30 December 2010

December 18 - Try

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

Yeah, okay. So next year, I’d like to try...

I’m drawing a blank. A blank has been drawn, and my poor pillaged Advent calendar rests eternally in that great recycling facility in the sky.

Next year, I’d like to try putting action before thought. As someone who lives almost exclusively in their own head, I can tell you that I probably spend about 90% of my time imagining, projecting, fantasising and a whole host of other unhelpful frontal lobe activity that only gets in the way of clean dishes and a tidy house.

Of course, once I begin stumbling through life like some Frankenstein’s monster of poor impulse control, the humiliation factor is guaranteed to increase exponentially, which is not something I will document here. So although my resolve might not make me wildly popular online, I’m sure I will reap the rewards of this hasty promise tenfold in my real life. Yes.

There was something I wanted to try in 2010. Nothing happened though, because I didn’t go for it. There’s a lesson here somewhere. Oop, right there.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

December 17 - Lesson Learned

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

It was really great to discover that I’m not actually required to put up with people who make me feel bad about myself, or who try to take advantage of my congenial nature. Going forward, I vow to spend no energy whatsoever on these types, who turn up rather too often in my life, but thankfully not so often that their presence would overwhelm the vast majority of sane people who either like me or stay out of my face if they don’t. I think that by having more boundaries, I can probably sidestep these gate crashers altogether, though I’m still working out the difference between boundaries and bullet-proof glass. That can easily backfire if I'm not careful.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

29 December 2010

December 16 - Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I learned very early on that if you continuously stew your brain in a stock made up of old ideas, you will one day open your mouth to speak and nobody will understand a fucking thing you say. Because your mouth will be full of crazy soup. To keep crazy soup off the menu, you need a kitchen full of diverse, competent chefs, which is to say that I may deal in lousy metaphors, but my friends are like saffron to my life. You know – a rare and expensive seasoning you sometimes have to go to Southwest Asia to find. That’s actually not too far off the mark.

My most important perspective shifts have almost always come from friends. Boyfriends (and fiancées and husbands) are stuffed into the same perspective pot as you within about thirty seconds of your toothbrushes mating in a cup on the bathroom windowsill, by which time you should be finishing each other’s sentences and arguing about whose turn it is to use the communal brain. So whilst you can rely on your partner to tell you that No, you are not getting fatter, that doorway is just contracting because it's cold in here you certainly wouldn’t expect them to come home one day and hand you the meaning of life. That would be inconceivable, and also wrong, as it is your job to retain the upper hand at any cost.

The first time I can remember another human being seriously changing my perspective on life (which in turn changed me into a whole new person, practically) was in university. We were actually in the university. I’d just skipped another one of my electives to sip coffee sludge and smoke cigarettes in the student’s union bar and he was on his way to class. I was trying to be cool about the fact that I was wasting my tuition money, and he told me that, actually, he really liked school. I thought this was a novel idea, or maybe I was just being polite, so I asked him to elaborate. He said something along the lines of enjoying being able to amass as much knowledge about the world as he could. And I was like: huh.

And that ‘Huh’ stayed with me all day, until I too was eager to become a vessel for enlightenment, and to see how far I could stretch my mind. It turned out to be much further than I ever thought possible, actually, and to this day I still believe that anyone can learn anything they want, if they go into it with the right mindset. Determination is important, but mostly you need to give yourself over to the fact that you don’t yet know something, and then (here’s the tricky part) make a home of indeterminate dimensions for that something, because whatever it turns out to be, you’ll want it to feel welcome when it arrives. Wax on, wax off. That sort of thing.

Anyway. All this to say: friends can change your perspective in both small and profound ways, and that’s something you have to be open to as well. It’s also something you need to make time for, which I’ve been rubbish at doing this year. It’s mainly because I’ve got this kid to look after. I love him to bits, and soon I will need to learn how to live my life as though that love doesn’t take up every metric inch of space I own. So I’m looking at ways in which other mothers achieve that balance, and I’m taking notes. Mentally, in my big old empty pot of soup, which by now is a reduction of Thomas the Tank Engine and Sudocrem. It’s also because of social anxiety, and soon I guess I will need to learn how to deal with this in ways that don’t involve resveratrol.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

22 December 2010

December 15 - 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

Thankfully, I am an expert archivist.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

20 December 2010

December 14 - Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

We have been in the shit now for almost two years. Perhaps that’s not the most gracious way to describe parenthood, but sometimes it really does feel like all-out war. We battle with sleep and diet (Hartley’s and our own), during nappy changes and baths, with staying on top of dishes, laundry and toy cars, in and out of shops and push chairs, cots and high chairs, in the bedroom and in the kitchen. Life is made up of long strings of days chock full of such battles, at the end of which we put our small dictator to bed and throw ourselves into a black hole of television. It’s the only logical way to cope with the complete loss of perspective.

