Sunday, September 25, 2016

Slow down season

This summer appears to be holding on for dear life here in London.  We're heading fairly quickly into October now and today is cotton dress weather; hot as hell and barely Autumnal.

I'm doing a lot of walking at the moment, also running, yoga, making things with my hands.  I'm trying (and generally failing) to stay off the internet unless it involves writing - generally I'm just trying to retrieve myself in some way after a year of living in a bubble.

I enjoy what I do for a living and by all accounts I'm fairly good at it, but ultimately, even when it's good, I burn-out because I become so immersed in making it perfect that I can't switch it off.  I'm an all-or-nothing sort of person, I realise and I spent a long, long time living in a world of compromise, a sort of partial world where I was working 60 hour weeks and when I wasn't working, I was forcing myself to meet someone else's standards and parenting in between.  It was exhausting and unhealthy, because I was consistently trying to do it all, hating it and failing, miserably.

It turns out that hitting that level of burnout isn't something you can just spring back from.  I am permanently on edge and permanently 'on'.  Switching off is nearly impossible, my brain works a mile a minute, it over-thinks everything and is totally unable to relax.  I'm jumpy and I'm still not really sleeping and it's been nearly a year since I turned off all the really harmful things.

It's been exacerbated by my inability to stop taking on new things and filling my life and my calendar.  Recently, something which has taken a massive volume of my time and energy has come to an end and I can already feel myself surging to fill the empty space, because I am just unable to stop.

I am blessed with a large volume of friends, large enough that should I want to go out several times in a week, I can manage it easily.  And because my internal system is always racing a mile a minute, generally I accept every invitation I receive, which results in me continuing to do too many things, which exacerbates everything which is wrong with my head.


It may take me a while, I may struggle, I may fail a lot, but I am going to try to do fewer things, to see fewer people, to spend more time with myself and my boy and make a point of calming my head.

I guess this remains to be seen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

All the dusty corners

Writing is a form of therapy; I'm not sure what actual therapists think about that, but for me, when I write, stuff comes out of my brain that I wasn't sure was in there.

I'm writing something big at the moment, something I'm unlikely to release into the wild but it's turned out to be really fun.  It's involved me looking up a lot of people on the internet whom I haven't seen for 30 years or more and to be honest, it's been a riot.

Part of the exercise is looking back on how I was and how that has made me who I am now; what decisions I made, particularly ones which I make repeatedly and which it might be a good idea to shelve. The other part is to look at some of the people involved in those decisions and, frankly because I'm a nosy cow, I've gone and looked them all up.

So far I've not had as many surprises as I would have liked.  The boy who I thought would be a doctor is a dentist, the boy I thought would take over his father's farm probably did just that, at least he's sitting on some agricultural board somewhere.  The girls I thought would get married and settle down early are now grandmothers, the ones I thought would go off the rails are still wild and beautiful; some of them look a bit lost now, but then I'm sure I do too.

Some people are impossible to find; some have either resisted the lure of the internet; or perhaps they have died or changed their names or moved so far away that they are lost in a sea of people with the same names.

Some I've found through their obituaries, memorial pages on facebook and the like.  Equally, some who I thought would have died years ago are still alive and living in strange and wonderful places.  Some have gone on to do wonderful things.  Some couples who I thought would never last are still happily together; some I thought would last forever are now parted.

The great surprises are the best part of this stalking of my past, way better than the dentist; like the chap I thought would have overdosed years ago who now looks absolutely fantastic and is living some sort of dream in an exotic location with a beautiful woman... or like the first boy I ever kissed properly who is still handsome as hell and looks like he's having a blast being an awesome teacher.  Or like the pinched, mean little lying girl who is now a beautiful singer songwriter.  Time has brought things to all of us.

