Success comes in small packages

My success this week is another 1.1kgs lost, down to 71.3kgs. I’m feeling rather smug. After the sojourn in Melbourne where I managed for the most part to stay under my daily calorie count I hotfooted it back to Brisbane on Tuesday where I threw myself into teaching. No time for exercise until Thursday night where I took out my aggression on my unsuspecting but very good natured partner in a boxing class. I then went for a cardio session on the Friday followed by a swim, and then on the Saturday I went to my PT session with Bailey-the-trainer and followed it up with another swim. I WAS going to go to a yoga session today but I’m frankly a bit too muscle fatigued – there are other classes I can attend on other days.

I’m on fire, baby! Sure enough, the weight is not so much melting off as gliding gently away. I have now lost trips Greece and France #2. In the next month I hope to lose New Zealand, France #1 and the kicker: 2008 honeymoon Italy. My eating habits have now stabilised and I’m no longer feeling particularly hungry. I’m in fact getting too full on my current diet, so I think I may be about to hit another milestone: hitting the BMR again. Currently my Basal Metabolic Rate is 1476 calories per day, which is how much energy I need to consume to maintain 75kgs if I am doing nothing but lying in bed. I’m eating approximately 1300 calories per day, but as my weight has dropped I will need to eat less as I go to maintain distance between food intake and weight loss. It’s only about 200 calories difference from my starting weight to my goal weight, so it will mean eating smaller portions at dinner, which won’t be hard to manage. I’m starting to eat less anyway, and feeling that 200gms of lean meat actually is a bit too much now.

I’m getting stronger, too. I can finally manage a proper leg-press, and while my crunches are still hilarious (because I have no strength in my obliques or abdominals) my upper body is getting a lot stronger. I was always good at squats – can’t think why, but I’m getting mighty happy with my upper body strength. We started on the trapezius squeeze yesterday (seated row), and Bailey-the-trainer noticed that I get stronger on every exercise after my first set of reps. I’m not sure I understand this but it feels good. And then I feel very tired afterwards. Luckily, my lovely trainer is a gun trainer – keeps an eye on my technique and ensures I don’t get broken. My rickety old knees are improving and my bodgy left shoulder is getting better too.

I have a quiet yearning to look as long and lean as Michelle Bridges, who is my age (her face, however, botox-frozen at age 35). I’m not sure I’ll ever be that lean because my long bones are frankly too short – it’s not that I won’t get the muscles long, especially if I do Pilates classes or dancing, but that my bones are literally a bit nuggety and large. Which is why I can carry a bit of extra weight quite easily, but which is also why I get despondent when I don’t have that lovely willowy, whippet-slim body I admire in people like Bridges. But I have to remind myself that this is a lifestyle change. I am doing this so that at 85 years of age I won’t be bed-ridden and miserable from muscle ache, and falling apart. I want to prevent osteoporosis, which is prevalent in my mother’s side, and I want to feel better. So while the improved less-squidgy looks are great, it’s for the long term benefits I’m doing this. Fit people recover faster from injury, they have fewer health issues in old age, and they have more day-to-day energy. I want all of that. So while this current jag feels a little OCD, I can see the long term benefits beckoning not too far away. And I’m getting excited by them.

The other stuff I’m thinking about: some of my paid work is going great guns at the moment, and I’m about to hit November, when all my lovely students sit their exams and show off their talents in my annual showcase concert. This year I’ve planned it for November 11, which is 4 weeks earlier than normal and it has made a huge difference to the numbers of students performing. Nearly all are singing. A joy.

And my teaching at the Con finishes for a while, so I have more time to do my research (we are SO late on a book proposal), write those 3 chapters and revamp the article I need to finish. And finish that grounded theory study for the Con. And mark 85 essays. And perhaps, belatedly and not too enthusiastically do some more of my PhD which is still hanging over my head, rather nastily now. And start prepping the house for some painting. And do the fences. And make plans for Xmas.




