Received ideas and chandeliers

I remember being with mum in this flat over two decades ago at this time of year. Back then there was a chandelier in the living room. It was covered in muck and attracting flies. I was early twenties and still trusting received information over my instincts, “balancing” as we do. Kids have to receive information. The world is potentially hazardous to somebody with no experience. They don’t get how or why roads are dangerous. They get told. They understand it to be true from what they’re told and witness the fast cars and then get hit by a football and extrapolate unconsciously. “The football hurt and it was softer and slower. My parents are right. Cars are not good things to be hit by.”

After a while in some thoughts people stop questioning the information and running it against their experience. They just funnel their expectation towards what they’ve been told is the way it works. I’m pretty diligent at mining these thoughts, but nobody can catch them all.”

“The chandelier is filthy – I think it’s attracting those flies,” I told mum. “Oh but darling it’s so difficult to get them cleaned.” Apparently you have to get a specialist who comes over to take them down, and hand clean all the bits of crystal individually. They take loads of time and costs loads of cash.

By the time I moved in, the living room chandelier had been taken down by mum and put in the attic. But there was still one in the bathroom, filthy. “You should clean that chandelier,” said Kitcat a few months ago, and I imagined the expensive skinny man in small glasses coming into the flat with white gloves and a huge price tag. “Maybe,” I said, and changed the subject.

I suddenly examined my assumptions today. Mum had told me it was a load of hassle to “get it cleaned”. “I’m going to clean it,” I thought. My days are spent working through a list of tasks I made. Camino taught me that a big thing can be broken up into lots of little things. Dad always used to say “Mony a mickle maks a muckle,” but I didn’t really understand that or internalise it like the cleaning of the chandelier being hard and by someone else.

I took apart the chandelier. That involved a little bit of electrical safety but I’d already been switching the breakers on and off all day, with Tristan holding my hand on WhatsApp as I (or more specifically he as I was just a conduit) changed a plug socket, changed a light fitting installed a Nest Thermostat and started to comprehend the electrics in this flat.

The pieces of individual crystal were beautiful but utterly swarming in filth. The brass had lost all shine. I looked at the pieces closely. The fixtures were brass. Even the ones embedded in the crystal. I had about half an hour of fighting with myself. Toothbrush and hours?

Reader, I put the lot in the dishwasher. Not the brass – I’ll brasso that tomorro

“You can’t put the chandelier in the dishwasher,” said a cartoon version of mum in my head as I did exactly that.

And it came out beautifully.

It’s so worth challenging our assumptions, on inconsequential matters like washing chandeliers, all the way up to fundamentals like “What constitutes value in other people”. I’m still chasing my assumptions around and all sorts of stuff keeps coming up that surprises me. We can call these received and unquestioned ideas prejudice in others when they don’t align with ours. But an attack on the assumption never helps. If someone had said “AL YOU IDIOT, JUST WASH IT IN THE DISHWASHER,” I would likely have defended myself. “Do you have chandeliers?” (YES = Well this one’s different. NO = So you don’t know what I know.) Parental wisdom is a huge part of how we filter stimulus. But we are all different from our parents and have different things we find easy and different things we find hard. Mum wouldn’t have enjoyed deconstructing the thing, or seeing the face of the brass under the brasso. I do. I did. I will. And so this disease gradually makes my flat more pleasant to be in…


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

13 thoughts on “Received ideas and chandeliers”

  1. nice deconstruction and observation of the thought processes, almost crystalline in its clarity…have you ever done a vipassana? πŸ™‚


    1. No. I really want to try it. It’ll be a fight with the noise in my head to stay there, but I’m always good for something difficult. Have you? I went to Peru something like 15 years ago at the depth of a huge low in search of medicine. But I didn’t understand it, it was just an idea to me. Thankfully the shaman was very clear that he wouldn’t allow it as I hadn’t followed the diet… Ten years later I did it with care and attention. And I’m always curious and open regarding these things. It’s just the personalities involved that sometimes frustrate me. I can’t trust a man that behaves and speaks like Bikram for instance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. interesting glimpses of backstory once again, thankyou :)…I hear you re:context/prep, as my recent Costa Rica trip was part medicine journey. After years of exploring Eastern traditions I was curious too about Western ways, but I decided not to over-research beforehand for the sake of retaining an open mind, free of expectation. I wanted to avoid being biased by or carrying the experiences of others. However in retrospect I kinda wish I had, just from a cultural/historical angle, as it would have added more depth and understanding to the process. All lessons for next time…

        As for Vipassana, is quite the story. Everyones reactions will be different of course, but I found it both bountiful and frustrating, spacious and claustrophobic, and a fascinating observation of human behavior. Never have I seen so much passive-aggressive chopping of a pear. Tiny things can take on huge resonance and humour in the silence. It goes very much in stages, and for me the first three days were a slighty surprising but highly entertaining rolodex of sensuality flipping over in my mind and body, which I put down to the heatwave and having read far too much Anais Nin. Much like opening an old drawer and emptying out the contents for recycling, lots of clearing the mind clutter via bodily responses. I had costume fittings booked in two days after returning, very bad idea. I found myself surrounded by beautiful dancers at the Barbican whilst still feeling deliciously blank and brainless, stuck in the subtle zone, current reality on hold, with my employer flicking safety pins in my direction, requesting that I please stop meditating. All said, it’s a beautifully simple technique which seems to have soaked into my subconscious since, and integrated itself on many levels, so I would highly recommend the experience. I think it should be part of the national curriculum. I felt very held and supported there, so am in talks to return as a server and sort out their soft furnishings. I did cheat a bit tho…

        Bikram, ugh, your mistrust is well founded. I was due to be sponsored on a US training many moons ago, which was halted when a Sabatier pounced onto my achilles, and feel now like I dodged a bullet. Divine intervention once again. Have you seen the recent Netflix expose…?


