Thursday, 22 December 2011

That's Not My Name...

I’ve never met anyone that said, “ I love my name.”  I’ve not met a person that said, “ I’m so grateful my parents gave me this name, I couldn’t have chosen a better one myself”. Because, let’s face it, when we’re born we’re given a name and that’s that. Most people, just accept their name for what it is, a gift bestowed on them by their parents.  Some may not like their name; I know a few people who use their middle name instead of their registered first name, but it seems to me that most people, apart from the odd ‘I’m off to Deed Poll’ renegade, just grin and bear it with what they were given.

Unfortunately, Mum and Dad aren’t the only people that can bestow names. In those very early days, as a little pink wrinkly person; unable to say a word and barely able to keep your eyes open, you are unaware that siblings, grandparents and yes, Mum and Dad again, are bestowing yet more names; cutesy names, nicknames.  Fast forward through life, and schoolchums, work colleagues, lovers, husbands and children are all adding their own monikers. Before you know it, you’ve gathered enough names to make carving out your headstone rather expensive.

The highly descriptive Older Mum has challenged me to reveal some of mine, and whilst I don’t think I can match her wonderfully entrancing alias of 'Tantra', I am game for a laugh, so here are a few of mine.

Moonface – Enid Blyton had no idea what she was doing to small children with round faces when she created this character in The Magic Faraway Tree.  Let me conjure up the image for you; my school photograph aged five.  There I was, resplendent in grey pinafore dress topped with a face the shape of a plate, framed by two bunches swinging side to side.  Yes, Moonface, not exactly flattering for a young girl. Thankfully when you’re 6 or 7 years old, you get over these things quite quickly. At least, I did.  (And in case you're wondering, my face is more platter than plate shaped these days.)

Sweetie Pop – Back in the day, before the era of mobile phones, when people still manned telephone exchanges, my Dad, ever the forward thinking man he was, bought a CB radio. He had a two fold purpose in doing this, firstly to liaise with fellow travellers on optimal travel routes but, more importantly, to be able to contact my mother and say; ‘Put the dinner on darling, I’ll be home in 30 minutes”. We all had a ‘handle’: mine was SweetiePop.  I remember the machine in our living room with its twiddly buttons and funny handset. If my Dad was going to be home later than bedtime, we’d have a quick chat on the CB before I went to bed. I liked being Sweetie Pop and using the CB. It felt very cool at the time.

Dotty – A moniker from early secondary school. Coined on Brownie camp, this little beauty followed me around for a while. Possibly because I was a little bit scatty.  After a while it was shortened to Dot. Suddenly I got very fed up, grew up and sought to disassociate myself with the name.  If Dot had been a full stop on a piece of paper, all I would have needed was one of those smelly strawberry erasers you had in the late eighties and I could have been free of her.  As it was, it took a while to shake this affectionately meant, but annoying nickname off.

A long period followed where I was just known by my first name. (Of which, there is nothing remarkable to note.) Then, as my love life started to flourish, a series of saccharine, cringeworthy names followed. You don’t mind (so much) when you’re in love.  It’s afterwards you look back and shudder.  So, for obvious reasons, I’ll gloss over these.

Bear - My god-daughter’s mother bestows new names on people as if she is giving alms to the poor. In some ways it is flattering, you have been welcomed into her inner circle once you have received your own ‘special’ name.  I find it impossible to even keep up with what her own name, and those of her daughters are at any one time, they change so frequently.  But Bear rhymes with my first name, hence why I am called Bear or sometimes Aunty Bear. Although why this is the case I don’t know, as I am not their Aunt.  Anyway, as names inflicted on their extended ‘family’ go, I’ve got off quite lightly.  Take my poor husband for instance; he’s been christened 'Badger'. Now there’s a name that can make a man feel bad about his increasing mass of grey hair….

Mummy Plum- is this my name? Sort of. Mummy Plum came about as the title for this blog because it’s what Pip actually calls me.  If I’d never let him watch television it wouldn’t have been a problem; ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ and the vagaries of a 2 year old’s mind are to blame for him deciding my name was Mummy Plum.  It looked like it was a moniker I was going to be stuck with until a few weeks ago, when I started to be called:


To which, I firmly say:  NO. That’s NOT my name.

I don’t want to be Mum.  I want to cling on to the innocence and loveliness of the little voice saying ‘Mummy!’ as he snuggles up for a cuddle or, shouts to be rescued from a tree-climbing mission gone wrong.  Time is passing so quickly and he’s growing up too fast as it is.  So, he can call me Mummy Plum, Mummy Moonface, Mummy Sweetie Pop, Mummy Dot, I don’t mind.  But not, Mum.  Not yet.  I’m just not ready.

What does your child call you? Did they transition from Mummy to Mum? When? Did you mind?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


This morning I felt exasperated.  During the short few minutes it took me to get washed and dressed, Pip had managed to find his ‘safety’ scissors, snip through the cotton string on most of the baubles at the bottom of the Christmas tree, and also open the few straggling Christmas cards I hadn’t managed to post yet.  I was not amused.  These things always seem to happen to me on a day when I’m trying very hard to be somewhere at a certain time, and also when I also need to do something super organised like make a packed lunch.  Uber efficiency is not my strong point, and these extra grenades thrown into the early morning routine test my motherhood skills to the limit.

