I’ve visited Wembley IKEA, but I last spent proper time in London 12 years ago when my eldest was eight weeks. I hadn’t thought through things like breastfeeding on a rush-hour tube- with a rucksac on my back and the baby in a complex set of straps on front.
It was probably unfair I took against my capital city after that. This weekend the sun was out, I had another adult to help me and four weaned children carrying their own stuff.
And then on Monday, my youngest developed chicken pox. It explained why he’d been a bit whingey and decided to sit down in the middle of the pavement on a couple of occassions. He’d done rather well considering he’d been incubating a virus.
I found the rash in the middle of TESCOs. We were duty-bound to get out of there as quickly as possible, but I’d done most of my shopping and we were only an aisle away from a bottle of Calpol and some cooling spray. We left the store prepared for quarantine.
Tuesday was unpleasant for a while. The victim developed a blister in his mouth and didn’t want to eat anything, but he was on over-cooked pasta and yoghurt by teatime.
And today it looks as if everything’s crusted over. His appearance may clear play parks and swimming pools, but he’s no longer infectious. We can leave the house.
I’m theoretically in control of what happens over the pages of my novel. My say-so is required for Zombie apocalypse, Viking invasion or any other horror. And I’m writing women’s fiction. So it would be pretty irrational to be frightened of it.
But I was, mainly because I had no idea where to begin. As soon as I realised I had some time to begin another edit, I signed myself up to improve my French on Duolingo, rediscovered my Freecell addiction and did some washing.
I then remembered Hillary Rettig’s advice not to get hung up on getting everything right in one go, and to do multiple drafts. With some of the pressure off, I bravely opened the file. Immediately, one of its many faults came to my rescue. I needed to change half of it into the past tense. That would keep me busy for a week or two.
Ah! you might be thinking. She’s doing something clever with points of view and structure. No! I just couldn’t decide as I was drafting it which tense it should all be in. And once I had, kept forgetting. So when I say half of it is still in the present tense, I mean there are some scenes with both. I’ve told you this already. It’s a Nanowrimo novel.
“I don’t know why you’re miserable.” My husband has never been comfortable with emotion. His strengths lie elsewhere.
“Brexit,” I said.
“Oh! That’s completely rational. It’s going to be a disaster.”
So far, I’ve not said much about Brexit online because friends I respect voted for it. I disagree with their decision, but I don’t think it was the electorate’s fault. We weren’t given enough information. What we were given was misleading, sometimes downright deceitful.
But I’m horrified by Parliament. We elect MPs to act in our best interests, even if that makes them unpopular. Unlike the rest of us, they’ve been fully briefed on the issues. The majority are convinced we should remain, but yet they’ve pressed on towards a “Hard Brexit”. “The people have spoken!” May says. I bet we’d shout something else now.
There I was, telling myself that now we’d triggered Article 50, it was time to move on, I couldn’t do anything about it, when I heard Nick Clegg saying this:
I met a deadline yesterday. Relaxing a little today, I had a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with my next one. I’d already done the research and produced a rough draft. Now it’s a matter of making sure it reads well, makes sense and importantly comes in at the right number of words. Hopefully, I’ll manage to send it in a few days early.
This means that tomorrow, I can afford to focus on other things in my life, like catching up with friends. I’m not talking about long lunches, just messaging people to let them know I’m still alive. And laundry. I wish I knew how to drop housework into a writing day, but I don’t really. You’d think it would be easy to put a load of washing on when I’m working in the next room.
If any of you have any tips on the whole freelancing/housework balance thing, I genuinely want to know.
I have changed my mind about voluntary work in the last few years. The term used to conjure up images of motherly women in charity shops or retired men driving minibuses- good people doing things because that’s what good people do.
Until I updated my CV, I didn’t realise I’d done so much of it myself. I may have joined teams because they needed someone, but I stayed because I was having fun.
I’ve picked up skills without noticing. I would never have understood the point of my own blog if I hadn’t written so many run reports for the parkrun website. Or how social media works if I hadn’t needed it to rabble rouse athletes.
It gave me too much joy to count as ‘voluntary work’. I had to check other people’s blog posts conformed with house style (‘parkrun’ is spelt with a small ‘p’ even at the beginning of a sentence; hundreds of people turn up on a Saturday morning for a ‘run’ and not a ‘race’, and no one wins it, although they might finish first.) For a word junkie, there’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about correcting other people’s mistakes. It’s an involuntary reflex.
And that was before I was allowed to process results. Or free reign of the microphone at the briefings.
My article about Harriet Tubman is published on the History Extra website today. My US readers may wonder if I really need to explain who she is. They’ve all learnt about Harriet and her achievements in school. Their treasury is planning to put her on the $20 bill- the first woman since Martha Washington.
Believe it or not, few of my friends in Britain have heard of her. So here goes.
She grew up in slavery in Maryland. After her own escape, she repeated the same perilous journey thirteen times to guide around 70 others to freedom. Later, she became the first woman to lead an armed raid in the American Civil War, releasing 756 more.
Her story is one of the best, inspiring because it’s true. You can read it for free on the link above.
You may not have noticed, but I’ve been blogging weekly since New Year. I’m quite proud of myself.
There are many benefits, the most obvious of which is my connection with you lovely lot. However, I have to fight perfectionism and vanity to do it. I want each post to be as interesting, as amusing and grammatically correct as the last. And the pictures I’ve taken with a cracked £40 phone to be as beautiful as those in a travel magazine.
But you know that’s not the case, and the fact you’re still here teaches me a lesson: we’re imperfect, fallen human beings with the capacity to enjoy imperfect things.
So, I’m posting this on a Saturday, instead of the Thursday I was aiming for. I’ve not told you the half of what’s happened this week, I can’t see a joke in the last 150 words and I’m showing you a picture of the garden because frankly, the house is too messy for anyone to see. But something is going up because it’s good for me.
Thank you for still being here.