December Reflections 22: this year was…


… a slog. I’ve got to a good place, objectively speaking, but getting here has been very tiring. I feel as if I’ve had to put a lot of effort into simply keeping things ticking over.

And does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes, to the very end.

In 2016, I have:

  • got a new job
  • published a novel (this feels like a little bit of a cheat, because most of the work happened in 2015 and earlier. But still!)
  • completed the first draft of another novel (and my goodness, that felt like a slog)
  • got my head around my finances

I’m in a better place financially than I was at the start of the year; I suspect I’m improved in terms of confidence and perspective. I know all that, but I don’t feel as if I’m in any sort of state to appreciate it.

I think the major lessons are, firstly, not to jump straight into the next novel, or, if I must, to only write when I feel like it; and, secondly, to book my holiday well in advance of any fainting in coils. When I say ‘holiday’ I mean, ‘annual leave’, but you know, an actual holiday wouldn’t hurt either.

Some pretty appalling stuff has happened this year on the world stage. I’ve dealt better with that than I would have done last year. A couple of bereavements – longstanding family friends – were more difficult.

It’s been a year of getting through things. I seem to have got through them. Here I am. That’s probably worth celebrating, but I don’t quite have the energy to celebrate.


December Reflections 19: something I love


I love this.

I love the thing itself. My best friend embroidered it for my husband a few years ago. I love the fact that she took him up on a throwaway comment and actually embroidered Maxwell’s equations in blackwork. I love the way that it subverts the cutesy and the pious overtones that one generally finds in samplers.

I love the way that this manages to capture the friendly respect that both religion and science command in this household. After all, one of us grew up attending the church where Russell Stannard is a lay reader. (It wasn’t me. I’m jealous.)

I love the way that religion and science collide in this, and the way that neither of them quite manages to convey the essence of what light is. And once again, it seems, I’m talking about the inadequacy of all sorts of ways of representing things.

I am beginning to suspect that one of the challenges of 2017 is going to be moving beyond metaphor. But how, then, can one possibly talk about anything? Let’s say, then, of recognising metaphors for what they are.

December Reflections 18: reflection


I’d been hoping, of course, for one of those perfect days that we had at the end of November, for a blue sky and a still river, for reflections as in a mirror. No such luck. Low clouds, ruffled water, a blurred picture.

Yesterday I sang at a wedding. Now we see puzzling reflections in a mirror (or, if you prefer the King James version, Now we see in a glass darkly); then we shall see face to face.

Perhaps it’s as well to remember that the image is not, after all, the reality.

December Reflections 17: five years ago


Five years ago, I was writing to December prompts for the first time, though I seem to have done a whole heap at once. This was Reverb 11.

Five years ago, I was beginning to come to terms with some things that I now accept as the price of admission for being who I am. That I’m not at my most energetic, creative or enthusiastic at this time of year. That winter will always be difficult. That uninterrupted good health is not, after all, something to be expected as a right.

Five years ago, my diary was much more colourful than it is today. This is actually one of the less exuberant pages: elsewhere there are stickers, collage, glittery pens, all sorts. I think the reason I’m not doing that so much at the moment is the fact that the chest of drawers wherein I keep all that gubbins is no longer in the same room as my diary; these days it’s much easier to write in black fountain pen, the book resting on my knees, with my feet up on the sofa.

And I was just learning the use of fandoms that take a while to get through. I was reading The Count of Monte Cristo and watching early Doctor Who. The book was probably a little less battered five years ago.

December Reflections 15: best decision of 2016


This hasn’t been a year for huge decisions. The most obviously significant one was deciding to go for what’s now my current job; and yes, that was a good decision. It must have been at some point this year that it flipped from ‘not my scene’ to ‘obvious next step’. All I know is, by the time the job advertisement appeared, the decision had made itself.

The purple fabric in the background is my interview dress. Rather like the interview itself, I had to talk myself into it, and then was glad I did. (I note that 75% of my new dresses this year have come with pockets. It’s been a good year for dresses.)

The best decision, however, the decision that made the most immediate difference, was going on holiday to Lyme Regis back in April. I was very tired and very stressed, and a couple of days with a stiff sea breeze, a hilly stretch of coast path, and an excuse to read Persuasion, made things very much better very quickly.

And it left me with an obsession with ammonites that shows no sign of letting up, and has been very useful in ways that I can’t quite explain.

December Reflections 14: texture


I didn’t know what to photograph for this prompt. Everything has a texture, I thought: how to choose one particular object, or one particular object’s texture?

Then I noticed what I was wearing.

This is my favourite scarf. It came from a charity shop, and is possibly the best quid I ever spent. I like it because it is so uncompromisingly bright. It has a bit of a Ballets Russes vibe, with that orange butted up against the purple and black; indeed, today I was wearing it with a short, full black dress, opaque magenta tights, and black suede ballet flats. (Appear to have been possessed by a Babysitters’ Club narrator for a moment there. Sorry about that.)

But the textures are almost as much fun as the colours. The velvet; the silk; the gentle prickle of the sequins.