Day 132

Back when I started blogging I used to give myself a blog holiday from time to time, because I used to write every day, sometimes more than once a day and it was nice to step away for a while.

In recent years I have blogged less and noodled about on other social media platforms more, and then, with the coming of lockdown things have swung full circle and I have been blogging every day again.

And I have also been scrolling the internet for hours on top – and from time to time, as documented on here, it has all become a bit much and I have attempted to step away from certain, more destructive, mind fucky elements of it in order to stay reasonably functional and sane.

It has met with varying degrees of success.

At the moment, things are reasonably stable again, domestically speaking. I am touching wood, crossing my fingers and praying to every deity as I say this.

So I thought I’d try something new (old). Instead of waiting for things to get really bad before I step away from social media for a bit, I thought I might take a little social media holiday so that I can actually enjoy it, and not spend my internet free time lying curled on the sofa, sucking my thumb and talking myself down.

I absolutely hate it when people announce that they’re leaving social media by using social media. It’s a bit like slamming the door in a temper so everyone will notice you.

And a lot like a futile gesture when they inevitably return far sooner than they said they would.

Having said that, I feel I ought to say that I’m going to be around/blogging less for a bit because in this time of COVID it seems rather cruel to just disappear and leave people to guess what’s going on, when actually there isn’t anything going on and for once in my life there is absolutely no drama.

I’ve got no idea what the hiatus will look like. I am very poor at sticking to plans so if I can I always find it best to wing it. I may decide I want to write every other day or once a week or maybe I will end up buggering off for a couple of weeks, but I just wanted you to know that I’m ok. I’m just experimenting with off screen life for a bit.

Obviously, if something brilliant/terrible happens I’ll absolutely fail to keep it to myself, so you’ll definitely get the highlights and the lowlights and if I manage to stay away for a few weeks I’ll make sure I catch everyone up with the omnibus edition when I return.

 

Day 131

Not such a magnificent night’s sleep last night. Nightmares and waking up in panic does tend to shatter the ability to get comfortably back to sleep somewhat. But it was not a bad night’s sleep. I am making headway against the insanity of tiredness and it’s not to be sniffed at.

Tallulah and I visited mum and dad today. We fettled a few more corners and managed a bit more admin. Medmin mostly. This form for that doctor, this email to that optician, this endless timetable of meds and eyedrops. Even with us all helping, five lots of eyedrops, some four times a day, some three, some once, one lot of eye related meds, plus the blood thinners, plus the blood pressure tablets etc is ridiculous. I don’t know how people who live alone and who have to manage things like this actually cope. In fact I do know. They just don’t cope a lot of the time. It’s shit.

Jason and I went on one of our driving dates this evening. It is against the rules, because we didn’t want to buy a pint of milk or a harpsichord, but as we drive to a random point on the map, turn around and drive home again and never leave the car, I cannot see that we are doing any harm. Less harm than being in a supermarket, certainly.

While we were pooting around the highways and byways of Nottinghamshire and feeling like daredevils, the weather closed in and we were engulfed (and I use this word advisedly) in the most spectacular storm. We never heard the thunder, but for about 40 minutes, lightning split the sky and the heavens absolutely opened. We were crawling along as the roads turned into rivers and it was all very biblical and exciting. I do love a storm and as we are reduced, like the Victorians, to making our own entertainment, it was marvellous.

I have finished reading H is for Hawk. I found it an incredibly intense book and had to keep breaking off to delve into something else, so I am currently reading about four different books altogether. I am still absolutely of the mind that falconry is not for me. I don’t have the temperament for hawking and I can’t even bring myself to kill the battered mice that Anorak drags in, so I would be rubbish at snapping the neck of a pheasant and defrosting quails, which is what she seemed to spend a lot of her time doing. That and crashing through the undergrowth to the detriment of several pairs of trousers.

My book on hawking would be very, very short. More of a postcard, I suspect.  In fact, I’ll just write it now.

