Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Taking stock: an off the wall quiz for off the wall times

About a month ago, the lead singer of The Monochrome Set took part in an interview for Paris-based Le Village Pop, which describes itself as "International web radio focused on music, cinema and artists' words". VIPop, as it is also known, is noted for its podcasts, which aim to "discover an artist from a different perspective...An elegant mix of music and words of a musician (pop, rock, folk, soul, etc...)."

The entertaining half hour podcast is a medley of Monochrome Set songs interspersed with tracks from other bands, and with Bid's answers to a most original set of questions. For their part, the Village Pop team were delighted with his responses:

"He is the one who answered our questions and he wins to this day the Grand Prix for the most laconic answers among all the episodes of the VIPop Collection!...This band is definitely not like the others...And we love it!"

I can thoroughly recommend the original podcast HERE for Bid's amusing and quirky answers alone, even if you are not a fan of the music as such.

Now...the New Year is generally a time for taking stock and looking back on the year gone by, making resolutions etc, and never more so than in 2021 after the white knuckle ride we've just had in 2020. Many of us not working on the front line - or working at all in my case! - have had ample opportunity to re-evaluate our lifestyles and relationships during the isolation of lockdown.

I love this reader comment quoted in a blog post by Mark Manson on the impact of the pandemic, entitled: "You Only Know Who You Are When Everything Is Taken From You". In it the commenter observes that the pandemic "brought out the 'factory default settings' of everyone. The paranoid became more paranoid. The needy became more needy. The anxious became more anxious and the optimistic became more optimistic".

Like a lot of people, I have been doing a lot of navel gazing over the past year, and this quiz appealed to me as the questions were so unusual. I have taken part in a few interviews in the blogosphere, for example this one on Olfactoria's Travels from way back in 2013, as part of her series "People in Perfumeland". Looking back, Birgit's questions were also a bit different!

So as this is the time of year for ponderings, I thought I would have a go at answering the Village Pop questionnaire myself...As a market researcher, I am usually the one wielding the clip board, so it is fun to be answering rather than asking the questions. I do hope the Village Pop team don't mind my taking this liberty - or 'liberté', even! (I have messaged them to ask for their permission, and will obviously take down the post if need be.)


 1) Growing up, what virtue did you see in your parents that you hope to emulate?

Finding a redeeming aspect in even the most depressing situations. [My mother's special knack. Case in point: a holiday in Crete where there was more rainfall that week than at any time since 1923. Marooned in our hotel, Mother remarked cheerily on how much the plants must be enjoying a drink.]

2) What poem or song really moves you? Can you share a line from it?

Louis MacNeice's Snow:

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

3) When have you recently felt overwhelmed? Describe the situation?

Lying awake night after night for four months listening to a mysterious hum / whirring from next door. The noise has gone now, but I appear to have encoded the memory in the form of tinnitus. That was overwhelming initially too(!), but am gradually learning to live with it.

4) What's the best bargain you've ever found?

A black Kookai jacket in a vintage shop in Berlin, for 8 euros. It is not so much the price in itself that was a bargain, but the truly incredible amount of wear I got out of it! It has finally been retired, due to extreme fading and a large reddish patch on one arm; it had got to the point where the jacket could only be worn during the hours of darkness - a limiting factor for at least half the year. ;)

5) If you were assured you wouldn't fail what would you attempt to do?

Write a book and try to get it published.

6) Has your heart ever lied to you, or do you think it always tells the truth? Can you

My heart doesn't lie as such, but it can be error prone and is much given to paranoia and catastrophising. [Case in point: when the sample from my routine blood test was rejected by the lab yesterday, I instantly assumed there was something wrong with my blood. Further research suggests there is a 2% chance this is in fact the reason, as opposed to a glitch during the administering of the test itself, but me being me I went straight for the more worrying possibility! NB If it was my blood, I will be sure to come back and tell you.]

7) When do you feel insecure?

Oh, on more occasions than you can shake a stick at, haha... Finding unexplained scratches on my car (a disconcertingly frequent occurrence); looking in the mirror, especially barefaced; lurking at parties where I hardly know anyone; tackling DIY projects, and problems with phones, wifi and computers, all of which are outside my sphere of competence. Oh, and cooking meat, which - like Alsatians - sniffs fear in the fryer.

8) What is unforgivable?

The insidious downspec-ing of trusted household brands, eg Andrex and Fray Bentos.

9) What paradox or contradiction in life have you had to learn to accept or embrace?

That everything you buy in T K Maxx, intending to give it as a gift, comes with a price tag that is impossible to peel off.

10) If you could change one thing about the culture you live in, what would it be and why?

The pressure on women not to age, as though it were a kind of failure, like death to Christian Scientists.

11) Is it better to love or to be loved? Why?

