Under Pressure *sang my bladder*

Well, I do like to keep things real. And in that spirit, I’ll tell you what happened this morning, because why gather humiliating things to my bosom when I can release them into the web to be revisited forever until the Apocalypse does something bad to computers? Exactly.

I went running with a new guy, someone I have never met, who is American, charming, well-groomed, does something with finance and tech, and who is a seasoned runner fresh from the Boston marathon. Over the running whatsapp group I have repeatedly told him that I am slow like your garden variety grandma, and that this is not a humble brag – I like a crawling jog where I can take photos of blossoms and fiddle with my podcasts and he said he didn’t care.

So we met at 6am this morning and had a lovely chat and he said he will follow my route around the Hyde Park corner bit all the way home. He didn’t plug into his phone because he said he likes to hear himself breathe, which was a tiny bit disarming because no one (especially not me) would like to hear me breathe, because it is a heaving, rasping, punctured lung kind of sound when I run, and also, if people aren’t listening to music or podcasts, then do they actually want to talk? I don’t.

So we started off and I was kind of leading the pace and I was being a bit showy offy/ambitious and began at Quite The Trot which I had to sustain the whole way around because otherwise my usual pace would be exposed and I would be shamed for being a fraud. I started my usual throat clearing which leads to frequent hoicking onto the pavement and then my nose started running and so I just had to blow out lots of snot and wipe it on my new grey leggings. This is what I usually do, but usually I am by myself, in the dark or with people who know I leak from orifices when under any pressure. So I am aware that my new guy wasn’t making any sounds or leaking, spitting, rubbing, wiping, hoicking or even breathing very ugly, at least, not that I could tell over my loudish very emotional episode of Where Do We Begin, an hour’s marriage guidance counselling podcast session which seems to me to be perfectly matched with a 5km run around the park.

At some point around the 20 minute mark I just gave into the excretions and thought ‘well, I just might never see him again’. But still he stayed next to me, kindly matching my pace, not looking over as I gargled and spat too slow, hitting my trainers with dribble. We got near the end (three whole minutes faster than I usually make it) and I put in a tiny bit of extra effort to finish because it had been hard and embarrassing and tough and I just wanted it to be over, and when we got to the gate, I stopped and

DID A BIT OF WEE

which flooded into my new grey leggings and spread. It wasn’t a whole lot of wee, just a little amount, almost a celebratory amount – my bladder was like HURRAH YOU’VE STOPPED I THINK I WILL JUST RELAX FOR A SECOND – but you know, leggings these days have fabric that wicks moisture away which I think just means ‘makes it look as though you have pissed a litre’ and so I had to walk home with the unavoidable incontinence patch taking over half my inner thighs.

I kept trying to pull the leggings way up into my crotch, hoping that the fabric would sort of fold into itself and that the wet bits would be hidden in the great folds of my ageing pudenda but it wasn’t working. I tried to hold my earphones over the offending wet patches but that did nothing to hide them either. Meanwhile we were discussing quite serious matters such as role division in marriage, the impact of children leaving the home, career choices in later life – all very engaging, and to his credit he did seem to be keeping his eyes to the forward, firmly away from my frontal shame. It was only when he waved me off at my gate that he turned and faced me, in the bright 6:50am daylight, moisture still apparent. Luckily, luckily, our goodbyes were hurried and brief, which might well have been more about his eagerness not to prolong my humiliation rather than any need to go somewhere fast. I will never know.

I came down the stairs, immediately showered (chafing issues) and told the kids, showed them my leggings for an honest appraisal of the likelihood that I had been busted and they just laughed and said it wasn’t their fault that they wet the bed – it was because of my bad bladder role modelling. They also more kindly said that with any luck, the new guy wouldn’t have seen because what kind of man looks at other women’s groin and I said

‘Thank you for saying that – it helps – but….peripheral vision, dudes. Peripheral vision.’

The only other thing that I take comfort from is that this guy’s wife has had four kids, so he might well be used to women’s bladders being prone to a little celebratory leakage. But still. Argh. All a bit much for a Tuesday morning, if you know what I mean?

