Bits and Pieces

July 15, 2012 at 10:17 am (Uncategorized)

My second free morning, and another perfect day has dawned hot and bright blue in Mitzela. I am sitting in the other beachside taverna this time, in a lovely shaded spot under one of the spare few trees in this part of the world that is not a scrubby, stumpy olive tree. I’ve been for a half run, half walk up the road to a hilltop overlooking this bay and the next; as a route it was hot, hilly and hard. I think I’ll ditch the dirt goat track to the top next time and just stick to the road; although the views were spectacular at the top, I could’ve done without the burrs and ants clutching at and climbing up my ankles. Nice to have a run, though – the first since an equally jerky slob trot by the Seine in Paris. I don’t like running in fits and bursts, but I took it fairly easy this morning and I’ll do better next time.

Since my swim I’ve been reading David Baddiel’s The Death of Eli Gold. I saw him speak at a 5×15 event in London, and I am really thoroughly enjoying it. It’s doing everything a novel should do, producing in me such a range of emotional and intellectual responses that it’s taking quite a bit of discipline to pause now so that I may make use of this time to write something myself. Even in the past hour, Baddiel’s novel has made me a) laugh out loud b) want to cry and 3) made me look up and blink hard at the sea so as to get a nightmare vision dislodged from my mind. It has also, since I started reading it in the fits and starts that are my lot now (given the Touring Toddler’s unspeakably fatiguing style of perpetual motion), made me question repeatedly whether I’ve got what it takes for fiction writing. I just don’t know if I am capable, technically or creatively, of doing anything like what Baddiel has done here. And this isn’t a woe-is-me thing at all, I feel pretty detached about assessing my own potential at this point, because it’s really only my potential I so badly want to reach. I just want to have a clearer sense of what that is, so that I may direct my (currently emaciated) energies more effectively. If I conclude I am no fiction writer, for instance, well, that frees me up for other writing. I just find I’ve lost the appetite for agonising over this question – it impedes my productivity, which is not only unhelpful but something in present circumstances I can ill afford.

So. More mulling, and I probably need to look at the thing I started back in Sydney, but for now I am just going to enjoy this return to posting.

Before I continue the travel tales, I must interrupt this post with two exciting announcements: the first is that Darkling Jenny‘s novel Brumby’s Run is out and those horses are off and racing! I can’t believe I am missing such a momentous time, and I am so upset to have missed the launch, but Jenny’s rural romance has already hit Penguin’s Top 10 list! Go, Jenny, go! We Darklings are shaking our feathers with pride and pleasure. So proud of our girl.

There’s also great book news for my dear blogging friend Charlotte, whom all of you here know from her terrific blog, Charlotte’s Web. Her manuscript found representation last year, and ‘Balthazar’s Gift’ has recently been picked up for publication in Germany, Charlotte’s adopted home. It’s been wonderful following Charlotte’s journey so far, and I could not be more thrilled to see her labours so justly rewarded. I’ll keep you abreast of future developments as my list of published author friends happily swells!

Still no sign of Llew and the Touring Toddler… I’ve moved on to an ice coffee in order to keep the corner couch we’ve taken a liking to; easily the best seat in the house, if you ask me: fully shaded, slightly raised to catch the sea breeze, overlooking the beach and big enough to stretch out. But I’ve got it to myself and have caught larger groups eyeing me a little resentfully. Still, the etiquette seems to be first in, best dressed, with people draping towels etc over chairs before disappearing for a swim, thus claiming their seat of choice for what often appears to be the entire day. And as long as you keep ordering refreshments, that’s apparently fine. So… assuming Llew and the Touring Toddler make an appearance soon, we’re good. I am mildly surprised not to have seen them yet as it’s nearly midday and the TT has been waking up saying, “Beach, beach, beach,” so I am not clear on how Llew’s managed to stall him so long… still, I have to retrain my brain not to keep anxiously timekeeping and to instead just EMBRACE THE FUCKING REPRIEVE.

The Touring Toddler really has us on the run at the moment. I’m not a natural co-sleeper and he has had his own bed from the very beginning, but now he has learned how to liberate himself from the portacot, he has decided to spurn it in favour of climbing in with us on a nightly basis. That’s the first problem, not easily addressed while this trip has forced us to share a room with him. The budget (already a risible concept in our slippery hands) really does not extend to 2-bedroom apartments. So in he climbs, and no amount of depositing him back into his own bed works. Believe me, we’ve tried. Hours go by. Tempers fray. Tears are shed. But even when we eventually admit defeat, it’s not as though he’s satisfied once he’s in bed with us. No, that’s just when the crawling, rolling, wriggling, slapping, pinching and mountaineering begins.

I’ll be straight with you: I can’t handle it. I really can’t. I get next to no sleep and am frequently the focus of a great deal of physical assault. He’s only 19 months old, but he is more than capable of inflicting actual pain. And he never stops moving – that’s the real killer. That’s the thing that makes sleep impossible. So I end up dangling off the side of the bed, pushed and shoved to the outer limits, gripping the sheet for dear life, trying to retain enough purchase on the mattress so that I don’t simply drop to the floor. I suspect I’d sleep better if I did, curled on the bare stone floor like an ageing dog. In London I developed a hacking night cough that just wouldn’t quit, keeping not only myself but Llew and the Touring Toddler awake too, so I took to sleeping on the couch, two floors below our attic room. I slept better than I had since leaving Sydney, when we last had a bedroom separate from our son’s. Llew rightly accused me of liking it on the couch better than upstairs, and what could I say? It was obviously true, because I was finally getting some sleep, and without sleep I am unhappy and deranged.

