Thursday, 18 December 2014


Currently is a link up hosted by Harvesting Kale and Ot and Et. They provide 5 words for inspiration. This week the words are loving, choosing, reading, designing, wondering.

I am loving that I have 5 days off work now, going back on the 23rd for another couple of days before Christmas and another long weekend. Also though, sort of loving work. The fact that there is constant friendly, thoughtful challenge, that people jump into a crisis to ensure an appropriate response, the emphasis on laughter. It's not perfect, but it's so much better for me than the environment I was in. It's a woman led space, and it works.

I really need to be choosing what to feed people on Christmas Day, having rashly agreed to extended family coming here. My mother in law is buying a goose, so that's sorted, and my parents are bringing cheese and wine.  So just all the other stuff and a vegetarian option for my brother. At our work Christmas meal somebody had a savoury carrot cake - does that sound appealing?

I am re-reading The Sea House by Esther Fraud, for real life book club, and looking forward to Wild for virtual 'Ladies...' book club.

Work again...the team I lead is designing a new way of working, which looks like it's going to be rolled out across the organisation next year. However hard and exhausting and frustrating it feels, it gives some room for creativity and discussion and escape from process.

I'm wondering how to approach an old friend, who I haven't had much contact with this year after some hurtful encounters. For years she's come to us for a meal with other friends on one of the days following Christmas. I need to invite her - it's the brave and kind thing to do - even if she chooses not to come.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Way out of sync from the beginning

Snake and I rarely argue, but this weekend we got locked into the strangest battle of wills. I couldn't understand it at the time, but after a while he explained that it was to do with something we agreed months ago, that I'd forgotten. An advance directive, he called it.

What it was - we have this thing where on our birthdays we don't buy presents, but we try to get away for a night or a couple of nights. That's always easy enough for Snake's birthday, in November, when there's not much on. But my birthday is in January, and it's 3 days after Goldie's, and January is my hardest month. The last few years when it's come around I've lacked the will, the energy, the spirit to go anywhere. So some time this year, when we were talking about how I should try and get through this winter better, Snake said we would be going away for a weekend in January, even if when it came to it I said I couldn't face the organisation, the thinking, the doing of it. We agreed. It was an advance directive. So we put aside a weekend, and we talked about where we're going, and we intended to book something any day now.

Then an invitation came in for an event to celebrate the launch of a publication that has some of Snake's art work in it. A rare chance for him to get together with a big bunch of people, some of whom he's known since college, some of whom he hasn't met but shares ideas with daily. A big deal. But no, he'd promised me this weekend and he insisted it had to go ahead. Meanwhile, I insisted that he had to go to the party.

It got really stupid. Like, him, in desperation, saying we could stay somewhere near London and incorporate the party into our weekend, and me saying "are you completely mad? Suggesting I go to a party full of strangers in my worst month, as a birthday treat?" Or me saying "please go to the party. It's important to you. I don't want to be somewhere with you knowing you're missing a once in a blue moon chance to be with kindred spirits" and him saying "no, no, no, advance directive blah blah blah".

In the middle of this the children came in and Goldie asked why I was upset. I said "dad's trying to make me socialise with strangers". "Uh oh" said Goldie. "Oh dear" said the girl.

Somehow it resolved, basically because Snake really does want to go to the party, and I really want him to go too, which is what made it all so ridiculous.


Later on that evening, we were all in pyjamas, curled up under blankets, and the children were watching the X Factor final. I'd felt fine all day, but I was suddenly exhausted, unable to keep my eyes open. I kept dropping into sleep and I kept hearing Goldie saying "mum..." and jerking awake, compelled to respond, only for him to feed me a detail of the stupid X Factor which I have no interest in and have managed to completely avoid for a whole series. Eventually, more than half asleep, I said "Goldie, can you do me a favour? Can you please stop talking to me?" and him and the girl both exploded into laughter. Without even knowing why it was funny, I laughed too, and fell back to sleep surrounded by and part of their infectious, audible happiness.