 

 

 

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Honeymoon

So, Mark and Barnaby have been away for 12 days and we have been variously calm, happy, ordered and clean. Life as a solo parent of 4 plus a dog is actually easier than having Mark here (with surly teen) and it is because I am in the throes of a Singleton Honeymoon.

I am sure it would come to some sort of shuddering halt quite soon (certainly when the money ran out) if it was actually for realz, but for now, I am basking in being in parental control, sleeping in a bed by myself, watching the third season of Love on Netflix without protracted negotiations/discussions/compromising (‘you choose this series, I get the next’ waaah boring zzzz), going to bed whenever I want to, reading for as long as I want to, begging the dog to sleep with me (although he won’t – he is frightened that the Hairy Alpha Guy will burst out from behind the curtains and catch him), getting my running gear on in the mother truckin’ bedroom at 5:40am with all the lights blazing instead of panto-sneaking into the bathroom and doing it there, and eating leftovers that are eked out all week, minimising cooking and maximising TV time e.g. the spaghetti bolognese has become a lasagne-esque pasta bake once I added ricotta and creme fraiche all over the top, while the first week I just ate up a huge mound of rejected sweet potato mash by adding eggs every night. The kids, meanwhile,  are just eating whatever our kind neighbour brings down for them.

HAVE I NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT OUR NEIGHBOURLY BENEFACTOR?

We have a very kind, extremely mysterious man who lives upstairs with the 98 year old Israeli ex-judge/ex-Chief of Police/ex-serially married guy in a carer-capacity. He is from New Zealand, grew up on a farm and is now also a full-time accountant while looking after the old guy who, like Magic, tends to run away whenever the front door is left open. His other occupations are weird late night activities – when you walk the dog at 11pm at night, you can often spy him on a phone somewhere midway through the Estate, and he is also – crucially – committed to shopping for reduced bargains which he brings down to us. Often, we will have a late night delivery from him of four loaves of reduced Hovis bread, 32 brown bananas, four packages of slightly greying sausages and 18 M&S sausage rolls, all marked down to about 8p. I think he literally does a Supermarket Sweep for his household and ours right before the shops close, both because he loves a bargain and because I think it is his way of showing us that he loves us. Some of this bounty is gratefully received, and some of it just sits on a kitchen bench, getting more moist and way past the due date, as I wonder what to do with it and who I can give it to. There are only so many banana loaves a busy lady can make, if you know what I mean.

DISCLAIMER: I am perfectly happy with old food. I hate waste and I love reconfiguring meals until they get up and walk out of the fridge by themselves (see the spaghetti bolognese/lasagne hybrid that might stretch out for one more night, but might also have to be given to the dog. I think you can always tell by sniffing it fearlessly, no?). But I am also a terrible bread snob and sometimes, trying to use up seven bunches of kale before they get mouldering is just beyond me, and the constant stale hoards can get a bit annoying. Besides, no room.

But this week, he has come up trumps with two cooked chickens (why, who wants stir fried rice and chicken, kids?), 17 sausage rolls, four heads of lettuce, three Hovis loaves, gluten-free hot cross buns, M&S chocolate fudge cake, 14 pork sausages, six donuts, eight croissants and some very odd coffee spritzer. Tonight, the children will positively feast on the second round of sausage rolls with…lettuce. It is like a party, I tell you.

Pitfalls of Singleton Honeymoons

  1. I got a bit giddy with the whole staying up thing and watched Manchester By The Sea until midnight, and then couldn’t sleep until about 3am. Because of the sadness, and the wine.
  2. I keep thinking that if I want to get a tattoo, then I should get one while Mark is away. So the children and I have been drawing on ourselves in readiness. Casper keeps saying “LET’S GO TO THE TATTOO SHOP NOW”, calling my bluff and freaking me out. I like to think I might get one. I don’t actually want to take my ten year old along with me to get some terrible accidental prison tattoo, chosen in haste and adrenaline, do I? Or do I?

