Week-end: fasting

A large model cow, painted lilac and decorated with hearts in the colours of various Pride flags and words associated with LGBTQ+ identities, standing on a rainy pavement.

The good

Daffodils. Birds. Loads of writing. The satisfaction of getting shot of some stuff that was cluttering up the place.

The mixed

My short story got rejected. But it was for exactly the reason I expected: it’s way too long and really it wants to be a novel. And the editor really liked it apart from the fact that it was way too long. So. I now find myself with several projects that are well on the way to being something substantial, and I probably need to prioritise.

The difficult and perplexing

Fasting glucose tolerance test. No food from 10pm on Thursday night, train to Cambridge, blood test, glucose drink, hour’s wait, blood test, hour’s wait, blood test. Not my idea of a fun Friday morning, and I felt a bit skew-whiff all the rest of the day. Now we wait to see if I have gestational diabetes. I really hope not.

Train delays at the most inconvenient moment possible. And a decision that was going to result in awkward questions whichever way it went.

What’s working

Early nights. Bathing/showering in the evenings. Saying what I’m not prepared to do.

Reading

Last week I remembered to report my Sunday reading and forgot about the weekdays, in which I finished Death in Cyprus. It was rather an unsatisfactory read: I wanted to slap pretty much everybody; it was incredibly cruel to the older, unattractive character; and the resolution pulled an element out of (so far as I could see) absolutely nowhere. I think Death in Berlin was better.

Still persevering with These Violent Delights.

And I got through most of the latest London Review of Books in between blood tests.

Writing

More on Don’t Quit The Day Job. It’s quite easy writing: at the moment I’m just expounding on my own writing process in an extremely self-indulgent fashion. I’ve only just got all my longhand typed up this evening. What I must do on Monday is rearrange things to fit the new structure.

Thinking about

The myth of the heroic intervention. This came up three times in two days and I think it probably needs a post.

Making

I have the house to myself at the moment and have taken advantage of that fact and got out the sewing machine to do some American-style patchwork. I think my original plan was somewhat overambitious but I’m having fun with the modified pattern.

Mending

Darning a pair of socks, very slowly.

Looking at

An exhibition about the history of Addenbrooke’s after my fasting glucose test.

Cooking

Soup! I adore soup and it is a thousand times less faff in the pressure cooker. I made one with cauliflower and parmesan on Thursday and one with red lentils and Swiss chard this evening.

Eating

The above, plus various things excavated from the freezer. Having got the yoghurt to work last week, I’ve been adding apple sauce, plums, etc. And I made the remains of some roast pork into a sort of stew.

Moving

I managed what used to be my usual walk without having to sit down at least once this week! And I have been getting out for it every morning I’ve been working from home.

Noticing

Robins all over the place, sitting in trees and announcing their presence. Blackbirds, too, and (I think) a bullfinch. And I don’t know whether the decorated cow (whose name, I learned from the information sheet, is Moosha P. Cambridge) has only just arrived outside Sessions House, or if I haven’t been that far along the road, but either way I only noticed her today. Isn’t she magnificent?

In the garden

Got my act together and removed some compost from the Hotbin (the top end was steaming away very happily). Also, not exactly the garden, but I sowed some herb seeds in a pot in the conservatory. Maybe this is the year I get fresh parsley to survive…

Appreciating

Increased energy levels. Soup. Refilling a jar with ground coriander for 32p.

Acquisitions

A bird feeder, the sort made of square mesh to hold peanuts, with a cage around it to keep squirrels out. On getting it home I discovered that we do not in fact have any peanuts. I was sure we did. Never mind. I also got some herb seeds and a nice terracotta pot with multiple holes (see In the garden).

Line of the week

From Theirs and No One Else’s (Nicholas Spice) in the London Review of Books:

There’s a performance of the Prelude to Lohengrin, conducted by Claudio Abbado towards the end of his life, where the orchestra moves like water weed in the current of a river or grassland in a breeze.

Saturday snippet

I wrote and I kept going, wrote and gave up, wrote and wrote and despaired and regained hope and started writing again.

This coming week

I have vague ambitions to Get The House Sorted Out and Get Those Things Drafted and also to Do Some More Patchwork. I also have an appointment to see the midwife and, as mentioned above, should get the results of my glucose test.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: riding the wave

A stylised fish carved into dark wood

The good

A really good writing week! Not only did I write several pages (yet to be typed up) on Don’t Quit The Day Job, I dipped into The Rassendyll Kidnapping, pushed it up above 60,000 words just because it was so close, and decided that maybe it had some possibilities after all. I’m not sure how long I’m going to be able to keep riding this wave, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

Yesterday was the Cursillo Quiet Day, which happened very satisfactorily without my having to do very much about it at all. I spent a while sitting on a bench in the churchyard in the sunshine and it was lovely.

The mixed

Tiredness, naps, walks or not, yada yada.

The difficult and perplexing

Winter’s last (one hopes) gasp. I missed Friday’s blizzard, but all that really means is that I cycled to the station through cold and heavy rain before it turned to snow.

Worrying about various things over which I have limited or no control. It doesn’t help, of course.

What’s working

Deciding the evening before what I’ll be writing the next day. Tomorrow I’m going to do another exercise for each of the underpopulated chapters. This is falling apart a little bit because I didn’t type up last week’s work yesterday; I suspect that if I had I’d have something more strategic. But never mind.

