April reading list

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Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel

So I’m a fan of this series, but I guess Wolf Hall was my favourite. Of course, I enjoyed this. In fact, I kept reading other things, saving this one up.

But when I finally got to it, I found myself a little bored drifting. It is very long, and while one’s love of (Mantel’s) Cromwell (which is a weird pronouncement as well as a tribute to Mantel’s skill as a novelist) can take one quite far, perhaps the foreknowledge of the end, or just how everything seemed to around in circles or the reigning queen(s) (Jane Seymour/Anne of Cleves) don’t quite captivate (although I am fascinated by both these women as I am fascinated by all Henry’s wives – except perhaps Katherine Howard).

Also, the ending. I don’t know why I had a sense of deja vu. I no longer have my copy of Bringing Up Bodies at hand, but did it end with a similar perspective of the beheaded Anne?

Department of Speculation, Jenny Offil

One more book written by a creative writing teacher (or is that the case with all authors now? That they have all have creative writing degrees and then go on to teach the subject and so mine that territory when it comes to their own fiction?).

I don’t mean this as a slur, but it was quite like reading a (literary and fairly profound) blog. In fact, it charts the course of a marriage through fragments.

Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

My initial impression was that it was written for the movie – The Grand Budapest Hotel came to mind. Also it had a bit of the Western person writing about the east –  the commies are the bad guys/plebs (well, they were, but is that the only perspective we can have?) and the aristocracy the good cultured one.

I have lost patience with the big bad commie point of view that Americans cleave to. In the count’s dinner with a senior Party functionary, the latter comments on Hollywood as the perfect propaganda device (but later undercuts that by citing noir). Here the novel performs this function by showing up how the well-intentioned system becomes a hierarchy of hierarchies. So the novel functions as anti-communist propoganda.

Weirdly or not so weirdly, it reads like the Russian novelists read in English, which may or may not have been the point

Anyway, it grew on me and stayed with me, so that’s something. Also, I realise that I now tend to read mostly women authors, and perhaps it was the ecriture masculin that I couldn’t quite get into?

Paper Moon, Rehana Munir

Read my thoughts here.

The Girl Who Lived, Christopher Greyson 

Another of those novels you read because you want to know what happened, not because you particularly care. Another male novelist I couldn’t quite get into, although it had a quite interesting female lead character.

Lab Girl, Hope Jahren

The memoir version of Overstory.  How to become a scientist. Do I need to say more?

Okay, it’s about a very successful paleobiologist – both her journey as a woman in science and the wonder of plants. The objects she studies become a metaphor for their own trajectory

The mushroom As a penis

Surrender, Dorothy – Meg Wolitzer 

Why do some books make it and some not? This is a lovely book, but doesn’t seem to have made it onto any lists.

Wolitzer’s thing is to do friendship and the keen observations that interesting people make. She does this conversation with friends so much better than Rooney

Or at least I think so perhaps because I’m Not (properly) a millennial

The Eighth Guest and other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, Madhulika Liddle

A series of finely crafted short stories starring Mughal-era detective Muzaffar Jang. The actual mysteries are not amazing, but they’re enjoyable anyway.

Convervations in a time of coronavirus

Discussion with Nene about playing a video game involving shooting.

N: It’s not shooting people and there’s no blood

Me: But it’s still shooting. Some experts think that if you get used to shooting during video games, then you’re more likely to use a gun otherwise, to shoot people.

N: Well, so many people watch video games. How come they’re not all shooting people?

Me (thinking): Touche, my boy.

[cue discussion on gun control and it’s effectiveness]

***

Me: Are you looking forward to going back to school?

Mimi: No.

Me: Why?

Mimi: Because you can’t fast forward the teacher.

[The next day, I fast forwarded the teacher. She was speaking soooo slowwwwly.]

***

Nene is asked to write a sentence using “hi” and “high”. His offering:

Hi omg you’re so high.

 

Easter in a time of coronavirus

Christmas and Easter are the two big festivals on the Christian calendar. We tend to be in India for Christmas and Easter in Hong Kong has never lived up to what it would be among extended family in India. I refuse to give up on it completely; till a couple of years ago, I would avoid meat and dessert on Good Friday and try to get into a reflective mood, even though I don’t count myself among the believers.

This year, though, I pretty much forgot about Good Friday, and whacked into my fair share of chocolate. I have two Easter traditions – an Easter egg hunt (basically a glorified chocolate treasure hunt) for the kids and a lunch at a restaurant that does Peking duck (no particular reason for eating duck in Easter; just that we’ve happened to choose that restaurant for two consecutive Easters).

