Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Knitting Pretty - Secret Post Club #1

I heard a little rat-a-tat-tat on my front door but ignored it, thinking it was one of the delightful kids from upstairs, asking if she could come and play with The Celestial One after school. I wasn't being rude, I was exasperated at My Girl's insistence at me hanging threads of red wool from the ears of her new favourite teddy, Sukie Jack Connor: a teddy so important as to merit the bestowing of 3 names.  SJC has to wear pony tails at all times (just like his "mummy"), the adornments fastened so tightly around his ears that the poor's thing's circulation is in danger of being cut off and then from what will she I hang his imaginary hair?  Plus he has a PINK ribbon/hairband around his head, in a early-1980s Olivia Newton John doing "(Let's Get) Physical" style (just like his "mummy"!)

"There, he looks lovely now." Patience wearing thin.


"She looks lovely now!"

It's an on-going game. I say, "he," she says, "SHE!"

"Look, Mummy.  Sukie Jack Connor is waiting for breakfast." Oops.

"Does he like porridge?"


About 13 times an hour, this gendered mistake.  All teddy bears are male to me, just like all cats are female and all dogs are something never to be let inside the house, regardless of chromosomes! Teddy Bears are Edwards - blokes!!  My own little brown childhood bear, the one without any stuffing left, is still around, demoted to the toy box: he's called Knuckles, still one of my proudest name-giving achievements.

I heard the faint knock again.  I didn't answer.  I had a shower.

Through the steam of the faux-glass doors, I see the figure of my child, brown thing in hand.  I hear her crying.

Sigh. "What is it, Celeste?"

"Sukie Jack Connor's pony tail breaked!"

"For God's sake, Celeste, I'm in the shower. I'll find him a new one when I get out!"


Right!  I grab a towel, storm to the kitchen, find some more red wool and tie it extra tight round his ears that would be purple if he had any sense of feeling.  Sorry, HER ears, SHE.

"There, SHE's got new pony tails now."

Knock, knock. Louder. And, "Becky, there's a parcel for you out here."  My neighbour, V.


I squat and bend my still wet arm around the door, pull the packet into the warmth of our flat and read the message on the envelope, from which I determine that it's been posted to me by Ellie at Insomniac Mummy

"I want to open it.  I want to open it!"

No. It's mine. I never get to open anything that isn't electronically sent these days.  I'm taller than her so I stand up, full of excitement.

Ellie, I think, has done her homework on me because inside MY parcel is a book of knitting patterns for children.  Beautiful children with beautiful clothes.  And two balls of the softest baby bamboo red wool. Thanks Ellie, I absolutely love it and I make you two promises:

1. I will learn to knit something more sophisicated than woollen squares that are used currently as blankets for Sukie Jack Connor.

2. I will not hang any of that gorgeous wool from said teddy bear's ears.

You have my word :)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


My Girl and I spent a couple of hours at the North Somerset Museum in Burlington Street today. The museum that the council is proposing to relocate from one of the oldest buildings in Central Weston to the Winter Gardens on the Sea Front. The museum whose potential closure is causing outrage among the local community, who have taken it upon themselves to organise protest meetings, petitions, colouring competitions and a Facebook group with hundreds of followers in a bid to halt these plans.

I haven’t yet met one person in this town who would like the move to go ahead, even if many of us didn’t manage to get to last Saturday’s 10:30 am meeting, organised by The Civic Centre, Friends of North Somerset Museum and the newly-formed Mums for the Museum, at the Blakehay Theatre. The place was packed, thankfully, so maybe we weren’t missed as much as our guilt at not being there might have indicated.

I’d rather not see the museum be ripped from its prime central position in a quiet street close to the train station and the 20 minute commute to Bristol to be dumped onto the struggling Winter Gardens bang on top of the beach, the Phenomenon-that-is-the-Grand Pier, the Wheel, the Sovereign shopping centre, the pubs and the restaurants, where everything cultural (ha!) would then be huddled together.

But I can see why the council might want to, aside from the immediate cash such a project might bring in.

