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.
**Usual disclaimer: I am not a non-key worker, so this may be an irritating read for those who are.**
Do I wish the kids were still in school?
Ha! Take a guess.
That said, we are happy with our little weekday timetable, which includes free time all day Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. My oldest shared that they hate not having a written structure for the day, and will even request one at school – who knew?
But by far my favourite half an hour is 9-9:30 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. We all read in the living room. Because of family tinnitus, there’s a CD on in the background, so it’s an opportunity to put on some of those albums that are ignored in favour of Spotify these days.
That peace of three or four people in a room. Just reading.
Let’s talk about things we don’t do. Not things we don’t want to do – let’s not talk about those, though if we contemplate the whys and why-nots we might surprise ourselves and change our minds. I must make a note to contemplate these things more. I make a lot of mental notes to do things, but they remain undone.
It’s not laziness. I’ve devoted myself to enough impossible projects enough times to know that. It’s not that there isn’t time, because we all know that the less time we have, the more we get done, and anyway, if I am abundant in anything, that thing is hours in the day.
Could it be that we’ve subconsciously Marie Kondoed some things out of our lives because they’re bad for the soul? And if so, does that mean no more ironing, ever?
Scraping the car in the morning, I was reminded of how much it reminds me of sitting in the freezing cold watching my Dad do the same thing.
How pleasing it was to watch him methodically remove the sugary coating from the windows so we could see out again, the fan blowing so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves think.
Now I have to sort my own car out.
But: I have a car.
I live somewhere with crisp frosty mornings, beautiful clear skies.
I got a new scraper the other day and it’s a good one.
I have my fans going full blast so when I’m ready to drive the car won’t be as cold.
I have excellent, thick waterproof gloves.
And unlike my youngest, I can reach the middle of the windscreen.
Just a tinylife job that brings joy!
At the close of my sixth decade, I’m too old to play games. Acceptance is the easier option, and more likely to yield success.
I accept the signs of a life lived in a perfectly serviceable body. Once, I played the game. Girls manipulated their appearance to win the man, the money and the desirable life, though the odds were against us and the prizes were overstated.
And even in the unfeasibly smooth face of the septuagenarian celebrity, the pursuit of youth is a game not worth playing. Good luck to those women, but for me, commodification in the guise of empowerment and visibility of the older woman is too high a stake.
I’m out of the game. I won’t buy the miracle cream and I’ve embarked on my last diet. Because, I’m relieved to report, being older suits me.
When I started this blog, one of my main inspirations was a thought for the day I’d heard on the radio. A list of things, all set up like this: ‘thank you for paying taxes, because I have my rubbish picked up and my kids go to school for free.’
Of course I couldn’t think of examples of this every week. A few of my early blogs refer: this one, and this one. And today, another one happened.
The fridge broke.
We have savings which paid for another one, even at the end of the month. My next door neighbour offered us freezer space to house our rapidly defrosting chicken nuggets. I had delivery of the new fridge and disposal of the broken one sorted and paid for by 9:15am this morning.
I am so very lucky. And thankful.
I feel like I’m becoming a bit of an expert on self-care. What I used to think of as ‘laziness.’ Here are some of my favourite things to do to help myself through a difficult week. I’d love to hear yours!
- Go to bed at 9pm.
- Go to bed at 8pm with Netflix.
- Put my pyjamas on at 4pm on weekends.
- Drink less overall, but have one night a week getting pleasantly sozzled, having completed steps 2 and 3.
- Have a bath.
- Cancel an engagement.
- Say ‘no’ to things.
- Buy stationery.
- Visit the GP if necessary.
- Take the tablets when necessary.
- Eat delicious, healthy food.
- Eat delicious, unhealthy food.
- Do a Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.
- Read a book from my childhood.
- Doodle while listening to a CD (remember them?).
- Phone/Skype/write to a friend.
- Find where the cat is. Sit with him.
The Delights of Domesticity
There ARE actually one or two things that I appreciate about working from home. They include:
- Following the sunlight around from room to room as the sun arcs in the sky.
- Lavender dead-heading. It’s aromatic, repetitive and curiously calming.
- Pumelling the pillows when I’m angry. Plus the duvets too, for good measure!
- Drying the washing outside in the wind. It smells so much fresher than airing it on the radiators…
- Inviting friends around for dinner. The simpler the cuisine the better – so that I can keep my focus on the sizzling conversations we have.
- When Beloved cleans up uninvited. (Hmm. What’s his angle?)
- Having my own chair, which is MINE.
- Creating Penny’s Ironing Rules. Minimal ironing. Period.
- Nurturing next door’s cat. He’s Nero to me…
- Tracking the bats that flit about in the streets at moonrise.
I spent last week in Inverness with around a hundred young people from England, Scotland, Malta and Chicago who congregated at the National Theatre of Scotland’s Exchange Festival.
Casting myself as an anthropologist, I observed the use of the ubiquitous mobile phone – how it was integrated seamlessly into conversations and performances, the quick fact checking, the intimacy of capturing and sharing images, how texts shoaled individuals like fish into the next workshop, the next show, a place to share food and thoughts, a prop for breaking the ice.
Mobiles as tools for inclusion.
And the shows these young people made – experimental, moving, funny and savvy about human emotions; willing to tackle some of the BIG stuff, mental health, migration and sexuality to name a few. This is the future of theatre making in Scotland. I came home excited. It’s contagious.
An update on the writing competition I was asked to judge last year:
it was really exciting to be asked, and I was glad to support SeaMab‘s work. I met with a co-judge, emailed with another. Together, we decided on Winners and Highly Commended entries in the four Sea Changer categories: Free, Joy, Brave, Hope.
I was looking forward to naming the winners here and on Twitter. But some wanted to remain anonymous, and the staff at SeaMab didn’t have time to put out an official announcement of the others. And I absolutely understand that – check out all the work they do!
It was (another) lesson: in writing, in life. Things won’t turn out how you’d hoped, but you can still feel positive about the bits that were super fun! Thanks to SeaMab for entrusting me with the job.