Mental overload and an unexpected cure for it

Just last week I had too many things in my head. We are still in the throes of de-cluttering and in some cases re-decorating and general refurbishment around the house. Suddenly after living with the hole in the kitchen floor and the dishwasher that doesn’t work for a number of years – I’ve lost count – we’ve started the process of getting them fixed/replaced, which as usual is somewhat lengthier and more complicated than you would think possible. I had got used to walking round the hole in the floor, although one of the family evidently had forgotten how to do that, because no sooner had we got a joiner in to give us a quote for mending it, than he put his foot through it, resulting in a somewhat larger hole. That’s what happens with sons. I can’t remember any longer which one kicked or punched a hole in one of the upstairs walls, years ago. Anyway, I am quite looking forward to having a complete floor, which I can then arrange to be covered with some sort of more attractive flooring than the current part cork tiles and part bare wood, and to a new fully functioning dishwasher which will not just wash the dishes but conceal them until they are washed, which I now realise was one of the biggest advantages of the last one.

Of course all the above means various workmen have had to come round to the house, all on different days and at different times. Others in the family have dealt with some of the hassle, but my diary now records not just people’s birthdays and the meetings I have to go to locally but cryptic notes about the de-clutterer and the painter, whose plans change from day to day and sometimes even hour to hour.

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It was hard enough to keep what I randomly classify as normal stuff in my head even before all this started, but the other night, in the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up and panicked about the deadline for an article I had been getting into shape ready to submit to a local community magazine. Sure enough, when I got up in the morning and checked, I found the deadline was that very day. Also, finishing that small task reminded me that I had promised to update a vaguely related website. However, actually doing these things before I even started on my writing quota for the day also reminded me of a more universally applicable truth, which was that once you complete the tasks that are in a sort of unruly queue in your head waiting to be done, they are no longer in your head nagging at you.

With this in mind, I have just finished booking a trip I’ve known was on the cards for some time but had previously done nothing about, partly because I couldn’t make a final decision about the details, and partly because I had to make sure it wouldn’t conflict with too many other people’s plans. I feel a tremendous sense of achievement now that the whole thing is now recorded on various websites and the train tickets and hotel bookings are in my email inbox. All I have to do now is not to lose the emails, and go to the station on the right day in time to print out the tickets. It is partly a work trip to London to go to a conference – because I have agreed to give a presentation I am more or less obliged to be there – and partly a research trip to Rye, in Sussex to make sure I haven’t written anything ridiculous about the place in a novel I finished earlier this year and abandoned before doing the edit precisely because I knew I needed a research trip to check out the lie of the land. Having booked it all has other benefits as well as getting it out of the irritating queue in my brain. I can now look forward to it and re-read a book of walks around the area that I bought earlier.

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Memories of another holiday – Notre Dame from the river Seine, seen at sunset under a bridge.

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