Tag Archives: #respect

Family history

What a Friday I’ve had! Fridays are generally always brilliant but this one was super special. I have spent the day with my lovely cousin S. She’s really my second cousin – our dads are cousins; her grandma and my grandad were siblings. She lives down in Surrey and before this summer I’d only seen her a handful of times in the last two decades – at her wedding, at funerals and a couple of family gatherings. It’s one of those situations where because we’ve only ever met up via Family Events we’ve never thought of meeting up alone. This summer she got on a train and came up to St Albans and we spent the day together. Her dad is ten years older than my dad but he spent most of his childhood, up to his teens, living in St Albans so they share a history of more than just being cousins and consequently the city means something to both of us.

The visit in the summer was more about us catching up and getting to know each other a bit better – we are related and we send each other Christmas cards and think the world of each other but we needed to spend some time reconnecting. And it was lovely and I felt like we’d seen each other only a week before. She’s funny and kind and caring and lovely. We’ve got lots in common and we laughed a lot – a family trait – her grandad was always laughing and made everyone around him laugh too. He used to tease my dad, even when my dad was well into middle age, that the milkman was his real father!

Today she came up again (I’d offered to head down her way but she insisted that St Albans is far nicer than anywhere near her, so could she please come up again?) and we’ve had a magical family history mystery tour.

We’d both grilled our dads for the lowdown on places of significance and I came up with a plan. I picked her up from the station just before 11am and we headed off. Our first stop (well, drive-by as there was nowhere to stop) was the building that used to be the school where her grandma went as a young girl, in Catherine Street, now the Jubilee Centre. My grandma used to go there in later years for company – a sort of day centre for elderly people. Then we drove on to the school that her dad and my aunt attended, now Garden Fields school but formerly Townsend.

Next stop, and we did stop, was the house in Marshalswick that her Dad lived in as a boy before the family moved to Surrey when he was a teenager. My dad just about remembers them living there but he was only 5 when they moved away so it’s only a very vague memory.

From there we drove to my dads childhood home in Marshall Avenue where he was born. S’s Dad and grandparents lived there with my grandparents and Auntie for a while during WW2 and my dad was born during this time. Her dad remembers the midwife coming to help deliver my dad and thinking that he must be in the big black bag that the midwife had with her! She chucked the bag down on the floor and he was worried that the baby would be hurt. My dad was a tiddler, weighing just over two pounds, which in those days (with no incubators or special care baby units) would have been a big cause for concern, could easily have fit in the bag so he could be forgiven for his mistake!

We got parked up at the Verulamium museum car park and headed off for a coffee at the Inn on the Park. The place was packed with mums and toddlers so not a great choice for a chat but the coffee was hot and we didn’t plan to be there long – we had more places to visit!

Now on foot we headed round St Michael’s to Portland Street where our grandparents lived as children. I’ve never been up there (as far as I know) and S definitely hadn’t so we were quite excited to see the house- until we realised we weren’t quite sure which number it was! A quick call to my mum confirmed we were outside the right house. The houses can’t have changed much since the early 1900’s and our house (as I now think of it!) still had an old boot scraper outside and we gave the handrail a little stroke in the hope it was the original (you never know). We were both amazed at how such a big family had managed to all fit in such a small – two up two down – house. And we complain about not having enough room. Lightweights.

By this time the pub was calling us so we stopped for lunch. As the Verulam Arms (where S’s grandad liked to drink) is now a Forager food pub we opted for a more traditional lunch in The Six Bells, as recommended by my parents. And very nice it was too.

Properly refuelled and after much more chat and laughter we set off again on foot to the Gorhambury Estate where S’s grandad worked as an apprentice gardener when he first come up to St Albans in his late teens. It was during this time that he met my great aunt, S’s grandma, and the rest, as they say, is history.

S and I both feel so strongly that our family history mustn’t be forgotten. Her dad didn’t have siblings and she is an only child. I am lucky to have my brother and our cousin P, and we need to all make sure we keep the family bond going strong. We’ve got shared history passed down from our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles and we’ll make our own history going forward. A truly special day, with many more to come.

Our grandparents’ home in Portland Street.

Advertisements

Creature of Habit

Me and spontaneity are not regular companions. I’m very much a routine-loving, plan-ahead kind of person. I’m not inflexible, I can go with the flow from time to time and I am not averse to a last minute outing but I prefer to know about plans in advance, timings, etc. I like to know where I stand. It all goes back to the not liking rushing thing. I don’t like being late and I don’t like having to rush to get there on time. Also, I LIKE organising and being organised. It makes me feel in control.

