Archive for the 'Cup Half Full' Category

Yet Another Birth Story

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A card-carrying hippie, I was bursting with ideas about how Sprout’s birth would be.   I read the unfortunately-named Grantley Dick-Read’s work on why most women find childbirth excruciating, and how it need not be so. I bought the hypno-birthing books.  I practiced deep breathing, and diligently attended pregnancy yoga.  I went to the antenatal classes that pushed the drug-free birth agenda, one into which I wholeheartedly bought.  I travelled from seeing childbirth as a necessary evil, to actively looking forward to the spiritual experience it would be.  I was encouraged to write detailed birth ‘preferences’; mine could be summarised as get the fuck away from me unless there’s a medical necessity.  I saw unicorns and rainbows, and heard angels’ voices float gently from undulating cloudscapes.

Three days before Sprout’s ‘due’ date I had a few stomach grumbles during the night, which I attributed to K-man’s poor-quality cooking.  At precisely 5.30am the following morning, a gush of fluid woke me up and I found myself reaching in an undignified manner for the incontinence pads and the telephone.  Joy of joys, the hospital voice said, I needed to be ‘assessed’.  Hospital is a 20 minute drive away in clear traffic.

There is little more frustrating than knowing that you’re about to make a pointless drive through rush hour traffic only to be sent away again.  Apparently, I needed to sit in a waiting room for an eternity to have my incontinence pad examined and it confirmed that my waters had indeed broken.  Then, I needed to wait again for a woman who looked like she finished school last week to carry out an internal examination and proclaim that I would need to go home and come back later.

At about midday I commenced my unicorn-hunting using soothing music, candles, and dimmed lights.  I started using the TENS machine.  Things proceeded nicely until about 6pm, when I met the Go To Hospital criteria of three contractions in ten minutes.  At hospital I went to triage to wait for a second eternity.  Triage was the tenth circle of hell: heated to nuclear temperatures and full of people with non-labour-related baby fears.  The TV was tuned to one of those competition shows where the contestants can’t sing and the judges reach for superlatives strong enough to disguise their disgust.  Eventually, I was examined in a be-curtained area and told I had made minimal progress but couldn’t leave before seeing the registrar.  I should return to triage for a third eternity.  Forty minutes later I succumbed to rage and went outside to find out why the hell I wasn’t being seen.  After all, as far as I knew I was the only person in triage in actual labour, and I was sick of being stared at.

The registrar revealed himself to be an arrogant nonchalant tool whose evening mission was to give himself something to do by getting me to consent to an immediate hormone drip to ‘speed things up’.  Ha!  I thought.  I’ve read the books and been to the classes.  I know what that drip does and I want no part of it.  I lobbied to go to the midwife unit, to no avail.  My choices were to stay in hospital and accept the drip in the consultant’s unit or to go home.  He also kept telling me I wasn’t in labour according to the medical definition, and I kept sitting on my hands so I wouldn’t punch him. I oscillated, until the registrar uttered the fateful words ‘You can leave if you want, but you won’t make it through the night with the pain.’

Well.  Well.  I politely told him he could shove his opinions about my fortitude up his backside, and left on the condition that I would reappear early the following morning to have the drip.  Doctors get twitchy when patients want to colour outside the guidelines, and by morning I would be doing so and my infection risk would double from infinitesimal to extremely unlikely.

And thus began the longest night I’ve ever experienced.  Neither K-man or I could sleep, and I had a shower at 3am.  The warm water was revolutionary pain relief and so I made Stupid Decision Number One: why not have a bath!  The bath was so blissful that I saw a unicorn, and my contractions virtually stopped.  A fourth eternity later, we went back to the hospital.

By this time I was 3cm dilated so now suddenly it was my ‘choice‘ whether to have the drip.  Hello? Everything that happens to me is my choice, unless you wish to be prosecuted for assaulting me.  Obviously, I pointed out, I didn’t want the drip in the first place so if I could just stay here and quietly birth my baby in my own time that would be dandy.  Can’t you see the rainbow?

A fifth eternity later I was deemed to have made ‘inadequate progress’ despite some fairly serious pain – with which I coped using paracetamol, gas and air and the TENS cranked up to 11 – and a few splurts of blood.  I was ‘strongly advised’ to consent to the drip and finally, beaten down, I agreed.

