Keeping in Touch

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You would think, in this age of handheld communication wonders, that keeping in touch was easier than ever, but that overlooks the most important link in the chain: people. I was talking recently to someone who always seems to be texting or checking messages, and they revealed that they actually felt more comfortable talking by phone than fielding umpteen messages at a time. For the most part, they felt a pressure to respond that was frustrating. This bemused me. I’d assumed that messaging was their preferred method of communication and so defaulted to messaging to try and fit in. I’m a social chameleon; it seemed a good idea at the time. Since having this conversation I’m going to try calling more often instead.

Still, this just goes to remind me of the old saying about what happens when you assume anything. The saying goes that it makes an Ass of U and Me, and it’s pretty rare that it doesn’t. If I say in a conversation that I’m making an assumption, it is with the expectation that I am wrong and that someone will now correct me. That said, far too many people don’t actually speak up, which leads to a whole new set of problems. That was sometimes half the fun of running projects.

Assumptions and communication look set to be big issues in the next week or so. Lady M has been poking me to get back into the job market, and the lingering effects of the last time I went job hunting are still making me very nervous. I have been asked for convenient times next week for a phone interview for a job however, so wish me luck.  I shall spend this weekend trying to remember how to communicate like a normal person in preparation for it.

Trying Something New

The last few weeks have been a fairly non-stop rollercoaster, both physically and emotionally. Even just factoring my life into things, its been hectic. My grandfather’s death was sudden but peaceful – he’d just reached the end of his journey – but the four days of his decline were made worse by the sheer distance between where we lived, and I wasn’t able to say a final goodbye. At the same time, the library restructure has been rumbling along during one of our busiest times of year. I’d contend that either of these stresses would be manageable although difficult on their own. Together, well then things start to creak.

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While the funeral arrangements were being made, we were on holiday. Although Disneyland Paris was an amazing place and we had a great time, the relative stress of engaging multiple languages and generally being around many, many people with different ideas of what constitutes personal space was very draining. At least the train journeys were relatively calm and easy, except where TFL were involved.

And then we have last week. We drove up to Blackpool for the funeral to keep some flexibility of movement, and straight into the water contamination problems they’re still experiencing in the area. The funeral and aftermath were as emotionally charged as you might expect – though fortunately my family are genial drunks when they get together, so other than rambling stories and the occasional bout of falling over things were pleasant enough. You know: for a funeral.

We drove back gently enough, stopping in on the way to visit our favourite Pixie at PhoenixxRising. That was a lovely moment of calm, despite the Blackburn roadworks, and much needed. Once we were home, there was a quick turnaround, a brief morning of getting the Charleesi’s exam results (even though we knew she’d do well, there was still the stress of waiting for them), and we were back on the road.

Now, while there weren’t any water restrictions in Hartlepool, we did find pretty much every roadwork between there and London. Exhaustion was already beckoning. I was the sole usher at the church (the other usher having been promoted to Best Man at the last moment, for reasons that were never explained and from the unspoken grumblings I’m probably better off not knowing). Lady M was chief bridesmaid, and walked her sister down the aisle so that her father (who has mobility issues following a major road traffic incident a few years back) could be involved at the front without risking a fall.

Lady M’s sister has Type 2 Neurofibromitosis, and has also recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The two conditions are interacting with each other aggressively, so she has recently had to start using a walking stick as well. The church made plenty of adaptations (chairs, getting the bride and groom to sit as much as possible during the service) so this wasn’t a huge problem in terms of the flow of the day, but it was still hard for Lady M to see her sister, and by extension it was upsetting for me too. We made the absolute best of it, and steered my parents through some cultural aspects as we went “No mother, don’t start calling everyone ‘pet'”.

We found all the roadworks and the rain on the way back South the next morning. We got home and things started to fall apart. We both suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, from mood swings as part of our respective condition, as does Lady P – and normally one or more of us is in a reasonably good place when someone else is down, and so is able to support, cajole or otherwise kick the appropriate person up the rear end when they’re on a low mood swing. This week, between travel, exhaustion, grief, work and everything else, we all hit a low point at the same time.

So, we’re all retreating a bit, and trying to look out for each other while also fighting our demons and getting our heads straight, oh and getting back to work too. I’ve likened the experience to running along a building, turning a corner and going smack bang into scaffolding. It has hurt, but we’re picking our way through to get back on our feet.

And now it’s payday, I can afford a couple of treats, and I’ve just replaced Lady M’s Hudl with a Hudl2. My gift to myself has been a Bluetooth keyboard and case for my own tablet – and I’ve just written this blog on it. It seems to be working perfectly, which is nice. A new month beckons, with new prospects, options, and hope. What’s the worst that could happen?

