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

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!

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