Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Transitional Issues

That's pretty much how I sum up the last couple of months. I had great plans for my productivity at the beginning of February and they have pretty much come to naught. I did not anticipate the level of fatigue I experienced, nor did I fully appreciate the impact of a lack of time table.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't spent all my time in front of the TV or Kindle, though there have been a few days when that has been the case. I've mostly been busy. It's hard not to be busy out here. There's wood and coal to be hauled, meals to be prepared, food to be purchased, laundry to be washed and of course, the general tidying and cleaning up. Oh yes, I've also been completing the first part of my training. 

I realised from the 4,000 or so words I'd initially written that there was a lot I had to re-learn. I'd lost touch with my creativity. To rectify this I went out and bought a plethora of artist's materials: paints, brushes, paper etc. and Dave, bless his generous heart, added to my collection as well. I've been painting and colouring and this week, I've even started writing poetry again.

For me writing poetry is a discipline. Every word has to justify its existence and work hard to propel the poem forward. This feeds into my writing. Why say in one page, what can be said in a paragraph? No, I'm not writing literary fiction. I'm writing genre and that requires the story move at a sharp clip, with pithy descriptions and a canny use of space to give the reader the specific experience they are looking for. I am blessed in that my friend, awesome poet and poetry tutor Julia Webb, is helping me get back in touch with that long-dormant part of myself.

Speaking of long-dormant parts of myself, did I mention I've joined a Shiny Gym? After an unsuccessful attempt at trying to find a functional-focused gym, I gave into the inevitable and joined the local Shiny Gym. My path back into fitness is not a happy one, it has to be said. 

Physically, I've lost a lot of ground, which is bad enough. Unfortunately, my wrists are still weak and an ill-executed attempt at a push-up buggered my right wrist. Not to mention that the inactivity has caused my knee and lower back to start playing up. Mentally, it's even more of a struggle. It's a Shiny Gym. The patrons are Shiny, fit and thin. I joined and couldn't face going for a couple of weeks. In the end, I booked some PT sessions, just so I could have someone hold my hand to get me going again. By the way, this isn't to do with their judging me, this is about what I imagine them to be thinking about me. I am working hard to remind myself that I have to start from where I am, not from where I would prefer to be. I want to push it. But right now, actually getting to the gym is pushing it for me. 

It seems that the traditional method of goal setting (keep goal in the forefront of your mind, set milestones and targets) just doesn't work for me. Rather, I am focusing on where I want to be eventually and doing today what I can to get me there. My Life is now pointing in the direction I want to go, it's time to do the work. If I think about it in terms of building a house, rather than a journey, I've built the foundations. I know roughly what it will look like in the end, now I'm focusing on getting the framework built. Being fitter and more creative is part of this framework. It's important for me to be more physically robust, there are things I want to do, that I am not able to do right now and being more creative feeds into my writing. 

I suppose I'm a little bit frustrated by my supposed lack of progress. I'm aware I could have pushed myself harder. It's true I would have more words by now. It's also true that the 4,000 words I wrote earlier are probably all going to be binned. I need quality now. Ultimately, I must work within my limits, even if it takes a little bit longer.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring has sprung

My garden has snowdrops and daffodils in varying stages of flower. I've also seen a few clusters of spade-like tulip leaves popping up. I'm now on spring heating, which took a bit of boiler manipulation on my part and means I don't need to light a fire first thing in the morning. It's also meant I've been a bit sluggish in hauling my wood. But that's okay, it will happen.

Rummy 'helping' me with my assignment

Dave is likely to be very busy with Science Week coming up soon, so Rummy came to stay last Friday. He's settled in very quickly and as I feared, has trouble with doors. This place has more doors than a submarine. Don't get me wrong, I adore him. But he really is as thick as two short planks. He keeps trying to open my bedroom door at the hinge end when the door is already open. 

He's been exploring the garden and the rest of the estate over the last few days. Pet wisdom dictates that when a cat is moved to a new place, you leave them in for at least a couple of weeks. Rummy lasted a couple of days and then I had enough of him meowing to be let out and trying to make a break for it every time I opened the door. 

Yesterday was the first morning I let him out and he very kindly brought me breakfast. It was still squeaking. Happily, he wasn't offended when I told him what a clever cat he was and refused to let him in. He went off to eat elsewhere. I was pleased to report to Z that at least one of her squatters was earning his keep.

