On being early, late and on time all at once

April 17th, somehow delayed publication..

Yesterday, my colleague announced that due to unforseen private circumstances he was extending his Easter holiday and having today off as well. No problem. He asked me to water the plants. No problem. He told me which bits of glass to give various customers. Again, no problem. And then this:

“..The company XYZ is coming to do some work on ABC. They’re due to be here around 8 so you should be in the workshop from 7:30 in case they’re early…”*

Eek.

I’m barely awake at 7:30 on a normal day.

I have a problem with mornings. I don’t often function properly before most people are starting their first coffee break at work.

I luckily have flexible working hours. I roll in well after my colleague and stay later in the evening. That means not only can I sleep that much longer in the mornings, the workshop is also open for more hours per day and keeps our owl-customers happy.

***

This morning I awoke to the sound of a band being run over by a reversing lorry**

I stumbled in and out of the shower in a blurry haze and decided to take breakfast with me. My fish got less attention than usual and I didn’t pay any attention at all to things like plants or airing and squeegeeing the bathroom.. When my landlord caught me on the way out, wanting to talk to me about dustbins I excused myself as soon as it was polite to (or possibly earlier). I even cycled slightly faster than usual.

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get to work until almost 7:40.

That turned out to be ok through, because despite visions of eager workers having to wait for me to open the door and let them get on with whatever needed doing, they didn’t actually arrive until gone 8..

Ho hum.

Still, at least I know I can get to work early(ish) if I need to…

*As ridiculous as that sounds, this is Germany. They could legitimately come early.

** My alarm clock: A CD plays for a few minutes until it’s interru…BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Just like that. Hideous noise. I keep it at the other side of my room, which guarantees that I at least get out of bed to turn it off. I’m still working on not going back to bed once it’s quiet again.

On being blasted by the past (and loving it)

Last night I went dancing. I’ve only been once since I moved north to Berlin. Way back when I lived in the south, I used to go regularly, sometimes twice a week. I had visions of still being as good as I once was.. In reality I was hopeless. At least until I stopped thinking and just danced. My feet know what they’re supposed to be doing far better than my head does. Still rusty, but more-or-less in working order. There will probably be a post about it soon. The teacher said dancing wasn’t so much about leading and following, as about inviting and accepting. Like a host and their guests. Sometimes the guests request things, sometimes the host suggests.

***

Last week I phoned a glass joining expert. We write occasionally but we don’t yak – just the things we need to know condensed into a few sentences. This time we talked. That makes a huge difference. We talked about the glass project I might be taking on, and also about his new self-employed status. We discussed all kinds of things and I’ve been invited to go and see his new workshop after Easter. He’s so happy to be his own boss – his voice is full of smiles and non stuck-up pride. I am so thankful it all worked out for him.

***

I’ve been having quite a lot of health issues lately. Nothing serious, just persistent and annoying. I’ve decided to take all woes to a lady who deals with people as a whole instead of a heap of parts. She asked me for my medical history. I have a memory like a sieve – almost everything pours through leaving me with a mess of song lyrics and little-kid book plots. I phoned my various doctors asking them to send me a copy of their notes and test results and x rays etc. Most of them need me to pick up in person, the only one willing to give it to a person of my choosing was the one furthest away, but within walking distance of a friend’s house – a friend who moved there after I’d left, and who I see once a year, tops. The secretary was fantastic, as was (/is) my friend. He picked up my notes and posted them on. Heroic really, considering he was on holiday with his partner and probably had better things to do. Reading through my notes was horrifying – I didn’t remember most of the things I’d needed treatment for until I read about them..

***

On Wednesday I got an email from a colleague from the place I used to work. We were friendly but not especially close. I left 5 years ago and I haven’t seen, heard from or even thought about her more than a couple of times since. She’s going to be in Berlin soon and wants to meet up. I’m quite excited about seeing her and finding out what’s been happening in her life. It seems there’s been quite a lot of change.

***

I am going to a glassblowing thing soon and it’s being held near (= within a radius of less than 100km) where a couple of friends from glassblowing school now live. I’ve kept in contact with both of them but due to distance and various clashing calendars I haven’t seen one of them in years and the other possibly once a year on average. I wrote to both to say that I’d be in the area and we’re all going to get together for the afternoon after the do. I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to that. I have no words.