As it was, only half an hour later than I had hoped, we found ourselves in acres of open, green space looking for ‘Mr Christmas’.   After our picnic lunch, and a spot of face painting, (I always find it a pleasurable experience to be accompanied by a snow leopard), we stalked an elusive reindeer.  My fantastic imagination eyesight meant that we followed Rudolph’s trail to the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens.   A short walk through a winter wonderland and we encountered the man himself.  He sang a song (Rudolph the red nosed reindeer) and gave Pip a badge, and told him not to light a fire on Christmas Eve, as hot chimneys are problematic.  Little Pip seemed rather impressed with Mr Christmas. He offered him a marshmallow he’d saved especially for him, but Mr Christmas said he was too busy to eat it right now, and to move along, as there were lots of other children to see.   Pip took this rebuttal with good grace and said he would save it for him for when he comes on Christmas Eve.  Lucky Mr Christmas.

Afterwards we walked through the grass in the darkening afternoon light towards the mesmerising bygone carousel spinning round and round in the distance.  Brightly coloured painted horses and cockerels, with names painted on them, enchanted children as they glided up and down effortlessly on their gilt poles.  Small legs take small steps; at times the carousel seemed like a mirage, and it felt like we would never get there.  Whilst we made our pilgrimage to this wondrous sight, Pip decided it might be fun to see how much goose poo he could accumulate on the sole of his shoe, treading in as much as possible in an attempt to build a tower of it under the toe area. Not for the first time today I thought, I turn my back for 2 seconds….and look what happens!  Thankfully one advantage of our location was the vast quantity of sticks.  Once a girl guide - always a girl guide. I know a good scraping device when I see one.

Our long walk over, we finally arrived at the carousel and Pip chose a horse called Milly for our ride.  We rode her tandem style, Pip holding on to her mane, whilst I held on to him for dear life, as we glided up and down to the piped organ music.  ‘Giddiup, Giddiup’ Pip cried, his face aglow with pleasure.  I held my little snow leopard close and savoured the moment, and the magic.  As we circled round and round and high then low, I thought; motherhood is rather like a carousel. Yes, there are ups and downs, even on a nice day like today; there are trying moments – the baubles, the Christmas cards, the goose poop, but even those moments become happy memories; moments to laugh over.  We had a super day together, Pip and I, and as we rode up and down I reflected on how extremely lucky I am to have him, what a wonderful, breathtakingly magical ride it is on the motherhood carousel, and how I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Finding My Christmas Groove

This week I’m joining up again with the Grooving Mums blog hop. It’s been a few weeks since I last took part. If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling and haven’t felt that groovy.  But, onward and upward, this is the season to be jolly so, party poppers at the ready, here I am.

What have I been doing to get into my Christmas Groove?

Trying to get Ahead
I am doing my best to try and be not so last minute this year. Last week I felt I was in quite a good place, however, I’m not sure if I then just put my feet up for a little too long or whether I was missing half the ‘To Do’ list, but suddenly there seems quite a lot to do. On the bright side, I ordered my photobox calendars and even had them delivered before the deadline. (Simply unheard of for me). And for once, I sent off all my international cards on time.  I haven’t quite written all my Christmas cards but I’m looking forward to finishing them off tonight.  I enjoy writing notes to my friends in them, but as a consequence they take me ages. The cards I enjoy receiving most are the ones where someone has made an effort to write a personal update and I try to do the same. It’s made me realise how little I write anything by hand these days. My hand aches after writing notes in just a couple of cards!

Getting Crafty
I’m not a home spun, crafty type of girl but, the little man does love to make things, and the sheer reward of seeing his excitement, and hearing him say; ‘This is fun!’ has made me make more of an effort recently. This week we’ve made some homemade Christmas cards for him to send to close family. They’re simple, little Christmas trees covered in starry stickers and lots of glitter.  The kitchen now looks like the inside of a snow globe but actually, I quite like it. If you can’t have a glittery floor at Christmas, then I don’t know when you can. We’ve also been making a Christmas tree collage out of Pip’s handprints, to give to my mum when she visits this week. I’m really pleased with how it is turning out.  I think she’s going to love it.  

Dressing for the Occasion – New Years Eve
This year, I was determined that for New Years Eve, I would make an effort.  Each year there are 10 of us for drinks, dinner and games at one of our houses.  Adamant that my ‘vintage’ sparkly top would not make yet another appearance, I set myself a challenge to find something new to wear. Mission accomplished.  In fact, I did something I, ‘jean wearing mamma’ would never normally do. I bought a dress.  The dress is from a shop I’d never normally go in.  I walked past the shop window countless times, and eventually, I went in and tried it on. I was surprised at how much I liked what I saw in the mirror. It’s a maxi dress, which is not a style I’ve worn before, but I felt it was suited to the occasion and I’ve teamed it with a little black tux type jacket and my favourite pair of vintage (also known as seven year old, but still very lovely shoes.)  I just need some chandelier bling style earrings to set it off and I think I will be ready to rock around the clock into 2012.

Each week Kate gives a couple of prompts to the Grooving Mums. One of  the recent prompts was laughter.  Seek something out that makes you laugh.  I’ve felt like I needed a laugh recently.  Luckily there was a long-standing date in the diary, with two friends, my flatmates from fifteen years ago. We met at a restaurant in the West End, drank far too much wine, unwisely followed it with some complimentary Lemoncello and reminisced about the good old days.  I haven’t had such a fun evening in a long, long time.  I laughed and laughed. It really lifted me.

On my Christmas list:  Something for 2012
One of last week’s prompts was to think about something you might like for Christmas that may help you with your Grooving Mum journey.  I’ve asked Santa for this book. It looks like a lighthearted read, and something that is easy to dip in and out of.  It’s rare I have the time and focus to finish a novel these days so something I can read in bite size chunks is great for me.

If you’d like to read more from other Grooving Mums head over to Kate on Thin Ice.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Listography - 5 Christmas Singalong Songs

I’ve found myself rather enjoying the listography over at Kate takes 5.  So, this week I’m linking up again.  The theme this week is Christmas sing-along songs.  These are my 5 all –time favourite Christmas jingles.

1. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Katie Melua
This is such a romantic, hopeful, classic Christmas song. Judy Garland is a legend, but these days I think her voice does sound a bit shaky, possibly because the wonders of digital mastery weren’t available way back then. I vote for Katie Melua’s superb rendition instead, still true to the classic version, and every bit as good. 

2. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens
Ah, back in the day, I loved a bit of Shaky.  He was the first person I ever saw perform live.  This song always makes me feel Christmassy.

3. All I want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
I’m not a massive Mariah fan,  but you have to hand it to the woman. She can sing AND, this is an amazingly catchy, festive tune.

4. Last Christmas - Wham 
Swoon…George Michael. As a girl, I was seriously in love with George Michael. I had a Wham poster on my bedroom wall. One of those free ones that you got folded up inside a magazine.   Sadly, I did not realise for many years, that he was likely to be unavailable.   I love this song and I love the video that goes with it too.  The Wham boys are in a ski resort with George sporting wonderfully long floppy hair and looking doe eyed and lost as last year’s lover frolics around with Andrew Ridgely (who only has marginally better hair).  Classic eighties genius.

5. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
A little bit of  retro rap to finish off with. Go girls!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Faulty Towers

Faulty Towers is meant to be our 'forever' house. We saw this house and dreamt of creating a wonderful home, filled with laughter and lots of children.  We bought it on a whim.  We weren’t planning to move, our own house wasn't even on the market. Within a couple of weeks it was, a week later it was under offer and we were in the race to buy a dilapidated old wreck, the phrase 'carpe diem' cursing through us from vein to brain. 

A year on, we're coming up to our first anniversary in residence, and I look back and wonder if we were seized by madness for the month of November last year.  The obvious plus points of the house were the size and scale compared to our old house, the size of the garden, the 'location, location, location', and the fact that we could afford it.  The small matter of there being 47 steps from the bottom of the house to the top, and the fact the ground floor was on three different levels, was of no consequence. And therein lay the compromise - buy complete topsy-turvy wreck of house to do up ourselves, which otherwise we would never have been able to afford.

As potential purchasers, we did not appreciate the enormity of the challenge before us.  Sometimes I wonder what the hell we were thinking.  Big Daddy's DIY skills are pretty much limited to banging a nail in the wall to hang a picture.  I can daub the odd bit of emulsion on the walls, but am not known for my skill at 'cutting in'.   On our first night here we sat on the steps leading down to the kitchen with a bottle of wine, drunk and in silent shock. What had we done? I honestly thought I might cry.
In the following days, the neighbours made themselves known, or eyed us up from a distance, with smiling, sympathetic eyes. Silently I felt that they were mocking; 'You fools’, although they seemed happy enough that someone had taken on the challenge.  Others were kinder, 'It needs someone young and with the energy to spend time on it.'  Young? Full of energy? Oh dear, I hadn't realised they were prerequisites for a renovation project.  A friend popped by to see our new abode and described it as a ‘beast of a house’. A beast? I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but a year on it seems that there was some truth in her comment, it is a bit of a beast. On occasion, I do feel like this old place is pulling and tearing at me. It’s almost as though it doesn’t want to be bought back to life.

The place in which you live can affect your state of mind.  I had never really thought about this or experienced it, until living here.  One day, I hope this house will be everything we have dreamed of, but sometimes, living with it as it is now, challenges my sanity and gives me the black dog.  Pretty much everything here is broken, in bad repair and needs to be restored or replaced.  The entire back of the building needs to be pulled off and rebuilt. It needs a new roof, the floor levels need to be changed (a ground floor on three different levels is ridiculous.) And then there’s the new ceilings, new floors, new skirting boards, new windows, new plumbing, new electrics.  Yes, new everything.  The outside fa├žade will stay the same, but everything else will either be restored or replaced, including the dry rot, woodworm and  damp.

We haven’t started any of the work that needs to be done yet,  all we’ve done this past year is complete the necessary red tape. Finally, this week, after months and months of delays, the council approved our planning application, and the local conservation society finally got down off their high horse about the design of the front fence and gave their seal of approval too.  A long time coming, but we finally have a reason to celebrate.

Sometimes it does feel like we are camping in our own house. Has it felt like home this last year?  What makes a home anyway? Not flashy fixtures or fittings. Not the latest trends in wallpaper or interior design. For me, home is a secure, private place where we can all be together, happily and safely.  It’s a place for us to laugh, to cry, to play, to eat together, to talk together, to make music, to share memories. A place where, when we lay our heads on the pillow at night, we all sleep easy, a place we’d rather be than anywhere else. But it still takes time to feel at ease somewhere, to feel this way about a place. That it’s your place, that it is more than just a house, that it is a home.

I think we’re getting there.  We've put paid to the mice - courtesy of the council's last supper. I've stopped thinking that the painted birds in the stained glass windows are quite as evil as I did.  And I can actually be in the house on my own with Pip for the night, without feeling scared. The cellar; damp, dark, and still full of the previous occupants unwanted furniture, still freaks me out, but Little Pip's affectionate moniker of  'The Gruffalo's Cave' has made it seem less scary. The heating also seems to work most of the time now and I have found that walking up and down the many stairs day to day is great for building calf muscle strength.  I would however, love it, if the moths could all bugger off.  Yesterday I found the gorgeous slipper socks I got for Christmas last year, with the soles completely eaten away.  Likewise, I wish we could identify where the wasp’s nest is; the odd sleepy wasp crawling about is rather perilous when walking around in bare feet in the middle of the night.