There's a man at work who has appeared from nowhere and will probably disappear very soon. But while he's here, everybody loves him. He's got none of the cynicism of the other men in the organisation, none of the compulsion to enter into competitions to see who can do the verbal equivalent of pissing further up the wall. We don't see a lot of each other, but when we do, we tend to end up sitting together and giggling like conspirators. On Friday, we had a long telephone conversation, ostensibly about a situation with a service user, but in fact about our music tastes. When I said "The Smiths" in answer to the only question there is about growing up, he told me he loved me even more now, and asked if I'd noticed his hair was a homage to Morrissey (I honestly hadn't, but said yes, of course). We've arranged a competition for the next meeting we're in together, to see which of us can be the first to insert a Smiths lyric into the discussion. I've got a few lined up that are guaranteed to see me win. "I know it's serious". "There is a light". "Where are they now?" "Seems so unfair". Morrissey's writing is PERFECT for a government funded organisation in the midst of austerity.

Slow Show - The National

Thursday, 11 December 2014


This is a Currently post, hosted by Ot and Et and Harvesting Kale. They've provided the words, and a space to share. This weeks themes are dancing, cooking, losing, clearing, sharing.

Apart from some shuffling in the kitchen, I don't do a lot of dancing, but the rest of the family do. Goldie is perfecting what he calls 'the twonk' - he may have made that up. Thankfully it didn't uncover anything foul when I googled it. It seems to consist of a head lowered and swaying arms at face height shuffle to anything loud and with a strong bassline. It could catch on. Maybe it has and I misheard him when he said what it was called. Snake went to a Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute gig with Ms M. I happily stayed at home, but have heard reports of him dancing like a wildebeest. The girl was out too at the weekend, dancing, apparently, to the cheesiest Christmas music in the world ever.

Out of pure desperation at the state of the cupboard after a day at work, I ended up cooking lentil burgers this week. Lentils, left over sweet potato mash, a bunch of coriander, chilli, onion and garlic. Some flour and an egg. Fried then baked. They need some work - the lentils absorb flavour and don't necessarily give it back, so more chilli, more garlic - but they all got eaten.

A combination of a work anxiety (temporarily resolved) and a full moon (waning now) mean that I have been losing more sleep than usual 

Today, or very soon anyway, I need to get on with clearing a space for the Christmas tree that we will buy at the weekend. Buying the tree, and then choosing the most eccentric decoration we can find, is a ritual for us. We've  really struggled to find a time when all 4 of us can go - it's going to be squeezed in around football and a meal with my parents and a shift for Snake - but it will happen.

Sharing the day to day of cooking and chatting and laughing with the girl, who is home for Christmas. Sharing opinions and cheese and wine with the real life book group. Sharing laughter and stress and moans with work colleagues.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

About Today

With Goldie away for the night, Snake and I got up slowly, and walked the mile and a bit into town on the coldest morning yet this winter. Blue sky, frosted ground. We walked through a wild area that has been designated a nature reserve and bumped into a woman we've known forever. While Snake stopped to talk, my brother rang to say he'd be joining us for Christmas, as an acknowledgement of my fathers mortality.

Our town has a wonderful market on two days a week, fruit and veg and everything else too. We stocked up and then ate in a small Greek café with large communal tables. Some grandparents came in with two young girls and on joining the table the girls said hello to us, introduced us to their toys. So sweet, so polite, so HUMAN, and so different from the heads down Englishness of adults. We went into a craft fair and there were other faces we knew, all part of a  cooperative creating beautiful things.

While we were there, a message pinged in, inviting us for paella at La's tonight. We decided I'd stay home, because the girl is due back, and Goldie is due back, and we could probably work something out, but I'm in less sociable part of whatever cycle I follow and I want to stay home tonight.

