Bluebeard, Redbeard – Part 1

In hopes that it will be fruitful, today I gladly introduce to this blog a new category and a new menu’s voice: short tales. Enjoy

 

One day a girl was married to a man.

Walking towards the altar, the girl looked at her betrothed for the first time. The man was twice her age, twice her size, and he had a beard that was as long as the girl was tall. It was a thick beard. It was a smooth beard. The light of the many candles lit around the altar made the beard shine and from it came a pungent smell of spice. At first sight, the girl thought the beard was black, but at a closer look, she could see that, actually, the beard was navy blue, interlaced with many different hues of that colour.

The priest’s voice forced the girl out of her fixation. He was asking her to confirm her will to marry the man in front of her. The girl bent her head.

Then, the priest asked the man and from under the beard came a steady: – Yes! –

The long, hairy hands of the man raised the girl’s white veil above her head and she knew that the moment for her lips to meet the man’s lips had come. But the hands gently guided the girl’s face against the beard while a touch as soft as the wings of a butterfly touched her forehead. The girl could barely feel the kiss, like if it was immensely distant, like if it was happening to someone else. In that moment, she was engulfed into the blue beard. The beard was against her mouth, slimy and gross. The beard was in her nose, spiced and itchy. Blue strands of beard blinded her eyes and brushed her skin. The moment after, the room appeared again around the girl, now filled with chants, and whistles, and crashing hands from the guests. The ceremony was complete and everybody was celebrating the new couple.

The girl resisted the impulse to brush her mouth and face with her delicate lace gloves to not offend the man, but as soon as they were seated at the dinner table, she spilt some water from her glass and dragged a napkin across her face. It was too late. The smell of the man’s beard had impregnated her skin and she could have sworn that her white dress had acquired a pale bluish shade on the front, where it had been touched by the beard. For as long as the banquet went on, the girl stared at that beard. While he was still sober, the man tried more than once to start a conversation with the girl, but he could not win more than a spoonful of syllables from his young wife, and he resorted to drinking.

After the banquet, the inebriated guests escorted the girl and the man to their nuptial chamber. The girl was at the head of the little parade, a trembling candle in her hand. The man was in the arms of his friends and brothers, defeated by the wine. The girl opened the door and had to run inside before the guests stomped on her.  Once in the room, they knocked the man down on the bed and left.

The moment after the guests hastily shut the door with a thump, the sound of a jingling bell broke the newly acquired silence of the room. The girl looked at the door, but there was no bell hanging from the engraved wood panels. Curious! Thought the girl, and she turned her head away from the door to place her candle on the small dining table close to the window, which the handmaids had filled with fruits, pastries, and more wine. But the jingle played again, silvery and sharp.

The girl paused with the candle still in her hand and looked around the dim lit room. On the bed, the man seemed to be deeply asleep. She turned again, placed the candle on the table and froze right where she was standing. A third jingle had rung. She turned her eyes around the room once more. She stared into the darkest corners. Everything was still. Nevertheless, the jingle was real and it rang again. The girl looked at the man, his chest rising and falling as he was breathing.

– Are you awake, my lord? –

The man didn’t answer or move. Just his beard rose and fell together with the man’s chest under the spell of breathing. The jingle played again. Staring at the beard, the girl dared to step closer to the bed and, finally, she saw it. Something twinkled in a silvery shade in the middle of his husband’s blue beard. The girl waited with her eyes on the beard until she heard the jingle play again, in tempo with the breath and the tiny silver flash. She saw that it was a key.

The tiny silver key was hanging at the end of a silver chain which roots disappeared in the depth of her husband’s blue beard. It was a peculiar key. Its bow was in the shape of a heart and it had no apparent cuts, just a long and narrow shoulder, and a tip which was turned upwards.

The girl prolonged a hand towards the key but as she moved, her soft bootee slipped on the beard’s tip laying on the floor, and the girl tripped onwards. She planted both her hands in front of her to stop the falling, but they passed through the soft and rich blue beard. The girl she screamed but her scream fell inside the beard with her.Darkness was all around.

Darkness was all around.

The beard was all around her and it was rough, and it was soft and the girl was still screaming, but the air ended and her throat couldn’t find anymore. There was only hair, only blue, only the beard. She closed her eyes to see no more of it.

The girl opened her eyes in broad daylight. She was wearing a linen nightgown and was tucked in the nuptial bed up to her shoulders. The light was so bright she had to exhume one hand from underneath the heavy blankets and shield her eyes from the sun. A shadow came then from a darker corner of the room and stopped in front of the open window. She could not see to whom the shadow belonged. She thought it was her husband, but where was the beard? She thought it was a maid, but when the figure spoke the voice was too low and deep.

