Thursday, 24 April 2014


This is a Currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale, and the themes are making, eating, enjoying, hiding, waiting.

We have been making plans to replace our bathroom, a long overdue project made possible with some money left to Snake by his father. It would appeal more if we were planning to spend it on a camper van or a trip backpacking around the Mediterranean, but there you go. Sometimes adulthood gets in the way. Anyway, it will be lovely to have a functional bathroom, the current one being barely a bathroom at all - tiles coming off walls, shower leaking through kitchen ceiling, toilet and sink plumbed at some weird angle that causes frequent blockages.

We have been eating a feast of Chinese food cooked by an old friend who lived with my family and went to school here for a year 30 years ago. She visited over the weekend, from Munich where she lives now, in time for my fathers birthday.

I'm enjoying having enough energy to keep going through what is turning out to be an extremely busy week. I am attributing this feeling that I am able to cope with a whole load of complex and demanding (although not unenjoyable) activities that have been presented to me to the invigorating holiday in the wide open spaces of Yorkshire.

I'm not sure I am hiding anything, really. Well, there is one thing, but it's hidden so I can't talk about it. The thing I am hiding is the hidden thing.

I am noticing the strange quiet of the house on a day off, with Goldie back at school and the girl delivered last night back to York. Also, the increased greenness in a favourite view as the sun filters through to even those trees deep inside the wood. Goldie's voice cracking. Clamorous, chaotic (but probably not chaotic, probably highly ordered) bird song. Signs of neglect around the house, calling for attention.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

If you wanna come back it's alright, it's alright. It's alright if you wanna come back.

Months ago I was talking to my Fru, my cousin and one of my closest friends, who inconveniently lives in the north of Scotland. We discussed how both our boys, born within months of each other, still talk about a holiday we had together in 2010 as the best holiday ever. And weighed up the risks of trying to recreate that...the result being that we booked the same house, for the same Easter week, and met there again.

The house is an old stone farmhouse, big rooms, many fireplaces, thick walls and long corridors. But the real attraction is its setting, hidden in a valley, a dale, with a fast running stream running down to the river. All around are sheep, and at this time of year, lambs.

 The stream is what the boys remembered and what they ran to, devising routes down and up, using stones and branches to keep (mostly) dry. They wade and dam and clamber and swing in and across and back again. They race and consult and negotiate routes. Their own stream! Teetering right on the edge of adolescence, Goldie says he feels like a 1920's child, as if he is in Swallows and Amazons , when adventures happened outside, in real time, in three dimensions with real consequences. With the smell of wild garlic and the clamour of birdsong and the call and response of lambs and their mothers calling each others names, and the soundtrack of the stream hurling itself down over the rocks to the bottom of the valley.

(While their desire to be outside was strong l have to acknowledge that this was helped by the fact of no internet connection, and no television signal. I am sure, if it had been possible, there would have been considerable pressure from them to spend a good few of those outside hours in front of a screen).

We visited castles and gardens and caves and beautiful dales villages, and bizarrely a Victorian created reproduction of a Druid temple, and had picnics and tea stops and enormous amounts of cake. On one morning we watched a falconry display in which the falcon suddenly veered off and a black headed gull fell through the sky, with the hawk arrowing after it, to gasps from the small audience, and apologies and confusion and a hasty end to the display from the young falconer. We turned to each other open mouthed, aware of the privilege of having seen such an efficient death at such close hand.

At night I'd open our bedroom window, leaning out as far as I could. The only other human light is from our nearest neighbour on the other side of the valley, maybe half an hours walk away, and a much longer drive. The sky is dense with stars. There are a pair of owls that talk for an hour or two across the fields. The stream continues its soundtrack.

We walked a lot, particularly Fru and I. One night we went out after dark and used the light of the stars and the moon to find our way across the fields for mile or two. Another time we left the others to explore a cave while we walked over the hill they were in. We walked the three miles to the nearest village. And on the last day Snake and Fru and I climbed the 2300ft of Buckden Pike, on a most glorious sunny Good Friday, moving up towards the clearest bluest sky.

