Sunday, February 20, 2011

Snow. And the Holly Naming Conversation Redux

It's snowing again. We've had a foot of snow so far today. This is the kind of thing we would regard as a Real Snowstorm if we hadn't the 22 inch snowfall in 24 hours in December. I just went out at midnight and shovelled the path to my house, then I galumphed through the snowdrifts with the dogs and shovelled next door, because I was feeling virtuous.

The dogs have done their part by sitting exactly wherever I needed to shovel next.

I figured the exercise was a good thing, too.

A few people wrote in and asked whether the fact that I have a wife now who is 15 years younger than me has anything to do with the exercise/eating healthy/shedding weight thing. And of course it does, but not in the way you might imagine.

She liked me just fine the way I was. (We'd been together for two years, after all.)

But definitely one of the factors involved was that while I was in Australia I started thinking a lot about how I really like this being married, and how much I like being with Amanda, and how I want it to go on as long as possible. Which took me to the point of realising that I owe it to her and to me to be in the best shape I can be in twenty five years' time. As I said in that last post, my grandfathers were both infirm old men when they died. And they were in their early seventies. My father was in great shape when he died in his mid-seventies (well, in great shape up until his heart stopped beating, anyway). He exercised. They didn't. They would have stared at you, puzzled, if you'd suggested it.

When I got back from Australia I read a bunch of books on living better longer, which all said pretty much the same thing (Eat more vegetables! Exercise! Eat less rubbish and did we mention the vegetables? And honestly, we weren't kidding about the exercise!) And it became very apparent from all the reading that being in good shape in twenty-five years from today has to start with changing things now, and that there was no magic pill I could take that would do any of it for me.

I figure it's an investment in quality of life. And while I could obviously still spontaneously combust, crash a car or be eaten by space-goats in that time, I cannot see any downside to getting as healthy as I can right now and staying that way as long as I can.

Also, as a side-effect of exercising, I'm getting to listen to Hugh Dickson read Bleak House, which is keeping me listening, and, more importantly, keeping me exercising. (It's interesting: I realised that I listen to things in a different way to the way I would read them. I was listening to Chapter Ten today when I noticed that the alternate, third person chapters are all in the present tense, something I would have spotted long time ago if I were looking at the words on the paper.)

And as a secondary side-effect, I get to wear jeans that have been too small for me and unworn for so long that they have now become Vintage Clothing.

While out exercising (well, walking the dogs. I tried running in the snow, but it was over ice, and I fell down a lot)I tried to get a photo of the lamppost, shining in the woods in a snowstorm, but the cameraphone camera was not quite up to it, and the wind was whipping the snow around. So the best I got was this:

Earlier today, when we just had a few inches of snow, I took this photo, which I like mostly because Lola seems to be materialising out of the snow, and because she looks so amazingly goofy, like something half-gargoyle and half-dog.

I also got a good shot of the disapproving tree, looking very disapproving.


On April 27th I'll be in New York for National Public Radio's Selected Shorts. I'll be hosting and reading a story.

Tickets are going fast -- the link and information is at I'm really looking forward to it. No, I don't know which story it'll be.


Hi Neil-

I'd like to suggest the following greatest hit:
Monday, May 31, 2004
In Which the author finally has The Conversation with his daughter...

I realise each of my children (two girls!) is a unique creature full of her very own lifetime of surprises. And though I know I'm doing my job when I'm encouraging them to be the best Sophia or Olivia they can be, I selfishly hope that they'll also grow to enjoy and appreciate many of the same things that my wife and I do.

They're not old enough yet for us to have had that "Oh dad, I do love you," light-bulb moment, but when they burst into a chorus of "I'm Sticking with You" over breakfast, I'm given hope that we're doing something right.

Thanks for all the stories and for sharing so much with us on such a regular basis!


I love seeing what people pick as their favourites. So often they're blog entries I would never have thought of. So from May 31st 2004, here's In Which the author finally has The Conversation with his daughter...

Pretty good day.

Woke up, grabbed notebook before I got out of bed and wrote several lyrics for the Wolves in the Walls opera, including one that made me laugh called "Smash Something Breakable". Exercised, said hullo to the garden. Then spent the afternoon writing the novel, which went from completely despondent "this is awful the whole thing is unusable I have no idea what I'm doing" to, a thousand words later, "I suppose it's not that bad really and I think I know what happens next," and there are worse places to be.

This evening I had a very pleasant time with Holly, which began with her mentioning how much she liked the song "Across the Universe" and me playing her the version of the song by Laibach, which has always been my favourite. "Dad," she said, happily, "This was the version of the song I knew as a little girl. You used to play it. I always wondered why the Beatles one sounded different from the way I expected. I mean you could understand the words for a start." Then we sat in front of the computer for a few hours and I made her a playlist of more songs she had loved as a small girl, the ones she'd remembered and the ones she'd forgotten, which led to our having The Conversation. You know, the one I've known was coming for the last almost-nineteen years.

I dragged songs from her childhood over to the playlist -- "Barcelona" and "Nothing Compares 2 U" and "I Don't Like Mondays" and "These Foolish Things" and then came Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side". "You named me from this song, didn't you?" said Holly as the first bass notes sang. "Yup," I said.

Lou started singing.

Holly listened to the first verse, and for the first time, actually heard the words.

"Shaved her legs and then he was a she...? He?"

"That's right," I said, and bit the bullet. We were having The Conversation. "You were named after a drag queen in a Lou Reed song."

She grinned like a light going on. "Oh dad. I do love you," she said. Then she picked up an envelope and wrote what I'd just said down on the back, in case she forgot it.

I'm not sure that I'd ever expected The Conversation to go quite like that.

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