wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
My kid sister sets off today on this expedition to Antarctica.

I am so proud I could burst.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
(Responding to a prompt from [personal profile] sfred)

I find myself extremely polaraised by anticipation. When I really want something and am not sure whether I'm going to get it or not I am /terrible/ at waiting to find out. I get anxious and miserable and irrational and can't think about anything else and catastrophise and act in ways that make me less likely to get it. It's no fun at all.

When I'm waiting for something that I know is coming it can go one of two ways. When it's something that not having is making me unhappy I mostly try not to think about it and get on with things, which works okay until it gets close, and then suddenly a switch flicks and the last few days or weeks become unbearable.

When it's something that I'm fine without, but having will be shiny and glorious and extra, then the anticipation becomes a joy in and of itself. I daydream and I plan and I sing to myself inside my head, and I get almost as much pleasure out of this process as I do out of the thing in itself.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
(This wasn't prompted, and I've only got one in the pipeline, so more prompts/questions very much appreciated.)

Sandman - Neil Gaiman
I definitely thought I’d read all of this before, but one of the volumes, “A Game of You” was the book for the Northampton queer book club a couple of months ago, so I decided to re-read the whole series, and realised that actually I’d only gotten part way through it previously. I didn’t go to the book club in the end, but I’m quite glad it prompted me to pick it up again. As I was reading it felt less coherent than I remember it being, but once I actually got to the end a lot of things seemed to fit into place, and I was quite tempted to go straight back to the beginning and reread it to see how different it felt knowing how it all fitted together. I think I found various of the supporting cast rather more interesting than the Endless themselves, but that’s mostly praise of the former than criticism of the latter. There’s an impressive array of emotional notes, and I both laughed aloud and wept quietly as I read. I think the only thing I didn’t like was Desire’s arc, but I’m not sure how it could be changed to something that I was happier with whilst leaving the rest of the stories intact. There were other books and also pianos grabbing my attention, so I didn’t actually re-read it immediately, but I am looking forward to stepping back into it soon.

On Liberty - John Stuart Mill
I started reading this a few times and kept getting distracted and having to restart so I could have the whole thing in my head at once. I was less impressed by it than I expected to be - the core idea (“That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant . . . Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”) is excellent and important, but I felt that his treatment of the difficult cases of where the boundaries of power lie, and what constitutes harm to others (particularly in the case of harm by inaction) was quite weak, and that since it’s generally around those edge cases that people disagree, the value of the book is a bit limited nowadays. Having said that, I imagine that at the time of writing, there was a lot more disagreement with the core idea, and it’s good to see the history of the ideas which we take as read now. Another criticism is that it suffers from wearing the benevolent racism of its time quite unashamedly, so I’d recommend against reading it if that’s something you’d find upsetting.
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[personal profile] nou promted me to write a post about eggs. (More prompts and questions gratefully recieved!) I'm sure there are much cleverer interpretative spins one could put on that prompt, but I'm just going to use it as an excuse to tell you about my favourite cookbook, and one of the best recipes from that book.

[livejournal.com profile] sashagoblin gave me a copy of Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast for Christmas a few years ago, and since then I think I've given half a dozen copies of it to other people. It's already covered in the splashes and stains that you know mean a recipe book is well loved. It's got a really wide variety of types of food, all with really distinctive flavours and textures and styles. I've not made a single thing from it that wasn't delicious.

One of the first recipes I cooked from it, and probably the one I revisit the most often, is the Goan Egg Balchao. I adjust the recipe slightly, using half as many tomatoes again as suggested, whilst keeping other ingredients constant, but follow the method to the letter. I've sometimes been a bit sceptical about eggs in curries, but it works really well here. The eggs are boiled until the yolks are just starting to set, but still have some gooey softness to them, and the sauce is rich and intense, full of sharp and sweet and umami and just enough heat to bite without overwhelming. It's more time-consuming to make than some very simple curries, as the sauce has to be reduced and darkened and then diluted and reduced again in order to really bring out the flavours, but if everything comes together well you can get it to the plate in a little under an hour, and is very much worth the wait.
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(This wasn't prompted, but I could really do with some more prompts/questions if I'm going to be successful in writing more here during Advent! Help me out, or I'll think you don't want to hear from me!)

