Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Taking the time

just to look - and refresh the other senses.
I have a fairly busy morning - post office, emails, phone calls, housework, editing, etc, and I nearly didn't join Mark on a dog walk, but I did, just to the point where I doubled back across the fields and they continued onwards. As a 'psychogeographic' nerd, and I don't know if this applies exactly-normally relating to more urban environments, I love to see familiar objects including people (and dogs) from far away in relation to myself.
So, I stood, or rather, leant into a sturdy cypress hedge out of the brisk northerly wind and waited for them to come into view along the sandy track that leads into the hills. I must have missed them, or they took a different path so I didn't see the figure of Mark and the three varying sizes of dog shapes pacing the path. But I did observe in detail everything else: the sunlight encroaching onto the distant hills, highlighting in green-gold every clump of brave trees that cling to their summits, the swift multi-toned clouds, black dots of birds, a red tractor - stark in contrast to all the autumn yellows and browns, the scent of cold earth and trodden grass, the sounds of nothing other than wind in branches.
It was perhaps only seven minutes or so, but nourishing for my senses about to be put back into normal daytime activities.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

I can't believe it's not, was, is, might be, might have been, maybe never again, butter

Interesting how we all act on 'scientific discoveries', or on what 'they' tell us - they being government groups set up to inform us about what we should be eating and doing in order to maintain our health.
I recall the NO FAT scare in the mid eighties? well, for the last few decades in fact. I had friends who went on scary diets where they would only drink skimmed milk, eat no fat yogurt and special no fat cereal bars, and cook with one squirt of an oil spray - not even a squirt, a microscopic misting of oil.

I was looking for an 80s diet food image but couldn't resist the sauna exercise suit . . .

We kept on with the butter - in fairly modest quantities. It tastes nice, where as Utterly Butterly, does not. We kept sloshing the oil into bolognese, stir-fries, curries and so on, and after having blood tests for a medical 'M.O.T' discovered that our cholesterol levels, etc, were fine.

It's like eggs in the 1970s. After Edwina Currie's (what sort of a name is that . . .) declaration that salmonella was present in most of the UK's eggs, sales crashed and four million hens were destroyed. It seems she had meant to say 'much' rather than most; what a difference a tiny word can make. However I think 'much' would have still had a fairly drastic outcome.

And how many veg and fruit a day is it now? Five? ten, eight and half, does that count peas? How many peas is a portion? Who decides all this and how much fruit and veg do they eat?

We're having a butter shortage in France at the moment which has been compared to shortages during the war. Shelves are devoid of the rectangular foil packets but plenty of Marge-U-Like, or whatever the French equivalents are. Apparently this is due to lower milk yields, a bad grazing year (dry weather) and massive exports of butter, cream and pastries to the newly-French patisserie-loving Chinese, who will no doubt in time be having a health crisis and told to eat, 'I can't believe it's not butter' instead.


                                                                         mm, yum

Rationing would probably be good, for our own sakes as well as the long-suffering dairy cows. Less butter, from better cared for animals. Anyway, we should all eat less of everything in our overloaded part of the world: less fat, certainly less sugar, less alcohol, less meat, more cabbage and lentils, and more education about how to cook, shop,  avoid food manufacturers hype, and take anything 'they' say with a massive shovel full of salt.


Monday, 6 November 2017

Friday, 3 November 2017

Back from computer holiday

not that the ailment has gone away, but I've just decided to write through the pain . . . such a hero.
Trigeminal Neuralgia. What a bastard thing. It has been called the worst pain known to man - yippee, and it is certainly pretty vile.
I think I have a type which is a little unusual - always against fashion, that's me . . . most people have a 'typical' TN which seems to be set off by touching the face, cleaning teeth, etc, mine (I hate to say this - as if I'm rather attached to the thing!) appears to be rather more random, and I suspect is linked to another pain - in the neck - literally. I've had this one on and off for about thirty years and various tests have revealed nothing. I reckon it's one of the pair of Submandibular glands that reside under one's jaw bone and produce saliva - my personal theory, and one that was crushed by a particularly vicious old 'specialist' I saw a couple of years back who told me the two could not possibly be related. Excuse me, I live with this . . . you don't.
So, what's it like, this TN thing?
Imagine some repulsive and abusive old relative that you only ever see once a decade phoning you up and telling you they are going to come and stay for a while. Before you can protest, they are at the door, pushing it open and hauling their case up the stairs. They settle in, take the best armchair and show you their new range of taser weapons which they will zap you with if you don't do exactly what is required.
You creep about doing all the right things or what you imagine are the right things, but inevitably they are not and you receive a few warning stings in the face. You know they are not going to move out in a hurry so continue to walk on eggshells, placate, move quietly, but then remember that the old sod actually likes taunting you, and whatever you attempt to do to improve the situation, won't. New tasers appear: ones that send zig-zags of hot electricity coursing through your teeth, tongue, scalp until you weep.
Yep, it's that bad. After a few days you start to contact the bailiffs (doctors/acupuncturists/neurologists, etc) to try and evict the offenders, now well and truly ensconced in your sitting room, feet up on the sideboard and all the weaponry lined up.
Last time, the growling Dickensian uncle as I like to see my own particular TN, grudgingly packed up his torture equipment after a month and shuffled off to catch the bus back to wherever he came from. I sighed the biggest sigh of relief ever and started my life up again. This time, he's outstaying his 'welcome' and more bailiffs will have to be contacted. In the meantime, I've realised it doesn't make a salt grain of difference if I write or not - something I have been avoiding as it seemed to make the pain worse, so, YES, I can lock myself in a room he doesn't know about and get back to my latest book at least.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Computer Holiday

