What a week (plus diet update)

Living deep in my rural valley and continuing to work in London a couple of days a week means life is always schizophrenic and I can never decide whether that is ok or not. This week has been a ludicrously exaggerated version.

Saturday was a home day, the sun shone and we picked apples. The big tree in the field had a smaller crop this year, possibly due to over enthusiastic winter pruning (Ian and a pruning saw are a dangerous combination), but still filled a big wheelbarrow with Howgate Wonder, a fabulous apple which starts life as a cooker, keeps well and matures into something sweet enough to eat without sugar by March. The old apple trees in the kitchen garden have cropped heavily, much of it pitted or small but loads and loads. One of the projects for this winter is to prune in there and and to see whether, organically, we can bring the old trees round again. Even if we can't they are beautiful in spring and earn their place by beauty alone.

Then there is chutney making with the kitchen full of the smell of vinegar and spices and jars and jars out for washing and removing the old labels as I am much too mean to buy jars specially. By Saturday night there are nine jars lined up with their glossy dark contents ready to mature for a month or two. Hugely satisfying but barely touching the surface of the apples, the beans, the tomatoes which are still ripening but surely won't all go red. I just want to stay home and peel and chop and stir and I get all wound up and stompy about the fact that I have to go away.

Monday is looking after Sam day, my grandson now 18 months. He is absolutely beautiful but looking after him is a frantic juggle of things to keep him happy, with my blackberry (wonderful and cursed gadget) buzzing at me all day with things to do with my work meeting in Lisbon. I feel somewhat ashamed that I disguise the fact at work that this is what I do with my Mondays. I work in a harsh, male, young environment where my age and sex already distinguish me. I have carved out my authority in this world over the last 20 years or so and I need it to function. In my own time I will let it go but until then it is on with the suits and heels and goodbye to granny. Am I paranoid? I don't think so.

Tuesday Ian drives me to the airport which takes an hour and a half from where we live and I fly to Lisbon for the meeting. I am always wound up - have I got all my papers, have I got clean knickers, have I put anything in my hand luggage which will get me stopped at security, am I properly prepared, do I know my hotel, have I got any Euros. On Wednesday my older daughter and her husband are coming to Wales with a van to collect some furniture. They are having a nightmare time with a house purchase which isn't going smoothly so they are moving out of their rented flat, putting things into store and camping with friends and family, still waiting to exchange. So I am also wound up that I will not see them, wanting to be in two places at once. I have brought my Welsh with me for the class on Thursday so I sit in the airport lounge trying to master Nasal Mutations (don't ask). It sounds daft, but the bringing together of my home and work life soothes me and I cover pages with notes and the melody of Welsh.

Lisbon looks like a great city if only I could get out there. I have a walk for a couple of hours on Tuesday evening and a meal with a colleague. She is juggling work with two under fives and seems relieved to be able to talk to someone about it who doesn't regard it as a weakness. She is Italian with ten years of living in England and flawless, idiomatic English but still with a very strong Italian accent which I love to listen to.

The meeting on Wednesday goes well, twelve of us round the table, five nationalities, the whole thing conducted in English. How lazy it makes us, the predominance of our language, I think as Germans, Italians, Dutch and Belgians engage in rapid and complex discussion in a language not their own. It makes my halting attempts to say in Welsh that I have four children, two cats and chickens seem laughably pathetic, but no, I won't give up.

Back to London on Wednesday night and home on Thursday, longing for my bed and my place and for time with Ian. Thursday night is Welsh class night and miraculously it seems that reading my books on planes and trains has helped. We are played a tape and the first time it washes inpentrenably over my head, but the second time the meaning emerges shyly from the mist, patterns form, I make some sense of it. I am more elated by this than by anything else in my week so far. Afterwards we go for a drink with the class and Ian comes down and life slows a little. My own bed is a heaven.

And today is sort out day for visitors this weekend. But first it is weigh in time. I have really tried to keep to my diet while I have been away although I did eat the chocolate on my pillow and I have had a drink every night. I have lost a pound. I try hard not to be disappointed - I did lose five last week so over two weeks it is pretty good - but I droop for a minute and have to give myself a talking to. I can tell I am thinner, my trousers are a bit looser. For a minute I long for a piece of buttered toast but the phone rings and saves me. When I put it down the moment of temptation has passed.