It's helped me remember too what I loved about myself back before things got so miserable and the upshot is that I'm going to try putting something out in writing on a daily basis.  My writing skill is a muscle and sadly it's pretty flaccid these days; but I have a book to write and various corners of the internet to dust off, so I'm going to see what happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


FireSo this is pretty much my life now.  Everything is on fire, and what wasn't burning already, I've struck a match underneath and lit up anyway.

I get like this.  When things start to slide and I can't hold them back, I start looking for things I can throw onto the pile.  It's like a mania, I start throwing shit out of my life and I can't really stop until everything is gone except the stuff I feel is completely safe.

A year ago I threw the frog out, finally.  It was about time.  Even the child was fine with this.  I then started doing All The Things I couldn't do with him around and because there were so many of them, I started doing too much, until I realised I was holding on to way too many things, I was running a mile a minute, two miles a minute, more.

Things started dropping and sliding, stuff caught fire.  At first I resisted, then I realised how good it felt to let go of some of this stuff... now I'm in full 'Burn It!' mode.  It feels good.

But, there's a but, the problem is, I threw out something quite precious.  I didn't mean to, I just felt it slipping a bit and decided it was unsafe, so I put it on the bonfire to see what would happen and sadly, it seems to be going up in smoke.

I've never pulled anything off this sort of fire before and this is something that should probably have burned up a while ago.  But it's a shame, it's given me a lot of comfort over the past year.  I guess once the fire has cooled off, perhaps the ashes will reveal some great truth.  Or maybe not.

Sometimes things just burn.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Sunny day...

I am out of work and, due to various tedious, middle-class reasons that have to do with insurance forms, today I have been to the job centre to sign on.

I did this same thing for the same reason 11 years ago and to be honest, it was not as grim as I expected.  I confess however that I was expecting it to be a lot worse this time, given that the  job centre nearest to me is being converted into luxury apartments (yes, really), and I have been sent to the giant Brixton Road one
where they lock the loos to stop people shooting up in them (yes, really).

I have to say though, the whole thing was brilliantly done and I'd like to commend the staff there for making a huge effort to be human.  In fact I began to wonder if my career aspirations are really worth the agony of the day-to-day slog  that I've been doing for the last 7 years.

The woman who did my initial interview was funny,  sweet and relaxed; the chap who checked my papers was smiley and kind, the security guards were friendly and I got convinced to sign up to a free boxing class by an incredibly enthusiastic couple of women.

Everyone working there seemed to be really enjoying their day - maybe it was just that this is a good day, the sun is shining, it's Friday... but my intake chap has been working there 10 years and said outright that he loves his job.

I've been informed that I have the luxury of looking for work at my current level until the end of the year, following which I need to revise my expectations downwards... however perhaps I should revised them upwards, towards something that might actually make me happy. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Somewhere in Paris

Did we walk among them,
did we brush the corner of their blanket 
laid out against the sand 
covered with oil and books and cigarettes?

Did we capture him
in our sunset snaps
the panoramas
is he locked in place?

The sun went down, the light
like a blanket laid out against the dusk.
Who would not want to swim,
gold like a tiger rolling over their arms

Did we see them go,
treading through the surf,
laughing and splashing,
watching the moon rise?

As they stepped into the waves
the four of them under the orange sun
we debated the wine
and took more pictures of the dimming sky.

They did not suspect,
they laughed as they swam,
they called each other,
the sun flickered out.

When the ambulance came
and floodlit faces scanned the falling tide,
we ordered ile flottant,
and the kids asked the driver what was up.

He was not aware,
he has gone beyond
the helicopter
and the rescue boats.

We read the news online.
When he came out of the water it told
only what we all knew,
but it didn't say the obvious, that

somewhere in Paris
a woman knows what
it feels like to have
the son the sea loves

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sea Magic

The summer holidays are coming to a much faster end than expected...this summer simultaneously seems like it's been going on forever and that it's screaming to a premature end.