Kicking goals part whatever

Last weekend my friend Cheryl (not her real name) and I went down south for a weekend of fun, frivolity and Sondheim. We certainly had fun! Frivolity was a little short on the cards and so was Sondheim. Sondheim postponed his trip to Melbourne to a more suitable time than the one we had booked but I’m not going back again – can’t afford it. Grrrrrr.

So Friday afternoon after an uneventful flight where I’m frantically trying to finish editing a PhD thesis (NOT my own, sadly), we get to mum and dad’s place. Straight away we have dinner to organise because it appears ALL the family are wanting to get together for a family dinner! Son number 2 comes over after uni for a tete-a-tete about how he might move out of his father’s flat, where he is mightily unhappy, and into my mum and dad’s place to board for 2013. We chat about it: mum and dad aren’t too worried about it and I think are actually looking forward to having him there. They do the strict parent thing, not really remembering that he has been an adult for a couple of years squeezed into a tiny room and forced to be neat and tidy. Son number 2 is generally a creature of neat and tidy habit, so their fears are allayed there. He also listens to music quietly, so that is another bonus. And he can look after the animals when Mum and Dad are away, which is stupidly frequently.

The next task is to tell the Son number 1, who will be forced to financially support his unemployed, layabout, sick father and his girlfriend. I say layabout and sick in the same breath because his dad is bi-polar but won’t get a proper diagnosis or do anything about it, and wonders why he spends six months in bed feeling miserable, and then can’t get a decent job because he has no skills because he can’t finish anything. Sad and annoying, mainly for his Son number 1.

So, it’s a family dinner. I’m thinking that we’ll do a family thing and then that will be it for the weekend, but no. All the sisters bar one turn up, children and animals in tow. It’s a mad house. 5 boys and five dogs under 4 ft. There’s screaming and yelling and dogs barking, my mum yelling at the dogs to be quiet (oh, the irony), champagne flowing and a wonderful evening to be had. Loudly. Luckily it’s all over by about 9.30 when my Son number 2 turns up after work and we’re able to have some quiet time together. Cheryl the friend luckily thinks my family is screamingly funny.

On Saturday we meet her friend in town for a get together, and house auction, and lunch in Albert Park. A lovely afternoon, and my boy turns up to have lunch with us. A tiny bout of shopping fervor, and then it’s Sondheim night. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. His first solo effort. And a funny thing DID happen on the way to the forum. We’re on the tram, about to travel into town when a young woman has an epileptic fit. Quite a big one. She’s fine, by the way, but it’s 7.42pm and after a long wait for the ambulance there’s no way of getting into town by the 8pm start time. Sheesh. It looks like we’re going to miss not only Sondheim on the Monday, but Forum on the Saturday as well. We dash out of the tram and as luck would have it a taxi is passing by with its light on: available. We fling ourselves into the taxi and zoom into town, making the start of the show with mere seconds to spare, time to buy a program and sit down, gasping with effort and terror and hilarity. And then there was the show. Funny and stupid. Hilarious. Geoffrey Rush and Magda Szubanski and Shane Bourne and Gerry Connolly and Hugh Sheridan and Mitchell Butel.¬† Nuff said.

Afterwards we grab a drink at Double Happiness, hidden among the laneways of Melbourne, and then home we go. Mum and Dad are away for the night (I thought it was supposed to be for 2 nights, but no, it’s barely 24 hours – funny how she exaggerates).

Sunday is supposed to be a quiet day: a wander through my sister’s new house in Camberwell, a quick wander through an antique market then a drop in at my step-daughter-in-law’s 21st birthday, taking in the sights of Fitzroy as we do. No chance to do that. We turn up at 2.30 and can’t really leave until 5 for the sake of propriety. Father of the daughter gives a highly emotional and challenging speech about his daughter, who has had some serious mental health problems, and we’re all a bit aghast and taken aback, but also embracing this man’s admittance that he was not always there for his daughter in her hours of need (well, he was, actually, but I think he feels he failed). Poor Cheryl. The whole Sunday (well, ok, we rose late), taken up with my family’s issues.

