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Gone in a NaNosecond

And so I sit here, on the eve of the culmination of yet another 50,000 words of utter twaddle, loosely labelled as NaNoWriMo.

I haven’t harped on and on about it this year as, although everyone is super-supportive and encouraging (let me tell you, there have been times when I’d have chucked in the towel were it not for you!) I’m aware that it must be incredibly tedious for most people to observe. Besides which, it’s not like anyone can actually afford to put their entire life on hold for a month of solid writing – normal life still goes on, it’s just something you have to fit in, make time for. I’m fortunate in the timing, as James is at pre-school four mornings a week and Harry still naps and grazes for most of the daylight hours.

I hadn’t planned to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, until exactly one week before the start of November, when a few people on Twitter were beginning to discuss it. I’ve had something mulling around in my mind for many years now, that I’ve tried on countless occasions to get down on paper, as it were, but each time, I’ve given up all too quickly. It just didn’t flow and I had nothing to inspire me to plod on. And so, I thought it’d be an excellent opportunity to keep my hand in with the old writing whilst quashing a few age-old demons to boot.

I’m finding it a difficult and wholly onerous task. The cathartic experience I thought it would serve as seems so far away and, in working my way through the sorry tale, I’m forced to relive elements of my past that I had hoped I’d buried deeply some years ago. I’ve noticed that, during times of procrastination, I’m nipping across to YouTube and looking out songs that serve as an instant time machine, transporting me right back to periods of time in which I felt either radically happy or desperately sad. I also absent-mindedly caught myself searching for someone on Facebook – someone I despised for so long, but am now curious as to what they’re up to.

I still don’t know if it’s a completely unhealthy process or, when I finally reach the end of the project, if I’ll feel like a massive weight has been lifted. Because it’s a damned burden that I’ve been carrying around for most of my adult life and it’s time to move on.

People think I’m being an arsehole, when they ask if they can read my novel and I tell them, through blushes (you can’t see those online, thankfully), that it’s not something anyone else will want to read. The truth is, that I don’t think I *can* let anyone read my 50,000 words of personal, revealing and often quite pathetic true story. Or, at least, it’s about 85% true story, with a few tweaks here and there to make my life sound at least a teensy bit interesting, ha.

And so, please don’t feel bad if I turn down your kind offer to read my 2010 NaNoWriMo efforts. I may be an open book, but, with the best will in the world, I don’t feel ready to let anyone in at such a deeply personal level. Not yet, anyway.

Tomorrow, I should be finished. And then will come the monumentous decision of whether to burn it, like some rectangular effigy, or whether to be brave and embrace the past for what it was – a step-ladder towards who I have become.

Handwriting Heaven

Anyone who knows me fairly well, knows I am a bit of an unashamed stationery enthusiast.  In fact, when we started our own business, one of the most thrilling aspects for me was the trip to Staples for supplies.  Oh, I had a check-list and a half, I can tell you.  Nowadays, it’s not safe to let me loose in a large stationers.  Not unless you plan to hand me *your* credit card on the way in, of course.

Now, when I was heavily pregnant with Harry in the summer, a friend of mine assured me that it was the husband’s job to buy their wife a generous gift, as a kind of ‘thank you’ for having gone through hours of agonising labour and birth.  I told my husband this and his expression was priceless.  His words, on the other hand, were something along the lines of, ‘But my gift to you was a beautiful baby’.  I said nothing and assumed he was actually joking.

Anyway, we’d nipped into a tiny branch of Colemans in town and, whilst he was paying, something very beautiful caught my gaze on the opposite shelf, despite having remained ‘eyes front’ for the duration of our short visit (knowing we’re skint and I can’t resist a cheeky purchase or two).  It was this.  I showed my husband in an ‘ahhhh, look at thissss’ kind of way, using my best sales techniques (clearly rusty as all heck) and, as he refused to catch onto my hints, I told him, in no uncertain terms, that he’d be buying it for me when I gave birth.  Resistance was futile.

Now, £23.50 (yes, folks… a whole pound more in Colemans, but of course, no P&P) may seem an awful lot to spend on a ballpoint pen, but it didn’t matter to me if it was £23.50 or £235 – I was in love.  And a pen in its own tin too!  I tried to stay calm and forget about the pen – I had weeks left to wait, after all.

