Friday, December 14, 2007

milky milky
In preparation for Sprout's arrival (not long now!) my norks have sprung into action, or perhaps I should say sprung into leak. I'm overjoyed by this new talent and keep attempting to give TA a demonstration of their creamy prowess, but unfortunately he is not as overwelmed by their ability to fountain baby fuel as I am. This is a particularly gratifying development given that the nipples are notoriously "shy" and the piercings have never quite healed. It's surprising though how difficult it is to impart this knowledge to other people during non-drunken conversations. It's a good job I have a blog really otherwise I might be buttonholing people in the street trying to persuade them to watch me attempt to squirt milk at them. Of course, I've also had a quick taste. It's sort of sweet, oily water - nothing like cows milk at all (at least not so far).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

every day in every way, I'm getting bigger and bigger
And tireder and tireder. Gah, who'd have thought that growing another person - a wee person at that - would be so completely knackering? My pelvis, despite physio, a bondage belt and paracetamol, has pretty much given up on me and I've still got seven or more weeks to go.
On the plus side, no stretch marks yet...



Saturday, November 10, 2007

special day
My mother sent me an e-mail with "special day" as the subject line. In it was a picture of all of us standing in our finery outside Camden Register office: blue sky, smiles. TA and I look so young, so brave. It's five years to the day since we were married.
I was going to title this something sly, referencing cockney slang, but the knowing, cynical tone didn't suit what is genuinely a day to feel a sense of wonder about. We've come a long, long way this year - from the brink of collapse to a position of joyful blessings - it really is a special day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

laboured analogy
Imagine you’ve got a long walk ahead of you to an unknown destination. You have a detailed map and lots of people are on hand to tell you about the route, but this is the first time you’ve tried it yourself. You know how long it’s going to take - a long while, but not forever - and you think that the time will probably fly by once you get underway.
The first third of the walk is all uphill, it is extremely tiring. There are also a couple of tricky, potentially dangerous, junctions to cross - you concentrate very hard on every step you take, scared to put a foot wrong.
The second third of the walk is downhill, but there are lots of side streets and, because this is the first time you’ve made this journey, you concentrate on ticking them off on the map and keep rechecking the instructions you’ve been given. Your focus never wavers.
By the time you reach the last third of your walk your enthusiasm for the whole project is flagging. It’s not that it’s particularly hard - although, you’ll be pleased to reach your destination where, hopefully, you can put your feet up and have a nice glass of wine - it’s that you’ve been walking for miles, paying attention to every single detail of the route.
What you thought would be a pleasant jaunt has turned into a rather long slog and - although everyone tells you that you are nearly there - the final destination seems further away now than when you started. If only you’d thought to bring some music or could walk and read at the same time. If only there was something that could take your mind off the physical act of walking (slowly, now) or if you knew the route well you might be able to distract yourself and time would speed up, after all you know you must be very nearly there by now, certainly that’s what the map says. It should be just around the next couple of corners.
Nine months. Nine long months. And, actually, we’re only at the seven-month mark. I’m sure that previous seven-month stretches of time have passed by much faster than this. The problem is that every single day of it I’ve been in countdown mode. There’s barely been an hour that I’ve switched off and forgotten about Sprout. Maintaining that heightened level of concentration is exhausting and it means that time drags - the whole world has been playing in slow-mo around me for the last seven months.
Of course, once you arrive at your destination, the whole journey to get there telescopes back to seem as though it only took a little while - it was a nice walk too. The next time you do this you’ll be able to do most of it on autopilot and you’ll wonder why you made such a fuss the first time - after all you only have to put on foot in front of the other in a straight line until you get there and the signposts can’t be missed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

sprout proofing
Yesterday I wrote a cheque for new windows, my second attempt to get our windows replaced (the first floundered on the issue of scaffolding). Today I am overseeing the repairs to the storage heater in the living room, which has been out of action for more than a year. We want the Sett to be warm enough for Sprouticus, even though making it so is costing us a hell of a lot of money.
I’m eating oily fish twice a week at the moment – I have been throughout the pregnancy, but I’m concentrating on it now because it is a key time for brain development and have been completely teetotal for a few weeks for the same reason. Subtly, my priorities are shifting to those of mothers everywhere – safety, security, health, nutrition. It feels strange, but not altogether unwelcome.
We’re in the home straight now – 11 weeks to go, more or less, and only seven at work. My hospital bag is packed, except for nursing bras and jimjams, and a dog-sitting roster has been arranged. I’m still in the weeds at work and will only get more busy as yet more antenatal appointments fill up my diary, but I’m only part engaged – a large part of my brain is simply ticking loudly, counting down the minutes until we meet our son.

Friday, October 19, 2007

the wheel turns
TA is coming to the end of the bears - only one more week to go. For the last three weeks he's been trying to get a new gig at the same company. Various projects were mentioned, mainly television programmes (which are very short-term contracts). The biggest project, the one that TA's friend has got a job with, the one which will last six months, didn't seem as though it was an option. That said, TA sweet talked HR into securing him a meeting with the producer. The interview started badly, but TA hoped that his enthusiasm won them over. He got a second interview, but the role required two scripting languages that TA doesn't know very well. This new role would be a huge stretch and put many feathers in his career cap. It seemed as though a few months of nail-biting two- and three-week contracts were ahead, if we were lucky.
For the last two months neither of us have relaxed - this return to "normality" could not, should not, be taken for granted. If the last five-and-a-half years of patchy employment and struggle have taught us anything it's that the wheel of fortune turns when you least expect it and entirely to its own timetable.
Poverty and financial insecurity have curbed our spendthrift natures. This month we will pay off the huge loan I took out to pay for the course that gave TA his billing as "the animator". I remember how nervous I was in the bank that day, even though I believed wholeheartedly that we would pay it off a few months after graduation thanks to TA's glittering new career. That was nearly five years ago now. We will also pay off the less huge loan we were forced to take out to pay the rent after I quit my job, thinking that I'd find another immediately (I was wrong).
I must admit, I had no idea how we were going to afford my six months of maternity leave when I decided to take it. Hell, I had no idea how we were going to afford to raise a child when I discovered that actually it turns out I am fertile. Perhaps some of my devil-may-care attitude hasn't quite left me after all.
TA rang a couple of hours ago. He's got the six-month job on the film and has three days between contracts to learn those two scripting languages.
We've come so far, so fast. I think we're on the very rim of fortune's wheel: when it turns for us it turns big. The thing is that we've learnt, we've changed. I'm excited because this means we'll be able to overpay our mortgage for a few months. I'm excited because this means that TA will have more going for him the next time he needs to scare up a new job. I'm not complacent though, I don't think that this means we'll always have jam for tea.
I can see the lines that join these dots, but I'm not sure I'm describing the whole picture very well. I'll try a different tack. Sometimes I lost faith that things would change; sometimes I blamed TA - but not very often. Many people have doubted him during the last five or so years and many people looked sidelong at both of us. I felt that people thought less of him because he wasn't working. Certainly, he felt lessened by unemployment. In the end we were both shadows, until therapy and happy pills pulled us back.
It seems to us that there is a lot of complacency in our part of the world and not much acknowledgement of the wheel. People burble happily along, never realising that redundancy, illness or some other sleight of fate's hand might pull their house of cards down on their heads. Perhaps it's just that we're still young(ish) and that our contemporaries have that life lesson still to come. No matter, I feel as though it's been etched into our bones. We will make as much hay as we can and lay it up in store - we will continue to live frugally, we will stay in the one-bedroom sett until it is time to emigrate or Sprout gets too big for our bedroom. We will overpay the mortgage and save, because tomorrow the wheel may turn again - not because either of us have brought it on ourselves, but because that's what the wheel does.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


twice the woman I was

Here I am in my jimjam bottoms and a stretchy vest proudly showing off my new haircut and, of course, Sprout's impact on my previously svelte figure. Not bad for 28 weeks, I think! Also, check out that cleavage! TA is a very lucky man, no?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

days end confused
Work continues to be crazy, crazy busy. After a weekend spent working and days and days of panic, I made the mistake of relaxing yesterday only to discover, at 6pm, that files I had submitted to the printer were borked and needed to be redone. Great - cue much frantic head scratching and sleeplessness as I tried to work out how to get myself and the client out of a shibboleth-sized hole while struggling with network issues. Poor TA - he tried to advise and help me but I was so far into panic mode that any suggestion was met with wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Sprout, meanwhile, punctuates my every waking and sleeping hour with a series of punches, kicks and wiggles that send my innards flying all over the shop and announce his burgeoning presence to the outside world. I’m - exhausted, sore and tetchy - in countdown mode to maternity leave: ten more weeks. This should be a light at the end of the tunnel and it would be if my employer’s cover proposal didn’t effectively render me redundant. I’m raising the issue in a meeting on Thursday so perhaps we’ll get it sorted out amicably and straightforwardly; honestly, I don’t think there’s any malice in their proposal, they are just not that bright or forward thinking (or perhaps they think I’m not coming back). In the privacy of my own head though I’m raving just like TA does whenever he has to make a customer-service complaint “If this isn’t sorted out I’m going to SUE you!”
Speaking of TA, his contract is almost at an end and, unless he can arrange to be taken on by another project, life will soon revert to the relative calm of abject poverty. I’m not sure what I’m hoping for - the calm or the cash. I miss him and we’re both so tired, frayed, but the prospect of being dual income for a while longer is too good to be turned down and almost any sacrifice of family life is justified by the increase in financial security.

Friday, September 28, 2007

bear necessities
TA came home grumbling. "You should get the word out, you could start an online rebellion." I could, I thought, but what if it leads back to TA. "That doesn't matter," he said. I questioned the wisdom of this but, remembering my feeble visitor stats, figured he was probably right.
So, if you're interested in a forthcoming movie that features fighting bears and is an adaptation of a well-known children's novel because you've read said book, I'd think carefully about going. It's not that it will be bad, exactly, but it will definitely be very different. Some, arguably key, plot strands will be noticable by their absence and, well, you'll be given a happy finish. There, that's done it. Start rebelling.

