For Shame, Woman.

I don’t know about y’all but this week’s been a doozy. Tuesday and Wednesday had me so spun out that I couldn’t find the ground before I fell on it face first (anger, tears, complete inability to deal and use full sentences: a legit case of white-girl “I can’t even…”) I came the closest I ever have to walking out of the office and not coming back – ever! I went home exhausted and frantic, and the only bright spark in my day on Wednesday was having found some Alice Walker talks on Audible. That saved me from total debilitation. Thursday was light and airy, and then Friday was a headfuck all over again.

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For the majority of this week on my daily commute I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s The Gifts of ImperfectionIt’s very like The Power of Vulnerability and she’s so chirpy it can be difficult not to swear at random intervals just to break up the earnestness but I suspect this is more about my cynical defences kicking in because, overall, she’s dead right. I can’t help but admire her dedication to encouraging people to talk about the damage we do to ourselves and others with shame, and the masks we wear because of it. I know it’s something that’s deeply entwined in my being, and I know from the way my face heats up when I listen to her writings that it’s something that is still present for me. I suppose I was brought up to be ashamed of most of the person I am; that’s an easy thing to have happen when one of your parents doesn’t like you very much, and the other one just isn’t very interested one way or the other. I’m pretty sure that, these days, the number of people whose opinions I value can be numbered on less than my ten fingers but I also understand that this may simply be because I’ve closed a lot of myself off from caring. The whole notion of vulnerability is…well, difficult. Mainly because I think we build up these outer shells for a purpose; no one walls themselves off from the world just because. There’s usually a reason why we feel it’s necessary, and I think we have to be quite gentle with ourselves as to why we did it, and what we stand to gain by chipping away at those walls. So, yes, Brene’s teaching me interesting things. Relevant things. And it’s appreciated, if a little close to the bone by times.

It was especially close to the bone on Friday when Evie woke up feeling dreadful about life, and was found sobbing on our bed at ten past seven in the morning. It was quite clear that she couldn’t go to school, and it was also quite clear that Friday was month end in work, and my boss was sick, which made it nigh on impossible to take the day off.  I gathered us up  sufficiently to get her to her grandmother’s house, and then I had to leave my sobbing daughter to go into work, and that was a whole new level of guilt and shame. If we follow the definitions of guilt being ‘I did something bad,’ and shame as being ‘I am bad’ then, yeah, we pretty much cover all the bases with that. I don’t know that there was a right course of action to take there but whatever way I played it, I was inevitably going to feel shit about it. Speaking of which…

Dave & I went to a talk in Evie’s school on Thursday night given by Dr. John Sharry who was discussing helping teens deal with anxiety, and he mentioned something that was very interesting to me. He said that there is some evidence to suggest that fathers/male guardians deal better with emotional overloads, rather like E had on Friday. He says that it may be because males tend to be more matter of fact about things, or that they just don’t notice as much as their female counterparts. I think he’s potentially missing one vital point: I think it’s that fathers are much less likely to take such breakdowns personally. I spent most of Friday on edge, working frantically, and straight through lunch so I could make sure I got out the office door as soon as possible. D walked past us huddled on the bed on Friday morning, went to work, and got on with his day. I hasten to add that this is not remotely me having a go at him, although I may have ranted a little internally on the day. He just seemed to assume that it was all under control and so he continued as planned. I don’t even think he was entirely wrong but I know that I couldn’t do that. Thus, my theory on men not taking these things as a negative reflection of their parenting. And while I know it doesn’t help to fret about it, and life goes on, yada yada yada, somehow, on that particular day, it didn’t help.

