Do you remember?

IMG_2174

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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Interlude

Corbières

This week I have been blessed with forgetting.

Not my usual where-on-Earth-have-I-left-my-phone (oh, and the charger, and the canteen bill?), but the rare gift of has-there-really-ever-been-another-day-than-today oblivion.

In fact, get that: I managed to entirely forget the past year…

And nope, it did not involve half a gallon of rum and passing out with cocktail olives up my nose.

Which is impressive, because even by my standards, the last twelve months have been pretty hairy.

Say, if I were to produce a dodgy Xmas present calendar with pictures illustrating each month, there could be: Mr Nice and I crying over our separation and the death of my children’s pet Guinea pig (August 2014), Mr Nice changing his locks and turning into Mr Big Bastard From Hell (September 2014), me frowning over a job application (anytime beween July 2014 and February 2015), meetings at the bank attempting to fit a size 12 budget into a future size 6 income (November 2014), piles of unfinished work and a ticking clock (finishing my old job, Jan-Feb 2015), an idiot’s guide to international relations (starting new job just as Mr Xmas plunges into depression, March), a bottle of Sauternes and foie gras (to celebrate my promotion, April), an idiots’ guide to surviving hierarchy overload, stress at work and single parenthood (May to July), a blown gasket for Mr Xmas (June).

Although I have to admit that I wouldn’t know a gasket -let alone a blown gasket- from a garden gnome.

Anyway, this week, no shade of work, blown gaskets or big bastards. Nope.

Toulouse 1I righted the world’s wrong with friends near Toulouse, until far too late in the night to cope with energetic offspring in the morning.

Watched my son’s delighted fishing despite his refusal to touch anything on the hook (bait or fish).

Watched my daughter go down the water slide all by herself for the first time.

Chuch bell CorbièresListened to the church bell ring out the slowing down hours, in a quaint village of the ruggedly beautiful Corbières.

Cooked with only a microwave for three days (a challenge)

Counted the number of mosquito bites behind my right knee (8, a record)

Listened to my children fight over three hours of jammed traffic and torrential downpour between Narbonne and Montpellier. Fantasised about heavy-duty parcel tape, gags, and James Bondey-type cars where you press a button and a sound/bullet-proof glass partition buzzes up between the front and back seats.

Saw a lot of relatives and was stunned by how much their children have grown. A mystery of the universe (apart from the disappearance of anti-matter): How do I keep forgetting that other people’s children grow up too?

GuardiansWatched Camarguese cowboys near Montpellier herd bulls through the streets at high speed (and yeah, I didn’t fancy getting too much closer as I took this shot). It’s a local festive tradition. So is drinking neat Pastis.

So there. It has been a busy, and lovely week to round off my Summer break. Tonight, I will be driving North one last time, and going back to work tomorrow. I haven’t started loading the car and think I may varnish my nails. Anyone mentionned denial?

Madilyn Bailey – Radioactive

A nice cover, which keeps playing on the radio this Summer, and my children like to sing along to when they’re not fighting.

Not sick of holiday snaps?

Corbières IMG_1780 Corbières

Temperature

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It’s 8.15 am and the temperature in my office is already 32 degrees C.

I don’t know what that would be in Farenheits, but let’s say it could be classed as reasonably pleasant if you were to sit on a beach, with light wind and ice-cream coktails as company, yet reasonably unpleasant first thing in the morning in your airless office.

I am childless, and most of my friends have wisely deserted the heat-struck city.

So I spend my days stewing in the office for ridiculously long hours, and my evenings watering my dessicated garden, picking raspberries and blackberries, which I then turn into jam – wearing nothing but my underwear – because it’s just soooo hot. Not me, the temperature.

I have become a woman of simple needs: A meeting in an air-conditioned room is a treat practically on a par with eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Diving into the local outdoor pool at lunchtime is the highlight of my day.

Meanwhile, it has been a year since things brutally went haywire with Mr Nice, who has turned into such a  world-class jerk  since, that I remain incredulous about spending 2.5 years of my life with such a moron.

It has also been a month since Mr Xmas dropped me like a hot potato, and he recently seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth himself.

And you know what? I cannot be bothered to truly give a hoot about it.

I do really hope he keeps his promise to water my garden next week. Other than that, whatever.

Maître Gims – Est-ce que tu m’aimes ?

Another Summer chart-topper in France. Get your sparkly hot pants out!

