Tag Archives: thinking

Hello

 

The sun is shining today. For once I’m sat here with my fingers on the keys and actually feel as though it may be possible to say something.

Anyone who reads this – and I am astonished/abashed/amazed/gratified at how many of you still seem to despite my perfidy – may have noticed the poems. Sorry if it was all a bit much and thank you to those who read and commented.

I bleedin’ love poetry in a very joyful, uneducated way. In that I read a lot and write a lot but have studied very little. NaPoWriMo seemed, in the early hours, a wonderful way to structure some of the free writing I do and attempt to break my sick-stomach aversion to my blog.

I know its been too long – and I don’t want to do all that justifying apologising stuff which I know is tiresome but I am sorry for not coming on and saying I was taking a break. So if you wondered – I am, wholeheartedly, sorry.

I’m hardly shy of spilling all on here and have given ample evidence of that in the past but this one isn’t really all my story so suffice to say; I am older  -hard to deny given our attachment to the linear nature of time – and wiser – I can now make custard without curdling it and in equal measures,  disillusioned with our legal system and still glad for it being there.

Some real world shenanigans left me mute here. I hated it – I couldn’t even bear to look at the site. The fracturing of my old hard disc gave me ample excuse to truant indefinitely but it was a constant small ache behind my ribs. An insistant sharp corner that wouldn’t let me rest easy and I hoped a bit of exposure could clean the place out for me.

Which it must have – because here I sit.

 

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The kids are, as always, amazing. There have been festivals, celebrations, cooking, days out, new experiences, tantrums, daydreaming, quite a lot of cake and change- embraced change – between a gazillion beautiful things.

I’d really like to start sharing some of them again.

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Death, distraction and dandelions

When Ida sleeps she usually flings her arms up above her head – It’s hard to describe but she has the air of a very relaxed hipster sprawled over a heap of stuffed animals like a Shoreditch dragon stretched over her hoard.

And yes – she’s back in the cot although happy enough in the lower bunk – that’s a whole other post.

I know quite a bit about her sleeping habits as I’ve taken to spending  time next to her whilst she’s sleeping. This is partly to remind myself how much I love her, easier to remember when she’s not trampling over me in her bid for world domination. Also it’s because I’m in a quite a reflective mood recently.

Steve’s dad, stepdad, passed away recently. He had Alzheimer’s and was quite frail but it happened unexpectedly after a fall and a bad reaction to general anesthetic –  and very, very – as anyone who’s sat by a similar bedside will recognise, quickly.

The death certificate says pneumonia but as we said to Zeph whilst stroking the back of his head – he was just tired and the springs had wound down.

Now I’m no stranger to the complexities of dealing with death, many of my ponderings I’ve shared here before; here and here but once again I find myself wrestling with big questions from my lovely boy.

In  a recent early morning he raged at me, pummeling and kicking in frustrated anger – demanding I promise the cancer will never come back. Which of course I can’t, especially since my particular, highly treatable, flavour is high recurrence.

I have to bear it, shoulder the anger – cup the punches and stroke his back keeping up the murmur. The I love you, it’ll be okay, even when it isn’t murmur.

I know exactly where he’s coming from. Don’t we all? The sudden overwhelming urge to gather up all the people we love and hold them still. To freeze them in this moment so they come to no harm.

So they come to nothing at all. No change, no  danger, no growth. No living – no life. Hard as it is you have to unclench that fist. Because death is not waiting for us at the end of a line – it’s traveling along with us. Being alive is moving through your days with death right next to you. The other side of the coin.

Still, it’s a big life event and as such is rippling my pond. Watching Steve dealing sensitively with Zeph while struggling with the legacy of losing his biological father at a similar age. Recognising his sadness at the loss of someone from his life and a piece of his childhood gone. Sadness for his mum and family and sadness at certain gulfs that line difficult relationships.

Remembering that his default position is to retreat and not talk and mine, after serious therapy, is to talk talk talk it out. That neither way is the right way although an ocassional meet in the middle is good for both our souls.

The funeral was last week and Zeph was very sure he wanted to go and so he came. It was a lovely service – fitting for a very quiet gentle man. At one point we listened to a recording of him singing a solo at a past christmas concert.

The poignancy of listing to his sure voice while he lay in his coffin at the front of the church was very nearly unbearable. At the end of the service Zeph and I went to sit in the churchyard to collect ourselves.

