... tonight I'm sitting on the sofa, watching Big Bang Theory and eating biscuits.

*shrug*
 
I’ve always been one for looking at the bigger picture, the long game. My family have teased me about always having a plan but the way I see it, if I don’t have my dreams sketched out in my mind I can’t start making the first steps towards realising them. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle; you look at the big picture you’re trying to achieve, you start solidifying the edges then you fill it in. When we bought our house I had a picture in my mind as to what it could be. We’ve done quite a lot of the outline and filled a lot in. Where would I have started if I hadn’t had my desired outcome imagined?

This isn’t to say I’m not flexible. I’m more than happy to adapt my plans. When I realised my first marriage was over it didn’t stop me moving to Malaysia. Literally everything changed but it just meant a lot of tweaking. I never expect to get it perfect the first time.

It would be overly generous to suggest that such an approach should be allowed in the Government, not least because should Labour get back in power they’d thoroughly abuse it. Nevertheless, the coalition strikes me as being focused on the big picture and people are complaining about details. They’ve every right to be concerned about what concerns them but it rather feels as though everyone is at cross purposes.

I argued in my blog on Health Reform that we can’t have everything but rather than offer a counter point, most people seem to be in denial about the need for NHS reform. What I wanted to know was what was the alternative?

I commend whoever came up with the phrase Mr Osborne used this week (who knows it may have been him) when he spoke to MPs: ‘This country borrowed its way into trouble. Now it will earn its way out.’ Sure, the lowering of the income band from £43,925 to £41,450 for those paying 40% tax will hurt the families affected but lets be honest, if you’re earning £41,450 then you shouldn’t be scraping by. You are pretty wealthy in the eyes of a great many people. And remember it doesn’t come in until next April, there is time to make adjustments.

Just so we’re clear I’d love if we could go to the 80s model where 5% of people paid the highest tax bracket rather than the 15% it will reach next year. The husband is an experienced accountant; of course I’d like that bracket to be nice and high!

But the husband and I are realists and look at the bigger picture. We’re also honest with ourselves and we can afford to pay our tax bills. Sure we’re careful and are keen on the kinds of investments that aren’t subject to capital gains tax but ultimately we can pay and are “happy” to do so. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like to see a hell of a lot of reforms but we both see how the current economic climate is related to Labour’s easy come, easy go attitude to finance and that cuts, taxes and lots of other nasty stuff is needed to fix it.

This week I had the challenge of being trapped in a room with a very small picture thinker that I absolutely could not argue with. I was a guest in the home of the husbands ex wife and I don’t think you need to be a stepmother to know that that is a situation for absolutely best behaviour and perhaps a touch of simpering gratitude. I used to bow to nobody but frankly I’m continually amazed at how classy my stepsons’ mother is and how she has included me in her extended family. I cannot start a fight on her property.

The individual in question dropped into conversation that he spent over £10 a day on cigarettes. My eyes widened at the same time as my hostesses boyfriends’. Our eyes met and I couldn’t help squeaking that that was half a mortgage. ‘I know’ he mouthed back. Perhaps it was a good way for him to start; I was as much subdued by shock as anything else and far less likely to speak against him.

What followed was largely a monologue on his views on tax and pensions; a view that was wholly subjective and rooted in his own experience. Now this individual has dependents and even his non-dependent children would (you’d have thought) been in his mind but strangely he could only relate to the money passing through his own hands.

He is an extreme version but I see evidence of this kind of thinking regularly. Someone I know calls it ‘the politics of envy.’ Someone identified as having it better or easier than them and rather than be inspired to improve themselves, they hate the other person. The counter argument is that those with the broadest shoulders should carry the biggest load but isn’t that what the 40% tax bracket is about? Seriously, if you’re earning over £40k you’re doing ok! I appreciate the desire to tax the super rich but you know what, they already are heavily taxed.

The crucial thing is that we keep incentivising people to make money rather than punishing success because someone earning £20,000 is too clouded by their (in)experience to appreciate the bigger picture. Even among higher earners there’s a distinct lack of big picture thinking right across the public sector.

I’m not saying the poor and the stupid are less able to make decisions than those who are rich and smart but frankly there is a bit of a correlation. I think it’s needs based and when your needs are met (by which I mean being able to pay your rent/mortgage, buy food, pay the bills but not having a cleaner, an annual foreign holiday and a new car) you are better able to see the big picture. When your finances are tight you are going to be more focused on your personal situation because it’s very important to you. When you’re stupid, you simply lack the intelligence to look beyond yourself.