See, what you have to ask yourself is … is Weston a seaside resort or a dormitory town? And is there room for both? If everything touristy was placed in the same square mile, could that free the rest of the town up for the locals?

No, you say, the museum is for locals. Yeah, I know, we are local and like I said, we were there today. I’ve got an annual membership (£4.50 per visit or £10 a year) because it’s a great place to go for someone with a three year old who loves to dress up and draw.

The first time I took the Celestial One to Burlington Street, her reaction was, to me, unexpected. It was among the most excited I have ever seen her: she’d visited once with pre-school and I think the place reminded her of her relationship with her pals. Poor, poor only child. She darted around, diving in the ‘cave’ (a tent) and pulling on the ladybird costume.

Today, her third visit, we stayed for an hour and a half. We had planned on having lunch at the Museum Café but I hadn’t realised that they only serve drinks and cake, so that’s what we had, with no protestations whatsoever from her, unsurprisingly. She was disappointed that the covered pond in the miniscule courtyard wasn’t a trampoline. She’d smelled lavender and rosemary before (I’m so boring!). She liked the magnets, not dissimilar from what we’ve got on our own fridge. Didn’t bother to dress up this time but she did find a pair of cat’s ears identical to the ones she wears every single day at pre-school, so much so that the staff say they’ve forgotten how she looks without them. She did a bit of brass rubbing. I played my role, explaining how the kitchen in Clara’s Cottage differed from our modern one, informing her that bears used to live by us in the quarry, pointing out that melted bin from the burnt out Grand Pier and showing her how to rub herbs and then sniff her fingers – again!

I showed her a photo of Anchor Head, taken back in the early twentieth century.

“Look, Lestie! Where’s that?”

“Weston-super-Mare,” she replied, barely humouring me.

“Yes, it’s where we climb the rocks, isn’t it?”

Not listening, lalalala, she skips off. The “Laughing Man” amusement machine she loved, she says, but she looked totally freaked out to me. She didn’t want to go on Sophia, the mechanical seaside horse, did that last time. She tried her hand at Punch and Judy but her monkey and polar bear puppets at home are easier to manoeuvre.

“I don’t like this game. I want to go to the library.”

And that might well be the problem with this museum as it stands, if there is one. It’s not big enough. As a social historian by trade, I’ve been to countless museums as a leisure pursuit but also as a researcher and I’m of the opinion that, where possible, museums and libraries should be in the same spot. Actually it’s difficult to believe that the museum only moved to Burlington Street 37 years ago: up until then it was squished into the our little library in Waterloo Street. This is one of the reasons that I don’t understand the sentimentality of keeping the museum where it is: it’s been there for a shorter time than I’ve been alive, though I am turning into a bit of a museum piece myself, it could be said. I do happen to think that the Gaslight is a fine building but North Somerset Council might need to consider buying up the rest of the street so it can expand.

Living in Weston-super-Mare is a bit like living in the States; its known history is limited. It’s a new town, built on the English Nineteenth Century love affair with the seaside and all the health giving properties the salty air was thought to offer. Apart from the natural history of the area, a couple of medieval churches and Priory, a scattering of Roman Villas and a most probably extremely rich but unknown ‘Iron-age’ history, there’s not much to shout about. If the history of Weston belongs to tourism, should we let tourism have the museum?

And as for the facilities at the museum itself - what about interactivity? I’ve listed some of the activities available but there might be an explanation as to why the clientele is limited to young families and pensioners (today, the only other browsers were a mum, her toddler and two people in their 70s and, last time we were there, two middle class boys with their mother). Where are the computers; that’s what kids want, isn’t it? That’s the way the world is going, for right or wrong. Celebrate Clara’s cottage but supplement her heritage with a sophisticated virtual world. Keep the amusements but compare and contrast them to World of Warcraft (or something less violent). I find it astonishing that, in 2010, our museum does not yet have its own independent website and still comes under the umbrella of North Somerset Council’s webpages, which are basic in the extreme.

