Mixed Feelings

I do enjoy Christmas these days, but this particular one was sadder than usual. A good friend of my daughters (they went to school together), was killed on 15th December in a hit and run accident, near where he lived, in London. The police are searching for the culprit. The randomness, and the casual cruelty, of just driving off when it must be blindingly obvious you’ve just hit somebody in your car, is hard to stomach.

He spent a lot of time during his teenage years at our house. He was fun, extremely bright, multi-talented, excellent with my girls’ sibling rivalry, very good at defusing potentially awkward situations (just one example -when ED told him, in front of YD, that YD fancied him, he smiled, said Ooh how lovely. Thank you. And so YD stopped writhing with embarrassment and felt good about it).

In recent years his life and my daughters’ lives had taken different paths and we didn’t see so much of him. But we are all so sad. We loved him. He was good, and funny, and kind. But mixed in with the sadness is the awareness of how much worse this is for his immediate family. As a mother I can only begin to imagine how his mother must feel. The world is a lesser place without him. RIP Andy.

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Hubby cooked up a storm yesterday for our Christmas lunch. Absolutely fabulous meal. Mother came, and so did YD, her hubby, and baby ESW, who will be one year old in just over two weeks. Lovely.

Now that some of the knitting has been given to the recipients, here are a few photos of the projects.

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Trivia, or How I Manage My Life

When I was young, I didn’t have very much confidence about whether my feelings, choices, the things I liked and disliked, were ok. Partly because my childhood was spent not knowing when I would next cross an invisible “transgression” or “naughty” line.

As I’ve got older, though, bit by bit, I’m slightly more sure about things. As long as they don’t adversely affect anyone else, I think it’s ok that I gave up wearing nail varnish 30 years ago. It was such a huge relief. I’m crap at applying it, then within the hour I’ve smeared or chipped it, and it was just a pain in the neck. So I don’t do it any more. And along with such small but effective changes, here’s a short list of the things I do/don’t do to make my life a little easier. Just in case anybody else out there has the same sort of uncertainty.

  • I don’t “do” afternoons. I sleep in the afternoons. No outings, no meetings. Very occasional and special exceptions, for example my niece’s wedding party soon.
  • Not going to buy cakes, even dairy-free ones, when I have a cup of tea in a café. They are usually a disappointment, apart from particular ones (Costa’s dairy & gluten free Christmas cake, Starbuck’s dairy & gluten free brownies – as long as they’re still wrapped), so I just end up feeling guilty for eating a cake and worse for having spent the money and not enjoyed it.
  • Currently “off” coffee. I can only drink decaffeinated anyway, or I end up shaking and bouncing off the walls. So I’ve decided it’s fine to just drink tea. Black, weak, no sugar, thank you.
  • Not going to feel guilty any more if I can’t do any knitting, either because my hands are swollen and tired, or because my brain just isn’t working.

And so on. Small things, but each decision taken lifts a weight off my shoulders.

Holiday and Knitting

Just back from a fabulous week at Center Parcs (Woburn). Hubby and I went on Friday, both daughters plus partners plus babies came for the weekend and went home on Monday, and then we stayed till last Friday. Absolutely excellent. The two children don’t see a lot of each other, as one (nearly 2) lives in Southampton, and the other (9 months old) near us in Solihull, but they were clearly very taken with each other. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of eye contact (and pointing from the baby), and it was just lovely.

Center Parcs involves a lot of walking, for me, because I am absolutely useless on a bike. Last time I rode a bike I broke a rib falling off. Not great. They do apparently hire out tricycles for adults (clumsy klutzes) like me, which might be a possibility if we go to Center Parcs again.

It’s lovely (though absolutely exhausting) walking in the forest – lots of grey squirrels, and even a hare, who clearly couldn’t care less that he was being watched closely, a lot. I have never been that close to a hare in my life. It was so exciting!

I ate far too much. YD made a fabulous Victoria sponge with jam filling – OMG to die for! and I’d taken a carrot cake, which was also pretty good. Chocolate, biscuits, just went for it. So now I’m being much more careful. Eating the same at mealtimes, just cutting right down on cake, biscuits and chocolate, before I turn into a big fat biffer.

We fetched Bertie The Cat from the cattery on the way home and she is just so happy to be back in her little domain. Friday she was very vocal and demanding, but settled down by the evening and is now happily purring away in one of her preferred warm spots. And is much happier to be cuddled than usual! not quite so busy and important . . .

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I have learned two new knitting techniques. Well, in reality, one is a crochet technique. It’s called Tunisian Crochet, or Afghan Crochet, and is a mixture of knitting and crochet done on one long hook. The fabric is quite firm and thick and is good for things like bags, outerwear, cushion covers, and I’m likely to start with something small like coffee coasters. Very pleased.