“It was my favourite bit and the worse bit” he said. I just nodded, feeling, as I do now, as I write about it, my eyes prickling painfully. Sometimes our digital age seems crudely cruel. Like magnets pushing at each other it seemed indecent to have hearing him and to never yet hear him brushing shoulders in almost physical collusion.

I try hard not to avert my eyes and talk openly to Zeph. He seems hyperaware of the frailty of life. Every day seems a balancing act of talking about it yet not obsessing about it. Making allowances and setting boundaries.

Mostly I feel not up to the task. Never has the mantra of being good enough is good enough been muttered more fervently as I spread myself ever thinner.

I also have taken to watching him in his sleep as well. Parenting sleeping children is a piece of cake. We’ve also been reading this picture book.

Death, Duck and the Tulip which I’d whole heartedly recommend.

As always most hours are filled with Beautiful Things. This weekend particularly has been lit by the most glorious sunshine. An afternoon of constructing a cardboard robot costume with Ida is hugely satisfying and baking brownies with Zeph soothing with a satisfying end result.

My peony is covered with fat buds and the garden is full of forget me nots and dandelions.

I am very fond of dandelions.

End of term and a pep talk

Easter is nearly upon us, how the hell did that come round so quickly?

Today is the last day of term which means a 2pm pick up. Now I have never actually forgotten to pick him up. Although I’ve had a couple of oh christ – I nearly forgot – quick!  out the door and run moments. For some reason these memories make me jumpy and I keep checking my watch and skipping from task to task making more muddles.

This morning we watched the screening of the Bollywood film Zeph and his year group have been working on all term. All their teachers had dressed up, they had chairs set out like a cinema and cups of popcorn. At the end they gave out Oscars. It was not without technical hitches but loud, exciting and joyful. Exactly how I think school should be. I came away hugely cheered and Ida hopped and jigged all the way home.

She can’t wait to go to school and I have to retrieve her from the going in line in the mornings. Very different to my school experience and long may it last.

Unsurprisingly the morning back here has been a bit flat – especially since I’ve tried to impose a little order. Not something you would glean from a quick glance. I’ve been reading a friends flylady progress and feeling the need to return to some of those structures. I’ve talked about my attitude to chores and tidying many times before and without being picky I can see the need for a bit of decluttering and imposing some system scaffolds in my jumbled corners.

I need to stop procrastinating and start a bit of doing. I managed to pull my arm out of its socket recently so am waiting for a bit of healing and keep telling myself that after that I’m going to GET DOWN TO IT!

Steve’s got some time off over easter so you’d think it’d be the perfect time but it’s so tempting to play hooky. We’re going to see a friend as well and do some big city stuff and that’s all MUCH more appealing. Although I know some DIYing and order solutions would have a much bigger day-to-day impact on my life.

It’s too easy to let the small inner voice tell you you’re lazy. Often I feel like an observer in my life instead of actually inhabiting my body. In these gray leaden days I anchor myself with the children. Playing, reading to them, cuddling in bed – singing songs and idly spinning stories. Everything else loses focus and importance.

As I feel less miserable and more hopeful I think I’m too quick to write all that stuff off. It seems like time-wasting when I could have done work that left a physical mark. Finally feeling clear-sighted enough to look around at what needs doing – it’s far too easy to slip back into the habit of castigating myself for doing nothing.

Bolstered my Rachel (my therapist and she has a certificate so is surely worth listening to?) I decide to be a bit kinder to myself.

Getting through the days is hard work. Remaining emotionally connected is hard work. Well done Laura, bloody well done to all of us who get to school, cook tea, do bathtime and bedtime or even leave the house whilst wrapped in a soul numbing blanket of misery. Fecking brilliant people who manage everyday fighting a rushing tide of physical pain. Two fingers up to anyone who thinks you haven’t accomplished much in your day. You’re still breathing at the end of the day aren’t you? Then it’s a SUCCESS. Whoop whoop and maracas, flash of gold and a big flourish. Well done all of us broken vessels.

Just the easy stuff to do now.

Writing Workshop – Picture Walking

Why am I here? I have forgotten. My head is full of cotton wool, the sounds of the world around me muffled and far away as though I’m wobbling my uncertain backstroke down the big Barton pool, eyes fixed on the pockmarked concrete ceiling.

Her skirts draw me closer and catch my eye. Oh they are lovely, purple rustling taffeta and silk that begs to be stroked and slipped through fingers. They whisper as the wind tosses them and slither invitingly. Flap flap like the sheets on the line on drying day and I wonder if I could hide in there.

