Living in a bubble

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Some days this crappy illness is worse than others. Some days I’m pretty good (as long I take it sensibly), others are a challenge.

I often feel that I have a bubble round my head, if not all of me, which changes in thickness depending on how well I am.

On good days (of which there are blessedly many more than there were) the bubble is thin, invisible, pretty much not there.

On bad days, the bubble is so thick and dense that the outside world is pushed far away. I haven’t been zorbing, but the image struck me as a rather good analogy. I feel like a tiny person inside a clear barrier, where sights and sounds have little impact on me, where my head is full of wool and my body operating at minimum system requirements. But nobody can see it – only I know it’s there.

Those are the days I find it hard to care about anything. They’re usually the days I’m tired to my very core. I can’t make decisions, I can’t remember anything much, and I just by and large don’t give a shit about anything, even things that should concern me. But it’s OK because my bubble buffers me from pretty much everything. It just makes me boring and useless to be around. I’d get bored with myself on those days too, if I could give enough of a shit.

I dislike feeling like that. It’s not who I want to be, not at all. I feel about a thousand miles from the person I ought to be, and I have to squash the frustration to stop it spilling over and making things worse.

Even on medium good days (or medium bad days if one is feeling negative) the bubble is there, to a greater or lesser degree.

Today I have decided I need to get out and join some classes, clubs, that kind of thing. Another particular treat of having ME is that because I am not exercising regularly (erm, at all) because it tires me, my body is just shit and useless. Dieting is not a battle I can fight right now because I simply don’t have the mental resources to tackle it. The loss of walking several miles every working day has left me with no muscle condition whatsoever – I feel weak and very feeble, and flinging suitcases around on trains as I was yesterday then immediately brings massive bad results.

So I need to do some gentle regular enjoyable exercise – yoga, pilates, that sort of thing. Can I decide which one is best? No I can’t. Have I got the seemingly simple capacity to make a decision about which class I might like to try? No. I have no idea why.

I seem to have developed cold hands and feet, which I’ve never suffered from before. I hope that exercising will perk up my circulation.

I have forgotten things I did at work a week ago. I simply cannot remember how I calculated something easy. I have to ask idiotic questions and look like a fool. I’m not engaged enough with my tasks to actually care whether they get done or not. Only the impact on my colleagues and the small matter of being paid gives me any reason to get things done.

If things requiring my attention aren’t right in front of my nose, I immediately forget them. My ability to concentrate is appalling.

And this isn’t a bad day. This is an average day. The bubble is there, I am disconnected today, the world is a bit padded out, a touch removed. I’ll go through the motions of eating and smiling, I won’t be very chatty. There’s a choir I could go to tonight, one that looks good, but I tell myself that I had a busy tiring day yesterday which left me feeling ill, so maybe tonight isn’t a good time to do something new.

I hate that I think that. I hate that I don’t, can’t, just go out and plunge myself into things with gusto. Am I right? Am I making excuses? Am I being sensible? It’s so hard to tell.

I’m pretty sure that getting out and about, singing, being bendy one way or another, will reap physical and social rewards, and I’ll stop being so bloody inward-looking.

I just need to summon up the strength to give myself a big kick, and, actually, writing it down is part of that kick. Boring as it may be.

Just this once

Just this once I quietly wish for someone warm and loving and strong to be tucked up in bed with me. Someone to wrap me up in his arms, nestle my head under his chin, stroke my hair and keep me safe from the storm.

Someone to roll over and gather me up when the rain and wind wake me, to tell me it’s all going to be fine and that we’ll get home one way or another, just maybe not today.

A long way from anywhere

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There is something about holidaying in February.

The weather is often bleak, the wind wild, the rain plentiful. Rather than diminish my enjoyment, this simply serves to heighten my gladness at being tucked up in a cosy cottage, poking the fire periodically, perhaps venturing out a little, returning to the warm.

Yesterday was one of those sorts of days. We daringly risked a short walk down the track to the pub, dressed from top to toe in waterproofs to fend off as much of the driving rain and howling gales as possible. Much of the track was a lively stream, and when we reached the pub the little river had risen and flooded the low road bridge.

Observing that this could make leaving on Monday nigh on impossible, we retreated into the pub and got a round in, being the only customers mad enough to be abroad on such a day.

One drink turned into two. 

The handful of staff were friendly and chatty, and much amusement was had watching the barman set the TV up so we could watch the rugby.

