Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The time just flies

Wow, it's been years since I last wrote here. if you asked me, I would have said I took a few months off. They were very long months...

Since my last post:
The lovely poet passed away, though she lives on in memory and inspiration and in so many hearts.

We are on rat number 5 or 6, Ollie. He is a darling. He is also our last for a while.
The ancient dog lives on, with the addition of nappies.

Why I was drawn back:
The thing that brought me back here is an illness that took hold first of my husband, then of me, almost a year ago. It has been his first serious bout with the black dog that is depression. It's not my first go round, not even my worst, but it's been pretty awful.

I've been sharing some of what I go through on Facebook for two reasons: It's an illness that many are embarrassed to speak about, sufferers and non-sufferers alike. It's invisible, so many still don't think it exists. It can leave its sufferers powerless to help themselves, so some surmise that only weak people get it.

On top of that, it's a nasty, confidence-corroding illness that tells the sufferer that they are a failure, and not worth listening to. That they are weak - and in its most insidious moments, that those around them would be better off without them. That they shouldn't burden others with their suffering because they'll only hurt them, alienate them, and piss them off.
And that...that is how we lose people to it.

Bummer, huh? But it's not all doom and gloom.
No, really.
I laugh, I joke, I fall foul of gravity and inanimate objects. Often.
Sometimes I get smothered by a howling despair so empty and awful that I don't think I can bear it for even one more minute.
And then I prove that weakness fallacy is a myth, as I pull my ass back out of the depths and find something to laugh at again. Frequently myself, because I can be hopelessly, hysterically hapless at the best of times, never mind the worst.

I wanted to send postcards from this place. I wanted people to know they could talk about it to me, and that they should talk about it with their friends or family, or with others who are going through it. I wanted to dispel some of the mystery and push away the fog of shame. Because this is an illness. Just an illness.

But Facebook is snapshots and quick posts, and this is a subject that sometimes needs a little more than that. So here I am, back again.
I pretty much pinky promise it won't be all misery and darkness. That would be tedious for all concerned, and no-one would ever come back for more. Besides, I'm a bit like Dory, so the randomness will always rule. It's just that there's a new facet to this blog, now.

So yep, see ya again soon

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Words, webs and weavings

"Oh, here we are, the waiting unknown..."*

Wow, what a long and busy few weeks. So much has happened, it's hard to know where to start.
I have been writing like a possessed thing - just not here, much to my disgust. 

What's been on my much that my head is overflowing and my thoughts keep getting tangled up and lost. A few strands stand out amongst the muddle...

A wonderful woman I know, a poet and one of those rare people who surrounds you with warmth and inspiration when you're near her, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. It seems so vastly unfair that such a thing should happen to someone with a head so full of wonderful words and a heart so full of generosity. If wishes were words, this page would be full, just for her. 

The local spiders have been busy. I wonder if they look at their webs of a morning and congratulate themselves on a great work of art completed, or if they just think, 'right then, that's dinner sorted.'

Sadly, my uncle passed away a few weeks ago, and distance reared its ugly head once more - the impossibility of wrapping grieving loved ones in your arms and telling them how sorry you are is a sharp reminder of your position in the world; in more ways than one. 

Our hamster also died, and while it might seem like bathos to mention it here, it was a deep and sorrowful tragedy to my children, for whom it was the first ever taste of death, and who grieved it ferociously for 24 hours. 
It also brought up some interesting quandaries for us, non-religious parents that we are. I was unwilling to suggest to them that their hamster was in heaven; on the other hand, they are taught religious worship at school, and if the older one chose to find comfort there, I wouldn't have dreamed of squashing his beliefs. After the short, tearful funeral, a chimney cap that closely resembles a mushroom was placed above the grave to deter foxes digging up the hamster-laden chocolate box. There has been no mention of heaven, but it is now a fully established belief amongst the children that the hamster lives on in the mushroom. It's my duty to look out the window every night and check that mushroom and inhabitant are still 'okay'. Comfort is a funny old thing, and perhaps our minds will offer it up in any shape that makes sense to us at that moment.

