Friday, 24 May 2013

Angel Clouds

Maybe I had too much hot chocolate. All that sugar.

Up. Up. Up.

Like a hot air balloon. Light headed and floating among angel clouds.

Excited. The anticipation. The expectation.

Will I make it? Will I see my name in lights?

I know what's going on though, this want of recognition. I am hoping this time they will take note.

It arrives.

The results are in.

I scroll down the page. My name. My name. Where's my name?

It's not there.

Two minutes ago I had wings, now I'm falling like a bomb.

But... but... but... all that hard work I did? All those colourful words I wrote?

Crestfallen. Disappointed.

And it takes me back to the nine to three and break times and the stiff grey uniform and being that girl the boy never fancied and red marker all over my carefully crafted work. A perennial B student. The middling to bottom streams. Unclassified in maths O'level. Unclassified in general studies.

One solitary A in English though. And captain of the lacrosse team.

Is competition - hot housed in those early years - a good or a bad thing?

I don't like the effect it has on me. Brings out the best and the worst.

But I'm not bitter. Absolutely not.

So pleased at how far I have come.

So grateful to be a part of this landscape of words and friendship and support.

If anything, it helpfully mirrored back my eternal motivation.

What lies beneath.

That after all these years, I am still trying to please mum and dad.

Friday, 17 May 2013

#Once upon a time - Alchemy. Part One.

Once upon a time .....

I held a one way ticket in my hand. Destination unknown. I was thirty years old - a watershed age, still in the hangover of my twenties, not too old, or so I thought, to consider the grown-up decisions - marriage, mortgage, kids - of my thirties. I was still playing at life, gambling with choices, motherhood nowhere on the radar.

A question mark over the DJ'ing, a recent redundancy in my pocket, I was headed south with no job, no five year plan, no sense of my next move. Surely I should be established by now? Should know myself like the blue and red veins on an ordinance survey map? Who was I now? What shape would I become?

I nearly bottled it, an inch from grabbing my bag and running like a hounded rabbit down the platform, back to familiarity, to comfort, to fish and chips on a Tuesday evenings with Grandma. But there was a shudder, a jolt, as the train quietly eased - the rhythmical clack and a clack on the track - out of the station.

Decision made I guess.

I looked at the rectangular card between my fingers. I could always return if this adventure fell on its fat face. I knew these streets so well, the junctions of my child hood, my teenage years, my twenties. Yes, I thought, I could always swim up stream, back up the M1, a tried-it-but-didn't-work-out salmon returning to fertile ground. But I never did. I knew even then, months and months before, slumped on the top deck of the 96 grumbling up Otley Road, autumn rain drops crying on the windows, the inner voice asserting 'time to move on, get out, do something new', that I wouldn't be returning to my birth town.

London was a like a giant spread of tapas - the olives, the calamares, the chorizo al vino, the patatas bravas. An endless selection of choices and ideas and inspiration. I discovered tai-chi and yoga and street art and new friends and just how rude commuters can be. There were windy walks on Hampstead Heath and picnics in Regents Park. Proper sushi. The finest vanilla ice-cream in candlelit restaurants on Upper Street. Watching gigs on sticky July evenings at Somerset House. Admiring installations in the Turbine Hall of  the Tate Modern.

I temped in grey offices, over views of the city - the monolithic pillars of Canary Wharf, the overbearing slabs of concrete caging Liverpool Street. I watched as tiny workers on ropes filled in the missing pieces of the The Gherkin, sometimes their limbs completely lost in fine, spectral mist. Then one day two towers crumbled - the fire, the bodies, the blood - and I smelt the death and sadness in the empty tube carriage, images of grief and horror on forgotten pages scattered on the floor.

I didn't get along with finance, with the starch uniforms, and the bare, bored walls. I was formally told off - a bad, bad school girl - for not ironing my shirt, for not combing my hair, for not making enough cups of tea for the team. A manager who clearly resented me. And the feeling was mutual. What was I doing working as admin in a risk department in Aldgate? How had I managed to swap my decks for a flat screen and the in-and-out tray and a hole puncher? The rent.      

The first home was a shared house in East Finchley, messy and cramped. The second, a flat on The Holloway Road - day and night the traffic never stopped, a constant noise of engines and sirens and horns. It  was broken into, DVD's and books strewn about, both my beloved Technics stolen. Then a flat I loved, large square rooms, a separate kitchen and lounge, opposite the Geffrye Museum on the Kingsland Road - a hop and a skip away from flowers and fresh coffee on Columbia Road or the vivid colours and curry houses of Brick Lane.  

