Tag Archives: #history

A lump in my throat

I’ve just waved K off as he heads off to Germany for a week. Well, 5 days and 6 nights to be precise, he will be back next Friday, but it feels like a week. Since we moved in together 17 years ago, we have never spent more than 2 nights apart. Neither of us has ever been inclined towards holidays away with friends without each other, even if we had the means. We’ve always wanted to go away together, and since having the children this has been a given. I’ve had weekends away, he’s had work trips away, so this trip has made us both a tad unsettled.

I need to explain. We’re not a lovey-dovey couple who can’t bear to be apart. We don’t shower each other with overt displays of affection. We just like being together. We like being at home in the evenings watching a bit of TV and chatting about stuff. We like spending time with the kids (why else have them?). We just like it that way. Of course we have time apart, we both have friends that we see (me more than  K as his friends are dispersed far and wide) and we do go out separately, but more often than not we are together. I often joke with friends that I would only miss him if he wasn’t here because I would have to put the bins out (in fairness it was one of the things I thought of when I knew he was leaving on a Sunday – “but it’s bin night!”) but in reality he does far more than that. He makes me feel grounded and he stops me worrying so much about stupid stuff and he makes me laugh. When he’s not here it just doesn’t feel right. And I can pretty much forget about sleeping.

K is nervous about the trip for different reasons to me. He hasn’t been abroad with work before. He hasn’t flown alone before. I usually organise trips (apart from last summer holiday) and take the blame when it all goes wrong. This makes him sound useless and a bit pathetic – he’s not, he is more than able to sort this and he has made all the arrangements necessary. He’s just not confident that it will all work out. He’s a bit apprehensive about the itinerary while he is away – mainly because he doesn’t have one. He is unsure what format the trip will take and he doesn’t know if there will be any communication issues, as he doesn’t speak any German. I’ve assured him that their spoken English will probably be better than his (let’s face it, he’s a brummie) and for him not to worry. A has given him the phrase “My name is K…” in German as a little bit of help. I suggested a name badge.

Making stupid jokes is the way we (in our family) seem to deal with nervous moments. I think it’s so that the subject matter seems less ominous. It doesn’t mean we don’t care, it’s just our way of saying “hey don’t worry it will all be OK” without actually saying it (because we are not American).  Here’s a case in point: K developed a rather unfortunate lump on his neck a few days ago and has had to get it seen to by the doctor. She diagnosed a boil (sounds very 1950’s) and prescribed a steroid cream. T’s immediate response was to refer to it as Susan. This has now stuck firmly in all our minds and we now say “Susan’s looking better” rather than “your boil is not too bad”. It’s mainly due to relief that the lump was nothing more sinister and therefore we can be silly about it. I was rather disappointed that my comment of it being where his bolts had been removed was overtaken by the Susan comment, but you can’t win them all.

An email K received from his German colleague last week confirmed the hotel booking and the plans for collecting him from the airport. It was signed off with “we look forward to welcoming you to our house”. Of course, we said this was surely due to a Google Translate issue and that they meant “to our company offices/our place/our town”. Then, we saw the hotel booking was for bed and breakfast. Still no big deal, as no doubt they will be taking him out for food each night rather than expect him to sit alone in a hotel restaurant (for K this would be almost preferable to having to be sociable). And then, it hit me. “Welcoming you to our house” might mean exactly that and he could be dining “chez nous” as the French would say (I have no idea what the German equivalent is). Unfortunately, the kids overheard our conversation and we now have an ongoing joke that he is going to be having selfies with Helga and Wilhelm, the directors lovely kinder, while eating home-cooked bratwurst and sauerkraut. Even his Auntie S joined in when we saw them last weekend. I was slightly perturbed by his Uncle D’s comment of “watch out for the lady-boys”. K reiterated that it was Germany he was going to not Thailand, and we have since put it down to a slip of the tongue; we think he meant to say “lederhosen”.

