Maseratis and keeling over

My problem: unless I am under enormous pressure and have Satan breathing down my neck, I am the laziest and most unmotivated chick you’ll ever meet in your life. And this is just it – my life is too damn comfortable. It’s just too easy for me to bob along, have everything come easy, live the good life and just enjoy doing cool stuff with my husband and son. Don’t get me wrong – I am so happy it’s just… …STUPID. It’s really quite ridiculous. Then again, joy is my default setting, I get it from my dad I think (the guy is  unbearably cheerful) and it just seems to be my nature to look on the bright side of life. Now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m just saying.

So I wake up every morning feeling happiness and gratitude, and how could I not? I’m truly blessed. No, I haven’t bought a Maserati yet (a GranCabrio in midnight blue, per favore), nor do I own a holiday home on Waihi Beach (YET!) but that’s just a matter of time and until then I have everything I could ever possibly need or want as things stand. But what I have discovered is this: as wonderful as it is to be emotionally fulfilled and have these two (B and Monkey) along with living where we live, blessed with amazing friends and family and have the life that we do, I need something else to fire me up. Hence I have hit a point where I feel incredibly restless and a little flat. I need a focus, goals… ….what I need is PRESSURE! I want to achieve. It’s one thing to strive to be a good person (and for the large part I believe I am), to be kind and empathetic and so on, but I think we all to some extent want to do well beyond our personal qualities whether it be having expert knowledge in some field or coming home each day knowing we really made a difference somehow. Just be able to say: “I did that”!

Before I met B I spent some years as a single mother in this insanely expensive city that is Londinium, so I know what I can be and achieve when I’m under tremendous amounts of pressure and stress to make things work. I know that I am a BADASS when I have to be.

There it is! When I HAVE to be.

So, the time has come to set some goals and targets and form a plan for the near future. B and I have been together for four years and a few months (and yes, we still celebrate every month – we just celebrated 51 months – cheesy, eh) and so we are ready for the next stage. These first few years were building stones and we’re currently cruising on a comfortable plateau having last year bought a home and this year got hitched.

My goal: in two years from now make a nice little income from making jewellery (I will in three month’s time be able to call myself a silversmith, and after that a Diploma course awaits and progressing on to more precious metals and stones) and the rest of the time focus on writing. That should nicely bring me back into an existence where I once again feel productive, that I’m achieving and that I’m doing something really worthwhile. That and getting super fit! I think at 41 I’m still at a stage where I am probably able to achieve something pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I like ME, but I’m curious to see if I could go a little drastic and tickle the fitness fanatic in me (if that fanatic exists – perhaps I’ll just discover that I just LIKE exercise but won’t LOVE massive amounts of it). I don’t intend to turn bodybuilder or aim for no body fat or be a size zero or anything stupid like that, but just see what I might be able to do within reasonable limits. After a summer spent celebrating, my first two runs this week felt like death. Actually, they were not as bad as I thought it’d be but death nonetheless. I know it won’t take long though and hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to run, say, 5k without keeling over. We’ll see. It’s a start.

Our goal: we’ve set up a budget, which was pretty scary as it showed not only how much we could (and should!) save without forsaking random trips, holidays, nice clothes and several date nights every month, it also showed how we fritter money away like it’s confetti. So a bit more focus and if we just hold back a LITTLE – honestly, there are no big changes required, just a few small adjustments – we should with good margin be able to buy a decent holiday home in Sweden within five years should we choose to. I’m more keen on NZ, but no need to decide. Who knows what, when or even if – all we know is that if we just keep to this little plan, the ‘how’ isn’t going to be an issue.

For now, I will continue to appreciate a lovely Plan B job that I do enjoy and that the people I work for are lovely so there is – as I said before – no reason for me to complain, I simply don’t have anything to complain about, but I just need stuff to happen! I’m no good at this cruising phase we find ourselves in. What to be careful about also is how fired up I get starting things off – I’m so awesome at that bit! What career would allow me to do that? Be the proverbial firestarter? Anyway, it’s applying the plan, follow it and stick at it I suck at. Feeling very, very determined so time will tell… It usually does.

Advertisements

Bananagrams and murky depths

Right, so here we go again. Now that we are getting in better shape to try to claw our way on to the property ladder, we are once again taking the plunge into the murkiest depths inhabited by the murkiest sales people on earth: estate agents. I’m trying really hard NOT to be positive, but I’m me after all so I can’t help but imagine us in the lovely cottage we viewed yesterday afternoon. On a lovely little residential road in Teddington and with daffodils adorning the front of it, I think even the realistic B struggled to find fault with it. B is the sensible one and I reckon even when he does feel woohoo about something, he tries to contain himself to maintain some sort of balance to yippieeeeeeee Anna.