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

Once a scientist…

Dusk stretches for an eternity.

Birds circle overhead, the scent of jasmine wafts around the garden.

This is my favourite time of year.

I feel tired, pretty sad, and very hollow at times. But all things considered, I haven’t stopped sleeping and started losing 10% of my body weight (a shame really, because I would look better in my bikini for the Summer ), which is what I normally do post-breakup.

Ok, I am snappy with the kids, have low energy and trouble concentrating at work or feeling optimistic about the future. But somehow, I still kind of function, and hey, I can even smile at times!

Importantly, I don’t feel as much of the physical, ripping pain of heartbreak.

For the first time in my life, I accepted to take a course of lightly-dosed antidepressant to get me through the emotional shock. It tastes revolting, but let me tell you what, it is like getting an epidural when giving birth: Why on earth did I ever do without before?

Anyway, my mind wanders…

If you were to consider the period 2008-2015, and plot my breakup trauma intensity with T, Mr Nice#2, and Mr Xmas as a function of time on a log scale, I guess you’d get something like this:

log scale

First, that’s an average of one major break-up (I’m not placing Mr Nice #1 in that category, let’s just call it a minor rehearsal) every 1.9 years.

Which I guess, may even be a respectable performance, if Major Breakups were an olympic sport.

Now, if we were to plot a regression line, and hypothesise that I will keep on the same trend, we could basically extrapolate that somewhere between 2021 and 2022, when I experience my n+3rd major breakup, I may perhaps check my nails, before carrying on writing the shopping list… regression curve Hmm

Neuroscience and the baobab

My baby baobab

My baby baobab

The rain tip-taps on the skylights, soaked leaves dance in the wind.

I have an hour left to churn out three job applications, and zero motivation.

Doubt is seeping through me like a cold drizzle: This is not the life I wanted.

Ha, hang on a second, I can feel a bit of mid-life crisis coming on: Watch this space, as I will probably buy a Hermès bag, and take up wingsuit flying next.

Erm, ok but anyway, what’s that got to do with neuroscience and baobabs ?

Well, for once baobab trees are the symbol of a small Western African country called Senegal, where people are incredibly resourceful and athletic, and baobabs can grow incredibly old and large.

Secondly, I spent what was arguably the best week ever with Mr Nice a year ago in Senegal.

Thirdly, on our last day, I bought a cute baby baobab from a woman who said it would probably struggle to survive in Europe.

A year on, the baobab is flourishing (and will probably outlive us all at this rate), while Mr Nice has turned into someone else, and my anterior cingulate cortex is having a party.

Wow wow wow, hang on a second, your what? Have you also been smoking those baobob leaves?

Hold on, you Heathen, here comes the explanation:

Your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC if you two are close) sits in a part of your brain directly behind your brow – which I can tell is wrinkling up in concentration right now. Good. Bear with me.

Anyway, the ACC is involved in a variety of biological functions such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, as well as cognitive functions such as consciousness and registering the intensity of physical pain. In fact, its activation is what makes it difficult to do anything when you’re in pain.

And guess what else sends your ACC into a party ? Yup, heartbreak. So there you go, this is why heartbreak feels a bit like simultaneously stubbing your toes, shins and nails on sharp objects. And why my job applications are just not getting done right now.

More on the science of heartbreak :

Weather

Overnight, the-30°C-blue-sky weather has turned to rain, mountains all but vanished into the clouds. Exactly the kind of overnight change, which seems to be all the rage in my Summer-Autumn 2014 life collection…

Three months ago, my two children and step-son all feverishly bickered over Panini stickers for their football world cup albums, while Mr Nice mourned France’s demise in the quarter finals (which was obviously solely due to undeserved bad luck – nothing to do with skill). The school year was in its dying days, and everyone looked forward to a fairly predictable Summer of family fun at the beach, catching up with relatives, and general winding down.

But then, the weather refused to acknowledge that Summer had arrived, and remained sullen, cool and wet.

Mr Nice flipped. In the space of weeks, what had once been us, became an empty shell.

Two months ago, on a beautiful sunny day, we called it a day, turning both ours and the children’s lives upside down.

Overnight, Mr Nice became a peculiar stranger. I struggled for breath.

A month ago, as Summer refused to give way to Autumn, a steady pair of arms caught me for what must have been the hundredth time as I fell apart.

And I decided to stay there for a while…

To Mister Xmas

Fauve – Lettre à Zoé