A Dry Spell

The weekend just gone has marked the end of a month of personal sobriety.  I realise that this is no big deal in the grand scheme of life, but those of you who know me will appreciate the magnitude of the statement.

For those of you who I haven’t met, don’t get me wrong.  I haven’t been hiding vodka in the loo cistern or pouring Special Brew on my cornflakes, but I do enjoy a glass of wine or two at the weekend, and when life is going tits up and that ‘can’t cope’ feeling is engulfing you then a couple of drinks definitely dulls the pain.  Not an entirely healthy coping mechanism perhaps.

Then one day in October I was catching up on blog posts from the lovely Kate Takes Five who is twelve times the woman I am; she stopped drinking for not just one month but a whole year, and has now given up alcohol COMPLETELY!  She began as part of the One Year No Beer campaign but loved the benefits so much that she has a permanent seat on the wagon.

And Kate’s list of benefits was long – clear skin, sparkly eyes, better sleep, heightened productivity…I definitely wanted some of that, so I decided to give it go starting the very next day finishing 30 days later.   At the beginning it seemed like an insurmountable challenge but (pats self on back) I did it and, in case you were thinking of having a go yourself, here are some titbits of advice from my own journey.

  1. Keep it Real

Unless your alcohol consumption is negatively affecting others then this is an entirely self-serving challenge.  You are not curing cancer, eliminating world poverty or solving the housing crisis.  You are not a superhero, you are just saying no to a gin and tonic.

  1. Don’t Keep it a Secret

I learnt this the hard way.  At the mid-point of my 30 day stretch I had a weekend in the diary catching up with a group of old friends. Traditionally these are boozy occasions and I didn’t want to bring the mood down by piously requesting fizzy water in my prosecco glass.  Big Mistake.  Having discounted the possibility that I was pregnant (hilarious), said friends eventually gave up trying to re-fill my glass and spent the rest of the weekend casting worried glances in my sober direction.  It would have saved a whole lot of misunderstanding if I had just come clean in the first place.

  1. Don’t Talk About it all the time

The flip side of point number two.  While it may be an amazing, challenging, life changing experience for you, it is quite boring for everyone else.  Sobriety talk is pretty much on a par with diet talk and we all know how dull a diet fanatic can be.

  1. Don’t hibernate

It was tempting to clear the diary and just go from bed to work and back again for a month, thus avoiding situations that might involve the demon drink.  In my book this is cheating, and if you are thinking of turning your month trial into a permanent lifestyle choice then becoming a total recluse is obviously not an option.

  1. Don’t Judge

Just because you are not necking flaming sambucas and dancing the macarena doesn’t give you the right to roll your eyes at those who are.

  1. Be Proud. Every Day.

Every day that you complete is a day nearer your challenge target and although the world wouldn’t stop spinning if you had ‘just the one’ your sense of personal achievement would be diminished.  It is really hard to stop doing the things we enjoy, whether it is wine, beer, chocolate, or internet shopping, but managing to overcome the urge, even for a short time, is a great feeling.

So how did I feel at the end of my month-long mission?  Well, I would say (VERY begrudgingly) that I did feel loads better.  My eyes really were whiter, my skin brighter.  By the end of the month I was sleeping better than I had for years and I had a Brucie bonus of being four pounds down on the scales.  You would be forgiven for thinking that this is a no brainer, why would I go back to my old ways having experienced all of the above?  A very good question, now pass me the corkscrew while I ponder an answer.

A Dry Spell

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Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 4 – The Main Event: Saturday

We woke on Saturday to a strange sound.  The sound of no flapping canvas.  Not, thankfully, because our tent had blown away in the night, but because the gale force gusts had dropped and all was strangely still.

Until.

Pit pat, pit pat.

The theme of the day had begun, it was going to be a wet one.

Coffee was needed to get us firing on all cylinders and at the Dorset Farmers Market tent we found the Dorset Coffee Co. who served the best, and cheapest (that we found) coffee on site.  Even worth queuing in the rain to get it.

We had loads of stuff ticked on the programme to try and see on Saturday but the first one on the list was my choice alone, and alone I was as I stood in the crowd at the Castle Stage jumping up and down to Nellie the Elephant with Dick and Dom.

It does sound a bit odd as I type it in the cold light of day but we all have our guilty pleasures.

Dick and Dom were swiftly followed by the cast of West End Musical ‘School of Rock’ who gave us a brilliantly energetic taste of the show despite the rain which was still coming down steadily.

We spent a bit of time dodging in and out of the rain and, thanks to our tent being so close to the action, managed a quick afternoon kip to recharge our batteries.  Plenty of energy was needed for the night ahead and the evening festivities began with Holly Johnson.

This was REALLY exciting for me.  Frankie Goes to Hollywood were one of the first bands I saw live, 3rd April 1985 at The Brighton Centre, and I was a massive fan.  I was a bit worried that HJ would only play his newer, solo stuff, but we got most of the Frankie hits thank goodness.  He did seem a bit bewildered throughout the whole process, and unfortunately couldn’t give us Two Tribes due to time restrictions but as he was a childhood hero I can basically forgive him anything.

HollyJohnsonCollage

We had wormed our way to the front of the Castle Stage for Holly Johnson and were staying firmly put for Madness.

If there is such a thing as a slick shambles then Madness were it.  They gave an artful impression of boyish larking around when, actually, they delivered a bang on professional set playing all the expected hits but still feeling fresh.  I was hoping to see a bit more Nutty Boy dancing from the dads in the crowd but as we were right at the front it could have all been going on behind me.  It was a feel good, upbeat, inclusive party – all sorts and all ages just having the best time.

