I’ve been writing a weekly blog for almost six years now.
A lot has changed. Two of my kids came out as trans. We moved house. I got two new jobs. The kids have been at four schools, between the two of them. We have tadpoles now.
And I think now is a good time to let weekly blogging go.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to find time to write even 140 words a week, and I’m fairly sure that, like in life, I have started to repeat myself.
I know a lot of people read this blog, and I am so, so grateful to everyone who has ever taken the time to read my tiny thoughts. I will keep this area live for writing news and occasional blog posts.
But for now – tiny over, and tiny out.
The best thing about having a teenager is having to defend your own parenting decisions to an ungrateful compassionless apple-of-your-own-eye. Did I say the best thing?
The other day, my oldest asked why I let them do so much gaming. Apparently one of their friends had asked how my kid had negotiated this Elysium. For most of the week, unless they are eating or doing their jobs, they are ‘allowed’ on screen.
I’m negotiating for more ‘time away’ but I’ll have to exchange it for weekend virtual sleepovers.
You might be judging me here, and I don’t mind. I judge myself, too.
All my oldest’s friends are online. They’ve had a pretty hard time of it, even before lockdown. So I might feel bad, but I’m going to let them game. They are doing stuff they find difficult every day.
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow…
My sister Becky quoted this line (on Zoom, of course. Where else do we talk these days?) as ‘very Christmas 2020.’
Some of us muddled-through before this year: I myself started muddling-through around 2004.
The festive season can become rigid: we always go to this house, we always eat this meal with these people, we watch this film, listen to this music. I’m so sorry if your set pieces are not possible this year.
Maybe we can use this time to think about our Christmas days. Perhaps we’ll go back to our set pieces next year, joyfully. Perhaps we’ll make new traditions that serve us better.
Meanwhile, as an official muddle-representative, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all new muddlers, est. 2020.
tinylife will be back on 17 January.
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.
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.
Since my residency at Lanterne Rouge ended, I hadn’t been back to the coffee shop. ‘I’m so busy!’ I told myself.
I was scared that it might feel different. Less mine, somehow. That I wouldn’t be a VIPoet anymore.
At the time of writing, I am back. It’s just the same. Although there are some very lovely new sugar bowls! The box where folk could ask for book recommendations has been replaced by a Cyclist Café of the Year award. There’s a collecting tin where I used to put my poem of the month.
And the best bit is the welcome. It always has been, here. I still feel like a VIP – everyone who comes to this wee coffee shop in this wee part of the world is welcomed, made to feel important and special.
Because we all are.
I give in. I really do.
We now have two enforced periods of no-screen: Wednesdays after school (which is now library day) and Sunday mornings.
My oldest will actually come to church, despite their firm atheism, just to help the time go by. This week I asked them to make me another picture challenge for a blog post. They weren’t happy with the drawing, but asked me to recreate it for them.
So here we are:
This is my life. Every minute that is not a scheduled screen free minute is now spent on a screen. Going for a walk has become a mental battle before it gets anywhere near physically punishing. You don’t want to know what the screen time graphs I get from Microsoft look like (yeah, cheers for that, Microsoft).
I’m not the only one, am I?
This is your annual reminder to make time for yourself over Christmas.
It is a great time of year (for many, not for everyone) to see friends and family, buy thoughtful gifts, decorate your house top to toe in tinsel or greenery: wrap, post, socialise, and eat, eat, eat.
It is a great time to stretch yourself to breaking and end up exhausted.
If you can, plan some days that are empty. Or some hours. Or some minutes. Force yourself to sit down. Or go to sleep. Or breathe.
It is OK to not have a wonderful time every moment of every day over Christmas. It is OK if your children do not have a wonderful time every moment of their school holiday. You get to be a person too.
tinylife will return on 12th January.