Friday, 26 August 2011

Four days...

It's a public holiday on Monday, and I've booked Tuesday off as annual leave, so I am about to have four days off. A little holiday. Thank goodness.

I am very tired and rather washed out, partly from work being busy and partly from some ongoing gynae problems that the doctor hasn't made much headway on yet. I'm taking extra vitamins and iron, watching my diet more carefully than usual, haven't drunk any alcohol in about the last ten days, have been taking probiotics daily, and am getting to bed by 10.30 every night. I really want the problems either to stop, or at least to be explained. I'd like to get through the tests and urine-samples and we'll-monitor-things-for-a-while stage, and just know what I'm dealing with. If I'm going to end up on HRT, then okay, so be it, I'm happy to give it a try; but please, can't we cut to the chase?

Others seem to be okay; K has a new kitten, Miss Robyn has a new house, The Geek is getting ready to finish her PhD research, Baby Bro's most recent operation seems to have been highly successful and has restored him to his previous maddeningly buoyant self... This is all good; the world is not devoid of good. But as for me, I'm stale, flat and unprofitable.

It's just one of those things. Roll on the four day weekend...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

When I am troubled...

When I am troubled I like to walk. Whether it is ten minutes stroll out in the Gardens in my lunch break or forty minutes tramp going homewards, it clears my head and lets me breathe. I feel my shoulders relax and my head go up, my legs seem to stretch out as I move forward, and suddenly I find I can reflect calmly on things that stress me; work falls into perspective, plot problems sort themselves out, and poems begin to stir, and I see colours that make me want to grab a brush and paint for hours. Solvitur ambulando, as someone said, back in the days when they spoke Latin rather than scratching their heads over it - I think it was one of the Church Fathers. He was right, anyway. It will be sorted out by walking.

Today I think I need to walk home; not just for the head-space it gives me, but also because a colleague brought in and distributed some fabulously rich home-made Indian sweets this afternoon. Gajjar Khe Halva, yum; but goodness knows what the calorific value of two slices was.

Yesterday it poured for a lot of the day. My brief walk at lunch was one of pungent wet smells and cold air, my umbrella catching on things, branches reaching under it to slap my face. Today it has turned hot and sunny again and my lunchtime stroll was full of flowers and birds chirruping, and dry, resiny late-summer scents. Most of the time I love the constant contrasts of the British climate, but sometimes I am baffled by them. There must have been a good ten degrees temperature difference between yesterday and today; and the forecast is for another chilly wet day tomorrow…

Off home now to eat warmed up lentil moussaka and get on with the next fairy tale. I don’t know what it says about me, that I’m writing fairy tales at my age. But they are what comes, and I go with it.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Reflecting on what reduces a person...

It’s been an odd week. The news has continued to be shocking and depressing in turns – and of course the knee-jerk tone of some of the coverage makes it more depressing straightaway. The rioters and looters have behaved like yobs, yes – but no-one is born a yob. The question of the reactions to the rioting is rapidly becoming one of those subjects where I pipe down fairly quickly, though. There isn’t much point in trying to discuss it with people who have already made their minds up. I’ve heard a lot of folk saying “They’re animals!” and then refusing to think any further about it.

I’ve been towards the poorer end of society, financially speaking, for several chunks of my life (not least, most of my childhood). I’ve been filled with rage at times, at my situation and at the hoops I was expected to jump through, the humiliations I was expected to endure, and so on. I knew how to control the anger, but I can see how someone who couldn’t control it and had no outlet for it could just blow up. Does the fact that when I’ve been pushed around and patronised I’ve kept my cool and told myself things would get better, mean I’m entitled to judge those who cannot keep their tempers in the heat of the moment, in the middle of a yelling mob? It’s easy to judge, after all, and hard to empathise with criminals.

