A quiet space

It has been so long since I had a quiet space in which to sit and write, unencumbered.

I used to see myself as wild and loud in my teenage years. I would have thought it an insult to be called quiet, or a loner, or the kind of person who was befuddled by noise and action (all of those traits which describe me quite well in my current incarnation). What a dullard that kind of person must be! It was just a lot of posturing though. I have always secretly craved peace and stillness. I recharge by being completely alone.

The older I get the more I realise how nourishing and necessary quiet times are for me, and how draining and distracting noise and mess and chaos can be. It’s kind of a pity that it took becoming a stay at home mum to two small children to realise this fully! Now my life is non-stop noise and mess and chaos, and I pinball from day to day in a state of exhausted confusion. Every now and then, my husband will take one look at my blank, bleak face and forcibly remove me to a place of quiet. Don’t get me wrong, I love these days. I will miss them painfully when they are gone. But the thoughtful, solitary me who just wants to daydream and scribble for an hour or six finds this life very, very hard.

There isn’t a great deal of “re-imagining” going on at this point. There isn’t a lot of imagination of any kind. I’m really just putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day, until the next phase of life emerges.

Book Club: The Last September

Book Four: The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen.

bowen

Oh Lord. What a lot of emotions this book stirs up. Very few of them to do with the text itself. Almost all of them negative.

I bought The Last September when I lived in Dublin, a hundred lifetimes ago. I was supposed to read it for a university course and never got the time, but I always wanted to come back to it. It sounded so interesting – a rich old Anglo-Irish family in the midst of 1920’s Republican Cork, with tensions between the British military and the Irish working classes igniting into violence all around them. Fascinating.

I’ve dragged this book about from house to house, and country to country, never far from the top of my “to-read” list. And as every good minimalist will tell you, if you haven’t used something in the last decade and a half there is probably a very good reason for that.

It feels almost sacrilegious to say this about a “classic” work of Irish modernism but I was so bored reading this book. The writing is poetically beautiful, Lois is an intriguing central character, the landscape of the novel is enthralling, and the uneasiness and tension of the threatened violence is palpable.

But. Nothing. Bloody. Happens.

Every conversation is a dance of manners, of the unspoken, of half-expressed thoughts. Every promise of action fizzles away into a tea-drinking session or a game of tennis. Every important, interesting event happens offstage. I’m sure that Bowen is oh-so-clever in her depiction of the lonely, dislocated, cocooned life of the aristocracy but I was screaming for just one of them to connect with something real and vital and vibrant before I went mad with the tedium of it all.

The nephew of the house, entirely stereotyped as an annoying, naive, lazy, supercilious Oxford scholar, put’s it perfectly when he remarks

“I should like something else to happen, some crude intrusion of the actual. I feel all gassy inside from yawning. I should like to be here when this house burns.”

Oh Laurence. You and me both, kid. I was positively wishing for one of them to be shot in the head or to go up in flames from about thirty pages in.

The most disappointing thing for me was the obliteration of all my pre-conceived ideas about what this novel was going to be. I judged it by it’s cover and I truly expected it to be brilliant.

If anyone knows of an action-packed, emotionally raw fictional account of the Irish War of Independence do throw the recommendation my way. This well-travelled yet under-loved version will be going straight to the charity shop in the morning.

 

Budget Weeks 18 and 19

And as so frequently happens when we are on a roll, the unexpected comes and knocks us right off course again. This time it was not one but two unexpected visits from family, and this is the kind of area in which our budget always falls down. There is currently no wriggle room to add a “family turning up” category, but at the same time this is not the kind of event to which I am ever going to say “NO!”. Some things are just more important that an empty budget pot. Food and entertainment spends went through the roof accordingly.

Week 18

Groceries – (£80) £183.70

Entertainment – (£0) £90.95

Car – (£26.60) £35.50

Children’s Activities – (£23) £24.50

Total – (£103) £334.65

 

Week 19

Groceries – (£80) £142.75

Entertainment – (£0) £81.50

Birthdays – (£2.37) £2.37

Hair – (£10) £8.95

Total – (£92.37) £235.57

 

So, back to square one.

 

 

Budget Weeks 15 – 17

Week 15

Groceries – (£80) £163.26

Entertainment – (£0) £35.17

Holiday – (£0) £55.19

Emergency fund – (£50) £50

Shoes – (£53.20) £56.05

Total – (£183.20) £359.67

 

Week 16

Groceries – (£80) £23.07

Entertainment – (£0) £5.75

Holiday – (£0) £35.45

Children’s Activities – (£0) £1

Total – (£80) £65.27

 

Week 17

Groceries – (£80) £77.99

Entertainment – (£50) £51.37

Birthdays – (£1.60) £1.60

Total – (£131.60)  £130.96

 

While a fortnight isn’t exactly long enough to qualify as a sea change, it does make me inordinately happy to see us under budget for two weeks in a row. The Easter holidays, like every school holiday, completely up-ended the budget and left us maxed out (again), with no savings of any kind (again), and no food in the cupboards (again). I vowed (again) that this was no way to live and that we had to start learning how to say “No” and sticking like glue to this budget.

So far it’s going pretty well!

Budget Week 14

Week 14

Groceries – (£10) £54.23

Holidays – (£130) £199.92

Clothes – (£18.00) £47.54

Household – (£0) £3.49

Entertainment – (£0) £25.16

Birthdays – (£0) £25.44

Total – (£158.00) £355.78

 

Jesus, that was an expensive week. No wonder we are so badly in debt when we so consistently empty every budget pot and then just keep on spending. It’s the Easter holidays here right now. One of the main reasons I worked out the budget for the year was that the August school break absolutely cripples us every year. The idea was that we would have a budget pot all ready to meet it and this year would be different. Well, with four months to go, the pot is currently empty and the cards are still maxed to the hilt.

 

 

March: a review

Well, the decluttering went well! And then the avalanche of stuff flowed in for all the birthdays and wiped that out. Along with a great deal of cake, to wipe out the weightloss. Cracking.

Weight

3.5lbs up. Not great.

Debts

£90 down, but I also used a chunk of the emergency fund, so again, not great.

Books

One and a half books read but not a second to write a book review!

Clutter

65 items in.

52 items out.

Net items out for the year – 13.

(The goal was “one in, one out” so I’m still on track)

 

This is a funny season for me. My littlest has stopped napping and isn’t yet in pre-school, so I don’t seem to have a second to myself in daylight hours. My husband uses the laptop for work in the evening so I literally, physically, cannot get the space to get on to this blog! I know that this period won’t last for long so I’m not giving up the page, but the posts are few and far between right now,and my frustration ever-increasing.

Budget weeks 12 and 13

Sometimes I seriously wonder if it is worth recording all these figures, but then I remind myself that someday these will be my “before” stats and it will be fun to look back in horror at the lives we used to live. Hopefully.

Week 12

Groceries – (£80) £94.34

Clothes – (£32.00) £32.00

Entertainment – (£40) £24.40

Birthdays – (£50) £70

Car – (£29.90) £29.90

Children’s Activities – (£2.80) £2.80

Total – (£234.70) £253.44

 

Week 13

Groceries – (£160) £151.46 

Entertainment – (£0) £37.25

Birthdays – (£0) £6.00

Children’s Activities – (£5.49) £5.49

Total – (£165.49) £200.20

 

Ugh. These are two of my better weeks (by a long shot too). I am really, really bad at this.