‘Bought hawk. Got it home. Realised I had purchased it in sleep deprived moment of insanity. Perched hawk on back of kitchen chair and faced my certain death in its demented, assassin eyes. Cried for several hours at the stupidity of my impulsive purchase. Rang RSPCA who said they wouldn’t have anything to do with that kind of nonsense. Tweeted Chris Packham. He sent round a crack team of hawkers with pockets stuffed with dead chicks and giblets, who lured the hawk out of the house to safety. Chris said he didn’t care how much I had enjoyed The Really Wild Show, he never wanted me to darken his Twitter feed again. A poster with my photo has been circulated to all hawk emporiums in the British Isles. I am banned for life. To be honest, it’s a relief. Am now thinking about a goldfish, possibly a newt, a la Gussie Finknottle, although already worried about keeping it in the bath tub. Maybe I should stick to cats.’

 

Day 130

Let us hang out the bunting and dance joyously through the streets, for last night I actually slept properly for the first time in an actual age. I have spent the day feeling absolutely exhausted, probably because my body finally recognised what it was missing and decided more of that would be a good plan. I am hoping that tonight will follow suit and tomorrow I may wake up feeling less like I’ve been passed through a threshing machine. I have almost stopped itching, so this is an entirely plausible wish.

My dad has been on his best behaviour today, health wise. Mum and dad have no time to get up to mischief because the punishing schedule of new meds and eyedrops along with old meds means that every hour of the day involves complex pharmaceutical shenanigans. My brother popped over this afternoon (at an acceptable distance) to make sure all was well. He is a good boy.

I didn’t go out today because I thought about going for a walk and just got tired at the mere thought. Turns out it’s flying ant day here, so I haven’t missed much. I hate the little fuckers. We call them flants.

Tilly came round for a cup of tea. She was supposed to be going back to work, but we are having a real Boris Johnson moment here in Leicester. ‘Go to work. Don’t go to work. Stay at home. If you can’t stay at home, go to work.’ etc.  We are still in lockdown, but to ease the economy (and presumably to save themselves some money) the government have announced that as of today, all the non-essential shops in Leicester can now open.

Which would be fine except that people who don’t live in Leicester are being told to avoid coming here (like otherwise they would be flocking here in droves) because we are what my friend calls ‘Leicester Lepers’, and we are not allowed to go non-essential shopping because we are in lockdown.

It was later announced that we lepers can actually do non-essential shopping, but only if we are going into town first to do essential shopping. So I can pop into town to buy myself a pint of milk and then, if I fancy it, I can go and buy myself a harpsichord, but if I just wanted a harpsichord, I can’t buy it, because that would be dangerous.

And nobody at all said anything about what happens if you live in the lockdown area but you also work in a non-essential shop that’s in the city centre, but you don’t have to go there to buy a pint of milk. Which is roughly where Tilly was at.

Apparently she might now go back to work on Monday. Maybe, might be.

And according to several sources, even in essential shops, some people are still being allowed in without face masks, even though it is now the law that face masks must be worn.

And someone else told me that we will still be in lockdown until August.

And then people get really cross at people going fuck that for a game of soldiers and running away to Biarritz. But only to buy a pint of milk.

No wonder I’m tired.

Day 129

Day 129 actually lasted about seventeen weeks and it’s not even over yet.

I got a smidgeon more sleep last night.  By a smidgeon I do mean that. I went to bed early and actually fell asleep. Unfortunately an hour later I had a terrible dream and woke up pulsing with adrenalin and in the middle of a huge hot flush. Shortly after calming down I had cramps and had to get up and that was that.

At two this morning Oscar came to get me because he thought Anorak had put a mouse in the shoe rack in the hall. I spent twenty minutes peering about with a torch. It turns out he hadn’t exactly put it in the shoe rack. He had put it in Oscar’s rucksack, next to the shoe rack where it was found by Oscar, very much alive and well when he went out this morning.

I managed to drift off somewhere between five and six. I was woken up by my brother who called me to tell me that my dad needed to go back into hospital and the gardener, who is a friend of theirs, was bringing him in. I called mum and got her to hitch a lift and come to my house where we could then wait for dad to be released and go and get him.

The eye where he had his stroke had decided to misbehave and was being put under enormous pressure by a blockage.  The pressure was so high that they couldn’t do any surgery on it this time, so it’s imperative that we get the pressure down so they can try and fix it. When we picked him up he was still in agony and had a handful of prescriptions.  We got him home and discovered that although they had given him pills, he didn’t know what they were, which meant that we couldn’t give him anything to help him until we found out what it was he had had. Twenty minutes later we managed to ascertain that they hadn’t given him any pain relief at all. I was so angry.

