Feelings, Big and Small

It’s been a while.

I do miss this place.

I do miss this place, but…

Well.

I’ve been working like crazy. My current office is an absolute jungle – people constantly shouting, badmouthing each other and coming close to strangling each other on a daily basis, but somehow, despite the craziness, I seem to be doing very well. I may well start a dangerous catfight in a meeting one day, but at least I absolutely adore the guys in my team, our deranged shared sense of humour and the work we’ve been doing, and so most days it’s a blast.

V and I are still debating on where our careers are going, and struggling to answer a million other difficult questions. But we also try to focus on the good stuff.

We began our summer in Mallorca and ended it in Cascais. In between, we left work early on a few occasions to make it to the evening mathches at Queens, our favourite grass tennis tournament. Then we traveled to Birmingham for the Women’s Tennis Classic finals. An AC/DC concert on Wembley. And supporting Romania in the Rugby World Cup on Stratford Olympic. A roadtrip to Stratford Upon Avon, and the opening night of the BFI London Film Festival. And guests, countless guests, family and friends. Walks, dinners and laughter. Lots of laughter.

And then, this Saturday.

This Saturday we got up earlier than usual, changed into freshly pressed outfits, walked to the local Register Office, and got married.

A low key, intimate affair.

So low key that I did my own hair. And made my own bouquet the night before, with grocery store roses and a bit of YouTube guidance.  And I would have definitely ruined my chances at a happy marriage before it even began, had someone not remembered the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” thingie just as we were leaving for the ceremony. Reluctant to upset the nuptial gods, but mostly giving in to very stubborn and loud peer pressure, I ended up borrowing earrings and most importantly, wearing a ridiculous aqua-blue hairpin stuck to one of my bra straps for the rest of the day. Thankfully, it was invisible to the outside world, but that particular detail didn’t really make me feel any classier.

And now here we are. Together. Not more together than before, but a slightly different, matching-wedding-bands sort of together. Although if I’m perfectly honest, we’ve been wearing our matching wedding bands around the house and out and about on weekends for a month or so anyway, to get used to them. We’re super duper traditional like that.

I had cake for breakfast today, by the way. Then I spent the rest of my morning doing load after load after load of side plates and flute glasses, straightening sofa cushions and polishing silverware. Then I had cake for lunch, of course. And now, everything feels pretty normal again. If it weren’t for the flowers. They’re everywhere. In glass vases, in milk carafes, in recycled pickle jars, on every surface of every piece of furniture in every room.

And so, happiness. Or something like it. Something very much like it.

These Are The Days

Dear friends.

I’m living days of beautiful, exciting things.

Being thirty one and as grown up as can be, I’m of course, reluctant to write about it all because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.

So I carry my secret specks of happiness up and down these streets, and try my best at not making a hopeless mess of the other layers of my life. Because believe me, they’re more susceptible to mess than ever.

First, there’s my family.

Consistent as ever in my failures, I’m still more or less a disappointment. But I think we’ve reached this point in our lives where years and years or constant unrealistic expectations and eventual letdowns later, we’re ok with our mixed-up, deranged relationship. That’s not to say it’s easy. I still have the ocasional phone conversation with my mother by the end of which I’m so mad I’m crying, and focusing every fleck of my will power to keep my voice from breaking. Because if she can tell I’m crying, she will have won, and we can’t have that now, can we? Have I mentioned I’m thirty one? Oh well. Families are tough.

And while we’re on tough things, there’s my job.

As luck would have it for a rather volatile, can’t-take-other-people’s-crap-for-too-long-without-turning-murderous person such as myself, I happen to currently work in Crazy Town. I know, I know. It actually sounds like it could be fun, right? And surely the kind of place someone as crazypants as yours truly would thrive in? And the funny thing is, I am. Thriving. But holy cow, is it giving me half a dozen tiny heart attacks a day! These people are crazy, blood thirsty monsters and one day, soon, I’ll be on the menu. Until then, I’m losing sleep, keeping my claws sharp and a drawer full of stress balls at hand.

To top it all, and the main reason I’m not hitting the road and finding another, less cancerous job, I’ve got money on my mind.

V and I (well, mostly me! he’s the more balanced half of our family) are nervously entertaining this miraculous idea of paying our mortgage a million or so years early, which is super realistic and putting zero pressure on ourselves and our relatively unchanged salaries since we got said mortgage. But hey, what are our thirties good for anyway, if not for worrying and stressing and counting and saving, until there’s little will to live left. So far, it hasn’t been all that bad to be fair, since we’ve managed to squeeze in two seaside holidays this summer and are already planning our next trip for later in the year, but at the back of my mind, little clouds of digits and percentages are growing bigger and bigger and are already casting a shadow on me every time I find myself caught up in another impromptu shoe shopping spree.

Now, to be perfectly honest, apart from these little nuggets of madness clearly making my life more exciting and enviable, I’m pretty much ok.

