Three things: finding friends

This article was written for a Readwave Challenge: 3 things I learned whilst...

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I live in a small village in rural Wiltshire. Villages can be very friendly, but also very cliquey. When I first moved here I worked full time and tended to gravitate towards neighbours who did likewise. We had all moved into new build houses so knew few people in the area. Gradually these new found acquaintances formed friendship groups amongst themselves. I had different interests and desires; friendly though they were, I did not feel that I fitted in.

When my children first started at the village school I struggled to befriend the other mums at the school gate who all seemed to know each other well already. The same groups seemed to serve on the various committees that kept village life ticking over. They had coffee mornings together, looked after each other’s kids and ran the many fundraising events that all were cajoled into supporting. By then I was a stay at home mum and knew that I needed to emerge from my shell. In my quest to find friends I learned the following lessons.

1) Do not rely on first impressions.

That young mum who appears fully made up, perfectly coiffed and dressed in the latest fashion at 8.45am each morning? She is not necessarily a societal victim, but is simply interested in how she looks. Just as I am interested in literature, she is interested in fashion. How she looks matters to her as much as an opinion on an author matters to me. We may not have a lot in common outside of parenting, but she can still be a lovely person and interesting to talk to.

That pierced and tattoo’d lady keeping her head down? She may look a bit scary but her kids are amongst the best cared for in the village. All the kids have a great time when they go to her house because she does not fuss about mud or crumbs or noise, although she will expect plenty of pleases, thank you’s and sharing. She appreciates what really matters, and that is a fine lesson for us all to learn.

That mum who looks just like me and who I was inclined to get to know better? The slightly offhand reactions may or may not be shyness, but after a year of never being invited inside her house, accept that she is not interested in furthering the fragile friendship you have made such an effort to build. One sided relationships are rarely a good idea.

2) Smile at everyone

Once I realised that I was not going to naturally slip into a friendship group I decided to simply make the best of a job I had to do twice a day on every week day. As I walked between house and school I would keep my head up and smile at everyone I passed. A number of people seemed surprised by my eye contact. I did not try to engage in conversation but simply smiled as I walked past.

This resulted in people recognising me outside of school (the smiley lady) and I would be acknowledged at village functions and local clubs. I still didn’t have friends, but it gave me a sense of belonging.

3) Only befriend those you are comfortable with

This was a really difficult lesson to learn. I wanted local, adult friends so did not feel that I could decline invitations to social events when they were proffered. This led to some awkward situations when I would be sitting in a room full of people who knew each other well trying to work out if my acceptance of the invitation had been unexpected.

Many of the ladies were lovely but had radically different views or interests to me. I did not wish to go shopping or discuss the sort of television shows that they watched. I did not wish to go the the races or learn flower arranging. I wanted to talk books, films, politics, and had a habit of speaking my mind. I was often at odds with the general consensus.

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Eventually I did manage to slip into a friendship group of lovely young mums with children the same age as mine. I was also invited to join a book group populated by a disparate group of literature lovers. A few of these acquaintances have become loyal, supportive and valued friends. Others I have let go over the years because, although I may struggle with finding friends, I have learned that quality is worth far more to me than quantity.

 

 

 

 

Why I am banned from grocery shopping

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I wonder why it is that certain subjects get blogged about by many people at the same time. Today there seem to be a few of us thinking about our grocery shopping experiences; what exciting lives we do lead.

My husband banned me from grocery shopping soon after we got married. He was shocked to discover that I bought only what I felt like eating at the time, with no thought for the future including the next day. I would wander up and down the aisles, filling my trolley with whatever caught my eye and looked tasty. I never planned meals and rarely bought basic ingredients. Most appalling of all in his eyes, I did not consider cheaper brands or stock up on items when they were on special offer.

I saw no problem with eating breakfast cereal for dinner, toast topped with whatever I happened to find in my cupboards, and bananas. I always bought bananas. My cupboards usually contained a variety of boxed and tinned goods, coffee and packets of biscuits. When I ran out of food I would go shopping again. Normally I went because I was hungry; apparently this is not a good idea.

