Thursday, 31 July 2014


Currently is a link up hosted by Harvesting Kale and Ot and Et. The words to ponder this week are needing, listening, learning, jumping, building.

I have been needing to find some time to myself. We have had a particularly people filled couple of weeks, which has been lovely, but something in me is screaming for some solitary, low demand time, preferably in bed with books and the Mistaken for Strangers DVD close at hand. Also, needing sleep. Insomnia is rife at the moment, and this is another 3am post.

I've been listening as the girl tells me about a friend of hers from school who is pregnant. She talked about the choices her friend might make, and the choices my girl thinks she might make if it was her, and for the first time I talked to my daughter about the choice I made in a similar situation at around that age.

I should be doing something about learning to be more comfortable with public speaking. I can manage large and contentious meetings at work, and think on my feet to give responses to complex situations, but the local branch of the feminist pressure group that I am in has had a situation that has created a need for a spokesperson for local and national press and radio and TV, and I've backed right out of that. I was convinced I would say something terrible, or make no sense at all, and I would shame everyone and let all women down. Apparently there is a training day tackling exactly this, to be delivered by the national Fawcett society in the autumn. I am sure that my lifelong crippling anxiety and conviction that I am not fit to be heard will be adequately addressed and that afterwards I will be everywhere, sound bites and rhetoric flowing from my lips onto the airwaves and into print. A day should do it, don't you think?

It took some persuading by Goldie, but he eventually got me to go jumping into the swimming pool at the leisure centre up the road. He was very much the adult in the situation, listing why it was a good idea to go for an evening swim, while I moaned about it being "too cold" and how I was "too tired".  When we got there it was cool and refreshing after a long series of hot and sticky days and a very good idea of his. I hope he nags me to go again.

There is sort of building going on here to replace our old and frankly quite disgusting bathroom.  We are washing from buckets and dreaming of baths.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014


Snake is an artist. He has always incorporated images of eggs into his work. A few years ago, this developed into a concept called Sonic Egg, which had 4 exuberant and entirely different outings involving poetry, music, juggling, camping gas stoves and airfix modelling.

He is also a nurse, working with people experiencing a mental health crisis, and a trustee for a charity that supports creative recovery for people who have been mentally unwell or addicted to substances. He is a strong advocate for the importance of creativity in recovery.

Over the last few months he has been working on a piece of work called Multi Story Egg, which he envisaged as involving people travelling through town on foot, carrying an egg on a spoon, to represent the fragility and resilience and wildly different paths taken by people in recovery. People  would walk from settings where they had received support - one from the mental health unit at the hospital, one from the community resource service, one from a recording studio, and so on. Each person would be accompanied by somebody filming their journey, and by others supporting, encouraging, picking up dropped eggs, explaining to interested observers.

On Saturday morning we had a panicked hour of getting people to the right places and freaking out that we didn't have enough eggs, and trying to find somewhere to buy spare spoons, on the hottest day of the year, then I went to where I was meeting the woman I was walking with, Lee, who has long hospital stays where she argues to be allowed out on to the nearby heath so that she can collect pine cones to decorate. She paints mirrors and hangs feathers and tells stories about her disreputable youth in the illegal rave culture, and laughs a full laugh that pulls even me in. La came too, to film, and Peel to support.

Lee looked wonderful. She was wearing a slightly too small polka dot dress, and matching shoes that had blistered her heels. She had rolled her egg in glitter and it looked magical in the sun. Long black hair hanging down and a huge excited smile. She looked beautiful and healthy and just slightly out of step with the rest of the world - perfect. At the assigned time we set off across the town through the busy market, to the 12th century Guidhall where all the others travellers were gathering and where there was a crowd of people to greet each traveller. People were cheered in, and in the cool space of the ancient hall, placed their eggs into a specially created mother egg, where throughout the day, people were invited to decorate and include their own eggs, their own stories. There was art and music and poetry and squash and tea.

