Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hot hot hot

I live in a fairly miserable climate. In winter, it can range between drizzly, cold rain and heavy snow. In summer, it ranges between drizzly, cold rain, occasional snow, and the occasional burst of sunlight, for a day or two.

The thing is that you can never predict if a sunny couple of hours is just that, or a sunny afternoon, or a sunny week. You don't really get sunny months. You more look for the spots of good weather interspersed drizzly, cold rain, or sometimes hail. It is very badly mixed up and unpredictable, but mostly cold.

When the weather does heat up, the "taps aff" phenomenon hits. This mass showing of man boobs that really should be kept hidden away happens because you live in a miserable climate, and so, when the sun shines you have to take full advantage of any vitamin D that might otherwise not creep into your skin. This also means skiving off work, drinking outside, and generally doing anything you can to take advantage of the sunshine. The massive flipside is that the said man boobs crop up in your mind forever afterwards, and you may need CBT to suppress the bad thoughts.

So, anyway, on even borderline warm afternoon, you suddenly find acres of wobbly flesh, badly done tattoos and cellulite exposed to the sun. When it is actually hot, there is no air conditioning or cool beers on offer or anything that you usually get in a society that's used to coping with heat.

The weird thing is - and this really is a once in a generation thing - we're into our second week of sun in a month. People are getting tanned and less bonkers about the "taps aff" thing. The usually busy local restaurant is less busy, as people head to the park. There is also - whisper it - an undercurrent that things are Too Hot, and that this heat is unnatural.

The plus side is that the Boy has had much interaction with dogs, which he loves, and people in the park; there's so many people about, and the hot weather is a reason to chat. People are more open, I think.

The downsides are that the Boy loves the park and the sun, but we can't collectively cope with the hot nights (light nights are one thing, it being hot at night are another); he wakes up screaming. We don't do air conditioning because a freak heat wave once every few years doesn't merit it.

I'm sunbathing as much as I can and making sure the Boy gets sunscreen on, as he loves playing outside (he's also very, very dirty). But despite the instinct to worship the sun's intermittent attention, I'm also longingly looking up knitting patterns for when its cold. The sun may put in an appearance every so often, but I live in a society that is used to being chilly,

What would happen if, where you live, the climate changed?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Smalltown girl

I just spent a week in a small town, for the first time since I left the one I grew up in. Living in a flat that was between lets, helping to clear father in law's almost endless junk from another house up the road.

The flat smelled like the various digs I had as a student - damp downstairs, bare walls upstairs, the minimum of furnishing. It smelled like transience.

Almost automatically, I started doing what I used to do as a student to decorate - use empty wine bottles as candle holders and artfully dribble wax down the sides. If we'd been there any longer I would have doubtless bought a Star Wars poster and some rag rugs.

I experienced that small town mixture of peace and boredom. I had brought work to do but a lack of internet connection meant it was difficult to do. So I spent a fair bit of time walking to the park, walking by the river, browsing in local shops and just generally pottering about.

I ended up being on greeting terms with the guy who worked in the only cafe with wireless, and stopped to chat a few times with our next door neighbour. Less anonymous than in the city - although the next door neighbour reminded me that smalltown friendliness sometimes gets a bit overbearing, as shortly after we arrived he actually tried the door of our flat before knocking and then gabbled something about thinking one of the workmen hired to renovate the flat was working late and he wanted to "check on his car" when my husband went out to ask what he was doing!

I began to think that we could live there forever; we own the property outright and could do low paid jobs while just bumming around the rest of the time. Sort of like being New Age Travellers without the travelling.

Then I realised that I would probably go spare with boredom after a fortnight, and that it was ok during the sunny weather but that the thought of the three of us living in a small flat the other 51 weeks of the year wasn't very enticing.

Still, it was fun for a week. I'd been a bit worried about coping with small town life, but it convinced me more than ever that it's time to get out of the city.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The crossover

It's fairly well documented that you get to a point in your life when the responsibility and capability shifts from your aging parents' shoulders onto yours. You expect to have to help them as they become more infirm.

My parents - compared to my father in law, anyway - have been pretty good at planning ahead for their dotage. They moved into a smaller house, didn't get another dog when the one I grew up with died, and generally were winding down.

Until, I think they must have decided that they were too young to die. So suddenly they started swinging wildly in the other direction. They got an enormous, bouncy dog. Mum's 70th birthday was originally scheduled to begin with champagne cocktails at 10am, until we pointed out that none of her kids could actually travel to her house to begin drinking that early without getting up at 6am. Fair enough.

What does have me chewing my fingernails is my Mum's relentless hyperactivity. It's like dealing with an energetic toddler, who knows no reason. My Dad finds it quite wearing too, when she tears off into the distance without having a clue where she's going, but wants to get there first, wherever it is. He's got a dodgy hip and can't go that fast, but she still zooms off, leaving him and everyone else trailing in her wake.