Last weekend I went to EAGxOxford, the largest Effective Altruism conference in Europe to date. I had a really interesting time, learned a lot, changed my mind about things, and came away with a bunch of concrete things on my to-do list, many of which I’ve already actually done or started doing.

Friday afternoon/evening
I got to Oxford a bit too late to get to the only pre-conference session I was interested in, but early enough to have time to kill, so met up with a couple of old acquaintances for coffee, which was really nice, and I think helped shift me into feeling sociable in a less stressful way than jumping straight into networking with strangers. Speaking of which, the first hour or so of the conference was a drinks reception; that definitely was stressful, but I managed to chat to a few people and have enjoyable conversations, although nothing that really stuck in my mind. Afterwards there was an opening talk, with Toby Ord and Will MacAskill giving a fairly high-level introduction to the ideas and the history of the EA movement. Most of this was fairly familiar to me, but Toby gave a really interesting tour through historical ideas that have contributed to or inspired the development of the movement. After this session people decamped to pubs around Oxford, but I had already reached my limit of unstructured-socialising-with-strangers energy, so I called it a night and went to my B&B.

Saturday morning
The morning could have started better, as the shower in my room wouldn’t run hot, but at least I was very much awake by the time I set off! Whilst looking for somewhere to attend Mass on the Sunday I had realised that I was just down the road from St Stephen’s House, and they have a daily house mass, so I went there on my way in. It was a lovely simple service, and brought back fond memories of worshipping and Pusey House, which has a very similar setting.

The first session of the day was the keynote lecture by Owen Cotton-Barratt. There was a moment of “Oh God, everyone’s so young! I’m so old!” but anyway… The lecture was entitled “Prospecting for Gold - Techniques for finding high-value opportunities”. Much like the introduction the previous evening, quite a lot of the material was stuff that I was already familiar with, but it was presented in an engaging way that I think might be helpful for me to think about when I’m trying to share my enthusiasm for EA more widely. There were a couple of ideas that were either new to me, or an important reminder of something I’ve not paid enough attention to. The main example of the latter being the need to think about marginal as well as absolute priority when selecting causes, and the former being the application of the principle of comparative advantage across people living in different times, rather than different places, or with different personal talents.
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Thanks to [personal profile] emperor for this prompt. (More prompts and questions gratefully received here)

I think there are at least three distinct reasons people get grumpy about secular Christmas during Advent, and teasing them apart is the first step in answering the question. Firstly there’s the sense that there is a right and a wrong way to do Christmas, and people celebrating it now are doing it Wrong™, which is even more irritating in real life than on the internet. Secondly there’s the practical annoyance of being invited to lots of parties with delicious foods and drinks that you’ve given up as part of your Advent fast, and finally there’s the emotional disconnect of being surrounded by people celebrating and feasting at a time when you’re observing a penitential season.

The first is probably the easiest to address, and is pretty much covered by the specific phrase of “secular Christmas”. I think that as long as you acknowledge that secular Christmas is mostly a separate thing, which just happens to share the same name due to historical accident, it becomes relatively easy to put this irritation to bed.

The practical annoyance can be addressed in one of two ways - either by adopting Advent disciplines which don’t tend to have much impact on parties, or by viewing the challenge of forgoing elements of the celebrations as an important part of the fast. I think that avoiding this annoyance is not a good reason to choose other disciplines, and that some prayerful self-examination into ones motivation is a good idea, but I personally find that giving up Facebook is a far more powerful way of turning myself towards God than fasting from particular foods and drinks would be in any case (and also doesn’t have the same risks of poking the sleeping monster.)