I found the climb (really, walking up steep banks, no actual climbing, you understand) to be extraordinarily, quite scarily, hard. On my 40th birthday, 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with a strange, progressive lung condition, a diagnosis which I've largely ignored given there's no treatment that I'm willing to undertake apart from staying generally as well as possible. Luckily I've been nearly entirely fine, but it only really occurred to me on this climb that me being untroubled by the scarring and pockets that I apparently have on my lungs is actually almost entirely an accident of living in the flattest part of the country. I only really feel it when I put my cardio-pulmonary system under the additional stress of crossing the contour lines of a map.

Still, the relief of reaching the top was compounded by the return of normal breathing and heart rate. We drank the flask of tea we had brought with us, and stared out over the endless green. The walk down was a joy, and I was easily able to maintain a fairly sensible conversation without further loss of breath.

It was a wonderful holiday. On the last evening Snake and I and Fru and Mr Fru sat in the kitchen and remembered all the places we've been together over the last 20 years, and planned for the next one - Ireland, we thought, or Wales. Somewhere wild where our boys can run free, and we can walk, and talk, and remember, and plan.


On our way home we met up with Ms M. and Ms. Sparks, also holidaying in Yorkshire. Ms. Sparks, with her usual efficiency, had researched the perfect family day out in the stunningly green grounds of a ruined abbey. Along the river, hundreds of families were setting up elaborate picnics. Thirty miles from Bradford, the park reflected the multi cultural demographic of the city, with the most creative and exotic foods being prepared, along with hookahs, and brass kettles.

We joined a long queue of people crossing a wide river by means of a series of stepping stones. I naively assumed that it must be easy, given the range of ages and sizes of people setting out, and was mortified to find myself mid deep(ish), fast flowing(ish) river completely frozen to the spot, legs wobbling, head spinning and any balance I have ever possessed gone. The girl was calmly in front of me, waiting for me to indicate we should go on, and Snake behind me, and between them and a strange weighing up between physical panic and the acute self consciousness of Making A Fuss I managed to get my legs to move me forward, step by step. Holding Snake's hand briefly in between strides (each one of which I was certain would land me in the water) allowed me to move on, although the distances between stones, and their one person size meant that there was no way he could give physical support. 

I spent much of the rest of the afternoon watching other people cross, equally fascinated by those who did so in heels or carrying children or large bags, seemingly without thought or hesitation, and those who stopped mid stream, like me, suddenly struck with the impossibility of continuing. Also fascinated, and deeply sympathetic towards those who did fall in, but lived to tell the tale.

As with the hill, the relief of making it to the other side added to the pleasure of achieving what seemed to me (but clearly wasn't for others) a huge physical feat. I imagine I will keep undertaking these small personal challenges, as unpleasant as they are at the time, in the hope that it will all be worthwhile, that something will be achieved. Trying to get better.

The Vaccines - If You Wanna  

Thursday, 10 April 2014


This is a Currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale, and the themes are dropping, wearing, making, kissing, keeping.

This week has seen me dropping my wages by officially cutting my hours. I'm already in a slight panic about how we're going to manage, along with a nagging guilt that me having time to myself is undeserved. However, my lovely boss has reassured me that he will keep hold of the hours for a good few months to allow me to change my mind if necessary, and in the meantime my new role actually feels sort of OK, sort of do-able, in 3 days a week

I have been wearing slightly lighter clothing in recognition of some more spring like weather. But also, nearly all the time when I'm not at work, one of two huge chunky cardigans that I have acquired this year. One of them, a hooded, blue, toggled knit, was the last item of clothing I bought new (and my intention is not to buy new clothing in the future *), on my birthday from FatFace, in their sale. The other is bottle green, collared, round buttoned, and I got it from a chazza (thanks Kate at Just Piroutte and Carry On for the vernacular). They are like a huge warm hug that can be worn around the house and I will wear them until there is enough heat in the sun to provide that same feeling of being lovingly held.

I have been making bread. Making plans for the holiday in the Yorkshire dales next week. Making  the most of my time off over Easter, with the girl home and the boy off school.

A cousin  of mine and her husband were visiting my parents this week, and we went over for a meal with them. I loathe and fear social kissing, but she was so lovely and warm and bright, as I remember her being when I used to visit her in her house by the sea when I was a teenager, that it was easy to move forward and be embraced, and kissed.

Today I went to the coast with my mother in law, my children and their 6 year old cousin. We walked along the beach, we ate fish and chips, we built a sandcastle. In doing so we were keeping alive the memory of my father in law. Had he lived just a few months more, then today would have been my in laws golden wedding anniversary.

