Back, back again, etc.

Just checking in mostly.

It’s tough, here at Boo Towers.

In a nutshell:

Jason’s work is at a pivotal point and we are waiting on external factors to see what happens next which means things are very tense and stressful. My poor boy is struggling with everything and I am spending nights sitting up with him and days negotiating with a largely unhelpful educational system. We are also navigating the labyrinthine ways of supporting him therapeutically. The rest of the time I am still figuring out how to do my day job and how to balance the demands of that with everything else. I rarely see my husband except in passing and when I do we are both battered.

We did manage to sneak off for dinner the other night when Oscar went to see the girls and even though I had only just finished work and was extremely tired, I did not fall asleep into my ramen, so I count this as a date. I am hoping we might fit in another one before Christmas. It very much feels like the wilderness years of parenting small children at the moment. There is never enough time, everyone is tired and anxious and there are inevitably tears before bedtime. Also, things get very sticky, because housework is currently number 9571 on my list of things that must be done in the small windows of free time I am gifted.

I am reading a lot, because by the time I’ve finished all of the above (which is never finished) I am not fit for much else. I did start making another artwork but progress is glacial due to all the see above-ness of life.

I am also eating a lot because frankly, what else is there? Despite the fact that I spend all my time at work on my feet, wandering about, hefting boxes, rearranging teetering piles of books and come home feeling like I have been beaten with stair rods, my jeans are noticeably tighter. It shouldn’t matter, because I am an emancipated woman with no scales who thinks the diet police should get in the bin, but in my weaker, more exhausted moments, it is another thing I find trying.

In good news:

Today is my second day off in a row. 18 months ago Andrea booked tickets for us to go and see Elbow, because she is a wonderful friend and supports my undying love for Guy Garvey and his mellifluous ways. Because Covid End Times the dates got moved and moved and moved, but finally last night was the night.

I did all my sad and challenging jobs in the morning and then grabbed Andrea who is helping her parents out at their family farm in between having a day job and a house somewhere else (because this is life for us types now). We hot footed it down the motorway, abandoned the car at her flat and set off to Hammersmith with hope in our hearts. This is not something I usually associate with Hammersmith which does have lovely bits but seems to be largely built around a very complex traffic system which attempts to kill you at every turn.

We had a leisurely dinner with no-one but ourselves to please and then spent a joyous hour or so jumping up and down and singing loudly. The sign of a good gig was ringing ears, a tendency to shout hoarsely when asked questions and bass so loud it makes you feel you might be having a heart attack. They played a stonking set list with a good mix of old and new material and played Station Approach, which is one of my favourites and one I haven’t heard them play live before. I left the gig feeling happier and more alive and like myself than I have in months.

By the time I got home at 2.20 a.m. this feeling had worn off somewhat, and today I feel rather like a pensioner, but it was worth it.

There has been a lot of grief in our lives recently.

Grief is a demanding emotion. It asks a lot of you. It doesn’t accept that ‘real life’ is happening all around you and you are still expected to be a part of it. it doesn’t accept that time moves on. It keeps pulling you backwards into a past that is behind a glass you can’t move through but are constantly pressing up against.

Grief is an absence and a presence all at the same time. It fills your days with holes to be navigated around and things you walk, smack bang into.

Grief is not just sadness. It’s fury and resentment and impatience and nostalgia. It’s not just emotional. It’s sickness and shaking and aches and a thousand ants crawling under your skin.

Grief is terror and boredom all mixed up together in a hamster wheel that never stops squeaking, that keeps you awake all night and makes your days foggy with exhaustion.

And it can be strangely beautiful and full of tiny joys that lift you up and make you part of something bigger and which hurt like the devil but which remind you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It constantly reconnects you to life to be lived, even if you don’t want it to.

Grief is not a ‘thing’. Grief is a lived experience.It is a complex, often lonely journey that people don’t want to talk about because it hurts and it’s awkward and there never seem to be the right words. It seems shameful not to just be able to get over yourself and be ‘normal’, even though you will never be ‘normal’ like that again, because grief marks you out and ages you and forces you to walk a different path into the future than the one you were so sure of before it derailed you.