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Oh but what did help? The good stuff, the Alice Walker stuff that I mentioned before,  kept me going this week. One of the three things I found was Alice Walker in Conversation With Gloria Steinem which rather annoyingly fails to mention in the title that Wilma Mankiller’s also part of the discussion. The fact that they’re three close friends who have been loving and supporting one another for years make this a beautiful conversation to listen to. If  you know me at all, you may know how much I love Ms. Walker, and how much I feel she has taught me through her books: practical things, spiritual things, over-archingly beautiful things; Gloria Steinem has been, thus far, less read but just as admired for her honesty, and her unending belief that we can be more, that society can be fairer. To hear the three of them talk is to listen to the aunts you never had but always longed for, the wisdom and fun of an older generation that I think needs to be heard just as much now as it did in the ’60s and ’70s. I grew up without older relatives of either sex with the exception of my mother’s mother who fell largely out of my life when Dad moved us to Ireland; from memory and hearsay she was a deeply repressed woman. She loved me, and she cared for me but even at such a young age, I never felt a commonality of spirit. I am immensely grateful that she was the person who started to teach me to read when I was about four or so, and who set off a life-long love of books but there was, somehow, never a very strong connection there. She was someone who ‘did their duty’ but I don’t know that she ever had much fun in her life. I suppose two world wars, an unhappy marriage, and a long widowhood could certainly have that effect. Still, there we go. She was who she was. Still, if there’s one thing Clarissa Pinkola Estés taught me, it’s the importance of the guidance of older women, and if I had to choose whose feet to sit at and learn, I’d choose these three any day of the week.

One of my biggest light bulb moments from this conversation was from something Gloria Steinem said when talking about solitude, and her path to finding it. She said, roughly speaking, that when one has been neglected as a child, one often doesn’t feel as real as the other  people around, and that there is a notion that one has to be useful in order to be real. I think I may have gone into temporary shock when I heard that because it’s one of those ‘Oh, someone put it into words!‘ things. I always thought my feelings of disconnection and unreality had more to do with not knowing any other children until I went to school at the age of five, and being raised in a pretty much adult-only environment, So when I started school, my first class teacher wrote in my report that I used to do so much for her that she often felt superfluous in the classroom. I didn’t make friends so much as I made impressions. The only way I knew to make any connection was to make myself helpful or to offer something people wanted – being me was simply never enough, and I never expected it to be. I learned that in England, and I learned it in Cork. I learned it in each job I had – do more, know more, take on more, seek signs of approval and then try to live there, in that space where you are seen – until the will to maintain that level of usefulness gets very old, very fast, in which case I have felt guilty because I wasn’t keeping up enough, or doing enough, or for feeling exhausted and enervated. Round and round and round we go… Feeling the need to be of use, and feeling shame and guilt when it’s simply not possible to maintain the necessary energy/momentum. Ugh.

Brené Brown says the best way to combat shame is to talk about it, to connect with other people, tell our story, and accept it for what it is, and to have compassion for ourselves. (Well, she’d say ‘we have to own our stories’ but I only just worked out this week that she really means ‘accept’ in English!) I think these are, as Martha Beck might say, simple but not easy things. In this, as with many other issues right now, I think it’s more important than ever to keep trying. Gently but firmly. From Adam and Eve onward, shame has been a distinctly patriarchal tool for keeping women silent and isolated, which is not to say that women haven’t tried or don’t try to shame other women. I guess it only ends when we get a very clear picture of how we want to be, and then work towards it.

Coming Around Again.

Once upon a time – probably about ten years or so ago now – I had a blog on JournalHub or some such site called La Que Sabe. I wrote about my children, about my family, my father who was separating from his fourth wife, my friends, and generally treated it as my pottering about spot. I was very fond of it. And then their servers got hacked, or crashed and died, or, I don’t know, something and several years of writing disappeared into the ether. I don’t do backups because, really, who cares? It vanished and I thought that it probably was a fitting close to an odd part of my life.

I left blogging alone for a bit but, in time, came to miss it, and ventured to WordPress to hang for a couple of years. I’m a sporadic writer at the best of times as you can see from the back catalogue here, and the days of me posting regularly probably aren’t going to show up again any time soon. (Fair warning and all that jazz…) I gave up on LQS in 2014 because I really didn’t feel that I had anything new that was worth sharing, even with the very small number of people who ambled past occasionally. I abandoned it at the side of the road and left it to die, alone and neglected.

