Saturday, 23 March 2013

The winter, it stays...

This time last year, we were in tee shirts and other cotton garb. We revelled in the sunshine. Oh, how warm it was! How burned was my skin (yes, really; I am photosensitive but nevertheless love the sun)...

This year, my thick, waterproof coat was spattered with rain and snow as I made my way to and from the supermarket today. My nose is running. I'm sneezing. I am wearing thermal underwear. The country is almost 80 per cent snow or rain covered. People are dying in snowy drifts.

Next week heralds British summer time. 


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Yes, I was an Olympic cynic...

...but I bloody love the Olympics. 

London, GBR, Ennis, the cyclists, the rowers, Danny Boyle's opening ceremony – just superb. 

I am immensely proud.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sleeping like a baby...

When people who knew about my history of clinical insomnia found out I was pregnant, a few said, hey, at least I knew what it was like to be sleep deprived, and wasn't that funny? Ha ha. How I laughed till I peed my pants. Yes, lucky me. I had yet more sleepless nights ahead – something we all look forward to, don't we? (Don't get me wrong, I hated having sleep problems but the only thing worth baggy eyes, saggy skin and a brain that feels like a bath of mud is sleeplessness due to caring for one's child; at least that made sense). 

But anyway... Not only had I had years of poor sleep, which was horrendous, but I also became ill with obstetric cholestasis (OC), which became apparent about seven months into my pregnancy. Toxins race around your body, giving you blotchy, itchy skin that feels it is home to crawling insects. Lovely. You feel utterly bereft of energy; every step you take is heavy. Your unborn baby is at risk of stillbirth and you are at risk of serious haemorrhaging (the advice is to deliver early, which I did, via an elective caesarean section. Not much is known about the curious condition OC, but they tend to pick it up now (well, my utterly fantastic midwife did), and it is monitored daily at hospital with blood tests and foetal heart monitoring (and research is underway). And trust me, it takes away any glow that pregnancy might bestow.  

One of the symptoms of obstetric cholestasis is that you can't sleep. At all. All night. So, not only was I knackered from working my backside off while non self-employed women would have started maternity leave, but I was afflicted by this strange illness, which was also stressful due to the risks – and the prospect of major surgery (no, a caesarean is not the easy option, grrrrr). The 'sleep now, you'll be grateful later' made me want to shriek that it wasn't that bloody easy. When you are pregnant (and healthy), sleeping comfortably isn't especially easy. (And then, the intensely frustrating 'sleep when the baby sleeps' advice that was trotted out by some well meaning but some smug people, drove me mad. When else are you supposed to get anything done? Eh? Get a doula? For a year? Are you mad?) 

Sleep has, therefore, evaded me over the years for various reasons. Things are far better now, as I was told they would be. L was a pretty good sleeper from 13 weeks, which was a boon, but night feeds and dream feeds had to be done and it took me a long time to catch up with myself, having carried such a massive deficit. 

On reflection, it took me 18 months – sleep aside – to feel anything like back to 'normal' again, and it is something that other mothers admitted to experiencing, too, once I revealed this little confession. Why do so many of us keep such information hidden? Surely the solidarity of a problem shared, or at least empathised with, helps? It seems that mothers are judged so often by others – the got-it-sorted-never-stressed Stepford types, as well as clueless fools who think full-time mothers sit at home painting their toenails while salivating over Jeremy Kyle – that they cannot say it how it is. I am sure that some mothers feel great after two weeks and have hormones that disappear with the placenta, but those types usually have plenty of help (possibly a nanny), few financial worries and no health issues, or have a child that doesn't – dare I say it – get the attention it deserves because mummy's me-time is pretty much all-the-time. 

I still grind my teeth – bruxism – at night and have shattered my molars so badly over years of doing this that I now need expensive (even on the NHS!) crowns put on my teeth. I also, perhaps bizarrely, like to stay up late: it's my time to relax and write and do nothing, just for a little while. Stupidly, my brain hasn't quite got its synapses around the fact that L will, whatever I do, wake too early for me to also wake feeling replete with zzzs... But matters are in my hands, which helps a lot. Though L no longer naps in the day, which used to give me time for a massively useful power nap (for me) if we'd been up in the night, I can still try to go to bed earlier... It sounds so obvious, but if the world is grouped into night birds and larks, I am a big, fat, fluffy owl. 