Experimenting with

Taking a shower or bath in the evening rather than in the morning. The theory is that it’ll wake me up after work and make my mornings less crowded.

And, if doing anything at all is going to result in my needing a nap, scheduling in the nap and doing the thing. Less depressing than not doing the things.

Thinking about

Negative capability, and the ability to sit with unanswered questions.

Reading

I keep forgetting to report on my Sunday reading. I finished Intimate Jesus (read disconcertingly like a ship manifesto, for those who are familiar with fandom terms: Angel argues with some vehemence that of course Jesus had a sexuality and of course he never did anything with it); the part that will remain with me is the image of St John the Evangelist removing himself from a bath house due to the presence of a heretic therein. Now I’m reading Black, Gay, British, Christian, Queer (Jarel Robinson-Brown), which is excellent, and alternately making me think and making go, ‘yes, exactly!’ It is very refreshing to read something that isn’t just another dissection of the clobber texts.

Writing

See The Good, above.

Mending

Darned one pair of tights and part of a worn bit of a sock. Then the cat jumped into my tea (not very warm by that point) and got tea leaves over everything.

Looking at

St John the Baptist, Somersham. The friendly little fish at the top of this post is decorating the font cover.

Cooking

Cauliflower and parsnip royal korma: a recipe I’ve made several times before, but which seemed to work out better than most previous attempts. I made up the korma spice from this recipe, which worked very well (though I really wouldn’t call it ‘American’ cuisine…).

Eating

A very nice bit of roast lamb. Some very old barszcz from the freezer (I am trying to use up things from the freezer…)

Moving

Full-length morning walks on both my work-from-home days this week.

In the garden

One of the tulips appears to be developing a bud.

Appreciating

Sunshine, both inside and outside a church. Being with other people, but quietly.

Wanting

To have both time and energy when I’m at home.

Line of the week

This is from a 2011 Hidden Europe article on Birmingham’s number 11 bus route.

George and Richard Cadbury – brothers, philanthropists and chocolatiers – knew the ingredients of human happiness: Tudor beams, indoor toilets, decent plumbing, education, the village green and chocolate.

Sunday snippet

From Don’t Quit The Day Job:

You may feel that daydreaming about all this stuff will guarantee that it’s never going to happen. Very natural. But honestly, unless you’re one of the very, very lucky, very, very few, you’re going to be back at your desk, till, or steering wheel tomorrow morning even if you do find yourself achieving something you can legitimately be very proud of.

This coming week

Two days in the office, one evening meeting, two days working from home and then a fasting glucose test. Not looking forward to that last one.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-(endings and beginnings)

Two wheelie bins, one of which is decorated with a selection of faded stickers, against an ivy-covered brick wall

The good

Approximately a week before the world changed three years ago I spent a weekend in Bristol. My stated purpose in being there was to help a friend attend her brother’s wedding, but that turned out to be only a few hours of it. Bristol isn’t a city that I know at all well, but even so, wandering around it on a Sunday morning, meeting up with other friends, I found it reflecting back layers and layers of myself and my past and, in the process, beginning to make sense of a disorientating change of direction that had happened to me a month or so before that.

Something similar happened this weekend, except I wasn’t in Bristol, I was in Winchester. Which is the city of my birth, and one to which I used to return every year in my childhood. It’s been less frequent recently, but this time round it had a lot to say to me. We were there for a ‘just over a year since the funeral’ memorial gathering for my father, but I had fortitously discovered that the Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature was going on at the same time, and we arrived with so much time in hand that I was able to go and look at my childhood home (not that I remember it) too. And once again there was that same sense of gathering up everybody I am and used to be and bringing them together into the same person. So many little messages. The bin, which has somehow survived thirty-four years (and the accompanying reflection that my father was such a personality that even his wheelie bin is identifiable as his thirty-four years later). A Progress Pride flag on the pavement. A labyrinth in the university chapel. Witty and erudite conversations about faith and literature, and remembering that I am after all a person of both. And also bringing that person back into contact with the disreputable bus crew member that I was born and still am. And the sense that my brain is working again. And being able to walk up and down the hills of Winchester without being completely exhausted.

Then the gathering itself was excellent. And I was not as exhausted during it as I feared I might be.

The mixed

I didn’t get really, really tired until South Mimms services on the way home. However, I have been really, really tired today.

The difficult and perplexing

Tedious physical symptoms of the ‘You really don’t want to know’ variety.

What’s working

Exercising my particular skill set in the job for which I am the right person.

Reading

This has been a good week for reading! First there was Hood – a very early Emma Donoghue, from back before she started concentrating on historicals. I found the depiction of the 1990s Irish lesbian scene, of which the narrator both is and isn’t really a member, fascinating; the prose was gorgeous; and the whole thing was satisfyingly messy in ways it’s difficult to do these days without someone on Twitter calling you ‘problematic’. Then I read Golden Hill because one of the speakers at one of the FaithLit sessions I had tickets to was Francis Spufford, and that was just tremendously fun.

I must also mention this delightful paper: Jurassic Pork: What Could A Jewish Time Traveler Eat?

Mending

I darned a hole in the elbow of a pyjama top; another, smaller hole has appeared next it, and another one on the other arm. I’ve done some of the holes in one of Tony’s fancy merino T-shirts too.

