Thursday, 13 December 2018

Panic-buying presents, forgetting Christmas shows and losing your festive mind...

Christmas. A time for giving, for bringing people together, for the simple pleasures, right?

No. It turns out. Actually fucking massive no.

I feel like I’m losing my festive mind.

On a daily basis there’s another thing to remember for the kids.

As I was driving home from a meeting the other day I suddenly recalled they were both meant to be dressed as elves the following morning. I handbreak turned into the nearest gigantic Tesco, and purchased two pairs of Elf pyjamas. Double win. They can seamlessly wear them from day into night.

I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself until I got home to a crestfallen daughter who told me that I’d missed both her ballet and violin performances. I’D ALREADY BEEN TO THE RECEPTION CLASS NATIVITY THAT MORNING, HOW CAN THAT BE??

And then there are the presents. I’ve asked the kids what they want for Christmas, and the list is extensive.

Mainly from Father Christmas.

I’m starting to resent him, the big jolly gift-giving buffoon. He’s going to get all the credit, while the practical presents they’ll receive from us will be, almost definitely, met with shrugs of ‘I never said I wanted that, what does it DO anyway?’ (It’s a microscope. It’s fun AND educational. Like it any better now? No, thought not.)

I’m on first name terms with the delivery guy from Amazon who knocks daily to deliver another panic present I’ve bought at 1am when I suddenly remember another relative we’re due to see that I’ve forgotten to buy something for.

Thing is, by the time Christmas actually arrives, you’re kind of over it already.

See, low level excitement for children starts a good six weeks before the big day AT LEAST. No-one can remain enthusiastic about anything for that length of time.

It starts the first time you hear Jingle Bells in Sainsbury’s. There’s the squeal of anticipation from the children, and a heart sinking feeling from the parents as it’s only fucking November.

Then December 1st comes along and with it, the chocolate advert calendars. Who isn’t going to lose their shit if they’re stuffing their face with chocolate on a daily basis before they’ve even got out of their pyjamas? Ho ho fucking ho.

I’ve bought my Christmas outfit, a silver sequinned mini-dress from a brand waaaaaaaaay too young for me off e-bay. It arrived. I squeezed into it. It turns out sequins are one of the more unforgiving fabrics and I look like an adult bauble.


So. Hang in there. Get that wine mulling. Pour yourself into your snazziest, sparkliest outfit, and try and remember that it’s not about the gifts. It’s not even about family.

It’s about two weeks of not having to shout -brush your teeth, put your uniform on, find your shoes, get your book bag, where are your shoes? Do you want ham or Marmite? What do you mean you’re vegetarian now? Where are your shoes? CAN WE ALL JUST LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW??

So. Merry Christmas. And breathe…



Monday, 10 September 2018

Starting school, Google bucket lists and turning 40...

Today was one of those days where you go through all the emotions from skin tingling pride to ugly crying your face off.

My daughter turned seven today. Seven. How can I have a seven-year-old daughter? I’m only about seventeen (plus twenty-three) myself.

And best of all, she has turned into a kind, funny, empathetic girl who I genuinely like to spend time with 75% of the time.

As if that wasn’t enough of an emotional punch in the proverbials, my son started school today. For two hours, he was with his new teacher.

He, as always, can’t remember a thing he did, who he spoke to, what he ate.

But he did say it was ‘OK’ and gave me a weak thumbs up, although I don’t think he realises that he will need to go there EVERYDAY FOREVER.

As a treat I took them both to a charity shop to spend some of their pocket money.

My ‘treats’ alternate between the charity shop and Poundland, just to keep things fresh.
Anyway, the charity shop is always a bit magic, as depending on who has dropped off all their stuff beforehand, you’re either rifling through a load of old shit or someone’s treasure.

But if you’re four and seven it’s all treasure.

And today my son found his diamond in the rough.

A JLS oversized shoulder bag that doesn’t do up.

He likes nothing more than a bag. In fact his absolute favourite thing is a bag in a bag in a bag. So this massive bag can fit in ALL his bags.

It has the four band members embossed on the front looking all tough, arms folded and farmer hats on back to front. And my son couldn’t be happier, wandering around the house, filling it up with crap.

He has now said it is his new school bag, and, let’s be frank, which four year old wouldn’t want to be seen with a mid 2000’s memorabilia man bag of an R and B band from X Factor they’ve never heard of.

Show me the boy who says they wouldn’t want that and I’ll show you a liar.

So that’s it. They’re both at school.

