Thursday, January 29, 2009

paint box

Today I discovered that I prefer painting in watercolours to painting in acrylics. I like the subtlety and delicacy of watercolours to the brashness of acrylics. With watercolours, you can lay down washes and build up colour slowly, or let colours seep into one another. You don't have to be definite, if you don't want to, and you can easily wash one colour off your brush and pick up a new one.

I used to paint a lot in watercolours, usually drawing an outline in pencil and then colouring it in with paint. Today, that seems too definite. I'd rather start with the brush and a pale colour and see what happens. I can always make it darker, or wash it into even paler, or even wait until it's dry and paint over the top.

I am wondering what this says about me. Perhaps that I like subtlety. That I like starting small and getting bigger. That I like to be sure of the direction before I move, rather than jumping in with both feet. Hmm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I feel like I'm drifting along through life at the moment. I'm not planning anything, it's just happening. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I'm drifting through work. It's OK, but I don't want to do it forever. I don't know what I do what to do though and I'm not particularly doing anything to work it out.

My course is drifting. It is officially on hold, but if I want to finish it, I need to get back into the habit of studying, starting by teaching myself how to read properly again. And if I'm going to finish my dissertation, ever, I probably need a plan of how that's going to happen.

My weight's drifting upwards, gradually, but inexorably and I don't seem to be able to muster the will power to do anything about it for more than half a day at a time.

I don't feel able to plan. I'm living week to week, financially, never quite sure how much work I'm going to do and therefore how much money I'll earn. I'm just about OK, but it's easy to imagine sudden emergencies for which there's no slack.

There's no end goal, no time line. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm fighting wars on several fronts at once, trying to deal with stuff the last year has brought to the surface. It feels like there are too many things for one person to deal with all at once. Plus there are plenty of other people around who need looking after.

Oh dear, I seem to have made myself sad. :o( What on earth am I doing in this mess and how do I find my way out of it?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday morning strikes again

Ben loves Mondays. He's always happy and excited about getting back to work.

Poppy loves Mondays. She has a day off since she works on Sunday.

Bekki does not love Mondays quite so much. She has to get up and go to work. It is, however, only a morning (10-2) at work. And there's Rev to look forward to in the evening.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

on dating (or the lack of it)

So, I'm single. (You don't have to read this blog for very long to find that out). And I'm thinking I'd quite like to do something about that. And I haven't got a clue what to do. In yesterday's Guardian, there was a guide to dating (which, cynically viewed, is an extended advert for their Soulmates site) which made some interesting reading. I've never done 'dating'. Well, I've never really had a love life which existed outside my head. No, that's a bit harsh. But there's been a lot of unrequited longing and the occasional attempt to do something about it, all of which ended in disappointment of one sort or another.

I tried speed dating in October 2007. It was an experience. Not necessarily one I wanted to repeat. I'm glad I did it, but it's not exactly fun, trying to make a decision on a bloke in 3 minutes and knowing he's doing exactly the same with you. It probably didn't help that I was among the youngest there and most of the guys were a good 10 years older than me. Not that's necessarily a problem. I just didn't hit it off with any of the guys I met.

Last year, I wasn't terribly sociable. Being single was one of the many things that bothered me, but I knew I wasn't really in a fit state to do anything about it. Now, I'm feeling better. Mostly. A bit more confident on a good day, at least, and wanting to do something. Yes, the fact that both of my sisters are attached probably has something to do with that. And the fact that I'm not terribly good at waiting and want to make things happen. But, what can I do?

I feel like I have no idea. It's the eternal cry of the single Christian woman that there are no single Christian men, but I don't think that's entirely true. My main problem is not so much finding a man, but what to do if and when I do find someone I'm interested in. I have no idea how to go from being friendly and smiley to making it clear I'm interested in seeing if there's something more between us. I suppose I could say it in English with words, but I'm so expectant of rejection that that feels too scary. (Yes, I know that attitude's wrong, I'm working on it with God's help.) I can do friendships with guys (mostly. Occasionally there's had to be some negotiation of the boundaries. Mostly when I'm interested and they're not. (I can't think of a single successful friendship where it's been the other way round. I can, though, think of some guys I wasn't interested in who I put down pretty ungraciously. If any of them are reading, I apologise. Hmm, I think I've got a lot to learn from some of my lovely Christian brothers)). Anyway, you can't survive as a female physicist without learning to be friends with men. But I don't know how to go from friend to potential girlfriend. I think the idea of being attractive scares me.

