Wednesday, 31 December 2008

new year, new leaf?


Despite the fact that 2008 will be a year remembered with sadness and loss, there were some good things that need to be appreciated:
* writing (more)

* knitting (too much?)

* sewing (a little)


* friends (making new ones and enjoying the ones we already have)

* family (lots of changes and more to come)

* learning (one course finishes, another one likely to start)

* decorating (I love living with a man who cares what goes on the walls and then, actually, gets it put on there)

* holidaying (lots of good times in strange places)

* visiting (seeing great places, exhibits and shows)

What will happen in 2009? Who knows? More credit crunching I expect and a need to sit tight and take things slowly. I'm hoping:

* to tackle more of my projectforty list, including the things that I need to do rather than the things that I actually like doing (that wasn't really the idea)

* to create more

* to run more workshops

* to write enough that I get published this year

* to spend more time in my room working than I spend tidying it up

* to enjoy my family

* to take up all the opportunities that are offered

* to say yes more and no less (to most questions!)

* to get back on track with the things I've neglected in 2008

I'm exhausted already!

On a more immediate front, we have 5 families arriving in just over 4 hours to celebrate the arrival of 2009. I have nothing to wear and I need to do something with my hair. I can feel a lovely Ren Rose Otto bath coming on but that precludes the possibility of hair revival as it feels so nice as it's oily. What to do?

Am also going to dig out our rather ancient copy of Pictionary and possibly Junior Triv. It could be a long night! Last time we had a party we played 'who am I?'. It took rather a long time as two of our friends are celebrity-culturally challenged. Who cannot know who Ken Livingstone is? I ask you!

Monday, 29 December 2008

a lull in proceedings


The week between Christmas and New Year is a great excuse for a long weekend in my book.
There are games to play, toys to try, piles to sort and the excitement of a brand new year.
2009 isn't looking great on a number of levels although a new year is just what I need right now.
Some of 2008 was just plain painful. I need to start over.
I'm putting plans together, having a good old look at what's working and what isn't and I'm hopeful and optimistic despite the crunchy nut creditflakes and the prospect of eking out a significant jar of lentils bought on a health whim last March. I am unable to contemplate any more mince-tastic meals. We'll just have to go vegetarian or, maybe, airetarian if things get really bad!
It seems that what we all need is a little bit of projectforty!
- ditch the wine, drink more water
- cancel the gym membership, walk up hills nearby
- make lists of all the things you love, not all the things you need/want to do (you probably won't
be able to afford them anyway)
- dance (around the kitchen, preferably with friends)
- eat less (save money!)
- appreciate, appreciate, appreciate (your soul and your bank balance will soar!)

Friday, 26 December 2008

he came, he saw, he drank sherry






This is what we started with.





This is what was in them....



This is some of what Santa brought me....what a lucky girl: a knitted mug, a Yarn Forward, 3 vintage knitting patterns, wine, choccies, elbow, terry's orange, a thrifty book AND some stripy socks. What more could a girl want? Nothing. Santa has been very thoughtful and very resourceful this year despite the credit crunch.

Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'twas the night before christmas


I love Christmas Eve.
I love stuffing the cupboards unitl the doors won't shut.
I love hearing the fridge shelves groan each time the door is opened.
I love the anticipation that fizzes from the kids (even now, aged 8 and 11).
I love the fact that G, each year, does not realise he needs wrapping paper until 23rd December.
I love going shopping on Christmas Eve for the three items I've forgotten.
I love doing the last minute wrapping and the hiding of presents.
We've always tried to have Christmas morning, at least, at home, just the four of us. It's been quite a selfish thing to do but it's the way we like it. I've always wanted the children to have their stockings and their presents at home, without being transported around the country. I suppose, as well, I want them to associate Christmas with being at home, with us. Will I be devastated when they say they want to spend Christmas in their homes? Probably.
This Christmas won't be the same in many ways but it will in others. We'll have our stockings by the fire, we'll do 'absent friends' at 11, we'll have a late lunch and I'll fall asleep during Dr. Who.
I'll be trying to think of the future as well as looking back at times with Dad. Maybe that sadness will help me appreciate the good things too.

