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Life

Ends and Beginnings

brown-themed bar

My middle daughter officially finished college yesterday.

She’s not going to university, so is heading off into the world. While she has her mind set on a career in the police, we’re trying to slow her down a bit – encouraging her to take a year out, go work some different jobs, and live a little first. Get some life experience.

We were talking to a good friend who works for the metropolitan police in London recently, and she remarked that it’s not a race – and that the younger officers coming through could really do with more life experience before they arrive.

I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.

Last night we went out for a meal together – to celebrate the end of college – and afterwards wandered through the big park in the middle of town together. All five of us.

Quite often our eldest daughter doesn’t come out, but we talked her into it. She suffers a lot with anxiety, but has been having good days recently. Long may it continue – she’s a wonderful person, but nobody really knows she exists. I had hoped in the past that the internet might provide an avenue for her to make friends, but she’s as reclusive if not even more so online than in the real world.

It’s difficult.

Today I am up to my ears in work – as per usual – and trying to keep on top of chores around the house at the same time. I’m only too aware that I haven’t said hello to any friends on the internet in quite some time. I need to fix that.

Categories
Life

Sunday Night

white ceramic mug with coffee on brown wooden table

In recent months I have often found myself writing blog posts in the dead of night. Perhaps it’s a reflection on the number of things I’m trying to juggle at once.

The weekend has been quiet. Sometimes quiet is good.

We watched some more of the movie “Dune” last night. It says something that when we eventually finish watching it, it will have taken three attempts – three sessions to make it through a long movie. That’s just how chaotic our life is right now.

Last night I made it through the middle hour of the movie before walking into town at midnight to accompany my daughter home from work (she works at a pub).

She’s applying to join the police this year, but we’re quietly wondering if we should encourage her to experience a little of the world first. She’s very young, and while the police will be lucky to get her one day, we can’t help feeling she needs some more life experience first. She’s wanted to join the police since she was young.

Maybe she’ll be fine. Maybe we’re being over-protective. I guess we’ll find out.

She went out on her first “big night out” as a person “of age” this weekend. The manager of the bar where she works celebrated her birthday, so the entire bar staff went out to a club after closing time to help her celebrate. I stayed up “just in case”.

She got home at 4:30am. In one piece.

The remarkable thing? She had three hours sleep, then got up, and went back out to work at 9am to serve breakfasts in the pub. She then worked the evening shift through to closing time again.

I remember being able to do things like that when I was 18. I can’t any more. Just staying up the other night flattened me the next day. That curious sensation where your body overheats all day because you’ve screwed with it’s internal clock.

Anyway.

Our focus turns to our youngest daughter this week. As college winds down, several of her closest friends have gone their own way – on to different schools, or off to the world of work. She’s been very quiet – we both suspect a form of grieving is going on. Yes, they’re still keeping in touch via the wonders of social media, but they’re no longer at each other’s hip throughout the week, and never will be again.

I remember my parents telling me that my co-workers would become my world when I left college, and I didn’t believe them. They were right though.

And then once you have children, the parents of your children’s friends become your circle – and then the other parents in their school years. It’s funny how that happens. You also notice that friends without children form entirely different social circles.

We all find our own route, one way or another. The trick is letting your children find their own way without being too visible in the background, waiting to pick them up and dust them down.

I remember the first time my eldest daughter drank too much. As I walked home with her – helping to hold her up, she remarked “you’re always there when we need you most – how do you do that?” – I replied “we’re your parents. It’s our job”…

Categories
Life

Running and Quizzes

people sitting beside brown wooden table inside room

After work yesterday evening I pulled on my running shoes and went for a run around town. It seemed like a good idea at the time – but I had completely forgotten that the junk room / study where I sit for most of the day is on the cold side of the house. I knew I had made a mistake minutes into the run, when the air might well have been made from treacle.

Let’s just say it’s a bit humid at the moment. And hot. While running, I started to wonder if my body might complain about what I was putting it through – and could feel my chest tightening after a few minutes. After perhaps 10 minutes running, I gave in and walked for a while.

It’s perhaps no surprise that as I started to struggle, an ambulance and a fast response car passed me. My suspicions of starring in my own version of The Truman Show are as large as ever.

Later in the evening we trooped off down to the pub to meet friends for a pub quiz. Getting to the pub in time for the quiz was something of a challenge (for all of us), but once there we managed to forget about everything for a while and just have fun.

When it got to the “scoring the rounds” part of the quiz, we became aware of a very, very serious table with two men sat at it. Every quiz has one of those tables doesn’t it. Men of a certain age, obviously single, no sense of humour, and this is probably their entire world. Think Benedict Cumberbatch in Starter for Ten.