Occasionally I would invite friends round for dinner. On these rare occasions I would hunt out a recipe and hit the supermarket with a list of  ingredients, many of which I had never heard of before. I was always trying to cook a dish for the first time when I was feeding somebody else, with varying success. As my flat had an ancient oven that belched smoke (I wasn’t yet aware that they should be cleaned occasionally) the suggested cooking temperature did not always produce the expected results. As far as I am aware, I have yet to poison a dinner guest.

My husband assumed that I would know how to shop and cook, I have no idea why. The first meal I fed him was a slice of pizza that I found lurking in the freezer section of my fridge, a baked potato and some tinned vegetables; impressive huh? I had no interest in acquiring cookery skills when I lived with my parents so left home knowing how to scramble an egg and toast cheese but little else. As a student I ate a lot of bread products and those ubiquitous bananas; obviously I survived. As I have been trying to lose weight since I was sixteen, food was my enemy and the less I had to do with it the better.

My husband can cook. In the early years of our marriage, when we were both working full time, he cooked at least as much as I did. When the kids came along though, and I became a stay at home mum, I was required to take on the role of family food provider. Now that I had babies to feed I started thinking about balance and nutrition. Too many mushy bananas are not good to deal with when processed by nappy wearers.

My husband still did not trust me to do the grocery shopping though. During the baby years I struggled to leave the house due to the need to shower and put on clothes. Also, I did not have a car. I would give my husband a list of food to buy and he would pick up provisions when he was out and about. This arrangement worked fine for both of us.

And then all the big supermarkets started to introduce on line ordering with a home delivery service. For this to work I had to plan out meals a fortnight in advance and let my husband know exactly what I needed. He would set up the order and I would stay in to accept the crates of groceries and put the food away. Suddenly I was organised with a rolling fortnightly menu that rarely changed; how boring this felt.

I sometimes miss those early dinners of a bag of cookies from the in store bakery and a banana eaten in front of the TV. I am still constantly trying to lose weight. If any kids are reading this, don’t be fooled into thinking you get to do what you want when you grow up. My husband may have killed my ability to be impulsive with his practical and efficient ideas, but it is my teenagers who nag me about my continuing inclination to adopt odd eating habits. I may now be able to produce a variety of nutritious meals from scratch each evening, but the only time that I truly enjoy my food is when the preparation has been taken on by somebody else.

Unlucky for some

 

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This post was written for the Remember the Time…It Was Your Birthday? Blog Hop hosted by The Waiting.

My parents were creatures of habit. Every year throughout my childhood we would take our annual family holiday during the last two weeks in August. This meant that we were always away from home on my birthday.

We would celebrate of course. I would have presents to open and we would go to a cafe for a special ice cream sundae. My favourites were the banana split and the knickerbocker glory.

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I did not have a party though, not until those family holidays stopped, which happened the summer I turned thirteen.

I remember attending a few birthday parties as a child. Dressed in my best I would take part in the organised games before settling down to eat the sort of sweet treats that were strictly rationed at home. I noted that the birthday child collected a sizeable stash of presents; what wasn’t there to like about a birthday party?

That first August at home, when my mother asked if I would like to have a few friends round to celebrate becoming a teenager, I jumped at the chance. My very first party, what fun! I had no idea what I was taking on, and thus learned the hard way that parties do not just happen.

My first problem was who to invite as, at twelve years old, I had few friends. In the end I believe my ‘party’ had four attendees, including myself. The others had never previously met; I had not understood beforehand that this could be an issue.

My second problem was that parties require entertainment, something else that I hadn’t considered. Had I just invited my friends round as normal we would have gone to my bedroom to chat and to play. As it was we sat awkwardly in the front room of my parents’ house without even music to drown out the lingering silence. As I tried to engage each of my friends in conversation it became clear that all they had in common was me.

