It’s Been A Strange Sort Of Week

And it began with Mr Litlove discovering a Pokemon gym right outside our house. At first, he’d thought there was some sort of youth convention taking place in the village, as we kept seeing teenage boys with their phones out walking up and down in front of our windows, and congregating by the village pump across the way. But Mr Litlove had heard of Pokemon Go while I was still in blissful ignorance. In order to test out his theories, he loaded the game onto his phone and was delighted to find that his suspicions had been correct. The first I knew of it was when he shoved his phone under my nose and exclaimed at a three-dimensional arrow pointing downwards on the map towards the place where our front door could be found.

Now personally, I might have left it there. But Mr Litlove decided that if we had a gym outside our house, he ought to be able to take advantage of it. So he began collecting Pokemon, which I confess I found very disturbing. Once when we were waiting in the car by the traffic lights, I noticed a middle-aged man turning the corner onto our road. He had a bald tonsure above dark hair in a ponytail that reached his waist. He was tall but with a stoop and a little pot belly. He was wearing glasses and flipflops and he was not looking where he was going, his gaze glued to his phone. ‘Look,’ I said to Mr Litlove. And that steadied him for a few days. But then the cox of his rowing boat turned out to be keen on the game and she helped him catch some more. Finally he reached the required level five and took his Pokemon to the gym, where apparently they all received quite the whooping. ‘It’s put me off a bit,’ Mr Litlove admitted and I am hoping very much that that is the end of the Pokemon craze in this household.

In any case, Harvey was now taking up all his attention. For some reason (he is getting older but still seems sprightly) he’s been suffering very badly this summer from hairballs (Harvey, not Mr Litlove). And when Mr Litlove had a good look at him, he found his coat was unusually matted and he is moulting like crazy. So Mr Litlove set to with the brush, despite our cat’s disinclination to be combed, removing great piles of fluff that looked like we could knit whole other cats out of them. I do stress that this is highly unusual; we’ve never needed to comb him much. But every time Mr Litlove got hold of him and started work, great clouds of fur would dissipate on the air, and I fear I might have breathed in enough cat fur to produce a hairball myself. It began to strike me that Harvey was racking up more hours of concentrated attention out of his owner than I had enjoyed while we were on honeymoon. I even asked one morning whether, if I came down with my hair especially matted, Mr Litlove would comb it out for me. ‘You’d understand if every morning you woke to a new hairball on the kitchen floor,’ he said. I believe Harvey had been sick not just on his new rowing t-shirt, but also on his Kermit chair, and at that point, a line had been crossed.

But in any case, I soon had a distraction of my own. On Wednesday morning I woke full of anxiety after a nightmare in which I had walked into a familiar room to find it full of cobwebs that had dumped all these big spiders in my hair (writing this now, I am inclined to blame the cat, though I hadn’t seen the connection at the time). And the anxiety stayed with me throughout the day. When my jaw started to ache I felt sure that it was muscle and nerve tension, but I was uncomfortably aware I had a cracked tooth in the vicinity. You won’t know about this because it all happened on the eve of the referendum. I’d seen a mark on the tooth – the corresponding tooth to the one that was removed – and thought it was a cavity. So with a heavy heart I went to the dentist only to be told it was a crack that we just needed to keep an eye on. I was so happy I floated out of the surgery and down the street to the polling station. What a great day! How could anything go wrong now? I thought, as I posted my vote in the box.

Ah well.

So I spoke to my sister-in-law on the phone and she said, ‘Listen, I have a tooth that aches all the time and it’s been x-rayed so many times,  but it’s fine. Aching isn’t always about decay.’ Indeed, the right side of my face was feeling very odd, as if my cheek had gone to sleep, and it certainly wasn’t like your usual toothache. But then I went for a session of reiki and my practitioner more or less hit the roof. ‘If a dentist has told you there’s a problem that you’re keeping an eye on,’ she said stressing the words, ‘then you’ve got a ticking time bomb in your mouth that could explode at any moment! Get to the dentist!’ Then she said, ‘Honestly, Litlove, I don’t think there’s enough reiki in the room to deal with your anxiety. What are we going to do about it?’ When the healers start to doubt, it’s not very encouraging. And I actually felt that was a tad unfair. I think I’ve been pretty good about my anxiety lately. What used to be generalised seems now to exist in acute pockets that are difficult to manage. But when I’m fine, I’m fine.

