Sunday, 29 December 2013


I just came across a post on a forum asking "What would you change about your character?" or something thereabouts.

My first response was "thank fuck it's not just me who has those thoughts!"

Then I started to think about what it is I would actually like to change.

I would like to be less lazy, and perhaps part of this is being less tired. I would like to feel healthier and look after my body better, perhaps trying to work out if my occasional bloating and/or nausea is related to a particular food group. Currently I struggle to eat regularly, and cutting out or even down on food groups is really detrimental to that, ie, I end up eating nothing.

I would like to be able to think and plan ahead more coherently. Often I make plans but they are so vague that they never actually happen or the timescale isn't set so it's too late by the time I get around to doing something. I think my current most commonly said or thought words are "Oh, I was going to..." which is a crock of shit, really. Like I say to my son, no, you weren't "going to". If you were really going to, you'd have done it by now. I want to get in that mindset - have an idea now, do it yesterday. Or at least, immediately plan when it's going to happen, and then stick to that.

I would like to enjoy my son's company more. Often he gets the shitty end of me, when I don't really enjoy the activity, or it's OK but I'm a little more irritated by his totally normal five year old behaviour than I should be. I have a book about this, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons", which is great, but I frequently don't notice that I've got into a slanging match with him until somebody points this out. I swear NORMAL parents don't do this with their 5 year olds. I find I enjoy his company when we're around other kids, or other adults. I find it really sad for him that our alone time isn't as good. I just can't get that connection right now.

I suppose that all of these are probably related and I do find that I can fake it to a certain extent but if I am honest I feel pretty hopeless about changing them and I can't imagine myself in those roles.

So, I decided to think back to, say, 10 years ago, when I was 15. Fuck, there were a LOT of things I wanted to change back then, that I probably wouldn't recognise myself now. Unfortunately (or fortunately, ha, it's probably a GOOD thing) I no longer have any of my teenage diaries so I can't check exactly what I was angsting about back then, but I'm sure I can have a good guess.

Teenage angst #1: I wish I had bigger boobs. Or existant boobs.
Well, done that one :D While I can still comfortably get away with not wearing a bra, I have a decent boobage now that I'm perfectly happy with.

Teenage angst #2: I will never get a boyfriend or be popular, I wish people liked me.
Hmm. While I wish I could go back in time and tell my 15 year old self that this really didn't matter as much as I thought, I do now have a fantastic boyfriend (who I happened to know at 15!) and soon to be husband. And I also know now that it's absolutely nothing to do with any man-attracting "skill" as it were but more about finding a person who matches YOU and that is possible for absolutely any person in the world.

Teenage angst #3: I wanted to be less awkward and more confident in general.
OK, THIS is what I meant. This is a personality thing that I've actually changed and I think my confidence and the amount that I hide or brazen out my awkwardness is AWESOME and I don't think my 15 year old self would recognise me. This is inspiring, this is me growing and changing as a person, and proving that I can.

Teenage angst #4: I want a baaaaaaaaaaby!

Teenage angst #5: I'm late all the time for everything.
Actually I'm better at this now. It's called building in time for stuff. It works but I have to remember to do it every time, which in practice means I'm on time for work but late to meet friends and, you know, blog and stuff and do other non-routine things. Sorry guys.

OK, but seriously. I have actually changed a lot in the last 10 years, probably in the last 5 years. I am braver. I am more confident. I am FAR more assertive. I take a little bit better care of my body. I am a tiny bit more organised (hey, these things take time). I am more likely to speak my mind, I have stronger opinions, I am less afraid to share those opinions. I have made changes, some which would have seemed impossible. Who am I to say that the changes I want to make now are so insurmountable?

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

I can't be that person

I am not the mother that I want to be.