Both matter: as a baby you need to be loved by your primary caregiver to avoid attachment issues in later life. For as with donning oxygen masks in an in-flight emergency, it is important to love yourself first before loving others. I would also observe that unrequited love can be exquisitely painful and ultimately unsatisfactory for the sufferer.

12) Is there a family tradition that has a special meaning to you? Can you describe it?

Clean sheets on Christmas Eve.

13) What advice can you give about how to conquer fear?

That the thing you fear is rarely as scary when you finally screw your courage to the sticking place and get stuck in. With the notable exception of rock climbing if you are only 5' 3".

14) Is there one thing you know for sure?

I will continue to spill tea on pale carpets.

15) If you could bring one person back from the dead who would it be and why?

My mother, because she was simply lovely in every way, and I never got to say goodbye.

16) How would you define freedom?

Going on a 'living room crawl' of local friends' houses.

17) What do you recommend to overcome self pity?

Watching a 'forensic detectives'-type programme, and thanking my lucky stars I wasn't murdered in a horrible way and my body dumped in a wood when I was only 19.

18) In what area of your life are you immature?

I am diffident and mealy-mouthed when complaining, though less so than I used to be.

19) What is your greatest achievement?

Such things are hard to quantify...arguably being subjected to a violent assault by a stranger in a park on a Sunday afternoon, and doing an A-Level exam the next morning. Also up there was getting compensation out of Ryanair - years before making claims for flight delays were 'a thing' people knew they could do. I had to escalate my case all the way to a director at the CAA before Ryanair coughed up, but they did - in full, bar the cost of a beer to soothe my frazzled nerves on Day 3 of the flight delay. I guess they felt the need to retain a little bit of control...I am proud to say that a local business travel agent used my complaint letter as a template for years afterwards. 

20) If you could take back something you've said what would it be?

Telling an examiner in my university finals that I enjoyed the dark humour in the works of Samuel Beckett, despite his "bottomless contempt for the human condition" and jibes at the marginalised and disadvantaged...before discovering on shaking the examiner's hand that he only had three fingers.

21) When do you feel sad what do you do to find comfort?

I knit furiously, burn incense, and occasionally wallow in Stina Nordenstam records. In extreme cases, I go to bed and write the day off, as (another maternal truism) things often look better in the morning.

22) What do you dream about most often? How do you interpret your dream?

My dreams are insanely varied, and invariably bad. I'd rather not try to interpret them, but be grateful they were only dreams.

23) Is there one question you're asking yourself these days?

Will life really return to normal?

(Photo of La Pensadora via AWa, Wikimedia Commons)


Hazel said...

No 6:
"Head to Heart 'How goes it?' Heart replied:
' Right as a Ribstone Pippin!' But it lied."

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

Aha! Hilaire Belloc...I had not heart that one.

Vanessa said...

Freudian slip - I was sure I had typed 'heard'!

Tara said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers to these insightful and quiky questions V. Your replies certainly rose to that standard.
I've just finished a book called Wintering which mentions the calming benefits of knitting. I do hope you write that book one day. Self publishing is all the rage.

Nice quote from a Mark Manson reader. I've paid to be a member of his website for extra content during January to spur me through this tough month.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Thank you for your kind comments, and I love the sound of a book called Wintering - what a lovely word.

Interesting that you have also discovered Mark Manson. There were many juicy nuggets in that particular blog post in fact.

Anonymous said...

Agree with you on so many of your points, particularly clean sheets on Christmas Eve and the ever spiralling downwards in quality of favourite brands.

That's so odd about tinnitus. I suffer from it and have noticed that if there is a noise incident that I keep hearing it long after it has stopped; it's as if the tinnitus likes to replicate it. Weird.

Hope your blood will be OK.


Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Sorry to hear you are a fellow tinnitus sufferer, though I was interested to learn that you encode specific noises you have heard - that was exactly my experience.

Not long till the blood test now!

Undina said...

Vanessa, it was a great read! While I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers, I couldn't help thinking that I wouldn't want to be asked most of those questions "out of the blue." I might be able to come up with answers after an extensive period of thinking, but on the spot... And I don't even mean a cleaver or interesting answer, as yours were, but any answer at all. But I surprised myself when on reading the question about bringing one person back, even before seeing your reply, I immediately answered "my mom." I wonder, if it's implanted somewhere deeply in our brain...

Did you tell a Ryanair story before (on the blog or in person)? It seems vaguely familiar, but it might be a false memory. In any case, I'm extremely proud of you!

A random question... Would you terribly mind to put periods in the Latin abbreviation "E.g."? I know that it's an acceptable informal use, but for some reason it's something I don't expect to see on your blog :)

I hope that nothing is wrong with your blood (and I completely understand your way of thinking!). Please share any news.