And grief is not just about people we have lost. Although that is one of the rawest forms it takes.Grief is about lives we didn’t live for ourselves, choices we made that took us to places we didn’t want to go to, things we lost along the way.

And grief is not linear. We are not sad one day and less sad the next. It ebbs and flows like the tide. It can disappear for weeks and then we can find ourselves sucked under again. Our life experiences can crack open old griefs we papered over, people long gone, moments from the far past that rise up to meet us.

And I think it’s time we talked about it. It’s time we made room for it. It’s time we started to figure out a language for it instead of hiding it because we do not feel adequately equipped or we don’t want to upset people. Because our silence is not normal. Our pretending to be fine is not healthy. Our filling our days with ‘doing’ to avoid the pain of ‘being’ is not helpful.

And we need to make not just new words, but new stories for this stuff. We need to start using words to create the paths to help us out of the darkness and sadness. We need stories to fill the holes and populate the shadows. We need to talk our way out of the worst pain into a healing and remembrance of the best of us and what we have lost, because as the great Terry Pratchett (GNU) said.

‘Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?’

Hey loves.

The world keeps turning.

We incrementally inch forward. Some days we slump back.

Things are very, very hard right now.

The boy had his first day back at school on Friday. I called repeatedly earlier in the week to try and speak to his head of house to make sure he would be supported. I finally got through on Thursday afternoon. She assured me of all kinds of things, only some of which they actually delivered on Friday. Too little, too late and some not at all.

I am honestly furious.

What made me most furious was when I finally got hold of his head of house on Friday after school she said, ‘He was fine when he spoke to me. He’s doing really well.’ I was very good and didn’t march down there to set fire to the school, but did point out that I didn’t think he would particularly want to confide in her and that instead of her five minute assessment of a boy she barely knows and hardly tolerates and has had repeated run ins with in the past, that perhaps it was best if she took it from me that he really wasn’t.

My main takeaway from this is that we do a good ‘talk’ about mental health and being open, but in practice, most adults want kids (and everyone else) to spend a maximum of two days being sad and then to go back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible because a) they are busy and mental health is not compatible with time tables and b) they are emotionally constipated and don’t like feeling uncomfortable when emotions don’t comply to a handy meme or a tick box Ted talk.

And it is no wonder that children’s mental health services are in crisis.

We have had very little sleep this weekend as a consequence.

I have promised the boy I will not make a formal complaint, but all bets are off if they mess this up again.

I have other news.

I start working as a part time bookseller at Waterstones on Wednesday. I need regular, paid employment as our financial situation is interesting.

I may be a part time bookseller but it appears I am a full time filler in of pointless paperwork right now.

I can’t say I’m excited about the job, because my home life is such that I am holding things together on several fronts and I am existing on about four hours sleep a night at the moment with one thing and another.

I always wondered how an in real life job would fit in with my unpaid vocation as the holder up of many lives.

We are about to find out.

Hello lovely people.

It has been a while.

A lot has happened since I last wrote and I will fill you in on lots of things later on.

I am able to tell you why I’ve been awol now though, so I will.

One of Oscar’s closest friends died, very unexpectedly and it was a complete shock to all of us.

Oscar has been devastated by the news and we have been doing what we can (which seems precious little) to support him.

He isn’t sleeping much, which means I’m not either.

It’s a lot, right now.

We’re hanging in there. Holding each other a bit tighter. Loving each other and getting through what every day brings.

I’ll write again soon.

Much love to you all.

My darling Tallulah got three grade A A Levels this morning. Her girlfriend got A*, A, B and we are delighted for them both because this last year has been an absolute trial of endurance for them both in terms of education. And anyone who says that they were graded up this year can get in the sea, frankly. They have both had more exams and assessments than anyone has ever had for A levels and they have worked incredibly hard under extraordinarily trying circumstances and both with their own personal, mental health demons to fight on top. They are superwomen both and I love them with all my heart.