I am patient but only when I am not tired, which is most of the time. I am too easily irritated. I blow up in a rage too easily (I am getting better at avoiding this). I don't always enjoy the company of my son - THAT is the worst one, for me, the bringer of the biggest load of guilt. God, how I used to "feel sad" for kids whose parents didn't want to spend every waking moment with them. Hi guise. I am sorry. Please can I join your club?

When he was tiny I had all of these expectations and plans and everything was going to be perfect. Well, I failed my first hurdle when I tried EC (elimination communication). That's where you hold them over a pot every time you think they need a wee, and somehow your superior connection with them allows them to do this. Skips potty training. Yeah, failed that one. Once he could crawl he didn't want to be held over a potty, he wanted to be out there, crawling and doing stuff. Didn't potty train until he was over 3. Still won't poo anywhere other than home two years later.

I was going to get him used to all of these lovely home cooked foods and instead when we were first on our own we had no oven and no microwave, he lived off veggieburgers and frozen veg for months and then stopped eating and since then has been the fussiest eater ever. I see people whose children eat couscous and chickpeas and soup - fucking soup!! - and feel shit. Baby-Led weaning, you lied.

I was useless at wrap slings. I forgave myself for this one (like I forgave myself for the EC thing, once I realised MOST PEOPLE DON'T DO THIS and IT IS A MAD IDEA.)

I think I took from my mum, and my grandma, that to be a good mother you just had to be kind. And so I sort of sat back and relaxed, because I am pretty kind, I am a nice person, job done. I read all of these theories and they fitted in with my "be kind" mantra, and I think I felt like I was done. This is the old "clever but lazy" thing coming out in me again from school. Oh yes. I have the theories, I know how to do this right, I have great ideas about how to carry it out, too. This will be awesome. Do you know what I did this year? I planned little activities to do every day of Advent to celebrate Christmas and get the Christmas excitement flowing. Well, it's the 11th of December, 2 weeks to go and we have done not one thing on that list.

This is just, basically, a perfect illustration of every fucking thing I do. I have a good idea. I get really psyched about the idea. It's going to be fun. It's really going to work this time - look, I made a pretty colour coded chart and everything! Then, whatever it is happens, I'm motivated for maybe the first one or two, if that, and then I fall back on my usual which is to do nothing and stay up on the internet for hours.

It's some kind of torture. I know exactly what I want to do, I watch myself not do it, and then I have the exact details of what I should have done (and failed to do, again) differently to beat myself up with. Maybe my standards are too high and I'm setting myself up to fail, I don't know. But, to be honest, even when I make myself a totally piss-easy target I fall short from that after a short while, and I get down because it's not even that I don't do something well enough, it's that I quite often don't do it at all.

It gets me down. I can't seem to be the person I so desperately want to be. Hell, I can't even seem to be a normal person who functions adequately.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Five year old

Mini-D is five years old in the morning. Somehow I have managed to raise another human to half a decade without even noticing. What happened?!

And he is fabulous. Okay, the last year has mostly been a write-off from my perspective, but he has been at a totally new kindergarten in a whole new language and culture and despite a few expected hiccups, he bounds in every morning with only a "Tschuss!" (only 3 weeks in, remember) and out every afternoon full of cheer and excitement. Almost every day he comes home with a new word to tell me, he is excited about me getting a job in a "Kindergarten for grown-ups" and today, we watched the episode of Doctor Who where Rose leaves and at the end he looked at me, quivered, said "Mummy, the Doctor is sad. And it's making me sad too!" and burst into tears. Oh, my baby.

He asked me questions about animal testing the other day, and I had to balance giving him truthful information and not terrifying the crap out of him.

He loves to "do art" and is scathing about what he considers "not real art". He wants to figure out phonics faster than I can figure out what order to teach him the sounds. (Both his drawings, and his written sentences, are adorably hilarious.) He can add single figures and tries to work out subtraction using his fingers. When he feels nervous, he is comforted by having some spare kisses to keep in his pockets. He is still suspicious of new foods. He is far more fond of Coca Cola than I would like. He is constantly trying to figure out his identity, sometimes about gender, occasionally about nationality, often about our family.

