The Library Adventure

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve forgotten all about my Book Jar pledge. After all it’s been about 6 weeks and I’ve yet to pluck a scrap of paper out of it.
I haven’t though, honestly. It’s just that I went to the library…*oops*
In my defence I was just taking the kids so they could swap their books but it spiralled somewhat. After all, when you have 70 unread books in your house, the obvious thing to do is surely to acquire MORE…right?!?!
I was almost thwarted in my attempts: I had an unpaid fine on my account for returning my last lot of books late (tsk) and these days it isn’t as simple as handing over some loose change to the librarian behind the desk.
Ours is a ‘community’ library now. Which means there is no librarian…or desk…and you can’t pay your fines there…or get any assistance at all whatsoever. There is a guy (sometimes two) hovering around where the desk used to be but as he said himself “I’m just here to make sure no one steals any of the books or computers”.
So security guards have replaced librarians, an ATM style machine has replaced the borrowing/returns desk, and it is now only open for 2.5 days a week. The “baby bounce ‘n’ rhyme” group which I took Toby to every single week of my maternity leave is long gone, as are the stickers and certificates the boys used to get from The Book Club after borrowing a certain number of books/grinning cheekily at a librarian.
Apparently the fact that the building still stands and houses books signifies a small victory for our community, and yes I feel fortunate that we only have to walk 1 mile up the road to borrow books but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad at the compromise.
What it meant for us this time, was that I was unable to borrow anything as my account was suspended until I paid the fine (that I wasn’t allowed to pay to the guy who was there to stop me from stealing stuff/setting fire to the place!) If it were just me I’d have shrugged (perhaps haughtily) and not been TOO bothered, but the thing was that Toby had chosen a Spiderman comic book as one of his ‘books’ and they can’t be borrowed on a child’s account. Usually I borrow them for him on mine but…duh…I couldn’t could I? So he was devastated (and I mean distraught, in the way only a 4 year old can be when life is so cruel as to deny them the basic pleasure of taking home a book they have set their heart on borrowing).
Our options were: 1. Forget about it OR 2. Make a mad dash home, jump in the car and drive up to the nearest library that still actually functions as a LIBRARY with really real librarians who can accept cash for fines.
The former seemed the easiest but Toby’s heartbreak was palpable..so off we went on a mad cap “Library Adventure” (Toby’s words).
Of course it was almost library closing time and it just had to start raining, and the traffic was heavy and Toby started yelling at the other cars to “move” and it was so farcical that it actually became hilarious. We made it back to our local library just in time to grab our abandoned books from where we’d left them and borrow them on my newly credited and unlocked account.
So, as I’m sure you’ll understand, having gone through all that I feel I should probably read this lot before commencing Operation Book Jar. Along with the Spiderman comic, which was the real reason for the adventure, although I’m not very good at reading comics (Shhh! I just find it so tricky to know who is saying what and when!) so I usually leave that to Chris ūüėČ
I’ve already read one of that pile, so I promise it won’t be too long before I am consulting The Jar!

