Sunday, 30 October 2011


The clocks went back last night.  Nobody told Edward, so he woke up at 7a.m. old time (reasonably); 6a.m. new time.  This had some advantages in that the morning seemed really long and I got a whole load of stuff done before breakfast.  Early afternoon seemed however to vanish rather quickly with a run with Nicola seeming to take up far longer than it actually had (this is no reflection on Nicola at all, and at least we didn't go out for the hour and half off-road traipse around Gelt Woods which I normally do with Eddie on a Sunday).  I came home and did some gardening and then started making tea, thinking I had loads of time, only to find it was suddenly 5.30 and the children were all getting fractious and naughty because they were hungry and I'd forgotten that it was an hour later than they might normally eat at.

The advantages of this were that the older two both ate well however with Alex for once eating all his carrots and most of his broccoli; and they both loved the lamb shanks I had decided to try out on them.  Edward started off making his 'mum mum mum' noise (which means, 'I'm hungry, I like this, hurry up and give me more') but then quickly got tearful as he'd only had an hour's sleep today and was tired out.  As I write he is sitting on his father giggling having woken up after a couple of hours' sleep, having been brought downstairs and given more milk.

I know there are Strict Mothers in the audience who do everything correctly and who will tell me this is the Wrong Thing To Do.  I know it is.  He doesn't normally get - or even ask for - milk if he wakes in the night, but he was crying and crying and not going back to sleep and having not had much to eat today I thought he might well be hungry.  He and his father are now making those funny noises when you pat your hand over your open mouth, so he's now even more awake than he was.  I'm going to bed soon though so he can come up with me and lie next to me and I'm sure will soon be asleep (yes, I know that's another 'no, no' but it worked with the other two and quite frankly having thought before having children that having them next to you on the bed was a cardinal sin, reality kicked in once Alex started waking in the night as a baby, and I do believe that they are unlikely still to be coming into my bed as teenagers.  Plus I like being able to hear them breathe).  I apologise not.

Having eaten our lovely dinner (I really must recommend my choir colleague Andrew's lamb - - pudding consisting of an apple and lemon pie made from my sister's home-grown cooking apples - I left the older children to watch a couple of Aardman Animations short films and went up to have a bath.  Glancing in Isabella's room, having left the dining table not totally cleared, I felt 'why should I bother'.  I was sorely tempted to leave it all for several days, though I did put the dishwasher on first.  I got in the bath feeling that this had been a long week and that I've achieved nothing: none of the work I wanted to do or thought I might do has got done and what's more due to having what felt like a minor and innocuous cold, I have done no training or singing - but going for a run this afternoon made me realise that was the right decision as I felt so tired.  I think it's just trying to look after 3 children, and whilst having parents here last week, over the weekend and for a few days this week, was some help, there still seemed to be rather a lot to do.

I lay in the bath and read To the Poles without a Beard, which I got out of the library yesterday.  An hour later I had just got out and was sitting on the edge of the bath in a towel, still reading, when Isabella knocked on the door to tell me that she and Alex were going to bed.  Amazed at this (it's normally quite a battle), but concluding that they must both be tired due to a late night and lots of excitement at a Hallowe'en party yesterday, and the extra hour today, I accepted this at face value and gave them a big kiss and cuddle whilst tucking them up.

When I came downstairs I found one reason for this apparently good behaviour.  They had opened a new block of butter and put it in the butter dish and then helped themselves to the remainder of the cracker (biscuits) in the TV room (food is not allowed in there), presumably whilst watching all three episodes on the Aardman Animations DVD.  What was David doing?  He was on the computer next door of course... where is a man usually when you need him?  Answer: on his computer.  Would a man think to get the children to bed?  Answer: no, not unless you told him that that was part of his job description for the evening.

I wasn't cross with them.  With an Absentee Mother (in the bath) and a not-too-present Father (in the room next door but probably oblivious to all except fighting) I'm not surprised they helped themselves to the remaining crackers.  I'm quite impressed that they thought of putting the butter in the butterdish in fact, although they didn't think to cover up the evidence - they left the empty biscuit box and the butter dish and a dirty knife on the sofa in the TV room.  And I think they were probably tired as well in any case.