Listening to

Catherine Fox and Francis Spufford talking about ‘Real faith in imaginary places’ (which made me think that I really must finish off the Reader’s Gazetteer series) and Jay Hulme and Rachel Mann talking about ‘Mapping a landscape of (un)holy desires’ (which made me think that I really must write about the epiphanies of 2020-date; for the moment I would like to express my gratitude to the audience member who made the point about how desire, in the very broadest sense of the word, is basically seen as unseemly for and therefore irrelevant to Christian women – sing it, sister!) Anyway, I really enjoyed both sessions, and failed to take any notes at all.

Mattins at the cathedral on Sunday morning: a modern but quasi-plainsong Benedicite that I can’t say I really enjoyed, but a Stanford Benedictus and a nice depressing Tudor anthem to make up for it (complete with a story about how the composer of the latter attempted to murder the Dean).

Looking at

The Chinese and British exhibition at the British Library. Predictably, I was most taken by a beautifully detailed dolls’ house Chinese restaurant. Yesterday, aside from significant addresses already mentioned, some new King Alfred buses; the most gloriously impractical family car the six of us ever piled into (before it was returned to its spiritual home); and my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ grave.

Eating

A most excellent Sunday lunch (I had roast beef) at the Running Horse in Littleton, courtesy of my godfather.

Moving

Not much to report beyond walking around various bits of Winchester.

Noticing

Two horse-drawn vehicles (minus the horses) on the back of a rescue truck. Hares, from the train. A pair of tractors waiting to cross the railway line. Quite a few deer in various Hampshire fields. An advertisement for ‘new almshouses’, which feels most Trollopian. A fox running across the road somewhere north of Royston. I have already mentioned the bin.

Appreciating

My fabulous family and bus crew (this is how my family spells ‘found family’).

Acquisitions

A carful of second-hand baby stuff.

Hankering

Various books I liked the look of but didn’t buy.

Line of the week

From Hood:

The wind was a black cat outside, rattling the chimney and spitting at the windows.

This coming week

I am going to attempt to recover some energy, catch up with some admin, and tidy some more of my study. Looking forward to seeing a friend on Friday.

Anything you’d like to share from last week? Any hopes for this week? Share them here!

Week-end: blooming

A branch of pussy-willow in a bare hedge

The good

Generally encouraging outcome from Monday’s appointment. All seems more or less as it should be.

The days are getting longer, and the mornings are getting lighter, and there are crocuses and winter aconites and pussy willow and one brave daffodil.

The difficult and perplexing

I am not much less tired than I was. It is meant to be passing off by now!

What’s working

Protein, particularly at breakfast. I had cottage cheese on my toast and was amazed by the way I didn’t need to head straight to the canteen for a sausage sandwich upon arrival at work. Now I am investigating protein-rich snacks.

And I’m really enjoying being in the garden.

Experimenting with

Different configurations of pillows. (Tonight: three under my head and one under my top knee. We’ll see how that goes.)

Reading

Notes on ‘Camp’ (Susan Sontag), mostly to see if I had enough brain for theory. On the whole, yes, although I think Sontag is one of the more accessible critics anyway.

I have found several interesting blogs to add to my RSS feed reader. Some of them have not been updated in a while, but the great thing about RSS is that if they are it will show up.

Continuing with These Violent Delights and Death in Cyprus. And I did reread Persuasion, as I’ve been threatening for a few weeks.

Writing

Apparently the book that wants to be written is the book about writing a book when you have a job. So I’m going with that. I’m accumulating a lot of longhand that needs typing up, though I’m not sure when that’s going to happen.

I also saw a call for submissions I liked the look of and wrote a first draft of a poem, which hasn’t happened for a long time. Really not sure if it’s any good or not.

Watching

Continuing to catch up on: Four Continents; Alpine skiing world championships; biathlon world championships.

Looking at

Well, I meant to visit the exhibition on Alexander the Great at the British Library, but I’ve missed it. A combination of meetings running into lunchtime, not being able to remember my password to the online booking system, and general disorganisation.

Cooking

Not a huge amount: a pleasantly stodgy cheese and broccoli pasta bake earlier in the week, and then stuffed peppers (couscous and tomato with harissa) with grilled halloumi yesterday. That was extremely nice.

Eating

Since we were both in Cambridge on Monday, we went to the Haymakers in Chesterton, which used to be our designated local, and had pizza. Mine was a Capricciosa – artichokes, ham, olives, and probably other tasty things I’ve forgotten (it says mushrooms on the menu, but I asked for them to be left off).

Moving

I wish to note that I managed to get my bike all the way up Back Hill without having to get off to push it for the first time in ages. (I often feel that I could do it more often if I only tried a little harder, but by that time in the evening I’m usually short on willpower as well as energy.)

Playing

Attempted an escape room with colleagues; we failed miserably but had fun.

Noticing

A hare, lolloping across a frosty field.

In the garden

The loveliest thing happened yesterday: I was getting the washing in, and three small long-tailed tits came and started pecking away at the suet block, maybe a metre and a half away from me, tops. I waited to get the last few things down from the line until they’d finished.

I finished pruning the last apple tree and had a go at taming the wisteria. Maybe tomorrow I’ll look up what I need to do to plum trees, other than get the vines out of them.

