Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A different story...

A few days ago I received an email about Mother’s Day that took me back twelve years to when James was born.

Like many first-time eager-beaver parents-to-be, Adrian and I went to NCT classes. We did quizzes about pain relief, stifled giggles as we watched breasts being constructed out of bits of ribbon and beading and practiced panting. We discussed water births, pondered the perfect aromatherapy oils with which to welcome our baby into the world and drew up birth plans with stern invectives against nasty drugs and rotten old doctors intervening. And I’m sure that, for many people, that works just fine and dandy. Not for us.

It went pear-shaped. Pear is probably the wrong word as I simply don’t have child-bearing hips and James, it transpired, was one gargantuan baby (12lbs 8oz). It was an equation which, frankly, was never going to balance. To cut a 14-hour story short, he got wedged, we both got into difficulties and I ended up being hurtled into surgery. I remember clearly being annoyed that the surgeons wouldn’t let me watch my own C-section. Adrian, meanwhile, turned several shades of green. I had transfusions; James had a ridge round his head but, by heck, we were alive and, really, that was all that mattered.

But I do wonder. What if? We lived in a very remote place back then. If I hadn’t been in hospital? Would the air ambulance have got to me in time? Would we be alive today?

And then, this email. From AMREF, the African Medical and Research Foundation, asking if I could help raise awareness of the 280,000 mothers who die each year in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa because they lack basic medical care. What does that mean? We’re not even talking about mothers like me, who needed rapid surgical intervention, but hale healthy normal women who died from lack of basic midwifery and hygiene. I ponder charity requests very carefully but this one chimed and friends in Africa said that, yes, AMREF do great work. So I asked them to tell me more – and they sent me a matchbox. Yup, a matchbox. In it were the items needed to deliver a baby safely. 
• A piece of plastic sheeting to lay on the floor.

• A sliver of soap and cotton wool for hygiene.

• A piece of string to tie the umbilical cord.

• A razor blade to cut the cord.

• Matches to sterilise the blade.

That’s it. That and a trained birth attendant.  The keys to saving a mother’s life and that of her child. All it might take to turn a potential tragedy into a happy ending.

I’m not going to pontificate. If you are interested, check out their website 
It's not just about seeking donations.  It's about spreading awareness and they’re running a campaign at the moment called Status of Africa - linking in with Facebook and other social media. You choose a mother or midwife with whom to share your Facebook status for five days – twice a day the app will update your status to show theirs. By lending your status, you can let your followers know what it’s like to be a mother in Africa.

So, this Mother’s Day, I’m going to be grateful for being a mother. I'm going to be grateful for being alive and for my strapping very much alive twelve-year old. I’m going to be grateful to the midwives and nurses and doctors and surgeons who helped me and my baby. And I’m going to be finding out what it’s like to be a mother in Africa.  What it's like giving birth without all those people on hand...but hopefully with trained midwives and a matchbox of hope.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Easy-to-open gussets

So, I’m sitting at my desk literally weeping with laughter. Adrian pokes his head round the corner. ‘You okay? Are you crying?’
I take a deep breath. Except – shit – I forgot, I can’t.
‘I’m fine,’ I gasp. ‘I’m laughing at Twitter.’
‘You sound very odd.’
‘Yeah, well that’s because I can’t breathe properly.’

Let’s retrace our steps a little eh? Got an email from a PR asking if I wanted to check out the Trinny & Susannah range of 'Original Magic Knickers' Remember Trinny and Susannah? The two fashion journalists infamous for kneading women’s breasts on makeover TV? They used to rattle on about ‘Magic Knickers’ all the time.  About the need for the 'right foundation garments' - hmm.  Turns out they have a whole range of the things - if you've got a 'problem area' they have something to squeeze it into submission.

‘Oh, go on then,’ I said. I’ve lost three stone lately and am exercising like a demon but, hey, a bit of extra firming never hurt. I’d tried variations on the ‘magic knicker’ bit before and, frankly, they were a joke. The damn things just rolled down into a thick uncomfortable expensive wodge.