Then it’s home for the next saga. Cheryl is having dinner with a friend and I have to take my son and his girlfriend out for dinner – I have to tell them Son number 2 is moving out and they will have to find an extra $7200 per year to live off. There are tears. I’m aghast. The catastrophising is amazing. There is blame and anger and tantrums and all at the dinner table at a little suburban restaurant. Urgh. So that’s the hard bit taken care of. The Son number 1 will meet me the following day and I will take him shopping (every time I come south I have to spend about $1000 just on my boys. It’s crazy). I go home and mum and dad are up, as is Cheryl, having a nice cup of tea. Well, after Jack Irish is finished the whole sorry saga comes out and there’s more agonising and discussion and I think my poor friend Cheryl will NEVER get to see Melbourne, or, more importantly, do any shopping.

So Monday finally rolls around and by 11am we’re off. And it’s a race from the start. We go to town, Cheryl and I, and we begin by buying EXACTLY the same shoes a size apart. Well, they are such a lovely 2-tone shoe! Then she buys a gorgeous off-the-shoulder shift-dress and I go to meet an old friend for lunch while she continues shopping. I meet Cheryl and my Son number 1 back in town 90 minutes later and we go to the QV centre where I buy some light clothes for summer, then we head off to Melbourne Central and Cheryl finds another perfect dress for the races – she looks exquisite with her new shoes, bag in the same tones, and a divine halter neck brown-spotted cream silk shift dress. I buy Son number 1 some jeans and then we head home for another small family dinner with my boys and the girlfriend. And it’s all ok.

But my poor friend Cheryl. I had been hoping that we would get to some sights in Melbourne, maybe even visit a museum, but no! Not a chance. My family hijacked the weekend. But it was ok: it was hilarious. And Cheryl is a trooper.

First time for everything

Yesterday DH (darling husband) left to go on a study trip overseas for two and a half weeks. It will be the longest time apart since we married. Secretly, I may have been looking forward to this break. It has been a tense couple of months, what with me getting frustrated and a little grief stricken about my PhD, and then DH’s job going from “this is pretty straightforward” to “oh holy shit, what just happened?”. DH has been working in a shared acting-director capacity for some weeks, since his boss decided to step down from his post as Grand Poobah. DH is exhausted, and his mind understandably only on work. That impacts on our family life, when tempers become frayed and coping mechanisms become less, well, coping.

So, I’ve been secretly looking forward to time out from US. Needing some time to get back into the groove of study, of preparing for the rest of the year, of doing some long overdue work on a book proposal. Last night was nice. I borrowed Season 4 of True Blood, bought some quaffing stuff, had the ice cream and Tim Tams (world’s best sweet biscuits) ready. Bed freshly made, house reasonably clean, all ready to go for my indulgent night of True Blood and a couch session. It was nice. Really. Just nice. Not great. Actually, I got a bit bored. This free and easy single life is a bit blah.

Now, as two and half weeks yawn ahead, I think perhaps all I needed was a few days, not weeks and weeks apart from DH. Luckily, I’ve prepared a few things to keep me going. Girl’s night tonight, more movies, take away food and some chatting. The weekend is an empty shell as yet, but Saturday and Sunday Yoga beckon, and perhaps a pamper day. Monday I work, visit a friend and then my darling son comes up to visit. Hooray! I’m still working next week, but evenings are clear and the following long weekend is looking really great. I think DS is in need of some time out from study and work commitments, so I don’t think lounging about in the city will bother him at all, and we may pop off to a beach somewhere for a relax.

DH is due to arrive back home in October, and by then I think I will have missed him terribly. We’ve momentarily lost the art of making time for each other. I’m a bit laissez faire and DH is frankly too busy. So it’s up to me to smooth the way for a happy return to form when he comes back. Sadly, I teach every evening until late, which prevents me from preparing food and stuff. So home life often feels a bit rushed and imposed-upon by students coming in and out of the house. Thursday was date-night, and until late this year was working well. But we forget. And we get busy. And sometimes, we do things that look and feel like date night but are really just work commitments masquerading as fun.