Madness Collage

Madness said goodnight and as they cleared the stage we realised that actually, it was raining really hard.  The grass was disappearing and smooth rivers of mud were taking its place, thank God for wellies and not caring what you look like.

Final stop of the night was back in The Big Top for the Silent Disco.  I am probably the only person in the civilised world to have not experienced a silent disco before now, they seem to be de rigueur at every 18th/21st/50th/wedding reception.  However, as a silent disco virgin I was really looking forward to finding out what it was all about.

For those of you who have been living under the same rock as me and not SD’d before, it is basically a disco with no music playing through speakers only through wireless headphones worn by everyone in the room.  It’s brilliant because you are all dancing away like crazy but then if you stop for a moment, remove the headphones and look around, there is just a sea of mad dancing folk but no music.  A very surreal experience.  Camp Bestival upped the ante by making it a DJ dance off – there were two channels on the headphones and you could choose which DJ to listen to.  We had Soho Radio versus Dick and Dom, no prizes for guessing who I tuned in to!

We waded through the mud back to our tent and fell into a happy, danced out, rain soaked sleep, just keeping one ear open for Teen 2 as she crept back from the Bollywood tent at 2.45am.

Rain Collage

Rain did NOT stop play

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 5 – The Final Chapter

 

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3: The Main Event – Friday

Well, Thursday at Camp Bestival was a windy night.  I’m not talking breezy, or even gusty, but hold on to your tent flaps and pray for salvation.  The sound effects were worsened by our artfully placed bunting flapping like mad all night.  As soon as the sun rose Teen 2 was to be found outside the tent ripping off the flags with energy usually reserved for getting into an Oreo packet.

But no matter, it was Friday morning and the whole weekend was ahead of us.

As CB newbies it took us the best part of the morning to get the hang of the site.  A few laps gave us a good overview of the masses of stuff on offer and we shelled out the £10.00 for a weekend programme – no handy app available here unfortunately.

As we perused the programme over coffee I could feel a heat rising within me, was I having some sort of premature hot flush?  Was I coming down with a fever?  None of the above.

I was getting the FOMO.

There is SO MUCH to see and do at Camp Bestival that, if you are FOMO inclined control freak like myself, the pressure to race around like a loony trying to get to everything can threaten to take the pleasure out that whole thing.  As I felt the panic rising I remembered a blog I had read before we left that talked of exactly that and gave the excellent advice to let go of the idea of seeing it all and focus on enjoying the things you do get to.

Very wise words and a mantra that I had to keep repeating to myself over the weekend.

To satisfy my unstoppable need to for structure we went through the programme and ticked the things we wanted to see the most, agreeing that whatever else we could fit in as we drifted around was a bonus.

What delights did Friday give us?  We kicked off in the Big Top where You Tube teen sensations Max and Harvey sent the tweens crazy with a mix of covers and original material.  Leaving our own teens  there we scuttled to the Castle Stage for some rock chick nostalgia with T’Pau (or To Poo as one of the younger members of our group thought they were called).

You’ve got to love a rock chick, especially a rock chick of a certain age.  Carol Decker’s voice was as strong as it was 30 years ago and I had a great time belting out ‘China in Your Hand’ with the rest of them.

Early evening found us around the World’s Largest Glitter Ball eagerly awaiting Sara Cox Presents… Just Can’t Get Enough 80s. BBC Radio 2’s Cox played track after 80s track whipping us all into a frenzy of mad mum dancing.  It was like being catapulted back to the most brilliant school disco you ever went to but without the sneaky silk cut and the lovebites.  Definitely one of the best bits of the whole festival for me.

Sarah Cox 1

For food that night we discovered The Feast Collective, a tent offering a huge variety of street food with big, communal tables, a bar and a resident DJ.  Spiced buttermilk chicken in a brioche bun – yum, thank you Butchies.

Feast Collective Collage

The Feast Collective, home of Butchies Buttermilk Chicken

Friday’s main event was Mark Ronson.   I wasn’t sure what to expect, and when he ambled out all on his tod to do a DJ set I wondered if he would hold the crowd.  No worries there, he kept us all dancing with endless hits in quirky mixes, cutting tracks within a minute if the energy started to droop.  Nothing ground breaking but we danced so much that my toes went numb and that, surely, is the sign of a good night.

Mark Ronson

Teen 2 headed to the Bollywood Tent and I made for what became my favourite place at Camp Bestival, Caravanserai.  More of that later…

Sara Cox at Camp Bestival

One of the highlights of the weekend – Sara Cox’s 80’s disco.

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3 – The Main Event: Saturday

 

 

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 2 – Tent Up, Tune In, Chill Out

Last time, on Adventures at Camp Bestival…lists were made, cars were packed, sandwiches were eaten.  Now that is what I call a cliff hanger.

Today, dear readers, you find us in the Camping Plus car park which is exclusive to Camping Plus ticket holders and the nearest to the Camping Plus site.  Easy to find, a slight delay getting in due to some dodgy traffic lights but, all in all, pretty painless.

We unload all our stuff, ALL OUR LOADS AND LOADS OF REALLY HEAVY STUFF, onto the grass and look up to take in our surroundings.  We really do look up.  Up a big hill that stands between us and our pitch.  But, no matter! The CB team have thought of everything and there is a free tractor and trailer shuttle service continuously running up and down the hill.

Camp Bestival Rucksack

Yes, it is really quite heavy

Fortunately , we had procured a huge fishing trolley so with that, a smaller trolley and two reluctant teenage helpers we made it up and down the hill in three trips.  Yes, three trips.  Suddenly our extensive list of essentials didn’t seem quite so essential but you live and learn.

