Cayenne pepper and Beelzebub

My stint on the Master Cleanse lasted all of half a day. I actually thought it sounded quite nice: filtered water, freshly squeezed lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I don’t have a sweet tooth so the syrup did concern me, however the idea of cayenne pepper giving it all a bit of a kick cheered me up and I honestly thought it might be pretty damn delicious. How wrong I was.

The small sip I tried in the evening before B and I were to start the Master Cleanse and had prepared the lemonade did not accurately demonstrate what drinking a couple of litres of it might be like. It wasn’t nice but it wasn’t gross either. How wrong I was.

Day 1, whoo!

Here we go. B handed me my glass as I was putting on mascara and I decided to apply my default drinking style and neck it. So I did. And gagged. In the interests of accuracy and honesty I can reveal that this concoction is the urine of Satan. That’s genuinely what it tastes like. It looks like it too, or would do if Satan was really dehydrated and possibly also suffered from some sort of kidney complaint. I don’t know if it’s the maple syrup or the cayenne pepper that’s at fault here, can’t quite work it out. But hey, I’m not a quitter… Actually, that’s a filthy lie – I’m totally a quitter, I quit everything, I quit so much and so often I make quitting seem committed. Anyway, that’s not the point. I was, despite having consumed the waste product of the devil himself, still pretty motivated so I just figured I’d take small sips throughout the day as opposed to gulping down large quantities.

Mid-morning at work my stomach made a rumbling noise so I reached for the bottle, as it were. Slowly, slowly, I gingerly took five little sips. Nope. There it was immediately, the nausea and I had to keep very still and take deep, slow breaths for a minute or so to stop myself from retching. In conclusion, this cannot be done – anyone with taste buds will NOT be able to do this cleanse. It’s inhumane. And I’m not even referring to the fact that you’d be starving for the 10 days.

For dinner we shared a pizza.

Day 2.

I have started the day with a Frappé that I suspect – given its sweet taste – had some sugary goo added to it but it was still quite nice. And an egg and bacon roll. So far, I’d say the cleanse thing is going so-so. I think at this stage we can conclude that I won’t be losing a few pounds for the wedding, but that was never the intention anyway. I’m actually really quite keen to do a cleanse as for this precious f*cking once it wasn’t my motivation that failed me, so I’ll pop into Holland and Barrett on my way home. There’s bound to be a palatable alternative to Beelzebub’s piss, n’est-pas?

Festivals and fallow deer

After an unseasonably chilly spring, it would now seem we’re getting some summer weather thrown our way here in Old Blighty. Woke up to bird song and bright rays of early morning sunshine flickering their way through gaps in the curtains and although I don’t need sunshine and bird song to remind me how much I love this patch of west London, the school run and drive to work were nothing short of glorious. After over 10 years there, I always thought Chiswick was the most wonderful part of London, but it’s taken me less than a year in leafy Teddington to know that where we are now is even better. Tree lined streets, independent boutiques and cafés that populate the cute high street, Bushy Park with its fallow deer and the river still within a stone’s throw we really do want for nothing. And I love our home, our bright and spacious apartment where the days of renting and ugly carpets are a distant memory, every piece of furniture ours and scope to make whatever changes we want.

Although both fairly new and fresh, I can’t wait to get the kitchen and bathroom done. Our beautiful pink Smeg fridge freezer is going nowhere but although a lovely kitchen, whoever planned it has made a dog’s dinner in terms of utilising the space. The bathroom I believe was completely new, but the shower is over a bathtub and so the tub needs to go and sort out a shower cubicle – I quite fancy just a slight slope in the floor and not your traditional cubicle but rather just a partition so it’s all sort of open. But I am ahead of myself now. We’re getting hitched this year and also went to New Zealand in February taking our three boys, so we’ll need to build up again before embarking on home improvements. And it’s not like there’s any rush – the above is just stuff that is perfectly fine and the changes we’d like would just take it from ‘amazing pad’ to ‘dream apartment’. The only thing I don’t love about the place is the livingroom curtains, a standard, ugly magnolia coloured set that I can’t stand. Still no rush but those are the first thing I will change as soon as I can.

Anyhoo!