He still wants to cuddle, a lot, and he loves to have help with things, especially things that he doesn't really need help with. He will happily hold hands and kiss and hug in public. He is still so wonderfully carefree.

I think I'm doing okay.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Depression can fuck off.

I've been trying to avoid being on the computer all the time since Creepy D asked me if I actually wanted to be here, as I seemed to be avoiding everyone and pushing them away.

Had to tell him this was just my coping mechanism for the last year or so. Bury self in computer, let life go on around self, easy. And so addictive.

Have started doing exercise, in order to try and boost my energy levels and also make me feel more motivated in general. But it seems that cutting off the computer time has led to my depression coming out again. If you'd asked me a week ago, or even yesterday, I'd have said that I felt depressed a year or two ago but I feel okay now. But no, here it comes again. We ended up having a stupid argument about childbirth, of all things, and it's reawakened my "Shouldn't have had children with (ex) utter knob end" thing, and then that has triggered my "Shit, you're so terrible at LIFE that you bought vegetables and didn't use them and now they are mouldy. Well done you!" (tears). Decided to go for a walk to calm down a bit and forgot to take the recycling down with me. Cue another rant at self. "Can't even remember one thing that you decided on a few seconds ago. Oh my god, you can't do anything." Leads to terrible fear that will forget something important for my new job which I'm supposed to be starting next week.

I mean, it's exhausting. And stupid. But when I fail at stuff, even really simple stupid stuff, that just seems to reinforce my self-belief that I fail at EVERYTHING, and it all feeds into itself and is awful.

Actually people are saying nice things about me on facebook (and I am not fishing with moany comments, either) and I suspect I am coming down with a cold and feeling a bit sorry for myself because of that, and I always feel a bit thrown by arguments even though we ended up on the same page. I am sure that in a month when I've settled into the new job and maybe even done my next mad venture (learning to drive, in the land of the Autobahn!) I will be feeling better. And exercise is supposed to help. And I need to take my iron. And stop beginning sentences with And.

Breathe. Sleep. Make plans. Eat. Live.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

CV Writing

I have so much to post about GERMANY (said with a hard G) but I keep forgetting to update. Okay, that can wait, for today's rant topic of choice is writing CVs.

I should probably know how to do this by now. It's really not rocket science. You list your education, and previous employment, and then write a bit about yourself which is hopefully relevant to the job you're applying for, stick your contact details on top and you're good to go.

Instead, though, I'm reading loads of German CV websites, which have (by the looks of things) the same 20 years out of date advice as the British ones, (I remember solemnly putting my "health: good" and "non-smoking" status on my application for my first ever job), advising you to include such things as your marital status and number of children.  From speaking to my expat group, this seems to exist purely so that they can ask you at interview how you plan to juggle those three children and work. I have a funny little feeling that this question isn't asked of fathers, so I decided to leave that one off. Still, it's not so bad. Apparently 20 years ago it was standard to include your parents' occupations on a CV, so maybe those websites aren't too out of date after all.

So, getting past the issue of personal information, now it comes down to qualifications. The UK is unusual and a bit awkward in that we don't have an overall grade or mark for high school, but separate grades for each subject. This is probably a good thing, but it's a pain when you left nearly 20 years ago and can't remember what grade you got for what or even half of the subjects that you took. I decided to stick with the number and the grade range.

Then it comes to my qualifications after school, which are, to be perfectly honest, something of a giant mess. I've trained in at least three totally unrelated areas, and not finished any of the qualifications except for my CELTA (which I got a kick-ass grade in, so YEAH!) Have added most of those on the hope that the names they give you for crappy half-finished qualifications won't be understood by anybody who hasn't been educated in England or Wales and I can blag that it's something more important than it is.