In the new year we will start work on our grand design. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to making the house look festive, I might even paint the lounge wall a bright jolly red colour.  Garish? Who cares? It’s going to be knocked down anyway.  I’m looking forward to hanging Little Pip’s stocking on the big old fireplace and explaining to him, that on Christmas morning Santa will have come, and if he has been a good boy, he’ll find some presents in it.   And I’m also silently hoping, that this time next year I might be able to hang another stocking on the fireplace, because now we’re here, this old house really does seem rather large for just the three of us to rattle round in.  But, if not, I’ve decided I might just get a cat, or even two cats. Leafing through Old Possum’s book I’ve decided that I’m not going to christen them with a typically West London pretentious name. Mistoffellees and Deuteronomy will have to reside elsewhere; Faulty Towers is going to be the home of Teacup and Mr Spoon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Tell Me About Yourself Award

Troubles' Mum of Trouble Doubled tagged me this week for the ‘Tell me about yourself award’.  Thank you TM.  The brief is to reveal seven things about myself and pass the baton on.  

Somewhere between receiving the tag and writing this, I confused myself that this was an award to do with spilling secrets. Looking back at the brief, it's not, but as I’ve written my list now, I’m going to share it anyway.   

So, here we go:  Seven (more secretive) things about me:

1. I once had a spiral perm.   A shameful fashion crime, but LOTS of people in the eighties had them.  Even Madonna.  Unfortunately mine was more poodle chic than pop chic. Thankfully photographs of this abomination are rare.

2. I was in a marching band.  I played the glockenspiel. (I was actually rather good at ‘glocking’ out a version of ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’.)  

3. I once featured on the packaging of a brand of cereal bars. (No, I’m not a model.)  In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I saw a pack of them on my boss’s desk at work. A slightly awkward conversation followed.

4. I had my nose pierced when I was seventeen. It was a rare but necessary moment of teenage rebellion.  I still think it looked quite cool.  My father did not agree. He was so mortified he couldn’t speak to me for at least a week.   You can still see the small dent from the piercing if you look very closely.  

5. I have an obsession with washing my feet. Every night before bed I have to put my feet in the sink and give them a ritual soap and water cleansing.  I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now.   I can’t sleep properly unless I do it.  Actually, I don't sleep well anyway, but it would be even worse if I didn't do this.

6. I'm a secret blogger.  It's just me, my blog and you; my dear readers. I like it that way. 

7. Lost and Found: Last week I lost the door keys to our house.  After hours of fruitless searching, and fearing I had left them in the lock, I decided we’d have to get the locks changed. My husband was a little unimpressed, not least at the hefty bill from the locksmith.   Two days later, I found them - in my coat pocket.  Yes, the pocket I’d checked twice!  I’ve decided to keep this little secret to myself.   A double docking on the Christmas present front? I don’t think so!

I’m passing the baton on to  TheLondonMamma next.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Listography - My Top 5 Cartoon Characters From Childhood

Today I'm taking a trip down memory lane and linking up to the Listography linky at Kate Takes 5. The theme this week is cartoon characters from childhood.  So, without further ado, these are my top 5.

Bod – Mr Frog and his Amazing Animal Band 
My mother tells me that I used to love watching Bod.  I can’t remember anything about Bod himself really.  I think this is because for me, he wasn’t the hero of the show.  It was Alberto Frog.  Once the opening credits were over, I waited patiently for the part in the programme when Alberto Frog would appear with his orchestral animal band. Mr Frog would then drink a milkshake – either strawberry or chocolate, very noisily, and I’d watch in awe as he sucked it all up very quickly through his straw.  Fascinating stuff.

The Pink Panther
I googled Pink Panther today and was surprised to find that the original cartoons date back to 1964.  I’m not that old!  I can only imagine I was watching re-runs, that’s what happens when you grow up in a world with only three TV channels.  I still love the Pink Panther today. The animation is so simple and clever.  But it’s Henry Mancini’s score that is the icing on the cake for me, it's pure musical genius.


The Wacky Races
Penelope Pitstop, The Hooded Claw, Dastedly and Mutley. What a cast of characters. Penelope Pitstop was glamour personified to me, a cartoon character role model.  I wanted to be just like her.  (Actually, I can remember very little of her personality…I just wanted to have her pink clothes, flowing blond locks and pink car.)  
Scooby Doo
I loved the problem solving mysteries of Scooby Doo.  Shaggy and Scooby were fabulous.  I  also liked the girl with long red hair - what was her name?

Captain Caveman
More magic from Hanna Barbera.  I think the cartoon was actually called Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels.  My favourite phrase was :  “Wowsers Cavey!”  This was uttered by the three girls when Captain Caveman had done something amazing.  I used to love saying this, in fact, I used to practice trying to say it in exactly the same way!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Two More For Christmas

Last week we went for a playdate at Single Mum’s house. I met Single Mum when we were both pregnant, our boys were born on the same day.  We’ve become good friends.  She’s one of the kindest people I know.  As we talked, our conversation turned to the festive season, and it became clear that she and her boy would be on their own for Christmas.  I felt my heart physically ache as she told me that the friends they were going to spend Christmas day with couldn’t accommodate them anymore and they’d be spending it alone. Without hesitation, I invited them to come and spend Christmas with us.  I saw relief and happiness in her face as she accepted by giving me a heartfelt hug.

I felt sad for Single Mum. Sad that she is alone at this time of the year, especially as I know how much she’d like to meet someone to share such moments with. And I thought about how fortunate and blessed I am. Fortunate that I will wake up on Christmas morning, and have someone I can share the joy of watching Little Pip’s delight with, as he finds his stocking by the fire. Fortunate that I’ll receive thoughtful presents from Big Daddy and Little Pip, who always make me feel loved and appreciated at Christmas. These two things, that I am guilty of almost taking for granted each year, are lacking from Single Mum’s Christmas experience.

