Thursday, 4 December 2014

Perpetuation


The morning has settled on grey. Is it really four years since I turned forty? I make a couple of wrong turns before finding the parking lot. By the time I apply the hand brake drizzle has coated the wind screen in an infectious sheet of transparent spots. How could it be otherwise on the 25th November?

The foyer of the cinema is empty. I collect my ticket from the machine and make my way to the overpriced refreshments. Is it wrong to buy a small carton of salted popcorn at 10.20 in the morning? No, of course it isn't. I take my VIP seat. The backs of the chairs in front look like rows of teeth; only two more people enter - a father and daughter with a giant carton of popcorn - and sit directly behind me. Do reservations really matter when the auditorium is this desolate? I regress in the cinema; after the performance I find bits of popcorn stuck in the woollen fibres of my cardigan and squashed and warming between my legs. It's made my innards feel sore and bloated. What does it do in there? Bounce around like lottery balls? My mouth feels dry.

When I enter Coco's I regret stuffing my face with a bucket of exploded carbs. I am not hungry. First I order one of Teddie's infamous chai lattes. The sugar perks me up. I take out the novel from my bag and begin reading sneaking glances at the other customers sat at the tables around me. I find myself repeatedly drawn to the double-knotted fuchsia scarf tied around the neck of a woman sitting on the other side of the cafe. Blimey, the thing's a visual overdose. On the table next to me sit four grey haired Scandinavian men chatting amiably in their native tongue.

It hits me after a few mouthfuls of halloumi and sweet potato tart - a feeling of deep perpetuation; that my mother passed though my grandmother, that I passed through my mother, that my daughter passed through me. The connection we women share, joined together like paper dolls. For a moment I sit blankly, taking it in, my body stunned in wonder. I think of what my mum went through on this day forty-four years ago: aged twenty-three; full of flu; isolated on the ward; no husband or family near her; struggling to push her first born out....

....and now here I am, looking out of the window at the damp and the decayed, trying to make sense of it all.

I celebrate quietly this year. A slow, peaceful day. I receive new pens, notebooks and a kindle. The weekend before Younger Dad treated me to a fabulous Indian meal at a rather fancy restaurant in Marylebone. A seven course taster menu - hotter than coals and delicately presented. I was full to bursting.

But the best part of any birthday now are Little A's hugs and happy birthdays to the best mummy EVER.
Also her tireless belief that I'm still only thirteen years old!


Rest well and have a magical holiday!

Friday, 24 October 2014

#One Week - Autumn '14 - Autumn Bites




I haven't touched a conker or turned my face towards the wind.
I haven't baked a crumble or remarked on how the nights are drawing in.

I have forgotten the richest and most dishevelled of seasons.
Paid little attention to fallen leaf and heavy cloud.

But have written under light of bureau lamp.
Have sat at table, helped her read first words.
Have planted pansies in pots, verdant heather in borders.
Have had silver birch cut back, harvested tomatoes.
Have visited showrooms, poured through kitchen catalogues.
Have wheezed with asthma, upgraded inhaler.
Have made new friends at school date, kept in touch with old.
Have forgotten hair dye, bought her new clothes.
Have felt lost, bereft, adjusting to new routines.
Have worried and worried about this here blog.
Have lacked the inspiration, ideas for posts...

...like a gust of air released a kite from handheld grasp,
and earth under foot turned to mud.

Maybe I am unknowingly taking stock?
Maybe I have run out of stories?
Maybe I need a different approach?
Or maybe I simply need to devote my time to where my energy now flows?




Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bump


The man called me stupid.
He shouted, 'how could you have been so stupid!'
I had bumped it. I had bumped our brand new electric car.
The tears flowed, hot and shameful.

A ridiculous mistake on my part. The first accident I'd had in over twenty years. A school girl error. Very, very humiliating. We were going to the garden centre, my head full of wintry shrubs and wood chip, and I forgot to look behind. I reversed out of the driveway and backed into his stationary car parked on the other side of the road. That awful, painful moment when I realised what I'd done.

'Don't worry Mummy, it was only an accident, it can be fixed,' she reassured from the back seat.

What was Younger Dad going to say? Don't scratch the car he'd reminded over and over. Now there were lacerations on the back bumper the depth of a tiger's claw. My lovely, super-duper new car. My space ship. My sonic blue Nissan Leaf. The other car came off worse, a dent the size of an elephant's foot; he was beside himself, 'what were you thinking? Just what were you thinking?'  

Oh how I had lusted after a Fiat 500, such a feminine bubble of a car, with its delicious and diverse palette; pearl white, coffee, mint, powder blue... a writer's car; but Younger Dad had insisted I test drive an electric vehicle, and of course he was right; how could I resist the on/off button, the way the car glided on air, the silence as I drove up a hill. This was the speedy milk float of the future. A zero emission rocket.

I was barely in the honeymoon phase, only a week in, when the accident happened; still purging the floor mats of fluff and leaf, wiping away any unsightly mark on the dash board with a tongue-soaked index, driving it to the postbox, around the block for a pint of milk, intoxicated by the smell of brand new upholstery. The man bitterly complained he was going on holiday the next day. I feared a morning among perennials was over...  

When was the last time you bumped your car?


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

New Shoes


The day before was about distraction. A trip to the bowling alley and a pizza with her cousins. Always ham and mushroom. Always with a glass of apple juice. And later, dressing up as a garden fairy and Queen Elsa, and a light tea of scrambled eggs. Afterwards, she watched Peter Pan while I stretched on the yoga mat.

It was a while before she fell asleep. I was summoned. She was excited and worried and sad. Mummy, why can't I go back to pre-school tomorrow? But I couldn't turn the clock back; her new sky blue uniform pressed and folded on her dressing table stool. I felt it too: the sadness; and an inexplicable feeling I couldn't put my finger on. I couldn't write that evening, there was too much to process; instead, I curled under the duvet with a book, and remembered my first day; the green tunic; the sash; the grey cardigan; the green gabardine and hat; and waiting in the playground for my name to be called and join my new class. My heart stammered: tomorrow would feel like my first day repeated again.

We set off early, walking through the fallen leaves on the warm September morning. Parents and children were gathering in the playground. She found a friend and holding hands they ran around the woodland area with their book bags and water bottles. When the bell rang, there was a sense of unreality in the air as she lined up with the other children in reception; and then I waved bye-bye as she marched quite happily in single file through the main door. That was that: she was gone; she had disappeared into a world of paper, paint and glue I would never belong. Around me were swelling eyes and looks of bewilderment, like a foot had been amputated. There was a gap between the blind and the window sill. I took a peak; she had her back turned to me, was paying attention to her teacher. Good girl. I walked home, a pinch of anxiety in the veins; and after closing the door behind me, I made a cup of tea and filled the sink with suds. 

Nearly a month later, I am not so sure I have fully adjusted. There have been accidents: I bumped the new car; I pronged my chin on a garden cane; I dropped an amplifier bound for the post office denting a corner; and my asthma tightened like a flower press. There is clearly more processing to be done. She, however, is coping just fine. Mummy, I had chicken pie with pasta today. Mummy, the shortbread and jelly was yummy. Mummy, can 'so-and-so' come to play? But when pushed on the actual nitty-gritty of her lessons, she hasn't been as forthcoming; I can't remember what I did today. I'm too tired to talk right now, Mummy. Obviously, I will have to change my tack. She does enjoy 'reading' her picture books though. This week we received her first full story with words: simple sentences like I am a mat; I am a cat; I am a bat.

Every day she comes home with a new knock or scrape to the knee, or her dress and arms covered in the coagulated mess of the muddy kitchen. The washing machine has never seen this much action. She is happy. I am relieved: I am proud. She is surviving the full days even with the added ballet and swimming after school; I think I am more tired than she is; and as for her new shoes, well they are well and truly scuffed.