***

I logged onto Facebook today for the first time in forever. I had a handful of messages from people I haven’t spoken to in a long time, including one from a glassblower I look up to immensely, asking when I’ll be where, and which meetings I’m attending because there are so much glass-related things to talk about (and so little time)…I’d promised to phone about a hundred years ago and hadn’t. If you’re the least bit creative there are always a million reasons not to phone and I am pretty good at making up stories/excuses. I apologised and he forgave and I feel much better about seeing him in person at the meeting after next. All the awkward is out of the way – we can get on with the interesting stuff.

There were also a few messages from a school friend I haven’t seen or heard from in close to 16 years. We quickly migrated onto a chat program and conversation flowed effortlessly, despite, or maybe because of, the time we have to catch up on.

***

None of these things are technically related.. And yet, they kind of all are. I feel loved and appreciated and like there is a life not only beyond work and my house, but also wrapped up in the day-to-day stuff you don’t always pay attention to. Some things require you to ask for something, some need you to accept something. Sometimes you’re the host and sometimes the guest. Almost all the things were easier to do than to think about.

***

On top of all that, it’s sunny and getting warmer and my mood is mostly a lot better than it’s been in ages and it feels like time to come out of hibernation.

I think I like spring πŸ™‚

On living round a Dahlien* invasion

Once upon a time, when my kitchen was still a kitchen and I still had a kitchen floor, I went half-price seed shopping with my mother.

Mid February I had an unexpected free evening and an unopened bag of compost. I sowed liberally.

Despite being clearance stock, every seed germinated..

And since I’m not as heartless as I need to be I potted them all on..

..and rearranged the balcony to make space for them..

And then Winter came back to laugh at me, so I brought them all in again.

I feel like I’m beginning to understand the Duke of York better these days.. ;p

Can whoever controls the temperature please make sure we don’t get any more frost? It would be nice to be able to use the entirety of my floor…

Also, if anyone wants a dahlia or seven (or a tray of Livingstone Daisies) I’ve got a couple spare πŸ™‚

*The Germans call dahlias Dahlien πŸ˜‰

On the creation of a domestic Goddess

I recently bought a second hand copy of Nigella Lawson’s book, “How to be a domestic goddess”.

I haven’t read it yet.

Obviously.

‘Obviously’ because I am so far away from becoming a domestic goddess it’s not even funny. If I was going to be eligible for any kind of goddess title, ‘domestic’ would come pretty far down the list. I bought it because I liked Feast (another of her books) and because it has a whole section of chocolatey recipes – it’s still lent so I might as well read about chocolate if I’m not going to eat it.

Life’s been a bit crazy since then and I haven’t had time to sit down with it.

This evening, after being spending the day being domestic (!) I settled down in front of the aquarium, dinner resting on my lap, book resting on the arm of my favourite chair, ready to enjoy both. Halfway through the first paragraph of the preface I decided that my dinner was incredibly bland and that I needed herbs or spices or something to wake it up a bit.

(I was eating on the sofa in front of the aquarium because the most ginormous amaryllis is taking up most of the table and 47000 baby plants are taking up most of the floor in the kitchen. And also because that’s my favourite place to eat if I’m by myself :)).

I put my dinner on the cupboard, put the book on the –

GLOOP.

My dinner landed on the floor before my book landed on the beanbag.

“Oh bother” said Jesska.

“If only I hadn’t” said Jesska.

Good thing I made double, really.

Doubly good that I put the half I was going to eat in a bowl before bringing it into the sitting room. The other half was still in the kitchen and therefore still edible.

Bonus good thing? Cleaning up the mess meant I washed some of the floor, something I’d noticed needed doing while vacuuming this morning, but decided against..

Maybe this goddessing lark is achieved best by accident.

πŸ™‚

***

And so as not to waste it, here’s some of the post I was originally planning to write today:

On the first day she was invited to dinner.

On the second day she was invited to cook dinner for someone else at their house.

On the third day she ate leftovers.

On the fourth day she ate beans out of the saucepan and watched the fish.

