Friday, November 30, 2012


So November Knob-head activities have come to a close.  It was satisfying to vomit out the required number of words for NaNoWriMo before realising that at least another 30K will be needed to finish the first draft and have the story make some form of sense. Of course, this was the whole intention - get us procrastinators committed for a month and then, if/when we hit fifty thou', we'll be in for the long haul. Clever thinking.

Milly sat at my feet the entire time acting as mute inspiration, delivery man sniffer and wet-nosed break time alarm clock. She's been recited to, sung at and even had her opinion sought on alternative paragraph endings and descriptions.  I'm pleased to report that her work has been outstanding and she's quite simply the best Personal Assistant a writer could wish for (excepting the fragrant farts, of course. Then again, she could rightfully direct the same complaint back at me).

The 60,000 words were completed at a time when Sapphire's stomach issues had not only re-emerged but also joined forces with her 'plumbing at the front'.  No-one likes placing their feet into stirrups and having a man approach with a cotton bud and what looks like an oversized creme brulee gas torch but when you're thirteen years old, tired, sick and scared it gets beyond funny. "So Mum, how's your day going so far," she said quietly, trying her best to get her mind off things. "Can you hold my hand please?"  At least two days off school per week has become the norm but we thank modern technology, school website log ins and mates with mobiles for keeping her up to date with assignments and still in sight of good grades.

However with lingering illness, puberty, fluctuating friendships and a truck-load of pre-report card homework to do, she's been forced into the first row seat riding the rollercoaster of grumpiness, apologies, resentment, frustration, amusement, challenges, stomach aches, affection, anger, sulkiness and gratitude.  Love Chunks and I sometimes want to hand our own tickets back to the booth at different times but, together, we're a pretty formidable - and empathetic - force.

My endlessly busted Achilles is minor in comparison but still makes my invisible tail droop at not being able to do my favourite form of exercise combined with sweaty singing and idea generating.  As my stupid old woman muscle heals at snail-on-a-glacier pace, the treadmill has done a sterling job of getting bed sheets and towels dry, being so close to the window and radiator. Shame about the dog hairs and dust bunnies forming on the belt though.

Seeing some butt-numbing numbers flash up on the scales at a friend's place was an unpleasant reminder that an alternative form of exercise needed to be sought.  At forty four and with new (and desperately unwanted) age spots arriving on my face every week, swimming was the most obvious choice despite snow approaching and me already with several old winter layers to be removed.  Three times a week has since seen me reluctantly trudge in the freezing wind half a kilometre downhill to the pool, get undressed in a semi-open change room where male workers wander through at will and plonk myself into water that is far colder than you'd expect a heated pool to be.

It is here, whilst splashing up and down the lanes - right side here in Switzerland, by the way, not the left - that chapter ideas emerge, chlorinated and vibrant, ready for use. Hindsight flowers behind foggy goggles and offers decent alternatives in my reactions to Sapphire's tribulations; and Love Chunks' face appears on the bottom of the pool, smiling kindly at me.

It is also here that I discover rage.  Rage is new to me, as I'm the, 'Oh let the guy in, it's just another three seconds of our lives' forgiving old soul when it comes to cars.  Beeping horns are also alien to me and as long as I get that obligatory 'thank you' wave, life behind the wheel is calm and uneventful.  The swimming lane provides a direct contradiction.

Unlike pools in Australia that are usually marked, 'Slow,' 'Medium' and 'Fast' with about two lanes for each speed, Geneva has just two lanes. One is marked with a green tortoise and the other with a red hare; a rather cute solution for swimmers with potentially little or no understanding of French.  I'm egotistical enough to select the Hare lane as years of running have given me an endurance level that allows me to swim laps without stopping. Fat old girls can float, y'see. I was never particularly fast in Oz but always consistent, yet here in Switzerland, I'm a female Ian Thorpe without the fashion or the flipper feet.  I leave middle aged Canadian blokes and skinny French ladies in my wake, lapping them over and over again.  No rage yet, just overheated pride and vanity.

Lapping is fine, as long as there are six or less people in the Hare lane.  When there is more, and some clod decides to wind down by doing the backstroke or the breast stroke, my irritation awakes.  No-one, apart from Olympic athletes, can swim the back or breast stroke faster than freestyle which means that they no longer belong in the Hare Lane and should duck under the barrier and do their barely-floating version of a hungover frog in the Tortoise Lane.  Irritation rises to anger when I have to overtake the hairy-backed old guy lazily attempting back stroke and have his overly long fingernails scrape my sides whilst doing so.

