Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 was the year I...

walked up and slid down a snow-covered Glastonbury Tor
learned that the tombola is not my friend
saw the Empire State building through a blizzard as I walked down 5th Avenue, from the Guggenheim to Tiffany's; a snow-covered Central Park on my right.
celebrated Sam's 3rd birthday
grew a flippin' awesome vegetable patch

holidayed in a static caravan
threw herbs on a massive Lammas bonfire
got straight A's
turned 40 and had a blast in Brighton with all the people who I love best
was tired like nothing I've ever experienced
started playing the ukulele
laughed in the face of adversity
realised I am tough as old boots
gave thanks
taught Sam to say "we don't like David Cameron"
decided that it's time to forgive myself
met some more amazing people who I would like to know better
Love, Love, Love xxx

I can't be arsed... trawl through it anymore....
I am enjoying my quiet evening in front of truly shite tv
About to make my second cocktail
With Anodea Judith's excellent book on chakras next me, Wheels of Life
Thinking about the coming year and...
that's about it really.

And- about to write a poem or two.

Once this wrist is out of plaster I will get going on the uke again.

I've started painting again too. For the first time proper since Sam was born.

I realised this year that I am pretty good at a few things - and so if they increase my happiness ratio I'm going to get on and do them.

I was always told what I couldn't do and shouldn't do when I was growing up- it's a hard thing to break out of, and very late but I have worked very hard over the last decade to reclaim myself and my creativity, and I won't let it go for anything.

Love xxx

Ten Years Ago

I was 29.
Had stencilled 'happy 2000' on the front window of the small cottage I lived in, in Bristol, with my fiance, now ex-husband.
Was wearing a black suedette stetson, fishnet top and long black full skirt, all covered in sparkles, sort of disco-goth-cowgirl...
Had lots of people round for pre-party drinks
Went to a party and DJ'd in a very drunken state
Had to be escorted home to bed in the early hours

It feels like it happened a million years ago on another planet

Thank gawd I don't have to do it again.

*Time for another champagne cocktail*

Some good bits from 2000-2010

My best friend Mel
Being with my mum before she died
My radio show
Starting painting again and working at Studio Upstairs
Disovering Mindfulness
Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Winter solstice 2005
Marian Green telling me to "Be determined" I've lived it since 2002
Getting divorced and surviving heartbreak (just)
Being an undegraduate.
My dad
The Goddess
Learning to drive
Roger Butterworth telling me "The Universe is a friendly place"
My ukulele

...and many other things but these spring to mind first.
Love xxx

Close to the Edge

I'm finishing this year by writing, celebrating and reflecting on what was good, bad and indifferent about the last decade.
I want to off-load the bad stuff I'm still hauling around and leave it here, at the end of 2010.
This is an experimental blog post that I am going to write over the next few hours- it might end up being several posts. It might make little sense, will definitely be self-indulgent and influenced by alcohol, and there is a chance that I will read it back tomoorow and delete it.
A little step into the unknown then, a tiny riskette...

*now soaking a sugar cube in angosturas bitters in preparation for making a champagne cocktail*

Of course I may give up on all of this nonsense sooner rather than later as I am typing with one hand after sustaining a broken left wrist a couple of days ago.

*the champagne cocktail is lovely, if not quite cold enough*

The difference between ages 30 and 40 is greater than the difference between ages 20 and 30.

Everything becomes settled and fixed....and if it is not for you, then it feels as if you are swimming in a different current to others...close to the edge- well someone has to be.

I think that I have always feigned not caring what people think, or maybe I was very self-centred and un-self-aware.

Now I feel old enough to grow old-er disgracefully- I was kidding myself there would be another way, and punishing myself when I didn't fit into the 'square' hole... time to let go of that.

It's not easy being green- but it's a damed sight easier than trying to be something I'm not.

Here endeth the first ramble...
Love xxx

broken blogging

so i will be starting a new year and a new decade with a broken wrist. there is no interesting story to tell about the breakage. sam and i had gone to see my best friend and her boyfriend and were walking in richmond park, when i slipped on leaves as we walked down a hill.

i followed my friend's r.i.c.e advice -ice, compress, elevate (can't remember what the 'r' is for) and they drove us home and helped me put sam to bed. the next day it was swollen and painful and 'not right', the ensuing trip to casualty and x-rays confirmed a fractured distal radius, needing a plaster cast for at least 4 weeks. and of course, no driving and me to ask "how do i lift sam, put sam's night-time nappy on and give baths etc...?"
luckily my friend can come and help me tonight so that dad's new year plans aren't scuppered, and very luckily he is prepared to change some of his plans so i have help with sam.
i have had some lovely offers of remote help from friends via facebook and lots of good wishes which are truly appreciated. but the fact is i am totally reliant on my wonderful best friend and my dad. i am blessed to have them indeed.
my modest plans for new year's eve looked to be do i make a champagne cocktail when i am not sure i can open the bottle? how do i blog with a broken wrist?
so, broken blogging is possible, if you will pardon the lapse in correct capitalisation and punctuation. and if blogging is possible, then so are cocktails!