Friday, September 21, 2007

we're all doomed
After a summer of thumb twiddling, Evil Corp's crazy season is about to start. For some reason, all events, press tours and news announcements happen in the two months before the run up to Christmas. Also, my client has been given a new job with a worldwide remit, the essence of which is we will need a badger in every time zone to do what this badger does, but in the meantime perhaps I could just support those time zones myself? In previous years, as crunch time and 14-16-hour days approached, TA would help me cope by ensuring that I had nothing to worry about at home except sleeping, this will not be the case this year.
In a alternate universe, where I have more responsibilities than being a rich man's lackey and personal needs and such, my pelvis is telling me that stairs are soon going to be something that happen to other people. I'm slightly concerned about this as, well, we live at the top of quite a large number of stairs. Going down them is still fine, but going up? Well, that's something my pelvis does not like so much - add to the "my pelvis says no" file uncrossing my legs, walking, sitting, standing and lying down and perhaps you can understand my eagerness to see the physiotherapist.
The pup needs walks (TA has been MIA for two weeks now - damn those armoured polar bears) and also is not a big fan of stairs. Two days ago my pelvis and the pup squared up to each other. Pelvis: I am not carrying a dog as well as you up these stairs. Pup: Crap. We managed okay in the end: I sort of supported him via his harness over the first few stairs in each flight and then he was so scared he ran up the rest of them just to get it over with, but watching him cower spreadeagled on each landing was traumatic.
So, as you can probably tell, I'm watching the storm clouds build on the horizon. Stress is bad for Sprout, but I have two solid months of stress already booked on the calendar. I would like to have some more support at home, but there's no one available right now to provide it and anyway, financially and in every other way, we are better off having TA spend his days with the bears.
What on earth do other people do when there's no one at home to play wife and the corporate slave drivers come round with their whips?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

obs-tin-ate
I had my second appointment with an obstetrician today. I wasn’t holding out much for a pleasant experience as the clinic is held in a community centre that has not seen any NHS investment and the scheduling and time management is crap. Also, it’s pikey central - I don’t like to judge the overweight, bleached hair, teenage sarf lundun mothers, but of course I do.
So, having filled my sample pot, I stewed in my low expectations for half an hour while waiting to see whichever obstetrician picked up my file (they seem to operate a rush goalie system). A woman younger than me called my name - perhaps newly qualified, I thought. I tried to discuss my bendy pelvis and the pain, got some response but no definite idea as to whether she would be referring me to a physiotherapist. Two minutes into the appointment - answering all the same questions I’ve already answered at every previous brush with the medical profession since getting knocked up - a toad-like man entered the room. He didn’t introduce himself, but from the dynamic in the room I guessed he was a senior consultant.
Suddenly he’s all over my notes. He quizzes me about how my hydrocephalus was treated. He doesn’t listen to the answers. He repeats back what I’ve told him, but with key details muddled. He tells me that I must be mistaken about aspects of my previous treatment. Up until I nearly shouted at him, he was convinced that I’d had a check up on my shunt at seven and 12 weeks pregnant. No! I said it again for the third time - I was seven and 12 YEARS OLD. I’ve been completely discharged for the last 18 years. I do not need my shunt any more - it is redundant hardware. There was no getting through to him.
I laid on the couch and the woman ran the Doppler over Sprout - he’s still in there, heart beating, limbs flailing. The toad came back, what kind of editor am I, he asked. I explained about doing PR for evil software corp. He asked what was in the news recently. I said, well, today, evil corp has lost its appeal in the EC Court of First Instance. He tried to look knowledgeable and failed. Later I wondered if he was testing to see if I am mentally deficient.
The last painful minutes of the appointment, which had dragged on quite long enough, were spent with him dictating a letter to my GP requesting that in light of my hydrocephalus I be treated normally. He kept rewinding the Dictaphone, replaying a sentence and then deciding to tape over it. I learnt that I am to be allowed a normal second stage and that the use of instruments will only be considered after two hours, in other words a normal delivery. So much for birth plans, my right to choose and so forth.
I came out nearly weeping in rage. The one thing I need help with - my fucked-up pelvis - was ignored. Everything I told him was ignored. I was patronized and talked over. And now I have to make yet another appointment with my doctor to request the treatment that I was denied at this appointment. Jesus Fucking Christ. I love the NHS, I defend it to the hilt every time I get stuck in one of those conversations with moaners - it offers excellent free-at-the-point-of-delivery services to everyone who needs them. The treatment I have received has saved my life more than once. Yes you have to wait, yes, some drugs aren’t available...etc the fact remains though that 90 per cent of the service is excellent. St Thomas’s Hospital seems wonderful... That said, it only takes one idiot, arrogant consultant who has no real clue about medicine outside his specialism and clearly lacks listening skills to push me over the edge. Just remembering the whole sorry incident has reduced me to impotent raging tears all over again - why, why, why didn’t I stand my ground better at the time? I swear, I’m never going to mention hydrocephalus on any form ever again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ooay
Which is to say, still, wooyay, but ugh I’m knackered. It is, as we feared, hard to have TA working (long, long hours) on a fantastic, high-profile film project and balance the needs of the pupster and me. After some push back from the lovely HR department, I’ve managed to change my schedule to a more flexible work-from-home arrangement, meaning that the pup is only home alone for half the day. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but better than all the alternatives.
TA and I get up - I prepare his lunch, he walks the pup; we try to get out of the door within an hour. I rush in to be here at 8am (kissing TA goodbye on the bus) I rush home at 12 to be with the pup. I log back on to work, but spend an hour feeding myself and pup, doing dishes and giving him a cuddle before starting work again at 2pm. At 6pm I log off, if I can, and run to the park with Skye, prepare dinner and get groceries, if needed. TA gets home at 7.45pm, if we’re lucky. We eat. We stare at each other glassy eyed and try to summon the energy for watching a film or doing something with the evening, we fail. If the pup is lucky, TA takes him out for a quick stroll round the block. By 9pm we are in bed. The alarm goes off and it starts all over again.
Last weekend, which seems an aeon ago, TA worked both days and I did chores, preparing to the best of my ability for the week ahead by batch cooking and ensuring that the Sett was immaculate (fleetingly). I realise that this is how other people live all the time. My heart bleeds for TA who has no time to breathe let alone relax and I struggle to make it so that all he has to do outside of work is play with the pup. But I have been spoilt by the last few years of having him at home full time and am unused to having to get groceries, do all the chores and cook every day as well as work, and now I am at the cusp of the third trimester I’d like to be slowing down, not speeding up.
We are surviving on adrenaline and the excitement of being - for one last hurrah - dual income and no kids, but not extravagantly: we are paying off loans and clearing credit cards. Even if TA’s sudden promotion to the well-paid world of post-production doesn’t last we will face 2008 in a much better financial position than we started 2007.
In other news, Sprout is a boy! We had our final scan at the end of last week and he is very much a boy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

wooyay
Which is my rubbishy way of annotating woo to the power of yay in a headline format because my HTML skills in no way allow me to figure out a superscript option. But still, woo, yay.
TA got the gig! He starts on Friday, yes, the day after tomorrow. He will, pro rata, be earning much more than me. This should be a woo-yay thing, but somehow I resent it. "Come back after a year and a half of full-time work and we'll talk!" I think to myself. But also, I think: shoes, clothes, food, the living is easy, holiday! And have to be talked off the consumerism ledge gently and reminded of sensible things like surviving during my maternity leave and the fickle nature of post-production houses' employment policies.
And what about the pupster! This is not a woo-yay thing for him. I'm going to have to be very cunning to swing a work from home schedule that will allow me to spend a part of each day with him - it may be a case of blaming Sprout. Also, I will probably have to modify my chore-delegating behaviour, not that TA ever paid too much attention to the list of chores to be done, but still.
However, the fact remains: woo x yay. And here's a picture to celebrate:

Friday, August 31, 2007

hodge, meet podge
First off, cross your fingers, toes, arms, legs and anything else you've got - TA has an exciting interview today for a short-term contract doing really cool stuff for a high-profile project. There's money in it too. Obviously, getting this job would be good news.
Second, I owe you a Sprouticus update!
I had a midwife appointment yesterday. "Have you felt the baby kick yet?" she asked. "Yes, emphatically. All day and all night," I replied. She raised an eyebrow at me in disbelief and suggested I hop up on to the gurney so that we could hear the baby's heartbeat. Sprout didn't let me down, as soon as I was horizontal he started doing lengths with his special, patent-pending "kick mum coming and going backflip end change" move. My belly heaved and roiled like a very heavy sea in a force-10 gail. "Oh, that was a kick!" she exclaimed in shock. I nodded, satisfied that I had been vindicated. Sprout kept it up the whole time she was moving the doppler thing across my ever-expanding belly so that she could only get a fix on the heartbeat for a few moments before losing it again.
Next up we had the blood test results. "Didn't the consultant go through these with you?" she asked in disbelief. I bit my tongue about the broom cupboard and wee-spilling ineptitude and simply shook my head. "Hmm," she flicked through the forms. "You don't have Syphalis. HIV... negative. Hepatitis... negative. And your iron levels are great."
"Er, well that's good news. I don't have syphalis." I tried to attempt a joke even though I was shocked by her casual delivery of what could have been really bad news. Then the real oddity occurred to me. I reeled. "But, I got a prescription from the clinic for iron tablets - they rang me and said I was anaemic!" She shook her head, "Don't take them - they give you constipation."
"TOO LATE, three a day for a month - I've finished the prescription! I KNOW they cause constipation!"
There's more to tell - I really should regale you with stories of the thrills and spills of an Iggles holiday, let you know about our adventures at the hospital during the tour of the maternity facilities - but it's lunch time and I'm hungry.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

