Hasn’t that been a

long while since I last posted. To be honest, I’m still in two minds as to whether this gets posted or not. Do I really need another online thing to consider, what with my social media, my work’s social media and website, and e-newsletters what I write for another company?

Let’s just tap away and see how we feel as I go on, shall we?

In many ways, life has not changed that much: I’m still incapable of wearing nail varnish for longer than 24 hours without picking it off. My book buying is still out of control. I still work within the weird world of museums. I’m still socially inept and prone to saying the Wrong Thing with gusto, commitment and volume.

In another, more important way, my life has changed hugely. The Teen set their sights on university last year and in September made their intrepid way to Preston to study sport science and nutrition. Now, whilst I am overjoyed to have a family member back in the Northern bosom of our ancestors, I’m not convinced that this sudden switch to all things sporty and nutrition-y aren’t signs that they are actually a changeling.

So now I find myself confronting life finally living on my own, with time on my hands that is all mine. Have to say, I quite like it. Weekends with friends? Sure! Weekends on my own. Absolutely! Sunday morning routines and songs that are Sunday songs only? Of course! Wednesday evening living room dances because it’s Wednesday? Too right!

This week, I went for a long window-shop with my sister and mum, met up with my closest friend for a day, went to a puppet show (for grown-ups, and shut up) with another, made bread, went to a talk on climate science and Hollywood (hint: they don’t always get the facts right, kids!), cooked risotto and vegetarian pasties, dog-sat, chatted to an ex-colleague-and-now-friend for 2 hours, worked. My slightly skewed weekend is dawning (I work Saturdays, so weekends are Sunday-Monday) with the promise of cooked breakfasts, walks in the countryside and impromptu visits.

So yes, I miss my Teen, but I know they’re happy and thriving, making their own way. When they take off for a year studying in Canada in August, their own way will be a long way from mine. This phase of my life as a parent hasn’t ended (my Mum has confidently – and a little wearily – assured me that is never ends), but a whole new phase has started up alongside it.

Exciting-terrifying. Excifying, if you will.

Actually, probably don’t .

 

 

 

So, following on from my slightly lachrymose post last time, I took a good hard look at everything that had happened in September, and how I’d reacted and decided that unless I relaxed more, let things go a little more, generally went with the flow (man), I’d end up in a corner, rocking back and forth, whimpering about ‘societies’ and ‘building reports’ and ‘career development plans’ and ‘dying-alone-and-being-eaten-by-cats’.*

In response to that realisation, I have unleashed my inner Doris Day. Oh yes. She has been released from her box and is currently waging war with the gremlin on my shoulder. For example:

Gremlin: it’s cold and dark and you don’t feel very well and you’re late for work and this is the third morning this week your child has gone in with money for lunch rather than nutritious sandwiches and why are you even bothering. (at this point he runs out of breath rather than things to berate me for)

Doris: “ah but the birds are singing outside and you remembered to feed your sourdough starter last night and tonight there are crayfish for tea.” Thus she effectively nuts the gremlin with her cast-iron hairsprayed ‘up-do’ of buoyancy, before sandbagging him off my shoulder with her patent-leather purse of happiness. Not even the incessant rain gets in her way, merely bouncing off her

This works to a certain extent, although I fear my head may explode with all the enforced positivity. Possibly Doris’s voice will get higher and shriller and stuck on “but the birds are singing but the birds are singing but the birds are singing,” until it does.

And I have spent the past week tackling a giant monster from the nether regions of hell. Otherwise known as the ‘Back Office At Work’. A phrase most likely to strike terror into my heart is ‘I’m just going into the back office to look for something’. When I say that this place may kill me, it’s being buried beneath one of the teetering piles of boxes that I’m envisaging. Filled with a smorgasbord of pottery shards, fossil bits, flints, papers, photos, ledgers, glass slides, defunct cameras and the occasional skull, these boxes are my Matterhorn**, or they were. Progress has been made, one box defeated at a time, and the chance to just play quietly amongst the archives has been most soothing, not to mention surprising at times. Indentures from 1714, minerals in raw form, Elgar’s signature on a letter. I work in an astonishing place.

One that allows me to get on with the day whilst listening to Dusty Springfield and feverishly, pointedly ignoring the fact I have Odd Socks on. Because I got dressed in the dark.