Two drinks turned into three. The wine was presented in glasses the size of fishbowls

Three drinks turned into four. 

We won the rugby (hurray!), and a clutch of brave souls had found their way over the footbridge and into the pub. The locals were welcoming and chatty, and it was with regret that we got togged up again to climb the track and head home to watch Take Me Out. We giggled our way through the pitch black with our phone torches guiding the way, I cooked enough pasta for six for the two of us, and we drank yet more wine.

This morning, somewhat unsurprisingly, I had what we can only fairly call a hangover, plus a renewed resolution not to mix my drinks on quite such a grand scale in future.

From my window I could see a decent dusting of snow atop Hay Bluff, which added to my general air of cosyness. My piano playing had improved this morning, after a very rusty effort yesterday. “Fly” was beginning to sound rather good, if somewhat poorly tuned.

After a lazy morning, we got off our backsides and went for a walk in the relative dry. Sensibly, we opted for a road-based walk, as the footpaths were just going to be morasses of mud, and whilst I don’t mind a bit of mud, I didn’t much fancy fighting through a foot of it.

So we ambled along the lanes, taking photos, noting that the bridge was open, ending at the pub, where we enjoyed a grand Sunday lunch at a relaxed pace which involved precisely no alcohol for me (although I kept a weather eye out in case there was an sherry trifle to be had: there was not, probably fortunately)

A return to the cottage, a hot deep rose-scented bath for me to ease away my aches, and a nap. The rain on the skylight, the wind howling around the eaves – a long long way from anything that matters.

Presently I shall show my face downstairs and snuggle up with James Herriot on the sofa in front of the fire. We have home-made leek and potato soup for supper, and it only remains to be seen if the river has risen again tomorrow or not as to whether we can go home on schedule.

  

In Herefordshire

I’ve had a train ride, a trip to Waitrose, a jaunt up a long farm track, and now I’m ensconced in a beautiful cottage in the very depths of Herefordshire right by the Welsh border with my cousin.

We’ve had a bottle of wine or so each, a modest quantity of crisps, a healthy dinner, and a vast amount of singing along to power ballads of the 80s, and, as Cousin Z announced, “your favourite song ever”, which can only mean one thing. Leaping around the kitchen playing air guitar and wildly emoting to The One and Only with flagrant disregard to taste and style, which left me emotionally drained but enormously happy.

The house is beautiful, the piano is only in tune in the lower registers, and the supply of logs is plentiful. It’s going to rain all day tomorrow and therefore we will stay in the cottage, singing, eating, playing with my pack of newly-purchased Underground-backed playing cards, hiding from the weather, playing the piano, reading, watching Take Me Out, and drinking more wine.

I gather that there are also guinea pigs in the vicinity, which will clearly have to be found.

Sometimes life is just right. It really is. This – I believe – is contentment.

Hopelessly in love

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It’s finally happened. That magic moment.

My heart is swooning, my face is flushed, I feel like a thousand tiny kittens are singing 80s love ballads in a fluffy chorus behind me.

I’ve met “the one” – at long last! I can’t believe it’s actually happened. To me!!

My frozen icy heart has been thawed, my unimpressedness with love is now but a dim and distant memory. I’m excited, hopeful, slightly nervous, filled with anticipation of how good our life together is going to be…

This love, my one true love:

  • is beautiful and sexy, with a gorgeous figure
  • responds instantly to my touch from the lightest of fingers
  • loves to tell me about science and all the other things I love
  • shows me things I could never have imagined before
  • speaks to me in the softest caressing voice
  • isn’t threatened by my way with words and understands when I get ahead of myself
  • makes me laugh
  • looks breathtaking in red (my favourite colour)
  • will never cheat on me
  • fits right in with all my friends, and reminds me how great my friends are
  • sings to me
  • wants to make my life easier
  • knows my history and isn’t afraid of it
  • is always on my side
  • doesn’t need to go to the gym
  • doesn’t mind when I’m being really silly

We are going to be happy together forever. Forever.

Or, at least, until Apple stop supporting this model.

Yes. Alright. Fine. It’s an iPad. I’ve bought an iPad at long last, and I bloody love it.

So there.

The One That Was Never Quite Meant To Be

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I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my very oldest friends over the Christmas holidays, and for some reason I didn’t get around to writing it up, quite possibly because it was the evening before I went away to see The Prof.

He ought to have a name, really, given that he was my best friend for years. He can be The Musician. Because he’s phenomenally talented, as is his charming wife.