Did I want the epidural?  The midwife asked.  Hell no, I said, because I am stubborn as a mule and was confident I could butch it out.  After all, how much worse could it get?

Somewhere in the ether, a unicorn snorted derisively in my direction and the words Stupid Decision Number Two were written in rainbow colours.

I was attached to the hormone drip, and every physiological monitor known to medical science.  There followed six hours of progressively worse agony, a quite spectacular vomiting episode, my causing a chair to look like it had been a prop in a Quentin Tarantino film, and doctors determining there was a problem with Sprout’s heart rate.  It was dropping too far and not recovering quickly enough.  They thought he was reacting to increases in the hormone drip rate so they turned it off and progress stalled.  Anxiety tweaked at the edges of my consciousness.

A few hours later, doctors were satisfied the problem was not the drip, and it was recommenced.  This was when all hell broke loose.

I was contracting every minute and a half, sobbing, and telling K-man I thought I might die when I finally accepted that I needed the epidural.  Blinded by feelings of massive failure, I mentally hurled the hypno-birthing books and the antenatal teacher against a wall.

The poor anaesthetist.  By this time, he had approximately 30 seconds to get the needle into my spine without paralysing me, a flailing tear-stained emotional wreck.  Admirably, when I screamed that I needed to move NOW! just as he was about to pierce my skin he merely explained that it was very important that I stay completely still, and was incredibly quick.  That’s the first moment I flash back to.  He returned later to check on me, and I could have kissed him.  The epidural was both magical and extremely freaky.

During my subsequent sleepy state, Sprout’s heart rate continued to cause concern.  Every so often I would wake up and enquire whether the baby was OK and I was still contracting.  At one point, there was significant midwifery debate about what to do because the heart rate was not OK and the chief midwife leaned into my ear and whispered to me not to worry but she was going to press a button and in ten seconds there would be 15 people in the room.

Yeah, whatever, I thought, and before my brain could articulate anything further I heard the sound of people pelting down the corridor. The door flew open, and someone jammed an oxygen mask over my face asking me to breathe deeply.  Panic jolted through me: either Sprout or I was in serious trouble, and neither eventuality was acceptable.  That’s the second moment I flash back to.

The crash team quickly realised they were superfluous to requirements: the midwife, frustrated that her requests for a doctor were not being heeded, had done the one thing that guaranteed attendance.  I think K-man’s blood pressure is still recovering.

Assorted medical procedures later (the in utero foetal blood sample being particularly memorable) it was determined that Sprout’s oxygen levels were OK and we could all relax.  Well, except for me.  The obstetrician arrived, and I cannot say enough good things about her.  She was calm, reassuring, authoritative, gentle, and expert.  She explained that it was now urgent that Sprout be removed from me, and somehow did it without causing alarm (though it probably helps if your patient is exhausted and past caring about her own bodily integrity).  I may as well have been holding a sign saying do what you like as long as it’s over soon.

I pushed.  The attendants exclaimed that I was good at pushing.  Hell, I said, nobody wants this kid out of me faster than I do.  A midwife explained that I would be unable to have the natural third stage of labour I preferred.  Look at me, I said, I gave up on my preferences hours ago.  I’m delightful in a stressful situation.

A total of 47 hours, one hormone drip, one epidural, an episiotomy and some gentle forceps action later Sprout was eased reluctantly into the world.  Unicorns and rainbows it was not, and he had the cord wrapped around his neck.  7lb13oz of completely fine, healthy screaming baby entered our world.

I will never be the same again, but it was a small price to pay.

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The Bedside Table

There were many reasons I was dissatisfied with my bedside table.  First, its colour: orange.

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Not even a subtle orange.  Second, it has no drawer.  I must either leave my book on the top (which would be fine if I could constrain myself to two books) or I must reach down awkwardly while on the edge of sleep and open the door and throw the book onto the half-shelf within (or as you can see in the photo, simply throw them on the floor).  Third, with a square base and a monolithic stature it has a utilitarian oomph which is not to my liking.

Fortunately, my taste in furniture tends towards peasant rather than palace. When I last persuaded K-man to visit the local junk emporium, we came across this:

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This is the most poorly-made piece of furniture  I have ever encountered, and that includes Swedish flat-pack specials I incompetently put together myself. It seems to be made predominantly from waste wood by a person who hated their job. In places where surely – surely – a nail would have been better, glue has been used and did not stick properly.  Someone made a bad decision to try polishing this turd, and attached a piece of spare dowelling rod to the outside.