I wil be on my own , writing, reflecting and letting go of the last decade this evening.
Love, Love, Love xxx

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Parenting the F*** It way

I feel better this morning. Lighter, happier, more optimistic. And I really think it is because I dared to write honestly, if briefly, about the struggles I have with my internal, critical and perfectionist, dialogue.

What I am learning to say is "F*** IT" and I am reading a marvellous book, F*** it: The ultimate spiritual way, by John C Parkin, which is helping.
Part Barefoot Doctor, part common sense, part punk rock, it contains possibly the best parenting 'advice' I have read in a long time. Also, it is the closest to my own views on parenting, which is very reassuring.

What Parkin outlines in the section on parenting is the fear parents have of their children, which reflexively you may argue against, but it is worth being open-minded about what he has to say, and it made a lot of sense to me:

"And the whole of society will support a disciplinarian approach to parenting. This is because everyone has this fear in them of what children might do."

"So it's time (for you at least) to say F*** It to this fear. And this is why:
The less you try to control your kids, the more they will take care of themselves.
The less you discipline them, the better (generally)they'll behave....
When you get out of the way of children they pass through things very quickly:
A child left alone will soon stop shouting and be quiet again.
A child left alone will soon stop stropping and be happy again.
A child left alone will soon stop racing around the restaurant and come and eat again...
And when I say 'alone' here, I do-of course-mean left without you trying to control them rather than literally 'alone'....

If you take this course of less effort and intervention you will invariably get some shit from other people. You'll get some looks in restaurants and in shops. And it's up to you where you decide that 'it's just their shit' and where they have a point (i.e. it must be darn disurbing here in the Savoy to have children leaping from table to table dressed as Spider-man.)

And if you're thinking, 'Yeah, sure, sounds great in theory, but I'm sure it's a nightmare in practice,' listen to this: in the end, as parents, we don't 'know', we only sense. And our sense as parents all along has been to let our children be."

This is not a full quote, just a flavour of what Parkin is saying, so if you are interested in this I would recommend reading the whole section, which is only a few pages long. My faltering self confidence means that I do struggle with allowing Sam his freedom in restaurants etc because I worry too much about other people thinking I am a bad parent. This is something I have written about here in the past but I know really that I am a good parent.

So I say F*** IT to the dirty looks from now on. Sam is not malicious, going out to cause harm with intent. Just exuberant and needing some management! It's a horrible office-speak-ism but I suppose this all boils down to something that could be called 'Light-touch' parenting.

I have many other parenting books but a couple which have been particularly uselful at times and which I may write about in another post:

Buddhism for Mothers: A calm approach to caring for yourself and your children, by Sarah Napthali

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn

I read twenty parenting books when I was pregnant, probably because I am a bibliophile and I am sure because I had just lost my mum and don't have any close, older female family wisdom to draw on. To be realistic though, if Mum was still around I am sure we would clash daily over how I am bringing Sam up- even though- contrary to what some people might think, I am far from radical. My main aim is to be supportive and loving.

There are two things I have done so far as a parent which others seem to have found controversial: I never left him to cry as a baby; I breastfed him til he was two.
I actually had friends ask me if I thought breastfeeding him that long would psychologically damage him! Check out what the World Health Organisation has to say on the length of time they recommend to breastfeed a child. I have no axe to grind or judgement to make about either of these very personal decisions- it worked for me and Sam and he stopped of his own accord a few days after his second birthday, just as I had decided I felt it was time to change our bedtime routine, which was the only time I still fed him.

These two issues are two of the biggest taboos I have ever encountered. Forget sex and drugs- if you want to be subversive these days just try and have an open conversation about extended breast feeding!

In fact wherever I have left Sam to make a decision he has done it himself at the right time for him and I have had no problems. The only time I took advice from someone who allegedly knew better was when Sam's nursery insisted he be potty trained in time for his move to pre-school. This has been a nightmare, simply because he was not ready. We are moving through it very slowly and I have now taken any pressue off him and am leaving things up to him wherever I can.

I hope that I am always respectful of other people's parenting choices. I try very hard not to push my views on other parents. We all do things differently and each child is unique and we know as mothers, as parents, what is right for them, and for us as a family.

Love, Love, Love
...and F*** IT!