Mind you, I would love them with all my heart even if they had burned the school down and run away to join a circus with no qualifications whatsoever, but I am overjoyed that they are overjoyed and that this, interminable part of their lives is now done and dusted.

In other news, we as a family had some horrendously tragic and sad news at the weekend. I am not at liberty to share it, but it has caused an enormous amount of heartbreak and grief here and I am aching with sorrow over the whole thing.

What was a great comfort to me was that when we found out, all the members of the family who weren’t at home, came. They dropped everything and came. And they stayed. And even in the midst of all the grief I was in awe of what a beautiful, compassionate and loving family I have. And I include my beloved Bred (Tilly’s partner) and Dani (Tallulah’s partner) in that word, family.

We held each other. We cried. We laughed. We stuck together. We watched terrible films and ate terrible food and stayed up with each other when we couldn’t sleep. When everyone went home the next day, they have still checked in, multiple times a day. They have kept talking, kept sharing and accepted the whole, messy, terrible, devastating, loving parcel.

It was like watching my family building itself around me, around us. Each one of us separate and together, different and the same.

And there was so much love.

And it was so simple and easy. It was in a cup of tea, a proffered slice of pizza, the pat of a shoulder, the swiftness of a hug. It was in the things they said to each other and the things they didn’t. It was in the absolute acceptance that they are there for each other, no matter what and they might not always get it right, but they always turn up. They are always there.

And as much as I ache with this sorrow, I also ache with pride and I am bursting with love, because what they did for each other over this last few days is worth a thousand A Levels.

I love them so much.

I am a lucky woman.

Hello, hello.

Weather is now boiling hot and sticky. So that’s nice. Yesterday the heating was on. Today all the doors and windows are open. It feels like a toddler has been left in charge of the weather thermostat.

Therapy yesterday. I thought I might be at a point where I could leave things for a bit. It appears not. I suspect this is good, as I am lazy and tend to leave things until they’re bad enough for me not to ignore them and that’s not terribly wise. I plod on. It will end eventually. I say end. It never actually ends, does it? But there may come a more comfortable plateau on which I can loaf about for a bit. That would do, frankly.

I have more writing to do. I have a slightly different theme this time. I am moving away from childhood things to my disastrous first marriage. I thought this would be easier to deal with than childhood stuff because I have written about some disastrous first marriage stuff before. Some of it here on the blog. I am not in denial about how rubbish it was (at times. There were good bits) and yet it seems clear that there is some unresolved stuff. It would be good to get rid of it. Nobody wants to be haunted by an ex-husband forever. I am slightly annoyed that I will need to spend time thinking about him and rather upset that I will be raking over some of the more painful and grief filled days of my life.

I got home feeling like a pot that was about to boil over on the stove. I threw myself into all kinds of displacement activity and then ended up bursting into tears over one of the cats later on. So that was nice.

I don’t want to do the work, which is usually a sure sign that the work needs to be done. I started writing some stuff today. I’m giving myself a good long run up by wading into my disastrous history of men who I have loved and lost and would, in hindsight rather not have loved or found at all. Why is it that you always see the patterns after you’ve flogged your way through this stuff? I should have written a note and had it stapled to my forehead. No addicts. No co-dependents. Twats get in the sea. It could have saved me a lot of grief. But it was not to be.

I remind myself that it is not for them that I am writing any of this stuff. It is for me. I am coming to the conclusion that a lot of my more self-destructive programming are just behaviours that got embedded really early on, and which I was too young or naive to question or think about. A lot of this stuff, when you are a kid, is simply presented to you as facts or ‘the way things are’, or ‘because I say so’. And because you are short and young and you rely on these people for food and love and shelter and you don’t get out much, you accept it. Before you know it, it has either become a habit or a belief and it’s embedded in that part of your brain that does all the unconscious stuff and unless you have a torrid time of it, you never actually get it out and look at it properly.

And sometimes, even if you do get it out and look at it properly, you’re not in much of a position to do anything about it, because you’re busy or tired or up to your eyes in looking after other people first and putting yourself last and so it goes on.