Next on our giant and neverending list of to-dos we have a birthday party, two new family members in the shape of pet rats - sorry, Cysgu the hamster, a child's love can be fickle - and, well, many more random acts of being, I guess...

*Green Day

Friday, 30 March 2012


Are you a panic buyer? Well, stop it. You are the root of the problem. Take what you need, and no more. It's a good philosophy. Besides, 'they' are playing you like a finely tuned violin. Chill.
This public service announcement includes but is not confined to rumours of possible strikes and unexpected snowfalls.

Part of my problem with panic buying is the sheer inconsiderate, greedy, me, me, me  brain pattern people seem to fall into. And inconsiderate behaviour is a big bug bear of mine. Wouldn't we all get by much better if we considered people other than ourselves more often? I bumble about my life, often deep in thought, often chivvying children like a duck leading ducklings, but while I'm no saint (far, so very far from it), I sincerely do try to consider others even in my confused and chaotic meanderings. From simply making way for that other person walking up the pavement, to not ever parking on school and pedestrian crossing zigzags, or in disabled bays or parent and child parking spaces when the kids aren't in the car. I hoik my kids out of the path of other people, and clean up after my dog. Why, really, just why wouldn't you do these things? I don't understand. And thinking about the number of people I see blithely not giving a flying fig about the people around them winds me into a frothing rage. Of course, my neighbour would clear his throat and remind me that we had a bonfire while their washing was out last year, and sometimes park in an annoying manner, so I have to add the caveat that we all have our moments. But really. Tsk.

Does anyone else have huge, glaring problems in their houses that they walk over, around, or past, and never get around to fixing? A floor board in our kitchen has rotted into oblivion, turning the laminate floor above it into a kind of bouncy trampoline affair. Seeing as our kitchen floor is only about 6' x 6', and there is probably a crawl space under there that we could become unexpectedly intimate with, you'd think we'd put aside the time to deal with it. Nope. I step around it and occasionally boing over it, and think 'I really must do something about that.' Two months on, it's still there...I comfort myself by assuming this is normal.

My son did really well at his parents' evening, by the way. In the end three of us turned up to pump his teacher for information. He's well ahead in everything, and I didn't get in trouble for the lack of homework. Just as well, because while we did some last week, I don't think we've handed any in for the entire term. I wonder what my kids will say about my parenting style when they're older: well meaning but absent minded, I'm guessing.

Car boot sale season is on us once again. Hooray! For the Americans out there, this is when people fill their car trunks with loads of stuff they no longer have a use for, drive to a large field at a truly ungodly hour of the morning, open the trunk, and let other people paw through the stuff they've brought. Things sell for less than a fiver usually, so it's bargaintastic. We love car boots, though we're so lazy and disorganised we usually land a good two hours after opening (at least) and have to make do with the left overs. But the kids can come home with five or six new to them toys for a measly £1, so when they've been pestering for something new, what's not to like? Plus the books - oh, the books. So many books...
And on the subject of books I shall leave you, smiling contentedly.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Celebratory happenings

It's all about birthdays in my household at the moment. I just had one, and was fed a fabulous breakfast of pain au chocolat and chocolate chip brioche, given lots of baking goodies, bought a trampoline, and  - what? I know, it wasn't for me - surrounded myself with my best friends, who treated me like someone completely and utterly special, which reminded me how lucky I am to have them #proudtobeoneoftheseven

At the end of next month it is my son's turn (he'll be 7!) and his thoughts have already turned to massive Nerf gun battles with his guests and what shape his cake should be. His Dad and I are struggling with the perennial question of how many of his mates we allow over, and what is a reasonable amount to pay for party favours. Happily, we have a large garden which deals well with having children thrown at it, so there will be no soft play/ laser battle/ fast food joint price per head for us.

His Dad follows the month after with the big 40, and he, too, will be expected to fill the garden with his mates, probably have Nerf gun battles, and possibly even want a humorously shaped cake. We shall see.

We also have another #proudtobeoneoftheseven wedding this year  - it was the civil partnership of the century last year, also in our garden - although these friends have chosen a different venue for their celebrations. Probably for the best, because the licensing authorities may be after me soon for all these events...