Yeah, my job kicks ass.

So I’ll be back here in November – enjoy your Halloween, people. Sugar fangs are NOT optional.

*I’m not actually concerned about my eventual corpse being eaten by cats on account of the fact that I won’t know anything about it. And I don’t intend to have cats when I’m old because I’ll want to be off and doing things. But apparently as a Single Person in my late 30s, I am supposed to be worried about it.

**And as near to mountain climbing as you will ever get me. I’m not even that keen on walking slightly up hill, let alone donning crampons and a helmet. And altitude does terrible things to my hair.

This week, amidst a chaos of broken computer, deadlines to reach and appointments to schedule, I have been taking quiet office moments to look through some very old records recently unearthed in a dark and dusty corner. Very dusty, in fact. My fingers feel gritty after handling them.

So when things get a little too much, I take a breath, scoop up 20 or so of these cards, and spend the next half hour transcribing what’s written on them. The script is in beautiful italics, ink, where f’s look like s’s and g’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It took a good few minutes to realise that what I was looking at was ‘Longhorn Plough’ rather than ‘Fructating Implement’.

However some of these cards raise questions that threaten to break your heart:

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Who was that child? The complete card includes a baby’s shawl, the gloves, a lace cap and just that one shoe. Was it the donor’s, items carefully saved in cardboard boxes and wrapped in tissue paper from their own babyhood? Or did they belong to someone else in his family? A sister, brother, daughter, son? I think its the one shoe that makes me pause. Why only the one? There’s an old tradition of baby shoes being placed in the structure of a house as a good luck or anti-witch charm, perhaps that’s where the other one is. Propping up a hearth or a lintel, providing protection for the inhabitants.

And in the end, I can’t know. I’ll never know. I pause for a moment in my work, wonder and worry about the child that wore the shoe, its fate. Think about the first pair of shoes my own daughter wore, how tiny they were, fitting into the palm of my hand, transforming her butterfly feet into things of substance, grounding her. I think about how she now borrows mine. And I wonder, for a moment, if that child grew up to borrow it’s mother’s or father’s.

And then the phone rings, or the door rattles and the questions go unanswered.

Picking My Way Carefully

A return to work, a Sunday spent with that back-to-school feeling sinking deeper into the pit of the stomach that actually proved to be more about the relinquishing of long days of freedom, more than it was about Going Back.

Missing the long walks through fields and woods with my constant companions, so reminding myself to spend at least an hour outside in the evening, pottering, gardening on a micro-scale, barefoot dreaming through the grass. Stretching my toes on the moss. Eating meals in the garden, watching the bees make close acquaintance with the lavender and marigolds.

Trying not to duck as the bats zip overhead in the dusk, performing acrobatics for their insect audience. The sound of seagulls overhead making me homesick for the sea. Antlers as wide as a lover’s outflung arms rising from the middle of a wheat field, just the tip of a stag’s nose sniffing the air. Blue moons and full moons and no moons.

Lazy summer eating, making the most of what’s in season: barbecued cobs of corn, runner beans sliced not quite as finely as my Grandad used to, baby courgettes pan-fried in butter and served on garlic rubbed sourdough toast. Chilled wine making the outside of my glass beaded. Bowls of nectarines, cherries, raspberries. Here come the blackberries in time for autumn porridges.

Reading reading reading, caught in webs of mythology and family legend amidst the tragedy-soaked Balkans: “I married your grandmother in a church, but I would still have married her if her family had asked me to be married by a hodza. … My name, your name, her name. In the end, all you want is someone to long for you when it comes time to put you in the ground.” The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. Picking my way carefully through Morte d’ Arthur.

Lying awake at night to hear the owls cry, the harvesters rumble in the fields. The horse in the paddock next door wickers in his sleep. Breezes through tree tops sound like the ruffling of aggrieved hens, and a door slams somewhere in the village.

And so to work, reconnect with projects on pause, with the people, with the building. Chasing palely blind spiders from their dim-lit hiding places. Feel the cool of the walls through my shirt as I lean against them.

Making plans for autumn: a trip to the zoo, to the Lowry exhibition, to a folk evening. The literary festival looms large for October, but not as large as the trip to the sea at the end of the month. I can’t put it off any longer – I need salt air, and splashing shallows, and rock pools, and ruined castles by the shore line.

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