Monthly Archives: March 2016

Running on empty

Last week I saw a consultant as I’ve been suffering with IBS-type symptoms for a few months. After reassuring me that he wasn’t overly concerned that there was anything sinister going on – phew! – he went on to say that, just to cover all bases, he would like to do a colonoscopy. He gave some dates that worked for him (as if we were arranging a trip to the cinema or a coffee morning) and told me he would get the nurse to give me the stuff I would need to get me prepped for the procedure. I didn’t give this a second thought as I was still coming to terms with the prospect of the actual procedure. As it’s not in my nature to be graphic, suffice to say the examination at the doctors was enough for me to need counselling so the idea of this latest appointment was not sitting at all well with me (even though I had had a sneaking suspicion that this may be on the cards…)

The nurse gave me my pack before I left the hospital with a sympathetic grimace (worrying) and the sage advice to “read all the information carefully” when I got home.

I got home and went straight out to Book Club. Lots of sympathy and words of reassurance from the ladies. A few glasses of wine. Some chocs. Lovely. Next day I was working and sorting out authorisation codes from the health insurer and then making the appointment.The medical secretary asked if I had been given my “pack” and echoed the nurse’s advice to read it all through carefully.

So, I read it all through carefully. And again. Just to make sure I had read it right. Because there surely must be a mistake, a printing error. But the use of bold typefaces and underlining made me think that someone was determined that this message should come across loud and clear. The message was this: I was not allowed to eat ANYTHING from 9am the day BEFORE the procedure until AFTER the procedure had been performed. I repeat – do not eat ANYTHING for 24 hours. 24 hours!!!!  No food! For 24 hours.

Suddenly, the idea of the actual procedure (you can Google it if you like ) seemed a distant hurdle that I would need to cross once I had traversed the chasm of hunger and starvation. I have fasted before. I am not unfamiliar with the Fast Diet and have quite happily restrained myself from eating until around 2pm in the quest for weight loss and health. But never have I not eaten for 24 hours. Ever. Even when struck down with a stomach bug I have always managed to force something down. I just don’t do not eating. I have never been prime material for an eating disorder.

Today is the day before the procedure (I know I keep using that word but it makes it less daunting somehow than using the actual word) and it is 11.45am. Due to the restrictions on what I could have for breakfast – oh yes, not only was it to be my last meal, I couldn’t even have whatever I wanted – I have had 2 croissants and a cup of tea. And that’s my lot until about this time tomorrow. I am already peckish. I would normally have a banana or pear around now. No great loss – I don’t eat them because I love them (I like fruit but I would prefer chocolate to contain the same vitamins)  – but it seems cruel to even be deprived of this mid-morning ritual.

I am making this sound dramatic, I know. I should “man up” and just get on with it. And I am really; I know it’s only a day and I know it will be good to have this box ticked and for the symptoms I’ve had to be 100% confirmed as nothing to worry about. But I reserve the right to make a bit of a fuss. I have asked K to cook spag bol for tea as it is one of the few meals that I do not eat and therefore won’t be looking longingly at their plates or trying to stop my mouth watering at the smells of something tasty cooking and making it unpleasant for all concerned.

I am going to squirrel myself away upstairs once I have logged off for the day and can “rest” as instructed in the booklet. I have to drink a couple of litres of “preparation fluid” to clear my system out (sorry there is no more pleasant way to explain that) and stay near a toilet at all times. This worries me the least of all the aspects of this whole thing as I have been dealing with this sort of situation for a few months! I’m going to make the most of the evening off of cooking duty and plan to have a bath and shave my legs. Don’t want to look like a gorilla tomorrow for the procedure.

In the meantime, I will try and ignore the call of my hunger. I will go for a walk if it all gets too much. Perhaps I should turn the TV off – it seems to be constant food adverts or cooking programmes. Not helpful people.

See you on the other side



Teens/Pre-Teens vs. Small Children

Last night we went to the cinema as a family. The destination in itself is not unusual but if we go to the cinema we generally go in the daytime, or I go with T sometimes in the evening. K and I rarely go to the cinema on our own, preferring to watch a DVD at home or go out for dinner and actually talk to each other (which is hard to do in the cinema). So, last night’s sojourn was a first. We were going to see the final film in the Divergent series, which although it is rated a 12A we were confident that A would be OK with the content, as I have read the book and she has seen the previous two films with no upset.

