Life Design Attitude: Keep your good ideas close and your bad ideas closer
Requires: Some good ideas and some bloody awful ideas
Does not require: Idea poverty
Some ideas are brilliant. Take the invention of the needle. Did you know that the invention of the needle was as profound as the invention of the wheel? When primitive people invented the needle, it meant that furs could be sewn together. Until the needle, primitive people were constantly having to hold onto to their togs. Now their hands were free so that they could get on with other things – such as carving the wheel. So, the needle = good idea.
Other ideas are not so brilliant. Like Genetically Modified Food. Enough said.
It is up to us to be idea savvy, not only with the ideas being presented to us by peers, government or the 5 o’clock news, but also the really stupid ones that we come up with all by ourselves. To do this can save a lot of time and trouble.
The Sausage Sandwich, Brown Sauce, Gnome Hat and Skull Affair
The other evening Ads and I were invited to Naughty N’s for sausage sandwiches with brown-sauce. It was a very straight forward invitation, with no hint of the terrible events about to occur. When we arrived Naughty N did a lovely job of modelling a felt gnome hat that had been sent over from Sweden by the man who sold them their hot tub. Spouser showed us the new hot tub in the garden, as well as a fort he’d built for their children, which was very impressive. Quite the sort of fort that would make other husbands feel wobbly. He then proceeded to make the sausage sandwiches.
We ate sausage sandwiches, talked and continued to be civilised.
And somehow, during the small ten minutes of eating the sandwiches, Naughty N and I came up with what seemed to be a terribly marvellous idea.
A good idea.
The idea that we should go out for a bit.
“We’re just going to nip over to see the Woodsman,” Naughty N told Spouser.
“We’ll be back shortly,” I added, grabbing my car keys and jumper (it had been v hot all day and I’d been wearing my shorts, but it was now 7pm and bound to be nippy in the Workshop. The Workshop is a barn in the middle of a field near the Fluffy Mountain.)
Little did we know that as we bolted out of the front door, Spouser turned to Ads and said, “Well, that’s the last we’ll be seeing of them for a few hours. Would you like to a watch a film Adam?” And then they both plodded through the living room to watch a very very long film.
Meanwhile, NN and I jumped in the BM and zoomed through the country lanes, exhilarated by our escape/abandonment of the men/feelings of freedom/cleverness at having such a good ideas.
“Bloody good idea this was,” NN gushed.
“Bloody, bloody good idea,” I replied, turning the car onto the terribly potholed, bumpy track that led to the workshop. “I’m sure that the Woodsman will be very pleased to see us.” I turned and grinned at Naughty N, who was still wearing the gnome hat – and drinking a can of beer.
The idea turned out very well.
We found the Woodsman in his workshop, painting Danish Oil onto pieces of wood. Classical music was playing from his radio (which we all painfully listened to for some time, then switched on to Radio 1, which was much, much worse, so we switched it back to classical again. In truth I don’t mind classical music, but this music was very dark and sombre and did not match our night of extraordinary ideas). I sat on a chair whilst Naughty N sat on a tool box and we swooned over the smell of the wood and made the Woodsman give us advise on our life problems.
Which he wasn’t very good at.
Then he showed us all of the animal skulls he’d found up on the Fluffy Mountain – one of which was an animal we couldn’t identify.
“Fox?” I suggested, turning it over in my hand.
“No – the snout is wrong,” said Naughty N and Woodsman at the same time.
“Naa, it’s not a snake.”
“But look at the weird spine markings – it could be a snake …”
And whilst this conversation was taking place, I accidentally drank a beer, which was the Wrong Thing To Do because now I couldn’t drive us back to Naughty N’s house.
“Oh dear,” said Naughty N, looking naughty. “This is a bit of a predicament.”
I frowned. “Yes it is. What shall we do?”
“We could ask Woodsman to drive us back to my house,” Naughty N said musingly. “Or …” Her face lit up. “OR we could get a lift to Jol’s house, say hello to them and then get her to give us a lift BACK! That would be great fun!”
“Now that is a bloody good idea!” I declared. “Only thing is, what about poor Ads and Spouser all on their own, abandoned and film-watching?”
Naughty N narrowed her eyes in thought. “Yes – they might be unhappy with us …”
We were both quiet for a moment, weighing up whether Naughty N’s idea was worth pursuing, when suddenly I had the the very best idea yet.
“Ok, I’ve got it. We’re going to use this snake skull to dowse for an answer. I’ll tie a bit of string to the skull and iff it swings from side to side, that means “yes”. If it swings in a circle it means “no”. What do you think?”
“Sounds like a good idea,” said Naughty N.
Woodsman also looked bemused, which I thought was charming considering it was him who’d gone and collected the all the funny skulls in the first place. Anyway, I threaded a string through one of the skull’s spiney bits and then let it dangle like a pendulum. Then I asked it very clearly (as if speaking to a foreigner), “Skull – should we go home?”
It swung in a circle. Which meant no.
So then I asked it the second question. “Skull – shall we go to Jols’?”
It swung left and right. I looked up at NN. “The skull says that its a bloody good idea.”
So, the decision was made.