Driving into Chiswick to drop Monkey at school still has me noticing what a lovely area it is – it’s beautiful – but Teddington has something of an authentic, quirky charm that Chiswick seems to have lost amongst its TV presenter and posh family habitants. Nah, wouldn’t change back for the world. Having said that, Chiswick riverside remains a firm favourite and given its sentimental value (we met there and it’s where B proposed too), we’re heading back in just 10 days. In exactly that time, at around this time of day, we’ll all be getting ready to head to the ceremony. Me probably mid-makeup. The boys probably adjusting ties and cufflinks. I can’t wait! The wedding rings have lived in their box in our wardrobes for over a month and I just want to wear mine and B his! 10 more sleeps!

I think we’ve got everything done that we need to. It’s all fairly low key so it was never going to be frantic, but there has still been what seems like a staggering amount of things to organise. Doesn’t help I suppose that we’re having one get-together here in London after our ceremony, then another in Sweden late July – that little arrangement obviously meant more to sort. It’ll all be great though and between the two we’ve managed to get almost all the people we wanted there as of course like with anything it’d be rare for absolutely everyone to make it. There’s Lopez – my best friend from Canada, who sadly moved back there a few years ago – who has a young family and is in the middle of home renovations, who just can’t make it work. Sad not to have my best mate in the world there, but my ‘borrowed’ is hers so she’ll sort of be with me. My other five closest besties can between the two get-togethers all make it so it’ll be fantastic. M has already given off several evil giggles at what she may or may not include in her speech.

Good, ol’ M. As the Swedish saying goes: true love never rusts. It could have been just yesterday that she and I rode bareback on her horses, Brandy and Tanja, in metre deep snow up the mountain, singing ‘It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night’ on top of our lungs so that it echoed through the snow covered pine trees. Just like it could have been yesterday that we danced wildly, like maniacs and TRULY like no one was watching, when the Levellers performed on the final night of the Roskilde festival in 1994. Well, that’s M – unbridled, amazing, exuberant and so very real. Friends like that are the friends you hold on to, and like Lopez (nicknamed due to her gravity defying backside – I started calling her Lopez in 2004 and see no reason to change her moniker as it still accurately describes her arse), M, Foxy, Mother Hen and my sister-in-law are those people you hold on to and nurture. Others come and go, some you have to close the door on, but the real friendships don’t, well, rust. They’re as shiny as they always were. I’m so blessed to have all these amazing women in my life.

Well. Enough of happy-happy schmaltz!

Given it’s customary to diet before you get hitched, with 10 days to go I have succumbed to the curse too. B and I are doing the 10-day Master Cleanse. It’s more to detox and be good for your digestive system but if I lose a couple of pounds that’d be OK. So, this foolish and probably unhealthy fad diet CLEANSE means that for its duration, all B and I can consume is a mixture of water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. It’s 10.30am on day one and I am hallucinating as you might in the desert after days of hunger and thirst, seeing imaginary hazelnut crossinis (that I’d normally have mid-morning at work) circle my head. Bite us, bite us! Doubtlessly, I will be very hangry before I even get to the other side of noon. At the same time I am a very stubborn girl, so who knows.

10 more sleeps…. In fact, in 10 days, one hour and 55 minutes, the ceremony will start….

Glitter and raccoons

And so the day is so very nearly upon us – two weeks and one day to go until B will no longer be my boyfriend/fiancé and instead morph into HUSBAND. That all seems so terribly grown up, but I guess at the tender young age of 41, I should be. The rings are sitting in their little box, the seven diamonds from my mother’s wedding band glittering in mine and the gold from both my parents’ rings reworked into ours. It cost an arm and a leg despite actually providing all the gold and diamonds – the setting of the stones being the real headache plus my band has a little curve in it to sit flush against my engagement ring – but we made a huge saving there compared with getting like for like new!

My dress is with the tailor’s to be taken up as apparently if you’re my size it means you’re also 7′ tall. Bought two pairs of shoes – I never wear heels partly because I’m more of a jeans and trainers kinda gal, and partly because I have hobbit feet. So one wedding-y pair and a glittery pair of wedges. I reckon I’ll just go with the wedges as opposed to faffing around with changing footwear half way through the evening. Plus, I’m sure I’ll have enough nervous energy to deal with on the day to add having to balance in very high heels too. Comfy wedges it is.