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This little cupboard was very cheap, and I have vision. And my vision couldn’t withstand more morning orange.

Yesterday the sun shone, and in our house that means embarking on a stupid project outside using power tools.  Hurrah!

K-man had to shore up the flimsy construction, and wrench off the stupid dowelling. Then I got busy with the power-sander. A short time later, I looked up from my cup of tea and realised this might not turn out too badly after all.

DSC_1016When all the black shit – I know not what it was – came off, the little cupboard grew a personality.  There was an interlude when I got a bit too busy with the power-sander and the bottom piece of wood holding the door up broke off, but what’s a husband for if not to clean up after his wife’s manic sanding experiments?

Then it was time to paint.  As we know, paint is a shit piece of furniture’s best friend. It covers a multitude of sins and can turn something horrible into something you can stand to look at without crying.  I do believe, however, that the trend should be reserved for crap pieces otherwise beyond rescue.  All those people painting over beautiful woodgrain because of fashion are nuts.  Especially if they do stupid shit like two-tone blue and pink and then sand down one layer of paint to display the nonsense.  I have seen more overpriced ruined chests of drawers than I can bear because people think that shit adds value.  Hell no, you just ruined a decent piece of furniture.  What is it with these people?

Sorry – that rant has been inside me for a long time and it needed to come out.  Obviously, I would never paint something pink and blue two-tone. I would simply use whatever left-overs I had available in the garage. Which turned out to be Farrow and Ball New White.

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Of course, every insect for miles around stuck itself in the paint. But progress was made and soon it was time to wax the top.

DSC_1018I was very surprised and pleased with how well this turned out.  You would never guess the top was plywood, or that it cost only around £20 and a few hours of my time.  Check out the sanded and waxed top:

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Here it is in situ:

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A full year after K-man accidentally sold our bedside tables on ebay for a song, I finally have a book-drawer and no orange.

That’s our new carpet you can see in the photo.  What a revelation!  More about that another time.

 

 

 

Seven Things

There I was, quietly chugging a glass of sarsaparilla, when a thought skewered my brain.

I have a blog.

I have not updated the blog for some considerable time.  Also, in old news from the Department of Wonders Never Cease, a kind reader gave me an award for my tiny corner of the internet.  The award looks like this:

Those two facts rolled themselves around in my head for a moment before the Action! Stations! part of my brain kicked in.

It’s incredibly flattering to be recognised for my intermittent navel-gazing, of course.  It goes without saying that I should not have taken weeks to respond by carrying out the instructions.  It also goes without saying that I am a firm believer that rules are made to be bent to my will, so I’m participating with one small modification that I will get to shortly.

What am I meant to do?

1.  Display the award certificate on my website.  Done.

2.  Announce your win with a post and include a link to whoever presented your award.  Done.  My award was presented by the wonderful Ashley, who blogs at Thirsty Babies about being the mother of three kids, race, social justice, religiosity, and other big picture stuff.  Many, many times reading Ashley’s blog and tweets have I wondered whether we are separate reincarnations of the same spiritual entity.  Ashley is fortunate enough to live in the city of my parents’ upbringing, and one of these days I will get around to visiting my remaining family who live there, and maybe I’ll bump into Ashley at a pre-arranged space and time.  It’s not impossible, especially now I have a full time wage and more annual leave than I know what to do with.

3.   Present seven awards to deserving bloggers.  Create a post linking to them, and drop them a comment to tip them off.  This is my modification.  The truth is that I don’t read many blogs.  Most of the blogs I used to read avidly have pulled up the drawbridge to their castle (Granny Gets A Vibrator, Blogapotamus, As The Tumor Turns).  I love and am inspired by some of the bigger hitters, unconcerned with awards (Margaret and Helen, I Blame the Patriarchy, I Am Bossy).  I love reading, but giving an award to these folks just seems, well, weird.  So, I can’t come up with seven blogs, but some is better than none:

  • Mrs G at Derfwad Manor. I do actually count Mrs G as a big hitter, but we go back, internet-wise, so I’m comfortable.  She is one of the most amazing and inspiring individuals I have ever encountered.  Most of you probably know her already, but in case not, go check her out.  She just completed a road trip around the USA meeting bloggers she has drawn together through her writing.  The word ‘community’ is etched on Mrs G’s heart.
  • Jen on the Edge: Jen blogs about anything and everything, but what initially tuned me in to her blog was her running.  Jen is on an incredible journey to run and eat herself healthy, and she is reaping the many benefits.  She is currently in my Third Spiritual Home, New Zealand.  I’m profoundly jealous.  Head on over and read about the adventures of a family in a camper van!
  • Juggling Jenn: I’ve been a reader of Jenn’s for years.  Recently, I have found her blog particularly inspiring as she has chronicled how she and her family have dealt with her daughter’s eating disorder.  It is compelling and uplifting stuff and through it all, Jenn has remained absolutely thoughtful and full of grace.
  • If I could give the award back to Ashley, I would, but I don’t think that’s permitted.

4.  Post seven interesting facts about myself.  

  • Recently, I battled some fairly unpleasant feelings that had drawn swords in my head.  Ultimately I concluded that if I died tomorrow, I would die happy.  Unless someone killed me.  Then I’d die angry.  I’m going to write about my feeling of fulfilment some other time.  It’s not as morbid as it sounds.
  • I am beyond proud of my family.  My extensive research leads me to believe this is unusual.  My family is the personification of living by your principles.  My parents left the country of their birth rather than have my father fight in a war he didn’t believe in.  If you think that’s cowardly, you have no idea what you’re talking about.  My uncle and aunt were very active in the Chicago civil rights movement of the 1960s, and were rewarded with death threats from nut cases.  Did they stop?  Did they hell.  They were placed on a CIA watch-list.  Did they stop?  Did they hell.  I could bore on at length about how privileged I feel to even speak to these people, let alone actually be related to them.
  • I am 5 feet and 3 inches tall
  • I can ride a horse.  I mean properly ride it, not just sit on it and hope for the best.
  • As a child I lived for a while on what could best be described as a communal hippie living settlement, with a side helping of religion.
  • My eyes make people who are paying close attention think I have Chinese heritage somewhere way back in the dawn of my ancestry.  I don’t: my eyes are almond-shaped because my maternal great-grandmother was Finnish and that eye-shape is a common trait of Northern Europeans (you know Bjork?  My eyes look like hers). The appearance of my eyes used to bother me as a child (it was far more pronounced then) but now I like it.
  • I watch a great deal of Trash Television.  Keeping Up With the KarKrashians, Dawg the Bounty Hunter, you name it, I will sink that low.

Periodically I promise myself I will write more on this blog.  I have a lot to say, and I should start saying it.  I’m going to commit to writing here once a week.   Next week: travel!

 

Holy Massage, Batman!

Massage has always been a luxury for me.  K-man occasionally gifts me a massage voucher for a birthday or other celebration, but I would never pay for one myself unless I am in a far-away country where the price of a massage is less than the price of a moccha latte.  Until now.

My massage history has been a long investigation seeking the perfect experience.  I want to feel like something has happened to me, and yet be blissed out.  Here’s a run-down of the ones I can recall:

1.  Aromatherapy massage, North London.  My first massage experience, years ago.  The therapist was strong, applied beautiful essential oils, and didn’t waste any time talking.  I came out of there feeling odd, but happy.

2.  Antigua: reflexology foot massage.  I was expecting to see rainbows and butterflies.  My feet felt good, but there were no lasting effects.

3.  Sri Lanka: a room like an oven, where I spent my time trying not to dribble into the bowl of tropical fish placed beneath the face-hole for soothing purposes.  Less soothing, more worrying.

4.  India: Ayurvedic massage in some back-street room in Udaipur.  Barely any pressure applied, but all-in-all pretty harmless until the therapist asked me to turn over, before proceeding to massage my baps.   Downright alarming.

5.  Thailand: not for me, the overpriced Sheraton spa.  Instead, I walked down the street five minutes to a set of dingy rooms for a true Thai massage.  This is the closest I have come to what I seek – the tiny thai lady certainly applied her bodyweight to the issue.  My favourite part was when she said ‘relax’ before sharply twisting my shoulder and knee in opposite directions.  My spine made beautiful music.  Sadly, I also saw numerous dodgy white dudes hanging about outside, clearly hoping for some kind of happy ending.