Joking aside, we will all miss him massively while he is away. A has sneaked a letter and cuddly Panda toy (his nickname) into his suitcase, T has been giving him way more hugs (i.e. more than one) than usual and I have found myself looking at him a bit longer than I normally would (i.e. more than a few milliseconds). He has promised to FaceTime and asked if I would like him to bring back a bottle of Gin from duty-free (did he even need to ask?) so it’s not all bad. The week will soon be over and he will be back with us: annoying us with his singing, farting and general nonsense. And it will be fab.

 

 

Re: the title of the blog piece. Whenever I am a bit stressed, I get the sensation of having a lump in my throat. I first had it when we were planning our wedding and after weeks and weeks of being convinced I had throat cancer and would not make it to the wedding day, I finally plucked up the courage to see the doctor (funnily enough, the very same one that diagnosed Susan) and she gently asked me if there was anything big going on in my life, with a quick diagnosis of a stress-related phantom ‘lump’. It comes and goes at certain times but is never more apt than when waving K off this lunchtime. A true lump in the throat moment.

Home Alone

Don’t worry, this isn’t a film review about small blonde boys running amok, scaring off incompetent burglars. I’m talking about me. Again.

It is the Easter holidays and I have worked for the first two days and now I have a glorious (regardless of the weather) 12 days off (including weekends). K is off for just slightly less time. We don’t have much planned; we’re not going away. I am mostly looking forward to not rushing up – I don’t like to lie-in but anything past 6.30am will do me fine, thank you very much. I am looking forward to not having to sit at a computer all day. I am looking forward to some walks and maybe some bike rides and perhaps a day-trip to the coast.

The kids, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they are cramming as much time with their friends into these first 2 days as is humanly possible, as they will be stuck with me and K for the remainder of the holidays. They haven’t said it out loud, but I can tell. I asked them both to ensure that all homework is done before the close of business today (no I didn’t use that exact phrase) so that we don’t end up with frantic, last-minute panicking ruining our break. A spent most of yesterday doing all of hers and has free time today to go out with friends. T’s response was “but I only have these 2 days to see my friends…..” (and then I am going to have to spend the rest of the time with you, you boring old woman, and you are going to make me do ‘family stuff’ and I will be bored, so no, I am not going to do my R.E. revision, are you mad?)  It’s the unsaid words that are the loudest.

I love that my kids have friends that live close by and that they have a safe environment to go out in and that they are free to do as they like (within reason) most of the time. T has spent most of his free time lately going for long treks through the local woods with his friends, undoubtedly annoying dog walkers and wild animals. A pops out with a friend, they come back here and giggle in her room. It’s lovely.

But, I see friends with younger kids going to the Zoo, the Farm, the Park and I feel a bit wistful. I used to love going to the Zoo. I still would love going to the Zoo but might look a a bit odd on my own. I suppose I am forgetting the horrendous trips where it started raining and we had to dash back to the car, or when someone spilt their ice-cream all over themselves, or the time at the Farm when my friend’s child slipped over in pig excrement (this wasn’t just poo it was Excrement with a capital E) and we all stood horrified not knowing what to do with him. Or the time when we went to the seaside and A fell over at the waters edge and I HADN’T TAKEN A CHANGE OF CLOTHES (*) so she spent the day in her brothers thankfully very long hoody in lieu of  a dress. The list of nightmare events while attempting to enjoy ourselves is never-ending. But, I forget all those when I see my friends pictures of little faces beaming at lambs, or baby elephants. I remember the time when T held a rabbit for the first time and the look on his face and him whispering to me how soft it was still makes me want to weep. And the time when A wanted to feed the lamb but was too scared so we did it together and she held my hand while I held the bottle and we laughed at how hard it was to keep hold of it, even with 2 of us doing it. I wish I had enjoyed those moments a bit more. I wish I recalled those moments more than the ones with sick involved.

