Remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder, Treason, and Snogs...

It is fitting that on this fifth day of November, my very first Bonfire Night in well over fifteen years, I was transported back in time. This morning I made a distinct tactical error by "experimenting" with my commute to work, and deciding to "give the bus a try." I was by far the oldest person on the thing, the other seats being crammed with every assortment of school-uniformed adolescence you can imagine. Why I did not just poke my head around the door, scan the scene, and promptly opt for the train instead, I'll never know. Instead I paid for my ticket and hauled myself, very stupidly, to the top deck where about 50 teenagers were crammed and getting up to no good whatsoever. I quickly turned around to try my chances with the bottom level, but they'd seen me and cackled at my embarrassment as I made my way down "We're LAFFIN at you, Mrs!" (Yes. I know. Thanks for vocalizing it for me).

So I spied one spare seat and wedged myself next to the poor teenage boy who had clearly been selected as School Pariah, and whose fate was not at all helped by the fact that the practically middle-aged woman sitting next to him was (according to the other kids) "his girlfriend." I sat there with my iPod on, trying to look dignified and pretend I couldn't hear any of them, but their clamour completely drowned out anything I could listen to. So I sat there pretending to listen and took note of how school buses still smell of farts and raging hormones after all these years, how they are still very much that space where pecking orders are established, where language is unutterably foul, and where teenage girls can sit on one anothers' laps and flirt outrageously with the spotty youths who are learning to be men by trying to flirt back and by calling one another "girls" to mitigate the attempts.

"One day" I thought, "One day my sons will be taking this journey, and I won't be here to help them navigate."

It was quite a ride, and not one I intend to repeat any time soon. The school bus must remain a sacrosanct space, and I am much happier on the 8:09 train with all the rest of the bourgy commuters, fiddling with my new blackberry, listening in on phone calls, and reading the paper. If nothing else, it stinks a lot less.

Tonight we will take our boys to their first Bonfire night and teach them the gunpowder, treason and plot rhyme. We'll explain where the tradition comes from, because we'll have freshly googled it during the day. Mummy and Daddy and Fireworks will be the centre of the universe. At least for a little longer.


My Blog is Looking at Me With Reproachful Eyes...

This morning on the train I was composing all sorts of posts in my head explaining why I have been so absent for so long.

Have you ever thought to yourself "I really must call my Mum, it's been ages" but then you don't call her, and the longer it goes, the more you keep putting it off, all the while the guilt begins to build up, and the hugeness of not having called begins to hang heavily and unspoken between you. If you call her now, you'll have to explain, or deal with a big guilt-trip, and just a quick call for a nice chat becomes a task of monumental and weighted consequence.

That's how I am beginning to feel about my blog. Which is completely unfair, as you lot are nothing like my Mum. Nonetheless, I feel like I need to say I'm sorry, that I really miss you, and would you like to come over for dinner on Sunday, as I'm doing a roast?

Why haven't I written?
1. Time (or lack thereof). This is the most obvious answer. I am now commuting up to two hours a day, and seeing my two boys for not much more than that on a week night. Finding space for "me" time seems a tad selfish considering the schedule here, especially in light of the fact that I am an unfit, ambitious, grasping type of woman who has put career before children. When all I had to do was haul my fat ass into my fat-assed minivan on a morning, and pull up into the driving lot a mere 10 minutes later, there seemed to be more time to pratt around with blogs.

2. There's too much to process. There have been many peaks and valleys in this jolly old adventure, and the thought of sitting down and composing something remotely focused exhausts me. I then feel guilty about it, and we're back in the situation where I'm treating you like my mother again. Not good. I know. We need to work on that one, don't we?

There is also a sense in which I am resisting writing so I don't have to process. Some of this has been very hard, and there have been a few days or weekends when I feel plummetted into a depression, and crave above all something familiar and ordinary. I crave home, and this place--lovely though it is--just is not home. Not yet.

3. Lack of emotional reserves (related to the above). Blogging is not just about writing is it? As we have hashed out collectively for quite some time now, blogging is about (mwah!) relationships. Frankly, people, you are not only like my Mother in this regard, but also a bit like the beloved family pet who you see as your own little baby, until actually have your own little baby, and then you could give a rat's ass about said pet, because you have nothing left to give, dammit. Sorry about that. Hey, when did I last refill your water bowl?

4. Skewed sense of audience/ complete identity crisis.
My blogging friends and community is a largely a North American one. Although I have not actually met 99.9% of you, I realize there is still a tangible sense of place connected to my blog. As I am learning how to be British again (and I know this sounds completely nuts) and negotiating how I am in this place--professionally and personally--I find it difficult to simply "walk into the other room where the old American friends are" and just be myself again. I feel completely unrooted and in flux, and it's really affected my sense of self. I'm not talking crisis here, but just a sense of constant adjustment. I am always the new person in the room. I am always having to introduce myself and second-guess myself over what type of impression I am creating. I sound like I am whining about it, and I'm really not. I guess it all comes back to craving the familar, the shared contexts and points of reference that can make you feel at home.
There's also the little matter that I am moving in completely different professional circles, some of them rather big-wiggy and important on a national level, and I've abruptly realized that you can google me under my real name and this little site comes up rather near the top. I am not remotely ashamed of anything here, and I've even used it to expand some of my own research, but I am still unnerved that Mr So and So from this particular International Consortium might enter my name into a search engine and find various posts on weak bladders and nipple thrush. Oy... For that reason, I am going to take off the profile pic.

God. I hate this post. I hate how I sound. I realize I sound quite miserable, and actually I'm not. Normal is arriving in slow and steady bursts, and I am beginning to feel much more like myself again. Or, I should say, I feel much more confident that I can be myself here. And that I can dispense with the mindf*cking bit.

So I'm sorry I've not called or been around lately. I promise to try and make it happen less. Remind me to tell you about the First UK Halloween, and the nearly doomed First Trick or Treating Expedition. It's MUCH more interesting.