I suppose I should go back and read the last entry. I recall it detailed my jaunt to Harrogate with the swarthy UPVC baron. A trip that did not end at all well. There was a declaration of love (from me) followed by an oppressive silence (from him). That fraught encounter on a Hotel du Vin chaise turned out to be the last contact with the tank-topped lothario for months.
I've had a difficult time of late. I've struggled, to be honest. I started 2015 vowing to make some positive changes. In March I called in builders to put the house right. I had remortgaged to raise funds for the work 6 months earlier - but kept procrastinating when it came to actually getting the work done. In the end, fate intervened when a kitchen ceiling and wall fell down following a flood. So, I made the call and work began. The builders were with me for two months, working in every single room: knocking down walls, decorating, refitting bathrooms, tackling damp and subsidence. They even put in a couple of UPVC windows - rousing a furious jealously in the rogue never before expressed.
Miss U: Rochester, I'm going on a date on Friday night.
Rochester: Are you pet?
Miss U: Rochester, I've got some oafs fitting UPVC windows in the bedrooms on Friday night.
Rochester: WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!!! ARE YOU CUNTING INSANE? WHICH COMPANY? HOW MUCH ARE YOU PAYING? JESUS CHRIST PETAL!!!
Anyway, the ramshackle state of the house had saddened me for several years. It's a lovely, characterful 1930s house, with stained glass, cast iron fireplaces and lots of art deco features. It's in a lovely quiet, tree-lined suburb. The place was a ruin when I moved in and the energy and money required to update it was overwhelming to me - especially as I live alone and everything fell on my shoulders.
I can say now that 90% of the jobs are done - I still need some carpets replacing and some exterior woodwork painting. I have even employed a gardener (a sprightly, malt-loaf eating sort, straight from Dad's Army) to get the outside space put straight. That is no easy task. The garden resembles those bleak Sunday supplement pictures of Chernobyl, 30 years on. I hadn't touched it for years. The chap is here today, bless him, hacking his way through the brambles and roof-high elder saplings. It was stupid of me to buy a house with a large garden. I conflated a love of sitting in a garden reading with a love of gardening. I learnt that they are very, very different things. Still - now I have Godfrey to keep me right. I have no intention battling with my ridiculous privet again. Ever.
The house renovations did result in one of the more traumatic events of the year. Four weeks into the project, I got a call at work to say the builders had lost one of my dogs. Poor Hetty: never a fan of men at the best of times, loathed the workmen. One morning decided she'd had enough of their Black & Decker buffoonery. She sneaked out the front door, firmly nipping a builder's arse for good measure as she passed, and then galloped at full greyhound pelt down the street. Within 5 minutes she had reached our favourite park (looking for me, no doubt), and was seen by many regular dog walkers, who recognised her immediately and tried unsuccessfully to catch her. Within 30 minutes she was running down the busy A19, heading South out of town. Numerous people reported her to the police as she dodged cars on the dual carriageway . All in all, she was on the run for 8 desperate days, moving around East Durham mining villages, not letting anyone get near her.
I have to say, Hetty's escape demonstrated the hugely positive side of social media. I was advised to set up a Facebook page to advertise her plight, which I did. It was viewed and commented on hundreds of times. Casual dog-walking acquaintances and even complete strangers spent hours searching for the poor girl. Sightings were posted online and I eventually was able to track her down to a village just 2 miles away. Amazingly, against all the odds, I got Hetty back and she was completely unscathed. It was a joyous moment. The old gal is now something of a local celebrity; getting cuddles and comments wherever she goes. She loves every minute of it.
The first night of Hetty's disappearance, Rochester and I spoke on the phone until dawn. It was possibly the most brutally honest conversation we ever had. The moment on the chaise was discussed at length. I shan't write too much more about that, as it will probably be the subject of my next post. But yes, Hetty's great escape also brought Rochester back into my life, albeit in a the usual blurry and unresolved way. We've spoke this week of meeting up again this summer - another Harrogate. I can't decide if it is a good idea. Well, I know it isn't, but I do long to see him, all the same.
Other news? I am off sick at the moment, and have been for the last 6 weeks. Work has been hard. That is all I shall say on that subject. After months and months of unexplained dizziness, extreme fatigue, aching limbs, breathlessness, headaches, shakes and a lack of energy that meant I could only walk the dogs 200 metres at a time, I went to see my GP. He diagnosed severe stress and depression (predominantly work related) and signed me off. I was doubtful that all those physical symptoms could be caused by a mental illness. However, after 4 weeks off work (and with the help of anti-depressants) every one of those symptoms has indeed vanished. I feel much, much better now. I start counselling next week too, which I am positive about.
I plan on returning to work in September. I miss the children terribly. However, I recognise that 'the toad' work had overtaken my life. 95% of my energy and time was devoted to it. I am resolved to go back with a new attitude and a more balanced perspective. There needs to be more to my life than teaching. (I need to find out what that is.) In the last few weeks I have started reading again. (I couldn't concentrate on a book for months before). I need to start blogging properly again. I'd like to have a proper relationship with someone. I am beginning to think maybe I could be happy. Or happier. Or maybe just not unhappy. I'd settle for that, I think. That would be a good start. It's a tiny hope, but it is an optimism I haven't felt in years.
So, I have 9 weeks ahead of me before I return to work. I am spending my time quietly. I get up. I get dressed. I put make-up on. I brush my hair (sometimes). I walk the dogs for miles. I cook proper food. I set myself one useful task per day (tidying up drawers, painting nails, little things). I read. I watch TV. I go to the pictures. I see people. I look at pictures of sighthounds and Chanel lipsticks on the internet. I bimble. I potter. I nap. I recover.
And now, I'm committing to starting blogging again. Properly. Like, trying to be funny and shit. Well, I'll do my best. Forthcoming posts for the next 3 weeks will include:
- A rogue update
- A tour around my renovated, elegant(ish) abode
- A review of the Philip Larkin's Letters to Monica (the book that got me back into reading)
- An introduction to new Chez Underscore resident, Fig, the bi-polar cat.
- THE ITEM: Rochester, for the first time in 6 years, acknowledges my birthday with a gift, a mystery item. What could it be?