clotted cream, family tension, small people, dog vomit and much, much more
I’ve been on my annual summer pilgrimage to the Iggly Wiggly. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the events of the last two weeks, which embraced the many and varied delights of tourism on the cheap, a dead badger, family, friends, a naming ceremony, a late-night train journey home with a child who insisted on tormenting our dog and culminated in a mercy dash to the vet’s as the pupster was shitting blood.
I need a holiday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

farenheit 451
This pregnancy and parenthood lark, it’s a puzzler. I’m all for reading what my health visitor friend referred to as evidence-based information. For example, I can’t get enough of the BBC pregnancy calendar (this week Sprout is about 20cm long, and weighs 300g) and I frequently return to the lovely Pregnancy book handed out by the NHS (seemingly every pregnant woman resembles the Greenham Common protesters: all 80s hair, dungarees and a whiff of communism). However, when it comes to instructions on how to do anything other than the basics I just do not want to know. Fine, tell me how to change a nappy - that said, I am still a bit woolly about the folding-and-pinning-the-thing-on process, but I figure I’ll work it out and anyway if I’m taking care of feeding, shouldn’t TA deal with all the downstream business? - but don’t try to tell me about routines I should get into, the Baby Einstein products I should be buying or the best methods of childrearing.
My (childless) aunt brought things to a head with her rather scattergun interrogation over lunch at the weekend. Will I have an amniocentesis, she demanded. Answer: no, I don’t need one since the 12-week scan said that I had the same level of risk of having a Down’s baby as a 15-year-old. Then she wanted to know what books I was reading to prepare. None, I rather rebelliously stated. The health visitor friend, who happens to live next door to Aunt, it’s a long story, and who was in attendance looked pleased. Don’t read “xxx” (I can’t even remember what it was called… “The Contented Baby”, thanks Amazon!) it’ll only make you feel as though you are doing everything wrong. Of course, the next subject was breastfeeding. Horrifyingly, Aunt’s scrofulous partner, the Rat, held forth on some time about how his wife had experienced difficulties and was told by Mother Russia (Aunt and the Rat worked at the World Service) to restrict baby to ten minutes per nipple. Health visitor could be observed biting her tongue, it is possible she drew blood.
This is my thinking on the subject, and feel free to laugh like a drain if you know better and foresee months during which my naiveté comes back to bite me firmly and relentlessly on the arse, women have been having and feeding babies for millennia - surely there has to be some instinct or basic survival mechanism involved? I want to breastfeed Sprout. I think all told it will be easier and cheaper than all the hullabaloo with formula and bottles, not to mention better for my waistband and Sprout’s overall health. I want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. I’m boycotting Mothercare, for example, having seen that they claim a £130 "kit" is essential for breastfeeding. I’m tempted to boycott as many of the medical appointments as possible - given that "my" obs was clueless and "my" midwife about as warm and alert to the proceedings as a recently buried corpse. In the back of my mind I cherish a hope that a couple of days of backache and twinges will be followed by a delivery so swift and easy that TA and I end up jumping on a bus to take the new arrival to be Apgar’d after the event. I know, I know - I’m going to have my illusions cruelly torn away during hours of pain during which I beg for an epidural of crack cocaine. But it does happen like that sometimes: my colleague has just had her first child and her labour lasted 20 minutes, albeit she was in hospital at the time.
There will be many things, I know, that I will have to go along with: the crib (which we already have), the sling, the pushchair (we have) etc, but I’m going to draw a line and say no to the essential breastfeeding kit, the baby bath (what’s wrong with a washing-up bowl?), the this and the that - all the 21st century consumer nonsense that gets foisted upon us. And no sodding instruction manual books either. Sprout can like or lump our best efforts; I’m pretty sure if we’re doing it wrong Sprout will find a way to let us know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

spam novella
The more I think on it, the more I'm convinced someone's sending me a story in installments. Today:
Published by Bokbooks: a hypnotic bodice ripper.
Serena, "My boyfriend's shaft is too big for my mouth..."
Sophie, "Be confident and stand tall."
Odd plot device: Alaskan marzipan
Serena, "Remember me?"
Justin, Serena's well-endowed boyfriend, "Don't be left out, join millions of men in the revolution."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

imbibed with mother's milk
Having grown up as a resolutely black sheep and ugly duckling, my thoughts continue to travel down the same road. What does it mean to be a good mother and to what degree can I help inoculate* my child with gloriousness? My mind conjures a daughter because that’s what I know best - a Maggie Tulliver, dark-eyed, rosy-cheeked, willful little spark of wild being. But, of course, the children of our imaginations are not real; they are tenacious wisps of wistful wish fulfillment. I’m aware of the pitfalls of this kind of thinking - the danger that Sprout will be second best, always fail to live up to my great expectations and be aware of it. And, as well, there’s the bitter tang of exploitation about the whole endeavour. Why aren’t I a Maggie Tulliver or even, better, a George Eliot-Tori Amos-Jeanette Winterson-Virginia Woolf-Regina Spektor genius of womankind, with better skin and hair, more vibrant, magnetic and dangerous to hold than the rather ordinary woman I grew up to be? Too easy to blame the parents whose passions lie in different fields for starving me of the start in life I needed and ignore my own responsibility for settling for mediocrity and safety in the crowd.
There’s a finer-than-a-hair line between opening doors and correcting the perceived flaws of one’s own upbringing (not enough of the ‘right’ books, not enough guidance about education, literature, music, theatre, too much new-age hocus pocus) and overbearing, burdening. This child is not a mini-me, I can’t hope to produce a better version of myself, nor should I want to.
Who is to say what the twin wonders of genetics and nutrition are creating in utero? In five months we’ll be presented with a little stranger that proximity and, presumably, a passing resemblance have fooled us into thinking we know better than ourselves. I think pregnancy is nature’s way of conning us into a lifelong commitment to cherish and nurture a cuckoo - the idea that something made from our bodies should be a part of us is hard to escape, perhaps particularly given my adoptive background. I’ve signed up to this and I’m not regretting the decision, I’m just trying to remember that the cuckoo has its own needs and desires that may bear no relation to my experience of living, despite our blood tie. To be a good mother is to meet those cuckoo needs, rather than the needs that I (or TA) had when we were confined to the nest.
Perhaps it would be best if Sprout turns out to be a boy, I suspect that TA is less conflicted about being a good father to a son than I am about being a good mother to a daughter.

*Inoculate? I was thinking of "inculate" - christ, I hope my child has a better vocabulary.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

what do you choose to give?
Recognising that everyone self creates, self mutates and chooses for themselves who to be and what to take from the rich world to hold precious in the heart; what would you give to the next generation? TA and I, obviously, bring different gifts to the party. His is the CD of Mozart playing through headphones, his are the plans to take Sprout through all the wealth of empire collected in London's museums. Me, I am ever so slightly more circumspect. I am eyeing parks for walks and planning expeditions to the countryside, thinking that the DNA of Englishness is written in chalk down, dale, copse, sea and flint. I am thinking of bedtimes and poems to be read; but most of all I am trying to laugh often and immoderately, trying to fill my heart with exhilaration so that Sprout is bathed in endorphins and believes that a happy world awaits. But still, I’m looking forward to sharing all the stories, poems and songs - a mother tongue.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

the return of the king
The conquering hero returned! After a last-minute e-mail enquiring as to our availability, ex-housemate C was in the house last night. Oh, it was wonderful. We gave him the tour (this is the airing cupboard, this is our dog, here is the bathroom, here is the porcelain badger plate...) and fed him a roast beef dinner. And we talked and talked and talked - about the fame academy house, about Texas, about everything that has happened to all of us in the last two years. Sitting on the sofa I pointed out TA’s feet to ex-housemate C - "look, he’s wearing the socks you got us for Christmas, the Return of the King socks!" It was as if he’d never been away. And then, after apple pie and ice cream, TA walked ex-housemate C to the bus stop and waved goodbye.
Lying in bed I was all smiles. I hadn’t realised how much I missed ex-housemate C, I explained to TA. Wasn’t that a lovely evening? Wasn’t it brilliant to see him again? This morning, for the first time in weeks, TA, the pup and I walked into work together. We talked of TA’s concerns about a freelance job he might do, the sunshine, the pup, how long his computer is likely to hold up with the new motherboard and, of course, how good it was to see ex-housemate C again.
He’ll have left London by tomorrow morning and perhaps by the time he stops by again we’ll have moved to Australia. Who knows the next time our paths will cross. I miss him.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

six
A bit difficult, contrary even. Full of new-found independence, but still clingy at times. Fully formed, with likes, dislikes, passions and secrets. An age I've never warmed to in girls, too close to the terrible sevens. Boys still lack that social skill that makes them aware that others might be watching them. Relationships seem to be somewhat similar.
If I could turn back time to change the course of events I wouldn't. Happy anniversary of that magic date, my beloved.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

sauce
The books warned me about vivid pregnancy dreams; one even hinted that they might be racy. Even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for threesomes in a health club with champagne flowing. Actually, fate, if you’re listening - I’d like to let you know that I’m always prepared for threesomes in a setting that involves a beautiful woman, champagne, soft lighting, warm water and lots of fluffy white towels. Also, I think TA could be persuaded too.
Still, expected or not, I woke up with a smile and then some sadness - come back sleep, come back sauce. The pupster curled up on my pillow and nuzzled into me. As nice as this was, it wasn't a patch on what my imagination had created earlier.