I plan ahead for meals; I listen to the same radio station every day (my short foray into Smooth was just that – very short) or listen to the same albums and playlists over and over again; I wear the same clothes time and time again; I try and do the washing on the same days each week; I do the shopping on the same day each week; I pick up the kids on the same days every week; I go into the office on set days. It’s all very planned and habitual. And probably a bit boring. Some of it I can’t change – it would be pretty inconvenient to change the school pick ups with my car share friend from day to day; it would not be beneficial for people to run out of clean pants because I didn’t do any washing for 2 weeks – but other things I can work on.

As with List-less I think I need to change things up a bit. Stop following the same rules that I have made for myself and maybe make things a bit more interesting. Change my mindset and see what happens.

When I first started working again I took full advantage of the flexibility of my working day – as in, there are no fixed hours of work, just get the 8 hours done each day or make it up later in the week, whatever – and would sometimes take a few hours out in the afternoon to do something with the kids and then carry on with work later in the evening. For the last couple of years, since the kids have needed me less, I have fallen into a habit of starting around 8.30am/9am and finishing around 5.30pm/6pm. I have to take time out every other day for the school pickup and I do allow myself a short break for lunch now and again and the odd coffee with a friend (much rarer than I make it seem – at most once a month) but I am pretty conscientious really and make sure I do the hours expected. But I’ve fallen into a pattern again and I’m finding myself clock-watching when it gets to late afternoon. Maybe I should think about taking a break at that point and come back to it later in the evening. I could go out for a walk or sit and read a book, or get ahead of the game and prep some stuff for dinner.

It does worry me a bit that my lack of spontaneity may affect the kids social lives. I’ve had in my mind that we need to have A’s friend over for tea, or a sleepover, or probably both, for a few weeks now*. I’ve mentioned before that A gets asked to go to things with them A LOT and we are not good at reciprocating. They are a very spontaneous family and often ask her to things at the last minute, which she loves. I always feel like I’m a bit of a let-down in comparison. The truth is, we’re just not that exciting. We don’t just nip off to fun places or pop out for dinner randomly on a Friday night (or if we do it’s a very rare event). T is often invited to go to friends houses for dinner or to ‘hang out’ for the evening or to stay over. It never occurs to me to see if he wants people to come here. I am more than happy for them to have friends round but I never seem to make the suggestion. It wasn’t something we did as kids – I remember going to tea with friends, but not frequently and, because we lived further away from school and mum didn’t drive, it wasn’t easy to arrange for friends to come to ours. Maybe it’s a habit thing. Maybe, as well as dropping some habits, I need to make some new ones. (When we have the extension built it will be easier for them to have friends round, whereas at the moment they would have to be sat up in their bedrooms  – not great for A as her room is tiny – or K and I  would be forced out of the lounge into the kitchen. A lot is riding on this extension!)

I think part of my resistance to spontaneity is the not being in control part. I am a self-confessed control freak and although I have been trying hard to loosen my grip on certain things (cooking, decision making) it’s a long-ingrained habit to break. I worry what will happen if I’m not in control, if I step away from the helm and wait for someone else to take over. Will they? The candidates are not strong or many and I am not filled with confidence. Conversely, I do get a bit fed up of no-one else suggesting outings or ‘doing something’ and when I say “someone else” I obviously mean K – I can’t really expect the kids to whisk me away somewhere. But, to be fair, when he makes suggestions I quite often put a damper on it (because it wasn’t my idea – I know, I’m evil) so I would suspect he has got fed up of asking. There is a lot of truth behind star signs and I am a true Gemini – very, very fickle.

I’ve never been very good at breaking bad habits: I still pick at my fingers; I still eat too much chocolate; I still find it hard to say no (but I am working on that one) and I still feel guilty about nearly everything. But new habits are even harder to make. They say you have to do something for 60 consecutive days to make a habit. I think I manage 2 days of a healthy diet at most before I cave. I rarely manage to get past week 1 of a new exercise regime. Chocolate anyone? It’s not looking good for this creature to kick off her habits and make new ones. Small changes, perhaps? A new playlist. Wear some of the other clothes that are hanging in my wardrobe wondering why they are never worn (I know they don’t really have thoughts, I’m not mad). A break in the afternoon sometimes. Who knows where this could all lead?

