posted on: Sunday, 4 October 2015

So enough of the wah-wah that we have no habitable home; the waiting continues.

We have had a run of sunny weather which has contributed well to everyone's mood. I dispensed my daughter on her 'Duke of Edinburgh' expedition this weekend, where she trekked 30K and slept in a tent. She's back and limping now and it's nice to see her so spent; young people don't seem to do that enough. The rugby season has started again and my son is playing it, watching it (ouch - England in the World Cup) talking about it. Our family is a rugby family and it runs from now to May. It's a long haul.

I started my degree! I don't even know where to start in terms of my impressions. To be back in academia after so many years in the corporate world: bizarre. To meet people whom I would never meet in my normal life: bizarre. To spend the day talking about books and writing and words...heavenly. The work itself - the prospect of actually writing a book...terrifying. But I came away brimming with ideas and dare I say - inspiration? I guess it is to do with allowing oneself the possibility to even think about being inspired. So much of my life is functional, practical, involved in the transit of others to their destination. It's so cliched to say that it's 'time for me' but honestly, I suppose that is what it is. My first assessment has to be handed in in two weeks. I type, delete, type, delete...early morning writing sessions. Getting there.

The season is gathering pace and I feel like in no time it will be winter. I allow myself to think about wearing wool every day again. We cook a roast on a Sunday and feel like we might hunker down with trashy TV.

Incredibly, incomprehensibly we got Glastonbury tickets!! They sold out this morning in less than 30 minutes. I have never been; this is a bucket list item. Agghhhhhhh - what to expect??!!

I am thinking of starting to run again. I stopped a while back and have now started dreaming about it! I think it's a sign...

It feels a little bit like we are hovering right now, this half-life spent away from our home brings with it some side effects. We have come to appreciate what we had and long to go back, but at the same time I wonder about my own motives. All the time I have lived in that house (over ten years) I have had a love/hate relationship with how undone everything was there. And old house; a money pit, it felt at times like we were never going to get there. And now, as we near the end of this phase, I do think - will it ever be entirely done?! The machinations of getting it close to perfect have been exhausting. And then, when we move back in, I know that within weeks - days even - it will be a scuffed, lived in version of itself. We will 'family' it.

I figure this a good thing. Isn't it?

I do feel it's a time for looking forward and that has been an almost imperceptible shift, as I realise I have spent much of the last two years looking back. Or at least looking at right now. It feels better to have a plan; we all like a plan!

And if you're homesick, give me your hand and I'll hold it...

posted on: Thursday, 24 September 2015

OK, the yearning to go home is now so strong, I wake every morning counting down the days. Each and every delay in the house build (it rained this week; this caused issues for the roofers: dammit) makes me wince as I forward-calculate how many more days away. Where we are staying is fine, lovely actually, but it's not home and I'm homesick.

I try to embrace the new season of Autumn and get back into wearing jeans. I literally can't face another six months wearing skinny jeans (like, as in, literally, I can't even...) and so I scout around for alternatives. I wonder what a 41 year old, would-be-writer, mature student, mother, school run extraordinaire should wear? I consider why comfortable clothes look so shit. I wonder why I judge people who wear comfortable clothes as frankly - they are probably happier and will live longer due to proper leg circulation - whereas my legs are in skinny jeans. Suffering.

Consumed by book plot, I get up earlier and earlier every day, but somehow the day conspires to stop me writing very much. So instead I browse kitchens on Pinterest and try and decide what handles I should choose. My life right now; a strange time that I will surely look back on and say: 'remember when we left our home for a few months? How bizarre was that?' Then I feel the weight of this First World problem and mentally acknowledge it; lots of people have no home for much longer than this.

I mull over my reaction to change and how no matter how prepared I was for this phase, its affect has still been keenly felt. I find myself speaking to people about renovation projects and describing how deluded we were thinking it would be fun to house-hop for a season. It's not so much fun. I feel like I am on a holiday that I can't get home from. A perpetual delayed flight. Bearable but not ideal. And so - I have a glass of wine in the evenings. I miss having a view out of the window.

I am reading 'A Spool of Blue Thread' by Anne Tyler - which is maybe a good thing as she is a genius and just got short-listed for the Booker Prize, but also a bad thing, as for an aspiring writer like me, she is the master and it makes me think I will never produce anything even close to her dizzying heights. There goes the self doubt again. Funny old business!