Monday, 27 December 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

"...Be bolder..." I read the other day.
It's very wearing, having to refute all the bad shit in your head, when it decides to pop up. The voice that tells you you are a failure, worthless, useless; it's too late for you to succeed; whatever made you think you could?

Then it takes some energy to turn all of these negative statements around. And it's not good for writing- it leaves you (me) feeling paralysed, unable to write, scared to express all of this negativity for fear of sounding self-pitying, which I'm not.

So, "Be bolder". I like the sentiment- just working out how I can I maximise my boldness in the coming year, which I will be seeing in with a night of champagne cocktails and (possibly drunken) blogging.

For we are indeed in the strange limbo between Christmas and New Year...a time of reflection and random eating.

This decade of 'noughties' has been full of rites of passage for me: marriage; death; divorce; birth; rebirth...and lessons hard-learned.

I am looking forward to saying goodbye to the last ten years. This chapter is ready to end.

Love, Love, Love xxx

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Meadow

The meadow is quiet
Not even the hum of a bee
The meadow is still
No breath of breeze
The meadow is a place for you and me
A place in dreams for us to be
I describe it for you as you go to sleep
It is green and warm, the grass is long
We can make daisy chains
Lie still, watch clouds change shape
And wonder where the birds are flying to
You ask me how we get there:
“Close your eyes and imagine....”
I hold your hand and stroke your hair
I close my eyes and imagine....
You laugh and say:
“Mummy, you’re funny.”

Mother Night

I am de-cluttering and preparing for what promises to be the most auspicious Winter Solstice that any of us may experience in this lifetime. A full moon and total lunar eclipse take place tomorrow as well as the solstice. This is the time of year to focus on intentions for the new year to come. Sowing seeds of new thoughts, behaviours, projects, resolutions. A time to be positive, fill your heart and mind with light, with prayers for friends and family and for the world. To give thanks and dream BIG!

This is when the Goddess gives birth to the God- so a time of rebirth and new beginnings for all, the return of the light.
Love, Love, Love xxx

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Stopping and resting

Stopping university and getting some rest has paid dividends. I have had a couple of days where I have been able to function fairly normally. I saw someone on Twitter describe having M.E as "having flu, a hangover and being burned from the inside all at the same time." I have been spared the burning but recognise the flu plus hangover description. It is horrible.

I find myself in the position of dreading something as simple as going to get some shopping. I mete out the precious energy it will take: get in the car and drive to x; park the car and walk to x; get shopping; pay for shopping; take bags back to car; get in car and drive home feels ridiculous. I have taken for granted (as we all do) my vitality and ability to get so much done in a day - too much. This all has to change.

I have no idea how I have been doing all that I have been doing. Studying as a full time undergraduate and being a full-time single parent is enough to make your head spin!

At the moment I am looking at ways to facilitate my recovery and make sure that I stay as well as possible so that I can be a fully-engaged mum to Sam and finish my degree. At the moment I am on for a first but whether this will remain possible I don't know and if not I will have to let it go. I can only do my best.

My best friend and her boyfriend have been absolutely fantastic. They've taken Sam swimming the last two saturdays and took him to help buy their Christmas tree last saturday as well. This has made a big difference to me, not having to do a whole weekend on my own and giving me a break.

It meant that on sunday I could drive us to the park, have a good walk and play a bit of football with Sam, and then meet some old friends in a nearby pub for lunch. I was exhausted by the end of the day but not so obliterated that I lost all sense of reason which is what has been happening.

There are so many things to fight for but the fight I must win is learning to stop and rest and get better. And then choose which battles...

Love, Love, Love xxx

Et In Arcadia Ego- Not

I've not been well enough to go to any of the student protests against fees but have been there in spirit.
With police tactics as they are I couldn't now risk it even if I was well enough because there is only me to fetch Sam from preschool and what if I was kettled until 11.30pm at night as a group of demonstrators on Westminster Bridge were last thursday?
I walked past Top Shop yesterday, wondering how many student discounts they are clocking up at the moment. They certainly won't be getting any business from me from now on. I am boycotting all of Philip Green's Arcadia stores. This is not a hardship anyway, Top Shop has lost its edge, it's clothes are bland and overpriced in my opinion.
I don't shop at any of his other stores and only go into BHS to use the toilets, the same reason I only ever enter McDonald's...If you want to know the reasons behind the boycott, why Polly Toynbee was carried out of the Oxford Circus 'flagship' store a couple of weeks ago, and why the windows of said store were smashed last week see the UKUNCUT page.
This coalition government make Thatcher look like Mother Theresa...they are ripping up the social fabric of society. The Big Society 'Dave' goes on about is a load of crap...this is Divide and Rule tactics along the lines of "why should tax payers pay for someone's university education"? By that argument why should tax payers pay for someone else's child to be able to afford to travel to FE College...EMA; housing benefit, sports coordinators in schools. NHS waiting lists were almost nil under Labour- they are already creeping up under ConDem..."whey should the average tax payer pay for....?" The argument goes... IVF (already disappearing from the NHS), care homes? Children's centres...? Check out the localities this ConDem government- this is where it's going.
A university education benefits the whole of society, economically, culturally and socially. That is what a progressive tax system pays for. The more money you earn, the more tax you pay. Except the Tories don't like that do they?
I've also heard a lot of people, and mostly the generation above me of 60+ say "they want to put the working class back in its box" and I agree with that sentiment.