Kingsland Road - Image Courtesy of Google

Columbia Road Flower Market - Image Courtesy of Google

Brick Lane - Image Courtesy of Google

The DJ'ing still continued, infrequently, in dusty warehouses and clubs under railway bridges and on boats moored on the Thames. I attempted at promoting my own night, 'No Fishes For Missy', the first foray a success - I paid the guest DJ, I broke even on the door, just didn't have the energy for another, couldn't muster the patience to spend evenings dropping flyers around every bar in Shoreditch. Something inside was deliberating, changing. I began tiring of late nights and vinyl shopping. Clubbing lost its shine - the days of waiting in queues, head-over-heels excited at the night's line-up, felt like a drag - so many nights over so many years, it was like going to work, like the nine to five. I always thought I would DJ forever and forever, until arthritis froze my wrists, the very last record cued aged seventy-eight.

When I reached my thirty-third birthday, I'd had enough.

One cold January afternoon the flat on the Kingsland Road was broken into, record decks snatched again. Faced with bent bars on the security grill, the front door wide open - 'come, come in - take anything you want' - I simply sighed with defeat, a resigned shrug of the shoulders, knowing what I would discover on the other side. The mixer and a box of best-ever records had also disappeared, and strangely a bottle of perfume. On the laminate floor, a pair of audio cables lay coiled, smothered in exhumed dust on the spot where my equipment should have been. At least the three thousand records lining the living room walls remained, stoical  amidst trauma.

And then I knew, truly knew - life waving its large, bright red flag - that over a decade of DJ'ing had taken its final bow.

A week later I met Younger Dad.


So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. So do link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.

You can read my other once upon a time stories here.

Once Upon A Time

Grab the badge code ...

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Silent Sunday - Sniff!






The voting for the Britmums BIBS Awards closes on 12th May, that's today. I would love dearly to make the final six in Lifestyle. So please vote for Older Mum in a Muddle in this category. And if I don't make the finals - to be announced on 22nd May - then I just wanted to say how grateful I am if you took the time to vote for me. Tis all. X.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Here

"GOOD MORNING. MY NAME IS DARREN. I'M YOUR LOCAL POSTMAN."

Wow - I think - they didn't make them like that in W3.

The best you got was a grunt or a half glance.

But I like Darren's friendly introduction. Sunshine on my doorstep.

It's been fourteen days since we arrived laden with card board boxes, objets d'art swathed in bubble wrap, an intrepid Little A holding bunny in her hand, and even though I've suffered a bed confining cold, that there is still so much to sort through and unpack, I feel content.

The local welcomes, the warmth, has been quite disarming at times - 'Is this her first term?', 'when did you move in?', 'you're going to like living here, lots and lots of families'.....

I feel like a big kid, itching to explore, eager to find the short cuts, the quickest route to the Metropolitan Line station - 'Croxley Green' its sign shouts proudly, in bold, white letters.  


And so far I have uncovered three long, hedge lined passage ways that open onto a new crescent or behind Little A's pre-school. In London, I would've thought twice about walking down a deserted, enclosed path such as this, the barricading foliage not quite so inviting and green, crisp packets and over-chewed gum moulded on the tarmac. But it feels safer here. Much safer. And quiet. During the day, I spy the odd mother wheeling a buggy or a pensioner in walking boots. At night, the pavements feel bereft of footprints, and on the stroke of midnight all the street lamps switch off. Just like that. And it makes me think of a benevolent granny - the corners of her mouth up-turned, kindly - dressed in frilly night cap, and billowing gown, as she blows out the flame atop a tall, waxy candle in one strong puff.

If you were with me, we would saunter up the New Road, the road that houses all the must-have local amenities - the doctors, the library, the supermarket..... the undertakers. I would show you my favourite sign post, next to the library, one of those old signs that I love, that points you in every direction, that makes you dizzy from choice. Do you need the loo? Look it's sign posted right here....


Then I would take you to my favourite haunt - a tea and cake salon named Coco. Do you have your lap top with you? Great, because this is the perfect writing spot. I've officially christened Wednesday's 'Coco Day'. I'll inhabit my little table by the window and type away on my keypad with a hot chocolate or detox tea and large slab of cake, rounded off with a bowl of homemade soup and chunk of ciabatta at midday. It's the perfect place to loose myself in a tangle of thoughts and write lists and watch people go about their day.  


I know I have moved somewhere welcoming, where I already feel a part of the furniture, the sedate momentum of life. This is the kind of place where people move, stay rooted - our immediate neighbours have lived here over twenty five years. I hope one day Little A will look back on the place she grew up in with fond memories, remembering it as home. And we are still so close to London, only a forty minute dash from friends and museums and galleries and grand shopping plazas.

The other evening, I lay on my bed, the window open, a slight breeze brushing against my left cheek, and I realised I couldn't hear the hum of the 207 or the 607 on The Uxbridge Road, or the screech of sirens rushing towards another emergency, another arrest. Instead, my ears were treated to the undulating chorus of birdsong, so perfectly clear and uninterrupted - apart from the odd passing plane - by the drone of engines and drunken voices.