Obviously, the latter wasn’t going to happen, but I did do an Easter egg hunt for the kids. Being me, I got my act together only on Saturday afternoon, so nipped down to the shops to buy chocolate (instead of eggs, I use Lindor balls and Ferrero Rocher). To my horror, the supermarket was packed; beyond wearing masks people were making to attempt to stand further away from each other in the checkout queues and there was one woman I kept running into despite my best efforts who kept sneezing. Arrrrgh!

V has been extremely diligent about making sure we don’t need to grocery runs too often but supplementing with online ordering and insisting our helper be disciplined about doing a grocery run as soon as shops open. I thought he was being a bit extreme, but I had to eat my words.

Anyway, last year, we did the Easter egg hunt at home at Nene’s insistence (because he was afraid other kids would barge in and deplete his stash, probably because he knows his mother would encourage other kids to barge in) even though we have a maze downstairs that would be perfect for the purpose. The previous year I had done a mix of clues and random searching, but they insisted they didn’t want that. This year, to my surprise, Nene said he wanted the hunt in the maze.

It’s a simple thing to organise, but they do enjoy it, even though I wish Nene wasn’t so competitive about the number of eggs.

For lunch, I wanted to order in, but realised we’d probably struggle to get a delivery in as early as we’d want to eat (11.30. I know!), so we ended up making a trip to the wet market after ages and buying crabs, which V cooked up.

We had a couple of video calls with both sides of the family, which was nice. Also had a big video call with extended cousins – it was nice to see everyone, but the number of people was pretty unmanageable.

It does make me think that one of the big disadvantages of living abroad is how festivals become a very small affair.

Writing an academic paper in a time of coronavirus

The week before Easter I was supposed to be Cebu with six college friends. Instead, I found myself sequestered in my own apartment complex.

In addition to lazing about, making sure the kids kept in touch with some English and Math work, indulging in Netflix, I decided to work on converting one of the chapters of my thesis into an academic paper that I could submit to a journal.

Day One: Mimi falls sick and all bets are off. Spend entire day alternating between playing board games and general paranoia that she has contracted the coronavirus.

Day Two: Mimi seems to have recovered. She petitions to be allowed to go downstairs. Permission granted on the condition she wears a mask.

Decide to start writing journal article. Have already spent a whole morning of another day narrowing down which journal to submit to. Open journal webpage to look at submission guidelines. Instruction guidelines will not open.

Frustrated, decide to go through list of journals again. Spend half an hour researching possible journals (again). All Sage journal webpages seem to have some problem and cannot see the author instructions. Decide to go with the first one.

Switch from Mac to Windows computer. Webpages now miraculously open. Journal has template for submission. Spend 20 minutes trying to figure out which version of word I am using.

Start typing in author name etc. Finally get to first para of manuscript. Cut-paste first para from earlier very rough draft.

Decide to blog about how tedious this process has been.

Day Three: keep head down and work like a fiend. The most tedious thing is translating the references into the chosen journal’s required format (single quotation marks for quotes, and double for quote within quotes, if you please!). Why do journals do this?

Day Four: begin to feel ill. Perhaps worked too hard. Also realise analysing two novels in one article is going to exceed the maximum word cunt by 50%. Decided to restrict article to only one novel.

Day Five: Do almost nothing. Wonder if I’m coming down with period or something else.

Day Six: Feel better and decide that I have to somehow harden heart and edit like a fiend and include two novels or the argument will not be strong enough.

Proud to say that at the end of one week, I have a paper, only in need to thorough proofreading and tweaking.

 

Never forget

The famous eM wrote in her newsletter about her various grudges. I used to be a fan of the Catholic (?) doctrine of forgiveness, but as I age, I find myself happy to hold grudges. Or rather to accept that some scars take longer than usual to fade and one does not need to pretend to let them go. So here are some of my favourite grudges:

1. My most recent is this woman who has a locker next to the area in which we sit in office. She tends to be chatty with a couple of people on our team, but I am convinced she is ignoring me. To test this theory, I once tried to join a conversation she was having, but she said something somewhat withering to me (admittedly, this could be because I butted in). I took umbrage and now I am ignoring her but I still want to definitively know if she’s actually ignoring me. Ugh.

