New Ear

It is the last day of the year. I am very grateful for that, it has to be said. I’d take 2020 all over again rather than have to do another 2021. I really hope that I’m not saying that again in a year. I’m keeping everything crossed.

Let’s see what’s happened:

Oscar is beginning to get better. We are hoping for a full return to school after the holidays. He is sleeping. He is socialising. He does not need me to sit with him all night.

Things began to get brighter a few weeks ago and there has been steady improvement. We are keeping everything crossed, although we are also very much aware that recovery is not linear, so we are prepared for every eventuality.

It is nice to see him choosing to live again.

I say nice. That’s an understatement. I am extraordinarily grateful for the chance to watch him turn into a shruggy, offhand teenager again. I know I am blessed.

Work continues workish. I have weathered my first Christmas and January sale in retail land and nobody has died. I consider this to be a positive sign. I am frequently amazed at the levels my tolerance has reached, considering how often I think about ‘accidentally’ hurling a book at someone’s head and how I never actually do it.

Yet.

Covid is amongst us at work. I have dodged that particular bullet to date, but I don’t hold out much hope. I have been taking lateral flow tests like it’s a new fashion this week, as I have earache and a raging sore throat, but all continues negative. For now.

I continue to make big art. I finished my collage of Derek Jarman’s cottage and needed a break from cutting out forty trillion small, paper pebbles. I have just finished a big landscape called Cloud Forest, based on an ambient dance album by Nora Van Elken (I am nothing if not eclectic). It is made of thousands of dots and dashes and now I need a break from that. I am thinking that I might make a painting next. I had a seascape in mind, but have been obsessed by the idea of attempting a portrait, so I might give that a whirl first.

Christmas was surprisingly lovely given that all my kids changed their plans three days before Christmas and that required a fair amount of re-jigging. I was also working most of Christmas week and all of Christmas Eve day, so prep was frantic to say the least.

It all came together in the end. We spent Christmas Eve night at mum and dad’s with my brother and his partner, which was very lovely, despite me being extremely knackered for most of it. We spent Christmas Day here with all the kids and their partners and for once, none of them had to dash off to be somewhere else. It was delightful to have them to ourselves until Boxing Day morning.

I am at work tomorrow and Sunday, so no wild times for me this evening. I am not at all sad about that, given that I hate New Year’s with the heat of a thousand suns and am always happy to ignore it. Oscar is at a friend’s house for their shenanigans and the girls are out out. Jason and I are having a fridge raid supper and some Taskmaster and an early night and that’s exactly how it should be.

It only remains for me to tack my top ten reads of 2021 to the bottom of this post, because I am too tired to do my proper yearly round up. Needless to say, they are all excellent and in no particular order.

1. The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

2. Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

4. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

5. What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaraonvitch

6. James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster

7. Funny Weather: Art In An Emergency by Olivia Laing

8. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

9. Open Water by Caleb Azuman Nelson

10. The Blue Cupboard by Tess Jaray

I wish you all peace, health and happiness just as I would wish it for you whatever day of the year it is.

Things That Bring Joy

After reading Orwell’s Roses and being reminded of the need for joy, I started to dip into a book called: The Joy Of Small Things by Hannah Jane Parkinson. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a collection of short essays about the small things in life that bring Parkinson joy. They’re not all things I agree with. She loves theatre without an interval and I for one, fear plays without intervals because my experience is that they are usually terrible (there is the odd exception) and the interval has been removed to stop you fleeing the scene. Having said that, there are lots of things she loves (solo trips to the cinema for example) that I adore, and lots to think about in terms of what I might love myself.

This morning I chanced upon a short thread on Twitter in which Emma Wayland writes a list of things she would gift to someone who was struggling and needed cheer.

I am trying to do more listening to the universe at the moment so I thought that this confluence of events might suggest that I needed a list myself, due to the fact that struggling is what I have been doing quite a bit of recently.

Here is my list. It is non-hierarchical and subject to change due to random whims and the forgetfulness of old age. Most of it will undoubtedly be food/book based.