“Once upon a time, a girl was married to a man.”

Said the voice in the shadow.

“Walking towards the altar, the girl looked at her betrothed for the first time. The man was twice her age, twice her size, and he had a beard that was as wide as the girl.”

– And the beard was blue –

– No, my dear. – Said the shadow voice. – The beard was red.-

– Red?- Asked the little bride, ready to fall asleep again.

– Red as fire.-

The sleepy girl closed her eyes and within her shut eyelids she saw the altar, the beard, and the maiden, who was older than her, and taller and had redder lips.

– Was she a beautiful bride?-

– She was a beautiful bride, indeed, and courageous and curious .-

– And then?-

– And then she died. – Said the shadow voice with a sigh.

Underneath the soft blankets and the smooth, silky sheets, the tender wife felt a cold, sneaky strike of fear chilling her bones, sweeping away the sleepiness within her mind.

– Did she die on that night? Did she die on her wedding night? –

– No, my dear. She died some time afterwards. But – the shadow moved towards the girl and touched her forehead with cold, dry lips – you should sleep some more. You caught a fever and you need rest. –

– But I don’t feel sleepy! Not now… –

The shadow tucked her in the bed. Soft warmness embraced the girl’s limbs once again. She sensed a smile, somewhere in the shadow’s darkness. A finger played with the tip of her nose and she giggled.

– And then, the ceremony ended and they had a luxurious buffet. –

– Yeah! –

The shadow placed a finger on her lips. The girl shut her mouth and nodded to be good.

“And then they had a luxurious buffet with rosts, and spirits, and fruits and plates and plates of sweets, and cakes, and biscuits.

The girl yawned once. Then yawned twice. And then yawned for the third time and she fell asleep. The man who was her husband and had twice her age looked at her rosy eyelids and stroke her chubby cheek and kissed her smooth hand while she was sleeping. Then walked to the door, exited his nuptial bedroom and with a key hanging from a chain around his neck he locked his child bride inside. Then he adjusted the chain, the beard and the collar of his robe, ready for the morning inspection of his mansion and all his other possessions.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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Pocket money and spare thoughts

Hi, guys. How are you?

I’m fine but I had been piling post drafts without posting anything new since… well, since forever. During this period of writing negligence, I’ve been busy having a day job and telling myself that I didn’t have any time left to write. That was a lie. And a blatant one.

I was simply embittered by the notion that to have some pocket money I had to find a regular day job. So, since writing, and blogging were reminders of my inability to make a profit out of my creativity, I stopped writing and abandoned my blog. The notion still hurts a little but I’m making progress. For instance, I’m here.

During this period, I persisted with physical training and I had an on/off relationship with meditation. Currently, I ignore the email from Headspace while I’m becoming a fangirl of this other guy, Marcus Aurelius. I’m sure you’ve heard about him.

I’m still building my personal morning ritual. Will I introduce again cold showers? Mm… my recurrent sinusitis tells me don’t you dare! But I am open to other sorts of self-discipline. It has to be something less punitive on my frontal sinus cavities, though.

More or less, I reprised reading fiction, which I take as a sign of a more positive approach towards humanity, in general, and the part of it who call themselves narrators, specifically.

After my last possessions purge, I pulled the brakes on minimalism. Why?

  • Reason 1: I mistakenly donated to the charity a book I cherished.
  • Reason 2: I’m not the kind of woman who can survive an entire winter with a single coat. And, as you all know: winter is coming.

I have ideas about new post series.

Have a great day.

– Nina –

Self improvement: one year recap

Hello friends, how are you? I am rather fine, thank you.

Through this recap post, I’d like to share the progress I’ve done along the road to becoming a better, more serene and satisfied version of myself, in the hope that my experience could help you in your personal struggle. More than one year ago, I was spending my days emotionally laying on the floor, (like the woman in this short tale) and since I didn’t like it, I started reading books, watching videos and following blogs about self-improvement.

In a post from 14th March 2016, I stated that I wanted to achieve three things in a year:

  • publish a book
  • be truly fit
  • be a more seductive person

I achieved two out three of those goals and it’s ok to me since to publish a book you first have to write one, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But let’s analyse the list from the bottom.

Be a more seductive person

I feel more confident in my own skin, that I smile more (even if I still struggle accepting my crooked and not perfectly white teeth) and that I’m not always complaining about my hair, my looks or my wardrobe as I use to do. So, maybe, I am not more seductive in a strict sense, but I am more confident, and that goes a long way in the seductiveness of a person.

