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.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Everything surrounds us and it doesnt fade/ You'd better hold my hand through this/ Bloodbuzz

Everything surrounds us and it doesn't fade

We got a train to Edinburgh, and flew on a small plane from there to Shetland, about 150 miles out to sea.

The light was astounding. Added to the fact that it doesn't get dark, on one of the islands, Yell, everything shimmers. The sea, the rocks, the sand have all been dusted with glitter. There must be a reason for this, but I can't find it and so I'm putting it down to magic.

The sun shines and it's warm. This is not the norm for Shetland - it is an important research site into the effects of the lack of vitamin D for a reason (19 hours of what is usually a pale daylight in July means 5 hours of light each day in December). We are directed to what we are told is the most beautiful beach on the planet, and spend the afternoon in a bay of white sand with clear blue water, soft green cliffs rising up behind us. Glittering water, glittering sand. Completely alone. In the evening we head off for a walk, hoping for otters. They don't appear, but we find and climb a narrow gorge. At 11pm the light is just starting to change, giving the ground a weird luminosity. Again, I don't understand the science, so assume magic.

We got another ferry to the island of Fetlar. The rain and wind have come now, much more like our expectations of a break in the far north. We head out on a cliff top walk, seeing colonies of birds that we have to identify in retrospect. Out to sea, seeming to return our gaze, there is a single seal.

On our last morning, before getting back on the small plane, we head to a spot where we're told there might be puffins. There ARE puffins, 100's of them, ridiculously close and easy to photograph. They seemed designed purely to please the eye and the heart, all roundness and colour, but they are going about their important business of being puffins, presumably unaware of their aesthetic appeal to humans.

On our way to the islands we stopped in Edinburgh and in the National Gallery there, Snake showed me how to step back from a roomful of paintings to see which ones emit light. On Yell, we went into a small gallery of local artists, and one of the paintings of a stormy sea shines at me. We cant afford the painting - we can't honestly afford a postcard at the moment - but there are prints of the artists work with that same quality, and having learnt the importance of capturing light when you find it, we buy it to bring home.

You'd better hold my hand through this

On the tram from the airport back into Edinburgh I open an email with the response to a complaint made in relation to a occupational health appointment I attended when I was ill. The response was exactly what I had expected and tried to prepare for. Still, hugely disappointing, sending me back into those dark days, just briefly. Snake suggests I need to let go, that this process is anchoring me to my illness, but I don't think I can. Still, the sun is strong, and we're on our way to meet friends, and I have a ticket to see The National in a few hours time. I put it to one side.


We walk through Edinburgh in the sun to meet our friends who takes us to a place called The Punjabi Junction, run by a collective of Sikh women. We eat vegetable curry and drink wine and sit until we're thrown out because the women want to go home. Then I go alone to see my favourite band. I walk to the front, not right at the front but close enough, and a young woman next to me asks if I'm by myself. She is too. She says " my flatmates favourite is Shakira, and she's never heard of the Smiths". I sympathise and tell her about seeing The National play in the venue where 30 years before I'd seen the Smiths. She said "you've seen the Smiths?", making me feel ancient, but also strangely proud. She shows me her tattoos and we talk about Vonnegut, and the Scottish referendum and it's likely impact on tonight's set list. My tribe, my tribe.

It's the 7th time I've seen this band, in the week where 4 years ago I watched them for the first time, alone then too, and was plummeted into my strange, managed obsession. For me, this was their best performance since that first night. I say that because Matt, their singer, who has been in danger of being civilised and tamed by increased exposure, was deranged, uncommunicative, tortured. Clinging to the microphone stand as though it was the only thing keeping him on stage, or holding him up. Turning his back and screaming into the drums. Disappearing. Throwing himself into the audience and being pulled and patted, hugged and pushed. That thing he does that makes so much sense to me of building up walls while being desperate for connection.

I walk back across Edinburgh to where we're staying, under a moon that's just a day from being full. I don't particularly want the walk to end. The streets are busy and it feels safe. I'm alone but connected, full of glittering islands and the crush of the gig, and vegetable curry with friends.

Lit Up - The National

Abel - The National

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Ruth Brownlee

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Currently is a weekly link up with Harvesting Kale and Ot and Et. They provide themes and invite thoughts. I really love it for making me think, and for giving me glimpses into other people's worlds. This weeks themes are managing, missing, thinking, creating, looking.

It looks like I'll be managing the team I'm in long term. I spoke to various people this week, and the consensus seems to be that if I want to stay where I am then I stay where I am. Relief.  The possibility of actually being able to make things better instead of  using all my energy just fighting to survive.

I've been missing Snake. We've both been working long hours, and I've been out a couple of nights this week. There's lots going on for both of us. We need to catch up with each other, and over the next week we will.

I've committed to thinking about a fairly obscure but potentially explosive piece of policy. It's something I believe in, and want to implement, but it will unsettle and distress elements of the workforce. I have this ridiculous habit of thinking I can think my way out of any situation. I promised yesterday to work out a way of taking this forward that keeps everybody feeling valued and safe and happy. Yeah, right.

There's a woman who I've known for about 10 years, and who've we've socialised with throughout that time. We're in a book group together, and our sons are friends, and we see each other at parties and gigs. It's like we know each other really well, but we've never actually got to know each other. And all that time we've been saying we should go for a drink together and just talk, and this week, finally, we got round to creating an opportunity to do that. With 10 years build up it actually felt a bit like a date, and I'm quite glad that I was late from work and didn't have time to think about what to wear or how to act. It was a good evening, during which I broke my 25 months of abstinence from alcohol and drank a couple of glasses of wine. I fell over on the way home but not because of the drink. It was because I decided to take the unlit path through the woods in the middle o the night, wearing sandals. I fell over a tree root in the first 2 minutes and realised I needed to backtrack so I could walk on the longer, more boring but lighter and smoother path by the road.

As of today, I am on holiday for the next couple of weeks. I am so looking forward to what we have planned. On  Monday Snake and I are getting a train to Edinburgh and then a plane to the Shetland Islands. (While I would always choose to go South, towards heat and light, Snake hankers after the north, and loves remote islands. Through him, I've learnt to love those landscapes too). On Thursday we will fly back to Edinburgh and meet with an old friend and I get to see The National before travelling back home. And there's more good stuff to come after that too. It's summer, after the longest winter of all, and things feel good.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

picture this


We went to London and joined 50,000 people for an anti austerity march.
These two have been playing and reading together at intervals since they were babies. When Goldie was younger his hair was long, blonde and curly too and they could have been mistaken for twins. On this visit, I'm not sure that they exchanged a word unless it was in some teen tone undecipherable to adult ears; still, there are similarities.

 There's this weird thing with Snake and eggs. This was in the crypt of a Victorian church in East London. He was actually upright, of course, but I like it like this.

Goldie asked me to take some action shots. I have neither the skills nor the equipment to do so adequately.  

I reversed my car into a metal post, and it got stuck. It's sad about the car, but what stays with me are the people who came to help. A Community Police Officer, two builders who wanted to take an angle grinder to the post, but eventually managed to just lift the car out, some security guards, some passers by. Even the insurance people when I rang them went out of their way. The kindness of strangers, again.

This dog has a terrible, tormenting belief that there is a squirrel on the shed roof. It exhausts him.

The cat got stuck on the roof outside our bedroom window. We sent the girl out to get her.

 These are places where I walk. At the moment they are greener than it seems possible or wise for anything to be. I am already preparing myself for when the colour disappears again.