Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Life in the Goldfish Bowl

Sometimes life as a SAHM has a lot of sameness about it.  Days and weeks blend into one another, filled with the same routine, the same people, the same playdates.  I’m not keen on monotony; I like to mix things up a bit.  But when you have a small child to look after, I have discovered to my cost, that ‘mixing it up a bit’ and being spontaneous, doesn’t always work so well.  Being planful often works out best and this seems to result in a happier child too. It seems that there is a reason why the word ‘routine’ features so heavily in parenting books.  Despite my natural propensity to be a rolling stone, over the last few years, Pip and I have fallen into our own little pattern of life.  We’re like two goldfish swimming in a bowl; we go round and round, the same way, doing the same things, day after day, week after week.  Unfortunately I don’t have the short memory of a goldfish, which means that some days, another spoonful of dejavu isn’t entirely palatable and I crave a change of scene.

Mondays are a good example of a routine day for us. Our drill has been perfected like a military operation. We get up, breakfast and are ready to leave the house early.  Monday is the only day of the week when I insist Pip gets in the buggy, just because we’re venturing too far to use the scooter. Our route is always the same; along the road, around the back of the church, past the school, Pip always makes the same comment every time we walk past the scooters chained to the railings; ‘Look Mummy! Look at all those scooters’, and I often wonder the same thing - what the collective noun for a group of scooters would be? (A macro of micros is my best guess).  We then walk past the famous actor’s house and I surreptitiously peer into his recycling box to make things interesting.  (This week, there was nothing, as he was at the Oscars presenting an award, which was most disappointing as it’s always a highlight of my Monday morning to see what he’s been eating and drinking the past week.)  Then onwards we go, past the Grade II listed building that is home to an important historical society, and I sneak a peek at the three young, male historians sitting in the office, just starting their day, usually chatting, possibly exchanging stories about their weekend.  I like to look at the chap who sits in the right of the window, the one with the longish hair, who wears a cravat (but in a stylish, retro kind of way rather than an anachronistic social misfit one, and wonder also if the panama hat on the hatstand by the door belongs to him or someone else.) These things all make my Monday morning pilgrimage slightly more interesting.  Continuing our journey, we turn onto the main road, and then left, past the park, until we near our destination, passing under the arches of the railway bridge, where, every weekend, someone fly tips rubbish. This week, the pile of unwanted possessions included a framed photo montage of some sweet looking children. I wondered who would want to get rid of such a lovely picture, especially when someone had written in the middle, ‘I love you Daddy.’  Finally, a few steps later, we arrive at the swimming pool, for Pip’s lesson.

Once, I had to get into the pool with Pip but these days he is proficient enough to swim on his own in the pool with the teacher.  If it’s not ‘watching week’, Mums have to sit downstairs, and so I chat, and catch up on the weekly going ons of other people’s lives.  Then, back to poolside, to rescue my little swimmer and get him changed. ‘Can I have my biscuits now Mummy’? Always the same biscuits, every week - shaped like little elephants, in a green packet. After swimming we make our way to the shops, to buy food for tea, before we head home for a quick spot of lunch before dashing out again early afternoon, to ‘Big Boy’ Playgroup.  Post Big Boy playgroup we travel home again via the swings and the park, Pip shouting; ‘Push me higher Mummy, higher!’ or he’ll climb up the climbing frame and shout down at me, ‘There’s fire on your toes!’ before he slides down the fireman’s pole to blow them out.

Sometimes the sameness of it all can seem rather energy sapping. At the weekend I say to my husband, ‘Let’s get out of here’. Not because it’s not a nice place to live, it is, but just because I want to see and do something different. New experiences make life interesting- they invigorate the mind and the soul.  Yesterday as I was pushing the swing ‘higher’ for the umpteenth time, I wondered what I would do with my life when these days are gone; when Pip has started at school.  Even though life in the goldfish bowl can sometimes feel monotonous, Pip makes it interesting and it is a pleasure being with him.  We have fun together, and those moments when he achieves something, like swimming in the water without me, make the eighteen months of schlepping to the pool every week so worthwhile.