Meanwhile, I have caught a cold. We are existing on food that can be prepared with only one saucepan and one serving dish. Pasta is a regular feature.

The good news is that we will one day move back. And one day all this talking about it and thinking about it will become a memory and it will be a real place again, with us in it. My son said the other day 'you keep saying life will be different when we move back home, but it will be just the same.' I see his point. But I am sure that somehow as we wait it out in the middle ground, we will get back and be different. Reinvigorated? Appreciative of what we have? A new lease of family life?

It makes me think a lot about what home is. Here we all are, in our home town, surrounded by stuff that is not ours, but is not dissimilar to ours. We have clothes, we have food, we see friends. But oddly there is still this feeling of disconnect. Yes, home is where the heart is, but it is also where you feel comfortable and safe and...to me at least...somewhat permanent. This is a transitory life, where I trail around with bin bags of stuff, trekking across town. The children will ask me where something is, my mind locates that item in the real house, I realise the place it was no longer exists (cupboards no longer there, walls no longer there, hell - even whole rooms no longer there) and I flounder!

And so tomorrow night I am taking my daughter to see 'One Direction' (again; yes fourth time, I know it borders on obsession). Those boys must be really tired by now. They need a break!

And then next week I start my Masters. Get me. A student again.

She writes...

posted on: Wednesday, 16 September 2015

I am well into September now, it feels like life has taken on a different pace and the days of summer are over. It rains a lot and we Brits complain about the weather; I find myself wondering (again) what it must be like to live in a warm climate where you can wake up and it's not grey. The weather never used to bother me - like so many things; I turned 40 and thought of a million things that had never occurred to me before - so I am amongst the hard core of weather complainers. Right now bad weather means less building work; roofers need good weather, brick-layers need good weather. I have had to step into the project management role for our house build and so I have learnt many new terms and have stood in many a muddy puddle (in the middle of what will be my kitchen) lamenting the damp proof course. I ask myself again: why did we renovate an old house? Shortly followed by: why didn't we just knock it all down and start again? Working around and amongst an old house and adding the modernity that I long for (think: Scandinavian white) is a laborious process. I get the wobbles frequently and wonder whether I really trust my own taste. I know what I like but I also know that I have a slightly off-piste taste that may or may not translate. All I know is that I want it to be a bit different; I hate to be ordinary.

Meanwhile, I am writing every day. Not the blog - as my lack of posts can attest to - but the book. I have walked around with an idea of an idea of an idea in my head for years. Now I finally have to get on with it; the start of my Masters degree looming in two short weeks. The reading list for the course got me going actually, lots of affirming, calming, just-get-on-with-it words of wisdom that made me simply start. Type type. And now I am off. God knows if it's any good, but honestly at this stage, that is not the point. It's fascinating to create another world in your head!

People ask me why I have opted to go back into education and I vary the response according to audience. To some degree I am not sure I even know the full reason myself, other than it became a compulsion to do something that would get me closer to producing a book. Whether it ever gets published or not. When will I start to call myself a writer? I am nearly there. Truly. But it feels foreign on my lips and like I am an impostor. I realise this pursuit is riddled with self-doubt but hey, that's familiar territory for me ;-)

I sit in our little house (not our real house) perched on a newly acquired Swiss ball (it's all about core muscles after all, so I have abandoned chairs, for now). I fret about how my life will change when I am a student again. I, true to form, get waylaid on the Internet, shopping for clothes and start pressing 'add to cart' when I really shouldn't and all the time, I dream of when my real house is finished and we can go home. Still displaced, it's been over nine weeks now and I suspect another six to go. And even then we will be camping out if we go home; our house long from finished. Suddenly Christmas is seeming closer than ever.

So why a change of lifestyle - a shift into education again? I am going to be really honest; I could not have faced more time spent cleaning the house and having coffee mornings (and I don't mean to say I don't enjoy those two things or that they are not worthy or important). I found myself craving clever conversation, longing to solve a problem or ponder a truth or appreciate a beauty in something, but had no outlet. I was lonely and bored and so deep into an existential midlife crisis that it was almost comical. All of my friends grew weary of me saying: but what am I going to do with my life? It seems that after 15 years with my back up against the corporate wall I became institutionalised. I need to be thinking and assessing and furthering ideas, just like I did for all that time when I was working. It's been two years since I left and despite dalliances along other avenues, I found I couldn't do nothing. There's only so much listening to 'Women's Hour' that one can do. I want to be ON Women's Hour, talking about my new novel! Haha.

