April/May life round-up

The top of a tree covered in pink cherry blossom against a bright blue sky

Obligatory spring blossom photograph

Life has continued to be hectic and stressful. I have a lot going on at work. The mice returned and we had to get pest control in to deal with them. I felt bad about it, but nothing else worked. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a terrible toothache. Apparently, the tooth is fractured and will need a crown. That’s gonna be expensive.  

It wasn’t all bad though. There has been some nice weather. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing Exhibition and it was pretty amazing to see the drawings close up. Then we saw Thea Gilmore live and that was excellent. 

Film 

We saw Captain Marvel and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m not really into the Marvel universe, but this was a good time. 

Reading 

I read a few crime thrillers. The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson is a proper literary thriller (post coming). I enjoyed The Dry by Jane Harper, but didn’t think it quite lived up to all the hype. The Old You by Louise Voss is a twisty thriller that’s probably best read on a plane, or the beach. 

The Ark by Patrick Tomlinson is quite a fun SF thriller and I really liked Una McCormack’s novella, The Undefeated. I’ve got a big pile of science fiction novels on the go at the moment. 

I’m chipping away at The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin. He’s a brilliant poet, but I am finding all the self-loathing and mid-century sexism a bit hard work. Still, he did write my absolute favourite poem set in the month of May, ‘The Trees

Television 

Of course we’re watching the superb Gentleman Jack. 

We started on The Orville, the premise of which is basically Star Trek: The Next Generation if the crew were ordinary people. I am a little surprised by the high quality of the storytelling on what appears (on the surface at least) to be quite a silly show.  It has me hooked. 

 

8 Years (Part Two)

My father died eight years ago this month. The anniversary surprises me every year. I feel restless, unable to settle to anything, abandoned and uncared for. I start to look for attention in all the wrong places. Eventually, I remember that I have been “abandoned” by the person I was closest to for most of my life, the person who made me feel seen and upon whom I could depend for a response.

I still grieve the loss of his support and the way he died. My father did not have a good death. We watched helplessly as he suffered terribly, both mentally and physically, through his last few months. I feel haunted by regrets, and sometimes guilt, even though I know he would not have wanted me to feel this way and that one of the last things he said to me was, “Enjoy your life”.

Eight years on, what do I want to say to you about grief? First, you don’t “get over” the loss of someone close. You can adapt to it and, if you’re lucky, your life expands around the loss, so that it no longer feels as all-consuming as it did at the beginning. But you always carry it with you. I remember a colleague, who lost his mother when he was five, telling me that even as a middle-aged man, he could always be pulled back into that pit of grief.

I still feel like I’m adjusting to the situation. On the one hand, it seems like my father has been gone for a long time, but on the other, if I walked into the kitchen in my parent’s house tomorrow and found him sitting there in his usual chair, it would just be a relief to discover that I had been mistaken.

I think that one of the biggest adjustments in bereavement is accepting the changes to yourself. We construct our identities in relation to other people and losing them changes us, often in ways we do not like. I feel like I did not, and would not have, consented to these changes in myself.

That’s another thing. Grief is such a bizarre and unexpected experience. It does not manifest how you think it will. I expected to feel sad and miss my father, but I did not expect to be having panic attacks almost every day for years. I’ve got the anxiety under control now, but I still have anxiety attacks whenever I’m confronted with a problem that my father would have supported me with. I’m just more able to recognise that this anxiety is actually grief.

Your relationship with the person doesn’t end with their death. It just changes. In a way, I feel like I know my father a lot better now that he’s dead and I can see the whole story of his life. I can also see that I did not address the difficulties in our relationship and never confronted him about the ways that he failed me which, if I’m honest, were as significant as the ways that he supported me. I think he knew this too, but we never talked about it because it was too dangerous. I never would have been able to think, let along say, this when he was alive.

Despite the silences and unacknowledged difficulties in our relationship, I still think about my father every day. I will always regret the way he died, miss him and feel the loss of the support he gave me.

Part One

For grief support “that doesn’t suck”, see Megan Devine, Refuge in Grief

8 Years (Part One)

My three-year-old nephew plays on the floor. “I’ve been feeling sad”, you say, “because I won’t see him grow up”.