Hair and make-up booked too, and ended up having a second make-up “trial” as the first one had me looking like a raccoon. I don’t wear a huge amount of make-up and all the foundation made me look old and tired and the black around my eyes way too severe. Well, it was actually quite discreet and everyone seemed to like it, but I didn’t look like ME. So we had another go and I’m much happier with the more natural look – bit of shimmery eye shadow, smokey grey liner on my upper lids and my own favourite lippy. My hair will be in a loose fish bone plait, which we soon discovered was the only option – my hair does not agree with styling and any attempt at Hollywood waves soon reverted back to my usual Anna-hair that isn’t quite straight but won’t stay wavy either, no matter how good the curling iron. My hair’s got a kink in it so straightening doesn’t work either. It is what it is, but on my wedding day I do want to look a little tidier and neat, so a plait it is. Low maintenance.

Actually, looking at the make-up now, I appear to have a moustache??!?!?!?!!! Thing is, what happens if you start to wax or whatever else? I don’t want to be the bearded lady and isn’t it true that as soon as you start with any type of hair removal regime, it just encourages more hair growth? Ah well, tash or otherwise, feeling on top of the world and can’t wait to tell B ‘I dooooooooooooooooooo’!

 

Grandmothers and catching waves

Life got a little bit too easy. Or perhaps ‘easy’ isn’t the right word, but I have slipped into some kind of middle gear over the past couple of years and for an all-or-nothing person like me, that spells disaster. I’ve become complacent and it doesn’t suit me at all. It’s really just a matter of being too damn fortunate: I’m about to marry the great big love of my life and we have the most amazing life together with an incredibly bright future ahead of us, I am mother to the most amazing – if somewhat wayward – kid on the planet, and just generally speaking there are very few clouds in the sky, if any. The day job is lovely, something I enjoy and I freakin’ adore the people I work for – good for my self worth too, not that this was in any way lacking, as they are both kind and appreciative (even when I genuinely wonder if they have reason to be).

The thing is though, that the day job was Plan B. Don’t get me wrong, most people would love this gig – how often do you not hear about horrible commutes, evil bosses and bitchy co-workers? Not me! I tootle along a little U-shape here in leafy south-west London to get Monkey to school and then drive back up through Richmond, then through the gates of this beautiful place where I then spend the working hours in a varied role and where any exchange with my bosses involve mostly a hi! and a smile. To be fair, this is a pretty fkn awesome Plan B as I would actually have been OK with stacking supermarket shelves. A Plan B doesn’t need to be great, that’s not the point of a Plan B. The purpose of a Plan B is to help along and facilitate Plan A in this scenario. So to end up with a Plan B that I can not only live with but approach with joy and gratitude just further tips the scales in my favour when measuring fortune.

But here’s the problem. I got completely stuck with the writing, so three quarters of a second draft has been gathering dust over the past year and a half and as it currently stands my motivation, never mind inspiration, just isn’t there. I’ve just coasted along in this comfortable, trouble free and blissfully lovely little existence I’ve now lead for about that time. There’s a huge wave I want to catch, a wave I’ve always dreamed of conquering, but it’s so lovely here up on the beach on the sun lounger with an umbrella drink in my hand. I glance over at the surf board…. Sure…. ….but not today.

Plan A and B were meant to be the perfect marriage: Plan A to follow my dream and write that novel and Plan B to support it and ensure I still had the luxury of going to work, have people around me (I need that!) and a routine (flying solo on my own schedule gets me on that sun lounger quicker than anything else as it all quickly becomes mañana, mañana…). But here I am and suddenly I got restless. Restlessness hasn’t been enough to fire me up with the writing again unfortunately but what it has done is made me feel quite flat and, as much as I hate to say it, like a failure. I miss the spark in that part of my life, I miss feeling that I was going to do great things. Plan B is doing lovely things. But I need something more, something that ignites something in me and something to feel passionate about.

So a kick up my backside was needed and I think I found it. From a family where both my grandmothers as well as my mother have always been massively into all things craft – knitting, weaving, sewing, crocheting, rug making, embroidering, you name it – as well as a stepfather who is a master carpenter and woodwork teacher, making things with my hands have always been something I’ve loved. On my mother’s side of the family every other person is an artist or poet – the love of creating, whether it’s stringing words together or forming with one’s hands, is in my blood. Over the past year I’ve got into making traditional sami bracelets out of leather and pewter thread. So much fun but always for that very reason – enjoyment – and up until now I’ve only given them as presents to friends and family. When B’s niece asked for one after seeing the one I made for her mum, my about-to-be sister-in-law, I thought what the heck and stuck a selection on Etsy. Selling them at about a third of what sami bracelets would normally go for, but they’re not perfect and I’m just dipping my toe anyway.