Balanced with Other Good Bits Though

  1. The rules have been thrown out the window and we all watch nightly 90’s rom coms. After our old, out-of-date suppers, we’ve binged on You’ve Got Mail, Mean Girls, Mean Girls 2, Clueless, and moved on to race issues with 12 Years A Slave and Rabbit Proof Fence. Next on the list are The Truman Show, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hidden Figures. I would like to think the boys are now very well-educated in the charms of preppy outfit matching as well as having honed an acute sense of the wrongs of racial prejudice – and shall soon be woke to the perils of social media, racism at NASA and the non-animated quirk of Wes Anderson.
  2. Casper has turned into a lovely, kind boy. All those years of being a total pain in the ass have crumbled away. All it took was ten years and an absent dad. He seems to have risen to the challenge Mark set before he left – the old ‘Look after your mother’ chestnut. The only kids who have let the side down are Otis (swearing) and Ned (dramatic breakdowns and a lot of wailing). But mostly, mostly, we are very well indeed.

Here we are on Saturday, dressed up in our pyjamas because Carluccios was giving away free breakfasts for those in their nighttime attire:

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And the Easter Bonnet parade, where Otis choked but was saved just in time by Noah:

 

And finally, my one time out since being on my Singleton Honeymoon, with Neradah, darling Neradah, my buddy since we were 11. She knocks me out with her cuteness (and fierceness). In this filter, we still look preteen:

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Wish me luck with the whole ‘readjusting to sharing my bed and going to bed at 10:30 and cooking properly’ thing. I am going to need it.

 

 

 

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Hiatus

I’ve been having a hiatus (an hiatus?) because of this new work malarkey. It has been a bit trying, I have to say, because I have had to relearn how to work a PC. This is a slow and awkward thing. It feels like being back in the dial-up age – the cut and paste works funny and you have to open your computer using control, alt, delete. But could I find ‘delete’? No. NO! It wasn’t very obvious, to be perfectly fair. Hidden in plain sight, you might say.

So on my first day, one of the very kind permanent copywriters who was tasked with showing me what to do had to watch me try to find the delete button, sweaty olden day hands hovering over the keyboard, quite lacking in conviction, while he willed me to find it and find it quickly so he could go back to doing his own work. It was a palpable force of good intent – FIND IT, FIND IT, LADY! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IT IS JUST TO YOUR LEFT! went his eyes and his aura, and I was right there with him, wishing it were all over and I could go and have a cry somewhere. The pain of being a new starter has quite the run-on effect, as I am sure all my ‘helpers’ would attest. I just forget stuff a bit. It must be my middle age, or the deeply rubbish IBM system which embarrasses me with its clunk and constant errors, not all of which have anything to do with me.

There are all these file paths too which seem to be unnecessarily complicated, with 80 style guides hidden in mysterious places, and you are supposed to refer to them, but you have to find them first. But I don’t have time, because I am slow, and like to research a little bit about the designer who bothered to make another crisp white tee, otherwise you can’t add much to the copy. So if each time you do a bit of googling and each time you try to come up with a fresh way to write about pretty much identical stuff, then the ten minute time frame you have allotted to write about your product gets eaten into, and before you know it, it is 10:15am and you have only written about three things and OH MY GOODNESS you’ll have to work through lunch, ignore the whats app texts showing you photos of what the school dinners look like on any given day (purely for quality control reasons) and you start to forget to go to the toilet.

Your copy gets a bit erratic, shifting from horrible stock phrasing (‘take your traditional t-shirt styling to a contemporary level with this camo print’) to drunken-rant-sounding stream of consciousness nonsense (‘if Stevie Nicks had a cloth baby with Kate Moss, it would look just like this woven wonder jumpsuit with added pocket detail that will make you scream with restless-hands-related-delight…’) and you get a bit dizzy, but can’t make a cup of herbal tea because you are scared of all the people standing by the kitchen. And you realise that you will have to work for two hours longer than everyone else has left the building just to finish your allocation, and the lights keep switching off and the cleaner is vacuuming under your legs, and then you have to write about a belt but you just can’t find any information on it so you have to go on about it having an adjustable fit. That’s right – this belt has an adjustable fit. Also punch hole detail. As in, it has holes in it so you can do it up.

GROUNDBREAKING PIECE OF WRITTEN WORK, THAT WAS.

And you do your maths and work out that, because of the no lunch and the overtime, you are paid less than your cleaner.