On the fifth and sixth days she zapped home made microwave meals.

On seventh day she… Writing this in my head as I balanced the umpteenth plastic box on my draining rack, I’d planned to finish this sentence with “..washed up.” as a kind of triumphant/embarrassing declaration of my level of housewifery and as a sort of Jessish version of the creation of the world. It was a busy week of long days and late dinners and I was mostly happy to survive, eat and fall into bed in one piece. Washing up wasn’t high on my priority list. Until today when I ran out of clean cutlery.

However, now that I’m actually writing, that line, while still true, is no longer post-worthy.

Instead, I have to change it to this:

On the seventh day she threw her dinner on the floor.

Doh.

Although that’s not even vaguely accurate. I didn’t throw it. I didn’t even drop it. I placed it. Slowly. I would like to say carefully but I don’t think anyone would believe that. On the grounds that the torch I use for catching artemia (not pictured – I started clearing up before I thought about taking a photo) landed in between the pasta shells and under the mat, I’m going to assume I put the the edge of the mat down on top of the torch instead of the cupboard whereupon the whole thing rolled slowly, viking boat style, off the edge of the cupboard before tipping itself onto the floor.

Arg.

On seeing (and D-ing)

Recently A month ago (!!) I wrote about how well things were going. Pretty much directly after pressing publish, my mood and my house nosedived into a swamp of grey, exhausted ugh.

Like before, I blame the vitamin D. Except in this case more the lack of.

***

Some history:

When my deficiency was first diagnosed (last autumn) I went to the chemist and asked for vitamin D. I didn’t look at the various brightly advertised packages in the main shop, I went straight to the the counter and bought the boring-looking box of tablets I was offered. I figured they were most likely to do the job if they didn’t have to work on convincing you how much they were doing.

I read somewhere that just existing uses up approximately 500-1000 units a day. In summer it’s usually easy to produce enough to live on and have some left over to store for winter. I was outside a lot and it was a very sunny summer, I just seem to have a problem with the production part of the equation. At the end of the summer I had way less than most people have at the end of the winter. Whatever. I’m supposed to be replenishing my stocks so I was told to take 2000 units. The Internet is full of opinions and some people are convinced that I could easily triple the daily dosage or take a lot more once a week. I am very wary of taking too much of anything so I chose to go slowly and steadily, taking them daily and according to the instructions.

I noticed the difference almost immediately. I could pick things up, my cycling speed increased (a bit), I didn’t cry so often. I wasn’t as tired. I was amazed. Life was more lifelike.

<..approx 3 months later..>

I went home (to my parents house) for Christmas and didn’t take enough tablets with me (I had a spare sheet at work but forgot to pack them). I was ok, I’d mostly forgotten what life was like without them and I figured I could take them on alternate days or take less to make them last longer. It wasn’t as if I was going to be there for long, just under 2 weeks.

I got progressively more irritable and a few days after Christmas my brother had the questionable pleasure of an evening in my tearful mope-y company. Not a good use of the available time.

I headed to a supermarket for more tablets. They were much weaker, I think 250 units each, but I took several at a time and they tided me through til I got back. I didn’t want to waste them so I took one strong one instead of two and made up the difference with the weaker ones.

On the recommendation of a friend who swears by them, when I reached the end of the box, I decided to swap the tablets for drops. Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it made sense to buy it ‘pure’ in oil without the chalky tablet material. There are a million options online and unfortunately very little regulation so I bought the sort she uses to reduce the risk of being scammed. The bottle was quite expensive but contained the equivalent of several boxes so each individual dose worked out (insignificantly) cheaper. You can drip it onto food or a spoon or directly onto your tongue. The bottle is glass and there’s no plastic blisterpacks involved. Theoretically they are a good thing.

In practice, and in retrospect, after taking nothing for a couple of days while I waited for them to arrive and using the drops for a month and a bit, I have the feeling that they don’t have the same effect, or possibly have no positive effect at all.

***

March was hard.

Everything hurt, I struggled to pick up my water filter or heave my bike up curbs. I couldn’t make the glass do what I wanted it to do. Getting up was arduous and getting out of the house was a feat. Cycling to work was challenging and slow (for a comparison, I cycled something like 80km over one weekend in February without a problem). I was permanently cold. I stayed at home at weekends, occasionally in bed.

