Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wrong kind of chocolate and other gripes, and talking my miserable ingrate self out of them

Slightly irked in spite of myself about doing stuff for other people. I guess I must be fairly grudging about giving of myself and my time, or money come to that, and the less I have to do with other people the meaner I seem to get. Looking after Bram felt like a significant expenditure of time, energy and worry, and a saving of kennel fees for E (I don't think that was an option anyway, it was too late to book him in), and I find myself casting a rather critical eye at the remainder of the pretty average bottle of Côtes du Rhône and little box of chocolates we received for it.

A good choclatier, it's true, but one you can find in St Brieuc, not special to Paris, and more than half of them are dark. And that's another thing; I almost always know my friends' preferences like that, who likes milk and who likes dark*, what vegetables they will and won't eat, whether they like their cheese grilled or not, and generally what not to serve them. (I also tend to know their colours; I remember when J1 gave J2 a piece of jewellery with an amethyst in it, an over-extravagant gesture anyway, thinking that was a silly ignorant thing to do, J2 absolutely never wears anything purple, had even mentioned the fact before, and she later confirmed this to me unprompted and aside with regard to said gift.) Nobody, my darling, could call me a fussy woman, but I've had the what-kind-of-chocolate-do-you-prefer conversation with everyone I know, I think, often several times, yet when I get chocolates, there are always too many dark ones.

The there's the matter of searching for student accommodation for Simone and Jean-Felix's daughter, interpreting and translating and trying to explain to one side that the relevé d'identité bancaire  does not exist as such in the UK, or to the other that people in Brittany can't really just pop over to Golders Green on a quick trip to look at how well the bedside light works, trying to get a word in as everyone concerned talks digressively nineteen to the dozen, so important questions are forgotten to be asked or answered. And somehow I've ended up agreeing, well, OK, volunteering but being taken up rather more readily than I expected, to travel into London from Essex on the one full day I have in England, when it might have been nice to hang out with my sister looking at Indian textiles at the V&A , to check out the room on offer, turn euros into pounds and secure it for them.

This is awful I know, better not to do anything for anyone than volunteer then grouch about it, or about what I don't get in return; labour and not ask for any reward etc. Sod it, I'm no saint.

Just say no, what I'm always exhorting others, Jung and his day off and all that. But the fact is if you blank people from the start you really end up doing without people. I'm sure my grudging meanness wary reluctance about helping others, giving of myself and doing favours means I don't have as many friends as most people expect to have. And I repeat the cliché to myself, what goes around comes around, I just sometimes lack the faith in that kind of cosmic balance. I tend to dislike being beholden to other people at all, so their being indebted to me ought to suit me, but then I suppose I resent that they don't seem to be enough aware of it.

Which may or may not be true; E wrote us a heartfelt note to accompany the wine saying how sorry she was about the problems we'd had with Bram, and how she'd be happy to do anything she could in return. She's already agreed to be on standby for our airport run if existing arrangements fall through, and to be on the end of the phone in an emergency for G and A when they house sit.

Then there are all the ways in which it has come around already, which perhaps I am ignorant and unappreciative of. E has hosted our yoga mornings, providing coffee and space for more than ten years now. She is always upbeat and good company, living on her own with her dogs with rough-and-ready, plain Dutch, style and grace, she is a tonic, and I know she's poorer than we are financially. Simone, when she was our insurance agent, was a tower of strength and good advice when it came to scrapes and prangs and worse. That was her job, it's true, but she did it in a way that was very hands-on and human, and I know by the time she retired she was getting very fed up with being the broker, stuck in the middle, continually having to mediate and meet the demands and discontents of customers and company, and I'm generally admiring of people who undergo the stresses and strains of a working life that I don't have to.

And rather to my surprise, Tom agreed quite cheerfully to accompany me to Golders Green, a hitherto unknown area of London to explore a bit, there might even be a pie shop there, so we'll make the best of it.