If I try my hardest, I’d say the stairs were too steep. Also, given an extension where, strangely, you access the bathroom via the kitchen (what is up with THAT??), I did wonder how that would work. I mean, no problem when there’s the three permanent residents – me, B and Monkey – but what when B’s boys are staying? Don’t know if I’d feel right about coming through after a shower in a towel? Although, that’s not a difficult one to solve, I guess I’d just get dressed in the bathroom? See what I mean? This is me trying to find fault. Even so, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of things going in and out of us in the same area of the house, it just seems a little wrong. As for the other issue, Monkey can be quite clumsy and therefore the stairs up to and down from the bedrooms do scare me a little – you’d break more than one bone tumbling down those. Still, not enough reason to put me off because beyond those two not-really-faults this cute little place ticked pretty much all the boxes. I can see us being really happy there. To be fair, I’d be ‘really happy’ living under Chiswick Bridge so long as it’s with B and Monkey, but wow – I can picture those warm summer evenings so clearly…

…all of us, chilling out in the back garden, door open, Hendrix trotting around, Monkey doing his thing, ideally B’s boys there too, B and I enjoying some glorious Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps a game of Yahtzee or Bananagrams with all three boys, occasionally scolding Hendrix for taking a dump in the wrong place…

…I can also picture just me there, perhaps an evening before B gets home, either inside by the kitchen table (on which there’d always be a vase with fresh flowers) or outside with my laptop, feeling inspired and working on the last sprint of the book…

Oh, it’d be so glorious!

Glorious, if it weren’t for those pesky agents that we’ll unfortunately have to deal with to potentially get us into the place. Look, I do want to trust them, I want to apply my normal, borderline over-enthusiastic faith in humanity, but ….no. I can’t work out if it’s the cheap suits or the cringy sales talk that gets my goat first – both awful – or the dishonesty and dirty tactics that closely follow that makes my soul die a little.

State of affairs: the cottage is over our budget. The agents tell us the vendors will accept an offer at the level we can stretch to. I asked what would be a realistic offer, given our top pain threshold will mean until this time next year that we can’t get hitched yet, no holidays whatsoever (would have to send Monkey to Sweden on his own in the summer and for Christmas), a strict budget with no room for going out much or doing anything remotely fun. They come back saying to go as high as we can and they’ll get it agreed. Not my question. But of course these amoebas don’t give a flying eff about anything other than every last penny of commission they can squeeze out of this potential deal.

Well. I shall remain optimistic. This property might just be The One, but if it’s not, we’ll have to consider it another frog and jog on to kiss a few more before we find our House Charming. It’ll happen.

Oh, here we go again – proving my point fabulously – a different agent just rang about a property she reckons is “perfect” for us. She yaps on and on about the spec and, yes, it does sound marvellous. HAD IT NOT BEEN IN ISLEWORTH. For God’s sake. #?@*%$

Dimples and Long Boats

I’m NOT going to complain abut the hot weather, now that summer finally makes an appearance. Having said that, London is NOT pleasant in this heat. Currently the thermometer by the window next to my desk is telling me it’s 33 degrees outside, which is pretty excessive. London gets so muggy and within two minutes of having a cold shower this morning I felt sticky. Still, the sun is shining and I am happy and grateful! More, please! Even if it means temperatures north of an uncomfortable 30.

It’s been just over 20 years since I first arrived on these shores in my long boat, brandishing my sword, ready to conquer just like my Viking ancestors. Perhaps I didn’t wear a Viking hat, nor did I burn any villages, and OK I didn’t even have a sword, but I did arrive by ferry which, in 1995, was as close as I could get to a long boat. I would have got on a plane, but I’m impatient and there wasn’t any suitable flight available and I was going to go RIGHT NOW. Or then, rather. So I got my over excited 19-yearold self on to a ferry headed for Newcastle. Took best part of 24 hours and then another six from there getting to London on a train. And the summer of 1995 was just like this week – unbelievably hot, sticky and humid, temperatures frequently into the 30s.