We also celebrated the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus last week by breaking out the bin-able binoculars and tipsy telescope and failing to see anything clearly except by the naked eye. My kids could not get their heads around the fact that they were seeing actual planets, not just stars. Their wonder (the 6 year old) and bemusement (the 3 year old) made our evening, and they spent ages staring up into space. Thank goodness for another #oneoftheseven who loves astronomy and keeps abreast of these things (pictured above) or I would never have known it was there to be seen.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Stuffed squirrels in kilts, and the joys of having 7 parents

I went out for an actual night on the town on Saturday, including a pub, a restaurant, a bar and a nightclub - a hat trick! It might be as much as a decade since I last did such a thing. It was a huge giggle, and we were badly behaved, disreputable, and silly. It was a mum's night out, and some couples somewhere in this city may never have children after the restaurant conversation, across a table of 8 and fueled by wine, about childbirth and incontinence.
What is it about mums that when we get together in groups we want to relive the absolute worst parts of having children?
Strangest sight of the evening: In the first pub, in a glass case on a high shelf, was a squirrel that had been stuffed with a bottle of wine (why?!) and then dressed in a kilt (Why, oh, why?!). One of our group, resplendent in unfeasibly high heels, climbed up on the bar and took a photo, because we couldn't believe that's what it was. It was, as you can see. Any comments explaining this bizarrity gratefully received.

Tomorrow is parents' evening, and there is a possibility that my son's teacher will be facing not one, not two, but three and possibly four parents across the table all at once. I feel sorry for him already - he's a lovely guy. But it's great to have back up. I've alluded to this before, and one day, I will explain it. Meanwhile, imagine your least favourite teacher popping out to invite you in for that dreaded chat and being faced with seven parents all in a row. As one of them put it: #proudtobeoneoftheseven
I'm pretty sure I'm going to be in trouble (we're going to be in trouble), because I don't insist on homework. I do have a problem with children who are so young being given homework (he's 6). I'm also exhausted at the end of the day and feel like making the same faces he does when I suggest it. At least two of his other parents have said they didn't get homework until they were 12. I'm pretty sure I did, and I know I hated it with a passion. We're all university graduates. I think that proves something, but I'm not sure how helpful it is.

Today I am worked up about the Texas laws on abortion. Remember what I said about there being no place for religion in government? Proof positive. I'm right behind Mr Trudeau here, and the 'state rape' has me horrified: and that's all I'm going to say on the subject (for now)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Random thoughts caused by American politics

If uninformed comment on foreign politics leaves you cold, kick back and admire this beautiful amaryllis that's blooming on my kitchen windowsill instead of venturing any further.

Of course, we have our own political problems over here, but I have two reasons for taking a dismayed and wavering interest in American politics: the first is that I have family who are directly impacted, seeing as they live there; the second is that for better or worse, the teenager on the world stage that is America, holds a scary amount of influence across the world, and it helps to keep an eye on that kind of power.

The problem is, I can't give it enough mind space to really get my head around it. It's far too negative, and I struggle to find anything amongst it all I can get behind. This is probably because one thing I do feel quite strongly about, is that you should not vote in a political party that bases its campaigns on hatred and intolerance. And, er, hatred and intolerance seem to be everywhere in American politics. Maybe I'm not being fair, maybe that's just what we hear about over here because it makes good, salacious news. I dearly hope so, because frankly I'm left cold by the negative and nasty campaigning we hear about. How can you be expected to pick anyone you'd want to rule your country out of that writhing mess of negativity?

I don't think religion has a place in politics, and another thing that dismays me about America is the ugly face of religious intolerance in American politics. And it is a very ugly face. Misogynistic, too. At best it provides an insidious distraction from real political issues; at worst, it could actually end up informing legislation to the detriment of the populace. Doomful.
I heard an opinion the other week, just a passing snippet on the wind, no idea where from, but the gist of it was this: that America was not founded by people who wanted freedom from religious intolerance so much as by people looking for the freedom to practise their own religious intolerance. It's possibly a bit harsh. On the other hand it could explain a few hangovers that seem to exist to this day.