*I will still buy my knickers new. And tights.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Loving your life in the rain

Properly back at work this week, with a manic afternoon of high risk, managing several fronts at the same time - reassuring and guiding a front line worker; talking to a distressed parent; responding to media, solicitor, MP; keeping senior managers informed.  The satisfaction of slipping into the role and knowing what to do, feeling comfortable in that time constrained space. And something new that I learnt from being away - something in my perspective that has shifted the balance away from the organisation and on to individuals. Trusting my decisions are based on the well being of the families we exist to support. A shedding of some of the cynicism.

And it was a Wednesday afternoon, so having stayed on to set things on course, I walked away for my four day weekend.

There is a beautiful, tiny, Georgian theatre in this town. When the girl was little my parents used to get us a box for the pantomime, and we've seen comedy and Shakespeare and kitchen sink dramas there. This week a group of us from The Fawcett Society went to watch a play about Emily Wilding Davison, a very physical one woman show in that small space. At the last minute I got a ticket for the girl and she came too, and has been talking since about the importance of voting and about everyday sexism.

The sun came out, although through a fog of a strange sand smog which seems to have left a trail of headaches and coughing and increased inhaler use. Snake and the girl and I headed out to the Fens with a picnic and walked along the river for a few miles. As we sat by the river I was very conscious of the concept of work/life balance. I am still not totally comfortable that my 3 day working week is justified, there is still some guilt there. But sitting on a river bank with my husband and daughter, in the rare and precious sunlight, that's so important, so healing. I don't know if I deserve it, the luxury of that time, but for now, with the blessing of my family, I'm taking it.

On the way home we stopped at The Emmaus Project and amongst barns full of  every item under the sun, each with its own story, I found what we needed - a set of dinner plates with a delicate gold and orange blossom design and a glaze delicately and decoratively cracked with years of use by somebody else.

Last night we went to La's for a meal, and got to know her new man Mr F a little better. He is charming, which is tricky for me as I tend to distrust charm. I could feel him trying hard to work me out, to find a way in, and while I liked him, and enjoyed how practiced he was at entertaining, I don't know how to change from the person I am - capable of friendliness, but not easily won over. I appreciated that he seemed to appropriately appreciate La. We watched Spinal Tap, and then sang There'll Always be an England for a recording Mr F is making as the soundtrack to a play he is producing.

Sunday was a morning of bed and bath made up for by a frantic hour of cleaning, helping Goldie make pancakes, cooking porridge, hanging, sorting and putting in a new load of washing, before taking Snake to work and landing at Ms M's. It took myself, La, my girl and Ms M some considerable time to fix a bike rack and load on bikes for the children, but we did it, and headed off to the woods for bird song and flowers and glimpses of butterflies. We went back to Ms M's for a huge meal, with the Spark family joining us with strudel and custard.

Tonight it's early to bed with one of my favourite sounds - the wind hurling rain at the bedroom window. Feeling very lucky, very grateful that we're all under the same roof, all home.  

England by The National

Thursday, 3 April 2014


This is a Currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale, and the themes are reading, feeling, racing, using, smelling.

Finally, finally I have been reading Lean In, just several months late for the Ladies Who Book Club. The timing was wrong for me to read it with the group, I was quite dramatically leaning way out at that point, but now I'm back it is perfect, particularly in relation to how I can support other women to be a central part of the organisation. I have also been reading The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, which might be more relevant if I ran.

It's all feeling OK really, with a few lurching, destabilising blips. Generally, feeling better than I have in a long time, with an increased awareness of the need to keep an eye on that, value it, protect it.

The clocks moved forward last weekend, which means it is possible for me to get home from work in time to race the last of the sun for an evening walk with the dog.

Well, not inadvertently using illicit drugs, as it happens, although I wondered for a while. Snake and I came home from an evening out on Saturday to find some white powder on my lap top. The girl and her friends had just left, and I did wonder, I really did. I both tasted and smelt it - what sensible adult wouldn't taste a mysterious white powder that they came across late at night? - and there was no recognition from my own long, long ago experiences. If anything, it tasted...perfumed. In the morning, I asked my girl if she and her friends had used, you know, anything, well, powdered? and a slow smile came across her sleep deprived, hungover face. "That deodorant I've got goes powdery. But, mum, did you think we were using drugs? Mum!" I am so lucky she laughs at me when I get parenting an almost adult so dramatically wrong, that she is so forgiving. She has taught me every step of the way how to be her mother, and I am deeply grateful.  