So when I occasionally lift my head and notice that the dishes are washed, the laundry folded and put away, and Bruce and Hartley are peacefully coexisting without any need of me whatsoever, I really do appreciate the sudden harmony. In these moments, I try to just enjoy the vista of calm and recognise that although it’s rare, it is also possible. This is what I signed on for when I first made the decision to start a family, and although it’s not the minefield of golden moments I was expecting, I feel all the more thankful whenever I come across one of these precious gems.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

17 December 2010

December 13 - Action

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

What is this new obsession with ideas and making things happen? When did a nice way of delving into the hearts and minds of regular people turn into a rat race for some hazy, distant prize of...what? I’m still trying to figure this out. Is it money? Fame? Recognition? It’s not enough that we get to live a life largely without constant hunger, pain, grief or hopelessness – we want our big fat future reward too. We want a trophy that will prove to ourselves, and to those around us, that this life of ours really means something.

I’ll tell you what: my biggest idea that I want to make happen in 2011 is to get us through another year alive. Not because we’re poor or unhealthy, and not because we live in a country with appalling human rights or natural-disaster-prone geography, but for the simple fact that life is fucking random. Pardon my language, but this is something that has yet to cease mattering more to me than anything else I can distract myself with. You could be standing on solid rock or hanging by a thread, but you will never know which it is; the treadmill stops for nobody, and it’s both hard and easy to put a foot wrong when you’re perpetually stepping into the future.

If I can make it through the next fifty years without dying (or losing the people that matter most to me before I do), then I will consider that my greatest achievement. My next biggest idea-turned-action is to raise a boy who can know all this without having it break his heart; who can live as though each day matters, and be grateful if that’s the only thing he has to feel grateful for.

I've been forgetting to include my advent calendar prompts, which are meant to propel these ideas along. Today's calendar door revealed a pair of chintzy, glass ornaments. So there you go.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

16 December 2010

December 11 - 11 Things

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

1. Self-importance – been there, done that. Bring on the silent struggles and mindless telly!

2. That sort of eliminates any potential the rest of this list might have had. Oh well. Let’s see though.

3. Unwanted advice – I am going to take unwanted advice much less seriously, when it comes to Hartley. Like if someone says: do not feed him red foods, red foods will make him spin in circles and lose muscle mass, then I will feed him nothing but beetroot and lipstick. So you’d better think very carefully before you offer unwanted advice about child-rearing. Think in opposites, for instance.

4. Self-recrimination – I am the queen of over-thinking, but only if it means I get to be the bad guy. This next year, I will stop listening to the voices inside my head (metaphorical voices, not crazy ones!) and instead remember that I am actually a kind, polite and caring person who would rather swallow my own handbag than harm another human being. I think I should probably add /worrying to this item.

5. People who drain the life out of me –I’ve made one or two cuts this year and haven’t regretted my decision. In fact, I feel a whole lot better. To all the people I’ve yet to meet: the drawbridge will remain in an upright position unless I’m positive you’re not here to trash the place.

6. Rules – I live my life by rules. These rules are self-imposed and mostly arbitrary, and lately I’ve been breaking one or two, just to see if they’re meaningful. I quit smoking in 2006, and in the last six months, I have smoked two cigarettes. Did the world come to an end? No. Am I going to start up again? No. Will I smoke another cigarette? Maybe. I will make up my mind on a case-by-case basis, and that’s how I plan to do pretty much everything for now.

7. Pining – What a completely useless activity!

8. Empty promises to myself – Who am I trying to fool? I accomplish far more when I go behind my own back and just do something, rather than intimate that I’ll do something and instead watch five episodes of The Hills.