I realise I’m as bad as the obnoxious guest pontificating at the Birthday party but you’re reading this through choice. If I could give you a slab of cake I’d totally have the high ground.

Birthday cookie?

 
I’m not usually a sentimental person but when one of our chickens died this week I found myself in unknown territory. I was sad of course. We only had three chickens, all were named and we paid sufficient attention to recognise different traits in them.

Lara was named first and she was always the adventurous one. At the weekend the husband constructed what he refers to as Stalaglufthen. She has taken to jumping on top of the coop and into next doors garden where she runs around joyfully until the neighbours let me know she’s there and she then runs joyfully into my waiting arms to be carried home for a drink and some food. She can be annoying (the wire fence we’ve built hasn’t exactly aesthetically enhanced the garden) but she amuses me the most.

Lola was named last and she’s the quiet nervy one. She’s the least affectionate and most suspicious but she also looked different. Where Lily and Lara were snowy white, Lola looked freckled. She also has the strange habit of sunbathing. She does this by lying on her side and looking dead so that the first few times I dashed outside worried only for her to ruffle her feathers and turn over.

Lily was the greedy one. The first day she was out in the garden she plucked a bee for the air and devoured it. She emerged as the trios leader and struck me as being the most intelligent, navigating the ramp to the coop immediately while Lara and Lola looked on perplexed until eventually I’d lift them in at night. They caught up but Lily led them.

I find myself wanting to remember what made her different. She was one of my first chickens and she’ll be followed with many others but she was a pet of sorts. Last summer she was the one that followed me around the garden in eager anticipation of worms and bugs pulled up as I weeded.

She had been ill for a little while. I ordered medicine but it came too late. When I phoned the husband at work to let him know he asked what I wanted to do with the body. I struggled to answer. She wasn’t rubbish but surely it was a little crazy to have a burial?

Fortunately my hand was forced. The husband wanted to bury her. It made sense for her to stay in the garden where she was so utterly happy. I think that’s the best thing about ex-battery chickens; they are so utterly delighted with their lot when they find themselves free range.

The husband made a good case for the fact that chickens rot down quickly and where we buried her will hopefully be adequate for a ground for all the pet chickens that pass through our garden. Practicality is important, we have a normal garden. A pet cemetery simply isn’t feasible.

The husband placed her body in his brilliantly dug hole (sorry if it seems inappropriate but he really seemed hunky when he did it so effectively) and asked whether I wanted to say anything. I didn’t. She was a chicken. He said something nice about her and covered her over. Lara and Lola were thrilled at the worms he’s uncovered and seemed to dance on her grave.

I kept that thought to myself.

It’s a strange thing for me. We are a meat-eating household. We eat chicken a couple of times a week. If anything it helps me understand the dog lovers in Thailand who also eat dog. They draw a clear line between farmed animals and pets. While we appreciate the eggs, they are a bonus for me. My favourite thing about keeping chickens is watching them in the garden when I’m washing up and the way they follow us around the garden (and chase the husband whenever he goes to the shed).

We told the kids tonight. The eldest cried (he named her so I think she was always his favourite) and after some thought decided he wanted to draw a picture of her this weekend to remember her by. The youngest wanted to watch Ceebeebies. I think it’s easier to be three than it is to be six.

We had a talk about life spans and how people usually live a long time, that the cats will live about twelve years and that chickens don’t live very long. It was a nice reminder for us as well I think.

We’re now on the lookout for more chickens. I don’t want to go down to one and the coop would fit four. I guess like the short lifespan you move on a little quicker. From my kitchen window I wasn’t always sure which chicken I was watching. It wasn’t a relationship like I have with the cats whereby I can tell their meows apart.

I’m glad we indulged ourselves with a bit of sentimentality. It felt right.

I guess that’s what counts.

Picture
Lily on a day when she stood out in the rain and looked terrible but was delighted to discover mud
 
Ye gods there has been butt-munchery of undercrackers galore this week. In addition to actually telling the husband not to get his knickers in a twist via text (yes go figure, I have OCD but hubby dearest is the one that gets in a fret), there has been lace twisting and thong irritation a plenty.