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The trauma of that afternoon has stayed with me to this day, perhaps even sowing the seed of my social anxiety. Looking back I cannot explain why I did not just suggest that we go upstairs to chill and relax. I had advertised the event as a party, did not know how to make it happen, and lacked discernment to manage a change of plan.

My mother had prepared food but I cannot recall how this was received. My memory is of silence and awkwardness, drowning out all recollection of how I got through however long my friends stayed. I wanted nothing more than to be anywhere else and alone; I knew that I was hosting a disaster.

I have had one other birthday party since, although it took me thirty-two years to summon up the courage to try again. That second party was more of a success, but not one I have attempted to repeat. Celebrating a birthday quietly with my family has turned out to be the more appealing option after all.

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Progress

Did I mention that I had a busy week coming up? Having reached the half way mark I feel that I am on top of things, but only just. I have worked my way through the mind storm that blew up over the weekend, which I wrote about on Monday, and moved on. My husband is treading carefully around me. He recognises that I was hurt; I feel loved.

Yesterday was his birthday so we had a family celebration. It would seem that age is inversely proportional to the volume of presents received, but a cake was baked, champagne drunk and we had an enjoyable evening out at a local pub restaurant. It is becoming increasingly rare for my whole family to choose to spend time together which made this special.

Since the weekend I have been thinking about how just a few words can be misinterpreted causing unintentional pain. My daughter put on a new dress for our evening out and looked fabulous. It skimmed her figure perfectly, defining her waist. I commented that it made her look slim, which she immediately took to mean that she normally looks the opposite. It seems that I made a mistake mentioning size.

Are we particularly sensitive about the things that matter to us, or about the things that society values? I was hurt by the suggestion that I was wasting my time writing, despite the activity being of benefit to me and thereby also to my family (a happy momma is an aid to all). My daughter, despite being slim, healthy and beautiful, frets over her size, probably because it is discussed by her peers who see it as important.

However much we recognise what matters and what is superficial, it can be hard to live within a society that is critical of our choices. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why I find it so hard to cope with social gatherings; my way of thinking goes against the conditioning of so many.

My mother worries about my weight because, to her, how a woman looks will determine her standing in society. If I question her views then she takes this as a personal slight, a criticism of how she is. I know that she loves me whatever I look like, but the superficial is important to her and she will never be able to comprehend how little it matters to me. I say little because even I cannot dismiss it entirely. I can tell myself that it does not matter, but struggle to shrug off the influences I have lived with throughout my life.

Yesterday I attended a Parent / Teacher evening at my children’s school. My youngest is choosing the subjects that he will study for his GCSEs so it was important that I attend. I thought long and hard about what I should wear, how I should present myself. I did not wish to embarrass my son when so many of his classmates would be present, and I wished to appear competent and interested in front of his teachers. On this occasion, how I looked mattered.

I sometimes think that I would like to live in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful countryside but no other people. I could indulge in long walks, write to my heart’s content, and not worry about how I was perceived by anyone else.

Real life is, of course, not so straightforward. I wish to be with my husband and children, and they gain pleasure from the company of others. When I do get together with my friends for walks I benefit from their company. I am not an island.

I have progressed enough to understand my need to cultivate a greater acceptance of how others think and feel. I rail against what I see as attempts to change me. What I need to be working on is accepting that others choose to grant importance to how they are perceived; these differences need not be seen as criticism of my choices. Just as my mother cannot comprehend how looks matter so little to me, so I must not judge others harshly for caring about such things. What difference does it make to my life if they value how they are coiffed and costumed?

Today there is a cold, thick fog oppressing the countryside around my home. Tempting though it is to stay snug and warm inside, I will venture out to the gym. I will feel better for a little exercise, especially after last night’s delicious but indulgent meal. Improving my health will take time and work. At least this week I feel that I have taken a few small steps towards improving my mental well being.

