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?

 

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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

Criss-cross

IMG_1595_2 I sit on a train, slicing deep into  the Provence countryside. Orchards, cypress hedges and lavender fields, still in the brutal Summer heat.

Another intense week at work is over, and I am heading South to see my children for the weekend, feeling numb.

Over the last few weeks, work has been manic, and Mr Xmas and I have been criss-crossing the no-man’s land between being exes and being friends.

At first, he came around occasionally to look after the children (as he had said he would). We exchanged minimal parcels of information, minutely wrapped in defiance and fear.

As the days wore on, Mr Xmas kept helping with a few practical things, and things somewhat relaxed into a neutral stance. I even asked Mr Xmas for hugs, which he oblingingly provided after a couple of gruelling days.

Finally, last weekend, I dropped my children off at their holiday destination, before coming back home to work, effectively removing any practical excuses to see each other.

This is when Mr Xmas offered to pick me up from the station… And so we have seen each other a couple of times, chatted about work, the children, the heatwave, carefully skirting around the elephantine mass of bruised feelings and broken hopes in the room.

From the outside, it could almost look like we’re back to our years of easy, open friendship. From the inside, something is missing…

The train has stopped, and Montpellier greets me with its powerful smell of sea breeze, oleander, and heated sewers. At the end of the road, my children, their joy, and the certainty that life is beautiful.

To my son, who loves this song.

Youssoupha ft. Madame Monsieur – Smile

The view from my office

View from my office

View from my office

Firstly, why did I ever think that cycling into work in a blizzard may even remotely be a good idea?

Secondly, night is falling now. And the roads will be even more slippery than this morning.

Thirdly, only a week left to go. In a week, this will no longer be the view from my office, because I will no longer be working here.

Just to add to the stress of wrapping-up a zillion projects before I leave, I have to take BIG job decisions. And frankly, I don’t like big decisions. They feel daunting, and definitive, and I would rather stick sharp things under my nails than decide.

Ok, so the reason decision time has come is because even though I have signed up for a terribly-paid but interesting fixed-term post somewhere, I am now being offered a slightly-better-paid but less interesting permanent position somewhere else. And that’s really just the executive summary of the problem, because there are many more ramifications such as being able to work part-time, how much time off  I can get to fit around the kids, development perspectives, the fact that if I go in one less-interesting direction, I will be closing the door on future, more interesting ones, and the all important issue of how good the canteen is.

So, hey, I know I am lucky to even have the luxury of choosing between two (well, actually it’s three, but the third one was a no-brainer) jobs, but guess what: I am scared. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last five years, and I feel like hiding under the duvet pretending all this latest job changing lark isn’t really happening.

I know that I will eventually get over it, but right now, my eyes are watering, and I can feel a headache coming on.

At home, Mr Xmas, who has picked up the kids, showered my youngest and cooked dinner will be there, all deep-voiced and calm.

Think I’ll just catch the tram and bus home tonight…

Buena Vista Social Club – Dos Gardenias

Who knows?

No job under the tree this year

No job under the tree this year

I hang up after a few more polite thank-yous, and just sit at my desk, stunned.

The thing is, that I had become really excited about the prospect of my very own, much coveted, Christmas present: A permanent, well-paid position, with a good strategic slant and room for development, all wrapped with a shiny bow, and my name on it…  After three interviews and enthusiastic feedback, I had rather foolishly allowed myself to believe in Santa.

Triple pants!

It’s no consolation that I apparently missed the job by a thread, I feel like rolling on the floor and kicking: Not fair!

So it’s back to square one, to my upcoming six months contract on a laughable wage, having to scrimp on Christmas presents, and constantly worry about the future.

Ooh, and just to make it clear: I’ll punch anyone who dares utter something along the lines of “onwards and upwards”, or “something else will come along”. Ha!

Alright, alright, perhaps, I am reluctantly aware that my situation is not a dent on err… , say South Sudan, but still, being a grown-up sucks sometimes.

