A Coffee and a Catch-Up

It’s occurred to me that I haven’t really talked much about me lately, at least not without being in the middle of a review or a more topical ramble. In fact, I probably haven’t really put my life in much context since we left Manchester, or even before. Plus, if I’m writing anything at all I should really be working on my Camp NaNoWriMo, so of course I’m going to find something else to write until inspiration rears its beautiful head.

So while Teddy is happily distracted by Thomas the Tank Engine, let’s sit down and have a coffee and a catch-up!

How has it got to mid-April already?

It seems like we’ve been mired in such an eternal winter, it’s felt like February forever. But March has passed in a swirl of snow and ice and, in my case, taking lots of pictures for #instawrimo, and now Spring is actually, finally, here.

At least, it’s stopped raining long enough that I’ve actually managed to get some washing on the line, which I’m counting as a win for the changing seasons.

Last time I did anything vaguely resembling a life update, it was only a couple of weeks after Nan died. We were still living at Mum’s, all of us piled in together after Kev’s redundancy and our big move up north.

We’ll forever be grateful for what my mum did for us. She didn’t have to: we never asked. But she offered her home to us, and supported us on a single, barely-above-minimum-wage income when we were desperate. Without her, we would have been lost.

That’s not to say it was easy.

Three very different adult personalities, all of whom greatly appreciate their alone time, all crammed together. Not to mention a tiny tornado of a one-year-old who tends to leave a trail of destruction in his wake wherever he goes. Of course tempers were going to fray, especially with the added stress and pressure of job-hunting at the time of year when jobs are thin on the ground (in a place where they’re hardly ever ‘thick’ on the ground anyway).

But things fell into place, as they always do. Kev got a job in York, and we found a house in Darlington – commutable distance, and not so far away from Mum that she can’t drop round.

Kev’s job is in the civil service – yes, he’s finally broken out of the retail trap, and it’s such a relief. He gets to sit down all day, for a start, which is a plus. He doesn’t have entitled middle aged women shouting at him because their coffee is the wrong temperature. He might be low level admin for now, but he’s got prospects. It finally feels like a grown-up thing to be doing.

Our house… well, we have a house. That’s miracle enough in itself after living in a flat, then sharing a house with my mum. It’s a new built terrace, with two big bedrooms on the first floor plus a loft conversion as the master bedroom. We’ve even got a little garden with a humongous shed where, apparently, my boys are going to be building a model railway.

It’s still quite a small house, and it wasn’t left in the best condition by the last renters (or a cowboy contractor, which the agency is being remarkably cagey about sorting out). But it’s our own space, and we’re making it a home. We had to leave most of our furniture in Manchester when we moved, and we’re slowly replacing it, plus we’ve had some fantastic donations from Mum. I even managed to get the small Ikea storage unit for Ted’s room put together, all by myself, which I’m quite proud of – I’d never actually put a flatpack together myself before, poor excuse for a feminist I am. I did make Kev do the big chests of drawers for our room though. Only took him two hours. Per chest. We’d still be at it until next Tuesday if I’d had a bash.

This is the first time in my life I’ve actually `owned a sofa. Ted rather likes it too.

It was quite lonely here at first. It was OK for Kev – he fell into a pleasantly nerdy group of colleagues and has actually started playing Dungeons and Dragons with them once a week. For me, though… it’s been harder.

I’d hoped that I’d left all my anxiety behind: the anxiety that last came on when Ted was small and left me paralysed with fear just going into baby groups. Turns out I hadn’t left it as far behind as I’d hoped. Back in Manchester I had a proper support network of friends, other mums going through the same thing as me at the same time. Ted and I had a nice routine of lovely baby groups and classes – we were very rarely in the flat.

Our first few weeks in Darlington, we hardly left the house. Especially after Kev started work, I just kept finding excuse after excuse to stay in. The weather! We need to save money! I’ve got my period! I trotted out every possible reason for barricading myself in my own personal fortress of solitude.

All very well if it had just been me. But nowadays, there’s a certain small boy who can’t be ignored.

I still feel horribly guilty about those few weeks – the whole time we were at my mum’s too, to be honest. I just couldn’t bring myself to go to any of the playgroups I’d meticulously researched, or any of the toddler classes. I dragged myself along to a sling meet, then stood at the back of the room with Ted practically burying my head in his ring sling rather than talk to anyone else.

