Diamonds and gum shields

Oh, London. London, London, London…. What happened? I can’t work out who changed here, you or me? Did you over these 22 years go from fun and easy-going to unbearable, or is it me who has gone from young and fancy free to a grumpy old bag? I suspect the latter, and here’s why:

Let’s face it, this town has always been crowded. I’m sure I had to battle my way through crowds and stand wedged into someone’s armpit on public transport when I first steered my longboat to these shores to set up camp in London. I loved heading in to the centre of town on a Saturday morning, grab a newspaper or book and park myself at a cafe and just watch the world go by. I loved strolling around and I genuinely have no memory of the crowds bothering me. I spent a good 15 years after finishing university getting on the tube in rush hour both morning and night to get to work and I just don’t remember ever hating it as much as I did last week when I, for the first time in three years, got on a train into town on a week day morning.

I started a course, you see, that requires me in Hatton Garden every Thursday for the next three months. It only really means a train to Waterloo, and let’s face it, Teddington is the first stop so I’m pretty much guaranteed a seat. From Waterloo, a 15-minute bus ride and even standing up you can’t really complain, can you? Still, after escaping the rat race for a more fulfilling and leisurely existence where my commute to work means either a beautiful walk along the river path to Richmond or a 20-minute car journey through beautiful west London, getting in to central London – and rush hour public transport at that – fills me with the deepest dread.

The platform territories appear to be staked out with such precision I half wonder if these commuters spent the previous evening running around their patches urinating wildly in order to mark their spot. People are literally standing in little huddles – not because they enjoy each others’ company but because this is where each set of doors will open when the train pulls in. I mean, this has me in a bad mood the moment I got on the train but it’s not the half of it. People push and shove (what is this, SWEDEN? I thought it was my countrymen who had no manners, yet all these stampeding lunatics appear to mainly be the supposedly polite Brits?!), there’s a mad race for the seats, and should an elderly person or pregnant lady step on people magically fall asleep or are glued to their phones.

And that was just the morning. When I left the workshop in the diamond district at just before 5pm, getting on the bus back to Waterloo wasn’t too bad. I even got a seat without ending up in a scrum. Waterloo station was something else altogether. This is when I quite literally wished I’d been Ritchie McCaw, and even the former All Blacks captain would have had a hard time getting through the blood thirsty crowds unscathed, I swear. Next time I might wear a gum shield. Hundreds, probably thousands of people with their eyes fixed on the departures board. The moment a destination is assigned a platform the madness begins as there’s an immediate crush of bodies heaving like a slow motion tsunami towards it. At one point I think my chin might have been on the floor and not only because I was nearly knocked over. I got back to Teddington – oh sweet, sweet abode – and poured a large drink as soon as I got home.

I’m not all that keen on driving through central London in rush hour traffic, but this seriously has me considering it.

But here’s what is staggering. I used to do this every day and I didn’t turn into an alcoholic, nor have I ever been arrested for (or been guilty of, I hasten to add) causing grievous bodily harm. As I mentioned, I don’t remember being all that bothered by the mad Hunger Games style rush hour. I do wonder if my love story with London is beginning to resign itself to My Younger Years – as sparkling and shimmery as it always was in all its loveliness, but just no longer ME. I find myself dreaming more and more often about moving elsewhere and the visual image is often a cottage somewhere near the sea with a little garden at the end of which I have a little shed come work shop and spend time making silver and gold jewellery. B’s job means a lot of travel so except for being in the office a couple of days a week he can work from home should he choose to so as long as we’re within reasonable distance of London – say, something like Brighton – we’re fine.

It’s only just over a year ago we abandoned Chiswick to move further out west, and with Monkey’s school moving away isn’t really an option as west London is where his friends, sports clubs and – thus far at least – roots are, but he is nearly 13 so give it another five years and it might be a different story… We shall see.

On the other hand, having said all of that, as much as central London seems to do my head in these days, I don’t know if I’d be without it. We went on a random little weekend trip to Brighton over the August bank holiday weekend and as much as I on the first day enjoyed being by the sea, loved the absence of the mad crowds and fancied the idea of so much nature close by, only 24 hours later I’d started to think I wouldn’t live anywhere but Teddington. I suppose Teddington is the best of both worlds. Central London – when I can stomach it – is within easy reach, but so is getting out of town.