Take all of this with a pinch of salt. I mostly exercise myself over politics over here, that directly affect me. What American politics I hear about seem rife with the problems above, but it has all been embellished on its way to my computer, tv and radio by hungry journalists eager for a story at any cost. It's just a pity it's such a turn off.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Seat-of-the-pants Parenting

Today in the school playground while waiting for my son to escape the clutches of the educators (he actually has the best teacher ever, luckily), I was watching the other parents, the way we all do. Don't fib, you do. And you sometimes tsk to yourself in disgust at a poor show, and sometimes stand in awe at pure parenting skill in practise. If you're clever, you don't pass comment on the former, because the Law of Sod guarantees you a massive public parenting faux pas of your own shortly after.
I'm intrigued by other parents, and how they get through it all. There are as many ways to parent, it seems to me, as there are parents to do it.

I've decided I'm kind of a seat-of-the-pants parent. I read all of the parenting books I could bear while my first child was swimming around the womb. That wasn't an exhaustive list - I don't take well to lecturing and hard and fast rules, so that crossed a whole load of prescriptive parenting books off the list for a start. After the first birth, I occasionally consulted What to Expect in the First Year and Toddler Taming...and that's about it. I have a few others I bought in enthusiastic or terrified moments, but I've never read more than a few pages of any of them.

Of course, I have a plan: to finish with the same number with which I started (two) and for them to grow into happy, confident adults their dad and I are proud of. After that, it's all a bit hazy.

I also have rules, although as I've never written them down, they're a bit ad hoc, made up as we go along. They include: look at people when they speak to you; always say please and thank you; do it now because I said so and we can discuss why later; bedtime is religiously 7.30 unless I decide differently or you choose to debate with me, in which case earlier works just as well for me; no, you do not need to eat everything on your plate, but yes, you will try at least a few forkfuls of everything; treat other people with respect, and in the way in which you would like to be treated.  And discipline boils down to 3 straight chances followed by a time out. No imagination required for either of us.

There are rules for me too: I try only to yell rarely and for effect, because if I'm yelling for real, I've lost control, and if I've lost control, that means two young children must have it, and that ain't gonna happen on my watch. Besides, it's far more fun to see their faces when you you do yell if they're not used to it. And I've had to learn that you don't ever, ever, ever threaten anything you aren't willing to carry out; because by dog, if you've said that's going to be a consequence, it damn well better be exactly that, or next time they will remember - oh, they will - that you don't have the balls to actually carry out your threats. And as soon as they think that, it's game over. You learn fast not to say things like 'we're going to turn around and go home if you don't behave' if you're actually headed somewhere you were going to enjoy, like a cake shop...

And that's it. I think I'm doing okay, probably as much down to the great raw materials I've got to work with (lovely kids) as to my awesome skills. I rarely get to the actual time out part of time out, because they've usually backed down at one (please), or two (or else). The big one has good manners, a flair for chat, and a stonking vocabulary, and the little one is massively affectionate and outgoing. Their table manners can be a bit grim, and I'm dreadfully lax about homework, but perfection is well out of my reach, and I'm basically too tired to tick all the boxes.

I'm also well aware that just because there haven't been any major hiccups recently, doesn't mean there won't be some on the horizon. With children, I've decided, everything is a phase - the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Grab the reins, push down your heels, and hold on for the ride, because it will be something else in a day/ a week/ a month, and some other harried parent will be asking you 'how the hell did you get through that?' and you'll smile smugly and give good advice, unaware that the next great challenge is thundering around the corner heading straight for you.

Having said all this, I am not the only parent in this family, so I cannot take credit for all the brilliance, or even all the stupidity. My husband and I agreed a long time ago to do our best to agree on how to parent. We also agreed that when we don't agree, we do our disagreeing elsewhere. United front, always. But hey, why leave it at two parents? We don't. There are seven of us, eleven including grandparents, taking responsibility for these kids. Community parenting rules. But that's a different story...