Saturday, 31 March 2012


There were dozens of cars snaking back to block the exit from a reasonably large roundabout near me yesterday afternoon. Not for petrol, but McDonald's. People must have sat there burning their precious fuel for half an hour or longer to get their hands on 'fast' food. Crazy.

Oh, I filled my car with petrol yesterday, as we teetered on 'E'. Frightening stuff (cost, queues, desperation among drivers, and yes – environmental issues). We really do need to come up with an alternative to diesel and petrol – and actually use it. For SO many reasons. (And, no, I don't have enough hours in the day to walk and/or take the bus everywhere...)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Petrol insanity

What idiot suggested the entire world queues for petrol? 

Not only has it sparked panic buying at the pumps, but people are also stockpiling food. I think. It could just be that after queueing for ages to get into the car park at Tesco (other supermarkets are available), they can't bear the thought of facing the same, or worse, a few days hence. Drought. Petrol shortage. What next – a recession? Oh...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Bladder control?

What is it about the proximity to one's home making you want to pee with exponential effect, with each step you make towards it when returning from elsewhere? And the bloody key is never in the most obvious corner of your bag or pocket, is it? 
When you have a pushchair to bring inside, a toddler to de-shoe (pale carpets) and de-coat, well, it's a miracle the mad squirming dance works for long enough to keep the carpets dry. (Oh, and this is nowt to do with post-childbirth, unless S, too, has grown a womb and had offspring.)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

So soon we're too old to carry...

This is a fine song by the Maccabees (here are the lyrics)I've posted this particular link to the video, as it has no adverts. It makes S melt. A bit like the John Lewis advert from a couple of years ago for me that shows a baby girl growing older (though the Maccabees does elicit similar feelings). And yes, I know it's sad to be moved by an advert, but there you go. 

However, this beauty is in a different league. I struggle to get through it: 

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
William Butler Yeats

Monday, 19 March 2012

These dreams go on when I open my eyes...

It's not the best start to a day when you have had a bad dream and the feelings stay with you, throbbing at the limits of your memory and leaving you with the mental equivalent of having swallowed unexpected bile. It's particularly annoying, as, let's face it, who recalls their dreams accurately? Usually, all you get is (in my case, what with the teeth-grinding fun): a headache, neck pain, nagging feelings of doubt and doom, and possibly suspicion of those around you, if the protagonist was one of your nearest and dearest, or a colleague (this latter scenario is especially strange). I've had some intensely bizarre and bizarrely intense dream action involving various family and friends (and, ok, people I can't stand) over the years.

Despite being an adult, or trying to be, I still cannot quite traverse that line between the subconscious splatterings of my untidy sleeping mind and the clear thoughts of daytime (in theory, in theory...). I recall going to work one morning many years ago, convinced that a chap called Yann was about to randomly get up from his manky black office chair, whirl around in the middle of the newsroom, making his cloak appear as he did so, and cast terrible spells on us, having turned into a wizard or something of that ilk. I stared at him all day. Then there are the dreams of planes crashing. Those aren't so good when you live nearish to the flight path of one of London's busiest airports. Hmm.

One thing I have noticed is that if I sleep on my back, with my hands on my stomach or chest, I always have a bad dream. The good thing is that by lying that way, I usually fall asleep within minutes (take that, insomnia, you fool!), but the sacrifice I make is that I'll be awake – with a jolt – once I get into REM sleep (something that insomnia took from me, making me slightly crazed). What to do? How should I lie down? I can't lie on my stomach, which is my preferred sleeping position, as I have lower back pain at present and the twist in my spine if I am on my front hurts rather a lot. On to my back it is. Oh dear.

About time a boy grew up

Oh dear, Hugh Grant. You idiot. You may want to keep your feelings about your daughter, Tabitha, private. Perhaps you are too reserved to gush about your offspring, or anything apart from phone hacking. But to tell the world that you 'like' her very much? Like?! Oh, grow up.

Things to like very much...

Like some double-fried chips and mayo?