The second technique is for knitting in the round (tubes with no seams) and is called Magic Loop. I have been trying for years to master this one. I can’t handle double pointed needles, I’m all fingers and thumbs, so I knit in the round with two circular needles. It has occurred to me several times that this technique is very similar to Magic Loop. My younger daughter showed me how to do it (Magic Loop) on holiday, and I had a go and it actually clicked in my brain. So now I’m knitting the sleeves of a small baby jacket (Puerperium) in the round with Magic Loop. The advantage of this over two circular needles is that there are only two needle tips to worry about, instead of four. The current project is in stocking stitch, so no worries about how many stitches are on each half of the cable, but the next challenge will be Magic Loop with a pattern . . .

Also have some Erika Knight Gossypium cotton dk which is absolutely fabulous to knit with. I’m doing a Seafoam scarf for me in cream, on 5.5 mm needles to make it even bigger and looser. Loving it.

Almost all the Christmas shopping is done. I’ve always been a bit early doing such things, and start thinking seriously about any knitting I’m going to do for gifts in May. I start actually buying presents in September, so come December it’s just not so fraught. Hubby used to wait until 23rd/24th December, go into Birmingham, and do it all in one day. I just couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. I even have a spreadsheet where birthday/Xmas presents are listed by recipient, going back to 2010, the idea being that I don’t duplicate year on year. A bit nerdy, I know, but I’m ok with that. I need order in my life, it feels calmer and easier.

I think that’s probably it for now!

Sexism

Watched Louis Theroux’ new documentary on Jimmy Savile on Sunday night. Appalling. But here’s the thing. Jimmy Savile’s behaviour was dreadful and abusive, even for the time, but there was a different culture then. Although if, in my mid-twenties, a middle-aged man had told me I was too old for him, alarm bells would have rung loud and clear.

I was at work in Birmingham (UK) city centre in the 1970s and it was normal, just totally normal, for men to whistle at women as they walked past, to comment on female bodies, to say whether or not they’d want to have sex with a woman.(“Yeah, I’d do you, darling!” – well, I wouldn’t “do” you, mate. Not the best chat-up line, really, now is it?) In my lunch hour, when I went shopping, it was common for men to shout stuff in my ear about how I looked. You were expected, then, to be grateful for the attention. Grateful. Yes. I felt very uncomfortable about it all and just ignored the shouters. I’m no great beauty, not particularly outstanding in any way, and wasn’t then either, but because I had a reasonable figure, that’s what attracted the attention.

Women were thought to dress for the men in the workplace. My ex-husband thought so too, so when I wore a smart skirt and blouse for work, he was irritated, because it was clearly, in his head, for the men. But in my head, I just wanted to look nice and smart, and to compete with the other women in the office.

And, like in Mad Men, if anybody made a pass at you, and you turned them down, it could only possibly be because you were “spoken for”. Not because you didn’t fancy them back. You were supposed to be glad. Pleased. Hmm.

Things are better now, but there are still many men who don’t get it. One example is the use of “Ms”. In the dictionary, Ms is the female equivalent of Mr.  I have this theory that some men feel they can “chat up” a Miss, have to be respectful to a “Mrs”, and don’t know what to do about a “Ms”, because it’s not clear whether she is “available” or “not”. How about, guys, you treat women as equals, respect women as people? Huh? Nobody knows whether a man is married or not (unless there’s a ring) because you’re all called “Mr”. And we manage just fine addressing you.

And don’t even get me started on Trump.

Was it really 3 months ago?

Goodness me. I have been meaning to blog for a while now, but life has been just slightly fraught here.

Have just read Harry Potter No 8 – The Cursed Child – amazing! am planning to go and see it at the theatre somehow or other. Really, really good.

Lots of medical appointments, including osteopath for wonky back (me), for both of us.

Visits from family – absolutely wonderful to see everybody, just lovely. It’s hard to believe that the oldest two grandchildren are 15 and nearly 15, and the youngest are nearly two years old, and seven and a half  months old. All just delightful.

We had a date for the boiler service but the man never turned up, and it proved to be difficult to say the least to re-book. So I wrote a fairly snotty email and it’s being done on Friday morning, and they’re paying us £30 for the inconvenience. So that’s ok then (sort of).

We also had a date for the man to assemble and fit five cupboards in the utility, but he didn’t turn up either. We did try to contact him (two phone calls, 10 am and 7 pm, and a text message), but no reply at all. Strange, as he was very enthusiastic about how wonderful we were to work for (he did the refurb of our kitchen). However. New plan in the making. Frustrating though, as we’d stripped the room for him. But it would be worse if we had taken time off work . . . .