It seemed to come from nowhere. There we all were bumbling along in that post Valentines glow/venom of smugness and/or bitterness (I say and/or as I’m both totally loved-up and yet somewhat hacked off that the husband seems intent on doing all those things he did when we first got together - it’s been three years of proper relationship, why hasn’t isn’t he fixed yet?) when out of nowhere came a plethora of irritation.

It began with Gina Ford. In case you aren’t familiar with the divorced childless harridan then she is the author of The Contented Little Baby book, a tome which dictates to the vulnerable (young, sleepless people living with a recently birthed parasite) how they ought to live their lives. As someone who is a bit boho if not quite earth mother I don’t really like her. Ok so I don’t have birth children but I’m generally an advocate of if it’s hungry then feed it, if it’s sleepy give it a nap and other such radical thought. That’s not to say I haven’t absolutely loved the husband and his ex-wife’s bedtime routine that has seen the husband and I enjoy evening after evening of drinks, movies and decent conversation but to me controlled crying just sounds like a fancy term for child abuse.

Anyway, she’s been in the news this week saying something I agree with (yes I do feel dirty). According to Gina - sorry love but you don’t have kids yet lecture us so you’re up there with Gillian on being on first name terms. Gillian who incidentally is utterly lifeless yet feels compelled to dictate how we should live - women should be making time for their husbands a mere four to six weeks after giving birth. I apologise but here is a Daily Fail link.

I get why women have been up in arms but frankly I don’t think that Gina is so wrong. Yes, the view reeks of handmaidenism (a term I leant this week) but isn’t it time to get real? Men often struggle after their partner gives birth and feel neglected. Suck it up scream the Mumsnetters, he should be basking in the wonder that the new life you graced from your loins. Well yes, blatantly but the guy needs the odd hug as well. Not because he might leave you if you don’t and not because you’re being cruelly abused if you do but because – crazy idea – you love him and want to hug him.

There’s this huge reluctance to embrace the model of womanhood as we see as perpetuated by the likes of 1950s characterisation. Now of course I’m a feminist and at a family meal failed to curtail an outburst at my mother-in-law for describing a family members’ recent return to work (after a stellar stint at being a stay at home mum) as having “a little job.” To my eyes this woman had been an excellent mother and despite being highly qualified was cautiously re-entering the workplace. I’ll not sit by and see a woman derided for giving up work to nurture her family and then rebuilding a life of her own once the kids’ need of her is diminished.

But what of his needs? The response is that he shouldn’t be demanding. Um, nobody said demanding, they said needs. Ah yes, same thing.

Except it isn’t is it? Men and women are different. A lot of should’s get lobbied about on Mumsnet but you can’t deride an ought from an is.

It’s basic meta-ethics people!

Because I love you and because I neither assume you have read various works of philosophy or that if you have that you can recall it in an instance, here is a short video summarising Hume’s Guillotine quite nicely. For those of you who know about Hume’s Guillotine and don’t need the video well have a biscuit and my admiration as I had to do a quick search to refresh my memory.
What I’m saying is that in a world of good relationships, bad relationships and more commonly, real relationships (which magically combine the two such as my own where I’m a bitch and he is a sweetheart) there is plenty that we can take meaning from and yet very little to inspire moral judgement.

Your husband is grumpy because he hasn’t had any action in six months.

Your husband ought to appreciate that you are tired/grumpy/hormonal/frigid/other typical Mumsnet poster characteristic.

Why?

For the same reason I’m meant to respect the fact some of you worship a sky pixie? Give me a break. Actually try reading a book, give Plato a go and learn about the allegory of the cave by reading The Republic.

Or be lazy and watch this:

These women are clinging to shadow pictures of their own making. They enforce and build on each others’ stories, nurturing the idea that they are superior and the good men (the ones I secretly think simply hide their porn better and have perfected the art of ‘yes dear’ for an easy life) they have tamed are inspirational models and they pity the women with lesser men.

Excuse me while I vomit.

There’s a flip side of course. There was a thread on evo this week titled, What really turns you off a woman. It starts humorously but gets a touch dark in places as a misogynist appears. I can summarise it for you though, men get annoyed with women for being bat shit fucking mental.

Can you blame them?

Still, women are bat shit fucking mental. Deal with it or bugger off you grumpy gits.

