Posted in Family, Personal life, Writing

Running to Stand Still

In my Young By Name column for the Tetbury Advertiser‘s June issue, I’m anticipating a return to almost-normal life – and being careful what I wish for. 

Inheriting my parents’ strong work ethic and optimism, I have developed a lifelong tendency to try to do more than is physically possible in the available time. Even so, people often remark that I’m prolific, usually in the same breath as asking me to do something for them on the old “ask a busy person” principle. (I really need to learn to say no.)

The upshot is that most of the time, like the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, I feel as if I’m running to stand still. “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place,” the Red Queen tells Alice. “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

I occasionally write a ‘done’ list to prove to myself that I have been more productive than I think, but who has time to do that every day?

drawing of Alice and the Red Queen running by John Tenniel
(Image by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” in public domain)

Jumping Off the Treadmill

Cover image of Secrets at St Bride's
I loved the pattern of the year working in a boarding school, alternating between busy term-time and long holidays – the inspiration for my series of school stories!

When in 9-5 jobs I stepped off the treadmill for holidays, I was conscious that my work would come to a standstill while others beavered away in my absence. My favourite time to take a break was therefore during the Christmas/New Year break, when almost everyone else went on leave too.

When I worked on a year-round contract in a school office, I rejoiced every time term ended, because in the absence of teachers and pupils, much as I loved them, I felt I had time to catch up with myself.

Stopping the World

To help me stay on top of all my tasks, I used to wish I could put the rest of the world on hold, in the manner of Sleeping Beauty’s fairy godmother making the kingdom sleep for 100 years. My only proviso was that I wouldn’t age a century by the time I woke everyone up again. What a shock that would be for my poor husband!

Covid-19 has put paid to that fantasy for good.

photo of the authors parents
My parents on their 65th wedding anniversary, when we took them to Bourton-on-the-Water

As we emerge, blinking, from the quasi-hibernation of lockdown, I’m hoping this past year is the closest I will ever get to casting that magic spell. As I predicted in the April 2020 issue of the Tetbury Advertiser, for me lockdown resulted in tidier bookshelves, larder, wardrobe, etc, and I’m pleased about that. But going forward, my priorities have changed.

Top of my to-do list post-lockdown will be hugging my parents.

That’s one action I’m happy to keep adding every day. 

Author:

English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Staffroom at St Bride's School series, both set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.

2 thoughts on “Running to Stand Still

  1. You are blessed! Parents young enough when they had you to be alive now! And lovely for your daughter to have grandparents when she’s pretty much grown up. Enjoy meeting up again…

    1. I am so thankful for that particular blessing, Mari, especially as I had Laura relatively late in life (I was 43 when she was born). Funnily enough, yesterday I saw a news article showing a photo of five generations of women, from great-great-grandmother down to the newborn baby – although to make that possible, all four of the mothers had had their children under the age of 18, which is something I’m very glad I didn’t do!

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