Close to the Edge

As if new motherhood wasn’t challenging enough, in recent weeks my sanity has been tested by an altogether different situation. Back in March, work started on an extension to the optician at the building next to ours. Having bought the commercial property directly underneath our apartment, they proceeded to decimate it, bringing in the big guns in the form of wall-shaking drills and ear-splitting power tools. Needless to say, the residents of our building took umbrage to this unwelcome disruption. It was tabled at the residents’ meeting and formal complaints were made. As a result, the architect visited the residents, in our case reassuring us that the works would be completed by my due date in May, and giving us his number in case we needed to contact him.

Fast forward nearly four months, our baby is now six weeks old and the works are STILL not finished. The last thing any new mother needs to deal with is indiscriminate drilling, which is legally allowed to happen in Belgium between the hours of 7am and 6.30pm, six days a week. Some days there is relative peace and quiet, but on others we are woken by drilling so loud I have to leap out of bed, grab the baby and run to the opposite end of the apartment. I even had to buy ear defenders for him, because at times I have genuinely feared for his hearing. All this, and our texts to the architect have mostly gone unanswered. Admittedly, nobody wants to be bombarded by messages from an irate and sleep-deprived new mother, but the lack of response has really got my back up, not least because of his original insistence that we contact him should we ever need to.

On Monday I finally reached the end of my tether. Arriving home at 4pm, I was greeted by loud drilling beneath every room in the apartment. With literally nowhere I could take my son to protect him from the noise, I stormed, wild-eyed and raging, down to the optician with him in the buggy and demanded to speak to the manager. Confronted by this half-demented she-beast, I can understand her reticence to engage. But after some initial heated words we managed a civil conversation, which ended with her saying she would speak to the architect and ask him to call me. Has he done so? Has he bollocks (excuse my French).

So here I sit on high alert after another terrible night, clutching my coffee and staring glassy-eyed into the middle distance as I attempt to find the words to describe the ongoing shit show unfolding beneath us, about which I can apparently do precisely nothing.

Perhaps one day I will laugh about this.

Or perhaps one day I will be writing the sequel to this blog post from my padded isolation cell after going on a one-woman rampage with a power tool.

Such is the rich and varied tapestry of life.

https_img1.etsystatic.com00005834566il_fullxfull.159947543

Advertisements

The BK lounge (and Starbucks drive-thrus)

If you’ve never heard of Dane Cook then I urge you, right now (or perhaps after you’ve read this post), to open your web browser and type “Dane Cook BK Lounge into your browser.” Once you’ve listened to the audio clip the search throws up you may return here to profusely thank me for the recommendation (listen to his other clips too, he’s a funny guy) so I will say in advance that you’re most welcome. De nada. No really, it was nothing.

So anyway, on the topic of drive-thrus (I refer you back to the above so you will understand the reference), I was today amazed to find a Starbucks drive thru at a motorway service station. Not just amazed but somewhat thrilled, given that not half an hour previously I had remarked they really should be drive-thru coffee shops besides motorways for weary travellers who just needed a quick pick me up without the fuss of a proper stop off (clearly I have the mind of a forward thinking marketeer).

Despite having obviously made a fanfare of this ground breaking new development (as evidenced by the array of green and white balloons around the entrance) Starbucks had failed to do one very important thing: Signpost the drive=thru for the humble, tired and caffeine deficient motorist to easily find. By the time we found it we had circled the normal Starbucks cafe twice, driven around the car park for five minutes and taken a wrong turn at the petrol station which nearly saw us crash into an eighteen wheeled truck. Then when we did finally locate the drive thru entrance the muppet in front of us took exception to his beverage and spent a further five minutes admonishing the teenage boy serving at the hatch, whose excitement at landing the job was clearly waning by the second.

In short, it probably would have taken half the time to park up and go into the Starbucks in the service station. But when the boy handed over our iced coffees with a beaming smile and we pulled effortlessly back onto the motorway all was forgiven. “What a great idea,” I said. “If only I’d thought of that.”

Day One, Stateside

My first full day in New Jersey began in Jen’s favourite hangout, the Beechwood Cafe, for bagels and coffee. Once fortified we walked to the Hudson riverfront to look at the amazing view of the Manhattan skyline before jumping on the Path train under the water to Manhattan.

After disembarking at 33rd street by Macy’s we walked through Times Square and almost 30 blocks (!) to Central Park, picking up cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and blonde roast coffee from Starbucks along the way (naturally).

By the time we reached Central Park the sun was shining and the clouds were fluffy white puffs in the sky. We sat and sunbathed on a rock for quite some time before walking off our cupcakes around the boating lake. Then, greedy as ever (!), we bought a bag of sugar coated almonds for the walk back to 33rd street (what? It was a long way!) and got the Path train back across the water.