For all the frustration I sometimes feel about the sameness of it all, I know I’ll miss these days once they’re over.  I’ll miss him when he goes to school. And I don’t want to be a lonely goldfish swimming around all day on my own.  I always thought there’d be another tiddler fish in tow by this point, but despite our best efforts alas, still no tiddler fish to be seen. So maybe it’s time for me to start thinking about leaping out of the bowl and back into the big wide ocean; to think about going back to work, or retraining to do something new.  Scary, but possibly quite exciting too. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

11 Questions

Another day, another Meme.   I feel really tired today but I think I can just about manage to answer some simple questions so thank you to the lovely Sarah who blogs at Glasgow Mummy for tagging me in the ‘ 11 questions’ meme.   The rules of engagement are as follows:

*Post the rules.
*Answer the questions the ‘tagger’ listed for you in their post.  Then create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
*Choose 11 people and link them to the post.
*Let each blogger know you’ve tagged them.

OK. Rules – Done.   Here are my answers to the questions set for me:

1. Have you ever been pulled over by the traffic police?
Yes, for speeding whilst on holiday in South Africa.  I was putting our hire car through its paces in the midst of a deserted landscape, when a traffic cop appeared out of a bush and flagged me down. Once I had paid the not insignificant (cash) fine on the spot, the traffic cop told me I was free to go.  Very stressed, I got back in the car, forgot I’d left the engine running, so tried to start it again and again, resulting in a lot of black smoke and terrible screeching noises from the engine.  After taking a moment to compose myself, I pulled away and then proceeded to bunny hop all the way up the road.   Not a moment in my life when I covered myself in glory, and yes, I did learn my lesson about speeding.

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Although I crave warmer, sunnier climbs, I have to say, I think I’d still rather be in the UK than anywhere else. Home is where the heart is, and all the people I love are here. I couldn’t leave them.  If we didn’t have to live in London, I’d choose to live somewhere near the New Forest. I love it there.

3. What is your favourite flavour of crisps.
Lightly Salted

4. What’s the last movie you watched?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I found it a little disappointing. The last half an hour was good, but I found the rest of the movie lacking in pace.

5. What is your favourite thing to wear?
Jeans. So easy. Can be dressed up or dressed down. The cost per wear is brilliant.

6. What does your last text message say?
Hi. How’s things? Did you survive half term week? Xxx

7. What were you doing at 12 noon yesterday?
Sitting at the kitchen table eating boiled eggs and soldiers with my son for lunch. We had these because we wanted to use our new ‘Herdy’ egg cups.

8. What is your most treasured memory?
The first two hours or so I spent skin to skin with Pip after he was born.  Everything felt still and calm, and just perfect really.

9. What do you think is the single best decision you’ve made in your life so far?
Probably deciding to go to University and pulling my finger out to work hard and get a good degree once I got there.  I met my husband there, met some lifelong friends, and gained a lot more confidence in myself and my abilities. 
10. Do you have a pet?
No.  Would love a cat but now is not the right time. If I got one now I’d be constantly worried he would fall down large excavated hole and end up immortalised in concrete.

11. What is on your bedside table?
Top Shelf: Lamp, alarm clock, Clarins hand cream, Jo Malone lip balm, glass of water.
Bottom Shelf:  A notebook and pen, plus too many books to mention but the selection includes:  Naomi Stadlen ‘ What mother’s do’, 1000 Classic Fairy Tales,  A Percy the Park-Keeper Book, Facial Fitness: Eva Fraser and a book about the origins of proverbs called 'One for Sorrow'.   Plus a couple of dog eared copies of Homes and Gardens.

These are my 11 questions:

1. Which song gets you in the mood to party?
2. What’s your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
3. Which of the books you’ve read recently would you recommend as ‘good reads’?
4. What’s your ‘must have’ beauty product?
5. Do you have a favourite mantra/proverb/ saying?
6. What is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
7. If money were no object, where would you like to go on holiday?
8. What's your most treasured possession?
9. When was the last time you wrote a letter, by hand?
10. Which 3 famous people (alive or dead) would you like to ‘Come dine with you?’
11. If you could rub Aladdin’s lamp and make one wish…what would you wish for?

And now I’m tagging the  super bloggers listed below.  This meme seems to be everywhere at the moment so if you’ve already done it, or equally you’re not bothered, I won’t mind at all!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Little February Sunshine

A new meme, how lovely.  It’s nice to know someone, somewhere out there in the blogosphere has thought of me, so a big thank you to Postcards from Pramstead for sending this one my way.  Even better, the theme is ‘A little February sunshine.'   The idea is that I lift myself out of any cold, wintery doldrums by focussing on sharing my answers to some set questions on my favourite things.  Here we go...