Friday, 12 September 2014

#One Week - Summer '14 - A New Rhythm


I did it. I gave Little A the best summer ever. Probably my greatest achievement this year, I think. We grew courgettes and tomatoes and sweetcorn. We even grew butterflies - bright red admirals - setting them free in the garden. One crawled up her arm, stretching its orange wings before it disappeared among the branches of the silver birch. A magical moment. And there was the festival, the holiday, and numerous play dates, and a brand new trampoline. But then, for me, there was also the tooth extraction. Not the tooth which had become infected back in June (and which I still haven't done anything about). No, not that one. The tooth directly above it. After a week of tender gums, the dentist declared that the crack in the tooth (what crack!?) was so bad, my poor tooth was beyond repair. So out it came, in pieces. I didn't feel a thing, only tugging; not unlike having a c-section. 'Do you want to keep your tooth?' she asked. 'Er, no,' I replied. Little A was subjected to the entire medieval procedure, but she found it fascinating, and afterwards incessantly requested view after view of the bloodied gap in my mouth. Nice. 'Wow,' she gasped, 'it's huge!' This has categorically not been a good summer for my dentures.

And I did it (again). I had a wonderful two month break away from blogging and most of social media. What a breath of fresh air. When I had the chance, I worked on my novel and read a good book (or two). The most relaxed I've felt in a long while. And happy. I saw my life from a different perspective, reevaluated my priorities, and I made a promise to myself; that upon my return in September I was going to spend a lot less time on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, and blogging. Oh I will still continue to write posts, just not as often as before, or just when the urge really takes me. I need to focus on my other writing aims (or I'll never get them finished), and there just aren't enough hours in the day....

Still, it's great to be back.

This is the final day of my One Week series. Due to the amount of work involved, I've decided not to run this series as a linky anymore, but please feel free to join in if you want to... Thank you for reading!




Wednesday, 10 September 2014

#One Week - Summer '14 - South Then North


First there was The South.

Figs in honey. Bresola and salami. Green olives and nutty bread. Pain au chocolat every morning on the sunlit terrace. Ah, The Provence. The bright waxing moon shone silver tongues on lapping waters, cast shadows through palm leaves overhead. My girl in the swimming pool, with arm bands, then without. So many of her family there; mummy, daddy, granny, aunts and uncles. Took it by turns to play pirates in the deep end, or holding her hand, jumping off the edge, making huge frothy splashes. What a joy to watch her confidence in the pool. And I rediscovered diving, swam fifty lengths every other day. Even the yoga mat was subjected to an occasional downward dog in the late afternoon heat. Simple postures, focused on the breath. And evenings spent listening to the cicadas in the trees, their incessant buzzing an electric circuit, jamming the air with their currents. Insect bites, large and swollen, on ankles and calves. The little one late to bed with a smile and satisfied sigh...  


A feast of mussels in white wine sauce. A string of mustard lights hanging slack between two boughs like a clown's smile. A hammock made for a long read. On days the air stood still, the surface of the swimming pool was as still as glass, the bottom paved in mosaic tiles, sloping deeper and deeper below. I laid the dinner table in taupe coloured clothes, added little glasses with flowers hand picked from the garden. Each night a different couple cooked a sumptuously simple dish. A fresh fish or a hunk of steak.

To my dismay, I'd forgotten verbs and nouns and tenses. Now I dearly wished to speak the language again, get by at the very least. Le singe est dans l'arbre... Fresh bread with a slice of tangy comte or a mild sheep's cheese. A flute of delicate rose. The never ending Sunshine. We didn't want to leave...

And then there was The North.  

A road trip. Just me and her. To visit grandma in a little market town on the North Yorkshire border. And how lovely to revisit home turf, it had been an age after all. The sweeping hills and pale Yorkshire stone. Grandma laid on some special comforts; chocolate rice crispy cakes, meat loaf and strawberry crumble. This the first time my girl acquainted herself with the new(ish) additions; two rag doll cats, one called Macho, the other Maisy. Both very, very fluffy. Macho was so amenable, so easy, the floppy thing. He didn't mind a four year old's constant attention; being picked up under his front legs, dragged from room to room like a marionette. Meanwhile, Maisy, wholly terrified, scarpered underneath every available chair.


We took a trip to adventure park. Found ourselves lost in the maze, retracing our steps, a hapless sense of direction. 'Come on,' she said. 'It's this way, I know it is, follow me.' And she was right. Clever girl. Then a walk avoiding determined rain drops in the enchanted forest. A tree with chiming notes. A damsel in distress. A witch's empty cauldron. And the following day we spent a delightful afternoon in the company of my God mother. Plates piled high with smoked salmon sandwiches, homemade malt bread, moist elder flower sponge, raspberry brownies and strawberries coated in chocolate. And of course, a proper pot of Yorkshire brew. What a delicious treat.

We shared a double bed in grandma's spare room, my girl and I. I think my fondest memory of the entire summer was climbing under the duvet, turning on the bedside light, and her arm curling around my stomach as I read the final chapters of The Goldfinch. A sleepy voice half-whispered, I love you Mummy...        

This is the second day of my One Week series. Due to the amount of work involved, I've decided not to run this series as a linky anymore, but please feel free to join in if you want to...




Monday, 8 September 2014

#One Week - Summer '14 - Outdoors.


One lone portaloo. Bright blue among nature's greenest. The only amenity in a field of rough, overgrown grass and dense nettles; tall thickets that sprang with the sudden jolt of whooshing geysers. And the loo was barely a beacon of hygiene; an anti-tardis of function, an-almost-merger of sink and lavatory, and a roll with the thinnest stretch of muddied paper. I began to cry. I want to go home. I don't like this. T'was also a certain time of the month. Not the ideal context for a night in rural Buckinghamshire. We need to do this, Younger Dad urged, this is the tent test for two weeks time. Oh God.

In the adjacent field was a cricket pitch with a small white pavilion on the farthest side, and tucked behind the ageing shack was an ever-so-slightly-more-refined toilet. The paper was damp. A tap didn't work. The mirror was cracked and broken. And curiously, a neon pink loom band lay unused and forgotten under the browning sink on the broken tiles of the floor. I closed my eyes, brushed my teeth, determinedly focused on the sweet, sweet aroma of falling dew beyond the gaps in the flaking door. I am fine. I can do this. It'll be fun!  

The fire wood was too damp. All smoke, no flame. So Younger Dad gave up fanning the tentative sparks, and the bag of marshmallows remained unopened. She was too excited to sleep. She clutched my hand at every strange nocturnal sound. A bat's high-pitched cry. Wind rasping through the branches. A fire works display beyond the hills in Henley. Boom. Boom. Boom. But as it went, I slept so soundly and when I took those first fresh breaths the following morning I decided that camping wasn't so bad after all.

...and fourteen days later we arrived at the festival. I wrapped bunting around the tent, hung solar lanterns above the entrance; a canny reference point for our temporary home. Around us there were bell tents and tee pees and palatial domes and flags and fairy lights and children tearing around in face paint, chasing the tails of escaping balloons and the path of tipsy butterflies. And in the family field where we'd pitched, to my delight, a yoga tent, and, and... flushing toilets and hot comforting showers (even though the queue was longer than a blue whale). The air smelt good and clean and delicious, of bubbles popping and BBQ's sizzling.


Over those three days of music, literature and laughter something reawakened. Was it the sunshine on my brow or the way it warmed the nape of my neck - the touch of a small downy feather - as an author read from her novel? Was it the tug of war of bass, my auditory canals spoilt for choice - which stage was it going to be? Daryl Hall singing I can't go for that... (the saxophone solo that felt like rippling silk, and tasted of butter-soaked crumpets and melted chocolate)? Trying to decipher the words of Kate Tempest, so in awe of her boundless spirit and passion? Was it watching my girl fly down the helta-skelter, her face lighting up at The Cat in The Hat, the way she created a fairy wand from stickers, twisting and moulding it until she found the correct shape? Or how the wind whipped up before the storm? The lightning colouring the sky in flashes of burnt orange and the deepest purple, the rain beating heavy rhythms on the nylon canvas and bouncing off the grass? Or was it the simple observation that at a festival the English stop being so very English; no one minds the changeable weather or claggy mud - we stop frowning, and finally start smiling....

