The turn of the year

This tweet, in the last five minutes from my friend @Annette1Hardy cleverly pre-empts what I’m going to say tonight:

 

 

It was a year ago today that I started writing  daily blog post. I’m not even sure why I set myself this challenge. It was something to do with the discipline of journal-keeping but probably more linked to my general prevarication with blog posts. I am inclined, you see, to let a post chunter away in my brain while I put off writing it. It’s part of a perfection/paralysis mindset which, for my blog at least, I have now lost.

I’m pleased about this. Just opening up my laptop and starting to type a post is liberating. It doesn’t matter whether the post is well- or badly-written, and there have been both types. The most important thing is that it’s written and out there. And I have used my voice.

I was asked recently by a bewildered family member who’s not keen on social media why I keep my blog. Why would I air my most personal feelings to goodness knows whom? I still don’t know the answer to this. Does it stem from a need to express myself? If so, why not write a journal and keep it to myself? Is it about sharing my feelings with people who might be sharing the same feelings, going through the same stuff? Is it hopelessly exhibitionist: do I get a kick out of exposing myself to you all? I don’t know.

I do know, however, that I’ve managed to find something to say on most of these 366 evenings, even if I’m exhausted and can hardly string a sentence together. Sometimes it’s had to be a dull photo. Sometimes it’s uninspired prose. But it’s been from the heart.

At times writing a daily post has been just another chore, and this was particularly true when I was finding it hard to fit in all of my daily obligations to include singing practice for my diploma. I know that I haven’t been able to read or knit or crochet as much with the daily blog obligation and sometimes I’m up until far too late in the night trying to write. Next year I shall try to get to bed earlier: I have aged and the blog, as sleep thief, has played its part.

There have been one or two sticky moments along the way too but I’m not going to dwell further on those if only to save myself from the knowing I-told-you-so looks of people who disapprove of the time I spend on here and on Twitter and on Facebook, connecting with people, telling them how I feel. I hope it’s an exchange and not merely a broadcast. I’ve concluded that it’s impossible to explain the appeal of Twitter etc. to those people. They’ve never wanted or needed to feel a connection so why would they try to understand?

I decided in the last year that it is increasingly impossible to have a reasonable, nuanced debate on social media. It seems to have descended ever more quickly into a tribalist slanging match, and this blog has been useful for expressing my ideas in full. I shall continue to use it in that way, I think, as I might be stepping back from Twitter for a little while, if only to regain my life, my sense of perspective. I take things too seriously – it’s is a prime character flaw of mine – and I find it ever harder to scroll down without feeling bruised. For the sake of my sanity, that has to stop.

I see this blog as an organic, evolving thing. I’ve always written on a whim, gone where the fancy takes me and I shall continue to do this. This might in the future be a food blog; a rant blog; a photoblog; a blog of reviews or an opinion column. Or all of those. Or none. Inspiration might suddenly collar me: I might suddenly get good at photography or share a song. Who knows where life will take me in the next year? Who can tell? But being freed from the obligation of writing something, ANYTHING every day will, I hope, improve the quality of the writing. I’ll still be here, but not quite so regularly.

I’d like to conclude by thanking all of you who subscribe to this blog and comment on here or on Twitter or in real life. That you have stayed with me and carried on reading has been a source of some astonishment to me. You’ve stayed with me and kept me company. Perhaps I’ve kept you company also. There are those of you who have assiduously Liked and Retweeted my daily posts and I’m so grateful for these gestures of support. You know who you are.

That’s about all for tonight. I expect I’ll mark the coming of 2016 in some way or other tomorrow. Who knows how? Until then, let me wish you all a good and peaceful continuation of your Christmas and New Year break (if you’re having one) and joy for your heart.

Old and new in Greenwich

Old and new in Greenwich

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If you can overlook the divot in the red jumper I like the subject matter of this photo.

I hadn’t walked the dogs for nearly a week so had cabin fever this morning and was raring to go. We had to deliver some overlooked presents to my cousin-in-law in Greenwich (it seems such a long way away but it’s only next door to Lewisham: a scant 20 minutes by car) and we walked the dogs in Greenwich Park which, if you’re not familiar, consists of a pretty steep hill surrounding the (former) Royal Observatory, with Blackheath at the top of the hill and Greenwich and the river at the bottom.

The Greenwich Maritime Museum is the building with the colonnades (is that what they’re called?) over my right shoulder and beyond that you can see the former Royal Naval College, now Trinity Laban, where I did my singing exam a couple of weeks ago.

But look beyond it to the new(er) buildings of Canary Wharf and, to the left of them, St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a good juxtaposition of old and new, I think.

Just chill

It’s a long holiday, isn’t it, Christmas and New Year?

We have such busy lives and then, after the build up to Christmas day and the tumult of writing cards and buying and wrapping presents; of planning and executing menus; of discovering that you have only two wineglasses and remedying this, suddenly, with a bump it’s all over.

We have had only four days away this year (not counting my trips to India which can be, I admit, a bit of respite from the daily race against time that is my life.) Oh I know I don’t actually have a career anymore, but I still live by my watch because my time still belongs to other people. And dogs. Perhaps it’s because I feel I have to fill my day in order to justify my existence. I don’t know that either.

But at Christmas the volunteering rota changes; there’s no choir and the singing lessons have reached a hiatus whilst I await the result of my Diploma – Shhh! I don’t want to talk about it. Everyone is home so I don’t have to walk the dogs every day and there is so much leftover food that it’s not necessary to cook beyond a short trip in the direction of the toaster.

