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Home bird

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a home bird. I like to get away and enjoy a change of scene but I’m happiest at home.

Things I would like to have with me from home:

My pillow – I had fully intended to pack it in one of the suitcases but if you’ve read my last entry you will know this was never going to happen.

Drinkable tap water – I drink at least 2 litres of water every day and not being able to get it straight from the tap is annoying. I get slightly anxious if we are getting low on bottled water and have now insisted on buying two X 8 litre bottles every other day just so I know we won’t run out.

My bike – I would love to be able to explore more of our local vicinity and by bike would be perfect. We could hire bikes but it would cost 40€ a day and we’d have to get into town by taxi to get them. K and I have walked up a local “mountain” this morning and it was great to get some exercise other than the 20 minute round trip walk to the supermarket each morning.

(Taken on the top of the “mountain” with the Isla de Lobos in the distance. A welcome cloudy, cool morning meant we could get up and down before it got too hot).

A mug – I love a mug of tea (mainly green these days) but for some reason most self catering places we have stayed in abroad only seem to contain tiny little tea cups. I caved in on day two and bought myself a mug from a local, lovely shop that I need Mrs F to be with me to enjoy. A loves a mooch but only Mrs F really gets it. Having mocked me for buying the mug, it has since been in great demand with T, A and I taking it in turns to have a hot drink from it! Only K has steadfastly stuck with the teeny, tiny cups. He hates admitting when I’ve made a good call! I may struggle to be allowed to bring it home with me. Apparently I’m “obsessed”.

Other than that, I am pretty content lounging around, not making decisions other than what to eat or if we should go to the beach.

Ooh no, sorry, a last minute addition – a decent cup of decaf coffee. Hard enough to find in the UK, it’s practically non existent here. I will bow down to the nespresso machine on my return.

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Repeat performance with some new additions

We’ve been away for 4 days. We’ve come back to the same villas we stayed in 2 years ago, in Fuerteventura.

Apart from: the 48 hours of stressing about luggage weight allowances and hand luggage size – which was all pointless as the check in staff could not have cared less, “chuck another one in there if you like, makes no odds to me”!; the ungodly hour that we had to leave home for the airport; and the slight panic when our transfer driver wasn’t there to meet us (he arrived 30 minutes later looking very harassed and dashed off for a wee before taking us to our final destination) it all went quite well.

Did I mention the flight? I hate flying, mainly the take off and landing but also the cramped space, small (often screaming) children and the smell. But, it’s a means to an end and I had downloaded some brilliant podcasts to keep me going.

Anyway, as I said, we’ve been here for 4 days. We know where the local, big, supermarket is. We know our way around the town and the best time to go to the beach. It feels like we’ve been here weeks. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing as we seem to lack the excitement of being in a new place, but one thing I can tell you is that we are all very relaxed. I’ve already read two books and K is on his second – he only ever reads on a foreign holiday, never in the UK.

The kids are, well, teenagers. They lie in, they sit around listening to music, they eat a lot and they seem happy enough. We’ve had some nice meals in the villa and played some cards and chatted. We’ve floated in the pool – I’m new to the whole concept of pool floaties and I feel I have been missing out. I’ve always been too self conscious to attempt to get on one and I hate being dunked under water so I just never tried. This holiday I have thrown caution to the wind – we have our own pool so it’s only going to be any of the other 3 that see my ungainly manoeuvring of my arse onto my lovely yellow floaty ring. And then I float. I love it.

Another thing I’ve finally got my head around this year is the feeling of guilt and embarrassment when the pool man or the cleaner comes. I’ve always felt awkward, I hate other people cleaning up after me and feel like they might resent me sitting here reading my book while they clean. But it dawned on me this year that I have a job which I get paid for doing and between K and I we save up to go on holiday. The pool man has his job and he probably saves up and goes on holiday when he gets two weeks off. I’m not going to feel guilty or awkward about his job being to clean the pool that we’ve rented for two weeks and more than I do about the person that scans our shopping in the supermarket.