We passed through security, grabbed our wrist bands and hunted for our pitch.  The site is marked out in a grid of coloured zones and the alphabet, so it is pretty easy to find your booked space.  I’d opted for a place nearer the action which was, by default, further from the car park but the trade-off was a good one.  Now all we had to do was put up the tent.

This was going to be easy!  You’ll remember from Episode 1 that we had a very successful tent practice.

On that sunny, still, breeze free day.

In a very sheltered garden.

Fast forward to an exposed hilltop.

In 30 mph windy gusts.

Hmmm…

We spent forty minutes wrestling with fly sheets and ground sheets, snapping two tent poles as they got caught in the wind.  Helpfully, Teen 1 rolled around the grass in fits of laughter as we grappled with what was basically a massive parachute ready to carry us away into the atmosphere.  I could feel my camping bonhomie slipping away.

Lucky for us that Camp Bestival folk are a friendly bunch and, just as things felt desperate, the cavalry arrived.  Four extra bodies, one bearing a roll of duct tape for our pole casualties, and between us we got the tent up and secured.

From then on it was a short hop and a skip to fill the tent, string the bunting, light the fairy lights and head down to the Magic Meadow for some food.

Time to relax, let the weekend begin!

01d8d4929ccb5b5869cfbd2f03072e36dd541c1bf6_00001 (3)

Thursday night – clean, keen and ready for action.

Coming next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 3 – The Main Event: Friday

Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 1 – Before

Camp Bestival Logo

Camp Bestival is a big deal around here.  Taking place only 18 miles down the road at the beautiful Lulworth Castle we are super fortunate to have such a lovely festival right on our doorstep.  Commonly known as ‘Bestival’s Little Sister’ (Bestival being Rob da Bank’s multi award winning boutique music festival), Camp Bestival has a trophy cabinet all of her own having been awarded ‘Best Family Festival’ 2009, 2010, 2013 & 2014 by the UK Festival Awards. 

The clue is in the title here, it really is a family event from babies clad in ear defenders being wheeled around in trolleys to tweens and teens roaming free because it is totally safe for them to do so.  It’s is definitely not all about the kids though – there is loads going on for the rest of us and with something for everyone it makes the perfect recipe for family harmony.

Teen 2, who is 14, was desperate to go this year and with Teen 1 off on her South American travels we rounded up a friend each and booked weekend tickets with a Camping Plus upgrade to secure our pitch.

Buying the tickets in February it seemed a lifetime away but a couple of blinks later it was July and there was serious list making to be done.

As usual when needing a bit of advice, I turned to the blogosphere and was well rewarded with a mine of useful info from Camp Bestival regulars.   Who knew I needed to add bubbles and glow sticks to my packing list?  Or that I would feel naked without full glitter make up?

My partner in crime for the weekend (who was leaving her ever patient husband at home) and I decided that a pre-departure meet up was in order.  We spent a funny day in glorious sunshine practicing putting up our tent and finishing our lists – anti bac gel, cleansing wipes, gas stove and kettle, tent, wellies, silk pillow case

Wait – did you say silk pillow case?  You do know this is camping?

Camping or not, smooth skin and frizz free hair has to be preserved so I’m sorry, call me a Princess, but that silk pillow case is going in the bag.  End of.

Camp Bestival - Loading the Car

Eggs, crisps and a bag full of bunting. What more could we need?!

Two weeks later and we are packing the car.  Seats down, roof box on, pillowcase packed.  The weather forecast is a bit dodgy and at the last minute I swap a sun dress for a couple of hoodies and we’re off.  Our Camp Bestival Adventure awaits us.

Camp Bestival 2017 Picnic in the Car2

Very excited in the queue for the car park. Only one thing for it – time to eat the picnic.

Coming Next: Adventures at Camp Bestival Episode 2 – Tent Up, Tune In, Chill Out

Let’s Talk About Food…

This past week I have had my mum staying with me.  To be clear from the start, this is a very good thing.  My mum is brilliant and as she and my dad live in South West France we don’t see enough of them, so a week long visitation was a lovely treat.

There was only one thing.

The food talk.

If you were married to James Martin, with Mary Berry and Michel Roux Snr as your parents and Matilda Ramsey as your daughter, you would still not experience as much food talk as has gone on in my house this week.

It starts at breakfast with idle musings on what to have for lunch and supper – perfectly reasonable you may say.

BUT, just as you are grabbing your purse to shop for the agreed components for said meals, up pops mum “is it coffee time?”

Yes yes, of course, coffee time.  And a biscuit, no problem.

How civilised, morning coffee and a chat with your mother.  Until she gets that look in her eye and you know what is to come “of course we don’t have to have the sausages tonight, we could have a backed ham or maybe some fish”

I reach into my bag for the shopping list and scrub sausages from the plan.

“So…ham or fish?”  I press for an answer

“Ham, let’s have ham and then we can use the leftovers for tomorrow”

Great!  Two meals decided in one go!  I down my coffee, pocket the list and head for the shops while the going is good.

As soon as set foot in the supermarket the mobile goes “which ham are you going to get?”

“umm..” (this could be a trick question) “unsmoked?”

“a nice joint though.  Are you going to the butcher?  It will be nicer from the butcher”

“Well, I’m in the supermarket but I can go to the butcher afterwards.”

“OK, good.  Will you be back in time for lunch?”

Lunch?  Of course, it is midday, it must be time for lunch.

“I’ll make a start” says mum “what would you like?  Would you like a sandwich?  I’m having a sandwich, I’ve got a craving for white bread, can you pick up some white bread?”

Shopping done, I make it home for lunch (sandwich on white bread) and further discussion about the next meal.

Will we have boiled new potatoes? Or maybe the sliced ones in cream and garlic.  Did you buy some greens? Fresh greens would be lovely.  How shall we cook the ham?  Will you do a honey and mustard glaze?