And now for shopping and bed changing and cooking and washing. It is a strange thing, balancing one's life. There is so much in mine that I love and I think I am better balanced than I used to be but still overwhelmed sometimes, as this week, by too much busyness. Shall I stop work? No money, no status but time? And I if do what will I do with the time and will I feel ok? Which is worse, too much to do or too little? Has anyone worked out how to get it right?


  1. Goodness Elizabeth - I am exhausted just reading this! I LOVE your description of the apple picking and chutney making (one of my favourite things to do). That smell is so evocative that my nose is tingling as I type! xx

  2. I don't think any lifestyle is perfect...but I'm exhausted after that blog! I guess that you wouldn't be putting yourself through the angst, fretting and stroppiness you describe for nothing? You must love your job...If not, well then it may be time to look again - I'm sure you would fill any time you gained with plenty of 'country living' and spending more time with your grandson/family. But you need to have that buzz of life, I expect - oh, so difficult....can you work less hours/do more from home, I wonder?

  3. Ah, I wish I had the answer. As I've said many times before, I get suh a sense of recognition from your tales of your schizophrenic life! I did it for several years, the complete change of personality along with the change of clothes, the trying desparately hard not to let my worlds collide, the constant ache of missing my tiny boy .... yet I've been home based for the past 3 years and although it was the right decision for me at that time, I have lost so much - in terms of confidence, identity, money. None of them irreplaceable, and not so important as other things, but still, it's always a dilemma. And I have to get my skates on and get back into the schizo world soon!

  4. i know the dilemma. Retirement is harder when you have been used to a powerful job, with respect and responsibilities. I miss that. But there are other things which are so good too!

  5. Is there a right and wrong? You sound to be getting along just fine! You have a full and active life, one to be admired.

    Best wishes, Crystal xx

  6. That was gorgeous, as usual, Elizabeth - I do envy your ability to make it work, even if you don't always see it, I know i could never manage it. Chaotic and chaotic. You must be knackered, too. Enjoy your weekend.

  7. Dont ask me i havent a clue!!!!

  8. And breathe . . . . berlimey - think you might need one of my Stress Management Courses.

    Then I wake up on an intake of breath and rush out of bed with the OMG I'll never get it all done today . .

    Important think is ME time and doing soemthing just becasue you want to. I actually add it into my lists now . . .

  9. Gor blimey popping of to lisbon !! your a jetsetter you must be jigggered...I'm apple gathering this week, you ought to bring some of yours along and we'll sqash um for cidrrrrrrrrrrr...xx

  10. I don't envy you but I do admire you - not sure I'm up to business meetings these days. As for the weight - well done - another pound, that's brilliant!

  11. You've been very industrious, I'm cross with myself as I know I've missed out on blackberry picking - no excuse they are only down the field, but I hate to pick alone and my mates have not been available
    Diet buggered been to in laws for lunch, tried to say no to apple pie with jersey cream, but some how it came out as a yes please

  12. i'd like to be there picking apples,too. i'd read aloud while you made the chutney, or regale you with my witty conversation (hahahaha)--i'm not much of a cook.

    congratulations on losing the pound! i know it's discouraging to lose "only" a pound, but it's an achievement, really. and think how lousy you'd feel if it was the other way around and you'd gained a pound.

    any diet that allows the occasional chocolate and wine is a good sensible diet, in my book.

  13. I recognized so much of my life in your blog - the struggle to keep both wonderful parts of your life in balance. Remember to be kind to yourself - I don't mean to preach, but I've been there and done that!
    Your description of your chutneys made my mouth water and reminded me that there is still a tree to pick in the chicken yard - wonderful Spy apples - nice and tart.

  14. Balancing - a thing we can learn but never quite master! Though I think you do it very admirably! If ever I learn the secret....

  15. What a hectic, busy, bubbly life!Enjoy the apples and chutney, zand good for you still commuting to London...


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