Blooming likeable

For chocolate lovers, er, likers...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Call it commercial, call it what you will, but Mother's Day is a wonderful opportunity for children of all ages to show they love their mums and to express gratitude. A homemade card costs nothing. Breakfast in bed is fairly easy to accomplish (though there does have to be another adult on hand to help, which I realise is not the case for everyone).

I saw a post on Facebook today by someone saying they didn't need Mother's Day to remember their much-loved (and now deceased) mother. I take her point, and I can see where she's coming from, but marking the day doesn't – shouldn't – take away from the love and consideration that people show during the rest of the year. My small daughter's card and gifts (which included a relaxed day out) were organised by her thoughtful dad, S, but she was excited in her own right and wanted to know where I had put my card, and she grinned as she wished me "happy mother day". Priceless. Most days, she is the catalyst for many parental smiles.

No, we don't "need a special day" to appreciate our mothers (and if we do, well, we're pathetic)... but surely it is a positive thing for the woman who has given birth (or adopted) and their offspring to reflect on this unique relationship. None will be perfect, goodness knows, but most of us (children and parents) do our best and a little show of "You're OK, Mum" can help to negate the nagging doubts that sadly permeate many mothers' minds, as we are instructed: THIS is right, THAT is wrong, you MUST follow this book and blah blah blah. Enough of all the right way/wrong way claptrap, please. Just for one day. Or, on second thought, how about every day?

Friday, 16 March 2012

How does my north-facing garden grow?

The back garden faces north. This means the plants that do thrive go a bit mad, like Katie Price when she discovered what silicone could do. They overshadow all the little plants I have ever planted as borders, which end up possibly feeling a bit like Katie's belly button, knees and feet: ignored (and rather small).

Anyway, the woman at Homebase told me what I could plant in a somewhat shady garden, which to be fair, does get sunshine, but not during the hottest part of the day. Her eyes lit up as she spoke. She looked slightly beyond me and smiled to herself, lost in the garden of her mind, even though she was stood near an A-road next to a drive-in McDonalds, breathing steam into the cold air as she watered thousands of plants.

So, I bought various pots of greenery, some with buds, then got home, read the instructions and realised that several of them were potential allergens and toxic if eaten. You try telling a two-year-old that she should try to eat some lettuce or other salad leaf and
not the 10,000 other green leaves that she sees on a daily basis. The Homebase people, who were shockingly nice if misguided initially (and I am slightly appalled at myself for thinking they'd be arsey and glare at me), well, they were brilliantly helpful and let me exchange the plants for various items including seed potatoes (which look like potatoes, not seeds... hmmm).

After two trips and an aching back from carrying the stuff (who knew that everything to do with gardening is heavy and makes your back hurt, or is that just my age?) – I have planned where I am to put the plants that promise to grow in partial sunshine. I have also bought a long zinc planter where I'll stick some lily bulbs and clusters of forget-me-nots. Pictures will appear on this blog when it's done, but don't go holding your breath.

I am rather excited. 
I enjoy garden centres with a passion once reserved for Harvey Nicks. 
I am concerned about the drought. 
I am planning when I can harvest my maris piper and king edwards. 
I am, truly, middle-aged.

Edited to add: several readers have come upon this page by searching for plant suggestions for north facing gardens. These are some that I planted (but bear in mind, I'd have added hellebores if they weren't harmful, as well as lupins). So, I have forget-me-not, hebe, cornflower, vinca minor, peacock orchid (mainly in pots). There are stocks and ice plants in the garden, too. There's a hellebore in the sunny front garden – gorgeous – but only because L's not likely to be playing there...

Many varieties of clematis thrive in north-facing gardens – we have some established clematis and jasmine, all of which are lovely. Look for Alpines, as these usually fare well with a lack of sunlight. Veggie wise, I'm chitting some maris piper and king edward potatoes (this simply means leaving them in a cool, light place so their sprouty bits can lengthen, which makes them sturdier when planted out). These, too, are OK in partial sunlight.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Supermarket sweep

Why is it that, no matter how many people are behind you in the queue at a supermarket, the till operator usually moves at a ridiculous and unnecessary pace? What I want is reasonably carefully packed bags, with fridge and frozen stuff together, tins in another, bread and other squashable items in their own bag, etc etc. But what I get is a mish-mash of shopping that will take twice as long to unpack, based on how fast my hands can move. It's as though there is some penalty for leaving the goods on the conveyor belt for more than two seconds. 

