Thursday, 4 February 2016

Two hoody day

So I've stopped hating everyone but I've come to a grinding halt. To illustrate: it's a two hoody day.

You know it's bad when you need two hoodies above your tracksuit bottoms. I've already eaten all of Babes's chocolate ice cream (I sent an apology text in case he wants to go out to get more) and I'm running out of episodes of My Five Wives. I had a brief moment of panic when I misplaced the remote control, but now I'm good again.

I still need to pack. To feel like I've accomplished something today, I thought I would give you my review of Spectre, the new Bond movie. We went to see it for date night last week, and I didn't hate it at all. I expected to be all grossed out and bored the rest of the time - I thought the last one was a tad too gory - but it was back to the more 'fun' movies of old, minus quite so much rampant sexism. Basically, if your significant other wants to see it and wants you to come, it's completely bearable.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

It's not you, it's me

I have a very bad case of 'If everyone you meet is an asshole, you're the asshole' today. I noticed it when two assholes were pushing their old Mercedes to try and start it, blocking the road in front of me. They were pushing it bravely together, in the freezing rain. I did switch to compassion after realising I was the asshole. And I never let them notice that I originally got it wrong.

Of course the fact that everyone is being a pain to me, attacking me personally by being slow and inconsiderate and messy and loud, just means that I will be bleeding into my fabulous new skiing trousers next week. Which I think is mean. Of the universe. The universe is being an asshole.

This afternoon is an asshole as well. I'm meant to be ironing. I'm going to soften it by watching a movie I know by heart. Maybe a comedy. The problem is that my assholes of children are around so it has to be PG. (Hee hee. That makes me laugh. Calling them assholes. They're not.)

To cheer up, later on I will pack my suitcase for our forthcoming skiing holiday. When my asshole of a husband has stopped working at the desk in the bedroom. (That makes me laugh as well. He's not. He's only the poor sod lucky guy who gets to go on a date with me tonight.) I already packed the skiing gear, the KonMari way - on Sunday, would you believe it, almost a week before we go; it's as if I've been abducted by aliens and replaced by a householder robot - and I loved it so much I took a photo of the result to show everyone. (Really everyone. I even got it out during choir rehearsal.)

I have tried to turn that photo to the left about ten times, but my computer is being an asshole. I have marked on the photo the separate areas of my suitcase. In the blue box, we have the skiing trousers, arranged by age of family member. In the yellow boxes, the children's bits and pieces (jumpers, scarves, socks), oldest to youngest. In the orange box is Babes's stuff, and in the pink box mine. Each item was put in vertically and is visible from the top. This pleases me immensely.

Right. Ironing. And perhaps alcohol.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

I'm an expert procrastinator

I'm still taking on the world in the spirit of 'what do the experts know anyway - I can be an expert if I want to be'. My good friend Tailorbird came around today and taught me how to use my sewing machine. (She's a star.) I've had the machine for years, but I've been too scared to get started. I thought I might break it, or mess up what I was doing, you know how it goes. And it turns out it's fine. Sewing - also: not rocket science. I'm sure that good and neat sewing is hard and takes training, but the quick and dirty way? Just fine. I took in two dresses and a shirt. In a couple of hours. It was fantastic.

This dress I stopped wearing because it only looked good with a belt. I put a new waist in. Hurray! I cut off that thread you can see dangling, don't worry.

This dress was big enough to house a couple of my children at the same time. They have been evicted.

This is my favourite flannel shirt from when I was a lot younger:

I'm pretty sure I got it in the eighties, from my mother, when I was in secondary school. That much younger. It had a very eighties baggy shape. I made the sleeves smaller, tightened the waist up and put in two lines in the back. Can you see the right one? Can you see it? Can you? I'm very excited about this. I wore it out to singing tonight, I'm so excited about it.

