Zoning Out: 2013 365 Challenge #337

My angel tree-topper

My angel tree-topper

A couple of hours ago I wrote on Twitter, “Ah. That time of day when I search my brain for a blog topic, when I just want to pour a glass of wine and watch crap TV. Ideas for a post?”

My friend Pat replied, “That! Sometimes all you need is wine and crap tv… even authors need to zone out!” So, that’s the basis of today’s post: me zoning out and having a ramble!

It’s been a hectic week, what with the impromptu Christmas fair preparation (pringle pots, tombola, badge making), family lunch and month end book completion. The children were fairly nonplussed with the pringle pots, but the tombola was a hit.

I’ve had a spiking headache for two days, and only now realised it’s not just stress but also caffeine withdrawal (I don’t get as much time to drink tea at the weekend, especially in someone else’s house). I’m on my third cup of the evening and am starting to feel better!

At 6am this morning I moaned to hubbie that I needed to split myself into six clones to vaguely get through my to-do list in the five hours between child drop off and pick up. Shopping, cleaning, ironing, writing, Christmas shopping and dog walking. Instead I did an hour on each thing, and managed to get through most of it, although it has resulted in me feeling as if Jekyll and Hyde have invited around a few buddies and they’re all having a party in my brain.

Daughter's amazing craft

Daughter’s amazing craft

I am notorious for making life more complicated for myself, though. An hour of my precious day was spent trying to find the perfect angel for the top of the tree, and an Elf for the shelf.

All the angels in the shops are overly stylized realistic pretty ones in ceramic and gauze. I wanted something closer to a cardboard cone skirt with a ping-pong ball face, like we had when I was younger. So, while the kids did craft after tea, I made one out of exactly that: a little rag doll of my daughter’s, some craft foam, gold card and pipe cleaners.

The Elf on the Shelf thing is typical me: I first heard about it on Facebook yesterday, from an American cousin, instantly thought my kids would love it, but couldn’t afford to buy the compete ‘kit’ so thought I’d just find something vaguely elf-like in the shops and use that. Big mistake, big, huge. Six shops later I gave the idea up and decided next year will be fine to introduce it!

My husband’s chosen way to zone out this evening is to watch his new guilty pleasure, Made in Chelsea. He’s just said loudly, “She’s so two-faced!” Haha. Not my cup of tea, but watching him watching the show is quite entertaining. Unfortunately it’s strangely compelling viewing, so I’m struggling to put together coherent sentences. I think this is probably the lot for tonight. Crap TV is sorted, now to find the wine…


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“I heard you were back.” Ruth said with a smile, as she opened the door. She looked past Claire, as if expecting to see someone behind her. “Where are my gorgeous nephews?”

Claire laughed. “Mum’s been on the phone then? I had to leave Jack and Alex with her. I’ve got to get back to Cornwall this evening.”

“You’re insane. What’s that, twelve hours of driving in one day? Why don’t you stop here the night and leave first thing? There’s no point trying to find a hostel in the dark.”

Claire followed her sister down the corridor into the kitchen, marvelling at the change in her since she’d last visited. Even the house felt different: brighter, somehow, and with a positive vibe Claire couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“No Sky?” She said, rather than answer her sister’s question. It was tempting to stay the night, but she needed to think about it. For some reason she was keen to put as many miles between her and her family as possible.

“No, it’s the last day of term today, and Chris has taken her on holiday for a week.”

“Blimey, how do you feel about that?”

“It’s fine. I know Chris and Bryony will look after her, and she really does love spending time with her baby sister. Besides, I’m going away myself this weekend.” She saw Claire’s raised eyebrow, and flushed. “With the church! We’re going to Oxford to see the Baptist Missionary Society library collection at the university.”

Claire’s eyes opened wide, but she didn’t comment. What did she know about what religious people did for kicks? It sounded worse than a four-hour lecture on contracts, but then Ruth might feel the same about surfing or walking the coastal path. It took all sorts.