The emotional disconnect is probably the least tractable, and I’m not sure that I have any good answers apart from prayer, but I’d be interested to hear suggestions from anyone else who’s wrestled with this.
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As is at least somewhat traditional around these parts, I'm going to be trying to write more dreamjournal over Advent, and although I've got a couple of posts planned already, questions and writing prompts would be very welcome.
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Last night I went for dinner with [personal profile] hjdoom and [livejournal.com profile] vyvyan to Les Olives. I'd suggested it on the basis that it claimed to cater well to vegetarians and coeliacs, and it certainly lived up to that promise.

One thing I was really impressed by was the sheer range of veggie options. They had the usual suspects like asparagus, artichoke hearts, and creamy mushrooms, but also lots of more unusual options like roast beetroot with fig, fennel hearts, black carrots and broccoli in harissa, and roast sweet potato. Sometimes a really short menu can be a good sign, because you can guess that they'll do the few things very well. Fortunately the converse was not true of Les Olives, and every single dish we had was delicious and distinctive. I think for me the fennel was the star of the show - the honey glaze added just the right amount of sweetness to the aromatics of the vegetable, and the dish felt like a warm hug.

I'll definitely be back, and at £80 for three with drinks and tip, it felt like exceptionally good value as well.
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I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but [livejournal.com profile] nwhyte gave me 2005 for the then and now meme that's been doing the rounds.

Age then: 24
Now: 35
Relationship status then: Messy but fun! I'm glad I already had this journal by then, otherwise I'm not sure I'd have been able to remember all the timings! At the start of the year [livejournal.com profile] deliberateblank and I had recently split up, but were still living together, in an amicable but somewhat stressful (probably more so for him than me) way. I was a few months into a relationship with the boy who brought me back to church, which was both a source of great joy and quite difficult, as we struggled to navigate me being resolutely poly and him not being very keen on the idea. We never did quite figure that out, but I think we gave each other a lot of joy as partners for a few years, and as friends since. My marriage to [livejournal.com profile] giolla had been going through a rough patch for most of the previous year, and in January he called things off. In retrospect it was the right decision, as we communicated very poorly and despite being convinced at the time that we were soulmates, I don't think we every really understood the other at all, and our ideals and priorities have diverged further and further as time has passed. At the time though I was devastated, and it was a good many years before I really got over him.

After about six years of agonisingly unhealthy on-again off-again set the whole damn world on fire involvement with [personal profile] hjdoom we were in our weird actually being together in a sane non-adulterous way phase, which I think was just too confusing and ended up fizzling out after a few months. Now he's one of my dearest friends, and the world remains not burned to a crisp, which is probably for the best. There were a few FWB and casual flings as well, including I think towards the end of that year first falling into bed with [livejournal.com profile] oedipamaas49?

Relationship status now: Stable and delightful! I'm engaged to [personal profile] obandsoller, whom I've been with for a little over seven years. I'm ridiculously lucky - he makes me feel excited and surprised and safe and grounded. He understands me and supports me, loves me deeply flawed though I am, and being with him makes me a better person. We're not quite sure when the wedding will be, as we want to get the house buying out of the way before we start wedding planning, and the house buying is currently on hold whilst we wait for the dust to settle on the housing market in the wake of the EU referendum result. Also if I'm honest, there's a part of me still hoping that if we wait long enough the CoE will get its act together and we'll be able to have a sacramental marriage. I've been delightfully entangled in casual long-distance arrangements with Nathan, [livejournal.com profile] leonato, and [livejournal.com profile] oedipamaas49 for three, five, and eleven years respectively, and they are all quite quite lovely. I feel as though I have room on my dance card for another local relationship with someone I see more than a handful of times a year, and I'd quite like it if said someone were a lady, but I'm not actively looking.

Occupation then: At the beginning of the year I was still temping, having not been terribly sure what I wanted to do with my life after cocking up my degree, but in April I started my first permanent job as a PA to the CTO of a telecoms company. Said CTO was a really good boss, and very quickly twigged that I had more capability than the average PA, and started giving me interesting projects to do, with lots of opportunities to learn and grow.