At the time, I thought you were just experiencing a bout of the morbid thoughts that had always occasionally plagued you, but later, I wondered if you already knew.

My nephew is eleven now. The rope binding you to us unspools a little more every year. Distance grows.

Two homes that you never entered.

Two jobs that you never heard about.

My grey hair, which you will never see.

I heard about a woman who spent thousands of pounds to save the life of a dog her late husband had loved.

Your cat died a few months ago. The last pet we will ever share with you.

My nephew reads Harry Potter and loves riding his bike. “The worst thing”, my sister says, “is that he doesn’t remember Dad”.

Part Two

Weekend Baking: Bread

A rectangular loaf of wholemeal bread sitting on a bread board

I’ve started baking my own bread at the weekend. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but rarely managed, because patience is not one of my virtues. I think I’m getting into it now, though, and find it very satisfying.

My mother used to make a wholemeal loaf so heavy, dense and crusty that my sister and I called it “brick”. This sounds a bit mean, but she thought it was hilarious. I have no idea how she produced the brick bread and have never been able to replicate it. My loaves come out pretty normal.

February Life Round-up

Another quiet month.

We had a little trip to Bath for my birthday where we did touristy stuff like visiting the Jane Austen Centre. We were watching a film about Jane Austen’s time in Bath when my partner blurted out, “This isn’t the Jane Austen Centre, it’s the ‘Jane Austen Liked Bath Really Centre!'” and I started having hysterics. It was a bit like that, but it’s fun as long as you don’t take it seriously. I was hoping to find a tea towel in the gift shop to replace the one my aforementioned partner SET FIRE to last year, but none took my fancy. Strangely enough, The Radical Tea Towel Company has a good one.

I think the only other activity worth mentioning was a visit to Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair. I’m not particularly into vintage stuff, but we always enjoy this fair and usually pick up a few bargains. Well, I’m set for silk shirts for the foreseeable future anyway!

Reading

I finished The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner. It was quite an enjoyable read, but felt overlong and padded. I read Revelation by C.J. Sansom. I generally like the Shardlake series, but Revelation is extremely gruesome and pushed my tolerance for that sort of thing almost over its limit. My bedtime book was Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worlsey which is a nice read. Finally, I read a book of poetry (yay!), Unravelling at the Name by Jenny Factor.

Television

The only thing we made an effort to watch was Season 2 of Star Trek Discovery. I think the second season is better than the first, but I have a feeling that I want to like Discovery more than I actually do like it. I do like the characters and that’s keeping me engaged, but I’m not so sure about the rest of it!

Otherwise, we watched Season 2 of Poirot which is one of our comfort things.

January Life Round-Up

January has been pretty quiet.

The second week saw both the anniversary of our civil partnership in 2011 and our first proper date back in 2007, so we decided that was worth celebrating and went out for a nice dinner at a little French bistro near where we live.

We went to one gig. It was supposed to be folk legends John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy, but Martin had flu and had to pull out. John Kilpatrick  managed to get a set together at the last-minute and it was a really fun gig, with all the joy of watching a tuly consummate performer. Plus he sang one of my favourite songs by Fairport Convention, ‘Crazy Man Michael’.

Books

I finished and wrote a post about Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers.

I also read Star Nomad  the first in a series by Linda Buroker which was fun (CN for rape threat though).

Film

We went to see The Favourite and seem to be in disagreement with pretty much the rest of the universe because we didn’t like it!  I won’t get into the reasons here because it would take an entire post.

Television 

We watched Lucy Worsley’s series History of the Home which was fascinating. I love social history.

Winter Solstice

Image shows a stylised black and white drawing of the sun rising over a snow capped mountain and forest

The Winter Solstice is one of my favourite festivals. I’m pleased to know that the sun will be returning but, for me, this time of year is all about embracing the darkness and the quiet. It’s the point at which I draw the last year to a close and start to think about the twelve months ahead.

We were both getting colds, so we didn’t do much on the day, but we managed to give the flat a good clean and created a little altar with a candle. I made a butternut quash gratin by Nigel Slater and served it with a 1970s-style nut roast from my Good Housekeeping book of vegetarian recipes. My partner made delicious chocolate chip cookies.

There are three areas of my life that I’d like to focus on during the coming year.

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