight that appears to have crept on over the last few months, while I wasn’t working and perhaps because of the medication. I am officially overweight, according to BMI, and I’m not sure that’s happened before. Once I’ve sorted that out, my elephant and I are going to work on the rest.


Latitude 2011

If you’ve never been to a festival before (as I hadn’t, before last year) I join Zoe Ball in suggesting you try out Latitude next year. If you have kids, I recommend it, too.
Last year, my first year at Latitude, I remember being totally blown away by the spirituality of the event. Not a prescriptive spirituality, but the kind you find at any event where people truly believe themselves to be part of a community, experiencing things outside of their usual lives. Never have I felt so close to the village-church community of my childhood, or the “we’re all stuck here together”-ness of Lampeter, my love. I spent much of last year in the poetry tent and fell in love with Rhian Edwards, among others. I scribbled feverishly during pauses in the line-up and imagined myself on stage when the poets were a little disappointing. I ate great food. I went along to music performances when my more trendy friends suggested it. I bought a flower garland for my hair, and wandered in maxi-dresses in a daze.
This year it rained. It rained for a whole day and the fields turned to mud. I never thought I enjoyed camping, I often said I didn’t. But, when you camp in mud and still wake up smiling, you have to rethink your own ideas. I think I might love camping! There is certainly a sort of freedom in not having brushed your hair or looked in a mirror for four days. We all smell. None of us care!
This year, in the rain, the poetry tent was often full. Though I hated that I couldn’t get in there, and cursed the people who were using it for shelter, rather than being ACTUAL POETRY FANS, I like the thought that some of those teenagers may have learned a little there, too. This year, I ventured beyond the poetry (but not before seeing the amazing Tim Keys and the inappropriate, but beautifully-Welsh, Mab Jones) into the Cabaret Tent. The Husband and I thoroughly enjoyed an accidental performance by Life Coach, Chris John Jackson (otherwise known as comedian and actor Will Adamsdale). Jackson’s Way is one of the best self-help instructionals I’ve heard – and I’ve read a fair few in the last year! In brief, Jackson believes that for every action that has a point, there are an infinite number of pointless actions. He believes that these pointless actions are where we should be spending the majority of our time and effort. Indeed, Jackson spends many hours trying to do things like, for example, make his hand appear in two places at once. Or rhyme words that simply do not rhyme. These pointless actions are called ‘jactions’ and you should repeat them until you feel physically sick. At which point you will know you have achieved the jaction, and can move on. I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. If you’ve ever watched the way that children play and thought we might learn something from it, I recommend Jackson’s Way.
Suede were the real pull for me. I went to see Suede in Oxford as a teen. Brett Anderson stormed off about half an hour in, and my best mate and I were sorely disappointed. Maybe it was about the time Bernard left. Maybe they were just too big for a theatre in Oxford with fixed seating.
At Latitude, my friend, the Journalist (another huge fan, who took me to see the Tears years ago), pushed to the front and we sang our hearts out. He touched Brett’s hand. I touched his, in a kind of ‘I’ll never wash again’ relay. It was an amazing concert. The Husband saw us on the giant screens and it was apparent in that moment that I had totally forgotten about him.
But actually, the performance that really did me in was Kele. I wouldn’t have gone, not knowing who he was, but when my Trendy friends explained and I recognised Bloc Party, I thought I’d give it a go. And what a performance!! It was this song that killed me, made me cry – blub – and raise my hands up, laughing. It’s been a funny old year.