Monday, July 23, 2007

things fall apart
After three years of making suspicious whirring noises and never quite being as cool as you’d expect a machine with an ultra-cool system to be, TA’s custom-built whizz-bang PC has gone bang and will no longer whizz. TA is mourning it like a lost limb and wondering how the hell we are going to afford a new one.
Judging from the bereft phone call, he’s currently crying in a corner (possibly under his desk) feeling all the mixed emotions that go to make up grief: denial, anger, guilt, bone-crushing sadness. So far I have merely gritted my teeth, girded my loins and done a few web searches to gauge the level of financial pain this is going to engender. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
I’m trying to reassure TA – all his files are backed up on an external drive, he wanted a new machine anyway – but, frankly, we could have done without this setback. The pips at the bottom of my wallet were already squeaking at being squeezed so hard, I think they’re going to be pulverised by this turn of events.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

aka sprout
My brother asked in an e-mail (he writes maybe three times a year) if we were going to refer to sprout as increasingly large vegetables. I replied no, but it did get me thinking. TA suggested "turnip" for sprout's current girth.
We've been batting suggestions for a name back and forth. It was like this when we decided to get a puppy, this never quite agreeing, then TA would make a suggestion and I'd say "what about Deefer?". TA: "What about Max?" Me: "What about Bobbins. Bobbins the dog." TA: "No, no. I like Max." Me: "What about Deefer? What's wrong with Deefer?"
Now we lie in bed and discuss it with great earnestness.
TA: What about Ulysses?
Me: What's wrong with Tobias? I like Tobias, you used to like Tobias. Hmmm. I like Vita.
TA: Yuli for short.
Me: Yuli's a name on it's own. I think we should wait until we know, you know, which way it's going to pee.
TA: Maybe. What's the name of the one with the owl?
Me: Athena?
TA: Yep, what about Athena. Athena Vita?
Me: I think that's too many "ah" sounds. I like Athena though.
TA: Yeah, Athena.
Me: What about Vita. I like Vita. Vita Athene?
And so it goes on. On and on. I'll tell you one thing though - I like Vita. And Deefer. Deefer's the best name for a dog; not a daughter though, obviously, Deefer Daughter would just be cruel.

Monday, July 16, 2007

back in the saddle, sorta
Do you remember back in the day when I was all fired up about making massive life changes? Quitting my job, moving to Wales, building an earthship, breeding chickens and practising permaculture... I had big dreams. Somehow they shrivelled, didn’t they? Money worries. Practicalities. Other aspects of my personality. The necessity of compromise to maintain a happy and successful marriage. Fear of failure.
The dreams are back, which means that the frustration is edging in too. I’m writing, I’m quilting, growing a little person and nesting, but where is the garden? Where is the rural bliss? Now is the summer of my discontent: work is quiet and I have little else to think of. Oh, and those money worries, the crippling weight of responsibilities and all the other doubts and fears? They’re still with me in spades too. No wonder I’m feeling tired, trapped and resentful.
In other news, I’ve given TA the gift of my cold/fever. At least I think he might have got his illness from me, my only puzzlement is how it went from a nasty cold to plague in one transmission, particularly since he has only the cold to contend with (no anaemia, pregnancy, iron tablets or sickness).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

pumping iron
I'm not happy. I've got a cold with a fever and the bloodsucking sprout has given me anaemia. I was quite pleased when I found out because I innocently thought that if the anaemia was treated I'd feel a lot less tired. Ha! How little I knew. Iron tablets. Three of the little fuckers a day. To be taken on an empty stomach. And suddenly the retching and vomiting has made a return. It's been three days now and, honestly, I'm tempted to cut back to one tablet a day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

yesterday in parliament
As past-it 30-somethings, TA and I enjoy listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 in the mornings. Humphreys and co burble along while I try to muster the enthusiasm and energy to leave the house. Conveniently, I know that if I accidently hear Thought for the Day I’ve stayed too long.
This morning I was eating yoghurt and TA was looking in the fridge for some butter while Ed Balls’s maiden speech to the house in his new ministerial role was being discussed. They cut to a sound bite, "Every child should be able read, write and masturbate an ass." My jaw dropped, TA looked up at me dumbfounded, we laughed and then I said, "I think he meant every child should be able to master basic maths."
Mr Balls, a policy wonk of outstanding ability you may be, but I think you need to work on your delivery.

Monday, July 09, 2007

taking the piss in baggy trousers
I’ve seen the future; it’s a pair of expanding-waistband trousers. Thank god for e-bay and women selling all their expensively bought, hardly used maternity clothes for next to nothing. I’ve now got more pairs of maternity jeans than I have ever had normal jeans and I love them, love them. Maternity clothes are fantastic: so comfy, so extensible. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to normal clothes again.
I also love my little red funnel. I carry it with me everywhere these days as I never know when I’ll be required to produce a sample. The funnel takes all the anxiety and mess out of the sample-taking process - no more drips, no more tears of frustration, no more wet hands. Of course, one still has to be able to pee on demand, but I take the pupster as my inspiration - lots of little drinks results in the ability to do lots of little wees.
I’m officially one-third of the way through sprout’s gestation. This morning I had my first appointment with an obstetrician, not "my" obs though, a spare they had knocking about. He ushered me through a door marked "not in use" and apologised for taking me to what appeared to be a broom cupboard, saying that they were fully booked.
I sat staring at an unplugged screen while he muttered and mumbled his way through my notes.
"No chance of seeing my most recent blood results on screen, then?"
"Er, no."
He took my sample pot and, while testing the contents, managed to drip my wee on to the floor (luckily he missed his feet).
"Ah! Beautiful!" He said while gazing at a strip of mustard spots on the testing strip.
He stepped over the puddle to wash his hands at the basin and spilt water when the tap gushed unexpectedly. He then bent down and cleaned up the water - but left the spilt wee.
I won’t be seeing him again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

sprout comes second
We’ve been upstaged! TA is one of five and the second youngest, but we were smug: we were providing the first grandchild. We were wrong. One of TA’s sisters, not the one we used to share a house with, is pregnant, two weeks more pregnant than me. As we all know, when it comes to being a grandparent, a child in the same country is worth a multitude of overseas kiddies. Bah! Poor sprout, starting life in second place. But, looking on the bright side, how cool to have a cousin.
Actually, TA’s siblings are a bit like the Spice girls in that they come in lots of different flavours: mad sib, engineer sib (boy), sporty/navy sib and drama sib. It’s sporty/navy sib that’s having the sprog. I spent a few minutes pondering what kind of cousin will result from the couple whose interests include: fixing helicopters, running marathons, competing in iron man/woman competitions, sailing races, triathlons... At least if we somehow spawn a sporty sprout (shudder) rather than a bookish, artistic, creative type he or she will be able to run over(!) to the uncle and aunt’s house, once we move to Oz at least (not even the sportiest sporty person could swim, run to Australia).
Many thanks for your kind reassurances about the lard. Sadly I've spent the last few days clearing my wardrobe of all the clothes that no longer fit and trawling ebay for bundles of expanding waistband clothes. I think I'm all set now, apart from disposable knickers and nursing bras - what have I let myself in for?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

let her eat cake?
It's odd. The whole thing is very strange to me. TA has responded to my pregnancy, the gift of a special maternity recipe book and my inability to face cooking with compulsive baking. So far, we've had two mammoth carrot cakes, a batch of chocolate brownies and poached pears with chocolate sauce. Plans are apparently afoot to make flapjacks. He hasn't bothered to explore any of the book's savory recipes.
Meanwhile, even without TA’s help, I've reconnected with carbs. Guilt-free carbs have been absent from my life for five years now. In the frantic nine-week period when we decided we were getting married, I divorced myself from carbs in an attempt to be the fairytale size ten in time for the big day. I achieved it too, dropping to less than nine-and-a-half stone and looking rather skeletal in the process (I'm 6ft tall for goodness sake - I'm not supposed to weigh that little). Since then my weight has gone up and down and my diet (as in the foods I eat, not a weight-loss regime) has changed considerably - she who marries Australian, eats Australian - but my carb phobia has remained.
Now I eat carbs and, unsurprisingly given my condition, I'm gaining weight. It's difficult to work out where one cause ends and the other begins though. I'm definitely getting all-over fatter, which has me a bit miserable and TA (who describes himself as fat phobic) a bit itchy. I was flicking through Emma’s Diary last night as the end of the first trimester looms and I wanted to reacquaint myself with what's meant to happen next. Inevitably, interleaved with all the useful information, every other page was an advert for some must-have pregnancy consumer good. At least half the adverts were for strangely glamorous maternity wear modelled by annoyingly skinny ladies.
Me: "Look at that! It’s all well and good for normal clothes to be modelled by skinny women, but surely they should have the decency to have podgy ladies model maternity wear."
TA: "I dunno, I’ve seen a lot of skinny pregnant women around recently."
Me: "Shut it! I’m going to be an obese pregnant lady, I just know it."
TA: *groan*
Me: "Well stop baking me cakes!"
You’d think the pressure would lessen, but actually I'm feeling it more and more. I’m pretty much hungry all the time. I try to eat almost all healthy food, but the sheer amount I’m getting through - five pieces of fruit a day, chewy nut bars, breakfast, lunch, dinner and pudding - means that I’m still heading for an appointment with a film crew for a "winching the fat lady out of her house through the window with a crane" documentary.
My mother’s advice? Eat celery. Bitch. I came very close to shouting "What do you know, you’ve never even been pregnant!" to her. I refrained, just.
I would write more but I’m ravenous and I need to secure myself a pre-lunch snack before I start retching with hunger.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a stitch in time
Patchwork. For me, it’s right up there with weaving as an archetypal female act of creativity, something I blame Alice Walker for. Ironic then, given that Ms Walker turned out not to be such a role model for her own daughter, that I’m preparing for motherhood by making my first quilt. It’s monotonous, pernickety work to stitch a quilt by hand, but I find myself drawn to it.
While I patch my thoughts turn to Sprout and I have little chats with the fast-growing interloper: helloooo baby! I’m going to try to be a good mother. I’m really sorry that we don’t have a nursery for you, but I hope you know you’re loved. I try to put into coherent words the idea of who TA and I are or were before Sprout came into our lives. I have little daydreams about what it’ll be like to have Sprout on the outside; some of them look like nightmares.
I write mental lists of things to ask TA to fix before January - rip up the remaining carpet, install laminate, build floor-to-ceiling shelving and cupboards in the living room, switch round a couple of the kitchen units so that we can fit a full-size fridge-freezer in (even though TA has already told me this is beyond his DIY skills)...he looked alarmed beyond belief when I told him why I wanted to upgrade to a bigger freezer. We’ll need to start freezing breast milk so that you can feed Sprout if I’m not here, I explained. TA looked rather milky at the thought.
The quilt is growing very slowly, in fact I’m less than one-twelfth done, but I’m sure I’ll get it finished before the big arrival. With every stitch I’m sewing my hopes and perhaps growing a little bit into the role of mum. I hope I’m ready in time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

look, no hands
For a reformed bulimic I sure am throwing up a lot. Having survived the three-week onslaught of morning sickness, on Friday I accidentally made like the Queen Mother and choked on a fish bone. I’ve always thought that was a bit of a joke, but no it’s actually quite scary. At first it just tickled and then the tickling started to sort of prickle and then the vomiting started. Ah, I thought, that will have cleared it - I poked around in the still-recognisable fish, bread and peas, but there was no sign of the bone and the tickle was back.
More choking and a rising sense of panic, but no matter because TA - my hero - rode to the rescue. "Swallow a bread ball," he said. Now, not one to do things by halves, I rolled myself a bread cannon ball and sure enough it worked!
I’ve learnt my lesson now - no more carelessly munching through unfilleted fish with a devilish abandon. I wonder why no one ever told HRH about the bread roll trick.