Diffidently I raise my eyes up the length of her body. She is taut and fully stretched. She doesn’t look at me, her luminous eyes fixed firmly upon the horizon but I feel her gentle welcome. Quickly child a soft voice writes on my heart.

Like a minnow or a sly puff of wind I dart into the amethyst folds. Gently, kindly, the fabric caresses my sore skin. Like mothwings it wraps around me, insubstantial as cobwebs but I feel as safe as though stone walls lie between me and the real world which tumbles on – somewhere else – around a corner. Out of sight.

Wriggling so my head lies on the pillowy warmth of her thigh, I look down the strength and length of her arm, twisted as a steel rope, to see what keeps my azure lady pinned to the ground. At the end of her satiny sleeve is a knot of flesh. A grinning demon has her held fast. His eyes flash maliciously at me sheltering in the lady’s petticoats. Ha ha, he laughs – do you think you are safe?

Look at me. I am the irresistible centre of the world. The black thrusting tower at the centre of everything. I am the unavoidable pinion, the scaffold to the events that unfold. And you, little thistledown seed, you cannot escape. The world is still happening to you Laura, even if you don’t look at it. 

Dark man with your lips beaded with blood. I do not see you man. I look up at the soft sky. I feel the silk on my skin. I see the endless lilac cloud and then the soft cloud behind that and further back I see the stars.

Hot white, blazing blue, burning yellow they trace time across the abyss. Always moving, tracing beginning and ends they turn endlessly. Giant, ponderous uncaring. They do not see us in their stately progress. Inexorable they move like the sea. Immutable, unconstrained. Unknowable.

I feel the lady’s tremble of laughter in her flesh. She knows too. She knows. I nuzzle my face into the milky white, blue-veined strength of her thigh. We will be the stars she and I. We will be the wind and the high wisps of cloud. We will be the delicate unfurling new leaves and the eroded brown skeletons, lifting from the autumn bonfire on a line of smoke in a wintery gust.

Look, look he says, I have laid out love for you on a cloth on the green green grass. Wine in a flask from the end of the world, iced cakes, sweetmeats laced with endearments. We can while away our lives here. Sweet in the dappled shade of the tree. I would hold you, shape you, love you.

Bang bang on my flesh, sharp insistent talons from the real world. Back there in the distance they scratch at my side. Shaking my head to dislodge their insistent gnat-like whine I look up. Up the sleek stretch of her to the resolute pale face with blooms set in black curled hair. She is so sure and beautiful. Lady, lady I cry with my eyes. Why are we still here? How can we be free?

Show me how to leave the sharp hard earth? Show me how to be free and safe for always in the billowing sky? I look down again at the tangled hands. Lady you are holding him as much as he holds you. You are leaning on his outstretched hand.

Now the fortress of silk doesn’t seems as secure as it once did. Lady are you not here to save me? Now I see a flicker round her eyes. Is it sadness and regret or just a speck of pollen from the sweet-smelling blossom? But she does not answer. She does not let go of his hand. The smiling wolfish man with the polished pleasing face and the burning eyes.  We do not fly away to safety.

Breathe, breathe the fronds of silk whisper against my hair. Wait, wait the wind plays on the china blue leaves. Not long, not long her stiff curls jangle. I will not save you sweetling says the resolute set of her spine, her muscles corded ropes of strength – waiting. Soon soon I will fly away and save myself.

Watch me, watch me.

Watch me darling and learn.

So for now I feel the breeze lick my face and cool the wet salty lines on my cheek. I breathe in the clean smell of her skirts like fresh bread and lavender. Consolingly her skirt tickles my back. It colludes in my hiding from the noise back there. The hot burning spit of it.

Breathe breathe until the world calls me unavoidably back. The lady will soon be gone, free from her laughing determined devil.

But the stars still wait behind the veil of cloud.

I joined in with Josie’s Writing Workshop prompt this week over on Sleep is for the Weak. As usual there’s a wealth of wonderful writing there – do hop over and have a browse.

Questions and Answers…and then some more questions.

The ever lovely Kate on Thin Ice has tagged me in this Questions and Answers meme. The idea is you answer the questions and then make a set of your own questions to ask another set of bloggers.

I like the idea of this a lot and appreciate the tag – as I’ve said before I love answering questions, despite my struggles with committing to a definitive answer – it justifies all that childhood imaginary interview make-believe.

1. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about mums’ lives today, what would it be and why?