In Less Depressing News, Vaguely Work-Related

Not On The High Street invited me to an International Women’s Day breakfast at the Hoxton Hotel to hear some entrepreneurial women talk about imposter syndrome being a little like a secret weapon and the uselessness of guilt. One woman said something about how hugely maddening it is to be working but still have to do all the domestic crap, and then everyone got quite noddy and a bit angry. I did too, although Mark as been a trooper during the new J.O.B crisis, feeding the children (a bit late) with salmon and rice (no veges though) and I have been trying to say ‘thank you’ and not ‘why so late and would a bit of broccoli on the side be the undoing of you, eh?’. There has also been a rather cocktail-heavy restaurant review at Pomona’s in Notting Hill where we wisely made friends with the barman. More fake-expert mothering advice right here, and something on never leaving London here.

More Stuff

Amanda and Josh came from New Zealand to stay on our couch for a week and we went up the Sky Garden for views and five hot chocolates that cost £20:

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See my quite sweet optimism here, full of love and pride for my disinterested, grumbling tribe of boys:

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After, we got lost in the City, battling the mini Beast from the East, walked up the 315 steps to the top of the Monument while Mark held the fort at the bottom with some craft ale and a heater, and topped it off with hamburgers at Borough Market where I went apeshit because Ned stole Otis’s fries, so I went to his little heap of fries and stole them back, but squashed them all in the process so Ned also went apeshit and pushed a chair over and the lady asked us to leave. Here is my cold face attempting a jowl-free angled selfie in the freezing cold:

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Mark and Barnaby have left for three weeks in New Zealand, so we are all currently luxuriating in the spaces they have left – my bed is now sporting a massive duvet, usually not allowed because *one* of us gets a bit hot, while the children cannot believe that they can go near the playstation without Barnaby punching them in the throat. The food we eat can have some sort of cheese component without Barnaby gagging and we don’t have to listen to Mark tell us that one of us has taken his glasses/keys/wallet/phone. We might well miss them, but I doubt it.

If you’re reading this – LOVE YOU GUYS! Don’t kill too many small animals like you did last time, and I promise Magic isn’t allowed to sleep on the bed, tucked up on your side like a sweet fat hairy husband-replacement. Nope.

Finally, Otis and I went to Tiger and got a glue gun, and the boys came home last night and made him this to wear for the nursery easter Bonnet Parade. To say I am proud would be quite the understatement:

 

 

 

 

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A job, hair (again) and scaly patches

A Few Insights From The Recent Snow Situation

1. Wearing a hat is brilliant for my awkward accidental mullet (caused by having too many pregnancies which results in partial baldness, leading to coy regrowth in a variety of hair types – could be grey, could be pube-ish, could be like a dark haired man’s, even). Admittedly, the regrowth does thicken up to become a underlying skull-cap layer which gives an appealing bouffant but then disappointingly runs out of volume and lies lank, thin, and broken. But my hat smooths out and flattens down the extra short bits like a cut-priceblow dry. It also seems to create a cheekbone illusion. As well as keeps your head warm. LATE TO THE HAT PARTY, OBVS. This segues neatly to another hair/scalp thing:

2. Lindsay at Aveda said I shouldn’t really wash my hair, so I haven’t been, even after a run. She says I need to use that sweat and oil to create hair creations, to give some volume, to power up the follicles and fool the world that I am young and lush. It does kind of work – I can do this sticking-up fringe thing a bit like my dad used to do, kind of brushed back into itself so that you see a slightly see-through wall of thin hair standing up, fortified by dirt – although by day four the product and oil joins the strands together and it can only be worked as a messy undo (pretty much exactly like Meghan Markle did so well recently, except for the different colour, hair type, length, degree of polish, health and age of the hair, recourse to expensive treatments and non-supermarket shampoo)  but then you can see my patches of psoriasis. I asked Mark the other day whether he ever sees my red scaly patches which lie behind my ears and around my hairline and he says

‘Yes.’ And I was a bit horrified because I thought I skilfully kept them hidden through tucking back long strands of hair, a bit of wishful thinking and quite a lot of hope. Apparently, people can see my visible patches of psoriasis because they are, well, visible.

So, hats.

