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Good grief, two posts in one day. But this came home to me as I was walking the dog, and it’s important. You know how it is; as you pick your way down the valley side and stroll along the slope all kinds of random stuff is flickering through your mind in a general ‘information sorting coversation with self’ sort of way. In my case, the following:

What am I going to do about this research project…

When will I get round to finishing crocheting that scarf for my sister…

Why do so many women lose ambition when they have a family and retreat into mumsiness…

Am I wanting to retreat into mumsiness because it’s safer and less challenging…

What’s happened to that little girl who has gone missing, Shannon Matthews, just a couple of miles away from me…

What sort of life does her mother have, that she’s got seven children by five different fathers…

Remember all the women who have been impressed by you studying as a mature student with a family…

Remember how much they wanted to do the same – but they didn’t have the opportunity, or the confidence (or both), or their partner isn’t supportive (well, initially mine wasn’t either, but it boiled down to ‘support or divorce’ so he decided he’d rather support).

I can’t let them down. They want to know I can do it, so that they know, under different circumstances, they could have done it. That their daughters can do it, and still have a family.

For their sakes, I’ve got to give it my best shot. Even if all I do is scrape a pass.

Rachel’s potatoes

And then I went out into the garden when I got back from my walk, ostensibly to put the guinea pigs, Charlie and Cocoa, in their run. I got fiddling with one of my big tubs and found these potatoes, still buried from last summer as I had forgotten they were there. I was so pleased. A pirate must feel like this when he comes upon buried treasure. Lunch is sorted, and I must get cracking on the RP so I can fiddle in my garden much more, without guilt.

To do list:

Phone Barnsley branch for directions for tonight’s antenatal group.

Email supervisor with progress so far and probable scenarios for vignettes.

Contact midwife friend so she can also give her thoughts on scenarios.

Work on questionnaire.

Draw up plan/ skeleton for project introduction.

Boil potatoes.

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I haven’t done any research project work for four days, so now I’m panicking again. Oh, woe is me. Trying very hard to breathe calmly and refocus. Think of the good things… thinking really hard…. Nope, no research based good bits in there yet.

In other news, Sparky is now good friends with Willis. I took them both for a walk through Lady Wood yesterday, and she kept trying to run round him and jump on him. He was obliging about it, but hampered because he has to stay on the long lead as he appears to have no clue what his name is and acts totally ignorant when you try to call him back to you. At one point they appeared to be totally tangled up in his long line, but then freed themselves before I had to rip my hands up tugging at the thing.

I started an antenatal group in Bretton last week. First class, everyone had to drive very slowly and carefully to get there through thick and freezing fog. Second class, last night, we had gale force winds which blew a truck over on the motorway, so all the local roads were snarled up – it took me an hour to get there and it’s usually more like 20 minutes – and at times it sounded like the village hall roof was going to lift off. So for next week, I’m wondering whether we get more heavy rain – I usually cross the Calder at Horbury Bridge, which is prone to flooding – or an unexpected snowstorm sweeps in and buries the village hall in a 10 foot drift.

Anyway, here’s a picture:

Jackie at Tower Bridge

That’s Jackie, a Cherry friend, who I met up with in London to go see the Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2. She’s standing by Tower Bridge because I wanted to get off the Tube early on the way back and walk through a bit of London which I haven’t seen before – a word of warning, if you meet me in London wear comfortable shoes as I do like to walk. I thought the City area would be interesting, but it’s all modern buildings apart from the odd church steeple left over from WW2 air raids. It was getting late when we were walking, so I’ll have to go back – probably with my boys – and see the Tower another day.

I’ve been absent because I’m on a research project deadline. Bascially, if I don’t get a huge amount of stuff done in the next two weeks I might as well forget about it. This was a mutual decision between supervisor and self, as my life isn’t going to get any quieter, and I’m still struggling to get really enthusiastic about this project. It’s interesting, and I love searching for relevant papers, but then I panic about designing the questionnaire, and running the analysis, and writing it up, and I get precisely nowhere.

To be honest, I really don’t know if I can be bothered. I do have a big fear of failure, which can stop me even thinking about doing something if I think it’s unlikely to succeed, but I don’t think it’s just that. I’ve got family to think about, and run around after, and given that I hate job hunting so much the MSc is unlikely to make much difference to my career prospects – I just take the path of least resistance, which means I’ll stick with developing what I’m doing now. I used to want to go into research, but I honestly think I’m more of a people person – I like the interaction I get from teaching people skills and stuff.