My Girl is only three and she’ll get years out of the place yet and mostly it will be up to me to make it fun for her. And I might have to.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Our Playground

Spring came to visit yesterday, so we packed a picnic and went over 'our back garden' hill to Sand Bay, where it was near gale-force windy and still very much March.  We gobbled all the food up, managing to not get sand in our wiches, and then climbed back over the wooded hill of Worlebury, where, once again, the 150 year old trees completely sheltered from the cold, biting wind.  Along the way, we found a slide, a swing and a bed:

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dig In

One of my fellow Weston-super-Mums, Lily the Pink, has created a new group on our Community site entitled Little Green Fingers, in which she's posted a link to the BBC's Dig In: Grow you Own Grub, being advertised on CBeebies, apparently.  I don't know how I managed to miss it.  Or rather I do because I don't get involved in CBeebies anymore.  Oh yes, it still goes on twice a day in our house: just before pre-school and for an hour or so in the run up to bedtime.  But I've just about managed to switch my brain off to it completely, otherwise I'd have to deal with Cerrie Burnell and her truly awful presenting skills, with her wide-open eyes and that tiresome gasping noise she does: please, please, give us a bit of variety, Cerrie!  Go on!  Treat us to an "Ooh" sound and, oh I dunno, a "Hoop-de-hoop" or something, anything. 

But this I do like! The Dig In website encourages us to grow our own vegetables by sending out free seeds that should eventually produce courgettes, green salad, basil, carrots and french beans.  I've never grown anything successfully: even the basil I've attempted in the past has always failed to get anywhere near my plate of Putanesca. 

At primary school, we had a daffodil growing competition every single year from the age of 4 till 11 and so, every March, I got a certificate that said "Better luck next year."  Not only did I never get the thing to flower but I hardly managed to coax out the tiniest stalk!  And while, as an adult, my indoor plants don't die, neither do they thrive: my peace lily has been the same size since I was given it as a housewarming present about five years ago.  I've got four indoor plants, all limp but hanging on and all gifted to me.  I don't remember having ever bought a plant for myself. Ever.

I once had a garden and thought that it would be lovely to sit in it during the summer but I never did because the grass was so high that it sort of flopped over on one side.  I've just never been interested, I suppose.  Does that make me a bad bet for a mother?  Celeste seems to be doing alright - I feed and water her, give her plenty of sunshine and fresh air, seems to work.

And now she gets to be nuturer and is already doing better than I ever have.  For the second year in a row, at Funny Bunnies, she has planted and watered her own cress until it reaches the top of the plastic cup standing on our kitchen windowsill.  She's tasted it too and both time has pulled a disappointed face, "Urgh! Don't like it, Mummy."

Fair 'nough!

But now the time has come to show My Girl how our food is produced and, though I'm not doing it on the same scale as my brother, who bought an allotment last year and is reaping in a wide range of crops together with his four year old son, I can at least attempt a few courgettes and leaves of lettuce.  So I've susbcribed to the Dig In on-line newsletter and sent off for the free seeds, which we will grow on our communal terrace (no! Of course we haven't got a garden, I ain't making that mistake again until we can afford a gardener and before I employ one of those, we need to hire a cleaner and someone to do the ironing).

The seeds should be with us soon and then the fun will begin. 

Did I really just call it 'fun?'

I promise to let you know how Celeste gets we get on.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Our Friends on the Wall

I've been tagged by the fabulous Camilla at Made by Milla.

Here are the rules:

1. open your first photo folder in your computer library.
2. scroll to the 10th photo
3. post the photo and the story behind it
4. tag 5 or more people to continue the thread

This photo was taken on my mobile phone a couple of years ago.  The walls of Celeste's bedroom were, like the rest of the flat, plain white.  She wasn't sleeping and who could blame her for not taking to a sterile room, her not yet two-year old imagination unable to make anything of so much bareness.  So, Sexy Older Man grabbed one of her "In the Night Garden" picture books and copied the outline of the characters onto the walls with My Girl's black Crayola crayon.  Then, darting to retrieve some of the paints he keeps by his own huge canvas down the road in his house-come-studio, he made Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, The Ninky Nonk and Makka Pakka come alive.

But would she like it?  We did!  But these five feet plus creatures with big eyes and open arms might be too imposing for a wee one. 

