Year 2, Month 9 – Julia

Completed something important.
Remembered the password for this little blog.
Volunteered. Twice in one day.
Was rewarded for karmic volunteering by having the second thing be cancelled, so I could go shopping rather than coaching in the rain.
Found a thing I’d been coveting for a ridiculously good price in a very unexpected place.
Seem to have dodged bronchitis.  Cough downgraded from death-wracks to lung-rattlers. Hallelu!
Have an important meeting tomorrow. Well, two of them.  Was freaking out pesky cough but remembered not to sweat the small stuff. I am awesome and professional, whether or not I give you a lung.

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Day 11 – Julia

1. We made this. It’s 10% “nailed it” and 90% lush.

2. If you can see said picture, then I’ve finally figured out how to make my phone and WordPress talk to each other about photos reliably (without using the bajillion non-working cross-posting options on offer every time I take a picture or write a post).

3. Lovely sunny almost hot weekend! Did not do my work. Did erect a complicated trellis, use power tools, make cute garden things with frost-damaged pots and hang out in the garden with A.

Days 304-314 – Julia

Well, I hit burnout and ended up having a 12-day computer fast, broken only briefly by an i-pad in Paris. I feel terrible for abandoning this beloved blog, but I also feel much much better for letting my brain look at things other than screens for a while. the glorious 10 day Easter break ends today, and while I am not any further along with any of the big things on my to-do list, I’ve been able to cram in a good 10 separate adventures.  Here, in no particular order, is a long list of things I’ve been grateful for in the last 2 weeks:

1. Restored communication with wife.  We hadn’t really seen enough of each other for a few weeks and my clever plan to take a trip to London and Paris together got foiled by A’s work commitments (and her decision not to tell me about her work commitments because she didn’t want me to be mad at her for not coming to London with me)…  So it’s been excellent to spend 3 days walking, organising, and moving furniture around together. We’ve now dealt with most of the things on our Christmas DIY list, which means we’re only one bank holiday behind.  And we’re both on the same page again, which is excellent.

2. I am well enough to travel (long distances! to exotic places!) by myself.  Well, not so much long distances as long travel times (eugh, budget travel options), but all the same I was very pleased to negotiate buses, trains, subways and passport control on my own.

3. I am feeling in control of my body again and am no longer terrified of tunnels. This is quite convenient, seeing as how I took the Eurostar. There comes a point, far beneath the English Channel, where one must concentrate very very hard on not thinking about one’s current location. And I can now mitigate fear like a normal person; I’m not sure if this is because I feel I’d be able to physically run away if I needed to (not much use in the Under-the-English-Channel scenario) or just because I feel generally happier, but either way it’s good news.

4. I haven’t seen CMJ for far too long, and I got to see Paris (a city she knows like the back of her hand) with her again. She’s 86 but shows few signs of slowing.  She coped well with having a broken-ankled daughter, a wobbly granddaughter, a food poisoned granddaughter, and a 12-year-old in tow; in fact she had a 17-minute nap and then went off without us  to a conference on Mali while we were all too shattered to even buy anything at Le Bon Marche.

5. My grandmother outed me by standing up for me at the most awkward dinner party I’ve ever been to [and that’s including my last French dinner party, where the hostess (who used to run a high-class lingerie store) uttered the words, “I love gay men. But you can always smell a lesbian.” And then turned to me and said, “And you? What do you do?” ]

But back to this dinner party in Paris: They were utterly lovely and impeccable hosts, with a gargantuan and impeccable Parisian flat and a 5-course dinner party they had delayed their holiday to their house in the Dordogne to host for us. Unfortunately,  while the drinks were being poured they expressed reservations about adoption,  gently but in the presence of my adopted 12-year old Chinese niece. This was a little bit awkward, and perhaps down to rusty English and patchy French rather than prejudice…

Over the champagne and almonds it transpired that our hosts had been marching against homosexualite’ all weekend, and that they were vehemently opposed to marriage and especially to children for gay people. I started to say something about how it’s important to know what you believe in a tactful cowardly attempt to change the subject.  And my astonishing grandmother looked them in the eye and outed me. I was mortified (mostly with myself for not having had the guts to do it), and ever so proud of her.  Things could only go downhill, but it was hard to foresee just how far down and just how many different hills.

Over the red pepper mousse starter, I reassured the hostess that I had no intention of having children. Four times.

Over the turkey and avocado mole, we noticed that the gold candlesticks on the table had slaves on them.  Heavy gold bases, heavy gold sconces, ornate leafwork. And beneath each sconce, wrought black figures were bent double, under the weight of bringing gold and light to the table.  The candlesticks stayed undiscussed but conversation turned to how buckwheat is called Saracens in French, because it makes a brown flour.

Just before the cheese course, the impeccable hostess left the table to show us a pricey watercolour of their farmhouse in the Dordogne. She tripped on my grandmother’s cane, landing with a thump that broke both the watercolour and her humerus.   She remained impeccable and firm to her beliefs that dinner parties should continue and gay people shouldn’t touch anyone. She eventually let me have a look at her shoulder, but changed her silk blouse before using an ice pack.  Despite her obvious agony and the fact that a night in the ER was clearly on the cards, she insisted we stay for the cheese and fruit salad courses.  We did skip the coffee and cognac eventually, but boy was that a long dinner party.

6. I am grateful that my life does not ordinarily involve dinner parties with people who function at that level of decorum, impeccability, and prejudice.  Downright relieved in fact, although in retrospect it would be a much weaker anecdote if she had been neither steely nor tested.

7.  We spent some of Monday’s bank holiday starting to clear out A’s grandfather’s house; he sold everything anybody liked some years ago, but there were lots of little sentimental objects and it was lovely to watch A’s family going through photos.

