I don’t think I’ve told you guys about my tadpoles. If you follow me on Instagram (@stella_hb) then you will have seen the precious babies (yes, this is how I feel about my tadpoles) on my stories.
We were naughty and ‘borrowed’ some frog spawn from a neighbour – you’re meant to wait for the frogs to come to you, but having realised (been reminded, thanks Linda) that our children were no longer of drowning age and dug the pond, I wanted tadpoles NOW.
I thought all the spawn had died in the late frosts, and then two weeks later – tadpoles! Everywhere! I visit them every day, take photos/videos, scrutinise them for the appearance of legs, and praise how fat they are getting (in a weird reversal of western beauty standards). I can’t wait until the pitter patter of tiny frogs.
I’m not a gamer. Not really.
However, I make an exception for an obscure little puzzle game called Chain Cube. You bash cubes with the same numbers on them into each other, and then they make another cube with the sum total of the numbers. My current score is 12564886.
I’m playing it less now. In those cranky days of home-learning, when the children needed me there, not to teach, not to do it for them (probably because I said I wouldn’t), but just to be in the room while they worked. Sometimes I had to sit in-between their two rooms.
It was the perfect activity. I could always be interrupted – and was, always – but I wasn’t sitting staring at the wall, waiting to be told that this spelling or that maths was too difficult.
Thanks Chain Cube. Sanity saver.
Moving from a small village surrounded by countryside to, er, a small village surrounded by countryside, I thought a lot of things would be the same. But the longer we live at the new place, the more differences I’m seeing. Now we’re into our first Spring here, there’s lots to see.
The deer don’t just hang around in the winter – we see them all the time. At the old place, I would see deer sometimes – it was exciting that day we saw one on the way to school – but there are definitely more where we live now.
And I used to love that day in Spring I would drive out of the village and see lambs in the fields. Now, they’re just a walk away. Down the hill, up again, and there they are: cute little wriggles of Spring joy.
Happy New Year?
It was a couple of weeks before the end of last year when I listened to a podcast which said the whole ‘seeing the back of 2020’ thing was a false premise.
I mean, of course, we all knew that. But did we really know that?
For us here in the UK, January 2021 so far is remarkably similar to March 2020. Schools are closed again, and as much as I love my precious babies, I am not a natural home-schooler.
So it’s self-care again, back to the basics. I realised if I’m not waking a kid up to catch an early bus, I can have my precious 6am-7am hour back. I’m writing this in a silent house full of sleeping people (and cat). Sometimes I need rest. Sometimes I need work. Both are fulfilling, and necessary.
Back to normal.
Back to normal by the Spring, they’re saying.
And most of me is delighted,
don’t get me wrong,
I’m in no rush to succumb to a deadly virus,
or bury a loved one,
and I miss the few friends I have left,
and I want to eat cake at Naked Bakery
and wander around Edinburgh again
and visit my sisters
(so I can argue with them face to face instead of online)
and talk to poets
and listen to their poems.
But I’m also thinking
‘what do I want to keep
of this not-normal?’
This slowing-down, even further,
staying in touch only with those that matter,
making things accessible to those who are always home,
no duty events
sloughing off those expectations
– it’s time we visited, we haven’t been for ages –
being home, Saturday, Sunday.
There was a day, a few weeks ago, when I went outside and thought ‘It’s really cold out here!’
‘Although, I suppose it is November.’
How exactly is it November already?
When we went into our first UK lockdown, in March, I knew it was March. But I still kind of feel like it’s March? How can 2020 be almost over?
I’m trying to remind myself what this year has been like, for so many of us. Many of us home-schooled one or more children between March and June: I had two kids at home, and although the school were great, there was a certain amount of ‘yes, you do have to do some work.’
Then in July, we moved house. That’s taken up just as much time and headspace as I thought it would.
Here’s to a productive 2021!
When it rains, the cat is always outraged.
He comes into the office, where I am working, and meows loudly at me. At first I wonder whether he has been fed (of course he has been fed), and then I stroke him and realise he’s been out in the rain again. Oh dear.
Up he jumps onto the desk. I make sure he stays on Mr HB’s side with his muddy paws. After prowling around a bit so that I know he’s there, it’s onto some serious washing, using his teeth to pull the dirt from his claws, licking his paws to wash his face, fluffing back up into a dry cat. Brown prints all over the song lyrics he’s lying on, eyes still wide and angry, twisting his tummy up for a stroke.
That’s all really. Just – my cat.
Neither me nor Mr HB have ever liked new houses.
Me and Mr HB have just moved into a new build.
We looked at loads of houses – anyone who’s ever moved knows the drill – driving around your chosen area looking for For Sale signs, etc, etc. There was always something not *quite* right. Like, it had the right number of bedrooms but only one bathroom. We’re just about to have teenagers! Or it was perfect but had a galley kitchen. Anyone who has ever been to my house knows I spend most of every day in the kitchen!
What we realised, eventually, is that ‘modern houses are designed for modern living.’ Yeah, the new house doesn’t have character. But it has everything we need, multiple bathrooms, vast kitchen-diner. And there are quite enough characters inside its four walls…
It’s weird, I only spent just over a year in full-time academia, and yet September is still my ‘new beginnings’ month.
January is just lentils and baked beans and NO FUN until pay day, am I right?
This year is even more special because since the beginning of the summer we’ve moved house, and both kids are at new schools.
And I’d love to tell you I’m turning over a new leaf – that all the rest of the ‘stuff’ is in the past – that I’m going to stay well and, um, whine less.
But everyone knows you can’t run away from yourself.
What I now like to refer to as ‘my trauma’ has come with me, and is enjoying the new house just as much as I am. We are working together, and hoping to feel better soon.
The date sits at the end of a finite line
visible now, one turn of the calendar,
three more changes of plan, at least,
eight thousand emails between
me and a solicitor who works from home.
I get a new jar of Marmite
huge, the usual one but ballooned.
And I think ‘I’ll still have this when we move,
I’ll be eating this Marmite at this table
in our new kitchen,’
with the trees outside
and the rotavated soil of the garden ploughed up like
a life packed into boxes
a glut of lists.
I don’t know how many more
Fuel is adrenaline sourced:
instead of sleep, I spread out maps
containing our new house
on the table at 3am,
tracing burns and reservoirs,
and dead ends.
tinylife will be back in September.