Then comes the most dreaded part: personal interests and hobbies. Oh, please. One day, I will fill this section in honestly and say "In my free time, I like to eat crisps and refresh facebook and feedly endlessly in an exhausted sort of manner. If I'm feeling really indulgent, I might even have a bath instead of a shower, that is, if I can be bothered to remove 38 assorted plastic toys from it first." But no, instead you have to invent all sorts of interesting hobbies that you probably would do if you had the time. One site even told me to avoid putting any extreme/dangerous sports in, such as skydiving. Well, god forbid you come across as too interesting!

Anyway, wish me luck!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Packing, it is lacking. Or, I'm a terrible poet.

So, Creepy D found us a house! A real and proper house (well, okay, a holiday/student let, so it's temporary, but it's also a place we can live, and find jobs from, etc!)

I am very quickly realising that I have no idea how to pack stuff for moving house. When I moved out of home I sort of took some stuff that fitted in my ex-boyfriend's car and left the rest, which my mum has been attempting to slowly give me back in small bits over the last 7 years. (Jesus. Seven years.) I am making lists, I'm not sure how much this is helping, and how much I'm actually just procrastinating. So, T-13 days and our house still looks like a normal house that you would live in, minus some pictures and stuff off shelves. Or, actually, the shelves are just slightly less jumbled than they were before.

Also, I got distracted playing an old game that I found when checking through DVD cases. Return of the Incredible Machine: Contraptions. Great fun! Also not helping with packing.

Thank you Professor Tim. Yes, I do win at packing. Obviously. I am the packing boss.

I feel like I should be running around like a headless chicken. Please remind me of this when I am actually headless chicken-ing in about twelve days' time.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

One thing I will miss about England

The sound of a hot summer's evening, in a country which is, firstly, crowded, and secondly, ever and always joyful about the precious few warm evenings that we do get. I love the way that you can hear everyone going about their daily business in a way that you never usually would, because they have all of their windows open and so do you. It's almost like living outdoors, in the open, with everybody.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Floating Away

I had a horrible, horrible dream last night where I was in a park and was watching a family who were letting their baby ride on a helium balloon which was floating in the air. The dad in the family was very careful to keep hold of the balloon, the baby was happy and everyone was generally relaxed and having fun. Then after a while I heard shouting from that side of the park and I realised that they had let the balloon go, having put their older daughter into a basket under it to weigh it down, but she wasn't heavy enough. It was just an utter helpless despair seeing all of the adults in the park try to jump, hold each other up, climb things and yet be unable to reach this balloon which was floating off with their (happy and unaware) children in it and every second that went by it became more and more obvious that they weren't going to be saved. The balloon came down a little while later in a nearby wood and neither of them survived :(

I don't know if it was nudging me to be thankful for what I have but I have been feeling like that today and over the last few days. I've been struggling for the past few months, I won't lie – with parenthood and wrestling with guilt versus apathy. A lot of the time I have been feeling like I just don't enjoy my son's company at the moment and I feel like that is awful for him. But today and for the last few days I have started to enjoy it again. I have got annoyed and we have argued and I haven't always dealt with things in the best way, but I was able to let a slight bit of amusement sneak through the irritation when he was insisting on driving the trolley himself in the supermarket (with disastrous results) and suggest that maybe I could steer from the front if he propelled from the back, rather than just getting annoyed and snapping about it. And I told him I loved him when he was almost asleep and he smiled a little happy smile.

I don't think that the worst is over yet, this age (3-4) has really pushed and challenged me and I don't think that the stage is over. But I feel like I am finally starting to be able to cope with it rather than finding it so overwhelming all of the time. Which probably means I'm due a new seemingly insurmountable parenting challenge after this summer. (Can anyone say bilingualism in more than one language??)

Maybe this is why people have more than one child, so they can feel like they know what they're doing at least some of the time.