10 People You Meet At The Swimming Baths

As mentioned previously, I recently started swimming again, partly in an attempt to lose some of the 2 stone I’ve gained since being ill, but mostly just because it’s a thing I used to do that I enjoy, and I missed it.
It’s all going really well- I’ve built up from being able to do 17 lengths to 30 (and last week I managed 40 as a one off! Not that I’m showing off, you understand.) I’ve been going at least once a week, often more, and it’s all good…there’s just one teensy tiny (extremely irritating) problem…the other pool users.
I was going to say “fellow swimmers” but that wouldn’t be an accurate description…at all.
So here’s a list of the ten different kinds of people you are likely to come across at my local baths.
1. Splashy Mc Splashersome
Usually wearing speedos, goggles and a swim hat, Splashy McSplashersome takes his/her swimming very seriously indeed. To watch them furiously attacking the water with their dramatic take on front crawl, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d accidentally found yourself in the middle of the Olympic Finals, rather than, say your 100-year old local pool on an average Wednesday evening.
Splashy McSplashersome has no spatial awareness. So in an otherwise empty pool will always choose to swim right beside you. If you feel something brush against your leg try not to freak the fuck out. It is, after all, unlikely to be a sea creature…it’s probably just one of Splashy McSplasherome’s limbs as they propel past you, oblivious to the fact that PERSONAL BUBBLES STILL APPLY UNDERWATER FUCKWIT! In fact, even more so since you’re pretty much naked. *shudder*
2. Stinky Person
If it’s not an over-abundance of aftershave making you feel like you’re swimming in a vat of old spice, then it’s cigarettes. How many fags does a person have to be smoking a day in order to actually cause chlorinated water to take on the smell of cigarettes the second they get in? I don’t know. I’m going to guess *a lot*
3. Other People’s Kids
Let’s face it: all children can at times be irritating self-centred assholes. Putting them in a body of water without parental supervision, unsurprisingly does not help.
If you’re sat there shaking your head in disbelief thinking “Not my children” then chances are, yes your children. The only reason you can’t see it is because EVOLUTION. It’d be no good if we all went round drowning our young, would it? Other people’s young though…well now, I can make no promises…
4. Some 90 Year Old Man or Woman Who Can Swim A Lot Better Than You
There’s always one. ¬†And they’re always overtaking you.
5. Show-Off Guy
Diving in, swimming ridiculously fast drowning everyone in his wake, doing pull-ups on the side of the pool…I’m never sure who show-off guy is trying to impress…the lifeguards? (What, are you five?!) Other swimmers? Me? Because the only way you could impress me if we’re sharing a pool is to stay the fuck out of my way.
6. Grunting Guy
Sometimes interchangeable with show-off guy. Here’s a man who needs everyone to know just how hard he’s working. It’s not enough that he’s swum ten laps in ten minutes, he has to spend at least twice that hanging out in the deep end, splashing his face with water and making grunting noises to demonstrate his exertion. Most off-putting.
7. The Non-Swimmer
Leaning on the side, wearing full make-up, including freshly applied lipstick and eyeliner, discussing the sordid details of their love life with a friend who just happened to be passing through on their way into the gym, these folk never actually get round to doing any swimming.¬† Some people just like to chill out in the water I guess?¬† Although, if that’s the case why the fuck they don’t just stay home and take a bath, I have no idea.
8. The In and Outers
They’re swimming. They’re getting out. They’re in the shower. They disappear into the sauna for a bit. They’re diving back in. They’re swimming. They’re climbing out again…rinse and repeat (literally) x about five. What the hell?! I don’t get it at all.
9. The Unaware-Of-Public-Shower-Etiquette-Guy
Pulling their shorts away from their body to give their privates a good rinse? Check.
Lathering up their inner thighs? Check.
Catching water in their mouth and spitting it out? Check.
I don’t know why some of them don’t just bring their loofahs, toothbrushes and razors and be done with it.
10. Some Grumpy Bitch Scowling at Everyone who Gets in Her Way Whilst Doing Breaststroke for An Hour
Oh…that’s me…
(*Sigh* What I wouldn’t give…)

A New Chapter

Those of you who have been around for a while may remember this post from last year in which I freaked out about the prospect of choosing a school place for our oldest son.

Given all that has happened since then, I have to be honest and say that much of that anxiety and terror is long gone. ¬†By the time we actually applied in autumn, life had changed so much in so many ways, that my perspective on the entire issue had shifted down several gears. ¬†We’d viewed four out of the ten local schools, and liked three of them. ¬†So we put down those three, in vague order of preference (although we were happy for him to go to any one) and then waited. ¬†And waited. ¬†And waited…

Meanwhile life continued to throw all kinds of shit out way.  So here I sit, in an entirely different house, feeling like an entirely different person to the one who wrote that less than a year ago, with his school offer letter finally in front of me, having just called up the school to accept the place.

And I’m smiling.

Not because I no longer care about how he will settle in, or if he’ll make friends, not because I’m confident in my abilities to wrangle him and his wriggly little brother into clothes and feed and water them both in order to get to the school gates before 8.55 (I most certainly am not). ¬†Not because I’m no longer worried, I’m his mother, I’m pretty sure it’s in my job description to be worried about him for the rest of my life-long days.

No, I am smiling because I’m happy.

We got our second choice out of three good schools that we liked. ¬†The majority of our ‘school run’ will be through the local park. ¬†He is happy because he likes the uniform colours and the name of the school. ¬†His brother is happy because I’ve promised that he too can go there, maybe as soon as next year (if he gets a place in the school nursery). ¬†For the first time, in the process I feel completely calm. ¬†Maybe this is the eye of the storm. ¬†Maybe come August we’ll all be having sleepless nights, and September could possibly bring tears (both mine and his).