And I am turning forty in three days time.

Maybe that’s the real reason I’ve been ugly crying on and off all day.

I GENUNINELY hadn’t seen that one creeping up on me (apart from the massive fancy dress party I had a week ago but that doesn’t even count, that was just a party, I wasn’t ACTUALLY celebrating an 0 ending milestone.)

So I’m going to set myself a challenge.

Forty things to do that I might not have maybe considered otherwise.

I know it doesn’t have the snappy ring to it like 'thirty before I’m thirty.' 

But I can’t really do 40 before I’m 40, cos that’s happening in three days.

And I work and stuff so I wouldn’t be able to get the time off to go paragliding etc.

But I guess that’s the other thing, it can’t be stuff that’s so expensive that I fuck off to Dubai to abseil down a sky scraper and as a consequence we can’t afford to get the kids new shoes.

So I think it’s stuff that makes me braver. And this 'bravery' will compliment the wonderful, insightful maturity that I am going to fully embrace in three days time.

Unfortunately, while sitting with pen and paper staring at my new beautiful stationary that I’d bought with the sole purpose of writing my amazing ‘forty things to do that I might not have maybe considered otherwise’ list, it dawned on me that I don’t have the imagination to think up anything cheap and brave that’s going to make me a better all round balanced person, beyond start doing yoga and eat vegan occasionally.

And I can’t Google a list of stuff to do, searching your own off the shelf ‘bucket list’ is about as sad sack as sending yourself an anonymous Valentine’s Day card through Moonpig (totally haven’t done that.)

So I’m going to have a think on, I’ve got days to go, loads of time.

But in the meantime, if you have any suggestions of life affirming acts that can possibly be done within the next twelve months that don’t involve getting a tattoo or taking liquid acid, let me know.

Forty, I'm all over you. 


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

School packs, small chairs and naked photo bombing...

So it’s happening.

My youngest is going to school in September.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a total surprise.

I didn’t wake up this morning and think, ‘fuck, I forgot to fill out the forms.’

But it has crept up on me a bit.

I don’t work on Fridays and the day that my son and I spend together whilst my eldest is at school has become quite precious.

He’s good company.

We went to a lido with friends last Friday. It was an absolute scorcher and after running around in the fountains for a while he spotted the big lane swimming pool, divided from the children’s area with a Perspex fence.

Too much info?

Just bear with me.

Uncomfortable in his all-in-one swimming suit, he whipped it off.

(I checked the label as he stripped off as we’ve had it for a while, turns out it’s for 12-18 month olds so no wonder it was a bit snug as he’s now four and a half.)

He went to investigate the big pool.

Unfortunately at that moment, a class from the neighbouring secondary school also turned up to celebrate the end of their GCSE’s.

Coordinated by one of their teachers, they stood on the side of the pool and doing their best ‘American-Pie-esque’ impression, all the students jumped in with their school uniforms on as the staff took pictures.

One for the school album.

That is until they zoom in and see there’s a delighted naked boy and his best friend pressed up against the transparent fence right in the middle of their picture.

But those days are soon to end.

I went to pick up his pack from the school with all the new starter information.

It hadn’t dawned on me that it would be a big deal.

Nancy’s at school.

She loves it.

She’s got all her buddies, and some weekends is genuinely disappointed when she realises she’s got to spend the day with her family instead of at school.

So this is just going to be the same, right?

We sat on tiny school chairs in the hall listening to all the practical stuff.

The uniforms.

The lunches.

The impossible-to-navigate-as-a-working-family settling in dates, when you drop your child off for about 4 minutes at the school for the first two weeks and then have to somehow fit a working day around that.

I was prepared for that.

Expecting it almost, unlike some of the parents of first time school children who looked understandably anxious.

I was waiting to finish, to meet the teachers and then catch the second half of the England game.

But then it happened.

The head teacher read out a poem, Dear Teacher*, about your child starting school.

The concerns you may have about who is going to look after them, play with them, to help them if they’re worried, to change their clothes if they’re dirty, to dry their tears when they cry.

And I could feel it bubbling up.

I tried to swallow it back down.

But then she read the final verse:

I know as I give him one more kiss
And watch him walk away, 
That he’ll never again be wholly mine
As he was before today.

And that was it.

Broken.

It wasn’t an elegant cry, or a weep.

It was a proper shoulder-shaking, wipe your nose on your sleeve full on beal.

How had I not realised?

In a couple of months the little boy who’s favourite thing at the minute is to dance around the front room with me to 80s Heart FM is going to be starting a whole new chapter of his life.

