Jam jars and sleeping over...

posted on: Tuesday, 3 March 2015

We went away for a night; my husband and I.

I wanted him to see 'The Pig', a place I've frequented a few times recently. It oozes a Mumford & Sons feel that I knew he'd like. You know the type of thing: drinks served in jam jars, achingly cool/pretty staff in a uniform of Converse, skinny jeans and a shirt and tie, claw-footed, free-standing baths and understated shabby chic decor. I felt like we fit the demographic as we ploughed through lunch, dinner and then breakfast, nourished on the luxury of no interruptions and no washing up.


Hotels, for me represent my old life. Invariably, we go there to escape our house and our kids. I sit in the dining room and wonder if all of the other couples are doing the same thing. Some bring very young babies - ambitiously - tucked discreetly under tablecloths in rocking seats, praying that they will sleep through the three course meal. I regard them with interest; couples younger than us - or at least they seem it - we embarked on parenthood so early, maybe that is just my perception. I revel in the lack of activity required when staying in a hotel. There is nothing to do except mooch and read and sleep and eat. How it differs to my normal life. My husband usually starts a well-trodden monologue about how he would like to run an establishment of his own (a long-held ambition of his) and I retort that it has to be a labour of love, there is no money in it and it's crazy-hard work. Looking after the Great British Public is not necessarily my idea of fun, but I can see that running an uber-stylish hotel might be quite interesting.

The very done-ness of hotels appeals to me, as we still live through the undone-ness of our house. Hotels don't overflow with possessions, drawers crammed full of family life. Cupboards begging to be cleared out. The never-ending cycle of family life.

I spend the time not wanting to be one of those couples who don't speak at dinner; marooned on their own table with no conversation to act as an oar. But at the same time, when silence ensues, I enjoy it, because it says something to be comfortably silent with someone you've sat opposite for twenty years.

Staying away makes coming home all the sweeter.

In other updates, I have had to abstain from moving anywhere too fast due to my log-carrying injury! I returned to yoga this week which was as challenging and as lovely as ever. I am mildly obsessed with a brand of active clothes called Montiel - as recommended by my friend Robin. This kit works.

My sister in law Natasha, who moved with her little family to Dubai last year, has started blogging again. I am intrigued to read her views about changing country with two small children and what's on her mind. One thing about blogging is that it gives a window in to the every day world of the writer - I often notice that friends and family don't email me to find out what I am up to - they don't need to, as they read about it here! I am looking forward to reading Natasha's bulletins and staying more up to date with her...

Enjoying the latest series of 'Girls', particularly how Hannah has quit her rural, high-brow writing course as it was just too damn hard. Makes me think about my plans to re-enter the educational sphere and how, at the age of 40, I'm hopefully better equipped to cope with success and failure, whichever presents itself first! I heard from my old boss today and got an insight into the corporate world I have left behind. No regrets, but it is strange to see how my own trajectory has peaked and dipped. As ever, in the fullness of time I can see how the dips serve to inform the peaks and it's all part of a necessary journey (here I am; still neck deep in existential mid-life thoughts).

It feels to me like the Spring might be coming, although it is still necessary to shroud myself in a down coat every time I step outside. Maybe one day it will be warm again...


Making sense...

posted on: Thursday, 26 February 2015

Along the way, I've been thinking a lot about what messages we give young girls about what the future holds for them. I have a daughter, but also I have nieces who are embarking on different paths in life. One of my nieces is incredibly talented as an actress and singer and we, as an extended family, are trying to find the right way to advise her. She wants to pursue her dreams on the stage, but as the responsible adults we all know that those opportunities can be hard to achieve; her lofty aspirations. However who are we to dissuade her? Isn't our role - or my role as her Aunt - to give her hope that there can be limitless possibilities? Not to cut her down with negativity? There is this fine balance between being realistic and stamping on a dream. I don't want to stamp. So I shan't...I shall be the crazy Aunt who insists that anything is possible.


I wonder about bringing up a teenage girl. I have written before about the need for brutal honesty with my daughter and how I have had to explain realities of life in a way I never imagined. I didn't expect I would be covering topics i) this early and ii) in as much detail. A side effect of the Internet is that everything I could think of (and some I couldn't) is known to her anyway. The role of the mother is no longer to manage the way in which topics are introduced (they are already there), it is to interpret the topics and to provide meaning. Nothing is off limits.

This can be viewed as a blessing or a curse; there was an exact point in recent years at which I said to myself: man up Lou, have the difficult conversation. Now I am more used to it, I can be found having these conversations with her everywhere; 'the unreality of porn' whilst walking the supermarket aisles, 'glue-sniffing' whilst driving home, 'the role of feminism' whilst walking the dog. Modern parenting is about bravery, from what I can see. There is no shirking away.

Because if I don't do it, the Internet will. And I'm not sure the Internet has love and trust and consistency on its mind.

I have written a separate article for the blogzine 'Selfish Mother' where I ponder motherhood and bringing up girls and boys; it can be read here.

Meanwhile, on smaller matters, here is an irony; the heavy lifting associated with bringing firewood into the house last week, to ally the freezing temperatures (well, not freezing exactly, but not warm) has given me a muscle sprain. It hurts to breathe in, the muscles around my ribs unused to the exertion required to live like frontier woman. I am not frontier woman. I wonder what type of woman I am. I was getting up at 6am to make the fire to provide heat for my family, and this is where I end up. I know I am may be over-dwelling on domestics but honestly it does lead me to conclude: what a delicate flower I am to injure myself tending house. Just as well I was not a scullery maid in Victorian times.