We weren’t really there for the quiz – it was an excuse. We were there to spend time with friends. Late in the evening – after returning home – I messaged the group chat that had resulted in the night out – and remarked how lucky we are to have such good friends.

There’s an old saying, isn’t there – about being so busy you forget to live. I’m often guilty of that.

Categories
Life

Where does the time go?

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

Since stepping back from posting “every other day” to the blog, I’ve discovered a paradox of sorts. While I thought having a few days between posts might conjure stories worth telling, the reality is that by the time I sit down to write anything, I’ve forgotten the stories worth telling.

Norah Ephron was right about recording the exhales. If I don’t record my thoughts on the same day they happen, then get over-written by the rest of the mayhem that generally surrounds me.

Anyway.

What have I been up to? Working. And then working some more. I’m learning the ropes with a number of new (to me) programming languages, platforms, and technologies – and it’s kind of been all-consuming. It’s not a purely academic exercise either – it’s a somewhat important commercial project. Unfortunately I can’t share any more than that.

There have been several days in the past few weeks when I’ve forgotten to stop for lunch – which doesn’t do my body much good at all. While talking to a friend across the way that often walks her dog, I suggested she might knock on the window and encourage me to join her – if only for a few minutes. We somehow have to engineer it so she appears in the window while I’m on a conference call – just to get my co-workers talking.

We finished watching Obi-Wan Kenobi this evening. I liked it. We’re also half-way through watching Dune (the new version – not the old one with Sting in). We need to set aside an entire evening to watch the rest of it – it’s a LONG film, but what we’ve seen so far has been wonderful. I’ve also promised to watch “Orphan Black”, so the earlier mentioned friend has somebody to talk to about it. It’s funny how television and movies become such a connection between people, isn’t it.

I’ll try and post a bit more often to the blog in the coming weeks. The more mundane stuff – like this post. I’ve kind of missed emptying my head. Finding the time to do so will always be the challenge – I’m writing this at nearly 1am.

Categories
Life

Weary

It’s “Father’s Day” in the UK today. I have mixed feelings about it – knowing that it was invented in the US along with “Mother’s Day” in the early 1900s (Mother’s Day pre-dates Father’s Day by a couple of years, if you are at all interested). They were both instigated by social activists.

I kind of rationalise it in the same way you might rationalise Christmas, or Easter – it’s as good excuse as any to be nice, no matter your beliefs, culture, or whatever else. We’ll also try to forget that people should be nice to each other all year round, too.

Given the accelerated and demanding nature of the modern world, it seems easy to drown in our own concerns, and ignore the concerns of others. It takes very little effort to show an interest – to lend an ear, a shoulder, a hand, or some time – and yet I’m continually surprised by the self absorbed, pious, sanctimonious and judgemental attitude so many seem to exhibit.

People become lost in their own importance, their own opinions, and presume their views are the only valid ones – and don’t mind telling anybody that might listen. For many, “but the majority agree with me” becomes a primary defence when challenged.

It doesn’t help that social media and the algorithmic timeline convince so many that they are in the majority, when the machinery of the internet is surrounding people with concordant views and opinions, no matter how true, false, misguided, hateful or objectionable they might be.

In recent weeks and months I’ve been reminded again and again of a cartoon I saw – of somebody hunched over a laptop in the dark, telling their other half “I’ll be up in a bit – I just need to explain to these people why they are wrong”.

Anyway.

All seems to be quiet on the western front. I imagine a voice will shout “Dinner!” soon.

Happy Father’s Day.

Categories
Life

Spread Thinly

How is it Thursday already? Where do the days go? It feels like my feet haven’t touched the ground all week. Take today as an example – somehow I’ve filled and emptied the dishwasher, thrown three loads of clothes through the washing machine and hung them out to dry, sprayed the bedroom, stairs, and living room with flea spray (never get cats), hoovered all over, picked up after everybody, AND got on with work.

And it’s only just after lunchtime.

I’m taking half an hour off from everything to write this, and listen to some music. I use my phone with a bluetooth speaker in the study that my cousin gave me. I have a free spotify subscription, and choose random playlists each day.

I only have one curated playlist of my own – that I compiled with the help of an old friend – filled with 70s, 80s and 90s classics. Whenever I listen to it I think of them now – and wonder how they are.

Anyway.

Time to go grab a glass of water. Now the weather is getting warmer, it doesn’t do to stay sitting at the desk for too long – and apparently water intake is the best way to avoid my feet swelling up (it happened last year). I imagine the gallons of coffee I drink can’t help either.

I’ll writing again when I get a chance.

