I'm currently writing this from underneath my duvet, my trusty red scarf around my neck and a Small Wee Mabel stretched out over my toes. Why this level of decadent comfort and unusual cat closeness? The boiler has packed up.
I went out for a walk with a friend, leaving N and the boilerman chatting happily about annual service, bleeding radiators, blah blah temperature controls blah, and returned to find the house cold and N chatting less happily on the phone about circuit boards, replacement parts blah blah, soon as you can blah.
"Soon as you can" turns out to mean £350 quid for a replacement circuit board and we'll see the man in 2 days time to fit it. Marvellous.
Although it's annoying to be wearing scarves and 4 layers indoors, it's not really an inconvenience. We have hot water still, thanks to the immersion heater. The oven still works so a decent bout of stew making means the downstairs is warm in the evening. We have 2 portable electric heaters that warm our offices during the day and there's a shop down the road selling hot water bottles if I get really desperate.
I once sat a mock exam in an unheated school gym in the middle of winter during a particularly vicious cold snap. My friend and I took in 2 hot water bottles each: 1 for our feets and 1 for our middles. I am not at that stage yet.
That old Christmas thing is looming ever closer into view from the Titanic that is life right now. In what is surely the closest sign that we are engaged and Officially Committed, N has asked me to buy him clothes.
Oh the pressure!
Is the wool of that jumper too itchy? Will I upset him if I buy a shirt a size up to cover the wee paunch of lockdown belly he's proudly sporting? Is that colour going to make him look jaundiced or in fine fettle? Are the necklines on those t-shirts going to fit just right or make him feel like he's being strangled? Am I buying things that would suit a middle aged man and not the young thing he still envisages (until he has to dig on the plot when age suddenly bites)?
Obviously, I'm aware of the honour presented to me like it was my own Christmas gift ("buy me clothes - I haven't had anything new for years and you like buying clothes"), but still. Pressure. And before you ask, no. He does not get to buy me clothes.
I've been very much enjoying finding new routes around my city. On Sunday, I needed the library but instead of taking my usual main route, I turned off down what I'm now renaming Urine Alley (okay, that bit was not enjoyable) and walked some back streets, enjoying the feeling of being sort of not sure where I was but also vaguely sure I was going in the right direction. And if I got completely off track, I could Google Map my way out of trouble.
Found: little micro-breweries I didn't know were there, curious houses with odd angles to them, ghost signs for long gone businesses, intriguing front gardens with yellow painted doors, wrought iron lampposts that brought Narnia to mind and the delicate tracery of ivy roots on brickwork. Someone had piled books on their garden wall and a sign in wonky black pen told us to "help yourself!". By another front gate, there was a grate of mouldering apples with a similar sign but in crayon.
I took one to fortify myself for the return journey. It was a cooker, not an eater.
This month I have read Wintering by Katherine May - an exploration of our physical and emotional reactions to times of stress and difficulty. How our natural reaction is to hunker down, retreat, hibernate, winter. I liked very much the concept and the book is gently written, plus it's always nice when a book validates how you are feeling/behaving.
On the topic of books, I'm very much enjoying a foray into essays and thinking by women. Next up is Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust, an exploration of walking. Which may sound silly but I love an aimless amble (as you've just read) and there can be something very profound and powerful about the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other... "Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned..."
The clock on the nearby church has just chimed to remind me it's time to get on with some real work. Spoilsport. I'm enjoying writing more and more these days, excited for the minutes I can snatch away from proper, paying work and spend them chuntering on about nonsense. I'm not sure there's a career in that though.
Certainly not one that pays for unexpected boiler bills.