And once he’s started.

That’s it.

Two children at school.

They’re off.

They’ve both on their next adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to keep him back for a year and attempt to home school him with my poor grasp on geography, understanding of the natural world or lack of all round patience.

But my best little buddy is not going to be hanging out with me as much soon.

It’s the end of an era.

And let’s face it, it’s not as much fun to dance around in the front room to Bros on your own.

* you can find the full poem and response from a teacher here. Tissues at the ready.
  

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Love Island, lying on the sofa and looking like Laura...

I like to think I’m the kind of person that, given a free evening, would have a bath with essential oils, drink a cup of camomile tea and get stuck into a good book.

I want to be that person.

But…

I have more unread books than you can shake a big stick at piling up on my bedside table.

But mainly...

I've started watching Love Island and I’m now completely hooked.

I feel dirty.

I’m watching a load of impossibly beautiful people who ‘don’t know where their head’s at’ getting off with each other whilst simultaneously being ‘mugged off.’

They don’t even smoke fags this year.

They’re perfect.

I watch it on a nightly basis, lying on the sofa stuffing my face with Malteasers whilst shopping on line for bikinis that are DEFINETELY going to look good on me once I will myself thin like Megan or Laura.

I’m mesmerised.

How can Alex EVER go back to work as a doctor after this?

What would it be like to be introduced to your new girlfriend’s dad, Danny Dyer??

Is it even possible to do it under a 10 tog duvet when you’re being filmed?

At the point I was starting to hate myself a bit, it suddenly happened.

Rosie Williams was about to be evicted.

And instead of berating the women who had made her feel a bit shitty, or the boy who turned out to be a serial liar and broke her heart.

She looks at the women who have created a protective shield around her whilst she wipes her tears and straightens her hair, the friend who shared a bed with her and held her hands as she wept herself to sleep, and said, ‘I came in here to find love, but I didn’t find it in a boy, I found it with all you girls.’

I FOUND IT WITH ALL YOU GIRLS. FUCK YES.

You can stick a load of gorgeous people in a villa. Make them share a bed and strut around in next to nothing, set them all up against each other, and still female friendship can grow. 

BOOM.

PS can someone PLEASE put some suncream on Alex?

PPS can we actually see someone eat a meal?

PPPS do people really get off with each other in the morning without brushing their teeth?


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Happy International Women's Day...

I wished my six-year-old daughter a Happy International Women’s Day before she slept, and she asked me from her bed if that meant it was a day for her.

And I said yes.

Of course yes.

And she asked me if we should have a party. She likes a good party.

She also likes spinning out bedtime.

But it got me thinking, International Women’s Day is a day for celebration of women’s achievements, of all our successes, but also all the sacrifices women have made so that we can enjoy the lives we lead now.

It can also be a marker in the sand to see how far we have come since the last IWD. 

Looking back over the last 12 months, it has been a complete shit storm of abuses of power, cover-ups and collusions.

From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey to Max Stafford-Clark, women have, for decades, been compromised and abused in the pursuit of their careers by men in power.

The #metoo campaign gave people a voice to come forward and out men who have got away with this for far too long. And women did come forward. In their hundreds, thousands, to share their stories and gather strength from one another.

But where do we go from here?

How do we continue to strive forward, to gain momentum, to feel like things are getting better, becoming fairer, more transparent?

It’s starting to happen. Women are forcing things to happen.

A group of women have taken the power back when a majority female investor group bought the Harvey Weinstein company. Weinstein won’t receive any of the $500 million sale of company assets, and despite taking on about $225m worth of debt, the women are setting up a $90 million victims' compensation fund.

Incredible.

Another group of women are campaigning to buy the Theatre Royal Haymarket theatre with the aim of making it a venue that showcases female-led work, making it a supportive space for women to create work.

 As women we need to support each other. To celebrate each other.

Because there is nothing stronger, more terrifying, more powerful, than a fucking incredible group of women who look after each other, who listen, who protect, who nurture each other.

Who celebrate each other’s achievements, and support each other through the shit times.

The women who have gone before us have fought for our places in the world now.

We owe it to them and our daughters and granddaughters to finish this.

To not turn a blind eye, to not accept that things are so because it is ‘just how it’s always been.’

Let’s support each other and know that our voices are louder when they are in chorus.

So deep breath.

Put your best fighting foot forward…

And Happy International Women’s Day brilliant women.

Thank you for being in my life.