Monthly Archives: May 2019

Reality check

When I booked Cosy Camping there were several factors I didn’t take into consideration.

I saw the pictures, read about the pods, the toilet, the beds. It sounded ideal. It IS ideal, until it comes to the reality of trying to sleep in it.

1. There is a VERY small double bed and bunk beds in the “bedroom”. There is a sofa bed in the “living area”. We’re all quite tall. The beds are not big. A is on the top bunk, K is on the bottom (his choice I will have you know, there was NO coercion on my part – truthfully!) T is on the sofa bed. I am in the VERY small double under the window.

2. Two of our family snore. I’m not naming names, but it’s not me or T. And I’m in the bedroom with them both.

3. The whole pod is made from timber. K is allergic to untreated wood. It causes a similar effect to hay fever: itchy eyes, blocked nose. It doesn’t make for a restful sleep. I’ll say no more.

4. Sleeping bags: (we opted for these to save space in the car) these are basically the work of the devil – slippery, itchy, too hot, noisy. Awful. Awful. Awful.

5. I wake up early. And I mean early. I’ve now been awake for two hours. I can’t go anywhere because the sofa bed is blocking my exit. I could get out in an emergency (so at least the claustrophobia hasn’t kicked in yet), I mean, it’s not dangerous. I just can’t go anywhere without disturbing anyone. And that would be unfair given the restless sleep we’ve all had.

So I’m laying here, getting more and more uncomfortable, listening to the gentle snoring and snuffling, wishing I could sleep like they do. I know when K wakes up he will be grumpy because he’s had a bad nights sleep and he’ll be cursing that we ever thought this would be a good idea.

But, at least the sun is shining; we have nice plans for today; we should be able to sit outside tonight – we were inside all of last night which added to the warmth and snuffliness in the cabin – and have a nice evening.

Tomorrow we have to vacate by 10am so I won’t feel guilty waking them up early. And it is my birthday!

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Cosy Camping

We’ve arrived at our pod where we’ll be spending tonight and tomorrow night. We’ve stayed in something similar a couple of times before but the thing that makes this one far better is that it has A TOILET!

Yes, no more middle of the night dashes in the pitch black to the toilet block. Despite having a lovely time on previous “glamping” trips they’ve been overshadowed by the toilet issue.

One trip was cut very short after I ventured out one night in my pj’s, in the rain, slipped and fell in the mud before I even made it to the toilet block. To say I was unhappy would be a massive understatement. I sobbed – for most of the night, and we left early the following morning. It took quite some time for me to get over it enough to consider another trip.

This time is different. Not only do we have a toilet, we have a fridge, a sink, a kettle and a microwave. I can’t see us using the latter but everything else is a bonus. They even provide an “essentials pack” of crockery, utensils, cutlery and mugs, as well as tea and coffee, and the lovely owner has left some milk in the fridge for us.

The forecast isn’t great for tonight so we’ve had a nice pub lunch en route instead of trying to bbq on the firepit in the rain.

We’ve got gin-in-a-can, crisps, chocolate, a pack of playing cards and a Bluetooth speaker (provided with the pod) so what more can we need?

Well, some dry weather for tomorrow and Friday would be nice. But, let’s face it, this is England, it’s May and we have to be realistic. We’ve got raincoats and walking boots and we’ve got National Trust membership, so if the worst happens we’ll get a nice cream tea.

It’s my birthday on Friday. I’ve never been away on my birthday before. I don’t know if I’m excited, nervous or indifferent. I already know that the family have forgotten to bring my cards, but I do have a couple of presents to open. At least I won’t have to wait until mid morning for everyone to wake up as we have to leave by 10am!

All I hope for Friday is that the weather is nice enough for us to have fish and chips on Aldeburgh beach and I will be over the moon.

Wish us luck!

Degrees of separation

A is going through “that phase”. You know the one. The one where everything you say or do is met with disdain, eye-rolling or anger. It’s not fun.

T went through it, with the added element of being incredibly patronising to A, as she is younger and therefore knew nothing. He grew out of it pretty quickly. Now, he mostly just finds us amusing rather than irritating. He appears to take on advice, we can have a decent conversation, and he talks to us quite openly about things. I like to think we have a good relationship. Of course, at nearly 17, he has his own private stuff going on. We aren’t stupid (contrary to popular belief, we CAN remember being teenagers and feeling like our lives were only really lived when we were with our friends, that our parents knew nothing about us) we know we don’t know EVERYTHING, and neither would we want to. But, my point is, there is hope. Hope that A will, in a few short years, be in this place too.

At the moment, we can’t tell her anything. She already knows it all. I hear almost daily – “he’s so embarrassing (about K)”; “I know that Mum”; “I’m not stupid”; “I’ve got work to do”. And she spends almost all her time (when she is at home) in her room, other than mealtimes which I always make sure are at the table with all of us present – when we all talk. She isn’t always painful to be around, she’s still quite nice sometimes. Just less frequently than before.