Friday, June 22, 2007

to be filed under: who knew?
This just in from the BBC's excellent, if frequently deeply disturbing, pregnancy calendar:
The foetus can now urinate and the urine is discharged into the amniotic fluid.
Just wait until Sprout comes out - then I'll have my revenge.
In other news, tonight TA and I are bussing across London to pick up a small, second-hand "antique stain style" cot. Woo! I love me some Freecycle action. If you see two people struggling on a rush-hour bus with a not-so-small-after-all cot, please lend us a hand.
This morning lying in bed, while I was in denial that I that today was a work day and I should have got up an hour ago, TA cuddled me and said, "I am glad you're pregnant." And for a moment the world melted and went all fuzzy; that said, I started sobbing last night at the sadness of Radio 4's news, so perhaps this was just yet another example of the terrors of preghead.
Finally, yesterday's entry was supposed to be funny. Apologies it it appeared that I'd lost not only the plot but also the programme and was busy hunting for stale popcorn at the back of the seat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A: er, um...
I'm learning that people lose all sense of propriety when faced with an up-the-duff woman. I'm not a hugger or a sharer in the workplace; I'm friendly but not intimate with my co-workers. That has been no bar to certain individuals and I find myself tormented by the subtext of their comments and questions.
Q: How far along are you?
Trans: When did you have sex then?
Q: Was it planned?
Trans: Been using contraception have we?
Q: Is TA pleased?
Trans: [where do I start] Did you trick him into it then? Is it his? Will he be sticking by you?
Q: Have you started shopping yet?
Trans: Wait a minute, you two are poor as church mice aren't you, how are you going to afford this?
Q: When will you be moving?
Trans: That hovel you live in isn't fit for small human habitation.
Q: When are you coming back to work?
Trans: Are you a lucky slacker or a Daily Mail-baiting irresponsible mother?
You'll be a great mother.
Trans: I have no idea what kind of mother you'll be, but I don't know what to say next after only now realising that I've just interrogated you.
The worst thing is - I think I've done the same to other women in the past. I'm dreading people wanting to touch up my belly - ugh!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

nine and a half weeks
Well, what a relief! I’m not being or feeling sick anymore and the tiredness has become much more manageable. Phew - even for me, going to bed at 7pm seemed a bit early. On the downside, I’m beginning to be a bit on the tubby side and my feet have a tendency to swell up - it’s only going to get worse, isn’t it?
Yesterday I scored a series of complete blinders - I managed to win some Converse All Stars shoes (now all I need is a long stripy scarf) by filling in a survey at work, was rewarded for long service with 50 dollars, finally managed to persuade my manager to buy me Adobe Creative Suite 3, got a book from Amazon courtesy of same manager to thank me for my long service AND picked up 20 prefold cloth nappies for free via Freecycle. On the way home from Brixton on the bus I realised that the park opposite the Sett reached all the way to Camberwell, something I had previously been dimly aware of but had never explored. I hopped off the bus and set off, hoping that the signposts wouldn’t run out before I had reached a part of the - evidently enormous - park I recognised. They did run out, but I guesstimated right for once and made it home halfway through Front Row, much quicker than the TFL journey planner had predicted.
To top off the day of unexpected pleasures, TA had made me a lovely dinner and we spent a great evening eating, chatting and playing with the pupster.

Friday, June 08, 2007

ch-ch-ch-changes...
Don’t want to be a fatter woman
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(turn and face the strain)
Ch-ch-changes
Just gonna have to be a pregnant woman
Time will change me
As I can’t turn back time
As Bowie might have sung if he’d got himself in my condition. Christ, it’s bloody hard work and it’s only just begun.
In addition to all the physical changes, there are the unexpected changes to my priorities. I’m quilting at weekends (finally got my hands on a few of TA’s shirts) and keeping a special journal for the sprout to read in many, many years’ time. I’m scouring freecycle for baby goodies. I somewhat impulsively bought double glazing for the Sett on a Sunday afternoon (don’t want the Sprout getting a cold from a draft on a cold January morning). However, my most stupid moment came when I nipped into a tourist shop to buy a toy westie puppy with an ickle tartan coat. So sweet! Unfortunately Sprout won’t be able to play with this puppy – named Cloud by TA – for three years, due to choking hazard.
I blame it all on preg head...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

let's get physical
This morning I don't feel too bad, for once. The last week has been ghastly - queasiness morning, noon and night and sometimes actually retching - poor TA has had to bully me in to eating. On the upside, my cups continue to runneth over and my cleavage would make Dolly Parton blush.
The hospital visit started, obviously, with a trip to the loo. I was pleased that my innovation served me well. These days I don't leave home without my funnel - I refuse to fear the wee pot.
I had been glugging water all morning in preparation for the ultrasound only to be told in passing that since the scan was internal there was no need. I hadn't realised there was such a thing as an internal ultrasound, but I suppose I'm just going to have to get used to medical personnel having their wicked way with me.
Despite TA being forced to observe his wife having what appeared to be a narrow sex toy covered in lube inserted by a sexy nurse (I told him he should have watched the L Word), the scan went well and the nice sonographer told us that I was six-and-a-half-weeks pregnant by length of sprout. All looks well, sprout is happily eating yolk in the egg sack.

Monday, May 21, 2007

sprout
The UB has a new dramatis personae. Meet Sprout. Sprout, at eight weeks old, is about the size of a cherry tomato, but growing fast. Sprout is the reason a nurse was giving me an internal exam yesterday and Sprout made me throw up this morning. Honestly, it's a bit of a love-hate relationship at the moment.
I'm having an ultrasound tomorrow at St Thomas's. I already love St Thomas's - there is something amazing about having a 24/7 emergency walk-in gynacology unit a short bus ride from home. After blood and the obligatory wee tests, the nice nurses told me that my progesterone levels are good and that I shouldn't be overly concerned. I guess after tomorrow it will be official.

Monday, May 14, 2007

gang aft a-gley
Things are tickety boo. My cups runneth over. I'm hungry a lot; I eat a lot. I'm tired and sleepy, but happy. A bit freaked out, but we'll make it work somehow. I'm taking excellent care of myself. I'll tell you more when it's official.

Friday, March 30, 2007

abdicating
Elizabeth declined our meeting at the last moment and nominated a replacement. I shall meet the replacement on Monday.
With so much writing to get done and so much going on I think I'm going to let the UB hibernate for a little while. As I said to TA, I think somethings need to happen behind a curtain.
My subconscious would seem to agree - for the last two nights I've had anxiety dreams about, well, performing calls of nature in public. Deeply disturbing, although TA found them very funny indeed when I related the details.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

novel assignations
I received a call on my mobile yesterday evening just as I was thinking about leaving the office. As soon as I heard the woman’s hesitating and polite enquiry I knew what was coming. I confirmed that I still wanted counselling (despite being sorely tempted to decline). She sounded more cheerful as she informed me that there was an open appointment on Thursday at 11.30. I let her know that I could attend it and waited for her to confirm the booking.
“So, that’s 11.30am on Thursday…” a long pause “with Elizabeth.”
“Great. Thanks.”
I left the office with a heavy heart, but put my anxieties to the back of my mind and prepared to spend a lovely evening with a dear friend I don’t see nearly enough of. Some things sound like a fantastic idea when dishes of tapas are on the table and conversation is flowing. “How about we buddy up?” she said.
Intoxicated with the pleasure of fine food and even finer friendship, I agreed with an excited smile on my face. Of course, in the cold light of day, deadlines and word counts don’t sound quite so enticing, but I think accountability is a good thing and I am excited at the prospect of writing fiction again. It’s a scary commitment though: 500-1000 words a week to be delivered on Monday and 500-1000 words read, commented on and returned by Friday. It’ll be like being at school again!
As of Thursday, I’ll probably be keeping a therapy journal too. TA has to keep two – one that Elizabeth can read and one that’s just for him. Discussing this new imposition with my friend last night, I opined that I should just give her directions to the UB and let her do her homework!
Seriously though, where does one begin with the explanations?

