Birthday wish lists: are they a thing of the past?

Are birthday wishlists a thing of the past?

It is my birthday soon. Next week. Its not something I am keen on focusing on as it will be my 42nd year. This means I am definitely on the way in my forty something life. Ok – enough focusing (depressively) on my age. Its not that bad, but I’ve never been that good at birthdays. So when asked the question (yes it comes every year from my sister) ‘What would you like for your birthday?’ I usually coil into a small ball and rock front to back (much more smoothly may I say now that I started yoga haha!).

Do I have a wish list?

I generally don’t have one. This in some weird way makes it easier for everyone. I have got some wonderful presents just by not having one. Take, for instance, last year. Me and my mum went for lunch to Chez Jules (fabulously french and cheap but cheerful) last year and then we drunkenly went to Stewart and Christie‘s on Queen street because I suggested that I had always wanted a good ‘tweed’ jacket. Stewart and Christie’s is the oldest tailor of this type of attire in Edinburgh and I knew (in a loose way from a few parties) one of the owners and one of the tailors. This was following a quick look in a few George Street shops who would never compare. Result – I got a tailored (not bespoke but only a bit of work done) tweed jacket. It will last a lifetime! It is beautiful. My mum, having forked out for my birthday on my one, went back a month later to order her own. This also resulted in a drunken lunch (Tiger Lilly) to celebrate. All events combined meant good bonding over good presents over quality attire. The one thing it didn’t mean was that we stuck within the unwritten budget rule that as a family we have on presents.

The budget

This, as noted above, is an unwritten rule. A good rule as lets face it we are in an age where we buy what we want when we want. So a pre-defined limit takes some thinking. Don’t be shocked but its basically £50 per person. So my mum and dad will spend £100, me and my sister will spend £50. Its not much at all nowadays but to re-emphasise the point – we are in a time where we already have what we want so presents are something that should be different. Times have changed. Im not that old (as I keep telling myself) – but when younger we used to keep a list for ages (for birthdays and of course Christmas). The only times we got those overly desired objects was on these special occasions. At some point this all changed. We spend, use and discard. We don’t keep lists because most things are immediate. Its kind of sad and also wonderfully gratifying. I don’t even think its an age thing. As a single 40 something living in Edinburgh you would expect that I can sensibly afford the things I want. But to have the excitement back of the present list, the waiting, the build up and even at times the disappointment (oh the trauma of not getting that specific Barbie I wanted) would be something! We don’t do this kind of excitement in 2019. Its kind of a shame.

Rebel against the age

So….I thought of a list. All the things I have fancied since the start of the year. When the text came through ‘what would you like…’ I jumped on it like a typical amazon prime member. Here is my wish list. A feet up trainer (or alternative product)…oooh yes please (although that as you might have already calculated would be a joint sister and parents present). Or pick from the rest: yoga wheel, Blackberry and something or other Jo Malone perfume (my daily go to scent), Jo Malone soap (can’t recommend highly enough and am never using any other soap in the bath or shower ever again), candles (of any variety as always a good thing), or my incense sticks (this is a new thing but makes me very relaxed of an evening). If this list doesn’t work for them then I will take any surprise at my age! Only thing missing is a good man (possibly only useful at this time of year to buy me another lovely present)….ok scratch that – they are more trouble than they are worth and never meet the wish list expectations 🙂

Men in shorts: the good, the bad and the somewhat disturbing

I have had a busy week so when I get home around 7pm from a long day I tend to just want to nip into the local store for something easy. So on two nights this week, whilst looking a bit bedraggled and feeling blooming knackered, I have done the Tesco run (actually a short walk but you get my meaning).

But on the upside to this long week and my knackerdness, my grocery (wine and nibbles) shopping trips have been what you might call interesting. It might be due to the milder weather, or the fact that the whole of Edinburgh seem to have been involved in some kind of fitness (on the days I have stuffed myself with fatty food), but there is an odd phenomenon of increasing numbers of men in shorts.

This is not a wholly good thing. In fact it ranges on the spectrum of ‘ooh he looks good in them’ to ‘why on earth did you not look in the mirror before going out in public’. But, as I said, definitely interesting.

The good to the disturbing

Good shorts need to be worn by good men. Fact! Although the definition of a good man whilst assessing their ability in short wearing does not merit the full range of goodness that we would usually use a measure of someone. In fact, sorry about this, it really just relies on confidence and body shape. Men with confidence will pull anything off. The rest of those mere mortals however should really consider what suits them. I don’t feel bad saying this, we all try and wear what works for us. So if it works then great. I can still curiously look on whilst wondering about the decision making; but only in a curious and self amusing way rather than being horrible about it.