I spent warm summer evenings with new found friends (most of whom were Aussies and Kiwis – a bunch of nannies from the same neighbourhood in Fulham, and their friends), swigging ‘Snakebite’ by the pint at local bars along New Kings Road, a sickening concoction of cider, lager and cranberry. I no longer drink it (you’d have to put a gun to my head) but in the summer of 1995 it was the drink of choice and to my naïve mind, the best beverage ever. During the days, I looked after a spoilt three-yearold girl, whose wild tantrums would ensure I snapped out of any Snakebite-related hangover. Gosh, that kid really was a minion of Satan and her blond, corkscrew locks only served to make her scarier. At least if she’d looked like the girl in the Exorcist, I would have found her easier to make sense of.

Anyhoo.

You do get these hotter-than-normal summers here. Another one was ten years ago. These days, Monkey is a slender boy, but rewind ten years and he was a fat little cherub that I was lugging around. All those rolls of fat on his widdle thighs, dimples instead of knuckles and chubby cheeks. When I look at photos, it’s so obviously Monkey, anyone could see that – there is no mistaking those huge blue eyes. Well, that was a hell of a hot summer and the other thing I remember was how toned my arms were. Sure, I weighed two stone less than I do now but gosh, carrying fat little baby Monkey around did mean I had arms any celebrity fitness coach would have applauded.

Just over two weeks left of my contract here at the school where I’ve been working part time since the beginning of this year. As handy as this job is and as much as there is a whole host of things I really love about it, there is that one person you seem to get in every goddamn workplace: the Office Dragon. Why is that? It’s true for almost every place I’ve worked. Always a woman, always a little older and is someone who’s been there since the dawn of time. Usually in middle management or in some kind of ‘special’ role that has evolved over time as they’re impossible to handle in any other way. And for some reason they’re untouchable. And we have one here too: rude, abrupt and her main goal in life is to meddle, stick her nose in and ideally trip people up. Be difficult for difficulty’s sake. And I won’t bloody miss HER. Mostly, she’s so rude it’s more comical than it’s upsetting.

Just texted B, telling him that it’s too hot in the office. His response? “Lick your wrist“. What?? This seems to be his cure for everything. Insect bites apparently also stop stinging or itching if you lick them. I was going to write something very rude just then, but it’s not even lunchtime so I’m going to stop right there……

Crow’s Feet and Passengers

I am officially an old crone. I am just over a month away from 39 and that big four-oh is now an inevitable reality. As deluded and immersed in denial as I might sound, I don’t actually mind ageing – I was always the baby face and have always looked a lot younger than I am with my round apple cheeks, so call me nuts but I think I’ve finally grown into myself and look better with a bit of living etched on to me. I like my crow’s feet! I can even live with the lines across my forehead, doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I look at B and think the same thing. I’ve seen photos of him in younger days (he’s ten years older than I am) and he is miles better looking and attractive now, than e.g. in his 20s. He’ll still be a dish in his 60s and probably 70s too, he’s of that ilk of men who just stay hot no matter how old they get.

But back to signs of ageing. I need glasses. Went to the optician and I am, as I suspected, longsighted. My eyes are healthy and he told me I’d be fine without glasses, but my eyes have to work harder when I’m reading or am at a screen (which summaries most days – my life revolves around writing and reading!) so said I should have glasses in order to avoid deteriorating eyesight which is inevitable if you don’t take the strain off a little. So I chose a pair of chunky and very funky geek frames (possibly a little too trendy for a mature lady like me, but we’ll put that down to midlife crisis) and another more sensible pair that made me look like my mother. No problem with that though, my Mum’s gorgeous and normally I am the spit of my father so this is actually welcome news. I’m picking them up in a week. Oh well, I knew it was coming.

B is back this evening and I’ve decided I’m going to be a very brave bunny and pick him up. I’ve driven his car quite a few times, but never on my own, so the prospect of navigating myself all the way to Heathrow from here (although we’re at the right end of town and the airport’s only 15-20 minutes away if traffic’s OK) is quite daunting. I’m going to go out and drive around Chiswick for a while to build up my confidence. The route isn’t too bad though – get on to the M4, then I think you turn off a junction and then through a roundabout and you’re there. No turns or twists any more complicated than that.

I find it hard as I’m not used to driving on the wrong side of the road, plus sitting in what for me is the passenger seat, but at least it’s an automatic so I don’t need to faff around with gears – how hard can it be?

8 Jan 2015 pic

Dishes and Extremes

Apart from some washed up dishes on the side of the sink, our apartment looks pretty much the way we left it. B’s oldest son was here with his girlfriend for a couple of days when we were away, and clearly didn’t use enough plates and glasses to need the dishwasher, and there’s also a cardboard box in the livingroom which betrays how he must have given his girlfriend a teddy bear. Oh yeah, we were nosy enough to read the delivery note inside it before chucking it in the trash.

