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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

Two bits of nonsense and a whole lot of silliness

1. In our shower room, we have a liquid soap dispenser. It’s a lovely big glass bottle with dark pink lettering and a pump top. It used to be filled with rose-scented soap. When it ran out, I couldn’t bring myself to just throw away the dispenser so I bought a refill. And then another. And another. The most recent one is a cheap substitute from the supermarket. And the soap is yellow. Every morning (every single morning), as I sit on the loo, I stare at the bottle and it’s creamy yellow contents and I think “custard”. I want a custard dispenser.

2. There are three cubicles in the women’s loos at work (loos are becoming a bit of a theme here. But hey, we all use them). In the first cubicle, there lives a fly. Not a big black buzzy fly, but a tiny little fly that never moves. In fact, I don’t actually know that it is a fly. It may be some other winged insect. But it is tiny and it does scare the hell out of me. Here’s why: it never moves. Insects that small are not meant to live forever. I’d have thought it would have gone off to find food. Or die. Or something. But it doesn’t. It just sits there. All on its own. Not moving. Except once, when it did move. I cycle to work every day and so, every morning, I go in to this cubicle to change from my cycling gear (scruffy, stained jeans and a worn-out old jumper) into my lawyering gear (I’m like superman in his phone box, except I emerge as a tailored powerhouse of legal know-how, not a caped superhero. Also, the terms “tailored”, “powerhouse” and “know-how” are probably a bit of an exaggeration). Anyway, where were we? Ah yes: that freaky fly. So one morning, I’m in there getting changed and that thing just suddenly attacks me. ATTACKS ME. Flies straight at me. I swat it away. It dodges my hand and aims itself back at me. I try swatting again. It avoids me. This was a frenzied attack, I tell you. FRENZIED. The creature was trying to land on me and it was not taking no for an answer. Who knows what could have happened?! It could have gone straight up my nose. Or in my ear. Or left microscopic fly-footprints on my clothes. For heaven’s sake. So, panic-stricken, I flapped around for a few… ahem… seconds until, finally, the beast gave up and found a resting place on a nearby wall (no doubt just recharging its batteries for the next phase of the attack). Quick as lightening and in fear for my life (or, you know, something like that), I grabbed my recently discarded shoe and squished the bugger. I’m a merciless warrior. Don’t mess with me. But wait… The story does not end here. The next day, I sauntered into the cubicle, victory still fresh in my mind and… There it was. Right there. On the wall. Not moving but very much un-squished. The damn thing came back AS A ZOMBIE to get its revenge! I no longer use that cubicle.

3. I burst into tears at work this week. Shouldn’t I be embarrassed to admit that? Well yes. And I am. But I also just admitted to you that a teeny tiny fly has given me the heebie-jeebies so it’s not exactly like I have a reputation to uphold anymore. Now, for those of you who have never met me, you should know that I love my work. It is challenging and interesting and rewarding. And I have colleagues that I really truly honestly think are amazing. So what happened? There were a number of things, of course. There’d been the broken boiler (and the horrible rip-off plumbers), the hospital rush with Charlie after he tried to fly (and failed), the worrying about Amélie being SUCH a worrier (wherever could she get it from?), and… well, just stuff. Life stuff. And somehow, in the middle of all of that, I lost my self-confidence (just when I’d save up enough to wear skinny-jeans and everything! Tsk!) and started to worry about work, about not doing a good job, about not doing enough. I don’t know how it happened. It kind of crept up on me. My work is usually a source of confidence. It’s something – I thought – I did ok at. Maybe even well. It was somewhere I could make a difference. And then, somehow, that seemed to escape me for a while. I started doubting everything I did. Was it good enough? Done quickly enough? Was I thorough enough? Had I missed an opportunity? Was I not making enough of an effort? Was I not contributing enough to the team? Was I not doing the right thing for my clients? And these thoughts just kept going round and round in my head, eating away at my self-confidence, feeding that dark animal of doubt. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it just in case they laughed. Or worse: told me my concerns were well-founded. So I kept them inside and they grew and grew until I couldn’t cope with their weight anymore and burst into tears. Right there, at my desk. But do you know what? When you start crying at your computer, you can’t really pretend everything is ok anymore. And so I had to confess… My poor manager happened to walk past my office just as I was about to short-circuit my laptop with tears – and, to his eternal credit, he came in, closed the door and talked to me (I would have forgiven him for running in the opposite direction). So yeah, turns out, I’m an idiot. Everything is fine. Really, totally fine. The only problem I have is an over-active imagination, one that apparently really hates me. But I feel better (a little ashamed, yes, but much better). I promise. No more silly. If self-doubt even thinks of trying to sneak up on me again like that, well… Need I remind you what I did to that fly? Squish. Now, back to Amélie: where do we think she gets her worrying gene from again?

7 June 2012 - 9:05 PM Marie - glad you let it out, I'm sure you do an amazing job Cass

12 June 2012 - 12:12 PM amanda - Poor you!!!! Mean squished fly!!! Horrible workplace to make you cry even though I know you love them so! can't bear to think of you crying. Hugest hugs from down here xxx

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