Thursday, 23 February 2012

It's on its way

I had a bit of a crisis on my novel this week as I decided I needed to reorder the first nine chapters. This had implications that brought my first diva moment and I'm ashamed to say I threw several books across the room in frustration (sorry lovely published - grrr - authors).
DD2 came home from school. "Mummy, why are these books on the floor?"
"They helped me think" I replied sulkily.
"Shall I pick them up?"

It's all OK now. I took pen to paper and thrashed out my narrative arc or something, and I know where I need to go. But my eyes were unusually sore from scrunching and concentrating so I gave them a rest and ventured out into the garden for first time since October. 

It's fair to say I'm not a natural gardener. My list of jobs includes: 'move that greeny white bush to between the red and dark green ones'. I have no idea what they are called, but my elderly friend bought them for my birthday last year so I want them to live. I enjoy the winter simply because it means I'm not wracked with guilt that I should be digging something up. When I do get my gardening gloves on, I'm an all or nothing kind of gal and gave myself RSI after a vigorous five hour pruning session at the end of the summer. So the final point on my list is 'Don't do all this in one day'. I hope I listen.

What thrills me every year is what my little garden manages to do despite me. Look:

 There's stuff, growing:

Tiny little things:


I'm under strict instructions from my friend not to prune yet (can you tell I like to prune?) - something about frost not being over - so I'll leave well alone for now. My goal is that by the time my garden needs me, my book will be ready to let go. Only, promise you won't quote me on that?

Friday, 17 February 2012

An eruption in Sainsbury's

I made a show of myself in Sainsbury's today. Wandering 'Household Linen' I'd just refused DD2's chirpy request for canary yellow bath towels. Unperturbed, she'd skipped off to join her sister inspecting the rows of Easter booty.

I moved on to 'Candles, Vases and Ceramic Instructions'; you know: 'BAKE', 'LOVE' etc. I briefly pondered that, lovely as they are (I have 'LOVE' in my own house), they are missing a trick. I for one would buy 'CUPPA', 'VACUUM', or 'TIDY' to place strategically around our home as subliminal instructions to the DDs. Musing further possibilities, I turned the corner and stopped dead. I was faced with a 5ft pale pink stand bursting with floral cards. I gasped: Surely, it's too soon? I quickly moved to a more 'private' aisle - not much doing in the crockery aisle today I can report - where I attempted to blend into the display as I mopped my face and tried to keep the mascara vaguely north of my chin.

My darling girls found me five minutes later, concern and shock on their faces. I couldn't speak, only point. DD1 went to investigate, came back and despite the embarrassment she must have felt hugged her weeping mum, while DD2 hugged us both.

Hours later I still feel unsettled, winded. I hoped writing this might make some sense of it, but it hasn't really. It's always there, grief. Sometimes it's closer to the surface so it leaks slowly, other times it's buried deeper and you find you are getting on with life, laughing even, until it erupts when you are least prepared.

Fortunately, my comfort is simple: My beautiful daughters. Because though for the first time in my life I won't have anyone to send a card to, what makes it all bearable is that they still do.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A single Valentine's Day

There's something quite liberating about being single on Valentine's Day.

No, the postman didn't herniate himself this morning on my behalf. But I wasn't disappointed, because I had no expectation. And before you think this will be a sour grapes post, let me tell you I love Valentine's Day. I think it breaks up the most soulless months on the calendar, particularly when the news is permanently depressing. I think it's does us good to stop for a moment of lighthearted romance.