I spent a week or so crying, more or less nonstop, about ridiculous things (like signposts and Google’s inability to direct me to where I want to go), and broken things and things that feel like they matter (even though they partially only exist in my head) and things that aren’t even things, and occasionally I just cried, no reason necessary.

Sometimes crying is/was the only thing that makes/made sense. Even when it doesn’t.

If I cried in the morning I stayed at home until I could stop my eyes leaking long enough to feel safe taking my bike on the roads. If I cried at work I took a break and typed up invoices instead of blindly playing with fire and hot glass. If I cried at home in the evening I took myself to bed with a hot water bottle and a box of tissues. I cooked and ate out of the saucepan or the frying pan, or didn’t cook and ate cereal out of as many bowls as I could without having to wash up. I left everything scattered on the table, worktops or on the floor next to the sofa. I didn’t do anything non-urgent. I made a point of not trying to not cry.

Last week, during a midnight crying attack, I wrote a whole post (in my head) about how everyone tells you to surround yourself with people who are better than you so you improve at whatever you want to be able to do, and how none of them ever tell you how to deal with permanently feeling like you are completely incapable.

From where I am, it doesn’t matter which way I look, everybody I have anything to do with has something they excel at. All around me, nothing but experts and success. PhDs, renovations, world travel, glassblowing masterpieces, speeches, new jobs, new houses, holidays, woodworkers, programmers, telescopes, exhibitions, parties, readers, writers, opening ceremonies, secretaries with neat cupboards of labelled and ordered paperperfection, makers of bread, collectors of overtime, parents of multiple children, runners, cyclists, etc etc etc. People are constantly doing things and doing them well. All the time. (For ever and ever. Amen.)

Faced with and compared to all this genius and talent and knowledge and ability, I failed on all fronts. Unless wallowing counts, and even then I know people who are properly depressed and not just paddling in the shallows where jealousy and “can’t even” and inadequacy and self-deprecation and all kinds of darkness lurk.

When I told her at a check up, my Obgyn said the lack of strength and motivation and excess of tears is probably either Depression or Deficiency and ordered another vitamin D test to see if I’m actually building up a Depot like I’m supposed to, or if I need to up the Dosage (look at all the Ds!). She asked what, if anything, had changed in the last few months and the only halfway relevant thing I could think of was switching to drops. She agreed with the theory that oil is a “better” solution, but suggested I go back to what works. Apparently different people are better able to use vitamins in different forms.

Given the choice, I told her, I’d much (much!) rather take the deficiency – especially when you can get tablets in every chemists and most supermarkets, and therapists are booked out until approximately 2080. She laughed and wished me deficiency (Germans are experts at wishing people things).

***

The other day I was talking to H about various things and he said something along the lines of: “..and you saw me. As a person, not just someone who was doing something. No one else does that..”

Awww πŸ™‚

The best thing about it?

He wasn’t “just being nice”. He wasn’t scraping the barrel for things he could cheer me up with, he was genuinely thankful for being seen and was telling me as part of his story. It wasn’t about me.

A couple of days before that, B had a problem with something her husband had said. We talked and wrote and thought and discussed. Once he/they had smoothed things out, she wrote to thank me for taking the time to listen, and for giving her the chance to go through her thoughts before they spoke.

If I rack my brain and trail through my emails/texts/letters I find evidence of other people who have said similar things.

I think I’ve found my super power.

πŸ™‚

I can’t do all the things but I can see the people who can, and not doing all the things gives me time to be there for people (most of whom are in the middle of doing or about to do great things).

If I can be good at something, I can work on not minding being awful at everything else.

Going back to the crying, maybe I just needed a break to wash my eyes so I could get on with seeing.

(I bought a new box of tablets too – I couldn’t keep up with buying tissues :))

On eating beans on toast

The other day I heated a tin of beans, laid the table, toasted some slightly stale bread, took a lump of cheese out of the fridge, the grater out of the drawer and sat down to beans on toast.