3. Also, I fell over in front of a pub on Tuesday night. It was slo mo and sore, and a man rushed up to me to help me up and I felt like a big ungainly baby. I was wearing ankle boots with a flat leather sole. Mostly this is because I am no slave to English seasonal dressing – oh no, I like to be a little bit cold, always. Keeping things interesting, you know? No gloves for me, or shoes with grip. Just boots that slide over hard surfaces. And there have been many around, although I ran this morning and didn’t fall over, just got wet, cold and snotty. I succumbed to wellington boots today but don’t they make you look a bit farmer-ish? I bit thick-thighed? Quite ruddy? Ugh.

In Other News

I wrote this about feeling like yourself again after having a baby – it got some shares, so it’s here so you can see that I do write about things other than the unsatisfactory state of hair. Sheesh.

Also, I started a job on the copywriting team at Selfridges. This means I have to learn to write really fast (i.e. I can’t fanny about checking instagram every few minutes) and I have to go into the building three times a week, and I have to cope with being edited by other people, and I have to learn to enjoy my own company at lunchtime because while the young people on the team are very nice, they just don’t seem to see me, certainly not enough to ask me to have lunch with them, or, even, really talk to me at all.

I think this isn’t meanness, but because I am a generation older than they are, and so it makes me imperceptible to their youthful eyes. Like a forgettable aunt. Or their mother. Maybe one of their mother’s friends? Your mother’s friend who thinks she is young, insists on it, but you really know she is old. And she is a bit embarrassing. And maybe she swears a bit too much, jabbers on a bit, mostly to herself? I am trying really hard to be cool, and to calm that shit down, but it is really hard, because I love making new friends and I don’t think that I am SO SO SO very different from them all. But then I remember what I was like when I was in my early 20s when someone was friendly but old. I remember blanking them.

Also, they do say funny things, like not knowing the Tonya Harding story, and not ever hearing the word ‘brutalism’ before. But some of them are my bosses. I haven’t mentioned the word ’40’ yet because I think I will actually disappear. I will become transparent. I will be their flesh and blood blind spot.

So, I am going to dress like a mental when I am not there, to console myself that I can make people look. I wore this to dinner at The Landau Hotel last Friday. It is a full skirted 70’s polyester dress. I wore it with red boots and I tripped up on the hem. It requires that underwear that sucks your stomach in and up, so it spills a little into your rib-area – not far enough to give you bigger boobs, just a lower, smaller tube of under-boob. You know?

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And then one night a few weeks ago I placed a bid on this vintage Chanel necklace and I won it. Ostensibly to sell on, but then, JUST LOOK! If only it wasn’t too cold to wear boat neck tops. If only it wasn’t bloody hat weather.

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Not Skiing and Some Disappointing Cheese Bits

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[Photo is of grated cheese that no one cleaned up while I was out last weekend, even though I made the meal and did all the preliminary cleaning up before I left.]

SKIING THOUGHTS

I went skiing the first time when I was about 17, in my last year of high school. It was The Seventh Form Skiing Trip – quite the adult, alien thing to do because we were not a skiing family. No one was, really, in the place where I grew up at the top of the North Island which was more of a surfing-and-weed kind of place, humid and sunny and a bit wild. The sports were rugby and netball, with a bit of rogue hockey thrown in, and the boys were either massive and brown or skinny and skater-ish. No one I knew went skiing, although there is a lot of it in New Zealand – it’s just the skiing bits were a long drive away from our city and you had to be a different kind of family than ours to know anything much about it. We were more of a caravan and scrabble kind of gang, you know?

I remember when the letters from school about the trip came out. I was very surprised that my mum and dad were happy to let me go, because it was a properly hefty cost. But they were totally on board because they are people who get that kind of thing – they understand the value of experiences and travel and because by then all my siblings had pretty much left home and so there were less of us to be bleeding money over. So I went with all of my mates, all of us first timers I think, to a ski field in Turoa, staying in some crap hostel in a sad ski town. It was SO GREAT – we were all utterly transformed by it – the flying, the cold, the total strangeness of it. I don’t think anything really compares to whizzing badly down a mountain, thinking you will die, but wanting to go faster. And the silence, the stillness, the air. I don’t remember a whole lot about anything else about that week really, other than that I bought a terrible cropped t-shirt and some billowing trousers at a town we stopped at on the way there, because in those days my stomach was taut (TAUT! waaah). And there was a dry room in the hostel to put your borrowed ski gear, and we went down in a big bus, and that’s kind of it.

