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My recent free-spree from social media had been going really well right up until yesterday when I tried to pat myself on the back for dealing with my Twitter addiction so successfully then realised I couldn’t because my hands were so busy gripping my phone,  facilitating my new addiction to YouTube.

In my defence, can I bring your attention to jiggly cakes, the captivating beauty of Fresian horses, Alexa Chung learning how to dress more Frenchly and watercolour artist Lena Gemzoe blowing my mind with her ability to turn smears of paint into a piece of art I would like to step into and set up a whole new life?

I will do better.

I WILL DO BETTER.

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A rare moment off YouTube, afternoon walk up Calton Hill to share a winter-spiced coffee with the pooch and nosey down at the new shopping mall in progress where a henge of cranes worship daily and nightly, making the most of their ephemeral moment in the Edinburgh skyline. 

Inbetween YouTube sprints, DIY this week has been all about our bedroom now the en-suite’s had a budget glow up. It’s kind of stupid to work on the bedroom at the moment as next year we’ll be adding a walk-in wardrobe, removing two built-in wardrobes (with ludicrously inaccessible space configurations) and losing a corner of the room to make a downstairs loo accessed from the hallway. It’ll be the last of the building work we’ll do in the house and it’s pretty pivotal to completing the new layout in a way that feels intuitive while also making the most of as many original features as possible.  So, lots of dust to come but the room’s in such a tired and mildly depressing state meantime I’ve decreed interim fixes are justified and I’ve started with filling in plaster cracks along the edges of the ceiling and skirting boards and preparing the ceiling and walls for two licks each of paint. There’s a lovely built-in shelved recess next to my side of the bed too which we primed a few years ago to get rid of a horrible wood stain finish and I can bring that to glory now as it’s well clear of the two sides of the room that’ll be completely changed. Just like when I repainted the hall a couple of months ago, I’m working on the bedroom one wall at a time; it’s more set-up and clean-up in the long run but short-term it cuts down disruption and allows for the ebb and flow of available time and that feels good for how we live right now.

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Samples tried for the en-suite. Loved them all, ended up sticking to two greys and one dark green. 

The next big tick off the things-to-do-in-the-house-makeover-list will be fitting the engineered oak flooring in the porch, kitchen and hallway. The boards arrive in about ten days, we managed to get the ones we were after with 50% off last month so I am beyond excited to see, stroke and smell them after all the years of saving, fantasising and not being very patient at all. I can’t quite believe we’re shortly going to be looking down on actual flooring rather than the patchwork of subfloors, carpet trimmings and rugs. Aesthetics aside, best of all will be the reduction in dust from the generous crawl space under the house which, thanks to essential ventilation panels, pumps miniscule historic debris into the house every time there’s a draught outside (and hello, it’s Edinburgh, there’s a draught outside twenty-three hours out of every twenty-four).

We’ve never laid flooring before so have been swotting up (on YouTube, natch) and bending joiner’s ears whenever we can about the tricks of the trade. We’ll start at the easiest section – the porch, then move into the kitchen and finish in the hallway with all it’s doorway challenges and half-hexagonal shape. That’s the plan anyway. If I’m no longer married in summer 2020 you’ll know the new flooring teamwork challenge was a push of optimism too far.

I usually listen to podcasts while DIYing but, again challenging my phone and 24/7 information addiction, I’ve been hitting Spotify hard for music only instead of podcasts and letting it do its rando playlist thing. I’m enjoying how that’s a source of stories from my imagination and memories that feel helpful and curious rather than heavy. I even walked home from the Post Office the other day listening to the soundtrack for a Broadway musical and trying to guess what it was – Groundhog Day, turns out, who knew? I hated the movie but the musical lyrics made me laugh and imagine all sorts.

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Look what happens when I put down my phone/keyboard. I’m going to try a huge board before the end of the year too. 

Workwise I’ve been contributing to the amazing WomenBeing network’s next step which is a magazine teaming with international content and grass-roots energy as well as being a love letter to practised feminism everywhere. Editing and reading the magazine pieces in advance of publishing has been a privilege that’s made me feel so much more connected to women around the world, reinvigorating my belief that change for the better is happening faster than we think, and that for many likeminded people feminism is a whole-life, whole-behaviour philosophy and even if we don’t get to be around each other every day, we’re connected in our intentions and deep efforts. As well as checking out WomenBeing, there’s brilliant stuff on related issues here on Gender and the Economy here, too. Well worth a read, especially if you, like me, are close to death by boredom in conversations about quotas with people who are change-resistant and stuck on repeat about what they don’t want to do because they’re comfy rather than changing the topic to working out how to make things comfy for everyone.