.... it was all of the above, all rolled into one sweet wrapper of experience. I laughed over my hysteria with the lone portaloo, realising how easy it all was, and how enjoyable; why had I flustered so much? I'd caught a sense of wonder and adventure I'd not experienced since before Little had arrived, when I'd cycled everywhere and spun records at parties in the mountainous foothills of southern France. Life. This was what it was all about. Spontaneity. Creativity. Freedom. The big, big outdoors.... the stuff of childhood I want her to remember, to always be enchanted by....

This is the first day of my One Week series. Due to the amount of work involved, I've decided not to run this series as a linky anymore, but please feel free to join in if you want to...




Sunday, 29 June 2014

A Little Relief

It's the morning after. I'm tired. So darn tired. And the car's movement is making me more sleepy.

'...and this is the order of the day,' he continues at the wheel, 'we're going to test drive (this car) and (that car), and (this car) is brilliant and it's got (this) and (that) and (all this other stuff), and I can't wait to try (that car), it's completely electric, just like a toy...'

'Uh huh.' I look out of the car window, blinking at the sunshine. The flowers lining numerous front gardens merge forming seamless lines of colour; red and yellow, and orange and purple. I feel quite dizzy. And my head is mulling over the last 48 hours. Or I should say it can't escape immediate history. I am not very present. I am one of those merging flowers.

The memories are random and shoot like darts. Wine at 11.30 am. The Wensleydale on sticks. The straps of a new bra digging into my shoulders. The faces. The numerous hello's. But not enough time. The amazing discovery that jeggings are really rather comfortable. And the not-so-small matter of winning an award. It hasn't sunk in. I am still in shock. I remember shaking. I remember squeezing the hands of two close blogging friends. I remember saying s**t and thank you into the microphone. I remember all the hugs. I remember the celebratory curry. But most of all I remember the aftermath; sitting dazed on the end of the bed in the hotel room, responding to tweets, watching fireworks pop and sparkle and cascade through the opened window.

But one word forms at the core of my thinking. Enough. And another. Overwhelmed. And more follow, stringing themselves together like spaghetti. You've earned it. It's time to step back. You need to reassess. One of the things I enjoyed the most about Britmums Live this year was sitting outside underneath a colourful canopy of soft artificial flowers. There were flowers in wellington boots and flowers in watering cans hanging from the clear ceiling. It gave the conference a festival feel, especially with the wine and cake. And being in this space gifted me a quiet moment to reflect. I've been writing this blog for three years now. What now? Where next?

I've been forging plans. To do's for the house renovation. Lists for the summer; fun activities, the reduction of piles of admin neglected in the paperwork basket. In the months ahead, I want to read and work on my novel. I want to spot faces in puffy July clouds and water the over growing flowers. I want to spend time listening to the blackbird's charming song. But most of all I want to spend an uninterrupted summer with my daughter; it's about me and her before she begins reception this September. So I have decided to take a two month break from blogging and social media. I will probably check-in here and there, and I do intend to continue reading my favourite blogs, but I may not comment as much as I usually do (sorry). My head and heart needs this. I will be back in September with #oneweek; I fancy one last cycle, one final hurrah.

It feels a relief writing the last line of this post.

Thank you to everyone who reads Older Mum in a Muddle, and for all your lovely comments and support. Have a wonderful summer!


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A Small History in Breakfast


...And that's how it was back then. A bowlful of pure caster sugar. Breakfast hasn't changed much since. Frosties. Ricicles. A thick layer of those sweet, sweet granules on mushy weetabix soaking up the cream of the warmed milk. Ready Break with a huge dollop of golden syrup. More syrup than pulverised oats. Globules of gruel spatted all over my school tunic. And years later - a little taller, hair mulleted, the novelty of breakfast time TV - I'd moved on, my tastes changed. Chocolate Ready Break or a runny egg with a sprinkle of salt and toasted soldiers, worrying about the ripened dome under my left nostril, watching Ulrika Jonsson predict another rainy day. By the first kiss I was enjoying the complexities of a mouthful of muesli, or cheating muesli as it was known; a pile of powdery Alpen. I can't for the life of me remember what I ate on the mornings of my O and A level results. Maybe a Belgium waffle soaked in real butter. Certainly not a Pop Tart. No, I can't recall having one of those.

My twenties were the toast years, and the odd bowl of Cornflakes. Always thick-cut marmalade, and the joys of apricot jam. All through the under-graduate years, and the long weekends spinning vinyl. The only breakfast possible in the subsequent haze of a night-long rave. Toast for all those hang overs. Toast on the morning I waved goodbye to my northern roots and headed south in a white transit van.

My thirties was a decade of revision and rediscovery. I returned to porridge. Proper oats this time, swapping the semi-skimmed for thin cartons of exotic rice milk. It was a revelation, and a moment of self-honesty. I'd never really enjoyed claggy cow juice. Always did what was expected of me. Drank it from a mini milk bottle during morning break time. Poured it begrudgingly over that first meal of the day. But secretly it tasted bleuh. Now I was all growed-up - individuating and the like - I could release myself from its milky yoke, could emancipate myself from the diary aisle. And then I experimented. Maybe it was the boredom of the admin jobs. Maybe it was the heady expansion from a part-time counselling course. But I went through a short phase of 7.00 am zen. A bowl of quinoa stewed in rice milk with a dash of cinnamon and quartered cashew nuts. Perseverance in every bite. It didn't taste great. I have a keen memory about that time of a business trip to Seattle, of mango oatmeal and a stack of buttermilk pancakes lathered in maple syrup. Or maybe that was a dream. Maybe it was only wish fulfilment.

And there were the special breakfasts. The eggs benedict the day before the wedding. The perfect fry-up the morning after. The dishes of sweet omali and mild curry on honeymoon. The bowls and bowls of Greek yogurt with chopped strawberries and pistachios and swirls of honey every day of the first tri-mester. The packets and packets of any cereal - Rice Crispies, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios - I could get my hands on throughout the third.

Now I sit and watch her make her own history in breakfast while I have a cup of camomile and wait until my stomach is ready. She gnaws her way through the mini-cereals. She tucks into a plate of hearty scrambled eggs. Her favourite is a bowl of nutella porridge. 'Mummy,' she says, 'can I have a teaspoon with just nutella on it too?' I always oblige. I watch as she turns the bowl around, picking away at the cooling porridge from its top and sides. 'Mummy, I've drawn a fish in it!' Those wonderfully comforting sounds of her unbridled satisfaction. A jolly good start to the day.

What do you have for breakfast?          


        

Saturday, 14 June 2014

What he does...


It's all in the detail, what he does. I don't think I could ever be as fun or as devil-may-care. Spontaneity is what he has, and long arms that take her down to the waters edge or push her up a tree. And something else that I fail to possess, in spades. Adventure. Up his sleeve, spilling out from his pockets. I'm about the internal. He's all about the external. I read her books and role play with her dolls. I explain new words and encourage her to sail those uncharted terrains of her mind. Who is she today? What spell is she going to perform? Why exactly are all those teddies piled under the duvet like that? He pretends to be a robot. He chases her about the garden. He flaps his heavy arms, a man fairy in a crew-neck sweater; bless him, he can't fly. 'I'm coming to get you.' 'I'm coming to get you,' he says chasing after her. She doubles over giggling, he's the funniest Daddy ever. He counts. She hides. He helps her onto the highest rungs of the climbing frame. 'Don't worry, I've got my eye on her; and anyway, if she falls - but she won't, I promise you - that's how she'll learn.' He shows her the limits and gently extends them a little bit further.

He tells her how beautiful she is, how much he loves her. Daddy cuddles are the best ever. He's glad he had a girl, not one for kicking a ball about, not one for cops and robbers and shoot-em up games. Together they build lego, work out jigsaw puzzles, play dominoes. Together they tease out the plastic pieces from the patient, touching the sides on purpose, laughing at the shock of the buzz and the flashing nose. Once they made a fairy house from cereal boxes with a door and a chimney. She painted it pink and red and yellow and green. They bake rice crispie cakes and chocolate buns, and huggle together on the sofa with a biscuit, watch Frozen or Tinkerbell again and again.