We are as usual in France, it's hot, the sea is warm and I'm working much less than usual - in fact shortly I won't be working at all.  Having spent the last 7 years working weekends and evenings and every single holiday I ever had I am burned out to the point that every time I see my doctor he asks me when I'm going to be getting some rest.  Now I have an answer for him - 26th September.  There will be job hunting but there will also be resting, retreating, relatives and I'm running out of appropriate words starting with 're'.

There are not many things more rejuvenating than going body boarding with an 8 year old boy, either.  The sheer joy of catching the same wave and being carried along until our knees hit the sand is not to be underestimated.  We've stopped lugging the mountain of paraphenalia which we used to bring to the sea - buckets and spades and nets and umbrellas and mats and balls and books... now it's just body-boards and beach blankets, because once we get into the water, that's pretty much it.

Even the Frog has been seen clutching a board and making an effort - which is great because leaving the boys together allows me to swim out beyond the surf, past the other swimmers to float and spin and dive and hang in the sea like a piece of ungainly seaweed.

Yesterday I clambered out of the water as the rising tide started lapping at the boulders of the sea wall.  I sat on a rock and watched as the sun begin to sink and the boy gambolled like a puppy, making signs and practising his sea magic.  The Frog joined me and we sat in silence as the sea rose over our feet and up to our possessions, then we collected the boy and waded back to the steps, salty and quiet.

This is where it starts.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm writing this as a sort of a spacer; an ellipses between the 11 months of dead air which have blown through this site and an unknown period of air until the next post.

The blob, the spud, the boy himself is nearly 8.  Writing about him behind his back no longer seems quite so amusing.  He still does idiotic and very funny things.  He is obsessed with farts and cricket and minecraft and riding his bike and is desperate to start his own YouTube channel.  He's learning to code Java, he's reading the house dry of words.  He loves camping and the sea and picking blackberries and running.  He has skinned knees and elbows and likes his hair to be cut a specific length.  His report card was superlative but he's not top of the class.  He talks a lot and shouts a fair bit.  His room is medium tidy.  He loves the Kaiser Chiefs and and Dr. Who (and Dr. Seuss) and Harry Potter and dragons. He's made 5 loom bands but he's bored of them now. 

He's a boy, in other words, a 21st century boy.  He should be writing his own blog, not being written about in mine.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog next.  For us, life goes on.  The summer is nearly over, the blackberries are ripe; enjoy the sun while it's here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Well, here we are, the year seriously moving on.  It's been, for those of you not in the know, quite a decent year as years go.  Sunny, warm, full of things to do and one of the best summers I can recall in years.  We're now having the perfect Autumn; rain interspersed with warm sun, the leaves are turning perfectly and it's dusk when I pick the boy up from school.  We see bats in the park every evening now and the other day, an owl. 

This perfect fall is a source of frustration round ours at the moment however; the child is already tiring of walking home in the gloaming and today became insistent about demanding spring and summer back, despite winter not actually having arrived.  He was even willing to skip Christmas for the promise of camping.  Something may be wrong with him, come to think of it. 

He asked some fairly detailed questions about how many days it is going to be until summer, and then when I told him it was over 200 he started telling me what he thought about my answer and his sentences were full of phrases such as 'and then I was like' i.e. "So when you told me summer was so far away, I was like 'that's a long time' and now it's like, going to be winter I'm like 'I wish the winter was already over' but it's going to be, like, a really long time." 

The addition of the word 'like' as a quotative in his sentences is relatively recent; I'm not exactly sure when it arrived, but it's become a fixture since the onset of the latest school year.  The worst thing is that I'm not certain whether or not I use it in sentences myself and am in fact the model.  I recently subjected myself to the ordeal of listening to a recording of me talking in a meeting and realised that I hugely overuse the phrase 'you know' as a sort of sentence bridge or a pause when I should more properly be shutting up, so perhaps 'like' is equally a feature in my grammar and he's getting it from me.