As much as I would love more of these moments, I am not going to force my kids to spend the next 12 days solely in my company. We will have some days out where we will be on our own together, just us four. But, it wouldn’t be fair on them to stop them going out and seeing their friends. I am sure K and I will have plenty of Home Alone time and that is quite nice too, especially as it is guilt free alone time, i.e. we haven’t ditched the kids at my mum’s or taken time off during term time to have a day off on our own – the kids are off out doing their own thing, having a great time, and so we can too. There are definite bonuses to having children old enough to fend for themselves, who like to be left to their own devices sometimes (most of the time) and who, when they do spend time with us, are good to chat to and nice to be around (most of the time) and who are less likely to puke down themselves, fall in mud (or excrement) or into the sea.

So, although I may be feeling wistful at the ever-changing, teenager-centric, world I live in and remembering the rabbits, I do actually quite like it how it is now. For now.

 

(* a lesson I never really learned from and still see as one of my biggest mum-failures. T had to once borrow a pair of pants from the well-stocked boot of my friends car when he had a slight accident on a day out at the farm – the same farm as the pig poo episode but on a different occasion.)

Why I’m finally ditching the scales

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I started my first diet at the age of 14. I was feeling unconfident. I was probably getting to the stage that many teenage girls go through and comparing myself to my friends I felt huge. I wasn’t; I was perfectly fine. But, I wanted to lose weight and so I embarked on the Rosemary Conley Hip and Thigh Diet. It was a revolutionary diet at the time and it focused on the areas that I was unhappy with (and if I’m honest, still am) and so that was that. I can’t remember how much weight or inches I lost; probably not a huge amount as I didn’t have a huge amount to lose but it was the start of a lifelong cycle of dieting – Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, GI Diet, Slimming World again, – gaining weight, dieting for a special occasion or because it was a new year or summer was looming. I can’t remember a single year in the last 30 when I haven’t embarked on some sort of regime to lose weight and achieve that ever-elusive goal of feeling happy with my body.

I can count on one hand the number of times when I have felt happy with myself: when I went on holiday in 1996 and met K, I was happy and confident and I look back at the time as my golden year; when I was pregnant with A, I remember feeling proud of my body as I didn’t go crazy eating everything I could lay my hands on as I did when I was expecting T and I felt good – I was still huge but in a definitely pregnant way and not in a “is she just fat?” way;  when I got married I felt alright, but I can vividly remember feeling unhappy with my upper arms. The rest was OK as I was in a boned dress which held me in and an a-line skirt covered my legs and bum. It was just my arms that were on show and I was very conscious of them. What an awful thing to have as a resounding memory from a very special day.

So, in 30 years of dieting I can pinpoint around 3 times when I have felt good-ish about myself. I have had mini-moments at other times I’m sure, maybe on a night out in a new top or a pair of jeans that fitted well, but never for any prolonged periods of time, and the times when I have gone out feeling dreadful and wishing I was somewhere else – preferably at home in my pyjamas – far outweigh those mini-moments.

I know that there are exercise regimes that promise to sort out my thighs or my upper arms, that I could lose half a stone or more by following a diet plan, or by starting running. But I have reached the ripe old age of 44 and I have realised that I am probably never going to be happy with my body. So why am I still trying to remedy this? Why am I making myself feel unwell by starting yet another healthy eating regime (when I already eat pretty darn healthily anyway and it only messes up my system and flares up my tummy troubles)? I have had the worst week with my tummy since April last year and I can pinpoint it to a drastic change in my diet. It makes me feel debilitated and stops me wanting to go anywhere or see anyone. It stops me wanting to go for walks and it stops me wanting to make plans. How is that going to make me happy? Simple answer: it’s not. And if I’m still not going to be happy with my body after it all (based on the last 30 years) then why am I doing it?

The answer: I am obsessed with the scales and with being a “good” weight. This for me has always been the holy grail. I can put chunky arms and wobbly thighs to the back of my mind if the scales are saying the right things. And they can kill a good mood like switching off a light: I can wake up feeling pretty good, the sun is shining (not today obvs) and I’ve slept OK (again, not today) but then I go and step on the scales and BOOM I will be almost in tears of despair. All because of some numbers on a small battery operated machine. I have a set of numbers in my head and if the scales don’t show something between those numbers then I feel worthless, useless, hopeless. Even if I had previously been feeling relatively comfortable, relatively healthy. And it’s only those numbers that make me embark on regimes and make me stop eating things that aren’t bad but which are deemed off limits by the people in the know – the people who run diet clubs, the people with a new book to sell or a new DVD to promote.