 

*since writing this I have texted A’s friend’s mum and arranged a sleepover for this Saturday – yes, this Saturday – in 2 days time. Get me, being all spontaneous.

Bittersweet

I went to visit my Nan with T & A on Saturday. We haven’t seen her for a few months and I wanted to see her before our Christmas visit as that would have been too long to wait. K didn’t come with us as he was up in Birmingham for a friends 50th birthday (more on that later). There is no getting away from the fact that my Nan has aged. I had a bit of a ‘moment’ late last year when I hadn’t seen her for quite some time and I wrote about it in Growing up is hard In the last few weeks there has been talk about her going into a home where she would have round the clock care. There are many pros to this idea: my mum and my aunt won’t have the huge responsibility of looking after her (cleaning, washing, cooking, sorting out finances – the list goes on); they will be able to visit her and actually spend time with her rather than spending all their time doing chores; we will all have less worry about her being in her flat alone with only a neighbour and her lifeline (a button she can press to connect her to a care service) to hand if she feels unwell; less worry about her falling and being unable to call someone – just less worry generally. The cons are that we will have to sort out all her belongings and reduce them down to a size that she can take with her. She has a LOT of stuff and to her it’s all important and all needs to “go to a good home”. She will have to leave her home of 50+ years and her life will change. At nearly 97 who wants that? Of course she doesn’t want the upheaval and the uncertainty of what life will be like. Ideally, in her head, she wants to see her days out in her flat and remain the master of her ship, a ship she has been in charge of for 50+ years until the last 6 years or so when things started to get harder. She is resistant and then, alternately, resigned to the idea. When I saw her on Saturday she asked me if she looked old. I told her she was beautiful. Because she is. I wish with all my heart that I could wind the clock back for her to a time when she was still be able to do everything for herself, that she didn’t need carers, that she didn’t need my mum and Aunt to do all that they do for her.  I’ve not really been able to stop thinking about her since I saw her and I know my mum and Aunt feel caught between a rock and a hard place – no-one wants to force her to go into a home against her wishes, no-one wants her to be upset or sad BUT the situation is becoming almost impossible. She seemed to be in the ‘resigned’ camp of thought when I saw her (this can change daily, today she is probably adamant that she is going nowhere) and said that it’s all down to the social worker’s report and the decision of the care panel. We will have to see what they say and hope that she accepts it. It’s always lovely to see her but I always leave with a certain sadness.

As I mentioned earlier, K went up to Birmingham for a friends birthday. They were going go-karting and out for a meal and drinks afterwards. He decided to stay overnight as he doesn’t see them that often and wanted to be able to have a couple of drinks. I hate it when he is away, I don’t sleep properly and I miss him. Sad, but true. However, he doesn’t go very often and other than work-related evenings or socialising now and again with our friends he doesn’t get much downtime apart from with me, poor man. When he moved down here and we moved in together he would go up now and again but then we got married, as did many of his friends, and then we had T. It all happened quite quickly and I have to admit that I didn’t make it easy for him to go back up after we had T. I couldn’t cope well on my own and felt that I needed him around all the time. He was great and never complained, but he sort of fell out of the habit of going back up and seeing his friends. When he got home yesterday he was really full of beans and chatty and he’d clearly had a good time. He was knackered but he’d enjoyed himself immensely. He sat and chatted to T about the go-karting (they had been to a local one recently so were comparing notes) and about some funny incidents in a bar. We went out for dinner and he was chatty all night and relaxed and it was lovely It made me realise how much he must have missed seeing them. I have to take some of the blame – I didn’t make it easy for him in years gone by and he knows I don’t like him being away so he tries not to be. I’ve told him he must go more often. No, I won’t sleep but, big deal, I don’t sleep well when he IS here! I love seeing my friends and I can see them whenever I want to. They make me happy, they know me as someone other than a wife or a mum. He must feel the same when he is with his friends – they’ve known each other since secondary school and they have history – they don’t know him as Dad or husband or colleague. To them he is just K and that must be great. I am determined to get him to go up at least once every couple of months as we will all reap the benefits if he comes back as happy as he was yesterday.

 

Christmas, poppies and fireworks – in that order

I’ve had a busy day today but because it’s Friday it’s been a good busy.

