Think straight...

posted on: Wednesday, 22 October 2014

My husband returned from an epic overseas trip (God it's hard when he is away; I like it the most when he's at home with me!) and the premise was that the building work would be finished. It's not finished. Nearly, but not quite. Last little details now like door handles and liming the oak floor. I want it as white as a wood stain can go - they think I am mad for this request but my answer to every design-related question is: 'I want it white'. This is proving much easier than choosing colours; our house has so many low beams and windows and what they refer to in brochures as 'period features' that honestly anything other than white looks cluttered. It's made this whole process easier. White. Wood. A few monochrome black and white details along the way. That's it. White is the equivalent of the staple grey jumper in sartorial terms.

Meanwhile I have been thinking a lot about family. I had a falling out with my brother - who I rarely write about here, for his own privacy really - and it felt wretched. We have an untarnished relationship, he and I. He has always looked out for me, being seven years older, and despite the fact we don't see each other that often, I always get that sense that he has my back. I thought a lot about siblings and the order in which they come and how different things would have been if he were say, two years older than me, rather than seven. I read the book 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' yesterday - if ever a study into sibling relationships that is one. Again I finished it in just over a day - absolutely gripping, tightly-written, could not put down, now can't stop thinking about it.

But back to siblings. I was chatting to Boo about how her little brother irritates her and reminded her that having a brother is a blessing and no matter how much they niggle and fight, he will always be her strongest link to her childhood. There is something about sibling relationships; when you marry you come to think that your spouse knows you best. Of course they do in most matters. However nothing can replace growing up in the same family; that closeness and oneness. For my brother and I, he provided the rock and the kindness that I needed whilst my parents divorced. He will always be so very special to me, so quarrelling with him was uncharacteristic and disturbing. It's all better now though. That's the other thing with family; there is forgiveness.

Autumn seems to have taken hold in the gentlest way this year; falling leaves but with a spell of unseasonable mildness. This suits me fine and I have taken to running again this week. I used to run a lot more than I do now. That 30 minutes of a raised heartbeat and loud music in my ears as I pass suburban gardens, early in the morning, before the commuters have left. There's nothing like it.

The navel-gazing of recent months has abated slightly as this new season starts. I've seen many friends go through tough times lately and actually I have to tell myself that things are by no means bad with me. It's purely a matter of calming the very many thoughts that I have percolating round, all the time. My new tactic is to start writing them down. I wonder with writing whether it forms a particular type of therapy for me. If I don't do it, I start to feel wrong. Should this translate into something bigger? I had dinner with friends at the weekend, one of whom owns an independent publishing house. Talking about writers and manuscripts was exciting to me. It made this sentiment below seem all the more accurate. If I keep thinking about writing, why don't I do more of it?

Teenage kicks...

posted on: Thursday, 16 October 2014

Have you ever come across one of those women who had a baby (or three) and was so ensconced with the whole birth/motherhood process that they decided to retrain as a midwife? I looked on in awe and interest, as I knew a friend who did this; taking a career U-turn after 40 to follow her new calling. I do get it, I sense now that as I enter the teenage phase (six months down, many, many to go) that this is a stage that I am very interested in. If I were to categorise when I most clearly remember things in my life, it would be my teens. I have almost perfect recall. Great swathes of my twenties went missing and as for my thirties; honestly there are shamefully few memories of the 2000's. To the extent that I consider the 00's to be one big blur. I attribute this to the baby/toddler-related haze that descended on me once I had children. Sleepless nights and baby milk spillage seemed to be a frequent facet of my life for longer than I care to remember. And yet they, in some ways, were the sweetest of times.