So, rather than end up with pains and a bloated stomach that can’t be contained, but that was previously not that bad really, just not perfect and never will be (hallelujah – it’s only taken 30 years), I am ditching the scales. I am ditching the diet books. I am going to teach myself to not flinch when I look in the mirror, I am going to be nicer to me. I am going to make myself look at the bits I don’t like and try and see them as just little minor imperfections, little flaws that make up ME. If someone gives me a compliment (here’s hoping) I will thank them graciously and maybe even make a mental note of it so that I can drag it out to cheer myself up with when the new tactics are struggling a little.

But mainly I am going to just stop trying to make myself into something I will never be: stop comparing myself to people who are 3 feet shorter or 2 feet taller or just basically an entirely different person to me. I can only compare me to me and I’m not even going to do that anymore – no more comparing the me of now to the me of my twenties or the me of my thirties. I am me as I am now and I am going to try and be happy with it. Bye bye scales and diet books. From now on it’s me and …….just me.

 

Growing up is hard

*****Warning: Mum this may upset you. Don’t read it if you don’t want to.*******

(I know you probably will, so sorry)

If you ask me how old I am my whole being screams 25!!! I’m 25!! I know I’m 44. I’m not stupid. I just don’t feel 44. I look 44 (people are kind and say “you haven’t changed at all” or “you don’t look your age”. They’re kind. But they’re wrong.) and I do behave like a 44 year old. But in my head I am still 25. I don’t know why that is such a magic number or why I chose this age – I’m not actually sure I have actively chosen this age, it just pops into my head every time I am asked, which isn’t often.

On Saturday, we went to see my Nan. I haven’t seen her since May. That’s an awful thing to admit, but I do have reasons. We are busy. We had a slightly different summer and ensuing months than we expected due to the “big break”. It wasn’t possible to get to see her while T was in plaster as she lives 3 floors up in a block of flats with no lift. I could have gone on my own, but it just didn’t happen. I have spoken to her on the phone, but frankly that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After the initial “who is it?” rigmarole (she only has one granddaughter – no-one else other than my brother and male cousins call her Nan – it should be obvious it’s me) I then normally find that I have called at an inopportune moment. She’s 95 (96 in January) but she has a routine. She has carers that come at certain times of day and she performs a little spiritual service by herself each morning. I always seem to ring at the wrong time – nine times out of ten her line is engaged! – and we don’t speak for very long. I’m not complaining or knocking her. Bloody hell, she’s 95, she’s allowed to say or do what she wants (within legal boundaries).

Anyway, we finally managed to get over to see her. Sounds like she lives on the other side of a vast ravine or that we have to traverse some sort of perilous terrain to get there. She lives near Barnet. But life is busy and weekends are busy and things have to be scheduled in. In my head she is about 60. Like I’m 25. The maths don’t add up but it’s never been my strong point. When I saw her, looking 95 and hugged her I just lost it. She looks old; there’s no getting away from it. When she was 60 she looked 40. When she was 80 she looked 60. Now she’s 95 and she looks 95. She felt thin and unsubstantial. She’s always been strong and solid and someone who could overcome anything, and has (and then some). She is still a soldier. She still has her ALL of her very, very sharp wits about her. She’s still very in touch with the real world and she is still very interested in everyone. But she is getting old and frail and she won’t be here forever. And I don’t like it. At all. I don’t want her to be frail because I know she hates it. I don’t want her to have to have carers. She’s always been so independent and I know she hates having to have help. She makes my mum’s life a bit tricksy (that is a word) because she hates having to have my mum do stuff for her, so she takes it out on mum. Mum has to bite her lip, take a deep breath and count to one hundred a lot and because she loves her and she’s her mum she won’t say anything and she doesn’t mind helping her.

