To begin with it feels nothing but alien, its spaces clean and bleak and anodyne. Nothing is intuitive or familiarly located; every task requires conscious navigation. I feel weary beyond the physical, as if the sheer newness of everything takes effort to process; as if the energy of rolling with every minor adjustment and improvisation compounds into serious exertion. I’m a stand-up paddleboarder, making the countless tiny corrections just to stay upright that amount to a full-body workout. Continue reading “Life overboard”
Toaster jug iron vacuum cleaner laundry basket laundry rack towels duvet inners x3 fitted sheets x3 duvet covers x2+ pillows x2 pillowcases mattress protectors mirror coat hangers kitchen bin bucket broom bedside lamp oven mitt tea towels dish rack dinner set cutlery set mugs water glasses salad bowl pasta pot frying pan grater potato peeler colander bread knife paring knife scissors bottle opener tin opener chopping board pepper grinder bread tin roasting tin baking sheet wooden spoons serving spoon fish slice ladle tongs masher.
We manage about half of it on the first trip to Ikea. We get in and out in under four hours, which includes lunch (though not the hour on the bus there), and we only lose one child once, for half an hour. Continue reading “Ready to roll… again”
We need an after-school kid looker-afterer! Our boys say they don’t need nannying, they don’t want to be babysat, and they don’t much like the sound of being minded. But they do need someone there when they get home from school, to ask about their day, stop them bingeing on biscuits and fighting, kick a ball around sometimes and gently bully them into their homework and chores. You’ll need plenty of patience and the ability to be firm when they push it… Continue reading “Nanny status”
“It’s too early to be getting up,” say my sons, dragging themselves out of bed in the 7am dark: these boys who till recently rarely slept past six.
The first week of January comes as a minor shock to us all. Surely we can’t be expected to go back to work and school so soon after Christmas? Continue reading “A new groove”
The boys start school, and I am paralysed. Days pass, weeks, and I’m held in stasis by two equal and opposite wants: to be writing, really writing; and to maximise our family adventure. Continue reading “Crisis. Crux. Crossroads”
Our flat is the bottom two floors of a four-storey Victorian terraced house. It’s one of a dozen near-identical houses in a row, punctuated by an ugly red-brick council estate at one end and a semi-detached pair at the other. Continue reading “Layered lives”
Normal summer transmission resumes and London goes back to being grey and warmish and intermittently drizzly. We settle into a routine: Hapless heading off for the daily commute, the rest of us tackling ‘summer school’ – a little daily homeschooling and light masochism. Continue reading “Ball games”
The Free-Range Writer furiously hammers out the last third of her 103,000-word first novel draft, hands it in half an hour before the final deadline, necks a pint at the Old Government House faculty bar, collapses into exhausted sleep on beanbag on her own back deck. School holidays. The FRW takes a much-needed break from writing, survives Christmas, enjoys a fabulous summer free from deadline pressure, realises her children are actually really quite lovely, even manages to write a short story or two. Hapless, fed up with the poky Auckland job market, leaves for London. The FRW reluctantly re-enters her battery cage and spends three months working at capacity, an experience not enhanced by solo parenting, and remembering why she gave the whole lousy gig up in the first place. Late at night she shops on the internet for London flats and schools; during the weekends she packs up the household box by back-aching nail-breaking box. Four months after his departure, Hapless is reunited in an emotional scene at Heathrow with his family, rendered temporarily more adorable by distance.
So The Free-Range Writer went cold turkey. Five months which I’ve spent extruding novel, a strange, lumpy substance of highly variable quality and texture. Continue reading “One month to go”
It’s a seriously long slog. Early on I set myself a goal of a thousand words a day, at least four days a week. Some days that comes easy; some days it’s like pulling a thousand teeth, each with the root pulp still attached. Continue reading “The fifty thousand mark”