There’s no doubt that his starting school will open a new chapter in all of our lives, not just his, but for now I feel very content and like it is going to be fine.

On writing

Ever since I was little I have wanted to be a writer. ¬†I have wanted to be other stuff too (actress, ice skating champion, midwife, criminal psychologist, zoo keeper…it’s a long list) but the writing thing has been a constant.
The trouble is, that telling your high school careers adviser that you want to be a writer is like saying you want to be Cinderella. ¬†Yeah, nice one, now what do you really want to do…you know, in the real world? ¬†I remember her looking at my grades and suggesting journalism, or maybe something with foreign languages, like being a translator in business. ¬†(Both suggestions I ignored). I continued writing my stories (most rip-offs of stuff I was reading at the time, or tales of pre-teen angst and woe, culminating in copious amounts of snogging, or very melodramatic maudlin pieces, one of which “strawberries and cream” actually made my English teacher cry. ¬†Although this is the same English teacher who confessed to loving Mr Darcy more than her actual husband so…) ¬†I even sent one (handwritten and illustrated!) unsolicited manuscript to a publisher when I was about ten years old, and received possibly the nicest rejection letter ever sent in the history of rejection letters.
Then in spring last year, having not written anything for years, I came up with an idea for a story at work one night, and when I came home I talked it through with Chris, to see if he thought it was half-way decent, or if my poor sleep-deprived brain was churning out drivel.  Pretty soon I had an actual plan, and some characters, and in August I finally put pen to paper (or, you know, finger tips to keyboard) and started to write.
Of course we all know what happened next. ¬†I actually thought I had Carpal Tunnel at first, as typing was so painful and the pins and needles in my hands and fingers so bad, but of course it was all just part of the big “Rebecca’s body attacking itself” nonsense (see here if you live under a rock and somehow missed the drama).
So the story got forgotten about for a few months whilst I concentrated on getting better. ¬†Then in the new year I went back to it with a fresh perspective and at first it was going really well…pretty soon I had 16,000 words, and then, one night I came to the horrifying conclusion that I had written the whole thing from the wrong perspective and in the wrong tense. ¬†I immediately switched tense (present to past) and perspective (1st to 3rd) and soldiered on, but at 20,000 words I got stuck, big time. ¬†I couldn’t make my characters do what I wanted them to, my main character was so annoying she was even starting to piss me off, and I just got the sense that the whole book was full of people walking into rooms and not saying or doing anything and then walking back out again. ¬†Oh, and sighing…a lot.
It was a bit like that Eddie Izzard sketch comparing British and American films. ¬†If you haven’t seen it, go forth and do so immediately, it’s hilarious. ¬†It wasn’t quite so funny realising he was accurately describing my literary masterpiece though.
Anyway, no matter how much I stared at the screen, or tapped a pen against a notepad, nothing was working. ¬†But a funny thing started to happen: ¬†The more I tried to think about it, and contemplate my characters and where it had all gone wrong, the more I started to think about this other story idea that I’d actually started writing eleven years ago (eleven years! ¬†I’m sorry but, WTF?! How did that happen? ¬†How can 2003 be 11 years ago?!)
So yeah, the characters from that book started popping up in my head instead. ¬†And at first I was like “Get out of here! I’m trying to write this book here, that I have already got 20,000 words into, I’ll come back and maybe deal with you later” but my brain wouldn’t pipe down.