On the way to the cinema it struck me how life is constantly changing and outings that were stressful or nigh on impossible when the children were small are now commonplace and we can do so much more together – and all enjoy it. Thankfully the days of sitting through a Pixar/Disney ear-splitting, nerve jangling horror (not literally a horror film, you understand, but the feeling of horror that these films induce) are becoming more distant – we still have the odd moment when A wants to watch something with minions in but we don’t all have to sit and endure it. The Saturday morning “kids club” hell is over: cheap tickets (we were always skint when they were small) but offset against screaming children and harassed parents pretending it isn’t their child. We can actually go and see a film that has a plot that takes a bit of following and that we can talk about together afterwards without having to pretend that the squirrel was my favourite character and that I found the bit where the lion was shot in the butt by a dart gun hilarious.

There are other things we can do now that the kids are older. For instance, go out to dinner later than 6pm. And not worry that someone will have a melt-down because they are sooooo hungry that they might die. We can leave the house in relatively good time and not have to go back in because someone needs a wee or someone has forgotten a teddy or…you get the idea. We can have conversations without having to feign interest. We can go into a supermarket and have real help not inverted comma help – teenagers can carry the wire baskets and go to another aisle and collect stuff for you while you get in the queue and you won’t worry that they will get lost or stolen. They may come back with stuff that you didn’t ask for, like tic-tacs or chocolate bars, but the ensuing stand-off generally doesn’t end with someone laying on the floor screaming. Eye-rolling yes but that’s easily ignored.

Of course, this all sounds great, but there’s always a pitfall to every new chapter. Yes, we can have decent conversations about interesting subjects –  well, subjects that you can sort of get interested in if you can keep up with the jargon and can ignore the overuse of the word “like” – but this also seems to mean that they think they can participate in EVERY conversation that takes place within earshot. And sometimes even when you think they are not in earshot. Gone are the days of waiting when the kids are in bed to talk about something. Because they go to bed so flipping late. And even when you think it’s safe, because they are upstairs with their earbuds in and if you called them to come and lay the table they would not be able to hear you, the minute you start talking about how your boss was in an awful mood and the air in the office was blue due to his almost pathological use of the C word one of them appears like Mr Benn from behind his curtain and you have to break off mid-sentence. You think you will resume the conversation later but by then you have started watching The Good Wife and the moment is gone.

Making decisions is another area where things are not so cut-and-dried anymore. K and I would talk about what we might do at the weekend, throw some ideas around and make a decision. And no-one would put up any sort of fight. Now it’s all “do I have to come?” and “if he’s not coming why do I have to come?”. Or if they do deign to grace us with their presence we almost feel like we have to make it worth their while by going for a Costa or by buying them some tic-tacs. If we can encourage them to come with us for a Sunday walk around St Albans it’s not so much a matter of if we will be able to go and get a hot chocolate/frappe/smoothie (depending on the season) it’s more a question of where we will get it from. This makes them sound like spoilt brats – they’re not, in fact they’re generous, kind hearted people – they’re just not little any more and don’t want to spend every waking moment in our company.

Perhaps it is this change that has been the most beneficial in terms of our relationships in our family unit. We don’t live in each other’s pockets. Gone are the days when I dreamed of going for a wee on my own or of reading a book without someone lying across my lap. We see less of them now as they are out with friends; doing homework; in their rooms listening to music/watching YouTube/doing “stuff”. So when we do spend time together it’s good to see them and we like talking about what they have been doing. They have stuff to tell us because we weren’t there when they were doing it. And some of the stuff they do is quite cool.



Au revoir

Au revoir definition, until we see each other again; goodbye for the present.

T set off on his WWI Battlefields trip at the ungodly hour of 6 o’clock this morning. He has been looking forward to this trip for months and I am excited for him. They are travelling to Dover and then taking the ferry to Calais. They will then spend 2 nights at Chateau d’Ebblinghem near Saint Omer from where they will go off each day to visit significant war cemeteries and other places of interest before returning back to school around 6.30pm on Saturday.

T had three trips to choose from this year. We have made it abundantly clear from the word go that skiing is not an option as it would cost more than our family summer holiday (and we are no prepared to sacrifice that) but that if a trip came up that was partly educational and not re-mortgage-the-house-expensive we would consider it. This year the options were French or German week-long intensive language trips to the respective countries, or the WWI battlefields trip. He toyed with the idea of the German trip but after thinking about it some more and hearing about the places they would be visiting he decided to go for the Battlefields. I was so pleased, as I went on this trip in the 5th year (modern day year 11) and had a fantastic time. I hadn’t put any pressure on him to choose the trip but was secretly hoping he would!