Today, our lovely neighbours arrived at the same villas. We’re planning to meet up for dinner tonight. Because they’re so fab and because we have this sort of mutual respect for space we are looking forward to seeing them on and off over the next 10 days. It will give a different element to the holiday. We’ve all already agreed that we won’t come back a third time. Nothing has changed since we were last here and as we’re not inclined to hire a car we are a bit restricted to hoe much we will see if the island. Last year we made a horrendous bus trip and won’t be repeating that this time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s bliss to be away, it’s sunny and breezy and relaxing and lovely. What’s not to love?

My friends

The definition of a friend in the Oxford English Dictionary is:- “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations”

Young people, mainly of the female persuasion, talk about BFF’s. To many young people, friends are what their world revolves around (along with their mobile phones, of course). Friendship groups can be tricky waters to navigate as a child or a teen. In fact they can be tricky even as an adult. As someone who struggled with friendships as a child and a teen, I have come to appreciate hugely the friends that I have in my mid-forties.

Gone are the days of needing to have friends in order to fit in, to socialise with, to talk to about boys, to go on holiday with and to fall out with!

These days my friendships are less about constant contact, less about neediness or a sense of duty, and more about – as the definition states – a bond of mutual affection. I have one very dear friend that I am contact with daily and that is a very special and irreplaceable friendship that I cherish. I have two friends that I have known for a very long time, K and L, and we message and see each other as often as we can. But, we know we are there for each other and the friendships are no less important or strong because of that.

My other friends are few in number but I am happy with that, because I couldn’t want for more, and these friendships are easy and lovely and special. My Book Club ladies are fabulous. I knew most of them prior to the birth of Book Club (some better than others) but we now all feel like we have known each other forever. We meet at least once a month and have regular, crazy conversations on our group chat (often sending each other photos of our drinks on a Friday night, or funny pictures of squirrels – don’t ask!). When we meet we talk about everything, not just books – in fact, hardly ever books these days. To our families, book club is a bit of a standing joke. For us, it couldn’t be further from a joke – it’s incredibly important to us all. We laugh, we cry (some more than others, myself included!) we talk, we drink, we eat crisps. It’s important. End of.

My other lovely friends are my Poppy ladies. I have known Mrs L for a long time, since our youngest two were in nursery together and we went from saying hello at the gates, to walking to and from school occasionally, to feeling sad if I didn’t see her each day. When the youngest ones went on to secondary school we vowed that we would remain in touch and we have. We see each other as often as life permits (that old chestnut again – what a pain in the arse day to day life is!) and more often in the winter when I (and the other two lovely ladies) assist her – our chief –  with the Poppy Appeal. We try and get together throughout the year as well, but less successfully! We managed to get out for a walk last night and although we hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks (or, in Mrs W’s case, months) it was an easy, happy, lovely walk with a quick drink at the pub (four soda and limes – we didn’t boost the pubs takings very much!) before heading back again.

These friends that I have in my forties are the best I have ever had. They all seem to get me, which is astonishing, and there is no agenda other than mutual affection and caring for each other. (And wine – sometimes there is wine.) And they can be certain that they all have a friend in me.

Cheers, Ladies.

 

Boy friends

When I was a teenager I had a number of unrequited crushes. Some on pop-stars, some on real people – mainly my (older) brother’s friends, rarely on boys in my year group who were mostly all idiots. I wasn’t popular with boys. Whether it was the very short haircut; being taller than most of them; being quite shy; not knowing what to say to them – I just wasn’t in demand as girlfriend material until I got a bit older and even then I wasn’t exactly run off my feet with offers.

A is decidedly disinterested in boys, even famous ones. She has a couple of friends who are boys but,  in her words, they aren’t really like other boys, they are happier hanging out with girls and they play cards in the library and talk about books and films and music. This sounds ideal to me. Boys keep girls grounded and don’t stand for any nonsense.Other boys in her year are according to her “complete idiots”. Sounds familiar?