He is her bestest, most favourite Daddy ever. (I keep reminding her she only has the one). But for the past twelve months he was away on assignment from Monday till Friday, and she missed him terribly. In his absence they spoke on the phone, or chatted in person over Skype. And through the laptop she watched her Daddy draw silly faces on his whiteboard, or at her request, draw abstract renditions of a nose or an eye, describing how each one worked with deft arrows and manic squiggles. Every evening she had another query for him. And every evening like a seasoned open-university pro, he had his marker pen at the ready. How he relishes the role of teacher and mentor. On our way to Wales, he explained the mechanics of the Seven Bridge. How far it stretched. How tall it was. What kept it from collapsing. 'We're going up! We're on the bridge Daddy! I love the holder-uppers!'

They have their rituals, their things. On Saturday morning it's scrambled eggs on toast. On Sunday they watch the racing cars together. When he mows the lawn, she follows from behind holding the lead, preventing it from becoming tangled. He tells her his own special stories as he tucks her up in bed. She accompanies him when he has a haircut, to the dump, to the car wash, when he needs a new pair of glasses. The daddy stuff.

Together they are the right fit, a beautiful father-daughter combination. Younger Dad is a wonderful mix of warmth and sensitivity, confidence and bright thought. This weekend we are celebrating him. I couldn't have asked for a better father for our child.

Happy fathers day Younger Dad.

(this post was inspired by Dorky Mum's Boy Love).


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tears in Welsh


Tap. Tap. Tap.
'Does that hurt?'
'Uh-uh.'
Tap. Tap. Tap.
'Does that hurt?'
'!!**!!'

The sea was most days so noisy. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine it, what else it might sound like. But it sounded just like the sea, rough and tumbling and bubbling. Behind me lay a protective bank of pebbles that stretched the length of the beach. Blue stones. Purple stones. Cream stones. Some with lines, some mottled with spots. Piles and piles of muted colours. We collected the shells she and I, tiny things of mauve and palest green. On the days of rain, it was hard distinguishing between sea and sky. Both heavy. Both grey. But one choppy with temper; surfers falling away from their boards, breaking the illusion of continuity between water and air.

'F**k,' I said holding the hot water bottle to my cheek. 'F**k. F**k. F**k. Then the outcry. Then the tears. Everything felt like agony. Hot. Cold. The bumps along the road on our way to the emergency appointment. The dentist prodded and poked, his instruments, precise and clinical, laid out like a silver army on the trolley. 'You have a deep pocket,' he said, 'full of bacteria.' 'Uh-uh,' I said with his finger stuffed inside my cheek. It might have to come out was his prognosis, gave me a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, sent me on my way, 'see your dentist as soon as you get home.'

It still hurt. A lot. Stabbing and intense, like boulders cracking thick ice. Wednesday night I couldn't sleep, was sat up-right in bed rocking backwards and forwards like a child, my arms wrapped around my chest, my jaw hung slack like the open cavity of a basking shark. By 3 am I'd had enough. I pulled the covers aside, climbed down the stairs. I watched a lame movie on the ipad, rocking without thought in the leather chair. Dawn appeared, the first I'd seen in many, many years; the sun like a fresh orange over the hills, the tide ebbing, quiet behind the window, shy and sleepy. Covering the nearby field was a sheen of dew kisses like a blanket of candy floss. I wondered how satisfying it would be to run barefoot in that grass, feel the cool against my ankles. I held my hand against my cheek, watched gulls flying in pairs, heard the crows echoing inside the chimney in the cottage next door. Anything to distract me. How could tooth ache be so all consuming? Reduce me to this? Crawling the walls. And at this time in the morning FFsakes?

Hooray for Younger Dad who looked after her; built sand castles during the day, told her stories before bed. I hardly saw her during our week long stay on the Pembrokeshire coast. Too tired, in bed, not joining in. So I attempted sleep in the spare twin in her room, anything to feel close to her, hear her movement and breath. Each day she appeared with more colour in her cheeks. Each day she gave me one of her gentle hugs.

We left two days early. 'Poor Mummy has a really hurty tooth,' she said. 

And now I need a holiday.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bread and Honey


Do you have a favourite comfort food? Mine is a jam sandwich. Mine is baked vanilla cheesecake. Mine is creamy rice pudding. Mine is eggs benedict. Mine is lemon drizzle cake. Mine is a BLT with lashings of mayonnaise, or crumpets soaked in butter. Some are the foods of childhood; a runny boiled egg with toasted soldiers, a fish finger sandwich smeared in ketch-up or a dollop of golden syrup in a bowl of steaming porridge. But the one that tops the page, the favourite above all the rest, is something so simple, so easy on the palette; it's but a homely slice of bread and honey. That smell of sweet, sweet nectar, the taste of peach sunrise on a purple petal, the way it wraps itself around a knife, sticky and golden, the way it sticks in droplets to a breakfast plate like teardrops from a bee. I prefer the bread toasted, a multi-seeded slice mind, with a geological layer of thick, thick butter, that way the butter and honey combines and melts into the fibres, the first dream-like bite a walk inside the craters of the moon or chasing painted ladies bareback on a rainbow unicorn. Heavenly. Bread and honey after an argument with a friend. Bread and honey for a sniffly cold. Bread and honey for a bad, bad day. Bread and honey when the words won't come...

And one day I noticed two spots on her collar bone, and then two became four, became eight, became sixteen, became well over sixty four. Over her chest. On her back. Over her face. On her scalp. Over the backs of her hands. On the tops of her feet. 'Try not to scratch,' I said, 'here, look at the tiny scar under Mummy's bottom lip.' Pink cream from head to toe. Pink medicine in mouth every fourth hour. Three heaped teaspoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda in tepid bath. 'They're really annoying me, I hate it,' she said, 'it's marching over my body like red soldiers, they go chattering and chattering all over me.' We sat in front of the TV, took walks around the garden listening to the monotone hum of lawn mowers and the unfolding creaks of outdoor furniture. And every morning without fail I toasted a slice of special-treat white bread, spreading butter and honey over its browned surface being careful to cut off the crusts, slicing it into four quarters. Bread and honey for a poorly princess. Bread and honey when she's feeling in distress.

What's your favourite comfort food?

I was over the moon, nay astonished, to discover I'd made the final six in the Writer category of the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBS). I want to give an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who voted and supported my blog; it's meant a lot to me, so thank you very very much! The winner will be announced at a special ceremony at Britmums Live on 20th June.  

I am going away to sunny Pembrokeshire for the week so I may or may not blog, but I won't be on social media nor will I be reading any blogs for a week, so please don't be offended if you don't see any comments from me next week.


Monday, 26 May 2014

The Butterfly Girl


See that girl over there? By herself? The one in the corner, or sat on a desk, the knee length sock fallen around an ankle, a browning apple core wrapped in her hand? A slightly bewildered look, staring at the ink well? Well that was me once. It might have been you too. The periphery girl. The one looking in, not quite belonging, chosen last - every time - on the netball team. The nervous flutterby flitting between gangs - from the cool girls to the naughty girls, from the trendy girls to the dorky girls - hoping she might stick, to a shoulder, to a kneecap, to real whole person, anywhere than alone with a stick under the play ground tree. The kooky one, the loner, unsure in her skin, suspicious of cliques or envious even, a fear of intimacy, of being found out, the writing on the wall; you're not original, simply a fraud, you are not who it says on the tin.

So we play lets pretend. I hide behind the loud voice, the black sense of humour, for years I carry on. I am not bland, I am not bland, I am not bland. But really I am quite quiet and quite shy, a little off hand some might say. I am not a team player. I love my solitude. If I had to, I might ask you politely to go away. I only wish I'd figured this out years ago, so much energy wasted on pretence, on a figment I am not.