So I rang the dentists and they were kind enough to squeeze me in at the end of the day, and while waiting I distracted myself with the Booker longlist. This was good distraction! Only of course the book I had put aside just a couple of days ago as not quite right for my mood was the only book on the longlist that I owned and had been intending to review for Shiny. Isn’t that typical? It was Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, just not at this moment. As for the rest of the list, I am constantly astounded by the Booker judges’ ability to longlist books I have never heard of, not even a whiff or a trace. About half the list was news to me.

Anyway, the dentists. My extremely nice dentist gave me a thorough check over and said the pain came from a muscle spasm and I should wear my mouthguard (in daylight hours! when it makes me look like Hannibal Lecter!) and eat soft foods for a while. Sister-in-law: 1 Reiki practitioner: 0. The pain went completely yesterday, but then I triggered it with some rather chewy chicken again. It’s not so bad, though.

But it has prompted me to go back to my lovely Alexander Technique lady, whom I saw on Friday for an unwinding session. Something happens to me when I concentrate: I seem to squeeze my neck vertebrae together and clench muscles I don’t even know I have. While there I asked her if Mr Litlove could come and speak to her as he’s very keen on making ergonomic chairs and wanted to consult with an expert. Well, it turned out she is only the leader of a Campaign For Better Seating. How cool is that? Having networked so splendidly for Mr Litlove he then rewarded me by pruning the entire top off of a still-flowering clematis. So he was in the dog house. The garden is always the source of our worst disagreements because I identify emotionally with the plants that flourish, seeing in them hope for a new uprising of energy. Whereas Mr Litlove suffers a sort of negative recoil from anything he perceives as ‘getting above itself’.

But he did redeem himself by sending me a youtube clip of John Oliver looking back over the RNC Convention and the interview with Newt Gingrich in particular in which he defended Trump’s evidently untrue claim that the violent crime figures have gone up in America. Gingrich insisted that in America people ‘feel more threatened’ and his argument was simply to take that feeling and turn it into a fact: that crime is worse. Oliver’s take was that this idea that ‘feelings are as valid as facts’ produced the scary prospect of candidates being able to ‘create’ facts, which we see in Trump creating his own reality.

So it’s official: being right is an emotion.

O America! If you have any belief in this special relationship with Britain, do please look closely at what happens when people ignore facts in favour of their prejudices, fears, and frustrations. Already in the UK thousands of jobs are being shed and the economic figures are showing a marked downturn. The pound has plummeted and we haven’t even stepped into our new reality yet.

I think this state of affairs has been coming for a long time. It probably begins with economics, which claims to be a science but can sometimes look like a religion with graphs. And then there have been these big scientific arguments over (for instance) whether or not climate change will happen, and the humanities have been pulling chunks off the idea of truth for decades now. The media’s dogged insistence on reporting only the bad, the threatening and the scandalous has indeed made experts look like idiots. And then all it takes is a democratising of intelligence like the internet for the whole notion of an ‘opinion’ to be bigged up until it burst its banks entirely. Opinions are feelings, feelings are not facts. But we do seem to be living now in a post-factual universe and just think how surreal and alarming this state of affairs might become.

And so my friends, while we hurtle towards an even crazier version of life than we’ve ever managed to embrace before, I can only urge you all to read. Because the only place where untruths have real value is fiction, where we do our best to explain and understand and evoke compassion for the odd business of being alive.


16 thoughts on “It’s Been A Strange Sort Of Week

  1. Goodness, what a week! I hope your poor cat has stopped moulting and that your tooth is recovering. I don’t think I told you that I finally had the one that had all the root canal removed – not the best experience I’ve ever had, and I’m still getting used to the new bite and very nervous about eating on that side of my mouth. Pokemon Go is such a blight – my offspring are sending me pictures of Pokemon in their flat – I keep having to remind them it’s NOT ACTUALLY REAL…..

    As for American politics – scary, scary stuff. The world is definitely still going to hell in a handcart. Back to books….

    • Oh Karen, I didn’t know about your tooth! I am so very sorry to hear that – it is not the funnest experience; teeth are SUCH a design fault in human beings. This latest issue with an aching jaw has forced me to eat on the other side of my mouth. Something I expect I would have avoided indefinitely! It’s three months later and I’m a lot more used to the gap and the bite, and it turns out I can sort of gum with it, even if its not what you might recognise as chewing. So there’s hope! Your comment about Pokemon really made me laugh. And yes, we may as well read while the UK burns – I’ve come to the conclusion it’s the best thing we can do….

  2. Dear oh dear. This does all sound very surreal, and I can’t help thinking there’s some existential connection among the hairballs, the tooth, the dream-spiders, and the beheaded clematis.