After paying the initial deposit and then the balance we have had very little information regarding the trip until the end of the week before last. Being a bit of an organised person (ha ha) I was getting a bit antsy that we hadn’t had any kit list or, in fact, any details at all such as departure time, how they were travelling, where they were staying. I emailed the trip co-ordinator and had a perfectly pleasant reply that the teacher responsible for organising the trip would be in touch. Stop worrying woman, basically. So, when we finally had the details we spent an hour or so looking up where he would be going and staying etc. He is visiting a lot of the places that I remember going to and I am sure he will find it interesting. I don’t think I understood the magnitude of what I was seeing when I went at the age of 15 so I am sure that T will be the same and not really be able to grasp or even begin to understand the huge significance of some of the places he will go to. But I think he will get a lot from it in spite of his age. I was lucky enough to be able to locate the war grave of my great-grandfather when I went and I think that made the trip even more memorable for me and was certainly a big deal for my dad (his grandfather) and my mum (who had been researching our family history for some time).

Included in the list of places they are visiting is a German war cemetery. T’s reaction made me realise how young he still is and how they still see things from a very black and white point of view – he was shocked that they had cemeteries in Belgium for Germans. Surely they wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them? Surely they didn’t feel sorry for them? I explained that the Germans lost men in the war too and that although we as a nation didn’t agree with their leaders politics they were still young men the same as out young men and they had families who would grieve just like us. He took this on board but was still a bit sceptical. I wonder how he will feel when he has been there?

The other thing that worried him a bit was whether he would see migrants at the port at Calais. This I couldn’t be very reassuring about other than that he will  be on the coach as they come off the ferry and hopefully the “camps” are far enough away. However, I explained, they are just people and nothing to be afraid of. He replied that he wasn’t afraid, just didn’t want to see children upset and scared. Despite his German comment he is a sensitive boy.

I can’t wait to hear all about it; I will be following on the map to see where he is each day and wondering what he is thinking. He has promised to text me and maybe even FaceTime if the Chateau has wi-fi (the first thing he wanted to know when we Googled the place); but I will be happy with a first-hand recount when he gets home.


Thiepval Anglo French Cemetery, France





The Great Escape

Last week I spent three days confined to the house with a “poorly” child (A). She woke on Wednesday morning with the dreaded words “I don’t feel very well”. There’s a nasty bug going round so I wasn’t taking any chances and kept her at home. (I was a bit sad to miss Pilates or at least the chance for my daily walk but I’m quite caring when I need to be – really – and sacrifices are made willingly when either of the kids are poorly.) To be fair, when you’re 11 you are generally quite happy to sloth around and watch CBBC (or even CBeebies – to make you “feel little again”) and don’t need much actual looking after. As part of the whole room revamp K stuck an old tiny TV of his nan’s in A’s room so she didn’t even have to get out of bed. The sick feeling wore off quite quickly and she spent the day pretty much laying in bed and asking for food. She announced at 5pm that she was right as rain and would be off to school in the morning. (Good, I have a Dr’s appointment.)

True to her word she went off to school after crumpets for breakfast and I thought no more of it, until my phone rang halfway to the doctors. It was the school, she was in the sick bay feeling, well, sick and asking if I could pick her up. I couldn’t miss my appointment but knew that K was going to be late leaving home so quickly called him to see if he could collect her and wait while I went to the doctors. I was supposed to be going into the office afterwards to go over some stuff with my colleague but was obviously going to be asking far too much to expect him to be at home all day. But no, he was already on the motorway and the unspoken final part of the sentence was the “and I can’t turn off and come back to help you”.  Quick dash to the doctors – she was on time – miracles do happen – and then back to the school. A had still not been sick but was feeling very nauseous. I got the distinct feeling that I was not popular for sending her in as she had been off the day before and found myself protesting that she had felt right as rain and had eaten me out of house and home…! Why do I always feel I have to justify my actions? I am not one of “those” mums that sends their children to school even if they have been chucking up all night so that they can still go to work/the shops/bed. But I still felt guilty. So we gathered her things up and in a ground-hog day stylee she was back in bed and watching CBBC before you could say “Wolfblood”.

Carrying on the ground-hog theme she then proceeded to feel much better through the course of the day, more food, etc. All very odd. I don’t doubt for a minute that she was genuinely feeling unwell, but it was clearly not a full blown sickness bug, as there wasn’t any actual sick. Again, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT complaining about that. So, another day unfolded with no chance of any exercise (believe me, the fact that I found this disappointing is as much as a surprise to me as it is to you. I have clearly been enjoying my daily “constitutionals” far more than I realised) and I found myself feeling a little hemmed in and lethargic. But hey ho, a mum’s life and all that.

