Prospect and Retrospect 16/17

They say the older you get, the faster time passes, and by the time you’re eighty you’re having breakfast every five minutes. (Any octogenarians out there like to confirm or deny?) It appears to me that by the time you’re thirty, you’re looking at the year in review every few months.

Antigoneleigh
It’s behind me, isn’t it?

A year ago I had 2015 laid out on a page, and rather depressing viewing it was. I expected the same from 2016, given how disrupted it felt, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought. Quite.

A quick note on how the analysis works: each day gets one cell in the spreadsheet, which mentions one thing I did. So if it says ‘blog’ it means I worked on my blog, but not my WIP, though I may have done other things as well. It’s a subtle hierarchy of achievement.

Of the 366 days with which we were blessed in 2016, I actually spent 112 days working on the WIP rewrite in some way, shape or form. A lot of it felt guiltily like time-wasting when I looked back from a short distance, but months later, I can see that that was the time that the story most changed form, from the first draft to the second.

Acraea zetes caterpillar to pupae to butterfly metamorphosis by Nick Hobgood
On at least 62 days I worked on blog posts. Writing a puppet play was my sole occupation for one day; another was devoted to writing a newsletter for family and friends, and two days I worked solely on a sermon (for this coming Sunday). There was also one day I focussed on a book about writing (The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke), which I shall charitably include in the writing tally. Ditto the three days I pondered whether to do a sort-of NaNoWriMo, decided I would, and prepared accordingly.

By my count, that’s 182 days spent on writing in one way or another – almost exactly half the year. (Though, rather depressingly, 17 fewer than last year.) So where did the other half of the year go?

Leaving aside the 52 Sundays and concentrating on the remaining 132 days, it is easy to see where a lot of them went. The big distraction of the year was housing: trying to buy a house, buying a house, working on the house (toxic linoleum, anyone?) and finally moving house, unpacking and settling in.

I'll be back..........!
There are 38 cells marked ‘house’ in the spreadsheet, and 22 marked house which was my attempt to make up for the big empty space around moving day when I didn’t make any notes at all. I may have done some writing work, I may have done nothing but lie on the couch and read Agatha Christie, we’ll never know. The presumption is that I was working on making the house habitable, since when we arrived you couldn’t see from one end of the living room to the other, let alone walk across it, and it is now entirely habitable.

Plus one ‘moving day’ makes 61 days spent on house-related things. But wait – there’s more! There were also ten days of Grand Purge in February, four days marked ‘housework’ and one marked ‘garden’ – the day we pruned the apple-tree. That makes a total of 76, leaving a mere 56 to be accounted for. (Mere! That’s over nine working weeks we’re talking about there…)

I had ten health days; all, with the exception of a visit to the dentist, between the 15th and the 21st of their respective months. Obviously that is the week to get sick (or go for eye check-ups). I also took three days in bed (half last year’s total) and a rest day. 14 in this section, leaving 42.

Frederico Maldarelli Schlafende
Seven days were marked ‘guests’; three were used for planning of various sorts; travelling or being away occupied eight (a third of last year’s tally). Eighteen, leaving twenty-four.

The largest section of the remainder, is, I’m afraid, blank – eight days on which I failed to record what I did, and therefore can’t count for either woe or weal. Five days were devoted to handwork, two to reproofing an oilskin coat. Fifteen, leaving nine.

Nine one-offs.

Five were in January: the day when we pray through the year ahead; the day we charge through the ensuing one-off to do list; the day I got my fountain pens cleaned and refilled with the appropriate inks for the coming work; the day I analyzed 2015; and the day I made plum sauce (ripe fruit waits for no man).

The remaining four were: a day when I got a lot of exercise but didn’t have energy for anything else after that (exercise is energizing, but only in the right proportions); the day I disassembled and cleaned my typewriter; Good Friday, and our fifth wedding anniversary.

It's all about love
Fewer writing days, yes, but also fewer sick/rest days, fewer travel days, and fewer holidays. Also – and I feel this is important – fewer blank days, even if I count the house days as blank.

Shows improvement, in fact, but Could Do Better – particularly if we don’t have to move house again this year (ohdearGodpleaseno). And now that I’ve done my PseuDoNaNo, I know what I am capable of, although I don’t think I could keep that pace up year-round. Not without a permanent cook-general.

If you recall, 2015 was my Year of Finishing Things, during which I not only finished things, but grew to regard finishing things as a natural outcome of starting them. 2016 was my Year of Trust, and I think I have made progress in that respect. No doubt I still have further to go, but I find I am less anxious than I used to be, which is a welcome change.

2017 is my Year of Persistence. I know what I need to do. I just need to keep doing it. Some unknown person once said (or wrote), “Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s little nut that held its ground.”

acorn-990846_640
I am a little nut (ask my husband if you don’t believe me), and this year, I’m going to hold my ground, put down roots, and – hopefully! – thrive.

Swings and Roundabouts

No, this is not a post about playgrounds, although while I was on holiday I did pay a brief visit to the largest playground in the Southern Hemisphere. (Well worth a visit. I especially enjoyed the Archimedes’ Screws, reminding me as they did of piston-filling fountain pens.)

Rather, I thought I would start my fourth blogging year (can you believe it?) with some exciting news on the Simplicity Front. Remember the epic quilt of craziness I slogged away at in my Year of Finishing Things? I finished it.

Newport Hill Climb finish line

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am now an official card-carrying member of that mysterious cadre, People Who Finish Things. (All right, there isn’t a card. But there should be. Maybe I’ll make one. I’ll even finish it…)

Not only did I finish the Giant Quilt of Craziness, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I also delivered it to the intended recipient and it is no longer in my house. I do still have the scraps, but I am intending to make a hussif with them as a permanent reminder to myself never to begin such an enormous and ambitious project again.

So far so good. The house is less one large sewing project, which is a good step in the direction of simplicity. But… what you lose on the swings you make up on the roundabouts.

On the Merry-go-round at Deepwater Races - Deepwater, NSW, c. 1910 G Robertson-Cuninghame from The State Library of New South Wales

There’s the Box. The ancestral box which came down to me from my grandmother via my mother (the latter, I am happy to say, is not deceased, but rather, well ahead of the pack when it comes to pruning).

The box started out as three bags full (which should give you some idea of what was in it, if this didn’t). Actually, four bags full – there was a small one hiding behind one of the big ones. What it worked out to, once I had cunningly smuggled it home in my luggage (and the Caped Gooseberry’s luggage, obviously) was a 60L clear plastic storage container full to lid-not-fitting with yarn. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.” Instant stash (although not SABLE, unless I pop my clogs well before my odometer ticks over to three-score and ten).

Not all of it is actually wool: some of it is 100% acrylic (I am shocked, Gran, shocked) and some of it was made up of worn out slippers and odd sleeves, button bands etc. Some of it was a Gordian Knot of odds and ends partially wound into little balls and partially wound into each other. This was gradually unwound over the course of three days with the help of The Occasional Visitor. (Alexander may have had a swift solution to his knotty problem, but I’d like to see him try to knit with it afterward.)

Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot.

Deceased slippers and assorted body-parts aside, I am welcoming this boxful into my home. Why? Because the point of simplicity isn’t to have as little as possible of anything. The point of simplicity is to have just enough of the right things – that’s lagom – and for me the right things include knitting wool. It makes me happy, and I make it into useful things for keeping people warm and well-dressed.

But fear not! I have by no means given up on pruning, or on Finishing Things (details to follow). In the meantime, I have large quantities of mystery yarn to test for fibre content. By which I mean setting bits of it on fire. So much happiness, from just one box…