Anyone got any suggestions for hosting companies which aren’t loathsome? I need me some new digs.
I think there is a lot to be said for habit in the notion of blogging. Probably in the notion of writing as a whole, when I think about it. It makes me laugh to think of the 98,000 carefully-crafted words that I submitted as my PhD thesis when taken in the context of having written over 200,000 words of drivel on my blog at that time… There is nothing like a bit of procrastination, is there?
Today, I am procrastinating instead of…
- working out what is for dinner. The sod about dinner is that this question is never answered. You can never say ‘I now know what is for dinner; let us move on.’ Rather, you say ‘I know what I can manage with what’s in the house, and what it’s likely that the teething maniac will eat – let’s go with that.’ Not quite the same thing, and oh, the temporary state of the answer, it gets me down, it does. If only it were possible to answer that eternal dilemma just the once, and never have to think about it again.
- clearing up the house in (the midday blitzkrieg – a necessary but ultimately pointless exercise, when taken in the context of the bombsite which still greets me at the day’s end). Why is there not some fundamental evolutionary mechanism which is activated by pregnancy hormones such that you grow thicker soles on your feet, defeating once and for all the constant assault your paws face by such evils as Lego, building blocks and crayons?
- finishing off a cardigan for Mirth. I am on the second sleeve; it’s a top-down raglan construction, so all that’s left after this is the button band and the hell that is buttonholes.
- writing something other than this. As an aside, I wonder why it is that I find talking about writing very difficult. It makes me feel deeply shifty, as if I’m some sort of interloper with pretensions, and am about to be exposed in a very public manner by people who shout ‘down with this sort of thing!’ while pelting me with something painful and probably fruit-based. Why do I feel such a fraud? I spent my entire time in higher education feeling similarly, mind you, and still, when asked about ‘my research’ (which I can’t help regarding with a sense of irony and with invisible air-quotes), I feel I am about to laugh inappropriately or be proven an idiot (either of which is quite possible).
- bringing in the washing. It hasn’t rained for – shhh! – two whole days. It’s dry, but colder than a polar bear’s arse out there. Where are the songs of spring? Where?
OK – so nine and a half stone then, instead.
13,000 words written, a few of which may not be utter bilge.
Spring late in Devon – fucking arctic out there, but sunshine today, proper blue skies, and daffodils nodding in the garden.
Children both insanely energetic. Parents, less-so. (How surprising.)
Quercus left work last Thursday. Spent today making someone an outdoor log shelter and cutting up stuff with The Big Saw. Good times, my friends.
Kindles. Good, bad or the stuff of Satan?
Good, reliable, basic and cheap laptops. Any suggestions? I want my MacBook back to myself and reckon Quercus needs his own, now that he’s working from home and is thus only more likely to pour Baileys on mine. Something child-friendly would also be good; I am a bit reluctant to let tiny paws all over my precious.
Chai. Proof of divinity.
I appear only to be capable of bullet-style updates here, and only that sporadically. But I am still here. And you?
Writing more often just isn’t happening. It’s been a month or so – more probably – since I made the effort to open up this page and actually do something. In the meantime, I’ve managed to write about ten thousand words towards this novel lark. I’m feeling a bit reluctant to talk about that, partly in case I jinx it, and partly because I find it surprisingly difficult to talk about these things. When I was writing up my PhD thesis, I used to avoid talking about my ‘work’, because I always felt like a fraud. Part of me waiting for the tap on the shoulder, for the person who could see me for what I really was, right up to my viva, and indeed beyond; the temporary burst of confidence that the viva gave me appears to have dried up and evaporated in the few years that have passed by since then… And talking about writing fiction is even worse, I learn. It’s as if every idea that I have fermenting in my brain becomes trite or shite as soon as it’s expressed. The very moment it leaves either my mouth or my fingertips, it gains a sheen of shittery that utterly obscures any merit it once had, and it leaves me feeling mildly embarrassed at having thought such things, never mind having contemplated writing about them. So, that bit’s going really, really well. Oh yes. Super progress.