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Everybody – wave your flags and feel united!

There are Union Jack flags everywhere: on products sold in Ikea, Marks and Spencer, Poundland, Waitrose, House of Fraser... every shop has something to offer. Shop awnings, street furniture, my front room... all are festooned with the red, white and blue.

trangely, my Victorian home looks even older with the small doubled row of bunting that is tied to the top of the window (safe from little hands). It feels more, er, Victorian... OK, so I know we are about to celebrate an Elizabethan event (followed by the European football and London Olympics), but the flag flying so freely feels like something has been reeled in from the past. I suppose part of the reason is that the Union Jack was hijacked so successfully by nationalists and racists not so many years ago; yes, it is good to see it being flown for the right reasons again (though there are obviously still pockets where it is flown for dubious significance).

I'm not a royalist and I'm not a republican but I am quite patriotic. I remember the 1977 Silver Jubilee (yes, I am that old) – I was an excited schoolgirl at the time and I had a commemorative mug and everything. Perhaps we did have all the other paraphernalia around then, too. L says 'Jubilee!' every time she sees a Union Jack, and she is thrilled that 'we are going to the Jubilee'. She knows it is all to do with the Queen, and wants to wear a crown herself. 

There are hundreds of celebratory events on locally this coming weekend – parties, picnics, street events, concerts and private functions in people's homes. There is, of course, the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which will involve more than 1,000 boats traversing London's beautiful and powerful river. I don't know about L, but I am ridiculously eager to witness it. This old winding river, around which this massive, diverse, intense, green, strong, characterful, inspiring, cultured city has grown, is surely a fitting focus for the Diamond Jubilee. Of course, living a five minute walk away from its leafy banks (and having worked and socialised near it for many years in the past) may have something to do with my love for the Thames. Let's raise a glass of Pimm's, dispense with any cynicism, and wholeheartedly enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Those days

This is one of them. I wish I still did martial arts on days like this. I miss it. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Rain, rain... Come again?

The weather in April last year was blistering (for me with my ridiculously sun-sensitive skin, anyway). It was the "hottest April" since Neanderthal man walked the Earth, apparently. And this year's April was the wettest.  

e are already being warned about standpipes by summer if the ongoing rain ceases to bucket down, as it has for the past month (since the drought was announced in fact).

Hmmm. I know it's a bit passé to go on about the weather, but w
hat is going on?

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Children See, Children Do

I encountered this video by NAPCAN, an Australian organisation, while researching some extremely interesting stuff for work I'm doing on families and branding. It makes for striking viewing and illustrates how influential parents are on their offspring. 

While I steer clear of all but one of these traits, I'm afraid I sometimes turn into the screaming woman in the car.
I feel like crying. It's a dreadful potential legacy, and I don't want L to inherit it. I feel ashamed.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Helping the butterfly to unfold...

There are blossoms scattered where I wheeled L in her pushchair this afternoon. The sky was slate grey, water dripped off her rain cover (and from my hood) and she wanted to get home. I did, too, and was in a tired, rain-induced grump. I gave her a cluster of white blossom to hold and she put one in her mouth, declaring she'd eaten one (she hadn't). She said she was hungry. Then she wasn't. She was cross, then not. You get the picture. But there is now far more going on than predictable toddler contradictoriness. I can see that L is pushing boundaries and watching with sparkling alertness in her dancing eyes to see how I react to some of the things she says (or whispers, if they are cheeky). I am going to take it as a huge compliment that she – according to psychological theory – feels sufficiently secure at the age of just two and a half to do this. Itisgooditisgooditisgood. 

I look at L and see the steady gaze that meets mine, as it could be in its teenage version, and feel the pressure on me to get it right, NOW. It all feels suddenly pivotal. I vow to not lose my cool, and to be firm and try to understand what she's going through, no matter what, because, even though she can explain certain things, some of her feelings and needs are at the mercy of a lack of words and meaning. The finessing of language has yet to emerge... goodness knows, I have encountered grown men and women who lack some children's level of emotional articulacy. L says things, as of today it seems, simply to see what effect they have on Mummy. This is not toddler tantrum stuff; it is something that is new, and as the lying down and shouting fades in frequency (yes, her, not me, though it is sorely tempting at times), I suspect that this 'head' stuff will increase and call on my brain and heart in equal measure.