The next night she slept so happily, embraced by the trees, next to the flowers, under the watchful eyes of her colourful friends.  The mural is still there but not for much longer.  The Celestial One is four in July and she may be outgrowing CBeebies.  A local woman I've met on our Weston-super-Mum Community, Natasha, came round for a recce last week and sized up the room that she will transform into a bedroom suitable for Lestie's next phase as the little girl who is leaving toddlerhood behind.

She's asked to keep the trees and in place of the blue phallus with the red mohican, the rasta dancer with the inflatable skirt and the stoned soft figure (my words not hers!) will be fairies and flowers and butterflies - a magic woodland.  All that remains now for me to do is to paint over SOM's work and prepare the blank canvas for Natasha to create her own Wonderland.

Somehow, though, I can't bring myself to do it ...

I now tag:

Keith Ramsey

Tim Worth

Nickie O'Hara

Victoria Wallop

Heather Sunderland

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Seaside Icons

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tea in a Caff

Clarence Park Cafe has got a Facebook Fan Page!

Of course, when you go to Clarence Park, you can 't actually head straight for the cafe, not if you've got kids with you.  You have to get your appetite up first by playing in the swing area, creeping up on squirrels, climbing trees, trying to uproot trees, chasing pigeons and making mud pies.  Then after a quick hand wash under the ice cold water of the public convenience tap, you're really ready to eat!

Clarence Park Cafe is a greasy spoon, no question.  Bacon, sausage, egg, beans, toast and a mug of tea for £2: at that price, who cares what it's been deep fried in?  Tastes good too.  And there's something very English about sitting in a park on a cold but sunny February afternoon, eating a Full English with a dollop of brown on the side.  Something so comforting that, after you've wiped your plate clean with the toast, the only thing to do is head back up to the counter and order another mug of steaming tea, bag still in.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Two women have propelled me to write this post; the lovely Emma, who I met at a girl's night out at the Old Manor Inn in Weston last night, and Nickie, my brilliant and talented twitter/blogger friend.  Emma paid me a much appreciated and wonderful compliment, saying that she'd been reading my blogs for a while now and really enjoyed them: every writer loves such a reaction - it's inspiring, so thanks endlessly to you, Emma.  And then that Nickie bird has tagged me again in her meme Childhood Memories that Make Me Smile - it's a brilliantly uplifting post that will have you pining for Play Away and Buck's Fizz. Please take a look!

I'm rubbish at honouring my memes but I won't let this one go, so here's my all-time favourite childhood memory:

I had a happy and fun childhood, spent in Central London until we moved to our home under the quarry in Weston in 1981.  I grew up on a Peabody Estate in Pimlico until the age of 12, so, besides my brother and 4 boy cousins, I had a ready made community of friends and, indeed, Buck's Fizz rates very highly on my list of special memories too. We used to make up dance routines to such songs as "Making your Mind Up" in the safe haven of our playground that was overlooked by the low rise London Red Brick flats, skirted by balconies.  Kim Wilde, "Rockafella, Cinderella" and "The Hucklebuck" were also on our list. The dance troupe usually consisted of my brother, John, and our mates Mandy and Frank: we were awesome!  We also had a first-rate youth club in the basement of Malcolmson House, open every evening for a 5p sub and run by the inspiring and tireless Pat.  We loved Colin Bizzell (a cousin in my Mum's huge family) and the tuck shop lady, the ancient (to us), Winnie.

I was a sociable girl but I liked nothing better than to read and I sat with books from the time I could hold them. They transported me to another place, as books should, and opened my mind. Mum took us to the bookshop in Victoria Street every single Friday after school and I think I devoured just about every Enid Blyton book that she every wrote.  I adored reading about boarding schools so much that I wanted to go to one (I never did, thankfully).  Mum says that, unlike my fiery, fiesty, sometimes uncontrolably physical Celeste, I was an insular child and only wanted to read, that she rarely heard a peep out of me, so busy was I sitting in my bedroom, reading all about Mallory Towers or Naughty Amelia Jane.  And then there was Harriet the Spy and Tove Jansen's perfect 'Moomins' series of books.  Sigh ...