Finally, a post lunch lull.  Time to catch up on some work, put a wash on, drag the dog around the block.  Better be quick though because before you know it..

…time for afternoon tea!

Cup of tea (milk in first, don’t squeeze the bag), piece of cake (homemade, natch) more chat, mostly food timing related.

What time shall we eat?  Is the oven on yet?  Don’t forget to change the water in the ham pan.  Oh, and you will roll and slice the greens individually leaf by leaf won’t you?  So much nicer!

Finally, the much anticipated repast is upon us.  Teens have been wrenched from screens and reacquainted with the dining room table. Places have been set with cloth napkins and side plates – correct Granny etiquette has been observed.

The potatoes are perfect, the greens sliced correctly, the ham boiled to perfection (we decided against the glaze).

We savour our first mouthfuls and sit in the brief respectful silence that a lovely plate of food commands.

“Delicious”

Says mum

“Just what I fancied.  Now, what shall we have tomorrow night?  I saw a lovely recipe for slow cooked lamb in Good Food magazine.  You could pop up to the butcher tomorrow…”

Gaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

Let's (not) Talk About Food

What’s Your Life Anchor?

beach-still-life-1332249_1920

Recently I’ve been feeling a bit adrift in my own life, a sort of vague searching for purpose type of feeling.  My default reaction to this sensation is to up sticks and re-locate which goes some way to explaining why we have lived in such a variety of places over the years.

But this time I must be thinking like a proper actual grown up (for once) as I have taken a step away from salacious property porn viewing on Rightmove and tried to identify exactly why I want to move.

Of course there is a large element of ‘greener grass’ syndrome, it is easy to think that everything will be better somewhere new.  The reality of this is summed up in a quote from my lovely friend Anna, “same shit, different view”.

Exactly.

I think it all comes down to having something to anchor you to a place.  It might be a family connection, a job, a partner, a lifelong ambition to live near the sea/city/countryside.

I chose Dorset five years ago because of the excellent state schools but as the teens grow older and move on even that tenuous link will be broken.

Which leaves me with…not much.  Dorset folk have proved a fairly tough nut to crack socially and I can take my work anywhere so no ties there.

Which leaves me a choice, to quell my fight or flight instinct and try to forge new reasons to stay, or to hit the Right move app and start the re-invention process all over again in a new place.

Common sense tells me to man up and do the former which is quite daunting as it involves lots of ‘putting yourself out there’ type activities.

The jury is still out so I will let you know what I decide but, in the meantime, what would consider to be your life anchors?  What keeps you happy and content where you are?

Resting Bitch Face

RBF

I suffer from this.

I know that because Teens 1 and 2 remind me of it regularly.

“For God’s sake” they’ll hiss “stop giving them the evils”

More often than not I am actually thinking about something random and unconnected, like can I get away with wearing a skirt tomorrow without shaving my legs, or have I uploaded the meter reading.

But to the outside world it looks like I am a seething mass of anger and resentment judging and criticising everyone in my path.

This actually is the case in Waitrose on a Saturday morning but other than that I am innocent of all charges.

It is quite an affliction because people make snap judgments based what they perceive from your facial expressions.  I may be dancing the Macarena on the inside but the person passing me in the street immediately assumes I am in a bad mood.

It is hard to control RBF because it is basically just the way your facial muscle fall.  However, when I am in a situation where a cheerful first impression is vital I do try and make an extra effort.  I consciously lift the corners of my mouth whilst channelling happy thoughts and clips of Michael McIntyre sketches.  Sometimes it works but the half -crazed, twitchy lipped gurning look is not to everyone’s taste.

The great unfairness is that I do smile and laugh.

A lot.

It’s just that when my mind is elsewhere my face just downs tools, goes on complete strike until I re-focus on the present.

I literally have sulky, work to rule facial muscles.

So if you ever pass me in the street, or stop your car next to mine at the traffic lights, PLEASE don’t take offence.  I’m not thinking evil thoughts about you.  I’m not thinking evil thoughts at all.  Just give me a prod to come back into the moment and I will release my inner Macarena – goodbye Resting Bitch Face, hello Active Smile Chops.  No gurning necessary.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

Things are a bit weird around here at the moment – Teen 1 has passed her driving test.

LPlate1

This is, of course, cause for great celebration.  Passed first time – yippee! Can drive herself places – Yippee! Can drive me places – yippee!

That last bit was me BEFORE the test.

Now the L plates are off the reality is that she is rarely here, pausing in the door way just long enough to nonchalantly swing her car keys in my direction before speeding off (within the speed limit obvs – don’t want to short circuit the telematics black box fitted for the insurance) the lingering echo of drum and bass the only evidence that she was here at all.

The before-test me would say, fab! Now you don’t have to drive her everywhere you can use that time to do other stuff, like hoover the stairs/read a book/ write a blog post/launch an award-winning ecommerce business from the kitchen table.  That kind of thing.

The after-test me actually sits like a rabbit in the headlights not knowing how to deal with these little parcels of gifted minutes.  Far easier to do none of the above and just pass the time tracking her location on the Find my Friends app.

I know.

Ridiculous.

I wonder if this is how CEOs of huge corporations feel when they retire?  I have, effectively, been the CEO of my little family unit for 17 years and, as is the case with many of my friends, have run it much the same as I run my career.  So when a third of the firm breaks free to start up alone it shakes the dynamic a bit.

It is not empty nest syndrome, there are few years ahead before that, thank God.  It’s like the peri-menopause of empty nest, a little warning shot over the bows of things to come.