I keep coming back to this one. Many things spring to mind. When I was working full-time – affordable, decent childcare and genuinely flexible working practices would have made an enormous difference to our lives. I feel that wishing for this is starting at the wrong end as it were.

As a feminist I’d say equality for all would lead naturally to these changes. Reflecting on the standardised equality message of feminism I can’t help feel we’ve gone astray. I don’t want a mealy-mouthed homogenous version of equality that requires us all to conform to a prescriptive identity. I want our differences to be respected and valued. I want to be valued as an individual. I want us all, regardless of our chromosomes to be valued and equally able to access education, good healthcare and opportunities. I want more talking and less war. In short – I’d like a star trek future.   

I think what would change most mums’ lives is the kind of world they want for their children to live in. As usual I think the practical key to these kind of changes is education of oustanding quality available to all. Which makes the current governments approach to education and initiatives like the surestart programme so truly heart breaking.

*steps down from soapbox, shuffles feet, coughs apologetically*

2. How many hours or minutes of housework do you do per day?

Ha! This is like one of those trick questions like – how often do you change your sheets? – where you are allowed to admit it probably isn’t weekly but saying, ‘when someones sick on them’ will cross the invisible line. I often find in groups that it’s hard not to try to stick to the middle of the pack. Surely it’s a pack biological-urge throwback? To conform is to belong to a community. Whatever the uniform is, it has to fit.

Some days I do not do a spot more than is needed to feed us and get us through the day. My most vigorous days of housework come just before an event – where OTHER people will enter the house.

I’m aware that my standard of cleanliness and tidiness don’t match other people’s. I also know that regular tasks like making sure the washing up is  kept on top of make life more pleasant. That when the house is tidy, hoovered and at its lowest clutter point I feel more serene and ready to do stuff.

I have systems that work well – places where library books are kept to avoid hysterical last-minute searching. Pots of pens by Z’s homework folders. An art cupboard so stuff can be found quickly. Tubs for clean clothes/dirty clothes.

But it really doesn’t bother me if I haven’t hoovered for a week and fluff is building up in the corners. If the washing up needs doing after tea but I’d rather sit and play a game before bedtime then finish the book I can’t put down . The washing up can wait for the morning – although it’s nicer to come down and do sandwiches and breakfast in an uncluttered kitchen it’s hardly the end of the world if the dishes are still on the side. On wednesdays I sit and chat to my parents for the hour they have before they leave instead of clearing the table. I do not own an iron.

I remember going to an antenatal class when I was pregnant with Zeph and the midwife lecturing everyone on the importance of letting things go a little when the baby came. About making time to nap by not hoovering everyday and thinking – hoovering EVERY day?

Counter intuitively – when I’m feeling really low I tend to clean more. It comes from a fear of slipping into the very deep depression I was in before when I had no idea how bad the state of my house was. I have a web of safeguards that I put into place that include housework. Of course that was before having kids, now a certain level of efficiency has to be reached to ensure hot meals, clean uniforms, lunch boxes etc.

Also I freely admit there’s something dangerously addictive to the cycle of dreadful mess then pleasing harmony. At least it really shows when I finally clean…

3. If you could change careers, what would you change to?

I don’t have a career. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about stuff and trying to mend my fractured self and change the world. I work in jobs, that have not much to do with who I am, to pay for my living. I sell things I make.  I usually really enjoy whatever work I do although it is rarely paid well.

I am not the work I do.

4. What is your favourite cocktail?

I miss drinking. I think my favourite cocktail is icy cold and in a BEAUTIFUL glass – maybe a really thick heavy glass tumbler with lots of ice and fruit and a swirled glass swizzle stick. I’m drinking it outside under a summers starlit night with good friends and there’s a happy cheerful buzz of conversation all around us. It’s good to be cool after a long hot day and maybe my skin is stiff with seasalt and sand.  It could be a mojito – or a gin and tonic – or, last summer, I had a lovely bramble vodka drink at a pop up bar in multistorey car park.

I think the essence of a good cocktail is that you didn’t make it yourself. I can’t trusted with bottles of spirit actually in the house anyway.

5. What is your claim to fame?

Infamy more like. I was a child A.

6. What is the quirkiest object in your home?

Me!

7. Charity Shop Or Designer Boutique?

I suppose it depends. I am a charity shop queen and recycling, thrift and preloved run through me like letters in rock but I love the exciting uniqueness of good design. Craftsmanship and beautiful functionality make my heart sing. 