We had a rest and a snack (are you sensing a theme here?!) before catching the train back over to Manhattan, this time heading to West Village in the meat packing district to meet Jen’s friend, Erin, at Jane Hotel for drinks in the ballroom (where we had the most incredible rose wine) and dinner (a cheese starter followed by a tower of cous cous with vegetables and warm chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream rolled in crushed pistachios to finish-heavenly but utterly, utterly gluttonous, and a stretch even by my capacious standards of eating). Afterwards we rolled ourselves back to Jersey City and into bed. A perfect first day 🙂

Image

Me and Jen by the boating lake in Central Park.

Time flies

I can hardly believe my final week at work is already upon me. It’s a cliché, I know, but time really does fly – not so sure about the ‘when you’re having fun’ bit, but hopefully that’s still to come. This time next week, quite possibly, as I recover from this weekend’s 16 mile Wholefoods run in style with a trip to the Big Apple to visit the girl I affectionately call my ‘spiritual twin’ (so named after the two weeks we spent helping each other  cling to our sanity in an ashram in southern India in 2011).

After the events of the past few weeks a holiday is just what the doctor ordered, and I’m very much looking forward to taking some time out to reflect on the imminent changes in my life (not to mention start tackling the enormous writing-related tomes I’ve purchased in preparation for going freelance). The plan, thus far, is to sip coffee, nibble (oh alright, scoff) cake, down wine and eat inordinately large amounts of CHEESE – with a bit of sightseeing and a LOT of nattering thrown into the mix to boot. In short, we’re going to set the world to rights one mouthful at a time and I cannot WAIT.

Because of all the recent changes in my own life it’s no surprise that I’ve been ruminating on the nature and importance of change as a life driver. Should we, I wonder, embrace it regularly as a way to rejuvenate ourselves, or should we rather seek out a more preferable state of equilibrium, in which we can be happy to see out the rest of our days?

At the moment I’m inclined to think the former, not least because of this article I remembered having read a few years back about how the brain perceives time. The article discusses the central concepts of a book, Making Time, written by Steve Taylor. In it, he claims that as we get older it seems as though time is speeding up, but that’s only because we fall into hum drum existences and get caught up in the same old cycle, day in, day out. If we seek out new experiences – for example by filling our weekends with trips to art galleries, coffee in kitsch new coffee houses and lunches and dinners in new locations with friends and family – then our perception of time actually changes and we view it as having passed more slowly than it actually did.

It could be argued that this is counter-intuitive, since the sensation of being bored often feel s as if it spans a lifetime, but if you stop to consider how fast the last five years have gone since you joined your current company you might begin to give credence to the idea.

As I’m no expert in how to live life, I’ll close with a quote from Steve Taylor’s book:

“Make sure your life is as full of new experiences as possible. If you live a life that’s full of routine, then time will always speed up but if you make an effort to travel to new environments and expose yourself to new situations, new challenges, even something simple like a new route to work, new interests, new hobbies, then this degree of newness slows down time.”

It seems a pretty compelling argument to me. Now where DID I put that passport….?

533237_10152577828025057_891854652_n

I fell in love with this clock in the main square of Prague’s old town. It looks like a time machine!

Past Post: Gone

Something a bit different for tonight. I’ve trawled through some of my previous writing and come across this little gem from SIX WHOLE YEARS AGO. It’s short and sweet, and could do with a bit of a re-write if I’m perfectly honest but there’s something about it I like, which is why I’ve chosen to share it with you as this week’s past post:

He left today, without warning. Not even a hint of what was to come as he kissed me goodbye at the door. He said he loved me, that he’d never leave. So what do I do now? I’m sitting at the kitchen table staring out across the fields of corn, watching as the stalks dance in the breeze to a tune that only they can hear. 

It is a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky – and warm too, so warm for this time of year. It’s only May and yet today could pass for July.

We were married in July, twenty glorious years ago.

I think I’ll make some coffee. Yes, that will help to make sense of things. He always used to laugh at me for saying that, but it’s true. 

My mind begins to wander. Where is he now – and who with? Is he happy? No, I can’t imagine he is happy at this moment, no matter who he’s with. The wounds will still be too fresh, as they are for me. I am not yet out of his system. Perhaps I never will be. I hope not.

I am angry – twisted and bitter and utterly inconsolable. How could he leave? We were so happy! Or were we? Could I have done more? Could I have made him stay if I’d known what was coming? Probably not.

My coffee is cold. I have no idea how long the phone has been ringing.

‘Hello?’ My voice does not sound like my own.

‘Mum?’

This will be hard, she will not understand any better than me.

‘Mum?’ she says again, anxiety creeping into her voice. ‘I got your message – what’s happened?’

My beautiful daughter. Our beautiful daughter. How can I tell you that your father has left us? That we are, to all intents and purposes, alone?

‘He’s gone,’ I say bluntly in that same alien voice.

‘Gone?’ she repeats, bewildered.

I try to explain. She says she’ll be here soon.

Now I have returned to my window vigil, willing him to return. He walked through that field not two hours ago. Before he left me. Before he left us.

He lies there still, among the glorious sprays of daffodils.

He lies there still. 

Image

This is the most appropriate picture I could find in the archives to accompany this post, though I must confess I can’t quite remember where it was taken. I think it was most likely southern India – perhaps there are some butterfly buffs reading this who will know?!