Later, I rang my husband to tell him that I had invited two additional guests to share in our festivities.  His generosity of spirit always shines through in these situations; he was pleased that we would have two more friends sitting round the table.  Then I sat and worried about Christmas day.   I’m a private person, it’s not my natural disposition to mix together people that don’t know each other. It makes me feel stressed. I worried whether my parents and brothers would mind that I had invited extra guests.  Next I worried that both my newly single brothers might get a bit too flirty with Single Mum.  (Finally deciding that she might enjoy being wooed over a glass of wine and the obligatory Christmas game of Clued0.) I  then worried about the possibility of Little Pip getting overwrought with another child arriving and playing with his new toys.   I followed this with the thought, that despite my protestations, he’ll probably have been bought so many that there will be more than enough to go round.  And finally, I worried my parents might feel that on the first Christmas day I’ve hosted them, (rather than them hosting me), that I’m breaking with our precious family traditions and inviting others in, and it will make them feel uncomfortable.  Then  I remembered the various waifs and strays they'd taken in over the years; friends that had fallen on hard times, and decided maybe I was doing them a disservice.  Of course, they wouldn’t mind. Would they?

Christmas is a time to spend with those you love and care about. In our family, it’s also about family traditions, many of which I hold dear.  But finally now, as a wife, a mother and the woman who has taken the baton of hosting Christmas this year, I feel I am in a position to start creating some of my own, and not just echo those of my parents.

So, I’ve set my worries aside, and decided that my first new tradition will be this:

My door will always be open for any of our friends at Christmas. There will always be a seat at our table, and there will be food, wine, warmth and friendship.  I will not worry myself about who might get on with who, or whether someone else might be put out by the addition of another guest - or two. Christmas is not a time to be alone. It’s a time to share, to laugh, to feel the joy of human companionship and feel good about life. So, in my house, we’ll celebrate by my Christmas philosophy, and that’s one of inclusiveness. The more the merrier.

I just hope my family feel the same way.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Listography - Top 5 Random Likes....

This post is a link up to the Listography meme at Kate takes 5.  The challenge this week is to list 5 ‘random’ likes.  Are they ‘random’? You decide….

Writing in Purple Ink
I like to write in purple ink. My favourite pen is a purple rollerball. I like the way a page of purple writing looks in my notebook. It’s not as harsh as a page of black or blue scrawl.  I find writing in purple is calming.  I thought I was alone in my love of purple ink but it appears not.  I recently discovered that two other people I know also have a predilection for writing with a purple pen. So maybe I’m not as random as I thought! 

I am rather partial to a can of Green Giant niblets.  I’d quite happily sit and eat a whole can of sweetcorn. It has to be Green Giant original though, none of this no added salt rubbish, in my view, the added salt makes the sweetcorn taste even better. 

All Saints Clothing Stores Window Displays
I love the vintage sewing machine displays in All Saints stores, it’s pure retail genius. (Not to mention a great way to reuse old sewing machines.)  I’d love to know where they sourced all the sewing machines from, whether it was a job lot, or in individual lots, and the stories behind each of them. I read once that the All Saints company own the world’s largest collection of Singer sewing machines, approximately 10,000. That’s ALOT of sewing machines.
Art : Female Nudes
I like to have lots of art on the walls, and I especially like pictures featuring the beauty of the female form. Yes, I'm talking about nudes.  I got a bit obsessive about it for a while, so  my husband put a ban on any more pictures of this type entering the house. I think when Little Pip gets older they’ll be consigned to upstairs. I don’t want the embarrassment of sniggering schoolboy friends asking him; ‘Is that a picture of your Mum?’ (and then trying to ascertain the answer by comparing the size of wobbly bits drawn in charcoal with those of the mum in the kitchen.)
I have a fascination with Cathedrals.  I can’t visit anywhere in this country or abroad without diving into the nearest one to have a look around, if it’s there, I want to visit it.  Cathedrals are such amazing buildings in terms of size, scale and sheer workmanship. I also loved reading The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follet, an intriguing 1000 page blockbuster about the building of a medieval Cathedral and the interwoven lives of those connected with it.  It’s one of my favourite ever books. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Getting Back In The Groove

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted to the Grooving Mums meme.    I wondered if I’d reached a bit of a hiatus with my groove. After thinking about it, I decided I was being hard on myself.  It’s been a tough couple of weeks and sometimes being a mum is about self-sacrificing and putting your own needs on the back burner for a while.  But now things are getting back to normal, and I feel able to pick up the grooving mantle again.

Here’s a rundown of some of the things I’ve been doing to get my groove back in the last couple of weeks:

Christmas Pudding Making

A little late in the year, but Mum, Pip and I spent a lovely afternoon making Xmas puddings this week.  I am hoping to do a post later on this in the week.  We used a very old family recipe, and it was wonderful for the first time to include Pip in the family ritual of pudding making. He enjoyed his role as chief stirrer very much, watching him and Mum have such fun together as we all made the puddings made me feel so happy. It’s sometimes the simple things that make the biggest differences to how you feel.

Getting the creative juices flowing: Pin-Interest

We seem to be at the final furlong with the local council with regard to our planning application for our house, so in the new year, our extensive renovation project will begin. This is more than a bit scary for a multitude of reasons, however, I really am looking forward to making Faulty Towers homely and putting our stamp on it. I’ve still got a lot to think about and plan, but I’ve found Pin-Interest has been a great starting point for inspiring and motivating myself.  The buzz of being re-pinned has been satisfying too!

The post I didn’t know whether to post

The week before last Kate challenged us to write the post that we might not normally write.  I did this and wrote a post here.  I felt heartened by some lovely comments from fellow bloggers and now feel encouraged to experiment and write more.