Of course, I still have Teen 2 at my disposal and you will be forgiven for feeling a bit sorry for her as she now bears the full brunt of my control freakery. Endless trips to and from ballet and gymnastics used to be silent affairs as she scrolled through Snapchat and I inwardly cliched about being an unpaid taxi.

Now I am relishing each trip, aware that soon these too will be things of the past.  I’m chatting merrily like a proper Stepford mum, enjoying the time that I am still needed behind the wheel.  Teen 2 is still scrolling through Snapchat in silence but to be fair, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So, on the agenda for this month – (1) stop obsessing about the myriad of potential road traffic accidents that could occur on any given journey and (2) fill any new found time with productive activities of the novel writing/stair hoovering ilk.

Just let me check the BBC Live Travel Incidents website first.

Man Flu

Man FluThis week I have had Man Flu.

Not a trans gender announcement or, in fact, actual flu.  Just a heavy cold and sore throat blown up beyond all proportion.

I have quite enjoyed it.  I have spent the days dragging my listless body from A to B leaving a trail of tissues behind me.

I have lain on the sofa declaring myself too ill to eat before downing a family sized fruit and nut without removing the wrapper.

I have sneezed all over everything and everyone and had regular, prolonged coughing fits.

When I have managed to bravely string a sentence together it has been uttered entirely through my nasal passages like the chap from the Tunes advert circa 1985.

All strangely satisfying.

The only man flu essential missing has been a willing servant to attend to my every whim.  You know, make tea, serve food, make endless sympathetic moue and offer to phone the surgery for an emergency appointment.

My then husband once rang me from his man flu bed pit to ask (in a weak and lamb like quiver) could he please have some hot honey and lemon?

I was in the kitchen at the time and we were talking a two bed cottage not Downton Abbey.

Maybe I should advertise for a man flu partner.  Like a dating profile but with added phlegm.

Single Man Flu Female Seeks Slave Partner

Must have endless patience and no other calls on their time

Chicken soup and sweet tea skills essential

Good level of fitness required as many trips up and down stairs involved

Anyone who thinks they have ever been equally unwell need not apply (as it is patently obvious that NO ON has EVER been as ill as this)

What do you think? Any takers?

 

 

 

 

Conversations With My Teen. #Clothes

What are you going to wear to the party on Saturday?

OK, sorry, what are you going to wear to the gathering on Saturday?

I didn’t say gathering in a funny way

I didn’t! it’s just that in my day a large group of teenagers in a garage with music and cider was a party

No I don’t think you are 5 years old

No I don’t imagine there will be balloons and jelly and ice cream

OK, I will stop calling it a party then.

What do I think you should wear?

What about that blue dress?

Well just because no one else is wearing a dress doesn’t mean that you can’t

It wouldn’t make you a weirdo

What is everyone else wearing then?

But if you don’t know what everyone else is wearing how do you know they won’t be wearing dresses?

I am not being deliberately annoying

I am not

If I am an old lady with no fashion sense then why did you ask my opinion?

Yes you actually did ask my opinion

Try the black jeans

No, they do not make you look fat

Because you are not fat you are beautiful

Yes I am your mother but I would still say that even if I wasn’t

Yes, I would

Wear the cord skirt, that really suits you

I’m sure no one will remember that you wore it to Emma’s

Well you can’t wear a brand new outfit every time you go out

Because we are not millionaires

I am not useless, you just don’t like any of my suggestions

Please don’t slam the…

…door

Conversations With My Teen. #Food

You’re hungry?  OK, well dinner is ready in about an hour so have a snack to keep you going

It’s spaghetti bolognese

Please don’t make vomit sounds, you like pasta

Yes the sauce has tomatoes in it

No I didn’t know you hate tomatoes

OK, sorry, I didn’t know you hate cooked tomatoes

Well I don’t remember you telling me that a million times

I do listen to what you say, I just don’t remember everything

I am not a deaf old crone, please don’t be rude

Fine, just have the pasta on its own then

Well, if you are so hungry that you can’t wait then have an apple

Or a piece of bread

Maybe you are thirsty?  Have a glass of water

No, I didn’t know that you hate water

What would you have if you could choose anything in the world right now?

Well if you don’t know then nothing I suggest will appeal will it?

No, that is not true, there is plenty of food in this house

No, I don’t have any chocolate

Or crisps

No you can’t go to MacDonalds

Because dinner is in less than an hour

What do you mean you don’t want any dinner?

I thought you were starving

Please don’t slam the…

…door.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year. Bonne année.  Ein glückliches neues Jahr.  Godt NytÅr.  Hauoli Makahiki hou.

Etc.

It is not because I am so behind on blogging that this post is a month late.  It is because I have decided that from now on 1 February is my New Year.

My loathing of January is well documented but it has taken me 47 years to realize that it is futile to fight it.

Up to now I have embraced Jan with the best of them.  New diet, new fitness regime, green smoothies, Facebook ban, pelvic floor exercises, gratitude diary – the whole self-help shebang.

I have even jumped on the Dry January wagon in the past.

And without exception I have spectacularly failed at everything every single year.

So on top of being cold, deprived of sunlight and vitamin D, and stony broke from Christmas; I have also been starving, muscle sore and guilt ridden for the large glass of Sauvignon I inhaled at 6.01pm on the first Friday of January.

2017 brought an epiphany.  I DO NOT NEED TO DO ALL THAT!

It is only 31 days after all.  The world will not end if I hibernate for 31 days.

So that is exactly what I have done.  Since the last firework died over the Thames on New Year’s Eve I have officially been in January purdah.

Eat, sleep, work, watch catch up TV, repeat.

That has been my month.

I have not been running since 2016, my sugar and alcohol levels almost remain at their Christmas levels, I am fully up to date on all the TV series and box sets on my list and I haven’t had a whiff of anything remotely resembling a Kale smoothie.

