Winter holiday

The trick, I find, with hot lemon, honey and whiskey, is to add the whiskey last after the mixture has cooled a little in order not to drive off too much of the alcohol. It being lunchtime I have, after long and deep reflection, decided to defer the whiskey until the bedtime brew. I can tell that it’s a vital ingredient by the way the whiskeyless blend slips down with only minimal stinging. The alcohol is essential for efficient scrubbing of bacteria from the throat.

The sweet-sour medicine is in my new mug, a present from Small-Loch A, which is decorated with a reproduction of the original cover of Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome. It’s profoundly comforting. As a child, and well into my teens, I was regularly woken by nightmares of great terror which would recur as soon as I went back to sleep. The antidote, a result of some historical accident no doubt, was Winter Holiday which took up permanent residence beside my bed. I read and re-read and read again, probably hundreds of times over the years, as much as was required to result in eventually falling into a dreamless sleep.

Maizy too has been unwell. On Tuesday morning she suddenly started shivering violently and slunk under the kitchen table with her tail as far between her legs as such a docked appendage can reach. Nothing would coax her out. When I crawled under the table towards her she slunk out, her paws leaving little wet prints on the wooden floor. She screamed when I tried to pick her up.

The vet explained that the wet paw-prints were the result of sweating caused by stress. She also said, after a thorough examination, that she thought Maizy had pulled or sprained a muscle around her right back leg. I have little doubt this occurred during one of Maizy’s regular attempts to scale the 5-foot high wall into the neighbour’s garden in pursuit of next-door’s cat. The vet’s kind words and a pain-killing injection left Maizy (temporarily) slightly sprightlier and my wallet £52 lighter. Only today (Friday) did Maizy managed to climb up the two stairs on the ground floor of the house without standing in front of them and howling for help first so either it was quite a serious pull/sprain or she’s a total big girl’s blouse.

It’s the first time Maizy’s been seriously out of commission and the peace and quiet has been deeply disturbing. Although also having the benefits of, well, peacefulness and quietude. Even the cat has shown signs of distress, bouncing and pouncing, batting her with his claws and biting her neck in an effort to get her to play. But all to no avail: Maizy remained supine, curled motionless on her bed. Lying doggo.

She’s not the only one who’s had her head under a blanket recently. I’ve been in deep denial about how ill-equipped I have been to do my duties at Global Voices. But the sad truth is that I don’t have what it takes to do the job properly. Too big, too amorphous, too stressful, too unstructured, too isolated for my currently compromised capabilities. It’s extremely sad for me. I think what GV does is brilliant and much needed work. I have made really important and enduring friendships and met a huge range of wonderful and notable people, and I am and will remain extremely grateful for the entire experience.

I now have a few weeks transition into a world where a vet’s bill of £52 takes on an altogether deeper significance than heretofore. I enquired about work at the local bookshop the other day. The manager remembered me from the occasion when I interviewed her for a piece I was doing when arts correspondent. The pay, assuming they have a vacancy, which they don’t, is £5.50 per hour.

Now many things can be measured in pre-tax bookshop hours (ptbhs). Maizy to the vet? ten ptbhs. Fill the van with petrol? Seven ptbhs. One cup of coffee, one hot-cross bun and two loaves of (admittedly rather exotic) bread – 2 ptbhs. A frugal week’s food shopping – 15 ptbhs. One hour of babysitting? 1.75 ptbhs. And so it goes, untenably, on.

It’s an interesting problem, that of generating enough money to keep body and sons together (and house and pets and van). But also to be able to do their homework with them, cook them interesting food, tuck them into bed. Small goals. A tiny horizon. More time, less stress. A little life.

7 Replies to “Winter holiday”

  1. Sorry to hear you and Maizy are unwell – get better soon! Your mixed feelings about the end of your job, but more time and freedom with your sons… may it all work out for the best for all of you! Can their father be of some financial help?

  2. Good to recognise when something isn’t working any more, especially the ‘too isolated’ bit. Poor Maizy, (and poor you, of course!), ill animals are disturbing and distressing. Try another bookshop? £5.50 sounds excessively low… another might pay better, though might not be so handy…
    Good luck, and much love -Winter Holiday was great, I liked the Norfolk Broads ones too.

  3. & “Swallows & Amazons” & “We didn’t mean to go to Sea” — am I thinking of the right person? I don’t think I ever read “Winter Holiday.” It sounds like just the thing.

  4. What I wish you is basically encapsulated in the Symmetric Orchestra album which, the left column indicates, you’re currently listening to. Courage, vulnerability, noise, silence, all of it mixed up. My favorite’s Tapha Niang.

    All the best, my friend.

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