Hm. It’ll be interesting to see where life takes us…. And maybe I need to stop being a grumpy old cow and make a bit of an effort to re-discover why I fell so madly in love with this town all those years ago. Perhaps Sunday morning I’ll hop on a bus in to town, grab a paper and a coffee…


Closed minds and drawing boards

So after wanting to get inked on and off for over two decades, we finally went ahead. And thank God I didn’t until now. I know for sure I would soon have regretted having a tramp stamp (all the rage during my uni days) and I don’t think “Made in Sweden” would have looked so cool either… I suppose it was always a matter of doing it when there finally was a concept and a design I knew I’d love forever. And in this day and age when so many people have tattoos, I don’t think mine will send the staff in my nursery home 50 years from now reeling with shock.

It always had to mean something. Something meaningful. More so than a nod to my native land. And it had to look beautiful – to me, at least. A lot of people don’t like tattoos full stop, my very conservative father being one of those people who passionately hate tattoos and consider them to be something “a certain type of person” might have. Yes, he is somewhat ignorant, prejudiced and close minded, but that’s who he is and who am I to try to change him, I love him all the same and I know it doesn’t come from a place of malice, it’s just him, how he was brought up and he just happens to see the world in black and white with no room for nuances. So no, he will never like my tattoo and wouldn’t have no matter what. In fact, I am pretty certain he will be furious with me when he discovers it – he will try to hide it (his anger, that is) because he loves me, but I know he will be genuinely upset with me. Jeez, at 41 years of age I shouldn’t concern myself with what other people think – even if they happen to be my dad – but there we are. Always been Daddy’s Girl so therefore disappointing him is something I hate to do. But this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and sometimes you just have to accept some collateral damage.

So, Monkey’s birth date, the Maori word for ‘love’ and our wedding date is what runs down my back from the top of my neck, topped by a crown (because I should have one, damnit!) and tailed with a heart eternity symbol. And B got one too! His is the heart eternity symbol incorporating my name and our wedding date. Not regretting it one bit but when you’ve had 20+ years to think something over, you’re less likely to I guess.

At the tattoo parlour I very nearly freaked out and left though. The first design the lovely Sandro showed me wasn’t what I’d envisaged and I was NOT going to get something etched on to me forever that I wasn’t in love with. No chance in hell. The poor guy went back and forth five times, right back to the drawing board quite literally, before he finally showed me The One. This all took approaching two hours. Getting me inked took just over ten minutes. I’d worried they’d put the needle to my skin and I’d flinch, scream and have a meltdown, then run away with a permanent black dot. Because I know that the more I fuss, the more I get myself worked up and the result of that is that I’m less likely to be able to go through with something. So when there was an ominous buzzing sound and Sandro asking “so shall we start?” I gritted my teeth and told him “let’s go”.

I’m not going to lie, it was NOT nice. And given this motherfucker was going along my spine, hitting bone along the way, there were a few moments when I thought I was going to faint. It felt like a sharp scratch with the occasional deeper pinch. Those ten minutes were quite enough, ta very much, I was very relieved that it didn’t take any longer – I had expected it to take perhaps as much as an hour so thank heavens for that. B’s, which had a bit of colour, look longer, probably 45 minutes in all. Guess mine was quick because it was all thin, simple script. Not as painful as I thought but far from pleasant.

Not in a hurry to get another one, that I can tell you, but exceedingly happy with the one I just had done!

Breakfast and facts

Feckmee, never thought I’d ever EVER feel this way.

It’s almost a dream like state, the very fact (or is it fact?) that I saw B this morning, got to hug him, kiss him and tell him I love him, have breakfast with him and just be in his presence nevermind arms, wake up because he kissed me (or did he? Was he here at all?). It does seem surreal, having missed him for several days, that he (HE) was in fact (FACT!) here (HERE!) when I woke up, yet now he is gone again. GONE. He is gone.