Anyhow, I’d forgotten the whole conversation until yesterday when they arrived. The Magic Tummy Tucker Vest (‘reduces fat rolls and smoothes out the silhouette’) and the All in One Body Shaper (‘creates a slimming effect for buttocks and tummy’).

I was chatting (um, doing business) on Twitter at the time. So, what the heck, I thought I’d try them out live.

They are tight, darn tight. It took me about four minutes to wriggle into the Vest and, once on, I had a moment of total panic. The damn thing was so snug it felt like an iron lung (or how I imagine an iron lung might feel). I was hyperventilating within minutes and going quite light-headed. But after a bit, it actually felt quite nice – sort of like being hugged on an ongoing basis. Okay, that sounds a bit sad and needy, doesn’t it? More pragmatically it was warm. Definite plus.

Onto the Body Shaper. The descriptions for this one had me weeping with laughter all over again.
• ‘Allows you to wear your own bra whilst keeping the breasts in place.’
• ‘Banishes saddlebags and lifts the bottom.’
• And, my favourite....‘Easy-to-open gusset with double flaps that close automatically’

Okay, so now it was sounding like a very strange kind of sex outfit. I told Twitter about it.

@JDRevene: Good lord, now I'm going to have to Google that.

@BigFashionista: Say WHAT!!! Sounds like a plane with bomb doors underneath
@LindaSJones – sounds like heaven
@keatsbabe – but where does all the stuff you push around actually go? It has to ooze out somewhere
@belle_lulu: You have automatic double gusset flaps? You whore! ;)
@BigFashionista: Shudder. Although could be handy with unwanted advances. Get too fresh and it cuts your hand off.
@PolFreeman: Oh the visuals
@vwallop: can you wee in it?
@ElsieAnderton: *unfollows*

I told them that the gusset is a unique concept apparently; ‘created especially for T&S’. See #3 on the image - handily highlighted in red.  They didn’t give a toss.

@JDRevene: do you have a camera?
@belle_lulu: you know what’s coming don’t you? TWITPIC
@milla64: oh come on, get the camera out.
@JDRevene That’s a no on the camera, I take it!

Got it in one, JD!

@PolFreeman: You’re serving drinks? Cool

Okay, so my attempt at serious on-line real-time journalism had descended into a spectator sport - with popcorn. 
@ShoutyDad: Gusset is the most detumescent word in the dictionary. If a woman ever wanted to cool a man's ardour, just whisper it in his ear

Detumescent? Really? I thought I looked quite hot in it actually. I wandered into the kitchen where Adrian was making coffee. ‘What you reckon?’
‘Oh My God.’
‘Oh My God in a good way?’
‘Um, no. No. Just no.’
‘I dunno. It’s like girdles. Your mother’s girdles.’
‘My mother didn’t wear a girdle.’
‘No, not YOUR mother. My mother.’
‘Right.’ So not going there in my imagination. ‘So you’re not into the idea of the easy-to-open gusset with double flaps?’
He shuddered. I swear to God the man shuddered. ‘It’’s.....detumescent.’
That not being a word that tinkles readily off my husband’s lips, I wrinkled my eyes in suspicion. ‘You been following my Twitter feed?’
He looked abashed. ‘Yeah, well.’

So. There you have it. The Body Shaper is not a sexy turn-on (not in this house anyway). What? What? Oh, it’s not meant to be? My bad. Okay, so the serious review.

To answer the questions, no you don’t get bits popping out. Does it ‘pull you in’? Sort of. Put it this way, my leggings are baggier than usual. Is it comfortable? Actually and surprisingly, yes. Though I wouldn’t wear it for yoga. Nor, come to think of it, for a hot date. Yes, it might smooth out your figure but, trust me, you couldn’t shimmy out of this bugger in one sultry move. And, as we’ve already ascertained, the gusset issue is a no-goer. ;)

Original Magic Knickers come in 9 different styles, in a range of colours, starting from £26.
Trinny and Susannah website is down right now but you can buy from Debenhams

Mothers and gifts

I know it’s not Mother’s Day. Not yet. But I figure I’d better blog this now as I tend to get a bit emotional on the day itself. My mum died several years ago and her birthday is also coming up, so it’s a funny old time of year for me. She was so totally a spring person – up until her last illness she was always the epitome of optimism; a ‘can do’ person.