Harry arrived three months ago today and the days afterwards came and went in that newborn-induced haze.  But my pen never showed up.  And that is why, my friends, I walked brazenly into Colemans one day, at two minutes to half past five, picked one up from the shelf, paid and left without even turning round to look at my husband’s face.  He’d been waiting in the car, you see, and I was only picking up a can of coke from Wok This Way next door.

For days afterwards, I admired the tin my pen was housed in and occasionally opened it and stroked the smooth barrel.  But I was almost afraid of my ivory writing implement.  Because it looked so beautiful and had cost me a silly amount of money for a pen – and I might not have even be able to write well with it.  I hadn’t tried it out, you understand, in my defiance to give it a loving home.  And then, about three weeks ago, I made the decision to write a birthday card with it. And I fell in love all over again.

I used to pride myself on my neat handwriting as a kid, then teen, then early adult.  People remarked upon it and I smiled demurely back, not being one to take a compliment well.  But secretly, I was always so proud of myself.  I’m such a ‘B’ student and have never excelled at anything in life, so this was the closest I got to being good at something.  And then proper adulthood took hold and my writing turned to shit.  And life got in the way so much that I couldn’t even be bothered to care.  Except at Christmas, with its inexorable card-writing.  But somewhere, in the murky depths of my brain, I missed the days when my handwriting was neat and careful, instead of rushed and careless.

And now, I have my wonder-pen.  The first time I tried it, it was like I had found *my* wand at Ollivanders*.  It just felt right, like the perfect pair of velvet gloves on a winter’s day.  And when I wrote with it, the swirls and curls actually came out NEATLY!!!  I thought it was a fluke.  Several days passed and I was almost reluctant to try it again, just in case I suffered a crushing disappointment.  But when I did, it was a slender, four-inch miracle, I tell you.

And now, once again, I can actually enjoy the art of writing a birthday card, a note to the Avon Lady…  hell, even a shopping list on a scrappy old bit of paper.  When I open the lid of that little Highway of Writing tin, it’s like I’m about to dip my nib in an inkwell and sign the Magna Carta with a proper quill.  And I can honestly say, it was £23.50 very well spent.

*Harry Potter reference, for those of you non-fans.

To Blog or not To Blog?

Hello! (Sorrowful echo of emptiness left by readers past).

I guess you could say I’ve had other fish to fry – not bigger ones, but necessary ones. I suddenly remembered I had this curious vessel at my fingertips and thought it was high time to start sharing myself again.

It’s been a little over four weeks since I miscarried what would have potentially been Wyld Sprog #2 and it’s been strangely cathartic. I would imagine that my good friends still refuse to wholly believe me when I assure them I’m fine… great, even. I understand their reasons though, having endured me and supported me for more than ten months of agonising impatience. But grasping onto the concept that ‘everything happens for a reason’ has been surprisingly easy. Somehow, the agony has all gone… poured out of me, along with all the nasty stuff. And it’s been replaced with a new-found sense of ‘what will be, will be’. We’ve always felt utterly blessed to have our beautiful James and if he is it, then so be it. He will always be our little miracle and our legacy to the world.

I said to Michael a few months ago that this year, I wouldn’t allow my future happiness to be dependent upon becoming pregnant again. After one week of allowing myself to feel pathetic and sorry, absolutely wallowing in self-pity, I began to focus my attention on James’ impending second birthday, the glorious weather, rekindling some amazing friendships and cementing one new one. And, of course, the grand weight loss plan!

So… four weeks down the line, I am now five pounds lighter than I was when I fell pregnant with James, walking two miles most days (doesn’t sound much but it includes a painful uphill climb for about the last quarter, with a steep killer finish!) and being careful about what I eat. My friends are ever-inspiring… and it gives me the extra motivation I need to achieve what I want. My reproductive system bounced right back and to be honest, I really AM feeling WONDERFUL!!!

I have also refrained from switching on the TV each morning, healthier for both myself and James. No TV til 7pm now. I had forgotten my motto of many, many years: ‘I truly believe that music makes the world go round… because neither money or love do’. I have had a million-and-one* CDs off the rack and am enjoying the start of James’ musical education (even though not one fucker has been in the right case).

If I am pregnant again during 2009, that’ll be great. But if I can lose even just one more stone, I will be on cloud nine – and might just not come down again.

Thank you doesn’t begin to cut it, but you know who you are. I would be lost with you.

*My exaggeration allowance from the past two months of no blogging.

A Twitter Miracle!