I was never a flock animal. In fact, I’ve always been happier on my own – in my own company, at my own devices, in sweet, sweet solitude. Then HE came along and now suddenly I am at a loss whenever HE is not around. And that is a lot lately and over the weeks to come – him, HE, not being around.

I cannot sleep when I’m not in his arms. I cannot think straight when he isn’t there to share my thoughts. I cannot relax when he isn’t chilling with me. I can’t even fkn BE when he isn’t there right with me. It sucks serious hairy horse balls.

He – sorry, HE – gets back tomorrow night. I have him with me until next Friday, just over a week to soak him (HIM!) up. Before I have to, somehow, be and exist without him for nearly a month. I dread it so much. It’s freaking me out, it’s making me want to scream, it’s so wrong on every level. I cannot bear it.

But he – HE – and I are strong, so somehow I know we will.

He – HE – is everything.

Cold sores and flock animals

Bleurgh – I thought the nasty cold sore was all I’d have to put up with (like my top lip doesn’t stick out enough as it is – I look deformed!) but it’d seem I am going down with Monkey’s cold. The young chimp emerged from his room Monday morning all croaky and feverish and he has been home from school again today after coughing all night. It always gets his airways any time he catches a cold and he ends up with a sharp hacking cough that lasts for weeks on end. When he was younger he’d have these coughing fits that sometimes got so bad he ended throwing up. Thankfully that’s not happened for a long time now.

I felt fine this morning, woke up to another crisp and sunny autumn day – my favourite kind – and I was in such a great mood driving through Twickenham and St Margarets on my way to work, making plans for this evening. Going to go for a run when I get in, then change our beds to the winter duvets, cook this casserole dish (well, it IS autumn!) and find some good documentary to watch. I fully intend to do all of that. The headache is slowly creeping up on me and I can feel my throat going too, have a slightly runny nose too. Nah, a steady, slow run and sweat it all out followed by a long, hot shower and then curl up under a blanket and munch lots of fruit and drink Berocca should sort me out.

B is in Prague and it probably hasn’t helped that I’ve slept as badly as I always do when he’s away. Having said that, last night was MUCH better than Sunday night – when I woke up yesterday morning it felt like I’d only nodded off for a short while after my brain, when I turned the lights off, promptly decided to go into anxiety mode and I spent what seemed like the whole night worrying about everything and nothing. Ridiculous. Three nights, that was all this time. Just wait until October – B is in New Zealand most of the month to get some quality time with his parents. We were there in February of course, but his dad is a bit poorly and had a recent scare, so given B’s job allows for freedom in terms of location, the best thing now is to take the opportunity to spend quality time instead of waiting until there’s another scare – which may or may not happen. COPD is a funny creature like that – you just never know. But as with anything that reduces any sort of bodily function, in this case the lungs, it’s the small things that can really catch you out.

So yes, B’s upcoming travel schedule will by a long way be the longest we’ve ever been apart. The longest so far was his Hong Kong trip last December – 11 nights. The New Zealand trip will mean 25. Fuckinell. I just can’t imagine it, it’ll be so strange. I mean, when B is away on his normal and pretty regular trips – a week in the US here, five days in Hong Kong there and once in a while a couple of days in Europe mixed in – it goes something like this:

Night #1: Oh holy crap, I miss him so bad. Can’t sleep, anxiety on full blast and feeling miserable.

Night #2: Feeling lost but usually so knackered after not having slept properly the first night that I end up getting a good amount of shut-eye.

Night #3: This is normally the half way mark, in which case it’s a bit of a relief that I’m through the worst of it. Or, like now, it’s the last sleep and I’m all excited and full of butterflies as I’ll see my honey tomorrow.

Night #4: Anxiety gone normally but still wake up due to having the bed to myself and I don’t like to sleep unless I’m all tangled up with B. Still, on the home-run so feeling quite good usually.

Night #5: Nine times out of ten, this is a good night as it’s usually the last one!

So it does fill me with dread to think what adding 20 – TWENTY!!!! – nights to that. I might just keep a diary as I reckon measuring my mood having to be without B for so long might just prove both fascinating and terrifying. To think I was never a flock animal and always preferred solitude and my own company – just look at me now, all needy and lost without my bestie. Thank God Monkey is around!!