But my new theory is that if most of this stuff is habit, habits can be broken and new habits can be formed. So, it’s worth putting up with the sheer bloody anguish of dredging all this stuff up to the surface and staring at it, because then I get to decide if I want to keep it and what I want to replace it with if I don’t.

And that’s what I’m telling myself so I keep going. And things are changing. When I started doing this I was crying pretty constantly almost every day. Now I only have a serious weep three or four times a week, which is progress. Some days I don’t cry at all, which is, after the last eighteen months, frankly miraculous.

Small steps.

On top of all this we spent most of last week trying to help mum and dad sort out their complicated financial situation and what they may or may not do in the future. Today they came round and we went through things like power of attorney, which you now have to have two of, and which are slightly daunting due to the considerable number of pages in each form.

And that’s turning out to be about as much fun as you would expect.

In less challenging news, I excavated a bit more of the garden by the wild bees’ nest and Jason crow barred up one of the slabs which we thought might have a well underneath it. It turns out that it isn’t a well. It’s a deep, square, brick shaft with a drain running along the bottom of it. We have no idea of where it is coming from or where it is going, but it’s there, about seven feet down. We dropped the slab back on top of it and Jason jumped on it to make sure it was in place. I nearly had a heart attack as I was convinced I would be calling an ambulance as he went through the slab and plummeted to a sticky end below. Thankfully the slab held.

Our house is full of surprises.

I’m slightly disappointed there wasn’t a body or some doubloons to be honest.

Hello chaps. Still here.

The weather is terrible. I have gone from sweating about the place to wearing jumpers and putting the heating on.

I had my hair did on Friday. I am back to being pink again. I don’t feel pink at the moment but I am hoping to fake it to make it. Jenn did a bang up job and it looks great, it’s just my insides that don’t feel pink. It is very nice not to have two and a half inches of dark roots and a fringe I cut with a pair of nail scissors in sheer frustration though. That’s very satisfying.

My migraine is on the way out. Some days it doesn’t appear at all. Others it has taken to lurking at the edges of my brain and just delivering the odd, sharp stab to remind me who is boss. I have stopped doing yoga again for a bit as that seemed to aggravate things. This suggests it is stress related as I tend to store a lot of stress in my neck and shoulders and as I release it with the yoga it does like to make its presence felt, so I am having another small holiday from Adriene until I get back on an even keel.

I have done a fair bit of walking in the last few days though, so I’m not entirely in a vegetative state.

On Saturday I went to London with Andrea to see my friend Claire and go to Greenwich to see an exhibition at The Painted Hall. We were a month late for the exhibition, which is about right for me and my adventures, but we did get to see the Painted Hall. This is wonderful if you like fat women wearing bath towels and showing their nipples and kings crushing their vanquished foes under their foppish shoes while being gazed at adoringly by fat putti. I do not like this at all, I’m afraid. It is my second least favourite style of painting after brown Dutch landscapes. This is why I rarely go to the National Gallery as it is teeming with this kind of thing and it’s just not my bag. I’m more of a Jackson Pollock kind of girl.

Having said that, it was good to be in London, the weather was nice and we walked for miles and miles. Eventually we washed up at the Olympic Park, which I haven’t been to before, so that was quite good fun. We wanted to find The Line, which is a sculpture trail, but we failed miserably. It seemed that art was not at all for us on Saturday.

On leaving Andrea’s house, where I had parked my car, on Saturday evening, my sat nav decided to go on strike and I got hopelessly lost and ended up weeping in a cul-de-sac in Pinner, which is, I think, something we can all relate to. In the end I rang Jason, who has a tracker thing on my phone and who knows how to work technology, so he tied it all together and talked me through extracting myself from the byways of London and back onto the M1. It was quite the adventure and I am not going to live in Pinner when I grow up. Sorry Elton.

On Sunday I went to a local car boot sale with Tallulah and her girlfriend. It was my second early start and this time we had a nice, fine rain that wets you through to accompany us as we picked our way through the sheep shit and people desperately trying to keep their stock dry. There was virtually no treasure to be found, although I did pick up some Victorian glass for mum and dad, which we delivered to them after the car boot sale and bagged ourselves some breakfast while we dried off.

