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  • Writer's pictureClaire Sandys

My biggest fan

My Why audio version of this blog available here.

Today, as I sat down to write about something profound, or anything else that came to mind, I thought it was the perfect day to introduce you to my biggest fan.

I’m writing this on the hottest day in the UK, ever. Temperatures have hit 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) in Lincolnshire, an area a third of the way up the UK on the right side just above the bump that sticks out (which incidentally I grew up in). Where I’m currently sat, in Gloucestershire (to the left side of England) it’s in the high 30’s and everyone is hiding.

For those of you unfamiliar with day-to-day life in the UK, we are not equipped for extreme weather. We can cope with a bit of snow, a bit of heat, fairly consistent rain or a short dry spell, but we are not equipped for excessive amounts of anything. We don't have air conditioned houses, or enough snow ploughs, we flood easily and we get water shortages. It's just who we are - we like everything to be moderate and then we're reasonably fine with it. So 40 degree heat is something that feels very alien indeed. There are weather warnings, health warnings, public transport has been stopped in some places, and I don’t even want to think about anyone getting on a tube in London in this weather. According to a news article I read we don’t have the infrastructure to cope, so roads have melted, runways have been damaged and train rails have buckled. Of course, drastic as this sounds, it is currently forecast to drop back to 23 degrees with rain and cloud for the rest of the week, so we’re only sitting this out for 48 hours.

I went to the supermarket this morning, largely to enjoy some time in an air conditioned car, followed by some time in an air conditioned supermarket. The short walk in-between felt like I was in Turkey or Dubai again where I’ve experienced temperatures in the 40’s before. It made me wonder - if you live in the UK and you’ve never been abroad to experience heat that is continuous for days or weeks, what do you think of this? I would imagine it’s a little scary and claustrophobic, whereas for me, although I’m not a fan of intense heat, it does at least have a sort of holiday vibe to it. And as per usual in England, when the weather gets really hot, for some reason around half, if not all, the supermarket fridges stop working. It’s like they sort of say ‘I wasn’t built for this sort of crap’ and just pack in. For some reason I imagine industrial fridges being a bit potty-mouthed. There's also the inevitable stroppy person huffing around the cold section, not finding what they want and bothering staff constantly about it. I actually heard one rather hot woman (as in sweaty, not attractive) say to a staff member ‘Oh don’t worry, I’ll ask someone helpful instead.’ The heat does nothing for people’s manners in England.

To show you how strange our little island can be. According to a Met Office tweet on Monday the temperatures were 38 degrees in London, always seems hotter there, maybe it’s all the buildings and people, then in the pointy bit on the bottom left of the UK (the bit that looks like a poorly drawn leg with a fat thigh and highly-arched foot), also known as Cornwall (a very popular holiday destination) it was said to be 29 degrees, in the middle of the country it was 39 degrees, then at the top of Scotland it was 18 degrees. How does that happen? How do you get such a broad range of temperatures from one giant sun miles and miles away, on one small island. Answer: I have no idea.

Anyway, as Chris is working from the office today, which is conveniently air conditioned, and I’m home in the heat, I’m stuck in all day with my biggest fan - Ray.

Ray’s full name is Beld-Ray and he was purchased when Chris and I returned from holiday a few years ago, arriving in the middle of a huge heat wave. Living in a house that was hot at the best of times we ran round the shops to find a fan to keep cool at night. Unfortunately, another symptom of heatwaves in the UK is that everyone buys all the fans, who knows where the ones from the previous year all went but once again fan shelves were empty. So, the only one we could find was more pricey than we wanted but there was no other choice, so Ray came into our life. His parent company, Beldray make many fans for anyone, all shapes and sizes, and currently, of all my fans, he’s the biggest.

What does he look like? You might ask. Well, he’s almost as tall as me, he’s black and silver, has a giant head that spins 360 degrees (as well as up and down), he’s not quiet, but very cool, and has a fancy timer and remote control. If he were an actual human, for some reason I see him with a giant, black top hat on and a bowtie. He’d be very good at his job but also very specific about how he does it, and not all that flexible with suggestions of other ways to do it. He would be very dependable but I’m not sure how kind his heart would be, he seems like the sort to tell people to just get on with life, and no one would really ever know what was going on inside him.

By contrast, I also have another fan, he’s small, short, old and off-white. He sits on the floor very faithfully blowing around the carpet dust. For some reason he looks friendlier to me and I feel like he would desperately try to please in any way he could, even though his capabilities are far more limited than Ray. This fan has no name, just a big white circle on the front that looks like a white chocolate button. I see him as being a more casually dressed human, possibly in a baseball cap.