Love and hugs to all!

Kathryn  

 
Last week I buried my great aunt. That’s why there was no column. Afterwards we went for dinner and I chose drinking wine and watching cute boys perform at The Oast House with my mum to writing. Anyway, things were a bit raw. Relationships with that side of the family can be a bit strained and given that I’m quite the funeral goer due to all the dead relatives (cheers Cancer), I found that it was all somewhat compounded. Like each time there’s a new funeral, you tear open the wound of the previous ones.

I’m a happy person but I was knocked.

I don’t get depressed. Instead my OCD skyrockets. It’s a bit like having a non-stop panic attack which you’d think would help you lose weight through sheer nervous energy but sadly no. Weirdly I’m normally a pretty productive person and these days I’m something of a domestic goddess with keeping house. When we were waiting for it to snow I made the kids cookies while I cleaned the kitchen. If I get into ribbon craft I’ll be Martha Stewart!

Anyway, my OCD makes me useless. It’s depressive in the sense that you can’t motivate yourself to do anything because you’re too busy fretting over whether you’ll ever fix the scratches in the fireplace. You know you’re being mental but you cannot do a damn thing about it. Except drink and wait for the husband to come home. Because alcohol and sex stop the cycle instantly. Naturally, when one is waiting for these things (3pm is the absolute earliest I’ll have a glass of wine) one reflects on the fact it’s possibly time to be medicated.

I do not want to be medicated. Partly because these periods rarely last long but also because my mental illness is so tied to who I am that to be treated is to say the person I am on good days isn’t acceptable. For the most part I’ve very happy (annoyingly so and I’m sure I sometimes sound a bit smug – sorry about that) and I harness my OCD. My husband accepts it and works around it.

When I’m spiralling it’s as though the person I am is just out of reach. That elusive mojo like a shaft of sunlight. When I’m in the light it’s so obvious how to be there but when I’m skirting the edges it’s hard to catch.

Today I suddenly got there.

I wasn’t looking forward today. It began at 5.45am which is vile at the best of times. As a general rule, if there isn’t a plane (or hot air balloon, I didn’t mind my 3.30am start for sunrise in Cappadocia) to catch then I’m really not interested. But I need to get some more clients and GIN beckoned. GIN is Gloucester Independent Network and yes, I partly went along because I liked the name.

The best part of the plan was that I’d offered my friend Vikki a lift so I absolutely had to haul my arse out of bed. She was similarly motivated. Had either of us been going alone the duvet would have won. Dressing for a networking event is like dressing for an interview so as the husband slept I was blow drying my hair. I rarely blow dry my hair properly. At 6am it is vile.

But the meeting was fantastic. Suddenly I was buoyed up about what I do. Suddenly I was back in my light place where the crazy thoughts settle down and I’m back to being productive.

In case this sounds as though I’m Bi-polar I assure you I’m not. I’m happy not hyper at least 95% of the time and when I am struggling with the OCD I can still function properly. I’ve never missed a day of work because of it.

A busy day followed and this evening I went to the Cotswold Style readers event at Hobbs. I met the delightful Kate Parker who complimented me on my dress and pushed me out of my comfort zone to try some new styles. I had my hair put in a beehive by Hair Styling by Nicole and had a hand an arm massage as a taster for the new Melting Honey Hot Stone Massage from one of the lovely ladies from Clarins. What wasn’t to love?

Already I’m rolling my eyes at the self of the previous ten days. It’s sunny (Or at least it was)! The tadpoles are growing!

Picture
Four days ago
Picture
Today
These things are so simple and therein lies the elusivity of mojo. Last Sunday I faked it. The husband and I had bought a tank and when his ex wife dropped the boys off for a few bonus hours (so we could take them to their great grandmother’s Birthday party) we caught frogspawn. I did it but I wasn’t feeling it. Suddenly today I’m getting great joy from it.

It’s frustrating that there isn’t a formula, that this is just something I have to live with from time to time. I suppose the upside it that thanks to therapy (I’m not anti-cure, I’m anti-brain altering medication) I’m better able to tread water until I’m better. I no longer get scared and while I get angry and upset, it isn’t all-encompassing rage or heartache. I know that it will pass.

And that soon, that elusive mojo will be mine again.

Look! I have an orange jacket!