Monday, 24 June 2013

It's Been A While

I saw my Dad yesterday for the first time in months, and I feel like maybe we started to connect again after what has been years of a very distant, disjointed sort of relationship. He very much struggled with my teenage years, and then me having my son very young (20). He just didn't know how to relate to me during that time and now I feel like we're on an even footing and able to come to each other as adults, something has changed.

He looked so different when I saw him for the first time, I almost didn't recognise him. But different in a good way – I thought that he looked like an ageing hippy who couldn't quite bring himself to throw off every last fragment of suburbia, which is probably closer to who he is than any other look he's ever had, but he looked taller somehow, less lost in his own skin, and less like he was trying to hide or be someone else. He has stopped dying his hair, cut it short, and grown a beard. We were sitting in the car and I thought, this is just the next chapter really. It was nice. I don't know if he will ever be the kind of father I spoke about in my other recent post on fatherhood, but I am feeling more mellow. He is the dad that he was always meant to be, and I have found my way to adulthood on my own and now he is there and he sort of always was, he just didn't know how to be present all of the time.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Fringe, on Fathers

I have just finished watching Fringe, and it was awesome. (Mild spoilers, only if you haven't got to Series 5, nothing about the final!) Absolutely without a doubt has to be my favourite series, ever. One of the big themes running through it is fatherhood - Peter's relationship with Walter, throughout the whole thing, and then later on Peter's relationship with Etta (as well as the gorgeous one off episode about the two Astrids and their respective fathers which was extremely touching). Seeing Peter have such strong feelings about Etta in the final season really touched something in me, and it made me think, a lot, about how it might be when Creepy and I have a child together, especially if we have a daughter. I think it's going to be weird and quite difficult for me and it made me look, not for the first time, at my relationship with my own Dad.

This comes at a poignant time for me in planning our wedding, because of course tradition dictates that the bride is given away by her father. I don't want this in my wedding, for two reasons, mainly a feminist sort of one where I feel a bit indignant at the idea of the whole symbolism of a woman being passed over from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband – I mean come on! The second reason is that if anybody was going to give me away, I don't feel like it should be my dad, because to be honest, he just hasn't been around, especially in the years since I've left home. My parents divorced when I was 6, and it was really me, my mum and my sister against the world. There were no stepfathers and barely any male role models, my dad was sort of this fun guy who would appear every so often and take us to the kinds of places that our mum couldn't afford, and would disappear periodically for months at a time.

The first time I questioned our relationship was when I was a teenager. He had remarried, we now had half-siblings, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that he saw, or at least treated them differently. Perhaps I am being unfair, seeing it in a childish or teenage way, because some of my earliest memories are of him being a very involved father at home, and maybe it was just easier for him to engage with young children, or when the whole package was there. But still, he didn't make a massive effort to hide the fact that he regretted his first marriage and felt he was too young when he had us two.

So, my experience with this and the slowly becoming distant contact, and a few of my close friends also having cause to re-evaluate their own opinions on or relationships with their fathers led me to the conclusion that dads are, in general, a bit useless and pointless and fun when you're little, but then the shine wears off. I remember reading a quote around this time, I have no idea who originally said it, but it was something along the lines of “Daughters are always going to be disappointed by their fathers.” I think the original author was talking about young girls building up such a rosy image of their father that they were disappointed when he turned out to be a human being, but I took it at literal face value that all dads were generally a bit crap and, basically, not important. This served me fairly well as far as not being bothered by the absence of mine, but when I became pregnant at nineteen I remember having the distinct and conscious thought that if the relationship between me and the father broke down, I would just raise the child on my own, no big deal. My own mother had certainly coped as a single mum and so would I. And I did, but after that relationship ended I started to see things differently. I was young, granted, but I really hadn't thought through this process of just raising the child on my own as though the father didn't matter or didn't exist. He did very much exist and he was putting influences on my son that I wasn't always happy about. I started to realise that if he stuck around, he was going to matter a LOT to my son and he wasn't necessarily going to go away. And if he didn't stick around, that absence was going to matter to my son, too. These are not the kinds of thoughts which occupy your mind when you are a footloose and fancy free eighteen year old who wants a husband and a family, any husband, because fathers aren't important anyway.

