Deepest Darkest Depths

……….Of my freezer, that is.

With a little time on my hands, I decided to give my freezer a good sort out before the weather gets too cold, and I think to myself “I’ll wait until the spring when it begins to warm up” again. To be honest, I don’t think it’s been done for well over a year because I can remember thinking about doing it, and failing to execute, around about this time last year. I had no idea what I’d find. I mean, my cat could be storing mice in there, ready for the winter hibernation shortage, for all I knew. I wouldn’t put it past her after her most recent “show of affection” in the shape of a vole being dumped on the freshly cleaned carpet outside my bedroom door. My son keeps bloodworm in there for the axolotl, so I’m kind of hoping they haven’t migrated from the ice tray, where they are supposed to stay, to anywhere near the human food. And, I’m pretty sure my dog thinks the freezer is a canine vending machine because, every time the door is opened, precious, jewelled, snacks in the form of frozen veg come rolling out onto the floor for him tuck into. After all, what dog wouldn’t love a sweet frozen treat, mid afternoon, whilst his human cooks delicious meals that he won’t get to sample?

So into the freezer I went, pulling out plastic wrappers containing the freezer burnt remnants of occasionally unrecognisable meat and poultry. As there are only 3 of us in the household, and no packets of meat come in three’s, (note to supermarkets: families don’t come in even numbers anymore), the left over pork chop or chicken breast gets shoved in a freezer bag and shoehorned into a drawer to use “at a later date”, because I refuse to throw food away or allow that slaughtered animal to have died for the purpose of scavenger foxes to drag their flesh out of my food waste bin, spreading the rest of the contents across the street for all of the neighbours to see. Nope! They will go into my freezer, to be completely ignored and forgotten about until they are no longer fit for human or animal consumption.

In the deepest, darkest corners of the freezer, amongst the peas, diced carrots and the occasional hair that throws me into total anguish at its pure presence, I find a quite shameless array of vegan products. Long out of date vegan products, left over from when I tried veganism on for size, for about 3 months, a couple of years ago. It didn’t fit so I sent it back with no exchange or refund. Admittedly, I love vegan food but these particular products did not do plant-based eating any justice at all. I don’t understand why people process naturally growing produce, add more salt than the Bonneville Flats and shape it to look like meat when there are so many delicious vegetables out there. Well, now my vegan sausages and soy mince do no justice at all, as any kind of food, with the ice clinging so tightly to their outer sides, they look drier and more unappetising than ever. But at least I have the peace of mind that no animals were harmed in the binning of these products. Unlike a few pigs and chickens who lost their most juicy bits in the great freezer cull of 2021. RIP

I begin to make myself a promise: “I, Cleo, being of sound mind, do hereby state that I will never forget what’s in the freezer, I will keep a list of what’s in there at all times and consult that list when planning my weekly meals. I will label and rotate all contents weekly and all vegetable bags will be tightly sealed, once opened, before returning to the appropriate drawer. (Sorry dog)” This will be my new mantra. This time, now I’ve said it out loud, I will keep my freezer organised.

Insomnia (2021)

Not to be mistaken for the glamorised 1995 Faithless version of Insomnia with the dulcet tones that pull you into a trancelike state of euphoria. This insomnia is not a wish for dreams of mildly erotic encounters on common land. This is the insomnia that, despite living a simple and quiet life with no planetary pressure bearing weight on your physical being, makes day to day life feel like you’re pushing a stubborn elephant up a hill with your good arm tied behind your back and your thumb in plaster.

I’m on day 5 after as many nights of broken sleep. It’s a rainy day and I don’t have much to do, really. I’ve had my first coffee, green tea with mango, ginger and lemon and I’m on my second coffee. I’ve caught up with the news of the day and mid morning daytime drivel on tv and I even managed a shower. I couldn’t risk a shave today, I don’t trust myself with anything that can draw blood when my eyes feel like they’ve been scooped out with tablespoons and hammered back into my sockets overnight. I’m hoping Amazon aren’t going to make their regular visit to my doorstep, today, because if someone says as much as “Hello!” to me I’m going sob and snot in their face. I’m sooooo tired.