Occupation now: Data Analyst, specialising in the HE sector, self-employed, and currently working on a contract with the University of Northampton. I'm applying for permanent jobs a rung or two up the ladder from where I am now, as it's difficult to make that jump whilst remaining a contractor, although there's something faintly depressing about how much of a pay cut I'm likely to have to take in exchange for more responsibility...

Then I lived in: Cambridge, for the first half of the year in Chesterton with [livejournal.com profile] deliberateblank and then for the second half of the year in the flat variously known as The Suite, Sapphic or Satyr, Sir Strongtrouser's Lesbian Emporium, the Young Ladies' Seminary for the Taking In of Eccentric Waifs and Strays with [personal profile] helenic and [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers. The landlord was kind of obnoxious, but the household was marvellous, and the parties were superb beyond measure.

Now I live in: London, near Finsbury Park, with [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller and [livejournal.com profile] robert_jones. Our parties aren't quite so dramatic, but our drinks collection is much better.

Was I happy then? The heartbreak over the end of my marriage was very distressing, but in every other way my life was the best it had ever been and getting better. By then I had pretty much entirely recovered from the mental health problems of my teens and early twenties, and the core of the person I am today was pretty much formed.

Am I happy now? Yes, almost infeasibly so.

Kids then and now: No, and unlikely in the future.

Let me know if you'd like a year.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
The Cartoon Guide to Economics, Grady Klein and Yoram Bauman (recommended by [livejournal.com profile] philmophlegm)
I really enjoyed this. At first I thought it was a bit too simplistic and that I wasn’t going to learn anything from it, but although most of the microeconomics volume was revision of stuff that I’d done before, it was good for getting back up to speed quickly, and I actually learned quite a lot of new stuff from the macroeconomics volume.

L’Etranger, Albert Camus (recommended by [livejournal.com profile] vyvyan)
I was trying to do all of my fiction reading in French for a while, so this was an obvious choice. I’d read it in translation many years ago, but could only remember the basic outline of the plot. I enjoyed the first half, but found the second half quite challenging and slow, right up until the end, when it hits really hard and everything slots into place.

Watchmen, Alan Moore
I recently treated myself to a Chromebook, mostly so I’d have something to read comics on without filling our flat with any more dead trees. This was a good way to start, but I’d like to come back to it sometime after I’ve read more actual superhero comics, so I have a better sense of what it's a critique of.

Transmetropolitan Volumes 1-3, Warren Ellis (recommended by [personal profile] hjdoom)
Gosh, Spider Jerusalem is compelling, isn't he. My first impression of the series is horrified fascination at how prescient it seems. I'm enjoying it a great deal.

Common Sense, Thomas Payne
I read this entirely because it’s referenced in a song in Hamilton. I didn’t really feel as though I got a lot out of it, but I guess at its time the ideas were more challenging. I might try The Rights of Man at some point and see if I get more from that.

Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
This is the book that inspired the musical that I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of months. It did the thing that good biographies often do of reading like a novel much of the time, and despite being a bit of a brick I ripped through it fairly quickly, and now feel a lot more informed about the American Revolution than I was before. I think I’d quite like to read a Jefferson biography by someone sympathetic though, as I’m not sure how skewed my perspective of him is now.

Now reading: On Liberty, John Stuart Mill; the rest of Transmet; Economics by Begg and Vernesca
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Last time I wrote one of these I observed that I was doing remarkably well despite there being a certain amount of stress in all three of my work, home and romantic life. One way or another that all seems to have resolved itself, which is helpful, as it frees up my processing capacity to deal with the fact that the country has gone insane.