So, has the heat gone to my head? Am I going stir crazy? No, I think I’m fine, I just have a brain that loves the idea of inanimate objects having their own personalities and I can instantly see that personality from the way they look, their shape, their size etc. So you can imagine how much Toy Story thrilled me as a concept. I secretly knew that was the case anyway. I watched a girl pull her Pound Puppy soft toy along the pavement on a lead once, when I was a child, and I’m still disturbed by the scene.

When I was younger I used to chat away to the taps and fittings in the bathroom (quietly of course) as a way of processing my day, fully convinced that any information I shared with the upstairs taps and fittings would be transferred to the downstairs bathroom so I didn’t have to repeat myself. I genuinely felt sad when we dropped our old hover off at the tip and drove away, and I felt I’d let our car down when some strangers drove off in it, and if I kill a plant it’s hard to forgive myself.

Where is this all going? Well, I’ll be honest, I have no idea, I’m just really hot and this was what tripped off my fingers when I sat at the keyboard, but one thing I do know this tells me. We are all different. You may not understand what I’m on about, or feel the need to even try to see things that way, but as I get older I’m learning that there are very specific things that we do, say or view, that are unique to us. I look back at some of the things I did as a child, which I’ve never really told anyone about, and see it as the fiction writer in me starting to flex her muscles, playing with concepts and ideas and characters, writing dialogue, finding humour, processing life in my introverted manner, having deep conversations with an audience I could also write the responses to. I don’t form attachments to inanimate objects per se, but when it comes to parting I can’t help but put myself in their shoes and imagine what that might feel like - odd as it may sound. I do it with happy times too, my supermarket Alocasia (a.k.a Elephant’s Ear plant) just grew a new leaf and I’m feeling so proud of her.

So even if this isn’t your experience, I bet there’s something you do, that others don’t know about, or that you rarely speak about, a reflection of who you are and where you are in life right now. It might be something good, sweet, different and creative, or it might be something dark and unhealthy that brings a feeling of shame. I have those too. We all have those, yup even you, don’t go kidding yourself you don’t.

I want to encourage you to look at whatever comes to mind, whatever it is and think about the ‘why’. Why do you do it? What is it saying about you? What do you need to do with it? Do you need to encourage it, like I have with my imagination and writing and find a way to use it for something productive? Or do you need to find a way to break from it? Both of these things are easier to do if you can work out why you do it. I’d encourage you to dig deep and look at this - either way it can take you somewhere amazing, somewhere freeing, somewhere healthier than where you are now.

And don’t compare yourself to others along the way, no one else in the whole world, who has ever lived on this planet, or will live on this planet, will have your story, your journey, your path. You are completely unique. And that’s valuable, like they say - ‘originals are always worth more than copies.’

It’s also important to tread carefully with others in these kinds of areas, mocking something you don’t understand is a dangerous way to kill off something special that they should be nurturing, but embracing something in someone can be the wind beneath their wings that takes them to new heights to achieve something amazing.

There’s no denying it. It’s a great feeling when others believe in you. But today, I want to encourage you to believe in yourself, no matter what! Always believe in yourself, wholeheartedly. No matter what people may say or think, if you believe in your capabilities to do something, do it. Allow your passion to motivate you every step of your journey. Allow your passion to give you strength when doubt tries to set in. Stay true to yourself and do it how you see it! And remember: It’s okay to be different! Be uniquely you. Stephanie Lahart

This week on The Silent Why we spoke to David Richman who had an amazing transformational journey because of loss and grief that he encountered, and he said:

I lived my whole life wondering who's looking and who's watching, because it drove me. Sometimes it drove me to not do the right things, because I thought, ‘Oh, I'm gonna look like a hero if I do this’, or ‘I'm gonna look smarter if I do that’. When I finally started caring about what the guy in the mirror thought, then it opened up a whole other world. I love the idea that nobody's watching me and nobody cares, because now I get to do it just for me. And that's kind of cool. David Richman

Sometimes it takes grief or loss for us to recognise this and change, and sometimes it’s through how we grieve and cope with loss that we find our uniqueness. If you’re on that road at the moment and the landscape is blurred by tears and you don’t know which way to go, even what you’re doing in that place will be unique to you. Watch yourself in the mirror, how are you coping, what are you doing, and be honest about what you see. See tears? Let them flow and wipe them up. See a fake smile? Take it down and work out what it takes to find your real one. See anger? Feel it, process it, deal with it. Feel disgust? Look into why, work on changing that, because it won’t be what others see. See heartbreak? Smile and tell yourself it takes time to heal and mend. See frustration? Work on practical goals towards what you can change, and learn to accept what you can’t. See loneliness? Drop me an email.

So today, I want to encourage you to be you, warts an’ all. Be who you are supposed to be, don’t let others tell you to be a different way. Be respectful, kind, honest and loving to those around you, in the way you’d want them be with you. Learn how to love yourself and throw away the shame that keeps you from living the life that has been allocated to you, on your completely unique path.

And most importantly, stuff Ray! Be your own biggest fan.

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