Over the last few weeks, two buckets have appeared, separately, in my front garden.

The first was a rather fancy Avengers bucket. The second, a couple of weeks later, was more of a traditional seaside style – a castle shape in a jaunty blue, set off with a contrasting yellow handle. Neither belonged to me and neither have been claimed.

lost bucket

What I really want to understand is the HOW and the WHY of this bucket situation.

I’m a good 20 miles away from the nearest beach, and I don’t live near a park or sandpit, so what is a bucket doing near my front garden in the first place? How does a bucket arrive in a quiet, residential cul-de-sac unless it is brought there by a specific person for a specific purpose?

With this in mind, at what point do you LOSE your bucket in said quiet residential cul-de-sac and NOT NOTICE? Would you be walking along, carrying a bucket, drop it on the floor and not realise? Or perhaps you DO realise, but you can’t be bothered to pick it up?

‘Ah well,’ you think to yourself, sighing heavily, ‘that was a nice bucket while it lasted, but it’s not worth bending down for.’ View Post

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I’m still going through massive emotional lockdown ups and downs. Occasionally I do something really annoyingly motivated, like when I signed up recently to start that interior design degree*, but most of the time, as you can see from the frequency of my blog posts, I’m just sort of semi-reclined, reading Poirot books and eating bags of Maryland mini cookies.

(Only 99 calories a bag you know. What do you mean ‘but you ate four bags’? How rude.)

If you DO want something to do during lockdown though, then I’ve pulled together a few ideas for you based on what it feels like a solid half of Instagram is doing right now. (Which probably means no one is actually doing it in real life.)

These are JUST IDEAS though. It’s totally okay if you prefer the Poirot/cookie scenario, or just want to kick back with a puzzle. No one is judging you. It’s a weird time for sure.

Take the couch to 5k challenge

I’m delighted to report that so far no one has tagged me in anything suggesting I run 5k for the NHS. Either these means I have no friends, or that all of my friends know me better than to suggest I run ANYWHERE. Even regular readers should know that running is definitely not my thing, as evidenced here by my own couch to 5k photo collage.

I know everyone says that after a while you start to get a buzz from running, but after completing the whole programme and I can say with absolutely certainty that at no point did I enjoy it at all in any way. The entire time I was ‘running’ my internal monologue was basically ‘this is hell, make it stop, why are you doing this, it’s awful, surely I’ve been going for 20 minutes by now, let’s check the app because surely it should have beeped by now and maybe it’s broken, oh no it’s only been four minutes, this is awful, please save me, help.’

But sure, have a go if that’s your thing. View Post

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During the last couple of weeks, while I’ve swung between a melancholic questioning of the meaning of life, looking nervously each way before getting out of the car at Tesco incase there are zombies lurking in the trolley park and, at my best, feeling a mild sense of calm as I sit quietly in a chair reading murder mysteries, there is one thing in which I have found solace – the words of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Ha!

Have I buggery.

The woman is an absolute nightmare. Not content with trying to have us all believe that what we definitely need in our bathroom cabinets is some of her psychic vampire repellent protection mist or pubic hair fur oil, (both actual things), now she’s offering up her wisdom when it comes to dealing with coronavirus and social isolation. According to Gwyneth we’re just looking at this whole global pandemic all wrong. Rather than worrying about the potential deaths of millions of the people, the pressure on the NHS, the safety of our loved ones, or generally our own sanity, we should be seeing this time as an opportunity.

Of course! An opportunity! Why didn’t I see that? Perhaps it was hidden behind the mass grief, who knows.

Gwyneth reckons we should be using our time to ‘write a book, learn an instrument or a language or learn to code online, draw or paint.’

Okay, fine, I get that it’s a good thing if you can perhaps distract yourself a little from the myriad unknowns and crippling loneliness, but personally I’m finding that the easiest way to do this right now is by listening to old episodes of Just a Minute at a discreet volume, whilst eating Wotsits and staring out of the window. I’m working up to a jigsaw, but I’m not quite there yet.