And the confidence bubble that had for a while lifted the fog, and put my relationship with Mr Xmas back on sunnier tracks has kind of popped. I am back to doubt, not knowing what I want, or where to go.

Right, methinks it’s time for an old classic by The La’s because really, who the f***k knows what the future holds?

Anyway, come on, give me your ideas of songs that can bring a smile to your face when you’re feeling down?

The La’s – Who knows?

Fog

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Tonight, everything is quiet. Outside the city drips, inside the dishwasher chugs, and the fridge whines -no, seriously, my fridge does whine – in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s trying to say something…

Life has been a whirl lately.

Last week, I celebrated my birthday, sitting outside in a t-shirt with my colleagues. It felt like the weather had decided to forego Winter altogether, and go directly to Spring.

An hour later, I resigned. Nothing to do with the weather (or my colleagues), but the paperwork for my next job came through: A dubious birthday present, committing me to another fixed-term contract, assorted with a charming 60% pay-cut.

This interesting situation is about to propel me into the very-financially-challenged sub-section of the French population, which albeit I’m sure will be a sociologically-worthy experiment, I’m not particularly looking forward to.

Over the weekend, I flew to the UK to see a dear friend sob her way through her wedding vows. And for the first time ever, the thought of mariage made me feel like a deer caught in headlights, paralysed, terrified, trapped. Bearing in mind that I’m the girl who keeps pictures of wedding gowns and fairtrade rings on a secret Pinterest board, this was somewhat unsettling.

The mood remained decidedly grown-up as I caught up with three more friends, all confronted with the kind of grief that forces you to cherish life – one is lost after the sudden death of her father last Spring, one was about to leave her alcoholic husband when her father died a couple of weeks ago, and the last one is seeing a close friend lose her battle against cancer at the grand age of 42.

Back home, Winter has arrived: clouds are low and the wind has a new bite. Mister Xmas and I are still trudging along, one day at a time: It would seem I’m the one fleeing commitment… And this feels completely disorientating.

As I wait for the fog to lift, and for some sense of direction to return, this song has me under its spell:

Lana Del Rey – West Coast

Penelope and me

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Mountain top by Lady E

It is the end of the week, and my daughter’s birthday. Five years ago, a tiny, mewing person rested on my chest for a first dazed cuddle. Today, the little person hopped around in excitement all day, and condescended to eating vegetables without a fight because, you know, Anna in Frozen does not argue about vegetables.

Otherwise, my head is swimming.

Life this year got so close to becoming a Hollywood romantic comedy (starring Penelope Cruz as me, why not hey) that I am still expecting the credits to roll any moment now:

  • Mid-film, Mr Nice (played by Jude Law) and I would rather inexplicably separate in the midst of floods of tears and music by Tom Mc Rae (tick)
  • Mr Nice would go on to behave like a complete moron (tick)
  • My close, kindly friend Mr Xmas would step-in, sweep me off my feet and admit to falling in love the moment we met a few years back (tick)
  • Mr Xmas and Penelope/me would stand on a mountain-top at sunset. I would feel light, excited, and serene all at once (tick – in fact, above is a photo of said mountain-top just before said sunset). The camera would circle overhead, the music crescendo to something heady and full of violins, then cut to:
  • Scenes of whatever crap new couples do in romantic comedies (which oddly enough always seems to involve shopping centres, rain and Christmas – does anyone know why?), before we move in together, get married on a beach and live happily ever after, whilst Mr Nice sits dejectedly in bed with the flu. Huhuhuhu!…

Except cut. This is not what happens.

In my none-Hollywood, French-Alpine life, I am plagued with doubt about the nature of my feelings for Mr Xmas, who becomes scared of losing me, whilst I feel miserable about hurting him. We hobble along on a slippery crest, trying to balance his legitimate expectation (of simply being loved back), and my inability to give him what he needs.

Will my feelings grow over time ? Deep inside, I cannot feel any certainty, and the weight of it is dragging me down.

Aphex Twin – Avril 14th

A few flakes of beauty before Winter sets in.