The only person in the family that she seems to relate to is her brother, which is a bonus. At least she has someone she can talk to without getting wound up or winding them up, which seems to be the case with K and I.

It is, of course, completely normal. I am not worried. She still talks to me about things that are worrying her. I try not to give advice unless she specifically asks for it. I don’t call her out on things – unless she is being too obnoxious. I am allowing her the space she needs. She’ll be back.

This whole phase, the spending all her time alone in her room talking to friends, making videos, working, is all part of the start of creating that degree of separation; the separation that allows them to become who they are going to be, getting themselves ready for being adults and looking after themselves; the cutting of the apron-strings; the moving away emotionally from the family circle. It’s completely natural.

The thing I find hard is trying to keep this in my head while I am facing the eye-rolling and the disdain. I know she doesn’t really think I am idiot (I’m pretty sure, anyway) and she doesn’t know that she is being incredibly self-centred with her constant interrupting of conversations, her lack of empathy (which she has always had in bucket-loads – and still has for friends) for me when I am feeling a bit off, her constant concern about appearances – not how she looks outwardly (which is of course a concern for her, she’s a 14 year old girl for goodness sake) but how people will perceive her. For example, she wanted to come to the garden centre with us on Monday (I know, what a middle-aged cliche we are) but while we were there she spent the whole time giving the impression that she was doing us a HUGE favour by deigning to come with us. We weren’t bothered either way if truth be told. We’ve got used to going out on our own. It’s quite nice sometimes.

But, I am keeping my cool, I think. I am trying not to let it get to me. The lovely, caring, thoughtful person is still in there. She’s just disguising herself as a cool, aloof, I-don’t-need-anyone diva. She’ll be back. And I’ll love her all the more, if that’s at all possible.

Awesome

I’m not a huge fan of the word “awesome” – unless it’s used in an ironic way. It’s in the same group as “you guys”, “blue-sky thinking”, “reaching out” and “touching base”. At work, we have a monthly conference call with our contact at one of the leading online retailers and we play “buzzword bingo” to see how many times she says any of the above, and more. It’s a bit childish but she’s such a millennial and it’s quite funny. And we don’t do it unkindly. But we’re old and we need to have some fun now and then.

Anyway, today I am ok with the word “awesome”. I will allow it. Because A has come home with a postcard from her form tutor, telling her how proud she is of A’s achievements this year; what an absolute star she is and to never forget how awesome she is. I won’t lie, it made my eyes a little misty. Two months ago I might have had a little weep. I think A is fab: she makes me very proud with her attitude – caring, feisty, funny, conscientious, supportive – and I know she works hard at school (without being a goody two shoes). It’s normal to think you’re kids are pretty fab, isn’t it? But when someone outside of your world tells you they think so too it’s a great feeling. Someone else sees what you see! Someone else thinks they’re fab. It means a lot. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.

It’s not all s**t.

One in three women will breeze through the menopause. They won’t suffer any side effects or notice any real change to their state of mind or their bodies. They will reach the age of around 65 and other than not having periods any more they will feel just the same as when they were 25 – maybe just a bit slower and a bit more wrinkly (ha-ha!).

One in three women will suffer from menopausal symptoms so extreme that they have to give up their job, face a breakdown in their relationship, lose friends, lose themselves. Some will even commit suicide. Some women are misinformed, uninformed, misdiagnosed, not helped.

One in three women will suffer from mild symptoms; have to take the odd day off; need to talk to their partner about what they are going through; make small adjustments to their life or their routines to enable them to carry on as normally as possible.

No woman can know which of these groups she is going to fall into until the time comes. Some women think that talking about the menopause is pointless – we all have to go through it so just get on with it. I suspect that they haven’t got to this stage yet or they are fortunate enough to find themselves in group 1. Some women think that their attitude to menopause, their healthy lifestyle, body type, genetics, are all reasons why they are not “suffering”. They may well be right. I’m happy for them.

All this week, the BBC are running a series of features on the menopause, talking to various health professionals, women who are going through it and looking at how things need to improve for women in respect of getting advice/treatment/help and promoting more awareness in the workplace. Some of the horror stories I have heard make me feel very grateful. It is proving to be very interesting and is very timely. It’s great to have menopause as a hot topic just as I am starting my own “journey” (awful expression). I promise I am not going to become a bore on the subject, but I am keen to learn as much as possible.

I am lucky that my GP is very well informed. She is a similar age to me, I have been seeing her on and off since T was born and she knows my history with PND. She is sympathetic, understanding, helpful. She has given me great advice, suggested treatment and continues to monitor me. I am also lucky that I have a great boss whose wife has experienced issues and who is very understanding, allowing me to work from home whenever I need/want to; asking if there is anything he can do to help, without suffocating me with kindness. K is learning. I have talked to him about how I feel some days. I’ve given him info to read and he is being the most caring that he has ever been in our 23 years together. More so than when I had the PND. Back then we had 2 small children to contend with and he just didn’t have the capacity to cope with a wife who was suffering. At this stage of our lives, if I don’t feel like cooking, can’t cope with stuff, don’t want to go out, it doesn’t really matter. He is not left holding the baby (literally) while I weep in a corner (truly, that rarely happens; the not cooking, hmm, more so). It’s manageable.