However, when I am able to step back from it and view it with something approaching objectivity, I can see that what seems predictable or familiar territory to me may well not appear that way to others. My research background isn’t the stuff of normal life, after all, and as a non-academic friend recently reminded me, not everyone does this stuff, so being able to work my research into a fictional situation may be a good thing. May. Might. Not sure.
Anyway, that’s it. That’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m not here. Well, partly. The other reasons are about 2′ 6″ and about 3′ 6″. And covered in cocoa.
Other news: Quercus leaves his job at the end of March. Big changes all round. He’s going to try to work for himself. I’m equal parts chuffed and terrified. I’ve continued to lose weight, and now appear to have settled at just under ten stone. It’s kind of amazing, and utterly joyous. Mirth is – somehow – nineteen months, and walking, talking and generally tormenting us by performing terrifying acts of physical motion. Hero is enjoying school still, though she’s sometimes quite tired; her energy doesn’t seem to be diminished, though, and she still has more beans than anyone her size has a right to possess.
Today was the first time I can remember decent sunshine for what seems like months. I would love to say that it was pure love of light that inspired me to walk to Hero’s school to collect her, but, although that was a part of it, an equally large part of this decision was the fact that the car is completely buggered, and is at a garage having been declared unfit to drive. Oh, the pain. The woe! The WOE! A new gearbox, having had the car only five months, and despite it having a warranty, we’re still looking at kicking in £1500. That, my friends, is some gearbox.
But I can take this in the spirit of the new year. Yes, this is shit, and yes, it’s annoying. But the day that we learned this woeful diagnosis also brought the news that, as of the end of March, Quercus will leave his job. He is being made redundant, and has been offered a deal which should equate to roughly ten months’ salary as a pay-off. No bad thing, I tell you. I hope, I so hope, that this year will be a new start. We had a really difficult 2012, somehow. Too much dividing and conquering meant that I spent much of the year feeling lonely, tired overworked and harrassed, while Quercus felt lonely, sick to death of renovation, and exhausted. It was probably one of the more difficult years of my life, truth be told, and is at least partly shown by my lack of presence here. I just got to the point where I had nothing left to say, really, and it felt as if life had dwindled to being a constant stream of nappies to wash, noses to wipe, meals to prepare and sleep to yearn for. Time spent actually doing fun things was at a bare minimum, and we just spent all our time working, working, working. Eventually, of course, this gets you down, and it took me going back to work to realise how lonely I had been while on maternity leave.
Anyway, things now feel rather better. Working again, while in some ways loathsome, means economic recovery, to an extent (which would be a larger extent if it weren’t for things like the sodding car, but let us draw a tactful veil over that particular indiscretion), and more time to think, given my commute. This has meant that I have started writing again, and have managed to come up with seven thousand words towards the book I would like to write. It has also meant a lot of thinking about what I actually want out of life, and what I’d like to do this year, some of which may come to pass, and some of which may simply pass. Either way, I am ready for a new phase to begin, and it feels like Quercus’s job situation is the impetus for this to start.
In other news, I have a spiral brotform. It is awesome.
Happy new year and all that.
:: Christmas trees :: German biscuits made by Hero, and iced on her own to boot :: the stove’s eco fan :: clear skies for the first time in what seems like weeks :: boots :: the sound of Wixon purring on the back of the sofa :: Earl Grey :: bread sauce :: a muddy walk around the fields with a good friend and her dog (who only tried to go home on his own once) :: Sebastian Faulks :: two dresses bought in an online sale which actually fit, and which are now about half the money they would have been when I liked them first! :: a thick new yoga mat :: apple and mincemeat pie for New Year’s Day :: Dr. Who :: Gabriel García Márquez :: Father Ted :: Hero singing her version of carols :: Mirth saying ‘heddo!’ :: dancing round the kitchen to Coldplay’s ‘Rainy Day’ and finding that those missing three stone make such things a lot more fun :: lampshades ::
It has been so long since I posted regularly that I had to think about my password quite hard. Well, as hard as I think about anything these days, which is somewhere between a cottonwool and a brie-like consistency, I would say.
