Imagine for a moment that I have a wick coming out of the top of my head. I am a candle, and I am alight. My hair is gently being singed, my scalp getting hotter. There is also a wick coming out of my left foot. That too is alight, and causing some discomfort. I am a candle burning at both ends. Put without stupid references to candles, there is not enough time in the day. Last night I went to bed at 1am, the night before that, also 1am. With paid employment now taking up the vast majority of my normal waking hours, all the stuff that I used to do during the day while the kids were at school is getting pushed to either end, and I’m still not getting it all done.
This is exactly how I remember it before, but then that was without the comparative luxury of knowing that one didn’t have to live in complete chaos. Back then, living in a bombsite seemed normal. When I lost my job in 2009, I turned my not inconsiderable energy and drive to running the house and looking after the kids, with possibly a small amount of local birding thrown in. Now that I am back at work, I see everything I strived to sort out disintegrating, and disintegrating fast. This is naturally extremely irritating. My response has been to attempt to squeeze some of what I used to do during the day into the mornings and evenings.
Last night for instance I did a pile of cleaning in the kitchen, and this morning saw me hanging up washing, cleaning up the kitchen – again, moving the vacuum cleaner whose upturned plug I had trodden on several times in the last few days, and helping the kids with the arduous task of putting away socks. It didn’t help that I got up late, but that was because I had only gone to bed a matter of hours previously after all the stuff I had needed to do last night. And this is with help!! At the moment, I am not responsible for either the school run or feeding anyone. That thankless task is being done by a succession of exhausted relatives, without whom we would be up a certain creek missing a certain paddle, and we are very grateful.
Tomorrow, I’m in charge again. I’ve had over a week in the office now, sorting myself out and working out what exactly it is that I need to do, but with that bedding-in out of the way, I’m going to attempt to work from home. I won’t have time during the day to do much of what I used to, but I think that just by being present when the children are around I can perhaps keep a lid on quite how much devastation they can cause. Or that is the plan anyway. In reality I’m going to be hiding myself away and hoping that they don’t kill each other.
We always knew that this period would be difficult, and of course it didn’t help that I went to both Shetland and Norfolk in quick succession, but that’s October for you, and I'm already planning next year. We’re both working full-time, we have three kids at school, including one on a daft half-day schedule (which thankfully comes to an end quite soon), and the house does not clean itself, nor the clothes wash themselves. Neither does food cook itself, nor transport itself from the shop to our kitchen. And more is the pity, for soon something will have to give. I’m thinking specifically of the word “cleaner” at this point. Though it pains me to pay someone else to clean my house, it may have to happen. It would be one less thing to worry about, and would of course help the economy. The Lithuanian economy primarily.
Then there is the small matter of local birding, the thing that above all keeps me sane and balanced. Can you guess how much I’ve done in the last two weeks? Exactly. Right now, I’d need help finding my way to Wanstead Flats. I’ve not been out once. Not that there has been much to see, the odd Ring Ouzel, a few Skylarks and a large Sparrowhawk ;-) , but that’s not the point. I just enjoy being out there, and that has been sacrificed. I’m not happy about it, but there is nothing I can do at the moment. The good times are over it seems.....
Unless.....have a Shrike! They always cheer me up, and they may cheer you up too having just read my big whinge. This juvenile Woodchat Shrike at Lowestoft in Suffolk was extremely approachable, though with many other birders there, and a recent article in Birdwatch Mag about photographers, I didn't want to push my luck. We popped in to pay it homage on the way back from birdless Norfolk last weekend, and it cheered us up no end, as did a Glossy Ibis just down the road at Minsmere, site of some of my finest smash and grab raids. And I finally connected with the Semipalmated Sandpiper in Essex as well, although my mate Lee, er I mean Bradders, thinks we're stringing it as he didn't see it earlier in the afternoon. I of course would never doubt any of my mates' sightings..... no no no, never.