2. Our apartment complex used to have a little garden where people could rent plots to grow plants. The kids liked to look at the vegetables growing there. One evening, they were looking at the plants – and one of them may have reached a hand out to touch one – when I vaguely heard shouting in Chinese. I didn’t pay much attention; I tend to tune out Chinese. Then the yelling switched to English. Turned out that a woman was yelling “Stop!” or some such in a dramatic way. I turned and gave her an incredulous look and we walked away. Later, I could see her muttering to another old man. Apparently, she thought that we were plucking the plants as has been done before – we weren’t. Overreaction much.

3.  I have written before about the woman who routinely stops Nene from playing “unauthorised” ball games in the basketball court (even though I have never seen Chinese kids getting stopped from doing so), to the extent that she has called security on us, even when we moved far away from her to an area where there were no people. 

4. In my first job, my boss was unnecessarily mean and would yell using profanity. Her sidekick supported her. I survived this hazing and they accepted me as one of them, but I never forgave them.

5. This is my longest-standing grudge: When I was in college, some friends invited me to join a choir that would perform at a Christmas concert. The practices were held in the late evening, and this being India, we had to find a male to walk us home. This guy, who happened to a friend of my (much older) cousin offered to walk me home. Later my friend told me her boyfriend would walk both of us home, so I let my cousin’s friend he needn’t walk me home. Choir practice went on, at one point, I realised that I couldn’t really hit some of the notes, so I would just mouth them without singing. One day, I noticed my cousin’s friend staring at me, and during a break, he came to me and whispered, “I know what you’re doing.” Later, the choir conductor came to me and told me that she thought I was singing false – someone had been, but I knew it wasn’t me because I made sure to mouth notes I couldn’t sing – and that she didn’t think I should sing at all! This, being after months of practice, she offered to let me stay on the condition that I do not sing at all but mouth everything. I politely declined and stopped going. I still hold a grudge against the cousin’s friend (who I am convinced ratted me out unnecessarily because I turned down his offer to walk me home. I later figured he might have had a crush on me – he seemed strangely disappointed – a possibility I never considered since he was so much older) and the conductor (who I believe did not sufficiently investigate who the source of the false notes were).

After writing this, I realised:

1. Grudges do fade in time. I was sure I’d have a longer list than this – and I probably do – but I struggled to remember some (though then they started to pour. A couplethat I do remember – this Indian woman in our neighbourhood whatsapp group who interrogated me about my name “not sounding Indian” and some teachers in our school  – I found I do not care much anymore.

2. My most persistent grudges are related to my children.

3. Grudges related to strangers persist longer than those related to friends, because the latter have many chances to redeem themselves and often do.

What are your favourite grudges?

Social media in a time of coronavirus

I’m not one of those who grumbles about social media. I am unabashedly on social media and I find those who announce their departure from it as if they’re waiting for congratulations of some sort stupid.

Since the coronavirus struck it appears that a lot more people have become a lot more active online. That can be a good thing, because more content, right? I’d love it if people start blogging more.

There seems to be a lot of content on the lines of things to do when you’re on lockdown – shows to watch, books to read, hobbies to take up, homeschooling resources.* I’m wondering though – do people have more free time now? I certainly don’t. My work workload hasn’t diminished while I now I have additional duties related to my children’s schooling. I am knackered at the end of the day.

There are these musicians posting stuff online and online lectures and I’m like ooh I should check that out, except where is the time?

Then, there are new chains on Facebook that I don’t quite see the point of – post a photo of yourself in a sari or photo of a place you haven’t been to.

The worst change, however, has been the resurgence of activity on once-defunct whatsapp groups. Suddenly, people have a common topic to talk about, I guess. But many of these people do not really have much else in common and come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, and it shows.

A lot of the content on these groups is people just forwarding stuff though. And this has clarified for me how I use different social media for different purposes.

Facebook is for posting stuff – interesting articles, memes, short comments and some personal sharing. I’m not active on Twitter, but I would use it for it for sharing articles this purpose too (minus the personal photos). I have almost entirely stopped sharing personal photos on Facebook, though I’m not averse to other people doing so.

Instagram is for posting snippets of beauty and the odd meme.

Whatsapp is for actually keeping in touch with people you want to keep in touch with. It is for people who are not on gtalk all day. I do not appreciate seeing forwards on Whatsapp. The odd one is fine, and perhaps if people posted something and then said what they thought about it so that a discussion could ensure, that would be fine too. But just sending a link, or god forbid a video (I never watch videos) is tres annoying.