At about 4.10am, this morning, I was roused by the baby. In my sleepyheadedness, I muttered to my partner next to me “I’ll go”. After all, I’d been awake half the night anyway and this early hours shift offer might earn me brownie points and potentially a lie in as a reward, from my dearest man. As I shoved the duvet over to his side and attempted to sneak out of the bed without causing too much disruption, I came to conciseness enough to realise that my partner was actually my spare pillow and realised that the snoring that had kept me awake most of the night must have been mine. Great! Now my brain has started hallucinating to break the monotony of just waking up and lying there bored and now I’m waking myself up with my own snoring. The baby, however, was real. He was just next door, so I couldn’t even go and soothe him back to sleep in the hope of getting a few more minutes for myself before the morning madness began.

I lay there for a while, trying to get back into that ultimate comfortable position that never fails me for sleep after a large glass of red and half an hour of a dreary costume drama from the 1980’s. But I couldn’t have that glass at 4.20am because, contrary to popular belief, I am not an alcoholic (and I’d run out of wine). And I couldn’t put the tv on either because apparently Sky tv have bought into the nanny state mentality and are preventing me from watching anything before 5am. So there I lay, counting down the seconds and minutes until I reached that point of no return. You know the one? When you daren’t go back to sleep for fear of not waking up in time to get the kids to school or yourself off to work. That point.

It’s not all hallucinations during the waking nights, though. At around 3.20am on Tuesday morning I was watching a cranefly dance around my ceiling and occasionally get caught in one of the many spider webs that hang from it. In the moments where it came uncomfortably close to my face, I tried to recall the reasons why we shouldn’t kill these creatures, that were outlined on a daytime drivel tv article, but I think I was distracted as I tried to listen to the article and I couldn’t recall the reasons given. I also couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed and kill it so I took my rest whilst it was suspended in the sticky fibres and I hid under my duvet when it temporarily released itself and clumsily meandered around my room.

Whilst my nights can be exhaustingly eventful, they are also monotonously boring in measures that far outweigh the “fun” stuff. And when the “stuff to write home about” doesn’t happen, I lie awake wondering what will happen next. Will tonight be the night when I’m awake to witness the alien abduction of the entire conservative government for invasive testing, or to answer the knock at the door from Luke Pasqualino, here with his declaration of undying devotion and wishes of being my semi naked housekeeper and chef…..I mean, anything can happen, right? And what brain wants to rest if there’s a chance of missing out on such fun?

How Can A Day Go So Wrong So Early?

My day has already gone to $#!¥! I’ve been up and down ALL night, so my emotional fragility level is already at least a 6/10, as my brain decides it’s done with creating lists and pondering on the logistics of moving the entire family to the outer Hebrides to wait out the storm and fallout that Covid and Brexit have inflicted on our already shambolic lives.

It’s 6am when I finally decide to make a big pot of coffee. The Saturday morning cafetière of fair trade South American blends are my real treat compared to the weekday, double teaspoon, mid-high range instant being thrown down my throat in between the yelling of “Shoes on now! Have you got your bus pass? Mask? Lunch?”

6.02am I find that the dog has left me “presents” all over the kitchen floor. Fragility level increases to a 6.5 but I’ve dealt with these incidents before. I cheerlead myself with “You’ve got this! Let’s get this done!” I’m in control and I’m ready to roll!

6.03am I fill the mop bucket and begin to wring the mop head out ahead of the 5 minute job, whilst the kettle takes my water temperature up to a very coffee friendly 80 degrees.

6.03:30am The mop handle snaps and the mop head falls off in an irretrievable fashion that recalls my mind to a Tudor beheading scenario.

6.04am and I’ve just felt a piece of my soul pack it’s bags, smile and wave as it runs out of the door towards the already banished and shamed dog. A tear may have tried to escape too, but I’m not broken yet, unlike the mop! I can still turn this around.

6.11am I throw some clothes on, make an attempt to pull my hair back into some kind of “do” that will pass as “a bit hippy” but acceptable at 6am, scrub the remnants of last night’s red wine from my teeth and head out on an emergency mop mission to Tesco. I have the power!

6.22am Tesco. No replacement mop handles…or any kind of mops apart from spray mops. I actually can’t believe what I’m seeing here so I’m staring at the empty hooks that promise mop handles and matching heads but just don’t deliver. I can’t cry, I’m in public. I can’t get a member of staff to check out the back for stock because I work here and I have no makeup on. No other shops are open right now and I need to get the floor cleaned by the time the kids get up. Time to decide.