Towards the end of 2015, I got inspired to do something quite different. The notion of The Muddy Peacock blog popped into my head, fully formed, along with the knowledge that I wanted to be able to express a part of me that I keep largely hidden on a day to day basis, probably more out of habit than out of any fear of, well, anything really… I wanted to be able to talk about (ick!) my spiritual side, my (gack!) vulnerable side, my (oh really, do we have to do this?) vulnerable side but in the firm context of my daily life. I’m a Brit. My toes curl and my whole body cringes at the word ‘spirituality.’ I put my cynicism and sarcasm on as part of my daily wardrobe, and they’re very comfy indeed, thank you for asking. I had no e-courses to offer, and no ‘brand’ to sell; I just wanted to be able to explore the notion that, occasionally, one can have a deeply moving moment of joy while waiting at the checkout in Tesco and that, at other times, one can end up sitting in a supermarket car park not wanting to go home because there is just no strength left for cooking dinner or checking homework after a day of petty and pointless skirmishes in one’s place of work. I wanted to have time to dwell on the notion of meeting oneself for coffee for an hour each week, allowing an opportunity for reading, writing, or scrolling through the ‘Gram if that’s what was needed. I intended to broaden my focus to find the myriad things during a day that I can be really, deep down grateful for: it could be a really good cup of tea, or the light on my dog’s coat, my daughter’s curls, or my son’s deep brown eyes, or a text from a friend, or a really on point meme. The little things, as someone said, are what make up a life; a tumble of moments strung like beads on the necklace of your day. So, yeah, it was a great plan but it really didn’t happen the way I wanted it to; I lost focus, I had too many other things going on and, ironically, last year was the perfect time to look for the little things given that it was, by most people’s standards, fairly shit. So, all things considered, I failed that test. It was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t make TMP look the way I wanted it to look. Mainly, though, it was a good idea with insufficient planning and follow through. (Why, yes, it does sound like my life, now that you come to mention it. However did you guess?) When the site came up for renewal last December time, I let it go.

So the other day, I was logging into my employer’s website, which is also WordPress based, and unthinkingly put in my email address rather than my work details. I do this a lot – passwords/email addresses are a pain and I was doing three things at once. Lo and behold! The back end of LQS appeared before my eyes. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who just snickered like a ten year old boy reading that…) I hadn’t thought about it in three years or thereabouts but it was still there. And I was so happy to see it that I paid the fee on autopilot without pausing to think whether or not I actually wanted to resurrect the old dear. And that is how, my darlings, we find ourselves here, surrounded by cobwebs, and dust, and the overall aura of neglect. Aren’t you glad you came? Ssh. It’s OK. I can patch it up in no time, I promise. I had been thinking about it – not LQS specifically but the final somewhere, the forever blog as Jo put it recently. I had been thinking of the sea, actually, but someone else had laid claim to theseabetween.com which was the closest to what felt correct. So perhaps this will be just fine as it is.

It’s entirely in character: the main reason that I’m pootling about here this evening is the fact that I’m supposed to be writing something that I’ll actually get paid for. So, natch, procrastination is the way forward. And the deadline’s tomorrow but hey, what’s the worst that could happen, right?  The important thing is to get started and this, encore une fois, is what I’m about.*

 

  • You do remember that, don’t you, Encore Une Fois? The terrible video, the proper 90s danciness of it. Yes, it was awful but I kind of love it anyway.

 

What’s Your Normal?

Almost a year ago, I sat here on this very sofa, in much the same cross-legged position, and I wrote about how I needed to find balance in living with my husband and our children in my house. All together. All the time. I expressed the opinion that it often feels as if I operate better solo, and I vouchsafed that, in spite of this fact, I loved having us all together in a home of our own; I just needed to find a way to balance the seemingly endless company with the solitude that I desperately seem to need.

Now, this evening, I am sitting here and, while I still concur with the general findings of my musings at that time, I find I have something to add. An important something – for me at least – that deserves to be said; that needs to be acknowledged. It is a something that struck me last Friday when I was off work sick – which seems to the only time I ever have the house to myself – and, though the words took a while to fully come through, I eventually had a bit of a Eureka moment. (An Eureka moment? Dunno. Anyway.) It’s quite simple, and it’s probably quite obvious, but then things often are from a distance, aren’t they?

My realisation (and I mean my real, astonishingly clear, brain-freezingly important realisation) is that living with other people is not my normal way of life. The reason that I find it difficult is that I have done it so rarely in my life, and it really is something I need to be gentle with myself about. I blithely toddled into being a married woman  again just over two years ago, and totally ignored the fact that the last time that I shared my living space with another adult full time was when I lived at home with my mother – and that was at least fourteen years ago, and only for about four or five months. I shared a house with people in my final year in college in ’99 but I had my own huge room and I wasn’t part of their gang of friends; D and I shared the same house when we were living together/married before, but he always worked nights so for at least five nights a week, I had the place to myself. (I’m not including the children in this because, somehow, for this issue, they don’t count.) TRM never lived with me so that doesn’t count either.