Then there are the people in my life, too many to mention really, like my sister who will be cheerful and accommodating about putting us up between our dashing off to north London and Iceland, treating her house like a hotel, who is always thoughtful and tactful and knowing about other people's likes and needs and giving in the extreme, and like G and A who will come and house sit while we're away and overwhelm us with food and cooking and fuss and generosity, and who delight in sharing their lovely soppy dogs with us, dogs who are very ready to be adored.

And then there's everyone who comes here and reads all this stuff even when I'm posting every day,and listens to my petty whinges, and continues to amaze and gratify with kindness and good humour and friendship, on and off-line. It all comes around in abundance really.


PS - I'll knit for anyone at the drop of any hat, knitting, either on commission or off my own bat, I undertake completely without any sense of onus and it never counts amongst the things I resent doing.

*or professes to. Solipsism rules, and I don't believe that anyone genuinely prefers dark to milk, they just think it makes them more sophisticated to say so. Pace to those who truly do, I know you will protest your case, but I have found my conclusion has in the past been substantiated in cases when I have placed milk chocolate (often bought by myself) beside dark (sometimes bought by them) side by side in front of them and watched them scoff down the milk unhesitatingly and leave the dark.


The Crow said...

Um...I like dark chocolate, but not the very bitter ones, unless they are flavored with things like orange or rum or coffee or mint or coconut, or any nuts, except peanuts and that nut from Hawaii, the name of which escapes me at the moment. Also like dark with raspberry or cherry.

But I don't like dark chocolate to the exclusion of milk chocolate. I prefer milk chocolate with caramel and marzipan, but not with dark.

Oh, let's face it - I like chocolates, period!

Macadamia! That's it!

Zhoen said...

I will always leave you the milk chocolate.

My reflex is to say 'no' , then think about it and talk myself around to yes, if I can. Certainly, I have fewer friends because of my defenses against potential bullies. The bullies get through, anyhow.

Gifts from Aunt Peggy were never quite right, but they were always so wonderful. Never could read Water Babies, paint the complex paint-by-number set, nor wear the delicately knitted scarf in fine wool (still scratched.) I love that she thought so much of me to give me them anyway, which was the real gift.

Sabine said...

There you have it: The gift always returns.
Only sometimes in a round about way, taking its time.

Lucy said...


Crow - in fact there are some instances where I don't mind dark choc, round those nice little candied orange peel things, for example, which is odd because I'm not a great fan of candied peel normally, and there are one or two of these ones which are OK, including the lime ones and the raspberry ones. And I don't mind it round marzipan or caramel, or even on digestive biscuits, but I think in all these cases I'd just as soon have milk. In fact though, I'm slightly allergic to too much chocolate anyway, so it doesn't take many dark chocs at all to give me sweats, blocked sinuses and a headache, whereas I have to eat about a bar of the milk stuff to get the same result!

Z - I think I'm often inclined to do that. Sometimes it's guilt about saying no, sometimes I just take the time to think about it and agree in a way that's more satisfactory to me, or just a better plan. I can seldom make good decisions under pressure. I don't have to deal with too many real bullies these days, but there are people, like the two women I refer to here, who can be bossy and/or overbearing and a bit demanding and insensitive. They're fine with a no, though usually, and don't get huffy or defensive with it, and I like and would call them friends. But it still worries me that I agree to things which turn out more problematic than I've foreseen, either because I've not liked to say no, or I've not assessed things well, or I've felt I should make an effort and stop being selfish and lazy, or whatever. And I've seen other people in situations where it's been said 'oh XYZ are so kind and helpful, they'll do anything for you' and it's just reeked of the kind of dysfunction and codependency I want nothing to do with.

Sabine - yes, and I've had so much good fortune already, so many gifts. But things can be complicated.

the polish chick said...

oddly enough i used to like dark chocolate as a child. i enjoyed it (though preferred milk) up to about a decade ago when suddenly, and for no good reason, the smell of dark chocolate started to make me feel ill. i can't even kiss mr. monkey after he's had some. and i will move away from friends who are indulging. even the very good stuff. milk, however, is delightful!

i bitched and complained about a distant relative of mr. m's asking us to translate a ten page research paper on a topic that is foreign to us in either language. i was angry and thought her selfish - translation's not merely a question of speaking the two languages, especially not when technical terms are involved. it took us both 2 days to do it (mr. m insisted since he'd already said yes).

i suppose i don't mind helping people up to a point, but when i myself ask for help, i try to make sure it's not an imposition, and am annoyed when others don't show similar consideration. still, the trick for the translation ended up being technology - throw the whole thing into google translate, then read through and change the silliness that inevitably pops up here and there. sped things up for sure.

for the record, i am not a robot.