I’ve only got a week left of my current contract, and I’ve wrapped up most of the things I needed to get done and am working on the nice-to-haves. I’m very much looking forward to never having to see my terrible client again. In some ways it seems a bit daft to have stayed on for so long given how grim the environment is, but there’s still a lot I enjoy about the work itself, and I’ve certainly learned a great deal. As per the recent locked posts*, I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking about where I want my career to go in the medium-long term and that’s starting to crystallise in a way that gives me more clarity and options in the shorter term as well. I’ve got an interview tomorrow for another fairly short contract, and applications out for some more senior permanent jobs, and I’m rather looking forward to having a short break in the meantime.

I had fairly major surgery a few weeks ago, and despite that my health is pretty much the best it’s ever been. I’m recovering ridiculously well, and although it’s meant that I’ve had to put the weight-lifting that I’d been getting into on a short hiatus, I’ve been using the time freed up to do more running, and last week managed to knock 39 seconds and 89 seconds off my 5k and 10k personal bests.

We made offers on a few more houses, but none of them worked out, and after the referendum we’re going to leave it a little while to see what happens to house prices, as even though we’re buying a home rather than an investment, it would be a little frustrating to buy now and then realise we could have saved tens of thousands of pounds by waiting.

I feel as though I should say something about the astonishing amount of news at the moment, but I’m not sure I have anything new or insightful to add. I am concerned about Brexit, and the collapse of any viable opposition to the Tories, but in some ways the events in Turkey have made me realise that actually, despite everything, we still have a saner and more democratic government than we have for most of our history and than a great deal of the world does now. I’m more concerned about the risk of President Trump - that does seem like something that could seriously fuck the entire world, but I have no idea what, if anything, I can do about it, so I’m mostly just sticking my head in the sand and thinking about all the malaria nets that I actually can do something about distributing.

*shout if you can’t see them and would like to
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
Would anyone be willing to look over a job application for me? It's quite an ambitious stretch for me, so I could use as much help as I can get.

I'm looking for feedback on whether I've said anything that will be offputting, whether I'm failing to cover anything important from the JD/person spec, editing suggestions so I can bring the word count down a little, and general feedback on tone, style &c. Let me know if you'd be willing to give it a once over and I'll email it.
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I didn't sleep at all well last night. I went to bed at around ten thirty, but after an hour or so wasn't close to nodding off, so got up and read for a while, tried again around one, and then finally successfully at half three or so.

I was feeling oddly thirsty - I think between initially going to bed and finally dropping off I drank about four pints of water, which seems like a lot. I hadn't drunk any alcohol since the sip of God in the morning. I did have a fair amount of diet coke throughout the day, but no more than usual. I know that sometimes thirst manifests as hunger, so I wondered if it was happening the other way around and ate some things, but that didn't seem to help much. I'm still feeling quite thirsty this morning.

I'm going to cut out caffeine for the next few days and see what happens. I imagine it's nothing serious, but if I turn out to have developed diabetes or a problem with my liver or kidneys after a few months of giving up alcohol and acquiring an exercise habit I shall be somewhat put out.
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Better angels of our nature, Steven Pinker
I generally find Pinker frustrating but worthwhile, and this book had less of the frustrating than The Blank Slate, but still irritated me from time to time. I enjoyed the book - it had an awful lot of detailed exploration of ideas, but they were nearly all ideas that I already knew the outline of and agreed with, so a) I learned a limited amount of new stuff, and b) I worry that I was viewing it through a huge lens of confirmation bias. In particular, in the later chapters, there was discussion of psychology experiments, at least some of which I know have since been undermined. There were some insights that were new to me though, in particular about why people think violence is getting worse even though it’s getting better, and a deeper appreciation of how capitalism can act to prevent wars.

Les Jeux de la Faim trilogie - Suzanne Collins
A big part of the takeaway from this was “reading in French is hard and slow, but getting easier and quicker.” Despite the language hurdle I enjoyed it a lot. I loved Battle Royale, so it was quite fun seeing a very similar story through the lens of YA, and Katniss is all kinds of awesome. I also really like that they have a love triangle story where you’re not clearly given one person to root for. I preferred the second and third books, as they got more political and less action based, although I felt that there was an awful lot of plot stuffed into third book, which left it feeling a bit rushed and messy. I’ve watched the first two films (in English), and was relieved to find that if I’d managed to miss big chunks of exposition through language then they were bits that weren’t felt important enough to make it into the films. I’m looking forward to seeing the remaining two, and hoping that splitting the third book will address the rushedness.