Here they are, and the Etsy shop name ended up as ‘Songs of the Forest’ as a nod to a childhood spent playing in the deep, mystical, fairytale woods of Värmland despite their lack of connection to any trace of sami culture (think the very north of Sweden) but still:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SongsOfTheForest?ref=ss_profile

Just for fun though, and I’ve never before considered doing something with it before. But I’m good at it AND I love doing things like that. And who says you can’t just throw yourself into something completely new at 41? That’s right – no one. And that’s what I’m doing. Pewter thread bracelets in all their cute glory, but what I want to aim for is making silver and gold jewellery!

As my great luck would have it, my bosses agreed – by the way, anyone with a horrible boss reading this, I understand if you hate me, I even make myself sick sometimes by being the recipient of so many wonderful things that I don’t know what I did to deserve – and so in September I’m enrolled to do a silver jewellery design course. The focus is on making silver jewellery from scratch and learning the basics along with stone setting too. If this does spark passion in me in the way I suspect it will, there is a one year Diploma course to consider. At that point I’ll also know if working four days per week (both courses are one day per week) is viable after seeing how the first course over three months works for everyone. If my bosses then turn around and say no, they need someone five days per week, I suppose I’ll after the first course know if I want to pursue in and forsake my lovely Plan B. That’s far off though! I’m hoping the new two – Plan B and Plan New – will go hand in hand and everyone’s happy. And ultimately I’m hoping Plan New and renewed enthusiasm will inject my comfortable existence with excitement that’ll wake me up a bit!

As for the wedding, all that’s left is to pick the menus. That’s it. Our wedding bands are ready, everyone’s outfits bought and ready, hair and make-up sorted (make-up sorted in that I’ll do it myself – the racoon look didn’t work for me, nor did the heavy brown eye shadow – lots of slap just isn’t my thing and I can’t think of anything worse than thick layers of foundation, plus my skin is good as it is thank you very much) and although I can’t walk in the shoes I bought that won’t be an issue as I’m sure no one will notice if I remove the devil things half way through the evening and slip my hobbit feet into flipflops.

It’s B’s birthday today and the card I got him says “Happy Birthday Boyfriend!” – when I saw it in the shop I knew it just had to be that one because, after all, it’s the last time I can say that to him. All 27th of Aprils after today he’ll be my husband. Feckinell! That’s really grown up!

Honesty and accidents

Funny how little mistakes can change so much. I accidentally clicked on ‘pay now’ whilst trying to locate the voucher code for some designer denim, yet another pair of heavenly 7s that I don’t need, probably won’t fit into as I shop as if I were a skinny billionaire but HAD to have.

Not only have I decided to NOT cancel this accidental order (which was actually my intention) but I somehow, weirdly, in a totally normal and honest manner I’ll have you know, managed to ACCIDENTALLY place another little order this morning. A gorgeous Stella McCartney Falabella tote no less, and with 30% off I’m sure you’ll all agree it was a freakin’ BARGAIN, yay! I’ve actually saved close to £500 on those two accidental purchases, so the way I look at it I’m actually making money here. Gosh, I feel good!

What’s funny about it is how yesterday I felt quite bad and today I don’t. Whilst I ponder the difference between mistakes that are deliberate and those that are not I take comfort in the below Irish saying:

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.

Guess what, I may go a little further still…..

Freedom and sunshine

Here goes… My 12-son-to-be-13-yearold is for the second time this week given some of the freedom and independence he’s been craving. I said NO to hanging out at this huge shopping centre but have said (a very meek and frightened) yes to him catching two buses from Teddington to Chiswick to hang out there with some school mates for the day. His rules are to let me know where they intend to go, always be reachable on his mobile and to be home by 4pm so we have time for something to eat and get his football kit together for his football practice this evening.

Am I nervous? Truth be told, I’m not! I’m feeling quite calm about it, largely because I feel confident he won’t get in trouble as we are still very much in the show-me-I-can-trust-you stages, which means he is dead set on proving he is old enough and responsible enough to be allowed to do this.

Either way, it’s a big step for me, the over protective and neurotic mother.

So what will I get up to? It’s a beautiful day, sunny and warm, so a long walk in Bushy Park is on the menu. I still need to find a wedding dress but might wait until B is back from New York on Saturday. I haven’t done the Ocado shop so may do the big food shop this evening when Monkey is at football. Beyond this, no plans. Feeling full of energy, thanks to not at all fancying a glass of wine last night – poured one, but amazingly it didn’t do it for me so last night consisted of binge watching a tacky American reality show and nodding off on the sofa until B rang, after which I went to bed.

