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But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
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   Friday, August 17, 2001
More cheerful today and hopeful that the end of the world wonít happen just yet. Iíve done the bulk of the work, thereís just a couple of things I donít understand, so I suppose thereís a hectic weekend ahead, but Iím now in a suitable frame of mind for the exam. If I get through, great, if not, Iíve done my best and itís just not meant to be. Iíve got my contingency plans in place.


   Thursday, August 16, 2001
This was originally a longer and more bitter post, but it can be condensed into two pieces of advice for people who are considering having children at some stage in the future:

1) Set an alarm clock to go at intermittent intervals, between 2 and 5 hours apart, for the next 2 months, just to remind prospective parents that they will never have a full nightís sleep again, ever. If the kid is too young to speak, it will need feeding or changing; if it can talk, it will need attention and/or support; if itís a teenager, it will be having too good a time to think about you, alone, sleepless and worrying about rape, mugging or murder.
2) Buy and read The Prince and The Art of War. If youíre lucky enough not to need them in negotiations with the kids, theyíll be needed as ammunition to help you cope with other parents, schools, relatives (especially in-laws), siblings and, occasionally, to remind you that you, too, are entitled to a bit of peace and quiet.

And never, ever, complain that this wasnít what you signed up for! You can (and will) think it frequently, but you could also think that life might be quiet, boring and predictable. How lucky you are to have kids to prevent you from such a fate!

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   Monday, August 13, 2001
In an attempt to make the best of things, thinks how jolly it is, and probably how healthy, to go walking in the rain. Actually, at 05.45, it doesnít really matter, and no one expects any better of Scottish weather in August. And having a solitary breakfast at my desk is so much better than having a solitary breakfast at home. Thinks of the breakfasts of childhood: always something cooked. I suppose, logically, that my mother had a routine of baked beans with toast one day, bacon with mashed potato the next, poached eggs once a fortnight (Iím quivering at the thought of a soft poached egg, not having had one for years), always porridge (for my father), normally cornflakes (for the effete children). And weíd sit at table! With a tablecloth! This is not something which is in my lifestyle.

But this is the last day when I can get up to please myself (or to build up extra flexitime), as school starts tomorrow. Tomorrow, the ongoing adolescent-parent negotiations will start again, as adolescent has to be coaxed out of bed, drip fed breakfast (probably french bread and milk, though he normally claims not to be hungry, unless, of course, Iím willing to delay the getting to school process to let him buy a hot bacon roll). Then we will need to set out to school, which is in completely the opposite direction from work, and hope that he stays there. After delivery, I shall rush to work, knowing that with each minute Iím losing time which will have to be made up at the end of the day or, worse, in my precious Friday afternoon off, arriving stressed and tired, worried that he wonít stay at school, hostage to these feelings, but trying to tamp them down and get some actual work done. Itís not only him who looks forward to school holidays!

Then at the end of the day, thereís the parental routine of what he did at school? Nothing. Does he have any homework? No. Can he stay over at a friendís house? Not on a school night. Retreat to his room, sulk, in an attempt to get me to change my mind. Me, thinking that parents must be consistent, retreat to mine and try to study. He will probably say that he wants to be part of a normal family. Me, torn between pity and love, forbear to comment that nothing is actually normal and that statistically speaking Ö After an hour and twenty two minutes, thirty five seconds of the silent treatment, his better nature may come to the fore, he may apologise, give me a brief cuddle. Ifí Iím lucky, heíll want to talk, heíll normally choose the time when Iím in the middle of a problem or wanting to watch tv or reading, I keep having to remember that Iím the adult, the one whoís supposed to be mature; heís not being deliberately awful, well not 100% of the time, and that, somehow, sometime, heíll look back, just as I did, and want to apologise.

Supper tonight should be penne and tomato sauce. I may buy chicken. Thereís a Thai chicken curry ready meal, sole survivor of a bunch I picked out at the weekend in case the visitor was hungry. . If the weather continues like this, Iíll start making soup again. Thereís something intensely comforting about being able to go home and find food waiting which can just be heated in the microwave. (Oven cooking is the most tremendous treat, which I do about once every two or three months). The kitchen is almost henna-free and Iíve scrubbed the bathroom carpet, which had a little trail of henna stains (looking a little like a line of machine gun fire). Iíve banished the henna block from the kitchen as I really donít like the smell and, miraculously, adolescent #female has cleaned the measuring jug and it looks almost as if it never knew that henna exists (thereís still a residual greasiness).