“I’m going to service tonight, why don’t you come?” Ruth threw a sly glance over her shoulder at her sister, as she reached into the cupboard for the sugar. “You can make sure I haven’t got mixed up in some cult.”

“I don’t think that!” Claire heard the high squeak in her voice and winced. Gratefully accepting the tea from Ruth, she sought for a change of subject. “What did Mum say on the phone? She must have called you before I’d driven down the street.”

“Before you’d left the house, pretty much. She’s not happy with you. What did you say to her? She wittered on about ungrateful children and being shocked at how rude you’ve become. It was quite a rant, actually.” For a moment it was the old Ruth, and Claire smiled warmly at her. Then her sister pursed her lips. “You probably shouldn’t fight with Mum, though. It’s not very dutiful.”

Claire wanted to defend herself, but she didn’t know how to talk to this new moralistic Ruth. She gave a noncommittal grunt, and said instead, “Jack can’t wait to meet Sky. Oh, damn, how long did you say she was away with Chris for? He’ll be gutted to miss her.”

“They’re back next week. Thursday, I think. I can check. Can’t the boys stay with Mum and Dad for a bit longer?”

“You spoke to Mum, what do you think?”

Ruth frowned. “Hmmm, yes, you might be right. Never mind, I’m sure we’ll work something out.” She drained her tea and looked at the clock. “I have to go, are you coming?”

Claire thought about the long drive back south, and shrugged. The morning would be soon enough. “Sure, why not?”


Claire looked around the room. It wasn’t a church, it was a school hall. She’d sat in one just like it, not that long ago, to do her final exams. And before that, for school assembly, lunch times, end of term reviews. It had a herringbone wood floor and long wooden benches around the walls.

The hard plastic of the grey stackable chair dug into her legs, as she looked up at the stage, where a white screen held a welcome message for the congregation. In the corner a group of adults were setting up a band, with guitars and microphones. She guessed it would be a different sort of music to the stuff they played at the sixth form concerts.

Next to her, Ruth waved in greeting to people she knew. Every now and then someone would stop and talk, holding their hands out to Claire in welcome and gushing with enthusiasm at her presence. She felt like a fraud.

Fidgeting on her seat, Claire began to think that the drive to Cornwall might have been preferable. She hadn’t been in Church in years, discounting the odd wedding or christening and, even though this building wasn’t made of stone and stained glass, the feeling of righteousness was just as strong.

A hush fell, as a man walked into the centre of the room towards the vacant lectern. He held his hands up in salutation and proceeded to greet his flock with gusto. He turned towards her when he hailed, “visitors new and old,” and she felt her cheeks catch fire. Overhead the strip lighting shone down, and she found she missed the dark corners of a traditional church.

Then the singing started. Claire looked in surprise at Ruth, standing with eyes closed and arms aloft, fervently hurling her words at the ceiling. As Claire read the lyrics on the screen and tried to sing along without being heard, she noticed more people waving their arms while belting out their praise

She felt embarrassed for them, in all their effusive sincerity. It might not be a cult, but it wasn’t for her. Peace radiated from her sister, though, and she decided that was good enough.

When the service was finally over, Claire sat waiting for Ruth to finish her goodbyes. She was watching her sister’s face as a shy-looking man in his thirties walked towards them. Ruth’s cheeks held a faint blush and she caught her lip between her teeth. It lasted only a moment before her expression reflected only friendly pleasure.

“Mark, I didn’t see you earlier. I’d like to introduce you to my sister. Claire, this is Mark: he’s organising the trip to Oxford this weekend.”

I’ll bet he is, Claire thought, as she shook the hand held tentatively towards her. So that’s the way the wind blows? She looked from Mark to Ruth and back again. I wonder if they know it yet.


9 thoughts on “Zoning Out: 2013 365 Challenge #337

  1. Love your tree topping angel! We have our own version, which never fails to make me smile. Glad you enjoyed the zoning out and hope you found the wine!

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