But sometimes it’s too easy to overlook the little things my husband does for me: the flowers he buys me; the mowing of the lawn, the coffee he makes me in the morning. The little things that remind me: I love him and he loves me and together we’re better than apart. Which is why, just two days into my so-called “freedom”, I’m rather longing for his presence.


House Rules

Last weekend: yesterday, in fact, DH and I decided rather unexpectedly to attack the front garden. We’ve been in the house (affectionately known as “Moneypit”) for a year now, and we’re slowly making improvements to the joint. Last week the air-conditioning went in and this week we completely overhauled the front garden. As I have students and families coming into the area, I knew we only had a day to make the garden vaguely respectable, so we began early. Father’s Day was a blast. First DH attacked the Monstera plant, discovering to his dismay that even a chain saw was pretty useless against its gorgon roots. The chainsaw broke. Mind you, it was an electric one borrowed from his dad, and it barely worked.

I began gently weeding. This whole process descended into: “let’s pull out anything we don’t like”, which left the front garden beds, sad and decrepit as they already were, looking like they’d had a severe short back and sides. We’ve yet to pull out all the Elms that keep suckering – we’re told we have to get a stump grinder to remove them and THEN apply a poison to the roots remaining as they refuse to die. And there were a few sad old bushy hedge-like shrubs that actually look rather nice when they flower but otherwise are the most hideously ugly things you can imagine. They went too.

So, with most of the ugly and old and overgrown now shorn, pulled out and otherwise emasculated, we thought idly, “wonder what the house would look like without the disgusting cyclone fencing?” And so began the next saga. Grabbing wire-cutters we cut off all the old rusting wire. This proved easy. But then we were left with the remains of the fence, framing the ugliness of the now denuded garden beds. So I grabbed a shifting spanner… and the rest is history. At least, the fence is!

Before the attackThis is a shot of the house before the fence came down. Neat enough, I suppose, but we had let it descend into something rather less gorgeous by the end of the year. Note the large Monstera Deliciosa blocking off the lovely appearance of the battens beneath the left gable.


This is the house after the fence has been removed. The only thing left standing is the funny old letterbox, which we’re keeping for the time being, because we’ll probably incorporate a letter box into the new and improved fence when it goes up. We WERE thinking of a high 1.5m wooden fence as we will be getting a dog and we live on a busy street, but the house looks so pretty, grand and lovely with all its character on show that I think we’ll get a lower version of the same fence design and grow a low hedge above it.

Naturally, we then had to go to a large hardware warehouse and buy an angle grinder. Yep. We have the tools. The only things missing now are a decent circular saw and a jigsaw and a…the list goes on, excitingly. And we bought some weed matting and pine bark mulch for under the stairs and that front area under the left gable, because nothing grows there and the cat poos there. It looks neat and attractive now. We’re still to finish the the sides of the block, but I’m much happier now the front looks respectable. Lovely, even. We worked ALL day, from about 7.30am on Father’s Day, until about 6.00pm, and today I have aches and pains I never knew existed. But the front looks great.

There is, of course, the matter of a carport. Painting the house. Changing the louvre windows for solid laminated windows. Restoring the front verandah. More to come.




Sondheim Sondheim Sondheim!

This week a girlfriend and I decided to plan a weekend in Melbourne to see Stephen Sondheim in Conversation on a Monday night in October. Then we decided to see A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum on the Saturday night as well. It’s raining Sondheim. To top it off, I’ve bookmarked a few books to buy for the library – mostly by Sondheim. Fanboi, much? Can I afford any of this? NO. Care, much? NO. Well, I AM getting a shivery feeling about how I am to pay for it, but let’s put fingers in our ear and shout “la la la not listening not listening” whenever this shivery feeling occurs.

