posted on: Monday, 15 December 2014

I am not normally afflicted with insomnia; I sleep soundly, but last sleep! 1.06am, 2.25am, 4.14am I saw all of these times. This happens every now and then. I just couldn't quiet my mind. It's in these times, obscurely, that I start constructing the book I want to write. Increasingly this mythical book exists in my mind's eye, but I have yet to start writing it. Come on already! People say to me: 'you know what? you should write a book!' like I have never considered this course of action before. I consider it all the time. But characteristically of me I think about the finished product. I have this recurring dream of me opening a box of freshly printed books, pulling one out and it's by me! How amazing would that feel?! I also watched 'The Book Thief' at the weekend...books are all.

The only way down this road is to start writing (along with a gazillion other would-be writers).

Get over yourself Lou!

Meanwhile I took down a blog post I wrote at the weekend, which is unlike me; I normally write and publish and don't look back. But when I read it back the tone was off and I saw that sometimes the way I perceive the world is not the same as everyone else. I wonder if that is the whole point - people don't come to read a blog unless it provides some perspective? But ultimately I don't want to offend anyone.

Today is the first day of the school holidays so I have a houseful of pyjama'ed kids and the painter has arrived. Just when we thought those days were over, they have come to do the snagging list. Snagging is such a curious activity; all those little scuffs and niggles that you have when you hand over a build, pale into insignificance once family life has made its mark. Whilst I love my new white walls, I can see there will be a labour of love to keep them white. After all the procrastination that goes into design choices, I picked trade, pure, brilliant white for the walls. Now when people visit they ask 'which white' I selected, suspecting that I poured over a Farrow and Ball colour card. In fact I went with the most basic paint you can get! Sometimes less is more!

This time last year we were preparing to spend Christmas in Dubai with family. This year we revert to family norm and will spend Christmas Day at home, snuggled, with just my Mum to stay. Last year was so different it made quite an impression, but this year we are all looking forward to an old-fashioned British time.

Still trying to get never fails to amaze me what a performance Christmas is these days. I recall days as a child, when Christmas was something magical that happened to you, rather than being something magical that you worked to create. It can be wearying and I look back on previous years at this time and sense the same feelings of being overwhelmed by the logistics and the gift-buying. I'd like to just be.

I've been thinking about loneliness. The last few months have been a time of trying to turn around my mood as I have been spending a lot of time alone. I get glimpses into years and years ahead and see that keeping busy and having friends and family around you is the elixir. I feel like I am having a trial run and I am not sure I am that good at being alone. I heard loneliness defined as having people to do something with, but nobody to do nothing with.

I can't help thinking the way we live is a flawed. We have this rural house, not that far from town but enough to need to drive there. I don't see neighbours often. We live in splendid isolation and I see just how aspirational it was to secure a home like this. A farmhouse bordering fields of crops; frost-tinged today. Beautiful but kinda lonesome. I grapple with this fact and the how the future will play out. Are you a town-dweller? Is that what answers the loneliness question?! I still joke with my friend Natalie that living in a commune is the answer; a kibbutz?! Who knows? But at this time of year I do sometimes wonder if living amongst more people is the better choice.

You can tell I haven't had much sleep... ;-)

Happy Monday.

Do what you do...

posted on: Thursday, 11 December 2014

Round here, life goes on...

We limp towards the last day of term tomorrow; the week peppered with school carol services and slightly forced festive parents outings. My children need a break from the daily grind and so do I. The midwinter commute, in the dark, with so much traffic it makes me want to cry! It must come to an end soon! I long for a sunny climate. With half my husbands' family now living in Dubai, reports of sun-drenched life aren't lost on me as we struggle through the British gloom. However...there are always cosy nights with candles and classic films and Christmas fairy lights. It's not bad.

Early morning walks on the beach, where now a few friends frequent and we walk and talk with the dogs going wild in the freedom of dunes and sea. There is a peninsula of sandy dune that we cover each time, which at high tide, with a cusp of pale sand, is so beautiful it makes my heart ache. It is my most favourite place, even in the cold and rain.

Pub lunches with roaring fires.

Waking up in darkness and having that internal dialogue about whether to go running or not. Shall I? Shan't I? Usually I do.

That keen knowledge that if I did yoga every day I would probably be a whole lot better at every element of my life. Why can't I make it happen? I think because to do it justice I feel I have to mentally commit and so often I feel like I am going to be interrupted by my thoughts...or the postman.

Our long-suffering postman. Now the Christmas shopping season has taken hold in earnest, I do it all on line and get deliveries every day. He must think I am a shopping fiend. He wouldn't be wrong.

Danish style Christmas decorations; ordering from Skandium.

Thinking about the future...almost incapable of getting past anything other than the few weeks ahead. The sameness of my life has, I see, made it difficult to see phases and changes. It feels very static. At times I love this. But at other times it is stifling. I look around me and wonder if everyone feels the same?

Wanting new glasses; lusting after cat's eye ones and then pondering if I can pull it off or if I will look like an old maid.

Feeling like an old maid.

Feeling like I am 17 again.

Failed attempts to meet up with an old, dear friend (one who has no veneer) and the realisation that life gets in the way.

Brooding feminism that gets fired up after listening to Women's Hour. I have stuck to that resolution. More on feminism later...