Then I had to cook and in my excited state with my orange shirt on, I bought a pitiful amount of Indian marinated chicken at the butchers. I was thinking more about the bread I still had to go and buy, and the new pin box I needed to find, and then home and homework and guitar practice and singing and cooking - I simply didn't think it through. A few hundred grams of meat - sure, that will feed five. Then I got home and put it on the surface and realised there was nothing there. And then the non-expert came out and I added raisins, pineapple, beer


and then an apple yoghurt

yes, really

And then, because it still wasn't very much, a whole box of couscous. It was gorgeous.

I felt all happy and competent and whatnot, and then on my way back from singing I realised that what I've been doing is 'procrastinating: the expert level'. For weeks now, I've been walking around with fragments of my next novel (says the unpublished novelist) and ideas floating around, but I've been too chicken to sit down and write seriously. My go-to zen guru even tried to remind me earlier. Tomorrow, I need to sit down for five minutes and just write. I can write crap, I can hate it, I can stop after five minutes and not come back, but I have to find a notebook and a pen, go somewhere quiet (I have two children at home tomorrow), and write something down. Anything.

(Yes, I can see the irony of spending half an hour writing this instead of getting started right now.)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Secrets at forty

I think I've worked out what's going on with all this tidying zeal. I'm trying to get my metaphorical house in order before I turn 40. (My actual house being a part of my metaphorical house.) I'm only turning 39 this year, but I felt the same when I turned 29. Got quite down and depressed about it. By the time I turned 30, I was over it. Hardly blinked. The big tram 4, as they say around these parts, is looming eerily in the distance. I'm not depressed. Not really truly. Which is a good start. But I am scrambling to get my house tidy, my children doing better at school, my weight down, my blotchy face less blotchy, and - what would be the cherry on top of the cake of all my improvements - my book published.

I'm sure Marie Kondo has something to do with it. All this joy-checking. You know what? It can be a bit tiring. For example, my hair only sparks joy when I wear it down. Tied in a ponytail or up in a bun - no joy. But if I want to wear it down, I have to wet it each morning and put two different products in it because otherwise my curls are too frizzy, and all this takes effort and time and yet I can see it's worth it, because really it's only five minutes extra and what else would I be doing with that time anyway, so it's a good investment of my time. But added up, all the joyous things make me zonk out rather at night. Which is a good thing, because I'm sleeping better.

What was I complaining about? Oh yes, turning 40. I feel like I can't go into my forties the same as I was in my thirties. Like I need to be fitter, prettier, more productive - mainly more interesting. I no longer want to see people's eyes glaze over when they talk to me at parties. Actually, I want to be invited to more parties in the first place. I also want to be a more organised mother. One who doesn't have to convince the children that banana loaf is a fruit when she runs out of apples. One who doesn't forget to check the children's diaries for weeks on end. One who can't be talked into letting a child stay home from school because he has a sniffle. One who is understanding yet firm and on top of things.

Yesterday, I watched a Dutch interview with a writer called Paul Frissen about secrets. It has made me think. In this age of transparency, in which I throw my doubts and fears and sock drawer onto the internet for all to see, he defended our right to have secrets. To be unknown. To decide not to share certain things. To not have the state interfere if you want to eat the wrong things, drink too much, or think objectionable thoughts. By the time I'm 40, I would like if my failings weren't so obvious for all to see any more. So I can share them with my friends - and I will, because it's important to talk about the difficult stuff - but the idiots can't look at me and dismiss me after one glance.

Which is why I've colour sorted my table cloths.

A 40 year old needs to have rainbow tableware. I'm good.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Marie Kondo is a genius; come look in my drawers

Allow me to show you my bedsheet drawer:

It pleases me.
(Actually, I've just noticed the fact that the blue stripes go left to right and the red one top to bottom. I have remedied this problem now. All top to bottom.)

I am obsessed with storing things vertically. I have nearly finished my own things. Contrary to Marie Kondo's advice, I have already started on my family's things. I can't help it. Every time I put a piece of clothing away or take something up to the bathroom, I'm distracted for half an hour while I empty a cupboard, throw away half its contents, and put the rest back vertically.