Unfortunately, he's met the local lynx. It was not a happy meeting. I say lynx, because that's what this cat looks like, it's not really a lynx (though apparently there are plans afoot to release them in Thetford, about 30 miles away). Rummy is sleek, but incredibly solid beast and very physical with it. Whereas other cats flow and tread softly, you can hear him walk and he lands with a thump. If you try and push him off something, he'll stay put unless you put some intention behind it. 

The lynx is a third larger than Rummy. Granted he was probably puffed up, but I have seen him out and about before. He's huge. In any case, Rummy got his ass handed to him on a platter with crudités and dips. I chased off said lynx. Rummy's dignity and ego were more wounded, he spent the evening curled up on my lap. 

This morning he kept me company when I fed the tortoises and velociraptors. Given the predator helping itself to their ranks and their general reluctance to come in at night, Z has decided it's best to keep them in their pen. Something they are not very happy about at all. They've been plotting. I've seen trouble brewing. Not this morning.

Rummy wasn't the least bit interested in them. The velociraptors however, were unimpressed and for the first time in a long time, didn't try to make a break for it when I came in with their breakfast. Rummy's interest was instead focused on another cat, huddled under a pile of wood. This kitty stayed put and apart from a bit of hissing back at him, didn't offer much violence. I'm hoping they'll make friends. Rummy is actually a sociable beast. When he's been with Dave, he hung out with the rest of the cats in the close. To the point that they'd try to invite themselves in for dinner. 

In weak moments I wonder about getting a border collie puppy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Holding the fort

This is how Z described it while she's on Granny duties. In truth it's more a cross between baby-sitting and crowd control.

I've been tasked with looking after the chickens and the tots (Anastasia and Natasha - Russian Tortoises).

While the tots are content with basking in the glow of their heat lamp, eating copious amounts of lambs lettuce and swilling vodka doing their traditional Russian dancing, the chickens are another matter completely.

They lulled me into a false sense of security. Sunday evening they milled about the chicken pen innocently, pecking at the ground; they ate their dinner and went to bed without any bother. Yesterday morning however, they put their plans into action. I greeted them as normal, "Morning ladies." They ignored me and huddled together. I opened the door and a little black hen made a break for it.

Okay, I thought. I'll deal with you in a bit. I've looked after small children, I know how to prioritise my battles. The others merely watched as I filled their grain bowls, gave them a couple of bananas and some bread. Meanwhile, the little black hen taunted me from outside.

Fine, I thought. I'll deal with you now. I opened the door to go out.

The chickens rushed me en masse. They squeezed in between my legs and the door and that was that; they were out and free as, well, birds. They taunted me. It's true as God is my witness. They taunted me. 

I've looked after small children, I know how to prioritise my battles. 

I left them to it. They spent the day, scratching and pecking outside. I popped my head up every now and then to make sure they were alright. They were. In fact, it was wonderful to see them wandering around, scratching under hedges, squabbling over stuff. A lady pheasant even joined them for awhile. The cockerel is full of himself, as you'd expect. He struts around, looking all important trying to boss the hens. He doesn't take it too badly that they mostly ignore him. 

Late in the afternoon, I knew it was time to prepare for battle. After all, I've looked after small children, I know when I've got a battle on my hands. I girded my loins.

If you come across the little known fact that chickens are direct descendants of dinosaurs...believe it. It's totally true. Steven Spielberg knew what he was on about. The little buggers. I ended up having to herd them in several batches. 

When I got to the pen, there were some who decided it was getting close to bedtime and why the hell was I late with dinner? Then there was the majority of the group who wanted me to work a bit; to make it clear that they were only coming in because my antics had amused them enough and they felt sorry for me. Plus, they fancied a bit of bread before bed.

Then there was the cockerel and two of his co-conspirators. They'd decided to do a Peter Rabbit and see if Z had planted anything worth eating in greenhouse. Thankfully, they were a few weeks early. As far as I could make out, only God knows how they got into the walled garden, because when it came to it, the chickens sure as hell wouldn't get out the same way.

In the end, I had to herd the three chickens, one at a time back into the pen. Each calling me names under their breath as I waved my arms about. If it wouldn't have been for the fact there's been a fox that's been thinning the flock, I'd have been tempted to let them stay out. I was supposed to be in Norwich to meet up with a friend, I apologised profusely for being late.

I suppose as excuses go, "I was herding chickens" was at least different.