So anyway, it was too late and he had a father who I was suddenly realising was the wrong father, and I was starting to realise that maybe fathers do matter and that an established relationship with one could change everything. And then I met Creepy, and after a while with him I realised that he did in fact have one of these mystical good relationships with his own father, and it fascinated me. Everyone I had ever met either had a bad relationship with their father, a non-existent one, or they just never spoke about their great relationship with their dad because they just took it for granted that everyone had one. So this was an entirely new concept for me, at the age of 22, that someone could have such a close and loving relationship with their dad. The day that the penny dropped, I went online that night and wrote a post on an internet forum asking people to tell me about the good relationships they had, or had had, with their fathers. I was overwhelmed with responses describing something that I literally had no idea I was ever missing. The idea that someone could exist in this role, who supports you unquestioningly, who builds you up and is always behind you, who is proud of you (even when you mess up), who shows you that you can do things and that you are an enjoyable person to spend time with, who challenges you and pushes you, at the same time being there to catch you if/when you fall, generally having your back. Basically, everything I would want and have found in a husband, but someone who is there in that role always, since you were a little girl. That is what a father should be to a daughter, that is what I never had, and that is what my husband will be to our daughter, if we ever have one. I can already see him being that person for our son, and often I feel like he is a better parent than me (although I do remind myself that he has more patience due to not having to cope alone 24/7 for months at a time!) I am afraid that if we ever do have a daughter he will slowly break my heart, in the nicest way.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Speed Humps

Having a baby very young does not ruin or end anyone's life, and it is little more than scaremongering to suggest that it does. What it really does (at any age) is put massive speedhumps in your way for the next 20 years or so, which is pretty tough when most teenagers and 20-somethings are travelling on the equivalent of the Autobahn and you're right next to them waving from your little clapped out banger (because duh! You're also skint and tired as well as having all of these speedbumps to contend with) shouting out of the window “Hey, hi! Think you could wait up? I'll be there as soon as I can make it.”

Of course, they can't hear you. They're too busy negotiating the traffic of their road to see you and your voice gets lost in the roar of their engine. So you're stuck on this little bumpy road, taking three times as long as anyone else to get anywhere. But... the flipside is that it's not all bad. Going slowly forces you to think things through a lot more. You get to see different things – take the scenic route, if you like. You can spend all of your time stressing about the speed humps getting in the way of the things you want to do, or you can turn the radio up, open the windows and enjoy the time where you literally cannot be anywhere else. And don't forget that it probably still is possible to get where you wanted to go - if you even still want to get there.

Friday, 12 April 2013

It's good to be back together.

We've been in Germany for almost two weeks now. We come home in a few days. It's been interesting being here with the 4 year old for the first time. His reaction to flying in a plane was priceless, of course!

It's been great to be with Creepy (the fiancé, that's what they call him at work, figured it felt anonymous enough?) again after four long months. The first couple of nights we spent some time just smiling at each other, hugging, enjoying being close. It's nice. This trip has also made the upcoming move feel more real, and also more exciting. I found a meet up group of other English speaking people and they all seem really nice, kind and supportive. That's definitely a positive - it makes me feel less alone. I don't feel like I'm going to be totally isolated when we move. Through this group as well we've been moving around the city on the trams and S-Bahn and it's been helpful to see how well connected everywhere is. I was nervous at first at the thought of moving outside the centre of town but I've seen it's not so bad to get here if we want to.

The parks are pretty amazing and varied here too. There are loads of things to do. There are little nice touches like these leaves which are printed into the concrete at one of the S-bahn/tram stops near the American Library.