Last week’s challenges:

‘Embrace spirituality’:  A while ago I was studying Chinese Medicine, and bought the book the I Ching or, ‘Book of Changes’, to read whilst I studied.  Truth be told, I didn’t get that far with it.  This week I have dipped in and out of it in the odd spare moment. Taoist philosophy is a bit deep for a midweek timeout inbetween playing football and cooking the dinner(!) but I found a few kernels of wisdom to chew over in my spare time.

Body Fun : ‘Do something different with your appearance’.  I’ve been wedded to the same pair of stud earrings for the last 15 years. Occasionally, I think it would be nice to have something a little more fun and funky to wear, so I recently treated myself to a couple of pairs of new glitzy fashion earrings. I didn’t do it last week, but my goal for this week is to be adventurous, break away from my faithful studs and wear each pair once, during the next week.  Blingtastic!

This week’s challenges are:

1. Set your own challenge, something that is meaningful to you. Or even better, include a challenge in your blog post that all grooving mums might want to have a go at.
2. Investigate poetry and share a favourite with us whether poetry is something you indulge in often, sometimes or never.
3. Dance whether at an event, in the privacy of your own home or out on a walk with the children.
4. Take part in the Listography blog hop over at Kate Takes 5. It will help us all get to know each other that little bit better.

I think I can manage a couple of these. Here’s my poem.  A friend posted this under my door at uni when I was revising for my exams and finding it tough.  I still have this poem all these years later and I’ve taken inspiration from it in some difficult times. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite, but I love it because of the spirit in which it was given. It means a lot to me.

The Quitter

When you're lost in the Wild, and you're scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye
And you're sore as a boil, it's according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: "Fight all you can,"
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it's easy to blow . . .
It's the hell-served-for-breakfast that's hard.

"You're sick of the game" Well, now, that's a shame.
You're young and you're brave and you're bright.
"You've had a raw deal!" I know -- but don't squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It's the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don't be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it's so easy to quit:
It's the keeping-your-chin-up that's hard.

It's easy to cry that you're beaten -- and die;
It's easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope's out of sight --
Why, that's the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try -- it's dead easy to die,
It's the keeping-on-living that's hard.

Robert William Service. 1874 -1958

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Question Time - 10 Things

I’ve been tagged. The inspiring Kate on Thin Ice has asked me to complete the 10 questions meme.

The rules of Question Time are:

1)    Answer the 10 questions
2)   Tag someone to do the same
3)   Return to the original blog post when you have completed your 10 questions and comment, so we can all find out more about our fellow bloggers.

Here we go….

1. Describe yourself in seven words
Sensitive, daydreaming optimist and prolific cake eater. 

2. What keeps you awake at night? 
Insomnia.  It is the curse of motherhood.  Two and a half years of broken nights and now I’m the one that can’t get off to sleep.  Most nights I still get up once or twice to see to the little man and resettle him.  Half the time, I end up just lying there waiting for him to wake up.  It’s ridiculous!

3. Who would you like to be and why?
I’m happy being me.  I’d quite like to find a small business idea or creative outlet to occupy some headspace and give me a sense of achievement outside my role as mother, wife and homemaker.  I just haven’t hit upon the right thing yet.

4. What are you wearing now?
Black skinny jeans with biker boots.  Long sleeved olive T-shirt, with brown short sleeved T-shirt on top.  Short sleeved jumper in seal-like colour. I like to layer up! And a necklace I made from some jewellery I inherited from my Grandmother.

5. What scares you?
Dying.  The fear has got worse since I became a mother.  I am petrified of anything happening to me – because I want to be there for my son as long as possible.  The same applies to anyone I love dying. I can’t bear to think about it. So I don’t.  I’m a head in the sand kind of girl really.

Also…Snakes. Snakes really petrify me.

6. What is the best and the worst thing about blogging?
Blogging has been a great release for me.  I find it a relaxing place where I can be free with my thoughts.  Before I started blogging I used to sleep with a plastic guard between my teeth to stop me clenching them at night. It was causing my jaw to seize up and frankly, driving me insane. (See question 2 for cause of clenching!) Since I started blogging it’s got so much better, I haven’t even needed to use the mouth guard. (Hideous thing.)

The worst thing about blogging for me is the time thief aspect. I think ‘I’ll just sit down for 5 mins with a cuppa’ and read some blogs…before I know it, it’s teatime and I’m running behind!

7. What was the last website you looked at?
I-Escape.  A travel website.  I am trying to find some winter sun for January.  I need to escape the January blues!

8. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I would procrastinate less and seize the day more.

9. Slankets: Yes or No.
Heavens no! What’s next? A foot muff?

10. Tell us something about the person who tagged you.
Kate is a deep thinking soul, with a good sense of humour.  I love the variety her blog offers. I always enjoy reading the posts she contributes to the Little Legacy and Magpie Monday memes. She recently started her own blog hop, ‘Grooving Mum’s, an inspiring and supportive blog hop for all mums. It’s great.

I’m tagging another fantastic blog to take the baton next.
– and hoping she hasn’t been tagged already!

Scents of a Woman - Life in Fragrances

When I was a girl, I would try to make perfume out of rose petals. At the time, it seemed most scientific, in reality it wasn’t.  The process of picking the petals from the large roses at the end of the garden was actually as complex as it got.  They were then mixed with water in a small cup and left to infuse. Invariably after a few days rotting on the kitchen windowsill, with a few small bugs floating inside, my mother would demand that the ‘perfume’ was thrown away.