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Mothers and daughters

I have been reading a lot of thought provoking posts recently on how we raise and treat sons and daughters, boys and girls. Expectations about gender have been discussed, from the pinkness of girl’s toys to allowing boys to wear dresses if they wish to. Whether we, as parents, should actively encourage gender neutral play or just let our kids do what they want and go with the flow.

I did not dress my daughter in pink when she was little, and she had few dresses. With two brothers growing up behind her I was always aware of the cost of clothes and how short a time they were worn for. I dressed my daughter in outfits that could be passed on and bought her toys that all three could play with. I took hand me downs from anyone generous enough to offer them, and most of these came from boys.

She did have a few dolls, but I only remember her playing with one just after her younger brother was born. She asked for real nappies and discarded the play bottles, hitching up her t shirt to feed her ‘baby’ from her toddler chest while I nursed her brother. She soon tired of this game and returned to her soft toys, trucks and Lego. At three years old she had more interesting games to play.

When they were little I remember one of her brothers kicking out at her; and their grandmother, appalled, telling my son that he must never, ever kick or hit a girl. Had she not added the girl bit I would not have objected to the reprimand. It was the kick that was naughty, not the fact that she was a girl. I would have been just as cross had my daughter kicked her brother. I did my best to raise them to follow the same rules, with no special treatment based on gender.

All three of my children played football and hockey, trained in judo and joined Scouts. My daughter did try Brownies and Guides, but never felt that she fitted in so well. Boys were more straightforward, less moody, more willing to build rockets, play outside in foul weather, get muddy without fuss. At least some of them were, the ones that she wished to play with.

It suited our family to have a daughter who showed little interest in her looks or her clothes, although I didn’t give this much thought until last year. She surprised me by deciding that she wished to attend her school Prom, so we needed to consider dress, shoes, hair and make up. I began to see a pattern amongst her peers that, perhaps naively, surprised me.

From the small sample that I observed, the daughters of mothers who dyed their hair blond and their skin tan, did the same. Mothers who liked impractical shoes and would not leave the house without make up, had daughters who chose to wear high heels and make up. Mothers with a more relaxed attitude to their looks had daughters who were happy to allow their natural beauty to take centre stage.

Given that most sixteen year old girls look fabulous whatever they wear, all the girls at the event looked amazing. I did not enquire but suspect that each mother thought that their daughter looked at her best. I certainly perceived my daughter as beautiful, although I often do even in the most ordinary of situations.

My surprise was, I guess, more that the daughters reflected their mothers choices so clearly. I wonder which of them would be most appalled at this thought.

Much as I love my mother I have never aspired to be like her. I see little similarity between us in either looks or outlook. So many of the young girls I observed seemed to be clear reflections of their mother’s tastes.

I can see both my husband and me in our daughter and I like that. She is also an individual in her own right. Perhaps sixteen was just too young and these young ladies will find their own way in the years to come. I am aware that my choices for myself are now influenced by my daughter, so perhaps it should not surprise me that some of my influences may rub off on her.

My sons seem so much less like me than my daughter, although my elder son is his father in just about every way except looks. I know that many of my views and habits now irritate him so perhaps he is reacting against that, or perhaps our influence as parents is not so great and my daughter merely tries harder to please.

The nature versus nurture debate is an interesting one.  There is no doubt that, as they grow older, parental influence diminishes, as it should if the world is to progress.

My children give me hope for the future because they do not dwell on gender, race or creed as so many adults did when I was growing up. They expect equal treatment as a right. Perhaps it is time for we adults to listen more to our young people and less to conventions that have caused the problems we are now trying to avoid.

The generations move on and so must we, guiding lovingly and mindfully until our young people are ready to lead us into the future.

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Using time and words wisely

When they were younger I used to love having my kids off school for the holidays. Their organised activities would take a break alongside the demands of academia meaning that we could do whatever we wished whenever we wished. It was a chance to visit museums, play in the park, climb a mountain, go for long cycle rides and picnics. It was a time to do new, fun stuff all together.