I’m beginning to think about what I want to plant this year. Tarragon, certainly. Maybe I’ll finally manage to keep some parsley alive.

Appreciating

Increased light and warmth. The return of the idea-generating bit of my brain.

Acquisitions

Tickets to a couple of events at the Church Times Faith and Literature festival. I had no idea this was happening until I looked on Winchester Cathedral’s website to see when Evensong was going to be next weekend, since I’m going there for something completely different. The programme is slightly frustrating, in that there are several things I’d like to hear all on at the same time, but since this was an entirely unexpected opportunity I’m not going to complain too much. I just hope I’ll have the energy for it. (Also wish to note that it didn’t even occur to me until several hours later to consider myself a failure for not having made enough of a name as a faithful litterata to have been invited. A couple of years ago it might really have got to me.)

Two cookery books: The Roasting Tin (this might have been last week) and The Pressure Cooker Cookbook. And a recipe binder in the Paperchase closing down sale.

More food containers.

Hankering

Well, I still have the rest of the cupboard to organise.

Line of the week

I really liked this blog post by K. J. Charles.

We see holiness—wonderful things—everywhere, if we only look. Because life is everywhere, although time passes, and babies age, and people and things and ways go and are forgotten. No, not ‘though’. Because the tide is always going out.

Saturday snippet

For the writing a book book:

This is one of those irritating inner voices that is never satisfied. It will move the goalposts to the other end of town if you give it a chance. You? Writing a book? Don’t be ridiculous. That’s for people with… You can fill in your own blanks.

This coming week

More travelling than is really ideal, but not much I can do about that.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here! Or recommend me protein-rich snacks (I don’t like milky drinks, though).

Week-end: like a mighty tortoise

A bird of prey on a weathered wooden pergola

The good

Tangible signs of progress. Zooming with the family.

The mixed

I always promise myself that I’m not going to look at Twitter during General Synod week, and I always fail miserably in that resolve. This edition’s drama was centred on same-sex couples, marriage/blessings/prayers for. I was reminded of the Futurama episode where one of the presidential candidates thinks the other’s three per cent titanium tax goes too far and the other one thinks it doesn’t go too far enough. Anyhow, we seem to have not ended up with robot Nixon, so that’s something.

For me, it meant some miserable internalised biphobia in the shape of not feeling that I could say much about it at all, on account of having been able to marry who and where I wanted to thirteen and a half years ago.

However, I went to the cathedral this morning and the Dean opened the sermon by reading from the Bishops’ apology to LGBTQI+ people. Of course this document has itself been controversial, and many people have argued that an apology is more or less meaningless without more change than we’ve seen. In the context of this morning, however, it felt immensely powerful. I don’t think I’ve ever turned up – anywhere – to a regular Sunday morning service and heard the word ‘bisexual’ come from the pulpit. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes, hearing it spelled out in actual words: you are welcome.

Relatedly, my LGBTQ+ History Month interview with my alma mater went live this week.

The difficult and perplexing

Falling into bits of the internet I’d rather not be in, and staying there longer than I wanted to.

What’s working

Understanding that realistically I am not going to get more than two or three things done in a day, and prioritising accordingly.

Experimenting with

The idea that going round in circles in the dark may in fact be a Swiss spiral railway tunnel in which all that faffing around is necessary to get me a few hundred feet further up the mountain.

Reading

Continuing with These Violent Delights. I’ve got behind on Death in Cyprus. I also read (and subscribed on the strength of) an excellent article in the London Review of Books on Twelfth Night and displacement.

Writing

Some gentle fanfic, and a little more on the writing-while-having-a-job workbook thing.

Watching

Why do all the winter sports have major championships at once? Because there are only so many days of winter, I know. It was a rhetorical question. I have the biathlon on at the moment.

Looking at

Model railways. Some on Twitter Model Train Show, some not.

Cooking

Recommendations from commenters: Instant Pot risotto on Monday, and butternut squash and sweet potato soup on Wednesday.

Eating

Falafel wrap from my favourite stall.

Noticing

An excellent smiley baby on the train. Several handsome cats watching goings on from windowsills. A treeful of starlings.

In the garden

A sparrowhawk! (At least, I think it was, based on the Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland. It was certainly engaging in sparrowhawkish behaviour. Very grainy photo at the top of this post.)

The snowdrops are out, other bulbs are coming up, and I am going to have to pull up a load of wallflowers from between the cracks in the paving stones. This year I’m going to try to remember to save the seeds before more of that happens.

I’ve pruned as much of the last apple tree as I can reach without a stepladder, and hacked off some bits of wisteria in a attempt to keep it to the pergola.

Appreciating

Tony. This week specifically because he has bought me cherry yoghurt, but he’s generally a good thing.

Acquisitions

I managed to buy enough paper tapes in Paperchase’s closing down sale to qualify for a free canvas tote bag. Um.

Yesterday Tony and I went to Cutlacks, the local home and garden shop (Islanders: think Hurst), and bought various things: a shower shelf, some table mats, containers in which to put pearl barley and other grains, a rack to hold the iron. That kind of thing.

I’ve also renewed my subscription to Hidden Europe and pre-ordered Run Away Home.

Hankering

Nothing I didn’t end up buying, I don’t think.

