A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
I am beginning to suspect I have become somewhat immobilised by how much I want to say.
Since I last wrote, I have started numerous updates and jotted down fleeting thoughts (increasingly, these days, if said thoughts are not jotted down then they run the risk of fleeting away forever). In the dark of the bedroom, with the family curled up or stretched out around me (delete as applicable) on what appears to have become the family communal bed despite best and repeated attempts to prevent this, I have furiously tapped out ideas and considerations which always present themselves with such clarity at the time, but which I have learnt by bitter experience are fickle and are not guaranteed to visit again if I do not trap them on a page or screen.
Ha! See what I mean? That entire paragraph could be written as, “Since I last wrote, I have drafted several further updates.” Nine words instead of over one hundred. This, friends, is what I have to deal with on a daily basis. A few months ago, I wondered if I would ever find the brain energy required to form coherent words to write again. Now, my mind is pushing through the fog of this life that is Exhausted Early Motherhood in 2020 and it is sparking fires right, left and centre. And I am struggling to maintain any form of mental coherence as There. Is. So. Much. I. Want. To. Say.
“I can’t stop my brain skittering round like butter on a hot skillet.”
The beginning of another draft of this update, 25th November 2020
Looking back at earlier drafts, I suppose this was an inevitable progression. On the 21st of October, a (much) earlier draft of this update included this:
“Friends, I think I have achieved a breakthrough. Something has changed in the last few days. I have hit a stride of sorts in my day-to-day, and finally feel like I’ve stepped off the hamster wheel.”
I had reached a place of equilibrium. Before, the day to day of life and the accompanying exhaustion meant there were only a few times when time and energy joyously came together to allow me to spend more than a sheer second on thinking and maybe – just maybe – writing something down. After (that’s now), my brain has been well and truly kickstarted into action again, and the problem has become (well, yes, still finding any form of quality time to sit down and write; but also) establishing what it is I want to say and being able to say it without getting distracted by all the other things I want to say.
I have accepted over the years, and have reconsidered and re-accepted again recently, that this is my natural state. There is no point pretending otherwise. Managing my life means managing all the ideas I have, and establishing how best I want to approach them at any given point. More on this, inevitably, another time.
Hawthorn Hedging and Raspberry Robbing
The hedge has been planted! The plants arrived a week and a half ago and, so as not to tempt frost-fate and wait until the weekend to plant them, I dashed out after my last meeting of the day and planted approximately 45 hedging trees by the light of the torch function on Euan’s ‘phone. I’m sure the neighbours must have thought I was mad, but I actually managed to do a surprisingly good job, and nothing needed correcting come daylight hours the next day. I also managed to get the spring bulbs in several weeks ago, and only have the bluebell bulbs to plant (and replant, in the case of the patch I dug up to go over the ground for the hedging) alongside the Hawthorn, Bird Cherry, Field Maple, Dog Rose, Hazel, and Blackthorn. Euan pointed out the other day how much I have managed to achieve in the garden this year, despite everything; and he’s right, we have managed to do a fair bit. This year has been so long and stretched that it was strange to think that it was only eight or so months ago I created the herb garden, set up the raised beds, and created the sort-of-alpine-stumpery. I’m looking forward to seeing how all the work we’ve done this year pays off throughout the coming seasons. Unlike this time last year, I only have a handful of ideas of things I know I want to do next year. Of these, I am most excited about creating a runner-bean (and perhaps pea, as well; you can never have enough pea plants) tipi for Auri. Hopefully Scapa will leave it alone long enough for it to thrive. I thought we had particularly adept fruit-picking birds this year, until I caught Scapa sneakily teasing the raspberries off the plants one day and eating them. She didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed that I’d caught her.
If the Fates Allow
I am (more or less) all set for Christmas. I have a couple of small things to get locally, and fresh food to pick up nearer the time, and apart from that everything is in hand. As I type, I have a pile of Christmas Cards on my desk, waiting to be written and posted. I have, on the drawers to my left, stocking fillers for friends with whom I would have liked to have raised a glass or two at some point this year (next year, friends, next year); to my right, I have a couple of bags of presents for friends and family I have yet to wrap (the presents, that is; not the people). My elder sister, who may not be home for Christmas, has already received her parcel from the distressingly-punctuated-but-nevertheless-delicious Bettys. We have a socially distanced outdoor present exchange with my parents planned in Golspie this weekend (Hurrah! for the Highlands being in Level 1).
I have thoroughly enjoyed ordering some unique presents from independent craftspeople and shops this year. Most of the presents I usually give are books, but I have taken a slightly different tack this year, and it has been fun (though there are still one or two particularly exciting books yet to be wrapped and delivered). Last year, I replaced Amazon with the delight that is Leakey’s, sending second-hand books to friends and family. This year, I’ve collated gifts from all sorts of places (including the other side of the world, in one or two specific cases).
Since my last update, it has been announced that it will be legally possible to spend Christmas with others, but the legality of it all is never what concerned me. So, it’s no surprise to say that we’ll be staying where we are and enjoying a family Christmas, just the four of us. I would say we undertook our own careful risk assessment before making our decision, but to be honest it was such a simple and straight-forward decision that we barely needed a conversation about it. Back in 2018, we shared Half A Christmas with most of my family in May; perhaps, vaccine-permitting, we’ll do something similar in 2021. (A personal anecdote: the night before Half A Christmas in 2018, I had found out I was pregnant. I was still in a mild state of shock, and didn’t want to say anything at that point for various reasons. My brother Alex and his partner Aurélie did know, however, and Alex nobly spent Half A Christmas Dinner downing my glasses of wine when the rest of the family weren’t looking, so as not to raise any suspicions which might have arisen had I said I wasn’t drinking.)
I hope you and yours are all keeping well and have found a way to mitigate safety concerns over the coming festive season, whatever your plans may be.
I’m not sure how many updates I will share over the next month. Perhaps I’ll share brief #Croymas updates on Twitter starting tomorrow – the day Auri will open the first window on the beautiful advent calendar that Granddad Keith and Granny Susie have bought her – and finishing on Twelfth Night. Perhaps I will try to post a few more updates here, too.
So, what are your plans for the festive season? A quiet celebration at home? Carefully orchestrated plans with family and friends? Video-conferenced virtual giddiness? Whatever you may be doing, I wish you all much love. No doubt we’ll all have a little extra time to reflect this year. That isn’t a bad thing, but let’s make sure that wherever we let our minds wander we ensure they pause and spend some time somewhere hopeful.
Keep in touch, friends!
‘til next time,
30th November 2020
Croy, Highlands, Scotland