This week has been particularly fraught and busy, and we are both really tired. But next week looks much less manic, so we can relax and catch up with ourselves. I really thought retirement would be restful! but then I thought having a baby would involve four hourly feeds and sleeps in between. How wrong can a person be.

Yesterday I went to Stitch and Sip at the local yarn shop, and it was lovely! lots of laughter and banter, and I actually got some knitting done. Excellent. Also a couple came in with their nephew. The couple were 101 and 102 (he was in a wheelchair), both as bright as a button, their (chatty and funny) nephew was 74 and there was a carer too. The 101-year old woman lives nearby, and knits as well as crochets, so we tried really hard to persuade her to come to the Stitch & Sip sessions. She was born in 1915. We were all trying to work out all the changes she’s seen in her life. It would be great to see her at the group.

Been knitting loads for Christmas, no pictures yet of course, and a little cardigan for a baby boy due this month. Just started a cardigan for my friend Charlie’s little girl. I made her one when she was 3, and she still wears it! a little on the small side now of course . . . and the one I’m knitting now is in a sort of mermaid pale green.

 

The garden is looking ok too. There is a large phormium which isn’t terribly well placed, too near the washing line, and hubby sometimes finds he’s been poked in the eye by one of the leaves. So I’m getting it moved to the back of the garden, where there is a dead pieris which needs digging up. Phoning for quotes tomorrow. Also have some “Seeds for Bees” which I’m going to plant soon, and once the phormium has been moved, I’ll plant some bulbs and a small ornamental grass (which won’t poke hubby in the eye) in the space left. Exciting.

The sweet peas I grew from seed eventually came up trumps, but next year it’ll be small plants rather than seeds. The dwarf rudbeckias also eventually grew, but what a faff. I do like them though, bright yellow really cheers up an autumnal garden. Along with the bright pink sedums (though not adjacent to each other). The purple smoke bush (cotinus coggyria) is lovely, and the leaves turn a beautiful colour before they fall.

Watched “The Danish Girl” last night. Melancholy, beautifully shot, and a lovely, if very sad, film. Very brave of the actors I think. Equal weight was given to both the husband’s and the wife’s feelings about what was happening.

Have recently discovered nail “wraps”. Yeah. I’m absolutely crap at putting on nail varnish, partly because I’m just clumsy, partly because I have a tremor. So it’s a major faff, and then within an hour or so I’ve smudged or chipped it. However, nail wraps are just the job for me. Have a look here and see what you think. I have some samples, so I’m just trying to get my hands into a suitable state (the nails are ok, but the skin round them is dry and flaky) and I’ll have a little practice.  My friend is having a “party” on Saturday night and I’m hoping to go.

I can’t believe that’s all. But it is for the moment.

Footwear Malfunction

Yes, I had a shoe problem this week. I have wonky feet. Have had three operations on them and lots of steroid injections. They don’t look particularly wonky, no lumpy bits or bunions or anything, just practically invisible scars. But there is quite a lot of pain.As a result, I don’t do pretty shoes. Almost all my shoes are Birkenstocks, which are comfy, but not terribly elegant. Normally I don’t care about elegant, but this year I thought I’d try something different.

So I bought a pair of flat leather ballet-type pumps from Marks & Spencer. Inside I have put orthotic support things and heel grips. The plan was to wear them if it’s raining or cold outside in the summer, as my summer Birkies are open-toed sandals and look a bit odd in the wet weather. Otherwise I just wear winter-type shoes, which also look a bit odd in the summer.

But the ballet pumps are not comfortable. Really not. So popping out to somebody’s house for a meeting, in the car, would have been ok. However, the day turned out to be somewhat more fraught than just a UNISON meeting. I ended up having to walk what felt like miles in my uncomfortable shoes. To add another little dimension to the whole shebang, I only had a t-shirt on and it was cold and wet outside.

So. New plan. Keep a pair of comfy shoes in the car, for just such occasions. Comfy shoes duly delegated, and will go in the car when my new Birkenstocks arrive. Two pairs – one is a pair of felt type slippers, one is a slightly prettier version (Florida) of the ones I already have (Arizona). We shall see. And the flat ballet pumps will be worn, but only for short periods, and not for any serious walking.

Will also delegate warm jacket to live in the car. Haven’t quite made that decision yet, but hubby is talking about sorting out his wardrobe, so may be able to liberate one of his throw-outs.

Fascinating, isn’t it. Not. Only if you have wonky feet too, I guess.