This is not a cogent argument- this is just thoughts and opinions that have been simmering away.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now

Last night I finished reading Meg Rosoff's 'How I Live Now' which was her first novel and has won all kinds of prizes.

Rosoff creates a story filled with magic, although it is not really described in the usual fairytale terms. This makes it real and believeable. She somehow captures the atmosphere of a place without being explicit. I am not sure how she does this and this is part of the appeal and mystery of her writing.

The book is going to be made into a film and I will be interested to see if it can do justice to the relationships between the children, especially between Daisy, who tells the story, and her cousin Edmund.

Rosoff combines all kinds of challenging subject matter, not least the atrocities of a possible future war, with a taboo-challenging relationship.

There is a dystopian, unflinching quality to it that made me think of The Road a couple of times, and I wonder if her writing style has a similarity to Cormac McCarthy's? Just a thought that might be worth exploring further.

Rosoff's structure reflects the war being played out and consolidates the plot very successfully.

I am sure that had I read this book when I was 14 it would have changed my life.
I know it is going to change my writing.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sestina – Waking up on Easter Sunday with you

Waking up on Easter Sunday with you
Shouting “Get me out of bed please Mummy”
And wishing today could be different:
Celebration; extended family
Since mum has gone things continue to change
What would she think about you and me?

Conventional life does not fit with me
But I try to fit in because of you
Perhaps this is something I need to change
Happy child comes from a happy mummy
I can’t create a perfect family
Time to celebrate being different

With confidence in being different
I continue to be the hard-won me
Operate as a joyful family
Then I can stop feeling like I’ve failed you
Because I am not a yummy mummy
I am a real person trying to change

I have to own up to what I can’t change
No point in wishing things were different
Being a mummy, losing a mummy
The beginning of the making of me
If I can be me, then you can be you
A new definition of family

Easter Sunday meant seeing family
The last year has seen another big change
A wider ripple of the loss that affects you
Sad, not bad, unknowable, different
Like a strong current, this ripple drags me
Under for a moment, struggling mummy

I hear “Can you play with me now Mummy?”
Easter, the rebirth of my family
Let go of the past, look forward for me
Another opportunity for change
Welcome the future: better; different
The garden holds chocolate eggs for you

I can only be me, the best Mummy
I can be for you. We are family,
Embracing change, daring to be different.

This is one of a series of sestinas I wrote earlier this year. It was written after a very unhappy Easter and marked another big change. I assumed that I would always be surrounded by family at 'those' times of the year. In fact Sam and I spent most of it alone. I found this intensely difficult and upsetting, as I am finding things at the moment. But it will pass, as does everything...and maybe a poem will get written too.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


I find myself in the peculiar position of having to make the effort to stop and do nothing, to rest and just be.
I am hopeless at this but it is a skill I must now master because it will help to make me well and able to 'do' again.
This is all relative of course-as a single parent I still have to 'do' stuff all the time.
But apart from that I have to relax and rest.
My amazing Dad has Sam for a couple of days while I stay at my best friend's for a proper rest and some peace and quiet away from everything.
The house is eerily and soothingly silent.
I haven't looked outside yet today. I have managed to get up, eat something, drink a cup of tea and now write this.
Yesterday I had a meeting at university to work out how I manage my workload until I (hopefully) start to feel better and get used to managing this M.E thing.
I feel hopeful that I will be better and will be able to get on with life but am aware I've been shown a red card and I need to make some permanent adjustments to stay well.
I've been looking at dietary changes- I'm quite good about what I eat- I have to be as I have significant food allergies. But I do love to eat cake and drink lots of strong, black coffee. I've cut down on both recently but now they have to go altogther, along with the daily glass of red wine with dinner.
I've a long history of experience of chronic illness to draw on and so am looking at this as a positive thing as it means I have some idea of how to treat myself to get better.
I generally manage to pack more into one day than some people pack into a week and then still beat myself up that I am not doing enough, not good enough.
This is the key thing that I have to change.
So now I am going to go and make another cup of tea and watch a film and that's it.
Even a climb up and down the stairs is tiring.
Love, Love, Love xxx