This may change of course, I’m sure I’ll adjust to living under lockdown, but right now if I felt like I was expected to casually pick up a French horn for an hour or so every day then it might just to me over the edge.

coronavirus Gwyneth Paltrow View Post

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New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last? View Post

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It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down. View Post

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I had a press release land in my inbox last week that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. It was based on a survey of a few thousand people*, asking them whether or not they snoop on their partner via phones or other devices, and if they’ve ever deleted content so that their partner doesn’t see it.

It also asked people whether or not they trusted their partner.

Just that, straight up, do they trust them.

Now you’d hope that this figure would be pretty high – you wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone you didn’t trust would you?

Apparently you would. While 67% of men said they trusted their partners, which honestly felt bad enough to me already, only 28% of women agreed.

TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT!

Really? Do only just over a quarter of us trust our partners?? I can only pray for a skewed sample otherwise I despair of humanity.

Is my partner checking my phone? View Post

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We are in Ireland this week, partly for a gig that Belle went to last night and partly for Halloween. We were over for Halloween last year and discovered that Ireland goes in for Halloween in a big way. When we went over to friends of my sister’s for trick or treating we found an estate positively FESTOONED in spooky garlands, fake cobwebs and garish pumpkin themed decorations.

Inside the house was even more spooky. Rather than an unenthusiastic clump of parents sulking in the corner while the kids went door to door threatening the neighbours and gathering Halloween themed Haribo there was a full on party – every adult seemed to be wearing an intricate, well thought out costume and the whole matter was taken very seriously. One dad was even dressed up as Banksy’s shredded painting.

Fine. I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the trend for all women’s Halloween costumes to essentially be that of ‘sexy prostitute’.

We had a look around the shops today to try and pick something out for me, as I hadn’t had any space in my suitcase to bring something with me, and honestly I was just blown away by the women’s Halloween costumes. It was hard to remember sometimes that I was in a fancy dress shop and not some kind of low rate backstreet porn shop.

You can’t apparently just be a pirate, you have to be a ‘sexy pirate’ tottering about on deck in high heels, a mini skirt and suspenders, which is hardly practical is it? Fancy dressing up as a mummy? Nope, no full length bandages for you – you can be a ‘sexy mummy’ though if you like, which is probably just a scrap or two of sheet strategically draped so as not to be completely illegal. ‘Sexy school girl’ always feels like the most disturbing, especially for children’s parties.

My absolute favourite in the shop we went in today was this one:

women's halloween costumes

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I’ve not been interested in dating at all now for a good six months. It’s actually the most chill I’ve ever felt relationship wise and I’m really enjoying doing my own thing, pottering about and basically not caring much about anything.

I’ve painted a wall in my bedroom a really dark greeny teal colour (there’s a picture on my Facebook page) and rearranged the furniture so that my bed is now in a corner and can only be accessed from one side. If that isn’t a statement of intent then I don’t know what is. I even went to an evening class and learned how to make prints in a dark room. Menopause here I come.

A few days ago though I had a bit of a moment – curiosity more than anything I think – and I redownloaded Tinder, just to see. Obviously the first thing I saw was a man holding a big fish, and then another looking incredibly sad and like dating might tip him over the edge, (two ticks on my Tinder bingo card), and so it served as a welcome reminder of why cats are better than boyfriends.

(I also saw that the man who called me a liar was still there. Not sure why he hasn’t been snapped up.)

I did have a cheeky swipe though, just to check that the evening course hadn’t crushed all of my desirability, and I got a few matches back. Fine. In my experience barely anyone ever actually bothers to message once they known that they could if they wanted to, so I didn’t feel under pressure.

And then this morning I got this lovely message and felt it my duty to reply:

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I was on the brink of joining an amateur dramatics group and auditioning for a role in the Christmas production of Aladdin when I finally concluded that I am in the midst of some kind of midlife crisis.

I’d volunteered as a Brownie leader a month or so before, which I’d let slide because I actually like making peppermint creams and hanging out with children who still find joy in life, but pantomime? No.