Monday, 22 December 2008

still




I took these photos in the summer (yes, the summer) on a walk in Lancashire. The weather was wild and the sheep were numerous.

They make me think of what it's like to be at the end of one year and nearing the beginning of the next. I feel I've 'got through' this year somehow. It's been difficult and shocking and it's taking me time to feel able to look forward to the next one.

I happened to look at this piece of field and sky. First there was nothing and then, as you can see, sheep. They were doing their thing. Having a little look around, eating a bit, getting to the top of the hill and going down the other side.
Sometimes, I think, it is good to do what you have to do and just get on with being what you are. A little time spent doing just what is necessary and vital can be sustaining and there can be quiet pleasure in the pursuit of ordinary tasks.
Christmas (I know, I'm getting obsessed) is helping me come to the end of the year with our little family's rituals. I know I must soak a ham and buy the eggs for our Christmas Eve ham, egg and chips feast. I was pleased to find the chocolate oranges for the stocking and am looking forward to making the bread sauce. All the things we usually do will happen anyway and will be comforting and calming. Just what's needed.

Friday, 19 December 2008

let the festivities begin....


Christmas, for me, starts with these little blighters (my favourite Christmas decorations) and really gets going when the kids break up from school. As an added bonus, today is non-uniform day at both schools. E is transforming herself into a modern-day Elf and J has found a Christmas hat which, entertainingly, lights up having also found some batteries. I can hear sleigh bells already.

We've had a few years of the kids finishing just a couple of days before the main event but this year, with Christmas next Thursday, there's almost a whole week to potter about en famille with as little aggravation as possible. In our house aggravation is most easily avoided by stocking the cupboard with biscuits and insisting on wearing pyjamas until at least midday. We're very low maintenance.
We will have to go shopping having been unable to face the torrential rain last Saturday but I've convinced myself that everyone will have gone into a bargain-hunting frenzy at the weekend and we will be able to saunter around any emporium we choose.
We're also entertaining Granny at the moment, or rather she is entertaining us. It's a sad Christmas for us all this year but it's good to be together feeling sad. I feel as if Christmas and New Year are almost forcing me to look forward and despite losing Dad and all the awful feelings that surface on a regular basis, the rituals of Christmas make me feel that everything will continue and also that he would want them to. So....I managed to get Santa's chocolate oranges (half price, thank you WHSmiths) and the red cabbage is ready to go in the freezer (not thatDad would eat the red cabbage, thank you very much).
It's also the traditional Strictly final tomorrow night. G & N are visiting with W and will take J to their place for the Christmas week. I'm feeling Rachel is on a bit of a winning streak although she's had a pasting in the press for being a bit stroppy this week, maybe the plucky Lisa will pull through. Who knows? Do we really care? I just like the frocks and Len Goodman.
Severrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnn!!!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

All I want for Christmas


Every year, my Christmas intentions are many and varied.....

- make mince pies and freeze them (thank you, Nigella, for reminding me last night, although I missed the bit about why 3 lumps of pastry in clingfilm?)

- write Christmas cards in a joyous, sherry-fuelled, Andy Williams type moment with a fountain pen instead of hastily scribbling them with biro whilst watching more credit-crunch news on Newsnight

- wrap all presents in matching wrapping paper

- make my own Christmas pudding

- remove all the dust from the festive spirits that languish in the kitchen cupboard for the rest of the year and test them before anyone actually requests a snifter

- write and post Christmas cards to neighbours and friends before 24th December

- fill the house with the scent of frankincense (instead of unwashed, muddy football kit)

- use holly and found foliage to decorate the bannister (ha!)