A really good hot water bottle

A cashmere blanket large enough to wrap yourself in without any bits of you poking out

Some exceedingly buttery/peppery mashed potato with onion gravy

Tove Jansson’s Summer and Winter books

A packet of really good felt tip pens

A notebook of thick, creamy paper, unlined.

A packet of milk chocolate, Choco Liebniz

Some cream roses with eucalyptus leaves and that blue tinged spruce/pine bough stuff

A bag of rich ground coffee with a smooth, deep flavour and a double skinned cafetière to brew it in.

One of these hats from The Old Electric Shop in Hay on Wye.

A Keith Brymer Jones large bucket mug so you can have a proper cup of tea without having to get up every five minutes to refill it.

A packet of really good quality jasmine tea pearls

The box set of Schitt’s Creek (Season one is not the best, but bear with it. It becomes sublime and utterly joyful).

A Spotify playlist with a lot of Guy Garvey’s voice on it.

A box of heritage tomatoes in splendid colours, with particular emphasis on the vivid green ones with dark green stripes because they are the most delicious of all.

A round, sourdough loaf with a very dark, chewy crust.

A proper nap where you fall asleep immediately and wake up feeling refreshed and snuggled.

A pat of Shirgar, Welsh salted butter (for the above – the bread and tomatoes, not the nap, although you could have a buttered nap if you like).

A bottle of jewel coloured ink from Choosing Keeping

A bar of Tony’s Chocolonely dark milk pretzel toffee chocolate.

A cuddle from my cat Anorak who is stinky and weighs as much as a bungalow, but is always ecstatic to see you, loves cuddles and purrs like an outboard motor so you feel very wanted.

An hour to yourself.

What would be on your list?

Orwell’s Roses

A random post in the midst of radio silence.

I’ve just finished reading Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit and it has led to lots of thoughts and one of those thoughts is that I probably need to write some of those thoughts down – so here we are.

I’ve never read any Solnit before, but I very much enjoy the way she starts with one thing and then sort of wanders around lots of offshoot thoughts, circling back to the main thought along the way.

The idea for the book was prompted by an essay Orwell wrote in which he talks about planting some roses from Woolworths’ in his garden in Hertfordshire. Solnit loves the way that he writes with such beauty and pleasure about such simple, every day things and starts following a chain of thought in which she explores his love of nature as one way to reframe the Orwell everyone thinks they know. Along the way she discusses coal mining, Stalin, genetics, the environmental crisis, poor working conditions amongst South American rose growers/workers and goats.

There were so many brilliant moments in the book that it would take another book to write about them all. One, huge thing for me, a person who often worries that I’m not doing enough of ‘the right thing’ whatever that is, or that somehow I have let the opportunity to live my best life pass me by, was her exploration of how it is most often the most tangential things in life that are your true path or at least lead you there.

She talks about Jacques Lusseyran, blinded as a child, who nevertheless went on to become an organiser of the Resistance in Paris in WWII. She talks about his time working in the resistance and how he also learned to swing dance whilst fighting against the Nazis and; ‘that you might prepare for your central mission in life by doing other things that may seem entirely unrelated, and how necessary this may be.’

She gives other examples of how our immersion in joy, in frivolity in apparently ‘meaningless’ activities can so often give us the strength and purpose to carry on in life. She talks about a judge in a war crimes trial, decompressing from his job by going to see the Vermeer paintings in the town art gallery on his lunch hour. How his immersion in the beautiful ordinariness of the scenes allowed him to go back and listen to and face extraordinary cruelty and horror and not lose his faith in humanity.

She talks about 1984 and how Winston buys a glass paperweight with a piece of coral inside it from a junk shop, and how this beautiful, pointless object both helps to condemn him, but also gives him the strength to push back against a world in which there is increasingly no room for beauty at all.

She completely dismantles the idea that our paths in life are narrow and straight, which is often what we, and by that I mean I, subconsciously feel, despite the fact that time and time again, it is the tangents of my life, the byways, not the highways, that have given me joy and purpose and meaning.

She also talks about love.

Again, she quotes excerpts from 1984 where Winston watches film footage of a boat load of refugees being mowed down by machine guns and sees a mother reach forward and shelter her son in her arms, even though the gesture is futile.