8. How many hours of the day are you away from your own house?

Depends. I do have an unfortunate tendency to reclusiveness. If it gets to the point where I can’t get across the step then that impacts badly on the kids so I usually try to force myself out at least once a day. School helps with that – and most days Ida go and do something in the mornings after we’ve dropped Z off. We’re pretty good at hanging out at free places, easier in the summer but still perfectly achievable in the cold.

9. What is your guilty pleasure?

Not leaving the house… PJ’s all day and a pile of books – chocolate digestives and bananas to eat. Oranges in bed.  Long train journeys completely alone. Books about wizard detectives and werewolves. Procrastination. Embellishing my own hide.

10. Retro or Modern?

Bread or water?

11. What is the one challenge you are most proud of overcoming?

Crossing the step every day. Believing the best of people.

Phew! If you’ve made it to this point well done!

Here are the rules.

The Rules:

You must post these rules.
Each person must post 11 things about herself on their blog.
Answer the questions the “tagger” listed for you in her post, and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
Choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post.
Let each blogger know that you have tagged them.

I think question are much harder than answers… Also I am rubbish – RUBBISH at tagging so I’m going with some questions and if you feel the urge to answer them please consider yourself tagged – you are indutibly IT.

1) What was your last random act of kindness?

2) What do you always put off until tomorrow?

3) If you were buying yourself a bunch of flowers what kind would they be?

4) Imagine Mr Cameron popped round and said you could allocate the excess 10 billion the goverment have just stumbled across – where would you spend it?

5) Cinema or theatre?

6) If you could go back and change one thing, would you? What is it?

7) If you’re opening a tin for comfort food what would you choose?

8) Baking heatwave or snow?

9) What was the last book you read or film you saw that left a lasting impression?

10) Coffee or Tea?….or gin?

 

 

Beautiful Things on a cold day

Brrrrrr – it is freezing here today! So much for a thrifty fuel bill winter… The kids are in the grip of coughs and colds and I’m in a truly miserable funk.

Lovely.

So here’s a picture of Mittens our slightly aloof cat.

She loves Steve best and really views the rest of us as impediments to her access to him. She’s not a huggy kind of cat but has been surprisingly tolerant of Ida, especially since she’s willing to share scraps of chicken and fish surreptitiously at the dinner table.

I think she has the most beautiful whiskers.

I’ve read a lot of other people floundering around in post New Year gloom which makes me feel less alone. Certain recent events have prompted a bit of navel gazing and self-analysis. Enough for me to book some appointments with my therapist.

The last few days of administering cuddles under duvets, putting Bagpuss and Totoro in the DVD player on demand, wiping noses and making endless rosehip syrup hot drinks has left plenty of time for introspection. Not always a bad thing and I feel though I’ve taken another step along a long road.

As usual plenty of Beautiful Things litter my path;

* It was MumandDad tea last night and we had a fish extravaganza – which included these very exciting razor clams which were in an irresistable paper bundle at the fish stall.

We could afford five which we cooked carefully like mussels and it turned out only Zeph and I liked them so we scoffed the lot! Huzzah!

He was charmed by the way they bubbled and hissed when we rinsed them and is now set on finding somewhere we can go and gather them ourselves. I find his interest and willingness to try new things really heartening. 

* All the coughing, wheezing and nose mopping aside there’s really nowhere nicer than on the sofa, between my darlings, under a cosy duvet, watching a bit of Studio Ghibli.

* I’m absorbed and pleased with working out some animal masks for a possible order. I have some fairs booked and am also building some stocks up for them. There is a pile of woolly felted purses slowly growing. Recently I felted a grey cashmere charity shop find and can’t resist stroking its luxurious smoothness every time I pass the pieces stacked by my sewingbox waiting to be transformed.  

* I noticed I was talking myself out of an opportunity lately. It was very I can’t-ish hidden under a sensible rationalisation. I want to stop internally running myself down – and it’s all too easy to slip back into the habit. Whilst not wishing to turn into a self-help cliché I really resolve to stop building my own barriers. Although this is balanced with recent events reminding me to keep my boundaries in place.

* Exhausting all this therapy mumbo- jumbo eh? Luckily snot and howled requests for hot drinks don’t let me wallow too long.

* On the walk to school this morning it was sooo cold my toes ached but  so glimmery- the whitebright sun dazzled us every step of the way. All my dusty corners feel illuminated. It is gloriously invigorating.