We escaped for a while, taking Lee and Peel and a friend who had come from another town to be part of it, and went to the park for a picnic. My more than friend and her husband and daughter were in town, and they came too, and some old friends from London who'd travelled over to help with filming. Mr M and the children joined us for a while. The rest of the day was spent in the Guildhall, and in the pub, and having a big shared and jointly contributed to meal at home, with some of the enormous number of eggs that seemed to be everywhere, in every bag and every cupboard.

It was a hot and chaotic, loud and packed day, and it absolutely worked as the metaphor it was intended to be. People traveling their own paths towards wellness, people being provided with support and encouragement and places to go when things are as hard as they can get and when things are starting to get better.

The activity spilled over into the next day, with multiple journeys to deliver people and art work all over town, and a big shared meal with friends late in the evening. Then yesterday morning I went into work, feeling first thing on Monday as tired as if it was a Friday afternoon. A colleague came in and handed me a box of eggs from her chickens.

Eggs everywhere.

Thursday, 24 July 2014


Every week, Harvesting Kale and Ot and Et provide words for contemplation, and invite people to join in. This weeks words are watching, searching, missing, growing, ignoring.

Last night we went to Ms M's, all four of us and the dog, ostensibly for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, but really to leave the children watching the television while the adults sat in the garden and drank drinks with bubbles to mark the occasion of Ms M's divorce paperwork coming through. Other people joined us, including La and Mr La, and there was lot of laughter. It's a tricky thing to celebrate, but felt like a necessary occasion to mark, too. I hear the opening ceremony included Scotty Dogs, but I'm still OK with having missed it.

Later today I'm going to be searching for new glasses. I am very short sighted, so this is tricky (I can't see what they look like on me once I have taken my own glasses off) and I have roped in the girl. My eyes continue to get worse, and I can no longer wear contact lenses, so this slightly stressful ritual repeats itself fairly regularly.

We were away at the weekend, and our small dog was missing us so much that he escaped from the house of the friend where he was staying and went off across town to find us. We wouldn't have known this, except another friend saw him, and, not recognising him, posted on Facebook about a dog matching his description barking at the door of Ms M's house. Ms M was with us in a field at this time, and none of us had any mobile signal so we didn't know of his adventure until we got home. So our tiny, not very brave creature escaped from Peel's house, and travelled at least 2 miles across town to Ms M's house, and finding them out too set off back home to be discovered by Peel in our garden soon afterwards. It's a terrifying thought. We may never be able to go away again.

 I read throwing as growing last week, so maybe I should do throwing this week...I will be throwing out (actually, passing on) Goldie's middle school uniform, following his last day there yesterday. 6 weeks off, with lots of plans, and then he will be at upper school. He's fine with it all so I'm fine with it all. There's a lot to look forward to.

I have been ignoring a process I need to follow to take forward a complaint about sexist and discriminatory practice. Today I need to put a response together and move to the next stage with that.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

New England

We went to Latitude festival, a long held family tradition but one that is changing, evolving, a different shape each time. Last year, it was just me and Goldie. This year, the girl volunteered in exchange for her ticket and was off making new friends, while we went with old friends, relations and friends of friends in a gaggle of teens and tents and toddlers.

The festival has been one of my favourite experiences in each of the eight years that I've been going. It is a created temporary space, and it is one of my favourite places. It changes and it stays the same. There is stuff to see and hear and smell and touch everywhere, and there is music, and poetry and theatre, dance, fields and wood and water. Pink sheep. Music, music, music.

My cousin Fru's boy, Jack, came. I think we tend to think that by 13 they are able to communicate their needs, but what nonsense - at 45 I am hardly there myself. On the Friday night Fru managed to get a message to me saying that Jack had texted her to say that he was homesick and needed a hug. I was delighted to comply and kept an arm around him for the rest of the night. We agreed to spend the next day together, as he was finding the gaggle of inscrutable teenage girls and rowdy teenage boys hard to penetrate. Consequently, Saturday was a delight. We embraced poetry, comedy, a tiny mobile museum of tiny things, an insane, bouncy, shove-y hour in a sweaty tent with the happiest punk band I've ever seen, African freedom fighters in gold robes singing to the sun. By the evening, when we were all together again, the girls had decided they wanted to know this mysterious stranger, and he became part of a communal pre-storm insanity that made the long walk back to the tent through the crowds an hysterical, chaotic, joyful parade. The lightning came first in sheets, each one greeted by a huge Oooooh from 30,000 people, then the thunder, then the rain. Goldie and Jack found an excuse to climb out of the tent they were sharing to come  into with Snake and me, little boys again.

