Return to Reality


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somewhere likeSo I have been back for a week or so and have sunk back in to the normal routine of summer holidays.

I have moved my desk space upstairs into the boys’ bedroom so I can work in peace (with background snores) during the day and there’s a bit more air flow than in the downstairs study which mostly smells of stale boys.

I’m not particularly enthused about doing any work but at least I have a decent environment in which to do it.

I am also not particularly enthused about doing any cooking or tidying up. I’m trying to let that one go.

I have in the last week gone swimming twice. We have a new swimming pool (not even six months old) and it’s rather a pleasure to be in. It couldn’t compare to a warm blue sea under a blue sky but it’s a reasonable compromise. I have one or two others to try that aren’t on quick bus routes so were off my list.

Health-wise, the decision to leave has proven a good one. In the ten days or so I’ve been back my lungs have tightened up, my nose has become full of crap again, my breathing has become restricted. My heart seems to be pumping louder although my blood pressure seems fine when I take it. I wonder whether I can afford to wait four years.

I have indulged in fanciful thinking and been looking at house prices and locations. I’ve even begun to consider the minimalistic modular housing. This is much more fun than actually looking at jobs and where I could realistically go and how. I’m in a council house and whether I can swap for another council house I do not know. The sensible thing to do if I can’t do a council swap is to rent for a while before considering buying but I’m amazed that buying might actually be within my grasp. Given that my current home (2 bedroom Victorian mid-terrace in need of decoration) is worth over £650,000 at current mad London prices this is a totally new concept.

I will certainly need to downsize and get rid of stuff. I have an awful lot of stuff. Much of it I’ve been reluctant to throw it away as it protects me from feeling vulnerable from not having it and not being able to afford to buy it when I do want it. I have kitchenware that has been unused for years that I have been reluctant to get rid of because one day I might start cooking again. The Lego is not going.

So on the one hand I’m thinking about moving away from London and all the anxiety that does invoke (just walking into a strange leisure centre scared me) and on the other I’m considering cleaning out cupboards.

My energy levels have plummeted and I’m just a short blip away from being depressed as I return to a “normal” life. But I recognise this and am trying to be kind to myself and let it go.

Is it what I do or where I live? 


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I came across a truth as I swam contemplatively: if I want my health to stop deteriorating, however slowly, I have to move away. 

Whether it’s living under the  flight path or the general lack of air quality, my ability to breathe and be  outside in the sunshine is duminishing year on year. 

I never got hay fever before and once I realised I had got it and not just a very ling cold I went through a number of medications. Some didn’t work or had side effects; others worked for a while and then stopped. This summer I am actually staying indoors if it’s a high pollen count which makes summer and a garden a bit pointless.  Eventually I will run out of medication to try. 

I’ve had a persistent cough for a couple of months. It’s the  leftover from a cold. I’m  should expect to be more susceptible to these  kinds of minor complaints due to weakened lungs. 

I have been wondering recently about moving away and have shied away from it. I’ve found a home for the first time and good people. I don’t know where I’d go other than North of Watford gap. I also have no idea what  I might do for a living. 

I have got at least four years until 4son finishes school to consider it. It might be unwise leave the borough until 2sin has squeezed every penny of funding out of it and hopefully finished his A levels. That could be five years away. 

So, other than the total lack of detail I have a five year plan. 

Holiday, day three

I have managed the last two days to do a mindfulness body scan.  It’s a lot easier when you’re lying on a beach in comfort. 

I have also been eating mindfully, that is without my phone for entertainment but rather focusing on the food. 

I’ve been swimming three or four times a day. Again it’s a total pleasure in this sea that is a tad cold but so so blue and transparent. 

The bad news of course is that I’ve burnt a little more than I should have done which is making life a little uncomfortable. 

More worrying however is that I’m left alone with the voices in my head and they are loud. The constant self awareness when not self criticism is enough to destroy my faith in humanity and I’m the one causing it. Nobody has said or implied that where I haven’t misread where possible.  

I am contemplating excursions and I’m fairly sure it’s just because I don’t want to listen to me. I do seem that I  have the best conversations while I’m swimming. 

It’s not as if I do this a lot. The last time I had a holiday without children was two years ago and that was the first time. 

