Omnishambles*

A big huge thank you to all the 13 of you who filled out the survey! Someone left a very intriguing message when I asked what else you, dear readers, would like to read about in this here blog. “Go meatier” they urged. “Travel, ethics, politics…”
And I thought, typically, “Well I don’t go anywhere much, and my ethics are a bit shaky, and I’m not going to bang on about Brexit..”

Events, however, have conspired against me. I haven’t been much of a fan of UK politics, because I’ve been feeling so sad and disengaged ever since sitting in an Ibiza hotel room watching the Tories rustling up Theresa May as their brand shiny new Prime Minister on BBC News 24, while Labour were undergoing an embarrassingly extended leadership contest. In fact, I cancelled my membership of Labour months ago, after Corbyn was confirmed as leader. Labour, bless them, didn’t appear to notice until on Monday night, Labour sent me a slightly shirty sounding email telling me I had 24 hours to renew my membership, and I sent back an email basically saying “Sort Corbyn, mushes, and you’ll get my monies.”

On Tuesday morning, I was watching the scrolling news on the tv screens at work, and seriously took my glasses off and rubbed my eyes, thinking that I had misread the ticker tape. But no, there she was, Theresa May, pudding bowl of steely hair, creature of the night gimlet eyes, announcing a snap General Election.

Awww NOOOO! I thought. You see, I had been writing a blog post about how when you have shit going down in your real life, you can’t face shit going down in the big wide world too. I’ve been ignoring Brexit (as much as a dedicated R4 listener and Guardian reader can). I decided to stop caring about Comrade Corbyn and his Momentum chums. I had stuff happening closer to home! My work and home life was imploding! And yes I do actually really care very much about this country, and people in poverty, and food banks and benefits cuts, and schools and education and the NHS, and I wanted to stay in Europe but I understand why some people didn’t. I care about it all very very much. But there are times when actually you don’t have the energy to care enough about the big things, when you’ve got big personal things happening that are overwhelming and scary.

And there’s another factor. Like so many others, I am tired of politics in this decade. I remember my first maternity leave, crying watching Brown leave Downing Street, because my baby girl was going to grow up under a Conservative government. I’m tired of leadership contests and referendums and new Prime Ministers. How much money is this General Election going to waste? Are Labour ready to fight a decent opposition campaign? (The answer is no). Can the Lib Dems recover from being tainted by their coalition experience and the tuition fees broken promise? And will the people who didn’t vote in the last General Election, and genuinely I do know someone who said they’d never voted until the Referendum on Europe, turn out and make the difference, make their voices heard?

Part of me has no faith, no confidence in any of it. Part of me thinks “Another bloody ballot, I can’t take this,” and I want to go and put my head under my duvet until June 10th. Another part of me, the hopeful part, thinks that maybe this is an opportunity for those of us who don’t like what’s happening across our country, who don’t fancy another five years of Tory rule, to rise up, somehow, and change things.

I don’t know if that’s at all realistic. I know I don’t live in a world which represents the experience of most people in this country. I know that we all live in our own echo chambers. The people we love, work with, stay in touch with on social media – we hear our own thoughts and feelings reflected back at us. Hence the number of people, colleagues, friends, who already have said, with that hopeful spark in their voices “it’s got to backfire on her, right?!” Maybe it will. But will it in a big enough way?

I’ve lost friends before, posting on social media about politics. Luckily I honed my ‘disagreeing but staying friends’ skills at university, when I hung out with some delightful Young Conservatives. In declaring my allegiances, I feel the need to reiterate that these thoughts and feelings, they are my own, and I’m not asking any of you reading this to vote the same way I might vote, or hold the same opinions I hold.

However, I guess this is a bit of a rallying cry in general, to those of us whose hearts sank at the news on Tuesday. We have to care. We have to get beyond feeling bogged down and unable to muster the energy to respond in the way we know we need to. No one is looking at this election with passion or enthusiasm, but at the very least, we need to gather enough motivation to cast our votes and to make our voices heard and our votes count. And then we can all go back to thinking about the small things that really matter, like which box set to watch, and what to eat for dinner and what to wear to work. Because it’s those things that make life bearable, the small, mundane and beautiful, against the canvas of the huge and impossible.

* From The Thick of It

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Muses 

​My muses are two women who never allowed “the pram in the hall” to stop them from creating. Here’s a picture of the double aperture ampersand frame on what I laughing call my “writing desk” – my two muses, pride of place, reminding me that I ought to stop procrastinating and start writing. Cause, you know, there’s no excuse. That’s why I chose two quotations by them as the descriptions for this blog.

Sylvia Plath, obviously. Enshrined by some in popular cultural discourse as shorthand for some kind of overwrought hysterical wronged woman, the poetry gets glossed over too often for the story behind the headlines. And I’m as susceptible to that as anyone, I think I’ve read all the main biographies, the journals, and then there’s Birthday Letters… At the painful quick, Ted Hughes was a serially unfaithful husband and Sylvia Plath was mentally ill (BPD? Bi-Polar? We’ll never know). Two flawed people, their failed marriage and their children. It’s the poetry that makes their story so unique, the power of the words left behind, speaking through the years. I’ve never really understood why some fans chiselled the “Hughes” off her gravestone. I get that it was in protest at the patriarchal oppression her husband inflicted upon her in death (rearranging the order of her last collection of poems) as in life, but that for me implies a level of public ownership of the poet that just isn’t actually real.  
Sylvia Plath is, for me, sixth form, finally getting poetry, grief, love, and aspiration. She’s in a little part of me, my writing… there is enough of her work assimilated within my own voice me for me to feel the burst of pleasure you get when you recognise an old friend when I read her work.