Line of the week

From Devonport (Chloe Honum)

He liked the gulls that stood on the railing,
all puffed up with sky.

Sunday snippet

Sometime’s it’s just nice to be able to do your job, then get to the end of the day and stop. Which sounds insultingly simplistic if you have the kind of job you take home with you, or if you get home and then have to feed five dependant humans and a gerbil and wash up afterwards – but that’s my point.

This coming week

Is a little topsy turvy, due to an appointment and then some frivolity with colleagues. It should all shake down to a quietish weekend.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here! Or just keep recommending me Instant Pot recipes!

Week-end: jiggety-jig

A group of small islands seen across a city from the top of a hill on a sunny day

The good

I very much enjoyed our last couple of days in France – exploring more of Avignon (including the covered market) on foot and by tram, and then visiting Marseille. The latter was very sunny and very windy. We took a bus a little way along the coast so that we could look at the Chateau d’If from the shore. Of course I now need to reread The Count of Monte Cristo, but then I always do.

Also, an extremely positive and useful vision and planning day with my Cursillo committee.

The mixed

I wouldn’t have chosen to take a rail replacement bus at 7.20am – but looking back to see the towers and walls of Avignon sharp against a hazy gold sunrise, and then driving through Tarascon and Beaucaire as it brightened into a clear sunshiny day, with the old walls basking in the light, made it worth it.

Got caught up with work and didn’t make it to Evensong on Thursday. But I learned today that Candlemas was not marked at Evensong on Thursday, so I have in fact been saved disappointment (and other people have objected).

The difficult and perplexing

Dealing with a jam containment failure on the TGV. My fault. Probably.

Not sure I will ever catch up on my emails. Oh well.

What’s working

The lectio divina on community from Fifty Ways To Pray. Embracing the idea that sometimes all choices are good (and therefore that dithering over where to eat lunch is a waste of time).

Reading

At Nîmes station I found a machine that dispensed short stories at the touch of a button. So I pressed the button and received a copy of Fleur Sauvage by Thierry Covolo on a long thin strip of paper.

Since getting back I’ve been pretty tired and have fallen back on Persuasion retellings from the AO3. May reread Persusasion proper. Some good blog posts, too: The Holiest Feast Day of Do-Overs from The Fluent Self, and Admiral Cloudberg was on particularly good form capturing the horrifying inevitability of Carnage on the Autobahn: the crash of Paninternational flight 112.

Watching

The European figure skating championships. I have to say it’s nice to be able to watch the final group in the women’s competition without constantly wondering whether it’s making me complicit in child abuse.

Looking at

More Provençal crib scenes, not to mention the churches that contained them – Ste Marie Majeure and Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille. I liked them both, flamboyant nineteenth century edifices that they are. Notre Dame de la Garde in particular is quite remarkable. It’s right at the top of the hill (we took the bus up) and even when you’re inside you can hear the wind howling around. It’s more or less wallpapered with votive plaques and representations of Our Lady’s miraculous interventions, including several model boats and aircraft. But particular kudos to Ste Marie Majeure for having an actually convincing flock of sheep in one of its crib scenes.

Cooking

I made jam tarts for Candlemas. (I forget now where I read about this tradition, and it may be a complete myth. Still, at worst I get jam tarts.)

Eating

More delicious French food, including cromesqui (a sort of deep-fried potato ball) and entremets (a cake made of chocolate mousse). Things I’d actually heard of included salmon and poached egg.

Noticing

Cats sitting on the roof of a hire van in a suburb of Avignon. A deer sneaking across the path ahead of me when I went for a walk on Thursday. A bus in Nîmes that thought it was a tram.

Appreciating

Warm blanket, fluffy cat. Bed.

Acquisitions

More badges for the camp blanket (still missing Avignon). Interesting flavoured salt, and truffled olive paste, from the covered market.

Hankering

So much unsuitable cheese. And the wine, too. (We did bring some back for purposes of future celebration.)

Line of the week

From No More Delay: a call to General Synod by Charlie Bell.

The minute we bless same-sex couples, people’s prejudice will be challenged by real, living people, right in front of them, living ordinary, faithful, loving, honest lives of love and faith, to coin a phrase.

This coming week

Back in the office. And maybe I’ll decide what to do with the butternut squash and sweet potato that have been hanging around for ages.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: l’on y danse

The surviving arches of the bridge at Avignon, on a bright winter day)

The good

We are on holiday! We are staying in Avignon and visiting other towns in the vicinity as well. There is a great deal to see and the food is excellent. Also, the sun has mostly been out, and getting more sun was the object of the exercise.

The mixed

There is, inevitably, not enough time to do everything and see anything, and I am compiling a mental list of things we didn’t get round to this time/that were closed for the winter/would have needed a car/etc. So we will just have to come back and take slow trains along the Côte d’Azur/see the Pont du Gard/look for flamingoes in the Camargue.

The difficult and perplexing

It is cold. The place we are staying at is called La Vie de Bohême and my hands are doing the Che manina gelida bit. The mistral is blows straight through me. Just like home, really. But why do all the hand driers in the public lavatories insist on getting in on the act?

What’s working

Trousers over tights. Having a lie-down in the afternoon. Accepting the fact that really any establishment with a menu outside will feed me adequately and will be happy to do so.