To be fair, every time we go away, it seems to go by so quickly, but this time it was extreme and I’m not sure why. We went on the 22nd of December and today it’s the 2nd of January, so if you remove those two days when we were travelling, we spent ten full days in Sweden. And we took it easy most of the time – no rushing around like mad to see lots of people and do lots of things. In fact, we did precisely what we’d hoped: spent Christmas and New Year’s with family, had an evening with my brother D and sister-in-law M, saw friends, went skiing and managed to relax lots with plenty of “us-time” at Falla. Still, it seems to have just whizzed by and it’s a little surreal to be back.

So here we are – 2015 and we are non-smokers, as well as letting January be a super healthy month (no booze whatsoever) and both serious about getting fit again. B’s kept fit all along, he seems to be able to go for runs or to the gym no matter what we’ve done the night before, whereas for me this has NOT been the case. It’s safe to say we drank more evenings than we didn’t in December. In fact I’d say the days we didn’t I can probably count on one hand, and I can’t so much as even think about exercise when I have a hangover. Think the last time I went for a run was at least a couple of months ago, so I am keen as hell to get into it again and work my way back to how wonderfully healthy and fit I used to feel less than two years ago when I’d go running at least four or five times a week. Yeah, those days when four miles felt EASY. Right about now I doubt I could run half a mile without getting out of breath.

The 10k app (as well as the 21k one to follow once I can get through 10k without keeling over – I intend to do a half marathon later this year, I’ve done it before so I know it’s achieveable) is downloaded to my phone and I’m heading out for my first run on Monday. Tonight we’re just chilling and tomorrow we’ll just sort out our suitcases, do laundry and tidy up, do a big food shop and do some more chilling. Sunday we’re taking B’s youngest back up to university so will be a busier day. And Monday? Monday, Monday, Monday…. That’s when it’s back to normal and heading into what promises to be our best year yet with determination and excitement – I know 2015 will be fanfuckingtastic and I’m so excited and happy about all the things it has in store.

I’m ready now to get on with Alice. Sure, I’m also still at the stalling stage, where I’m once again at the point where the blank screen mocks me and has me locking up, but I also know now how to overcome writer’s block, so I’m not that worried. The point I’m at is where I need to rewrite some parts following the editor’s feedback, which I find harder than just keeping on writing from that half way mark I found myself at beginning of December. But, a little time away from Alice has once again allowed me to properly think it all through and the new directions (and execution of some characters) are now clearer in my mind and were massively helped along by spending time at Falla and again opening the door to the larder that inexplicably smells so strongly of berries.

Most of all, I am going into 2015 the way I left 2014 and 2013 before it – with an immense sense of joy and gratitude. Sometimes I just can’t stop myself from grinning like a fool at how wonderful life truly is, and some of those times I can’t even suppress an exhilarated giggle.

The sky’s the limit.

Fairy Lights and Safe Options

Ah, and so we’re back on British soil. What a glorious evening to fly into London on! Like a blanket of fairy lights, the capital spread out beneath us as we flew in over the city, giving us all of its magnificence in a magical, miniature format that included what seemed like little Lego replicas of the square mile, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and Winter Wonderland that looked every bit as gorgeous as it is on the ground from the skies as our plane turned gently westward and we gazed down on it from above.

Home, sweet home. OMG, London – even after all these years, it’s with a sigh of relief and a blissful smile on my face I touch down at Heathrow returning into your loving arms. How funny it is that home ended up being here, it was never my intention. I left my native Sweden just days after finishing college with the aim of living for a year in an English speaking country to master the English language only to return to Sweden and go to university. Little did I know that London would become ‘home’. I initially had my sights on the US, but figured going somewhere that would only mean a couple of hours on a flight back home in case I missed mummy was a safer option if it all turned bad. 20 years later, I am still here.

It’s like a long marriage, if I think about it. I complain about public transport, all the tourists, the appalling state of healthcare and dentistry, and don’t even get me started on the weather and the food… Yet, it is here I feel at home and at peace. London may not always put the toilet seat down or place its dirty socks in the laundry basket, but it’s with love I gently tut and roll my eyes at her shortcomings, ever forgiving of her flaws. She may not hold the beauty of Paris or even Stockholm, but she is real, she is charming and she knows how to make me laugh. London is so dear to me now, and when B and I talked about the future the other day, I realised just how much.