Mum wanted to go fabric shopping in the city, so Dad, her, the Boy and me went to the market district. It is in one of the dodgiest bits of town. Mum, having initially claimed she knew where she was going, announced that she didn't really know, but thought the shop was up a random, dark alley. I tried to persuade her that this was unlikely, and was not a good bit of town to explore. She insisted on going on her own.

In the meantime, while I stood with Dad, a scar-faced passerby asked us directions to the local off-licence. Dad, in a jolly fashion, said he didn't know because we were all from Hicksville, and had scary scar man ever been there? I tried not to hiss "shut uuuup, Dad," like I was 15.

Mum appeared back from her tour of Dickensian alleyways; I made her come with me into a newsagent  and I bought a magazine while she actually, literally leapt around the Boy's pushchair making the floor thud with the impact and emitting stupid noises. I asked for directions to her fabric shop.

And then we left the newsagent, and my Mum got bored following the directions after approximately 30 seconds. She veered off to the left for no apparent reason, speeding on by herself, and then spotted the most sinister looking pub in the world; a brick box with no windows. So the best thing, obviously, to do would be to flirtatiously ask the man chainsmoking outside, who had even more scars than the man we met earlier, for directions. Funnily enough, he didn't know where the fabric shop was.

We eventually got there when I stuck to the directions we'd been given.

It's like this all the time; I walked her onto her train earlier today and she practically sprinted off up the station concourse while I struggled with luggage, and then insisted that all the clocks in the station were wrong and her watch wasn't slow.

In a way, it's a good phase as she's very independent. It's also maddening, as both of them seem to have become incredibly unworldly, although I think that's partly from spending three decades staying in a small, remote town. I distinctly remember my Mum telling me to avoid dodgy looking drunks when I was little. Dad used to lecture me about data protection, but now will cheerfully put all his personal details on forms, just because he's asked to, and then wonders why he's plagued by junk phone calls.

But part of the thing about the aging parent situation is that, although you become more responsible, they still think they know best. And, unlike a toddler, it's much more difficult to argue that you're right - because they remember changing your nappy...

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


It's been a while since I have blogged and much has happened. The Boy is doing fine - very well, actually.

A lot of it terribly dull stuff with work, which I won't bore you with.

But I lie. Some of it is worth blogging about. The organisation I work for, I used to love - let us call it International Woodlouse Survival (it's not, but you get the idea).

I believed in the aims and really bought into the ethos, and indeed, for many years, there was little that I would not do in the name of promoting the woodlice. Trek to the other side of the country in my own time to talk to people about the values of woodlice? No bother. Give up every weekend for a month to fight for the Save the Woodlice by election candidate? You betcha.

The years went on and, while my career didn't exactly blossom - other people who I suspect are better at self promotion but less devoted to woodlice advanced ahead of me, but at least I felt I was doing some good in the world.

However, I noticed that when I was having miscarriages and ectopics and IVF and was generally unable to be gung ho, that people weren't very sympathetic and almost seemed to take it as a sign of weakness that I wasn't doing enough for Woodlouse Survival.

What do you mean, you can't run a stall because you've just had a miscarriage? There are woodlice to be saved! Take six weeks after an operation to remove an ectopic? Think how many thousands of lice will die because of your half-arsedness.

I also thought that it was just that thing you sometimes get where people are frightened of infertility or pregnancy loss. But even since I've had the Boy, I sense there is much pressure on me to not just do my job, but to do everything I used to do when I had fewer commitments. And for now and forever, the Boy is more important than woodlice.

 But circumstances were such that I have had to get on with things, albeit being increasingly disillusioned with woodlice, and dubious about whether or not promoting them actually does any good. I think if I'd been cut a little more slack I would have been more enthusiastic, despite all my problems, but some people I work with being pushy has only served to make me feel very weary.

Anyway, I've noticed the evil side of the Woodlice People with my FIL - he volunteered for the same organisation and some of his colleagues have, horrendously, tried to use his death as an opportunity for self promotion.

One of them actually stagecrashed his funeral to give a eulogy they'd planned but hadn't asked anyone in the family's permission to give. It was along the lines of "FIL was a really good guy. He cared about woodlice. He knew I cared about woodlice too. Aren't I just fabulous!?". It gave me a bad feeling about woodlice, overall.

So I'm trying to remember that, as well as fuckwits, I have met many good friends who I have met through the woodlouse cause. They are not all pushy arses who would sell their grannies for a nice stone to sit under.

I still feel I have lost my previous devotion to the interests of woodlice, and may never get it back. In fact, I want to ditch the whole thing and concentrate on something else. Every time I try to find that old enthusiasm and, for example, arrange a fundraising barndance for woodlice, I find I'm working with self important people who make me want to scream.

So I think my woodlice career is over and I should find something else to do. Apart from anything else, I think it's quite telling that, when I was trying to pluck out a random thing out of the ether to use as an analogy for the organisation I work for, at the start of this post, I picked woodlice. I hate woodlice...