She believed in positive thought, in karma, in God, in gods, in the unseen, the ineffable, in synchronicity and miracles. She loved her children, her dogs, her garden. She adored yoga, tofu, mushrooms, watercress and gin. She listened to Bach, Enya, Loreena McKennit, Leonard Cohen and The Rolling Stones. She danced around her kitchen; she sang; she primal screamed.  She kept a copy of The Course in Miracles by her bed and devoured Rudolf Steiner. She was a sucker for sexy underwear and luxurious nighties. She always kept a glint in her eye. She had cold feet, a warm heart and a will of steel.

She left school at 14 and worked pretty well solidly all her life. She trained as a homeopath in her fifties and ran a business in her 60s and 70s. When the business crashed she merrily sold everything she owned and said ‘Ah well, nobody died. It’s just stuff.’

Having said that, she did love stuff. She was terribly vain – with reason as she was beautiful and had a cracking figure (even at 80). She loved nice clothes and adored gorgeous beauty products. Buying her presents was always a delight. I do miss that so much. So I figured, what the hell? Mum, if you’re around or about, here’s what I’d be thinking about getting you this year...

Something body-licious...  She would have adored ila-spa as she would only use totally organic products on her skin.  She would love pretty much the entire range, I think - though maybe the rose scents the most. I'd get her a couple of CDs too - she'd lap up the chants.  And probably throw in some incense - as she loved that as well.

Aromatherapy Associates was an old favourite of hers - I'd get her the skincare range as she would appreciate the natural yet powerful anti-ageing effects of their creams and oils. 
Come to think of it, she would also love Skin Science - it's a new range and their Bio Active Quicklift Mask would appeal - it's dubbed the 'Lunch break lift'. She was always in two minds about cosmetic surgery - this get-out clause would probably make her smile.

Mum felt the cold - she was a chilly vata type - so I always looked out for lovely warm scarves and cosy slippers and so on.  She would adore one of RoseBlack's gorgeous velvet-edged cashmere scarves - beautiful and warm!
These really are just the best.  I have a ton of their velvet scarves in every colour under the sun and one of these days I'm going to treat myself to one of the cashmere ones too... 

I think Mum tried every kind of natural face stuff.  She made friends with the beauty therapist who worked a few doors down from her and was her guinea-pig for every new fad going.  She would have been well into Eva Fraser's facial exercises and would have practiced assiduously - once she got into something, you couldn't pull her off it.  So I reckon this DVD from Victoria Health (one of her all-time favourite companies) would have made her smile....and grimace...and pout....
I'd probably nab her some hyaluronic acid and some HEAL cream while I was shopping there...maybe even a Duckula from the gift section.

She would have ADORED a Prana Mat from Fushi.  TApparently it helps in boosting the body’s natural energy flow by stimulating the body’s acupressure points. Allegedly it "wakes up" your body and directs blood flow to the organs that need it the most. The tiny lotus spikes stimulate active nerve centres and intensify the local blood flow and lymph circulation.

Yeah, essentially it's a bed of nails.  But, see, she would have loved that.  Hardcore stoic, my mum.  Actually she would have loved everything at Fushi - if you're into natural health and wellbeing, it's packed with goodies. 
Ah, how I'd love to send Mum to my favourite facialist, aromatherapist, acupuncturist and all round lovely healing person ever, Annee de Mamiel.  Annee is unbelievable.  Honestly.  She lives in NYC now and her client list is pretty well jam-packed for her visits to London but, seriously, if you can somehow sneak your way onto her couch, you will think you've died and gone to heaven early.  I would have LOVED Mum to have experienced this nourishing, healing, soul-affirming treatment.  Oh, and you come out looking ten years younger too! 
But, if you can't manage it, check out her seasonal oils - they aren't cheap but by heck they do incredible things to your skin.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bootcamp - in which I discover I love hardcore exercise

It was one of those weird coincidences – you know, the ones I love so much.

