Slugs and snails…

Out of the front door I go, to take the rubbish out. And there it is. Crunch. It’s a snail, squashed underfoot. I feel bad, I feel guilt. When I see a snail or slug on the drive, I pick it up and deposit it in a safe place.

Life is all about karma. What you do to someone, the way you behave, will come back on you at some point in the future. And with me it’s not just about people, it’s also about all living creatures.

The other day I came into my office and spotted a small black ball caught in a spider’s web. I picked it out and discovered it was a woodlouse – slightly distressed but able to uncurl itself and scuttle away across the patio. I felt good karma.

I’ve rescued mice and rats (yes, rats), worms, beetles and many a spider. This morning, Ispider-1397870 filled a plastic bottle with water to pour on some plants, and inside was a spider. As it floated to the top, I put my finger into the bottle and rescued it – it let itself down from my finger on a thread, and off it went. More good karma.

If I’m ever on holiday in a villa with a pool, I spend the early part of the morning rescuing all the insects that have fallen into the water overnight. Even the nasty biting ones.

Killing doesn’t come naturally to me. There are insects I dislike, wasps in particular. But if there’s one buzzing around my house I’d still rather catch it and let it go free rather than squash it. If I see a flattened frog on the road, I feel bad for days, even though it wasn’t me that did the deed.

But every spring for years, we’ve had a plague of flies in one of the upstairs rooms. I don’t for the life of me know where they come from, but suddenly there they are, clustered around the window, fat and sluggish. Myfly-1391648 first instinct is to catch as many as possible and fling them out of the window. But when that doesn’t work and the flies keep coming, I have resorted to fly spray. And then I feel guilty for weeks. Bad karma. Death by fly spray can’t be nice.

I feel the same way about slug repellent, which I stopped using some years ago. Rat poison? No thank you.

I even hate spraying weedkiller on my patio weeds – what have they ever done to deserve it? Hence the natural jungle on the way to my front door. I tend to let things just grow. And I’ve been rewarded with violets, pansies, camomile and once a crocus, popping up through the cracks.   buddha-1307401-1920x2560

Perhaps I’m a Buddhist without knowing it. Although I can’t meditate for toffee (though I might for chocolate) and I suspect enlightenment is something well out of reach, as the older I get the more confused I become. Usually about where my glasses are.

So at the end, when my number’s up, I wonder if all those tiny creatures I’ve rescued will come to greet me at the Pearly Gates. Or will some very cross flies or squashed snails intercept me and wreak their revenge?

I’ve never been any good at flouting authority, bending or breaking the rules. My moral backbone must be very straight, because while common-sense tells me that towing the line isn’t the only way, something transfixes me with a Paddington Cold Stare every time I consider ‘behaving badly’.

Goody two-shoes

I am aware that some of my friends find it amusing that, in many respects I’m a little goody two-shoes. Those are the ones that smoked behind the bike sheds at school, bike shedsstarting drinking age 12, wore the shortest skirts they could without being arrested, and those that were expelled. I worship their naughtiness. My worst crimes at school were once wearing a brown skirt rather than the standard navy, and going ‘on strike’ in the school hall to protest that girls should be able to wear trousers. At primary school one lunchtime I stayed inside with Vicky Manley – against the rules – to sew up costumes for the school play. Headmaster Mr Blatchford discovered us, called us guttersnipes and told us to go home. I still think that was rather over the top for two 10-year olds making bee outfits.

Tax dodgers

I have always been horrified by tales of tax avoidance schemes; the many, clever ways that big businesses and wealthy individuals find to wriggle out of paying tax through bright accountants who get paid a nice little earner to find loopholes. I wonder how it is they don’t have a conscience. Hey, I’ve declared just about every penny I’ve earned in my life. Even the £1 a day I earned as a decorator (after paying the child minder, that was all I had left). However, there’s a bit of me that now thinks differently about those cash-in-hand tax dodgers that I used to scorn. Now I’m more likely to think, why not? If a pop star skips pay tax on millions of pounds, why should the chap earning a couple of hundred quid painting some walls pay any either?  I’d dodge if I could. But then again, I probably wouldn’t.

On holiday

On a month-long trip to China it was a total surprise to me that we had to ‘follow the flag’. I’d never done anything like that before. I duly followed it to the best of my ability, until I was late back to a meeting point because my mate Julia had desperately needed the loo. We were made to feel like criminals, and almost frog-marched to catch up with the rest of the group. Publicly humiliated amongst the Terracotta Army in China, I felt cracks appear in my goody-two shoes persona.

In truth, the older I get, the more likely I am to transgress. This year I was asked to followFollow a flag in Sienna. I ran off up an alley, it was a moment when free will conquered. Hey, who knows, perhaps one day soon I’ll try and sneak on the train to Exeter without paying for a ticket. Or park in a disabled parking space and limp away from the car.

But I tell you, however hard I try, always at the back of my mind there will be the sense that I am the person holding together the tower of morality that keeps society from falling apart. It’s all down to me, for sure. So I won’t be sticking two fingers up at the taxman anytime soon. More’s the pity.

Penny-pinching, moi?

When my children were young and we were living more or less on a single salary (and not a high one at that), finances were an endless juggle. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. And neither of them were wealthy either.

Both being self-employed, there wasn’t much in the way of support from the State, maternity pay was hilarious at £50 a week, and tax credits gave us £34 per month for a few months (and we had to pay some of that back some years’ later, I’ll never know why!). So I made do, and somehow made it work.

Now, I wasn’t brought up to be ungenerous or thrifty – my widowed mum was forever splurging out on things she couldn’t afford; holidays, dinners out, treating friends, theatre trips – including, once, double glazing which had me shouting down the ‘phone at an unscrupulous salesman of the type that preyed on widows who really should have known better. Apart from the windows, my attitude was ‘Good for you mum – life’s too short!).

I too, have a habit of wanting to punch above my  financial weight. I’m not stupid or profligate, I just want my children to try out things: ballet, horse riding, Tae Kwando, or learn to play a musical instrument, and definitely have plenty of pants and socks without holes in them for heaven’s sake. That’s the way I roll…

But even now, when things are a little easier with an upsurge in income (equalled by an upsurge in working hours), I’m finding it hard to shake off that feeling of guilt every time I buy something.

“Do we really need that?”

I have one of those magnifying mirrors (no, I don’t need to shave) which for a couple of years has been loose with the consequence that I have to crouch in all sorts of weird positions when I’m trying to apply mascara. I need a new one, but how do I justify it?
When I decide to buy towels to replace nasty old ones that can stand upright on their own so stiff are they, oh what a dilemma I have. Heaven forbid we have fluffy towels that actually dry us rather than exfoliate our skin.

I wonder at what point, if any, I will shake off the guilt of spending money on things I want to enjoy. Well today is the day! I’ve ordered the magnifying mirror from Argos and I’m on my way to pick it up. As long as I can prise my debit card from my purse when I get there…

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