Which is, I think, why I’m not writing more often and why these last few posts have all ended on annoying, optimistic notes. But don’t despair. I’ve got a performance review at work in a few weeks! And family visiting! And summer’s over! I’m sure I’ll get back to my hate-my-life, regular little self in no time!

Until then, have a lovely sunny Tuesday, wherever you are!

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Later edit: Also, this is my 200th post here, people. Is that amazing or what?

Books of July

I am writing this post on a packed train on my way home, on a random Thursday afternoon scarred by yet another London tube strike.

I’ve put down my copy of Sebastian Faulks’ Charlotte Gray, reluctantly, because I absolutely love it and have been pretty much wolfing my way through half of it since yesterday. But I haven’t written a book post in a while, and it so happens that I’ve been reading a lot of great stuff recently, so it’s only fair that I brag about that to you lovely people for a few hundred lines or so.

LATER EDIT: This has proven to be a much longer post than expected, you’ve been warned.

Here we go then.

The Lemon TableJulian Barnes, The Lemon Table

It’s been a while since I last read a short story collection, and to be completely honest I had no idea The Lemon Table would be one, that is, not until I finished what I thought were the first couple of novel chapters.

I’d bought the book a long time ago  (from what I can tell it’s part of yet another used paperback batch I got from Amazon when we were still living in our old place), and it’s been part of my ever growing, menacing nightstand pile since.

I’ve always loved Barnes. As my friend C recently put it, he’s fun. I mean, even when he isn’t. Like in his heartbreaking Levels of Life, which Goodreads insist I read back in 2013, but that can’t be right, can it? Time can’t just fly like that! I can’t be 31!

Oh well.

Back to Barnes and his Lemon Table. It was fun. If I’m ever geeky enough (and I might just be!) to make a list of my all time favourite short story collections, Barnes will surely end up at the very top, way up there with Jhumpa Lahiri and Alice Munro.

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ParadiseToni Morrison, Paradise

Believe it or not, Paradise was my first Toni Morrison read.

And yes, I’ve heard it’s probably not the best introduction to her writing, as people don’t consider it as good as some of her other novels.

Not to mention that it happens  to be the third book in what critics call The Morrison Trilogy, and it would have made a bit more sense to start at the beginning, with Beloved, instead. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers, even more so when there’s this huge paperback pile on and around your nightstand just begging for some serious, focused reading. So Paradise is what I had and Paradise is what I read.

Now, I don’t know about this book.

First thing first, I really wanted to like it. The first couple of chapters were quite exciting, the writing was good, the premise intriguing. And then… I don’t know.

It all just felt a bit pretentious. A bit sketchy. Criptic just for the sake of it. I read that people who really like Paradise, end up re-reading it a few times, and then reading every author interview and article on the subject. I don’t want to have to do that for a book to make a difference for me. I think it should be the other way around.

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24831147Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman

Harper Lee’s second, long awaited and infinitely debated novel was launched on a Tuesday.

In Picadilly Circus, two blocks away from my office, in what is probably the best known Waterstones shop in the country, they were opening at midnight on Monday for what they advertised as the most exciting literary event of the decade.

I’d walk past the shop a couple of times a day for weeks, windows packed full of bright orange, mockingbird themed posters, and feel a spark of excitement mixed with a mass of other complicated feelings.

I was fourteen when I read To Kill A Mockingbird. My mother’s old copy, a Romanian translation, yellow and white lines on the cover. I was wearing a blue shirt dress and sitting in the grass in our back yard, my dog’s head resting in my lap. I remember these things. I remember a friend popping by, us talking about the book, which she’d read for school a few years back. It was really hot. In the novel, and in our own summer that day, and we walked to the nearby park  for shade. A spot of dark green on the hem of my dress from a freshly painted fence has helped the memory of that day set.

I loved To Kill A Mockingbird.

It’s difficult to read/try/feel something in the shade of such a strong feeling.

I didn’t go to the late-night launch, but I did get a copy a few days later, and read it over a couple of train trips. I didn’t hate it, and it didn’t change my life. I think I was lucky enough to be able to read it as what I think it is. Not a sequel.

A week or two later, V told me he’d read somewhere that bookshops in the US were refunding buyers for it in light of readers’ general disappointment. Then a friend send me a tabloid article about a couple who’d named their baby Atticus in honour of the lead Mockingbird character, and were now renaming him after they’d read Go Set A Watchman.

What I can say is, I’m not going to ask for a refund. And Atticus is a perfectly good name. And I’m sure there’ll be countless people like me who’ll be reading To Kill A Mockingbird and never forgetting it, for many many lives to come.

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5996120Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I first read Pride and Prejudice many years ago. A super expensive, leatherbound but absolutely lousy Romanian translation which I hated.

But my friend S has been watching BBC’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation on Amazon Prime recently, and she’s grown so enamoured with Mr Darcy (Colin Firth, need I say more?) that it’s all she’s been talking about these last couple of weeks.