As a child, I could spend hours at my mother’s dressing table.   Her perfume bottles enchanted me.  They were all the same brand. ‘ L’air du Temps’ by Nina Ricci, a scent she had worn ever since the days of meeting my Dad.  Each year at Christmas, my Dad would present her with a beautifully wrapped package.  Once unwrapped, we would see the box, always the same; pale yellow and cream, with its two signature white birds on the front. Often the bottle design would be different from the previous year, it always excited me to see what it would look like when she opened the box. She kept all the bottles, (even the empty ones), proudly displayed on her dressing table. I loved looking at them, touching them. They smelt like her. My favourite was the bottle in filigree gold casing. I thought it was the most ornate and beautiful thing I had ever seen.

As I grew older, I wanted my own perfume.  Choosing my own scent was a rite of passage, as I passed from girl to woman, an expression of myself, who I was, and perhaps even, who I hoped to be. My first forays into the heady world of perfumery were courtesy of The Body Shop.  I would spend hours at the perfume section, testing perfumes by twiddling long glass sticks inside glass decanters like those you might find in the science lab at school, pulling them out and inhaling them, time and time again.  White Musk and Dewberry were my favourites.  Still today, after all this time, I would know the smell of Body Shop White Musk anywhere.  I could shut my eyes, and know it instantly in a ‘smell test’. Later I moved onto Dewberry, fresh, but fruity.  A bit like I was – gaining zest. The Body Shop perfumes were great for young girls, small enough bottles, keenly priced, so that even a couple of weeks pocket money could afford them.

In time, I wanted something more adult.  I was fifteen when I got my first ‘grown up’ perfume.  Anais Anais by Cacherel.  I remember opening it on my birthday, the small white bottle, with its pastel flowers.  A delicate fragrance, it was the perfect choice for my first proper perfume.  I kept the box next to it on my bedside table. I thought it was too nice to throw away.  The Anais Anais years were the years of discovering boys, falling in love, having my heart broken and thinking the pain would never end.  

By sixth form, I had moved on. I’d wisened up, my broken heart had indeed mended and Anais Anais had been replaced with Tuscany per Donna by Aramis. Still a delicate fragrance but with slightly woody undertones.  I received this perfume as a gift for Christmas. It came in a special gift box with a free soap, the perfume nestled next to it in pink tissue paper.  The box had a woven tapestry design to it.  I still have the soap, unused and the gift box, which now stores unworn pieces of jewellery.  The Tuscany years were the years of my first proper boyfriend, great, late nights out with friends and bad hangovers after too much Malibu and Coke. (Malibu - even the smell of it makes me nauseous today!)

On arriving at university, Coco by Chanel was the perfume I placed on the shelf in my hall of residence. There’s nothing particularly subtle about Chanel perfumes, they’re commanding; you notice them.  I think I was drawn to the perfume because of its namesake, a woman with style, with a slight aura of mystery.  I romanticised I could be like her too.  At any rate, Coco did bring romance in to my life.  It was perfume that I was wearing when I met my future husband.  

 Whilst my love affair with my husband continued to endure, my affection for Coco diminished.  The last years of university and the first forays into the world of work were the Georgio Beverley Hills years.   This was the perfume my best friend wore, she always smelt divine.   In the end, I could fight it no more. I gave up my heady Chanel and followed my nose to the heavenly scent in a clean yellow and white striped box.  I don’t think she was best pleased I had aped her perfume choice.  Scent is a defining, signature thing.  One doesn’t want to smell the same as someone else; especially if it’s someone you spend time with regularly.  I soon got my comeuppance. My mother gave up her twenty year L’air du Temps habit and she too, became a Georgio convert.  I loved my mother, but at that point in my life, it just didn’t feel right to wear the same perfume as her. Alas, bye bye, Georgio.

Therein, came the perfume wilderness years.  I levied back and forth through some of my past favourites but nothing seemed quite right.  My journey through fragrance was a bit like my journey through life, I didn’t want to hark backwards, I wanted to look forward, and I wanted a new scent for the new chapters.

On a trip to New York in my mid twenties I discovered Fresh perfumes and cosmetics.  My search for my new perfume was over. Their Index range of perfumes drew me in, and kept me faithful. For many years, I wore Fresh Cucumber Baie.  So delicate, so fresh. I liked the originality of it.  If ever there was a perfume that was ‘me’, this was it.  I was wearing it when I got engaged, I wore it when I got married. For me, Cucumber Baie is the scent of happy, happy times. 

Just as consumers switch perfumes, so it seems do manufacturers. Sadly my favourite ever perfume was discontinued. But my loyalty to Fresh continued and the Pink Jasmine era began. I still wear Pink Jasmine today. It’s floral but delicate.  I always get compliments when I wear it.  As far as I know, there is only one shop you can buy it at in the UK, the Fresh store on Marylebone High Street.

I wear perfume far less nowadays than I used to. I didn’t wear it when I was pregnant, and when I first had Pip; I didn’t wear it as I worried about him inhaling it.  In fact, post pregnancy, I couldn’t stand the smell of perfume for quite a while, even the mildest scent seemed overpowering to my new mother nose.  These days, I wear it for special occasions and nights out. Once I’ve slipped on my outfit, I always enjoy the ritual sprinkling of my special scent, it’s like the final little piece of magic I need to get my inner party started. 

Do you associate any perfumes with defining moments or special people in your life?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Making Friends: The Tale of Coffee Shop Girl

Have you ever found yourself occupying the same space-time continuum as someone else? In the humdrum of everyday life, going about your business, your daily routine, there’s someone that always seems to be there; the same person.  At the intersection of a morning, or an afternoon, there they are; again and again, same time, same place, and your space-time continuums collide.  Coffee-shop girl is on my space-time continuum. I see her every day. 