We went skiing once again, before we had kids, when Mark was asked to paint a client’s chalet in Chamonix in return for us staying there for free. We couldn’t believe what a brilliant deal that was – we borrowed gear, had schnapps in the town one night and ate a lot of exciting supermarket French food rather than eating out because we were a bit poor. But! Still! It was the very best, most exciting, privileged, ridiculously fun and spoilt and delightful and nutty thing. Mark tried and failed to snowboard while I just happily (badly) tried the different runs and wore *adorable* plaits.

THE POINT:

This is the most longwinded way of saying I want to go skiing again, I would actually die with proper joy to go again, but can’t because the children make it too expensive – it has been out of our reach ever since we got the free accommodation. Which is fine.

But – for all of you people skiing this week and posting stories about how you don’t like skiing anymore because it’s boring and the kids are better than you because they’ve been in ski school since they were two and now you just really prefer ‘snow walking’ after a sleep-in once the chalet has been cleared up from the infernal skiing-related debris, well.

YOU DON’T KNOW YOU’RE BORN, YOU INGRATES!

I can’t abide it! It’s not something to moan about, having to go skiing! Having to go on an expensive holiday is the OPPOSITE of a reason to moan. Not being able to go on holiday is a perfectly acceptable reason to whinge, and perhaps only being able to afford a quite shit holiday is a passable cause of moroseness, but even then, there’s a fine line there.

FOR EXAMPLE:

In the early days of coming to London, we went to Paris for a weekend and we tried to find a hotel we could afford, and after lugging our bags from hotel to hotel (no access to the ‘net in those days) we found one in the lower parts of Montmartre which had smears of blood on the walls and terrifying babies screaming through the walls all night. Pubic hair on the sheets too, and they weren’t ours. Anyway, we didn’t moan about that Paris trip, though, I’ll have you mind – NO. It was bloody great! We sashayed around and ate lots of bread and queued for a long time to go up the Eiffel Tower and followed the Amelie trail and felt very lucky indeed.

AND ANOTHER:

You might well recall we went to one of those caravan parks for a holiday weekend in September for Otis’s 4th birthday. It rained, the caravan felt like a tin can, kind of a clammy tin can, and outside it was muddy and the ground near the steps was full of used tissues. It felt as though everyone there was toothless with a buzz haircut, though I might have just added that detail – and there was one of those English bloody arcade places that felt sticky and permanently ablaze with artificial light to make you stay there and spend all of your coins on terrible soft toys and plastic shit, instead of encouraging you to venture outside to the beach which was, actually, really lovely. But cold. And windy.

But it was still fun! It was an odd-kind of fun, but I didn’t begrudge anyone for us being there.

If I ever get back on some slopes, whether in shit New Zealand towns or someone French and elegant, I will be really pleased. I will ski, and wear googles and plait my thinning hair and eat the cheese and drink the eggnog/schnapps/Alpine sweet wine and think how lucky I am.

Sorry for the moaning.

It was Valentine’s Day yesterday and I bought 16 of these and ate them very quickly because Portuguese custard tarts are my actual true loves:

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I had written this about an alternative Valentine’s Day plan but it was too windy and cold to follow my most excellent advice and so we just got angry at each other inside instead.

Happy rest of half term, lovers, whether you are sulking in the wet with a weeks’ worth of vicious cabin fever with five of your kids and dog, or whether you are hitting the slopes in your vintage Dior ski outfit but not really enjoying it much.

 

 

 

 

 

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A New Thing – 13

This morning, my eldest child turned 13. Good that he’s lasted that long, yes. Great that everything works and he is growing properly and that he is exhibiting all the signs of a proper pantomime teenage villain, which you would expect, I suppose. He is never without this look on his face which is a painful, practiced distain – eyes to middle distance, mouth arranged in a neutral though joyless straight line, voice quiet and kind of muffled unless he is unleashing a surprising and shrieking death threat to the other kids if they dare to touch him or his stuff, ever. He is pretty tired too, which is probably just a result of the endless framing of the face – I imagine he wakes up perfectly happy but then remembers his life, his dreadful, tiresome, awful life shared with dreadful, tiresome, awful people and so he must employ his only weapon by rearranging his face into The Permanent Mask Of Teenage Emotional Distance Which Implies He Hates Us But Stops Short Of Actual Confirmation. I’ve seen this face every day for the last six months. Cases in point:

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Note the terrifically pursed lips in the blue photo. MUST NOT SMILE OR SHOW ANY PLEASURE, EVER.