My husband and I away together to Bath for a night - celebrating 15 years of marriage :-)

The veneer...

posted on: Sunday, 7 December 2014

The subtleties of life are never lost on me; the small ironies, the observations, the life theories. A theory I described to my husband yesterday was why I made friends with other women more readily in my twenties than my forties. Why, when you have a newborn baby and/or very small children, you form lasting friendships with women whom you have never known before, but who you would not hesitate to discuss nipple health and the state of your undercarriage. Oh those heady and long 'post-birth' days still haunt me. Then fast forward to when said newborn is a teenager and I find that making friends with other women has become some sort of mystical quest - and not an easy one at that. I have come to the conclusion that a veneer forms over our lives when we are in our thirties where openness is replaced by a kind of insistent guardedness.

Some of my very best friends now (the category of friends I assign to 'the school years') know an awful lot about me (career trajectory, interior design choices, book club membership) and have sat next to me at dinner parties countless times. However do they really know me in the way that my old friends 'the pre-children university years' know me? Those friends have held back my hair when I was sick from too many daiquiris, met my husband before he was my husband and could tell you what I wrote my dissertation about. (Madness in the Female Gothic, if you're interested). With those friends there is no pretence. It's the real deal. There is no veneer; or if there is it gets rapidly deciphered when we meet or speak and we get back to the first version of ourselves. I also benefitted from 'the work friend'; a discrete handful of kindred spirits who stood by me as I climbed the career ladder.

I feel I've entered new territory now with female friendships. With these women we are coming into the 'young-adult years'. This denotes having teenage children and the veneer is getting pretty thick. We discuss matters like should parents provide alcohol at teenage parties (my view right now: no, but there are many who seem to disagree). Should academic success be defining? Should sport play a role? Why hasn't my daughter or son been picked for the 'A' team?

To be fair this team selection theme ensues in all areas of female friendship once your children are involved. When it's post-birth it's about milk ounces and percentile growth. When it's school years it's about the Nativity play and who is Mary vs. a miscellaneous angel. Now I have a teenager it's to do with tribes. Is your child in or out? Popular or geekish? Make-up or natural? Phone obsessed or still interested in life in the real world? These distinctions seem to get in the way of whether we, as women, can be friends with each other. And my overriding view is that when you have spent twenty adult years accumulating friendships, there is most definitely a point when people start to say 'enough is enough'. Many a time I have heard women say (almost proudly) that their friendship cup runs full.

All in all I find this troubling. I say this in the knowledge that when I was working, I frankly didn't care nor notice these nuances at the school gate or during the baby yoga coffee morning. I skipped past in my heels and outfits, thinking about the fact that I had to do a presentation to 100 people in an hour. Was there time for a latte with a colleague beforehand?

Now it's different. It feels like an extra effort needs to be made to win the friendship of these women who could, if the veneer just came down, become my bosom friend, like Diana Berry in 'Anne of Green Gables'. In life, eventually, doesn't everything come down to a quote from 'Anne of Green Gables'? Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.

And I realise that often with me, female friendship is based on whether I like the look of someone; in much the same way as when, aged 6, I befriended someone called Stephanie because she had red ribbons in her hair. I'm all about the details. This curious yard-stick of mine, when selecting people I want to know better, almost gets in the way. I should not notice the ribbons. I should notice a good heart and kindness and the prospect of interesting conversation. But in friendship don't we notice the sameness; the possibility of a buddy who will be our alter-ego? I know I do. It's the 'me too' mentality of conforming and being accepted. Is this a Louise-ism? Do you feel the veneer too?


posted on: Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Living in a vacuum, my Mum mentions the blue shoes to me, in passing. I bristle; found-out, my shopping habits exposed. I confess my purchase via text to my friend Emma; she knows already, she read it on the blog! Ugh. In the words of 'Anne of Green Gables': 'My life is an open book, I see!'. Curious that this would come as a surprise to me, given that I spill it on the internet on a weekly basis.

Note to self - must develop more self awareness.

Whilst in the hairdressers today, covering the grey and dealing with the fact that my brunette hair has gone 'khaki' (to the layman this means 'green' but to the hairdresser there are shades of khaki making it 'somewhat less green'...) I decided that there's a lot to be said for self awareness.

I have this thing at the moment about art. I have been hanging pictures in the newly renovated space in our house and realise that we have three variations. Firstly the family photo; vital as a testament to our very happy life and beautiful children but it did strike me that we have featured so many family pictures it appears self indulgent. Note that this is different to self awareness ;-) Secondly we have Cornwall-inspired boat pictures. We visited an art gallery in Cornwall once and bought a number of boat/beach oil paintings which I love, but which are, let's say slightly middle-aged in style. Not edgy. Then thirdly there is Jessica Cooper. We love this artist. I have a little friendship with this artist, established when she found her work so often featured in my blog posts. We have many of her paintings and love them all. I would buy more in a heartbeat, partly because I adore them and partly because she is a subtle artistic force that I want to hand down to the next generation in my family.

My Danish grandparents spent all their money on art and my overriding recollection of going to their house in Denmark was that the walls were covered in art. Every piece had meaning and every piece has now been passed down amongst the children and grandchildren. This I love. Of all the things we spend money on, art has got to give the most.

So I have my eye on an up and coming artist. One, so fresh and new (aged twenty-something and it shows; in a good way) that his work is simultaneously unsettling and comforting. This I also love.

Boo was off school today in a rare teenage sick day. I left her at home to watch 'Dirty Dancing', vicariously reliving my youth. Nobody puts baby in the corner. She wants to go back to school tomorrow because there is a hockey match she wants to play in. Bless her.

It's Tuesday. Happy day.

via this flickr