Running through unknown jungles every day

As I begin to write this entry it is still – just – September 3rd, and my twelfth wedding anniversary. The weather today was very different to the blazing skies of twelve years ago. I remember the grass was still heavy with dew beneath the trees where most of the photographs were taken, after the civil ceremony. (We were married at Westonbirt Arboretum, and it was lovely.) Twelve years later, twelve years wiser? Possibly. Marriage is fun, marriage is safe, marriage is hard work. Marriage is as much about remaining yourself as it is about being part of something greater than your self. Marriage is trust, and silence. Marriage is having a bloody good laugh at things that anyone who is not one of you would never understand. Each marriage is its own culture. Some people are better for leaving their marriage, if it’s not working, if it’s hurting them. I have been very lucky, and I continue to feel really rather happy, all things considered. We have a good life, in spite of the inevitable niggles and stupidities that Life chucks out to trip us all up (see this entry’s title – it’s a line from an Abba song).

We’re not one of those couples who feel the need to mark every anniversary with a big fuss and to-do. Our wedding was small, and I feel, all the more special for it. Of course, for the landmark occasions, special attention is paid (diamond earrings for our tenth anniversary, a trip to Paris for my soon to be fortieth birthday). But today was quiet and simple. My husband had to be at work today, over-seeing public order during the Stroud Fringe Festival; my daughter and I had a quiet day at home, doing not very much in our usual cheerful way. This evening we had Chinese takeout and a bottle of red, the small cherishings by shared pleasures. Oh yes, and of course there were flowers, lots and lots of flowers. The day before, he brought home for me a packet of orange custard creams, something I’ve been sort of yearning for these last six months or so (it’s a childhood nostalgia thing; I thought no one made them anymore); my husband knows how to make me happy. I think I know how to do likewise for him. I certainly hope so!

September has always been a month of beginnings, new beginnings, and beginning again; going to back to school (my daughter went back on the 1st), starting a new course… is it a happy coincidence that we chose to start our married life in this month? It’s the month of metaphorical clean slates, new pencils, and crisp apples. A new season, of mists and mellow fruitfulness… the mists will come soon enough, and the hedgerows are bursting with berries. I will probably have another go at making sloe gin this year; this time however I will show great forbearance and wait until after the first frost to gather the fruits. Forbearance, patience, I seem to be getting better at acquiring such traits; I still have a bottle of last year’s effort lurking in the cupboard. It won’t last much longer…

And now it’s September 4th. Tadaa!

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First post of the year – it’s a bit random

The year has begun; Christmas is almost over, normality – or at least my version of it –  will resume soon. In the meantime, I continue to cultivate the art of foozling at my desk, and pottering in the kitchen. Once the Not Quite So Small Daughter goes back to school and we regain some sort of routine, then writing can begin again. Chocolate continues to be consumed, as do cranberry and orange muffins, and the by now ubiquitous sloe gin. There is one bottle as yet unopened; I intend it to remain that way until the end of 2011. And in the next few weeks I will branch out and have a go at making Seville gin…

On New Year’s Day I cut my own fringe. Didn’t make too much of a fist of it either, so that’s quite cheer-making. My hair has a tendency towards idiosyncrasy if left too long (in both senses). Perhaps it’s my age? At least my hair does respond to pruning/treating/styling, unlike the wondrous Neil Gaiman‘s. It is a thing he freely, ruefully, admits on his blog at semi regular intervals. Or hang on, perhaps, Samson-like, his talent is connected to his willfully unruly hair? I wonder how many of my other writerly-deities have a similar relationship with their follicles? Margaret Atwood has wondrous hair like a dandelion clock haloing her fine-boned face. Tolkien (born 119 years ago today) had wispy grey bits that blew about. What about Audrey Niffenegger? <having Googled> Hmm. Not exactly wild, but her hair looks as though it could have unruly tendencies when no one’s looking… I might not be utterly wrong you know – consider Coleridge in Kubla Khan, eulogising the creative imperative;

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

I know I’m right. Or I think I am. It’s a theory, that sort of works, on the highly selective evidence that I’ve presented. Then again, Hilary Mantel has incredibly neat hair. Or she’s just found the perfect style to keep any incipient unruliness in check. I think I’ll leave it there.

Taking Stock, Part II

2010 is almost done with. 2011 almost ready to begin. And what have I done with the time that has been given to me? I’ve been angry, a lot. I’ve been ridden by the black hag-bitch Depression. I’ve had rotten miserable damned inconvenient back pain. I drove a petrol car for the first – and so far only – time – my husband was terribly brave – it was our first ever brand new car! (Yes, it’s still in one piece.) I had a wonderful time at a friend’s party, drinking Cosmopolitans, and owned up to the vodka hangover the next day. (Note to self, vodka hangovers are vile horrible things, even though Cosmos are delicious.)

What else? I’ve written a lot, I’ve been rejected – and not just by editors – a lot, and I’m gearing up to go through most of all that again. I’ve watched my daughter begin to blossom from a little girl to a more sophisticated, complicated little girl, and am much amused by her frequent exasperation with me ; ‘mu-um’ is becoming a normal noise in this house. We have a lovely time together, mostly being silly, giggling a lot. I love giggling with my daughter – there will definitely be a lot more of that in 2011.

I’ve enjoyed glorious weather in Devon, and in Bulgaria. I’ve listened to music and let it take me to new places in my head. I’ve started this blog; that was pretty momentous, wondering if anyone would ever read it, and you are, and I thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into the void. Again, I thank you.

The snow happened – I’ve had my first ever white christmas – so what if snow was not actually falling from the sky in this neck of the Cotswolds? It was still beautiful, and as long as I wear my red wellies, I don’t fall over. Perhaps they are imbued with some sort of super-power…? (Sadly the thaw has set in, and all is now sadly dank and muddy where once it was crisply gleaming white.)

I made sloe gin for the first time, and I’m drinking some now – it is truly delicious and  without the vicious nastiness of a hangover next morning. I have learned that not all friendships are equal, that not all friends are worth the wait when they say one thing and do another, make promises and consistently fail to keep them. I’m better off without them. That lesson has cost me a lot in terms of hours and days of despair; time that I’ll never get back, and can bill no one for. That makes me angry, but que sera, progress is progress, and perhaps one day I’ll achieve some sort of equanimity.

So what’s coming in 2011? Lychees. Every year begins with lychees. Otherwise the only thing I can say with any certainty is that I’ll be turning 40.

Apart from that? Who knows? Bring it on.

Taking stock, briefly

So that’s Christmas done, sorted, achieved, catered, cleared up. The tree is still twinkling, there is still a surfeit of satsumas and nuts, and my husband is suffering with the ‘flu. I however am merrily tucking into the sloe gin, and doing not very much in as slothful a way as I can possibly get away with. After all the anticipation, and list making, and baking and icing and cooking and roasting, – and now, drinking – I feel stuck in a sort of limbo. Normality will not really return until Monday 3rd January, and possibly not even then. But something is clicking and whirring deep inside my head – or that may just be the sloe gin, I’m a bit hammered now, to be honest – the burn-out after November has healed, and there’s an itch to begin writing again. 2011 promises to begin well, in that regard at least. Do I plan to make any resolutions? Probably not. But I plan to write, oh yes, there will be a LOT of writing, much more than this year. And that’s a promise!