Meandering reflections

When all is quiet in my house I feel strangely removed.  It’s like I have gone back in time to a life before I got married and had kids, a life where I lived alone and did what I wanted when I wanted.  I always treasure these brief moments alone, where no one can ask me questions, no nappies to change, no one can drag me off to do a jigsaw puzzle or, the proper heart-sinker, painting (if you haven’t experienced the mess this can cause then you will think I”m a miserable old cow).

I always think I want more sleep, more time to rest in oblivion.  But it’s times like this, when my toddler and her Daddy have gone swimming and my baby is asleep that I realise sometimes all I need is a bit of time to myself, to have a cup of tea, consider the world and just look out of the window.  Oh and of course drop a blog.

I am so happy that we moved.  I miss some aspects of London, my local Mummy friends mainly.  But they have come to visit us here, and what I get in return is so much more.

We drove down to Brighton on Friday.  Completely spontaneous, which with two small children is not often a word I’ll use in relation to my daily life.  But my husband was about and we thought why the hell not. It was a beautiful sunny day, we played on the beach, had fish and chips, got hit on the head a couple times by stray volley balls (me not the kids thankfully), and my husband the hero rescued a Jack Russell puppy from a pitball.  As you do on a day out in Brighton.

Aside from that little episode, it was invigorating to be somewhere so busy, Brighton has a ‘vibe’ you can’t quite put your finger on.  But it worked for us on Friday. And nothing beats hearing your children laugh.

Then yesterday when he was off doing man things (football related clearly), I went to a beautiful National Trust house with my Dad and Stepmother.  The toddler adores her Grandpa.  He’s always been a brilliant father, but now he’s being a truly wonderful Grandpa (although he has become known as Grandpa Pig, for his ability to always have the right tool to get the job done, and yes this does make my husband Daddy Pig, for his ability to never have the right tool to get the job done).

We went back to their house for lunch,  and then the toddler had fun playing with toy tractors and a one-armed plastic farmer and other farming paraphenalia in the vegetable garden.  And no my Dad’s not a farmer, he was a Dentist, but he has an amazing collection of miniature farm buildings he built himself and tractors and so on that we all used to play with as children (three girls, no dollies for us, give us a tractor any day).

The point is if we still lived in London these two wonderful days would not have been so easy.  It would have been a proper military organisation job.  It would have involved synchronising sleeps and meal times and all that.  It would, invariably, have involved arguments.

But as it happens we had two perfect days.  The girls really had fun.  The baby is starting to make her preferences known, and it’s the most wonderful thing to see the two of them play together.

The baby absolutely adores her big sister, she smiles broadly whenever she cuddles her.  I must try to capture some of this on film, it’s something I so want to remember. (My Iphone is currently out of action after I dropped it so am awaiting it’s replacement anxiously)

Anyway the baby is stirring.  I’ve had my cup of tea, time of quiet reflection and written it all down.  I hope you don’t mind me sharing it all with you.

Little Film Club link still live below.

Categories: Brighton, dad, National Trust, reflection, Toddler and baby | Leave a comment

Who will watch me on my Scooter?

I know you want to see him darling, and I do too, but he’s had to go on a wonderful, exciting journey. 

He’ll be thinking of you the whole time; how much he loves you, what a brave boy you are, how fast you are on your scooter now.  He’ll be thinking about how well you are talking now, how kind you are and how you always share your favourite toys with your friends.  He’ll be thinking about you when you eat your breakfast, when we go to nursery, when you’re watching Thomas.  And he’ll be there when I tuck you in at night and read you a story.

When I’ve kissed you goodnight and told you I love you, he’ll be there up high in the sky looking through your window and making sure you have exciting dreams.  He’ll be sitting on the closest star, shining brightly at you and smiling.

No you won’t be able to see him darling.  That’s because he’s going to be spending most of his time on his journey.  He’ll be very safe though, as he’s on his way to a wonderful place called Heaven.  You can’t visit him there, but every time you think about him he’ll be with you, beside you, loving you. 

I know you want to play football with him and show him how good you are on your scooter, and I know you want to give him a big cuddle.  He’d love that too.  But because he can’t be here like he used to be, you’d better watch out because I’m a pretty good footballer myself.