So he turned 13 today, as I said, and of course, like every other mother in the land since time immemorial, I am surprised and sad that my baby is growing up. He was all very sweet and booffy-of-hair once:

 

And I think I prefer the Infant to the Adolescent as a general concept, although I do like the way his legs are long in his tight jeans – he looks like he fronts an indie band. Plus he reads a lot, has quite a nice floppy Hugh Grant-esque wave to his hair and is good at art, so what am I complaining about? There is something fabulous about letting him stay up to watch Peaky Blinders for a bit, and he says he will come running with me sometime, and one day in many years time we shall meet at a pub and he will regale me with tales of his life and I will love it though I might be wailing on the inside, mourning the passage of time and my own inevitable march towards being aged and then dead.

In that vein, the only alternative to him getting older (as he so correctly put it this morning while I slumped around the flat all very morose and maudlin about his birthday) would be his own death. We don’t want that.

I do like the idea of permanent arrested (alive) development of my children –  like a baby Maggie Simpson, always in the background somewhere, being quiet and cute and always about two, but then I don’t really, because then I would never go back to work and we’d have spent a lot on babysitters, plus a lot of time in doctor’s offices wondering what was wrong with the weird static kid. So, what do you do?

I read the Sunday Times piece on Helena Morrissey  (you can’t read it because it is behind a paywall but she’s the head of personal investing for Legal & General – read: massive important well-paid City job) and she has nine kids and a Buddhist-monk husband and I thought THAT’S HOW YOU KEEP THEM LITTLE! YOU JUST KEEP HAVING THEM! THEN THEY HAVE KIDS AND YOU ALWAYS HAVE A BABY SOMEWHERE TO LOSE YOURSELF OVER! all of which I am tempted to keep doing, because…Girl!…might have one….would like one….not likely though….but I love babies….but there’s no room….but that’s never stopped us before…no cot though, sold it on eBay….but could buy another one….but I would be quite embarrassed and everyone would tell me it was time I stopped hiding behind small humans and GOT A JOB…but six is a lovely rounded number…but, no. I’ll have to learn to be content with the existing five. Maybe that thing you feel when you see old photos of them cute and fat and dopey and little is just a thing that you learn to sit with. Maybe it’s a beautiful thing that you willingly step into sometimes, just for you, remembering who you both were for a while, before something else took its place.

Anyway, tonight Barnaby has asked for dinner at GBK which is a win for all of us. I will drink some wine and try not to cry as I look around the table filled with little-ish boys on the turn and instead be grateful that I got the chance to experience all this mixed, mental loveliness at all.

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Dubious Parenting Choices

So, here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about. I listened to Jon Ronson’s podcast The Butterfly Effect on my slow, cold, knee-stiffening runs around the park: the series where he delves into the free porn phenomenon of the last 15 years. The whole thing was kicked off by an incident in a hotel lobby where Ronson meets a porn star for an interview (dressed in an undeniably porn starry way, it would seem) and he can’t help but notice how disgusted the hotel staff are by her very presence.

This is, of course, a ridiculous double standard, because more people watch porn than anything else on the web. Fine to consume regularly from the comfort of your little laptop – free and furtive, infinitely variable and instantly gratifying, immediately forgotten – but the industry and its people are socially verboten, crass, worthless, shameful and disposable. So, Ronson goes out to dig a little deeper at this conflict, looking at where and why the proliferation of free porn began, by whom, and then looks at the far reaching consequences of it – how it has made an impact on lots of people, on culture, and health. And it is all horrible.  HORRIBLE. As a mother of five sons, these bits gall me the most – Ronson cites (US) stats claiming erectile dysfunction has gone up 1000% and teen pregnancies are down, not through compaigns promoting abstinence or safe sex but because heavy users of porn are beginning to be unable to have sex normally anymore. Even the guys making the movies find the naked porn actress splayed out next to them does nothing to sustain an erection – Ronson notes how they quickly flick to their phones during breaks for some digital variety of screwing to get their penises back on track.