9. Conflict – Life with a toddler is hard enough without additional drama. I am going to do my best to avoid situations that could escalate and eat up what precious little time I have for myself and for Hartley, even if it means backing down and washing ten loads of dishes when it’s not even my night to wash them. Did I just put that in writing?

10. Mind reading – Did I go to psychic school? No? Well then I don’t know what you’re thinking, and I’m just going to assume that we’re tight, unless you tell me otherwise. Deal? Great. No, just the bill, thanks.

11. Complaining – This is a hard one for me, because I spent my childhood squashing negative emotions wayyyy down, for a variety of reasons. Now I want the world to know that I’m miserable! Even though I’m actually quite happy! What’s up with that? If you know, maybe you have a psychology degree. Or maybe you went to psychic school. Yup, in 2011, I am going to be one little happy ray of sunshine. Just see if I’m not.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

December 10 - Wisdom

What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

(I've skipped a few prompts, mainly because they felt too cheesy to contemplate, but also because I wanted to catch up. Which is clearly working out great!)

There is a marked difference between ‘wisdom’ and all other words that imply thoughtfulness; to be wise is to make choices in life based on experience, which is something I still feel I’m amassing in most respects.

Our decision to move out of London in early March was the best decision we made this year, though it was a bit of a crap shoot, since we didn’t actually know how things would pan out. All the reasons we could think of to stay (friends, nightlife, proximity to work) were pretty flimsy in comparison to what we got by leaving (3x the space, proximity to family, better amenities for Hartley). Our lives have improved drastically since moving out of our tiny, expensive flat, and although Hartley is generally easier to manage now that he is older, I still can’t imagine what we would have done in that filthy, roaring sprawl. Though I do miss that filthy, roaring sprawl sometimes.

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

08 December 2010

December 6 - Make

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I think we won't bother with the advent prompt this time around, as the last thing I made needs no prompting. It also needs no repeating, but I spent a small fortune on some tubes of oil paint and should probably make some time to squeeze out their contents. So without further ado...

The last thing I made was a poor oil-on-canvas reproduction of Landscape, Outskirts of Paris (Christopher Wood, 1901-1930). I am not even sure if this is the proper way to cite a painting, which, as you can see, is the least of my problems.

I can't tell you why I took the class, or even what I expected to get out of it. The last thing I painted prior to this was – I shit you not – a winged unicorn flying above its own reflection in a lake, the laboured arc of a rainbow dominating much of the background (in acrylics, none the less). I was seven, and didn't know that paintings had names. If I did, I might have called mine Flying Unicorn Sees Himself, With Rainbow. All unicorns are boys, FYI. It's why they dig the young virgins and have horns and whatnot. Filthy, filthy beasts.

SO. I did this art class, which I was fairly confident would cater to my inexperience, it being called Oils for All and not Oils for Experienced Artists Looking For Reassurance, for instance. The room was small, the instructor said things like “Mm, 'tis” when faced with assertions like “It's a lovely light coming over that hillock now,” and actually, everyone else had a talent for saying very little and yet somehow still managing to squeeze in painting terminology that made me feel inadequate, such as “knock it back” (no whisky, no comprende) and “that's coming on well.” There were five of us in all - mostly women over the age of 50 (well over, in some cases) and all were properly what you'd call artists. All but one.

Fortunately, I intuited that there would be little to no actual instruction in these lessons and chose a painting that I thought I'd have a slim chance in Hell of blagging my way through from beginning to end. I tore Chris Wood out of a book and thanked the Baby Jesus on a skateboard that I'd recently watched an instructional video on how to block in objects with a pencil - for scale, and a general idea of where to put paint down. I thought I could get away with overworking my background over the course of four weeks (skylines require a deceptively large amount of detail), but after my first lesson, she brandished her number 2 paintbrush at me and commanded me to paint faster.

By lesson three, she'd wrestled my brush from me and was showing me how to put paint on the canvas with an eye to efficiency and completion - it was THAT painful for her to stand and watch me drizzle smoke from my tiny smokestacks and edge in blue highlights hour after hour. Eventually I saw that in order to get this woman off my back, I was going to have to try to tackle the wild jungle of the foreground – jagged cliff, impressionistic figure and all. I launched into it with a kind of recklessness I didn't know I was capable of, and at one point she leaned over my painting and said, “You've really cracked that.” I've never felt more proud of something in my life, and that includes my 100% final mark in Film Theory and Aesthetics – a bit of trivia I like to pull out every five years to remind people of how exceptional I once was.