Mummy might be a bit sad at the moment, but you and your baby sister are the most special, most important people in my life.  I love you both more than anything and you make me very happy and very proud.   You make your Daddy proud too and I know you’re going to be the best big brother in the world and we’re going to be a very happy family.

This was inspired by Josie’s Writing Workshop prompt: 3. What a story or a poem or something descriptive to try and share your view of what happens when we die. Perhaps you could write it as a way of explaining a hard concept to your children?

It was also inspired by a very good friend who tragically lost her husband recently.

Categories: Concept of death to children, heaven | 6 Comments

Today I feel like crying

I’m okay for a while, I tick along, doing my thing, being a mum, being a wife, keeping my career on track.  Then one day, like today, I just can’t do it any more.  One 5.30am start too many.  One nightmare at bedtime too far that tips me over the edge of my sanity.  It tears at my very soul to see my daughter crying for her mummy, I can’t just leave her, but in going to her I know I’m ‘making a rod for my own back’ as the books say. 

The pressure to be all things to all people is just too much for me sometimes.  I can’t be with my children all day, I can’t reassure my toddler that it’s okay Mummy’s here, because as soon as the Nanny arrives I won’t be.  I’ll be out the door, jumping on the train and coming into my other life.

I can’t say to my husband ‘do you know what, just give me a fucking break today, can’t you just get up with the children, please.  Can’t you just find a way of keeping them occupied while I try and have a shower.  ALONE? ‘  Because that would be unkind and unfair and he doesn’t deserve that.  But I’m a monster without enough sleep.  I really don’t adapt well to it like so many others.

If my 25 year old self were to look at me now, she’d be amazed by what I had achieved.  But she’d also be saying to me ‘Take a break Holly, give yourself some credit for what you do’.  The truth is though I have no inner-life coach.  I have no one to tell me that.  And actually what I’m doing is not at all amazing really.  There are plenty of working mothers out there.  Many of whom struggle with other issues too, more children, sick children, children with challenges.  My life is very easy really.

And most of time it’s all good.  I can get through life with a smile, thanking my lucky stars for the great gifts I’ve been given in the form of my two beautiful daughters.  But some days the pressure mounts too high.  I think I’ll scream.  I think I’ll just walk out of here and keep on walking.  Like that character in that Anne Tyler novel.  I’ll just leave and keep going, turn up somewhere coastal in a few weeks, with a broken pair of heels and a bad hair do.

I did try that once (the leaving, not the heels and hair). When my toddler was about 3 months old and I thought I couldn’t cope with the crying, the sleep deprivation, the very life of being a mother anymore.  I packed a small bag and waited at the bottom of the stairs for my husband to come home.  The baby cried upstairs and I drowned out the noise with the thoughts in my head.   They were evil buggers at that time.  Properly nasty little sods that would invade my head whenever I stopped moving.   He came home and hugged me and told me it would be okay, then he went and did the same with the baby.  He saved all of us that night.  He was perfect.  Life went on and it was wonderful.  But that fear lurks somewhere in the back on my mind and doesn’t go away.

Maybe after the pressure releases (primeval shouting therapy perhaps?) I’ll get my equilibrium back.  Maybe a good night’s sleep will put perspective on this and I’ll read this again tomorrow and hang my red face in shame that I’ve shared such personal thoughts with the world (who am I kidding, I think about 10 people might read this and that’s probably an exageration).  At any rate I hope I’ll do that.  Because reading this with a degree of embarrasment will mean I feel better. 

So thanks again Josie for giving me the prompt to bear my soul.  The prompt was ‘What is putting you under pressure today?’

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In search of the Black Hill

In response to Josie at Sleep for the Weak’s excellent writing workshop prompt:   Introduce us to a book that changed your life.

On the Black Hill, Bruce Chatwin

You could say this book changed my life, but more than that it gave me a wonderful set of lasting happy memories at a time in my life when they were few and far between.

Bruce Chatwin wrote a beautiful and deeply moving story of a pair of twins living in Wales early in the last century. The twins were born to a refined mother who had eschewed her parents’ choices and married ‘beneath’ her. She married a farmer who bought a farm called ‘The Vision’ in the black hills.