These days my kids each have their own ideas of what constitutes fun and it rarely involves me. I have found my own ways to enjoy myself, but having them off school impacts my day in ways that they seem unable to comprehend. They assure me that they do not need me, get annoyed with me if I am perceived to interfere with their plans, yet expect me to respond to their whims when it suits them. Their demands for food seem never ending, and if I am here then I am expected to provide.

This week, the February half term break, has always been a challenging holiday to make best use of. The lingering, winter weather is unpredictable and many places of interest have yet to open their doors to the public for the season. We plan a trip to the seaside later in the week but may struggle to spend much time outside without risking being blown or washed away in the current stormy conditions.

When my husband takes time off work he likes to be active. Not for him a lazy afternoon, curled up on a sofa with a good book. He will not take a computer away with him so is without the sudoku puzzles that occupy his down time at weekends. Having paid to go away he will want to be up and out and doing. He will be cross if our boys spend too much of their time on line, for that they could stay at home. He wishes us all to make the most of our time away.

When I think of an ideal short break I picture books, writing, long walks and good food. I enjoy people watching, experiencing new places, idly chatting about the minutiae of all that I observe. I want to store it all up and then savour the sights, sounds and experiences that I have absorbed at my leisure.

We had a still and sunny day on Sunday after a long period of wild, wet weather. I suggested that we take a walk and two members of my family opted to join me. It took us over an hour simply to get out of the house, worse than when I had toddlers to organise. The walk was well worth doing, enjoyable and relaxing, but I question why such a simple activity seems to require so much effort to make happen.

Yesterday, for reasons that I can no longer remember, I had organised dental check ups for myself and my boys. Why I thought this a good way to spend a morning off school I do not know. Once more, getting everyone out of the house was the challenge, mainly because I have a pathological dislike of being late. I would hate anyone to think that I consider my time more valuable than theirs and therefore that they should be willing to wait for me. I managed to get us to the appointment on time but arrived stressed. It was not a good start to the day.

This morning I am grateful to have the chance to relax. My husband is at work so, until my children emerge from their slumbers, I have a peaceful house. I can settle to write.

My writing has taken a short hiatus after a busy few weeks. Much as I have enjoyed entering the various challenges that I have chosen to take part in, these have not always fulfilled their initial promise. A story I wrote last week was read only a few of dozen times in a field that attracted a couple of hundred votes. My effort was not even considered by most. When the numbers start to matter it is time to step back, I see little point in me writing if it is not purely for my own pleasure.

I have new ideas though, for stories and for how I wish to present them. I also have new ideas about how I will manage the evolving dynamics of my family. It is good that we have a few days away to look forward to. I will have a room with a balcony view of the coastline and no requirements to cook for a couple of days. I may not be able to devote as many hours to my books and my writing as I would wish for, but I will have the opportunity to feed my imagination and replenish my soul with the beauty and power of the sea.

I will also have the opportunity to talk to my family about how they treat me. I find it so much harder to find those sorts of words than the ones that I write down.

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So what do I do all day?

As a stay at home mum there are plenty out there who love to comment on my lifestyle, choices and use of time. There is the obvious and predictable ‘So what do you do all day?’ To be honest though, most people are more subtle.

Some share such unasked for nuggets of thought as ‘I would get bored at home all day’ or ‘Have you thought of going back to work?’

Others point out opportunities that they seem to feel I am missing out on such as volunteer positions in areas of interest, or clubs and societies that they believe I would benefit from joining.

They mean well. They sincerely wish to help. These are friendly, caring people who have my best interests at heart.

The only problem with all of these well intentioned comments is that they suggest I have too much time on my hands. Please allow me to make an announcement people: I do not have nearly enough time to achieve all of the things that I wish to do. If you could arrange it for me, another half dozen hours each day would be great thanks. If you can’t manage that then I need to be more efficient with all that I already try to do in order to fit it all in.