Approaching 5,000 updates on Twitter, I’m beginning to work out what I’m getting from this strange little, 140-character virtual realm.

I’ve only been a full-time Twitterer/Tweeter for about two months but have already had the good fortune to have crossed paths with some uniquely insightful people.  Granted, I don’t know them well enough to be privy to their age, birthday, dress size or food preference but that’s the beauty of dipping in and out as you please.  You don’t feel obliged to update every ten seconds and it’s perfectly acceptable to lurk (or stalk, to cynics).

I am an overly-trusting soul but even I’m tightening up my own personal security on the worldwide web.  It seems you can’t be too careful and are only a mere hack away from having your identity stolen, your details stored or your preferences used for marketing purposes.  It was bound to happen with such a fast-growing phenomenon but in so many ways, is a sad reflection of how the world is changing in the name of greed.

But yesterday, my faith was restored just a little and I was reminded that the vast majority of folk are honest, hard-working and live (mostly) within the law.  One of my new-found Twitter followers (with whom, I share sporadic, yet hugely entertaining tweets) offered to lend me a couple of DVDs.  Granted, this was mainly in disgust at my ignorance of some of Britain’s biggest comedy, but even so.  My reaction was surprise – how could he trust me?  What if I failed to return them and sold them on eBay?  Also… a niggling doubt from me – what if he’s dodgy and only seeking my postal address for sinister reasons??  But I reasoned with myself that enough random businesses and sellers have access to my address anyway.

So… my week will begin in anticipation of the arrival of said package.  And my heart feels all warm and fuzzy that a virtual stranger chose to be so ‘kind and altruistic’ (his words).

With an almost-two-year-old son, I often allow niggling fears for his future to creep into my mind – we all know how much the world has changed in the last 25 years, after all.  But then, it can be the actions of just one person you barely know that remind you of what’s good and kind – and hopefully, how these sentiments will reign over bad and evil.

Thank you to my lovely new friend – and yes, I’m proud to call him that!

Everything in Threes

We’ve all heard it said that bad things traditionally happen in threes… but I’m wondering if this also applies to good things?  I ask because I seem to have been unusually lucky over the past few weeks, which seems alien after a long run of not-so-good luck.

First of all, I applied for a job.  Nothing grand, but something I could fit in around being a full-time parent at home.  I was told that a disproportionate amount of people had applied so was over-the-moon to be invited to an interview – despite having oodles of experience in all the relevant fields.

Secondly… the most amazing news for me!  After 11 months of hard graft (!) I am actually pregnant.  It had begun to seem like it wasn’t going to happen and I am in disbelief even now really, at six weeks.  I am still crossing everything I own that it’s a good’un.  But this elation brought inevitable concerns over a recent ‘women’s screening test’.  Having had a bad result and subsequent treatment before, I kept wondering what would happen if it happened again and being unable to go for the treatment.

Which brings me to the third thing… my results arrived after just four weeks (it’s a traditional 12 weeks in these parts) and I cried when I scanned the opening par and saw the word ‘normal’, emboldened at the end.

And then, I had some rotten luck.  I was due to visit ‘home’ home for a few days, stay with my mum, catch up with a few close friends I rarely get to see and meet up with a wonderful bunch of mummies I met through a baby forum, 22 months ago.  And then, I caught a horrid lurgy and had to cancel the entire trip.  Gutted is an understatement.  But when I remind myself how blessed I currently feel, how can I be angry?

So… now I’ve had my three pieces of good luck, is that me done for a while?  If so, I could ask for nothing more than what I have today.  Just for everything to tick along and be normal would be more than preferable.  At least until November, when I hope to announce the safe arrival of a brother or sister for James.

And in the meantime, I’m happily propped up in bed with my trusty laptop and Twitter.

A Saturday of Rudeness

Having been ‘brung up proper, like’, it always bugs me to the core when Generation Y are accused of having no manners or respect for the oldies.

Irrespective of the fact that I (sadly) pre-date Gen Y anyway.

A little over an hour ago, I was buying a necklace in a giant designer outlet in Grantham, well renowned for its older, posher, ruder clientele and I stepped around a lady (hereafter known as SOB – Snobby Old Bint) who was dithering over some Pringle socks.  As I waited patiently, she stepped around me and joined her friend (SOB2) at the till, so they could pay together.  Or so I thought.