But as I grew older I put Plath aside as a childish thing, as if I was beyond that intensity, that passion, that longing. Then I came back to her, and developed a new found appreciation. There’s fresh realisation, and another layer of recognition. Re-reading the Wintering poems with renewed interest as bees are one of my own personal symbols of happiness. After years of struggling to improve my own writing, appreciating how she clearly was an immensely talented and accomplished poet. But I admire Plath most now because she wrote her Ariel poems when she was a single mother of two young children.

The world was different back in 1960 and you could live in North London in lodgings for nothing in comparison to today etc and even then Sylvia Plath was part of a creative liberal elite and would have probably had the money for household help but… She did it. She wrote. She wrote, I suppose, because it was her calling, because of the flames of pain and rage that licked inside of her that made her burn so brightly, so briefly, fuelled her. I admire her so because she did it despite being a mum. Despite having to do the baths the teas the park the bedtimes the face-wiping spill-clearing monotonous drudgery of motherhood. Because if there’s one thing guaranteed to get in the way of creativity it’s the inspiration crushing relentless exhaustion of caring for young children.
And so to JK, national treasure. Queen of the Twitter put-down. She’s a bit marmite, you know. Some people don’t appreciate her (yeah, you know who you are). I know she’s one of those lefty liberal rich types and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but she gave so much of her fortune to charity she slipped off the rich list. Above all, there’s something about her that reminds me of a form teacher who’d give a Year 9 girl really good advice, probably because that’s kind of what she is.

The pictures of JK Rowling when she was first published show a woman with long red hair who really could have been Harry Potter’s mum from the description in the book, posing in the cafe where she used to write. I secretly love how glamorous she’s got as she’s got older, blonder, more polished. Yeah, it’s to do with being rich, but also, she’s clearly so confident, she found herself. And she deserves to feel proud of what she achieved. JK did it too. Wrote because there was no option for her but to write. Coffee shop, baby in the pram, she has described so many times how she hit rock bottom, felt like a terrible failure, and… out of it came something magical. She’s not the best writer in the world, but what she’s achieved is amazing.

So since this is *write more* live more, I thought it was important to check in with the writing bit. I haven’t written enough. I haven’t written nearly enough. All the stories, in my head, unwritten. All the ideas in my own personal cloud. This blog. The unfinished novel. Got to crack on and do it. What if I die and no one ever has read my writing? Maybe that’s what the whole of my 35-year-old midlife crisis has been about. Maybe I need to learn a bit from my muses, make the most of my inner fire, and go for it.

Holidays 

There was radio silence for a bit there! Sorry. Simply busy with other things – the Live More part of Write More Live More, I suppose. And of course, I did put out the survey. More on that in another post.

The girls are on school holidays, but of course Hampshire school hols don’t match Cambridgeshire school hols. Luckily my stepmum doesn’t work Fridays, so I took last Friday off and drove us down to my family. The M25 was hell on earth. If ever get to purgatory it’ll be the M25… anyway, we survived the three hour journey and were greeted warmly with a late pizza lunch, and a walk to the park with ice creams followed by a trip to Pets at Home and Home Bargains. The girls thought it was brilliant.

We went to the coast on the Saturday. My girls don’t know how lucky they are experiencing Aldeburgh and then the New Forest! On the journey down I sat in between the car seats in the back of my stepmum’s people carrier, holding a hand in each of mine. When we arrived at our destination there was a road train taking daytrippers to and from the car park and cafe to a golden sandy beach and beach huts stacked in a row. And another cafe. I sat on a rock, paddled a little, and watched Persie run away from the foaming incoming tide. The edges of my jeans got wet, even though I rolled them up. Rosa got sunburnt (bad mummy), but in my defence she was the only one of to do so – we realised later it was because she had been nearer the water and the rays had reflected on her to lovely cheeks. 
I forgot my phone, so no photos, of either the beautiful beach or the girls, tastefully anonymous, or my outfit, which that day was my camo shacket again. The one that looks awesome with red lipstick. Although I was wearing the Maybelline vivid matt nude flush, lipstick fans. My dad, who annoys me all the time, as dads do, asked me as we boarded the little train for our ride “what is this army jacket?” And my stepmum, who is one of the funniest people I know, said “it’s not working, we can still see you.” I chortled, good humouredly, and glowered at my dad in the “regress to teenagerdom” way that seeing my folks brings out in me. Then Rosa pressed the emergency stop button on the stationary train that they had to switch it off with a key, and I told her off until she cried. Parenting fail.

Seeing the girls enjoying themselves with my folks was precious. Persie laughing being read a story (Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman, children’s literature fans) her granny making her giggle as Chu sneezed. One evening we re-watched Fantastic Beasts (it’s a perfect film, in so many ways), another Rosa snuggled up to granny and watched the motorbike racing (don’t ask). My folks took Rosa out for a special day trip just for her while Persie and I caught up with my oldest (longest standing) friend in a picturesque country pub. After our lunch, we deliberately took her for a drive, taking circuitous routes around the country lanes so we could chat as she slept. My friend and I said our goodbyes as Persie snoozed, and for the next two days she asked “Where’s mummy’s friend gone?”.

Since we returned, it’s been very relaxed. I’ve had lie ins. LIE INS MULTIPLE! I’m running down the stocks of my fridge and cupboard, so I ate mashed potatoes with beans for my dinner last night. The girls’ dad has been experimenting with flavoured gins, which is lethal for me, as anyone who knows me IRL will be aware. I visited The Kimono and had my hands *and* feet done. I’ve been to the same cafe three times in two days. I’m reading again. Real actual books from my box of books. Not even on kindle! Gasp! Everyone needs a holiday sometimes, but I’m so glad I’m having mine in the two places I call home.

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