It turned out that I hadn’t seen them for nine years. Nine years! They had a photo of me holding their eldest son, who was a baby, at his parents. And then, somehow, nine years have shot past.

Good old Facebook, letting you know when people are back in our home town for Christmas. “Fancy a drink?” he asked “what pubs are decent these days?”. “Errr, let me have a think…most of them are shit!”

So I met them at the least shit pub I could think of, and to my pleasure neither of them had changed a very great deal, despite now being the parents of two school-aged children. The only thing that has changed is that his hairline is fractionally receding, just the tiniest bit. But we laughed and chatted like it had only been last year.

It was a joy to see them, and it was only after we’d been there half an hour that it occurred to me that I’d got divorced since I last saw them… which Mrs M hadn’t known until half an hour before coming out, upon enquiring whether Ex-H would be there too? It’s always interesting to talk about a split with someone who knew both of you from the off. Let’s say they understood perfectly his quirks.

After we’d drunk up and said goodbye, I had time to reflect. I was so glad they were still together, and obviously happy and content. Mr M still had all the mannerisms I remembered from when we were at school together, and it made me rather nostalgic.

Mr M and I came within a hair’s breadth of moving from “just best friends” to “being boyfriend and girlfriend” when we were seventeen.

Where to start?

We’ve known each other since we were maybe three or four. We went to the same playgroup, we went to primary school in the same class, our birthdays were in the same month. He was someone I had always known.

At high school we were in the same sets (cough, top sets), and again he was just someone I’d always known, one of a group. I had a set of girly best friends and the four of us were pretty inseparable from Years 9 to 11 (apart from when I snogged one of the others’ love interests on a drunken night out after too many Archers and lemonades and was persona non grata for two weeks).

On the geography field trip in Year 10, we worked in the same little team. On the coach back one of my other chums from primary school told me that Mr M had said something had happened between me and him, which it hadn’t.

Despite it not being true (and frankly I suspect teenage Chinese whispers were the case), it suddenly made me think of him in a rather different light.

I can’t remember when we started hanging out more, but we did, lots. Maybe it was in the Lower Sixth, maybe it was in Year 11.

We’d go off to the cinema together (e.g. The Lost World) and mooch around the shops. We’d go to the pub together because we looked older than we were, and meet friends there.

I don’t think anyone thought we were a couple, we weren’t. I used to snog other people now and then (because I was, looking back, actually rather pretty and slim when I was a teenager (ignoring the permed hair phase…). Oh the things we lose), and he snogged my best friend at one of my parties (she said he wasn’t a great kisser; she had previous for being known as snogging like a washing machine. Who to believe??).

We’d hang out at home, playing the piano, him playing my dad’s guitars. We’d go out in the snow with his older brother and his brother’s friend (who was in fact the snogger of the persona non grata incident…) and have snowball fights around the abandoned “spooky cottage” by our old middle school. The four of us would hang out at his and his brother’s house, being musical – the three of them being astonishing musicians, and me being able to sing fairly passably. (It was a slightly strange dynamic: I liked Mr M; his elder brother took me out on a couple of dates and I dodged a kiss both times, and his friend was the one I’d snogged before. Oh the joys of being a teenager. I don’t think any of us thought that much of it.)

We’d listen to Pink Floyd, sit on the wall at the back of the police station on the way home from the pub, having a cheeky cigarette or two, and we’d never ever ever run out of anything to say. He was my best friend and I thought the world of him, in a very undramatic, unhormonal way.

One evening in the Sixth Form, we’d been hanging out as usual. I think I’d got a bad two-tone short haircut at the time, and I definitely had some trainers with orange in them. I can’t remember anything special about that day. We were in my room (he was allowed, my parents had known him forever, and he was Mr Reliable), and he was reclining on my (single) bed.

I can’t remember how (and this annoys me, as I am Miss Details), but next thing we were cuddling, my head on his shoulder, arms around each other, neither of us saying anything.

I could hear his heart beating. I felt safe and happy, and rather like I’d come home.

We stayed like that – just like that – for a while, until it was time to for him go home.

He got his bike from the garden, and climbed onto it by the back gate. I remember standing across the front wheel, with it between my knees, and awkwardly leaning in for a kiss, because surely that was the next thing?

It wasn’t. No kiss. Something mildly embarrassed must have been said, and off he went.