Sadly not able to post much at the moment, or continue writing my latest novel due to a tedious neuralgic problem in my neck and face . . . boring.
See you soon, hopefully.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

3 - 1 = 2

It's a week since the lad departed for art college and I am now able to go into his room or find an odd sock of his under the sofa and not feel sentimental - too much anyway.
The first few days were not unlike being dumped after love has gone astray, and I don't mean that in a weird way! But after listening to a Ted Talk about love and the brain, it does make sense. The     'hippocampus' (still can only see a large grey lumbering mammal wandering around a university grounds on seeing this word) deals with all this emotion stuff and when the love object is removed the 'hippo' part of the brain increases the desire and longing to see them constantly. Of course the difference is that he still seems to like us, will return home and we will, hopefully, slot back into all the stuff we usually do as a family, rather than the 'being discarded by a lover' situation -  unlikely to ever see them again apart from odd furtive glances behind the cheese section in the supermarket if you are still live in the vicinity of each other.
So what have we learned and discovered?
I still like Mark (husband) a lot (phew) and he, me. Good. The bathroom stays clean. I am becoming aware that there is actually more time available, in fact several friends after listening to my pathetic sighing about absence of lad said 'Freedom!' and, 'just give it a couple of weeks and you'll be VERY happy with just you two'.
I don't know, but I think about him a lot, wonder what he might be doing at various parts of the day. But then I do that a lot about family and friends anyway - I wonder what Katherine might be doing now, or Mark, or Rosemary, or Penny, or Jo, or you, dear reader. Are you sitting with laptop, cup of tea and pile of things you should be doing nearby?
Fascinating that, isn't it . . . imagining everyone you know engaged in all these different things we all do all the time: eating, walking, driving, thinking, queuing . . . but then if we were telepathic, we'd all know what we were all doing all of the time. Social media would be even more exhausting.
My current novel, at the moment called Brassica, features a clan of people from some future Earth time who are telepathic, have more or less forgotten how to speak but are having to converse with my main character, 'Hamish', who has arrived from 1992.
How did I get onto this. Anyway, the point being, my brain is no longer solely occupied with 'is the lad OK, or not'. Onward.


The Hippocampus, which is actually Greek for Seahorse, not large grey, university-haunting mammal

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Life stages 2 - following last post

'Funny thing, life' . . . a phrase Mark and I say to each other at least three times a year when considering an landmark event/family issue/general 'what is it all about' moment when looking at stars, etc, etc.
    These last few days have been the most 'funny thing, life' bit of time I can recall. Son is now installed in his tiny but welcoming flat in Bordeaux and everything for all of us has changed. That last half an hour before we went our own ways - me to drive back, him to walk to art school - was as distinct and hyper-memorable as the half an hour driving to Birmingham maternity hospital knowing he was going to appear and everything would be different.
The moments ticked away while he played guitar and glanced out the window for his friend to turn the corner into the street, and I fussed about in the kitchenette like a distracted mother hen - a last bit of checking if he knew where the tea-towels were, and, 'don't forget to eat lentils', 'floss your teeth' 'clean the shower' . . .
    9.00 a.m came. We hugged. We left the flat: he to walk with friend to the school and me to sit in the car, part wondering if we had turned the ring off on the stove, part in shock at the fact that 'this was it'. As if ordered, the day was about as dreary and melancholic as could be. A grey drizzle flecked the car windscreen, water gathered and dribbled down the glass as I stared out at the street, uncomprehendingly. No tears, just a sort of shut-down feeling - the end of a nearly twenty year period of everything from changing nappies to packing his stuff away in his room. Bollocks, of course. I know it's not the end of anything, just a change, a readjustment, a different arrangement of our family arrangements. That's what I told myself as I drove off the wrong way and got totally lost in the outskirts of Bordeaux.


The drive back was not too bad - one or two friends said they howled a large portion of the way home. I took a different route from the motorway, visited a place we (son and I) had stayed in a few years ago. The same old café was there with same old dame cooking and serving. I ate an excellent 'pot au feu', wrote to the lad reminding him again of flossing, lentils, etc; had a stroll around and drove homewards.
This was the bit where it really struck me. On walking into the house (husband out) everything seemed exactly as usual, except it was all exactly un-normal with this massive portion of us missing. Yes, I did weep, hugged dogs and made tea, and when Mark returned it became gradually less tragic.

The next day, lovely friends visited who had all experienced the same 'deconstruction' of the domestic everyday and assured me it would become easier, indeed easy within a couple of weeks or so.
I know they are right, and two days on, it is a little better - with jolts of sudden sadness overlying the general slight melancholia. I've re-done the bureau walls, hung new pictures of us all, and will at some point tidy up his room. I had shut the door on it as I see the interior on going to the bathroom, but I've opened it again so that it's still totally part of the house, drum kit, abandoned socks, books that he'd decided to leave.
So, what don't I miss? slight arguments over the use of the general computer, bit of fussing over some  foodstuffs - 'but, I don't like onion', and . . . yes, I miss everything else.
My iphone, eighty percent ignored up until now has suddenly taken on new mega-importance: sending texts, odd pics of the dogs, and a mobile possibility of a quick bit of communication at any point in the day if we are needed. Now I understand the importance of that phone call back to my mother from my own art school days. Standing in a freezing corridor waiting for the call box was perhaps a tedious way to spend twenty minutes but to her . . . no mobile phone, no texts, just hoping for a call to reassure, or a letter describing the week.


Last dog walk for a little while