I want to show L that I mean business, can guide her, and am a strong (if sometimes flawed) role model capable of loving and nurturing through anything and everything. I'm not into the my child = my friend lark. I have chosen my friends to be my friends; I want L to have friends and to have me as more than just a friend, if I'm honest. A friendly mum, but a mum. It is a huge responsibility. Shoulder-crackingly massive. Crumbs. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April showers (and drought, obviously)...

A very high tide © Mellifluous Dark
There has been talk of drought in these here parts. And, since the hosepipe ban that started at the beginning of April, it has rained and showered and been sharply sunny in London. We have had thunder, lightning, hail, pelting rain, drizzle, sunshine, wind, stillness, blue skies, soft breezes and blankets of grey cloud – all in the space of two days. L has had a crash course in British weather; happily, she is fascinated by storms, as am I. There is nothing quite like the majesty of a dark grey cloud that comes hurtling across the sky to make you remember that we are just the equivalent of little ants on this planet. Thunderstorms and the sea quickly convey our vulnerability and create (in me at any rate) a longing for tea and hot, buttered toast, or full-bodied red wine depending on the time of day. Oh, and let's not forget the Thames, which is a short distance from where I sit. Soon, the tide will be high; it will destroy unwary car-parkers, seep through some doorways and cut off roads and pathways. The spring tides are quite dramatic and strangely hypnotic – you just stare and stare at the water swelling and creeping higher. Only a fool would underestimate the strength and quiet power of this winding river. It is not a safe place for a quick dip.

I recall the drought of 1976 though I was but a youngster at primary school. Normally damp southern English earth was covered in cracks like the patterns on a giraffe. The heat was searing. My mum took a trip to South America to visit some of our family and dad painted the outside of the garage, his skin growing darker by the hour. It was hotter, on occasion, back here. The plants were dehyrated and water was reserved for drinking, washing dishes and clothes, and bathing. This year's drought, so far, sees a perfect concoction of a fledgling plant's needs met, what with the sun and water alternating that makes getting ready in the morning confusing – and even more time consuming.

he changeability of British weather – where I live, at any rate – gives me an excuse for my dozens of pairs of shoes and boots, my many coats and clothes for all seasons that bulge in a minimalist's nightmare of a wardrobe. Who are these people who can be so confident of the seasons in England that they manage to vacuum pack their winter/summer clothes away once the relevant season has supposedly passed? I've given up my longing for a capsule wardrobe. Why introduce more stress into your life? It's fun to have to take an umbrella and coat, and wear at least five layers in case the weather changes. Isn't it? L has several little coats and jackets piled on to the banister, and a small selection of footwear of varying permeability. Even if it is fiercely sunny, I'll shove a waterproof thing in my bag, because, well, who am I to know, eh? All those summer days where people have gone to work wearing flip-flops and come home with stains where the rain has bled the dye and washed their feet with London pavement water, just wouldn't be the same (just one of many reasons why flip-flops should be banned on the commute to work/at work). And, what on earth would we talk about? The economy? Nah. Too predictable by half (or three-and-a-half per cent – if we want to bring inflation into it!).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Discombobulation and peace

There have been things on my mind, so awful I will not go into them here. I want them to go. They should have no place in anyone's life. They will go.

My darling dad, wise in ways I can only dream of being, spoke to me today due to his concern over my concerns, and I feel different – better – as a result. He said his dad used to sit him down and speak to him in a similar way.

 hope one day to evoke such feelings in my child (though I wish for her to not go through these particular things that touched my life). I hope therefore that she never worries me in the way that I have those who love me...

Sorry, this is a tad indecipherable unless you are in my head (or are my dad), but so be it. Here's to wisdom and love.

Though this post is about my dad, thanks also to you who have also been there for me. You know who you are. You do make a difference.