I’m lacking motivation for chasing and developing my own new writing stuff right now. I think this is a downside of not being on Twitter; I used to gather good momentum from watching what other people were saying or doing, chipping in and enjoying the energy and validation/challenge. The lack of all that has rather left me with my own ever-quietening echo which, creatively speaking, isn’t helpful for how I build up ideas of what’s next. The motivation problem is weighted by the fact my novel isn’t getting any bites from publishers or agents too, and the fact that I currently feel pretty meh about the Edinburgh literary scene generally, having seen a totally mind-boggling amount of weirdness in it during the last eighteen months. I have the feeling something’s brewing inside me though in terms of new material, and that I just have to let that develop and see what pops out one day. Meantime, there’s editing and painting and flooring and walking with the beautiful black dog. And maybe the odd bit of jiggly cake porn.

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Otto, less of a dog, more of a lifestyle. 

52and40/40 No Brief Candle

Burning out and burning bright, my family’s in a Change Rocket, hurtling through spacetime, much outside too blurred to see.

I’ve known for years that when the kids started talking futures I’d have to already be in my next chapter, lest I helicopter-parent or self-destruct.

I’ve also seen as the kids mature they need, more than ever, emergency contacts ready for triage as well as strategy.  Sometimes that’s rotated over weeks.  Other times, it’s all in one afternoon.

The current combination’s a tall order.  It’s temporary, too.  Calm will follow.

Memories, too.

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If you like my soapbox moments or share my passions, grab a coffee or a gin and get comfy as you’ve happened upon my read me here update and it’d be great to have your comments along the way.

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Firstly, I’ve written as a guest blogger on The History Girls Frae Scotland recently.   I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love The History Girls Frae Scotland site for all its content, best described by themselves as ‘History, Heritage and Hilarity’, it’s a total delight.  The post I’ve written for them is about why, pushed by modern and historical politics, I came to create the website and online community I run called The Grantidote.

TheGrantidoteTrioThe Grantidote is a collection  of real women’s stories from people’s knowledge of grandmothers and other women who impacted their lives.  The Grantidote’s purpose is to create an intervention to a male-centric society in which toxic masculinity’s been normalised.  This may sound like heavy work but the reality’s different – it’s a pleasure and change never felt so accessible to me than through this simple but profound portal.  If you think you’ve a story about a woman to tell with me for this important archive, regardless of your gender, please get in touch.  Contributions can be little or large and I’m interested in getting graphic storytelling and spoken word included too.  Basically, the door’s wide open and the mood’s uber welcoming.  Dive in!

Second up, I was recently interviewed by Jane Woods for Changing People.  Changing People works with businesses and individuals to address gender imbalances in workplaces.  As someone who doesn’t have a career, this chat was terrifying and affirming and had me thinking so much about the discomfort and inadequacy I’ve felt over the years about the informality of my work.  My insecurities here are informed by quite extreme anxiety about money and security dating back to my teens, compounded by adult experiences with post-natal depression.  It was therapeutic to be able to step back from anxiety about my identity and see a bigger story I’m tentatively proud to call my own.

Third and last (and really joyfully) I’ve been doing a wee bit of novel writing and nurturing short stories and poems for competitions. Words, words, everywhere…

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52and40/33 Feel The Burn

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How is it October?  And 2017?  And, bloody hell, I’m 41.  Anxiety’s  a tide inside my flesh.  What if I don’t have time to do it all, whatever else ‘it’ might be?  Then, eight hours later, zen.

