Monday, 28 October 2013

the rain floods gutters

(James - Sometimes)

The storm that was predicted didn't ever hit in our part of the country, although I'm not sure it was ever thought that it would. Even so, there has been a sense of foreboding about the day, as though the wind might pick up speed at any moment. The clouds overhead have seemed heavy with threat, and although the storm never came, the rain did. I had to do quite a lot of driving today, and the journey this morning was dismal. The rain was heavy and the cars on the motorway appeared to be driving on water, each set of tires leaving small waves in their wake. Through the spray, the red lights of the vehicles in front became a guide, mapping the contours of the road ahead.

Despite the grey it has been a successful day all in all. I have submitted final copies of my dissertation for binding to a man who appears to live under the stairs in a bookshop. The Harry Potter of the bookbinding world perhaps, maybe the Kindle is his Voldemort. He was proud of his gold-embossed lettering and sewn cloth covers. He only takes cash which he keeps in one of those lockable money boxes. I like to think he will take as much care of my dissertation as I did.

On the drive from the University I saw a pram outside a pub. It was eleven in the morning and there was nobody around. It was a jarring sight, an empty pram outside an empty pub, and I haven't been able to forget it. The pram was modern, brightly coloured, and difficult to miss, perhaps that is why it caught my eye. Although empty, it did not seem discarded, it looked too new for that. I can't help wonder if there is a story, and wonder if anyone else walked by and stopped, if it registered with them as out of the ordinary, as it did for me. I have the remnants of a passage from a book about empty prams and bad luck swirling in my head, but I can't pull it together or remember where it would be from.

I am writing this post on a word counting website for the first time. Since my laptop died a few weeks ago I tried to write posts on a tablet using the app version of this website, but the posting and formatting wasn't the most intuitive process. However, having resurrected the old desktop PC, or should I say, The Husband having resurrected the old desktop PC, I am enjoying working, and writing, at a desk again. Perhaps that is why I have managed two posts in two nights, although no promises that it will continue at quite the same rate.

What I like about this website is that, as well as counting the words, it also analyses the frequency of keywords in the writing, and works out which words are occurring most commonly within the post. I can see this becoming interesting in the future, particularly on days like this when I'm writing without a real sense of where the content might be going. I'm sure some psychoanalysis beckons based on my most used terminology, at the very least some version of a word association game could be construed. My top three words at the moment are:

although empty writing

Make of that what you will, although (there I go again with that one) I have to say it isn't the most auspicious summary for a blog post. Not exactly sounding like a riveting read based on that. I have half written so many posts and often feel like they don't quite amount to enough to justify a post, particularly one that has to be seven hundred words long. I think perhaps all I really wanted to write about today was that pram. I wanted to record it, share it, remember it. It seemed so poignant as I passed it, yet I'm not sure why, maybe it was the incongruence of it, or the sense of abandonment. It isn't on my normal route, I'm not even sure I could find my way back there. I hope it isn't still there.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

enough hours in the day

The clocks going back always feel like a much better idea than the clocks going forward. Whenever the clocks change it always seems like a trick of the mind, as though just for two days of the year, on a minuscule scale, we have suddenly learned to time travel. However, as somebody who constantly wishes I had a Bernard's Watch to conjure up a pause button for the clock, time gained feels much more magical than time lost. There's also less potential for embarrassment this way round. Turning up an hour early for something can be potentially disguised, and is in most cases more forgivable than arriving an hour late. Arriving late for something when the clocks go forward makes it abundantly clear to everyone that you are the person that forgot. Perhaps worse still, I vividly remember one year wanting to get up to do some schoolwork at 8am. Having got up at 7am believing the clocks had gone forward, I later found they had actually gone back. Doing homework at 6am on a Sunday morning has to be the ultimate daylight saving failure.

If one does negotiate the transition through time successfully, there is a much more positive feeling when the clocks go back. The air is filled with the sense of a little time gained, people seem better rested, or more productive, and the dark mornings and dark nights seem like a comforting prelude to wintry days spent wrapped up outside or curled up inside. Compare that to the sleep-deprived faces of spring, heavy eyelids and general disorientation that arises from unceremoniously having an hour deducted from your day. It seems a bizarre way to mark the season of new awakenings really, blundering around short of time and short of sleep, but maybe the bright(er) days that follow make it more tolerable.

