Monday, September 27, 2010

Flick the Switch

I am very reluctant to turn the heating on.
In my head, summer is only just over, so no way am I going to cave in and turn it on.
However, back in reality, it was still firmly dark at half past six this morning.
It's grey. It's miserable. The washing is hanging up on drying racks in the bathroom nowadays (the sun's angle is so now low that the back garden sees only a sliver of it on a good day) and unfortunately stays damp and starts to smell a bit funny after a couple of days. Not good.

Sitting at my computer in the front room, I'm a bit chilly and have goose-pimples on my arms.
Sometimes I wrap myself in a big lambswool shawl, but that looks a bit mad, especially as I can be seen clearly from the pavement. The room itself is south facing and gets whatever light there is. The days are long gone when I had to move my laptop and books into the north facing dining room to stop overheating and sit with the french windows open for the breeze - it's dark and gloomy in there today.

So I guess I'm going to go and turn it on and let everything heat up a bit.

It's admitting that summer's gone.
But there you go.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Went to visit my old friend's grave today. I haven't been back since she was buried fifteen months ago. I was pleased to see that there was a lovely headstone, engraved with a kingfisher (her favourite bird, the sight of which once persuaded her in the depths of despair away from the river), a loving dedication and the full text of Mary Elizabeth Frye's poem 'Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep....'

The sun was shining, a gentle wind was blowing small clouds across the sky.

I am not ashamed to say I did just that.

R.I.P. my dearest friend....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ouch! Why Sometimes We Should Ask Questions....

I have just returned from the dentist, having had a small filling replaced. The side of my mouth is numb: it was my choice to have an injection, not having the highest pain threshold in the world - the dentist thought that the discomfort of the injection would probably be greater than that of the drilling, but it wasn't really uncomfortable at all.

Over the years I have had a variegated relationship with the dental profession.
I had a feeling that the dental treatment I had in my youth was largely unneccessary, and this was indeed confirmed when I asked some questions a year or so ago. Puzzled by the fact that my own children's teeth were filling-free, and that when I was young my access to sweet stuff and fizzy drinks was even more restricted than theirs, I wondered aloud why I had a mouth full of ugly amalgam fillings when as a child/teenager I was regularly seen by our dentist.

Apparently - my very honest lady dental sugeon tod me - it's all to do with how dentists were paid in the sixties and seventies - they received money for work done: a tooth left unfilled was lost revenue, so my probably sound teeth were drilled into to get them cash.
If I spent a lot of time thinking about this I could get really mad: I have been exploited for money - not exactly maimed, but needlessly 'treated', filled with mercury.
I don't have (except for my incisors) one unfilled tooth in my head and, of course, fillings don't last for ever so I am a docile cash-cow that is obliged to drop in for 'milking' every so often.
The Husband's mouth is an even more extreme case: at least my fillings are discrete and I can floss around them. He has what I believe was referred to as the 'Australian trench' method of filling, whereby adjacent teeth were drilled and a slab of filling laid between the two, with no attempt to conform it to the individual tooth. He too, like me, has to go to the surgery regularly to have crumbly bits shored up and replaced. Thank goodness for the National Health Service!
My M-i-L's teeth are, and always have been I believe, in pretty poor condition, but for some strange reason she has opted to have her treatment done privately. I'm not sure if it's a good idea - she has spent hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds over the past few years on extensive treatment that doesn't seem to have benefitted her one bit. But of course, a private patient is another, far more bountiful, sort of cash-cow. Tell them they'll need some complicated stuff done and they'll mildly cough up.