Catalyst said...

SWMBO and the BRD both prefer dark chocolate. Or profess to. I generally prefer the milk, though I will eat dark if it's the only thing available. Actually, I just like chocolate and I'll scarf up whatever is available. Just watch me.

Avus said...

Milk choccos every time for me, Lucy!

Mailizhen said...

Dear Lucy,

"It all comes around in abundance really." So true, but it doesn't come around evenly. I've dropped in every day and have so enjoyed the nablopomo posts - thanks for taking the time. And with regard to chocolate, I too prefer milk, but my son will eat all the 85% cacao I give him, and gradually, over the years, he has influenced me into enjoying dark as well. Abundance, I suppose. Safe travels to you and Tom.


Nimble said...

It's a rare honesty to admit the trouble and stress that requests and obligations bring. Most of us are busy with the social pantomime. "Oh it was no trouble at all." I am good at saying no but sometimes miss my chance especially in unfamiliar circumstances when I don't see the request coming around the corner. But I love to say yes when it's something that's easy for me. The wonderful thing is that everyone and everyone's circumstances are different so the things that are easy for me are sometimes terribly daunting to others and vice versa.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I absolutely genuinely and forever prefer dark chocolate and the best in the universe is in bar-form, made by a firm called Rumpelstilskin and the best of their many varieties is with grains of coffee added to the 80% darker than darkness edible ecstasy. Nothing milky can ever come close to that dark rapture.

But oh Lucy, I do completely empathise with you concerning both the joys and the emmerdements of giving (volunteering, offering etc.)and receiving (not nearly enough or not appropriately enough considering the generous expenditure of self and other wonders). Yes I know exactly what you mean and indeed it's also important to appreciate the bounties that life provides us, if we're lucky.

It doesn't look like you'll have time during your brief hop to London but in case you do (Golders Green isn't that far from me on the tube)it would be really lovely to see you both. Let me know if and when that might be possible but if not, I understand - no obligation! I wish you and Tom a safe and marvellous trip and look forward to your inimitable verbal and visual reports.

Rouchswalwe said...

Natalie's first paragraph had me giggling with delight.

And I luv ya, Lucy (said with swagger, with the American side of my German-American makeup). I hear ya!

Schokolade ... in the 60-70% cacao range if there are hazelnuts or almonds involved. As I'm aging, the milk chocolate is often too sweet for me. Yikes. There, I've said it. You are younger at heart with your penchant for milk chocolate. Still luv ya!

~ Smokey Swallow

Roderick Robinson said...

Friend Richard, dead these last eighteen years from hideous motor neurone disease, taught me the basics of what it is to love music and then took me off into all the nooks and crannies whereby music changes from being a luxury into a necessity. But at a price. Richard was frank even by West Riding standards.

In insisting on the superiority of dark over milk chocolate he adopted a tone which I have noticed in other dark fans, an underlying belief that his preference was supported by a special morality: that dark is proof of an advanced form of adulthood, that dark - because of its bitterness - ceases to be an indulgence and becomes an expression of a higher order. And that milk is for those who lack moral fibre.

For me chocolate's pleasures can be equated with those of, say, the hamburger, no more no less. And over the years I've had good reason to be thankful I arrived quite naturally at this judgment. Who would wish to connive with those in charge of advertising chocolate and who have taken note of its curious relationship with certain individuals, writing puffs which trade on hee-hee-hee "its wickedness". Go on, they say, you know want to. Uggh. As Horace said: Odi profanum vulgus et arceo.

Fire Bird said...

Pie shop in Golders Green? I don't think so. Bagels yes!! Yum.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Chocolate makers: not Rumpelstilskin but Rapunzel...not far wrong!