- get my haircut, eyebrows waxed and eyelashes dyed before I actually remember to try to make an appointment, usually on 20th December

- have satsumas with leaves on in the fruit bowl

- actually go to the Carol services at our local church

- understand exactly how to make a Christingle and what it is for

- not cry at the school's nativity, even though my children are now too old to be shepherds and Mary

- buy tasteful and, crucially, wanted gifts for everyone from teachers to beloved family, friends and relatives

I'm particularly amazed that Christmas happens every year on the same day each year and each year I manage to not quite get the hang of it but it all happens anyway.

There's sherry in the cupboard and Tesco's are delivering tonight. We're almost there - but not quite.

Monday, 15 December 2008

let the festivities commence!


J has discovered how to make mince pies and they're much, much better than mine.


Hurrah!


Thank you Mrs Leach. You've done our household a great service. I now have another person in the house who can make pastry.


Sunday, 14 December 2008

best laid plans

By the time the boys woke up on Saturday (E was on a sleepover) the rain had convinced us that shopping in Bath was a VERY BAD IDEA.

Instead, we turned the house into a festive grotto of loveliness whilst waiting for Strictly to start.

We did rather well despite a couple of tense stand-offs - something to do with the last hobnob and a debate about whether repeatedly hitting the same snare drum is, in fact 'practising a musical instrument'.

All's well that ends well though and we spent the day tittivating and tidying. The guest room is all organised, bar the scented drawer liners and I've even managed to descale the shower without destroying the plating.

More of the same today, with a fleeting nostalgic trip to 'Mickey Ms' in Bedford upwards of 20 years ago. E went to a rollerblading party in a local leisure centre. I really, really, really wanted to have a go but I think, instead, that I'll book it just for me when I'm feeling flush - just to make sure I can do it.

'Mickey Ms' as I remember it was on a corner, somewhere near the train station in Bedford, next door to the amusement arcade. I was deposited there with my friend K almost every Sunday afternoon for at least 3 hours of sweaty roller-disco in the dark, listening to Dollar and Duran Duran. Happy days!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

a disaster waiting to happen

We are going to Bath to do some Christmas shopping 'en famille' today. We are not the best shoppers individually, as a foursome, I am concerned that our conflicting approaches will result in a strained Saturday evening.

J dislikes shopping unless it's for trainers, football kit, books about football, computer games (preferably discounted) or football boots.

E likes anything sparkly, anything with a logo on it that she recognises and pens (can't think where she gets the latter from).

G doesn't shop. Well, he doesn't shop like we all used to shop in the 20th Century. He ebays and amazons with parcels arriving almost every other day at the moment but he doesn't like shopping because he can't find what he's looking for.

I view shopping as what you do either side of having coffee and, hopefully, lunch somewhere nice. I like to shop alone, with a list, with the knowledge of disposable income and preferably not in Argos. I loaaaaaaaaathe Argos. Michael McIntyre has a great line about Argos being theatre for poor people. I think its owners must just enjoy watching their customers survive the intolerable process involved in buying anything. It's the most joyless shopping experience on the high street. No touching, no looking at the actual real things, at least two episodes of queuing to withstand. Nasty carrier bags. Horrid. So, I'm not going there then.

It's also pouring. It's only 5.50am but my expert ears can detect peristent rain and this definitely sounds persistent. Great. Shopping in the rain. What larks.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

if at first you don't succeed...

Give up! No? Try again! I had some positive feedback from a real live agent to my writing in the summer holidays so, not to appear too keen, have managed to let 4 months lapse before sending her my revised outline this morning. There have been horrid extenuating circumstances but, really, for a woman who has always wanted to write and be published, I appear to be trying to miss the boat.

Having re-submitted though, I have to say, my Projectforty proposal is much improved and I think may be just the thing to read round about now.

We all know that the economic climate is sending shivers and waves through all of us and now is definitely the time for some stability and comfort and ordinariness. I turned the news off weeks ago, now I'm starting to worry for friends (and us!) with meetings of doom and gloom happening in every second office across the UK.

My renewed submission attempts are, quite plainly, a not so subconscious attempt at actually cushioning our family finances. I know it's a longshot, the odds aren't great but, well, if you don't try, you don't know.