In the UK, we lag behind the States, mainly limiting our feeling-sharing to partners, while I understand our friends across the pond really know how to spread the love, with cards to (and from) teachers, pets and mother-in-laws being common place. It's just a bit of fun and niceness. And yet the argument we hear constantly from (mainly) men, all gruff voiced and puffed chest is "I don't need one day to show how I feel" and I always wonder how often these guys send hearts and flowers to their girls the rest of the year. Then we have the over commercialised argument. Yep, it is. But you don't have to buy into it. Because it's absolutely not about the heartsy stuff - all those bug-eyed teddies, purlease - nor is it about spending a shed-load in Tiffany. Real romance should be symbolic not bank-breaking. Original. A gesture goes a long way: Fold a piece of paper in half and write something heartfelt on it. Or saucy. Whatever floats your particular vessel. And personally, I would rather have a bunch of daffs from Tesco than a bouquet of red roses (snore). I suppose that makes me a cheap date.

But what gives me a sense of fulfillment today is that I've realised I'm happier with nothing than something from the wrong person. So I bought myself some daffs, and spent a fun afternoon with one of the two people I love most in the whole world creating my own Valentine man:

Then I bit his head off for forgetting my card.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A real tonic

I felt the urge to blog today without a firm plan in mind, so let's see where this goes. Still content as my usual hermit self, no one was more surprised to find me at the cinema on Saturday night, with a tub of Chunky Monkey, watching The Artist. I found it refreshing and surprisingly watchable given the lack of dialogue, though my friend leant over and whispered half way through "I won't be buying the soundtrack." I love old movies and the lead, Jean Du-Gorgeousness, captured the essence of Gene Kelly etal so well it was eerie. I sense a new crush coming on...

I have a quote on my kitchen pin-board: "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, 'Holy shit! What a ride'!" This came to mind when an amazingly independent, fit and strong 80 year old in my extended family had a fall last Monday, banged her head, slipped into a coma and passed away on Sunday. This lady was getting off the mini-bus from her keep fit class. Utterly shocking. Yet, she squeezed every last bit out of her life and I know those close to her are drawing comfort from that.
The DDs and I were still feeling very down after recent events. Well-meaning people would say "Are you all fine now?" expecting an affirmative. I would go to say yes, but then decide I didn't have the energy to cover up, so would answer "No, still really crap, actually." Then I would add, "but I'm ok." A wise friend told me that when you are grieving, however you feel is exactly right. I love that as it takes into account we all do it differently. It didn't help that I'd not been eating properly, and as for exercise - don't make me laff. Then DD2 came down with a mystery virus, the main symptom being exhaustion, so I bought her a tonic. After two days, she announced she felt 'all zingy'. Unsure whether it was a placebo or real effect, I started taking it. (Is yucky, tastes like fruity blood.) All I can say is 'Holy vitamin shots, Batman'. My energy levels have returned to normal and I should be sponsored I have recommended it to so many people: DD1's on it and even the ex husband. So, say it with me: 'Floradix'. Blinking magic.

So DD1 and I are tackling our respective fitness levels. She wants to tone (she's 13 and perfect), while I'm trying to unleash the inner woman I seem to have eaten. Then DD1 announced she would like to be my personal trainer. Hmm.... thinks mum.... But sure enough, Monday 6am found us bounding down the stairs, hoodies up, me singing "Eye of the Tiger". DD1 gave the special withering look she reserves for me, as we set about Davina. Oh, sweet Jiminy Cricket, that woman knows how to punish. But we did it, and again this morning, though I noticed I was the one doing the coaxing today. It reminded me of 20 odd years ago when my bloke at the time was trying to get me to join his running habit (despite my plea that a rack like mine wasn't designed for pavement pounding). He forcibly unwound me from the duvet to get me onto Hampstead Heath at 5.30am with snow on the ground. There I was in hat and balaclava, and every sweatshirt he and I owned, grumbling my way around a pond as he barked encouragement from quarter of a mile away. DD1 has a lot to learn.

Finally, I saw a bargain priced Etta James's Greatest Hits online and treated myself. I love 'At Last' and put the CD on as soon as it arrived this morning. Imagine my disappointment when my favourite song didn't feature. On closer inspection of the box I discovered that Ella Fitzgerald hadn't recorded 'At Last'. Oh, well. I'm loving her too and will drop a hint to the DDs for my birthday for the one I meant to order.