Maseratis and keeling over

My problem: unless I am under enormous pressure and have Satan breathing down my neck, I am the laziest and most unmotivated chick you’ll ever meet in your life. And this is just it – my life is too damn comfortable. It’s just too easy for me to bob along, have everything come easy, live the good life and just enjoy doing cool stuff with my husband and son. Don’t get me wrong – I am so happy it’s just… …STUPID. It’s really quite ridiculous. Then again, joy is my default setting, I get it from my dad I think (the guy is ¬†unbearably cheerful) and it just seems to be my nature to look on the bright side of life. Now, that’s not a bad thing. I’m just saying.

So I wake up every morning feeling happiness and gratitude, and how could I not? I’m truly blessed. No, I haven’t bought a Maserati yet (a GranCabrio in midnight blue, per favore), nor do I own a holiday home on Waihi Beach (YET!) but that’s just a matter of time and until then I have everything I could ever possibly need or want as things stand. But what I have discovered is this: as wonderful as it is to be emotionally fulfilled and have these two (B and Monkey) along with living where we live, blessed with amazing friends and family and have the life that we do, I need something else to fire me up. Hence I have hit a point where I feel incredibly restless and a little flat. I need a focus, goals… ….what I need is PRESSURE! I want to achieve. It’s one thing to strive to be a good person (and for the large part I believe I am), to be kind and empathetic and so on, but I think we all to some extent want to do well beyond our personal qualities whether it be having expert knowledge in some field or coming home each day knowing we really made a difference somehow. Just be able to say: “I did that”!

Before I met B I spent some years as a single mother in this insanely expensive city that is Londinium, so I know what I can be and achieve when I’m under tremendous amounts of pressure and stress to make things work. I know that I am a BADASS when I have to be.

There it is! When I HAVE to be.

So, the time has come to set some goals and targets and form a plan for the near future. B and I have been together for four years and a few months (and yes, we still celebrate every month – we just celebrated 51 months – cheesy, eh) and so we are ready for the next stage. These first few years were building stones and we’re currently cruising on a comfortable plateau having last year bought a home and this year got hitched.

My goal: in two years from now make a nice little income from making jewellery (I will in three month’s time be able to call myself a silversmith, and after that a Diploma course awaits and progressing on to more precious metals and stones) and the rest of the time focus on writing. That should nicely bring me back into an existence where I once again feel productive, that I’m achieving and that I’m doing something really worthwhile. That and getting super fit! I think at 41 I’m still at a stage where I am probably able to achieve something pretty awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I like ME, but I’m curious to see if I could go a little drastic and tickle the fitness fanatic in me (if that fanatic exists – perhaps I’ll just discover that I just LIKE exercise but won’t LOVE massive amounts of it). I don’t intend to turn bodybuilder or aim for no body fat or be a size zero or anything stupid like that, but just see what I might be able to do within reasonable limits. After a summer spent celebrating, my first two runs this week felt like death. Actually, they were not as bad as I thought it’d be but death nonetheless. I know it won’t take long though and hopefully in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to run, say, 5k without keeling over. We’ll see. It’s a start.

Our goal: we’ve set up a budget, which was pretty scary as it showed not only how much we could (and should!) save without forsaking random trips, holidays, nice clothes and several date nights every month, it also showed how we fritter money away like it’s confetti. So a bit more focus and if we just hold back a LITTLE – honestly, there are no big changes required, just a few small adjustments – we should with good margin be able to buy a decent holiday home in Sweden within five years should we choose to. I’m more keen on NZ, but no need to decide. Who knows what, when or even if – all we know is that if we just keep to this little plan, the ‘how’ isn’t going to be an issue.

For now, I will continue to appreciate a lovely Plan B job that I do enjoy and that the people I work for are lovely so there is – as I said before – no reason for me to complain, I simply don’t have anything to complain about, but I just need stuff to happen! I’m no good at this cruising phase we find ourselves in. What to be careful about also is how fired up I get starting things off – I’m so awesome at that bit! What career would allow me to do that? Be the proverbial firestarter? Anyway, it’s applying the plan, follow it and stick at it I suck at. Feeling very, very determined so time will tell… It usually does.

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.