I’ve been out to the shops with Mrs F and I’ve added to my stash of Christmas presents for the children’s stockings (and one for K’s). I LOVE buying stocking presents almost more than the other presents. Stocking presents are small and fun and lovely to buy – harder for T, dead easy for A and not too bad for K. I like squirrelling them away (after I’ve written them in my Xmas book – anyone who knows me should not be in any way surprised at this) and imagining peoples faces when they open them. A good mornings work.

This evening I’ve accompanied Mrs Lovely to the kids old school in our village to man the Poppy stall at the annual firework night. Mrs Lovely did it singlehanded last year as no one was able to assist but this year I had the pleasure of joining her. And it was a pleasure. Seeing young children, older children, parents and grandparents donating for poppies, wristbands and other merchandise was brilliant. And as an added bonus I got to spend the two hours with Mrs Lovely. She’s great company and we always laugh a lot. We even had chance to see the firework display. I love fireworks but really only at organised displays – they scare me when done in back gardens! The display was brilliant! For a small village school it’s always a great show and this year was the best yet.

I’m knackered now, sitting with a G&T. A happy day.

The Office

No, not the Ricky Gervais series, although that was genius, my office where I work two days a week. It’s nice to have some company for those two days while having my own space at home the other two days.

Our office of (mainly) three people is a pretty nice place to work. We listen to Radio 2 and we like to moan about stuff they report or the topics that Jeremy Vine discusses at lunchtimes. One of my bosses, N, calls a spade a spade and if he disagrees with something he will make it very clear. I don’t always agree with what he says, but he is entitled to his opinions and I know where I stand with him. He is straightforward and he doesn’t try to hide that he is a tiny bit sexist and just, well, not completely PC. It’s nice though, because they don’t care if I am a bit grumpy – they don’t even notice most of the time and they certainly don’t assume that I am in a mood with them. (When I worked in a predominantly female office in a  building society it was impossible to have an off day without offending someone or someone assuming you had the hump with them about something.) They don’t expect me to make the drinks, in fact I get more offers of coffee when I am in the office than when K is working from home with me. I feel valued (most of the time) and am made to feel that I do a good job.

I have been very lucky with bosses over the years. They have all been men, with the exception of two, and they have all wanted me to progress, to do well, always made me feel appreciated and a worthy member of the team. The two women I have worked for were very different. I distinctly remember one saying to me, after I was asked my opinion by another member of staff, “It’s early days, don’t try to run before you can walk”. And another who did her utmost to keep me in my place – sending me on pointless errands that ended up with me being humiliated in front of another member of staff; asking me to make calls that she didn’t want to make; insisting on being in any meeting I was invited to (even if she wasn’t involved in the project).

With the exception of one, I have always found men to be the easiest people to work with. When I worked for a large coffee company back in the 90’s I far preferred being sent to sort out a technical issue in the all male warehouse than the all female telesales department. The guys in the warehouse were goodnatured, friendly and above all straight-talking. Walking into the telesales department was a different matter altogether. I never knew what sort of reception I would find and would always leave feeling like they were going to talk about me the minute I left the room (this was justified, it wasn’t paranoia). As for the one exception, he was a sexist pig. He used to call me to his office to sort out a technical issue, knowing I would probably have to clamber around under his desk to check cables, etc. whilst he sat as close as possible, watching me. This was back in the days when women were expected to wear skirts to work and despite the nature of my job I had to adhere to it, even though trousers would have been far more practical. I suspect if I was doing that job now I would have grounds for accusing him of sexual harassment. But he is the only man I have come across in my 27 working years that behaved that way. He was the exception to the rule. (I did warn my younger colleague to take care around him and I always made it clear to him that I knew what he was – a dirty old man, which he would deny, instead insisting that he was “just a red blooded male”. Yuck.)

The allegations we are hearing daily in the press make me think of him. He tried to pretend he wasn’t a perv. He tried to make out he was something he wasn’t and they are the dangerous ones. The ones who purport to be a certain type of person while the words that they say and the things that they do call them out as a liar at every step. The ones who think they are above any sort of laws, who have no respect for women or sense of decency.  I am sure lots of women will have come across a man like the one I knew all those years ago. Hopefully, most of us will have only endured this low level sexual harassment but I know there are plenty who will have endured far worse.

I don’t think men should EVER be allowed to get away with any sexually predatory behaviour and sexism should have been locked up back in the days of Benny Hill. As a mother of a son I hope I have instilled in him that girls are to be respected as much as any boy (not more, just as much) and as a mother of a daughter I hope I have instilled in her that she can do anything she wants, that she doesn’t have to take any crap from anyone and that she is as good as any boy, but she shouldn’t walk over anyone in the process.