‘He thinks of his mother: “It would not have occurred to her that an action which is ineffectual thereby becomes meaningless. If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.” Things that matter for their own sake and serve no larger purpose or practical agenda recur as ideals in the book.’

And these are the words I needed to unlock me today. And even reading them was a tangential action on my part. I read that my friend, the wonderful author Katherine May, had been reading Solnit’s book and loving it. This led me to request it on Netgalley and they were kind enough to allow me to read it. It’s not a book I would have otherwise picked up. A series of chance encounters led to this morning’s reading.

Because I have been bowed down in recent weeks by the cruelty of the world. Young men I know taking their own lives. My son feeling that there is no space in the world left for someone who feels and thinks like him. Young women I know feeling desperate and driven and that they cannot shake off a past that they inherited through no fault of their own, but which dogs their days. People jubilant at the death of refugees in boats trying to seek sanctuary. People abusing those who try to help others. People torturing children who are supposed to be safe and loved in their care. People taking pleasure in making other people feel loveless and hopeless. It’s a lot.

Orwell knew that. He writes so vividly about man’s inhumanity to man and 1984 is the pinnacle of that achievement, his image of the future being a boot stamping on a human face forever, is one that has haunted me ever since I first read it.

What Solnit does is remind us of the joy of Orwell, despite all this. She shows us a man who, in the last 18 months of his life, knowing he was dying, carved out a sixteen acre farm on the inhospitable, wind blown Isle of Jura. A man who planted an orchard whose apples he would never eat. A man who adopted a son in the last years of his life because he wanted to give love to an orphan who didn’t have any. A man who knew it was all transient, but that finding and making joy mattered, particularly in the face of inescapable odds. A man who found pleasure in the simplest things and relished it while he could.

Orwell is Winston and Winston is Orwell. As soon as Winston starts writing in his diary he knows he is a dead man, but he chooses to forge on anyway. He has hope that he will find some pleasure and some meaning however small, and he does.

The reality is that none of us are getting out of here alive. Nothing we do is forever. I think that sometimes we are so tired, so exhausted that we forget that. We act as if everything we do, every choice we make is somehow set in stone and will be and has to be and this is the way it is. We forget, so very often we forget that this too will pass, good and most importantly, bad.

Solnit reminds us of the last night that Winston spends with Julia and how, before the soldiers come, he looks out of the window and sees the washerwoman, pegging out the nappies and singing. Winston realises that she carries her own kind of beauty. She, with her countless babies and her pointless song that lifts the mundanity and brutality of the day is as much the future as a boot stamping on a human face.

And for us, it reminds us that beauty isn’t what we see on Instagram, or what comes in a Tiffany box. That’s one type of beauty but there are many and some of them are surprising and all the more wonderful for it. It is good to be surprised by life. It is good to find something new to wonder at, celebrate, enjoy. And some of the most beautiful of those moments will undoubtedly be found on that tangential path we think is probably a mistake but turns out not to be. And a lot of it will seem ‘useless’ unless we understand that beauty and goodness and joy don’t have to be practical or useful or even what other people think they are. They are enough in themselves and allowing ourselves to have them is a great act of resistance against a world in which misery has such a strong toehold.

And some of that beauty is in the futile gesture of a woman, protecting her son from the inevitable because her love is bigger than death and some of it is in a man planting roses from Woolworths for a future he will not see but is sure will be there anyway.

Another day off.

We have some temporary Christmas staff starting this week at work. This means from next week I am, for the next two weeks at least, working for just the three days a week I am actually contracted for.

I am very much looking forward to being at work for less time than I am not at work.

It is increasingly busy when I am there, which I don’t mind too much as it helps to pass the time. It’s the size of the deliveries we are getting that are killing me at the moment. Last week, over two days, I hefted about 27 large boxes of books from the delivery loading bay, up two floors to our tiny stock room. On one of the days I was off, they got 27 boxes in a single delivery.