As for the teenage parental haze - that is what I am in now. The virulently changing mood swings. The outlandish demands for all sorts of things - from another sleepover to the latest pair of ripped jeans - that come my way it seems, on an hourly basis. The very sensitive soul who sits upstairs in her bedroom and I never quite know who or what will emerge. The endless phone use. That bloody phone. The extreme secrecy followed by the disarming openness. I wrestle daily with finding my place in this particular mile of the parenting journey. Safe in the knowledge that I must never veer into the territory of Regina George's mother in 'Mean Girls'. But equally finding my feet as a fair but loved mother to a teenage girl is no easy feat. There are curve balls. Galore. It's a whole different ball game.

Unlike previous phases of parenthood (it's all broken down into distinct phases, take comfort in the fact: nothing lasts forever!) this one feels particularly weighted with the need to get it right. Previous preoccupations with manners and eating vegetables and playing nicely (share!) seem less relevant in the face of the need to help form an almost fully grown human, set loose in society. She needs love, support, shepherding and teaching but not smothering and limiting. It's the most delicate manoeuvre.

We talk a lot, I consciously decided to face topics head on (no blushes spared). This means I have covered all sorts in recent months, from gay marriage to kindness to depilation to divorce. Nothing is off limits and whilst I appreciate that what I think about these elements of life is not the only factor in how she will regard them, I do feel responsible for at least setting the tone of what our family believe and how we feel people should be treated. We discuss a lot of 'what ifs' in order to flush out her thinking (and mine) on what is right and wrong. There is degree of hypothetical, but I can also sense that most subjects we talk about, she has already seen in her on line world. In this modern age, there is very little that is unknown to her. I have to assume that she has seen it all already and it's my job to now define the moral compass around all of that (often unwelcome and premature) input.

However I am resilient enough to see, from friends who have been through this stage before me, that it may have nothing to do with how I try to influence things. She will make up her own mind and frankly, I am deluding myself to think I have that much sway. I am the mother. That is all.

And so, I keep on...searching out the good and dispelling the bad and generally trying to think straight. Asking friends when I need help. Trying not to over think it! She's the apple of my eye and I look at her burgeoning adulthood with awe; she's the coolest girl I know.

via a well traveled woman


posted on: Tuesday, 14 October 2014

I've been doing that thing; I do it every season, where I look at my wardrobe and reevaluate it, shift it around, relocate it from everyday cupboard to not-everyday cupboard. We live in a cottage, there are no palatial wall to ceiling wardrobes; it's like everything else here: higgeldy piggeldy. I don't mind. It's a useful exercise putting away summer lights and getting out winter knits, which are like old friends I haven't seen for a while, but nor have I missed. I am a warm weather girl and increasingly, as the October days draw in, I think back to the Floridian summer and wonder if it all actually did happen? Was I really standing in a Disney log flume queue in 98 degree heat? Did I really sip chilled beer on a boat through the Everglades, my legs sticking to the seat with humidity? Yes it did happen. Now it's more like morning mist and condensation-covered car windows when we leave for the school run each morning.

Autumn term is always a marathon and this one is no exception. The sports fixtures alone have me clocking up hundreds of miles as I ferry my hockey-playing daughter about. My son has decided to read Harry Potter from cover to cover from the first to the last book. We are one chapter in. I know all about the Muggles. And as for the lightning-shaped scar...

But back to wardrobe revolving. It got me thinking about how I have staples and how each year I think I need something new and then discover that in fact I am just coveting more of the same. I have to make a conscious choice to deviate the styles I buy. I have become set in my ways. Something about my current lifestyle has made this so. Limitations such as having to walk the dog (jeans and wellies) have made sartorial choices smaller. They have a common denominator: I need comfort and ease. This makes me a little sad as I have realised I have developed a Mummy Uniform. This is almost as bad as having Housewife Hair (see previous post).


I own 7 pairs of skinny jeans that are all the same style, just different colours.
I own 8 grey knitted jumpers, crew neck, V-neck, boat-neck all pretty much the same hue.
I own 4 striped Breton tops.
I own 2 satchel handbags (since when did hands-free become so important in life?)
I own a shameful number of coats, all required for the many nuances of British weather that we endure. Drizzle, slight chill, full-on rain, wind-cheater, sunny but cold, ice and snow and on and on.
If I put on heeled shoes I think my feet would revolt.