...and one day you walk into a coffee shop, and you recognise faces you haven't met before, but you've seen them on twitter, on facebook, on the front page of their blog. They exist, these people exist, and your heart beats that little bit faster, and your mouth feels that little bit dryer, and it feels like the first day of school all over again, or walking blind into a giant speed-dating session. You sit at a table, make your introductions, saying your hello's, hoping your cyber buddies like you, that you are who is written on the tin, the tin that is now a blog, and you pull out your phone and begin tweeting about how it's your first time, how both nervous and excited you are, how much you are going to learn, all those bloggers you are dying to meet...

...and now you've entered the event, the first hour overwhelming, you're a rabbit caught in head lights, gazing at chests, trying to decipher the names of so many blogs; hey vampires are usually icebreakers, so you strike up conversations about the merits of Twilight and Tru Blood, or maybe Mad Men or Breaking Bad, and then you see them, fluttering around, such a reassuring sight, The BritMums Butterflies, there to assuage the nerves, a warm welcome, to answer your questions, to introduce you to like minded souls, to make your Britmums Live experience rock... and you walk away with a goody bag and your head held high, you met them, so many others, periphery girls, just like you, and you made friendships, enduring ones; this blogging malarky is real, it really is, it's who you are, and you feel like you belong.

I'm delighted to say I'm a Britmums Butterfly at Britmums Live Blogging Conference in June. You'll easily recognise me; the one in spotty trousers and converse trainers, the top half a bit of a mess (see above). And I'm really looking forward to meeting you! If this is your first time at Britmums Live and you're looking for a little dutch courage then come and join the Butterflies and meet lots of other Britmums Live attendees on our official Facebook Group where plenty of meet ups are organised before the event, or tweet us using #britmumsbutterflies. Only four weeks to go! Can't wait to see you there :o).


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

#One Week - Spring '14 - The Last One?


No swansong, no fanfare; spring appeared early this year, and simply kept on growing. I am tired though. It's nearly the end of May, and in some ways it feels like the end of the year. I should be smiling and tap dancing, full of bubbles and beans, instead I'm stock piling boxes of tissues and counting down the minutes to bedtime. The last two weeks have seen gastric flu, head colds, and now, the firm family favourite, chicken pox. I can really do with a holiday; so glad we're heading to Pembrokeshire in two weeks time; goodbye t'interweb, hello good reads. At least the weather held out, warm and pleasant and dry; life could be a lot worse than a puddle of stomach and a runny nose.

But always with spring comes the joy of longer days and lighter evenings, and if you're lucky, evenings spent in the garden with a glass of something crisp listening to birdsong and the neighbour's faint laughter escaping an open window. Spring opens up everything, and brings the quietest of dawns. Days roll into each other, and new plans are made. The storm-torn garden fence was replaced, soil turned over, plants moved and rehoused. Weeds were ripped from the driveway, wood chip thrown over flowerbeds; but still the straggly cats came. A trip to The Natural History Museum in Tring where she drew stuffed bears and stuffed ostriches, eerie and frozen in time. Birthday parties, so many at this time of year; two in a garden, two in a gym, sausages, jelly and iced rings. We grew butterflies, she collected wood lice from underneath mossy stones. We enjoyed the dappled sunshine with an ice cream under the silver birch; she flapped up and down the garden in her fairy wings, teaching the birds how to fly.


Life has taken an interesting turn. I self-published a booklet of prose, finished the first draft of my novel, and to my delight, received an email informing me I'd been picked as a mentee on the WoMentoring Project which pairs professional literary women with up and coming female talent. Exciting times indeed. To add to this, I've been asked to read a post, of which I cannot yet reveal, at the Bloggers Keynote at Britmums Live in June. I have new ideas for stories, and as well as full length fiction, I find myself drawn to penning shorter narratives too... So I've been having a think; that it might be time for a necessary break from #oneweek to focus on these other projects, but perhaps I could still be persuaded otherwise; I'm really rather addicted to my seasonal musings...


This is the third and final day of the seasonal linky One WeekI wanted to say a big, big thank you to all those lovely bloggers who joined in, and those who commented, and tweeted, in support of this project.



Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>





Monday, 19 May 2014

#One Week - Spring '14 - The Sweetest Goodbye


The first thing we eat is Granny's warming fish pie; that comforting mix of mashed potato, cream sauce with chunks of haddock and cod. And parsley of course, always parsley. A foolproof dish after a three hour journey in a rented van. No pudding though, Granny doesn't have a sweet tooth. I let her stay up later than usual, she's so excited to be here; too many questions to ask, too many cuddles to give, too many new things to explore in the garden... 

...Granny's garden, an idyllic suburban retreat. A quintessentially English back yard. A lawn shaped like a ripple, gentle and undulating. A shore of pale blue forget-me-nots, in their hundreds, waving hello. Fat tulips in magnolia and purple stripes, like boiled sweets. Others an unwelcome pink, rich and dusky, 'that's not what was described on the packet,' says Granny, 'I'd expected something paler, not this loud.' She isn't impressed.

I love the ramshackle shed, the faded paint, the flaking wood, the trug and the twigs, the logs piled against a wall. The huge urns, the way lavender pokes out from cracks in the paving stones, the bird feeders hanging from the branches of the winter blossom, the forgotten trellis buried under heaps and heaps of tangled clematis. At the back there's a little pond; my daughter crouches and watches the clouds of spawn, they look like one-eyed marbles, a little creepy, and she points to the tadpoles, some with tiny hind legs.   
    

The curtains over the back doors at the rear of the kitchen are closed tight, revealing nothing of the activity beyond the window panes. Outside, the Easter Bunny is doing his thing, scattering foiled eggs over the grass, in pots, on soil, around the pond, on low lying branches. She's finally let loose, and by tea time she's still finding eggs next to flowers, by stones, tucked under the succulents; her straw bag loaded with a six months supply of chocolate. I share in her every delight and surprise; 'the Easter Bunny must be so fast hiding all these eggs Mummy?' 'He is sweetheart, faster than your eyes can blink.'   

She doesn't want to go,  leaving Granny's is always bitter sweet. And she has a plan. Together, she and Granny cut flowers from the garden, and place them one by one on an alcove on the back wall. 'This is so that you'll remember me,' she says. As if Granny would ever forget.


This is the second day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next three days (Monday till Wednesday) I'm posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of spring '14. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>





Sunday, 18 May 2014

#One Week - Spring '14 - The Pile of Pink



She has an idea, it formulates as we drive past a blossom tree; a blossom tree that's shed pink silk, flurried and piled on the pavement. Hand and hand we walk with a yellow bucket, once a vessel for reusable nappies, a little smellier back then. 'It's bitter,' I say, 'dead parky for April.' The chill in the wind makes it feel like February. I shouldn't have trusted in the one thick jumper, at least she's wearing her coat; good that one of us is warm. Daffodil heads are bowed, moping, their time over, but the tulips are still going strong; straight to attention, they remind me of the Queen's Guard, trooping bright in colour.

We turn the corner, and there they are, hundreds and hundreds of pink petals. A great big thing of pinkness. It looks a centimeter deep this freshly fallen delicate blush. Pink. Pink. Pink. Everywhere. 'Pink is my favourite colour Mummy,' she says, and she runs through the blossom creating snow tracks behind her. To her they are like tiny fairy wings or fairy landing pads, to me they are shaped like teardrops, or oddly, like guitar plectrums, their tips curving like sea shells.

The petals fall and float down and down, settling at the bottom of the bucket. We gather more in our hands, soft and smooth, petals slipping between fingers, stuffing them inside, pressing upon them, pushing away extraneous air; there's at least half a bucket left to fill. When I was five, I would make homemade perfume from blossom, and watch it wilt and stifle in tap water in a cup. She, on the other hand, has other plans for our harvest.  



'It's the colour of angel delight,' she beams. Petals are scattered. Over grass. Over pebbles. Over the fuzzy flooring of her garden shed. They catch in tulips, in the nooks where the stem and paddle-shaped leaves meet, they fall amid the russet branches of the sapling, an acer tree, and they collect on the paving stones near the back fence. 'Mummy, do I look beautiful? Do I have pretty skin like petals?' And I have to remind her again - I've found myself repeating it a little too often of late - that her beauty comes from her heart and mind, and most of all, the way she treats her family and friends; it comes from how she blossoms within...


