In-between

I’ve always been bad at in-betweens. You know, when you are waiting for something to happen, or something to become clear. When you hesitate to put down roots in your situation, because you don’t know what’s coming next, and you aren’t sure if any investment you make now will be worth it. The effect these in-betweens have on me is stultifying. I sit and look at all the things I could be doing and don’t do any of them.

You can see it in this blog, these in-between times. It becomes harder to write, harder to think, even, so I post less frequently, or stick to photos rather than words. Like the early months of pregnancy, when I can think of little else but don’t want to write about it yet. And like now.

This has been a rather long in-between. In between finishing my PhD and …. I don’t know. A baby? What else?

We are planning on staying in Norway for the next three or four years, so in order to make that profitable for me I need to either get a research grant or learn Norwegian so I can get a more interesting job. Or both. We are also thinking of  going to the US for nine months or so while I am on maternity leave. It’s not set in stone but is a distinct possibility. I was ambivalent about it at first but now am quite excited about it. Of course it complicates the whole learning Norwegian thing. But I can make that work. I’ve got to stop thinking like that.

I guess what I am trying to say is I am trying to live richly and purposefully in this in-between time. I want to kick the inertia so that I can do that. I want to start learning Norwegian properly now, although there are only three months left until the baby is due. I want to complete some writing projects, and repaint some scruffy walls in the house. Although I’m not sure where the writing will get me, and although we might not be spending much time in this house next year. Because if I don’t do anything, it won’t get me anywhere at all.

Although I find in-betweens uncomfortable, I don’t do much to avoid them, because I don’t like to rush things. At some level, strangely, I am not afraid of them. After my undergraduate degree, I had two and a half years off, during which time I worked as a home-care worker for people with disabilities, I wrote part of a novel, and after deciding that I did want to continue with English literature after all, I secured funding to do a Masters in medieval literature at York. After the masters I had another year off, during which I finished my novel (with a little financial help from the South Australian government), and managed to get funding for my PhD.

So in retrospect, those in-betweens were quite productive. It is easy to think the past ten years have left me with not much. A couple of dusty manuscripts, and a rarified education that doesn’t count for a great deal in the real world. But those two dusty manuscripts are quite nice, even if I do say so myself. They deserve to be reshaped into forms in which they can go out and meet the world. I need to be brave enough to do this. And we shall see where it takes me.

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The cats

Ok so I just made this my header, but that will change at some point and I wanted a record of this! I’ve been wanting to get a shot of them in the bright autumn leaves beside our driveway for ages. (Ok so Michael took the picture but I lured them in there…) It’s really hard to get photos of Mermos in focus – he’s so silky and dark and velvety that the camera has nothing to latch onto. This one is pretty good though:

If you ever take a picture when he has his mouth open he looks like a terrifying killer, but in reality he is emitting a pitiful squeak:

Mermos is a very emotional, very vocal cat. When he comes running in from outside he mews his little head off until you pick him up or he buries himself in your lap, making puddings and purring blissfully. For a long time he liked me best. We sometimes let them in to snuggle with us for half an hour or so before we go to sleep. If Michael was in bed and I was getting ready, he would pace disconsolately on the bed until I got into it, at which point he would leap on top of me and burrow into my neck. Thankfully he is starting to share his affections a little, because this was a bit mean. He sometimes gets into a funny mood and climbs right on top of the kitchen cupboards to watch the world from a safe distance, and to snooze in peace.  He is utterly obsessed with human food. He will even eat spinach. And your toast is never safe – he is getting faster and faster at swiping it out of your hand.

Whitby is the more even tempered of the two – he never makes quite as much fuss. He is happy to sleep beside you rather than practically inside you. He’s getting more and more snuggly, though, too. They both love to sleep on top of my bump. I think the little one will be very accustomed to the sound and the feel of cats purring! Whitby is more interested in going outside than Mermos, but he always comes back in when we call. It’s funny – they like to play in different places – Whitby is always out the back of the house, while Mermos is always out the front. Whitby loves the green chair.