Rage finally appears when I've overtaken the third bloody breast stroking bozo and we touch the end of the lane at the same time and he doesn't take one single second to notice that I've thrashed the water to foam whilst making up three quarters of a lap and want to take off in front of him.  No, this non-submersible turd ends up kicking me in the face as I try to get around him and not smack into the blind backstroker coming from the opposite direction.

The only thing stopping me from strangling these inconsiderate imbeciles with the cords of their speedos or pulling back goggle straps a metre before letting it sting their faces is the counting.

Numbers. Order. Routine.

I dare not waste too much mental energy on these public pool pinheads or I'll risk forgetting how many laps I've swum.  Fourteen, Fourteen, Fourteen, is the chant until I reach the end. Fifteen, fifteen, fifte ----- oh for pharksake why does he think that swimming with a foam peanut between his knees means he'll be quick enough for the fast lane ---- bugger. Was it fifteen or thirteen...?  If in doubt, don't cheat. Thirteen, thirteen, thirteen, thir----- maybe I'll swim over the TOP of that stupid back stroking bonehead instead of around her....

When forty is finally counted, I hoik my dripping bulk out via the pool steps and do my best to saunter back to the change rooms, walking in slo-mo for coolness but really to avoid slipping on the tiles.  When I'm safely in the unlockable, saloon door individual cubicle, I slump down on the wet bench seat in exhaustion.

Three loads of washing to drape around the house, two specialist appointments to arrange for Sapphire, winter tyres to put on the car, a thrice-postponed lunch date and then, the writing.  Love Chunks' face appears in front of me again as I find the hill back home rather hard going.

Milly greets me at the door, full of joy as usual and as we go downstairs for a walk, my smile returns.

I'm so lucky to be here and will do my damnedest to make the most of it.


FruitCake said...

Thank you for sharing Jack Nicholson.

I'm staggered by your self-discipline word and wading wise.

It's dreadful that Sapphire is still suffering. Has she had an MRI yet, or are you still struggling to sell one of your 400 rental properties?

Hannah said...

And this, my dear, is yet another reason why your novel will be transcendent once it arrives. You make every story sing.

(But I still feel a deep, visceral "ugh" at even the thought of swimming...)

drwife said...

I'm very impressed that you didn't just give up exercise. I'm in limbo right now because my lower back and hip are hurting. That removes my ability to run and walk and I can't save myself by swimming. I can't even properly swim one lap! I've been contemplating paying some sad Frenchmen to teach me to that is depressing.

I hope you make progress with the specialists. Poor Sapphire to be dealing with all of this at the age of 13. I hope you are ingesting wine and chocolate while you deal with her. The trickle down effect must be pretty bad sometimes.

Can't wait to hear what the 60,411 words are about. Well done!!!!!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

First of all congratulations for doing far better in the battle agains procrastination than I could ever do.

Second - don't get me started on breast-stroking old ladies who hog the entire swimming lane while pootling along at a pace that is almost standstill when I am right behind them trying not to drown them both but still being kicked in the face repeatedly for just daring to swim up behind them...





LC said...

Geez, I'm glad you're here!

Windsmoke. said...

The Tortoise Lane sounds about right for me.

Kath Lockett said...

Fruitcake, I think that the writing challenge came at just the right time to get my mind of Sapphire's continuing illness. She's had a couple of x-rays and ultrasounds (along with blood, urine, pap smear and urine tests), so we're being as thorough as we can...

Hannah, you are very, very lovely. The novel, however, is likely to be considered primary school fiction in terms of complexity and style!

Thank you, drwife. Wine is being ingested, but chocolate far less so. Sapphire's been diagnosed with an excess of sugar in a rather delicate part and needs to cut out as much as she can. I, in my supportive stupidity, said I'd do the same and only very occasionally snarf up chocolate when she's not around.

PlasMan, I say we create a petition for public lap swimming pools the world over to create a separate lane category specifically for backstrokers and breaststrokers!

LC, I'm glad too.

Windsmoke, at least you realise that. The tattooed wildebeest in front of me just *assumed* he deserved to be in the fast lane because he was
a) male
b) younger than me. After I lapped him three times, he moved over to the slow lane. Hah! (I have to find my victories where I can)

nuttynoton said...

pooh, bah,, fart or whatever expletive I can say on here! Things seem to be getting worse for her, I hope they can get to the root of the problems. As for swimming I was never any good and at least our pool had 4 different lanes I was always in the extra slow one! My knees are staring to play me up know at 50 something and many years of running with too much weight, so know its on the bike that I enjoy when I can get out on it safely.
Keep up the swimming, writing and funny views on life in the swiss cheese and give Milly a pat from me

Andrew said...

I am quite impressed by the number of laps you can swim. Changing over to winter tyres is an interesting concept to an Australian.

diane b said...