He was still my friend. We’d hang out with our friends, notably two other chaps from our year, one who had learned to drive and could borrow his mum’s car. We’d stay over, I’d be granted the sofa bed as the token girl; they would all sleep on the floor next door. (Another strange square! I still liked Mr M; one of the other guys I’d snogged on and off, and the other chap who drove was, retrospectively, somewhat in love with me as we’d go out for dinner and he’d try to hold my hand and persuade me that I’d like him to be my boyfriend. Which I didn’t want as I didn’t fancy him. Confused yet?) (again, this didn’t stop us all hanging out in great harmony)

Some six months later, I got together with Ex-H at the Sixth Form Christmas party. Was this a slight rebound after nothing happened with Mr M? Yup, to a degree. They were both smart, but apart from that, couldn’t have been much more different. Perhaps the attraction was that I could make Ex-H like me and want to take that next step with me. Who knows.

Anyway, I went to university with Ex-H, married him, bought a house, divorced him, and now I’m here.

Mr M went to university, and dated a girl who apparently looked exactly like me, to a degree that scared the friend who met her with its blinding obviousness. This friend also got a confession out of Mr M as to why we didn’t get together the night of the cuddle, and apparently he said that he was about to, and then he thought, if we do this now, then that’s it forever, there won’t be anyone else. And he got scared.

Which is fair enough when you’re seventeen. After all, I married the guy I got together when I was seventeen, and look how that turned out. So will never begrudge him his fears.

But when I see him now, and he raises that one eyebrow just like he used to when we were young and carefree, it makes me nostalgic for a tiny moment, just thinking about what could have been.

Fortunately he then met his lovely wife at university too, who looks nothing like me, and is a kind, funny and wonderful human being (possibly also unlike me!). I couldn’t wish for anyone nicer for him, and it fills me with quiet pleasure that they’ve made such a success of their life.

And he got me through my Grade 5 piano too, the second time, so I shall always be in his debt for that :o)

Dear Face

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Dear Face,

I’ve had about enough of your nonsense.

Whatever you’re playing at, stop it at once. Clean up your act.

I’m too old to be buying Clearasil. I’m sick of washing my face in tea tree every morning. I’m fed up of cleansing my face with bright blue astringent marketed at teenagers in the evening. You’ve also been sneakily influencing my back, and I’m properly angry about that too. Mainly because I can’t reach it properly.

I WANT MY COMPLEXION BACK!!

Now, I agree that eating a box of chocolates over the course of a week might not help matters, but you’ve been pissing about for much longer than that and I’m getting really cross with you now.

About the same amount of time that I’ve been enjoying excessively cold feet and chilly hands. About the same amount of time I’ve been feeling tired. Gee – thanks M.E.

So. A word. Mitochondria – if it’s you dishing out all this shit – fucking stop it. Go and stand in the corner and don’t come out until you’re prepared to play nicely. If it’s not you, immune system, hello, please either start tracing and zapping the culprits, or calm down my pores somehow. Please.

Face – you are better than this. Quit with the zits. I hate them. They hurt. I have no willpower to leave them alone. I’m not 15 any more – please, grow up and give me a sodding break.

I could lose 2 stone and look just peachy and lovely but as long as my face looks like this I’ll end up dating only the deeply myopic. I could lose 4 stone and look like a fucking model but the situation would remain the same.

I’ve had enough. I’ve got quite enough flaws to be going on with, thanks; I really don’t need a face like a pizza to top it off. I think I’m scaring my parents who are wondering where their usually reasonably polished daughter has gone (answer: lying on her bed in proper teenage style sulking at her face and bulk-buying yet more Clearasil from Boots.com).

So, please, sort it out. Come on. For me…

Cots

A dose of Mondayishness

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My brain, for reasons best known to itself, has decided that 5.30am is the perfect wake-up time. For the last three days.

It isn’t. Really. It’s not.

Today, being Monday, meant that unlike yesterday I couldn’t just drop off back to sleep when my brain got sleepy again at about 7.45am.

So I feel spaced out, totally uninterested in everything, I have exactly zero percent interest in dealing with the emails that being on leave for two days produces, zero inclination to accept that my boss double-booking me for a meeting is in any way my fault, mildly overwhelmed at the thought of my new drive-plus-train-plus-bus commute tomorrow that is the result of my move, a hearty wish that the roofer hadn’t turned up this morning at mum and dad’s to finish some small thing which involves clattering and Heart FM audible through the window, a distinct feeling that achieving today’s main task is going to be akin to wading through thick glue (no, not Pritstick), a total inability to muster up any kind of diplomacy should it be required today, and a sense of palpable relief that Minion 2 is on leave today so I won’t have a ten-minute Skype chat to get through this morning.