She mentioned another boy the other day after they had been for their sponsored walk at school. The two friends she was walking with had to take some time out due to blisters and tiredness. She wanted to carry on as she was “on a roll” so caught up with two of the boys. She ended up walking just with M as the other boy wanted to walk with a girl that he “likes”. (They don’t say “fancies” as in our day – something I am not unhappy about, it’s an awful expression.) While she was walking with M, another boy that she has known since she was a toddler walked past and said the standard immature, teenage boy thing of “ooh, A are you going out with M?”. She quickly shut him down with a “no, it is possible for girls and boys to just be friends, you know?” Fair play to her. She apparently then said to M that she is sick of people assuming that just because you are friends then you must “like” each other. M has had issues with boys in his year giving him hassle so has a very small pool of friends, most of which are girls. He must be pretty used to this sort of nonsense, so he agreed. Nothing more was said of the incident or M.

Until the weekend. M had been messaging her about her plans for the holidays and if she is going away, etc. Just standard chat. He then went on to ask her if she would like to meet up. I didn’t see any issue with this, as she clearly likes him AS A FRIEND. It’s no different to meeting any of her other friends. It was settled that they would meet today. He asked if she wanted to ask any of her other friends along. No-one was free. This was fine, until one of the friends mentioned that she thinks M “likes” A. Not just as a friend. A then lost confidence, thinking it would be awkward, because she DOESN’T LIKE HIM THAT WAY. I persuaded her to go anyway. He sounds like a nice boy. She can make it clear that they are just friends. She insists that she is far too young for a boyfriend and I agree. Could I pick her up an hour later, any longer would just be “too awkward”. OK.

I dropped her off and he was dutifully waiting for her in the designated spot. He looked thrilled to see her. He looks like a nice boy. We had agreed that she would call me when she was ready – there was no point me going home to turn round and go out again so I sat outside a cafe. Lovely. She rang an hour later to say she was ready, I told her which cafe I was in, and lo and behold she appeared shortly after. With M. He was beaming from ear to ear, stuck his hand out and said “hi, I’m M” (he said his full name, it would have been weird if he’d said his initial). A nearly choked. I said I was pleased to meet him and then he said goodbye and was off. What a nice boy.

It hadn’t been awkward at all. They’d had a nice time. She will meet up with him again. They’re just friends.

A boy friend, who thinks she’s fab and “likes” her but is happy just to be around her. I think it is rather lovely. The stuff of (my) teenage dreams. Just not hers!

 

 

P.S. I was told later that he thinks her makeup tutorials are brilliant and that she is talented. His mum “does people’s eyebrows”. He knows the right things to say!

 

 

A Letter To My Boy

When, in October 2001, I became pregnant with you, I started on a path to knowing what it truly means to love. Of course, I loved G & G, Uncle P, my nans and other family, and subsequently your dad, but I wasn’t responsible for any of them. I loved them and cared for them (and still do) but their well-being and happiness wasn’t my sole responsibility. The feeling of having a baby growing inside you, nurturing them with your body, leads to a whole different level of love.

The responsibility was both thrilling and terrifying. And, to be honest, it still is. When you were born I wasn’t able to be with you straight away. I had to go into theatre to be stitched up. Yours was a horrible, difficult, worrying, traumatic birth and I believe that the initial separation had an effect on both of us that lasts to this day. When we brought you home after days of waiting in the hospital for me to feel better and for your jaundice to clear, it was thrilling and terrifying. We were on our own. We had to look after you, just us. Grandma was brilliant and helped far more than she should have had to, but she couldn’t be here all the time and you were our responsibility. Ours. Terrifying.