So, right, where does that leave me? With no idea of what to do. Any suggestions? Any single male Christian friends you can set me up with? (Preferably local, rather than say, across the Atlantic). Anyone out there want to say hello?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

learning to read

I don't remember learning how to read. I just did. I remember reading Spot books to myself before I went to school and I remember coming home from school with my first reading book ("The big red lorry went up the hill..."). I've always been a book worm, always the one tucked away in a corner, lost in a book. I read voraciously, anything and everything, had the usual phase of finding a book I loved and then seeking out everything by the same author. I think when I went to secondary school, my first method of assessing the school library was to find out how many P G Wodehouse books they had that I hadn't already read.

I carried on reading. I didn't plan to take English Literature A-Level, but when I picked it up a month into sixth form, I discovered I'd read more over the summer than people who had planned to take it, which made me wonder why I hadn't thought of it in the first place. I loved English and the lessons kept me sane through my A-levels. They were discursive and thought-provoking in a way that Maths, Physics and Chemistry just weren't.

I read less during my Physics degree. There just wasn't time in term, but I did still read lots in the holidays. I wrote some poems then too, even got elected JCR Poet Laureate for a year.

Jump forward a few years, and I started studying with the Open University while working. At first, just for fun, but as I started to find my feet and get into the course, studying literature become something I loved doing and was good at, something I wanted to pursue more seriously.

But something changed as I studied. By my third year of OU, a sort of panic was beginning to set in whenever I had to read for study, especially text books. I'd look at a page and find myself speeding up, getting faster and faster and more panicky, wondering how much I much I was taking in. I rarely read anything that wasn't for my course, and when I did, I felt guilty about it. I dismissed the panic as pressure of time. After all, I was also working full time and studying had to get squeezed in between working and the rest of life. I'd work in short bursts, often relying on the pressure of an approaching deadline to get myself motivated to write.

When I left work to start my MA, I initially enjoyed the freedom to read. My course texts were varied and interesting, especially the 20th century ones. I tried reading Ulysses in one day (didn't make it, but got quite a good way through), read in the library, at home, in bed, at work while waiting for videos to process. It was fun. But the panic was still there, especially when I sat down to write an essay. I sailed closer and closer to the wind with my deadlines, producing things at the very last minute, and always conscious that they weren't as good as I wanted them to be.

By the time I got really ill, books just weren't working anymore. Although I did read (and love) Bleak House during a week in bed, that was probably the last time I managed to read something complex. A few weeks after that, I couldn't read, couldn't think coherently, couldn't do anything much. Somehow, over the summer, I managed to read and write enough to produce an essay on The Water Babies, a review and a dissertation proposal. I'm not entirely sure how. As my ability to concentrate came back, I read a bit - mostly detective stories, old favourites, the odd bit of fantasy fiction and not too taxing comic fiction. I'm not sure how I'd define it. Not quite chick lit. The sort of novels with tragi-comic families and adolescent heroines. Lots of Kate Atkinson. I didn't feel up to tackling anything big, say, Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, which I've wanted to complete reading since I studied The Ghost Road in my OU course, or Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day, which has been sat on my to-read pile since I found it second-hand, or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which I've been halfway through for over a year. There are lots of books I've started and failed to finish - Nights at the Circus, Lud-in-the-Mist, A Confederacy of Dunces, all of which sat by my bed for months, waiting for me to feel up to reading them again.

I still don't. There are signs of hope. I read Coraline in one go on a train journey at the beginning of January. I'm slowly working my way through Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, when I'm not feeling too sad to read it. But I haven't yet approached anything relevant to my MA, or even re-read my dissertation proposal, or properly read the marker's comments. I'm scared. Scared that I'll never re-capture my love of reading. Scared that some part of my identity is gone forever. Scared of pushing myself too hard and becoming ill again. I know I need to retrain my brain to concentrate and that I can't go straight back to tackling big serious books again, but I don't quite know where to start. I'm also not very motivated to get back to my dissertation. The topic is too close to my heart. There are too many aspects of it that are important to me, that I want to get right and say something worth saying and thought-provoking about, and yet I'm also sick of it because I've been living with those same issues for the past three years and I'd really rather do something else, that mattered less. I don't know whether to give it up; pick another dissertation topic (if I can) or just plough on through the difficulties. I feel like I could do with a reading coach. My supervisor, I suppose, might fulfill that role, but I'm scared of her. And I'm not good at asking for help.