So I asked Chris, what did he think I should do. ¬†He said (wisely, I think) that the 20,000 words weren’t going anywhere, so why not go back to the other one, and see how that went instead? ¬†Initially I was adamant: NO! ¬†This is the book I am writing! ¬†I am going to finish it before my birthday!
Eventually though, even I had to admit it just wasn’t happening. ¬†So I found myself hunting down ancient word documents and trying to figure out the password to open them (please don’t ask me why I password protected them when I lived alone back in 2003 so no one else used the computer besides me?!)
A friendly word of advice for anyone reading this: ¬†never read anything you wrote over ten years ago. ¬†It’s hilarious, but also mortifying. ¬†I still thought the basic idea was good though, despite the terrible (and I mean really awful, writing). ¬†So I went back to the drawing board and spent some time just working out timelines and characters and settings and stuff, putting off the actual writing for as long as I could (despite the fact the voices in my head were getting louder and louder.)
See, I think the reason I hit a wall with my other idea was because I knew my characters and the story well enough, but ¬†I hadn’t properly figured out what was actually going to happen. ¬†And 20,000 words of nothing happening, is about 19,500 words too many. ¬†Also, although the story was fictional, and the main character was not in fact based on myself, she and I did have some things in common, and I knew that in order to write her believably I’d need to tap into those parts of me…and it’s just not something that I can do right now if I want to remain sane.
Eventually, last Saturday night, I just started writing. ¬†Blah blah blah. ¬†Within a few minutes I had a couple of sides in my A5 notebook. ¬†I have discovered that I find it much easier to write with an actual pen and paper, because it seems less final. ¬†I write all sorts of crap, because I tell myself “It’s only a rough draft” in a way that I can’t seem to when I see the words popping up in front of me on a screen (and where spellcheck is questioning my use of punctuation and pointing out all my typos!)
Well, my notebook is now full. ¬†And I’ve started a new one, and having transcribed the majority of it into an actual document, I am able to tell you that I am already at the same point (in terms of word count) as I was with the first book. ¬†(Although, in a way this is the first book, since a. I thought of the idea and started writing it over a decade ago, and b. the other one never got past 20,000 words so isn’t a book at all- not even a novella!)
In case you were wondering 20,000 is a lot of words to write in one week (and possibly inadvisable if anyone is considering it) but I have found it almost impossible to stop. ¬†My characters are waking me up in the night with things to say (in a non hallucinatory way, in case anyone was concerned) and I find myself thinking about them, and the story not just when I have a pen in my hand, but even when I’m in the middle of other unrelated stuff, like stirring pasta, or swimming lengths or doing the plough position at yoga.
I am undecided if this is a good thing yet but it is certainly moving things along nicely.  In fact, I am beginning to wonder if I may need more than one book to actually tell the full story the way I want to (eek!)
An unfortunate side effect of such intense writing is that I am having to remind myself daily that I am not in fact a seventeen year old boy.  I am spending so much time thinking like my main character, that it is almost a shock when I wake up in the morning and discover I am instead a 29 year old mother of two.
I have worked out that as a rough estimation, that even if I only write 242 words a day from now on, I will have a something loosely resembling a novel to my name by my 30th birthday.
Is most of what I am writing crap that no one else would pay to read? ¬†Umm…yeah, probably. ¬†Does that mean I am going to stop writing it? ¬†Hell no!

