Dear J…

January 18, 2010

This weekend was your 30th birthday. It was also 7 years ago this weekend that I first met you. You had invited my housemate to you your birthday party and she had dragged me along despite the fact that I hadn’t slept for two nights owing to an essay deadline. I had made the deadline (just) but was unable to sleep, and just had to sit it out until the caffeine of about 40 coffees had begun to leave my system. They say you meet people when you least expect to.

I was intrigued that you were vegan. It was something I had thought about and dismissed as not being feasible. It was the first time but certainly not the last that you showed me that anything is possible with a little bit of determination. I didn’t speak to you much that night but I remember thinking you were unlike anybody I had met before. You were standing by the stove stirring several different curries, calmly stepping over your friends as they wrestled, naked but for a pair of shorts and a smattering of tattoos, on the floor. You were quiet. I would have been tempted to say shy, but that wasn’t quite it. You spoke when you had something to say, something worthwhile to contribute, but your voice was gentle. This was especially noticeable in comparison with some of the others in that room whose conversation always dominated. I felt their voices like bindweed, reaching out and strangling mine. You were also very thin, I noticed. Since adolescence my boyfriends have been skinny. I think it’s less that I find skinny attractive, and more that I tend to find bigger builds too masculine. You had very dark hair  (though not quite as much as you have now) and dark brown eyes, the colour of chocolate, and they melted when you smiled. I learned from other people that you were in your third year of a music degree and that you played in two bands. You didn’t talk much about yourself.

A week or so later my housemates and I had a house party. You and your friends came round. They were teasing you about your obsessive compulsive tendencies. Somebody opened a computer and pointed to various parts inside it. “What does this bit do, J?” they would ask. And you would reply as if reciting a textbook from memory. I couldn’t work out whether you were unaware of the joke or just pretending that you were. Later that evening, I showed you round the house. I showed you my bedroom which I had just finished painting and was very proud of.

Because I was so proud of it and had only just finished it, it was very neat and tidy. I can see how this first impression of me might have been more than a little misleading. I had furnished it with old fashioned furniture from the local antique/junk shop, and I had a big old armchair in one corner where I was writing a children’s story about mice. You asked about the room and the writing. We sat and talked and I found that I liked talking to you. You were interesting and interested. There was no trace of ego but you were firm and confident in your beliefs. Occasionally we sat in silence, thinking about something one of us had said. Each silence that settled between us made the loose thread beginning to tie us together grow tighter. It was in one of these silences that one of the others came to fetch us back downstairs. You and the boys left shortly afterwards. I stood in the hall and watched you go. I remember thinking that if you looked back as you left, I would know then that this was a beginning. And standing there, framed by the doorway and the winter night, you did.

We’ve had a lovely weekend. On Friday night we went out for drinks with friends and then on Saturday we braved the rain and indulged your love of the city by visiting the Tower of London. Afterwards we went to the Rootmaster bus just off Brick Lane and had a dinner so delicious that it should probably be illegal.

A totally vegan restaurant on the top of an old routemaster. It really doesn’t get much better.

Happy Birthday, J, I love you x x x

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Obviously there is more to updating an ADHD blog than medication. Which reminds me, I need to write an update about my meds.

But I meant to write this up last Sunday and so in the interests of not getting ahead of myself (Oh, the irony of this from someone who is chronically behind themselves. That sounds a bit odd somehow but being mid-tangent, I don’t have time to rectify), I’m going to to write up the second installment of Sunday Shandies, even though there has been a third since then.

What are Sunday Shandies?

These are part of my new, (mentally) healthier lifestyle. Little excursions on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Miniature breaks from the to-do list that remind me that there is a life outside the PhD. There Sundays are punctuated at regular intervals by shandies – a tragically under-celebrated beverage that has all the benefits of weekend drinking in the sun with very few of the mental (shame, self-loathing, lethargy) and physical (hangover, bizarre bursting of facial blood vessels, inconvenient nausea) drawbacks.

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So on this particular Sunday, I dragged J away from the laptop and we spent two beautiful hours at the city farm at Surrey Quays.

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I love city farms. I love the incongruity of the smell of hay and shit and the view of Canary Wharf. But to be honest, I felt it was worth going just for this:

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Seriously, that can’t be right? I spent 8 years in London feeling like a proper little country bumpkin. But when I see things like this? Not so much. London just isn’t ready for this. In WW2 some evacuees from London went to the country and saw a cow for the first time in their lives. Ever. Just imagine being that kid and this guy being your first taste of the countryside. They’d be all ‘Holy shit! That guy needs surgery!’

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The farm was amazing – I loved it. We didn’t want to go straight home so we took a walk by the river before stopping off for the requisite shandy.

I’ve been sitting out in Greenwich park and I began to type this lying on the grass, my white flesh exposed to the sun for the first time in several years. Amid the eerily silent glide of frisbees and the overheard snippets of passing conversations, I opened the laptop and people-watched as happy family dogs, mostly retrievers and the odd dalmation, nosed between the clusters of blankets and naked limbs.* I didn’t write much because the sun bleached the screen and I felt sleepy in that lazy way of summer.

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I finally got the summer holiday feeling. Just like Christmas spirit, it turns up later each year and makes an increasingly understated entrance.  But it was beautiful and sunny today. The heat started to weaken as it approached six o’clock and mummies and daddies gathered up picnic paraphernalia and took their tired little teddy-bears home to bed. The grass began to empty but the sky was the colour it is in children’s drawings, decorated here and there by shifting clouds.

A life without love is like a year without summer...

A life without love is like a year without summer...

Jamie was lying next to me, by turns sleeping and reading in the sun. I’ll be honest, we don’t get out much. We are poor. We have no spare money and little more spare time and I am overdrawn on both these accounts. Lying there, feeling the breeze on my bare shoulders as I typed, reminded me that this is what normal people do with their weekends, enjoy the sun, spend time together,  and leave their work and worries at home.

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On our way to the park we spotted a load of tents in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne, people were dressing up in Tudor costumes and suits of armour.

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There was jousting, archery and er…face-painting (incidentally, the face-painting stall had the longest queue). And these guys:

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Look at that disapproval!

IMG_4862The disdain in those hard eyes reflected my own suspicion that all this was less about educating the young people of London in the ways of Tudor life, and more about grown men and women indulging in dodgy period-drama fantasies and dressing up in costumes that were wholly inappropriate for the day’s high temperatures.

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Hot Cross Henrys: climate change strikes again

I am filled, as I always am in these rare afternoons of leisure, with the resolve that I will work harder and more efficiently, during the week and take time off to smell the roses. Somehow it never works out that way and I miss out on day trips, catching up with friends, and time with Jamie because I am always trying to compensate for not being productive enough Monday-Friday. There are never enough hours in the day and never enough days in the summer. ADHD itself, like its attendant procrastination, is a thief of time.

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Lying in the park then, was a stolen summer moment. We followed this up with a shandy on the way home and I feel strangely relaxed, and hopeful for the summers of future years now that I have this growing sense of control.

*I noticed very few staffies in the park. Why is this when South East London is over-run with staffies?