Economics in one lesson, Henry Hazlitt
The lesson is that you can’t look at an economic decision only in terms of the short term effects on a particular group of people, you have to look at both short and long term effects on everyone. This is all well and good, and the examples he goes through do clearly highlight some flaws in Keynesian economics which fall into that trap, but there were definitely examples where I felt he was making exactly the same mistake, just ignoring a different subset of actors.

The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger
This was lent to me by my spiritual director, as something that might help me redirect my thoughts onto God when I’m being distracted by whether the other servers and clergy are performing the liturgy correctly. I found the first section quite difficult, as it seemed to have an assumed level of knowledge (of theology, art, history, music) that I was missing, but the later sections were more explicit, and I after reading them the earlier bits felt like they slotted into place a bit better. More importantly, I definitely feel as though some of the ideas and ways of thinking that I encountered in the later chapters will be practically helpful to me in keeping my focus on God, although I’ll see how that works in practice over the coming weeks.
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You know that three-legged stool model where if possible it’s best to only make major changes in one of the legs of home, relationship, and work at any given time? I seem to be doing remarkably well right now, considering that I’m encountering a certain amount of complicatedness in all three.

The relationship stuff is simplest - [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller and I are rock solid, before anyone worries; but for a little while I let myself get my hopes up about a possible something with someone else, and then that didn’t pan out (yes, that’s the sad thing I referred to in the last post). I’m okay, and have bounced back remarkably quickly, but it’s been an undercurrent of uncertainty and anxiety as well as hopefulness for the last couple of months, which takes energy.

House stuff is hard work and infuriating. We found a place, and we knew that our maximum price was higher than the vendor’s minimum, so we were confident that we’d reach an agreement, but then the vendor got cold feet and it fell through. And then we found another place and had an offer accepted and got pretty excited, and now that’s been stalled for weeks and we think isn’t going to happen. And then we found another place and made an offer way above the asking price but were still outbid… And it’s getting a bit tiring, not knowing when it’s all going to be sorted out. I mean, we’ll find somewhere eventually, and once we get to the other side we’ll have a shiny new house and we’ll never have to move again, and it’ll be great. But still, it’s a bit tiring.

A similar undercurrent of uncertainty remains at work. My contract ends in a few weeks, at which point I’m having some surgery and will definitely be taking a bit of time off to recover, but I’m still not sure what I’ll be doing afterwards. My client has indicated that he’d like me to come back in some capacity, but so far has been rather unforthcoming on the details, and although there’s nothing terrible per se about my role at the moment, I’m getting quite bored. There are definitely more interesting projects that I think I could take on, but it remains to be seen whether my vision and my client’s are in concert, and the longer I go without knowing, the less engaged I feel, and the more inclined to just go “Sod it, time to move on”.

But as I indicated at the start, despite having a non-trivial amount of stress and uncertainty to manage, I seem to be bearing up extremely well. I know how lucky I am, being in a position to buy a house in London at all, and having the amount of freedom of choice about where and how I work that I have, and knowing that whatever else happens in my love life I’ve still got this incredible, affirming, enriching partnership with Ramesh. But often knowing that on paper doesn’t stop stressful things from being incredibly draining and clouding out that sense of fortune and gratitude, and that doesn’t seem to be happening this time around.
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Something I need to get better at is remembering how profoundly mood can affect my ability to do practical and useful things, and applying that to my model of other people. The effect of depression and related mood disorders in this arena is something I mostly grok, even though it’s been a long time since I suffered more than the most transient and trifling of depressions, but I’m currently a bit sad about something specific*, and it’s taken me rather by surprise how much of a similar effect it’s had in terms of making it hard to get out of bed and go to work and do my chores and be sociable with delightful people.