It does emphasise the need to do less and slow down generally. And lots if other things, probably. 

I never realised that relaxing is just so much hard work. 



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I am now on my second holiday all by myself and the unwritten rules are amazing. My anxieties all kick in. 

I don’t have to go on excursions. 

I don’t have to go to the local village. 

I don’t have to discover the island. 

I don’t have to do anything intelligent. 

I don’t have to leave the compound. 

I don’t have to make an effort. 

I don’t have to absorb the local culture. 

I don’t have to apologise. 

I don’t have to talk to anyone other than for politeness sake. 

I don’t have to speak the language. 

I don’t have to meet the Holiday rep. 
On the other hand,… 

I do have to learn to relax, to vegetate.

My routine (day one) is eat, read, drink, swim, doze. Repeat in any order. I don’t have to do any more than that. Not only do I not have to, it’s important that I do just that. I’m not good at doing little. But that’s exactly what I need and is why I booked an all inclusive holiday in the sun. 

Food Rules (again)


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Frites belges

Eating glorious twice cooked Belgian chips with loads of mayonnaise out in public (no wonder I like them)

I’ve covered this before but no doubt will have to cover it again until I’m done.

No “childish” foods: mash potato, ice cream, too much gravy, nuggets and the like.

No common / working class foods: the label might be inappropriate but no tinned baked beans, no brown sauce, no salad cream, no fish-fingers.

No pre-prepared foods: I don’t remember ever having any type of ready made food and that includes jars of sauces. My mum lies about using stock cubes to my dad.

No sweets: my mum used to make puddings: stodgy filling crumbles and a superb lemon and meringue pie. Proper puddings for dinners with guests. But that all stopped. My dad likes lemon sorbet (with a shot of vodka), lemon tart and the occasional tarte tatin. But no overdosing on chocolate or sweet stuff or cream. My mum used to make her own yoghurt which again, wasn’t really sweet.

Diet foods: my mum was on endless diets and we definitely had naughty foods. If you’re going to eat empty calories, make them high quality foods. Other than some of the summer fruits my parents always had a fruit bowl with oranges and apples that they forced themselves to eat because it’s good for you.

Eating rules: no eating outside on the street (it’s common); no eating with your hands (it’s just bad manners) and I still horrify my parents by eating chips with my fingers; even picking at bones should be done with a knife and fork; use the correct utensils (fish knives, chopsticks, cob holders, whatever).

I have never known my father to drink more than 2 pints in a pub (other than finishing my mother’s off). He’d exclaim if I wanted to drink beer with a meal out as wine is the proper accompaniment although he did soften to eating beer with Indian food. The last time we went out for a meal my parents had cider and I had a cocktail (two, actually). That got comments. My dad used to prepare a sort of cocktail as an aperitif, but not the sort you’d buy. I stuck to beer when he started including Cinzano.

So these are all my parents rules. I’ve added my own:

  • cook from scratch (it’s healthier and tastes better as long as you cook)
  • no artificial additives, flavouring, sweeteners
  • consider the environment; use up leftovers

I have genuinely lost the ability to enjoy puddings and yoghurts. I love lemon sorbet but I’ve gone off chocolate ice cream. I’ve started forcing myself to have jam or peanut butter on toast in the mornings in the hope that I’ll stop feeling guilty about rule-breaking. I’ve narrowed my food choices down so far that I rotate through a very limited choice which is boring. I have noticed that as I’ve got older I’m loving the vegetables that my mum used to eat for herself and rave about them without trying to force me to eat them: spinach and spring greens. I love courgettes and mushrooms. But these don’t feel like guilty pleasures.

It’s actually quite terrifying how I’ve absorbed some of these rules so much I’m not even aware the rules are there. Which is of course what therapy is there for.

I Don’t Know if I’ve Lost Weight


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… and for the first time ever, I genuinely (99%) don’t care.

Several people over the last month or two have said:-

You’re looking good. Have you lost weight?

I’ll ignore the one who suggested I must have found a man in order to look good.

My response was automatic and their faces were pictures:-

I don’t know.

Continue reading



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I don’t know how to send out signals, how to receive them, or even whether I want to.