Let me show you my baby's underwear and socks:

Yes, those are shoeboxes. Aren't they glorious?

I also did my tablecloths:

I agree that they could sit slightly straighter. And I should group the reds together and the blues. From dark to light. I may need to do something about that later. I definitely will do something about that later.

Bathroom shelf for makeup and hair:

Have you ever seen such a neat display? I am very proud of that one. It used to all sit in plastic bags and cardboard boxes and a washbag. I even took the bar codes off the tubes and pencils.
(But dammit, wouldn't you know it, looking at that photo I see I've missed one. Maybe I should take photos of all my household endeavours from now on. They make me take a closer look at things I've botched.)

Right. Before I leave you to go and take off that bar code, alphabetise my tablecloths, and then organise another category (I really need to tackle the medicines now - they are staring at me, with their out of datedness and their dust and their higgledipigglediness), I will give you my daughter's hair implement drawer:

That looks messier on a photo than it is in reality. I cut up a tea box, a rice box and a Playmobil box to get those compartments. They fit all snug and cozy.

I find the whole process cleansing and calming. I voluntarily ironed and put clothes away this week. Because I knew where everything went. Because there were gaps in the pattern. I'm living in a brave new world.

Friday, 22 January 2016


I was at my singing lesson yesterday. I hadn't had the best of days and would have quite happily not gone, but I didn't go last week because I was at the theatre. I love that class and want no bad feelings between me and the teacher, so I had to go. It was obvious that I was not on top form. Notes I could easily sing every other week wouldn't come out, my breathing was out, my attention wavered. She made me sing a note lower than everyone else. (I didn't mind. She was being kind. Better next time.)

I'm glad I went to my lesson. In the middle of it, she was teaching us to stand firmly, connected to the earth, with heavy legs, and she said to me that she didn't need to teach me that part, because I'm already firmly rooted when I want to be. Which is true. Feeling lethargic and heavy probably helped, but I also learned it several years ago in my mindfulness course. To feel my weight leaning on the earth, on my chair, on my bed, on the floor. To be thankful for the support. To know that it is always there. To lean on it. To use it. To be happy for it. To feel gravity keeping me in place. It's a constant comfort to me.

Today, I'm thinking of the other things that root me, that are always there, and I don't mean the people I love. I mean the objects that keep me happy to be in the world, that keep me stable and happy. Immediately I think of my cup of tea, of warm water, of heat.

Warm jumpers, hot showers, more tea. I am grateful every day that these things exist. I think of books, of films, of newspapers. Without them, there really wouldn't be much point to it all, would there? I think of sturdy shoes, of solid trousers, and of fitting T-shirts. They hug me and walk with me all day. I think of tables that bring my food closer and carry my things. I think of bags, of drawers, of cupboards. I think of stairs that carry me up and back down again. I think of streets and houses and buildings.

It's a warm and fuzzy way to go through the world. Being grateful for all that sustains me and supports me. You should try it. Feel your body resting on your chair, on your shoes, on the ground. It makes a day feel more solid and secure. Do add a comment if I've forgotten a happy object. I'd love to add things to my list.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Getting my hair done

I'm at the hairdressers to get my 'landing strip' (Jack's term) eliminated. Before I came out, I camouflaged the red marks on my face with makeup. When I don't feel too happy, all my physical shortcomings appear to me more like moral failings. 

The day after I go to the hairdressers - when I don't have white hair showing any more, when I have hidden my 'true nature' again - I always feel better. It's a case of correlation rather than causation, though, I reckon. When I pluck up the energy to go outside and to get my hair sorted, it means I'm on the upward curve out of the pit of TV and white bread.

The avocados I bought pre-slump have gone bad. Now I'd put them in my lunch, but I'll have to get new ones first.