An editor I used to work for had sent a round robin email to announce she was going freelance. Soon after I got a call from someone else on the list - an ex-editor now turned PR.

‘Long time no speak,' she said.  'I saw you on the email list and wondered if you might fancy going on a bootcamp in Buckinghamshire?’ she asked. ‘It’s run by this amazing woman called Julie Brealy.’

‘Hang on a flipping minute,’ said I. ‘I know Julie Brealy.’ When I’d damaged a tendon, she’d given me sports massage on it for weeks – down here on Exmoor. She was fab. She was also pretty hardcore. My Achilles got better out of sheer fear. But, hey, small world. It was obviously A Sign so I signed up. And promptly forgot all about it.

Then realised, in a mild state of panic, that March was whizzing along and I had a hot and fast approaching date with eight hours’ exercise a day. Stumbled onto the train with a case full of trainers and my bodyweight in painkillers. Arrived at Latimer Place and was hurled straight into a circuit class followed by – oh yes – Zumba.

I don’t think I’ve talked about Zumba on the blog. About my mad love affair with the wildest, sweatiest, dirtiest dance going. But you can read about it on my Lady blog here. There was lots of Zumba on this weekend – four hours of it. Oh yes.

Anyhow. The weekend was a total blast. Just wonderful. There were twelve of us – all women but all ages, sizes and shapes. Some revoltingly fit, some not so. You work at your own pace, encouraged rather than pushed. No noses in the mud; no screaming and yelling. Best thing was trying out new classes and workouts. So it was thumbs up to kettlebells – yeah the Russian dead weight thingy you swing between your legs (very fetching). Thumbs down to bellydancing (I tried but I just can’t shimmy my boobs in the opposite direction to my hips). Actually, nor could anyone else – we all looked desperately stiff and Anglo-Saxon (even the French and Swedes in the group). Thumbs up to gym sticks (a deep and brilliant stretch) and, surprisingly, thumbs up to Jazzercise (bit of a blast). You know, I can’t remember everything we did but there was a lot of it. There was also tons of food. You think you have to live on a couple of carrot sticks and the odd oatcake? Wrong. I seriously couldn’t keep up.

At the end of the day we piled into the pool and swam and then jostled for room in the jacuzzi. Then crammed into the steam room and sauna. And laughed and laughed.

But, best of all – bliss upon bliss – I was working so hard that there was no room At All for the usual nonsense that flies through my head. I was in ‘no thought’ for such vast periods of time that the world transformed into a very pleasant place. So coming back home felt weird. What is this thing called ‘sitting on a chair at a PC?’ My muscles twitched; wanted to move. And my mind winced as the old crap came rushing back in as I unravelled over 100 emails and a slew of voicemails.

So I went to the gym. And talked to Trish who introduced me to Julie in the first place. ‘Did you like it?’ she asked, as I beat hell out of the exercise bike.
‘I loved it!’ I said.  'Just the dog's bollocks.'
‘Hmm,’ she replied. ‘Better do a week the next time.’

You know what?  I'm severely tempted. 

Brealy Bootcamps - give 'em a go! 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New Sun Rising

Japan. Shit. What can you say? I saw it roll out on Twitter and ran to turn on the TV. It was the first time I've watched TV in the daytime since 9/11 and I just saw image after image that my mind could barely comprehend.

Then watched the news play out on Twitter and felt queasy. Had to step back, step away. It showed social media at its best and its worst. Yes, it’s incredible that we can see news being made, live, in real time, by people who are there, who are watching it, living it. But it also makes you realise how easily misinformation can be spread; how panic can be fuelled. Then, of course, there are the typical prats – who either don’t give a toss or who think it’s smart to poke fun. And then again there are the disaster junkies – who just revel in a drama; who emote all over the place and even get off on it all - the Diana brigade at their worst. Then there are those who are using this human tragedy for their own agenda.  As my friend Frankie Sachs said, ‘It’s almost like they want to see the mushroom cloud.’  Actually, read her blog - it says it all much better than I can.