Sunday, 30 March 2014

And I said I wouldnt get sucked in....

Urgh to midnight dramas.

It was a night out for BSide's birthday. Because it was BSide, who loves glamour and beauty, everyone made the effort and dressed up for drinks in the cellar bar of the poshest hotel in town. Me and Snake weren't going, and then we were, and then the girl was going out so one of us needed to be home for Goldie, then we realised that in her world a night out starts at 10.30pm, so we went, and got home before the taxi turned up for her and the friends who had gathered here.

One of our motives in going was to catch sight of La's apocryphal boyfriend, who following his alleged move here from Brighton some weeks ago hasn't been seen. And there he was, neither apocryphal or alleged, very real, in fact. I spent time talking to a man who has twin daughters who were born in the same week as the girl, and who we've known since those early days of parenthood. He described the difficulties of having one of his girls away at university while her mirror image is at home, consumed with the work that is needed to maintain anorexia and OCD.

In bed at a reasonable time, with my phone on in the pretence that it provides some sort of protection for the girl, out there in the dark. In the early hours I am woken by a messenger ping, and it's NoL, asking why I was 'off with her' tonight. I know how much she had drunk at the point we left them all, and that was some hours ago, and I know that she is still drinking, some hours on, because it is NoL and it is Saturday night, but to say "L, you're drunk, lets leave it" would cause further upset.

The true (my truth, the view from where I stand) response is that it dates back to her criticism of my involvement with a local women's group, criticism she loudly vocalised in front of my children on an occasion that was meant to be a celebration for the girl. It is true (my truth, my understanding) that she has not spoken to me on occasions when we have met since, and that she did not respond when I greeted her tonight. She has her reason and her truths, her history and her hurts, I know. But to have any hope of calming my heart rate, managing this anxiety, getting some sleep, I must put my truth in a response that is brave enough, and kind enough.

I explain my truth. I explain that it is my truth, my perspective. I add that, as she knows, I am naturally reserved and don't push engagement if it seems unwelcome. That, as she knows, I am in the early stages of recovery from depression and that tonight was my first night in months that I have been out in a large group, and that it was hard. I thank her for making contact and raising concern, and send it off, picturing the message packed up like a Golden Snitch , zipping across the roof tops.

Then I lie awake, feeling my pulse, waiting for morning and for my family to remind me why human interaction is worth the effort, the cost, the risk.

The National - This is The Last Time

Thursday, 27 March 2014


This is a Currently link up with Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale, and the themes are facing, snapping, counting, loving, hopping. 

Last week I returned to work. This week I started managing a new team of social workers, nurses, therapists and administrative staff. Given that they've had slightly less notice than me (I had a week), and that they're working in the most difficult of resource starved, uncertain atmospheres, they have been remarkably welcoming and generous with time and information. Maybe the most difficult part of the week was facing my old team and saying hello after my sudden disappearance 3 months ago, and goodbye as I headed off again.

No snapping at all from me I don't think, but yesterday Goldie and his year group went on a school trip to Hampton Court Palace, and on Facebook last night were endless photo's of him in the midst of large groups of girls. (The trip sounds horrifying. Because of industrial action there was one teacher and 3 unknown supply teacher accompanying 52 thirteen year olds. Within seconds of entering the palace one of the children tripped and was rugby tackled by a security guard to prevent him falling into an original Tudor artwork. 3 of the boys disappeared for some time, having gone in search of bacon butties. The coach eventually arrived back at school an hour late. By the time I got home and had this recounted to me by Goldie, I imagine the teacher was a good way through her second bottle of wine. I would have been, and I don't drink).  

I have been counting blessings. Sunlight, bird song, clear night skies. My whole family back under the same roof for a few weeks. Visits to beautiful places planned. 

For now, and, if we can make it work financially, long term, I am working part time, just 3 days a week. I am loving that today is Thursday and my weekend has started already.

Hopping is a tricky one, eh? I'm not sure I've hopped for a while. I'm tempted to give it a go now. I've certainly thought more about hopping the last minute than I have for many years. At some point today I will endeavour to fit in a hop.