What happened to my originality?!!

I have realised how standardised I have become and it is freaking me out. Something has got to change. I have become so intent on looking 'appropriate' that I have morphed into Mrs Ordinary. When I was working I would dress up, often in a manner that, looking back, was to please myself rather than as a requirement of my job. I used to accessorise. I now shy away from wearing jewellery as it gets in the way when I clean the house.

WTF?? That's a quote you'll never see on a Pinterest wisdom board.

I am staging an intervention into my own wardrobe. I have set myself some objectives to get more outlandish, to embrace what's different, to stop trying to conform to the dreaded school-mum-judgement-gaze. In efforts to achieve Audrey Hepburn-esque elegance I think we sometimes forget that clothes should be fun. Slavish fashion-following is not for the rural 40-year old. I want the quirks, the style, the 'something different' that is so attractive when you you see it. But oh so rare.

 So - yea, that's my view on this Tuesday afternoon. Thoughts?

Rain, wool, Lena and I...

posted on: Wednesday, 8 October 2014

So on Monday, it rained and rained all day in some sort of Armageddon fashion and there seemed nothing to do but light the fire and sit still. I had received the new Lena Dunham book in the post and read it cover-to-cover in 1.5 days. Haven't stopped thinking about it since and it's now Wednesday. Much of the (rather brilliant essay-style) content was familiar to me as I have watched every episode of 'Girls' there is, but I found being inside Lena Dunham's head startlingly similar to being inside my own. Hah. Of course she is a literary genius and a modern cultural phenomenon and there are hardly any similarities between us, but nevertheless the impulse that drives her to write and share felt very known to me. She is riddled with anxieties and the dexterity of thought she is capable of is dizzying (but familiar). An over-active imagination is a scary thing.

I also got the book 'Women in Clothes' which I surmised, just a few pages in, that I was going to LOVE. It's like a fat volume of every interesting female you have ever read/talked to but much more than that; the premise is to get inside why women wear what they wear. What goes on in their heads? Why do certain clothes hold meaning? To me this is of deep interest. I am so intrigued I can barely put it down, despite the fact that the book itself (paperback version) weighs a ton. Love books.

Meanwhile, the weather has continued in the same vein: rain and grey. I walked the pup this morning near a stately home close to here, which you approach across rolling green fields, edged with woodland. It's Jane Austen-esque and grand and it made me want to take a picture for any American folk on Instagram who like the idea of English-ness. In the drizzle.

Thank you for your lovely comments to my last post. It's a rocky road it seems and I am working through why this pain revisits me even when I think it has long-gone. Yesterday was good; today less so. However I am trying all the tricks to get it under control.

It's cold and due to re plumbing complexities with the house build, I can't turn on the heating. Everything feels slightly damp. This leads me to scour the web for chunky knitwear and face the fact that for the next six months I shall be buried under a layer of winter wardrobe; jeans. boots, wool, coat! No matter how much I try to think I can style it to pacify my sartorial side, I know I will look like every other school mum ever.

I have taken to going to sleep with wet hair. Throughout my entire adult life I have been a morning hair-washer. I am now in a phase of anti-styling. This is cathartic for me. The result? Long, wavy, messy hair. I am not sure how I feel about it. So much easier, so messy. My current view is that I don't care but there is every chance that my contemporaries are regarding me with curiosity as I look like I haven't brushed my hair for weeks. Which I haven't, really.

I read this post and loved it like I loved the books detailed above. I am now thinking about those people on the bus and wondering what they are doing in their lives? And whether I should take to wearing red lipstick (to disguise the messy hair?)

Thank goodness for this space where I can download my daily view. I know sometimes it is sporadic and random and I veer from existential musing to whether I need to buy another grey jumper or not, but nevertheless it is a precious place to me. Happy midweek :-)