I’m a fan of Sondheim, but I will confess that the only two shows I had ever seen of his until a few years ago were Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music. I don’t count West Side Story, because Bernstein wrote the music to that. I taped Sweeney Todd when it was on TV in about 1985, with the incomparable Angela Lansbury, for whom the role of Mrs Lovett was created, and it was on high rotation on the teev, along with videos of the The Blues Brothers and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I loved A Little Night Music, and loved the MTC production starring Lisa McCune and others. I’ve since seen Into the Woods once, by a pro-am company. And I coached roles for Sunday Afternoon in the Park with George. And that’s it. That’s all. I teach his songs ALL the time, and I love his music. I think I love his lyrics more, but I am in love with the glorious, tricky repetition of his music, the intelligence shining through like a beacon amongst the Musical Theatre dross (that’s dross by ALW or anything with Les in the title). So when my friend wrote to me on FB and asked if I’d like to go to a live show starring him, I had no hesitation in saying YES! Because he’s 82, and who knows how much longer he’ll live?

So, on the weekend when hubby and I are discussing my lack of employ over summer, I’m planning on a fabulous weekend with a girlfriend, away from the hubby, down in Melbourne, all fun and no responsibility. I think I need it, though.


Spring Cleaning Time part two.

We’re getting air-conditioning. Huzzah! We had three quotes, the first a not unreasonable $3700, the second a rather less reasonable $4600 and the third a mind blowing $5800. Each for the same installation process, essentially the same quality and size machines and the same duration for install. Unbelievable. So, of course, we’re going with the first, and it’s going in on Thursday. No point in throwing good money after bad, particularly when we have so little of it. But each quote gave a few options to consider. One, that the units, which are being placed back to back on a single skin internal wall (don’t say my house isn’t craaaazzy fun), could share the same ugly conduit pipe, down the internal wall (well, they’re both internal, but there’s NO option for a better solution, except paint). Two, that the cost can be split into two – one for the business and one for the house. That way I can legitimately claim tax on the portion meant for the business. Huzzah!

So, today, I thought I’d better have a quick look under the house to see what we need to do about making room for the split system thingy. Whoops. Oh dear. We have boxes piled up near the electrical box. So I have to clear those. And we have boxes piled up where the split system will sit. So I have to clear those. Bugger. Because we get quite a bit of water under the house during heavy rainfall we have to keep everything above ground, which means totally reorganising our “temporary” storage. Luckily, the RSPCA sent round a bag for clothes and shoes and linen and stuff, so lots of old stuff can go to them, and I can begin to clear away some of the mess that we flung there when we moved.

But I have to do it all by myself today – hubby is off doing his “service” thing for the AMEB, examining singing students in North QLD. Still, it’s better than going off to DFO where I spent a rather enjoyable afternoon yesterday spending money I don’t have on things I don’t need and can’t afford (well, it’s a lovely beige Oroton bag, so I can justify it, but only just and if I squeeze my eyes shut and sing lalalala not listening with my fingers in my ears), or money on things I do need but still can’t afford (like nylons and knickers and singlets and jocks). I guess we could sell some of the stuff under the house, but it’s worth nothing. And I like to give stuff to charity, because sometimes it’s well made, solid stuff that still has life in it, such as barely worn shoes, and china that we’ve discarded in favour of new china. That sort of stuff.

So, I’m cleaning under the house again today. Later I might reward myself with a quick trip to Bunnings to replace some herbs that died. Because otherwise I would buy cut herbs and that’s just ridiculous. Or maybe I can go to Bulimba Festival because there might be herbs there and I’d much rather give money to the little man, not the big.

Spring cleaning time!

For many home owners, there are jobs requiring urgent action and others that can be delayed for a long, long time. One of the jobs I’ve been putting off is cleaning the breezeway under the house. In QLD, a breezeway is a space through which air can travel during our long, hot, humid summers. It also provides a clearway for the occasional flood. Anyhoo, if your house is not prone to flooding it’s also a perfect spot for storage of old crap, your car, a place for your laundry, and other useful things*. In our breezeway, which has the floorspace of our house, we’ve created a workspace in place of a backyard “shed”. The roof of the space is mostly higher than my head, and it’s a pretty comfortable work zone. Harry, the old dude who owned the house before us had thoughtfully installed a heap of lights, so it’s easy to see under there, in the cool twilight of permanent shade. He left a couple of fabulous old workbenches complete with clamps and interesting drawers full of doohickeys. These currently hold our remaining boxes, as our place floods during very heavy rainfall, so everything has to be off the concrete floor.