We dosed him up and put him to bed and then spent the next two hours trying to track down a chemist that had all the things on his prescription.  When we finally found one, it turned out that the hospital hadn’t put any dosages on the eye drops. Luckily the pharmacist was wonderfully helpful and sorted it all out. We got back with five, separate types of eye drop (all of which have to be taken multiple times a day, but different multiple times a day and not together) and tablets. Thank God they get their prescriptions for free, because we calculated that there was about a hundred quid’s worth of drugs all together.

We got him up at five to start giving him the first tranche of his drugs only to be interrupted by Oscar walking in from the garden to tell us that a man had just vaulted over our fence into next door’s garden and was running away from someone.  There was a lot of loud banging and then Oscar said: ‘Oh look! Someone else is coming over the back fence.’  I was quite pissed off by this point and went steaming down the garden shouting: ‘What the bloody hell are you doing in my garden? You can just get out. Right now!’ only to find that it was a policeman. I apologised and let him through the house so he could continue his pursuit.

When I got back into the house there was more banging from down the garden and the fence started shaking so I went back down there again, shouting my head off only to find another policeman with a ladder who was attempting to get a third policeman over. More apologies and then somebody sent an emergency code and they all ran through the house and away leaving me with the ladder which they said wasn’t theirs because they found it in a hedge.

So now I have a trampled garden, a reputation for shouting at policeman and a stolen ladder which the police have literally fenced.

Shortly after that I took my parents home, because I thought we’d had enough drama for one day.  Instructions are to keep dosing the eye and if things worsen, to go straight back to hospital and if things get better to go on Tuesday.

It’s been a very exciting day.

In good news, I did a painting I was happy with in between all the flusters of activity and I am less itchy again, which means it is almost certainly my blood pressure meds and not ebola.

Day 128

Last night was the worst night of sleep. I say sleep. I mean absolutely no sleep at all. I went to bed at four this morning and got up at six feeling pretty hysterical. My husband, who is an absolute legend, sat with me and calmed me down and made me a cup of tea and put me back to bed when I was feeling calmer. I did manage to get a few hours, probably because I had utterly exhausted myself (and everyone else).

I got the results of my COVID test and it’s negative, which is good because it means I haven’t potentially infected my whole family and plunged them into another fourteen days of chokey and/or death but bad because it would have been a convenient diagnosis.

I didn’t take my anti-histamine today and I have to say that the itching has been slightly less noticeable. That would be my second choice of diagnosis. Every other diagnosis can get in the bin.

In good news, my expensive pencil crayons arrived in time for me to use them to finish my drawing homework. I succumbed on the basis that if you’re up for 22 hours a day you might as well treat yourself.

I am still reading H is for Hawk.  It is magnificent. The writing is absolutely wonderful and I am luxuriating in it. I have also decided that I am not having a goshawk as a pet. Another piece of vital informations.

Goshawk are moody little buggers, apparently. They are stubborn, recalcitrant and prone to sulking.  When they should be obediently flying back to your gauntlet after doing swooping, pouncing and killing, they often get the hump and go and sit on a high branch and refuse to look at you. They’re too pricey to bin off and just get yourself another goshawk from the birds of prey supermarket, so the owner has to sit at the bottom of the tree for however many hours it takes the bird to work off its mood and think about coming down. Basically the teenager of the birding world.

I don’t blame them. I mean, I read a Barbara Vine book once which had a character in it who kept a hawk, and it seems like no sort of life to me. Half blind, constantly starving and only let out to be the avian version of the Red Arrows. I’d sulk too.

Anyway, the hawk life is not for me. I had to rescue a mouse that Anorak deposited in Jason’s sandals at two this morning and after I’d rescued it, checked all the other shoes and dealt with Anorak’s petulance at having his present removed, I’d had more than enough of moody animals.

 

Day 127

I am having no fun whatsoever right now and I demand my money back. Itching continues, and when it’s not out and out making me want to rip my skin off, it’s fizzing under my skin like a thousand ants trooping around inside me.