Some time after finally getting rid of ex2 I almost got into a relationship with someone who, at the very least, liked to dominate, to harangue, to belittle. I almost got sucked in. This was partly because I didn’t really think I deserved any better and partly because he’d expressed interest. Luckily I realised what I was doing and stopped after only having got involved a little bit. I decided at that point that if I couldn’t make better judgements then I would be better off single. Even if that was for ever. Continue reading



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This has been swimming around in my brain for a long time. We got onto it in therapy and I thought it’s time to get my head round it.

I didn’t grow up around music. My parents listened to very little, and that only classical for many a year although they eventually started listening to jazz. II don’t remember my elder sister ever talking about music or bands. My middle sister gave my half a dozen mix tapes when she was giving up childish things for university and I was grateful. If my parents went out for a few hours I was very likely to play Vivaldi full blast and dance around the room.

Having my own radio cassette player gave me the chance to escape into music, which I did. Especially the added headphones so I could listen late at night. I was very friendless as a child and young adult so I didn’t have people to listen to music with or talk about such things with.

Spending half my childhood abroad also means that I have different musical experiences, with my formative years spent listening to music in all languages from all over the world. Restricting yourself to English songs seems so limiting. I missed out on Duran Duran who never made in in Europe (how sad) and Wham also almost passed me by.

There’s no great loss with those two but it makes me feel as if I missed out on growing up with my peers. I can’t sing along with my peers to songs because I don’t know them although everyone else grew up with them. I didn’t spend years sharing music with other people and going to gigs. I barely bought any until the last 20 years and there are many songs that I know the lyrics to but have no idea who sung them.

This sounds so trivial. But it’s not. Music is about emotions, where you were at that time, the songs you associate with incidents in your life, the people you were with at the time. I didn’t have those shared connections. I like music from all decades going back to the twenties. I like all sorts of music.

But music makes me feel lost. Especially in company. It makes me feel that I’ve missed out on life, on people, on shared experiences, on happy silly evenings. I’m trying to make up for it now. My son’s got me on Spotify which I stopped using several years ago for reasons that escape me. I’m finally putting together a play list of the songs I like and know as well as the songs I like but don’t really know. And if the shuffle plays Fred Astaire after Aerosmith that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me.

I’ve also started going to gigs more, taking 3son with me. He’s inherited  some of my eclectic taste but has made it his own and is already taking his friends to their first gig. So he’s not alone with it. We talk about music and bands, play each other songs. 1son introduces both of us to new groups. his first gig was The Magic Numbers at The South Bank after having played them for me.

I love live music. I love watching musicians play and I love the “proper” gigs just as much as the joyous sense of community in a pub when people are dancing and singing and having fun with music. It’s taken me years to get used to the fact that people over 20 can enjoy music and dance to it which just shows how far I’ve had to come. I never will catch up with some of my music nerdy friends who know their stuff. I haven’t quite got used to the fact that I never will.

Bored of Life


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"Always Do What You Are Afraid to Do"

I don’t mean bored of life in a suicidal sense. I mean bored of the usual stuff that life is made up of: work, domestic routine, children, even the repetitive social events that I enjoy.

I was discussing with my therapist why I feel so tired and find it difficult to function throughout the day. Much as my sleep isn’t perfect it’s not that and it’s more like I use feeling tired as an excuse to stop doing stuff rather than managing to actually take time out.

When I do take time out, I tend to watch films or series rather than go out as that’s far too complicated. I managed it just before half term, going into London and seeing Ai Wei Wei exhibition, slightly out of the blue which I really enjoyed.

Naturally I thought to myself that I must do this more often and naturally I haven’t. So this week’s challenge (or homework, as it feels like) is to find short courses that are just for fun. The City Lit was suggested and it seems a good place to start.

I say just for fun as this is not about getting accreditation or a piece of paper to validate what I’m doing, but to go and learn something purely for the sake of learning, for using my brain which is going nuts without vaguely intelligent conversation and for meeting other people who can articulate thoughts. That’s quite a lot to ask for.

I can feel myself resisting as I type but I need to get out of the routine of the place where I live, the community in which I live and go to other places and do other things. When I moved here I threw myself into community activities in which I’m still involved. While there is lots to do that could take me over, I don’t want to do more. I want to do things just for me, for the sheer joy of it and for the sake of looking after myself.


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