The trouble I’ve had is that at no specific point do I feel like I am actually IN crisis. No switches have been flipped, I’ve not lost it in Waitrose and swept a shelf of artisan artichokes onto the floor or anything, and yet… for quite a while now something has been OFF.

When I tried to explain it to a friend at the weekend it sounded kind of lame.

‘I just feel kind of BLAH,’ I said, ‘like the stuff that used to feel meaningful just doesn’t. Every day is FINE – I get on with things and I enjoy stuff on one level, but I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. I kind of thought by now that I would KNOW, that something would have clicked in. But what if it doesn’t? I used to feel like I had time to decide things and make stuff happen, but what if this is it? I feel like I’ve trapped myself.’

I sighed a bit.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, ‘I just don’t know. I swing from the urge, albeit brief usually, to make a grand life plan and act upon it, to just wanting to run away in a mobile library.’

It sounded kind of whingy to be honest.

Midlife unravelling

Mood courtesy of Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Luckily it turns out that I’m not alone in feeling like this. My friend confided that she’s felt the same for a while now, like she just wants to jack everything in and move to France and write novels and not think about anything. What I found really interesting is that although we are similar ages, we are at very different life stages with our families, and so it can’t be just about children growing up.

‘Maybe I’m having a midlife crisis,’ I said.

‘It sounds,’ she said, ‘like more of a midlife unravelling.’ View Post

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I was scrolling through Instagram the other morning, kidding myself that it counted as work, when I came across one of those alleged inspirational quotes.

It was pink and in the kind of shitty font that you see in Powerpoint presentations made by 13 year olds.

‘I don’t sweat,’ it said, ‘I sparkle!’

‘Fuck off,’ I said. (Sorry Daddy.)

I have recreated something similar for you, to give you an idea of how much it made me want to punch my phone in the face:

I don't sweat, I sparkle

Can you FEEL MY PAIN?

Aside from it being awful on a superficial, design level, the message is truly terrible. I’m assuming because of the pink and the flowers that it is aimed at women, and it seems to be implying that sweat therefore, for a woman, is a BAD THING.

Um, why exactly?? View Post

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This morning I accidentally went to an old lady aerobics class.

I belong to this group of council gyms you see, with a very vague programme. I’ve been to two different ‘dance aerobics’ classes for instance – in one of them I was given glow sticks and made to bounce around in the dark to 90s dance music, and in the other I turned up to find everyone is professional dance shoes, ready for their hour of salsa.

This morning then I had taken a chance by signing up to a class just called ‘aerobics’.

On the way in, I bumped into the woman who normally teaches my yoga group, who it turns out was covering the class.

‘You’re not here for the aerobics are you?’ she said, eyeing me suspiciously.

‘Yes,’ I said, and quickly added ‘I’ve not been before,’ as though that would excuse me from whatever blunder I’d inadvertently made.

‘Only I think it’s more of a senior class,’ she said, ‘I’m not sure how much aerobics will be actually going on.’

Super. Old lady aerobics. I didn’t actually mind, because I imagined it would be more my pace, and I am going to be a granny in a few months after all. So there I was, in a room full of senior women many of whom, to be fair, looked in much better shape than me. And I was right, it turns out they WERE in much better shape than me, or at least they LOOKED it, because they don’t have my BRIGHT RED BEETROOT FACE.

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Today I had my MIND BLOWN by a story in the papers about how to open OXO cubes.

First of all, let’s picture a little scene where I’m making something tasty – a shepherd’s pie maybe, or a bolognese.

I’ve fried a onion, browned my mince and had a glass of wine and I’m ready to add some stock. I get an OXO cube out of the little OXO tin I have in the cupboard which says ‘the original beefy cubes’ on the side. I fiddle about with it, trying to peel off the foil and invariably dropping at least part of the wrapper into the frying pan.

Finally I have it unwrapped and I crumble it into the pan. My fingers are covered in OXO cube. I lick them, forgetting it’s OXO cube. Bleurgh. I wash my hands.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s because all this time we’ve been OPENING OUR OXO CUBES IN THE WRONG WAY.

I can barely believe it. It’s like my idiotic hand gliding vs hang gliding moment all over again. View Post

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