I think I’ve turned a corner now, though. I made a concerted effort, a few weeks ago, to go to as many playgroups as I could in the space of a week, in the hope that some would stick. I still only made it to three, but one was a really good fit for me and Ted – small, very friendly, and only a five minute walk from our house.

Hopefully, as well, I’m going to be joining a new book club being started thanks to a Facebook mums’ group, which will be lovely – I think it will be fantastic to meet other mums in a child-free situation and hopefully make some new friends.

And biggest news of all… I’ve got a new job!

Yes, this is huge news. Not just because we can finally start to claw our way out of poverty, or that I’m already making lovely new friends, or even that the job has some amazing benefits. It’s huge news because I was in the same job for a whopping six years, doing the same thing, and I’ve taken the leap into a whole new industry.

On paper, it doesn’t exactly sound like the most high-flying, prestigious career. I’m working in a train station. But there’s scope for growth, scope for development, for moving up within a huge brand that actively seeks curious minds like mine. Things will be different every single day, seeing a constant stream of new people and learning the ins and outs of an industry I never thought I’d end up in, but that is quickly starting to fascinate me.

God, look out. I’ll be helping Kev set up his model railway next. I’ve already been teased about being a ‘secret spotter’ after I got far too excited to see one of Kev’s favourite trains go past (a Pacer, if you’re interested).

Why yes, there is indeed a framed picture of one in our study. That says it all about our family, really.

The only thing that’s causing problems at the moment is, probably predictably, childcare. With both of us working now, it was inevitable Ted would have to go somewhere, and we’d had our hearts set on a childminder. To put it bluntly, Ted’s so poorly socialised, entirely my fault, that we thought an environment with fewer children would probably be best for him, to acclimatise him from being away from us.

Then the childminder I liked got a new job. The day before I started MY new job.

After rather a lot of panic and swearing and shouting ‘Fuck my life’ rather loudly, we’re tentatively sorted – having to use more of Kev’s annual leave than we’d like, and potentially bankrupting ourselves in the process of course. Pending a successful trial day on Friday, Ted’s going to be starting at a nice little nursery. It’s not what we originally wanted, but hopefully he’s going to fit in well and learn how to be far more sociable than his mother! I’m going to do an 18 month update for him in a couple of weeks, and hopefully I’ll have good news then about his, um, de-feraling.

If a nursery keyworker can succeed where I’ve failed – namely, stopping Ted from raiding the vegetable rack, using onions as missiles and trying to nurture a raw potato as a pet – I might have to adopt them.

I should probably mention my Camp NaNoWriMo too. I set myself the goal that this month I’d finish ‘Bisous, Tilly’ (the story that was originally called ‘EtouffĂ©’), with the nominal goal of 30,000 words.


I don’t think there’s ever been a year when I’ve had a consistent stats graph, to be honest.

It was going well until I started my proper work training and all this childcare drama started going down. A combination of using my brain for the first time in months, the sensory and social overload of getting to know all new people and places, plus all the stress and worry about settling Ted, all means that my poor old Camp is suffering greatly and I’m spending all my free time collapsed on the sofa watching Outlander.

Priorities, yo.

Not something I ever thought I’d say. Either putting writing at the bottom of the priority pile or the word ‘yo’, to be honest.

But it’s got to be done. Hopefully I’ll find some time to keep going once we’re in a proper routine again – I think, with a couple of big writing sessions in the next couple of weeks, I should be able to reach my target and get the book finished by the end of the month. If I’m really optimistic. Of course, there’s the matter of finding time for a couple of big writing sessions, when my poor husband is putting in all the hours he can to make up for the work he’s had to miss in the wake of the childcare disaster.

And then of course, there will be the big edit to think of… and it’s going to be a BIG edit.

Yikes. I’ll think of that later.

Anyway, I do believe that covers the big stuff. And a fair bit of typically daft rambling, too. I’ve finished my coffee and am starting to over-analyse Thomas the Tank Engine (WHY IS THERE A TRAIN WITH GLASSES?) so it’s probably time to go. Until next time I fancy a coffee and a chat!


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