Saturday 25 September 2021

Rinse & repeat

So, I've signed up for another course.  

Before I did so, I asked myself whether this would be like the others that I've taken over the last few years.  There was that selective write your novel course; I finished that, but then had to rewrite the novel.  I got about 60% of the way through before Covid - and home schooling - arrived.  You might think that now the schools have re-opened more or less properly, I would be able to pick it up where I left off and crack on with the remaining 40%, but still I don't feel I've regained my creative mojo.  Or at least, not enough to actually get on with the book - currently I can't bear to even open the file.  And that with an open invitation from a literary agency to send them the finished MS.  Pathetic.

Then, I signed up for an online course on learning about and how to manage the various forms of social media.  It held my attention for a while but the overwhelming enthusiasm of the other participants, all of whom - not entirely unexpectedly - were at different life-stages to me, became so off-putting I dropped out.  Well - that, and the fact that I wasn't entirely sure where it would lead me; did I, at 54, really want to commit myself to a role where I would constantly need to stay up to date with all the latest social media trends and be almost permanently online if I wanted to stay a) current and b) employed?  I probably should have thought it through before I signed up, to be honest. 

Since then, I've picked up various other roles, all of which are unpaid.  They're rewarding, sure, but I'm not yet ready to say farewell to the world of paid jobs.  Shoot me if you must, but leaving aside the fact that every little helps, it's also about feeling valued; a pay cheque certainly helps with that.

So this week, after I returned from a dog walk where the unbearable lightness of being hit me once again (my kids are getting older, I am so completely bored with being 'at home' and mostly out of paid employment for the last 16 years, there must be more to life than this - you know the drill), I decided I needed to take action.

This time, though, I thought I would be a little more thorough in my approach.  Before I did anything else I took a couple of tests, to see where my skill set might take me.  Astonishingly the answers came back and did NOT include 'You're not fit for anything, go away and stop wasting our time', and even included a couple of job sectors that I was interested in.

I dug a little further.  What sort of jobs might this course lead to?  Would I enjoy them?  Would I be qualified?  And, once I had satisfied myself that, at present at least, there are jobs out there in this industry, I would enjoy them and hell yes, I would be qualified (on paper, if not in my imposter-syndrome ridden mind), I signed up.

Watch this space for how it turns out.

Friday 2 July 2021

BritMums Expat Round-up; Roll Up, Roll Up!

I've picked up a new role; hosting the BritMums Expat Blog Round-up.  I know, I'm British, and I now live back in the UK, but hear me out...

Clearly, I'm not an expat blogger any more.  We arrived back home six (SIX!) years ago and my days of battling with Moscow traffic, minus twenty degree temperatures, and intransigent security guards are long behind me.  And yet.

They changed me, those years, and I'm not sure that their impact will ever truly disappear.  I loved it, you see, in all of it's glorious extraordinary-ness, even as I panicked whilst being pulled over by the police officer with the white stick, or as I tried (and failed) to convince a passport officer to let us catch a flight when one son's visa was a day overdue and there had been a misunderstanding at the embassy.  At the time, of course, it was scary and frightening and I cursed my husband to high heaven for putting me in that situation, but I came through it all and was stronger for it.

Expat life in Russia, for me, resulted in lasting friendships and a deep and abiding fondness for a country that those who have never visited might struggle to understand.  I don't pretend to understand it either, and am certainly not an apologist for it, but it will always have a place in my heart. 

Throughout the six years we spent abroad I was supported by the expat blogging network.  No caps here - it wasn't official - but it was there all the same; women (mostly women) like me who had found themselves lifted out the life they had previously assumed was their normal, into a maelstrom of packing, unpacking, and transitory situations.  Many of them had been living this life for far longer than me, and some of them still are.  They wrote in their blogs about their trials and triumphs in a way that made me feel less alone, no matter how different our day-to-day lives were in actuality, and they helped me through it all.

My distance from all that now makes me feel a bit of a fraud, hosting a BritMums Expat Round-up, but when the opportunity came up it seemed like a natural fit.  Even though I'm not an expat any more, in many ways I still feel that disconnect with my surroundings, and I suspect that I always will.

If you are an expat blogger (or are even an ex-expat blogger, with something to say about your experiences abroad), and would like the opportunity to be included in the BritMums Expat Roundup, post a link in the box below before Saturday 10th July.  I'll put a post up here and on Insta etc when the RoundUp goes live. Comments are also welcome, not only here at The Potty Diaries but - I'm sure - on any participating blogs that you might read, as well.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Handbags at tea-time

 Husband and I are walking the dog when he tells me.

'You won't believe the ad that popped up next to my emails today.  A targeted ad.  It was outrageous.'

'Really?  What was it for?'

He's tall, my husband, but right now he stands - if possible - even taller.  I wonder why he's adopting that posture; elongating his neck, lifting his chin.  

'It was... an ad for a neck and facial exercise regime.  To help you get rid of jowls.'  He's affronted.  'Jowls?  I don't have jowls!'