Each day it was hot and bright and sweaty and glorious. Each night, there were epic storms, an additional light show, dwarfing the manufactured fireworks from the main stage.

A combination of lack of citalopram (I'd managed to forget them), PMT and Billy Bragg singing New England led to an episode of tearfulness from me that felt like an hour of this past winter. Snake fed me pie and reassurance, and, honestly, an hour of despair at Latitude is easier to take than an hour of despair in the real world. I was soon distracted.

There was no signal on site, which made letting the teens have the freedom they desperately wanted a nerve-wracking experience. We had to rely on them turning up at our two hourly rendezvous points - 12 o'clock by the Helter Skelter, 2 o'clock at the left of the word arena, 4 o'clock at our spot in the obelisk. Miraculously, it worked. We repeatedly came together, re applied sun cream and insect repellent, fed and watered them, shared stories of adventures, and sent them back on their way.

Friends of friends who we camped with had two small girls, who were doted on by all of us. Goldie loved the little one, and she found him the funniest thing ever. Ms M did the best comedy fart I have ever experienced.  I drank cider and beer but reconfirmed that I only really like red wine. Snake and I spent an hour on an oversized sofa in the woods, dozing until a group started playing wild Balkan inspired wedding tunes, and the whole glade leapt up and danced.

Already looking forward to next year.

A New England

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Currently is a weekly link up with Harvesting Kale and Ot and Et. They provide 5 words and offer the opportunity for people to sum up something of their week. This weeks themes are saving, closing, loving, despising, growing.

I have been saving a little money and a lot of waste by digging to the back of the food cupboards and not being too fastidious about use by dates. Thankfully, my two will eat just about anything if it's in soup form (Snake will eat just about anything with no need for blending and liquidising). So I made split pea soup in vast quantities, with some peppers and bacon, and home made chicken stock from the freezer, and watched it disappear. Serving something with tortillas and home made guacamole seems like another effective way to  get rid of random pulses.

Having always been someone who worries about just about everything, I am working hard on closing down those thoughts rather than fuelling them. It is, it seems, actually possible to exist and even to resolve some quite complex issues without hours of spinning everything around in an anxiety raising spiral. It needs practice, but it's a bit of a revelation.  

Today we head off to Latitude festival, as we have annually for the last 8 years, and I am loving the pre-festival excitement of this morning. Last year just me and Goldie went, but this year it's all of us again (although the girl has got her ticket free by volunteering to work in the woods as a helpful pixie so we'll need to go looking for her). We're travelling down with friends in a few hours time, and it's hot and sunny (although there are storms coming apparently - the perfect opportunity to dance barefoot in the rain a'la Kate at Just Pirouette and Carry On).

OK, there's some big big stuff in the world right now that is on my mind fairly constantly but for now I'm going with despising a bedroom window that won't open and drain problems, and that is probably all you need to know.

Goldie is growing at such a ridiculous rate that it has actually led to disease. His feet have gone from a size 9 to a 10.5 since Christmas. We had an orthopaedic paediatric appointment yesterday in response to knee pain and swelling, and were told that he has Osgood Schlatter syndrome. It is less scary than it sounds and will probably resolve when he reaches adult height. I asked the doctor if he could tell when that might be, based on the growth plates on the x rays. He looked at the x rays, and he looked at my 13 year old, 5'11 son and said "well, he's not going to be small".  No, I don't think he is. This diagnosis means some sport might be more difficult for a while, so we're exploring swimming and cycling as alternative, lower impact ways to use up some of the incredible energy that this miracle of growth generates.