The ghosts of Valentines past

Image by Bianca Mentil from Pixabay

Scrolling through Facebook memories on Valentine’s Day is an interesting pastime. It’s easy to forget how much life has changed over the years, and interesting to remember the loves and losses of the past.

11 years ago, I was apparently “glad I’d had no expectations”. I’m just going to confess that I had to look at my CV to work out where I was in 2009 – I was in Plymouth, moderately unhappy being single, but working 100,000 hours a week, surfing and riding lots of horses at weekends and making the best of it.

9 years ago, I posted this absolute gem: “bollocking bollocking bollocks to valentines day”. SO grumpy was I that I even omitted the capital letters. Five people liked that post, four of whom I had had intimate relations with (in previous years, not in the immediate prelude to that post). Hmmm.

The following year, 2012, I posted a picture of an ostentatious boquet of roses that my boyfriend had arranged to be delivered to my workplace (not easy in a massive hospital where your office used to be a shower room). He unceremoniously dumped me three months later with no reason or explanation.

2013 – a Grumpy Cat meme. “You make me a better person: we must break up.” (I’ll come back to this one…).

2014 – another cat meme. I’m not even going to replicate it here, it’s far too boring. Two photos of my cat (one of him sharing my Marks and Spencer steak). And a whingy status about being flooded and unable to escape the village (I lived on the edge of Dartmoor at this time. Alone. Except for my cat. Am I painting the picture here?)

2015:

“Roses are red / Gender is performative / Mass-market romance / Is heteronormative” —Stefanie Gray (Facebook attribution – can’t find this poet IRL, might be bollocks. Sorry)

Also this:

By this point I’d been alone for a LONG time – functionally alone, if not always actually alone. And I was mostly ok with it. Still nursing the ghosts of a few broken hearts, hugely sceptical about romance, holding no great ambitions towards marriage or having babies. Working lots, travelling lots. But angry at mainstream media and culture for presenting the only viable and satisfying life choices as heterosexual, monogamous, economically productive and also productive of more humans.

Valentine’s Day 2016 morning, I had pancakes on a borrowed houseboat in Haggerston with my boyfriend (now husband…), having quit my job, moved to London, gone freelance, fostered out my cat to some friends, and spent the first months of London life basically living out of the back of my Fiesta in various AirBnBs, while commuting to Essex.

Valentine’s Day 2017 – he bought me tulips and we got kebabs. We were living in a rented house in the dodgy end of Stratford. I was about 6 weeks pregnant. And very surprised. Life has this habit of surprising you, is all I can say.

2018 – I think absolutely nothing romantic happened. We had a four month old baby, I’d gone back to work two days a week (that’s another post – a mother’s place is in the wrong, whatever you do, remember that, folks). I was doing a brutal commute, so I shared some wisdom about commuting sins. Maybe I will write a super-original post complaining about man-spreading and scooters in the City another day.

2019 – nothing seems to have happened at all, or I didn’t feel the need to record it or share with the unsuspecting world of Facebook anyway. I think maybe we got a takeaway and had an argument, but I might be wrong about that.

Today, 2020. We (the small one and I) went to toddler music this morning; no major incidents were reported although there was a close call with a tambourine. We’re having a posh M and S ready meal feast tonight and prosecco, after toddler bedtime, to celebrate having survived December, January and this much of February. I have bought my husband two books which I want to read, and told him to buy me tulips. The small one gave me this after nursery school yesterday. Best card I’ve ever had.

Anyway, the moral of this rambling reminiscence, people, is that you can have a clear picture of what your life will be, and be accepting of it, have made your peace with it, be making the best of it. Or even enjoy it for what it is, not feeling the need for platitudes (still haven’t met the right one yet? No, Karen, I haven’t. Now fuck off to Frankie and Benny’s with your boring husband for nom noms and drinkies).

Then bosh, something magical comes along. And it’s all exciting and unexpected, then gradually it settles into normal. And a lot of the time it’s bloody boring and hard work and you talk about money too much and argue about emptying the bins, then you have a kid and you don’t get enough sleep and playing with toddlers is boring and he gets to have nice coffee at work and nothing’s fair about motherhood.

But at the heart of it, it’s what you make of it. All of it. And we make the best of it, me and my brilliant husband. And he makes me a better person (remember that Grumpy Cat meme?) And the good bits are bloody brilliant. And I’m looking forward to a big steak pie tonight. And that’s a lot of sentences starting with ‘And’. And so it goes on, this life.

Journal post… first of many?

Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be able to write freely about all the stuff I can’t write in my main blog, because it’s not pertinent to the theme or because it’s too personal. I have a feeling these journal-type posts are going to be SUPER dull to read, but it seems to be part of learning to be a writer too, this journal malarkey.

I have actually just written some prose – I had this MAD dream the other night where the whole of the opening scene of a novel came to me, complete with the full name of one of the characters. So I have just written 250 words – not the most productive session, I know. But it’s the most I’ve written in a very long time, so may possibly qualify for celebratory chocolate.

Otherwise, I’m feeling bored, frustrated, grumpy this week. Lots of boring stuff to sort out domestically, an extremely fractious toddler, some frustrating HR-related issues for the freelance work that I’m doing. NHS bureaucracy at its best. I sort of hate the word “bureaucracy”, sounds like the sort of thing idiot Brexiteers go on about, but in this case it’s definitely appropriate and there’s been a clear sense of “computer says no” in the whole interaction.

ANYWAY. We went out this morning to a Christian playgroup, essentially toddler church. Not my usual Thursday morning activity of choice, but it’s free and runs in half term so seemed like a good idea. And wow it makes me sad. I used to believe in all things Christian, very passionately, and I just don’t anymore, for various reasons. Maybe this is something to write about another time. But I kind of miss it. I definitely miss believing in life after death and a greater good. There was a moment during the prayers when the lady leading the session told us, “it’s ok to pray for things for yourself. God doesn’t always give you what you want though, but he will give you what you need”. Tell that the the 39 Chinese people dead in a lorry this morning in Essex. Tell that the the food bank users and the people having their benefits cut. It’s that sort of infantalising of life that made me turn away from organised religion, among other things.

Anyone still with me? Who knows. Plan for the rest of the day is to go and feed some cats (my other life as a cat sitter). I’m a bit concerned about them as they’ve been AWOL all week, except for coming in to eat their food, and I haven’t actually seen them. So hopefully they will make an appearance.

Then this evening the husband is out, so I can eat food he doesn’t like and do some more writing, probably. And drink a moderate amount of wine, and feel moderately guilty about it. The story of me and wine is definitely a post for another time.

If you read this and have anything to share about the experience of reading my journal ramblings, I will be most interested!