6.27am I choose a spray mop. Tesco own brand because I’m not paying Vileda prices when I’m going to just buy a new mop handle and head when they are back in stock.

6.29am I’m at the self checkout, because I work here and I don’t have makeup on, but it doesn’t give me a receipt, I just leave without one instead of calling a colleague, because I work here and I don’t have makeup on. It’ll be fine.

6.33am I drive towards the fuel station on the way out and, as my tank is almost empty and there’s a free pump, I decide to stop for fuel. I can’t help but feel guilty for being there given that the media caused a fuel shortage frenzy, yesterday, by reporting driver shortages. But I need fuel for work so I just avoid all eye contact and pay at the pump.

6.45am My tank is now full and I’m feeling the win. I feel like my day has turned around already and I’m counting the silver linings with a smile. Now let’s get this floor cleaned so I can have my, long awaited, pot of caffeine.

6.55am I’m home to mop the floor but the stupid, cheap (insert your own swear word here) mop tank won’t come off so I can fill it with cleaning fluid. (Insert more swear words) Fragility level has now jumped to a 9.5. My daughter gets woken up to see if she can help remove this mop tank to no avail. Tears are now escaping as I near the fragility limit. Recap and assess the situation: Now I have 1 broken mop, 1 new mop I can’t use and don’t have a receipt for to return it, a filthy floor, no coffee in my body and a grumpy daughter.

It’s now 7.20am. I’ve made a triple teaspoon, instant, mid-high range cup of coffee and come back to bed. The duvet will soon be thrown over me whilst I gently bounce my head on the pillow and cry a bit more. Message to my friends and family today reads “Can I advise that you all stay very far away from me today? Very, very far away……”

Dry January

Well, it lasted 5 days. Actually, 4 if I include the half cup of brandy in my decaf coffee on Friday night. I’ve never realised that Saturday night tv was so bad until I had to endure it sober. So I opened a bottle of wine. Well, a magnum of wine. It wasn’t even that nice but it’s all gone now. In fact, it was so “not nice” that I’m considering opening another bottle of red in the hope that I’ll actually get at least one enjoyable glass of wine out of my first dry weekend in January. Do I see this as a failure? Nope! I see this as catching up on the “healthy heart” red wine that I’ve missed Monday to Friday. Evening things out, so to speak. I’ll climb back on the wagon tomorrow.

If it’s not on a List it Doesn’t Exist

Quite honestly, I’ve never been great at remembering important stuff. My brain has always been more inclined to move on to the next task the millisecond the previous one has been completed. I’ve lost keys, purses, clothes and many personal items over the years.

If I don’t park in a familiar area of a supermarket car park, I lose my car. Once I’ve walked away, and I’m focused on remembering what I need to buy inside, the memory of where I left my vehicle is a distant notion of bygone times. Wait, who am I kidding? “Remembering what I need to buy” happens because of the list. And if I forget the list, I will, potentially, leave the shop with nothing and then won’t be able to find the car.

Lists, diaries, reams of paper stuck on my fridge, with magnets from all over the world holding them fast, sticky notes next to the kettle and alarms set on every electronic device I own are all ways in which I cope with everyday life. Without them I would be walking from room to room, muttering words I’ve already forgotten awaiting the ones in white coats to come and take me away.

I have recently discovered “reminders” on my phone. I’m not entirely sure how I’ve managed to actually live life up to this point of discovery but from now on my entire existence relies solely on the device in my hand. I have chores reminders, meetings, deliveries, appointments….the axolotl will never worry, again, that feeding day may come too early or, God forbid, too late. It’s all there. My temporal lobe now has no pressure. My hippocampus is at ease.

Procrastination is Key

I started writing my first novel back in March 2020. I’ve tested the theme on people whose opinions matter to me, made mind maps and written plans of where the tale will wander to and I even started writing it. The only trouble is that I’m too blooming busy solving murder mysteries on tv re-runs, wine glass in hand, to really focus my booze sodden brain on actually putting finger to button (pen and paper aren’t eco friendly anymore are they?) and see where this story will take me or where I will take it. What I really need is some inspiration, a muse or probably divine intervention. I continued reading other novels and started reading books on how to or how not to write a book and inspiration in news and media help to develop my story inside my head. I’m excited about the book! So why is bleaching my back yard (not an euphemism) and ironing my summer wardrobe in mid-winter so much more important?