It's been a long day at the end of a long week: and there is only excitement to look forward to from now on as it's Isabella's 6th birthday this week and my parents are coming up again, fireworks night at the weekend, and then the build-up to Christmas: followed of course by Edward's 1st birthday.  It's going to be incredibly quiet when everyone is back at school and work tomorrow: but only for a few days.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


I've just finished The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon.  I loved reading it: another good recommendation by my Mother in Law's reading group.  I was trying to work out exactly what I liked about it and I think it was a combination of three things:

1.  the First World War interest, including the post-war 'reality' and what felt like a real understanding of how things might have been, emotionally, post-war: I remember reading Testament of Youth and that what struck me was the emotional disjoint between those who were in some way involved in the war (especially if they were at or near the front line) and those who were unaffected;

2.  the struggle of a female lawyer against 'the establishment/tradition'.  Unfortunately whilst huge strides have been made I feel there is still a certain amount of demeaning of female professionals nowadays: I have always felt that in surveying, at least (an Old Boy's Network in many areas if ever there was one - and even young male surveyors have expressed that view);

3.  the characters.  Evelyn's relationships with other people are interesting, and the way her feelings are revealed and likewise her interpretation of those she relates to, I found not only intriguing but also understandable and credible.

So, a book I would definitely recommend: particularly perhaps to female professionals.

The colour theme continues in that I had my 'gold' party (i.e. my 50th birthday party) last weekend: and I apologise here and now to all who weren't invited.  Unfortunately due to financial restraints the original guestlist of 200+ - which, even so, was probably going to be too many for the Dacre Hall at Lanercost - had to shrink to 30+ for our own house.  Many people who would normally get invited to our parties, weren't, because we invited people from further afield: on the other hand I was really pleased that people made the effort to travel hundreds of miles to get to my rather low-key but very enjoyable birthday party.  I am now officially 50.

My Mum bought me a gold top but sadly I haven't yet seen a photo of myself in it that I like; I rather think my Mummy Tummy is still quite apparent - but on the other hand, I've had three children and three caesareans and, you know what (in case it's not already obvious)?  I'm quite proud of myself.  I still need to lose some weight but I fitted into a pair of black work trousers which I can't have worn for 18 months or more, so at least I don't need to rush out and buy new work trousers.

I also got some more fab presents.  Jane sent the flowers above as she couldn't, sadly, make the party in the end: she was moving her teenage daughter into accommodation in London as she's just started University, which is very exciting and far more important anyway, but it was a pity not to see her.  I got some more Ren ( in the post yesterday from my Sister in Law as well.  A quick advertisement for Ren: they are British; they are natural; they are extremely good value for money; and they smell great.  One of their eyecreams is one of the few that works on the dry skin around David's eyes, especially in the winter when he's been running (i.e. combination of sweat and cold air). 

Mandy brought a small box of Green & Black's small bars of chocolates (bliss: she had already given me a rose bush); Caroline some fab treble clef earrings and some Clarins Eau Dynamisante (one of the few perfumes I actually like and wear); Alison a gold necklace which I shall make an effort to wear, though I rarely wear necklaces, as again I really like it; my sister various things including a bottle of one of my favourite 'treat' wines, which you can now only buy in France, Muscat de Rivesaltes; Gavin Greig a Waterstones voucher which was great as I have finally been able to buy myself a music dictionary; and Kath and Eddie an M&S voucher which was also extremely well-timed as I had got hair dye on a white crewneck cotton top so I've now been able to buy another.  All in all it was an extremely enjoyable party and I hope my guests, who had made so much effort to come along, enjoyed it as much as I did.

My parents, having talked about buying a car, gave me a cheque.  I had a list of things to spend it on but in fact got a bit distracted and amongst other items bought some things for the garden.  This means I have now been able to give the transplanted rhododedron bushes some compost, which I hope will help them settle into their new home: I have also bought a couple of boxes of chicken manure (two for the price of one) which I hope will help fertilise the soil a bit.  At the moment they're making the utility room smell but the scented stick things my sister bought me are also temporarily in there to try to offset the chicken poo smell.  I must feed the roses, which have been looking particularly unhappy this year: leaves with black spots on, very few flowers, and not much growth.  Unlike the weeds, as I know I have lamented many times in this blog.  Here is a photo of the rhododedrons and I hope to be able to update it later with a photo of them looking bigger and more flowery:

Otherwise the garden is pretty full of weeds, though I now have a plan to dig up a load of stuff under the apple tree and extend the lawn: it might possibly get rid of the nettles, at least for a while.  I bought a whole load of topsoil as I'm hoping it will fill in the holes where the rhododedrons were and also provide a bit of a boost to tired soil: if not, it's chicken manure all round until my compost heap has composted enough to use (a friend has also promised me some horse manure but apparently you have to let it compost down before you can use it).  I was also tempted by some spring bulbs and some cyclamen: last year's cyclamen have not reappeared, which is sad.