Either way it's a sign that at 7, he's seriously grasping the things he needs to do to blend in and grapple his way up the ladder into adulthood, which I guess is all well and good.  I guess that misusing the word 'like' is possibly the least of my worries given that we're raising him in a massive urban pressure-cooker of a city.

In the meantime, it remains to grapple our way through the year, which time we have agreed to mark by the highlights to come - Halloween, Bonfire Night, Yule, Christmas, Equinox, Easter, Beltane and then camping.  Or rain.  One or the other.  Or, more likely both. 

But, it will be, like, fun.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


The Easter half-term holidays appear to have arrived only seconds after the last half-term holiday; it's a wonder my son learns anything at all given he's only in school five minutes at a time.

He has however appeared to learn something recently, although I'm not quite certain it's exactly what the school was aiming for.

This week we've been doing some child-care swaps and on Tuesday he had a friend over for the day.

After lunch, I found them playing 'crucifixion' in the living room, taking turns nailing each other to the 'cross', ie the sofa.  At one point they were chanting 'CRUcify him CRUcify him CRUcify him'.  It all ended when they started arguing about whether or not they could pull out their own nails.

I sense the finer points of their Christian education are being slightly lost in translation... I'm pretty sure that's not what the school had in mind...

... having blogged about it, I suspect the finer points of my education were lost long ago...

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Year. Bit late.

So, it's a new year, or at least it was a new year a few weeks ago. We've had a lot of new starts, the upshot of which are that we have somewhere new to live (hooray);  no money (boo, but what's new) and quite a lot of things to do.

I never make new year resolutions for all the usual reasons - plus I have a memory like a goldfish. This year, however, I have made a sort-of resolution - or at least, issued myself a challenge.

We were a bit homeless last year, which is to say that we were living in a few rooms with all our things in storage, bar the child's clothes and toys.

We expected to have moved by March, so I kept out my winter clothes and stored the rest.  This meant however that once the sun started to appear and all I had was jumpers and furry boots, a little bit of shopping was required.  By the end of the full 12 months, I had acquired a whole second wardrobe - along with a shopping habit.

Roll forward to December this year when the boxes were finally unpacked and I was faced with a true first-world problem - too many clothes.

The first thing I did was cull, robustly.  Three bin bags of kit went to the Barnardos shop right away and another went a few weeks later.

Having narrowed it down to things I couldn't bear to part with, I made myself a deal.  No new shoes or clothes for the whole year.  None. Further, I have to wear everything in my wardrobe at least once this year, or out it goes.

It's odd.  I thought that the simple act of not-buying things would be really easy, but now that I can't buy clothes I am obsessed with the spring window displays - which is bizarre because really I'm not much of a consumer; 60% of the jumpers I still wear are ones knitted or woven for me by family before I left home.  I'm nearly 50 so I think that counts for something.  The rest are ones my husband purchased because he couldn't stand to see me in 35-year-old knitting.  He may have had a point.

I essentially live in the same 2 pairs of jeans and 5 tops year round which is part of the problem.  I keep thinking I should wear something different so I dabble in the shops.  A dress here, a  pair of shoes there... so the wardrobe grows.  But it does mean that I have had been growing a pile of clothes that I never wear and that's what's going to change. 

I will wear them.  I will wear them and if they don't fit then I'm going to pass them on.  If I can't wear them, I can't keep them - and so, I am wearing them.  Every day I pull out something from the wardrobe that I haven't worn in a while.  I wore a trouser suit the other day that I haven't worn in about 3 years.  Looked great

I have no idea whether I will have learned a goddamn thing by the end of the year and frankly this isn't about lessons or denial or any other worthy thing.  I'm broke and I have too many clothes - it all seems to make sense.

In the meantime I've added 2 more charities to my list of automatic monthly donations (Sight Savers and Shelter) partly because clearly there will be a teeny bit of cash I'm not spending - and partly because I'm appalled at my own excess.

Happy New Year everyone, I'll be the one looking awkward in a dress.