The photo of Millie's hungover bum is a scream. Your writing is so entertaining. I love it. Sounds like you are going well with your tale. I would love to read that too. I don't know how you cope wit writing, coping with a sick teenager and a sore foot. The swimming pool saga must be so darn annoying. You sure sound fit at forty plus laps. It must be a worry not knowing what causes Sapphire's sickness. Once upon a time Switzerland led the world in medical science but I think they are getting left behind now.

The Elephant's Child said...

I so recognise lane rage. I put it down to be a grumpy old woman - but I do suffer from it. There is an elderly (mid 70s) gentleman who does the worst (technically) breast-stroke I have seen and swims up and down with his head out of the water the whole time chatting to all and sundry. If I could catch him I would bite his feet. He says it takes him about twenty minutes to do a kilometre. Inadequate and crabby about sums me up. (My kilometre takes a little under half an hour.)
I am so sorry to hear that Saphire and you are still not on the hundred per cent healthy list. Healing thoughts to both of you.

Pandora Behr said...

I'm in awe of your novel writing attempt. Keep at it.

Alos, well done on the swimming - I hear you about not being able to run (says she who's just back to it after a fornight off after doing my back) but keep at it - and yeah, at least here we have lane etiquette.

Hope Sapphire is on the mend too.

Missed ya,


River said...

A runner AND a swimmer? I'm exhausted just reading that. I don't swim well and have never done even a single lap without stopping to rest. I am a champion sitter though. I can sit anywhere for hours at a time and not even break a sweat.
So sorry to hear of all that Sapphire is enduring again. I really hope something is found and fixed very soon.
Congratulations on the writing, be sure to let us know when the book is published so we can all buy a copy.

River said...

P.S. I would have thought the turning and changing of sheets and towels on the treadie would keep the dust bunnies and dog hairs blown off.

JahTeh said...

Oh, Kath, my dream if for a lap pool undercover, heated and just outside my door in the backyard. Not a silly play pool just for summer but a proper up and down for an hour lap pool. It will be just wide enough for me, no-one else gets in, ever.

Kath Lockett said...

Nutty - pat for the dog has been completed. Several hundred times. :)

Andrew, each car has to have 'summer' (ie normal) tyres and 'winter' tyres with the end of October being the legal date that you must have winter tyres put on. As a know-nothing about the mechanics of cars, they look the same to me, but apparently grip the roads far better.

dianeb, I think the writing actually helped with everything else happening as it gave my brain something challenging to work on.

E-Child, your slow old guy is lying through his back teeth! It takes me half an hour to swim 1.3km and I refuse to believe that he's that close behind me in speed.

Thanks Pandora. Still no real solutions for Sapphire but there are some more avenues to try.

River, you're too kind. I'm STILL seven kgs heavier than I should be. As for sheets and dust bunnies, the latter seem to be very good at clinging on.

JahTeh, that'd be my dream too.

The Elephant's Child said...

Sadly he isn't. He generally laps me a couple of times in a swim and, as I said, it takes me about 28 minutes to do the kilometre.
I have a t-towel I am sure you would appreciate (Judy Horacek), depicting three lanes in the pool. Fast lane, slow lane, General Bewilderment Lane.

franzy said...

Didn't you hear, Kath? Last weekend was The Holy Festival of Obstruction.
I haven't been able to move from any point to another for the last 72 hours without someone going OH LOOK A THOROUGHFARE!!! WHAT A GREAT PLACE FOR A CONVERSATION!!!
The Central Market was particularly amazing.

Congratulations on your formidable word-count. Don't stop. Finish. Then edit.

Anji said...

I'm sorry that Sapphire is suffering again.

I'm afraid that I'd be in the way even in the tortoise lane. I used to be able to just about manage a width if I pushed off hard. (and I was really in the way!)

Christmas is coming!

Jilly said...

Yah Kath - I remember your frustration at breast strokers - you are a champ. Very proud of you. xx J

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy, I have stopped a bit, or certainly slackened pace due to a friend in town, last minute shopping before a trip back to Australia (first time since we left eighteen months ago), school stuff for Sapphire etc.

E-Child, I remember seeing that Horacek cartoon!

Thanks Jilly!

uf said...

Sapphire's problems (btw, hope she gets better soon) reminded me of that girl she was friends with last year and that lived with you for a while when her mother had a stroke... whatever happened to her? I know she then went to live with another friend, but you never mentioned her again and I was wondering. Did they go back to their home country?

Kath Lockett said...

uf, that's a good question and you've given me an idea to write about - an update that is honest but keeps respective peoples' privacy intact. It'll be a challenge.....