It could however all be completely unnecessary as David had the idea yesterday that perhaps we should move to Canada, at least for a couple of years.  Personally I think if we moved abroad we'd probably never come back: I'm certainly willing to give it a go if we can get jobs.  I get no points in terms of getting a visa for being 50, however: at least David at 37 will get a few more.  Apparently Canada has a healthy demand for professionals, though I'm not totally sure what general practice surveyors are called over there: and the skiing would be fab (so long as we lived near the skiing areas).  We shall see.  Will the blog be changing from Unemployed in Cumbria to An Emigre in Canada?....

Sunday, 16 October 2011


This weekend has been lovely.  The weather yesterday was beautiful but more to the point we got rid of Bella.

Don't get me wrong: I love that little girl to bits and I think she's amazing.  She's clever, she's beautiful, she's good at things like climbing up walls, she has the most amazing character: and I wouldn't change one iota of her.  But when she's not around things are a lot quieter and more peaceful and I don't find my time taken up trying to deal with a baby and play referee at the same time: I also have more time for Alex.

Friday evening my in-laws turned up to stay a night, en route from Manchester to Ambleside (OK, not quite en route but they'd booked a cottage which wasn't available until Saturday and it made a lot more sense than going home to Aberdeen, and we're not so far away from Ambleside that it made sense to stay in an hotel).  Bella said that she didn't have to go to school next week and she wished she could go with them: I just thought perhaps as Alex was off to two parties this weekend, her treat could be going down to Ambleside with Scotland Nanny and Grandad for the weekend (I stopped short of missing school).  The proposal met with favour all round so off she went.  Husband then started complaining - when we were just about to fetch her today - about the cost of fuel but it was too late by then.

An aside: my parents talked about getting me a car for my birthday.  A 6-year old Citreon C8.  What they didn't tell me was that it was an automatic - that killed the deal - but also it's fuel consumption is roughly double the VW Passat we've currently got, so why would we, when fuel prices are never going to come down again.  It was an incredibly generous thought but completely the wrong car.
Meanwhile on Saturday afternoon Alex went off to a party, David took Edward out in the backpack for a walk, and I tried to clean the carpets.  The latter was not possible as for some reason the carpet shampoo machine isn't picking up the shampoo, so all that was happening was that I was making my carpets rather wet (the house is mouldy in several places already: it's probably going to be worse now).  Then yesterday evening while David went off to shoot some rabbits, Alex and I walked across Brampton in glorious autumn evening sunshine to drop some things off to one of his friend's mothers.  As we walked we were talking about how peaceful it was without Bella.  "Perhaps", he said, "she could go away for about a week once a month".  I think he had a point, although he did also leave a note for her under her pillow saying that he missed her.

He then had another party today while I took Edward swimming.  This was only the 3rd or 4th time the Baby had been swimming and he was tired and not quite sure about it to start with: it was also a bit of a rush as we didn't want to be late back for Alex.  There really does seem to be a case of the more children you have, the less time you have available to invest in them and to stimulate them.  What is lovely with the older two now, though, is how you can have quite thought-provoking conversations with them.  Alex and I had one the other day about how Jack (in the Beanstalk) wasn't necessarily the Good Guy - in fact he was a thief.  Everyone always assumes the Giant was a Baddie, but there's no evidence that he was: he could have been living peacefully up in his cloud, leaving well alone, when along comes Jack and steals his golden-egg-laying chicken and his singing harp and so forth, and then cuts the beanstalk so the Giant falls down to earth with a thump with no justification whatsoever.  It's all a bit unfair to the Giant really.

We had a similar conversation this evening about lions eating people.  The conversation ran something along the lines that if a lion was hungry and a person ran across his path - perhaps a person who had shot the lion's normal food - then the lion isn't actually being evil eating the person, he's just following his instincts which tell him that because he's hungry he needs to eat.