One of my favourite things to do in the morning is go for coffee.   Luckily enough Little Pip enjoys this too. (A true West London child, he loves a good Babyccino.) Often, either before or after our daily trip to the swings, we go for a coffee.  Sometimes we just talk; sometimes I take a book for us to read.   We always go to the same place, a small coffee shop with a wonderful Barista, who makes a superb Latte.  The staff all love LP. Kisses are bestowed on his blonde forelock and free Babyccinos pushed into his hands. He plays to it like a dream.

It was here that we first encountered her, our fellow space-time traveller - otherwise known as Coffee-Shop Girl. Since then she has become a fixture in our everyday lives. We see her at the coffee shop every single time we visit. Every single time.  Even if we don’t go in, we see her. As we walk past the window, there she is, sentry like, with a pot of freshly brewed peppermint tea. Sometimes we deviate from the normal routine; we go in the afternoon. Da Da!  There she is, omnipresent in her seat.  It’s almost as if she knows, via some sensory power, that on that particular day, things will be different, she things shift around, adopts her space in the afternoon instead, and thus our daily encounters continue.

Coffee-Shop Girl knows me. Our eyes meet. There is a flicker of recognition. Sometimes we smile. Then, I get distracted, ordering our drinks or trying to stop LP touching the cake display, and she will turn back to her ipad or her blackberry, and we go about our separate business.

In all the days and months of encountering Coffee –Shop Girl, I’ve never seen her with another living soul. At the weekend, we sometimes go for coffee and take Big Daddy with us.  She is there. In her same seat, with ipad and blackberry, alone.  Maybe the coffee shop is her place of refuge from a busy, hectic life, but I think not.  I think coffee shop girl is often alone outside the coffee shop too.

Coffee-Shop Girl intrigues me. Surely she can’t sit in the coffee-shop all day long? I have decided that must either be self-employed or unemployed. She clearly has great flexibility if she works (not many bosses let you sit in a coffee-shop all day.)  I have wondered if she might be a writer, or a secret blogger, a Belle de Jour, blogging her heart out as she sits and sips her peppermint tea.

Recently there was a week when I didn’t see Coffee-Shop Girl.  I wondered where she had gone. I missed seeing her. She had become part of the ebb and flow of everyday life. A familiar face, even though it was one I didn’t talk to. As I went to get my coffee, I mourned her empty seat. ‘Come back, Coffee- Shop Girl’ I thought. ‘I like seeing you there, tapping away on your ipad. I miss admiring your black handbag with it’s millions of studs shimmering on the table.’  Then suddenly she was back, as if she’d never been gone. And our merry little dance of semi- acknowledgement resumed, just as it had before.

One lunchtime I found myself on my own without Pip. I took myself to my favourite hangout.  It was busy, but there she was.  Bumped by interlopers, from her normal table and sat near to the back. We glanced at each other, did our semi smile, and I noticed the only other table available was the one next to her.  

I sat down.  Suddenly I was determined to talk to Coffee-Shop Girl.  To make conversation.  I thought it would be nice to get to know her better. So that rather than just smile each time, we could maybe say something. Maybe we would just talk about the weather (how very British), or perhaps we would get past just exchanging pleasantries and say something more.

I sat there. Time seemed to be passing slowly. I was aware of her next to me. Tapping away, drinking her tea.  I thought to myself, you can do this. Just say something. But the more I thought about it, the more difficult it seemed.  I started to feel self-conscious. Anything I thought about saying seemed to sound like a chat up line.  I started to feel hot, tense. I found myself getting a little flustered. I couldn’t enjoy my coffee or my delicious sour dough sandwich. The invisible pressure of my own self-set challenge ruined my appetite.

This summer we went on holiday to Norfolk.  One day we went to the beach with Little Pip.  The tide was out, another little boy was playing near the breakwater, splashing in little pools of water, examining the seaweed and shells. He looked like he was having such fun.  Little Pip wanted to join in.  As I watched him, laughing, smiling, trying to jump in unison into the pools, my heart ached. The other boy carried on – unacknowledging. Little Pip continued to try and participate in ‘the game’. I watched, as my boy, made his first foray into the world of trying to ‘make friends,’ watched him trying to make that connection, the one that engages someone, makes them want to reciprocate and communicate back to you.  The other boy was still oblivious. Little Pip’s attempts at friendship were unanswered.

As I sat there trying to find the right words to speak to Coffee Shop Girl, it struck me that this was a similar situation, and that making friends doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get older.  We learn the process of engaging others as children, but actually, as we get older and more self-conscious, it can become more difficult again.  Certain situations in adulthood make it easier to make new friends, particularly those where you have a united or shared purpose- working together, playing sport, being a mother. But without shared experiences or purpose, it can be more difficult.

In a busy coffee shop, I found it far from easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. After a while, I could bear it no longer. It felt as though invisible tumbleweed rolled between our two tables. My inhibitions got the better of me.   I finished my coffee and left.   I felt as though I had failed in my mission. Although actually, I didn’t even know why I had challenged myself in the first place.  I have lovely friends. I don’t need to scout for new ones.  It came down to the fact, I just thought it would be nice to get to know someone I share the same space with, day in day out, a little bit better.

The next day we saw Coffee-Shop Girl at a local beauty spot.  She cut a solitary figure as she sat alone on a wooden bench in the distance with a bunch of flowers. Later I noticed she had gone, but the flowers were still there, like a marker, for someone missing.  I wanted to go over, to read the inscription on the bench, to understand more about the person it was dedicated to and how they might be connected to her. I didn’t. It felt wrong. 

As Little Pip and I made our way home in the dusky afternoon light, I felt eternally grateful for his constant companionship and the warm feeling of his soft, podgy hand in mine. But my mind was elsewhere. I wished I had tried harder to speak to Coffee-Shop Girl the day before.  I have resolved to try again.