I have enjoyed my extra hour today, although I haven't decided where it occurred. I resisted the urge to sleep in, and somehow it seems I have noticed my extra minutes all the more for that. I got up bright and early and raced through the revision I wanted to do. Getting up early, and working at the weekend without procrastinating are both unheard of for me, but perhaps I was ensuring I didn't waste the gift of time. 
Maybe the time we spent walking the dog is where the hour went. We walked to the train station, collected a thick wad of tickets for a variety of trips I will be taking in the coming months. The machine spat them out one by one, dates, times, stations, a pack of orange cards forming the calendar of my life. Coming back we headed by the lake and through the park. Muddy leaves squelched underfoot and we both staggered back each time the puppy threatened to jump up, joyfully imprinting paws onto our legs. The park ranger wasn't so cautious of his clothing, patting her head and asking her age as she bounded around his boots. We saw two squirrels, but she did not, although her beagle instinct caught their scent and she circled round the bases of the trees  with nose stuck to the ground.

Perhaps our spare hour was spent over lunch, using vouchers provided by my wonderful mum, to have a delicious and cost-free two course meal. We rarely eat out just the two of us, and the chance to do so was very welcome, as was the free food! I like the thought of losing the hour to a wonderfully cooked roast dinner, and some quality time with The Husband catching up and also practicing our Italian. It is funny which bits we each remember, between us I think we could just about make ourselves understood, although neither of us enjoy the grammar. Even if the hour went to being stuck in traffic on the way out I wouldn't mind. The blustery day, blowing the burnt orange leaves from the trees was lovely to observe, adding to my sense that winter was well and truly coming.

Or perhaps the time has been gained here, enjoying the opportunity to write these words, revelling in not an hour, but a whole day well spent.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

gone so fast

I am sitting counting the minutes until September is over. I have a revision course to book onto, for which there are only a small number of places, and booking opens on October 1st. I have my email written to request a place, so all that remains is to press send at 00.01.

This month started in Sicily, where we spent a week after the dissertation was handed in. Since we returned home it is almost unfathomable how much has happened, now I sit and think of it. Shortly after our return The Husband's grandfather passed away. It was not unexpected, but perhaps sooner than anticipated. It was only a few days later, following an assessment in London, that The Husband was told he was now fully qualified in his profession, following fifteen exams and three years of studying, whilst also working. The celebrations were understandably a little bittersweet, coming as they did so soon after such a loss.

In September we have also started taking Italian lessons, the second of which was tonight. It has been good to be back in the classroom, and as the classes are held at a local school, I mean that literally as well as figuratively. As The Husband and I met in school, it has been quite funny to sit next to him in "lessons" again, and it's nice to have something planned together each week.

We have also begun puppy obedience classes, although we haven't been back yet as we didn't feel Millie had learnt enough since the first class to go back. Next Saturday is the day! Millie is keeping us, and the wider family, busy! She is incredibly beautiful but certainly has a strong personality. We are making some progress with puppy training and she has definitely settled right in. We took her to the beach recently and she thoroughly enjoyed the sand, but wasn't so sure of the sea.

As well as my dissertation viva, I have started back at work full time, and we are slowly getting accustomed to the new pace of things. We have also had a number of birthdays, including The Husband's, to celebrate. I have been trying to make more of an effort to cook more on a daily basis, so I have also been trying to meal plan and shop for specific recipes. So far it is working well and we are having a much greater variety of meals, rather than the same few old faithfuls on rotation.

In the last week I have seen a NTLive screening of Othello at the local cinema which was fabulous. We are booked to watch the repeat screening of Frankenstein at Halloween too, which I am very excited about! I studied both texts at A-Level, but have never seen either performed, and it made me want to search out my old essays and re-read them all. I also saw an incredible production of All My Sons at The Royal Exchange. This was the other extreme, as it was a play I had never read, never seen and knew very little about. It was a phenomenal performance with a really strong cast, and made for a great night out with my lovely mum. A few weeks ago we also saw Daniel Kitson's new production "Tree" at the Royal Exchange. This had quite a different feel from his solo work, as it was a two part production, but it was no less brilliant than we expected. We have seen a few of Daniel Kitson's pieces over the years, having first seen him at Latitude Festival in 2010, and he never disappoints. My mum and stepdad went to watch on another night, and I was nervous as it was on our recommendation. I needn't have been, they loved it.

Actually, now I think of it, it isn't surprising that September has gone so fast, being as full as it was. I love this time of year and the gradual transition from new term optimism, to festive excitement, all with the promise of a new year just beyond. It is so easy to pass through the days, months and years and feel that time is rushing by. One of the unexpected joys of having a dog is the fact that it forces me to be outside more than I would, and in doing so I feel much more aware of time passing, weather changing and nature shifting seasons. It punctuates the days, ensuring a chance to notice, and appreciate, life.