I'm not quite sure how we moved from there to missing people but not always needing people around, but it was encouraging how both children said they were really sorry and didn't want to be horrible or anything but sometimes it was nice just to be alone, and that sometimes they just didn't want to talk to anyone.  David and I said that it was absolutely fine and that although we loved each other and the children, having some time in the house alone was sometimes really nice.  It rather supports the teacher's comments that Alex is a bright and thoughtful boy who just needs to be able to demonstrate that on paper: I saw his form teacher earlier this week who said that, and then also saw the headmistress about something else who said because he's bright I shouldn't worry as he would get there.

Bella's teacher's first comment was 'she's quite a character'.  It seems that although she's doing extremely well academically, she's also really good at PE: I'm sure she'd benefit from doing gymnastics, and enjoy it.  That's one of my main frustrations about not earning much money: I can't pay for extra-curricular stuff for them like music lessons, drama, gymnastics, dancing, scouts/brownies.....

I have just to brag and say that their reading ages as of September were 10 years 9 months and 8 years 5 months.  I'm very proud of them both.

Edward is rapidly becoming a boy rather than a baby and it's in a way scarey but also exciting to think that it really won't be long before he'll be joining in these sorts of family conversations as well.  It's going to be interesting to see what he's like academically, as I've felt ever since he was an embryo that he was going to do his own thing and not copy the other two.  He's demonstrated that already several times and whilst he's a really happy baby, he's no pushover and knows his own mind: he's also pretty keen to do things for himself, particularly when it comes to food!

I know we need more money but I really don't feel terribly motivated at the moment to put in all the extra hours and time away from the children that a 4 or 5-day a week job would entail.  I keep wondering how - and why - on earth I went back to work full-time when Alex and Bella were each 6 months old: particularly Alex as David was also working full-time so Alex was in nursery full-time.  I feel quite bad about it now, but I guess I was in a senior level job I enjoyed and working for an organisation I enjoyed and I just didn't really contemplate anything different. 

How things change!  Sometimes you just need something to shake up your sense of what's 'normal' and to challenge how you live your life.  I guess it's taken me some time to get there and I'm still not totally sure what path I'm on, but it's fun finding out.  And after all, there really is no right or wrong answer.

Friday, 7 October 2011


My Mother in Law is great at passing me books which she's read with her Book Group: from my point of view it's excellent as I get interesting books to read and I don't have to go to the library and think 'what on earth shall I get out?'.

Many of them have been the type of book which I've found difficult to put down: many (as anyone who has followed this blog regularly will know) have made me question things and go off and look up more detail on the internet: for example about the Spanish Civil War and the Nigerian Civil War (I guess you'd call it a civil war though I'm not sure that's how the participants felt about it).

Mrs. Tim I'm not quite so sure about.  I'm still reading it - often for far longer than I intend late at night - but I'm not sure what I'm really getting from it.  For a start having known some army officers' wives and (ex)girl-friends, I find that rather sexist and very old-fashioned life style annoying.  I guess because I knew wives and girl-friends, and because this is written from that viewpoint, I didn't see the role of female officers in the forces but only the women who basically seem to follow their husbands around with little chance of developing a career of their own.  No, that's not true: it used to be and I think to an extent still is, but despite the fact that things have probably changed, as far as I can ascertain there still seems to be a certain arrogance and sense of superiority to those who are in the military - like many consultant Doctors also, although in their case it's perhaps a little more justified as they are always academically intelligent.  And I have to say I have known and know far more medical Consultants I like than Army officers.

So, I suppose what irritates me is that this book is very dated.  I wonder if it's in the same way that The Remains of the Day annoyed me: a world which has gone and in which women were, basically, second-rate citizens.  It's something which has irritated me throughout my career (being in a rather male chauvenistic profession) and will probably continue to irritate me while it's so difficult to get a relatively senior job on a part-time basis.  Or maybe my entire life.

However the book also made me consider two other things.  Firstly, if it was around today it would be a blog.  Secondly, what is it that makes us so interested in the minutiae of other people's lives?  The cult of celebrity in particular: why on earth are we interested in what some celebrity ate for breakfast (I remember seeing a TV programme on which a cafe had a collection of celebrity leftovers for sale, and the vendors/cafe owners were telling the presenter how much similar items had sold for at auction) or what colour his or her pants are?  Is it when we don't have enough in our own lives, or is it purely that human beings are nosey and curious and that includes about each other?  But then, why is it that the lives of celebrities are so fascinating whereas that of the woman who lives next door isn't - unless she's having affairs with the postman, the milkman and the gas man all at  the same time (there's obviously a similarity in gossiping over the fence and in reading about celebrities' intimate details).  With celebrities is it because we want them to seem as ordinary as we are, and the fact that they drink builder's tea every morning with 2 sugars provides the desired evidence that they are?