Then I smiled, picked up my book and read.


This is a very belated entry in the wonderful Tuesday linky, 'Where I live', by Michelle who blogs as The American Resident.

The American Resident


Amazingly, unbelievably, I have made the shortlist of the Britmums BIBS Awards under the category, Lifestyle. I am so ruddy grateful to everyone who voted for Older Mum in a Muddle. Now if you would like to see me in the Lifestyle final six, then please, please, please vote for me one final time. The champagne is on me if I make it this far...... (nominations close on 12th May)

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Welcome


Damn. The entire hob needs replacing - the back rings aren't safe, they're worn down like weathered fossils. The tiny electric shower head coats water like flour through a sieve, light and drizzly. Damp pock marks the pink wall in Little A's bedroom. Why hadn't we noticed this during the viewings? Today the sink flooded the kitchen floor. At the moment, I can hear the drip, dripping into the bucket underneath the piping.

When one rents, the property usually works.

When one buys, well, like a treasure hunt of errors, there are often lots of niggles to be found.

Welcome to our new home.

We wanted a project. And now we have one.

And I absolutely love living here.

At long last Little A has a garden. I can watch clothes floating like tethered kites on the line, drying in a mid afternoon breeze. It's such a novelty living in a house, not a flat. I walk upstairs to bed. I walk downstairs to breakfast. The kitchen is on the same floor as the living room - in our old flat, the kitchen had been carved into the attic space, casseroles made with wide views of tiles and chimneys from the small roof window.


The move. Sweat and dust, lots of dust. The men in blue t-shirts arrived at 9.00 am, climbing stairs, carrying boxes, a line of worker ants. In a matter of hours they were done, their lorry filled with the complete history of our family of three. Then, potential disaster, "Mummy, mummy, I can't find Peso." Peso is Little A's rabbit, her favourite teddy. "Don't worry, he'll be in a box somewhere." "But mummy, I want him NOOOOW." Think. Think. Think. Solution. Fast. Younger Dad doesn't like my idea, but it's the best option. On our way to our new home, I take a detour into Chiswick, to a toy shop on Turnham Green, a shop with an entire row of Peso's. "Oh s'ankyou mummy, I'm going to call this one Pinto." Now she's a happy bunny for the forty minute trip up the M40 and beyond.

The first evening Little A's bedroom is assembled, our bed made, old curtains loosely hung over the bay window rails. Peso is recovered from a card box box marked essentials. We eat fish and chips soaked in ketch-up out of the paper. We share a thick melting chocolate ice cream in the back garden. A swig of cool beer straight from the bottle tastes so good.

In bed that night, something irks Younger Dad, like an itch on the ball of a well socked foot tightly laced in a walking boot. "You've got to be kidding me... why hadn't this come up on my research... this is totally doing my head in." The echoing neeeeeoooooows are unmistakable. We have moved under the flight path of airborne traffic headed north east of Heathrow. It just so happens tonight is particularly busy, a neeeeeoooooow every five minutes. "Stop laughing would you....." I think it's hilarious, a home from home, a reminder of our life in West London.


The kitchen is unpacked. The living space made homely by a few choice paintings, the all important mantel piece looks inviting - the 'welcome' cards, the wedding present by my best friend, H, taking centre stage. We have shifted the many remaining boxes against a wall in the lounge - there are big plans afoot, projects that are likely to begin this year - an extension, maybe a double, at the rear, a master bedroom in the loft.

Of course there are repairs that need immediate attention, but we are living and breathing and functioning in our wonderful new home. And the best part is that Little A is settled and happy - she's really enjoying her new preschool, her new friends. She sculpts faces, makes puzzles out of the tawny pebbles covering the patio and pathway areas of the garden. She glides up and down the laminate flooring on her scooter. She looks forward to play dates with her little cousins, a five minute walk away.....

I think we are going to be here for a long, long time.  


Amazingly, unbelievably, I have made the shortlist of the Britmums BIBS Awards under the category, Lifestyle. I am so ruddy grateful to everyone who voted for Older Mum in a Muddle. Now if you would like to see me in the Lifestyle final six, then please, please, please vote for me one final time. The champagne is on me if I make it this far...... (nominations close on 12th May)

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Marbles

I turn left onto Loudwater Lane. The road takes Little A and I down a hill. It's subtly steep - if I were to roll a palm full of marbles they would begin to bounce like hail stones half way down. My right trainer hovers cautiously over the brake pedal, 35 mph seems like a reasonable speed. It's one of those roads, where in the height of mid summer, the branches form a canopy - leaves stroking, tangling, shaking hands - like the tunnel of arms a just-married couple might walk under, confetti billowing around the limb-made arch. We drive slowly past a sign on a gate post that Little A insists on acknowledging every time we take this route. The colours seem quite out of place amongst the spring-fresh greens. It's a bright sign of Winnie the Pooh.