So what else? The pup is traumatised still by the change of house location. We take him back to the real house and he freaks out every time he steps over the threshold as he realises it's not what it was. I know how he feels. Children back to school; already tired at the very idea of winter. Early mornings and Saturday matches. Both have important years this year. I am having my annual I-want-to-cut-my-hair-off phase; largely spurred on by Pinterest. I revert to my original position on this point. It will pass. I bought a new satchel because I wouldn't be me if I didn't dress for the new life. I want pretty much everything in the new J-Crew catalogue. I am not sleeping that well. I am torn about whether I like getting back into jeans/boots/jumpers (here come the Muggles) or whether I am dreading the requirement for warm clothes that will last for the next six months. I wonder again whether I should invest in an Arctic-standard parka and conclude: probably, yes.

I think of things to blog about and then life overtakes me. I wonder whether many of my good blog friends have the same issue as I swear people post fewer times than they used to? Is this a blogging shift? Have blogs had their day? I read that people can't cope with blogs now that Instagram is so prevalent; we need a quick 'like' and swipe on. It would be a shame if that were the case.

I shall carry on regardless!

Good Wednesday, Lou x

The need for new boots...

posted on: Tuesday, 1 September 2015

It's a strange time for me at the moment, right? I get it. But I am struggling not to react to it. It's so typical me, the ability to 'let it go' virtually non-existent! We return daily to our real house, the one that is un-built and un-pretty. Our belongings are piled up in dust-ridden places where they don't belong and having had an absence of six weeks, to go back is to look more dispassionately at what we own. For so long we've been working towards this build, starting any house-related discussion with 'when it's finished we will...' The desire to start again and bin most of our old belongings is almost overwhelming when I visit. I can't envisage them making their way back into the newly finished, white-washed space (when it exists; we are long way off now). We have accumulated things for years and have skirted around decluttering properly. The transition from young children (plastic stuff) to older children (gadget stuff) has not been faced. Our house creaks with items that are no longer needed. I shudder to think of the contents of our attic.

And so I react; I lie in bed (in the temporary little house, where rain falls on Velux windows and make a pitter patter noise) and think about owning less. I think about why have so much, as honestly it hasn't felt like we have gone out and bought more than anyone else. I walk the pup around the streets in our temporary village and see other little houses stuffed full of possessions. Porches jammed with welly boots and dirty trainers, pushchairs and rusty bikes. Where is the pretty?! I conclude that in modern family life, the pretty is hard to find - or at least hard to keep. I conspire to jettison all the stuff in our (real) house. I furtively like the scaled back style of the little (temporary) house. I feel guilt about our over consumption of stuff and that guilt is what prohibits me from throwing away. Vicious cycle!

Less stuff, more order - isn't this the way to happiness?

Yesterday, in a brief interlude from the British summer rain, I walked a coastal path for 20km with my friend Sarah, who is training for an endurance walk. We walked for nearly five hours and today - well today, I ache. Good ache though. The school holidays have meant very little exercise for me and for most mothers with school-age children, by the time September is on the horizon they are desperate for the restoration of some routine. 'When are they going back to school??!!' they yearn whenever eyes meet in traffic jams or in tourist-crowded supermarkets. My home town has become a place where summer people overload it during July and August, I look forward to when it's just me and the locals again.

September is always such a transitional time. More so that ever this year. My Portuguese tan is fading already and when I get dressed each morning, from my heavily edited out-of-a-suitcase wardrobe, I veer towards light layers and jeans. Back to jeans so soon? I feel like I never really got out of them. And of course we near boot season so I start the Googling. This year, these are calling me. Leopard is like a neutral, right?! What was I saying about acquiring less stuff? Oh, the irony.

And in amongst this I am still dealing with the daily challenges of parenting a teenage girl. The summer has brought a whole host of new issues. I am incredulous how much of a sucker punch parenting can be; just when you think you have it sorted, it brings an angle that I had not considered. Each and every time I am surprised, not ready, shocked. Even though I was indeed 14 once. And I have immersed myself in enough teenage self-help books to know that nothing should surprise me. It still does. Hmmmm. I live and learn!

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