Before we knew it, it was 10pm and we were driving away from the workshop, through more winding country lanes, over hill and under cliffs. As we drove Naughty N rang Spouser to say we were off to Jols’ to say hello quickly. Spouser’s response was one of hissiness and involved the words “come home now!” At which point the phone accidentally turned itself off.
“Ooh, he’s very cross,” NN said as she passed the phone to me. “I think we should probably not hang around at Jols for very long.”
By the time we had arrived, I sensed that our evening of fun was in jeopardy. Since speaking to Spouser, Naughty N had regressed to being a teenager whose parents had just found out that she’d been bunking off school and smoking cigarettes and was petrified of the consequences when she got home. There was a lot of nail nibbling going on and “ohmygod, why have we done this? ohmygod, this wasn’t a good idea” which then hit a crescendo blurt of, “hang on! What if Jols can’t give us a lift back? What if she says NO?!”
I shrugged. “It will be fine. We can call a taxi.” I paused, then shot a look at the Woodsman. “Or you could give us a lift back?”
“No way,” said the Woodsman. “Get out my car.”
Hmm. Not very supportive.
Feeling a little bit anxious, but also very excited to see our lovely Jols, Naughty N and I waved goodbye to the Woodsman (by this time NN was wearing Woodsman’s fleece and the gnome hat and still had a can of beer. I was wearing Woodsman’s camouflage coat, an orange jumper and a pair of shorts). We scuttled through the darkness. Headed round the side of the house. With each step, the feelings of excitement and BRILLIANT IDEAS EXTRAVAGANZA grew, until finally we burst through the kitchen door and shouted “tah-dahh!”
The Ta-Dah Moment was not what it could have been.
Jols and her family were having a very quiet, relaxed, civilised, cosy evening in front of the television. They jerked, spun around and stared at us. And in that moment, I had the dawning realisation that perhaps our ideas that evening had not been so good. This realisation was sharpened to a new level of clarity, when Jols patiently explained that she had her poorly mother in law staying there for the evening and that there was no way she could leave her and give us a lift home.
“Oh no oh no!” cried Naughty N, practically being sick on the floor. She was showing signs of someone with a full blown adrenaline rush. “Spouser is going to go beserk! We’re stuck miles away from my house with no way of getting back!”
NB: Quick fact: in times of crisis I become insanely calm and capable. Screechy Bethan goes underground and hides under a rock, whilst Zen Bethan raises her eyebrows to the crisis in a kind of bored, nonchalent “I can’t handle you,” sort of way. This evening, Zen Bethan was even more relaxed, for my house was only five minutes up the road. So.
“Shall we hitch hike back?” gasped Naughty N. “We could hitch hike, couldn’t we? Couldn’t we?”
“Not a good idea,” I replied. “We’ll go back to my house and call a cab. We’ll be back at yours in no time.”
So we bid farewell to Jols and ran off, through the leafy, wooded roads, dressed in the most bizarre layers of clothing until we reached my empty drive way and went through the front door. Naughty N instantly grabbed the phone and began dialing taxis, but in her high anxiety panic (whilst muttering, “what possessed us? Why the hell did we think this was a good idea?) couldn’t get the phone to work, so I snatched it off her and calmly rang 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different taxi firms.
None of whom had taxis available this time on a Friday night.
“That’s it,” groaned Naughty N, “we’re going to have to ring Spouser and Ads and confess what’s happened. We’re going to have to tell them everything that we did. And how we thought it was such a good idea …”
“The skull thought it was a good idea too,” I reminded her.
“Yes!” Naughty N shouted. “You’re right. We will blame the skull. And the gnome hat!”
She then picked up the phone, looked at it, then took a long deep breath and began to dial Spouser’s number. It was one of those pregnant moments when you know the storm is about to hit so you hold your breath and wait.
And yet just as Naughty N pressed the very last digit on the phone, there was a rap at my window behind me. The back door opened.
“Girls it’s me. I’ve come to give you a lift.”
We fell on her like two pathetic, weeping, pathetic, pathetic, grovelling, pathetic, oh-so-thankful idiots. Then we ran and jumped into her Merc and drove back through the wooded roads, over the hills, past the workshop, down the country lanes, until eventually we were back at the sausage sandwich and brown sauce sanctuary.
Before we went through the door, I coached Naughty N into the idea that we had done Nothing Wrong. It wasn’t Actually that late. and anyway, we were full grown women over the age of thirty, who could have ideas and do them, even if they ended up being rubbish. Then we took deep breaths and went in …
Why is it that some ideas seem so brilliant at the time? Why are some ideas so delicious that they become irresistible (despite the consequences)? And how can we tell the good ideas from the bad ones? These were all questions that myself and NN discussed on the phone the next day. Our conclusion was that someone needs to invent an Ideas Barometer. This Ideas Barometer will measure the marks of approval – or disapproval- on someone else’s face (such as Spousers) or sadness and disappointment (such as Ads’). There will also be a thermometer that measures someone’s tone of voice when you ring them and they say “come home now”. Together with the Ideas Barometer and the Voice Thermometer, an equation can be created to measure whether your idea is a good one or a bad one.
What is the best idea you ever had?
What was the worst idea?
And have you ever committed to an idea that pretended to be a good one but was actually a baddy in disguise?