It’s all Swings and Roundabouts.

perfecting her regal wave...

It is seductively easy to only blog about the happier bits of the day.

As I’ve seen discussed, many times, on billions of better sites than mine – to edit your life so it’s shinier, smoother…happier.

I’m conscious that this sometimes applies to me. Especially as I doggedly attempt to record my Beautiful Things every time. 

I’d like to reassure everyone that the mould continues in its inexorable creep across my daily landscape. That this morning my daughter stepped out of the front door and shouted Piss Off Rain into the sky, startling a passing schoolward bound family (not my school, thank Ganesha, but I suspect they may already have my measure there..) That mid cooking today, while I was putting a baking tray in the oven, Ida attempted to egg wash the living room.

When I went to retrieve her from the time-out-step-of-doom she admitted she knew I’d be cross when she finished the rolling-pin. When I asked why she didn’t stop there instead of carrying on to the table and piano stool, she shrugged insouciantly and said, “you were already cross…”

It doesn’t bode well for the future.

I have made no progress on the pressing DIY tasks surrounding us. Defunct fridges, collapsing cupboards, the mould on the bathroom ceiling, the chainless bathplug that breaks a nail every time I need to pry it out, the kitchen light that constantly requires a sharp blow with a wooden spoon to knock wires back into connection. The woodchip in the hallway.

Believe me when I say I could go on.

I suppose I want to notice the wonderful without concealing the awful. It’s pretty easy for me to celebrate the stuff I think is amazing and wonderful and ignore what I’ve judged unimportant.  Like hygienic standards and bacteria free floors.  Though I want to stress I’m not laying down rules. Just because it’s not crucial to me doesn’t mean it’s not important to others.

Recently as I’ve floundered through my days I’ve heard a lot of how could they?s and my own internal examinations remind me how much I value tolerance. Whether its toddler ear-piercing, spitting in the street, fruit shoots, sleep training, sheet washing, organic carrots there’s a lot of my-way-is-the-best-way-ism.

Not that I’m advocating no opinions on these subjects. Just that I think they should come with a I think.. or a for us the best thing is.. prefix. Is that wishy-washy woolly liberal of me?

There were many beautiful things today. Despite eggwashgate, cooking with Ida was absorbing and gratifying. Watching her knock knock knock with an egg and then crack it expertly into a bowl is truly a thing of beauty. Tea with friends was soul nourishing while the kids whooped, screamed and enacted lord of the flies scenarios up and down the stairs and on the landings.

Sat here now, in the quiet dim of my home, I notice how very homely it feels. Not very stylish, not as clean or as organised as I hope for but very cosy. It feels safe to me. I’ve just been upstairs to fetch something and looked in on the kids who are both angelicly sleeping. All rosy cheeks and stray curls. Ida clutching one of her Wellington boots and Zeph’s finger keeping the place in his current bedtime book.

Very beautiful. You barely notice Zeph’s floor seems to be carpeted with ALL his clothes and Ida has written her name on the bedroom wall over her cot in red marker pen.

Festering political disillusion and Carrotcake Muffins. Whoo hoo.

My garden is very frosty and in some desperate need of attention.  This morning I wandered around it with a cup of tea putting off the washing up which recently, despite the purple bowl, has assumed Sisyphus status with me.

It doesn’t help that the paved bit by the house is covered with stuff. Stuff that needs a skip. Or some kind of organising. Like the defunct fridge freezer adding that whitegoods trash atmosphere to the air.

I was full of good intentions this autumn about gathering up the fallen leaves to bag up for future leaf mould but have instead left it to do its moulding all over the path, plants and minipond. I think I’m in a slight grey slough after a very happy christmas and birthday season.

 Now begins the uphill slog to my birthday. Wasn’t it blue monday yesterday? The statistical low point of the year. Yay…. 

*shuffles feet, has another drag of tea*

I see plenty of loveliness among the clutter. Bare branches reaching into the pale sky makes my heart soar and ache with the patterned architectural beauty. The birds are clearly visible perching and twisting like acrobatic baubles, squabbling over berries .  There is a gang of rowdy tits shoving each other around our bird feeder, fascinating Ida and Mittens who  crouches by the back door lashing her tail ferociously.

The frost has blackened even the bindweed. I know that a mornings red-cheeked work will clear all the wizened overgrowth into my green bin leaving a clear canvas for my bulbs and this year’s garden dreaming.

I admire the uneven patio area under the pergola. Progress is like the tide coming in isn’t it? Three steps forward, two back, two forward, one back. On and on, creeping along.

