The twelve days of Christmas 12: Empty nest syndrome

Well, here it is, number 12 – the finish line. I MADE IT! Against all odds, I have struggled through and written… twelve paragraphs. Well, it’s something, although I don’t suppose I’ll be getting a medal anytime soon.

While this ridiculous idea of doing daily blogs has felt increasingly like a millstone I’ve hung around my own neck, I have to admit my life suddenly feels a tad directionless without it. This is a happy coincidence (a.k.a. deliberate piece of motivation engineering) with the fact that I’ve just returned to Oxford and therefore to the increasingly terrifying prospect of writing my extended essay.

However, the exceedingly tiny life-crisis brought on by my own personal christmas-blog-baby being all grown up is nothing in comparison to the empty nest syndrome Mum’s exhibiting now that Duncan and I have both disappeared off to uni in the space of two days.  As I’ve pointed out, it’s probably better that your children (temporarily) fly the nest than that they remain in it past their sell-by date, lolling uselessly about and eating all the food like a monstrous human cuckoo. This observation apparently wasn’t all that consoling.

Still, eight weeks isn’t all that long, and we humans are lucky enough to have things like phones and the internet. So don’t worry Mum, I’ll stay in touch!

empty nest syndrome

However, there probably won’t be any more posts for a few weeks/months, unless I’m dramatically more efficient with my work than expected. I may try to upload the odd cartoon or brief, ill-formed reflection on something or other, but for now, goodbye and happy new year, and try not to miss me too much.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who’s followed me – you’re inflating my ego beautifully!


The twelve days of Christmas 11: “Heating”

You may have noticed that most of my cartoon people have been wearing jumpers recently. This is no coincidence; I’ve spent most of the Christmas holidays muffled up in several layers of wool and my fluffy wolf hat, even indoors.

This is because of our house, most of which we (a.k.a. mum and dad) built ourselves. It’s quirky. It’s been described as a horizontal version of the Burrow, and it’s mostly made of wood and stone. This is all great, and I’m very fond of it, but unfortunately it’s “heated” exclusively by a wood-burning stove, which is generally not lit until the sundown and never really reaches the radiators. The result is a large area of flagstone-floored, french-windowed, semi-arctic living space, and one very small corner of warmth next to the Rayburn.

The other problem with the Rayburn is that it’s temperamental to say the least, and seems to have taken against me. My attempts to light it result in billows of woodsmoke, and things cooked in it follow a trajectory along the lines of “raw, raw, raw, raw, raw, raw, burnt to cinders”. Despite all this, I’m told it’s eco-friendly, and I suppose I wouldn’t appreciate the central heating in my uni accommodation without having experienced a house in which it’s often necessary to wear your entire wardrobe all at once.

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The twelve days of Christmas 10: Candlelit dinner

My parents seem to think that the quality of a meal is inversely proportional to the light levels it’s eaten in; every time we decide to have a “civilized dinner” the lights go off, the candles come out and everybody stabs blindly around in the dark, vainly trying to spear some food. This is a particularly common occurence around Christmas, and a perpetual source of arguments, as I – unlike my parents – am firmly of the opinion that replicating the dingy atmosphere of a cave does not constitute mood lighting. I usually lose.

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When I pointed out that Electric Lighting has spread even to Llangrove, I was met with this response.

The twelve days of Christmas 9: The world according to cats

Since my younger brother started uni, our cats have (as far as I can tell) become surrogate children, taking our place as the nurtur-ees of the family. They’ve therefore become more assured than ever that they are, in fact, the centre of the universe. This combination of being even more self-important than your average cat and generally being a bit dim means that they’ve been getting up to all kinds of destructive highjinks. This includes stealing butter, deciding that my carefully sorted papers are actually intended for fighting practice, and commandeering beds, clothes, laptops and open books as special tiny cat-sofas.

When they’re inevitably caught in the act, they either behave as if they’ve done nothing wrong or “hide” behind a towel, curtain or other soft furnishing. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have grasped the fact that their back end is not invisible, rendering their attempts to blend into the scenery less than successful.

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The domestic cat does not always see eye to eye with its human on the purpose of household objects.

Please scroll down for further evidence of the feline criminality afflicting the Lyster household.

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The twelve days of Christmas 8: New Year’s resolutions

The internet has recently become upsettingly preachy; I can’t move for articles with titles like “50 New Year’s resolutions EVERYONE should make”, “300 (expensive and/or tiring) things you have to do in 2015 if you don’t want to be a MASSIVE LOSER,” and “Quick, do something vaguely ethical and instagram-friendly NOW because the unstoppable march of time is hot on your heels!! You’re ageing!! THE END IS NIGH!!!”

I appreciate that all these revoltingly sincere, guilt-inducing clichés are well-intentioned but, as the other wave of “anti-new-year’s-resolutions” has made abundantly clear, nobody in the history of ever has actually kept all their New Year’s resolutions (unless they were things you were going to do anyway, such as “continue to age”). The first of January is the worst possible time to try and turn your life around – it’s cold, you’re probably hung over, and there’s Christmas food begging to be eaten. The most likely result of deciding to become unfeasibly perfect is the extra dose of self-loathing you’ll be wracked by as you lounge in your messy pit of chocolate wrappers, wine bottles and failure. And let’s face it, nobody needs that.

Instead, I’d suggest that you polish off the mince pies and sherry, replace the diet with a nice baggy jumper – and maybe try not to have too many arguments over the next few days. But let’s not make any grand plans for the next year; after all, today is just another day. Anyway, that’s how I’m going to justify having spent it eating chocolate biscuits and failing to tick anything off my to-do list. Happy 2015.

New Year's resolutions