However, by the end of day three I was beginning to get that grey feeling. Why do we call it “feeling blue” when you are down in the dumps? I love blue. It makes me feel cheerful. Blue skies, blue seas, blue eyes. All so lovely. Surely feeling grey is far more appropriate. I was feeling grey by the end of Friday afternoon. I had tried to “spin” not having my Friday day off, day out, day of mine by getting some things done that had been on my mind, and I spent some time with A helping with ideas for sewing projects; Mrs F popped round for coffee and to drop off a book and some winegums (lovely); I watched some TV; did some knitting; read a book. But still grey, and lethargic beyond belief. And full of crumpets.

Thankfully, A was truly “right as rain” by the end of Friday so the weekend looked promising. I went for a well planned afternoon tea with Mrs F and two other lovelies at our local farm shop cafe and had a much needed gossip and giggle and a less-needed stuffing of the face. Friends for dinner in the evening (more food!) and a nice glass of vino. Lovely.

And on Sunday we had we went for it properly with a lovely walk en famille – out of the house, in the fresh air, moving my stiff old body and clearing my head – up on Sharpenhoe Clappers with G & G. I couldn’t help but feel like I had been released; like I had made some sort of great escape from a confined space. Free as a bird.


(they aren’t posing – I just snapped at the exact right moment)IMG_3096


My Mothers Day bird feeder station has been in position now since Saturday afternoon. It is just by a bush at the back of the decking so I can see it from my make-shift office in the dining room. I’ve been working at home all week (apart from a few hours on Tuesday) and there have not been any takers. Yesterday, I got a bit excited as a big wood pigeon sat on the deck railing perusing the various feeders hanging on the pole but flew off without partaking in any of the goodies on offer. Disappointed.

This morning I started early as I had an appointment and needed to make a head start on things as I had a busy day the day before. A couple of blackbirds came and sat on the deck railing as Mr Wood Pigeon had done the day before but like him they went off empty-handed (or empty beaked as it were). Then all of a sudden, from nowhere, a lovely little robin appeared and he went for it! Fat balls were pecked at good and proper. I was so excited I’m surprised my squealing didn’t send him flying off in fear of his life. He was quickly followed by the blackbirds who had come back for another look. Then a tiny bird which I can only think was a tit of some sort came along to join the party.

And finally, big old Mr Wood Pigeon returned. I was concerned he would make the whole structure topple over judging by the size of him, but he perched quite elegantly for such a big bird and had a good nibble at the nuts.

After Googling “how long does it take birds to use a new feeder?” yesterday and not being very encouraged by the answers (it can take weeks, apparently) I am thrilled that so many little (and not so little) visitors have come to use it today. I am now worried that I am going to be constantly distracted by the to-ing and fro-ing and will get little done on the work front from now on. But another part of me is a little bit chuffed that my feeder is already so popular. Take that Google.

(N.B. also slightly worried that I have written sentences referring to balls and nuts without a hint of irony).


No snogging please, we’re parents

On Sunday night I was watching a couple of films in my bid to relax on Mothers Day, and there was a very small moment in one of the films where the two main characters kissed. Bearing in mind that both Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice are set in the days of chaperones and corsets I am sure you appreciate that this kissing scene was not at all risqué. However, the reaction it elicited from A was akin, I imagine, to that of Mary Whitehouse seeing two men kissing on TV in the 80’s.

She is at that age where any public displays of affection are “gross” and “disgusting” among other things. I remember T going through this phase and hiding his face so he didn’t have to witness the horror of Ron Weasley snogging Lavender Brown.

The funniest part of A’s response was the statement of which she was almost 100% certain of – ” It’s disgusting kissing someone else’s face like that and getting their slobber all in your mouth. I’m sure you and dad have never kissed like that”. There was a slight question mark at the end but I didn’t acknowledge it. K and I are not big on PDA’s (Public Displays of Affection). (Perhaps if we were she would be less disturbed?) No-one wants to think of their parents kissing (or worse) but I found nothing upsetting about Mr Rochester kissing Jane Eyre (it was quite beautiful in fact) or Mr Darcy kissing Elizabeth Bennett. In fact, bring back period drama style kissing. A lot of modern films could be greatly improved by a bit of heartfelt, rugged “You must allow me to tell you how ardently  I admire you” style kissing.

Just not by your parents.



The “joy” of Mothers Day

I am proud to be a mum. I am lucky to be a mum. I have a lovely mum of my own.  I know I am in a privileged position – I do know how lucky I am. But I don’t really love Mothers Day.