I think the conclusion I am slowly coming to is that the reason Mrs Tim 'doesn't do it for me' is because actually I'm not terribly interested in her.  I'm not curious about what being an Army officer's wife is like and there's little (so far) of the 'bigger picture' about what was going on the world at the time.  Her life seems to be much like many other people's: two children, one at public school; shopping; visiting other women, so of whom she likes and some she doesn't; managing a house.

Just move it forward 80 years and change the Army office to a local authority accountant and you could be reading my blog!

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Oh my goodness!  Well over a week - even maybe a fortnight - since I last blogged.

I intended to on Monday evening as I had an experience which made me question Fate again.  I had a phone call from the bride of a wedding I sang at.  She was phoning to say 'thank you' for my singing, and that she had had lots of comments on how special the service was, especially my singing.  It made me feel great and I thought it was really lovely that she had phoned (I'm just awaiting the cheque in the post now).

I then put the phone down to find I had missed a call from Cumbria County Council.  I phoned back: they didn't want me for the job I had applied for.  I felt low: I think primarily just due to being rejected rather than because I cared about that particular job, although I did feel I could have done it.  I did also rather feel that I was too woolly in the interview though and also - my usual problem - too open and informal; and that my presentation wasn't very good.  Doing it only a couple of times at home with a couple of glasses of wine first is probably not wise.

Today I also got rejected for the Board of Tullie House Museum, which in a way was a relief as I was beginning to think that I have enough on what with trying to generate work, write, and the other various committees I am on - and of course the children and the work I am already doing, and choir.  However they rejected me in a really nice way which didn't make me feel rejected at all as they want me for the Board of the Trading Company - i.e. all the commercial stuff.  I have to admit - much as my Husband is rude about 'agents' - that I LIKE selling things.  I always have done: ever since a school fair where there were two boxes of apples left and I stood out on the high road shouting like a market vendor in order to sell them (I was successful), or when I used to help my Mum on the Embroiderers' Guild cake stall .  I loved selling properties at auction for BW: little parcels of land which appeared to have little value but which went for high prices as paddocks, or purely from wishful thinking on the part of the purchaser.

I have to admit I do sometimes wonder where I'm going wrong in Cumbria, when I just seemed to walk into jobs down south: and had bosses who always seemed to be pleased with me.  Has it all changed purely because I have children now, or is it that I have become more bolshie as I have got older?
So last week was a busy week.  I had plenty of things to prepare and rehearse for: my first aerobics class, the presentation for my interview and singing in the church.  Whilst they all mattered, I think the one which possibly mattered the most was the singing: I have so much emotional baggage tied up in singing, as anyone who has followed my blog all along will know.  To receive such positive feedback gave me a warm glowy feeling: it really counted for something.

Another low however was Husband saying he'd get a job in Aberdeen for £35k p.a.   If he did we'd be no better off than now - probably slightly worse off - and I would be unable to teach singing, teach aerobics or go to choir during the week.  I am really enjoying choir at the moment, not only because of the repetoire but also because it is some time for me: just for me.  Even when I'm at the gym I'm conscious that Edward (the Baby) is in the creche and that I have to get back for him by a certain time, or that I will be called if there is a problem: I don't really get away from him.  That sounds awful as I adore him, and the other two, but on Tuesday  nights I go to choir and sing and concentrate on the music and I need not worry about the children at all as I know that David will put them to bed and David will deal with any problems.  I also don't have to influence anyone else: I'm not trying to teach anyone, I need only think about myself and how my singing is going and how I fit into the choir.  The only demand on me is to sing well, and (mostly) I can cope with that one and I enjoy it.

The week began with my feeling quite low: Husband doesn't normally get worried about money himself, and he clearly was.  But as the days have progressed I don't feel as if either of us feels so bad.  I know I need to start earning more money but I'm sure it will happen.  I had a chat with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Liz (also 50 this year) last night and she was sure the singing teaching (for example) will pick up: likewise a new friend, Vicar Edward's wife Alison, also felt that it would suddenly all snowball.  I think they're right.

Meanwhile I wait to hear from a leisure centre in Carlisle as to whether I might get another aerobics class to teach: and I'm going to try to sell a few things on eBay.

It's not possible to live in Cumbria and stay unhappy for too long.