Rain, rain, rain. Dark days, my friends, and shitloads of floods and gales and all that. But this is all made bearable by the fact that we have wood-fired central heating, working and fully installed, and we’re only considering killing the man who fitted it all, so I think that must count as a success. If we’re honest, at one time or another I have contemplated killing most people, so the heating engineer isn’t particularly bad. Anyway. I digress. In fact, that is really what blogging is for me these days: digression. I mean to post here, and I think about things I could write about. Then somewhere between actually logging in and faffing about with cameras and whatnot, the urge wanes and I end up contemplating either my navel (which translates reasonably well in blog terms) or the counterful of crumbs I can see across the kitchen floor (which doesn’t). I think the trouble with dipping in and out of blogging is that you sort of lose the momentum, and the sense of community, and then it’s trickier to work yourself back up to it. For one thing, practically, I just have so much less time to do it these days. When I started blogging, I was a full-time PhD student, after all, which is tantamount to saying a professional layabout, and the most pressing things on my calendar included making sure I didn’t miss the lunchtime episode of whichever dodgy 1980s murder mystery was currently being shown on the BBC. Now, with two short people to look after, two cats, a house renovation project, a job, a freelance job, an attempt at novel-writing in progress (yes, yes – shut up – I know it’s horribly predictable, and no, it’s not a ‘chick-lit’ whatsit, and no, it’s not a love story), presumably a husband with whom I spend time when we’re both conscious and in the same place (I say presumably because these circumstances happen so rarely as to make the reappearance of the Gordian knot seem likely), and a notional nod towards maintaining some sense of friendship with people I know…. Time – it is not infinite.
But I would like to post here a bit more frequently, so I’m hoping that maybe the stuff I’m intending to do with Hero and Mirth in the next few weeks will galvanise me.
School continues to be fine for Hero. She’s not yet going full-time, but the tiredness that friends warned us about doesn’t appear to be a huge problem for her, and she’s enjoying the social and creative aspects of it, I think, despite telling us that she misses us when we’re not there with her. She did have the perception to say that school is more fun than being at home when Mirth is teething, mind you, which amused me. Mirth continues cheery and easy-going for the most part, although a recent stint of waking at five has been good fun. I honestly can’t complain, though – when I look back at this sort of time when Hero was little, I was just constantly exhausted, and getting through the days was about the best I could manage. Mirth, while an early waker, does sleep much more consistently, and has done for quite a long time, when I think about it. She is a cheery little bundle, with lots of teeth now, and constantly mobile – climbing, rolling about the place, following her sister and putting her hands over her eyes when asked to do something she doesn’t like, as if to make it simply go away. She doesn’t say as many words as Hero did at this age, but she is far more physically capable than Hero was – swings and roundabouts, I suppose, in this case.
We have a downstairs again now. Furniture. Electrics. Carpets, even. It is … odd. We’ve been back in there for a few months now, but it still doesn’t feel quite finished, partly because there are odds and ends to do like tidying up post-stove-fitting plasterwork issues (don’t get Quercus started – his fury knows no bounds), but also because we’ve largely just unloaded books and that’s it. No pictures, really, or placing of stuff – just a breathing-out after months of living only in the kitchen and bedrooms. Sometime I hope I’ll summon up the energy to have a think about what I’d like to go where, but for now, the urge to sink on to the sofa and Just Be is too strong, my friend.
My weight loss continued for a good while after I posted last. I went, finally, from 83kg to 65, and that appears to be where I’m staying. I’ve gone back to doing quite a bit of yoga; I find it helps me sleep, and the space in my brain which it appears to create, particularly if I do it last thing at night, when everyone else has gone to bed and the house is quiet, and dark, and mine alone, is both useful and calming. I didn’t really follow a diet, as such – just stopped eating as much as I was eating, and nothing between meals – and I hope that means it’ll stay gone. I’m happier with my weight now than I think I have ever been; the last time I was this sort of weight, I was a teenager, and I was far too busy wishing I was thinner/taller/cleverer to really appreciate it at the time, so this time around, I’m just feeling bloody chuffed, while also feeling a hint of smugness at never having got stretchmarks when pregnant. It’s all good.