Reading

I forgot to mention Winters in the World (Eleanor Parker) – following the cycle of the early mediaeval year and quoting a lot of literature along the way. I’m really enjoying it.

On the e-reader, I have These Violent Delights (Chloe Gong) – Romeo and Juliet, except older and more jaded, in 1920s Shanghai, with monsters and possession (sort of). I’m enjoying the story; the prose tends towards the clumsy (but see below). I’m also continuing with Death in Cyprus and returned to The Master and Margarita (the latter has now shown up). I’m not sure I’m really getting it.

Looking at

Lots of Provençal monuments! We went around the Palais des Papes, and out as far as you can along the famous bridge (there was an exhibition, with quite an interesting film about how they have worked out where the rest of it originally was). This morning in Nîmes we went around the Roman arena and I learned a lot about gladiators, and into the Maison Carrée. This afternoon in Arles we looked at the outside of the Roman arena (two in one day seemed excessive) and through the railings at the theatre.

My favourite thing, though, has been the crib scenes in the churches. The one in the cathedral at Avignon is currently showing a Candlemas scene; the one in Saint-Trophime in Arles is a magnificent multi-level edifice occupying an entire chapel and featuring locals in traditional dress coming to visit the crib. It even has a windmill at the top of the hill.

Eating

I said there’d be pancakes. There have, in fact, been three: one with chilli con carne at My Old Dutch (Chelsea) on Wednesday night; one with ham and Gruyère and an egg on top yesterday lunchtime, and one (‘crêpe Mont Ventoux’) with chestnut and whipped cream and chocolate sauce for pudding yesterday night. That may be enough to be going on with. I have also eaten onion soup (very, very effective when I was tired and cold the night we arrived), lamb stew, and quiche with leeks and bacon. It’s all been delicious.

Moving

Climbing up and down a lot of steps of various antiquity.

Noticing

A set of gallopers with black bulls alongside the usual horses. Young men with a shopping trolley full of puppies (I don’t know why; I hope they meant them no harm). Goats in a garden next the railway. Snow on the ground as we crossed the middle of France on the TGV. Two swans and a cormorant in the Rhône.

Appreciating

Having an apartment to ourselves. The SNCF app (when it’s been working). The friendliness and patience of pretty much everyone we’ve spoken to.

Acquisitions

Badges for my camp blanket (though not, so far, one saying Avignon).

Hankering

I keep passing shops full of soap and hats and shoes, and haven’t gone into any of them. Yet.

Line of the week

One really good one from These Violent Delights:

He was born with pride stitched to his spine.

This coming week

A little longer in France, and then home. I have quite a lot to sort out before next weekend, the beginning of a very busy February.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: cold and beautiful

A street corner on a bright wintry day. Above the houses a cathedral tower rises, hazy in the mist, and surrounded by white-frosted trees.

The good

I dragged myself out of the house this morning and was glad I did: a heavy, spiky frost had turned all the trees white, and the cathedral was wearing a misty veil and looking like an enchanted castle from another dimension.

I have had a little more go, and even managed a bit of piano practice on two days. (I have been teaching myself to play the piano, very slowly, for the last five years at least.)

Lots of post on Thursday: my author copy of Bicycles and Broomsticks (Tony got his on Friday, so I think most people should be getting their Kickstarter rewards soon); cotton mending yarn in jolly bright colours…

The mixed

… and the probate application form, which has been doing the rounds of us executors. It is a sad thing, but it is good to keep things moving.

The difficult and perplexing

Never mind Blue Monday, Wednesday was an actual depression day. I am looking on the bright side and thinking that it is useful to know that I can in fact tell the difference between being knackered and being depressed.

Mixed news from the Church of England, and as usual I’m having trouble working out what I feel about it and feeling hesitant about expressing that, whatever it is.

Also, I shrank my favourite jumper. I’ve stretched out out again over the drying rack, but it is not what it was.

What’s working

Alternating activity with lying on the sofa.

Reading

I seem to be starting loads of books and finishing none of them. Yet. I continued with Sisters of the Forsaken Stars. My romantic suspense book club is now reading Death in Cyprus (M. M. Kaye) – satisfyingly awful characters, including the ones who are meant to be sympathetic, and some gorgeous descriptions. I also returned to Switzerland’s Amazing Railways, which had the entirely predictable effect of making me want to go to Switzerland and ride on (more of) the railways.

Writing

Not a huge amount, but I did type up all the longhand I did on the train last Monday. I still haven’t worked out a routine or set-up that works in my current state, and I’m not sure whether there is a routine or set-up that would theoretically work, or if I just need to wait things out and write little bits when I have the energy.

Mending

Two of Tony’s tops and a pair of my tights.

Watching

As in the rest of the month: Detectorists, Our Flag Means Death, quizzes and winter sports. I am not all that invested in the sports, but I enjoy looking at the snowy mountains.

Looking at

Small but Perfectly Formed: an open exhibition at the local art gallery. There were a few pieces I really liked, quite a lot that were just Not My Thing, and several that I would have liked had they not been given horrific twee names. (I am much more a ‘willows with heron’ person than a ‘gone fishing’ one.)

Cooking

I continue to experiment with the Instant Pot. Last Sunday I made a stonkingly good boeuf bourguignon on the slow cooker setting. Yesterday I did lamb tagine with the pressure cooker. I like this thing.