I am lucky. I am glad to be finding my way through this. No, I am not in group 1, but I wouldn’t want to be. Yes, it’s all a bit shit some days when I am foggy and tired and can’t be arsed to do anything but watch TV. Yes, it’s a bit shit that I am more irritable (more than usual – I know, hard to believe isn’t it?) and even more intolerant (again, unbelievable) and find myself needing to leave the room when someone is eating a bag of crisps and licking EVERY SINGLE ONE of their sodding fingers with a very audible slurp in the process – god give me strength. Yes, it’s a bit shit to have to double-check and triple-check everything I do when I am having a foggy day and then apologising for missing stuff despite all the checking.

Yes, I am lucky, even though I am not in group 1. Because hopefully I will have more empathy; be a better friend; appreciate the little things more. It’s not all shit. Some days it’s actually quite exciting. It’s making me try new things, be more daring – I am contemplating a bit of “wild” swimming with a friend as we’ve heard it can do wonders – thanks again to the reporting on the BBC. I am getting fitter because I can’t stop walking; I am way more conscious of my diet because I am determined not to put on any more weight than I can help. I’ve streamlined my wardrobe and now only wear things that I feel OK in. I’m even thinking of getting another tattoo.

It’s not all shit.

I think that may well just become my new motto.

Snapshots

I’ve seen two photographs today that have made me sigh. (In a good way).

One was of my great-nephew, the son of my lovely niece, E. The picture was on Instagram and E had captioned it ” The cheekiest monkey”. Little J was beaming away being, well, a cheeky monkey. He is white blonde, lively and, judging by the pictures we see, the happiest little boy you can imagine. He is the spitting image of his beautiful, smart, funny, clever mum. I love her enormously, my niece and goddaughter and, despite her being nearly 30 years my junior, I admire her immeasurably. She is raising this lovely little boy single-handedly, with the support of her family (K’s brother’s side) and grandparents. His happy little face is the product of her unfailing patience and love. Yes, it’s a snapshot and I am sure he has his moments of being hard work, a handful, like all small children (and some big children!) but he is happy and loved and cared for. What more can a child want?

The other photograph is of one of my other nieces (I have 4 – greedy?) – my brother’s eldest daughter. L is 16, tall and utterly gorgeous. However, like a lot of 16 year old girls, she hasn’t a clue; would immediately point out a defect if I was to tell her so, and I wouldn’t for fear of making her feel awkward. The photograph is of her dressed ready for Prom. I knew she was going soon as her mum and I had spoken about it when we saw them last. She was describing L’s dress to me, saying that L did not want something low cut and obvious, but the dress was stunning and (despite some last minute panics that she may have had a growth spurt and it wouldn’t fit) she hoped it would be perfect. By the look of the picture, it was. She looks happy and confident and, well, stunning. She has her mum’s willowy frame and these gorgeous brown eyes. I hope she felt as amazing as she looks and had a brilliant time.

It’s all a bit of a worry

I’ve always been what you’d call a worrier. I worried about stuff when I was little, famously waiting until bedtime to talk about what had been on my mind all day. I worried about stuff when I was a teen. It carried on into adult life. Worrying about work, what people thought of me, my love life, my future, all of it. Then when K and I got together, worrying whether he really loved me, would it work out. K is not a worrier. If K is worried about something, then EVERYONE should be worried about it. He is more pragmatic; what’s the point in worrying? He has told me often over the 20 years we have been together not to worry so much, not to think about stuff so much, to give myself a break. I didn’t listen. I worried all through my pregnancy with T (it didn’t get off to a great start, so I can be forgiven) and when he was a baby, when I was pregnant with A – why was it so much easier, surely something was going to go wrong? Worry, worry, worry.

The trouble with worrying is, I have come to realise, that it doesn’t change anything. Worrying about something will not stop it happening. The problem with worrying is, it stops you enjoying things, because you are worrying that something will go wrong and spoil it when, in fact, the worrying has done that all by itself.

I had come to equate worrying with loving. If I worried about the kids it would keep them safe, like some sort of mental talisman. If I didn’t worry then I would be punished for it by something awful happening. If I feared the worst, then it wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t enough just to love them and care for them.

But, of course it is enough. I love them will all of my heart. I will always love them, forever. I will care for them for as long as they need me to, whenever they need me to. I will support them, advise them, comfort them, be happy for them. I will always want the best for them; for them to live their happiest lives. Worrying that they aren’t happy won’t make them happy. Worrying that they aren’t safe, won’t make them safe. If I am doing an OK job as a parent then they will know to take care of themselves, not take unnecessary risks, eat well, look after their health, do what makes them happy, be kind and loving to the people that deserve it. All the things I was taught to do. Everything else is out of my control. And worrying won’t change that.