I see pictures and tweets and statuses (well, not statuses these days as I am still enjoying my Facebook sabbatical) of other people’s Mothers Days and I sigh. It’s not that I don’t receive lovely cards and heartfelt wishes, I do. But I am not an easy person to spoil. This goes for birthdays too. The things that other people seem to love just don’t really work for me. For example:

  1. Breakfast in bed. I don’t do lie-ins. For me a lie-in is sleeping past 6.30am, so having to then lay there for another 2-plus hours whilst the rest of the family enjoy a bit more sleep, waiting to be brought tea and toast, is not really a treat. I read in bed which is a pleasure and I like laying there with the sun coming in the window (when it does) but after a time my back starts to ache and I start to think of all the things I could be doing instead. Yesterday, I forced myself to wait until I was brought a cup of tea and some toast on a tray and I forced myself to look like I was enjoying it. (The tea and toast were very nice, don’t get me wrong, but I am more than happy to sit at the kitchen table, while the dishwasher is going and with everyone around me chatting.) Sadly, T was still asleep at 10am and completely missed the whole event and was upset that we hadn’t waited for him. Until 10 o’clock? No chance matey.
  2. Gifts. Gifts are lovely if they are things you actually want, in my opinion, but issuing a list of items does detract from the whole “oh my goodness how did you know I wanted one of those?” surprised reactions. I know, I can’t have it both ways. I know some women are married to men who make note of things they look at lovingly while out shopping or who know when their wife’s perfume is running out or who know which handbags their wife loves and buy them one that they actually like. However, K and I have never been one of those couples. Birthday and Christmas presents are generally purchased from a pre-approved list. The surprise element is not knowing what you will get from the list. Hmm. I know it doesn’t sound great when I say it out loud. This Mothers Day was no exception. K had muttered to the kids about going out to get cards and things. I had mentioned that I would quite like a bird feeder so that I can watch the birds out of the window when I am working from home. This idea was jumped on immediately. No surprise. The kids, bless them, did buy me some chocs without any prompting, so that was nice. I bought myself some daffs.
  3. Dinner. I generally do the cooking in our house. I say generally; I mean almost always. When K and I moved in together we were both lacking in culinary skills. We got by on a lot of pasta and baked potatoes and, dare I say the words, ready to cook stuff. Then I became a stay-at-home mum and had time on my hands (ha ha) and so the cooking fell to me. As the years have gone by I have become more and more proficient and ready to cook meals are a thing of the past. And I still do the lions share of the cooking. K cooks on the odd Saturday night (a curry here and fajitas there) and I am trying to induct the kids into the world of cooking. So expecting a Sunday roast to be cooked without me being involved is unrealistic. In a moment of optimism I bought two lots of M&S Dine in meals so that K could just stick some food in the oven and it would save me the job of cooking or feeling horribly guilty at the expense of a meal out. My optimism was not unfounded for once and with minimal intervention K produced a nice dinner. There were a few moments of disbelief that he seemed unsure how to work the (relatively new) oven, didn’t know how long carrots took to cook, and hadn’t thought to put the apple pie in when he took the gammon out. But he made the effort and it was mostly without moaning.
  4. Relaxing. Apart from an hour or so in front of the telly some evenings, or a spot of knitting or reading I don’t really relax. I don’t like laying in the bath and I don’t like sitting around doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a whirling dervish of a mum; I am easygoing-ish (if you ignore the tidying obsession) but I don’t like ‘relaxing’. So being expected to “just relax, take it easy” is not what I want to hear. However, in between doing wash loads (how did three machines’ worth appear overnight?) and folding freshly dried clothes I managed to watch Jane Eyre, my favourite book, on film. The end of the film coincided with K beginning to cook dinner and so, in order to distract myself from wanting to go and supervise, I stuck Pride and Prejudice in the machine and watched some of that while helping A to make a floor cushion out of some pillows and an old duvet cover.

Despite how this sounds, this wasn’t all about me. We popped to see mum in the morning so that I could give her her card and flowers. I think Mothers Day is harder when you are a mum. You can’t give your mum breakfast in bed or make her dinner; you can buy her a card and a voucher for a manicure. (You can perhaps go out for lunch but we were out on Thursday night for A’s birthday meal and we can’t justify 2 meals out in one week….) It’s difficult to be a mum and do the expected thing AND indulge your own mum on just one day. There was no way that I wasn’t going to see my mum, although I hope she knows how loved she is EVERY day.

I am proud to be a mum. I am lucky to be a mum. I have a lovely mum.

I count my blessings EVERY day. Not just on Mothers Day.