As I poured the beans onto my toast I was suddenly reminded of the post I wrote last year about eating them out of the saucepan. This time I hadn’t even considered it. I hadn’t thought about it and made an conscious effort to use a plate, it honestly hadn’t crossed my mind until afterwards. I’d laid out a plate and a knife and fork without thinking about it or having to wash them up first. (The saucepan was clean before I started too ;)).

I was eating off a plate. At a table. With a tablecloth and placemats and flowers. By myself – I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. The counter was mostly empty, as was the sink and the drying rack. The floor between the radiator and the balcony doors was clear, except for the recycling bottles and a couple of projects in boxes. The old newspapers were stacked in a single wooden box, ready to wrap up the peelings when I next cook properly, instead of threatening to invade.

This, I think, is a good marker of how far I’ve come over the last few months. The recent beans day wasn’t an especially ‘good’ day, it was just a day, possibly one of the less-good days, seeing as I was eating beans instead of cooking.

My house is in no way magazine-perfect, but I was able to let my landlord in at short notice when he needed to replace the batteries in the anti-mould windows, and to let him send a repairman for the towel rail while I wasn’t here.

It is staying tidy for longer between the chaos-attacks. Things mostly have a home. I wash up directly after breakfast most days. I actually have breakfast most days! I’m starting to put things onto the small-ads app and get rid of them instead of piling them up to think about ‘later’.

I still have stay-in-bed-and-stare-into-space days/mornings, I still have a few days a month where nothing works and I come home and cry about it, I still have illogical spiralling thoughts, I still have days when lifting a jug of water or walking up a flight of stairs is about the limit of my strength, but I don’t sink as far or stay there as long.

I blame the vitamin D tablets.

And possibly the generous tax return πŸ™‚

And the fish.

And the cycling.

And Frank Turner’s songs.

And H’s many cupboards and shelves and hung-up-pictures-and-mirrors-and-notice-boards.

But especially the D tablets. As long as I don’t forget to take them, them they work small miracles in my life (or perhaps give me the ability to work them in my own life). I am so so so grateful for my obgyn and her non-obgyn-stuff-related diagnosis and the bloodtest and the easy way to feel better about everything.

Here’s to more plate-days! πŸ™‚

On late night loo roll hunting (and locks)

Occasionally I think I’m getting the hang of this adulting lark.

This week, for instance, I consistently got to work an hour (or more) earlier than the week before (and most of last year if I’m honest). It meant making a huge effort to go to bed early and actually getting up when the alarm went off, and I also left my phone in the kitchen to avoid the one-eyed scrolling my mornings so often started with.

That’s pretty responsible right?

I even dressed up and went to a grownup classical concert yesterday afternoon, one of only a handful of under-70s in the place, not counting the orchester, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also enjoyed the hour or three I spent wandering around Berlin in the dark, meandering past and through shops and along highstreets, looking at lots of the things I don’t want to buy and a few I feel I should think about before buying. I came home with a stack of tea towels. Can’t get much more exciting than that, really.

I went shopping on the way back from the station and came home, ready for a posh hot chocolate and an early night.

So far so good.

I realised, at gone 9pm on a Saturday night, that the last loo roll was very unlikely to last until Monday morning. I promptly changed my going out boots for more sensible cycling shoes, put my high vis vest on over my going out coat, took my helmet and saddle bag off their respective hooks and headed supermarketwards…

Click.

…without my keys.

Argh.

So much for responsibility and proper adulting.

Time to call my landlord.

He didn’t respond the first time I tried.

The staircase isn’t particularly warm or comfortable, but I figured it was warmer and more comfortable than the yard, so I abandoned all plans of going shopping (and besides, who needs loo roll when there’s no loo?!). In my head I went through all the people I could feasibly phone and ask for a bed and how I was going to get there (I can climb over a gate, I’m pretty sure I can’t get my bike over one). Thinking about it now, since I’d locked the front door behind me as I’d come in, I was stuck in the stairwell between my door and the house door and wouldn’t have been able to get into the yard anyway – or to anyone else’s house.

I tried again. This time he luckily decided to answer and I was brought the key and could rescue mine.

Phew!

I made it to the shop on time for a record breaking (for me) whizz round and stood at the checkout at one minute to ten.