Little did I know then that I was preparing myself for a lifetime of study, for years of consulting archives in different cities and towns, foreign countries, where I have poured over old letters, dusty newspapers, microfiches and government reports.  The experience of touching and smelling hand-written letters by Mr Tate of Tate and Lyle to the Cuban Government will stay with me forever - being a Pimlico Girl, Tate Britain is also one of my treasured childhood (and adult) memories.  I guess I'm just an Old Romantic and thank God for it because it compliments my very practical, scientific mind.

The one book that still sends ripples of excitment up and down my 40 year old spine is a belter by Catherine Storr, Marianne Dreams, and my Rosebud Moment must belong to this delciously dark book.

Marianne has a childhood illness and is bed-bound.  Her home tutor tells her all about a boy she also teaches called Mark, whom our herione has never met but whom she constantly thinks about.  She draws a house and then starts to dream about it. She draws a figure, staring out from the window and, at night-time, in her dream world, the figure becomes that little boy she doesn't know, who is trapped in the house, which in real life he is, unable to walk. On awakening she draws some stairs, thinking this might help him and, with every brush of her pencil, Marianne's dreams become more lucid and sinister.  These kids just have to get well but they also must help themselves, noone else can do it for them. 

I nearly wet myself a few years ago in Oxfam, Southend-on-Sea, when I came across My Book for a few pennies and read it again, understanding the deeper meanings of this masterpiece, as you do in adulthood (I think I must have been about 10 years old the first time around).  I passed it on to the daughter of a friend so I no longer own a copy. Today, I ordered it from Amazon along with a film based on the book, Paperhouse, which I didn't know existed. I am wishing the days away now, eager to open my little, pleasure-giving parcel that Ian, my postman, will bring.

I must now have a little cry so excuse me ...

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Worlebury Hill, Weston Woods, Weston-super-Mare:


Take 5

Woodspring Bridleway

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round Some Old Bramble

Happy Valentines' Day <3

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Kid A

This blogpost was partly inspired by my attendance at the Very Silent Disco in Weston's Dophin Square, partly by Nickie O's imaginative music appreciation through blogging at Typecast and not a little by my twitter friend @dottyteakettle's tweet earlier today, which opined "Praise be for Boards of Canada."

That statement took me straight back to St Mary's Birthing Centre in Melton Mowbray and those hours that I awaited the birth of My Little Pork Pie, stuffing a huge bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk into my mouth for energy, rolling around on a huge gym ball, high as a balloon on gas and air, bang in the middle of that unbearable July Heatwave.

"I feel redundant," lamented my Mum, the best birthing partner a woman could wish for.

"I feel like I'm at a Festival," I shouted.

In the hours up till midnight, I coped with the flying and the contractions by texting incoherent ramblings to some of my family and friends.

"I do believe you are high," texted my brother from the Noel Arms in Langham, Rutland.

"And you, Sir, are drunk," I replied. "At least in the morning, I shall have a baby."

Radiohead's Kid A was probably offensively loud in the birthing suite.  "Everything in its right place," sang our Thom.  "Absolutely, Oh Wise One," I had to agree.

I waffled, I took in some more Entonox, I waffled some more, I turned the music up, I ate some more chocolate, I was manic.

The midwife broke my waters.  WHAT THE ????

Everything changed. Pain, intense pain. I still needed music but The Head were no longer suitable, I had to listen to something more calming, tunes that would help me to focus, help me to float. And I needed more gas and air.  We wheeled the apparatus into the adjoining room and I laid back in the birthing pool, soothed by the tones of the sublime Boards of Canada.  I drifted in and out of sleep, bobbing, until .....

You don't really need to know the rest but at 3:46 am on Saturday 15th July 2006, she was born.  My Celestial One.

My complete birthing music playlist was:

Radiohead - OK Computer
Radiohead - Kid A
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase.

Thank you, oh thank you, you fabulous British boys. You helped me through, you really did.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Disco Here? Disco There?

