December round-up

December round-up

I’ve been reading a few end of year blog posts this morning so I thought I would write my own. I always love to hear what people have been up to, and there are a few bloggers that I’ve been following for years, so it’s almost like hearing from family.

Here are some things that I’m grateful for:

1. Living in Australia

We are looking forward to seeing our grown-up children at Christmas and hope that the current Covid situation can be managed and controlled so that everyone stays safe. I heard a woman on the news say that it was appalling that people weren’t allowed to travel at Christmastime and I thought she was pretty stupid. It’s sad not to see your family at Christmas, but worse to never see them again. Mostly people are being sensible and realising that all of the restrictions are for a good reason. In Australia, we’ve been extraordinarily lucky compared to the UK and the US, so I hope that people continue to comply with the health orders.

I’m also grateful for the weather, even though it’s raining steadily outside and has been for days. Normally it’s very hot at this time of the year and we’re all complaining about the heat, so we are glad to have the rain and the cooler temperatures. This time last year the country was on fire so the endless drizzle has meant that the fire-fighters can have a peaceful Christmas.

2. Good neighbours

Through my window I can hear our new neighbours chatting to their children. I love having kids in the neighbourhood again. When we moved here we had young children and many of our neighbours did as well, but now we are all getting older and the children have grown up and moved away, so it’s great to have some new young families moving in. Our new neighbours seem very nice. I think you can tell a lot about people by the way they talk to their kids and the fact that they all know the words to The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round and don’t feel self-conscious about singing them loudly in their backyard.

We are fortunate to have good neighbours all around us and if you’ve ever had bad neighbours you know that they can make your life a misery.

3. Books

Because I retired this year I’ve done a lot more reading than usual. I think I read about 36 books which is roughly three a month. They weren’t all remarkable (I read quite a lot of light fiction during the lockdown) but a couple that I really enjoyed were Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Dear Edward is about a young man who is the sole survivor of a plane crash. Despite its rather gloomy premise this is a beautifully written and thoughtful book. It rated very highly on the list that I’ve been keeping. I read A Gentleman in Moscow because several people in my family said it was good and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s about a Russian nobleman who is sentenced to spending the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel. I learnt so much about the Russian Revolution from this book, but in a painless way. I love books where you can just absorb history without any effort at all. It was also a beautiful meditation on what really matters in life and what you hold dear. It’s about friendship, loyalty and making the best of a situation. A great book for anyone who is going a bit stir crazy because they are stuck at home.

I still have a rather long TBR which includes The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue. I’m also planning to read Monogamy by Sue Miller which has been recommended by both of my reading sisters.

4. Friends and family

I was a bit nervous about retiring because I was worried about how my husband would cope with me being at home (and vice versa). I thought we might drive one another crazy, but mostly it’s been pretty good. At the beginning of the Covid situation we were both very anxious and made an effort to be especially kind to one another and this seems to have set the tone for life at home. We are especially lucky because we have two studies (one each) so we always have somewhere to retreat to if we want to read or futz about on the computer. We also have a garden so it’s pretty easy to find a bit of space. I’m glad we aren’t squashed into a tiny flat the way some people are.

I’ve spent a lot more time talking to my own extended family this year and that’s been great. We all live in different states (except for one sister who is about 70 kilometres away) and I’ve really appreciated knowing more about their lives. I’ve also had more time to catch up with friends this year, which has been lovely.

5. Work

I missed work quite a bit when I left, but I have since joined the board of the Central Coast Community Women’s Health Centre. It’s great to be able to use some of the skills and knowledge I acquired during my working life, and it’s an organisation that aligns well with my values.

I haven’t done as much writing as I intended, but I’ve read a lot of writing books (does that count?) and learnt quite a bit, so I hope that next year I’ll be more disciplined and get my backside into my writing chair a lot more often. I’m coming round to the idea that writing is more about perseverance than talent. It’s really not a good idea to wait until the inspiration strikes you. It might never happen.

So that’s my wrap up for the year. I know it sounds a bit like one of those letters that people write at Xmas and then make a dozen copies to send to all their friends, but I’ve enjoyed thinking back over the year which has been mostly good. I hope you have survived the year and that next year brings you peace and happiness and good health.

Stay safe everyone and thank you for reading my blog.

Marg xxx

August update

August update

I’ve been on leave for five months so I thought I’d provide a bit of an update on my progress. I always have big plans but I’m not always good at executing them, so this is really an accountability exercise as much as anything. Also, people keep asking me what I’ve been doing, so here’s a potted summary.

I’ve made a bit of progress with my “to do” list. Several cupboards have been cleaned out and quite a few books and clothes have found their way to the charity shop which have now re-opened. I’m sure they are drowning in a sea of things that people have decided they don’t want any more. I gave away all my old linen and then realised that I could have used them as drop-sheets when I was painting.

I haven’t tackled the photos. I was going to sort through the ones I have in hard copy from the olden days and digitise them, but I haven’t even opened the boxes. There are literally hundreds of them, if not thousands. It’s my least favourite task (too emotional) so I’ll probably put that off until I’m well and truly retired.

I’ve painted the spare-room and just need to buy a new blind for it to be completely finished. I was going to buy some new carpet but decided to save some money and have the existing carpet cleaned. It looks better than it did before. Some of the painting is a bit dodgy, especially around the skirting boards. I threw out the old mattress and then spent hours reading mattress reviews so that I could purchase the perfect replacement. The last two mattresses I bought have been too hard, so I was determined to choose well this time around. I’m not sure I have as it’s a little bit high. Just as well no tiny people are likely to be sleeping in that bed or they will need a ladder to get in and out.

The garden hasn’t had much attention because I hurt my back moving some furniture. It also meant that the painting was undertaken at the speed of a snail, if not slower. I’ve had a few trips to the physiotherapist so I just need to be patient and do my exercises so that I can attack the weeds which are growing profusely after some decent rain.

I’ve been writing a fair bit. I’ve done two short courses in non-fiction writing which have both been interesting. I wrote a few intros to a book about retiring and then my enthusiasm just petered out. It’s not that I don’t think I can write a book, but perhaps that’s too much to tackle as a writing project. An article I read recently suggested that it was foolish for people to plan to write a book when they haven’t even written any short stories. I think that there’s some truth in that. I probably should try writing some essays or articles first.

I’ve been looking at the structure of non-fiction books with a much more critical eye. I’m interested in seeing how the contents are organised and I’ve learnt quite a lot by just observing the conventions of the form.

I’ve had a lot more time for reading but my TBR (to be read) list is growing by the day. The more time you spend reading about books, the more books you find that you absolutely MUST read. I’m not bothered by this; I would probably choose to read a book before doing anything else.

I’ve been doing lots of cooking and eating and made some particularly nice marmalade this week. Hubby has continued with his bread-making so we’ve always got some nice bread at hand.

Most of all, I’ve been having fun and trying not to watch the news. I hope you are all doing well and making some progress towards your goals, big or small.