So, home next week, and back to normality, but knowing that this is here - perhaps we'll even start sorting stuff out in preparation for the move? I've been feeling guilty as well that I've been so happy here. I will miss all of my friends back home and in some way it feels like I am replacing them by making friends quickly here. Which seems silly, but it's just one of those intrusive thoughts that niggles away at you at night when you're not really conscious of it. Anyway, I'm going to plan a big leaving party, maybe even two, so that I can make sure we say goodbye properly to everyone, and then hopefully people will come and stay too!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Finishing the CELTA

I am very nearly finished now on my CELTA course. In fact, I just have one more teaching practice session left, an hour-long slot which I will do this Friday. I'm feeling both excited and nervous about this - I'm no longer nervous about teaching, as my marks have been getting steadily better since moving to the upper-intermediate group, as has my confidence, but the fact that after this I will get no more input, no more safe space to fail - my next experience teaching will be out in the real world!

It feels strange to really have a "profession" at last. I did briefly work in a Graphic Design company when I was 18, but I don't think I ever really felt like a designer, the one thing I have felt good at and at home doing is working in a shop, which I did from 16-18 and have been for the last year, as well. Retail has taught me many things - my "hard bitch exterior" as I like to call it for one, but it's never really been a long term goal for me. I enjoy working in shops, the banter, the utter tediousness of the customers and the idiosyncracies of verious EPOS systems but working my way up to supervisor or manager has never really been an ambition of mine. So now I'm going to be a teacher. Which is weird because although, like I said, I feel I can now teach, I don't really feel like a teacher. I'm sure this will come.

In the next few weeks I'm going to have a rest, hopefully visit my fiancé in Germany, taking my son finally to see his new home country, and then when I get back it will be a frenzy of working, saving, attempting to learn some rudimentary German, and packing up/selling off the majority of our stuff. I have homes for the pets, because it's not fair to transport a gerbil and a cat cross-channel to live in (all likelihood) a tiny seventh floor flat, especially when the cat practically lives with the neighbour here anyway.

I'm starting to get excited about having a proper family life - I haven't felt like I've really been there for my son recently because I've been so busy working, and it's impossible to juggle work and reasonable childcare hours with the need to be working a certain number of hours per week for tax credit purposes. I'm excited about being in a new country (especially since I've noticed how utterly damp this one seems to be!) learning a new language, which is something I've wanted to do for years but never had a need to do so, and starting a new job which will, in a way, define me as a person. On to the next great adventure!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Emergency Rations

What does your shopping list look like when you are literally broke, and also exhausted, when you have a tendency to not eat at all over eating something you don't fancy (or spending time making something) and also have a child who would no sooner eat a lentil than he would walk on the moon?

Well for me, it firstly looks like making sure said child is either at childcare or off on jolly adventures with friends/family covering as many mealtimes as possible. Making excuses when people suggest coming over for lunch, while wildly accepting any offer of lunch anyone else accepts. This is horrible. I intend to pay back fully all lunch (and dinner, and breakfast) debts as soon as I am in a position to do so.

For work lunches, which if I was being lazy would typically cost me £2-4 per day:
6 tins of value soup @ 24 pence each
2 tins of not-value-honestly-look-at-all-our-colours-on-the-label soup, which had a slightly more interesting sounding flavour, @ 42p, and an adventurous tin of Scotch Broth (because it sounded filling, and I was hungry all afternoon after my tomato soup today) @ 59p.
6 pot noodles at 3 for £2
2 value "pot noodles" @ 35p which require additional flavouring to be added. (Curry paste has many uses!)

For at home when I'm too tired to even try:
Broken mandarin segments @ 23p per small can (in 2004 you could get a full-sized can of peaches for 6 or 7 pence, but alas no more.)
Tesco "8p" noodles, which now cost 28 pence!!
Value bread @ 50p per loaf, for toasting straight from the freezer (so it doesn't go off)
Lemon curd and (probably horrible) marmalade @ 27p each, and a tub of squeezy marmite in my cupboard, to make the value toast seem actually appealing.
Tuna for eating straight out of the tin. About £1 per tin. My excuse is that I can also stretch it out with pasta, but I don't always do this.