I can explain better through an example. About a month ago, I was going crazy with my hair. I was utterly unsatisfied with it and I was anxious to find a new cut or colour or treatment to fix it. So I consulted more than one hairdresser. I looked for tips and hair product brands on the web. I asked the opinion of friends and co-workers and then… I waited. I didn’t want to rush a decision as the old me would have done. I wanted to see what could happen just waiting one week before taking any course of action and I saw that my hair didn’t need any of the things I was planning. During that anxious week, I washed my hair without the conditioner, again just to see what could happen, and the result was that it looked a lot better, so I just stopped using conditioner.

Currently, my hair is growing longer and whiter and I plan not to do a thing about it at least for another year. Even if I have some split ends, my hair is too short to cut those ends out without messing with an overall shape that I like. And about the white strands, at the moment they are too few for colouring or bleaching wisely. In the end, as someone wiser than me once said: it’s just hair.

Be truly fit

In the past, I tried going to the gym and lift by myself, I tried following cardio courses, I tried using the Wii Fit. I didn’t stick to any of those fitness practices and none of them changed really my body. Even though following my sister-in-law’ step lessons increased my resistance, and lifting added something to my strength, my body didn’t change in a noticeable way. Then, I started the F.I.T. program and just in a couple of weeks it turned my body and my metabolism upside down. 

The changes that surprised me the most and that I like the most are two:

  • my belly fat disappeared
  • I eat like a lorry driver

Being able to eat plenty to fuel a lean body is the thing that brings me more joy than anything else. Now I can really enjoy going out to dinner with my husband. It is true that my food choices have changed but I feel a lot better and so I don’t miss pasta.

Publish a book

As anticipated, I didn’t publish a book, the main reason being that I didn’t write one. I realised that writing with that goal in mind was painful because I measured every sentence I wrote by that criteria. Writing became an unpleasant chore to the point that I stopped writing fiction. At the same time, my new job brought me enough joy and fulfilment and took from me so much time, that I stopped writing as a whole. Currently, I am more organised and also calm enough to enjoy writing again. More importantly, I abandoned the idea to give writing an ulterior goal other than bringing me joy and ideas have started to come back. 

After stating my goals, in a post dated 23rd March 2016, I declared that one of the strategies I was going to use was following a Spartan-like morning routine.

These are the 8 things I had planned to do before 08.00 am:

  1. a 7 hours sleep
  2. prayer and meditation
  3.  hard physical activity
  4. consume 30 gr of protein
  5. take a cold shower
  6. listen to uplifting content
  7. review your life vision
  8. do at list one thing towards long-term goals.

I tried for a long time to follow this routine and, even though it gave me some good results for a while, it didn’t become a second nature to me. To stick to it I had to write it down somewhere (my calendar, my diary, a board in Trello) and when something came to interfere with one of the eight points, I fell off the waggon completely.

 Fourteen months after, this is what I do almost every morning:

  • I wake up around 05.30, after a good 7 hours sleep
  • I write down my gratitude list
  • I have my first breakfast (mainly porridge)
  • I watch or read something instructive or uplifting
  • I exercise and shower (not in cold water)
  • I have my second breakfast (mainly proteins) and prepare my bag for work
  • Then, If I have the late shift or the day off:
    • I write something
    • I bake some bread
  • I ride my bicycle to work

I don’t have to write down this list but I almost never fail following it, and when I do, I shrug my shoulders and go on doing what contingency dictates.

As you can see, I stopped meditating. I think about it as a temporary interruption and not a goodbye but I’m not able to say when I’m going to meditate again. As absurd as it can sound, discovering a song about mindfulness (Here comes a thought) in a cartoon and keep on playing it in my mind is helping me more than meditating.

So, in the morning, I take a moment to think of just flexibility, love and trust.

Along these fourteen months, what has been so far, the biggest game changer? Actually, I think the game changers were two:

  • working out in an effective way –> because it gave me a more general sense that I could really change things in my life.
  • finding a job –> because of everything else. Working outside my house, even if not doing my dream job, increased my self-esteem, my finances, my English, my organisational abilities, and the frequency I ride my bike.

All these words just to say that, emotionally, I don’t lie on the floor anymore. I have too much to do. Do I still write lists of goals? This is a more tricky question. I know it’s important to have goals and there are things that I’d like to reach, to achieve, but now I have just one general goal. I want to savour my life. I want to feel the time passing, and being satisfied with what I am doing while it’s passing. At the same time, I write and edit lists of small goals that could help me grasp the big one.

And that’s it for today and for a recap of fourteen months of self-improving. I hope the long post didn’t bore you too much and that you might find it of some inspiration. As for always, thank you for your precious time and have a nice day.