Wanting to keep you safe and allow nothing to hurt you has always been my priority; wanting you to be happy and loved and cared for. Until you were 2 you wouldn’t be happy sleeping anywhere other than in my arms, or dads. You wrapped yourself around me like a koala bear and slept. I sometimes couldn’t move for hours at a time; wanting you to sleep; knowing you were safe and happy. Now, you are so tall that when we hug you engulf me, like I am the koala bear and you are keeping me safe. It’s a strange feeling!

You were not an easy baby; you had colic and reflux and you wouldn’t sleep (see above!); but once we got over that, you were a happy boy. Always laughing and being funny. I said “no” a lot when you were little. I didn’t want you climbing too high or running ahead too far or fast. I didn’t want you to get hurt. You were my responsibility and it was my job to keep you safe. And other than the usual childhood ailments and the odd scrape here and there, you were. Until the leg. When you broke your leg two years ago, I realised that it wasn’t possible to stop you from getting hurt. I couldn’t stop you going too fast or far. I couldn’t be with you every second. It had a big impact on me – I know you were the one who was hurt but I felt your pain as if it was my own. And the unbearable reality that I hadn’t stopped it was excruciating. But you recovered. And I have learnt to accept that I am not superhuman.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I hope you can fulfil your dreams and that you love what you choose to do. I will worry about you. I still say “no” (take Penrith for example – any readers of Too Much, Too Young please note that the trip didn’t happen, no-one went) to some things. I always give you a reason and I always take my time to think it over, more than when you were little and circumstances required a quicker answer, and my reasoning always comes from a place of love.

Today, you are sixteen, and I love you more than ever. I am prouder than I ever imagined I could be. You make me smile every single day and I thank my lucky stars that you are mine. Love you.

(P.S. you drive me crazy too. I mean, you’re not perfect!)

Boys v Girls (again)

I’ve blogged a couple of times now on the differences between T and A. It never fails to amaze me how two children borne of the same parents and raised in exactly the same way can be so different. How different their personalities are and how their outlooks on things are so different. T has always been a very chilled child/teen (he was far from being a chilled baby: colic, reflux, sleeplessness- you name it he had it). He has his moments which, because they are so infrequent, send me off kilter and make me question my judgement. A was a very chilled baby: slept really well (to the point where I worried something was wrong with her, the difference to T was so marked); ate really well; was placid and easygoing. She made up for it during her toddler and early years. I look at photographs sometimes and remember with horror the trips out that were marred by some tantrum or another. I suspect that her behaviour was a by-product of being with a mum who, feeling so out of control in her own head, attempted to control her children so much that at least one of them was going to fight against it.

As teens they are still very different. T making the minimum effort required over homework, while A wants to make sure she has done all she possibly can. T being very relaxed and easy going about friendships, while A has always found this a much trickier path to navigate. T keeping things to himself, not really a worrier but not really talking much when he is; A spilling the beans on everything – and I mean Everything. She sometimes messages me as she is leaving school to meet me at the car 5 minutes later to tell me she has had a bad day. It’s great that she wants to talk to me about stuff. I know I am very lucky to have this open, honest relationship with her. T and I were talking in the car the other day (it always seems to be easier somehow to chat about important stuff when we are driving – it seems less intense and important, making it easier to open up) and he said something about talking to friends about things that bother him, that certain friends can be relied upon to give good advice or keep things to themselves. He said that one of his friends is a really closed book and doesn’t impart any information about his family life or personal stuff in any way. As a group of friends they know this about him and respect his privacy and would never consider pushing him to be more open. I was quite impressed that they have this level of understanding and empathy. It gave me hope. A also has friends who she confides in more than others. But I am her biggest confidante and I feel very privileged. She bought herself a new phone at the weekend and it arrived yesterday. Unlike T, who’s phone is sacrosanct – no-one is allowed to touch it, she offered for me to add my fingerprint to her new phone so that I could open it “in an emergency”. I said I was happy to have the pass-code, but she was insistent that I should have access. I promised that I wouldn’t look at her private messages or abuse her trust in any way. She said “Duh, I know that!”.

