Demain

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Winter sun by Lady E

My daughter’s hand is pulling inside mine as we walk briskly in the cold still air. We reach the top of the path and stop, puffing out little bits of cloud. I tell my daughter she should quit smoking, she rolls her eyes and with the patience of a seven year old humouring her predictable, dodgy-humoured, possibly dim-witted mother, replies that she can’t because she doesn’t smoke. Before us the valley spreads out, blanketed in a mist of pollution that the pale sun hasn’t managed to lift.

A new year has come.

And a whole year has somehow elapsed since my urge to write was last bad enough that I did. Since, so much has happened in the world that the changes in my life feel microscopic.

My son is now 13, taller than me (which is not exactly an achievement), and methodically conforming to every cliché about teenage, with the result that I often feel like throwing him in the large, green, recycling bin. Yet I somehow trust that he will not do anything truly stupid or dangerous, and at times get rewarded with a glimpse of the broad-shouldered, thoughtful and clever man he will become.

My daughter is growing too, my heart clenches to see her begin to struggle with the complicated politics of primary school girlfriendship, and lifts to see the never-ending stream of crafty creations she leaves lying about in an artistic trail of mess around the house.

The changes in me are more subtle: I probably have more grey hair, miles on the bike, experience in academic international relations, and compassion. I still work and shout at my kids far too much. I am still single, alternately grateful for the lack of additional complication in my life and dying for a pair of arms to disappear into.

Outside the realm of our family, the past year seems to have been marked by a growing sense of fear and the temptation of nations to close in on themselves. In contrast, I have become more involved in some of the million initiatives we hardly ever hear about, by people who believe in togetherness, in giving their time and energy for others, in welcoming refugees, choosing environmentally and socially responsible banks, retailers, life-styles without waiting for everyone else to do so.

It all started a few years ago, when I crowd-funded a French documentary project called Demain (which means tomorrow).

The film came out in December 2015, has been screened in 27 countries and is a real antidote to today’s sense of doom and gloom. It is now available on DVD with English subtitles. Watch it, it may change your life… and ther’s a special prize if you can spot my photo at the end of the credits: I haven’t managed yet in the midst of the 10,000 other people who funded the film.

Anyway, it’s been a long-time since I heard from any of you and would love to know: How have you been? How did you react to events in 2016? What are your big or little ways of making the world a better place?

In the meantime, I wish you an amazing day, an amazing year 2017.

Coldplay – Amazing Day

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Do you remember?

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200 mph sunset by Lady E

This song has been playing on my mind for the last few weeks, which is just another way of saying that I’ve been mildly obsessed with it, usually playing it loud several times in a row and dancing as I cook or hang laundry to dry, thus driving my children potty.

Payback time is what I say…

Anyway, it all started on Christmas Eve, when I accidentally joined a body-balance class at my mum’s gym.

As you do.

This song came on, we got into a peculiar sideway-stretchy-come-balancing pose, and I brutally realised that:

  • I enjoyed this body-balance lark
  • I did feel nostalgic for the time I spent with Mr Xmas, especially our holiday in Lanzarote a year ago
  • I wondered if he remembered the way it made him feel too
  • There was strictly no way of knowing, given that he’d gone into radio-silence again
  • Which was annoying
  •  I’d better let it go since there was nothing I could do about it.

Which of course meant that I did not let it go. In fact, it intermintently bugged me for the rest of the holiday, in the way some really itchy mosquito bites might. Only in Winter.

Apart from that, my two-week Christmas break  was very nice, and very welcome, after finishing work with my tongue hanging out the previous weeks.

Paris on Christmas week was as gorgeous as ever, and the weather pretended it was Spring.

I spent that first week abdicating all parental responsibilities, as I studiously ignored the fact that my almost teenage son spent most of his waking hours glued to a screen of some description, or being obnoxious. Or both.

