On headaches and houses

Almost everything stops in migraine's tracks. Evenings become long hours in shaded corners of the house, laying down and either reading or sleeping. Time becomes slow: whatever else needed doing in its absence, for now the headache takes prime priority in life and everything else sort of... merges into nothingness of everything else.

I don't recall ever having had one before. A quick Google search has shown that pregnancy, apparently, can make for awesome headaches and my midwife has confirmed what I already thought was the case and that is: if it keeps on going tomorrow, I need to drive to town and see my GP.

For now, it has subsided a little, hence me sitting upright and staring at a computer screen.

In the morning I went around closing blinds and curtains (so bright!), and squinting at my son's wild demands for food. So loud! So... piercing! He was hollering because (after a month spent with grandparents) he didn't want for breakfast what we were having for breakfast, and I kept insisting that sorry, mate, but if you're still hungry, there's food on the table here.

For ten minutes he hollered on like that, me patiently squinting in pain as his wailing rolled through my head, and eventually he climbed back at the table and ate his breakfast with us. Phew.

Mid-morning I attempted living a "normal" life and getting on with... stuff, whatever it was, I cannot even remember exactly - but by noon I was back in bed, asleep yet again. Then again at 5.

A 500 mg Paracetamol dulls the pain for a few hours, but it's not enough to take it away from me, and so I simply exist, rhythmically breathing in and out, in and out, as hours pass and wishing it were night already and I got those blissful hours of sleep again.

In between sleeping, I read Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun" again. It's one of the few books I have at home - the few I find worthwhile reading over and over again; everything else I can get from the library if need be.

Just like a migraine, "Under the Tuscan Sun" has a rhythm to it, like a wave almost: up and down, up and down, up and down. It's been several years since I've read it and it's easy to see why: it's the book to be savoured when time feels plentiful and slow, sort of like it is now. When the light gets too bright or the ache behind my eyes makes it too difficult to read, I set it aside and sleep a little; when I wake I take it up again and continue from where I left on earlier.

As she describes her house in Tuscany and the various nonnas that - over the years - must've swept its brick floors and filled its kitchens with bittersweet smells of almond cake, it makes me wonder about our house here, on the hill.

Our house... it doesn't roll well off my tongue. This house, old house, the house we live in - but not our house.


If Frances' house was built to be lived in, this house on the hill here was built to be worked in. It was never meant to be an abode for a family, only a temporary residence whilst men (or maybe even women?) were keeping the radio transmitter running.

After the generations, old radio antenna was replaced with a new, unmanned one, and the need for these houses here came to an abrupt end - if there isn't an antenna, there isn't a need for men running it either, and people moved on.

Some houses were sawn in half, put on backs of trucks and carted down to Allandale where they now house people working at Living Springs. Some were probably dismantled. A few remained - old, strong, red brick houses like the one we live in now.

When Frances describes her villa at Bramasole, I cannot help but feel... pity for this house here, with a tang of an apology maybe, because it isn't this house's fault that it doesn't feel as homely or continuous as Frances' Bramasole. We've put work into it, carpeted the floors, hung curtains, insulated, scrubbed, washed and tidied, but there is a rhythm to how its rooms lay, the way the kitchen allows for such a multitude of people in it, but not much cooking; how bedrooms lay in a straight line off the hallway, like a dormitory.

The migraine allows me time to lay and when it subsides a little, to think. I listen to this house, the way it creaks in wind and how birds go about their days, making their various noises which the wind then carries in through our open windows and into our bedrooms.



In the evenings, the light shines right into our bedrooms and fills them with a golden glow, and when the sun then sets behind Southern Alps, it becomes grey again. Wallpapered drywall does not capture sunlight the way old Tuscan plaster does, and in a way, that's alright. This house has a much different attitude to it and I doubt it cares much for my pity - it just stands here, does its thing, and creaks in blustery winds that sweep this hillside.

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