Monday, March 26, 2007

pure poetry
I call my dad on Sunday morning and apprise him of my plans for the day. He’s doing okay. He drove my mum to the airport and, on the way back, had fish and chips – I take this as a good sign (as the day before he wasn’t eating anything) and bite my tongue about him supposed to be on a diet. I’m off to Beckton to see a friend and won’t be home until the evening. Beckton is at the deepest darkest end of the DLR and twinned with Tartarus, I explain. “Are you going to market today?” he asks. “No, we’re going to Beckton to play TA’s game with the German Goths in Beckton,” I say.
I return home to find two missed calls on my mobile. My father has been calling. Its late, but in a blind panic I call home.
Me: Are you okay?
Dad: Oh, hello.
Me: I missed your calls.
Dad: Were you at market?
Me: No, we went to Beckton.
Dad: Oh, yes.
Me: What’s wrong?
Dad: Um, I wanted to e-mail my friend a poem and I remember mum saying it had to be a JPEG or it would be too big.
Me: It’s a scan?
Dad: Yes.
Me: What file type?
Dad: I think it was a psd. Wait a minute I’ll go in the loft [to the computer] and look.
Me: Are you sure? I didn’t think you had Photoshop? Is it a pdf – does the file have a red triangle with curly corners?
Dad: Yes.
Me: Okay. Have you checked the file size?
[Five minutes pass while we establish that it *is* a psd file and it’s tiny.]
Me: Does your friend have Photoshop?
Dad: I wouldn’t think so, no.
[Ten minutes later we have managed to save the poem as a GIF]
Me: Right. Now all you have to do is attach the new file to your e-mail.
Dad: How do I do that?
Eventually I get off the phone. I ask TA in a tired voice, “Why the hell didn’t he just type the bloody thing?”

Saturday, March 24, 2007

all bets are off
I was in the midst of writing a defiantly cheerful post about how I was going to have a lovely weekend when I made the mistake of calling home.
Gordon Bennet! My mother leaves for a two-week safari in Kenya today. Last night my father woke up bathed in sweat and suffering from palpitations and chest pain. After consulting NHS Direct an ambulance was called. My father has dangerously high blood pressure – the latest theory is that his medication gave him indigestion. Apparently he feels fine now, but (despite the fact my brother lives on the Isle) I’m on Dad-watch duty until her return.
Perhaps you’ll remember his previous mishaps? Last time she went on holiday his entire leg went septic:



and he was bedridden for six weeks, indeed it’s never truly healed. The time before that he contracted dysentery-like symptoms and passed out when he was halfway up a ladder, giving himself a black eye in the process and, upon waking, found himself in a pool of diarrhoea. One year he tripped on a path in the garden and fractured his ankle.
I’m not sure how many more of her holidays he will survive.

Friday, March 23, 2007

tissues for issues
I get these totally useless brainwaves. For instance, if anybody out there is planning a Tears for Fears tribute band then I have the perfect name for you. But then, sadly, how often do you hear about Tears for Fears tribute bands?
As we’ve already covered, I’m officially mental, which might go some way to explain why I’m already rehearsing for my first – as yet unbooked – session with a counsellor. The thing is, where does one start? I’m too logical, I think. In fact I think far too much, which actually might be the root of the problem. The obvious questions keep popping into my mind. And, honestly, I started writing us a Q&A, but got too distressed to continue – I mean, it makes no sense! The questions and the answers don’t add up to a reasonable, believable explanation for my actions.
I know the questions, I know the answers and round and round I go. Sometimes the human being is not logical, rational or explicable. Honestly, there’s no real reason for my bonkersness. Sure, I can list things – abuse, illness, surgery, fostering, fears of more abuse, adoption, surgery the second, insanity in the family…then the everyday normal angst that we all have: family, school, career, body image, relationships – but they don’t really add up to much.
Is it wrong that TA and I are starting to get competitive? Is it possible to play poker with our unhappy family cards? I see your religious fundamentalism and raise you a new-age fruit bat.
And the thing that’s really playing on my mind is that we might well end up with the same therapist: the therapist that has already told TA that we’re not good for each other. Seriously, I only half mentioned not wanting to see her and the GP, with evil emperor Pope from Star Wars staring at me, agreed for a moment before the force took control of her.
Wait. Perhaps this is the therapist you are looking for?
Er, no?
But you both see me. She’s the senior therapist here.
The conversation lasted several minutes and I didn’t say what I was really thinking because I like the GP and want, to the best of my ability, to appear normal. So, I left the room having agreed that perhaps Elizabeth (obviously not her real name) could well be the therapist I’ve been waiting for. Great.
She’ll call or write, apparently. Can’t wait.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

bed shaped
Today I am working from bed. Yesterday we had our company's annual general meeting (complete with live video link up with offices around the world), never a good experience, and I had my appointment with the GP and Pope Benedict this morning so I was able to persuade my co-workers that working from home was the best option. The joys of wireless broadband.
It's official: I'm mad. Counselling will start soon.
However, no one should worry about me because, as my mother told me, "Jonathan Cainer in the Daily Mail (he's quite good, you know) says everything's going to be okay." Well, that's a relief isn't it? Almost as reassuring as the time she told me, after we'd had a blazing row and I was sobbing with incoherent rage, that my grandmother was sitting on the bed next to me and stroking my hair. My grandmother had been dead for several years at that point.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

give her a medal
TA kissed me at the glass doors – have a good day. He says it every day as he tries to make it seem as though I’m about to spend the next nine hours on pink fluffy clouds of happiness, but today his words were even more filled with devout hope. I smiled and said, well, it can’t be worse than the second year of middle school. Walking into the office I was comforted to see Skye resolutely glued to the pavement, unwilling to leave me with the lions.
So far, so good. I’ve made some apologies and kept my head down. It’ll blow over. The two people in the know are treating me as though I might break; presumably they have been shielding me from fallout. And to think I was considering sneaking in on Sunday and clearing my desk.
I rang the surgery to make an appointment and have two days to figure out exactly what I’m going to say to my devoutly Catholic GP to persuade her that while I’m in need of an urgent talking to I don’t need more drugs or to be sent to the lovely, quiet, white room for a tranquil holiday of indefinite length.
What a mess.
Meanwhile, here I sit in an inconspicuously long-sleeved jumper contemplating what on earth to do. Don’t worry, sweetheart, I was joking when I said I’d try pills next time. Note to self: don’t run away; face the demons; stop self-sabotaging and making excuses for fear. I’m tired just thinking about it – acceptance of failure is so much easier and it’s become comfortable too.
I was bunking off middle school when I got myself squished. What a rebel. I was so embarrassed and wanted to just slip back into school after two weeks away – please ignore my arm still strapped up, please let’s just forget this little mishap. As for punishing my bunking – why not? I might have got myself run over, but I was still bunking off; bring it on – I deserve it.
The headmaster read out my name in assembly and told everyone what I’d done. My cheeks burnt red with shame and embarrassment. At least he didn’t ask me to stand on the stage as he explained to everyone that I was being given a reward, a star, for my bravery. It was the star that stung – I knew I wasn’t brave; I knew I was stupid and selfish and had hurt those who loved me with my actions – I threw the certificate away and never looked at the stars I won honestly in the same way again.
Do you ever get the feeling that history is repeating itself?

crispy, crispy Benjamin Franklin
Do you ever feel deep fried? Is it really just me, surely not? I think I have – let’s face it, I know I have – an overactive imagination, but really. Crispy, burnt edges and an idea that lava might break out from under my skin at any moment: Peter Jackson’s Balrog has a lot to answer for.
I know I’m being good, or supposed to be, but I so nearly ran out today. I work on the third floor. The window looked inviting and I thought of myself as a seventies cop crashing through the sugar glass and falling poetically to the street (so what if they have crash mats when they do it on the telly) while my coworkers looked on dumbfounded and that wap-woppa-wap music slapped its strings in the background. And it was so crazy – the window overlooking the Savoy is picture perfect for that kind of caper, perhaps Bob Hoskins was at that very moment exiting from a Long Good Monday – that it took all my self-discipline not to make it happen.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

paint it red
A glass of red wine with a friend and a colleague on a Friday afternoon. Lovely. A second glass of red wine on a Friday afternoon with a friend and perhaps a proto-friend. A naughty, daring, silly thing to do. A third glass of ruby red wine. We had crossed a line. Three empty bottles on a small table. Three people sitting around a table when they should be at their desks. Rebels, but why?
The fourth bottle was empty. Staggering back to the office I fell over my chair to the amusement and disbelief of my sober colleagues. Career suicide?
It was still light as I caught the bus home, cradling a bottle of water and eating chocolate biscuits on the top deck.
You'd have to ask TA for an accurate account of the hours between six and midnight. He shouted at me, I think. I passed out in bed. He wasn't amused when he found me sharpening knives in the kitchen in the witching hour. "Are you hungry?" he asked, bemused.
Sitting on the sofa in a cold sweat I couldn't see an honourable way out. The past few years I've been a bull in a ring - I keep charging at the matador but all I get is wounded and tired. I can't escape the ring, but what if there was a way out?
Cold hatred, disgust. What a fuck up. Unless dog steroids and Prozac can kill, there weren't enough drugs in the house to obliterate the loathing thoughts so I took the last two ibuprofen and sat on the sofa with the two sharpened knives. Decline and Fall in my hands.
I have a small scar on the inside of my right wrist from a brush with a hedge - I hope people don't think I cut myself. Although of course now I have. Lengthways I remember TA telling me is the best way. Blunt knives scratch rather than cut. Long scratches, bruises really, just bruises. I'm not good at sharpening knives.
A day after being run over they moved me from one hospital to another. In the back of the ambulance the drip fell out and they couldn't get it back into my wrist - in the end my right arm was splinted and they moved up the arm to the inside of the elbow. I still remember how it hurt as they struggled to get the bloody drip in.
The serrated knife, the one I always use for preference, sliced bluntly and didn't hurt much. It took me a while to realise that this time I'd managed to make me bleed. Pleased and a bit surprised I watched the blood run down my arm. I already knew it still wasn't nearly enough to require no more thought and anyway it was so pretty. So red, bright - not heavy like the clotted sludge of a month's end - a liquid jewel.
I realised there was more blood than I had originally thought - it was soaking into TA's black sheepskin that I'd curled up under. What a waste. I took the blood into the kitchen and made patterns on my canvas. So pretty and still it wasn't stopping. Drip, drip, drop.
I padded into the bedroom. "Will you bandage my arm?" I asked.
A little trickle of blood ran into the bath as TA found his Australian army first aid kit. A pool collected as he placed an aloe patch over the half-inch of open wound and wrapped it in a bandage. Thankful and tired I was ready to sleep.
"Ambulance or A&E?"
Shame and guilt - really it's a tiny cut.
"Ambulance or A&E"
A walk to Guy's and then a taxi to St Thomas's.
Three minutes with a senior staff nurse called Lisa. No explanations needed, help offered and declined. Decline and fall, decline and fail.
I'll keep the bus ticket TA bought me as he brought me home, valid for travel until 3.18am on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning. Explanations, recriminations, apologies.
Today. Soaking my clothes and TA's fleece on cold water. Washing my rust from the draining board. I dreamt last night that my menstrual blood was everywhere - handprints on the walls and toilet cistern - but when I woke I wasn't bleeding.
TA says I have to stop running away. My mother says I have to learn to love myself. My boss says he’s there if I want to talk. I don’t want to talk. I’d like to run away but the fact that I’d be doing it on my legs defeats the purpose. I’d like to love myself better and yes write that blasted novel. I’d like to live and work on a farm close to the open sky and fields. I’d like to achieve something in this tiny stretch of time we call a life. I’d like to love my husband better, I’d like to paint my body with ink, I’d like to howl.
Can someone please open the gate for me? I don’t want to be in the ring anymore, but I can’t seem to find the right exit.