For the last few months I’ve been overwhelmingly more functional and productive than I ever had before, and it felt quite robust, so it’s a little surprising to find it this fragile. I mean, it hasn’t crashed down to zero - I managed to lift weights and cook dinner and play bridge yesterday, and although it took me a while to get going this morning, I’ve still made it into work and got a reasonable amount done so far; but it has felt like far more effort than I’d become used to. I expect it’ll sort itself out over the next few days, and if it doesn’t then all the tools I used to become more functional are still there if I need them to get back again, but I think it’s probably good for me to realise that no matter how resilient I feel, there are definitely still squishy bits really quite close to the surface.

I’m also uncomfortably aware that there have been times when thoughts along the lines of “why can’t so-and-so just pull themselves together and get on with things” have been closer to forming than I might like to admit, and although I think I’m usually fairly good at nipping them in the bud with a reminder that different people have different capabilities and needs and responses, perhaps this experience of how quickly capabilities can change even within one person will make them less inclined to reach the point where that nipping is required.

*which is just one of those unfortunate things which is absolutely no-one’s fault, and was handled as decently and kindly as possible by everyone involved, so just in case anyone is thinking of feeling anything resembling guilt about this sadness, don’t you bloody well dare.
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One aspect of Ardgour-en-France that I meant to write about is the food. Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes will probably have picked up that food is something that I’m passionate about. Making, sharing, and appreciating good food is an important part of how I relate to people, so the challenge of planning the catering for a group of that size, and making sure that not only are all the dietary requirements met, but everyone actually enjoys the food is one that I find stimulating.

There’s a slightly selfish aspect to it. When food is part of my identity in this way, and especially when I get positive responses to meals that I’ve cooked or planned, it gives me a layer of armour against the voices of disordered eating. It would be better, I think, if I didn’t need to get my validation externally at all, but somehow getting it from being a provider of nourishment and culinary pleasure is quite hard to make coexist with seeking it from being thin, thinner, thinnest, and I’m fairly certain that it’s healthier for me to crowd out the latter with the former.

I think we ate pretty well throughout - as ever, there were a few hiccoughs with me forgetting to order the odd ingredient, or not being able to find something in a French supermarket that would be straightforward in England, but all the cooks did a sterling job of improvising alternatives. I was particularly pleased with and proud of the Medieval Feast on the Tuesday night. A feast of some description has been a feature of several of these holidays, and this was the third time that [livejournal.com profile] strongtrousers and I have run the show.

And we’re getting good.

I mean, we’ve been decent cooks for years - it was whilst we were living together at the Suite that I first really got into food, and I learned an enormous amount, and through the years I think we’ve both learned back and forth from one another. But even so, in previous years the feasts have been hard work, they’ve been very stressful, and although we’ve made some fabulous food, not everything has worked. By now though, we’ve learned. We’ve learned what works for big groups and what doesn’t, we’ve got the confidence to make things up on the fly when we need to, and we’ve broadened our repertoires considerably. And so this time everything just worked. All day, I could barely believe how smoothly everything was going, and how unstressed we all were, and when we served the food, how well chosen and well received every single dish was. Look at the menu below and tell me you don't wish you'd been there ;)

With thanks to [personal profile] pseudomonas for the calligraphy.


Apr. 18th, 2016 10:59 am
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
I had a fairly quiet weekend, which I think was just what I needed, as the emotional impact of recent spiritual developments are still washing over me in waves, so the luxury of not having to do anything else challenging is very much appreciated.

On Friday evening I went to the theater to see “Such Things as Dreams Are Made On”, an immersive show based on The Tempest. Sadly I didn’t enjoy it much - on the scale of immersive theatre from “basically just a play but with some ambulatory bits” to “completely disconnected scenes on a theme”, it seemed right at the latter end, and I found it disjointed and difficult to make any sense of at all. That said, other people I went with appear to have encountered a lot more plot than I did, and enjoyed it more, so I may just have been unlucky with where I placed myself, which is always a bit of a risk with these things.