And he loves Mermos. We adore them.

Night light

Playing with the camera settings, Michael got some pretty cool pictures of our house and garden on Saturday night. I love how you can see Mermos in the window.

Unfortunately there’s more and more of this these days. Night, I mean. Waking up in the dark is a pain. Today was grey and miserable and it still felt very dark at nine in the morning because of all the clouds. I guess one advantage of shorter days – at least the clear ones – is that you actually get to see all the sunrises and sunsets. The sunset in my header at the moment is from some photos we took from the bridge between Norway and Sweden on Friday, about six pm.

Anyway we are bugging down in our warm little house and watching the dvds we brought back from the UK. Just finished season two of Dexter and I am completely hooked.

The pregnancy is going well. Twenty-five weeks tomorrow. I’ve felt the little thing kicking and wriggling every day for just over two weeks now. It’s delightful and strange, and what’s even stranger is that I’m starting to get used to it. But it’s very hard to mentally connect the hidden thing wriggling inside me with the demanding little one and two year olds I run around after all day. It’s getting more difficult to pick things up off the floor. By no means impossible, but it takes about four times as much effort and time as it used to. Also I frequently think I’ll be able to squeeze past someone or between a chair and a bench and I’m shocked to discover I can’t…

We are loving and loving our kittens.

It was so cold last Friday morning that I could hear the frozen yellow leaves clattering down from the trees.

Yorkshire

We had a beautiful beautiful trip to York and Leeds last weekend. I saw many old friends. The places themselves are like old friends, and it was so refreshing to see them. It was lovely to see my old supervisors, although everyone in UK universities is extremely depressed and worried at the moment, because the government is cutting state support of universities by up to 75%, which will have a devastating impact… My supervisor reckons it will be the biggest change in the university system in the UK since the 1960s when they made many of the old polytechnics into universities. He guesses that now many of them will have to go back, or close down… Student fees are set to at least double. It’s also a pretty impossible situation for many of my friends who, like me, just finished PhDs, but now can’t find any casual teaching work (which you need to build your CV), because when people go on leave or retire at the moment they aren’t replaced – the remaining staff just have to work harder. Which in turn effects their own ability to research and publish, which will impact on their university’s standing and ranking, etc etc.  Anyway, my supervisor reckons it’s a brilliant time to take time off and have a baby!

Depressing economic situation aside, it was lovely to be there. The towns and countryside of Northern England feel so much more settled, established and cultivated than Norway does. The houses are brick and stone, the fields have hedgerows, ancient abbeys crumble slowly next to the rivers. It feels loved and lived in.

I also did lots of shopping. I love maternity wear. Finally I can buy t-shirts and jumpers that are really long enough for me! We were lucky enough to get two days of brilliant sunshine, and on Sunday we took our old friend Vic to Bolton Abbey, and did the first section of one of our favourite hikes ever.

Not much more to say really, except that if you’re ever in the area, you really should go there. You can do a short walk of an hour or so along the river, or you can keep going on up through the ‘valley of desolation’, climbing up to arthur’s seat for the most incredible views of the North Yorkshire Moors. (Wasn’t up for that this time but have done it several times.)

When we got home the kittens had survived being fed by the neighbour for five days, and were very pleased to see us, curling up tightly on our laps and refusing to leave for hours.

Autumn light

Right now it’s rainy and miserable, but all week the light here was glorious.

Last Monday we climbed the fortress after dinner, all too aware that soon it will be too dark to do that.

For just a little longer, the leaves catch light and spin it and weave it.

This is exactly the time of year when the sunset hits the cobblestones through the fortress’s inner archway.

And I can’t help but believe that if I run along that path I will reach some place altogether new: a city of gold, with a gate only open for a few seconds each amber-washed autumn evening.