This is the first day of the seasonal linky One Week. Over the next three days (Monday till Wednesday) I'll be posting a photograph(s) and a few words that diarises and distills my experience of spring '14. Take a peep at the details here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days. And don't forget to add #oneweek on Twitter, and comment on each others posts...


Badge Code ...

<a href="http://older-mum.blogspot.co.uk/p/one-week.html" title="One Week"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7807711152_5f912c7903_m.jpg" width="225" height="169" alt="one week" /></a>





Wednesday, 14 May 2014

#Once upon a time - The Deep End

Once upon a time .....



The bag was packed. Brush and towel. The purple polka-dot swimsuit, where was it? 'Mummy,' she said, 'I've put my costume on underneath my clothes.' That's my girl; she was so excited, this being her first time, in at the deep end.

Condensation rolls down the windows, steam floats off the pool's surface, like genies, feathered and transparent. I am five years old. There's a strange smell. It thrusts itself up my nostrils, bites both eyes like mardy wasps. We change around the edge of the pool, my clothes piled on a wooden bench. Green pants. I will always remember the green pants.

The teacher was female, stout, and bottle blonde. 'Is this her first time?' she asked. 'Yes,' I said, 'she will wear armbands, right?' It took three attempts stretching the red cap over her head, mouse brown tufts escaping its sides like grass between flagstones. A very charleston look. She followed the teacher with the other children to the edge of the pool; in someone else's hands now.

The teacher has yellow teeth and yellow fingers, she rasps and wheezes and barks out her orders, Mrs Lennox, the hag from the teacher's den. Full of smoke and rotten lungs. I hold the float in my hands. 'KICK. KICK. KICK' she demands. I kick as hard as I can.

On each arm, three orange floats, and in the water her grin was as wide as the seas. Was I feeling the drag of tears? I think so. The teacher mouthed something at me, spinning her finger in ovals. What? I looked towards my daughter chatting with another girl on the poolside step. How had I not noticed? She was wearing her costume the wrong way round. The frills were at the back. Princess wiliness will blame this oversight on me.

Every Friday morning, a trip in a minibus to the local pool. Mrs Lennox, looking more like a cigarette, sits at the front. No one speaks. The pool's surface looks oily. The smell. That smell. And I change in a cold cubicle by the pool side. Inside, at the back of it, is an open drain, where I see plasters and tangled balls of hair. I remember watching the slow crawl of the bald man, his mouth open, his face hanging, slack like a jumper on a washing line.

Four lessons later only two loose floats dangled from each arm. More confident, more liberated, she let go of the teacher's hand. She doggy paddled. She kick, kick, kicked on her back. And smiled and giggled, the water flowing into her open jaw. That week, there was an assistant, a male assistant; she forgets her legs, her head turned towards his face, and she talks and talks and talks at him... Isn't swimming, well, about swimming? Concentrate, you need to concentrate, stop looking at the guy, kick, kick, kick, I thought wryly. I still gave her the thumbs-up. I will always give her the thumbs-up...

I am braver. I have swum with weights. I have swum in pyjamas. I own a bronze medallion. I can do it, I can breast stroke and back crawl; not the butterfly though, no, no, not that, it looks too ungainly, too splashy, too in your face. I body surf. I let waves pull me under, grasping at stones on the sandy floor. I dive and snorkel and feel salt burn as the sun dries the corners of my eyes. Now I prefer the slow lane, don't mind the chlorine so much. Twenty lengths, no more, no less, the effortlessness of a calm relaxing swim.

I feel so lucky and over the moon to have been shortlisted in the Writer Category of the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBs). If you enjoy my writing, please vote for Older Mum in a Muddle; I would love to be one of the six finalists. Voting ends this Friday, 16th May. I want to thank you all, my readers and friends, for all your support since I began this blog three years ago. X  


Once Upon A Time



Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Viewing


The gallery is full of herds. Herds of business suits. Herds of puffy skirts. Herds of art-house cool. It's all very frou-frou. I however am low key; jeans, blue jacket, Hermione Granger hair. We arrived forty minutes after the official opening by Dame someone or other, and the space is as full as a hornet's nest; humming and droning and reverberating. Cheeky so-and-so's, they're charging for the wine and prosecco, five pounds a pop. I'd assumed there'd be sparkling freebies at a private viewing, and olives on sticks; that's what you see in the movies. Oh well, I guess I could wait till the restaurant.

We head over, H and I, to where my brother's piece is stationed; hanging on a wall in front of the bar, next to the toilet entrance. Glamorous. But still, what an opportunity. My exceptionally talented brother's artwork... a portrait, graphite pencil on paper, entitled Deryugina. It looks like a photograph. I stand close, taking in the minuscule detail until it's a blur, like atoms. 'Isn't this wonderful,' says an appreciative voice behind me. Two women, both in their sixties, are smiling at the portrait, and I can't help myself, the kudos is simply too tempting, 'my brother did this,' I say, 'why don't you come and meet him?' And it just so happens that one of them is a member of The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

My brother is busy networking, handing out and receiving business cards. H and I take a tour. More fancy clothes. Frills that are waterfalls, floral leggings, very pointed shoes, like knives. We spot a couple of dated celebrities; Michael Portillo (of all people) and Floella Benjamin (let's look through the round window), who's looking shockingly good at sixty-four. Some of the portraits I'm not so sure about. A white haired man dressed in fuchsia tracksuit stood in front of a settee, a radiator behind and paintings on a wall. 'Who paints radiators?' H asks, and she's qualified to judge, she's an exceptionally talented artist herself. There's a small self-portrait of a woman's face, and clearly there's a lack of self-esteem here; all her features are smudged away, only the outline of her face and frame of auburn hair. She looks dug-out and ghostly. Where would you hang her? In the downstairs loo?  

I think about the classical portraiture of centuries before; the pomp, the ruffles, the arm draped over a velvet-lined table, and study its modern day equivalent; pin-striped business men, self satisfied, posing in front of The City -The Gherkin - or proudly beside their red bricked country mansion. Nothings changed. The gaudy upper classes; still a seamless study in questionable ostentation. I giggle at Tony Blair's portrait, the not-so-ironic reference to Cool Britannia, of the Union Jack painted behind his head, making me think of the iconic (and cringe-making) image of that Oasis bloke with the PM.

We were all good to art, my two brothers and I, but J shone; I think his undetected dyslexia helped to hone his talent. Like a microscope in sharp focus, he kept on and on and on. He encourages Little A's creativity, always buying her felt tips and pencils and colouring books for birthdays and Christmas. He's taught her the precise skill of slinking a slinky over the top step, bellows out bedtime stories in earnest interpretations. Uncle J is very much the fun Uncle. His next big project is a portrait of the actor Robert Carlyle, you know, Begbie in Trainspotting. I really hope his time has come now, he's worked so hard for so many years; I can't help feeling proud of my youngest brother...

I have been shortlisted in the Writer Category of the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBs). If you enjoy my writing, please vote for Older Mum in a Muddle; I would love to make the final six.   

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Listening Walk


It was such a strong urge, to get out, clear my head, find the rhythm in my soles; they were squeaking. The overwhelming need to feel underwhelmed. Sometimes it all gets a little too much, sometimes I just have to stop, to quit the thinking, to shut down the task.

I'm dressed in lounge wear; black yoga pants, neutral sweatshirt, a blue jacket and raspberry crocs dusted in dried earth from weeding the borders. Casual clothes for a casual walk. There's a slight chill and the lightest breeze, but in the sun it feels good and warm, like I'm wrapped in an eiderdown of yellow feathers. The streets have that dozed-out feel, stationary and quiet, the tuned-out lull of a bank holiday weekend. I close my eyes and walk slow, with purpose, filtering the life around, stealing the detail, all the sounds and smells, trusting in my feet as they scrape against loose and buckled pavement...