I spoke to the GP this morning. I’d have been better off talking to the woman behind the till at Tesco. Utterly dismissive of the symptoms because I am not coughing or wheezing and not ticking all the boxes in the Basic Bitches Guide to COVID.

He diagnosed hay fever.

HAY FUCKING FEVER

He suggested I take anti-histamine.

I told him I suffered with hay fever for two decades from the age of sixteen and this is not hay fever. Not even a tiny bit of hay fever.  Not only is it not hay fever, but the fact that he thought I might have not thought to try taking an anti histamine blows my mind. They are doing three fifths of fuck all. I might as well smother myself in lard and roll in some cheese and onion crisps for all the good they’re doing.

There was a long silence when he thought I might just bugger off and take his advice. When it appeared I wouldn’t, he grudgingly booked me in for a blood test next week, but was clear to tell me that they were very busy and important etc, as if he was doing me a giant favour.

As if spending the last week feeling quite ill but spending the last 72 hours feeling like your body is alive with insects and getting three hours sleep is somehow nothing to be worried about and can just be solved by popping a fucking Piriton.

TWAT.

I burst into tears.

Jason went to the chemist and told him all my woes. He thought to ask what medication I am on, which the doctor did not do.  One of the side effects of my blood pressure medication can be insane itching apparently. The chemist said it was unlikely to be that as I have been taking it for ages with no problem but that it would be good to check just in case, so has told me to stop taking them for a week to see if that helps.

We also did a bit more research and it turns out that some people have this ‘fizzy’ feeling as a symptom of COVID, so we booked into the mobile testing station and I went off to be swabbed, just in case. I should get the results in the next day or two. Although where the fuck I could have caught that from is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime I feel like hell, but I can’t be sure how much of that is because I am actually ill rather than just effervescent and how much of it is due to the fact that I am ridiculously tired.

In good news:

Tilly came to see us.

We had splendid pizza from a place called Maurizio’s. Maurizio, it transpires is properly Italian and makes pizza that tastes like I remember Sicily from my holiday. The whole of Sicily, not just the pizza.

We watched more Joe Lycett.

I finished reading Summer by Ali Smith and it’s still blowing my mind.

I started reading H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. So far, so good.

I have chocolate.

 

 

Day 126

I got the princely sum of an hour and a half’s sleep last night thanks to mad brain and this itching, which I thought had gone but has now come back to haunt me. I have a telephone consult booked with the GP for some time tomorrow morning just in case I’m secretly going into liver failure or something. I am not going into liver failure by the way, but I did succumb to googling my symptoms at four this morning and so now I need mind bleach if nothing else.

I managed to catch up on some sleep mid morning but woke up with a migraine, so have been bloody useless all day. I have done a lot of drawing, because I can’t concentrate on much else. I have eaten a jacket potato and watched Joe Lycett on Netflix. It’s hardly such stuff as dreams are made of, but it will have to do.

I’m on the last Ali Smith book, Summer and have slowed right down because I don’t really want it to end. Absolutely the best thing I’ve read all year so far.

Helen, my wonderful gardener, came and did some socially distanced gardening today. She has tidied up my Gertrude Jekyll roses and sorted out my fig tree. That corner of the garden is looking superb now, and I am hoping for another bloom of roses now that she has taken them in hand. They have been prolific this year already, so I am just being greedy really.

Other small pleasures:

Black olive tapenade – completely obsessed. Nay infatuated.

Drawing maps – drawing homework this week is making maps. I started with the one she demonstrated, which has hills and houses and stuff, but got into making a map of my mad head and my hand. I am thinking of making a map of a pillow next. I am reminded of a book called The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, which was made into a film (which I have yet to see) by Jean Pierre Jeuenet.  T. S. Spivet is a young boy who is obsessed by map making and in the book, all the margins and spaces are filled with his maps. It’s a wonderful book and I remain hugely disappointed that not many people have read it. It’s a strong recommend from me.

Brown paper – I found an old notebook which is square and blank, the type of notebook I like best. Half of it is cream paper and the rest is brown paper and I am absolutely loving drawing on brown paper. It doesn’t make my drawings any better. It just makes them browner, and it turns out that is a good thing. Who knew?

