Last weekend we celebrated Bonfire Night with friends. Six children sat around our table eating pizza, while at the other end of the room a group of adults tried to chat over the laughter and fun. I moved between groups, happy as I always am when the children are mainly looking after themselves: all carefully counting the sausages to make sure that no-one took too many, helping Pops when someone took his glow stick, amusing themselves by trying to learn from the oldest among them how to make rabbit ears from their napkins. When we went out to the fireworks on the fields beside our house it was so mild that the children were taking their coats off. Two of them were even in shorts. It’s colder today, the sky blue between showers.
I had a conversation earlier in the week with someone who felt just as I do. How, he asked, can it be nearly the end of the year? The last thing I remember it was just coming up to the summer holidays. I thought that I felt like that because of the wedding, because of our summer in California. But it seems that maybe we all feel like this, at least a little. Driving back from pre-school this morning, I heard on the radio that it’s six weeks today until Christmas day. Sigh. And before we even get to Christmas, the Pip-Pop will turn three.
I feel like it’s ages since I’ve talked about what I’m up to. That’s partly because I’m not even sure anymore what I’m up to. Since the summer, since the end of naps, I’ve had less time rather than more. I knew I was onto something good with those two hours a day & I’ve found myself floundering a little without them. And, at the same time, I seem to be reading a million books at once, or at least trying to. I always read several books at the same time, but the number of part-read books piled around the house seems only to be growing.
I’m still reading lots of short stories so that accounts for a few of the books in the piles (Junot Díaz, William Maxwell, Mavis Gallant). I’m still reading poetry in the mornings, currently Louise Glück’s Averno and Sarah Howe’s Loop of Jade so that accounts for a couple more. As to the rest, it’s a case of over-optimism about how much reading I can do. I know it sounds laughable to those with long commutes (B among them), but I really miss the reading time commuting represented. Yes, even on the tube, with a book pressed tight to my chest and my head in someone else’s armpit. Well, I almost miss it.
I’m still, nearly two years later, doing my something small, every day: fifteen minutes of writing every day. For eighteen months I managed every single day, including our wedding day. Then, flying back from California, I missed a date with the time change. Then I missed another day when I went away for the weekend with friends, and then another when I was ill last week. And I know I wouldn’t have missed those days if I hadn’t missed the first. It’s surprising — though it shouldn’t be — how powerful keeping up that chain of days was in making sure I continued. But also it’s now such an ingrained habit, usually I write in the morning before the children are awake, that I’m okay with carrying on again after these gaps.
As to what I write, it’s such a mixture. Not a journal, but, yes, sometimes notes, complaints, thoughts about my day. Often things the little ones have said or done. Notes on what I’m reading. Stanzas of poetry that I copy out. Sometimes stray lines, thoughts that might lead somewhere. The starts of my own poems or blog posts of even stories. It’s a throat-clearing, head-clearing kind of thing and it fits easily into a day, and means that when I do have real time (early weekend mornings and now two pre-school mornings a week), I don’t have to spend it writing down every funny thing my children have said to me in the past week. I’ve written before about the urge to preserve and it’s precisely that urge that my something small assuages.
It’s that same desire to preserve in some way and prove in another way that this chain of passing days has contained reading and writing that has led me to Instagram this week. I’ve had an account since the summer, but I couldn’t really do what I wanted with it in California (too many motels with dodgy internet connections). I’m just starting to try things out, but I like seeing what I’ve been reading, what I’ve noticed, in visual form. And I love seeing what other people are reading too. But, more than that, I like the storytelling that I’ve been discovering there. I hadn’t expected this, hadn’t realised that the medium was being used for photojournalism as well as perfectly curated shots of coffee & books (mine too: I absolutely love a bit of book p*rn, it’s just that I love stories too, especially the kind of people focussed stories that are harder to come by in the mainstream media). So, anyway, since I’m enjoying being there so much I’ve added my instagram account to the links on the side bar (@edgeofevening). Come & say hi if you’re so inclined.