Take for example the 80s style bloke who lives around here. He wears luminous shorts, high socks and a headband. Curious but interesting (he must be confident). Then there is a bloke who (thank the leg gods) has great legs and wears not too short shorts but not baggy and long shorts either; just the right length and just the right legs :-). Then there are a good few who haven’t focused on the legs at the gym (instead favouring biceps) who wear a slightly longer short to suit. All of these are good.

The bad ones are noticeable. I know that the whole men tight things with shorts over the top is a ‘gym thing’ but I find it slightly odd (maybe disturbing was too dramatic a title). What is the need for it? Surely a thinner joggy bottom type attire would have done the same job. I am not even convinced about the 2 in one type shorts for the gym; aren’t they more suited to cyclists? The ones with a thin pair of legs wearing short shorts more suited to rugby players are not my cup of tea either. The only bad shorts I feel are acceptable are the ones similar to the deliveroo cyclist I saw. Functionally bad but rather acceptable given that Edinburgh is full of hills and the poor man must be cycling up and down them all day.

Why think about this?

I honestly don’t know. My only excuse is I like to notice things and I have a dry sense of humour. This amused me this week. Its probably an attempt in my head to avoid the fact that I should have done more exercise; instead commenting on the silliness of exercise attire. I also appreciate a good pair of legs in shorts. Disturbing – possibly. Bad of me – yes. Good – hell yeah! All I can say is bring on the summer for a more shorts variety.

Starting yoga: buy a good mat

When I started yoga (now called my yoga journey since I am 7 months in and feel comfortable with the yoga type language) I did a few classes in my local gym. Cue the rag tag bunch of various types of mat. I tried them all. Some were far too thin, far too thick, too sticky, and worse – not sticky enough. This was frustrating because your mat does matter (see what I did there).

Joining a studio changed my view. It is one of the good ones where you can always get a mat and don’t have to pay extra for the privilege. The mats were good too! All the same, all Manduka pro. Just the right thickness and hold. This was especially important for me given my ever elusive core muscles were not holding my ‘form’ in the right place (update – it still isn’t; but it is getting better).

Choices – confusion – choices

The temptation as a new Yogi is to go for comfort. Don’t fall into the trap as you will end up with a gigantic and very thick mat which will look ugly and make you look rather ungraceful when you keep falling due to the lack of root to the floor (aka feet feeling like they are stable).

Don’t go for too thin either (I would suggest leaving out anything classed as a travel mat; unless you are only using it when travelling). Especially if you are into you forties and your knees protest at even the though of a hard floor.

Consider price. You can go cheap but I would avoid it (for the reasons above). So then you are into the £60 – £120 range of prices. But the problem – there are blooming millions of them to choose from.

My choice

Having searched all the possible sites I got it down to 2 choices. The Lifeform mat definitely appealed. I am a sucker for the most expensive choices which doesn’t always mean quality but the reviews on this one do stack up to it being a great product. I almost went for it but there was one thing that held me back. The lines for alignment (or something like that) are brilliant. My alignment is lacking in brilliance though. I still end up at different bits of the mat in my sun salutations. I get that this might improve matters however I would not like to highlight my inadequacies just yet; opting for the blissful joy of feeling like I am getting through my classes, improving in posture and decreasing in the sweaty knees and red face effect. Next mat though; this is probably the one.

So Manduka it was. I already knew (from the studio mats) that I was comfy on them. But again there is so much choice. The 5mm ones looked good but I worried about them being a little heavy to carry up the hill. Mandala also do different styles. The pro or eKo. I went for eKo which is made from natural rubber and so has enough stick without being sticky. I also figured the eKo lite wasn’t giving away to much comfort in thickness with the bonus of being lighter to carry. Choice made and mat purchased (by my sister as a present: bonus). It cost just over £60 (the lifeform is just over £100) so mid range in terms of cost and brilliant in terms of quality./

The bag

This was important. I know they have these strap things which you sling round the mat and over your shoulder. The weather here isn’t always great though. So I bought a bag. Check this one out. This took me just as long as the mat choice as I wanted to look at least a little stylish walking to and from class. I apparently do. My neighbour caught me coming back in one day and said I looked very ‘New York’. I felt like a yoga pro 🙂

The practice

I said buy one in the title and I really mean this. If you are going to go to yoga regularly, even if it is just once a week, having your own mat makes a difference. It settles you into the practice without the distraction of your mind trying to figure out how your body will manage on a mat you don’t know. Your knees (even if they do get sweaty like mine) will thank you for it.