Eating

As above. Also, yesterday I had a falafel and halloumi wrap from the market; it was not as good as the ones from the stall in St Pancras new churchyard, and was also more dribbly than I’d have liked, but was still not at all bad.

Drinking

Tony and I tackled the mocktails menu at Poet’s House yesterday, considering all four items on it (I noticed too late that there was a Dry January blackboard with several other options) before going for a Virgin Mary (him) and a Galaxy (me). The latter is made of pineapple juice, and I think soda water, and made partly purple with butterfly pea powder (sole function of latter seems to be making things purple). Then I was falling asleep again so went home.

Moving

Swimming on Friday morning: probably a bad idea, in retrospect, even if I was careful and did about half what I’d usually attempt. Still, I’ve managed to walk into town and back, or further, every day since Thursday, so maybe that’s progress. People keep assuring me that the fatigue will pass. But why does nobody mention it alongside the sickness and the forgetfulness?

Playing

Home on the Range. Repeatedly.

Noticing

A goldfinch.

In the garden

Finally got all the pear trees and all but one of the apple trees pruned. And obtained an enamel soup plate to replace the birds’ water bowl, which cracked in the last frost.

Appreciating

Long johns. Hot shower. Bed. All the organising I did in November.

Acquisitions

The copy of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Rebecca West) that’s been tempting me in Oxfam for months got sufficiently reduced for me to buy it. And I got Arsenic for Tea (Robin Stevens) and Unseen Things Above (Catherine Fox) while I was in there too.

Hankering

I wanted to get a peanut feeder for the birds with an anti-squirrel cage, but such a thing was not to be had in Wilko. I want interesting socks, but not enough to learn how to knit them for myself. And I am still tempted by a 21-hook darning loom.

Line of the week

Loads of candidates this week! Either I am reading some very good writers or I am reading more attentively and appreciatively. Both good. This is from Death in Cyprus:

Amanda’s hair – a deep golden brown with glints in it the colour of the first chestnuts in September – was a glorious anachronism.

Sunday snippet

This is from the ‘don’t quit your day job’ workbook thingy.

One of the great gifts of all this has been that I have ceased to feel guilty about the things I’m not doing, whether that be writing, or washing up, or piano practice, or getting cat hair out from under the TV stand.

Things happen when they happen. I am actually pretty good at getting things done, but I get them done when I have the time and the energy, and when I don’t I don’t waste time and energy worrying about them.

This coming week

The long haul south. Pancakes. And what looks like it’s going to be a very frosty cycle to the station tomorrow morning.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: service resumed

Toy pig made of beige corduroy, and plush wild boar, on top of a row of books

The good

My team’s Christmas lunch happened on Tuesday, having been postponed due to rail strikes in December (solidarity forever, obviously). The food was extremely tasty and we ended up in a pub admiring a nineteen year old cat named Jackie Onassis. What more could you want?

My writing brain is back and I did three pages on the train on Friday (half of them in red, because my black pen ran out). Hurrah! I survived the week better than I’d expected, actually, and even had the energy to peel potatoes when I got home last night.

One of my colleagues bought me ginger biscuits, which was very sweet of her.

The mixed

Sunday was the anniversary of Pa’s death. I went to church (Epiphany – so incense, which he would have disapproved of) and cried a little, discreetly, and in the evening we had a family Zoom and discussed various practical things we still haven’t sorted out.

The difficult and perplexing

Goodness, the Church of England is in a state at the moment. Ugh.

What’s working

I think a small cat nap on the train on Friday evening was beneficial.

Reading

Mostly I’ve been reading back through my blogroll. I’ve got to ’26 days ago’, so it’s all very Christmassy. I also returned to Sisters of the Forgiving Stars, though haven’t really got into it yet.

Writing

Lots! Hurrah! I began with a reflection for today’s online Cursillo meeting. Then I finished off the questions for Exeter (will link, if they end up being published in linkable form), then polished up Starcrossers and threw myself on the editor’s mercy regarding the fact that it was half as long again as the advertised maximum wordcount. We’ll see what happens. Then yesterday I wrote three pages about the fact that some times you just can’t write anything at all. This is going into the Don’t Quit The Day Job workbook I’ve been prodding at for a while. I haven’t done so much today, but I’m feeling quite encouraged.

Watching

Today, the Wengen downhill skiing. I have skipped a lot of the Alpine skiing in the last couple of weeks because the swathes of green were just depressing, but Wengen was displaying proper Alpine weather. And of course it’s always worth watching just to see if the Wengernalpbahn train will cross the track at any point when people are skiing down. Which reminds me, I must go back to Switzerland’s Amazing Railways.

Cooking

I had a go with the Instant Pot we have on approval, and made something that claimed to be Greek Chicken. I am not convinced that it was as Greek as all that, but it was quite tasty and the pot cooked it adequately. It was useful just to get an idea of how long the thing takes to heat up, get up to pressure, depressurise, etc. I haven’t got to grips with it by any means yet, but it does feel plausible that I might. Recipe recommendations welcome.

Eating

Tuesday’s lunch, at Drake & Morgan and King’s Cross, consisted of: chestnut hummus with flatbread; goose with a plum wrapped in bacon and typical roast dinner accoutrements; chocolate opera cake. I’d never had goose before, and was surprised (though thinking about it I shouldn’t have been) what a rich, dark meat it was.