Friday, March 16, 2007

haraldskær woman
What a difference a day makes or, more strictly speaking, a night since that’s where the problem probably lies, so to speak. Moogie, caffeine, the office and sunshine – nothing has changed except that I feel as though I’ve been buried alive in a claggy, clayey peat bog. Perhaps it was the three large glasses of Rioja last night or staying up until 11pm that did it, but today I can barely summon the energy to continue breathing. This is doubly frustrating because attempting to bubble up through the mud is my desire to continue flogging yesterday’s Mari Lwyd of inspiration for all it is worth.
I’m reading volume one of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it even though I think I’m more interested in the Celtic mythos that preceded it and that of the Anglo Saxons that followed. Honestly, I don’t really know much about anything: my education’s been such a mismatched patchwork of historical and literary periods; and of the bits and bobs I have at one time or another learnt very little has escaped the daily tides of forgetfulness.
Somewhere in the mud of my brain are lodged the shipwrecks of secondary, tertiary and post-grad courses, not to mention the jetsam of current affairs. Today I found myself trawling the interweb for evidence of a shadowy recollection that Joanna Lumley has a trout of a sister who resents her – my google nets came up empty, nothing to show me that my memory held anything more than a wicked sister fairytale. Now I’m left wondering if I’m suffering from recovered memory syndrome or simply wishful thinking.
Of course, as a bored office worker, I trawl the interweb with the dedication of a commercial fisherman, although probably with more success. The treasures I find – haraldskær woman, for example – seem to only surface briefly before becoming submerged in the sucking and acidly sterile peat of my mind. Wikipaedia accidently gave me the answer – I need to turn my flotsam into ligan (or lagan), by tying it to a buoy so that I can find and retrieve it later.
Of course, in more ways than one, that’s what this is – a ligan of my life – an attempt to mark treasures for later recovery.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

haemapoetics
A day of counting blessings – I have my health, a puppy and husband who love me, a significant pay rise, the sunshine and a beautiful apartment.
Coffee is percolating its way into my bloodstream while the moogie is playing the best kind of music there is: moody, intricately syncopated piano that slips between the ribs like a serrated knife. I’m back in the office after a day and a half working from home and, actually, it feels good to be here.
The living room of the Sett has become even more dramatic with the addition of a friend’s birthday gift: a huge Toby Burton original of our choice. The bathroom has been graced with a Badgergirl original (placement inspired by “and here’s where Queen Vicky hauled her ass off the can”, as I once heard an American tourist explain to her friend on seeing a handrail in the royal bathroom of Osbourne House) and TA is working on a triptych for the hallway.
My painting. Now there’s a thing. I love painting and TA is very supportive, but what I create is, well, at the very least, divisive. I am not a particularly adept manipulator of paint and distrust brushes – I’m still at the playschool stage of development. In our last unshared home I created a triptych of my own on the maiden, mother, crone theme. The mother was a resplendent Sheela Na Gig – wild haired, bare teethed, unapologetic. TA was disturbed; grinning down over the bed she rather put him off his stroke. I very much wanted him to create a cheeky Cernunnos to face her across the room, but sadly he never felt like rising to the bait. Later the maiden, mother and crone canvases were painted over and finally disposed of during one of our many moves. I don’t miss maiden or crone, but Sheela – with her raging strength, ability to shock and horrify, and unabashed blood lust – I miss.
I enjoy the sculptural possibilities of paint – recently I’ve added flour to make it more malleable. I like the idea of images built on the bones of others – the hidden archeology of the image (there was a painting of a gourd under the body of my Sheela, giving her an underpinning roundness and a secretly fertile body). I keep looking at the prints of my hands in the bathroom and thinking about trees and bones – the next incarnation. I’d like to make my own paint – the plasticity of acrylic feels slippery, gaudy and, well, synthetic. But boiled onion skins, hair, henna, coffee, tea, blackberries, woad, even – ah, now that’s exciting.
Did I ever write about the mask I made for a friend? A plaster and paper reflection of my face, decorated with paint and fur and a braid of my hair. Left to my own devices, I fear my home would fill with bleached bones. TA found the pupster trying to eat my journal – my blood has soaked through the paper. Sometimes blood says it all. There’s a reason why our living room was christened “the living womb” by a witty friend.
I am but imperfectly trained to wear shoes and walk prettily. Inside Sheela is shouting insults; can you hear the whispering echo?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

playaway
I wrote this a day in advance! I’m going to have my hands full with champagne, chocolates, pork pies, Guinness, cake baking, wine and acrylic paint (TA bought me a new canvas to play with)…oh, and presents too.
I’ve compiled a birthday-themed playlist to play on random that reflects my mixed feelings: 30 songs for 30 years.
1. Oedipus, Regina Spektor (a song about claiming inheritance. Oh my, she is fabulousness itself. If Edward Gorey wrote songs they’d sound like this…)
2. Goodbye Pisces, Tori Amos
3. Pants, Gloria Deluxe
4. Crested Hens, Soluus
5. Inner Universe, Origa (everyone needs to get some anime soundtrack action)
6. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die, Moby (I find embracing the possibility is often a comfort)
7. The Living Daylights, A-Ha (I can’t help being a child of the 80s, okay?)
8. Upside Down, Tori Amos
9. Consequence of Sound, Regina Spektor (listening makes me want to write and I’m damned if I’m going to spend another decade being merely a frustrated novelist)
10. 40 Boys in 40 Nights, the Donnas (one can but hope)
11. Sullen Girl, Fiona Apple (under the waves of the blue of my oblivion)
12. Immature, Björk
13. You Came Through, PJ Harvey
14. Breath, Kathryn Williams
15. There’s No Other Way, Blur
16. Suddenly I See, KT Tunstall
17. Take to the Sky, Tori Amos (my heart is like an ocean – it gets in the way)
18. The Harder They Come, Paul Oakenfold
19. A Place Called Home, PJ Harvey
20. Believe, Franke Potente
21. If 6 Was 9, Tori Amos (yes, seriously – one of the best cover versions in the world)
22. 10pt Agenda, Herbaliser
23. Us, Regina Spektor (have I mentioned how much I love her?)
24. This is a Low, Blur
25. Joyful Girl, Ani Di Franco
26. One Day, Björk
27. In the Bath, Lemon Jelly
28. Time of Your Life, Paul Oakenfold
29. All I Need, Air
30. Wing-Stock, Ashley MacIsaac (I soar every time I hear the swell of sound)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

the pupster’s predilection for puddles
For many weeks the pupster would not – there’s no way to put this delicately – “go” when he was on a walk. We became resigned to the fact that he’d never twig that outside was a good venue for piddle and poo. TA even thought it was a good thing.
Then, out of the blue, one day he surprised us by widdling while walking – right on the South Bank steps, outside Tate Modern (the dog has class). A few weeks later he astonished us by pooing while he was walking home – TA knew I’d be thrilled so, because I wasn’t there to witness it, he rang me to inform me.
Now he averages two widdles and a poo on the walk into work in the morning, he even has his favoured stops. We’re running low on poo bags and these days we don’t go through nearly as much newspaper at home, which is all to the good. The thing that puzzles and slightly disturbs us is that when outside the pupster will only widdle or poo if all four paws are in a puddle – this makes cleaning the poo an interesting challenge, but so far TA has coped admirably. TA thinks perhaps Skye is trying to mask his scent because he’s not top dog. The pupster seems happy enough though so for the moment there seems no point in trying to dissuade him from blessing the puddles.
However, as TA said yesterday, what is he going to do in summer?

tides of March
I’m 30 tomorrow. The scene has almost been set: the champagne is ready to chill, the organic orange juice is in the fridge…I’ll pick up some croissants tonight (not to mention pork pies). I’m looking forward to a day filled with customised pleasures.
head case
Oh how I’ve tried to avoid writing about this, but really it’s still bugging me.
I like the writer; seriously, I’m a huge fan of her mouthy, opinionated, educated, literate posts. I really admire her take-no-hostages approach to adoption, her sanity, erudition, ballsyness. But that makes this evidence of her fallibility worse, a greater betrayal and also makes me worry that I’ve laughed along at her cut-to-the-quick humour unthinkingly.