It's Thursday, it's drizzling, my house is a tip. But I did cover the finer points on 'boys: don't be too keen' on the school run this morning. Hurrah for that.


Black is the new black...

posted on: Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Heat has been restored, I could have kissed the plumbing engineer who did it. After six days of no heating, our house felt clammy and bone-chilling. I developed a physical hunch; that natural reaction to the cold in which we scrunch up our shoulders. Today, in a show of decadence I kept the heat going all day long, relishing the walk from room to room with no temperature differential. This winter seems interminable.


My children returned to school, we enter another half term of early mornings. At least there's the prospect of Spring to keep us going. I find in my own mind that the prospect of 'something on the horizon' for me is making the present a whole lot more tolerable. Proving once again that it's all in the mind. How I regard life is how life is. I handed in my applications today for the writing course.

Meanwhile, I am wondering, frankly, if I am too old to wear Nike Air Max as a fashion item?! And also, why everything I buy to wear this winter is black? Am I in mourning (for my 30's)? Black is to my wardrobe what white is to my house. The chance for a clean slate? The simplest, most pared-back version?

I am approaching my 41st birthday next month! After all of the fanfare of turning 40, this one feels more grounded and honestly, being 40 has been a BIG adjustment. This adjustment presents itself subtly, almost imperceptibly, but it's definitely there. A curious thing, this getting older.

So life goes on, I roast a midweek chicken for dinner; we pull the wishbone and my son always wins. Fact. I surreptitiously order wardrobe staples from Boden (confirming my middle-England sensibility). All in black.  I call my friend Natalie, who lives too far away for a soothing kitchen-table cuppa tea but who I spend hours chatting to on the phone, like we are teenagers from the 1980's. I read book after book; this week it's 'Middlesex'; I am 20 pages in. I, on  daily basis, lament the clean/cook/clean process that unfolds even though I know: this is how it works! I make it, they eat it, we (I) clean it. 

I listened to a radio discussion about whether women find playing with their young children boring. I have to put my hands up and say, yes guilty, that was me. I wonder if every mother has a phase which suits them best. For some it's those snuffly baby days, for some it's toddlers, for some they reach their pinnacle in the era of the school mum. For some it's teen. Some hit their stride when they have young adults. Who knows? I am still trying to work out when my phase is. This could be it.

I watched the Vanity Fair Oscar footage on Snapchat (how modern am I?) and thought it's been a long time since I was at a party wearing high heels.

Happy Tuesday.


City and country...

posted on: Friday, 20 February 2015

I sit to type this wearing four layers of wool, a hot water bottle on my lap and about 10 logs on the fire in the next room, trying to get some heat. OUR HEATING IS OFF!!!! So cold; it's been days now so the house is chilled through and through. This is an oil issue - our heat runs off an oil tank, not gas, so I live with a tank refilling extravaganza every winter. We already have a troubled relationship with oil after last year's leak, so frankly, I am at the end of my patience with this old house! Oh to have heat, uncomplicated heat. This is what they don't tell you about rural living.

via here
It's a conspiracy of beautiful real estate images; children frolicking in the garden, expansive views to the countryside, charming, quaint old houses with tumble-down flint walls. We have owned a townhouse and a new build house in the past; houses that functioned even through challenging weather. This house; no. It leeches water up from the sodden earth and it comes out of the walls as rising damp. Up until this winter (now that we have fixed some of the issues), every time it rained the drains overflowed into the garden into soapy puddles. It creaks and strains as the boards in the floor expand. The radiators knock and bang in the night. We look out onto acres of fields, which is lovely, but mud is a constant feature in my life. All the time, all through the winter. I can't set foot out of my door without coming into contact with mud!

No one tells you that rural living can be hard; sometimes lonely and isolated. We have neighbours in the strictest sense, but they on the horizon, across fields. I have a number of friends, who like me, have become disillusioned with the rural idyll. It has flaws. And we only live a mile from civilisation! I see so many people, who with young children, have an idea of moving to the country. We did the same. I can vividly remember viewing our house in May, wisteria blooming, with Boo aged three, running across the lawn. My husband and I imagining years ahead of wholesome, outdoorsy fun. Of course there have been those moments but now that our children are older, I can also clearly see the limitations. There is little sense of community unless you live amongst other people. We have to drive everywhere. All the time. First World problems...

So yesterday, we travelled up to London for a day and night. Partly because hotels have heat, which has become a precious commodity this half-term week. We met friends and spent the day around Fulham, mooching around the shops at Westfield and then dinner on the King's Road. As ever with London, I am struck by the sheer number of people, so many, so busy, a million little lives. And the stylish; looking much less incongruous in an urban setting than they do down here with the country bumpkins. I notice the endless stream of neon-clad runners; day and night. The cool eateries and bars. Walking by the oozing Thames River, flanked by low and high rise. The tourists and their cameras.

I conclude: am I a town or country mouse? It's always a pleasure to get back after the city and to see the familiarity of my home town. I don't think the puppy would like London; he is a field-running dog. And our country house? One day it will all be done (and warm) and one day I will master the complexities of the oil tank gauge. I see that we are lucky in many ways.


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