In 1984, when I was 15, I sat on a clapped out Bakers' coach with a couple of dozen other excited teenagers and some local football team or other to embark on the Weston-super-Mare/Hildesheim student exchange for a fortnight away from home.  In the main, I journeyed into the unknown with people I didn't know: most of the Priory School bunch I chose to hang around with could barely cope with remedial French, so were never going to learn German aswell.

Petra, the German girl, stayed at our house during Easter and I stayed at hers in the summer.  We had nothing in common - she was sporty and probably quite lovely, while I was bookish yet Trouble. After a week in Weston's 'Twin Town' near Hanover, we, the English contingent, waved goodbye to our hosts and jumped back in the clackety vehicle for our three day visit to West Berlin. 

At the Hostel, I had no worries about ignoring the 10:30pm curfew and persuading 2 other girls to head into the heart of the city to go clubbing for the night, whilst getting another to cover for us should it all come on top.  Looking back, it must have been my first night-club experience, one where we got completely wasted on local beer and watched transgendered dancers giving it large in a city we couldn't navigate (West Berlin in 1984: before U2 had even considered making it 'cool' ) and surrounded by a language we hardly knew.  We sat mesmerised, three English schoolgirls in Dorothy Perkins dresses, while men in skirts and leather groped each other.  It was great!

So, it's hardly surprising that, although I went out dancing about three times a week from then until the age of 18, when I left Weston-super-Mare, I never really rated the club scene here.  It was the same thing, night after night; cheap alcohol, boys on tap and lots of puking (not a noughties pheomenon, this, it's been going on forever!)  I moved to Torremolinos.

Weston just didn't do Disco!  And, 22 years on, nothing has changed ....

A couple of days ago, I got word of a Facebook Group promoting a Silent Disco, booked for the dilapidated Dophin Square area of the town, which would last the duration of one song of choice only.  "Brilliant!" I thought, "It's in the afternoon! 12:30 on a Saturday! I can take My Girl," and I confirmed our attendance, whilst alerting other Facebookers/twits/WsMums to this rare-for-Weston event.  I thought about the tune only I would dance to and that no-one else would be able to hear, flitting from Odyssey's "Shake your Body" (pure disco) to Hot Chip's "Over and Over" (which I dance to as though I'm holding a skipping rope and, therefore, it was ruled out) to Arctic Monkey's "I Bet you Look Good on the Dancefloor" (energy, pure energy).  However, for me, nothing quite comes close to those Essex boys, who were so ahead of their 80s time, Depeche Mode, and my favourtie of theirs and very probably a Desert Island Disc of mine "Enjoy the Silence."  Love that beat!  I booted up my MP3 player for me, charged up the ipod shuffle that my brother had gifted me (jam-packed with my favourite songs, bless him) for her and grabbed two pairs of headphones.

Incidently, I had a Scooby Doo moment as we were leaving the house, when I checked to see whether the headphones worked on the ipod shuffle that My Girl would be using.  I hadn't chosen a song for her; I thought any number would do as long as she could hear some music to dance to and not feel left out.  They worked and which song was playing on a shuffle selects tunes totally randomly?  Go on, guess?  That's right .... I actually looked at the machine and vocally shivered (a sort of "Urghhgh" sound).

We went down The Hill.

I had it all planned so well: get there at least half and hour early so that she can play on the slides in the middle of Dolphin Square, get it out of her system ready for the Disco, and we would even have time to grab a Cornish Pasty from Hills in the precinct.  We ate the peppered potato and meat in pastry and My Girl went off to slide, while I untangled the headphones again.   At 12:20, we went to chat to some friends with their boy and girl and chosen bakery delights.  They were also there for the Disco ("But we're just going to watch.")  Another super-Mum turned up with her baby and fella and 2 ipods or suchlike. 

We noted that there weren't many people milling about - 12:28 - although there were a damned site more than there had been 20 minutes previously.  I spotted a woman standing on her own, hands in pockets, swaying a little.  At about 12:30, we thought we heard a whistle but we weren't sure and no-one was dancing.  At 12:34, we were sure we heard another but still no-one dancing.  Maybe we should have just got on with it and danced but, well, you don't, do you?