Drinking

Working my way through the mocktail menu (first a Plum and Violette [sic] Spritz, then something called Garden Fizz, which was mostly blackberries and raspberries) followed by a lot of Erdinger Alkoholfrei.

Moving

Pleased to report that I did my standard fifty minute walk today and didn’t have to take a nap in the afternoon. And I climbed up to the top floor of my office a couple of times this week. Energy seems to be coming back. Today I thought about going swimming, but didn’t.

Noticing

Hazel catkins shaking in the wind. (And it has been very windy, the last few days.) It’s also fun to look for nests in the bare trees, though I don’t know how many of them are still in use.

In the garden

Four simultaneous bluetits, who approve of the suet cake.

Appreciating

Having more energy than I’ve had since mid-September. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to spend all of tomorrow in bed, but this week’s gone better than I could have hoped.

Acquisitions

A roll of double-sided sticky tape. And I have some more darning yarn on order.

Hankering

I smelled some perfumes in Rituals at King’s Cross, but didn’t like any of them enough to seriously want them. They’re comparatively cheap, though.

Line of the week

Clothes in Books featured Women in Black by Madeleine St John.

There remained presents to be bought for sundry difficult relations, there remained clothes to be purchased for their gigantically-growing children, there remained even frocks to be found for themselves, and then shoes to match these frocks: there remained almost everything to play for, and they were resolved to win.

Saturday snippet

From Don’t Quit The Day Job:

“Average author earns £100,000 a year” factoid actually just statistical error. Average author earns £10,000 per year. Megabucks Bestseller Georg, who lives in French chateau and earns £5000 per word, is an outlier and should not have been counted.” Of course we don’t want to believe it. We like books – at least, I assume you do, or why are you here? – and it feels deeply unfair for something that brings so much pleasure to us to return so little reward to its creator.

This coming week

Just one day in the office this week. An appointment on Thursday. Otherwise, a pretty quiet one. Maybe I’ll write some more.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: Twelfth Night, somehow

A paper 'stained glass' window shows the Magi offering gifts to the child Jesus and Mary

The good

Lunch out with friends. Sharing good news. A really interesting discussion about John the Baptist.

My brain is coming back! Slowly, but it’s on the way. I have been reading things. I have been writing things. I have been watching things.

The mixed

It’s just as well that I’ve been working from home all week, because I’ve been collapsing into bed as soon as I clock off. I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to cope next week.

The difficult and perplexing

I’m becoming increasingly aware that for my next trick I need to become much better at delegating. But at this stage I’m still very much in the ‘it’ll only take five minutes; might as well do it myself’ phase, and delegating (and chasing the people I’ve delegated to) is also work. Improvement needed.

What’s working

Going for the easy option. Zoom rather than a dash to the South (this is tomorrow but I’m already glad I’m not taking a train to Guildford). Lunch in the pub that is nearest. And so on.

Reading

Lady B- is back! And I’ve just started Snow Ball (Brigid Brophy): cynical and scintillating.

Writing

Most of an interview for my alma mater, and a little more on the blog about the Belgian Coastal Tramway. Coming soon. I hope.

Mending

I got the darning loom out again and mended holes in: my favourite navy Guernsey jumper; one of Tony’s long-sleeved T-shirts; a pyjama top.

Watching

Charade: a self-consciously silly caper film starring Audrey Hepburn and the Parisian urban transit network. Mostly the Métro, but there was an excellent moment where Cary Grant leapt onto the back of a bus, as is entirely correct. I guessed the solution of the mystery quite early on, but there were plenty of other twists to keep me amused.

Continuing with Detectorists. I also started Our Flag Means Death. I’d been rather put off by hype backlash (a constant weakness of mine) and the earnestness of the fandom discourse, but it turns out to be delightfully silly (as well as Good Queer Rep and, what I hadn’t heard so much about, a clever commentary on the place of pirates in popular culture). I continue to get earwormed by the Horrible Histories Blackbeard song.

Cooking

An extremely bland and comforting tuna pasta bake. And then the thing with pearl barley, chorizo and kale (the only way to make kale interesting that I have yet discovered).

Eating

Today at the pub I had a chickpea curry (forgettable) followed by peach tarte tatin (very nice).

Moving

It feels rather depressing to be noting what used to be my standard morning walk as an incident of record, but there we go.

Playing

This afternoon I was taught to play Bears vs Babies. Rather fun.

In the garden

The squirrel has discovered the peanut feeder. I shall rearrange the feeders and leave the nuts out of it for a bit.

Appreciating

Intelligent theological conversation. Friends. Being able to nap.

Acquisitions

Merino wool long johns in the Mountain Warehouse sale. Will it get cold enough again to wear them? We shall see.

Line of the week

Almost every line of The Snow Ball has been quotable. What about:

He was short, and hollowed out by middle age; and his sporran leapt hectically, leapt breathlessly, up and down, not keeping time with the lighter leaps of his jabot.

Saturday snippet

The beach was a generous sweep of pale sand, scattered with seashells. I thought about paddling, but decided against it. The sea was quite a way out, and the wind was cold.

This coming week

Four days in the office. Will I manage to stay awake? And will I get the hang of the (heretofore unmentioned) Instant Pot? Stay tuned!

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!