Tuesday, February 14, 2017

the low point

In the world of inherent challenges built into living in a four hundred year old higgledy piggledy cottage in the middle of the rural Chilterns, a dodgy electrical system appears to be numero uno. Yesterday, on discovering there wasn't any hot water, I flipped the switch on the immersion heater and thusly managed to blow the whole system, waking up at 2am to discover my phone hadn't charged (after dropping it in the bath tub), the lights wouldn't turn on, the heating was off and the internet was out. I'm not yet in the habit of wearing slippers (you really don't need slippers in LA but I now have my eyes on those sheepskin booty ones from LL Bean) so I stole down the stairs, phone in hand, and rustled round in the half dark for a bag of arborio rice in which to dunk it. My feet were cold, my hands were cold and my head was cold, so I grabbed my Norwegian flag beanie, and my favorite outdoor coat made from my brother's tweed. I jumped back into bed, along with two now emboldened four legged hot water bottles, and started googling "power outage Cholesbury." Now this might come as a shock, but unlike going to twitter and searching "power outage Laurel Canyon" the former produces no results. If there is a local bulletin board or a neighborhood watch, I don't know about it, and I'm rather alone here, knowing precisely zero people in the village (apart from my neighbors, who've both come by with incorrectly delivered parcels).

At about half past seven in the morning, I took the dogs out to the cricket pitch, as one does, and started asking various dog walkers if their electricity was out too. Every single person looked at me as if I were mad, and replied in the negative. I wonder if "is your power out" an American phrase? I just don't know any more.

None of the phones had charged, nor the computer and the only number I had was my friend Pip, who's a plumber, so I texted him trying not to sound too desperate. "Hi. Could you send me the name of that electrician you recommended?" ("And a one way ticket back to Los Angeles" I wanted to say.)
There is nothing worse than being cold. The Norwegians are good at this; they dress for the weather. They even have a saying: Det finnes ingen dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær...

Looking back at it, it was a low point. I realized my sense of humor had evaporated and the only thing I wanted to do was to go to bed, wrapped in a comical seven layers, feeling incredibly, pathetically sorry for myself. "I am an Angeleno." I thought. I didn't think it with pride. I saw it as a failure. Noble experiment in country living goes awry with first setback. Woman, 53, is not as brave as she originally thought. In fact, she's rather feeble.

I was woken with a pounding at the door. I leapt up, stuffed my three socked feet into my golden Birkenstocks and ran downstairs, opening the door with as wide awake a look as possible. Two people greeted me - a smiling woman with an enormous vase of blue and white flowers, and my mother, with her walking stick and a thermos wrapped in a down jacket. The woman thrust the flowers in my hand as my mother handed me the thermos. "Now you can have a cup of tea," she said. At my lowest ebb, on a cold day in February, in a four hundred year old house, with no heating and no electricity, my mother had come to my rescue. She came in, lit fires, went down on her knees to blow on the flames, got both wood burners working like furnaces, like an angel. And the flowers, which include a huge heart, bent out of pussy willow, were from my lovely man in Berlin.

And suddenly everything got better. The electrician, Nicky, and his merry men arrived and magically everything started working again. There was beetroot soup for lunch. There was a jolly note from my book group ladies. And with heat and light, hope.

5 comments:

LPC said...

Your very own miracles<3.

Myyayayoyo said...

U def haven't list your sense of humour and this is a hysterical post. Trooper keep trooping. It's a wonderful life and at least it's not dull! You can master anything.

Katherine C. James said...

This is lovely, Bumble.

In one of your last posts—pauses to find post, realizes it was your previous post, "be kind" (in America our days are long, and time is distorted, under the new regime)—you wrote in part, "it just struck me: i need to find a way to be kinder to myself. i think it's important to allow that things will change and they may feel catastrophic, but a few months from now, everything will turn out as it was meant to. my arms are so tightly around everything, so scared of change in the midst of epic circadian shifts, that i worry, too much, and i make myself miserable with the worrying."

I was thinking of you and of your words while I sat next to a man I love, but who is by my choice a friend not a lover, at the chef's counter at a restaurant we both enjoy, on Valentine's Day. I was feeling the loneliness that somewhat ridiculous day can bring. So, if you felt a tingling sensation about your ears, that was me thinking of you from the border of Berkeley and Oakland in California. I was thinking how easy it is for me to be kind to others, yet how hard it is for me to be kind to myself. This was illustrated for me a few days before when of my nieces, who I adore and who adores me, texted me an offer of help. I texted back one of my polite feints, which she saw through. She raised the kindness ante in her next text, including telling me she wants to be allowed to be kind to me in the ways I have been kind to her.


A dark, cold night in a new place, after years in a different place with different expectations, will be difficult even at the best of times. Opening your door and finding the kindness of others (flowers! tea! a fire-builder who bore you!) is soul-soothing because it's an example, a positive mirror, a light in a Dantean forest that models how you can choose to soothe your own soul within the soul of your community.

Do be kind to yourself. This is a period of change. The most important part, for me, is that you chose change. The only constant is change; choosing change, even when it guarantees some emotional and physical discomfort, is a wonderful thing.

Years ago, when I was agonizing over a decision between two job offers, one from a famous large company, and one from an unknown startup, I called my parents to ask their advice. My dad told me, with his slow-talking thoughtful kindness, to simply make a decision. I said, "But what if I make the wrong decision?" My dad said, "There is no such thing as a wrong decision. You make a decision. You live with the decision. You make another decision." His reply relaxed me, and I chose.

Life is impermanence. The best lives are lived by those leaping, not by those clinging to the familiar or to the past. You inspire me in your choices.

Thinking of you. Hoping you're warm, and your electricity, or power, or whatever it is in the local parlance (I was once married to a half British, half Transylvanian man; I'm half Western European and half Indigenous, it's a wonder I know what anyone is saying at this point), is humming into your home.

Sending you love and support.

arlenegibbsdecor.com said...

Beautiful writing, Bumble.

What you're doing seems exciting, with a big dose of glamour, from those on the outside. Many would think that it's an easier transition, same (mostly) language, it was your home before.

It is hard. Bloody hard. At times, what the f did I do with my life hard.

Then you open the doors to flowers, tea, and possibilities, and know that things will be okay.

Lou said...

Thank goodness for mothers. Your writing is lovely since you've been back, noticing the British and the American and the Norwegian. Perfect combination. L x