I managed to sell some things at the weekend which was jolly good as I am flat broke. I staggered to the post office with them today before going on a mammoth walk with my friend Kim. We trekked around the park several times, putting the world to rights. With perfect timing, we got home just as the heavens opened.

I have done lots of therapy writing which was as grim and miserable as ever. Should anyone ever discover this great work they will think I was the least fun person ever in the world with the most miserable childhood in the world. I am not and did not, but I guess the whole point is that I don’t want to dissect all the nice times I had and talk about how great everything is. That’s not the stuff that wakes me at three in the morning in a muck sweat or stops me functioning as a human being. I sometimes find myself writing stuff and feeling really guilty and that I should be making more of an effort to be perky. Then I remind myself that it is my constant expectation that I must be jolly and perky that got me here in the first place and I carry on churning out words that make me cry and give me lots of things to share with my therapist. Because of COVID and other life stuff I haven’t seen the poor woman for nearly five weeks. I am seeing her tomorrow afternoon. I may invest in a box of tissues to save her having to break out the big guns.

Reading wise I finished the Anthony Horowitz and the Talk Art book both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m now reading Oliver Postgate’s (inventor of Bagpuss)autobiography, which is absolutely delightful in many, many ways. I’ve started a memoir by Nancy Spain who was a deeply eccentric celebrity chef, journalist and bon viveur back in the Sixties and who I came across when my mum gifted me her wildly and inadvertently funny recipe book. So far I am also enjoying this immensely.

Oscar seems to be finding his rhythm with the garden in the last few days. He has failed to break any more tools or to dig up any plants I actually wanted to keep and the garden is looking rather good at the moment. He found he was actually in credit today so immediately went out to the cinema and for dinner with his friends, thus meaning he is back in hock and the garden will receive more attention in the next few days. I should be grateful he is so gregarious. It means quite a lot of stuff I was putting off is now getting done, which is jolly.

With regard to my ongoing tussle with cats and carpets, we are almost sorted except on Sunday when I woke up to find all the cat boxes brimming with wee and Derek crapping on the carpet. Ronnie P has also taken to using the boxes now, which is annoying as the boys were going outside, which made life a little easier, but no. That’s not allowed and we must all join in. Some days I feel like having a go myself. I might as well.

I’ve almost got rid of the smell, which is good, except the carpets here are so old and grim anyway, that when it’s damp, if you don’t have the heating on, they just smell old and fusty regardless of whether anyone may have pissed on them or not. The more I live with carpets, the more convinced I am of their utter pointlessness. I hate carpets. When I have my own house again I am having no carpets at all, anywhere and investing only in magnificent rugs and corks for the cats’ arses.

Absolutely roasting here today. I have sweated about the place with a migraine brewing behind my eyes which is partly stress related and partly due to the relentless and oppressive heat making everything far too slithery for comfort.

Cat update is that Anorak is less licky today although I called the vet and have requested flea drops a week early. I need to call tomorrow to see if this has been approved. If not I shall have to take him in for a steroid injection. Derek is on fine form and everything is in the correct place and all is well. For now. She is probably lulling me into a false sense of security, but if that’s all I can have, I will take it.

I had lunch at my friend Jenn’s house today with my friend Kim there too. We ate in Jenn’s beautiful garden. Everything is blooming and verdant. The bees were buzzing through the mighty lavender plants. The roses were in full effect and her cabbages were large enough to turn into Cinderella’s coach. This is in direct contrast with my own garden, where Oscar continues to wreak havoc if left unsupervised for more than two minutes and the pond is so choked up with water mint and what looks like three, vigorous ash tree saplings that you could almost walk on water.

I wasn’t depressed by Jenn’s green fingers. It was a pleasure to sit in her garden. We ate sushi and delicious noodle salad and talked about nonsense. It was delightful. I couldn’t help but draw the contrasts with my own, blasted heath, but I have accepted that I will not be filling my later years with yellow book garden days and teas on the lawn and made my peace with it.