I think I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I am stalking stationery and art supply websites at the moment. Although I covet inks and pencils and paints, I find notebooks hard to get excited about these days. I want to, but I have reached a stumbling block. Another vital informations I have discovered about myself is that I really dislike lined paper and what tends to happen is that a notebook will be full of promise on the outside, and then full of fucking lines on the inside. I just don’t have time for that bullshit in my life any more. You would think there would be a high demand for blank paged notebooks but there is a disappointingly small number in the glamorous notebooks department. You have to start looking at sketchbooks instead, which is fine except that they’re not as sexy and depending on the type of paper, can be more money even for the dull ones.

I’m not too sad about it, given that I can find about seventy trillion other things to spend my money on, and I’ve still got piles of paper left over from the kids’ crafting experiments to work through before I run out. I think ‘a craft cupboard’s worth’ is a good measurement. I shall adopt it.

 

Day 125

As none of us are physically full of lurgy today, I went off to see mum and dad this afternoon. I am still itching, but having scrubbed myself, picked myself over like a troupe of monkeys and nit combed myself until half my hair has fallen out, whatever it is that is making me itch is not something transportable. Holistically speaking I am of the opinion that it has a lot to do with the fact that I am finding 95% of all human interaction as irritating as fuck these days.

You will be pleased to know that the parental house is watertight and mostly functional. There was no need for me to don galoshes or start building an ark on the lawn. It is also still full of boxes of glass. Dear God. There are so many boxes of glass. Considering that a lot of it is Victorian, it is amazing to me that so much of it still exists. It’s a testament to the durability of the Victorian craftsmen that it is enduring fiercely.

Although if it all gets too much, twenty minutes left alone with a poker could probably get it into more manageable proportions.

The thing about all this glass is that not all of it is catalogued, so we spend a lot of time staring at patterns and saying things like: ‘Does that look like hobnail and star to you? Or do you think it’s more interwoven swivel gaskets? And if it is the interwoven swivel gaskets, is it the one from 1911 or is it the remake from 1965?’ and after a bit your brain explodes and you have to scrape it off the wall with a mop and start again.

Today’s quandary was trying to accurately identify an excruciatingly ugly plate from Australia. It was definitely made in 1986 because it was a commemorative plate with the date on it, but there was a creature on it and we spent quite a lot of time arguing about whether it was a koala bear or something else. Dad was firmly team koala. Mum was not. I had no real opinion. The difficulty is that making glass look like anything accurately is quite tricky and this was not a beautifully made thing so it could have been any number of marsupials rendered in lumpy glass the colour of Lucozade.

I wanted it to be a quokka, which is an animal I have only recently discovered, but have a lot of time for. They seem nice. Having said that, I’ve only ever grazed the surface of the quokka situation, they might be blood thirsty killers, hell bent on marsupial revenge. They might be sexually profligate and riddled with chlamydia like koalas. Who knows?

David Attenborough, probably.

Anyway. It turned out to be a wombat in the end, and after all that, a relatively inexpensive wombat.

Still, my marsupial recognition skills are now top notch and maybe, one day that will come in handy, which is surely priceless.

 

Day 124

Today has been hard. I am finding this lockdown extension increasingly like a very drawn out, badly acted version of Waiting for Godot. Soon we will be reduced to hitting each other with a bladder on a stick and fighting over a shrivelled radish and then the jig will well and truly be up.

I say that. It’s not been bad. I am still extremely gifted at keeping myself occupied in chokey. I draw and paint. I read. I potter around. I eat. I listen to music and watch telly and all of these things make life bearable and sometimes even splendid. I am lucky that my hobbies are so solitary. But there are days when even I want to break out and run amok, and today has been one of them.

I have been thinking wistful thoughts of Sicily today. I want to lie on a lounger on the beach with a perfect espresso, soaking up the sun and watching the kids swim. I’ll take a dip myself, before lunch. I’ll eat spaghetti vongole with a squeeze of sun warm lemon and drink red wine at the beach side restaurant before heading back to the lounger. I’ll skip afternoon coffee and we’ll wander off to grab gelato instead. I might plunge into a church to escape the heat against the cool dampness of hundreds of years of stone and prayer. I might go and fondle ridiculously stylish things in swanky shops. I will definitely eat a metric tonne of tomato salad drizzled in olive oil and basil.