I’m an only child, of only children. My mother and I are solitary sorts by nature. We like other people for a while, but we get exhausted by them very quickly – the more so as we age, I suspect. My father is Mr. Gregarious, but he is quite happy to live on his own if he can meet people of an evening for pints, or for dinner, and he no longer needs the constant company that he thrived on in his working days two decades and more ago. People find me odd because I have the hermit compulsion quite strongly within me; I am deliriously happy to lock myself away from everyone and everything for a weekend, and not talking to anyone at all from Friday at 5pm to Monday at 8.30am is my kind of heaven. There used to be time for me to do that, but that came to an end when we became a two-adult family again. I did really well for the first year or so, until Christmas rolled around when I descended into a fog of depression. All of a sudden, even though I had been looking forward to Christmas for the first time in possibly ever, I got sucked into a major gloom and couldn’t get out.  I have been in varying states of grey since then, and I wonder now if I am feeling stuck because, subconsciously, I have no room to manoeuvre. I also feel that there’s a very strong chance that my at-home only sleeping-verging-on-narcolepsy may well be another subconscious escape mechanism. Everywhere I turn there is another human being taking up my precious space and oxygen! I think I have also finally realised that I do not have to be immediately rational about this feeling, although it would nice to become so in time.

I am making my way through Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star and this is one of the things that has arisen for me. I think it was also the thrill of an illicit afternoon one day last week, spent entirely alone with my headphones and my book in Starbucks, that made me realise what I have been so very desperately missing. (The fact that I left work early on day because I was feeling horrendous – cold, sore throat, stuffed up head, etc. – and realised that I couldn’t go home without spending the rest of the afternoon running around after other people, never mind being able to just give into being sick and go to bed, made me pause for thought.) Settled at a table with my salted caramel mocha, Ms. Beck, and Rudimental, I realised that it was one of those occasions where I could feel the blood rushing through my veins with sheer exhilaration. If you had offered me a free round trip to anywhere else in the world at that moment in time, I wouldn’t’ve taken you up on it. Not even if it was my own bed which, two hours previously, I had almost been crying for! I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, and it felt like a long time since that had been the case. (Which, upon reflection, isn’t very fair given that I spent a wonderful Saturday with my best friend in Glastonbury the weekend before that so, y’know, probably a bit spoilt overall but moving along….!) The secret to it all, I think, it the no other people bit. That is what so much of it hinges on, and maybe why I am so unhinged. Whatever the case may be, I have made myself a promise. It involves me, and a coffee shop (because, at the moment, this seems to be the sort of environment that I crave: homely yet anonymous, I suppose) and at least one hour a week of whatever feels best, consciously acknowledged as Me Time where no one else is invited, or wanted, or required. And perhaps, if I give myself this time, in this way, changing the components as desired, I will, in time, make it back into balance with my home life.

I thought, at first, it was all about missing my house which was so very much my space – and to some degree, that is the case – but I have come to realise that it might in fact be missing the room to breathe, unencumbered by anyone else. There is a strong possibility that Room To Breathe may be my next tattoo: it really is that important to me!

A Revelation.

To love. To hear. To see, to feel, to empathise, to relate, to reflect, to encourage, to understand, to believe in and with. To listen completely. To hold people and space.

To enjoy. To reveal, to share, to think, to speak. To be still, to revel, to sing, to move, to inhale and exhale. To pay attention. To observe.

To be open. To be honest. To speak up when the spirit moves me and let the words flow through me without sticking. To admit pain and joy, bliss and sorrow. To find balance.

To witness the wonder of All That Is in all the ways that it manifests.

To WITNESS.

Little Things.

Relative contentment. Tired but sleeping better so starting to feel a bit more human. Aching: hip and shoulder joints of an eighty year old woman; think this will improve over time. Back on the gluten-free train but added dairy-free this time for fun. Would cheerfully maim most humans for a vast mug of tea with milk and three sugars. Detoxing following gluten and increased sugar consumption over the last three months. Losing weight. Able to read again after months of not being able to focus sufficiently. Was scary. Now nice to be able to finish a book when I start it. Strange longing to take my bike out for a bit of a spin. Covered in dogs.