Dear Mimi Smartypants,
I understand it, its wordy, look-at-me exactitude metaphor wittiness, but even on that level it doesn’t – if you’ll pardon the pun – hold water. So, the balloon children have hydrocephalic heads do they? Have you seen a hydrocephalic head? I see one every morning and I defy you to pick it out in a large-head ID parade.
Oh, you meant an unsuccessfully treated hydrocephalic head! I’m sorry. And you think that’s what the balloons looked like?
I’m just checking here, but have you ever seen an unsuccessfully treated hydrocephalic child? Because I have and he looked, well he looked sad and in pain and as if he was going to die soon (which he did), but his head looked like a point-on rugby ball. Is that what you meant with the witty in its slightly esoteric exactitude metaphor? No. I thought not. And – to give you the benefit of the doubt – I thought perhaps that my experience was unusual (perhaps the excessive pressure affects other little children in a different way) so I googled for pictures other hydrocephalic children (I was going to post the link, but really it's not pretty). Nope, the rugby-ball pain and sadness seem pretty universal.
To me, no matter how disturbingly inappropriate the balloons were as a representation of romantic love, your thoughtless, clever-clever witticism was infinitely more disturbingly inappropriate.
All best,
Lisa

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

a dolt?
I think, by any measure, 30 should mean a certain degree of maturity. I’ve got three days to achieve it and so far the signs aren’t great. As time goes by I get more resentful of the responsibilities and constraints of age rather than less. The sun is shining in a clear blue sky and I should be outside skipping through meadows instead of staring at a screen, avoiding my timesheet and the list of tasks I should complete today.
People keep asking what I’m going to do to celebrate, but they don’t believe it when I tell them – I’m not joking: I’m taking the day off so that I can lie in bed, eat (cheese, pork pies, cake and chocolates) and drink (tea, coffee, champagne, microbrews and red wine); read (a good thumping novel) and listen to music (TA bought me a Regina Spektor CD, which is pretty fantastic). I might squeeze in some DVD watching and, if Skye obliges, I might have some puppy play too.
I started as I mean to go on by having friends over at the weekend for copious quantities of cheese and by breakfasting on Scoobydoo cake (thanks A and J!). TA claims I’m milking it and asks how I can justify a “birth week”. But he should know better. After nearly six years together, he should know that I’m never good at celebrating my continued existence and require as many opiates as possible to maintain the cheerful demeanour that everyone expects. The pressure has already started with TA wanting me to open presents in advance. Has anyone got a drink? I’d quite like to wake up in a week’s time, or never.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

home, sweet spinach
K, a friend I made in Greece (why do all my friends have the same initial?), is off to Namibia for four months to help with Operation Raleigh activities. After all, if it’s good enough for Angelina and Brad it’s good enough for lesser mortals. I went round to K’s house for dinner the other night to wish her luck and say bon voyage.
K’s boyfriend has recently bought a flat in Battersea. While K’s salary is as modest as mine, boyfriend is a city hotshot and the flat is beautiful: real wood floors, real slate kitchen tiles, a garden. Added to these natural advantages, K has an excellent eye for styling interiors. As I ate my risotto I admired the simple flourishes and queried how she’d settled in. Apparently the answer was with the greatest of ease – the flat was in an excellent condition when they moved in and all they had to do was buy new furniture to fill the gaps. The new sofas were lovely – one duck-egg blue fabric and the other chocolate leather – and, curled up on either side of the spacious living room, we chatted about the joys of home owning and cohabiting.
K admitted that she does most of the housework (as I write this I’m wondering what changes her four-month absence will wreak) and is a tad obsessive. I remember when we shared a flat in Tripoli we had a rota that was religiously followed and, while my room was frequently slightly dishabille, her room was always artfully arranged as if for a Homes and Gardens shoot: perhaps a little too cluttered with pretty-pretty touches for my taste, but always welcoming and neat. She described how she comes home from work and immediately tidies up, unable to settle until everything is in its place. I expressed my admiration for her routine.
On the (two!) buses home I mulled over how it is that other people always seem to keep their places clean and ordered. My parents, for example, always do dishes straight after the meal and I used to too, but since living with TA I’ve learnt to let the sink fill until he gets round to it (usually once a day while I’m at work) meaning that the sink is always cluttered. I’m a shedder while TA maintains piles. I do collect my detritus and put it away fairly regularly, but TA’s sacrosanct piles are immovable, so to speak. This means that there’s always a degree of paper clutter (for instance, why he keeps the envelopes of opened letters I’ll never know). The Sett is small and storage is always a problem, but neither of us helps the situation by not being very good at organising what we have (and TA has an awful lot of stuff, bags and bags of unidentifiable stuff, not to mention bags and bags of bags).
I returned to a Sett that was littered with laminate off cuts, tools, painting supplies, dirty dishes, drying laundry and what can only be described as assorted gubbins. My heart sank. When it gets this bad I get completely overwhelmed and paralysed – I know I want to live in an immaculately presented apartment (and feel a deep sense of shame that it is not) – but can’t summon the energy to tackle such an overwhelming project. There wasn’t one room that didn’t need urgent attention.
I fell into bed next to TA completely deflated, feeling envious and hard-done by. At 4am the alarm went off and TA and Skye left on a day trip to Badger Avenue to complete the broadband installation process for my parents. At 6am I decided that I had a headache and needed a duvet day. At 9am I got up, checked work e-mail, made my excuses and took a deep breath.
The to-do list covered two sides of the Westie notepaper that lives on the freezer, embracing everything from charge the drill and wall-mount the bathroom cabinet my father rescued for me from a friend’s skip to clean the fridge, dust and rearrange the clothes in the wardrobe. It was daunting, but it felt good to be taking the chaos bull by the chore horns for once. I made coffee and set to work. Dishes were washed, laundry put away, more laundry started, windows opened…every couple of hours I would run out of steam and return to the list for fresh inspiration or to triumphantly cross off another completed task. Low-hanging fruit, I muttered to myself as I avoided collapsing on the sofa and instead washed the fridge, thus getting another tick on the list in short order.
Climbing the ladder to reach the arctic loft my palms were greasy with nervous sweat – what if the ladder toppled and left me stranded until TA returned? I persevered – moving the flooring remnants into storage and bringing down an unused piece of furniture to house the stereo in the living room, meaning that it would no longer be sitting directly on carpet.
Order gradually began to make an appearance. Room by room, progress was slowly made. But it wasn’t all plain sailing, far from it. Moving a plant so that I could clean I discovered that the slate it was sitting on had not prevented water from damaging the paintwork. New tasks – such as painting the windowsill – were added to the already lengthy list and triumphantly crossed off.
Finally, it was finished. In total, I spent 12 hours cleaning, tidying, reorganising and completing outstanding DIY tasks. Cleaning the Augean stables would have been a cakewalk in comparison.
Last night I collapsed into bed and thought, I’m proud of our little home. It might be an acquired taste in terms of décor and perhaps some of the inherited furnishings do look a little out of place or mismatched, but still: the Sett is just like us – it scrubs up surprisingly well.
When K and I were in Greece we were always practising our newly learnt vocabulary. “Spitimou, spinakimou,” we would say to each other – proud that we knew the Greek vernacular for “home, sweet home”. It used to be what we would call out as we walked through the front door until one day a Greek visitor corrected one of us. Not “spitimou, spinakimou”, it should be “spitimou spitakimou” – we had spent months saying the Greek equivalent of “home, sweet spinach”.
UPDATE: who knew! (Yep, that says what you think it does.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

the line of beauty
As a young woman I really didn’t understand classical sculpture – what’s with the obsession with male beauty, I thought to myself. Yes, yes – muscles, form etc, but, really, let’s be honest here…women’s bodies – lush curves and delicate frames – are so much more, well, aesthetic.
It’s not that I didn’t like the male of the species, I did, I just didn’t think their physiques were worthy of art. Handsome faces atop tall and gangly bodies, blue eyes, short dark hair – the type never changed – were certainly attractive, but sculptural? Hardly.
A few years ago Germaine Greer wrote a book called simply, The Boy, in praise of male beauty and I remember thinking at the time– interesting, but odd. However, something has changed.
I suppose it started with a precise and deeply felt attachment to TA’s bottom. TA is blessed with a bottom that is the peak of pert perfection. Sometimes I just like to hold it – it has (I did ask him if I could write about this) a pleasing density and the softest covering of velvety plush. The obsession that developed over a couple of years has now ripened to a direct relationship between me and it that somewhat circumnavigates its owner. I recognised that this was a radical departure in aesthetics, but it wasn’t until a certain theatre poster intruded into my consciousness that I realised how complete the revolution has been.
That boy, that horse; the beautiful curve of muscle above the hip – the Greeks and Romans were on to something after all.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

back to black
I’ve started judging my weekends by the number of buses I catch. By any measure, this weekend – with two social engagements – was going to be a bit more energetic than our usual routine, but I hadn’t quite prepared myself for just how frenetic it turned out to be.
Saturday, I woke up with a big attack of the bleaks: an overwhelming, leaden inertia. TA knows better than to try to pull me out of the bleakness now. He left me to it and then tried to apply salves only when alone time proved to be ineffective. Chocolate, newspaper, man in a pinny doing chores, snuggles – eventually my ability to be happy resurfaced.
A shopping trip to the evil empire for emergency (cheap) party wear scored a blinder of a bargain dress and I was happy enough to have the energy to do something about my hair, which was red-blonde-brown on the bottom and dark brown on top after a summer madness moment of wanting to be lighter. The raven has now triumphantly returned. Slap was slapped on, new dress donned, hair blow dried and off to Camden we went for a 40th birthday party. Cocktails, wine, dancing, flirting with TA and then a long, long, soaked-to-the-skin wet walk home from Liverpool St (thanks, crappy night bus service).
Sunday’s sleep deprivation was mitigated with the Observer Food Monthly and another helping of dark chocolate before we exposed ourselves to the vagaries of London’s buses, this time with the pupster in tow. Yes – off to the North London Goth House for an afternoon of silly card games and snack food.
Total bus count: 7
Total alcohol intake: respectable
Number of times we ended up in Camden: too many
Money spent: far too much
Return to form: priceless