... Husky wood pigeons and a crow, its caw-caw'ing like a shrill firework. Children's voices behind a garden fence, the bounce of a ball, the lower tones of parents, library murmurs, and the charcoal aroma of a BBQ. I stop to take pictures. A dandelion head, an iris, the pink tree. A woman is vacuuming her car, dried blossom crunches under my shoes; I love the crisp sound, the disintegration, the brown powdery afterthought. Some driveways are precise, manicured, while others are overgrowing in weeds and sky-blue forget-me-nots. I close my eyes again, hear water slosh and music thump, the guttural rumbling of a light aircraft over head and a bus engine's old-aged strain as it climbs an easy hill.


I need to make more changes, prioritise my yoga practise, cut down on sugar and wheat. I've been thinking about a fundamental change in my diet; I'm drawn to the paleo way of eating, I was thinking of trying it for a month over summer. I like the thought of hormonal equilibrium. I used to wake up at dawn and meditate for an hour, a graceful beginning that assembled me for the day. Then I had a baby, and motherhood became the eternal contemplation. On my shelf sits a book, Buddhism Plain and Simple, perhaps I need to read it.

Another walk, this time early evening, a dusky walk in melon light. Again in yoga pants. Again in squeaking crocs. I close my eyes and think of the moment, full of birdsong and the smell of spring warmth rising. I open them and watch a pigeon fly low over telegraph wires and bungalow rooftops, like a fat grey missile. I have my camera, and take another picture...

What do you do to chill?

I have been shortlisted in the Writer Category of the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BiBs). If you enjoy my writing, please vote for Older Mum in a Muddle; I would love to make the final six.   

My seasonal linky, #oneweek, returns 19-21 May, and it's spring! For more details, take a look here.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Groove is in the words... (a big thank you).


Every record had to count. Each and every single one. I used to plan sets with so much thought, so much precision, second guessing the night's audience, picturing their reactions, their well honed tastes, and my strategy usually worked. Bulls eye. But I had to allow for flexibility, the ability to switch flow at the sight of flagging hips or flailing arms, or even worse, the sight of naked dance floor. I had to move like water. Music weaves and circles and undulates; it isn't earth. Perhaps we could have flown through midnight stars into the electric heart of a supernova, or down into the purple depths where flesh pink jelly fish swim and moon white mermaids dance among beaded pearls in the four-four thump thump thump of the current. I was good. My selection, my timing, my connection to the dancing pulse. I thought it would last forever, that I'd always be a DJ, couldn't see anything else, certainly nothing beyond the grooves in the vinyl. I had no idea that this was only an apprenticeship, that I was learning to write, that every set I played had a beginning, a middle, and an end...

...The most creative insights aren't necessarily carved from smooth and easy surface, but from dark and grizzled crevasse, the jagged textures. Everything grows from shit. In transpersonal psychotherapy there is a saying; to breakdown to breakthrough. Who would have thought that postnatal illness would lead to possibly my life's work, aside from motherhood, writing. When I began blogging I never considered myself a writer, and here I am, several years on, with three blogs and a self-published anthology, Seasons of Motherhood. Maybe I am a writer after all (I've never harboured much confidence).

So I'm incredibly pleased to announce that I've been shortlisted as a semi finalist in the Writer Category of the BiBs, The Brilliance in Blogging Awards. I am chuffed to pieces about being selected; it actually means a lot to me. I want to thank you, my very loyal and wonderful readership, and anyone else who took the time to consider my blog and vote for Older Mum in a Muddle. There are readers, other bloggers, who have stuck with me since the very beginning, and some of you have become very real friends - this blogging malarky is an amazing thing.

And now I am in a muddle and feeling self conscious and embarrassed *urrgghh I don't like this* and have to ask for one last vote as I would dearly love to make the final six in my category, so er, please could you vote for me?

Every vote really counts. The Writer category this year is very tough, and I'm sadly competing against some of my very favourite bloggers..... so thank you, and thank you for reading me.


VOTE FOR ME BiB 2014 WRITER



Monday, 28 April 2014

#Once upon a time - 365 Days

Once upon a time .....


One day, only a week a go, we all squeezed inside the long blue van, Younger Dad, Little A and I. It was a long long van, plenty of room for the brand new double mattress and away-away bags in the back, even space for monkey and doggy. A very used van; rust on the hubcaps, a small dent on the bonnet, scratches along the side of the sliding door. Witches fingernails? Or dragon's claws? Probably a swipe from a bony branch along a narrow bramble-lined road. 'It's so high up,' said Little A. It was fun with a view, even if my hips were compromised, wedged between the inflexible bookends of a child seat and door. Younger Dad drove. I read. 'Can I watch Frozen on the ipad?' a little voice asked. We were on our way to Norfolk, to Granny's; to accost the Easter bunny, to reload the van with a veritable cardboard city of Younger Dad's history, perhaps also a pin ball machine, a proper one with lights and things that go ping. And where exactly was it going to go? Next to the dining table? In the shed?...... Younger Dad pulled over, time to eat, asserted the weight of the rented vehicle, parked in a diagonal across two spaces; no messin' our family of three...

And the irony wasn't lost. A year ago, box upon box stacked ceiling-high in the living room, sucking the oxygen from the air, blocking the light from the sash windows. Dry. It made my mouth dry. And dust. In hair, on scalp, in the grooves of my palms. Masking tape stuck on the carpet, on lips, along the skirting boards. The big big move. Away from London, but not quite, still zone seven, in the north west ring of the Home Counties. Far enough from the urban cry of sirens, close enough for a curry in Brick Lane or a trip to the zoo. The best decision ever made.

The hob didn't work, the fridge broke down, there were ants and leaks and damp. A garden choked in weeds. And we loved every minute of it, even if it was the coldest spring, and half the new living room was for months an unpacked tower(s) of books and records and unnecessary jetsam. Little A began a wonderful pre-school, will begin the primary school six doors down the road this September - a sky blue uniform, a brand new adventure - with her favourite friends and cousins. So good living near family now, for a cup of tea, a chat and a shoulder; a palpable belonging. I pulled out the dandelions and the creeping buttercups, replaced them with lavender and snapdragons, terracotta pots and ornaments. A garden to sit in, feel proud of, the hollow curlink-curlink sounds of the wooden wind chime hanging from the arm of the silver birch. I wrote. A lot. Pounded through the first draft of a novel, tapping away at the window table of the bestest local cafe ever - like evoooor - eating slice after slice after slice of cake. We have celebrated birthdays, held parties, and relaxed in the warm fuzz of a lazy first Christmas. Now we have ambitious plans; to extend outwards, to build upwards, to make our mark, to stamp the interior in the colour of three different personalities; to make our house a family home. And here I am. Calm(er) and quiet. Myself.

The pinball machine never made it, beyond repair. Never mind eh? But many boxes did, arranged against the living room wall. Piles and piles of old music and technology magazines. A twenty five year old computer. Degree course work. The milestones of Younger Dad's life. When we arrived back from Norfolk, a cloud burst had deepened the colour in the garden; pea green grass and roaring pink clematis, like the rich fondant centre of a strawberry chocolate. Is this what shamans see? Home. Home. Home...


Once Upon A Time



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Saved by Red Velvet


It wasn't the best of weeks. Tissues and temperatures. The dust and dirty clothes ignored, forgotten for another day. We braved a museum, one with aeroplanes and helicopters and bombs laid out like little fat sausages. She didn't understand the associations with war. They made me feel cold. And after circling the hanger several times, sitting in a cockpit - diiiive, pull uuuup - we felt worse; her nose ran, my cheeks flushed. The following day, we sat on the sofa, did nothing, watched the box. It's easier when we're both poorly, no pressure to entertain, permission to flop and eat tinned beans. My biggest achievement was defuzzing a pair of bobbled jumpers. We were supposed to drive over to Cambridge for Younger Dad's actual birthday, a walk in the botanic gardens, afternoon tea. That didn't happen. He came over to us instead... began coughing.

And a bad cold can ferment the worst; raw feeling, a vulnerable heart beat.