Life with ADHD

Now I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD myself but my dear son has. I see a lot of myself in him. He flails around in the darkness of his childhood, trying to find his way out, in about the same way as I stumble through my life. My brain is never still but is no longer a sponge like his.

His intelligence and knowledge astound me, but if he was anyone else’s child, constantly reeling out facts and figures that Stephen Hawking, himself, would fail to understand, and being a general know it all, I’d probably want to poke him in the eye and tell him to go and tell someone who cares. I mean, my best friend from years ago had a snot drenched, muck covered child that used to do the same. “Yes I’m impressed. Now sod off!”

Where the energy comes from is anyone’s guess. Unless you are an expert in ADHD, then I am sure you’ll know. I’m just an expert in navigating around it. Going for walks is a great way to expend some of that excess energy, although I am usually exhausted just trying to get my dearest boy out of the house. He loves the outdoors, fresh air and walks in the woods once he is actually out of the house, but despite his overflowing wealth of knowledge on every single subject known to mankind, he still manages to pose questions that have never occurred to the most inquisitive of minds in history. Questions that my exhausted mummy brain cannot even understand, let alone contemplate the potential answers or provide educated guesses to without the assistance of Google. I don’t like not being able to solve problems, though, so I suggested bringing a pencil and paper to write his ponderings down as they come to him so that we could research them online when we are home. And apparently there are 450 species of grass in the UK, only 4 of which are generally used for lawns, and a whopping 11,400 worldwide. Every day is a school day in my family!

The definition of boredom, in our house, is “gaping hole in the front of the head that needs to be filled” apparently. If the dear boy had his own way, he’d have the PS4, XBox, 2 laptops, mobile phone, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 2DS and the VR headset all running at the same time with someone peeling grapes and feeding them to him all day, every day. But it wouldn’t have to be grapes, any fruit would do, or junk, or mini babybel……any food, just all of the time. The constant thirst for stimulation is a hard one to quench. Game playing as a family will only stimulate his brain for a short period of time, as do one to one games and activities. You can always tell when his attention is waning or his stimulation needs another slurp because food is requested. Or sneaked away without asking, wrappers and peelings hidden in places only the fruit flies will signpost you to.

Any parent knows that kids need wind down time before bed. Time to switch off from the day and the electronic devices that cause interference in the brain. We “snuggle down” every evening to watch a movie, or part of one by the time I’ve wrenched technology from his bony fingers and dealt with the fallout, usually including, but not exclusively, screaming “I HATE YOU!”, throwing of any item that is to hand, arguments regarding time and relativity, tears, snot, coughing that turns into heaving from the stomach and, eventually, an apology. These movie snuggles aren’t quite the mother’s dream from when she held the resting babe in arms, though. First we have to make the decision. What movie? This generally takes 15-20 minutes of scrolling through endless apps and streaming providers that drain my bank account of approximately half my annual income, all of my suggestions get a “no”. Once he has decided what is acceptable viewing material for the evening, dear son needs water and then a snack. And to go up and down the stairs 5/6 times because he has forgotten items that he cannot exist without in this very moment. Once drink and snack are secured we, again, attempt to snuggle. Our film begins in peace, tranquillity and relaxation until he starts his running commentary, in a bid to enhance his skills as a future YouTube star, picking apart plot lines, rewinding a scene 3 times to point out continuity errors and questioning every historical fact as if it weren’t fact but open to interpretation or discussion on how said fact could have been misremembered or altered to make the history more interesting. We miss all important bits of the storyline and dialogue until something really exciting happens at which point, dear son of mine, starts bouncing about on my bed making every joint squeak and groan (admittedly it’s the most action my bed has had in over 2 years) until it’s on the brink of collapse. And then the timer goes off signifying bedtime. The relaxation part of the evening is complete.

Brain fried, ADHD put to bed for a few hours at least, (I hope) I can now look forward to mind-numbing tv with red wine in hand, ready for the onslaught of repeating the same key morning phrases so many times my internal dialogue short circuits and what comes out of my mouth can be deciphered only at Bletchley Park.