So last night, when Llew suggested I take to the couch, I did, and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we all had a decent night’s sleep because of it. Without the second adult crowding the bed, Llew and the TT had ample room to accommodate all the latter’s nocturnal roaming, and I simply flaked, sleeping the dreamless sleep of raw exhaustion. As a result I feel more rested and therefore more buoyant than I have in weeks. But it isn’t good for my relationship to have one of us sleeping with the TT and the other on the couch. It just ain’t right; our closeness suffers. And I think intimacy between couples takes such a hit anyway once the couple becomes three that we at least can ill afford the additional remove. I’d welcome any advice on this, and plan to email my mothers’ group back in Sydney to ask how they’re coping with the little ones learning to escape their cots. It must be happening there too, although the TT’s proper cot is much higher off the ground than the portable variety. Still, out of his cot or not, it can’t go on. I know several of the mothers in my group are willing, happy co-sleepers, and it apparently works for many families, but it is not for this little duck, no sir.

What very much IS my scene is this climate. Hot and sunny with a light breeze, skies entirely untroubled by cloud, a flat expanse of crystal clear water at the ideal temperature (always refreshing, never bracing) and really, other than for modesty’s sake, no need of clothing at all. I have barely worn anything but swimmers since we arrived. I have a beach kaftan I brought from home that I wear for sun protection to and from the beach, and at night after a shower I throw on shorts and a t-shirt, but that’s it. So, so different to the cold and rain that pursued us so ardently across the globe until we hit Opio, in France. The relief of good weather, finally, is beyond my power to describe, but I feel it in every part of me, physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s too hot for Llew, in truth, but I love it. Love it. Daily it’s restoring some essential part of me that had been progressively ground down along the way… I can’t help it, I find ongoing inclemency deeply dispiriting. It genuinely affects me; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? I’m sure I have that, and I am not given to claiming a condition if I can possibly avoid it. But in consistently lousy weather, SAD I do indeed feel.

I think it’s the  root cause of my failure to ever truly adore London. I know it’s a great city, and culturally one of the world’s best, but the sky is too close to the ground and it gets me down. My enjoyment of London is marred by its climate, and it’s really  the  one thing  that prevents  me from ever wanting  to  live there again. In  the  end we  were in London  for 4  weeks, thanks  to the  generosity of  our friend J, with whom we stayed the majority of the time at his fantastic house in Chiswick, which backs onto the immaculate grounds of Chiswick House, as well as thanks to the beautifully  warm welcome at K and S’s amazing place in Islington, at the opposite end of town, but even with catching up with some of my very best friends in the whole entire world, it was enough for me. Llew’s unbothered by it and is flat out  beguiled by London, so would live there again in a heartbeat, but it’s one of those things I honestly can’t compute. I can’t program myself to experience the weather in any other way, try as I might. I can’t figure out – sincerely cannot comprehend – how it is that so many people are so unbothered by all that relentlessly shit weather. Each to their own – the miracle truth of the human experience.

Okay, it’s now after 12.30… I’m almost worried about those two!  And I really have to give up this seat now, it’s obnoxious not to. So I’ll head off, with a detour into the sea on the way home. Mitzela, how I love you!



  1. charlotteotter said,

    Di, thanks for sharing my news – you are lovely! Hope the TT allows you to get some sleep. I am enjoying your mornings off vicariously, so hope you keep blogging them.

    • doctordi said,

      Of course I shared your news – I am SO excited about it, Charlotte!

  2. Pete said,

    Loving the holiday stories – and I can relate re intimacy taking a knock with a baby/toddler. It’s been a huge struggle for us and I can see why many couples stick with one kid. Impressed that TT says “yeah”. Our little one always seems to say “no” even when she means “yes”.

    • doctordi said,

      Pete, I am fucking flat-out amazed so many parents get over the mental and physical block enough to keep reproducing – it is a far bigger feat than I’d ever imagined.

  3. litlove said,

    I used to watch obsessively a tv programme called The House of Tiny Tearaways. Three families with nightmare problems in their young children would come and stay for a week and get help from this amazing psychologist Tania Byron. I remember the sleeping problems very vividly – and they often focused on families who ended up all in the same bed. The answer was to tackle it head on. Show the child their own bed, put the child in the bed, and then wordlessly and firmly return to the child to the bed every time they get out of it. It was called the ‘rapid return’ method, and sure the first night was horrific. Hours and hours of it. BUT then the following night there were hardly any problems at all, and after that things went just fine. Most parents don’t do this because they can’t face that first night (and who can blame them!) but it did cure the problem. I was hopeless without sleep too, so I really empathise.

    But Greece sounds wonderful! And I think it’s a real step forward in your creativity to realise there’ll be loads of things you admire in other writers that you can’t do (and probably turn out not to want to) and then a small amount of things that will be your things, that only you can do. I call that enlightenment!

    • doctordi said,

      I think when we head home or wherever we end up we will definitely have that horror night ahead of us, LL. I am feeling a little resigned while we are forced to share a room with the TTTT (Tiny Tearaway Touring Toddler) to not really being able to fix things to my satisfaction. He needs his own room, which until we began travelling he had always had, and none of these issues had ever troubled us before. But good to know the strategy for when the time comes – many thanks for the tip.

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