On being a grown up (or not)

Our hoover blew up today.  A Dyson no less.  To be fair, it is 6 years old and was making an unhappy noise (and a bad smell) last time it was used, so expecting it to suck up a few (hundred) dust bunnies today was apparently the last straw.
 
My first thought, as a 29 year old woman of a limited income, should probably have been “Oh dear, I wonder how much this will cost to repair?” when in actual fact, it was “Oh my god, what is that smell?! Ah, shit, it blew up” closely followed by “Well, I guess now I don’t have to do the hoovering today after all”.
 
I have decided this probably means that I am not yet an actual grown up.
 
Other reasons why I am not a grown up are listed below:
*The laundry basket is currently completely empty:
Ta da!
 
Well now, that’s quite grown up, you might think?
Not so.
Not only is this such an achievement of epic proportions that I felt the need to photograph it, but in my eagerness to get all the washing done, I neglected to realise that I actually have to put it away afterwards…
*I have a tax code. ¬†Pretty grown up huh? ¬†Well, aside from the fact that I have no idea what it is, what it means, or if it’s right, yeah. ¬†The same bewilderment applies to anything financial in fact, ISA? ¬†Tracker mortgage? ¬†Endowments? ¬†My first thought after typing that last word was a rude one, so I think it’s clear to us all that I have no idea what is going on when it comes to the grown-up world of money.
*Even after four and a half years of this parenting gig, I still often forget to leave the house with nappies, or wipes, or juice, or snacks. ¬†Earlier this year (aka- in the middle of winter) I sent my children out for the day and on an overnight sleepover, without their outdoor coats. ¬†I think you’ll agree, that doesn’t seem like something a responsible mother of two children should do.
*I recycle. ¬†However, can I remember to put the bins out every week, ready for collection? ¬†NO. ¬†Or at least, I can but only about 40% of the time. Which given as we’ve had the same bin collection day for the last 5 years is pretty poor. ¬†Additionally, the weeks where our bin does make it down the alley in time to be emptied, I then neglect to bring it back in again afterwards…usually for several days.
*If calories (and cholesterol, and diabetes etc) weren’t a factor, left to my own devices I would choose to eat pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream, washed down with beer. ¬†That’s how developed my taste buds are.
*Similarly, when it comes to wine tasting, I am clueless. In my (extensive) experience of wine quaffing, it all tends to fall into one of two categories-
1. Cheap and Nasty (which I have found tends to be everything under the £3 price bracket, along with anything that comes in a box, rather than a bottle) and
2. Drinkable which includes pretty much everything else.
Very occasionally I drink something and think “This is bloody good!” at which point my reaction is to drink more of it, and (when no longer under the influence of alcohol) to go out and buy more…just so long as it’s on an offer. ¬†I have never ever swilled wine around my mouth and then spat it out. Except maybe if someone really made me laugh.
*I do not like rocket lettuce. ¬†I have no idea why anyone likes rocket lettuce. ¬†Are you all pretending to like it because you think you’re supposed to? ¬†Am I the only person willing to point out that it tastes like shit?!
*I have the same taste in clothing and music as my teenage sister, and I’ll give you a clue: she isn’t wearing cardigans and listening to jazz. ¬†In fact, we’re going to see Funeral for a Friend together in September (and it was my idea, and it won’t be the first time I’ve been to one of their gigs, and I’m going all the way to Bridgend for it)
(FFAF. ¬†I love them! ¬†Not that they look like this anymore, since they’re all about my age, or¬†older)
*I have read a lot of books in recent years, that are aimed at people younger than me, like…*cough cough*…Harry Potter and *extreme throat clearing*…Twilight?!?
*I vote, despite having absolutely no interest in, or understanding of politics, beyond liberal: good bigotry: bad. ¬†When people talk about working towards world peace, I think “Well, if we all stopped killing each other, that might be a start?” ¬†I am a realist in my head: “That will never happen.” but an idealist in my heart: “Make love not war!”
 
*I should be ironing right now…but I’m writing this blog post instead.
 
But before anyone becomes concerned that I am, in fact, a fifteen year old masquerading as a responsible adult, here are some reasons why I may be a grown-up after all:
*I brush my teeth twice a day (without prompting!) and even have a dentist and make my own appointments and everything (along with everyone else’s too)
(shiny white teeth after a trip to the dentist)
*I clean out my rabbits (without prompting!)
(Happy bunnies in a clean cage)
*I pay my bills (without prompting!)
*I have two children, one of whom will be starting school this September!!!!!!
*I consider 8am to be a lie-in
*I also read books definitely not aimed at a younger audience
*I actually like gin (this is possibly my biggest claim to adulthood and the most recent development in my growth as a human being)
(mmm, gin!)
*I have wrinkles (shhh!) and the occasional grey hair (shhhhhhh!) and a chronic health condition.  All of which means that most days I feel more like a geriatric, than a spritely youth.
*Other people’s poop is no longer “gross”, or rather it is, but has also become something that I now applaud (literally!) when it lands in the correct receptacle (i.e. toilet or potty, vs floor or pants)
*I need caffeine to function
*Oh, and I like to make lists ūüėČ
So, there you have it. ¬†On balance, I may be more grown up than I thought…
 
…but hey, at least I don’t need to hoover today.