I don't really know what to do. Pray, and live and try to do what I can. And ask God to help me conquer my fears.

Friday, January 23, 2009

mellow Friday night

It's been a funny week. I was in a pretty bad mood for most of it. Sad and not really sure why, if not actually bad tempered. Today I'm fine, happy even, despite a pretty long day of taking minutes for meetings. No idea what made the difference. Which probably proves just how subjective feelings are and how little relationship they can have to reality.

I was going to go out to see some contemporary dance this evening, but I'm not really awake enough. Instead, I shall stay in and relax.

Nothing very profound to say.

I love the sound of a guitarist's fingers squeaking on frets.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

29 going on 30? 17? 22? 5?

I've been watching 13 Going on 30, which is very silly, but got me thinking about what it means to be grown up. It was rather comforting to be watching something where 30 is the ultimate age of sophistication and grown-up-ness. I'm going to be 30 in October, and it's scaring me a little.

There's all those things you expect to have done by the time you're 30. Got married (nope), bought a house (er, no and not likely to, judging by current house prices), had a child or two (see above), launched oneself into a glittering career (not really. Unless by career you mean headlong out of control rush with no clear direction). In the film Jenna Rink wishes to be "thirty, flirty and thriving!" And she gets what she wishes for. Of course, one of the points of the story is that the person she's become to get exactly what she wants isn't someone she recognises or even likes. She's dumped her best friend for the in-crowd and built a career out of back-stabbing and bitching. All that apparently good stuff came at a price she comes to realise wasn't worth it.

So where does that leave me? What did I wish for aged 13? I honestly don't think I ever thought beyond going to university, meeting my husband and starting a family. I thought there'd be a job somewhere in there, probably in physics (aged 13, I think I wanted to be a quantum physicist) but I wasn't really bothered about what it was, or whether it paid well or not. Sometimes I feel like I've failed on all fronts. I didn't meet the man of my dreams at university (not the first time, or the second time or the third time). I didn't get a job in physics and right now I'm a temp, with no clue where she's going next.

On the other hand, I'm still me. I think my 13 year old self would recognise me and like me. Maybe she'd be surprised at my confidence (on a good day) and some of the things I'd done. Maybe she'd be sad that I'm still single. I don't know.

I do know that jobs and possessions and husbands aren't the measure of maturity. That's a pretty hard thing to hold onto when rather a lot of the world around you is telling you that they are. I'm not always sure what is. What do I mean by mature? Do I mean being taken seriously as an adult person? Yes, probably. Sometimes I feel about 15. Or 21, newly graduated and applying for my first job. Or 7. (Especially when choosing clothes. I think I have the dress sense of a small child. When I'm relaxed and happy that's a good thing: when I'm trying to look professional for work, less so). I don't quite expect people to think of me as an adult, when an adult in my mind is probably someone with a proper job, a spouse, a house, a car. But actually, lots of 'proper grown-ups' I know don't have all or any of those things. They do have the ability to take on responsibility for themselves and for others and confidence in who they are.

I'm reading Hebrews at the moment and this morning I got to this: "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:14, ESV). That's a totally different definition of maturity. Not about stuff, not even about how old you are, but about how tuned in you are to what is good and of God and what is not. Am I mature in that sense, the one that counts? Like everyone, I'm a work in progress. Am I more mature than I was? Yes, I think so. But I've still got a long way to go.

So, how grown up am I? Sometimes, not very. At my most vulnerable, hardly more than a kid. When I'm relaxed and happy, a giggly teenager. Sometimes, on a very good day, a sophisticated 20-something, soon to be 30-something. Mostly, I don't know. But I'm still growing and still learning to love being me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

time for new music?

I have not bought any new music in over a year*. My CD player broke in January 2006 and somehow I never got round to buying a new one. And there wasn't much point buying CDs with nothing to play them on. Then I got a laptop, but little tinny speakers aren't the same as big ones. And then I got ill and depressed and wasn't interested in much. But now I'm feeling better and I have a CD player again (courtesy of the previous inhabitant of my current room) and the hi-fi system in the living room has a handy audio cable to connect up laptops to. So, I'm thinking it's time to buy music again. (Not that I have any money, but we'll let that go).

So what should I listen to? Any recommendations?