But, not all men are sexist predators, just as not all women are feminists who look out for their female colleagues.

I like my office. Smelly, belchy men and all.

 

 

One better day*

It’s not been a very eventful day today but I quite like Thursdays. They are my Friday, with another Friday afterwards. My Thursday is like most people’s Friday’s but I get a free non-working Friday after my Thursday, not just a Saturday and Sunday. I LOVE Fridays. There is no better day. I know that I should love weekends more than Fridays, and I do love them, but you can’t beat a Friday. Consequently, Thursday is all about the anticipation of the Friday to follow, so I quite like Thursdays.

What has made me smile today other than it just being Thursday?

Little things:

Receiving a text from A from a sleepover –  having a lovely time – followed by a message from the sleepover friend’s mum saying how lovely it had been to have A there, that her younger children adore A and that she is patient and kind with them.

A hug from my man-boy. I had to wake him up at half ten so he could get on with some revision/homework. Cruel to be kind, that old chestnut. He doesn’t hold a grudge, he doesn’t shout at me to go away. He takes his time surfacing and then of course he needs food and a shower so the revision/homework doesn’t get underway until nearly eleven thirty. Makes a bit of a mockery of the ‘do some work in the mornings and then you can have some free time in the afternoon‘ agreement that we have, as the morning has practically gone by the time he gets down to work. He did more work after lunch (lunch? because of course he needed more food by 12.45pm) and I have evidence of actual progress being made, so I am not cracking the whip yet.

A ‘like’, a re-tweet and a reply from an author whose book I have just finished and loved. I tweeted about it not expecting any response bar from my 3 lovely Twitter friends who are kind enough to like my tweets, so I was really pleased that the author saw my comments and was happy enough to reply to me, resulting in a short Twitter conversation. She’s a relative newcomer and this was her second book (I have read her debut novel which was also excellent) and I have been recommending this latest one to everyone that I know who reads. The idea for the narrative (likened to a literary Sliding Doors by one critic) is gripping and the story-lines are believable and thought-provoking. It’s my favourite book so far this year. To know that she knows how much I liked it made me smile.

My girl coming home from the sleepover and wanting a “huggy”. She’s affectionate and loving, on her own terms – always has been – and it’s lovely when she wants to be hugged and I NEVER say I’m too busy. What could possibly be more important than a hug?

Not a bad haul of smiles for a non-eventful, run of the mill day. I might even have a glass of wine later – well, it is Friday 😉

 

*a little homage to one of my favourite Madness tracks.

 

To blog or not to blog

I’ve been writing my blog for 3 years or thereabouts. I started it off for #100HappyDays and it was a daily blog with some short posts and other more lengthy entries. I was looking at my stats earlier and the number of posts I’ve written this year has really dropped. It’s made me question whether I should continue. I get some days where I am inspired to blog – something has happened that has got me thinking, or an event has taken place that I want to talk about – and I can’t wait to tap it all out. Other days I want to blog but can’t think of anything to say. I’ve definitely had way more of the latter this year and more so of late.

I like blogging and intended it to be a diary of sorts and a way of looking back at good things that happened – as it started as a way of making a note of something good each day. I read recently about gratitude journals as a way of celebrating the positive events that happen each day – even something small – which was the premise behind #100HappyDays. I’m not big on writing (physical writing) as I focus too much on my handwriting and less on the content. I’ve never managed to keep a diary for longer than a few days as I can never face writing it. That was the beauty of the blog. Looking back over my blog, it’s a bit of a mixed bag which is maybe while I’m struggling with it a bit. It started out with a purpose but I think I have got a bit lost along the way. It’s neither a diary nor a reflective journal. It’s a bit confused about what it wants to be! Hmm, or could it be that the writer is a bit confused about what she wants to say?

 

Later.

I’ve been giving it more thought. I am going to revert back to the original reason for the blog and stay true to my blog name; keep hunting for the happiness and blogging about the good stuff. Maybe that will get me back on track and help me to find a focus again. I’m quite proud that I’ve kept it going for this long really (quite unheard of for me, the proverbial quitter) so I don’t really want to give up on it. I’m not going to start the #100HappyDays again but will make an entry each day about something good and positive. Not in a Facebrag, my life is Marvellous way, just me being positive and finding the happy.

OK, enough pondering. Let’s do this.