New addition to the Furry Familiars – Oberon: Akita/GSD cross. Quite, quite mental. Large. Incredible cuddle-bug who parades – it’s the only word for it, honestly! – around the house displaying his magnificence. Known as Ronnie…much to confusion of Honey who’s never really sure of her name at the best of times.

Unsure about the onset of winter this year. Or even Autumn. Most unusual for me. Would really love to go on a shopping spree for clothes. Nothing majorly exciting, just jeans and sweaters etc. Unlikely to happen.

Re-learning Lamb love.

Got to see two of my favourite people this month – very happy.

 

In Which A Resolution Is Made.

I slept until very late this morning and, when I woke, after my ritual checks of Instagram and Facebook, I found myself ambling down memory lane here on my own blog. I have been feeling frustrated for some time now about my (lack of) finances and bemoaning my lack of disposable income. This is not aided by my dearly beloved who tells me, “it’s OK, I have money!” For some reason, this doesn’t help. Probably due to the simple fact that I’ve always made it my business to have my own. However, I suspect that the time has come – because yes, I really am that slow – to reassess my opinions on money and what I do with it. I believe that the time has come to accept that, for the next six months at least, I am going to have to work to a very strict budget indeed. And it’s going to be a budget of paying off my credit card month by month, and my mortgage arrears month by month until such time as I can afford not to again.

The simple fact is that if I intend to stay in my current place of employment, I am going to have to shift my perspective in a fairly major way. This is going to mean drawing out a small amount of ‘Me Money’ after each pay day and leaving all the rest to the standing orders I’ll be setting up. Going through bank statements, I can see that I don’t spend very much on frivolous things at all, but the reality is that there’s just not money to spend on frivolities at all. I can, however, see a way in which there might be….in the future. It’s really no good to keep complaining about it any more; I simply have to do something constructive instead. I am hoping that, as so often in the past, the doing will make the being easier. It will also mean that Etsy, eBay and Amazon will be strictly verboten  which causes me almost physical pain! It’s time to drag out all the books in my home that I haven’t read and work my way through them instead of buying new ones, even second-hand new ones. No more sparklies for the time being either; I have lots already. This is no longer a case of an optional paring back on spending – it absolutely has to happen. It may also help that we are going to embark on a serious de-cluttering exercise shortly which will include A SKIP! I never thought I would be so excited to hear about such a thing but there’s so much bulky stuff that really needs to be removed from our surroundings: the dog-chewed sofa in the boiler house, the two old beds in the garage, the wardrobe in the spare room that would give us a lot more space if we simply took it down and left a hanging rail there. It encourages us to just chuck things in and leave them there as it is.

This is going to be a lesson in impulse control and I think it’s going to be useful in the long run.

What I Learned On My Holidays.

Having come back just last Sunday from a ten day trip to Sweden, I can now sum up my Easily Exhaustible Knowledge Of Sweden as follows:

* The Swedes are all very good looking.

* I saw no overweight Swedish people on my trip. I saw some overweight people in Sweden but they were definitely not Swedish.

* Somehow, despite their slender physique, the Swedes have more sweet shops and serious Pick’n’Mix sections in supermarkets than anywhere else I have ever seen. Ever. Anywhere. It’s incredible. It’s also probably something to do with the sweet tooth that they all harbour but, man, these people know how to size ice-creams. Wow. Even my bottomless pit of a husband could only eat one at a time. Believe me when I say that this is quite an incredible feat.

* The Swedes do not DO double beds. They may have single beds pushed together but, from what I can see, double beds are generally not on the plan.

* The Swedes do not DO baths. They do, however, install good showers with, some cases, shower stalls big enough to hold a party in.

* Sweden is much, much, MUCH cleaner than Ireland. When we were waiting for a train in Malmö station, I watched a lady cleaning the escalator. Not just the steps either but the gutterings and the hand rails and the glass along the edge. When we landed back in Dublin airport and were waiting for our lift home from my mother-in-law, we found ourselves sitting at a table and chairs outside a cafe that was covered in pigeon shit and general mank. The ground was filthy and there was litter all over the place. It’s amazing what you don’t notice until you see the alternative, eh?