She even went and bought a lesson-plans-included paperback copy, and for the first time ever during our several year long friendship, we discussed classic literature over lunch instead of the regular shoe-shopping-office-gossip-fertility-treatments mess of subjects.

It got me thinking. About my relationship with Austen in general, and Pride Prejudice in particular. And since I happen to be the fortunate owner of the most beautiful, clothbound, Penguin Austen collection, I thought I’d give Pride and Prejudice another chance, and read it in original English.

I loved it!

I don’t know if you know this about me by now, but I’m not a romantic.

Not only am I not a romantic, but I’ve always thought that the present portrayal of romance in the media has rather unpleasant consequences for regular, easily affected people like me, and I normally avoid it at all costs.

And while we’re on the subject of life altering, unfounded expectations, I should also add that I’ve never really phantasized about getting/being/staying married to Mr Right, despite all odds and happily ever after.

These being said, why read Pride and Prejudice? Isn’t it, like…, a love story? Don’t they get married in the end or something?

You know what? Who cares!

It’s descriptive, super fun and brilliant. Eliza Bennet might just become one of your favourite female characters of all times. You might, like me, end up running your fingers up and down the stack of brightly clothed Austen hardcovers you’ve so far pretty much used for decorative purposes, and pick Persuasion, or Emma for your next read, and already think it sad that there’s only half a dozen of this lady’s novels in the world.

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Books of July, it’s a wrap!

I’ve already finished one of my August reads (more details in next month’s post!), and I’m filling this week’s commute with Charlotte Gray and Austen’s Persuasion,  so the end of the summer is shaping up as quite exciting reading-wise!

 

All the Tiny Pieces

For a while, all days are alike.

No spilled coffee, no heart attacks, no surprise breakups. A monotony I enjoy. As time goes by, I relax. It turns out that after the initial shock, it’s easy to get used to peace and quiet.

Then someone has a miscarriage.

As I listen to the story, and it slowly seeps into every layer of our lives together, I remember. Peace and quiet come and go. The thought shocks me. The not knowing, the “out of the blue” of it all.

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Coffee helps.

I’m back to my daily cup of black after many years, less for the taste or the energy kick and more for the comfort of hot, familiar sips from a hot, familiar cup in between morning office dramas.

Everybody fights in this place. We’re not here to make friends, we’re here to thump our chests and blow our trumpets. We’re here to prove we can very well function with no regard to common courtesy, common sense or workplace noise regulations. We’re here. We’re loud. We’re disgusting. Espresso break, anyone?

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When I’m not stuck in head-splitting meetings for hours on end, empty cup in hand and dreaming of bucketsful of freshly brewed, or maybe picturing myself strangling various suit-clad big-mouths, well, I’m determined to enjoy myself.

Two weeks of sun, and summer is done and dusted around here. Since we’ve returned from holiday we’ve been mostly staying in in the evenings, cooking and sipping wine in front of the TV. We go to bed at normal hours for once, and wake up before the alarm goes off. We’re rarely in a rush to anywhere.

On the train, we read. V about his crimes and zombies, as I’m wolfing my way through Julian Barnes, Toni Morisson and Harper Lee, and more slowly, finally making time for the Penguing Clothbound Classics editions of Jane Austen’s novels. They’re so pretty, these Clothbounds, that I find myself breaking my reading to wash or squirt hand sanitizer gel in my pamls yet again, just in case.

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In other news, it seems that everybody around us is…, well, something is definitely going on with everybody.

Those who aren’t divorcing or redefining their relationships in the most unexpected terms – erosion, sophisticated, detrimental – well, those who happen to be at ease with their current matters of the heart, are selling their unaffordable houses to invest in even more unaffordable ones, leaving their stressful jobs for more stressful ones, all the while feeling sorry for themselves and very much above every other creature walking the earth.

It may be the permanent craving for change, for a challenge, the thirst for more something – anything. It’s meant to motivate us to keep going, to not succumb to depression. In which case I’m probably depressed as can be and don’t know it. As I’m not divorcing, nor craving for bankruptcy, nor do I understand the need to make my life more difficult on purpose in any way.

Yes, I’m well aware that perhaps everybody’s just acting the way perfect, respectable grownups should and I’m the one missing the plot.

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The good news is, if things do go wrong and I end up bankrupt, divorced and/or homeless, I’ll be able to turn my life around and start a potted succulent plants venture.

I must be doing something right in the world, because the three bite-sized succulents we bought when we moved in last year, are pretty much the size of pineapples now and have grown countless plump, juicy babies which have in turn claimed their own teracotta pots and spots on various shelves and ledges.

It’s things like these that make me happy these days. Fat, nail sized leaves the colour of sea water. A book bound in bright yellow cloth. The kettle boiling. The last flashes of London summer, just as we’re temporarily relocating our complicated relationship in a few weeks time, for another quick break in the sun. Oh, and Thursdays. Thursday and happy simply belong in the same sentence, don’t they?

Happy Thursday, everyone!