We talked about where we might live in the future. The obvious answer would have been this patch of London we both adore so much, Chiswick – west London and right on the river Thames. Then we got on to the crazy house prices and what the alternatives would be. We both adore living near the water, be it a river, a lake or the sea. And we decided that Brighton might be an option for us once Monkey’s old enough to get on the train to school on his own and/or choose which parent he’d rather live with. Brighton would be perfect in many ways – by the sea, a fair size (large enough to be bustling, small enough to feel like home – much like Chiswick, actually), it’s a beautiful place and if we ever missed London, she’s only an hour away by train.

Of course, I have thought more about Brighton recently than I otherwise would – Karen and her husband Peter live there, and those are characters I unfortunately have to assassinate now, based on the editor’s feedback. Before that, Karen (not Peter so much – he was only ever a filler) was quite a central character, and therefore I have spent many a moment really visualising her home in Brighton, where Alice goes to get away from it all quite frequently. Now that Karen is being demoted, so is Brighton, but you get my drift. I’ve had Brighton on my mind more than I would have in any other scenario. No big loss though – the story was too crowded, I do absolutely see that, so I have no issue with cutting those things out. So Brighton might just remain this little seaside city that also goes by the nickname ‘Little London’ and the place I may find myself moving to with B when the time is right.

My Alice scarf is miles long now. I had a look at it when we got home earlier and it does need finishing off. I need to end it, it’s probably two metres long and can be wrapped around my neck several times by now. Part of me wants to see it done and then wear it (if I may say so myself, it’s a kickass scarf), another part of me wants to keep it going for those times when I need to just sit and knit and ponder the next part and scene of Alice. This scarf represents the whole novel, my whole journey.

14 Dec 2014 pic

Vanity vs Creativity.

Mummy Time and Boobs

Oh, I did get some mummy time, thank God. We drove into central London yesterday to collect her, and sure enough, there she was – gorgeous as ever, perfectly styled and in her beautiful pale pink winter coat with matching scarf, something straight out of a fashion catalogue. I am the spit of my father, by the way. My mum was a beauty queen back in her day, the very loveliest of Scandinavian beauties you could ever find, her large blue eyes, incredible cheek bones and naturally platinum blond hair the stuff people pay a lot of money to have – she has it all naturally. She’s a trophy wife if ever there was one.

And then there was me.

This beauty queen had ME. Even as she went into labour, she was perfectly styled and looking as lovely as ever. It was a leap year, so she was worried I’d be born on the 29th of February. Oh no. I came along three weeks early, on Friday the 13th to be precise. First child, three weeks early and on Friday 13th. Oh dear. What she gave birth to, this dainty, feminine and flawlessly beautiful beauty queen, was Yours Truly…. The average baby weighs 3,5 kilos, yet I clocked in at nearly 4, and instead of gentle and soft blond curls, I had a full head of what was an angrily spiky and full mohican of black hair. Fat and angry (get that boob out NOW!) I arrived and brought tears to my father’s eyes not because I was precious and cute, but because I was this crazy ugly blob of a baby my parents probably couldn’t quite believe they somehow got cursed with. No, I wasn’t pretty. I was something out of a Scandinavian fairytale about the trolls of the woods snatching a human baby and leaving one of their own in its place. Yep, that was me.

So now that mum has been in London with her two sisters for the weekend, we talked about days gone past, as you do. My youngest auntie (who turned 50 today), recalled how she’d babysit me. I was a bookworm the second I came out of my mother’s womb, and she told me how whenever she looked after me all I wanted was to be read to. And how she tried to skip over pages, with me then getting angry and skipping back with my “little fat hands” to the exact bit she’d tried to skip from and made her read from where she’d tried to leave off.. And the funny thing is that I do remember it. Maybe it isn’t my youngest auntie I remember doing that, but I definitely remember that someone did. Oh well, I was always into books, and I do remember that some adults didn’t read the stories to me properly.

It was so lovely to see them, mum and both of my aunties. My mum’s the oldest, and my second aunt looks like her twin. There’s four or five years between them but they do look crazily similar. My youngest aunt could pass for 35, yet she’s 50 TODAY (whoop!) and she’s as cute as a thousand kittens. She’s actually closer to me in age than my little sister – 12 between me and auntie and 13 between me and my little sister. History repeats itself, according to my mum, although that’s not true in my case – B and I won’t be having bambinos. I don’t want to (I’m done) and he can’t (plus I’m sure I don’t want to either).

If we did though, OMG they’d be freakin’ gorgeous! Then again, the ones we do have (B’s two and my one) are pretty bloody amazing, so I think we have added some magnificent kids to the future of this world.