Ink, forgiveness and sourdough

I am ROASTING! I don’t just eat like a trucker, I sweat like one too although today is admittedly not as unbearably hot as yesterday was. It’s just how humid it is in London that makes anything beyond 25 degrees Celsius feel like you’re in some sort of green house come pizza oven hybrid. My first summer here was a scorcher. The summer of 1995 when the order of the day was exploring west London’s pubs and bars with new friends who were mostly nannies from Australia and New Zealand, and on occasion frequenting clubs in town like the Marquee, the legendary rock club that is no more. Once on a day off when strolling around on King’s Road me and a friend spotted Michael Hutchence, one of many childhood and teenage idols of mine who departed much too soon. The drink de jour was a sickening concoction called Snake Bite, which for some reason didn’t seem so bad at the time – think it was half lager, half cider and a dash of cranberry juice or something like that. Bleurgh. Every Thursday night we made our pilgrimage to the Slug and Lettuce on Fulham Broadway. Fun times. And that sweltering heat! Funny how most of my friends that year were Kiwis, in particular lovely a Maori girl called Pare (I even ended up with a slight Kiwi twang because that accent was constantly around me and I reckon the accent you develop speaking a second language is what you get to know naturally and have around you) and then two decades later I ended up marrying one. That insane, suffocating, sticky heat along with all my Kiwi buddies was all part of that first summer in London.

Actually, it seems to have suddenly clouded over, and now that I’m at work I’m feeling human again as opposed to looking (and feeling) like one of MC Hammer’s back-up dancers. The office I’m in is possibly the coolest room in the house. Not that I’ve been in all the rooms (at a guess there must be 50+) but the kitchen area is always very warm so I’m grateful for my little oasis.

As much as I always try to take at least one moment each day to count my blessings, sometimes you need to stop and really give some thought to the things that are not quite so sweet. To be fair, although this year along with the 10 that came before it, has been really great, its proved to be challenging and there has been an enormous amount of stress and anxiety too, which I have not seen much of since I got divorced. There is nothing more painful than to see your child go through something crappy, and well, Monkey is. We’re coming out on the other side and he’s a lot more settled, but there are deep rooted issues in his relationship with his father and as it stands that relationship has broken down entirely. As a result Monkey is refusing to see his dad, is now even refusing to speak to him. It’s heartbreaking and certainly not something I want for my son. In an ideal world I’d like the two to have an amazing relationship that makes them both happy. However, life doesn’t always turn out to be rainbows and ponies, and as much as it’s been difficult I can completely see why Monkey feels the way he does.

All I can do is keep on encouraging him to forgive and to reach out, but I won’t force him. All I can do is encourage him to be the bigger person and display those very qualities he himself felt were missing, namely empathy, forgiveness and love. And all I can do is hope his dad eventually takes a look in the mirror and not only takes steps to earn his son’s trust and respect again, but also realises that I’m not the enemy and rather his ally in that ultimately we want the same thing. But hey ho. I can only be the best I can be and act with integrity, honesty and love bomb my son.

Not home dry yet, but there is no point worrying about how other people act or the choices they make. And all I know is that I have an amazing kid who sees so much further than you’d expect from a little tween. He knows it’s not his issue or problem, and to be honest the display I witnessed just a few weeks ago directed at Monkey by one of his uncles on dad’s side was probably the ugliest thing I’ve ever experienced. Some people. Monkey now refuses to use the word ‘uncle’ about that particular person. Disgraceful, but then I only need to wonder what it must be like to live your life with that kind of spite and hatred in your heart to know that those people suffer and we do not. Sticks and stones and if I’m really honest perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that Monkey discovered who they really are and grabbed the opportunity to get away from it.

So there we are, but Monkey seems much, much happier – he’s grown so much since it all kicked off in January, both physically and mentally. He’s taken up more sports and rugby is now his preferred activity. He’s still – and probably always will be – a chatty, super energetic kid who can’t keep still and therefore earns 10-minute detentions. These quite often translate into senior staff detentions of 40 minutes after school due to Monkey’s scatter brain. But he is good natured, loving and sweet, and as much as the whole dad situation has knocked him, he’s come out the other side even stronger and in two days we’re off to a little award ceremony at his school where Monkey is nominated for one of the excellence awards. He will be moving to a local school soon and is looking forward to being in an environment again where he is challenged because unfortunately his current school has not provided any of that and every parent I speak to has voiced the same concern.

It’ll all come good. Have other friends who also go through real testing times with teenage sons, it must be part of the job description.

So. Midsummer this coming weekend. B and I are off to Ashbrittle, to a little farm where they hold bakery classes – a little retreat in deepest, loveliest Somerset. I love baking and do a fair bit so really looking forward to it, especially as there’s a focus on sourdough which I absolutely love. Taking a selection of Swedish Midsummer fare of course: pickled herring, snaps, Skagenröra, crisp bread and some other bits. Cannot wait! I love our little adventures out of London and this one’s bound to be awesome. It’s a converted barn we’ll be calling home for a couple of days and that sort of thing is right up my street!

the barn

The only slight worry is that the Glastonbury Festival is on at the same time and it’s basically right en route so hopefully we won’t get held up in a 20-mile tailback. Because that’s the other thing – we won’t be cruising along in B’s air conditioned and very comfortable Merc as that was collected yesterday, we’ll be tootling along in my Mini! The air conditioning doesn’t work too well and for 6’2 well built B it’s not comfortable even if he puts the seat all the way back. He looks like a Swiss knife folded in to it – I don’t know what looks funnier: when he is driving it or when he’s in the passenger seat. His new Audi won’t arrive in time but that would doubtlessly have been a nicer ride, especially given it’ll be three hours at least – and that’s with normal traffic and not stopping.

In other news we’re now waiting to receive our tattoo designs (yes, that’s right!) and the wedding photos and I don’t know which I’m most excited about!! We’ve of course already got four photos the lovely photographer sent us the next day, but there’s another 300+ that she’s picking out of thousands she took hovering around us and our guests for hours. As impatient as I am to see them all it’s also really cool to have this to look forward too after the big event itself has come and gone. And the tattoos…. Matching – no. Not having them in the same place and they’re entirely different but are linked, i.e. they share a couple of elements. By the same designer of course. Mine starts with a crown on my neck and runs down my spine about half way down my back ending in a heart that’s also an infinity symbol. All thin, elegant lines and quite dainty. It’s a string of letters and numbers incorporating things meaningful to us but will mean absolutely nothing to anyone looking at it! I reckon it’ll look so cool though. Well, others might consider it a sad expression of a looming midlife crisis but hey, bite me! Have wanted one for a long time and now’s as good a time as any! Ink me right up, baby!

So yes, life remains so wonderful I wake up with such an intense sense of gratitude each morning (even those when I wake up sweaty, like today in this mad London heat) but also does entail its trials and tribulations. But I suppose that’s what it’s all about and it’s always in darker times we show our mettle.

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