Favourite Colour: Magical and Mystical, Fantastical, Ecclesiastical - I love purple.  Purple Liberty gift bags and boxes set my heart aflutter; praise be to the store that has made purple packaging its trademark.  I love cosying down on my sofa in winter with it's purple velvet scatter cushions, and I am rather partial to writing in purple pen too. Purple reminds me of my grandfather, he was a vicar and accessorised his dog collar with deep purple socks and a matching purple handkerchief. Quite snazzy he looked too.   It also reminds me of my mother, who aspires to be like the old woman in Jenny Joseph’s poem; 'Warning: When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.’ (She’s getting there.)

Favourite Animal:  I grew up in a house with cats, I love cats.  I think Pip would love a cat too, but given all the work that will be happening on our house in the near future it just doesn’t seem the right time.  So, I’ll say that my favourite animal ‘of the moment’ is the simple garden bird.  We’ve got a bird feeder outside and the quantity and variety of feathered friends that visit us never fails to amaze me.   One particular surprise is that lime green parakeets seem indigenous to these parts.  I believe that someone once let a flock of them escape from a film set at Ealing studios and once they took flight, they multiplied beyond belief.  Six is the most I’ve had on the birdfeeder at one time, quite a sight to behold, but I have seen my neighbour has had ten on his all at the same time.  Sounds ridiculous, but now I’m competing to get more visit mine.  Sometimes I wonder if the time has come for me to return to work, becoming competitive over the number of birds on ones birdfeeder can surely not be good for a woman. 
Favourite non-alcoholic drink:  I’m a tea and coffee lover, but I’m going to plump for tea, because I do find it more hydrating than coffee. For me, it always has to be a good cup of English Breakfast first thing, and then mid morning I may have a cup of coffee if I’m out and about and there’s a decent coffee shop in the vicinity. My tea brand of choice is Twinings English Breakfast.   I’m a big Camomile drinker too, a cup of Camomile, and I’m calm and swan like.  Really, I am. 
Facebook or Twitter:  I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook; I love it for Scrabble Gamehouse and hate it for just about everything else.  I’m fairly new to Twitter; I found it quite disconcerting at first, sending something out there into the Twitterverse and wondering if anyone would respond. But it seems sometimes people do, and so far, I’m quite enjoying the experience.   
Favourite Number: I’m with the lovely Postcards on mum’s phone number.  Years and years of hearing it said when my Mum answered the phone makes it special. It’s the SOS number I’ve called my whole life - when the chips were down and I needed to hear my Mum's voice and be reminded of her unconditional love. It's etched upon my heart.
Favourite Day of the week:  Saturday.  I love hanging out with my husband and Pip on a Saturday. We often go out for lunch which I really enjoy.  The rest of the day is usually spent running errands or doing things focussed around our son, but I find just having an extra pair of hands around makes everything seem so much easier.  
My Passion: Some are constant; my husband, my boy, renovating our house, writing, reading, trying to retain some semblance of style (for myself). I love history too, so I love to visit museums, National Trust properties, Antiques shops.  I love modern style, but old things hold a magic for me that sometimes the new don't. 
Giving or Getting Presents:  Giving, every time.  I love choosing presents for people and taking the time to try and find something they’ll really love. 
Favourite Pattern: I haven’t got a particularly favourite pattern so I thought I’d share some images of some patterned wallpaper that I’m hankering after at the moment. I’m thinking of putting this on the wall behind the bed when our bedroom is redecorated.  And I absolutely love the second pattern.  I want to put this in my downstairs toilet. I think downstairs cloakrooms are a great place to go wild with a bit of zany pattern.

Source: via Mummy on Pinterest

Favourite Flower:  Anemones. They are so delicate and remind me of my grandmother.  I like Lilies too, I love the smell, their big stems look great displayed in a simple vase, and they last for ages.

I’m now going to pass the baton to two great blogs I’ve discovered fairly recently:


Thursday, 9 February 2012

At the Hammam

For the last three weeks I have been lost in a fug of cold and consumed by a cough which makes me sound like a spluttering old jalopy trying to get its engine started.  I’ve tried everything: acupuncture (multiple needles in chest), overdosing on Vitamin C (am now slightly more orange looking than I was three weeks ago) and early nights (but still can’t get up in the morning).   Nothing seems to be able to shift the lingering residues of my lady flu.  Yesterday as I caught sight of my reflection in the car window, and the huge baggage under my eyes, I thought ‘ Right, that’s it.  I cannot continue to look and feel like the living dead. I have to try something new.’