I have a distant family connection with a very famous writer and I discovered an article about him written in the 70s where he outlined his approach to writing. It went something like this.

'We wanted to buy a house so I sat down and worked out what occupation would give the most return for the minimum effort - the conclusion, an illustrated children's book, fewer words, someone else to do the drawing.'

He was right, he followed his hunch and became a writer. He moved on to write for adults and the rest, as we say, is history.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

re-surfacing

I emailed a former colleague a couple of days ago. She wrote that she was pleased I'd 're-surfaced'. It made me think of roads and rivers and oceans.

I left my paid job just over 2 years ago, went to college and have been writing and crafting and arting ever since. I've had the good fortune to be able to spend my days doing pretty much what I want to do and I've just started to make my interests pay (a little).

My former colleague doesn't see this (and why should she) but the notion that by leaving a rural county council, I'd somehow drowned or sunk beneath the earth is an interesting one.

It made me think of friendships I've had over the years where either myself or my friends have simply disappeared over time. Neither of us would resign or move on to other friends but circumstances or places would change and we've slowly disappeared from each other's lives. Sometimes, I have to say, that's been a blessing but there are other people I've met who I miss and now I have no way of finding them unless I try stalking them on Facebook or Myspace of wherever people expose themselves.

I think that would be a little weird and it would require a degree of confidence that I don't possess. Let's face it - if I was that fascinating and important, those friendships would continue.

On another matter....

I have a confession. I've been watching 'I'm a celebrity etc......' for the last 3 weeks. I've watched grown men have temper tantrums and observed the Mallet species whooping and howling to annoy his fellow campers. I think my favourite was George, the 72 year old former star of Star Trek. He was serene, good humoured, fit as a flea and very funny. The opposite of David Van Day (Dollar? Remember? Mirror, mirror?). Yuck.

On another matter....

Am taking the beloved's mother to Get Knitted this morning. E is coming too. She's taking her PSP and has stated several times 'I am not knitting'.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

better out than in....

It's Tuesday. It's sunny. I'm still coughing.

I've been coughing since Thursday. I coughed in Stroud, I coughed in Chippenham, I coughed on the way to Bristol Airport and I've coughed in most of the quietest restaurants and shops in southwest France over the weekend.

I went to France to see J and to make sure she was OK. I didn't need to check on her really, I knew she would be strong and resilient despite the circumstances. What I really went for was to make myself feel better by checking on her and G and N. The result? I do feel better - thanks for asking.

I also feel that, now, it's time to stop wittering, get on with grieving and celebrate the living that there is all around me. I can see how people can be drawn into a kind of comfort with grief. It's tempting to spend a lot of time thinking about it, experiencing it and feeling the sense of loss that comes with it. Losing someone is terrible, there's no doubt and there aren't that many times during life that we really experience such strong feelings.

There's falling in love, there's falling out of love, there's giving birth, there's near death experiences - I can't really think of any other life events that can really shake a person that much. Of course, there's all the short-attention-span stuff - the successes, the failures, a job well done but there's nothing quite like the death of someone you love to, as J said at the weekend, 'pull you up' and make you sit and take notice.

The strong feelings and emotions death stirs can take over. Those feelings and emotions dominate the hours. They can strike at any time. If ordinary life and tasks want to take over they're quickly dismissed by a second's acknowledgement of the recent loss.

At the same time it's almost energising to feel such strong emotions. I can feel myself reacting more strongly to all sorts of things - colours are more vibrant, I'm terrified of oncoming traffic, I see accidents everywhere, I'm sensitive to noise, I don't sleep - I have 12 hour comas.

I have to remember though, that it's only me that's having these uber-feelings. I also have to remember that I do, actually, need to get on with the rest of my life that isn't bound up with loss and grief and sorrow. What I need to do is look after myself and my family and make sure that they are OK. I need to look outwards again.

So....this is my last post on the subject of me and my feelings.

I've decided that from this blog forth, I shall be writing about other stuff, stuff that interests me, stuff of note, stuff of life.

Normal service will resume.