The cashier can see that you are struggling to get it all packed while making sure your toddler doesn't fall out of their plastic seat (despite being strapped in); they watch as you fumble to open plastic bags (if like me, you frequently leave the four environmentally-friendly jute numbers in the boot of the car). But do they help? No. They. Just. Watch. And then you pay and can almost hear them drumming their mental fingers on your head as you search for a loyalty card (do they realise that loyalty means they have to be nice?)... and then there's my frenzied digging around for coupons for Aptamil toddler milk (which is bloody expensive but reassuring, and, yes, I did breastfeed my daughter for as long as we could manage when she was smaller, so don't even think about guilt-tripping me any more than I have been).

Anyway, Waitrose... well, they go  m u c h  m o r e  s l o w l y and, frankly, it makes the whole experience relatively enjoyable when I can afford to go there. It's a shame Tesco and Sainsbury's (30 tills and only ever six open, the bastards), don't take note. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Ground down

It's a standing joke among some family and friends that I take a long time to eat anything. I enjoy food – there is little better than savouring a delicious meal and talking to someone, or several people, over the experience, for a few leisurely hours preferably. But my eating speed has slowed. This is due to fractures running the course of several molars. Years of gnashing my teeth at night (and clenching my jaw by day) are taking their toll. It doesn't matter what I eat; it is a painful process. 
I had a large tooth, which had cracked and broken, removed a few years ago (if you're interested, the relevant posts are all labelled 'teeth'). My latest trip to the dentist revealed more damage, this time to the opposite side of my mouth, and I wasn't surprised. When I eat, my mouth hurts. When I don't eat, my mouth hurts. My dentist has referred me for hospital treatment, or at least a consultation. I really hope they can sort my teeth out... I know people's teeth fall out and all that, but the fact that this is happening to me reminds me of why I grind my teeth – old stress levels that have done this. Things that, frankly, I don't want to think about any more. 

Friday, 9 March 2012


Perhaps it's because it's cold out that I am eating extra biscuits and chocolate. I have even left several bananas longer than I normally would, specifically to speckle, so that I can bake a loaf of banana bread that has been described as "f*cking awesome" by someone who reviewed the recipe (I will share it if it is this good).

I will bake later. I can't wait. Hello, double chin.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Now, then