A moment of silence for that person.

It was at the eleventh hour, after several failed attempts to make brown by mixing cobalt blue, lamp black and yellow ochre that I finally squeaked, “Excuse me? I think I might need another colour.” She looked at my canvas and nodded and said “Yes, I do believe you're ready to add another colour,” and she daubed a bit of 'light red' onto my palette paper so that I could do a rock.

It wasn't until I took the painting home (still wet, carried gingerly at one edge between thumb and forefinger), and mustered enough enthusiasm to purchase some oils of my own several weeks later, that I realised the original painting was pervaded by a kind of subtle, purplish hue, whereas my own was – from sky to the sandy beaches of my foreground - a wash of atonal greens. This is the peril of painting as a non-artist who does not realise she is missing out on an entire wheel of the colour spectrum, and so I sheepishly reworked these parts for a few hours one evening, having lost the magic of that so-called lesson, which really only taught me that painters are a strange bunch of people that don't use the internet and are afraid of mobile phones because of radiation poisoning.

The end?

This post was brought to you by the colours Lamp Black, Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Cobalt Blue (Hue), Titanium White and the smallest bit of Lemon Yellow.


10x14” stretched canvas
G24 round brush
G36 short flat brush
No. 27 palette knife
Glass jar of white spirit
Paper towel
A lotta nerve

Written in participation with #Reverb10. Read my complete set of posts here.

07 December 2010

Day 5 - Let Go

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

Advent calendar says...Christmas cracker.

If you let go of your end on a Christmas cracker, you will fail to activate its distinct noise, followed by a toy, a terrible joke and a funny paper crown.

If you let go of adolescent ideas about fulfillment and instead focus on taking what’s in front of you and making it into the best possible life, you won’t fail in that respect, or many others.

This year I let go of the idea that we would move to Canada, and that doing so would magically make life easier. Once I took this on board, I had to own up to the fact that I’ve been putting up a lot of resistance when it comes to adapting to my new home.

I’ve always considered myself to be spontaneous and open-minded, though in practice I’ve been anything but. Rather than embrace England and my new peers, I measured them against the friends and familiar landscapes I left behind, and let their perceived shortcomings brand a skull and crossbones into my heart. This slogan became the basis of a campaign, one that I sold to myself over and over again, about why I could never be happy here. After a while, it didn’t occur to me to wonder if this propaganda was true in any sense. It also didn’t occur to me that I might be depressed.

Anyway, long story short – I am now relaxing my death grip on the past and am determined to make the most of my time in England. I don’t know how long we’ll stay here for – it might only be another year or two, or it might be forever. Whatever we decide, what I don’t want is to look back on this time in our lives and wish that I hadn’t spent so much of it fighting invisible foes and plotting escape routes from imaginary dungeons. I’d like to visit the London dungeon one day. That could be fun.

Written in participation with #Reverb10

December 1st - One Word
December 2nd - Writing
December 3rd - Moment
December 4th - Wonder

December 4 - Wonder

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Advent calendar says...candelabra.

Cultivate is a very good word choice. As adults, we tend not to moon about wide-eyed and agog over every new experience because we’ve spent our lives building templates that efficiently process and file away information. It’s how we survive as a species, the tradeoff being that we lose some of that magic which came naturally to us as children. I think you probably know where I’m going with this, but in case not, I’ll beat around the bush some more until you’ve forgotten why you came here and buy my knock-off handbags.

I don’t really have knock-off handbags for sale, but I bet every spider on the internet just did a double-take and is poised for a feeding frenzy the likes of which have never been indexed.

I once read an article that described the process whereby the pathways for receptiveness to certain types of experience are systematically blocked off in an infant’s brain if they aren’t utilized. This is partially what determines where our interests and skills lie as adults, and explains why some of us become archeologists while others like to make tiny houses out of their own skin. Once, I told my old NCT group that I intended to expose Hartley to as many different types of experiences as I could before this happened to him, an idea that had barely made it past my lips before they jumped all over me and then unanimously hailed a cardboard box as the ultimate toy and learning tool. I am not sure when and where my cardboard box pathway was interrupted, but I think my mummy group pathway sustained permanent damage as a result of that incident.