6.  Viet Nam: Blind massage therapists, in a dorm room with hospital-style curtains between beds.  Hearing the ladies laugh with each other while they worked was the coolest thing.  Well, that and the super-strong methol heat-up-on-skin oil they used.  Not so cool: the rather insistent customer who wanted a massage from a woman, not a man (not the done thing in Viet Nam).

7.  Home town: Hot stone massage.  Soothing but dull.  No lasting effects.

8.  Home town: Swedish massage.  Basically pointless.

9.  New Zealand: a couple of half-decent aromatherapy massages.  The therapist told me I needed to keep going, but my working hours didn’t permit it.

I have enjoyed the non-UK massages more.  I think the therapists are less afraid of causing pain – UK holistic massage therapists are, in my experience, gentle to the point of barely present.

That brings us to today, and the holy grail of massages.  The Deep Tissue Sports Therapy massage.

I’ve been suffering from tension in my neck and shoulders for years, and have entered each massage with the idea that this would be the one that would make it all go away only to leave disappointed.  I talked to some people in the know, who recommended a sports therapy massage.   Initially I wrote it off, not suffering any kind of actual injury.

Don’t do it, my brother told me, it hurts like hell.  He had a back problem.

Did you feel better afterwards though?  I asked.

Well, yeah, but the pain, oh the pain….

I’m not averse to a bit of short-term pain for long-term gain.  But I am the queen of unrealised intentions, so I let it slide.

About a month ago the pain got noticeably worse.  It’s to do with my desk set-up at work, and if I work more than two days in a row, the pain is pretty bad.  After a full desk assessment it was concluded that I have an unusually long (very disproportionate to my height) shoulder-to-elbow measurement.   I’m a knuckle-dragger.

The only set-up that can truly resolve this (because I am also short, and to get the seat up high enough leaves my legs dangling, and my elbows still at an acute angle) is a height-adjustable desk.  Most places of employment, including my current one, won’t stretch to this expense for part time temp staff who have already handed in their notice.  I’m hoping my new employer will be amenable.

But in the meantime, my goal is to arrive at my new job pain-free.  So, I finally bit the bullet and spent a small wadge on a sports massage.  After an hour of seriously strong pushing, pulling, pressing, and rubbing, I’ve got a dim headache, but I can already see improvement in my (very poor) shoulder flexibility.  When I got up from the table I felt spaced out, not because I’d been relaxing – I’d been grimmacing and listening to chatter from the therapist – but because there was genuine muscle-release.

It did hurt, quite a bit, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I do wonder how I’ll feel tomorrow, but so far it’s all good.

I think I’ve finally found it.

I’m going back in a couple of weeks for another hour.

Boudoir Beautification: Nearly There

After  three months of living in the spare bedroom, we are back in the Boudoir!  Principal reasons for the lack of progress are: it takes a long time to get stuff made to measure and shipped from China; K-man’s broken wrist needed to heal; and I said I wasn’t helping any more with DIY and I meant it.

Let’s recap: we started with top to toe magenta, a huge triple-wardrobe that had to be pushed side-on into an alcove, fire-hazard ceiling tiles in the bay window, and flowery old-lady curtains. Our furniture was too big for the room, the colour induced insomnia, and the cracks in the ceiling could have fit one entire Victoria Beckham inside them.

We conducted an interim stripping job, and then life got in the way.  For a very long time.  We sold our bedroom furniture on e-bay, except that little Victorian pine chest of drawers which has gone back to my parents from whence it came.

And now, I bring you the next stage! This stage is called Most of it is Done So Despite Our Best Intentions Let’s Leave It As Is For At Least Five Years.

First things first, actual construction projects. An electrician moved the sockets to sensible places, and accidentally knocked a hole through to the study.  It took him twice as long to complete the job as his estimate, and I wanted to punch him.

Once the triple-wardrobe had been dispensed to two of the stupidest people I’ve ever met, the way was clear for the built-in wardrobes.  I despise built-in, preferring to scour the universe for the perfect item of free-standing furniture.  This is because I have never stayed in the same house for more than four or five years, and when I leave, my shit comes with me.  It didn’t make sense to me to buy something that you can’t take with you, when portable options are available.