The story followed her rather tragic and hard life, married to a rather emotionally inept man. But her great joy was her beautiful boys. She dies young and thereafter we follow the boys in their journey to become men in a very sheltered life on their hill. There is a modest cast of characters, all of whom generate a sense of sadness and despair but at times the descriptions can be light and even funny.

Suffice it to say, I adored this book. I read for my GCSE and became completely obsessed with it.

Those of you who follow my blog will know my father is an avid cyclist. He is also an avid explorer of the countryside. It didn’t take much to persuade him to help me find the Black Hill. We knew that Chatwin had based it on a real place the ‘Red Hill’.

So one weekend my father, my father’s cousin and my cousin all set off to find the place that had occupied my head for so long. The excitement I felt was immense. When you know the characters so well, and have lived their story (albeit fiction) with them the idea you might find anything connected to them is extraordinary.

We set off on our bikes; I seem to recall going on strike at one point since I hadn’t really appreciated the fact we were cycling in the black hills, and it was well hilly to say the least.

Once I got over myself, I got my sense of humour back and continued. I was most probably bribed with chocolate or a sticky bun (some things have been there all along).

My Dad and I couldn’t quite believe it when, whilst having a well earned drink at a local pub, we looked on the OS map and actually saw The Vision marked there. We were so near. In fact a quick wander around the graveyard in the hamlet we had arrived at showed us some of the names of some of the characters in the book. Could this really be where Chatwin had come and been inspired? Could he have sat in this very pub and pondered his first novel?

Jumping back on our bikes we cycled across a muddy field and came upon an elderly farmer. Being soft Southerners his accent was hard to grasp but it transpired he had a brother….not only that but he recalled meeting a ‘young blonde man’ who had talked to him about his farm and mentioned ‘something about a book’.

I still remember that feeling. To you it may not sound like much; finding an old farmer in a muddy field in Wales. But to my Dad and I it was perfect. Here he was. One half of the twins described so beautifully by Chatwin. We were standing on the land of The Vision. We were in the place we had looked for.

At the time I was sixteen or so. My mother was ill with cancer, my life was changing fast. My father and I have always been close, but this trip hopefully showed him that a sixteen year old girl normally more concerned about her friends and the latest band in the Hit Parade was still able to find true enjoyment and beauty in the things he loved too.

To this day I remember that trip with such fondness. The time my Dad and I became obsessed with a book to the point where we sought out it’s birthplace. I remember the laughs we had, the hills we climbed, the awe we felt.

I still love exploring the countryside on my bike, and soon when my second baby is old enough we’ll all be going out again discovering new places and seeking out old ones.

Sadly Bruce Chatwin died not long after he wrote that book, his first and only novel. I was very sad at the time. I’m sure he could have given the world some truly beautiful literature.

Categories: Bruce Chatwin, cycling, dad, GCSEs, On the black hill | 6 Comments

Inspired by Josie’s Writing Workshop, here’s a short post about

Tell me about a childhood passion that somehow got left behind as you moved into your adult life.

Decoupage, collage, scrapbooking, chucking a load of random but pretty things together. This is what I used to love as a child. It was fun, creative and exciting. I used to spend hours cutting up my sisters’ magazines, stealing my mother’s copies of Vogue for pictures of weird, wonderful, beautiful things.

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I want to be like you

I want to be thinner
I want to be prettier
I want to be cleverer
I want to be like you

I want to have nicer hands
I want to have nicer hair
I want to have a better brain
I want to be more than I am

I want a big house
I want lots of cash
I want lots of stuff
I want I want I want

But you don’t have my girls
You don’t have my husband
You don’t have my life
And if you knew me
You’d have envy.

This is a poem I have written to all those people I have ever wanted to be like, all those people who might have made me feel less than I really am. All those people who are probably lovely, but just make me feel a teensy bit crap.

This was in response to the Judith’s Room theme week. This week’s theme was Envy.