But back to the original assertion: if there is wonder to be had in life, and you are over the age of five, how do you go about cultivating a sense of it? I’m lucky because I think that after falling madly in love and moving to one of the most thrilling cities on earth, there was nowhere else to go but down, in the wonderment sense...and then along came Hartley. Hartley creates an ever-present sense of wonder in me: in how he speaks and behaves; what he likes and dislikes; his growing independence and strengthening character - it’s all endlessly fascinating.

It’s also true that children encourage us to take one more look at the world without our self-imposed blinders on - to approach every new experience from that initial place of small beginnings, and even to stop and recognise when a new experience is taking place. I have no idea how this relates to a candelabra. Maybe we just need to be vigilant, and not allow ourselves to snuff out these flames of wonder before we’ve had a chance to feel their little light.

Written in participation with #Reverb10

December 1st - One Word
December 2nd - Writing
December 3rd - Moment

05 December 2010

December 3 - Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Advent calendar says...fruitcake.

See? I told you this was coming.

I think it may actually be illegal to diss fruitcake in England, but let’s just say that if I had an exhilarating moment this year, fruitcake was off doing something vaguely gross with candied orange peel and couldn’t make the event. Aw, too bad.

Perhaps the general property of fruitcake will call up such a moment: a medley of textured pieces barely contained by crumbly, fragrant dessert.


Well this is awkward. I really can’t think of a moment this year where I felt notably 'alive,' to be honest. Maybe it was June, when we touched down at Vancouver airport and I knew that I had two full weeks to completely saturate myself in a familiar element. Actually, yes – let me tell you about that.

I was exhausted. I was more tired than I could remember ever feeling, and if you’d told me that this fatigue would be tripled upon landing in England a few weeks later, I might have torn up the return ticket then and there. But for now, I was holding a 23lb toddler who’d been forced to condense twelve hours of sleep into a three-hour nap (and looked it) whilst forming a kind of echo chamber of weak, plaintive sounds with Bruce, who was humping two toy/snack/technology-laden carry-on bags, second only to my hospital bag in their near uselessness.

We followed the current of other travelers through the filtered sunlit passages of the arrivals gate, and below us I could see the clean lines and familiar signage of optimistic industry, already promising a taste of the efficient, friendly customer experience that awaited us beyond the doors of this self-admittedly artificial environment.

Coming home always feels a bit like what I imagine returning from the dead might be like. You shrug off all earthly vestiges - the people, places and objects that once defined you as a person - and learn to accept that although these things still exist, they will never belong to you again. Your new home takes on the quality of a surreal afterlife, and turning up on your old doorstep to finger abandoned books and photographs, and to live superficially among friends and family as you once did, serves only to amplify the sense that you’re really just a friendly spook, haunting the halls of memory for a short time before you vanish again.

In the lead-up to this annual paradox, however, my life, my body, and the boundaries against which each were pushing were never more apparent to me.

Written in participation with #Reverb10

December 1st - One Word
December 2nd - Writing

04 December 2010

December 2 - Writing

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Advent calendar says...star.

Stars, stars, stars. Hartley often sings 'digger digger digger dig' to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle. As the prisoner of a toddler, I am allowed two bathroom breaks, as long as they don't exceed three minutes, and the occasional foray into the kitchen for sustenance, provided young sir is allowed to accompany me and dictate what I prepare for us. Otherwise, I am chauffeuring him around the city and trying to come up with inventive ways of avoiding that part of the main street where the soft play area lives. Unless I'm prepared to spend all afternoon chasing him around that hothouse of recreational plastic and Other People's Children, it's best to walk everywhere but straight past it. Including dinner, bath, dishes, bedtime routine, tidy up and unwind, I'd say that basically everything I do each day does not much contribute to a productive atmosphere for writing. Can I eliminate life? Technically, yes. But that won't solve my problem.