I’m Tired

There’s a bone deep lethargy making everything just that little bit too difficult right now, and it is mostly a result of travel and grief. (It was my Grandfather’s funeral on Monday.) As a result I’ve not been blogging, writing, or doing much except travel up and down the country and drive Ladies M and P to distraction. They’ve only occasionally growled back, being themselves busy people, but to them, and anyone else I’ve breezed past or barged through over the last week or so, I’m sorry.

We have had good news this week, most notably in the Charleesi’s results. Her GCSE results came through on Thursday morning, and with an A* in Geography, 6 more As including triple science, and a B in Maths ( her least favourite subject), she’s romped off to enrol at college for A levels in Photography, English Literature, Biology and Geography. Being the perfectionist that she is, she was more irked at missing out on an A* for her English by a couple of points than anything else, but is ecstatic that she’ll never have to study Mathematics again.

Today is my sister-in-law’s wedding, so I’m trying to rest up so that I can be on top form to be an usher, and be a more gracious and outgoing person. I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic day, even if my anxieties are playing merry havoc right now. I’m currently looking out over the Hartlepool Marina, listening to gulls and the gentle lap of water against the dock. It’s quite a gentle way to spend a morning, so there’s a bonus

A Whirlwind Tour

We’re back from Disney, and straight into a busy week, so I’ll wax more lyrically about the holiday in a few days. For now we’re up north for my Grandfather’s funeral, then we’ve my sister-in-law’s wedding at the weekend so there’s an awful lot of traffic on the cards.

The Disney holiday was a great distraction, and much needed as it was the first real holiday of the year. I have many photographs, and I’ll weave reminiscences as I go, but not tonight. I need to get through tomorrow first, and for that I’ll need some sleep.

Disney heatwave

The last time we were in this sort of sunshine and heat was in Florida last year, so it seems entirely appropriate to be walking around a Magic Kingdom in it this year. Any thought that the end of the weekend would see less people in the parks have been overrun by the huge numbers of people flocking to the parks; this hasn’t made things stressful though.

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We’ve been fitting our time between the Disney Studios park and the Magic Kingdom as we bought joint tickets. As a result, we’ve been ambling from place to place and just enjoying the flow of things. The stunt show at the Studios was followed by various rides and shops across each park. The holiday has become about the whole experience, and that has included character dining at Cafe Mickey, seeing the Wild West Show, and staying up late for the fireworks.

By far the greatest joy has been the sight of the Charleesi and Cousin A becoming even more thick as thieves, even as Cousin A’s horizons have begun to accelerate away at an ever-increasing rate. Even getting separated from us by accident for half an hour didn’t bother them, and we’ve started arranging to go our separate ways in a more managed way – “be at this restaurant for that time” now becoming a familiar conversation.

This was always going to be an experience to remember for the girls, in celebration of their 16th birthdays and completion of their exams. I’m just blown away by just how incredible, and yet comfortably relaxed, this week is already shaping up to be.

Two Days In…

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Unlike last year, we haven’t been doing a closely regimented plan of Disney parks and activities. Instead its been sort of based around where we’ve reserved or planned meals and we’ve meandered around the parks. It’s the first time Cousin A has been anywhere like it, and between that and our introducing her to rollercoaster it has been a grand adventure.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much she’s embraced it all. We started with Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and suddenly she was up for Thunder Mountain. We’ve not looked back since, and so today we went on the Indiana Jones ride, which includes a loop the loop halfway through. The minute we heard laughter behind us, we knew all was well.

We’ve dined well so far too. Lunches have generally been simple burgers and the like, but we ate at the Silver Spur last night, and had character dining at Auberge de Cendrillon this evening. We’ve always loved good food and a bit of theatre with it, so flirting with Suzy and Perla – the mouse seamstresses – and introducing our princesses to the Disney Princesses, made for a gloriously magical evening. Everyone also assumed the cousins were sisters, so the in-joke is now to introduce them as twins. What’s the worst that could happen?

We’re off to Disneyland Paris

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It might seem odd, coming so soon after this week’s bad news, but I’ve had this holiday booked for ages and frankly, we need it. So we’ve grabbed the Charleesi and her Cousin A and sped on the Eurostar to Disneyland Paris for the week. Lady P is looking after house and home, which keeps the plants watered and the mailbox emptied, but we’ll find a way to bring her on a holiday soon, never fear. Next time, for sure.

Now this Disney is in Lille, which makes it a part of Paris in the same way that Luton is a London airport, which is why we took a direct train rather than trusting to any old passage to Paris. Even in the immediate aftermath of London Tube strikes, getting to St  Pancras was simple, and our journey couldn’t have been simpler.