Anyhow. Frankie and another friend - Sessha Batto  - have been doing incredible, ceaseless work trying to put out accurate information, trying to stop panic escalating, trying to instil balance. Then, as Frankie says, ‘Somehow just relaying info didn't feel like enough, and nobody else had one rolling, so we started a charity anthology project.’ 

If you are a writer and would like to contribute, they are taking submissions right now. Or maybe you could offer editing skills? Or marketing advice? Or maybe you could write a blog or put out a video or, well, anything? Even just retweet this post? 
The website is here: New Sun Rising – Stories for Japan - do please take a look.

Another bunch of mates are involved with Authors for Japan. You can bid for all sorts – from signed books to help with your own writing. It's another great cause; another small way you can help.  Check it out.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Dungeon of Degradation

Rachel and I had rather hoped to see something wild and exciting on our night out (maybe some wild seething and writhing) but, this being Exmoor, our choices were limited and we’d had to settle for The King’s Speech (good in a sensible worthy BBC kind of way). Absolutely no writhing; not even a miniscule seethe.

‘That popcorn,’ said Rachel, as we drew up at the pub. ‘Tell me it wasn’t your supper?’
I shrugged ruefully.
‘Still living on free cereal?’
‘That sucks.’
‘Actually, talking of sucking, we did get some echinacea lollipops. They made a change.’

A large Alsatian barred the entrance to the pub but if it were meant to be intimidating, it failed dismally. Rachel has the largest dog you can get before they morph into ponies while it’s only small dogs that intimidate me. We fussed it and walked in.

‘It’s getting ridiculous, this money business,’ said Rachel as we huddled by the fire. I nodded gloomily and stuck my straw in our shared mineral water.
‘There must be a way we can make money.’
‘Well, the Man Pets didn’t work.’
‘Limited appeal. Dog breeding?’
Her puppy is called Beatrice – the SP’s real name is Dante. Rachel thought it was the obvious love match, despite the extreme difference in size.
‘The SP is a dog of great ingenuity – he’d find a way.’
‘Not without testicles he wouldn’t,’ she countered. ‘You were precipitate.’
I couldn’t argue that one. ‘Well, it would have cheapened their relationship anyhow. It’s a beautiful, spiritual thing.’

‘Whatever. So that’s out. You’ve tried self-help books; I’ve tried websites and welly socks. You refused to countenance children’s parties [I did]; I can’t face accountancy. We need to think outside the box.’ She stroked the Alsatian absent-mindedly then grabbed his thick studded collar.

‘Got it!’ she said, rather too loudly, making the poor dog jump. ‘That's it! We set up a dungeon.’
‘I beg your pardon.’
‘Oh don’t play the innocent. You went to bondage clubs in London.’
‘Only because my gay male best friend dragged me along cos he was too scared to go alone.’
‘Well, okay, I did like my silver rubber dress and the spiky heels. And the people were very funny - and rather sweet.’
‘There you go. I’ve got these friends who live outside London and they’ve got a dungeon and they make a killing from it. We’ve got barns.... Or, maybe it would be better in town. Hmm, you’ve got the Haunted Cellar...’
‘What? The one with the ghost?’
‘No,’ she shook her head in irritation. ‘It's no good. Not because of the ghost.  The ceiling’s too low and it wouldn’t take the load.’

Rachel did engineering at university; I could see calculations flitting through her head.
‘But, hey, you have got the perfect room actually...’
‘Perfect for what?’
‘Stringing them up.’
‘WHAT? The Oak Room?’
‘Exactly. Of course James would have to be boarding and you’d need to call Adrian down for the actual stringing up bit.’

I now had this image of plump middle-aged men in latex dangling from the Oak Room rafters, like a series of mournful bats.