So, last weekend I got the desire to stay at home and do housely stuff. A spring clean, as it were. Tools. We have a black tool box with black tools in it. A bitch to find all the tools, and besides it was broken. Darling Husband (known in future as DH) has a tendency to fling things in the toolbox without thought to how we might retrieve said tool in future, and the whole tool area was a mess. Dirty, poorly lit, with power tools jostling for position amongst gardening equipment, car cleaning products and house paint. So we went off to Bunnings (our house, brought to you by Ikea and Bunnings) returned some insulation batts left over from our roof sortie a few weeks prior, and bought some pegboard. Breathtakingly expensive, peg board. And the pegs, too. And some more tool boxes. Little ones. Went home again (well, all right, we did stop for a sausage in bread and I may have bought a heat gun in preparation for paint stripping later this year), and I spent a stupidly rewarding afternoon organising our tools. And after that I SEPARATED THE SCREWS FROM THE NAILS FROM THE NUTS AND BOLTS and put them into separate jars. Crazy, much? I also discovered the tool box was full of things for which there was no earthly purpose. The doohickey and thingamabob pile, so to speak. Never let it be said I remove anything from this earth without first thinking of its potential usefulness, so it all stays in the toolbox. You never know when you might need a doohickey.

I then swept the whole area and washed my car. I think I have a problem. Anyway, it was a really good thing to do. Makes one feel a bit more in control. One of the main problems of our lovely old Queenslander house is the astonishing lack of storage. No wardrobes, no cupboards. Nothing. Just a shell of a home. Anything we have is piled high in boxes or just heaped up on spare chairs (yes, we have many, many chairs). We desperately need a linen closet, wardrobes, a pantry and storage for cleaning products and useful things*. It’s not happening any time soon, considering we can’t afford any of it right now, so downstairs in cardboard boxes it goes, under the house, in the breezeway, open to wind and weather. Nothing expensive or precious, mind, just stuff. Some of which I don’t fit into anymore. Oh, ok, it’s clothes, shoes and books. Lots of books. Mostly choral scores and old paperwork from years ago. But I can’t bear to throw it all out yet.

It got me thinking about our “spaces”. What are these and who inhabits them? One such space is the “garden shed”. My grandpa had a wonderful garden shed, full of doohickeys and thingamabobs, smelling of mineral turps, linseed oil and beeswax. And freshly shaven wood, my favourite smell in the world after toast and coffee. My husband is not really into the garden shed concept. He is more into “office” space, although as life becomes ever more mobile his office is often the kitchen table. My mother inhabits the “cellar”. But it’s not really a proper cold-storage cellar, it’s just a space where dad has his wines, and where mum can do her furniture restoration. Again, this space often smells of turps and linseed oil, because my mum has followed her dad’s footsteps. I can see in her demeanor and posture the hunched figure of my hat-wearing grandpa, bent over his workbench, peering at some dusty old thing, turning it over in his cracked, worn hands, muttering under his breath as he works.

My dad’s space is anywhere he can listen to his beloved music and watch his beloved sport. It usually contains a couch, a large speaker system and even larger flat screen TV. And my space? Well. I have an office which contains my musical equipment, five bookcases groaning with music scores and music books, and my desk. It’s where I teach and has to be neat and tidy. But it’s not my only space. I think I’m getting to the “garden shed” phase, where I like to store the house paint, the brushes, the power tools, the gardening equipment. I like it to be neat and tidy because even though it’s just stuff, it’s stuff that I will want to use, that is useful, that we need. We paid for it, let’s not treat it badly. I used to feel my bedroom was my sanctuary, but as I’ve gotten older and share the space with DH, it’s less of this and more of a place where I can sleep on the world’s most comfortable bed.