I learnt my lesson. This morning I just let them straight out. We all pretended that was what I wanted to do in the first place.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Showing Up

This has not been the best weeks I've ever had. The euphoria of being free to pursue my creative and caring impulses has died down to be replaced with: Oh My Gods - what was I thinking? Closely followed by: I Can't Do This; and the ever-helpful: I Am Not Worthy of my Dreams. The job stacking shelves at Tesco when I'm 80, because I don't have a pension, has been calling me and 2, 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning. I won't lie, I think I cried my way through half a box of tissues yesterday.

I picked up the Big Girl Pants and put them away. I gave myself permission to be scared, fearful, doubtful and terrified. I sat with them and then when the time came, I went out and got good nails and fabulous eyebrows. Because if I'm going to fall apart, then at least let me have two bloody eyebrows!

Today, hasn't happened very quickly. It's taken me all morning to do my workout, get clean and dressed. I've cleaned my hearth, hauled my wood and coal and built my fire. In the spirit of great procrastination, I made myself a massive lunch and as I ate I watched this:

Elizabeth Gilbert is my latest guru-crush. There's a lot about her that I adore: her humour, her courage and she talks sense to me. But in this TED talk she really nails it down, why I've been struggling so hard and for so many years about my creativity.

It has now been 7 years since I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing. I've had my hands full in this time. It has to be said that since then, my life has not been all shitz and gigglez as the kidz do say. However, what hasn't helped is my self-sabotage. I have been afraid of committing myself to my creative process. I hid behind an office job, my wish to economically sustainable and basically pretended that my creative process and longing didn't matter. I tried being "sensible". 

All that is changing. Today, I am still sharing my space with my doubts, but I've peeled them off me and told them to go sit in the corner and to be quiet.

I am showing up. 

It's like this Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to write genre fiction. I want to write paranormal romances with elves, wizards, vampires, witches and werewolves. I want to write about kick-ass women and the adoring men with whom they live happily ever after. I want to write the books people read to unwind after their days working, the kind of books that get dropped in the bath, taken on holiday, loaned to friends and never returned.

There you go. That's what I want and I am owning that now. My goal is to write for Harlequin Nocturne and then to have my own series published independently. 

I'm letting go the idea of writing "proper" fiction. I'm always going to go to the Voewood Literary Festival as a gawping attendee. I'm letting go the idea that people will have heard of me and that they'll have read my work and liked what they read. It's a hard one to release, but I'm going to have to set it free because it isn't my dream and it's not who I am. I may yet indulge my literary fantasy, as I don't really have any pensionable options, I may yet write that Pulitzer prizewinner when I'm 80. In the meantime, I will be having fun.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Hello February

When January began, I had everything all planned out. I wrote in my diary the time table for getting fit. I planned out my first novel and wrote down when it would be completed. I was waiting eagerly for the start of my Introduction to Counselling course. I was exceptionally nervous and full of doubts, but ready to go for it.

And then I went back to work at the office.

I've been at Insight for over 4 years. It is the longest I've ever worked anywhere. Ever. It's been absolutely brilliant. No two days have ever been the same and the people are brilliant (if slightly bonkers, which is probably why I got on there so well).

After the first couple of weeks and the start of my counselling course, I realised it was time. Those two weeks I was distracted and grumpy and tired because my heart wasn't in my work. Neither was my head. The counselling was course was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

I took stock of everything I want to do this year and where I want to be at the end of it. I realised there was only one thing for it: I had to go for it. 

I have to put my energy 100% behind the training and the professional development that will put me on the path to becoming a fully qualified counsellor. I have to put my energy 100% behind the three creative projects that have been rumbling around my head for years, to move them from my imagination and into the world. 

A couple of weeks ago I handed in my notice. Last Thursday was my last day. In between me handing in my notice and my leaving working, I hardly slept. During the day, I've been focused on making sure I left work in as tidy a fashion as I could. But at night...well, that's when everything hiding in the crevasses all day, came out to play. Plans, hopes, fears. Everything.

I only started sleeping properly again a couple of nights ago...

The last few days have been busy as well. There's the small matter of my tax return that needed to be filled in. And then, there was my Yuletide present from Dave...a gin making afternoon at the Adnams Distillery in Southwold.

But that's a blog post for another day...

In the meantime, I've be rearranging my working space. Dave being his usual lovely self, gave me a new desk. I'm now working in my front room as it's more comfortable. My study space is now being turned into my exercise area. I've got a lot of catching up to do. I'm more than aware that if I am to achieve everything I hope I can this year, I've got to be healthy and well. 