She had the bit between her teeth, so to speak. ‘Adrian would have to wear lederhosen of course.’
I snorted into the mineral water. Not just at the image of my husband in leather shorts but at the idea of him calmly wandering down from his study and doing a casual bit of winching, while I put on the kettle. ‘Tea, dear?’

‘What’s the etiquette though?’ I was getting quite intrigued now. ‘I mean, would you meet them at the door in character or would you be all polite and “D'you fancy a scone?” first?’
‘Damn, I don’t know. We need to do research. And we need a name.’
‘Hmmm. “The Dulverton Dungeon for Discriminating Degradation” – it has a ring.’
‘Through its....’

More gales of laughter and we suddenly realised the pub had gone very quiet. Startled stares surrounded us. The Alsatian sat with its tail firmly between its legs. If it could have removed its collar, I think it would.

PS - since discussing the finer points of this on Twitter with People Who Know, we have decided against the plan.  Who knew?  Honestly, who knew? 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

My new office

I have a new office. It’s clean and smart and does great coffee. It’s blissfully, heavenly, sensually warm. I can work without looking like some weird nomad bundled in blankets. People walk past and wave cheerily.  Occasionally the odd nice person will wander over and we will chat a little about silly inconsequential things. Then I put my headphones back on which is my clear sign to ‘leave me alone please’ and I write. And write. And write.

Which is a bloody relief as I suddenly realised I had to get a ripple on with the rewrite of Samael. I was procrastinating to the point of mental instability and financial suicide.

See, this is where I usually work. It’s an old kitchen table in my study. I do have a desk; actually I have two but they are both piled high with stuff – generally James’. Yes, I hotdesk with my son, how mad is that? Actually he tends to muscle in on my table too, purloining my PC because he (for some inexplicable reason) picked off half the keys on his own laptop. So I go to work and find I’ve apparently joined several gaming sites and have sewn a crop of artichokes. It’s enough to drive me to drink.

Also the SP has decided that it’s not enough to chew shoes and cushions. His latest fetish is razor blades. Somehow he finds disposable razors and chews them until the blades fall out and then munches on the blades. Can this place be so unendurable that he is trying to commit canine suicide? Weirdly, despite the mangled blades, the dog doesn’t have a mark on him. He’s made of Teflon.

Anyhow. My study depresses me. It’s a dumping ground for dirty kitbags, junk mail and recycling. It has windows smeared with dog drool and I could probably spin hippy weavings with the furry balls of dust that undulate softly around my feet, caught in the icy drafts that blow in from the hall.

All of a sudden the answer fell like the proverbial thunder bolt. The local cafe has recently expanded and has a whole new little mezzanine tucked away up a small flight of stairs. So – ta da! - here I sit, with my notes and my trusty Moleskine, scribbling like

And, when I’ve vomited out enough words for one day, I sit back, turn off Hildegard of Bingen (I can’t write to anything with discernable lyrics or I stop and listen) and switch to something a bit more upbeat and whizz through the papers.

Yesterday I even found this very blog lurking in one of them. The Times had run a feature on the US uberblogger Dooce and had added a sidebar with six homegrown blogs. Confess I was surprised – but yes, chuffed - to see mine included (along with that of my lovely friend Alice) and online mates too. I even sounded relatively sane in the bit they quoted.

Personally I put it all down to my nice new office.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A floating cosmic cloud of vagueness

‘Mum,’ said James, as we were driving along the valley road. ‘You know how I often know what’s coming? Which colour cars will come next, and how many?’
‘Well, I think I could develop that. I think I could train it.’
‘Because we only use a tiny part of our brains, don’t we? And so much of this stuff that we think is spooky or weird or psychic is probably just stuff we haven’t figured out yet.’
‘Sure. Well, it makes perfect sense to me. After all, what is time? It’s not necessarily linear. It could loop and you could just be seeing round the bend. And anyhow, time is just another dimension.’
That’s what I thought. And, Mum?
‘You know we see three dimensions? But what if there were, like, seven, eight or a hundred dimensions?’
‘And then all this – is just the tiniest fraction of the whole. Like a three dimensional object appearing in a two-dimensional world.’
‘And, of course, none of this is as it appears anyhow. It’s all just energy moving at different frequencies.’