And I have made it through to February.

I am emerging, five pounds heavier but triumphant, ready to tackle 2017 and all it throws at me.

Bring it on.

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Rock Choir

Regular readers will know that I do not do well in the bleak months of winter.   Given the choice I would probably go to bed on New Year’s Eve and set the alarm for somewhere around the 1st March but as this is a bit impractical I have to find some other coping strategies.

My January mission this year was to try something new that is not connected to either work or parenthood.  I hate the expression but, for want of something better, let’s call it the dreaded ‘Me-Time’.

Option one was the new Clubercise class at the gym.  Leaping around to dance tracks in a dark room waving glow sticks?  Yes please.  Only problem is that all the super keen January gym bunnies have taken the spaces and it is fully booked for weeks ahead.

Option two was Rock Choir.

If you are not familiar with Rock Choir it is the current extra-curricular activity du jour for the Great British public.  Six or seven years ago the menopausal masses were flocking to Zumba classes, evangelical about the new found freedom of shaking their cellulite to the Latin beat.  These days it’s Rock Choir that commands the attention.  You can barely walk down a UK high street without having to fight your way through a flash mob belting out a tune in perfect harmony.

I am not a big fan of Gareth-patron-saint-of-all-choirs-Malone (irrelevant really as he has absolutely no connection to Rock Choir) and this, combined with the general flash mobbiness had put me off having a go in the past, but over 20,000 members can’t be wrong.  Right?

Also, and not to be sniffed at, is the well documented research that shows singing in a choir lifts you mood, creates a sense of well being and even strengthens your immune system. 

So off I trotted to a taster session at my local group.

Masses of people!  Everyone was very focused on finding their chair and this made sense when someone explained that you sit according to your voice range from bass at one end of the room to high soprano and the other end.  I sat in soprano as I had a friend there but it was bit high for me in bits, think Barry Gibb on speed, so I think I’ll be moving down the hall.

The session was led by an amazing instructor who was so full of energy and smiles and enthusiasm that even cynical old me was totally swept up in it.  There is no music to read, all done by ear and by the end of the hour and a half session we were belting out the first half of UpTown Girl and sounding pretty good!

The hardest thing was remembering which part of the arrangement you are supposed to sing, I kept getting carried away and leaping in at the wrong bit.  You also need to focus on hearing your own voice; several times I was thinking “Blimey, someone is singing way out of tune” only to realise that it was actually me.  Bit awkward.

So I have signed up for the term.  I’ll report back at Easter and let you know if my mood is lifted, immune system strengthened, and if I have managed to sit in the right chair and stay in tune.

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Looking for Zoella

The teens have birthdays only three days apart which presents a few logistical issues.  For a start, everything has to be the same.  It’s not like one has a birthday in February and the other in November leaving eight long months for the November born to forget what happened on February born’s special day.  With only three days to separate the events are too fresh to even be memories and the pressure is on to make sure that the present pile is the same cubic dimension, the parties/celebrations are of the same calibre and the energy levels are maintained throughout.  It is terrifying singing happy birthday when you know that you are under a pair of beady eyes doing a thorough audit of your felicitation vigour.

When they were younger there was also the party situation to navigate but, as they have got older, we have chosen not to spend money on parties but to have a family treat instead (sorry, I know that sounds annoyingly twee but I can’t think of any other way to describe it!).

This year we decided on a couple of days in Brighton because (a) it is a great place (b) we love it and most importantly for Teen 2 (c) it the home of Zoella and Alfie.

I was forbidden from sending some sort of embarrassing mother communication to Zalfie (I know, they even have their own super-couple nickname) begging an audience for Teen 2.  We had to be content with lurking around The Lanes with our eyes peeled for a sighting.  Teen 2 was adamant that if she did spot one of them she would not make an approach, a combination of nerves and respect for their privacy.  I did point out that they make a living out of having no privacy but this was greeted with a ‘you don’t know what you are talking about’ stare but, that said, she did carry round her hardback copy of ‘Girl Online’ in her backpack the whole time just in case she could get it signed.

I know.  Bless.

We clearly do not have promising futures as celebrity stalkers as Zalfie remained well hidden, but we did have a lovely time walking the hallowed ground upon which they had walked.  We are now trying to persuade Teen 1 to apply for Brighton University so that we have plenty more reasons to go back.

Can’t go to Brighton without a wander on the pier.

 And the best fish and chips EVER.  Thanks to the graphicfoodie.co.uk for the review.

 Breakfast at Bill’s

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 Teen 2 and her BFSB (Best Friend Since Birth) ticking a visit to Photomatic off their wish list.

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Retail therapy – Halloween pumpkins because the display was too good to resist

and an early birthday present to me, the most fantastic bag from Sophia and Matt.

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This is my new favourite shop, gorgeous things everywhere.  Sophia sold me my bag and she was very lovely; I think products from their website are going to feature heavily on my Christmas list…

Sourdough pizza at Franco Manca (highly recommended – tasty, light, and amazing prices), and a trip to the Theatre Royal Brighton.

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Last morning of the trip.  Bacon bagels from Bagelman in Hove – right on Zoella’s doorstep!

Delish.

A Morning Snapshot


A bright, warm Saturday morning, the day stretching ahead ripe with the promise of sunshine and rest.  No work today and no household chores as we are in the final days of our summer break.

Trainers on and headphones in as I leave the teens in bed, groggily catching up on the social media juggernaut that has ploughed on through the night as they slept.

Outside, the village is waking too.  Bleary eyed fathers are already herding their broods down to the beach, their silhouette a peculiar seaside monster made of crabbing nets, buckets, sun tents and all-terrain buggies.