You'll notice this is all the stuff that doesn't spoil, because there's no point in buying fresh food unless I'm absolutely, 100% sure that we will eat it. If we don't eat this stuff, it saves for another day. I buy in bulk - when the supermarkets run their 3kg bags of pasta I am very, very happy. I will do top up shops intermittently, often from the expensive local shops, for things like milk and fresh bread (and again always select the longest life stuff and often choose wholemeal, because it tends to stay fresh longer, and tastes nice even when you buy the dirt cheap option.) Real, salted butter for the toast, sandwiches, and is awesome on pasta, and a nicely stocked storecupboard (when I'm feeling flush!) with spices and other ingredients, tinned tomatoes I am lucky to have an excellent and reasonable greengrocer locally, it's just getting there and remembering to have cash and all of the other things that I'm too disorganised or too tired or too whatever to remember to do.

I buy things like sausages, fish fingers and chicken nuggets when they're on offer (because they're awful when really cheap, often on offer, and my son likes them) and 1kg bags of frozen vegetables for £1 because, again, they don't go mouldy. I try to convince myself that it doesn't matter if he eats the same thing every day when he's at home, because he's eating 80% of his lunch and dinner meals elsewhere anyway. And I promise myself that I will fix it later, when I'm not so busy, not so poor, not so exhausted.

Friday, 22 February 2013


Being awake in the middle of the night is one of my favourite things ever. I'm currently finishing (ha! Procrastinating, more like) an essay, but there's just something about it, no matter the reason. Desperately cramming in the work you were too lazy to do earlier, fuelled by whatever music is your current motivation tool of choice (Black Stone Cherry, Mumford and Sons and for some weird reason Taylor Swift. Yeah, judge me.) - usually isolating yourself with headphones so that you don't disturb everyone else in the street in the process.

It's a particular kind of alone-ness, and for me it's productive. Fuelled by tea and exhaustion, but with a weird kind of clarity about it. And then when you eventually reach the required word count you fall gratefully into an unmade bed and let the exhaustion overwhelm the kind of insomnia which comes from worrying that you still have far too much to do and too little time to do it in.

I remember the first time I pulled a true all-nighter, which was also the day I started smoking. I was still awake at maybe 4am, not having started my college work which I was meant to be handing in the next day. I noticed a classmate was still online and messaged him asking how it was going. Somehow we ended up chatting and then arranging to catch the first morning bus and meet at a coffee shop in town. "Okay," I said, "It's a deal, but you have to crash me a couple of fags." He was silently amused, and we agreed, both a little shocked in the end that the other actually turned up. We lasted until lunchtime on around three coffees and caffeine pills and then we simultaneously felt terrible. I've since learnt that the caffeine actually makes this a lot worse, but still, that crash time is awful.

Other awesome reasons for staying up at night - being really, really addicted to a TV show so that you just can't stop watching it, one episode after another, until finally falling into weird surreal dreams which are half about this universe and half about something completely different. Or a game, that works too. Getting way too involved with some argument on the internet. Sex, obviously, the kind in a new relationship where the lack of sleep literally seems to have no effect on your daily life at all. Getting drunk with your best friends, smoking too much and laughing until your lungs hurt, or having the kind of conversation which gets to the very heart of your soul. And being awake with a newborn baby, when they're tiny and it feels like there's just the two of you there in the world and this amazing little person looks at you and you realise that to them, there are only the two of you, because you are their entire world.

I hate being sleep-deprived, and the hell which is the next day (especially with a toddler) means that I don't do this very often, but staying up until god-knows-when is good for the soul, or at least it is for mine. It has to be done, and if I can plan ahead and allow myself a slob day, or an early night, or at least someone to muddle through with, then it's definitely worth it. Hell, it's worth it even without a chance to catch up.