Things I like:
Belle and Sebastian (I'm a sucker for stories and vignettes and I love the way their arrangements are sweet without being twee.)
The Divine Comedy (I could listen to Neil Hannon sing anything.)
Interesting 20th century classical music. I had a bit of a Kurt Weil phase.
Ella Fitzgerald (I'd love to sing like her)
Blur (and most things involving Damon Albarn)
Ben Folds (more vignettes and wit and piano amazingness)
Bjork (bonkers but brilliant. Medulla is spine tinglingly beautiful)

Things I don't like:
Twee female singer/songwriters - Joanna Newsome, Feist, anything involving skipping and fluffiness and fragile blondeness. (Not quite sure why. I think it just sets my teeth on edge like too much sugar)
Dance/trance/all those sorts of music that sound computer generated and moronic but I can't keep track of their names anymore. Maybe to dance to in the right setting, but not to listen to. Not that I'm opposed to electronica, more that I don't like the sort of things that get called 'club anthems' and boom out all summer from boy racers' cars.

Things I thought I liked, but got sick of:
Sufjan Stevens (I bought and initially like Seven Swans, but after a while got completely sick of it)
Guitar bands. Maybe I'm growing out of them. I have in my collection and sometimes still listen to Athlete, the Bluetones, Space, Franz Ferdinand. (Though FF probably should be in the top list).

Things I think I like, but don't know much about:
Northern soul
Jazz - the sorts of things that involve tunes. Not trad, not dixieland, occasionally big band and swing, anything singable, I can just about recognise a Miles Davis track on a good day. Jazz is like poetry, in that I'm intrigued, but a bit intimidated by it.

Random CDs I have in my collection but am not sure if I like or not:
Tom Waits - Alice (I listened to it once, it scared me, then my CD player broke)
The Fall - 50000 Fall fans can't be wrong (Bought under the influence of watching The Manchester Passion)
Aimee Mann - Lost in Space (I can't remember why. After watching Magnolia probably)
Tori Amos - To Venus and Back (Bought for Cornflake Girl, but very rarely listened to)

*Almost true. Actually I bought a Guillemots album on iPlayer just before Christmas. And a few random songs I was learning for a gig in October. And Tchiakovsky's Liturgy of St Chrysostom in about May.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Might have spoken too soon about the back. It's hurting again. But something was happening when I was being prayed for.

Work's OK, though I often feel like I'm bluffing my way through. Still, it's going well. Someone told me today they were bit a scared because they'd heard I was very efficient. So I must be doing something right. The people thinking I'm efficient bit, not the people being scared of me bit. I'd rather people weren't scared of me.

I do need more sleep. Is it too early to sleep yet? Maybe I'll curl up in bed with a book. Or a radio play. Or a DVD. Or some knitting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

good things

Thursday's depression lifted after a great prayer meeting and lots of prayer and hugs. Friday was a bit fraught in the morning, but got better once I'd got through work, rushed around packing and got on a train to Oxford.

I went to Oxford for a Gaudy and had a lovely time. It was odd to be back in college; I haven't really been back since I left, well apart from my two graduations (Yes, Oxford's weird. That's why we love it.) But all the other people were familiar faces and the whole evening was about catching up with what everyone's been doing for the past few years and being nostalgic for our student days. In some ways I felt just the same, but in others I knew I'd changed. I felt more confident and more sure of who I am. I didn't really mind what people what of what I was doing now, it just good to see them again. (And I was wearing a gorgeous dress, which is always a confidence booster!)

The moon on Saturday night was surrounded by a beautiful rainbow halo.

I had lunch in G&Ds on Saturday. I was supposed to be meeting up with a friend (V), but the thing about G&Ds is that there are now three of them. (There was only one in my day, the second opened up just after I left and the third about a year ago). I suggested one, but we hadn't finalised it. So I went to the first (and oldest) one. No V. So I sat inside and had a hot chocolate to warm up, but after half an hour, still nothing. So I walked down to other end of town, reasoning that maybe if she'd gone there and realised I wasn't there she might have started off towards where I was and we'd meet up on the way. But I got all the way there and still no V. I have idea what happened (and now her facebook account seems to have disappeared, so I'm puzzled. V, where are you?). So I decided to give up and have lunch alone. And then I noticed that sitting next to my table was someone I'd met once and had been sort of trying to arrange to meet. So I introduced myself and we chatted and it was fun. So I dunno what that's about, but coincidences are a lovely thing.