These spaces, my office and the breezeway under the house are places of refuge. They are not “private spaces”, but they are spaces where I feel good and where useful things happen. Like learning, doing, creating, fixing. Nurturing. They’re not places for “living”, exactly. They’re not really comfortable places where I like to hang out to read or sit in. But good things happen there.

So, next week, I plan to complete the tools section organisation and start on the garden section. Now THAT’S a fun job. Considering our garden is mainly weeds and overgrown grass, it’s interesting to see how much crap we have for our garden that we’ve not yet used. One day, I promise.

*useful things include power cables and extension leads and shoe polish and wire and batteries and first aid equipment and light bulbs and spare containers and string. You know, useful stuff.

Mary Mary quite contrary. Damn my brain!

So, I send off the form to supervisor asking for 6 months in the penalty box. Yep, I need time out, I need to find a job, there’s a bunch of stuff I’d rather be doing than looking at my PhD right now. I’ve not touched it since I went to Thessaloniki, and even then it was about the learning and not the writing. New theories to consider, old ones to rethink, that sort of thing. Nothing concrete, just thoughts.

Relieved, I foolishly decide to OPEN MY LATEST NARRATIVE CHAPTER for one last little peek. Damn. Like contrary Mary, instead of breaking off all contact with the PhD and turning my back, I’ve been pulled headlong into a fun place of editing, rewriting and thinking about my work. Damn damn damn. Of course, now that I’ve looked at it again I’ve found all the bits I don’t like and some important things that keep cropping up in the overall scheme of things that I need to revisit. 12000 words it ain’t. More like 16000. Not sure how to get it down any further without completely ruining the flow and substance of the chapter. It’s not fair: I’ve got two people’s interviews, pre and post, plus 2 quite different learning and teaching episodes. What am I supposed to do? It won’t cut down without losing the participant’s voices.

Anyway, it’s Saturday afternoon, 1.30 eastern standard time, and I’ve been working since 9.00am. Time to stop, put some washing on, clean the back yard and maybe have a shower and get dressed? Maybe some lunch too? It’s the best four hours I’ve had for months. And the chapter’s looking good. SIGH.

Taking holidays while doing a PhD

At the moment I feel guilty when I take holidays. Does anyone else have the same slight back of the head worry that they are skiving off when their precious work awaits? One of the problems of doing these stupid PhDs full time in Australia with an APA award is that you are given four weeks annual leave. Ok, no issues there. It’s just that there is so much necessary fallow time with a PhD that it’s hard to work out whether one is taking a break or simply not doing the study.

Another issue is the tendency for my husband to be a complete workaholic. Which most of the time is absolutely fine because who wants someone hanging about the house when you have thinking to do, but it means our holidays are really ephemeral moments, usually tied to a conference. So it doesn’t feel like holidays at all, but rather a skiving off from work.

I’m desperately tired now. I teach quite a few hours a week, and, as the end of my stipend approaches, I am aware of the need to find more full time work to fill the employment gaps. But with all my teaching during semester time (term time for secondary students) I am in need of actual respite. The travel that my husband and I do could hardly count for “respite”. It’s work. It’s networking. It’s a freaking conference!

But there have been weeks in the last year when I’ve literally not been able to do anything. Such as when we bought a house. That was 2 whole months of NO work on the PhD because I was desperately flinging together our budget, doing 3 years of tax, and then getting the renovations organised before we moved in. I was terribly busy at that time. It was no holiday. As anyone who has bought a house and moved and renovated knows all too well.

So, when is a holiday from the PhD an actual holiday? Is it when you are too busy with other projects to fit decent study in? Is it when you need a mental break from it in amongst all the other activities yammering for attention? Or is it when, in an odd congruence, one’s physical AND mental breaks align and you can think, OK, I give myself permission to take a break?

Until my PhD is done and submitted, I won’t feel deserving of a holiday. It will sit at the back of my head, that little red devil, whispering in my ear: “finish me….finish me….”