Around the corner I side step a couple of Boden clad mummies furtively vaping with big, deep drags, sipping on takeaway coffees as they try to banish the taste of Sauvignon from the night before.

Down the hill to the town beach where the sea, glassy smooth, glints and shines in the morning sun.  I glance over to the mainland where I left the everyday niggles of normal life a few days ago, and try not to think that soon we will be back on the ferry to pick up where we left off.

I follow the sweep of the bay and slow my pace as I come up behind a few of the elder states people of the community.  Soft, washed out chambray caps sitting on pillows of white hair.  Nut brown, weather worn faces a physiological log of a lifetime of sailing.

On past the sailing club and down to the beach.  There is no sail training on today but plenty of fresh-faced children pulling dinghies out to the water’s edge, buoyancy aids flapping in the breeze, shouting to each other across the sand as they anticipate another day on the water.

Up ahead there is a gathering along the sea wall, a gang of families have erected a temporary cook out and breakfast buns are being dished out and handed down the line in a sort of bacon buttie relay.  No-one makes space for me to pass and as I cross to the other side to get by I am reminded that the ‘Down from London’ contingent often seem to leave their manners at home in Clapham but always pack their huge egos and sense of entitlement into their Musto kit bags .

Homeward bound now and I make a loop heading inland to the village.  This road is wide and tree-lined, big, moneyed houses all with their own collection of shiny four by fours lined up in the drives.  Propped up against one of the gates are the remnants of last night,  a burnt out bbq, a half full plastic pint glass, all the curtains in that house are still closed tight, it must have been a good party.

Up the hill and nearly home, the cafe on the corner  is spilling onto the pavement with morning service.  The little shop that sells everything has set out its street display of nets, painted rocks, beach balls and paperbacks.  As I put my key in the front door I spy the vaping mummies again, this time hair brushed and lipstick on as they head down to the beach to play parenting tag and relieve the dads who have completed the early morning shift.

Time to rouse the teens into action.  Let the day begin.

 

Best Summer Ever

It’s official, as of yesterday Teen 1 is no longer a uniform wearing school pupil.  She has put the last full stop on the last GCSE and emerged dazed but triumphant into what is officially the Best Summer Ever.

I did helpfully point out that it is only the last GSCE If she passes them all and doesn’t have to re-take any which didn’t go down terribly well, TBH.

However, even my helpful parental musings couldn’t ruin the mood yesterday as she gleefully stacked all her books, flash cards, coloured charts and revision timetables into bags destined to moulder in the garage.  The dining table was restored to its rightful use as a place to eat rather than a place to study, sigh, text, sigh some more, scroll through Facebook, delete Facebook because something irritated you, re-install Facebook due to FOMO, study a bit more…you get the picture.

Once the public areas of the house were ‘de-examed’, we headed upstairs to the bedroom.  It would be easy here to write a trite paragraph about teenagers bedrooms being black pits of messy despair but, fortunately, Teen 1 does not generally conform to this stereotype (that honour goes to Teen 2 who wears the teenage pit badge with pride).  Teen 1 is generally a little bit OCD about having a tidy room, some friends have even been known to be too scared to stay over lest their overnight bag caused offence.

So the fact that a certain amount of post exam fumigation was required shows what kind of pressure Teen 1 has been feeling.  We liberated half a dozen glasses, numerous yoghurt pots in varying degrees of furriness, and a rubbish bag full of wrappers that explained why I thought there was  a hungry marmoset living in the biscuit tin demolishing the contents as soon as it was re-filled.

The stained and food encrusted hoodie and shorts that seemed to be the 24 hour uniform during study leave have gone on a boil wash, windows flung open and crisp fresh linen put on the bed.  In short, order has been restored.

Teen 1 now has ten glorious weeks of freedom stretching out ahead of her.  Many plans are afoot – days out, trips to the beach, festivals, and of course the obligatory school prom (when did our secondary schools morph into poor imitations of an American high school in a Disney movie?).  All scheduled around two Summer jobs which will go some way towards funding everything.

The first event is a big beach party rumoured to be taking place sometime next week.  When I pressed for more details I was told that they hadn’t been released yet by Party Admin.  What is Party Admin ? I ask. Apparently it is a self-appointed group of fellow 16 year olds hold that regular meetings, I don’t know where but I am suspecting Costa, to organise the details of the event.  WTF? I am pretty sure that in my day we just scammed a two litre bottle of cider and hung around the back of the station for an hour or two.

So, Teen 1, if you are reading this (and I know you do, if only to make sure I am not revealing anything too embarrassing), enjoy your Best Summer Ever.  You have earned it and I couldn’t be more proud of the tremendous effort you have put in to giving every exam your best shot.  Even maths, our mutual nemesis.

Play hard, have fun, and when Party Admin finally release a schedule can you let me know?

Best Summer Ever

The Mother Book from Selfish Mother

A lot of you reading this will already be well acquainted with Selfish Mother a fantastic blogzine on family life.  Social media at its very best, Selfish Mother is bursting full of honest accounts of day to day life from the parenting coal face.  Sometimes hilarious , sometimes moving, but always very genuine, Selfish Mother is the antithesis to the ‘shiny happy people yummy mummy’ take on life.  We don’t all have to be perfect and at the end of day we are all just doing the best we can – sipping a green juice on the way to yoga or sipping a sauv blanc as soon as the clock hits 7pm, there is no right or wrong way, just your way. Selfish Mother Logo

As well as the hundreds of blogs and vlogs available on the site there is also a shop which has raised over 75k for charity to date.

Signature sweatshirts and T  shirts are the order of the day with some great kids stuff available too.

One of the most recent additions to the range is ‘The Mother Book’ a collection of posts that have featured on Selfish Mother, all lovingly curated by site founder and editor, Molly Gunn.