      2. I haven’t seen it. Saw enough videos of him talking to think he was a wrong’un…

        Aye I suspected medicine might have been part of Costa Rica. I’m extremely grateful to the shaman in Peru for refusing me. I did lots of research, eventually found a circle in London I felt I could trust, was extremely diligent and long term about the lead up period and afterwards, and turned a massive corner through the experience. At some point I might return to Peru and see if he’s still there. But I’m not feeling particularly like she needs me to.

        Vipassana… “Hell is other people”. I like the image of the passive aggressive pear chopping. Most of my friends react most strongly to “the guy in all the fucking videos”. Interesting to think, we could all just spend a week meditating. That’d pass the time… Although everybody and their dog is sending me Deepak Chopra at the moment.

        I try not to get into conversations about the detail of people’s spiritual experiences as, like you with medicine, I don’t want to cross pollinate expectations. These things are intensely connected with everybody but simultaneously translated through the individual consciousness to be totally subjective.

        When people ask me about my experience with medicine I speak about the result and the prep and the commitment involved, and I tell them that if I was to explain to them what I experienced personally they might go in expecting the same thing – and that would affect their own journey -(“I’m drunk for the first time. Where are the pink elephants?”)

        Despite having the biggest TV in the world, a legacy of Black Friday and an old flatmate, I’m terrible at watching things. I switch on for movies.. Most things on Netflix have passed be by. I haven’t even seen the one about the tigers…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Wow, so is there a chance the tiggers could be life-size on such a screen? I haven’t stooped that low viewing-wise yet either, taking care of the mental diet….

        As for the vipassana vids, I love uncle Goenkas croaky bullfrog chantings, but then I have a strong history with and affinity for India, so they feel familiar and endearing. There is a beautiful moment early on where he is filmed alongside his wife then they zoom in, effectively removing her from the broadcast, which spoke volumes to me about a broader cultural attitude. And made me snigger slightly. It’s led and scheduled quite actively, essentially providing a framework to fill with whatever nonsense rises in the body/mind. Much like being in a silent movie, which becomes even weirder when they turn the volume back up, and all the characters suddenly become animated with voices and stories. I hid in the woods for quite a while. There are a million amusing anecdotes to share, or the haiku-like observations I quietly scribbled in my illegal journal…but as you wisely say, I wouldn’t want to cross pollinate your expectations or bust any possible vibe. One important life lesson learned though was that if you are going to smuggle in writing apparatus, scratchy pencils which echo through the silence are a bad choice. Finely milled paper and a gliding ink-pen next time….

        How wonderful that you refer to the medicine as she…this tunes into my experience perfectly, but that is a long tale. I respect your preparatory approach and aftercare, and i’m sure it made the whole process feel more complete and integrated. So many of these journeys are done as a kind of existential entertainment, purely recreational, and whilst that can be valid it often bypasses the deeper potential. The community I visited stopped offering some ceremonies in an effort to sort out the party heads from the sincere seekers, as some were becoming reliant on the medicine highs rather than doing the inner work. Keeping authenticity in a hungry market can be a fine balance to tread. The best advice I had was to create a positive relationship with the plant beforehand, so when it courses through your veins it feels like welcoming and conversing with an old friend, communicating and being open to the teachings. I am still in the learning zone, hopefully ever onwards and upwards, feeling humbled by and grateful for it all. I’m glad to hear you turned a big corner, any transformation is a gift…

        hmmm, Mr Chopra. If everyone who sent me 21 days to abundance actually gave me a tenner instead i’d be a wealthy woman….and pink elephants? Is that a Dumbo ref..? πŸ™‚


      4. I love this. I’m getting pro-tips on sneaking writing material into a Vipassana… With my obligatory 500 daily minimum I’d have to prewrite and schedule a ton of blogs…

        I’ve never been to India. The country exists in my imagination mostly as a question. It seems to be a conflicted place but beautiful. I occasionally browse Yoga retreats before telling myself it’s not practical. Travel is a big part of my joy – I am endlessly curious about the world. We will appreciate it all so much more now we have been forced to stay still.

        Yes, me as well with the Chopra. It’s designed to proliferate. No harm in some good reflection. But i don’t like it when anything tries to make me spread it. It’s why I don’t really shout about my daily witterings – (and good thing too as last night is what happens when I somehow nail half a bottle of whisky on an empty stomach…)

        Yes it’s a Dumbo ref πŸ™‚ I honestly thought I’d have crazy visuals when I first had a beer…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. or maybe one epic 5000 worder at the end..?

        I would reply at length re:India, but folk seem to keep comments succinct on here, so i’m feeling somewhat like i’ve turned up at a strangers houseparty and am still sitting on their sofa talking, long after everyone else has left….

        suffice to say, the first time I drank booze (Merrydown, classy) I woke up in a garden shed with an unlit cigar still in my hand. No pink elephants were present, but the powertools looked quite menacing πŸ™‚


      6. ha! indeed, inhaling ageing cigars equals instant heady nausea, horrid…ah the recklessness of youth has much to answer for…

        and thankyou, this sofa is quite entertaining but so is moving on πŸ™‚


  2. You could of course put a load of newspapers on the floor and spray it with chandelier cleaner but you would not have had the same sense of satisfaction….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: