Thumbs up and space

Need to share this. OK, so I was already predisposed to like this because I already like HER (‘her’ = Loveday), but I have to say she’s kinda blown me away. What a kick-ass chica to put this out there, put HERSELF out there – into the very space where she’s received some pretty awful and disgusting abuse.

I’ll let her speak for herself. Do watch this and give her a thumbs up and a follow. This one is about “lad culture” and it’s a clip I will make my son watch.

Butterflies and wolves

Someone did warn me about the smell. Guess I thought they might have been exaggerating but bloomin’eck do teenage boys stink! Monkey has rugby camp this week with two mates who have both been staying at ours. I picked them up yesterday afternoon, these lanky boys with sprouting leg hair and breaking voices. J is my height, B not far behind and Monkey has shot up lots too. These three have been best mates since they were toddlers and back then I used to take them to the playground in Kew Gardens that they used to call “the butterfly park” due to the little cage enclosure with butterflies adjacent to the playground. Now they’re rowdy, rugby playing teens with Instagram accounts and body odour. Got them in the car – my little Mini with air con that has broken. I had to breathe through my mouth the whole way home, even with the windows open the air was thick with Boy Smell. It’s some strange mixture of sweat, old socks and some other strange hormone induced and slightly musty scents. Of course, they had to consume the smelly crisps and other remnants of their packed lunches en route too. Yuk.

It’s so sweet though. I’m incredibly fond of J and B, I genuinely love them but that’s not strange as I’ve seen them grow up alongside Monkey. I do hope their friendship is one that lasts. Monkey is changing schools soon but he’ll still play on the same football and rugby teams as B, and I can’t imagine he’ll lose touch with J. Having said that, J’s mum is the flakiest woman I’ve ever met and I don’t know if I’m a bit annoyed or just surprised.

Monkey informed me Sunday afternoon on our way back from Bishop’s Stortford where we’d had lunch with the bigger boys that he’d arranged for J to come over. “Is it OK if he stays over?” he asked. I told him of course. I pinged a message to J’s mum just to say look, this is what I’ve been told and J’s more than welcome. Just wanted to check it was OK with her as these boys don’t always involve us parents these days when they make plans. Nothing back, but J was dropped off early evening with an overnight bag.  Thought quietly to myself if it were me I’d out of courtesy just text the other parent(s) to check if it was OK to play host to my kid, I mean these lanky things eat like a pack of wolves (only yesterday I spent half a fortune on a takeaway – partly my own fault as I prefer the nicer Chinese restaurant to the more reasonably priced one). Monday comes and goes and J just, well, stays. No problem for me, I love him to bits, but now he’s out of spare underwear and at half a foot taller than Monkey and much bigger overall, Monkey’s stuff is comically small on him.

They head out during the days and of course they have to eat so I hand them cash Monday and Tuesday for a KFC or similar on their excursions. B’s parents and I have, weeks in advance, planned and booked in Monkey and B for the rugby camp they usually go to each half term and school holiday. Tuesday afternoon I tell J that he is welcome to stay of course but Monkey won’t be around during the day. They immediately start nagging me to enroll J on the course, but this thing is expensive – a fiver for lunch money, feeding, making him shower, doing his laundry, being their chauffeur and generally keeping J alive is one thing, but paying for rugby camp is more than I’d usually spend on Monkey for his birthday so I give them the link and say if J wants to go he is welcome to stay with us (we live in rugby country and the grounds are near where we live) and I’ll drop and collect and do their lunches and laundry but he’ll need to agree this with his parents and they have to pay for him. I text J’s flake mum but again nothing. Eventually J informs me he’s got hold of his dad in IRELAND (his parents are divorced) who has now paid for his camp and so now he’ll stay the rest of the week. This is fine with me and I love having J, or “the Irish charmer” as I normally refer to him – it’s for Monkey I do this and I want to make sure our door is always open to his mates. Obviously. But a bit of courtesy wouldn’t go amiss.

On the Tuesday during the day, when B (hubby B, that is, not Monkey’s friend) was working from home, hubby told me J’s mum suddenly drives in on the drive way and J runs downstairs to get a bag of more clothes. Apparently she didn’t even get out of the car, never mind come up to say hello or anything else. I think that’s a tiny bit rude, but again, hey ho.

B’s parents on the other hand, are in touch over the phone – first to see if I’d like them to swing by on the morning of the first day to take all boys there, secondly to check if it’s OK with me for B to stay Wednesday night and they collect one of the other days. Between us we distribute drop-offs and collections and sleepovers. Now, B’s parents have organised the “Friday Fives” football for years and every Friday after school they’ve had the whole gang at theirs for tea and then shipping them to the pitch from which us other parents have just turned up to watch and collect. So I tell them OBVS I’ll do whatever they need. B’s dad even calls to say he forgot to include B’s sandwich for day two and would I mind getting one for B, adding that he can reimburse me. I tell him OBVS NOT a problem and he is NOT reimbursing me as he has fed my child/hair sprouting teen every Friday afternoon over the past three years. Still – this is good manners, and I’d do the same. J’s mum however remains silent whilst I’m left to supply J with a huge packed lunch for three days – as I said, these boys are bottomless food pits. Again, more than happy to do so as I love J and these things are important (I want Monkey to feel that I make his friends welcome and make a fuss over them) but J’s mum could at least check in?! If she did and offered to pay for his lunches or reimburse me, I’d probably just tell her not to worry and it’s my pleasure. Because it IS. I just like good manners, that’s all.

Anyway, not sure why this turned into a bit of a whinge given I’m in a fantastic mood this morning. Thoroughly enjoying my summer break – working every other day during the summer months, so when it’s autumn again it really does feel a little like when I was a kid and had summer holidays lasting over two months. Bliss! Might see if I can take B the hubby out this evening if the weather improves, but the weather app says it’ll turn sunny so let’s see if there’s somewhere nice I can treat my beautiful husband to.

Horseback and harmonies

So now what? After a honeymoon to B’s native New Zealand in February, then getting hitched in London in June and celebrating with friends there, and finally rounding everything off with a wedding celebration in Sweden with more friends and family late July, are we now just supposed to be… …..married? And that’s it? Nah, I’m more than content being Mrs B without having to celebrate that fact every few weeks, but let me tell ya our Sweden break was all in the name of love.

Our friends and family had arranged a stag do for B and a hen do for me, both whole day events with lots of activities.

 

And it was all a nod to days gone past. It started on a quad bike on which me and M went round a route based on a map, where I had to find various things that formed part of my survival kit for the day. Then on horseback but I’ve not been on one for about 25 years so declined the let’s-go-fast-now bit. We basically did all those things us countryside chicks do – on wheels, on horseback and with guns. I’ve said it before, but I’m very proud to be a hillbilly. I grew up in the countryside and my whole childhood was very much an outdoor adventure – these things are part of my DNA. Us countryside chicks know how to rock an evening gown and attend a ball at the royal castle, but we also know how to pull up a trout and load a gun. Those city flowers don’t have a patch on us.

Our wedding celebration was just one big love bombing. The atmosphere was warm, hearty and full of love. Foxy blew everyone away as toastmadam – I always knew it’d be great but this was beyond. My girl did me more than proud. I mean, normally I’m proud as punch just getting to stand next to her for God’s sake. The food was great, the speeches were moving, there was lots of laughter, both B and I managed to correctly identify the other’s legs, I waltzed with my dad (he is amazingly good and swung me around like I was a feather) and when most people had left at 2am there was still a little group of us singing outside on top of our lungs such classics as Stuck in the Middle with You, Mustang Sally and numerous others. Just like back in the day when bossy M told me and Foxy which harmony to belt out at her command.

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And our wedding celebrations finished off with yet another mini-honeymoon at a nature village a couple of hours away from where I grew up. No electricity, no running water and if you feel like you need a shower you take your shower gel and jump in the lake. But it was the BEST and again like stepping back into my childhood and scout camps. And who needs electricity or running water when you have camp fires and water from a natural spring? Not me. We switched our mobiles off for the duration – with the exception of spending half an hour on the second day walking around to take photos – and had no idea what time it was. We made scrambled eggs and pinnbröd (a simple bread for the outdoors – wrap the dough around a stick and grill over the fire) for breakfast and generally ate when we were hungry, went fishing when we felt like it (for when we might be hungry again), sat in the sauna before jumping in the lake because it wasn’t quite hot enough to be pleasant, and enjoyed a magnificent Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough on the front porch of our treehouse gazing out over the lake below and just enjoying being alive. It was pure perfection.

…..and so now here we are and as much as it’s almost bittersweet coming back down to earth after all that magic, I have to remind myself that our life has never been boring and so why should it suddenly be dull just because we’re Mr and Mrs? And as always we have things lined up during the autumn including a short break to Spain, a stand-up comedy show and visits from Sweden. I’m so grateful I’m on this awesome rollercoaster called life – nothing beats it.

Oh, and we are now booked in to get inked on Saturday 30th September – yay!

Cotton wool and our true mettle

Holy cannoli. I think I can safely say that this last Saturday I experienced the most terrifying moment of my life. What IS it with 2017?! I thought spotting large fins appearing in the surf at Waihi beach less than five metres from B and our three boys was bad enough. OK, so attacks by copper sharks are incredibly rare, but I don’t want anything bigger than a harmless little Scandie herring swimming anywhere NEAR my reasons for being, thank you very much. My heart just about jumped out of my chest. You’d think nothing could top that little moment of fear. You’d think.

Monkey is growing up way too quickly and unfortunately it turns out it is not good parenting to wrap him in cotton wool, prevent him from EVER leaving the house and have him in my sights at all times. Unfortunately. So I am trying to get over myself and have done my best to give him more responsibility and freedom, little by little. And Monkey? Well, he’s grown with each little bit and shown incredible maturity, my little shining star. Or not so little anymore given how it won’t be long until he is taller than I am.

So. Saturday B and I went to see friends on the south coast so were away from mid-morning to early evening. Monkey hopped on buses to get to his mates in Chiswick, dutifully texting at each change of bus and change of location, then back home at the agreed time to let himself in. He’d got back just minutes before us and he had tidied his room and done all the things I’d asked him too. It’s moments like that when this nervous, over protective mother draws a sigh of relief and feels so much, well, LESS nervous about continuing to give him freedom.

It’s all based in every parent’s worst nightmare, the fear that something awful could happen. It’s horrible thoughts about various horrible scenarios my child could get caught up in from being mugged to being in an accident, get kidnapped or worse. Unlikely all of them, but they figure in my mind all the same and if I’m really honest I sometimes have sleepless nights due to my anxious mind going into over drive and me powerless to switch those frightening thoughts off.

Once we were back, Monkey went downstairs to get his friend J, a kid his age who lives in the same building, for a kick-about in the garden. I do occasionally go and have a look out of the window, just to check. I am trying to be more relaxed but I am still ME so cut me some slack here. And oh, I do still to this day go in to his room – as I have since he was born – after he has gone to sleep and only when I can see his chest rise and fall do I leave.

A bit later the doorbell goes so I go to open, assuming that as usual it’s Monkey who’s just back up. It’s not. It’s J, who is panting and looking at me wide-eyed.

You have to come, [Monkey] has fallen through the garage roof.

At the end of the garden there is a row of old garages and every so often those two climb up on them to retrieve their footballs or rugby balls. We have of course asked them not to, but there we are. They are at a guess roughly three metres in height, we don’t know who owns them, they are all padlocked shut and who knows what’s inside. Has Monkey free fallen three metres on to a concrete floor? Landed on something sharp? These were the least horrific scenarios that went through my mind. B comes flying past, telling me in a stern voice “I’ll deal with it“, before running down. I run after him and God only knows how as I think I stopped breathing altogether. I get out, round the corner of the building and run down the drive way to the bottom of the garden. As I get to the other side of the garages to where their doors are, there is J, B and three other neighbours. I don’t know what we will find but I do know this: there is complete silence. I cannot hear my child. And as awful as it sounds, in this moment it would be preferable to hear him screaming. There is not a sound.

I move close to the doors.

[Monkey]!” I call out and do my best to keep my voice calm. “Can you hear me?”

Yeah, I’m OK,” comes the answer immediately and I’m so grateful there is no way to describe the utter gratitude and relief I feel.

Are you in pain?”

Not really.”

At this point B and two of the neighbours are examining the door to see how we will get through it. It’s kicking it through or calling the fire brigade. B asks Monkey if he is close to the door. Monkey doesn’t know and now I can hear in his voice that he is crying, it’s a wail more than shouting back in reply. I’m desperate to get my child, desperate to have him out because I know he must be frightened. The doors are old and of wood, and we discover we can bend them open. Me and the three neighbours pull the doors all we can, enough for B to get through.

Monkey has fallen on to the roof of a car, which has luckily staggered his fall. He’s taken a good old tumble though as the car’s roof has a Monkey sized dent in it. As roof tiles have then landed on Monkey, he has rolled to the side to avoid them and fallen down to the side of the car, becoming wedged bottom first and legs up in the air between the car and the wall. That’s how B finds him and he cannot move.

It is in times of crisis we show our true mettle, and B does. This is why he is at the very top of a global company with thousands of employees. I would have tried to immediately get Monkey out of there. B keeps a cool head and first asks him what, if anything, hurts. Then to move his hands, move his feet, does his head hurt, does his neck feel OK and so on. Only when he has established all of this – only over the course of a few minutes but which to me on the outside feel like an eternity – does he eventually get Monkey out. I hold him close. He is covered in dirt, sand and has clearly had a real fright. His eyes are wide and filled with tears.

Turns out he has escaped with only a bump to his head, cuts and bruises, none serious. And all I can do is thank his lucky stars and mine as it could have ended very, very badly. There is no greater privilege or honour than being Monkey’s mother, no greater love anyone could ever feel. And there is no greater or more paralysing fear than the fear of your child coming in harm’s way, just like there is no greater torment than when they do. You wonder when something like this happens – something that didn’t end as badly as it might have – how people cope when there isn’t a happy outcome. And I never, ever want to find out. Perhaps it IS possible after all to keep Monkey wrapped in cotton wool and never let him leave the house?

Thank God for guardian angels.

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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Magic and bonfires

Right, so here we are – I am now B’s wife, which means the hottest man on the planet is my husband. A magical day it was too and we had our three boys with us, which made it so incredibly special – especially given the older two were our witnesses. Everything was just perfect. My best friend in the world (nickname Lopez due to her flawless butt) was flown in from Canada to surprise me – gosh, she and B played that one VERY well indeed. My ‘borrowed’ was the Tiffany bracelet I gave her years ago when she moved back to Canada and that in itself was beautiful and I shed a little tear of joy when I opened the parcel earlier in the week. When Lopez herself – my wonderful, glorious, beautiful Lopez! – walked through the door the day before the wedding I nearly fainted with joy and bawled my eyes out!

And, of course, I got to marry the great big love of my life. It all felt like a dream, still does. My life is a freakin’ fairytale! I keep wanting to pinch myself.

So many things and unforgettable moments, simply too many to list over the course of a day filled with so much love surrounded by so many of these wonderful people we’re lucky enough to call our friends and family. Alongside Bonfire Night 2004 when I was giving birth to Monkey as fireworks ripped through the London sky, it was the best day of my life. Nothing could have worked out better, it was all so perfect and beautiful. I got to marry my best friend surrounded by the people we love and I’m the happiest woman alive.

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Stella in the sky with diamonds

Holy crap – sometimes I think God gets pissed off with me for being too blessed (although you could argue that’s HIS flaw more than mine, no?) and takes the opportunity to give me heart palpitations.

I think I may have mentioned it before, but I shop like a skinny billionaire. I’m neither skinny, nor rich, but there we are. I decided I was due some treats so went on to one of my favourite websites, BrandAlley. That’s often where I stock up on my favourite denim brands as you often get discounts along the lines of 80% – can’t argue with that, right? – and I went on to finally get that Stella McCartney bag I’ve been lusting after for YEARS. No really, I’ve been in love with it for a very long time. So I went for it. There were other reasons and circumstances, but let’s just say I felt I deserved it. I also went for a diamond necklace that was reduced from £2,800 to just under £500 – I mean, if that’s not a bargain I don’t know what is. Extravagant, perhaps, but sometimes you’ve just got to live a little.

Turns out I didn’t love the necklace (Stella and I are very much in love though) and even at the reduced price I think you need to fall in love to even POSSIBLY be able to justify the cost. So I returned it. Heard nothing and called up a few weeks later to check they’d at least received it. Yes, they had. I was told the refund was being processed. Just over two weeks later it has still not been paid out to me so I rang up.

Suddenly they’re claiming that it’s not been marked as received by the warehouse and I head straight into major anxiety. It’s not like I can just throw £500 at someone just for the hell of it. I was put on hold for what felt like an eternity during which I felt so stressed I almost had a mini stroke. Finally another person comes on the line and apologises profusely. A mistake their end, all is well and good, and the refund will be paid out immediately. Peh-f*cken-phew.

In other news, I have now decided to go on a juice fast. Jesus fkn Christ, anyone reading this will think I’m rolling in it – which is NOT the case – but I’m getting hitched and so why not enjoy a few frivolous flights of fancy? Five days of fruit and vegetable juices only. I’m hopeful these will taste GOOD. The Master Cleanse, aka the urine of Satan, did NOT. Amazingly, B is still drinking the stuff and HE is the one who doesn’t much like the kick of chilli, or in this case, cayenne pepper. Still not fussed about weight but really keen to see if it really does you as much good as the reviews and sales blurbs claim. I’m half hoping I’ll emerge from the five days looking 10 years younger.