Tim running out

Stress – its thick oppressive tentacles writhing out of the everyday to consume you like some Cthuluian nightmare.

I am experiencing levels of stress that I had not anticipated in giving up work, renting out a house and going to sit on a beach for six months. These are supposed to be stress-quelling events – No more work! Mortgage paid for! Sunshine! Mojitos!

But that’s not the case at all. I attached a countdown to the sidebar of this blog in an attempt to pump some excitement into my cranium, but the ticking clock has not become an app of anticipation, but a widget of worry.

I had thought I’d be planning places to go by now, imagining sights I’d see, or absently gloating to friends of my pending adventures.

Instead, I’m spending every waking hour either working on the house, training my colleagues, or supplementing my travelling budget with freelance gigs. The other day I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to give away a pile of bricks.

Smashing up walls is tremendous fun – cleaning up afterwards, less so
Smashing up walls is tremendous fun – cleaning up afterwards, less so

The house – a 1920s terraced building in North London – is almost done, but not quite. When we bought it, the bathroom was situated in a box roughly 1m², presumably shunted there so that the previous, modestly sized bathroom could be rented. Meanwhile, the galley kitchen was infested with ants (we swept literally thousands of ants and their eggs away when we pulled up the floor tiles); windows were broken; and the ceiling over the staircase had crumbled – over my head, incidentally, in a shower of plaster and mould – due to a neglected leak in the bathroom above.

It was, to paraphrase, a shit-hole.

A shit-hole with an erstwhile cannabis factory in the shed.

I jest not – the shed is fully insulated; has 12 electrical outlets with its own consumer unit; had a silver reflective curtain over the doors; and evidence of the world’s largest extractor fan hidden behind some shelves. There is no doubt in my mind that the shed (about eight times’ the size of the bathroom the landlord had deigned to her tenants) was designed and constructed with the sole purpose of illicit horticulture.

We turned it into a kitchen.

A temporary kitchen in the weed shed
A temporary kitchen in the weed shed

We effectively lived in that shed for the entire summer, while we tore down walls, replaced doors and windows, levelled floors and, finally, plonked a brand new kitchen in.

I loved that shed. I converted an old cupboard into a dart board cabinet – one of my earlier DIY triumphs – and we spent many nights playing maths-spears with friends, cooking chilli on a camping stove (for HOURS) and generally having a nice time.

That was when the looming departure date still seemed a pipe dream, regardless of having booked tickets. Now it’s drawing near and I haven’t got my jabs or fixed my tooth or finished redecorating or researched visas or found any tenants or migrated our magazine to the new content management system or had any time to FUCKING WRITE ANYTHING.

But it’s ok – deep breaths, calm thoughts of waterfalls – a deer lapping at a mountain stream, the pitter-patter of rain drops drumming thick evergreen leaves, the playful chirrup of a chaffinch, its partner elegantly landing next to it, with dinner in its beak; a writhing worm, caught, unable to breath or glimpse its captor, its doom looming with unquestionable certainty, a demise of ripping flesh and the terrible insouciance of its devourer.

Or I should fucking get over it and start getting excited.

Yippee!

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