As recently as ten years ago I can remember being almost overwhelmed by anger and frustration as I tried to get through the convoluted, dehumanising, crushingly stupid process involved in getting my council tax reduced while I was out of work. It's a sad memory. At the next counter along, a young couple had been reduced to screaming abuse by the injustice and illogicality of the system they were meant to follow, and the unhelpfulness of the person dealing with them. I remember thinking “There but for the grace of god…” as I listened to them. I knew that I had all the benefits of intelligence, education, a fairly mature and optimistic outlook, a sense of humour and a lot of patience, and I was still having to fight not to lose my temper. They, with none of those advantages, were losing theirs spectacularly. The young man ended up being told that he would be expelled from the building by security if he didn’t calm down. I listened and watched, and I thought “If I wasn’t equipped, in myself, to handle this situation, and all the other cr*p that life is dumping on me at the moment, it could have been me getting that warning”. It was salutary. No-one is born a yob; people get reduced to it. And those who are least well equipped to cope with trouble are the most easily reduced by it.

Meanwhile, I’ve been wrestling again with my pitch letter for “R’s sisters”, with the help of some very useful feedback from a friend. I suddenly realised there was one other revision I needed to make in the text, too, so I’ve been wrestling with that as well. And I’ve been carrying on with the long-short-story fairy tale. I’m very near the end of that, on to the penultimate scene, and wondering what the end will be. I know that end is a version of “they all lived happily ever after” (this is me, after all!), but that isn’t the tone of the story at all, even if it’s what the message boils down to. I’m rather happy with it, though, and will start typing it up as soon as it’s finished. It’s the third alternative fairy tale I’ve done. Perhaps I should collect them together?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Mad activity everywhere - sadly mad in several senses...

Well, it's all been happening (except when it hasn't) over the last few days. I had a great trip to a Prom that was marred only by having The Smelliest Man in London sitting beside me. I cleaned the whole house. I made personalised muesli and a great curry. I went to a super exhibition of Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs at the Courtauld Gallery. It was a good weekend.

Then Sunday and Monday, great swathes of London rioted, and burned and looted one another, including in an area barely two streets from where I used to live. Two streets away from where I currently live, everyone got boarded up and braced for trouble, only for there to be none. But what an appalling business it all was. I'm not going to try and make any profound statements; I'm totally unequipped and unqualified to do so, and also still too stunned by the whole thing. I've had to reassure my mother repeatedly that I am okay and am not going to knowingly get in any trouble, as she's quite convinced I will start taking silly risks if there's trouble in my vicinity.

We can only wait and see what happens next, and hope that there isn't a backlash that just makes things worse.

Going back to more cheerful news items, this morning I typed the wonderful phrase "Guide Dogs for the Blond" in a reply to a visitor's question. It's a good thing I still read through my emails instead of just trusting spellchecker with them. Spellchecker saw nothing wrong with guide dogs for the blond. Admittedly the idea has a certain appeal, but only as humour...

And if you ever garden or do anything with plants, you will love this:

I hope that link posts okay.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Rainy day in August...

For a lot of today it has rained; there was a let up at about 2pm, then another dribble just after I’d had a walk, which was good timing. It’s now looking as though it may pour again, just as we get to going-home-time. I mustn’t grumble, as it’s much needed, which seems bizarre when one considers what a wet summer we have been having. But the wet weather ended two weeks ago and there has not been a drop of rain since, only stifling heat and high humidity. So this is doubly welcome. It waters the Gardens (and everyone else’s gardens too, of course, including mine!) and it brings down the ambient temperature slightly. I went out at lunch and walked with real pleasure in the wet grass.

Rain brings out the subtle scents of lavender and myrtle and escallonia, and the distinctive and delicious perfume called “very-dry-ground-now-wet”, as well as the rather less delicious first autumnal whiff of wet dead foliage. Sweet rain, blessing unlooked for, that washes and refreshes everything, and calms the frazzled mind, and cools the besandalled feet...

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


It's Lughnasadh, or Lammas; the beginning of autumn, the season of the reaper, but also the time of first fruits. I'm working on drafting a pitch letter for "Ramundi's sisters", and tonight I go home to eat my first home-grown tomato of the year. Writing the pitch letter is agony, easily my least favourite part of this "trying to get published" lark. Seriously, I'd rather write five love scenes than one pitch. But I'm hoping that first red, shapely tomato will be good. I think some of the chard might be just about big enough to gather, too. Here's to first fruits, and baking hot late summer days, and to remembering the blessings of life as I make my way home sweating gently across the baked, dry grass of Kew Green.