8. Some furniture that was in A’s grandfather’s house (but belongs to A’s father) has very elegantly solved a storage dilemma.  Huzzah for free furniture! Huzzah for A’s mum, who was willing to let us embark on a furniture-moving adventure despite some serious reservations (only slightly alleviated by quadruple-measuring of all the extra space). Huzzah for A, who helped as far as she was willing and said no when she needed to. And double-huzzah for A’s dad, who was willing to help me schlep the components of an 8′ cabinet up 2 flights of narrow stairs.

9. It’s cold cold cold here.  There’s ice on the pond.  Whilst this is not in and of itself good news, it does mean that gardening is out of the question, and *that* means I’ve had to do things like study instead.

10.  Sun!  It’s only 4C outside, but it’s gloriously sunny out there. And if I stop writing this post, I might even have time to go outside for 5 minutes at lunchtime.

Day 293 – Julia

Well, I’ve been repeatedly Mondayed today. I admittedly cracked a bit, but only once. And that’s a pretty good indication that I’m feeling a lot more in control of my body and of my life.  I also haven’t had a bad day for almost two weeks (ear-wise or life-wise). I’m pleased that I’m more able to cope with a high number of physical, mental, and beaurocratic challenges than I would have been last month.

I know that relief and exasperation are not the same as gratitude, but this story has to be shared.  I paid  my fees in full, as agreed, on the day my Catch-22 restrictions were scaled back, as agreed.   In fact, I paid them before 9am.  My account, however, still shows full fees owing, for reasons that elude me.   As it turned out I REALLY needed my university e-mail account today, so my day would have been, well, pretty infinitely worse if the Finance department had taken their usual course of action and gone for surprise account-freezing. Luckily, the finance department has finally noted that they should speak to someone, if not me personally.  So they rang the head of student services to tell her they were blocking my account, so she could ring me, so I could forward her my provisional receipt for payment in full from the finance department, and my final receipt from the finance department,  so she could forward them back to the finance department,  so they could, well, do whatever it is they do – or don’t do – with their own records.

This wasn’t, it turns out, the least of my beaurocratic worries today; but because this blog has forced me yet again to look for the shiny little pearls, I’m happy that I’m robust enough to be amused by a farce or two, and sufficiently trained by this blog to count the blessings I might not have spotted otherwise.

Day 229 – Julia

Glad we went to the women-only disco in the local community hall tonight. More glad to have decided against forcing my slightly wobbly legs to go to the salsa workshop this afternoon. I would have hated it, struggled, hated that I was struggling, and then gotten trapped in a frustration spiral – try harder! fail more! I thank mercy and good sense for that narrow escape.
The parts of the post-workshop dance that didn’t involve avoiding the merengue were fun, and I got to talk to lots of friends I haven’t seen for a while, including an acquaintance who has MS. She is also insane (no, really – last year she told me cheese was a gateway drug. A gateway to what, we still don’t know – but she was adamant- vehement even – about the dangers of dairy products. But not yoghurt. Just cheese.) Anyway, she and I were looking equally wobbly this time last year, but I now look a lot better and she looks a bit worse. So I’m feeling very grateful that I probably don’t have MS. I also feel a little terrified for her, and guilty that I am not as supportive of her as I could be because I can’t bear to discuss the details of her lost independence. I am extremely lucky to be in my own mostly independent shoes, big and slightly clumsy though they are. I’ve had a somewhat dependent year, so relief is palpable.  I’m not sure I could stand a progressive decline, and I’m not sure what that says about me. Therefore I’m really very grateful that I can ponder what looks like a narrow escape. Planning for a dependent life is a whole other kettle of fish, and who wants a kettle of fish? Nobody, that’s who.

(Came back to tinker with the poor grammar and repetitive relief in this post, but am still struggling to articulate myself and am quite wobbly today – so I’ll just sign out with the still-valid refrain.  Independence! Relief!  Escape from Latin Dancing! Happy.)

Day 213 – Julia

Not sure which day we’re on, but can re-categorize this tomorrow now that most of the horrible things are out of the way.

Finished most boring coursework ever, and stopped myself from re-reading it or expanding it even though it’s under the word limit.

Just saw draft report from needs assessor, which is totally reassuring and as best-case-scenario-ish as it could be in the circumstances. Whew.

Day 203 – Julia

1.  In the Uni parking lot for the first time in 10 days. Definitely been healthier, but Hallelu.

2. Meddled in the affairs of others to excellent effect.   I started a conversation between two people who should, in my opinion, get on well, and I seem to have been right.  I now know much more than I wanted to about technical bike specs, but am delighted to have started a new friendship at the least.  (Sorry, C – I learned nothing from the keys incident of ’05.)

3. There’s no sound nicer than my back being watched.  Unless it’s the sound of a good old vinegary sarcastic rant. Sometimes it’s good to counterbalance all the saccharine.

Day 202b – Julia

Stopped myself from completely and utterly overdoing it, and still managed to fit in 9/10ths of a short walk, 10/10ths of a coffee, and 95% of buying and decorating an odd-bin Christmas Tree.  (The tree is a bit wonky but locally grown, and was half the price of the one we usually end up getting from the big store. So far we’ve decorated it with clove-studded orange slices, dried chillies, and some popcorn-and-holly garlands that took hours to make but required no brain power whatsoever. We’ll flesh the decoration out with something shinier tomorrow, I think.).  L and the 6-year-old came over for an hour too, so there’s been plenty of fun.  I missed a really lovely cycle ride with friends and there’s a chaotic week ahead which my lungs may simplify, but right now I’m savouring the fact that I can do what I want to do most in all the world, which is Go To Bed.