My five nights on Raasay were wonderful.  Even the fall into a wide burn as if it were a bathtub was brilliant.  I attempted a swing from a tree branch to cross the water and, well, the rest is history – especially the branch.  It was a moment time did slow though, so, beautiful in it’s own way…

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Pouncing Pressure, Hidden Hijack

I’ve been re-listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcasts this week, to ready me for five nights away on my own to catch up on writing my novel a little, with the novelty of no interruptions.  The thought of the time away is really a big deal when you’re a woman, a mother and a writer who works at home.  The first, second and last descriptors there are, in my experience, extremely difficult to manage alongside the act of writing a big piece rather than dipping in and out of smaller ones.  An excellent article in Harper’s Bazaar covers the issues I’m nodding at here and I suggest anyone navigating an unapologetically modern relationship or considering the messages they’re giving younger generations about gender roles reads the piece for comfort and fire-stoking.  It’s an absolute cracker.

But back to the Magic Lessons.  Every single episode feels freshly relevant.  Yesterday I did my own version of a homework task Gilbert sets a podcast guest in order to help balance an internal dialogue which often poleaxed ambition.  You can listen to the podcast here.  Reflecting on the task of stepping aside from the locked mind to exchange letters with both Fear and Curiosity, I was prompted to shine a light on my own fears because they’re currently presenting the biggest hurdle to productivity during my time away.

As a sidenote, a horrible irony here is that I really didn’t feel the weight of these fears until I booked some time away.  The act of booking the time, hell, the audaciousness of booking the time in some folks’ eyes, set off an epic domino chain in my head about pressure.  I didn’t realise the domino chain was happening until it was halfway through and heading towards an elaborate helter-skelter set of turns before stretching into middle distance further than my terrified eyes could see.  Think the domino chain in Collateral Beauty scaled up by a hundred and you’re there.dchtbc 2016 1

In a nutshell, the pressure-fear, wee darling that it is, has pretty much been whispering  self-loathing into my lugholes since I got my Airbnb e-receipt.  Here’s a fragment for your delectation;

‘Five nights away, huh?  That’s brave.  Or stupid.  Especially as you’ve had some really shit feedback on the novel recently.  Do you not think if you were going to have finished the novel you’d have done it by now?  I mean, you don’t even really have a good story, do you?  And you keep changing direction.  And you’re still not doing it the way you want it to, are you?  Because that way is shit and you know it. Your blindspot’s massive.  But yeah.  Have a great week away.’

Swim, swim, swimming I went.  Swimming into a pool of mindcrap.

That’s the thing about creativity.  It makes light and dark and balance must be imposed.

Despite the mindcrap, there was another voice in my head, quite possibly it’s the voice of leftover drugs from my teens but I guess that’s valid too.

The other voice says go and write.  And go and enjoy.  And lighten up, sweetheart.  You’re doing great.  Oh, and, most importantly….?  For the love of fuck write the book you want, the way you want it written, because evidently you care so much more about that than anyone else’s feedback.  How do I know that?  I know that because when you think about the book you want to write, you smile.  And that’s the thing.  Write a smiling book that you one-day-kinda-soon finish and to fuck with whether it ever gets published, read or respected by anyone else.  It’s either that or you’re carrying that baby everywhere while you try to write one that your heart isn’t in and one day realising the one you love isn’t there anymore – it just turned to regret.  It waited too long.

Writing that, I can hear the other voice more clearly.  It doesn’t belong to 16 year old me at a rave in Arbroath on MDMA.  It belongs to me AND Liz Gilbert, one of the woman in the USA right now making the world a better place against all the odds.  I dare say she’s scared and brave all at the same time.  How inspiring.

#FuckDominos

52and40/29 Realignment

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I’ve been waking for weeks feeling badly misaligned.  We had builders in, next door have builders in, two houses adjacent had builders in.  With all the banging, shouting and stress there’s been little chance for creativity; each time I transported to inner space interruptions brought me clattering back.  In parallel, feeling predated a notch too far when I moved around in workout clothes for running and yoga, I switched to just walking.

Muted, twice over, my connections to peace.

‘Sad’, as the predator in chief himself would say.

Fuck that.  Comeback time.

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52and40/25 Regenerative Circuits

 

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The hardest bit of writing for me isn’t finding ideas or receiving rejections. Both of those are plentiful for me at this stage.  Both of those are great teachers too – to be appreciated and understood just as the nice, easy bits are.

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For me, the hardest bit’s waiting for feedback.  The no-woman’s land of yay or nay.

The Isle of Maybe.

I’m a feedback junkie – reacting to feedback is my fuel for the next thing.

I guess I need to cultivate a better relationship with my own feedback, for the between bits.

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