Well, it turns out that most modern furniture isn’t constructed with 1930s alcoves in mind.  It proved astonishingly difficult to find either a single wardrobe large enough to make the most of the space, or a double wardrobe small enough to fit.  Anything that did fit was either ugly, expensive, or both.

Built-in was the way to go.  The problem with built-in is that most of it looks like it came straight from the plasticised nightmare of a dystopian minimalist.

As luck would have it, there are a number of powerful internet-based search engines that can occasionally be persuaded to find the person you are looking for.  The person we were looking for arrived at our house, spoke very little, listened to my vague description and watched my general arm-waving, and exercised his psychic powers.  I think I know your want, he said in a thick Hungarian accent, and started pulling out photographs of his previous work to show me.

He certainly did know exactly my want, and here it is:

And here it is again, in the other alcove:

He measured the space and sent very detailed drawings by email.  Eight weeks later, he and two colleagues installed these two hand-built cupboards in one 9-hour day.  I love supporting local craftsmen, so it fills my heart with joy to tell  you that the aggregate cost of these cupboards was cheaper than one OK-quality wardrobe from a trusted furniture supplier that ships their shit in from China.  And for that bargain price, we chose exactly what we wanted rather than having to put up with what is available.

Instead of the flowery curtains, we now have plantation shutters in our bay window:

These were expensive enough that we had to give it serious thought before committing.  They also have a 10-week lead-time because they are made to measure in China and shipped from there.  But, I am glad we spent the cash and waited the wait.

Our new bed is made to look like antique metal, and is the sturdiest version we could find.

The wallpaper is by Next.  We wanted a kind of modern country feel to this room, and I saw this wallpaper while I was furtively leafing through a copy of one of those magazines that exists to make us all feel inadequate.  I love this wallpaper, and the feature wall approach means it’s not overwhelming.  The cleanliness of the rest of the decor means the look doesn’t tip over into twee.

Our other recent furniture acquisition was from our local vintage/junk shop.  It was so cheap I cannot remember how much it cost.  It’s serving as K-man’s bedside cupboard. He hit the relative jack-pot, and I am bitter considering it was he who let go our previous bedside cupboards at a knock-down price.

This is the little cupboard thing we stumbled across on a weekend away, and it goes perfectly in the room.  The mirror is one we have had for years, and have no idea where it was purchased.  The colour on the wall is Wild Mushroom by Next.  I was skeptical since it looked too dark and pink in a tester space, but K-man talked me into it.  It changes with the light, shifting between muted pinky-grey-brown hues.

The astute among you will note the carpet.  We desperately needed carpet back down, for noise-reduction, warmth, and shard-protection.  We looked at huge rugs, but could not find anything of the required size at a price we could stomach.  This is super-cheap felt-backed carpet that K-man cut to fit and laid himself with a craft knife, a staple gun, and a few hours.  it’s not quite a perfect fit but it is close enough.  It will serve until we get the whole house re-carpeted (a couple of years).  As long as we don’t rub up against it too much, it’s fine.  The stripes were the least-offensive option in the price-bracket and while they’re far from ideal, they don’t jar too much.

There are still some things I am not entirely happy with.  The fireplace isn’t quite so vile now the colour on the walls somehow disguises its pinkness, but still:

The question is what we do with it.  Options are to leave it, paint it off-white, or replace it with something similar to this:

Black might either be too harsh, or go well with the bed-frame.  I can’t decide.  We could always paint it if it’s not right.  The off-putting thing is that with the living room fireplace, the process was horrific and expensive.  We paid £600 for someone to fit it, and they did so badly.  Also, the tiled monstrosity is original to the house, and I don’t hate it as much as the shit-smear that used to be in the living room.  I hate to rip out original features.  What would you do, internet?

Questions also arise about my bedside cabinet:

It really is that orange, and it does not look right with the more neutral tones of the bedroom.  It was a parental hand-me-down, and we think it’s 1930s or maybe 1940s.  It is a good solid cupboard with a shelf inside, and I like everything except the colour.  It’s covered in what seems to be a kind of varnish (I don’t think shellac, but it could be), and I’m sure I am jinxing myself even as I type this, but it cannot be too hard to strip down with some hideous chemical.  Then I would have two options: either stain it dark like K-man’s, or paint it a neutral colour and fake ‘distress’ it.  What would you do with it?