Grumpy and tired sums it up, I reckon.

And I do know perfectly well why I’m waking up early. It’s what my body decides to do when I do something big and generally stressful like moving. Better than having my stomach tied in painful knots like after I left my husband… but still not helpful.

5.30am isn’t my favourite time of day. I don’t want to be lying in bed awake thinking about how my former landlords will be scouring my old house today with a magnifying glass looking for faults. They’ll see the tear in the wallpaper I tried to cover with Chanel eyeshadow (in a rather good colour match actually). They’ll spot the bits of white-tack along the skirting where my TV box ethernet cable ran, which I was on the verge of picking off when I got distracted mid-clean. They’ll find the random tiny bit of plastic I spotted in the bottom of the dishwasher and forgot to pick out.

It’s be great if the agent just tells them it’s normal wear and tear. But she is so sniffy I expect she’ll be after any money out of my deposit she can get, despite the pristine oven and the pristine floors and the immaculate glass and the sparkling cleanliness. Not shampooed the carpets upstairs? That’s because nobody went up there in shoes.

And also I’ve got a list of addresses to change, documents to get updated, a car to sell, doctors to register with, chairs and clothes and boxes to get out of my sister’s garage, and a present to get for my dad because it turned out we weren’t actually doing a joint present and I fucked that up too.

I think that perhaps I need a biscuit…

Moving Day

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For some inexplicable reason my brain decided that 05:15 was the perfect time to wake up on moving day. Having refused to let me go to sleep until midnight. Less than ideal.

I got up at 07:00, got showered and dressed, and cracked on with the last bits of packing.

The movers arrived at 09:00, were efficient, friendly and just got on with it. I kept them supplied with tea, coffee and chocolate Hob Nobs, and the rain didn’t faze them. My precious antiques were carefully wrapped, my boxes stowed, and in two and half hours the house was empty.

Mum arrived to help with cleaning at about 10:00. However much you’ve done beforehand, there is always, without fail, loads to do once the furniture has gone. There is dust. The skirting boards are grubby. Marks on the wall appear. The kettle needs to be packed. The floors need mopping.

As I scrubbed the cupboard fronts, I swore that this was the last time I’d move out of a rented house, with the requirement to leave it pristine. My knees were bruised from scrubbing out the shower basin. My hands were missing the top layer of skin courtesy of Windowlene spray. And my house was routinely kept clean!! Sigh.

My mum headed off home, and I walked into town to hand back my keys and buy a plastic key for the meter cupboards (mine was in my toolbox which was obviously en route to storage).

I took the final readings, and then bam! That was it. Done. I’d had no time to focus on the leaving part, and I was curiously unsentimental about it. Ready to leave. Ready not to be on my own. Ready not to have a giant van parked outside my lounge window and cats crapping all over my garden. Ready to live somewhere the heating didn’t sound like a plane taking off, or where the neighbours woke me up between 05:30 and 07:00 most days.

Ready to go home.

The rain had stopped and the sun had come out, so I put the roof down (once I’d worked out how the mechanism worked on dad’s car) and drove away, along the beautiful route, behind the slow weekday traffic, taking in the views, breathing it in, thinking “it’ll still be here”.

I arrived home, unloaded the things from the car, and went in to put my feet up and have a breather.

Five minutes later the phone rang. It was the movers. They’d fitted everything in except the bike…

No worries. I’d go and collect it, and pick up my keys.

So much for my little rest. I went straight out, unloaded the stuff from mum’s car, put the seats down and headed off out again.

The storage chap (from whom I got a sizeable reduction on my storage discount because I had the fortune to know what a limited slip differential was, and a serious interest in track days) had my bike in reception for me, and had a chat while I slumped in a chair for a quick breather. He laughed and said for a while the guys weren’t sure my stuff would fit into 75 sq ft and thought I’d need a bigger unit, but they’d done it, with the exception of the bike. O they of little faith in my spatial awareness!

I wrestled the bike into the car, then went to inspect the unit to check there was room for the hoover and the box with the kettle. Which there was. A job for another day.

As I went back out the car, my sister rang to take my order for the “welcome home” fish and chip dinner at theirs. Which was to be at 17:30. I had an hour to take my rubbish bags to the tip, get home, get showered, and be ready.