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The truth about me

I thought about writing to Josie’s prompt “What are the voices in your head saying today” but to be honest I don’t think I’m ready to share that. My blog is very personal and very honest but I stop short of giving you verbatim what is actually going on in this head of mine. If you knew you might decide to stop reading me, if you knew you might realize I’m just some huge great fraud. If you knew you’d see how frail and pathetic I really am. You’d see my flaws, you’d see my fears, you’d see my failings. You might judge me, might hate me, might see me in the flesh.

I tell you the truth here, I speak my mind, I am real, I am honest. But you get the filtered version, the edited highlights, the spin. I can’t tell you about my fears about my children, I can’t tell you about my worry I will die young, I can’t say how much I love them it scares me, because if I do I will realize it is real and I will be too scared to continue.

The voices in my head are not generally my friends. I have worked hard to like them to make them like me, but in reality they are brutal. They don’t care so much about feelings, they don’t care so much about hurting me. They tell it like it is and it’s all I can do to shut them up and sing loudly enough to drown them out.

The voices in my head are not friends, they tell the truth and mostly that’s not what I want to hear.

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The journey was fun, I won’t deny it
But really, it took so much searching
I knew you were out there waiting for me
I just had to keep on looking

I tried in many places, all wrong of course
The good, the bad, the nasty
I cried, I smiled, I gave up a bit
I took to my work, it helped me.

I’ve always been one to make the first move
No point in hanging around
So you had no choice quite frankly
You were the fox and I was the hound

And now here we are, with our two lovely girls
We’re happy in our little family
You keep me going, you make me strong
And you know what? I’m really happy.

So thankyou for being the one that I found
Thankyou for all that you do
Thankyou for making our girls laugh
Thankyou for being you.

Ok so it’s pretty light on the details, but it sort of sums up (in a very abbreviated way) my journey to meeting him indoors. I had to kiss my fair share of frogs – you don’t want to get it wrong do you? Our relationship isn’t perfect (does that actually exist?) but it works for us and he’s put up with me through some wonderful ups and some serious downs. He doesn’t get enough thanks from me, as there’s always something else to think about. So for just one moment I’m saying thankyou, for everything you do.

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The Birthday.

Here’s another entry courtesy of Josie’s writing workshop. The prompt is:

1. What do you seem unable to learn or remember, no matter how hard you try?

My best friend’s birthday. I know it’s coming up soon. I know it’s in January. She’s aquarius. I have known her since school, she has been there for me through thick and thin. The death of my mother, the subsequent depression, the strange and rather lost teenage years. Moving to town, getting a job, failed relationships, then finally marriage, pregnancy and birth.

She has listened, encouraged, supported and loved me for 24 years.

She has laughed with me, cried with me, drank with me, eaten mountains of chocolate with me. She is my third sister and yet still I can never remember the date. I have a vague niggle that it’s now, today even, and yet I can’t possibly ask her. How could I forget it. Something so fundamental.

Both her parents died two years ago. Within one month of each other. She kept it all going, she was grieving, she was broken but she never retreated away from her friends. She kept her role as supporter, helper and best friend.

She still listened to me and my small problems. She still made me cups of tea while I bemoaned being pregnant, the sickness, the tiredness, the hormones. She had her own two children to look after, they had lost their grandparents. She kept them safe and happy.

She really is quite remarkable. So what kind of friend am I. I rely on her for so much, and yet this one thing, this pretty important thing really, I can’t remember.

Soon I will have to phone a friend, it’s my annual call and she’ll be expecting it. Then I’ll have got away with it for another year.

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Finding you

I expected to love you with all my heart
I imagined that great wave to hit me
I cried when they put you in my arms
You were here and I was a mummy.

Don’t worry it’s normal everyone said
You’re tired, exhausted please rest
She needs you more than anyone else
Keep going it’s for the best

I waited for that feeling to come
I fed and bathed and clothed you
I hid behind the new mum fog
But it felt all wrong. Where were you?

Then one day as I struggled to function
The lights went on in my head
I looked at you and was overwhelmed
I loved you, just like they’d all said.

While I’m being so honest with myself about my feelings, here’s a small offering in recognition of the hard time I had after my first daughter’s birth. It took a while, but when it came the love was wonderful and it grows every day.

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