So, the tour’s finished.  I hope you enjoyed it!  Home improvements are off the table again until autumn, but then I think we might look at the study.  That was another temporary paint-job (to cover up a sea-mural) but we could use the space far more effectively.

Competency Challenge News

On Wednesday, I soaked in a huge bath of negativity miliseconds after I realised that none of my referees had told me that they had been approached by someone wanting to know about my competence.  The potential employer had made a big deal about the necessity of references, and specifically sought permission to contact them before interview.

On Thursday afternoon, I was in the garden attempting to impose order upon chaos.  I left my phone inside because sometimes I just don’t want to talk to people, and I wasn’t supposed to be receiving any important communication before Friday.

Of course, my potential employer called, and I missed the call.  The voicemail said to please return the call tomorrow.

Tomorrow?

I called back immediately, but got voicemail.

What does it mean?   I asked my parents, and K-man.   Responses enabled me to determine that it could be that

  • they have a query over some documentation (I wasn’t able to provide everything they asked for)
  • I didn’t get the job
  • I got the job

My brain had no choice but to go into hyperdrive.

I’ve never been rejected for a job over the phone (it’s usually an email at 5.30pm), and I’ve never been accepted for a job by email.  K-man has been rejected by phone.  My father has issued rejections over the phone, but only for very senior positions with just a few candidates and where some kind of personal touch is required.

If they were going to reject by phone, and got my voicemail, surely the kind-hearted thing to do would be to leave a voicemail to that effect.  No recruiter wants to hear the reaction when they’re delivering a dream-shattering message.  No candidate wants to give a graceful reaction two seconds after their dreams have been shattered.

If it was about documentation, surely a message with the specific query would have been left.

I dared to think I’d got the job, but I was not about to count my chickens.  Nor was I about to get a decent night’s sleep.

Yesterday, I arrived at work in a froth and called from there  – voicemail.  I am beginning to despise voicemail.  I left a message, and tried to focus on my current job.

Eventually, I connected with the recruiter and yes, I got it! Paperwork is on its way to me and should arrive next week.

Words can’t tell you what this means to me.  It’s the first time I will have had secure, full time, permanent employent since early 2009.  It’s a key point in my life.  The monkey is gone from my back.  I’ve been unsubscribing from job-alert emails, and extricating myself as gracefully as possible from as many unwanted obligations as I can.

Just to have one job and not to have to do an ever-increasing string of things I don’t want to do, usually for free, in case one of those things leads to paid employment?  Amazing.  Not to have to feel constant guilt every time I buy something, or spend ten minutes not thinking about trying to find better employment?  Priceless.

Best of all,  I get to fight injustice and obtain redress on an individual level.  I will be paid a living wage to do so, and have plenty of annual leave, and a decent pension.  I have hit the Job Jackpot.

Wow.  I did it.

The Show Must Go On

Six weeks into this year, my interim assessment is that it sucks.  Minor trauma plus minor trauma equals astonishing sense of unfairness.  On the bonus side, I got my annual bout of illness over with during the first week of January.

First, allow me to expound on the self-made miseries.  Well, what the hell, I’m going to be true about it: K-man made these miseries.  It was nothing to do with me when he put our car on autotrader.com because he’d identified a new car he swore he needed.  Something about the size of his testicles, I don’t know what.  We use our car once a week at most, but for reasons to do with stones I don’t possess it behoves us to spend £6,000 on a piece of metal that spends 98% of its time on the driveway.  Don’t ask me; I just live here.

He made a hat-tip at ‘consultation’ and put Vern on the market, selling and arranging collection within a 24 hour period, for a price that was borderline insulting to Vern’s dignity.  The pre-car research on the proposed new car was only completed after he sold our old car. Things were discovered, worrying things, about the proposed new car having a fake service history.  What now, fool, when we need a car?  Oh yes, now we’re pressured buyers: a great big unavoidable horror.  Car salesmen can SMELL pressure. 

Yes, I’ve been skating close to the thin mental line lately.