I read, slept, cooked, saw friends and relatives, and started feeling more human. Heaven. Super-Xmas-thank-you-awards go to my parents, brother, and brother’s partner who took care of most of the logistics, and put up with their hormone-and-screen-crazed grandson / nephew. If you are reading this (which is a disturbing thought), you really shouldn’t. Ha.

In contrast, new year’s week near Montpellier felt uncharacteristically like August in Liverpool: Very grey, very damp, but still pretty mild for Summer in Northern England.

I started out by picking up my daughter who had spent Christmas with her dad (note how four years ago this tore my heart out and only gave me a mild twinge this year: The wonder of time, healing and all that jazz…).

I spent more time cooking, playing the guitar and basically doing all the things I enjoy but never have time to do.

Which inevitably led to a major bout of not-wanting-to-go-back-to-work-and-single-motherhood last weekend.

Ho-hum, in the end, I did get back to work and single motherhood, since, rather disapointingly, I couldn’t magically fathom a better way to pay the bills or have a partner.

I have also stalled on taking any new year resolutions. So come on, inspire me, who’s got some good ones to suggest?

 

Running

It is 11:00, I am late for my next meeting. I  run out of the building, and smile a distracted hello at a colleague from IT. I curse myself for forgetting to pack an afternoon snack for my daughter, and to talk about season greetings cards for our partner universities. Again.

I turn out onto the street: The morning fog has lifted, leaving behind sleek dark pavements shining in the curiously warm sunlight. I hear a tram, birds, the ridiculous whirr of a moped. The air smells musty, with a hint of diesel fumes, and warm bread. I stop in my tracks and smile.

However tough the last few months have been, little moments of grace have been reminding me that life is beautiful:

  • I spent a week in the UK scoffing biscuits visiting dear friends, which was wet but great.UK visit

 

  • The day after the Paris attacks last month, Mr Xmas and I hiked high above the valley, to catch our breaths, feel the sun, and anchor ouselves in the quiet mass of the mountains.

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  • I completed a course in mindfulness, which is a kind of meditation.

It made me laugh at times, and I still do wonder if what I’m doing is meditation or just sitting-on-my-bed-very-still-focusing-on-my-breathing, but somehow, I find it helpful.Meditation

Other than that, work is erm, interesting… I spend virtually my entire time trying to stabilise my team, with four new staff and a steady stream of crap coming our way. Yeah.

This means that 6 months into the job, I still know very little about international relations. My own management sometimes takes an issue with this on the grounds that I am the head of International Relations,  not Make It Up As You Go Along. I can see where they’re coming from, but hey, I’m doing what I can.

When I get home to a tired pre-teen who refuses to come down for dinner because: “I don’t want to see you”, and his tired six year old sister who refuses to eat the soup I’ve made because: “it’s disgusting”, I often get the urge to find a very large bin to throw them both into get the distinct feeling that I am failing as a mother too.

This has taken its toll, and I often feel bone-tired.

Thankfully, Mr Xmas is true to his word and picks my daughter up two nights a week, my mum came to the rescue last week, I have stopped taking my computer home, and somehow, I am still (mostly) standing.

I am also thankful that chronic overload keeps my mind from dwelling on the fact that I am single and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future I don’t live in Syria, Irak, Sudan, or Afghanistan.

My oldest brat son keeps listening to this strangely addictive song.

The FatRat – Monody (feat. Laura Behm)

On Friday

  • My country held a fitting hommage to the victims of the Paris attacks two weeks ago.
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France Nov 27. 2015

  • It was my birthday.
  • I had dinner with my delightful (almost) teenage son.Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 12.55.01
  • It snowed hard on the mountains.

Sorry about being so flaky in my blogging over the last couple of months, thank you for the lovely emails asking if I was ok. Life has been busy, complex, filled with horror and hope… Well, it’s been life, really.

More to come, but in the meantime, I dedicate this post to all the people who tirelessly spread compassion… and to COP 21. May it succeed in bringing enough of us together.

Adele – Hello

Wall wisdom

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“We only want to be happy!” (on my way to work)

Summer is slowly losing ground.

