I started my first 'blog' (diary, as I argued vociferously at the time) in May 1998 and had a hiatus between, er, I don't know. Some point or other and when this one started, originally hosted elsewhere and written using Movable Type, but still called Moolies. After naming the blog (obviously after Kenneth William's traditional cry, which was of course slang for 'bollocks') I found the word has all sorts of weird and not altogether desired for connotations. Ah well.
So you would have thought that it would make sense to refer directly to the blog for alot of references, but no! I will leave you to join the dots, if you really want to, that is. So, a brief review of ten years covers a hell of alot of ground very quickly. Looks like I'll be writing a rollercoaster before I've even begun:
McK and I went to the cottage in Waterville, Kerry to spend New Years with ex-flatmate Emma and her then bloke, Fitz (whose parents lived just up the road). The cottage in Waterville is about five miles up the road that runs alongside the Corrane, a gorgeous slightly brackish lake. Kerry is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places, wildly under appreciated by the type of people who will happily stomp around the Lake District, following in the footsteps of thousands before them. I'd go back in a flash given the opportunity. The night was great - we trudged in to town (did we? Or did we get a lift? Trivial detail...) and joined the entire village in the bar of the local hotel, equipped with a large screen TV showing a delightful array of millennial fireworks. The local TV offering, to take us through was an awesome show, shot similarly in a hotel, "Live! From killarney!". Hosted by a man in a white suit that reminded me of an Elvis impersonator I saw once in Dublin with Arthur Matthews. I love Ireland ;)
Needless to say it was better to be outside, the whipping wind singing off the sea, a daft back of a van band playing and much, much Guinness and champagne being drunk.
The lift back to the cottage was achieved at very low miles per hour.
I started my MBA in 2000, thus ensuring two years of near solitude whilst all my mates were out enjoying themselves and their disposable incomes. I am therefore an idiot. But the MBA did two things for me. Showed me that thinking you are somehow morally superior because you read, and are intellectually outward looking is quite nauseatingly snobbish, and secondly, it did a good job of making me love Economics. Well, John Glenn and Sean Rickard did. Sean's raised eyebrows whenever I shot my hand up to argue some spurious point makes me smile now. I had more sympathy with John's position, and he introduced me to Paul Krugman's great written economics explanations, and I spent two years absorbing Lexus Nexus and country profiles doing analysis of the effects of globalisation, the IMF and the Washington consensus, with Joseph Stiglitz as my guiding hero (and then he won the Nobel Prize. Dude!). I vowed I would continue further higher education. Ahem.
Part way through year 2 I had a miscarriage, which was delightful. I did get that obsession with becoming pregnant again, but only after I'd spent 6 months depressed and drinking nearly every night.
...and then I passed, and became pregnant almost immediately! Which was er, great for my social life. And Nora grew inside me and then everything changed forever.
Nora's birth is one of the most traumatising thing that I've ever been through, which is weird for her, I'm sure. It wasn't her fault though. It was my body's inability to expand enough for her to come out, which would have been fine if it had been diagnosed. But it wasn't. So it was a struggle. Those around at the time will remember, so I won't go through it all blow by blow. Nora became sick with jaundice partly as a result of her delivery, and also because we weren't visited by a midwife to check on her for several days because of NHS cockups. I didn't sleep for 8 days, for various reasons, and by the time we were re-admitted I was uncontrollably crying without provocation through total exhaustion. Poor Nor. She had a crap time for the first week, frankly. But then - everything was lovely! And amazing!
What they don't tell you about having children is the stuff that just sounds like so much blah blah blah... Oh hang on, they do tell it to you, it's just that you don't really listen, until it happens. It entirely changes the focus of your thinking; it is very rare that you will think entirely selfishly only of yourself from thereon in; the unadulterated love of small children, and the opportunity for a pure, honest tactile relationship with this incredible, growing, learning ball of possibilities fills your life with utter joy. If you think of shopping, you almost automatically think of it because you want to get them a special book or interesting thing. If you think of social activities, you think about days out with them.