A miracle considering I had unpacked precisely nothing, and needed a whole clean outfit.

I managed it… just (“yay! I have knickers!!!”) and off we went.

My family were delighted to see me. Wine was poured, dinner portioned out, mushy peas handed round, eldest nephew sat next to me (and had been apparently telling his other grandparents all day that “Auntie J– is moving back today! TODAY!!”), then I was dragged off to play.

Mercifully we went home when it was their bathtime (19:00) and I collapsed on the sofa with a glass of wine. I kept my eyes open until 20:30, then admitted defeat and went ot bed.

I was asleep by 21:00.

Today I had a big lie-in, rehydrated, tried to clear my sinuses of cleaning product fog, finished reading The Danish Girl, and pottered around.

My sister’s in-laws popped in to welcome me back. FF said I was welcome to pop round (although I was rather too tired and had much to unpack and organise). I told mum and dad how much housekeeping I’d pay each month (as dad said “you’re not paying rent”).

I created some semblance of order in my room, took it easy, texted various chums. Read some more.

This evening, it being a Saturday, I made my excuses to my parents and headed upstairs to watch Take Me Out, whilst texting Cousin Z, and actually WBF too. Mum brought me a top-up of wine and a bowl of crisps, and I thought, yeah, it’s all going to be just fine.

And the next time I move, it had bloody well better be into somewhere where my name is on the mortgage…

Lessons Learned in the Cotswolds

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Six years ago I was on the cusp of leaving my husband.

I was already working in Oxford, living with my parents in D– and travelling home down south at weekend. I was miserable, deeply unhappy, sad about the mess my marriage had decayed into, and sick to sodding death of traffic jams on the western stretch of the M25.

In February 2010 I left him, and to say a whole new chapter started doesn’t even come close – I had the chance to become the person I really am, which is an absolute gift of an opportunity. I have quite simply never looked back.

I moved to Oxford for a short while, and then had the luxury of picking wherever I liked to live. I fancied a lot of peace and quiet, somewhere pretty, countryish, where I could hole up and ride out the ordeal of getting divorced. And so in the spring of 2010 I found myself in a brilliant flat in Chipping Norton, with views out over the hills and all the peace and quiet I could handle.

I dated, threw myself into having as much sex as possible, had a short relationship and mind-blowing sex with Dr Fathead. I got a new job, I got angry with my ex as the divorce dragged on while I represented myself (with advice from an expert), I had a painful and unrewarding crush on OG, I made new friends, I had new experiences. I bought sparkly shoes when the Decree Absolute arrived on my doormat, I drank cocktails at B&T, I threw parties of much hilarity: I had so many happy memories there. It was a joyous liberation.

Then I fancied some domestic company and a much shorter commute, so moved in to Jericho in Oxford to share a house with Housemate S. It was a lot of fun. We ate ridiculous amounts of Chinese, we went to the pub, we had social gatherings, we went on walks, I played the piano again, my crush on OG continued until he left the city. The house was falling down, cost us a fortune to heat, and we got sick of the agents. A fun 18 months.

So next was a short spell in Headington with NG, which was a nightmare from start to finish. She smoked, she was bossy, the owners were complete nutters, and it was exactly the bad idea I knew it would be before I moved in. Disaster.

Three months later I moved out to the Cotswolds again, to escape. A smart cosy pricey house on my own again (oh the bliss). A rethink of what was important (getting my own house), a diagnosis of M.E. explaining my constant lack of energy and unwillingness for things like parties and constant socialising – a new plan concocted: live with my parents. Save a deposit. Get better.

And that’s the next chapter of my life.

It’ll be different. Many parts of it will be better. I’ll miss the dry stone walls and the honey-coloured buildings and the feeling that this is a place I chose, but the next part of my life needs to be about people and not just pretty countryside (there will be some of that, too). I’ve had enough of being completely on my own. I want a network around me, and that’s what I’ll have by moving back to my home town.

Today has been a chaos of my car not starting (despite being charged all day yesterday) after having loaded it right up (and resulting in a short but serious stare into a meltdown, narrowly dodged), dad coming to the rescue, a later journey over to theirs than planned in my petulant and obstreperous vehicle which then started, going to the storage place, a return back home in my dad’s car, having to go to Slimming World because I’d left my book last week… cleaning the oven, finishing the packing, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the acres of glass, unplumbing the washing machine – quite a lot to deal with and a reminder that life is just so much easier when you have another half to help out and get stuck in. Seems unproductive to dwell on it.