I know that I am in the fortunate position of being able to choose how I spend a large chunk of my week. Once I get the food, cleaning, tidying and laundry sorted each day I can tackle my ‘to do’ list. There are ongoing jobs in the house and garden to see to, my hens to keep happy and a running list of tasks to complete for family members. After that I move onto the things that I choose to do for me, and it is here that I never have enough time.

I want to visit the gym, go for walks, swim, meet up with friends, read books, watch films and write. I cannot get all of these done in the time available.

Take this week as an example. I wanted to write three short stories for three challenges. So far I have written two, one of which I was pleased with and one which I felt I had to rush, but which I will submit for the useful feedback. I still hope to find time to write the third but I am not sure when I will be able to squeeze this in.

In order to participate in one of the challenges I was required to read over thirty short stories, so that has been my reading this week. I haven’t had time to open a book since the weekend, and I have been leant one that I really want to read. I need to clear this as I have agreed to do a book review for another on line site, so when my copy of that arrives it will take priority.

On two mornings this week I met up with friends for walks, getting rather wet in the process given our recent weather. It was great to catch up with these lovely ladies, but in choosing to walk I have not been able to find time to visit the gym or swim. I miss my relaxing swims as they give me an opportunity to think about and plan my stories.

I am sitting here writing again when I should really be prepping dinner, thus my early evening will be spent on that task. It all fits so long as I do not plan any relaxation time, so no films until the weekend.

Now of course, I could just not write. I am not required to read or exercise. So long as I keep the house ticking over most of the things that I do are for me. I am well aware that there are many people who do not have my freedom of choice, who have to go out to earn a living or who have young and demanding children to care for. I am well aware of the privileges that I enjoy.

My point is that I do not need more to fill my time, I already try to squeeze too much into each day. I have no idea how my friends find the time to go to their clubs and societies, I guess they just give these higher priority than some other things they may also consider doing.

That is what it comes down to after all, priorities. I have hobbies and interests that eat time. I derive satisfaction from creating stories, maintaining this blog, joining in with discussions on the writer’s communities on line to which I subscribe. I do what feels right for me, whereas others do what feels right for them.

So what do I do all day? As much as I can squeeze into the few short hours between when I get up in the morning and when I go to bed at night. At the end of each day, if I have created a new piece of writing with which I am pleased then I feel that I have achieved something. Perhaps tomorrow I will find time for that workout and swim.

However you choose to fill whatever free time you have, I hope that you derive enjoyment from it. Such time is never wasted.

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First day blues

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme the First Day of School.

You can steal me and use me as your own

I had never intended to be there. This had not been a part of my grand, life plan, dreamed about for so many years. Nevertheless, there I was, standing around waiting to meet up with a few old friends from school who had also ended up at this place. We were getting together to attend the Fresher’s Bazaar on our first day at university.

In 1983 The Queens University of Belfast was not the university of choice for most British students. It had a highly regarded medical school where students got to see first hand how to treat bomb damaged bodies and the victims of shootings. Being so close to the centre of a troubled city was not, however, regarded as ideal for those unfamiliar with the province. However good the teaching may have been, location mattered.

It was not The Troubles that I was trying to escape from but rather the mindset of the people who perpetuated what I regarded as a pointless conflict. Some of the teenagers I had grown up with were starting to talk like their parents, to harbour the same prejudices. I wanted out.

I had applied to study at The University of Western Australia and received a generous scholarship offer dependant on acceptable grades in my final school exams. I also had an offer from The University of Warwick, and my safety net offer from Queens. All the locals knew that Queens could provide a safety net because there just wasn’t the same competition for places at that time.

Some chose this place because they were happy to stay close to their families. I was not one of them.

The day my ‘A’ level results came out my hopes and dreams were shattered and I knew that I only had myself to blame. I had studied subjects that were beyond my ability and had not put in the effort that would have been required to sufficiently raise my grades.

I would not be flying away to sunny Perth to start my life anew, or even travelling across the water to the mainland. Instead I would be catching the Number 38 bus from outside my parent’s house and travelling three miles down the road, past both my primary and my secondary schools, to attend my local university, Queens. I recognised that I was fortunate that they had agreed to take me despite my poor results. I knew some had not been even this lucky.