SOB2 finished her transaction and the cashier began to ring in the Pringle socks for SOB.  I was a little peeved and exclaimed “Oh, OK then” to which SOB and SOB2 both turned.  I – very politely – pointed out there was, in fact, a queue.  SOB replied that she was with her friend.  Feeling the onset of Shop Rage, I – again politely – said, “But you’re paying separately”.  Oh dear… SOB chose this moment to square up to me as best she could at more than a foot shorter.

(In a raised tone) “Do you really want to stand here arguing about it when I could just be getting on with paying??” she virtually spat in my face.  I promise, I am not exaggerating.

Taken a little aback, I remained surprisingly calm and feeling brave, looked SOB and SOB2 alternately in the eyes and replied, “Well, no.  Because quite clearly you think you’re right”.

SOB turned to the now embarrassed cashier and muttered under her breath about nearly losing a transaction, yada, yada.  So I risked a quiet, “It’s just a lack of manners” and turned to look at SOB3 and 4, who were in the queue behind me.  Neither of them met my gaze.  And they had to go for ‘a jolly good cup of tea’ with her.

SOB didn’t like this and her tone became a warble as she fannied around trying to find her husband’s Gold Card.  In a vain attempt to save herself, she rah-rahhhed,

“Manners?  Oh no, I don’t have any of those.  I’m far too old for all that”.

As the second cashier called “Next please” and I walked past SOB, I mumbled, “Well, you’ve got that right”.  I swear, I have never been as over-friendly and polite to my cashier… almost like I was trying to recompense for SOB and her vile attitude.  I stand firm in my belief that old people still have to earn the respect of the young.  It’s not a pre-requisite.

To add insult to injury, Costa had run out of chocolate twists.

Seeing Things

I nipped into town this morning for two months’ worth of greeting cards – it’s such a faff, I prefer to do it in bulk.  When I say ‘town’, I use the term loosely.  There’s a bank or two and an old lady’s shoe shop.  Oh, and the obligatory 3,000 estate agencies.  Otherwise, you struggle to buy anything you want, let alone anything you might actually *need*.

I’m pretty sleepy today from a few late nights and, in the bright sunlight of this morning (oh, how welcome that is) I mistook a line of kerb for a rabbit on its hind legs and my heart leapt into my mouth.  Not to mention, I swerved just a little to avoid this imaginary bunny.

It got me to thinking.  There have been so many occasions that I’ve mistaken random, inanimate objects for living things that maybe it’s due to an overactive imagination, rather than being a bit sleepy?

I once saw a black cat stuck at the top of a tall tree.  It was actually a bin bag with a loose tie-handle, swaying in the breeze.  I’ve seen puddles in the road or on the pavement and think they’re small, furry animals about to run in front of the car.  The light can play strange tricks on the eye, I know… but I do seem a bit OTT with things.  My mind seems to make shapes and lines into small animals or people.

Perhaps I should take up abstract art.  I’m far less likely to crash the car if I put these odd little mind-tricks to better use.

How well do you know your neighbours?

Some of you might know I have recently started selling eco-friendly domestic products to local households: but until now, have been taking things very slowly indeed.  I don’t like to feel rushed with these type of things.  I prefer to take things at my own pace, making sure I am fully ‘au fait’ with what I’m doing before launching myself into the lion’s den.  I’ve been a good girl, completing my online training sessions and preparing my stationery and not half-heartedly throwing myself at the poor, unsuspecting locals.  And to be completely fair, I didn’t wholly appreciate receiving a ‘phone call from a posh-sounding man called Mark (whom I could barely hear, I might add) asking me where I’m at in a somewhat patronising manner.  But I now feel I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to give this thing a whirl.

So today, I prepare 20 catalogues, each with an order form and polite little covering note to introduce myself (I’m so not willing to knock on everyone’s door, despite it’s assured success), pack them in their little self-closing freezer bags and head out into the world… or at least in this case, the tiny hamlet in which I live.  Well, you’ve gotta start somewhere.  And what better bunch to use as guinea pigs?

We’ve lived here for four years now.  There are fewer than 40 houses.  You’d think I’d know some of the neighbours wouldn’t you?  To be fair, we both used to work full time with a moderate commute so particularly during the winter months, we left in the dark, we came home in the dark.  But even now that I’m at home during the day, I find I’m lucky to see one or two of the neighbours on an average day.