I am going to be 45 this year. The clock is a-ticking. There is no "safe" choice in life. Everything comes with a price and safety is the most expensive choice of all; one, I have never been very good at paying. It may make my life look a bit bizarre and haphazard from the outside, but I can't face the slow, living death of un-fulfilled dreams. Far better to take the leap into the unknown and face the consequences.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Drawing a line under 2014

"Don't let the door slam you on the butt as you leave!"

The less I say about 2014 the better. If we sum it up as "challenging", that will be an adequate enough adjective.

So. Onwards. 2015. 

The antibiotics are working incredibly well. My chest infection is much improved and there's even a small spring in my step again. It amazed me how awful I must have been feeling, now that I feel more myself. Still got a bit of a chesty cough, but the nasty rattle has gone.

I made mention to my lovely landlady that I would like to have a proper fire, could I please borrow her man to sweep my chimney (ahem). On return from my first outing for a week, everything was ready for me. The chimney had been swept and a fire laid out ready to go.

My first real fire!

That's right. I've been in England since 1988 and this is the first time I'd got around to having a real fire in my home. 

Pyromania runs in the family. My dad and brother used to build bonfires at the drop of a hat. Any excuse. I'm not really any different I've discovered. Having said that, Dave elbowed me out the way for a chance to play with my fire (no, it's not a euphemism, stop giggling in the back). 

This morning we went shopping for the proper accoutrements for my hearth. Because Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have a hearth. My fireplace, is no longer decorative. We bought all the things for my fire. And of course, once we got home, we had to make sure everything worked properly. After all, I wouldn't want to have had a duff poker (no really, stop sniggering, it's distracting).

I've still got some rearranging to do to get things just right, and of course I need a log basket. So, that's still to come. 

The New Year.

This New Year is about my creativity. I realise how much I miss writing for myself. There has been so much that has happened during 2014, that really brought home, how little I have to lose. It's time to stop making excuses and to start applying my imagination and perseverance to my laptop.

This New Year is about my health. Ending 2014 with a chest infection emphasised how much living well is not about so called "lifestyle choices" and more about being able to do the day to day stuff with energy and enthusiasm (I seriously lacked both in December).

This New Year is about cherishing my nearest and dearest. It's never too late to annoy the crap out of my Boy and Dave. I want to have more fun doing stuff with both of the men in my life. And yes, just because Boy is all grown up and manly-like, he's still Boy to me. It's also important to me to spend more time with the lovely people in my life. Old, new and good friends.

These three areas are where my focus will primarily rest. There are other things I would like to look into. There's the counselling course I'll be starting next week. And I'm also wondering about volunteering in my local community. But these are side issues at this point and I suspect as I get further along into 2015 more opportunities will pop up.

Darlings, I wish you all good health, oodles of wealth, lots of fabulous moments with friends and loved ones and as much joy and fun as you can possible cope with.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

First Christmas in the Country

What can I say? Boy is home. 

There's a ham baking in the oven. Boy is killing things on Halo 2. My world is as it should be.

When we started this year off, I had no idea what was coming. It's been a year full of things that don't ever get mentioned and should never be mentioned in those round robin letters that people include in Christmas cards. 

There hasn't been a part of my life that hasn't been thoroughly shaken; and while I'm still standing, I do feel somewhat bruised and fragile. The time off I'm taking over the festive period is to rest up. I've still got the dregs of a cold I suffered a few weeks ago; it's happily brewing in my sinuses. I think it's probably time to talk to a consultant about having everything flushed out, but I haven't got any resilience left and an op would flatten me. That's okay. I've got the time to rest and recover and if I'm frustrated by my lack of progress, I know trying to push through would only drag it out for longer.

This is the longest Boy has been in The Cottage. Even though he's still getting used to the space (I moved while he was at uni), he seems much happier here. We are so very blessed indeed that we can be here and breathe for a bit. 

Boy took me shopping last night to the big supermarket just outside of Norwich. There, the other shoppers were grimly focused on the task at hand, pushing past and scowling randomly at tins of baked beans. 

The country life is taking some getting used to. I insisted Boy drive me to the local Co-op for some last minute purchases, I decided I had to make ponche crema (Trinidadian eggnog) today and get some more milk (I've been drinking gallons of tea lately). It's just ridiculous! People were relaxed, smiling and making eye contact. Strangers in the queue actually struck up conversations! 

I could get used to this life. 

I'm not sure what 2015 holds. I have a list of things I would like to do:

- get back to my fitness regime
- complete and market two manuscripts
- do some counselling courses

But I'm sure Life has other Plans for me.