The car treads slowly around blind corners, on occasion just missing contact with larger vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. The road finally opens out, hugged by green fields, late cheery daffodils, the odd mansion-like house fit for a footballer's wallet.

It's 3 pm on a warm Thursday afternoon. We are on the final leg of the journey to our new home.

Little A has been in thought for a while, and then, in contrast to the burgeoning life around us, she makes three heart stopping statements...

"Mummy, if you die, it will just be me and Daddy."

"And then if Daddy dies, it will just be Mummy and me"

"And then if Mummy and Daddy die, I will be all on my own." 

Inwardly, I weep and weep for her well thought logic. The penny dropping. #Thefactsoflife.

"Sweet heart. Don't worry. Mummy and Daddy are going to be around for a long time yet. We will still be here when you are all grown up. And there's granny and grandma and aunties and uncles and all your cousins and friends."

"When I'm all growed up? Oh good." 

Oh God. When she turns 40, I will be 80. Deep, deep sighs.

In all likelihood, Little A isn't going to get that extra brother or that extra sister.

Oh I do get so, so broody when I see a bundle of pink or blue or yellow or green. I do have fantasies of breastfeeding on the sofa, of handing Little A the latest addition to our family - though this will probably be a puppy or kitten or gerbil or a ladybird in a matchbox.

I turn 43 the end of this year...

...This is my cut off point - mentally and emotionally - for conceiving another child.

But there's more to it than my physical age. I know, my cells know, that I can't risk a repeat of the last performance - a traumatic birth, post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression - a drama that still continues to play itself out. I am now pretty certain, just in need of medical validation, that I'm daily walking over the hot coals of general anxiety disorder, GAD for short. I panic like it's another cup of tea. I've had talking therapy, specific trauma focused therapy, I'm taking medication, even raised the dose of Citalopram during the house move. But still the invasive thoughts come - awful visions of Little A in a pick and mix of macabre deaths - crashing like waves at midnight. I think it's high time for anti-anxiety relief now. This has to stop. Did you know that I am a trained mental health professional? I like to think I know what I'm doing, that I understand myself. One thing I am fully sure of, is my brain chemistry is totally out of whack. Damn you progesterone. Damn you cortisol. Damn you adrenaline. I'm like an air traffic controller, on 24/7 vigilance, fight or flight every hour.

I've thought and felt about it all long and hard. I feel like one of those marbles rolling down the hill - I know the right course, I do, though I keep vacillating between "I want another one" to "Don't be a daft idiot, there's too much at stake". Little A and Younger Dad will be far, far better off with a mother and wife who is happy and functioning, not treading water, not balancing on nails, not stressing over every open window, every passing car. I never used to be like this....

And then there is the accompanying guilt and shame. I feel less than, under par as a woman and mother, that I am too weak, too ridiculous to have another one. I look at other mothers, those who have two or three or more - they are strong, they manage, are beacons of femininity, of mother hood. Yes, I harbour feelings of envy, of incompetence. Why did I get the faulty brain?

But I do know these self depreciating thoughts are nonsense, just can't quell them with a baby-soft blanket. The decision I am making, the one I am in grief over, is the right one for me and my family. And I know, I hope, that Little A is going to be okay - she is confident, social, so emotionally switched-on. I think the right thing to do is ask her whether she wants another sibling, or if she wants mummy and daddy all to herself. And to explain to her why mummy can't, that's it's not her, it's me, and that she is loved - always, always will be - by us, by her grand parents, by the rest of her extended family.

About six weeks ago or so, I shared a lovely evening with a very insightful friend over medium-rare steak and frites. I explained my dilemma, and she thoughtfully asked me the following questions...

"If I told you, you could never have another child how would you feel?" 

I sighed. I shrugged. Nothing dramatic.

"If I told you, you could never ever write again, how would that make you feel?"

A shocked gasp. Mouth open. Goose bumps.

You see, my intuition knows what's best for me. I'm not selfless, wouldn't pretend to be. I'm selfish, have my needs, one's that I need to fulfill, now, before I kiss fifty. I will be a better mother this way.

Now, could you pass me a tissue? I need to wipe the tears off my keypad.

This post was inspired by a wonderful guest post by Grenglish on Dorkymum.


Amazingly, unbelievably, I have made the shortlist of the Britmums BIBS Awards under the category, Lifestyle. I am so ruddy grateful to everyone who voted for Older Mum in a Muddle. Now if you would like to see me in the Lifestyle final six, then please, please, please vote for me one final time. The champagne is on me if I make it this far...... (nominations close on 12th May)

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