A colleague of the Husband's, who had not been to the dentist for a few years needed, to re-register with the NHS to get treatment for an aching tooth. He decided in the interim to go private because of the discomfort, and was told that he needed the tooth extracting, a post inserted into the jaw and a porcelain cap fitted for £600. Coincidently, he found himself, almost immediately after, registered with an NHS practice and (horrified) popped along for a second opinion. He emerged from his 20 minute appointment having had a clean, descale and a small filling. He was charged £46.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Order Returns

I am feeling a great deal more cheerful now. Yesterday (Monday) was a far less stressful day, despite the Bright-Eyed Boy forgetting his packed lunch, panicking, and me having to drive over to the school to drop it off. I made Daughter #3's orthodontist appointment as soon as they were open and that left the rest of the day to devote to academic progress. I did a few symbolic things: Hoovered the floor in the 'study' (the parakeet and the children tend to make a mess), damp-dusted the desk, tidied away the loose papers into box files, put on some Julian Bream classical guitar music, made a good strong pot of espresso and sat down to work. And my! Did it feel good!
The weather was appalling: totally grey with continuous fine rain. The garden looks like a tropical rain forest, like looking into a green box - the vine has gone crazy (no sign of grapes whatsoever) drip, drip, dripping rain onto the patio furniture that we have used maybe twice this 'summer'.

Inside I felt snug and smug, and ready to write.
I spent all day on my thesis - until the B-E-B came home at half four - then spent another half-hour listening to a programme on the life and forthcoming beatification of John Henry Newman.
By dinner time yesterday evening I was calm and restored to my more usual sanguine frame of mind.
All that had been needed to restore order - it seemed - was some time for myself.
It's NOT selfish, because everyone else around me benefits. I even managed to cook dinner without too much dark muttering and wished the Husband a good training session at the gym when he departed at 8pm (not to return until 10!).
And today is more of the same. I feel the wrinkles being ironed out of my soul by the rhythm of work: for me calmness and mental wellbeing comes from gentle routine. I often think that I would be suited to a life in holy orders, except I'm not sure that I would like living in close proximity with strangers. Maybe an anchoress? But then I would miss company occasionally - even now I sometimes have to trot of into town to grab a latte and read in a coffee shop - I don't require interaction, I would be truly annoyed if someone tried to engage me in conversation - just the presence of other human beings.
Maybe a cenobitic order, where the residents spend much of the day alone in contemplation or work but then come together to dine?
But I am wandering . I need my family as much as they seem to need me. The last really bad dream I had was asort of inner locution which asked 'when do you know that your children have truly grown up?' The answer that came - and thinking of it even now I can feel tears welling up - was 'when the last soft toy is packed away'. Fortunately the B-E-B's room is decorated and draped with an assortment of toy monkeys, and even Daughter #3 still has two of her cuddly dog collection on her shelf (under the glowering gazes of 'Slipknot' and 'Bullet for My Valentine'), and one 'Ugly Doll' (ChukkaNukka, I believe) to cuddle in bed! Thank goodness!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Well, the children are back at school, and the Bright-Eyed Boy has made the existential leap from junior to senior school with only the most minor of hiccups (slight panic over the PE kit, forgotten pack-up boxes or exercise books). We sit back feeling slightly smug.
I am trying very hard to get back into full academic mode after a summer of generally slacking off and reading pulp-fiction (see another of my blogs more books than sense) and not doing much in the way of intellectual stimulation. It's actually proving rather difficult, as I seem to have lost the thread of my thesis and spend some time scratching my head wondering what precisely I am trying to prove, and how am I going to go about it. I keep postponing getting really pitched in, convincing myself that a trip to the library is required (not really!), that a trip to town is neccessary (not at all!!), that I need to start a new blog (which I have and it's called I wish I was a better Catholic....hardly neccessary but something I felt I've wanted - nay, needed to do to prod my wilting faith). Even this post is by way of procrastination and deferral, convincing myself that it helps limber up the writing facility - which, actually, it does.
I'v got a couple of weeks to put down a couple of thousand words, so I'm feeling fairly optimistic about meeting the deadline, except I've noticed that stuff keeps getting in the way.
Daughter #3's fixed-brace has been fitted and has been the source of much discomfort to her. Not only that but the wires keep coming out of the little bracketty things and try as we might, the Husband and I just can't see to get them back in. In the two weeks that the damn things have been fitted, she has been back twice for minor repairs, which neccessitates her taking time out of school to walk to the orthodontist and back again. This week I can't factor it in as (ironically) I have to go to the dentist for a filling, which obviously carves a slice out of the working day.
The weekends seem to be a continuous stream of activity: the B-E Boy has football practice on Saturday mornings and Daughter #3 often goes rowing. It's the back end of the regatta season so two weeks on the trot, there are regattas to factor in, plus a foorball match for the Boy (if he gets picked, which sadly, is becoming less and less often, much to his upset). Daughter #2 has decided that she will entertain no other baby-sitter for the Bouncing Bubba, so I had to watch him on Friday afternoon while she popped to the doc's, and again on Saturday night when she and the Son-In-Law went out to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. They all arrived chez nous rather early, just as we were just starting tea. Daughter #1 had just turned up from London (via Leeds) and was keen to discuss her ever-more complicated life. We'd only just got back from a tiring day getting soaked on the banks of the River Aire.
Unfortunately, the B-B decided to start grizzling as soon as his parents trotted off, so I was sitting there feeling totally frazzled, nursing him as he squirmed and moaned, and trying to converse matters of the heart (not simple) over a crescendo of 'mummymummymummydaddymummmy' and wondering whether I'd ever get any peace.