The silliest things scare me.  One such thing is not being able to locate someone’s letterbox and looking like a fool in broad daylight.  Today, I was so excited to discover that most of my fellow villagers (hamletters?) have a box mounted on the side of the house.  Far less scary.  On my short trip, I managed to ‘meet’ two people for the first time (I had known them by name but not face) and be waved at by a further two, previously unknown.  I was even lucky enough to be invited round for a coffee ‘anytime’ by one of the new people.  Not to mention, she is now delivering me half a dozen fresh, local eggs every Friday from her husband’s egg farm.

I am collecting my little catalogues on Sunday evening.  If I’m honest, I don’t expect many orders, if any.  They don’t strike me as a green bunch.  But my £48 starter-pack fee for joining Wikaniko (We Can Eco) will have been worth every penny if it means I feel part of this tiny hamlet after all this time.

Do minds ever really 'meet'?

It’s a bit early in the day for me to be thinking about this, but it was rattling about in my brain last night so I thought I’d ask you!

Most of my good friends, I’ve known since I was Young*.  I consider myself incredibly fortunate that, after all these years and all this experience (maybe less of this), I still love them dearly and have loads in common with them, enough to sustain a meaningful relationship without feeling the effort isn’t worthwhile.

Over the years of adulthood, I have been blessed with a handful of friendships.  Probably just the right amount to be manageable for me!  But on two or three occasions, I have made the acquaintance of someone so inspirational and remarkable that I have actually considered these ‘meetings of mind’ are meant to be.  You know, kind of written in the stars.

From the time of meeting and through the subsequent days/weeks/months, I have been almost reborn.  I have felt positive and clear-headed.  Focussed and driven.  Absolutely certain that my life is being moulded as I want it to be.  All because of that chance meeting with someone who just ‘gets’ me.  And who thinks the same way as me.

So, why is it then that these amazing and almost indescribable relationships seem to end so abruptly, leaving me wondering if I imagined the whole thing?  Could it really be true that friendships happen for a ‘season, reason or lifetime’?  If you’ve never read this once popular email circular, do look it up.  There seems to be some truth to it.

Are these extra-special relationships designed to be short-lived?  To teach us a little lesson about ourselves and move on, feeling motivated?  Am I too greedy, wanting them to stick around?  Why shouldn’t we have room in our lives to keep hold of them, cherishing them forever?  Is that really a selfish thing?

Could it be possible that minds never truly ‘meet’ but more that one implants subtle suggestions into another, allowing them to achieve happiness and greatness for themselves?

What do you think?

*Young was my maiden name.

Social Networking Journeys

So I login to Myspace (after an eternity, trying to retrieve my username and password from the murky depths of my brain) and have a good old chuckle at the ‘me’ of three years ago.

So much has changed since then, particularly the lines of my face.  I would put money on the fact that I’ve visibly aged more in the last three years than ever before.  But in this ‘era’, my social networking habits have equally aged – a fact I am amused by.

The ‘me’ of Myspace was all about the music.  I recall those first few months with much fondness, how I had started a new job after six months of drudgery in my old one and with the discovery of this website, I truly felt I had begun a new chapter of my life.  My profile picture wholly reflects this.  I look younger, more vibrant… and in an office!

Then pregnancy happened.  And with it, my mind took a bizarre turn. Whilst at home with my head over a bowl, unable to eat anything but McCoys crisps (for the salt, I guess?) certain things in my life began to make me feel as sick as a dog.  Myspace was the worst offender.  And so my relationship ended as quickly as it had started.

Then came Facebook. A friend introduced me after I had my son and my first thought was ‘oh no, I don’t think I need another Myspace’.  But I signed up and BANG! I was addicted.  The games, the jovial banter, the camaraderie, the ability to share my pics with friends.  I wondered how I managed without it to be honest.  Until my glorious addiction was marred in an instant by someone so unimportant – it made me wonder just how reliant and addicted I was.

And then I heard about Twitter.  Ten days in and I am just shy of 900 tweets.  But I’m enjoying the fact that you can dip in and out on a whim and not really miss out on anything.  I love getting to know about total strangers through things we have in common.  I love that you get a looking-glass-sized insight into the life of a celeb or two.  And most of all, I love that I can be me.  The old me.

I don’t miss Myspace.  I’ve lost all my ‘friends’ apart from the serious musicians.  I currently don’t miss Facebook, although I miss seeing my friends’ photos and commenting on them.  Twitter, I love at present.  But most of all, I love my real life.  If I meet anyone along the way that naturally ‘fits in’ to my real life, then I will be completely fulfilled.