Categories
Life

A Day in London

Early yesterday morning I left the house with my youngest and eldest daughters, and travelled into London for the first time in over a year. A day of wandering, exploring, and lots and lots of walking.

I had pulled off something of a masterstroke in the morning. My eldest daughter is famously terrible at getting up. She knew we were getting an early train, and almost pulled out of the entire day just at the prospect of getting up early (or rather, early for her). While she flapped, running to-and-fro around the house finding shoes, a backpack, and whatever else in the moments before leaving, I stopped her in her tracks.

“You know I said the train is at 8:30am? – it’s actually at 9am”.

You should have seen the look on her face.

“Go, sit down, and calm down. I’ll make a coffee”.

She begrudgingly admitted afterwards that having an extra half an hour after getting ready was a good idea.

After a quiet journey to Paddington, we arrived in central London to sunny skies, and a gentle breeze – perfect for a walk across Hyde Park. Along the way I remarked to the kids how wonderful London can be – everybody we passed seemed to be from a different country – all mixed together, all going about their day.

The day was kind of wonderful, in an unplanned kind of way. We visited Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Kensington Gardens, Shaftesbury Avenue, and Soho before descending into the underground and finding our way back.

Along the way we passed an American import candy store. I made the mistake of offering to buy something for each of my daughters. Who knew we would be in there for HALF AN HOUR. Granted, they had only heard of many of the brands in movies and TV shows – so it was probably all sorts of exciting – but really?

(it probably wasn’t half an hour, but if felt like forever).

I didn’t think to start the fitness app on my phone before setting out – so have no idea how far we walked during the day. It must have been in the tens of thousands of steps. Many miles. Like I said though – the weather was good – quite rare in the UK.

Anyway.

I’m supposed to be getting on with some work. Let’s call this a coffee break. My feet still ache today.

Categories
Life

Bravery

It’s been a strange few days.

We’re surrounding our daughter with as much normal as we can muster at the moment – fashioning a bubble of ordinary to cushion her recovery after the pretty terrifying ordeal she put us all through last week.

I’m taking her to London tomorrow, accompanied by her eldest sister. We leave on the early train, and will find breakfast at Paddington station. A day of sightseeing, sushi, and sunshine. A visit to “M&M World” may be on the itinerary too.

It’s difficult to watch your children find their way in the world sometimes. Difficult to stand by and watch their mistakes. Of course you are there to catch them, and lift heaven and earth to right their mistakes. You can’t steer their journey too closely though – without learning loss, you learn nothing.

We wonder if loss might be at the heart of recent events. School years are finishing. Long time friends are departing. Friendship groups are already fracturing, and new bonds being forged with those that will remain – before events have unfolded.

When your friends are your world, it must be so hard to say goodbye.

I know her pain only too well. As adults we sometimes have to make decisions and live by them. It never gets easier, and we often wonder what might have been.

We are expected to be so brave. It’s not easy. Not easy at all.

I’m reminded of Mrs Darling’s words about Bravery in Peter Pan:

Mrs. Darling:
There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor… nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.

Michael:
Where did he put them?

Mrs. Darling:
He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… and he does. And that is why he is brave.

Categories
Life

The Case of the Vanishing Daughter

When we got up yesterday morning, my other half knocked on our youngest daughter’s bedroom door and poked her head in to say “wake up”. She wasn’t moving under the bedcovers, so she stepped into the room and gave her a nudge. And that’s when she discovered the bedclothes arranged to look like a person in the bed.

Within minutes we had started scouting around her friends, and called the police. Next we informed the school, our workplaces, and started posting on social media. Then we hit the detective trail.

It’s worth noting – my youngest daughter has special needs. She has never bunked off school. She is perhaps the most compliant of the three sisters, and that’s what worried us most – who had talked her into doing this, and more importantly – was she ok? Her conception of risk is markedly less accurate than most.

We found her. We also went and fetched her.

I’m not going to tell the rest of the story on a public platform, because it probably crosses all kinds of privacy lines. The important thing is we found her.

Yesterday morning we realised how well thought of our family is in the local community. Literally everybody we know offered assistance and help – dropping whatever they were doing if they could. A small army was activated in minutes – from friends in the police force, to school staff, friends, and parents of our children’s friends. I spent the entire day responding to offers of help, updating people on what was going on, and then reversing everything just as quickly.

The police visited last night. Once you’ve started the ball rolling, it doesn’t just stop. They were brilliant. They spent an hour with us – explaining the procedure, filling out paperwork, and talking at some length with our daughter. I can’t thank them enough.

I joked with a friend at the end of the day that I might need a stiff drink. I’ve still not had it.