Getting checked in at our hotel (the Newport), was slightly complicated by having booked through the DVC (Disney Vacation Club) which meant a few perks like not having to book a breakfast time but none of the paperwork being in the right place. I also had problems with the padlock on my case breaking (try explaining in rusty French you need that sorting out, three times in succession), and then explaining I needed a fridge for my bydureon kit.

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These minor hiccups aside, we then went in search of food and to refamiliarise ourselves with the general Magic Kingdom layout. Cousin A has never been out of the country, let alone to anywhere Disney, so her expression wavered between amazed and bemused most of the afternoon and early evening.

There’s a certain anarchic quality to the French Disney experience, and I’m not certain if that comes from the cultural melting pot making up its visitors or a degree of European bloody-mindedness that sticks a varying number of fingers up at the corporate US management and adds a mild frisson of danger to the day.

Either way, we’ve eaten and returned to our room to collapse, suddenly very aware we’ve been up since 5am. The sounds of gentle snoring currently surround me, and I shall soon be joining the chorus, ready for our first full day. Not a bad start…

A Sad Day

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My grandad died this morning, at a little after nine in the morning. He was 94, and basically had run enough of his journey to last him. It was quick, he was comfortable, and by all accounts had his wits about him. All in all, a good death capping a full and active life. Yes, it hurts, but we knew since the weekend it was likely and I’ve a good bottle of Glenfiddich in me so I’m functional.

He’s the last of my grandparents to go, and I’m still processing that in the back of my mind. I had been contemplating making the drive up north to try and see him before the end, but to do that and get back to finish getting everyone and everything ready for our holiday just wasn’t feasible. As it is, I’d have had to have left here at three in the morning to have any chance of catching him, and he was never great at standing around or waiting.

So, an odd and sad day, and grief is being as odd and erratic as it always seems to be. I’m sure I’ll get my appetite back at some point, and I’ve been veering between being tactile and not particularly cosy through it all. Lady M and Lady P have both tolerated and supported me, often in ways they may not realise, during the day and I can only apologise for my oddness today.

Tomorrow will be better. Charleesi and her cousin will be joining us, ready for a week of being awesome. I’ll do my best not to pour cold water on things.

Never Ask What Else Can Go Wrong

Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code
Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

There are many theories around misfortunes – about how they seem to travel in packs, descending on the unwary traveller through life like wolves in the winter’s dark – and there’s certainly enough circumstantial evidence to support that view. The more practical way of thinking about it is that you actually become sensitised to things going wrong, so that as other things don’t go to plan, or happen in a less than optimal way, you are subconsciously expecting it, and so the impact is greater on your outlook. At least, that’s how it’s always seemed to me.

In this instance, it’s been some bad news about my grandfather, and it’s knocked the wind out of me. It’s not looking good (although, as with anything that’s also a matter of perspective), and now the internal debate is about whether I can safely manage a last minute 10+ hour round trip tomorrow and still have wits about me for heading out for a longer journey a day or so later. Pensive doesn’t even begin to describe my emotions right now.

Still, I have people around me who love me, and life will continue in it’s weird and wonderful ways regardless of my decisions in this instance. Perhaps I should be kind to myself rather than make extravagant decisions right now. Next week is Disney week, perhaps I should try not to be a nervous wreck before I actually get there…

Frenetic Weekend

I seem to be running round in circles at the moment. Work has just been very very busy now the school holidays have started so I’m usually feeling quite drawn out by the evening and in no mood to blog. That said, we did manage to top up our Awesome Quota this weekend with a trip to Godalming on Saturday night with Sir S and Lady M to see the Wessex Pistols. We’d hoped to get Lady P along as well, but she’d made other plans, so we all hopped in the car in search of chaos.

They were just setting up as we got there and Banjo Bob seemed a bit surprised to see us. The concept that we might have driven out to watch them play seemed a bit bizarre to him somehow. It was almost sweet really, seeing him appear so touched we’d made the effort to get there The gig, as ever, was excellent, and we danced, sang and heckled with the best of them in a crowd who were highly appreciative, especially when drinks were being stolen.

A brief journey home after, and we chattered until the very early hours of the morning. I took Sir S home in the morning and spent most of the rest of the day updating and revising my CV for a job that Lady M has been nudging me towards. This was far more draining than expected, as we tried to rewrite and refocus it away from local government phrases to more private sector orientated language, and we got quite snappy with each other from time to time.

On top of that it was also a day of hearing about people’s troubles and of their health scares so by the time we’ve got to Monday morning I’ve been feeling quite saturated with worries. It really doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped. I’m definitely looking forward to my upcoming holiday.