‘Okay, STOP it, you two,’ Adrian butted in irritably. ‘I don’t want to think about this kind of thing. It freaks me out.’
‘But it’s amazing. It’s wonderful.’
‘It’s frightening. This is a car – don't  you dare try to convince me it’s just a jumble of nothingness.’
‘No. It’s like when you say that you are always thinking about infinity. It’s no wonder you don’t sleep. See, I never do that. I don’t want to.’
‘Well that’s fine. It’s your choice.'
‘Which is your favourite science? It’s physics, isn’t it?’
‘I guess. But I’m interested in all of them.’
‘You’re such a geek.’
‘I wish. I don’t understand it, not on an intellectual level. But I quite like not understanding it entirely as it’s changing all the time anyhow; so you can’t really know it anyway.’
‘What’s your favourite section of physics? It’s particle stuff, isn’t it?’
‘Yeah, I love the connections. The way you can shoot out into the depths of space and then come whooshing right in, smaller and smaller and tinier and tinier until you’re into quarks...’
‘And electrons, and neutrons...’
‘And photons.’

‘La la la…. I’ll stick to history.’ Guess who?
‘And then science and spirituality meet. I’ll have to show you this clip I found on YouTube. It’s unbelievably beautiful and really rather comforting.’

‘You’re changing,’ said Adrian. ‘Or rather you’re going back. When I met you, you were always talking about physics and magic; you listened to music all the time and you were spooky and more than a bit scary.’
‘I was?’
‘You were. And now you’re getting it back. You look younger too, about ten years younger.’
I do?

Actually, I think I do. I’ve stopped giving up. Instead I’ve given in. I’ve discovered life again. Maybe I’m finding me again, a real me (as real as any of us can get). Certainly not the me who tried to fit in. And, oh how hard I tried so hard to fit the labels – wife and mother, sensible journalist and author, grown up. But it never really worked. I often wondered why I couldn’t get things right – why I never really made a decent career out of my books, for example; why I could never squeeze this blog into a neat little slot.

Someone told me I was a ‘health writer’ and I tried to fit into that role, while getting bored sick of writing about health. Someone said I was a ‘mummy blogger’ (because I am a mother?) but that never rang true. And you know what? It’s because I can’t squeeze all of me into one role. I don’t seem capable of focussing on one aspect of life. I splurge all over the place. I have a flibberty-gibbet mind – it’s why I used to love journalism. It gave me permission to research loads of totally different subjects. I know little bits about loads of stuff – but don’t really know anything in depth. I’m amorphous, a floating cosmic cloud of utter vagueness.

The more I think about it, the more I think I need several different personae. I need a few more dimensions while I’m at it too.

Watch this....just please do...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Durga and the Temple of Jerusalem

Teachers, bloody sodding teachers!  Okay, not ALL of them, alright?  But really. James doesn’t get home until 6.30pm. He has something to eat and watches The Simpsons (vital for his social and emotional development) and then has to settle down to do prep. This should, theoretically, take twenty minutes per subject. Well, French was fine but last night his English was, frankly, ridiculous. At 9.30pm he was still on my PC, red-eyed and irritable.  A mirror image of his mother, come to think of it.
‘This is crazy,’ I said. ‘Surely you’ve done enough?’

But no. He had to finish. Then we hit another problem. The only printer in the house is attached to Adrian’s Mac laptop but said laptop is with Adrian in Wales (or it may be London by now, I’m losing track). So James attached his laptop (with half the keys missing) and tried to get it working. No joy. So I tried. Wouldn’t play ball. Yeah yeah, added new printer, checked all settings...the whole caboodle.