'Mummy, I feel sad.'
'Why sweetheart?'
'I don't have a brother or a sister.'
'I know.'
'There are only three in our family. I want it to be four. Like my cousants.'
How was I supposed to respond? I'm sorry sweetheart but Mummy can't have another one, she would become very ill, and things are better now, normal, and besides, she'd rather push out a novel than suffer the craziness of hell fire hormones and lack of sleep... 'Mummy's tummy is too old to have another baby.'
'But I want four in our family.'
'What if we got a pet? A gerbil? Would that help?'
'Yes, then it would be four.' She carried on playing with a teddy, a grey bunny, mumbling to herself in thought, 'Mummy?'
'Yes sweetheart?'
'Will you be here for ever and ever?'
'I will be here for a very, very long time. When you are grown up and you have children.'
'Can I marry you Mummy?'
'I'm afraid that isn't possible darling. Children don't marry their mummies.'
'I'll marry my best friend Jake instead then.' Abandoning her short-lived game with ted, she made for a nearby plug, switching it on and off.
'You know not to do that, it's dangerous,' I said.
'Mummy, what does electricity look like?'
'Well you can't see it-'
'-does it go straight through you?'
'Yes.'
'Can it make you die?'
'Yes. You might stop working, die.'
'Mummy?'
'Yes?'
'Would you miss me if I died?'
Would I miss her if she died!!?? She was asking me to contemplate her death, an impossible world without her. I knelt down before her, placing my hands on her arms, barely focusing for the water collecting in my eyes. 'If you weren't in my world, I would be devastated, my life would mean nothing without you, you are my life Pupkin.'
Her bottom lip wobbled, into my arms she flew, bunny discarded on the floor, both of us sobbing.
'We need a bit of cheering up don't we?'
'Yes we do, I feel so sad Mummy.'

In Cocos, Little A ordered a small hot chocolate layered with soft marshmallows while I had my usual, a detox tea. And we shared a thick wedge of moist red velvet cake. It tasted good. We felt better. The sounds of Little A's pleasure as she peeled away the icing, pronged the sponge onto her fork, so taken aback there was real beetroot in each mouthful. A life affirming cake for a horrid cold. Comfort food in an existential crisis.

And that was one conversation I didn't want repeating again, ever... *sneeze*

If you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS). Voting closes at midnight on 12th April. 




Monday, 24 March 2014

#Once upon a time - Five Years.

Once upon a time .....

I turned to Younger Dad, 'we should have booked.' The cafe was full; couples, friends, children sat upon laps. A Saturday buzz lifted the intimate space. Candles on tables. Walls hidden in local frippery. The window display; a forest of wide leafed flora subduing the incoming light, now small and tip toeing. Vintage bicycles, rusted and buckled, hung from their frames, a fake canary on miniature tricycle swung from a wire; a yellow feathered trapeze. I love a bit of broken character. I totally dig the kooky. And I so wanted to eat here, in the The Bicycle Shop. But alas, it wasn't to be... an interesting ambiance often makes for a sublime menu, and in my undecided stalling - do we stay here? do we leave? - my attention was found wanting, carried from handwritten letters on a chalkboard, deposited on the thick set bloke behind the bar. Why on earth was he wearing that light blue jumper? The colour accentuated the merino curls spilling out over the v-neck, all splayed and shaggy. A dark wiry pelt. I had never seen anything like it. Ever. 'Look at that chest,' I said to my husband. 'Don't stare,' he replied, 'c'mon, let's find somewhere else to eat, we won't get a table here...'

I was so absorbed I forgot to frame the detail, the camera forsaken in my shoulder bag. We meandered around The Lanes of Norwich, taking in the sunshine; people sat at tables outsides cafes, smiling, welcoming an unusually warm spring day, the air swelling with flirtation and chit chat. Look at that spotty green bag. I want one of those notebooks... and we paused outside a wedding shop; flowing taffeta for the ladies, heavy tuxedos for the gentlemen, 'can you believe it's been five years already?' I said to Younger Dad. He held my hand that little bit tighter. In Biddy's Tearooms we sat at an old sewing machine table, surrounded by chintz and bric-a-brack; old suitcases piled in corners, a lampshade balanced on three tea cups, delicate bunting stretched across the ceiling, and we talked as a couple, about our individual aspirations, our future as a family; my pot of lapsang souchong smoky and perfect, the last crumbs of a very fine vanilla cupcake gathered in the middle of my plate, leftover particles of what seemed like a first date.


We strolled back in the late afternoon sun, blossom deepening in the retracting light, the odd fresh petal caught on the curb of the road. We stopped at an interiors shop, bought ourselves an anniversary present; a lap top table for the bedroom, made from wood, the element of this year's celebration; to write and tinker on propped up by pillows, comforted under a warm duvet. When we arrived back, the house was empty; Little A and Granny at the park. She returned half way through a film we began watching, launching herself into our arms, 'are you still staying in the hotel?' she asked, 'I'm worried something might happen to my parents.' 'Don't worry, we cancelled the hotel earlier, but Granny's still putting you to bed, okay?' 'Okay.' 'Feeling better now?' I asked. 'Feeling much better,' she replied. Maybe not this time, but the next we would stay away. One step at a time.

Pre-dinner drinks in a boutique bar; we were early for our booking, so we meandered again, around quieter streets this time. A man kept passing us by. Back and forth. Back and forth. I couldn't help but make up a story; his first wife had died a decade before, and now he was sole carer of his son and frail mother. This was his first date in a decade, he was so excited, so nervous, and yet he felt conflicted between his needs and those who depended upon him... The restaurant was an experience, billed as one of Norwich's foremost, a rare treat; desert was a pineapple sorbet with mango and coconut palm mousse, lovage jelly, spiced with mint sherbet. I had never tasted anything quite like it.

Later, light headed and contented, we cuddled up and watched the remainder of the movie on the newly acquired wooden table. Five years together as a married unit, we felt proud, all we had come through over recent years. Older Mum. Younger Dad. And we made a solemn promise, to have many many more days like this together... today had been one of the best in a long while.


Once Upon A Time


And if you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS).


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Launch of My First Anthology


It's here. It has arrived...

Seasons Of Motherhood is now available.

Twenty four pages of prose and accidental poetry.

My first self published anthology.

You can order your copy here. 

To anyone who pre-ordered, thank you ever so much, your copy is winging its way to you.

XXX.


Ps. Any review or feedback would be most appreciated...

And if you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS).  

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

#One Week - Winter '14 - The Turn


This year I remembered; I bought a bright red sledge. It lent against the hall way wall for weeks and weeks. Sad. Unused.

'It's not winter yet Mummy, it hasn't snowed.'
Only wind. Only rain.
'I'm hoping it will,' I replied, silently cussing the clouds, 'there's still plenty of time.'

Is there? Do you think so? I have since transferred the sledge to Little A's garden play house, the bulbs and blossoms arriving early; pinks, blues, oranges, yellows... I'm not complaining, it's really truly lovely; but winter isn't winter without one thick dumping of white the stuff, and anyway, I'm rather partial to icicles.

I had hoped to take Little A sledging on the gentle inclines of Cassiobury Park... Scarves, woolly hats, three pairs of socks. Misty breath. Catching snowflakes in gaping mouths, on nose tips. Cold pink cheeks. And desperate times called for desperate measures; so we satisfied ourselves with indoor snowball fights - fake snowballs, crunching like the real thing, bought for Little A's birthday party - bouncing off face and limb, scattering over the living room floor. Snowballs that can be bagged and saved for envelopes of boredom...

But it's all so beguiling. It could all change; turn so suddenly. Apres ski in April anyone?

#oneweek winter '14 has proved to be such a challenge... I have struggled with ideas for posts, and the words haven't flowed easily, inspiration sorely lacking; its been such an unusual season...


This is the third and final day of the seasonal linky One WeekI wanted to say a big, big thank you to all those lovely bloggers who joined in, and those who commented, and tweeted, in support of this project.

One Week will return in spring, dates TBC. So get your cameras at the ready and imaginative hats on! For more details about One Week, take a gander here. You can join in for one, two ... or the full three days...



Badge Code ...

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