 It fits with my experience of living with depression as well. Sometimes walking, sometimes crawling. Some nights giving all you  have to cling to the rock face. To stay still. Then other times letting yourself drift back with the swell, taking a breath, biding your time to start swimming upstream again.

I also think all the recent washing up has exposed me to too many politicians on Radio4. I feel incensed and kind of powerless. Never a good combination. Most recently I’ve been internally turmoiling over all the Worrell Thompson media coverage and comparing his celebrity caution with some of the sentencing handed out to teenagers shoplifting during the summers rioting.

Yes, yes – I know it’s not the same – taking a bottle of water during a riot is a different proposition but once again I reflect on how sentencing data would look pushed through a class filter. This ties in with a deeper rage against Cameron’s proposal dealing with “problem families” the language of which physically turned my stomach.

May I humbly suggest, tugging my fucking cap and all that, that he could lift his blinkered gaze to the system that has grown these “problem families.” Although the money thrown at this problem will surely be welcomed by the agencies and charities on the frontline applying pressure on the critical wounds, it’s like spending a fortune on the rash and not curing the virus that’s causing it. Or feeding the starving then sending them back to the ravished homelands. I could go on.

Above all it was the emotive, media spun, them and not us, disgustingly elitist and evidently ignorant language that truly turned my stomach. My feeling of dislocation from the etonesque boys who govern me grows ever stronger. Like a splinter in my hand it festers.

So I made some cakes.

I’d recommend these, they’re lovely. Do-able with a small helper as well.

Carrotcake muffins.

You need..

100g of sugar. Brown is best, I use whatever I have, today; muscovado.

175ml sunflower oil.

220g flour (plain)

2 eggs

tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon (or mixed spice, sometimes I add ground ginger as well)

citrus fruit zest. Lemon or orange – or both

150g grated carrot (about 2)

something else. About 100g. Walnuts, mixed peel, sultanas etc

Mix the sugar and oil together.

Add the eggs.

Add the flour, spices and bi-carb and baking powder.

Fold in the grated carrot, zest and whatever you’re adding that’s extra. In this case, left over mixed peel.

Slop Spoon generously into muffin cases.

Cook in a medium oven until golden and a knife comes clean. About 20 minutes.

I iced these with a lime icing. Just icing sugar mixed with lime juice.

They definitely soothed the savage beast. That and tea with friends and a couple of chapters of the Snow Spider on the sofa with Zeph.

Thoughtful stirring

Where are the days going? They are slipping through my fingers like quicksilver. Everyday I think of something I want to blog about it yet before I realise I’m laying my head down on the pillow thinking of the stuff I need to get up early and do before the next day begins in earnest.

Aside from the slightly raised adrenaline I love it. My last craft fair before christmas is done and all my orders are collected or safely posted off. I have earnt enough to fill a hole in my bank account and pay for a beautiful christmas tree and a duck to roast for Xmas day.

 Small things but deeply satisfying.

Now I need to get down to making our festive presents and all the usual christmas flim flam.

Recently I’ve been turning that quote – I think it’s  Einstein – about doing the same things and expecting different results – over in my head. Relating to christmas obviously.

I do love christmas, as a child we ticked between christmas proper and a more wicca solstice. There is always room in my heart for family being together, feasting and shiny things. Ritual warms my heart but over the years I have learnt it’s important to follow the ones that mean something to you. Empty rote with nothing behind it is soul sapping and draining.

I’m lucky in that my mum and dad never put pressure on us over where Christmas is spent. I can’t bear that over one fleeting day. We have lots planned for this year – some here and there, a special early Christmas dinner, a festive Eve gathering, happy firework and champagne filled New Year’s Eve date.

My Dad’s 60th falls on the 22nd, we’re having a tea party and Zeph and I are slowly filling the freezer with bits and pieces. I have a master plan pinned on the wall of foods to be baked, cooked, frozen and bought. Occasionally I feel a wave of stress begin in the pit of my stomach. This year I’m trying to choose to squooshe it. .. because that choice is mine to make.  Honestly it’s going quite well.

My years resolution of embracing the now has made a definite difference to my psyche. When you’re busy noticing the moment you see that you’re moving through a bountiful ocean of them and Christmas is just another one that will be followed by another. This does seem obvious but there’s something all engulfing about all that busy preparation for a day of static perfection that usually fails to live up to the weighty expectations.  