New boots because they now fit my legs. Jeans, cords, some leather gloves. Constantly stacking the stove, but gloating over free hot water. Scraping the car’s windscreen. A vintage Kenwood Chef for my birthday. Contemplating making bread for the first time in weeks. Reading Juvenal’s ‘Satires’, and José Saramago. Quite liking Vermeer. Listening to the Fleet Foxes, Coldplay, Chilly Gonzales. Learning to play Chilly Gonzales’s ‘White Keys’ because my mother’s piano now lives with us. Scattering my mother’s ashes on a clifftop with the aged parent. Sorting out things that have been difficult between us for a long time. Learning that thing are very rarely black and white, and that there are infinite shades between these two extremes. Remembering that we are all just people, and most of us are doing our best, at any given time.
So, that’s the patchwork of life in the earthenhouse at the moment.
Somewhere in the last few weeks it has become normal that Hero is going to school. Three times a week, at the moment, she trots into the classroom, so far quite happily. As a summer baby, she was scheduled to start in January until the school learned that the official line is to have only one intake a year, which meant that the eight children who were to have started later would have cost the school £38,000 in funding, it seems. So, they asked, very nicely, if we were open to sending her earlier than we’d planned, and that is what we’ve ended up doing. To start with I felt we’d been cheated out of the autumn to ourselves; I had things in mind to do, you see, and they didn’t really include the Oxford Reading Tree stories. However, on balance, it seemed more important that Hero started at the same time as her classmates, and to her credit she has adapted so far very well. She still seems tired and a bit emotional on school days, and we are both finding that boundaries are quite important at the moment as she is certainly pushing us to delineate them clearly, shall we say (which is Parentese for ‘she’s being a bit of a trout at the moment’), but she is also telling us all about the people she’s talked to, and the pictures she’s drawn, and the rabbits she’s looking after (!), and these are all happy-making things. Together with the empty lunchbox she brings home at the end of the day.
Domestically, things are also improving. We are slowly but surely getting through the immense list of things left to finish off on the house. It’s funny, but as soon as you start living in the space you’re working on, the pace changes. Obviously. There is waxing of wood to do, and things like carpet-edging to fit in doorways. Quercus has just put some panel pins in the shelving for me, so that I could put up the autumnal felt bunting that I made last year, and we’ve managed to get the books all sorted; slowly but surely, the house becomes ours once more, after months of living in just the kitchen, surrounded by boxes of our things, all packed away for the duration of the renovation work. I am rereading ‘Catch-22′, having found my rather dog-eared copy when unpacking; I had forgotten quite how amusing it is, but am enjoying rediscovering it, and remembering why it’s long been in my top five.
I am still struggling to get to do things with the children in the afternoons. Since I’ve been back at work, I never seem to be in one place quite long enough, and while I mean to do all sorts of interesting things when Hero gets home from school, or indeed on the afternoons when she hasn’t been, too often this dissolves into perhaps some baking, or time spent pottering in the garden. In theory, we’re making watercolour birds and perhaps doing some felting, but in fact, we’re just not, really. I hope that once we finish off all the niggles with the house, there will be more brain space and energy for such diversions; for now, half of the arty-farty supplies involved are in a chaotic bag under the kitchen table, and just the very thought of fighting my way through that puts me off…. Roll on completion, or something. Or is that one of those things like thinking you’ll know what you’re doing when you reach a certain age, I wonder, and will I still feel a bit knackered and a bit too tempted to just think ‘fuck it’ for ever?
Oh, the deep joy of the prospect of going grocery-shopping at the weekend. I can barely contain myself.