But anyway, I’ve got two weeks so I might as well keep on putting one foot in front of the other and see where I get to. If nothing else, I will understand more about attribution and medical error. I’ve cut down on many small commitments – and I’m not taking Sparky so far afield to walk her – so that I can immerse myself in my subject, but I’m going to try to remember to stick pics on here in my (self-appointed) lunch hour.

I’m praying for inspiration and motivation.

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Here’s another of the pics I found for Valentine’s Day. Aren’t those chips fab? We did actually eat fish and chips for tea yesterday, although they weren’t heart shaped. They came from The Scarborough Fisheries in Thornhill, long renowned as the home of good fryers. There’s a new guy in charge, a former Army chef, and he is keeping a fine tradition going. I’m told his puddings – rhubarb crumble, for example – are also excellent, but I only ordered fish and chips four times, a collop and a spam fritter. It’s years since I had a spam fritter and it was pretty good, even though I don’t have the same yen for super fatty foods as I had when I was younger.

 When sons and I got home with the hot bag of fried food, m’husband was waiting with hot plates, a hot pot of tea, salt and vinegar and brown bread and butter.

Perfection.

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It’s Valentine’s Day today. I like getting presents and cards, but I hate feeling ripped off with the price of nice cards and flowers, and heart shaped chocolates, so I told m’husband we would make cards for one another this time round.

When I came home from teaching last night, a loving homemade card was waiting for me on the keyboard – leaving me very guilty, as I’d got a bit too caught up in halfterm shenanigans and homework arguments and done nothing.

So here’s my attempt. I toyed with the idea of trying to get to grips with Publisher, but soon gave up on that. These are the pictures I collected. My husband is always warm and cosy – an excellent match for a frosty feet like me – and, silly though it sounds, it’s one of the things that keeps me going when married life gets tough. Tomorrow I’ll make a Bakewell tart – hopefully in the heart shaped tin, if I can find it.

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I’m 41. I’m supposed to be way past angst. I’m supposed to be confident, knowing who I am and what I want. I’m supposed to have made peace with my body and worked out my relationship with food. My student debts should be paid off and my pension plan well under way. I’m supposed to be having a damned good decade before the real decline starts. Instead I’m still on a hormonal roller coaster – I’m managing to keep the hyper periods in check but controlling the total misery is beyond me – I’m still getting fatter, don’t have a clue what I’m doing, where I’m going or what my life goal is, and it hurts so blooming much every time I get a little knockback. Don’t even ask me about the financial situation.

To top it all, I have a spot on the back of my neck which is so big it’s a goddamned boil. What happened to skin getting drier as you aged? Or is that just confined to round my eyes?

I do like a nice tree. I’m a tree hugger. Ever touched a majestic parkland beech, and felt the tiny tingle – like an electric shock – running through your palms? Very soothing, beech trees.

I have to drive to get to decent mature trees, but just down the road, at a place called Caulms Wood, the council planted a stand of conifers – maybe 25 years ago – which are beautiful. I love to have a proper real-life Christmas tree in our house, but at the same time I feel a little sad that it has been chopped from its roots so we get our Christmas treat. However I can take Sparky down to Caulms Wood and gaze at the glorious, year round, fresh growing green firs whenever I like:

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Addendum: This afternoon I was feeling very sad and upset about something, so I walked Sparky up a lonely track – we were probably only ever a mile from houses, but it felt very isolated among fields and woods. The wind is very strong right now, and it was thrumming overhead – when it came to a copse it sounded like an giant aircraft was flying right over my head and in several places I was actually having to lean into the wind to make my way forward.

The trees looked good in their copses, but all required a diversion across muddy fields, so I stayed on the path, letting Sparky choose our way at every split. Eventually she scampered up to a crooked row of trees alongside the path, and I leaned back against a lovely oak for a little while. Then I felt the need to sit, and there was a sturdy branch which had broken off a desolate looking sycamore. All very restorative.

We soldiered on and the path turned and joined another, very old footpath which runs alongside a wood. This is one of the old ‘heavy traffic’ footpaths which are paved with heavy old Yorkshire stone flags, with deep grooves worn along them where generations have walked. The wind was wuthering, and specks of hailstones started to fall. It felt perfect. Even though I’m craving some sunshine and summer, it was a lovely way to spend an hour.