At this point, I was feeling like a Hindu deity with about eight arms thrashing wildly around... running him a bath, doing the washing, refereeing the evening dog skirmish, ignoring the phone, trying to fix the fecking printer. And, yeah, okay, so I was sort of online and listening to stuff about Libya on the radio as well. But really.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Take the bloody Temple of sodding Jerusalem which hung like a....oh I dunno, hanging garden of Babylon or summat...over the entire half-term. I thought we’d got off lightly, having been right through junior school without having to construct anything larger than a Scottish croft.

‘I’m despondent about it,’ said James, despondently, when we came back from Wales.
‘Rubbish,’ said I, clicking on Google images, heart sinking fast. Except. Okay, so that looked vaguely do-able. Basically lots of cubes of various sizes interconnected by walls. 
‘Let’s do it.’
'You're sure it is the Temple of Jerusalem, Mum?'
'Yeah, well, that's what it says on the tin.  You're not doubting St Google?'
'Just that Timmy Bander built the mosque instead, and got a crap mark.'
Oops.  And, really, what a dozo.  Who'd go for a mosque (necessitating blowing up balloons) when you can do a nice straight-lined temple?
So build it we did. Papier mache and gold paint and all. And it wasn’t bad, if I say so myself. Until I went on Twitter in a sense of smug achievement.
‘You wanna put on PVA glue and then sprinkle sand over it to add texture,’ said Lulu, veteran of many ancient edifices.
‘Ooh yes. And have you used modeling clay for the detailing?’ added Milla (she of the Temple of Diana and a mott and bailey castle). Detailing? What detailing? Feck off, my erstwhile friends. ;)

Actually I’d just sort of left James to it, muttering words of encouragement in an overseer-ish sort of way. Well, children have to learn, don’t they? My main contribution was to mix up a tasteful blend of Craig & Rose for the paint job. No Temple of Jerusalem is leaving this house in shabby old Dulux, no sirree.

Eventually it was done. ‘Damnit, that took forever,’ I said, heaving a sigh of relief and pouring myself another coffee.
‘Yeah,’ said James. ‘Three days, basically.  My divinity teacher said it should take about an hour.’

Dear teachers. Could I just beg you, when you’re dishing out prep, have a heart? Not just for the poor sprats that could do with at least half an hour’s downtime before bed, but for their poor demented, arm-thrashing parents.

Oldberry Castle

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus! Happy St David’s Day to my Welsh friends and family. Adrian left for Cardiff at first light, boyishly excited about spending this national day in his beloved home country. I picked some daffodils from the garden for my desk – but I fear they are still tight buds (and it’s too cold in here to coax them out).

So this morning the SP decided we’d go over the bridge and up into the woods. We went up the Middle Path (how apt), high up to Oldberry Castle, one of the two Iron Age hill forts that protect Dulverton. No deer today. Just spring busying itself for the big reveal. For now it’s small still – the snowdrops are fading; primroses are starting to smile from the banks. There are buds on the trees and brambles while shoots are pushing up through the dry leaf blanket.

I missed my path. How? I know this place like the back of my hand yet I missed it. How strange. How delightful.  I went off-track instead, clambered over fallen tree trunks, snatched by brambles, stroking bark, patting moss. And found myself at the castle once more. Not that you would see it as a castle, not from the ground. But you can feel it; defensive, strong, protective.

Listened to the wind. Loved the wild. Then put on my iPod for the return journey and drowned in mud (so it was a mistake to slide down 'the chimney', a narrow, steep track) but didn't mind as I was also drowning in Jack Savoretti. Do you know this guy? I am in love with his entire album Between the Minds... this is just one of the tracks

And this comes from the upcoming album

Ah, just lovely, lovely, lovely. And now I’m back at my desk and must get back to work. I’ve changed my candle. I now have Jasmine Flowers for Inner Light Joy burning...a cheery yellow to match my (potential) daffodils.
I know, from the responses (both here and elsewhere) to my last blog that a lot of you are going through tough times. Today I light my candle for you all, dear souls, and hope the small signs of spring will bring you fresh cheer and hope.