B is away with work, which happens more often now with his new role. Currently he’s in Danbury, Connecticut, but back in NYC this evening I believe. Missing him like crazy, like I always do and sleep terribly when he’s not there.

OK, I need to chill. Just rang Monkey, who is on the bus between Teddington and Richmond right now. I will stop myself now. I’ll text him in an hour or so. Christ, this having to let go a little isn’t something that I find easy, but despite being such a clingy mum, this is still good going for me.

Pigs and bags

Sometimes I amuse myself with looking up people I’ve either known or come across in the past, out of curiosity more than anything else. I don’t know how these people popped into my head, but I was reading some posts on a Facebook group for Swedes abroad when my mind went ping! Do you remember…?

Let’s call these two chicks Dani and Geri.

This must be nearly ten years ago now, and I was part of this other network for Swedish mums living abroad, which was mainly a mailing list. One day there was news of how a Swedish mum, Dani, who was living in the US, had had her son kidnapped by his father and of course this struck a horrid chord in all of us, parents or otherwise.  Everyone clubbed together to help in that most beautiful of ways that humankind so often displays in the face of adversity – we donated money to help Dani, we spread the news, us bloggers made noise and I think local mums in the States even held auctions and cake sales to raise cash for this poor lady. It was quite something. Compassion, goodwill, generosity, but most of solidarity.

This went on for a week or two, we all bought it without question. As they say in Sweden, we bought the pig in the bag. I don’t know who buys pigs in bags, usually they’re kept in sties right? And you wouldn’t transport any animal beyond perhaps goldfish in a bag, would you? I transported a hamster in a small box once. For a pig you’d need a good size crate I reckon. Anyway. We can talk about Swedish sayings and modes of animal transport some other time. No wait, there’s another fitting one: before long, some people began to sense that a dog was buried here.

A particularly loud voice was one of Dani’s best friends, Geri. Geri appeared to be an aspiring singer and before you can say shameless self promotion she had duly composed and recorded a song about Dani and her kidnapped son that promptly went on YouTube, shared on blogs and circulated. Under the information about Dani and her plight there was of course information about Geri complete with links to her blog and music videos. Turned out she had also made a song for another unfortunate family, i.e. tried to get her career off the ground off the back of the suffering of others. It was in pretty poor taste but I personally shrugged it off. No one could be that rank, right?

Suddenly, the owners of the network for Swedish mums did what seemed like a complete u-turn and pulled down everything to do with Dani’s case from their website, Facebook page and all other pages where they’d previously lent their name and logo to support Dani. I knew the founder as I had translated some of her web content into English as she was expanding her business and wanted to create networks for mums of other nationalities too, so I dropped her an e-mail and asked what had happened. She told me that she’d found out a whole lot more and that Dani – YESSSSS ANOTHER SWEDISH SAYING THAT WORKS!!!! – didn’t have clean flour in the bag.

And more and more of us started to ask questions. It all escalated into e-war on various blogs in the comment sections. I’m trying to remember in which order all of this happened, but I think after about two months Dani’s son was found in Guatamala where he’d been taken by his father from Los Angeles. What followed was pretty predictable – Dani arrived in Sweden (that’s right, not back in the US where they had lived) to photographers and a TV crew. Posing with her was of course Geri.

Next thing we know the evil kidnapper dad joined the e-war and he presented a slightly unsavoury image of Dani…. …which he backed up with e-mails, scans of court documents and receipts from liqour stores. It was at a glance equally nasty to the image Dani had painted of him. It was all a bit mental, really, and I don’t know how in God’s name I got tangled up with these mental cases online but most of us felt they were both as bad as each other and disentangled ourselves from the sorry mess. Poor kid. I hope things worked out for him.

So what does Google tell me when I all these years later curiously type in their names? Well. They’re all in Sweden. Even the kidnapper dad seems to have moved there! Dani is in some quite high up position with the Swedish Democrats and has of course self published a book about the traumatic events. Actually, only Dani and her son’s dad truly know what true and what isn’t so I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, and the reviews all do say it’s well written and a great read. It appears she’s also involved with an organisation for parents whose children have been abducted by the other parent. Ah well, good on her. Geri seems to write a rather successful blog intended to bully girl bloggers half her age. Shame really that the music career didn’t take off, I thought whatever I did hear at the time was quite good, even if it seemed in bad taste given the context.

Call me sad but I do find it interesting to see how things turn out further down the line!