I used to feel obliged to click the link and say something out of politeness – though I draw the line at videos – but now I can’t be arsed. People have suddenly got very link-happy and I don’t find it worthwhile keeping up with the deluge. If people just posted this stuff on Facebook then one could scroll through/ignore it at leisure as opposed to being alerted to it just because it’s been posted on a platform which also conveys personal messages that I do want to read.

Also, people are now doing video calls, a development which rather bemuses me, because I don’t see why I should be doing a video call with people who I haven’t exchanged even a whataspp with for ages.

I suppose people normally have more a active social life that I do. In a good month, I might meet up with friends twice a week; in the recent past, it’s been once a month. So eschewing that is not a big sacrifice really. I’m not saying this state of affairs is a good thing, just in this regard I don’t seem to be having the massive withdrawal symptoms a lot of others are.

Despite my scepticism, I found myself actually setting up such a call myself; even for an introvert like me, the sameness of the week is bound to get to one. Having a scheduled call offers something to look forward to and, hey, if one finally catches up with elusive peeps, maybe that’s  a good thing. I think the ideal number of people per call is 3 though.

*I don’t need additional homeschooling resources because I’m struggling to ensure that what needs to get done, gets done. Also, a lot of the activities that get posted require kids to be on a screen, which they already are excessively on now that their entire schooling has gone online. This might not be the situation for everyone. Some schools are unable to send across enough work and parents might find these resources useful. But using them requires planning and organisation – more work for parents.

This situation has concretised my fear of what ‘online education’ would look like though. Every week, our school seems to add a new e-resource; this week it is an online library, to read books online. I know access to these resources is a privilege. But I also think that teachers need to step back a little and see if they can offer activities that don’t involve looking at a screen.

 

 

March reading list

Famous people, Jeffrey Kuritzes 

Was hard not to read this and think Justin Bieber, even though I’m hardly familiar with today’s pop music. The coronavirus briefly forced me out of my comfort zone and into Taylor Swift but that’s it.

I was expecting this to be peopled with many glamorous characters, but what I got was a monologue. Nevertheless, really liked it. What does it say about me that I liked the Bieberesque voice?

The Dutch House, Ann Patchett 

Loved this like I’ve loved every Patchett book I’ve read. Siblings sitting in a car reminiscing about the bad old days – what’s not to like? One of Patchett’s regular themes is the strangeness of families – and she manages to wield her craft in such a way as to leave us feel heartwarmed at the end of it.

One of the questions posed by this novel: can a house be a country you’re in exile from?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh 

Read my thoughts here.

The Friend, Sigrid Nunez

A book about writing and dogs (not necessarily about writing about dogs, though there’s some of that). What’s not to like?

Like a continuation of Alexander Chee with a touch of the detachment of the last book.

But the book is so clever- is the friend the friend or the dog the friend?

The Milkman, Anna Burns

Read my thoughts here.

American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson

When you think of spy what do you think of? Certainly not a black woman, I’m sure. Wilkinson tells a personal story but also subverts the cold war narrative, by telling it from a black perspective. The theatre here is Africa, not Russia: while we know that the US meddled, Latin America, not Africa is what comes to mind.

I hadn’t even given Burkina Faso much thought before this. Now suddenly, after a mini history, I felt like I’d like to visit.

She also plays with the idea of the spy itself – the protagonist’s Marie’s mother, a black woman learns to pass for white, her father, a black man, passes in the white-dominated police system as one of them.  In a sense, then, Marie has espionage in her bones and it is no wonder that she excels at it, even though she only gets into the profession to fulfil her sister’s legacy.

The Perfect Spy, John Le Carré

Rather ironically American Spy had me hankering for a traditional spy story and I decided to go to a master I had not previously read. I googled his best book and this one came up.

I expected it to be a slog, but it it wasn’t. And it happened to share some similarities with Wilkinson’s work. Just like Wilkinson’s narrative is a letter to her children, so does Le Carre have British spy Magnus spin his tale for his son. Both are spies who became disillusioned and fled their former lives. Both had a troubled relationship with a parent. Both we trained in the qualities of spycraft growing up.

It is subversive in its own way, showing the possibility of solidarity across the lines of the cold war and the tr ascendance of friendship.

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson 

This is a “companion piece” to Life After Life, which introduced us to the Todd family. In that novel, the focus was on Ursula; this time, it’s on her much-loved brother Teddy. While it’s nice to visit the family again, the next generation not as captivating as the previous – which is perhaps the point.