Mornings

This morning I was woken at 5.30am by Chris getting up for work.  I eventually managed to drift back off to sleep only to be woken at 6.45 by a screeching child, waving a pair of Gruffalo socks in my face (The child was mine, by the way, otherwise that would be even more weird).
After ascertaining how early it was, I asked the boys to please play quietly in their bedroom, and curled back up under the duvet, playing a little game I like to call “Let’s pretend I don’t have any responsibilities and can stay in bed all day”, which really just involves lying very still with my eyes closed listening to the children fight with each other and destroy their room.
Only this morning the cat decided to get in on the action, by pretending my feet were his arch enemies that it was his lifelong mission to seek and destroy, or at least I can only assume that’s why he pounced from the foot of the bed and scratched one of my ankles to ribbons.
After several more visits from the children (Rudy crying because Toby yelled at and scared him, Toby wailing because Daddy is at work, each taking it in turns to march through and ‘tell tales’ on the other) I was ready to give up and face the fact that today was happening and that I’d have to get up and deal with it.
What I didn’t count on also having to deal with, was the disemboweled mouse strewn across the dining room floor.
We have mice. We have a cat. This equation usually works out pretty well, just so long as Chris is around to take care of the finalities.
Yep, I’m a bit of a girl, when it comes to rodents I’m afraid. No, really, I’m afraid. I never used to be. But then I moved to Manchester, and lived alone for a few years, in a flat with ¬†a serious pest control problem. ¬†I never thought I was scared of mice, until they were scurrying inside my walls and darting out from under my bed. ¬†If you’ve ever had a rodent infestation then you’ll understand what I mean. ¬†Every tickle across your foot in the night, every rustle from behind the furniture, has you shuddering involuntarly, tucking your knees to your chest and screaming like a fangirl (or is that just me?!)
The mice in the flat were actually the main reason I got a cat. Chris and I hadn’t been together long but he’d already unofficially moved in, and after resorting to killing a particularly peskersome mouse by dropping a Next Directory on it (following which, let it be known, that even he needed a beer) we discussed the idea of getting a pet of the feline variety. ¬†Thus, Stitch:
Problem solved, you’d think. ¬†Except here I am, 9 years later, having to scrape mouse intestines off the floor at 8 o clock in the morning. ¬†Apparently, the thrill really is in the chase (and kill) whilst the disposal is still very much a human problem.
After much shuddering and retching and a quite a lot of “ick ick ick ick, oh my god, this is disgusting…arrrrrgggghhhhh” on my part, the mouse, and it’s innards, and the dustpan and brush itself were all the bin, at which point the boys (who had been banished to the living room during my fifteen minutes of dithering working up courage) burst through demanding juice and weetabix and slippers and an illustrated itinerary for the day.
Is it just me, or does anyone else miss mornings that involved nothing more than sex, and coffee, and maybe a long hot shower whilst deciding what to do with the day?

 

The Yoga Ogre

A few months ago my boys’ brought home this book from a birthday party:
Not only is that such a brilliant idea (books instead of party bags, I mean), but the book itself is hilarious.
Basically Ogden (the protagonist) is an ogre on a mission to get fit, and as I read it I couldn’t help but notice a few similarities between him and me. ¬†Particularly his inability to understand how his pyjamas suddenly didn’t fit, despite his over indulgence in pie.
The similarities became even more striking this week when, on Monday I went to my first ever yoga class.
Thankfully, (*spoiler alert!*) I managed not to cause any damage to the structural integrity of the building, unfortunately however, I do appear to have caused some significant damage to myself.
 
I didn’t even feel like I was particularly pushing or straining myself, and was quite accepting of the fact that there were limitations (many & varied) to my flexibility and what I was capable of. The class was 90 minutes, and afterwards I came home feeling tired but relaxed.
The following morning however I felt like shit.
Or more specifically, like someone had run over me with an eighteen-wheeler, and inserted barbed wire into my skull.
I continued to feel like this particular brand of shit all day on Tuesday, and after doing nothing other than take the kids food shopping, I ended up having to go back to bed at 3pm, something I haven’t had to do in a really looooong time. ¬†This was only accomplishable because I bribed the children with The Little Mermaid on DVD and snacks, to get them to sit still and quiet in my bed.
Yesterday I didn’t feel quite as bad initially, but then as soon as I tried to walk almost instantly felt like it was a Very Bad Idea and that I might pass out in the street (fortunately I didn’t).
Today my head feels clear but my back and neck are still killing me. Leading me to wonder if Tuesday and Wednesday were the result of a burgeoning migraine nipped in the bud, rather than the yoga, (which I assume is what these lingering aches and pains are a hangover from).
Alternatively this could all be some random CIDP related horseshit but that seems unlikely only 10 days in to my IVIG cycle.
Either way I am going to have to decide whether to try again next Monday.
At this point I’m thinking it could be kill or cure…