What does one do to relax? Well, I’ve gone to bed late for me for the last few nights, and I’ve still got this lingering cold – as has the OH, who is ALWAYS ill the moment he stops work – so that’s meant a late start in the morning. And today I spent hours doing my normal Sunday ironing.

The Boywonder, home from Canada after sitting end of term exams until late on Tuesday evening, seems bereft and shellshocked though perhaps he’ll calm down and learn to relax in the next day or two. Some of it is jet lag, I’m sure.

I feel I should be doing something constructive: I have a crocheted throw to finish and a book to read but I’m whileing away the days on Twitter or FB or just listening to the radio. It feels wrong. I feel I should be busy.

I’ve heard that Christmas and holidays are the tensest time in family relationships and I can believe this. Perhaps it’s partly because we’ve lost the ability to relax and chill and talk and breathe and think together without some sound or picture coming at us through space. Or partly because we’re normally too busy with ordinary normal life to sit and think about who we are and how we relate to people and when we are forced to stop we face a reminder of who we and they actually are. Does this make sense? I’m probably rambling again.

It’s like when you’ve been on holiday for a week or so and, though it’s lovely, you long to get back home and stuck into the laundry until it’s done.

I needed a rest though, some down time. And what I really need to now is sleep so I’ll wish you all goodnight.

Stormy weather

 

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I’m recovering from my Christmas Day. Since you ask, I was kept awake until 2am by the yipping of a dog as over-excited as a toddler, only pacified by his beloved human brother, recently returned from Canada, spending the night downstairs on the sofa to settle him.

I was busy all day so there was no time for awkward moments, nor were there any forced or ominous silences, apart from the times when the young people started to talk politics and were firmly rebuked for doing so. Apparently an agreement had been reached not to do so.

I had warned my own offspring to be non-controversial too, so this is fair enough in my book. It’s not a safe space mentality or anything like that, although I regret slightly that such a thing might ever be necessary in my house, which I deem convivial and open-minded enough not to have taboo subjects, but I suppose there is a time and a place for debates about politics; religion; whether we run our families on traditional or modern lines; all that sort of stuff, and Christmas Day is not really it.

I’m all for self-expression but not at the cost of making someone feel uncomfortable or excluded on a day where we had come together to bond as a family. Our lives are busy and we hardly ever have the opportunity for a family get together and, as an only child who has lost one parent to death and the other to dementia, these days I’m often acutely aware of how alone I can be in the world.

I guess we all have to learn to make compromises, and learning when to do so without forfeiting the things we hold dear is part of growing up.

Why do I mention this? Well, it’s in reaction to yesterday but I’m thinking about a couple of things that have been said on Twitter this evening. The North West (in particular) of the British Isles has been hit by a succession of disastrous storms which have caused terrible flooding in Cumbria amongst other places. Tonight’s news is that Northern cities such as Leeds, York and Manchester are underwater as the rain continues to fall and rivers burst their banks. Down here in the South, our weather has been a bit squally and breezy and grey but overall we’ve been fine. All we can do is look at the pictures on the news and hope that our friends further north are safe and that they recover quickly if they are flooded.

It is, however, not our fault that the weather here has been largely clement, enough for us to indulge in our usual Boxing Day pastimes one of which is going to the sales.  I never do this: camping overnight outside a store, whether it’s Selfridges or Apple is really not something I’d ever consider and I find that the things I’d like are rarely included in the sales, so pedestrian are my tastes. Although I do like to dress reasonably well and I’m as susceptible to a pretty thing as the next person, I wouldn’t count myself as unduly acquisitive. Nor, however, am I a joy-sucking, disdainful puritan and I have little time for this sort of person.

Yes, the floods in the North are terrible but they are not happening here. And if people want to go to the first day of the sales to spend their hard-earned cash indulging their whims on things they want but don’t strictly NEED when people are flooded or fleeing war or famine or goodness knows what else in the world, who am I to berate them for doing so?

I become impatient with people who want to stand on their virtue-signalling soapboxes and tell other people that their priorities are wrong. How can they know the motivations of people who save up all year for one thing that they can only afford if its price is reduced in the sales? Perhaps they need it for work. Perhaps they work tirelessly as volunteers and donate huge amounts to charity. Perhaps they are a single parent with three small children and struggle to make ends meet. Or perhaps they don’t. But how dare they enjoy themselves when others are suffering?

You didn’t quite get what you want for Christmas? You’ve been given a jumper two sizes too big so that you have to exchange it? You don’t like sprouts? You find your parents’ decorative taste excruciating? How dare you complain when people are being bombed in Syria or others are depending on food banks for survival! How dare you even open your mouth when so many are in desperate poverty or suffering domestic abuse! Shut your mouth, keep it shut. Never say anything without first checking your privilege.

How can self-appointed arbiters of taste or decency stand in judgement over people whose priorities aren’t the same as theirs? Fine, be outraged at suffering in the world but do you think that being Negative Nora Wet Blanket is really ever going to endear you to the very people on whose help you ultimately depend?

I understand that people are trying to raise serious issues to a wider public but alienating and blaming people whose only crime is to be not suffering in a way you define is not the way to do it. As I said, learning that there’s a time and a place is part of growing up.

Our Christmas Day

Our Christmas Day

No politics, no religion around the table.

Only family that gathers on too few occasions and the return of a beloved one.

Such a splendid meal generates too much clearing up but it’s all done now and I shan’t have to go downstairs and face a sticky kitchen tomorrow morning. The dog can’t understand why we’ve put the leftovers in the fridge instead of giving them to him and as I write he’s still yipping in desperate hope.

How was your Christmas Day?

 

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