* Swedes love gadgetry. I’m sure there must be some Technophobes but we didn’t meet any of them. Everyone seemed to be positively bristling with iThings, tablets, GPS devices and various smart phones. They have apps for everything. It’s exhausting just watching them hop from gizmo to wotsit every couple of seconds. I know that, in reality, a lot of people in Ireland live this way too but we don’t. Dave and I have Samsung phones, I have an exceedingly knackered old laptop which I bought in 2007 which is now mainly used by the children, and Dave has a reasonably up to date PC. And we’re all good, you know. We don’t need anything more than that really because, ultimately, they all do much the same thing. So what need for the multitudinous variations?

* Sweden – or the bits of it that we saw which was mainly the southern part of the country – is really very beautiful. It’s very flat in the south so it’s quite different to where we live just south of Dublin in that regard. The sky goes on forever because there are no hills popping up every couple of metres to fill the horizon. I found it strangely calming. I am used to living close to mountains; when I didn’t live here or close to here, I lived in Bangor in the north of Wales just down the road from Snowdonia so mountains are sort of what I’m used to. The flat land gave my head space to think somehow.

* Despite the generally accepted wisdom that Sweden is ultra-expensive, we found it to be actually quite cheap in Malmö and the Österlen region. This falls down somewhat when you try to get a train to Stockholm and find a place to stay without breaking the bank, but then again we were warned that this might be the case and that May is quite an expensive month for accommodation in the capital. (Suppose it’s the start of the summer season so it makes sense.) In regard to our finding the rest of the country quite affordable, it may be worth bearing in mind that we live very close to Dublin which, despite *cough* the Current Economic Climate (I gather it deserves capitals) is still mind-blowingly expensive. In this, as in so much in life, perspective is everything.

* Swedes – and possibly the rest of Europe for all I know – understand light far better than we do here in the UK and Ireland. They are not afraid of big unblocked windows, uncluttered by curtains and stuff. They all seem to keep lots of plants in their windows which is lovely but, aside from that, they seem to have more space in their windows. Perhaps it’s because they don’t go in for tiny plates of glass like many houses here do. I’m not sure quite how they do it but the fact is that they do. I suppose it comes of having to try and let as much light in as possible given that they’re a bit further north and thus a bit darker in winter time. Whatever. It works and it made me very happy while I was there.

* In addition to light, Swedes pay attention to the small touches that just make life better. Whether it’s simple things like always making sure that there are clean, uncluttered baby changing areas in their public bathrooms – it’s a long time since I’ve required such things for my two savages but I remember just how cruddy they often were and how simple it seemed to rectify the problem – or by adding power sockets on their trains so people can charge their phones/use their laptops, or by making their public transport pet-friendly, it all makes a huge and, to my eyes, very noticeable difference to how smoothly and happily life runs. This is also apparent in their sense of aesthetics. Modern apartment complexes show signs of actually being well thought out and designed, rather than just flung up and left. There are lots of bins in places where you need bins; this is another example that struck me one day when we were out. None of us approve of littering, do we children? No. But equally, no one really wants to carry acres of rubbish around with them when they’re out and about in parks or the city centre. In Sweden, wherever you might need a bin, it seems like all you have to do is turn around and there one is. And they’re not overflowing and stinky either. They’re emptied on a regular basis. Like I say, it’s the little things.

* There are an awful lot of ducks in Sweden. Oodles of the feathery little buggers, in fact. I liked them and, let’s face it, ducks are always entertaining. Even when they ambush you in the park looking for bread because at this time of year, they bring their titchy little ducklings with them. Fluff City!

* It’s a really cool place and I like it a lot. I could live there very happily, I think, although Swedish is quite a tough language to learn. It’s sort of soft and slippery sounding and didn’t stick very well in either my head or Dave’s.Given that most people speak pretty good English, though, it’s all good right?

* The bridge between Denmark and Sweden too, by the way, is awesome. Google it if you haven’t seen it because it’s genius. Most of it is over the water and then it becomes a tunnel under the sea so that ships can pass over it. No lifting bits of the bridge and making life complicated, just over some and under some. Fab.

And as an aside, I very much want to go back to Tivoli in Copenhagen. In fact I’d like to see all of Copenhagen but particularly Tivoli at night. I think it would be ridiculously romantic with all the lights glimmering and the flowers blooming like they were when we were there. We picked a good time to go to that part of the world because everything was flowering and beautiful. Next time, though, I’d like to go and visit when it wasn’t planned around someone else’s happenings: in this case a wedding. Too much stress and not enough time where real relaxation was possible. Still, it’s a gorgeous country and I will go back and do it differently next time. Can’t wait!