Have I taken my eye off the ball in my career? Yes. Am I entirely satisfied with my job? No. Do I go home and all of that dissatisfaction is obliterated from my brain within 2 seconds of getting in the house? Why yes, I do believe that is the correct answer. It's a two edged sword - one edge planted with gorgeous flowers that bloom in front of your eyes hypnotising you with their incredible colour and scent... the other edge slowly but surely attempting to cut your legs off while you don't notice. Having Nora and James has been an amazing adventure, and I wouldn't change a moment of it (well, apart from that first week in December 2003). I'm not going to feel embittered about nights out I could have been having or the conferences I could be going to, aargh! Well, I do feel a bit sad about that (the conferences bit at least), but I get the feeling it has been a temporary retirement. Things are moving now the kids are older. In 2003, I went to what was EtCon then for the first time. Met a whole bunch of people and talked (talking! To smart people about smart ideas! Christ I miss that, I can tell you) - and held within me my seven week old Nora bean. So I didn't go to the next one :)
2004 was absorbed by maternity leave and going back to work I felt disjointed and weird. A terrible boss at work didn't help. Barely a thing remains in my readily accessible memory other than while I was away for six months, work had totally squandered the opportunity it had with a piece of software I ran (that had 5 million members), because no one there really 'got' the whole social thing. Which was a bit soul destroying, but not unusual for our industry. So I won't waste my oxygen explaining all the could-have-beens.
More stress and frustration at work during 2005. I wasn't allowed to use the term "Social networking" because it would freak people out, it was too geeky. I think that's all you really need to know about that era. James appeared inside me about six months earlier than I'd planned, which was entertaining, and I ended up working until 1 in the morning up to the wire when I was about to leave work for the birth, given that we were about to be transformed in to a different company (again). Then Nora came in to hospital saying "Where baby brother?" so loud I could hear her from down the corridor. James had come out BIG, and with a shock of black hair. In a well managed, and understood way - same medical problems, handled with care.
This is what having kids is like. now both of them are out in the world, I want to stop talking about myself and talk about how they grew up. Perhaps I'll do a second post about them. Meanwhile, here we are in 2006 and I'm taking another six months off work, after which as usual I come back feeling disoriented and really wanting to be back at home with my babies. this time around, James woke about two or three times a night, meaning for the first six months back at work, I came in having had three or four hours of sleep a night most nights. Incredible I even made it in to work.
That Christmas, as I was walking away from Paul A Young's Chocolates in Islington, my mobile rang and my Dad was calling. He said he had some news. He said he had cancer, but the specialist had said to him "But it won't kill you". I walked up and down the pavement, my face in a scrunch, listening to him trying to be breezy. He said his appetite had gone, and they weren't sure whether it was related. I wanted to know what I should do - should I go over and see him now? No, no everything's fine...
My Mum said, that eventually, the good memories begin to crowd out the horrible memories from the end of things. I think that it's possible that those lose the vivid importance they do have, close to the event, but they still haven't fled as much as I would like. John died March 9th 2007. Much of the time he was dying, I was plagued by a wracking cough and bronchitis which kept me away from him for fear he'd catch an infection. He was having chemotherapy to prolong his life and his immune system was up the creek. My boss needed me to finish documents, and even though I took holiday days off to go see him, she pressured me in to staying at work instead. I will never forgive her for that.
Thinking about him now, what I'd like to do is tell him how much I love him.
2007 was a write off. I remember everything about the kids in clear detail. as if the numbness and misery were banished when they were around. As soon as they weren't, I drank every night, and couldn't sleep. I'm not sure I cried that often, but whereas now, three years later I do often think of John but he's not as ever present, at that point John crowded every thought from my head. I ballooned in weight, although I didn't notice. I couldn't concentrate on anything. None of this is particularly surprising. What was more surprising to me looking back was how my self confidence fell through the floor. I wonder whether having your parents there as emotional crutches is more important than you think, even as an adult. John was enormously important to me, as someone I wanted to be proud of the things I did. Then he wasn't there.
Although I'm definitely still in recovery, am currently on a (lower!) level of anti-depressants (which has its plus and minus points), I'm still struggling, realistically. The only time I don't struggle at all is when I'm with the kids. James has been flowering in the last few months. His level of comprehension and questioning is superb to see - one question he often asks is "Is Grandad John dead?". He doesn't remember him, unsurprisingly. We make sure that Nora does, by reminding her of incidents, things done together and the way his beard felt when he gave her a kiss. The struggling bit has had a big effect at work and that worries the hell out of me.
The years since then have been a little blurred, because of John's death, but also because they have been very children focused. nothing's really changed at work that much, I don't go out - we saw David Tennant playing Hamlet (yay!) but yes, it has been spent hibernating.
This Christmas, Shelagh, John's wife, came over to wake up on Christmas morning and join in the joy of the kids holding up things from their stockings with enormous smiles and talk of Father Christmas filling the air. Nanny and Grandad came and we shared a wonderful breakfast together of wild smoked salmon, scrambled eggs on sourdough toast. The children were entranced all day, and Shelagh went off to visit my brother and Kirsty. We talked later and they were grinningly pissed.
It was the best Christmas in years.