Where were the organisers?  Where was the placard to mark the spot?  Where was the fun?

Like, I said, Weston never did do Disco.  Torremolinos on the other hand ....

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Night Night

Historically, My 3 year old has been a bit of a gift in the old sleep department. She's almost always zonked out by 7pm and is up to begin a new day about 12 hours later. Not that she doesn't attempt to get into bed with me at some point between these two posts, often leaving me with broken sleep or, worse, with a switched on brain that mulls over everything from "would that work as a plot line for a blog/book/project/poem" to "I wonder whether Lady Sov's cockiness will endear us to her even more or whether it will be the reason for her demise and early eviction?"  Still, no-one's perfect.

We were doing exceptionally well, with her rarely getting up even once during the whole night.  That was until our trip to London, when we shared a bed at my Nan's for a couple of nights and she got used to me being there, by her side.  It is special to feel the warm arms of your very own little person, the one your body, mind and energy has nurtured and is still nurturing, wrap around your neck and breath sweetness onto your cheek. That is until they decide that they'd like to lay horizontally across the bed or that your back/side/chest/stomach would made an excellent footrest.  Then, I don't know about you, but I cannot sleep, no matter how exhausted I am and, as an older first-time mum, that's infinitely.  Infinitely Exhausted.

I have no idea how she managed to persuade me but, for the past three or four weeks, I've been staying with her till she drops off.  Actually, I do know - she caught me at a weak moment one evening when all I really wanted was to have a post-story time doze and so I snuggled up next to her and we visited the Land of Nod together.  Now she won't let me go and her dropping off time has been getting later and later.

"Tonight," I thought. "This stops!"

I read her two bedtime stories, fought with her to let me brush her teeth (she won) and then explained that her cousin J. doesn't sleep with his mummy (though I think he probably does) and neither did her friend A.  Did she know why? 

"Yes, Mummy, because theys big boys and girl."  And so was she, I assured her, and she didn't need her Mummy either.

"No. I want to keep you, Mummy."  Bless.

"Mummy is just in the kitchen. I love you and I'll see you in the morning."

Then the house turned into a scene from SuperNanny.  No, it was worse than that: the house turned into a scene from SuperNanny USA.  She kicked off the covers, she screamed so that I thought the neighbours might come round, she demanded to sleep with her toothbrush (fine!  Whatever, Wierdo!), she threw her toothbrush across the room, she didn't want Fairy, she wanted to sleep in my bed, she kicked her covers off again, she wanted her covers 'back in a square', she wanted her Incredible Hulk Burger King toy, she didn't want her Incredible Hulk Burger King Toy, she wanted Fairy, she went to sleep.  The whole process seemed as laborious as digging a five foot hole then filling it in again but, in fact, from the time I turned off her light to the time the screaming and demands stopped, just 10 minutes had passed.

Done!  Now all I have to do is put her back in her own bed at 2am when she creeps into mine and when I'd give absolutely anything for a quiet life.  And for some sleep!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Short Story - The Night Bus

I've just joined an excellent new creative writing community called Judith's Room: Where Women Write. Please check it out. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Josie at Sleep is for the Weak for getting the community together with such efficiency and lightening speed.

Judith's Room has prompted me to post here one of my own short stories that I wrote a few months ago. And no, there are no parallels with my own life and SOM ... but a relationship with an age difference did get me thinking:

The Night Bus.

She was left-handed. That’s the first thing I knew about her. Then I learned that she had green eyes and that she’d killed a man.

She told me this on the N36 from Trafalgar Square to New Cross, the second leg of my journey home from Hither Green, where I’d just cremated my Grandfather. I hadn’t done it personally, you understand, but the pain was as great as though I had. She asked if I was alright. I told her and she stopped writing.

“What did he die of?” she asked.

“Prostate cancer,” I said.