Even one day in the future, when the ghost limb of our conjoined umbilical cord has been completely severed from memory and we are wearing aluminium space suits, I would still have my daily fear of failure to combat. I wouldn't say that fear of failure is something I 'do' in my day, but it certainly prevents me from doing the things that mean the most. If my writing were actually out in the world, being there in front of many, many eyes, and those eyes narrowed and hid themselves beneath the furrowed brows of their readers, I would crumple into a little pile of sad and disappear into the floor forever. So I do everything I can to stay under the radar (it's surprisingly easy) and write no more than a page of nonsense at a time, just to relieve a bit of the pressure that tends to build from not writing.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but this year I've decided to stop worrying about it. There are plenty of really good writers out there, and I am happy to count myself among one of their most avid, accomplished readers.

Written in participation with #Reverb10

Read my entry for December 1st here.

03 December 2010

December 1 - One Word

In order to initiate Hartley into the developmental pleasures of anticipation, and also to ensure that these crucial days leading up to Christmas and an overseas visit from my parents are not misspent, we bought an Advent calendar. I know as little about Advent now as I did when my parents made the mistake of first introducing me to the daily expectation of chocolate thirty years ago, but it forms an essential holly bow of my Christmas-decked memories, and so it shall for our son.

Earlier today, a friend of mine who is living her dream of world travel, coupled with location independent (read: online freelance) work, alerted me to this interesting 'manifest your dreams'-type exercise, which encourages you to come up with single words/ideas that will help you guide your way to nirvana or unparalleled wealth or something. Actually, I think it's more of a kōan for you to contemplate while you tally up your life thus far and visualise the ways in which you plan to better it in 2011. No pressure there.

2010 can be metaphorically summed up by the way my life looks and functions at present, which is: go and take a peek inside your fridge. No that isn't a metaphor, I'm asking you to look inside your fridge. Do it now; I'll wait here. Okay, so did you notice the hair dryer in and amongst the empty milk bottles and tendril-y potatoes? How did that even get there? More importantly, why are you still thinking about it? Because you should really go and investigate that dull thud and splash followed by MUMMAYYY?! rather immediately. Oop, don't step there! You meant to clean that up yesterday, ha ha, oh and those are your last pair of socks. Were; were your last pair of socks.

Okay, I tricked you - that was a metaphor. And I really do plan to make time to do this #Reverb10 thing, so that I can at least say I am taking a consistent approach to life, and not the pasty consistency of masticated toast abandoned beneath a kitchen table. You would think that a daily prompt to write about oneself would be adequate, but not in my case. I need a marquee with a flashing arrow and travelling script and maybe some sort of embedded subliminal messaging to keep me on track. I need...


So here is what I'm prepared to do: for every day in December, I will open a new Advent calendar door with Hartley, and whatever that door reveals I shall use as a trigger to help me think of an idea that relates to the exercise. Here, I'll demonstrate.

The first exercise is this:

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

According to the calendar, my first picture prompt of the month shall be (drum-roll, please)...a drum. So with that in mind, the word that I would use to describe 2010 is: Chaos.

But what does chaos have to do with a drum?, I hear some of you (not many of you) asking your computer screens. Now you're getting it! If it helps, you can picture me trying to locate my totem animal while Henry Rollins screams at me from the breakfast table and Sim Cain breaks another drumstick against the taut, pitted polyethylene of my brain. Or something.

This year I've been thrown off the beat by personal tragedy (quietly dealt with and stored away), in-the-round successions of cold, flu and infection, a surprise visit from my old friend Depression (followed by a threatening letter from his line-manager, Nervous Breakdown), extreme weight loss (thyroid-related), extreme weight gain (Doritos-related), a major move out of London and the pressures that accompany an impending career change. I am pretty sure that chaos is par for the course when you are living with someone whose age can still be tallied in months, but let's leave that aside for the minute, because lord knows I am not the only person on earth who is trying to raise a toddler and do other things too.

The word I would use to describe my vision for 2011, when paired with last year's word, should bring to mind the double-sided Kandinsky of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation – Control. (“Chaos, control; chaos, control: You like? You like?”) So not a clean representation of how I think a life should appear, but my own big, beautiful mess as it stands; a vivid abstraction guided slightly more by intention than circumstance. That's how I want 2011 to play out: with me on a kick-drum, keeping time for the bitter-sweet symphony of life that sold Verve tickets back in 1998. But with even fewer mixed-metaphors than I'm wont to use.

Oof. Did I really say I'd do this every day? I may need to think smaller, and catch up again tomorrow. I do wonder what I'll do with fruit cake though.