We have to get them out as soon as possible because there is very little space in the stock room, which also triples up as our staff room and office, so the pace never really lets up. As there is very limited space on the shop floor, because we are a small shop, getting stuff out means a lot of lifting, rearranging and shuffling about. It’s hard, physical labour which is doing my upper arms the world of good, but is doing my knees no good at all.

Back at home, Oscar is improving slowly. He had his first full day at school for weeks, on Monday. Today was therapy day, so he didn’t go in. We are hoping he will make it into school tomorrow for at least some of the day. Sleep is patchy for all of us, but there have been a few nights when we have all managed to sleep through. Thank God.

One of his best friends got diagnosed with COVID at the weekend, after Oscar spent Friday evening having dinner with his family to celebrate his birthday. We have all had tests, which have come back negative, but we are all keeping well clear of our vulnerable loved ones for the foreseeable, just in case. So many people we know are catching it now, we can’t take any chances and we are back to analysing every sore throat, twinge and headache.

I am not in the best of places, mental health wise myself. My spending addiction has been ratcheting up. Not to the point where I am causing myself or anyone else financial harm, which is good. Enough to be worrying though. It’s understandable that it’s happening. My own needs are currently about 431st on the list of things that must be attended to and there has to be some kind of release, otherwise the spending will be the least of my problems. It is the lesser of a fair few evils.

It is very difficult, if spending and reading is your thing, to be working all the hours God sends in a bookshop, over the festive period, where you spend all day long unloading lots and lots of shiny new books. It is number 4387 on the list of reasons why I am really not cut out for a life in retail.

I had a fair bit of capital in my emotional bank due to having worked very hard on my own therapy, and that has seen me over the worst of the last couple of months, but I am increasingly running on empty. It’s a race with regard to my physical and mental exhaustion to see which one hits bottom first. I am hoping that the reduced hours at work and Oscar being at school a bit more might buy me the time I need to sort myself out for a bit.

Today, although I had errands to run and therapy to chauffeur back and forth from, I did manage to spend an hour in the kitchen this afternoon cooking roast pumpkin soup for my dinner. The boys don’t like it, so they are seeing to themselves, but I wanted to make something for myself. Something that I didn’t have to rush to cook because I was hungry and exhausted, and something that I wouldn’t suddenly have to share when everyone else decided they might love it after all. I’m going to eat some later while I watch Escape to the Chateau and be grateful that I don’t have to hoover it.

The Chateau, not the soup.

A day off.

The boys are out this afternoon and I am alone in the house. It really needs cleaning but I am hiding upstairs in the office, making slow, slow progress with my latest big artwork, listening to L’il Nas X and drinking tea.

The news.

Oscar is still quite poorly. He’s not in school at the moment. We are paying for private therapy and are on various lists for other help. I have no confidence that these lists will manifest in any concrete way for months. We looked at a private psychiatrist this week in an attempt to get him some medication to take the edge off, so he can at least sleep better. We can’t get medication prescribed by the gp without a full assessment, which is why we are on a list. We can’t find a private psychiatrist whose list is open either.

This is not a time to have a teenager with mental health issues.

My heart breaks about three times a week, currently.

Jason and I are juggling caring for him between his job and mine. My job is less mentally demanding so I take most of the night shifts. The rest of the family are helping out when we can’t manage.

We are lucky. We have enough money to get help. We have family and friends who are supporting us.

Some days it’s hard to feel lucky though.

I am exhausted.

I am still gainfully employed. I find the job difficult for many reasons, not least of which is that my son is unwell and dealing with people who want to know why the latest Lee Child book isn’t in paperback yet is not something I particularly want to prioritise right now. Having said that, everyone I work with is lovely and the strain on our finances is considerably less now that I am more or less working full time (I should be part time, but there are staffing issues), and that is a good thing.

Contrary to popular belief, I spend very little of my day chatting to people about books and most of it dragging huge, book filled totes from the basement up two floors and loading them onto various trolleys whereupon I get to push them around a shop that is already full, looking for space to shelve things. It is a hugely physical job. Most people I work with have bookseller’s back. I do not. I have bookseller’s knees.

The house looks like a bomb site. We are mostly existing as best we can from day to day right now. Finesse can come later when we all have room to breathe again. When we’re not holding it all together and trying to believe that things must be improving, incrementally, but improving nonetheless.