I went to Emmanuel this morning, which was great - really friendly and just felt like home. (And several people seemed to know who I was before I introduced myself, which I suspect is a direct result of telling the legend that is Bryan McGill that I was planning to visit). And I got prayed for and I think God might have healed my back! Wow! I'll see what it's like over the next few days.

C and I went for a walk in the grounds of Blenheim Palace on Saturday afternoon. Everything was covered in frost, every blade of grass, every twig of every tree. It was magical. Too beautiful to photograph. In fact I failed to take any photos this weekend. Sometimes it feels like fishing around for a camera would spoil the moment and I'd rather look around carefully and remember. There were lots of moments like that this weekend.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

today's things

I wish I listened to myself more.

It's easy to feel better for a few days, decide I'm fine, do lots of things and then find myself back to collapsing in a heap again.

Which is what happened. I did a whole day at work yesterday, which wore me out and I've been tired and low all day as a result.

I am feeling very single today and not in a good way. It didn't help that I was all alone last night AND there was a power cut and I got to eat my dinner by candle light. All alone. :-( I didn't even have a friendly housemate to share the fun with. And I read more of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which made me want to cry*. And it would have been lovely to have someone to give me a hug and make it better. I did have a chat on facebook with an old friend, which was a good thing too. Not as good as a hug, but friendly.

I am not doing at all well on the eating front. Not really trying. It's not like I haven't got a pretty good reason to lose weight (HP's wedding in August) I just can't get myself convinced I can do it. I need to kick comfort eating for a start. I know this. I've got a strategy for doing it. I need to convince myself I can do it, with God's help. And that I want to.

Am I stopping myself finding a man? What's wrong with me? I'm still trying to deal with one of the strategies I think I've been using to keep myself safe from the prospect of a relationship. (The pig and her hook. I'm not going to explain more than that.) I want to be in a relationship, but I seem to be too scared or too afraid of hard work or too something, (I don't know what, on a bad day too weird and ugly, on a good day I know that's not true) to actually make that a reality. I say there are no men. Is that really true? Do I need to look harder? Be less picky? Chill out and stop scaring them away? Arrrgh!

Today, insects seem to be waking up. There was a fly buzzing round the room this afternoon, which was pretty annoying. When I got home, there was a small winged thing crawling around on my computer. I think it might actually have crawled inside the keyboard. Grr.

It's been a bad day. I hope tomorrow is better. I'm doing another long day at work, but I need to leave in time to get home and then get to the station to catch a train to Oxford. I'm off to a Gaudy (college reunion) and catching up with some old friends. I'm planning to go to Emmanuel Church on Sunday morning. Look out for me if you're there!

*Which is, I suppose, progress in a way. I used to be a little proud of never crying at films or books, but after having had several months of being unable to cry, broken by a weekend of howling, I'm beginning to think I was actually very cut off from my emotions and that I'm now able to be touched by other people's sadness, even fictional sadness, is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

bored = getting better?

Well. I got bored yesterday. I didn't know what to do with myself in the afternoon, after a morning at work. I ended up doing some tidying and watching stuff on iPlayer. Which was a short term solution, but perhaps I need to find some better solutions.

My work hours are going to be fairly regular for the next few months, so I should be able to get until a routine and do some useful things as well as work. Like getting some exercise and maybe even doing some reading. (I read a book in bed last night! 15 pages or so of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.) I'm trying to get myself back into the habit of reading. I'd like to start doing some dissertation relevant reading, though the idea scares me a bit at the moment. I don't quite know where to start. But there's no hurry and if I can do a little bit now and then, all the little bits will add up.

I feel a lot better than I was a few months ago, though I still seem to need lots of sleep. (Though I'm probably still catching up from the weekend). I need to be careful though and not try to do too much. It's easy to feel better for a few days, decide I'm fine, do lots of things and then find myself back to collapsing in a heap again.

I suspect January doesn't help. It's so cold! The biting wind doesn't make one inclined to get out of the house. Must wrap up warm and brave the weather. And look forward to spring.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

goodbye 2008, hello 2009

Bye 2008. You were interesting. Pretty horrible in bits, too much depression and sadness and serious introspection. On the other hand, I did learn a lot about myself and about God. And there were good bits too - friends and holidays and fun and laughter.

2009 - I'm looking forward to good things in you. This year, I would like to have lots of fun and laughter!

Happy New Year everyone! May your 2009 be filled with wonderful and awesome people, events and experiences!