She put the crossword on her lap and lifted her dulling emeralds to meet my moist eyes, which are brown. She’d killed her husband, she said, he’d had prostate cancer too. I started to mumble my apologies but she waved her hand as if to dismiss such an unnecessary sentiment. I shouldn’t be sorry, she said, his death had nothing to do with me. That she had been responsible for his earthly departure seemed to me to be her own dramatisation of the true events and I empathised, remembering how I had been powerless to ease the suffering of Patrick, my father’s father. I was still raw.

They had been married for nine and a half years, she said, he was eighteen years older than she. His second marriage, her first. I put her at about fifty. Vagaries of her prettiness remained but she was lived in now, like she’d seen a thing or two. They’d had no children together; she’d wanted them but he didn’t because he’d just got rid of the other two, he’d said.  She never saw his kids anymore, because they were his, never hers. They didn’t have much to do with Dad before the illness consumed him - two boys, you see, busy seeing the world or whatever it is they do. Because of his love for his boys, he refused to tell them of his decay until he became too skeletal to deny it. No, the burden of such knowledge belonged to her.

She took him on holiday to Barcelona, somewhere that he’d always meant to go. They packed clothes for four days and medicine for six, just in case. She had loathed Barcelona ever since she’d split up with her student boyfriend there twenty eight years before but it was her husband’s wish, maybe his last. They climbed to the top of Sagrada Familia, he was so determined, and she thought about all of those unfertilised eggs that had passed through her. She wanted to push him off Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece. They walked down La Rambla but he had to pause to sit, out of breath, and she looked at that old man who she had been saddled with for too long now. She wished to run away from him, leave him helpless, his drugs still in her handbag. They travelled up on the Montjuïc Funicular Railway and she felt the weight of their secret. She imagined him trapped in the carriage as it tumbled down the vertical drop, her watching quietly from above.

On the third day, while he was sleeping under the silent fan of the pension, she got a tattoo of a snake in a parlour next to the café advertising poetry nights in Calle Magdalenas. It was her rebellion, she said, and he never knew. She could never explain why but that snake was part of her future. On the plane, on the way back, she felt the throb of that snake on her shoulder, as though it were communicating with her. She sensed that it might slink over her whole body, awakening parts that had long been neglected. The pain gave her pleasure; it was her pain.

After that, he deteriorated rapidly. She nursed him at home until the doctors suggested a hospice. Once he was comfortably installed, surrounded by his memories, she took herself off to Weston-super-Mare to sample the freedoms that would soon be hers entirely. While she flew with the peregrines at the Old Town Quarry and squashed warm silt between her bare toes at Sand Bay, his decline accelerated. Alone in the hospice, her void was tangible to him, she felt sure. By the time she returned from her breaths of fresh air, he had only hours left in this realm. His passing was a relief to both; he was liberated from his pain and so was she. Her absence had hastened his demise.

“I killed him, you see, because I wanted him to die. Because I wanted to live.”

We sat in silence for the remainder of the journey. At my stop, I got off.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Meeting of super-Mums

Wouldn't it be nice to have somewhere to meet up with other mums on a regular basis, a place that you could dip in and out of when you can or when you fancy? 

The town I live in has a fabulous Baby and Toddler Cafe every Monday, with a bouncy castle and plenty more for the kids to be getting on with while we mums and dads relax a little with a cup of tea and cake.  I have also been fortunate enough to meet other super-Mums through a book club I sometimes go to (only sometimes because I rarely get round to reading the damned book) and I've recently joined a Knitting group that has an instant therapeutic effect on me.

Where do you go?

If you could have a group dedicated to other Mums like you, what would it consist of? What would you like to talk about? Would you want a place to go with your super-Children or are you seeking a child-free refuge just for you and others of your kind?  Do you hope to learn a new skill or would you prefer to just be ...?  Evening or daytime?

I'd be really interested to hear your views on this one.

Thanks x

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Set in Stone

Walking along the road where we live today, under the Woods aka 'our Back Garden', 150 metres or so from our house, I noticed this discarded stone slab. It was divorced from the rest of the poem, as though it was sitting patiently on a grass verge, neither on the pavement nor in a garden, just waiting for me:

r Mirth
a garden
on Earth

I don't know what it had once read, there was no counterpart. It didn't seem to matter: it all makes sense to me.