By the time I got home I’d forgotten all about the posh hot chocolate and fell into bed with a hot water bottle instead.

And that was the end of another eventful day.

***

P. S. It seems I haven’t changed much..

This is a post from almost exactly 6 years ago about late night loo roll shopping. And just to round things off, this is a post from a year and a half ago about locking myself out.

On rowing at midnight

I have a rowing machine.

I bought it on a whim when I bought my aquarium. Not necessarily an obvious connection but they were both second hand and being sold by the same family. And I’d already borrowed the van.

It’s not especially good quality. It’s not, according to my brother who actually rows, a bit like real rowing, not even a bit like using a ‘proper’ rowing machine.

I don’t really care. It’s something that fits into my bedroom, something that requires all of my body to work to make it work, something that I don’t have to go anywhere to use. Something I can do by myself, whenever I want to do it.

When I got it a year and a half ago, I started doing a very few strokes per ‘session’, building up until I reached 200, or occasionally 250, depending on how I felt. (people usually row for a set time (or distance) and count the strokes (or time) needed..).

Last year I rowed almost every day until about June. Then I went away and the habit broke. I think it probably ‘helped’ that it was approximately a million degrees here for a lot of the summer and just existing was enough to cause severe sweating.

Between June and November the rowing machine disappeared under several boxes of ‘Things to put on ebay’ and ‘Things to sort through’ and ‘Things I really need to deal with soon’. I probably rowed 5 times.

In late November / early December I claimed my bedroom back. The boxes were sent to the sitting room or the cellar. Some were properly dealt with.

The freed up rowing machine demanded attention. I started with 100 strokes. Half my old normal. I could have carried on but decided to quit while I was still able to choose to (i.e. before I fell off).

The day after was horrible. I ached everywhere. I carried on with my reacquaintance through and got back up to 150 daily strokes by the time I headed home for Christmas.

This year I’m trying to continue with the habit of rowing every day.

Yesterday was my first full day back in Germany. I got in after midnight and didn’t get up until after midday. Then I went out for lunch and to buy new pedals for my bike and to pick up a new notice board.

The evening disappeared in a fuzzy haze of transferring pictures from my phone onto the computer and starting to tackle the backlog of housey things – like going through the pile of post, emptying the fridge and cleaning the sink – while waiting for the computer to do its thing.

I intended to go to bed early.

I could pave a lot of roads with all my intentions (good or otherwise).

As I finally brused my teeth I realised that I hadn’t rowed yet. It was 4 minutes to midnight. I don’t feel resolutions are unbreakable, but I prefer to at least do the first day before I break them. I don’t know exactly when I started rowing but I certainly didn’t finish until after the end of the day.

I’m still counting it as a successful first day – after all, in England it was still yesterday…

Now to get up and get today’s rowing out of the way, before I try out my new pedals πŸ™‚

On finding a common denominator

Question: What do the following items have in common?

A hand powered mixer

A box of gravy thickening powder

A mop head

A trangia (camping cooker with stacking saucepans)

A laptop

A hand powered ‘vacuum’ /carpet sweeper

A tape measure

***

No prizes, but perhaps I’ll give the guessers an honourable mention in the next post..

On learning how to wash ones hands

Until today I kind of assumed that I knew how to wash my hands.

This poster on the mirror of the outpatient department* let me know how little I knew.

I’m uploading a photo of the 8 illustrated steps in case anyone else needs directions.. ;p I have no idea what the products are and no desire to advertise them. No one is paying me anything.

* I wasn’t a patient, I just needed the toilet.

On chasing rainbows

This morning a rainbow appeared.

It wasn’t raining where I was and the sky was cloud-free everywhere but directly around the rainbow.

Despite trying various positions, I couldn’t find one suitable for getting a picture of the whole curve – this was the most I could get on the screen of my phone at once.

I love the way the sky inside the rainbow is so much brighter than outside – as if the grey can’t get through it. πŸ™‚

Here’s to everyone having a rainbow shield to protect them against the gloom.

On marbelous biscuits

There was a plan for them to be more obviously swirly (I even added contrasting chocolate chips to each mixture) but I seem to have forgotten how easily colours mix together and become sludgy – it’s obviously been too long since I last played with playdoh…