However, it could be worse. This morning, Quercus is having a lie-in; Mirth has gone for a half-hour’s snooze, and Hero and I are basically bumming about the house in pyjamas, feeling contented after pancakes for breakfast, and listening to my current audio fascination, Alt-J, who are truly fantastic (if you like that sort of thing, and stuff). One of the things I’m really enjoying about having a child who’s a little older is discovering things that we share; musical taste seems to be one of those things where Hero and I are in a club of two, given that some of our recent explorations (the Editors, for example) are pleasant only to us, leaving Quercus quite cold. Hero now knows a few Editors songs by name, and it sort of amuses me to hear her demanding ‘Spiders’ or somesuch, particularly as she knows the words here and there in a most haphazard manner; she’s familiar enough with a song which includes the lyric ‘you’ll become digested’ (whatever the fuck that means) to think that it’s all about how much the singer likes biscuits. I find this oddly charming, while at the same time remembering the times when I felt parents were being irresponsible by letting their children listen to the aural delights of, say, Nirvana. Oh, the thing I have learned most about being a parent thus far is that all those things you once thought were black and white are actually just infinite variations of grey (I can’t bring myself to use the word ‘shades’), and that the definite doesn’t really exist. In fact, I think I’ve probably come to realise that that’s true of most things (with the exception of morris dancing, obviously, which is just wrong).
So, sun shining, washing on, house vaguely sane. Later, shopping, and possibly some time in Exeter in the search for skirts since most of my wardrobe doesn’t fit particularly well at the moment, given the weightloss I mentioned earlier. That’s the only downside, really – skirts I’ve loved for a really, really long time no longer need unfastening to go over my hips, and while that’s lovely in lots of ways, it’s also kind of expensive, and kind of tiresome, in that they’re not easily replaceable. Still, set again that, the calf boot delight. It’s all good, really.
Yesterday was very wet here in Devon. It rained, and rained, and then it rained some more ,and then, oh yes, it rained a bit too.
So, Hero and I turned our attention kitchenwards, something we haven’t been doing much of late, with the warmer weather proving too much of a lure outside (albeit warmer but still relatively shit). However, there is only so much time that can pass without the urgent need for chocolate cookies of some sort.
2c self-raising flour
1c dark brown sugar
A large spoon of treacle, slightly self-indulgently sized so as to finish off the tin
A handful of chopped prunes
A handful of sultanas
A good sprinkling of cinnamon, cayenne pepper and allspice
About a half-cup of sunflower oil
Enough decaffeinated coffee to make the resulting mix a mix, rather than pile of flour with a few sticky bits
Whack in bowl, mix thoroughly while attempting to stop elder child eating entire contents and own hair at the same time. Form into little balls about the size of a walnut, and pop in the oven at about 180°c for about, what, fifteen minutes.
Just the one, obviously.
Balance. It’s all about the balance.
Some time ago, and indeed many times ago, I mentioned how miserable I have felt about my weight, ever since I was about, oh, twenty-two. I said all the usual guff about how I ought to lose some weight, and how I’d do it sustainably, and how it would take ages but I’d need to be disciplined about it, and not eat shitloads of chocolate.
And then I did fuck-all about it, for fucking ages.
And then I had a fit of the guilts about the fact that I was going to visit all my mother’s difficulties with weight and the negative body images that went with it upon my small daughters, so that they in turn could find themselves overweight and underhappy.
And then I went back to work after Mirth’s first year, and decided that enough was enough.
So I lost 14kg.
Partly through just fucking eating less, and partly through developing a healthy if somewhat obsessive relationship with the stairs in the buildling in which I work, all nine floors’ worth.
And so I find myself thinner than I have been since I was a teenager. Wearing size twelve jeans. And calf boots which actually do up.
It is not obligatory to reenact the things your parents did, it seems, after all.
Still here, still alive, still doing all the things that you do.
Going back to work
Living the dream, me.
It’s not you, it’s me. Back soon, I hope.