He's right, he doesn't, which makes it ok to laugh.  'You're not serious?'

He pulls out his phone.  'Yes!  Look, I'll show it to you...'

I cut him off.  'God no, please don't.  I believe you, of course you got the ad.  I meant, are you seriously surprised?  We are in our fifties, after all.'

He's incredulous.  'Yes, but that doesn't mean they have to send me that shit.'

Now it's my turn to be affronted.  'OK.  This is yet another difference between men & women.  I get that crap in my feed every day.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I could show you a long list of ads that are offensive about the concept of what I, as a 50-something women, am expected to look like, care about, deal with - so many in fact, that I've stopped registering them,'

He seems surprised.  'Like what?.

'Oh god.  The list is endless.'  I think for a moment.  'So just before we came out, a repeat offender popped up.  Promoting an app for a keto diet.' I describe the infographic that shows a woman in different decades; teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties.  (Apparently there's no need to show the woman in her seventies because obviously she'll be in a home with a zimmer frame by then and not offending the world with her continued aging process. Or dead.).

'It's all fine until they picture what a woman in her fifties is supposed to look like.  Portly, flat-footed, slightly hunched, stocky-legged, wearing her hair in a ruddy bun, and-' by now my voice is so high with indignation that it's possible only the dog can hear me - 'with a fucking handbag looped over her arm like the queen.  Or a nana, about to hand you £5 as special treat on your 21st birthday.  At fifty.  I'm fifty four.  Do I look that?'

Both husband and the dog wisely stay silent.

Friday 26 February 2021

Snacks, Lockdown style

 Husband walks into the kitchen as I'm measuring 50g of cornflakes into a bowl already containing 350g of porridge oats.

'What's that for?'

'I'm making flapjacks*'.

'What?  I thought they were healthy!'

'What on earth do you mean?' I'm bemused.

'Well, cornflakes.' I look at him blankly. 'They're processed.  Not exactly healthy.'

'Are you serious?'



He leaves the room, whilst I consider the 100g golden syrup, 175g soft brown sugar and 175g unsalted butter that I'm about to melt and add to the mix.

On balance, I decide, it's probably best not to mention those ingredients.  Instead, I'll leave him to enjoy the chewy deliciousness of the finished product without having his illusions of healthy eating completely shattered....

* UK flapjacks, not the US stacked pancake version.  

Disclaimer: Not a breakfast food.  Not a diet food.  Not healthy, as such.  But ruddy gorgeous, and essential in our Lockdown home.

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Pride and (snow) falls

 Parenting.  It's a roller coaster.

One minute you're blow away by your teens' maturity and grace in the times of Covid.  You thank your lucky stars that they have adapted reasonably well to the ridiculous times we find ourselves living through, and even congratulate yourself - a little - on the fact that you must be doing something right.

The next minute, you're standing in your garden late at night waiting for the dog to deliver, and you notice that one of your children has walked the outline of a huge penis onto your snowy lawn - and that it's in a location clearly visible to all your neighbours.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Walking with dinosaurs

As Lockdown #3 begins I walk the dog through our local woods, trying to pin down an elusive thought.  There's a scene from a movie that sums this situation up, I think.  Somewhere, rattling around in the back of my memory, it's there - but I can't quite touch it.  It floats elusively on the edge of my consciousness, just out of reach.  A child - IS it a child? - commenting on the fact that he - I think it was he - was back where he started.  Was there a car involved?

I can't quite grab it.  It'll come to me, eventually.  For now, I try to focus on the beauty of my surroundings, on the sunbeams angled through the empty branches, the patter of the dog's feet through the leaf litter under the bushes and the crunch of gravel under my feet, but instead am swamped - again - by anger.

It's distressing to consider how little progress has been made by the UK over the last ten months, and how many opportunities to learn have been ignored in our encounter with Covid19.  That's not to discount the herculean efforts and sacrifices that have been made by so many, the fortitude of even more. and the astonishing speed with which individuals and companies have marshalled themselves to battle both circumstance and this pernicious virus.  But just as this situation has brought out the best in some, it has highlighted where our government has come up short.  Their lack of foresight or interest in learning from their mistakes, the shocking cronyism that has seen good money thrown after bad, their absence of confidence that the majority will follow sensible rules and, of course, the lack of accountability when they are caught ignoring their own advice; all of the above have brought us to the current parlous state of affairs. Again.

Those are the thoughts I have as I stomp crossly along, wrapped up warm against the cold snap.  Eventually though, the calm of my surroundings works it's magic and I start to focus on simply breathing in, and out, in, and out, and begin to look forward to a cup of tea and a flapjack (because, Lockdown) when I get home.

As I reach the gate at the end of the fields my brain has cleared enough and finally, the memory I was grasping for comes to me.  When I get home I check and - even if I do say so myself - I was right.  This scene, from a movie that is nearly 30 years old, perfectly sums up how I feel about where we in the UK are right now.