I keep telling myself this is happening. It’s easy to lose sight of. Most days are a cross between some kind of hideous endurance race and feeling trapped on a hamster wheel.

I am doing nice things from time to time. I am mostly too tired to appreciate them fully and not entirely relaxed due to being worried sick every time my phone beeps at me in case something terrible has happened.

It will change.

I thought I might feel a bit better writing some of it down. I’m going to go and have another cup of tea and think about it.

Still here.

Still hanging on.

Oscar Is Fifteen

Dearest Oscar, you are fifteen today.

As usual, despite birthdays coming around rather regularly, it takes me by surprise that time can be measured this way. It’s been quite the journey from the small, round bundle that got delivered into my arms on this day fifteen years ago, to the towering giant looming through the hallways of our house, stopping only occasionally to pat me on the head. You grow, I shrink. That seems to be the rule these days.

It’s been a hell of a year, boy. You’ve lost a lot this year and I’ve been sorely grieved to see the pain you’ve endured and continue to work through. My birthday wish for you this year is that we finally find that fabled magic wand to make it all better. Or that a ‘kiss it better’ really could resolve all that pain for you. In the absence of that I hope that we managed to take your mind off things for a few hours yesterday and set a marker and a reminder of what life can be again.

You told me a few weeks ago that you were ashamed that you were not ‘man’ enough to deal with things as quickly as other people seemed to. You said: ‘I’m fifteen now. I should be over behaving like a baby.’ I told you then what I’m going to write now, but I’m writing it down because I hope one day that you find this and it prompts you to re-remember and assess how you felt then.

A man, and I use this word advisedly, is someone who is alive to ALL his emotions and who is willing to sit with them, think about them and deal with them appropriately. Feelings are difficult because they don’t come in neat packages. They squiggle about. They bleed at the edges. They get caught up in other things. Sometimes we feel two opposite feelings about one thing at the same time and the conflict pulls us to the edges of what we think we can endure. Anyone who tells you that facing, owning and dealing with your feelings is not a manly thing to do, is doing you, and themselves a massive disservice.

A man is prepared to be hurt, to grieve, to sorrow, to own confusion and anger and articulate them. A man owns both the softness of themselves and their edges. A man is prepared to admit that things are too difficult rather than barrelling through and putting a brave face on things. A man is loving and kind and generous and understands that allowing that vulnerability to shine out from them doesn’t make them weak. Owning your vulnerability and being willing to show it and share it is one of the greatest things any human being can do, let alone a man.

A man is willing to care and show that in a multitude of ways. A man is someone who is strong and brave enough to ask for help when they can’t help themselves. A man is someone who is able to admit that they don’t have all the answers. A man is someone who knows that loving someone else is the greatest and most dangerous adventure they can possibly go on in their lifetime and that it risks everything, but the rewards are the greatest. Whether that’s the love for a partner or a friend. A man understands that love is not narrow and restrictive. It blooms, if you allow it to.

A man is what you have become this year. I know that none of us would have chosen this to be the way you shed the last of the boy in you, but sometimes fate dictates that our path will be harder than we would like, and it is how we rise to meet it that is the measure of who we are, and you have surpassed all our expectations on that front.

No test, no exam, no job or figure in your bank account will ever make me prouder of you than I am right now. The dignity with which you have faced adversity. The willingness you have shown to love others. The bravery of your decisions to keep moving forward and to work through everything life has thrown at you, makes me burst with pride when I think about it. You are the very best of us and I love you so much it physically hurts.

I know that you have felt so alone in recent weeks, but know that we are always here for you, no matter what. No matter what you think or say or do with your life, you are ours and we are yours and home is where we are together and you are always a part of that. We can always sit with you in the dark days as well as the light ones, and although we cannot take the pain away, we can bear witness and love you and help shoulder the burden in any way that you need.

I hope you manage to feel some joy on this day, because we felt it fifteen years ago and every day you have been in our lives since. You enrich our lives beyond measure. Thank you for choosing us to be your parents.

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.