I'm reading a book based on memory (SJ Watson's brilliant debut, Before I Go To Sleep) and wondering what life would be like without the capacity to recall one's history (a theme that I think is covered in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I haven't seen yet). There are things I suspect I would (should?) like to forget – things that I had in fact blocked out for a while – but if I did properly erase all of that stuff, would I be doomed to repeat mistakes and wonder why it was I feel X about Y? 
The clincher for me would be the lack of being able to experience the warm glow – and sadness – that comes with nostalgia, something that I am wont to feel with a vividness that can knock my breath from me. There are places that are so evocative that just being there is time travel. The old, the gone, the usually-forgotten, spring back into life if I mentally or physically 'go back', and I can be 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35 years younger, in the switch of a synapse. It happened several months ago, as I walked near a place in which I had worked during my late 20s and 30s. Everything seemed to rush back, a waterfall of memories and feelings, wonderful and wretched. A lump formed in my throat as the trees, pavements and some of the still-standing businesses, bars and shops wove a silent web around me and threw me hurtling back to when my life was something entirely different. Time didn't stand still; it came back on itself, looping so unexpectedly by making me relive situations and conversations that I was taken aback. How did I get here from there? I still wonder. When recalling the not-so-good times, it's not triumph over adversity that I feel, but a sense of cautious relief.
Visiting my childhood home also gave me a powerful burst of nostalgia. I clearly recall the 70s wallpaper (most people would find it unforgettable, to be fair); the paint better suited to a curry spice kit than walls, the sunlight streaming into the front room, the relative darkness of the back. The thud of a tennis ball against a wall, a large orange Spacehopper bouncing on the hard ground, a slippery paddling pool, a Wendy house where I secretly gorged on soft brown sugar (don't ask), a 'blue moon' rose bush my parents sourced for my birthday, a light grey trim phone, the sound of the early morning milk float, two deliveries of post before noon, a serving hatch, an Austin Allegro (apple green), a beautiful ginger cat who grew with me and made me cry for months when his mouth swelled with a tumour; the huge radiogram with its SW, LW, MW and possibly FM wavebands... The ability to keep facts and conversations in my head, when now I have to stop and calculate to know what day it is and how old I am. That kind of thing.
The childhood house has changed beyond recognition; the saddest sight for me was seeing that the previously tenderly-kept front garden, home to the beautiful blue rose bush and myriad flowers and shrubs, had a new lease of life, if you can call it that, as a dirty concrete driveway. The house was an unkempt mess. The road was littered. I have mentioned this in another post, so won't repeat it. Nostalgia, in that case, was replaced by intense disappointment and sadness, plus a measure of anger. 
There are many songs written about the past, about fond memories and regret (notably the one written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, covered so poignantly by Johnny Cash, as per my post on March 6)... It's Cash's delivery – the fact he is talking about himself, his life, albeit through someone else's words – that gives it such intensity. Without his memories, the song would be just lyrics; the video, showing him at his prime and as a frail dying man, would be just pictures. Instead, it grabs the listener/viewer with its stunning rawness. Long live nostalgia. I'm certain it helps to make us – and keep us – human.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


This is not a good song to drive to (it was on the radio yesterday as I sat behind the wheel, and, yes, the car was moving). Did you know that if you type "hurt" into Google, the top hit is this:

New wave

OK, so I've revamped the blog and am not going to try starting a new-fangled thing that pretends to be 'improved'. Gone is the gothic black background that was a fitting casing for my largely insomnia-weighted writing. I can't promise eternal sunshine of the brighter blog, because life's not like that. And I'd be bored silly. You'd have clicked on 'next blog' by now. I do, however, think the new layout is easier to read, but that could be because my eyes are older and my glasses are in need of a new prescription. I can't afford new specs, so I'll squint a little harder. And make the font a bit bigger.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Do, or delete?

The issue at hand is this: so much has changed since this blog was born, that I know not whether to call time on it or let it grow into what it would otherwise be. Part of me wants to start a shiny, new blog, to lose this one in the ether. Part of me wants to see this chronicle grow into something bigger, with a thicker trunk, stronger branches, more gnarled bits, more glossy leaves than previously...
So, yes, I have less time on my hands now, something borne out of the fact that I have not blogged in nearly a year, though I have thought about doing so many times. Part of the reason is that I broke a wrist, which meant work and recreational writing – and cathartic writing – were too painful and unreachable.
And – do I want to write a 'mummy blog'? Part of me thinks I could, should... Doesn't everyone? Some people do it beautifully and I love the honesty and humour these writers possess. But, me? I am still the 'me' that was there before I became a mother, and I was just me for a long time and I swear and shout at times, and I talk about things that might annoy people (quite happily). So, can it be sensible to decide to confine any future writing – blogging – to matters of which nappies fit best, the right way to breastfeed (don't get me started...), how I should potty train and all that? I think not. (They will, however, play a role. There is a lot of material there. Oh YES.) See, the trouble is, when I think Mummy Blog, I think of those clich├ęd topics. So, you can imagine what a load of fun that would be to read... I'll leave that aspect of blogdom to those who do it well.
I will see you again soon, in this incarnation, I think. I have lots to say. But as a former insomniac, whose sleep is under greater control but paradoxically less (for obvious reasons when there is a small person in the house), I shall contain myself and write when it is not so close to the witching hour...