Oh, January. Oh, how you have teased me with your ups and downs. In the space of 29 days, I have gone from thinking I was highly employable, sought after, on the cusp of career greatness (throwing around ideas of the ‘critical mass of my content’, and blathering on about ‘years of honing my writing craft’ to everyone within earshot) to now having a to-do list that reads ‘make cake’, ‘fix button’ and ‘pay tax’. There is nothing in between for me except to look after the baby, walk the dog, keep checking the dregs of the Net-A-Porter and Matches sales and to continue making dinner for everyone.
Early January was looking good. After an overexcited New Year’s Eve where I started drinking celebratory things with lunch while playing Secret Hitler (which then ended, embarrassingly, with me leaving a NYE party at 6pm when the critical mass of my alcohol content spiralled, involving a long cold walk home and a lie down in a dark room to avoid the spinning ceiling) there was a 22 year wedding anniversary which we shared with a house guest celebrating a birthday and I ordered some good stuff in the sales, adding a second Batsheva puffed sleeve ’80s awkward dress to my collection and then copied my BDF Liz (that’s Best Dressed Friend) by buying the same green boiler suit that she wore so well in the heady days of June 2019. Here is me in the Batsheva madness on my way to the party on New Year’s Eve, already quite anaesthetised and thus feeling like taking photographs of myself in the toilet was quite necessary:
And here is a photo of a photo of us and our wedding party a whole 22 years ago. Oh, if only things turned out as nicely romantic as you think it will when you are a 20 year old ding dong with a pudding face:
So far, so Janu-very-good. There was also a mid-month food-laden book club where we discussed Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and ate roasted aubergines, sourdough, dukkah, butternut squash galette and a tahini, lemon and white chocolate cake, Remi turned one and then three great worky things came all at once. There’s this book coming out in March which I have already told you all about (cringe but COME ON, I’M IN A BOOK!) so please pre-order if you fancy a most cracking read about mothering of the not-annoying kind, and a nice bit of legal event-y work that I will be involved in if the project goes ahead, and then, a few weeks ago, I was commissioned to write something fun for a very excellent magazine. That particular gig made me purple with giddy pleasure – I dashed it off in an afternoon and a half, filed a full week early like the approval-seeking A-type nerdy dolt that I am and waited for some confirmation that all was good so I could plaster the news all over my social media platforms like an over-eager middle-aged lady that I am.
I didn’t hear anything back from the magazine commission for quite a few of my January days though, but I imagined in my most glass-half full moments that when the piece got read, it literally knocked everyone off their open-plan office chairs and then they died and no one in the whole office was alive to tell me how good it was.
I really was beginning to think this might be the year I could claim to have a purpose outside of the baby factory. Of course, I love the baby factory aspect – specifically when it leads to the current baby who now walks and sleeps through the night thanks to a harsh cold turkey situation as a result of a hen’s weekend, but there is also a big fat chunk of me who loves writing and working and having stuff to do that has a wider audience than my unappreciative children and kind but distracted husband.
Here’s the baby on his birthday, just a tiny bit dirty but a lot happy (also, maybe, confused):
Then everything just dried up. The year stretches before me, a cool 11 months full of no scheduled work, no deadlines, my usual workload halved owing to that thing that always happens to magazines. The commission piece in the fun magazine ‘has not been pegged to an issue’, appaz, and I suspect I’ll need to rewrite it. It seems they did not fall off their chairs in a dazed admiration of my brilliance after all and no one was *that* into my honed written craft. There are more promises – nay, suggestions – of possible work, but what is a suggestion if not the absence of both actual work and cold hard cash? Also, my personal tax bill is £8000 and is due in two days.
So that’s all a bit of a sad thing, but there are even more other pressing issues than me indulging in a bit of New Year whinging. We have had a family emergency and so Mark is flying home tomorrow and taking Otis with him, via Hong Kong (masks and hand gel at the ready). This is tricky because of work and school and the unyielding Westminster Council re: term time absence and last minute flying costs and the fact that Mark and Otis will miss two kid’s birthdays and what would have been two birthday parties ON THE SAME DAY with many, many children and with now just me to manage all of that with a stroppy baby on my hip and a broken truck. Worse though, much worse, is that someone we love is sick and in pain and is very far away.
We knew we would get the news one day. It’s kind of written in the small print that when you choose to live this far away from your family, it can’t run smoothly forever and that you’ll one day get The Call and then everything suddenly shifts. You finally realise that nothing is constant or a given except maybe the inevitability of things going wrong, people growing old, lives becoming unstuck and painful and people feeling sick, sad or hurt. And so it is, and we will have to figure out how to recalibrate everything. It all feels very uncertain and like this is just the beginning.
So I’ve invested in some Pat McGrath gold eyeshadow (one of my Net-A-Porter sale dregs efforts) to lighten the mood. See below for my cack-handed attempts at looking catwalk on the school run:
Do I remind you of anyone?
Sorry to hear a loved one is ill. My father-in-law passed away just after Christmas and my brother-in-law, who lives in Cornwall (we’re in Leicester – some 300 miles away) told me that his three kids only get one day of grace despite the journey. For any other unsolicited absences, they are charged £60 per parent per day per kid. They ended up staying up here for a meagre 3 (‘working’) days and plan to appeal the shit out of this ridiculous rule x
It is a ridiculous rule…you don’t get any time off unless you are attending a funeral which is hardly the point! Better to spend a few days with them while still alive, am I right???
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Sorry to hear that. I am so glad we don’t have this stupid, stupid rule regarding absences where we live. It really seems designed to undermine family relationships.
Agreed. It’s very short sighted, I think
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The beauty of having a Maori culture with a tangi lasting days….can’t see absences ever being charged here! Whanau is everything. 💕 Thinking of you all as Mark and Otis wing their way over here.
A much better approach. I think the Irish and Welsh do a proper wake/grieving process too….it is such a shame that school attendance is deemed much more important.
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Oh, the dreaded return home when family is ill. I feel for you. There are many anxious aspects of being far from home (and many delightful ones too), but this is hands down the worst. I feel your pain. But I love your glittery eyeshadow and I love that tiny boy of yours (all your boys are magnificent) and I love the joy you bring to my life when you post, even when the news is less than happy. Seriously, I’m feeling the isolation of being an expat a great deal these days (and I should be an old hand, with nearly twenty years on my record) but reading your words about the oddities and the beauty and the pain and the nonsense of life wherever we find ourselves …. well, it’s a bloody magnificent tonic for my weary soul. Thank you, Queen Harridan. You enrich my days …
Well! What a truly lovely thing to say! That is so encouraging – I am so glad that my witterings mean something. Thank you so much for telling me so. >
Do please keep WITTERING ad infinitum. Yours are the very best witterings. Hands down.