Apparently the kids will see their first bit of online porn at age 11, and I think that’s conservative. So what do you do with all this, except to talk openly about what online porn is, and why it isn’t real, and why it is important to be safe online, as well as using every opportunity to bang on about your own values and morals and try to scare them a little bit?

FAMILY VIEWING OF THE ENTIRE SIX SEASONS OF DAWSON’S CREEK, OF COURSE!

That, my friends, is totally the answer. Because Dawson and his really badly dressed pals are OBSESSED by sex, but also by notions of love, romance, kissing, fidelity, honesty, courtship, reputations, fantasy, the pressure to go too fast, the agony of waiting. It is tortuous and teenage but also imparts exactly the right kind of reverence to sexuality that the free porn thing entirely deconstructs. There is a weight to it all. Imbued with longing, desire and precocious painful discourse, the whole show is like a bad, beautiful poem to the innocent exploration of sex.

Kissing, for example. Dawson is eaten up by the concept of a perfect first kiss. It is endlessly debated until Dawson finally goes to his father to ask how it is done. The Dad gets all misty-eyed (a Hasselhoff-esque big brute of man called Mitch – ha! – who looks exactly like the kind of guy who graces a Mills & Boon cover, all biceps and massive veiny phallic neck) and goes on a long story about his first kiss shared with Dawson’s mum. He finally says something hilarious to poor, confused Dawson about ‘letting your bottom lip dance’. It’s so awful but so great. I tried to let my bottom lip dance with Mark to test out the theory but it was like having a nervous tic, because my dancing is more of the frantic type – and made our intimate moment unsexy and confusing. It wasn’t the greatest advice, but I get the sentiment.

The show is 20 years old and it really shows – Pacey’s brother gets lots of frankly offensive shit about how he might be gay, and there is a lot made of Joey’s sister who is unmarried and having a baby with a black guy. We are (were, I supposed) to be a bit shocked by this, but the shocking thing now is that any of this was even worthy of a storyline. So the political context is something we’ve been having a lot of discussions about, trying to get the kids to see that even 20 years ago things like being black or gay was a big, shameful deal and that the show did nothing to challenge this, but instead embraced a very narrow, dated and arguably harmful worldview. I think these are important discussions to have, alongside dancing bottom lips and the merits of billowing pirate shirts under linen vests and tight little leather necklaces and plum lipliner. What’s more, Joey’s mom jeans look quite cool purely by accident, Jen has the worst blowdries ever and the music sets me off on a nostalgic fugue state. BUY IT OFF AMAZON PRIME RIGHT NOW!

So that’s sex ed. over and done with. My other potentially insane thing I did was to buy Noah, our quirky, emotionally intelligent but workshy non-reader Stephen King’s IT. Because it is scary and horrible, but it is also the book that I devoured when I was about 12. I loved it, loved being scared by it, and for the first time ever that kid is sitting down in a quiet place to be willingly sutured into a story – one that plays out in his head and imagination rather than another feckin’ screen. He is the least anxious of the kids, never once mentioning being scared of anything, robust in his self belief and confidence and just kind of sashays into the world like he owns it. So I told him to stop reading it is if was too scary, or if it upset him, but I think he’s going to be ok. I know I loved dark, unsettling books like Flowers In The Attic, The Clan Of The Cave Bear (ok, I liked that one for the neanderthal bonking), all the Stephen Kings and S.E Hinton’s stuff right about his age, and there is the theory that when you are safe and secure IRL, there is some psychological gain by testing out the waters of terror. So….am I right here, or is this just terrible, terrible parenting?

Here are some pictures to distract you from answering.

I wrote the cover article for Quintessentially magazine all about that extremely handsome man Tommy Clarke on the front. Just LOOK!

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This is my bio and my photograph. I thought it was charming and funny but it does look like my Deliverance brothers photobombed me fresh from buggering the tourists:

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Here are my children watching TV half-dressed in facemasks and sunhats:

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Otis and the dog:

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Me in a new, open-backed, reduced-to-26-quid dress that does odd things to the shape of my boobs. I bought it though it is entirely questionable. I wore it last night to Palomar and I looked a little Krystle Carrington, I think:

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