Somehow - and it may have been the extra glass of red wine - I woke up the next day feeling very, very sorry for myself indeed. I'd spent much of the previous week encouraging, servicing and minding....and the prospect for Sunday was pretty much more of the same: ensuring homework is done, laundry, feeding kids, keeping an eye on amorous teenagers....
And do you know, I'd had enough!
The National Antiquarian Bookfair had been at the racecourse from Friday 12 noon to Saturday 5pm. I'd been really keen to go - I love old books and a colleague of mine had told me it was a good opportunity to see some outstanding stuff: the postcard advert had been on my desk a while. But what with the child-minding and regatta attendance, I never got the chance. It felt so unfair - I'd been bending over backwards to accommodate other people and felt I'd been trampled underfoot without so much as a thought - the one thing I had wanted to do, for myself, - a once a year opportunity - had come and gone. I lapsed into self-pitying tears and wailed that I felt like some sort of facilitation-bot. the Husband sprang out of bed in consternation and said that if he'd known, he would have taken the girl to the regatta and I could have gone to the fair. But, as I pointed out to him, that would have made me look like a prize twat. It's a sad fact that not only do you have to do the parenting bit, but you're supposed to look like you're enjoying it too!
I just feel somewhat down at the moment. I work as hard as I can on this thesis (present half-hour excepted) and it brings in as much money (thanks to my funding) as a pretty well-paid part-time job. I also do most of the laundry, washing and cooking (because I'm here on site, so to speak, and it would be curmudgeonly not to) and act as chief child-co-ordinator, motivator, and PA. But what I do seems to counted as 'just what Mum does' and can be interrupted ad libitem to bring in lost jumpers, arrange dental appointments, taxi and baby-sit. Not only that, but any notion of time-out is never rears its head.
The Husband has embarked on a training schedule to prepare him once again for the indoor rowing championships (fair enough), but that means many weekday evenings he is absent. If he's not at the gym, he's quite often away on site visits and home late.

I think the Husband was quite shocked, although he knows that I am a reluctant parent and don't thrive on a pure diet of parenting duties. He's far better at kenosis than I am, but then he's only had to deal with the childhood of two of the children. I spent the rest of the day feeling quite wretched, upset, distant and a bit mad. I don't deal well with stress. The only effect it had was the Husband was walking on eggshells, making eyes at the children and mouthing words like 'Your Mum's a bit upset', without saying why exactly that was the case. So now the children think that I'm some sort of nutter that gets wound up and tearful over nothing.
No, it's not nothing! I feel like I am being ridden over rough-shod and the riders are looking behind at my mangled psyche tell each other that Mother's not looking too good! I wonder why?