So today, I went to a Hammam. And yes, I am posting this from West London, not Marrakech.  I’ve never been to a Hammam before so this was a completely new experience for me.  A discreet little place has recently opened down the road, to rave PR reviews. (I’m a PR person’s dream, really I am.) As I read about the La Sultane De Saba Moroccan Hammam Ritual (try saying that with your mouthful), it’s claims of being immune boosting were of instant appeal. Yes, I thought, boost me and my battered immune system, and whilst you’re at it, warm me and warm me some more, I’m fed up of feeling chilled to the core.  One phone call and a short walk later, there I was.

What an experience. The place was dimly lit with scented candles.  It felt warm and exotic.  Instantly I was transported from the grime of London to hot, foreign climbs.  The owner asked me a few medical questions, and then asked me to remove my clothes and put on some disposable underwear and a towelling robe. (I hate those disposable knickers. They don’t give good enough coverage in my view). Anyway, disposable panties on, I was then ready, and we walked through the opaque glass door, into the Hammam.

Mosaic tiles glistened all around me in the warm heat.  She said; “remove the robe”. I said; “You do know I’ve got no top on under here”. What a ridiculous thing to say. I don’t even know why I said it, as obviously, she knew.  I guess I'd been taken by surprise. I thought ‘Hmmm. She’s going to see my breasts. Possibly for the whole of the next hour.’  She said;  “We Moroccans don’t mind about these things, unless you do? Do you mind?” I thought; do I mind?  Looking around me it looked like it was going to be quite difficult to have the treatment without bearing the breasts.  “Erm, well no, I guess not.” Goodbye robe, goodbye modesty.

I was instructed to lie down on the warm mosaic slab in front of me. It was so hot I could barely lie on it at first, but after a few seconds my body got used to it. It felt  warm and wonderful, as though my body was thawing, the warmth permeating my skin and heading right to the core of me.  My head lay on a scented pillow filled with little beads, like a miniature beanbag.  To my side, there were scented amber and rosewood candles flickering in a niche in the wall. The air smelt of menthol. I could feel my nostrils clearing, and soon I felt I was breathing more easily and my inner Darth Vader was disappearing.

I was rubbed all over with soap containing eucalyptus and peppermint.  Not a hard bar but soft liquid soap, like oil.  Black soap.   I lay there on the warm slab as she rubbed it all over me including my chest and breasts.  Some people might not have liked it, or felt embarrased, but I have to say it did not seem odd in that way, in that environment, not at all.  Then warm water was thrown over me as the soap was rinsed away.  "Turn onto your front"... more delicious smelling slippery soap being massaged into me, followed by more lovely warm, hot water. 

There was an interlude. I was left alone. I lay on my warm tiled bed in the peace and quiet, like a lizard on a rock enjoying sunshine.  Bliss. Pure Bliss.  I dozed.  Then she was back, wielding a giant exfoliating mitt, and before I knew it I was being scrubbed with immense purpose and vigour.  As I lay there she said,  “Look at all this dead skin.”  I peered over my shoulder, to see grey shredded skin all over me.  Was my skin really that colour? (Note to self. Try to exfoliate back occasionally.) “Oh sorry” I mumbled, “Not at all” she said, “This is most satisfying”. Ah well, it was good to know that removing my scales made someone’s day.  I put my head back down on the scented pillow and relaxed into the warm tiles as she continued scrubbing, and wondered how much of me there would be left at the end.  Maybe I should have weighed myself beforehand. Given the amount of dead skin leaving my body surely I’d come out lighter?

Another scrub (possibly a mud scrub?) some more soap, and then I was told to sit up with my back against the hot wall and was literally doused in water from head to toe again and again.  A beginners error; I was wearing mascara, so we had to stop whilst that was removed (unless of course, I was happy to leave looking like Alice Cooper caught in a rainstorm.)  Yet more scrubbing and more soaping followed. I lost track of it all, the different lotions, potions and their intoxicating heady, smells. I lost myself in the warmth of the small, inviting room as every inch of me, from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, including my breasts and virtually all of my bottom were rubbed and scrubbed. The ritual lasted about 30 minutes and then I was told to remove the wet knickers and re-robe.   In the antechamber outside, music played softly and there was dim candlelight.  I was instructed to lie on a heated massage bed, more warmth rose up from beneath me.  For half an hour I was massaged with melted shea butter and fragranced oils, strange menthol type vapours still drifting up into my nose, releasing and reviving.  I did not want the experience to end.