It’s a little hard to get at what the book is about – but a theme that struck me is the relationship between parents and children and the relationships that flow across generations. There are parent-child pairs who do not really like each other (Teddy-Viola, Viola-Sunny/Bertie). The scene in which Viola slaps Sunny and the impending guilt was too close to the bone.

Also, Viola’s treatment of Teddy made me reflect on my own communication with my parents during the coronavirus. We are at the age when the parent-child role seems to get reversed, when we find ourselves telling our parents what to do. But Teddy’s perspective as an elderly man reminded me that we need to handle this flip carefully so as not to infantilise our parents or be straight up obnoxious. Resolved to try and do better. Failed. 

Though have to say halfway through stopped being fed up with Viola and started being fed up with Teddy and what a paragon of virtue Atkinson makes him out to be. Also found the relationship between Nancy and Teddy disappointingly vague, though I guess her intention was to subvert the idea of the childhood sweetheart from the previous novel. 

Some incidents are repeated (such as references to a person who had got decapitated and sleeping with Julia – not sure if that was sloppy editing or a stylistic device I was too dense to get.

She does a volte face at the end which went way over my head because unlike in Life after Life I couldn’t take the time turning that seriously. Further research indicates that she did intend to play with the idea of fiction, but given that she has pushed the notion of multiple possible endings to its extreme in Life after Life, this doesn’t quite have much impact.

The Outline, Rachel Cusk

This should have been called Conversations with Grown-up Friends. It read like a cross between Conversations with Friends and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

A novel that reads like memoir, with lots of surprisingly insightful anecdotes – mostly about marriage and how it holds together (and idea of) self.

Read it to delay plunging into Hillary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and at one point was tempted by the arrival of period to switch books but found it surprisingly easy to finish this first which I mean as a compliment

Made me want to go back and study literary form, which could take me to philosophy in a way that the cultural studies I have been doing may not.

Murder at the Happy Home for the Aged, Bulbul Sharma

Picked this also to delay reading The Mirror and the Light, but it didn’t quite satisfy. I like the idea of elderly detectives and the portrayal of a contemporary Goan village with the influx of North Indians and Russians. But the mystery itself was wanting and the writing did not rise in the way that some detective stories have been doing recently.

 

 

Netflix in a time of coronavirus

So several years ago, V argued for cutting our cable connection. He concluded that we weren’t really using it much and what we wanted to watch, we could download. He installed Apple TV and another box that allowed us to hack into movies.

I don’t really watch TV that much so it was fine. The problem was that when I did want to watch something, I couldn’t just access it. I had to search for it online and/or download it. Sometimes I couldn’t find it, or it wouldn’t work. Sometimes, by the time I did that, someone else would have commandeered the TV.

Still, TV isn’t really my thing so I just sucked it up.

However, during the coronavirus, perhaps because the internet is just slower, or because we were watching TV more, this system started getting (even more) annoying. So finally we caved and got Netflix (ironically missing out on the free trial).

I was super excited, and diligently went through all the options, googling the best shows and what not. I had a minor fight with V when he suggested that I was one of those people who would keep scrolling through the choices and not choosing anything. I’ll admit that I am an agonisingly slow chooser but I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the case with Netflix FFS.

A week on and I sheepishly have to admit that my enthusiasm has somewhat waned.

First, I am reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Lamp, so I’m in a Tudor phase. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single Tudor show on Netflix. I settled for Versailles but couldn’t quite get into it. I want to try The Borgias and Medici, but they aren’t accessible here. I fear that were they available, they might be similar to Versailles, which was a bit OTT (a similar complaint I had with The Tudors, honestly). I tried a Swedish murder series, but couldn’t get into it.

So, I ended up downloading Wolf Hall and watching that instead. Insert facepalm emoji.

Then, the very reason we moved to Netflix was because our usual channel for watching Project Runway has stopped working. Project Runway is our family’s version of the Ramayana. It appeals to all genders and age groups (even V who pretends he’s not into it). We watch it during dinner on Saturday nights (yes, we are a family that watches television during meals, against the mindfulness doctrine. We try to avoid this during dinner, but don’t always succeed. I’ll be honest, I’d rather be reading a book while eating than talking to people, a habit I’ve cultivated ever since I moved out of my parents’ house).

Project Runway is a show that appeals to my and Mimi’s interest in fashion and Nene’s competitive instinct. We discuss which designs and designers we like best, and who we think will win that episode. A nice bonus is that Project Runway is quite queer friendly, featuring gay characters and their backstories, so that aspect of life gets normalised for the kids too.