Stirring the pudding today with Ida I mentally fingered thoughts about christmas. The midwinter aspect of a festival full of light, brightness and love to push back the dark, celebrating the birth of a baby,  green man or christ child. Rejoicing in new starts and beginnings.

Odd then that lots of the woes I hear are about the stuff nor conforming to old patterns. People tug of warring about where it’ll be family wise, the country eating the same menu, nativities breaking from tradition, new fangled carols. Things changing.

Mind you here’s one of my namesake dichotomy’s because you could put some of the blame on our overwhelming consumerist world. The mighty power of advertising selling us all the stuff we need to be happy. Fancy puddings, bigger turkeys, pinescented mince pies, lavish gifts, perfume, the perfect party dress, bucks fizz, smoked salmon, themed decorations….

Ooops – my heart just leapt in joy, rack after rack of magazines filled with aspirational shots of unachievable glamour and gorgeousness? Although not naturally a squeeee -er and more of an inappropriate curser my heart gives and internal Attic24 style squeeeee of happiness. Let me at them! I loves a bit of fairy lights me…

I suppose the trick is to enjoy them, take what you like and understand that you can still be happy without a prescribed tick list style experience.

And notice the moment.

So with that in mind right this minute I see;

A pile of stuff to wrap – I love wrapping. We have brown paper and string and a bag of ludicrous tags cut last year from old cards. We also have a very exciting new sellotape dispenser, a gift from my mum, exasperated by our old homemade version. Ida is flexing her fingers in anticipation.

The house smells steamy and fruity. The pudding is steaming away ratting the saucer in the stovetop pot. It has to steam for four hours and should have been done weeks ago. It’ll still taste great though. I’ve made it on xmas eve before now. Written out in hand the instruction are terse consisting of a list of ingredients, the words mix thoughtfully and steam for four hours. It’s Great Grandmother Driffields recipe, although I’m not precisely sure whose great grandmother she actually is – I have a warm sense of continuity that reassures.

The house is glimmery with a few extra strings of white lights. They hold back the grey day outside. The tree is being delivered on friday. Steve’s off on saturday and we’re planning to decorate it all together and make this years wreath. I chose not to do advent calendars this year and mark our own countdown studded with small preparations rather than Ben10 chocolates or my tearful time pressed hours trying to find 48 things small enough to fit in the drawers that aren’t chocolate.

Oh and to end I just glanced at my very cheap (allegedly the terrorist’s choice) digital watch to see it pleasingly lined up in 11:11:11. Undoubtedly an auspicious sign.

Small Things – yes that’s you too Clarkson.

Ah Clarkson eh? 

Haven’t people got their knickers in a twist about it all? Yes, he said an ignorant uniformed oafish thing. Is this not how he makes his money?

Personally I think he’s an arse. Just like I did when I got up in the morning yesterday. I am furious, enraged and calling for some kind of action, from the bloody government not an overpaid under-endowed lout in stonewashed denim.

Also if anyone caught me ranting about my list of first-against-the-wallers they might well be appalled. Of course I understand that the man has a media platform and hence a responsibility but I still think the people I’ve heard expending energy on the slow news day story should redirect it to the real badhats. I’m looking at you Cameron *grrrr*

This is how bad my living room looks at the moment. Not only am I trying to finish off a couple of orders and prepare for a craft fair on Sunday – I am also whipping up a few animal masks for Zeph’s Xmas show of Roald Dahl’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

It’s involved me rooting through my boxes of fabric for scraps that look like feathers for a seagull, rooster, eagle duck and two chickens or fur for a sheepdog, donkey, horse, pig or two goats.  *sigh*  At least I get to hide here at the keyboard picking pva glue off my fingers (really – it’s addictive!)

I actually love making costumes for the play. In fact all dressing up, facepainting, denbuilding activities are a big hit here. We struggle more with the tidying up, clean jumpers, washed dishes, clean kitchen floor end of things.

I bought a new washing up bowl this morning. It might not sound earth shattering but it is purple. I’m trying to feather the nest a little. A clean sink definitely helps my mood. Although I don’t always succeed with my new years resolution of washing up every night before bed I usually manage a bowl first thing in the morning chaos. I think  a purple bowl is going to please me on a daily basis. That’s a good return on a £2.00 investment. 

As always – it’s the small things. Which I accept may not be riveting reading… 

Another small pleasure today is the cigar box of buttons my G’ma slipped me over coffee yesterday.

 

Buttons. Reliable joy.