Next up is the Bedroom Furniture Debacle.  The bedroom was next on the list of things in the home to participate in the destruction of my surroundings, a project that’s going really well.  Remember the bannister?  Months later, this is what it looks like now:

My best guess is that the white stuff in the middle is nuclear-bunker-grade heat-protective coating. It will not budge.  If President Obama needs protection from Iran’s unhinged, he should come to my house and crouch behind my bannister.

We moved out of our bedroom three weeks ago and it’s in a state of disarray that will be brought to you in another post.  Our furniture is too big for the room so was put up for sale.  The enormous triple-wardrobe was the priority, but ultimately we needed to rid ourselves of the rustic solid oak bed and bedside tables we got in New Zealand too.  We discussed and agreed a sale price that would prevent me feeling aggrieved (I like this furniture and we paid a wadge for it).

K-man operated the eBay and somehow fucked up the equation that exists between ‘buy now’ and ‘minimum bid’.  Our solid oak king-size bed and two bedside tables that we lavished cash and care on were sold for a price so low I had to fight back tears.

Next up, the trauma visited upon us from outside our control.

Finding that one’s bicycle has been stolen is never pleasant.  I can attest that it’s particularly unpleasant when one is returning home at 1am on a freezing cold night having had too much to drink.  I searched the bike park in vain for my bike, clinging to the hope that I had, like all the other times, simply forgotten where I’d left it.  I saw a cut cable lock and with a sinking feeling put my combination in.  It sprang open, and so did  my tear-ducts.

To a cyclist, no bike you’ve had for any length of time is just a bike.  We’ve seen penguins, fallen off curbs, been blown into oncoming traffic, got back up, and travelled on together.  I loved my bike.  I reported the theft of my buddy to the police.

Describe the bike, blah blah, where did you leave it, blah, was there CCTV, blah blah investigate I’m not really listening anymore but then and how would you describe your ethnicity?

What?

Are you black, white, asian? 

The police person on the phone does not know me, and does not know that questions like that coming out of nowhere, even when I’m drunk, especially when I’m drunk, and already upset are not something I’m going to let fly.  Way to make a bad situation worse, Flow Chart voice.

Is that relevant?  I shot out before I could stop myself.  Would you NOT investigate the crime I’ve just been a victim of because I fit, or did not fit, a certain racial profile?  

Nomadamnotatallyoudon’thavetoanswergovernmentstatisticsblah.

Because, that’s certainly the implication OFFICER.

Doyouwishnottoanswer?

Would you like my gender, age, or other profile information for the government statistics? 

Uh, no.

In that case you can put me down as human.

I’m really pleasant when I’ve had too much to drink and been the victim of a crime.

Next up: the following week, K-man was riding home on his un-stolen bike and got hit by a car.  The bike ended up under the wheels of the car, and he bounced off the bonnet.  He’s fine; cuts and bruises only (though the bike was a write-off).  Mostly, he was shaking and fragile with shock.  Thank lard it was a small car that hit him, and that it was not going faster.  He made eye contact with the driver before the collision (she definitely saw him), he had right of way, and she should have stopped and she knew it.  Her foot ‘slipped off the brake’ apparently, so she simply drove into him at a roundabout.  A witness helped pick K-man up and escorted him home to make sure he was OK.

Then, back from a weekend in the country during a cold-snap and snow, our heating broke.  It’s always a bad sign when you can see your breath in the hallway, and in sub-zero temperatures frozen pipes mean you have to eat your Ha! Boiler insurance! What a con! words and call the Fuck My Wallet line.  £500 later, I’m seriously considering becoming a heating engineer.

Everything you ever wanted to know about my frame of mind by this point is represented by this picture of Jesus, our formerly vibrant house plant:

What’s a girl to do when the first six weeks of a year have removed her colour and rendered her incapable of even a glimmer of sparkle?  Why, run off to Paris, of course!  My friend JR might not be a doctor, but he knew, it turns out, that I was in parlous trouble in the doldrums department without me even having to mention it.  And, because he is somehow psychic and knew without me ever having breathed to anyone how much I wanted to go there, he surprised me with tickets to this place:

It's the Star Ship Enterprise, in chandelier form!

In one weekend, I regained my sense of being alive.  My vibrancy came back, I smoked some cigarettes, ate a bucket of french lard, glammed around Paris, and remembered all the good shit I’ve seen and done, all the people I loved, love, and almost lost, and who I am privileged to know.


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