On Saturday I woke reasonably early and spent a couple of hours exercising. It felt more difficult than it sometimes does - the weights seemed heavier than I’d have expected, and the running was slow, and I didn’t much enjoy either - but I kept going, which is something. I napped in the afternoon, then slept for ten hours that night, and nine last night, so I think possibly I was fighting off some very mild illness. The vendor of the house we’ve been trying to buy is currently being made of faff, so we have resumed our search in the hope of finding somewhere better, or at least less faffy, and had our first new viewing on Saturday afternoon. It was decent enough, and had we seen it before the current place then I think we’d be happy with it, but it’s not quite as good, so we’re currently weighing that against the likelihood of the original vendor getting his act together, and planning to see a few more places next weekend.

Saturday evening I went on a dinner date with someone from OkCupid - he was pleasant enough, but no real spark, and I don’t think I’ll see him again. If I’m honest, I think I could have predicted that and saved myself the effort. There’s definitely still a part of me that is sufficiently surprised by someone showing interested that I feel an obligation to respond positively to any initiation of contact showing a modicum of thought. Actually though, I might do better to accept that I’m quite picky these days, and I’d make better use of my time if I only met with people I felt actively excited about.

Sunday started with Mass, but although I had anticipated the Annual Parochial Church Meeting to follow, poor Fr Daniel was unwell, so that was postponed to next week, and I got home early. That turned out to be a stroke of luck, as I’d got myself in a muddle about timings for our afternoon plans, and this let us rejuggle them. Ramesh & I had a lovely gentle stroll into Islington, where we had (very good, but I think a little overpriced) gelato at Amorino, then went to see The Man Who Knew Infinity at the cinema. It was a fairly meandering film, in which not a great deal happened, and we already knew how what conflict there was would resolve, but it was a pleasant, comfortable reminiscence. I’m not sure how much interest it would hold for someone without any connections to maths, or Cambridge, or India, but for us it was quite well targeted. I think that A Disappearing Number, which I saw a few years ago with [livejournal.com profile] jamesofengland is a much better piece of art on the same subject, but also a lot more challenging, and there is space in the world for both.

After the film we went to Ottolenghi for a late lunch/early supper of mushroom & leek croquettes and various salads. It was all delicious, but for me the highlight was “Mixed green beans with edamame, soy roasted peanuts, lime leaf and lemongrass“, which I could have eaten all day. In a great feat of self-control I managed to drag myself away without buying a single new cookbook, and we headed home. It was such a lovely afternoon, and I think both of us really enjoyed taking the time to put the busyness of life to one side and just focus on each other for a while.

In the evening I treated myself to turning into a prune in the bath, then did a bit of French practice before praying the examen and then getting an early night. Glancing back over this, it’s possible that I might want to revisit my conception of what a quiet weekend looks like, but on the other hand, whilst it was quite full in some sense, everything that it was filled with was revitalizing and refreshing, and surrounded by getting enough sleep, which can make all the difference.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
You may recall that about a month ago I talked to my spiritual director about being, in some sense, an atheist? He recommended the book God of Surprises as reading material that might help me process the tension of belief and unbelief.

Well, I certainly can't accuse it of false advertising in the title. I, er, appear not to be an atheist any more. Which is unexpected, to say the least. This evening has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, and I'm now feeling a little weepy and a lot overwhelmed. Prayers from those of you that do would be appreciated.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
There was one theme that came up for me in a variety of ways over the course of my recent holiday, of doing something that’s a bit outside my comfort zone, where I’d been putting in quite a lot of effort to practice and felt that I’d made big improvements, only to panic and fail when faced with doing it for real. This happened in three different spheres - speaking French, singing, and playing the piano. Naturally, the moment of failure was fairly unpleasant in each case, but I’m quite pleased with, perhaps even proud of, how I responded afterwards.

Read more... )
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