September was filled with pub crawls to say goodbye to the friends who had got away. At the end of the month those of us who were left arranged to meet up at the Fresher’s Bazaar. We were a motley crew, brought together by chance and circumstance. It was not the exciting new start that I had anticipated.

The Fresher’s Bazaar was full of stalls manned by the various clubs and societies run by the university. I stopped off at the University Air Squadron stand where one of the volunteers tried to chat me up. The banner overhead invited students to learn to fly; I rather liked the idea of that. However, it soon became clear that there was a problem; I was female. Oh, they most definitely wanted me to join, but they could not offer to training me as a pilot. The heated discussion on discrimination that I was eager to pursue was cut short when my friends pulled me away. Somehow this episode seemed to sum up my day.

We organised our student cards and membership of the sports club before retiring to one of the many bars in the Students Union, a place where I spent a lot of my time in that first year. I attended the parties and balls, sold the Rag magazine, dressed up for parades, but never felt that I fitted in. Most of the friends I had were from my school days, friends and friends of friends. I lost touch with the few new acquaintances that I got to know when I left the place five years later.

On that first day at university I knew that I had put on hold the life that I wanted in order to gain the qualification that I needed to eventually fulfil my dreams. Queens is a fine university and the quality of the teaching could not be faulted, it was simply not where I wanted to be.

With the benefit of hindsight I can see that everything happens for a reason, that the life I now lead and love would not have come about had I achieved my ambitions way back then. At the time though, that first day had the taste of failure. I determined that I would do all that I could to ensure I never experienced that taste again.

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To read the other posts in this Blog Hop, click on the link below.

Tasks and time

It started off a good week. A visit to the gym, a chat with a friend. I was still feeling poorly though. Turns out I was ill at the end of last week, not just tired and old. Still, I was feeling positive and getting on. It was fine.

I managed a walk with a friend on Tuesday. The sun came out and I was feeling a little better. I allowed myself reading and writing time, a glass of wine in the evening.

I didn’t get to the gym yesterday. My left knee hurts, I have other tasks demanding my attention. It is raining again.

Why does my mood dip in this way? Am I doing anything wrong or is it just how I am? I keep busy, active when I feel up to it. So often these days I do not feel up to it. I wonder if I am just making excuses.

Today I need to cook and clean. The days go so fast. All those hours stretching out in front of me, available for accomplishment and progress. I find myself feeling despair as the clock ticks past 2pm and I realise that I have so little time left before my kids get home from school and my productive day finishes. I love my kids, spending time with them, but why do those hours when I need to be achieving go so fast?

‘What do you do all day?’ my son asks. I explain to him but he doesn’t listen. Same old, same old, nothing worthwhile. I bite back the retort about food and laundry and a pleasant environment in which to live. We have had this conversation too many times already.

It is not that I am madly rushed, nor that any of what I do is so hard. It is the relentlessness of the tasks that can never be completed. There is always more dust, more mess to sort out. A woman’s work is never done. Why is that only said about women?

I know, I know that I am privileged and I would not choose to change my life. Still though, still I want more time just to breathe. I who have so much more time than most, who can choose how I spend my day. I do not do so many of the tasks that I should because I need to open my wings and fly.

‘You should manage your time better’ my son tells me. He is right and I try. I try to set aside days for the house, days for my health, days just for me. But those hours go by so quickly and the day is gone, tasks incomplete, dreams set aside. When did time start moving so fast?

I write lists in an attempt to ensure that what is important gets completed. I have whiteboards on the fridge, a family diary, prompts on my computer. Always I am working towards multiple goals, aren’t we all? Does everyone feel as exhausted by the effort to keep on top of these never ending tasks as I do?

I will get on, keep pushing that boulder towards the top of the mountain. Perhaps progress is slow because I stop too often. The view is amazing.

Sisyphus_Mom

I am linking up with Perfection Pending.