I’d take up zen gardening except that it would be full of cat shit by tea time and Oscar would undoubtedly break my rake.

Lunch was a delightful interlude.

The rest of the day was more stressful. This was largely down to my head rather than anything external. I did some vigorous hoovering. I went and stirred about the pond with a big stick and hoiked out weed for a bit. I did some yoga. I did a very tense drawing of a chrysanthemum head where I pressed down so hard on the paper I made marks in the table underneath. There are days when relaxing is not really an option I find. Today was one of those days.

I went out and bought myself a selection of heritage tomatoes and made the world’s largest Greek salad for my tea. That was quite cheering. In fact all the food today has been on top form, even though I haven’t and I do find that if you’re going to be a miserable git, you might as well have something nice to eat while you’re doing it.

I got let out of chokey yesterday.

It was weird to go into isolation and weird to come back out. Basically everything is, was and probably always will be weird at this point.

I had barely readjusted to being back out in the world before I had to spend ten days at home. During that time I actually found it quite nice not to be dealing with society again despite it being weird to have to avoid my loved ones like the literal plague. So when I set foot outside yesterday I felt quite anxious. I would have been absolutely terrible in Shawshank prison. They would break me like a twig.

We celebrated freedom by taking Oscar to his drama class and having lunch while we waited for him to finish. I wandered round the shops and came home with a vintage Seventies sundress for my own wardrobe, which means I will have to find two things to remove from my wardrobe, because I have a system now. I also bought a book which I already have, so I will be selling it, along with the two things from my wardrobe, whatever they turn out to be.

I went for a walk and caught some Pokemon.

That was it.

Hardly setting the world on fire, but it was all I could manage.

Today Jason and I went to see mum and dad for a few hours and then went to the supermarket before we went to pick Tallulah up from work. She spent the evening with us, which was very nice. We ate dinner together and started to watch a series on Netflix about an Indian lady who does matchmaking. It was compelling, entertaining but not complicated, which is a bit how I would like all of my life to be at the moment, and possibly forever.

Still doing my yoga. I didn’t want to do it yesterday, but I am determined to keep up with it. It’s already making a difference. My neck is significantly less crunchy and I am all about the less crunchy neck lifestyle. Also keeping up with my French, because who doesn’t love a bit of bonsnore bonsnore? I am on a section which is all about food which means that I am absolutely acing it. I am a natural at foods in most languages because I will never starve anywhere, ever.

The cats continue to perplex me. Derek doesn’t seem to have done either a wee or a pooh now for 24 hours, whereas yesterday morning she had used every single one of the five trays and the carpet by the time we got up. She has taken to hiding under the bed and only coming out to sleep on the carpet next to my bed. I am fairly sure a return visit to the V E T is on the cards this week. Anorak’s flea allergy is back, so I will have to call the vet tomorrow anyway. He has spent the weekend licking his coat until it looks permanently drenched. The only time he stops is to casually wander into the garden, catch a mouse and crunch it down, leaving only the gizzard behind. This is usually left on a bit of the carpet that Derek hasn’t appropriated.

You would think I would be glad to leave the house again.

Reading wise I finished reading the latest Alan Warner, Kitchenly 434. It was extremely odd and very different than any other Warner I’ve read. It was probably brilliant. I’m not sure I’d recommend you read it if you don’t like Warner though. I decided, as it was the weekend, to put all my other books to one side and have been reading The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell who owns the biggest second hand bookshop in Scotland, in Scotland’s book town, Wigtown. It’s a great book, gossipy, interesting and as bookish as you’d want. I’m delighted by it.

We had zero thunderstorms by the way, and in fact we had very little rain either. I am wildly disappointed by this. I love a good storm and I was promised them in spades, but nada. The weather cooled off for about twenty four hours and we got some good breezes and that was that. We are now back to hot and sticky again.