Afterwards, understanding the meaning of ‘squeaky clean’, I made my way out to the candlelit seating area and drank fresh mint tea from a little glass etched with a gold fretwork design.  I don’t normally like mint tea, whether it was the surroundings, or my newly relaxed self I don’t know, but today it tasted fresh and delicious.

It’s claimed that the Hammam ritual rejuvenates, eliminates toxins and stimulates circulation.  In Morocco, it is customary to visit the Hammam once a week. Oh, if only.  It is too early to say yet whether it will be a cure-all for my ailments, but without question, I do feel re-energised and re-invigorated. Has my experience given me a little bit of my groove back? I think so.

I'm linking this post up to #GroovyMums blog hop at Kate on Thin Ice.  You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

On Trees

Pip and I have a special tree.  We pretend it’s ours; we’ve sort of adopted it. It stands majestic at an English Heritage property not far from here.  We love it because it’s easy to climb, not just for children but for grown ups as well.  The tree likes human visitors.  I think that it’s possible that in some point in time, it decided it might be nice to welcome others; to have a little company, so it flexed out one of its big arms and spread its old gnarly fingers across the ground by way of an invitation. ‘Come climb me’ it whispers.  And so we do, because if ever there was a tree that was good for climbing, it is this one.  Pip needs a little help but with a little care, we can make our way up and sit on a bough looking down over the river below filled with swans, ducks and geese.  Pip is always very happy with himself when we’ve climbed the tree.   I love sitting in the tree with him.  Simple pleasures.

It’s hard to tell how old a tree is.  When I was a child, we lived near to a wood,  occasionally the forestry commission would could come along and coppice or fell rotten trees  and I’d sometimes try and count the rings inside the trunk stump. That was supposed to be a way of telling the tree’s age.  I’m not sure if that’s really true, or if it’s just an old wives tale.  I always seemed to lose count anyway, before I got to the centre of the stump.    I don’t know how old our special tree is.  I’d guess that it is hundreds of years old.   Planted centuries ago by a man who would never live to see it reach its current lofty heights - a man with an anonymous face who left it as a legacy for the next generation, or generations. In all likelihood our tree will still be standing there when I am just a fading memory.  Sometimes I wonder if Pip will visit the tree in years to come, if one day, he might climb it with his own children.

As we sat in the tree last week, Pip mentioned one of his favourite books (about a tree) and it struck me, that actually, we’ve got quite a few lovely books about trees that we read and enjoy.  So I thought I’d share them here.   If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear if you enjoy them as much as we do.

Apple Pigs – Ruth Orbach

I had this book when I was a little girl. I love reading it to Pip.  It’s the story of an old apple tree that no one cares about.  A young girl decides to start looking after the tree, and the story of what happens next is wonderful.  The tree produces so many apples the girl and her family don’t know what to do with them, but there is an exciting twist at the end.

I love this imaginatively written book because it’s written in rhyming prose, which makes it a joy to read out loud. The illustrations are simple yet striking and the story itself is heart warming.   Sadly it is out of print today, but I think you can pick up the odd copy on Amazon Marketplace at a reasonable price.  At the back of the book there is a description of how to actually make the Apple Pigs featured in the book.  This is something I always wanted to do as a child. Next autumn when our apple tree in the garden bears fruit I am going to make these with my son.

The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton

I loved Enid Blyton as a child. I read so many of her books, but my first and my favourite has to be The Magic Faraway Tree. The story of four children who find adventure in an enormous tree, stretching high into the clouds with magic lands to be found at the top, along with some fascinating characters that lived in the tree and a huge slide that runs all the way to the bottom.  I hope that this book has stood the test of time, and that when he’s older, Pip will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did.

The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein

This isn’t necessarily a childrens book. It’s a book for adults and children alike. The story is a parable -  a message about unconditional love.  In some ways, this book is quite sad, but it is also very touching too.

This book starts with the words; ‘ Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’  The tree lets the boy eat her apples, climb her trunk, slide down her branches– but as he grows older the boy wants more and more, so the tree continues to give and give until she has given almost everything that she has.  This book is very simply written and illustrated (black and white line drawings) but I think that this just makes it more compelling. Pip and I have read this book a few times recently.  Even at such a young age it has been interesting to see how he reacts to this story.  (“He's a naughty boy, Mummy. I'm going to help the tree get some new branches.”).   I recommend this book - it’s a keeper.

So there you have it, three wonderful books on trees.  Have you read any of these? Are there any others I wonder?