T is more private than A, but knowing that he has good friends to talk to, that his friends seem to have some level of perception about each other, is heartening. And A has me. Lucky me.

Too much, too young

T turns sixteen next week. Sixteen! It’s not really a shock, I mean he towers over me (and I’m not short) and he’s finished school (for now). But, sixteen! Really?

In many ways he is very mature. He’s considered one of the more sensible ones of his group of friends. He is often the voice of reason and he’s generally pretty level headed. I’m sure he has his moments when he is out with his friends. I’m sure the T that we see is different to the T that his friends see. But his basic good nature and sense of right and wrong shine through, I hope.

Last weekend his cadet group won the County Competition for the second year running, wining 5 of the categories before taking the overall prize. A very proud moment. He is in the running for a section leader when they return in September. I thought this might be a bit like becoming a sixer at Cubs – based on age and by default – but apparently not, this is based on merit and for showing potential. I keep my fingers crossed for him.

The weekend before that he was on his DofE final expedition up in the Peak District. He got through it in his group of 6 with no issues. The food was awful but they were one of the first groups to complete each day’s route and they were all pretty sensible about drinking enough water. He prepared all his own gear to take (I buy what he asks me to and he packs it) and I really had very little involvement in any of the whole 2 years of his taking part in the scheme other than handing over money. Oh, and doing his washing on his return, of course.

He is travelling up to Scotland at the beginning of next month to compete in the National Cadet Competition, flying up with 4 other cadets and 2 leaders. He’ll pack his own stuff, get himself up and ready to leave the house at 5am. He won’t need any looking after. He’ll have a great time.

He’s clearly pretty mature and sensible. He doesn’t really give us cause for concern. So, why haven’t I let him go away for the weekend with three friends? A month or so ago, the prospect of a trip was mentioned. Parents of one of his friends own an apartment in Cumbria and they had offered for him to take a couple of friends up there for a break. On their own. My initial reaction was to assume that they would never get organised, it would cost too much to get there, they wouldn’t be able to find dates when they were all around, etc. Basically, I stuck my head in the sand. It turns out the prospect of time away from parents made them quite resourceful and they found out about coach timetables, dates etc.

T explained the (still slightly vague: “it costs about £30 and takes about 4 hours”) plan to us and asked us what we thought, could he go? We said we would discuss it. I already knew my answer and after a night of contemplation (mainly me imagining various scenarios, questioning my sanity for even considering it but feeling I owed it to him to think it through, albeit irrationally as any thought process is as 4am) and a discussion with K the answer was “No”. The reasons? It is a long way away: four hours by coach, means at least 3 hours by car. And, they are only 16 (or not quite, in T’s case) and, in my opinion, not old enough to deal with potential issues (illness, injury) alone whilst waiting for a parent to drive 3 hours to support them.

Yes, he has just spent 3 days and nights trekking through the Peak District and had nothing worse than a couple of blisters to show for it. But he had adult supervisors within 10 miles of his location at all times. There were checkpoints all along the way. And I STILL worried about him. Not worried to death, but just, you know, hoping he was OK and wondering how he was getting on sort of worried. A normal level of worry.

Five days in Cumbria with 3 friends, all of whom are great boys. They look out for each other. They’re not stupid. But no adults nearby; no-one to keep an eye on them, make sure they are OK; no-one to help out in an emergency; in an area that, apart from the friend whose parents own the apartment, none of them knows; with us three hours (at least) drive away. Part of me hoped for just one other parent to say “no”. Not because I need validation that I am making the right decision, but just so he’s not the only one not allowed to go. He’s taken it really well, considering. He’s a bit miffed but he’s not a sulker.

I know he will want to go away with friends, to festivals, on holiday abroad, very, very soon. And I know I need to let him. But, at not-quite-yet 16 I think it is too much, too young.