Live to work, or…?

I don’t tend to blog too regularly about work. (It’s not that I’m ever likely to say anything particularly disparaging but, equally, my career is important to me and I don’t feel it’s worth exposing myself inadvertently to criticism. Besides, I like to convince myself that I have other, more exciting material to write about.) But I have been meaning for some time to blog about work/life balance and about the attitudes of my colleagues and peers, of wider society.

In the last year, my balance has shifted. The last few weeks have brought the issue sharply into focus.

But, ironically, I’m too tired this evening to compose a coherent blog entry on the subject. Instead, here are some things I should have been writing about:

1. My graduation – I had the most wonderful day, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that my mum, step-dad and husband made the journey to Bristol Cathedral to witness it. It brought a sense of achievement that I didn’t feel when I completed my undergraduate degree. Back then, there was the sense that I was going through the motions, doing what most teenagers do, focusing on the social, rather than academic education that university provided. Studying for a masters degree, whilst working full time and maintaining a long-term relationship took enormous effort and real commitment. And I did a far better job of it than I could ever have imagined I would. I even got a prize.

Here’s my mum (looking proud) and me (also looking pretty proud):


2. Finally finishing Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ – which took such a long time because I struggled to pick it back up each time I put it down, it was such a punishing read. My brother basically bullied me into reading it, urging me to “hold my heart in my hands” whilst I did so. His advice was entirely appropriate. It is bleak and harrowing, breathtaking and heartbreaking. And ultimately, hopeful. (Although now I’m reading some wonderfully witty fiction by the brilliant Zoe Heller to restore the equilibrium.)

To watch the film or not to watch the film?

Oh, my teenage years…

Ally texted me last night with a list that I wrote 10 years ago, at the age of 17, of my top ten favourite songs. There are some “what the bloody hell was I thinking?” numbers in there (you know I’m just saying that, don’t you?), as well as some rediscoveries and some enduring favourites.

I was going to make a spotify playlist to share with you but because I was a somewhat pretentious teenager, partial to a bit of musical snobbery, there are a few obscure B-sides in there so I can’t find them all. So you’ve got some youtube links:

‘Queen of the Troubled Teens’ by Idlewild (I genuinely believed this should be my anthem. I was such a loser.)

‘Tame’ by Pixies (the first Pixies song I ever heard. And so began a lifelong obsession…)

‘Silence’ by Delirium (no link because it was the radio edit that I loved but a VERY SPECIFIC mix, which I can’t remember and subsequently can’t find)

‘Nights in White Satin’ by The Moody Blues (this isn’t even the one I’m ashamed of)

‘Blackpool’ by Delgados (still awesome¬† – but no proper video sadly. Would encourage you to seek it out)

‘You Just Have To Be Who You Are’ by Idlewild (I liked Idlewild, ok? Still do, in fact)

‘Blue Flashing Light’ by Travis (I’d just like to point out that the first two Travis albums were actually very good and perfectly acceptable listening material)

‘Genie in a Bottle’ by Christina Aguilera
(what the bloody hell was I thinking?!) (I still have a soft spot for really well written pop music and yes I do happen to love ‘Beat Again’ by JLS)

‘Everlong’ by Foo Fighters (this won’t ever stop being one of my favourite songs)

‘S.O.F.T.’ by Elastica (see above)

Some observations: I was not only a pretentious teenager, but also a noisy one. I’m not sure that I’ve changed a great deal. I’m still noisy but I suppose I’m more inclined towards some quieter moments this days. And my husband has had some influence over my musical taste too, which is only natural.

I am so spending the weekend coming up with my top 10 favourite songs…

Wonderful Weekends

Today, my standard Sunday – lazy morning in bed, listening to BH and The Archers omnibus, before rising, reading, husband playing GTA4, drinking freshly filtered coffee, reading the Sunday papers, and the mundane laundry, dishwasher loading, putting out the bins.

Today, made all the better for two wonderful weekends preceding it. Last weekend, spent in Royston at my sister-in-law’s with great company, good food and a spellbinding visit to Ely Cathedral. The building is incredible, particularly its majestic nave and the feat of engineering that forms its centrepiece, the Octagon lantern. We climbed the 165 spiral steps to the roof of the lantern, stared down into the cathedral from its dizzying height and listened to the beautiful, soaring choir practice for evensong.

This weekend bought pleasures of a different kind, but just as great. A lovely couple of days spent with Omar, who writes about it better than I could on his own blog (here). I miss spending time with him. But when he lived nearer, I don’t think I appreciated the things that he writes about.

And yesterday, Chris and I were faced with another, dull day in Worcester and decided to drive to Bristol and spend the rest of the day there instead. We shopped, buying nothing, in Cabot Circus. As shopping centres go, I don’t know if I like it. There are elements that are great, like the domed glass roof, the natural ventilation, the open spaces intended for nothing but sitting and watching the world go by. But I’m not sure that I’d want to shop there regularly, I don’t think it has a great retail offer, if I’m honest. That said, the car park is an awesome example of how it could and should be done (evidence, if you ever need it, that I should get out more).

Anyway, we ate Vietnamese at Tampopo, which is like Wagamama but with slightly more uptight waiting staff (I should clarify that I like how uptight and eager to please they are. The staff in Wagamama are too trendy-verging-on-irritating) and a range of Asian dishes. I can recommend the Pho Xao Bo.

And we saw Up (in 2D, thank you very much) at the Showcase De Lux (nice cinema, absurdly comfortable seats, the fact that there are doormen is awfully pretentious).¬† I didn’t love the film quite as much as this review in the Telegraph did and not nearly as much as I love Wall-E but I did think that the first ten minutes are just wonderful. That an animated film aimed squarely at children can handle loss, grief and regret in a silent montage and move grown adults to tears is astonishing. I’d watch the film again purely for those opening scenes, but also for the witty, creative closing credits.

And the Where the Wild Things Are trailer…oh, so much happiness and brilliance in one, short space of time. I simply can’t wait.

After all that, back to my standard Sunday and the ironing mountain that has been growing whilst I’ve been having such a lovely time.