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Christmas card letter
  • This is a place for you to provide a little update to me on your interesting goings on this year, should you wish to do so. I’d love to hear what you guys have going on in your lives.

    I spent the first half of the year at home with my daughter until her first birthday. We learned sign language together and all sorts of other things. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done which I almost didn’t do, if you know what I mean. In May I went back to work part time and she spends half her week in nursery now. Thursdays we meet up with her favourite sign language buddies and play in the park then eat lunch. She can walk and talk now. Mummy’s here; Daddy’s here; Door; Rarr!; etc.

    My partner still has various minor auto-immune diseases but they’re mostly under control. Her mum got breast cancer last year and recovered, my dad went into hospital this summer with stomach pain which turned into a horrible operation where they thought he might die but it all just went mysteriously well and he was out in three days. Seeing him on the hospital bed was something of a shock - I think I realised that I am the grown up now, if you know what I mean. My mum got pushed over by their dog and broke her leg but it’s healed fine. I haven’t spoken to my siblings anywhere near enough this year and hope to change that soon. They’re mostly doing fine. Sister’s a vet now.

    Work’s going okay, but I won’t bore you with the details. I’m trying to find ways that we can live on a lot less money so I can keep working part time and spend more time around the house/garden/local community, and more time writing. I have two first drafts of novels on the go and I’m learning to play fingerstyle guitar. It’s a lot of fun.

    I stopped playing Street Fighter. I miss it sometimes, and especially miss the friends I made over seven years of playing the same game with the same people, but I think my life is better for it. This might seem like a minor note to include in a letter like this, but I probably spent an average of an hour a day playing Street Fighter for more than five years.

    I haven’t heard much new music. I’ve mostly been listening to old folk records and music from my youth, in which way I’ve basically become my own dad. I think I’m good at being a parent and I kind of regret waiting so long to get in on that parenting action. We want to have another child but we’re waiting and seeing what happens. We want to get married in secret but we’ll probably end up doing a little family party thing which will annoy R but never mind.

    I love living up here on this hill. I hope to grow vegetables again next year.

    That’s me!

  • Good thread duder, nice to hear your news. Liked reading about your daughter and sign language. Have you seen that documentary Sound and Fury? It’s about a deaf family and the daughter wants a cochlear implant and the family has this big furore about it, quite gripping and well-made. Also cool about novel drafts and guitarring etc.

    I’ve posted a lot about my year on FB as a coping mechanism, cos it’s been straight-up the worst; short version is that I got burnt out by a friend in the town I’d moved to who turned out to not have reformed his misogyny/creep ways at all, and had to move back to my hometown/start medication. That was in about May, and I’m basically recovered now and am moving back to that town tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing my friends, I have a really good group there. I’m going to start volunteering for the Prostitutes Collective, which I think will be good cos I’ve been in limbo all year, for which unemployment didn’t help. I’ve been interested in that stuff for awhile so will be good to finally give it a go; I’ve never done union-type work before. I would like to erase most of 2016 from my memory, but I did meet some nice new people and such, and it seems to be looking up.

  • Hi guys,

    Thanks for the updates! It’s good to hear from you all. Alistair, tell me more about learning sign language with your daughter. My wife, who has a hearing impairment, has always resisted learning sign language, but we’ve learned a couple of things recently together (simple stuff, I’ll be right back, that kind of thing that could probably be pantomimed anyway). I’m interested in it for sure.

    Damian, my eldest son, has gone off to college and is doing really well, and the other two are the disorganized space cadets that genetics has doomed them to being but are working very hard on getting better. Max, my 16yo, was the lead in a school play recently and was great. Ian, the 9yo, makes a lot of hilarious fart jokes.

    I continue to make and eat all the sandwiches. I don’t think I’ve written anything really worthwhile since last August but hope that maybe I will again at some point.

    I’ll try really hard not to let the site lapse again.

    Thanks for coming back, everybody

  • Yeah, nice to hear how things have been for you all!