Walked home, picked up dog, and left Snake carving his newest project (a portrait of Goldie into a large piece of lime wood) and headed back out to collect Ms M and her dog for a long walk through our favourite parkland, noting the change of seasons, catching up on work news and children news and mother news. Another message came in, from the girl, saying she's on her way, and asking what's for tea. After dropping Ms M back home, I stopped for coal and sausages. Chatted to the women on the cash desk who told me she had a heater on under her counter and her shoes off, was slightly nervous about a manager discovering this but "I'm too old to care".

Soon after I got home another message - "sorry 2 disturb you. emergency! I need 2 hear Julian Cope or Teardrop Explodes now!" from Peel. I dug out the vinyl I own and Peel came to collect, and to chat for a while. She explained that her girl has her friend round and they are playing music that is alien to her ears, and she needs a defence. I understand completely, and I loved being able to respond to a musical emergency situation. Once she had gone to immerse herself in the 80's new wave, to re-establish her personality and presence on her home, the girl arrived in a flurry of bags and hugs and cold outside air. Snake went off for his paella and the girl and I cooked and talked. She has a newish boyfriend, someone who sounds more serious than anyone else has been, but she's being cautious. Shockingly, she's had to manage racism from one of the young women she's living with when her black British boyfriend has visited. Scarily (maybe I'm naïve to be shocked at this), this young woman is the daughter of a judge. Have these views come from someone with that much power? She's also been low level bullying the girl intermittently - snarky, nasty comments, streams of could-just-be-banter comments. I want the girl to move out, to be with some of the many people who love her, but she likes the house, likes the others living there, and says she can challenge as necessary, and why should she move? And my girl is right.

We watched television, snuggled together under blankets with the cat and the dog on top of us, then, at about 10, with me already in my pyjamas, I drove her to a friends house for a night of catching up. Back home, there was finally an hour of quiet before Snake and Goldie arrived home more or less simultaneously, Goldie dropped off by the estranged Mr M, Snake having walked fast through the night following an evening at La's watching spooky M.R James ghost stories. Goldie had had a hugely exciting day, watching his one and only Liverpool play at their home, which is 230 miles from our home, and it's late and he has a match himself in the morning. It was just about midnight when we herded him to bed, and followed close behind.

About Today - The National

Friday, 5 December 2014

All night I lay on my pillow

It's properly cold all of a sudden. I like it, sort of, although it would be better with some sunlight. Yesterday it felt like it was getting dark at 2pm, but I think that was because it had never got light.

My head is full of work stuff, and it's keeping me awake, or infecting my dreams.

Goldie is heading off to Anfield tonight to see Liverpool play tomorrow. For the last few years, Mr M has taken him and one of the little M's,  and it's a huge deal for Goldie, to be able to see the team he's loved forever, even though they are far away. He keeps telling me he wants me to take him to a game, just the two of us, and I'm going to try and make that happen next year.

So he's heading north, and our girl will be heading south tomorrow, back to us for Christmas. She is getting a lift with a friends family, and we don't know when she'll be here, and we're trying to fit in a hundred other things over the weekend, but none of it matters really, because she will be on her way here. Goldie is delighted she's coming back. He had his hair cut yesterday, and said "I want it to look cool for the girl". I don't fully understand their relationship, they will be driving each other mad in days, but I think, I hope, I think and hope that the foundation is there for each of them to have a lifelong source of support, even if it is casual, sporadic, occasionally resented support. You know, that may sound like not such a great deal, but it will be evolution if they can set that in place. It's taken 40 years to believe there are good intentions between me and my sibling.

I'm reading lots, in my insomniac hours. It all seems to be about place. Landscape as character. Newfoundland, the Fens, Kansas.

Snake suggested to me that I'm withdrawing again, shutting off a little, and I am, a little. It's the work thing, and the winter thing, and the long nights awake thing. It will be OK, I think, and I hope and I think and I hope. Tomorrow evening, the girl will be home, and Goldie will be back from his Liverpool adventure and baby-we'll-be-fine.

Baby, we'll be fine - The National