The Mother Book

Packed full of posts on everything from pregnancy to teenagers (including an article from yours truly in the teen section), The Mother Book is perfect to dip in and out of.  Keep it by your bed, by the loo, tucked behind the toaster…have a flick through and you will straight away find a few posts that ring very true.

As if things couldn’t get any better, Selfish Mother are giving £2 profit from every book to the charity; mothers2mothers who believe in the power of mothers to end paediatric AIDS. M2M train, employ, and empower mothers living with HIV to bring health and hope to other mothers, their families, and communities.

So, what’s not to love – a great read and a warm charity glow in one hit.  Stock up on a few and keep them in your present drawer (oh wait, I don’t have one of those, I only aspire to having one), I’m sure we all know a parent or two who needs to be reminded that they are not alone and that, to quote Selfish Mother, we are all winging it.

 

 

 

 

The Reluctant Gardener

The joy of gardening has always been a total mystery to me.  It is hard work, never ending, and to see results of your labours you have to play the long game.

I am more of an instant gratification girl.  I used to like that TV programme with Alan Titchmarsh and the woman who had no need of a bra.  They used to sweep into someone’s garden and completely transform it from a barren wasteland to a decking clad, fully flowering paradise in about 72 hours. That is my kind of gardening.

Even having a mother who is literally OBSESSED with growing, digging, cutting back and planting, and a best friend who has made a career out of the soil (she has even opened her own nursery, well worth a visit if you find yourself on the Isle of Wight), I have still never been able to bring myself to have lively chats about hardy annuals.

Until now.

There is a chink in my horticultural armour.  I have grown something!  Actually, a few things.

In between Christmas and New Year I spent a grumbly 90 minutes in the freezing rain and howling wind stuffing onions (I think ‘bulbs’ might be the technical term) into pots of earth (compost?).

My fingers went numb, my hair went frizzy, and my pink Converse got muddy.  The whole experience confirmed that all my feelings towards gardens were truly justified.  I retreated to the kitchen and sat glowering at the earth buckets as I defrosted with a cup of coffee.

But then, something happened.  The onions stared to grow.   Against my better judgement, and even though it went against all my principals, I started to take an interest.  I made a good fist of pretending not to care.  I channelled my inner 14 year old and treated the tiny shoots like they were a boy I really fancied. i.e. strolled nonchalantly into the garden pretending to be just putting the bins out whilst furtively casting desperate glances at the object of my desire.

Week by week they grew, and week by week I felt more excited until one sunny day I was greeted by the most lovely, brassy, uncoordinated mish mash of flowers (it was a sale bag of bulbs, a lucky dip of colours and varieties) all standing tall and proud, chests puffed out doing the tulip equivalent of jazz hands.

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I am not saying that I am a convert.  I will not be weeding, digging over or mulching anytime soon.  But I did, just a tiny little bit, get it.  My next project is a mini lavender farm to attract bumble bees – my contribution to protecting the ecosystem.  I know they don’t look much at the moment but I’ve got high hopes.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Does Thin Equal Happy?

When I was about 12 years old my mum came home with a new recipe book called “Cooking to Make Kids Slim”.  The front cover was a photograph of an unhappy looking plump-ish child dressed in tight shorts and a straining t shirt, standing on a set of scales.  As the podgy girl who always got picked last in PE I completely identified with this picture, it sowed the seed that fat=sad and thin=happy and marked the beginning of my dieting journey.**

Thirty four years later and I am still trying to reach the thin=happy part of the equation.  I have been on some sort of diet for most of my adult life; from mad ones that precluded all foods apart from tomatoes and edam cheese, too good to be true ones that allowed cream, chocolate and wine, to highly expensive ones that involved weekly visits to a suspicious looking ‘clinic’ somewhere off Great Portland Street.

I have been a size 8, a size 18 and spent my entire adult life madly yo-yoing between the two.

The problem is twofold.  Firstly, I love food.  Not just because it is food – I am not gratuitously mainlining Dominos pizza and Krispy Kremes. I also love all the happy associations that come with the stuff on my plate.  Family mealtimes, great nights out with friends, new tastes in another country, or simply the comfort of a bar of Dairy Milk in front of a good film.  Definitely what you would call an emotional eater.

I am fully informed.  I know that to lose weight I have to put less in and expend more, there is no magic solution to shedding the pounds.  The only real value that the bonkers diet plans hold for me are the change in routine and break in habits and, with something like Weight Watchers, the weekly weigh in of shame – nothing like the disappointed sigh from your WW leader to focus the mind.

I know I am not alone, I don’t think I have a female friend who is not on perma-weight-alert, so why do we do it?  I don’t have a burning desire to look like a particular celebrity, I am not medically obese and in a ‘diet or die’ scenario.

Do I think that if I was my perfect weight then everything else in life would fall into place and be perfect?  To be honest?  Yes, probably a little bit.  Because the self-esteem demon that has a cosy home in my brain’s frontal lobe keeps telling me so.  If I was thinner I would be happier, more successful, more liked and loved.

I will never actually find out if this is true because I will never feel that I am thin enough.  I have a postcard that someone sent me once that says “I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat”.  This about sums it up.  If we took a straw poll of 100 women I wonder how many would answer yes to the question ‘are you at your ideal weight?’.  And of those who answered yes, would they also answer yes to ‘has it changed your life and made you happy?’.

So as I embark on a six week pre-summer diet jaunt (giving Slimming World another go, haven’t tried them for a few years) wish me luck and, if you have the answer to the thin=happy conundrum I would love to hear it.

**Disclaimer – this is not an exercise in maternal guilt, I’m pretty sure I nagged her to buy the book…