Marlene Hauser

Marshmallows, Debussy & Leche

Hi Everyone,
In this part of the world, spring means finally getting to venture out of doors, after a dark and relatively cold, remorselessly grey, winter. I’m not sure what came over me this spring but having thought about it for many years—like that online course in financial management from the London School of Economics that I still haven’t signed up for—I actually did buy myself a pair of underwater, or at least waterproof, earphones for swimming. Before now I’d somehow failed to get the job done—too many other pressing issues. Who really needs waterproof headphones for the pool? Who needs Debussy while doing the Australian crawl?
Apparently, it turns out, I do. I finally bought from Amazon (where else?) a bright yellow pair of “bone convection” earphones, and (yup) instantly regretted all those years spent without them. After it had taken me a while to decipher the translated (from Chinese) instructions, and I’d had a few false starts, I was listening to Classic FM and half a mile (44 lengths) flew by in no time at all. 
It felt like a miracle. The music flowed and the early-spring sunlight played on the water, bouncing and breaking, making a sort of fishnet of light. Even the regimented lines of blue tiles seemed to take on a preternatural life of their own. Who doesn’t like to feel weightless, to glide effortlessly through another element? Who could bear to stop at half a mile?? I never would have guessed how much I liked it—swimming with music. Amazing.
Recently I had another hunch. Actually it was more like a gut feeling, growing more and more insistent over the last twelve years—that I should bring my tiny Jack Russell terrier home to Oxford from the estancia in Argentina where she has been living. In all fairness, I hesitated mostly because at one time bringing a pet into England meant it must spend six months in quarantine. Happily, by the time I finally got around to acting on my instinct the law had been changed. My Jack Russell bitch—Leche—qualified for a pet passport.  When she finally arrived in her blue kennel and promptly chased our Bengal cat down to the bottom of the garden, I felt another piece of my life slip perfectly into place. Why, I asked myself, had I waited so long to do something so right?

Marlene's dog

I was reminded of the Stanford Marshmallow Test that illustrates delayed gratification reaping greater rewards: 

Initially, I found I could readily buy into this philosophy. Did being a military kid maybe influence me in taking delayed gratification to extremes? Or was it because I was automatically told to wait before I did anything as a kid? Another Marshmallow Test conducted with a larger sample, I am told, reached a different conclusion, recording no difference between those who caved in on Marshmallow Number One and those who waited patiently for Marshmallow Number Two.
My own recent experiences with underwater headphones and a favorite dog have illustrated the fact that springing into spontaneous action can be a joyous experience. I heartily recommend opting for Marshmallow Number One. Perhaps waiting patiently is overrated. Try one of those things you’ve put on temporary hold. Why wait? It’s spring. Dip in.
Happy April, 


Oxford Literary Festival newspaper article
Off Island novel

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