    I have taken to wearing one of my mouth guards during the day when I am working on a particularly frustrating project; if I don’t, my upper right jaw– where I now have four gold crowns thanks to cracking all of my teeth from clenching them–aches like I’ve gone far too many rounds with an expert prizefighter. I’m fond of being able to chew on that side of my mouth, hence the daytime wear of what is, admittedly, not an attractive appliance. It gives me a good excuse never to answer the phone, though, since I can’t speak entirely clearly with it in. I’m very much in favor of anything that preserves me from the phone.

  3. I had to smile at the thought of Pokemon hunters milling outside your door. Probably not much fun for you but already we’re seeing this craze subside a bit at school.
    As for the state of politics, it is very disturbing. I hate the fact that Trump even made it on to the final ticket. Just to add … he also made it into my dreams last night, but he had a heart attack and had to be whisked away in his private plane! I’m not wishing evil on the man but he does look like he’s going to burst a gasket what with drumming up so much anger against liberals.

  4. Oh my, here’s to peaceful summers… what a bummer. Perhaps you should start to ask for a fee for everyone stopping in front of your home on their pokemon hunt. I’m still amazed by John oliver demonstration. What can you say against that?

  5. Your AT teacher should certainly be able to help you sort things out BUT unless you are exceptional (in this respect, you are of course in others) you will need to constantly remind yourself to stop end-gaming and to keep returning to a reduction in tension. Your teacher is a guide to your “bad” habits but she cannot on her own solve them.

    With you all the way on your comment on “opinions” and “feelings” – remind again what the latter are would you 🙂


  6. I can’t tell you how worried I am about the US elections. My (American) father cannot seem to stop himself from sending me articles about it. It’s all intensely stressful.

    So sorry to hear about your tooth (and the depredations of Mr. Litlove re: clematis), but hopefully things are looking up now!

  7. Apparently, I haven’t had a thought since 2013, but here you are still faithfully blogging daily. I have loved reading your posts in the past and I wonder how after all this time that has passed since I last read your blog, and how despite our differences in location, position, and so on, your post on this day could so closely resemble the jumble in my own brain, from the Pokemon Go seemingly global fascination taking over people’s senses, right down to watching Oliver on the Republican Convention and the lovely connection between the “feeling=fact” movement that has so sadly moved your country in the Brexit. I’ve missed reading you. From Canada, I am hoping everything works out okay for our dear motherland.

  8. I’m glad your tooth was easily sorted without any invasive surgery etc.
    I like doing Pokemons with Isabel, although neither of us understands how the gym works. This morning my run of the mill Pokemon were turning into much better Pokemons – has Mr Litlove discovered this glitch yet?

  9. My dentist occasionally tells me to wear the mouth guard during the day, too. I compromise by trying to do my usual work while breathing through my mouth, forcing me to open it a little. Not much more attractive, but easier to answer the phone.
    My kids are both playing Pokemon Go. I love the augmented reality (I do not play, but watch) and enjoy the regional differences (daughter in Arizona catches lots of rock and snake types, while son in Ohio catches bug and grass types).
    If I were ready for a new blog title, which I’m not, I could well go for “The only place where untruths have real value.”

  10. You’ve managed to make me laugh even though you’re writing about both terrible and painful events, but economics as ‘a religion with graphs’ is still making me giggle. Thank you !

  11. I’m glad your toothache seems to be turning out all right! I didn’t know that you could have a cracked tooth and that would be fine — I admit I haven’t thought much about cracked teeth, but I would have imagined they’d need to fix that lest it — something? Cracks more, I dunno? Anyway! Glad it’s all right.

    The election season’s been difficult. It’s not that I didn’t know how much people hate women, but it’s been exhausting having it shoved in my face day after day. And I also tire of the way people act as though Donald Trump came out of nowhere. CERTAIN PARTIES (it is the Republicans) have been devaluing facts for years, and now they have found that their policy worked great and nobody cares about facts anymore, and we are possibly going to have Donald Trump for a president. Thanks a damn lot, guys.

    …Donald Trump won’t get elected, though, right? He’s insulted dead American soldiers and praised Kim Jong-Un so — surely?

  12. Mr Litlove, Pokemon addict, this gives me a giggle for some reason. I am glad your tooth is dong okay, but a crack? whenever I have a tooth that looks like it might crack from an old filling the dentist gets me in right away for a crown striking the fear or root canal into me if I should disobey. I hope Harvey is ok.

    Also, I am not generally prone to anxiety but these days I am living in quite a swirl of it because of the prospect Trump might become president. I will need lots and lots of happy books to read if he wins.

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