I have been making slow progress with the garden, but it’s better than no progress. Oscar remains a gardening maverick and has to be closely supervised when he actually deigns to get out there to work off his debts and towards his next social extravaganza. He managed to break the trowel yesterday, which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d be typing, but there you have it. Your children will always find ways to surprise you. He is quite intense in his efforts. He is not soothing, like Monty Don. He gardens much like an angry young man. Maybe he should write a play about it.

I woke up at six thirty and couldn’t get back to sleep. My brain was just ON.

This doesn’t happen to me very often, so I took advantage of it. I noted down about twenty things I want to make art works of of some kind or another and thought about how I might make some of them. That felt quite fruitful. I’ve started keeping notes on my phone, because my brain works far faster than my hands and forgetting things is an occupational hazard for me.

I’ve been keeping this list for some weeks now. The more I write, therapeutically, the more ideas I have for artworks. You would think the two things would be linked by subject matter, but they’re not at all. The writing is painful and slow and personal. The artwork ideas are not. Well, they are slow, but they’re not deeply personal and full of pain. It’s a bit like I’m clearing out the cupboards of all the crap and I find treasure, scrunched up at the back.

Once I’d emptied my head a bit I went down to take advantage of the cool weather.

First, the inspection of the litter trays.

Derek is no longer evacuating her bowels on the carpet in any way. She did however, start with a hugely upset tummy yesterday and I spent a lot of my day emptying litter trays. She has IBS which flares up from time to time if she’s stressed or if she eats crap. I think it’s fair to assume that this bout was brought on by being incarcerated by the V E T for a day. She finds ever more elaborate ways in which to trap us in her torturous web of punishments.

I emptied three trays today. I am grateful that I was not scrubbing liquid pooh out of the carpets at ten to seven in the morning. There is always something to be grateful for.

After the horrors of the stool inspection were over, I took my breakfast into the library and spent a very pleasurable hour reading and drinking coffee and listening to the magpies shouting at each other in the trees. They are so unspeakably noisy.

I’m reading the Talk Art book by Russell Tovey and Robert Diament. I started listening to their podcast a few weeks ago on a long journey and I keep dipping in and out of it. They interview all kinds of artists and sometimes art collectors and writers about their work and passions. Each episode is about an hour long so you get a good, deep dive and it’s an extremely diverse bag, which I like. The book is a kind of distillation of that. They introduce broad themes and then gallop through artists and their work in relation to that theme. The book is focussed on emerging artists or artists who are under-represented in the more mainstream art circles. There are lots of good quality pictures too. I hate art books with more text than artworks.

I think I’ve told you about the podcast before, but I just can’t be bothered to delete that paragraph now, so in it stays.

I’m reading the Talk Art book slowly because I keep being side tracked and having to go and look people up or think about what they’re making. In between that I’m reading the new Anthony Horowitz, Hawthorne murder, A Line To Kill, which is ridiculous and escapist and frothy, if you can say that of a thriller. I’ve got an advance reader copy but there are two others in the series if you’re interested in daft but well written thrillers. I’m still forging on with Gertrude Stein and being mildly mystified and I’ve nearly finished the latest Alan Warner, Kitchenly 434, which like all of his books, is an odd thing indeed.

My last day of isolation today. I started to feel quite poorly again yesterday evening so I took another test, which came back negative. I wonder if I’ve got some kind of deep lassitude from all the cat litter I’ve been forced to excavate in recent weeks. It could be a thing. Cat litter lung, maybe?

Oscar and I had a takeaway last night. Jason is doing keto at the moment so he isn’t joining us on our culinary adventures and I’m in charge of the app, so we have been pushing the boundaries in terms of our food choices. Last week we ordered Japanese food. This week we had chicken burgers from a place called Absurd Bird. I had a Korean burger with kimchi and the spiciest mayonnaise in the Western Hemisphere. It was very good. I’d eat it again, although sadly their fries were extremely meh. We spent the evening eating junk food and watching Brooklyn 99. It’s highbrow stuff here.

I’m not complaining. I Thank God almost daily that I’m not forced to play the piano and sew a fine seam. What a prison that would be.