It’s a rubbish situation for all concerned. But the alternatives are not really viable. She won’t go into a care home (and frankly none of us want that in our hearts) but it’s A LOT for my mum and aunt to be doing her washing and cleaning and shopping and ALL the other “jobs” that she needs doing (and there’s a long list) every week. She wants to stay in her own home that she has lived in on her own for the last 50 years. And of course she has every right to choose that – until she can’t safely stay there.

I don’t want to be a 44 year old woman with a 95 year old nan and parents who are getting older too. I don’t want to be worried that each time I see my Nan it might be the last. It’s morbid and sad and I’m not grown up enough to handle it. Because I’m only 25.

Growing up is hard.

You and me got a whole lot of history

I met up with one of my oldest friends last night. We first met when I was a mere 19 and had my first job at a local building society. She was on maternity leave when I started working there and when she came in to visit with her newborn son (now 25 – eek!) I have to admit to being a bit intimidated and thinking I wasn’t sure that we would get on. I don’t know why other than that she was very glamorous (even with a newborn in tow) and very blonde and sure of herself. Basically the opposite of naive 19 year old me. However, I ended up working for her (my first foray into the world of I.T. or D.P. as it was known then) a year later and we soon became the best of friends. I would go to the supermarket with her in our lunch break to help her do her weekly shop (she paid me in Tunnocks Teacakes) and laugh at her terrible driving. We would do the daily banking trip, as we were “back office” staff and therefore less likely to get mugged, and we would laugh at the creep in the barbers down the road who would ogle her as we walked past. She was also a great help when I was navigating the tricky waters of boyfriends (and how to dump them). She left a couple of years later to have her second baby but we remained good friends and would see each other fairly often or talk on the phone when we couldn’t.

She’s had some tricky times – a tempestuous relationship which made for a rocky marriage at times -and I’ve been there for her; going out on the town to cheer her up when her ego needed a boost and supporting her when she decided, as she always did, that her husband wasn’t that bad and she should probably stick it out – they are still together nearly 30 years later; and she has been a good friend to me too (although my life has been far less eventful).

We only meet up every 3 or 4 months (less in the winter as we are both self-confessed hermits) but when we do we always feel like we saw each other last week. We appreciate each others family lives and don’t mind that we don’t see each other often – she has just become a grandma and works full time, with 2 adult children still living at home – and so we enjoy our evenings out together all the more for it. Last night was the usual round of catching up on family news and ourselves; diets; sizes of bums; moaning about failings of husbands (mainly tongue in cheek) and how crap telly is at the moment (thank god for books).

And god we laughed. We laughed so much that I think the people on the tables around us wondered if we were pissed. We weren’t. Just enjoying catching up with someone who you’ve know for so long that you have so many shared memories. My favourite story that we remembered last night was of an evening about 12 years ago when T was small and I wasn’t getting out much. She had dragged me out to the pub with some of her work colleagues and we were having a good night, until an ex-colleague who had recently left under a cloud arrived and started causing an atmosphere by being rude and boorish. I remember feeling so aggrieved that this a******e was ruining my one night out in months that I just let rip. Told him that no-one was interested in listening to him if all he was going to do was insult them; that he was ruining my night out and that he really didn’t want to mess with a post-natal highly emotional woman who would gladly smack him one round the fat chops if he didn’t stop. He left. I was the star of the night and felt like Supergirl, came home on such a high that I felt I could conquer the world, let alone a 9 month old baby who wouldn’t sleep.

As I was dropping her home she confessed that her daughter had queried how good our friendship really is. She was basing this on how little we see each other and how often we cancel our plans and rearrange. And how we don’t talk on the phone (who does that?) anymore, just text or WhatsApp. L explained that you don’t need that to be friends. History; shared memories; just knowing that if you needed them they would help you whether you saw them last week or 3 months ago; laughing. That’s all you need.

P.S. I’m not a  1D fan just thought it fit nicely as a title.(Liam, I love you).