Tonight is hot, thunder echoes down the mountains, drowning out the rain’s gentle music on the roof. The children have only been back at school for three weeks, our new routine is still getting ironed out, I’m already feeling knackered.

I like my job, but it is crazy: There are twelve of us in the team, and everyone requires some level of care and attention- on top of my workload. When I get home, two children need my care and attention. In between, there are school meetings, sign-ups for activities, a car to service, medical appointments, bills to pay, no more clean socks in my son’s drawer. I have a headache, my sprained ankle is still hurting, and my knee has decided to join in for a laugh. I no longer have time to shave my legs: I wear trousers.

Days fly by in a haze of furious activity. I no longer read, write, play the guitar, or watch the first stars blink over the mountains. At night, I don’t feel much more than bone tired.

Still, the children seem happy enough, Mr Xmas keeps helping with some school pick-ups, my mum came to stay for a couple of days to give me a breather. And honestly, it’s not as if I feel unhappy. I just don’t have time for that.

Every morning as I cycle past this strangely poetic wall on my way to work, I am reminded that all any of us wants is to feel happy. Rather annoyingly, I no longer seem to have much time for that either…

Major Lazer – Powerful

The princess who fell off her bike

fashion statement… And badly sprained her ankle.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, stop sniggering, it could happen to anyone.

So erm, moving on: Last week, in a daring streak of supermarket psychology brilliance, I worked out that my three latest exes T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing me from the shackles of single-motherhood-singledom to become universally worshipped fatherly figures. Except that becoming universally-worshipped fatherly figures turned out to be too hard, so off they went…

Fine.

Well, not fine, really, but whatever.

Well perhaps not whatever either, because, as fellow blogger That Precarious Gait accurately pointed out, what was my role in all this?

She’s right, what was I doing?

Name: Lady E

Occupation: Lapsed scientist, lapsed science communication specialist, accidentally turned international relation-ist.

Looks: Short, slight, dark-ish. Currently looking dangerously attractive in a one-legged, strap-on-cast fashion.

Likes: Summer, sitting on a beach, messing son’s hair, mum’s lasagna, having friends around, gardening, cream tea, scribbling dodgy sketches.

Dislikes: Bad weather, supermarket baguettes, coffee, mushrooms, people who decide not to vaccinate their children because, you know, it’s not naaatural.

What made her attractive: Contagious smile, awesome chocolate mousse, kind, stable.

What makes her unattractive: Well, I could go on and on with a list of flaws I see in myself, including being late, moody pre-period, insecure, short-fused and shouty when I’m tired, but don’t know what did it for my exes. None of them had anything to say about me. All they could articulate was about family life being too much.

Baggage: Anxious parents, anxious streak. Childhood-rooted fear of abandonment, compounded by experience in a few significant romantic relationships. Wobbly self-esteem.

Said baggage would explain why I unconsciously tend to doubt my ability to attract anyone permanently, and thus favour men who display rapid signs of commitment (by the way, that’s another spot-on hint from That Precarious Gait). So, that’s the ones who are totally smitten, rapidly want to settle down and have a family. They all give me a sense of security I fail to give myself.

Voilà.

So theoretically, all I have to do is find enough security in myself to counter the inevitable uncertainties of relationships, especially the new-ish ones. Piece of cake, right? While some people love the unknown and accompanying butterflies, I just get scared senseless. And it feels like each repetition of the whole abandonment trauma has heightened the fear.

Ow, great then, sounds like I might have to stay single for the next 60 years or so…

Because whilst I am a wiz in the garden, no amount of mulching and composting seems to have had much effect on the self-reassurance / security I have been trying to grow for a few years…

So if you happen to have any green-fingered tips on how to grow your sense of security, and manage your fear of abandonment in relationships, I’d love to hear them!

Right. This song’s had me dancing uncontrollably (yes, on one leg) lately. Oooh yeah ! 🙂

Sugar how you get so fly?

Sugar how you get so fly?

Robin Schulz – Sugar