Soup - yes, it tends to be onion based, with lentils and whatever vegetables I fancy getting, using a core combination of potatoes, carrots, swede, plus a few herbs - parsley for everyday use, coriander if Iím feeling fancy, dill or basil if I feel like a change. A good shot of tabasco, to keep the blood circulating. If Iím feeling lazy, I cook it in the microwave, if Iím more organised, it gets left on the stove to simmer slowly for a few hours. Sometimes I have venison, lamb, ham, chicken. Venison soup is absolutely delicious. I note that Iíve got loads of chickpeas, so may use some for hummous, some for soup and, of course, I still have pearl barley. You canít put more than a couple of fingerfuls into soup, or it drowns the texture, so one packet lasts for a couple of years. But using it is a link with my mother, so it stays in the storecupboard.

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   Sunday, August 12, 2001
The whole place goes crazy in August, to say it comes alive is wrong, it's hotching with people all wanting something different from their mundane lives.This can be a bit irritating for people who have to live here all the time, amazingly, fireworks at midnight every night for a month or so does tend to get a bit boring and yeah, sometimes people do actually want to get from one side of the town to the other in a hurry without having to have the bus diverted round the back of obscure little side streets. It is exciting, liberating to dress as you please (mind, I do that anyway) and be part of the 24 hour city. There's two schools of thought about the flyers. Do you take every flyer offered, and give the performers hope that someone will actually attend their show, even if you drop the flyer into a bin later? Or do you say look buster, I've got a million better things to do than attend your pathetic amateur set of sketches, so don't waste your flyers on me. (Apart from saying that takes about 30 seconds which could be better spent). I find it's better just to take the flyer and, if I'm in a good mood, say how interesting it sounds (interesting - such a neutral word). I think that hope is one of the biggest motivators there can be, you need hope to keep going, and, like giving blood, it's not so very hard to do.

But, as usual, I won't be seeing much. It's not fair right now, either to me or my wallet, to watch a show with half an eye, while everything else is humming frantically about financial analysis. I feel somewhat indignant about this, as I don't normally fuss about exams, but there's a lot riding on this, like whether I continue being a student at all. Dropping out is not something my puritanic work ethic finds appealling, besides, I rather like getting student discounts! . It's the feeling that if I start something, I should finish it, even if it's more difficult than anticipated. The fact that there's factors I didn't take into account just means that I did an incomplete risk analysis and that's hard enough to accept in any case! Normally, I (like to think I) consider things very carefully and minimise all areas of vulnerability. I found this out very early in life when someone tried to blackmail me. Perhaps it wasn't a serious attempt - a boyfriend of the time trying to hang on to a relationship he perceived was slipping away from him. The reaction he got was probably not what he wanted. The relationship was terminated forthwith, I told everyone concerned that I wasn't a saint (that was very hurtful, because people like to keep their illusions) and all subsequent relationships were affected by this.

Someone asked me a while ago what I look for with online relationships. I think my reaction was a shock - it certainly was to me. I need a good sense of humour, because you've got to laugh sometimes if the alternative is crying or withdrawing - I know my sense of humour is, well, I describe it as dark green. It's not black, but can be very cruel. I don't deliberately (usually) try to hurt people, but it can happen by accident. More than that, though, I need good conversation and that (and I know I sound intellectually snobbish when I say this) normally means a *very* good standard of education. I don't want to play chess every five minutes, but I want the chance to chat about anything - Victorian railways, alternate history, the spikes of cacti, fossils - I need to talk with someone with an intense interest in the world. Physical appearance, online, is a secondary consideration, though I do sometimes look at people in the street and shudder, rather, wondering if I'm having online relationships with people who look like that. On the other hand, I don't have perfect legs, I'm shorter than I'd really like to be (though high heels really help there), if life was ideal, I'd be a redhead (thank you, God, for henna). I've got a long scar down one arm - the result of a serious accident. The surgeons were very careful to position it so that it would be covered by the fat of middle age (!!!! well, that's what they meant, I'm sure they were more tactful in what they said) and for years I avoided wearing sleeveless dresses. It was quite refreshing to realise that I put one on yesterday, without even thinking of the scar, and when I did realise, half way through the evening, and looked down, I couldn't see it. (Looking down now, in the bright light of day, yes, it's visible, but so what - I'm not going to let a minor physical disfigurement dictate what I'm going to wear).

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