The simple story of a woman, a man, and a cat. Chapter 1

I want to write a simple story in a simple way.  In this story, there are a woman, a man, and a cat. The story is similar to mine, but it’s not exactly my story so please, don’t get distracted trying to figure out what is real and what is fictional. Stick to the story, it’s really easy to follow.

At the beginning, there is the cat. It’s a black cat.

The cat is walking slowly from the bathroom, where he has just done his business in the most feline and educated way, to his favorite spot for the afternoon nap. Along the way, he finds an annoying squishy obstacle lying on the fluffy, creamy carpet but, since he’s a very feline and educated cat, he manages to partially avoid it, partially walking over it. The obstacle grunts, moans, and moves.

“Stop walking over me!”

The cat continues on his way unmoved by the woman’s complaint. He doesn’t even turn to look behind his shoulders. If she doesn’t like to be walked over, she could simply don’t lie on the ground, he seems to tell himself.

When the husband comes home a couple of hours later, the woman is still there. Arms and legs are spread out between the sofa and the media’ station. The TV is off. The game console is off. The PC is off. His wife is off.

“Hi! How was your day?”

The woman moans and collects her arms and legs in a seated position.

“I didn’t do a thing.”

“That’s good! – Says the man, trying to sound sincere – At least you rested.”

“Not really. I feel stiff and tired.”

The man walks to the bedroom, takes off his rucksack, his jersey and walks back in the living room.

“I backed the bread, though, and put the chicken in the fridge to marinate. Dinner will be served in half an hour.”

She finally raises on her feet, wrapped in black as the rest of her body, and closes herself in the kitchen.

On this day

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Hello, people!
How are you? I’m rather fine, thanks, even if I’ve been silent here for a while and I’m not sure if this post means that I’m coming back for good. But on this moment of the year falls the anniversary of my move to the UK and it incites some reflections.

On this day:

– 2 years ago, I was packing my wardrobe for moving to the UK with my husband and I packed lots of clothes and items that had already exhausted their tasks of being useful and bringing me joy.

– 1 year and 10 months ago, I decluttered my wardrobe. I filled around 8 bin bags, the big ones for the weekly litter collection, and I donated them to the charity shop right underneath my husband’s flat. The bags were filled with clothes, accessories, shoes and costume jewellery. That action made me fell lighter and helped us reduce the number of boxes for our next move, two months later.

– 1 month ago, I felt the need to declutter again and I filled other three bags with clothes, shoes, bags, and custom jewellery. I felt even better this time but I know that I still have some items that I don’t really use and have finished bringing me joy. Later this month or the next, I’m going to declutter again.

What did I learn from all this tossing away?

First of all, I understood that I need to possess a lot fewer things that I thought. At the time, I had already passed through an awkwardly high number of relocations: from my parent’s home to the university hostel, from there to three different shared apartments, from one of those to my first living together with a boyfriend, from that to living by myself, than a boyfriend again, then alone again, then finally, it was the love of my life, me and our cat. And every time I moved, I carried with me all my possessions, which, after 20 years, had become quite a few.

Then, between May and June 2015, I decluttered for the first time.

I remember looking at my possessions with a question going on and on in the back of my mind: what if I need this later?” Since at the time I had no money to buy new stuff, I answered to that question: “let’s keep this!” more than once, and I saved from the charity pile things that I didn’t really like or use anymore. No need to say: I didn’t need those things, later.

Then, one month ago, thanks to the new income I secured with my job, I gave myself permission to declutter some more. In that moment, I learned my second lesson, why I felt the need to drag with me all those things for years: I had encrypted part of my identity, a huge piece of it, in the things that I possessed.

Those things that weren’t useful to me in an immediate, practical way. They worked as statements of who I was, as symbolic roots, as pieces of hardware memory. Nina is the woman who wore this, the nerd who read this and the vintage lover who collected this. This is not true anymore. Well, I still love vintage, I am still a nerd and surely I didn’t stop being a woman, but I want to try new things, wear new clothes, engage in new activities. If my desire is to flow like a river and being a self in constant evolution, I should follow the example of the hermit crab and change my temporary shell as I need it, instead of sewing myself to a carriage to fill endlessly.

So, I am going to let go of some things, again. I know I’ll do it again and again. It’s perfectly fine for me. I can’t wait to lift my baggage some more, to see empty spaces, to feel lighter.

And you? What works for you? Do you use your possessions as hardware memory of who you are as well? How do you feel about the idea of letting go possessions to free the mind? Let me know in the comments. In the meanwhile, thank you for your precious time and have a lovely weekend.