Now, I know you were thinking this all along, but Project Runway is not on Netflix. It has its own similar show, which I will get to eventually, but are mid-way through Season 18 and we want to finish it. So, now, we have ended up downloading Project Runway and watching it off Netflix too.

V has watched some movies on Netflix but even he feels he’s not that into most of the choices. Right now, it seems to be working most for the kids, who are thrilled to select a new movie every day or to watch their favourites with clear reception and no buffering.

What are your favourite Netflix shows? Recommend away!

 

 

 

School in the time of coronavirus – 3

The school has got better at e-learning and I’ve got better at tolerating handling it. Heck, I am even learning something.

For example, Mimi is learning about circuits. This is not something I envisioned an eight-year-old would be learning but I’m not complaining. My daughter may have atrocious handwriting and spelling but she knows the difference between a series circuit and a parallel circuit (and can build one on an online programme) and by extension so do I.

Following the realisation that I have to upload videos of my children doing yoga for a PE grade, I meekly submitted to the next week’s assignment of making “healthy snacks”. I went into minor panic mode thinking up what these might be (being unsure our usual snacks would pass muster. Fried egg? Cheese toast) until I realised that the teachers were posting recipes to be followed.

Moreover, none of these, except one, required cooking. It turned out to be an activity both the kids enjoyed and the snacks were even quite tasty. One of them Nene even made for himself the next day and it inspired me to buy and eat more fruit (though it may have slightly effed up my stomach; there’s a limit to how much fruit and vegetable my gut can take).

***

This activity meant that I ventured into the supermarket after god knows how long to actually buy something myself. This only because I was not organised enough to put the necessary items on the list for my helper or husband. I peered at fruit and veggies with a gimlet eye, made aware once again about how illiterate I am when it comes to selecting them (one of the banes of our childhood was being sent to the vegetable cart by our mother, only to return with something substandard and be sent back, until we took to pleading with the vendor to please select something decent the first time around. The result is that we never learnt to select any ourselves, and probably I would have learnt the fine art, had I actually progressed to cooking).

Anyhoo, back to the recent past, I strolled around the supermarket, unsure where anything was. Eventually, I managed to find everything on my list. While I stared bemusedly at some bananas, a scrum of elderly ambushed a supermarket employee who was carrying a box so even I went and chose bananas from there, though I am not sure why they were special.

It’s not that I am exacting about bananas myself. But I fear that any flaw in my purchases will be scorned by the experts at home. So I feel it’s easier to make an effort.

Then, I had a minor panic attack at the cashier when the bill turned out to be much larger than I would have thought. Obviously, I could just check the bill and refute charges that were excessive, except that this particular supermarket has started printing the bill in Chinese and disputing it would involve pantomime and Google translate.

The thing to have done is to have watched the price of items on the cashier machine as they are checked out and see if they tally with the prices one expects them to be (which requires remembering or knowing what things should cost, which my helper is excellent at). Obviously, being me, my attention wandered while the cashier was doing her thing, only to come to when I was handed the bill, which I am proud to say I at least registered the final amount of.

In the end, I whizzed back to through the aisles and thankfully it turned out that one of the items I purchased did indeed cost a sizeable sum. 

See, this attention to the cost of things is not really in my nature (which I know is a privilege – that I don’t really have, my husband reminds me, because it’s not like I am the queen of England). I tend to just hand over my card or sign bills, my mind just glazing over the numbers. Actually looking at numbers and processing them requires discipline, something I am trying to cultivate, though clearly not hard enough to register the individual prices of things as they come up on the cash machine.

***

Another new addition to our lives has been daily mindfulness. After the PE unit that I ranted about, Mimi has taken to guiding us (well largely just me) on meditation sessions every night. It satisfies her need for giving instructions, mine for calm and a way for the two us to connect to eat other. I don’t know if it has actually made either of us any calmer, but at least we are for those 15 minutes.

Mimi is hardly a professional meditation coach – she talks too much for one – but it’s impressive how she manages to have some kind of plan through the sessions (imitating YouTube videos) and doing a rather amusing mishmash of new age monologue (“go with the flow”, “think about your inner place”).

Dare I say it, but this might be the ideal kind of schooling, had I the mind and energy for it. Someone else guides the curriculum and provides the resources but I’m actively involved in customising it for my own children.