Perfection Pending


A weekend away

I am currently enjoying the cosy warmth of a small, woodland lodge with my elder two children. Outside our window is a lake where a number of ducks appear to be revelling in the rain. They are the only ones doing so. Since we set off from our home yesterday morning the weather has been utterly foul.

Thankfully we are on a site where there is plenty to do whatever the weather. Our current inactivity is the result of a need to prepare for exams rather than a lack of attractive alternatives. As I write this my children are discussing ‘A’ level physics, not a conversation I am capable of usefully contributing to. My husband and younger son have escaped to the swimming complex for the afternoon.

As well as the lake and the ducks I can admire our very wet bicycles, securely locked up outside our lodge. Early last week my husband suggested that, given the unfriendly weather forecast for the time we were planning on being away, we should leave our bicycles at home. The children were having none of it. Since they were toddlers we have been coming to Center Parcs for regular, family holidays and we have always travelled around the site on our bicycles. It is a part of the holiday that they enjoy.

Thus, yesterday morning, my husband was up bright and early attaching racks and bicycles to the roof of our car. He then faced the challenge of driving a much heightened vehicle through the increasingly wet and windy conditions to get us to our destination. On arrival we where greeted by a thunderstorm and hailstones the size of golf balls. I kid you not. I have never seen anything like it.

We beat a hasty retreat to the swimming complex and had a most enjoyable few hours making good use of the various flumes and pools. Well, the rest of the family did this. I sat and read my book with a warming cup of coffee. Much as I like to swim I am not a leisure pool person. I prefer to swim up and down, counting length after length, before relaxing in a hot jacuzzi. Such things are not possible here where the pools are filled with families having fun with floats and other water toys.

I was, however, happy with my book and my coffee; watching the rain through the glass domed roof; handing out snacks as hungry family members randomly appeared in need of nourishment. It was dark by the time we were ready to make our way to the accommodation.

While I unpacked our belongings and prepared our lodge for a few days stay my husband unloaded the sodden bikes, slipping down a hidden gully as he wrestled them off the high roof of our MPV. Of the two pairs of trousers that he brought for the weekend, one pair is now impressively coated in mud. The air was less impressively filled with his exclamations at this turn of events. I hope that no young children were within earshot at the time.

The bikes are now likely to remain locked outside our lodge until it is time to load them onto the roof of the car again at the end of our short stay. The rain is not forecast to stop. I think perhaps we should have left them at home as was suggested.

One of the down sides of bad weather on a site like this is that it drives everyone inside. The sports hall was packed this morning when we walked down to book some activities; perhaps it is as well that there is school work to complete this afternoon. Tomorrow we will enjoy an afternoon of table tennis, badminton and squash, but there are only so many of these sports that we wish to play in the short space of time available.

It is interesting to note how the demands of the family change over time. When they were little we would book the children into craft workshops. As they got older they tried the challenge activities available such as archery, climbing and abseiling. These days they are more interested in racquet sports or, if the weather would only allow, walks and cycle rides. They are just as capable as they ever were of growing bored.

Personally I do not consider boredom to be a bad thing. If entertainment is constantly provided by others then one never learns how to explore alternatives for oneself. My children are certainly old enough to be working out what they enjoy. I have so many things that I wish to do that free time is never wasted.

For me then a good holiday is one where we can spend time doing things together, where we can enjoy the camaraderie as much as the activity; and some time when we can simply relax and enjoy whatever we choose to do as individuals. It will be unfortunate if the weather restricts our options too much. It is also rather a shame that the WiFi connections available are so limited; I think that is proving to be frustrating for us all.

When they were younger I would severely restrict my children’s screen time, but these days I am much more lax. They have been offered the option to try a huge variety of sports and activities over the years. If what they now choose to do when on holiday requires electronic equipment then I feel I must, to a certain degree, accept that decision. I can hardly complain when I too choose to log on. Holidays are a time to indulge in the things which we enjoy, and I am as much an internet addict as anyone.

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