Bliss.

It will happen again. One day.

I’ve been reading the third volume of the Ali Smith season books, ‘Spring’. I’m nearly finished and then tomorrow, the last one. I am sad about this and also desperate to read it. It’s a good feeling.

In between reading chunks, I think about the books. I posted my review of Winter this morning and was reading other people’s reviews on Amazon. Quite a few people were frustrated by the book because they couldn’t make sense of it. I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t find it frustrating at all. I find it fascinating and intriguing.

All the books have sections in that I don’t really understand. It’s part of what I like about them. I’m not completely masochistic. I don’t like books where I understand nothing at all. Finnegan’s Wake, for instance, is a book I have no time for. As far as I’m concerned it’s a lot of willie waving and performative nonsense. I’m sorry if Joyce is your bag. It’s not like I didn’t try. Finnegan’s Wake is the only hurdle I fell at. And I am sure he was a lovely boy who was good to his mother and his works are seminal and luminous and all that, but it makes me want to smack him round the head with a bit of two by four. I need some kind of comprehensible narrative, but I don’t have to get it all to appreciate it.

I think part of what works for me in this series of books is that even the things that don’t make sense have possible narratives that do. You can make a stab at what you think is going on to the point where it is satisfying and gels with enough of what else is going on for you not to want to hurl the books on the fire.

I think the other thing that works for me, is that her words are beautiful and I can forgive a lot for beauty. I remember reading T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland for the first time when I was a student. I was terrified of it. I had no idea what it was about and I was going to have to come up with something because we had to write essays about it. What drew me back to it and has drawn me back again and again over the years is the beauty of the language. I don’t always understand it, but I want to. And sometimes I don’t even want to, because there is magic in the not knowing as much as there is in the knowing.

 

Day 123

Still here. Still creeping about like a little old lady. Still knackered if I do too much, but still managing to do daily functioning as long as there are sit downs, snacks and no dramas.

Oscar is not well today. He took himself off for a walk and came back feeling ‘grim’ and spent several hours lying on the kitchen floor because he felt most comfortable there. I couldn’t entirely ascertain what the term ‘grim’ encompassed except belly ache. But then he staggered to the kitchen an hour after everyone else had eaten and wolfed down keema peas with naan bread and several biscuits, so I have not put the plague bunting out just yet.

Tilly came to hang out with us today. She is hoping to win a competition to redesign the cover of Louis Theroux’s book so she bought her sketch pad along, as she was mid inspiration. She did some amazing sketches of him. I am always so impressed at the effortless way in which she draws or paints. It’s like the pencil is an extension of her hand, and she chats away as she just knocks up a fantastic portrait. I love watching her make art.

I drew a very, uptight flower in the time it took her to make two, brilliant portraits.

I am not at all dissatisfied with what I did, by the way. I am coming to realise that art, like writing, is something you have to keep practicing and accepting if you want to find your way with it, and your style is your style. You can attempt to copy other people’s work, and when you do, you learn a lot, but your style is unique, and it’s no good wishing you were born Picasso if you are resolutely Matisse. You just need to accept that you draw or paint a certain way and find out how to make what you do more you.

I’m totally obsessed by art supplies and stationery websites at the moment. I want to buy an entire set of Japanese colouring pencils by a company called Tombow Irojiten, because they are so pleasingly packaged. I am lusting after boxes of Blackwing pencils and fat blocks of watercolour paints. I am craving reams of hand pressed paper and chunky bottles of jewel coloured inks. It’s all so beautiful.

It’s not like I don’t have art supplies, but once you start looking, it’s hard to stop.

I’m still reading Ali Smith. I’m on Winter now, which is very different in many ways to Autumn, but which has echoes of the first book. I am beginning to think it’s more like a symphony than a piece of writing. I’m finding the reading process fascinating. You catch little echoes and glimpses of the previous book. Ideas and images, motifs and themes. If I were still academically minded, it would be an amazing set of books to write a thesis about. I’m just enjoying enjoying them.

Tallulah and I started watching Chewing Gum on Tilly’s recommendation. It’s extremely rude, rather surreal and funny in a way that doesn’t make me laugh but is nevertheless very pleasing.  Not one to watch with your mother. Unless your mother is me.