    The main thing that happened in 2016 is that my partner and I bought a house. It’s located in a small village just outside Maastricht, which means it feels a lot less suburban than most of Maastricht itself. It’s an old, quirky house, with a snug porch and beautiful, huge garden. Actually the whole thing is kind of ridiculously big for two people (and, hopefully before the end of the year or the beginning of next at the latest, two cats), but nonetheless manages to feel really cosy. And it’s honestly pretty great that we each have our own office (well, mine will be shared with the two aforementioned cats) plus an extra room for guests. It’s located conveniently close to the motorway, which is good because it does not add much to my partner’s hour-plus-long car commute, and conveniently close to the river, which is good because it means my half-hour bike ride to and from work is pretty flat. It’s inconveniently far from a bus stop, which will be bad when the roads are frozen and I won’t want to cycle, but the winters here tend to be fairly mild, so hopefully that won’t happen too often. It’s also pretty close to some nice hikes, although we have had no chance to take advantage of that so far, as so much of our free time has been consumed by taking care of house-related business, weekly trips to the hardware store and all of that. And more recently, slumping down on our new and very comfortable sofa.

    I’m rather fond of the new place, as you can probably tell, though a little worried that my partner might not share the sentiment to the same extent. The process of buying and moving has been a lot more drawn-out and stressful and frustrating than either of us expected, from which I concluded “let’s stay here as long as we can so we never have to deal with this again”, whereas he seemed to take from it “we probably made a mistake buying this place”. I think he’s coming around to it now that the boxes are finally unpacked and most of our furniture is in the right place (still waiting for the last few pieces to arrive), though.

    Everything else seems kind of distant at the moment, but if I think hard enough, I can think of a few more things that happened in 2016: I got tenured, I had some very entertaining skype calls with my three-year old nephew, I learned a lot of donkey-related facts and skills (and spent a week hiking with an incredibly sweet if somewhat stubborn donkey along the coast of Brittany), I concluded that I don’t really care for craft beer all that much after all but that (French-style) cidre - along with Korean and Japanese green tea - is the best drink in the world, and that’s about it, I think.

  • Sorry to hear about bad times (excited to hear the rest of these news items).

    We’re doing British Sign Language designed for babies and mostly learning through nursery rhymes and songs, mostly because it was F’s favourite class when we were trying out classes, but it has also been really helpful in letting her communicate with us well before she learned any words - as soon as she could do the sign for “milk” it cut down about half the times she would cry and we didn’t know what she wanted. Now she is constantly pointing out different things she can see (or wants) - only problem we’ve found is that sometimes she will cry in the night because she has been signing for milk without saying anything, and we had our eyes closed… I will go and find that documentary at some point, Anne.

  • Happy holidays everyone. Almost.

    We have another infant now. First infant is obsessed with new infant. New infant is just on the edge of learning to crawl/walk/say words. I’m working full time and not really liking it - I don’t see him enough. I need a new plan.

    My favourite albums this year are mount eerie’s live album and that new earl sweatshirt record which everyone says is overrated.

    I’ve been writing a lot, pre-baby (drafted two novels, published a few short stories with this one journal, figured out a way of writing which lets me do it in spare moments instead of thinking I have to wait for an empty day) and feeling happier about my writing, maybe even getting a bit better at it - who knows. But mostly feeling like I can see more clearly exactly how my writing isn’t as good as I want it to be.

    Bad time at work last year. I basically got manhandled out of my job and almost sacked altogether in 2017, when my boss left and the new boss didn’t want a part timer in a senior role. Said I couldn’t do the job part time, though I’d been doing it for a year already, then tried to say I was redundant while advertising an identical vacancy, then just shut down the project I was working on for three years. I hung in but then moved anyway and am now back full time somewhere else. It’s better but the same kind of work and I think I’m tiring of it. I harbour a secret dream of becoming a gardener or hedge cutter or something. Maybe when the infants no longer take up all the mental space.

    Our house is too small for four people - I want to stay put so I’m thinking a lot about how we might rearrange things. I might have to sell my drum kit/bass guitar/various other things I love but never use. I think part of my work is to need less than my parents needed, if you know what I mean, so I don’t feel too bad about it. But what if my daughter grows up wanting to drum and I’ve sold my beautiful gretsch kit?!

    Basically there’s not much going on here except babies.