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The best looking Barman in Edinburgh

That’s not him in the picture and I should also caveat my title by saying he was rather pretty. He clearly knew it. I’ve also not done enough research (although this could be a new project) to say he was the best looking.

On Saturday afternoon I missed the girls lunch (owing to running around doing far too sensible adult stuff!) but I did catch them for drinks in Stockbridge. The catching them took a while owing to my lack of listening skills and two circuits around the wrong pub before finally making it into the Raeburn. On a side note the Raeburn has recently been done up and I am sure it is looking lovely. I couldn’t really tell though, as the Rugby had finished by the time I got there and so it was blooming well heaving (aka busy for those not in the colloquial know).

Anyway – got to the bar hoping on a red wine as soon as possible and there was a very pretty, well toned (not overly muscly but definite muscles) young barman ready to provide. I said what I was thinking out loud. Oops! He smiled, leaned across (complete tart, which may be another colloquial saying) and asked me what I would like. I refrained, this time, from saying what I was thinking.

The last time I really put any effort into thinking about a barman’s looks was a few years ago for the opposite reason. The worst looking barman in Edinburgh. This man was literally that guy in the goonies…you know the one who you think might be scary but turns out to be lovely. He was his long lost twin. I’ll not say the pub or the timeframe to save anonymity. But anyone who went there will be currently thinking ‘I remember him’.

Best looking barman or worst looking barman: who cares as long as the wine is good and company better! I’ll maybe continue the research though, to ensure I can offer as balanced an opinion as possible in future.

A good book on a rainy night in Edinburgh

Its getting colder again. After a sunny few days in February it is now back to rain and…more rain. I’ve even spotted some snow symbols on my iPhone weather app for next week! So due to the previously noted rain, a taxi was in order to get me to my school night glass of wine catch up in the old town. I love the architecture in Edinburgh and although I live more New Town way, the old town has just that little bit more mystery, beauty and romanticism about it.

In the taxi we giggled as we got held up by a Harry Potter tour crossing the road – just down from the Tron Church. His wand waving appealed, to the driver, although he didn’t make us disappear; possibly owing to a rubbish flick action and a pretty inept cape. It got me thinking about the books that I love, set in Edinburgh or by writers inspired by the surrounding.

Edinburgh isn’t just the home to Harry Potter

I love Harry Potter and genuinely think its a modern day classic. I bought my first one in an antiques bookshop in Cannonmills whilst looking for a present for my mum. He had it as it was an early edition (not a first…oh well!) and it was written in Edinburgh by a little known (unknown at that time) author. I read it in one sitting and passed it on to my mother, and dad, and sister; they all loved it as much as me.

But its not the only Edinburgh based authors that have kept me gripped over the years. Pulling out my collection I have lots of them, and lots set in this bloody brilliant city. The obvious classics like Heart of Midlothian (passed this spot too on the way to the pub) by Sir Walter Scott and the less obvious classic Kidnapped by the obvious Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact the Scottish Novels, which is a collection of Stevenson’s novels, is one of the most revisited books in my collection.

Yes of course I also have a few Ian Rankin books. If you live in Edinburgh I am convinced its a crime if you don’t own one. Being an early forty something (I’m going to hang on to the early as long as I can!!), I also have a youth characterised by acid house and then indie; so Trainspotting is a clear winner. My first reading of this felt like owning and promoting the gritty side of Edinburgh. It was something about the slang and the colloqualisms though that made me feel like I was a part of something bigger. I wasn’t exactly living in the difficult, gritty and unhealthy lifestyles of Mark Renton, Spud and Sick Boy (more of a Diane) but there was a sense of pride in Irvine Welsh who, according to a pal, was just a regular guy done good. When the movie was released I sat in the cinema, along with fellow ‘Edinburgers’ and there was this weird sense of the collective. This sense that around the world other people would be now know what ‘likesay’ and ‘ken’ meant. It was a strange feeling of pride and so this book will always be on my shelf.

The, not so obvious, book I settled on.

The one that will win tonight is a Kate Atkinson book. I found it by an accidental read of a review. One Good Turn Deserves Another. It has everything I like. An extra sense of comfort in that you know the streets it set in and the timing (Edinburgh Festival). Great characters and a plot that has a little grit. If you know Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson then you will already have an idea of a theme running through my book shelf. It also has the potential of more (aka other books in a series). I am a complete sucker for a series of books. This is the one I have dug out and this is the one that I am now heading to bed with. Its still raining, its dark, and the lights are twinkling out of the windows in the street. The tall windows of the classic New Town architecture. It is getting late but I can’t wait to revisit this book before I fall asleep.