Tomorrow, mercifully, will be mainly dealt with by the removals men. Then my mum will arrive to help me finish off the cleaning. Meter read, keys back – au revoir – onwards with the next chapter.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned whilst I’ve lived in and around the beautiful Cotswolds, some great, some trivial – but all have helped to make this me, this Little Miss Cots. She’s done alright, I reckon… come a long way.

  • sing Chesney Hawkes like no-one is listening. If they are, they know the words too…
  • don’t constantly apologise for yourself
  • something or someone will make you smile every day
  • online dating requires a very thick skin, and you have to grow it, painfully
  • cherish your friends and weed out those who don’t enrich your life
  • there is a sizeable subset of men who positively love curves and don’t mind a bit of podge – being less than perfectly-figured does not equal no sex or admiration
  • cocktails are required once every six weeks, minimum
  • don’t let people lick your ears
  • there are some things which you can truly stop giving a shit about and your life won’t fall apart
  • don’t take everything personally, especially when men vanish for inexplicable reasons
  • clip your stockings to your suspenders before you put them on. Pulling your stockings on and then trying to attach them is a mug’s game.
  • help can come from the most unlikely sources
  • shaving your bikini area is a really bad idea. More than a light tidy around the edges will result, three days later, in feeling like you have a scrubbing brush wedged in your most delicate bits. Awful.  The only way is waxing.
  • what an Oxford comma is
  • always have a handbag big enough to hold a pair of heels which can then be swapped for ballet pumps
  • arrogance is not a recipe for success. Swallowing your pride doesn’t hurt as much as you fear.
  • working at home a lot is not as good as you might imagine
  • I’ve become an honourary member of the HBF family, and this makes me very proud. It also gives me licence to shoot all their Nerf bullets into their hedge accidentally (sorry)
  • cheese is still great
  • I can play the piano quite well, actually
  • I can count exactly which of my friends I can depend upon when things are seriously seriously bad, on one hand. I also know which of my male friends will walk up the road in seamed fishnets and a vicar’s surplice without batting an eyelid
  • don’t listen to sad music when you’re not feeling cheerful. Too much Hamburg Song will make you maudlin.
  • I’m still pretty crap with money. Improved, but not perfect
  • disappointments in love are just part of life. It’s fine to be sad for a while, but then move on. Having a shag helps immeasurably with this. It really does.
  • my stance on not wanting children has strengthened, not weakened
  • my enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of me
  • I’m pretty good at what I do professionally, and I’ve turned out to be a pretty decent manager (illness aside)
  • some men mind periods; some do not
  • I get decidedly less tolerant as I get older: I have no time for fools
  • know when to walk away when something is hurting you or annoying you
  • my love of the frivolous and silly continues unabated
  • every now and then, just occasionally, you’ll meet someone who turns you upside down and makes you see the world in a new way
  • don’t take more than you give to your friends or family
  • there are a surprising lack of Chinese restaurants in the Cotswolds
  • the line between positive and cynical is harder to tread the longer I’m single, but it’s worth not being cynical. It’s nicer to be nice. I don’t want to be bitter and twisted.
  • sometimes there is nothing to be read between the lines, however hard you read, however much you wish
  • perfection cannot be achieved: the joy is in the small details
  • I’m not Chris Ryan, but I might well be The Stig…
  • have a plan for an enjoyable happy life on your own: don’t bank on Mr Right coming along to make everything wonderful for you. Be happy anyway!
  • I can survive divorce, heartache, rejection, mad dates and everything that life cares to throw at me because I am tougher than I would ever have thought, and my friends and family will help me when I need
  • don’t fuck with me because the odds are not on you winning. I am good.
  • asking for help doesn’t make me weak and it isn’t admitting defeat
  • I got the Louboutins. Thanks, Granny.

So yeah, that’s me. I’m a little bit proud of myself, for what I’ve done, learned, experienced. I’ve blogged four and a half years’ worth, and I love flicking back (apart from when I read something that makes me cringe) to revisit my antics and my heartaches. There have been more of the former, and mercifully fewer of the latter…

Farewell lovely Cotswolds. Chipping Norton – you were great. Oxford – you were technically not quite in the Cotswolds, but near as dammit. And this – this has been Moreton in Marsh – lovely, but ultimately lacking in people.

Who was it who said you can never go home?

It seems, you can.

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